To Missing Friends

January 22, 2018:

In a shady bar in Carrion Cove Taskmaster stumbles on Nate Grey. Memory issues make him strike a conversation that ends up being much more civil that it could have been.

Carrion Coven Mercenary Bar


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Ravager, Deathstroke, Waller, Magneto and a bunch of others.

Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

Private contractors are making a killing in Genosha. For some this is quite literal. Carrion Cove especially getting a population boom in the form of sellswords, smugglers, pirates, mercenaries and hitmen of all walks, some of the best and some of the worst. It's like something out of a Star Wars movie; Tattooine but instead of the desert it's the ocean.

There is actually a queue in many of the hubs around here, outfitters, administrators, informants, even the bars are packed up tight. Much of the fighting on Genoshan soil has moved far away from Carrion Cove, SHIELD itself has established itself here, Reavers, rumor of X-Men and even a international hero teams to business 'armies' are taking hold. One would be unwise to stage any sort of assault on this portion of the island, no, many of the Regime from Genosha's old guard are near the mountain ridge, razor… blade… something. Taskmaster cannot exactly remember what it is called.

Amanda Waller had told Taskmaster to get himself in to Hammer Bay and scan around for the distortion surrounding her missing team, something went awry there. Hence the current situation with Rose Wilson.

It is asking around for an escort or a trip in that hes met a lot of headbutting, no one wants to let anyone just waltz in to Hammer Bay without good reason and the skullmasked mercenary has none, he doesn't even have any sort of paperwork to present.

"She'll have to suck it up." He says to no one in particular, thats not a paying gig and he's figuring its not worth risking his neck for, not while he has a sweet gig already lined up to transport a shipment of Genoshan advanced weapon systems to Madripoor.

Right now, the mask is the only thing telling about the man, it's scalptight, smooth with the white skull on the front. His gear consisting of a tacvest, a holstered sidearm, a collapsable sword and several smaller armaments, weapons in Carrion Cove are not exactly checked, permits are required. Those he at least has but anything larger than a handgun has to be stored and is not for use until out of Cove ranges, there is a professional way to go about war here it appears and both Magneto's side and the Old Guard of Genoshan Loyalists are hiring. Pass on both.

Indeed, a few months ago Carrion Cove was one of the nicer towns in Genosha. Just the other side of the island than the shiny, futuristic Hammer bay, the town was most famous for his fishing industry, the beautiful beaches and the oddity of being the only important town in Genosha to refuse to use mutate slave labor.

Most people considered them staunch traditionalists, not rebellious, much less ethical. Although actually several members of the city council were part of the Rebellion and were against the use of mutates for ethical concerns.

Nowadays Carrion Cove is a mess. Population has multiplied by ten. The port is overfull of ships. Smugglers, transports for the fleeing humans, some traders avoiding the embargo on technicisms, and even a few genuine modern pirates.

Along have come mercenaries, brigands, spies of all countries, corporate sharks, fixers. And since some inhabitants fled, there are new business everywhere to cater the newcomers. Seedy bars and clubs for backroom deals and trades. Genosha's wonderful flying cars and deadly energy weapons are in high demand all even in faraway America.

Business for everyone, indeed. SHIELD's presence might prevent firefights exploding every night, but crime is also thriving.

This particular club is simply called Burton's. Burton being the owner this week. Last week it was called Larry's. But old Larry got stabbed by some guy from Bagalia. No one wants to talk about it. Not even the cops are prying too hard, they are busy with more important things.

The club has nice furniture from six owners ago. But keeping it clean is a lost battle for the overworked waiting staff. The place is always full of 'businessmen'. Usually armed businessmen.

Among this crowd Nate does not look particularly out of place. Wearing what looks like a vaguely paramilitary outfit, well-built, scruffy and with more scars than most mercenaries ten years older. In his spare time he has been trying to track down those responsible of the disappearance of two refugee ships in the last month. So he feigns to be looking for work, or inquiring about people with a price for their head, while telepathically snooping and identifying the information of what probably is a rather well-organized pirate outfit. Slow going.

Since Taskmaster is wearing a different suit than last time he saw him, the young telepath does not recognize him right away. Although it would be a mistake to say he is not aware of him. Despite his well-deserved reputation for recklessness, he has managed to secure a table with his back on a solid wall, from which he can see most of the place. But it is easy to recognize him because of the white stripe on his auburn hair.

Taskmaster's attire is ever changing unless he wants to make a show. His business card says plenty though and with technology now-a-days theres an electronic signature that can be 'pinged' to give profiles and information of potential employers or employees. Burton's catering to the current fad and war effort of facilitating numbers for both sides has that display screen to queue up those seeking work, present and potentials.

