A+ Would SHIELD Again

Summary:
November 19, 2014: Cal seeks out Roberto's opinion on working with SHIELD.

Headquarters: X-Men Red Team - New York City

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

  • X-men: Red support staff

Mood Music:
[*<http://insert.video.or.music.link.here>]


Early evening on a bitterly cold Wednesday. Not that it stops New Yorkers at all; if there's any less pedestrians on the street it's not easy to tell. There's things to do, people to see, and people to do. Way above them, Cal *blinks* in above the balcony leading to the Red Team's HQ. By preference, he always ports to a spot in the air to avoid appearing in the middle of something. He's seen what happens when that occurs. It's messy. Floating down to the balcony, he wraps on the glass then goes in. "Anyone home?" He didn't bother calling ahead as it's quicker to just blink over.


Enough people are home that it takes a second for anyone to notice Calvin's appearance. Roberto da Costa appears to be the only team member on site, standing next to the grand windows in the Red Team's operations hub, listening to a report from an assistant standing to his left. All around, ancillary staff man computer stations, monitoring social platforms for potential Friends of Humanity activity, sifting through shipping reports from international ports, and directing the day-to-day solo operations of the team members. Business hours are coming to a close, so it's mostly a matter of making sure clients are satisfied and then coordinating their trips home, but it requires some organization nonetheless.

After only a few seconds to take in the scene, however, an efficient young woman approaches Calvin with a clipboard. One of her duties is to keep an eye on the back door; enough of the Red Team's associates are fliers or teleporters or what have you that it pays to have someone watching for arrivals from the air. "Can I help you, sir?" she asks, not recognizing him immediately. Roberto's assistant taps him on the elbow to draw his attention to the new arrival, as well.


Cal reaches up to run a hand over his hair as he looks around. He'd never been here during business hours and it's… interesting. Not something he ever associated with the X-Men. "Hmm? Oh. Just looking for someone. Or rather, any one of several someones. And there's one of them." he adds, spotting Sunspot. "'Berto." he calls, heading in the younger man's direction.


"Obrigado, Angela — I've got it," Roberto tells the sometimes-receptionist, heading over to greet Cal with a handshake. He's dressed in an understanted but perfectly tailored blue suit with a subtly patterned scarf tucked under the blazer; even in the climate controlled room, the mere view of New York in November is enough to make him want to bundle up. "Welcome to my really-badly-kept-secret lair," he says with a half-smile. "What can I can do for you?" He glances over at his assistant, the man's expectant look reminding him of something. "Speaking of keeping secrets, my office is open, if you want to discuss something sensitive…" He has no idea what Calvin wants to talk to him about, but there's a possibility that one of the team has pulled him in on one of their more clandestine operations without his knowledge — they have plenty of leeway to do that sort of thing.


"The office would be fine." Cal agrees, waiting for Berto to lead the way. "So how's the whole Red thing going? About what you expected, both good and bad? I have to admit I was a little dubious about the public IDs. Even in my reality, we still kept secret who we were as did most of the costumed crowd. It's hard to get your privacy when everyone knows who you are."


"I've never had much privacy, or use for it," Roberto answers, flashing a grin as he leads Calvin to a glass door set off from the hustle and bustle of the main operations center. The room is brilliantly lit during the day, but the sun is almost all the way down, so instead Cal will be treated to a sparkling view of the city at dusk. He holds the door open for his guest and then follows him in. "I think it's going very well, although we're having to make some cash flow adjustments. Nothing unusual for a startup, especially one as unusual as this." He waggles one hand as he seats himself in a leather chair. "And speaking of nothing unusual — it's not like you don't know about being in the public eye. Didn't you do a GQ spread earlier this year?"

He pauses, then can't stop himself from adding, in a teasing voice: "Mine was better."


Cal laughs at the question. "GQ? I wish. Though I'd still only do it in costume and that doesn't leave a lot of room for fashion." He pauses then adds "Well, at least in a mask. Unlike you, I do like my privacy and don't want to be photographed every time I'm out with some guy. Granted, teleporting would be a great way to avoid paparazzi." As for cash flow problems, that's way outside his experience. Or interest.


