1963-09-30 - Teaching Lessons
Summary: Taskmaster and Mr. Smith meet to discuss training details
Related: None
Theme Song: None
Taskmaster Mr.Smith 

A warm falls morning in the city that never sleeps. The sky's are blue and the sun shines high overhead as children play out in the streets. Iron towers stand tall and intimidating throughout the city as across the horizon workers even still carry on their business of simply making bigger and better Goliath spires.

One such spire blends in with the world around, a large publishing firm trying its best to avoid attention. Out front of this massive building a single parking spot stays open at all times, but the majority of cars that are parked in front tend to be of the expensive variety. Men and women in expensive suits make their way a constant subtle stream in and out of the building.

Through the rather simple and elegant doors of the building one finds themselves in an ornate lobby, reminiscent of the early Italian Renaissance. The colors in every direction are warm and inviting, with lots of browns and greens to keep that living feeling to the whole place. The floors are made from black and white marble interwoven into itself along the length of the room. Everything has that light gold trim around it, including the elevators. Along the walls a number of framed books, each one with its own small metal plaque beneath displaying the the whens and wheres of various milestones correlating to the sale statistics of said book and the artist responsible.

Standing in stark contrast from ceiling to floor the place is decorated with fine displays of art from the hand panted one of a kind arched ceiling to the small works of art filling out spaces not yet reserved by a best seller. Security here is tight as it gets but every so often men in incredibly fine suits walk wordlessly into the double doors of the lobby past the rather heavy security without a second thought from anyone.

If it were possible to look self conscious beneath a skull mask you have a feeling that Taskmaster still wouldn't bother with it. His cloak billows around him as he marches towards the lobby with the utmost confidence, taking some time to look over the men on duty there, his head tilting as he literally looks them up and down. As he closes in on them he says, his voice deep, with a hint of rasp to it, "Taskmaster. I've got a meeting inside." His head swivels back and forth to get another look at the security before he enter the lobby itself and lets out a low whistle of admiration. It's clear he's heading towards the secretary, but some book or other catches his eye and he deviates from a direct course to take a look.

That book on the wall, an international best seller if the small plaque is to be believed, has a well worn paper cover. The paper it's printed on looks about as cheep as one could get but the covers are rather nicely done at least. The publishing date shows April 12th 1915, the author Allard Hettinger Lombardo, and the cover is a work of its own. A figure in a simple black hood rides on the back of a large black horse over a set of Great War Era trenches as a train passes by in the distance covered in armor. The title reads "The Hooded Shadow Strikes".

The book itself like many here looks to be one of the older ones but that strange cover is striking enough that it tends to draw the eye. Even as he stands there a silent exchange goes on at the front desk. Elevator doors open up, and a young man steps out to be replaced by a gentleman with a similar suit to the others. "When you're ready sir, I'll take you up to him."

After a few seconds of looking at the book's cover, Taskmaster hears the young man address him. He turns and gives him a look before nodding, then jerks a thumb at the picture on the book's cover, "Thought about going with black, too. Blends in a little too much for my taste." A smile can just about be heard in his voice as he lets out a single chuckle and meanders towards the elevator. One more long look around the lobby and he comments, "I heard you guys are in need of some training. Your security here is pretty good. I only made out a couple of ways to get through it." A pause. "On first glance."

The young man has slicked back black hair, Italian as the rest of them. He stands at a slight angle, his general demeanor calm and collected as he runs a comb through that slathered down mane of his. "Always been more a fan of the red myself." A slight pause from him.

He doesn't look a day over 15, and is green as the morning grass. How he managed to be the one to do the introductions is anyone's guess. "I uh.. Well I'm glad we're getting you to help that." A light pause "My d-" The man behind the counter looks disappointed for a moment. He speaks in Italian over towards the boy. "Emiliano, what do you think you're doing?"

