Precious Cargo
Roleplaying Log: Precious Cargo
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Going stircrazy after months without any actual action, Tabitha Smith follows up on a few IGH rumors and runs into one of the Brotherhood's defectors - and one who happened to be part of her 'class'.

Other Characters Referenced: Magneto, Professor X, Phoenix, Quicksilver, Mystique
IC Date: February 20, 2019
IC Location: A Shady Airstrip
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 21 Feb 2019 06:42
Rating & Warnings: R for language and violence
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

The thing about the IGH nonsense hitting the papers is this.

On one hand, people know some horrible atrocities were committed, and some bad people were brought to justice. Justice the Brotherhood tried to make a little more just, in fact. Justice the Brotherhood would still like to make a little more just.

On the other hand, scientists around the world now know it is possible to somehow carve into mutants to make wonderdrugs. And if anti-meta sentiment runs high enough that the street market value of those may not be so great in America, they may still be fantastic in other parts of the world. To say nothing of the medical or military value of what might be created.

And if they'll have to start from scratch, do their own work on this without the benefit of work that's gone before, what of it? Sometimes all that is required is to know a thing is possible, right?

And so shady labs around the world, and even some governments are paying top dollar for metas nobody will miss. Some snidely snerk that's every mutie, but that's neither here nor there.

Boom-Boom's own investigation into this has led to a lonely airstrip in upstate New York, a place that seems to be serving as a distribution center of sorts. The Wholesale arm of some operation, ready to sell to retailers all over the world, who will in turn sell to labs. Capitalism at its finest.

There are three hangars here, and one plane sitting on the tarmac, a massive, bloated cargo affair that looks squat and ugly.

It's a grey day. Just one degree above freezing, with icy rain sluicing down. No doubt it will form a slick crust on all the snow still piled up everywhere later. Trees whip every whichway in the wind, which all but hisses.

Beside each hangar, armed guards in sets of two pause to tug up their coats, to sniff against runny noses, to complain.

This is just to look and see, she tells herself.

With IGH now forced into public scrutiny, after the Brotherhood's attempt at a public execution in the courthouse, threads on that regard had remained silent, and really, as she waits for word whether Nelson & Murdock has hired her, Tabitha Smith is starting to get antsy. It helps that databases from all over have been scoured of her presence and likeness and by all rights, she really shouldn't be doing this when she's supposed to be undercover - she risks blowing it if she's not careful.

But she's just looking. No harm ever came from looking.

She is, however, a creature of impulse, and being bored only brings her into further trouble. Clad in dark clothing, the hood pulled up over her head and special sunglasses perched on her nose, she waits even as icy rain sloughs off her weatherproofed gear, biding her time.

She takes the nearest patrol first - only two, leaping out silently from her cover and jabbing not one, but two tazers right for their necks, and cranks it up to the highest setting the devices could allow without killing them.

If successful, if they drop, she'll stow them away and hide them behind a pile of crates, ducking under the umbrella of a large canvas tarp. One poor guy gets stripped of his gear - not all of it, but enough to make it appear that she is authorized personnel. She also hunts for an access card, and tries the contents of their pockets.

She is indeed successful.

Gear fits well enough. Access card is acquired. Taking out patrols is a fine move, leaving her plenty of hiding spots to go about her business.

Someone seems to have taken a more direct route. Or maybe one of the door guards is just diabetic, and the reason he's just collapsed has something to do with his blood sugar. There are few hiding places around the hangars, but someone certainly seems to have struck from one of them. His buddy guard bends down. "Hey! Hey, Mark…"

With no gunshot sounds and no obvious source of attack, he assumes it's a medical thing too.

A pale, careless hand brushes his cheek from the self-same spot, and he collapses atop his fellow. The other four are starting to rouse themselves. One guard breaks off from each door to go see what the Hell is happening.

The jacket is a little heavy, but it does the job. Tabitha finds a sidearm and stows it in the waistband of her black jeans. The access card, she slips into her pocket before she stands. With this specific patrol neutralized, her pale blue eyes take in the tarmac and the cargo plane, narrowing her eyes faintly.

