The Shape of Coexistence

February 26, 2018:

Phil Coulson tries to calm the waters of mutant-human relations by meeting with Magneto, with perhaps mixed results. Magneto emitted by Pietro/Wanda.

Hammer Bay, Genosha

It's a big ole mutant paradise that's not terrifying at all.

Characters

NPCs: Magneto, emitted by Quicksilver & Scarlet Witch

Mentions: Scott Summers, Emma Frost, Tony Stark

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

It is, perhaps surprisingly, not actually difficult for Phil Coulson to get out to Genosha. The leaders of the semi-autonomous port town of Carrion Cove — Genosha's neutral window to the rest of the world — had invited the construction of a SHIELD outpost office some time ago, and it would be a simple matter for him to make arrangements to land there. It's a skeleton office, with a small crew and a definite air of 'a place still getting off the ground,' but it's enough for him to get his bearings via sitreps from the few agents stationed there.

From there, however, it is slow going. Phil's quiet inquiries, at first, meet a polite bit of red tape: primarily interactions with the leaders of Carrion Cove, who — it quickly becomes obvious — have no actual say in anything beyond their port. Eventually, however, there came a brief meeting with a woman by the name of Dr. Alda Huxley, ambassador of Genosha and the woman responsible for much of the pro-Magneto spin placed on the news out of the island, who politely welcomed him to the country and gave him a short interview that contained — as one might expect of the woman — many buzzwords, and little of actual substance.

At its conclusion, however, she delicately invited him to behold the intended new capital of the mutant nation of Genosha: Hammer Bay.

It is not a long trip, from Carrion Cove to Hammer Bay. The nascent capital is quite different from Carrion Cove, noisy with construction and filled with mutates and mutants of all shapes and sizes, hard at work. The marks of war are steadily being erased from the city, slowly replaced by gleaming new buildings and fresh-paved streets.

Before long, it becomes evident he is actually being taken to the Spire… the seat of Magneto's power in the heart of Hammer Bay. It is a grand building, spearing high into the sky, flush with the high technology for which Genosha is renowned.

He has not actually been told who he may be meeting with here, though judging by the hard-faced Acolytes that stand guard at the door of the sitting room in which he has been asked to wait, a guess can be ventured.

*

Phil Coulson did not spend any part of the flight thinking any part of this visit was going to be easy. He's not even certain much of it is going to be productive. Which is why throughout Dr. Huxley's buzzword-laden discussion he wore his Cheshire Cat smile, the one that offers the air of absolute tolerance without offering much in the way of opinions, the one that makes him look non-threatening and avuncular. Maybe like Uncle Iro, a bit, from Avatar, the Last Airbender.

The expression remains on his face as he beholds Hammer Bay, watching the construction and the mutants. Things are going well, it seems, and frankly this is why it didn't occur to him, until his strange warehouse meeting with Jaime and Cersi Maximoff, that there might be a need for relief efforts out here. He saw something very like this in his mind's eye…a bunch of newly liberated mutant powering things from the ground up.

He continues to wear it as he is escorted into the Spire. Is this where he wanted to be? No telling. He's in his second-best suit, which makes him look neither insultingly too under-important nor insultingly over-important. It doesn't make him look like he came out of accounting. It makes him look like, maybe, he came out of the Department of Redundency Department.

And he does venture a guess. If it surprises him, it doesn't show. If it doesn't surprise him, that doesn't show either. He clasps his hands amiably behind his back. He could be meeting Magneto. He could be meeting Magneto's Aunt Fran. He could be meeting Carrot Top. His reaction would be exactly the same. Outwardly, at least.

*

Eventually, after a decorous amount of time, another Acolyte comes for Phil Coulson. A tall mutant with serpent's scales and the light of fanaticism in his eyes, his sole greeting is a curt, "This way, Agent," before he escorts the man from the room and up a few floors. He leads Phil through a set of doors that slide silently open via some unknown technological mechanism, revealing a space beyond that stands halfway between an office and a chamber for the reception of bureaucrats… well, such as Phil Coulson himself.

