1963-08-23 - MODOK the Madman
Summary: MODOK takes personal interest in Armando.
Related: http://marvel1963mush.wikidot.com/plot:lethal-magnetism
Theme Song: None
sam darwin 

Armando continues his vigil as he has the past few days- he's been saving his food and water for the other prisoners, claiming he doesn't really need it. He doesn't seem worse off for it. He hasn't slept in days- almost a week now, alert and functioning properly. Today's meal was being saved for Sam- who, injured, likely could use a little extra nourishment.

Sam is recovering remarkably well, all things considered. For one thing, the man knows how to take a crash, and wasn't injured nearly as badly as he could have been. For another, he has had the mostly undivided attention of a couple of medically-adept team members. Between people like Armando being generous with their food allotment and an environment in which there is often nothing more interesting to focus on than physical therapy exercises, Sam should be good to go — well, less of a liability in action, at least — within another week.

He's just finishing up another round of PT, using his harness and a few modules from the wing suit as light weights, when the tall, gray-skinned mutant on the team comes around with food. "Thanks, Darwin," the pilot says, flashing a smile at his fellow prisoner but then having to suppress a grimace when he sets his eyes on the food itself.

"You need to keep your strength up." Darwin replies. "They hadn't bet on one of us being able to survive without food or water." he offers with a wicked little smile. "How you holding up?" he wonders of his fellow prisoner. "We can't stay here much longer- they're not exactly feeding us well. I imagine just enough to keep us alive, nothing more to keep us thriving." Which is why Armando sees the extra share of food he saves from whatever meals as important to the others.

"Yeah, that's a neat trick," Sam agrees, spooning up some of the… well, let's just call it 'food' and cover our bases. "I keep wondering what these guys actually expect from us. I do get the feeling they're waiting for something, but I have no idea—"

There's a slamming sound outside the cell as a door is wrenched open. Sam goes quiet, staring expectantly at the door. Several seconds of near-silence, just the sound of a buzzing light and circulating air: then, when something does happen, it's not at the door at all. A plate of metal stabs through the wall between Darwin and Falcon, then is wrenched into a bent shape by magnetic forces, isolating Darwin. The improvised 'airlock' shifts around the mutant, herding him away from the rest of the prisoners, toward who knows what.

"Darwin?!" Sam shouts. His voice is already muffled by the wall, and getting fainter. "You okay in there?"

"I'm fine!" Armando shouts, "I'll be okay! Don't worry about me!" Darwin says, as he's knocked back by the piece of steel- being shifted away from his companion with narrowed eye-ridges. On his feet now, Darwin is ready for a fight if it comes to that. The magnetic forces shift and flow around him- somehow, Armando can feel them as his body continues its ever-happening evolution.

All channels have been gagged.

"We'll be waiting for you!" Sam calls out, his voice barely loud enough to hear over the sound of rending metal. Armando doesn't have to wait long to get a sense of his destination. After a few seconds, his airlock slams into something else, and a doorway starts to pull open, the join imperfect enough to let a bit of bright light in at the seam between the two chambers. It's the first bright light Armando has seen since the capture; their lockup is kept dim at all times, heightening the lack of structure to their days.

But the room he's being deposited into isn't bright at all: it seems to be lit entirely by status lights, control panels, and oscilloscopes. MODOK, in his hovering, supportive apparatus, is waiting for the mutant, elbows propped on armrests and shriveled hands folded just a little lower than his enormous chin. "Armando Munoz, I believe," the creature intones, its pronounciation perfect even if its voice is unsettling in timbre. "You certainly haven't lived a discreet lifestyle, for such an… obvious mutant." Its twisted face settles into a hostile, searching expression.

Armando just smiles quietly. "I haven't. I'm not ashamed of what I am, or who I am." he replies to MODOK. "You have me at somewhat of a disadvantage, however." he says, "Or are you just MODOK without any other designation?" Although this is outside of Armando's wheelhouse, he approaches the challenge unphased. Those white eyes, so hard to read, stare back into MODOK's. Even if he were terrified, it be difficult to read on the mutant's face.

"You're quite correct. I do have you at a disadvantage," MODOK answers with a cruel twist of his distented mouth. It's true that Darwin is difficult to read; after a second, MODOK seems to grow annoyed at the attempt, turning away and rummaging in a small compartment in its armrest. "If I wanted to provide another name, I would have. 'Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing' is accurate and sufficient, and its two-syllable abbreviation an efficient usage of time."

