|A Perfect Union?|
|What: With the looming threat of government sanctions against mutants, news has spread through the underground that one man is putting forth the call to build a united front, and holding a rally for those interested to answer the call. What occurs could reshape the future for all mankind, mutated or otherwise...|
There's rumors of a leader arising in the mutant underground. They say he accepts all mutants, great and small- that he's accompanied by a non-human looking mutant, and doesn't require her to conceal her appearance when in public. He speaks with fervor and eloquence, advocating for the cause of justice and equality for mutants- and strongly disavowing the legitimacy of the registration camp. "...and as we /band together/, in groups great or small, we can send the message that /we are not lone voices in the night/!" Clad in almost military looking clothing, he stands at a pulpit at the head of the rows of seats in the warehouse, filled with several dozen mutants and even a few humans. At his words, they rise in cheering applause, and the silver-haired man holds up a hand in acknowledgement.
After the fervor dies down, he descends to mingle with the crowd, shaking hands and answering questions with a personal ease and manner that seems utterly approachable and even paternal, smiling and laughing with a casual sort of magnamicity.
Word travels fast through the blackened underbelly of society; it always has, but as technology grows sharper and faster, as populations swell to bursting point among both mutant and 'regular' human communities, it takes seeming moments for rumour to become (un)common knowledge. Provided that one knows where to look, and where - more importantly - to listen.
A former brainwashed mistress of the far eastern underworld, and a long-standing operative for several agencies of various stripe, the X-Woman known as Psylocke is privy to that knowledge. With a painfully deep personal interest in the controversial proposals offered forth by the powers that be, her actual reason for being here tonight is... complex, and every bit as enigmatic as the Violet Butterfly is wont to be. It says much that nobody knows she's here. At least nobody that she's aware of. This IS personal, and she rarely shares.
Magneto is watched by many pairs of eyes this night, but the violet pair belonging to Betsy Braddock burn with an intensity matched by few. Memories storm her enhanced brain, threatening to overwhelm the fine control exerted to block out the thoughts and passions of those surrounding her. She finds her solace in focus; her focus upon the charismatic, frightfully powerful man now moving through his audience with disarming pleasantry.
Cloaked, only the sketching of her angular features and those striking eyes visible within the shade, Psylocke manouevres herself through the mob, not applauding with the others as she moves like a living ghost through their midst. Drawing closer, until she finds opportunity to extend a hand toward the man who is making dangerous things happen. It's at the moment of hopeful contact...
That she shrugs a shoulder and lets the hood drift back just enough to show him her face.
Her mouth is set in a grim line as she offers forth hard, cold words, "Quite a speech."
Rain's a Dire Introvert Level 5. Most faces are lost on her. But she IS one of Loki's minions and it's good to keep tabs on this registration business. Likely as 1) She hates her real name and 2) the whole idea freaks her out a little bit. Frankly, she wouldn't know Magneto from a set of Bucky balls until her head exploded or something. So, far as Rain knows, this is just a charismatic dude leading a support rally not unlike the last one she went to that got crashed. And being demihomeless, Rain's likely a member of said underbelly. Purple eyes totally are in today, too. Score! She wears her usual duster coat and does her best to mingle neatly into the crowd. Like a /mink/.
There is someone in the crowd. Someone who is definitely not a mutant. Not exactly. She isn't a baseline human either. And as if to top it off, this person is under a bit of a 'Don't Look Too Closely At Me' spell too. Then again, maybe not a lot of people would recognize the daughter of Giovani Zatara. At least out of costume. After all, a /LOT/ of people tend to remember things more like the fishnets than her face. but still, it probably is in her best interest to stay... Unknown.
Especially considering where she is. After all, rallies like this have been targets as of late by terrorists. As have pro-registration rallies. And that's still not even going into the darker, more magical elements that could always be drawn to the high emotions of these rallies. Thus maybe it isn't that bad that a member of The Justice League decided to drop on by and check things out. Or at least that's what Zatanna believes.
The old warehouse, long since emptied of goods, is the sort of place small communities utilize for informal gatherings or meetings that aren't in line with use of the local YMCA. From raves to solidarity movements, the warehouse is full of chairs, with a small stand and pulpit setup at the head of the seating. Magneto finishes his brief exchange with a young mutant, smiling paternally and patting the young man's shoulder encouragingly. He appears to have just completed a speech, and has descended to the crowd to converse with them. As Psylocke approaches, he turns wintry blue eyes on her features and smiles almost warmly. "I am glad you thought so," he tells her in a rolling, confident timbre. "I know my words often fall on the ears of the deaf or the uncertain. Certainty, in this day and age, is a rare and wonderful thing to encounter. Do you have any more questions for me, young lady? You sound as if perhaps you disagree with the sentiment I've expressed here." There's no incitation of violence or dissent, but his broad, rolling tones resonate with the crowds nearby. They don't out and out turn hostile, of course, but there's a definite sense of surprised resentment as he makes his observation of Psylocke's dissension public.
