Norman and Parley catch up. Also, SCIENCE! (Disclaimer: Normanplayer is not actually a scientist)
<NYC> Oscorp Tower - Midtown East
The main entrance of Oscorp Tower is a sprawling space - the ceiling is five stories up, with balconies for various offices exposed to the lobby interior. The front desk is manned at all times by no less than three secretaries prepared to direct you where you need to go - or file an appointment with the appropriate manager. Two escalators flank the desk, extending up to a third story pantheon - where tour guides regularly take visitors through a variety of hotspots, including Oscorp's biology and engineering departments. Two elevators are set aside beside the escalators, with a third private elevator that is guarded at all times by a guard and requires a security card to access. The place is crawling with guards, all of whom are watching for the first sign of funny business.
When Parley comes a-knockin', Norman Osborn is not to be found in his office. Instead, his secretary -- a nice, handsome boy by the name of Thomas -- redirects him down an elevator and into one of Oscorp Tower's many labs, where Norman Osborn is -- perhaps for once! -- actually engaged in the work of /science/!
The lab requires security clearance to enter, but that's apparently been waved by Norman himself. When Parley arrives via elevator, he at once finds himself within a sterile, white room -- sectioned off by glass for each 'area' of the lab. The equipment here is magnificently expensive; everything from high-end 3D printers (even one that is, essentially, an automized lathe!) to super-computers to HOLY SHIT is that one of the Sentinel Drones? The massive 'Manta-Ray' type thing is just sitting out on a table, nearly the width of a small car, a portion of the sleek black canopy currently popped open to expose its complex internal circuitry -- one might get the /sense/ that if Parley was equipped with a camera at this moment, he could quite possibly proceed to commit some /very/ expensive forms of corporate espionage.
Norman Osborn is actually alone; no technicians are with him. Instead of his black suit and tie, he's wearing -- well, he's got the black suit and tie on, but he's also got a /lab/ coat on. He's in one of the sections, experimenting with -- THWP. THWP. THWP. Oh, dear. A small, handheld device that's currently emitting streams of greyish silver, SPLATTING against a far wall.
Parley, perhaps predictably, is touching things. But with /care/, the drone is circled at a wide orbit, peered at with a gaze of rather genuine fascination - they're even bigger up close. When they're not shooting at you. Light-poke? To it's fuselage? He plucks up a pair of safety goggles, but rather than put them on all the way, he holds them against his face like a fancy mask at an opera house.
And, in the slippery way of his standard locomotion, he just kind of turns up just clear of the back of Norman's elbow, "--Parker does it better."
Oh, yes. The machine Parley's inspecting now -- that merciless, massive Sentinel drone -- is much bigger than the MAVs he's familiar with. It has something in common with them, though; it's more like a /daddy/ version of them -- but sleeker, more modernized -- more /dangerous/. And underneath the fuselage... are those barrels? At least six -- yes. They look like -- /machine/ gun barrels. Oh, dear. Someone's been being /naughty/.
When Parley speaks, Norman twists -- a brief surge of surprise -- but it immediately evaporates. Osborn is notably /not/ wearing safety goggles. He's also scowling -- pointing the device at a distant target. THWP. Turning to observe the result. "Do you realize," Norman states, voice tense with carefully contained anger, "that we considered the bio-adhesive paste to be a trivial /toy/. A neat little byproduct of a much /bigger/ discovery."
"And now it's stopping trains." At first - did Parley just sliiightly lean back for a moment? when Norman twisted? With a sort of fixed-intent /grin/? -- that sounds like his /only/ commentary. He's slipping around behind Norman to view the target from a different side. "That could practically be its tagline."
He waits a beat.
"All you would have to do was associate yourself with a terrorist." He manages to keep audible air-quotes from surrounding the last word. Totally straightman.
