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True to form, Melissa had set a cheese spread on the big table in the Cube's war room. Lead by example, and all that.
The bluenette was not an especially passive person. She tended to take charge, and past experiences had burned her a couple times on the whole 'standing around and waiting for things to happen' routine - so she made things happen instead. Lately, 'things', such as they were, had been uncooperative. Happening without permission. It was time to take stock of the situation, figure out where they stood, and get a plan together.
Also, at least in her case, to get high as a kite. As her teammates arrived, Melissa had her bong (a borosilicate Tsunami Glass Jellyfish with two sprinkler percolators. it looked like something out of a sci-fi movie) out and was lighting the bowl full of Kali Mist. The second the door closed, she leaned back in her leather chair and blew out a massive lungful of smoke, filling the space above the conference table with a sativa-infused haze.
"Ohhhhh man," she breathed, leaning her head back on the chair and staring at the ceiling for a moment. Melissa's pupils steadily widened as her entire body relaxed. Okay. Now she was ready to do leader type things. "Oh yeah. That is exactly what I needed. Okay, so, uh--"
One hand gestured - flailed really - at Karla and Paul, waving them towards the chairs. Melissa glanced around for a copy of the email she was supposed to talk about, realized she'd completely forgotten to print it out, and then decided it didn't matter.
"--first order of business, we gotta talk about this whole situation at some point, but we'll table that for later, I guess. Second order of business, my handler got back to me on that dude who got murked by the robot at the Expo - he says good job on that, by the way. Guy was a Purifier, believe it or not, the second time we've run into those anti-mutant dickholes." With a quick shift in her chair, she sucked up the last remnant of smoke in the bong's stem. "Just about everything we've heard about the Expo has been related to mutants--" (This was accompanied by a second cloud, which pulsed rhythmically as Melissa emphasized words.) "--and, I mean, despite that, we don't really know anything about them. Where they come from, if they're organized, why people are targeting them, and so on. It's at like the center of metahuman shit right now, and we're totally in the dark on it."
Although she wasn't aware of it (for obvious reasons), her recent encounter with Mystique, had also been a mutant-related incident. Melissa leaned forward in the chair and peered over her folded hands, trying to look as sagely and thoughtful as possible (no small task, considering there was a bong on her lap and her eyes were overly-narrowed as if someone was shining a flashlight in her face).
"Once is a coincidence - twice, though? Three times?" A shake of her head sent her blue locks bouncing. "Arright. What's the deal with mutants?"
Paul walked through the doors of the meeting room. The little crab robot scurried behin him, clinking and walking, running into a wall as it did. It was crudely covered in graffiti and bright colours, any sign of the previous companies owner long since gone. Along the sides the word "snapper" was displayed on the sides. Not everything could be an acronym.
He had been down is the space designated for a lab. Piles of parts and wires sat everywhere but it was an organized chaos. He had been working away on a few upgrades to some gear when the text came through. He was always happy to meet, he needed a break anyway. Though they could have just video chatted with him,
Setting a loaf of sliced bread and a single can of no name dark cherry cola with the cheese tray Paul smiled to himself. "I didn't know this was called the war room." He said as he looked around. Come to think of it, he had never actually been in this room till now. War room, such a weird name. They weren't at war. He blamed SHIELD.
"We don't have to partake in the narcotics activities if we don't wish, do we?" Paul asked as he took a seat. Smiling he lifted the snapper up, on to the table, letting it wander from one end to the other. Paul leaned forward on the table, propping himself up. As Melissa spoke he listened.
Purifiers, it made sense. Though Paul wasn't sure of their motives. He had only spent a brief amount of time with an off branch. One job, that was it. He was hardly one to judge. To him they were radical terrorists with no goal. Clearly different from the Expo attacks. Those were organized and had intent.
