A Start
Roleplaying Log: A Start
IC Details

Warren Worthington, Alison Blaire, and Emma Frost actually manage to work together without killing each other… or anyone else.

Other Characters Referenced: Tony Stark, The Brotherhood
IC Date: April 10, 2020
IC Location: Woonsocket, Rhode Island
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 09 May 2020 02:54
Rating & Warnings: PG (Innuendo)
Scene Soundtrack: None
NPC & GM Credits: NPCs by Emma Frost
Associated Plots

What feels like so very many months ago, a promise was made.

A pair of X-Men gave their word to help their enemy.

And then time does as time is wont to do: it passed.

It didn't pass without movement on that months-old promise, but progress upon it was slow and hard-won at every step.

A list of names was not so hard to come by. Warren managed to get his hands on that in very short order, but it was much more difficult to gain access to the prisons where men were being kept on numerous charges - but the most relevant of which are felony charges of kidnapping and false imprisonment. But there is a select handful that managed - by technicality or skilled lawyer - to walk free. They are the most obvious place to start.

It will perhaps come to Warren's attention that two have died since finding their freedom, within a month of each other. One committed suicide by bullet in the brain. Another died of 'natural causes'. The remaining few, still alive and breathing, are scattered to the four corners of the country. Rhode Island. Texas. Oregon. Arizona.

The names were the easy part.

Getting at the names would also have been the easy part, to be honest, if not for the lingering specter of that ideology which Charles Xavier taught to his students, long ago. Thou shalt not kill, foremost; in unspoken corollary, thou shalt not arrive at solutions by the easy, expedient, and hard-to-explain-to-humans route, either.

The first still remains ironclad in Warren Worthington's mind, if primarily because of his fears of the personal cost to his sanity, were he to give in too frequently and too willingly to the urgings of Death. The second…?

Well, the second is up for negotiation a lot more, these days. But then, 'these days' are very different than the ones in which Xavier got his idea to start a little team of misfits.

Still, breaking outright into prisons was a bridge or two too far for now (if, possibly, only because the logistics were a little too hard to work out at the moment). That made those who had already walked free a much more appealing soft target. Warren had not spoken of his intentions to anyone, really, except Alison, who accompanies him today. Their destination?

"What state do you feel like today?" Warren muses, in a tone that suggests none of them would be that big of an obstacle to reach in a timely fashion. Even Arizona. "I mean, Rhode Island is the easy pick. Distance-wise."

He glances towards her. No Archangel — not yet. "We probably better move quick, either way," he observes to Alison. "If the others drop at the rate these two did — and they probably will — we won't have long before we don't have any leads left."

Though Alison Blaire's life has been a strange trajectory this past month, she has never forgotten about that promise.

Nearly losing herself to drink and despair, and only being offered a different sort of future by Peggy Carter — one where Alison indulges in work beyond the X-Men's limitations, and in turn give SHIELD her own abilities strangely adept for black ops work — her own mental state feels akin to a moving, circling storm, and only lately does Alison feel like she navigated its worst, violent winds to stay the course at the eye. It offers her enough calm to see what lies ahead, even attempt to determine for herself a nebulous path for her future, but even she knows she must stay the course so as not to lose herself back to madness.

And Warren's situation is even more perilous. He needs more than just himself, these days, to maintain his own clarity, and keep Death's whispers at bay.

These weeks later, and Alison no longer drinks these days — in fact, she swore it off for good — and at first look, even her appearance bears marked differences. The over-dressed, over-made, over-elaborate style of the Dazzler is gone, and the Alison Blaire of now prefers to look far more natural, similar to how she kept herself in her earnest, struggling years of youth before her stardom. Her athleticism of before — purely for show, and careful magazine covers — is also changed, with the developing, sinewy care of someone beginning a regimented training. SHIELD, by way of Peggy Carter, has not yet sent Alison out for her first field work, though she is being rigorously prepared for that future.

And as for the present —

She keeps one thought poised on those murders. Ever suspicious, Alison cannot deny wondering if Emma Frost may be behind them, having jumped the gun and decided to take justice in her own hands. It would not do their uneasy alliance to accuse the woman, however; she knows full well that if it is the truth, it would be revealed in its own way. Emma is many things, but that brand of deceitfulness is not one of them. In fact, she'd probably attest to doing it just to rub the X-Men's failures and inaction better in their faces.

It would also be too simple to suspect her. Doing so eliminates a far worse possibility: there's another player in this game.

"Closest choice is the most logical route," Alison answers. "We could lean on the Blackbird, but I think we need to save it for critical need. We're playing roulette with the military every time we bring it out. Either way, I agree. We need to do this fast. The problem we set out for is resolving itself, and something tells me it's going to make this worse."

Rhode Island is, indeed, not hard to come by.

The man in question — one Wayne Wilson, age 35, free by means of a technicality due to a misstep in processing whereby jurisdiction became murky and arm wrestling by would-be prosecutions made for a situation ripe for error — has returned to his home state, far enough away from New York and Alaska both that he doesn’t even suffer so much as a bad rep. Returning to private security, however, isn’t quite in the cards…

So he’s turned to a gig as a bouncer for a small dive bar in Woonsocket. It’s paid under the table and didn’t require a background check. He also gets the occasional free drink, and the small rock bands that come through don’t irritate him.

It doesn’t pay as well as his last gig, sure, but it fits his needs well enough.

He shops on the way home for what he needs. The rest of the time, he smokes and drinks in the privacy of his modest apartment. He calls his mother on Sunday. That is to say, he’s a man who very much knows how to keep his head down and his footstep small.

Rhode Island is, indeed, not hard to come by.

The man in question - one Wayne Wilson, age 35, free by means of a technicality due to a misstep in processing whereby jurisdiction became murky and arm wrestling by would-be prosecutions made for a situation ripe for error - has returned to his home state, far enough away from New York and Alaska both that he doesn't even suffer so much as a bad rep. Returning to private security, however, isn't quite in the cards…

So he's turned to a gig as a bouncer for a small dive bar in Woonsocket. It's paid under the table and didn't require a background check. He also gets the occasional free drink, and the small rock bands that come through don't irritate him.

It doesn't pay as well as his last gig, sure, but it fits his needs well enough.

He shops on the way home for what he needs. The rest of the time, he smokes and drinks in the privacy of his modest apartment. He calls his mother on Sunday. That is to say, he's a man who very much knows how to keep his head down and his footstep small.

The Dazzler may be gone, all her overdone flash stripped down to a strong spare natural look, but Warren doesn't seem to mind the new way Alison looks. If anything, he seems to prefer it, judging by the way he watches her continually out of the corner of one blue eye.

Or maybe he just watches her so constantly for other reasons, too.

His unblinking regard flickers when Alison finally speaks. "Rhode Island, then. Lucky for us," Warren smiles at that, the expression not so much like his careless bright smiles of before, "I go faster than the Blackbird now. But… keep an eye out for me?" She would know exactly what it is he's asking of her, with that request.

Especially since he follows up by almost literally shaking away his normal appearance like the skin it now is, rattling the feathers of his wings into shining blades and bleeding his skin into that deathly blue. "Can you do the illusions thing, now?" he asks, as techno-organic armor floods out to plate over him. "It will be somewhat inconvenient if we are recognized."

He takes her up in his arms once he's fully Archangel, wings opening. At his new rate of flight, as promised, they arrive within minutes versus hours. Between Archangel's eyes and the Dazzler's abilities, it won't be too difficult for them to map out his routine. Nothing too extreme, as might be expected.

"I'm thinking take him between work and home," muses Warren, wings mantling half-open restlessly from where he's roosted them both atop a building overlooking the apartment. "Don't like the idea of doing anything where he's stopped, around too many people."

"Don't I always?" answers Alison, with a staged levity to her voice she doesn't necessarily feel. Truth be told, she isn't certain it's the right time for mutants out on the vigilante prowl, but what alternative is there?

