ArchivedLogs:The Oscorp Gala

From X-Men: rEvolution
The Oscorp Gala

WAKE UP SHEEPLE

Dramatis Personae

Claire, Parley, Tatters, Caleswood, Jackson, Hive, Shaw, Emma, Nox, Lucien, Elliott, Norman, Micah, Alice Lambton, NPC-Saint-Quentin, NPC-Zarita, NPC-Lily, NPC-Lourdes

2013-03-28


The Oscorp Gala speech. With a brief interruption.

Location

<NYC> Hellfire Clubhouse - Upper East Side


The Oscorp Gala. Set in the largest dining hall the Hellfire Club has to offer, it's swollen with the rich, politically connected, and a number of mutants -- some known, others unknown. During the night, all are allowed to mingle and speak freely, moving from display to display, examining and asking questions while mechanized drones (recently dressed up in fancy, unusual tuxedos!) weave between them, offering drinks and food.

But near the end of the night, the lights dim; partygoers are requested to move to their seats -- and a platform near the far-end of the room is quickly arranged by the staff on hand. It's time, apparently, for the presentation. And for Norman Osborn's little speech.

Once partygoers have been ushered to their various tables -- left to chatter among themselves for the better part of fifteen minutes -- the lights grow even darker and a hot white spotlight bathes the newly assembled speaking platform, complete with podium. And then... Norman Osborn steps out of the shadows, his smile outshining the lights projected on him -- clad in his black tux and dark-green bow-tie.

Jackson has been doing so much dancing. Also talking. To reporters, to military officers. He hasn't quite wrangled the mayor, yet. Alas. Amidst all the elegant partygoers he is a bright spot of colour; his dark tuxedo (with somewhat shimmery-er bowtie and cummerbund) set off by bright purple and pink hair, glittery silverish makeup, glittery purple nails. His eyepatch is ringed in purple, too. Between that and the KNOWN MUTANT thing and his date /also/ being a man many of the more conservative partygoers have not been /entirely/ comfortable with his presence, but that hasn't dimmed his cheer. Or stopped his dancing. The lights dimming stops his bright-smile bright-chatter, though. He turns to look at the podium, and maaaaybe his hand slips out to find Micah's.

Unlike Jackson, Nox has attempted to dodge the task of mingling. Not that it's helped, she's been cornered more often than not to exchange soft words with partygoers, not all of them friendly to the likes of her. Her smile is stubbornly affixed, and her small decorative sunglasses do a fine job of hiding her eyes--thereby keeping her thoughts to herself, for all but the telepaths hiding in the crowd. As the lights fall, it is difficult not to...relax but that lance of light appearing does help. The shadow lady flinches before primly holding her hands and looking up at the man dominating the dais.

Lucien has been a fairly unobtrusive partygoer, lacking the distinction of the majority of the guests, lacking the /known mutant/ angle to bring notoriety; just a pleasant-smiling Hellfire Club employee, mingling quietly, talking quietly, returning at intervals to check in with Emma with that same reserved warmth. He currently has located a flute of champagne; it looks untouched although /now/ he is sipping from it, as the lights go down. He isn't, actually, watching Osborn all that much; his green eyes sweep the crowd for Nox. For Emma. For Jackson. He sips his champagne again.

Hive is a telepath hiding in the crowd. Very hidden. Nestled away in the minds of three of the partygoers. Just chilling. But keeping his metaphorical eyes open. Ceiling telepath is watching ALL OF YOU.

One of the front-most tables, basking in reflective light from the spot lights above, sits Sebastian Shaw, in colonial-chic jacket and waistcoat in cobalt and gold piping, alongside his wife Lourdes in a stunning sequin and seed beed gown with a loose stole draped across her elbows. She has leaned over to murmur a few words in his ear, and he cracks a private smile that bears gritted teeth like a bear, his eyes settled hard and expectant on the spot light. So it begins.

Elliott has a seat near the front, tucked away in her wheelchair at a table of mingled politicians and high-ranking military officers. Her navy dress uniform is crisp and white, her hair worn down. Her hands are folded in her lap. She looks quite attentive to the man at the podium.

<< ...here we go. >> There is a table off to the side, populated by five individuals: two men, two young women, and one gray-skinned orc who is apparently also a young lady by her dress. They are gathered in various states of weariness, with various glasses with various beverages of various strengths and fullness. As Osborn walks out to the podium they turn their heads to look at him: Caleswood with an expression of interest, Zarita and Lily with blank looks of boredom, and Tatters and Saint-Quentin with expressions of suspicion. They are quiet, but the mental airspace around them is not.

<< Well, he looks much better. >> << Think he's going to do something /crazy?/ >> << I dunno. You ever been to an Osborn party, Cam? >> << Ain't no party like it! >> << I can't say I have, in recent memory. You may continue being on your guard, if it makes you feel better. >> Apparently, the Daedalus contingent is the peanut gallery tonight.

Emma Frost spends most of the early part of the evening strategically arranging some of the mingling events other guests have been grateful for and some of the ones they had been hoping to dodge. She doesn't always show her hand in each introduction, but she become the face handing one group a new person to talk to from time to time. When the night's events begin to shift, she excuses herself and moves to facilitate some of the set up and to ensure that Norman Osborn has everything that he needs. When the lights fall and Osborn takes the stage, Emma stands a little to the side and a little to the back in case she is needed, hands folded around her minaudiere, her silk strapless dress still a pristine as ever.

Alice lacks the benefit of telepathy but she is equally intent on Watching Everything. She's found an excellent vantage point, removed slightly from the crowd, with a view of most of the room. It's there she's held court, graciously greeting political and corporate dignitaries, chatting with members of the military as if they were old friends. When the lights dim she allows herself a thin smile--<<(He cannot be faulted for his instinct for theatre)>>--and lifts her flute of champagne in a small, subtle toast to the podium.

If Micah has been drawing much attention this evening, it has been out of sheer proximity to Jax. So it is no surprise to find him seated next to the more colourful man now. Having accepted his hand, Micah squeezes it gently. << Oh boy...time for more Osborn. Be still my heart, >> he thinks sarcastically, mostly for Hive's benefit.

Parley has taken an unobtrusive seat off probably /with/ the Daedaus contingent, folded into a seat with his arms folded on the table. With a ponder: << (can you be around Osborn and /not/ be on guard?) >> He's only heeeeesitantly been allowing commentary to feed to them. He has only a water. Because he's not twenty one. And scans for Claire to make sure she's not getting HIT ON by any strapping young men.

Claire Basil is absolutely not being hit on by any young, strapping men. That probably has a lot to do with the fact that she's sheltered herself at a table with a bunch of older women -- who are /those/ ladies? It's not immediately obvious. But the table is strategically placed, close to Nox's; the woman of shadow might feel the faintest pulse of Claire's power rolling across her -- just in case the lights come on unexpectedly. She is, also, intermittently keeping an eye on Parley. Be a /good/ kitty.

"Ladies. Gentlemen. Esteemed guests." Norman Osborn grips the podium and leans forward, toward the sea of faces in front of him. His smile is practiced, worn, effortless; his eyes seem to /sparkle/ in the spotlight. This is a place he is very familiar with. Some find the idea of standing in front of a room of many to be draining; Norman Osborn clearly finds it /energizing/. And then he speaks:

"We live in interesting times."

Norman continues:"Around 90 years ago, my grandfather -- founder of the corporation that would eventually become Oscorp -- was asked by a member of the press for his opinion on women's suffrage. His reply: 'Hold on, I'll ask my wife.'"

"He prided himself on adopting good ideas before anyone else figured out just how good they were. According to the stories, he carried a copy of 'Origin of Species' in his coat pocket -- he would quote it during meetings as if it were scripture and verse. 'Adapt or Perish'; it was his alma mater. His highest principle," Norman adds.

<< Well, we're on the other side of the room. >> << He's lulling us into a false sense of security by standing all the way over there! >> Zarita's lips twitch as she extends the web of communication to Parley, with a sense of extending a protective, telepathic arm around his shoulders. She remains quiet during this exchange, her looming presence curled protectively around the table, senses languid but suspicious.

