Halfway There

July 19, 2017:

Obadiah Stane. Emma Frost. One hostile freelancer. Loki.

This can only end in blood, and it does.

Upstate New York

Characters

NPCs: Emmit Longren and Minions A'Plenty

Mentions: Tony Stark

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

It's been busy. Emma will know from his most apologetic tone that his previous cancellation of a few of their meetings will have weighed heavily on him. And further still, he would only take this meeting on the move. A drive, it seems, across New York City and upstate to, of all things, buy a horse. It isn't that he wants a horse so much as someone else to come to their party, and so he's making due. Still, a ride in the back of an SUV with Obi can't be the worst thing in the world, right? Luxury is not lost on him, and the amenities that Emma Frost will be used to are all there in spades.

They'll only just be at the start of their trip, with Obi waiting with a smile and a drink for her, offering a rare vintage to try to make amends for missed meetings. She'll certainly notice the other identical SUVs in front and behind of Obadiah's, security personnel waiting patiently for Ms. Frost to step aboard. Obi is dressed as he usually is, even for an appointment to drive three hours out of the way to get a horse. Look, the office comes with him. One can imagine he's worn a suit and tie so long that he'd go fishing in it, if the chance presented itself.

"I hope a little day trip doesn't put you out to long, Emma. But this is the only free time I have for the next couple weeks. But don't worry." His face brightens, the lines in his bald head scrunching up with his smile as he lifts a picnic basket from that great place at the base of the tower. "I packed lunch."

When Emma steps up into the car, it is with an understated amusement. She’s taken full opportunity to avoid looking like she’s in the office, with legs wrapped in skin-tight pants, a white bustier, and a light jacket with a lapel and slanted pockets that looks like—in some strange otherworld—it might have been originally conceived as a hunt jacket.

Her calf-high boots, also white, are even modestly heeled and thick, rather than her usual stilettos. Grass. Heels. Don’t always mix.

The entourage is noted, and appreciated.

Setting her purse and a large manila envelope beside her and settling in, she is only too happy to be plied for forgiveness with wine. It’s a long drive ahead but, to cover everything that needs covering, the time can certainly be put to good use.

“How delightful!” she praises for the thought of lunch. “I’m actually on a sort of vacation right now,” she tells him, “So I’ve very nearly all the time in the world for the next couple of weeks, aside from a couple prior obligations.”

Crossing her legs carefully in the smaller space, she tilts her head with a playful angle and then looks at Stane with her unapologetic consideration. He knows who she is. What she is. Thus, perhaps, it is worth some note that beyond a quick scan of the minds about her to be sure of what’s around her, she’s keeping inside her own psychic yard for the time being. He won’t feel her poking.

“How have you been?” she asks, the question set to a melodic lilt.

—-

It's really everything Obadiah could have hoped for when Emma accepts his apology, his joy leaping outward without any need for Emma to look in. It really isn't until she asks how he is that he hesitates. It's all over his face this time, and when he leans back and into his seat, lines of worry crawl into his expression. "Well. Stark Tower has had it's share of misadventures as of late. Nothing I'd want to sour your mood with. It's just a lot. Tony's going through a lot. I'm going through more. According to my doctor I'm sneaking a few to many pints of ice cream, and the catering company I'd arranged for the party has gone bankrupt. So, I had to go and buy them, rehire them, and put them under a manager who wouldn't steal from them left and right." He waves a hand and reaches for his own drink, which appears to just be ice water in the kind of glass one might favor for bourbon. Look, he's cut back lately, but he isn't a savage. No plastic bottles for him.

"Thankfully it shouldn't impact the party, and it looks like I'll have a new place that can serve up gourmet lunch anytime I want it." He smirks, capping the trying circumstance with a little upside. The convoy of SUVs begins to move out, and it won't belong before they're on a main highway heading west. They'll be outside the city in no time, at the clip they're going. "Vacation.. that word sounds familiar. Is it Italian for something?" His joke is as rough as his beard, and he reaches up to rub at it thoughtfully. "I guess this little trip counts as my vacation. Old friend of mine said he's kick in at least ten million for the party if I'd come take a look at one of his horses. Amir has a funny way of doing business, I get the sense he thinks I'll owe him one after I buy his horse for whatever extortionist price he's asking, like the act itself is him doing me a kindness, and the money flying both ways doesn't matter." He scrunches up his face a little and scratches the back of his neck.