"I thought the press was saying Mutants were the cause of the attacks? If so why wouldn't the mention the truth. An organization is much easier to blame than mutants." Paul looked at Melissa and then Karla. "From my brief time with the Purifiers this act seems much different from the first one, it's possible these were two incidents that were purely coincidental. One a radical hate group, the other a organized attack syndicate. Possible they aren't connected at all and the guy who died was just a Purifier in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Paul reached for the can of side he brought and cracked it open. "Mutants are any organism with alteration or a mutation to their genes or chromosomes. Technically eye colour is a mutation of some form, it all derived from the same one at one point. Most of this comes from genetics and differences, in some species this is the first step of an evolution. Mutation is quite common in insects and animals. Look at the blue lobster for example. Most commonly natural. It can be induced." This of course had nothing really to do with the question asked. They were dealt with something much different.
For once, Karla not only listened to Paul, she agreed with him.The war room was a strange moniker; had the Cube originally been built with other plans in mind?
"Makes zero sense, seriously. If they ever try to get us into a war, everyone's going to wind up crying. I guess 'conference room' was too normal? Whatever."
She dropped her purse off her shoulder, letting it fall to the floor in a clatter, then shoved her ass onto the edge of the table and shoved Melissa's feet a good four inches aside. This, of course, was so that she could lean forward and snag the pipe from the bluenette's grasp, then take a deep puff of her own. She held it for a good ten seconds - it only took about four to kick in, but she wanted to be damned sure - then let it out through her nostrils, to the effect that she looked like a lazy dragon lounging in the middle of the room.
Then, amid Melissa's protests, she snapped to the two of them,
"Okay. So, what are we supposed to do about this? Did you guys just want to sit around and bash mutants, or was there a point here? Like, my understanding here is that there's no overtime for us. They point, we shoot, we don't extend any additional assistance." She shivered a little, made a cartoonish "ooOoooOo" sound under her breath, then continued, "Don't do anything they don't pay you to do."
A blink, and then she turned her head to the side and noticed Paul's little stray - the painted crab robot.
"Awwwwwww, it's almost like keeping that isn't a horrible idea because it's just so cute. It needs a tramp stamp!"
"Oh not at all, these are for me. Definitely wasn't planning on sharing--"
Melissa let out a squawk of surprised dismay as her legs were shoved off the table, causing her to pop upright in her chair - which was exactly what Karla wanted, as the bong was simultaneously pulled from her hands. The bluenette stayed perfectly still for a moment, mouth slightly agape, a look of pure unexpected indignation in her eyes. "Wha--come on--" A real Kodak moment, at least until her brain kicked back in and made a snap judgment on what hills she was willing to openly die on.
"Mrgh. Well, that's the thing," she answered, waiting for the blonde to finish taking a pull before she took her apparatus back. "We don't know. The water's muddied, if that makes sense. Some people said it was a group of mutants that kicked off the riot at the Expo, but we know the guy trying to take the robot was a Purifier, so they were up to something too. I wonder if it wasn't, like..."
There was a moment of difficulty as she tried to think of the right term. The one she was looking for was 'false flag', but it wasn't a phrase Melissa was familiar with, and there was no way it was going to occur to her now. She settled for taking another hit from the bong, passing it back to Karla, and grabbing a slice of bread with some brie.
"Fake news? I don't know. Information warfare, that kind of thing. I mean, if I have to choose between trusting other people with powers or trusting the psychos that think we're freaks, I'm gonna go with the former." A pause, as she bit into the cheese. Ooh, delicious. "The thing is - yeah, thanks, K, I'm getting to it - I'm not just thinking about this for work purposes. That's actually the second thing I wanted to talk about, once we were done with the mutant stuff. We gotta have somewhere to go if all this shit goes south. Or someone to go to."
Her eyes flicked from one teammate to the other as she swallowed.
"I mean, I'm not...this is not me saying you guys are right about it, for the record. I still wanna do the right thing, go legit. Y'know. But there's a reason we've got Paul registered under a fake name, and there's definitely a reason we've all got mini-hideouts. This setup doesn't exactly favor us - we gotta think about what to do if things get worse." A shrug. "Which means thinking about allies, or, uh....groups to get cozy with."
Melissa was an incurable optimist, and could sometimes overlook important details in favor of her sunny outlook - but that didn't mean she was naive, and it definitely didn't mean she was stupid. Paul and Karla might have been surprised if they knew how often the possibility of betrayal by the Accords Council and the pro-reg forces crossed her mind.