There's something else going on here.

Instincts tell her this, not any particular evidence or overt sign. Carefully, she crouches behind another cover, peeking out to see another person just collapse next to his partner from the other side of the hangar. And look, there's another one, breaking away from the door to investigate - there'll be a few others, and she bites back a scathing invective. Were they onto her? Or someone else?

She doesn't ask - that would be dumb. Instead, she tazes another one of the guards, who makes the mistake of lingering too close to her present hiding place.

"Tch…if it's not one thing…" she murmurs, before she scoots in an attempt to approach what appears to be the epicenter of the trouble.

She takes out the guard closest to the woods, the one who stayed by Hangar #3. The guard at Hangar #2 is busy peering over at Hangar #1, the epicenter of the trouble. And since she's dressed correctly, that guard just gives her a quick once-over and goes back to trying to see. His angle for this isn't great, though he jumps to quickly enough when the guards who go to investigate are suddenly just down, running towards the source.

Tabitha will see what the guard can't quite, yet.

Rogue wears a mechanic's jumpsuit. She looks like someone who might have been called in to maintenance the plane, and indeed, maybe that was her cover to get this far. But now she stands with arms akimbo, one hand to each of the faces of the two as she drops them, both gloves off and sort of hanging from her mouth because she doesn't want to drop them and didn't want to waste time shoving them in pockets.

Rogue looks up. Sees Tabi. Mistakes her for a soldier. And gets a momentary shit, look on her face, because there's enough distance to make her worried about gunfire.

So of course, a (dead? Unconscious? Comatose?) body gets hurled directly at her. Having stolen strength from four men, she's no Superwoman, but she's got more than enough for that.

She's already sprinting on a dead run once she realizes that, at this point, there'll be no patrol yet. And the mechanic looks familiar - the jumpsuit does well to hide Rogue's athletic figure to the point that she can't tell whether it's a man or a woman, but that hair, with its brown curls and that signature white streak. It couldn't be…

…could it?

Tabitha's eyes widen when she turns, Rogue's own flashing with that momentary panic. "Oh, fu— "

And a heavy body goes flying at her.

She may be of smaller stature, but she is quick on her feet, and she leaps away, the body finding empty air as he downs some crates like bowling pins. She grows limp while she's airborne, over the first hard bounce off the ground, using her momentum to roll herself on her knees, and then on her feet. She rips off her hood, to let her blonde locks spill free, though she doesn't take off her large obfuscating sunglasses. Someone else could be watching.

Since the guards think she's one of them, she attempts to jab a tazer into one's nape, and then swings the butt of it to his nearest comrade, in an attempt to crack him upside the jaw with it.

"Fancy running into you here, sugar." Her own southern accent that she tries to hide drawls out from the back of her throat. "Aren't your troublemaking days far behind you now that you've gone off to go straight?"

Tabitha neatly does for the final guard, the one who had finally stopped trying to lookie-loo and who had finally come down to see what the commotion was about. If there aren't any more of them inside, they've got free reign to see what the Hell is going on here.

A pair of gloves drops from mouth to hands. The southern belle pulls them on while Tabitha dispatches the final guard, recognizing her now. She'd started, just a little, but then she'd just gone about the business of calmly putting them on. Dirty mechanic's gloves that she somehow manages to draw over slim fingers as if they were evening wear.

Something crosses over her face at Tabitha's opening salvo, something sad and a little weary. Seconds later, she's smiling like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth.

"I reckon I'll always make trouble for folks like this," she drawls. "Just a little more different than I used to, I guess."

To that end she pauses and checks the pulses of the ones who are down. They're all alive, which is never a sure thing with her gifts, and she does nothing to help them along to the other side. She pulls out zip ties and starts making sure they can't cause any trouble should they wake up.

"I figured," Tabitha remarks, her expression inscrutable - save for the smirk that curls up the corners of her mouth, nothing seems to have sunk into her ambivalent facade, and if Rogue's sad and somewhat weary expression was noticed by her, she doesn't show it. There's a glance at the way she pulls up those gloves, the zip-ties. It's a practical solution to a problem that doesn't have to be one.

