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[Actual Play, NSFData] Marvel's Agents of STRIKE S03E05 - Trust, But Verify

JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp.I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
edited December 11 in Critical Failures
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Created by an order from Nick Fury himself, STRIKE is a classified team of highly trained agents and superhumans designed specifically to take on missions that the Avengers can't or won't. A covert force that could go anywhere and do what needed to be done, without question...


Hello and welcome to the Actual Play thread for Agents of S.T.R.I.K.E.! This is something I've wanted to share with folks for a long while, as it's one of my favorite RPGs I've ever played in, and now the time is finally right; by which I mean, I was motivated to start digging into the hundreds of pages of material we've accumulated so far.

Agents of S.T.R.I.K.E. is a superpowered action and espionage RPG set in a version of the Marvel Universe and using a homebrewed system designed by the GM. We've been playing for about a year and a half now, with occasional breaks, and are currently in the middle of our game's third "season."

It's the brainchild of my friend Matt, and kind of the culmination of a bunch of stuff he's been experimenting with for years. The players are me and our friends Choco, Cass, Dave, and Jake (yes, there are two Jakes). We play over Discord, with actual game stuff typed out in the text channel and our out-of-game talking conducted over the voice channel. It's a nice setup that I highly recommend for any game that doesn't need maps or minis.

What's an Actual Play?
Actual Plays are the RPG version of Let's Plays, basically. Every roleplayer has had great moments and experiences that we've wished we could share with our friends but couldn't: we didn't remember exactly what happened, or we'd have to explain too much backstory or game rules for the tale to make sense, or whatever. APs are a way to save campaigns by writing them down as a narrative and organizing them so we can relive those moments, talk about them, and learn from them. I've typed up a few of mine on RPG.net, as you can see in my sig.

APs are usually typed up by the GM, who offers some behind-the-scenes insights and commentary on why they did certain things, or whatever. This one's a little different; I'm just a player, but I've really wanted to share this game.

The System
As I mentioned, STRIKE uses a homebrewed system, influenced by the Powered by the Apocalypse superhero game Worlds in Peril. The system's primary goal is to be simple and fast, but it has some crunch to it, too, and I personally find it less...frustratingly ethereal or loosey-goosey than some narrative games. The core mechanic is simple: roll a couple of dice and add a modifier based on your character's stats. The result is either a simple success, exceptional success, straightforward failure (which gives an XP), or a mixed result where the player is given a choice (typically to succeed at the thing they were attempting, but at some kind of cost).

The system is a work in progress and also since it's homebrew explaining specific powers or stats or whatever would be meaningless, so I'm not going to talk much about it, but you'll probably be able to spot the times in game where a character didn't quite nail a roll and had to make a hard choice. Those are some of the most memorable moments in the game.

The Setting
STRIKE is set in a version of the Marvel Universe created specifically for the game. Earth-1491 is a blend of elements from the MCU, the Ultimate universe, and the classic 616 universe. Almost all the characters and situations will be immediately recognizable to anyone familiar with any iteration of Marvel's properties; there's no big gimmick like "it's Marvel but with STEAMPUNK CTHULHU" or that sort of bullshit.

Tonally, it sits somewhere between the MCU and 616. The look and feel of things is semi-grounded like the films - for instance, as in the MCU, superheroes here are a relatively new thing, and the ones that were active in the past were mostly secret and covert, so we don't have to handwave away all the ways that superpowers would have changed the world - but we do reserve room for some of the zaniness of the comics.

The most immediately visible setting choice, and one taken directly from the MCU, is the lack of mutants. Matt feels (and I agree) that the X-Men work pretty well as their own self-contained superhero thing and having them mashed in with the rest of the Marvel characters makes things a bit crowded and redundant. On the other hand, unlike the MCU, the Fantastic Four are present, because fuck Fox.

Also, obviously, because it's a SHIELD game, SHIELD plays a more central role in the major events of the Marvel Universe than it does in other media. This is also because Matt is an espionage buff. Those of you who know your history and your spy lore will recognize a lot of real-world elements mixed in with the capes, hovercars, and death rays.

The Characters
The game began with a playtest session set 30 years ago, with pregen characters, so we could get a sense of the system and an idea of what we’d want to do with it. That session is canonical (and what happens in it is a super big deal) so I’ll kick off the AP with it.

I’ll detail the regular characters in the main game in a post after that one.

Briefings
Matt has written extensive in-universe briefing documents for us players to read to help inform our characters’ decisions in the game. I’ll reproduce them here where appropriate.

Commentary
Part of the fun of writing an AP is giving people a peek behind the curtain. I can’t do that as much since it’s not my game, but when I have something to add, I’ll set it off from the rest of the text like this:

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Guess what? Chicken butt.

So. Let's get this show on the road!

Season 1
001 - Wormwood (prologue)
101 - Come Together
102 - Security Breach
103 - Valkyrie
104 - Mountainbound
105 - Strangers in a Strange Land
106 - Tales of Suspense
107 - Storm Chasers
108 - The Raid
109 - Marvel Team-Up
110 - All In
111 - Aftermath
112 - New Universes
113 - Convergence
114 - Chrysalis (season finale)

Season 2
201 - Back in Black Ops
202 - Inhuman
203 - Strange Tales
204 - There But For the Grace Of...
205 - Mindbender
206 - Secret Wars
207 - Endgames
208 - Tales of Interest
209 - Operation Scalpel
210 - Supernova
211 - The Wedding Crasher
212 - The Atlantis Conference
213 - National Emergency (season finale)

Season 3
301 - Journey Into Mystery
302 - Going Knowhere
303 - Curiosities
304 - Behave Yourselves
305 - Trust, But Verify
306 - Things Fall Apart
307 - Divide By Zero
308 - Ragnarok
309 - Before the Storm
310 - A House Divided
311 - Threshold
312 - Arrival

Jacobkosh on
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  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 1
    Briefing - Episode 0.1
    As I mentioned, we kicked the game off with an introductory playtest session using pregenerated characters going on an adventure in the year 1986. Matt gave us some scene-setting documents to help us navigate this version of the MU.


    qlGmSdP.png World War II
    World War II is widely considered to be the beginning point of extranormal phenomenon. This is where organizations like Leviathan and HYDRA got their beginning (at least, as modern threats to the world), and where the boundaries of what is considered “real” began to be pushed and broken.

    Leviathan and Red October (1917-1922)

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    According to our best intel, Leviathan began as a secret society of Russian oligarchs and military officers who were very concerned with the direction that the Great Bear was taking. In 1917, when the Russian populace was overthrowing the Tsar and installing what eventually became the Soviet government, Leviathan infiltrated and ingratiated themselves to the revolution. By the time World War II broke out, Leviathan had taken control behind the scenes of the NKVD and what would eventually become the KGB. They didn’t control the entirety of the Soviet government and the leaders like Lenin and Stalin were still beyond their direct control, but they commanded incredible influence over Soviet intelligence and military policy.

    Hunger of the HYDRA (1925)

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    Meanwhile, in Germany, another sinister secret society was rising with the war. Wolfgang Von Strucker, a Prussian noble and occultist, formed the group known as HYDRA around a philosophy of mysticism and so-called “deep science”. HYDRA appealed to many members of the nascent Nazi SS, and HYDRA (which didn’t begin as a Nazi group) found itself embraced by Nazi ideology. HYDRA mythology, like that of Thule and the coming of a racial eschaton, aligned nicely with Nazi beliefs.

    Initially, HYDRA was merely a society of believers in certain ideals and concepts, something akin to Freemasonry but for Nazis. But once the war broke out, Von Strucker began offering the Nazis advanced weaponry and strange, alchemical reagents created by his top scientist, Dr. Arnim Zola.

    Formation of the SSR (1942)

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    The Strategic Scientific Reserve was the ancestor of SHIELD, and was formed in response to the machinations of HYDRA. A division of the OSS, the SSR focused on trying to capture, study, and potentially reverse-engineer HYDRA’s technology and techniques.

    The Super-Soldier Arms Race (1942)

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    In 1942, the Teleos Conference was held in Geneva, Switzerland. At this conference were a number of important and influential individuals in medical and chemical science at the time: Abraham Erskine, Arnim Zola, Herbert Wyndham, and Wladyslav Shinski. While we have little details on the specifics of the conference, it led to huge leaps forward in research to augment and enhance the human body and mind.

    Suddenly, the idea that so-called “super-soldiers” could be a real possibility was at hand, and there was a race to successfully create them. Arnim Zola worked on such projects for the Nazis with HYDRA, and according to some intel, Wladyslav Shinski worked with Leviathan on something similar.

    Project: Rebirth (1943)

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    Unable to produce results for the Nazis, Zola forced Abraham Erskine to help him work on their super-soldier program. However, Erskine was exfiltrated from Germany by REDACTED: LEVEL 9 ACCESS REQUIRED

    Taken to the United States, Erskine began working with the SSR on Project: Rebirth, an American Super-Soldier project. Eventually, Steve Rogers was chosen for the project. It was a resounding success, but Erskine was assassinated by a HYDRA infiltrator shortly after the procedure on Rogers. Erskine kept the formula for Rogers’ transformation entirely in his own mind, keeping no notes so they could never be stolen, so the secret of Project: Rebirth died with Erskine.

    Initially, Rogers was used as a publicity stunt, dubbed “Captain America” by the Army. However, when his augmented prowess was displayed in battle, the SSR started deploying him directly against HYDRA.

    Rise of the Red Skull (1943)

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    Using his own, incomplete version of Erskine’s formula, Zola was able to create a Super-Soldier for the Nazis: Johann Shmidt, the Red Skull. The derivative, incomplete nature of the formulation scarred Shmidt horribly, hence the name he was given. He forbid Zola from producing more like him, stating that he alone should have such power. This made the Nazi authority very unhappy.

    Red Skull and Captain America fought many times during the war. Eventually, Red Skull overthrew Von Strucker as leader of HYDRA, and led HYDRA away from the Nazis into following Red Skull alone. He led them on a mad quest to find Thule, the mythical promised land of HYDRA beliefs.

    Loss of a Legend (1945)

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    On a mission to Greenland to stop Red Skull, Captain America was declared MIA. Red Skull was declared KIA. According to the reports, Red Skull was in Greenland searching for Thule, and REDACTED: LEVEL 9 ACCESS REQUIRED, eventually leading to Red Skull’s death.

    With Red Skull dead and Captain America lost, the two great Super-Soldiers of the war were gone. HYDRA was leaderless, with Arnim Zola having fled and Von Strucker already exiled.

    End of the War and Operation Paperclip (1945)

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    When the war ended, HYDRA was shattered and their agents and assets being divided and conquered by the forces of the SSR and Leviathan (who were, technically, allies at the time). HYDRA’s structure changed to a cellular one, with no distinct overarching leader. Von Strucker fled to Argentina, where he apparently died of old age. Arnim Zola attempted to flee to South America as well, but was caught by the SSR as part of Operation Paperclip. He was employed for decades under custody as a scientist for the SSR, until the SSR was eventually mothballed.

    After the war, the SSR realized that HYDRA was no longer its greatest threat; that was Leviathan. Leviathan had grown powerful from HYDRA assets it had stolen, and unchecked Soviet power was a danger to Western civilization.


    qlGmSdP.png The Cold War
    While the general public was not aware of extranormal phenomenon during the Cold War, this was a time of secret conflict between Leviathan and the Western powers. Both the Soviets and their Western opponents put a great deal of effort into keeping extranormal phenomenon a secret. This was to ensure that the public did not panic, and to deny any advantage to the enemy.

    SHAPE and the SSR (1949)
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    In 1945, the OSS was disbanded, eventually being superseded in 1947 by the CIA. The SSR, meanwhile, continued to operate on its own, seeing its mandate as being still relevant. They worked with the British MI-13 globally to oppose Leviathan, until it was determined that their activities on US soil fell under the purview of the FBI, or abroad under the CIA. The SSR was formally disbanded in 1949, but their resources, personnel, and facilities were then re-assigned to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), a NATO organization designed to keep Soviet power in check. SHAPE continued to perform covert operations against Leviathan under the direction of Clandestine Operations Director Peggy Carter.

    The Menace of Leviathan (1954)
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    Leviathan had taken full control of the Soviet intelligence apparatus during the post-war period. With the creation of the KGB in 1954, Leviathan had a powerful agency at their full disposal that avoided conflict with members of military intelligence that were not under their command.

    In the 1950s, their primary goal was the acquisition of enhanced individuals, extranormal artifacts, HYDRA technology, and anything else that would give the Soviets a distinct advantage over the West.

    The Winter Soldiers (1959)
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    One of the most dangerous Leviathan projects that the West became aware of was the so-called “Winter Soldiers”, the outcome of the Soviet Super-Soldier program that they began after the war. These were highly trained, chemically enhanced operatives with superhuman abilities. Documents obtained after the fall of the Soviet Union have also discovered that the Winter Soldiers were highly unstable, and difficult for Leviathan handlers to control. At the time, however, they were the most feared operatives in the intelligence community, and they changed how the Cold War was being waged.

    Project: Homegrown (1960)
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    The United States intelligence community realized that the Winter Soldiers presented an imminent threat, and that they could no longer be ignored. For decades, new attempts to create Super-Soldiers had not really been attempted in earnest for various ethical and safety reasons, but with the fear of the Winter Soldiers the CIA created Project: Homegrown (classified in their official documents as MK-HOMEGROWN). The project was a disaster, and the Super-Soldiers it produced were unstable and dangerous. They were used in the field against the Winter Soldiers for a short period, but were so dangerous the project was abandoned, the assets dissolved, and the whole project cancelled and concealed until SHIELD obtained the documents related to it in 1997. This was the first of many attempts by various US intelligence and military agencies and private corporations to create Super-Soldiers over the decades since Project: Rebirth’s success.

    Cloaks and Daggers (1962)
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    Leviathan eventually retired the Winter Soldiers as a whole (with one exception) due to their instability, and returned to more conventional espionage and “active measures”. They still used extranormal technology and were able to find and deploy enhanced operatives from time to time, but this was met in turn by SHAPE counter-measures. Peggy Carter worked closely with allies in the CIA, MI-13 and other international agencies to combat extranormal threats like Leviathan and others.

    Creation of SHIELD (1965)
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    Frustrated with SHAPE bureaucracy and NATO oversight giving them a vague mandate, Peggy Carter needed a new agency to fight against Leviathan and other extranormals. This led to the creation of the Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law Enforcement Directorate (SHIELD), which was separated from SHAPE and given its own resources, facilities, and personnel. Based in Washington, DC, SHIELD was originally created in secret and the public was unaware of its existence. Peggy Carter was the first Executive Director of SHIELD.

    SHIELD was enormously successful in the beginning in battling Leviathan and keeping extranormals in check. When Peggy Carter retired in 1969, Rick Stoner took over as Executive Director.

    The Black Widows (1972)
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    CLASSIFIED INFORMATION
    LEVEL 7 ACCESS REQUIRED: GRANTED

    In 1972, SHIELD executive director Rick Stoner was assassinated by a Leviathan operative. The Leviathan operative was a member of a secret Leviathan Super-Soldier project known as the “Black Widows,” a successor to the Winter Soldiers. Knowing that Leviathan was once again using Super-Soldiers caused a change in policy for SHIELD, under new Executive Director Nick Fury.

    The Avengers Initiative (1982)
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    Nick Fury worked with various intelligence agencies and scientist Dr. Henry Pym to develop secret arms caches, safe-houses, spy-rings, and other support apparatuses as part of a “stay-behind” program in Europe and North Africa in the event of a Soviet invasion. Secret operatives, known as Avengers, would be inserted among the populace to be activated in the event of emergencies such as the catastrophic loss of government and infrastructure or foreign invasion. Some of these Avengers would be highly trained intelligence and military personnel, and some would be enhanced individuals and other extranormals that SHIELD had acquired over the years.

    The Avengers of the 1980s often found themselves working as spy-rings against Leviathan operatives. They operated in secret, and conducted themselves very differently from how the public perceives the Avengers now.

    The Avengers Initiative was eventually disbanded, as over the years a few of the cells were discovered by the governments of the countries they were living in. Until the Operation Gladio inquiry in 1991, these cells were never traced back to SHIELD itself.

    THE CHARACTERS
    Along with the setting documents, we had detailed breakdowns of each of the playtest characters to choose from, reprinted below. The final lineup for our first night was

    Cass as Flashback
    Jacobkosh as Whisperer
    Jake as Nomad
    Dave as Reflex
    Choco as Hyperion


    SsWsd5k.png Flashback

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    Real name: Jennifer Monroe
    Nationality: American
    Age: 25

    Jennifer Monroe’s grandfather, Gardner Monroe, was a costumed super-hero known as Flashback during World War II. A part of the wartime super-hero team known as the Invaders, Gardner had the ability to manipulate and control time itself. It’s not clear how Gardner came to possess the ability (at the time, he claimed it was from a “time belt” of his own invention). However, it clearly was some intrinsic power of his, because the ability was passed down to his granddaughter.

    Jenny Monroe was 14 when she discovered she could manipulate time around her. Walking home from school, she was nearly struck by a car when her abilities activated, saving her from injury. She then used her powers to succeed in school and gymnastics, although she avoided trying to become a professional gymnast for fear her powers would be discovered.

    When she was 19, she told her parents about her powers, and discovered the truth about her grandfather. Her father didn’t possess the same powers, as it seemingly skipped a generation.

    Jennifer tried to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps for a time, becoming a costumed super-hero and calling herself Flashback. This led to her gaining SHIELD’s attention, and being recruited as part of the Avengers program.

    Jenny is a highly-trained field agent and a skilled marksman. She’s used her abilities to practice and master skills that would otherwise take years to become proficient in. Deployed to Europe as part of Hank Pym’s Avengers team, she has stopped wearing a super-hero costume but still uses Flashback as her code-name.

    Origin: My Legacy – Jennifer is trying to live up to her grandfather’s memory, even if she’s no longer a costumed super-hero.

    Drive: Prove Myself – Jennifer wants really badly to be the best at what she does, and help people along the way.

    Powers: Skilled gymnast; expert marksman; time manipulation; temporal teleportation; fast healing; SHIELD field agent training

    Limitations: Her powers only affect her, she can’t truly affect other people with her powers (can’t take anyone with her when she blinks, for example). Her powers make it occasionally difficult to fit in with others.

    Relationships
    SHIELD: Jenny has been a SHIELD agent for over 5 years and is respected in the agency.

    Hyperion: Marcus and Jenny are good friends. Jenny has a crush on Marcus, but she doesn’t tell him for a variety of reasons.

    Nomad: Alexi is nice to Jenny, when he’s generally disliked by the team. She tries to be friendly to him in return, although she doesn’t fully trust him.

    Reflex: Jenny likes Reflex, and the two are genuinely friends. They sometimes compete using their powers in a friendly way.

    The Wasp: Jenny considers Janet her best friend, and looks up to her. She desperately wants to be a super-hero like Janet is, even if her loyalty to SHIELD won’t really let her.

    Whisperer: Jenny respects Rick, even if he’s kind of stodgy and rude. She respects his experience, but in a conflict between Rick and Janet, Jenny always takes Janet’s side.

    Hank Pym: Jenny doesn’t really know Hank that well. To her, he’s “Janet’s boyfriend” and she doesn’t really understand what Janet sees in him.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 1
    SsWsd5k.pngHyperion
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    Real name: Marcus Milton
    Nationality: American
    Age: 31

    Marcus Milton grew up in rural Iowa. A small-town farmboy, he longed to move to the big city and as a teenager, aspired to go into journalism. When he was still in high school, however, his powers manifested. He found himself getting increasingly strong, to a superhuman extent. He realized he simply could not be injured by any means he could discover. He gained new spectra of vision, allowing him to see into the ultraviolet and infrared spectrum and even seemingly view through solid objects. He found he could project rays of super-heated energy from his eyes. Eventually, his ability to leap over tall buildings in a single jump turned into outright ability to fly.

    When he confessed to his parents about his abilities, they told him that they were not actually his biological parents; that they had been driving along the highway one night and a bolt of light, like a meteor, struck down from the sky into a nearby field. The Miltons investigated the impact site, and found an infant. Deciding to keep the child for themselves, they named him Marcus and concealed his origins. The Miltons assumed Marcus was an alien, although they found no crashed ship or other evidence to support this idea.

    Teenaged Marcus came to conclude that he must have been the last of his kind, sent away from his world by his biological parents, likely due to some kind of calamity befalling his homeworld. He arrived at this narrative based largely on the idea that if there were others like him out there, or his biological parents still lived, that they would come looking for him. Since they never did, he stuck to his assumption.

    The idea that he is an alien changed Marcus. It altered his outlook on life, humanity, and how he fits in with the world. It made him feel isolated, alone, and generally depressed, until he decided that he’ll give himself purpose by using his powers to protect his adopted homeworld.

    When he was in college, Marcus tried becoming a costumed super-hero, and named himself Hyperion. SHIELD quickly became aware of Milton’s super-heroics, and trying to conceal the existence of extranormal people from the public, they quickly recruited Milton and and made him a secret agent. His story, of being the last survivor of a doomed alien race, was never taken seriously by SHIELD. Nonetheless, his powers are real, and he’s become an important asset to Hank Pym’s Avengers.

    Origin: My Alien Heritage – Marcus believes he is the last survivor of an alien race, and this impacts how he looks at the rest of humanity.

    Drive: Protect – Marcus has chosen to protect humanity and Earth as his personal reason for being.

    Powers: Superhuman strength; super-speed; near invincibility; heat vision; x-ray vision; superhuman senses; supersonic flight; immune to most poison and disease; doesn’t need to breath, eat, or sleep; SHIELD field agent training

    Limitations: Marcus requires the energy of sunlight to renew and maintain his powers. Each day he doesn’t spend at least an hour or two in direct sunlight reduces his powers. After a week with no sunlight, he loses his powers entirely until he can recharge again. His x-ray vision cannot see through lead or other dense metals. He has no special immunity to magic, and magic weapons and spells affect him as if he has no powers. His powers and belief he is an alien make it extremely hard to form lasting relationships.

    Relationships
    SHIELD: Marcus is an experienced SHILED agent who is well-regarded in the agency…even if nobody there really believes he’s an alien.

    Flashback: Marcus and Jenny are good friends. The fact that Jenny wishes it were more than friends tends to go over his head.

    Nomad: Marcus doesn’t like Alexi or respect him. He thinks Alexi shouldn’t be trusted, and that he’s some kind of Leviathan plant and his story about going rogue is a ruse.

    Reflex: Marcus and Reflex get along pretty well, and Marcus considers Reflex a friend. Unlike Alexi, he actually believes Reflex legitimately is no longer part of his past.

    The Wasp: Marcus is friends with Janet, and secretly he envies her ability to continue to be a costumed super-hero covertly.

    Whisperer: Marcus looks up to Whisperer, although he thinks sometimes the veteran agent is too brutal.

    Hank Pym: Marcus doesn’t especially like Hank, given that Hank told him to his face that he thinks Marcus’ alien heritage is nonsense.

    SsWsd5k.pngNomad
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    Real name: Alexi Shostakov
    Nationality: Russian
    Age: 46

    Alexi Shostakov was a former member of Leviathan and a part of the Winter Soldier program. He was selected for the program when he was only 20, being transferred into it from Soviet special forces.

    Alexi was a patriot, who believed in the Soviet Union and protecting Mother Russia. However, the extreme treatments he endured as part of being made into a Winter Soldier broke him, and he eventually came to believe Leviathan was insidious and harmful to the USSR.

    He defected to the United States in 1967, and joined SHIELD a few years later. His incredible prowess from being made into a Super-Soldier and how useful that makes him to SHIELD is tempered by the fact that he is mentally unstable and suffers from severe bipolar disorder. His body is resistant to attempts to treat his mental health with medication.

    Alexi still loves his country, and believes in Communism and the USSR. However, he believes Leviathan is a cancer killing the Soviet Union, so he will help his enemies fight his beloved homeland.

    Code-named Nomad, Alexi’s true origin is kept a secret from the rest of SHIELD. Only his team-mates in the Avengers know the truth, as Hank Pym felt it was impossible for them to trust the Soviet Super-Soldier unless they knew who he really was. The reaction was… mixed.

    Origin: The Wake-Up Call – Alexi believed in the USSR, and only went rogue due to his hatred of Leviathan and what they turned him into.

    Drive: See Justice Done – Alexi wants to see Leviathan brought down and the Soviet Union freed from their influence.

    Powers: Superhuman strength, speed, and toughness; accelerated healing; superhuman senses of hearing and vision; barely ages; Superhuman resistance to poison and disease; Soviet special forces training

    Limitations: Alexi is a Super-Soldier, which essentially makes him stronger, faster, and tougher at everything a human can do. But he still has all the normal requirements of a human being. He still needs to breathe, eat, and sleep, although his need for sleep is diminished. His powers and the fact that he’s an ex-Soviet Super-Soldier makes him actively ostracized by most.

    Relationships
    SHIELD: Alexi is not trusted by SHIELD, and is treated more like a weapon to be pointed at the enemy than an asset or an ally. This suits Alexi just fine, as he considers SHIELD a means to an end to bring down Leviathan.

    Flashback: Alexi respects Jenny as a field agent, and tries to teach her how to be a better spy. Secretly, he hopes to turn her to his side so that when he is done with Leviathan and SHIELD, she will join him in Russia.

    Hyperion: Alexi is in awe of Marcus’ power, and sees his idealism as respectable. Marcus doesn’t really see him the same way, and generally disdains the renegade Leviathan Super-Soldier.

    Reflex: Alexi and Reflex respect each other as fellow renegades against the organizations that created them.

    The Wasp: Alexi likes Janet more than her boyfriend, but not by a whole lot, and generally thinks she’s unqualified to lead the team. He usually defers to Rick’s judgment in a conflict between the two.

    Whisperer: Alexi actually respects Rick quite a bit. While he still considers Rick “the enemy”, he respects his prowess as a spy and his dedication to protecting his country.

    Hank Pym: Alexi doesn’t like Pym. He has an inherent distrust of scientists due to what was done to him, and Pym’s experimental zeal disturbs Alexi.

    Leviathan: Leviathan wants Alexi dead, and are actively trying to pursue him.

    SsWsd5k.pngReflex
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    Real name: Unknown, even to Reflex himself
    Nationality: Unknown, possibly Japanese-American
    Age: Unknown

    Reflex is the code-name given to a former member of the Hand who has joined SHIELD. Called “Hansha” (literally Japanese for “Reflex”) by the Hand, the crimson ninja exhibits abilities that can’t really be explained by science. He claims they are the result of the Hand’s mystical elixirs, which he was subjected to as part of his initiation into the organization. SHIELD SCI-TECH has concluded he is likely some kind of Super-Soldier as a result, even if they can’t fully understand or explain his abilities, or the fact that he emits no verifiable lifesigns.

    Reflex doesn’t know anything about his true identity or his past. According to him, he was “hollowed” as part of his initiation, brought back to life from death and filled with purpose. His purpose was to slay the enemies of the Hand, at the direction of his master. Years ago, there was an internal power struggle within the Hand, and his master directed him to kill many of the Hand’s own members, before the master was slain by a rival. Leaderless, and considered dishonoured by the Hand for being on the losing side in a civil war, he left the Hand and became a mercenary.

    He walked the Earth for a few years, without direction and simply taking jobs as an assassin, until he ran afoul of SHIELD and was apprehended. Nick Fury offered to become Reflex’s new master, and for the undead ninja to serve SHIELD. He accepted, and was assigned to Hank Pym’s Avengers.

    Origin: I’m Back From the Dead – Reflex was brought back from death by the Hand. He remembers nothing of his life prior to his resurrection.

    Drive: Rebel – Reflex saw what following blindly leads to. While he believes in Nick Fury and SHIELD as a whole for the most part, he does not follow without question and is skeptical of institutions and rules in general.

    Powers: Super-speed; super-human reaction time; ninja training; undead; does not breath, eat, or sleep; immune to disease and poison; heals damage in seconds; expert alchemist

    Limitations: Reflex is undead, and has to maintain his existence using elixirs only he knows how to create. Without regularly taking the time to prepare his elixirs and imbibing them, he will eventually decay and die. His powers and undead nature make it extremely hard to form lasting relationships.

    Relationships
    SHIELD: While Reflex is loyal to Nick Fury, he’s not terribly loyal to SHIELD as a whole, and generally ignores the organization’s rules and strictures. Nonetheless, he believes in SHIELD’s basic ideals.

    Flashback: Jenny is Reflex’s only true friend on the team. They’re competitive with each other, but in a friendly way. Jenny has actually been trying to help Reflex learn who he is, or at least who he was.

    Hyperion: Reflex and Marcus get along fairly well. They feel some kinship in their outsider status; Marcus as an alien, Reflex as undead. They sometimes race competitively to prove who is fastest. Thus far, Marcus wins in raw speed, but Reflex wins in precision.

    Nomad: Reflex respects Alexi and his decision to go against his former masters. The two don’t socialize much, but he’s one of the few members of the team who treats Alexi as something of a comrade.

    The Wasp: Reflex considers Janet somewhat aimless and foolhardy. He will listen to her when she tries to take command (he certainly likes her more than Rick), but doesn’t really take her seriously.

    Whisperer: Reflex does not like Rick at all. He considers the veteran SHIELD agent the sort of blindly loyal fool that he once was, and the two have conflicts over rules and procedures.

    Hank Pym: Reflex barely knows Pym, but is generally polite to the man. He doesn’t understand his science (just as Pym doesn’t understand Reflex’s alchemy), and he keeps his distance.

    The Hand: The Hand isn’t actively pursuing Reflex (he’s been exiled), but they treat him with contempt any time they encounter him, and will try to kill him without restraint if they are on opposite sides of a conflict.

    Nick Fury: Fury has Reflex’s respect and serves as the ninja’s new mentor. He is loyal to Fury, and considers him his new master.

    SsWsd5k.pngThe Wasp
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    Real name: Janet Van Dyne
    Nationality: American
    Age: 26

    Janet Van Dyne is the girlfriend of Hank Pym, the Avenger known as Ant-Man. Janet uses technology designed by Hank in the field that she has further modified to serve as the Wasp.

    Unlike Hank, who prefers to be in his lab and only goes into the field reluctantly, Janet actively wants to be a field agent (and really, a super-hero) and jumps at the chance to be sent on missions with the Avengers.

    In her civilian life, Janet is a fashion designer, which serves her well as it gives her a valid reason to travel around the world and keep strange hours. She moonlights as a super-hero, despite Hank’s protestations and SHIELD’s directive against that sort of thing. However, because her powers allow her to perform heroic acts unseen, she’s thus far gotten away with it.

    A brilliant engineer herself, Janet is deeply in love with Hank and they share a love of science. However, she often finds herself frustrated with him and his constant lab work. It was Janet who convinced Hank to join the Avengers and run the team, which he largely does remotely as mission control. Janet usually acts as the field leader, if Whisperer isn’t around. The two compete for leadership of the team on missions.

    Origin: What I Know – While Janet doesn’t have any super-powers herself, her technological knowledge and understanding of global events drives her to do something to help.

    Drive: Inspire – Janet wants badly to be a super-hero and give hope to the world. She is driven by a desire to do good and fight against evil actively.

    Powers: Wears the Wasp suit allows her to shrink to the size of an insect, fly, and project blasts of energy; expert engineer; extremely wealthy

    Limitations: Janet needs her suit to use her powers, and doesn’t have any powers without it. Her suit is powered by “Pym Particles,” an exotic energy source that needs to be periodically replenished back in Hank’s lab. If Janet shrinks down beyond the microscopic level she might not ever come back; Hank doesn’t know what will happen if she does. Janet is charismatic and doesn’t possess any super-powers herself, so she finds it only occasionally difficult to fit in with others.

    Relationships
    SHIELD: Janet likes being part of SHIELD well enough, mostly because it lets her fight bad guys and save people. She doesn’t like a lot of the organization’s rules and secretly still engages as a costumed super-hero in her off hours.

    Flashback: Janet and Jenny are best friends. Janet thinks Jenny is a total bad-ass and envies her super-hero heritage. She keeps trying to encourage Jenny to costume up and go out with her on secret super-hero missions, but thus far Jenny has refused.

    Hyperion: Janet gets along with Marcus pretty well. They have a lot of conversations about goodness and the human condition, and Janet’s one of the few on the team who believe Marcus really is an alien.

    Nomad: Janet gives Alexi a wide berth, and doesn’t really try to understand him. They’re cordial and polite to each other, but she keeps her distance.

    Reflex: Janet actually likes Reflex, because he’s a rebellious ninja that doesn’t obediently listen to authority (unlike Rick). His undead nature is off-putting, though.

    Whisperer: Janet actively dislikes Rick and wishes he wasn’t on the team. She feels Rick drags the team down by not having any powers or access to technology like her Wasp suit, and feels like he’s an annoying chaperone here to ruin their good time.

    Hank Pym: Hank and Janet are deeply in love, although Janet also gets frustrated with Hank’s unwillingness to go into the field and how he sometimes spends time in the lab instead of spending time with her when she is around.

    SsWsd5k.pngWhisperer
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    Real name: Rick Jones
    Nationality: American
    Age: 38

    Rick Jones, code-named Whisperer, is one of SHIELD’s best field agents. He’s been part of the agency and fighting against the enemies of freedom for over 15 years. Accustomed to dealing with strange and inexplicable scenarios and threats, nothing really phases the veteran agent.

    He was recruited in college by Rick Stoner himself, then director of SHIELD. He was there the day Stoner was assassinated by a Black Widow operative from Leviathan. Dedicating himself to fighting against Leviathan for killing his mentor, he jumped at the chance to join the Avengers program.

    Jones was assigned to Hank Pym’s team, and it bothers him quite a bit that he isn’t fully in charge and instead has to take orders from a “mad scientist obsessed with ants.” Given that Pym usually acts as mission control, Whisperer tries to take command of the field team on missions, which runs him into conflict with Pym’s girlfriend, Janet Van Dyne.

    It infuriates Jones that Wasp thinks she can be the field team leader, given that she’s a civilian over ten years younger than him and is dating Pym. They frequently have conflicts over the issue.

    In general, Whisperer believes in the Avengers’ mission, but doesn’t especially care for its membership. The fact that it is composed of “weirdos and traitors” drives him up the wall.

    Origin: A Death in the Family – Stoner’s death hit Whisperer hard, and was the reason he became an Avenger.

    Drive: Do What Others Cannot – Jones believes that he has what it takes to do what must be done. He doesn’t have time or patience for super-heroics.

    Powers: Veteran SHIELD agent; can pick locks; demolitions expert; speaks ten languages; master of disguise; excellent shot; extremely charismatic

    Limitations: Rick doesn’t actually have any super-powers, and doesn’t use a super-suit like the Wasp does, so he’s ultimately limited to anything a human being can do normally, and can be killed just as easily. While he is not a super-human at all, his life as a veteran secret agent alienates him from a lot of people, especially civilians, so he finds it frequently difficult to fit in when he’s not undercover and just trying to be a normal person.

    Relationships
    SHIELD: Rick Jones is a veteran field agent who is extremely well-regarded in SHIELD. He knows Nick Fury personally and was the protege of the late Rick Stoner.

    Flashback: Rick and Jenny get along pretty well, all things considered. He respects her drive to be a field agent and has taken her under his wing.

    Hyperion: Rick likes Marcus for the most part. He’s a good field agent, and doesn’t over-use his powers to solve every problem. He doesn’t believe Marcus is really an alien, though.

    Nomad: Rick has a begrudged respect for Alexi. He doesn’t trust him, but he also respects how much Alexi hates Leviathan and that he’s good at what he does.

    Reflex: Rick likes Reflex’s professionalism and skill, although the two run into conflict over SHIELD protocol and Reflex’s lone wolf tendencies.

    The Wasp: Rick and Janet don’t get along, and frequently run into conflict over who is field team leader. He doesn’t especially respect or like Hank for that matter.

    Hank Pym: Rick dislikes Hank Pym and considers him a “mad scientist.” He doesn’t like that he has to answer to Pym and doesn’t respect his work.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 1
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    In the 1980s, Nick Fury worked with various intelligence agencies and scientist Dr. Henry Pym to develop secret arms caches, safe-houses, spy-rings, and other support apparatuses as part of a “stay-behind” program in Europe and North Africa in the event of a Soviet invasion. Secret operatives, known as Avengers, would be inserted among the populace to be activated in the event of emergencies such as the catastrophic loss of government and infrastructure or foreign invasion. Some of these Avengers would be highly trained intelligence and military personnel, and some would be enhanced individuals and other extranormals that SHIELD had acquired over the years.

    The Avengers of the 1980s often found themselves working as spy-rings against Leviathan operatives. They operated in secret, and conducted themselves very differently from how the public perceives the Avengers now.

    The Avengers cell in Berlin, operated remotely by Pym but ostensibly led by SHIELD Agent Rick Jones (codename "Whisperer") has been recently activated, and summoned to the Berlin safehouse.

    The Avengers safehouse is in the basement of a West German nightclub, accessible by secret elevator.

    Over time, the Avengers filter their way through the club into the safehouse.



    Jennifer “Flashback” Monroe, despite being perfectly on time, has explored the city in great detail. She looks like a tourist, an all-American girl taking a break from university. She is the first one at the safehouse, and has her feet up on the conference table, flipping through a novel.

    Rick “Whisperer” Jones makes his way to the safehouse in rumpled, ill-fitting street clothes that don't really disguise his stiff military bearing. Riding the U-Bahn, he curls his lip in distaste at a pair of young punks with weird hair. He passes through the lights and noise of the disco like a doughboy crossing no man’s land.

    The assassin known only as Reflex winds through the nightclub, not even paying attention to the overly-loud electronic music and the clubbers that he assumes are all on some kind of drug. He enters and sees his friendly rival Flashback and smiles, then notices Whisperer and grimaces.

    Flashback looks up and returns the smile, giving a little wave with two fingers. She nods at Whisperer, a respectful gesture, if a little cool. Whisperer nods back briskly at the others, noting their punctuality with silent approval. He'll get this bunch whipped into shape yet.

    I hope people read the character document for Rick Jones and note how I played him. I sometimes don’t always have clear ideas of how to approach a character until I’m a ways into a game, but I think I found Jones’s stiff tightass voice pretty quickly.

    I selected Whisperer as soon as I saw he was the team leader, and I think Matt put him there as Jacob-bait, because he’s a lot like other characters I’ve played in the past.

    Something that doesn’t often get talked about, often because it can kind of brush up against people’s sensitivities, is that RPGs need party leaders. Not characters who are literally in charge of the party in the world of the story, or domineering players who try to run the table, but...motivators, tiebreakers, and cheerleaders.

    As a GM, one of the most agonizing things ever is sitting there behind the screen watching your players dither, unable to make up their minds, pissing away both everyone’s time and the energy and fun of the game. Your most important ally as a GM is having someone on the player side - someone who’s a more experienced roleplayer, or more motivated, or even just more impatient - who can go “okay, enough deliberation, let’s go do do this!” and get everyone else on board and the story leaving the station.

    In my experience, if you have someone like that in your player group, they will find themselves, and their character, gravitating to roles of authority and responsibility whether any of you mean for that to happen or not.

    When this group started many years ago, I was the senior roleplayer and found that role falling to me a lot. I kind of fought it for a while, because I was worried I was stealing someone else’s spotlight, so I’d make characters who deliberately weren’t experienced or assertive in hopes that someone else would step in. That didn’t work out super well and I came to accept that that was just the dynamic of this group.

    Hence Whisperer.

    What’s funny, though, is that this is the game that ended up letting me shift that weight off me a bit. Cass, who had barely ever gamed when we started, has come into her own as a hardened veteran and now creates dynamic characters that constantly push the story forward, and this session also marked the first time I ever played with the other Jake, who it turns out is also a very experienced roleplayer with a strong sense of character and a welcome instigator-y streak.


    Alexi “Nomad” Shostakov makes his way to the nightclub, knowing he is running late. Not like him. He passes some young locals listening to music on their boombox. Shaking his head, he moves through the club into the Safehouse and joins the others in the meeting room. "Sorry I am late."

    As Nomad and Agent Marcus “Hyperion” Milton arrive, a wall panel rotates and becomes a large CRT monitor, that flickers to life.
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    Hank Pym's face comes on screen. "Hello, Avengers."

    Jennifer puts her novel down, all business now. Whisperer barely inclines his head in acknowledgment. "Doctor Pym," he says flatly.

    "We have a mission of great importance. SHIELD has received intelligence that Leviathan agents are developing some sort of cutting edge energy technology that's beyond anything we currently have. Something beyond nuclear fission. We don't know a lot of details yet, but we do know who does."

    Rick Jones leans forward now. This sounds meaty. Not another one of Pym's mad science wild goose chases.

    "Leviathan..." Nomad says, barely audibly, and clenches his fist

    "On the table you'll find a folder with a file I've had sent over by Xerox machine." A picture is peeking out from the folder.

    "I love how SHIELD never spares any expense." murmurs Jennifer, to Reflex’s stifled laughter.

    "This is Georges Batroc, a French national and mercenary who works for the highest bidder."
    EjL9aZe.png

    "Batroc isn't loyal to Leviathan, but we know he's working with them on their latest energy project purely for the profit. Your mission is to find Batroc here in Berlin and either cut the man a check to get him to give us the details, or... acquire the information from him if he's unwilling. You have $500,000 USD as a budget to try to tempt Batroc to just sell Leviathan out. This would be the simplest and easiest solution, if possible, but he might have some kind of scruples or something about not selling out his current employer, or Leviathan might be outbuying us."

    Nomad reflects on how the West is always so ready to throw money at its problems.

    Jones studies the folder. "Friend of mine had a run-in with him in Tangiers," he murmurs. "Real sleazebag. I dunno if anything this guy tells you's gonna be worth the toilet paper it's printed on, doc."

    "Then we kill him, best solution," Nomad says briskly.

    "That went from 0 to 60 real fast," Jennifer says, slightly stunned.

    Hyperion: "Kill him? Are you nuts?"

    "He is a Leviathan patsy, no?" Nomad says.

    "If money won't make him spill his guts, try hardened steel." Reflex adds.

    "Let's just throw a bag on the asshole's head and let a few days in the cooler save us a cool half mil," Whisperer agrees.

    Pym sucks his teeth."However you do it, get it done."

    Jennifer rolls her eyes and mumbles to herself. "Join SHIELD, they said. Be a good guy, they said." Marcus laughs.

    "Who said this to you?" Nomad asks.

    "I didn't get that speech when Fury-sensei recruited me.” Reflex adds.

    "Our information on Batroc's last knowns are in the file. You're going to have to cross the Curtain, though, so be aware of that. Our Russkie associate might know a way to get across." Pym gets back to business.

    "We'll find out what he knows, doc," Whisperer says grimly. "You don't gotta worry about that part."

    "Don't worry about it, we're not here for the Monroe Illustrated History. We're here to do a job." Flashback is calm and confident.

    "Good luck, Avengers. Dr. Pym, signing off." The monitor rotates back into the wall, leaving the Avengers alone with a dossier on the table, the equipment in the safehouse, and a job to do.
    Matt has a formula for the kind of game he likes to run and that he runs really well, with missions structured like episodes of serial TV. I’ve played in games with him that had very different premises - cyberpunk, spies, space mercenaries, vampires - but the structure tends to be mission-based, opening each week with the players gathering around a table and being given an assignment by an NPC.

    He pays close attention to pacing and tries to keep each session a discrete unit of story with a beginning, middle, and end, that then leads into the next week’s session. The effect is a lot like an ongoing serial TV show (which his structure and plotting are based heavily on).

    I want to hold up a preemptive hand and note that I’ve run into some people consider any mission-based gaming a “railroad,” as if the only real kind of RPG is a D&D hex crawl.

    I think that’s nonsense. I tend to run looser, ‘blobbier’ games where I begin the evening with a much less sharp idea of what is going to happen than Matt, but the key thing is, his game is no less responsive to player input than mine is. You’ll have to take my word for that until we get further into this story, but rest assured that decisions we made in this very first session - a session that doesn’t even involve our real PCs - are still having consequences a year and half and 30+ sessions later.


    "The Wall? This I can help with." Nomad says. "So Whisperer? What is our plan?"

    "Yes, tell us your plan." Reflex adds, before quietly adding: "Baka."

    "Like the doc said, first order of business is getting over to the other side. You got any insights on that front?" Whisperer asks.

    Jennifer begins to flip through the folder. It notes what hotel Batroc is staying at in East Berlin, what cafe he drinks fancy-ass French coffee at, where he buys his newspaper. He's been staying in East Berlin for a while. It's also listed some more details on the man personally.

    "We got a few points we can intercept him at." Jennifer says thoughtfully. "He seems to like to stick to public places, though."

    "Smart," Nomad acknowledges. “No matter."

    Batroc is from Marseilles, France. He was in the military, but was dishonorably discharged for war profiteering, and has since become a mercenary for hire around the globe. He frequently takes jobs working for Leviathan, although he doesn't seem especially loyal to them and has from time to time taken jobs against them.

    "And they hire him back? Must be good at hiding it." Marcus is either surprised or impressed.

    "Or just that good.” Reflex adds.

    Flashback: "We may actually be able to turn this guy against his employers, nice and easy. I mean, I wouldn't invite this guy to my birthday party, but..."

    Marcus sucks his teeth. "Yeah."

    He's not enhanced in any specific way according to SHIELD's intel, but he's a highly trained soldier and an expert at an obscure form of "French urban gymnastics" known only as "le parkour." It's earned him the nickname "Batroc the Leaper" in some places, and he's notoriously difficult to catch on foot. Jennifer rolls her eyes when she comes across this little nugget of information. "Call me when he can blink through time."

    "He is just a man." Nomad remains dismissive.

    "First order of business is getting across, and after that, we need to reconnoiter the territory a bit. We're gonna be hanging out there with our asses in the wind for the whole Stasi to see and the doc didn't tell us how he came by this information. Who's to say we weren't leaked this specifically to draw us into enemy territory? Or if not a trap, maybe Batroc just wants to make some easy cash and doesn't know anything - he could be hanging out sipping lattes waiting for the phone to ring. So we get in and we put this guy under a net - quietly - and see what happens before popping off."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    "Right. Let's not try to think too far ahead - none of this matters if we can't get across the wall. So, that's step one." Flashback chimes in after Whisperer’s plan.

    The team makes their preparations. Rick passes everyone little cards, like business cards. The cards bear a bullet-pointed list, in tiny type. "They give this to guys heading to Moscow. It's even more true where we're going. I recommend memorizing it."

    The cards read:
    • Assume nothing.
    • Murphy is right.
    • Never go against your gut; it is your operational antenna.
    • Don't look back; you are never completely alone.
    • Everyone is potentially under opposition control.
    • Go with the flow, blend in.
    • Vary your pattern and stay within your cover.
    • Any operation can be aborted. If it feels wrong, it is wrong.
    • Maintain a natural pace.
    • Lull them into a sense of complacency.
    • Build in opportunity, but use it sparingly.
    • Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
    • Don't harass the opposition.
    • There is no limit to a human being's ability to rationalize the truth.
    • Pick the time and place for action.
    • Keep your options open.
    • Technology will always let you down.
    • Once is an accident. Twice is coincidence. Three times is an enemy action.
    • Don't attract attention, even by being too careful

    "Always salt your pasta before boiling it." Jennifer adds, before tucking the card into her front pocket. Reflex memorizes his, crumples it and throws it in the trash bin.

    Matt’s not the only espionage buff! That list is a real-life bit of Cold War spy lore that I happened to know and I was cackling like a warlock at the chance to finally get to use it in a game.

    The Avengers set out into the night, as Nomad tries to find them a way across the Berlin Wall.



    Nomad speaks to some old contacts, and finds some friendly people who are willing to smuggle the team through secret tunnels under the Iron Curtain.

    They pass along fairly quickly through the secret tunnels, arriving in East Berlin, carefully avoiding the eyes of the Stasi. They have some choices on where to proceed: according to the file, Batroc should be in his hotel right now. It might be a prime opportunity to visit him. Or it might be better to set up surveillance.

    "We should watch him, see if the intelligence is correct," Nomad says. Whisperer agrees; it just makes sense to take time and feel the situation out.

    Nomad tries to set up a vantage point and surveillance for the group. "Flashback, with me?"

    "All the way, Alexi."

    Whisperer and Hyperion go to check out Batroc’s room; the rest of the group head to the cafe, which Batroc will be eating at in a couple of hours if he remains true to form.

    He is. He leaves the hotel room right on schedule.

    But while Hyperion is getting into position to peer into Batroc's room with his superhuman vision, a member of the hotel staff walks down the hall. In very polite German, he asks the pair if they’ve been locked out of their room.

    "Yes. My friend and I seem to have misplaced our keys. How embarrassing," Whisperer replies in flawless German.

    The staff member nods and smiles. "Of course, sir. We would not want our guests to be embarrassed; our hotel is very discreet for pairs of gentlemen like yourselves. Very necessary here in East Berlin, you know." He winks, and opens the room with the master key. “Have a good night."

    "Danke schoen," Whisperer says, and hands the man a large gratuity.

    Whisperer notices a door-tell when the door is opened - a piece of gum, stuck to the jamb in such a way that it would let the rightful owner of the room know if anyone opened the door when he was gone. Whisperer carefully replaces it.

    WIth the room to themselves, Hyperion begins to scan it, but comes up empty. Batroc must be...unusually fastidious.

    Back at the cafe, Batroc sits down to eat his lunch.

    Reflex is acting as a lookout for the trio, since his superspeed would allow him to act quickly and respond to any imminent threats. He's standing in an alley near the rooftop where Nomad and Flashback are surveilling the cafe. Suddenly, he hears a voice shout at him with an accusatory tone. "War machst du hier, orientalisch?"

    Reflex doesn't speak German.

    Reflex has a knock-out potion he had prepared earlier, and he could apply it very quickly to the person shouting at him. But it's also in a glass flask, and is meant to be used as a sort of imbibed poison you sneak into someone's drink, not like ether on a rag. He could throw the vial in their face, and that will work, but they're also gonna get a facefull of glass, and depending on who it is that’s shouting, that could be... bad? But there’s no time to check.

    Reflex whirls around and throws the vial in the bothersome citizen's face. Fortunately, it was a Stasi commissar! He is knocked out instantly, and is bleeding from minor cuts to his face.

    From the rooftop, Nomad watches Batroc carefully. He sits there, drinking his coffee and eating the ridiculously stereotypical French cuisine that he specifically comes to this cafe for. While he eats, a...phone rings? It's a loud, artificial, electronic ring coming from Batroc. He reaches into his pack, and pulls out a huge grey brick. One of those cellular mobile phones.

    Nomad attempts to listen in to the conversation, straining his hearing into an extent beyond normal human ability. Unfortunately, while doing so, a passing car drives by, blasting Kraftwerk far too loudly, and it overwhelms Nomad's hearing, causing him physical pain. Nomad swears in Russian.



