ArchivedLogs:An Invitation to a Game

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An Invitation to a Game
Dramatis Personae

Emma, Jackson




<NYC> Inkline Studios - Lower East Side

The front room of Inkline Studio is small, and does not, particularly, look like a tattoo parlor at all. Framed surrealist oil paintings line the walls instead of the typical flash ink, although interspersed are a handful of tasteful, artistic photographs of various people displaying their tattoos that might give away the nature of this business. Black leather armchairs cluster around a low glass coffee table; large black binders that sit on the table contain portfolios of the past work done in the studio. A glass counter stretches along the length of one wall, a plethora of various body jewelry on display; the 'front desk' sits at the far end of the counter, computer and cash register and large file cabinet making up the work space. The piercing and tattoo rooms are in the back, brightly lit and sterile, with doors closeable for privacy.

Saturday evening is a busy time at Inkline; the waiting room is filled with people, some sitting on the couches browsing the various artists' portfolios, some sitting on the couches looking apprehensive, some clustered around the front counter peering as the selection of jewelry on display. The front counter is staffed by a tall woman with jet-black hair falling neat and straight to her shoulders, a black t-shirt and her arms coloured bright with a wealth of ink. She's leaning across the counter, examining a man's lip ring thoughtfully before she taps at one section of counter to indicate the rings they have of matching size and gauge.

Emma Frost walks in like a shining beacon of white in an otherwise colorful world. Her overcoat clean and fresh, only yellowing slightly at the base hems with use. Her slacks are light cream, but show the dampness of the city. Visible under the jacket is a pristine white sweater. She removes her hood to display wavy blonde hair, curling slightly more so in the evening's increased humidity. There are few not white things on her person, most notably the black rims her glasses and the equally dar portfolio around her tablet, which she references several times as she walks into the studio. The occupants of the studio are noted, their faces studied, before Emma steps forward to the register and waits for a lull in conversation before stepping all the way to the counter and waiting to be acknowledged.

It takes a moment; the woman at the counter acknowledges Emma with a smile and a nod but continues talking to the people at the counter, rather focused on managing the rush. This person gets a new stud for their labret, that person needs forms to fill out before getting her eyebrow pierced, this person just needs new saline wash, that person is booking an appointment for finishing their tattoo with Jackson next week. But then the woman turns to Emma with a quick, if harried, smile: "Hi! Welcome to Inkline, sorry for the wait. Can I help you?" Her tone is cheerful-pleasant, and in her mind a faintly curious note: Emma does not look much like their usual clientele, but there's plenty of people with body mods who you'd never be able to tell from their normal Work Attire.

"I know I haven't made an appointment, but I was hoping to have a consultation with Jackson Holland," Emma begins smiling pleasantly, resting her closed portfolio on the counter top with her hands on top of it. "I've seen his work on the internet and couldn't pass up a chance to speak with him." She opens her mind to listen to the cashier's thoughts, looking for opportunities and the right things to say to get in.

The woman glances back to one of the closed doors in the back, a low buzz humming from inside it. << He's off after this, >> she is quietly fretting, << Kid probably needs a break before his next job, I don't know where he finds time to sleep. Or eat. >> She is considering her computer, finger tapping at the mouse as she pulls up a schedule. "He's in with someone rigt now though he should be done soon," she's saying, thoughtful, "If you want to book an appointment I could book you one now, or you could talk to him about booking one when he gets out, if you want to wait a few minutes."

"Oh, I can wait." Emma smiles and nods and steps away from the counter. She begins punching more information into her tablet as she waits, drawing up maps and restaurant information.

It takes more like fifteen minutes before the back door opens, disgorging a young woman walking with a little bit of a hobble to the front desk. She pays, leaves a tip for Jax in cash at the counter, and heads out. It's a couple minutes more before Jax himself arrives, brightly coloured in purple fishnets over silver tights, black capri jeans hung with bondage straps, a pink t-shirt reading "Let's switch gender roles!", a pink and purple tri-hawk spiked tall on his head. Glittery pink eyepatch. Shimmery makeup. He is grabbing his bag from behind the counter, and a puffy silver jacket as well, kissing the tall woman on the cheek; he clearly is ready to head out until she hands him an envelope thick with his tips for the day and indicates Emma with a quiet murmur. Jax hesitates -- a little disgruntled, a little tired, a lot headachey which is not helped by his hunger -- and puts on a warm easy smile, slipping his envelope into his messenger bag and his messenger bag onto his shoulder. He slings the jacket over his arm as he steps out from behind the counter. "Evenin', miss," he greets Emma warmly, "You wanted to speak with me?"

