A Coordinated Response

Summary:
August 20, 2014: The X-men Blue and Red teams meet to coordinate their response to an atrocity in Syria, plus a number of other problems facing mutants.

X-Men Red Team Headquarters

Accessible primarily by a dedicated express elevator, the two-floor headquarters of the X-Men Red Team combines the amenities of an ultramodern office with the homey, communal quality of a college dormitory. A small, well-appointed waiting room gives way to a grand, two-story central hub. There, the team can meet for briefings at a ring-shaped conference table with built-in computer consoles and a central holographic display. There are also smaller tables, couches, and armchairs scattered through the room, easy to reposition for meals, close conversations, or movie nights. One entire wall of the hub is lined with windows, offering a view toward Central Park.

The other walls of the hub are split into two levels, with the upper accessible by a U- shaped walkway and two grand staircases. Above the waiting room, one can find a bullpen with dedicated work stations, offering the latest software for a whole host of productive tasks. A patio balcony off to one side offers a taste of the outdoors, as well as a small landing pad for fliers or one-person vehicles. Living quarters line both floors: full-fledged apartments offering balcony views and a decent level of privacy. The X-Men also have a private underground motor pool, kept separate from the garage for the rest of the building's occupants.


Characters

NPCs

  • Simon, Roberto's personal assistant

Mood Music:


Finally, the Red Team headquarters are fully operational. A modest support staff can be seen milling around, monitoring situations worldwide, working on contracts and grant proposals, or completing tasks on the projects already underway. Most of the team are down in M-Town acting as security, but Roberto made a special trip up here for his meeting with Storm. He's dressed in a sleek business suit, sitting by the briefing console, and reading the news as he waits for her, the sun shining through the grand window behind him.

-

Ororo's very stature is enough for her to make an entrance, tall, lithe, and graceful, she oozes regal bearing with every step. As she walks out of the elevator to the Red Team headquarters, it is no different. She is wearing a maxi dress, perfect for summer, in a bold red that compliments her skin tone.

Looking over the Red Team's HQ, she lets a hint of a smile escape, nodding in approval. "I see you have taken the role of leadership well in stride, Roberto."

-

Roberto stands as Ororo enters. Something about her carriage seems to ask no less. "I've been leading a company for years now," he answers with a broad smile. "Leading a team is something different. Really, I just pay the bills and make sure the rest of the group has what they need."

He walks over to take her hand and press his lips gently to the back, then says, "Hello, Ororo. It's good to see you again. Can I get you anything? Water? Tea?"

-

Ororo can't help but let a bit of that motherly affection she has for all the students show. After a kiss to her hand, she cups his face in her palm for a moment. "Look at you. You have grown so much. Undoubtedly as much of a heartbreaker as before, if not more so." Her smile fades, as do the clouds that were starting to form overhead just from that small display of emotion. "Water would be lovely, thank you."

Gesturing to one of the chairs, Ororo's blue eyes follow Roberto as he goes to get her water. "Shall we get straight to business? Or do you prefer to socialize for a bit?"

-

"One of the benefits of running my own group is that I get to mix my social and business lives as much as I want," Roberto answers with a grin. He waves over his bespectacled assistant, telling him to bring water glasses for both of them, then offers Ororo a seat in a low, cushioned chair at one of the tables scattered around the room. "So I can both ask how you've been and what brings you here. Feel free to answer in whatever order you like." Clearly, he's making a bit of a joke of this completely nonexistent distinction between his own team and the others.

-

Ororo lowers herself into the seat offered, her posture as tall and proud as she is herself. Even though she makes no effort to do so, she makes every chair she sits in seem like a throne. "Have you seen the news from Syria? I fear that it will make many problems for your team at the Burning Human. I myself was there yesterday, just to help out if it was needed. Thankfully, it wasn't."

"As to why I am here, that incident in Syria is precisely the reason."

-

Ordinarily Bobby is all about 'low profile.' However, the very idea he and the others have been working on with 'Berto involves being more out there, more open about who you are and what you can do. Doesn't mean it makes you better… though sometimes it's damn convenient. Like today. Parking is always a pain in New York and today he had some files to bring over to the building from, like, five blocks away. Rather then walk, he simply ice-bridged over. Skips the elevator too as he skids to a halt on one of the empty apartment balconies, dusts himself off - he's still not quite used to this - and heads on inside. "Berto! Got that proposal you were looking at for- Oh, Miss Munroe. Didn't know you were here."

