The Price of Power

March 21, 2018:

The latest voice championing the pro-registration agenda, Councilwoman Mariah Dillard of Harlem, attracts the attention one would expect. The Twins negotiate her "change of heart" on the matter — but everything comes with a price. Mariah Dillard emitted by Kingpin.


NPCs: Councilwoman Mariah Dillard

Mentions: Jessica Jones

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Mariah Dillard works long, late hours. That's one virtue she has. She works hard. She works long after her staff has been sent home for the day: editing speeches, or going through budgets and proposals with a fine tooth comb, or planning campaign events or press appearances. Though she has certainly been seen at Harlem's Paradise she doesn't spend all her time there, and though she has a positively gorgeous apartment she's rarely there either. She's here, in her office at the Council building.

That's where she loves to be.

And it's as well-appointed as her apartment is really, with classy, gleaming, Old-World style furniture. Some pretty poutpourri offers it a spicy scent. The hum of her computer offers a little underlying music as she tippity taps away, dressed in a tailored black suit with a bright yellow blouse that flatters her very nicely.

It is a virtue to work so hard. But is it a virtue to work so hard on the things to which the Councilwoman puts her mind and her efforts? Certainly many humans think so. But then, this planet doesn't just belong to humans anymore.

Even at this time of night, security around the Council building is pretty robust. A woman might be forgiven for being off her guard. But security really matters nothing to people with powers far beyond the norm. And isn't that just the crux of this entire debate?

How can a human feel safe, when one moment they're alone, and the next there's a pair of intruders in her sanctum?

Not that there's no warning at all. The Councilwoman might hear the click of her door unlocking, a moment before a sharp, sudden wind gusts it open. But there is no tracking, with the mundane eye, the things that happen in between that one innocuous sound, and the sight — one split-second later — of two very notorious individuals admiring her good furniture.

The young man remains standing, for all the poshness of the available seating. "Hello from the mutant menace," he says, "Councilwoman. — Do you always work so late?"

And a young woman sits.

Though she looks the antithesis of the man beside her — dark where he is pale — she is equally recognizable. Equally notorious. Equally dangerous.

With a proprietary ownership over the space she occupies, already making herself well at home, Wanda Maximoff leans back, legs crossed, her sharp chin nestled on the backs of her curled fingers. She wears a dress red as arterial blood, and a half-veiled headpiece that winks scarlet beads like dwarf stars all through her dark hair.

The witch looks like a woman stepped out of time — not clothed as women usually are. Possibly for the same reason why a moondog of red light streams from her lit, illuminated eyes.

The brother speaks genially, and the sister stays quiet. Her expression is hypothermic.

The witch's gaze is hypothermic, the Councilwoman's blood certainly turns to ice.

She withdraws a weapon from beneath her jacket all the same. "You can't be in here," she cries, knocking her chair over. She points it at Wanda, for whatever reason seems wise to her to do that. "Get out of here!"

It might be good for a laugh.

All the serial numbers are completely filed off, of course. She'd never be so foolish as to openly carry a stolen SHIELD weapon without some modifications to cover her tracks, to make it seem like something she could have gotten, somehow, with all due legitimacy and no earthly idea that there was anything wrong. But it is one of the stolen SHIELD weapons, now making their circulation around at street-level through the hands of the twins themselves. Certainly more powerful than one's average gun, not an ICER, and certainly nothing particularly specifically better against mutants than anyone else.

Not the worst gun you could really pull if you are being threatened by two mutants, but…maybe still good for a fine laugh all the same.

The Councilwoman withdraws a weapon and points it — at Wanda. Quicksilver cants his head. He blurs.

Half a moment later, Mariah Dillard will find herself sitting back in her righted chair, with Pietro standing directly in front of her. Her weapon is in his hands, fully disassembled. "This would have been ironic," he says, amused, punctuating his statements with the one-by-one return of her gun in its components.

Idly, he tosses the slide in her lap. "This was never our intention." The grip follows. "But often, what one says and does can lead to…" The frame clatters atop the other two pieces. "Unintended ramifications."

He pauses. "If you try firing on my sister again, it won't be the gun I take apart."

Pietro drops the remaining pieces in the Councilwoman's lap, losing interest. "Are you even aware you've benefited, even in this small way, from those you'd see oppressed?" He shrugs and turns back towards his sister, heeling to her side. "Likely not."

He stops at Wanda's side. "We should discuss your stance on registration."

For a split-second, that weapon points its barrel directly on the Scarlet Witch.

The mutant stares back, unmoving, unblinking, not even a flutter to break the light flaring free from her red eyes. Wanda knows better than to react; with her twin brother, there is neither the time nor need to.

Pietro has it resolved quicker than thought. Not even Wanda's own eye can track just how — between moments — that gun once trained on her now rests in many, disparate pieces.

Wanda still does not move, does not speak — does nothing for Pietro's labourous, but generous, return of that dissembled weapon, punctuating his every word. Her lashes lower over her sunset eyes.

When Pietro returns to her, only then the witch shifts, a chime of the beads in her hair to glance up at him, leisurely, patience in her movements that go to war against the fury in her eyes.