As those eyes alight upon her, Psylocke meets them with a searching stare, her own piercing enough they'd prove discomforting to most as she scouts with her mundane senses for the truth behind this mysterious leader's words. For the meaning behind that smile. Telepathic probing is carefully withheld - after all, logic dictates she is certainly not the only 'abnormal' in the utilitarian building. Even with her abilities suppressed, however, she can feel emotions shift.
"I wouldn't say I disagree," she replies in her clear British tone, jarring against the distinct and genuine Asian aesthetic of her features. Confidently delivered, she pitches her tone very deliberately at a level with the man she addresses. "But sentiment alone is meaningless. A pretty bauble to make us feel better about ourselves. I suppose my first question..."
She pauses, and draws a cool breath, not quite breaking eye contact as she checks her peripherals. Namely the nearest people to her, her posture alert beneath the cloak. A slow smile turns her lips upward as she offers forth a challenge to this underdog leader.
"Is what do you intend to do, beyond building an outcry? Differences are not made through words alone."
Well, technically, Rain's not a mutant - her powers stem from a magical bloodline. Though, she is irritable she missed out on gorgeous looks and vast cosmic power in lieu of an engineering degree. Regardless, this is serious time. As Erik addresses a particular member of the crowd, Rain turns to watch too, quietly. She doesn't seem aware of Miss Zatanna just yet (And really needs to return those books sometime...). She tilts her head, looking positively owlish as she listens.
Richard Grayson has been listening and observing. He is not a mutant, but he's close to some who are...and who would be affected by this Act. He also watches as the charismatic speak makes his rounds among those who attended this meeting. He's not stepping forward to offer any thoughts just yet.
And as a small note, the spell that Zatanna is using is not a full cloak. Instead it's just a little something to keep people from looking too closely and going 'You look just like Zatanna' or worse 'You /ARE/ Zatanna!'. After all, she is a well known public personality between her stage shows, and of course her being part of The Justice League. This spell though is weak. Something that can be seen through if even a small amount of magic is used, and can be noticed if someone is perceptive enough (if not seen through).
And yet, as she wanders through the crowd, The Mistress of Magic blinks as she thinks she notices a familiar face. one that causes her to blink, and tilt her head.
And yet as she gets close enough to hear Psylocke ask a question of Erik, she can't help but blink and glance towards the pair as she awaits the answer to a certain question herself.
At the words Psylocke offers, there's a small murmur of assent from the crowds, waved to silence by a casual gesture of authority from the silver-haired man. He smiles patiently at Psylocke. "Of course not," he soothes her, assuaging the concerns of the crowd. He has that masterful way of speakign that great teachers attain- the ability to speak to a class by addressing an individual, using them to voice unspoken questions. He starts walking a slow circle, hands clasped loose behind his back. "Outcries, as we all know, are never enough." He nods approval this time as the crowd murmurs agreement. "But they are a start. This is how change begins," he says, the crowd parting around him and Psylocke as his voice carries. "It starts as a single voice in the night, crying desperately for relief. 'Almighty God, why hast thou forsaken me?'" he cries theatrically. For any other man, the expression would be comical- from him, it's delivered with the impact of a master thespian. "And at that one cry- that one cry, begging deliverance-" he stops in front of Rain, smiling warmly at her. "Voices rise up in unison." He gently squeezes her shoulder, his expression paternal and kindly. He continues the slow circle of the group. "But voices, as you say," he inclines his head to Psylocke, "are not enough. We must unite. We must sing a song of harmony. Become... a family." He stops in front of a pair of young mutants, a male and female, one obviously pregnant. He gently pats the girl on the cheek, offers her partnern a firm handshake and nod of equality. "And then, we move to action. To level our words at our accusers- to beat our fists against our chests and demand, 'Why do you forsake me?'" He steps around Zatanna, moving with a broad-shouldered ease that belies the lines on his face and the length of his silver hair. The crowd is silent, captivated by his words. He mounts the steps of the dais again, the anachronistic cloak gathered behind him by his hands. He moves to the pulpit, the cloak catching the light and almost taking on the view of a minister's vestments. "What do we do when we cry out for deliverance? What shall we do when the world rises up against us? Do we fall back, and surrender to the authority of the ignorant masses?" The crowd hurls a chorus of 'No'! and 'Never!' at him as he pauses for breath, enraptured by his speech.
With all the accrued wisdom and/or cynicism in the world, it's difficult to not be at least partway convinced by the silver-haired man's compelling aspect. Clearly born to leadership, there's no denying also the strength and power within his words. Psylocke finds herself listening with a less contrary ear to that she intended, posture relaxing and head canting to one side as keen violet eyes continue to track the man about the warehouse. More greatly affecting still is the reaction of the crowd, and with the lowering of her defenses comes a surge of their very real, very heartfelt reaction. It's almost overwhelming.
A fact betrayed by the sudden batting of the X-Woman's eyes when the silver-haired man's attention fixates once more upon her. What follows is a breaking of that curious spell, as she becomes aware of the stilling of breath and the slowed pulse of her heart. A frown cuts into her brow, lines of flesh losing their perfection to wary crinkling. Her mouth opens, as though to speak, but there's no interrupting the moment. Frustrated by her inaction, she clenches a fist unseen at her side, curling carefully-hewn fingernails hard into her palm.
