Logs:The Devil You Know

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The Devil You Know
Dramatis Personae

Fury, Jax, Ryan


"Stoppin' existential threats seems like a big-bold mission for you to be botherin' yourself with li'l old us."


<NYC> Mockingbird - Tribeca

With blacked-out windows and a tasteful but plain facade, the Mockingbird doesn't look like much at all from the outside. You'd probably miss it if you weren't specifically searching for it, and once inside you'd be informed the establishment is members-only--on a technicality, since membership costs next to nothing. Inside, the cozy club is styled after an early 20th century lounge, complete with vintage furniture, an antique long bar, and live music nightly. All of the employees and many of the regulars habitually dress in a melange of '30s and '40s fashion. The dance floor is not large, just an irregular space between tables and booths, but there's almost always someone cutting a rug.

It's a busy night at Mockingbird, and undoubtedly some of that is due to the quintet playing tonight, locals and a crowd favorite. Some of that is likely also due to one of the men currently on the dancefloor -- certainly, among the many very excellent swing and blues dancers present Ryan and his partner are only one more pair, good but not the most talented in the room. They are drawing the most attention, though, stares and pictures snapped both surreptitiously and not. In fairness to the fans and paparazzi both, Ryan makes very little attempt not to be eye-catching, tonight in a zoot suit in fiery colors: scarlet jacket and orange trousers, a yellow waistcoat with a zigzag pattern over a jet black dress shirt that glitters in the light, a broad yellow tie and pocket square to match the band of the porkpie hat left on his table, and pointed toe black dress shoes with yellow spats.

He seems unbothered by any ambient attention as the song comes to an end and he makes his way, first to collect another round of drinks (he's getting a sidecar) and then to return, arm slung around his partner, to his seat. "-- remember our dead on Memorial Day," he's saying to Jax, and it's not just the music that makes his words carry no farther than the other man, an odd unnatural bubble of auditory privacy around their booth, "but it'd be fucking weird celebrating today."

Jax is long used to the additional attention than comes with Being Ryan's Date for the evening; he's mostly ignoring it through the dance, pointedly ignoring it as they pick up drinks (his own is a screwdriver), but relaxing all the same when they're seated again and cloistered off into a space they can more or less talk comfortably. Like his companion he's bright, too; a closely tailored purple suit with bright red pinstripes and red paisley lining, an azure blue vest with a shimmery pattern of five-pointed stars, a sunny yellow dress shirt cinched with a green ascot, green and black cowboy boots with elaborate broguing. His green- banded black cowboy hat has also been left at their table; he picks it up to fidget with it once they're seated again. His breath comes out in a small chuff, his head shaking to spill vivid green-blue-purple ombre hair down over his eye. "Sure. Celebrate 'longside a bunch of imperialist murderers like that's an honor. Let's pitch it, see how it goes. Bet that new guy'd be offended on behalf of America."

One might imagine the black-on-black(-on-black) of Nick Fury's suit with its sharp military styling would also draw attention in this faux speakeasy, and if not that, certainly the black patch over his left eye, but somehow he slips through the crowd largely unnoticed, his (also black, of course) gambler's hand tucked against his side. He watches the dance floor while waiting for his old fashioned, but does not join in the dance himself, ambling instead toward the plush booths, even though they are all occupied. He coasts to a stop beside Jax and Ryan's, lifting his drink by way of greeting. "Good evenin', gentlemen," he speaks only just loud enough to be heard over the music and chatter, his southern drawl smooth as silk, "and I do beg your pardon for intruding. Unfortunately, it happens I've a need to discuss matters around your outing last Saturday night. May I?" He tips his left hand -- and therefore his hat -- at the unoccupied seating.

Ryan freezes with one hand on his drink, his head rolling slightly to the side as his eyes tip up toward Fury. Down over the man's attire, back up to his face. He doesn't move to let the man in, just drums his fingers lightly against the side of his glass, a small smile twitching up at his lips. "Don't look like a cop. Fed? Do we think?" Now he's turned his gaze toward Jax, lifting his glass for a swallow.

"Or the labs gettin' all kindsa bold. Jax isn't looking at Fury or Ryan but the bustling room around them. He does scoot over in his bench, leaving enough room in the booth for Fury to take a seat. "If you are here to arrest us it'd be a favor if we could finish these drinks first, but gosh you picked a spectacle of a time for it. I bet the paper'll say you're havin' drug troubles again." He tells Ryan this with a small wrinkle of his nose. "They ain't real original." He doesn't drink, just turns his hat over in his hand. Looks Fury over with a small frown. "So who're you here for?"

"Much obliged." Fury nods his thanks to Jax as he takes the offered seat. "I reckoned y'all might feel more at ease somewhere it'd take -- all kindsa boldness for those folks you mention to try anything untoward." He sets his drink down with an almost fussy amount of care. "I am none of the above, and I ain't here to arrest, detain, or otherwise apprehend either of you. I'm only here to talk, and that's God's honest truth." His hands spread before him in a gesture of casual supplication. "My name's Nick Fury, and I am employed by the UN, not the US, to monitor and manage what we in the industry call 'existential threats' to this here planet." He lifts his drink for a sip, but not before adding, "Though I 'spect y'all might have a few guesses 'bout what we do and consequently take issue with that terminology."

