Dreams in Digital

August 29, 2018:

Sage returns to Westchester. Like all bearers of bad news, she comes bearing bad news. Immediately followed by: Under the Trees

Salem Center - Westchester - New York City

Salem Center is loaded with buildings and activity. Here one can find the Salem Center City Hall building resting on a large plot of grassy land. It's a tall four story building, done in a classic Americana style, with red bricks and white pillars outside of its front staircase. It has a clock tower resting above the pillars, and the clock plays lovely tunes at specific hours during the day, loud enough for the whole town to hear them and know what time it is instantly.

Along the roads in downtown one can find other the Grind Stone Caf, Harry's Hideaway, and Lost Pond Mall. The main Salem Center Police Department building can be found here as well, and it's just across the street from City Hall. Newly paved streets, well maintained gardens and an overall lovely atmosphere, the New Salem area of Salem Center is a great place for all citizens of this wealthy town to come and relax.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Charles Xavier, Trask

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Westchester, After Hours.

Scott Summers has been keeping odd times lately, it has been easy to find Drake and several others while the rest are busy chasing Extremis, helping Remy recover or seeking out leads on the massive hard to calculate wave of enemies they've got reappearing behind the front of Trask Industries, Brotherhood extremists, the Mutant Liberation Front and the Purifiers.
These are the things the X-Men exist for, to keep a vigil and make sure the world knows not all mutant are out to harm them.

Scott Summers had to visit the local police station earlier and now sits against a Mazda Rx8 several blocks away overlooking Apple Park. From a distance, not in it, that would require leaving his car for longer than he has.

Drake Riley hasn't had an abundance of free time since starting classes. It's general core, save for agriculture (obviously), but he's still making the effort to not be a washout. Success here matters. So between assignments and the training - something he's taken much, /much/ more eagerly to - his 'job' with pool maintenance, and whatever additional assignments given him by the X-Men, he's had extremely little time. What bits he gets is usually spent on the lake, gaming, or in Salem Center for perspective.

At this time, it seems the latter. Without a vehicle to work with, he's taken to the pedestrian life, hands stuffed in his pockets and strolling along the sidewalk. Making a pass at the police station on his way to the park is something he's done a few times since coming here. Why? Because it amuses him. The former thief, the ganger, the vigilante - strolling right by. He wasn't a big enough name in Los Angeles to generate a manhunt, and he took precautions here to hide his identity, but it's still amusing on a personal level.

Before he reaches it, however, he spots Scott propped on his car. Head tilted, his pace picks up to a trot. "Hey, what's up?"

City Hall, After Hours.

The building long since closed, lighting set down to a minimum, with only a skeleton crew seeing to the few tasks that are only possible when the business of the day has ended. Some security, of course, as well as facility engineers. And one other body, making her way through the halls, having departed the building's server farm only a few minutes before. She had been contracted for the night, the work of upgrading their systems allotted to take the entire eight hours. It had been completed in four. Not that that was likely to change her contracted hours. But it did leave Sage with a good deal of free time, before she had to make the journey back to the city.

She waited with endless patience, for the guard to arrive to badge her out of the building and unlock the front door long enough for her to slip out. It was unlikely that she didn't notice how quickly he moved to get her out of the building and as far away as possible from himself, but that notice went entirely unremarked, as she stepped down onto the front stairs, slipping the small tablet she brought with her into the pocket of her coat, measured, deliberate footsteps carrying her down along the street that lead to the Apple Park. Her head never turns, as she walks, and yet she somehow manages to avoid or route herself around all of the traffic, vehicular as well as pedestrian, as a river, flowing around the rocks that makeup its streambed.

Scott's attention is currently fixated upon the station's front while the doors open and release Sage, hours past civilian entry allowance without good reason. His red gaze through shades lingers enough to track her in to the small crowd of pedastrians back and forth before his head full snaps left at Drake's voice, not that hes jumpy but the obvious 'caught off guard' evident in the man, even with the way his fingers rise up then splay out in a wave, "Drake, I didn't know you were away from school grounds."

