Interesting People

March 20, 2019:

Iron Guard got an accidental mind-link with Sage when they were fighting monsters in the Rift. So he has been looking for her. And he found her.

Sage's Warehouse HQ


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Cyclops, Polaris


Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

Although the X-Men are no longer the clandestine 'rogue' team they were a few years ago, it is still pretty hard to keep track of them, their members and their base of operations. And doubly so when looking for the woman codenamed Sage, there is virtually nothing from her in databanks. Or even the darknet.

Very little Nathaniel could find right away, but the young man is some vast resources at his disposal. What he lacks is the time to deploy them all to find a woman he met just once. He is curious, but he is not that curious.

But Sage linked up with his mind and his armor. It was brief, but it would have overloaded most human telepaths. Not that woman, whose mind was so advanced and fast she could keep up with the flow of information. It was strange and chilling to get suck a contact without the filters of a telepathic plug. But Nathaniel does what he does to find the strange and the interesting.

So he put on the time he had to spare to find Sage. And it took weeks. Maybe he needs to work on his detective skills. Maybe she is that good at covering her tracks. And maybe he is lingering too long at the door of this warehouse, she is a telepath and he is not using his armor to shield himself.

In fact he seems to be wearing normal clothes, but appearances are deceptive.

Sage sat, as she usually did, on the only piece of confortable furniture in the warehouse. The loveseat that served as both where she worked and where she slept. Her eyes scanned the security feeds that filtered through her glasses, watching the young man approaching her door. She made no attempt to infiltrate his mind, to send words his way. But she could feel him, like the shiver of a hidden fish in deep water. It was always that way when she allowed her telepathy free rein. It was to many, a curse they could not turn off. The face she did not recognize, for though she had been in his mind, people tended not to think of how they looked, making it difficult to catch an image of themselves unless you dove deep. But he felt familiar. And so, the door unlatched, once it became apparent that he intended to stay out there the whole of the night.

It was only 4.78 minutes. Nathaniel wouldn't have it go past five. Maybe six. Also, there was no ring bell, was it? Of course he could have sent a signal a variety of ways. No, he was indecisive this time. Happens sometimes. Second-guessing himself is a reflex nowadays.

But there is no hesitancy at accepting the implicit invitation. "Good afternoon, Sage," he greets. She might recognize the voice, despite the lack of the armor distorter, his faint accent is unique. No many humans in this century have Interlac as native tongue. Facial recognition software would also identify him easily, since Iron Guard does not have a secret identity.

A mostly empty warehouse. It says much of the single occupant, "I have to admit this is more Spartan I expected," he comments.

Sage looked up from where, well, she seemed to have been staring off into space. Her glasses were not completely opaque. "I have had a number of people say that to me. I have everything that I need. Food, water," which Nathaniel would see as he passed the cargo containers. They were full of MREs from nearly every sort of military and flats of bottled water, "And a place to work and sleep. What else does one put into a house? No need to worry, there aren't any security systems between here and there for you to risk activating, Iron Guard."

"Most human beings desire to surround themselves with more commodities of what they strictly need," replies the young man. "You are a modern ascetic or is this an issue caused by your abilities…" he stops, offering a faint smile. "My apologies, I am perhaps too curious. In fact is the primary reason I came

By now he is close enough to the dark-haired woman, and he offers his hand. "My name is Nathaniel Richards, it is a pleasure to meet you again, Sage."

Sage rose from her seat, as Nathaniel approached, so that he did not have to lean down to take her hand. He still had nearly a foot on her, but she did not seem to pay that much mind, "And you, Nathaniel Richards. Perhaps a bit of both. Not having…possessions means that I do not leave anything behind when I have to move to a new location. And the requirements of my mutation makes controlling my caloric intake the best way to fuel my abilities. Sit, if you like, and tell me what else you're curious about." People, generally, did not seek out Sage.

"Ah, and a nomad," Nathaniel seems to understand that. Even though when he can he quickly becomes the opposite: a collector. "I am curious about almost everything," he replies to her inquire. "See… I am currently living in the distant past from my point of view. And I am part of the greatest heroic age of Earth. The events of this time will become legends in the distant future."

