Bounce
Roleplaying Log: Bounce
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Sparks fly when Rogue and Dazzler are the only two X-men available to save a young girl with fear-triggered entropy powers.

Other Characters Referenced: Various and Sundry X-Men
IC Date: September 01, 2019
IC Location: Indiana
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 25 Sep 2019 06:16
Rating & Warnings: PG
Scene Soundtrack: [* ]
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

Whatever you do, don't let Hailey Milner board the plane.

That was the takeaway from Cerebro's alert about a girl of about 14 who has some seriously out-of-control entropy powers. She comes from Indianapolis, a state that has both embraced Registration and Sentinels, and while the authorities aren't on to her yet, it's only a matter of time. They're a little less organized in the Midwestern state, but they're getting there.

Hailey Milner hasn't figured out that fear triggers her powers. She's only now figuring out she has any at all.

Hailey Milner is afraid to fly. Entropy plus airplane equal very no.

But by god, Hailey isn't going to let a little flight fear stop her! She wants to go on her school's class trip to New York City. As if that weren't an equally bad place to be.

Unfortunately, the modern airline and airport system is mostly made to frustrate and annoy. The online system at IND failed to report that Hailey's gate and plane got switched literally at the last minute, and that the self-same new plane took off fifteen minutes earlier than the old plane because it was from a different airline entirely.

It is up on the monitors though, which are ancient and which run on an entirely different system. Thus it is that two X-Men discover that Hailey Milner is most definitely on the plane before they even need to figure out how to get past TSA. They can see it out a big window, making its way into the friendly skies as Rogue mutters: "Oh, you gotta be kiddin' me."

At the very least, Rogue no longer looks creepy. While she still has the powers she siphoned off the bear, she no longer bears (er, no pun intended) the raven black locks and mismatched eyes and generally sinister air it gave her. This is probably all to the good. Given where they are, and what they're about.

* * *

"Well," says Alison Blaire, staring out the window, her voice a little brittle: "whatever we did, we let her board the plane."

She doesn't look like herself, not entirely, her too-famous appearance altered at the edges between her own illusions, and a too-large pair of sunglasses. It doesn't help to be both a famous singer and a famous mutant in a crowded airport, much less one with state-sanctioned Sentinels.

The sunglasses also help to hid the insomnia troubling her eyes. She's been having sporadic nightmares since those few terrible hours in the grasp of the Bear. To make matters worse, she's was the only available, mission-ready member needed for this mission —

— and she's in the sole company of Rogue. It's not great.

And, despite all that, it's also meaningless compared to the harrowing prospect of a mutant on that flight, who has the power to take the entire aircraft down.

Think, Alison. "We need them to call in something that'll force them to ground the plane. Something logistical, which won't make a little girl afraid. We might be able to remote-scramble some of their software from the Blackbird if we pilot close enough."

* * *

Alison gives her assessment of the situation, and the Southern Belle frowns thoughtfully. "If we scramble all that software can we make the plane and the airport think they're heading right into a freak storm or something? That shouldn't be too bad if they're just gonna go and land right before they reach it. I mean. Unless she's just unusually nervous."

At the very least, the other woman seems to be mission-focused. But then, for all her faults she's nearly always mission focused. "Do you know how to scramble software?"

The piloting thing she's been working on, enough to hold the stick in a pinch. But scrambling software? That's well outside of her wheelhouse. She can't do it unless she finds a hacker to steal a bunch of memories from, and even then it's iffy.

* * *

The mission focus — Alison respects it. It's something to keep herself centered, frosty, and not at all remembering how much it hurt, years ago, when Rogue did something so minute like brush fingertips on her.

They're teammates right now, but even now, the Dazzler is giving Rogue a wide berth of space. She'll get a level-headed ally, but nothing so close as being misinterpreted as a friend. "The storm threat might work. We don't have to disable their entire radar to force an immediate landing, but give it enough lapses that they'll circle back to the nearest airport. I've been on enough private jets, and they'll land them if a housefly hits the windshield."

Either way, Alison inclines her head, a gesture for Rogue to follow — out of the airport terminal, and to where they've stealthed the stand-by Blackbird. It's hard to see past her too-large, fashion sunglasses, but she does it without a glance on Rogue. She avoids looking at it every chance she gets.

And about scrambling software? Alison pauses distinctly. "Maybe. I'm betting Fearless Leader might have something helpful installed. He's type A like that. And if not, I don't see us with a lot of other choices right now."