Damn it all, his words still ignite something. As do the roaring passions of the crowd. Because she remembers; how it felt, and how it /still feels/, to be persecuted in spite of her every best intention. She's done terrible things - she is, as they say, no saint - but her efforts seem unrealized by the world at large. For one who has tasted fame and infamy both, it can't help but be hurtful, no matter how heartless she might appear to some.
Closing her eyes as the crowd deliver their hallelujah chorus, Psylocke steels herself.
And steps forward, pushing to the very front of the gathering, looking up at the pulpit.
"But we are /part/ of those masses," she speaks insistently, firmly, "Would you begin a war with the stock from which we are born? The very crux of this issue is that mutants are HUMAN. We cannot ostracize ourselves-- isn't that what they want, these 'ignorant' few?"
Rain pauses. Was that- she hesistates. She'd better not brush up against anyone too closely, lest they discover her or - who knows. For now, she is a duly attentive expression. Still, she can't shake the feeling she's familiar with someone. But Erik's speech gets going and well. Then a blink as the man stops in front of her. She freezes instinctively. She'd be a fantastic deer, even. There's a polite smile in turn as she's smiled at. She doesn't even bolt away at the little shoulder squeeze. Well. She can appreciate the gesture, but she seems surprised.
Richard Grayson continues to mull over the man's words and note how the crowd reacts. He remains towards the back, not really wanting too much scrutiny at the moment. He missed his opportunity to ask his questions, but he can remember them for later...if there -is- a later. There's another reason why he's at the back -- easier to escape if things get tricky.
He finally speaks, his voice quiet yet still pitched to carry, "Acceptance is never easy. The masses need to be taught that they aren't going to be attacked or held apart merely because another is more powerful. It's taken them decades to accept human minorities...and some still don't. It's taken over a century for gender equality and in some places, it still isn't present. Unless you actually intend on making others afraid, it needs to be that kind of a same, slow fight."
That reaction from the crowd... It causes Zatana to blink once. Then frown. A frown that deepens as she gears another voice speaking up. One that is likewise familiar. In fact, as she seeks it out, she frowns even more as she realizes who else is here, on top of what they're asking.
Yeah, she still remains silent, but she's keeping her eyes peeled. After all, between what's being said and the two people here that she's recognized...
"Quiet!" "Let him talk!"
Magneto holds one hand, then another out to the masses, shaking his head. Silence falls, more quickly than one might expect. He lets it linger- lets the silence work, to build up the hungry tension in the crowd before he shatters the silence with his words. Fingers grip the podium, shoulders rolling as he hunkers forward. His voice drops to a low murmur, still resonant, still powerful, but demanding utter silence and attention to be heard. The younger crowd members strain forward to catch his words as he directs them at Psylocke. "Are we part of them?" he asks her, the question penetrating, full of hidden meanings. He lets the question linger. "Yes." A murmur breaks over the crowd. "Yes. We /are/ part of them," he continues, rising, his voice gaining authority and tone. "We are the children of a society that doesn't desire us. The children of a land who would cast us out- who would brand us and send us to camps." He takes a steadying breath, leaning on the podium. At Richard's words, he spreads his hands, lines of concern crossing his face. "My friend, you are young. Perhaps, if we start this 'slow fight', by the time you are my age, you will see its end. I think to the words of Frederick Douglass, who never lived to see the final days of the civil rights movement- 'without a struggle, there can be no protest'. How long shall we take this slow fight? A decade? Two? Ten? Will you wait a century, young man, until you have the rights that you are /guaranteed/ as an America- and as a /human being/?" The crowd screams approval of his words, the energy of the gathering electric and infections. He holds a hand skywards, for silence. "Many of you might be too young to remember. To remember a time when it was accepted practice to scatter minorities, disenfranchised, into the wilds- and round them up in pens, like animals." A savage gleam glimmers across his face, the younger mutants nodding their agreement. "Is that who we will become? Is that what you'd /like us to become/?" he demands of Psylocke. "Little better than caged beasts?!" A roar of protest escapes the crowd, and Magneto fuels the fire. "Never!" he roars, steppign away from the podim. "Never! We will unite- as a people, as mutants- as a VOICE!" He holds an open hand skywards, and the mutants throw their hands into the sky as well. "We will be a voice of protest! A voice in the darkness, saying 'I will not go quiet into that good night! I will be heard!' "
So many questions raised, doubts within doubts within a thousand, screaming doubts. Everything about this situation is wrong on so many levels - yet on a single, fundamental foundation it reaches out to something at the very core of Betsy Braddock. In spite of every single rational thought she can bring to bear, she wants to believe in this mysteriously magnetic figurehead. Never one to walk among the mob, to possess a voice drowned out within the dizzying unison of a lowest common denominator, she finds herself stricken by an urge to join her spirit with those pressing around her. Resistance is not futile, but it's beginning to feel that way.
Psylocke is nothing if not strong-willed, though. She rides out the storm, standing alone between minister and acolytes - even if at least one other in that latter group seems to share misgivings as well. Breathing slow and deep, she keeps herself calm until the question finally comes, matching stares once more with Magneto. His power, his passion--
His savagery. It's awesome to behold, but only sees her draw her shoulders up higher.