The distracted nature of Summers right now has him talking to the young man but looking past him again, some odd familiarity in his mind that he can't place, like a fog or a haze. He might just need some caffiene.

Drake Riley isn't going to be particularly helpful when it comes to focus. Unless there's something dangerous about to go down, Drake's now focused on Scott. And Drake's a talker. "Can't stay huddled up all the time, right? Besides, I like this town. It's little. Well, little compared to L.A. You ever head out that way?," he asks. "You know, you'n I never actually talk about anything. And you're, like, the only other frigging /guy/ I've talked to there." Sure, there's Nate - but he's often busy and away, it seems. Then there's Lorna's husband, but he's never run into him not extremely occupied with things either he wasn't cleared to hear at the time, or marital matters.

Sage managed through sheer will, perhaps, or simply the force of her personality, to make her way through the final gaggle of geese waiting outside the closest thing that could pass for a nightclub in this sleepy town, finally breasting the wave and ending up on the quieter stretch of street approaching the two men, one leaning and one standing beside the sports car, the streetlights occasionally sparking off of the rose-tinted sunglasses she was wearing in the dead of night, almost literally. Her hands, which had been hanging free at her sides, slip into her pockets on the approach, her expression entirely neutral as she studies first the younger man and then the older. No curiosity, but something colder, possibly more calculated, as if they weren't so much being looked at, as dissected. Ever get that feeling of your hairs standing up on the back of your neck because you're sure someone's looking at you? The two men might or might not be getting that feeling right about now.

"No, it is good to get out. Just make sure you check in." Scott advises politely, "Am I? YOu definitely need to get out more. That'll change soon. Do you want a ride back to the school?"

Again Cyclops appears distracted, that scan of his eyes not seen easily beyond his shades but hes turning ever so slightly from the left to his right, following where he feels Sage would emerge from the small gaggle until hes caught her or… "A moment, excuse me, miss?" The tall brunette man ventures, stepping away from his car to motion one hand towards her, as if to make sure she knows he is talking to her specifically.

"This is me, out, talking to you," chides Drake glibly.

Drake doesn't have supernatural spatial awareness, nor any psychic ability. But he does have a fair sense of when something is amiss or wrong. Those who err on the wrong side of the law tend to develop that sense. 'Jumpy,' people call it. But in this instance, it may look like a couple Jedi were just chatting next to a sportscar, because at the same exact time, both seem to divert their attention.

It lands on Sage.

Drake lets Scott take the lead, but his gaze is fixed on her visor with a headtilt.

The gesture was hard to miss, given the now rather sparse number of bodies using the sidewalk to go about their business. The turn of her head is crisp, not quite mechanical, but there is something slightly off in how deliberate it is. She moves closer, in answer to the summons, but keeps a distance somewhere between being able to speak comfortably and quietly, and not needing to put a crick in her neck to look up at the man standing nearly a foot taller than she is herself. She does offer the teenager a final glance, before her attention settled on the one who called her over, "May I help you?"

"Again. Fair enough." Scott says to Drake with a quick flash of a smile, "I welcome the company of course." Aiming for polite with the trainee and student, he skips conversation to the woman, "I was about to ask you the same."

Straightening up without fully realizing it Scott steps closer, "Do I know you? I mean, I feel like we have met before. I know, odd thing to stop a person to say and this is by no means a pick up. Just… seriously, have we met?"

Drake Riley doesn't have much to add to the ongoing situation, but that doesn't make him idle. A streetrat worth his salt is attentive and observant when not directly engaged, assessing a situation - or simply picking things out to tease Scott with later. But then he had to go and clarify that he wasn't trying to pick her up. There goes his 'You have a weird method, broh' joke.

Outwardly, Drake just flashes the female a pleasant smile when she looks his way. Otherwise, he's just hanging.

Sage stood still as stone, only her eyes moving behind the sunglasses, as she took in the taller man's appearance, hands still slipped into the pockets of the duster she was wearing over a bodysuit that seemed more suited to the club she had not entered than a place as almost pastoral as Salem center. Clearly, the smile the teenager offered her was noted, as her eyes momentarily diverted to settle on him, but her expression never altered, and she did not return the smile, her manner still entirely clinical. Returning to the man addressing her, she takes in the attire, the visor, all without any sort of visible reaction, "I meet a great many people, in the course of my work. Data systems, the net, we all dream in digital now."