-

"Yes, I have heard about it," Roberto answers Ororo with a somber expression. "It has certainly put a damper on the mood of the festival, but I think we can keep it under contr— oh." Bobby's arrival cuts his answer off, and he smiles at his teammate.

At that moment, his assistant returns with water for him and Ororo. Roberto accepts his glass and says, "Simon, put Bobby's proposal on my desk, would you? Obrigado. Please join us, Bobby. I suspect this may concern the whole team."

Turning back to Ororo, he asks, "And I suspect it has to do with more than just the festival, too."

-

Not far behind Bobby comes Scott, having heard about the meeting. The developments in Syria were troubling to him, and if nothing else, he wanted to know what Red Team had going on. He suspected there may come a time when all of the X-Men would be called to respond to this threat, whatever it turned out to be.

Joining the others, he bears a solemn expression on his face. He doesn't even speak up to offer a verbal greeting, not yet at least, instead opting to hang back for a moment with his arms crossed over his chest.

-

Accepting the glass of water, 'Ro takes a sip before speaking. "Charles sent Remy and I to Syria. He felt that it was important for us to be there. Sadly, we arrived too late. Every mutant there was already dead. We were able to get our hands on one of the deployment devices used to spread the virus. The self destruct sequence didn't work properly. I had hoped to take it to Hank, but he has so many other projects underway that I just couldn't weigh him down with yet another one. So, I have brought the device to you. I thought perhaps your team could investigate it."

-

Bobby puts the folder on Roberto's desk, listning with a frown. He'd heard about Syria too. You couldn't miss it, it's been all over the news. The 'virus' bit though? Not so much. News agencies have been reporting it as a sarin or mustard gas attack. And really without looking at the autopsies there'd be no way to know that wasn't complete bunk.

"Virus? Wait, Syria? You were there?" Bobby grimaces. "That's been all over M-Town. Really got people on edge. You found the people that did it then? If you got one of the devices, I assume so…"

-

Roberto is also puzzled by the mention of a virus. "Is this the same virus that Hank has been innoculating us against?" he asks Ororo. He spots Cyclops entering the room, and waves to an open chair next to Storm's. "Certo, I can have our tech people take a look at it. Doug may be able to figure something out from it, and if not, I've got some industrial engineers who may be able to figure something out."

Simon checks to see if either of the new arrivals needs a refreshment of some kind, before running off with Bobby's proposal.

-

Closing her eyes, Ororo shakes her head with a sigh. "No, there was no sign of them at the village. It was a ghost town already. Maybe humans died from the panic that all the dying was causing." She sips at her water and turns in her seat to face Bobby. "You remember the innoculation you were given? Hank mentioned a Dr. DiLucci to you, I believe? We have reason to believe that Tel Tamar was a dry run for here. For Burning Human. I realize that doesn't give us much time, but we have to find and disarm these devices if we can."

-

Taking the offered seat next to Storm, Scott nods his head toward Roberto, but there is no smile. The weight of so many mutant deaths is simply too great.

"There were human deaths, too?" he asks, seeking clarification. Of Simon, he simply asks for a glass of water.

-

Bobby looks a bit quiet and grim as he finds a seat. "So you think they're going to try that here? I guess it's a good thing we got innoculated then." Bobby looks over at Roberto. "Looks like we're gonna kick off a bit sooner than planned mmm? Is there anything I can do to help? This sounds beyond bad." The drug problem in M-Town is bad enough right now. Adding an awful, lethal, mutant targeting virus is kind of beyond the pale.

"Who else knows about this? Sounds like an all hands on deck situation."

-

A two-dimensional circle of light edged in eldritch fire opens like a hobbit doorway over to one side, the blonde sorceress stepping through. She's in jeans and sneakers with a slightly too-large T-shirt that a) isn't black and b) doesn't have a heavy metal band on it. Illyana's brows arch just a bit. "Company. Hey."

-

Roberto perks up at Ororo's mention of the festival. "Our group is all over M-Town right now. If these devices are there, we will find them," he says confidently. "I can have photographs sent to the phones of our people in the district immediately."

Something Bobby says gives him pause, though. "I don't know about all hands," he says cautiously. "I can imagine a lot of agencies that wouldn't mind getting their hands on this virus. For the moment, I think we should keep this an internal X-men matter. No NYPD, no federals."