Nominally, at least.

The office affords a spectacular, sweeping view of the port city of Hammer Bay itself, and all the reconstruction taking place. Well-decorated, opulent without being ostentatious, it boasts much more of the high tech typical of Genosha… and not merely for show. There is a holographic projection of Hammer Bay active as Phil and his escort enter, though it swiftly flicks off again at the apparent mental command of the man standing before it. A man fully-armored, every bit as imposing as rumored… though the famous helm is conspicuously absent, set aside upon a table.

The Acolyte sinks to a knee. "As you commanded, Lord."

"Leave us," the cloaked figure instructs, and the Acolyte departs at once without a single superfluous word.

Magneto finally turns. Though superficially of a similar age as Coulson, perhaps a bit older, he remains a powerfully-built man: fitted and forged to wage war. If he notices a contrast between his full armor and regalia, and the 'just-out-of-accounting' chic of Phil Coulson, he makes no indication of such, his demeanor as gracious as one might expect of a man of his years and dignity. "Welcome to Genosha, Regional Director Coulson." The choice of title is quite deliberate. The cast of Magneto's mouth might almost suggest a Cheshire smile. "I trust your arrival was smooth. If you have not had the opportunity to take refreshment, I will have same brought."

His blue eyes are as cool and appraising as one might expect, with a glimmer of curiosity to be seen occasionally in them. "Your speech on the steps of the Triskelion was quite compelling. Most impassioned."

*

That they do all this kneeling and bowing is filed away. That Magneto allows that to happen is also filed away. Hazel eyes take it all in, from the apparent beginnings of a culture here— however mildly disturbing, with the fanaticism and apparent worship behind it— to the technological advancement, to the fact that Magneto chooses to greet him without the helm. Is it a courtesy? A statement that Magneto finds Phil to be no threat? Well, Phil doesn't want to be a threat, either would be okay, even if it's meant as any kind of an insult.

Phil wouldn't get far, doing what he does best, if he insulted easily anyway.

"I appreciate the welcome, and the fact that you took the time to see me. Dr. Huxley saw to my needs admirably, however, please, do not trouble yourself."

The reference to his speech produces just the slightest rueful cast to his understated smile. "Well. Impassioned is one thing, effective is another." The thing is, he seems to mean that; he had meant to calm the fires of violence, encourage cooler heads to prevail, remind the whole damned nation of the values of equality and tolerance and live and let live that had built the place where SHIELD is headquartered, values Phil believes SHIELD is meant to protect right along with the lives of citizens around the world. He's not sure he did more than create a flashy headline and about 92 hours of talking head footage on certain news outlets. "It was a start, anyway."

He nods his head out towards the general direction of Hammer Bay. "Things seem to be going well here. I'd heard from some sources that there were ongoing challenges, that many continued to suffer."

Granted. Some of that gleaming progress might be shooting ever upward as a result of stolen SHIELD supplies. But he's not here to quibble about those. Not with Magneto at least. He'll pick that bone with someone else, someone who has a stolen tablet pinging away at Carrion Cove even now.

*

Hazel eyes search back and forth. Cold blue ones watch , old and canny, yielding little save that same faint interest… that same air about him that almost bespeaks amusement. Whatever his purpose in receiving Coulson where he did, in the manner he did, dressed as he is — and eschewing the helm — he says nothing about it all.

"I find anyone with such a professed investment in the well-being of mutantkind to be worth some time, Director," is all he does says.

Magneto's blue eyes continue to appraise Coulson as he speaks on about said impassioned speech. Impassioned, but not effective — yet it was a start. He absorbs that which the younger man has to say, in silence, before he remarks, "All things must have a start somewhere. Decades ago, before the word 'mutant' was ever widely heard… I had my own start." His eyes gleam, and he turns to the wide windows overlooking the latest fruits of such labor.