"And before you speak it again," Wanda finally speaks, voice sharp, directed to the Councilwoman, "no. We can be in here. We are in here. We're in your offices. We're in your homes. We're in your families. We are everywhere, and we are never leaving. Now answer my brother, and do not lie."

Mariah's lips thin in her own version of anger. She crosses her arms. She is absolutely afraid, but she is a person who habitually shows bravado when confronted with those fears. Cold bravado. She takes a step back, either from the weapon, or the twins, or both. "Which question?" she asks crisply. "About benefits? I suppose I haven't given it a moment's thought at all."

She tilts her chin upward, and says, "You wanna discuss it, discuss away. It appears tonight I have an open door policy to receive…" here her lip curls into a bit of a sneer. "Constituent complaints. But you should know that if you harm me you're only going to make my point for me."

It's the only weapon she has, perhaps, throwing out there what it might do to their cause to take her apart. But when one is down to one weapon, one uses it.

Wanda glances up, and Pietro answers her gaze with the trail of his fingertips along the rise of her right shoulder. His hand rests to a stop upon it, affectionate and possessive alike.

His gaze, when it turns back to Mariah Dillard in silent waiting for her answer, reflects none of that affection. Her coldness is met with his own.

If you harm me, she says, you'll only make my point for me. Pietro raises his brows. "Harm you unprovoked? Maybe we would — if we were wild dogs. What do you think?"

But her admission she's given it no thought at all destroys any mood he has for play. "Your kind never does give it any thought at all," he says. "So we must go around, making you all think about it. I'll cut to the chase. We will have a stop to your pro-registration campaign. You'll walk back your stance and, in fact, oppose the registration laws. We could be convinced to continue keeping Jessica Jones in traction…"

Pietro's blue eyes narrow. "Or do you not treat with wild dogs?"

If there is anything in this harsh world that gentles the Scarlet Witch, it is the weight of her brother's hand on her shoulder. She goes docile to his touch, some of that red burn dimming from her eyes.

"Too easy to harm you," concurs Wanda, with a twitch of her mouth pulling into the curl of her own fingers. "Though it would be justified. The words you speak hurt us. But not all our acts end with violence."

The brother goes on to speak just of that — the Brotherhood's alternate proposal — and the witch holds her own tongue, her watchful eyes locked on Mariah Dillard. Perhaps, weeks ago, there would be more some Cheshire cat play about Wanda — no time for that now, no desire, no taste for it. Fury weighs heavily on her, restrained, but there.

Mariah Dillard is a woman caught between a number of dangerous people and interests. This was the price of her power, the price of getting things she wanted and needed. It was also a comfortable slot for her to fill. She has been caught between a number of dangerous people and interests all her life.

And here, it seems, she is caught between one more.

She is also a cold, calculating woman who looks out for her own best interests first and foremost. Anti-mutant sentiment served her. Does she really see wild dogs? Does it matter? Either she does not, and thus is willing to play ball, or she does, and nevertheless is willing to treat with anyone and anything if it keeps her in one piece and her interests secure. And while she doesn't look to care overmuch about the aforementioned detective…she is not, it seems, nearly as afraid of her as her lawsuit paperwork indicates…

Well. That plays into other interests she's beholden to, as well.

"A reason will have to be provided. Send someone from Mutant town to save a child in front of me or something. Set it up, it doesn't matter. As long as I can spin and sell a change of heart to the press. Something that tugs on heart strings. The younger the kid, the better."

The very hardness in her voice says that she herself has few heart strings left to tug upon, either for the oppressed or anyone else. But she can be appealed to, worked with. "So long as my safety from your people is completely assured, I will be a ringing voice of impassioned support. Indeed, the change of heart will play very well for your cause. Give an outlet for those who might want to do a face-heel here but who have talked themselves into a corner."

For once, Pietro is very still, standing beside his throned sister as if carved from marble. His left hand still rests on her right shoulder. He considers Councilwoman Dillard as she considers the newest rock-and-a-hard place she's found herself between, and while he's certainly not privy to the unique sequence of events that has led her here…

He likely doesn't consider it important, once she finally replies, because he's getting what he wants.

How easily these humans are bought, he muses in his sister's mind, though he keeps his contempt internal. What does it ultimately matter to him, save to confirm his beliefs about the world and the people in it, that Mariah Dillard is a woman of practicalities and self-interests? It can be used, and that is the important part.

"I'm sure something suitably dramatic can be arranged," he says, his tone bored. "So long as you lend us your support, you never have to see us again." His mouth quirks. "Bring some others over with you, and you might even see how friendship is more profitable than enmity."

The failings of the oppressors, answers Wanda, through the twins' psychic bond. The shine of their thrones are their only concerns. Their fears are bought and sold. They have forgotten how survival feels.

Her own hand lifts to lay over her brother's, slowly linking their fingers. In that gesture is a promise. It won't be this way forever.

"Completely, utterly, and wholly assured," answers Wanda of Councilwoman Dillard's safety. Her eyes shift from red to blue, all that eery, incandescent light snuffed like wet candleflame from her irises. The mutant looks now at her most human. "Your safety is now our concern. An amicable solution, is this not? I suppose even wild dogs can surprise you."

The witch tilts up her head. "We should not intrude upon our new friend's space overlong, brother."

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