"I..." When the roar dims she begins to speak not with hesitance in truth, the point laboured only by the import of what she intends to say. Her voice does not raise overly, but it comes rung with a gleaming edge of sharpened steel, cutting like a blade through the charged atmosphere. There is darkness in't, and it's dangerously heartfelt. "I have /been/ a caged beast. I have suffered at the hands of delusional, desperate men eager to retain their rotten pieces of a pie past it's expiry date. And you ask me if I want that for you? All of you?"
She turns about, looking at the forest of hands and ecstatic faces. Even with her iron will, she cannot stop what is happening here... and it takes but a moment to admit within herself that she doesn't want to. Unable to stand against the grain, she lowers her head, cloak covering her stunning features and a warm breath parting her lips as her chest heaves. Submission.
"Of course I don't. Let us speak, and be heard."
<But there has to be another way. The means to end this exists. A thread to be cut...>
Richard Grayson doesn't want to be attacked for having thoughts that are different than the mob...another reason why he's by the door. He might not recognize Zatanna due to her spell, but he steps just a little closer to the exit. Just in case.
"I can't imagine that anyone would allow people to be penned into internment camps again. Seventy years have passed since then...and while people aren't perfect, they've grown. Sure, some idiots will be clamoring to the extreme, but I don't think that the majority would allow that to happen. Then you head towards that quote, only it changes:
First they came for the mutants, but I did not speak because I was not a mutant.
Then they came for the homosexuals, but I did not speak because I was not a homosexual.
Then they came for the immigrants, but I did not speak because I was not an immigrant...and so forth until there is no one left to speak.
He changes the words for more contemporary issues. Looking over to Betsy, "Speak and be heard, but...education and patience and teaching tolerance is the best way. Otherwise, it's 'Them against Us' and that never ends well."
Okay. Rain was sort of woogie about the idea of registration from the start. She really doesn't want a badge with Winter Silverwolf Moontree on it ever. She nods towards Richard. Granted, as one of the homeless (or demihomeless), it's easy to see a lot of the ugliness there. Rain is a good audience member, watching and blinking owlishly. she looks towards Richard, tilting her head. Hmm. She's one of the quiet, concerned moderates. Still, some of her dearest friends are - pretty obvious. Thought is overwhelming, and she is silent.
There is almost something.... Magnetic about Erik and his way with words. But even the devil has a silver tongue, so to speak. Thus as someone who has dealt directly with demons, Zatanna isn't as easily caught up in the mood that the crowd has. And while she does sympathize with the speaker, she knows that trying to do too much, too fast tends to lead to destruction and chaos.
After all, there are rules that are the same, be it magic, performing, building something, or social reconstruction.
Of course as Dick speaks up, she can't help but smile as The Mistress of Magic can't help but compare how he's handling this, especially when compared to how his mentor would be handling this.
Magneto lets the fervor linger and roar, then holds his hands up again, for silence. The contrast is electrifying- terrifying, even- the power latent in the silence, the anticipation of violence. A circle opens around Psylocke- and, in turn, Richard- as Magneto moves away from the podim. "Dear child," he murmurs, as Psylocke casts her gaze down in frustration. As if he can sense her seething frustration against being silenced in any fashion, he moves towards her with palms open, his face a mask of sorrowful sympathy that tears at the heartstrings. "My dear, you are one of us," he says. He gently lifts his hands- one, then the other- towards her face, and then with featherlight gentleness, presses his palms against her cheek, holding her face up and to the light, his deep, sky-blue gaze seeking her exotic eyes. "Never be ashamed of your words," he murmurs, his voice barely carrying. To the mutants in arm's reach, it is a powerful gesture of forgiveness. "You speak with an honest heart and a desire for greatness- and for a desire for change." He smiles warmly at her, stroking a stray hair back from her brow with a forehead. As Richard's voice of dissent echos from the rear of the room, he looks back to Psylocke, then gives her cheek one more gentle pat and disengages. "You speak with words not your own, my young friend," Erik smiles tolerantely at Richard. "And wise words. Well educated words." He nods approval, the crowd parting to open a path between the charismatic speaker and Richard. "But I wonder, my young friend, what you really know of suffering. Of pain, of the abuses of being a voice stifled by the cage of authority." He looks around the room. "Some of you have seen the inside of prisons already. For no crime more than being who- what- you are." He rests his palm atop a young child's head, the boy's skin touched with a deep blue tinge too distinct to be human. He can only have recently come into his powers. "Do we beg forgiveness, my friend?" he asks Richard, his deep voice carrying with an authority of age and wisdom. Eyebrows hike, asking a question with an expressivity that few can match without words. "For being who we are? What we are?" He shakes his head. "You speak of protests- but who protests for us, now? Who speaks for mutants, and meta-humans, and those beings who simply seek refuge here among us- for a life of quiet decency?" He spreads his hands, imploringly. "You would have us work from within the system? To subvert it?" "To that, I say, we are /already being subverted!/" His voice booms like the report from a cannon. "We repeat history! In other cities, in other countries, they round us up like animals- and put us in cages! They will stamp us, tag us, and permit us to live the life of a caged beast!" He lets his words echo around the room for a long moment, roaring through the pensive silence. "And I swore, long ago, that I would never let another mark my skin." He rolls his sleeve up, revealing seven numbers in pale, crooked blue lines. "I will never let anyone- human or mutant, or God himself-" he says, eyes rolling skywards, hand gesturing- "deny me a life of freedom, promising me the safety of the cage. For those who sacrifice liberty to guarantee security deserve neither." His eyes fall to Richard, his broad-shouldered posture swept back with hands at his back, and nearly channeling the weight of the attention of the room to the young man's protests.