A *blip* and the Taskmasters name does appear on screen. Its rated in order of expense and notoriety. Not that he is looking right now, this isn't the first time this set up has been used. Its popular with the new wave.

Likely to no surprise he stands out, men around him turning to look at the skullmask and giving him a widebirth, "Take me offa there." He shouts at the broker, "Your shits glitching, I'm already on a job."

"Sorry about that. Keeps doing it since some jackass dropped an EMP grenade yesterday, fried half our block… " The man near the bar replies loudly. Mumbling and grumblings run throughout the pub and the name 'Pacer' shoots back to the top, Taskmaster's shading grey and dropping to off queued.

Ooops. Sorry about the EMP grenade, but the mutant-detection system was still working yesterday, so it had to go. They will fix it in a couple days. Anyway, Nate didn't drop it exactly. He just made someone else have an accident. Those things happen when morons get their hands in Genoshan supertech.

At least it was not a plasma grenade.

Like the ones the guy at the table is trying to sell him, set neatly into an open case. "They don't seem Genoshan to me," mentions Nate. "Gamorran, not interested, get lost." Good thing he is a telepath, helps to spot scams. The cyborged man in front of the young man bristles with anger, but ultimately decides to take his wares elsewhere. Closing the case and stomping away.

It is not as if Nate had the kind of cash needed to buy that kind of hardware, anyway.

Facial recognition runs along the lines of flawless for Taskmaster, hes an excellent bodyguard and counter-spy for these reasons, the trick of it is… he has to remember who he is dealing with. This has often lead to some very strange engagements. Like the one hes about to engage in now.

The table Nate is at gets a knuckle rap, one two three. Hard knocks and the Skull is angled towards the mutant, "Black Cell?" He inquires, "You one of those from Orange's crowd that got shot in the foot, right?" Memory fail. Hard and it's whirring through his head, driving him nuts. Usually a scent or noise helps out but hes not getting anything at the moment.

Nate glances to the skull-masked mercenary, eyes narrowing. “Nope. You go the wrong guy,” but no name is volunteered, though. Skull mask, expensive gear. The young man keeps his eyes on Tasky, although looking vaguely uninterested. Skulls are fairly common decoration among this crowd. American accent?

Something is nagging his memory too. So he is curious now. And he is whole aware he really shouldn’t ask, but he is reckless. “Who are you?”

"Nope. I got someone of possible memory value, trick is figuring out if you're worth a damn or not." A nod towards a waitress who is struggling through the place, trying to serve up people, the poor woman looking like hell as she squeezes past one Joe to the next. Her hair under a bandana, sweat coating her features, "A bottle of whatever whiskey is the strongest."

She scurries off leaving the two men, Taskmaster is studying Nate, "Taskmaster. It was on the screen briefly. You're not Black Cell, hrm, those guys are international, big majority former SAS. American, huh? Where have you worked?"

Oh yes. Taskmaster. Nate does not have a good poker face, surprise and anger flash through his eyes in a few seconds, jaw clenches. "You…" he starts. Check. "You don't remember me, weird."

What now? Punch him? But what does he really have Nate against Taskmaster? Not much.

"Okay. Want to play the guessing game? Mostly in America. Sometimes in Africa. A couple times with Dayspring, a few more with Ripclaw. Never in a large outfit. Ring a bell now?"

"There we are. Some familiarity." Taskmaster's fingers pick up that drumbeat again, hes staring with dark brown eyes beyond that mask's eyeslits at the X-Men's face. "Me. No, I have a tendency to forgot things from time to time. It's hell on my bookie."

The whiskey is set down, Taskmaster holds his phone up long enough to slide his phone in a swipe, paying for it, technology, wonderful thing.

"America is piss poor work unless you're a specialist… not names I recognize. Ripclaw and Dayspring?" The bottle is poured, she set down two glasses and Task, never one to drink alone actually pours one drink for Nate.

"Nope. You're still not showing up… whatever, it'll come to me. If you're mostly America that mean's you're connected or here because you ran of rope, Africa is anyones bag. Who cares. Bottoms up." He offers before sliding the mask away from his mouth enough to take a quick shot after the hand lift to salute.

"You're young. I'll spare some advice, don't bother here. This place is a breath away from getting nuked and you don't want to be long stationed… plus, bad for reputation long run if you end up looking bias for or against mutants. Neutrality in that front affords you free run on both sides."

Okay, now things are getting amusing. Amusing enough that Nate takes the whiskey shot. He arches an eyebrow when the mercenary mentions Dayspring is not showing. What has been Cable up to he is not even showing in mercenary listings. Probably up to nothing good. Or perhaps the old man is using some unexpected code name.