"Meu Deus — let Illyana chauffeur me on dates?" Roberto looks downright horrorstruck at the idea. "No. Absolutely not. I would never hear the end of it. She's snarky enough when she gives me a lift in my uniform. The paparazzi cause far less pain." He shakes his head, shudders, and moves on to another subject. "But you get my point. There's a certain amount of publicity that goes along with being a superhero anyway. I'm just trying to harness that rather than hiding from it."


"Well, that's what we do with the gold team." Cal points out. "A more public face of the X-Men while still being able to stay out of the spotlight when the costumes come off. Aside from Kurt and Hank of course." Physical mutations make secret IDs rather impossible under normal circumstances. "It's one thing to be Sunspot in the press, another to be Roberto. Which, as you say, you're already used to." He shrugs. "Anyway, I wanted to ask you about your dealing with SHIELD."


"What can I say? Being famous agrees with me." Roberto grins again, and as usual, his devil-may-care bravado is either charming or deeply irritating, depending on the audience. There's not much room for middle ground.

When Cal brings the discussion to a more serious point, however, 'Berto sits forward attentively, hands clasped in front of him. "Certainly. Are we looking to cooperate with them a bit more, with Red as go-betweens? Or is there a problem?" He can't hide the note of worry that enters his tone for that last question; the X-men's relationship with SHIELD has always been precarious, and he has had to be very sensitive to potential problems there.


"Neither." Cal assures Roberto and indeed, he doesn't seem at all tense when he brought it up. "We're not looking to cooperate with them. However, maybe I am. And since I know you had dealing with them on a professional level, I'm looking to get some idea of how things went and your impressions of those you dealt with."


"Oh! Sure, I'll help if I can," Roberto answers, his eyebrows rising. He cocks his head to the side as he considers the question, then answers, "I mainly dealt with Maria Hill, the deputy director. Tough, but reasonable. My main advice there is not to try to improvise with her; know what you want to accomplish with her and stick to it. And don't be easy to offend." He smiles the smile of a man with unassailable confidence. "I also had a conversation with a woman named May, who seemed professional enough, but not at all talkative. Hard to get a read on."

He shrugs and narrows his eyes as he continues, "I do have some concerns about their addiction to secrecy. It caused one of our operatives to end up fighting one of their operatives because neither knew who the other was. The second time we worked with them, I had visual identification packets put together so that there would be no mistakes like that again. I should also mention that our relationship with them was founded on the Red Team's openness — no secret identities, no hidden base, just open dealings. You might have a little more difficulty than we did if you want to keep your own secrets intact."


Cal nods here and there as he listens to Roberto. "Well, they /are/ a government agency." he points out. "If the UN can be considered a government and I don't know what else to call them. Paranoia and secrecy seem to go hand in hand with that kind of agency so I'm not expecting anything different. As for the secret identities… Well, I ran into Superman the other day and he mentioned several costumed types - himself included - had agreed to work with them. I said I'd look into it. So here I am looking into it."


"I had heard rumblings about something like that. But apparently it's a deal with the whole Justice League," Roberto says. It is part of his business to know about that sort of thing, after all. "They may have more clout to maintain secret identities because they're bargaining as a well-established group, rather than individuals or a new team. I'm not sure. Just something to consider your stance on before you go in."

The Red Team manager smiles and sits back, giving Cal an appraising look. "If you don't mind me asking, what exactly are you hoping to work with SHIELD on? If I know more about it, I might be able to help with the pitch, or at least act as a reference."


Shaking his head, Cal smiles back at Roberto. "Nothing in particular. It's just another way for me to get the idea of mutants being a good thing out there. While I'm sure SHIELD itself does things on the down low, I can't see Superman and Wonder Woman being anything but public and that's what I have more in mind. While the X-Men takes up some time, we're not exactly busy enough I can't moonlight a bit for the public good."


Roberto nods amiably. "Sounds like a plan," he agrees. "If you need me to put in a good word for you with anyone, just let me know. I am very good with words, which is the main useful skill I have on this team." He wears a self-deprecating smirk as he says this — apparently super strength isn't all that applicable to the team manager/coach role he has set up for himself with X-Men Red. "If you do end up working with Superman, though, I'm going to be jealous. I suspect he's not going to be incredibly interested in working with a team of paid heroes."


"You're a team of heroes who also get paid to do a job when not fighting criminals." Cal points out. "You don't demand a fee to save someone or rescue cats from trees. That's a bit different and there's nothing wrong with it. We all need a way to pay the bills and I'm sure Superman has one too." Assuming he doesn't just hang out in orbit meditating when he's not saving the world.


