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[Actual Play, NSFData] Marvel's Agents of STRIKE (Season 2 complete!)

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Posts

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
    Clay leads Elise to the cells deep inside the Crypt, where Wyndham is being kept. His power armor has been stripped down of all weapons systems and augmentations, down to its bare life support systems. It looks skeletal and kind of sad now.

    The room smells surgical, like alcohol and latex and anesthesia.

    Wyndham looks at the pair. "Ms. Arnell! And... I don't know you."

    "You don't need to," Clay snaps. "You may have realized by now, this isn't the police. Or the CIA. Or even a normal, playing-by-the-rules branch of SHIELD. You're in a bad place. The world has forgotten you. I could flip a switch, turn you off, and walk away and nobody will care. So far as the world knows you died on that volcano in god's nowhere and nobody will mourn you. Information is your air. You want to breath, you speak."

    "And I'm here to make sure that you're not lying." Elise grabs a seat and crosses her arms, looking at Wyndham disdainfully. "Not sure if you ever really cottoned on what you did to me, but if you lie? I'll know."

    "I have no reason to lie to you, my success." Wyndham smiles at Elise.

    "Oh, yeah, huge success. Absolutely fantastic. We'll put my blood work up on a fridge when we're done here,” Elise fires back. "First question - why? Why do the whole villain in a volcano thing? The dog people, the city state, Project Sampler... What's even the point?"

    "Those all have different answers, I'll try to answer them in order, my dear. I owe you that much.

    "Wundagore was a necessity. I needed a testing area that was secluded from a world that didn't understand my work. A place with limitless geothermal energy, and land I could lease cheaply from a corrupt government that would not ask questions. When the valley was laden with ash and the city abandoned, it became a fascinating test subject to see an emergence of a new society in seclusion.

    "As for why the New Men, that was a theoretical project I had tried to see if I could replicate the Inhuman genome.

    "It did not bear fruit, I'm afraid, so I abandoned the New Men after a few generations, and returned to trying to synthesize Terrigen, which I have done with my Isotope-8.

    "This was my 'Project Sampler', which awakened your Inhuman genome, my dear. The synthetic Iso-8 caused you to undergo a limited Terrigenesis."

    Anteater: "...A what?"

    "Terrigenesis is the process by which an Inhuman's genome awakens. In full Terrigenesis, a cocoon forms and an Inhuman emerges with new powers and abilities, and sometimes a completely new physical form. Your abilities are incomplete, because the Iso-8 is synthetic and your Terrigenesis is only half-engaged.

    "If you encountered a true, natural Terrigen crystal, perhaps you would undergo a true Terrigenesis and your abilities would stabilize, but that is speculative."

    Elise leans back in her chair and glances at Clay to gauge his reaction.

    Clay just seems to be taking all this information in. He himself isn't sure what to think. "Go back a step, Wyndham," he says. "What is the Inhuman genome? Where did it come from? You said you were trying to replicate it with animal DNA."

    Wyndham sighs. "Thousands of years ago, aliens came to this planet. I am not certain exactly when. They experimented on ancient humans, and interbred with them. The alien-human hybrids, which I call Inhumans, were exposed to a type of crystal. Terrigen. Terrigen mutates the Inhumans, causing them to undergo Terrigenesis. They gain powers and abilities and sometimes new forms that resemble neither their human nor alien ancestors. I don't know where the Terrigen comes from, if it's naturally occurring on Earth or if the aliens brought it with them or what.”

    Anteater: "Okay, okay, so... aliens. Right, I'm part alien, and if I touch a magic jackoff crystal, I'll become more alien? Sure. Whatever. What's your fuckin' end game, here?"

    "The evolution of the human race! It's our genetic destiny! And there's more than that. The aliens that came here were experimenting on us for a reason. They were at war with a race of conquerors that were trying to enslave the entire galaxy. We were their greatest weapon against them. It is our destiny to save the universe."

    Clay narrows his eyes suspiciously "What are you basing all of this on, Wyndham?"

    Wyndham pauses for a moment. "...Edgar Rice Burroughs."

    Clay blinks.

    Anteater: "Clay, he's insane. This - none of this can be right."

    So far as Anteater can tell, Wyndham is being sincere. He believes what he's saying.

    Anteater: "Aliens? Magic crystals? Some old poet or something? He's just...he believes it, he's not lying, but his mind is gone. It has to be."

    Clay is taken aback. "Edgar Rice Burroughs. Like.... John Carter, Princess of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs?"

    Wyndham says insistently "They're based on real stories!"

    Clay side-eyes at Elise.

    Anteater: "No, alright, look, you're insane. I'm Agent Arnell, Anteater, Agent of STRIKE. I'm not - some alien fighter who needs to jack off a crystal to reach my true potential so I can fight evil spaceships or whatever the fuck. No, you've rotted away in that suit. And you know what? If you're trying to, like, even build an army? You fucked that up, because everyone hates you. It was just you, and your weird ass Twins - who I smoked, by the way - and your volcano lair. Even if you're right, you fucked up."