Roberto's assistant, Simon, deftly steps out of the way as Illyana's portal appears. He hands Scott the water he asked for — typically of Roberto, they're all drinking Fiji. This is quickly turning into a full-on team briefing.

-

Ororo is having a hard enough time keeping her steady calm without thinking of all that death. True, she didn't kill any of them, but with so many she can't but feel if she had flown the Blackbird just a little faster. Thunderheads have been threatening ever since Syria happened, but haven't actually done anything yet. Storm at least has that much control of her emotions. "Yes Scott. With all the mutants dying, there was panic in the streets. People were crushed underfoot."

She closes her eyes, keeping her breathing steady. "The device is down in the trunk of my car downstairs. It does still have the bomb attached to it, but it has been deactivated. I have been warned against using lightning against it though, so I think it is likely still dangerous. There as another person there. A soldier. A cyborg, I believe. He had glowing wires under his skin and a pet … demonic lizard. He said he had friends that would also like to get their hands on the device. He did not come across as wanting to harm, but rather to help."

-

News of the panic has Scott frowning deeper still. He leans forward, resting bare arms upon his blue jeans, and seems lost in thought for a few moments.

Roberto eventually gets an approving look, for his proposal was something Scott agreed with. "We wouldn't want to commit too many members to one location, either," he recommends. "We suspect M-Town may be a target. True. But it may not be the next target." He glances about the room, noting Illyana's entrance with a nod of his head and the smallest of grins — a grin, because she always knew how to make an entrance. That smile is short lived, his ruby glasses lingering upon her for just a moment longer before diverting his attention back to the others.

"An internal affair, sure… but it wouldn't hurt to have eyes and ears wherever else we can spare them. Just in case." He sits up when the water is provided, giving a thankful gesture toward Simon before taking a drink.

-

Bobby nods to Illyana. At least she's not projecting that 'intimidating blonde' vibe she had going the first time they spoke at length. "Where are the other major concentrations of Mutants in the world? If you bother to make a weapon like this, it stands to reason that you'll look for targets to maximize your, uh 'return on investment.'"

The ice nerd sighs. "Well, I suppose it's kind of inevitable that other folks know. Do you know, Storm, if we're looking at the begining of a genocide…? Or something else?"

-

Glowing wires and a pet demonic lizard? Now, there may be thousands of people in the city, and millions in the world with the name 'Jericho' but how many have that particular description. Illyana's brows go up. "You ran into Jericho?" He may give her a Look later for giving up his name, but the X-Men count as family, even if they have their tiffs and some of them are more Weird Uncle than Beloved Older Brother.

Illyana takes a seat at the table and glances around at the serious faces. "Looks like I should have shown up about fifteen minutes ago." She says, tone dry because if she'd known, she could have.

-

When Ororo mentions where she has stashed the device, Roberto beckons Simon over and murmurs a quick order to him. The assistant straightens his horn-rims, nods solemnly, and heads for the elevator as Roberto tunes back into the conversation. He recognizes Jericho from Storm's description, but lets Illyana choose whether to identify the man, since he's her friend. He does add to her summation, for Scott's benefit: "We've helped Jericho before. And with his implants, he may be able to help us search for these devices. We should contact him, at least."

He next turns to Bobby, answering his question, "There are mutant enclaves all over the world. But if we're talking about high profile or high value, there's M-Town… and then there's us. The Xavier Institute. Or, have we considered the possibility that someone might have identified the home base of the X-men?"

-

Ororo nods her head in greeting to Illyana. A curt, business-like nod, being too deep in thought to be worrying about niceties at the moment. "We are talking about the deaths in Syria, Illyana. It was the virus that Hank has been innoculating us all against. We have reason to believe that it was a test run. A practice." On the horizon, the thunderheads rumble, reminding Storm to return to her slow breathing with her eyes closed.

"Red Team is already down at Burning Human, so it makes sense for them to be looking for the devices there. Scott, I feel that Blue team would do best trying to pinpoint the location of the next test, if it is not indeed the Burning Human. Perhaps we can get there and stop it before it happens."

"Jericho? I believe I have heard that name in passing. There is also that Nest place that happened while I was away. It's new, relatively unprotected, and considering the virus is HYDRA, they would be a very good target. Two birds with one stone, as it were."

-

Return on investment? Scott just stares at Bobby for a moment, the only force retaining a scolding remark being Scott's sense of professionalism.

"Historically," he offers, "Those who commit genocide always seek one end result: extinction."