<< Is any of that true? >> asks a pleasant, female voice, accompanied by a rather less pleasant croaking grunt. << It may be. I must take a close look at his family history one of these days, for unrelated reasons. >>

<< /Lots/ more Osborn. Swooning yet? >> Hive's voice murmurs soft in Jax and Micah's minds.

Nox's head turns and her gaze falls unerringly on Claire. It might be difficult to discern her smile in the dark but it /is/ there, gentle with gratitude. Then her eyes move on, and without difficulty she begins a study of those at the surrounding tables, those standing at the edges. Being able to see in the dark--so long as she looks /away/ from the light--is a useful ability when one is curious about how other people might be reacting to the beginning of this speech. Unfortunately for the ceiling lurkers, her /own/ thoughts are fussy and indistinct. Ha.

<< Been weak at the knees all night, >> comes Jax's reply. And perhaps it's true! Though it comes with distinct overtones of Micah-memories and notsomuch Osborn. << wouldn't even dance with me, >> is an added grumble. He relaxes back into his seat, thumb brushing absently against Micah's knuckles. His gaze is also flitting around the room, taking absent stock of the partygoers now that everyone is seated and not bustling around.

Lucien is making his way to Emma's side. Quietly! He is pretty unobtrusive as he slips around the periphery of the room, both in his muted physical presence and in the still-waters calm of his mind. << Showtime, >> does manage to make its way to the surface, though, possibly for Emma's benefit as he notches himself in nearby her. He has a chocolate-covered strawberry on a small napkin in his palm. He presents it to her. Solemnly. While sipping at his champagne flute.

<< Don't nobody start faintin'. Between the drones and the horrorbeasts and /whatever else/, you won't last a minute on the floor 'round here. >> Micah is giggling /in his head/. At least he's managing not to do it out loud. For now.

In a mild liquid-silky slide of rippling mental fur, Parley adjusts a mental shoulder beneath Zarita's offered arm to get comfortable and tucks in casually beneath it after a brief, polite if /thorough/ inspection as to the nature of the connection and how it works. << (the quote i don't know.) >> He comments. << (their endorsement of women's rights is true.) (ish.) >> It's the usual little snippet-chunks of concept more than words, and flavored towards the direction of /wry/. << (i've been wiki'ing.) >> He is also scanning tables, marking Nox, Jax and Micah, a few faces he's met tonight. -- the multiple-presence of HIVE occurring in the room. This gets a private poke to the QueenBee(man). << (you're prolific.) >> His eyes slip to Emma, curious if she's noticed yet they have their OWN MultipleMan cycling the psionic midsts.

Sebastian Shaw's mind grinds like a mortar and pestle. << Of course, he doesn't bother say that women in the work force means cheaper wages in factory work. >> What he murmurs to his wife in a low growl that could only be felt through her hand mildly resting against his chest is: "I have an itch on my back." Lourdes's face is sultry-neutral, and the arm she so languidly drapes around his shoulders happens to skitch... just THERE. He grunts. Sternly. It's married-speak for 'that's the spot'. Externally, he looks mostly like he's ignoring her.

Under Parley's scrutiny, Zarita's network is...well, it's a network. She picks up surface projections of the sort she would hear anyways, and routes them selectively to the others in the network, restricting the sending as best she can to keep it from being broadcast all over the room. There's a chorous of quiet greetings at his inclusion from around the table (and a sense of a raised eyebrow from Caleswood), but then things continue as they are. << Interesting. Thank you, Parley. >>

<< No laughing. >> Hive's myriadvoice says this oh-so-sternly to Micah. Ignore the quiet underripples of amusement that carry through in his whispery-echoing crowd-voice. He's a subtle presence, tonight, muted save when he speaks. Parley's poking doesn't earn a spoken response, but it does earn a responsive /flex/ of power, snaking out towards the empath's soft presence to tendril-wrap thin strong cords around what he can find of Parley. Hello hello chomp. Okay maybe just nibble.

<<(..possible sympathizer? Will have to look into it...explains a great deal...)>> Alice's mind is all beads of water flowing over oiled silk. Cool, crisp, elegant. And working on other levels than just the surface but these are the thoughts that rise to the top, soon replaced by the tickle of bubbles as she raises her champagne for a sip.

<< {Parley,} >> Claire broadcasts to the empath in her native French, all the while eyeing Norman as he speaks, << {Just how many of us /are/ there in here?} >> There's a sense of it /not/ being a question she expects an answer to; more rhetorical than genuine. At least, she's not asking for a specific number. She smiles back to Nox, meekly -- just a little wayward, polite glance. But that polite glance is backed up with a mild *surge* of her power over the shadow-woman -- a deeper, wordless, expressionless gesture of support and affection beneath the polite smile.

Norman continues: "I imagine if he were faced with the challenges /we're/ facing -- if we asked him for his opinion -- well, I imagine he'd want to ask his wife. But I also suspect that if we presssed him on it, he'd pull out his dog-eared copy of Darwin and repeat the mantra: 'Adapt or Perish'."

Osborn soon adds: "We've seen a lot of interesting technology tonight. Some of it may even be useful! But let me tell you a little secret: For every device I've shown you, there's a mutant who can beat it. And some of those mutants? Are sitting right besides you."

And then: "The reason is very simple: Mutants embody change. They /are/ adaption -- and therefore, there is no tool, no trick, no gimmick that will always successfully counter them. When the challenge changes its nature, the only way to meet it is to change /your/ nature. Again: Adapt -- or Perish."

Emma accepts the strawberry from Lucien with a small smile and a grateful nod, letting her clutch fall to dangle by its wrist strap. She holds the napkin in one hand and begins to nibble quietly. << Indeed. Let's see how well this goes. At least I know I've done everything I can do. >> Her reply to Lucien is quiet and a little bit distracted as her mind is open to the entirety of the room, ready to glean the strong reactions people may have to whatever Osborn is ready to announce. She is indeed noticing the strange echo that seems to be coming from Jax and Micah, but isn't devoting enough attention to single conversations to eaves drop too much. As Osborn speaks, she extends a bare elbow to Lucien, resting it gently against his arm without looking. Yes, she's a little worried.

Elliott's glance up and over -- to Tatters, to Nox, to Jax -- is a reflexive one. She is /undoubtedly/ not the only one in the room doing so at this reminder of the mutant presence here. Her thoughts at this are mingled; tight discomfort, quiet curiosity about what Osborn has planned. << -- certainly be /useful/, >> is a grudging admission, re: anti-mutant technology, << in the right hands. >>

Jackson shifts slightly under the turning eyes. His posture is still casual-easy, but his fingers tighten in Micah's. << -- Hive -- ? >> More voiced in concept than words, his wary questioning bubbles up underneath the inquiry: Are you listening to him? What is Norman Osborn /up/ to?

If Nox had pores, they would be tightening in goosebumps as Osborn points out just how capable his less than traditional guests are. It's the sort of pronouncement that is sure to draw hostility from a crowd like this. But with Claire's support, and the lack of light, she remains stable and pristine, outwardly unruffled--perhaps even projecting a quiet, well-bred pride by the way her chin lifts. Inside, however, there is a quiet stab of fear. Not for herself but for others, and a look quickly goes winging to Jill and Lily at the Daedalus table.

<< There are quite a few of us. It is what you get, when you throw a party and invite all the mutants you know. >> Zarita's response to a question not asked of her is tossed in Claire's direction, in Spanish. It's not entirely clear who the thought is coming from, but doubtless Parley will inform Claire about her /anyways./ Next to her, Caleswood just sighs wearily as he hears his secret weapon becoming less secret by the moment.

Nearby, Tatters raises an eyebrow, her first rush of thoughts skepetical. << Yeah but that doesn't make /sense/ there are plenty of, like, mundane tools that can... >> << Calm yourself, Miss Jill. This is rhetoric, it is not intended to be /sensible./ I would like to hear where he's going with this. >>

With a set of her jaw, Tatters quiets and glances aside to meet Nox's eyes. She shrugs, with a little, confident nod. It's cool, we've got this. Beside her Lily just keeps her eyes attentively on Osborn, her expression neutral, a hand absently batting a stray curl away from her eyes.