Ryan's brows hike upward. His eyes flick to Jax, his lips compressing. "I take it," he replies easily, "Y'all aren't focusing all your efforts right now on stopping climate change?"

"Eradicating capitalism?" Jax adds -- brighter! Hopeful! "Stoppin' existential threats seems like a big-bold mission for you to be botherin' yourself with li'l old us."

"I am deeply flattered you think my plucky little agency is capable of upending the global political and economic status quo, but I ain't got that kinda power." Fury puts his drink down again and leans back in his seat. "Personally, I'd be thrilled if we could do somethin' 'bout weapons of mass destruction, too, but that just ain't in the cards right now. My boss would say those are 'matters for which there are existing regulatory bodies', which is surely an abuse of the word 'regulatory', but me and mine are s'posed to fill in the gaps, so to speak. For instance..." He ticks off the items on the fingers of one hand. "...keepin' an eye out for hostile aliens, closin' a rip in the fabric of reality before it swallows the world, and tryin' to avert war between one or more global superpowers and some very desperate folks with superpowers."

Ryan's eyes go just a liiittle wider than they had been before, and despite himself he's sitting up straighter, curiosity piqued here now: "Are there aliens?" But he's subsiding after this, tipping his eyes up to the ceiling. "Seriously? If you want to stop America declaring war on mutants, you're doing a shit job. Or haven't you been paying attention? They're pretty much well on their way."

Jax's interest, meanwhile, is spiking along a very different line: "... rip in -- but it was B an' her team who." Now his eye narrows on Fury curiously. "-- oh. Oh, that's pretty plucky." He picks up his drink, not drinking any but tipping it slightly to Ryan in indication. "If avertin' war is really what you want, why're you here. Strings you seem to be able to pull, you oughtta be pullin' some."

Fury twitches half a smile at the question and replies, bemused, "'Fraid I'm not at liberty to disclose that information." To the rest he does not immediately respond, taking another slow sip of his drink. "Believe whatever you like, I been payin' a helluva lotta attention and pullin' a helluva lotta strings." His tone is even, though Ryan can hear the weariness and irritation behind it. "Not expecting no accolades for slowin' them on their way to openly throwin' your people in camps, but again, this is the US guv'ment we talkin' 'bout. You notice Uncle Sam heedin' the UN on any damn thing?" His eyebrows lift, the right one higher than the scarred left one. "I'm here on account of hoping y'all might be more willin' to work with me than they are. Now, I probably wouldn't be too impressed neither if some honky come telling me he's pulling some back-channel bullshit get the cops to kill fewer my people." He shrugs. "Hear me out or not, ain't gon' stop me fightin' this how I can."

Ryan doesn't look Too Impressed, it is true. "So, what? We got you to thank for a kinder, gentler Prometheus?" His brows lift. "Don't think you'll be making Jax's cookie-delivery circuit for that one. Anyway, however little sway you think y'all got with the government I assure you they listen to a bunch of mutie terrorists even less."

Jax doesn't have a tremendous amount of color to his skin at the best of times but he's gone a half-shade paler at something Fury says. He returns to toying with the brim of his hat, fingers fidgeting with its stitching. "Work with you how, exactly? How do you fight this? How you want us to?"

"Did I stutter about the accolades, or should I have said 'cookies' instead? I don't speak Millennial too good." Fury does not actually look or sound significantly more irritated, despite the snark. "My 'sway' don't do much when the folks I'm swayin', such as our esteemed legislators, don't know Prometheus from a hole in the ground because they don't have the clearance to know. I fight this by puttin' my people in the right places at the right times to find out which head of the pentagonal hydra feeds your titan. To do that, I need information." He rolls his glass slowly in one hand. "I know y'all must have mounds of information to pull off your lab-bustin', and I want access to that. In return, I'll get you what we gather. In completely legitimate and not at all treasonous ways, of course."

"So you come down here, tell us you don't have the pull to do shit about Prometheus, but you want us to give you what we know --" Ryan spreads his hands in front of him. "Why, exactly? I mean, that ting ya asking for, that's big big and what ya gone do? Where I'm sitting, some flatscan come say, I want to stop a war, I got no sway with the humans, you show me your cards now -- well. That's a recipe for you turning right around to the Pentagon brass and tipping them off, landing us all dead or in jail. Bam. Crisis averted." He lifts his shoulder in a minute shrug. "For now."

Jax is slower to respond, his eye fixed down on his hat where his fingers play against its brim; tiny shimmers of light wisp out from where he touches, dancing along the lines of stitching and then dissipating. "Do seem like an awful risky play," he allows, eventually. "What would you do if you had more info on the labs? If your people was in the right places, right times, what's the move then? Info we've got but our only power is on the ground, so far."