Now facing the crowd, Psylocke is able to pinpoint the former Boy Wonder when he speaks her way, lifting her head just enough to peer out beyond the shroud of her cloak. Through the grace of happenstance, he gets briefly as adequate a view of her as she does him. Her mouth still a drawn line, there is also a certain added pallour to her complexion that speaks true of the turmoil she's facing here. Her gaze betrays nothing more, controlled and steady as it meets Dick's.
At any other time, she might have found a hint of humour in his preceding words. Here their wisdom rings through, and amongst the maelstrom of suppressed emotion is a sense of some relief that she can appreciate this. She may stand at the head of a mob, but she's not yet attached herself to the insanity that had already - on some deep, dark level - occurred.
Thoughts race in that moment of eye contact, but come to a jarring halt as Magneto approaches, placing himself within her personal space-- invading with kindness, and sympathy, and understanding. 'Child', he says, and she blanches, until she finds herself fully enraptured by that compelling mien. By hands upon her cheeks. Seen as a cold and distant creature by so many, feared as well, it's rare for Psylocke to be so immediately and unhesitantly engaged.
Violet eyes flicker as they're found and enthralled, the faint furrowing of her brow marking the moment in which he strikes her heart. "I..." This time she hesitates in truth, words dying, lips parting as she suddenly struggles for coolling breath. A faint widening of those eyes, a dilation of the pupils, rewards Magneto before he turns away, and she is left to come to terms with what's just occurred. A powerful telepath, she knows she's not been controlled by such heavy means; this was real, a power shared with some measure of integrity to draw her in.
If she was questioning herself before, now she has nothing but questions.
Her words come at last when all else is said, when she stands with eyes rewidened upon the form of Magneto and his bared arm. Very specifically, in fact, upon the latter. In mirrored sympathy, her hand finds that part of her own limb, clutching with subconsciously roving fingers. Here then, was the inner depth that so enthralled her. The reason for any apparent loss of rationality, for a surrender to her coolest tendencies, found in a kindred past. The resonance of her voice surprises her because it comes with equal, unreasoned passion.
Stepping up beside this leader of men - of mutants - Psylocke singles out Dick and then looks to the crowd.
"Not one of us - not one of those who stands to be hurt - can stand by and allow this decision to be made without our input. No..." She pauses, drawing herself up with a toss of the head that finally casts aside her hood, revealing herself entirely to the light. "We can't allow it to be made at all. There's no question here; only an answer that needs to be given. No. We who live as man, who even /guide and protect/ man in his endeavours, will not accept a caged fate."
Her violet eyes find Dick once more, their piercing glint regained.
"Who will teach tolerance to whom? Who will find the patience, and communicate it to others? We can't wait for that. To wait in silence is to guarantee suffering. I've seen this decision made before, I've seen a nation sit silent and accept what comes. What comes is cruel, and wrong."
Zatanna is here ICly. She's watching. She's listening. She's prepared to get involved if this /somehow/ turns violent. But she is OOcly not going to wage war and do a massive spam pose right now. Nope.
"I protest for you. I speak for you. And I will keep speaking for you because it's not right that you should be treated any differently than anyone else," Richard quietly answers. He may not have the same kind of charisma, but his willpower and sense of purpose is strong. He also looks to the younger boy with the blue skin and asks, "Wouldn't you rather have him and his children grow up in a world where they're quietly accepted than in a world where he will always have to fight? If you show people that they have nothing to fear, they won't fear you..."
But it's hard, however, to argue a dissenting point with one who is a Holocaust survivor. They tend to win just by default.
He looks over as Betsy speaks and he shakes his head. "Think of Ghandi. Of Martin Luther King, Jr. Hell, think of Jesus, if you'd like. All of them preached education and peaceful protest. And yes, I am aware that they all died violently, but why repeat those histories? Why not create a new one where those who teach and protest peacefully actually -win-?" He knows he's in the minority here, but he wanted to better understand both sides. "I'm not saying accept and just go along if people feel that the internment camps are the way to go. Hell no. No one should be treated like that unless they're hardened criminals and...that's entirely another argument." Not for this crowd.
Grayson pauses for a moment before he asks, "How do you plan on fighting this?"
Erik turns and give Psylock a look of profound and utter gratitude. It's a humbling expression from the older man- humbling, and awesome at the same time. He gestures for her, then, to join him- the gesture, even, a complex and meaningful one. Imperious invitation, humble plea- the gesture of a leader inviting a subordinate to stand at his side, respecting her for her strength without dismissing her as inequal.