"I guess I'll have to find something nice to do for him in the future. Some palpable kindness. Maybe I can introduce him to the immaculate Emma Frost and by doing so lend him a new ear for all of his absolutely awful stories from the late eighties. 'The good old days of Genosha'. My ass." He shakes his head, takes a drink of his water, and then fiddles around in his pockets while looking for a cigar. He finds it just in time to realize that Emma may not be interested in partaking, but he does have two. He offers them up, brows lifting in hope. Of course, if she declines he'll abstain, not wanting to force her to indulge his smoke in such a small space.

Good old days of…

It’s not the cigar that earns the Obadiah the opportunity to see Emma Frost’s demeanor shift ever so subtly, but the muttering of a hellhole’s name. Her head tilts to the opposite side, and the temperature of her smile plunges to subzero depths.

More outwardly visible is the arch of two sculpted eyebrows.

“I wasn’t aware there was such a day,” she coolly replies, suddenly none-too-sure about their destination. Or the host entertaining them once she gets there, anyway.

And then, her lips twist upwards into a sudden show of puckish thought churning beneath the alabaster facade of her. “But, yes, let’s go warm the cockles of his heart. Anything to encourage good charity.” And the emphasis on those words hardly sounds comforting.

For the offer of tobacco, there’s a theatrical, teasing pantomime of debate before finally reaching out to delicately pluck one out of the duet arrangement but still holding it aloft to be properly prepared by her host.

To the surprise of none, she’s not about to just bite the end off the thing.

“Tsk, tsk,” she chides, even as she encourages the vice with all of the body language she can muster. “What would your doctor say?”

—-

"Probably not. Genosha has always been a pit of feckless thugs, clamoring to the top with this decade's crusade."

There's a long moment of silence as Obadiah absorbs her reaction, clipping the end of the cigar and offering her a light as he tries to process it all. Of course, he never really did pry on where her abilities come from. And plenty of people have reason to hate Genosha, though it starts to make sense in the moment that follows as he lights his own cigar. He draws in the sweet smoke, eyes falling shut as her question falls upon deaf ears, lost in his own thoughts and only snapping to the surface when his eyes open again. For all the world, it only looks like he was just enjoying that first pull of his cigar. Finally, he offers half a smirk, giving a slow shake of his head.

"Well, I give him a box of these every couple months, so I'm not sure he'd have a whole lot to say."

Finally, he reaches for his water again, taking a long sip. "Are you familiar with Mr. Oloye? I imagine Amir might travel in circles that might cross your path from time to time. If it's a problem, I'm fine with telling him to find another way to spend his ten million dollars. There's always a way to make up the difference. In fact, if he's a problem, there are ways to make sure he's not a repeat problem. I'm not a keen on people ruining your mood, Emma."

The bribe to Obadiah’s doctor elicits a chuckle, and marks the return of some of Enma’s good humor. “Not after you have gone to all the trouble of setting up the afternoon, Mister Stane,” Emma counters, once the task of getting her own cigar set to a good burn is out of the way. While these aren't her typical vice, she seems to know her way around the art of them well enough.

She pulls a cloud in, appreciates it, and then releases it after moving to crack the window, lest the air grow too thick . She chases the taste of it with a sip of her wine. “Besides, there are some things that are just better assessed in person. I suppose a bigot’s fate might reasonably be numbered among them.”

Lifting up the cigar to turn it and observe the details of it, Frost continues. “But no, to answer your question. I am not familiar with Monsieur Oloye.”

—-

The scenery outside fades from suburbs to country in no time, fields and long tree lines in the distance a reminder that New York state has plenty of farmland to go with it's immense civilization. The possibilities of how this rather boring business transaction at the end of an otherwise delightful daytrip might become more complex, and thus more interesting, flood his mind. In the meantime, he reaches out to activate the holo-display in front of them both.

"Probably the best policy. In the meantime, let me show you something I've been working on, it's a side pro-"

Obadiah Stane never finishes his sentence as the world turns to chaos, and the SUV in front of them is struck by a missile that sends it's back end up into the air. The second missile plows it from the road, sending debris careening into the front of the vehicle they're both in. Through the isolation glass in front of them, they can see the windshield crack, and the driver swerves while shouting to the rest of the security detail.

