Not Merely a Killer

February 22, 2016:

After putting Spider-Woman and her daughter into an X-Funded safe house, Storm invited Shift to have a conversation about the Avengers.

Small Cafe in TriBeCa


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Spider_Woman Captain_America Sting Hulk


Mood Music: Them Shoes by Patrick Sweany

Fade In…

Julia Carpenter and her daughter Rachel have been put up in a suite in Tribeca. That suite is actually leased by the Xavier Institute, through a variety of shell-game aliases — the idea being that it's a safehouse should one ever be needed, for whatever reason. The failsafes of the X-Men run deep.

Clothes are there in a variety of sizes. Julia will have things to wear, as will Rachel — as well as Shift and Storm. The clothes aren't exactly haute couture, because they're meant to help blend in, which somewhat explains the generic look Ororo is sporting right now. A blue blouse and a black skirt make her indistinguishable from many young urban professionals, and the mohawk is kept folded down with a New York Mets baseball cap.

Julia and Rachel probably need time on their own, so Ororo has decamped to a small cafe across the street. The invitation was extended for Kwabena to accompany her. There, he'd find Ororo sitting at a booth with a window seat, drinking herbal tea, because of course she'd be drinking that.


Into the cafe walks a tall African, dressed in a black turtleneck and light grey slacks, penny loafers. Kwabena isn't unfamiliar with dressing this way. He's a mercenary, after all, and sometimes, the job required him to blend in with the normals. Sunglasses are worn over his nose to ward off the bright, mid-day sunlight, but he removes them after payingfor his coffee and joining Ororo at her table. The shades are folded up and rested upon the table, and he settles upon the woman with a long expression. He doesn't speak, not yet; the weight of what transpired still rests heavily upon him.


Ororo is looking out the window — people-watching, perhaps, but with a distinct undertone of looking for people who are looking for people. She wants to make sure that Julia and her child are secure.

After a long moment, Ororo turns, looks at Shift, and then has a sip of her tea. She sets the cup down like a judge bringing court to order. "There are two items on the agenda today, I believe. One is mine, and the other is yours. You may select which one we attend to first."


Kwabena's poker face is pretty damn good. That being said, there is just the smallest of changes to his expression, in the way his eyes squint. A moment later, he's leaning back into his seat and draping an arm over the unoccupied portion on his side of the booth, adopting a more casual stance. "Ladies first," he says, and gestures toward her indicatively.


Ororo laces her hands together on the table. She's very casual, in her own way, but even a casual Ororo is more formal than most. This is only somewhat offset by the baseball cap, which sweeps all of her hair down one side and leaves the other shaved bare. Luckily, that kind of haircut is fashionable nowadays.

"I have concerns about the Avengers," Ororo says. "Perhaps you saw just as well as I did in the mission to Kenya. Sting was willing to kill. The Hulk — or whatever persona he has adopted now — was not just willing to kill, but indulged in it gleefully." Ororo pauses, as if collecting her thoughts and ordering them into words for a second. "Some of my teammates, I know well enough. You are not among them. However, I feel that I know your… 'type.'" She refrains from saying that Shift's type is 'Logan,' but regardless. "You could have choked those soldiers to death today, but you did not."


He's listening. There's a flash of familiarity in his eyes. a suggestion that this may not be the first time he's had this conversation. Interestingly enough, the conversation he held with Steve was remarkably different, and yet, here he finds himself agreeing with Ororo's concerns.

"That's right," he answers her, quietly. "I did not." The mug of coffee - black - is lifted to his lips, but it doesn't fully conceal the curiosity that lingers within his silver eyes. He doesn't offer anything else, instead opting to probe Ororo further by allowing her room to speak.


Kwabena's gambit is met by Ororo, and nimbly. Her own eyes don't have the distinction of being silver — instead, they're more cerulean, with vertical slits for pupils, like cats' eyes. Even her features seem more European than African, in some ways. Her looks are a mystery,in their own way. "Why?" Ororo asks, before moving to have a sip of her own tea.


When the million dollar question is leveled, a rueful smirk spreads across Kwabena's lips. He sets the mug of coffee down, and looks away from Ororo, silver eyes studying those passing to and fro on the other side of the glass. "What is it you're looking for, Ororo?" he asks, while leaning over to press a hand against the glass, observing how some of his skin peels off and sticks to the clear material. A side effect of his mutation; he's gonna need to eat, a crap ton of food, or go burn through a few dozen trees out in the woods, before his body's metabolic structure returns to normal.