"Guilty by design." Scott says almost robotic like as his hand extends, "Summers, Scott."

"I thought you looked familiar. It has been some time since we worked on that thing for the U.N." The man's smile reserved as it is appears once more, "I'm going to have to apologize if I have forgotten your name."

A look around them and he steps to his left, to the rear of the car and motions across the street towards the park, "How about a walk? We can catch up?" He glances at Drake then her, not interjecting or introducing. They got that no doubt.

"Drake," he says, without offering a last name. No, most people don't get his last name. That puts certain connections to things he doesn't want people catching whiff of. "And that must be why Internet bills are so high these days." It's a simple quip, and the end of what he offers. This insofar sounds like more of a thing Scott and this chick would be chatting over - something that doesn't involve him.

With the hand extended, Sage finally stepped forward, close enough to take the offered hand, the handshake firm. None of that weak-wristed nonsense woman of today seemed to think was appropriate for their gender, that only used the fingers and left you feeling as though you just touched a dead fish, "Five years, give or take a few months." Something in the woman's voice seemed to indicate that she likely knew precisely how long it had been, likely down to the nanosecond, "Sage. Though I believe you knew me as Tessa then."

Her touch did not linger, and her hand returned to her coatpocket in short order, "A walk might do us good." She returned her attention to Drake as he introduced himself, the young man receiving, again, that dissecting look, before she nodded, "He can join us." Her voice was silent, for the space of a breath, before she moved to skirt the car and direct herself to the park, "The more valuable a commodity, the more necessary it becomes, the more those who control that commodity can charge for it. Not because it costs more to produce, but because the threat of going without it is enough to make those for whom it has become a necessity willing to pay any price."

"By all means then, join us Drake." Scott doesn't comment on the name Tessa or the years, after the Omega Shift and his own time jaunt with Jean his grasp of the past has been shaky, part of why he is so insistant on after-action-reports and paperwork being a team staple.

An easy withdraw of his hand and he tucks it in to his pocket, both hands in his jeans as he begins to walk them across the dying down road, hours as they are things are much less busy. Towards Apple Park where they can talk with less racket and better scenary.

"If it is useful, I'll pay for it." He remarks without really anything insightful or deep to add there, "I am honestly surprised to run in to you, given… everything."

"She is an ally of sorts, Riley." As if saying this will put things at more ease for himself and the young man. The odd clandestine meeting is very much that.

Drake Riley glances to Scott, originally not intent on joining them. It really sounded like a thing more between the two of them, and he'd be a third wheel. But Scott seems to insist, and he decides to go along with it - at least for now. So he begins moving along, brow knit as they dissect his joke.

"I was saying that, because you said we dream in digital." Beat. "A joke."

Criminey.

Scott went and used his last name, making his avoidance of it before rather moot! He glances to him again, then back to Sage, or Tessa, or however she prefers to be called. "Of sorts?"

Sage moved into step with Scott, the ease with which she matched his much longer strides either a product of long association, or simply an innate adaptability to changing company. As chatty as the woman wasn't, it would be difficult to ascertain which one it might be. What few words she offered as they walked were centered around the comments and quips which had nothing at all to do with deep things. "And that is precisely why they charge whatever it is they want to charge." Beat, "Given everything, it was no longer prudent to stay away."

"We live in a world of instant messages, an aversion to vocal communication, and photo filters. We are all, in our way, becoming part of the machine, Drake." She seemed to choose the name he had given for himself, rather than the name Scott had offered. "I have had a…number of opportunities to work with those associated with the School." Once they had reached the cover of the park, she spoke again, "I have taken care of the surveillance. We should be able to speak in privacy." Or at least in such privacy as a mostly deserted park could be seen as private.

"Of sorts. Yeah." Scott confirms, "You're going to want to be her friend." He adds, the use of Riley's last name is uncharacteristic of Scott but then, hes had a few hiccups here in this entire encounter that are odd even for Summers. Like he is part in a daze or waking up.