An explosion will assail the ears from behind, another missile hitting the vehicle behind them, though the followup lands somewhere between the two vehicles, sending both Emma and Obadiah into near weightlessness as the entire vehicle is launched into a terrible cartwheel that will only end after a full rotation and leave the SUV on it's roof. The sounds of automatic weapons fire and more advanced energy weapons sound outside as what's left of Obadiah's security engages the attackers. Obadiah ends up on his side, in a heap near his shattered window, blood trickling from his mouth to stain his normally gray beard.

Emma is leaning in to see something, and then, her head shoots up with a violent speed as minds register panic mere moments before she herself can hear the sound of the missiles’ propulsion systems.

Buckling up would have been wise.

Instead, the blonde is tumbled inside the vehicle and it takes her a long moment to will away the disorientation and the blinding headache. Cigars smolder into the upholstery and foam padding of the SUV’s roof, sending up acrid smoke that would quickly become suffocating if not for the new ventilation system the shattered window provides.

She looks to her leg, and sees red. But it’s not blood there, but rather the wasted wine. The slice across her arm, however, from a crushed glass draws a pained hiss as she pulls apart her jacket to get a better look at it.

There’s a moment, a simultaneously infinite and fleeting moment, where Emma needs to fight to breathe past an unfortunate and oppressive panic.

The moment passes.

When it does, she still does not immediately move. Instead, her mind begins to roam, first to her host. Is he still alive? Then to those outside, so she can begin assessing. How many? How armed? And, perhaps more importantly, what in the world did they just get blown up for?

—-

There's a strange calm after the initial attack, a moment that lingers on as the sound of boots fill it over time. The old man stirs as the sounds outside quiet down, shuffling to his knees at first, but wavering there, as if he does not have his balance. Small fires, bits of metal, and bodies litter the ground. There's a groan, and Obadiah reaches up for something to hold onto, to try and pull himself up, one hand sweeping to the back of his head where there's a nasty cut, the other planted near the open window.

"Emma?" He barely has time to say the word when a metal hand reaches in to grab him by the wrist and pull him bodily from the car, drawing him up, at first, to dangle, and then letting him go. Without his balance he stumbles to his hands and knees, and Emma will know their are three. Three minds, at least, all with a narrow focus on Obadiah Stane. They know him to be dangerous. And so they brought backup: Several robotic minions with regular and advanced munitions. One of the robots borbles to it's master, who takes off his glasses and saunters over to the downed Stane.

"Oh boy," he begins with a Southern drawl, his booted feet coming to a stop before his prey. "That cut looks nasty. Gonna need a bandaid at least for that." The man sucks in a breath and reaches down to take hold of his sidearm, drawing it from it's holster. Finally he kneels down, and Obi finally leans back on his knees, fixing the man with a squint. "No no, don't get up on account of me. You uh..oh.." It's about then that he spies Emma through the window, and flashes her a smile, his flesh covered beard, sunglasses, and single golden tooth all reflecting too much light to be comfortable. "Well, hello there, pretty lady. Why don't you come on out of there nice and slow, as to not force my companions here to riddle you with bullets, plasma, and worse."

The 'or worse' is most likely the jet hovering in the distance, the very thing that fired munitions at them to set them on this course.

"So what's the play here. What's the plan? Ransom?" Obadiah starts off with the basics, one hand on the back of his head, which he draws forward to look at his blood. "Money isn't a problem." The man doesn't answer, motioning with his gun that Emma should come out.

When Obadiah is ripped from the car, the blonde’s head lifts—shifts—to watch, but she does nothing to stop it. Nothing to help. Instead, Frost’s chilled commentary murmurs in Obadiah’s head, unheard by the world at large. It is, to put it mildly, irritated. «Not a friend, I’m assuming.»

She’s indeed awake and, thanks to the amazing advances in automotive safety design, mostly intact. There are superficial scrapes, bruises, and the cut on her arm; her ensemble is marred by red wine and her makeup smeared.