The creature retrieves a gunlike apparatus, lined with glowing bands of light and coiled metal. "FHRs reported that you took a shot from one of our gamma guns without adverse effects, but your structure doesn't seem sturdy enough to withstand such destructive power," he says snippily, turning the weapon, or tool, or whatever it is, on Darwin. "Explain your mutant abilities to me. How did they protect you?"

"I guess I'm just a superior being." Armando replies with a quiet, mocking smile. "I doubt you can harm me at all, to be completely honest." he says over to MODOK. "You've called yourself the superior being- but honestly, only one of us in this room can be superior. Are you certain its you?" Armando seems unbothered by the weapon being turned on him- he's just standing there with that quiet, mocking smile.

"One of us is master of all that he surveys, and the other is a prisoner," MODOK answers icily. "Yes, I am… quite certain who sits higher on the evolutionary ladder." He depresses a switch on the device, and a narrow, crimson beam of superheated plasma stabs out toward Darwin's upper arm. "What I am not certain of," MODOK continues in a conversational tone, "is how, exactly, your group became aware of me at all. Whoever was responsible might prove an interesting foil."

"That be me." Armando replies as his body changes and the superheated plasma only singes for a moment before his evolutionary changes take over. His skin takes on a slightly metallic sheen and the plasma is turned aside before it even hits him- his body starting to form an electromagnetic shield that would turn any such ionized gas away. "I recognized the pattern in employee hires, and quitting during a particular time line- everything pointed to Detroit. To here. To you." Armando offers with a quiet smile, still a mocking face- pale white eyes focused only on Modok. "I am a prisoner only because it serves my purposes." He lies, but it sounds like the sort of think MODOK would hate.

Once Darwin adapts, MODOK deactivates the plasma beam and hovers closer to the mutant, stopping within a couple of feet and inspecting the changed arm minutely. When he speaks, it seems he has completely ignored Darwin's words and his mocking, only interested in the physical response to his attack. "Fascinating… a rapid physiological adaptation to threatening stimulus," he mutters. "But there was a short time delay — milliseconds at most — in which the beam seemed effective. I wonder…" The being scratches at its enormous chin with a relatively tiny hand.

After seconds lost to thought, the creature continues their conversation as though it never paused. "There wouldn't have been a pattern to employee records from just one location. You would have had to collate records from many sites for one to emerge," it says with a truly disgusting sneer. "Which means that if you did find me out, for all your gifts, you're treated like a faceless bureaucrat: just another human cog, pushing paper around in someone else's grand machine." The enormous head tilts forward, frowning. "Such wasted potential."

Suddenly, MODOK flicks a dial on the plasma beam and fires it at the unadapted arm. What's emitted is… pleasantly warm, actually: emissions barely stronger than a heat lamp, with no harmful capability. MODOK watches closely how Darwin's body reacts.

And yet, the change has already happened- and its not localized to just one arm. The plasma is turned away from Armando's skin. The danger has not truly passed- MODOK still holds a weapon. "True. I looked through a great number of records- and I found you." he replies, still smiling quietly. "There's a great number of errors in your methodology- but, I'm not about to tip my hand." he says, as he continues to stare at MODOK. "How's it going down there, Mister Superior?"

MODOK's hover chair bobs backward, a frown on his face. "Odd," he mutters. Then, he turns over his plasma emitter and peers at it. "I suppose it's possible that the adaptation synthesizes both direct stimuli and sensory input," he says. Then, with a simpering look at Darwin, he condescends to explain, "Meaning, of course, that so long as you perceive me carrying a weapon, the defensive adaptation remains. If I wish to test my next hypothesis, I'll need to find another stimulus." He begins rummaging around in his armrest again. "What I don't understand is why you would start collating employment records for military bases in the first place," he natters as he does so. "It seems an odd line of inquiry for someone who considers himself as important as you seem to."

"One looks for the information where it exists. The signs pointed there, I looked there. One does not lead their research with predefined notions." Armando replies simply as he continues to stare at MODOK. "You won't be able to hurt me, MODOK." he says over to the ugly chair-resting creature. "You prance around as if you're the superior being- but here I am, immune to anything you can throw my way."

MODOK turns to stare at Darwin, making a grunting sound that eventually reveals itself as low, cackling laughter. "My dear Mr. Munoz, I'm afraid you have mistaken my intent completely," it says in a sinister tone, slowly floating toward the mutant. "I am a scientist, not a torturer." He fires a bright turquoise-colored beam at Darwin, this one as harmless as the sunlamp: a gentle chill, like an ice cube held against the skin, manifests where it hits him. "I am not here to hack your extremities off, yelling 'talk! talk!' like some stock character from a bad thriller. I'm interested in your capabilities — that's all."