* * *

"Well," Rogue says, as she hurries after Alison. "I mean there's one. I can still do the shadow step thing, and I've gotten real good at it. I could probably just slip up there and grab her. But that's guaranteed to scare her, is going to mean we've got entropy rainin' down on us like a hurricane in no time flat, and right after it prob'ly some sentinels."

Also it's exactly the kind of plan a member of the Brotherhood might suggest, which she's well aware of. But at least this time she suggests it. Instead of just up and doing it. Which she might have done last month. Progress?

It's kind of progress. Except maybe the part where she adds: "I mean. I reckon I could probably solve at least one of those problems by punchin' her."

* * *

Alison Blaire, the consummate professional. It's how she survived show business, music business, X-business. As cool as head one can get in the fray, possibly just short of the master, Scott Summers. That rare patient, cooperative nature that will hear anything out — no matter how absurd the idea may be. There is no time or room for feelings on the field.

Except when Rogue. Offers. To do. That.

It's a good thing their quick pace has already cleared them out of the airport, on a maintenance footpath toward security fencing: there's not a lot of people around, and it's quiet, isolated enough for the ex-Dazzler to whirl around, dropping her illusions and ripping off her sunglasses.

"Great idea!" she exclaims, every syllable braised with sarcasm. "Except for the fact that we're not psychopaths worshipping the altar of St. Magneto. You didn't just seriously offer abducting and traumatizing a child, much less accidentally hurting her on you. We can do this without terrifying her, and causing an national incident in domestic airspace."

* * *

"Great, sugar, I hope we can. But if the whole plan is 'it's probably fine, there's probably some kinda thing,', I reckoned we needed some kind of dadgum alternative. And while it ain't a pretty alternative, it would be an effective one. It's not ideal, but that is why it is not the first plan. If you got some sort of plan B, great, share with the class. Otherwise, I'm just tryin' to get the job done. Don't got nothin' to do with psychosis. We can get the kid a shrink. She'll bounce."

Granted, she is saying all this while continuing to sprint towards the plane. She isn't sarcastic, but neither is she apologetic.

* * *

Alison gives Rogue an incredulous look, her lips parted like the concept of the English language is lost on her. Is any of this for real? Seriously?

"She'll bounce?" she echoes, wondering if Scott's ever felt this similar, oncoming migraine — pain like an egg right in behind her right eye. "Are you kidding me? Not everyone has the talent to "bounce" back from shit like that. She'll never trust another mutant again. Not to mention, we'll give this backwards state every last green light to just up and restrict all mutants from travelling by air!"

Joining Rogue, Alison is thankfully an expert sprinter-while-ranter (thank her lung capacity and training to sing while dancing — the Dazzler never lip-synced), loading up into the Blackbird — where it's been safely landed, its fortunate Shi'ar Tech keeping it blind and non-existent to all nearby radar. She climbs into its hull, locking in, privately asking herself again how she's trusting Rogue as a pilot.

"If things go sideways, then we think in life or death consequences. Right now, we can keep this as boring as possible, keep a girl from being afraid, and keep mutant rights from being pushed back another twenty years." Alison pauses, lips thinning. "If that's all right with you, Rogue."

* * *

Rogue starts making her pre-flight checks. For all that she said she was a little unsure of her skill, the fact is she's been working the simulations hard, and has been doing her best to get up with real instructors wherever possible. In part because it's a good skill to have. In part because it's a good survival skill to have. Something she could make money with, say, if the X-Men ever kicked her out, leaving her with nowhere to go. And for all that she'll protest that she's 'kinda dumb,' she picks things up pretty fast.

Which may not be merit. It may be a function of having an awful lot of brain fragments floating around in her brain meats.

"Borin' was plan A," Rogue reminds her. "I like Plan A pretty good. What are we gonna do after we get the plane to land?"

She gives Dazzler the sweetest smile.

"You know. If we do. Some kinda way."

At least she waits till Dazzler is buckled in to punch it into the air and start following the swiftly receding private jet.

* * *

Unsure just how her life went so sideways that it brought her here, sharing a cockpit with an ex-Brotherhoodite —

— Alison exhales out the rest of her pique. It won't do either of them, or the rest of the team, for her to be losing her temper at Rogue. Yes, Rogue deserves it, she tells herself. Deserves it, and so much more, and it is a mistake for the X-Men to have brought her on, to trust her with their safety and grave intelligence, and it's going to bite them right back on their asses —

Calm, Alison. Clear head. Professional.