It is Emma Frost doing it herself. Murdering by herself. And even someone as careful, as neat, as invisible as Frost — inevitably will make a mistake. Everyone does. Mutants aren't gods.

She is quiet through Warren's transformation, shifting his physical appearance from the man she always knew, into the Apocalypse-wrought vehicle of annhilation part of him has become — and, as his skin chills into that bloodless colour of death, her expression grows more solemn, but she does not look away. She doesn't want to imagine him feeling she is unable to look at him, appearing this way. After all, this may be equally part of Warren now, forever.

"Illusions won't be a problem, thanks to a mutual engineer friend of ours." As if understanding the vague reference, one of those mechanical bees — Stark's gift to her — crawls along Alison's shoulder, hiding its tiny, steel body under the fold of her collar. "Part of me still wonders if he should be here. But I suppose it's not our call."

Pulled up into Warren's arms, Alison relaxes, one arm hooking comfortably behind his neck. She does that habit she always indulges before his take-offs: breathing in deeply, preparing for that initial flip of inertia. And as he gains altitude, she concentrates, her opened eyes whiting out, leeching with light. She pulls on her charge, curves the light around them, and then they both disappear from visual sight, masked into the moving skyline.

The illusion drops when he lands, and Alison sends off one of the three robotic bees to assist, letting it follow the solitary Wayne Wilson from closer.

"I like the idea," she eventually concedes. "Hit him hard and fast, bring him in alone, and we'll interrogate him somewhere outside the city. When he awakens, I'll make sure the faces he sees aren't ours. We can even be Trask's men, if you wish. I'm getting better at making faces."

It's true that the careful and neat will, someday, make a mistake.

Even someone as neat and careful as Emma Frost.

However, Wayne Wilson is not her. He is not a mutant, and he is certainly not a god save by occasional power-drunk delusion, but he is professional. There was a choice he made, in a long list of poor choices, where he decided the paper trail of car ownership was just not worth it. So he walks. It's good for him, although the air is chilly tonight. Feels close to freezing.

He's bundled up in a parka with the hood pulled up, making it hard perhaps to identify him immediately from his booking photo. Except that he gets frustrated as he gets caught at a crosswalk, first thing as he jaunts out of his apartment building. He switches weight from one foot to the other, loathed to stop moving, and then lifts his head back in frustration as he takes a drag from his cigarette.

His hood drops back, basking his face for a moment in the golden glow of the street lamp. He curses around the cigarette he keeps in his lips as both of his large hands - wrapped in fingerless gloves - move to tug the hood back in place.

Don't I always? asks Alison.

Warren's gaze softens a little from its raptor intensity. Both to the sentiment, and to the forced quality he can hear in her voice. "Yeah," is all he replies. If asked, he would probably say it seemed to him there was no right time, for things like these. Only the times when things became too necessary to be ignored any longer. Such is the case, here. They could do nothing, and keep their hands clean of vigilantism, but if they did, what would Emma Frost do? What might the ripple effect of that cost mutants, in the end?

In the end, the two of them might be able to pull this off with a more subtle touch, with any luck — and the help of Stark's mechanical bees. Warren half-smiles to the sight of the one creeping along Ali's collar. "He would say he should be here," Warren says, "and perhaps he could even keep quiet for the duration. But it's not really his nature to — and I don't know what he might do, seeing one of the people who hurt Frost." Probably not dissimilar to what Warren would do, seeing someone who hurt Alison — and they have precedent for that.

He lets himself change, after that: an angel shedding its beautiful, mass-market aspect to show its true brutal shape. He's gotten better at it, with time, and it usually calms him to have Alison around for it to watch out for him. It's still something he undertakes with no small amount of disquiet — he has never once thought of himself as a vehicle of death — but at the least now he can retain control.

It helps that Alison does not look away or shrink from him. She settles in for the flight as she always does, albeit with one alteration: the bending of light she enacts in order to ease their travel. "Neat trick," he says, even as he flies orders of magnitudes faster than ever he could before.

Arrival is uneventful — at first — consisting of an initial canvassing look at the solitary habits of Wayne Wilson. At first glance, it almost seems a little too easy; which is, of course, a thought which is a time-honored precursor to Complications. Not that Warren has ever been much for thinking of the ways in which things can go wrong; Alison was always better at that, which is possibly why Warren looks to her for thoughts on his initial consideration.

Her approval hoods his silvery eyes. "Can do. I leave the selection of who to be to you. With luck, we'll get these people really confused on who's starting to get involved in this mess."

Once the location's selected, Archangel does what he has arguably always done best; he gets to hunting on the wing. The fact the man's not in a car makes it much easier, though perhaps in the end even that wouldn't have been so much of a hindrance. Archangel fancies his odds against even a speeding car, and all sorts of impacts can be made to look like a regular crash. The only obstacle is the night, which hinders his vision, though ultimately there's a stroke of luck when the man pulls back his hood for a moment.

After that, Archangel spends only a few more moments circling high overhead the man on foot before deciding to act. When he does, it is sudden: a quick spilling of air from his wings to send him into a plunging stoop, closing in from behind to ensure the target sees nothing. His talons are not extended — no sense killing him by accident — but his grip will be quite strong enough even without that, and his re-ascent afterwards sharp and steep enough to force rapid unconsciousness if all goes to plan.

"You don't know the half of it," Alison murmurs back of Warren's compliment. 'Nice trick,' indeed. "Really, even I don't know the half of it. Tony's work has opened up a new side of my ability. I've never been able to sustain a charge for so long."

Certainly not long enough to regularly indulge in what is becoming one of her preferred uses: tricks of the light. So much more versatile, adaptable, and useful, compared to the blunt force, bright, hot, showy, /destructive/ uses of her light. Now, Alison can finally begin to employ a bit of cunning into her gifts.

When they land, she is a little wind-blown, but otherwise unharmed, sheltered in the eye of Warren's stormy flight. Stark's mechanical bees cling to her shoulders, their synthetic wings trembling with mild, imperceptible hums, awaiting further command.

"Leaving the selection to me?" Alison asks, desperately needing a moment of wryness in the here and now, in that precipice before they commit to yet another crime. "Does this make me the Scott of this performance?" She seems to approve of that moniker. "Either way, will do. I'll get everything in order. Stick to the skies, and we'll communicate by comm."

She leaves him with a quick, but deliberate kiss. Blue or not, Warren does not scare her.

Her appearance changes, and she melts off into the township proper.

Eventually, Alison sets claim on a place. Just beyond the industrial crawl, she selects an outpost near a water treatment facility — a station containing little more than requisite sensors to check the nearby reservoir water level. It is not an especially big place, but it is thickly-concrete and dug underground, opened to a a cold cistern room that spares all the emptiness of a tomb. This is where she instructs the deposit of the unconscious Wayne Wilson.

"All right," she says to Warren, in those scant few minutes before it all commences. "I need you to take point, because charge or not, all of this is going to require focus. Sorry to say, but tonight you're playing the part of Simon Trask, who knows everything going on, and finally wants his piece. I'll be your security. I know you can do it. Use honey, use vinegar — do what you can as Trask to get what we can from the guy. What might be behind this. What he knows about Emma. If a nice, psychopathic anti-mutant face won't coax it out, then don't be afraid to go hard. Just… try not to move /too/ much. I think I can hold the hologram, but — I guess we'll see."

She breathes in, breathes out, summoning the energy for what's to come. "And if it gets too much for you, Warren… are you going to be OK?"

So, here's a joke for you. Why did the racist, human kidnapper cross the road?

We'll never know, because he never gets to the other side.

Seriously, he doesn't. Because it happens quickly: the crosswalk light changes.

Wilson steps out into the road and starts walking. It provides more than enough clearance for the nimble Archangel to swoop in.

There's a bellow as he's nabbed from behind but, as Warren designed, it's short-lived noise. He'll feel a clawing as the man, heavier than he looks but not too heavy for Archangel, tries to get free (against his own interests), but then also as that weight goes dead in moments with the rapid altitude change.