Erik turns back to Richard, taking a few steps towards Richard, closing the gap until he faces the young man. The light in the room illuminates him, plying across his features. It casts his eyes into brilliant life, makes deep and profound the shadows and line of age on his face. "My young friend, I am but a simple man," Erik says, his voice weary with the burden of truth. "You say you speak for us- but to whom do you speak? Governor Sometimes?" He looks around the room, nodding at the murmurs of discord. "He fought hardest for us to be tagged and numbered. And he was /one of us/," he expresses with a hiss of anger. "We saw what he did- a member of the government, a member of our family, who betrayed us as he 'infiltrated' the system. He was the very thing he claimed to fear. He wanted to remove us from being his equals." Erik takes a few paces to the right. "Senator Castroneves would see us all cast out. Forced to register. Branded in society's eyes as different- unequal. Shall we return to 'separate but equal'?" His eyes bore into Richard's face, his expression becoming a mask. "And I will remind you, young man, that the last time I saw the interior of a camp, I was a 'criminal'. Along with many others who represented nothing but a difference of ethics. Of ethnicity." He leans forward an inch, his presence looming over the young man. "So I would take it kindly, my young friend, if you did not lecture me on the 'virtues' of internment camps." He leans away from Richard, tongue in cheek, a faint scowl on his features. He steps back a pace, then half turns and begins walking towards Psylocke again. "Here is a young man who would fight the system. Who would join with our detractors- our destroyers. He is bright, well-educated, and has only the best of intentions." He turns and extends his hand towards Richard, palm-up, gesturing across the distance between them. "I submit this young man- who desires, only safety and security-!" he adds, shaking his head, as if in disbelief- "has enjoined the system to protect us. And the system, instead, has suborned him!" The reaction from the crowd is overwhelming, hisses and boos of dislike hurled at Richard. The crowd turns angry scowls at him. "He is as much a part of their system as they are! He would see us join him in peaceful protest- to turn ourselves into flaming torches, a pyrrhic victory, but a victory, of certainty- and die before we see our rights restored." His hand hangs for a moment, then drops, heavily. "To hope for a day when our children's children see the freedoms that we /deserve/ today."
A gesture imperious and humble, grateful and insistent... complex it is, indeed. It's through that mere motion of a hand that Psylocke finds herself facing not just the consequences of her actions here today, but facing her very self; the same challenge she made to Magneto at the outset, to be judged by his actions and not his fanciful words alone. Turnabout is fair play. No longer hiding behind the anonymity of partially obscured features, the X-Woman is forced to back up her own words with a few, outwardly simple and brief steps.
"So it begins," she utters beneath her breath, praying to the core of her beliefs - her belief in herself and ultimately in those around her, in mankind itself - that she takes the correct ation here, as she walks to join the very man she so vehemently questioned. As she moves, a renewed frown is directed toward Grayson. There seem to be two developing sides here, and she's conscious they are now opposed; but she believes also in what he says. In spirit. In theory.
It drives her to speak up again, when all else is done. She cannot let an injustice lie here.
"Hold! That man is not our enemy. Perhaps he fails in understanding the reality of what may come to pass - what /will/ if we fail to act - but he also carries a lesson for us all." A sweep of the crowd brings her to light, once more, on the young man of whom she speaks. At any other time they would be allies, of course, though she knows it not; how close their feelings might be, away from the inner turmoil that drives her now. She bows her head to him, just slightly, in acknowledgement of the respect he's earned, at least to her violet eyes.
"When we have saved ourselves, we cannot become like those we sought to stop." A gesture of one hand takes in Magneto, her glance to him equally respectful - if not more. "Not everyone is a leader, as you," 'And I?', she has now to question inwardly. "But you decry one who would support us, and does support peace. Surely this is what we want? We need breed no further conflict from this. We stop this wrongdoing, and then we accept ourselves as equals. No more."
Richard Grayson doesn't quail beneath Lenscherr's gaze. After all, his mentor -is- Batman. "You're twisting my words around to suit your purpose," he points out. "I want you to get rights now. I want you to be equal to everyone else now, but violence is only going to make those already against you clamor even louder for you to be stopped...and it will force those who are of more moderate thought against you."
Seeing how this could turn ugly if he stayed, he continues towards the exit, "I wish you luck in your endeavor, but I hope that you find a way to keep violence and fear tactics to a minimum. They won't help you. They'll only hurt you. People do desperate things out of fear."
He notes Betsy as she speaks about...and to him. "Don't discount the people who support you. It's not really you against the world. It's you against a few ignorant bigots. Just remember that. Not everyone is the enemy." And with that, he'll slip through the doorway.
