ArchivedLogs:Welcome to Latveria

From X-Men: rEvolution
Welcome to Latveria
Dramatis Personae

Doom, Shaw, Parley, Norman, Mister Shaw

2013-05-11


A modest entourage involving Sebastian Shaw, Norman Osborn and Parley arrives to Latveria.

Location

Latveria


The entourage from the United States is taken to Latveria via a private jet. It does not conform to the idea of a poor nation or a technologically inclined scientist. The vehicle is an ordinary affair, as far as luxurious private aircraft goes, complete with an overly attractive dark-haired stewardess. Unfortunately, her English isn't perfect, but it is fluent enough to serve drinks and food.

The trip to Latveria is, of course, very long. It must have taken at least thirteen hours; the count is probably closer to fifteen. It is Saturday morning in this fair Balkan land. Once the aircraft descends sufficiently low, rolling hillsides and plentiful farmlands expand like a warmly coloured carpet beneath the passengers. What might make the sight slightly unnerving is the lack of an airport, however. The bare necessities of what might constitute such a place can be spotted, but it is a locale that is largely under construction. Even the airstrip is a separated road originally meant for cars, cropped and reshaped to fit a new purpose.

The landing is brisk and rough. Any cups or glasses still containing liquids will be emptied. The brakes are applied a little too liberally, and there are a few gasps of concern. This short-lasting chaos is over soon, however, and the plane drifts closer to the skeleton of the future airport. Usual warnings are uttered by the Romani stewardess, while the aircraft is slowly prepared to be opened up and allow the jetlagged passengers out.

Sebastian Shaw has the build of a man that doesn't seem like he'd do well on long flights. Broad shoulders, big hands, long legs can make nearly any mode of transportation look like a clown car.

Which makes his actual airplane bedside manner maybe surprising. He brought along PAPERWORK, spreading it out all around him in great papery /continents/ of a new world he intends to conquer, looking over photographs of prospective new work sites and shipping warplan emails on his phone. There are paper letters to read as well, all neatly dated by his secretary (with a few snarky comments as well; ones he /appreciates/.) Also, a letter from his wife, only a handful of words, a print of lipstick kissed to its surface, a light whiff of perfume. It does nothing to change his expression, and he tosses it in with the rest of the pile.

One mustn't forget the entertainment potential of his /company/ as well. Maybe he and Norman could play GO FISH. Or Eye Spy. Or BLOODY KNUCKLES.

By the time they reach their destination, he is still looking sharp-eyed and brisk, if slightly beneath that rumpled 'airplane' look that makes one crave a shower.

Parley has spent the trip quietly curled in his seat with books and his shiny white laptop that he has appropriately named EMMA, if only in his mind. He is an old hat at going extended periods of time in confined spaces, and seems to only make a miniature nest territory of his seat and trouble none. As part of The Help, he's been more inclined to murmur quiet conversations with the stewardess. Totally not hitting on her. Unless she WANTS him to. Small-smile? Invitation to sit? Little questions?

Norman, meanwhile, has been silent. /Scowling/ a lot. Mr. Shaw - HIS Shaw, not Sebastian - was desperate to come. Security risk, he told him. All sorts of dangers, he told him. Norman scoffed. A foreign country with a media blackout, he replied? A place where Norman Osborn is not being /witnessed/? Safest place on earth.

He just stares out of a window during the trip. Occasionally consulting his slim, black laptop - a machine that /isn't/ named Emma - to overlook a few documents, work on a few idle equations, some odd projects. His only other object of note - besides his luggage, two /very/ large packs in the belly of the plane (one of which contains a disassembled drone - an offering, maybe, to Doom?) - is a large leather briefcase he keeps at his side constantly.

As soon as Norman emerges from the plane - dressed in his impeccable black suit, black tie, white shirt, and armed with a briefcase - he's scanning the crowd for Parley. Also, Shaw. It's the former he makes his way toward, though - immediately speaking to him in what /sounds/ like Japanese. Norman's mastery of the language is rusty; he never mastered the nuances, but he has enough to make passing conversation: "{All we need are some peasants chasing chickens,}" he tells him, "{and I'd think I'd just arrived on set for a new Indiana Jones movie.}"

When the doors open, the passengers are treated to a sight that isn't too reassuring, but one that fortunately was not visible outside the windows. Farther down the shabby strip, there are carcasses of crashed planes, with various workers meticulously stripping and cleaning up the sites of disasters. Practice makes perfect, right?

Down the metallic steps, there is a large Hummer-like jeep waiting for the guests, along with smaller cars behind it for the rest of staff. The jeep is coloured black and is shiny new. There is no roof, even if Latveria is not warm enough to warrant that. The weather is, in fact, quite pleasant, but strangely more reminiscent of autumn than spring.