Micah pets at Jax's hand with his thumb in an attempt at being soothing. << Misappropriatin' concepts of evolutionary biology, mostly...far as I can see, >> he answers Jax wryly, though he wasn't the one being questioned. << Prob'ly as a prelude to somethin' creepier. >>

Under Hive's questing tendrils, Parley's mind is subtle soft, but when found is oddly permeable. It's nature is to channel, and nibble-pressure finds the thin membrane loosely containing it sage and open to allow inward flow. It's the sense of pressing an open dry hand to the surface of water, just short of breaking the surface, a wide open SINGING road just beyond -- yikes. He squirms, not urgently but because he /probably/ really shouldn't connect the /Hived/ with the /Zarita's/. Probably, that's got to be a communications faux pas. He feels Zarita answer Claire and rushes a sort of apologetic, sort of just... flat-laugh. << We are legion. >> Easy to say with two different networks jacking in. His contribution to Zarita's flow probably makes things run even smoother and clearer through his laundry-line mind.

The mention that there is are mutants who can defeat any of these devices brings quiet shifting memories to mind -- or, well, to Jax and Micah's minds, anyway, Hive-infested as they are. Liam's bright flare disorienting a drone. Peace stumbling and falling. These thoughts fade off into a blankness. It's the mental equivalent of a shrug. << We're listening, >> murmurs Hive. His wire-tendrils are curling in tighter-harder, at least until Parley squirms. They withdraw, without an apology but with the quiet /sense/ of one.

Lucien's hand shifts, still holding its champagne flute as it drops to absently-casually rest knuckles lightly against Emma's bare arm. The touch comes with a whispersoft flux of soothing, calming, blunting away the edges of worry to allow a calmer-clearer thinking. << /You've/ done well. It's on him to -- >> To what, he does not say. Just turns his gaze up towards the podium.

Claire Basil's attention snaps back to Norman Osborn -- like a rubber-band breaking -- right after the bit about 'change your nature'. And then, suddenly, she's paying /much/ closer attention. Particularly now that Norman's pointed out that there are mutants here capable of overcoming his devices... that crystal-like mind starts to buzz, humming with thoughts; when Claire's thinking, it's a bit like the tinkling of music. << {Wait. What is he up to? This doesn't sound like he's trying to sell weapons. Parley. Can you... (translate)?} >> The last word isn't /actually/ translate; there's actually no word for what Claire is asking Parley to do. Beyond that she is asking him to do the thing he does. Where words become /concepts/; where language gives way to intent and meaning is laid bare.

"I've noticed something," Norman Osborn continues, and in his mind, there is a calm, soothing clarity, a /focus/ -- yes, Norman has a plan. "On three occasions, this city has experienced a mutant-related crisis. And on all three occasions, the challenge was answered -- by our city's finest, yes -- but also by mutants. Mutants who stood against the enemies of peace; who acted on our behalf -- and did so despite the risk exposure brings with it."

"We live in interesting times, ladies and gentlemen," he continues, and now, should those listening to Osborn's mind pay close attention, they might start to see something -- an image. A building? A /facility/, large and sprawling, just on the border between Pennsylvania and New York. Freshly purchased. A massive parcel of land -- big enough to serve as a small town. "Things are changing very quickly -- but one thing stays the same. Those who adapt to their environment shall continue to thrive. And Oscorp prides itself on, above all else, its willingness to /evolve/."

"...it's with this in mind that I wish to suggest a brand new initiative -- an absolute first," Norman adds. "An opportunity -- for both humans /and/ mutants -- to adapt, evolve, and /thrive/ -- together."

<< -- lab? camp? prison? >> These sentiments bubble up uncertainly in Jax and Micah's minds, quiet; Hive echoes to them the images gleaned from Osborn's mind, with a tinge of puzzlement overlaying it.

<<(Damn him to /Hell/.)>> This comes from the outskirts of the crowd, soft as a whisper and with a razor-like edge. Anyone straying too close to Alice's mind is likely to get cut. Anyone glancing at her would see her eyebrows lift and her head tilt slightly left.

<< Steady, old boy. The conservatives will think you gone raving. >> Shaw is thinking. Not without a trace of dry humor. His mind is -- active with anticipation for /something/ he knows to be coming - his own mind, just briefly, shares an image of these structures, but with a different, more braced heels-sunk-in feeling of counter-resistance. << I think he enjoys walking along the edge of blade. >>

<< /Together/. >> This is bitter in Elliott's mind, though her expression is just a calm-blank polite-fixed smile, her hands folded neatly in her lap. << -- Thought someone /actually/ cared about stopping them. >> It's not so much disappointment as a quiet affirmation of previous doubts.

<< Camp, >> Jackson picks up, echoes back: in /his/ mind this comes with flickers of campfires! Swimming! Navigating trails in the woods! He is maybe gritted-teeth thinking about Scout Camp. << Think he'll want to make S'mores with us? >>

<< Creepytown? >> Micah offers back to Hive unhelpfully. << Nononono, Osborn Scouts is almost as bad as horrorbeasts... UGH. Why d'you do these things to my /brain/, Jax? >>

With eyes closing, Parley drinks in his environment; it neatly and almost instantly obliterates his own presence off the map, like a bit of sand caught in a dust storm. Like frayed thread fitting through a needle, it neatens as it passes through him, streamlines, and he shares what he picks up with the TeamZarita and Clair in a steady, orderly flow of sentiment and concept filtered from between the lines. His elbows on the tabletop, his fingers are interlaced beneath his nose. His face is serene-anonymous under his task. The ridge of fur lined up down his spine: rising subtly into stiffening hackles.

Norman continues: "If we are to assess the challenges mutants pose, we need their help. But to do that -- we first need their trust. We need a safe place for this dialogue to happen. A setting for mutants and humans to find solutions to the multifaceted challenges mutation brings." And there it is -- as he speaks, the words flow into Parley's open mind, swallowed and disseminated to all who share his knowledge; words are stripped bare, leaving nothing but their intent. He's talking about... a school. But not /quite/.

"That's why I am, on behalf of Oscorp, beginning a new initiative -- the /very/ first of its kind. A school exclusively for mutantkind. The Osborn Institute. Or," Norman adds, smiling in a gesture of self-depreciating humor, "as I prefer to refer to it, 'the Land of Oz'." (Control) (Knowledge) (LEADERSHIP).

"The purpose of this institute is twofold. First, I want to create a safe environment where mutants can better understand their powers -- where we /all/ can better understand their powers. An environment where mutants can practice, learn, and grow -- and we can work with them to discover just what it is they're capable of. If we are to meet the challenges mutants present, we must first understand the /nature/ of those very challenges!" (Threat assessment) (Convince them to bare their weaknesses) (Control them) (USE them) (LEAD them) (/RULE/ THEM)

"The second purpose is to create a place of open dialogue -- a setting where we can discuss challenging subjects like the possibility of mutant registration -- or how best to integrate mutants into the public workforce. Find answers to ethical dilemmas, such as the intersection of telepathy and law enforcement -- or the use of mutants in the military." (Placate government) (Control the narrative) (Norman Osborn, Friend of Mutants) (Norman Osborn, holding the minds of a generation) (A generation that can /READ YOUR MIND/)

As Claire listens -- through Parley -- he can probably catch, just on the edge of his mind, the flare of her panic. Like crystals shattering. A vague, mumbled whisper << {No no no no /no/ /NO/--} >>

Jackson's hand squeezes Micah's /tight/. There had been a quiet sense of apology bubbling up in his mind but now there is just /cold/ on his mental landscape, stark and chill and bright like sun glinting off snow.

Emma focuses on Shaw for a moment when his mind mirrors the buildings found in Osborn's, but she remains passive and quiet, absorbing as much as she can from everywhere in the room, determined to sort it out later. A small wrinkles marrs her brow when something from Elliott surfaces, but then she lets it go as quickly as it came. There's s much... more. So much more. With the crux of the announcement seemingly shared, Emma remains standing, but very still aside from the strawberry she is devouring for its sweetness - and to get it out of her hands. She is listening with most every fiber in her mind, simply receiving.

