The Shadow

July 21, 2018:

A brief conversation among the Brotherhood proves some men cast long shadows.

Chrysler Building, New York



Mentions: Wanda Maximoff, Magneto

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

The latest roost of the Twins is a unique blend of 'unreachable' and 'in plain sight.' The sixty-first floor of the Chrysler Building, long since closed to the public, now bristles with a ward meant to keep away even the few maintenance workers who still come up this high. Ornamented by a series of carved eagles sculpted mid-flight, occupied almost solely by an apartment that has been abandoned since the 1930s, it is one of the few truly isolated spots in the heart of midtown Manhattan.

They will not stay long. But while they do, they have made a temporary home of it, and they have given Frenzy a small charm that will return her to the spot on-demand.

In this respect, they do not need to worry about the likes of Faora.

Others gain access through more indirect ways. In the small front room of the apartment, cleared of dust and set with a few chairs, a few hazy figures stand in front of Pietro, talking quietly. The results of some expedition to find other facilities where those strange Purifier hybrids are being made, no doubt — whether a successful one, or not. They seem to be wrapping up, judging by the fact the projected images are vanishing, one by one.

Pietro, uncharacteristically, is seated, and on a small couch at that. This unaccountable indulgence in comfort is explained by the fact that it is to accommodate an asleep Wanda, half of her strewn in his lap, the other half sprawled across the couch cushions. The young man has a sheaf of papers in hand, and is using his sister's tousled head as a desk.

In all of the places that Pietro and Wanda have turned into makeshift homes, this one pleases Faora the most. High above the city and with an architecture that defies modern norms, it is one of the few places she has found beautiful on this world. Pietro will know she is here first, but Wanda may well know too, the limits of her power eluding the Kryptonian. But Pietro will see her come in, moving at a hyperspeed that might make him wonder just how fast she might move, glancing at him in a timeframe only he can see before shifting to the molasses everyone else is forced to occupy.

The astute will notice her armor is tarnished, darkened in some areas, damaged in small ways. Where ever she had been while Hell's Kitchen burned, it was not a place without adversity. She waits for the images to fade before moving closer, looking down upon these Beautiful Children of the New Dawn with a curious eye.

"Tell me."

This is not a command. While her words can be beautiful, especially when she speaks about ideals that no human would understand, or places no human will ever see, she is no wordsmith. Her tone is soft and kind, a reservation not kept for most who dwell on this, her new home. But for Pietro? For Wanda? What small kindness she has is there's alone.

For Frenzy her presence has been here when needed and when not, the extremely silent sentinel, has been uncharacteristically absent.

While her duties haven't suffered per se, her voice has. Taciturn at the best of times Frenzy has turned mute in these last several weeks - with today being no different.

Though perhaps one can blame her silence on the fact that she was only here as a projection for the majority of the meeting - having been out upon one of those expeditions; looking for the Purifier hybrids.

There's a rematch needed and Frenzy is eagerly looking for one.

Either way, that doesn't mean her presence doesn't appear within a matter of seconds, thanks to the hex charm that she has use of. Her arrival is nearly timed (unintentionally) with Faora's own and when the Bruiser of the Brotherhood appears her gaze automatically takes stock of the area around. Her brown eyes go first to Faora and then finally to the Twins themselves and upon seeing the idlyllic picture of the seated Pietro and the sleeping Wanda, Joanna Cargill forgets herself and allows the smallest of smiles twitches her lips upward.

Then she remembers and her expression settles into its usual stoic mask and with a quiet step toward the small couch, Frenzy settles near her two charges.

Pietro's head lifts to a sound as familiar to him as his twin's voice: the sound of the sound barrier breaking. He glances up, shifting automatically back into his accelerated rates of perception, time seeming to slow as he peers out — and recognizes Faora.

He relaxes again. Feeling Wanda stir a little, he rests his hand on her hair in a soothing stroke. Nothing to get up for.

Perhaps tellingly, he doesn't turn an eye when Frenzy initially manifests in person, already highly accustomed to the Acolyte's comings and goings. A little more uncharacteristically, he does turn his gaze to her a moment later, studying her expression and then — perhaps — weighing her silence. He has noticed her increased absences and increased silences, ever since Hell's Kitchen. And he has to wonder…

His gaze turns away again. Tell me, Faora requests. His blue eyes study her armor and its state.

"They are not content to deny us our birthrights," he says. "They want to take them for their own, now. We have found them experimenting on our kind, and granting powers to their own. Vicious experiments…" He pushes over the paper: a stack of reports gathered by the X-Men, provided by Lorna's hand. "There are images. It is not just Trask, not anymore. There are others in collusion. This is nothing we have seen from him before."

He pauses. His gaze turns to Frenzy. "Tell her about the thing you fought." It is a direct command — phrased like one, with the tone of one — perhaps a test.

