City of Stark and Rogers

March 04, 2018:

Shuri sends her moody brother a gift. T'Challa meditates on the nature of New York and his purpose there.

The Wakandan Embassy

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Sizani, Jessica Jones

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

It's a gloomy day in New York, and one entirely unlike what the weather forecast suggests in Wakanda. Drizzle alternates with fog in the Big Apple, and the chill encroaches from the ocean. For someone used to the sunshine in the Golden City, it might be even gloomier.

But for all that, there is at least some attempt to brighten things in the Wakandan Embassy: a box, perhaps three feet on a side, stamped with the official seals of the royal family. From Shuri, then, certainly, or perhaps Ramonda. Under the cardboard is, well, another box: this time green and black lacquer, inlaid with gold and bone knotwork designs. Scans suggested some curious power signatures, but nothing dangerous.

The tag hanging from the latch says "Brother". No more is necessary, really.

The gloom has shone a complimentary color on his mood of late.

He had sent away many of his guard and attendance in the past month, the ships disembarking in the night, well away from the recorded flight plans and watchful eye of the state. They had left the United States in groups and wings. It made some sense, obviously—following the attack on the Dora Milaje, much of the Wakandan state has been placed into an alert status by T'Challa's decree. Consequently, it restricted travel in and out of Wakanda to only essential personnel. Essential personnel who had then been in turn sent on missions to other cities, missions abroad.

Some, inevitably, will have noticed that T'Challa did not return home with the fallen.

The king, as a result, has precious few attendants at the embassy. Only a handful to mind the premises, and those who watch over them, with automated defenses to fill the gap. Therefore, it is a fathom into the unexpected when the young king finds the shipped box left by an attendant in his reception room, a fine work with even finer embellishments. When T'Challa arrives, clad in a coat and mindful of the rough weather unique to the Western lands, he favors the box with his attention, a hand travelling its edge. When he gets to the tag, he quietly looks up.

And sends his attendants to the other room to fetch water.

Wordlessly they obey. What servants of the King would do otherwise? In moments, an icy carafe is brought with a gold-rimmed glass. They will bring what is requested, but it seems that this is a moment of privacy for their king; as a result, they withdraw.

Though they are unquestionably near. Should T'Challa speak his desire, it will be fulfilled.

The box, meanwhile, remains as it is. There is no lock, only a latch. It went without saying that none of T'Challa's attendants would snoop into his personal property.

"Thank you, that will be all."

He has learned, by nature and history in equal sum, to be a cautious man. Many have described him as a man with a face cut from stone — unemotive and in their occasion, feeling only in question and in small sum, never more than an ounce of each in their number. There are those who would question if he cared at all that one of his own had died. These are the ones he wishes the sum of privacy toward.

The carafe which some would surmise to be an obvious ploy as a shield to buttress his pride is given a berth, his attentions focused on the box. It is only when he at once finally sends away his attendance does T'Challa find himself in his own company and his own mind. It is there that the man who cannot be read allows himself the faintest of excess: A wry and warm smile finds him. But his expression is knowing, not in the slightest bit careless.

A lock is not needed for family.

He opens the box.

The latch slides easily, moving into place with a sharp click. Within…

What is within is suddenly no longer within: a flock of birds, dozens of them, broad-winged and black, flies out of the box in an instant. They land on the table, the backs of chairs, every piece of furniture in the room. The sound of their feathers is momentarily nigh-deafening, and for a few seconds they block out a great deal of the light in the room.

At last, however, every bird has flown. They surround the King of Wakanda, a parliament of ravens around their ruler. One perches on the edge of the open box, head tilting to allow black eyes to observe T'Challa.

This bird opens its beak. From its beak, this bird projects an image.

The image is Shuri. Shuri is sitting crosslegged on a thick floor cushion. She holds a black bowl of red rice in one hand and has dressed casually for the occasion in shorts and a T-shirt with, hilariously enough, Tony Stark's arc reactor printed across the chest. She beams brightly when she sees her brother, eyes twinkling in the light of dozens of monitors.

"Brother! Do you like your gift? I made them for you."

The young king has seen and done a great many things in his time. To run with the antelope on the savannah, or swim with the fish off the coast. Even for a man with few fears in this world, he could not have been said to have experienced flying in the sky with the birds, and T'Challa would not have expected to do so. Then there was today.

At first, trepidation wreathes T'Challa. He has always been that way as the older—cautious to a fault and always critically aware of his surroundings. It is almost impossible to sneak up on him, a trait only redoubled after taking on the mantle of Black Panther. But it explains him, and it is in her own credit that time and time again T'Challa finds himself surprised by, of all people, his younger sister.

The birds are artificial, the young man can tell at a glance. He is no stranger to the Wakandan technology that blooms around him. The mark of nature and beauty in motion a thing that his countrymen will always appreciate. The freedom of this thing is the signature he knows by heart. And truly, despite himself or any mood he's determined to find himself in for the day, T'Challa finds his wry expression to warm quickly to the sight of his sister.