Hive's echo-whisper voice is dutifully relaying all these underlying sentiments to his hivees. It's gone a little flat. Stark. There are memories trying to surface, there, memories cold and cement, steel and scalpels, bright operating lights, but he's tamping them down /hard/. And just relaying.

<< Interesting. >> Caleswood speaks after a moment, as Zarita's eyes squint at Osborn in concentration and relay a vague series of impressions along with his words. << I had not expected a...social initiative. Poor Norman may be leaving his zone of competence. Zarita, impressions from the crowd? >>

After a moment the tentative reply comes. << They are surprised! Skeptical! Some drunk outrage, I don't know if people are buying it. Despite the flattery few of the mutant guests look impressed either. And...oh, Miss Lambton is /furious,/ that's interesting, and...whoops. >> As Parley settles back into passiveness he slips out of Zarita's network, prompting a muffled swear. << I lost the kitty. Oh, if he can /do/ that, that's interesting... >> She says this /before/ she hunts back around and picks him up again, before returning her attention to the speaker. << Also, do I /have/ to say that this plan of his is disingenous in the extreme? We all already know that, right? >>

<< Indeed, that is not new information. >> Parley may or may not notice that there's a second network around the table that /doesn't/ include him, but a further whisper of thought flits around it. << But is he setting himself up as a /competitor,/ or a front? It is not good news for him, in either case. Oh Norman, what are you /doing?/ >>

Horror rises from another table, hazy at the edges, an enveloping abyss the closer one gets to her mind. Nox is filtering what Osborn continues to say through a different lens. /Public/ slaughter pens. /Public/ labs. /Public/. The lambs admitting themselves to a slaughter, dark fields stabbed with lights very much like the one washing over the man at the center of this. She maintains her center but the periphery begins to go fuzzy. Her fingers, clasped together, begin to meld into one joined shadow.

<< Do you imagine anyone will really believe him? >> Lucien is not a telepath. He's just cynical. His quiet question to Emma is bland and -- well, it isn't disinterested. But it's a veneer of /flat/ over a keen-sharp glitter of thought, turning this announcement over and over in his mind before committing himself to any further comments on it.

<< Oh great. Internment camps with an /acceptable/ public facade. This is going to go /swimmingly/. And with /kids/... >> Micah squirms a bit in his seat in discomfort. << People are going to want to believe that story. It's so /easy/... >>

<< You'll do all of it, old boy. >> Shaw inwardly agrees, hard-grim and rough-burred as brickwork. His wife's hand has subtly tightened around his thumb on the table, even if her expression remains neutral-riveted. His hand closes around her fingers, giving them a private squeeze and then letting go of it entirely to retrieve his bourbon. << And then. I will take it from you. >> It's simple. Fact. And behind it is a heavy, iron force of beams dug deep into the ground.

"This school," Norman adds, "will be open enrollment." (Give me your tired, your poor) "Full scholarships for all mutants who take part. We'll accept anyone -- the only requirement is the presence of an X-gene." (Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free) "In addition, I don't want to leave out older mutants; our facilities -- for testing, understanding, and helping mutants to teach both themselves and /us/ -- will be open to any and all mutants, regardless of age." (Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me) "We'll help mutants with medical dilemmas -- we'll provide schooling for mutants who otherwise couldn't find it." (I lift my lamp beside the golden door)

<< {He is /insane/,} >> Claire tells Parley, and her fingers are /clutching/ at the edge of the table. << {He is insane and now he is going to have /children/ and he is going to /eat/ them.} >>

"Ladies and gentlemen," Norman continues, "I imagine this is /quite/ a shock to you all. But interesting times require interesting measures. I remain dedicated to the notion that by working /with/ mutants, we can discover the best means to--"

*CLUNK*. The podium lights suddenly shimmer, flicker, and crackle. Norman stops, frowning, looking up toward the lights. What? This isn't part of the show.

<< He wants an army. >> The bright-white cold of Jax's mind is muting down to something just tight and tense. The photokinetic twitches, at the flickering of the podium lights, /feeling/ the change perhaps more than most. His brow creases into a frown, glancing up.

"Shit." Emma stuffs her napkin wrapped around the rest of her strawberry into her purse and draws out her phone, dialing facilities. "What is going on?" She demands as soon as someone picks up.

Hive subsides back into silence. But acutely listening silence.

Facilities. Facilitiesfacilitiesfacilities. For once, light actually provides a welcome distraction to Nox. She blinks behind her glasses and her head tilts back so she can look upwards too. In this darknes...it isn't difficult for her to extend her consciousness through those parts of the room untouched by the spotlight, her mind suddenly growing /immense/. The Nox-doll in her gown remains but the majority of her self is there. And there. Everywhere.

<< ... >> Parley almost misses Zarita's slipped grasp for him, and slips back beneath her hand. << (sorry)(i'm quiet) >> Between Clair's crystal-sharp bristling and the rise of panic from... his eyes are no longer on Osborn - they watch Jax and Micah, shift to Nox. His own mind, so full to brimming with the cornucopia-broad tastes and flavors of those around him, is only a thin hazy gray where his own thoughts should be. Silent. And then offers: << (...interesting.) >> He runs a hand down the back of his neck. Smoothing down his hackles.

<< Huh. /Can/ he get away with anything sketchy like this? I mean, the place'll be full of kids with friggen /cell phones,/ and everybody'll be, like, keeping an eye on this place. If he restricts media access that'll be, like, an even /bigger/ red flag, and-- >> Tatters ceases her analysis and blinks at the electromagnetic disturbance. << --Lily, vantage point, tell me who else is watching him. Zarita, drop her for a sec. >> Deliberately, the sewer knight turns her head to look in Lily's direction, and predictably the girl has vanished. She reappears elsewhere beside a startled-looking valet and sweeps her eyes over the adjacent room, looking for cones of whitespace projecting at Osborn from somewhere other than the crowd.

In the sudden drop of darkness, Shaw sets down his glass, Lourdes leaning nearer to him silently. He sniffs, picking up the napkin draped over one of his legs and tosses it onto the table beside his drink, head turning to rove the darkness of the room with his narrowed gaze.

<< Uh-oh... >> Micah broadcasts unease, defaulting to the old D&D party standby: always look up. He's scrunched down in his chair, nerves on edge, hazel eyes /darting/ like those of a prey animal.

And then it comes. A crackle, dull and electric, followed by the sharp SQUEAL of an audio feedback loop -- rumbling through the speakers that have been projecting Norman Osborn's voice. But Norman Osborn is /not/ speaking. Norman Osborn is staring. At his microphone. He speaks -- mouths the words 'what is happening?' -- but no one can hear it. Because /his/ mike? Just got cut off.

"ATTENTION, /SHEEPLE/." The voice /booms/ over the HFC's projection system. It is an angry, male-sounding voice. A teenage-ish voice.

On the other end of Emma's phone, a man picks up -- shouting something. Something about -- police? And... rock. And granite. And then there's the sound of gunfire. Emma hears it on the phone -- and the crowd hears it in the hall. It's followed by a rumbling *CRASH* as the ceiling shakes; a chandelier crinkles -- dust starts to drift downward. *THUMP*. *THUMP*. *THUMP*. The thumps are getting... closer.

"OSCORP IS A CRADLE OF /LIES/ AND MUTANT-MURDERING /FILTH/!" *THUMP*. "NORMAN OSBORN IS A /KILLER/ OF MUTANTS!" *THUMP*. "HE KIDNAPS US FOR STUDY!" *THUMP*. "HE DISSECTS US FOR OUR SECRETS!" *THUMP*. "HE MURDERS US FOR FEAR OF OUR POWER!" *THUMP*. "WELL, NO /MORE/! TONIGHT, YOU'LL SEE THE /REAL/ NORMAN OSBORN!"