"Figures," Taskmaster replies to the kid at the comment about his color preference, though it sounds somewhat good natured even coming through the mask and the rough voice. "Pleasure to be of service, of course," He says before the kid is being interrogated all of the sudden. But it's not his business now, is it? Taskmaster folds his arms across his broad chest and his head tilts up slightly, the mask making it easy for him to hide if he's paying attention to the conversation as he angles his head away to look elsewhere.

"Get him out of this suit, and back home." The almost identical man says to one of the guards who begins escorting the young boy. "We'll have a talk when I get home." He turns to the masked man after just that quick altercation, switching back to english. "Please forgive the young man, he has good intentions."

The suited man holds out a single hand. "Leo Lombardo, and I hope my son wasn't too much of a bother for you." He pauses. "If you'd like I can take you right up to see Mr.Smith." All respect, and calm nature as he gives a bit of a smile.

"Gotta learn the family business some time, right?" Taskmaster asks the other guy rhetorically as he gives him a looking over. "I kinda liked him. Figured I'd teach him how to box like Sonny Liston and fight like a Royal Marine Commando." He look at Leo's hand for a second before he takes it, "Taskmaster. Nice to meet you, Leo." And he might even mean it by the tone of voice and firm handshake. "I'm looking forward to makin' his acquaintance. Heard good things about him and how he conducts business."

Leo takes a bit of a low nod. "Yeah but I don't want his mother getting on me if something happens." That reassuring smile on his face. "Give him some time and he'll be a good family man, but right now what the wife says goes." Leo runs a quick comb through his hair, before tossing a small wad of rolled up money into the already overflowing jar of the very young bellhop.

"Top floor." He offers to the boy, before turning back to Taskmaster. "He's a good man, very focused on doing the right thing." Spoken with that smallest of hints of spite near the back of his voice." Likes to stick to the old ways."

A thoughtful nod comes from the skull face, "Guess we all gotta report upstairs, right?" A brief 'heh' of a chuckle at his own crack. As he enters the elevator he stands still, listening to Leo speak as he remains quite still, watching the other man's speech and movements. "The old ways work out good for hired help like me. A guy with a reputation like his is a guy someone like me can just about trust." And then a question of his own, "You got some ideas yourself about new plans? I do more than just train soldiers, y'know."

"Doesn't do much good when you're missing an entire market." Leo comments as the doors of the elevator shut and they begin their slow ascent to the top floor of the building. "It's not the way I'd run things, but don't want the spot enough to speed things along" He places a small sucker into the corner of his mouth from his pocket. A low sigh as he collects himself. "Still, not the only one that wants him to retire."

"Well, it's on you to convince him to open up. That's a contract I won't take," Taskmaster quips as he leans against the wall of the elevator, moving smoothly despite the cape. "Still, you do some branching out on your own outside of his territory where you're not stepping on his toes and you've got the mint you know the guy to call." Then a rather theatrical wave of his hand at the opulence evident even in the elevator, "Still seems like you guys are doing alright to me, anyway."

"For how long though? I mean sure what we got is good, but can't hurt to diversify." A very business tone about the whole thing as they rocket along. "I mean if something were to happen to him, we'd be able to tap all kinds of markets we're locked out of." He swirls the sucker round his mouth. "Where's the good in sticking with tradition if it gives the other families the leg up you know?" At this time the elevator reaches its station, and the bellhop swings open the doors for them.

"That's not my end the business, unfortunately," Taskmaster offers, letting his hands lean on the railings inside the elevator car. "You're the one's going to have to work with him on that. Or bide your time, from what I hear old age is creeping up on him." A lift of his masked chin, "There's other ways to get a leg up. You're already doing something by bringin' me in. Next time someone tries to muscle your boys they'll be breakin' bones and shooting like it's nobody's business." Then just a little pause, "If I was you I'd wait and see. I think Mr. Smith has some more ideas than you guys are giving him credit for."

"Can't blame a man for trying." The last comment for the elevator, before Leo steps right out into the hall, and starts walking for the doors at the end. His own stride a somewhat quick one as he moves, adjusting his tie.