"War doesn't pay enough. That's not an option for us. If we don't get paid or there no gain for us we don't normally partake. To be honest though I though this room was just a closet or another bathroom. This is eye opening, and the table is quite large. Do you think anyone would care if stuff went missing from this room?" Paul smiled to himself and focused one again on the robot moving on the table. It was quite distracting.
"Karla is right, why should we obsess over who attacked the Expo or not. It isn't our concern, if we have a mission involving it we can worry about then. Mutant or Purifier, until another attack happens we will have to wait. There wasn't leads there, or Iron-Man or the Government would have handled it. They just point and we move. That seems to be the end of it. No one is asking us to do this. So we don't have to right?."
Paul leaned on the table. He listened to what Melissa said. It made sense to make allies, they needed it for sure. Sooner or later this would blow up in their face. Paul was content doing side work and building and fixing gear for anyone who would pay. But he saw as saying. If they helped the mutants they may be able to lean on the, in the future. At the same time it was a big risk to go after them. It would draw attention to them and he didn't know if they needed that right now.
"Allies? Since when did we need anyone? I for one can handle the set up we have now. I get access to tech, and have a lab to work on. No one really checks on me and it's work that pays. What are we going to do? Get jobs? Have normal lives? With how hot everything is we can't go back to robbing banks and tech. This is a good compromise for the time being. The pay isn't bad, it's liveable."
He sat up straighter. "Who do you suggest we get cozy with? Do we really know anyone else? We could reach out to old contacts? See if there's work there. As long as there's still money here why should we look elsewhere? I'm not looking to play hero, but this is a good gig for now." He wondered if they were all on the same page. This was just a last resort becuase they couldn't do what they were doing before.
The sound of the crab robot falling off the table made Paul jump as he left his seat to go pick up his new toy. He set it on the table and it started walking toward food that was there. If continued to walk, pushing past the cheese plate, knocking it around. Paul smiled. "I have paint in my workshop if you want to add your touch to it Karla. It doesn't do much, it's just for fun right now."
He looked back to Melissa. "I don't think we should be worrying about anything to big right now."
Meanwhile, Karla was enjoying the initial rush that came from the first hit of the day (420, baby). Almost immediately, the worries of the day faded away in a puff of smoke. Her head felt a little lighter, and by default, she smiled, although she wasn't necessarily in a smiley mood. The weed was a good idea.
Now that a narcotic had temporarily neutralized the worst parts of her personality, Karla wiggled her butt further back on the table and disrespected it by sitting cross-legged on its surface, still wearing her heels. Evidently, her present state didn't extend any courtesies toward inanimate objects.
"Ohhh, this is about contingency plans," she cut in, just as Paul finished explaining. She'd actually listened to him this time! "Okay, that makes way more sense. Way to bury the lede, Mel."
The crab interrupted, but it wasn't unwelcome. Karla grinned at it and gave it a few pokes. She was always a friend to animals; it made sense that she'd be fond of their imitators, too.
"Cute. Yeah, I'll fix it up. Maybe I can use some nail polish, the lacquer would look amazing," she mused. A moment later, her brow furrowed and she tapped her cheek with a single finger, deep in thought. The Thunderbolts did have a lot riding against them, but then again, they were protected by higher forces; at least, for now. If those forces were to become too displeased with them, however, she was well aware of what could happen. Like most people in situations involving powerful entities, they were only safe as long as they were useful. "No, she's got a point, Paul. Look, although some of us are dumb, none of us are idiots. We wouldn't have survived our old work habits if we didn't know how this kind of thing goes. If the officials upstairs start feeling dissatisfied, or they think they can accomplish the same goal cheaper without us, they're going to drop us instantly - into the Raft, probably. Like, who would protest that? No one's going to cry for our rights."
She leaned her elbows on her knees and laced her fingers together in front of her, then rested her chin atop her hands.
"Mel pointed out we all have safe houses, anyway, including you Paul, so that's evidence enough that there's worry. As for who we should look at for the future, well, the mutants and their comrades are going to be pissed at us regardless of whether or not we're just doing what we're paid to do. We're making enemies, here, and maybe we should be more careful about doing that in the future. You know. Keep our options open." The crab-bot accidentally speared a cheese with one of its legs. Karla picked it up, took the cheese, and plopped it in her mouth, then set the crab back down and directed it toward the platter again. "You think our old crew's still around? We didn't betray them any harder than was required, so. There's also the circus, if you guys don't have any leads."