But Emma—to her credit, perhaps—restrains herself. Not that anyone would know, save perhaps Obadiah. And even he wouldn’t know how much. To the threat, there is simply an arch of her eyebrow. But, since she was planning on getting out anyway…

She slowly slips out of her ruined couture jacket to reveal the ruffled satin that gently cascades from the back of her bustier and tapers down and gives just a little burlesque flair. The jacket is reduced to a utilitarian end: breaking out a few remaining shards of glass from the window’s seal and protect her bared forearms and elbows as she begins the uncomfortable crawl over the shattered safety glass to exit the mangled vehicle via that route. A degrading crawl that is an unpalatable, industrial-grade abrasive marring the polished finish of her pride.

She passes the manila envelope she’d brought with her on the way, and a “slip” that puts her flat on her belly sees her knee shove it roughly to the side, where it slides under the toxic smolder of one of the cigars.

Once she’s past the most treacherous of the hazards, there is nothing but naked, murderous desire hidden behind the intense pale gaze that peers past her wildly messy blonde hair and affixes upon their attacker.

—-

«Pretty sure he's a freelancer. His re-purposed Hydra bots, the Quin-Jet knockoff, some of those guns are from the days when Tony still sold them, and still five years ahead of the mercenary curve. I have countermeasures inbound but I'm not sure on the time table. We might need to t-»

Obadiah's thought is cut off by the man in front of him, his glasses lowered to cast bio-mechanical eyes at Emma, to take in the texture of her gaze and quirk his jaw to the side with an expression that looks positively taken aback. "That's quite the outfit miss. I guess I didn't quite take Mr. Stane for a cradle robber, but let's all be a little more honest than we'd like and say it'd rank pretty low on the list of his sins." The man rises, pushes his sunglasses back up onto his face and does nothing to impede Emma from standing as well.

Obi finds a gun in his face the moment he tries to move, and the man casts a glance to the sky. "Can't say I'm here for ransom either, Mr. Stane. Hate to put you through all this when a missile or two would have done you the same peace I did for your boys over there, but we have to make sure Tony Stark sees this one for himself. In person. I imagine with his stand-in pappy taking fire like this, he'll be along any minute now. And I'm awfully sorry for the mess here, Miss. You may want to move to the right a couple steps, never can tell how a head wound will backwash, spray, or otherwise, you know." he makes a wild gesticulation, indicating a popping motion. The pop in this case, would be Obadiah's head in the execution he has planned for him as soon as Tony arrives.

For his part, Obadiah faces it with a grim determination, giving a slow nod of his head. Being Tony's friend all these years, being a mentor, showing him the business that paired with his genius, had always come with certain hangups and eccentricities. Here, faced with a deadly one, he can't do much more than give a little grimace. "Well, if I can't talk you out of it, would you mind if I said a prayer?"

Obadiah doesn't wait for the answer, and as his lips move in a mumble, the man holding him at gunpoint and waiting for the arrival of Iron Man tilts his head a little, his brows lifting with mild surprise. No one had ever considered Obadiah Stane pious man, after all.

But perhaps that's only because, until now, he'd never known a higher power.

And so he prays, but not to any God these men know. Not to someone who might grant him absolution or peace in his final moment, but rather to someone who has not heard his name in Earthly prayer for a thousand years. And though most prayers are meant only to fall on deaf ears, for a man who embraces duality as way of life, there can be no doubt that Obadiah could be considered a true believer…

…in the God of Lies.

«Well. I guess I should try to buy a little time,» comes the echoing thought in return to Obadiah’s succinct assessment of the situation.

Emma is given freedom to rise to her feet, and so she does. The pitiful, ruined jacket is held aloft for the unknown man’s review, a leg kicking out fearlessly as though she were just chastising a dog for soiling the carpet. Quite the outfit?

“You should have seen it before your pathetic display of male posturing,” she tells him plainly, making no secret of her disdain. Admittedly, it would be perhaps a tad more intimidating if the upstart knew who she was or she didn’t look the part of a cat’s bedraggled plaything.

“This was an original piece, you soulless barbarian,” she continues, seemingly undaunted as she continues to display her white jacket as anything other than a flag of surrender. “So, your gentlemanly consideration would have been much appreciated had you thought to extend it some minutes prior to exploding the car with me still inside of it.

And then it begins.

His mind should be a simple enough thing to navigate, and so she begins searching the “freelancer’s” for those things hidden away. The secret shames, the untold desires. The exploitable, unwanted parts of the human mind to which she is so used to perusing at leisure.