"Oh, it's too late to avoid /that/," Norman replies, and there's a humored grimness to his words, a sort of dark, angered cheer, like a man who's forced to enjoy just how deep in the shitter he's been dropped. Another THWP. "The government recognized my bioadhesive paste, of course -- I've been trying to sell it to them for little less than a year, now. Some of them suspect," he adds, "that I'm funding him. That he's the first of many -- a mutant soldier. Trained at the Osborn Institute, armed with Oscorp tech -- used as my personal little army." He almost sounds pissed that he didn't think of this /first/. Another THWP.
"A New York subway car weighs approximately 80,000 tons. There were 10 cars on the train he stopped; that's 800,000 tons. Moving at anywhere between 30 or 60 miles per hour. And he stopped it," Norman continues, rage /mounting/, "with /this/." The device is overturned; there's a click -- the brass canister is released. Tossed to Parley. "And now, if I even try to sell this stuff, I'll just implicate my company further. A sixteen year old boy," Norman continues, /staring/ at Parley, "has managed to not only out-innovate me, but potentially cost me /millions/."
Then: "I'd very much like to eat his heart, Parley." He's... probably not speaking in metaphors, there.
One of the weird things about Parley's mutation is the slight foresight into the intentions of of others; in this way, he seems to catch the canister as though /he/ weren't thinking about it. Oh, hey. He got a /thing/. He turns it over in his hands while branching off to meander the lab, waggling it absently, "And yet. He saved lives." Parley does not /sing/song, but is that a /kind/ of grin? AngryNorman always seems to put Parley at his most cheerful. /Probably/... he's not making the argument because he actually thinks it will /console/ Norman.
As he strolls, he's going on, apparently in a rare downright /chatty/ mood, "It's a shame. There's practically riots on the street that would have a lot to gain from your mutant counter-measure technology" He considers the canister, "Or anti-/human/ technology for that matter."
He's back at the monstrous Sentinel drone now, tipping sideways at the torso to look along its underbelly, "Have you seen the footage Holland and Stark released yet? Of the underground fight rings?"
"Yes, yes," Norman agrees, distractedly. He /is/ an engineer, after all! "I read the reports. If the train had hit the disrupted line, it would have been catastrophic. /Irrelevant/," he adds. "The boy's cost me a fortune and created a PR disaster. And I'm aware of the rioting. Doom's already provided /his/ solution." Another canister is plucked up from a row; the device is refitted. As Parley wanders the lab, Norman's voice chases after him.
"I plan on providing Sentinel Drones as a counterpoint to Doom's solution," Norman continues. "Armed with screechers -- and the paste --" There's a grimace here, followed by another THWP -- "they'll be able to quickly negate telepaths /and/ more -- physically impressive mutants. Augmenting the police force. They still can't identify mutants at long range." THWP. "I've seen the footage. PR disaster. Surprised they managed to keep Stark sober long enough to pretend that he gives a fuck." Norman can be such a /catty/ bitch, sometimes.
"Your company seems to attract," Parley is wandering around behind a wall of glass; still perfectly visible, and even if he was behind a full sound barrier you'd still probably /hear/ him perfectly well on another level, "PR disasters periodically. It's perhaps natural that Stark Enterprise would compete on /that/ level as well. Are your screechers functional now?" He glances up, brows raised. And there's something else. He's pausing, leaning a shoulder against a wall to watch Norman Osborn in his natural habitat.
"Not all footage was released, you know."
"Not yet," Norman replies, to the mention of the screechers. Another THWP. "I expect they will be soon, however. I'll make sure to write you down as a test candidate." Joking, of course. Though he's not /smiling/ when he makes this announcement. THWP.
The mention of additional footage manages to get Norman to pause in-between THWPs; the man in the lab-coat turns, regarding Parley with a raised brow. "Oh? I presume there's some relevance," Norman adds. "Something that makes mutants look /more/ monstrous?" That, at least, manages to get a smile out of Osborn. As if he were trying very hard to imagine what such footage would look like.
"I would expect compensation." .../Is/ Parley only continuing the joke? He says it so offhand it's hard to tell, "Do you have /any/ test candidates at the moment?"