"Though I figured 'folks like this' would count among your former family members, too." She plants a hand on her hip. "What are you doing here, Rogue? And by yourself?"

After a pause, she continues.

"I figured we might as well have it out whether we're gonna be in each other's way or not while we're both here. You after what I'm after?"

"Are you involved in mutant trafficking?" Rogue asks, her customary sass rolling off her tongue with ease.

"Because if not, today, we ain't in each other's way. I'm here to free anyone who is here, and to try and find out what I can about the bigger fish. I'm also here looking for a kid. Checking up on her was what put me on this rabbit trail in the first place. As for alone…"

She shrugs.

There are probably one or two of the X-Men who would have gone with her. But she feels awkward, vulnerable, asking. And even the ones that like her might spend half a second asking themselves if it was a trap. The only one she thinks wouldn't doesn't need her bothering her with half-ass maybes. She'll bother Jean when there's real proof to bother Jean with.

"X-folks don't always kick down doors like a platoon of Kool-Aid Men, yelling charge. A spot of scouting is a thing that happens."

She tips a finger towards her former companion. And turns it right back around.

"You're alone. Why ain't you got someone watching your back?"

"Only in the sense that I'm tracking a particularly dangerous rumor," Tabitha replies after examining her nails, though she keeps one glittering blue eye trained on her former comrade. "But definitely not the ones that said that you left us. I just didn't expect to be running into you here after everything, that's all."

She dangles the access card in front of herself. "Besides, if what you're looking for's information, and possibly a jailbreak, we'll probably need something like this, yeah?"

And when the brunette rightly points out that she's alone, she laughs, that brilliant, cutting smile lancing the X-man's way. "Relax, Mississippi," she says, stepping past her to start going towards what looks important - the cargo plane might have something, unless there's a facility nearby that's just dying to be broken into. Her hand pulls her hood back up to hide her hair. "If you want the truth?"

And for a con artist and street thief, the truth is somewhat nebulous.

"The truth is I'm not supposed to be here."

She's still smiling as she starts moving across the tarmac. Really, not much has changed since Rogue left, as far as Tabitha's unique proclivities extend. She looks for trouble as much as she gets into it without meaning to, always one to go her on and do things her way.

"But all work and no play makes Tabby a dull girl."

There's a soft, genuine laugh from the other woman as Tabitha tells her to relax, and produces the keycard. And she does. There's a genuine sparkle in those emerald green eyes. She doesn't back off from her other lie…the truth is way too pathetic, and there's no supposed to or not supposed to at work for her right now. But at the same time…

"Looks like we both got ourselves a spot of backup then. Cause the one thing you ain't ever gonna be is dull."

She tugs her mechanic's cap down with a smirk, shading her eyes. Gathers her hair back into a tail. The dadgum hairsaver had broken. She fishes out another one though, leaving only that skunk stripe to dangle in a winsome curl on the side of her face. Not on purpose, it just sort of happens that way.

And as she does all this, she follows Tabby.

The door of the cargo plane pops open. A curtain is pulled between the entry and the cargo area, but nothing's preventing entry. There's no door between the cockpit and the entry either, since this isn't a passenger flight.

"You know what'd make this more exciting?" Boom-Boom tells Rogue as she swipes the access card on the reader, and watches the cargo plane's gangplank go down to admit the two ladies in. "If we were good enough pilots to steal this plane." By the look on her face though, nothing is exactly preventing her from trying. There'd been a few years of training, from Mystique, especially, one of the Brotherhood's premier agents and accustomed to this sort of work, but well, Tabitha doesn't exactly have a license.

"But I'm glad you still think I'm a gas to have around."

She doesn't withdraw any weapons - she doesn't need it, for someone so petite, the firepower she packs has the potential to level a city if she wants it to. But sliding her hands in her pockets, she proceeds up and into the cargo area of the plane in an effort to look around.

"So what happened, Mississippi? I go away for a few months and when I come back, you've ditched the red and violet for the blue and yellow? What gives?"