As much as the enormous, disfigured creature before Armando can sound reasonable, it seems to be trying to. "I want to judge your suitability for the Mental Organism Augmentation Procedure. With your adaptive qualities and the intelligence you claim, I think you would make an ideal candidate." The hoverchair tilts forward, and MODOK stares piercingly at Darwin with his piggish eyes. "They do say two heads are better than one."

Armando raises an eyebrow, just looking to MODOK with a shake of his head. "I don't think I'd like that." he says simply. "I'd lose my girlish figure." he deadpans, as he's hit with the chilly beam. For now, his body does nothing that seems obvious. There are changes happening, but invisible to the eye. "Anyways, I somehow doubt you'd be creating an equal. Or would you? They do say its lonely at the top."

MODOK snorts. It's a truly horrifying sound. "I am quite beyond such concerns as loneliness, I assure you," he says, turning a dial on the ray emitter slowly. The sensation of cold very gradually increases — it's the old trick of boiling a frog by first dropping it in lukewarm water. "But I see no reason to create inferior models. There is going to be a very great need for calculating power soon, and while I alone could certainly fill that gap, I see no reason not to distribute the load enough that I can pursue other interests at leisure."

The change here is less dramatic- but still there. By the time MODOK's beam gets to a point where the cold would cause any kind of damage, it simply doesn't. Armando's body has evolved another work around- another superior advantage. Frost appears on his skin, but it bothers him no more than the freezing depths do cold-blooded sharks. His body simple accepts and evolves. "Perhaps you are. Perhaps not." Armando replies, "I won't pretend to know who you are- or even what you are. If you're so determined to make me into such a being, why not sell it to me a bit. I mean, its only in your best interest if I'm on board, isn't it?"

MODOK can't shrug, but he can certainly sneer — and he does, as he deactivates the cold beam. "Quick pulse attacks that cycle through different kinds of damage, perhaps. More likely, simple non-harmful removal from conflict in the short term, and confinement in the long term," he says ruefully. "I must say, determining a way to properly kill you would be my masterpiece, Mr. Munoz. I will devote a significant portion of my thought cycles to it for some time."

He puts the cold beam away and waves a hand dismissively. "I am not a salesman. I don't need to be. Coming to my level of consciousness brings with it… a changed perspective. We will likely work toward the same goals. Or you might turn on me, raise up an army and lock the planet in war between our two factions." MODOK grins, a bit of spittle descending from a corner of his mouth. "Perpetual war against a worthy enemy? That would be glorious."

"I understand better than anyone the change in perspective intellect brings." Darwin replies simply. Its a wholly true statement. "What goals would those be, anyways? Is war your goal? Conquest? Why even steal more than fifteen nuclear warheads?" he asks, padding his questions as he watches MODOK continue his 'work'.

"War is an evolutionary hiccup. A moral cancer that exists in man's psyche. Not a game, as you seem to suggest it is- not a thing of glory. Pain and suffering are the only thing that comes from war. War is worse than hell, MODOK. In hell, only the sinners are evil are punished. War punishes everyone." Armando says with a shake of his head, "Its a waste of energy that could be better spent on growth and improvement."

MODOK hovers away from Darwin, adjusting controls on his chair as he does so. "You might want to bring your intellect and perspective to bear on the last word of my designation, Mr. Munoz," he says with a sickening grin. "War is, at the top level, a fascinating system, unpredictable, providing a long-term challenge to the intellect. At the middle level, it fuels industry and innovation, advancing industry and weeding out inferior designs. At the lowest level, it is an excellent way to exterminate absolutely vast numbers of people, but at a pace that will keep the process interesting for a very long time." MODOK's cackle comes as the walls start to shift around Darwin, building into another airlock to transport him back to the cell. "Win, win, win."

Armando has nothing more to say, just smiling quietly. He kept Modok talking for a while- and thinks he has some small insight into the creature's method. Its not pretty. MODOK clearly finds war to be an exciting time- and is undoubtedly dangerous. The entire time, even in the dark of that room, Armando was watching and listening- soaking in all the information he could from his surroundings. From where MODOK had taken him- hoping for any mistake on the part of the fat-headed ugly man.

Once back with the others, Armando will sit quietly. "We face an insane man." he says, "Who longs for an eternal war. We must defeat him." he informs the others, before taking a slow breath. Quiet.

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