That's almost neither here nor there, Parley is still watching Norman, as though even his turn, or his movement of /eyebrow/ were all responses of his own experiment in mid-conduction, "I doubt mutants need help with that, after the City Hall massacre." Like setting up dominos, it's build up, including, "Mmmh, I'm almost disappointed with you for not noticing. It was such a long span of time he'd suddenly dropped off the map of 'Spider' sightings online. Or had you stopped looking?"
"A few," Norman notes, although there's a sort of dramatic huffiness to the way he announces this; as if it were just a way of taunting Parley's mention of compensation. As if to say: Oh, Parley, if you're going to be /that/ way...
The mention of the Spider causes Norman to pause, oh yes; it brings about a spasm of his eyebrow, too. And: "His sightings were always -- sporatic. Although I've noticed they follow a typical high-schooler's schedule... you're saying he was involved? In the events. And they opted to keep him hidden." Norman chews this fact over for a few moments; he reaches to scratch at his chin. "Interesting."
"A few." Parley says it like /right/, I'm so sure. I'm so sure. This steady battle of Parley's to get Norman to GIVE HIM MONEY wars with curiosity. Guess which wins out. /Again/. "--Ss. I'd want access to study results thus far to know what to prepare for." The tapping of his thumb on forearm might be the equivalent of a feline /flicking/ its tail pissily.
"Involved is one way to say it. He was among the victims."
"Mmn. Victims," Norman responds, as if, again, chewing this idea over, testing its flavor -- maybe it's the thought of Peter struggling to survive in a brutal death-match against some mutant aggressor that's prompted the sudden smile on his face. "And they spared him exposure. How tantalizing." A pause, before he adds: "Do you have access to the video, Parley?" The matter of the screecher seems to have been forgotten amidst this -- idea. Maybe Norman just wants to /watch/ Peter fight for his life. On loop, over and over again.
"If I said I did?" Parley's innocently looking along the ceiling. Doot doot doot.
Norman chuffs. "Of course," he responds, setting the thwip-device down -- walking back into the main room. Where the Sentinel Drone sleeps. There's a loud *WHUMP* as he closes the chasis cover, snapping it shut; it's followed by the sound of switches being thrown -- a gentle, slowly-rising whirr from within the machine itself. "You /want/ something. Such a greedy thing, Parley." This is followed with a laugh, and then: "You know, I could just turn him in to the authorities myself. I'm sure I could think of /some/ compelling cover story to explain how he got my bio-paste, /and/ how I came to know his identity."
"And burn all of your tentative bridges with Xavier's school and potentially being branded an /enemy/ of one of the largest mutant communities on the East Coast while you're at it." Parley is following Norman -- eventually. It's a sort of loose vector that eventually deposits him behind the CEO to peer around the side of him. If he had a twitchy nose to /sniff/ with, it would be SO TWITCHY right now. Peeeeeek. "Tsk. And you've been doing so well not shooting yourself in the foot lately. Have you been sleeping?"
"Peh. I'd be surprised," Norman counters, "if they wouldn't think of me as doing them a /favor/. The boy's running around the city pretending to be a superhero. All it will take is one slip-up and he'll expose them all. Maybe they'll even /thank/ me." The Sentinel Drone purrs to life; whirring propellers begin to spin within their contained sheathes -- the whole machine makes a gentle 'whrrrmp' as its weight relaxes against the table it's placed upon. Wires attaching it to the walls and various terminals begin to pull taut as it lifts -- a wobble to the left, a wobble to the right -- a few tentative inches off the ground -- a rush of air accompanying its rise, hot and swirling out to brush across Norman's labcoat and probably ruffle Parley's clothes and fur.
"That being said," Norman continues, plucking up a tablet, tapping his finger against the display on it -- causing the drone to sloooowly rotate, "your point is taken. They've tolerated him for this long. Perhaps they're suffering from some manner of sentimental indulgence."