"Tony is quite the enabler," Warren replies, amused. "I look forward to your new tricks. Though I did like the lasers. You were the most versatile weapon to carry. I enjoyed our aerial turreting."

If he is aware of the reason for Alison's forced wryness — or perhaps even shares the sentiment — Warren gives no outward indication. Perhaps it's just much easier for him to 'commit crimes' these days, himself, because he was born to a class of people for whom rules were always only just suggestions anyway. "Yes," he answers. "You are the Scott. Someone has to be the brains, and I'm not it. But doesn't that make you happy? You do love his PowerPoints, for whatever strange reason."

She loves him more, though, judging by that quick kiss. At least, that's how Warren chooses to interpret it, judging by the pleased way his feathers ruffle up as they part ways. Some habits don't change, even when he's blue.

She melts away into the night, and he takes immediately to the sky, only to rejoin her once she comms in the location to which he's to make the drop. With a glance, he memorizes the location, though his eyes turn to hers with intent focus as she lays out the plan. A grimace crosses his features at 'being Trask,' but he accepts it without much argument. "I suppose I've got a few skills at grilling people," he allows, "even if I usually left all that to the underlings. I'll do my best impression."

Her last question, however? Warren quiets to something more serious, befitting his current dark aspect. "I have to be," he says. "Besides, you'll be there."

With that, he leaves her in a rush of wings.

The actual takedown, when it happens, is not too difficult. Not that Warren expected it to be, barring the interference of some third party; the trick of catching prey is built into him, down to the very level of base instincts, and Archangel only enhanced what was already there. The outcry draws a wince, but at least it's short-lived.

Equally short: the trip back to the cistern room Alison has selected. Leaving the man to recover in a corner, Archangel shakes out his wings and folds them neatly to interfere less with the incoming illusion, but he notably does not try to back out of his bladed form at all. "He won't be out for long," he warns. "G-LOC sets in fast and clears up fast, though he'll be pretty confused for the first few minutes at least." A pause. "On the plus side, people usually don't remember what made them pass out."

"You /would/ like the lasers. You boys are all the same," Alison quips back. This habit, she finds, fits like an old glove. She recalls Scott having little patience in the past for the team snarking and joking amongst each other during those crucial moments leading into a mission… but it was explained best, by Logan — the old soldier. Gotta let your men vent it some way, or they're gonna pop.

She does smile briefly when Warren confirms her new comparison to Scott 'Anal Retentive' Summers. It's no offence to her. "I've never seen a PowerPoint like his," she murmurs, but seals that wry comment with a good-bye kiss.

/You'll be there/, he leaves on that promise.

"I will be," Alison answers him, long after he's flown away.

While Warren prepares for the actual abduction, Alison manages everything else. And when he arrives in hand with the unconscious Wayne Wilson, prepared for the interrogation is an empty cement room, cleared of anything but a couple chairs. Everything else is disappeared or disconnected, be it the phone lines and other circuitry. The only access to the outside world is through the door, and doing so means one has to get through two trained mutants.

After the two, both boyfriend and the prey he's snagged, she shuts and locks the door, descending the few concrete steps down and surveying what lies ahead of them.

"Good. I won't need long. All right — here goes." Alison takes in a deep breath, flexes her hands, and then — her blue eyes white over, cloudy and inhuman before their lenses dance with ambient light.

There is a flicker in the air. No sound. No change in the ozone. Simply a descending wall of rearranging colour, shape, and texture, as Warren Worthington's blue-skinned, winged form disappears, in its place standing the tall, angular shape of Simon Trask. His face is no more its usual, beautiful structure, features hardening with the man's uncompromising, steely look, hard-eyed and thin-lipped. She shapes him to wear a nondescript suit, befitting the Trask brother's expensive taste.

The same field applies to Alison. In her place is a woman, but different — medium-height and stocky and facially forgettable, with dark hair and glasses. A powerful assistant and adjutant.

"You'll do a good impression," she murmurs in those last moments. "Think of every asshole CEO you've ever crossed in the boardroom."

It’s as Warren says, with regards to the man he settles down. It’s only minutes between when the blue-skinned mutant sets their quarry down in the corner so he can confer privately with his companion and the unhappy, confused groan of Wayne coming to.

He’s nauseated. Disoriented. And his eyes adjust poorly to the dim lighting. He narrows his eyes and peers uselessly into the shadows.

He plants his half-gloved hands on the hard floor and starts to push himself unsteadily to his feet, and his features contort, laid bare by virtue of his fur-trimmed hood having falling peeled back again.

His voice is deep, made thick by years of heavy smoking. “What the hell? Who shut the lights?”

Accused of liking lasers because he's a boy, Warren grins in that offhand, rakish way that screams 'guilty as charged.' You boys are all the same, she accuses. "I object," is his quick answer. "I'm way better than most."

Perhaps these old habits comfort him as much as they do Alison. They were certainly an excellent way to release stress in the last few tense moments before lunging into some crazy, nigh-suicidal X-mission or another. Either way, that hallmark arrogance of his is his parting gesture for her, before he takes to the skies. That — and something more intimate. An assurance that he knows she will be there, and that he feels less afraid with her to help reel him in.

It's not long before he returns, on the wing with prey in hand. There's a brief moment where he regards the setup in silence. With it all laid out explicitly there, in front of them, it's impossible to sugarcoat what they're doing, and perhaps it reminds Warren a bit overmuch of things that were done to him when he was younger, but after a moment he shakes the sentiment away. His bladed wings, folding away with a sharp hiss of slicing air, are proof enough of how much everything has changed.

He glances to Alison as she starts her work — watching her use her power is always fascinating — though at first he doesn't quite perceive the change. It's not until he looks down at himself that he sees it. His expression flickers in a grimace.

"I look like every asshole CEO I've ever met," he says, glancing up to take in Alison's own changed appearance. "Anyway, I believe in myself." A faint smile. "I'll start nice, but if I have to, I'll channel every bad impulse I have in the boardroom that I don't usually indulge."

And with that, he turns to their guest as the man starts to rouse. He remains largely still, as bidden by Alison.

"Don't worry. Your eyes will adjust. I hope you'll forgive the abrupt invitation to speak," he begins, his voice lower and flatter than its usual playful wont. "And the location. But we both know you're likely being watched — very closely. Fortunately… I think we can help each other."

It is a strange sight to Alison's own eyes, seeing Warren this way.

He is two faces to her in the same glance, the same she has always known, and the illusion overlaid over those familiar features. Her eyes are adapted to her ability, as they have always been — able to see through tricks of light, and most strongly her own. Now it leaves her to face the man she loves wearing the mask of an enemy.

Warren's comment makes her lips twitch up into a brief smile that does not reach those watchful eyes. "You do. I've really outdone myself." And when he answers her encouragments with unfailing, uncompromised self-confidence, Alison… takes her own relief to hear it. If anything centers her these days, it's his unchecked arrogance. "The ego's a nice touch already," she teases. "I'd stick with that."

It's a last quip in their few moments left to be each other —

— until their prey finally awakens.

In the wan, little light, the Dazzler's holograms show two persons: one man and one women, both dressed well, both tall, both severe.

The woman of the pair is silent, her hands clasped together and her serious face uncompromising. Her reaction is minimal, save for a small flicker at Wayne Wilson's first, coarse language. "Watch your tongue with Mr. Trask," is her only warning, voice deep.

It's a warning that rings hollow to Wilson, and his eyes narrow. He looks between the woman and man, and then offers the ultimate insult: "Who? Is that name supposed to mean something to me?"

His eyes turn towards the illusioned Warren, taking in Dazzler's every lie to his sight. "I don't know who you are, or how I got here, but you have fifty words or less to convince me I don't want to use a word like 'kidnapping'."

The irony. It runs thick here.

There's a pause, and then his brain catches up with the rest of what 'Trask' tells him. "And whadya mean, watched?"

Is that name supposed to mean something to me?