She’s been trying to be more respectful of other people’s privacy most of the time… but then they just have to go and do things like this.

—-

Ask, and he shall appear.

Albeit, dramatically late.

Obadiah prays. Prays to a god most were comfortable to just consider a myth until a man with a big hammer barreled his way back into their world. And what he receives, at least at first… is blissful silence. Blissful, uncomfortable silence that seems to drag on for an eternity in that moment where he says his final prayer, straddling that line between life and death that all hinges on the arrival of one man to herald his execution.

A finger twitches at a trigger.

"Now that brings me back."

The voice is doubtless a familiar one. One that, it seems, only Emma and Obadiah will be able to hear; the mercenary, his robots, and his men will remain blissfully oblivious to the voice as if it were nothing more than a mere spectre.

A mere spectre, currently perched on one of the larger of the assembled automatons like it was a lawn chair.

Dressed in green and gold with those glorious gilded horns on full, proud display, Loki, God of Mischief, clasps hands behind the back of his head, one leg crossed over the other in a comfortable sitting position as those burningly green eyes focus themselves on Emma and Obadiah, a delightedly friendly smile decorating his lips. If the robot notices him, it doesn't show it — nor do any of the men. And yet, time is quite obviously still moving forward, not slowed to that freezing amber crawl it was the first time they met. No. It's like he simply doesn't exist, despite the fact that he clearly does to their eyes.

"I ought to thank you for that. Do you know how long it's been since I've had someone ask me for something in a prayer? … Actually, it might not be as long as you think, but it still makes me feel nostalgic," continues on the God of Lies amiably. He looks around him almost boredly, from man to man, machine to machine. His head tilts.

"Though, all things considered, this seems like something you could have handled yourself. Don't you want to? These people ruined a very nice evening and a very nice outfit, after all. Gauche behavior like that should receive appropriate punishment. And I'd hate to steal your spotlight. So… how's that saying go?"

The trickster leans down, and whispers something to that large machine. Magical energies fluctuate; its optics bleed towards a distinctively green glow.

"'God helps those who help themselves.'" The God gestures, once, towards the man in the front. Gestures at that gun pointed directly at Obadiah's head.

"So go on, you both do exactly what you want. Exactly what you think is appropriate. And then, I promise you… good things will happen."

Blissful silence would be more than the average response for one of Obadiah's prayers. The last time he prayed to anyone and meant it, he lost his wife anyway. These days, he only really ventures a chance at a higher power when he's certain of the outcome. Today marks the first prayer that takes a chance, and when he hears Loki speak he peeks up and is quite ready for the man in front of him to turn, for the whole lot of them to become distracted. Instead he finds the man looking at his watch, then back at Obadiah, and then finally glancing to one of the human-sized robots. "Anything yet? I mean, is Stark out of the country or something? Joe! Did you check and make sure Stark wasn't out of the country?! God Almighty and please forgive me, but wouldn't that just be one more reason to get another robot and.. Whoa there!” Emma’s kick and offering her jacket up like an example of how civilization ends sends Emmit into a single backpeddle, one hand raising, his gun pointing to her briefly. “Ma’am, Put. The Jacket. Dow…dow…”

He trails off a moment. But not because of anything Loki said. It's that winding constrictor in his mind. Something mostly unnoticed. And odd sensation that forces a sinking feeling in his gut. Emma will find his brain is wired, not quite normal with it's implant to help his eyes and ears, but no less susceptible to her intrusion. To her picking apart his desires and fears. Desire long ago left Emmit Longren, way back when he was in the second Gulf War. Way back when an IED and the followup attack took him and his squad apart. He liked to put on a brave face. Make Terminator and Robocop jokes. The bottle almost claimed him, pills too, until a man came with an offer to make him as whole as whole can be for someone in his state. The ring on that man's finger was One of Ten, and he told Emmit he'd be right as rain. But no one could make him whole enough to make his wife love him again. No one could make him whole enough to wipe the image of the horse from his mind, naying and rearing up, terrifying in his dying state. Nomads on horseback had found what was left of his unit. They'd brought allies to recover him. But he didn't remember anything but the terrifying screech of the horse in the night, and it's wild eyes as he looked up dying.

Why did he think of that?