The wall behind Norman Osborn proceeds to explode. A 7 foot tall man made out of grey, lumpy rock -- mishapen and /huge/ -- looms. He is not wearing a thing, but it hardly matters -- he is covered from head to toe in lumpy, malformed boulders. Also, he seems to be wearing... a poorly fashioned tin-foil helmet. It looks kind of like...

"THE SONS OF MAGNETO HAVE COME TO /OPEN YOUR EYES/!" the PA system roars.

Jackson twitches again. His chair scoots back slightly from the table -- but he doesn't actually get up. Just /focuses/, on the podium, and a shimmering prismatic /wall/ appears between the exploding wall and Osborn, shielding the man from the debris and from the large rock-man behind. There's a quiet inward /sigh/ at this. << Can't some /decent/ people get themselves in trouble around me now and then? >> The flickering lights? Those are getting /dimmer/, light collecting around Jax instead to leave the rest of the room just that much darker, with a glance over towards Nox.

"Well," Lucien murmurs, "/his/ explosives did not detonate." This might be small comfort to Emma. And yet.

<< You've got to be fucking kidding me. >> Hive is inwardly groaning. Possibly at the exploding wall or possibly at the /tinfoil hat/. Or possibly because, << sheeple? >> Can you really take someone seriously who uses that word in earnest? His mind is reaching out to slip quiet tendrils towards the rock-man, searchingly. Searching, too, for other minds that might be in on this RIDICULOUSNESS.

The room erupts in screams--not all of them from the women present. Nox does not scream because she can't and because the shadow-golem sitting at the table isn't really equipped for more than to look pretty. It remains as it was, unmoving. But the darkness that fills the rest of the room, away from the podium, stirs. Vast. So very vast. And when the lights at the podium dim? The shadows seize their chance. Black whips spring up from the gloom of the hole the rock-man has created, spring up from the hollow shadows where rubble has fallen, spring up /all around him/, tangling, binding, /restraining/. And at the Daedalus table? A whisper is sent into Tatters' ear: "...would you like to do the honors?"

<< (the problem being).>> Parley is in the middle of slowly following a thought, through the silence that follows- << (in concept it's not --) >> And then there ISN'T silence, and with the torn open wall framed in falling rock and pinwheeling hunks of debris, he skids back from the table and is instantly making for Claire and her table of fellow ladies. Oddly, Osborn's speech? Threw his hackles up into spikes. Explosions... he looks oddly at home with the backdrop of shimmering shields and massive mutant stomping behind him. "We should get somewhere safe." Read: please please please be safe. It's hidden so slightly in the - tenseness in his voice. He looks over his shoulder for Jax, Nox -- Emma.

<< And there goes my plans for the weekend. >> Emma curses inwardly and keeps her ear pressed to the phone. "Lucien, see if you can get some of these people out of here." She scans the crowd and looks around. "If you can. /Sons/ generally mean more than one person..." Her mind reacts similarly to Hives, but holds back when she senses him trying, hovering back to observe. << Zarita, can your people help? >>

A collective groan echoes around the Daedalus table. Tatters and Saint-Quentin pushes back his seat and stands. "Lily, would you--" He turns to glance at the blonde girl, only to discover that she's no longer there. << Zarita, link me with N-uh, the Shadow Lady and Jackson Holland please. And find Lily, she should be in the hall somewhere, she hasn't gone far. >> Caleswood remains at his seat, and simply raises his glass of wine and wearily takes a sip.

And then Tatters sighs as Nox is already there, shrugging and beginning to make her way to the front of the room. "Uh, let him finish his spiel first, I want that on record. Sides, he's all the way over there." With a grumble she keeps walking. A hovering serverbot gets grabbed and tugged along in her wake.

Elliott is not screaming, but she's certainly not looking quite pleased with life, either, paling and tensing and jerking her chair backbackback away from the podium with a chorus of << shitshitshit >> in her mind. Her hand reaches instinctively for -- shit, no gun. She settles for wheeling back away again. Micah gets a /puzzled/ glance as she nears their table, the kind-of-familiar face sort of triggering a /surreal/ sense of Am I Dreaming?

Instantly, Claire is at her feet, reaching at hand out to Parley -- the older women at her table seem to evaporate, at once. No screaming, no carrying on; several of them seem to even take their time to neatly pack up their purses before heading straight for the nearest exit in an orderly fashion. /Claire's/ friends know how to orderly leave a room. But as for Claire herself... no sooner has she touched Parley's wrist than is she speaking, her eyes narrowing into iron: << {Yes. But not far. Parley, can you connect me to Emma?} >> And then her power is flush on Parley; ordering, /structuring/. But not just that -- an untranslatable concept -- << (transfer) (SPREAD) (OTHER MUTANTS) >>. She can only do this to a limited number of people -- but when she does it to telepaths, /they/ can spread her power out like a virus.

<< Hive...are we being attacked by a Libertarian Golem? >> Micah asks, tone incredulous. Because this is really the thing to be worrying about when walls are exploding. << Also you've got a better /view/ on this whatshouldIdo? >> /That/ was more to the point. Micah hasn't managed to move himself yet.

<< Oh, our people can /indeed/ help. I apologize, we may have...subtly misstated the nature of Miss Francis's abilities. She will be helpful. >> Zarita grins and chatters as her presence sweeps around, twining by Emma and touching Nox and Jax in turn, the mental touch gentle and polite. << Excuse me, you have a Jill Francis on the line, would you like to be put in touch with her? >>

So close to the podium, the bombardment of wall chunks scatter off the stage and into the tables in the front row - Shaw whips his arms around his wife and drags her to the far side of him, the hunks of plaster slamming into his broad back with meaty thumps that he he grimly withstands, unwincing. Some of them are Not Small, making meaty thudding sounds and tumbling to the ground, and begins to rather simply Walk Away from this nonsense, wife in sheltered tow.

There's a twinge of surprise in Jax's mind, but not /much/, there's mutants in plenty around here and he's clearly well-versed with telepaths. His initial instinct is a tightening, a withdrawing, mental senses prickling, but -- hey, /chaos/. << Yes'm, >> comes his answer to Zarita's polite operator-call. He's sparing a glance to Micah, questioning: << y'okay? >> But his jaw is tight as he focuses, teeth gritted, kind of /inadvertently/ in his own personal spotlight as he gathers the room's light to himself to make more shadow for Nox to work in.

And, well, for his own strength. The shimmering shield curls its way protectively around Osborn, his hands clenched into fists at his side.

The air currents are /cracking/ with psionic communication and Parley lets slip a very single clear thought: << (this non-telepaths rule didn't work out so well.) >> And good thing. As he hovers alongside Claire, absently remembering to collect her water glass and napkin from the table, he slides a light touch to Emma's mind, identifying himself with a tawny suggestion of camouflaged fur, a short memo: << (from Claire) >> And then conveys to Claire << (go.)(she will hear.) >> The rest is just someone else's fax. He conveys other people's messages NEATER than his own. He dips the napkin into the water and dabs at a bit of smudge on Claire's cheek.

Norman Osborn looks... surprisingly unfrightened. If anything, the man looks more /irritated/ than anything else; he has enough sense to stay still when Holland's shield wraps around him -- and when the golem-like brute looms overhead, bringing his hand down and *CLANKING* against it -- well, Norman Osborn just scowls. Anything he's trying to say, though -- it's drowned out by the screams, the yelling, and the shouting.

Telepaths scanning for more quickly find them -- three others. Coming in behind the Rock-Man. But there's something up with all /four/ of their brains -- you can pick up the /void/ of their minds -- the empty space they lead -- but the minds themselves... it's like trying to penetrate a lump of opaque glass. Some sort of psychic shielding?

The PA system clicks again, spitting out one more message: "MUTANTS! ALLIES! FRIENDS! /JOIN/ US! NORMAN OSBORN IS THE ENEMY OF MUTANTKIND -- HE IS -- *krrt*" -- somebody just cut off the PA system. Rock-Man is embraced in curling shadow tendrils, producing a low, gravel-like growl -- like an avalanche overhead as he /jerks/ forward, trying to pull free, to move past Norman Osborn and toward the crowd... meanwhile, three more people run in behind him -- all teenagers.

