Contingency Plans

January 18, 2016:

Peter runs into Audrey while he's exploring Mutant Town.

M_Town

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Fade In…

M-Town. A more wretched hive of scum and villainy… Not really, though. While M-Town has its share of crime, it's no worse than any other part of New York. It's just that things go a little bit differently here. Audrey, at least, feels safe enough here. As safe as she does anywhere else. With her current home in something of a state of flux, she's been checking in on the situation here, making sure there aren't any new threats to mutant-kind she hasn't heard about yet. She's standing by a newsstand, hands in her pockets, as she waits for a chance to order a plain black coffee from the stand.

The computers at the Institute are just as good as anything Harada had. Peter's been using them to learn more about psiots, or mutants as they're called here. One of the things he learned was the existence of M-Town and his curiosity was piqued. An entire part of the city home to people just like him. What better place to hide if he needs to? He flew in a few blocks away and then walked the remainder of the distance in case anyone spotted him. It also lets him get a feel for the place, approaching from outside.

"Coffee, please. And…one of these," Audrey says as she reaches the counter, adding a snickers to the tally before passing over her money. There's definitely not a lot of candy in her life. Might as well have some while she's doing her own thing. Once she has her goods, she steps back to make room for the next person, pausing as she catches sight of Peter nearby. "Hey," she calls over, tipping her chin up in greeting.

The almost familiar voice catches his attention and he looks over. Her. "Hey." he returns, walking over to Audrey. "Audrey, right? So this is where you hang out now?"

"Now?" Audrey smiles faintly, shaking her head. "Just looking in on things here, honestly. Used to spend more time here when I was with the Red team. They helped out the SRD whenever there were events and the like. What about you?" she asks, taking a sip of her coffee as she looks him over. "You holding off on the whole tour thing?"

"Of the school?" Peter asks. "No. I'm staying there now. See how it goes, you know?" He shrugs. "But I like to keep my options open too and I need to learn more about the city in case I… in case. Glad I ran into you though."

"Sure," Audrey nods. She, of anyone, understands keeping your options open. "Nice place, right? The school, I mean. M-Town is okay and all, but it's not exactly the ritz. Though the nice part is, people aren't likely to judge you for being different here."

Peter Stanchek nods his agreement. "Yeah, it's very nice. More than I'm used to, except for the time I spent in that other place." He does look at a couple examples of people with physical mutations that he can see. "It's very strange to see them be so open about it."

"Not everyone's good with it, of course," Audrey admits, tearing open the candy bar to take a bite. "There are people here, too, who don't like the way they look, or aren't comfortable with their mutations. There was an epidemic of drug use here not long ago. Stuff called the Smooth. Gave you a high, but also shut down your powers. Which was a relief for some people. So it got…rough here for a while."

"Where can I get some?" Peter asks without pause. "It would be great to have some relief for a while and not have to hear everyone around me." He starts looking around, searching for the telltale signs of a drug dealer.

"It's bad news," Audrey shakes her head. "And we spent a lot of time bringing down their supply chains and their sources. I got hit with it once. They blew up their storehouse rather than let us get any evidence out of it. I got hit with the cloud that came out of it. Spent about a week and a half trying to come down from it, and another few months trying to get past the jonesing for it. If you've really got it so bad you can't help but hear everyone, then you're already with the right people now."

"Very addictive?" Peter consider that then shrugs. "I've never gotten addicted to anything yet so maybe I'm immune to that kind of thing." And if there's none left anyway, so be it. "Want to walk?" He lifts his chin in a direction. "Tell me stuff about those guys you didn't want to while they were around."

"Highly addictive," Audrey nods, starting to walk as she eats her candy bar. "There's not a lot to say about them. Not that you probably didn't already pick up, at least. They're good people," she reiterates, looking back at him. "Best I've met so far. And I don't one hundred percent trust anyone," she adds. "Not after- I mean, I just can't. But I don't think these guys will screw you, for what it's worth."

"And yet you left them." Peter points out. "I can see leaving the public team but I definitely picked up that there are other teams. And you left them all. I don't see them feeling bad about needing to kill someone as a real reason for that."

Audrey takes another bite of her candy bar, chewing it as she thinks over her answer. "I don't…" She pauses again, taking a breath. "Yeah," she finally says. "Pretty sure there's at least one team that does the ugly things. And it's not that I'm not comfortable with that. I've killed people. They deserved it, or it was something that needed to be done. I'm…I'm a soldier, when it comes down to it. But the X-Men are supposed to be above all that. They push this agenda about being a positive image of mutants for the world. They help people. They mean well. But after what I've been through, I'm not comfortable with the shade of gray that lets them still have a black ops team when they really do believe in the rest of it."