Blue eyes drop to Wanda as she stirs, and Faora's head tilts ever so slightly. Such a simple gesture, and yet alien in some way detached from human recognition. Maybe it was concern, or perhaps pondering on what ailes one of the most powerful beings Faora had ever met. That gaze slips sidelong to Frenzy when Pietro asks her to tell a tale, and Faora speaks to the other Guardian of the Brotherhood in much the way she looks at her, like someone who's never been able to tell her everything. Like someone who knows the weight of the importance of work, and yet must be restrained.

"So too did they have a base, a place they called Bastion. Meant as a fallback, should they fail. It used to exist on Earth's moon."

The implication of her words, the damage on her armor, all point to the reason she was gone and what she did while she was on that place that the Twins once used as an escape.

They tried to take even that from them.

Faora would not allow it.

"Yes. Tell me. I would know what creations and horrors they have summoned from their imaginations. I would know the lines I would cross to prove to them they have far worse to worry about."

Frenzy is an old hand to room nuances; one has to be when they grow up in extremely volatile conditions. Her father was a man of uncontrollable rages, against her, her mother, though never her late brother.

As such, the woman feels the weight of Pietro's gaze upon her, but she doesn't yet meet the young man's eyes.

Instead she settles herself and loops her arms behind her back, hand around one wrist, as she waits in the typical parade stance she often exhibits while still on the job. Faora's request brings Frenzy's gaze over to the Kryptonian and only when Pietro speaks does Frenzy's eyes cut back to the white-haired young man.

The command, phrased as it is, brings a faint flash of muddled emotion to her eyes, but she obeys, she always does.

Her head dips in Pietro's direction, before Frenzy answers, "It could move even me." States the woman to Faora, "It still dies when injured enough, but I won't lie it was a difficult task." Continues the woman, never once saying the thing she fought was a person. The changed Purifiers are neither human or mutant, just things now. Like a piece of broken furniture, or malfunctioning appliance, that needs to be simply disposed of. "I doubt one or two would give you trouble, Faora, but a half a dozen, or even close, might be a bit irritating even for you."

It used to exist on Earth's moon, Faora says casually. Pietro's regard of her armor takes on a new light.

"I see," he says. "We appreciate the gesture."

His attention returns to Frenzy not soon after, and with a direct command. This is new ground for all of them, even Faora who has seen the trio several times before: previously the Twins had interacted with their Acolyte in a rather informal way, almost as if as peers, with a certain easy trust that now seems absent. Now Pietro confronts Frenzy with clear hierarchy, almost as if in a test, in a way that might seem eerily familiar. The flicker of emotion he sees in her eyes, in reaction, seems to serve him as some kind of proof, judging by the way he leans back.

Pietro may be rash at times, but he is not foolish nor blind. He has seen Frenzy's emotional withdrawal, her increased absences, her longer and deeper silences. Then, afterwards, his father shows up. Something is going on to which he is not privy. And Pietro doesn't like being kept in the dark.

He listens neutrally as Frenzy answers.

"They're certainly much harder to kill than anything we've faced before, barring that Sentinel," he says bluntly, "which is all the more reason we have to get to the bottom of how they are made. I am sure the process did not die with that first facility we raided. We will have to keep searching until we find the source of these aberrations."

"It is the least I could do for the only true leader this world needs, and his family."

When Faora speaks to Pietro, it is not to placate him. She means every word, and counts every mutant as part of his family. Watching Pietro watch Frenzy lifts her brow. Watching Frenzy go through a certain turmoil one emotion at a time is familiar and new all at once. It is interesting, but outside the purview of this God. Emotion has always been a distant thing for Faora, the antithesis of calculation, and though she does continue to watch them, her gait takes her away. A thoughtful walk.

It is time for her to see the bigger picture.

"The city burns, and they place the blame at your feet. The truth is that they were killed by their own kind, no doubt. As humanity has learned to do over and over for generations untold. They scheme and plot for ever-better ways to destroy your people, until they realize their only hope is to become like you. But not without some measure of control. They would use more bondage as a solution to a problem that requires only freedom. They would thwart a new world order, under your guiding hand, despite the paradise it might bring."

When she looks back to the three of them, her head tilts up slightly, casting her in a certain nobility.

"Even if they find the source, they may very well rebuild. The man and his dream must die, but we must look deeper, to the elements that may not be solved with fist or speed or even the power to bend reality. We must find who supply and support them, and make them anathema. Money, equipment, even personnel. Tell me, are there any of your family who have great influence on this world, in resources or favors alike?"

The echo of father in son is felt by Joanna Cargill and it's enough to shutter her expression tight.

To keep her face free of the emotion that churns within her gut and the questions that makes her question where she went wrong. Though really she knows where and when it took a sharp left turn.