Before that glossy black vehicle, however, stands the host of this entire affair - Doctor Doom. He wears his usuall green attire, despite it supposedly being burnt a couple of days ago. As is expected of him by now, he stands with his feet wide apart and his arms expectantly crossed afore him. He would wait for the most important guests to make their way to him. He stubbornly refuses to pay more attention than necessary to anyone but Sebastian Shaw and Norman Osborn.

"Sebastian Shaw. Norman Osborn." Slowly, he uncrosses his arms. He does not offer handshakes, but if prompted, he will oblige, offering the firm kind that is a mere margin away from pain. "I invite you both and one companion of your choice for each to my personal vehicle. The rest will follow us," he explains. "Inform me of your flight. How would you deem the pilot's skills?"

The baggage is hurriedly catered to by appropriate workers. The monarch would open the door and waste no time in getting behind the wheel. Figuratively speaking, of course, because the jeep has no steering wheel.

Shaw walks alongside Norman in his colonially inspired coat as a firm nod back to his American root, well-groomed sideburns, cravat and slightly ruffly sleeves, they all make their cases for formal ceremony. If Doom intends no handshake, Shaw certainly won't, twitching up the side of his mouth, "Doctor. In flights, having little to remark upon is the greatest compliment. I'm not here to judge Latveria's aviation. What do you intend to do with these?" He jerks his head at the destroyed /planes/. His shrewd gaze assesses Victor alone, the absent wave of his hand invitation enough for his lead aid to step forward - a woman in flat pumps and a brown power suit, a touch of decoration in a small brooch pinned to her left breast, briefcase her hand. His pick of the litter to ride in the Big Kids car.

"{I was expecting more machine guns and barbed wire.}" Parley admits back to Norman, his eyes skimming along faces. And that plane wreckage. And the distant cars. He's dressed in fashionable-but-plain attire, a high mandarin collar on a charcoal-gray three-quarter sleeve shirt, black slacks, brown belt, brown loafers - and dark-rimmed glasses. With his quintessentially /anonymous/ presence, strolling along those polite few paces behind and to Norman's left, he has the luxury of being able to take in the sights. And the minds. Empathically speaking, he is not powerful - but his specialty is /specific/ where he uses it, like laying out a snowy white tarp to see what bits of color and detritus might /fall/ upon it from the minds around him. Memory snippets, emotional significancies, flavor text written between the lines of communication. Yumyum minds. Doom is paid a special interest. A mechanically projected voice... hmm... and the mind behind it?

"Sufficient," is Norman's reply to Doom's query concerning the pilot's skills - a glance given to the wreckage. A raised eyebrow. "His braking could use a little work. Rough on the landing." Norman Osborn happily offers critique; part of his mind cannot help but dwell on the possibility that this will get the poor pilot KILLED. But surely - Dr. Doom isn't /that/ much of a Saturday Morning cartoon villain. Is he? "{Do you think,}" he asks Parley, then, as they stride forward - a hand reaching out to touch Parley's shoulder, /pull/ him up beside him - as if he were reeling a fish into his grips - "{that he understands what I am saying to you? I suspect he is absurdly thorough enough to install some monstrous Babelfish translator into his very suit. Or, more likely,}" Norman adds, suddenly thoughtful, "{he is recording everything we are saying and will translate later. In which case: Hello, Dr. Doom. I hope you didn't waste /too/ much time on our pointless natterings.}"

"I will take Parley," Norman relates to Doom, eyeing the vehicle without a steering wheel with - great interest! Then: "I presume our luggage will be transported behind us...?"

Surprisingly enough, there is indeed no barbed wire to be found, and the number of guns is truly abysmal. Even the ravages of war haven't affected this particular spot of land, given that most of the battles have taken place in an urban environments, rather than the roads connecting them. That said, Parley is likely to see things a little bit differently. Behind that steel scowl lies a vortex of war-torn imagery. It is a greedy whirlpool of bullets tearing flesh, mines dismembering hapless fools, deafening commands yelled that are drowned out by tanks firing. There is blood. A lot of blood. It flows richly. Connecting this chaos, turning it into a coherent painting of spite is Doctor Doom. Anger, strife, determination.

Not that the monarch shows any of that on the surface. Claiming the driver's seat, he flips his regal cape over onto his lap. Despite lacking a steering wheel, the car still has a fairly ordinary dashboard and a neat row of buttons just below it. There is also only one pedal beneath, and the gearbox seems to denote various settings the car can be put in, rather than serving the usual purpose of a transmission. Doom's sizable steel hand grasps the top of the lever and directs it upwards. The motor awakens with a purr. Eyeing the rest of the entourage behind them, Doom would push the lever further once he is certain everyone is ready. Then the car moves forward. "Your personal belongings will arrive with the rest of your ensemble."

