Rachel's New Assignment

April 07, 2016:

Rachel needs to do something more constructive than hide in the X-Men's basement. Emma has just the thing.

A restaurant in Manhattan


NPCs: Restaurant staff

Mentions: Betsy Braddock, Jean Grey


Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

The phone call from Rachel was not one Emma could say she was expecting, per se. After all, how could the timelost redhead actually have her private number? But an earlier call from Elizabeth explained that she'd given Rachel the number and suggested that they talk. As such, the phone call turned out to be relatively brief, as Emma accepted the call rather than pushing it to voice mail, and she established that they should meet in person, rather than do all of this by phone.

That would be why Emma now sits at a quiet, private table in a VIP room of a lesser-known and very exclusive restaurant in Manhattan, waiting for her young guest to arrive. The staff already have instructions to bring the young redhead to Emma's table, and they are professionally discrete enough that beyond taking orders and delivering the requests, they'll leave those in the room alone to discuss whatever they wish unobserved. Of course, Emma is cautious - read paranoid - enough that she also has a signal-jammer and white noise generator built into her phone, which she'll activate when Rachel arrives to be sure no one can use electronics to overhear their conversation. Though upscale, the restaurant is not painfully so. It is actually situated within an updated brownstone, allowing it to blend into the area unnoticed save by those who already know of its existence. And as tastefully elegant as its decor may be, no one here judges someone based on their attire. Cleanliness, perhaps, but not attire or personal style.

'Call Emma' hadn't been an assignment that Rachel had been expecting, but beyond providing a number to actually call Emma on, Betsy had been rather light on further instructions. Rachel's slightly surprised that she apparently managed to navigate the phone call well enough that Emma would agree to meet with her in person. Rachel has to admit that attempting to 'run away from home' after her first meeting with Emma (among others) isn't on her personal greatest hits list since arriving in this time, so she's slightly apprehensive about this second meeting. And she hates feeling apprehensive about anything.

Rachel makes a point of arriving on time, even after allowing for her own precautions - a telepathic disguise to get her into the city, and ensuring that no-one was tailing her before she even turned in the direction of this restaurant. The only hesitation came when she arrived, since Betsy has yet to make good on that promise of teaching her how to dress. As a result, when Rachel - now sans telepathic disguise - makes her appearance, she'll be wearing her own take on an outfit she saw exiting the restaurant: A red dress under a black leather jacket, with black boots. She's never been more grateful for being able to telekinetically alter her clothing.

She walks in confidently enough, but by the time she's delivered to Emma's table she's slightly glassy-eyed at the opulence of her surroundings. Definitely not something she's used to. Recovering something of her composure, she rests a hand lightly on the back of her chair, waiting for Emma to indicate she should sit. "Miss Frost. Thanks for the invitation."

Emma activates the security device in her phone, and then gestures towards the chair. "Sit, please, Ms. Summers." Emma offers, examining the young woman impassively. Emma being Emma, she neither smiles nor frowns, but remains calmly, neutrally impassive. Inwardly, however, she is pleased that the young woman made some effort to fit in and draw the least attention possible.

"Go ahead and examine the menu. Order whatever you like, to eat or drink." Emma explains. She doesn't have a menu; she knows what is available. The menu at Rachel's seat is a single sheet of parchment with a uniquely colorful artwork and graceful calligraphy. And no prices. At all.

Once Rachel appears ready, a server will appear through a concealed door at the opposite side of the sequestered room from the door through which Rachel entered. She takes their orders, returns promptly with Rachel's requested drink, and caraffe of water, which she sets on a cooling plate before disappearing. Only then does Emma open the conversation further.

"I will admit, Rachel, that I am personally a bit uncertain quite how to address you. I hope that does not offend you. I was … I considered myself relatively close to the Rachel who was here before. Her destabilization came as a shock. Her disappearance was, frankly, for the best. I realize intellectually that you are not her. But … I cannot seem to prevent myself from responding to you as if you were." Both the good, and the bad.