"A history lesson?" He turns back to face her. "Philosophical debate?"


"I am looking for clear indication of whether or not I should put my trust in you," Ororo says, bluntly. She doesn't soften or sugarcoat the tone. If he wants to know, she'll tell him. "The X-men are, in more ways than one, a family. We have the backs of one another, so to speak. If one member of the family is behaving in a problematic manner… others will step in, to protect those who need to be protected, to help those who need help."

Ororo is also aware of Kwabena's skin peeling, but she doesn't comment. "I am looking to see which of my fellow Avengers will be ones who stand with me on this. Which ones will step in when another is out of line — and help when help is needed."


Four, five, six seconds pass, during which Kwabena merely stares at Ororo. He's digesting, considering her words. The stare is only broken when he reaches for the cup of coffee, takes a sip, then sets it aside. Hands fold together, and he leans onto the table, forearms rested there to support his weight.

"You said, 'you know my type'." His head angles. "Killah, yes? Yes. I am a killah. A mercenary. Soldiah of fortune. Suppose it's because I've nevah had legal citizenship status and, frankly, I didn't want to put up with de B.S. oddah black men have to put up with trying to find work here. Education. Respect." He shrugs. "I've done well enough."

He looks away then. He's only showing her a small fraction of who he is, only one chapter of a very long and convoluted story. The irksome expression - for yes, she offended him in a way - fades away into something far more introspective. "Have you evah taken a life, Ororo?"


"I have," Ororo says. She does not explain further or tell the tale. Her poker face is as good as anyone's on the planet. Her finger brushes the edge of her cup. "You misunderstand me, however. By your 'type,' I do not simply mean… 'a killer.'"

Ororo's cap shades her eyes a bit when she angles her head the right way. "What I meant was a man who understands the difference between taking the life of another out of necessity, or for the greater good… and murder, because it's easy, or convenient, or a sick form of fun. Do you understand what I mean now?"


The introspective expression remains, and Kwabena turns to look Ororo in the eye, shaded as they are. "More dan you may know," he tells her.

The words are heavy. They tell of his long history without detail, suggesting old ways that may have been wicked. But, something, perhaps a series of things, changed him. "Den you know why I didn't kill dose soldiahs. Why I urged Rachel's moddah to stop."


Ororo gives Shift a moment of silence, to let those heavy words settle naturally. She nods. "I do." She has a quiet sip of tea, then continues: "I will be taking time to meet with Captain America soon, to discuss this issue. Will you join me in doing so?"


"Actually," Kwabena tells her, "I've already spoken with him."

He reaches for the coffee, letting it warm his hand without actually touching it. He's not anticipating having more of his epidermis melted to the mug, after all. "I'll be honest with you; I chastised him for de mannah in which he directed de mission. To ask us to save dose children, without killing or injuring any of de men with guns?" He shakes his head. "Where dere is an innocent pahson at risk, especially a child, I will do whatevah is necessary to save dere lives, because it's de right thing to do." Perhaps she saw what was left over of the two men he'd taken out in the caves. They were alive, but one of them will likely suffer severe amnesia; the other won't have use of his arms for a long time, if ever.

Alive. Maimed. Their terrible actions prevented at whatever cost was necessary and strategically appropriate.

"He's a soldiah. He's seen war. He's taken lives. I believe he undahstands as well. But when you have peopah like Petah, Bannah, people who kill because it's what dere good at?" He shakes his head and finally lifts the mug of coffee. "It's difficult to make dem paht of a team."

But worth trying for. He doesn't say it, but the subtext is there.


Ororo nods as Shift speaks. Whatever she's thinking of, she doesn't offer any clues. She's seen horrible things, herself. "One of the roles I have taken upon myself is that of a teacher. I attempt to impart all of my students with knowledge of the value of human life. There will be times, Heavens forbid, that one is forced to make a value judgment of one life over another. There needs to be that basic understanding, first. I think Captain America would agree with me on that. I suspect you might, as well. In any event, we can table this discussion for now, lest it turn into the philosophical debate you mentioned earlier."

Ororo meets Shift's eyes, cerulean staring into silver. "Explain to me what happened today, please."