He listens on, left shoulder turned towards Coulson, as Phil Coulson makes his observations on the state of Genosha itself. "Suffering is a constant in this life," he says, his eyes on the grand buildings that have risen up in the midst of Hammer Bay. "This particular variety of it has flourished, so long as mutant and human have co-existed in mutual awareness of one another, upon this planet. But soon, this shall be a country to serve as a mutant homeland — one to truly build hopes upon. A start — as you say — to alleviate that suffering."

That half-smile on his features suggests there is much he does not outright say. When he looks out upon Hammer Bay, upon Genosha beyond, he sees the seed of a world that shall soon no longer be troubled by humans, by the mere fact of evolutionary mandate. This is the only solution he has ever seen to the problem of mutant suffering. While two groups must coexist, one must hold the whip… and the other must bear the lash. His choice has always been clear.

A brief silence descends. The light of the setting sun gilds the hard profile of the so-named Master of Magnetism.

"I confess a curiosity as to the purpose of your visit, Director," Magneto says bluntly.

*

Hopefully it's not a start from which to start launching missiles upon the rest of the world. But Phil listens quietly to all of it. And if he's aware of whips and lashes and humanity being wiped from existence as the end goal…and he's got to be, he's read the briefs…he doesn't seem troubled by it.

Perhaps the world might evolve to where there are naught but mutants. And if it just sort of peacably works out that way because genetics are what they are, that's fine. Perhaps the superior species can be gently coaxed into being patient.

"Everyone needs a place where they feel safe. Free to be themselves," Phil agrees. "And I am concerned that all be treated fairly and with justice."

Asked bluntly, he answers bluntly.

"Two reasons. I have first come to see if your people require relief supplies." This would, if any, be the semi-legitimate person, maybe even the legitimate one, to offer that help to. Without it being stolen out of his warehouses and sprinkled about willy nilly. Without weapons being pilfered. "If so, I would be happy to arrange the provision of those supplies. If that is not necessary, then I apologize— as I said, I was painted a particular picture. But if it is, I hope you will allow me to help."

He chooses his next words with even more care.

"I came to open a dialogue, as well; you have graciously allowed this, despite being consistently offered so much of humanity's worst. I hope to extend a hand. To create conditions by which both mutants and humans may coexist. Just as I said on the steps of the Triskelion. In peace."

He spreads his hands. "I am urging certain positions and stances back home that might ease that passage. I believe I have gained a few ears; I believe most are inclined to listen to their better natures, when shown there is no need to do anything else. I make no promises. I am, as you've said, just a regional director. Just one person, in fact. Perhaps a bit of an idealist, and a relic at that." The gentle choice of the word relic acknowledges both his own advanced age, but also he's well aware of how humanity is seen. "But sometimes relics are harmless. Sometimes they can also even build a bridge or two. Those who fly do not need them, of course. Bridges. But sometimes they are welcome nonetheless."

Any major war between the species would, after all, still take down many mutants. There are a lot of humans. It's not a threat, Phil is pretty damned sure who'd come out on top, but why create a path to bloodshed when it is simply not necessary? Perhaps there are ways by which it can become not necessary.

Starts.

*

Two reasons, Phil Coulson says.

Reason one has Magneto glancing back towards Coulson, white brows lifting slightly. "Is this is an offer of SHIELD's backing?" he asks dryly, his blue eyes watchful. "Your organizational support would be appreciated in these trying times, of a certainty. Have you the authority to bypass the embargoes placed upon the country? The pull to at least have them relaxed? I understand Stark has been attempting to funnel relief through for some time, and has been blocked."

Reason two has Magneto falling silent, his head slightly canted as if seeing something — someone — else in Phil's place, as he speaks. Mutant-human coexistence. Idealism. Bridges. Peace.

Those blue eyes are briefly distant, looking through Phil Coulson and across the decades, regarding the memory of an old friend with whom these sorts of conversations have been had — too many times.

Eventually, his gaze turns back towards that holographic projector. Something lifts up from a drawer in the table upon which it sits, settling heavily with a clink upon the surface in plain view.

A Genoshan slave collar.

"This is the shape which mutant and human coexistence took here," Magneto says, coldly polite. "If you feel your words are sufficient to prevent these things from happening, time and again, then ply them. You will forgive me if I prefer stronger commitments, and firmer actions."

