Under the Trees

August 29, 2018:

Scott and Sage continue their previous conversation. Immediately follows: Dreams in Digital.

Apple Park, Salem Center

One of the many gentrified parts in Salem Center.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Drake Riley, Charles Xavier

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Under the shade and darkness cast by the park's foliage Scott turns and puts himself in to a lean against one of the slender trees. Hands drifting from his pockets to overlap his biceps, apparently getting comfortable there while the low lighting offers a reflective shine off of his glasses, red, like the eyes beyond.

"We are out of earshot here. Where do I begin or do you want to?"

Sage did not lean, though she did stop close enough that they could speak in privacy. Hands still in her pockets, she once again, allowed that dissecting gaze, her eyes settled on the visor, though, somehow she was not making eye contact with the man standing across from her. She waited, possibly longer than most would consider polite, before she gave a crisp, if small nod of her head, "I'm not seeing any residual damage. Your mind is particularly resilient." Not that that was the question, "I would prefer that you begin. I would rather not cloud your own conclusions with my data."

"Shouldn't be. Not to sound like a glutton for punishment but I'm used to the telepathic tap dance." More than most people would or will ever experience in their life time or several, Scott Summers for a non-psychic has an amazing amount of traffic up there which again for a non-psychic has bolstered a rather impressive mental bullwark. Lesser minds and even some talented ones would fight his mental fortress nigh-impenetrable…

"You know this though. Right, so, I guess I triggered something when I was overlooking files, researching DEO and Stormwatch connections, went back to the SRD to look for leads. It brought us to this point, if we were in contact before this I'm not aware of it and would prefer you give me just exactly how much of an idea of what you're working with and from. You been an ally and someone who has helped us more than enough in the past but still, its time to we play catch up and you assure me this isn't just more of a game inside of the game. I'm not a big fan of sorting through all the damned wreckage I have been lately, red herrings, misdirects, dead ends, it's treacherous footing and starting to skirt deeper in to a world thats suited more for the likes Nick Fury or… you."

"Loyalty though, it is a must. I have to be certain 100% I can trust you. I know I told Drake you're one of us and safe but thats optimisim and I don't want him sniffing around further than he is already let in."

"So, please, enlighten me."

"On the contrary, I think you sound like a man who has made the decision to do whatever needs to be done, regardless of the cost to himself. Noble, but also dangerous." There was no censure in Sage's voice. In truth, there was nothing in her voice, no shred of emotion or inflection. Even her accent was a null quantity, that utterly generic American sound that made it possible for her to be from anywhere or nowhere.

She did allow a shake of her head, at his comment, "We have not been in contact before this. I received the alert while I was overseas. I've only just returned to the States to answer your…summons." There was a pause there, a skip of silence, that, had she wanted to, she might have inserted some indication of humour. But wanting a thing was not the same as doing a thing. And she didn't.

"You told Drake that I was one of you. And while that was an understandable and calculated lie, we both know the truth. You path has never been the path that I have walked, before I was found by Xavier or after. I have never been anything but honest about that. And despite our differences, I am, in many ways, still what he made of me. And part of what he made me to be, was a tool, a presence to, not oversee the X-Men, that he left to you, and those he groomed to be like you, but to safeguard them. My task has always been to intercept threats that prevent the X-Men from completing the mission he has tasked them with. And to eliminate them by whatever means necessary."

"To that end, part of my function is to provide around the clock monitoring of activities, parties, and organizations who have either encountered or associated themselves with the X-Men, officially, or unofficially. Which I have done."

"Trust? Xavier trusts me to do what I have been tasked to do. If you need further reassurances, you will have to be more clear on your parameters."

"By default." Scott remarks about himself, his lips stretch thin as he listens to her response then one foot shuffles with the other. That casual yet guarded tree lean maintained.

"Calculated lies are necessary. Drake is still young, hopeful and eager. I'd rather foster that and make sure hes on the clear path the Professor has set." A pause. A frown…

"We both know I haven't always agreed with your presence and what you have been tasked with. There was a measure of wrong to it and it showed a side of the Professor I didn't understand, not then. Times have changed." A lifetime of living in a post apocalyptic nightmare will do that to someone, you come back to a world you don't want to see mirrored. Just one of many examples.

"So yes, the summons was necessary. Not fully intentional but then, the subconscious does funny things… "

"I'll make sure you're paid, just to lock this in and ensure the professional side of it all. Outside of that, I will continue to insist on the maintained loyalty. No offense and it's not intended as much. All bases covered, you understand." The robotic back and forth is amusing to some part of his mind. "Which, also says with certain parties present, you'll be proclaimed as one of us. Unofficially. Whether thats the true case or not." Which, oddly enough some part of it believes it is.