"Man, you can take whatever you want. I didn't even know what this was until I wandered in here looking for the Roomba the other day. I think this whole setup might be a leftover from some other project, because, I mean...we don't exactly have a lot of need for a war council table or whatever this---whoa."
She had given the massive round table a light smack with her palm to punctuate the statement, and as a holographic replica of the Earth projected itself from the table, Melissa started backwards in surprise. Thankfully she didn't let out some kind of sonic yelp of alarm, or really react suddenly at all. It wasn't scary, just.....unexpected.
All right, so there was...pushback, unsurprisingly, regarding looking deeper into the whole mutant situation. Fair enough. Melissa raised her hands in concession, make sort of a 'no, don't shoot' kind of gesture. "All right, message received. I'm not gonna make you guys do anything you're not being paid to do, no worries. I'll look into it myself."
At least it was an entirely civil conversation, owing to the fact that one of them was generally pleasant and the other two were buzzed. Melissa allowed herself a sly smile as the blonde visibly relaxed, trying not to let on how pleased she was with herself. Taking the bong along had been a calculated move, based on the assumption that Karla would snatch it at some point, take a hit, and become temporarily reasonable. Granted, at some point she'd sober up and probably go back on all of this, but Melissa would cross that bridge when she got to it.
(It did not escape her that this was a rather manipulative thing to have done. She was still reconciling it.)
"If we can find anybody else from the old team, that'd be perfect," she admitted. "I trust Abe and Erik - and you guys, obviously - more than anybody in the, uh, meta community. We could...I dunno. Go private sector. Mercenaries. Well, heroes for hire, more like." A moment passed as she weighed their options. "I guess there's, like...AIM, maybe, or...y'know there's an entire snake-themed group of supervillains? Not an option, obviously, I'm not rebranding as....I dunno, Copperhead or whatever."
Leaning back in her chair, the bluenette propped her boots back up on the table (taking care not to kick Karla, given their proximity) and idly rotated the massive holographic globe with her hands. "I was about to ask whether anybody thought Steve Rogers's group would take us," she finally said, zooming in on the United States, "which seems...unlikely. At best. But if we do get screwed, and lemme tell you, Karla's right about that, as soon as Ross thinks we're a liability he's gonna try to throw us back in the Raft on trumped-up charges - if we do get screwed, it'd be a decent way to try to get some payback." A pause. "Not that I'm saying we should do that, just...you know. I'm just trying to throw around options. I'm open to whatever you guys think."
A moment passed, and the holo-map shimmered in place, revealing that Melissa had zoomed impossibly close towards a label in New England: Intercourse, Pennsylvania.
The lopsided, stoned grin she cast Paul and Karla's way was endearing, if a bit vacant.
"I'm not saying we shouldn't have an escape plan or a fallback. I know if this goes south I have a few places to run to. There's a hacking group in Spain that I did freelance work for back a few years ago. I can still contact a few of them. What I think we should consider is what happens if we do strike out. Chipped, working for the man. They can find us, we saw how they track people down. First hand actually. We'd be another name on their list, probably higher up than most right now. They already have a stick up their ass for us, wanting us to mess up."
Paul looked at the robot and the hologram that popped up. This was an old SHIELD base, made sense it wouldd be used for more stuff. It housed a lot more than three operatives. It probably had a full staff and agents around the clock. Why they were given this was beyond him. Guess the government like them more than they did SHIELD.
"Could we find others? Willing to work with us? We can't exactly go running to other heroes and all that. Do we know any? We have contacts in the anti registration community? Who would hire us if we were wanted. There not exactly a lot of people calling on heroes for help right now is there?" Paul looked forward, sipping his drink. He was trying to be realistic here. At least they were in their cooperative mood right now.
"AIM has those weird outfits, pass. I don't like snakes either. Circus's lost their touch over fifty years ago. I can dig around and see if I can find anything on anyone we worked with. Abe and Erik aren't ones to really stay quite for long. None of us were, not really. I can try and find a contact with someone who took place in their Germany act as well. I'll provide documents at the very least, some are known, others aren't. The big guy wasn't Erik either. Maybe an imitator."