His brow furrows and he gives a little shake of his head, just as Obadiah seems to understand the nature of Loki's appearance, and who can see him. "Well, you know. It never hurts to have God on your side." Obi’s answer to Loki's question about wanting to seek retribution comes as the prelude to Emmit's companion speaking up from the back line. "Incoming! We've got visual!" Emmit shakes his head then, and pulls back on the hammer and finds Obi in his sight’s again. "Nothin' personal."

The gun goes ‘click’ when it should go boom.

There's a moment there where Emmit Longren wonders if he racked the slide on his sidearm before holstering it like he's done every day since he joined Carrion Squad. But it's a fleeting thought that's drowned out by the sound of something very large barreling through the sky.

"Likewise." Comes Obadiah's reply, as the mass of the Iron Monger suit lands behind him, cratering the SUV into oblivion and scooping him up in one quick motion that pulls him inside the mechanical monstrosity. It towers over the suddenly quiet Emmit, who pushes his glasses down to get a look what Iron Man might look like if he had been made only for war. The crash of sound that came in the wake of the suit's appearance gives way to a stunned silence, followed by a large weapon unfolding over the suit's right shoulder to release a series of magnetically propelled projectiles towards the Quin-Jet knockoff. Each railgun round rips through the air in a fireball that impacts with a visible shockwave. It does not survive past the third impact, spiraling into a sudden explosion at the far treeline.

«Emma, I know you're angry but we're going to need one of them alive.»

It isn't so much that he's giving her an order. He would never dare. Instead he's asking. In his mind. Politely. Really, this is as close to Obadiah Stane has ever gotten to begging.

Loki’s sudden appearance earns him a look of surprise, and then a new iteration of her frown. Loki, ruiner of cocktail gowns, has arrived. But, despite his words about handling it themselves, it does seem that he’s helping. …She thinks. She’s reasonably certain.

And that turns Emma’s lips in the other direction, passing into a smile that is altogether gleefully wicked. Her bleeding arm is ignored: there is revenge to be had.

As the Iron Monger suit comes crashing down, however, Emma is momentarily distracted from her dark purposes and instead defensively raises her arms up over her head to instinctively protect herself from flying dirt, grass, rock, and debris.

When she peers out from underneath, she gives a queer look in Obadiah’s direction. «Alive? In case it has escaped your notice, darling, you’re the one in the overgrown Rock’em Sock’em toy.»

But the command to spare mortal men from death isn’t a game changer for Emma. For there are things far worse than death that are still very viable options.

«You sort them as you like.»

Since Longren seems to be occupied by the man in the very large metal suit, the Hellfire Club’s precious White Queen rounds her attention on the skittering cockroaches that are the freelancer’s men. And her smile grows.

“Hello, gentlemen,” she offers in a voice creamy sweet. “Let’s talk, shall we?” Her eyes widen as her hands extend before her, masterfully arranged in a generous pose. Her stained coat dangles before her from her fingertips demonstratively. “Or…”

And without warning, they will find themselves confronted with an overwhelming and debilitating nausea as their cerebellums suddenly find equilibrium nearly impossible to secure.

“I share how sickened I am by your cruelty. What did my poor couture do to deserve such calloused treatment?”

—-

*click*

It's like a signal, that jamming. A signal for everything to go very very wrong for Emmit and his friends, and everything to go very very right for Emma and Obadiah. All within that one span of a single chance mistake. A fluke. A shift of fortunes. A stroke of luck.

An act of God.

And in that moment, the Iron Monger lands, a mass of metal and hatred that crushes the vehicle behind the pair like it were some immense, man-shaped trash compactor. And as the dust kicks up to obscure the both of them, they might see the horned figure of the God of Mischief giving them both a little thumbs up of approval before the dirt whisks past to conceal him within its thick, collateral haze.

The fake, bargain brand Quin-Jet is dealt with. Emma turns her attentions towards the men, directing her disgust towards them with obscene mental prowess. But there are still the robots. Still those dangerous automatons, turning their mindlessly efficient attentions towards the White Queen and the Iron Monger, weapons no doubt prepped and ready to act…

… Before artillery fire rips through one of them like a hot knife through butter.

It comes from the side — comes from the machine that Loki had been using as a convenient leaning post not moments earlier. The God takes a comfortable step backwards behind the killing machine as its optics glow a sharp, vibrant green, its weapons unloaded upon the other robotic sentries in short, merciless order to blitz through them in an act of what most might presume to be extreme malfunction — or perhaps expert hacking.

