Skull and Snake

April 20, 2014:

(Backdated Scene) The Taskmaster and the Baroness first meet.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

The training facility is as snowed in as everywhere else in the NYC area thanks to Nemo with high banks covering the 'factory' windows and giving way to a creeping chill that swept through the entire building. Fortunately it's old and sturdy the upstairs is surprisingly lavish with a giant fireplace in the master chambers; reconverted for luxury at one point it now borders more towards comfortable for the current owners. The lower level which was once a production area entirely reconverted in to a 'secret base' or temporary hideout for the United States Eastern most cell of the Muller-Stromberg Freedom Group.

"Pathetic. You keep tipping your chin up whenever you swing. What sort of idiot does that? You trying to protect that ugly face of yours by giving them your throat as a target? Let me show you what happens." Talking, chiding, berrating, instructing - all comes with the terrority when Taskmaster is involved. On the mats of the cement below a man rolls back and forth holding his neck with both hands, his eyes wide and tear covered. Looming above him stands his abuser wearing skull-mask and what looks like plain dark black fatigue like uniform no weapons on him besides the side-arm holstered to right hip. Clearly comfortable here. Arrayed around the 'drill' instructor men half a dozen men stand waiting patiently all wearing what look like black karate-gi's just like the figure on the ground.

"You leave weak spots in your defense like that and an experienced fighter will seize it. Amateur mistake. One you all should know better than to make." At least according to the dossier he'd been given about them.

That upper area is where Anastasia sat, claiming her own plush throne in a chair that bespoke of age and lavishness, a few things she simply had to have to seek solace in despite where her mind typically rested. A dark recess surrounded by the fall of pitch hair. In one hand she held a glass of red wine, untouched but held in the cusp of fingers, a single finger tracing over the side as if ticking the time that passed while she listened to the training sessions below, her eyes narrowed in neither a pleased form or one of malice - just focus.

Pushing to a stand she set the glass aside after its first and only taste, the inability to remain still finally sinking in. the snow had done wonders for keeping them all encased within the walls but sometimes a 'break' wasn't what anyone needed. Pulling the door open and stepping onto the small balcony before the stairs down she watched the combat between Taskmaster and those of her fellow group, fingertips sweeping down along the metal banister as she stepped down and took to the main floor, moving slowly over to their proximity, letting the forces that watched and took bids in silence part like the Red Sea around the woman dressed in the shining sheath of reinforced attire that coveted her figure. Holstered at her hip in a belt that rested over the curvature was her own pistol, and resting upon outer thigh a larger blade that remained comfortably sheathed in place.

Comfort, being the key word, it seemed to ease into her as she got into the fray and stood near the outskirts watching, arms folding over the heave of her chest. "Teach him the hard way then, don't hold back - I have no space for fools that can be taken down by a new face; no matter how costly." baroness spoke firmly, simply all the while the small smile grew on dark lips.

A still quietness and unease settles over the gathered men at Baroness' words.

"A new face?" The grin permanent across teeth of his mask mirrored Taskmaster's own. "You paid for the best you get the best. I'll mold them without breaking them." He looks each face over then back towards the leading lady. "Unless you prefer I bust up all your toys and see if any survive? That seems a bit counter-productive to me though. Or do you doubt me enough you just want to see me tested? If that is the case. I'll be happy to show off a bit. I like an audience." His hands rise up above his head knitting fingers together as shoulders pop. He looks from her to each of the watchful faces of her personal little army.

The silence only surfaced a stretching smile, one that seemed unsettling as the lights of the warehouse seemed to bounce off the lenses of glasses and restrict the sight to what her eyes may have betrayed the smile - they wouldn't have.

"I've paid for things I consider a waste of money. I don't like wasting money on things that serve me no ending purpose - you or them." Those words had eyes travelling her way with more of an unease. Call it cabin fever and the woman going stir crazy, but every word had a purpose and some of the men in the group even seemed to emulate Taskmaster in different ways, preparing in their own way.

"Maybe breaking the toys will teach them to be built better.. If you break, payment stops. Win-win." A gesture made in the air as her hand holds out as if bearing a flag for a drag race - watching, for now.

Taskmaster's head cranes to the side and he shrugs, "Your money. Their funeral." He says cooly before motioning them on. "All of you. Lets go… the boss lady wants a show it seems." She is crazy perhaps? Maybe just a bored sadist or to his previous belief she is testing him.

The six men only hesitate briefly before lunging forward towards the mercenary. What do they have to fear? It's six against one. Seven if the guy on the ground gets up and helps out. It is then that all hell breaks loose.

