The Mutant Avengers

February 13, 2016:

Three of the new Avengers are mutants, and as they are wont to do, they hang around long after the game of cards has ended.

Fort Kirby

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: Trying to Reach You by Nurses


Fade In…

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Some time has past. Superman has finished his greetings and along with him, many of the Avengers have departed. But not all.

Shift has reason to remain behind. His motorcycle is still being repaired, and public transportation out this way simply doesn't run late. Given he's too stubborn to bum a ride off anyone, the mercenary is taking some time to do some mundane work around the hangar. You know, tidying shit up, reorganizing the limited munitions supplies, the like. Of course, there are plenty of chances to take a smoke break, and one comes all too quickly.

Perched with one leg cocked up on a crate and the other on the ground, Kwabena busied himself with filling a flask, from his personal stash; a bottle of Bulleit rye. An unlit cigarette sticks out from between his teeth, silver eyes focused on avoiding spillage.

*

Audrey is something of a mystery. She hasn't actually told anyone where she's staying. Cap knows of an apartment she keeps, but if anyone were to actually stop by the studio in the Puerto Rican area of town, sublet from a sublet paid for in cash, they wouldn't be likely to find her there. Or anything that suggests it's anything more than an extremely shady airbnb. On the other hand, she doesn't look like she's living on the streets anymore, so she must live somewhere.

It doesn't help that whenever she actually goes back, she doubles back, setsoff several decoy illusions, and cloaks herself.

One might get the sense she likes her privacy.

Rather than leave the hangar, though, she's stayed at the table, dealing herself a hand of solitaire as the others part ways.

*

Ororo Munroe, the wind-rider her own bad self, has also not left just yet. She's not an official team member yet. (In the back of her mind, she thinks that perhaps inviting her to poker night was Cap's way of auditioning her. It beats fighting sentinels, at least.) While Shift pours a drink and Audrey plays solitaire, Ororo is counting the money she won.

At least Ororo doesn't seem greedy about it. More that she's… sorting it, putting the bills in a certain order, smoothing them out in their stack — and then folding it in two and tucking it into her top. Maybe she learned that move in Cairo, because it doesn't seem like a Charles Xavier tactic. Her cerulean cat's-eyes go from Audrey to Shift and back again. "Are the poker nights here always so eventful?" Ororo asks, sounding confident and collected in her breaking of the silence.

*

If he were to play a game of 'us' and 'them', Kwabena wouldn't need to think twice about pegging Lux as an 'us'. No one really knows how many cheap, 'crash pads' the mercenary has scattered across the country, and he can count on three fingers those who know his real address.

Ororo's question is trailed by the clicking of a zippo. "Dunno," he answers drily. "It's my first time." The whiskey is secreted away into the duffle bag he carried in with himself, and replaced with a Bluetooth speaker. "You evah been to one of dese, Lux?" he asks. "Or did Cap just pop all our cherries in one fell swoop?"

*

"This is the first one," Audrey answers at Shift's question. "So I guess, technically, yes, they're always this eventful." She flips over another card, then sorts a few more into line before looking up at Ororo. "This seems like it's a big step, though," she adds, clarifying. "He's said he was planning on making a team for…six months? Maybe more. But he hasn't called on anything that resembles a team until Mexico. And if Superman's showing up to offer a hand if it's needed, then it sounds like this is getting official. Or as official as any team not sponsored by the government or formed by corporate charter can be, at least."

*

Ororo gives Shift a look that is subtly shaded with displeasure. He can probably figure out which turn of phrase earned that look. But Ororo's attention returns to Audrey: "Perhaps such a team is not official, on those terms." Ororo sets her hands on her hips and smiles. (She has this way of making those poses seem like real hero poses — sort of like Superman, but nowhere near as effortlessly as him? Like, she's trying to come off this way. But she doesn't have to try very HARD, is the thing. Anyway, back to what she's saying.) "I would say, however: it is very… authentic. I would much prefer to be a part of a team that is GENUINE in its intentions — rather than merely OFFICIAL in its bureaucracy."

*

Kwabena has formed teams before. Typically in clever ways, vis a vis his own personal network, and for a short duration in order to complete a task.

He's not exactly fond of teams. Might explain why he took to perching at the back, uttering not a word during the Man of Steel's visit.

Silver eyes are drawn to meet Ororo's displeasure. He doesn't seem phased by it, instead listening to what she has to say. "T'me, dan pwana mumaya."