"You know, that is exactly the kind of thing that Dayspring would say," replies Nate, amused. "Of course I rarely followed his advice, even when he was pretty obviously dead right." He shakes his head. "Man, you are really clueless." So more clues. "Lunair Weir. Know her? She went as Armory a couple years ago. We did some fun stuff when we were kids."

With the Omega Shift and merged to creation of many reality paradoxes Cable may very well not exist here any longer. Hard to say but Dayspring didn't show up in the immediate database or the Unternet's surface listings. That second option a very restricted invite only option. No black poker chip? No access. The 'darknet' and typical way to hire or access, open option for those who know the right chain to tug.

"Loon, I know her." Shes a fixture in his memories, "Last time around I think I bounced a shield off her noggin, she worked with and against me briefly, sweet girl. Glad I've never had to kill her. She owes me some upgrades though, promised me I'd get them one of these years. Still waiting… " Taskmaster trails off, his eyes unfocusing and then he looks Nate up and down again, "I guess you're one in three now, thats worthy of the drink. So you a metahuman like her then? Makes the gig easier." Taskmaster himself being one though he likes to downplay it.

Glad to not to have to kill her. Sheesh.

Nate guesses Skullface likes Lunair. Funny. Then again… “everyone likes Lunair. So one on three? Who are the other two guys?” Maybe the wrong question. But if his name is among the three there he would be easy to identify. Unless Taskmaster no longer works for Waller, which Nate has no idea if it is even possible given Rose’s fear.

There goes his good mood. Screw it all.

“And you? Are you still working for the D.E.O.?” He asks directly.

"You distracted or am I making that little sense, the other guys are your drops. Sabrefist and Sunriver, those hippy names you tossed out. Get it? One for three." Taskmaster is staring again at Nate, this time a hard study, somethings off. It's nagging at him now. Whiskey warmth or otherwise.

"DEO. Who isn't? Why you want me to put in a good word for you?" Still nothing there. It's like talking to a goldfish sometimes.

"Whats your handle I'm growing bored with guess who." Another two shots poured, Taskmaster is at least light on them. Never full rim or deep fingered. Wits have to be kept when in a warzone after all.

Yes, Nate is not taking that second shot, just watching Taskmaster warily. The temptation to dive into his mind is considerable. But the mercenary sounds like he is friends with both Lunair and Rose. "I don't want to have to leave this place burning, okay? I am trying to track down a gang of human traffickers. The kind that sells people to butcher shops. So don't start anything and I won't either." He gives three seconds for Taskmaster to digest the comment. "Rose thinks you are her friend for some reason," he grunts. "Last time we saw each other we were a mile over Hub City. Your memory sucks. Or maybe it happens to you every week."

"Burn it. You'll be doing my a favor in the long run." Taskmaster says rather nonchalantly, the whiskey in his shot glass only at the very bottom, swirling around. "Human traficking is on isle 6 with the miscreants that don't know how to make real money. Unless we're talking 'special cases', who said I was about to start anything? You're a tad on the defensive, buddy."

Taskmaster's words trail off as Nate carries on, "Well thats not a handle at all, you're the psycho-amped-psychic X-boyfriend." Taskmaster lets out a genuine chuckle, it rumbles free of him and he pours two more drinks this time they are deeper, "You're one of the few people in the world that Waller might just hate more than me, Deathstroke as well. Thats worth some little bit of time for prattle I suppose. Rubbing elbows with you could get me shanked though so we're not going to speak for long unless we start an exchange of violence, I got a rep and a neck to keep. "

"Feeling is mutual," replies Nate, humorless smirk and all. "Still, I kind of promised to leave them alone. So for now…" he shrugs. Those 'kind of promises' stay only as long as Waller also stays the hell out of his radar. As for Deathstroke, what has he ever done that is even mildly interesting? Besides of getting his daughter into crap, that is. "I guess she never returned to them, uh? Good. Maybe she will find some peace now."

"She's MIA, also not my business. If Satan wants her back, she'll get her back. Long claws on that beast." Taskmaster intones, his whiskey turned around and around swished then slammed back. The bottle then set aside, he'll take it with him when he leaves.

"That what you're after? Curious about Rosie, you're in the same boat as me. I may be less invested though, if anything happened to her she'll spring back up or her father has that handled. You, you on the other hand, I hope you're playing your cards safe over here. A good first step, you were a ticks nuthair from Waller dropping a nuke or a God-Witch on everything you hold dear." Taskmaster is grinning behind the mask, a second thought passing him, the bottle is taken and handed over, "All yours. You deserve it after busting her arm and making her in to that crazy-eyed maniac, brief as it was. I try my best to get under her skin and end up not half as successful."