The column of cars begins to move, led by what one can only assume is an artificial intelligence. "Rough landing," he echoes Norman's sentiment in his trademark booming voice. "Easily adjustable. I believe my piloting software is not far from perfection." Sebastian's lack of interest in this particular affair is also addressed, staring at the man's reflection in the rear-view mirror. "You will be interested to see what I have achieved with the aid of your resources." In the distance, one can see an aged town increase in proximity. The closer they'd get, the more signs of war the group would see, such as missing patches of grass.

"Our pilot was AI software," Shaw murmurs this, his forearm draped over the rim of his windowside seat, head turned to observe the landscape passing by. One side of his mouth has /twitched/ up. Either impressed or so bemusedly chagrined. "You make an interesting demonstration on human assumption, Victor. Impressive." He is closely watching the mechanics of Doom's interaction with the vehicle, and maybe, maybe he flicks a quick red-eyed look to exchange with Norman. Engineers, /not/ geeking out. But if Doom offered to pull off the side of the road and let them play under the vehicle hood, Shaw would sorely be tempted to have his sleeves rolled up already. "I hope my contacts have been cooperational with Latveria's needs so far. The sooner we get your country fully on its feet, the better."

As the aged town becomes more visible in the distance, he leans forward to look more closely, his mouth pressing into a grim line. It's one thing to see pictures...

"{You're lively.}," Parley comments(chastises?) to Norman, managing /not/ to snrk. Though his expression has to go suddenly DEADPAN to keep it that way. By the time they come upon Doom, he's gone quiet and unobtrustive to their exchanges, folding so subtly at the waist in something between a quick nod and a shallow bow when summoned into the vehicle alongside Shaw's assistant. He folds hands in his lap, also watching the scenery move by. << (this is)(no act.) >> He slips tho Norman in private; speaking in the wordless amalgamated sentiment-concepts that is his mind. It's grim, almost admiring. << (his mind is)(a warzone). >>

"Mmm. Fascinating," Norman comments to Shaw's remark concerning the pilot's AI - and then, almost jokingly: "Is that where the crashed airplanes came from?" But, yes. Norman is /just/ as fascinated as Shaw concerning the inner workings of this technology; were he given the opportunity, he'd have his sleeves rolled up /right next/ to Shaw, playing the iterant grease-monkey. CLUNK, CLUNK.

To Parley, Norman is - more cautious. Speaking with great care. "{I've been doing better.}" << Therapy. Working to suppress. Looking forward to... (Emma/you/working against him). A warzone, >> Norman muses, almost idly, more thoughtfully; he is saddling into the vehicle, now, staring straight ahead - watching the rising structures up ahead. << I was worried about that. That he might /actually/ be insane. How regrettable. His mind is - such raw /genius/. >> There's a tang of regret there, along with - is that - empathy? Yes, Norman knows all about the pains of being both brilliant and /utterly stark raving insane/. << Is he - injured, underneath that armor? He seems like a wounded man. Someone who has been destroyed, and rebuilt himself. Though perhaps not as perfectly as he would like to /think/. >> "You know, Dr. Doom - may I still call you Victor? - I'm quite fascinated by your advances in full-body prosthetics. I've got a man who's just /dying/ to meet you - thinks neuroprosthetics are the future. Very convincing."

The way to Hassenburg is idyllic, with the occasional farm on either side. There are two people in the car who will look past the present veil and see into what really transpired here. Doctor Doom and, by extension, Parley will see the tanks desperately trying to keep the guerilla forces at bay. Not that they open fire. They stand still, purely a show of force and a hope for intimidation. One man approaches, an individual draped in never before seen armour and outdated apparel. A soldier suffers from fleeting doubt. A tank fires. The shell flies with an ominous whistle. It hits the target and-- The memory ends abruptly with a disconnected imagery - pain, electricity, screams. Again, the discoloured chaos is pulled into coherent and orderly silence by the black hole that consumes it - Doctor Doom.

The image that creeps into the radio silence mimics what all passengers see - the checkpoint that marks the entrance to Hassenburg. On top of that, Victor van Doom begins to rehearse this arrival. His mind concerns itself with a barrage of concerns and questions, each leading to a tide of negative consequences, and each such outcome is counter-acted by the consideration of a solution; in some cases multiple. In the background, the words he is to speak in the very near future are rehearsed, words rearranged, considered, removed, changed, added, removed and then finally solidified in their place. His mind is very much like like red hot steel hammered into shape with the hammer of war.

The capital of Latveria is fenced off. Finally, barbed wire and machine guns come into view. The column of cars have to go through the checkpoint, although the sight of Doctor Doom himself is enough to ensure they go through with minimal fuss. Slowly, the streets open up to visual baroque delights, but they haven't entered the city proper yet. "Your workforce will aid me in restoring all urban centres and areas rich with natural resources," says Victor. "Two mines have already been rendered fully functional. I would like to show you one of them later today."