Warren's eyes flick towards Alison, coupled with a lift of the brows, before his attention returns to Wilson as if nothing were amiss.

"It's funny," Warren muses with Trask's face, "that you bring up 'kidnapping.' Especially since that's what has got you in this situation to begin with."

He folds his hands behind his back. "I'm someone with an interest in what you got up to in Kenai," is 'Trask's' frank response. "Which now has you out of the business, and in hiding. Yes — I know about that. We keep a watch on anything that might dovetail with our interests. Let's just say we have an issue with the whole 'mutant problem,' myself. All we want to know are the answers to a few questions, and then?" A thoughtful shrug. "We might be able to help you out with your exile in Woonsocket."

He tilts his head. "Whoever you were working with before doesn't seem to have extended too much help."

He's good, Alison thinks, listening to Warren Worthington commit to his best Simon Trask impression.

The Professor really should have utilized this talent.

But she holds herself rigid and calm, pulling on her own memories of powerful enforcers — Frenzy, for one, is a great example, strong and silent and terrifying always at Magneto's side. Alison holds her silence, partially to remain in character, partially because —

Warren does something so small as fold his hands together, and it puts her to work, immediately reseaming light and texture, mirroring the gesture every inch of the way that it does not disappear into the mass of those hidden wings. Light manipulation requires all her focus in moments like these, and if spoken to, she wouldn't be able to respond. She frowns severely, and perhaps it is to Wilson threatening them with 'kidnapping', or perhaps it is to ensure those edges are perfect.

Thankfully, Warren does all the speaking for the both of them. And thanks to Alison's talent, Simon Trask stands here in the formidable, intimidating flesh.

As soon as the word 'Kenai' escapes into the open, Wayne Wilson blanches in the dim light. Warren chooses the right words, apparently, as what was starting to look like Wilson gearing up for a fight never materializes into anything more than uncertain fists plunged deep down into the parka that he wears.

After a moment, he then starts to flush with agitation and a frustrated growl escapes his lips as his head tilts. "How do you know about Kenai? Not that it matters anyway. Courts say I'm free of that shit."

If nothing else, one thing Warren learned from his upbringing: how to put on an act and carry it, for as long as he needs to. For the duration of a gala, or a press conference, or… a secret shakedown of some anti-mutant asshole.

Perhaps sensing Alison's exertion to cover his movement, Warren doesn't move any further, though it's difficult for him: he's usually a rather animated talker. Keeping his wings still, in particular, is difficult.

"Word gets around in the 'humanity first' circles, let's just say," Warren says. "And as I said — you're being watched. You think a court ruling's the end of it? The people you worked for certainly didn't bother their heads what the law said. Nobody else will."

There's a brief pause. "Especially not the Brotherhood," he says after that moment, "and they're out for blood. Wouldn't take them long to find you. We could help, though. Particularly if you tell us a bit about this telepath stuff. That's how that Scarlet Witch does her thing."

"The Brotherhood have tortured and executed men and women for doing much less. You are being offered a gift, Mr. Wilson," speaks that formidable woman, standing as straight as a rifle at Simon Trask's shoulder. Her dark eyes burn on their captive, watchful of what he does with his hands, and where he puts them. "I would give it all due consideration."

Definitely a trade of their usual roles, Alison thinks, where Warren usually asserts himself as /her/ protector. It's a nice change.

Then Warren drops the bomb, and invokes the Brotherhood. Stong gambit right out the gates, and because it's not exactly a lie…

"How the fuck is the Brotherhood getting my name? It's not like I was the one stickin' those freaks." There's a pause, and then a roll of Wayne's eyes as he makes a small concession with the ghost of a smirk. "Except the one. But she was a real pain in the ass, so it was just better for everyone, trust me. And she definitely didn't get my name."

The dark haired man studies both Warren and Allison for a long moment, with an intensity that might give anyone with a wavering sense of security behind the illusion. But then he moves on, still ignorant of their true identities. "What do you want to know, and what are you offering?"

But she was a real pain in the ass, and she definitely didn't get MY name.

It is fortunate Warren's face is currently 'a light construct controlled by Alison,' or else he might have betrayed a little too much knowing amusement there.

"Lucky you," says 'Trask,' deadpan and sympathetic. "I've heard she's a real bitch."

He shakes his head. "Anyway. We've been working on profiling those bastards for years. We have a good idea of the things those freaks can do, and finding a name? It's trivial for mind-readers and witches like them. They don't need a name. These aberrations can just copy-paste the memory of your face from one brain to another."

He glances towards Alison, as she backs him up, but not for long. Soon enough he's returning his attention to Wilson, as the man appears to consider the offer. "We want to know names," he says. "Names both of the people you were working for, and with. Or the closest information you have, that could help us get in touch with them. If these people have got something going in regards to corralling these freaks, we want in. What's on offer… that's up to what you want. Money's no object. Protection, certainly. We can hook you up with an entire new life, reduce any chance of this stuff coming back to bite you to zero."

Which is functionally true. They could do that. In fact, they kind of plan to.

Alison shares that glance, her gifted eyes catching Warren's through the ruse. It is the smallest, if only, gesture from her, who otherwise seems to be spiralling down and down into an inhuman stillness.

As she is finding, the generation and manipulation of light is something like exercising a new muscle: as time ticks by, she feels it /strain./

Her charge is emptying little by little, its banks only gaining minimal refreshment by the reverberation of their voices in a cement box, and her new task is how to ration her light without disturbing the hologram. For an instant, Wayne Wilson's eyes catch them and stare, and Alison cannot breathe, the sweat prickling her back, in fear there was some hitch or inaccuracy in her show that she missed.

It would not be life or death for him to realize who and what they are, but it would make all of this so much more difficult. Much more unpredictable, especially for Warren's sake, and his two wings itchy for blood.

Simon Trask's female bodyguard does not speak now, but her dark eyes are hard on Wayne, boring in, demanding answers as her employer asks them — offers a reciprocal trade of safety for information.

Perhaps an intimidation from Alison's side, or perhaps just her holding as much focus as she can to make this light forgery stay. She can /do/ this.

I've heard she's a real bitch.

"Yeah, well, good thing I know a little bit about how to handle a bitch," Wilson brags with all of the worst meanings playing in his tone, his mouth curling into an uneven smirk that betrays the line of his smoke-stained teeth. Then he remembers the woman in the room with him, and his eyes turn to Allison. He considers feeling some modicum of shame.

And then decides it's not really worth the effort, despite the fact that it might seem like he means things he doesn't. They need him. He has leverage.

He feels safe.

"I can give you a list of names for guys who worked the lab rotation with me. The scientists, too. The consultant they brought in for the box. But I need assurances. Like, actual assurances."

A pause, and then he clarifies, "The money. I need to see the money."

It would not be life or death for them if Wilson were to realize who they actually were. But it would be crippling for Warren nonetheless, because then…

Who knows whether he would be able to resist his wings whispering to him what the easiest solution would be? And if he were to kill someone in cold blood, right here and now, to protect his own identity…

He tries not to think about it. It profits nothing for him to use precious brainpower in dwelling on such things. His focus stays on the venal man in front of them — especially when he feels comfortable enough to make that crass boast.

One of Warren's wings twitches tellingly.

He pushes it back under control, turning it into a careless lift of one shoulder. "Sure," he says, to the requirement of assurances. "That's fair enough, for what you're offering." He glances towards Alison — a heads-up that he's about to do something that will require a lot of lightwork — before he reaches into his breast pocket and produces two thin, bound stacks of hundred-dollar bills. Twenty thousand in total.

It's not actually fake. This is a standard part of Warren Worthington's arsenal, and a loadout he thought might be of particular use on a catch-and-lure mission like this.

"Assurance enough?" he asks, tossing it to be caught. "The rest — whatever you want to negotiate for — we can bring to another location. One more hospitable than this." He smiles thinly. "Just bring us all those names, and anything else you might have suddenly remembered."