Though truly, which way is right and which is wrong.

That's the question that needs to be decided upon by Frenzy and soon.

Just not yet. Not when the conversation continues to move forward and so, Frenzy refocuses herself back upon Faora as the other woman speaks again. While she doesn't add her voice to the conversation the woman nods, specifically at the point about taking away the supply and support. It's a sound tactic and something she supports a hundred percent.

The mention of family unwittingly brings Frenzy's eyes back to Pietro and Wanda.

Faora may not say any of what she says to humor or placate Pietro, but the young man takes it quite well nonetheless. His head lifts slightly, eyes hooding. Of course his father was wrong to have doubts in him. Wrong to think him weak. Wrong to think he cannot do what needs to be done. He can do this, all of this, and he doesn't need a backseat driver telling him how.

He will prove it. And maybe, if he does —

The memory of his father's visit dovetails uncomfortably with the topic Faora brings up next. Discomfort crosses Pietro's expression at the reminder of what happens in Hell's Kitchen. His momentary weakness — or so his father said. "They blamed us to hide their own depravity," he says, a little sharply. "I have a very good idea of who might have been responsible, and if we interfere it will be to punish him for the crimes he has already long since committed against mutantkind. If I washed my hands of the rest of it, it was because the squabbling of humans is of no concern to us. They may burn each other to cinders if they wish. It would only serve our purpose."

It is not precisely what he was saying — and feeling — while it was happening. Not precisely what he was feeling just a week before. Frenzy is not the only one internally torn.

Faora may well be the one stable thing here… though her inquiry about family throws another rock into the pond, as it were. Pietro stiffens visibly, his eyes narrowing. Family is obviously a sore spot. "None I would call upon," he says, his voice taut. "None who do not have their own concerns which interest them more. It can be done without them. It will be."

He looks down at Wanda, dreaming in his lap. Only then does his demeanor gentle. "We knew we were signing up for what may be a lifelong fight. To respond with prejudice whenever humans aggress. They may never stop. This, we know, and we have prepared for that regardless of who winds up helping us or not."

Those words hammer her mind, but not with purpose of action. Instead it is everything different and off about each of them, from both of them. It is suddenly very apparent to Faora that this talk has little to do with strategy anymore, and her gaze slides over Frenzy with a tactile scrutiny, searching for the source of her discomfort echoed in the words of the one who commands her. And so too, in Pietro. This fire. This focus. This is a different man than the one she left a few weeks prior. As distant as her own emotions tend to be, by matter of genetic manipulation millenia ago, or some quirk of fate, her extraordinary abilities of perception make this impossible to ignore..

Then there is Wanda.

Her eyes drop to that singular source of comfort and peace, an eye to the emotional storm around her, one that Faora feels very much adrift in. This might be easier if you were awake, but when you need rest, the world is glad that you sleep.

"I asked you to tell me, but I think there have been omissions. From both of you. A thread that is familiar to me, in the aftermath of certain trials."

Stepping closer, she looks between them both, and as much as she might have laid adoration on Pietro with a few choice words, she looks upon him now like a parent expecting an answer from a reluctant child. "With this was so assured in your minds, I would not think to see such tension ringing in the air, as if our precious bonds have been long forgotten."

Those last words of Pietro's almost cause a visible spasm upon Frenzy's features, but with effort the woman pushes it aside. Whatever emotion she feels simply translates to a slower than normal blink. When she reopens her eyes Frenzy finds Faora's scrutinizing gaze upon her, and Frenzy meets the Kryptonian's eyes.

An easy thing for her to do - easier than potentially locking eyes with Pietro again.

It's only at the mention of omissions that Frenzy's features shift again. There's a flare of nostrils and a widening of eyes, as surprise flashes across Frenzy's features.

And it only gets worse with Faora's next words - bonds forgotten. That brings an almost snap to Frenzy's posture, as she straightens her back and she stands at her full six foot height.

"I have not forgotten the bonds that bind us." Frenzy states formally, her voice rising in that moment as she cuts her eyes away from Faora and turns them to Pietro.

And in this moment something within Frenzy coalesces and becomes clear, as her next words are said with resolve once more. "My strength is yours to use to fight for our cause. My life to protect yours. That has not changed, but -" She continues, her voice dropping to something softer, hesitant, which is so unlike Frenzy. "There are things we must discuss. Developments from .. Genosha, that have occurred."

Her head dips low then, after those last words of hers, in something of a bow. In reality if they were alone perhaps Frenzy would go to knee, but for now all she can do is offer that obedient gesture.

Pietro is not looking at Frenzy at the moment of her reaction to his words — pointed as they are — but he knows her well enough by now to hear the weight of her silence, even if he does not see her actual expression.