Rachel does as she's bidden, sliding into the chair and sitting, if not exactly primly, then at least she's not slouching. Perhaps taking her cue from Emma, Rachel keeps a neutral expression… or at least tries to. She's not quite as good at it. She's out of her environment and, despite the effort she's making, it shows. Her eyes slide away from Emma to flicker around the restaurant again, until she realises the other woman is studying her. Then her green eyes meet Emma's. Telepathically, she's all but silent, only the trickle of power necessary to cloak the marks on her face betraying her.

"Thank you." She replies politely, reaching out to pick up the menu and skim her eyes across it, instantly realising that she recognises almost nothing that is listed upon it. It's then that Emma might feel a flicker of Rachel's telepathic power, as she surreptitiously skims the knowledge she needs from the waiter's mind. Just enough to be able to order without showing herself - or Emma - up. As for a drink, water will do. Either Rachel's taken Jean's admonition about underage drinking to heart, or, more likely, she wants to keep a clear head.

Rachel doesn't fidget as she endures Emma's silence, but when the water comes she's not hesitant at taking a sip, keeping the glass in her hand as Emma begins to speak. Within a few words, Rachel has relaxed slightly, and there's perhaps a touch of a smile on her lips, although there's little genuine amusement in it. "That doesn't offend me." Rachel replies, equally forthright. "I'm not her. But I could be, and I know what she did. What most people think that I did." The smile becomes a wry smirk. "Saying 'it wasn't me' doesn't much help when people want to shoot you." She says, slightly bitterly, before recovering. "If you don't mind, I'll take the fact that you wanted to meet me here as a good sign." The words are accompanied by a small smile.

Emma inclines her head briefly, acknowledging Rachel's words. "No. I do not mind. I suppose, in truth, it is a good sign. Or a positive one, at least." Emma pauses, clearly carefully considering what to say, and how to say it, next.

"Given that you contacted me, I think perhaps the best way to proceed here is to start by allowing you to speak. What can I do to help you, Rachel? What do you need, that you think I might be able to assist with?" There's so much more Emma could say. But this is as good a beginning as any other. If they need to discuss the rest, they can. They probably will. But Emma has always been a bottom line woman; best to be about it.

Rachel's eyebrows rise a little as Emma cedes the floor to her. So much for her privately-held notion that Betsy had an ulterior motive in putting her in touch with Emma. Or perhaps she did, and this is it. There's that flicker of apprehension again, and Rachel's jaw firms a bit as she squashes it. Enough second-guessing what the other her would have done - or possibly did do. Rachel takes another sip of her water, then puts the glass aside.

"I'm tired of feeling like I'm the monster in the basement, and getting shot at for no purpose whenever I poke my nose outside." Rachel leans forward a little, becoming more animated now that she's finally putting her frustration into words. "I have a lot to make up for, whether it was technically me that did it or not, but right now I'm hiding, and being protected. I'm grateful, I need it, I was… you saw me." Rachel grimaces. "When I wasn't at my best. But I want to be useful. I have to be useful. Jean doesn't want me haring off on my own." Rachel purses her lips, pausing. "For good reason, I guess. But." Rachel shrugs, raising her hands in frustration, "Here I am. I'd like you to give me something to do."

Emma being Emma, she is patient; painfully so. She sits, she listens attentively, she watches, and she waits. Only when Rachel is done talking does Emma take it all in, mull it around, and consider exactly how to respond in turn. It's a gesture of respect all too few people manage these days.

"Something to do." Emma comments, watching the other, younger woman. She sips her own water and considers that. "I understand your feelings, and respect them. And I agree. Every woman needs to have something constructive and useful to do; it's what makes continuing to breathe worthwhile." There's a tiny quirk of her lips, but no true smile appears; just the suggestion of one, a mere hint.

"Very well, Rachel." Emma begins. "You've come to me for an assignment. So you'll help with one of my tasks." Had she gone to Jean, she'd have gotten an assignment to help with one of Jean's … assuming Jean could bring herself to let Rachel do anything other than cower in the Institute.