"He /is/ a miniature Jackson Holland, isn't he." Parley lurks behind Norman, /probably/ unconsciously, eyes fully wide and /drinking/ in the curious majesty of the Sentinel in action... behind the forearm raised to partly windblock the air rushing past his face. "And Holland has grown /fond/ of him. Nepotism isn't specific to just human schools. - and he's /quite/ bright. It's a shame. You might have gotten on with him, at sixteen." He's calling you /old/, Norman. "I believe he's recently gained some form of employment at Stark Industries, actually."
And, allows, abruptly, admits, "You know. I don't think any of the Latverian models had flight capability. That he'd shown, in any event."
"...Stark Industries," Norman responds, dryly -- before he commences to /roll/ his eyes. With enough force to keep several teenagers' Facebook pages running for a year. "Oh, for the love of -- he's /sixteen/," he says, irritably. "Tell me Stark didn't get drunk and hire him on some sort of fucking lark." The machine continues its ascent, only managing a foot before the wires go especially tight; it makes a gentle, angered whirring -- before rotating again, in the opposite direction -- and then. THWP THWP THWP -- three glueballs, splatting toward set up targets on the opposite side of the room -- apparently, whatever adjustments Norman's been making based on his tinkering with the thwippy device have paid off? Marginally -- the targets were hit, but off-center. The machine descends with a throaty rumble.
"Holland," Norman announces, "is..." This statement goes unfinished -- Norman's face /twitches/, as if he just caught whiff of a very foul-smelling substance. Instead of completing his thought, he turns away -- moving back to the room with the thwippy device.
"Making a man-shaped vehicle fly is nearly impossible," Norman quickly counters. "I imagine Doom is too smitten with his advances in full-body prosthetics to even contemplate creating machines with no anthromorphic properties -- he had /centaurs/," Norman adds. "How close is Holland with Parker?" He's thinking, again. Eyebrow spasming. /Contemplating/.
"Science knows no age," Parley /ever/ so romantically says. Except not. It's still just dispassionate-light though, smoothing down his mussed up /fur/ in rapid, absent-minded little /groomings/. Maybe he licks a palm once or twice during the process. "--He must take after his father, hm?"
Parley is heading towards the targets, hands folding behind his back to lean over and see the glue-splatters up close. So this is the substance that can stop a train... "Holland?" He asks it absently - but that moment of /ellipsis/, 'Holland is...' pours through his channels as they flex wider, listening for all the juicy tidbits of meaning and motivation behind it. "Why do you ask?"
"Richard? Pfeh," Norman replies, although on /this/ subject, he does not elaborate any farther -- instead, moving to fiddle with his thwippy device. The glue is splattered cleanly; it has a strange, rubbery, /elastic/ consistency -- stretchy like latex, but less smooth.
'Holland is' can end in so many ways; in Norman's mind, there is no word for the flexing, contracting concept that is Jackson Holland. The man is an enigma to Norman; something his sharp mind /cannot/ unravel. Norman's mind is one where there is no room for a view of Holland as a genuine martyr; this /must/ be part of a con -- a plot -- a /ploy/. The alternative is... Norman's mind bucks against that possibility. As if it were vomitting up poison.
"If he realizes what he has," Norman admits, "he could use Parker /against/ me." Norman doesn't go on -- and it becomes clear, in his words, just why. If Parker was to come forward -- come clean -- with everything that happened... Norman Osborn could be facing serious charges. It could be the smoking gun the government needs to topple Oscorp's CEO. Peter, of course, would likely not fair /well/.
"Unimpressive, is he?" The sides of Parley's eyes have narrowed at their corner - looking over his shoulder as he is, it's difficult to tell if this is from smiling or frowning. As default-neutral as he so often is, maybe it's neither. He leans in close for a final moment of contemplation, then comes away from the targets.
"Holland?" Parley looks amused, "Not likely. He has a consummate hero complex. He wouldn't willing put a child in danger any more than he'd eat broken glass. Anyway. Parker is very close with Holland's own children. Hmm - it's been a while since you've seen him, hasn't it? I wonder if you'd recognize him. He's manifested some striking physical mutations."