"Shuri!" T'Challa greets, stepping forward. Though his tone is more familiar than her own, his expression is more muted. "You have brought me many things," he remarks, "but I would not have expected you to pluck the birds from the mother sky itself. Thank you," he responds honestly, his appreciation as muted yet full as the moon in the sky on a clear night.

He notices that she is eating, one eye narrowing in suspicion, but he wisely chooses not to bring it up. Instead, he reflects on other matters. "Hopefully, you have not decorated the throne room while I have gone," he remarks. His tone is as wary as it is familiar, a rarity for the often grave king.

"….I still have one, I assume."

Shuri knew — of course she knew — that her brother would be startled, at least initially, by the sudden cavalcade of birds. That's why she sent it the way she did. Surely he would know that nothing from his sister would hurt him.

And of course she is not above startling her brother or pulling other sorts of pranks on him. It would not remotely be the first time.

Shuri sets down her meal and kneels on her cushion, spreading her arms to take in all of T'Challa's reception room. "Even the sky is different where you are. Different birds, different insects. I cannot even imagine that the sun looks the same. Especially not in this weather." She reaches out to one side, clearly by her gestures pulling up the New York City weather report. One bird flutters to a window and peers outside. Shuri clicks her tongue. "Grey as wet paper," she confirms. "But these birds will bring the sunshine of home. Or at least," she adds, her smile turning sly, "they will bring the light into dark places. They will carry it on dark wings, but they carry the light inside."

Sighing, she raises her eyes to the heavens and shakes her head — not an uncommon gesture, especially when talking to her elder brother. "The throne room of Wakanda still exists. As to whose it is, well,

*

my brother the hero fights his fights across the sea, and someone must watch over his home for him. But I do not sit your throne. I have some respect."

Her expression turns serious then, though when she speaks, her voice is gentle: "We have welcomed Sizani home. We had thought that you would accompany her."

"This is the city of Stark. Of Rogers," T'Challa opines, his voice mild.

Once the immediate concern of being the victim of some ill-advised joke is set aside, T'Challa steps away from the bird at the edge of the box, and its consequent projection of his sister. His coat moves organically with the change, a richly embroidered thing cut by the looms of seamstresses and farmhands in the Alkama as tribute.

"When I first came, I thought, 'This is no city for children to grow up in,'" T'Challa continues, stepping towards the large vaulted windows, the only real source of illumination that gathers in the room, grey light spilling off of the tribal panther embellishments on the walls, masks and shields holding place seamlessly with the long circuitous patterns and colorful lines of networking and reinforcement. "Even our storms are full of energy and life. Here, it is different. The walls are grey. The ground is grey. The sky is colorless because there is no color to it. It is a miserable place, Shuri…"

T'Challa stands alongside the bird at the window, holding onto the decorative finial rail at the sill with a loose and minded hand. "But it is a place they have stood for, vouched for. They say there is more than evil here. More than the things which drive men mad. They speak of hope and of potential. I do not know the truth."

"This is something I need, thank you."

The words reach him after a time, his mind given to wandering. "Aa," he agrees. "I have been gone overlong since the conference. I wish I could return. But you know why it is I cannot." Sizani draws in him a somewhat troubled expression — there is a thing that overfills the cup with him and it shows, even on the boy who has always been a little more confident than he was awkward. Even now, the data sent back from Sizani's recordings is being processed, and a manhunt is in progress. "This world has become smaller since the conference. More dangerous… and I must do what needs to be done."

A beat passes, of genuine worry.

"Shuri. Promise me you will not come."

For all that she is fierce — for all that they are both fierce, and for all her youth and informality — Shuri has a gentleness in her along with the fire and the claws. She watches her brother with a wistful gaze, resting her elbow on her knee, her chin on her hand.

"For all that it is a fog-shrouded, drizzle-drenched, rubbish-smelling city, it has borne and played haven to some of the Western world's finest minds and greatest hearts. The City of Stark and Rogers. Even as you say. Where you stand is America, a microcosm of the great melting pot. Its good points and its bad points, and there are plenty of both."

The bird at the sill hops to its side and runs its beak across T'Challa's shirt-cuff. Shuri's way, perhaps, of holding her brother's hand.

"I know why you are still there," she agrees. "Sizani is laid to rest. The rites have been performed."

The rites, she does not say, but her tone says it all, that you should have been there for.

"I have sent them to you, if you wish. And me? Come to America?" She lets out a light, bell-like laugh. "I am already there! In the form of fifty birds. Why should I want to slog through slushy streets when I can sit in the warm sunshine and have… mmm, rice with red bean paste. And later, honey cakes. The ones with the nuts and the saffron? Does anyone make those in New York?"

Of course she's making light of it. Her brother, though, surely knows what that means.

*

It takes only one glance.

T'Challa has spent much time to know his sister and her ways. As a matter of being a good shepherd of his family, he has not been lax at all in the time he spends with them. Even when it comes at his expense. Particularly there lay the keystones to his recognition of the wanderlust in his sister's eye. For all that she has at Mena Ngai, the world is quite vast, yet.

It is something even T'Challa himself is still learning.
His sister has always found the way to the heart of things.
His fear is that she will not like what she finds here.