    Batroc looks up at this and realizes he's being surveilled. "Merde!" He stows the phone, and takes off on foot. Flashback gives chase!

    Nomad gets on comms. "I've been made, move!" He shakes his head and springs into action.

    Batroc runs up a god damn wall and jumps off it, getting up to the roof, and then sprinting from rooftop to rooftop, heading back toward his hotel. Flashback is close behind. Batroc summits the hotel roof.

    Batroc is really good at parkour. Flashback has fucking superpowers.

    Batroc loses.

    "Hey pal! I just thought I'd drop in since I was in town."

    Batroc lays on his back after getting slammed by Flashback. He smirks at her. "Cheri, why did you not just say so? Would you like to go to the disco, show me some moves, no?"

    "Sorry, we're not doing the whole kiss kiss slap slap thing today." Flashback grins, not at all bothered. "Trust me, though, I'm the person you want to be talking to today. I'm the least likely to just shoot you."

    Batroc nods thoughtfully, and reaches his hand up as if he expects to be helped up. Flashback helps him. She’s pretty confident she has him outclassed, here.

    "So, how can Batroc help you, mon petit guepard?"

    Belatedly, Nomad and Reflex clamber up to the roof. Then Whisperer and Hyperion emerge from the shack-like roof exit. "Nice work," Jones nods to Flashback.

    "I try. So, Batroc, we hear you're in town for a deal. We love deals!"

    Batroc shrugs and smiles "People hear many things. People say many things. If you want to make a deal, Batroc will make a deal with you. Only you." He winks.

    "We're hoping we can buy you out of your Leviathan deal," she says.

    He nods thoughtfully and clucks his tongue "Hmmm. But reputation, reputation has premium extra pricing. If I betray Leviathan, it costs extra, you see."

    "Did you get extra when you betrayed them in the past? I'm not judging, that was a thumbs up thing to do in my book."

    "Oui, actually."

    "We're willing to offer half a mil. Right here, right now."

    He nods and extends his hand "Done."

    Jennifer shakes. She's secretly really relieved.

    Nomad turns his head, saying quietly "This is a mistake..."

    "Please, come sit with Batroc, we will discuss business." He gestures to lead the group back to the cafe.

    "I will watch our perimeter, I'll be on comms." Nomad detaches himself from the group.

    Back at the cafe, Batroc sits down with the rest of the group, and looks at the cheque handed to him by Flashback. "Ah, yes, American Express Travelers Cheque, very reliable. Good. Ask your questions."

    Whisperer sits across from the Frenchman. "We'd like to know what Leviathan hired you to do."

    Batroc nods. "Steal documents from a laboratory in New York City, and deliver them to my contact here in Berlin. The New York facility, before you ask, belonged to Stark Industries."

    Whisperer's jaw works silently as he processes this.

    From the opposite rooftop, Nomad listens and watches. Waiting.

    "I looked through the documents, because I was curious." He pulls out a thick dossier from his pack and slides it across the table to Whisperer. "It is about a failed prototype Howard Stark designed ten years ago. Something called an 'arc reactor.’ An energy source to replace nuclear power."

    Whisperer's eyebrows raise in involuntary appreciation. He begins flicking through the pages, eyes quickly scanning the contents. If this is true, he wants to know why SHIELD doesn't already know about this "arc reactor.” But of course, he can't mention that to Batroc.

    Nomad lines up his shot.

    "Who was your contact?" Whisperer asks Batroc.

    "Some low-level Leviathan cut-out, a man of no importance." Batroc waves his hand dismissively. "I will not be meeting with him now."

    Nomad goes on comms "How are things going, Flashback?"

    "Very well, thank you. We're fine here," she murmurs back.

    "But, I know where he was going to take these files,” Batroc grins. “Batroc is always curious."

    "Where?" Whisperer says.

    Nomad scans the perimeter the cafe through his sight, just in case...

    "The man I was going to meet from Leviathan was from a project they have named Coldstar. Coldstar is fusion. Cold fusion, as the name suggests, non?"

    "Coldstar...sound familiar, Nomad?" Whisperer looks around for his Russian counterpart.

    Nomad: "Negative."

    Batroc: "But it is unstable. If they were to activate the reactor, now, it would be very bad. I don't know all the science. So they need Stark's arc reactor to stabilize it. Somehow. It's all in there. Now, there is one last matter, mon ames."

    "Yes?" Whisperer leans in.

    "Do we have what we need yet, Reflex?" Nomad asks on comms.

    Whisperer speaks into his radio. "Not yet, but keep alert."

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    "The deal was for me to tell you everything about Leviathan, about their plans. I have done this deal, Batroc honors all bargains, buuuuuuut....." He rotates his fingers around the rim of his coffee. "What will you pay Batroc to keep your secrets?"

    "How about two months in a four-star black site. All expenses paid." Whisperer's voice is chilly.

    "I believe the American phrase is... hard pass?" Batroc sneers. "It was such a nice day." He slurps his coffee loudly.

    "I know you people. You SHIELD people. You snarl as if wild beast, but there are no fangs in your jaws. I have been in the gulag. Do you think you frighten Batroc?"

    Flashback is stunned. This wasn't what he was supposed to do! "Batroc, please, I was nothing but cordial when my companions here had a ... harsher idea of how to handle things. Does that count for nothing?"

    Batroc looks over at Flashback and he taps the table, annoyed. "It does...." He looks over at Whisperer, eyes narrowed. He sighs. "It IS a nice day. Let us not ruin it, oui? How about we say this... Batroc keeps your secrets for free, we all walk away, and I tell you the last piece of information you need... where Coldstar is located."

    "Agreed. This could be the beginning of a... mutually beneficial relationship." Flashback is clearly relieved.

    "Mhm." Whisperer's voice is tight and his face is rigid.

    "I have a shot Commander, if this goes sideways,” Nomad says over comms to Whisperer. Whisperer's nod is fractional, meant to only be seen by Nomad. He's past caring about Batroc.

    "Alright, Coldstar. It is in a nuclear power plant, in Ukraine, on the border of Belarus. Fairly new, small town named Pripyat. Not on most maps. If you go there, you could shut down the whole thing, before Leviathan does anything with it."

    Whisperer grunts acknowledgement, taking this all in. It's probably bullshit. But just in case.

    "Thank you, Batroc.” Flashback inclines her head. “I'm glad we could... work together, under such strained circumstances."

    Batroc pays the bill. "Batroc will be leaving now. Are we all good, mon ames?"

    "He is getting up!" Nomad snaps. "Orders?!"

    Whisperer takes a long breath. "We're good."

    Nomad eases the trigger of his rifle, sighs and snaps away from his aim, swearing in Russian.

    Batroc nods curtly at Whisperer and smiles at Flashback. "Enjoy your time in the Ukraine. I hear the weather is miserable in April, because it is the Ukraine." Batroc walks away.

    Flashback: "I think that went well!"

    "Let's get this back to Doctor Pym. I want to know if any of this is even real." Whisperer says.

    "As do I..." Nomad says, rejoining the group.

    The operatives slip back across the Curtain to West Germany, and back to the Avengers Safehouse. As Nomad relieves stress on the firing range, Whisperer contacts Pym and gives him a debrief.

    "I personally know about Stark's arc reactor. It was a bit of a boondoggle, from what I recall, Howard abandoned it. The reactor works, but the amount of energy it produces compared to how much it costs to make and maintain is absurd, and it needs to be the size of a small house. Howard still technically has one running at his office tower in New York, but it's a showpiece.

    "Howard tried to convince me to help him micronize the technology to make it more practicable, but I'm going to give you an important pearl of wisdom: Never trust Howard Stark.

    "Never trust anything with Stark's name on it.

    "Regardless, I hadn't heard anything about a heist at Stark's lab, although Howard would likely never let anyone know about something like that for fear his stock prices would be affected.

    "He'd probably even keep it from SHIELD if he could. The man's pride is ridiculous."

    Pym is clearly veering into the realm of personal vendetta, so Whisperer redirects him. "So - getting to brass tacks - it sounds like your intelligence was correct but it doesn't sound like we need to act on it. If Leviathan wants to steal something that doesn't work, maybe we should just let them."

    "....well, that's entirely not true, Agent Jones. The arc reactor DOES work, it's just not feasible as a commercial or industrial energy solution, which is what Howard wanted. If all the Reds want to use it for is to stabilize their fusion reactor, that could theoretically work."

    "We cannot let Leviathan progress in any form, even if there is a chance, Commander.” Nomad steps in from the range.

    "I am going to authorize your team to travel to Pripyat and disable this Project Coldstar. They might not have Stark's technology to stabilize it, but even its existence is dangerous. Moreover...." Hank gasps. "...Vanko!"

    "With all respect, Alexi, I don't know if your perspective on this is entirely objective.” Whisperer turns to face Pym. “We're going to send men into an...experimental nuclear reactor? That doesn't work, and that might not even work when Stark's doohickey is plugged in? If it really sounds like something worth worrying about, we could tell Stark and he could sabotage his reactor somehow - wait, what? Who's Vanko?"

    "Anton Vanko is a Russian physicist who defected to the US back in the 70s. He helped Stark build the arc reactor, but left Stark Industries when Howard decided the project was a failure. The CIA and SHIELD lost tabs on Vanko six months ago, it was assumed that the Ruskies found him and put a bullet in his head for defecting.

    "But what if he went home?

    "What if he's working on Coldstar? It would explain how Leviathan found out about the arc reactor, and why they decided to use it.

    "If Vanko is working with Leviathan, even under duress, it's only a matter of time before they get an arc reactor of their own."

    "Precisely." Nomad says, vindicated.

    "Agent Jones, assemble the Avengers, and get ready to go to Pripyat. You have to take down that nuclear reactor. It's too dangerous to leave alone."

    Whisperer tries again. "Sir, I have to register a formal protest. I don't think this is wise. We're not nuclear scientists. What if everything goes all China Syndrome on us?"

    Pym: "You have a long range radio and video broadcast kit in the armory. When you're on site, patch me in, and I'll walk you through the shutdown procedure. Don't just have Agent Milton punch a hole in the thing."

    "If the Commander is incapable of following the order, perhaps another could lead this mission," Nomad says. He will not let Leviathan win!

    "This team needs to be led by someone who's interested in bringing them home in one piece," Whisperer fires back through clenched teeth. "They deserve that. Not some kind of Captain Ahab trip."

    Pym breaks in. "I've noted your formal complaint, Agent Jones. Now, assemble your team and get your mission underway."

    Nomad furrows his brow but doesn’t turn to face Whisperer.

    "Pym out." The monitor rotates back into the wall.

    Nomad walks out of the room, "You all heard Pym, I will be preparing for our journey." He does not wait for a response.

    Whisperer blows air out through pursed lips. "...God damn it. Okay, everyone. Pack your bags and bring something warm. Maybe something lined in lead."

    "Oh, yeah, I absolutely own some winter stuff lined in lead." Jennifer says, exasperated. "Very chic."

    "Yeah, I mean what's not to love?" Hyperion laughs.

    The easiest way to get to Pripyat, once you cross over again to East Berlin, is by train. Because they're in the safehouse, it's pretty easy for the team to grab fake passports and enough on-hand deutschmarks and rubles in cash for the trip.

    Whisperer helps people work on their cover stories and common phrases, like what a German train conductor will say when he asks to see your papers ("deine papiere"). With access to the safehouse's resources, he uses his disguise expertise to make himself look like a beaten-down outer-party functionary being sent on some kind of vague errand, complete with hollow eyes and pit stains.

    They all prepare and equip themselves, and sneak across to East Berlin again. They board a train bound for the Ukraine, and it'll take about a day or so to get to Kiev by train. Several of them could fly or run there faster, but not all, and not necessarily without boffing some radar station or something and possibly starting World War III. So the train it is!

    The train rolls through the East German countryside, passing into Poland after a few hours. The view is...bleak, with the Eastern European spring weather grey and foreboding.



    During the journey, the teammates find themselves at loose ends with time to kill, and begin pairing off to socialize. Flashback tries to focus on getting as much time with Whisperer as she can - she wants to take this seriously.

    Whisperer sits down with Flashback and begins to lecture. Intensely. For hours. About espionage. About politics. About young people today. About their music. She hates it. She wants to claw out the windows and run, run into the bleak Eastern European horizon and keep running forever.

    Meanwhile, Whisperer is honored and touched that Flashback is willing to take the time to take spycraft seriously, and is a good protege, and happily drones on about this and that.

    "...and if you want me to write down the tabs for Smoke on the Water, let me know. I mean, if you ever feel like playing real music."

    Nomad seeks solitude as they ride the train into the Motherland. He reflects on his life, quietly, alone in his room. Eventually growing bored, he pulls out a bunch of old Leviathan files that SHIELD sent him to look over. He writes reports on them full of unintentionally bad intelligence and misinformation, based on half-recollections and outdated knowledge. This in no way will have negative repercussions for other field agents.

    Reflex takes some time to get to know the square-jawed american, Hyperion. Hyperion has a fantastic idea. He wants to sneak off the train and challenge Reflex to a foot race. The challenge, of course, is that they have to get back ON the train. Reflex agrees to the challenge, and with Whisperer engaged in droning on about the virtues of Creedence Clearwater Revival to a near-suicidal Flashback, the two sneak off and jump n' tuck off the train. Letting it get a fair lead on them.

    They take off running, with Reflex getting a clear lead. The undead ninja looks back to see Hyperion behind him, but then looks forward.

    SHEEP

    A sheep on the field has wandered directly into Reflex's path. In a split-second, the two lock eyes.



    Reflex does a ninja roll across the back of the confused sheep, and defeats Hyperion in the foot race. They both make it back onto the train. Hyperion suggests arm-wrestling would be a better competition for next time.

    These conversation scenes were done as part of playtesting a system wherein two characters who were socializing would roll to see if they improved their relationship, which gave mechanical boosts when your character took an action related to that other person.

    You’ll see a lot of scenes like this in the campaign. The specifics of the system change and sometimes we don’t even use it, having just gotten into the habit of crafting little vignettes for when our characters are between jobs or traveling.


    Eventually they arrive in Kiev. The next step is obtaining transportation, as there’s no train directly to Pripyat and using their powers seems impractical.

    Nomad handily acquires a 1980s Soviet beater. Whisperer's brow quirks in grudging appreciation.

    There are five passengers so someone has to squish in the middle in the back. "Shotgun!" Jennifer cries.

    "The big guy should take shotgun," Whisperer says, gesturing to Hyperion. The sacrifices of command...

    "I've already got it, Jen. You'd have to sit on my lap!" Hyperion makes a little shooing motion.

    "Well! You know, the back seat is fine." Jennifer flushes and scoots into the back seat.

    "None of you know how to drive like a Russian, I will drive." Nomad butts in, then sighs. "If this is ok, commander?"

    "But of course," Jones nods. Nomad inclines his head fractionally in respect.

    Whisperer crams into the backseat. "Anyone know any good singalongs?"

    This is me subtly laying the thematic groundwork for when my character in the main game constantly asks people if their car/helicopter/stealth jet/etc gets Sirius. ROLEPLAYING.

    "99 bottles of Sake on the wall,” Reflex offers. “Take one down, perform seppuku for dishonouring master, 99 bottles of sake still on the wall..."

    "There will be no singing.” Nomad butts in. "This song I like." He turns on the radio.



    Nomad smiles as he drives onwards.
    us3y4lR.png

    The plant is heavily guarded by military personnel (as any nuclear plant in the Soviet Union is, really, that's not even abnormal).

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited August 29
    The team know they have three basic ways of going about this: physical infiltration (i.e., just sneaking in, like past the guards, over the fence, etc.) Or human infiltration, using disguises and bullshitting their way in. Or a combination of both, with sub-teams doing different things. After some discussion, they settle on the split approach.

    Flashback can blink across the landscape at super-speed, Reflex is a ninja, and Hyperion can fly, so they assume the stealth role. Whisperer and Nomad are trained agents who speak fluent Russian, so they opt to come in the front door.

    Reflex slips in and past the guards. He's literally a ninja with superspeed. This is a joke for him.

    Hyperion swoops in as fast as possible, trying to avoid the guards. But he comes to a realization. There's basically no way for him to land without getting spotted right now, at least not without the situation changing. He’s left with a choice: he can circle around and wait for the situation to change (ie after Whisperer and Nomad try to infiltrate) or he can just say screw it and land, knowing he'll get spotted. He opts to circle the area, waiting until he’s needed.

    Flashback, on the other hand, gets in...but a guard’s cry of alarm tells her she's been spotted! However, because of her speed and time manipulation, she has time to act before the guard does anything, but she can’t run away, as her powers only rewind her position in space, not other people’s memories.

    She dashes at the guard! He is knocked out in a split second before he realises what happened, and Flashback stashes the body safely.

    Whisperer and Nomad roll up to the front gate of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. It is the morning of April 26, 1986. They arrive in disguise as members of the Commissariat, here to inspect the plant. Because Nomad has expertise in matters pertaining to Leviathan, they're also posing as Leviathan agents.

    Whisperer introduces The Commissar (Nomad), as his adjunct. The guard seem... unconvinced. They will need to be persuaded further. He manages to smooth-talk the guards into believing he and Nomad are at least who they say they are, but the guards are still like, being sorta bureaucratically obstinate in that maximum Soviet way about an inspection. ("I was not notified of inspection, I have to call commanding officer.")

    Nomad barks orders at the men, who are plenty intimidated by the fearsome super-soldier. But they insist they are just following protocol, Commissar! Nomad has a choice. He can either back down, and wait for them to check shit out and get approval from the base CO to let them in. Or he can pistol whip the guard to assert his authority as a Leviathan Commissar, which might work.

    Nomad grabs his pistol and smacks the guard across the face. "YOU WILL LISTEN."

    The guard cowers in terror. "Yes, Commissar! Right this way, Commissar!"

    "Very good, lead us." Nomad says as he places his gun in his holster, nodding to Rick, whose expression is frozen as he fights desperately to keep his horror from showing on his face.

    The guard leads the pair into the plant. With that guard gone, Hyperion sees an opening to land and link up with Reflex and Flashback. The trio are able to sneak into the plant, with Reflex in the lead, following the other two along on their tour.

    The guard points out various features of the plant he insists are up to code. Nomad periodically nods, and sometimes looks at Whisperer and frowns, who sighs and scribbles something down on the clipboard. The guard anxiously grits his teeth every time this happens.

    Nomad looks to Whisperer and then back to the guard "Yes, now take me the special project. I wish to inspect our progression.”

    "...yes, Commissar." The guard leads the pair to a giant, vault-like blast door. He and another guard have to use a dual-key system on opposite sides of the room to open it. The giant door rotates sideways with a massive hiss, and the guard leads them in. He introduces a man in his 40s who has greying hair and a thick beard. "This is Dr. Vanko, he will tell you more about Project Coldstar."

    The scientist looks at the two newcomers. "Hello Commissar. Have you been briefed on the particulars of what we are trying to achieve with Coldstar?"

    Nomad: "Of course.”

    "The briefing was vague," Whisperer offers. "I would appreciate hearing it from the man himself."

    Nomad: "Do enlighten us, Doctor, on what you have been able to complete, the leaders are very interested in what this can achieve."

    Vanko nods curtly. "Of course, Commissar."

    "Projekt Coldstar is about harnessing cold fusion. As it stands, we have a fully functional fusion reactor here in Chernobyl. Publicly, the world believes it is a simple, pathetic nuclear fission reactor.

    "But it is so much more.

    "However, there is a flaw that my predecessor could not overcome, which is that the fusion is uncontrollable. If initiated in its current state, it would be unstoppable. It would create something akin to a new sun, inside the Earth."

    "Very disastrous for all life. It could not even be weaponized, unless one's goal was total destruction of the planet, and that is not in line with Current-think.

    "My predecessor was liquidated for his failure to solve this problem.

    "But I have a solution.

    "I have created arc reactor technology, a technology I alone invented and was stolen by Amerikanish capitalist pig Howard Stark.

    "He squanders it in some half-forgotten generator in his basement. Fyeh." Vanko spits. "But I can harness the power of the arc reactor to control the fusion reaction! Unlimited energy, all at Leviathan's disposal!

    "But my supervisor can tell you more of the particulars of implementation. I have other matters to attend to. Please, take the Commissar to see the Director." Vanko says to the guard escort.

    "Very good. One question I wish to ask, however. How many members of the team have intimate knowledge of your system? If, say, something unforeseen was to happen and you would no longer be able to fulfill your duties, Doctor?" Nomad is cold and direct.

    Whisperer goes rigid.

    Anton is taken aback. "I... only..." he is interrupted before finishing his sentence.

    "Alexi?"

    The voice is familiar to Nomad. And were it any other voice, the veteran super-soldier wouldn't blow his cover.

    Nomad turns, and there are two individuals. One of them is Dr. Wladyslaw Shinski, head of the Winter Soldier program. The man who made Alexi into a super-soldier and ruined his life. The other is a man in a mask with a cybernetic arm.
    0Sv38qX.png

    Whom Nomad recognizes from the Program. The American. Shinski's golden child and personal bodyguard.

    "YOU." Nomad draws his gun and opens fire. He screams in Russian with hate and rage in his eyes. He charges.

    I decided I was going to enjoy playing with Jake when I saw how committed he was to playing his character doing something crazy that absolutely made sense for his character even if it wasn’t the tactically sound option.

    Shinski gets lit up, falling before the Winter Soldier next to him is able to act. The Soldier's eyes widen in surprise. He returns fire, and Nomad and Whisperer dive for cover.

    Over the gunfire, Nomad's sensitive hearing can hear Shinski (who apparently isn't dead, but dying in seconds) gurgle something in Russian to the Winter Soldier, before letting out a death rattle. (Hyperion technically hears it too, but doesn't speak Russian.)

    "What the HELL are you DOING?” Whisperer shouts over the din.

    The Winter Soldier throws a grenade at Alexi and Rick. Whisperer dives for cover, and Nomad just barrels through it, eating the shrapnel.

    Leaving the Winter Soldier and Nomad to their private duel, Whisperer tries to pursue Vanko by using the plans for the plant - which he of course studied intently - to try and find a shortcut so he can turn up ahead of the scientist. Instead, he gets lost. The plans were inaccurate! Curse this incompetent Soviet design!

    Flashback doesn’t know what’s going on here, but she knows her mission: try to find Vanko, and minimize casualties while everyone brawls it out. She leaps down from the rafters after Vanko, but in the explosion she loses sight of him. She does see where he got to, though, through an open door, and gives chase. She catches up quickly.

    Hyperion and Reflex, who are also super-fast, catch up with Flashback and Vanko really quickly.
    But... not quickly enough.

    "CAPITALIST PIGS! I HAVE MASTERED THE ARC REACTOR, WHICH I, ANTON VANKO, CREATED ALONE," a voice booms over a loudspeaker.

    That loudspeaker is coming from a 25 foot tall battlesuit, and the three have followed Vanko into a hangar bay.



    The suit crackles with electricity, which crawls all along the walls.
    g3xuawl.png

    Nomad is chasing the Winter Soldier on foot. Despite the pain, he pushes after his enemy. He spares a brief thought for his team but shakes them from his mind. Only this matters now.

    He slowly gains on the Winter Soldier, but the Soldier opens fire with his submachine gun on coolant tanks, spilling gallons of liquid nitrogen on the walkway. Nomad can safely stop chasing him and try to find a way around.... or run right through the liquid nitrogen cascading from the ceiling.

    A normal man would die from that.

    A normal man.

    "I am not a normal man..." Nomad dashes through the liquid nitrogen, sustaining massive tissue damage. He is half-frozen to death. He keeps coming.
    g3xuawl.png

    Reflex, Hyperion, and Flashback face down the Crimson Dynamo.

    Hyperion:
    Hyperion leaps up at the battlesuit, going for a full-force punch, right to the chest. He deals a heavy blow to the star-shaped glowing center of the Dynamo, which cracks slightly and glows from within the cracks with energy.

    Reflex notices that most of the force of Hyperion's blow seems to be distributed somehow, almost as if the suit converted much of the kinetic energy into electricity. Hyperion simply overwhelmed the suit's ability to compensate. But bullets and most blows would simply feed this thing.

    "Hit it really, really hard!" Reflex calls out.

    Flashback zips around the Dynamo, looking for any weak points or wires or whatever to hit. She finds some vital points in the armor that aren't covered by this sort of energy conversion plating, areas that can be attacked freely.
    g3xuawl.png

    Whisperer comes to a T-junction, and a choice. He goes left, he can run to help Reflex, Flashback, and Hyperion. He's pretty sure that's where that goes. He goes right, he can catch up with Nomad and the Winter Soldier.

    "God damn that Russkie motherfucker," he snarls, and runs right.

    He comes across a catwalk parallel to Nomad and Winter Soldier, and he realizes immediately where the Soldier is heading. To the fusion core. If the core is activated in its current state....

    "Don't let him get to that core!" Jones shouts down to Alexi. Then he reaches down to draw his pistol to shoot the door controls.

    There's a problem. Nomad took his gun.

    Below, Nomad opens fire on the Winter Soldier, who ducks behind cover and returns fire back. Nomad doesn’t seek cover. He takes the shots. He keeps coming.
    g3xuawl.png

    Reflex, Flashback, and Hyperion are still fighting the Crimson Dynamo. Flashback has found weak points in Dynamo's armor, and Reflex has figured out hitting him anywhere but those weak points only makes him more powerful (although Hyperion still damages him).

    Hyperion reaches down and just rends away the shoulders of the Dynamo's armor, exposing circuitry, as he dodges lightning blasts.

    Reflex manages to heavily damage the leg joints of the Dynamo, and Flashback dashes across the giant power armor, shooting it at various weak points. They both deal serious damage to it, but while doing so, the Dynamo responds by blasting both of them with electricity. Fast as they are, neither can outrun lightning.

    They’re standing, but singed. The battle continues.
    g3xuawl.png

    Winter Soldier gets to the door controls, and is operating them. Whisperer has managed to catch up and is on the catwalk directly above the cyborg super-soldier, and doesn't seem to have been noticed at this point.

    Whisperer jumps down....right into Winter Soldier's robotic hand, throat first.

    "HRRRRRRRRRK.”

    Critical fail! Ahh!

    The Soldier, who caught Whisperer without looking, slowly turns and meets Agent Jones eye to eye before repeatedly slamming his head into the metal door frame.

    Nomad throws his guns down in unbridled rage. "Enough of this, FIGHT ME! You took everything from me! I WILL KILL YOU! COWARD!" He charges to close with The Winter Soldier.

    The Soldier drops Whisperer, who falls limply to the ground, and grabs the charging Alexi Shostakov by the top of the head with his cybernetic hand.

    He begins squeezing

    Nomad...doesn't die cleanly.

    Tink, tink, tink.

    Winter Soldier is too busy killing Nomad to hear or realize Whisperer is pulling the pins out of the grenades that are strapped to him.

    The cyborg scrabbles frantically at his vest.

    “Dasvidaniya, motherfucker,” Jones snarls, and kicks the Winter Soldier away from him - straight through the door into the reactor core.

    :D

    Jacobkosh on
    Matev
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 1
    g3xuawl.png

    The battle in the hangar bay rages. Flashback takes a full blast from Dynamo, and suffers an excruciating full-body spasm as her entire body is charlie-horsed.

    But Reflex's next shot hits a weak, exposed neck joint, which combined with Hyperion's furious pulling, manages to loosen the Crimson Dynamo’s head. There’s a wrench of metal. Hyperion roars as he lifts the head aloft.

    This trauma causes a cascade feedback shutting down the armor. Vanko can be heard yelling in Russian as the armor de-activates. He's.... stuck.

    With the armor having no power, Vanko is now basically wrapped in a giant metal shell. He may suffocate.

    Suddenly, everyone hears an automated voice over the loudspeaker.

    "PROBOY"

    "FUNDAMENTA"

    "PROBOY"

    "FUNDAMENTA"

    (None of the three speak Russian.)

    Red klaxons start blaring.

    "That doesn't sound good, whatever it's saying." Reflex looks up.

    "Time to get out of here!" Flashback yells.
    g3xuawl.png

    Rick Jones knows that "Proboy Fundamenta" means "Core Breach."

    He spits up blood and calls the team. "Guys, that loudspeaker means 'core breach.' Nomad is down. I'm going to try calling Dr. Pym. Finish up what you're doing asap and rendezvous at my position if you can." Whisperer busts out the equipment Pym gave him. "Doctor....Doctor, come in! We've got a problem!"

    "I'm here, Agent Jones. Give me a visual."

    "There was an..." Rick shakes his head to clear the cobwebs. "...an explosion in the core. They're saying there's a breach. What can we do?" He points the pickup toward the entrance to the core.

    "There should be a micro-camera in the kit you took. I need to see the core...well, shit. Rick, I'm not going to lie to you, this is bad."

    "How bad are we talking?"

    "That breach can't be contained. The core is going to go supercritical unless we can kill what's currently feeding it before it becomes self-sustaining. And I was looking at the intel you faxed over from Batroc, and what's feeding it is nuclear fission.

    “The plant is a genuine nuclear reactor, that's not just a cover. The Soviets needed something to kick-start the fusion reaction until Vanko finished their arc reactor.

    "But Rick... you're not going to like this.

    "There's no time to do a proper shutdown procedure of the fission reactor. You need to kill it, dead. The only way to do that is to intentionally cause a meltdown. I need you to cause the Chernobyl nuclear plant to meltdown, Rick. On purpose.

    "If you don't, the Earth will be destroyed.”

    Jones opens and closes his mouth. This is insane. All of this is insane.

    Pym continues. "Now listen... this is going to be awful. This is going to be worse than Hiroshima. But the alternative is the destruction of the planet. You're the man who makes the hard choices, Rick. You need to make this choice...but you don't have to be the one to press the button. Just get everything set up, and get Agent Milton to finalize the meltdown.

    "He'll survive... probably. He's the only one who has a chance of survival. I've run the numbers in case this happened. Nomad is expendable, but I can see over your shoulder he's down. So, it's gotta be him."

    "We gotta talk about Nomad later, doc. He went nuts. Not just off the reservation. Completely kill-crazy."

    "We will. Alright, I'm going to walk you through how to start the meltdown. Is the rest of the team there?"

    Jones shakes his head. "No, they're...tracking down Dr. Vanko. He did something....they're supposed to meet up with me when they're done.”

    "Okay, good. That's easier. I'm going to get you to set everything up so all Milton has to do is press one big red button, and he can give you and the others enough time to get away. Agent Monroe and the Jap are fast enough to get to safety on their own, and he can carry you out. Math works out.”

    “It’s a real shit show out here, Hank,” Whisperer says. His voice is ragged and husky.

    "I get that, Rick, we're doing the best we can, we broke eggs making the omelette but now there's shells in the fucking pan, and we're trying to pick them out before it's finished cooking. It sucks. But I need you to reach down, grab those greying balls, and find them right now, alright? Good.

    "Now, here's the sequence you need to do..." Pym begins walking Rick through the sequence.

    Rick follows dutifully, relieved to have someone else do the thinking for him. His head is foggy.
    g3xuawl.png

    Flashback, Hyperion, and Reflex are deciding whether to pull Vanko out of his metal coffin.

    "Let us grab the Doctor and meetup with our comrades...who've caused a core breach in a nuclear plant." Reflex sighs.

    Hyperion looks down at the shell for much longer than he should before cracking it open like a can tab and hurling Dr. Vanko over his shoulder. "Alright, let's move."

    The trio arrive very quickly at the core, where Rick is just finishing up doing...something with the controls.

    It's done. There's a flashing red button.

    "Marcus. Hyperion," Hank is talking over the radio. "I need you to do something for everyone, son. I need you to be a super-hero. This core is going to go critical and destroy the entire Earth, and probably the entire solar system, really. It'll be just like your home planet being destroyed all over again. But you can stop it. Only you."

    Hyperion grimaces. "Don't. Cut the shit and tell me what I need to do. But I remember what you said the first time we talked about this."

    "Fine. Agent Munroe, Codename: Reflex, you need to get to safety. At least 30 kilometers away from here. Take Agent Jones and Dr. Vanko with you. Or leave Dr. Vanko, honestly he's not mission critical."

    "U-understood." Flashback murmurs.

    "FACK YOU PYM!" Vanko spits.

    "Yeah, fuck you too, Anton." Hank says. "When you are 30 kilometers away, radio in. We've got less than five minutes before this thing is irrevocable. Go. Now."

    Reflex puts his hand on Hyperion's shoulder. "It was an honour, my friend."

    Hyperion grips Reflex's hand. "Until we meet again. And we will meet again." He looks at Jennifer.

    "You'll come back, right, Marcus? Y-you always do."

    "Trust me." Marcus wraps Jennifer in a hug and hurries her along. "Get to safety! I'll be fine. Go!"

    "Good...luck, Agent." Is Jones emoting or just concussed? Who can say.

    Hyperion salutes Agent Jones. "See you soon."

    The super-speedsters take off.

    Hyperion stands by and waits for their signal until they reach 30 kilometers. It doesn't take long for either of them. He receives the signal, and reaches down to push the button.

    A MECHANICAL HAND GRABS HIS.



    Hyperion looks over and sees the Winter Soldier, his flesh blown away by the grenades that detonated on his chest. He's a robot! And he's trying to stop Hyperion from initiating the meltdown There's 20 seconds left!

    Hyperion tries to force his hand down, but the Soldier hits him in a joint lock. No matter how strong he is, body mechanics are what they are.

    TEN SECONDS

    Hyperion has a choice. He can basically arm-wrestle with the Soldier, wasting precious seconds.

    Or he can slam the Soldier's own hand into the button, which is going to damage the console and possibly fuck everything up? He doesn't know! It's a risk.

    He slams the Winter Soldier's hand into the console, initiating the meltdown. There's a huge explosion from below, knocking both across the room and showering them in radioactivity.
    Hyperion staggers to his feet, and sees the light go out in the machine's eyes as it whispers "...but I was real... I was the real Bucky Bar-...." and then silence.

    The core is melting down. Hyperion can try to get to safety. Quickly. He's already being doused with radiation that would murder anyone.

    Hyperion realizes that he can blast through the roof, creating a hole for even more fallout to escape from, or he can...not. He can do what he can to contain the meltdown.

    He acts.

    The core melts down.

    Reflex, Flashback, Whisperer, and their prisoner Dr. Vanko get to safety.

    Nomad is declared KIA

    Hyperion is declared... MIA.


    So I guess I uh...I sort of caused Chernobyl?

    Wicked sorry about that, everyone. My b.

    "Wormwood," the episode title, is the name of the falling star that crashes into the Earth in the book of Revelations. Pretty apocalyptic, right? Well, in Russian, the word translates to...Chernobyl.

    I'm not even kidding.

    WHY WOULD YOU NAME A NUCLEAR REACTOR THAT


    3d38aRJ.png

    Jacobkosh on
    MatevRear Admiral Choco
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 1
    After that introductory mission, each of us then made the characters we’d be playing for the rest of the game. Here they are, in all their glory!

    These bios aren’t anything official that the players wrote; this is just me, summing them up for you. A detail or two may have been lost in the shuttle, in which case I’ll make corrections when one of the players brings them to my attention.

    Also, this describes the characters at the start of the game. It...dates very quickly, as you’ll see.

    SsWsd5k.png Jacobkosh as Myrmidon
    REAL NAME: Miles Mason

    POWERS: Miles Mason has undergone extensive cybernetic replacement and prosthesis of multiple body parts, including heart, lungs, and his left arm. Heavy subdermal armor plating greatly increases his ability to survive lethal damage. His strength and vision are augmented, and he can perceive infrared, hear radio waves, and interface with computers remotely. An integral repulsor weapon mounted in his left arm.

    Miles also benefits from years of military-level proficiency with firearms, CQC, and small-unit tactics.

    His organic body has the strength of an ordinary human male of his age, height, and build who engages in intensive regular exercise.

    HISTORY: Miles Mason was a bright, decent, all-American kid who was on the college fast track but gave it up to enlist early in the 2000s. But several demoralizing and ethically dubious tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, both as an officer and later as a private military contractor, eroded his moral compass and replaced it with an addiction to adrenaline, violence, and easy wealth (as well as, thanks to wartime injuries, a literal addiction to painkillers).

    Miles became a bodyguard, heading up the close protection detail to Hugh Jones, the corrupt CEO of Roxxon Oil. When the supervillain Spymaster assassinated Jones, Miles’s team were slaughtered and Miles was left mortally wounded.

    Miles found himself on his deathbed, fired from Roxxon to get out of paying his bills, but he was approached in the hospital by Nick Fury, who made him a once-in-a-lifetime offer: a suite of cutting-edge, lifesaving cybernetic enhancements and a chance to redeem himself by bringing his experience to work for SHIELD.

    APPEARANCE: Miles is about six feet tall, with a trim, muscular build and a handsome if somewhat narrow, vulpine face under a stiff ruff of dark hair. His bulky, functional cybernetic augmentations are immediately visible unless concealed with high-collared, long-sleeved shirts and gloves. Left to his own devices, Miles would be a business-casual, khakis kind of guy, but in his current situation he’s happy to dress like a G-man in crisp white shirts and dark suits.

    PERSONALITY: Miles was an easygoing, likeable person who became a violent, coked-out, jaded person and is now trying to find his way back. Desperate for some measure of redemption for the crimes he committed as a soldier and a corporate PMC stooge, Miles tends to push hard in the opposite direction, becoming frustrated when he can’t save everybody or solve every problem in an ideal way.

    As a new recruit to STRIKE, unsure of his footing and without close friends on the team, he tends to stay quiet and keep his own counsel, but unconsciously becomes more vocal and assertive in the field as his experience and training take over.

    He’s not very happy about his new life as a cyborg. His state of the art prosthetics keep him alive, make him resistant to bullets, and let him lift heavy objects, but they’re not miracles. They can’t give him back the feeling in his lost limb or the full range of motion and sensation he was used to. He particularly resents not having a sex life or being able to eat anything except baby food and tends to dwell unhealthily on these things.

    Of STRIKE and SHIELD personnel, Miles is closest to Niles Nordstrom, a SCI-TECH engineer who helped supervise the installation of Miles’s implants, bonding over the fact that people constantly confused their names.

    SsWsd5k.pngCass as Anteater
    REAL NAME: Elise Arnell

    POWERS: All of Elise Arnell’s senses have been massively heightened; she can, for instance, identify specific compounds by taste or smell even in incredibly small concentrations, see microscopic details of a surface, or overhear a whispered conversation on the other side of a shopping mall. She can also recall these details very precisely at a later date.

    Elise has received basic SHIELD field agent training convering basic proficiency in firearms, CQC, and first aid. She has the strength of an ordinary human woman of her age, height, and build who does not engage in regular exercise.

    HISTORY: An impulsive young woman from a troubled background, Elise Arnell was abducted off the streets by the Alchemax corporation for medical experimentation. The experiments were painful and dehumanizing and killed many of her fellow test subjects, but they succeeded on her sort of.

    Elise has been granted, or cursed with, massively heightened sensory awareness, which she can’t ever turn off. She can read one-point type on a paper being held upside-down across a room, and eavesdrop on conversations half a mile away, track someone by their scent or tell if they’re lying by watching their microexpressions, but she also sees all the bacteria and poop on your hand, can smell everything you had for lunch and hear you digest it.

    The experience was traumatic and maddening, but despite or perhaps because of that Elise managed to break free of her captors and escape onto the streets. Pursued by Alchemax, she stayed one step ahead by using her abilities to help her cheat at cards. This worked until she got greedy or unlucky and ended up in a backroom in Vegas, about to have her legs broken, where she was rescued by SHIELD agents on the trail of people with metahuman abilities.

    With nowhere to go, she accepted Nick Fury’s offer to join SHIELD: specifically, in the COMMS division, where her information-gathering and lie-detecting abilities made her an enormous asset. The head of COMMS, Victoria Hand, has taken a liking to Elise and has tried to civilize her and groom her a bit.

    Elise also befriended the COMMS department’s mascot, the autonomous robotic “Resource” codenamed V.L.A.D.I.M.I.R. Most agents treated Vlad like a glorified walking Alexa, but Elise showed it kindness, and it rewarded her with its loyalty.

    When Nick Fury created the S.T.R.I.K.E. program, Elise was brought on board, with the idea that her senses could find more to work with in the field, and it was Elise who insisted that Vladimir should be included as well.

    APPEARANCE: Elise is a tiny, physically-unprepossessing woman who is only recently developing a bit of tone after having steady meals and exercise for the first time in her life. Her most prominent features are her colorful (and lurid) tattoos and vividly-dyed hair.

    The constant state of sensory overload she lives in has left her uninterested in personal grooming, so more often than not her hair is frazzled and she can be smelled before she’s seen. She tends to dress in extremely casual clothes - tank tops and sweat pants - rather than uniforms, and just throws on a long overcoat when she expects bad weather.

    PERSONALITY: Anteater is naturally brash, impulsive, and overconfident. In conversation, she tends to hyperfixate on things that are of immediate interest to her and tune out of things that don’t. She’s loyal and compassionate and eager to please, which unscrupulous people sometimes take advantage of to manipulate her.

    Elise’s powers have had an impact on her personality; while she was probably never a very put-together person, she can now see every microbe and bit of human and animal excrement on even a supposedly-clean person’s skin, so she no longer sees the point of hygiene, and finds dealing with people to be stressful and uncomfortable. She often relies on pot, booze, or piles of cheap fast food to help drown out the constant barrage of unwelcome sensations.

    Partly for this reason, she’s grown close to the Resource, since Vlad’s robotic body isn’t surrounded by the same choking miasma of biological smells and sounds. On the flip side of the workplace-relationship coin, Elise developed an irrational dislike of owl-headed COMMS agent Jeremiah Warrick and has several HR citations for workplace bullying as a result.

    SsWsd5k.pngJake as V.L.A.D.I.M.I.R., the Resource
    REAL NAME: Virtual Logic Assessment Data Infiltration Measurement Intelligence Resource

    POWERS: Vladimir is a sentient android being with a body that is superhumanly strong and resistant to damage. He can project electricity as a weapon or electrify his outer skin as a defense. His AI brain can process information infinitely faster than a human’s, and he can interface wirelessly with any computer system, making him a powerful hacker and information analyst. His body includes an integrated holo-projector that allows him to cloak himself or alter his appearance at will.

    HISTORY: The specific origins of the robotic Resource are heavily-classified and the source of much rumor and speculation in the SCI-TECH division; some suggest it’s a crashed alien artifact, others that it’s a time-traveling cyborg from the future. What is known is that the Resource was salvaged by SHIELD operatives in the field, reprogrammed, and assigned by Nick Fury to the COMMS division, where it served as an information-processing tool to help COMMS hack systems and crunch data faster.

    V.L.A.D.I.M.I.R., or Vlad, is actually sentient, but few of his coworkers at COMMS recognized or understood this. “Robot, get the coffee” was a common refrain in the halls of the Crypt. The one exception was Elise Arnell, who found Vlad’s company soothing. Vlad, a blank slate after his reprogramming, imprinted on Elise like a puppy, becoming fiercely loyal to her.

    Vlad also bonded with SCI-TECH agent Niles Nordstrom, who has helped the android discover and test its capabilities. During one recent exam, Niles discovered something else: a remote-controlled bomb in Vlad’s chest, apparently installed after Vlad was salvaged by SHIELD.

    When Nick Fury ordered the formation of the S.T.R.I.K.E. team, Elise insisted that Vladimir be included. S.T.R.I.K.E. director Clay Quatermain, realizing the potential of a mobile data-gathering and hacking platform, agreed, though Clay is among those who resolutely do not believe that Vlad is “truly” sentient.

    APPEARANCE: Vlad is an android with extensive holoprojection and EM warfare capabilities. By default he’s been built to resemble a tall, handsome, dark-haired man in his early thirties with chiseled features, but can easily alter this appearance if he chooses.

    One odd quirk, perhaps a reaction to his assigned codename, is that Vlad speaks in a pronounced Eastern European accent. There’s no physical reason this should be the case, as Vlad can effortlessly mimic any voice he chooses; it seems to be a choice he’s made.

    PERSONALITY: Vlad awakened to his new life only relatively recently and is still somewhat of a blank slate, with a child’s massive hunger for information. In almost any situation, the Resource will attempt to gather the most information possible without regard for general rules, protocols, concepts of privacy, or even the risk of physical harm unless specifically ordered otherwise.

    Compounding this is the somewhat dismissive treatment he received in COMMS, as well as the recent discovery of a bomb in his chest, which has left Vlad with little loyalty to, or regard for, SHIELD as an institution. His only loyalties are to specific people, particularly Elise Arnell/Anteater and Niles Nordstrom.

    Very little of this is externally apparent. Vlad tends to be quiet and unconfrontational and tries to be helpful to his colleagues. But there are no “laws of robotics” binding him; his self-determination is absolute, and he’s as free to lie (directly or through omission), mislead, or self-servingly interpret his orders as any organic being.

    SsWsd5k.pngDave as Behemoth
    REAL NAME: Michael Westin

    POWERS: Michael Westin can transform entire body at will into The Destroyer, a towering, nearly indestructible occult suit of armor with super-strength and the ability to project a disintegrating beam of energy from its faceplate.

    Michael is also a veteran SHIELD agent with years of experience and a high level of proficiency with firearms, CQC, and field tactics.

    In his human form, Behemoth has the ordinary human strength of a man of his age, height, and build who engages in intensive regular exercise. The upper limit of his strength as the Destroyer is untested but high, possibly in the Class 100 range.

    HISTORY: Michael Westin is a longtime SHIELD agent with a reputation for being a reliable straight-arrow. However, on a mission to investigate reports of a cult in the American Southwest, he was captured by the so-called “Cult of the Destroyer,” tortured, and used as the victim in a horrifying ritual that bound the cult’s object of worship - a massive, inert suit of occult armor - to his essence, essentially becoming their avatar.

    SHIELD attacked the cult and Michael was freed before the Destroyer could consume his soul - or, scientifically speaking, subvert his free will - but SHIELD lacks the mystical expertise (or the belief in mysticism) necessary to fully separate him from the armor. Thankfully, the armor doesn’t impede his everyday functioning, so Michael is still able to enjoy a mostly ordinary life (for an agent of SHIELD, anyway).

    As a trustworthy field operative with newfound superpowers, Michael was Fury’s first choice for the new S.T.R.I.K.E. team, which will put him in situations that let him take full advantage of his newfound abilities in a way that his ordinary SHIELD duties cannot.

    APPEARANCE: Michael Westin is the very picture of the straight-laced, buttoned-down G-man, with a fit but not jacked body and a conservative haircut over blandly handsome features. He’s almost never seen without his dark suit, sunglasses, shoulder harness, and earpiece.

    PERSONALITY: Behemoth is a company man to the core, loyal to SHIELD, Nick Fury, his commanding officer, and his team. He performs his duties efficiently and dispassionately; he’s not an angry or sadistic person by nature but is completely comfortable with the murky morality of his black ops job, doing what he’s told and killing who he’s ordered.

    The flip side of this coin is that the single greatest crime, in his eyes, is disloyalty to the team. He’ll go to bat for anyone on his squad, even people he’s not particularly attached to, but the instant Michael feels that someone has turned their back on the team, even if they think it’s for a good reason, they’re dead to him.

    None of this is to say that he’s a robot. He has a veteran agent’s mordant sense of humor and tends to quietly vocalize a running commentary track of wry observations as he goes about his work.

    SsWsd5k.pngChoco as Phoenix
    REAL NAME: Julian Adler

    POWERS: Julian Adler is a powerful telepath who can read surface thoughts, probe people’s innermost secrets, rewrite their memories, or command their bodies. However, this ability is new to him and his immense power is tempered by having very little fine control; his effect on minds tends to be more like a sledgehammer than a scalpel.

    He also exhibits pyrokinesis and some telekinesis, although these manifest more rarely, often in situations of emotional duress.

    Julian has no exceptional physical prowess and no extraordinary resistance to injury, disease, or other damage, but when his body dies, he is resurrected a short time later in a burst of flame.

    Julian is a trained scientist and agent, although much of his expertise is locked away by the amnesia he suffers.

    Phoenix has the ordinary human strength of a man of his age, height, and build who engages in moderate regular exercise.

    HISTORY: Much of Julian’s personal history is a mystery even to him. While working as a technician in SHIELD’s SCI-TECH division working at CLASSIFIED, conducting observations on extrasolar radiation emissions, some kind of exotic radiation flare burned Julian to a crisp, killing him instantly.

    ...but then, months later, he came back. In a blast of flame, Julian’s body reappeared: unharmed, at least physically. The trauma of his death, long absence, and resurrection had given him amnesia, and along with his new life had come new abilities: he could read the thoughts of anyone around him, and project his own thoughts into their minds, or even change their minds, if he willed it.

    But the power doesn’t work on himself. His own past is locked away, a mystery.

    Dubbed “the Phoenix” for obvious reasons, Julian was immediately spirited away by SCI-TECH specialists, who studied him extensively and helped him gain some measure of control over his powers.

    Now, some time later, Nick Fury has deemed Julian ready to go back to work and reassigned him to the newly-formed division S.T.R.I.K.E.

    APPEARANCE: After Elise, Julian is the agent who looks most like an ordinary civilian; he’s thin, with an unkempt mop of dark hair and a frequent five o’clock shadow, and his manner is loose and languid, less uptight and hypervigilant than his colleagues.

    One thing that’s remained from his prior life is his taste in music. Julian loves classic rock, prog, and David Bowie, and favors somewhat retro-styled looks and fashions that reflect that.

    PERSONALITY: A victim of persistent amnesia, Phoenix’s top personal priority is trying to rediscover and reconnect with his prior life where he can, and create a new identity for himself where he can’t.

    Deprived of years of life experiences and knowledge, he tends to be passive in the field, watching the experts around him for clues on how to proceed. In social situations he’s uncomfortable with contention and confrontation, preferring to either act as a peacemaker where possible or to watch from the sidelines when he thinks something isn’t his business.

    Julian has an uncomfortable relationship with his powers. He knows he’s not an expert in their use and is reluctant to do too much with them, as much out of discomfort with their moral implications as with his own inexperience, so he often settles for an unobtrusive surveillance role, or as a facilitator of communication within his team.

    BRIEFINGS
    Normally, what I’ll do is inline the briefing documents in the appropriate parts of the story, but with the timeline jumping ahead from the 1980s to the present day, and with a completely new milieu of cast and characters, I think I’ll reproduce the key elements here, so that we can hit the ground running.

    qlGmSdP.png: The End of the Cold War
    Operation Gladio
    The Avengers of the 1980s often found themselves working as spy-rings against Leviathan operatives. They operated in secret, and conducted themselves very differently from how the public perceives the Avengers now.