Paul looked at the hologram and slowly stood from his seat. "What about someone on the wrong side of things. As long as they're paying do we really care what we're doing. Some lower level jobs, keep some income flowing. I can get you well invested in companies. Legit money."
He crawled under the main war table, holding his phone as a flashlight to shine underneath. He continued to talk while he connected a cord and started to play with the tech. "Have you thought maybe heading out west. Like to California. There's not much hero action there. Maybe we could be the first."
Soon the map began to fizzle out and flicker on and off. It was replaced with a giant head of Captain America, his perfect hair and cheesy smile. A flicker later and it was Thaddeus Ross, chomping on his cigar. Beyond it appeared a Pacman head. It continued to ingest a line of dots until it swallowed Thaddeus' head with a single bite. Paul pulled himself out from the table as it continued to loop Ross getting eaten by Pacman again and again.
Whereas Melissa jumped at least slightly out of her skin as the hologram sprung to life before the trio, Karla rolled her eyes and let out a huge, melodramatic sigh. The display was tacky at best; she was pretty sure she'd seen that exact design in one of the myriad number of video games Paul played.
"... God, someone watches way too much 'Star Wars.' What a cliche."
Nevertheless, the light show did manage to distract her for the next two minutes. There was an immature snort of laughter as Melissa zoomed in on Intercourse, but as soon as the bluenette noticed she was amused, Karla dropped her smile entirely and resumed looking unimpressed.
That, in a nutshell, was the most Karla thing that had ever happened. Fortunately, she got off that track once the map morphed into a familiar and heroic face, something that perhaps was, just the tiniest bit, impressive after all; Paul had managed to reprogram the hologram in record time.
The peacocking did not distract her from some of the ludicrous suggestions being thrown around, however.
"You dye your hair and none of us are Christian, pretty sure Cap would lynch us before he'd work with us. You know, like they did back in his day," Karla groused. "... California sounds awesome though, not going to lie. I could deal with being a mercenary on the coast if we found a better word for it. Maybe a... Suicide Squad? Ugh, no, that sounds so gay."
Another sigh, and she flopped on her back on the table in a dramatic motion, legs swinging off the edge while she stared at the popcorn ceiling. It appeared SATF's budget had limits after all.
"Whatever we do, I'm not signing my soul over to anyone ever again. I've never been so deprived in my entire life. My cuticles are cracking." Was that a joke? It was hard to tell. Karla would probably die of irony poisoning someday. "Moving's not a bad idea though, seriously. New York's the penultimate pig pen."
Her head rolled from one side to the other as she glanced, upside-down given her position, from Paul to Melissa, and back again.
"We might be getting ahead of ourselves. If I remember right, Paul, you're freelancing without moral concern, and Melissa, you're, like, on a personal quest or something. Those two methodologies don't work so well together. By the way, I need the story on the Purifiers thing. How did that happen?"
"Paul's got a good point," Melissa said, narrowing her eyes. "I've been thinking about the nanites. As long as we've got them in us, nothing we try is gonna work. So if we ever have to bug out, priority one is gonna be getting those out." There was a pause as she lit the bong and took another long, bubbly pull; her next words came out in a muffled haze of cloudy smoke. "I mean obviously you could probably figure something out, you're a genius with this shit. But I was thinking - they've got a machine to put the nanites in us at HQ. So it must also have a way to take the nanites out of us, like in case they screw up while trying to put them in, or if they put in...I dunno, the wrong nanites. Something like that."
It was shaky delivery, but the actual logic was pretty solid. The Council had to have a way to purge their systems of the nanomachine swarm that kept them tracked - and more importantly, leashed under threat of pain or incapacitation. Melissa was willing to bet that, if Paul couldn't create some kind of counter-nanites or something, the lab where they'd been injected would be a good starting point to find a solution.