Norman's remark attracts Doctor Doom's attention shortly afterwards. "You may call me Victor. Your man is half-correct. Neuroprosthetics are not the future. They are only a step on the stairway to tomorrow. The zenith of ascension is when man and machine co-exist as a single organism, when we no longer are bound by the ludicrous notion that the two are separate entities. Unfortunately, that future is decades away."

"I'm surprised," Shaw doesn't /look/ surprised, though his crude, strong-browed features are weighted in construction and unlikely to show much regardless, "With machines taking up so much of the work force, I'd have thought Latveria's population would suffer unemployment problems." He runs his knuckles along the underside of his jaw; big, boxer's knuckles, so subtly scarred, adorned at the ring finger by his wedding band, duck-duck-goosing his eyes along each gun turret and fence post, "Technology as a way to advance humankind. One way to counter the mutant question..."

Parley is silent for all of this, chin on palm with fingers splayed loosely over his mouth. His eyes are... distant. Listening in, absorbing the rich, visceral-bloody history drenching these strange lands as bare soil might absorb the rain, channeling Doom's mind and presence deep, curling away from none of it. To Norman: << (if he was broken) >> Parley's concept of 'broken' is multifold. Wounded. Shattered. Traumatized. Lost. << (he has become stronger for it.)(he is imperfect.(but...) >> Like a spider, delicate traversing it's thin gossamer web, he flips along a few possible ways to say it. Settles on. << (/relentless/.) >> The rich history -- is kept to himself. Private. His eyes close.

<< (i wonder). >> He muses, quieter, as though only subtly allowing Norman to hear his thoughts in semi-stream of consiousness. << (if eventually, there will be technology to record psionic activity.)(even /your/ case)(something never attempted, before that i've seen.)(yet for all the advancement of mutations)(it's a field so limited in documentation)(that it can only be shared through word of mouth). >> For no particular reason externally, Parley can be heard so silently /sigh/. << (how archaic.) >>

"Mmn. I think you'd get along with the fellow," Norman responds to Dr. Doom's summary rather glibly. "He's quite fond of making similar points. He's actually done some miraculous things with -- mm." The words fade off; Parley might catch the briefest glimpse of... something mechanical. Stirring, grinding, CLUNKING. Followed by: << Eventually. Inevitable. Telepathy technology is - mmn. Machines that can detect the act of reading, of sending. Brain-mapping. You know -- our host's devices are remarkably -- mmn. I've been going over some of the recordings of his /movement/ in that armor. Just how -- effortless, /fluid/ it is. It's possible to do mechanically, but I suspect... >>

"Mass mechanization of a country overnight - the social impact will no doubt be extraordinary. There aren't a lot of 'positive' precedents," Norman agrees with Shaw's assessment, however briefly - he soon adds, however: "That being said, for this /particular/ case, I can't think of any /actual/ precedents. I'm quite interested to see what the impact will be..."

Hassenburg is a surprisingly large city. At least, it gives the impression of such, what with grand buildings with architecture that mostly ranges between baroque and rococo. All streets are paved with cobblestone. There are some aged cars to be found parked on either side of the wide roads here and there, but a sight that is just as common are horses. Some simply ride a horse on their lonesome, but the occasional coach can actually be witnessed. More surprising still is that the coaches have a fashionable licence plate at the back.

Some of the buildings are in an understandable state of disrepair. The recent events that the country has suffered through are readily seen. As such, there is construction to be found on every other corner. There's nary a street in all of Hassenburg where you won't hear the distant yells of construction workers, the buzz of machines or the rhythmic pounding of various instruments.

The streets the jeep chooses have actually been locked down, so there is not much activity. What little can be witnessed can actually be found on other streets that the little delegation passes by. At least there is plenty to sightsee. There are also no signs of modernisation in terms of architecture no glass buildings, no skyscrapers, and no apartment complexes.

Doctor Doom is at home. Unfortunately, he has no way of showing it, and as such Parley would be the only one to know it. "At present, the country suffers a stark lack of manpower. Machines step in to replace lives lost not just throughout the course of the rebellion, but the span of centuries. In the long-term, my creations will not replace men. They will co-exist." Finally, one of the centaur androids appears in view. It is of average human height, with a torso reminiscent of a tank's chassis, the tracks propelling it forward. Crowning it is a humanoid's top half, along with guns attached to its shoulders. It has no face; it is a level surface, complete with a very thin black visor. It is travelling at about walking speed in the same direction as this convoy, but it will be left behind soon enough.

Shaw's idea attracts Victor's attention. "Indeed, you are correct. I have multiple considerations of dealing with the mutant issue, most of which involve my creations."