Roberto gets a nod of agreement. Two counts in favor of this 'Jericho' person is all he needs. His brows fall at Roberto's next comment, and says, "We should have anyone with telepathic or precognitive talents increase their defensive measures."

Ororo gets a very long look next, but it's not a scolding one. Rather, it's a look of encouragement, one that lingers even after a lightning flash reflects off his visor. "I can run probability scenarios and disperse the team where appropriate," he agrees.

-

Bobby's also heard the name, but as others here know the man better, so he doens't comment. "So there's potentially three targets here in New York and God only knows how many others around the world."

Scott's look doesn't escape the Ice Nerd. "All I'm saying, Scott, is that this doens't have to be genocide. My experience with HYDRA -" Which is limtited, but he does have some at least. "- Is that they're very long term, big picture oriented. There may be a goal for them in this that isn't the death of all mutants and if they can attain it, they won't balk at killing however many thousands of us they need to…" Sadly Bobby is also aware that HYDRA is good at hiding, so he doesn't suggest going after them directly.

"So, Burning Man. That'll be a priority. I already live there so I can promise I'll be out and about. I think I can convince my boss to give me the time I need, mmm Warm-Twin? Cold usually mucks living and mechanical things up pretty good too, so I can keep things on ice until backup shows if needed." Because he lives there, he knows he's likely to be on scene rather quickly in the event of a problem. Well, unless the rest fo the team is going to crash at his place.

-

"If my successful trial run was something that large?" Illyana shakes her head. "I wouldn't target M-Town. Or the school, if I knew about it. Or the Nest. I'd target them all." Illyana says, glancing around the table. She doesn't sit back and keep her thoughts to herself, she's a graduate and she's not afraid to be heard. "Do one after the other, you're asking to get caught. For someone to get ahold of one of your guys and find out the next target. Especially when you're going up against a group for which telepathy is pretty good odds." Trust the demon queen to think like a bad guy. Or is that her brother's influence…?

"Keeping an eye out is a good idea," She says before folks can object. "But I think we need to be thinking on a larger scale."

-

Roberto nods emphatically as Illyana finishes. "Searching for the devices is obviously important. Best case, we find them before they go off. But we also need to have a fast response ready if it turns out we're looking in the wrong place, or in case we miss some. Can Hank's vaccine be breathed in? Could we…?" The Brazilian trails off, having one of his rare troublesome moments with what many people forget is his second language. "What's it called — the thing with the little plane that drops a bunch of smoke on a farm? Merda, you know what I mean."

He shakes his head and turns to Ororo. "If they do target the Nest, the low tech level will at least make the devices easy to spot," Roberto tells her, folding his hands in front of him and resting his elbows on his chair's armrests. "I can divert a DCI freight plane with an EM scanner over the property with no trouble."

The other Bobby's question gets a quick, strained smile. "Take all the time you need, Gelado. This is top priority, obviously."

-

Ororo offers a wan smile to Scott. Talking about Syria is bringing up the memories of being there. All that pointless death. Maybe a flight over the arctic would be a good idea tonight, just to let loose with all this pent up emotions. She looks over to Illyana, her blue eyes going a little wider. "They could be thinking of blanketing all of New York. Not *every* mutant is going to be at the Burning Human. Why risk missing some?" She leans back in her chair now, deep in thought. "The Nest… those are mutants created by HYDRA. It's possible that this is all related. If they can control who is and isn't a mutant, that is a very powerful playing card."

Storm says, "Dr. DiLucci says that it is indeed aerosolized. He has personally been flying over M-Town late at night when there is less chance to spot him. Also, the Nest mutants are innoculated, as I recall."

-

While Scott may not possess a tolerance for quippage, he does pay close attention to Bobby's retort, not to mention his wisdom. "You're right," he agrees, and… perhaps… is it possible that there's a touch of humility in the man's voice?

He frowns at Illyana's words, and sighs quietly. She had a very real point, but he doesn't prevent himself from scrutinizing the motives behind it. Perhaps he should, but another one of those long looks is given to her, the expression behind his eyes thankfully hidden by ruby lenses. "If we spread ourselves too thinly, trying to find one or multiple devices, we don't have a swift response. Not unless we can guarantee stationary transit points where Kurt can pick us up." Even then, how far can the teleporter reach without wearing himself out, or missing his target?

His attention floats among the others next. "Once we've evaluated the device, we should leak it's specifications to law enforcement. State, federal, local. SHIELD. In my experience, a leak is a leak. Doesn't matter if it doesn't carry an X on the dotted line."