On the other side of the doors lies a long hallway, up here the place feels much less like an office, and more like a home. People in suits move from one office to another, accountants and high level workers up here in a land above the clouds. Two bright mahogany doors wait at the end of the long hallway, with a secretarial desk.

Behind the desk is a highly attractive woman in her late twenties. She's dressed in a very well cut respectable grey pinstripe dress, and currently sits answering one phone then another.

The hallway leading up to her is flanked either wall with beautiful works of art from various artists. Paintings and sculptures from all across Italy hang with place of pride, proclaiming out the beauty of times long since passed. The dull off brown carpeting that lines this floor stretches out all along the beige walls warm and inviting as ever.
The cloak billows behind Taskmaster as he walks through the building, looking around carefully and studying rather openly some of the people that he passes. The paintings catch his eye for a moment now and then, but it's mostly the way the folks around him move that draw him. "Keep trying, though. Bring them… whaddaya call 'em… business proposals. Can't hurt to try." Then he shrugs, "Or maybe it can. I don't know the guy beyond his reputation."

Closer to those office doors the paintings on either wall are instead all done by the same man, A.H.L. Their surfaces range from the idyllic to the surreal wartime cities to fanciful lands of elves and Forrest, and everything between. In the side branches a few people mill about the water coolers, and while things on the surface might look perfectly normal in their own way there are little things that are off.

Mainly the fact that it seems almost everyone on this floor of the building at the very least has a pistol on their person for self defense. Security here looks to be the absolute laxest just from the first glance but it's what's hidden just that slight bit bellow the surface that is revealing.

Leo is mostly quiet up here just taking Taskmaster up towards that large secretarial desk. The bombshell behind the desk gives a long glance towards Taskmaster, while chewing away at her gum, just undressing the man with her eyes, even as she comes up to a stand to walk over towards the double doors. Her high heeled red shoes the most colorful thing about her besides the bright red lipstick, and the occasional pop of her chewing gum.

Even still through the overly thick layer of seduction there's a definite level of a predator trying to decide the best way to strike. It's something a bit more sinister past the surface like a rattlesnake in damsels clothing. The slight glint of metal from the blade tucked into her high heeled shoes gives that away just that bit more, even as she speaks in a very slight Bronx accent. "I'll get the door for you, he's expecting you Mr.Taskmaster." Her generally bubbly facade mixing in.

Leo looks at her for a moment with absolute hatred in his eyes, something of a burning fire for just a moment returned back by her with little more then a friendly smile. It's only there for an instant before it's gone right soon as it had arrived.

"Just Taskmaster, sweetie," He replies to the secretary with a just about audible smile as he takes his time checking her over as well, nodding approvingly at what he sees. His mask angles towards Leo's face for a second before the skull returns to the woman one more time, then goes for another look around the office. "Mr. Smith has very good taste." And one more quick check of the other personnel, "Lotta nice suits in here. I'll need to get your tailor's information before I go."

"We only hire the best." She offers with a sly smile in his direction batting her eyelashes lightly as he moves back over towards her desk. "If you want I could get you her number, she's very talented." In reference to the comment about tailors. Even as she gives a bit of a smile getting right back to her typewriter.

Leo remains mostly quiet before walking into the office proper. Inside of the room dull brown carpeting covers the floor with a number of paintings and other artworks along the walls. Where there isn't a painting or sculpture the walls are instead lined with rows and rows and rows of books, novels, comic books, hundreds of them. Yet even with so much here the place still feels rather plain when compared to the rest of the building. It's almost a bit too understated.

In the center of the room a simple desk sets empty, a very nice leather chair hand engraved with the same initials as the artwork in the halls. Yet off to one side it seems a small space has been cleared. A white cloth has been draped over the carpeting and an easel has been set up. Behind the easel a man with pure white hair on either side and a single streak of black paints away. His glasses are a dull orange allowing him to see even better in all this light, and he's painting away with a smile.