There are no prisoners, though there are twenty tanks. Person-sized tanks. Rogue, being the button-pusher she is, pushes a button on one. The chamber immediately fills with some sort of thick gas. She wrinkles her nose and recoils a little bit.

"Don't look at me," she says, on the matter of Grand Theft Airplane. "You know I'm better at fixin' 'em than flyin 'em."

But Tabitha's asking an important question, and with none of the cold rancor that had marked her meeting with the twins. And thus she gets the full explanation she's owed.

She goes to press another button on the same tank. Thinks better of it.

"Last mission I went on," she says, "I ended up absorbing way too many people. And that's all I even remember about it."

The number she just absorbed might well be troubling, but she seems to be holding it together. How many is too many? More than four or five, that's for sure.

"It's hard for me to say exactly what happened next. It's just…images. Blurs. Voices. Sometimes I'd find myself stumbling down a street, no idea how I got there, at one point I was on a bus, another time I've got a dead person in my hands I'm pretty sure I murdered for no reason at all. Mutant, she had sort of a…I don't know, she wasn't ugly but she reminded me of some kind of a rhino or Star Trek alien or something. I don't know why I killed her, I just know I was holding the knife that was buried in her chest."

She puts a hand to her head, remembering. Even now some of that pounds at her psyche.

"Maybe one of the voices knew the X-men, maybe it was me. I don't know if we…if y'all…got a psychic powerful enough. Red can get into heads but not the same way…I don't know. I just know I collapsed on the X-doorstep. All dirty, all a wreck, babbling away. Jean Grey helped me. I don't know why she did, she knew exactly who I was, but she did. But…just cause she sorted me straight don't mean…"

She shakes her head. "Someone I took on was…maybe a nurse, I don't know. Once I saw things way she sees things, I just…she's not in there anymore but the way she saw the world is still chasing itself round and round in my head. I can't do it anymore. I can't do it the same way anymore. It does something to me in my heart and I just can't. I know I must sound like a plum goose fool, sugar, but it's true. I knew I couldn't fight effectively with y'all no more. I'd be a liability, straight up. But maybe I could still fight. We still want a lotta the same things, just…how we go about it's different, is all. I can do it their way. I can't do it our way no more. It just…ain't in me. Or…I ain't me no more. Pietro said that might be true, and I reckon it might even be. I don't rightly know."

She shrugs, abruptly a little uncomfortable. Maybe even a lot uncomfortable. But she doesn't slap on the smile, the facade that says everything's just dandy fine with her, thank you kindly for asking.

No people, thank goodness, but people-sized tanks. Tabitha looks up and down the row of them, watches as Rogue presses a button and one of them fills with gas. There's a narrowing of her eyes, taking a step back. She's not about to breathe it in.

Still, she turns around and presses another button, on another tank, letting the gas expel uselessly within it. Maybe if they did it for all of these tanks, they'd be rendered unusable? What was that, an anaesthetic gaseous agent, to keep captives docile? There's a glance towards the empty cockpit and the holder against the wall containing the digital manifest. She reaches out to take it, and use the access card to bypass its security measures.

She's working, yes, but she's listening too. Too many think her flighty enough to consider her bubbleheaded and unintelligent - she has never made it a point to protest; not because it's true, but because she doesn't care what most people think of her. And while she has no frame of reference for the experiences Rogue describes - they are unique, after all, because of her powers - she tries to understand.

Finally, she looks away from the manifest and towards her ex-comrade.

"Guess it's better to know that and bail, than to know that and stay. It would've been more damaging if you thought to turn your coat while you were still with us….then you and I wouldn't be exchanging words." She is, as always, straightforward when she delivers her opinion. "Besides, I'm the last person to judge someone for running and trying to make things better for herself. To try and find something that fits."

She turns back to the manifest, flicking the screen upwards, accessing files. "Names for the latest stock, I think," she tells Rogue. "Odd though, that they're not here. Maybe they're not loaded yet, or these are anticipatory."