His next line of thought, however, has him troubled. How, exactly, would the X-Men monitor law enforcement, should they be the ones to locate one of these devices? He takes a drink of water, hoping to stifle the consternation visible in his expression, before opening his mouth and putting it out there. "If we go down that road, we may need to monitor law enforcement communication channels." Without permission. It goes without saying that Scott is not a proponent of breaking the law; it's evident in the regrettable tones he uses. "If millions of lives are at stake…"

He casts a look Storm's way, hoping that she might support him. If Scott's reputation is intact, then he's known as one who never bends the rules. For him to suggest such a thing might reflect the extraordinary potential of this threat.

-

Bobby rubs his temples. He's a lab rat, not a hero or a soldier. This is out of his depth.

Welcome to the big leagues, ice nerd.

"Ugh. Illyana's right. Until we know what the play is we have to assume they will hit all of their targets, whatever they are, at once. HYDRA more than has the resources for it. Berto, maybe we should get Doug on this. He can translate anything, if anyone can get a line on their communications it'd be him. I'll see to the Nutates since I'm there often enough… though if anyone wants to come and drop by help is always welcome." He's gonna have his hands full between the nest and M-Town.

"Let me know if there's anything I can do… though…" There's a pause. "Berto… maybe we should bring Mike into this. He's a mechanical wizard. At the very least he can give us a good read on the dispersal device."

-

Illyana shakes her head as Storm worries for New York. "New York doesn't even have the highest polulation density. Think Dhaka. Mumbai. Nairobi. Manilla." Dhaka alone has a density of about four times that of New York City. "Scott's right though. We don't have the manpower to adequately cover every potential target. The fact this happened so far away though… I'm not convinced we're the primary target." Her eyes narrow a bit, thinking. "We need a way to force their hand." She worries her lower lip a bit and then she looks around to the others. "The antidote. How common is the knowledge that we have it?"

-

"Monitoring police communication won't be the tough part," Roberto muses, lost in thought. "They still use radio, and Doug won't have any difficulty with encryption. No, the trick is stealing any devices they recover before they can analyze the virus." As he clearly doesn't share Scott's qualms about bending the rules, he has interpreted the man's concerns entirely backward: as a practical challenge, rather than a moral quandary.

"Certo, Mike is someone I want looking at the device, but not until we can remove the virus from it," he says to Bobby with a grimace. "I mean, he's made of metal. I don't know whether the virus would work on him, but I also don't know whether the vaccine would work on him. I've had Simon get together an all-human containment team to get it to a clean room and remove the payload — until then, I don't want any mutants, vaccinated or not, going anywhere near it. We could become carriers. It could mutate — irony is cruel."

He has no idea what the answer to Illyana's question might be, so he leaves that to others.

-

Ororo raises a hand and shakes her head. "Nancy's power is far too much of a temptation. I worry that if go there, I might not want to leave. So, while I appreciate the invitation, I will have to decline." She thrums her fingers on her glass of water. "While I understand the urge to tell everyone who might help us, we cannot let ourselves be tempted. If everything I have heard of this HYDRA is true, then they have ears everywhere. If we went to the police for help, HYDRA might learn that we know of the virus and change their plan entirely."

Scott's look to her as he talks of bending the rules gets a softening of her features, the same maternal look she takes on with most of the students. If he's suggesting rule breaking, it must be killing him on the inside. She sits up and rests her hand on his. "Scott, if this virus gets out, it will take full mutants out first, then those with gene as a recessive. It could even then mutate to kill all human life. I know that monitoring the police is an athema to you, but we are not talking just millions dead, but maybe billions if we do not."

She looks over to Illyana then, slipping her hand free from Scott's. "As far as I can tell from the files, us X-Men and Dr. DiLucci and the higher ups of the Nest. Also, I believe SHIELD already knows about this, but I cannot be certain."

-

"They also use email," Scott points out, answering Roberto. "Cloud based data storage, digital encryption—" Ororo's hand cuts him short. He looks at her for a long moment, and after a while, a smile breaks through the knot that's become of his face.

"I'm a tactician," he points out. "We're outnumbered. Honestly, I'd rather risk HYDRA learning that someone is onto them, than try to tackle this on our own. If they change their plans, they decelerate their plans, and time is an extremely valuable commodity."

As far as Cyclops is concerned, leaking intelligence to law enforcement agencies has become imperative, regardless of the ramifications.