    Clay gives a hold on motion to Elise. "Is this about John Steele, Wyndham?"

    Wyndham shouts. "Yes! He's real! Those stories are real! But it's not Mars! It's the Moon! It's not Barsoom, it's called Attilan! It's REAL! Burroughs changed the details for his stories because he thought they were too unbelievable, to protect his friend, but they're real! It's all real!"

    Anteater: "Come on, Clay. Are we taking this seriously?"

    Clay: "Agent Arnell, a couple days ago, there was an Asgardian Valkyrie with a bow standing in this facility and you got her cellphone number. Is this more ridiculous?"

    Elise opens her mouth, and then closes it. "So, even if it is true, I... what, what are we supposed to do with this information?"

    Wyndham: "Don't you see? It's all connected! You, Steele, the Super-Soldiers, Teleos, Attilan, the Terrigen, all of it!"

    Clay motions to Wyndham. "Whoa whoa whoa, slow down. What does this have to do with Super-Soldiers, or the Teleos conference?"

    "I was there! I was the one who found Steele's blood. Burroughs had a vial of it, in 1890, I bought it from him. I found trace amounts of Terrigen in his blood. Steele was an Inhuman. Immortal, regenerative powers, superhuman strength and speed. He had been to Attilan. And I brought the blood to the conference, and shared it with the others. Zola, Erskine, Shiniski. We took our samples, went our own way, tried to synthesize the Terrigen.

    "Tried to make our own super-soldier serums from it."

    "Zola." Elise says, startled. "Clay, you didn't think that the Zola we met was Zola, but maybe -"

    "I have no idea." Clay says.

    Anteater: "Zola was peddling a super soldier serum. Something that nearly exploded that corporate suit. I... That could be connected? Jesus, I don't know, all of this makes my teeth itch."

    Wyndham: "It's why they could never replicate Erskine's formula, you see, Erskine never synthesized the Terrigen. He just used what was in the sample I gave him. He never succeeded. It's why Rogers can't be duplicated. He was one in a million. Erskine had to search for months to find a man with the right genes, and we barely understood genetics back then."

    "...Zola says the rando exploded because he wasn't strong enough." Elise says, quietly. "This... this is starting to come together. I don't know if he's right... but. He's onto something? I don't know."

    "Zola's failures were because they lack the Inhuman genome,” Wyndham says. "Anyone who lacks the genome dies from the Iso-8 if they use too much of it."

    Anteater: "And the drugs...You were just fucking scattershooting at random people, weren't you? And when you found a survivor, you knew they were Inhuman."

    Wyndham: "That's right. I needed a true Inhuman to open the tomb."

    Anteater: "The tomb?"

    Wyndham: "John Steele's tomb!"

    Elise stares. "So that's why you were hunting me down all those years? The fucking kidnapping attempts? The dudes that Miss Hand smeared? It was so I could open a tomb for you? What about your stupid Twins?"

    Wyndham: "Their Inhuman genome is artificial. I am uncertain if they can open the tomb. I was actually preparing to make my attempt when you struck down my entire effort."

    Elise stands, knocking her chair over. "You ruined my LIFE!"

    Wyndham: "Your life can be repaired! If you find a true Terrigen Crystal you can stabilize your genome and you will be better than you are now! I have enhanced your life!"

    Anteater: "What happens if I don't? Does this get worse? Does this develop? Do I ever get to hear quiet again?"

    "I am uncertain, It's why Project Sampler was designed to create a large size of subjects, to maximize potential,” Wyndham says. "That's science!"

    "That's murder,” Elise spits. “You didn't enhance anything, and the only reason I didn't shoot you at that fucking volcano is because - I'm better than you."

    Wyndham: "Clearly you are! I am not Inhuman, regrettably. You can do what I cannot. If I had the genome, I would have no need of you. You can access the tomb! Please, I beg of you! The coordinates are in my datafiles you presumably stole from my computers, under a file titled Antebellum, with a password of barsoomian.”

    Elise looks at him suspiciously. "And is there any of this... terragen in there?"

    "I don't know what is in the tomb. I cannot access it. Only an Inhuman can open the door, it's sealed by alien technology. Maybe it's a Terrigen crystal. Maybe it's a portal to Attilan. Maybe it's John Steele's body. I don't know. But it's protected in that way for a reason."

    "Clay, are we done here?" Elise is tense, hands clenched into fists.

    Clay: "I think so."

    Elise waits until they're both out of the room before looking at Clay. "Do you believe any of that?"

    Clay: "Some, yes. The stuff about the alien interference in human genomes, the Inhumans, yes. The Teleos conference stuff, ehhhhhhhh. The stuff about John Steele and Edgar Rice Burroughs, no."

    "So... are you going to tell Fury and Miss Hand about this? You think they'd want to, like...test...any of that? With the crystals?" Elise looks nervous. "I don't want to become...more than what I am. I don't know. I'm..."