"Your mother shanghaied me into arranging and maintaining an alliance with a group known as the Blue." Emma begins. Of course, the Jean of this time isn't really Rachel's mother, but she's as close as this world is going to come. "Put simply, they are a race of near-humans, terrestrial in origin, who have evolved to live beneath the oceans." How exactly one relates Namor to Aquaman to the Blue, Emma won't get into right now. Assuming she even knows. "They have not made their existence or intentions clear to the world of land-dwelling humanity just yet. They're working on that. But in the meantime, they were in need of resources and contacts they could trust to understand and help them here on land. And they are willing to offer their own aid and comfort to those allies in return."

It's a lot to take in, and Emma knows that. As such, she keeps things as simple as she can. Still, there are things Rachel needs to know. "The Blue are currently engaged in a conflict beneath the oceans, with an ancient and powerful force they call the Lord of the Deep, a sort of 'Old God' entity that controls armies of sea creatures. We discovered that it uses a network of psionic nodes - people - on the surface world to coordinate its armies. Using Cerebro and our telepaths, we have been tracking, locating, and neutralizing those nodes, with as little warning and violence as possible." She won't say it, but they haven't killed any of them.

"If you want to help, Rachel, then I will have you added to the action teams involved. You will assist us with tracking via Cerebro when needed. But more often, you will be joined with X-Men and Blue Elite operatives who will use your telepathic talents to track and identify the nodes based on location data from the current operator of Cerebro, and then neutralize them." Emma pauses, at last, and waits while Rachel assimilates all of that, to see what her response is, and what questions might be forthcoming.

The silence from Emma's side of the table might be for Rachel's benefit, but it's also as unnerving as hell. Fortunately, Rachel had the bit between her teeth too firmly to notice while she was speaking, and it's only when she's done, when her eyes are alive with the emotion behind her need to do something worthwhile and constructive, that she realises that Emma has been silent and impassive the whole time.

Rachel lets her hands drop to her sides and takes a breath, the frustration bleeding out of her. Even if Emma tells her she's better off keeping her head down, as others have told her before, Rachel feels better for having expressed her point. Calmer, and a bit more centered. Still, her eyes watch Emma intently, waiting for her answer.

Rachel doesn't intend to interrupt, but she's wired differently to Emma. When that ghost of something that might be a smile touches the other woman's expression, Rachel can't help herself. Her lips twitch, and she nods. "I'm not going to let boredom finish me off." After that small interjection, though, Rachel does manage to shut up and listen.

Silent she may be, but impassive she isn't. The relief when Emma decides to give her what she wants is poorly hidden, and the suddenly attentive look in her eyes isn't hidden at all. As for the smile that starts small, then slowly broadens as Emma begins to set out what she has in mind, well, it's possible Rachel doesn't even realise that's going on. Rachel tilts her head to one side when Emma describes the Blue, but she just accepts what Emma tells her.

It /is/ a lot to take in, but Rachel shows no signs of distraction, boredom, or lack of comprehension. If anything, she's intensely focused on what Emma's saying, her body held absolutely still. Old habits. Rachel's been given assignments before, how she behaves as she's briefed is unconscious. It's only when Emma looks to her for a response that Rachel unfreezes. She becomes aware that she's smiling, and a look of surprise flits across her expression before she seems to give in to some internal battle, and grins. "Tracking, locating and neutralising." Rachel says, seeming to find something darkly amusing in that. "I can do all of that. I want to help. Sign me up." She sounds utterly sure, but only then voices some of the questions in her mind. "I guess I should have asked this before volunteering, but do we know how many we're up against? And what sort of trouble we'll be looking at when we take out enough to make this Lord of the Deep take notice?"

Emma offers a simple, sharp nod when Rachel mentions that 'tracking, locating and neutralizing' is rather her specialty; apparently she's aware of that truth. And there's a hint of something more. What? There's not enough of a sign, but that there is something more is almost without a doubt.

Once Rachel asks questions, Emma works on providing answers. She is careful about it, and very precise. "Our estimate, at this time, is a few hundred worldwide, mostly concentrated along the coasts. There were six operating in the immediate greater New York area."

The next question is a bit stickier, but Emma answers that as well. "The Lord of the Deep has already taken some notice. The last subject managed to get a read, and start to react. We knocked out the node, but the Lord of the Deep was able to reach through his brain and take control, preparing for a devastating psionic explosion. We neutralized that threat. But I suspect we can expect similar threats in other operations." The impression Emma gives off is something akin to a psionic equivalent to a backpack nuke.