Roberto laughs. "I know! That's what I tell people, too," he concurs. "But something about Superman, specifically, seems… well, it seems like he would at least give me the side-eye. And what with the lasers, side-eye from Superman is no joke." Sunspot may not have as much to worry about from heat vision as the next person, physically, but the damage to his pride would be irreversible. "But I suppose you'll be in a position to prove it either way, if you do end up a part of this venture. Best of luck in that regard."


"Thanks. And if there's an opportunity, I'll suggest bringing in Red as well." Cal tells Berto. "The more good publicity we get, the better. I'm not going to confuse causation with correlation but in every reality I was in where mutants were hunted or outlawed, the X-Men had never been public. So the more we can demonstrate that we're a good thing to have around, the better."


"Bem, that's reason enough to keep this team on the front pages, as far as I'm concerned," Roberto says with a broad grin. He's disarmingly proud of the whole X-Men Red operation, and tends to let any praise of it go straight to his head. "Fortunately the other Bobby got all the science, so I'll happily run with that correlation as far as it will take me. Feel free to call on us wherever we can be of assistance."


"I'll do that." Cal says and stands up. He looks at Berto a moment before saying "I don't know if anyone's said it, the Professor probably has if no one else, but we're proud of the lot of you. It's a very brave thing you're doing, opening yourself to all the scrutiny, all the hate, in order to make things better for our people. I expect you to come to me at any time, for anything, if you need to. Or even if you just want to."


"I'll certainly do that," Roberto says with another grin, standing as well, and adjusting his blazer as he does so. "If nothing else, I would love to pick your brain about what other realities' versions of me have been up to." He sounds enthusiastic about the idea, although caution reasserts itself a moment later. "Of course, if my experience is anything to go by, it'll probably be a supervillain crisis of some kind instead of something fun. That's the life of an X-man."


"I only went to ones where the reality was screwed up." Cal points out. "So it's hardly a balanced sampling. But in my own, you weren't a member of the X-Men. You were a well known figure in Brazil, being both a hero and owner of DeCosta Enterprises. A supervillain tried using your father against you and ended up killing him." Which might explain his wariness about Red being public.


That knocks Roberto for a loop. His head bounces back, and he stares at Cal in disbelief. "My father…?" It's an odd inversion of his own history, in which being kidnapped as leverage against his father led to the death of his girlfriend and his move to the Xavier Institute. But in this reality, where the relationship between the two da Costa men is so fraught (albeit behind closed doors), the idea of losing his father seems to have Roberto at a loss for words. It's a rare circumstance.


"In my reality, superheroes - including mutants - were treated like royalty." Cal explains. Roberto might have heard it before since when Mimic first arrived, people wanted to know about his home. And mutants, like humans, love gossip. "There was no reason to hide and you went public there as well much like Warren did. But no matter how well regarded we were, the villains didn't stop. You were a famous hero of Brazil." He shrugs, not needing to say the rest. "That was there and things are very, very different here." he's quick to add, trying to reassure him. "There's nothing to even imply it might happen here."


"No, no, it's fine," Roberto finally replies, as Cal's concern draws him back toward his usual easy warmth. "I just wasn't expecting that. It's… something to think about." There's a furrow between Bobby's eyebrows, and he's clearly still processing the idea behind the scenes, but he's not going to trouble his fellow X-man with the entirety of his troubled inner monologue. Instead, he's going to try to put a brave face on it. "I guess I'm like most people — you never really consider losing your parents until you're confronted with it."


Cal nods and clasps Berto on the shoulder. "Thanks again for the info." he says, changing the subject away from the unpleasant. "And remember, call me any time if you need to. Or any of us, for that matter. But you can call me directly, not just at the institute."


Roberto smiles and reaches over to clap Cal on the hand. He does seem reassured by the gesture. "Thanks, Cal. I appreciate it. Best of luck with SHIELD."

He sees his guest out and then takes refuge in the impersonal distraction of work. But Cal really has given him something to think about — in the back of his mind, Roberto is processing the unfinished business and bad blood caught up in his rivalry with his father. The idea of losing his pai before all of that has been resolved isn't something that had occurred to him. He may not look up to his father the way he once did, but he does feel strongly that they should part on better terms than that, at least.

Something to think about, indeed.


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