Bracing her elbows on the chair's armrests, she laughed at the cartoonish hologram version of Thunderbolt Ross as he was eaten by Pac-Man over and over and over. Man, Paul was crazy good with this kind of stuff. Even with their reduced numbers, it felt like there was nothing the three of them couldn't conquer. Perhaps it was just that this was especially good weed, but in that particular moment, Melissa knew that no matter what happened, she wasn't going anywhere without these two. Through all the adversity and chaos and setbacks, they had stuck together, and nothing was going to separate them if she had anything to say about it.
Hence, her next words: "Well, no, K, I mean...I think we could find some middle ground pretty easily. Like, we all want to get paid, that's cool. But we also don't want to get arrested again. So maybe we compromise? Hire out and everything, but be judicious about our clients. It's bad PR if you work for shitty people, even if it's just another paycheck, and it also brings down the heat, which we're gonna have enough of if we bust loose." There, that was a good approach. She wasn't being morally inflexible, she was appealing to pragmatism. Paul and Karla might not have had her compunctions about hurting people and generally doing villainous things, but they were smart, and they understood the danger of making yourself a public enemy. Perhaps she could appeal to their sense of practicality. "Also, uh....yeah, the West Coast does sound nice. Still pretty untapped, market-wise, and....well, I love all the snow here, but New York is a garbage fire of a city. My god, the traffic."
Melissa found herself eyeing up the reclining blonde - platonically, although the view was appreciated - and was momentarily preoccupied with the mental image of Karla draped over a grand piano in a sparkly dress, like Roxie Hart in Chicago. An undignified giggle escaped her before she managed to get it under control.
"Hell, this might not even be a thing, they might just let us retire peacefully after they catch Rogers or whatever. But it's one of those things where, if we need a plan, we'll be glad we have it."
"....also yeah, Paul, what she said. The Purifiers, really? They're like one step below HYDRA on the neo-nazi scale. What was the deal there?"
"Actually 3D is quite useful. Can see from all the sides, get a good scale. Plus someone has something to look at from all sides. A 2D image wouldn't show from all the sides unless it was boxed." He motioned to the image replaying again and again at Karla's mention of it being a cliche. As much as it was, it was really cool. Paul liked it. Holograms were cool. Much potential to trick an enemy. He could name twenty uses just off he top of his head.
"Captain America is definitely out. Even if saddling up with him is an option he is to hot right now. Pretty sure anyone with him or having worked with him is under the arrest on site method. Joining them would just draw attention to ourselves. If that's the case I'd rather have attention from money than working with his team." Paul shrugged and leaned on the table.
He looked from Melissa to Karla. "I can experiment on the nanites. I've tried, if we turn the, off I could probably make it appear as if they were still active, they wouldn't know until they actually went to check. But turning them off isn't an option right now. Not something I could do unless I had access to them. I doubt either of you would let me carve into to check. Obviously it can't be myself because I need to do the tests. See my predicament."
Paul looked tot he table. "Shitty clients are what lined our pockets. What do you suggest we do? Work with the mob? The Yakuza? Small time stuff won't nearly offer an affordable option. Not with the spending habits of you both." Paul could live comfortably on very little, and he had, for many months. Food, a roof, and the rest came easy. He had money stashed away, plenty of cards to spend on,
"New York is very dirty. There's garbage and rats everywhere. The smell makes me want to vomit most days. California would be nice, San Francisco, or south. New Mexico has access to the border. Cartel may be worth looking into to. There's no Captain Mexico. Or we could go off shore. London, Japan, Paris. Lots of options." He didn't know how to start in any place, but it wouldn't take long to figure out. They were smart, and worked hard.
He ignored both the girls and focused on thoughts in his head. There question drawed him out and he blinked a few times. "Purifiers, if that was actually them, were just a job. Contract work, some tech stuff for a bomb. The one I had remote access of. Contingency and all that. I don't even know if they were Purifiers, or a Purifier inspired group. They weren't as well organized, and only the leader had gusto. They paid enough money to cover rent for months. One job for all that cash. I saw no downside. As I said, I had contingency."
Paul paused, taking a breath as he leaned back. "Don't be mad, but I did have contacts in Hydra. A mutant with Telepathic powers was an operator of them. Actually I don't know what he was, possible he was just under contract. But he and I worked together for years prior to all of us. It was through him that I was able to do this." Paul tapped the receiver on the side of his head. "Instalment and the resources to pay for it. It all came through him. Yes he was Hydra or had ties with them. But I just did a few contracts."
