"Huh." Dog flexed his restored shoulder as the hypercharged healing finished its work. "That's handy. Gotta watch creepin' around in here, though," he tapped the side of his cranium with one clawed finger, "there's stuff of there that most folks wouldn't wanna see. As fer me," he continued, ignoring her new nickname for him, "I could give a damn about the 'welfare o' mutants,' if not fer the fact that I am one. Same way I have a 'personal interest' in a plane that I happen to be flyin' on."
He regarded her for several long, uncomfortable moments. "Ya know, I wasn't sure ya were hard enough to take over after the Shogun ghosted on us, but ya got some steel in ya. Ya ever need bloody work done, gimme a call. I ain't makin' any promises, but we'll talk."
"If the mental picture is as unappealing as the physical, I'll be sure to keep out," Valerie jabbed with a smirk. She would never admit it, but she admired the man's refusal to be goaded by her scathing words. She could use a touch of humor in her life. "And that's not steel, darling, that's diamonds."
She studied the man's formidable physical stature for several moment, the gears in her head turning. There was no doubt in the White Queen's mind that her husband, Rafael, stood peerless in his physical might. However the Neo Achilles held true to moral standards far more admirable than Valerie's own. She suspected the Dog would not have these limitation.
"I might have use for your, unique, talents," the Mutant Madonna said. Her brother remained silent beside her the entire conversation. "I've become aware of some activity from a certain group dedicated to the management of super human's. And to be honest, Dog, I don't appreciate being managed. Care to help me send that message?" Valerie gestured toward the elevator with her hand, inviting the Alpha Dog deeper into the fold of the Huntington Monarchy.
"As?" Dog countered with a twisted smirk of his own. "Darlin', I've been fightin' in wars since cavalry was still a thing; there's stuff in my head that would make most therapists run away screamin'."
He followed her towards the elevator, his smooth movements belying his massive size. "I think I get what yer sayin'. Ya want me to eliminate a few managerial positions, right? Sounds like my kinda work. Ya got specific suits ya want offed, or ya just lookin' fer some general murder and mayhem?"
Midnight, Training Chamber, Isla Olympus
In the dead of night while Valerie slept next to their infant son, Rafael was elsewhere. Behind the soundless walls of his training chamber where no windows hung and the air froze bone, the Phoenix Prince sat cross-legged on the cold floor. Fists pressed against each other, eyes shut and his breathing steady, Rafael meditated. Fatherhood had drawn something out of him, something beyond his ruthless ambition, beyond his uncompromising commitment and myopic - almost psychopathic - determination to be the strongest version of himself. As his chest heaved up and down and his brow scowled, Rafael had grown more alert, more protective, more aggressive. For his son, Vicente, he would become anything. Do anything. Kill anyone.
And as his mind pulled back to thoughts of how Alaric Huntington had raised his own children, how forceful his control over Valerie was, Rafael's scowl deepened. Vicente, the crown prince of Venezuela, was in danger. Alaric would dig his fingers into Rafael's son sooner rather than later. And the Phoenix Prince would not stand for it. But he'd need every ounce of the Omega level power pulsing in his mutant genes. He'd need the power he'd lost years ago in a battle against the Supreme Chancellor; aerokinesis. So he meditated, and in due time, something would yield. Something. If not his aerokinetic powers, then something else. Something that'd forever divide House Huntington.
Valerie’s somber visage hid beneath the intricate lace of a black veil. Her cool blue eyes focused straight forward, fixing on a towering portrait of her late brother Jordan. It seemed impossible to her that anyone had gotten him to sit still long enough to paint the piece. Now he forever immobilized by the rendition.
The grand entryway of the Huntington’s palace on Isla Olympus had been transformed into a makeshift nave. The room boasted intricate architectural feats as well as décor that rivaled if not outshone that of any practicing church. Several rows of pews had been ushered to fill the entryway, where family members and important associates of Jordan sat, while an overwhelming display of floral arrangements adorned the end of the hall where Jordan’s portrait sat.
Sitting beside Valerie, her sister Adriana’s emotions pooled outward like a wound unable to clot. Since the loss of their brother, the telepathic-empathic link the Huntington daughters shared had rendered itself essential to both women’s survival. Valerie’s instincts told her to sever all emotions during trauma, to become cold and decisive, while Adriana’s mutant abilities forced her to experience sentiments at their full scale. By fusing their psyches, the sisters saved themselves from falling off the edge of either emotional response.
