"leaps in after Rogue, splashing her with water"
"leaps in after Rogue, splashing her with water"
"Why, Blue. Why? Where is he, Henry?"
"I wish I knew… Scott was in a coma after our recent encounter with the Sentinels, but as soon as he woke up… he simply vanished with barely a trace."
Henry smiled brightly and stroked Storm’s ivory hair. “It has been much too long, my dear friend. It is surely a good sign that so many are returning to us.” The mutant physician could not help but feel happy around the weather goddess. She always had such a warm, nurturing aura about her. Hank let out a laugh. Ororo knew him all too well. “I maintain my figure by exercising both my mind and body on a regular basis,” he said, only half joking.
"No, it is very fortunate that we have had no deaths in the family as of late. We are flourishing, despite everything. We mutants remain steadfast. Even after Sentinels. Even after M-Day. Even after Norman Osborn." Beast neglected to go into detail about the last one or mention his disease. The warmth he had just felt rushed away for a moment. He managed another smile and sat down next to Ororo on the bed. "Jean has returned. Again. It has been quite a pleasant surprise. No negative feedback as of yet, a la Dark Phoenix or the Goblin Queen." Hank paused briefly. "And what of you? How were your travels?"
"Your exercise regimen includes the Danger Room I presume," Ororo responded playfully, wriggling her toes against the soft cotton of her bedsheets. "I must get in a few sessions as well, I’m afraid I’m a little…rusty.” Not at using her powers - weather manipulation came to the Egyptian-born as naturally as breathing, just as telepathy easily came to Jean, and healing to Logan. It was an intrinsic part of their bodies, like another muscle. Even without using her powers in a combat situation, her “muscle memory” meant she could still hold her own in most fights. However, the snow haired woman would always firmly believe that her hand to hand combat could always use a little work.
As Hank continued, Storm couldn’t help but frown. So much had happened in her absence; Perhaps she should have come sooner. The azure eyed mutant did have a duty to her fellow kind, after all. “I’m sorry I could not be here to help. I should have been here,” she finally sighed, sincerity ringing with every word. “I am quite glad to hear of her return. And that said return has yet to reveal any untoward consequences.” The Dark Phoenix had been a brutal experience for everyone involved, and Ororo had no desire to relive that. Lips curving upwards, in the sort of brave smile she always showed her friends, Storm shrugged. “It was good - I learned so much and yet it will never feel enough. I just-” She paused. “I needed it. I wish I were stronger, but I needed to be away.”
"Yes, naturally it does. Although we had a bit of an issue with her recently. The Danger Room that is," Hank clarified. "It appears that a Shi’ar artificial intelligence had been living with us for quite some time. Fortunately, the Danger Room is once again fully functional, sans homicidal AI. We can conduct several rounds of training exercises for you. Perhaps it will help you get back in the swing of things, so to speak," suggested the Beast with a broad, toothy grin.
Hank’s large hand remained comfortingly on Storm’s upper back. “Do not blame yourself, Ororo. Your journey was a necessary one. Although your assistance would have been valuable, we managed. Kitty has made a wonderful headmistress in your absence.” He smiled softly at his friend. “You need not feel badly. As you say, you were doing what was vital to your well-being. And now that you have rejoined us, I am certain everyone will be overjoyed to see you.”
"Come back …"
"Jean… I can only imagine the pain you are experiencing."
Darcy came back to the Tower from her daily coffee run, or she should say nightly. She stopped at the counter in the lobby to see if there was anyone she needed to talk to or if anyone decided they wanted to stay at the tower. It was Friday and she was hoping that she would not have any last minute meetings, hoping to curl up and read some files.
As Darcy was walking to the elevator she thought she recognized someone, she smiled as she realized who he was. She did not know him personally but she had seen pictures in files and such. Darcy decided to speak to him and walked over. “Hello! I am Darcy Lewis, are you looking for someone?” She asked as she tilted her head to the right ever so slightly.
Henry McCoy had been spending quite a bit of time in the city lately, and in Avengers Tower in particular. His work was keeping him there. That is to say, his scientific endeavors, not his work as a superhero or activist. He was juggling his own research and helping others with their personal problems. Friday night and he was still at the Tower. Hank had only descended from his lab in order to fetch some coffee. There was a fully-equiped kitchen in the Tower, but the blue mutant preferred to get his from a dinky little coffee stand that he and Flash liked.
Hank sauntered through the lobby and over to the elevator, having returned with his beverage. He turned as the petite young woman approached and addressed him. “Salutations, Ms. Lewis. I recollect making your acquaintance some months ago,” he said with a warm smile. “If my memory serves, we had an engaging discussion about Norman Osborn and his rather tyrannical and devious modus operandi. But to reply to your query, no, I am not searching for anyone. I am simply indulging in a brief respite from my research. And what of you? To what purpose are you here this evening?”