He's not asking /questions/ specifically, but he is leaning in close, watching what Norman is doing. Trying inwardly to guess the functions of what is being altered. If he's radiating how much he'd want to PLAY with it... well. Boys with toys. Randomly: "Have you thought to have your own son genetically tested?"
"My son," Norman responds, with just a hint of irritability, "is /not/ a mutant." Whether or not Norman has actually had the boy tested -- well, this issue does not come up. Norman's mind is, on this matter, a closed and locked box; it's not a subject he even wants to /begin/ to discuss.
The matter of Holland -- that's more intriguing to Norman. An eyebrow quirks at the mention of 'consummate hero complex'. "Don't underestimate him," Norman replies, and it's clear that Norman Osborn parses 'consummate hero complex' as an /insult/. "He's manuevering himself into a very -- /powerful/ position. If anyone's going to change the landscape--" A pause, before:
"Physical mutations? Parker?" Now Parley has his /full/ interest; Norman turns away from the thwippy thing -- he was just adjusting the settings for the nozzle and pressure, apparently. "What physical mutations?"
"Well. He's /being/ maneuvered, anyway," Parley is simply shrugging, crossing his arms loosely, low on his chest, and looking towards the targets again. "I don't tend to underestimate, Mr. Osborn. But I also don't assume I understand the motivations of others --" He tips his head meaningfully, "-- based on what /I/ would do, were I in their place."
He's tapping a finger again, on his arm. But it's considering now, rather than irritated. "Hmm. The sort that might do him well, in the future, really. On some levels." He's still not looking at Norman. Tat-tap-tap thoughtfully. Is he /waiting/ on something? Or just thinking?
"...do him well?" Norman asks, eyebrow -- quirking up. "As far as I can /tell/, no one's pulling Holland's puppet-strings -- if someone is, they're very gifted at the art. At times, I've even suspected you--" A brief, suspicious glance thrown Parley's way, "--though I've since dismissed such thoughts. You've clearly fallen for the man's charm." Norman /pronounces/ this fact as if he's not going to make the same mistake.
Parley only answers, distantly, "The world needs its heroes, Mr. Osborn. Holland is... mh, a flavor of necessity, on the board, regardless of whether he's looking to be. Good or bad, he seems to have a strong effect on the people he meets, doesn't he?" His brows raise, to himself, at the musing. Then blinks back to more immediate inquiries, rolling back his head to stretch his neck, "He's developed a light shell of armor. Parker has. Somewhat like -- a carapace covering, I suppose. It doesn't seem to affect his remarkable speed, though I haven't seen him much up close since it's developed."
And, abruptly - or possibly just exacting his toll: "This anti-telepathy material your company has been trying to manufacture - a psionically reflective surface. Have you been able to make any progress on it?" Since Parley last STOLE his information.
"The world has two breeds of heroes, Parley. Dead ones," Norman states, "and /fictional/ ones. Armor? Hmph. I've actually upgraded the drones he escaped from earlier," and there's maybe a hint of /glee/ here -- accompanied by the sound of buzzing blades and whirring cannons. "I suspect that /next/ time, his remarkable speed won't avail him."
Oh, yes. The reflective materials. "Some progress. We've entered the testing phase for three or four different variants -- it's my suspicion the screecher will have better results, but one of my top researchers believes the reflective substance will prove to be more viable. I have reason to trust his opinion, contradictory though it may be; he's quite brilliant when it comes to matters of the -- ah," and here Norman /smiles/, "neurological."
"They don't tend to live very long, do they," a very threadbare trace of rue might be in Parley's weary exhale. Or graveyard humor. It /remains/ as Norman mouthwaters with the wash of mechanized /murder/bots, "You may need to give up this Parker fixation, you realize. You're starting to sound a bit /fiendish/."
Ahem. Business. Right. "I've wondered," his hands raise up, palms out, facing Norman now as though placing an invisible barrier between them, mime-style. "A single reflective surface is so limited on its own... regarding how versatile different psionic abilities are. I'm aware you already know that. What blocks one might well enhance another. But." He's looking down at his own hands, "-- I've a thought. You don't know how my own resistance works, do you. I don't actually block anything /out/ at all..."