She has to hold her breath for that too-long moment of Rogue's saccharine-sweet smile. She feels her blood pressure spike with aggravation.

"When we do," she corrects, "it's not that difficult. We meet up with her while she's waiting for the next flight. We calmly and sensibly talk her out of doing it, and get her parents to drive her home. We get her in touch with the Institute." Alison side-eyes Rogue. "I'm the goddamn Dazzler. It's really not that hard to make teenage girls listen to me."

Her hands tighten on the rests as Rogue pilots them up into the air — some of it is personal, some of it these days is Alison just is getting less used to flying any way that isn't Warren Worthington, and after his exceptional skill, machinery just isn't… trustworthy — but once they level, she pulls up radar tracking and panels up some of the Blackbird's more sophisticated programs.

It's a good thing Alison listened — with great worship — to every one of Scott Summers' powerpoints. The downside: powerpoints do not make an X-Men an expert hacker overnight —

"I need you to get closer. Within fifty feet, if you can do it."

* * *

"Oh right. I done forgot I was travellin' with the goddamn Dazzler," Rogue says, sounding very cheerful. Suspiciously so. "Hell, sugar. It might be faster to just call the pilot up. Jus' say, hey! I'm the goddamn Dazzler. Land the goddamn plane, cause I'm a goddamn celebrity!"

She winces. Ugh. Swearing. But that was balanced against the need to deliver her scathing reply just right. Priorities!!

It's a good news bad news moment.

Good news, Rogue can absolutely get the Blackbird 50 feet away from the other plane. She hits the thrusters, controls the plane rather nicely, and gets good and close.

Bad news. It's already happening. There's an alarming rumble and squeal from their own plane. The private plane isn't having any trouble yet that they've noticed or that might crash them right away, but…that could change any minute.

And that single squealing sound, along with the squeal of alarms from the dash, makes Rogue switch back out of sarcasm mode and into professional mode again. "Well, that don't sound good," she says, even as her fingers fly across keys. She's diverting power from primary systems to back-ups, but says: "Dadgum it. There went the cloaking system."

They are now fully visible both to the naked eye and to various systems designed to pick up on planes, and there are a few squawks from the comm from people who care how airspace is used, along with the other craft. Not to them directly, just on general channels.

* * *

"Droll," comments the Dazzler to that, with the suchsame air one would expect from — well, a celebrity. The look in her eyes roll up briefly, a brave, martyring soul begging God for the patience to deal with one of his most inexplicable creations. "And if I was sure that would work, I would have suggested it already."

The barbs on her celebrity, otherise, go ignored. It's not often Alison pulls out the 'I'm an international pop star, and I invented a damn genre of music, I am a living god to all impressionable teenagers' card, but when it happens —

— yup.

Trusting Rogue to at least pilot, Alison does what little she can — namely, bullshitting her way into interfacing into the very delicate, and well-secure digital infrastructure of a commercial airliner. She trusts the alien tech on board to piggy-back them in without too much difficulty… but the rest? The rest requires skill. And while Alison knows she's smart, there's limits even to what one can learn by the seat of their pants…

For that reason, she's absorbed in the read-out. Absorbed, and not exactly keeping a close eye on Rogue's handling. Not until —

squeaaaaal of metal

squeaaaaal of alarms

Alison very slowly looks up, and very, very slowly loooooooks over, all to fix Rogue with the most stale-faced stare one woman has ever given another. Only one famous gif can fully describe this look.

http://i.imgur.com/UO95zmN.gif

"You didn't," she says, giving Rogue one reasonable moment to defy the laws of physics, and fix this.

That doesn't happen. And here they are staring back into the windows of the jet, as they hang in restricted airspace, committing about forty different felonies under Federal law.

The radio begins to snarl with Homeland Security, demanding them to name themselves and ground themselves, and that F-18s are onsuite.

Alison kills the connection.

"Shit," she says, trying to think — and retreating back to the panel. "Swing and stay under the craft. I don't want anyone to see us. I can…" Do what, Alison? They're on short time, and if military aircraft show up, the kid will get distressed.

She closes her eyes. "Fine, do a retrieval. Take her somewhere isolated. Don't… hurt her."

* * *

"How is it my fault that the kid's entropy field hit our plane?" Rogue snaps, responding to 'you didn't.' "That is literally completely outside of my dadgum control!"