Location: Madripoor, Southeast Asia
Time: Somewhere around 3:00 AM
Darkness had descended upon the environment hours before and had swallowed the details of the surroundings completely. The ominous thunderclouds above were concealed in the blackness as consequence of their presence, which had blocked out the illuminative stars and equally radiant moon. The notorious assassin approached the concealed location waded in shadows, hidden in the shades of countless trees of which the leafless branches reached towards the sky not unlike claws. The scent of rain filled her nostrils, but her attention was located somewhere else as she manoeuvred soundlessly but with undeniable pace through the neighbourhood. The ominousness didn’t bother her.
Aware that she remained invisible to the prying eyes of questionably innocent civilians, she reflected upon her time with the Secret Avengers. The man, codename the Beast, she had become acquaintances with when both of them operated under the protective concealment of the labels superheroes and members of the black ops branch in which the both of them had been rather abundant components. Nevertheless, she had never approached them with business unrelated to the organisation, nor had she been able to decide the extend of his adherence. Nonetheless, considering questioning him would inevitably raise suspicious towards her as consequence, she would not. His trust in her capabilities and intentions was of importance in this mission, especially since her agenda differentiated from his but the successfulness of said different plans depended on him more than was favourable.
As consequence of their statuses the partners had travelled towards their final destination separately. Natasha, herself, had arrived hours prior in Lowtown, Madripoor, when the clouds had been less present and the sun had been capable of illuminating the earth beneath. The place had once been a haven for pirates, a tradition that was somewhat continued with the lawless quality of the island. The nation had been supposedly taken over by HYDRA with Madame Hydra as de facto ruler, using the island to finance terrorist plots against the world. Hydra’s terrorist operations had already caused deaths in the thousands. Therefore the widow figured she’d devastate them before the situation became even more uncontrollable, which was the real reason she had agreed to an operation with the Beast.
He had been told that their collaborated intentions were to save the women that had been abducted and were to be sold. SHIELD had woven a web of lies for the widow again, now it was up to her to pull the correct thread at the correct time to unravel the truth in such a manner that he would feel obliged to help. It’d be hard, but it was doable, Natasha concluded as her pale knuckles made contact with the material of the door. One knock, another, and then silence. Patiently she waited for him to open.
When Natasha had informed Hank that SHIELD wanted them to go on a mission to Madripoor, he had been less than thrilled. However, upon adding that it was in an effort to stop human trafficking, Beast signed on in a heartbeat. It did not matter if there were mutants among the kidnapped victims or not. He could not stand to see oppression in any form it was inflicted. The X-Man suspected that Black Widow knew this and it is was for this reason she and SHIELD had chosen him for the assignment. That and the fact that the two of them had worked covert missions before in the Secret Avengers.
Beast had traveled to their destination separately from his mission partner, as planned. He had borrowed one of the smaller jets from the X-Men’s fleet and arrived a few days before Natasha. Under the pretense of searching for any new mutants that may have surfaced in the island nation, he checked into a local hotel. He had been briefed about Hydra’s heavy involvement in the country’s politics and the corrupt authoritative bodies, although Wolverine had already told him plenty about the latter.
In order to avoid suspicion, should anyone be watching him, Hank would leave the shabby hotel during the day and make a show of traveling around the capital city. Mostly he hit up the poorer neighborhoods in his investigation. Enough people spoke English or Mandarin Chinese that Henry could get by understanding what they were saying and could reply in a broken mix of both. It was very different than his usual mode of speech and if he were to be honest, made him uncomfortable. He was used to the luxury of being able to exercise the full extent of his vocabulary. During his interviews the hero asked not only about mutants, but regarding any recent disappearances and where unsavory types hung out in the area. His endeavors had turned up a few leads that he would share with Black Widow once she arrived.
Now, on the night of Natasha’s scheduled arrival, the scientist sat in his hotel room in an anxious anticipation. The late hours did not bother him, he was used to that. No, it was not that. It had been quite a while since he had been on this type of mission. He hoped it was like riding a bicycle and would all come flooding back to him any moment now. The covert specialist was no doubt conducting an investigation of her own before she came to fetch him.