"I need you to get in to the DEO, deeper. We need intel and to find the mole if you have not already, not just the mole but beyond it and how far up it goes, I want to be able to trust the DEO but if this actual design on their part, we need to be aware. We have to trust our allies and I have been working to make a strong connection with the Department for over a year now, it's for our best interest. All of us." Mutants, X-Men, possibly humans. Scott's not in this for another war, not like Genosha ended up. A victory and a loss. It's a sore spot if he dwells too much.

"Lets avoid eliminating anyone also… I want this clean if it does come to it." That is of course if shes not got enough intelligence yet. Part of the question in there.

"Hope was ever the realm of the X-Men." For Sage, hope was not a word that seemed to exist in her particular vocabulary. "I have always known that you would do what you felt to be right to preserve the School and the tenets on which it was founded. And in so far as it has been given me to do, I will assist you in fulfilling that objective. I think, in the end, it does not matter whether we agree now or ever. We are both what Charles Xavier made us."

If there was anything of amusement in the sight or sense of two people speaking to each other as if they were machines and not human beings, Sage clearly did not seem to see it. But, as this was as close as the woman ever got to being friendly, with Scott or with anyone, it was nothing more of less than her usual mode of being. "You say subconscious, I saw certain mnemonic cursors which have been inserted into your mind to allow you to contact me, but also to protect you from me."

Sage gave Scott's words the consideration they deserved, no doubt adjusting her calculations and her plan of attack to suit his needs. "I will continue to access what files I can, and I have already created a jacket which I can use to infiltrate the organization physically, to monitor the activities that I cannot access remotely." On the topic of being paid, she made no reply, though something in that sentence did warrant a response, "It is not possible to offend me, Scott."

"I have no doubt that this goes far beyond the DEO. They are pawns on the board, and the person or persons moving them on the board is subtle. Not enough, of course, or they would not have been so sloppy as to raise your suspicions or mine." A nod, at Scott's parameters, "No eliminations. I will attempt to work as quickly and efficiently as possible. I will reactivate the conditioning as soon as the mission is successful." And Scott and the rest of the X-Men could go back to forgetting her.

Scott's hand rises up to the back of his neck and squeezes, fingers pressing in hard enough to indent then release, "It matters." He replies dryly.

"Give it time."

"Protection from you? What do you mean by that exactly?"

"We're in agreement there but I want to find out exactly how far, a source… a target. We have to know our enemies."

"Sloppy or misdirection. I am not about to underestimate the unknown." A press off of the tree and hes standing beside her, looking down the dark path, "You'll propose to reactivate it. The Professor isn't around, I'm in charge until hes present again. Please, respect that. I'm not sure exactly the details how things worked between you two but I know enough to keep our operations functional and need-to-know, you'll operate in secrecy where it is important. Just make sure we're on the same page."

"I have a file to send your way when I get back to the mansion if you're ready for it."

"You have spent your life…for the most part, living among friends, lovers, allies. I have spent all of my life living among enemies and traitors. Many of whom would like nothing better than to find a weakness they can use against me, something or someone they can use to damage or destabilize me. Your continued safety, all of your continued safety depends on and is informed by how little all of you know about me. There is a reason no one remembers me, Scott. Never for longer than it is absolutely necessary."

Sage did not move, as Scott came up to stand beside her, nor did she look up the distance required to meet his eyes. She seemed content to allow her gaze to settle on the level of his sternum, as though she did not need to see him to, well, see him. "If I did not respect you, I would not be standing here with you right now. And…whatever you think of my methods, your safety has always been a priority. It was when we were teenagers, it still is now." Despite the fact that she could not see where his head was turned, she responded anyway, "He is still waiting for a ride back to school." She fell silent, before she offered another nod of her head, "I will activate the jacket and let you know as soon as I've made entry into the DEO."

"Preserve the dream. The man was good at getting that wedged right in there wasn't he? " Scott checks his tone and quietly regards Sage for a brief moment, "Do not ever kill on my behalf. Ever… "

The awkwardness Summers feels himself with that statement brushed off with a turn away from the mystery to begin down the pathway back to his car, stopping only to look over his shoulder at her. "And… thank you. You are still an asset to the X-Men, you always have been. Those of us who know about you, when we do… " He considers the others, wondering… "We are not clueless to the hardships you endure, what are you still dealing with and what it has made of you. You are not alone."

"We'll be in touch, Sage."

"In the minds of the X-Men and the ones you have brought into the fold since it was just the five of you, yes. But dreams die if you do not feed them. I, probably more than you will ever know, understand that. And already, the dream is struggling under the weight of the many other influences that are trying to tear you all apart. The Brotherhood and the children of Xavier's oldest friend not the least of all." Sage made no attempt to allow any contact with Scott, moving for the first time to step back enough that he could pass her unmolested. "You are wrong in that Scott. I am always alone. Xavier dreamed…very different dreams when he made us."

Sage did not wait for Scott to disappear along the path, instead turning as soon as she had finished speaking, to head deeper into the darkness under the trees.

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