That glance on Alison — or the powerful woman whose false face she wears — communicates little. No offence, no anger, no judgment. Perhaps mutants mean that little to her — no more than animals.

Not that it's deliberate on her part. Calculated facial nuance is just an outpour of energy and concentration she does not need — that she exhausts instead into hiding the slight movement of Warren's wings. Controlling every last visual facet of this scenario taxes Alison in a way she has not felt before, and she is glad her hologram is holding, because she can feel the sweat beading down the temples of her face.

Her thoughts swim to absorb Wilson's spoken words, and the ugliness delinating every syllable. It disgusts Alison, because she remembers seeing Emma the way they found her — but she can control her reaction. Frost does not need a couple over-empathetic mutants reacting to her situation. She needs allies who can hold themselves.

Catching Warren's glance, Alison instead makes surgical cuts to her hologram, carefully fanning light around Warren's movements. All here is a lie, but her light tricks never touch that money in hand.

Wayne Wilson is not someone who anyone would really call clever. He has a sort of animal cunning, true, that has served him well throughout his life, but his shining gift has always been his ability to leverage a distinct brand of callousness. The way he speaks of his charges in Kenai, some of whom never escaped and he knows it, should be evidence enough of it.

He’s not sorry.

He’s not sorry by a long shot.

And when he looks to the wad of cash large enough to solve many of his immediate problems, there is visible temptation in his eyes to make a play for it. He, too, exercises some modicum of control in the moment and his hands stay deep in his pockets. It’s a control born of some measure of respect. Trask, unknown though he may be to Wilson now, boasts control, powers, and fortune. It’s enough.

“Yeah. Okay. I can do that.”

He can do his homework once he gets home.

“Might be able to get another one of the guys to come, too, if you’d wanna double that.”

In that one glance Warren spares Alison, he reads the exhaustion and strain in her eyes — in the sweat trailing down her face. They are subtle signs, but subtle means little to eyes like his.

Because of that, perhaps, he starts to hurry it up. The money is a blunt-force gesture, but sometimes the right tool for a door is really just a crowbar, and their time is limited.

Not just because of Alison's charge levels, but also because… the way this man talks about what he's done is starting to make Warren's blood boil, and he is no longer someone who can afford to let his temper ride too high. He can no longer promise what he might do were his anger to be too quickly and savagely provoked, and even Alison might not be able to calm him down in time before something Unfortunate happened.

He still remembers what those victims looked like…

He keeps it off his illusioned face, and out of his voice. The faint contempt at yet again seeing someone grub and grasp for his money, though — that comes through, just a little bit, if only because Warren has grown immensely tired of such greed throughout the years. "The more information you have, the better," he says. "I'll double it. And again, even if you find a third, or a fourth."

Warren turns towards Alison, with a 'let's pack it up' tilt of his head. "Just be punctual," are his parting words to Wilson. "Meet us tonight, one in the morning, out by the old paper factory near Wanda Avenue."

Alison Blaire also remembers how they looked — how Emma Frost looked, small and pale and /broken/ under experimentation.

It helps her eyes burn into Wayne Wilson, equal parts watchful and warning as he eyes up that money in Warren's hand. If he takes a step towards him, she knows she'll do something — and not solely because she's playing the part of the protector.

And she is, in a way. If Warren touches the guy, he won't survive the meeting. The disgusting human will die as Emma so wanted him.

It might not be so bad—

But Alison pushes that thought away. Her eyes catch his gesture under Simon Trask's disguise, and her back straightens. Her false, dark eyes cut back to Wilson.

"I will be watching you," promises the enforcer, dark, deadly. "Where you go. Who you talk to. If you do anything beyond what we agreed, or speak to anyone, the deal is over. And you can deal with Magneto's spawn, yourself."

With one last look — one that communicates to Wayne that he will /not/ move until they are long gone, she flanks Warren out of the cement room, and shuts the unlocked door behind them.

Out of sight, the hologram flutters and statics. "Good job," she whispers, sounding winded. "Let's get out of here."

Befitting a man of his station, 'Trask' leaves the room without a look back, trusting his enforcer to watch his back.

It's not until he and Alison are safely without that he seems to feel free to move again. As the hologram flutters and starts to drop, Warren finally stretches and fans his wings, plainly restless after having to hold them still so long. "Yeah," he agrees. "Let's bail."

Catching her up, he disappears them both up into the sky.

It's not until they're safely some distance away that Warren touches them back down, landing atop a silent dark office building across town. "Shall we call in an end to this sordid business?" he says, affecting a false levity he transparently doesn't feel. After all, this is the final step in a path neither of them have walked before.

Nonetheless, it's one he takes, because he made a promise. He contacts Emma Frost, however she asked to be contacted.

Wayne Wilson doesn't make any breaks for it until after his mysterious new strokes of luck are gone. And then it's a single phone call and a conversation about how fast a person can get in from Pawtucket. Arrangements are made.

And as for Frost, when Worthington reaches her on her cellphone, she is answers it with a certain edge to her voice that sounds very much like she's being interrupted in the middle of an argument. Because she is. After pointing to the door of her office, and wordlessly instructing the man standing in front of her that he can depart through it promptly, she turns her attention to the one on the other side of the call. "Hello?"

And from there, it is stony silence. What follows that is a swift series of quick promises to catch a chopper ride that way as she, unlike the one who calls, does not have a pair of wings to use or borrow. It will take her a few hours, which will put her close to the rendez-vous time, but she promises to make it with a sincerity that (for all her faults) makes it hard to doubt her. Vested interest and all.

Alison does hold true to her promise to Wayne Wilson. She and Warren linger long enough to ghost the man's tracks.

Once satisfied he's on the level, however nebulous that level is beyond 'starved human greed,' they reconvene with a single call to Emma Frost. Alison is silent during the conversation, possibly still exhausted from her original feat — slightly trembly with her low charge and spending the time recovering from its corresponding fatigue.

Once Emma promises — in her very factual, unbreakable, Ice Queen way — to be there shortly, Alison animates back to usefulness.

With Warren's aerial reconnaissance, they select an empty office building near the aforementioned factory on Wanda Avenue — far enough to offer them their own safety against an initial double-cross, but close enough for Warren's avian eyes to keep a dead aim on the meet point. Wayne Wilson has still not arrived, with or without a promise of friends in arms.

Having handed the address to Emma, she will find the front door unlocked and a simple elevator ride up, where the office opens to a darkened room opened by expansive bay windows, where Worthington assumes watch. The ex-Dazzler has perched herself up on a table, obviously awaiting Frost's arrival, a pensive frown lingering on her mouth.

The look of someone who still isn't sure tonight won't end in death.

Before Archangel, the nature of Warren Worthington's powers left him with a primary — and often, sole — role of reconnaissance and rapid transport. Without significant defensive or offensive abilities, there was not much else he could do.

So, he made himself really good at it.

Such it is that it's a painfully trivial matter for him to track and follow Wayne Wilson, for as long as necessary to satisfy Alison's sharp, paranoid brain. Afterwards, it's time for the call to Emma Frost — who proves as icy as ever — which, miraculously, involves less back-and-forth than usual. Likely because for once, everyone's on exactly the same page… and Warren and Alison don't have much reason to doubt Emma's very vested interest in the matter.

Warren, reckless and straightforward as ever, almost flies straight to the stated rendezvous point. It takes Alison, with her caution and canniness, to reel him in with a good point about waiting nearby first, instead; a notion to which he readily agrees, and promptly picks out a location.

The place in question opens up to Emma easily enough on her arrival. The ex-Dazzler awaits in a perch on the table. And the ex-Angel…?

The white-winged, lovely Warren Worthington is nowhere to be seen. In his place is an armored shadow, dark blue and pitch black, draped in gleaming wings whose thousands of bladed edges shine dimly in the low light. Completely still, in the manner of an eagle balanced on a branch, Archangel surveys the paper factory in question from his watch at the bay windows. They must be nearly a mile from the place, but those impassive silver eyes track back and forth as if they were reading a book held in hand.