The way Faora looks at him, however, is not missed. It is precisely the wrong way to do so, at this exact moment.

Pietro lays Wanda gently to one side, and stands to face Faora. "If you mean the things you say," he says bluntly, "then ask your questions to me at least as an equal."

His blue eyes only turn when Frenzy interjects. It is no wonder Faora took note of the tension: it is thick between Pietro and Frenzy as they regard one another: one waiting, the one wrestling with her thoughts. Eventually Frenzy… bows, and speaks with a renewed resolve. Pietro takes both in mute acceptance with a lift of his head, and some of the tension relents.

"Yes, my father's come to bother me as well," he says, sardonic, some of that cold formality receding back into his familiar grumpy colloquialism. "I want to hear of it. Later."

His attention returns to Faora. There is a grudging mote of apology in his stance as he folds his arms and loosens out of his stiff-legged stand: grudging mostly because he doesn't like dealing with contrition in general, and not because he feels the contrition to be undeserved per se. "Have you heard of my father?" he asks dryly. "It's a sore spot. They call him Magneto. There's reasons we don't talk."

It is Pietro who offers the most explanation, and it triggers some measure of recognition right away. She did not learn of Pietro and Wanda's mission in a vacuum, and certainly did not ignore all that had happened on Genosha. As much as Pietro think her disrespectful in the way she looks at him it was respect alone that kept her from this subject for so long.

"I know him well."

He asks to be spoken to as an equal, and his contrition earns not a hint that she took offense or opposition to his demand. There is only understanding, one that runs deep as he mentions this sore spot. It makes sense now, more than anything else.

"You need not explain further. The bonds of blood, and their complications are known to me. My own father believed in a patriarchy, in old ways that did not serve us then, and certainly not when his house stood on the edge of destruction. Only by my brother's failure did I rise to his right hand. He would not accept my victories as my own. He would not see me for who I was."

Her gaze drops, blue intensity shifting from Pietro, and she thinks back to a time before her world began to die. How she craved every smile. How she yearned for his pride. She thought him a good man, despite the pain he caused her.

Blood was always the best ingredient for rose-colored glasses.

"But we are not equals."

When she calls back to his request, she glances up, and once more her head tilts a bit, owed to Pietro's height over her. "You are meant to lead a whole world. I am not." She does not admit trying to stoke his ire on purpose, to prick his skin to draw the poison out in the form of truth, but it is there in the empty spaces. "Tell me what I can do."

I know him well.

"Then I don't have to explain as much as I thought," Pietro says, still obviously sore about the topic. "Or at all," he adds wryly, as Faora professes understanding. "I will not seek him out for this. There are enough things on which we do not see eye to eye, this focus on Genosha being foremost. Even if I were to plead, he would not leave that island." Not for my sake, he thinks, but does not say. Magneto abandoned Pietro three times, or so it feels to the young man. Once at birth, a second time in his departure from the Brotherhood, and a third time in his decision to remain, even now when the world broils with hatred against mutantkind, in Genosha.

Yet there is something to Pietro's tone that is a little too vehement. The kind of anger that suggests the father still holds some small draw for the son. Perhaps Pietro still imagines scenarios in which he and his father can have a very different relationship than they now do.

He shakes his head, as if to physically dismiss the idea.

But we are not equals, says Faora, and Pietro glances back at her — only to hesitate when she clarifies what she means by that. One might expect Pietro to look flattered, as he usually does by such grand words, but this time he remains silent, his arms unfolding and his back straightening back to his full height. Silent, until she asks what she can do.

"When the time comes we have followed this insult back to its roots," Pietro says, "I will need destruction. The kind of destruction that will send a very clear message what their persecution and their hatred buys them."

It is, after all, all about the message. This is the first lesson his father taught to him.

The part of her that shares some experience with these creatures, so different, so the same, feels the pain she sees there poorly hidden in his declaration. The grip of longing that echoes against her soul, for she too wanted something different. This is not the mirror she was expecting to look in today, and when Pietro changes the subject to what she can do, she is grateful for it.

But she will not forget this, the twisting leash of blood ties and what it is doing to those she has sworn to guide, protect, and champion. A plan forms, but one she does not speak of here. Instead she answers his call for destruction. It comes with such a slight expression, a smile sweet and small and saccharine.

"I was very careful not to crack your moon. I know how you love it so. If you are asking me to be less careful when we find them, then I shall deliver your message with great prejudice, Pietro of the New Dawn. For now, I will search. Little can hide from my gaze for long. It is only a matter of time." Here she steps back, intent on leaving him to his sister, and more importantly to the now silent Frenzy.

It is recognition of this need for them to speak alone that drives her more than the mission. For without those bonds of trust and loyalty and everything inbetween, she is soldier enough to know the mission will be doomed to fail.

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