Taskmaster has a slight buzz, hes talkative right now and Nate's issues in his eyes? Not his problem. Rose Wilson-Worth is a big girl as is Amanda Waller an even bigger girl. No mark. No bag. Besides, Slade called dibs.

“Dude, I do worry about Apocalypse, Magneto and sometimes Doctor Doom,” states Nate. “You know? The guys that can snap their fingers and cause a global cataclysm. Kill millions because they have a bad day. Waller is just… a dirty cog in the half-rotten machine that is the D.E.O. Only her weird fetish for putting bombs into my girlfriend’s head made me care about her. Here, in Genosha, she went missing almost three months. But she called me last month. And I saw her.” He looks at Taskmaster’s eyes. “She didn’t call her father. Maybe she is tired of being backstabbed by him, hmm? She was hurting. She has been hurting badly for at least a year. And I bet you have no idea why. Then she left again. When she is ready to return… well, we’ll see. If Waller chases after her with blackmail, headbombs and shit and I find out it will be the last thing that bitch every does.”

"You think she can't?" Taskmaster shakes his head, "You one of those types who only appreciates apparent and tangible power, eh? She makes guys as bad as them disappear from the annals of history, man. It's cogs like her that make the world turn."

A thoughtful sound escapes Taskmaster at the explosive talk, "You gotta understand there too, likely, that was more for Deathstroke's sake than Ravager. Also half the time a bluff. Never know, it's games beyond the surface, if that woman has a fetish for anything, it's not idle torture on people she considers less than peons." Himself included, "You're full of shit. She vanished when Hammer Bay was assaulted." The man doesn't believe Nate on this one, if Rose was on grid again he wouldn't be hearing it from the X-Men's wildeyed alter-Cable.

"Mind your threats there, voice carry too loud and she'll find out you're thinking about her again. If you're as powerful as you seem to think you are, as she warns you might be, it won't be /you/ she takes down. She'll make you hurt in other ways. I know from experience and you likely got some sort of ties to the world."

"Yes," replies Nate. He sighs. "Look, when Apocalypse tried to poison the whole world it was Iron Man and the X-Men that stopped him. When there was that alien raid, it was the Justice League. Not the D.E.O. They don't matter." Nate leans back. "Next time some crazy alien god comes down from the sky to destroy Metropolis, the people will pray for Superman's help. Waller won't matter at all. Captain America might lead the defense effort if a large team of superhumans in needed. Not Deathstroke. Deathstroke legacy will be 'that guy that murdered many normal humans all over the world and maimed his own daughter'. There will be nothing grand or glorious in his passing. A wasted life." Maybe as wasted as Taskmaster. But Nate barely knows him. "Rose has the heart of a hero, she has saved many lives," he murmurs. "But she also has many problems, most of whom are his father's fault." He looks at the other man to his eyes. "Yes. It is better if we say I never saw her again, hmm? If you meet her at some point. Just forget. Forget and leave her alone. If you are her friend never let Waller of her father get close to her again."

"D.E.O. doesn't give two shits about the world." Taskmaster agrees there at least, "They're only worried about Good Ole America and it's politics, so the most of what you're sayin' well, its just a little bit of column c." The man's interest in this area is rather shot, he isn't out to save anyones ass nor does he care about the world other than what he can get out of it in his comfort.
"Deathstroke's legacy in regards to his daughter is likewise, small concern. The man doesn't exactly put being a father on his resume."

"If I meet her again, it'll be like it always is, you're not about to decide what I forget or don't forget." Taskmaster counters, a fingertip thrusts in to the air, jabs at it, "We're civil at the moment because you're playing neutral and my relationship with Deathstroke, welp, thats also none of your business. Don't get threatening, you'll spoil the drink we've shared." A fair tone still, the man is apparently in some decent spirits, plus, this is a social mode for the man, he's rather approachable when it suits him.

"Fair enough," admits Nate, not quite apologizing, but accepting he shouldn't try to give advice to a man he doesn't really know. "Not threatening you, anyway, looks like we have common friends," although if Taskmaster brings Rose back to Waller, that is one weird friendship he keeps.

But Nate probably will never know. Rose stopped telling him her secrets over a year ago. And if she ever returns, he will not ask. "To missing friends," he lifts his glass and finishes it. "I still need to do some hunting. Good luck with your business here." Nate stands up and heads out.

"Friends, huh? Not sure I would call any of them that." Taskmaster says quietly, he isn't one who can say he actually has friends. "Sad sack life anymore." He grunts and turns his empty cup over standing up to go his own way, Madripoor awaits…

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