"You know Taskmaster, I always sympathized with the people who did work for hire." His face partially hidden behind the easel, not even acknowledging Leo as the man stands waiting in silence. "I was one of them." Said as he brings down the brush for a smooth stroke of paint. "Not easy, no mater what they tell you." He pauses just to swish around a few more colors. "I can respect you for that."

"Hers might not be the only phone number I need," Taskmaster replies to the young woman, but he notably doesn't let her distract him for too long as he strolls into the office. Leo gets another quick glance before Taskmaster takes in the office and the guy waiting inside it, staying not too far from the entrance to the room. "It's a tough way to earn a living sometimes, but nothin' beats being your own boss," he replies to the elder with a hint of a chuckle. "I'll tell you I was a little surprised when I got the call saying you wanted to meet." He watches closely how the old man holds the brush as best that he can, how he moves, "You could take the average guy here in a straight fight yourself. Guessin' you need someone to teach them some new tricks though."

There's a certain finesse and care that's been lost too often in the modern age with each stroke its own movement flowing from one to the next in a sonata of motions. "Most freeing feeling in the world." Every move calculated down to the second up and down. There's a certain mastery to his every movement, a control over even his own breathing that's likely helped him live to be as old as he is. "But there's always someone looking to take what you have."

His voice is soft and friendly that odd aura about him of calm and collected joy gained from a life of self control and discipline. "Always someone who thinks they can do your job better." He stays focused on the painting, silent for a long moment. "You can go Leo" Barely even a pause before Leo backs out from the door he entered in, closing the door behind himself.

"Taskmaster," He starts, slowly setting down his brush, and his paints. "I'm not so self centered that I can't realize when there's a better man for a job." He starts slowly taking off his painters frock, his hands visibly worn, wrinkled, and pocked with age. "I can only teach them so much, before they stop listening." He starts walking back over towards his desk. "I'm hiring you, because I have a feeling you can teach them something I can't."

Now is the time to listen and watch, learning what he can, Taskmaster remains quiet even as he watches Leo leave the room. His breathing actually soon begins to mimic Mr. Smith's as he approaches the desk, standing there with a respectful patience, every movement almost as though it's studied. When he speaks it's at least as second after Mr. Smith is finished, "You want me to teach them their place as much as how to win a fight, I'm guessing."

To watch this man walk across the room is to watch an act or a play. What many wouldn't notice are those minute little details, this is a man who balancing the motions of being weak with control, pain with prominence. "Quick on the draw." A full confidence comes from him with so many little things mixing together in order to bring up the facade of familiarity. Every little detail works together to help put people off edge, to make them feel in control but not so much as to strike back. "I need you to remind them that there is a reason the old ways work."
The Taskmaster's head angles slightly to the right, but it's obvious his attention is still on Mr. Smith. "Nobody ever accused me of being anything else." His head then tilts somewhat, thoughtful, the hidden eyes beneath the skull mask not leaving the elder, clearly considering the work ahead of him. "How do you plan for me to do that?" A lift of his chin, "There's a lot I could teach them, but I guess your angle is for me to teach them something older than you are, show them something boxing and wrestling and street fighting they know won't stand up to."

"Exactly." Mr.Smith moves back over towards his chair. "And we've an understanding that short of breaking limbs you won't go easy," Said less as a question or a request and more a simple statement of fact. "I'll of course be paying you one thousand per week of training." He pauses for a long moment. "Our family lives or dies with each-other, and they need to be reminded what their place is within this family."

"Alright," There's a smile in his voice again as Taskmaster nods, apparently pleased with the money and also possibly the rules of the contract. "I'll make sure they learn what they need to to win a fight, and how to fight together effectively." A chuckle in his voice, "You'd know how few people know how to use teamwork in a fight. If everyone moves at once instead of trying to square off individually they might take a few hits but the team as a whole will complete the mission. Teach them some tactics to go with their skills to emphasize your lesson."

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