Logs:Hammer Out a Warning
|Hammer Out a Warning|
"Best be off, then."
<XAV> Great Hall - Xs First Floor
The largest room at Xavier's, the Great Hall is designed to hold all of the mansion's residents and then some. Built for the mansion's bigger functions, it serves as the school's dining halls on ordinary days, and ballroom when needed. On school days, long trestle tables stretch across the hall, high-backed chairs with plush cushions offering seating for the students.
Love is in the air -- or at least the candy-colored trappings thereof. Here in the Great Hall preparations for tonight's Valentine's Dance are underway, with the very eager crew of the school's events committee buzzing around putting up deecorations under the watchful eye of the art teacher who has helped with them. Love Bugs is the evident theme, with the cutesy papier-mâché beetles decorated with hearts and flowers skittering around the tables, holding up the intricate glass-blown floral arrangements, proferring bowls of candy on the side tables.
Jackson himself is not yet dressed for dancing, early as the hour is, but he does suit the atmosphere in red overalls decorated with a liberal assortment of heart-shaped patches, one strap undone to show the tee shirt beneath (BEE MINE says the cartoon bee buzzing across it, leaving a heart-shaped trail in its wake); his normally peacock-hued hair is red-and-pink ombre today, a bright red heart embroidered in his pink eyepatch. He's just set out a number of intricately decorated red velvet cupcakes on the side table before whisking off to steady a ladder atop which a small mousy-haired teenager is wobbling as they reach perhaps farther than they ought to finish affixing a trail of streamers above a doorway. "You good, honey-honey? Might want to, um --" Though this sentence doesn't finish before he's glancing across the room to call hopefully: "Max, I think we can hang those with tape an' not nails!"
Love may be in the air, but not everyone present here today is in a particularly loving mood. Enter Malthus Rogers: a spectral figure; a murderous ghost searching for a graveyard to haunt. He is strikingly out of place among the colorful decorations, bugs, and students -- dressed in black, the one-eyed head of HAMMER looks as if he belongs perched on someone's mantlepiece, quietly chirping 'Nevermore'.
Fortunately for Malthus -- and unfortunately for everyone else -- he's brought his own decor. Three fully uniformed NYPD officers, and two HAMMER operatives (dressed in similarly dark coats like Malthus). The group flanks him close as he enters the Great Hall. They navigate the children with a blend of casual indifference and mild contempt -- for Malthus's part, his solitary functional eye is cast upwards, examining some of the more... ambitious decorations. He even manages to look mildly impressed.
All of that curiosity vanishes the moment Jackson is in view, though. Malthus's attention locks upon him like a bird of prey swooping in -- his stride shifts from casual to determined, the officers tensing around him as he approaches -- two of the three move their hands to their holsters. The HAMMER operatives seem significantly less tense, by comparison.
The moment Malthus is within 40 feet of Jackson, he stops and lifts his hand -- signaling both to the officers to halt and to Jackson (for his attention).
"Mr. Holland," he calls out, his hand still raised. His eye drifts across the teenagers throughout the room, then refocuses on Jackson. "Please slowly raise your hands and step toward us. You are under arrest."
There is no urgency in Malthus's tone; no force, no anger. But beneath the simple, calm civility lies an effortless threat: He's daring Jackson to resist. Here, with several armed, violent men... in a room full of children.
Malthus's dramatic entrance and even more dramatic pronouncement draws just about everyone's attention. For a moment. When Daiki slips in through the opposite door, his movements efficient and theoretically unobtrusive, eyes (and phones) all around the hall turn to follow him. Admittedly, he stands out in this rosy pandemonium even more than is usual for him, in a sleek blue-gray sharkskin suit, his black skinny tie dramatically interrupted by a broad diagonal stripe in a blue gradient like a shaft of sunlight reaching into deep water. He comes to a stop near Jackson, darting him a sidelong glance, eyes slightly wide behind his black framed glasses. "If there's anything I can do..." he says, very quietly--though not quite at a whisper. He does not, at first, seem to know how to continue, and finally settles on, "I'm here."