Fury sets his drink back down and clasps his hands together on the table in front of him, his eye darting between the two other men. "I'm be honest, I surely considered my job'd be a sight easier without y'all pokin' that bear all the time. Even if it ain't pushed them to go full mask-off yet, I expect it done wonders for Prometheus' budget." He does sound reluctantly candid, even to Ryan. "No point even botherin' ask y'all to consider dialin' that back, neither. But if I take you fine gentlemen out of play, it'd likely make your team and folks ain't on your team yet even more reckless. Better the devil you know and so forth."

"I had an agent at Blackburn." This time his right eyebrow definitely lifts intentionally higher. "Imagine if I had one in every lab. And with better access, I can --" He ticks off the points on the fingers of his right hand, mildly worried and a lot annoyed. "-- trace where their funding come through so as I can get to work on that; figure out how they get approval to deploy mutant mercenaries in so many states, cuz that ain't normal; get legitimate surveillance by a UN body of what's goin' on in there for when this blows open." His anxiety at this last may not show on his face or in his tone, but it jangles loud and sharp to Ryan. "Y'all know as well as I it ain't a matter of if, it's a matter who controls that narrative when it happens."

"Forgive us if we haven't stopped to consider your workload while they're caging and torturing our people." Ryan speaks lightly, but there's no trace of humor in his expression. "Given the stakes, I'd say you haven't seen us even come close to reckless. Do you got any idea what it takes to do what we do and not leave a body count?"

His eyes narrow at the mention of Blackburn, and there's a very faint tremor that hums through the glasses on the table. He looks away, pushing a slow breath out through his nose. For a second he seems like he might speak again, but instead just picks up his drink and takes a quick swallow.

Jax reaches out when it seems like Ryan is about to speak, laying a fiercely warm hand over the other man's. The anger that burns under his words doesn't come through in his soft-spoken voice but it's jangling loud and clear to the audiokinetic's empathic senses. "Y'know, t'date that's the only lab where folks done managed to spring themselves -- but then, circumstances was unusual for other reasons, too." There's a sharp sting of grief in there, along with the anger, and that is clearer in the bow of his head, the slow breath he exhales.

"Long as there are cages if I draw breath I expect we'll be trying to open 'em -- but you ain't wrong, I can't say it ain't crossed my mind there might be better payoff if we find other avenues of attack than main force. Someone's gonna spill this story one day, that's a given; I expect it'd be a boon to the people still on the inside if we don't get pegged as the devils when that happens."

Fury's steadily neutral expression slips, his eye going just slightly wide with his quick inhale. "I beg your --" spills a lot more before he cuts himself off: shock, disblief, confusion, shame, and admiration all bound up in an accent more Appalachian and less genteel than the one that had sounded perfectly natural on his tongue just a moment ago. He schools his face back to something like benign nonchalance at once, but takes another two breaths before speaking again.

"I didn't mean no disrespect, but I've got some bass ackwards notions how y'all roll and that's on me." He does not put his other accent back on, and perhaps cannot help the awe beneath his words. "They sure is actin' like y'all kill 'em five ways to Sunday every time you come callin'. I wouldn't judge none if you was, I just fretted 'bout the politics of it. Now I reckon you can't hardly get more politic. But I can." He hesitates, studying Jax's hand on Ryan's. "My man was there for Dawson Allred, God rest his soul, an' he was the one tipped y'all off. I ain't demandin' no cookies for that, neither." This sounds somehow equally calculated and sincere. "Only tryna show we ain't your enemy, an' I know damn well that's a hard sell, considerin'."

Ryan's eyes fix back on Fury intently, a thin smile now slicing across his face. "Oh, they let on how we're all vicious bloodthirsty terrorists? Why'm I not surprised." His hand has turned up, squeezing Jax's tight, but brief. "-- guess I can't argue the terrorist but that's a bit of a technicality. We've never wanted blood and we sure don't want a war. I want to stop seeing them steal the lives of everyone I love, but that's never been on the table. If some assistance in slowing that roll is --?" He looks to Jax, now, rather than Fury.

"People get a lot of things wrong about us." Jax sips at his drink again, pulling his hand back to curl it around his glass. "I hope you understand this offer you're makin', it's a heck of a lot more risk for us'n it is for you lot. Gonna need to think on it a spell. Maybe pray on it, too. Get back to you -- how do we get back to you?"

Fury's huff is almost, but not quite, a laugh. "Greenpeace is terrorists. It don't take much, these days, unless you fightin' for the Second Amendment an' the Fourteen Words." He lifts his drink and drains it. "That's all I can ask." He fishes a matte black case from a pocket and dispenses a single white business card on the table between Jax and Ryan as he rises to his full impressive height. "Millennials alla 'bout that textin', and I'm right considerate like that." There's surprisingly little sarcasm there. He tucks his hat under one arm. "There's a lotta big bad agencies out there, and I make a pretty decent devil-ya-know."