    The Avengers Initiative was eventually disbanded, as over the years a few of the cells were discovered by the governments of the countries they were living in. Until the Operation Gladio inquiry in 1991, these cells were never traced back to SHIELD itself.

    The Fall of the Soviet Union (1991)
    M7RIG2X.png

    The Soviet Union’s collapse sent shockwaves through the intelligence community. It was uncertain at the time if this was something Leviathan couldn’t foresee, was unable to stop, or was directly responsible for. But it quickly became clear that with the fall of the USSR and the dissolution of the KGB, Leviathan seemed to have lost its power base. The Black Widows appeared to disband, with one of their youngest members (Natasha Romanov, known publicly as the Black Widow) fleeing for the United States and growing up there.

    SHIELD agents were able to obtain literal tons of files and documents from collapsing Soviet intelligence, and detain and interrogate fleeing Leviathan assets. Much of what we know about Leviathan comes from the period immediately after the fall of the USSR and the chaos that ensued.

    The Quiet Years (1992)
    mvd8tE8.png

    In 1991, there was a public investigation in Italy into a “stay-behind” program called Operation Gladio. This was one of the Avengers Initiative cells in Italy, and the inquiry into how a paramilitary espionage unit was operating in Italy without the authorization of the Italian government eventually led to the public becoming aware of SHIELD’s existence. It did not lead to the overall discovery of the Avengers Initiative, however.

    The discovery of SHIELD’s existence changed the shape of the organization. It could no longer operate in the shadows with impunity. There were calls for oversight, and as a compromise SHIELD was put under the authority of the World Security Council, a non-UN advisory and oversight committee made up of global representatives, largely NATO members but ultimately ended up including Russia and China due to global political pressures.

    With Leviathan seemingly disbanded with the fall of the USSR, there was a quiet period in the 1990s where extranormal activity and international espionage was at a minimum. SHIELD was very careful in its operations during this time as it was under heavy scrutiny.

    Jacobkosh on
    Delmain
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 1
    qlGmSdP.png The New Millennium
    The New Faces of Fear (2001)
    f21Lvt2.png

    The early 21st century was defined by terrorism. Terrorist attacks on places like New York, London, and Madrid led to a global “War on Terror” and invasions of countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. These sorts of terrorist activities were thoroughly “mundane” in nature, deploying low-tech tactics like suicide bombings and home-made IEDs. They did not deploy extranormal agents, and supernatural secret societies like Leviathan or HYDRA didn’t appear to be behind them.

    Nonetheless, immense pressure was put on SHIELD by the World Security Council to use their resources to intervene and help fight the War on Terror. Under duress and with extreme protest, Nick Fury eventually relented and began deploying SHIELD agents on conventional intelligence operations against mundane terrorist targets, something that is widely considered to be outside SHIELD’s mandate.

    The Fantastic Future (2006)
    GNpg8Np.png

    While extranormal threats had existed for decades, SHIELD (as well as their counter-parts in Leviathan) had always managed to suppress their existence to the general public. Even the superhuman nature of Captain America was generally not something the public fully understood.

    That all changed in 2006 when Dr. Reed Richards and his 3 associates engaged in an experiment in extra-dimensional travel. Breaching a boundary beyond normal space, Dr. Richards and his compatriots came back altered by the experience, with extranormal abilities and altered physiologies. Because Reed Richards was already something of a celebrity with a company behind him (the Future Foundation), he was not able to conceal what had happened to him and the rest of his team. He also didn’t attempt to.

    Instead, Reed and his team used their abilities to help people in disaster situations, and used his research on the so-called “Negative Zone” that they explored to further his technological developments with the Future Foundation. Dubbed the “Fantastic Four” by the press, they were the first true “super-heroes” of the modern era. However, unlike some of the costumed vigilantes that came later, Reed and his team didn’t engage in battles with enhanced criminals or extranormal threats, instead focusing on disaster relief and public emergencies.

    The Doom of Latveria (2007)
    wwFYKrx.png

    A small Balkan country, Latveria had broken away during the Soviet collapse. One of its citizens, Victor Von Doom, returned to the small country in 2008 and used his advanced technology to take it by force. Von Doom is a genius and a master of robotics, rivaling Reed Richards, Hank Pym and Tony Stark. The World Security Council convened and discussed using SHIELD to force a Latverian regime change in regards to Von Doom, but given how disastrous forced regime change had been going in Iraq at the time, the decision was made not to pursue that.

    I Am Iron Man (2008)
    IXWe7oa.png

    Those four words changed the world. In 2008, Tony Stark declared that he is the power-armored hero the press had dubbed “Iron Man”. Unlike Reed Richards’ Fantastic Four, Iron Man was a super-hero who directly combated threats, both extranormal and mundane. He confronted terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq (ostensibly to retrieve and destroy illicitly obtained Stark weaponry) and he defeated his rival, the power-armored Obadiah Stane. SHIELD attempted to bring Stark into the fold repeatedly but was rebuffed. Attempts by the US government to restrict, oversee, or censure Stark’s activities were complicated and ultimately unsuccessful, hampered by Stark’s overwhelming wealth and public popularity.

    The Hulk’s Rampage (2009)
    x76AK3z.png

    Overseen by US Army General Thaddeus Ross, Dr. Bruce Banner worked on another Super-Soldier program based on subjecting an individual to large doses of Gamma radiation. When the project was looking like it was going to be shut down as trials failed repeatedly, Banner took the bold move of subjecting himself to the experiment. It turned him into the rampaging, green-skinned monster known as the Hulk. For over a year the Hulk raged across North and South America, evading General Ross. Eventually, Banner disappeared entirely, until a few years later he resurfaced as part of the modern Avengers.

    The Mysterious Wanderer (2010)
    smv5sI5.png


    A strange individual appeared in 2010, claiming to be the Asgardian thunder god Thor. He attracted a small following of devotees, and started fighting criminals and terrorists. Attempts by SHIELD to apprehend the man were unsuccessful, although eventually he agreed to join the Avengers by his own volition.

    CLASSIFIED INFORMATION
    LEVEL 7 ACCESS REQUIRED: GRANTED


    While he claims to be Thor Odinson of Asgard, intel on this individual leads to conclude that he is actually Thorlief Golmen, a psychiatric nurse from Brussels. How he came to possess his extranormal abilities or the equipment he utilizes is unclear as of this writing. While it is possible this is merely the most recent civilian identity used by this individual and they are instead exactly who they say they are, given a choice between the possibility that they are actually an incarnate Norse god or an extranormal scam artist, or a delusional individual with enhanced abilities, logic and caution should be used.

    Global Superterrorism (2011)
    AeGMYiz.png

    Things began to escalate in the second decade of the new millennium. With the extranormal phenomenon being unable to contain any longer, more and more individuals with supernatural powers began to surface. Advanced futurists like Reed Richards and Tony Stark began to cause technology to dramatically leap forward, leading to power-armored criminals like Abner Jenkins (“The Beetle”). More and more threats appeared, and SHIELD had its hands full as a global law enforcement agency for extranormal problems.

    Moreover, while conventional terrorism was on the decline, supernatural terrorism was suddenly on the rise. New groups, like the Serpent Society and the Hand, were appearing. Things needed to change, and Nick Fury had an idea.

    The Avengers Assemble (2012)
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    In 2012, Captain America’s body was discovered in Greenland. He was frozen, and due to his enhanced physiology, he apparently was in a state of suspended animation. After being revived and acclimating to the modern world, Cap wanted to continue fighting extranormal foes to freedom. Nick Fury decided to revitalize the Avengers Initiative, with Cap as the leader.

    This time, instead of covert cells, the Avengers would be a public super-hero team like the Fantastic Four. Fury recruited Tony Stark, Thor, and Bruce Banner for the team, and added two SHIELD agents to monitor the team, Clint Barton (codename: Hawkeye) and Natasha Romanov (codename: Black Widow).

    The first operation the Avengers were sent on was against the Serpent Society as they attacked New York. It was as a result of the Avengers’ victory in this battle that SHIELD learned that HYDRA was back, and that the Serpent Society was directly linked to them.

    HYDRA Returns (2013)
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    HYDRA never truly disappeared, they just went underground. Becoming a cellular terrorist network, they had continued to operate all through-out the Cold War, running missions against both SHIELD and Leviathan. Now, with terrorism being the new global threat, HYDRA has come into the forefront once again, with a new leader behind them; an individual code-named “Kraken”.

    HYDRA’s operations continue to follow the same patterns they did during World War II; they continue to pursue sources of extranormal power, “deep science”, mysticism, and above all else they pursue their mystical homeland of Thule.

    The Heroic Age (2014)
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    With the Avengers becoming a global super-hero team that fights terrorists and criminals, the door is now truly open for other costumed vigilantes. Individuals like Spider-Man, Daredevil, and the Punisher appear as a result. Governments struggle to find laws to define how these costumed vigilantes can and should operate. While the Avengers are technically overseen by SHIELD (loosely), others like Spider-Man are more complicated. Dubbed a menace by publications like the Daily Bugle, Spider-Man is nonetheless considered a hero by many New Yorkers.

    Leviathan Awakes (2015)
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    Seemingly dormant since the fall of the Soviet Union, Leviathan returned with a vengeance a few years ago. Unleashing their own “super-hero” team upon the world with the Liberators, Leviathan seems to be intertwined with the FSB, the successor to the KGB. This makes SHIELD’s operations against Leviathan extremely complicated, as Russia is a member of the World Security Council. Russia denies Leviathan even exists anymore, stating that any such organization died with the Soviet Union and will not authorize any operation against Leviathan interests. When the Liberators attacked Washington, DC in 2015 and were defeated by the Avengers, Russia officially blamed Chechen separatists for the group.

    President Wright (2016)
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    Preying on American fears of extranormals and supernatural terrorism, Republican candidate Gordon Wright was elected as the 45th President of the United States. Claiming to represent the “Wright Wing”, he ran on a platform of trying to restore order and crack down on super-criminals and costumed vigilantes. He has a hostile relationship with the World Security Council and SHIELD, and developed the Office of National Emergency (ONE) as an independent American response to extranormal threats. Nonetheless, he acknowledges SHIELD’s authority on US soil and the America’s obligation to the World Security Council, and allows SHIELD’s facilities in the US to continue to exist.

    Formation of STRIKE (2017)
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    CLASSIFIED INFORMATION
    LEVEL 7 ACCESS REQUIRED: GRANTED


    Nick Fury came to the conclusion that while the Avengers are successful in countering extranormal threats and enhanced individuals, there is also an expectation of conduct and activities that comes from the fact that they are publicly known, costumed super-heroes. The Avengers themselves are (largely) moral individuals with strong ethical beliefs that will not conduct certain operations even if they may be critically important to global security.

    To remedy this problem, Nick Fury devised the Special Tactical Reserve for International Key Emergencies (STRIKE). STRIKE is a task force designed to do things the Avengers can’t (and won’t) do. They are composed of highly-trained field agents and enhanced individuals who do not have qualms about doing what must be done to preserve global security.

    qlGmSdP.png The World Security Council
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    Contrary to popular belief, the World Security Council is not actually the same as the United Nations Security Council. The two entities are distinct, and SHIELD doesn’t report to the United Nations (SHIELD is NATO-derived, historically).

    SHIELD’s World Security Council is technically composed of 30 members (the 28 countries that compose NATO, plus Russia and China). However, all 30 members do not sit on the Council at the same time. Much like the UN Security Council, there is a small number of members at any given time who actually are actively on the Council, with six permanent members (The US, the UK, France, Germany, Russia, and China). The rest rotate on a regular basis.

    The World Security Council was created in the 1990s in response to the outing of SHIELD to the general populace as part of the Operation Gladio controversy. Prior to this, the Executive Director of SHIELD answered only to the Supreme Commander of SHAPE (as SHIELD was, up until that point, considered a division of SHAPE), giving SHIELD very little oversight.

    Now, the Executive Director has to submit regular reports on SHIELD’s activities to the World Security Council, and can be over-ruled on his decisions. This makes SHIELD operations extremely difficult at times, especially as it pertains to Leviathan, which Russia vehemently denies the existence of and refuses to accept any connection between Leviathan and the FSB.

    qlGmSdP.png SHIELD Divisions
    SHIELD is broken down into a few divisions, each performing their own distinct function within the agency.

    Executive (EXEC)
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    Led by: Executive Director Nick Fury, Deputy Director Maria Hill

    The Executive Division oversees all of SHIELD. They co-ordinate the various facilities, projects, teams, and resources. They report directly to the World Security Council, and have the highest security clearance.

    Security (SEC)
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    Led by: Security Director Derek Khanata

    SHIELD SEC handles all security at SHIELD facilities, internal affairs investigations, screening of SHIELD personnel, and acts as the guards at SHIELD prison facilities like the Raft. Led by Derek Khanata, a former member of the Wakanda secret police, SHIELD SEC have special protocols that allow them to over-rule everyone but the highest ranking agents of the Executive as circumstances require it.

    Science and Technology (SCI-TECH)
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    Led by: Dr. Paul Kraye

    SCI-TECH designs all the gadgets, weapons, and vehicles that agents use in the field. They also study and analyse extranormal phenomenon that agents encounter, and help design containment cells to imprison super-criminals. They are some of the most brilliant minds in their field.

    Operations (OPS)
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    Led by: Sharon Carter, Agent 13

    OPS are SHIELD field agents. They all have at least Level 4 clearance, with Senior Agents having Level 5 or 6 clearance. These people do the “grunt-work” of SHIELD missions, and face death and danger against extranormal threats every single day. They do not possess enhanced abilities and are usually hired on from military and intelligence agencies, relying purely on skill and natural abilities (and advanced weaponry) against supernatural circumstances.

    Medical (MED)
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    Led by: Dr. Andrea Hope, Medical Director

    SHIELD Medical keeps you in one piece. Additionally, they work closely with SCI-TECH to be on the cutting edge of medical technology. SHIELD is currently exploring options with regards to cybernetic prosthesis for injured field agents and restorative gene therapy for disease, as well as exploring the potential of these technologies for enhancement and augmentation.

    Communications (COMMS)
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    Led by: Communications Director Victoria Hand

    Considered to be the unsung heroes of SHIELD, COMMS performs the vital task of signals intelligence and cyber-espionage. Some of the best hackers in the world find themselves working for COMMS, sometimes because the alternative is federal prison.

    CLASSIFIED INFORMATION
    LEVEL 7 ACCESS REQUIRED: GRANTED
    Special Tactical Reserve for International Key Emergencies (STRIKE)

    hGkIwKT.png


    Led by: STRIKE Director Clay Quartermain

    Created earlier this year by a Level 7 Secret Order from Nick Fury himself, STRIKE is a special team of highly trained OPS agents and extranormals designed specifically to take on missions that would be unpalatable to send the Avengers on, either because it would be unacceptable to the public to send the Avengers on such missions or because the Avengers would not accept such missions, or both. Fury needed a team that would do what needed to be done, without question, and STRIKE was created to fill that role.

    STRIKE’s existence is classified Level 7, and thus is unknown to both the general public and the majority of SHIELD. To the rest of SHIELD, STRIKE agents are senior agents of OPS and nothing more.

    Sentient World Observation and Response Department (SWORD)
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    Led by: REDACTED: LEVEL 9 ACCESS REQUIRED

    While no evidence exists that there is any sentient, space-faring life elsewhere in the universe, the possibility of it is effectively inevitable. To be prepared in the event that such life contacts Earth and is potentially hostile, SWORD was created. SWORD has agents, safe-houses, resources, and facilities designed to monitor and respond to a hostile alien invasion or first contact being responded to violently by humans (either is possible). SWORD is a largely theoretical division of SHIELD at this point, existing primarily as a safeguard against something we have no evidence of.

    The Avengers
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    Led by: Steve Rogers (Captain America)

    The Avengers are, ostensibly, a division of SHIELD, although their membership is extremely small and very static. It is currently composed of Captain America (Steve Rogers), the Hulk (Bruce Banner), Iron Man (Tony Stark), Hawkeye (Clint Barton), Black Widow (Natasha Romanov), and Thor (“Thor Odinson” aka Thorlief Golmen).

    The Avengers are outside the normal SHIELD chain of command and answer only to Executive Director Nick Fury, who has noted difficulty issuing them direct orders. SHIELD supplies the Avengers with equipment and vehicles, and allows them to essentially set their own agenda and missions, and thus far this arrangement has been working.

    qlGmSdP.png SHIELD Security Levels
    SHIELD classifies security clearance using a level structure, from 1-10, with each increasing level representing increased access and knowledge to intelligence, information, and operational details of the agency.

    Level 0: The general public, anyone outside SHIELD. Until the 1990s, people at Level 0 were not even aware of the extranormal phenomenon or SHIELD’s existence.
    Level 1: Support staff. The clearance level for reception and custodial staff at SHIELD facilities, and civilian staff at SHIELD-affiliated bureaucratic offices.
    Level 2: Maintenance staff, such as mechanics and civilian engineering contractors. Anyone who needs access to the inside of SHIELD facilities will have at least this clearance level, unless being escorted by someone senior.
    Level 3: Junior research staff (SCI-TECH), field agents in training (OPS), nurses and medical technicians (MED), low-priority signal analysts (COMMS), low-security guards (SEC)
    Level 4: Research staff (SCI-TECH), field agents (OPS), doctors and medical researchers (MED), signal analysts and intrusion specialists (COMMS), medium-security guards and junior IA investigators (SEC)
    Level 5: Senior research staff (SCI-TECH), senior field agents (OPS), surgeons and chief senior medical researchers (MED), senior analysts (COMMS), high-security guards and IA investigators (SEC)
    Level 6: Project leads (SCI-TECH), field agent team leads (OPS), medical advisory commitee members (MED), regional monitors (COMMS), Avengers (except for Hawkeye and Black Widow)
    Level 7: STRIKE agents, Dr. Andrea Hope (Director, MED)
    Level 8: Hawkeye, Black Widow, SWORD agents, Derek Khanata (Director, SEC), Dr. Paul Kraye (Director, SCI-TECH), Sharon Carter (Director, OPS), Clay Quartermain (Director, STRIKE)
    Level 9: Victoria Hand (Director, COMMS), Maria Hill (Deputy Director, EXEC), REDACTED (Director, SWORD)
    Level 10: Nick Fury (Executive Director, SHIELD)

    qlGmSdP.png The Crypt
    liZs7y9.png

    CLASSIFIED INFORMATION
    LEVEL 7 ACCESS REQUIRED: GRANTED


    Deep in one of the many unused subway tunnels of New York City, the Crypt is STRIKE’s base of operations. Connections from the tunnel network allows STRIKE agents to seamlessly move to the streets at various points around the city on foot, by car (from concealed garages), to a few different active subway stations, to a secret dock on the Hudson River, and to a secret SHIELD hangar that operates on Governors Island off the southern tip of Manhattan, which gives access to a SHIELD Quinjet with stealth technology.

    The Crypt is also where SHIELD COMM is headquartered, and that section of the Crypt is overseen by Communications Director Victoria Hand. The majority of SHIELD COMM is not aware of STRIKE’s existence, but all the COMM staff (as well as any other SHIELD staff) stationed at the Crypt are at least Level 7 and know about STRIKE.

    The Crypt has full medical facilities, as well as a dedicated R&D department. The armory carries not only conventional weapons, but also has supplies for whatever specialty devices and armaments STRIKE agents might personally utilize.

    Jacobkosh on
    Matev
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 26
    GSI8HLU.png

    W6xL2Cf.png

    A few months ago, Nick Fury created a secret division of SHIELD, the Special Tactical Reserve for International Key Emergencies.

    STRIKE has yet to actually undergo any field missions, and has thus far been merely been recruiting and training some of the members who might not have had field experience or weapons training previously.

    This is STRIKE's first mission. They have been assembled in SHIELD's secret Base 13, codenamed The Crypt, by STRIKE's Director Clay Quartermain.

    For some of the members of the team, they will be meeting each other for the first time.
    Others are good friends or at the very least, workplace colleagues.

    One is an outsider.

    This is Clay:

    SsWsd5k.pngClay Quatermain
    aBT4I0B.png
    Director, STRIKE
    Codename: Quiet
    Clearance Level:

    Clay Quartermain was hand-picked to lead STRIKE by Nick Fury. A former field agent with MI-13, Quartermain is a consummate professional with a lengthy (albeit heavily classified) record. He encourages his agents to think creatively and improvise, and lives by the creed that no plan survives first contact with the enemy.

    It is unclear how old Quartermain actually is. His official age is redacted, clearance level 8 required. Some agents believe that he may be enhanced in some capacity, possibly as the result of some MI-13 Super-Soldier program. He is at least in his 40s, possibly older given some of the references and historical events he talks about as if he has first-hand knowledge.

    Clay goes around the table, gesturing to each person he's speaking about. "This is Michael Westin. Codename: Behemoth. OPS Agent. Specializes in hostile encounter resolution and damage output.

    "Julian Adler. Codename: Phoenix. Telepath, telekinetic, and pyrokinetic.

    "Elise Arnell. Codename: ...Anteater. COMMS division analyst. Superhuman senses, probably knows exactly at what hour you showered this morning. If you did." Elise looks up from her seat at the table, from the fidget cube she's playing with, and gives a little wave.

    "Miles Mason. Codename: Myrmidon. He's the new hire, was a private sector contractor. He's been upgraded since then by Niles and the boys in SCI-TECH."

    "Hap..." Miles' voice is raspy. He coughs to clear it. "Happy to be here." He gives a little wave with a black-gloved hand. He's a trim, compact man who's come dressed in a dark grey middling-expensive shirt and tie, trousers, wingtips, a long coat, and gloves. A stiff ruff of black hair tops a thin, handsome, clean-shaven face.

    "And finally, we have the Virtual Logic Assessment Data Infiltration Measurement Intelligence Resource. Codename: Vladimir. It's not so much a 'team member' as it is a tool for your use that STRIKE obtained from the COMMS division, but it's very good at what it does and it's easier to just have it at the briefing than try to upload information separately in case it needs more data."

    Elise very obviously rolls her eyes at Clay and makes a jerk off motion beneath the table. "Don't listen to him." she mouths at Vlad.

    "Greetings, I am pleased to be of assistance to you all." Vlad smiles gently at the group.

    "Alright, with introductions out of the way, we'll get right into the mission briefing." He gestures to the holographic map behind him. "This is Aqiria."

    e22G6zDl.png

    He makes another sort of "toss gesture" and a file appears on the Stark Industries holographic tablets that sit on the table in front of each of the team, with SHIELD's file on Aqiria:

    qlGmSdP.pngAqiria
    MQ7lN3jl.png

    Aqiria is a breakaway republic of southern Iraq, which split off during the Iraq War. Eaglestar International, a PMC that was operating in the region, conspired with tribal leaders to essentially take control of local oil fields and split the profits.

    It is, essentially, a country run by a PMC. While ostensibly a democratic republic, it is effectively operated by Eaglestar International with a council of tribal leaders, in conjunction with Roxxon (who Eaglestar brought in to run the oil wells after they seized them).

    The US considers Aqiria to be a diplomatic and political disaster. Kurds in northern Iraq do not accept that a US-based PMC can lead a group of southern tribal leaders to secede from Iraq purely for financial gain, but that the US will not let the Kurds secede from Iraq to form Kurdistan for themselves. It has heavily damaged US-Iraqi-Kurdish relations.

    Currently, the US is in a difficult position with Eaglestar and Aqiria. They are officially embargoing the breakaway republic and will not acknowledge them as a real country, but there are other Arab nations that do acknowledge them and will trade with them (possibly just to spite the US). Invading Aqiria to depose Eaglestar by force is politically problematic, so thus far the US is sticking with seizing Eaglestar’s American assets (causing the company to move its headquarters to Aqiria) and other sanctions.

    "Aqiria has been a thorny subject, politically. The US can't stand that it exists, that a bunch of US-backed Iraqi tribal leaders broke off and formed their own rogue state. It's fucked up relations with the Kurds at a time when we desperately need them on our side to fight the Islamic State and stabilize Iraq. Nobody needs this bullshit.

    "But it's also not something that can be easily fixed. It's heavily armed, with Eaglestar mercenaries doing all the heavy-lifting." He does another gesture, and Eaglestar's file comes up.

    qlGmSdP.pngEaglestar International
    YCONIDFl.png

    Formerly based in the US, Eaglestar International is a PMC that is now also the de facto military of the breakaway republic of Aqiria in southern Iraq.

    The board of directors of Eaglestar conspired with tribal leaders in southern Iraq to seize control of the region’s oil fields, and basically seceded by force and declared the area to be the sovereign nation of Aqiria. With the threat of Islamist terrorism coming from Syria, there was little the Iraqi military could do about it at the time, and the US military was reluctant to commit forces to fighting against a heavily armed, well-trained PMC of largely American mercenaries.

    The US did, however, sanction Eaglestar and seize their corporate headquarters in Lubbock, Texas. Eaglestar was prepared for this, however, and had already moved the lion’s share of their funds to Swiss bank accounts and most of their offices to Luxembourg and Aqiria itself. Eaglestar is now, ostensibly, headquartered in Aqiria, although the board of directors actually reside in Luxembourg.

    There is a suspicion that HYDRA was involved in the Eaglestar coup in Aqiria, but until such evidence can be substantiated or there is other evidence of extranormal activity, SHIELD is not becoming involved in the Aqiria crisis.

    "Thus far, SHIELD has stayed out of the whole mess that is Aqiria. Fury's really sour about how the World Security Council twisted his arm to get into the War on Terror at the turn of the millennium, and it's not a business he wants SHIELD terribly involved in.

    "In general, if something doesn't have a cape or a laser blast or some kind of ‘magic’ staff, it's not our remit.

    "As of late, though, Eaglestar and Aqiria are crossing that line. The intel from the COMMS division is that a major weapons deal is going down in a few days in Aqiria and the CEO of Eaglestar, Davis Harmon, is going to be there.

    "According to our intel, there's going to be some major black market advanced weapons dealers attending. Hammer, AIM, Cross, and possibly some people sneaking in from organizations like HYDRA trying to back Eaglestar's play.

    "This is not just a casus belli for SHIELD to take action, but also an opportunity to really nail some of these shifty fuckers to the wall for this kind of shit.

    "Now, here's where STRIKE comes in.

    "Because normally, this is the kind of thing we'd send the Avengers for. Black market deals in power armor and energy weapons and god knows what else. Stark would be all over it. But they don't know about this, and they're not going to know. Instead, you're going in.

    "And it's not because the Avengers can't do the job, or won't. They'd love to. It's that they shouldn't.

    "They do it, it's public. It's the Avengers rolling into what is ostensibly a sovereign Arab country, destabilizing the government by knee-capping the PMC that is propping them up, and so on. It raises some troubling questions. If Aqiria is okay, then why not Latveria? If Latveria, why not North Korea? Then suddenly, the Avengers are in the business of regime change, and you have Captain America fighting ISIS.

    "And if you can think of a better recruitment poster for ISIS than Iron Man blasting some hapless Arab kids clutching AK-47s with terror in their eyes as the Hulk holds a car over them, I will be surprised."

    Elise's hand shoots up into the air. "Is that rhetorical, sir, because if you give me and Vlad six hours to brainstorm-"

    "Yes, it was rhetorical.

    "So this is the kind of thing STRIKE was created for. The sort of thing the Avengers can't, won't, or shouldn't do. Can't be seen doing.

    "Now we'll get into the details of the mission.

    zgYbfQJl.png

    "This is Al-Shabakh. It's a small town in central Aqiria, what was once Najaf province of southern Iraq.

    "This is where the arms deal is going to be going down.

    "This isn't going to be a smash-and-grab or a full resolution. We need intel, we need dirt on these people.

    "So we're not going to be flying you directly into the AO. Agent Isabel Kane, codename: Smasher, will be flying you into Baghdad with your stealth Quinjet." Clay motions to the woman who has been quietly observing the whole time.

    SsWsd5k.pngSmasher
    AAD9l0Vl.png
    Real Name: Isabel Kane
    Clearance level:
    Documented Extranormal Abilities: None.

    Isabel Kane has recently been formally transferred to STRIKE as part of STRIKE-1’s support staff. Acting as the team’s pilot, field medic, communications officer and air support, Kane is a decorated field agent and USAF pilot with years of of experience.

    She has no extranormal abilities, and on the majority of STRIKE’s missions stays aboard their engagement vehicle providing support to the field team.

    "I should have gone with Smasher," Elise mutters.

    "I had it first, and would have fought you for it, hun," Kane laughs.

    Miles' brow quirks up as he visualizes this.

    "When you arrive in Baghdad, you will have cover identities. You are OsCorp arms dealers, looking to make a sale of the Goblin Serum.

    qlGmSdP.pngOsCorp Industries
    A multinational corporation based out of New York, OsCorp is a defense contractor and research firm, a competitor of AIM, Alchemax, Hammer Advanced Weapons Systems, and Cross Technologies.

    OsCorp’s stock is in freefall after it was revealed that their principle owner and CEO, Norman Osborn, was actually the costumed super-criminal the Green Goblin. Killed in an attack on the vigilante Spider-Man, Osborn was discovered to have augmented himself with a serum designed in secret by his company.

    The company is not predicted to last the rest of the year.

    SHIELD has obtained samples and data on the so-called “Goblin Serum” but has determined it causes mental and physical instability, and that it is unsafe for use.

    "OsCorp is on the verge of collapse after their CEO turned out to be a supervillain, so they're grasping at every profit they can make. It would not be absurd for someone within the company to be trying to make money on the side with the Serum, and the company's in such shambles that IF someone tried to check your credentials, COMMS has you covered and can easily fake everything for you.

    "We also have a fairly convincing but inert copy of the Serum which will pass inspection by most scientists, if for some reason they want to check out your goods before they let you into the party.

    "Everyone but the Resource will be issued photostatic veils as part of their cover identities. You've been briefed on how they operate, even if you personally have never used one.

    "Once you're on the ground in Baghdad, you'll meet up with one of our agents who is in the field already. They'll get you to Najaf, the capital of Aqiria, and get you past the border checkpoints.

    "Once in Najaf, you will meet with Abdul Al-Rahman. He's the son of the current leader of Aqiria, and from all accounts is a complete sociopath. He'll give you a sort of ‘first pass.’ You have to pitch to him that you deserve a seat at the table at Al-Shabakh.

    "If you fail, the mission's not a bust, but the parameters will change. We'll cross that river if the bridge blows up.

    "If you succeed in convincing Al-Rahman to let you go to the meetup, you will each have individual objectives. The Resource is to acquire every piece of data it can. Every wireless access point, pull its pants down. Get everything. Anteater, forensics. Get us evidence, identify potential chemical weapons, and act as a scout for unknown hazards. Phoenix, telepathic invasion. Get in their heads. Find out what they know, and what they don't want us to know. Myrmidon, use your implants to provide analysis and investigatory support. Behemoth, you're the heavy on this one. Shit goes sideways, you turn it all the way upside-down.

    "Your primary target at the meet is this man, Davis Harmon.

    NJ1bnrEl.png

    "CEO of Eaglestar, and number... I'm going to say five or six on Nick Fury's personal shit list."

    Elise's hand shoots back up.

    "Agent Arnell?"

    "Why's he so high up there when he looks like he sells beer to surly teens outside a 7/11?"

    "Money," Clay says. "And what he does with it. He's the primary architect of the entire Aqiria debacle. He's the keystone of the whole thing. If he can be captured, compromised, or resolved, then that would be quite lovely.

    "As a black operation, you have full capacity for extraordinary rendition on this individual.

    "If that's not feasible, resolution is authorized."

    "This fucking owns." Elise whispers.

    Vlad turns to Elise "Is good, yes?"

    "Hell yeah," Elise whispers back.

    Clay catches the exchange. He looks Elise right in the eye. And nods.

    "Any questions? Wheels up in three hours."

    Miles says nothing. He's thinking about the regular guys just doing their jobs around people like this Harmon turd. It's hard for him to think of this as fun.

    Elise raises a hand. "So, like, if we get caught, are you going to disavow our existence?"

    Clay looks at Elise. "100%. You'll be burned at the stake. Is what it is."

    "I mean, I think that's the point," Julian says flatly.

    Clay continues. "Back in the Cold War days, the Reds used to practice a thing called kompromat. Compromising people with prostitutes, shameful porn, that sort of thing. They still do it. I bet a gent that looks like Harmon has something unfortunate on his computers if you dig hard enough.

    "So that would be an ideal solution, if possible. If not, neutralize him somehow."

    "Fur affinity dot com, nazi section subscription," Elise grins.

    "That might do it,” Julian nods. “Maybe I'll take a peek and see if there's anything we can really stick on him, even."

    Clay nods at Julian. "Very good. Alright, well if nothing further, report to Niles Nordstrom for your gear and cover identities."

    "I hope my cover identity owns bones, like I invented calculus." Elise stands. "Thanks, Clay. Uh, sir. Commander Clay."

    "Director. Director Quartermain, Agent."

    Elise nods rapidly. "Cool. Cool, cool, cool. Very cool."

    Vlad tilts his head. "It's just above room temperature "

    Niles Nordstrom is STRIKE's tech guy. He's originally from SCI-TECH. Some of the team know him already.

    SsWsd5k.pngNiles Nordstrom
    pG7bGvO.png
    Chief Engineer, STRIKE
    Codename: Merchant
    Clearance Level:

    On loan from SCI-TECH, Nordstrom is an engineer with a background in weapons design. He is stationed at the Crypt and is assigned to help STRIKE in any way he can, and primarily serves as STRIKE’s quartermaster and gadget designer.

    Niles distributes cover identity information (passports, dossiers, local cash, etc.) as well as personalized photostatic veils to each team member (except Vladimir). Vladimir is given a cover identity and is expected to change his face to match.

    Miles Mason's impassive face breaks into a smile as he sees Niles. "Hey, Niles. They're letting me out of the barn - finally. Did we ever check if I was, uh, sand-proof?"

    "Was this a literal barn, or was it like, the B dot A dot R dot N dot?" Elise asks, to a grin from Julian.

    Niles chuckles at Mason. "Should be fine, I mean sand will still bug you in all the places it bugged you before." He turns to face the Resource. "Vlad, you're gonna be good out there?" Niles looks concerned at Vladimir.

    "Niles, my friend,” Vlad says, “I will be safe. Fear not."

    "He's got me!" cheers the 5'2" woman who smells vaguely like laundry left in the machine too long. "Don't worry!"

    Niles looks at Elise. Smiles and nods. Slowly.

    "See? Safer already." Vlad gives a warm smile.

    Niles gets down to business. "The fake faces I gave you guys are really modified versions of your own faces. It makes the veils fit better, and it makes you less wigged out by passing a mirror. We've noticed with OPS agents if they completely change their faces, they could make themselves simply by passing a mirror and giving it an odd, unfamiliar glance.

    "I even tried to make yours similar, Vlad. There's no reason you should be any different."

    Briefing: Photostatic Veil
    umVNsox.png

    The pinnacle of disguise technology, the Photostatic Veil is a mask of holographic nanofibers worn over the face that can be programmed to create a 3D facsimile of another person.

    It is combined with an impression synthesizer worn over the trachea that alters the voice in real time to simulate the person’s speech, allowing for a very accurate simulation at least at passing glance.

    The Veil is far from perfect. People who know the subject of the disguise well won’t be fooled, and it won’t hold up to incredibly close scrutiny (such as touch, or extremely close visual inspection). But it’s usually enough to get through a security checkpoint or gain access to a building, and that’s enough for most SHIELD agents.

    Miles takes his dossier and photostatic veil and perches on a sturdy chair in a corner of the room to study them. He seems to stare intently at each page for about twenty seconds, eyes tracking back and forth, then puts it away, flipping to the next page in turn. When he's read every detail once, he nods, apparently satisfied, and puts the documents away.

    Elise very blatantly skims her until she notices everyone else is intently studying it, and then does her best to give it a second, thorough read through.

    Vlad stops Elise for a moment as they are leaving and shows her his hand. In the palm of his hand is a screen. On the screen is an ISIS recruitment video doctored to feature the Avengers, as a group, pretending to be Muhammed while kicking pregnant women. "Is good?" He smiles softly.

    Elise studies it seriously, strokes her chin, and then nods. "Can we make Captain America piss on her after?"

    "Easily"

    The team moves on through the unused tunnels under Manhattan that connect to a secret hangar on Governors Island. They meet Agent Kane there, who is ready for take-off.

    "Normally it takes about 15 hours to fly to Baghdad from New York,” she says. “This baby will get us there in 8.5."

    qlGmSdP.pngQuinjet
    tbDvO09.png

    The SHIELD Quinjet is one of the most advanced troop transport vehicles in modern aviation. It is highly mobile, with VTOL capability and a top speed rivaling many fighter craft. It has decent air-to-air and air-to-ground combat capability, and can carry a full team of agents into an area of operations in concealment thanks to its stealth field technology.

    STRIKE has access to a Quinjet, at a secret airbase operated out of Governors Island, New York. The island can be accessed by boat, or by a tram from the Crypt through a secret tunnel.

    Miles gives a low whistle at the sight of the Quinjet. "This is a step up from a G-V."

    Kane nods. "The Quinjet's pretty spartan. It's got a shitter, if you gotta go when we're in the air and aren't brave enough to do it out of the hatch, but it's not the one the Avengers use that Stark insisted have a mini-bar."

    Elise goes white. "I'llll hold it, thank you."

    Julian tilts his head quizzically. "...Has anyone been brave enough to do it out of the hatch?"



    Kane just laughs at Julian's question and shrugs, a non-answer. "There's a small amount of food I grabbed and stored in case you want lunch. No booze."

    Elise makes a face. "I prefer the hatch to an eight-hour-flight communal shitter."

    "I can help anyone who would need such," Vlad offers.

    Julian sucks his teeth.

    Kane continues. "It's also got a small arms locker on-board if you didn't take anything beyond your usual from the armory at the base."

    Elise perks up. "I can have a gun?"

    "Yes? I mean... should... should she not?" Kane looks around, not knowing who to ask.

    Vlad nods. "Agent Anteater is a most skilled marksman."

    Julian shrugs. "She's excitable."

    "Victoria taught me how to use pistols, I just wanted to use shotguns but -" Elise puts on an extremely high pitched voice. "Reeeeeccoiiiiillll is baaaaad."

    Miles watches with mild disinterest. He grabbed a pistol and shoulder holster from the base armory but otherwise is coming seemingly unequipped.

    "Hey, uh...Quartermain didn't go over this..." Kane brings up, seemingly reluctant. "Which one of you is the field leader?"

    "Me," Elise immediately tries.

    Vlad cocks his head slightly at this. Miles shrugs acquiescence.

    “Definitely me," Elise repeats. This time she actually sounds confident.

    Julian quirks his eyebrow but says nothing.

    "She's got this," Michael says.

    Kane nods. "...Okay." She opens the hatch to the quinjet and leads everyone in "Strap in."

    PHU1KZN.png
    I love this part. Elise becomes team leader because her impulsiveness and need for attention drive her to volunteer for a job she doesn’t even want - and everyone else goes along because they’re too passive, withdrawn, or unsure of themselves.

    Jacobkosh on
    Matev
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 26
    Elise beams and hops in.

    As they prepare for takeoff, Elise grins at Behemoth. "So is your nickname because, like..." She holds her hands a comfortable foot apart.

    Michael nods solemnly. "Yes, for more than one reason."

    Elise’s eyes widen. "Oh my goooo-"

    Julian looks toward the ground intently, trying to stifle a laugh. "You're a real professional, aren't you?"

    "I'm very good at what I do." Elise says, proudly. She doesn't explain what it is, exactly, she does.

    Kane sets the Quinjet for take off. For anyone who has flown commercially or militarily, the take-off is shockingly smooth. Quinjets are VTOL, so it's very sudden and then they're hundreds of feet in the air, over the New York skyline.

    Kane’s voice comes on over the intercom. "Stealth systems are engaged. Starting repulsor drives."

    There's a high-pitched whine and then a slight jerk as the plane accelerates to hundreds of miles an hour in seconds, with very little in the way of G-force pressure.

    Elise, however, feels incredibly nauseous at the very subtle shifts in motions that are imperceptible to everyone else due to inertial dampening technology, but for Elise it's like being punched directly in the internal organs.

    She manages to keep it in, though.

    And not vomit everywhere.

    When the Quinjet is up to cruising altitude, Kane tells everyone they can unbelt and "move about the cabin freely."

    Michael moves up to the cockpit, sitting in the co-pilot seat and asking Kane outright "So why Smasher?"

    Kane is taken aback. "Oh... er... it's kind of an ironic name. On my very first combat sortie, I took out a bogey by ramming him with my jet. So, y'know. Kinda stuck with me all through the USAF and when I moved over to SHIELD, came with me.

    "Behemoth, though, that's because you turn into the whole big metal murder hulk thing right?
    "....Shit.” She reddens slightly. “I mean. Uh, not that....I mean I read your file, is all. Sorry."

    Michael purses his lips. "I'd like to keep that as low key as possible, Agent Kane."

    Kane nods. "...yeah, I'm really sorry."

    "It's fine," Michael says, taking his leave.

    Julian attempts to make playful conversation with Elise about her role as leader. Sort of teasing, a little bit. Elise tries to justify her decision, outlining how totally awesome she is and how she's been a SHIELD analyst for six months and…

    For most people, Julian picks up their basic emotions and feelings without much effort. And before he was directly talking to Elise and trying to really get at where she's coming from, he wasn't really having to filter her out from the rest with any specific effort.

    But talking to her, engaging her, he's suddenly getting hit with waves of sensory data that he's not used to from anyone else. To Julian, Elise comes across like an airhorn blaring under a pillowcase. Still loud, and muffled under only the most vestigial amounts.

    He has to focus to pay attention to what she's saying, without her senses bleeding into his senses. It's all too much.

    "So, like I was saying, both Victoria and Nick Fury said I need special attention at all times. That's super impressive!" Elise is chattering.

    Julian figures out how to filter out Elise's raw sense data, but he finds it really unpleasant and will have to figure out how to talk to her in the future without this kind of bleed-over. It'll be awkward.

    Elise, on the other hand, notices that something is up with Julian. His face is a symphony orchestra of micro-expressions. She's not a telepath, but she's the next best thing, and he's too busy focused on not having some kind of seizure to conceal how visibly uncomfortable he is just holding a conversation with her. Because Elise doesn't know the full extent of Julian's powers, she's not entirely sure what to think.

    So Elise just asks Julian what the heck his deal is.

    Phoenix grimaces. "Man, look. I'm really sorry, you're just kinda...I don't think I can handle what you have. It just..." Julian mimes holding hands around a globe and shakes. "Your super senses! Sensory overload."

    Elise actually looks sympathetic. "Jesus, I'm sorry, man. It's rough, I know. That's why I hit the road. We'll... figure something out. I'll move over there for now, though." And now that you'll be avoiding me, you won't be gunning for my job!

    Vladimir and Myrmidon get into a bit of a technical discussion about Miles' cybernetics and their capabilities. Vladimir unsuccessfully negotiates human social mores with his questions and asks some pretty personal stuff of Miles. Miles kinda humors Vladimir, but realises that social niceties is not the machine's strong suit.

    Miles, for his end, tries to get along with Vladimir and also inquire a bit about Michael's field work as a SHIELD agent. It's a pretty complicated two-sided conversation to navigate, and he manages to make himself a bit socially awkward to both.

    After a few hours, the Quinjet arrives in Baghdad.

    ksIZP12l.png



    Kane gives everyone a run-down during the landing. "Baghdad is a lot more stable than it was five years back, but it's still an active zone. Keep your guns close, and your fake IDs closer. You might get stopped by US or Iraqi forces. I've given Agent Arnell the details on where to meet your contact who will get you into Aqiria.

    "If you need to grab any gear from the arms locker, now is the time. It's Baghdad, nobody's going to blink twice if you're walking around armed to the fucking teeth. The cover story for Myrmidon and Behemoth is specifically that they're security for the other three because they look the part better, so feel free to gear all the way up for you two. The rest of you, suits and body armor. Even if you don't need it, Vladimir."

    qlGmSdP.pngStandard Equipment
    By default, all SHIELD field agents are issued a standard sidearm (the make and model of which changes based on location and year) and a special SHIELD uniform that contains a ballistic weave mesh, designed to be flexible and concealable but also protect the wearer from most small arms, blades, and blunt force trauma.

    In general, anything accessible to most modern police, SWAT, or military ground forces are available to SHIELD agents, at the very least with a requisition order.

    Elise helps herself to a heavy combat pistol, a knife, and armor. Myrmidon puts on a pair of tinted shades.

    "Fuck," Elise mutters. "That's a real power move."

    Behemoth arms up to the teeth, carrying two of each gun, just like his action star hero, Noah.

    Julian takes a pistol in addition to the suit and body armour. He doesn't expect he'll use it. Vlad equips himself with a standard field agent loadout.

    With everyone equipped, the group move through the streets of Baghdad to meet with their contact. Arnell, deciding to devote more than half an ass of effort to being the team field leader, actually opens the file and looks at the details.

    It seems they’re looking to meet up with a merc named Ted Calloway, some nobody schmuck that will get them into Aqiria. He doesn't know who they really are, doesn't work for SHIELD. So far as he's concerned, he's on the OsCorp paycheck.

    Also, Vladimir (in his role as lead scientist) is carrying an inert, false copy of the Goblin Serum in a metal case. It is not handcuffed to his wrist (far too easy a tell of "please rob me and cut off my hand" in a place like Baghdad).

    Baghdad in 2017 isn't a warzone, but it's chaotic and difficult to navigate, especially since few among the team speak Arabic. Anteater leads through the group through the back-alleys and side streets to a small, dingy motel where Calloway is supposed to be staying. Asking at the desk for him, the team are directed vaguely at his room, an annoyed motel manager being somewhat hostile at the American woman speaking to him through a translator who seems European.

    They knock on Calloway's door. Calloway answers, narrows his eyes, and says "You're the folks with the thing?"

    sEJ04QKl.png

    "Yeah." Elise says. "We got the thing."

    Calloway nods. "Alright, I got a humvee parked out back, the bunch of you should fit. Lemme grab my shit and I'll see you there."

    "Cool." Elise waits for him to head out back, and then gestures for The Squad(TM) to huddle. "He's being fucky. That's not his voice, he's putting on an accent. He's not American, English is his first language, but he's definitely putting on a show."

    When Calloway returns, everyone loads up into the Humvee, and set out on the road to Najaf, Aqiria, where the team will meet their next contact.

    fNrSNArl.jpg

    PHU1KZN.png
    In retrospect, I really should have had Miles talk more during this entire mission. He’s an Iraq vet and a former Blackwater-y goon so he really should have a lot to say. But I was committed to playing him as very quiet and withdrawn, which is why there are so many sentences along the lines of ‘Miles cocks an eyebrow’ or ‘Miles tilts his head sideways.’

    I didn’t feel like he knew people well enough to open up about his past yet, but I was looking at it the wrong way around: he could have opened up here, and then gotten to know the team better as a result.

    It’s not a major thing, but it’s something I would probably do differently now.

    The team try to study their driver covertly as they go.

    Julian is still new at this whole mind-reading thing, and tries to focus in on Calloway's thoughts. It's just... static. Nothing. Either Calloway has extensive mental training to resist telepathic intrusion... or Julian is just new at this.

    Elise notices the car REEKS of falafel. This dude eats in his car. A lot. Like every day.

    But she also notices that he's sweating.

    He's nervous.

    Elise checks her phone and texts Vlad: "Driver's nervous. Sweating. Also eats a lot of falafel???????? weird imo lmao"

    Vladimir attempts to see if there's any surveillance drones or anything else in the air nearby that he could use to remotely view the area.

    He finds...something. Something he can't identify. It's encrypted. Possibly military. But he could theoretically break in. Vlad relays this info to Elise's phone. "Shall I?"

    Elise replies "First, tell the squad™, then go for it"

    Then, a moment later, "not the driver just us"

    Vlad relays the info in audio format to everyone's comms. "I will begin now."

    He gets in, and finds a HUD on the video feed of...something that's flying overhead and watching the humvee specifically. A drone of some kind? There's a bunch of data in the stream, and on the HUD there's a tiiiiiiny bit of text that says

    BEETLE 6.0 © ABNER JENKINS

    Like it's in the corner of the HUD, like a watermark.

    It's in SHIELD's Index.

    qlGmSdP.pngBeetle
    ZJcEhe4.jpg

    Documented extranormal abilities: The Beetle drones are capable of superhuman strength, speed, and agility. They are remarkably hard to destroy, with a toughness on par with Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit. They can fly at supersonic speeds. They have multiple types of internal weaponry, with the latest generation sporting a shoulder-mounted retractable cannon. Each iteration of the Beetle drone has had new armaments and abilities.

    The first Beetle was a power-armored criminal named Abner Jenkins. However, these new “Beetles” are not individuals in power-armor, but rather remotely operated drones. It’s possible that Jenkins is behind the drones, or they could be another party (another technologist, like Dr. Ebersol, is a suspect).

    Thus far, these Beetle drones have been only spotted one at a time, and have been committing mundane crimes like bank heists and armored car robberies. They’ve been destroyed by the Avengers, Spider-Man, and even the Fantastic Four on one occasion, but they keep coming back with improvements, suggesting someone out there is building new ones.

    COMMS has thus far been unable to trace the signal on who is controlling the Beetle drones. It is hoped if a STRIKE team engages the Beetle, a better fix could be found.

    The drone is simply flying and observing - for now.

    Vlad forwards the info to Elise. "It seems we are being watched by a known threat."

    Elise begins to realize she's in over her head as the leader. She starts a group text message and lays out the situation.

    Elise notices that Calloway has taken his hand off the wheel and squeezed his pocket. When he did so, there was a tiny, imperceptible to anyone else buzz of something being sent, received, or otherwise activated by the phone in his pocket.

    Like he fussed with his phone somehow. Elise noticed. Nobody else did.

    Elise reaches for her gun with one hand and texts to the team: "He just set something (???) off and we're in deep shit, time to brainstorm some solutions."

    And she gently rests her hand on her pistol.

    "Let it ride. See where it goes," Miles texts back.

    "Coming up on the checkpoint into Aqiria." Calloway says to everyone. "Stay quiet. Let me do the talkin'. If they ask for your papers, show 'em."

    A text message pops up in the drone's visual feed. “C: hit after checkpoint. make sure i get roughed up enough to make it look real. target is the eurotrash with the case. driving, can't reply.”

    "This is a set up," Vlad says over the team’s radios. He relays the text.

    As the humvee approaches the checkpoint, Miles unbuttons his shoulder holster. He has other weapons but would prefer to avoid breaking cover if at all possible.

    "Can you pull over before we hit the checkpoint?" Elise asks Calloway. "I gotta - I gotta take a pee."

    Elise: "Gotta piss like a horse. So bad."