Releasing a puff of smoke into the air, he finally hefts his satchel and makes for the table. "You two gonna make me put dis out? Be a terrible waste."

*

Audrey doesn't actually answer Shift's question. Instead she looks to Ororo, a faint smile tugging at one corner of her lips. "Can you build some negative pressure to keep the smoke out?" she asks, half a request and half a genuine question. When it comes to powers, the young mutant is endlessly interested in how they work and what they can do.

"I think Cap burned out on the official connections," she adds in regards to the team. "He left the Justice League. And you may have noticed the resources we've got here aren't exactly SHIELD sponsorship level. Sounds like he wants the freedom to do the right thing. No publicity. No sponsors to please. No profit to make."

*

Shift's statement — the one before he asks about his cigarette — makes Ororo smile, just the faintest bit.

When Audrey asks her question, Ororo doesn't answer. Not verbally, anyway. A breeze can be felt in the otherwise not-terribly-breezy hangar. Not enough to even flutter Audrey's cards — but just right for keeping the smoke from Shift's cigarette floating in the other direction.

"Those are among the many reasons I trust Captain America," Ororo says to Audrey's points. "He has yet to… /officially/ invite me. I suspect that if he does, my answer will be 'yes.'"

*

Noting the breeze, Kwabena smiles, a faint but not dissimilar from that of Ororo's. He joins the table them, looking to Audrey. "I must be cautious. She might blow me away."

The flask is set down, cigarette held politely away. An odd gesture for the mercenary who's name may precede him. "Bunta," he greets Storm. "Shift." A hand of greeting is offered.

"We all have reason to trust Rogahs. Dat's why we're here."

*

"If you're interested, he'll ask." Audrey sounds quietly certain of that, turning over a few more cards and adding to the stack of completed ones at the top of her spread. Shift's comment gets a faint smile, just a hint of an eye roll behind it. Sure, sure, let the grown-ups flirt.

Turning over a few more cards gives her the excuse to put off her own introduction. Briefly a member of X-Red, she's been to the mansion once or twice. Her file is available to the X-Men. So there's no point in trying to hide it from Ororo. That doesn't mean it comes easily when she looks up. "Audrey. Or Lux."

*

Ororo is being friendly enough with Shift. But she's still sort of keeping him at arm's length — not getting TOO chummy. When he greets her, she gives him a respectful nod.

Audrey gets a nod as well. If Ororo's read her file, it's hard to tell. Just as with poker, Ororo keeps her cards close to the vest. "Many know me as Storm," she says, introducing herself since everyone else did. "Among friends, I am Ororo."

Shit, even the way she says it — 'I am Ororo,' like it's engraved in a monolith — it's easy to believe her past career was 'goddess.'

*

Who says he was flirting? Kwabena gives Audrey a look - yes, he noticed that roll of the eyes. "It is Dangme," he explains. "From my village of origin. Simply, 'hello', but many African languages - and dere ah fah too many to count - share similar attributes." A pause, and a glimmer of silver-eyed mirth. "Plus, it is good to know with whom I can speak about de oddahs."

As introductions are shared, Kwabena's attention remains upon the youngest of the three. "You were paht of an op I coordinated," he finally guesses. "Helped take out HYDRA's extenta-diacetylmorphine import operations, stateside." The dry, chummy nature that is, in fact, a defense mechanism, drops away, and for a moment Audrey received a rarely seen look of genuine respect. "Thank you."

Interestingly, he refrains from providing a real name.

*

"I was," Audrey nods to Shift. "Spent the better part of two weeks recovering after that warehouse blew, too," she adds, rueful. "Glad that stuff's gone. I get not everyone's got convenient mutations, but…That wasn't the answer." She deals out the last of the cards, stacking them up in order by suit before pulling the deck back together.

"Nice to meet you, Ororo," she adds to the other woman with a small smile. "And good to have you on the team. It's bigger than I thought it was going to be."

*

Ororo is still putting that gentle distance between herself and Shift, but maybe this comment makes it a touch obvious: "I prefer not to think of the world in terms of 'others.'" A decent summary of her worldview, really.

"Likewise," Ororo says to Audrey, with a smile that's just a little bit bigger. "Perhaps Captain America has learned the same lesson as the X-Men. It is not necessary to keep an entire army… but it is very useful to have a lot of friends who will help."