    Clay: "We're not interested in turning you into a guinea pig, Agent Arnell."

    Elise raises her eyebrows skeptically.

    Clay: "Some of the stuff he's said has heavy implications. If we believe 100% of what he's saying, he's implying that Captain America is an Inhuman."

    Anteater: "He straight up said there's going to be an alien invasion."

    "Yes. Which is also disconcerting,” Clay says. "I'm going to file a report that is going to include a lot of allegedly and the subject claims. You are free to go on vacation, Agent Arnell. I am not intending to follow up on this nonsense about the tomb. If you opt to do so, you do that on your own time, I think it's nonsense."

    "You know what? I'm upgrading. I'm not going to Five Guys. I'm gonna go to the nicest steakhouses in the city and eat their burgers. I deserve it." Elise fumbles out a joint for the road. "Anything else you need from me, Clay?"

    Clay: "No, enjoy."

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

    Vladimir gets a text from Niles. "Hey Vlad, come visit my apartment, by yourself. I got a plan re: (bomb emoji)"

    Vlad texts back "Ok, my friend.” He takes the subway to Niles’ place.

    Vlad arrives at Niles' apartment. It's actually surprisingly nice, Niles must be on a decent pay-grade.

    Vladimir: "Your accommodations are impressive, Niles."

    Niles: "Thanks, buddy! I redeco'd recently."

    Vladimir: "Indeed, you had an update regarding my situation?"

    "So, like I said, there's no way to defuse the bomb without sending the signal telling SHIELD we've diffused it unless we're in a place where it's impossible for any signal of any kind to be sent out. Fortunately, there's someone within SHIELD I trust that I could ask about this, and she has a solution for us." A woman materializes in an empty chair to Niles' left.

    5xtFPHN.png

    Vlad immediately recognizes her.

    Vladimir: "Susan."

    And is.... attracted to her? For reasons he can't explain.

    "Niles tells me your name is Vladimir?" she says.

    "Yes... I am," he agrees. "And you are Susan Storm."

    Susan: "Richards."

    Vladimir: "Richards… Forgive me."

    "Sue, you want to explain the thing with the Quiet Room?" Niles says.

    Susan nods. "In the Baxter Building, there's a room that blocks all communication frequencies of all kinds, on every spectrum. Reed calls it the Quiet Room. There's one hardline connection to a computer terminal, and that's it. No wireless anything. It'd be the safest place to defuse your bomb.

    "Plus, I have fine control of my force-field abilities, so if there's an error in defusing the bomb, I am pretty sure I can shield your core crystal from the explosion.

    "There's one catch to that, which means in order to do that, I have to be the one to defuse you.

    "Which means putting your life in my hands. You comfortable with that, Vladimir?"

    Vlad looks at Susan. "Why are you doing any of this? Why are you, Susan Storm, helping me? Vlad glances at Niles for a moment "My friend trusts you, he has helped me greatly. So I give you this audience, but why do you help me? You know what I am?" The possibility of freedom from the bomb calls to Vlad but he is overwhelmed by the emotions and new revelations of the past few days.

    "Because from what Niles tells me, and from what I've heard about your work with STRIKE, you are not just what you are, you are who you are. And you deserve to be who you are free from some explosive leash that SHIELD planted in you. You deserve to be a person, free from any master and to decide your own fate and identity. You don't belong to Fury or your maker. You belong to you.

    "I disagree with a lot of the things SHIELD does. I disagree with a lot of the things Reed does. I decide for myself what's right and what's wrong. That's something everyone should do. You should have the freedom to do that too. That's the right of every sentient being."


    PHU1KZN.png
    ”Freedom is the right of every sentient being” is an Optimus Prime line. It probably comes from legendary comics writer and editor Denny O’Neil, who wrote the classic Green Lantern/Green Arrow social justice arc in the 1960s and edited Frank Miller on Daredevil and Batman in the 80s. Along with a couple of other writers, O’Neil did uncredited work for hire on the development of the Transformers concept and storyline for Hasbro in the 80s, and I’m willing to guess that the parts of Transformers that are good are mostly him.

    Anyway, it’s a good pick for a line spoken to a thinking robot.

    Vlad takes a moment "I want...I will trust you in this, Susan." Vlad lowers his head. He slowly brings it up "Betray me..." He pauses again. "No...I will trust you." He is unsure about basically everything right now.

    "Thank you, Vladimir. Reed's going away in a few days to a conference in Vienna, and Johnny is going to be off filming his reality show, and I bought Ben and his girlfriend tickets to Vegas. So they'll all be gone in a few days, and I will have that window to sneak you into the building and into the Quiet Room to defuse the bomb. The rest of the staff will have the day off, and I can reprogram the HERBIES to not notice you."

    "This sounds...good' Vlad looks at Niles. "Niles is join us?"

    Susan: "Niles will be there, yes, he's going to be helping me with the bomb."

    Vladimir: Then I am ready to do all of this when you are."