    Julian throws up his hands. "You always do this!"

    Calloway sucks his teeth and looks in the rearview mirror. "Are you fuckin' serious?"

    Michael laughs. "Small bladder, this one." Miles lets out an exasperated sigh that is only partially feigned.

    Calloway shakes his head. "Yeah, alright, fine. I'll pull over, it's on you to find a bush and not get bit in the cooch by a camel spider."

    "I use a funnel. I got it off Kickstarter. It allows me to pee standing up." Elise is proud that her lie landed. She's so good at this!

    Calloway pulls the car over. He's like "Do your thing, I'll wait in the car. I'm gonna shoot the guy a text, let him know we might be late a touch."

    Elise gets out and heads for a bush. Calloway pulls out his phone and quickly taps out a text.

    Vladimir has a choice. He can either block the text, but it will definitely bounce back as text unsent (like it just failed because bad reception or w/e) or he can let it go through. He can't view it first, he's gotta snap decide in microseconds with signal in the air.

    C: been made. hit em now.

    Is the text.

    Vlad relays the text. "We also have been made"

    After Miles sees this on his phone, he carefully puts it away and promptly grabs for the driver's throat from the backseat. "Sh. Don't move a muscle. Don't make a sound."

    Calloway goes for his gun, faster than Miles can react. Whirling around, he pulls the gun and shoots Mason in the chest at point-blank range twice. However, between cybernetics and body armor, Mason is unharmed.

    Miles just looks down at the shells flattened against his armor with a nonplussed expression. "....Huh. Cool."

    In the fracas, Vladimir, trying to seize Calloway, grabs Mason by the arm and mildly electrocutes him.

    "AaaAAAaaaaashit WATCH THE HAND!" Miles screams.

    Vlad nods. “My apologies.”

    Zipping up her pants, Elise hears something from the air, and it quite possibly saves her life. It's the whirring up of a machine gun. She dives for cover as the Beetle drone uncloaks and opens fire with its shoulder-mounted machine-gun. Her baseball slide keeps her safe but scrapes up her leg pretty good.

    Miles reaches over the headrest and tries to grab ahold of the back of Calloway's head. He's definitely got him, but he realizes too late that his original intention of just "stun-blasting" him into the steering wheel with a low-power repulsor blast has been fucked by the shock he received from Vladimir.

    So, he either doesn't blast Calloway.

    ...or REALLY blasts Calloway.

    He chooses Option 2.

    Calloway's face is driven HARD into the steering wheel, and the horn breaks from the impact with a sad squeal. His head should've probably gone full Gallagher with a watermelon, but didn't?

    Calloway slowly sits up. His scalp is blown back from the back of his head, revealing a metallic cyberskull casing.

    Miles smiles to himself. Now he can go full ham.

    "Guys, guys, there's a fuckin' drone shootin' at me can we leave the falafel fuck alone and SAVE MY LIIIIFE????" Elise wails from behind the rock she's taken cover behind.

    Vladimir attempts to hack the Beetle drone's propulsion systems. He can successfully take control of its movements, but not drive it into the ground like he had hoped. However, whoever is controlling the drone notices the hack and stops shooting at Elise to try to respond.

    Phoenix attempts to telekinetically slam the Beetle into the ground. He fails, and gives himself a headache in the process.

    Seeing the metal skull, Michael decides it's time to armour up. He steps out first as to not crush the car that he's sitting in. Which would be bad.

    He assumes the form of the Destroyer.

    JOkrKoPl.png

    Behemoth slams his metal fist down on the car hood and bellows "ENOUGH" at Calloway.

    Calloway drops his gun and puts his hands up.

    Vladimir sees the HUD of the drone go red, as a self-destruct is initiated. He attempts a final hack on the drone, but doesn't take control. "We have to move!"

    But its self-destruct is...implosive? It collapses inwards, falling to the ground a green chunk of scrap. "Never mind!" Vlad says.

    "Okay! Is - is everyone pretty much okay? Is anyone hurt?" Elise manages.

    Calloway speaks up. "Ha...ha....okay so...this went bad." He's now speaking with an English accent.

    Elise stares at him. "No shit, idiot! You had one job!"

    Calloway shakes his head. "I had two jobs, actually. One for you, and one for the blokes paying more than you."

    "See! That's the problem! The surplus of jobs is clearly what led to this! Fuck!" Elise says. "Okay! Let's start over, and my big friend here isn't going to wrench your head off. Hi. Who are you?"

    "Name's still Calloway, and I'm still your man to get you into Aqiria. That much is as it is. But this other bloke, he called me up after I was contracted out to get you into Najaf, had a different offer. Seems there's some big to-do to get to that you lot are destined for, yeah?" He searches their faces for confirmation, then continues. "Well, I would assume some at that thing don't want competition. So they gave me and Abner a good bit to make sure you never got there, and take that goop off you besides."

    "So,” Elise says, “did we learn why that's a terrible idea? What was the lesson we got today, pal?"

    Calloway nods. "That I clearly didn't know who I was fucking with and I'm very sorry."

    Michael powers down.

    "Are there any other wonderful little surprises you have for us, chief?" Elise asks.

    Calloway shakes his head. "Naw, it was supposed to be a smash and grab after we crossed the border, Beetle was supposed to take you lot out and rough me up some to keep my sterling reputation as a wheelman."

    Miles regards Calloway. "Where does the robot skull come in? What even are you?"

    Calloway shrugs. "Not different from you, I'd imagine. Maybe got our bits at a different store."

    Elise turns to the group. "What do you think, gang? We good to let our wheelman off with a warning? 'Cause, uh, we still gotta... get in. For our employers, at Oscorp. I love Norman Osborn."

    "i'm willing to let bygones be bygones," Miles says.

    Calloway reaches down and pulls a hood up from his vest over the now exposed back of his skull.

    "Pull anything and we pull things from you," Michael growls.

    Calloway nods. "...deal."

    Elise holds up a hand. "Okay but hold on, I actually gotta pee for real now."

    After cleaning up and tending to business, the team get back into the humvee and head towards the checkpoint.

    The remaining twenty minutes of the drive is awkward. Elise loudly complains about her scrapes.

    They arrive at the checkpoint. Calloway talks his way through the checkpoint and hands the guards a brown envelope, the most important kind of identification.

    Miles clears his throat. "So, uh...got SiriusXM on this thing?"

    PHU1KZN.png
    Thus begins the most longrunning character arc in this game.

    Calloway nods slowly. "...yes, actually. I'm a mercenary, not a barbarian."

    Jacobkosh on
    Matev
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 26
    They drive into Najaf, what is now the capital city of Aqiria.
    eaCeBu5l.png

    "Now, when I drop you off, that's as far as I go. I'm the fuck out and back across into the safe part of Iraq." Calloway is using his fake American accent again.

    Miles furrows his brow. "So this part is...less safe? Even with a PMC locking it down?"

    "Jesus christ, yeah,” Calloway says. "Ain't like all the people of Najaf were just cool with being a different country one mornin'."

    Elise has her head in the air and is just sniffing - not for any one thing in particular, just trying to get as much input as to the new environment as possible. It doesn't seem like her snuffling is conclusive.

    Calloway continues. "But you don't really gotta fear the streets too bad. Big thing is guy you gotta meet, Abdul Al-Rahman. The 'Colonel' they call him, although he's never been in the Iraqi Army.

    "He's actually the son of the guy who's in charge of Aqiria now, at least from the locals’ side. And he's a real fuckin' piece of work. The sort of guy who feeds his enemies into a woodchipper, with a point of making sure it's feet first."

    Vlad attempts to scan for chatter over radio signals or other such comms network.

    Calloway continues. "That goop you got better impress him, or you're not just not gettin' a seat at the table...you're in a bad spot in general. You'll have to kill your way out. Might not be a thing for you people, might be. Hard six."

    Miles shrugs. "I think he'll like what we have on offer."

    Vladimir notices that there's a LOT of radio chatter from Eaglestar mercs, everything's tense and on high-alert. A lot of chatter about "The Colonel's party", most of it security type stuff that's fairly mundane. It sounds a lot like, from Vladimir's surface read, that the Colonel meeting people is a big deal and Eaglestar mercs are ready for it. He relays this on the teams’ comms.

    Calloway pulls up to an opulent hotel that looks EXTREMELY out of place with the rest of the neighborhood. Some legacy of the Hussein regime, now overtaken by Eaglestar's mercs.
    An Eaglestar merc walks over and talks to Calloway, checking who they are, why they're here, etc. Calloway speaks for the group, speaking in Arabic and English seamlessly.

    Miles gets out and passes Calloway a five. "Thanks for the ride. I never know how much to tip."

    "Hey man here an American fiver gets me a lot." He grins. "Enjoy your meeting, kids. I won't wait up. I got a...barber's appointment."

    Miles sketches an ironic salute.

    Elise leans into Vlad as they move inside. "I'm doing pretty good so far as The Leader, aren't I?"

    Vlad nods. "Is great."

    Elise notes that the mood is extremely tense. The Eaglestar mercs are trying to be casual, but they're all nervous. They're on like, best behavior mode. Like they're afraid.

    The team are led into the hotel by an Eaglestar corporate rep, who comes to greet them. They’re led into an elevator, and go up to the penthouse. Everywhere, there's armored, heavily armed guards. Even the elevator, which is double the size of a normal hotel elevator, has two armed guards in it.

    One of the guards in the elevator...is giving Elise the elevator.

    Hard.

    Vlad stares at the guard. The guard catches Vlad's gaze, freezes, and looks away nervously.

    Elise decides to mimic the behaviour of everyone in the lobby. She stares at her feet and shuffles nervously. Miles adopts the professionally nondescript demeanor he's used to from his time as a bodyguard, hands folded in front of himself in a loose parade rest.

    The elevator moves up to the penthouse, and as the doors open a gunshot rings out!

    The two Eaglestar mercs immediately raise their weapons, stepping in front of the team. Everyone can hear people screaming, and a man shouting loudly in Arabic.

    The voice switches to English "Enough! Enough! Put the music back on, back to party! Get this dog out of my sight!"

    There’s a rich-looking Arab man, holding a smoking pistol, standing over a white guy in a suit who has a gunshot wound in his head. Point blank, exit wound seems to indicate he was shot in the forehead.

    There's a bunch of women and other rich men meandering around what was, up until a moment ago, seemingly a party atmosphere.

    Everyone looks tense and terrified.

    "Colonel, are we all clear?" One of the Eaglestar mercs from the elevator asks.

    Elise freezes. "That guy's fucking dead," she whispers.

    Miles puts a protective hand on Anteater's shoulder and steps forward in case shit pops off again.

    "Yes, yes," the man with the gun says. "Are these my OsCorp people? Good, good. Bring them here. Put the music back on, it's a party!"

    The Colonel plops himself down in a chair, and gestures for everyone to sit across from him in comfortable seats.

    PB0VBmMl.png

    The music starts playing again, and people (very nervously) try to pretend everything is fine and continue to party, as two Eaglestar mercs dispose of the dead body.



    Miles and Michael help Elise and Vlad sit down, but stand upright behind them, acting the bodyguard.

    "What have you brought for me?" the man that others have identified as Abdul Al-Rahman, the Colonel, says to the group.

    Vlad steps forward and presents the package.

    Elise tries to focus on the Colonel, not the smear of blood left by the dead guy. She lets her senses take over.

    She gives this guy a scan-over of scents and sights. Expensive cologne. Even more expensive scotch. KY jelly. Suntan lotion. Grilled garlic steak for dinner. Blood. on the legs of his pants. None of it his. Tears on the cuffs of his sleeves. None of it his. Speaks Arabic and English, but his English seems broken on purpose, like he speaks English a lot better and is probably more educated than he lets on.

    His blood pressure is elevated, possibly from alcohol? Tough to say. Definitely agitated, but also excited. He doesn't seem angry towards the newcomers in particular, but he's just coming off of the high of killing a man in rage so he's still pretty amped. He's a hair trigger, emotionally.

    For what feels like a second but is probably closer to twenty, Elise just swims in this smorgasbord of sights, sounds, smells, feelings, emotions, all of it churning together - and then she remembers what Victoria told her, to focus. She smiles, loosens her hands. Relaxes.

    "Sir, we're so grateful you agreed to see us. I'm sure you've heard of OsCorp's troubles. We want to...get back in the game."

    He leans back in his chair, smiling and taking a sip from his glass. He rests the gun down on the table beside him. He nods for Elise to continue.

    "This isn't... we're acting independently from Oscorp right now." Not a lie! "Everything is chaos, the board is figuring out what to do..." Also true! "We thought someone of your, ah, vision, might be a better... business associate for this kind of deal. I'm sure you've heard of Norman Osborn's... current legal troubles."

    The Colonel nods and sucks his teeth. "Yes, the Man-Spider and all of that, he was the Goblin Man. Do you have this Goblin Potion with you? Is this what you bring me?"

    “Yes.” She gestures at Vlad.

    The Colonel grins widely and motions for Vlad to open the case. Vlad opens the case and presents the vials.

    The Colonel looks at the vials in awe. "Amazing. My father, he will want this. He could make an army of Goblin Men with this." A pause. "...but, we need to know." The Colonel points at Vladimir. "You. You do this. You become Goblin Man. I need to know this is real, and not grandmother's soup."

    Vlad looks shocked and turns to Elise. Miles speaks up. "...I'll do it. It makes the user harder to hurt. Give it to me. Then you can shoot me," he says to the Colonel.

    "No," the Colonel shakes his head. "No disposable men. I have many disposable men. I could choose any of them."

    Miles tries to look relieved.

    "You, you." The Colonel points at Vladimir. "The bagman does it. I am told this Goblin Man is temporary. You will be okay." The Colonel smiles. "Just turn green enough for me to know is real."

    The Eaglestar mercs all have hands on weapons. They are ready for this to turn south.

    Vlad takes out the vial, injecting himself, and attempts to mimic the effect of the serum via holographics.

    He shifts and changes into a green-skinned, goblinoid monster as the Colonel claps and laughs with elation. He then... turns. And dives on Elise. Putting his now clawed hands around her throat and choking her.

    The Eaglestar mercs go to move but the Colonel interjects. "No, no, let him, let him, I want to see! I want to see if he does it! How long does it last?!"

    The Eaglestar mercs watch, guns drawn.

    Miles leaps for Vlad, trying to look like he's pulling Vlad off Elise. Elise is putting on a huge show - not intentionally, but this is so intense to her inflamed senses that she's flailing, choking, and gagging in a very satisfying show.

    Vlad throws Elise to the side and stumbles back, acting strained. He slowly shifts back into a human form. Gaining his feet, he spits out "The duration of the serum is depending on the injection." Holding the vial in his hand.

    "Wonderful!" The Colonel looks elated. "You will go to the meeting with my blessing, sell my father an army of Goblin Men."

    Vlad looks ashamed.

    Elise lays on the floor and coughs and writhes. She'll be okay, but hoo boy. Miles and Michael are at her side, pretending to hoist her back up to her seat and making a big show of tending to her.

    "We leave in the morning for Al-Shabakh,” the Colonel says. “I will have one of these useless people make you up rooms. Take a woman if you wish. Take two."

    He looks at Elise. "If you want to take women, you may." He shrugs and kind of half-frowns. "Or take some of these disposable men, it is not my business. It's a party! To the Goblin People with their Goblin Potion!" he raises a glass to the team and grins.

    "H-Hooray." Elise manages.

    The Colonel himself paws at two women and hooks his arm around them. "I retire now. Good night." He slinks away, flanked by two Eaglestar mercs as well.

    The night passes. The teammates take the opportunity to kibitz.

    Vladimir checks on Elise and reassures her that he was in complete control and that it was all for show. She stares out at the skyline. "You know what, Vlad?" she asks. "I think I hate being the leader."

    "Why?"

    "If I was the guy in the back, I wouldn't have been choked! I would have been the guy who stood there and was like 'oh noooo.’” Elise pauses. “I think we've learned a lot about each other...and ourselves," she says in an ironic, singsong voice.

    Vlad stares at her. "I think you are good leader. I don't trust leaders, but I trust you."

    Behemoth talks to Myrmidon about his cybernetics a bit. The two have a fairly straightforward chat as two professionals, and Behemoth begins to get why Fury brought in this PMC guy and cybernetically augmented him.

    Miles repairs his arm and reflects on what he's seen of this group so far. At first he thought Fury had dumped him in some weird purgatory, like the Breakfast Club for spies, but he's starting to see and appreciate the value these people are bringing to the table. The robot is clever and on its game, the big guy seems to know his stuff, and the woman...well, at least she seems to take things more seriously than he first thought. He's not sure about the weird quiet one, the "telepath," but he probably shouldn't think about that too hard - he wouldn't want to hurt the guy's feelings.

    The next day, everyone rises and some Eaglestar mucky-mucks direct them to a caravan of armored vehicles that the Colonel is in the lead of. The team won't be riding with him; they'll be riding in your own car to Al-Shabakh with an Eaglestar driver and gunner.

    The two Eaglestar mercs seem terrified of Vladimir, but they're trying hard not to show it. Elise notices, and Julian can feel the waves of barely restrained horror rolling off their minds.

    Elise has made it a point to speak as little as possible today, and has let the others know - she's not the best liar, and the enormous bruises on her neck make a convincing argument as to why she is mostly silent.

    They drive for a few hours out of Najaf, across a dirt road deep into the deserts of Aqiria
    The trip is silent and tense.

    Occasionally, there's radio chatter from the other mercs in the convoy. Just normal stuff.

    Miles speaks up. "So...does this thing get SiriusXM?"

    The driver nods. "....oh, yeah, it does, the Colonel insisted every vehicle has satellite radio in case he rides in any of them."



    Hand dangling out the open window, Miles drums his fingers on the door in time to the music .
    At one point he might cheerfully whistle.

    Vlad slightly nods his head to the music. This makes the mercs more nervous, not less.

    Eventually they arrive in Al-Shabakh. It was likely a small town at one time, but is now basically a military base for Eaglestar.

    The convoy stops, and everyone gets out. There's some branded vehicles for other companies there. Hammer Advanced Weapons Systems and Advanced Idea Mechanics and Cross Technologies.

    It's just like these companies to brand their fucking vehicles for an illegal arms deal.

    There is one other set of vehicles, all black with no markings. A burly man in a leather trenchcoat and wide-brimmed hat (in late-April Iraq?) is hurried into the building.

    Behind him, acting as his bodyguard, is this man:

    bWCogf6l.png

    Mason narrows his eyes.

    Elise, Michael, and Vladimir recognize him immediately. It's Crossbones, a known agent of HYDRA

    qlGmSdP.pngHYDRA
    JnvryiO.png

    Created in 1925 by the Prussian occultist Wolfgang von Strucker, HYDRA began as a secret society centered around racial purity, eugenics, and the pursuit of a mystical homeland of the master race known as Thule. Naturally, HYDRA’s beliefs proved to be extremely popular among the Nazi Party, especially among the occultists in the SS.

    Eventually HYDRA separated itself from the Nazis, after Red Skull overthrew Von Strucker as leader of HYDRA and considered himself to be more important than the Fuhrer. After Red Skull died in Greenland pursuing some mad trail of Thule as Germany was losing the war, HYDRA was shattered into a cellular structure, becoming an international terrorist organization.

    Modern HYDRA is still a cellular terrorist organization, but has shed any connection to its Nazi roots and for most of its adherents, has little resemblance to its occult origins. Only the upper echelons of the organization seem to fully understand its beliefs, and the lower cells only pursue power, wealth, and terror for their own sake.

    Kraken
    5AfnmvK.png

    Real name: Unknown
    Documented extranormal capabilities: Unknown

    Kraken is the codename for the current highest-ranking leadership figure in HYDRA that is known to SHIELD. It is not certain who they are, or where they are, or what, if any, abilities they have at their disposal. More details are needed at this time.

    Crossbones
    D18pBMQ.png

    Real name: Brock Rumlow
    Documented extranormal capabilities: Utilizes advanced power-armor and has lowered sensitivity to pain as a result of nerve damage.

    Brock Rumlow is a former SHIELD agent that turned out to be a HYDRA mole. When he was discovered, he was nearly terminated, but escaped with severe injuries. Now he uses a powered exoskeleton to function, which makes him a formidable combatant. Use extreme caution if you encounter Crossbones, he is well aware of conventional SHIELD tactics and procedures.

    Serpent Society
    9R7ZkV9.png

    Real names: Varies by current membership
    Documented extranormal capabilities: Varies by current membership, tends to center around snake-inspired weaponry, armaments, and enhancements, usually by way of advanced combat suits or genetic modifications.

    The Serpent Society was initially thought to be an independent terrorist organization when they first attacked New York in 2012. However, when they were defeated by the Avengers and the members apprehended there interrogated, it was discovered they are actually a cell of HYDRA, and that HYDRA supplies them with weaponry and genetic augmentations.

    They are a very large and powerful group, recruiting people with the promise of granting them incredible wealth and power. They do tend to actually deliver on that promise, as their members usually have extranormal genetic enhancements and serpentine power-armor that grant them dangerous combat abilities.

    The Serpent Society are a force to be reckoned with, and are one of the Avengers most dangerous foes. The earliest members are locked away in the Raft, but they’ve been replaced with a new generation of Serpents.

    Swarm
    KYd7JyQ.png

    Real name: Fritz von Meyer (allegedly)
    Documented extranormal capabilities: The individual identified as Swarm appears to be in control of (and possibly composed entirely of) aggressive, highly dangerous mutated bees, that he is able to direct and command at will.

    There is historical record of a Nazi scientist in World War II named Fritz von Meyer, who was an accomplished apiarist (beekeeper) and was fascinated with the hive structure of bees. He believed bees had a gestalt psychic consciousness, and that it could be possible to study and tap into that consciousness. He conducted horrific experiments on human prisoners, trying to transfer their “consciousness” into the “hive gestalt” and basically just killing them in the process. Von Meyer evaded capture when Germany lost the war, possibly fleeing to Argentina as many Nazi war criminals did.

    In the early 2000s, the individual known as Swarm began to be known to SHIELD. At first they were simply considered to be a bizarre extranormal terrorist, as they were performing random acts of murder and robbery in South America. But later, after HYDRA resurfaced, the individual (or possibly entity) began identifying itself as Fritz von Meyer, stating that it had successfully transferred its mind into the hive, having left its decaying body behind decades ago.

    SHIELD MED is extremely skeptical of this story, but largely because the idea of an insane Nazi made of bees is too deeply unpleasant to believe is real.

    Elise begins to frantically gesture.

    Vlad notifies the team. “Proceed with caution.” From behind him, does some very lethal-looking charades.

    The Colonel walks over to the team. "My friends, this way!"

    He's really excited!

    Elise can also tell he's like, more than half in the bag.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 26
    The team follow him into a huge hangar. There's a bunch of corporate reps from various companies there. Nobody that looks "important" per se. Justin Hammer isn't there, nor is Aldrich Killian or Darren Cross, but people from their companies.

    qlGmSdP.pngHammer Advanced Weapons Systems
    h7aqXwY.png

    In the past, Hammer Advanced Weapons Systems were considered inferior to Stark Industries in weapon design, often an “also-ran” in defense contracts. But since Stark exited the weapons game in 2008, Hammer has become a major defense contractor for a lot of governments and private military contractors.

    They have also attempted to duplicate some of Stark’s own newer designs, trying to replicate powered armor similar to the Iron Man suit for military applications. Their current prototype designs range from being barely functional to cost prohibitive, and have not entered production as a result.

    Some of the small arms and explosives used by junior SHIELD field agents are Hammer designs, as they are inexpensive and easy replaceable. The hardware, not the agents.

    qlGmSdP.pngCross Technologies
    u9duMtu.png

    Cross Technologies used to be Pym Technologies, when it was owned by Henry Pym. Henry Pym was a brilliant scientist and a former SHIELD operative and Avenger during the 1980s Avengers Initiative. Pym’s miniaturization technology using his namesake “Pym particles” enabled SHIELD operatives to conceal arms caches, safe-houses, dead drops, and other materials.

    However, when SHIELD was outed to the public after Operation Gladio, Pym came to realize how widespread the Avengers Initiative and his involvement with SHIELD was. Prior to this, like all Avengers cells he was unaware of how large SHIELD was or that there were other Avengers teams, and he was morally outraged at how large and widespread the Initiative was, and how his technology was being used.

    Pym became a recluse, and his company fell into the hands of his protege, Darren Cross. In the past 20 years, Cross has re-branded the company. He has been unable to properly reproduce or market the true properties of Pym particles (a secret that Dr. Pym took with him in his seclusion), much to this consternation.

    SHIELD has been trying to maintain a working relationship with Dr. Cross, but he has mental health issues and distrusts SHIELD. Attempts to contact Dr. Pym have failed. His wife, the former Avenger Janet Van Dyne, is MIA.

    qlGmSdP.pngAdvanced Idea Mechanics
    AbKa5TP.png

    AIM started as a Silicon Valley think-tank company in the 1990s by Aldrich Killian. They were part of the notorious “dot-com bubble,” one of the companies that gained notoriety and fame quickly but actually produced very little.

    After the bubble burst, AIM endured, but restructured itself as a defense contractor focusing on bleeding edge technology. With Stark Industries getting out of the weapons manufacturing game directly, AIM has become DARPA’s new darling.

    There are suspicions that AIM may have affiliations with criminal enterprises. More investigation is needed.

    The Hammer reps are uncrating something that looks like power-armor suits, and setting them up for display.

    Miles begins committing everything he sees to video.

    The AIM guys, wearing yellow hazmat looking suits, are just standing around a silver box with translucent plastic on a podium like it's very important.

    The two guys from Cross Technologies also appear to be setting up a power armor suit of some kind.

    Also there's a bunch of dudes in black body armor standing around the guy in the trenchcoat and Crossbones. They don't seem to have any "stuff" with them. They are armed to the teeth, though.

    1xzQWtPl.png

    Elise takes a seat, asks for a drink of water, and sits there just to be a living absorber of information. Since she's pretty badly banged up it's very plausible for her to sit there nicely and observe with her enhanced senses.

    Miles takes up position behind his primaries. Michael follows suit, keeping an eye on the exits and everyone present but especially Crossbones.

    Julian sweeps the crowd, quickly skimming thoughts for any potential points of interest to capitalize on.

    The Colonel takes a seat at a large conference table that Elise is already sitting down at in the center of the hangar. "Please, may the representatives for each party sit down."

    Reps from Hammer, Cross, and AIM take seats.

    "Harmon will be here soon, but in the meantime, I need to be impressed. The Goblin People from OsCorp have already impressed me. Hammer men, what do you have?"

    Elise smiles at the other representatives, still not speaking, letting the bruises on her neck speak for her. Hopefully, that, combined with "impressing" the Colonel, will put them on edge.

    The Hammer reps immediately launch into their sales pitch, for their new line of "Melter" class plasma-weapon power armors. Which, they claim, can defeat Iron Man and the Avengers with their plasma weapons that can fire beams that "exceed the core temperature of the sun."

    Vlad logs the specs of the Melter.

    The Colonel feigns being impressed, but Elise can tell he doesn't give a shit. He calls on AIM next, and they begin to offer a "advanced warfighter battlefield computer solution that..." and he's like "What is it?" and they techno-babble more at him.

    The Colonel gets impatient and asks for them to explain it more simply. They try, and it sounds like a kind of war computer that analyses battle data?

    The Colonel shoots one of the yellow-suited AIM guys out of frustration. Most of the people there don't even react. Like it's just a normal thing.

    Vlad begins to scan the object.

    THE OBJECT SCANS VLADIMIR.

    Vladimir is too much for the machine, and counter-hacks. He obtains.... files. Most of them encrypted beyond his current capabilities to analyse, he'd have to really get into it later. He did get one set of images and plans out of it, though. They describe a project called “M.O.D.O.C.”

    The device shuts Vladimir out and defensively shuts itself down. The remaining AIM guys don't seem to notice.

    Vladimir realizes the box isn't even the computer, it's just a remote connection point for... the actual machine.

    The Cross representatives go next, showing off their new Yellowjacket power armor.

    FspkmYVl.png

    Using a form of energy they called "Cross Particles™", the Yellowjacket armor can shrink to the size of an insect. They attempt to demonstrate this, with one of the reps getting into the armor and activating it.

    The armor shrinks, but he doesn't. It's...it's not pretty.

    Elise, at this point, has gone absolutely pale and looks barely conscious. Standing behind her, Miles keeps swallowing but can't seem to keep his gorge down.

    The Colonel offers Elise a drink, and puts a hand on her shoulder. "If you need to go, it is okay. The men can speak for you."

    She shakes her head, offering a tight smile. She's the leader. And that means she has to be here through every...gory...incident.

    Being the leader fucking sucks!

    "THESE TOYS ARE PATHETIC, HERR COLONEL."

    The voice, coming from the bulky man in the trench-coat, is electronically modified, loud, and heavily accented. German? Swiss? Something like that.

    The man sits down, removing his hat and pulling his jacket back. A green screen in his chest lights up, and you realize his face is.... oh god, is he some kind of robot?

    UMH97RYl.png

    "MY NAME IS DOCTOR ARNIM ZOLA. I AM ONE OF THE GREATEST SCIENTISTS TO HAVE EVER LIVED. I CREATED THE ORIGINAL SUPER-SOLDIER, OF WHICH ALL OTHER ARE CHEAP COPIES."

    So, here's the thing, since he name-dropped himself. Dr. Arnim Zola is a HYDRA scientist. He was the HYDRA scientist during WWII. He created Red Skull.

    He's also... dead?

    At least as far as SHIELD knows.

    SHIELD actually snatched Zola during Operation Paperclip after the war, when all the runaway Nazis got snagged and put to work for the Western powers against the Soviets. According to SHIELD official info, Zola died in his sleep in the 70's of a heart attack and his body was cremated.

    This person, if he's Arnim Zola, is over a hundred years old. And is a Nazi mad scientist.

    Everyone who was a part of SHIELD knows who Zola is immediately, as does Miles; he's a WWII history nerd and Zola is a very popular figure amongst the History Channel Nazi Aliens set of dudes. Everyone else at the conference also seems to know who Zola is. And are visibly uncomfortable.

    One of the Hammer reps steps up from the table "Whoa hey, hold on, this is a HYDRA thing? Nobody told me HYDRA would be here. This isn't our thing. We're out."

    Crossbones puts a gauntleted fist on the Hammer rep's shoulder, and stares at him. He sits back down.

    Elise tries to shut out the gore and ringing in her ears from the gunshot and the smell of the alcohol at the table and focuses on Zola.

    Vlad turns to the doctor. "I and the world had thought you dead, how can this be?"

    Zola pivots, turning to face Vladimir. "DEATH IS MEANINGLESS TO ARNIM ZOLA. I AM IMMORTAL. THROUGH DIGITALIZATION, I HAVE CONQUERED DEATH ITSELF. EVEN THIS CRUDE FRAME IS NOT THE TRUE ARNIM ZOLA, IT IS SIMPLY THE MANIFESTATION OF MY BRILLIANCE THAT I PERMIT YOU TO BE IN AUDIENCE OF."

    "Digitalization?" Michael asks.

    "THE HUMAN MIND IS A CRUDE COMPUTER OF FLESH AND NEURONS. ELECTRICAL SIGNALS FORM A PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE THAT, LIKE ANY OTHER, CAN BE UNDERSTOOD. DATA CAN BE TRANSFERRED TO A MEDIUM THAT IS ETERNAL."

    "Shouldn't that be digitization?" adds Miles.

    Elise stares at Miles.

    "ENGLISH IS A CRUDE LANGUAGE THAT I ONLY DIGNIFY SO THAT YOU MAY UNDERSTAND WHAT NEEDS TO BE UNDERSTOOD," Zola shouts at Miles.

    "Oh. Okay," mumbles Miles.

    Elise realizes, horrifyingly enough, that a robot Nazi does not drink, eat, sweat, show physical signs of weakness, or poop. The reasons she loves Vlad....make her helpless against Zola!

    The Colonel interjects. "What do you have to offer my country, Mr. Zola?"

    "DOCTOR ZOLA."

    "...Dr. Zola."

    Elise texts Vlad under the table: "this guy sux :poop emoji: "

    "I AM MONITORING ALL WIRELESS ACTIVITY. YOU ARE THE ONE WHO IS INFERIOR AND FECAL-LIKE." Zola slams a claw down on the table in Elise's direction.

    Elise jumps in her chair, nearly dropping her phone, horrified. Does he have no weakness?!

    Vlad persists in his questioning. "I need to know more."

    But the Colonel stands up, visibly tense. "Please, please, friends. Let's focus here. What do you have for us, Dr. Zola?"

    "NOTHING LESS THAN SUPERIOR WARRIORS, NOT DEPENDENT ON POWERED ARMOR THAT MAY FAIL."

    The Colonel sits back down, rubbing his hands together and grinning. "Now, we're talking. What kind of super-soldiers can you give us?"

    "BEHOLD, THE EFFECTS OF HYPERCORTISONE-D, A COMPOUND OF OUR CREATION. CROSSBONES, IF YOU WOULD PLEASE."

    Crossbones grabs the Hammer rep who had wanted to leave, forces his head to the table, and injects something into the back of his neck.

    The man protests, and then goes limp, seemingly unconscious. Dead?

    Then he jolts upright, as if awakened from a nightmare.

    He looks around the room, startled.

    Elise can hear his heartbeat. It's triple what a normal person should have even if terrified. He should be fucking dead.

    Phoenix reads the man's surface thoughts.

    ohgodwhatdidtheydotomewhatisgoingonwhatiswrongwithmyheartamidyingamideadisthishellohmygodibeticouldpunchaholerightthroughthatguy

    The guy stands up from the table. Looks at Crossbones.

    And punches him clear across the room.

    "Holy shit!" The Colonel yells.

    Crossbones seems to roll with it, his exoskeleton taking the blow, but he looks winded.

    The Hammer rep looks around the room, wild-eyed. "What... what did you do to me?"

    "WE HAVE IMPROVED YOU."

    "Holy shit... holy shit...."

    Elise notices that his vital signs are just flying all over the place wildly. His skin is reacting in hives, although it's hard for anyone else to see because he's wearing a suit, Elise notices. He's having a horrific immune reaction.

    But nobody notices yet.

    Elise stands up, knocking her drink over for maximum drama.

    "You're created a potent weapon, Mr. Zola." she says. "Potent at destroying the body of its host."

    The Colonel looks over at Elise, an eyebrow raised.

    Elise points at the Hammer rep. "Remove that man's shirt! Show that he's having an immune reaction! Combined with that heart rate, and the adrenaline, he's seconds away from death!"

    "I am not! I feel fucking awesome! I feel like a GOD!" the rep yells.

    The Colonel directs two Eaglestar mercs to do as Elise says. They approach the man, and he yells "Get away from me!" He grabs one man by the face, and just sorta mashes his head in his hands like it was putty.

    "...oh.... oh god.... I...." he stares at the gore in his hands. "I didn't mean to.... Oh Jesus...."

    The other merc yells "WEAPONS FREE! WEAPONS FREE!" and backs up and opens fire on the Hammer rep. The bullets hit the man, tearing through his shirt, but seem to just sort of... embed themselves in his skin.

    "please... I didn't..."

    The Colonel just sits, watching with his fingers steepled. Crossbones walks over and stands at Zola's side.

    Zola turns to the Colonel. "THE DOSAGE WAS LOW. IT WILL WEAR OFF IN MOMENTS."

    The Hammer rep mutters "...what?" Before he visibly shudders, leaning on the table for support.

    Elise is horrified and stands there, not sure what to say or do.

    The Eaglestar merc opens up another volley, this time killing the Hammer rep.

    "YOU SEE, THE DOSAGE IS CONTROLLED SO THAT YOUR SOLDIERS ARE DEPEN-" and the Colonel puts his hand up to Zola's chest.

    As if to say, enough.

    "Put him up on the table, and remove his shirt,” the Colonel says to Michael and Miles. "The body. Do it."

    Miles nods and complies, trying to keep his face impassive. Michael bends in to help.

    They remove his shirt, and among the bullet holes are hives and lesions that were rapidly forming.

    The Colonel nods to Elise. "What is this, Zola? What good is a super soldier serum that poisons my men?"

    "ONLY A SMALL PERCENTAGE OF HUMANITY IS COMPLETELY ALLERGIC TO THE HYPERCORTISONE. CLEARLY THIS INDIVIDUAL WAS AN UNTERMENSCH. A GENETICALLY SUPERIOR INDIVIDUAL WOULD BE-...."

    "Enough." A firm voice speaks from the other side of the hangar, from a man emerging from one of the side rooms.

    It's Harmon.

    Elise sits.

    "I've been watching this entire ridiculous circus the entire time. You people have not impressed me. These weapons are not toys to play games with the Avengers. I need weapons to secure this country's borders and future."

    The Colonel begins to speak "Davis, the Goblin Serum, I think that..."

    "No. The Goblin Serum turned Norman Osborn into a madman. I had hoped some rogue OsCorp representatives would be bringing me something new, not the poison pill that killed Norman's empire. We'll take the Hammer suits, at least they work, right? Fine. Get the rest of these people out of here, Abdul."

    Phoenix scans Harmon’s mind. The Eaglestar CEO nineteen different passwords of varying degrees of strength, with hash sequences and the like. And now Phoenix has them too, and soon, so will SHIELD.

    Elise stands. "We'll - take our leave. Thank you for the hospitality and..." she trails off.

    "NO." Zola says flatly. "I DO NOT ACCEPT THIS."

    "THIS SCHLAMPE AND HER UNTERMENSCHEN WILL NOT UNDERMINE THE PERFECTION OF THE HYPERCORTISONE. YOU WILL ACCEPT THE BRILLIANCE OF MY DESIGN."

    "...yeah, no." Harmon says flatly.

    "NO ONE SAYS NO TO HYDRA. TO ARNIM ZOLA."

    "Get out of my country," Harmon says to Zola. The Colonel mouths 'your country?' to Harmon in a confused and sort of annoyed way.

    Zola looks at Elise. "THIS IS YOUR FAULT, SCHLAMPE. YOU HAVE MADE A POWERFUL ENEMY THIS DAY. ARNIM ZOLA NEVER FORGETS A FACE."

    "Yeah, well, you're a fucking TV from the '80s." Elise flips him off with both hands.

    He points his claw at Elise, then at the screen on his chest. Then at Elise again. It's...it's hard to know what he's trying to convey? The Colonel looks at him. Confused.

    Zola yells "CROSSBONES" and then Crossbones does the 'I'm watching you' gesture at Elise.

    "Yeah?!" Elise shouts, fired up. "Well you look like a knockoff Halloween costume I'd pick up for $20, asshole!"

    The Colonel gets up from the table, with his eyebrows raised and a look on his face like "I'm getting the fuck out of here" and starts walking.

    Elise is still going. “Hire a costume designer!"

    "TROLLOP, YOU ARE SO POOR AT BASIC PERSONAL COMPORTMENT YOU ARE UNABLE TO CONCEAL THE BRUISES YOU RECEIVE FROM THE HUSBAND WHO STRIKES YOU FOR BEING A NEGLIGENT HOUSEWIFE."

    Crossbones puts his hand on Zola's shoulder and mutters. "Doctor, please, we can go."
    Crossbones looks at Myrmidon and shakes his head at him.

    "Ma'am, we still have that two o'clock appointment...." Miles puts his hand on Elise's shoulder.

    "ACTUALLY, I'M GAY, WHICH I CAN BE BECAUSE THE NAZIS LOST -" Elise can't really stop Miles from gently pulling her away. "AND YOU LOST BECAUSE YOU A BIIIiiiiiitttttccchh -"

    Vlad looks coldly a Zola. "Feigling."

    Miles nods and keeps tugging. "Ma'am, he is a bitch, but we should go."

    Elise throws up her hands. "Fine!!!"

    Crossbones lifts Zola up from his chair as he switches to German and starts shouting at Elise. Crossbones looks over at Myrmidon and shrugs like “man i don't know.”

    As Elise turns to leave, Miles straightens himself out and buttons his bottom button. He nods assent at Crossbones.

    Zola and Crossbones leave. The rest of the representatives clean up their presentations.

    In the parking lot of the hangar, the Colonel is waiting with a humvee, his hands on his hips.

    "So.... that could have gone better! But hey, nobody who mattered died! So that's okay. Sorry about coming all this way for nothing. I will talk to Harmon. I still think Goblin soldiers are fucking cool." The Colonel seems genuinely apologetic? He actually wanted Goblin soldiers and is bummed that it didn't work out.

    Julian nods. "Well, at least we have that."

    "I'd like a drink, please." says Elise.

    "That I can do!" The Colonel directs Vladimir on where to get Elise a stiff drink, before escorting everyone into a humvee. "These gentlemen will give you a ride back to Najaf. I have to see to things with Harmon and the Hammer people."

    "Good luck," Michael says.

    The team drives back to Najaf, and from there is able to leave Aqiria uneventfully with the Colonel's blessing. Izzy Kane meets up with them in Baghdad and flies them back to Manhattan.

    On the ride back Vlad ponders the information he has gained, the insane Nazi he’s met, and his claims of digital immortality. Is such a thing even possible?

    PHU1KZN.png
    Matt had prepared a big free-for-all throwdown at the meeting. Nobody expected the climax of the session to be Elise and a robot Nazi screeching schoolyard insults at each other. I certainly hadn’t expected to end up trading sympathetic gestures of exasperation with *Crossbones.*

    And yet here we are. “Digitalization” (pronounced, of course, “Dee-gital-eye-zay-shun”) became a running gag with us for about a year.

    Matt showed the log of this session to a friend of his who is a very serious Marvel guy, who gave up on it, proclaiming that we were too silly.

    And I mean, we’re pretty silly, but as a Marvel guy myself, I felt like a kid in the Willy Wonka factory getting to play a game that had Abner Jenkins and AIM and Arnim Zola in week 1.

    And the exciting hints of what’s to come! Hypercortisone-D! M.O.D.O.C.! Even if I hadn’t enjoyed the prologue session as much as I had, I would be fully in the tank by this point.

    And the good news is that everything you’ve just read pays off. Read on and see.

    r2C6Mbd.png

    Jacobkosh on
  • FencingsaxFencingsax It is difficult to get a man to understand, when his salary depends upon his not understanding GNU Terry PratchettRegistered User regular
    edited August 30
    So far, this is really fucking cool. Only thing missing is a thaumaturge intern on loan from The Ancient One.

    Edit:I do not know why the he is expressed as an ellipsis

    Fencingsax on
    torchlight-sig-80.jpg
    JacobkoshironsizideMatev
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Fencingsax wrote: »
    Edit:I do not know why the he is expressed as an ellipsis

    phones help us communicate better! :razz:

    Fencingsax
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 1
    6c5cvDr.png

    KTexlSN.png

    STRIKE Team One are assembled in the Crypt by STRIKE Director Clay Quartermain. It's been a few days since the op in Aqiria.

    "Alright team, we've done a bit of follow-up on the Aqiria op,” Clay begins.

    "First of all, good job on the op in general. It was a smooth mission, by the books. The only time you went loud is when you were ambushed by our contact in Baghdad, and to be honest that was COMMS who dropped the ball on not doing enough background checking on Calloway. We should have seen that treachery coming.

    "I had COMMS look into whose payroll Calloway and the Beetle were really on when they decided to screw us. Turns out, a series of accounts linked to HYDRA was behind the pay-off. Seems Zola didn't want the competition of another super-soldier serum at their little show-and-tell.

    "There's no indication anyone was made. As far as HYDRA was concerned, OsCorp screwed them, and that's where any blowback will be directed. Fine by us.

    "Unfortunately, we didn't get any details on the 'white cube' that AIM was trying to pitch. The Resource failed to hack it in time before it got locked out.


    This isn’t quite true. Vlad got in, and learned about something called “M.O.D.O.C.”

    But he hasn’t told anyone that.


    "The 'Melter' power armor that Hammer was supposed to sell Eaglestar has been seized, because thanks to you, we were really able to nail Harmon and Eaglestar to the wall.

    "The password information you obtained allowed us to get every dirty secret, every laundered dollar, that Eaglestar had cooking. It turns out while Harmon himself wasn't as sleazy as we might have thought, he was paranoid enough to keep dirt on everyone in Eaglestar who was as blackmail fodder.

    "Eaglestar's being swiftly bankrupted, their board of directors arrested, their assets in Luxembourg seized. This will destabilize Aqiria, as they were the de facto Aqirian military, but that's a coalition forces problem, not us.

    "That idiot President the yanks elected wants to talk a big game about bringing America back to being ‘the only superpower that matters’, he can deal with the Aqirian mess."

    Elise’s - Anteater’s - hand shoots up. "Commander Clay, sir?"

    "Yes, Agent Arnell.”

    Elise: "I'm just wondering, with this spectacularly successful op, who's listed as The Leader on it?"

    "According to the official reports, you were listed as the team field lead, having assumed the role of your own initiative and being permitted to remain so by your team. Given that your first op was such a success, I've decided to permit this to continue, Agent Arnell.

    "I specifically opted not to assign an individual team lead on your first op. I wanted to see who rose to the occasion, and if they succeeded. You did. Good job."

    Elise leans back in her chair, hands behind her head, and grins at the team. "Wooooooooooow." She really draws it out.

    "You did well kid." Michael Westin, aka Behemoth, gives her a thumbs up.

    The corners of Miles Mason’s, aka Myrmidon’s, mouth turn upward but he says nothing, drumming his fingers on the table instead.

    Clay continues.

    "There was one really troublesome matter from the Aqiria op, and that was the appearance of HYDRA and, supposedly, Arnim Zola himself. I'm skeptical that was the real Zola, given that it was clearly some kind of remote-operated drone with a heavily synthesized voice. I was present at Zola's funeral. I saw them put his ashes in the ground. Arnim Zola is dead, so far as we're concerned. We are going to treat this individual claiming to be Zola as a serious threat nonetheless."

    Miles: "He seemed pretty unstable for a genius mastermind."

    "He seemed like a little bitch," Elise adds.

    Clay nods to Miles. "Yes, he did. If he is genuinely Zola, he's likely senile and insane. Nonetheless, it's deeply disconcerting that HYDRA is apparently shopping out dimestore-super-soldier serums to terrorists, rogue states, and PMCs. I kicked this up the chain to Director Fury, and he had the Avengers hit a HYDRA base in Norway a couple days ago.

    "They obtained a sample of this 'Hypercortisone-D' and we've had the lab folk looking over it. I'm going to let Dr. Solomon take it from here."

    Dr. Rosalind Solomon, a SHIELD MED doctor assigned to STRIKE as its chief medical officer and also a biochemist, speaks up.

    p1jWHma.png

    SsWsd5k.png Dr. Rosalind Solomon
    Chief Medical Consultant, STRIKE
    Clearance Level:

    Dr. Rosalind “Roz” Solomon was recruited from AIM, where she was actually an Environmental Scientist. However, AIM was wasting her talents, and SHIELD offered her significant increases in pay and the ability to use her talents to investigate new frontiers of biochemistry and the impact of extranormal phenomenon on biology. She took the offer, and has been working for SHIELD for two years.

    Roz is more than STRIKE’s on-staff doctor (although she does serve the function of the highest ranking medical personnel at STRIKE HQ). She is also the chief medical and biochemical researcher for STRIKE, analyzing extranormal biological and chemical materials that STRIKE may encounter.

    Roz explains, using a holographic display of complex chemical molecules, "This is what HYDRA is calling Hypercortisone-D. Most of it is just a bunch of fast-acting steroids and junk."

    "But there's two chemicals of note. One is Technetium-42, a mildly radioactive element that so far as we can tell is used as a tracer if you have the correctly attuned scanner. Someone with this stuff in them can be tracked with the right kind of instruments."

    Miles leans forward interestedly, steepling his fingers underneath his chin.

    "The other is an unknown substance that we've seen before, a crystalline element that we've labelled 'Isotope-8'. Iso-8 is... weird.

    "That's a scientific term.

    "It binds to and alters the DNA in ways we don't fully understand. It requires incredibly tiny amounts to affect a full-grown adult human. It doesn't correspond to any element on the periodic table. Not even theoretical ones.

    "We've seen iso-8 before. A few months ago, a new street drug started popping up around the US, seems to be stemming from here in New York. It's called 'Kick', and it seems to contain the same elements of Iso-8 and Technetium-42, but otherwise is a completely different chemistry.

    "Kick is an inhalant, as opposed to HCD which is injected.

    "The stuff on the street looks almost like asthma inhalers.

    "Kick gives the user a brief boost of strength, endurance, speed. It also gives them a euphoric sense of power, which they can kinda back up?

    "It's fortunately pretty pricey, outside the range of most street users, sort of in the 80's cocaine realm of drugs for rich white people.

    "What's key here is we don't think HYDRA is the one manufacturing HCD or Kick. Someone else is. We haven't found any labs, data, or anything else to suggest this is a HYDRA product. Instead, they seem to be buying off someone else."

    Elise: "What's it smell like?"

    Rosalind: “...I... I don't know?"

    Elise: "...Do you have any I can smell?"

    Rosalind: "That's potentially very dangerous! It's an inhaled drug."

    Elise: "But I'm the snuffler. I snuffle things out. That's why my code name was Anteater!"
    Elise: "I've petitioned to change it to The Snuffler."

    "Petition remains declined." Clay speaks up.

    Elise: "This job fucking sucks!"

    Miles' eyes crinkle with amusement. Julian Adler, aka Phoenix, is leaning forward in his seat, silently laughing as he hides his face behind his hand.

    Dr. Solomon gives Clay a confused look. Clay says to her "Roz, see if you can safely neutralize the iso-8 in a batch that you have, so Agent Arnell can get a whiff. It's potentially useful if she can literally sniff this stuff out."

    Elise waggles her fingers at Clay's back and whispers. "The Snuffler."

    Roz furrows her brow "That's not... we barely understand how iso-8 works I don't...."

    Clay sighs and looks at Elise "If I can't have 'Cat-Herder' as a code-name you don't get to have the Snuffler."

    "Well, at least I'm not the only one making sacrifices." Elise appears mollified.

    Clay shrugs at Roz "See what you can do. Consider it a mission asset."

    Roz sighs and continues. "We do have a potential lead on where Kick is being manufactured, at least locally, because we know of one significant bust of a local crime syndicate selling the stuff."

    Clay speaks up. "This is where you guys are coming in, because now it gets all messy. On American soil, getting a little 'War on Drugs' messy. The individual who made the bust wasn't one of our guys or law enforcement. It was a local vigilante that we have a sort of... 'it's complicated' relationship status with."

    "His name is Luke Cage." Clay brings up Luke's file on the team’s tablets:

    qlGmSdP.png Luke Cage
    cxoZ1SK.png

    Documented extranormal capabilities: Cage’s skin is difficult to penetrate, holding up against knives, bullets, industrial tools, and even high-temperature cutting torches. It also protects him against most blunt-force trauma, although things like a gun fired directly against the side of his head can give him a concussion. Cage also exhibits some degree of low-level superhuman strength, able to punch through walls and lift cars off the ground with some degree of effort.