One of them is a girl, her head shaved, a bizarre pattern of scarring across it -- it looks like... surgery scars. She's got a couple of piercings, a leather jacket, and an angry look on her face. Behind her, there's a teenage boy who is currently on /fire/. An unusual pitch of /blue/ flame, actually; his entire form is cloaked in it, swirling around him as he runs in. And next to them both -- the boy who was shouting on the PA steps in. Well, /swings/ in -- he's clad in what looks like some sort of 'fetishized' black latex suit, but it soon becomes apparent that this is worn for functionality, /not/ style -- because his arms are /stretching/ over his head, clasping the edge of the ceiling as he swings in -- landing with an almost rubbery 'bounce'. He's /also/ wearing a Magneto-esque tinfoil hat.

Meanwhile Tatters continues to amble towards the front of the room, pulling her captured drone behind her. She pauses as she passes Elliott, glancing down and noting her expression of bemusement as she passes, breaking out into a grin. "Yes, it's always this surreal. A few weeks ago there was a dragon and a god of thunder. Now we're being menaced by YouTube." Her bearing is unconcerned and conversational. This is /somewhat/ of an act, for beneath her facade a primal fear leaks out across her telepathic network. << Oh god this dress is /expensive/ and it's going to get /ruined./ >>

(here Nox is here but busy link her in can you link her in hold him hold him strong but he is) Around Zarita, wings of Nox brush against the telepath, folding around the woman like a cool blanket of velvet. Perhaps contact will help with linkage. To the others in the room, her sheer presence is growing thicker and thicker courtesy of Jackson's assistance with the lights. Where he pulls the light back, she flows in to fill it like air currents. The tentacles up on stage give a yank to send Rock-Man slamming down against the ground--until fire boy shows up and the illumination he's putting out casts over the writhing mass of darkness keeping the initial attacker down. PAIN!

<< worst fucking kind of golem, >> Hive is grumbling. And, << Don't die, >> he answers Micah SO helpfully. His tendril-fingers are expanding, when they find those shielded minds; not to the four kids but to the /partygoers/. Taking advantage of stress and fear and panic to just slip /in/, one mind after another, stronger with each he takes and rather less like himself. But it means the next press he surges forward towards the kids is stronger, a sharp slicing push that probes at those shields with a /good/ deal of telepathic force, wrapping around those void-spaces to grip /tight/.

Amidst the chaos, Claire's mind fires the equivalent of a psychic /dart/ at Emma -- not painful, and only made possible thanks to Parley's intervention. Said dart contains a pulse of /crystal/ in it, however -- crystal that seems rapidly ready to spread. << Emma. Open a channel every mutant you trust. >> Claire explains, her voice curt, abrupt, and to the point. And should Emma do just that... she'll promptly get /hit/ with the full bulk of Claire's power -- channeled into Emma, /crystallizing/ her thoughts, her ability to control her own power -- and sending it to every mutant Emma connects with. Not as powerful as direct contact -- weakening with each successive step away from the source -- but still /very/ noticeable. A sense of control -- of confidence -- of /clarity/ spreading like a crystal web.

Zarita's link to Nox is tenuous and staticky, fading in and out as she concentrates. Jax is picked up much more easily, and an Emma is included as well -- it's only polite, after all. She /is/ our host. Thus, Tatters voice echoes out to all of them as Zarita darts off to try and track down Lily. << --and it's going to get /ruined./ Oh! Um okay. I'll tank, Jax, can you contain any with shields? Light will trouble Nox. Nox! I'll get him, try and blind them and stuff, don't hurt yourself. >> And then she's off, dashing towards the stage and leaping towards the Rockman, swinging the poor serverdrone like a club.

Lucien is not joining in the evacuation. He's not really leaving where he is, either, though, at Emma's side. He offers no more encouragement verbally, but his touch offers a strong feeling of something /refreshing/, energizing, accentuating Claire's clarity with an extra boost of stamina.

It's at this point that Parley, fully open and streaming Claire pure and concentrated, feels Hive's mind press in through his dilated, /hungry/ channels and there is essentially no barrier at all. A short suck of air through his teeth - and Hive's tendril is SWALLOWED in. ...and then channeled /thicker/ and sharper and cleaner through the other end of the needle, his dispersed-subtle mind making each mind pressed into /through/ him so very much smoother as well. "Ngh-," he grits. But not in pain. And exhales shakily.

Jackson draws in a deep breath. << Do we really need to /hurt/ them? >> He's not all that pleased at the idea, as Tatter's swings her droneclub. << I mean they just seem kind of disturbed. >> But there's a resigned, << Keep them from making trouble long enough, I can contain them all. >> He admittedly doesn't sound /entirely/ sanguine about the idea of keeping up four -- five, with Osborn's -- shields at once, indoors with no strong source of light, but. BUT. Then there is more shimmer, more light -- it closes, first, over the boy-on-fire. A bubble to encase him in place. His fingers curl tighter, focusing on these two shields with slowly tensing muscles.

<< Telepaths are tricky, >> Emma allows, Her dress is definitely ruined as well, due to the sheer amount of debris coming off the mess behind the podium, but she barely registers it happening, her physical self somewhat entrusted to Lucien's care. << Mutants I trust? >> There's snort of laughter, giving off the feeling that she doesn't really trust anyone. She accepts the gift though and makes a few choices in the long run. Lucien is the first to receive feed back by proximity, Jackson after that (and whoever that person piggy backing might be), then the dart moves down the connection to Tatters - finally giving some more help to Nox, if she can be pin pointed. Parley would be helped, but she assumes Claire can take care of that.

<< Peachy. >> Micah thought-chirps at Jax, before continuing in sarcasm-drip at Hive. << You are the worst Controller, /ever/ Hive. I...will... Protect the Spellcaster? By throwing cups or something. /I am so useful/. >> Micah remains sort of /crouched/ by Jax, hyper-vigilant, so that Jax can concentrate on dulling lights and creating shields and things that really /are/ useful.

Blind them. Nox can do that. As support surges through the web being built by the resident telepaths, the woman shuts off her perception of pain. For now. Other wings are springing up through the room--darker shields that fold around Lucien and Emma, around the retreating partygoers, around Parley and those near him. Similar to Jackson's shield, hazy but still translucent enough to see through and solid enough to prevent them from being hit with any shrapnel--provided it isn't glowy. Then she follows Tatters' advice and the tendrils trapping the rocky one fall away, to be replaced with dark hoods that zip over the heads of him, of the girl, and of pony-boy up there--everyone /but/ the fire guy being handled by Jax. With those hoods come complete sensory deprivation. Bam, just like that.

Meanwhile, Caleswood and his bodyguard stand awkwardly near the back of the room, flanking a Zarita who's eyes are flicking about in concentration. Saint-Quentin taps his fingers against his arm impatiently. "Cam, they made me check my gun." "Indeed." "I would /like/ my gun." "Legitimately." "Where's Lily? /She/ can get me my gun." "I'm sorry, have you been injured? You can walk to the coat-check, yes?" "Yeah, but they said if they catch me rooting through there again they'll..."

Rock-Man goes /down/; the tentacles yank him into the half of the platform that Norman Osborn /isn't/ standing on. There's a rough crash, followed by a shout of pain and confusion as he struggles and squirms -- but then Nox is retreating beneath his companion's brilliant blue glow, and he roars out in triumph, rising back to his feet -- stumbling, half-over himself and half-over others, toward the crowd. Toward... who? EMMA and LUCIEN, maybe. "Rrrrrrrrgh SMASH!" he roars. But then...

The girl with the scarred skull grimaces; her fingers grip her own head. "Shit!" she shouts. "SHIT TELEPATHS SHIT!" And then around her -- an actual /shield/ begins to flicker -- physical, near-colorless, a half-spherical wavering of light -- a shield that exists both physically /and/ psychically, as she feels Hive's swelling *avalanche* of growing power slamming into them all. "Fucking -- whole room is -- so fucking /many/ what the FUCK!" she screams.