She does not defy the laws of physics. She does keep them in the air. And she swings and stays under the craft though, even though it wobbles. It wobbles a lot…"

And then Alison is making a call.

She actually blows out her cheeks. She was hoping that Plan A would succeed. "Okay. Take the controls. Good luck."

And then she steps to a shadowed area of the plane, into it and through it. A swirl of whispers follows her, things she's hearing literally all the time now.

How it's going on the plane is definitely not something Alison will know. What she does start to see is the formation of those F-18s racing fast in their direction. Being under the other plane might help, but…

* * *

Making calls like these — frankly, Alison is an amateur.

She did this every day of her career, being a control freak, being a self-made manager of her own label, but here? Now? When it's life or death? Alison doubts herself, every minute, her reflex always to look to those who are far more seasoned, far more confident: Scott, Jean, Warren… they rarely hesitate.

She wants to. She wants, so very badly, to stick with what's safe. What's boring. But she knows, deep down in her gut, safety isn't going to help this.

Not against a little girl who cannot control a power that rearranges the world around her. Not against a government that may take perilous steps with aggressing on them, civilians too close.

It means, however, that Alison has to trust Rogue. She doesn't want to…

But, to make the right call, she has to.

"You too," she says back, all their earlier barbs forgotten. "I'll be on comm."

And then, with the Bear's stolen power — that is still eery to Alison, who frankly wants to forget that nightmare happened — Rogue empties the pilot seat.

Alison wastes no time to assume it, going back into old training to assess the panel, checking what subroutines have been knocked out with that episode. Nothing affecting the Blackbird's flight, which is a relief — but it also means she needs to get out of there.

«Rogue,» she speaks over their secured channel. «I'm going to try to lead the military away. If anything happens to the jet — tell me.»

With that, Alison banks the controls, and carefully navigates the Blackbird away from the jet, checking radar for the incoming F-18s.

"God, I wish Warren were here," she mutters, and tilts off westward, climbing at enough a speed to keep herself an apt target. She'll outrun their targeting when they clear enough distance. Shi'ar technology is helpful.

* * *

«I stepped into the bathroom rather n' directly there,» Rogue reports. «I've got an idea.»

And then Alison hears this over the comm.

«Hey darlin'! I'm the mechanic. Noticed you're a lil' nervous on the plane?»

Muffled answer.

«Here, I got somethin' that'll calm yer nerves…»

And then…

(Silence)

The F-18s struggle to stay on the edge of Alison's radar, blipping in and out as they try to keep up with the tech. She is definitely holding their attention.

Then: «So…good news and bad news…»

That's the theme of the day, isn't it? The bad news might be involved with the screaming.

«I didn't hurt her an' we're at one of the safehouses…»

She quickly rattles off coordinates…

«But…there ain't no way to shadow step a kid out of a plane without scaring her real good, and uh…now…things are gettin' exciting.»

At least she followed orders and didn't deck the girl? There's lots of crashing and glass breaking and all sorts of sounds back there on the comm.

«It's probably fine.»

Because THOSE are words anyone wants to hear Rogue say.

* * *

Truth be told, Alison is, at best, a serviceable pilot. A devoted student of Scott Summers' many lectures — while many female eyes of the team concentrated on his ass, she was always more determinedly fixed on his genius — she's absorbed well enough to go through the motions.

A dog-fighter, however, Alison is not. She plays it safe even now, not even daring to commit to close-range to that military approach, not one for the spatial dynamics of quick, twitch-fast reactions. She holds them just enough at proverbial arm's length, maintaining dead air to their radio. If she's lucky, they won't know who she is, where she's going, and what she's up to.

All the while, Alison is treated to the real time Masterpiece Theatre of Rogue Being The Most Disciplined X-Man Ever.

She listens to it all with a straight face. «Rogue…» is her sobering sigh, over the comm. «You could be a bit more professional —»

Sighing, she belts herself in, locking into the pilot seat, tilting it slightly back, because her plan requires it. Settling back, tapping into the controls, Alison asks the Blackbird: "Think we're done playing with them?"

She hits it into escape velocity. With a silent, but violent push of its otherworldly engines, the jet just — disappears off the F-18s' radar, as she steers it up, farther into the stratosphere, closing her eyes to the onslaught of Gs. Alison's insides lurch, but she breathes slow.