Valerie’s gaze danced to the corner of her eyes for a brief moment. Her father remained tactfully composed, not rendering any expressive response to the present conditions of his family. She had never fully understood her father’s sentiments for Jordan. On some level, she knew, she had assumed the traditional role of first born son and legacy. This left Jordan to carve his own identity as Alaric’s first son, one he would now never have the opportunity to do.
Their mother remained equally composed, however, the weariness in her usually elegant features gave away her countless hours of mourning. Despite her loyalty to family duty and reputation over motherly tenderness, Emma Huntington loved her children above all else. Now, one had been irrevocably taken from her.
Outside the estate, thousands of mutant citizens from Venezuela had gathered to mourn the Huntington Prince. His outspoken persona and charisma had cemented him as a beloved figure among mutant and humans alike. The Venezuelan police force had been required to alleviate the storm of people hoping to share their grieving.
After what had felt like an eternity, a priest hand selected by Valerie’s mother delivered his final prayers over Jordan’s opulent casket. Valerie barely heard a word. When he finished, she rose to her feet to take her leave of the crowd, not the least interested in hearing the condolences she would be offered.
Several hours later
The White Queen’s carefully manicured hand gripped a frosted glass filled with a clear liquor. She stood on the balcony of her bedroom within the royal estate, where she possessed a stately view of the palace’s gardens that stretched out before falling over the island’s ocean cliffside. Night had fallen over the jungle island, bringing with it a warm tropical breeze that flirted its way through Valerie’s light blonde hair and kissed the tender skin of the back of her neck. The moon shone bright on the dark surface of the ocean while stars speckled the black sky.
She took a sip of the clear liquid, inhaling deeply as the vodka burned her throat and dulled the memory of the day’s events. She didn’t want to think of funerals or mourning. In her mind, the only way to honor her brother’s legacy was to finish what she had started by ending the life of Lucian LeBeau. She knew the world was filled with snakes who believed in his ideals lurking in the grass, and she intended to trim her garden, her new world, until the head of every last snake that opposed her, human or other, had been severed.
Catherine Durant arrives in this beautiful city where the Huntington monarchy exists. Cat gets off the plane and books a hotel. She reads her encrypted message from her boss before she burns it, shredding the ashes and washing her hands. She has a mission to do. Gather intel, get in as close as possible but without being discovered, learn strengths and weaknesses and then report back.
Cat is a rather lovely young woman with black hair and blue eyes. If things go according to plan, she will learn all that she needs to know.
Catherine goes to a few parties, but nothing worth collected as valuable information comes her way. Not yet, but Cat knows her mission will be a long one. She has to be patient. When one goes among lions, you don't go straight for them. Make them come to you and if they don't know that, all the better. That is precisely how Cat likes it. Plus, with her mind being very difficult to read through telepathy, she has a natural shield that some don't possess.
Slowly, valuable intelligence comes her way and Cat begins to collect. It's too risky to send it now, she doesn't want to tip off the Huntingtons. Clever people, they are. Especially Valerie Huntington.
He had met him in Mexico back in the day while studying under the once radical hand of the genetic purist, Charlemagne LeBeau. At the time, meeting the son had been just a coincidental byproduct, a means to an end really. But there had been little doubt about his capabilities as a solider and his fortitude as a man. Conflicted, even then. Ultimately his unexpected departure from his father's hardened philosophies had opened the door for the Secret Strix to walk in and lead the families latest banned of struggling guerrillas.
However the men had never lost their admiration for the Hyper-Sapian, and his unceremonious death touched them on an emotional level which demanded more then his death had incited. His body left behind by everyone. Everyone but the Knightshells and the Shaolin Street Shinobi, Ishmael Strix.
Like many, they had come to the seat of mutant superiority in the wake of the Princes death. But Ishmael and his squad were here for but one reason. To bring the fallen hero's body home. Casually dressed and hoping to mask their thoughts with radio based confusion and rudimentary tech mixed with defiant and controlled emotional aptitude, they had been in the country for awhile. Making the rounds. Attending the functions and blending in with the visiting tourists by day. Living it up by night. Typical young Americans camouflaged by being in plain sight.
Light fragrance rolled off Ishmael's disciplined and fashionable evening attire. His eyes scanning the bar and its contingent of glamorous metas, mutants, and those pretending to be related to the Monarchy. Smiling as a young couple of females argued over who was a closer cousin to the alluring Aphrodite, Valarie Huntington.
Yet his eavesdropping had yet to produce any leads pertaining to what had been done with Lucian LeBeau's body. The night was young, and liquored lips were loose ones.
