Redemptive AIMs

May 26, 2016:

Roberto asks Hank McCoy whether a wrecked AIM lab is salvageable, but then has to answer the awkward question of just who wrecked it and why.

Staten Island

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Up a few disused streets on the north end of Staten Island sits a dilapidated series of warehouse spaces. Squat and broad but not overlarge, they look like they once held food, furniture, or other consumer goods to be distributed to stores on the island. Nowadays, they don't look like they're used for much at all.

Then again, at least someone is taking an interest: a silvery helicopter emblazoned with the bold red logo of Da Costa International sweeps low over the scene, rotors thudding and sending old garment bags skittering across the mostly-empty parking lot. The side hatch slides open and Roberto da Costa himself leans out, one hand gripping a safety rail and one foot planted on the landing skid. He's wearing a strange mix of civilian and X-men gear: the skintight leggings of his uniform, but no armor, a modish black jacket to cover his otherwise bare upper body, and a pair of chunky sunglasses with garish yellow temples.

Shouting to be heard over the engines, he says, "That's the spot, Hank! AIM was forcibly evicted just yesterday. Property values are merda around here, so I can pick the lab up easily, if you think the location is worth the money!" The Brazilian heir has a decent enough financial sense, but for advice on the scientific value of any potential purchase, he'll have to rely on advice from the helicopter's other passenger.


Hank McCoy has made sure that he's presentable to be out in public…even if they're going to abandoned warehouses. He leaps down easily from the helicopter and looks over the collection of warehouses, "If you were forcibly evicted, do you really want to enter into another agreement? Or are you going to be purchasing outright?" He's no real estate agent, but knows if buildings are going to crumble. These seem to be stable, if not terribly attractive.

"Have you researched the amount of energy that you'd need from the labs? Can the lines here support it or will you need to bring in more?" Basic questions to start with. "Are we going inside any of them?" He grins and lifts a hand to shove brown hair out of his face.


Roberto follows suit, diving out of the helicopter in the boiling darkness of his Sunspot form and venting enough solar force for a controlled (if graceless) landing. He straightens, shifts back to the less remarkable darkness of his usual skin tone, and answers, "I was not the evictee. More the evicter. I divested of AIM — it wasn't my idea to buy into them in the first place." He doesn't go into details, but going by the warm ease of his accented voice, he's not guarded about anything he's saying, either.

On one point, at least, he might not need to provide much of an explanation. Now that they're closer, Hank will be able to spot a few bits of brickwork that look more like they have been smashed than simply worn away over time. There are a few gaps in the roof, leading down inside; but there's also a conventional stairwell just a few more yards distant.

"I would like to go inside, sim — I'd like to know whether you think they're salvageable," Roberto continues. "The labs were fine on power before, so I think they had on-site generators to keep suspicious power spikes off the grid." Deduction? Could it be that da Costa isn't just a pretty face? "Then again, they might have been one of the machines I threw at the banana guys. I was not paying that much attention." Jury's still out, then.


Hank McCoy doesn't ask about it though…if he needs to know, he'll be told. Hank has learned, through trial and error, not to pry at times. He moves closer to the bricks that have been smashed and he takes a couple steps towards one of the gaps on the roof. "Recent?" is asked in reference to the damage before he moves towards the stairwell.

Unlike other mutants, he can't fly.

"I'm flattered that you asked my thoughts, Mr…ah, Roberto." He's trying to get out of the mode of calling former students by their surnames. He pauses and glances back, "Banana guys? Now, -that- I need to hear about."


Roberto has learned a lot of things since graduating from Xavier's and becoming a corporate player. Successfully fibbing to teachers is not one of them. When Hank asks about the damage done to the structure, the Brazilian glances down at his feet with a guilty expression, winces, and replies, "Ah, certo — recent. You could say that." His circuitous path gives the holes in the roof more space than is strictly necessary for safety — perhaps a man putting some distance between himself and his own excesses.