Shaw for one doesn't look at all in a /rush/ for the monarch to move forward to modern topics, even turning in his seat to more fully face the building thrusting up like a fist against the sky. He doesn't interrupt to say as much, letting Doom steer the topics to what points he so desires, taking notes perhaps on what /order/ he chooses to make them in. All that hard work, Doom, is Paying Off; the skip back and forth from ancient past to future tense waves a remarkable little Jacob's Ladder vision. Hmm hmm... Shaw has the sort of eased and fully engaged presence of a large man three-quarters of his way through a luxurious meal. "Are you counting on mutant /honesty/, or is genetic testing compulsory for all citizens seeking identification?" His thumb taps absently on the arm rest.

It's subtle, but for a second, Parley's head turns to /look/ at Shaw - then away again. Instead, he thoughtfully hands Norman a small peek-hole glimpse of the /carnage/ that lives inside Doom. His streamlined reproduction from mind-to-mind transfer renders the memory wet as fresh blood, so stark you can /smell/ the death and violation - << (even now)(this is where he is living inside.)(i wonder...) >> He seems for a moment to pretend to avert his eyes from the flicker of movement in Norman's mind. Of machine-like perfection, shifting to organic commands. Then, instead, reaches out a deliberate finger to poke it. It is not a secretive touch - overt, like walking into a room with your hands raised where you can /see/ them. And asks frankly: << (should i play coy?)(i've read...)(some.)(already) >> His 'some' is the contents of a thumbdrive swiped from an Oscorp lab. They both already know he'd taken it. Coy, indeed.

Norman /laughs/ at Shaw's mention of mutant honesty; the laughter is a bit more pleasant than his previous, a bit more - /reasonable/. "Mmmn. People rarely /are/," Norman agrees, before glancing toward Doom. "I think I've mentioned to you -- I'm highly interested in, mmn. The possibilities for furthering technology with Latverian's mutant population. There's so much to be learned..." The words trail off. Parley might get a flash of Osborn's thoughts. Similar to what was on that flash-drive. Similar to the comforts of Prometheus, perhaps. Needles. Scalpels. The stench of antiseptic; long, metal trays with draining boards for fluids...

But then, to Parley, the machine churns - /stirs/ to life. There is a flash of - metal /spines/, long and extended and /clawed/, as if rushing out to greet him - dig steel talons into him. Drag him deeper into that relentless, pounding machine. But it's just... all puff and fluff. An instant later, and Norman's mind retracts, almost playfully. << You shouldn't dig too deeply. >> But then, almost as if reluctant to push poor Parley off: << I'll tell you. Eventually. >>

The desolation - Norman stirs at the sight of it, the /flavor/ of what Parley shares to him of Doom's mind. There might even be a sense of... appreciation. /Hunger/. For more. But just the slightest hint of it; Norman has been being especially /good/, recently. He pushes that appetite down the instant it emerges. << Mmm. He is a /warlord/, at heart, isn't he? >>

Doctor Doom allows Norman Osborn to announce and indulge in his amusement once Sebastian suggests the unlikely scenario of honesty. The armoured monarch is positive that Shaw does not believe the idea himself, a notion that Parley might easily pick up.

"Honesty is a frightful creature that is to be nurtured with absolute caution," the ruler remarks. "Overfeed it, and you risk it growing up to become a beast of betrayal that will tear your ribs apart." At this point, Parley is sure to find a very vivid image of that description - a non-descript beast with large sharp teeth tearing into someone's chest cavity. The face on the prey is not immediately available, but when Victor lifts his eyes to look at Norman's aide in the rear-view mirror, Parley becomes a part of that imagined scenario, and he is not the beast.

A crowd gathers around this occurrence of otherworldly gore, whispering the many possibilities that, in fact, channel the thoughts Doctor Doom is considering. They all pertain to a single theme, a gathering of inquiries that could be constructed into a single question: << What can he do ? >> The monarch was understandably informed Parley is a mutant translator, and while Victor still does not show any evident signs of mistrust, that doubt is there for the mutant to pick up.

"We have our methods." A man in a lab coat checks a syringe for air bubbles. The memory from before floods the scene as though a dam collapsed nearby, suffocating any precious detail with flashes of electricity and unadulterated pain. Doctor Doom is not the star of this experience, but rather the instigator. The waves subside, giving way to images of hands exchanging legal documents, the scene largely devoid of negativity.

"I do not wish to discuss them in the current setting," he adds shortly afterwards. Indeed, there is nary any time between his consideration of Parley's abilities (mutant or otherwise), the involuntary display of his psyche upon the mention of specific methods, and his answer to the question of identifying mutants. Thoughts are always quicker, and with Doctor Doom's case that's doubly the case. "In due time, I will share them."

The convoy continues to drive down the streets of Latveria's capital city. They drive by what could have been a sight of inviting serenity - a sprawling garden that, while may not really suffice as a park, still is a patch of nature in this aged town. Unfortunately, it's in a terrible shape at the moment; trees are mauled, grass is spotted with traces of past explosions, and the benches are in a state of disrepair. At least the overly fancy fountain at the centre is left untouched.