The conversation is best tabled.

Kwabena meets that stare for a moment or two. "You're asking about de base, yes?" he asks. "If not, all I can tell you is… its just dat big."

Absolutely deadpan. It's hard to say whether he's trying to make a joke, trying to make a pass, or perhaps just determining if the Mutant Goddess of Meteorology has a sense of humor that in any way resembles his own.


Ororo smirks. It's a tiny smirk, but noticeable. "The base," she says, dryly. "Who is that woman — and her daughter? While I have no problem with helping you… I do wish to have some context."


And there it is. So, the woman does have a sense of humor, perhaps even the capacity for flirtation.

"She called herself, 'Spidah-Woman'," he answers. "And she blew my covah. Dat base houses a top secret U.S. Army opahration called, 'De Section'. Dey are coordinating and funding a mercenary group, intahnational reach, with ties to groups like HYDRA."

He's gonna go ahead and let that one sink in.


Ororo narrows her eyes. Obviously, she's heard of HYDRA. Even more obviously, she's not a fan. "Blew your cover how? She seemed… forgive the word, but inexperienced. At the very least, undisciplined. Did she simply barge in and attempt to beat up the bad guys?"


"Well, I've been investigating dem," answers Kwabena. "Dey've been behind a numbah of unconstitutional acts, including de murdah of Natalia Utrecht, mutant activist." A pause. "Assasination might be a bettah word. Dey're up to all sort of bullshit. Smear campaigns, unseating corporate executives, and, you know. Assassinations. Shutting people up who might threaten Economic Stability, or a political agenda."

He pauses again. "Experienced enough to dig deep enough and discovah dat de false ID's were were using were bogus. She thought we were de bad guys, but I don't think she had any idea who she was working for." Beat. "Until dey tahgetted her daughtah."


Ororo draws in a quiet, slow breath through her nose. She's not the type to sit around grimacing, but it's clear that she's not happy with the trends this group is showing. Assassinating mutants. Threatening children. Maybe after Kenya, that second one is a particularly sore nerve.

"So what is the next move, then?" Ororo asks, after a moment to think. "I am happy to provide safety for her and her daughter for as long as I am able. However, I do not want them to live their lives in fear. Nor would they, I imagine. You have studied this group… and if I had to guess, I would guess that you already have a plan."


"I imagine she'll be back on her feet in no time," Kwabena agrees of Spider-Woman. "But, if she's wise, she'll agree to some discreet protection. At least until De Section is brought to justice."

Theres not much more coffee to be had. Kwabena eyes the cooling cup for a moment, contemplating things. "I intend to investigate dere mercenary training opahration ovahsees. One of de X-Men will be accompanying me. From X-Red, I believe. Given her talents, I imagine we won't run into de same sort of troubah we had in Metropolis."

The mug of coffee is lifted, its contents taken. "To be honest, Ororo?" He sighs. "I haven't gotten dat fah. I'm collecting infahmation, for a SHIELD Agent, and for X-Red. Aftah dat? I'll politely excuse myself from de scenario."

It doesn't sound that he's convinced he'll be able to just walk away like that, if his tone of voice is any indication.


Ororo can recognize that. She's only known Shift a short time, but she can tell that he's a complicated man, and no one understands him but his woman, if he has one. She's not going to preach to him. Instead, she nods her head, and then has the last sip of her tea. "If you feel that is the most wise course of action," she says, so neutrally that it's impossible to tell what she makes of his intentions.

"If you require any further help, you may contact me." Ororo says it like it's no big thing, but the wording is still what it is: granting her teammate permission, rather than urging him closer to her. "I will provide whatever help that I am able. The same goes for Spider-Woman. I will tell her as much myself."



Damn right.




"I believe she'll appreciate dat," Kwabena answers her. "Thanks for de assist out dere," he adds. "We could have gotten out of it, I think, but it wouldn't have been pretty."

Kwabena pushes back. "Now, you must excuse me. I've got to devour about ten pounds of Pad Thai before my skin starts to fall off."


Ororo lets out a quiet laugh. "Do not eat too quickly," she says, and signals over to a waitress for the bill. Even so, she watches Shift leave, still trying to figure the man out.


A peace sign is flashed in departure, before the ringing of little bells on the door signals Kwabena's exit from the cafe.

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