Emma greets Jackson with a smile and a nod, fingers waiving in the air when she is indicated. She waits until he is close to speak. "Yes, I did. Do you mind if we do this somewhere private?" She looks down at her tablet and then up at the artist again. "I am sorry to surprise you like this. I had thought to bribe someone to shift their appointment, but things didn't work out. If this is not a good time..."

The mention of bribes startles Jackson, a little bit, confusion in this thoughts as he eyes Emma. "Bribe someone?" he says, light and sounding a good deal more amused than he really is, "gosh, you must want to get inked real bad. Um." He glances back to the room he just vacated, a faint sinking feeling growing inside him -- << guess dinner's out again today >> -- that doesn't show through in the warmth of his smile. "Sure thing, miss, do you want to come back with me? You wanted a consult?" He's gesturing Emma back, towards the tattoo room.

Emma follows Jackson into the back room, starting to take off her coat as she walks. "As I told your friend at the register, I've seen your work on the internet and I wanted to say how impressed I am." She smiles easily, absorbing the bits of information floating about in Jackson's head without pushing. She waits until they are both inside the tattoo room before drawing in a deep breath. "The thing is, I'm not talking about your tattoo skills."

Jackson gestures to a stool, in invitation, once they're inside. He pushes the door closed, after they enter the room, but stops with his hand still on the handle as Emma speaks, a ping of wariness accompanying those words. He does not close the door all the way, leaving it open just a crack and not taking a seat himself but standing by the doorway. "What are you talking about, miss?" His tone is still polite, though it lacks its previous warmth. Careful, now. But given all the recent harassment he's been getting since both the mayor's speech and the incident in Central Park, he is already pretty sure he knows.

"I don't mean to alarm you, but what you did for the mayor has attracted some attention." Emma allows herself the appearance of distraction, her cheerful smile drifting away as she settles down on the chair. "I appreciate that you don't want to feel trapped with me," she eyes the door, "but I can assure you that I am only the messenger and I have absolutely no desire to cause you any harm." She wets her lips once more. "My name is Emma. I'm the event coordinator for a venue in town and you've been added to a guest list for a tremendous party to take place next month."

"Sorry, miss, but I've heard that before." Jax doesn't move from his post by the door, his smile fading even if his tone is still polite. "Guest list? Me?" His wariness isn't fading, joined now by a puzzled uncertainty about what sort of party would have a guest list like that. "-- I'm sorry, who's party? What party? Why me?"

"You have been invited to soiree hosted by Oscorp at the Hellfire Mansion. It will provide him the opportunity to demonstrate for his hopeful military contracts the new mutant suppression devices he intends to market." Emma's tone is somber, her eyes studying the young man by the door, her posture stiff and straight. "He has seen your work and has especially invited you, should you pass his qualifications."

This actually startles Jackson into a laugh, his eye widening. His thoughts are incredulous -- << Is she for real? >> and it takes him a moment to compose himself for a politer answer, careful and calm. "I'm sorry, miss, but that don't really sound like my kind of a show. I'm not generally in the habit of going to, um, help people develop weapons against me and my family."

"I understand and appreciate your point of view," Emma counters quietly. She pauses for a moment before continuing. "This was actually expected. You see, Mr. Osborn wishes to convince the military that he is open to the mutant community and is taking their input in mind when he creates such devices, as rogue and powerful mutants are a danger to all, not just the human community." She looks down at her tablet. "He's willing to make the citations that you have received for using your powers in public disappear if you agree to attend."

Jackson is silent, a moment; a moment in which there is a jumbled disconnect of images flickering through his head. A scalpel descending in towards his eye. A cell with concrete walls streaked in blood. His fingers curl loosely into a fist, thumb brushing against the missing stump of his finger. "I'm sorry, miss, I just -- have a hard time trusting that folks who want to --" His lips press together, snatches of conversation -- mutant-killing murder-drones -- whispering through his mind. "There's a lot of mutants in this city, miss, I'm sure you can find a couple who'd /love/ to attend a Hellfire gala. That's some kinda prestigious."