He still intends to make damned sure that Cypher, and whomever else they drag into this, are well aware of the moral and legal ramifications of such an action.

-

Poor Bobby. He's most unclear on who is invovled for whom.

"Well given the circumstances of the whole thing I think it's silly to assume that it's totally hush, hush anyway. None of the cops I know from M-Town are people I'd trust with something this big but…" He looks between the others assembled. "But then my expertise is mostly bound up in keeping cool. But uh… just… you know this seems like it might get messy. I'm willing to do what I have to but I don't think this is gonna end up nice and pretty with the bad guys in jail, somehow. I know we're about doing the right thing as much as possible but…" Bobby's had this discussion with various other X-ers before, mostly Amara, and he knows it's a sticking point for some.

"I just wanna put out there, whatever we end up doing. Esepecially if we bring in other aid. Not everyone's gonna see eye to eye with us on points of philosophy." He's got experience with that too.

"And I don't know who knews we have a counteragent. I assume we might have kept that secret just not to tip our hand but…" The sandy haired man glances over to Illyana. "You thinking we should let on that we have it? Maybe force them to act sooner rather than later?"

-

Illyana nods over to Bobby. "It's a thought." She glances over to Scott, as he's the most tactically skilled of them. "Let it leak that we or well, someone is close. Maybe going to do innoculations starting on X day. It could push them into upping their timetable at the given location. If we can get ahold of someine involved, we might be able to trace them back far enough to see just how big this is."

As Scott and Ororo muse about who to tell and who not to tell, Illyana smirks over at them. "Are we claiming the right to decide the fate of millions of people by not giving this information to the institutes that are supposed to be in place to do just that?" Her hard, icy gaze sweeps over all of them in the room. "Are we putting ourselves that far above the law?" Because Illyana does sort of put herself above the law. She recognizes it. But there's degrees of magnitued to consider.

-

"Anyone who picks up one of those devices can eventually back-engineer the virus. If we pick them all up ourselves, we can destroy it once and for all. If we don't, we can never be sure it's really gone. Cut off one head, you know the rest. That's why I still think we should keep it in-house," Roberto explains with a frown. He realizes that he may be voicing an unpopular opinion, but feels that it must be said.

"Calling in so many questionable allies may not be necessary," he continues. "Certo, HYDRA might like to deploy it all over the planet, but we're talking as though they have no logistical limitations. Seven thousand deaths is a tragedy, but the leap from that to total extinction is a very, very big one."

He holds his hands wide apart, to visually emphasisze the gulf between the scenario they have observed and the scenario their fears have created. "That leap is only happening in our heads. They needed many devices in a town of seven thousand. Just to hit M-Town, they would need an order of magnitude more. The manufacturing, the shipping, the deployment, the production of the virus itself — we're talking about a huge undertaking. And if we're talking one or two targets, I think that is a problem of a scale we are easily equipped to handle."

-

Ororo looks over to Illyana, a white brow arching up with appreciation. "Your point is valid, Illyana. We do not have the right to chose who lives and who dies. But, as Roberto just pointed out, we are letting our fears get ahead of ourselves. Most likely the next test might be double the size or even triple that of Syria. If SHIELD knows, however, then they are a much bigger force then we are, and supported by the UN no less. Do we have any way of finding out how far *they* are and what *they* are doing about this virus?"

-

Oddly enough, Bobby seems to have helped to set Scott at ease. Illyana as well, the young woman receiving a rueful expression as she calls him on the carpet.

But then, Roberto essentially calls their heads down from the clouds. Storm as well. Looking to Ororo, he says, "To do so with accuracy would require a degree of openness. If they already suspect that we exist, this would confirm it." He glances about, asking, "Do we really think it's time to go down that road?"

-

Bobby shrugs a single shoulder. "I'm not sure I disagree with you 'Berto, I just think… er, correct me if I'm wrong but it sounds like that cat is out of the bag already. There was another party at the massacre site and who knows who he has and hasn't told. Given that other people are very likely already involved in some fashion, doesn't it make sense to try to coordinate our efforts on some level?"

The logistics, now there's the crux of the matter. "M-Town would take a lot of effort to blanket. That's why I'm thinking a more targetted strike is their game. Something public, high profile. If you're not going to use a WMD to fight a war, what else might you do with it? Try for some social engineering perhaps? Anyone remember reading about those nerve gas attacks in the Tokyo subway system in the 80's? I just… I think their goal is probably a lot more complex than 'kill a bunch of us' and if we don't step carefully, we'll end up giving it to them and everything we've done will be for nothing."