*

"Of course I understand why you would. Slavery is a terrible, unjust and unforgivable thing. The scars of these and other injustices will not soon fade. I'm not here to critisize you or any of yours for your responses." Phil slides his hands into his pocket, his own eyes distant, thoughtful. "I would not see it happen thusly, ever again, to anyone. Human and mutant coexistence could take the shape of collars. Or it can take other shapes. That's not the only shape it ever has to take."

He's quiet, mild. "But if I didn't come extend my hand, come in person, how could I ever make it evident that there are even those among my kind who see other shapes?"

He looks up from the collar and says, "I am truly sorry for all your people have been through at the hands of mine. Someone must apologize for that, and thus, I will."

But he has thought about embargos. "SHIELD is an International organization, autonomous. With an outpost in Carrion Cove, no less. I believe I may fly relief supplies to any place I have an outpost. I believe my local agents may then distribute those as they see fit, don't you? So long as I know what is needful— food? Building materials? Medical supplies? I believe yes. I can. I have a…defter hand. Than Mr. Stark. I hope that his…rather enthusiastic efforts did not trouble Genosha overmuch. He meant well."

*

The apology from Phil Coulson closes Magneto's expression. It locks into a thing of steel. His courtesy goes frigid.

"I wonder if you grasp the magnitude of what you attempt to take upon yourself, Director," the man muses. He turns fully back towards Phil, with a rustling of the steel of his heavy armor. "The scope of what you presume to expiate, through no more effort than a few simple words."

His eyes bely his apparent physical age. In them in the fury of nearly eight decades. "Yes… I believe that you are sorry. But the apologies are not yours to make… even if I desired them.

"Spare me the crown of thorns and the cross. A martyr is loved, for a time," he dismisses, "but he gets little done, once he is dead."

It is apparent Magneto is far more interested in the practical aspects of what Phil has to say. A great deal, about what he might do, what he believes he can do. "What interests me, Director Coulson, is what you do," he says, blunt once again. "If SHIELD is willing to abandon its non-interference stance and pledge us aid, then my people would welcome dialogue as regards the logistics."

He does not bother to speak to whether he thinks Stark meant well or not.

*

It was impossible to think he could get through this exchange without anger. Phil lets it roll off his back, accepts it. He doesn't even take a step back in reaction. He doesn't even seem to flicker in the face of it, meeting that angry gaze with his milder one. A very small but very sturdy boulder in the face of a threatening storm.

He lets a moment of silence pass before he addresses what Magneto has to say.

"Not expiate," he says in his endlessly gentle cadence. "Merely acknowledge." Even now he feels someone ought to. Even now, he wishes Scott had come to him with a more explicable plan than 'get a bunch of teen mutants captured and enslaved, step two questionmark, step three profit.'

That it seems to have worked is a source of endless bafflement to Phil, even with his inside source.

Meanwhile, he tips his head towards the powerful figure before him. "But yes. Let us discuss the logistics, Magneto." Using his name for the first time in this entire exchange. "Or, please do direct me to the proper person with which to have that discussion. SHIELD is interested in seeing people fed, warm, and healthy no matter where in the world they are."

For there are times to open a dialogue, and there are times to just do it, and he believes he has now reached the just do it time…

As well as, most likely, the end of what he can accomplish by speaking here today. If anger is to fade, it can only fade in the wake of concrete action.

*

"I have seen my fill of acknowledgements, Director," Magneto says, icily polite, and closes the door on the topic.

His gaze tracks towards a small panel beside the door. Nothing visible seems to happen, though a brief flicker of something seems to pass through the air, like the faint crackle of static. A few moments later, the door hisses open to reveal that same Acolyte, summoned back.

In a glance, Magneto seems to pass wordless instructions. The Acolyte bows in acknowledgement.

"You will be directed appropriately, Director Coulson," Magneto says, with a slight inclination of his head. It is a plain conclusion of their meeting. "The hospitality of Genosha is yours while our business is transacted."

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