It is a curious thing. Three men redirect the water that the fourth pours from the top. One worker redirects by barely being able to hold up a dish on his shoulder. Another is using his own cupped hands, but it's not terribly effective, seeing as some of the water inevitably splashes at the man's chest. The final man is nearly on his knees, redirecting the water with a dish on his back. The water-rich pool at the bottom has stone hands desperately reaching out upwards, emerging from beneath the water and towards the flow, the workers and the authority figure sharing the aqua vitae.

"I am looking into a myriad of possibilities regarding scientific advancement with the aid of the mutated population, indeed. The labs will provide them with the safety and tools necessary to learn more about themselves. In return, I am privy to that information." It is fitting that the Supreme Monarch continues to brag, "The human mind is no longer a mystery to me. The mutant mind, however, is."

"A visceral choice of comparison." Shaw is, as ever, a less active structure against Norman's swift cheek.This doesn't mean the edges of his lips haven't so slightly curled upward in union, "It seems we'll all be watching Latveria closely in the coming years. Never has history seen a country reform itself as such a compelling controlled experiment. I might suspect, Victor, that you've been planning your methods for a very long time." His fascination is genuine; there is enough on this panoply of social innovations to keep a hungry mind nourished for days, and he comments to Norman, "I already want to assemble a new workforce to innovate." This is not businessmen being giddy. Not at ALL.

Narrow-eyed, /weighing/, when the fountain comes into view, there's little /beauty/ to admire of it - though quick darts of gaze reflexively mark on the mechanical details, the positioning that so intentionally directs the fall of water just /so/. His jaw even lifts itself, a quarter increment, off his knuckles, "-- what is the meaning behind the sculpture here?"

<< (hss). >> Parley doesn't bother hide the silky mental hiss when the Norman all but /playfully/ chews at his mind. Considering he'd /stolen/ the information from Oscorp and they both damn well /knew/ it, if ever Norman Osborn deserved a chance to gnaw, it's on this topic. A sentiment from the empath that the CEO would /taste/ on the toothy gear-treads in the form of an indulgent drumming of mental fingers somewhere between dry amusement and /rue/. ...Bastard.

Between Norman and Doom's mutual consideration of needles and laboratories, his mind cools. But the humor actually /remains/, if more bland and subdued. << (i'm going to be severely annoyed with you) if you volunteer me for that process (on the premise of some diplomatic gesture of /trust/.)(i get the sense it's unpleasant.)(...*curiosity*...) he is wondering, though.(about me)(couldn't really expect him to not.) >>

After a pause.

<< (mn.)(probably) should answer honestly.(if he directly asks you.)(*thoughtful frown.*) >>

Norman watches, intentful and quiet, as the scenery unfolds before him; Victor’s narrative is swallowed by rapt ears. The sight of the fountain - catches his interest. When Shaw asks the question in Norman’s mind, he lets it be, interested in hearing the answer. Brows furrowed. Continuing his silent communion with Parley, even as he watches the town slip by.

<< You’re worried I might throw you to him as diplomatic /gift/? >> Amusement /swells/ up in Norman’s mind in a rush that is almost giddy; not a single line of it shows up on his face. Norman is... quite /adept/ at hiding his true feelings beneath a facade of indifference. << I hadn’t even thought of it. What a delightful idea. >> The word ‘delightful’ comes with teeth, all wickedly barbed and chomping. CHOMP, CHOMP. But: << I wouldn’t. If /anyone’s/ going to eat you, Parley... >> There’s almost - yes, there /is/ a fondness there. A warm, hungered fondness that has no precise word for it. The sort of loving affection you’d feel for your favorite bonbon, or a pet you intend to eventually decapitate and devour.

<< Relax, >> Norman soon adds. << I strongly suspect telepathy is his weak spot. It’s one of the reasons why he’s willing to weather my presence here. >> Then, something Doom just said flickers across his mind. << ...Parley. The thing he said about the human mind no longer being a mystery to him. Can you tell me what he meant by that? >>

Doctor Doom shifts in his seat, rotating his torso ever so slightly to the side before turning to face the side where the park - and the elaborate fountain - can be seen. One of the advantages of having the car drive itself is that paying attention to the road ahead becomes less paramount. "It was built to symbolise the generosity of the government, the beneficial cooperation of the working class and the unquenchable thirst for material gain of the much despised lower class," he explains before adding shortly, "Latverian poets often chose this fountain as their subject matter. It is also a personal source of inspiration."

A lone man sits on a bench in front of the fountain. The garden is replaced with a shabby old apartment. It is known the man is young, but he looks far too weathered for his age. He wears fanciful formal attire that is mostly darkly coloured. It is an archaic suit, complete with a cravat as dark as ink. The dark-haired man looks composed and nonchalant, but it is known he is entrenched in thought that poisons his mind like mercury. He lifts up a hand towards the fountain. His powerful jawline tenses and his digits begin to shake. But just as that hand submits to a tremor, the stranger clenches it into a fist and retracts. This gesture translates to the image itself; it implodes upon itself, collapsing and withdrawing into the darkness. That is what Parley is treated to.