Looking to talk he table Paul sunk into a seat. "I didn't enjoy it, and they were to high profile. But they had paid. Same as the Purifiers. Only the Purifiers weren't really high profile until recently. I didn't process it." He could feel the judgement. Maybe he was ashamed, but it was a long time ago, in the past.
For a few blessed seconds, Karla was quiet, letting Paul and Melissa talk. Both had arguably solid points, and had obviously put some thought into the matter well ahead of time, which was... more than what Karla could say, really. She tended to fly by the seat of her pants at the best of times, following her whims while making it seem as much as possible that she had actually planned everything out right from the start.
With a quiet huff of frustration, she flopped down on the table, legs hanging off its side, and stared at the ceiling. The projection danced in her peripheral, no doubt being screwed with to the umpteenth degree, and the spider robot now had cheese on all but one of its legs, having apparently confused its purpose.
"Let's slow down on the nanites a minute here. I know you're Boy Genius and all, but government doesn't fuck around. Pretty sure there's at least five hundred failsafes in these things; if they can get notifications when someone cuts off an ankle monitoring bracelet, imagine what they've got set up for us?" she lamented. Unfortunately, she, too, had a good point, at least in that regard. "This isn't like when we were busting banks and shit. Sadly. Man, I miss when it was just about all I wanna do is bang bang bang, and take your money."
Finger-guns naturally accompanied that last bit.
Karla let out a long-suffering sigh through her nose. Trying to find a group of allies that would work with the sort of people who wound up in the Thunderbolts was difficult at best; they all tended to fly solo, or at least semi-solo, and they had reputations, to boot. Either way, consistency was not their best feature, and Karla was the worst of the bunch.
"This is why I don't do commitment," she concluded, just as Paul got into his explanation of the Purifiers and dove right into... Hydra?! Of all people, Hydra. Of all people, Paul! She couldn't believe it. "Oh my god! Paul's a Nazi. Okay, new proposal: Paul doesn't get any input on who or what we work with, because he seriously worked with Hydra. Jesus, Paul. You know like half the people we work with are Jews, right? There's a Jewess in the room, even."
It was weird for Karla to be so judgmental, but then again, literal Nazis were involved in the conversation now.
"Anyway, Mel, you know that chick that runs that club in Brooklyn, don't you? What's so bad about just, like... freelancing for a bit, maybe scoping some clients out there and see what we come up with? We could get some side gigs running if the Avengers ever calm down for ten seconds. Maybe you guys could let me do some investigating and I can pick who we go with, you know, avoid the whole moral compunction thing and getting arrested."
Letting Karla pick who they worked with would not, for the record, prevent them from getting arrested in any way, shape or form.
Melissa would probably have been mad about the revelation under normal circumstances. Even when they were supervillains, she'd been quite vocal about her distaste for HYDRA (for obvious reasons, she had a dim view of Nazis in general, neo- or otherwise), and that hadn't changed now that
the team she was on the right side of the law, morally speaking.
She was an inherently conciliatory person, though, and this was really good weed.
"It's not--what, I'm not a 'Jewess'," she said with a sidelong glance at the reclining Karla. "Okay, yeah, technically I am, but it's not the eighteenth century anymore, so unless you want a formal diagnosis of 'hysteria' and/or 'donkey brains', lets get with the times."
Another puff on the bong followed, to make absolutely sure she'd centered herself.
"Anyway...look, Paul, it doesn't....well, it does matter, but it's in the past. Y'know? We've all done some questionable shit for money, back in the day. I'm not gonna judge. What matters is now you're here, with us. Which, frankly....I mean, that's where we all should be." Melissa spun around a single time in the swivel chair, then flopped against the side of the table as her chair came to a halt. It was endearing, almost childlike in its frivolousness. "I mean it, that's not just the weed talking. You guys are the best, even when we drive each other up the wall."