"A small sampler it is then." The memory's stir; the scent of a stale yet still delicious Rice Krispies treats and the Submarines - 1940 song inspires a Choy Li Fut Kung Fu move as everything slows for him and a wide armed circular parry blocks the first four punches that come in. Like something out of a Wachowski brother's flick the man is moving and a foreknuckle punch strikes one man in the center of the chest, a heel kick another in the midriff, a third drops heavily on to his back as legs are sweeped from underneath him.

An opening on the mats appear and Taskmaster moves almost casually in to it as one attacker topples and another stumbles back clutching his gut. The others recentering themselves to face the deadly man once more.

A mix of all of the above, but mainly the latter. Baroness stands watch over the display and when her head tilts ever so slightly the flash of a steely blue gaze is shown where the full focus was. Not her people, the skull faced man she had hired and seemingly put her own wager on with that fine allotment of cash was the subject.

Everyone had to start from the ground and build their way up, it was just how the end result truly molded said being is what garnered her interest, where they stood and how they held their position. But that study told of more, the smile fading as amusement became a sizing up and where he stood amongst the true back of why she hired the Taskmaster.
If he could ground six of her men, he was worth those six in weight and cost alone and checks and balances came into play. One thing Baroness did not trifle with was money, the other was who stood at her back or at her side, disposable and expendable versus - worth it.

"Get up, do your best or your worst." She said casually to one who has received a winding blow from the Taskmaster, one corner of her lips curling up in a defined and unspoken meaning.

Motivation enough for the man as he stand sand rushes Taskmaster with his fist out only to end up wrist locked, a crack sound and thrown across the ground in a face first slide. Futile to say the least.

Rather flashy Taskmaster has released the guy before executing a Taido inspired flip to bring both feet in a lashing kick across anothers face ripping downwards to plant the unfortunate thug in a sprawl, the next even more unlucky gets his face raked by the infamous mercenarie's hands, as he was trying to literally claw them out of the Freedom Fighter's skull. Pure violence and masterful very fluid transitions from one martial arts form to the next. A knowledgable combatant would recognize the now brutal Fu-Chiao Pai moves the man is exercising upon the Baroness' soldiers. "D minus, Curly." Taskmaster snarls to the current opponent he has stopped moving infront of, probably named as such by the mop of ringlets for hair he possesses. "The rest of you are a D plus. So you get to live." His palm lashes out and strikes 'Curly' in the chest causing him to stumble back and blink confused looking like he is in pain briefly before rubbing his chest as if seeking out a bullethole while the rest lie around dazed, winded, battered, and wanting it to end. Fortunately for them their instructor has stopped and is staring towards the Baroness.

"Satisfied?"

Curly meanwhile is still groping his chest, "That didn't hurt at all."

Taskmaster doesn't bother looking at man, simply stating, "Wait for it."

As if on que Curly faceplants. Dead as a the proverbial doornail. "I suppose that is what some could call Ikken Hissatsu, annhilation in one blow…" Rather proud of himself obviously. Yes, Taskmaster has an ego.

Each break, crack, solid blow or hallow sound that hit the air had Baroness' smile growing, even as one of the men skid past her feet and remained downed. The others that fell and remained concious showed the pure look of wariness, ones that transitioned in a beaten shift between her and Taskmaster.

Once 'Curly' dropped she stepped forward and lowered to a crouch beside him, her hand extending to his neck, fingers slipping between shoulder and chin to feel for a pulse that was non-existant. Looking up to Taskmaster her lips recoiled and regained, her poker face settling in as she rises to a stand and then claps; a slow thing, unsettling as the smile that grew once again in place. Gesturing to the other remaining five, one which cradled a broken hand she pointed to curly. "Dispose of him." She said neutrally, not even a sign of remorse for the one lost.

"You're not done." Those final words stated as she stood before him and extended her hands out to the sides only lightly, her formal yet informal show of challenge before she stepped one foot back for balance and the ability to shift weight as quickly as needed, her hands coming back in and resting in poise just before her face. Hit a girl with glasses, go for it.

"You're sick lady. I like it." Taskmaster grunts at Baroness. With a slow shake of his head he waits for the others to gather up and scurry out. "This the kinda thing that gets you going, huh? Watching a buncha men get humilated or killed?" A quick study of her stance and he closes the distance between the two of them, firing a lazy snapkick out at her left leg. Time for him to test her it would seem.

"I just like my playthings worth my time. What good is a doll whose head will fall off in the first week?" Baroness spoke rather boredly at that, unamused in regards to the 'little things' but very much so seeming to take that kindle from where she stood.

Confident, but she had watched enough with how he took out her 6 with ease that he would be a trial, and once she would have to truly push to keep up with. /This/ she needed. Her stance was like any formal kickboxing preparation, but when he stepped forward with that kick towards her leg she swiftly stepped to the side in attempt to dodge it, her own leg coming up to snap her own kick just above his knee and arch upward towards his shoulder in a double blow to hopefully send him spinning and down. "Savate… Oh, it keeps me going - helps me sleep at night." She said in a mock of his own training announcements that downed her comrades, though there was a touch of something else mixed with that one form she did not speak of.