Within seconds, it hangs in low-earth orbit, and Alison is treated a private audience with the curvature of the earth, as gravity lets up enough to pull her centimetres from her seat, hair flowing.

God, she hates space.

She taps in the coordinates Rogue provides. The Blackbird chirps, and autopilots itself back down. Its subroutines have corrected the entropy, and it swathes back into shielding.

«Good,» answers Alison, finally. «You did good. Let her have it out, give her space, but keep talking to her. Don't be a smartmouth, either — you know what I'm talking about. Nice and calm. You're with the Institute, tell them what it's done for you. You can do it.» A pause. «I'll be there shortly.»

* * *

Another shriek and more crashes. Alison gives a pep talk and Rogue sucks in a breath. «Don't be a smart mouth. Got it.»

She sounds like she's not sure if that's even possible.

«"Hey! Hey! Okay! Look! I'm not going to hurt you. Okay! I'm all the way over here…»

THUNK!

«"Pinned all up under this here chiffarobe…That's fine, okay, that's okay…»

This goes on for a bit. Chaotic and, if it were any less serious than it is, even comical.

Finally Rogue says, in something like desperation: «Look! Look! Just…look! I'm from Xavier's Institute. Come on. You heard of 'em. The X-Men? You've got powers. You can see it now can't ya? I ain't the one doin' all this, you are. You can feel it, all spirallin' up out of you.»

The crashes stop. There's a few lingering bits of glass that are probably splashing down from something that was already thrown about or broken.

«"You gotta learn to control it, darlin'. You do. Cause if you don't, you're gonna hurt someone you love. And you're gonna have to live with that. You're gonna have to live with it for the rest of your life. And…you gotta do it somewhere safe. Somewhere you can have friends, and people who give a care what happens to you. Who…try to help you be your best self, alright? Because there's plenty of people who want people like you and me to be our worst selves. And you don't wanna wake up one morning realizing that's who you are. I'm sorry I scared you. I am. But I wish to God someone had found me when I was your age. So please. Let me help you. Let us help you.»

There's a long silence, a long pause.

And then there's some soft sobbing, that soon turns into muffled sobbing, like the girl might be crying on Rogue's shoulder.

Another moment, and Rogue says, in subdued fashion: «Okay, Alison. I think we're ready for a pick up now. Just. Maybe not in a plane.»

* * *

All the while, Alison listens.

Frankly, it helps her as well, that background dialogue — focusing her mind from the nauseating twist of inertia as the Blackbird descends back down to a cruising speed. Gravity hits her anew like a sledgehammer, and Alison, well — is trained, but not comfortable with this sort of thing. Before Warren, she would have been happy to spend a lifetime sure and safe on the ground.

But still, checking her navpath, she still… listens. At first, there's a part of her that wants to direct, even micro-manage, feeding Rogue a narrative meant to calm down an innocent, young, civilian teen girl. A narrative that Rogue, herself, might not even now, born and bred to be the Brotherhood, and in Alison's opinion, their forged weapon that has not lost her dangerous edge —

But Rogue keeps talking. And Alison, rather than trying to push her own voice in, keeps listening. Talk of control. Talk of hurting others. Talk of living with yourself. Her eyebrows furrow, pensive, but she is silent as she re-checks the stealth panel.

She can hear the background calamity, crashes and breaking and — well, Rogue possibly receiving a (deserved) brunt of it — before it goes silent. Alison parts her lips, ready to ask if the girl is OK, if Rogue went too far —

But there's more.

And it hits her. Hard. Painful. I wish to God someone had found me, confesses Rogue, and Alison feels that, her hands tightening on the controls.

Because what would have happened if the Hellfire Club found Alison ten years ago, taken her, and the X-Men weren't there to save her? What would have happened if she'd been taken in by that son of a bitch Shaw, and… perverted under his ideas, and turned into —

— that nightmare, by the Bear, chained to her stage, unable to stop herself as her field flared and her screams sang down nuclear fire —

Alison is as similarly silent, lost to the background hum of the Blackbird. She feels her heart aching painfully. Goddamnit, Ali, she thinks.

She jerks back to alertness when Rogue speaks her name, suddenly feeling like an eavesdropper, like that wasn't meant for her — but there's still no forgetting it. «Ah, right,» she answers, clearing her throat. «Good call. I'll send a car. It should be there in an hour.»

There's a significant silence.

«Thank you,» she adds. «For that idea. It was a good one. I'll see you back at base, Rogue.»

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