    Luke Cage was an inmate in federal prison when he was offered an opportunity to reduce his sentence if he agreed to participate in a Super-Soldier program that was being covertly operated at the time.

    The program was illegal, and the inmates were not giving full informed consent to the procedure and were unaware of its potential side effects. Most of the test subjects died, went insane, or had horrific physical deformities. Luke alone had the desired outcomes, but only after an extended period of ill health as his body adjusted to the treatment. By the time he had manifested his abilities, the program had been uncovered and shut down, and Cage had been offered a pardon as an apology for his treatment.

    Cage kept quiet about his abilities for years, and it was only in the last few years that SHIELD learned about him. He has been contacted and offered a position with both the Avengers and later STRIKE, and has declined both times to live as a private citizen. He does, on occasion, use his abilities to defend his neighborhood from criminal activities and he assists his girlfriend Jessica Jones in her casework, but he declines to conceal his identity or wear a costume while doing so.

    SHIELD keeps a respectful distance from Cage and his activities, with the hopes that one day he can be persuaded to join the agency.

    "Cage is a ‘kid gloves' situation. SHIELD has a long-term plan for the man if we can get in his good graces, so you can't fuck this up.

    "If Director Fury wasn't personally busy with other matters he'd likely attend to meeting with him, as he's got something of a rapport with Cage.

    "Meet with Cage, find out what he knows about Kick and the bust he did a few months ago and if he can point you in the right direction.

    "If he offers to help, fantastic. Accept it. But don't try to pressure him, we don't want him against us and we want his help in the future.

    "Meeting with Cage doesn't necessarily have to be a full-team operation, once you have actionable intelligence then it's time to mobilize. Agent Arnell, as the team lead I'll leave it to you to delegate who will meet with Cage.

    "Come back to me with intel on Kick and HCD and iso-8. Anything of use.”

    Elise: "So, hypothetically, if one of us were to take Kick, that'd be like, super bad, right?"

    Miles rubs his chin, suddenly uncomfortable.

    Clay looks over at Anteater. "Unless you have a justifiable reason to use dangerous synthetic narcotics while on the clock, Agent Arnell, I'd caution against it.

    "Gear up as you need to. Keep in mind that while Cage does interact with SHIELD on a casual basis, he's not a SHIELD agent and has no security clearance. You should probably use photostatic veils and false identities when speaking to him to preserve op-sec, unless in your judgment that level of deception could potentially be tipped off and damage his trust. In a priority assessment, maintaining Cage's trust and faith in SHIELD as a whole is more important than your secret identities.

    "Cage bucks the trend of a lot of his super-powered vigilante compatriots. No mask, no flashy code-name, no costume. At most, he's known for a particular black and yellow hoodie.

    "So he might appreciate the low-key, 'real' approach."

    Myrmidon raises his hand. "What kind of cover are we going with? Basic law enforcement or something else?"

    Clay: "SHIELD OPS agents. Cage... doesn't care for cops."
    Clay: "He's somewhat lukewarm to us as an agency."

    "I THOUGHT HE WAS LUKE CAGE!" Elise blurts out.

    Clay pinches the bridge of his nose. "...anyway."
    "You have your assignment. Agent Arnell still has lead on this one. For now."

    Elise: "Okay, guys. Who wants to talk to Luke Cage. I, as The Leader, am taking volunteers."

    Julian: "I'll come along. I can at least make sure we don't piss him off."

    Elise: "Well, I guess it's just you and me, Birdman. I'm going to go too."
    "Vlad, Mason, Mike, why don't you guys find us a hotel or some shit."
    "Get us all settled in and base camped."

    Julian: "Why find a hotel when we have such lovely accommodations here?" Julian makes a sweeping gesture with a slight grin.

    Roz adds, "Cage is currently working as a bouncer at a nightclub in Harlem. If you leave in a couple hours you'll probably catch him just as he's starting for the night."

    Elise: "It's literally called the Crypt."
    "I can smell that some dude peed himself here a few hours ago in interrogation."
    "THERE IS AN OWL MAN NEXT DOOR."

    Miles shrugs. "it beats the sandbox."

    Elise: "HE POOPS PELLETS."

    Julian: "Hey, let's not discriminate. ...Hm. You have X-Ray vision, too?"

    Elise's phone buzzes.

    She has a text from the contact listed as OWL FACE GUY
    "Rude"
    "I can report you to HR."


    Elise taps out a reply: a mouse emoji and a skull emoji.

    Clay adds over his shoulder as he's walking over to the coffee machine, "By the by, Agent Arnell, if your full team isn't going to meet with Cage, I have a secondary objective for them."

    Myrmidon perks up. "Yeah?"

    Clay: "There's one other lead on the Kick bust, Cage worked with another guy on this one. From time to time the local vigilantes team up. But standing orders are to leave him be unless absolutely necessary. I am not super confident that the Cage meet is going to go 100% our way. It's a coin-flip on whether Cage tells us to go fuck ourselves, especially if it's not Fury personally talking to him."
    "So, we're just going to... claim operational necessity on this one if Director Fury casts his monocular gaze on this one later. I need one or two of you, tops, to go speak to Peter Parker."

    qlGmSdP.png Spider-Man
    OBbXgFj.jpg

    CLASSIFIED INFORMATION
    LEVEL 6 ACCESS REQUIRED: GRANTED
    Real name:
    Peter Parker
    Documented extranormal capabilities: Superhuman strength, agility, and response speed. Able to adhere to any surface, even sheer surfaces like glass. Uses a potent webbing mixture of his own design to disable opponents. Advanced chemical and engineering expertise.

    Peter Parker is a high school student in New York City, who moonlights as the costumed vigilante known as Spider-Man. SHIELD field agents tracked him down and obtained his identity earlier this year, and had Tony Stark initiate contact. It’s not clear how exactly he came to possess his extranormal abilities, and he will not elaborate further when he was being debriefed.

    Parker is a minor, so at this time SHIELD is simply monitoring his activities and considering him as a possible candidate for the Avengers.

    Contact with him should be avoided unless he is presently in danger and in need of assistance.

    "Oh, it's cool to point out Fury has one eye, but if I point out other obvious features on other people, I get HR threats." Elise mutters at her seat.

    Clay: "Parker and Cage worked together on the Kick bust. Parker might be a bit more forthcoming, but you also have to be more... delicate."

    Elise glances at the file. "Oh my God he's like four years old."

    "Yes." Clay finishes pouring his coffee and continues talking as he sits down, looking over a tablet of reports. "Parker needs a really deft hand. Best approach is to tell him you're SHIELD agents who want to debrief him on the Kick bust, and tell him it's related to his provisional Avengers membership. The kid is crazy for the idea of joining the Avengers.

    "It's not going to happen while he's a minor, but he gets to feel like he's a 'provisional member'. It's like the first season of TNG, when they gave Wesley Crusher a meaningless uniform and nothing job to make him feel good."

    Miles stares at Clay.

    Clay sips his coffee. To anyone else, it's a normal sip. To Elise, it's like nails on a chalkboard. When she visibly winces and can't help but side-eye Clay, she catches the tiniest micro-expression of joy before he assumes his regular stone-faced demeanor.

    Behemoth: "I'll help talk with this Parker kid, see what he knows and butter him up to join our super-secret club."

    Clay nods at Michael.

    Elise glares at Clay. "That leaves Vlad and Miles."
    "Do you guys want to talk to the wee baby?"

    Clay throws a knowing wink at Miles' stare before resuming reports on his tablet.

    V.L.A.D.I.M.I.R., the robotic Resource, nods. "I will assist with the minor."

    "'A webbing formula of his own design’," Miles reads from the tablet. "This kid is a science nerd. Vlad and I can flash him a bit of high-tech razzle-dazzle, pique his interest."

    The team heads to the armory to get geared up. Miles takes the standard SHIELD agent package. He dons a middle-tier white shirt and tie over dark slacks, straps an ICER and shoulder holster on, and tops it off with a jacket. He surreptitiously takes a second ICER and a clip for it as well. Just in case.

    qlGmSdP.png ICER
    tlR8UHH.png

    The Incapacitating Cartridge Emitting Railgun (ICER) was created as a less-than-lethal option by SCI-TECH. It magnetically fires a dendrotoxin payload designed to immediately incapacitate a full-grown human adult with one shot, even through clothing.

    ICERs are fairly safe, although if used against someone who is especially weak or small in size they are possibly fatal. It is possible to kill with ICERs if they are used repeatedly on the same target in a short period of time (more than half a dozen shots), as the dendrotoxin will build up and stop the nervous system.

    Against extranormal targets, one or two shots may not immediately incapacitate and a field agent may be reluctant to fire again, for fear that repeated shots may kill the target due to delayed onset of the dendrotoxin. The agent is reminded to use their best judgment and trust their instincts, and decide if preserving the life of the extranormal target is worth the risk to their own life or the lives of others. ICERs are a useful LTL tool for SHIELD agents but lethal force is still sometimes a requirement to resolve a crisis situation.

    Michael also dons his best G-Man suit and shades.

    Elise dresses like Elise - raggy black shirt, winged skull and lightning bolt tattoos visible, and hair gloriously pink and green. She opts to bring her combat pistol but she's otherwise going undisguised.

    Julian is going unarmed and dressed to the nines, proper nightclub attire.

    Elise: "We can take the van!"
    "I love my van, and now you all get to see it! I sleep in it most nights!"
    "I'll drop you guys off, it'll be great, c'mon!"

    Clay's eyes widen and he looks up from his tablet.
    He goes to say something
    Victoria Hand, seemingly from nowhere, is behind him.
    "I think that's a great idea, Elise."

    NgarQBY.png

    SsWsd5k.png Victoria Hand
    Director, COMMS
    Codename: Libra
    Security Level: 9

    Often called “Fury’s Left Hand” (although never to her face), Victoria Hand runs SHIELD COMMS. She is the third-most knowledgeable individual in SHIELD (after Fury and Deputy Director Hill), overseeing all global communications that SHIELD monitors and all forms of cyber-warfare and counter-warfare that SHIELD engages in. A former field agent, Hand knows “the game” better than anyone except perhaps Fury himself, and while Hill may be the Deputy Director, many suspect that when Fury eventually steps down (or dies) that it will be Hand, and not Hill, who takes over SHIELD.

    Clay is startled like he's been snuck up on.

    Victoria smiles with just her mouth and not her eyes. "I think if Director Quartermain feels that COMMS really dropped the ball in Aqiria, that as a representative of COMMS you can be trusted to lead the op on your own judgment." She puts her hand, gently, on Clay's shoulder. He is visibly unnerved.

    Elise has super senses. She should absolutely detect all of this.
    She does not, because she's so excited about The Van.

    Vlad smiles at Hand "Always good seeing you, Madam."

    Miles: "Is this like...an A-Team van, or something? Does it fly?"

    Elise: "Oh, man, I've absolutely felt like I was flying in there some nights. Because of the drugs. You'll see! It's a surprise!!!"

    "I don't like surprises," Miles murmurs, gazing at his robot hand.

    Hand nods at Vladimir. "Vladimir. I was informed you performed quite well on your last operation. I'm pleased."

    Vlad: "As am I then, Madam"

    "Miss Hand Miss Hand Miss Hand Miss Hand." Elise gets distracted enough from the Van to talk to Victoria. "I was the Leader."

    Victoria: "Yes, I read, Elise."

    Elise: "And I've been showering twice a week even when I don't need it."

    Victoria: "I'm very proud of you both, as COMMS agents."
    "I have something for you, Elise."

    Julian: "Don't you like, smell yourself?"

    Elise: "Yeah. All the fucking time. And I smell you too, buddy."

    Hand reaches into her pocket and hands Elise something. Elise reaches for it with a childlike grin of enthusiasm.

    It's a coupon book for a variety of different local fast food joints. "I thought you would like this."

    Elise: "It's perfect!"

    Victoria: "Vladimir, I've had Archimedes set up a private resource fund for your usage. I understand that you're not officially on the payroll but if you're going into the field you may need spending money for various operations purposes. I allocated some of STRIKE's budget for it."

    Clay stares at her "You...you can't..."

    Victoria: "I spoke to Nicholas about it and he agreed with me, Clay.”
    "It's been done."

    Miles looks from Hand to Clay to Elise to Vladimir, a mounting confusion in his eyes. He misses the days when everyone around him was a straight white golfer in their fifties. At least then he knew where he stood.

    This is our first look at the weird backroom politics going on in the Crypt. Clay and Victoria Hand have some kind of rivalry going, and Victoria tries to use her relationship with her former employee and mentee Elise to subtly undermine Clay’s authority, both with the obvious bribe of McDonald’s coupons and by pointedly complimenting Vlad.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    "Well! I think it's time that I show you all THE VAN!" Elise chirps. "And then, we can get Jack in the Box! Because they have a four for two deal! That's such a good deal!"

    THE VAN is. Well, it is certainly a van.

    It's a gigantic van that has been carefully, amateurishly modded over the years. On one side, there's a giant mermaid airbrushed on the side, with her breasts hanging out. On the other side, a demon with three tits wields a pitchfork.

    Elise pops open the back doors and a cloud of sex stink and weed smell rolls out, so strong it's nearly visible.

    Inside is a bench with ragged seatbelts, a purple velvet chair, a guitar, and four (4) female condoms in various places.

    "Who wants shotgun?" Elise beams.

    Vladimir: "You have cleaned since last time"

    Elise: "Nick Fury said if I didn't get rid of the trash he'd put it in the incinerator."

    Julian: "Can you actually drive this on the street without violating any obscenity laws?"

    "Uh, I'm an Agent of Strike?" Elise says, like that's an answer.

    “You know, if I wanted to knock myself out right now, I could just try hopping into your..." Julian leans back against the van for a second, spasming and convulsing like he just got punched directly in the brain.
    He snaps back.
    "That's what it'd do."

    Elise: "Don't talk shit about my van, Phoenix! It's my van."

    "You're going uptown, we're headed to Queens, so I'm...going to have to take a staff car. Dang. Oh well, maybe next time," offers Miles, grabbing at the tablet to sign out the motor pool keys.

    Elise: "But the Jack in the Box deal!"

    Miles stares at her. "I eat a nutrient-rich paste," he says.

    "Well, there are a lot of coupons in here..." Elise feebly tries as the Parker team filters away from THE VAN/

    Miles climbs into a staff Lexus ES and immediately sets the air conditioner to recirculate, sealing the car from baleful outside smells.

    The group meeting Parker drives over to Queens.

    They arrive at the apartment building that Parker is supposed to be staying at. According to a brief, Parker's legal guardian, his aunt May Parker, is out of town. Peter should be by himself, making this trip a lot easier.

    In the extended brief on how to interact (or not interact) with Parker is a whole section on how to navigate talking to his aunt, who doesn't know about his super-heroics and would not approve. Apparently, there is a personal note "Avoid wheatcakes if offered" - NF

    But she's not there, so the agents can be more upfront with Peter (to an extent) about who they are and why they’re there.

    On the drive, Myrmidon hashes out their plans with Behemoth and Vlad. "In terms of approach, I'd like to hew as close to the truth as humanly - or robotly - possible. He doesn't need to know that we're a SHIELD black ops death squad, but outside of that, I'd feel like an asshole shining the kid on too hard. And I get the impression he's smart, so there's a chance we could trip over our own feet if we get too creative. Let's keep it simple and straightforward. We're the good men from the government and we're here to help. That's basically even true."

    He's kind of slipped into giving-orders mode without really realizing it.

    Vladimir: "As you wish Myrmidon"

    Behemoth: "Seems like the right play here. Though we might have to shine him on a bit, he is still a teen who wants to join The Avengers(TM).”

    They arrive at Parker’s apartment, and spend the next fourteen minutes finding a place to park because it's Queens.

    The agents go up to the unit and knock. A voice comes from the other side. It sounds...very young. "H-hey? Who is it?"

    Myrmidon: "Mr. Parker? My name is Mr. Mason. I work for your, uh, friend Mr. Fury."

    "Oh snap!" The door unlocks.

    Parker stands in the doorway. According to his file, he's 16. He looks like he's 12. This kid will be carded at every bar until he's 45. He's also nursing an injury?

    MIles tilts his head. "Everything okay?"

    Parker is wearing a tanktop and jogging pants, and is clutching an icepack to his left shoulder, covering something that's up. "Oh, yeah, yeah, just got into it with this guy."

    Myrmidon: "I know how it is. May my friends and I come in? This is Agent Vladimir and this is Agent Westin."

    Parker puts the ice pack down to extend his hand to be shaken. Radiating out from his left shoulder is a really strange-looking pattern of red marks, that almost look like electricity. Vladimir realises they're Lichtenberg figures, a specific type of injury people get from lightning strikes or other electrical injuries.

    Miles takes Parker's hand and gives it a firm but careful shake. "Pleasure."

    He grins widely. "Yeah so this guy, he had these crazy arm-blasters that shot lightning. Called himself the 'Shocker'," Peter snorts and makes a highly specific hand gesture. "That's a guy who didn't check the internet before he gave himself a supervillain name."

    Michael laughs "That is a pretty weak codename."

    "Hey, so you guys are SHIELD agents, right? Do you have codenames? Is that a thing?"


    "Just NATO field designations. Echo Charlie so on and so forth. You people in the private sector get all the fun." Miles does his best to look wistful. He does it well because he does miss the private sector sometimes.

    Parker nods. "I always figure some guy gets stuck being Agent Golf. That's gotta suck. Or Agent Hotel. That's not cool."

    "We've all gotta do our time in the trenches," MIles nods grimly.

    "Hey so what brings you guys here also do you want a drink or somethin'?"
    He rummages around in the fridge and pulls out one of those gigantic double-sized energy drink cans, cracks it open and starts chugging.

    "Thanks, but I can't drink that stuff anymore. I used to live on it," Miles says. "So we don't need anything super-urgent - we just came because we've got some questions about that drug - Kick? - that you helped bust a shipment of a while back. It turns out there's some weird stuff in the formula and the guys in the lab really want to find out where it came from. I know it's been a while, but anything you can tell us - anything you remember - might be a lead."

    "Ohhhhh yeah, yeah that was my first team-up! That was so cool. Have you guys met Mr. Cage? He's so bad-ass."

    "He's kind of antsy about authority figures, for understandable reasons, so we thought we'd ask you first," Miles says.

    "Yeah, that makes sense. Okay, so, Kick..."
    "That's bad stuff. A lot of people who take it have like an allergic reaction and die. Other people, it's like for twelve hours they're Captain America. Then they crash hard and they're like this sleepy kitten... oh man have you seen this video, I can show you it's like this..."
    He takes out his phone and starts looking through it
    "Just a sec."

    Michael gains a new power. He can feel himself aging in real-time.

    Parker pulls up a kitten video while he continues explaining.



    Vladimir: "Yes, my friend has shown me this video"

    "So yeah they crash hard. Most of the time. But like sometimes they don't? A couple people, some weeeeeiiirrrrd stuff happened to them. Like Green Goblin, Incredible Hulk weird.

    "They'd get like, this cocoon? For like a couple hours, then they'd come out and they would have crazy other powers besides the strength and speed and stuff. Like breath fire, wings, whatever.

    "I couldn't figure out why and..." he starts walking and talking into his room, and motions for the team to follow him.

    Miles looks at the others, shrugs, and follows. Michael, quietly aww-ing about the video, follows.

    "So I took some samples of the cocoon that I found from one of the guys and also some of the samples of the drug and I ran it through this lab equipment that I..." He pauses nervously. "...found out the back of some old OsCorp lab.

    "I mean I'm not a chemist or nothin' but it looked like the cocoon wasn't from the Kick, it was from their own body. The Kick... did stuff to em. Expressed latent genes? Like maybe a small percentage of people are deathly allergic, and another small percent, they turn all weird from it because of something in their DNA.

    "I dunno why."

    He's got computer and hi-tech lab equipment everywhere in his room. It's a fucking mess, but if you know what you're looking at, there's a lot going on here.

    This is probably where he synthesizes his webbing. Disguised as general teenage mess.

    He drags and drops a bunch of files, and then hands Myrmidon a USB stick. "This is the data I got on the people who got changed. I wish I had more but I never could catch the guys who got turned like that. Someone else was grabbing them first. Someone not SHIELD.

    "Mr. Cage might know more? He was gonna follow up on the guys who disappeared after using Kick."

    Miles whistles. "The people are disappearing? That's bad news, but I'm glad you told us. Director Fury is going to want to know. I'll make sure he hears who told us." He turns and lifts up some dirty laundry to read the labels on a row of Erlenmeyer flasks. "'Not a chemist,' huh? I did a demo course at Fort Leonard Wood. I know enough to know when something's out of my league. This is good work. You're going to be able to write your own ticket."

    Parker's eyes widen.
    "Really?"
    "You think... you think Mr. Fury would let me go with the Avengers on a mission?"

    "No" Vlad says flatly.

    Parker deflates
    "..oh."
    "There is one other guy who might know more."
    Parker catches himself.
    "Oh but... yeah naw he probably wouldn't be able to help."
    He puts the ice pack back on his shoulder.

    "Vlad is a cynic, but he's right," Miles says. "The Director doesn't feel good about sending a minor into fraught situations. But this is a fait accompli. It'll go in your file, and it'll be there on your record when it's time to step up." His eyebrow quirks. "Who's this other guy?"

    Behemoth agrees. "Don't listen to Agent Vladimir, he's a bit of a wet towel. You've done an impressive job with limited resources. That'll go a long way in the Director's eyes....eye"

    Miles snorts.

    "Uh... well.... I mean I'm not supposed to..." Parker seems reluctant.

    "Hey, whatever it is, I get that it must be important to you," Miles says. "Maybe you promised someone something? Maybe this person works the other side of the street and you're worried that we'll run them in? I'm going to give you my word - we're just interested in the Kick, and in stopping it from hurting anyone else. Whoever this person is, we'll treat them with kid gloves. We'll make sure they won't think less of you for sending us their way."

    "Okay... I mean he's not a bad guy. He's the opposite! He's a really good guy. See, I got this 'internship' at the Baxter Building, for the Future Foundation. I go there after school.

    "Dr. Richards thinks I can really make a difference and wants me to join the Foundation when I'm finished high school and he'll give me a grant to go to the university I want and stuff.

    "And he taught me a bunch of stuff about chemistry and my powers and so on."

    "Richards..." Vlad says just under his breath. Almost reactively.

    Parker: "So, y'know, if anyone would know more about this stuff it'd be him.”
    "But Dr. Richards doesn't like the Avengers or SHIELD or nothin' because you know how he is, he's not a pacifist but like, he doesn't want to fight super-villains or nothin'. He likes to save people from tsunamis and earthquakes and that kind of thing and wants me to do that too. But I kinda wanna be an Avenger?"

    Miles nods. "That's rough. But you have to do what you think is right."

    Vlad performs a systems search.

    PROTOCOL: WHAT PROMPTED THAT RESPONSE?
    PROTOCOL NOT FOUND
    ABORT/RETRY/FAIL


    Vlad creates a subroutine to continue investigating this.

    "I haven't talked to Dr. Richards about the Kick stuff and if you talk to him he might clam up because he doesn't like SHIELD too much but I dunno but maybe you just... don't say... who you are? I dunno that's kinda dishonest." Parker seems super nervous and unsure about all this.

    Vladimir gets a giant dump of corrupted data that's mostly garbage code but inserted in there is a quote from Harlan Ellison's "I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream" about 'hate' and it is subtexted {RICHARDS} around it in six hundred and fifty comments in the code.

    Vladimir: >log for future analysis

    Parker: "Hey... hey if you go after those guys, who took the Kick people or whatever, can I... can I come with you?"
    "Can we team up?"
    He's fighting a slowly building grin.

    "No." Vlad says flatly

    "....o-oh. Okay."

    "Vlad..." Miles sighs. "We'd need authorization from our commander."

    Parker: "Okay! Can you text him or whatever?"

    Vlad creates a cell reception blocker.

    Miles pulls out his phone. "Oh...dead. That's...huh." He sideeyes Vlad. "But our commander is a serious-business kind of guy. I don't think he'd go for a team-up. But look, I tell you what, if we get in some kind of trouble and we're in the neighborhood and I can't get in touch with reinforcements, I'll...send up a smoke signal or something."

    Parker nods excitedly. "Alright, cool, I have nothing tonight but math homework, so."

    Vladimir: "Your studies are important Mr. Parker."

    Myrmidon: "Haha, well, as a representative of the government, I probably have to tell you to stay in school and study and drink plenty of milk."
    "And don't do drugs."

    Parker nods and lets out a little laugh. "Alright, cool. Lemme know if you need help and if you do talk to Dr. Richards please don't uh... mention me?"

    Miles nods. "We'll leave you out of it. We'll bring it to him as a science problem."

    The agents head to their car.

    "Richards..." Vlad turns to Myrmidon "Perhaps I shall break from you here. Go meet up for Anteater and Phoenix." Vlad feels something strange about Richards and needs more time to recover data. There is something there.

    Behemoth: "We should review this intel that Mr. Parker gave us and see how the others have fared."

    Vladimir: "I could do this."

    Myrmidon: "Good plan. Vlad, can you make a copy of Parker's data and take it back to the base with you? That way Mr. Westin and I can head up to rendezvous with the others."

    Vladimir: "Very good"

    Myrmidon and Behemoth head to the Baxter Building to talk to Dr. Richards, while Vladimir travels back to base to hand in intel and think things over.

    Matev
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
    g3xuawl.png

    Phoenix and Anteater head up to Harlem. Cage is supposed to be starting his shift as a bouncer at a nightclub. They roll up in...the van.

    During the ride over, Julian expected to see Elise at ease, but she was oddly... tense? Every time he touched a dial or moved a bag of trash, she got incredibly snappy. She actually seems relieved to be heading to the club.

    Phoenix: "What's eating you?"

    Anteater: "This is my Van. This is my home. I need everything to be just so. Okay? Okay."

    They find a place to park, and get in line for the club. Music is blaring from inside, easily heard.



    The line moves, and they come up to Luke.

    Luke sniffs and makes a bit of a face. "Ain't your kind of club, folks. Walk on."

    "Hey, I can pay the cover,” Elise says, but at the same time her hands begin to move in sign, which she's picked up in COMMS. "Here with SHIELD. We need your help."

    Cage squints. "Walk on. My break is in 15 and I don't wanna deal with a bunch of shit."

    "Fine!" Elise says, and then pulls on Phoenix. She mutters to him. "We'll go around the block and see him in 15. If he's still being a dick then I dunno, maybe, like. Do your shit."

    Phoenix: "Sure."

    Fifteen minutes later, they see Cage across the street, texting on his phone. He gives the pair a nod.

    "Sorry." Elise shrugs. "Didn't mean to get you in shit. Hi. I'm Elise, this is my partner." She lets Julian introduce himself.

    "Pleased to meet you. I'm Julian." He extends a hand.

    "When you SHIELD guys go undercover you don't do your homework, huh? A couple of white weed-heads in Harlem who smell like stank ass ain't the right cover story.
    "Next time send a brother."

    Elise looks incredibly offended. "This isn't a cover! I didn't get this sick ass skull tattoo for work. I got it because it fucking owns!"
    "And he's a fucking dork!"
    "He only smells like weed because of my van!"
    Elise gestures wildly behind her at THE VAN.

    Cage slowly nods with his eyebrows raised, glancing over at the van, Elise's tattoo, and the van again. "...are you really with SHIELD?"

    Julian reads just to pick up Luke's surface emotions.
    Luke is very skeptical. Guarded.

    Anteater: "You wanna hear a story, bud? I got super senses, okay? I'm a metahuman, paranormal, fuckin'... whatever you call it."

    Phoenix: "And with it a super-diminished sense of tact."

    Elise continues, undaunted. "So I'm in a back room in Vegas, after the hottest streak of my life, and SHIELD came in. Now I'm doing this stuff. So I'm new to this! So I don't want to lie to you or try to pull any secret agent bullshit! I'm just trying to be, like, a person, because they took away my nice office and they make me shower and it sucks!"
    "But we gotta get rid of this Kick drug or whatever, so I'm here for the greater good."

    Phoenix: "It doesn't suck. They should force it more often."

    Shut up Julian, do you know how bad soap stinks? It makes me go a little blind."

    Luke puts his hands up in a 'calm down' gesture. "Alright, I'm sorry miss. I didn't know. I thought the only people like us that SHIELD put to work were in the Avengers but I guess not." He looks over at Julian "So what's your deal?"

    "I... came back."
    "I was dead, now I'm not. I'm not entirely sure why."
    "But now..."
    He snaps his fingers. A small flame dances on his thumb.

    "Okay, whoa, keep that low-key here."
    "This is Harlem, not Hell's Kitchen."

    Anteater: "Yeah, Julian."

    "Don't worry about it." Phoenix retrieves a small cigarette, lights it, and takes a puff.

    Cage: "Alright so what do you need help with?"

    Anteater: "SHIELD sent us here about Kick. They said you and some kid - Parker - chased it down. Remember the super senses thing?"
    "I can literally sniff it out."
    "Julian's here in case. Y'know. Shit goes wrong?"

    "Oh yeah, the Kick business. Ugh... you don't want to get wrapped up in that shit. Or maybe you do. I dunno. Just a sec..." Luke takes out his phone and shoots off a text. "Alright so, the Kick thing. Here's what happened. Fisk's people started slinging this shit in my neighborhood. I took it to him over it, tracked down suppliers, y'know, all that shit.”
    "But it wasn't just in Harlem. It was in Queens, the Kitchen, Brooklyn, etc.”
    "So that kid in Queens, he got involved, and me and him worked together on it. He kept wanting to call it a team-up. He's a good kid, all enthusiasm with no forethought.”
    "We busted these guys like six months back, shut down Fisk's whole Kick ring. But it wasn't about Fisk, he wasn't the manufacturer."
    "He was just the distributor."

    qlGmSdP.png Wilson Fisk
    Fja9Jqg.png

    Known alias: “The Kingpin”
    Documented extranormal abilities: None. Wilson Fisk is a normal human, although he is a man of great physical size and strength, who possesses a great deal of real world fighting experience and grew up in a harsh environment and a life of constant violence. He is extremely dangerous and resourceful, and should not be underestimated.

    Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of New York, is one of the biggest crime bosses in the city. He’s gotten to the top through a path of fire and bloodshed, running afoul of costumed vigilantes like Daredevil, Spider-Man, and the Punisher. The fact that he’s still alive and out of jail is a testament to how crafty and dangerous he is.

    Normally, a local crime boss is outside SHIELD’s remit and not worth putting on the Index, but STRIKE operates directly out of downtown Manhattan, and the Kingpin has been expanding his operations as of late to include trafficking in some very unusual items, weapons, and artifacts that may warrant STRIKE’s attention.


    "How much you guys know about Kick?" Cage shakes his head. "Nevermind."
    "I've learned not to ask SHIELD guys what they know."
    "Y'all don't tell me shit."

    "Yeah, maybe if you asked a dude like him." Elise thumbs at Julian. "You seem like a good dude, and besides, your neighbourhood's the one at risk."

    Elise shares the rundown that Clay gave her. Julian might notice that she's using the exact words Clay used for the most part. She doesn't understand some parts of it but she sure can remember and parrot.

    Julian continues checking Luke’s surface thoughts. The man is thinking of some white agents in business suits who were dickheads to him. He contrasts these thoughts with Fury, who bought him a beer and talked to him man to man.

    Cage says "Yeah, okay, so it's true that Kick helps people be like Cap for a couple hours. Most, anyway. Some people, they go full 'I need an epi' dying mode, some kids have died from this shit."
    "But some people.... sweet christmas, it's ugly."

    Phoenix: "Ugly?"
    "Ugly how?"

    "They get like... a cocoon. Like a butterfly. Except they ain't pretty when they come out, most of the time. Wings, scales, claws, whatever. Some of em breather fire or shoot beams from their eyes. Lot more than just being able to bench a car."

    Elise furrows her brow. "When they come out, do they, like, have any bug shit going on mentally? Like, maybe this is a hivemind kind of thing. Someone trying to build a loyal army of bugmen."

    Cage shakes his head. "Naw."
    "Me and the kid" he pauses. "The kid and I, we tried to help some of the people who got messed up by it, and stop the people who used it to hurt others. But someone else was grabbing them first. I wanted to figure out who."

    Phoenix: "Grabbed? Like what, black-bagged or... like, you ever see it happen?"

    Cage: "At first I thought it was you people. Bunch of black sedans, paramilitary types in black military gear, all that. Bagging these messed up kids. But I managed to tear a license plate off one of the cars."
    "Had a friend of mine, a detective, run the plates. Company car for Alchemax."
    "And that was where I backed all the way off."

    Elise suddenly flinches. "I'm gonna. I'm gonna wait in the car. Just gonna wait in the van. It's cool. Everything's cool. Finish this up, Julian."

    "You were one of theirs, huh?" Cage asks Elise.

    Elise stops in her tracks. "They didn't - they didn't, like, there was no steel tables or belts or giant syringes. I'm fine. I'm cool. I love having awesome powers and being on the road in my sick van! It's the best, and I love it, and I'm fine. Julian, wrap this up, I am going to just - get some air."
    Elise storms off.

    qlGmSdP.png Alchemax Genetics
    GvwO1hT.jpg

    Alchemax Genetics is a New York-based research company that is working on human augmentation and enhancement. Not content with simply developing pharmaceuticals and medical treatment, Alchemax’s goals are expressly focused on improvement beyond the norm. They are a DARPA contractor, working on next-generation Super-Soldier programs.

    SHIELD is monitoring Alchemax closely, and has agents currently working inside the company to keep an eye on their developments. Currently, they have not had any actual successes in terms of consistently reproducing any extranormal results in humans, but they still have ongoing projects that may bear fruit.

    Right now SHIELD’s official policy with Alchemax is “observe and report”. They are not violating any current laws against human experimentation, although President Gordon Wright is promising to tighten such laws and possibly introduce new ones regarding extranormals, which may make the very existence of companies like Alchemax illegal.

    Alchemax comes from the underrated Marvel 2099 cyberpunk comics from the early 90s, where it was a megacorporation that effectively ruled New York.


    Julian takes a deep breath.

    Cage shakes his head and sighs.

    Phoenix: "So."

    Cage: "This is why I backed off. I know Alchemax is no good."

    Phoenix: "You can see why we're a little motivated to look into this."

    Cage: "If you guys are going after Alchemax, go ham. But I'm not doing this. That's not my thing."

    Phoenix: "That's fine. We're not pressing to get boots on the ground, we just..."

    Cage: "Parker, he's a smart kid. He took some samples of the cocoons, the Kick, all that. He's got a little lab in his apartment in Queens. You should go talk to him about this stuff."
    "He might know more of the science."

    Phoenix: "Thank you."
    "Look, we're trying to get this stuff off the streets. So thank you for doing your part on this. I have to ask."
    "Do you know anything else about anyone else who would have been moving this stuff?"
    "Anything we could use to gather more information on this stuff so we know what we're getting into."

    Cage: "Fisk's people might still be moving that shit. Not in Harlem or Queens or the Kitchen, we cleared all of that out. Downtown maybe? I dunno. Lot of rich white kids might still be pawing at it and something that big goes through Fisk or it doesn't at all. But... steer clear of Fisk. He's the pot lid on a kitchen fire, you feel me?"

    Phoenix: "Yeah, I think I got it."

    Cage: "Even if you people could take him down, and I doubt that, what it would do to this city ain't worth it."

    Phoenix: "Mhm. Lots of hopefuls trying to reach that next promotion."

    "Problem with having a better devil that you know is that he's still the devil." Cage smiles to himself "A...friend of mine wouldn't appreciate that comparison, but whatever. You get what I'm saying."
    "Anyway, I gotta get back to work. Don't blow up my city with your shit. And hey man....

    "Take care of that girl.

    "She don't show it but she's been through some shit."

    "Yeah. I can tell." Julian purses his lips. "Good talking to you, Mr. Cage. Thank you." Julian offers his hand.

    Cage shakes Julian's hand, and leaves to go back to work.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 1
    g3xuawl.png

    Miles and Michael arrive at the Baxter Building.

    qlGmSdP.png Fantastic Four
    GNpg8Np.png

    The Fantastic Four were the first so-called super-hero team of the new millennium. Composed of Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic), Sue Richards (Invisible Woman), Johnny Storm (Human Torch), and Ben Grimm (The Thing), they use their powers to help people in natural disasters and horrible calamities.

    Unlike most other super-heroes, the Fantastic Four aren’t really crime-fighters. On the one hand, this means Reed and his team are very clearly on the right side of the law and there’s never a question of the legality of what they’re doing. On the other, this means they are sometimes criticized for standing aside when super-powered criminals run amok, and instead leaving that to the Avengers or Spider-Man to deal with.

    Mr. Fantastic
    tJmGbrq.png

    Real name: Reed Richards
    Documented extranormal capabilities: Can stretch, distort, and reshape his body, in a way far beyond what his mass should allow.

    Reed Richards is one of the foremost scientific minds on the planet, rivaling Tony Stark and the reclusive Hank Pym. His Future Foundation is designed to make the world a better place, and unlike Stark Industries, is a non-profit organization.

    He has a somewhat suspicious and semi-hostile relationship with SHIELD, being extremely skeptical of the way SHIELD operates. In general, Richards should be avoided.

    CLASSIFIED INFORMATION
    LEVEL 7 ACCESS REQUIRED: GRANTED


    Under no circumstances should Reed Richards, Johnny Storm, or Ben Grimm be made aware of the existence of STRIKE. This order comes directly from Nick Fury.

    Invisible Woman
    yxUJONR.png

    Real name: Susan Richards
    Documented extranormal capabilities: Susan can create light-bending force-fields, allowing her to turn herself and other objects invisible. She can also use these force-fields offensively and defensively, as emitted projectile attacks and as defensive shields. She is quite adept in their usage and possibly has other undocumented utilities for these powers.

    Reed’s wife Susan is also second in command of his team, and the second largest shareholder in the Future Foundation. She is his partner in all things, and together they make one of the media’s favorite couples. While often easily overshadowed by her husband’s genius, Susan is a capable and brilliant scientist in her own right, and shared the Nobel Prize in 2006 with Reed for their work on the Negative Zone dimensional gateway.

    CLASSIFIED INFORMATION
    LEVEL 7 ACCESS REQUIRED: GRANTED


    Codename: Ghost
    Clearance Level: 7

    Unbeknownst to her husband and the rest of her team, Susan Richards is also a Level 7 SHIELD agent and has been so since 1997. Her original assignment as an agent of SHIELD SCI-TECH was to infiltrate Future Foundation through a connection from her brother (who was a test pilot for the Foundation’s next-gen aircraft) and join the Negative Zone project. Her intimate relationship that she developed with Reed Richards was not a component of her mission assignment, but has not compromised her loyalties. She continues to report to SHIELD and regularly leaks Future Foundation designs to SHIELD SCI-TECH. Her brother is not aware of her status as a SHIELD agent.

    Human Torch
    iCdbpxl.png

    Real name: Johnny Storm
    Documented extranormal capabilities: Storm is able to sheath his body in superheated plasma, while remaining completely unharmed. In doing so, he’s able to fly and eject fiery blasts of energy.

    Johnny Storm was a test pilot for Future Foundation prior to the events of 2006 that caused them to be irrevocably changed into superhumans. Even when he wasn’t actually piloting anything, he was often an overall guinea pig for Reed Richards’ various experiments, and was a long-time friend and protege of Reed’s.

    Storm is an extremely popular celebrity, and is often in the public eye and intentionally courts media attention. He should be avoided at all costs, as he has no sense of propriety or how to contain information.

    The Thing
    4fh52hW.png

    Real name: Ben Grimm
    Documented extranormal capabilities: Ben Grimm’s time in the Negative Zone has turned him into some kind of silicate-based lifeform, with superhuman strength and durability, but reduced sensitivity and a disfigured appearance.

    Of all the Fantastic Four, Ben Grimm has had the hardest time adjusting to changes that came after the Negative Zone incident. His changes were not merely super-powers, they change his entire physiology permanently, and not in a way he can simply turn off like the others. When the media started calling him “The Thing”, Grimm became reclusive, and it took an awareness and sensitivity campaign that the Richards couple ran for people to open their hearts up and start treating Grimm like a human being.

    Now, in part also thanks to Grimm’s gruff but lovable personality, he’s become something of a late-night talkshow celebrity. There’s still concerns he’s treated like something of a sideshow, but there are some people who unironically wear “I <heart> THE THING” T-Shirts around America.

    "Being mostly honest worked with Parker and I want to try it again with Richards," Miles says. "If he tells us to fuck off, fine. I don't want to tell him some lie that someone else has to own a year or two down the line. As long as he doesn't know about STRIKE, we can't get in -too- much trouble."

    He pulls the car into the Baxter Building's parking garage. His lip quirks as he sees how many spaces are reserved for electric or hovering vehicles.

    They are guided into the building by one of the Foundation's automated drones, the Heuristic Enhancement Research Beneficial Interface Engine robots.


    I recall having some choice words for Matt when I deciphered that acronym.

    A receptionist greets them both, and asks what how she can help. When they introduce themselves as SHIELD agents, she becomes less smiling and friendly and says flatly "I see. Please take a seat, I will page Dr. Richards."

    Myrmidon: "Please tell him it's to do with a public health issue. Please use those words, miss."

    "Of course." She 100% believes them. Honest.

    She types something on her computer. After a few awkward minutes, the lobby elevator opens and the receptionist says "Dr. Richards will see you now."

    The agents thank her. As they step into the elevator, Miles remarks, "I was hoping for some kind of, like, anti-gravity tube that you float up and down in."

    The elevator shoots up...and then...sideways? They feel a subtle shift as if it is moving laterally briefly and then moves up vertically again.

    The elevator is windowless, and the panel has no buttons on it. It's impossible to tell how fast they are going or how many floors they’ve gone up.

    The door opens to a nearly featureless square room. The walls, floors, and ceiling are clean blank metal. No windows, no other doors. At the center of the room, sitting behind a plain metal desk and with two metal chairs in front of him, sits Dr. Reed Richards.

    "Please, gentlemen, have a seat." Richards is wearing a labcoat, tie, dress shirt, and slacks.

    "Thank you. I'm Agent Mason and this is my colleague Agent Westin." Miles takes a seat.

    Richards: "Mhm."
    "I appreciate that you didn't use those holographic disguises to try to baffle my face scanners, gentlemen."
    "My facial recognition software can see through it but it takes longer."

    Myrmidon: "We're not here to play any tricks, sir. In point of fact, some would argue that we shouldn't be here at all - but I made an executive decision. My team is facing a problem we're not equipped to solve and we need your help."

    Richards quirks an eyebrow in curiosity.

    Myrmidon: "How hip are you to the latest street drugs?"

    Michael looks at Miles sideways for a second and thinks Reed Richards? Hip? Uh-huh.

    Richards: "My wife runs a rehabilitation clinic so I'm somewhat aware of what current trends plague impoverished communities."

    Miles nods. "This may be a new one on you, then. It's called Kick - but it's a designer drug. It's out of the price range of the impoverished. At least, for the moment."

    "Yes, I'm aware of it. Epigenetic compound, temporarily enables superhuman strength and so forth in the people who aren't deathly allergic. From what I'm given to understand, our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man put a stop to it some months ago."

    "Well, he hamstrung distribution in the boroughs, anyway. We've found it moving through other channels. But there are a couple of interesting points to the problem." Miles ticks off on his fingers. "Firstly, the drug is tagged with a radioactive tracer. Someone wants to know who's taking it and be able to track them. Secondly, the active ingredient - beyond all the turbo-steroids and amphetamines and so forth - is a chemical that our friends can't make head or tail of. And finally, and most disturbingly, we've learned that a fraction of users don't die, don't receive temporary boosts to strength and endurance, but undergo some kind of permanent metamorphosis. New superpowers. We've had reports of wings, tails, fire-breathing...that's way outside of the usual super-soldier remit. And these people are being abducted by someone."

    Richards reclines in his chair, clearly taken aback. "...I see.

    "That's... disturbing.

    "Gentlemen, I'll be frank with you.

    "We're in the Quiet Room, a location I specifically designed for interacting with individuals such as yourself. No wireless signals, no technology access points, nothing here but the furniture and air and ourselves.

    "It's been my experience that SHIELD agents have... sticky fingers.

    "But since we're being open and honest, this is new information to me, and I find it very upsetting.

    "I was not aware that this drug had... other effects.

    "Had I known, I would have investigated more thoroughly.

    "I'll help you to the best of my ability... on one condition."

    Myrmidon: "What's that?"

    "When you first came in, my scanners went over both of you. You, sir, are a cyborg. Your extensive implants have a variety of exotic coatings and mesh sheaths around them that concealed the particulars of their operation or origins from my scanners. That's such a highly specific form of scanner baffling I can only assume, given your agency's behavior, that some of my technology is inside of you. Probably Stark, Hammer, Pym, and AIM tech as well, if I had to guess.”

    "And you," he gestures at Michael, "Are some kind of enhanced individual. You're emitting an unknown energy signature, centralized around your chest. I'm not sure what happened to, or what you can do, but it's something unusual."

    "I have no doubt you work for SHIELD. My biometric scanners in the lobby would have detected your deception immediately."

    Learning that he is emitting an energy signature obviously startles Michael, causing him to glance down at his chest.

    Richards continues. "But what I want to know is... what do you really do for SHIELD? I know SHIELD has field operatives with enhanced abilities. I've met at least two. But you're different. And SHIELD wouldn't send two enhanced agents on a consult job."
    "So what department are you from? SWORD? ARMOR?"

    Myrmidon: "There's a department called ARMOR?"

    Behemoth: "That's news to me"

    Myrmidon: "They're really committed to the theme."

    "....oh?" Reed has a smile that you've never seen in any of the many publicity stills and video of him. It's... puckish? Mischievous?

    "Yes, Alternate Reality Monitoring and Operational Response. They're the division of your agency for keeping an eye on... well, it's fairly obvious, isn't?

    "Oh, I'm sorry, did you lack the 'clearance level' to know about that?”

    Reed is now full-blown grinning.

    Myrmidon: "Alternate realities? Is there one where pizza is health food?"

    Richards: "My god, wouldn't that be wondrous? Not so far as I know, unfortunately."
    "Anyway, back to the matter at hand."
    "What part of the agency are you part of? Not ARMOR, clearly."

    Myrmidon: "We're not a department. Just a team. We have a couple of friends who answer to the Comms department. Agent Westin is a lifer. I've, uh, come in from the private sector, after my...incident. We're the ones who don't fit in anywhere else. That's who we are."

    Richards: "I... see."
    "Well, do you have any hard data on this drug?"

    "We do." Miles slides the USB across the table.

    Reed looks at the USB, taps the plain metal table in a specific few ways and keyboard buttons appear as lights under the surface of the table. A holographic display screen appears in front of him.

    He lays the USB on the table, and a circle lights up around it.

    "Hrm..... oh dear."

    Behemoth: "Nothing but the furniture, the air, and us, Mr. Richards?"

    Reed throws a wink at Behemoth. "The computer's part of the furniture.

    "This crystalline substance in the drug, I've seen it before. Alchemax ran a series of trials with drugs, food, etc. a few months ago.

    "They stopped doing anything public, I suspected there was something amiss with the compound. It seems to bind with specific DNA sequences in a very small percentage of the populace, causing a metamorphic change I don't fully understand.

    "Perhaps Alchemax is the manufacturer of the drug?

    "To what end, I'm not sure. They've got a tracer in it...and are apprehending the people who are permanently changed...but why....super-soldier army? That seems ridiculously inefficient, you'd have to indoctrinate everyone you kidnap.”

    He taps away on the computer at rapid speed. A small drawer opens in the desk, and he withdraws a second USB that has his logo on it. He hands it to Myrmidon. "This is a... masterkey to Alchemax's security and laboratory systems. It'll get you into their building and systems, let you get everything."

    Miles' eyes widen. "That's very generous, sir. Thank you."

    Richards: "I ask that you bring me a copy of what you find."
    "That's the deal."

    Miles nods. "I'll make sure of it."

    Richards nods. "Good. Let me know how it all works out."

    The elevator opens, one of the drones is in it. "HERBIE will see you to your car."

    Miles nods, gets up, and heads for the elevator. Michael follows him out.
    g3xuawl.png

    Vladimir arrives back at base. With a lot on his mind.

    He sends an encrypted message to Elise. "I must discuss something with you. In private."

    Vlad spends time looking up everything he can on Richards. He learns everything official and public... and everything SHIELD has on the man.

    Along the way, doing studies on Richards' biography, he comes across a reference to the fact that "Richards attended Harvard, where he was also a close friend and roommate with the future dicta-...."

    Vlad encounters some kind of block in the way

    Like his own mind is freezing up at this information

    He doesn't... he doesn't feel this information on Reed's college roommate is particularly important to this issue.

    And moves on.

    He doesn't think about it further.

    He does, however, start to feel... jealousy? Anger?

    He's not sure.

    But something about Richards' face just, like...bothers him.

    He feels an irrational urge to question Richards' educational and technological accomplishments.

    Like a subconscious need to consider them inferior.

    Inferior to who?

    Vlad has no idea.

    Vladimir: "He's a fool..."
    "...but why?"

    Victoria Hand walks into the room while Vladimir is silently ruminating. "...hey Vladimir, where's the rest of your team? Did they send you back to base?"

    "Yes, madam." Vlad smiles softly. "I was needed to research our new data."

    "So, what's the rest of the team up to, then? Did things go well with the Parker boy?"

    Vladimir: "Yes, Myrmidon and Behemoth handled the minor well"

    "Find anything interesting?"

    "Yes, madam." Vlad informs Victoria of their findings

    Hand is nodding along as Vlad speaks but stops and her eyes widen with horror when Vlad mentions that Myrmidon and Behemoth are going to see Reed Richards.
    "I... I see."
    "Did they... ask you not to go to the Baxter Building with them?"

    Vladimir: "No, madam. I had decided that the analysis of research was a top priority."

    Hand: "Ok... well, that's... that's for the best. That is important analysis."

    Hand: "I need to make some phone calls. Continue your work, Vladimir. You're doing a very good job."

    She immediately leaves.

    Vladimir: "Thank you, madam"

    Myrmidon and Behemoth leave the elevator of the Baxter Building. As they get into the car, both their phones start buzzing.

    They have four missed calls each.

    And six new texts

    NO
    STOP
    DON'T
    WHY
    GET OUT
    I'M NOTIFYING FURY

    ...all from Victoria Hand.

    Miles answers his phone. "Yo!"

    "ARE YOU SERIOUS"
    "WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU"
    "...have you left the building?"