    "Three days. Niles will come get you. I'll see you then." Sue vanishes. One of Niles' apartment's windows opens and then closes.

    Vladimir: "Goodbye, Susan..."

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 4
    g3xuawl.png

    Julian has the day off. As it turns out, he's actually supposed to meet with Abigail Brand, director of SWORD, later that afternoon. He goes to the restaurant to where he was supposed to meet her. Kane told him that Brand would be "the woman with the green hair" and that he couldn't miss her.

    After about a half-hour, a woman walks into the restaurant.

    oys6cel.jpg

    She spots Julian, and walks over and sits down at his table. She's oddly familiar to Julian, like someone he knew from high school but whose name he can't remember, but he knows that's not why.

    Julian is leaning back at his seat, a leg crossed over another. He uncrosses his legs and sits up straight as she sits down.

    "Julian." she says. Her voice is hard, abrupt, military.

    Phoenix: "Brand, I presume? Good evening."

    Brand: "Yes. I need you to come with me. Right now."

    "Now? We've not even ordered.” He pauses. “Hm. Alright."

    Brand leads Julian outside to a black SUV. Two men in black spec-ops gear are inside. They're not wearing identifiable markings, but Julian recognizes it all the same as the kind of gear SHIELD agents wear when they're trying not to be identifiable. "Get in."

    Julian gets in. He's got a strange feeling about this.

    She gets in as well, sitting next to him. "We need to sedate you, you can't know where we are going. If that's a problem, you get out now. I'm trained in telepathic resistance, and my men are wearing psi-baffles, if you try to read us it won't go well for you. Make a call."

    Julian sucks air through his teeth.

    But he trusts Kane. "...Okay. I'll come along."

    She takes out a syringe and jabs Julian in the shoulder. "Sorry, Jewels." is what he hears as he blacks out.

    Her tone is genuinely apologetic.

    Julian wakes up. He is not sure how long it has been.

    qP1BOtO.jpg

    "Welcome to the Guest House, Agent Adler." Brand says as Julian wakes up. He lets out a low groan. "It's our cryogenic storage facility for H.E.T.s."

    "Thanks? H.E.T.s? Remind me."

    "Hostile Extra-Terrestrials,” she says. “As opposed to the nice, friendly kind. We don't put those ones in the fridge."

    Phoenix: "I assume those ones get room service, comfy bedding, the works."

    Brand: "More like Witness Protection, but close enough."

    Phoenix: "Mm. So I get the hostile treatment?"

    Brand shakes her head. "You're not on ice, so no. But you don't have Level 8 clearance and you're not officially in SWORD anymore, so there's only so much I can tell you.

    "I've brought you here because we have a unique problem, you have unique talents, so we have a unique opportunity.

    “On June 30th, 1908, an alien craft crash-landed in Tunguska, Siberia. One of the survivors of the crash is one of our 'Guest-Hosts' on ice here. Take a look."

    She directs him to one of the cryogenic pods.

    3U1ADpol.png

    Phoenix: How many were there? Do we know?"

    "Not 100%. They call themselves 'Skrulls'. Reptilian. Mildly telepathic, more empathic really. Shapeshifters, that's their real trick.

    "The survivors really quickly infiltrated Russian society. Helped form a secret society that hijacked the Bolshevik revolution. You might know them as a little group we call Leviathan. They've been a thorn in SHIELD's side basically since before SHIELD really existed.

    "They predate HYDRA."

    PHU1KZN.png
    Leviathan, if you’ll recall from the prologue story, is the Soviet super-spy agency and rival to SHIELD: creator of the Black Widows and the Winter Soldier, and the reason the Secret Avengers were formed in the 1980s.

    "Wow. So for all we know they could have reproduced by now if enough got out there," Julian says. "Fun."

    "We know, at the very least, they've produced half-human/half-Skrull hybrids,” Brand says. "So that's fun.

    "This particular Skrull went by the human name Dmitri Smerdyakov. You might have known him as the Chameleon, was once part of the Liberators.

    "We caught him last year, put him on ice.


    "They're incredibly hard to kill. Really potent regenerative abilities, which also makes them very long-lived. We're pretty sure the original Skrulls from the 1908 crash are still alive. We figure they're the guys in charge of Leviathan.

    "So, here's where why we brought you in." Brand sighs and leans back on a railing before continuing. "We think Skrulls may have infiltrated SHIELD."

    Phoenix: "On what grounds?"

    Brand: "Because why wouldn't they? And there's no easy way to test against that. It's not like John Carpenter's The Thing, you can't just draw a little blood or something. When a Skrull shapeshifts, they change their DNA, it completely defies science."

    "That's a pretty horrifying possibility," Julian says. "But I mean, anything pointing to it specifically, anything concrete?"

    Brand sighs again. "Alright, fine. You lack the security clearance to tell you all the details, but when we caught Chameleon he was already posing as a SHIELD agent and trying to access...something he shouldn't have.

    "He fucked up on details. Something a better spy wouldn't have. Like just human error, or alien error, I suppose."