He tugs his shades off and slaps on the lights as the pair enters the stairwell, taking to the second question with more eagerness. "Oh, sim! Have you not fought AIM? They mostly work in these ridiculous bright yellow hazmat suits with cylinder helmets. Easy to spot, but it does give them some protection. Forget about picking a specific person out of a crowd."

At the bottom of the stairs, a heavy, incongruously modern metal door hangs at an angle, dented, scorched, and detached from the track it's supposed to slide along. It's easily six inches thick and the seals and locks are — or at least, were — top-of-the-line. Roberto stammers to silence and then starts to edge through the gap left by the destruction wrought on the entrance. Past it, the dilapidated trappings of the exterior building give way to slick futurist aesthetics and ultramodern equipment of the hidden laboratory.


Hank McCoy arches an eyebrow as Roberto admits to the recent damage, "Well, at least it's not a hole all the way down…or are there those as well?" Since they'll need to be repaired before moisture gets in. An easier fix for concrete buildings.

As AIM is explained, he looks a little dubious, "Really? They fight in yellow Hazmat suits and helmets? Because that has got to be useful and effective." But it does mean anonymity. Even he might not be able to catch a scent from those.

Roberto is given another knowing glance when he's led to the scorched and detached door, "Must have been some fight," is quipped before he peeks into the hidden laboratory. "You've swept for bugs and other surveillance, yes?"


"No, I don't carry spy gadgets," Roberto replies, tugging aside one panel of his jacket to indicate the X-Red outfit he's wearing underneath it. Normally augmented with armored gauntlets and a chestplate, the uniform itself consists of nothing but boots and a pair of skintight leggings — not a lot of pocket space. "I think I set off all the booby traps on my way in, though," he adds, flashing a paparazzi-bait smirk. "I think."

Growing a little more serious as they get deeper into the wrecked laboratory, he nods and agrees, "It was a hell of a fight. I have kind of a… thing with AIM." The pause isn't Roberto searching for the right word, as bilingual people often do; he stops short, weighing a specific term, and then refuses to say it. "You might have heard about it from some of the other X-men."

He looks over at a truck-sized piece of equipment — a sort of milling and machining station for building custom metal devices — which has been torn away from one wall and flung into the one opposite. "The suits are not intended for fights so much as experiments," he says, drawing on an earlier line in the conversation. "Very unpleasant experiments. But AIM is adaptable."


"I'm not really in touch with X-Red," Hank admits and it seems to cover most of the alleged rumors and the indication of the uniform. There's a pause as he considers, but since they're mostly alone except for potential surveillance bugs, Hank actually shifts to his more familiar blue and furry form. He might be able to better scent out anything awry. Maybe.

"We should come back and make sure that it's de-bugged…that anything left can't be used against you." Simple paranoid logic, really. He steps a little closer to the displaced machining station before 'hmm'-ing at the mention of experiments. "Sadly, none of that is new to hear." Maybe about yet another group doing it.

Golden eyes glance about the place to get an overview before he offers in basic Portuguese, '<What plans do you have for here?>' In case there is someone listening in, they might not have immediate access to a Portuguese speaker for translation.


Roberto looks like he wants to say something more about the experiments, but for once, he keeps his infamous mouth shut. He pulls open a random drawer and starts shuffling through the contents: a variety of lens assemblies that he obviously doesn't understand the purpose of. He's just keeping his hands busy while he thinks. Finally, he answers, "<I couldn't say specifically — I'm not a scientist. At best, maybe we could reverse engineer whatever they were working on? But most likely I would just use it for development projects for DCI or X-Red.>"

The prospect of bugs doesn't seem to concern him much, for some reason. He shuts the drawer with more force than is necessary, and blurts out (in English again, but without his usual careful diction), "I just want to think that, okay, something from one of their maldito labs could be useful. That something good can be made from here. I can take their toys away for smashing them and they just build new ones! Someday the world will fill with nothing but labs full of horror."

He stops, flexing one hand, and stares at one of the fluorescent lights embedded in the ceiling for several long seconds. "Sinto muito," he apologizes, making eye contact again. "That was ridiculous of me. I make this personal when I should not."