Or, perhaps, it was simply fed a very palatable lie. Really, in the end — what's the difference?

And so, as his new toy begins its rampage on the rest of the mercenaries' arsenal, Loki steps away, whistling faintly. His attention turns towards the Iron Monger and Emmit, his path diverting to weave between the two other men (very careful to avoid any unfortunate side effects of extreme nausea as Emma works her mental magic) to settle himself behind the mercenary leader. The tall god tilts his head, looking up to Obadiah in his metal suit with bright eyes.

"Well, look at you. Your very own tin man. And a large one, at that," he remarks, head tilting to the side. "Impressive! Though between the two of you, I don't think I'm quite sure who the carrot and who the stick is. But that just makes it better, doesn't it?"

A smile. He leans forward. And Emmit will feel the invisible presence of hands on his shoulder, gripping. Hard. To hold him in place. Like some invisible force was keeping him there. Like fate was demanding he stay exactly where he is.

"Now, you said the prayer. You get to decide. What shall we do with poor, dear Emmit here?"

—-

When the disgust of Emma Frost is put into the mind of your average mercenary, there is something akin to fireworks. Perhaps not fireworks per se, but there are several explosions none the less. Retching, heaving, shaking, they drop. One tries to lift his gun but fires before he means to and the round is sent harmlessly into the crushed bulk of the SUV. Another looks up, as if he means to say something, and then paints the ground with another round of vomit before keeling over to the side in sudden, horrible exhaustion.

«Just a slight upgrade over the usual fair, meant for a more lethal kind of meeting. I promise I'm not taking advantage of your recent wardrobe loss to upstage you.»

The assessment of the battlefield filters in through the Iron Monger's helmet, and he watches as Loki's commandeered robot turns on it's compatriots, making a small war into a short engagement as the other, smaller bots crumpled under it's eerie green destruction. It is a pitifully short fight. There is no trap here, waiting to be sprung for the absent Iron Man. Just the frozen in place form of Emmit Longren, who tries twisting his shoulders from an iron, godly grip.

"Well that's just…. I never imagined.. oh boy." Emmit looks up and up too, at the hulking form of the suit in front of him, and Obadiah looks down, his advanced optics visually dissecting the man, noting his cybernetic make, and the myriad of parts used in his construction. Stark Tech. Hammer Tech. Him and his pick the bones of the advanced to fuel their survival, and Obadiah would find it an opportunity to upgrade his security force. Unfortunately for Emmit, The Iron Monger finds it only a convenience that allows him to express his rage.

"Parlay?" says Emmit, his gold tooth shining in the sun with his faux smile.

The Iron Monger simply reaches over and pulls Emmit's head off, trailing spine and viscera, though not as much as one might at expect, leaving Loki holding shaking, dead shoulders in the wake of the violent act. If there was any question about the carrot or stick, it's put to rest immediately. As are the first responders racing down the road towards them, unleashing a rocket that breaks apart into half a dozen smaller projectiles, utterly annihilating those who would witness the spectacle up close. Even the driver of Obadiah's SUV, who somehow survived the initial attack, and the subsequent pancaking of the vehicle when Obi's suit arrived, finds his cry for help answered with a stomping foot that turns into a twisting smear.

If the true nature of Obadiah Stane were in question, it no longer is, and his modulated voice finally speaks up, to answer both Loki and Emma. "We won't need those two anymore. This one had an implant in his head that should have all I need. It troubles me, the audacity of the engagement. The lack of follow through. It feels like bait. Perhaps they wished to force my hand, and expose the secret of this suit…one I should have entrusted with both of you the moment we made our pact." There's a moment when that metal head tilts, and inside his suit, Obadiah really does seem to have become one with it's immense power, the metal contraption copying his smallest mannerisms.

Finally, he looks to Loki, staring through him as if taking in some decision of gravity. "There have been times in my life when I have prayed to a higher power. But this is the only time one has answered back. You and Ms. Frost have saved my life, and in return I put you both in danger. I will make this right, for both of you, but may need your help in finding who would dare test our combined ire. Loki.. could you do me one more divine favor and see Ms. Frost to safety? Perhaps you could find common ground in a trip to replace her dress from our last meeting, and the outfit that I have had a hand in ruining today."