    Phoenix: "Interesting. What was he trying to access?"

    Brand: "Classified."

    Phoenix: "Hrm. It could help to know."

    "No, it wouldn't," she says. "Because we caught him already. And our suspect isn't concerning that. The fox we think is already in your henhouse.

    "We think it's Hand."

    "Victoria Hand?" Julian sucks his teeth. "Fuck. Well, that's interesting. She's been trying to shake things up a bit with our structure lately. Everyone else thinks she's just a micromanaging control freak. Yeah... Yeah, that is interesting."

    "That's one of many things that make us suspect her,” Brand says. “She's been bucking the entire concept of STRIKE since day one. We think it's because she's worried that you'll ferret her out. She doesn't want all these extranormals in her house, right under her nose, but not in her control. So she's trying to take control, make you her squad, run you her way, so she can undermine SHIELD.

    "Here's the deal. There is a real Victoria Hand. The Skrulls didn't just make her up one day to infiltrate SHIELD. I've known Victoria for many years. We dated for two. She's a real person. But there's a very real chance that the Skrulls grabbed her, and either using their abilities or their technology got to know how she thinks and how she behaves and either have her prisoner or snuffed her out and replaced her.

    "Because the woman running COMMS right now? I don't think that's her.

    "And all of our tech can't tell. But you could. You could deep dive into her mind and find out what's what."

    Phoenix: "Yeah, I could."

    Brand: "A Skrull might be able to fake her memories, her emotions, but they'd have their own memories. Look for those. If you find memories of this person having cherished childhood with little green mom and dad, bingo, you know it's a Skrull."

    "God, you'd make me dig deep down into those warm fuzzy memories just to slap the irons on. Or worse." Julian lets out a small laugh. "I'm curious, though. I can't be the only person with psychic abilities. Is it because if this goes hairy and she's forced to act I get to come back from it?"

    Brand: "Bingo."

    Phoenix: "Hah."

    Brand: "Also you're trustworthy. You might be amnesiac but you're still our Jewels."

    Julian feels a kind of tug inside. He finds it difficult to hide a genuine smile. "Hm. I'm glad to hear that." A pause. “Hey, since we're here… I don't know, I'm curious. What's the word on me, exactly? What do people know? Is this all covered up?"

    Brand: "They didn't tell you?"

    Phoenix: "I've spoken with Kane a little, but like, in general. Like, I poof out of existence in a gout of flame? And then I'm found a crazed madman, screaming about THE DEVOURER."

    Brand grumbles. "Follow me."

    She leads him into a side office. She taps on her computer "For the record, I am declassifying all information on Subject: Phoenix to Agent Julian Adler on my own authority. Authorization: Sagittarius. Personal Note: If Fury doesn't like it he can kiss my ass. Bold text on personal note."

    The computer responds. "Noted."

    "Sit down, Julian," she says. "You'll want to."

    Phoenix: "Okay."

    Brand: "Several months ago, you were a research scientist on Project Pegasus, which is SHIELD's alternative energy department that looks at exotic and extranormal energy sources. Dr. Lawson was your project lead. You were SWORD's liaison with SCI-TECH. Do you remember any of this?"

    Phoenix: "No, I don't."

    Brand: "Pegasus detected an energy pattern emanating from a distant star. At first, it was thought to be a gamma ray burst from a supernova, but you studied it further and determined it was a signal that you thought was a communication from intelligent alien life. You attempted to decipher it, make first contact. Then you disappeared in a big burst of flame, and we sorta... left it as a MIA open case. I believe Kane told you about a lot of this."

    Phoenix: "That part, yeah."

    “I did some investigation when you came back with my E.T. sources,” she says. “Your pyrokinetic, telepathic, telekinetic abilities. Your amnesia, ranting about 'the Devourer.' Your reincarnative abilities. It was a highly specific power-set. I felt like the out-of-towners might know something.

    "Do you know what the Fermi Paradox is?"

    "Yeah, sounds familiar,” he says. "About extraterrestrial life and how we should have encountered it by now."

    “It's objectively wrong, there's evidence in the other room, obviously,” she jabs a thumb back the way they came. “But, nonetheless there is less sapient civilization out there in the universe than there should be, given the math of it.

    "And there's a reason why."

    "Right," Julian says. "They look at what's going on, shout an inner ‘NO THANK YOU!’ and rush the other direction?"

    "Little bit worse than that, I'm afraid.” She continues. “The galaxy has a name for it. The first race to encounter it, the Shi'ar, called it Gah Lak Tus, 'The Devourer of Worlds.' Most of the galaxy just calls it the Devourer or 'Galactus.'

    "The Shi'ar are directly linked to you, too. They were an avian race of telepaths, and when Galactus destroyed them, their telepathic death-cry coalesced into a psychic force.

    "It tried to attack Galactus, and it failed. But Galactus couldn't destroy it either, so it just moved on to some other civilization, trying to warn them of Galactus' coming, trying to prepare them. Then Galactus came, and they tried to fight back. And they failed, and their minds added to the fire. And it moved on, and kept reincarnating like this."