Scott gets a nod as does Ororo. "I… well look, I'm already living in the open. 'Berto too I think. And… you too right Illyana? I won't speak for the rest of you though. But if it's an issue maybe the communication could come from us?"

-

Illyana looks between Roberto and Bobby, because they've talked to each other but they haven't really talked to the 'grown ups'. Because they don't need to and in their excitement they probably… forgot that it was probably a conversation that should be had. She looks back to the older Xers. "I don't really live in the open at the moment but… We're planning on going public. No masks, no hidden bases, just us. Living with humans. Not in M-Town where we're sheltered with our own in a sort of 'us against them' mentality half the time. Roberto's got a plan to make it financially feasible and we're gonna try to live the Dream out here. Around people."

-

Roberto hums thoughtfully at the conversation between Ororo and Scott, then nods as Illyana gets at exactly the point he wanted to make. He smiles at the other two, a bit sheepishly. "That's exactly what this location is for. X-Men Red Team: mutants for hire. The X-men get a public face, and one advantage is that it's possible for us to stomp up to the Triskelion and demand a hearing. It might not get us far, but it might be an interesting tactic to try." He pauses, then adds, "We can also use the New Mutants brand if the existing X-men teams don't want to be linked to us, but I think the connection is important."

"As for other parties, I'm not as concerned about individual allies we can work with directly," he continues with a nod to Bobby. "Jericho is a known quantity. My main concern is large organizations like the NYPD or SHIELD who can't be held as accountable and may not have mutants' best interests at heart."

-

Illyana's revelation about living out in the open causes Ororo to almost smile. There is a warmth in her eyes that one might associate with a proud parent. "Illyana, that is wonderful. The Professor would be so proud of all of you for living his dream like that. I think that it is a wonderful idea and I will help you in whatever way that I can. That said, I am not a leader of the X-men. Nor am I Charles. These would be the people you would need to confer with on this matter more then I." She glances over at Scott at this then. "Well, Blue Team Leader? What are your thoughts on the matter?" There is a twinkle in her eyes then, a teasing irony as she regards him behind his ruby specs.

Looking then to Roberto, she arches that one brow again. "Interesting. And what would you propose?"

-

Oddly enough, Bobby seems to have helped to set Scott at ease. Illyana as well, the young woman receiving a rueful expression as she calls him on the carpet. Illyana gets a second look; perhaps his concerns about her are wrong?

There is much to consider, but the pieces are starting to fall together. "Red Team. The face of the X-Men." He looks toward Iceman, Sunspot and Magick. "You guys can bring this to the attention of SHIELD. They have UN accountability. Should they disseminate the information to other agencies, well, it no longer becomes our concern."

He looks back to Storm. "Blue Team will begin a covert investigation of other target areas. Globally. We will disperse and investigate in secrecy." Then, he looks back to the others, suggesting, "While Gold Team remains near home, ready to respond to whatever threat we confirm." He lifts his eyebrows, wondering what the others think of the plan.

-

Bobby nods. It's a good plan so far as it goes. Were a soldier about he might bring up the old aphorism that no plan survives contact with the enemy. But that doesn't mean that there shouldn't be a plan. "Sounds good so far as it goes. Keep me in the loop? I'm not… you know, tactical, but I'm very willing to help. Just let me know what you need an ice nerd for. I can get Mike, if you like, Berto. Though someone else should probably handle the other allies. And maybe the five of us can go meet with SHIELD?" He pauses. "Mmmm, or maybe a smaller group. That might get unwieldy." He looks about to see if there's anything else anyone has to add, particularly 'Berto or Illyana since he'll be working most directly with them.

-

"I… happen to have come to the attention of SHIELD recently for something entirely unrelated to anything to do with mutants, so I'm fairly sure I can get us a meeting with someone fairly high up in their chain of command. While I'm sure that they'd rather get their hands on the virus than letting us get rid of it, that's understandable. They don't know us to trust us just like we don't know them to trust them." Illyana says, probably one of the longer stretches that the young woman is serious and not being sarcastic that most have seen from her.

Illyana looks to Roberto. "I think Doug coming up with a secure connection to the main X-Men computer should be a priority so we can combine intel. We can't afford to double up on work. We don't have the manpower or the time. Let's see if we can get some of our data-crunchers to find events that would be good targets or maybe areas where the delivery system they're using would work particularly well." She looks around the table. "It's all about the information, right?" There's a slight smirk now as she quotes Sneakers.