The column of cars continues through the city. It doesn't take the guests too belong before they arrive at the other side of the fence. The streets possess many turns, so one cannot really look towards the horizon and gauge how big the city is. Turns out it is not that big; either that or the streets the leader has taken them through were one of the quicker paths leading out of the city. Roads roll into plains, but the plains last an even shorter amount of time. Thick woods engulf the narrow road. "We are nearly at Castle Doom," the monarch announces. His thunderous digital voice is strangely fitting for announcements.

On the surface, Parley will see a chaotic cacophony of preparation. In the mind of Doctor Doom, this chaos is compartmentalised and sculpted into an orderly fashion, but navigating this web might prove a little challenging. Digging deeper will yield the phrase spoken earlier, as well as the threads that connect it to other hubs of information. It'll take Parley some time to dig through the drawers, but there it is - the human mind. The experience is potentially dizzying, considering it is a mind within a mind. Within this human mind, Doctor Doom casually traverses the infinite space, rearranging and controlling with casual gestures, demonstrating reign over this mental kingdom with great ease.

The imagery presents within itself the information that the Doctor has unveiled the secrets of the human mind to the point of knowing with great precision what buttons to press. Neuroscientists would likely murder for the information stored away in this mindscape. Parley's expedition to Doom's understanding of the mutant mind is even less pleasant, considering how much negativity is stored there. It is not so much hatred - at least not within this context - as there is frustration. Cords are pulled at but refuse to yield. Gestures are thrown, but the mutant mind stubbornly retracts. There are droplets of success, but they descend into an ocean of ignorance. At least, that's how the owner of the mind sees it.

For Shaw, the scenery, the landscape, are enough to hold a man in silence, this last stretch of the drive being a time for great digestion of the information given, ground down in a mental pestle not immune to the history of these ancient lands.

For Parley, it's a different landscape. And through him, Norman Osborn - channeling Norman inward where his transference of information from Doom's mind runs clean-sharp as razors. Cleaned, streamlined, scrubbed of imperfections - and /intense/. Free of personal investment, only endorphins warm in his brain, Doom's utter intensity forming a bit of a /rush/.

That's not even counting Norman's giddy /gnashing/, earning a strange inward... laugh? squirm? shudder? << (he wants you for)(your anti-telepathy research?) >> Yes. This time, it's definitely a oh-so-quiet laugh. << (better hope he doesn't find out)(you've made so little progress.)(mn.)(i'm not skilled at)(mindreading). >>

It's a careful disclaimer; because it's honest. But he /is/ skilled at that nimble art of taking what is said, /expressed/, implied, hidden in that realm just between thought and word... and knitting it together into a comprehensive tapestry. It indeed will take a while. Neuroscience is a language that does not rush to translate /empathically/, one being intellectual forebrain, the other instinctive hindbrain, and gingerly he finds himself needing to... breaking into the clear flow constructed between Doom and Norman to do a great deal of reorganizing to form anything coherent. How do you explain color to a blind man?

Well. You could start with hexadecimals.

The understanding requires (-electrodes read out screens shaved bald simple uninflected questions) some personal experience to color it. All formed as: << (he meant)(...this?) >>

Beat.

<< (he would have)(a heyday)(exploring /you/.) >>

“The generosity of government,” Norman repeats; is that a hint of - bittersweet irony? It’s hard to tell. It can easily be interpreted any number of ways; self-directed humor, or perhaps mere, curious whimsy. Parley knows the truth, though. Norman’s /fishing/. It’s a lure, sent sailing into the conversation, tugging for Doom’s attention - waiting to get a nibble. Because the more Doom talks, the more Parley can learn. And the more Parley can learn...

Norman’s mind swells open to absorb - mmmn. Information. He /devours/ it, but in a way Parley doesn’t; oh, Parley certainly knows how to open his mind, his throat - he certainly knows how to /swallow/ his surroundings. But when Norman feasts, his mouth has /teeth/. Ripping, gouging, /tearing/ chunks of it into his gullet, greedily swallowing. /Chewing/ on it, to rip it into digestible chunks. << He would, wouldn’t he. Nnnm. Maybe I should be worried about /you/ handing /me/ over to /him/. >> He’s amused at this possibility. He also doesn’t consider it a genuinely dangerous one. Doom’s personality may be harder to work with than Norman’s; Norman threatens to eat Parley regularly, but at least he /welcomes/ his advice.