"You're calling them hypocrites?" Peter asks, glancing at Audrey. "You don't think you can do bad things in a good cause? Or that's it can be necessary? Sometimes it's just survival." He was hunted for years; he's left his share of bodies behind.

"I'm not calling them anything," Audrey shakes her head. "Except for good people, trying to do the right thing. And trust me, I'm not condemning them for the things they do, either. I have done, and do, as much. It's not about them. I feel good about them. Honestly, I don't feel good enough about me to be in that sort of situation. It'd be like…I don't know. Like putting a laughing gas addict to work in a dentist office. No matter how good you are, how much you make the right choices, sometimes you're going to get a huff of it. And it won't be your fault, and you won't have done anything wrong, and maybe you needed to do it. But you're going to question it. You're going to wonder if you did it because it was necessary, or if you did it because maybe there was a part of you that wanted to? And that's one thing if you're doing it with people who aren't the good guys. You can ask those questions then. But if you're going to do it with the X-Men, with people who are good, then you shouldn't be in a place where you still have to ask those questions."

Peter just looks blank. He's rarely had the luxury for introspection and that like of reasoning is way too convoluted. "Did you just say you're okay with killing someone if you're surrounded by murderers but you feel guilty if you're around people who aren't? If it bothers you to begin with, aren't they the ones you should be hanging out with?"

"That was the gist of it, yep," Audrey nods, crumpling up her wrapper and tucking it into her pocket. "The thing is, if people find out any of the X-Men kill anyone, it tarnishes that whole dream. No one's surprised to hear a bunch of mercenaries shot some other mercenaries, though. But I don't think I could handle it if I was responsible for ruining the X-Men."

"But you just said they have others who do that too." Peter points out. "So they've made that choice and are taking that chance. It wouldn't be your fault if it fucked them."

"Maybe," Audrey shrugs. "But I'd feel like it was. Besides, I'm just not comfortable…The whole appeal of the X-Men was that I could stop hiding. Stop pretending to be someone or something I'm not. Joining the X-Men but putting on in public that that I'd never kill someone…I'm not comfortable with that. If I join the X-Men, then I want to be…I want to be a part of that dream. Not still standing in the shadows making that dream possible for someone else. I can do that. I can do the dirty work so other people don't have to. But I can't do it and be that close to it."

Peter will just file that line of reasoning away for later when he can think about it at leisure. "What are you doing now then?" he asks, changing the focus of the conversation. "Sounds like you're with a group of psiots who have no problem with killing people."

"Pretty much. I don't trust them, either," Audrey adds, looking over as she takes a sip of her coffee. "But at least they're pretty honest about what they're doing. Black ops. The sort of missions that the government won't admit it needs to have done. Every now and then I still help out Red when I can, to. And for a little bit, was helping out SHIELD and Captain America when they needed it, too."

SHIELD, Captain America, they're just names to him so he just nods. "You need to find a better place to be." Peter states. He knows all about being in a bad place, physically or otherwise. "You're better off with people you can trust."

Audrey smiles faintly, taking another sip of coffee. "Yeah, well. You're right enough about that. I'm just not very trusting these days." She walks a few more steps in silence before she adds. "My dad was the officer in charge of the unit I trained in," she explains. "And I spent about a year and a half on the streets on my own after I broke out. That's a lot of evidence that trusting people just gets you taken advantage of."

"Or that your father is an asshole." Peter counters. Not that his opinion of parents is very high either. "But you said you already know who you can trust. You just have to figure out how to get it all to work. What is it you do anyway?"

"You mean my powers?" After all, Audrey's sort of covered the rest of it. "Light manipulation," she explains, holding up her free hand as a ball of light forms in it. "Lets me play with light and shadow. I can go invisible. See in the dark. And, as you saw the other day, with a little more delicate manipulation, I can do illusions."

Peter nods at the question then nods again at the run down of her powers. "Cool." He stops at a cart to get a salted pretzel and hands over a few bills, not waiting for change. "So how well do you know this place? What's interesting? Any good places to disappear?"

"M-Town's not actually where you want to disappear if it comes down to that," Audrey admits, lifting one shoulder in a shrug. "I mean, it's pretty insular, sure. But the flip side of that is, everyone knows everyone else's business. So it just takes one person to talk and you're outed. Plus, it's the first place they look for someone's not like everyone else. If you really had to hide, you stay underground as much as possible. And I mean that literally. Otherwise you stick to cash, and she move between the Tri-Cities. Though honestly, Metropolis is a little too shiny in most parts. Gotham's solid for hiding out, as long as you're able to take care of yourself and stay under the noses of the gangs. Which I'm pretty sure you can handle."