Lapsing back into a more serious mein, Illyana gives Scott a nod that's almost more a bow of her head. "We'd be honored to represent the Dream to the world, Scott."

-

"That sounds like a very smart division of labor," Roberto tells Scott with a nod. "Play to each team's strengths in service of a single common goal. And Illyana's right — we should beef up our observation and information sharing and make ourselves more efficient. I suspect Mike and Doug will be of great help with that." Then he sits back, crossing his arms and looking upward, his eyes flicking from side to side as he mentally solidifies his plan before answering Ororo.

"I think if we're worried about manpower, we should choose our allies carefully. Individuals we trust, people who can work directly with X-men. There's no way we can keep an eye on an entire police force, but a single skilled mutant like Mike, or an extraordinary human like Jericho, is worth more to us than many ordinary people we aren't even sure we can trust."

For a second, he actually laughs. "Actually, that's sort of our whole business model. You should see the prices we're charging for Red Team contracts. The Institute will be able to afford a lot more scholarships next year."

-

"Who is this Mike person? A student? Is he new? I do not recall reading any dossiers on anyone named Mike." Ororo looks over to Scott. Perhaps the files for this new student are in his holding instead?

"I think we are on a very good path here. Getting help, searching for more targets. Now…. do I dare bring up the topic of this drug that has been affecting us? This Smooth? Or shall we wait on that particular problem when we are safe knowing we are not about to die in a matter of days?"

-

Scott is simply glad that his teammates support the plan. Otherwise, things may have devolved to fighting. He looks to Ororo, shrugs, and glances back to the Red Team members. Nope… Scott isn't yet in the loop on that one.

This narcotic, though. He's only heard bits and pieces. The criminal underworld wasn't exactly his strong suit. "Has this… 'smooth' —" He says the word so awkwardly " — affected any of our students yet?" He's busted at least two of them with weed in the past three years… it's a valid concern.

-

"Mike isn't a student. He's a mutant who lives in the same apartment I do. Well, presently anyway. He's an absolute wizard with Tech. Doug's met him, they'll get along well. And he's helped Nancy and I with some things that were kind of dangerous, so I can vouch for him."

Bobby, the only M-Town resident present, shakes his head. "If it had, there wouldn't be a question. It reverts a mutant to a baseline human state, so it's pretty obvious in a lot cases, but it's perfectly addictive. And the withdrawals are murderous. You'd know, Scott. Trust me."

He mutters. "That needs dealt with too though… soon as I have a moment."

-

Rising to her feet, Ororo smoothes out any wrinkles that might have formed in her dress while she was sitting. "I would like to discuss this more, but the school year starts far too soon and we still have not yet assigned dorm rooms. Roberto, I will get back to you as soon as possible with the information Blue Team discovers about this." She nods to Scott. "I will see you at the school, Scott."

-

Roberto nods at Bobby's rundown. "I'm pretty sure the drug is just getting a foothold in the city," he says. "It'll be a while before it hits the school, but we can deal with it before it gets to that point. I've spoken about it with Sam already, and once the festival stops draining our manpower, we'll have a task force on that problem, too." He raps his knuckles on the tabletop. "It goes without saying that this place is open as a base of operations for any missions in M-Town or the rest of the city. All the comforts of home, short of a landing pad for the Blackbird." He gives the others a wry smile. "You would not believe the vortex of paperwork that kind of change to the building's exterior would cause." Also: the space for it would have to be created by bulldozing part of his house. But he doesn't mention that part.

-

Scott nods his head. "I'll be sure to include something about it in my fall curriculum," he decides, before standing. "I'd better get back to the base." A rueful grin spreads across his face. "I've got some work to do."

-

Bobby nods. "Okay then. I'll see you around Scott? I'm not at the school often, but 'Berto knows my number and I think the school has it on file somewhere too." He grins. "Well, this was… not what I was expecting when I came up. Good to know though. Guess I'm gonna be missing some sleep for while. Anything more Warm-Twin?"

-

Roberto gives his brother from another mother a rueful smirk. "I think that just about covers what we're facing," he says. "I'll take a look at that proposal…whenever I get a chance."

-

"I've got it," answers Scott, matter of factly. "You'll hear from me. Sooner than later, I hope." With that, he joins Ororo in departure.


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