The other three are slowing down simultaneously -- as cracks form on the psychic shield layered over their heads. Rock-Man's movement toward Lucien and Emma grows clumsy and confused; he drops down to one knee, right before -- ZIP! -- his head disappears in one of Nox's black nightmare hoods. Rubber man *bounces* toward Tatters, but suddenly his face twists and contorts, and he's on the ground in front of her -- then ZOOP, nightmare hood. Fireman is making a b-line for JACKSON, but he stops, stumbles -- and then he's within a multi-colored shield, clutching at his head, fire burning /brighter/ and filling the space with an audible *FWOOSH*...

But the hood that goes for head-scar girl doesn't seem to be making much progress -- the shield is so tight around her that the shadows can't penetrate it -- and as she growls, the shield /pulses/, sparks crackling around it. "FUCK THIS," she snarls, "PLAN B."

The extra shots of clarity routed through the others sharpen Hive's grasping fingers. Around the building more minds are joining his network, his control growing enough that each new one is taken with little more than a brief moment of disorientation that is likely overlookable in the chaos. But with these comes a redoubled strength that /squeezes/ in at the four, sinking teeth in deeper and not letting go.

As the Rock-Man stumbles towards Emma and Co, Tatters blindsides him and smashes him in the head with a serverbot, its engine whining at full tilt as it tries to stabilize itself. As the surge of clarity sifts through her, she...well, nothing much changes, honestly, but the task of keeping track of her myriad needs of body immediately gets far easier, her disparate organs suddenly working much better in concert and much of the clumsiness vanishing from her movements.

Claire Basil's eyes go glazed and distant; she's focused entirely on Emma, her hand gripping Parley's wrist. She almost seems /incapable/ of noticing anything else that's happening. "Parley," she murmurs, eyes locked on Emma. "I think... I think..." << {I can feel my power /spreading/ how many mutants are IN here?!} >>

The shielded girl's shadow-hood is flayed to shreds by the crackling light and the room fills with a hum that sounds almost like a dreaming giant's moan. Nox retreats from /her/ but continues her own shielding efforts, and adds additional restraining tentacles to those aggressors she /can/ approach.

<< This is what you get,>> chitters Zarita in clear amusement, her mocking not making it through to the shielded teenager -- but that's hardly the point, is it? << When you throw a party and invite every mutant you know. >> She's mostly just /watching,/ at this point, settling back and keeping an eye on events. << Miss Jill, I think that one is disabled. Perhaps you should hit the fellow with the fire? >>

Jackson's hand uncurls from his fist, drops to Micah's shoulder. His fingers curl in tight, squeezing, his teeth clamping down sharper. There is a sharp beam of light that slices, not forceful but with laser-precision, towards the girl's shield, dancing against it and not so much battering as trying to cut/burn through. Norman is still in his own little shield-bubble; fire-boy, as well. The glow /around/ Jackson is dimming. << No, you shouldn't. You don't gotta just hit /everyone/. He can't do nothin'. >>

Three of the four go down -- Fireman, Rubberman, and Rockman's shieldings all collapse -- breaking beneath the sheer /weight/ of Hive's collective psychic force, the latter two bound by Nox; the /last/ one given a SMASH hit with a drone by Tatters. But the last one -- the scarred headgirl -- still manages to hold up. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that the collapse of everyone else's shield was a tactical retreat on her part; she's now /buffering/ her own shield with all the energy she was expending on /theirs/. It's so tight around her that she can barely fit in it -- and as she turns, slowly, teeth grit, she's making her way toward Norman Osborn. Still wrapped in that prismatic shield. Her eyes /burning/ with hatred.

"Plan... B..." she says, teeth gritting, jaw clenching. And then her eyes /blaze/ with whatever light her shield is blazing with; every telepath in the room can /feel/ her mind -- as a last ditch attempt -- /spearing/ out for Norman Osborn's. Her shield beginning to collapse -- attempting to *tear* through Norman's defenses. And expose him. /Force/ him to obey. "Tell. Them. TELL. TH--"

Norman Osborn -- who has, this entire time, been looking rather put-out within the grip of Jackson Holland's shield -- raises an eyebrow. And in his mind, his thoughts pull back... and something horrible swells up to replace it. Something NOT Norman. Something that, in terms of telepaths, can only be described as a psychic /tumor/. And when the girl stabs into his mind to seize control... that psychic tumor opens its arms... and welcomes her.

For a moment, the girl's eyes widen... and then her face spasms. The shield collapses, and she drops to the floor.

The tumor recedes.

Hive's fingers /clamp/ down, his control hooking into those four minds and /seizing/ them. << No more punching, >> he is gritting, to Tatters, to Jax, to Nox, because now these minds are /his/, too, and /ow/. For the four, the world is getting a good deal louder, for a moment, and then the clamour is receding to a dull background static. But they have a psychic /leash/ by way of Hive, and he's going to tug on it sharply if more VIOLENCE seems forthcoming.

"I DON'T KNOW. Call the National guard? Come on! The mayor was here, that's got to be worth something? Get the whole staff moving people out of the building and to safe locations. I do /not/ want a massacre here - of any type." Yes, Emma is still on the phone. Or at least pretending to be. She pulls the phone away and stares at the black screen. "Useless." She puts her phone away in a strangely calm fashion before turning to cling to Lucien, eyes focusing on the rock-man who is crippled before them. << Hey. I picked four people and none of them were telepaths. I have no idea. >> It's a partial lie, a guarded moment. She had an inkling, but hasn't fully investigated yet. She's is instead focused on Osborn and the girl. She watches what happens from afar. Her face turns very white.

Under Claire's hand, Parley's pulse is rapidly accelerated in his wrist, his features smooth-vacant and cheeks slightly flushed. << (many)(one). >> And, after a longer moment. << (hive). >> Whatever that means. He's washed out, loose, and leaning against the wall a little. With his head tipped down, his eyes track to Osborn. And this terrible display, he also shares, a thin dotting of sweat to his brow. He shudders. And just marinates, takes it all in, and passes it on.

Lucien's hand curls, supportive, at Emma's elbow. He is watching the proceedings with an oddly blank expression; from him there are only feelings of soothing, calm, energizing, refreshing. Whatever lies beneath is clamped down and nailed away tight.

No hitting. No hitting, /restraining/, Nox is /restraining/ and she hurts, it hurts, the lights hurt her but she's holding the two that remain conscious. At that table, surrounded by toppled chairs and broken lights, her doll sits unmoving, unblinking, pristine and lovely.

<< Oh, that's /your/ shield around him, I thought...it is hard to tell anything from this light show. Is there anyone the Miss Francis /does/ need to hit, or can she...oh look, everything seems to have sorted itself out. Well done, everybody. >> There's a mental sound, a rustling of something large that sounds /sort/ of like clapping as Zarita pulls back, taking one last look around the room. << Does anything need to be... >>

<< Yes. Are they hurt? Is anyone /else/ hurt? >> Tatters cuts Zarita off and stands, releasing the drone to let it buzz shakily away with a dent in its chassis.

"Parley... I think I have to..." << \{Stop,} >> Claire warns, her eyes still unfocused, locked on Emma. The proceedings around her -- the girl and Norman -- she /sees/, but /doesn't/ see. "Is it... dangerous? For me to..." Her power wanes a little bit, pulling back; the flow of clarity being fed through Emma shows signs of ebbing. << \{What is a Hive. There is so /much/. It's a little dizzying.} >>

<< Some debris flew around. Don't think nobody's hurt serious. Think we got it? >> Jax still isn't letting go of Micah's shoulder. He's not dropping his shields, either, even with the feel of Hivemind expanding, just watching the collapsed individuals warily. << Y'all aright? >> Underneath there's more percolating worry. About the four youths and what they said. << They're gonna be took and put in more cages, >> he says, uncomfortably.

<< Yes. Probably we are, >> Hive agrees with this quietly, rather too preoccupied to bother with the task of sorting out /them/ from /him/ from /us/.