Catherine Durant is in the bar and, like Ishmael, is here for the gossip and loose tongues. She isn't here about a certain Lucian LeBeau as she has other business, but she'll gather that intel if she happens to hear anything about it. The night is young and she has been hired by the bartender just now to sing a song because the band she hired is late. Again. After doing a backstage 'test' to see if Catherine is a good singer, the bartender hired her on the spot when Cat proved she has a beautiful singing voice. Dressed a rather revealing red skirt, Catherine gets on stage and sings a song:
By the time Catherine finishes, she gets an applause from some of the audience and even some cheers. Others could care less, paying more attention to their drinks. That's when the band arrives that the bartender had hired earlier and Cat happily steps off the stage and orders a tequila. As she sits and takes small sips of her drink, she listens. A few guys make a pass at her, but Cat rejects them and shows no interest. A few women make some passes at her too, but she rejects them also as Cat doesn't swing that way.
Tongues eventually loosen and Lucian's body is being discussed between two men and some of the things said are the following:
"Hear about that guy that got killed by what's her face?"
"Her name is Valerie Huntington and yeah, what about it?"
"Brutal way to die."
"Dat? Is that even a word?"
"**** off man!"
"What do you think they are going to do with the body?"
"I heard it was stolen."
"Stolen?! By who?!"
"Don't know, no one's sayin', but I hear rumors man."
And then the two men talk about the various rumors about what's being done with Lucian's body. Some rumors suggest a small team of DSA agents illegally came into the country and took Lucian's body in order to bring him back home. Another plausible rumor suggests that Lucian's body was sent home by one of the Huntingtons straight to the DSA as a message of warning to them. Another rumor suggests that Lucian isn't dead after all, that his body mysteriously vanished because the man got up and walked away. Yet another rumor suggests that Lucian's body is still laying where it was left and it was eaten by the crows. There are more rumors, but they are pretty out there and certainly not true.
Catherine listens, memorizing every word. She isn't here for that, but her mysterious benefactor is interested in it.
With a nod, Ishmael once again summoned the bartender over to replenish his drink. "And whatever she's having." he plainly added without socially acknowledging the songbird with direct eye-contact. He had also gleamed the drunken exchange between the two other patrons, dismissing some of it; most of it really, but cataloging the most viable portions for later inspection.
"Quite the voice you got there." Finally angling his shoulder, opening his disposition and allowing the previous wall of somewhat defensive posture to fade.
Cat looks over at him with those baby blue eyes of hers, eating her olive as she does so, slowly taking out the toothpick and placing it on the counter. "Thank you. The bartender was desperate so I offered to help until the band got here." She thumbs in the direction of the band, who were still setting up.
Catherine Durant is not one of the regular singers here, but no one else was available. But she seemed to be liked well enough and the bartender seemed happy with the performance.
Before the momentary social exchange could proceed any further, several men; all but one donning eccentric yet ceremonial masks, converged on the unsuspecting Phantomshell. Violently swimming a black-bag over his head before delivering a stunning gut punch, folding his arms behind his back and securing them with zip-ties. Then, and only then, did the Voice Unheard make his presence felt. Running a finger along the polished aesthetics of the bar with silent theatricality as he emerged from beyond the lowered lighting of the club . Saying nothing. But smirking with a sinister display of a man comfortably in control of the situation.
Glancing over at the alluring performing, he brought his hand to his lips. Pantomiming the visual sign of a shush, but remaining verbally mute. His men roughly jerking the Secret Strix off his stool and marching him towards the exit. The Shadoking had been dispatched by the syndicate to track down the man responsible for their comrades death. And now...he had.
Catherine sips her tequila again just before seeing movement in the corner of her eye and just in time to see 'Phantomshell get a bag put over his head along with a ruthless punch to his midsection.
Cat instinctively moves to try and help, but then she stops short. She suddenly remembers that if she tries anything, it might blow her cover. Her identity as Catherine Durant is that of a capable woman, but she isn't supposed to be on the same level as street fighting vigilante's. Seeing her hands tied, Cat has no choice but to watch.
Then a strange looking man enters the room and when Cat looks at him, it's like seeing the negative image of a man. That's not something you see everyday. Cat thinks to herself.
When the 'Negative Man' gives the motion to Shush, Cat bites her lower lip, swallowing. Then she edges towards her seat and sits down on her stool. Cat wonders what this is all about and what that man did to deserve that kind of treatment, but to ask questions would only put her in unnecessary danger. She glances around the bar and everyone is silent, watching the strangers nervously and some of out of fear. Even the band stopped playing.