He takes the offered seat and looks at the woman studiously for a few seconds. "But there are much more to learn and experience than the battles of Thor, Wolverine or Captain America. I keep finding secrets upon secrets, people that are footnotes or even completely unknown yet extremely important. And then I find you, and a mind organized much like we do, back in my time."

Pause. "You are not a time traveler, are you?"

"I am what I was made to be. A tool, a weapon, a means to an end. That does not lend itself well to 'putting down roots'." Sage shifted on the loveseat, so that she could look across at Nathaniel as he settled himself on the loveseat. It was not one of those super cozy, perfect for 'watching' movies sort, and so there was enough room between them that he would not feel crowded. "That would explain the level of technology of your systems. They were more advanced than anything I have ever seen before." Talk of legends and stories brought a twist to Sage's lips, "If I am unknown to you, then it would seem that I faded into the faceless masses." This did not seem to bother her in the least. "I am not a traveler. I am a mutant. A cyberpath, though I have other skills as well." Like the telepathy, which he had already experienced.

It had been, of course, a rhetoric question. His armor sensors had detected not divergent tachyon signature. If she could hide that from him, then it didn't matter who she was. And Cybertelepathics, not merely regular telepathics could explain the advance mental structure, he supposes. Although it is a little anticlimactic. "Well," he considers, "there is almost nothing on Batman in my archives. But after my first year here, I am convinced he is one of the most important men in the world, a major influence in the criminal and law-enforcement fields. But his enemies did everything to erase him from all historical records. So I cannot assume I know anything anymore. Besides, the timeline has already diverged."

Sage listened without interruption, which was to say, she simply stared at him, entirely devoid of emotion. It did not seem to be done with any attempt at disconcerting him, but seemed more, simply her usual mode of being. "They have often said that history is written by the victors. And Batman, for all his tools and weapons, is only a man. And all men die. Most are forgotten, whether they attempted to leave a mark on the world or not, given worlds enough and time."

Nathaniel nods. "History was written by the victors. History shall be written by the victors," this time he sounds deadly serious. "Some events should never be forgotten." He shakes his head. Then smiles again, although it doesn't touch his eyes. "My armor should have rejected and filtered your cyberpathics, as it is attuned to my mental signature and brain processes, which are as personal as the specific DNA strand, and harder to falsify. The security malfunctioned due to the reality alterations of the extra-dimensional creatures inside the rift. So you were able to interface it is. It should be closed now, but can you feel it?"

Sage tilted her head, studying the man sitting across from her, "Does it bother you that I was able to infiltrate your systems? I think the rift changed many things, the nature of reality, the abilities we have and how we use them. It was your mind I accessed as well as the systems in your armor. I don't know if I would have been able to do that otherwise. And I have not attempted to test your systems. Do you want me to?"

"Of course it bothered me," admits Nathaniel. "It was my mind and my… my work, I suppose. It was also caused by exceptional circumstances and events, and ultimately it was very useful. I am not complaining. Just verifying."

He doesn't particularly want Sage connecting with his suit ever again, although a confirmation she can't do it would be fine. And would allow him to get clear readings of her power. Always learning.

"Unlike some telepaths you might encounter, Nathaniel Richards, I do not make it a point to simply invade a mind out of a need to amuse myself. Besides, my skills in that arena are moderate in comparison to what others can do. Like my ability to interface with computer systems, or to multi-task at a superior level, it is simply a tool I use when necessary." Sage did not make the attempt to invade his systems. because even she seemed to understand his discomfort.

"I did not infer you would," replies Nathaniel calmly. "My statement referenced a past event. I am not displeased, quite the opposite. I am curious." And maybe this is the time to change subjects. "You said you had been made to be a weapon? It that the typical training of the X-Men? I had only met a couple of your teammates in the past. One was a time traveler, but from an immediate future."

Sage actually smiled, well, at least she curled her lips in what passed, for her, with amusement, "I am not a member of the X-Men, though I have been working with them on a more regular basis than I have in years past. Though I was also trained by Charles Xavier. But that was long ago, and he made me what I am, as he made them what they are."