It was true. In the event that they did need to bug out - and she made no illusions about it being a possibility, having been conditioned to betrayal by a lifetime of friendship with Karla Sofen - Melissa was entirely rock-solid in her belief that the three of them could handle anything that came their way, as long as they stuck together. It...wasn't really how things worked, realistically, but the important thing was that she believed it, and that can do surprising things for a person's capabilities.
What had this conversation originally been about, again? Mutants? God, smoking first might not have been the best idea.
"Look, the point is," Melissa continued, leaning against the chair's arm and idly nudging Karla's ankles as they dangled off the table, "it's good that we're thinking about this shit. We can take our time for now cause they're not gonna sell us up the river anytime soon, at least - trust me on this, they need us right now. Real bad. The SRU couldn't plan lunch, let alone deal with a bunch of unregistered metas. If Secretary Stache--" Blue locks bounced as she nodded towards the hologram. "--wants to win this whole civil war thing, he's gotta have us on his side. Once everything settles down, though? We probably wanna have a plan in place by then."
Okay, no more bong hits. It was starting to feel like time had slowed down to the point where she could grasp individual units of it. What even was an individual unit of time? A second? Or a microsecond? That was the shortest time period that she could think of. There was probably something even shorter, like...a zeroth of a second. Whoa.
"Actually Jewess was still popular term until about 1950 when it started to take downward slope out of modern terminology. I wonder what could have caused a resurgence prior to.... never mind I get why." Paul looked away, still avoiding the eyes of both women in the room. This probably wasn't helping his case. He didn't want to be associated with Hydra, but he was. He shouldn't have brought it up. Maybe it was good it was up in the air, maybe. He wasn't sure. He'd have to run the pros and cons of it later. He wasn't a Nazi though, that was for certain. He wasn't a Natzi, he didn't believe in this early ideals. He wasn't..it was just work. He wasn't a Natzi.
Paul slammed his hand down on the table. He didn't even realized it happened until it was to late. "I'm not a Natzi," He blurted out. Slowly he felt himself sinking, curling and smaller and smaller. He avoided their eyes again and pulled up his hood to hide his face. Maybe he should just leave. He didn't need to be here. He didn't need this right now.
Luckily Melissa didn't seem to care. She said it was in the past, and she was right. It was done, over. He had well passed the group. It was before the society, before the Purifiers, before the current team. They didn't care before, why should they care now. He wasn't a Natzi, it was just work. Work for money, when he didn't have it. He just needed to get by with his tastes. They paid the highest, and were the only ones willing to help add the receiver.
"Thank out Melissa. It's in the past, as you said. I don't believe in what they did. It was just money. As you said, we all have some questionable stuff for it." Sure maybe his was working with the worst of the worst. But it happened. He regretted it, and didn't. It was in the past. Moved on and forward. "I apologize for blurting out. I'm not a Natzi."
He leaned forward on the table. "I think you two are the best in my books as well. Number two and three." He would have said Abe was number one. He missed that guy. Melissa and Karla were definetly after him though. Even with Erik as an option too. He leaned back. Hopefully they could move on and go back to working together again. He didn't want the three of them to fight over the past.
"Actually the nanobots wouldn't prevent us from doing side work. As long as we didn't flee the country. I mean they allow free travel around the city. If we were doing freelance working, helping people on a legal aspect it shouldn't affect much of what we do. I can try and work on a temporary solution if they don't allow us. Maybe a signal blocker for a few hours. If they don't catch on." Paul pulled down his hood and looked at both women.
"We should still start on a plan. So it isn't a last minute scramble. If it's fine for now they may not look in to it to much. Maybe we could focus on the nano bots first. That's really a big concern before anything else. Otherwise any other plan is pointless."
”It’s a funny word, get over it.”
There were at least several hundred things wrong with that response, but the Thunderbolts managed to push through anyway, per usual.
Karla, who was just high enough to be relaxed and not quite high enough to proclaim her affection to anyone, gave Melissa a judgy look when the bluenette started getting sweet on her and Paul. This wasn’t their M.O., and although Karla adapted very well to change (hell, she was often the cause of it!), she didn’t like it this time. She scooted unceremoniously a little further down the table, closer to the hologram, which was also weird.
Not quite as weird as Paul’s abrupt insistence that he absolutely was not a Nazi you guys, however. The judginess intensified.
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