<< You shouldn't trust them. >> Emma shifts stiffly in her chair as she continues verbally. "But this citation being lifted. Think of what it could mean to your family. You could use the money and you're far too busy to really pursue this with the ACLU. My employer is a powerful person and it would be good to get on his good side." << You've caught his notice. He isn't going to just let you go. Think hard about how you want to cultivate his considerations of you. >>

"I'm sorry, miss, but I think I know what I have time for in my life better than a stranger does," Jackson says, quiet, his brows furrowing slightly. "If I wanted this citation to go away, I'd talk to someone who actally /has/ my best interests in mind. And that of my community." There's a stiff bristling at the touch, not out of any discomfort with telepaths but at the words being spoken. << I don't want anything to do with him, >> is his uncomfortable reply. << There's plenty of other mutants in the city. He can talk to one who's /looking/ to curry his favour. >>

<< He's mad, Mr. Holland, and he's presenting devices that will track us down and destroy us. It would not behoove you to curry his favor. Instead, it would be best to just look weak and compliant. >> "You are very noble, Mr. Holland and I understand your desire to take this all the way to court. I wish you luck in that. But, is there nothing that you would want in exchange for an opportunity to voice your opinions and be heard by a major player in this circle? Think of the good it would do to be heard by both the military and this manufacturer." Emma draws herself up straight smiles professionally. << I am supposed to vet out offensively weak mutants with no connections to mutant superiority groups. I do not believe they are in any immediate danger, but I cannot predict his thoughts and cannot protect them. You could, at least that night. >>

Jackson's hand lifts, rubbing knuckles against his eye with a faintly exhausted expression. His fingers press to his temples, afterwards, teeth gritting as he draws in a deep breath. "I've seen what the military and defense contractors do to us, miss," he says, slowly, "forgive me if I don't quite believe that voicing my opinions is gonna do a lick of good." << So I should come to look after the poor suckers who get conned into going to this thing? >> This thought is wryyyy, undercut with the tired knowledge that he is becoming one of those conned suckers. And probably can't do anything about it, because People In Danger is kind of a weakness of his.

"And yet, if one completely gives up on the process of representing the people to those individuals in a safe environment, then the system really cannot work the way everyone suspects it doesn't." Emma exhales and stands. "But my research states you are likely an anarchist, so this plea will do nothing to motivate you." << If you require an altruistic reason to protect yourself, so be it. I'm telling you that a rich and powerful mad man has labeled you a person of interest and you've been invited to a game. Not playing is likely not an option, but that's a risk that you are more than welcome to take. >> She begins to put on her coat. "May I buy you dinner for your time?"

"The system ain't worked for a long time, miss," Jackson answers, tired. "When is this party?" << This ain't a game I even know how to play. Saying I'd be out of my depth is a gross understatement. >> "And can I bring a friend?" Jackson thinks, apparently, more in images than words; this question comes with a quiet warm memory, snuggled up on the couch alongside a young Asian man. He offers Emma a wan smile, shaking his head in decline. "Thank you, miss, I'll be alright."

"Yes, you may bring a plus one, but no telepaths - and I'll need to know the whole sum of their powers and connections. You see, I am very much in control of security of this situation and need to make sure that no trade secrets are gleaned from the occasion of the gathering." Emma apologies by lowering her gaze. << I am not fully sure he can't detect them. His mind is... a frightful place. >> She gives Jackson the date of the party as she closes the lid on her tablet as she pulls out a card from one of the pockets. "Here, a gift card for foodler. I recognize your time is important."

"I didn't say a mutant," Jackson says, something /shuttering/ reflexively in his mind that suggests he's had enough connection to telepaths -- or perhaps training -- to at least learn some shielding, "I just said a friend." He pulls out his phone to mark the date, and flashes a quick smile to Emma as he opens the door. He doesn't take the card, a sense of disgruntlement stirring in him as she offers it. "I don't think I even have clothes to wear to a fancy do like this," he admits, wryly. "Guess I'll need to borrow some. Goodnight, miss."

"And I was informing you of the restrictions placed on your friend at the party. Mr. Holland, I would not presume to know who you plan to invite, but this is a very important event for Mr. Osborn and everyone who attends will be under a lot of scrutiny." Emma repockets the card and nods to him. "I appreciate your time and hope to hear from you soon. If you intend to come please contact me ahead of time at the Hellfire club, and I will issue you a formal invitation that will grant you access to the party." With that, she turns to brush past him as she leaves. << I'm sorry, >> she whispers where she thinks he will hear. << I will help you in whatever way I can. >> "If you require wardrobing, please let me know as well."

The whisper in his mind meets a low hum of background noise, a quiet recitation of the US presidents, in order. Their dates in office. Jackson's smile is just as warm now as it was when he first greeted Emma. "Thank you, miss," he says, quietly, more to her mental words than her audible one. "I'll be in touch." He slips his jacket on, too, but does not leave the room until Emma is gone.

Emma leaves when confronted with the wall of mental static, striding out of the shop and getting into her waiting car without looking back.