Nathaniel studies Sage again, briefly. No, it can't have been 'long ago' as the woman is not even thirty. "And does not it bother you? You could have been anything you choose, and still can. Your mind is able to do much more than what the average human can do, even without your mutant abilities." Then again, the sparse room does not seem to belong to someone with dreams and ambitions.

Sage, rather than answering the question, instead, asked one of her own, "In your time, do they create minds of one sort or another? This one a doctor, that one an engineer, this one an athlete," she dipped her head in Nathaniel's direction, "Or a soldier. Do they choose what someone will be before or after they are born?"

"No," replies Nathaniel. "Mind you, it would have been very easy. In the Twenty Seventh Century the human genetic code was completely understood. It was possible, and indeed it was done, to genetically engineer god-like reality warping super-soldiers. And the Third Eugenic War annihilated half the human race and erased from the map whole countries, in some cases they were completely erased from -history-. Afterwards that kind of action was utterly outlawed, and even minor genetic engineering and was discouraged."

Nathaniel sighs, "no more super-soldiers. No more mutants. Metahumans became exceedingly rare. Although humankind did manage to eliminate most diseases and kept a minor few improvements."

"But the work had already been done, correct? Even if you were not allowed to engineer minds and bodies, you were the products of the work and actions of others who came before you." Sage leaned over to the small table beside the loveseat, retrieving a bottle of water and another which she offered to Nathaniel. "In the 21st century, we are not there yet. Much of what we learn as humans, is taught to us from either our families, of which I had none, or by those who take us in and teach us what our purpose is in life. And that is, this is what I was made to be. It is what I know and what I am good at. I am, as you have likely learned, if you looked for traces of me, a ghost in the machine, if you will. Without a name, or a place, or a purpose except this one. I can look at another human being, I an see the potential in their genes and I can make them what they were meant to be, but I cannot do the same for myself, as it has already been done."

"Education is a different issue," comments Nathaniel, accepting the bottle. "I was in some degree educated by my parents, but there was also, ah, many other elements involved to open my mind and prepare me for a very high-technology society and a greatly increased lifespan."

As for Sage herself. He got some hints of her 'ghost' status, yes. Nathaniel took her retinal and finger-prints, and got nothing even from SHIELD databanks. Nothing from her face. Almost nothing from her name. It was not just lack of information, it seems clear someone has been erasing what tracks should there be. And she is a cybertelepath, so he will assume it was her. "Well… there is power in total anonymity. If that is what you want, or need."

“As there were for me. Education of the academic sort, in many ways is only a thin veneer over the person that we become over our lifetimes. Hunger, constant cold, the pain of a lash or the back of a hand, the need to take life to preserve your own, the feeling of a lover's hand on your cheek…there are many ways in which the world educates us." Sage cracked the seal on the bottle, taking a long swallow, before she set the water aside on her knee, "In this current climate, it is better that no one knows who or where I am, or else I have no doubt that I would find myself being hunted."

Nathaniel shakes his head, "no, experience is a different kind of learning. Mine was supposed to be guided for decades, but then I came here…" he smiles faintly. "I was sixteen, and called myself Iron Lad. I thought I was prepared for anything this 'primitive' world could throw at me. I was not. But I survived."

The current climate… not great for some variants of superhuman, yet she is not an obvious mutant. "Are you giving anyone reasons to hunt you down?"

"What I am gives people reason to hunt me down. Telepathy, the use of psionics, even the ability to interface with computers and systems at nearly an organic level…those skills are almost common, among mutants." Sage settled back on the couch, never removing her glasses, but around the edges tendrils of brilliant blue white energy began to emanate.

"None of those traits are illegal," but being a mutant is dangerous in the US right now. But it has been for two decades. Not a legal cause for discrimination, yet. "Unless you are using them in a way some agencies would disapprove. In which case it might be best if I do not know," because Iron Guard is an Avenger, after all. They respond to the UN, and work with SHIELD.

But he is quite sure it is what she does what would cause her to be hunted down. "There was a project, before the alien invasion of New York, to invite a few mutant heroes into the Avengers and create an integrated 'Unity Squad'. An attempt to counter the rising anti-mutant movement in the country. Unfortunately it, and some other projects, have been derailed by last year's events."