Rachel quirks an eyebrow at that nod of Emma's, but then her eyes narrow briefly in a wince, and she gives a small shrug. She should be used to her secrets being an open book for the X-Men and their allies, but it still makes her uneasy to be reminded of it. She pushes the feeling away, right now that's a distraction she doesn't need, and besides, she brought it up.

Rachel's eyes widen a bit when Emma puts the numbers of their opponents in the hundreds, but she pours herself another glass of water and takes a sip to prevent herself interrupting before she has the full picture. "A few hundred." She says at length, swirling the water in her glass around while she looks into it thoughtfully. Her green eyes flick up to meet Emma's again. "Even if we knew where all of them were, that's far too many to take out quickly. Even six would be a stretch, all at once." Rachel looks down at the water again, then shrugs and takes a sip. "If they move against us directly, we'd be in trouble. And each time we move against one of them, we have to do it right and do it fast." Rachel takes in a breath, holds it, then lets it out. "High stakes." She remarks. "When do I start?"

"They aren't all together, however. Thus far, every individual, no matter how close to any other individual, has operated completely independently." Emma offers to help alleviate some concern. She doesn't bring up that she knows about Rachel's background and skills because she knew about the other Rachel's; she assumes that's a foregone conclusion. "So we need to move against each one quickly, quietly, effectively and efficiently. And we need to take them down as quickly as we can." Emma is still working on negotiating access to either a few X-Men with teleporting abilities, or using the hydroporting abilities of the Blue.

"You're officially on-call as if right now." Emma explains. "However, I do not expect to resume active operations for a few days. That should give you time to examine the targets we've eliminated already, and to read through the memories of our strike teams, to make yourself as familiar as possible with what you'll be feeling and dealing with." Emma explains.

"It should take the Blue at least that long to regroup and prepare their forces for another assault plan. The psionic network is only active when the enemy's forces are engaged. So we have to coordinate our efforts with their military efforts beneath the seas."

Rachel nods in silent agreement as Emma addresses the points she made, but despite any concerns she had, she's not about to back out now. The instant grin that arrives when Emma tells her she's on-call proves that, if nothing else. "Understood." Rachel says swiftly, as if she's afraid that Emma might think better of the idea, then looks almost disappointed when Emma explains she isn't likely to be required immediately. She shakes her head ruefully when she realises how impatient she must seem. "Sorry." She says, without elaborating, then meets Emma's gaze, the look in her eyes determined. "I'll be ready." She says simply, making it a promise.

"See that you are. I want you to start by examining the targets we already have in custody, in detail. When you feel you're done with them, I want you to start going through the memories of every member of the tactical teams, including myself and the other telepaths. That should keep you busy until the balloon goes up." Emma answers. Apparently anticipating the curiosity to follow, Emma explains, "It's a very old term of military history. Sight being speed of light, it's the fastest means of communication. So, to coordinate dispersed military personnel actions, a colored balloon would be used as the signal."

At a gesture from Emma, their food comes in and is set before them. Then Emma nods to the server, who takes care of things like grinding the pepper for their salads and such, and then departs, leaving the women to enjoy their meal together in continued privacy. "Welcome to the team." Emma offers, raising her glass.

Rachel's lips twitch again, at Emma's reaction to her promise. She's in no doubt that she'll have more to worry about than merely Emma's disappointment if she isn't ready when the time comes. Fine. Perfect, in fact. She wants to prove to herself, more than anyone else, that she can contribute, and this is her chance. She doesn't manage to cover her surprise when Emma includes herself in the list of people whose memories Rachel is to examine, but the unfamiliar phase that Emma ends with catches her before she can say anything. Her brows draw together questioningly, but Emma's quick to explain. "Got it." Rachel says, though she seems a little distracted as she realises just how much work she has in front of her. That's enough to occupy Rachel's attention until the food arrives, but by the time Emma raises her glass the redhead's realised there's not much she can do right now, so she might as well enjoy the meal. She raises her own glass in answer, a crooked smile on her lips. "Thanks. Hope I survive the experience."

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