    "Oh, wow,” Julian says. "That's not good."

    Brand nods. "And this has been going on for thousands of years. It's galactic legend, this 'Phoenix Force.", the enemy of Galactus. The legend is, one day, it will find a world strong enough to fight back against Galactus, and win.

    "I don't know if you're the Phoenix Force, Julian. I don't know if I believe in it, or Galactus. But a lot of the aliens seem to think so. In fact, there's aliens who are now leaving Earth once word got out that you're the Phoenix, because you're considered to be the harbinger of Galactus. Like, because you're here, this is the next world Galactus is coming to. And they don't want to be here."

    "Oh, it's no big deal, really. We just have to fight Galactus off," he says. "Piece of cake!"

    Brand: "If the legends are to be believed you're like 0-100000 with this guy."

    "So obviously we're overdue for a win." Julian lets out a sigh. "Fuck. Well, good thing it's a legend, anyway."

    Brand: "Yep. Sure is."

    Julian nods. "Yep."

    Brand: "Anyway, let me know how the whole... thing, with Victoria turns out. I mean, I suppose I'll hear if it turns out very badly."

    "Yeah, I guess you will," he says. "Honestly, sounds like worst case is it's the real her, though."

    Brand: "And if you happen upon memories of Victoria and I when we were junior agents can you turn hard left please? Thanks."

    "Oh, uh, yeah," he says. "Yeah, no problem."

    "The best case scenario is it's the real her. Because if it's not, she's captured or dead. And..." She just kind of trails off. "Like maybe she gets really offended and shoots you in the face, and if so, I'm sorry. But that's why I'm getting you to do this."

    Phoenix: "Yeah, no. I get it."

    Brand: "Anyway, I gotta drug you to lead you out. Sorry. Protocol. Until I can get you your clearance back, it is what it is."

    Phoenix: "If she's captured though - does that become a whole other…thing, entirely? How many others do we involve?"

    Brand: "That will become a SWORD matter."

    Julian refuses to acknowledge the snuffed out possibility for now. "Ah, about that. The clearance. Is there some timetable for getting that back in the future?"

    Brand: "I'm working on it."

    Phoenix: "Thanks."

    Brand: "It wasn't my decision to bump you. It was Nick's."

    "Not surprising," he says. "Well, see you around. Hopefully soon."

    "Yeah." She sedates Julian again.

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

    Miles and Michael do not get to enjoy their vacation for even a day.

    They each get a text from Clay. "Calling you in. Special operation."

    "So much for a vacation. Coming back to HQ." Michael texts

    "OMW," Miles texts back tersely. He sighs and changes out of his baggy sweatshirt and back into a button-up shirt.

    When the two of them arrive, Clay pulls a file up on the holo-display.

    pLScUPn.png

    qlGmSdP.png Elisa Sinclair
    Documented extranormal abilities: None at this present time but more intel is needed. There is a great deal of suspicion that Elisa Sinclair is either a HYDRA or Leviathan agent and may be enhanced in some capacity. Use extreme caution, do not engage.

    Elisa Sinclair is the current CEO of Roxxon Industries after the assassination of former CEO Hugh Jones. Her background seems almost perfectly arranged and is undoubtedly falsified, but at this time COMMS division is unable to penetrate this obviously fake identity and figure out who she really is or where she really came from.

    It is known that she simply stepped into the role of CEO despite only having been with the company for six months, and was immediately entrusted with the role by all members of the board. This is extremely suspicious, and implies she may have some kind of extranormal persuasion power (or the rest of the board is being blackmailed somehow).

    SHIELD desperately needs more intel on this woman and what her plans are and where she came from, as soon as possible.

    qlGmSdP.png Roxxon Industries
    Ta21437.jpg

    Roxxon is the world’s largest oil company, and one of the largest energy companies in general. It is incredibly powerful and influential, with politicians in their pocket in countries all over the globe. It is absolutely certain that Roxxon is corrupt and deeply involved in international crime and terror, but who is behind them and who controls Roxxon is hotly debated even within the intelligence community. HYDRA, Leviathan, various international criminal cartels, or even absurd fictitious groups like the Illuminati or Zodiac, are all suspected masterminds behind the Roxxon empire.

    Because of the careful way Roxxon has obfuscated their criminal involvement and their illegal dealings, they currently operate with impunity in dozens of countries, and are deeply intertwined in American, Russian, and Saudi Arabian politics. They are a cancer too infiltrative to currently excise.

    Roxxon is considered a high-threat organization and all dealings with Roxxon-affiliated individuals should be subjected to the highest level security and discretion.

    qlGmSdP.pngBlackguard, Inc.
    MSe3auN.png

    Blackguard is a PMC subsidiary of Roxxon that operates largely in third world countries and complex warzones like Iraq and Afghanistan. The US military employed Blackguard during the invasion of both countries, to much controversy later when the ethics of the organization was questioned.