Sage was silent, for a few seconds longer than was comfortable, before the glow around her eyes faded, "They did amazing work with you genetic code. Removed and modified the genes necessary to give you an extended lifespan, increased your resistance to radiation well beyond anything I have seen before. Reworked the genes responsible for addiction and mental instability." Sage's attention focused on Nathaniel, "There is no trace of the x-men in your code. Though…I wonder if I could find some dormant trace of it with enough searching." She shook her head, "No, none of those traits is illegal."

"You can make a full genetic scan with your power?" Nathaniel is quiet for a second. Then speaks again. "No. See… the x-gen was removed from all humankind centuries before my birth. Except some marginal groups that preferred to exile themselves to other planets. And most of those eventually also resorted to genetic engineer to avoid the randomness of mutant power manifestation. I am the logical consequence of many centuries of minor changes."

And at least a major one. At some point in humankind history someone decided extreme resistance to radiation was a necessary trait. The kind of resistance required to survive in a nuclear wasteland for a whole lifetime. It does not require a genius to imagine why.

"But truly," he continues, "in my timeline, humans renounced to their genetic potential and turned to technology to solve all their problems. It was, I think, a cowardly decision."

Sage nodded, "I can catalog the complete genetic structure of anything human or otherwise that has a genetic structure and manipulate certain elements to create a desired change in that genetic structure. In the case of some humans with either existing or potential abilities, I can evolve and activate those abilities." She snorted, a rather uncharacteristic sound, for her, as she reclaimed her water, "I suppose you could say…I can make mutants." Which is all that Nathaniel would need to know to know precisely why anyone would want to hunt her, "Perhaps unmake them as well, that, I have not yet had a chance to test."

Nathaniel looks at Sage thoughtfully after her statement. He can, of course, realize the potential of that ability. About 2% of humankind has a viable metagen that can fire off in moment of crisis. Deadly crisis. Many times it won't be enough to save the person, but sometimes it produces super-humans. If Sage can activate this metagen safely…

"You should not tell that to anyone," he decides. "Yes, you would be hunted if it becomes know. You should not have told me."

Sage tilted her head, as though she were studying the man sitting across from her, "But it was what you wanted to know, wasn't it? When you came here? You didn't come here because you wanted to visit a complete stranger, or to discuss the events of the Rift. You wanted to know who and what I was and why I was able to do something that should have been impossible. You wanted to know what made me unique." Sage nodded, at his words, "It is not something that I advertise. And if I believed that you would use it to your own advantage, then we would be having an entirely different discussion."

Nathaniel hehs softly. "I want to know all the interesting people, Sage." He almost winces when she mentions he won't be using it to his advantage. He wouldn't, right now. But if he becomes Kang despite everything? Would Kang try to use Sage?

Maybe not. His older self was strongly anti-mutant. He did employ super-humans occasionally, but never creating them. At least he hopes not.

"I suppose my curiosity was satisfied," he admits, smiling again. "And more. You are intriguing at a personal level. Perhaps we should meet again in the near future."

"There are far more interesting people in the world than I, Nathaniel Richards. And so I will take the fact that you trudged all of this way to see me," and it was a bit of a slog through the docks, "As a compliment. I will attempt to make it less difficult for you to find me, should you need me again, or if you'd meet again. And if that fails, there are a few within the X-Men who always know how to reach me. Cyclops and Polaris would be the most expedient."

Nathaniel stands up, nodding at the woman, "then perhaps you could introduce me to those other interesting persons. Including Cyclops and Polaris. Although Polaris seems to be easy to find, she lives in Mutant Town, if I remember correctly." As for himself, "as for me, you can find me through the Avengers. JARVIS will reroute all calls from my list of persons of interest. It was a pleasure to meet you, Sage. Farewell."

Sage rose to her feet as her guest did, moving to walk him from the warehouse. She was a terrible host, but apparently not that terrible. "I think they would both be interested to meet you, though Cyclops has been extremely difficult to find lately. Perhaps when next we meet, I can offer you something more interesting than water. Farewell, Nathaniel Richards."

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