"Words of wisdom," Magneto murmurs, nodding at both Richard and Psylocke. He sighs as the young man leaves, then turns to the crowd. "I will never claim to be a wise man," he begins, pursing his lips. A few cries of protest from the crowd float up, dismissed by a thoughtful wave of the hand. "They say the root of wisdom is in knowing that one is not wise. In that, perhaps, I hope to find the beginnings of wisdom." He looks to Psylocke, nodding slowly, considering her words. "Our young friend was correct- and wrong. Our detractors are /already/ aligned against us." He gestures 'out there', at the world. "They have already begun. History goes in cycles- patterns that I, and others," he glances to Psylocke for support, "have seen before. It begins with words like 'great need' and 'civic obligation' and 'for your own protection'. It ends with a race in chains, bound into slavery in all ways but the word." "I do not decry him. I decry his ignorance- an ignorance born of a lifetime of conditioning and fear. He /believes/ in the peaceful resolution of our contention with humanity. I admire- and respect- his beliefs." Magneto stands near Betty, nodding at her in understanding of her message. He turns back to the crowd. "But I will tell you I don't agree with him. And that while I would hope and yearn for a day that peace is the only answer- I owe it to you- all of you-" he says, eyes sweeping the crowd- "to prepare for the worst." "Go, now, my friends. My brothers and sisters. Go and spread word of what you have seen here. Think on what you've heard- from him, from her, and if you care to, from myself. Think of if you are willing to gentle into that good night. If you are willing to let your ideals kill you. Or if you will stand up for yourself- for your brothers, and sisters- for the future of your /entire race/- and defend your right to /live free/." As if cued by some quiet signal, the crowd breaks into applause. Magneto- with a humble wave and expression of contrition- lets the applause wash over him. It breaks after a long few moments, and the elderly man turns to Betty. "You speak with great conviction, my friend," he informs the woman as the group breaks up. "I feel great sympathy for whatever path in life gives you the knowledge of such pain."
A part of her wants to stop him, the part that doubts and believes she steps here into the corridor of madness. Away from the counsel of those she has come to call friend and companion, Psylocke is beyond one of the scant few comfort zones she has ever erected. The conflicting voice raised by Batman's ascended protege is forming a rational counterpoint to her desires, and to the swaying words of the older man holding the crowd in his surprisingly gentle thrall. But Dick leaves when he has said his piece; and it's likely for the best.
She bids him farewell with a firm nod, chin resting downward as it's punctuated with an equally hard stare of conviction and promise. As the representative, here, of those who occupy some semblance of neutrality - of the common man - she feels an obligation to take his mantle as best she can. It's what the X-Men would do, isn't it? It's what she must do.
Yet obligations run in both directions, here.
Remaining silent and still as this clandestine event reaches fruition, and the crowd begin to make their murmurs of retreat, Betsy does not speak again until her telepathic peripherals feel the pressure ease. The source of most contention, and most power, remains, and she turns away from the wider expanse to give him her full attention. For the first time she smiles, an edge of conflict in her eyes but the gesture well-meant; this man has affected her, and spoken to her heart as well as the more primal needs inspired by her past and her visions for the future. There's sadness within too, as there must be in those who share pain.
"My path has been..." She pauses, as though finding it difficult to say. Rarely does Betsy admit the heartache she has felt, believing on some level that to speak of her pain is to excuse her existence as a whole. 'I am this way because I have suffered', and not 'I am who I am'. "Trying. I've seen and done things I'm neither proud of nor glad to look back on. But I feel a duty to those who've not had the luck I have had in turn, to possess strength and courage, or the support of those with it. Mutant or otherwise, I care for them all. I feel for you too, but--"
Suddenly biting her words short, she tosses her head, blinking her eyes as smooth, sleek strands flick across her face before settling to either side. When she unveils her gaze once more, it is searching, as carefully probing Magneto's own stare as when they first made contact.
"I hope that if I stand beside you in this, this will not become a crusade I can't support. Our nature, genetic or otherwise, does not make us better than others. It's the duty of the gifted to use those gifts for the good of all. That's the only way we'll ever have peace. There is always someone stronger, or who believes themselves more entitled. Surely, you know that?"
Rain has been pretty quiet. When things get intense, she falls inward. There's a bit of sadness and worry, amidst the concern. She quietly remembers the baby cat girl at the last little anti-registration gathering she went to. Hopefully, the kid'll be alright. Either way, it's something to take back with her. Sympathy is laced with worry, worry adorned with fear and it turns round and round like a discordant music box. So it goes. Deep breath. And she'll quietly bob her head in a farewell before joining the outside, mingling with the shadow, the shoeless people 'neath the bridges, the rambling man on the corner...
Zatanna isn't here anymore. Quite possibly she hasn't been here for a little while. In fact it's unclear when she left, or even how she left.
Thus she shows how good she is at magic, or that she knows Batman well enough to of learned at least one of his 'tricks'.
"I hope, that if you stand beside me in this, you are never forced to make the decisions I must for the sake of the many." Erik's face- turned away from the limelight- becomes drawn, exhausted. "The battles I fight- literal and figurative- wear upon us all. I can only pray they wear upon me more than others for as long as my strength can bear it out." He looks to Psylocke speculatively, then straightens. "They call me Erik," he says. He clips his heels together and bows, a short but meaningful gesture. "A pleasure to make your acquintance, my dear. Might I trouble you for a name? Or your more..." his lips twitch mirthfully. "Colorful appellation that the young mutants seem to enjoy."