    Blackguard operatives should be treated as hostile threats if encountered. They are usually dishonorably discharged military personnel and violent felons, recruited for their willingness to commit violence without question or restraint.


    "This is Elisa Sinclair. Current CEO of Roxxon Industries. Replaced Agent Mason's old boss Hugh Jones after his assassination by the independent operator code-named Spymaster."

    Miles' smile is hard-edged. "Oh, this one is going to be fun."


    PHU1KZN.png
    That’s when Miles was wounded and his squad killed.

    "Recent intel has uncovered that Sinclair is, in fact, an agent of Leviathan,” Clay says. “This is a full resolution operation. No rendition."

    Miles slowly flexes his robotic fingers one by one into a fist. "Good."

    Michael sees Miles' enthusiasm and simply replies, "Understood."

    "I'm only having you two on this operation because, quite frankly, I need the utmost professionalism and clarity on this operation and I need individuals who can pass muster with your cover stories,” Clay says. “Which is that you're going back in, Mason.

    "Blackguard is going to re-hire you, and you're bringing in a buddy."

    Miles: "I...hm. What's the cover? A lot of guys know I got pretty messed up. Did I find a cyberarm on clearance?"

    Clay: "You're fucking us."

    Miles: "Oh…oh. Hmm, okay. Yeah. Yeah, I can sell that."

    "We're going to supply you with garbage intel that'll pass muster," Clay says. "Stuff you swiped on your way out the door. You and Westin are disgruntled SHIELD. You fucked off, stole some staplers on your way out and are going private sector."

    Michael clears his throat. "Fuck S.H.I.E.L.D. Fuck S.H.I.E.L.D, think I got it."

    Clay: "Westin, no powers on this one unless you have to go loud to exfil. Your cover is you're an OPS agent, so who you were before you were empowered."

    "I think I can come up with some plausible-sounding bitching about my coworkers," Miles says, smiling out of one side of his mouth. He hasn't taken his eyes off Sinclair's picture since it appeared.

    Behemoth: "No problem, just be myself."

    "There's another wrinkle with Sinclair, that you should know,” Clay says. “Our intel suggests that she's a Black Widow."

    Behemoth: "That's a pretty sizable wrinkle."

    Clay: "So she's got powers, she's basically a super-soldier. Unlike the Avengers' Black Widow, she stayed loyal to Mother Russia and drank her juice, so she's on par with Cap."

    Miles nods but says nothing.

    Clay: "Niles is off-base today, he took personal time for whatever, so I'll meet you guys down at the quartermaster's to gear up a bit before you leave on stuff you ‘stole.’ I just gotta grab some stuff from my office."

    Michael asks Miles about Blackguard, his former PMC, how they operate, who to know and avoid.

    "They're not cowboys like some of the other PMC outfits. It's not beer bongs and hair triggers and that sort of high school shit that gets us in trouble in the 'Stan. Roxxon hires guys who show ambition, follow orders to the letter, and are..." MIles' eyes look elsewhere for a moment. "...ruthless. Efficient. They screen for that stuff. It's all down to a science. So any empathy, any good feelings, secure that shit. You're there because you're serious about the four-bedroom, three-bath house on Long Island with two Beemers in the garage and you don't give a fuck how many people you have to ice to get it."

    The two agents meet Clay down at the quartermaster's. With the three of them by themselves in the area, Clay places a small grey device with a red LED on the side of the wall, and presses a button. The red LED begins pulsing slowly. "Alright lads, I have some stuff to lay down on you. Might want to wear helmets to keep your heads intact. If Elise was here I'd have to tell her that's not literal."

    Miles' eyes widen. "We're going off-book on this? Because I was pretty happy with the book."

    Clay shakes his head. "No no, this is all on-book.

    "But there's an element you need to know. And it's not going to be in the manual. But you need to know about it.

    "First up: Aliens exist. That's real. And I don't just mean weird folk like that Asgardian lass. I mean, little green men from space."

    Miles takes a step back but steadies himself and nods. "Yeah....yeah. Fuck it. I mean, I met cat people a few days ago. Anything's possible."

    Behemoth: "Why are you telling us this now?"

    "Because it matters. I'll explain," Clay says. "Leviathan is run by space aliens. They got here in 1908, crash-landed in Russia. They took over the KGB. Only SHIELD's level 8 or higher bosses know this, so I'm breaking protocol to tell you, but you need to know.

    “They're called Skrulls. We've known about them for a very long time, at least those of us at the top.

    "There's not many of them, since their gene-pool is pretty limited to the ones who crash-landed here, except it turns out they can breed with humans.

    "And that's where the Black Widows come in.

    "They're half-Skrull. Human/Skrull hybrids. They're born human, and don't possess any shapeshifting abilities as kids. Apparently their Skrull DNA has to be 'activated' when they’re adults, which is what was actually happening when Black Widows got super-soldiered.

    "So Sinclair? Half-Skrull. Romanov? Half-Skrull, although it's latent and she can't do any Skrull stuff."