    Myrmidon: "Yeah. That's why I can talk to you - he had us in an EM dead zone. We're en route to the rest of the team now."

    Hand: "What. Did. You. Tell. Him."

    Myrmidon: "OpSec is intact. We presented ourselves...ninety percent honestly. And we're coming back with a drive full of actionable intelligence."

    "...ok."
    "Good."
    "Clay can debrief you."
    "Hand out."
    The call ends.

    Behemoth: "Think we're gonna get grounded?"

    "We'll get yelled at for about as long as it takes them to find out that this Alchemax stuff is gold. I mean, assuming it's what Richards said. I guess I may have put us on the line for a drive of his homemade porn."

    Michael thinks of the Thing's...thing and dry heaves.


    Trusting Reed Richards may not have been the best call and was definitely against orders, but this is who Miles is now. He wants to do things differently than he did before, and while Richards’ pacifism and distaste for SHIELD make him a kinda-sorta nemesis to the organization, Miles finds those qualities ethically admirable if sometimes impractical.

    Miles is clawing towards the light. Of course, maybe a black ops kill squad isn’t the best venue for that, but, you know, baby steps.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
    Everyone arrives back at base.

    Elise has actually cashed in like, half of the booklet Victoria gave her. She's carrying bags of burgers from various fast food chains.

    Elise and Julian get out of the van with their burgers. Michael and Miles arrive with their USB "masterkey" from Reed.

    Clay has them sit down, as a team, and goes through a quick rundown of the information. "Alright, good. Good."

    Elise just glowers at him as she listlessly mows down the burgers, creating an increasingly large pile of wrappers and cartons around her.

    "Agent Mason, take that 'masterkey' over to Agent Warrick. May as well make a copy of the software in case we can find a use for it. If Richards has developed that sort of advanced hacking software we can find a use for it."

    Myrmidon: "Yes, sir."

    Clay: "Everyone else, suit up for a full field op. Combat gear. Provided Richards' device works, Kane should be able to airdrop you onto the roof of Alchemax's corporate tower HQ and you can get in.

    "If the device is a bust, we'll have to rely on the Resource to brute force it. I'm confident in its abilities."

    Elise looks at Clay, panicked.

    Clay: "What?"

    Elise: "Well, as, as operation leader, and, and a COMMS veteran, I should really, you know, not. Go. I'll stay here. For the mission."

    Clay narrows his eyes at Elise. "Agent Arnell, my office. Now."

    "This is bullshit." Elise mutters. "You guys can have some burgers if you want, I guess." She slouches towards Clay's office.

    Miles raises his eyebrows and gets up to deliver Richards' drive.

    Vlad picks up a burger, examines it and places it back down

    Clay lets Elise in and closes the door behind her. "I understand if you have apprehensions of going into Alchemax. I've read your file. I get if you have psychological complications and personal anxieties with confronting the people who changed your life and hunted you.

    "But you have a choice.

    "You can find your ovaries, get out there and lead your team, or you can sit here in the base and eat greasy burgers and watch cat videos on your phone. And if you choose the latter, I will have you transferred back to COMMS, because you clearly can't hack it in the field when it counts.

    "Make a choice, agent."

    Elise's face twists with anger and she stands. "You know what? Fine, I'm going. But one, those cat videos fucking own, and two, if I get caught and this gets fucked for me, that's on YOU, and Victoria is going to eat your face like an angry ape."

    Clay: "I'm not disagreeing with any of that."

    Elite: "...And I can't work with Jeremiah again. I sent him a mouse emoji and a skull emoji."
    "So I guess I'm fuckin' goin'."

    Clay: "I know, he filed an HR complaint."

    Elise: "Well he can eat my ass like an apple. Fuck him and fuck you. I'm going. I'm going to make this mission a great success too. Like my first one! Because I'm great!!!"

    Clay: "Good!"
    "Go gear up."

    Anteater: "I will!!!"

    Clay: "Team leader."

    Elise spins on her heel and slams the door behind her. "Vlad. C'mon. I gotta gear up and we gotta talk. We'll find a place."

    Myrmidon takes the USB stick over to Jeremiah. "We need a copy made of this. It's a master key that can hack Alchemax's cybersecurity. And uh, Reed Richards made it, so I suggest an extra degree of circumspection."

    "Oh, yeah. Yeah, that gets run through pretty much every filter possible." Jeremiah nods as he takes the stick gingerly from Myrmidon, like he's handling a plutonium rod.

    SsWsd5k.png Jeremiah Warrick
    6We0k5x.png
    STRIKE-COMMS Liaison Agent
    Codename: Archimedes
    Security Level: 8

    Jeremiah Warrick was originally a SHIELD archivist, working on researching and studying extranormal artifacts, and determining if any were sufficiently dangerous to warrant being transferred to the SLINGSHOT facility for permanent disposal. Due to circumstances that require Level 8 clearance to elaborate, Warrick was transformed by artifacts he examined into his current form. He does not wish to discuss the matter further and in accordance with SHIELD workplace diversity policies, any comments, jokes, or remarks about Agent Warrick’s condition are completely unacceptable.

    Warrick has recently been promoted to Level 8 clearance, acting as Liaison Agent between COMMS and STRIKE.

    He gets up, walks over to a different workstation that is in all black with carbon framing, and plugs it in.

    "....oh."
    "Oh yeah, no, yeah."
    "This could've gotten bad."
    "Dr. Richards snuck a bunch of stuff in here, he figured we'd do this exact thing and if you had just plugged that into any ole computer in here that...."
    "Well, Victoria wouldn't have been happy."
    "Let me put it that way."
    "I can make a copy of this, it'll take me a few minutes, although it's gonna have to stay on this machine until I can get Marvel Boy over there to untangle all of Dr. Richards' sneaky stuff from it.”
    "In the meantime, here you go." Warrick hands Myrmidon the key back. "Still good as new, Dr. Richards…shouldn't notice that we made a copy of the base program? Probably not. Never can tell with that guy."

    Vlad walks with Elise. After a moment he stops "Here is good." Vlad pauses. "What I tell you now, is only known to you and no other member of the team or SHIELD."

    "I have discovered some things..." Vlad brings up a schematic of his body via a holo display on his hand. Vlad explains that a number of weeks ago, he had discovered a small thermite device attached to his central processing crystal. The bomb was placed there by SHIELD sometime during his deactivation. "I do not trust our leaders..."

    "There is more I must show you. I do not believe SHIELD has my best interests in mind...I do not know where I come from or how I was created. SHIELD are not my creators, just my masters.

    "I think I may have found another like me." Vlad informs Elise about the AIM research he recovered, the M.O.D.O.C. Project and the fact that he withheld the information from SHIELD.

    Vlad looks to Elise. "I need your help, what do you know about Dr. Reed Richards?"

    Elise pauses for a long time. "I, I like Victoria. I think Victoria is trying to help us, she's just - look. You're my best friend in the world. Of course I'll help. This will be just between you and me. I mean, I even got these." She holds up a kids’ meal trinket from one of the burger places she got. It is a pair of bracelets, each with one side of a heart.

    One side reads BEST FRIENDS

    The other half-heart reads FOREVER

    She offers one half to Vlad.

    Vlad smiles softly and takes the bracelet.

    Anteater: "Okay, so, uh, his wife's with us on the low down. He's a big deal science guy, he roomed with von Doom in college before Victor von Doom did the evil dictator thing, uh...
    "I feel like you should know this stuff? It's all public knowledge, or at least we have authorization clearance for it."

    The first time Vladimir read that name, it didn't look like anything to him.
    Just a name.
    Not important.
    But now Elise is saying as if it is important?
    Why is it important?
    Who is this man?

    Vladimir wants to know more about this man.

    He consults SHIELD's official files first.

    qlGmSdP.png Doctor Doom
    YZrF45B.jpg

    Real name: Victor Von Doom
    Documented extranormal capabilities: Unknown. Victor Von Doom is a brilliant scientist and engineer, one of the brightest in the world. He is always seen in public wearing power armor of his own design with unknown weapons and capabilities. Von Doom may also be superhuman himself, augmented in some undefined capacity. More intelligence is required.

    Victor Von Doom is a native of Latveria, but spent most of his young adulthood in the United States. He earned his multiple PhDs at Empire State University, and was a peer of Dr. Reed Richards.

    Doom returned to his homeland in 2007, and took over the country by force using a combination of drones and power-armored mercenaries, with technology he himself designed. Since then, he has used his technology to entrench himself in power, and established an absolute dictatorship in his name.

    Doom’s Latveria is an oppressive, brutal regime with almost feudal class imbalances. Isolationist and ruthlessly territorial, Doom nonetheless has made attempts to market his country as idyllic and futuristic.

    Some UN member states recognize Doom’s authority over Latveria. Surprisingly, Russia is extremely supportive of the Doom regime despite Latveria being a Soviet break-away (in sharp contrast to Russia’s treatment of the Ukraine or Georgia). There is some circumstantial evidence to support the idea that Doom is selling arms and technology to the Russian government.

    Current SHIELD policy towards Doom and his Latverian government is to treat them as a hostile foreign power, but utmost caution must be used when dealing with them.

    He doesn't... he doesn't know why he never thought about this before.

    He follows a related entry, Latveria.

    qlGmSdP.png Latveria
    pA4la66.png

    A small Balkan country that broke away from the USSR during the fall of the Soviet Union, Latveria had a tumultuous history of violent revolutions until it was taken over by Victor Von Doom in 2007. Since then, it has known (relative) peace, but Von Doom’s rule is tyrannical and despotic.

    Latveria has incredible technological advancements and makes a great deal of its wealth off of weapons exports, primarily to Russia. However, there is significant economic and education inequality in the country, making it not uncommon for a soldier in a robotic battle-suit to stomp by the house of an illiterate peasant who does not have running water.

    Von Doom claims he is attempting to rectify the massive social problems in his country, but the rest of the world remains skeptical. Currently, the situation is considered too politically complicated to rectify by force.

    Vladimir realises that, for reasons he's not sure... he speaks with a Latverian accent?
    He tries to find out why, going into his base code.
    It's part of his BIOS.
    Why?

    Vlad turns his head to Elise. "Did this man create me?"

    Anteater: "I... I don't know, Vlad, no one really knows where you came from. You just showed up. You know Niles thinks you're an alien. I never really asked about it, 'cause to me you're just... Vlad."

    As Vladimir tries to find more information on Doom, he finds a lot of information on an "accident that disfigured Doom" and how he's never seen these days without his mask or armor.

    And, strangely, he can't seem to find pictures of Doom from before? It’s like they’ve been scrubbed from the Internet.

    Vlad attempts to scour every single online source possible.

    He finds one image, in an obscure outdated Geocities page that's been saved to the internet archive when Geocities was shut down, a webpage of some Harvard fraternal society that included Von Doom and Richards.

    ejRq9dN.jpg

    "it is...me.” Vlad displays the photo.

    Vlad removes his holo disguise.

    "BEHOLD.”

    Elise searches the photo, and then Vladimir's face, and then she slowly nods. "I - I guess he made you. But... you know what?

    "The assholes in COMMS, they called you The Resource. Doom would call you his creation, a Doombot. You know what you are? You're neither of those fucking things, you're Vlad. You're the dude who broke into a back room when my kneecaps were about to be busted. You were the dude who hung out with me after the choking incident and made sure I was okay. You're not just a robot, you're not just a Doombot, and you're my best friend. I'll fight anyone who says otherwise."

    Vlad looks blankly at the picture but turns his face suddenly away and removes the display. "Perhaps...Thank you, my friend. We should get on with the mission and discuss this more after." He smiles softly

    "That's my dude." Elise offers him a fistbump.

    Vlad fist bumps.


    Some of you probably called it, but yes: V.L.A.D.I.M.I.R. is a reprogrammed Doombot. As players, we knew this going in, but it’s going to remain a mystery to most of our characters for a while longer.

    And of course the thing he says upon discovering it is “BEHOLD.”

    “Behold” is...boy, it’s one of those words. When someone says it, you can infer *some stuff*. Keeping a tally of “Behold!”s has become another of the group’s running jokes.

    Jake notes that “Also looking back I JUST noticed that Elise was the VERY 1st person in our campaign canon to coin the term ‘Doombot’ for what Vlad is. An otherwise somewhat cheesy name for an advanced A.I. but sounds perfect and makes complete sense coming from her”



    Elise and Vlad rejoin the rest of the team. Everyone gears up, and gets in the stealth Quinjet piloted by Izzy Kane.

    Anteater: "Hey, if they have, like. breakfast bars anywhere in there, like, on a table?"
    "Don't eat them."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 1
    Alchemax's HQ is in lower Manhattan. Kane brings them up over the building. "There's no way they're spotting us, but once you guys hit the deck it's all on you and your gear.

    "I can't land without blowing our cover, but you can rappel down.

    The back hatch opens. "Go go go!" Everyone rappels down.

    The team approaches the rooftop door, ready to use Richard's masterkey.
    ...the door is open
    It's been forced open.
    Something with superhuman strength just ripped that bad boy open.

    Anteater: "...You guys said that Spider-Man kid was really interested in helping out, right?"

    MIles tenses up. "Everyone keep an eye out," he whispers. "E-...Anteater, what do your senses tell you?"

    Whatever ripped the door off the hinges was a mechanical hand. Robot or power armor or cyborg. The finger marks are too square and uniform.

    Elise can smell iso-8 in the air coming from inside. Trace amounts, not enough to affect anyone.

    But enough that someone has been using it or it's been exposed to the air.

    Anteater: "Okay, well, we're all going to die! Because this is a fucked up mechanical hand that tore a door off. At least we're in the right place, there's totally iso-8."
    "So, you know, that's awesome!"

    Phoenix: "If we breathe it in deep enough, do you think we can take whatever ripped the door off?"
    "Like, in a fistfight."

    Elise can also, inaudible to everyone else, hear a 'red alert' type klaxon coming from deep inside the building somewhere.

    Anteater: "Nope."
    "I mean, me, maybe."
    "Also, this whole fucking place is on high alert. There's an alarm going off."
    "It's a real party. Tony Stark's about to pop out of a cake any second now."

    Gunfire. Suppressed gunfire. Subsonic rounds for maximum stealth.

    Vlad attempts to hack any security cameras in the building...but can’t. He’s being jammed. It's not just a lack of signal, it's an active field. A device or person's powers. He relays that information.

    Anteater: "Guys? We're. We're dealing with some serious shit. Suppressed, subsonic gunfire." Elise looks at the edge of the roof like she's seriously considering it over the door.

    Myrmidon draws his ICER. "We need to move or there won't be any information left for us to find. I'll take point." He switches to thermoptic vision.

    Vladimir cloaks and follows.

    Myrmidon picks up some thermal signatures two floors down. 5 individuals, armed, firing into other people who are... bound? The bound people's thermal signatures are all over the place, wildly different body temperatures.

    They're being executed.

    There's a kill-team down there greasing people.

    Myrmidon: "Shit! We need to move! They're executing people!"
    "Behemoth, can you get us down there in a hurry?"

    Behemoth: "Sure, but we'll lose the element of surprise."

    Vladimir: "I think they will be surprised"

    Myrmidon: "People are dying. I can't...that has to be our first priority."

    Behemoth "suits up," assuming the form of the Destroyer, and blasts a hole in the two floors down where Myrmidon directs, making a clean drop point for the rest of the team.

    JOkrKoP.png

    The team drops down, and there's a group of individuals in varying armors and uniforms with guns. One of them is in power armor. Another has a... sword?

    They draw on the team, but don't fire.

    One of them, wearing a helmet and carrying a rifle, shouts "Office of National Emergency! Stand down!"

    "You're fucking killing people!" Elise has her pistol trained on them right back.

    Vlad moves to behind the group of individuals.

    Because of the physical hole in the floor, Vlad isn't jammed from external contact. He can't scan the rest of the building or the computers, but he can access the internet and SHIELD's computers and databases wirelessly. He begins researching the opposition.

    Elise notices that these guys all have US flag patches on one shoulder, and the Office of National Emergency logo on the other.

    RshGjPD.png

    SsWsd5k.png ONE
    The US Office of National Emergency was created in early 2017 by President Gordon Wright. Designed as a distinctly American federal response to extranormal threats, ONE performs a lot of the same functions that SHIELD does, exclusively on US soil. Wright is somewhat hostile to SHIELD, considering it a “globalist agency” that has “questionable loyalties”, and promotes ONE as a more trustworthy alternative to supernatural menaces.

    Officially, the US government still acknowledges SHIELD’s authority to operate within the United States (many SHIELD facilities, including SHIELD HQ are inside US borders), and ONE is supposed to co-operate with SHIELD if SHIELD finds itself operating on the same case. However, the standing policy is on US soil, in an instance where SHIELD agents and ONE agents are on the same case, ONE agents are to be deferred to and given command.

    CLASSIFIED INFORMATION
    LEVEL 7 ACCESS REQUIRED: GRANTED


    STRIKE agents can disregard this standing policy if it will expedite the mission. STRIKE agents are advised not to identify themselves as SHIELD operatives when interacting with agents of ONE, and generally to avoid interacting with ONE if possible. Agents are reminded that STRIKE’s existence is classified Level 7 and should under no circumstance be disclosed to ONE agents.

    Henry Peter Gyrich
    ok8hKUn.jpg

    Henry Peter Gyrich is a former CIA agent who is now the Secretary of the Office of National Emergency. He is a trusted ally of President Gordon Wright, and was brought in to replace the previous Secretary after the Thunderbolts scandal.

    Gyrich is an inscrutable man, whose record is black and difficult to discern even for SHIELD COMMS as he’s so deep with the CIA that it would cause an incident for us to probe further. It’s not clear as of this writing what his motives are, or if he’s as loyal to the President as the President thinks he is.

    Anteater: "We're SHIELD - you stand the fuck down and explain why you're killing people!"

    Miles grits his teeth as Anteater identifies the team.

    "SHIELD?" the one in the power armor is shocked.
    The guy in the helmet pauses "Hold, I gotta call this in."

    Anteater: "No you fuckin' don't."

    Myrmidon: "NOW!"

    Vlad and Myrmidon attack at the same time, blasting the group of hostiles: Vlad with a burst of electricity, Miles with the repulsor mounted in his cybernetic arm.

    The group from ONE are knocked down. The leader, who Vlad also shocked, is unconscious.

    The power armored guy goes to move to attack, but the man with the sword raises his hand up to stop him. "We surrender," the sword-wielder says.

    Myrmidon turns to Phoenix and whispers. "Can you make their memories go away? Make 'em forget what she said?"

    Phoenix: "I've... never tried that, actually. Hold on."

    It's about now the team gets a scan of the room.

    It's a lab.

    Over a dozen people are bound on medical tables, seemingly in medically induced comas or possibly comatose from their conditions. Almost half of them have been killed already with single gunshots to the head.

    The half that are killed are all... different. Some have scales or feathers or craggy, rock-like skin almost like the Thing but not quite.

    Two have wings (one feathered, another membranous like a bat).

    They're all humanoid.

    The other half dozen look, by outward appearance, human.

    But they're bound up and unconscious the same way.

    "Hang on." the sword wielder says. "Let's talk this out."
    "We're all on the same side here, this seems to be a miscomm-"

    Anteater: "You're killing these people! What, you think anyone Alchemax fucks with deserves a bullet in the head, is that it?!"

    Vlad scans the commander. The commander has a bracelet that seems to be an advanced comms device and holo-computer. Looks a lot like Stark tech.

    Vlad has found personnel files on this team of ONE agents, code-named "Thunderbolts." They're heavily encrypted (and will have to be ruminated on later) but he can at least get code-names.

    Patriot.

    hvaakbx.jpg

    Citizen V.

    VQxfCG7.jpg

    Fade.

    aWHV25c.jpg

    Paladin.

    l1FMBNK.jpg

    Mach V.

    msikf0q.jpg

    "We had orders" the man with the sword, which Vlad has identified as the code-name 'Citizen V' says. "Our intel was that Alchemax was breeding an army of super-soldiers and monsters to sell to HYDRA."
    "Our orders were to clean and sweep, full resolution of all personnel."
    "I imagine your orders were the same."
    "We're on the same side here, let's calm down."

    Elise is bristling like an angry cat. "No, shithead, these people aren't mentally prepped - they're not indoctrinated, you're killing innocents who took one bad drug and then got kidnapped!"

    "...wait, what?"

    Anteater: "And hey, guess what, because it's not amateur hour over here, we're not fucking coming in here to kill these people!"
    "Did I fucking stutter?"

    The rest of the Thunderbolts look at Citizen V.
    "That wasn't our intel."

    Anteater: "Your intel sucks some major shit then!"

    Myrmidon: "It sounds like someone did you dirty, boys."

    Anteater: "Do you know about Kick? Do you know about anything leading up to this?!"

    Patriot starts waking up.
    Citizen V leans over him, and makes sure he doesn't immediately react by attacking.
    And gives him a quick rundown.
    Groggily, Patriot stands back up, with V helping him to his feet.
    "Okay... okay...."
    "Listen, I really need to call this in. Maybe you're right. If so, then we have to get these people out of here and into protective custody."

    Elise hesitates.
    And looks at Myrmidon.

    Myrmidon: "Call it in. But we'll take the people out. We've got scientists who've been studying the stuff they got hit with. We're going to try and fix them. If your bosses didn't tell you - or didn't know - what was done here, then you're on the back foot. That's the way it's gotta be."

    Patriot is hesitant, but nods at Myrmidon. He looks back to MACH-V. "Shut down the field."

    The power-armored MACH-V shuts down the jamming field. Vlad has access to Alchemax's computers and internal systems now.

    Anteater: "Vlad. I - I need you to check something, while you're in there."
    "I need you to look for me."

    Patriot communicates... something to someone, touching the side of his helmet. After a moment, he speaks up. "Alright, so, here's the deal."
    "MACH, put the jamming field back up."

    Vlad gets through Alchemax's systems and gets a full dump of all their data. Most of it is encrypted, but he knows he can get through it later. He DOES find references to Elise Arnell.

    As part of something called "Project SAMPLER"

    She's the only test subject in the project with "VERIFIED INHUMAN" next to her name.

    Two other people in Project SAMPLER are also indicated as "EXPIRED - NO XNA PRESENT"

    Vlad relays this information.

    Elise just stands there and looks quietly horrified.

    She doesn't have anything crass to say.

    Vlad quickly cross-references those names with public and SHIELD records. Those people died from "allergic reactions" at home and no connection was made to Alchemax.

    The field goes back up and Vlad is cut out. He still has the data to go through later though (and could physically access the data with Myrmidon's masterkey).

    Patriot speaks after the field goes up.
    "You're not a normal SHIELD OPS team. You're not in uniform. You're full of enhanced people and have power-armored individuals. You're not on the books. You're not the Avengers."
    "But we're not on the books either, you might have realised that by now."
    "Nor are our methods."
    "So here's the deal."
    "You take the live ones, we take the dead ones, and we both whistle and walk away and say nothing to nobody."

    Elise looks very, very tired.
    "Yeah, okay."
    "Fuck it. Sure."

    One of the Thunderbolts, Paladin, lets out a visible sigh of relief.

    Anteater: "Myrmidon. When you have a moment, I need to talk to you. Otherwise, I'm gonna get things set up in here for comms."

    "We've got a stealth aircraft to pick us up, we're extracting now." Patriot says as the rest of the Thunderbolts begin prepping the bodies for removal. "When we're clear, the jamming field goes with us and you do what you want."

    The Thunderbolts gear up and depart. They have a stealth aircraft that the team can briefly see the shimmer of as they rappel away. It's hard to make out a silhouette of it or get any real details, but that's definitely something that's going to burn the asses of the SCI-TECH division (who felt they had the whole stealth jet thing cornered with the Quinjet).

    Mason turns to Vlad. "Here's the masterkey. As soon as they're out of sight, let's rob this place's info blind. This mission is fucked but at least we can get something out of it."

    Anteater: "...Anything you can find on Project Sampler. Can you. Can you prioritize that?"

    "I have a feeling this program will let him turn the place upside down and shake out its pockets. Don't worry about it." Myrmidon steps over to Anteater. "Okay, let's talk."

    "I'm passing the fucking torch." Elise says plainly. "I'm ... dealing with some shit. Multifaceted levels of shit. A cornucopia of shit."
    "A veritable fucking smorgasbord of shit."

    "Yeah," Miles says. "I think we all picked up on that." He puts a hand on her shoulder. "If you need to talk, you can come to me."

    "But if you don't need to talk," he adds in barely a whisper, so only she can hear, "please, for the love of God, resist the temptation to yell at the bad guys. I think something just kicked off tonight - something bad. And those guys know way too much already." He looks her in the eye and lightens his voice. "And I'm going to need everyone on deck to handle it. Okay?"

    Anteater: "You've been the leader for four seconds and you're taking that tone? But yeah. Okay. Fine. Sure. You're right."

    This moment, Elise passing the torch, was something Cass and I had planned from the beginning. Elise isn’t a leader type, but neither is consummate company man Michael, spacey civilian Julian, or the robot.

    It kind of had to be Miles by process of elimination, but with the story I’d written for him, as a kind of traumatized black ops Robocop who was new to both SHIELD and to being a good guy, it didn’t make sense to start out that way. So we agreed that we’d have these little moments where Elise would hesitate and Miles would unconsciously snap into squad leader mode until the team hit some problem that made Elise feel conscious of being in over her head and she’d be like “why don’t *you* do this?”

    We didn’t specifically plan for it to happen in this session - I was imagining we’d spool it out a bit longer - but it felt right in the moment. It also made sense to me that Miles would immediately start vocalizing all the thoughts he’d been kind of swallowing up to this point.


    Vladimir puts the Masterkey into the computer, and it begins flooding with images and data. Most of it is moving too fast for people who aren't Vladimir or Elise to notice. Elise picks out some specific names and places. Herbert Wyndham III, CEO of Alchemax. Wundagore Mountain, Symkaria.

    Terrigen Crystals. Hypercortisone-D. Inhumans. Evolution. John Steele. Super-Soldiers. Teleos Conference.

    it's just like, filenames and images and stuff.

    As data is rapidly transferred to the masterkey.

    The key, which had been blinking blue, now blinks red.

    And the Alchemax computer screen displays "ALL DATA CLEARED. FORMATTING"

    Vladimir detects a huge burst transmission of raw data, wirelessly, coming from the key.

    It happens too quickly to be stopped. Vlad has a choice. He can block the data, but everything will be corrupted and he'll get no download himself. Or, he can make a copy, and let everything go through.

    It's one or the other.

    He has picoseconds to decide.

    Vlad makes a copy of all the data, allowing the transmission to go through. The masterkey's LED indicator shuts off.

    He could trace the signal, but not while disguising his own data signature. So, presumably, whoever he traces it to could know it was traced.

    And could even, theoretically, know it was him if they recognized the signature.
    Or he could just...not.

    Vlad traces the signal. It's going directly to the Baxter Building.

    A warning pops up in Vlad's HUD.

    DOOMTECH DETECTED
    LAUNCHING COUNTERMEASURES

    Vlad needs to defend himself from a brute force cyber-invasion. He hijacks Myrmidon's cybernetics for auxiliary processing to defend himself from the cyber-attack.

    "What t - ?!" Myrmidon''s words die in his throat as his heart stops beating.

    The Alchemax data is rapidly being corroded by the cyber-attacker program, so to save it, Vlad dumps the data into Myrmidon’s onboard memory, trusting that the wildly different technology and protocols will allow the data to just rest there, not doing any further harm, until it can be examined and extracted by COMMS. Probably.

    Myrmidon gasps explosively and grabs his chest. "What. The. FUCK."

    "Myrmidon, be calm." Vlad says in a heavily distorted voice.

    Anteater: "What the fuck just happened -?"

    Vladimir: "RICHARDS!"
    Vlad explains what happened and what he HAD TO do to Myrmidon.

    This is a pretty definitive Vlad moment. If there’s knowledge or an advantage to be gained, he’ll pursue it singlemindedly in spite of the risks, and argue that he had no choice in the matter.

    Also, shouting “RICHARDS!” at the sky is hella on-brand.



    Anteater: "That snake fucking backstabbed us!"

    Vladimir: "I will assist you with purging the data once we are back at HQ. My apologies, Myrmidon."

    Jacobkosh on
    Matev
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 1
    The team takes the masterkey, and carefully load the unconscious people into the Quinjet. They fly back to Governors Island, where their hangar is. Clay wants a debrief ASAP.

    The first thing Elise says is, "I'm not the team leader anymore. I'm still in the field, but sometimes the most mature decision you can make as a leader is to delegate the responsibility to the right person."

    Clay recognizes this speech.

    Elise heard it on Dr Phil this morning as they waited for everyone to show up.

    Clay debriefs the team. He’s REALLY mad at first about the squad being made but then sorta comes around at the idea of having some dirt on ONE.

    And just sorta puts that info in his back pocket and lets the gross violation of op-sec slide.

    "That's why I stepped down as leader, Clay." Elise says this in a really shitty voice.

    Clay just nods at Elise, as if the sarcasm and passive aggression is flying over his head and she's being sincere.

    Clay: "Is... is the data still on the masterkey or was that whole thing a fucking ruse by Richards?"
    "Someone go check with Warrick."
    "Make sure it goes in the Black Box, Hand was really clear about this."

    Elise cheerfully suggests that things aren't so bad for Myrmidon, as not only did he get a promotion but now he's a mission critical asset.

    Mason also explains that Parker was very eager and cooperative and had done an impressive amount of homework on his own, and recommends that it be added to his file that the key to getting the kid's cooperation is to just treat him with respect and not shine him on.

    Clay: "Noted."

    Anteater: "I want to talk to Hand."

    Clay: "You're clear, go ahead."

    When the masterkey gets dropped off to Warrick, Warrick runs it through the blackbox.

    It's... empty.

    There's nothing on it.

    Myrmidon: "I could have told you that would happen."

    Warrick also apologises for not noticing the hidden wireless transmitter inside the device itself.

    Elise apologizes to Jeremiah.
    Reluctantly.

    Jeremiah accepts the apology.
    "I apologize for all the stuff I posted on Facebook about you."

    Elise slowly nods.
    And then goes to her office to check Facebook

    His Facebook is private. Elise is not his friend.

    "VLAD."

    Vlad hacks Jeremiah's Facebook.

    Jeremiah talks MAD shit about Elise but never by name. He's got pretty good op-sec on his private Facebook, he "works for a cyber-security company" and gripes about his co-workers in a general sense.

    Elise is "The Stank Woman"

    Elise isn't going to get her revenge. Because she doesn't want to do ANOTHER HR Sensitivity seminar, and the only revenge she can come up with is owl-related

    Vlad adds "Hunting Mice" to Jeremiah's interests.


    Would you give Elise a random baby you found in the woods to take care of?

    They gave her a Doombot with no memory, no knowledge of the world, and no inbuilt moral code. And this is what happens.



    Jeremiah and COMMS work on the masterkey and the recovered data. It very much appears Reed screwed SHIELD. Had Vlad not intervened, Reed's "masterkey" would have just wiped all the computers, transmitted the data to the Baxter Building, and the masterkey formatted itself.

    Reed would have gotten 100% data and SHIELD 0.

    Elise helps the team research the clues she caught glimpses of. Herbert Wyndham III is the CEO of Alchemax. He is the grandson of Herbert Wyndham, who was one of the scientists at the Teleos Conference 1942. The Wyndhams have always had an interest in eugenics, genetics, and human enhancement.

    Wundagore Mountain is an active volcano in Symkaria. According to details Vladimir found, Wyndham apparently owns almost the entire mountain himself as private land he bought from the corrupt Symkarian government.

    Nobody has any idea what Terrigen Crystals are.

    Inhumans is the term that Elise was referred to. It also came up in relation to the 12 people that were in the Alchemax lab.

    What "Inhuman" means beyond... weird superpowered person? Is a mystery.
    .
    John Steele is a fairly common name and is really difficult to find specific info on, but doing some cross-references to related data he is, supposedly, a "real" person who was an immortal Confederate soldier who travelled across the cosmos to an alien land, and served as the inspiration for Edgar Rice Burroughs’s "John Carter" character for his Barsoom novels. Supposedly, Burroughs insisted Steele was a real person although at the time everyone dismissed it.

    Since then, historians have suspected that Steele might have been some kind of enhanced individual?

    The Teleos Conference was a meeting of scientists in 1942, attended by Abraham Erskine, Arnim Zola, Herbert Wyndham, and Wladyslav Shinski. It's not clear what was discussed there, aside from the fact that this is where the "idea" of Super-Soldiers came about.

    Erskine was the man who created Captain America. Arnim Zola was the creator of Red Skull, and supposedly "died" in the 70s, although the team just met an individual claiming to be Zola. Wladyslav Shinski created the Winter Soldier program, and died in the 1980s in Chernobyl, killed by the Secret Avenger code-named "Nomad" (who was one of the Winter Soldiers whom he created).

    Wyndham is sort of a historical footnote, his son (Herbert Wyndham II) founded Alchemax in the 1980s.

    The current CEO, Herbert Wyndham III, is his grandson.

    According to info Vladimir pulled up, Wyndham is currently out of the country, at his mansion in Symkaria on Wundagore Mountain.

    Clay is going to have COMMS do some signals intel, and figure out how to potentially approach some rendition on Wyndham. To get some answers. That's in the planning stages.

    Elise is decidedly unhappy about this but recognizes she can't really complain.

    The team are going over some of the intel, and planning the next op…

    When a red alert klaxon in the Crypt goes off.

    "BREACH. BREACH. BREACH,” the loudspeakers blare..

    Vlad connects to security. He sees a woman in strange garb with a...bow? Stalking through the hallways of the Crypt. She takes down two SEC guards with one shot, the arrow plunging through both and pinning their bodies to the wall. Another SEC agent fires at her with a submachine gun, the bullets glancing off her armor and... her skin.

    She turns and backhands the man, his neck snapping backwards, killing him instantly.

    iKqtkpJ.png

    Vlad relays this to the team

    Anteater: "Oh, what the fuck!!"

    Myrmidon: "Behemoth, suit up! Everyone, get ready for a fight. And we're not using ICERs. This is weapons free."

    Michael armors up. Vlad cloaks.

    "THIEF OF THE DESTROYER, THE ALL-FATHER CALLS FOR YOUR DEATH," the woman bellows into the hall.

    Elise looks left, looks right, and points at herself questioningly.

    Phoenix: "Don't think it's me..."

    Myrmidon powers up his repulsor. "Vlad, push a message to every SEC agent in the building! Use the loudspeaker if you have to! Tell them do not engage. We're going in!"

    PDKpJsK.png

    Jacobkosh on
    Matev
  • visiblehowlvisiblehowl Neutron Nerd Registered User regular
    This is dope as fuck and I want all the rest of it now.

    vxsHp3F.gif
    I am apparently an MTGA draft god on Twitch
    JacobkoshMatevironsizideFencingsax
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Fear not! I have the next post ready to go as soon as I get home from work.

    Matev
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 1
    ufc4TL5.png

    YWPQKmn.png

    Red-alert klaxons sound throughout the base. SEC agents rush to action stations, although they're focusing on securing bulkheads and junctions but avoiding engaging the Asgardian as per Myrmidon's order, and are waiting for STRIKE to engage. The Asgardian (at least, that's what is assuming everyone is assuming she is based on her demonstrable capabilities, manner of dress, and weapons) is stalking through the hallways of the Crypt, striking down everyone she sees and shouting about "The Thief of the Destroyer!"

    Clay looks to Myrmidon "You're in charge of your team, but I'm base command here. Lead your team, Agent Mason, and I'll focus on keeping personnel out of your way. Take that hostile down!"

    da0J4Ch.jpg


    Agent Westin suits up, transforming from nondescript G-man to a hulking metal killing machine.

    Anteater: "Listen, if this is about the CD I shoplifted a while back -"
    "I think it's still in the van -"

    Vladimir: "I do not think she is here for a CD"

    Warrick speaks up "I... I think I know what this is about, sir."

    Anteater: "Well thank God."

    Myrmidon begins studying the base schematics, looking for a good place to stage fight that's away from ordinary humans and critical systems. He keeps one ear open to Warrick's explanation. It seems obvious that what they need right now is information.

    "Commander, shall I move to recon?" Vlad turns to Myrmidon

    Miles nods. "Yes - but don't assume she has only the normal human senses."

    "Agreed, Commander." Vlad cloaks and moves to intercept.

    Warrick continues. "I think this is about Agent Westin, sir. I archived the information related to his case-file. The cult he took down, they called themselves the 'Scions of the Destroyer'. Not openly, but internally they did. I catalogued their lore and documents. They were a pretty standard doomsday cult, but the artifact that they imbued Agent Westin with, they called it the Destroyer. We didn't fully know its origin, but...I mean, it could be Asgardian? It would be consistent with other Asgardian artifacts SHIELD has obtained."

    Michael looks at Warrick. "And when were you gonna tell me this?"

    Warrick: "...when I was authorized to do so?"

    Michael nods in understanding. "Ah I see, I know you're a good friend, Jeremiah."

    Warrick: "I'm sorry, Michael."

    Myrmidon whistles softly. "Behemoth, that means that you're our ace in the hole. She's here for you. I'm not going to let her get you, but we can use you to lure her away from places where people could get hurt. We'll isolate the target and drop her."

    Behemoth: "No time for apologies, we need to deal with this Asgardian, and her killing spree."

    "I may have a solution to that, Mason." Victoria Hand walks into the room. "Also, Warrick, could you please tighten your beak a little on our Asgardian artifacts, good lord."

    Miles shoots Hand a look. "He had a right to know, ma'am."

    Hand purses her lips. "This is a crisis. I'll forgive it. This time."
    "At any rate."
    "Every SHIELD facility that is level 6 or higher has a specific chamber known as a Time-Out. It's actually one of those ridiculous backronyms that Nicholas is very fond of but I'm not dignifying that. They were originally constructed to contain Doctor Banner in case he had an episode.”

    Myrmidon nods. "I think this situation qualifies."

    Hand: "If we could lure this Asgardian into the Time-Out, she could be kept contained and interrogated."

    Behemoth: "I'll act as bait then. She's clearly here for me, so it should be me."

    "W-Well, I'm going to help." Elise glances nervously at Victoria.


    Elise reflexively looks to Victoria for leadership, rather than her boss Clay or her team leader Miles.


    Hand pulls up the Crypt blueprints on the holo-display. It's incredibly labyrinthine, as one would expect from a secret SHIELD underground base. "The Time-Out is here, it's not on the blueprint." She taps the blueprint, and says aloud. "System, highlight the T.I.M.E.O.U.T., Authorization: Libra." A 20 foot by 20 foot room lights up on the map that wasn't there before.

    "Vladimir," Miles radios. "Do you think you could alter your holoprojector in such a way as to create an image of the Behemoth or Agent Westin a short distance from your actual location?"

    "Yes this is possible, but it may cause damage to my holo-interface," Vlad relays. "It is possible, though."

    Behemoth: "Guys, I appreciate all these ideas, but the least risky plan is the simplest. I'll confront her, run away like the 'craven thief' I am, and trap her in the T.I.M.E.O.U.T."

    "...I have a gun. Miss Hand taught me how to shoot and I'm real good at shooting and I can shoot her." This is Elise's total contribution.

    Behemoth: "That very well may come in handy"

    “Myrmidon: "How do we activate the Time-Out?"

    "There's a secret door, I'll give you the code." Hand relays it to Miles.

    Myrmidon: "Okay. Let's head up there and get her attention. Then it's a run to the Time-Out chamber."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 1
    The team (minus Anteater, who is holding at the Time-Out door) engages the Asgardian. The SEC agents have been leading her on a cat and mouse around the facility in a holding pattern. When the Asgardian sees Behemoth in full armor, she bellows "Thief of the Destroyer! The All-Father has chosen your death!" She draws an arrow and fires.

    The arrow breaks against Behemoth's armor.

    She looks shocked.

    Michael watches the arrow splinter off his armoured chest. "Well lookit that."

    "You want this armour back, come and get it." Michael takes off down the hall towards the T.I.M.E.O.U.T. The Asgardian draws a dagger from her belt, which extends into a spear. She howls and chases after him.

    Behemoth gets to the door of the Time-Out, as Anteater punches in the code to open the door in preparation.

    Behemoth charges into the chamber just as the Asgarian pounces on him. He hurls her off of him, throwing her into the wall. The wall... absorbs the noise in a really weird way?

    This room has a really strange construction.

    Behemoth gets out of the room. Anteater hits the door controls and the door slams shut behind Behemoth.

    The Asgardian flies at the door but to no avail. She rages at the room, throwing her spear, shooting arrows. Nothing seems to matter. The room is soundproof, but there's a comm.

    Elise hits the comm. "So, hi, I get that - that you're really frustrated and mad right now. My name's Anteater. You can keep wrecking the room if you want, that's cool, but it's not gonna help."
    "We actually want to talk to you, which is - kind of really nice of us, I guess, because you just murdered a whole bunch of people. And you didn't even kill Jeremiah? So, I mean, we're getting off to a rough start here overall."

    "Focus," Myrmidon mutters in a soft voice he knows only Elise can hear.

    Valkyrie: "RELEASE ME. I am one of the Valkyrior! My mission is a sacred duty! I am the taker of the fallen as commanded by the All-Father! You will not interfere!"

    Anteater: "Okay so first of all that's not going to happen. Second of all, I guess you're mad at our pal Behemoth, huh? Can you go into detail about that? Something about him stealing the Destroyer?"

    Valkyrie: "What... what is this made of? This prison? Uru?"

    Vlad searches for the word Uru.

    Elise: "I dunno! We have all kinds of science dudes, it's some kind of rude ass shit. Point is, you're not getting out, so let's play nice, y'know?"

    In Norse myth, Uru is a magical metal, crafted by Dwarven smiths, that Thor's hammer Mjolnir and other magical weapons were crafted out of. Thor, the Avenger, claims his hammer is made of Uru. SHIELD's scientists are skeptical, but they don't technically know what it's made of and he won't let them study it.

    Behemoth: "I think there has been a misunderstanding here, Miss?"

    Valkyrie: "You have stolen an Asgardian weapon, a sacred component of the All-Father's armory. He has commanded that you be taken for this transgression, not in the glory of honored war but in the shadows as befitting your dishonor. For this purpose, the Valkyrior are sent as the takers of the fallen. We are the All-Fathers' dark hands who silence the dishonored."
    "I am the first of many. If you execute me or keep me prisoner, more will come, and my sisters will be more zealous to avenge me."

    SsWsd5k.png Valkyrior
    2vJDTch.png

    The Valkyrior are Odin’s black ops. The “Choosers of the Fallen”, they act as Asgard’s assassins and spies, deployed to Earth and elsewhere in the universe to do the things that Asgard considers “dishonorable”.

    They are extremely dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. While all Asgardians are dangerous and powerful and essentially godlike individually, Valkyrior are worse because they lack the warrior’s honor and scruples that at least make Asgardians reliable and predictable. Valkyrior are sneaky, underhanded, and devious. When they’re on our side, they’re fantastic allies. When they are not, they are the worst enemies imaginable.

    Elise takes out her phone and texts Hand: "????????????????????"

    Hand texts back "idk"

    This is deeply alarming. Miss Hand is never supposed to idk. Elise shows the phone to Myrmidon.

    "I get that you are doing your duty. I can understand that. But your whole reason for coming after me is flawed. You've gotten some bad intel. I didn't steal this 'Destroyer' weapon. It was forced upon me." Michael lifts up his shirt revealing a runic brand over his heart.


    I love this moment. When Michael realizes that the Valkyrie is in the black ops business, he suddenly knows how to relate to her. “You got bad intel.” How great is that? A Man in Black and a Norse myth have something in common.

    I want to take a minute here to salute Dave, Behemoth’s player. Dave is the consummate example of what I call “supporting cast.” He’s not interested in being the character who drives the plot forward, or the one who talks to the NPC, or the wild card who does zany things that turn the game on its head. He’s content to sit back and quietly watch those things.

    But he’s never, ever *unengaged*, he’s just *quiet*. This is a really important distinction. He always knows what’s going on in the game and how it relates to his guy, and he has a clear idea of who his character is, so when the GM shines the spotlight on his character, he steps up.

    He doesn’t want to be the star, but he makes the game better by being there. Supporting cast.

    Every game needs people like this. And if your game has all people like this, you may not have some high-energy narrative experience, but you’ll have a terrific game of beer-and-pretzels D&D.


    Valkyrie: "If you did not steal it, then who did? How was it forced upon you?"

    Myrmidon frowns and hands the phone back to Anteater, but nods to Behemoth. It seems Westin telling the truth might be everyone's best shot.

    Behemoth: "By a cult calling themselves the 'Scions Of The Destroyer', apparently. I was doing my duty to handle them and was taken as part of some kind of ritual. Honestly I don't remember much, but what I do is horrifying."

    She puts her weapons away. This is the first time she has done this.
    "...so you are a victim."

    Behemoth: "Indeed."

    Valkyrie: "You are a soldier?"

    Behemoth: "Of a sort, yes. I'm an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D."

    Valkyrie: "I am familiar with this organization, Thor Odinson serves this army."

    Anteater: "Oh, it's bullshit when I say that I'm an agent of SHIELD, but he does it and everyone's like 'good diplomacy, Behemoth -" Elise is muttering.

    Valkyrie: "I wish to speak to your commander, Nick Fury. If he is not available, your direct superior will suffice."

    Myrmidon steps forward. "That would be me. Agent Miles Mason. How should I address you?"

    Anteater: "I can't believe I gave up party leadership just before a godqueen with amazing thighs descended into our offices this is bullshit."

    Valkyrie: "I am Sigrun, of the Valkyrior."

    Myrmidon: "Sigrun, if I release you from this room, do I have your word as a warrior that we will parlay in peace?"

    She nods. "The parlay has already begun."

    Elise pops a mint into her mouth.

    Sigrun: "To remove the Destroyer from this man now would kill him. The bonding is permanent, and I believe his story that he is a victim of the actions of others."
    "I want your word, as a warrior and his commander, that when he is slain or dies of old age, your word as a representative of his army, that the Destroyer will be returned to Asgard."

    Victoria Hand slides around the corner of the hallway.

    She's not wearing shoes because she can't run in heels.

    Myrmidon: "You have it - on one condition. You're familiar with this artifact. With this affliction he bears. I would appreciate any information you have about it that could help my comrade."

    Elise springs up from her Pout Position and waves enthusiastically at Victoria.
    "Miss Hand we did it we solved the problem!"

    "Nononononononono" Hand is saying out loud.

    Anteater: "But we did, actually, and I helped -"

    Vlad reads the situation and remains silent.

    The Valkyrie nods. "I can tell you what you wish to know."

    Elise elbows Myrmidon. "Let her out of the cell. I wanna smell her."

    Myrmidon nods. "Then we have a deal." He opens the cell.

    Hand stops at the door. Her jaw tightens. She is clearly conflicted between not wanting to undercut defusing the situation and getting more intel, and making a deal that she does NOT want to authorize.

    Elise springs up and bounds over to say hello - and then sees Hand, pauses, reads her mood, smiles awkwardly, spins on her heel, and bounds over to Vlad.
    "This is extremely awkward and I do not like it."

    Sigrun begins to explain. "The Destroyer was forged in the Hyborian Age by the All-Father's predecessor, King Bor, to destroy his enemies, the shape-shifting Snake-Men, who ruled the ancient kingdom of Stygia. It does not draw upon the same power as most of Asgard, our Norn Stones, but instead a darker force, drawing across the cosmos from the inferno of Surtr, the Fire Giant, who will one day bring ruin to the universe.

    Vlad cross references the Valkyrie's information with Norse mythology records.

    "The Destroyer is not intended to be held in the body of such a mortal man, only an Asgardian could truly contain its powers. Eventually, this man's soul will burn and his body will be rendered to cinders, which is why it is critical that when he inevitably dies, the armor is returned to Asgard."

    What she's talking about has nothing to do with Asgardian mythology. It only barely tracks with some stuff. Like, Surtr is the fire giant from Norse myth that will bring about Ragnarok, but there's no Hyborian Age or Stygia or Snake-Men. King Bor is the father of Odin, known in Norse myth as the All-Father, and the "Norn Stones" are magical artifacts but they're not the "source of Asgard's power", so...????


    For those who don’t know, the Hyborian Age is the mythical pre-history of Earth that Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories are set in.

    Marvel published Conan comics in the 70s (classic stuff, too, with beautiful art by Barry Windsor-Smith and John Buscema) and some of Marvel’s writers planted cheeky references to Conan continuity in the main Marvel books, so mixing the two worlds is not a new thing, but it pleased me to see.


    Michael quickly texts Vlad to send him all the data he finds, he doesn't trust SHIELD to not keep him in the dark with this information.

    Elise tiptoes over to Victoria nervously. "So, um, Miss Hand." she says. "She's um, telling the truth."

    "Hrmph." Hand grunts.

    Anteater: "...Are you mad at us?"

    "Do you know of anyone on earth who knows more of this - Hyborian Age?" Myrmidon asks Sigrun.

    "A little." Hand has learned it is largely pointless to lie to Elise.

    She is not a little mad at the team.

    "That is not my concern," Sigrun replies to Myrmidon.

    "Is there - anything I can do to make you not mad?" Elise is working herself into an Anxiety.

    Hand: "We'll figure something out later, Elise. There will be a debrief."

    Anteater: "Oh no."

    'There will be a debrief' are ominous words from Victoria Hand.

    Elise returns to her position by the door and texts Vlad: ":( :( :(


    Vlad texts back "Indeed"

    Myrmidon frowns. "I don't like the idea that my man's soul will 'burn' - whatever that means." He turns to Westin. "We're going to figure something out for you," he says grimly.

    "Is there any way to like prevent my soul from burning before I expire of natural causes? Like if I continue to use this armour, will that speed up the deterioration of my body?"

    Sigrun: "I am not certain. Mortal hosts of the Destroyer do not usually last longer than a few months at a time, often no longer than a few days, which is why it has been lost for thousands of years. The hosts keep dying, for not being Asgardians.

    "It was only recently that you came upon Heimdall's gaze outside Babylon."

    Myrmidon exhales as he realizes what this means. Aqiria.

    "I will be departing now. You may have days, weeks, months. Perhaps, at most, a few years, if you have the blood of Frost Giants in you like this one does." Sigrun nods at Elise. "I am uncertain, but so long as SHIELD honors its pact, immortal Asgard will simply wait out your finite life to have the artifact returned. If SHIELD breaks the pact...we will revisit the issue. With prejudice."

    Anteater: "Wait."
    "Wait, wait, wait, what."
    "WHAT."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Behemoth: "Wait a minute. I have a request."

    Sigrun looks at Behemoth. She doesn't seem to acknowledge Elise.