"Obvious." Taskmaster states towards the Savate remark. It's his language after all… body language, martial arts, physical movement. He sees it, analyzes it, absorbs it, makes it his own. "Got some others in there don't you? Amusing. Here I figured you just liked to call the shots." A forearm bars her kick and turns down; locking around it to grip her thigh making them appear to almost be about to do a Tango dip. "Show me something else, Savate is old news for me." The bonewhite mask hovers over her face briefly before his hips are twisting and he is sliding his foot in to her instep to toss her away from him towards a bloody spot on the cement and what looks like a busted out tooth.

"Don't pretend it doesn't do the same for you." Baroness states as her kick is blocked and reversed by his hold, her eyes still gleaning that narrowed shine of amusement as he steps into her instep and attempts to throw her balance and then her.

Dropping she doesn't move with his twist, she takes it to the ground, her other hand gripping into his attire and attempting to take him down with her since he was leaned in so daringly close in that combat, twisting at the hips in attempt to roll him in the falling grapple, her other leg rising to tryand catch him in a grip that locks her knee over his shoulder and will press it into his neck. "Sambo as well, how does that fit?"

"Takes the fun out of it if you name off everything you're doing." Taskmaster says with a less enthusiastic response than last time. He moves with it, actually rolling with her until hes pinned with her knee to leg lock. His arm twisting slightly and flexing out so his arm keeps tension so she can't add too much pressure. "You're not bad. Not one of the best though I can appreciate how wordly you are… Frenchkickboxing to Russian grappling. The accent as well? Striking. Lets see just how rough you like it." Turning enough to plant his knee on the ground he exerts the most basic counter of raw muscle and strength hefting her up from the floor to drop her down /hard/ and not once but twice. No reason to get fancy on that one.

Baroness did not lose amusement, despite the fact that Taskmaster seemingly was in spite of the moment. His rise did not surprise her but the swiftness in which he rose and slammed her down once…Did. Winded she had seen his potential and to her the world blurred as glasses were forced upward by the momentum to tangle int he fray of dark hair, his second attempt to slam her had her moving quickly.

One hand attempted to grip the back of his head, behind the mask where fingers curled and her body tensed to keep her up and avoid yet another winding blow, somewhere in there her weapon was drawn as her face rested just before his mask again and the faint click of a safety was heard as cool steel hovered just at his cheekbone - or where it should be.

"Ruger, SR40c. I like it rough." She spoke casually, though the deep and steady breaths showed just how 'done' she was, even with that cheat thrown in there. He won. She'd never say it aloud but it was blatant enough, and wouldn't be over if she had her say in the future.

The dark eyed gaze underneath the mask only locked upon Baroness' blue cold eyes before he releases his hold entirely leaving her option to climb free of him. "Clearly and you have good taste in weapons as well. Satisfied I hope?" Taskmaster asks already figuring he knows the answer while he remains straight backed, not making a move for his own weapon. No reason for her to put him through all of this and pay him the fat paycheck she did just to shoot him in the face now. At least not as far as he remembers, shes not an ex of his or an enemy that he knows of. But all things considered and knowing his memory…

The dark eyed gaze underneath the mask only locked upon Baroness' blue cold eyes before he releases his hold entirely leaving her option to climb free of him. "Clearly and you have good taste in weapons as well. Satisfied I hope?" Taskmaster asks already figuring he knows the answer while he remains straight backed, not making a move for his own weapon. No reason for her to put him through all of this and pay him the fat paycheck she did just to shoot him in the face now. At least not as far as he remembers, shes not an ex of his or an enemy that he knows of. But all things considered and knowing his memory…

"Quite." Is all Baroness says as he releases her and that safety clicks back into place, holstering it as she slipped free of his grip and regained her footing with a smoothing press over armored attire.

One test down, how many more would she put him through before she deemed him worthwhile or as worthless as 'Curly' - to be disposed of. It did not seem any time soon as she pulled her glasses free of her hair and perched them back on the bridge of her nose after a small polish off one of the nearby men's shirts.

"Join me upstairs when you are done." All that is said without a sencond glance as she moved for the stairs. Her wine is waiting, and she had finally worked up a thirst.

Entirely not sure how to take this femme fatale just yet Taskmaster only nods his head, "You're the boss." And very likely going to be a hell of a lot of trouble. Slowly turning away from Baroness while she walks back up the stairs he distracts himself from her gait by shouting at the doorway, "Alright you noobs, lets get back to it!" No responses. "Asskicker to asskick-ees, get out here now!" That gets activity. One by one the troops return for their very painful but educational 'training' session.

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