She keeps looking, however. "Things between the Brotherhood and the X-ers have always been pretty thorny. Complicated in the best and worst ways. Probably doesn't help that the two people who started it were best fuckin' bros, but without the two of them…guess we're just left floundering, trying to figure out the best way to follow the script. That was never for me either, and something tells me things'll only get worse come March."

She furrows her brows at the data, before turning to look at Rogue again. "Other than that, how've you been?"

Rogue is not much of an investigator. Not really. She can follow some trails, but that's not her natural habitat. She frowns at the digital manifest. "Could they be up there in the hangers maybe? Or…maybe they was special ordered. So maybe they gotta go and grab 'em. Don't know how you'd go about puttin' someone up for sale you don't rightly have yet but…"

She tips a finger over Tabi's shoulders. "Them codes under all them names gotta mean somethin', right?"

For there are long letter and numberstrings under each one.

They look like this:

0000471606d08875c7d74c55c4bef10455d04f55d0be03306a20e1278e28310232.

Rogue takes out her phone and snaps a photo of the whole thing, anyway. This is something she can refer to folks smarter than her, after all.

She isn't much of one either, but Tabitha is clever and most times, surprisingly insightful - and it's largely due to the fact that playing a dumb blonde is a helluvalot easier than being saddled with responsibilities for being so competent. Some people get rewarded with promotions, benefits, perks - Magneto's own? They only get to do more work.

And as she says, all work and no play makes Tabby a dull girl.

The string of numbers is strange, and she hands the digital manifest to Rogue after she makes a copy of its data with a portable USB she hides in her keychain. "Man," she grumbles. "And here I was hoping I'd get to blow shit up, have some people run away screaming to freedom. What'd you hear about this anyway, by the way? I mean, anyone with criminal leanings probably saw this coming, and with March rolling around pretty quickly— "

She presses another button on one of the tanks. But instead of gas pouring out from the dispenser within, there is nothing of the kind. Instead, there's a hiss as the chamber decompresses, red indicator lights shifting to green.

The tank unfolds, leaving them the sight of an unconscious child, not older than three years old, chubby and blonde and looking very tired even as she sleeps. She's dressed in a pink jumper, and she's hugging onto a stuffed bunny.

What catches Tabitha's attention immediately, however, is the bruising on her pale skin, and the visible stitches closing wounds on her little arms and legs. There were so many that it leaves the child looking less human and more like a doll, a pathetic marionette with her strings cut.

Her body stands stiff and frozen, looking at her. She struggles with it, but the look of her is absolutely apoplectic with fury, her pale mien shifting from easy to…angry doesn't even describe it.

And before she knows it, her hands move forward to take her.

Rogue opens her mouth to answer the question, saying, "I went looking for Katie. She's this kid, don't really know what her powers are. She's blue, though, and she took some crap at a store one day. Some friends of her said this guy Joseph Faraday was talkin' her up. Got my hands on a business card. Some— "

But her recitation of how she got here is cut short when all the sudden there's this girl with her stuffed bunny, all cut up.

"What the ever-loving heck!"

Her own eyes spark with fury, and even as Tabitha goes to catch the poor child Rogue is racing to hit buttons on every one of the tanks. The right button this time, the one Tabby just hit. Her eyes are very wide by the time she's got them all opened and out, and sure enough one of them is a blue teenager who Rogue catches reflexively, but doesn't hold on to. There's still a chance for some skin-to-skin contact in what she's wearing. It's not perfect coverage.

Tanks that look empty, even when they're full. The pilots could always claim they were just transporting science stuff. Rogue shudders.

She comes to the same conclusion Rogue does, when the other mutant hits the same button she does and the tanks open up to reveal the bodies of unconscious young metahumans, each of them not a day over sixteen. They all have the same bruising, some with the same stitching. The blue mutant her ex-Brotherhood comrade has been looking for drapes limply in her arms, deeply asleep.

"They're all kids," Tabitha hisses. "I shouldn't be surprised, but I am. Makes sense, doesn't it? Old enough to manifest powers, but young enough not to pose a threat when they want pieces taken out of them. Kids who fall in gangs, runaways, or just…latchkeys because their parents work multiple jobs. And how many really are the ridiculously powered ones at that age?" Not everyone could be Jean Grey, or Erik Lensherr, or Charles Xavier after all, finding children with that much power is more difficult than it looks.