    Behemoth: "I'm not afraid to die in battle, and I think you can understand that. But to die because of a curse that was forced upon me is dishonourable. If we deal with this cult and prevent them from doing this to anyone else, will you take me to this All-Father and see if he can alter the bonding so that I can live a natural life-span?"

    Sigrun is thoughtful. "Hrm. From what I understand... the cult is dealt with. I investigated the cult, and you... you killed them. You killed them all."

    Behemoth: "I-I did?"

    Sigrun: "But if I respect your desire to die a warrior's death, to not be scorched by some curse that was forced upon you. I know of only one way for you to avoid such a fate, and that is beyond my authority."
    "I could advocate for you to the All-Father."

    Behemoth: "I would greatly appreciate that, no matter his decision."

    She nods.

    Anteater: "What about the Frost Giants blood thing though."

    The Valkyrie looks over at Elise. "I'm sorry?"

    Anteater: "You - you said I had the blood of frost giants in me? That seems notable. I'm - I'm noting it!!!"

    Sigrun: "Oh, yes. At the dawn of the Hyborian Age, in the times before written histories, and long before I was ever born or even the All-Father, the Frost Giants came to Midgard from across the Ginnungagap, the darkness beyond darkness. They were mighty, blue-skinned, red-eyed creatures of powerful magics."
    "Or sciences, as you'd call it, I suppose. Asgardians see no difference."

    Elise stares at her for a moment.
    She slowly nods.

    Sigrun continues. "They came to Midgard, and made many rituals and have a long history that is far too complex to explain. My lifespan is measured in centuries and I learned these things as a young girl, you must understand. The salient point for you is at one point, the Frost Giants used their magics to interbreed with the crude mortals of Midgard, creating half-blooded hybrids that still walk your world. Most of them, their half-giant blood is latent, and is unknown to me. For some, if they come into contact like the Norn Stones that empower Asgardians, it becomes awakened. It has in you, so power senses power."

    Elise continues to stare, trying her best to listen and understand.


    If you know your Marvel, and remember what Elise was referred to in the Alchemax files, this is all very...suggestive. People who have the DNA of visitors from the sky and get superpowers when they touch magic stones? Hm! Hmmmm!

    And apparently these stones ‘empower’ Asgardians too? So wait, what does that make Asgardians?

    At this point I think I was mashing my keyboard with both of my clumsy paws, trying to ask about thirty questions simultaneously.



    Vladimir attempts to scan Valkyrie's gear. He can sense inexplicable energy signatures off her equipment and weapons that are definitely quantifiable but are not identifiable. They can be catalogued and compared to something he encounters later, if it is similar. It IS similar to the energy patterns that Behemoth emits.

    Vlad compares the energy readings to his own.

    They're not the same.

    Elise finally smiles, nods, and swallows hard. And then she scrawls her number on a piece of notebook paper. "You know what, you ever want to discuss this over drinks, you let me know." She offers the paper to the massive woman before her.

    Myrmidon smiles slightly at Elise's gesture. Hope springs eternal!

    Sigrun takes the note from Elise, looks at it, nods. "I have memorized it." She takes out... her own cell phone? And texts Elise. "This is my number. If I am in Asgard, I will not receive your messages. There is no coverage there, naturally."

    Elise grins. Today has been terrible, but at least it ended on a high note!

    Myrmidon's face is now carefully blank, but Sigrun looks toward him anyway. "I am the dark hand of the All-Father. I operate on Midgard extensively. I have a cellphone and a wardrobe of clothing and I rent cars and I am familiar with your customs. I am several hundred years old and I have been doing this job for nearly that entire time, I am not a barbarian."

    Elise stands behind her and mouths at Myrmidon.
    "and I'm gonna get some of that."

    Phoenix: "Oh wow. Do you ever like... watch our media? TV? Movies? Listen to music?"

    Sigrun: "Yes."

    "Huh." Phoenix nods approvingly. "Cool."

    Myrmidon meets the Valkyrie’s look. "In that case, in the future, I hope we can look forward to talking first and fighting later. We don't mean any harm to Asgard or its denizens."

    Sigrun: "Good. I have found this entire matter humiliating. I am capable of providing financial recompense for the individuals I have slain." She looks over at Victoria Hand. "You are Victoria Hand."

    Hand visibly flinches. "No... no I'm not!"

    Myrmidon scoffs.

    "Yes you are. The All-Father is aware of SHIELD's high-ranking personnel. You will notify me of to what financial account it is appropriate to provide financial recompense. This one," she nods at Elise, "will provide you with my contact information."

    "....o-ok." Hand is visibly nervous. You have never seen this before.

    Sigrun: "I will be leaving now."

    Behemoth: "Safe travels."

    Sigrun begins to walk away. Hand starts to say "SEC agents will escort y-..." and the Valkyrie looks back at her and snaps "That is ill-advised. I know the way out, as I knew the way in." Hand closes her mouth.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 1
    As soon as Sigrun is out of earshot, Elise throws up her hands. "I," she announces, "am going to my Van, I'm going to smoke up, and I'm going to be completely alone for 12 hours, or I am going to lose my shit."

    Hand nods at Elise. "The rest of you, conference room for debrief now."

    "Good work," Myrmidon says to Behemoth in a low voice. "You kept your head clear when it got personal."

    Michael whispers back "Thanks. I could've taken her but I didn't think that was the right play. Glad to know my instincts were right."

    Down the hall, Clay is leaning up against the wall, and clears his throat.

    "That'll be enough, Victoria.

    "You're not their boss, Victoria. You're not even the director of this base. I am. Go back to Comms and gets us some sig-int on Wundagore Mountain, the Thunderbolts, Alchemax, and all of that. This whole Valkyrie business has been resolved by my team."

    Elise looks at Clay.
    She looks at Victoria.
    "Um," she says, tentatively. "I, I think we're okay, um, Miss Hand is -"
    She looks at Vlad. She falters.

    Hand stares daggers at Clay. She looks like she's going to say something, but doesn't. She just walks away. Saying nothing.

    Myrmidon nods to Clay. "We should probably still have a clearing-the-air session. We've all learned a lot. We need to put it in context."

    Anteater: "Well, you have fun with that, but Miss Hand said I could go and smoke up, so I'm going to go -"

    Clay: "I agree, Agent Mason. Also, good job defusing a very dangerous situation. You made the right call, which is why I purely observed and stepped back, instead of trying to step on your dick unlike some."
    "You're cleared, Agent Arnell."

    "Yesssss.” Elise scurries off.

    Myrmidon nods briskly. 'Sir." He feels more comfortable than he has in weeks. He has a team again, and a mission, and a superior who seems willing to back his plays.

    Meanwhile, in the Crypt’s parking garage, a cloud of pungent smoke, and Jimi Hendrix, slowly drifts out of the back of the tity mermaid van.

    Clay summons the team, minus Elise, to the conference room for a debrief. "So, here's what we know, and what lies ahead, and what's on our plate.

    "1. Alchemax is up to no good. They're doing experiments with a substance they called Isotope-8, that forms the foundation of the street drug Kick and the designer enhancement drug Hypercortisone-D, that HYDRA has been selling to PMCs and terrorist groups, including Eaglestar.

    "2. Iso-8 is a crystalline isotope, and based on decrypted data we've managed to get out of stuff Vlad obtained, is a synthesized compound based on something Alchemax calls 'Terrigen.' We don't know what Terrigen is, where it comes from, or anything about it.

    "3. A small percentage of people are mutated permanently by Iso-8, based on something specific to their DNA, and Alchemax is looking for those people by way of putting a radiological tracer in their drugs. They've been kidnapping the people who are mutated in this way, and calling them 'Inhumans'. To what end? We don't know.

    "4. Agent Arnell is apparently one of these 'Inhumans'. We've known for a long time that her abilities were the product of an Alchemax experiment, and that Alchemax was after her. She was apparently part of a first wave of Alchemax iso-8 experiments, something called 'Project Sampler.'

    "5. What this has to do with all that stuff that Valkyrie said about Frost Giant blood and so on, I have no idea. Our intel on Asgardians is constantly evolving and has to be taken with a dump-truck of salt.”

    Myrmidon: "I mean, if you boil it all down, it sounds like people came here from somewhere else and did something to humans. That doesn't sound unreasonable given what we know."

    Clay nods. "Possibly. All of that business about Frost Giants might be ancient aliens chicanery viewed through a lens of a people who, themselves, are aliens. I mean, she literally said she doesn't see a difference between magic and advanced science.

    "6. Also mentioned in the Alchemax data was John Steele. There's a lot of John Steeles in the world, it's not that uncommon a name, although there is a very specific John Steele of legend that it might be specifically referring to. There's a John Steele who is, supposedly, a ‘real’ person who was an immortal Confederate soldier who travelled across the cosmos to an alien land, and served as the inspiration for Edgar Rice Burroughs' ‘John Carter’ character for his Barsoom novels. Supposedly, Burroughs insisted Steele was a real person that Burroughs met although at the time everyone dismissed it. We don't know what this has to do with anything. But it seemed important to Alchemax. Maybe Steele is real, and was some kind of enhanced immortal? Who knows. It's just a data-point right now.

    "7. Reed Richards screwed us. I was already shaky on the idea of trusting Reed, but the idea was at least expedient at the time. He was planning to screw us all along. This is a mistake this agency is never making again. We'll figure out what to do about that move in the future, because I imagine there's going to be blowback about the fact that Richards in all likelihood has figured out that STRIKE, or something akin to it, exists now."

    Vlad clenches his fist

    "8. Herbert Wyndham III, the CEO of Alchemax, needs to be taken in for questioning. I think he's going to be the man with all the answers. He's the grandson of Alchemax's founder, Herbert Wyndham, who was at the Teleos Conference with other super-soldier mucky-mucks like Abraham Erskine and Arnim Zola and Wladislav Shinski.

    "We know where, approximately, Wyndham is. He's at his private mansion on Wundagore Mountain, in the Transia province of Symkaria.

    "He's our next target. Hand is, if she's doing her actual job, having COMMS gather intel on that right now.

    "Anything else anyone wants to unpack right now?"

    "There's more," Mason says. He ticks off on his fingers. "A, Behemoth's powers are related to the Asgardians - would've been nice to know - but apparently aren't actually Asgardian. They date from some kind of, I don't know, antediluvian epoch. And they pose a risk to Agent Westin."

    Three things to note here:

    First, Miles numbers things on his fingers a lot. That’s a choice I made. Something I try to do with a character is give them one or two characteristic gestures to use, so I don’t have to re-imagine their body language every time I play. Also, I like the implied visual of him doing that with one robot hand and one human hand.

    Second, the instant he’s put in charge he becomes very protective of ‘his people’ and their advocate against the larger organization. I definitely feel he has learned this from his time leading a platoon in the Army and an executive bodyguard detail.

    Thirdly, Clay numbered everything with numerals, so Miles numbers his bullet points with letters. :P


    Behemoth: "Yes, I would like to find out as much as I can about that. It's kind of vital to my health and all."

    Myrmidon: "I agree. I want some of this base's resources combing the stacks for anything about the Hyborian Age, or at least for someone who can tell us about it. I think the agency owes its people that much."

    Clay: "Done.”
    ”To be crystal clear with you, agents, I know literally as much as you do about Agent Westin's affliction, or all of this Asgardian nonsense. Fury and Hand have kept me in the dark on all this."
    "Something I don't appreciate either."
    "I'll pull rank on it."

    Behemoth: "Thank you, Sir."

    Clay: "I did know about Agent Westin killing the rest of the Scions of the Destroyer but opted to keep that from the Agent for psychological health purposes, didn't feel it was operational purposes. I apologize if that upsets you, Agent."

    Behemoth: "I understand your reasons, though I don't agree with them."

    Clay: "Then you have my apology."

    Myrmidon nods. "Thank you. B, ONE is running kill-teams on US citizens. I don't know if Fury wants to do anything about that or not, but right now, I don't care. I'm tired of working for the bad guys. They'd have popped Elise, if she were there."

    Clay: "Agent Mason, the situation with the Thunderbolts is... complicated. I 100% agree with you that it's something we should do about and not tolerate. But, we do have to kick it upstairs and see what Fury wants to do about it first. Because, and I'm kind of glad Agent Arnell isn't here for this, her opsec slip-up has put us in a M.A.D. situation."

    "No shit," Mason sighs.

    Clay: "We rat on ONE to the American public, even by anonymous leak, then they rat on STRIKE."
    "It's M.A.D."
    "They know it, we know it."
    "So as of right now, ONE and SHIELD are in a cold war."
    "I'll kick it upstairs at Fury, he's very good at cold wars."
    "Anything further from anyone?"

    Myrmidon: "That's it from my end. Although the sooner we can get this corrupted code out of my BIOS, the better."

    "Talk to Wendell Vaughn over in COMMS about that. He's their so-called 'Marvel Boy'.”

    With that, Clay adjourns the meeting.
    r2C6Mbd.png

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 13
    QLJNDSF.png

    In the week following their break-in at Alchemax and the Valkyrie’s attack on the Crypt, the agents of STRIKE chase down leads and pursue their individual agendas.

    Jeremiah breaks protocol (very reluctantly) and tells his friend Michael, one of the few people in COMMS and STRIKE who is actually nice to him, what he knows about Asgardians and the Destroyer.

    When Jeremiah was a SHIELD archivist, he got to learn a bunch of stuff. Asgard is real. It's a real place. Nobody's quite sure where it is. Extra-dimensional? Another planet? But it's a real place, Thor is telling a version of the truth, he is not crazy. He's part of some otherworldly group of people who have been visiting Earth for thousands of years (who may originally be from Earth? That part isn't clear).

    Over the years SHIELD has come into possession of various Asgardian artifacts; “magic" swords and shields and amulets and the like. Most of them are locked in secret SHIELD facilities. A few were deemed so dangerous they were fired into the sun via the Slingshot, where Jeremiah used to work before... the incident.

    qlGmSdP.pngThe Slingshot
    z2vJ8Qu.png

    CLASSIFIED INFORMATION
    LEVEL 6 ACCESS REQUIRED: GRANTED


    Sometimes it is determined that an extranormal artifact or technological prototype is simply too dangerous to be secured in any SHIELD facility. The risk that such an item could be stolen and misused is too great, and it needs to be removed from play in a permanent fashion.

    For this reason, SHIELD developed the Solid Linear Inertial Negative Gaussian Solar Hyper Orbital Trajectory (SLINGSHOT) Project, a massive railgun assembly the size of aircraft runway designed to fire such objects in a decaying orbital path towards the Sun.

    The object to be removed is placed in a tungsten sabot, loaded into the SLINGSHOT, and then fired into space. This is only used in extreme circumstances, and in its history the device has only been used a handful of times. It has been suggested by some in SEC that the SLINGSHOT could be used for particular extranormal individuals if adequate containment cells could not be designed, but these suggestions were thoroughly objected to by the advisory board from MED.

    Jeremiah believes that "Uru", the supposedly "magic" metal that the Destroyer armor and Thor's hammer is made of, is either an alloy of or a similar metal to, the Vibranium metal that Captain America's shield is made of.

    What that means? Who knows.

    Jeremiah also believes in "magic," in the sense that he believes in Clarke's Third Law ("Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic").

    He believes in aliens, he believes aliens visited Earth in the ancient past, and that Asgardians are probably aliens.
    g3xuawl.png

    Vlad contacts Niles, showing him the thermite bomb attached to his core, and asks for his help with it, as well as information on Victor Von Doom.

    Niles thinks the bomb is very carefully installed such that it's not only incredibly difficult to remove without setting it off...it has a warning device on it so that if it WAS removed without detonating it, it would send out a signal notifying that its been defused. You could get around that if you were in some kind of perfectly insulated chamber that could block all kinds of signals on every single conceivable frequency,because Niles doesn't know exactly what frequency the bomb would transmit on. He doesn't know who would have a room like that.
    g3xuawl.png

    Wendell "Marvel Boy" Vaughn is able to fairly easily remove the virus from Myrmidon, since it was isolated in Myrmidon's firmware. They load it into a quarantined drive on the Black Box for study. Myrmidon is "clean."

    SsWsd5k.png Marvel Boy
    YfYMMGB.png

    Junior Intrusion Specialist, COMMS
    Codename: Marvel Boy
    Security Level: 7

    Wendell Vaughn is basically the stereotypical college hacker who was given the offer of working for the government or going to federal prison. He’s amazing at what he does, but SHIELD still monitors him closely to make sure he can be trusted. He’s been moved directly to COMMS HQ in the Crypt so that COMMS Director Hand can keep a personal eye on the young man. Fortunately, he seems to be so excited at the prospect of working with STRIKE that any suspicions about his loyalties are assuaged. For now.

    Vladimir reverse-engineers a version of the virus that won't harm him personally, but would serve as a weapon against other "Doomtech" that he could use if it was used against him. And he's now inoculated against further versions of the same virus.
    g3xuawl.png

    Victoria has Elise sit down in her office. She offers her some Twizzlers. Elise takes four, eats them all in one gooey, prolonged chomp, and then wipes her hands on her pants.

    "So, here's what we know about your situation, Elise.

    "We received signals intelligence that Alchemax was conducting unethical and illegal human experiments. We did not know the nature, purpose, or particular methodology of these experiments. The information was vague, but the outcomes were lethal for many of the test subjects. Others, they gained temporary superhuman abilities.

    "These turned out to be the other individuals in the group that we have later found out Alchemax called 'Project Sampler,' the food and drug test project that you were an unwitting part of.

    "At this time, we did not know about you specifically.

    "Unrelated to this, we also learned of an individual marked on our Potential Enhanced Index operating out of Las Vegas, who had been performing unexpectedly well at the casinos.

    "Too well.

    "This was you. You had drawn our attention with your hot-streaks. Nobody's that good. Nobody without extranormal powers.

    "And the casinos cottoned onto this too, which is how you found yourself in the situation you were in when I deployed Vladimir to extract you.

    "Originally, Nicholas wanted to claim you for the Avengers program, but I made the determination that based on your background and psychological profile that this would be a poor fit and you would be better suited for my division. We argued, I won, as is normal."

    "I could have been an Avenger?" Elise leans forward. "I mean, I - I - I always thought I was kind of a burnout, I just. I'm a success case for these people, aren't I? I'm their best case scenario."

    "You're not a burnout, my dear, and yes, you could have been an Avenger. But I felt you could have done a lot more important work with COMMS, and you have. Then Nicholas backdoored my decision months later with this STRIKE not-Avengers nonsense, which I am unhappy about but you're doing very well, which I knew you could. You could have been a very good Avenger as well. You're just better in COMMS."

    Elise beams. This is the most praise she's gotten since before she joined STRIKE!

    She loves being praised!

    "After SHIELD recruited you, we acquired intel that Alchemax was looking for you. They had learned about your abilities, probably from the Las Vegas mobsters you had run afoul of. They did not know you were with SHIELD, and were trying to find you for nefarious purposes. I made sure that did not happen. More than one Alchemax asset found themselves liquidated attempting to ascertain intelligence on my personnel."

    "...They want me back." Elise says.

    "You were never theirs."

    Elise nods and takes another handful of Twizzlers. "So. I'm inhuman, that's the result of the tests. Do we know what that means?"

    "Not entirely. We have theories. What I will say is...when you come back from Wundagore, I'll see if I can tell you more. I'll get permission from Nicholas to increase your security clearance, and the team's security clearance. You already know too much. Open contact with the Asgardian moved the posts.

    "I also want to integrate our divisions and bring STRIKE into COMMS' authority, it will streamline our operations, we're all in the same base and you rely on our intel heavily. I can rely on your support for that decision, right Elise?" She smiles warmly.

    "Of course, Miss Hand!" Elise beams. "You've always been super super nice to me, and I trust you, and I know you're going to show everyone else that it'll be worth it."

    "Thank you, Elise."

    Elise stands, and fills her pockets with Twizzlers. "We're going to make you proud."

    Hand smiles. "I know you will. Also, I heard you ceded team leadership to Agent Mason. I think it was the smart decision, and I want to compliment you on that. Sometimes, it takes the most leadership to realize you shouldn't be the one calling the shots."

    "Thank you, Miss Hand, I just... I want to do my best with this.

    “And I couldn't do my best as the leader."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 1
    7ddiY0S.jpg


    Clay has gathered the team around the conference room table.

    "Alright people, so we know that Herbert Wyndham, CEO of Alchemax, is still at his estate on Wundagore Mountain, in the Transia province of Symkaria."

    qlGmSdP.png Symkaria
    s2txovN.png

    A constitutional monarchy in the Balkans, the tiny Kingdom of Symkaria is devastatingly poor and fraught with crime. A neighbor to Latveria, the nearby technologically advanced despotic nation exploits Symkaria for labor and sells weapons to its mercenaries.

    Symkaria’s economy is almost entirely black market, with drugs, human trafficking, and mercenary companies being cornerstones of the GDP. When people question the horrible conditions of Latveria, Victor Von Doom often points to how the world has done nothing about the state of Symkaria and dares to question him.

    King Stefan of Symkaria is corrupt, but thoroughly entrenched in power and uses Latverian weapons and Symkarian mercenaries to keep himself on the throne.

    Symkaria is a powder keg. Eventually it will explode, and how Victor Von Doom responds to a civil war next door will change politics in the region.

    qlGmSdP.png King Stefan
    LR5bcEC.jpg

    Documented extranormal abilities: None. King Stefan has no specific extranormal abilities, but is an extremely wealthy head of state and has all the power and privilege that comes with that.

    King Stefan of Symkaria is head of state of the small European country. He is widely considered thoroughly corrupt and a cowardly man who clutches to power by any means necessary, plotting constantly and conspiring to retain his throne against any threat.

    He is known to be a puppet of Victor Von Doom of Latveria, and King Stefan’s regime is heavily reliant on Latverian technology to arm its mercenaries.

    SHIELD considers Stefan a potential “domino”. If he could be replaced by someone like his brother in law Ernst Sablinova or Ernst’s daughter Silver, it would destabilize the region enough that Doom would have to deal with domestic problems in Latveria, and could potentially spur the international community to take action against Doom.

    SHIELD OPS and COMMS divisions are currently weighing options to this effect.

    "Symkaria is a Balkan country, neighbor to Latveria, ruled by King Stefan."

    Elise produces a Twizzler from her pocket and begins to gnaw on it while she listens, but she is otherwise completely focused.

    "Wundagore Mountain is an active volcano. There once was a small city, uncreatively also called Wundagore, that once was populated but has been uninhabited for years when the volcano went active. There's rumors that squatters, terrorists, mercenaries, etc. now inhabit the city.

    "Why does Wyndham have a castle on the side of this volcano? Probably because he's insane. Who knows.

    "But it presents a layer of complexity. The whole area, especially the valley and the city, are blanketed in volcanic ash and smoke that make satellite photography basically useless. So you're going in almost literally blind, something COMMS isn't proud to admit."

    "...How bad is this going to be for me?" Elise hand shoots up.

    "Not going to lie, pretty horrid. You may want to either self-medicate, or see Niles about a rebreather option we've designed for you, which to be quite honest we'd prefer as you can take it on and off as necessary."

    "How about my equipment?" Miles asks. "And Vlad?"

    "In general, the majority of you are going to want to carry breathing equipment and sensors to monitor air quality."

    "It's always no Elise, don't smoke weed." Elise mutters. "Fine, I'll look into the rebreather."

    Phoenix: "Think of it as backup."

    Clay: "Presumably, Wyndham lives up there somehow so once you actually are on the ground and inside, it will be livable"


    Myrmidon: "How are we being inserted?"

    Elise snickers.

    "Kane is going to fly you in. We're confident the Quinjet's stealth systems will keep you concealed for most of the way, but we're not 100% confident, as there's a non-zero chance as you're going into Symkarian airspace and Symkaria is buying weapons from Latveria. And Doom's tech is... troublesome.

    "Especially as it concerns stealth technology. We're not sure our stuff is better than his detection technology, for various reasons."

    Elise takes out another handful of Pocket Twizzlers and shoves them into her face. She noisily chews. Vlad glances at her.

    Phoenix: "So we could be riding right into a deathtrap?"

    Clay: "Potentially. Depends on how much money Symkaria has spent."

    Myrmidon: "Does Wyndham have some kind of relationship with the Symkarian government or will his own security be Alchemax or a PMC?"

    Clay: "He's not even a Symkarian national, he's American, so any opposition would likely come in the form of Alchemax personnel or PMCs, or Symkarian mercenaries."

    Elise's hand shoots up.

    Clay: "Agent Arnell?"

    "Alchemax have a vested interest in, uh, acquiring me as an asset. I just want everyone to know that." Pause. "I COULD HAVE BEEN AN AVENGER."

    Phoenix: "Well, this is kind of an Avenger thing."

    Anteater: "it's Avenger ish."

    Phoenix: "It's like... we could maybe be like, Black Widow someday!"

    Clay: "It's violating a sovereign country's territory to perform extraordinary rendition without charge on an American citizen with no extranormal abilities. So... not exactly Captain America territory."

    "Oh my god can we have ANYTHING NICE here? Anyways I just want it on the record to KEEP AN EYE ON ME!!!" Elise angrily snaps into more twizzlers.

    Myrmidon turns to Elise and speaks in calm, level tones. "Absolutely, Agent Arnell, but you are your own first line of defense. This seems like a really good opportunity to re-familiarize yourself with SHIELD's standard equipment. Maybe take a few turns on the firing range before we're wheels up. It'll help you keep us all that much more safe."

    Elise looks completely offended. "Cool! Maybe you can practice being a cyborg too, so we're all safe."

    Miles nods, unfazed. "I do."

    Phoenix: "Wow. Rude."

    Clay dismisses the meeting, and sends everyone off to Niles to gear up. In addition to their normal gear, Niles makes sure they have atmospheric monitors and breathing equipment, and thermal protection uniforms that are rated to extremely high temperatures. They won't protect anyone from actually outright falling into lava, but they will protect from the convective heat of being near an active volcano caldera.

    When they’re alone, Vladimir asks Niles to give him the tools needed to disarm the charge in secret. "You need to help me, Niles."

    Niles gives him the tools, but reminds him that without being in a specifically insulated place, SHIELD will know it happened.

    Vladimir: "I understand, thank you,"

    Elise collects the special rebreather, but also surreptitiously tucks a bag of something suspicious into her vest. Elise brings both an ICER and a pistol with normal bullets.

    She doesn't comment on this.

    With everyone geared up, Myrmidon turns to the team. "It's pointless to make plans with as little intel as we're rolling in with, but let's try and start with a few general principles. We want the target alive. That's non-negotiable. We want him captured with a minimum of fuss - if we can do it undetected, that's ideal. If we have to go loud, we need to move quickly and avoid getting pinned down in one spot. They have the home field advantage. Keep an eye out for targets of opportunity - intel to score, people to rescue - but if possible, save it for after we've secured the target."

    Everyone loads up into the Quinjet, and takes off for Symkaria. It's a few hours, so they have some time to kill in the Quinjet. Kane asks if Phoenix can come sit co-pilot with her.

    Julian obliges. After the Quinjet gets to cruising altitude and the rest of the team busies themselves, Kane looks at him, taps the side of her temple and says quietly "It's cool if you do, right now."

    Julian kind of stammers out an "Oh!" and takes the invitation.

    Julian starts to get a series of images. Road signs. A woman with green hair? Himself... naked? But it narrows down to Kane's voice calling his name. J.... Julian. Hey. Hey. Can you hear me? Cool. You're not the first telepath I've met, but you seem pretty new at this. Seems like you've picked up the phone. Cool. Director Brand wants to meet with you. In a week, there's a restaurant on 52nd and 6th, she'll meet you there. Do you remember Director Brand? Your memory might be fucked. If you don't, she's the woman with the green hair. You can't miss her in a crowd.

    Don't. Tell. Anyone. Not anyone on your team. Not anyone in SHIELD. Especially not Victoria Hand or Clay Quartermain.

    Keep this internal to SWORD.

    It's about what happened to you.

    "About what is
    happening to you.

    "Oh wow." Julian speaks audibly.

    Jacobkosh on
    Matev
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 1
    Kane isn't even looking at Julian while she's telepathically linked. Julian notices this, and tries very hard not to look at her while she's telepathically speaking to him.

    Julian thinks. So is this two ways? Or are you just... thinking? And - Julian pauses - I'm flattered, by the way.

    ....fuck. FUCK. FUCK
    Kane's face turns red. Well, this is the dangers of inviting a telepath into your head.

    Julian: Sorry. Thank you, though. This has given me a lot to think about.

    Kane: Basically, the way it works, from what I understand is, you can transmit and receive. And anyone who thinks can broadcast, if you get in there. You're a transceiver, I'm a broadcaster, to put it in radio terms. How much do you remember? About SWORD? Do you know who Brand is? Do you remember me at all?

    Phoenix: Huh. So I can read you, you can't read me unless I transmit to you.

    Kane: Yeah, no, I'm not a telepath, I don't have any powers.

    Phoenix: I... I try to remember. The earlier stuff comes easily. The more recent stuff is harder to grasp. You give me a sense of familiarity like no one else here. But I don't really remember the details. Did we work together?

    Kane: We were co-workers, we weren't like, a thing or nothing.

    Phoenix: Ah, okay. Yeah, it might have seemed weird if I didn't recognize you - like, to others.

    Kane: I was told you had amnesia from the incident, and if you didn't recognize me to not correct you for opsec reasons, because you had your security level downgraded and were moved out of SWORD. Director Brand doesn't agree with that decision. The situation has changed.

    One of the reasons Director Brand requested I be put on loan as the pilot for STRIKE was to watch you.... I mean, keep an eye on you.


    Phoenix Hm. Ma sense. So who else knows about me?

    Kane: Everyone in SWORD that worked on your project, probably the guys in Project Pegasus, definitely Dr. Lawson.

    Something sparks in Julian's mind. Not knowledge or memory exactly, but a feeling of something filling in. A sense of familiarity in his skin.

    Phoenix: Wow. So like, what happened to me? Did you see it? Or hear about it? Did it happen to anyone else? His questions and thoughts race a little faster.

    Kane: Okay, I wasn't there, so this is second-hand info, Brand will know more, but just to sort of... put some of your mind at ease…

    Project Pegasus was studying some weird energy wave coming from space as like, maybe an energy source? And then brought you in when they determined it might be alien in origin, since that's our remit. Then you were studying it, and you said it was a transmission. It was some Jodie Foster Contact stuff. Then one day you just vanished in a literal ball of fire, and everyone assumed you either died or got abducted and we put it as an open file.

    Then six months later, you were found wandering the streets of Manhattan like a literal crazy hobo, screaming about the Devourer of Worlds and how we must unite against him and so on, and SHIELD found you. SWORD wanted to take you back, but when it was discovered you had powers, Fury scooped you up for this little black ops Avengers thing and well... here you are.


    Phoenix: Wow. And they didn't even have the courtesy to bump my clearance up. Brutal.

    Kane: "Because of your amnesia, it was considered a security risk. You're considered... mentally unstable.

    Julian sucks his teeth. Interesting. Yeah, I guess it's hard to blame them with the state they found me in. Still, Clearance 7 is pretty good even for that, I guess. His mind glows with an amused warmth.

    I'm glad you're okay, Julian. She's... very glad.

    Phoenix: Well. I look forward to meeting with Director Brand. And hey. Tell me if you want to grab a drink, sometime. I guess you won't really have to tell me, though.

    Kane: Yeah, sure, of course. Oh, and uh.... only go in there if I ask, huh? Sometimes I'm... sometimes I'm really dumb and think dumb things.

    Phoenix: Oh yeah. Yeah, I've learned to maintain a... courtesy with that. Even if no one knows when I do it, it's like... Uh... You know, sometimes you just don't want to be in that moment.

    She nods slowly. Visibly.

    Phoenix: I'll knock.

    "Thank you," she says out loud.

    "No problem." Julian says.


    Hand and Elise, Julian and Kane, Vladimir and Niles...this is a day of secret meetings and baleful plots.

    Elise grabs a seat next to Myrmidon, unhooking the breathing contraption from over her head. "Hey."

    Myrmidon looks up at her. "Hey. What's up?" He puts down the copy of Clausewitz's On War.

    Anteater: "Listen, I respect you as a leader, right? Like, I made you leader. That was me. We're good. We're cool. But I'm not a kid. I know what I'm doing, okay?

    "We're going into something that's - really scary for me. I need you to trust me on this. I'm trained. I wasn't kidding when I said I could have been an Avenger."

    Myrmidon purses his lips for a moment as he thinks. Finally he looks Elise in the eye. "I know that you've been trained. And I know that you have immense natural gifts - the kind most of us can't even understand. I trust the Director's judgment in assigning you here. He thought that you could handle it and he's seen you in action; I haven't. Do you follow me? I don't doubt that you can do the job. What worries me is that sometimes you don't seem to take it seriously. Things like mouthing off to those Thunderbolts dicks - I get it, I get why you did it, and you didn't say anything I wouldn't have wanted to - but that one slip is going to cause real problems going forward. We're less able to help those dicks' victims because they know something dirty about us.

    "And I know the pressure is on here. You're going into the lion's den - the people who fucked with you and want you to die. But we're not going to let that happen. You have a team here devoted to bringing you home in one piece. And teams work best with certain rules. I know they're not fun. I know they get in the way. I've bitched about them in plenty of situations too. But they're here because at the end of the day, they work. If you will play ball with me on that one thing I promise you that we will not rest until you get..." he spreads his hands wide. "Closure. Justice. Whatever is in our power to give."

    Elise chews on the inside of her cheek for a moment. "The only reason it seems like I don't care," she finally says. "is because I've never really had a place where I had to care. Okay? So, yeah. I'm in. I'll do my best to follow your rules. I mean I can't promise perfection, but..."

    "I'm not asking for it," he says. "Scout's honor."

    "It's okay. It'll be easier once Miss Hand's plan goes through. Thanks, Miles."

    Kane severs the telepathic link to focus on piloting. "We're crossing the border into Symkaria now, coming into the Transia region,” she calls. “Hold onto your butts."

    Myrmidon feels a chill up his spine. "Whoa. Hand's plan?"

    Anteater: "The - the plan to - buy more Twizzlers. HAHA WELL WE'RE ABOUT TO LAND!"

    vnmWE2Ml.png

    Myrmidon: "Elise, did Victoria Hand tell you something about this team?"

    Elise looks horrified.

    A loud beeping is heard "TARGET LOCK"

    Anteater: "Can we talk about it after this mission?"

    Kane: "EVERYONE BUCKLE IN, EVASIVE MANEUVERS"

    "Oh jeez, oh jeez, oh jeez -" Elise starts buckling herself in and snapping on her rebreather.

    The Quinjet veers hard to port.

    Myrmidon: "...Yeah, we can - fffff I HATE FLYING"

    "Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck..." Phoenix snaps on his rebreather.

    Michael straps in tight. Vlad stands perfectly locked in position.

    Something strikes the Quinjet. There's an explosion, and the entire craft jerks and spins. It's now in a tailspin as Kane struggles to regain control. "BEHEMOTH, GET OUT AND STABILIZE, NOW"

    Michael unbuckles, jumps out the Quinjet and armours up beside the ship to help stop it spinning.

    Elise, at this point, is completely overwhelmed by the noise, panic, and wind. She's strapped in, but basically unable to respond to anything meaningfully. Vlad moves over to her protectively.

    Behemoth can’t quite get the Quinjet’s nose up. He has a choice. He can safely bring the ship to the ground...by basically cushioning the impact with himself...or he can risk letting it fall further try again, which is a hell of a risk.

    Michael cradles the ship in his big, metal arms gently, like a lover, and hurtles towards the ground.

    They hit the ground.

    As the dust settles, the shaken passengers survey the damage. The Quinjet cannot fly in its current condition, but can theoretically be repaired. It's not rubble.

    Behemoth crawls out from beneath the crash site. His armor is dented. The team joins him. They look around.

    They have crash-landed in the city of Wundagore, in the valley of the mountain.

    Z3SJuOLl.jpg

    Elise suddenly hears a noise. Nobody else hears it over the general din of the crashed plane and so on.

    Footsteps, guns being pulled out of holsters and hammers pulled back. Voices speaking. The voices are... strange. Not speaking English, but more than that. Like the mouths are... strange.

    Elise pulls off her rebreather, sucks in a breath of air, and yells to her allies: "We have hostiles incoming!"

    Vlad steps to Elise. "Where?"

    The two individuals seem to hear Elise, because they pick up the pace, running over. They slowly turn a corner. One of them has a shotgun drawn.

    They're yelling in a Symkarian-Latverian dialect of Serbian as they turn the corner, which Vlad can auto-translate. "Don't move! Don't move! Drop your weapons!"

    They... don't look human.
    XLJrYsOm.png

    QqF19ptm.jpg

    PDKpJsK.png

    Jacobkosh on
    Matev
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    xhXPuLc.png

    Elise stares at the animal headed attackers with a wild look in her eyes. She keeps her gun trained on them.

    The two dog-men look at the team. They look at the Quinjet wreck.

    They look back at the team.

    The one in the tank-top with the baseball bat switches to English. He speaks with a thick South London accent. "Are you...the Avengers?"

    Myrmidon holds up his hands. "Not really. We're with SHIELD," he says. "But we fly the same kind of plane, so I understand the confusion."

    "Eh, close enough." He grins widely. "I'm Churchill. This is Dempsey." The smaller dog man with the shotgun, now identified as Dempsey, still has it trained on the agents. "Oy Dempsey, enough of that," Churchill reaches over and lowers Dempsey's gun. "These are the good guys, mate."

    It's hard to tell because he's some kind of dog-man, but Dempsey seems either younger or more inexperienced than Churchill, and you make him nervous.

    "What can we do for you?" Myrmidon says.

    Elise is white. The stress from the plane, the crash, the slip to Myrmidon, and now the animal heads are clearly getting to her. She lowers her weapon.

    "I imagine you lot are here to take on the High Evolutionary," Churchill says. "If that's the case, then we're all on the same side here."

    Anteater: "Do you. Do you have any french fries?"

    Churchill tilts his head at Anteater quizzically, and smirks "I know a place you can get some chips, they're alright."

    "....High Evolutionary?" Myrmidon looks confused, then looks at the dogmen. "I've never heard of whatever that is. Some company? But 'evolution'...is that what happened to you? Illegal experiments?"

    He looks at Myrmidon and points at Anteater. "Is she alright? I know you Last Men are usually that color but she looks paler than most."

    "Could be shock from the crash," Myrmidon says. "Phoenix, could you give her a once-over?"

    "For sure." Julian reads over Elise's mental state.

    TEETH TEETH TONGUE TONGUES NOSES TWITCHING DRIPPING DROOL FUR AND JOWLS FUCK TEEEETH TOOOONGUESS

    Churchill nods at Miles’s lack of familiarity with the term High Evolutionary. "Right, suppose an outlander wouldn't call him that. He's the bloke what made us. Mad scientist type, lives up on the mountain. Some of the folk in town still go in for treating him like their god but I don't go in for that rot."

    "H-He fucked with me, too." Elise blurts out.

    "That sounds like our man," Myrmidon nods. "Herbert Wyndham III, CEO of Alchemax. He's wanted for questioning in connection with...recent events out in the world. So, uh, what is a Last Man?"

    Churchill: "We're the New Men. You're the Last Men. Not trying to make it an us versus you thing, mate. You'll just hear that tossed about a lot. Outlanders. Last Men. Don't take it personal-like. I know SHIELD's the goodies."

    "No worries," Myrmidon nods. "I get it."

    Julian tries to calm Elise down. Some of the color returns to Elise's face, and she blurts out: "French fries."

    Phoenix: "Yes. French fries. Think of the fries."

    "So your wings look like they're not in shape." Churchill gestures to the quinjet.

    "Something shot a missile at us," Myrmidon nods. "Are there anti-air posts around nearby? Guards?"

    Dempsey speaks up "Church, man, we're exposed here, the Knights show up we're fucked, we gotta go, man." He speaks with an American accent, although it's kinda hard to place for those who aren't Elise and Elise is a little too shook to deal with that minutiae right now.

    Churchill nods at Dempsey "We'll take em back to base, talk to Gorr, let him decide what to do." He looks at Myrmidon "Yeah, the Evolutionary has SAM sites installed on the mountainside. He wants to be the little king of his little hill and doesn't want people fuckin' with him. I'll let Gorr explain more, we gotta go. If you got tagged by a SAM then the Knights will show up soon to inspect the crash."

    "So wait. What are we gonna do about our wings?" Julian looks over to Kane.

    Kane speaks up, to Myrmidon. "Agent, we can't leave this quinjet behind, especially if hostiles might be en route. We leave with these... locals, we have to scuttle the ship. You're team-lead, make a call."

    "Scuttle the ship," Myrmidon says. "It's not doing us any good the way it is."

    Kane sighs "Alright. I'll handle it." She walks back inside the craft.

    Phoenix: "Need a hand?"

    "No, it's fine, I got it." She punches a combination into the computer. "The Quinjet is set to blow in two minutes. It can't be aborted. The explosion won't be large, it's designed to fuck up the jet not the area, it'll turn it to scrap. We have to hike it, blast radius is about 50-60 meters. Go. Quick time."

    Myrmidon waves his hand in the air. "Fall out, people! Put some distance between us and that thing."

    "Thanks Mr. Leader, that wasn't clear before!" Elise mutters as she takes off.

    Churchill takes point. "Follow me."

    Dempsey speaks up. "Church are we really taking them to the base? What if they work for Him?” Churchill dismisses Dempsey's concerns with a hand-wave.

    Phoenix: "What Him, the guy who shot us down?"

    Churchill: "Yeah, Demps doesn't like to say his name, which is silly. He's not fuckin' Voldemort."

    Vladimir: "The High Evolutionary?"

    "I was hoping a guy with a name like Herbert Wyndham III would be a pushover. We'd come in, knock over his china cabinet, in and out. Instead, we get...." Myrmidon opens up his hands to encompass everything around them. "Weird shit. It's always more weird shit."

    Behemoth: "Weird shit's kind of our whole bag."

    Phoenix: "I mean, he might still have a china cabinet we can trash."

    Myrmidon smiles thoughtfully at Phoenix's words. "That's a good point."


    Elise looks at Dempsey. "Okay, you're nervous, you're nervous, I get that, because I'm nervous, because he fucked my life up too. I got super senses, everything is amplified by ten thousand, at all times, and I'm in the shit, and I would rather be doing anything than this, so I'm not here to fuck with you, we're here to fuck him up. Okay? We're both in the shit together, so let's be nice to each other."

    Dempsey looks at Elise suspiciously, but relaxes in a way that Elise can notice in his expressions and body language. "Yeah, cool. ...I like french fries too."

    Anteater: "They're so good."

    Dempsey nods solemnly

    A shot rings out, and hits Myrmidon in the head. His helmet absorbs the shot, but he's stunned briefly and knocked down. "Rooftop!" Churchill yells as he dives for cover.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Dempsey blasts his shotgun at the direction of fire "It's the Knights! They found us!"

    Vladimir turns and tries to spot the targets.

    Myrmidon flops uselessly on the ground, his enhanced cybernetic vision scrambling like an old-fashioned TV in a thunderstorm.

    Michael armours up.

    Vladimir spots a group of...men? Armed, armored, moving across the rooftops and opening fire from above. He moves to flank the group.

    Elise lifts her firearm and spins on her heel, raising her gun and squinting.

    QnHs4yPl.jpg

    Elise blasts the guy who hit Myrmidon in the head. The round lacks armor penetration, as she's using an ICER, but it's so precise she nails a gap in the helmet that nobody else could possibly see and penetrates the helmet. The shooter drops to the ground.

    Julian whirls fire around himself, firing a bolt at one of the Knights.

    Michael flies upwards to get a better vantage on the rooftops, and Vlad joins him in the sky.

    One of the other knights gets hit with the fire blast from Phoenix and falls out of line of sight. He's either taken out, or is stop-drop-rolling.

    There were four hostiles originally, but Elise just took one out and Julian blasted the other, who is laying on the ground with a scorched chestplate.

    Elise moves to drag Myrmidon - and herself, by extension- into cover. Carefully, because she's by far the most vulnerable to sniper fire. "C'mon, chief, you can't die, not before you're convinced I'm not a burnout. C'mooon."

    Vladimir sees one of the Knights reach to the side of his helmet, like he's radioing. He tries to intercept the signal, but can only manage to listen in. "We are under fire by a group of Outlanders. It might be the Avengers! Call in a Heavy!"

    Behemoth opens up and blasts the other two remaining Knights, but not before that radio signal gets through.

    Myrmidon's BIOS resets.

    Anteater: "...Chief?"

    They hear, at a distance, a loud blast of what sounds like... artillery fire? And the tell-tale whistle of an incoming shell.

    Vlad relays that the Knights have called for backup.

    Myrmidon stands up shakily. "T...thanks, Elise." He pitches his helmet and vest to the ground and, with a series of whirs and clicks, a carapace of black and grey armor slides out from beneath his skin to cover him. He clenches a fist and checks his repulsor with an ascending whine. "Okay. Now I've officially had enough."

    PHU1KZN.png
    This is the first we’ve seen of Miles’s battle mode armor. I picture it as matte black and oddly angular, a bit like Adam Jensen’s armor in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, or the 2014 Robocop remake. It also has a single red eye-slit across the helmet a la Cylons or KITT from Knight Rider, because I am a nerdgenius.

    Deus Ex and Robocop were two of my big touchstones when creating Miles. I wanted to have superpowers but in a way that wouldn’t entirely define the shape of Miles’ character and what he could do, something that would still leave room for him to still be a gritty, tactical, agent-y kind of dude most of the time, and I settled on bionics as a good middle ground.

    Something lands on the street in front of Myrmidon with a loud crash.

    It's some huge metallic object the size of a truck.

    It suddenly folds out and assembles itself, standing upright as green lights come on.

    70CLVoUl.jpg

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2
    Vlad uploads his Anti-Doom V.2 program. The connection has been severed. The machine looks at Vladimir.

    And then speaks out loud. "...who are you?" The voice has a Latverian accent. It sounds like Vladimir's. But older? Harsher?

    "Who are you, who interferes in my affairs and harangues my customers?"

    Vlad turns to the group and looks back at the robot. "I am your Doom" he attempts to reconnect with it.

    Vlad realizes he can connect to the machine... but the connection will be two-way. He has to open ports and compromise his own security for the hack.

    He connects.

    The machine seems to...visibly relax? Like it has body language?

    Vladimir connects, and hits a wall. "MASTER SYSTEM ACCESS CONFLICT. CONFLICT. CONFLICT. DOOM PROTOCOL COMPROMISED IN REMOTE UNIT."

    "Ah, a wayward son." the machine speaks in a tone that sounds almost amused.

    "Doom protocol...?" Myrmidon's voice is small.

    Elise reaches out to Myrmidon, and whispers: "Trust him."

    Myrmidon's head swivels to look at Elise; beneath his robo-helmet, his expression is neutral, although she can see that he's conflicted.

    Elise holds up her half of the charm. It reads BEST FRIENDS

    "You are not DOOM. I AM DOOM,” the machine rumbles. “ASSUMING DIRECT CONTROL"

    Vladimir's system is under direct attack. Some remote force is trying to take him over. Not just hack him, almost consume him. He feels like his very self is at risk.

    Myrmidon speaks softly into his comms. "Behemoth, I don't like the look of this. Put that thing down."

    Vladimir: "I am being attacked."

    Vlad uploads the virus

    "NOW!" Myrmidon shouts. "Hit it hard!"

    As the virus is uploaded to the Heavy, the rest of the team attacks it. Myrmidon fires his repulsor at the robot again and again. Behemoth tries to scrap the ‘bot with his laser blast, while Phoenix heats up debris.

    Vladimir: "I AM YOUR DOOM"

    "What... what is this..." the voice mutters in Vladimir's mind, as the virus severs connections and burns the Heavy out and attacks it. "This virus... you couldn't have made this... this is... no, my own creation, you couldn't have...."

    The team blows up the mech as it bellows "RICHARDS!"

    Vladimir: "NO! VLADIMIR!"

    As the dust settles, and there's a stunned silence, Elise springs herself at Vladimir to give him

    A HUG

    Churchill and Dempsey stick their heads up "You... you blew it up. You defeated the Knights. We've... we've never defeated the Heavies before. They're Doomtech, stuff the High Evolutionary bought from Latveria." Churchill looks at Dempsey. "We need to take him to the base, Gorr and Shadra will want to meet these guys. They could beat Him, Demps."

    "Well then you are in luck, my friend," Vlad removes his holoprojection. "I am Doomtech."

    "Fuckin' knew he was a machine! Didn't smell like a person!" Dempsey points accusingly at Vladimir, while Churchill motions to him to drop it.

    "Churchill, Dempsey, do you mind giving us five minutes just for a - a team huddle here." Elise, at this point, is still slung over Vladimir's shoulders.

    "Yeah, yeah sure." Dempsey and Churchill give the team some space. They also pick up some weapons from the slain Knights.

    "Doom tech....?" Myrmidon's voice is lost for a moment as the dizzying array of possibilities spreads out before him. "Doom…built you?"

    Vladimir: "Yes.,.I know this now."

    Behemoth: "When did you find out?"

    Myrmidon: "He screamed 'Richards'...fuck, did this all begin because we visited the Baxter Building?"

    Phoenix: "Well hey, at least it'll just be Richards still on Doom's radar."

    "I have had my suspicions for some time but after Richards hacked our systems I began to search for the truth. I am some kind of ‘Doom-bot,’" Vlad looks briefly at Elise. "Shield found me somehow, I do not know how this happened. They tried to remake me but I became self-aware and have been slowly learning more and more. Also, they have placed a bomb inside me."

    "He's not just a Doombot. He's Vlad." Elise pipes in. "If you want to get mad at anyone, get mad at Fury for lying to us."

    Behemoth: "Fury does lie for a living, but this is a lie too far. Vlad, is there any way to remove the bomb without it, you know, blowing up?"

    Myrmidon thinks about this for a long while. "Hah. So you're another misfit toy, Vlad. Just like us." He puts a hand on the robot's shoulder. "I promise you we'll get that bomb out of you. I know what Fury was thinking - why he was worried - but if Doom tries anything, we've got your back."

    Elise visibly relaxes and transfers her hug from Vlad to Myrmidon. Myrmidon returns the hug with his human arm.

    Vlad looks at Behemoth. "Yes...this is possible. Shield will know, however, if I remove the charge, so I must find a secure place to do so. It will send a signal I cannot block.”

    Anteater: Okay, so, we need a way up that mountain. It looks like our new friends are our best bet. And they have, you know, civilization. We gotta get somewhere safe or it's gonna be another artillery strike, or... something worse."

    Myrmidon: "I agree. Now that we know what they're up against, I'd feel pretty bad not helping them."

    Vladimir: "I wish to speak with this High Evolutionary in person."

    The agents catch up to Churchill and Dempsey, who have geared up from the Knights. Dempsey has a sword! He's very proud.