The unfamiliar tick of the bird's beak is felt acutely along his sleeve, and the furrow in his brow softens. As someone more predisposed to act than speak, much of him lay in seemingly unreadable countenance, but the moorlessness in his eye and the vagary of tone in his word is plain, even at things left unspoken. There is a part of him that lay aside now, something that he does not wish to share. As calm as he appears on the outside, he is far and away from the clear sky and the savannah plains.

"The armor which we devised for Sizani has gone missing and remains unaccounted for," T'Challa admits finally, changing the subject. "I must locate it before it falls into the wrong hands. I pray it has not already. However, we cannot rely on hands and blood to do this thing for us. One of the last requests I made of her is to watch over the detective girl from the Mizizi, Jessica Jones. Now there is nothing to be done for it. Until I resolve our business here, I have sent Jones away to Gotham. It is critical she not become involved in this mad thing…"

"The same as you," he finishes his thought. "You have everything you need in our home. It is cruel, here, and the people routinely starve next to warehouses of food. The things that we have are…" he pauses. "Red beans and honey cakes?" he asks, looking again at his sister, distracted from his grim thoughts with a sudden and deeply offensed look. Still, he frowns but says no more.
Except something small and beneath his breath.
'i was saving those..'

*

The eternal curse of humanity: the eternal desire for more. More land, more knowledge, more resources, more comfort, more. It has also been what raised them above their animal kindred — or at least what set them apart. Whether they are truly above the rest of the animal kingdom is… debatable.

The sudden offense is met with a broad smile and another cheerful peal of laughter: "Your name was not on them! There are more red beans and more honey here, if you want them! All you have to do is come home. Barring that…" A minute shrug. "Perhaps I will send you care packages. This is VERY good. I am not sure how they will travel, but it is perhaps worth trying."

A little more seriousness follows this, and Shuri nods once: "I know. The armor I devised — " It was absolutely a group effort, and she is clearly continuing to be a bit of a bratty sister — "is dutiful. I know where it is. So do you, it seems. It prowls over the building of this Miss Jones's office. I can help you find it whenever you wish."

*

This conversation is thus far not going well for T'Challa in his estimation. As he is wont to do in these sorts of situations, he briefly contemplates the legal challenges in marrying Shuri off to someone in a very distant country. It would turn out poorly for that country. Perhaps Latveria.

Only faintly comforted by the notion, T'Challa shoots a nettled look to the diminutive projection. "I will be sure to carry a set of 'reserved for the king' stickers with me when I return, to affix to everything in the palace. Maybe I will claim all of the milk. Or all of the restrooms," he responds. "It will read 'this is the eminent domain of the king, do not cross by threat of spear or extreme movements of the…"

Mercifully, he trails off.

"—Ah, I suppose it would not matter anyway. You would make your own stickers, and then where would we be? I cannot foment a civil war in my own country. If you had your way it would be the Wakandan Design Shuri instead," he continues to reflect, a small knife smile crossing his lips. Of course, when she calls him on knowing where the armor is, he finally braces, laughing lightly. "I was hoping that you would be distracted with the chase… of course, this is not to say that we do not need to retain it. It is not responding to our requests. I suspect it has a mind of its own now."

"….she was a woman with more secrets than most women I have met," he reflects, a moment passing in silence after.

*

Shuri doesn't even have to say anything. Oh, she's frequently inclined to say lots of things, but all she needs to do in this case is smirk. The hologram, life-sized and as vivid as if she were really there, floating in the middle of the room on an embroidered cushion, smirks and says nothing to T'Challa's threats of ownership. Smirks, says nothing, and waits.

At last she does speak, though, and with an elaborate shrug. "Is there anything I plan that you do not foresee? But while you are in the city of Stark and Rogers, you are putting stickers on nothing. So all you are really doing is giving me ideas. And stickers are irrelevant while you are gone. What's yours is mine. Lucky for you," she adds, wrinkling her nose, "this does not extend to your personal belongings. Under your bed is your very own business."

Stretching her arms and shoulders, Shuri takes a moment to make herself a little more comfortable. She lets that moment of silence pass, her eyes dropping for a moment before she clears her throat: "Come. If you will stay in tonight, stay in and I will fly across this city for you. If you will go out tonight, my birds will join you and take you to where the armor waits for its mistress. What do you say?"

*

This is the birthplace of T'Challa's frown.

"I do miss home." While he does not argue with Shuri to that point, he is stark and aghast when she mentions his personal belongings. He raises a finger in the way a person does when they are warning away a panther in the grasses. The shine of his ring, the royal signet, can be seen on that hand, the utmost banner of authority in Wakanda and its king's sanction.

"…You will not go looking under my bed," T'Challa commands with extreme wariness.
He is eager to move on.

A time passes, long enough to have been uncomfortable with anyone other than the two. T'Challa's silences have crushed more than a man in their time, but he is relatively bladeless against his sister, relaxed and imperturbable from continents away. Folding his arms in a guarded posture to shore his dignity, the brother turns from his sister to watch the grey weather outside, a calmness forced back into his spine. "This I should leave to you," T'Challa confides. "There are … other matters to which I must attend this night."

There is something else he is not saying.
But it is enough, for tonight.

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