And she knows, and Rogue knows. The Brotherhood recruits extensively across lines. Age, race, creed, it didn't matter, so long as they shared Magneto's outrage.

She looks around and quickly assesses her options. She takes a deep breath.

"I hate to say it, Mississippi, but unless we figure out a way to wake them all up, we can't save them all." There's a glance at the cockpit, Tabitha's expression grimly determined. "At least, not right now."

She pauses, her brain furiously working.

"But if we sabotage this shit enough, maybe it'll delay the operation long enough for an actual rescue."

Not for the first time, Rogue wishes her powers flowed both ways. That she could pour strength into people the way she takes it out of them. She looks crestfallen at hearing they might not be able to save them.

But then she frowns. "Or…or we could steal the plane," she says. "And get them to somewhere they can get medical attention. It would be a risk, but…neither of us have 'waking these kids up skills'. You at least kinda have the pilot skills. We gotta figure out where, but we could call ahead even."

She's blinking back tears of a sudden, one gloved hand stroking the hair of one of the kids. Carefully, oh so carefully. "Taking the plane kinda delays the operation too. And if the pilots are inside one of them hangers, well. I can go steal what I need to help you out as your copilot."

There's compassion, and being unable to use some of the Brotherhood's methods, but she's not a total X-Man yet. The amount of holding on she'd have to do to reliably get the right memories will surely kill that guy, but his life for the lives of all these kids seems like easy math to her. Real easy math. Not even an equation at all.

How've you been, Tabitha had asked, a question Rogue had gotten distracted away from, or perhaps had just glossed over, knowing they'd gotten about as far as they could get in that discussion without breaking a peace that still seemed fragile at the time. An answer drifts up to her mind.

Better than these poor kids, that's how.

But she doesn't move yet, offers the suggestion to see what Tabby thinks, adding, "And I mean. If you wanna blow up the hangars on our way out you ain't gonna hear no objections from me."

Because why deny the other woman something she really really wants?

Too soft to be Brotherhood. Too hard to really fit with the X-Men. But maybe just right for this day.

Or they could steal the plane, just like Tabitha joked about earlier.

There's a glance at the pilot's seat. Could she do it? Pale eyes narrow faintly at the thought - she didn't want to risk them more than necessary, and if they got caught here, they'll be in these tanks themselves. But she can understand her fellow mutant's reluctance to leave them - they're just children, and if they do come back with a rescue, there might be reinforcements. They might not all be able to make it.

She glances over at Rogue, catches sight of her crestfallen face. She sighs, turning her eyes to the ceiling. "Ugh. Fuck me."

But when she finally makes a decision, she is decisive. "Get to the co-pilot's seat and start up the engines," she says. "Most of these new planes have an automated systems for pre-flight checks. We'll call in advance in the air….I can probably navigate us to an old airstrip the Brotherhood uses, but when we get there, the kids'll need transport and medical attention….we can transport them to a midpoint, and your people can take them and see to them. Sound good?"

After a pause, she winks at Rogue. "I wasn't here, by the way."

They'll sort it out later, but she's already walking down the gangplank after situating the three year old back in her tank, sealing her shut. She'll leave Rogue to prepare the plane for takeoff, and to seal their precious cargo back up to keep them secure. Meanwhile…

…she will remember the name Joseph Faraday.

Underneath overcast skies and icy rain, she burns as gold as the sun, her hidden irises taking up the color momentarily before they fade off into their usual blue color. Orbs of plasma spiral out of her hands, float along with her as some of them grow up to the size of beach balls, others the size of marbles. With a mental command, she banishes them towards the other hangars and the facilities within. She may be destroying other evidence in the interim, but that is a price she's willing to pay to delay whatever other shipments there are.

Plus they have the digital manifest.

The beautiful thing about her timebombs is that they do not explode until she's good and ready, and she's quick when she gets back on the plane.

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