<< He probably suspects I’ve made little headway, >> Norman admits, << but he needs resources. He also has a lovely little treasure trove of telepaths with no civil rights beyond those that he chooses to give him. Mmmn, >> Norman says, staring at that fountain as it drifts by - still /savoring/ the taste of Doom’s /comprehension/ of the inner workings of the mutant mind. << I would so love to devour his brain. >>

Norman's bait unfortunately is not taken. The man is given but a cursory glance, before the monarch falls silent and looks on ahead. The winding path that carves its way into the thick forest is not exactly an ideal road for such an extravagant column. Still, ultimately this challenge is overcome, and Victor van Doom's abode comes into view.

Castle Doom might not be as impressive as the first few results of an image search for a big castle, but it comes close. Its size is definitely noteworthy, and it is surrounded by a lake. There is no bridge or path leading up to the entrance, as instead all those who wish to enter the castle have to take a boat. It is a grand sight, and while it's too rudimentary and pragmatic to be an architectural marvel, the most curious trait is the blend of the old with the new. Each large bulky tower that claims a corner of the castle is crowned by SAM launchers. The battlements are home to patrols, each equipped with semi-automatic sniper rifles. Even the castle bridge is lowered by a pneumatic mechanism far sturdier and complex than the chains of yore.

The cars stop at the little port that precedes the lake's shore. The jeep slows to a halt, and a formally dressed man in a suit slowly approaches the king's vehicle. This man is the same individual who featured in the press conference. Near-shaven scalp, misshapen facial structure, damaged skin, one drooping eye-lid - Nikolai is not the most attractive man around. Before the vehicle is departed from and this assistant is greeted, however, Doctor Doom confirms that this is the final stop: "We have arrived." Furthermore, he looks into the rear-view mirror, eyeing Parley with a newfound intensity.

Another image arrives. An operating theatre. A crow of Dooms keenly observe a team of expert surgeons - all of which also bizarrely happen to be Doom - operating on Parley, namely his skull. The mutant is conscious, and the mind's vision of him bestows a level of panic upon him that is almost palpable. Out of all these copies of Doctor Doom, one marches straight towards the spectator, outreaching with his hand towards--

"{The ferry is prepared}." Nikolai's voice compliments his face. Suffice to say, that means it's hardly endearing. "{It will probably take two trips}," he adds, the Hungarian language sharp and brusque. Doctor Doom responds to him in the same language, seemingly confident Parley will fulfil his role as a translator: "{We will go first. You will stay behind and make sure the rest are handled with sufficient respect}."

The transmission is fidgeted with, and the car loses ignition. "Come, gentlemen. Castle Doom awaits."

Shaw disembarks, critically sweeping his eyes from ancient features to modern fixtures in a sizing up that has the bizarre sense of sizing up an /opponent/. His aggressively built features, even beneath the well-groomed ponytail and immaculate sideburns, never quite shakes the air of hardbitten /general/ more than cultured businessman. He leans down to murmur a few words to his aid, who nods - and the two glance absently in Parley's direction when he translates. But only passingly.

Because translation from Parley very nearly removes the sense of middle man at all. His presence when mid-channeling is muted, making only a well-lit impersonal platform over which other voices are clarified. He /is/ speaking English in a quiet monotone, eyes blank and watching Doom levely, but the sense of it, the tonality and every deliberate personalised emphasis somehow carries through the language barrier as though Nikolai and Doom had been conversing in native English themselves.

<< (are there any brains)(you wouldn't love to eat?) >>

The transference of information the whole trip here has been a /nice/ warm up. And Doom's /private/ musings of operating theatres wash vividly in, begin to feed through to Norman -

And then the whole of it clamps shut, in an abruptly … dismissive termination of the connection.

Standing unobtrusively alongside Norman, he folds his hands behind his back, over his tail bone. Spine straight, shoulders loose and low. Looking at the castle in the distance.

Norman rises besides Shaw - and if the fellow industrial mastermind comes off as a hard-bitten General, then Norman no doubt comes off as the diplomat sent to see to it that he does not /proceed to Russia/ after having successfully taken Berlin. This role, however, is merely a facade; Parley would know better. After Berlin, Norman would be more than happy to march on to the rest of the world.

“Lovely,” Norman says, and there’s no sense of deceit to the word; the parapets - equipped with SAM missiles - are viewed with a certain degree of detached appreciation. But at the vision of the surgical theater - however brief - that Parley offers him... Parley may carefully disguise his response, but Norman - is wearing a smile. Sleight, small, and secretive. The image - whatever brief snippet he received - seems to put him right at home. He’s actually quite /fond/ of horror, after all.

<< No, I suppose not, >> Norman relents, to Parley. << Though... actually, I think I would /miss/ you, Parley. >> This might be the closest thing to a gesture of sweetness Norman has ever shown the translator kitty. Yes, Parley; if and when Norman eats your brains, he’s going to actually /miss/ these little conversations. “Shall we?” Norman asks, stepping forward - looking upon the castle, in some ways, like a school boy who’s just about to step inside the interior of a /rocket ship/ for the first time.