"Except I should blend in with all the other psiots if they come looking for me." Peter points out. "Then again, this is likely to attract them for recruiting too so maybe it's the last place I should be." Her comment about cash gets a dry smile. "I only have cash. I don't even know what my social security number is if I even wanted a credit card. I suppose I should get a burner phone now I'm staying at the school, though."

"Burner if you have to have one," Audrey agrees. "Though you should pop the battery and the SIM card when you're not using it, too. I still don't carry one most of the time," she admits, shaking her head. "The unit found me a few times before I hooked up with X-Red. I was never sure how, but. I figure the more ways I protect myself, the better off I am. Besides, you blend in," she points out. "No one's going to look at you and think you're different."

"Yeah." After a moment, Peter says "I guess I don't really need one. It would be more so they can contact me but if I'm taking the battery out, they won't be able to anyway." He turns to watch a spindly limbed mutant pass then turns back and keeps walking.

"If you're as powerful a psychic as it sounds?" Audrey looks over, quirking a brow. "They can get ahold of you if they need to. I mean, especially from the school to here. Or," she smiles faintly, "You can trust them. Trust that they'll take you in, that they'll keep an eye on you, and that if this Harada guy tries to do something, that they'll have you back. In which case, you can do whatever you damned well please, because the X-Men won't leave any of their own to someone else's mercies."

"Who says I don't trust them?" Peter asks, despite him making plans in case he can't trust them. "I just like to be prepared. Anyway, Harada will kill me now if he can. I'm too big a threat to him. I just can't figure out why he doesn't know about them. He's too cautious not to assume there are others out there who are powerful."

"Could be he doesn't see them as a threat," Audrey muses. "I mean, there are some damned powerful mutants in the organization, but their philosophy's heavy on fitting in, not being a threat, and establishing themselves with society as just a different sort of normal. They stay out of and away from government. X-Red's the only part that's even tried to turn a profit off of what we can do."

"Maybe." Peter agrees. "He never mentioned them to me but he wouldn't have. No reason to let me know there are others out there when he was trying to convince me he was the best way to stay safe." Then he shrugs. "No point in guessing."

"Well that's not true," Audrey smiles ruefully, taking another sip of her coffee. "Guessing means you've thought about the possibilities, so you can be prepared in case one of them turns out to be true. That's not a waste of time. Besides, you should be thinking it through either way. Whatever you decide, you owe it to yourself to have thought it out."

"I guess." Peter finishes his pretzel then digs a pill bottle out of his jacket. Opening it up, he pulls out a pill and pops it into his mouth before putting the bottle back. "Sounds like I should learn the subway system good."

"Subway system, sure. Sewer system if you really want to stay under the radar." Audrey tilts her head, considering him. "You ever experiment with the whole jedi mind trick, these are not the droids you're looking for thing?"

"Oh, sure." Peter tells Audrey. "It's easy. But it wouldn't work on Harada and maybe one or two others. Plus there's a psiot who can negate our abilities. So, you know, better prepared."

"See? That's why I don't count on the powers," Audrey grimaces at the last. "I mean. That, and my powers aren't directly offensive anyhow. Misdirection. That's where it's at."

Now that gets Peter to look at Audrey. "You mean you can't make a laser? Lasers are light, right?"

"Lasers are light," Audrey agrees, nodding once. "But I haven't managed to do it yet. So far, I think it has to do with the energy involved. Lasers are extremely high energy. Usually when I'm working with light or shadow, I'm altering what's already there. Moving it around. Adjusting the balance. Making a laser means feeding a whole lot of energy into it, and that energy has to come from somewhere."

Peter Stanchek glances up at the sun but just nods. He's no expert. "I should be getting back. There a way to contact you?"

"Few ways," Audrey grins back at him. "Easiest way's to leave a message with X-Red. There's a drop by the diner here on Green Street. Loose brick to the right of the dumpster. Another in the Puerto Rican neighborhood, by the little bodega across from the Cuban cafe, second cafe table from the door. Or you can leave a message at this number," she adds, rattling one off. "It's a message service, but I check it."

Peter's brows rise at the numerous, complicated ways of getting a hold of her. "Okay. I'll catch you sometime then. Thanks for the info."

"Any time," Audrey nods, raising her cup in salute. "Take care of yourself, Peter. You're in good hands now."

Peter just nods and turns into an alley where he'll fly away once he's sure no one other than Audrey might be watching.

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