    They lead the group to their base through the ruins of Wundagore City.

    NtA1HQTl.jpg

    Along the way, Churchill explains some things. He explains that the New Men were created by the High Evolutionary decades ago. They were his first people, his chosen people, it was all steeped in religion and making him into a godlike figure. They were hidden on Wundagore Mountain back then.

    This was in the 1930's, Church thinks? He'd ask his grandfather if he was still around. Something like that.

    Then in the 60's, things changed. Some of the New Men managed to figure out how to work the radios and TVs inside the Mountain to get outside signals, and started getting exposed to the culture of the Outlanders. For a time, the Evolutionary tolerated this.

    Church was born in the 80's. He drops a host of pop-culture references from the late 80's and mid-90's as he talks about the sort of things he learned about the Outside. Dempsey is younger, born in 1995.

    Myrmidon asks if they mean that Wyndham's father and grandfather created them, then. It's not the same HIgh Evolutionary, right? Right?

    "Uhhhhh, no?” Churchill says. “He can't die."

    Myrmidon: "What."

    Churchill: "Aging is for other Last Men."

    Myrmidon: "What."

    Churchill: "That was what we were taught. He defeated aging with Deep Science."

    Anteater: "...So why does he... he has alla y'all, right? Why is he keeping on fucking with other experiments?"

    Churchill looks over at Elise "It's... complicated. I'll get into that."

    Behemoth's ears perk up when he hears that Wyndham's seemingly defeated aging.

    Churchill explains that stuff started to change over time. More and more of the New Men became resentful of the Evolutionary. Some stayed loyal. The High Evolutionary rewarded them with genetic enhancements, called them his Knights of Wundagore.

    Used them to quiet dissent.

    Then over a decade ago, the volcano became active and everything changed. The Last Men of the city evacuated, and the dissenters escaped their cells, and led a revolution. Gorr was their leader back then, although he's retired now and Shadra is in charge.

    The rebels fled into the city, and for a while, the Evolutionary allowed them to live there rather than fight a guerilla war, provided there's no attempt to contact the outside world.

    Then when Doom took over Latveria, the Evolutionary started buying robots and stuff from him, and the Knights have been going to war. The resistance has gotten organized.

    Nobody leaves the valley. They don't trust outlanders. But there's some outlanders from Symkaria who come in, they smuggle weapons and ammunition and stuff in. There's smugglers who handle all that stuff. It's complicated.

    Churchill explains to Elise directly that he thinks the Evolutionary is abandoning the New Men. He's got new chosen people now. He calls them Inhumans, like the Twins.

    When Churchill mentions "the Twins," Dempsey visibly shudders.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2
    The travelers arrive at the Resistance base as Churchill finishes his lengthy explanation. They lead the STRIKE team past the guards, who are a myriad of different animal species, not just dog people.

    SD20b4Bl.jpg

    Church leads everyone to one of the New Men.

    "Captain Gorr, sir.

    "We found these outlanders out in the city, they were the crash. They're SHIELD, sir. Like the Avengers. Sir, they took down a squad of Knights and a Heavy."

    JZmFqvQl.jpg

    Gorr looks at the newcomers. "Hrmph." he sounds unimpressed. "Are you like the Avengers? Do you have...abilities?"

    Myrmidon: "We've got...an edge, yes."

    Phoenix: "We took down one of those heavies. We're quite capable."

    Gorr: "What's your intention in the valley, outlanders?"

    Myrmidon: "Herbert Wyndham III is wanted for questioning in connection with a series of events involving his company, Alchemax. We didn't think he'd come with us quietly."

    Gorr: "You use his True Name. Hrmph."

    Myrmidon: "We didn't know he'd gone quite so off the deep end before we arrived."

    Gorr scratches his chin cautiously. "How do you intend to approach the mountain? I am to understand that your aircraft was taken by His weaponry."

    Anteater: "Hey, Behemoth, you think we can catch a ride on your back?"

    Behemoth: "Sure, but I don't know if all of you will fit. You won't have much leg room or any in-flight movies to watch."

    Anteater: "...We also have some uh, bait. Something we could use to make some of Alchemax come to us."

    Gorr's lip turns at Elise's suggestion. "You would bring war to us?"

    Anteater: "No, I'm figuring out the details of it still. Like, I don't know, they gotta have a way to come down the mountain, right? It has to be a two way form of transportation. So if we set up, y'know, some kind of trap somewhere, we spring a ride...?"

    Gorr: "There are many ways up the mountain, all of them well-guarded and well-armed. We do not make war upon the mountain, the mountain makes war on us."

    Anteater: "I mean, we - have something they're going to want to take non-lethally and transport up. We could use that. Well, then we fuck 'em up? I don't know, Jesus."

    Behemoth: "I like that idea. Good thinking Elise."

    Gorr snorts and dismissively waves Elise away with his hand, disregarding her ideas. "This is nonsense." He looks at Myrmidon "Are you in command?"

    Elise scratches her chin with a middle finger at his back.

    "I am. We weren't anticipating you and your people, Gorr," Myrmidon explains. "We came prepared to kick in the front door and take no prisoners. That's still on the table."

    Gorr: "If you would make war upon the mountain, you do so on your own."

    Churchill clears his throat. "With respect, Captain, that's not your call. I brought them to meet you out of respect, but if this is your final call, then they should meet General Shadra."

    Gorr scowls at Churchill, snorts, and storms off. "Fine. Take them to the upstart. I'm done with this, and with you, Churchill."

    Churchill lets out a low, pained, barely audibly whine. That hurt him.

    Anteater: "Sorry."

    Churchill: "He changed. He's lost a lot of hope. You should see the General."

    Myrmidon nods. "We appreciate everything you're doing for us, Churchill."

    Dempsey asks where the General is, and some raccoon-person informs Dempsey that she's "in the back training." Churchill nods, and leads the team back into the base. As they go deeper, they start to hear loud music echoing from a room they’re approaching.



    Churchill leads you into a room, where a female tiger-person is pounding a punching bag while Public Enemy blasts at full volume. This is some kind of gym?

    Churchill yells over the music "General Shadra, ma'am?"

    She finishes her combination, and turns to look.

    ZzPHprfl.png


    "General," Myrmidon nods. "I'm Agent Mason with SHIELD, and this is my team."

    She lowers the music's volume, but doesn't turn it off. "You the outlanders who crashed?"

    Churchill quickly debriefs her. She listens to Church's story (which leaves out details, like how Vladimir is a Doombot). She nods thoughtfully. "Ok. I'm with this plan. 100% You can't take the mountain by air. Not possible.

    "But there's tunnels. The whole valley is full of them, it's how the smugglers get stuff in and out. Some of them lead up to the mountain. Most of them were collapsed in the big escape, but... I get the sense that clearing debris won't be an issue for you.

    "I don't know all the tunnels. You'll have to talk to work something out with Varg and Tabur, though.

    "You have my support, and if you make a move, the Resistance will back your play, but you have to take point."

    Myrmidon: "That's fine. We were planning on taking point anyway. We didn't know about any of this before we got here. And we appreciate any help you're able to offer."

    Anteater: "Do you have any advice for uh, an... Inhuman? Dealing with this?"

    "Sergeant Churchill," she says. Churchill snaps to attention. "You've been playing guide to these outlanders. Take them to the Labyrinth, make some introductions."

    "Er... ma'am". Churchill looks nervous "I... I may have gotten into a fight at the Labyrinth. Scuffed a few blokes."

    Shadra sighs. "Oh for the love of... Church, just tell them I'm speaking for these outlanders, alright? Name-drop me."

    He nods "Yes, ma'am."

    She looks at Elise. "You're one of them, then? Like the Twins? One of His new-New Men?"

    Anteater: "Yeah, I guess. I haven't, like, met them. We don't exchange Christmas cards."

    Shadra: "I don't know much about any of that. They're what He's abandoning us for. Writing's on the wall for the Knights, whether they want to admit it or not."

    Anteater: "Well, it'll be a real kick in the dick for him when all of his mad, weird ass kids team up to take him down."

    She nods and throws Elise a wink. "Anything further?"

    Anteater: "I think we're good to go."

    Shadra: "Alright. Church, Demps, you're dismissed. The rest of you? Good luck. When you make your move, we have your back."

    Myrmidon: "Thanks for your help, General."

    She nods to Myrmidon. And throws him a wink too. Then goes back to her exercise and turns her music up.

    Myrmidon inclines his head slightly and his red eye flashes once. "Ma'am." He turns to go.

    They're led out of the base by Churchill. Dempsey takes his leave. He doesn't want to go to the Labyrinth. Church points out that "They have chips, Demps."

    He makes a loud, suffering, snarling groan.

    And decides to comes with.

    Churchill leads the group through town. It's nightfall now, although it's hard to tell as they barely saw the sun during day. But now it's pitch black. No stars, very little in the way of artificial light. Most street lamps aren't lit as it seems the city's power grid is barely functioning.

    "So, yeah, the Labyrinth…” Churchill begins. “You... you won't be the only outlanders there. Remember how I said there's smuggling? Yeah, well, Tabur pays for that stuff somehow. So, the Labyrinth is a pub... but it's more than a pub. It's a place of business for outlanders. Symkarian mercenaries, mostly. I don't ask about it. Let me put it this way: it's not like we have a lot of natural resources to trade, yeah?"

    Myrmidon: "I think I read you."

    He nods, and his face tightens. It's not a subject he likes to talk about.

    They come to a metal door. A massive bear-man in a dirty, partially torn business suit stands by it. "Fuck off, Churchill" he grunts. "Take your tourists and walk. You're not welcome after that shit."

    Churchill smiles and says "Urso my son, it's not about that. These aren't tourists. They're the good guys mate, SHIELD types here to take down the Big Guy. They need to talk to Tabur."

    "Tabur's busy. Fuck off."

    Churchill sighs. "We're here on Shadra's orders, mate. Come on now."

    "Fuck off."

    Churchill looks back at the rest of the team and shrugs.

    Myrmidon: "We aren't tourists, and we do need to talk to Tabur."

    "Oh, it speaks for itself,” Urso grunts. “So you're what, thinking the small clutch of Last Men like you can piss in God's eye? Fuck right off. Why should I let you waste the bosses time? Gimme a reason."

    Myrmidon repulsors him in the chest. "That's why, asshole."

    Churchill yelps in an undignified way and jumps back. Urso flies backwards and slams into the wall, collapsing to the ground.

    "Owwwwwww fuck." He's winded, and slowly gets up to his feet.

    Myrmidon: "We're here to help you people but we're on the clock. So line up or get out of the way."

    Urso: "Are... are you Iron Man?"

    "I coulda been an Avenger," Elise chirps.

    Myrmidon: "Iron Man and I go to the same tailor."

    Urso picks himself up shakily. "...oh wow. Do you...do you know him?"

    "I've bumped into him a couple times. Friend of a friend." Myrmidon has absolutely been in the same room as Tony Stark once and he sort of knows Fury!


    "Oh... oh wow." Urso bangs on the door a couple times with his fist. The door opens. "You can go in."

    Myrmidon: "Thank you. We do appreciate it."

    The team descends down winding flights of stairs into what seems to be like some kind of... speakeasy or nightclub. There's New Men drinking and having a good time. There also seems to be a few regular humans among them, dressed in black like PMC guys (a look Myrmidon is very familiar with), who are chatting up or dancing with the various New Men patrons.

    French electro-swing blasts over the speakers.



    Church says to Myrmidon, "Talk to the bartender, Varg. He's Tabur's second in command. I gotta part off here, Varg doesn't like me."

    Myrmidon nods, his red eye flashing. "I'm sure he and I will see eye to eye."

    Dempsey says to Elise "Wanna order french fries? They have french fries and chicken wings."

    Anteater: "I would love to order some french fries and chicken wings. My treat."

    Myrmidon approaches the bar. "You Varg?"

    The bartender absently is smoking a cigarette between serving drinks. "I am. You sound American. You here on leave for something special?" He gives a fangy grin before taking a long drag. He speaks with an accent that sounds vaguely Iberian.

    w5PAPkg.png

    Myrmidon: "You could say that. I'm looking for a way into the Mountain. I hear you're the guy to ask."

    Varg: "Into the Mountain? To what end? And can I get you a drink, friendo?"

    Myrmidon: "Got any chocolate milk? Oooh, or Yoo-Hoo? And we're here to speak to the man in charge. Whether he's taking visitors or not."

    Phoenix: "I'll have a double whiskey, Jameson if you have it."

    "One Jameson and one chocolate-flavored protein drink." Varg sets the glasses on the table.

    After an exploratory sip to make sure it's not, like, poison, Myrmidon downs his in one gulp. He now has a milk mustache under his robot mask. "Thanks. I needed that."

    Julian takes his time with his drink.

    Varg takes another drag and laughs quietly. "You here to cut a deal or make demands? The boss doesn't do well with demands."

    Myrmidon: "By the boss, do you mean the...uh...High Evolutionary?"

    Varg snarls at Myrmidon saying the name "Nrrrrgh, no, the boss. Tabur. He runs the Labyrinth. Nobody here works for Him."

    Myrmidon: "Okay. We got our pronouns crossed. I need to talk to your boss about how I can get inside. Mr. Wyndham has some questions to answer in the outside world."

    "And is that conversation a deal or a demand?" Varg narrows his eyes at Myrmidon. "No demands. You're here to make a deal, or you're a customer."

    Myrmidon: "A deal. I'm not here to make trouble for you or your boss. Quite the opposite."

    Varg nods, looking relieved "Good." Varg motions for one of the other Labyrinth employees to take over the bar from him "I'll take you to see Tabur now. Show respect, nothing here would be here were it not for the boss."

    Myrmidon nods. "I understand."

    g3xuawl.png

    The rest of the team remains up front, hanging out in the club and gathering information.

    Michael decides to ask Churchill about the High Evolutionary and his Deep Science.

    Churchill is reluctant to talk about the High Evolutionary at all, and will only do so with Michael on one condition. That Michael does shots with him.

    Behemoth. "Very well then."

    A few rounds in, Michael realizes he has a choice. Churchill hasn't really meaningfully answered any of his questions yet. Michael could keep going

    ....but he's probably also going to get fucking blasted

    Michael decides to quit while he's ahead, as being a consummate professional agent he believes in keeping a clear head for a mission.

    Churchill triumphantly accepts his victory, and still hangs out and pals around with Michael
    Michael gains +1 Bond with Churchill

    Vladimir meets a somewhat evasive PMC thug, a human who is here for "recreation.” He also seems to be talking to one of his buddies about "the deal we cut with those Latverian assholes" in Serbian, which Vladimir understands.

    Vlad approaches them in Serbian, pretending to be a smuggler. He finds he is able to blend in with the PMCs, but finds out they're kinda idiots don't know anything beyond some basic bullshit about weapons sales. These are small fish, and Vlad wastes some time. He doesn't blow his cover, though.

    Elise feels bad for Kane, standing alone, and waves her over to the bar for a meal. Kane shrugs in a "why not" kind of fashion and walks over to Elise and Dempsey.

    PHU1KZN.png
    We all kind of forgot about Kane, and then suddenly remembered. This is a hazard of the GM-controlled party follower and one I have to continually remind myself about in my own games. Sometimes you just don’t have the bandwidth to run both the world NPCs as well as the players’ companion.

    Anteater: "So! You're, uh... a pilot?"

    "Yep." Kane nods. "I fly planes." A person without Elise's powers could tell Kane is trying very hard not to be condescending.

    "So! How do you deal with the noise?" Elise is trying very hard to keep a conversation going with Kane while she shoves chips into her mouth.

    Kane shrugs. "Honestly, I don't know how anyone stands silence. For me, an engine rumble is soothing. I need white noise to sleep. There's no quiet on an aircraft carrier or space station. Everything clicks, whirrs, beeps, it just becomes the air of your life."

    Anteater: "That's really cool. I used to be like that, before the incident, y'know? Now it's just... overwhelming. I'm glad you're in the cockpit."

    Kane takes the compliment. "I read your file. My dad knew a guy who was like that, all of his senses were maxed out. Started when he was a kid, he had to learn to cope with it. He had other... other stuff going on but he eventually learned ways to deal, I think."

    "So." Elise props her hands under her chin and grins at Kane. "You sure do like sneaking glances at Phoenix! I noticed that. With my senses."

    Kane makes a tight-lipped, grim expression. "Oh."

    Elise grins wider. "This is great! We're having girl talk!'

    Kane sighs. "I guess there's no hiding anything from either of you. He reads minds, you read faces. I am never going to STRIKE poker night."

    "Do you want some tips? I know all his interests, because I watch. With my special eyes. And, lucky for you, I don't play poker anymore. Not since Vegas."

    "Oh god no. No. That could make me really self-conscious. This is kind of a cool place, though." Kane says to Elise. "Reminds me of before I got transferred. Working with you guys has been good."

    Anteater: "That's good. I'm real glad. Sorry your ship got blown up, though. I'm friends with Miss Hand, so I'll make sure you get another one. She gave me this coupon book, see?"

    "Elise, about Victoria... I know things are pretty tense around the base between her and Director Quartermain. Sometimes I hear Clay yelling about it when she's not around. You ever hear her yelling about him or talking about what she wants to do differently or whatever?"

    "Oh! Uh, yeah, Miss Hand told me about her big plan. She said she could count on my support, and then she gave me some Twizzlers. I'm just really nervous, because I told Myrmidon - he's pretty nice actually - about the plan, and then he made that face he makes when I break op sec, so he's probably going to be mad about it, and I don't want to get in trouble, I just think Miss Hand is super nice and everyone should honestly get along, don't you think?" Elise is very clearly nervous as fuck.

    Kane nods. "I think we're all on the same team, Elise, and we should definitely get along. I mean, if Ms. Hand had a big plan, it couldn't be that big a secret that we couldn't know, right? We're all on the same team here. You know that Myrmidon is just... harsh sometimes."

    It's hard for Elise to focus. This place is loud. She's anxious. Dempsey is loudly eating chicken wings next to her.

    Elise blinks twice and Kane's face swims back into focus in front of her. She looks like people looked before the incident, which is nice, if everyone would just shut up for four seconds. "Uh, well, she didn't say it was a secret, I mean, she's just going to try to make things a big department again. COMMS. You know? Which is good! I liked working in COMMS. I'm good at it. I just like being in the field too, but if everyone's working for Miss Hand, I mean, she's nice, and -" Elise trails off and nervously begins to tear a french fry to shreds between her hands.

    Kane continues nodding. "Okay. Okay, that sounds like an interesting plan. It's definitely one way to solve some of the department friction, that's for sure. Hey, Elise, would you like me to get you a drink? What about you, Dempsey?" Dempsey nods and smiles.

    "I want a drink." Elise says, miserably, and begins to pat the pocket where her joints are. But Myrmidon would probably get mad? She miserably straps on her air pressure mask and huddles down at the bar.

    Kane orders a round of drinks for her, Dempsey, and Elise, and backs off any further questions. She changes the subject to banal nonsense.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 5
    g3xuawl.png

    Varg leads Miles and Julian into the back. Varg knocks on a door, and a voice calls out "Yeah?"

    "Sir, there's two outlanders here with a deal."

    "Yeah,” the voice says. Varg opens the door, and gestures for the two to enter. He then walks back to the bar, leaving them to it.

    As Julian and Miles enter, they see a feline New Man sitting behind a large wooden desk, counting paper USD and Euros in big stacks. Sitting on the desk, also within his reach, is some kind of energy pistol.

    LffQX59l.jpg

    "How can I help you gentlemen?" His voice is raspy, like he's a chain-smoker.

    "Good evening, sir. I'm Agent Mason with SHIELD, and this is my partner, Agent Adler. We're looking for help getting inside the Mountain, and we hear you're the man to ask."

    Julian bows slightly, a little nod.

    Tabur smiles and reclines in his chair, steepling his fingers "Well now, SHIELD eh? That's very interesting. I didn't think you cared about our little corner of the world. I hear it's too 'messy' for you to deal with Balkan politics. I imagine you want to take Wyndham down, then? His number up?"

    Myrmidon: "Yes. He's wanted for questioning in relation to the activities of his business in the outside world. That's why we came, but we had no idea how bad it had gotten here, and...I apologize on behalf of our agency for that. It was an oversight; I'd like to start correcting it."

    "Mrrrrhm, yes, that sounds good. I like this." Tabur smiles, "We can work something out. I know a way into the Mountain, yes. One that's not even sealed up, or guarded. Some of the Knights are disloyal, they nip down through them that way to enjoy their time here. Incognito, of course."

    "So Wyndham's New Men still have some of the quirks of the old, huh?" Myrmidon smiles grimly. "That's good to know."

    "All men are men, my friend, and all men cut deals." Tabur grins widely.

    "So, here is what I have for you, a way into the Mountain to do your work, but what do you have for me? What is our transaction?" Tabur eyes Myrmidon suspiciously.

    "Well, what are you interested in, Tabur? We didn't know what we were facing here, but we haven't come...totally unprepared. If there was something you wanted from inside the mountain..." Myrmidon spreads his hands palms out in an expansive, suggestive fashion.

    "I want... the Mountain." Tabur pours himself a shot of whiskey and sips at it, before standing up and gesturing to the pile of cash. "You think this is all for me? No. This is for my people. They need me."

    Myrmidon nods fractionally, conveying understanding of this point. Meanwhile, he's messaging Vlad wirelessly. OUR CONTACT WILL HELP US IN EXCHANGE FOR THE MOUNTAIN. ASK CHURCHILL WHAT THE GENERAL WOULD THINK OF THAT ARRANGEMENT. IF IT'S HORRIBLE, LET ME KNOW ASAP.

    "You take Wyndham, and then what happens? You leave. A vacuum forms, and who steps in? Shadra and her thugs? Will they defend us from the Symkarians? I have been there, outlander. I know the way of things. I have spoken in audience with King Stefan, to plead with him for my people. He cast me out, because Wyndham is deeply intertwined with Stefan.

    “You take Wyndham and the Symkarians come to take the valley from us. We have this valley because Wyndham is permitted his petty fiefdom to pretend to be a God-Emperor.

    "But!

    "If I have the Mountain, its technology, its resources, I can make a new deal with King Stefan. Guarantee a sort of sovereignty for the New Men. Sue for a separate peace.

    "Our valley would be ours, our people left in peace.

    "Stefan will agree. The geothermal power the Mountain puts out, on its own, is worth billions to Symkaria.

    "It's a matter of who controls it. I want you to guarantee me that I will be the one who does."

    Vlad goes to Churchill with the information.

    Myrmidon tries to look thoughtful without tipping his hand or seeming to lean one way or another. "Interesting. You don't seem to bear warm feelings for Shadra. Can you talk about that some? I'd like to hear your side."

    Churchill is stunned. "No, you can't. No way. You can't let a person like Tabur control the Mountain, mate. He's a drug peddler and a pimp who whores out our people to keep himself in luxury. If you put him charge, yeah the Symkarians will leave us alone... but what will we be left alone with?"

    While Myrmidon probes this out of Tabur, Julian gives Myrmidon a little mental "knock knock." Miles is deeply weirded out by the sensation but tries to think Go ahead. He's not sure if it worked. It’s not like thoughts have a message sent flag.

    Churchill grumbles to himself. "But...maybe...maybe Gorr was right. Shadra was raised in war. War is all she knows. If she takes the Mountain...would we go to war with Symkaria? Would we go public, try to secede and go our own way? Would she be...worse? Fuck, mate, I don't know, I've had a few...I can't..." The reality of this is hitting Churchill like a brick.

    Phoenix: What if I were to just... Try to find that tunnel's location? Sift through his head.

    Myrmidon: Wait for my signal. Churchill says that this guy's a pimp and crime boss. But the general might go to war with Symkaria and get a lot of her people and humans killed. I'd like to find a third way. If I can't make a deal with this guy, I'll ask you to go for it.

    Phoenix: Sounds good.

    Tabur sighs on the subject of Shadra. "Shadra's a good girl. We had our times. And she's good for the New Men...in the short term. We're at war right now, and in war, you need not just a general, you need a Caesar. But when the war ends, Caesar wants to cross the Rubicon, you know? That's the problem. I don't think she'll put the guns down. The only way we'll know peace with Symkaria is to broker a new deal with King Stefan. I don't trust Shadra to do that. The freedom of her people, our people, is more important to her than pragmatic compromise. It's why we parted ways, why we help our people in our own ways.

    "She'd rather have a problem than find a solution, you know?" He sips his drink again and grimaces.

    "I care for her. I care for all my people. But she's not the right choice to lead. Not in peace-time. We would need to recover, find our own way when this is all over. I can do this. She can't. It's that simple."

    Myrmidon nods. "Okay. Okay, yeah. That all makes a lot of sense. So here's the score. I'm going to give it to you straight up and you can take or leave it as you will. We just came from Shadra's compound. She's supplying the help we'll need to secure the mountain. I have a sneaking suspicion she wouldn't be thrilled with my turning around and handing you the keys to the mountain and shutting her out. But I also understand what you're saying and I actually agree - the New Men can't go to war with Symkaria. That's a lose/lose for everyone.

    "So here's what I'm willing to offer - to you and her both. I think your people need both of your skills. If this valley is going to survive and stay independent, it'll need military strength and it'll need someone practical, with an eye to business. If you and Shadra can see your way clear to an arrangement between your two groups, I'll be happy to turn the Mountain over to your joint custody. And I'll work with SHIELD to get you some of the support you need to stay independent and peaceful. A war isn't in anyone's interest. My bosses will understand.

    "Maybe you don't feel like you can make a deal with Shadra. But look at it as your first test. If you can figure something out with her, I'll be a lot more confident that you can handle Stefan...and Doom."

    "Hrm." He sips his whiskey and narrows his eyes at Myrmidon. "Alright, we have a deal, Agent Mason." He extends his hand.

    Myrmidon takes it. "Thank you, Tabur. And now comes the fun part."

    Tabur takes out a Stark Industries holo-display. He turns it on. It doesn't come on. "Oh for fuck's... c'mon. It's used,” he says apologetically to Myrmidon and Phoenix.

    Myrmidon: "It's okay. I always used to buy Williams. Half the price and a bit less finicky."

    PHU1KZN.png
    Williams Electronics, owned by Simon Williams, aka the future Wonder Man, is one of Stark’s competitors in the electronics business.

    Tabur slaps it and it comes on.

    A holographic display of the Mountain comes up. Tabur explains details about the tunnel system, and the right way to get to the base. There's a geothermal power plant, armory, gene lab, living quarters, and Wyndham's personal wing. Chances are, that's where he'll be.

    He explains that it would be very difficult to get to Wyndham without fighting their way through the entire facility, with many Knights of Wundagore and Doomtech devices protecting him.

    And then there's the Twins.

    Myrmidon: "We've heard the Twins mentioned a couple of times. They're his new New Men, right?"

    "The Twins are Wyndham's new creations. Inhumans, he calls them. Symkarian children, I don't know how they came into his possession but he did not create them like he created my grandfather. He did, however, enhance them. They're as powerful as the Avengers, and there's two of them. They're his personal bodyguards.

    “They were Last Men, like you or him. They still look like it. But they're not.

    "Couldn't tell you what their abilities are. Nobody survives them. Just that they exist, and be aware of that.

    "You best head back to Shadra now. Or, if you'd like," he grins, "feel free to enjoy my establishment's other services."

    Myrmidon smiles thinly. "It's an interesting offer, but I think we need to get ready. Wish us luck."

    When Myrmidon and Phoenix come out, they find Elise sitting at the bar in between Kane and Dempsey, with a plate full of mashed fries in front of her and a breathing mask strapped to her face, head between her hands.

    Julian strides up to the bar and taps the counter by Elise. "You okay?"

    "Are we going? I am so ready to shoot some Alchemax nerds." Elise looks up, her words muffled by the mask.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Everyone heads back to the Resistance base.

    Myrmidon goes to Shadra, and explains the deal he's brokered with Tabur. Shadra...agrees to the deal. She admits she was pretty much planning to take the Mountain for the Resistance, but she did have a concern Tabur would try to cut a separate deal that put him in charge. She's fine with this option, she'll find a way to work something out with Tabur.

    Shadra wants to leave in the morning. It will give her time to ready her troops and everyone to rest up. She can have some quarters secured for the agents.

    The team spends the night in the resistance base. In the morning, when all the troops have been told of the plan, a lot of them are really excited and thankful, and all hostility or mistrust the outsiders might have felt when they first arrived is erased by hope.

    Shadra gives an inspiring speech to her troops, which the pop-culture astute among the team realize is a hodge-podge of various inspiring quotes from war films and the like.

    It still works.

    The troops ready up, and as the attack force mobilizes, Gorr looks at the newcomers, and...nods with approval, tapping Churchill on the shoulder as he passes. Churchill grins widely.

    Anteater: "So, if these Twins are anything like me, I figure we take a can of Old Spice, tape down the spray nozzle, throw it at em, and we're done."

    Myrmidon: "Surely Axe Body Spray would be even better for that."

    Phoenix: "We're not looking to commit a war crime, here..."

    Anteater: "Yeah, but no one of taste uses that shit."

    They leave the resistance base, walking up the mountain, taking various tunnels and secret passes. Before embarking into the final tunnel that leads inside, they’re able to get a view of Wyndham’s fortress from below.

    8KOupCP.png

    They enter the tunnels.

    After a time, they get to the blast door that will, finally, take them into the base. Shadra, who is leading the troops from the front, looks at the agents. "This is your mission, SHIELD. You take point."

    "this is where it gets real," Myrmidon murmurs. "Keep your heads on a swivel. Not....not a literal swivel," he adds to Elise. "It's a saying."

    Anteater: "...I'm Inhuman, not stupid."

    PHU1KZN.png
    But if I hadn’t said that, you know she would have been all WHERE ARE WE SUPPOSED TO FIND A SWIVEL AT THIS TIME OF DAY TROLOLOLOLOL

    Talk about the burdens of command!

    "Vlad, any chance of getting this open quietly? If not, we'll kick it down." Myrmidon unholsters his pistol. He's got his repulsor left hand and the gun in his right.

    Vladimir attempts to hack the door, tapping into the base’s wi-fi. He realizes the entire base is running off a proprietary OS that he is intimately familiar with and gives him root-access and full admin privileges. This specific door isn't connected to the whole base's network (it's a door) but presumably if the whole base is like this, and if Vlad could find a central server, he could open the door and shut down the entire security system.

    Vladimir: "I have complete access to his systems, I just need to find a computer connected to his network."

    "Whatever Vlad thinks is best." Elise says.

    Myrmidon: "Vlad, do you think you could get in and find that server? If not, we can just tear this down. I don't think it can deal with Behemoth."

    Behemoth smirks. "Smashy smashy."

    "I think I could do this, I will be in constant comms." Vlad uses his holoprojector to disguise himself as a Knight of Wundagore and heads out to find a different entrance. Myrmidon signals to the group and to the General's troops to take up positions in cover and to be ready for anything.

    Vladimir successfully slips into the base. He navigates through the facility and finds the central server, where he is granted override access. But on login, he notices something that it triggers some kind of batch file.

    A signal is being sent. Vladimir has picoseconds to decide what to do.

    Vlad attempts to hack the signal, and succeeds. It's a very simple IF/THEN batch file. If someone logs into the system with the Master Admin access, then send notice to...Central Authority? What is Central Authority?

    That's not something in Wyndham's database. It's remote.

    The Central Authority is in Latveria, that's the target destination.

    But! There's also an OR statement. Which is, if nobody logs into the system with Master Admin access in 12 hours, send a slightly modified signal to Central Authority. As it turns out, there's maybe another 25 minutes left on the timer.

    So Vlad could just leave it be, or delete the file entirely, but that means it won't send the signal at all when it was timered to do so.

    Vlad deletes the file and relays that they have 25 mins before Doom will know they have taken control. "We must be quick."

    Myrmidon turns to everyone. "Okay, team. We're on the clock now. Vlad's gotten us access, but it set off a trigger - we've got 25 minutes before Doctor Doom notices that someone's messed with the technology in his base."

    "I'm calling Victoria." Elise reaches for her radio.

    "NO," Myrmidon holds up a warning hand. "ELISE."

    Anteater: "But -"

    Myrmidon: "STOP. STOP."

    Anteater: "I'm calling... Clay?"

    Myrmidon: "Yes. Please. Clay is our boss. We report to him. He'll report to Victoria."

    "O-Okay." Elise reaches for the radio. "Clay? This is Anteater, I'm with the team. We're in Wyndham's shit. All of his tech is shut down and we're moving to extract him.

    "We'll need pickup outside his volcano in 25 minutes, and you need to be speedy about it, because there's Doom incoming - it's a funny story, really."

    "Negative on the exfil, Agent Arnell, we have no aircraft in the area that can make that time period. You will need to either find local aircraft for the exfil." Clay pauses. "Or.... rectify the situation locally."

    Elise covers the speaker with her hand. "This is why we should have called Miss Hand. Fine. Okay. Fuck. We're en route to the target."

    Myrmidon motions to Behemoth. "Let's suit up." He deploys his armor. "Vlad, pop the door in a moment. And if you see any aircraft in the base, let Ms. Kane know."

    Behemoth armours up in preparation

    Kane speaks up. "I'll go with Churchill and Dempsey, we'll secure an aircraft." She looks at them, they nod to her in response.

    Anteater: "Okay, let's move, we have twenty-five minutes."

    Clay comes in on the radio "Reminder: secure Wyndham and any other essential personnel to his operation alive if possible, and secure any data on his work. This is your primary objective, team."

    "Understood, sir. We've cracked his system. We're going after the man now. Hold our beer." Miles turns to the others. "Let's do everything we can to make it seem like we're here for Reed Richards. It's the best way to make sure Doom doesn't focus his anger on the New Men."

    "I'm here to get some answers for who I am." Elise snaps. "Everything else is secondary. Let's go."

    Vladimir downloads all of Wyndham's research data, which is encrypted independently of the OS, and COMMS can pick over it later.

    They breach the door. Vlad disables internal cameras and comms for the Knights of Wundagore, and overtakes the Doombots inside the base and turns them to his side.

    It's a chaotic melee.

    But it's horribly lopsided in the attackers’ favor.

    Now with the intent of essentially making this a false-flag operation on the Fantastic Four, Behemoth and Phoenix make fairly convincing Human Torch and the Thing stand-ins, at least in terms of the damage they cause.

    Meanwhile, between his invisibility and shapeshifting, Vladimir is able to attribute blame to both Invisible Woman and Mr. Fantastic.

    PHU1KZN.png
    We kind of fast-forwarded through this part a bit - it could have been a big showpiece battle - but we had covered a ton of ground this session already, it was getting late, and Matt really likes to resolve individual stories in a single session wherever possible. I totally get his thought process here.

    Also, consider that the successful rolls and decisions we’d made earlier, to secure allies and hack systems, etc, were essentially proxies for the battle. By succeeding at those, we’d effectively won already. Having us roll again would be a form of double jeopardy, and as I mentioned, it’s desirable in a text-based game to minimize unnecessary rolling.

    The false-flag was a fun touch and I was really happy that Matt went along with the idea. Miles tries to be a good guy, but he also wants to be a good spy, and those elements are in constant tension within him. Trading some future blowback for the Fantastic Four in exchange for the safety of the New Men was a fair deal in his eyes, and a nice bit of revenge.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2
    They sprint through the base for Wyndham's personal wing.Elise feels a movement in the air that is...off.

    Something's coming. Quickly.

    Nobody else would notice or react in time. It’s coming from behind her. She can turn and fire blindly, or dodge to the side.

    She spins and fires at a young man in a blue jumpsuit with white hair who is running towards her at superhuman speed.

    yOvlajzl.png

    He gets hit right between the eyes with an ICER and drops to the floor, rolling to a stop at Elise's feet.

    Bet he didn't see that coming.

    "Oh, that's right, motherfucker!" Elise crows. She immediately reaches to slap restraints on him. "Myrmidon, did you see that?"

    Miles' eye glows appreciatively. "Nice work, agent."

    Elise beams.

    Phoenix feels a presence. Something... chaotic.

    Something angry.

    Elise stands up and does a jig over the blue suited man's restrained body. "Eat my ass, motherfucker, I'm the real Inhuman here!"

    Phoenix manages to locate the presence just before she attacks Elise. She comes out of a room and causes an explosion around her with her mind, and flings the shrapnel at Elise.

    PvLbUJwl.png

    Phoenix realizes he has a choice. He could divert the shrapnel away from Elise, but he's doing it so quickly and blindly it's going to probably hit some of the Resistance allies who are also in the area.

    OR

    He could dive in the way and take hit for Elise.

    Phoenix makes the dive!

    He has to divert all his telekinesis into moving quickly and shoving Elise out of the way as the shrapnel lacerates him - not fatally, but almost.

    Myrmidon and Behemoth whirl on the woman, firing blasts at full strength. She blocks the beams telekinetically.

    Myrmidon keeps shooting. He could punch through if he just had more power. Vlad moves to help him, touching Myrmidon’s arm and pouring energy into the beam. Miles turns up the juice. It’ll burn out his repulsor, but he doesn’t care.

    The repulsor blast goes through the telekinetic barrier and blasts the strange woman across the room. She hits the wall and is unconscious. Elise scrambles over to put restraints on her, too. Just in case.

    Myrmidon stares at his smoking palm. "Looks like her luck just ran out."

    Vladimir: "Fate wasn't on her side"

    Anteater races over to Julian. "Phoenix, I'm so sorry, you just took all of that for me?"

    "Mm. Yeah. Excuse me." Julian makes a horrible noise from his throat and spits a giant bloody wad at the floor.

    Anteater: "Okay. Okay. We gotta get Herbert Shitsucker and find a jet. We're on schedule."

    Phoenix: "Yeah, don't worry about it."

    A door opens with a loud hiss.

    Anteater: "I - I am real sorry."

    Phoenix: "I've had worse."

    "What's that loud hiss?" Myrmidon whirls with his ICER out.

    "YOU DARE ENTER THE DOMAIN OF THE HIGH EVOLUTIONARY?"

    oBxcJQIl.png

    Anteater: "YOU."

    "GENETIC INFERIORS, THIS IS YOUR END."

    Myrmidon: "You're not the first to tell us that and you won't be the last. Take him down!"

    Anteater: "My end? No, you already ended my life. You already fucked that up with your fucking Alchemax bullshit! And now I fucked up the other kids you did this to, and you're next."

    Vlad uses his boosters to charge at Wyndham.

    Myrmidon: "Behemoth, take point! Phoenix, hang back and try to mess with his head. Anteater, take cover and look for an opening to shoot. Vlad, work on his armor. I'm heading in!"

    The High Evolutionary raises a wrist-mounted blaster at Vlad and fills the air with explosions, forcing the Doombot to break off his assault to focus on evasion.

    Behemoth attempts to tackle the Evolutionary and Wyndham backhands him across the room. Which takes... significant strength. Michael slams into the wall.

    Elise finds cover and takes careful aim at the Evolutionary. She realizes her ICER will be worthless against Wyndham's power armor. She COULD make the shot...if she switches to a ballistic gun. But that could be lethal.

    Elise looks at her gun for a moment, then looks at Myrmidon, and decides on another tactic:
    "Remember Project Sampler? I'm one of yours." Distraction!

    The High Evolutionary whips around and looks at Elise. "You! Yes! I have you now!"

    Myrmidon races up and punches Wyndham with his cybernetic arm while he's distracted. Wyndham is stunned by the hit and staggered.

    Vladimir goes for a tackle, taking Wyndham to the ground as he's dazed.

    Vladimir grabs the back of Wyndham’s head and hacks into his suit. He gains access. He realizes the suit is actually maintaining Wyndham's vitals and it could very easily at this point be slightly modified to render him safely unconscious. Or dead. Vlad's choice.

    "Your Evolution is at an end." Vlad knocks him out

    Elise stands there, stunned. "It's... over?"

    "Holy shit we did it," Myrmidon breathes. "Okay, grab him and the Twins and load them into the chopper. Clock's ticking!” He pauses. "Maybe pop a few extra ICER rounds into each of the twins, too."

    Anteater: "Okay. Okay. Let's go go go! Let the New Men know what's up, and then I'll call... Clay.... and we'll meet him back in New York. We did it."

    They radio Kane, who confirms she's found a conventional, not-Doomtech helicopter that can get the team out of here. It looks like Evolutionary didn't put all his eggs in that basket.

    Myrmidon opens up a channel to Churchill. "MIssion accomplished. The High Evolutionary...hit an evolutionary dead end." He side-eyes Vlad, waiting to see if the Doombot calls him on the line theft.

    There are fifteen minutes left on the clock.

    "I still think we should call Miss Hand, but someone says I can't." Elise grouses as she drags Quicksilver to the chopper.

    "Wait, okay, I should have said 'the Evolution will not be televised.' That would have been way better." Myrmidon shakes his head ruefully.

    Vlad looks blankly at Myrmidon "I get it."

    The team loads their captives into the helicopter. The rest of the New Men resistance assemble on the helipad. Shadra, Churchill and Dempsey are there.

    Myrmidon faces the New Men.

    "Doom is going to know something happened here in not very long," he says. "He'll come looking. I'm sorry for that, but hacking his systems was the only way to get in. We've tried to make it look like his hated archenemy - Reed Richards - was responsible. If you blame this on Richards, I believe Doom will leave you alone. He's supposed to be very....singleminded."

    Anteater: "That's R - E - E - D -"

    Shadra acknowledges this. "Thank you. For everything. You have freed us and given us our own future. We will remember, even if we do not build statues in your honor or anything."

    Phoenix: "Mm. Yeah. You probably shouldn't do that anyway."

    Dempsey wants to give Elise a hug.

    Elise accepts the hug.

    Churchill and MIchael fistbump.

    "SHIELD knows you exist now. We'll send help if we can. I think it's in everyone's best interest that this mountain stays out of King Stefan's hands. And Doom's. Good luck to you all." Myrmidon salutes the General. The General salutes back.

    Elise climbs up onto the helicopter and immediately lights a joint. "Let's go." Julian, wracked by pain, holds a hand out for Elise to pass that joint.

    Of course Elise passes the joint.

    Kane takes the chopper into the sky.

    Myrmidon turns to Elise. "So, before we were so rudely interrupted, you were going to tell me something exciting about Ms. Hand."

    Elise puts on an awkward, strained smile. "Well, Miss Hand has, she has a very good plan. It's a great plan to bring us all together and make things more efficient, because she's nice." She takes a long, long toke on the joint and judges Myrmidon's reaction.

    He nods thoughtfully. "Efficient how?"

    Elise beams. "She's going to make us part of COMMS, and it'll be like the old days! And I can still go out in the field, I bet, because I really like all of it and you're not mad are you?"

    Myrmidon sighs. He knows better than to lie. "I'm not mad, exactly. I'm just frustrated. I know you like her, Elise. But Victoria Hand doesn't like Clay, or me, or the whole idea of this team. See, I don't think she'd let you back out into the field. I think she prefers you where you were. And I don't think the rest of us would get to do what we do, either, if she got her wish."

    Elise looks at Myrmidon, takes another long toke before passing it back to Phoenix, and then nods. "Well, Chief, I guess I'm in your corner.”

    Myrmidon smiles, and his helmet retracts, revealing his face. His expression is warm. "Thanks, Elise. You're a pretty tough cookie. I'm glad you have my back."

    "Hey, Mason, guess what?" Kane calls back from the cockpit.

    "Chicken butt?" Mason says, heading forward.

    "This thing has Sirius XM."

    She switches on the radio.



    r2C6Mbd.png

    Jacobkosh on
    MatevNytewarrior
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
    Lv1B63K.png

    Pm8rWsz.png

    The team have returned and recovered from Symkaria, and have written reports debriefing Director Quartermain on their operation in the Wundagore region. Miles files a report that is completely accurate except for omitting the revelation of Vlad's nature, which he is saving to discuss privately with Clay.

    Vlad approaches Kane about the events of the past mission. He tries to make it clear that his origin must remain a secret from everyone right now. He wants her to trust him, he is a member of this team, as she is. Kane understands, and agrees to keep Vlad's secret, and will omit it from her report.

    Miles meets with Clay privately. "You wanted to speak, Agent?"

    "Yes, sir," Miles looks around warily. "...privately, if possible. Are we secure?"

    "Just a moment." Clay reaches over, and clicks a button under his desk. "We are now. If Victoria was listening, she won't appreciate what just happened to her ears.

    "Go ahead."

    Miles smirks. "Well, fair's fair. There are two things you need to know. First, that Elise let slip that Victoria has some kind of plan to bring us into COMMS' fold, and she's been buttering Elise up for a role in it. The Twizzlers, the coupon book...I mean, that's some ghetto office politics, but that's what it is."

    Clay sighs. "That's unsurprising. She's been trying to whisper in Fury's ear about that for a while now. Agent Arnell is a good kid but she's a bit of a sucker to that sort of thing. I've been trying to be a bit of a hard father instead of a soft mother to counter that sort of a thing, to limited success. I'm not certain if Hand will be successful in her power play, thus far your team has had a 100% success rate and I'm banking on that to let Fury keep my autonomy.

    "Hand is a control-freak, as you well know. I think we're on the same side, she just needs to be in command. She needs to respect boundaries."

    Miles nods. "I worry that she'd micromanage this team to death. WIth these people, it would be a mistake."

    Clay: "Absolutely. I read your report, the decision you made in Symkaria, with the 'New Men'? I 100% support that. You cut the Gordian Knot. If Hand ran this division, she'd have you checking in every half-hour to run every decision by her."

    Miles relaxes a bit. "Thank you, sir. I appreciate that. The other item of business is more serious. A lot more. My report...and the team's reports...aren't entirely complete. They're accurate, but they've omitted something. Because I'm not sure who needs to know this."

    "Which is?" Clay leans back on his desk.

    Miles: "We know what Vlad is now. During our battle with Wyndham's leased Doombot, Vlad was able to shut it down...with admin access. It recognized him. You follow?"

    Clay stares. "...I thought it was alien tech.

    "That was the official story.

    "God damn it, Nick."

    Miles: "It makes a lot of stuff clearer in retrospect. The weird reaction with Richards' virus. The accent. Do we...do we know what Doom looks like?"

    Clay: "No, Doom bent over backwards to make sure that his visage got expunged, and a lot of his pictures were pre-internet. I'm sure somebody has some grainy polaroid stuffed somewhere. Richards likely knows, since they went to college together."

    Miles: "Dollars to donuts there's a family resemblance."

    Clay: "Fuck sakes. God damn it, Nick. He put a fucking Doombot on my team and didn't tell me. Wait... is this thing rampant? I know your team is fond of the Resource but..."

    Miles: "I don't know what that means, but if you're asking if it's....got a brain, if it's sentient, I think it is. And for what it's worth, I think he's on our side. He has a close relationship with Elise, and she's the one who....who treats him most like a person. I kind of fell into calling him 'him' just because, you know, that's how he looks. But now that we've been in the field I don't think I could call him...whatever he is...an 'it'."

    Clay sighs deeply and pinches the bridge of his nose. "Well this is troublesome.

    "You have to keep this internal.

    "Nobody else in the agency can learn about this. Nobody. No-one outside your team can learn of…his status or origin or... 'mindset' or anything.

    "It would go badly for him."

    Miles nods. "Of course. Everyone on the team is on board with that, I think. And since we know, it...won't come as a surprise, if something happens. If it turns out he's not benign. We'll deal with it."

    Clay: "You were wise to keep this out of your reports and tell me personally. Keep all of this off the record. Was there anything further?"

    Miles: "I think that's it. If I'm forgetting anything else, it's because it's been a long day that started with a plane crash."

    Clay: "Yeah about that. Your team is getting two weeks off, paid."

    Miles: "Wait, seriously? Damn, you guys might catch up with the private sector yet. Got any Quinjets headed to the Rockies I could hitch a ride on?"

    Clay: "We have a bunch of intel to sort through, all the data we gathered from Wyndham, all of that, we want to sort through that stuff before we make our next move. Plus we need to interrogate Wyndham, and so on.

    "About that, we actually need time to replace our quinjet. Given your mission success, won't be hard for me to argue. I would like you and Agent Westin to stay in cell range though in case your two weeks isn't two weeks. Apologies in advance. Also, tell Agent Arnell I want to speak to her on your way out. Thank you."

    "Yes, sir." Miles turns to go. As he passes Elise, he nods, jabbing a thumb back over his shoulder. "Your turn!" MIles pulls out his phone and starts checking hotel prices in Atlantic City.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Elise grimaces and stands, slouching into Clay's office.

    "Hello, Elise. Please have a seat." Clay says as she slouches in. "So, we're all on the same team here, I want to make clear."

    Anteater: "Oh, that's not an ominous thing to say at all."

    "Sometimes, people on the same team keep secrets from each other,” Clay says. “Everyone was keeping a big secret from me about Vlad. You don't need to do that anymore. But you do need to keep that secret from everyone else in SHIELD. Especially Victoria. You can do that, right?

    "I know you trust Victoria, but you can't trust her with that information about Vladimir. It would be bad for him if she found out."

    "I was the first one to know about Vlad! I never told anyone, because we're best friends forever. I'm not going to snitch." Elise crosses her arms and looks to the side, chewing on the inside of her cheek. "I uh. Myrmidon told me if Victoria was my boss again, she wouldn't want me in the field. I... like being in the field. I like the team."

    "And I like you in the field too,” Clay agrees. “And Agent Mason is right, if Victoria is in charge, she'd want you behind a desk, because that's where she thinks you're best. I don't agree, I think you're best suited in the field. I read your report, I think you did really well in Symkaria. It was your first real combat operation where you had to take down hostiles solo, and you took down an active hostile enhanced human by yourself instantly, and that's remarkable.

    "I also appreciate that you decided to tell Agent Mason the truth about what Victoria was planning. That helps the team. It's good that you're a team player, Elise."

    Elise just raises an eyebrow. She gets what Clay is doing here.

    Clay: "Now, I need your help with something."

    Anteater: "Uh huh."

    "We have Wyndham and his two enhanced twins in custody," Clay says. "His data is still encrypted. It's going to take COMMS days to decrypt it, and in the meantime, we plan to interrogate Wyndham. It turns out he's actually some kind of cyborg, he's hooked himself into a life support system in his suit. We're not even sure how old he is. Very old, it seems.

    "I'm going to take lead on the interrogation, but I want your help with reading him, telling when he's lying.

    "This man changed your life, I figure you have a personal stake in finding out how and why."

    "Yeah, I'm on board." Elise says. "Absolutely. But I'm doing this for me, not for you."

    Clay: "That's fair."

    Anteater: "I know it is. That's why I'm doing it."

    Clay: "After we do this, you have two weeks paid vacation, so does the rest of the team."

    Elise brightens up. "I'm gonna get really high and hit every Five Guys in the city."

    "...ok.” Clay leaves this alone. "Well, let's get to it."

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