It is not so easy to skim that mind anymore — it seems to prickle against inquisitive intrusions, like a blue-black forest of thorns — but nonetheless a witch like Emma Frost would be able to discern that this startling creature is Warren Worthington: albeit one who, in this shape, seems to have thoughts all dipped in blood.

Uneasy alliances have their dangers. Particularly when one party has a history of morally bereft decisions. They call her morally bankrupt, and—when Emma Frost appears a mere twenty minutes before she’s due—she has done absolutely nothing to dispel the reputation.

The white leather bustier under her fine wool duster. The leather pants. The stiletto boots that could be weapons on their own. The cosmetics made harsh and every bit as icy as her name, down to the silver lipstick she’s chosen. One should, after all, dress for the occasion. Worthington did no less.

Those boots click evenly—but not heavily—against the tile of the office floor, and Alison and Warren will feel the brush of her psychic presence well before they lay eyes on her as she makes no secret of it. Trust, as they say, but verify.

So, yes, Frost will indeed know that the blood-starved creature is indeed Warren. Just as she knows his companion before she enters with her chin dipped and her shadow-crossed face stern. She looks first to Worthington with a glance. Blaire gets a closer examination as she tugs at the ruched cuffs of her short gloves.

“Well, then. I will do us all the kindness of sparing us the awkward opening chit chat. Is he here? Can we get this over with?”

That first psychic touch through her thoughts turns Alison's eyes. She still loathes the sensation of it, after Apocalypse — but she can endure quite a bit for the sake of a mission.

Among Archangel's dark and the White Queen's light, the Dazzler sits between them in an unhappy medium, wearing her own simple outfit so dully blue it broods into a shade of grey. Her gaze swings over on Frost's arrival; Alison could crack something on that get-up, but she's not in the mood, and she really doesn't want to start this off with any too-familiar animosity, so her presence remains tolerant, receptive.

"Hello to you too, Emma," she says, without any heat.

Her eyes find Archangel. She slips off from her perch, and crosses a few steps to linger closer to him. The gesture is not someone seeking closeness or comfort, but rather slipping into the habitual motions of a close watch. Warren around Emma is fine. Archangel, however, is a different story, full of so many uncertain variables, and one she needs to keep her eye on.

Just in case.

"First thing's first," Alison has to say, feeling like she's letting down some spectre of the Professor for not saying it. She looks up at Archangel, then over to Emma. "We let the target believe he was talking to an amenable and interested Simon Trask, trading information for safety. He might be coming with colleagues. We watched for any signs of someething deceptive — it all seems good. But we want you to confirm what we're all doing here, and what you're not going to do. I know this is personal — but we're holding you to your word."

Warren Worthington, in Emma Frost's experiences with him, always has something glib or flippant to say. No matter the situation, he's always ready to quip on it.

The Archangel standing in his place today seems to have no such inclinations towards frivolity. His fixed regard on the paper factory does not waver up until Emma speaks; but when she does speak, he starts to turn his head.

Alison gets up, at about the same time, crossing to stand near him. He hesitates, and his silvery eyes stop on her instead. He regards her a long few moments, silent, as if centering himself on the sight of her.

Afterwards, he completes his look at Emma Frost, giving her his full attention. The outfit, for once, draws no comment. Alison takes charge, with the preliminaries: Archangel, for now, has little to say.

Aloud, at least. When Alison reminds them all what they're not going to do, his feathers compress slightly, wings sheathing even more tightly at his back.

"Yes, yes," Emma replies, her tone not dismissive, but certainly looking to move past a sentiment that feels rather like a chastisement rather than linger. Feels like the threat of a leash. "The little flatscan and whatever little maggot friends he brings will still be breathing at the end of all of this. I'll leave the parasympathetic function alone."

She pauses, and then lifts her eyes upwards to make a dramatic show of amending the thought as she stretches her fingers out in their sheaths of soft leather. "Mostly alone." Another beat and her eyes come back to Blaire. "Probably."

Briefly, but deliberately, Alison reaches to touch Archangel's closer hand. Its sleek, wicked talons, hooked and long enough to bear into a body and open it out — do not intimidate her.

She considers Emma's reply. Her expression is tight, reflecting one of Scott's familiar, phantom looks of 'rigid with a slight yield of disapproval,' but however the White Queen phrases it — she decides to take that agreement at face value. They're already too far in, and this next step needs to be completed. The question will remain when it happens — will they be forced accomplices to a murder? God, she will do her best not to make it happen.

"All right," is all Alison answers, tepid in face and voice.

She hopes she doesn't live to regret this.

Alison's head turns. "Warren?" is all she asks, voice steeped with care. The question is unasked, shaded into her tone: do you see anything? Is it time?

Archangel allows his closest hand to be touched. Its long, hooked talons remain inert in Alison's hand, careful not to move too drastically while she is nearby. There is, overall, a general air of rigid self-control about his shadowed figure — perhaps because Emma Frost always had a talent for provoking Warren Worthington, and Archangel is guaranteed to have even less patience.

Her answer for Alison's confirmations lifts his steely feathers slightly, but ultimately — it's good enough for Alison, so it is good enough for him.

Something catches the corner of his eye. His feathers sleek back down with a metallic rustle, and his head turns back to the designated meeting point below with the quick precision of a raptor. It tilts slightly, the better for him to get a clear look.

Warren? Alison asks.

Archangel doesn't initially respond. It's only after a moment passes that he finally talks for the first time. His voice sounds as harsh as he looks, though the actual tone of what he says is neutral. "Yes. We probably want to get down there soon."

Emma observes all of the interaction between Warren and Alison, and her lower lids lift just the slightest degree. She could offer to handle it herself, although they would likely not see the kindness in it. It would be wasted effort, wasted breath or thought.

And, furthermore, the only way mortal creatures learn is to test their own limits to see how far they go before they crumble beneath the weight of hope and aspiration… And Emma Frost still has a teacher's sensibility. To intervene too soon is to deprive that mortal creature a chance to self-teach.

She will afford her foe-turned-ally that basic dignity, but tell herself that it is just so that she needn't waste the breath of protest.

"I'll meet you down there," she says simply, turning to exit the way she came in. "Just send the thought when you're ready."

Because a pair of cars are already idling on the far side of the complex, next to each other in an otherwise sprawling and empty lot, and two men stand talking between them. "You sure the money's good?" the man who is not Wilson asks.

"Yeah," Wilson responds, "And, really, what money did you come into that you don't need a payout?"

The other man exhales a scoff around a suck of his vaping stick.

"Right, c'mon."

Now, it would perhaps be worth noting at this particular point as they turn off their cars and then move to go checking out the grounds that neither man is unarmed. The bulge of holsters is subtle, but there.

Such is the conundrum of Emma Frost: would even as someone as perceptive as Alison Blaire foresee any sort of kindness?

It is truly hard to say. She has seen Emma vulnerable once in her life, though through no personal decision of the telepath herself. She has only conducted herself one way, and even if Alison, at her most charitable, does not think Emma destructive, or even malicious —

Ruthless, absolutely.

"Got it," Alison instead tells Emma, chasing the woman with a pensive look until she can no longer hear the crisp echoes of those expensive heels. Eventually, she exhales, and when they are alone, her attention turns fully back to Archangel. That bladed, bloodless face that carries as much a lingering imprint of Warren Worthington as he does the judgmental shadow of Death.

"If it gets too much," she says, "just look at me. I'll make this as quick as possible."

With that, she allows Warren to be their quick travel to the complex, where she lets him drop her off to the ground before he retreats silently back into the air. There, Alison seams into the shadow, bending light around her — closing herself in a partial invisibility. She doesn't want to empty her charge immediately.

«We're here,» she sends out the thought, deliberately — she's had a lot of practice doing this sort of thing with Jean. «Find your way inside. We'll follow you with our friends in tow. They'll be conscious.»