Beast moves closer to Roberto as he opens a drawer to look inside. He listens, taking the time to translate from a language he isn't as familiar with, but he seems to get the general jist. There's a wince when the drawer is shut with force as if he could hear the lenses being jostled.

"Well, first of all, you can't go throwing things around and slamming drawers in a lab!" is offered with a little more vitriol than he may have intended. "I'm sorry…just…I get it. It's actually a good thing if it's personal, if you ask me. Otherwise you're not…otherwise it's meaningless. Otherwise it's unfeeling." He looks around some more, "There might be answers in here for something, but you can't go messing things up to find it. You have to be methodical. You have to go digging, carefully." As for projects for DCI or X-Red, he just shrugs. He's not involved in either.

"You really should sweep for bugs and you should have someone comb through the computers."


Roberto inhales slowly, and for a second it looks like he's going to escalate into shouting at Beast. Instead, he lowers his head and laughs. "Apologies. Making it personal and smashing things are sides of the same problem. With AIM? I don't know how to do one without the other. Not yet, anyway."

He waves a hand at the partially wrecked facility and says, "They kept me in a place like this for months, so if I seem glib about those bugs of yours, it's because there is nothing about me that they don't already know. Merda, even if there was anything, they could always ask Reignfire." He hesitates, then goes all in on his explanation. "They made their own Bobby da Costa — a clone. He's not on great terms with them anymore, either, but I am sure he'd be willing to help them win the newlywed game for a small fee."

He looks downward, collects his thoughts, and says, "Yes, I can get one of our computer guys to check. At first glance, though, do you think the overall facility is salvageable?" His smirk returns. "As I said, the property values are low, and obviously I have done my part to bring them even lower."


Beast is ready to be yelled at. He knows he 'instructs' a little too often and to people who don't want the instruction. It's just how he is. When the yelling doesn't come, he offers a nod, "You should figure out how to channel that a different way, especially if you're going to work on this place." He looks around some more before offering, "It's not about what they know about you. It's about what they spy on you actually doing with the place. Even if it's just cleaning it up, but if they have enough bugs around and you don't destroy them before you begin your research…" He lets Roberto follow that to its logical conclusion.

"There's nothing evil about labs. It's the people who work in them that can be evil. The work that they do can be…evil. To an extent. I suppose it's more what they -do- with the results."

At first glance though, he nods, "I think it could work. You have a lot of repair to do, structurally and for security, but even some of the equipment could be repaired if not easily replaced."


"Certo. I know there is nothing fundamentally bad about a lab — not even an AIM lab," Roberto agrees with a tiny hitch of his shoulders. "Still, what I know in my head and what I feel in my gut are not always the same."

As if to show himself willing to work on his hangup, though, he draws on his solar shroud, squats, and lifts a fallen piece of scanning equipment that probably weighs a ton back upright. He pats it with an open palm and returns to his everyday form. "Alright — I will have the place swept carefully before we do anything with it. I know I play a little bit loose with my own safety, but I really do try to look out for my people."

He turns to look at Beast, favors him with a warm smile, and says, "Obrigado. I appreciate your thoughts. To be honest, I have been digging up and knocking over AIM facilities like this one for weeks. Off the books, I guess — a kind of personal therapy. Confront your demons, or something." He grins and adds, "I never even thought of doing anything useful with them until now."


"It's the case with all of us. We need to figure out how and when to listen to each, I guess," Beast shrugs and steps out of Roberto's way when he rights the piece of fallen equipment. "I might suggest that if you continue to 'knock over' AIM facilities such as this one, and you plan to take it over and convert it to your own use, be a little nicer to the equipment?" There's a hint of a smile there. "You do what you need to do, Roberto. I'm not going to tell you to stop experiments that could be dangerous. Just realize that not all these people are evil. They might just be wage workers, trying to make a living."