Just about the time of Malthus's Dramatic Entrace Jax has moved on to holding up one of the large heart-eyed paper mache lovebugs for the (now stably balanced) teenager to affix to the wall where it will be holding up part of the ornate banner. He's teetering on tiptoes, pink-purple-red-and-white beetle held high overhead when his attention rivets on the incoming brigade -- rapidly, after this, doing a quick sweep of the children in the room. Several of them have abandoned their decorating tasks to huddle together behind the tables or behind Jackson himself though one (Max, presumably, who very thankfully has traded their hammer out for a far less threatening roll of masking tape) draws themselves up to declare imperiously: "You can't be here without a warrant you know."
"Max, sugar, please don't --" Jax starts, a noticeable tension in his heavy drawl before he, too, glances to Daiki. Back to Malthus. He's -- very slowly -- lowering his armful of Bug to the floor before lifting his hands again. "You plan on tellin' me what for?"
Daiki's arrival causes the slightest shift in Malthus's posture; that cold, piercing blue eye focuses on this new arrival as one might look upon a new challenger. The officers -- HAMMER included -- also turn to him, their attention drawn closer. Malthus's gaze drifts across the students once more... his eye catching the glint of more than one phone. A flicker of displeasure registers on his face. The hand does not lower.
"We can have that discussion outside, Mr. Holland. Let's not disrupt your students' day anymore than necessary," Malthus responds, looking at Max for just a moment -- something almost akin to amusement flickering across his expression. Then, back to Daiki -- puzzlement -- then, back to Jax. Calm. "Walk -- slowly, please -- toward us. Officer Benson will handcuff you, and then we will proceed outside." Officer Benson -- a large, burly man with mutton-chops in his 40s -- steps forward, producing the handcuffs. The officers are tense, but Malthus's raised hand holds them steady and calm... like some manner of spell.
Daiki's attempt to reel his powers back in is not meeting with a great deal of success this time, but neither is the intensity of its draw escalating. His voice is still low, urgent, pitched for Jax's ears, "The Professor won't let them hurt anyone." Despite his barely suppressed fear, this sounds firm and not at all like he's trying to reassure himself as he looks back toward Malthus and his accessories. "Pardon me, Sir." Though he has to raise his voice to be heard clearly across the frankly silly distance the LEOs are keeping, he sounds perfectly pleasant and polite. "I'm Daiki Komatsu, an independent journalist. May I ask who you are and what agency you are representing?" He flashes a thin, cordial smile that is somehow far more compelling than it looks like it should be. "Besides, the young man is right. If you want to arrest him here, you owe him an answer here."
Jackson does step forward, his hands still above his head. He stops halfway to the cops, wavering, attention cutting back to Daiki at the continued pull of the young man's power. "I'm sorry, sir, but I have had some difficulties in the past with -- not exactly legal or authorized -- detention. Do you have a warrant? Cuz I'm fair sure nothin' I'm doin' right now is illegal."
"We are not required to--" Malthus stops himself mid-sentence. His expression is as stoic as ever, but something in his posture hints at a mounting displeasure... as if every moment spent out in the open pains him. His gaze keeps drifting toward Daiki; more than once, he seems to force himself to recenter on Jackson. The other officers are having more difficulty, although -- for the moment -- Officer Benson is only watching Jax.
"--no, of course. I understand. My apologies. Gunny, if you would." Malthus lowers his hand, at last; it extends out to one of the HAMMER agents behind him. 'Gunny' is a grizzled young veteran with traces of burn scars across his face that crawl back across his scalp, creating numerous interweaving bald-spots -- the burns look like a Lichtenberg figure, forming an interweaving pattern of branching paths. Something like what you'd get from being struck by lightning.
Gunny steps forward, reaching into his coat (slowly, calmly) and retrieving an envelope. The left side of his mouth crooks up in a smug little smile as he passes it to Malthus, who accepts it without even looking back... then passes it to Officer Benson. Benson does look back, taking it, then turning -- for a moment, he's about to present it to Daiki, but then re-focuses on Jackson... and holds it out to him.
"Judge Wilson issued it earlier this morning. We're here on the authority of the NYPD -- now, if you don't mind... we should move along. There are, after all, children present -- no need to entangle them in the affairs of men."
When Malthus speaks those last few words, he's looking right at Jackson. His expression is no longer serene; it is pure stone.