It shouldn't be a complicated question, yet he judges well - if it is so judged - that twitch of the lips. His manner has been anything but mocking, yet this places a discomfiting edge that highlights not any sense of mistrust in Erik; but rather questions the level of Psylocke's own. What name does she offer? She has several, other than those she has already discarded. Momentarily she bites upon her lower lip, then inclines her head, dropping a little lower in her stance to deliver an air of formality fitting to the decision she makes.
"Elizabeth." Formal indeed, and so rarely used that it makes her laugh in spite of herself, a soft breathy thing as her violet gaze slips away from the man before returning with a friendly gleam. Trust must be given to be earned, it seems. "But call me Betsy, Erik. I'll not hide behind another name while you are so forthcoming. As you've said, we must stand together. My abilities are at your - our - disposal. I have other friends, allies who may or may not assist, but I'll not waver. If you do," suddenly her visage darkens, the angles of her eastern features suddenly seeming harsh rather than merely exotic, "Well, I'm sure neither of us is afraid to do what we must. I seek peace, but I appreciate ill methods may be used to reach it."
"Please, please," Erik soothes, making a gesture in the air as if brushing away a fly or annoying insect. "Let us not argue," he pleads. "As you so eloquently said- the enemies are out there." He lifts his chin to the world outside. "Not among us. Friends have no need for threats or qualifiers. Know that if you are threatened or injured, you have but to say the word, and I and mine will come to your aid. I offer that freely, with no attachment or duress. That is my promise to you- to all mutants. I will not put a price on aiding my brothers and sisters." He walks with a slow, deliberate step, his legs stiff from the lengthy debate. "Your support on the floor was appreciated. Where did you learn to speak so eloquently?"
"I wasn't always a 'mutant menace'," comes the much-softened, relatively good-humoured reply as Psylocke reaches to brush a hand back through her hair on one side, idly fingering a sleek purple strand as she belatedly follows the outward gesture, toward a high, dusty window and the light beyond. "I had a proper education, which stuck with me despite my... efforts to avoid it at the time." Her chagrin reveals an understanding that she should have been more grateful for the ability to lead a normal life; something others were denied far sooner than she. "It surfaces now when I need it. I'm not always so forthcoming, but you..."
A sidelong glance takes him in, an arched brow punctuating a lingering curiosity.
"Even aside from how this strife touches me, you have a way with people. I felt... drawn."
"Please. You honor me overmuch," Erik says, shaking his head. "Though..." he eyes her sidelong, then shakes his head with a sigh. "I hate to ask, but these are desperate times. For many, humans and mutant alike. I would not ask this of you, but I fear that I must." He glances sidelong for a pace, then nods to himself. "There are humans- anti mutant protestors who are in the area of town where our kind congregates. Normally, I am against using our... gifts in public, but these protestors are turning reckless. Violent, even. I worry if we do not curtail their activities soon, someone will be badly injured or killed. Would you be willing to see to the families some night? Ensure that no one throws a burning brick through their front windows?"
"I honour only what I feel," Psylocke replies first, quite simply, a shoulder shifting loosely beneath the soft material of her cloak. A distance overcomes her gaze as she considers the far more weighted second point, nostrils flaring faintly with the intake of a long, thoughtful breath. There's that frown again, so fitting with the harsher aspects of her features, olive skin appearing to grow darker with its assumption. "As I said, sometimes ill methods are required. I'll not harm the innocent, but there's no innocence in terrorizing others. Even through fear of one's own." Slowly she shakes her head, with sorrow rather than in the spirit of refusal. "With none other to protect them, of course I will."
"It is appreciated," Magneto nods, gratefully. "And I speak for the families. It's the..." he sighs, fishing in a pocket. "My assistant is gone with other matters, and my memory is constantly failing me," he excuses. He produces a slip of paper. "The neighborhood on Staten Island between 24th and 32nd streets, from Hampton Crossing across to General Steel Avenue." He puts the note back in his pocket. "A large area, I apologize, but that's the best I can tell you of their whereabouts. I think you'll hear them before you see them. They're rather loud, I understand. Boorish."
"They always are."
That comes with a darkly amused quirk of Psylocke's lips - humour bleak indeed in the circumstance - as she flips her attention from the briefly emergent note back to Erik, neatly committing the address to memory. She doesn't know the area well enough to draw a mental map-- but she's no stranger to finding her way, and asks for no further direction. Producing a white square of her own from inside her cloak, she extends it toward Magneto in one hand.
"For when you need to contact me. I can't give you an address, but neither do I expect one; we'll meet where we meet. It's not an issue of trust, you understand..." She hesitates, breathing a sigh touched with a lingering regret, glancing away from him briefly. "At least not between us. On the same note, I should tell you I'll be taking action alongside others. Our interests don't conflict, but our methods... might. Just know I've been honest with you today, on /all/ counts. If I can put my trust in you, then it's more than mutual."
"It's been a pleasure, Miss Elizabeth." Erik turns and bows again. "If you'll excuse me- I need to speak to the young ones before they head home. Some of them need to have their more... violent reflexes tempered. A shepherd, his flock, etc." He waves a hand airily, smiling at the exotically beautiful woman. "Thank you. Again, and in advance. I shall look for you the next time I hear of a situation that requires a strong character and strength of purpose." He nods again and heads towards the departing crowd, hands clasped loose behind his back.