"Good, we're being watched more than I am used to lately." The park lines first several rows of trees and walkways taken until they're at a shaded bench, one single lamp.

"If you haven't looked him up already this is one of our newest. The Lady here, you won't find record of her but she is one of our 'oldest'. I… at least I think I called her in to help us?" He leaves question on that one, truly not sure if this was his doing or hers. There are… protocols in place. Most of them mental induced for safety and security reasons.

"Humor's not a big thing in the tech industry, is it?," Drake chides. The whole point of the joke was to decrease the level of straightlaced severity afoot, not push deeper into it! Though it goes against his nature, he's going to make a conscious effort to not make any further jokes or remarks with this group.

And then Scott has to refer to her as one of their 'oldest'. Drake is literally chewing the inside of his cheek. With a swallow, he tries to push past his impulse. "You /think/?," he asks. And then he's right back to chewing his cheek. There's a joke to be made about drunk-texts, and it's eating him alive. "And how'd you take care of the surveillance?," he manages to redirect his attention to Sage.

"Give it time, Scott. The first breath after you come up from a deep dive is always the hardest." She continued to walk, "Left here. There's a couple over there that would not appreciate our intrusion." She tipped her head towards the right, though there was nothing, or rather no one visible to the naked eye. She shifted course, leading further in to the left, "You did what you needed to do, yes." Nothing more than that, either because she felt no inclination to elaborate further, or simply because it was something that was nothing more or less than an agreement between herself and Scott.

"Generally speaking, many of the people in the tech industry have some sort of self of humour. I am not one of those people." She finally began to slow once they were further under the cover of the trees, nearly to the heart of the park, "I inserted a subroutine into the surveillance system, which I them updated with our audio and visual parameters. The program calculates our positional vectors and then scrubs our voices and images from the system, as well as extrapolates our movement path and removes any of the anomalies we leave behind as we walk." Soft grass is, after all, a thing, "And then I introduced a second subroutine that would mask the intrusion and prevent anyone attempting the analyze the system data for alterations from reporting any changes." She turned as she came to a stop, to look a back at the two men with her, "I am actively monitoring the system and making adjustments in real time as necessary."

"Good." Scott says about the needing to part, as for the encouragement he'll be all right, it is unnecessary, the man has spent his life facing down the telepathic trials voluntary and otherwise inflicted upon him by his enemies and allies alike, he is no stranger to the sensation. It is just each time, a different… new-familiar.

Most of Drake's humor by default is going to fall off the stoic armor of Scott, hes spent too many years around the likes of another Drake to give some of it much of a nod, unfortunate for those who use such methods to bond. It is never easy dealing with a tin man.

"These are the sometimes it is best not to ask moments or please talk in a language I understand." Summers wryly comments as they situate out of sight and safe in the shadows of Apple Park.

"I guess we ask though… " Scott amused as he is doesn't show it as he patiently awaits the explaintion to cease, "Remember Riley, I mentioned something was off with your first mission? Its not the only one. I played my hand and this is the result. I'll give you more details about this as things come along, you're part of the team now, you have a right to know."

"Ah-huh…," says a frazzled Drake as Sage gives the full spiel, detailing the security measures taken. Drake's powers may naturally lend towards electronics, but it's not a field he's particularly familiar with beyond security systems - and even then, it's more about avoidance and shutting down than subverting in intricate detail.

"Eeyeah," he nods to Scott. "That." Maybe it was best not to ask. "So this ties together with Baby Smashes-All-The-Things somehow. I'm all ears."

Once Scott had offered that single word, Sage appeared to let the matter go. Whatever evils might have been done, it was clear that Scott at least, had been complicit in its execution. Well, that, or it was Sage who had been complicit and Scott's choice had not mattered. Which side of the divide it fell on was, clearly, something that neither of them had any inclination to reveal. "I feel, in most instances, it is simply better not to ask. We needed privacy, I made it possible. That is, quite literally what I do. I facilitate."