Daiki glances at the warrant, but makes no move to take it. "Thank you, Sir. May I get my tablet from my bag? I can also show you my press card, if you like -- it is in my jacket's inner pocket." He makes no move to retrieve those items, either. "Now, officers of the NYPD are required to identify themselves upon request. Federal agents, too, as of last year." His smile returns, only the faintest bit. "As you say, it's already hard on these young people, we shouldn't give them the wrong idea about the kind of country we are living in."
Jax's gaze hitches on Gunny, a long and steady moment as he looks over the scars. There is, for only the briefest moment -- blink and you'd miss it -- a small tug that twitches up at the corner of his mouth as he gaze traces the fractal patterning, fading as his single eye ticks down to the envelope. Follows its path from Gunny to Malthus, to Benson. He hesitates a moment before taking half a step forward, one hand lowering slowly to reach for the envelope. "You ain't all NYPD, sir, no? What organization are you with?" He's directing this question to Malthus, quiet and polite. "Feel like I've got to know most of the folks usually handle my people 'round here."
Malthus's nostrils flare. There is a tightening -- you can't see it unless you're looking for it, but his hands... the fingers are curling into the palms. Meanwhile, Benson keeps glancing from Jax back to Daiki, back to Jax... and Gunny -- Gunny's staring right at Daiki. Unlike Malthus, he looks perfectly at ease; in fact, he's shooting Daiki a knowing half-smirk.
"Of course." Malthus draws in a breath, nice and slow: "I am Captain Malthus Rogers -- director for HAMMER. However, my presence here is merely advisory -- to ensure that these officers can conduct their duties without issue." His eyes trace their way back to Daiki. "...this is Officer Benson, Officer Ruhl, and Officer Dunwick. The gentleman to my right is Mr. Derrington, and -- to my left is Sargeant Poindexter." Aka 'Gunny'.
"No need for your press pass, Mr. Komatsu. I trust you are who you say you are. Besides," Malthus tells Daiki, one eye focused sharply on him: "I am quite good with faces."
Gunny lifts his left hand up, pointing a finger at Daiki and lifting his thumb... only to drop the thumb with a distinct 'clk-clk' sound, followed by a wink. Bang!
"Thank you, Captain Ro --" Perhaps distracted by the task of extracted his tablet from his attache case without making the cops nervous, Daiki stutters over the name. "-- Rogers." He looks back at Malthus, his expression calm enough as he searches the man's grizzled face. "I will need your full names and badge numbers, too -- just for the record." He's already scribbling rapidly with his stylus. "I appreciate your cooperation, and we can exchange cards, so as not to take up too much more of your time."
A tall, reedy teen who's been filming the encounter gasps at at Malthus's explanation. "HAMMER? Those guys are mutant-hunters!" A murmur rises from the nearby students, though it sounds as confused and skeptical as frightened, on average. The one who had recognized the name of Malthus's agency raises their voice to be heard above the uncertain commotion. "They're gonna put us all in Prometheus!"
That gets a reaction out of their schoolmates, cries of dismay and fear rising now. Several teens flee outright, more of them cluster together behind cover, others shuffling along the walls away from the agents to place themselves more firmly behind Jax and Daiki. For all the chaos, a (more or less) calm and collected Daiki seems more interesting than he had been a moment ago.
Jax's shoulders tense slightly at the name HAMMER and noticeably further at the cry from the teenager, a very faint flutter in the lights around them. He's been opening the envelope to examine the paper inside, but he looks up sharply -- not at the teens but at the officers in front of him. "S'okay, y'all," the tension in his voice maybe doesn't sound The Most reassuring. "Ain't nobody putting you in Prometheus. They're just here for me. Why don't y'all go find the Professor, this will -- be done with soon enough." He swallows, his hand lowering. His mouth has pressed thin, eye lifting back to Malthus. "Dai, you're gonna -- want to tell Tian-shin, too, aright?" His voice is calm now but the paper in his hands rustles with his faintly unsteady tremor as he offers it back to Malthus.
"You can't put him in Prometheus either, we won't let you." Behind him, the small and mousy child who had been helping put up the lovebugs is stepping forward beside Daiki with a defiant lift of chin, digging into their pocket to retrieve -- their phone, fumbling to add it to those recording together with a determined chant of, "The whole world is watching."