*

"Wasn't an answer," Kwabena answers Audrey. "It was a thug from de ghetto who found himself with a mutant ability to modify materials at de chemical level." He casts a look Ororo's way, wondering how deeply she was exposed to the smooth and its epidemic, before looking back to Audrey. "It was organized crime, tahgetting a segment of society easily victimized."

The Ghanaian looks away from both, his face now frowning. For a few long seconds, he seems conflicted about something. So much so that the cigarette droops down just enough to allow some second hand smoke to waft back over the table, at which point he yanks it back up and into Ororo's micro-jet stream. "Sorry."

Ororo's remark about others? It could seem that it was missed, but rest assured it was not. Kwabena lifts the flask to take a drink, then sets it down in Ororo's direction.

*

"He had the ability to modify materials at the chemical level, and he still made it addictive and gave it withdrawals." Audrey shakes her head, setting the deck of cards aside. "That's some next level douchery." And that's a vast understatement, but it's over now.

"I think he knows that sometimes he best thing you can do for a person is give them a place to belong. So if he wants a team full of people who'll do what needs to be done…All he has to do is give them something worth fighting for."

*

Ororo doesn't go into detail as far as her involvement in the Smooth epidemic. Largely because it was a role as a background support player — she knows better than to try and trump up a non-accomplishment.

"I think you are correct," Ororo notes to Audrey with a nod. "I have met many people who harbor pretenses of being leaders, when in fact they are merely charismatic,or coercive, or simply loud. Captain America, however — he is a true leader. I have nothing but respect for him." She pauses, and looks from Audrey to Shift meaningfully, addressing them both: "Those who HE would invite to walk by his side also have my respect, as a result —as well as my trust."

*

"He was a membah of de Brighton Beach Cahtel," Kwabena clarifies. "Nahcotics traffickers. From dere standpoint, a good business move. But, yes. As you say, 'douchery'." It occurs to him that it might be beneficial for his social acceptance to explain how he knows about this. He glances from Audrey to Ororo and adds, "I was fighting it from de beginning."

She may not realize it, but Audrey has essentially just nailed Kwabena's reason for being here. That, and loyalty.

The Ghanaian looks over to Ororo when she speaks to him. He holds his eye contact for a moment, before nodding his head and looking away. "Steve and I have been through a lot togedah," he says quietly, meaningfully.

One last puff is taken before Shift draws his hand forward. It transforms into a plume of smoke, which surprisingly isn't captured by Ororo's winds. Instead, it suffocates the cigarette, and reforms into a hand now bearing the item. extinguished. "My friends call me Kwabena."

*

"It's not just that he believes in you," Audrey says quietly. "Plenty of people will believe in the things you could do. In your potential." The last word has an edge to it, the sort of word that's been used too often to justify things that aren't actually welcome. "Cap believes in who you are." She smiles faintly back at Ororo, dipping her chin. "Trust is a little bit new to me. But I get the feeling this is the right place to learn it."

*

Ororo gives Shift a smile when he introduces himself by his true name. Not a huge smile, but a genuine one. She doesn't speak, though, lest she cut in on Audrey's words. "I can only speak from my own experience," Ororo says when Audrey finishes, "but I have lived life without trust, and life with trust. It may be new, but I hope that you will find, as I did, that to be able to put your trust in others does not just make life easier. It makes life far more satisfying and fulfilling. I do agree with your intuition. This seems like the right place to learn that."

Ororo then begins to turn. "I will see more of the both of you. For now, I must return to Westchester. Be well." Ororo then adds a little wave. She talks like a goddess, waves like an Instagrammer, and has a sweet mohawk. What a weird chick.

*

Kwabena allows for a subtle nod of his head, before reaching to slide his flask back over to himself. He has nothing more to speak of such things; trust is a challenging aspect for himself, as well.

"Ombabe," he says, bidding Ororo farewell, before reaching to collect his things. He'd completely forgotten about the Bluetooth speaker, which causes the sobriety of the situation to be broken by a rueful grin.

"Don't stay up too late, soldiah," he quips to Audrey, before leaving her to her game of solitaire. He's got a nice spot picked out behind one of the old bird's massive wheels, and an Army-surplus sleeping bag awaits. However, he hasn't gone too far before he stops, glancing back Audrey's way.

The smooth bust wasn't the only mission they've been on together, and he's got a good bet she hasn't forgotten of it, either.

A few moments later, Hank Williams Sr. can be heard crooning out 'Kaw-Liga' from behind those big tires, and another plume of cigarette smoke drifts up toward the ceiling.

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