That's right. Obi has suggested that the girls go shopping.

Nothing could go wrong with that. He will purposely avoid looking at Emma, since one never does wish to stare death in the face.

Ugh.

There is a lot of technology rearing and roaring about her, and Emma - for whom the organic mind is a plaything - does not like it. She also has something of an unfortunate history with giant robots, and these ones fill her with a distinct uneasiness.

She hides it behind a look of boredom, although the affect of ennui never tells her posture to loosen.

The woman simply lifts a hand up to cover the gash on her arm with her jacket and watches as the sudden resurgence of blood and breaking bone, as the number of witnesses swiftly whittles down to nothing. The untimely end of first responders and Stane’s own man, however, actually causes a lift of her eyebrow.

She says nothing to stop Stane. She simply clenches her jaw ever so slightly and observes.

Her flattened expression does, however, turn to Obadiah Stane and then to Loki in turn, with his hands full of corpse, at the suggestion that there be any extra time together in so sacred an activity as shopping. And to Loki, there is but a single question.
“Swiftly now, choose: McQueen or Chanel?”

—-

Where once was a head, now is a fountain of blood. Loki stares at the mess, black brows upraising ever-so-slightly.

"What a surprising lack of preamble. And here I expected a monologue."

And with that, the God of Mischief very carefully steps back from the spraying gouts of red. His hands loose from the shoulders of the corpse that was once Emmit as Obadiah gets to work on scorching the earth of any and all potential witnesses. It draws the tilt of the trickster's head, curious and thoughtful. Right down to the driver. It is telling, in its own way, but if the death of so many humans affects him, the Norse god certainly doesn't show it.

He just reaches out and taps a single finger onto the back of the headless Emmit to let gravity do the rest of the work in sending his lifeless body down to the ground with an unceremoniously meaty thud.

"Well, I suppose that settles that," he declares, brushing bloodied hands together as if to wash them of the whole affair. With each motion, vibrantly jade energies spark, and the blood literally washes off of him, dissolving into nothing to leave the God of Lies effortlessly pristine. Green eyes fall, briefly, on Emma as her jaw tightens up. Lips twitch towards a thoughtful line.

"Hm?" That bright emerald stare rolls back towards Obadiah in his massive metal shell after a moment. A hand lifts, a black-painted fingernail tapping lightly against the side of Loki's cheek. "Oh don't worry, I'm sure we can figure something out. I'd be putting that prodigiously sharp mind of yours towards figuring out just what happened here in the meantime. It seems like ill tidings for you. Or perhaps for the world's favorite golden child?"

After all, who else could he mean by that but Tony Stark?

But, it's easily forgotten and cast by the wayside as Obadiah makes his suggestion. Loki's head tilts, brows raising in unison — and then ultimately, those hands clap together once more. "Brilliant idea! It'll be a bonding event for the ages. Let's go rectify the true tragedy of this evening, shall we?"

The question is asked, and Loki hardly even takes the time to think it over, waving a hand through the air as he walks off with single-minded purpose to let his commandeered robot handle the rest of the clean up. As if all this were simply beneath him.

"Frigga," is his answer at first, as if it were only the natural choice.

"But I suppose in a pinch, you can't go wrong with Coco."

—-

The words of a God draw Obadiah into contemplation, but here, in the armor, he does not want to only think. He wants to fight. But no enemy was presented for him this day. A distraction, he decides. A piece of the puzzle left on purpose to be found. It must be. For what could these men have done to Tony Stark with these meager trappings. The head clutched in his great metal hand strains under some tension as he ruminates on the possibilities. Finally, he steps away from them both, making room as he prepares the Iron Monger for flight.

"I'll have more information for you both in a few days, and if it's bad tidings for my Golden Goose or myself, we'll deal with it appropriately. In the meantime, I'm going to go visit my good friend Amir down the road, and rule out any possibility that he's decided to move up in the world. Unfortunately Emma, our party might end up just a few million short because of it."

With that, the Iron Monger lifts off with a terrible racket, shaking the very ground as it blasts off into the sky and arcs in the original direction of their little convoy. More sirens sound in the distance, leaving Loki and Emma to make their final decision on where to shop in short-lived peace.

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