The bartender asks them, "C-Can I offer you gentlemen s-something to drink? On the house, o-of course."
The Shadoking's obedient shinobi's didnt react or hesitate on their way out. They had what they had come for. Besides, deep in the heart of the Huntington empire was no place to linger after perpetrating such an egregious affront to social decorum. Yazhun briefly shifted his attention to the bartender.
Elevating his chin as if to signify a level of dismissive hierarchy yet saying nothing. Instead he turned his back on all, as if to take his leave. His business well in hand. However as he followed the procession of kidnappers, three identical mutants respectfully approached the stunned singer. Greeting her with a formal bow before addressing her in complete unison.
"The Voice Unheard wishes to extend an invitation to the Niheto Khan. Complimentary, of course. All expenses paid. " passing a uniquely decorative card between the themselves and eventually across the bar towards the resting hand of secret spy. Completely unaware of her true intentions. "We hope you will except this most gracious offer. To reject it would bring great dishonor to the house of San'Vun. When you are ready, simply contact the number on the back. We shall handle the rest."
(the Khan is a location thread I'll have up tomorrow lol)
The bartender didn't mind being dismissed like that, she was actually relieved. In the meantime, Cat continues to watch like everyone else is doing. Once the 'negative man' turns his back, Cat silently breathes a sigh of relief. She isn't afraid of a fight, but she didn't need her cover to be blown. Still, she wonders what is to become of 'Phantomshell'. And then she catches herself. Before the Blaze Rider mucked with her mind, the Blue Ghost couldn't care less what happened to others. And now all of a sudden, she is discovering all these new...feelings.
Cat snaps out of her deep thought when three identical triplets address her in perfect unison. Cat is genuinely surprised by what they say as her blue eyes read what is on the card. Then those same blue eyes look at each triplet in turn before focusing on the middle one. And that is when Cat hears the rest of what these women say. The implied 'threat', if it truly is one, is not lost on Catherine. To refuse would most likely be...very bad. And that would surely blow Cat's cover because then she'd need to reveal her powers, her skills and her true self in order to survive. Plus, she has enough enemies in the world. She doesn't need another one, especially this San'Vun. Even in her assassin days, she's never crossed paths with them nor worked for them. But she does know of them by reputation thanks to her former criminal contacts. They make great allies, but fearsome enemies.
Cat knows this is a set back in her investigations into the Huntington Family, but she has no choice. Monica Waller isn't happy with the situation either, but even she sees that her shape-shifting spy has no choice here. Cat nervously utters, "Th-Thank you." Is all she says.
If the triplets leave, then Cat waits for 15 minutes before she leaves herself. Immediately calling for a taxi and it takes her to her hotel that she is staying at. Once she takes a shower, she takes care of her things. Good thing she is mostly packed already. Cat looks at the card again, then eyes her cellphone. Seems she has to go. Hopefully, it will be a quick trip.
Cat picks up her cellphone and calls the number, waiting for someone to pick up. If, and when, someone does, she says, "This is Catherine, I got an invitation to the Niheto Khan. I accept the offer."
(OOC: Sounds good! ^_^)
His wife, Valerie, and their infant son, Vicente, were both away. Off enjoying a splendor afforded only to royalty at the top of the social strata. Rafael however, had stayed behind. For in his veins ran the blood of a warrior, a war god of modern times. And around him was a place unlike any other. A place that stretched into forever in every direction. The sky was boundless, the horizons endless, and the gravity and pressure - overwhelming. Built by the finest minds on Isla Olympus, the Phoenix Chamber was where Rafael would forge his son in the fires of Mars, and enlighten him with the wisdom of Minerva. Vicente would be a wonder of the world like his mother, but Roman like his father. Disciplined, strong, focused, and ruthless.
Feet on the ivory ground, and his eyes staring off into the white void above, the Neo Achilles shut his eyes - and felt the pull of gravity. He who could circle the world many times over in seconds, see bullets bounce against his skin, and shatter mountains like glass, felt the strain on his joints and fatigue in his muscles here. The air was heavy, thick and soupy. The weak would die here. They'd perish. So as he strode forward, chest heaving and his crimson cape flowing, Rafael smiled. He was pleased. "This will do", was all he said.
His surroundings changed, shifting into a place of greater chaos until the Phoenix Chamber became a simulation of Isla Olympus torn asunder by war. And in it, his son was in danger, held at the mercy of an imagined threat he was neither strong nor skilled enough to fell. It motivated him. Pumped his blood and gave him sight.
Rafael's training had begun.
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