"Mr. Holland?" Norman Osborn's voice is deep, now -- strong, powerful, /cutting/. "The shield, if you would? Also, has someone contacted paramedics?" He's producing a phone from his pocket. The drones, one may have noticed, have all /fled/ the room -- save the one Tatters procured. He seems... completely unphased by this. Was he expecting it? A brief psychic lookover indicates no; inside, he is /fuming/. But outside, he projects nothing but calm, brisk professionalism.

As it becomes evident that the pair she has restrained are bound from the inside, Nox withdraws. That sense of looming presence lessens, the shadows in the room growing thinner, more natural. Once Claire begins to take back her clarity through the Emma-link, Nox's retreat comes even faster--she snaps back into the shadow-doll, which shudders back into life and stumbles out of the chair, almost tripping on her own skirts. Blisters are along her chest, her arm, her neck, even the side of her face, bright white against all of that dark. "...Tatterhood?"

Shaw is standing to one side, brushing debris off a sleeve, regardless that his jacket is ruined and sightly smoldering. Until Lourdes sets to patting him out with little swats. "There paramedics are on their way," he says, his own phone being tucked back inside his coat. "And the /news/, I expect." And, in the depths of his hard, suspicious mind, << If I didn't know better, I'd say you planned this. >>

<< We need to make sure they don't -- Zarita, bug off. >> Tatters waves a hand past her head in irritation, stepping over to crouch and take a close look at the fallen girl, speaking aloud. "We need to make sure they don't disappear. I, uh." She coughs out a mouthful of plaster and shakes her head, pulling one of her hair-pins out and letting her hair fall across her shoulders. "I for one would like to know why this happened." The words are stiffer and more formal, as though she realizes she's /on stage./ At Nox's words she looks back over her shoulder, pointedly ignoring the nearby Osborn as she frowns in sudden concern. "It's cool, I'm -- Nox /you/ don't look okay."

The breath Jackson lets out is shaky-shuddering. Inside, something within him is recoiling, curling up, tightening away into a hard little ball. His hand drops from Micah's shoulder, falling kind of shakily into his lap. The shield around Osborn vanishes. He hunches forward, elbows propped on his knees, hands lifted to press fingertips to his temples.

"See, everything worked out." << For some of us. >> Caleswood adjusts his -- actually, he takes his glasses off and wipes some of the dust off them, /then/ looks over at Saint-Quentin as he replaces them. "You didn't even need your gun." "Cam, the gun was to make me /feel better,/ you know that." Beside them Lily reappears belatedly, frowning at the stage and looking conspiciously clean.

Micah finally stands up, assured that things have calmed down significantly. He rests his hands on Jax's shoulders, squeezing gently as he surveys the damage. "Is anyone in need of immediate medical attention?" Deploy Healer Class for post-battle clean-up.

Emma draws herself up, inwardly queasy. She glances toward Lucien before releasing him and stepping toward Osborn. "The staff are taking care of any injured guests and transporting them to safety. It will likely be a media circus out there -- Do you need anything?" << Parley, take Claire home. I don't know what a Hive is, but I'm going to find out. >>

<< We are Hive. >> It sounds like a /lot/ of voices, murmuring in chorusing unison to Emma, a droning background buzz of myriad-feelings muted and hard to read underneath.

"THEY DO." Tatters up at Micah and points at Nox, face hard. She is insistent on this point.

"Fire. The girl's shield. Hurt." Nox gingerly touches her fingers to her burned cheek before wincing and pulling them away. Her complexion has gone chalky. She sinks back onto the chair and reaches for the glasses of water that /used/ to be there, only to find them all knocked over. "...not life-threatening," she gently points out to Tatters, more to reassure than to argue.

<< (ok.) >> Parley's own mindvoice is more vague, if anything. Quieted and soft. Breathing slowly, he disengages the link between Claire and Emma with a shared: << (that is a Hive.) >> His own presence, added to the collection, is watered thin and quiet, sheets of gray, like smoke, and only semi-tangible. He slips an arm around Claire's back, "I'm supposed to take you home." He confides. "I think we're getting kicked out." ALL of them.

Norman Osborn is fingering numbers into his phone. Lifting it to his head. Most of the audience have fled; a few security personell remain -- the known mutants -- a few curious onlookers -- some of the military brass. He steps, then, up behind Tatters -- speaking to those who are left: "Thank you. All of you. Assuming no one needs immediate medical attention, I think," he adds, and he looks to Emma, before he adds: "I /think/ I will, in fact, see to the press. No, I will be fine, /Ms. Frost/." There is an edge to his tone -- she can feel the pulse of his mind. Thinking.

What the girl said before she went down. About there being so many /telepaths/. "See to it that the needs of all present are satisfied -- transport home, medical attention -- whatever their immediate needs. I'll pay." Quieter, then: "And ensure that none of the display prototypes disappear."

As he walks, he passes by Holland -- Norman Osborn stops, pausing to regal the man. "Thank you," he tells him, cool and polite, brisk and professional. But through Hive, Holland can feel Norman's confusion swirling. He's not sure what to make of the man. Not yet. But... there's something else, too. Icy and calculating. He turns, heading for the exit. To speak with the press. He is furious, yes -- but part of Norman's mind is already accepting, already /spinning/. Knowing precisely how to use this event in his favor.

"Ohgosh, /Nox/!" Micah's hands provide one last reassuring squeeze to Jax before hurrying over to check Nox's injuries more closely. "Somebody bring water. Cool, not cold. No ice. A lot of it," he instructs evenly. "Nox-honey, can you breathe okay?"

Claire's grip on Parley's wrist loosens; she continues to slip her mind back -- slower, slower, the ebb dripping until at last it's all gone; her eyes once more regain their missing sharpness. And then she's blinking -- and looking to Nox. And squeezing Parley's hand /harder/. "Oh--" Foreign-tongue curses are produced. Tug, tug, toward Nox.

Lucien's hand drops, when Emma pulls away. There's a moment when he just stays, leaning against the wall. But then things are moving back into action, and he sets himself about being /useful/. Like he actually works here or something. Only quietly useful, though; he vanishes, briefly, returns with a wide bowl of cool water to bring over, and drop to a knee with it beside Micah and Nox.

Jackson looks up, as Norman comes near. He nods, small and polite. "Y'still owe me that dance, sir," is what he offers, quiet, as Norman heads out, before returning to rubbing at his temples with his fingers.

Nox's injuries closely resemble partial thickness burns, without the glistening look that fleshy people get when suffering the same. Each blister is ringed in black, each center white, giving her an interesting polka dotted look. Her smile when Micah rushes over is wan. "...do not breathe. Not with lungs. Tatterhood would say I am weak to light. Minus one to resistence," she whispers, without moving her lips. Head and shoulders are kept very still to let him perform his inspection and when Lucien appears at her side, her hand creeps out to settle over his knee.

It may be odd, but Sebastian Shaw has waded amongst the mutants; there's no grins or persuasive looks; he just kneels down beside Micah and eyes Nox with hard old eyes. "That was foolish," he says. It could almost be a compliment. And, from a breast pocket, he withdraws an initialed handkerchief to dip in the water. His head turned towards the hole blown in the wall, he's thinking. << A school. >>

"We need to get you lying down and cover all of those burns with damp cloth." Micah's voice is gentle and soothing with these instructions. "Until the paramedics get here to take over." He stops a staffmember with an armload of towels to appropriate a few for this purpose.

Parley comes along behind Claire, the sounds of sirens can be heard through the torn open wall, as can be seen the bright reflections of police lights bouncing off back alleyways to lick at the ragged edges of the hole. He kneels down, glancing between Tatters, Jax - offering whatever novice aid Micah might need quickly and quietly, and between them, the rampant taste of stale adrenaline and Hive ONCE AGAIN in his head, he's struck with a powerful deja vu. << (you all can't be in the same room together.) >> Stated Trufax.

The police will be arriving to take statements - They will butt up against Sebastian Shaw first and foremost, and then trickle down into hours of overtime to take myriad photographs and measurements and samples for evidence bags, wading amongst the surreal destruction of a warzone peopled by women in gowns and men in tuxedos..

There is no rest for the wicked in this city, and through the electric buzz of psionic connections and equally sharp /looks/, the night is going to be a LONG one.