"Mmf," is Norman's only response to the mention of his 'Parker fixation'; the mention of business is enough to pull the Oscorp CEO away from detailed imaginings of Peter's demise -- eyes set on Parley as he lifts his hands up. "...no. I presumed you," and Norman makes a gesture, now, at the air around him, as if at a loss for the proper word. "--made yourself -- hard to target. Or something? Like how you keep /sneaking/ into places," he adds, with just an edge of ire.
"Call it a psychic camouflage. My shape, on the level of the mind, is simply..." His fingers ripple, hands moving apart, "Broken up. Dispersed. Telepaths are welcome to enter, but they generally gain as much information as trying to, sss... drink a glass of water by walking through a fog bank. It's an effect generally useless, for trying to reproduce in other minds. Something about the process of having one's mind torn apart and strewn apart tends to result in pain, catatonia and death."
This is the boring part, though, and only at the end does his gaze, for a moment, actually grows lively, /present/ minded. "/But/. Consider it. A psionic reflective surface, a mirror... but /fractured/," and now his splayed out hands turn at the wrists, down the forearm, to face his palms towards one another, fingers curling slightly as though gripping a ball. Or someone's head. "and then facing /inwards/ at polarized angles. Like," crap, word, he snaps a finger a few times, "-- facets."
He's watching Norman's face closely, looking back and forth between either of the man's amber eyes for a sign that he's following. "--instead of making a barrier to keep all telepaths out, they could look all they wanted. The shape of the mind would simply be impossible to /see/." He licks his lip, and, too pragmatic, adds, "Theoretically."
For a moment -- as he listens to Parley's explanation -- Norman wears the expression of an aeronautical engineer who has just been asked by someone why, if the black box always survives the crash, do they not simply /make the plane/ out of the black box. But something about the gesture of Parley's hands inward -- the curling of his fingers -- the word 'facets' -- seems to catch Norman's attention. Eyebrows are suddenly twisting together in thought, and...
"The majority of telepaths possess some means of picking up signals expelled by the mind," Norman states. "Several of our studies into the subject have indicated -- it's similar to Van Eck Phreaking -- a surprisingly low-tech method to pick up signals from devices by monitoring electromagnetic emissions. With sufficiently sophisticated technology, the very keystrokes from a keyboard can be picked up across the room -- R&D have reason to believe this is how the telepath operates -- their brains 'picking up' some form of electromagnetic transmissions, then translating them. The majority of our technology is involved in /blocking/ those electromagnetic transmissions. Or creating competing transmissions to interfere with the process of reading."
"One area we haven't investigated," Norman admits, "the shape of the /room/ itself. My own meeting room," he adds, "is enshrined in an exterior Faraday Cage. Microwaves use them to keep radiofrequency energy trapped inside. A similar concept might..." He pauses, thinking. Then, suddenly: "I need to conduct an experiment." Uh oh, Parley. You've gotten Norman to do SCIENCE.
Parley is /kind/ of listening, but he's kind of wandering off, mouth compressed into a hyphen, running his thumb along fingertips as Norman elaborates. It's a directionless pacing that stops with Norman's last words, whipping back around to come back. As he does, he's stating in a focused-blank monotone, "As far as my experiences have gone, the Prometheus labs haven't either."
"Of course not," Norman says, and now there is /laughter/, light and airy and almost care-free. He is no longer standing besides Parley; now, he is at the 3D printing lathe -- keying something in. "They're largely /biologists/, not engineers -- Parley. I hope your schedule is clear tonight," Norman says, fingers flying over the display -- the lathe rumbling to life. "Because I'm going to need you to try and read my mind."
Behind him, Parley's smile has a thin papercut edge to it, head tipped down to stare out from behind his fallen forward hair. He's already shrugging out of his jacket.
"I thought you'd never ask."