But that was not the point of the conversation, and as soon as Scott turned their attention to the mission, she shifted her focus to the work at hand, "I have been monitoring the ongoing situation remotely, fact-checking and cross-referencing all affected parties. Someone has had their hand in manipulating the X-Men, has been doing for many months, and it is not Xavier. Their use of the DEO has been the most obvious, but their have more subtle agents at work. I have been working to analyze the incoming data and to identify the source of the interference, so that I can rout it out." A second of dead silence, before her expression shifted, some inkling of what, might, on any other face, have been the quirk of lips turned upward into the beginning of a ghost of a smile. "The queen has always been the most important piece on the chessboard."

"The oddity from last time, yes, before that an attack on the school we drove off and several other points." Scott confirms to Drake, a light smile showing up again at him being 'all ease'.

"It is appreciated." He adds about the privacy steps being taken. A defensive side of Scott has the smile disappearing and a stern, "It wouldn't be the Professor." Is given before he speaks on, "It's enough to raise concern, it may be less than I am being paranoid about but I'm not a big believer in coincidences. I have too many of us to be concerned about to ignore it or second guess it." Which is why he goes for the big guns when 'school' security is threatened.

"It isn't like the DEO to be just used. Not against us not after the strides they took to make sure we're hand in hand."

"Well, okay. What about a mole?," Drake posits offhandedly. His left hand lifts from his pocket to gesture casually, "What if the DEO has someone on the inside that's not on the up'n up? If that's where the info's coming from and the info's bad… follow the money, right?" The hand stuffs back into his pocket.

"Wonder what happened to that thing…," Drake adds, more to himself than anything. He may or may not have had a nightmare or two of the thing and its imperviousness to his powers after the encounter.

"You are welcome." Sage only looked at Scott, offering no rebuttal to his defensive protection of Xavier. Instead she seemed to be more interested in the matter at hand, "No, it isn't. I have my own reservations about that particular organization, but from the data I have been able to collect, I do not believe that they are knowingly or willfully working against the X-Men. The odds are currently in favour of the DEO being completely unaware of the fact that they are being used to further an agenda that has nothing at all to do with them."

Sage turned to study Drake, the weight of her gaze settling on him as she listened to his question, "If there were a mole, I would have eliminated them already." Her voice was entirely clinical, as if she were talking of cleaning mud from her boots or brushing raindrops off her coat, and not eliminating a human (or mutant) being. "This is something more subtle, more clandestine than that." Offhandedly, "It has been secured. And no, it isn't crying."

"Likely, yeah." Scott says about the mole from Drake. "Follow the money right now just points back at Trask and their supporters, which is again, too easy and probably intended."

"Found, isolated, dealt with not eliminated." The X-Man says, "That is what you meant, right?" He stresses with a forced polite. "The child, a boy. Yeah, safely relocated and being investigated still… we'll hear more in time on that one."

A tip to one side on his shoes and Scott peers around the tree nearest him and then back towards them both, "Details are not required right now but this is confirmation we're on the same page at least. I have more we need to discuss, a lot and I'm not going to pry on how deep you are yet but I'd like some kickback so I know where to operate on our end."

Scott's question, well, request, for clarification of what she meant by her words only receives a glance back towards the man, her tone still as impartial as it had been since they began the conversation, "I do not suffer threats to the X-Men lightly." And that's about all he's going to get out of her. Best not to start that battle right now. "If you did not already know that you were on the right track, you would never have called me." Too well she knew that, for most of the X-Men, those who had any faint memory or recollection of her, never seeing her again would have been too soon. "But we do need to talk. Now and not later." She turned her attention back to Drake. "You will have to excuse us. Twenty minutes should suffice and then you can return to your evening plans." She tipped her head in Scott's direction, before she began to move away from where they had stopped, moving further into the interior of the park, closer to the small artificial pond that had been placed nearly at its center.

"That is something I like to hear." Scott says, he gives Drake a nod, "I'll see you at the school later on, unless, you do need that ride." There is no lingering though as he strides off alongside Sage further on in the to park their conversation lowering in to hushed tones, no more smiles as that quasi-permanent frown of Summers appears etched across his brow…

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