That last point sobers Roberto quickly. "I am not out here to kill people," he states emphatically. "Bad or good. Even if nothing else, that is a way I can prove to myself that I am not like my clone. It's a step he will take" — he grits his teeth — "one he has taken, and one I will not." He drums his fingers restlessly on a tabletop, then adds, "I wreck the labs and drive them out. I fight back if they try to stop me, but it's not about hurting people."


Beast nods, "I know you're not and it -does- make you very different from the other." He tries to be reassuring, about that. His lips twitch then, "Just remember that you're wrecking lab equipment that you're going to have to replace. Most of it isn't cheap." Just as a gentle warning. In the end, it's up to Roberto as to what he wrecks and what he replaces. "But this will be good, I think. Repurposing a place like this."


"I hope so," Roberto agrees. Then, with a wry half-smile, he continues, "Maybe a project like that can be the 'channel' I need to work out my excess aggression. Then again, I am not quite as good at setting up laboratories as I am at blowing them up." He heaves a dramatic sigh and concludes, "It's my curse. Born to be an executive, but built to smash. I should have one of those clever person powers, like teleportation or creating illusions. But no! Just punching things really hard. Once I used up the obvious options, it had fewer applications in the boardroom than you might think."


There's a chuckle, "Maybe. Or maybe you can pile all the destroyed and irrepairable equipment somewhere and wail on it for a while. That might help too." Hank isn't blind to the need for a physical release of aggression. He, of all people, understand. "If it helps, you are pretty good at destroying labs." He flashes sharp teeth in a grin then, "I think you were meant to have just what you were meant to have. No one says you have to show everything in the Boardroom or on the Battlefield. We all have our little surprises."


His good humor restored, Roberto laughs. "I like that way of looking at things. It's not that my powers are useless in my professional life. They are simply a surprise — for when things get less professional." He glances over at some of the wrecked equipment, then offers Hank a mock bow. "Why, thank you, senhor. I take pride in all my work, constructive or destructive." Heading back toward the stairwell, he continues, "I suppose it makes sense that you have a good perspective on these matters. You seem to have found ways to balance your own life out."


"See? There you go!" Hank's grin widens as he follows Roberto back towards the stairs. Before they ascend, he makes sure to shift back into his human appearance…probably the last time he'll be shifting today without more serum. "You are most welcome and I thank you for that compliment. I'm afraid that I do tend to veer the other way which makes my involvements in actual skirmishes few and far-between. But the kids at the school need me while others are out doing the fighting, so that's where I am." There's a little sigh of regret to that, but it's quickly covered back up. "I've also had a lot of time to get used to hiding."


Roberto glances back as Hank reverts to his human appearance. As someone who can flip his visible mutant powers on and off with almost no effort, he feels sympathy for those who don't have it as easy. That feeling only becomes more pronounced when Beast mentions hiding. "You know, there is always the Red option, certo?" he says quietly as they continue upward. "Give up on hiding and go public. Even if you are not looking to switch teams, we are not the only ones allowed to do that. Acceptance is far from universal, but you can confront the bigotry in the open."


It took a great deal of research to create the serum that allows the switching back and forth…and only for a limited amount of time. Hank pauses when options are mentioned, "Thank you, but…I don't think that it is. Certain higher-ups on the team aren't fond of me. Also, if I continue to stay at the school, I can't be blue and furry outside of it. It's a level of protection that's easily maintained." There's another shrug, "As much as I want to confront that exact bigotry and help progress Mutant Acceptance, it's about the kids."


As they emerge back into the sunlight, Roberto stretches, basking in it. "Fair enough. I know the X-men don't all get along, no matter how much I would like us all to be on good terms." He shrugs and smiles. "And I know the school's privacy has to be maintained. Hell, I would visit more often if that were no concern. But… openness is an option. Each of us has to make our own decisions about whether they are costs we are willing to pay. No judgment, either way."

He reaches into his jacket pocket, retrieving his cell phone, and taps a brief text message into it. Just a few seconds later, the helicopter clatters back into view, approaching to hover over the building, its pilot still unsure of the structure's solidity and unwilling to land. Roberto glances over at Hank and grins. "Jump it? Or do you need a fastball special?"

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