McCoy was in mid-sip when the knock came at the door. His fur stood up and he nearly split his seventh cup of coffee. Standing up, the blue mutant strode over to the paint-chipped door to peer through the peep hole. It was Natasha. Or it appeared to be her at any rate. Hank opened the door a crack, the chain still latched. “Truly, I never thought I would venture to this place. Logan’s stories have built it up to be a thoroughly detestable and disgusting place. Yet, here I am.” He paused and dug through his mind to remember the call and response code they were to say to confirm each other’s identities. This woman before him looked and smelled like the Widow he knew, but protocol dictated this precaution. “But before we compare notes, it is delightful weather we have been having, is it not?” he asked, fully expecting a reply suggesting that the furry man go sunbathing.
"Well, Cassie, you may call me Hank," he said with a grin. Beast gave a hearty laugh at her comment about Nova. "No, I cannot say that he has ever denoted you by any such nicknames. I am not surprised however, as that sort of behavior does sound like our Sam." It had been a while since the young hero’s last visit. Certainly he saw him for brief glimpses from time to time around the school or the tower, but they had not sat down and talked for months. He had taken quite a liking to the young man and missed him dearly.
Stature’s words jolted Henry from his thoughts and back to the present. The scientist wrinkled his brow and nodded. “Indeed. Although it has been quite a span of time since I have studied Pym particles. And as I said, you may refer to me as Hank. Hopefully it will not be terribly confusing given I share that name with the originator of Pym particles.” McCoy perched himself on a nearby counter, legs crossed, and motioned for Cassie to find a seat herself. “Please, do not misunderstand my apprehension. I will be happy to assist you in discovering the determinant of your malfunctioning powers. I will do everything in my power.”
Hank quirked a thick, expressive brow and posed the young woman a query. “Cassandra, if you do not mind my asking, how old are you? Ought we to inform your paren- ?” He stopped himself short. Something had clicked in his mind. Tony had once toured Hank through a hall of fallen Avengers, erected in their memory. The X-Man recollected that the girl’s father, the second Antman, was deceased. Scott Lang’s name had been emblazoned on a plaque below the statue of him. “I apologize. That was insensitive of me and you need not answer my inquiry.”
Cassie nodded, giving a small smile. “Hank it is then!” Her smile turned sheepish as she shrugged. “We don’t exactly fight, bickering would be the right word for us!”
"Yes, I know! But I needed someone who had actually worked with them before! And given that I don’t know where Mr Henry is you’re the only person on my ‘Contact if your powers go haywire list’" She added grinning sheepishly. As soon as she heard what he had said her shoulders loosened visibly and she heaved a sigh of relief. "Thank you, Mr. Hank! You have no idea how thankful I am! And if you ever need me for anything I’ll be there to help as much as I can!" Her expression had been tense and worried when she had entered the lab and now it was wearing an expression of happiness and relief. Pulling out a stool from a nearby table she sat down on it, her feet a few inches from the floor, as they swung back and forth.
The blonde gave a small smile as she shook her head. “No, no! Its alright Mr. Hank! I think anyone would ask about my parents given I look rather young! Heck I am young!” She rested her hands on the edge of her stool her knuckles turning white as she gripped the cushion. “I guess you already know my dad died because of an….accident! And I’m not exactly on speaking terms with my mom!” She shrugged. “So I don’t think I have anyone I can actually tell!” She passed before adding. “Well actually I do but i’m not going to tell them about something that could be nothing!” Again she didn’t want anyone to worry on her account. They already did that on a daily basis and as much as she appreciated what they did for her, it just got too much at times. “And I’m nineteen, to answer your first question!”
Bickering. That sounded familiar to Beast. He had made his start on the X-Men with four other unruly teenagers. There had been plenty of bickering. Even now, well into their thirties, he and Scott still butted heads from time to time.
Hank grinned. “I am flattered to have gained such a reputation. Whatever the case, it is more favorable to be the second person to come to mind, rather than not to be recognized at all,” he said with a chuckle.
"Well, you are an adult, legally speaking. If you consent to my treatment then there are no foreseeable issues." The geneticist thought for a moment. His gut instinct was to urge Cassie to not keep her problem from her friends and family. However upon further consideration, he understood her decision. It had been months that he had kept his own affliction a secret before Idie convinced him otherwise. Stature was reaching out for help from him. As a physician and as a fellow human being, he had to respect her right to privacy. "Far be it from me to criticize your crime-fighting activities. I was younger than you when I began my long affair with the superhero game," replied the mutant when she changed the subject.
Henry paused for an instant to brush the long bangs from his face and push up his horned-rimmed spectacles. How best to get started? he wondered to himself. “We may begin now, if you wish. I can perform a few diagnostics and conduct an interview so that I may construct a rough idea of the relationship between the Pym particles and your body.”
"It appears the students were indeed correct that it was a worthwhile purchase."
"Beats the plain ol’ swimmin’ pool we used ta have. Heads up, Ah’m goin’ down again!"
"In that case, I am right behind you, my friend."