Echolocating those distant voices, Alison slips past their empty cars, glancing inside to ensure they are just that, before she stalks their footsteps. Her own emanate their own noise in the end, and deliberately so. A scruff of a shoe that they are not alone.

Only to look back — it is not Simon Trask, nor any of his suited people.

It's… the Dazzler?

"Hello boys," she greets them, with her hundred watt smile. "I'm a touch lost around here. Help a girl out?"

Archangel watches Emma as she leaves, though continues to say little. His austere aspect only softens when Alison promises what to do if it all gets to be… too much.

His silver eyes mollify with a touch of blue. "That makes me feel better," Warren says.

Moments later, he takes them both back into the sky.

Alison is dropped off, solo, not far from the meet point. Warren climbs back into the night air with a few labored beats of his wings, circling overhead as contact is made. His star-steel wings are completely silent as they cut through the air, but even if they weren't, he does not expect to be seen. Humans rarely look up.

And certainly not when THE DAZZLER is stepping into view beside them.

They are not given too much time to react to her presence — hostile or not — before there is the soft whisper of two very fast, very sharp objects through the night air. A tiny pair of shed feathers whistle towards the pair of men like darts, aimed to sink into the backs of their necks — and to deliver the paralytic toxin they carry as directly into their systems as possible.

Archangel descends, a moment later, with a great backwatering of his wings. Just in the event things get unexpectedly hairy.

When Dazzler makes her appearance, the reaction varies between the two men. The new face looks utterly baffled when he turns to face her. There's accusation in his features and voice as he looks to Wayne. "What the hell?"

But Wayne? He's more swift to his sidearm and he has his pistol half-out when the neurotoxin is introduced into his system. He tries to fire at Alison anyway, although he trips over himself in the process and he struggles to free his firearm the rest of the way.

Emma doesn't step into the open while all of this transpires, instead choosing to hold back and simply let her the weight of her psychic presence speak for itself.

And don't let it be said that the woman can't take orders - or guidelines or suggestions or whatever that she wants to call it, really, that is helping to her to permit X-Men to have such sway over her.

« I'm here, » she'll whisper to their minds, with some measure of dark sentiment subtly wrapped around the words like choking vines in the way only a telepath could likely manage.

And while the men are distracted, she's already tearing through their thoughts on a very particular mission.

On the Dazzler's face, is a brief, humourless smile that does not reach her staring eyes. But she stands still, doing little, with a full and implicit trust that the Archangel will strike fast.

And he does.

The men react to the pinpoint strikes of the feather darts — lacquered with a horrific toxin that locks the body into a trapped, paralyzed awareness — though one still manages to reach for his gun. The vector of surprise does not hit him as much as she hoped.

She has a hundred ways of dealing with weapons (flashblinding eyes, heating their metal, using a pinpoint laser to shave the muzzle straight off), and Alison is trained to employ them all; the only thing she does not anticipate, does not expect —

— is how it feels to see the barrel on her, one more time.

She freezes up. For a moment, she swears she sees Cameron Hodge, back from the dead and a metre from her, pointing a gun at her head. She can't think.

If a shot gets out, it barely makes noise, as if fired through a suppressor. A fortunate consequence of having the Dazzler so close, passively absorbing sound.

But it's a split-second. The man trips and fumbles, and no doubt Archangel's impressive wings cut off any further sight she has of the thing, as Alison blinks her eyes, shaking off the terrible memory. She has no time for it, not here, not now.

Still a little shaky, she tries to rip the still-holstered weapon off the other one.

Warren's excellent eyes mean he has a very good view of it when someone tries to point a gun at Alison. And the last time he saw someone point a gun at Alison —

The quick-acting neurotoxin means that Wayne can't quite pull the trigger, which is a small blessing, but the fact that he tried at all…

When Archangel lands, it is directly ON the man, assisting him in his facefirst crash to the ground. Furious, he likely comes within inches of breaking Wayne Wilson's back, with only the barest thread of restraint left to prevent outright murder being done for the affront. As it is, he remains perched there, not in a hurry to leave, his twenty-foot wingspan mantled fully open in frustrated aggression.

The other man draws Archangel's baleful silver eyes, though Alison seems to have disarming him well in hand. When she looks up, it will be to find Warren looking at her with clear concern and question in his eyes.

Men hit the ground and nearly pay for their transgressions against the lovely Alison Blaire. Wayne's spine creaks under the barely-restrained weight of Archangel's fury, and the other man stares on helplessly as Dazzler takes his gun even further from his unresponsive hands.

The true peak of the horror of the moment, however, is Frost's alone to relish. Locked in their own minds as the neurotoxin weaves its irresistible command, she only comes out of the shadows when all is still.

She takes her time in crossing the space between, the light hitting her face on one side just so, left exposed by the austere way she's pulled half of the curtain of her hair far back.

She could afford Blaire and Worthington perhaps a little more time for themselves, one supposes. Let them support one another through a simultaneously mutual and unique trauma and story of survival.

…Or she could do the mercy that no one will notice and pretend it escapes her attention when she moves to make her way to the man who is not presently under Worthington's boot. The one near Blaire. It doesn't, naturally, escape her attention but she's grown very good at pretending in her time. Frost simply pointedly avoids looking to seek out Warren or Alison's gaze in any way whatsoever as her ice pale eyes bore holes in the men who presently have their place on the ground.

She's not quite recognized - the neurotoxin is making the minute muscle shifts that would require for a clear focus difficult. She can't help but to feel vaguely robbed. She frowns discontentedly for it, but has more than enough ways to fix that particularly disappointing aspect of the whole sordid affair.

"Move aside, dear," Emma offers to Alison with a very odd twist of tone, at once firm and gentle. "I believe it's my turn." She glances in her fellow mutants' direction at last, an eyebrow arching. "You can go talk over there and supervise while I do the job if it makes you feel better." She indicates a vague space to the side. She wants space, although she doesn't particularly need it to do her work.

In something very much not what the X-Men would condone, or even exercise —

— Alison sees, in full view, as Archangel lands directly on a man who tries to shoot her. He lands with as much careless velocity that comes hairs from breaking a human spine, and remains there, mantling violently in place, and she… has no rebukes. Has no immediate concern for the human being smothered under the mutant's feet. Perhaps this lack of concern is her time to clear her cloudy thoughts, and banish memory of Hodge from her head; perhaps she just really. does not. care.

The only thing for which she does care is that worried glance Warren's silvery eyes cast her; Alison answers it with a silent look of confirmation. She's just fine.

She disarms the other in the interim, a grimace on her face like she can barely stand the feel of a gun in her hands. There is a brief flicker of light from her cupped palms, and she releases it melted and misshaped, cooked under a irradiated pulse of her light.

Letting it drop, she turns, her stance between the waiting Archangel and the approaching White Queen. The latter thins her mouth, but the former is her first priority, especially to see Archangel's palpable labour to restrain himself just inches from homicide. Perhaps, in his eyes, a very justifiable homicide.

She reaches to, again, carefully take one of his taloned hands, offering him her eyes as both a soothe and a target to focus, to better chase Death's impulses away.

Emma's request only flickers that concentration a moment. Alison's glance is nearly dry, but she has no venom for the White Queen. How could she? These men helped take nearly everything away from her. One of them, a day ago, took disgusting pride in it. She finds she barely feels any of that reticence of just an hour ago. Now it feels like the faster this is done, the better for all of them.

"As we agreed, it's all yours," she cedes, a slight beckon of her hand to help guide the impressive, steely Archangel off his would-be kill, and allow Emma room to work her magic. "We'll be here if you need back-up."

Only a severe effort of restraint keeps Archangel's talons from ripping into the back of the downed man's neck. The wings already want blood, and the man attached to them? He's of the same mind, after seeing a gun pulled on Alison Blaire AGAIN.

But some last shred of Warren Worthington, somewhere under the armor and blades of Archangel, prevents that last lethal step over the line the X-Men have always drawn in the sand for themselves. Some last shred of Warren chooses, instead of leaning down for the kill, to look up at Alison instead. To center himself on the sight of her, telling him that she is okay.