"...hnh." A wheezy breath escapes Malthus, exiting from the nostrils -- like wisps of smoke. The officers look increasingly frustrated themselves -- they're not used to acting this calmly, this compliantly. And yet -- Malthus's presence seems to take hold of them, even as they exchange glances with one another and mutter beneath their breaths. Officer Benson turns to Officer Ruhl, mouthing 'the fuck?' and making a balled-up hand-in-fist -- Officer Ruhl just responds with a shrug and a shake of his head. "Yes, of course. Officers -- your cards, please."
Business cards are produced. Malthus produces his own -- begrudgingly. It's not something he's ever had to pull out, and hence he has one -- a dog-teared copy he shoved in his wallet at some point in the distant past and forgot about. Once they're tugged free, they're passed to Officer Ruhl, who steps forward to offer them to Daiki.
Shortly as this exchange is occurring, the outcry about Prometheus occurs. Malthus's eyebrows crunch together. Benson and Ruhl tense; Poindexter grins. Well, at least one person on their side looks like they're having fun... and looking forward to this exploding.
Officer Benson steps back. Malthus steps forward to take the warrant back from Jackson -- briefly leaving them eye-to-eye. Malthus holds that stare for as long as Jackson permits... then, when the mousy child pipes up behind him, his eye shifts to focus on them... and that phone, pointed at his face. For a moment, one might expect him to recoil -- like a vampire from a crucifix. Instead, he speaks, his tone level and low: "I have no intention of putting Mr. Holland -- or anyone else, for that matter -- in a lab." His eye drifts back to Jackson... his brow crumpled, his typically serene expression tense -- hinting at a barely contained rage.
"Now, Mr. Holland... if there's nothing else, we should move this discussion elsewhere."
Quite a few students trickle out at Jax's instruction, but other students are filtering in too. There are now dozens of phones and at least one actual video camera aimed at the knot of LEOs, especially Malthus where he is facing down Jax. More have picked up the ragged chant of "the whole world is watching", though most somewhat timidly, not loud enough to drown out the adults' conversation.
Daiki tucks his tablet under one arm so that he can receive the cards with both hands and a -- very shallow, for him -- bow. "Thank you, Officer Ruhl, Captain Rogers." He tucks the cards away and jots down another note. At Jax's question his eyes go even wider. "Yes, I'll let her know at once. Shane and B, too." He swallows hard and closes the distance to Jax -- even in this apparently impulsive act he moves slow and careful, keeping his hands visible to the LEOs -- and throws his arms around him. "I -- we'll see you soon."
Jackson returns Malthus's look long and even -- a slight birdlike tilt of head that, combined with the cheerful heart eyepatch, glittery makeup, comes off to make his side of the equation feel less like Cold Stare and more curious regard. He breaks this mismatched locking of gazes when the child pipes up behind them, his eye scrunching up here as if mildly pained.
"Thank you, honey-honey," is his reply to Daiki. He returns the hug, fierce and tight enough that for a moment the unsteadiness of his breathing is far more apparent to Daiki than the others watching. Then it's back to Malthus, with one small nod of acknowledgment, hands lifted as he steps forward. "'course, sir. Surely don't mean to be takin' up so much of your Saturday. Imagine you all could be spendin' a nice weekend with your families right now if it weren't for -- well. Best be off, then."
"Thank you." It's a sharp contrast -- Malthus's harsh face, his angry scar, the way it snarls across his mouth... in stark contradiction to Jackson's glittering heart-shaped eye-patch, his (apparent) sweeter disposition. Malthus steps back as Daiki approaches with that fierce hug, almost as if to recoil from the sight of human affection. He gestures; Officer Benson steps forward, cuffs in hand -- moving to swiftly cuff Jackson's wrists behind him. Poindexter looks notably disappointed. He was probably hoping he'd get to shoot somebody, today.
As the group starts to move, intent on taking Jackson with them, Malthus follows from behind. He pauses for just a moment, turning to once more scan over those children who stayed, video-taping the proceedings with their phones. And for a moment... there's no cold, hidden anger -- just puzzlement. As if he's regarding a curious, perplexing riddle. His brow crumples; his lone functioning eye traces over the Grand Hall... then back over the children.
At last, he turns -- moving to follow Jackson and the others, his dark coat fluttering behind.