And there is the presence of Emma, too, to account for. While they are allies now, Warren does not quite trust her sufficiently to want to lose any sort of control around her. It would be read as weakness.

So ultimately, Archangel stays his wings and talons. He lets Alison take one of his hands, and after a moment even lets himself be led off his would-be kill. He follows her, coaxed, his wings rattling softly as their bladed feathers sheathe and fold up at his back.

He glances at Emma in passing as they give the White Queen her space. It is a considering look, because he heard the gentler tone to her voice.

"They'll be paralyzed more than long enough," is his sole offering, as he turns away from the unfortunate men without a backwards glance.

Emma doesn’t really outwardly acknowledge what the X-Men say to her, save the understanding in her eyes. She waits until the pair are a good distance off, and then the White Queen gracefully lowers herself to the filthy ground, the pristine white of her jacket pooling around her as she hisses low and sneers. "You are going to wish that I found you first, you disgusting little mealworms. Because now? You get Plan B."

A gloved hand stretches out followed by the other and, by force of will alone, Emma doesn't flinch in revulsion as she sets her spread fingertips on either side of his head. She then closes her eyes, bows her head, and takes a deep breath so that she can set herself to the task at hand. Searching out memories. Destroying others.

Long minutes pass. They might feel like the start to eternity, punctuated by the occasional sharp sniff.

Then, after her angry hands flex a few times to release some tension, she picks herself up and moves to repeat the mostly invisible process with Wayne Wilson.

And then, at the end of that, she slowly picks herself back up onto her feet. While her back is still to Alison and Warren, she rubs at her nose with the back of her wrist and then pulls it away to inspect the pale skin there. Only once assured that it's clear, the mind witch simply turns to go, wordlessly leaving the defenseless humans in her wake, still under the effects of the neurotoxin.

She glances at the two X-Men as she moves to leave them behind as well. « It's done. »

With Archangel as her first concern, Alison wastes no time to lead them both away, better to give air and space to help the bloodlust she knows so well. Though he does not, she glances back — on the two paralyzed humans, and Emma Frost arranging herself delicately between them — eclipsing the trajectory of their very lives to make it her own.

There is no suspicion, this time, in her gaze. Something else almost strained.

There Alison stands, just out of earshot, more that she cannot be disturbed when she asks Warren, soft, "Are you all right?"

Maybe more low murmurs are exchanged in that time, but otherwise she waits with her famous patience. Every so often, Alison feels curious enough to look over, quiet as it is — deathly quiet — where Emma administers her ability on her former tormentors, but something ultimately stops her. It feels wrong. It feels like eavesdropping on something utterly private, utterly vulnerable, because now more than ever, she cannot lose that image of how they found Frost. A bitter part of her hates how these men will serve no true punishment for their crimes, because one does not exist in this world. No justice for mutants.

Not unless they make it, some whisper of Genesis — no, of Apocalypse — bids from her memory. Alison uneasily files it away, back in that dark place where she too keeps Hodge.

She absently brushes some of those folded metal feathers, as if to soothe them both.

Then it is done, and Alison looks up. She knows she should go back, and physically confirm those men are still alive, but she doesn't want to put her face into their eyeline. Warren will be able to see well enough.

And then Emma Frost, just like that, brushes past them, with not a glance — just a thought to seal her work. Alison wants to ask many questions, but most of them seem obvious — stuff she already knows. Emma would have made sure her work was complete. Would have erased any trace of mutants from their minds. Maybe even erased some of the ugliness in there, too.

"Will you be OK?" she finds herself asking instead, after the woman, voice surprisingly soft. She knows what's it like — he knows what it's like. Both of them, like Emma, suffered at the hands of humanity.

The bloodlust is certainly there. Though it might not be expressed in Warren's face or voice, which both remain controlled, and though he takes no hostile action, his wings are trembling slightly in a telling way. It is not out of fear, or pain, or even mere anger; those tremors are the eager longings of those feathered blades to deliver a bloody judgment.

The tension on his features comes of his effort to suppress that blood-borne compulsion to mete death.

"I'll be fine," is his strained answer, when Alison asks after him. His gaze turns back to Emma as the mind witch works her craft, and unlike Alison… it stays there.

Perhaps it is private. But in his view, it is an enactment of justice, and the part of him that is still Death feels a certain patronage for any sort of judgment rendered. An interest to witness it, wherever it might come to pass. It will be a substitute for the urge to sink his blades into flesh and bone.

"We'll be fine," he amends, after a few moments. One wing folds around Alison, as they wait.

Soon enough, it is over. Uncloaking his wing from about Ali to give her back freedom of movement, Warren spares the men one glance — still living, as promised — before his gaze tracks up to Emma. He does not seem surprised that she makes to immediately leave, with her only goodbye a brief telepathic note. He probably would do the same.

He does seem surprised, however, when Alison reaches out verbally. After a moment, however, he seems to understand.

"As promised," is his sole reply to Emma, for his part. He likely does not need to say more for Emma to understand. He swore this atrocity would not go unanswered, and in his view he has met his oath.

Emma’s dramatic exit cut short, she stops and waits a beat before turning to actually face the two other blondes once more with a hard set to her delicate features. Her nostrils flare as she sniffs sharply once more.

« As promised, a start, » she tells them both, her jaw setting and untrusting of her voice to form words. It’s there again, the dark feelings that wind through the thought. They punctuate it, and give it teeth.

This? Is not what she wants, and the dark feelings made strong for whatever sludge she found in their minds are a keen reminder of that fact. This is settling for something less than what she wants—compromise being a cardinal sin in the house that Winston Frost built—and she has no intention of letting either of the pair forget that she neither likes nor agrees with the sentiment. Lesser creatures should respect their betters. The dogs that foolishly dare to bite are not the dogs one keeps. Particularly the wrong breed of dog; the dog with the wrong temperament.

And the guards at Kenai were most assuredly the wrong breed, as was Cameron Hodge.

But, for today at least, Emma Frost will abide by the agreement that has been struck. Days are like that, sometimes—taken one at a time, as they come.

As for the matter of the question that Alison posed, it needs answering. The telepath doesn’t really have a ready quip standing by; she wasn’t prepared for such a thing as a question as to her well-being. Her capacity, certainly. Her willingness to play ball, no doubt.

…her well-being? The question draws her to a pause. Frost decides it reeks of pity; she wants none of it and now must shoulder the knowledge that Blaire believes she might need it. Her gaze turns sharply to the pair paralyzed on the floor. This insufferable compromise of her dignity is their fault. Consequently, she debates anew whether to shut off their breathing right then and there for the crime or let their hearts forget how it is that they beat, promises be damned. Except… Except that she’s not quite ready to attempt blatantly crossing the two X-Men.

She growls in frustration and turns back towards the path that gets her the hell out of here and back to her solitude.

“Frankly, I never waste my time with thoughts of being anything else, Miss Blaire.”

She turns a corner, unwilling to stay longer. She needs a shower and copious amounts of alcohol. She’s not nearly drunk enough.

« Good evening to you both. You know how to find me if you find another city infested with this filth. »

Archangel's silver eyes turn to Emma's sharp mental retort. His expression does not change, beyond a brief lift of his brows.

"A start," he allows, laconically.

It is obvious Emma dislikes the arrangement, and obvious why, but Warren does not seem about to make any concessions about it. This was a compromise for him and Alison, too — a step beyond what they were ever taught by the Professor.

He seems, overall, content to just call this particular leg of the matter resolved, and to get going. But Alison has another question.

And Emma's response?

An odd noise escapes the shadowy figure at Alison's side. It is an odd noise for Archangel, anyway — it's not an odd one for Warren Worthington. It's a laugh.

"We'll be in touch, Ms. Frost," are his parting words, before he turns back to Alison, shrouding her in the span of his opening wings.

"I have never," he says, in explanation of his amusement, "met anyone so allergic to the sentiment of concern."

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