    Myrmidon: "Whoa."

    qlGmSdP.pngSkrulls
    3U1ADpo.png

    The Skrulls are possibly the most dangerous alien race to humanity at this present time. The Skrull Empire is led by Empress Veranke and her genocidal religious movement the Dard’van. There is no evidence at this time that the Skrulls currently on Earth, the 1908 Group and their descendants, are in contact with the Empire or the Dard’van or are even aware of the current status of galactic politics. SWORD is attempting to maintain this situation as long as possible.

    Homeworld: Currently Tarnax IV. Originally, the Skrulls evolved on the planet Skrullos, but it was destroyed by Galactus during the First Kree-Skrull War.

    Recognizable traits: Skrulls in their natural, non-shapeshifted state have green skin and very distinct facial features. They have a very specific ridged jaw and chin structure, large pointed ears, thick brow, and often very large eyes. Skrull jaw shape is extremely distinctive, and is often one of their most revealing features if their disguises slip for a moment due to weakness or injury.

    Known extranormal abilities: The iconic Skrull ability is their shapeshifting prowess. All mature adult Skrulls possess this ability, growing into it as part of their adolescence. Skrulls are able to emulate nearly any living creature within their stature and general body plane, although with practice and skill they can temporarily add or subtract a limited number of limbs or other appendages (like tails or wings). Contrary to myth, they cannot become inanimate objects, or creatures vastly outside their body plane and size. A Skrull cannot shapeshift into a couch or great white shark, for example.

    All Skrulls also possess a limited amount of telepathy and empathy, able to read limited amounts of surface thoughts and emotions on touch. More importantly, on extended contact with someone who is unconscious (or consenting), a Skrull can form a “mind-link” and access an individual’s personality, memories, and body language, enabling them to impersonate that individual so thoroughly that it is nearly impossible to distinguish them from the original. However, to maintain this mind-link, they would need to keep the subject both alive and unconscious. As a result, Skrulls are far more likely to capture individuals they intend to replace than kill them.

    Skrulls have significant regenerative abilities, able to regrow entire limbs and organs over time. They do age, but at an extremely slow rate giving them a lifespan that is thousands of years long.

    A small percentage of Skrulls, known as War Skrulls, are effectively Skrull super-soldiers and possess super-powers themselves or seem to have the ability to emulate the super-powers of others. Our intelligence on War Skrulls is very limited at this time.

    Documented technology of note: Unsurprisingly, a great deal of Skrull technology is focused on stealth and subterfuge. We know very little about this technology other than it exists.

    qlGmSdP.pngThe Black Widows
    1jINF3N.png

    The Black Widow program appears to a specialized Skrull breeding and super-soldier project, where human-Skrull hybrids were intentionally created and trained from childhood to serve as spies and assassins for Leviathan.

    Black Widows are born human in appearance, and trained from childhood not knowing of their true heritage but raised as loyal to Leviathan and trained as child soldiers and ruthless combatants as soon as they can walk.

    When they reach adulthood, they are subjected to gene therapy that causes their Skrull genetics to express, causing them to become more or less genetically identical to full-blooded Skrulls, complete with the full suite of abilities that one would expect from a Skrull coupled with a lifetime of training in espionage and assassination.

    If they do not receive that gene therapy, they will continue to live their lives essentially as indistinguishable from humans, with only specific genetic markers identifiable if you know how to look for them.

    Thus far, all Black Widow subjects we have encountered have also been sterile. It is unclear if this is because Leviathan intentionally sterilizes the subjects, or because like many cross-species hybrids like mules and ligers, human-Skrull hybrids are born sterile. More research is required.

    "She's on our side, she's one of the good ones,” Clay says. “Sinclair isn't."

    Behemoth: "Are there any other good Skrulls we should know about?"

    "...probably?" Clay shrugs. "They're a sentient race, they have free will, I don't know, mate.

    "But Sinclair is part of Leviathan, part and parcel. So she's a baddie, regardless of species.

    "I am telling you what she is because she can shapeshift and regenerate, and when you kill her, chances are she returns to her original form. Green-skinned and all.

    "And you need to dispose of her. Burn the body. No evidence."

    Myrmidon: "....Why's that? Don't we want to study it?"

    "We're not SWORD,” Clay says. “That's their remit. They're the scalpels and slabs boys.

    "But you bring that body back here, and Hand knows about it, and she blabs. And people in her department blab. "This has to be contained."

    Behemoth: "Understood"

    Miles nods. "Yeah. Roger that."

    "To be honest, I am skeptical of the ability to take a Skrull intact in a way that doesn't leave it an ability to regenerate," Clay says. "Turn it to ash. Take no chances.

    "Might take you guys a couple days to get on her detail, so don't sweat it if you gotta grind a bit to earn Blackguard's trust.

    "But I am banking on Mason's name going far."

    Clay puts a bunch of equipment up, representing gear and "intel" that the guys "stole" on your way out. "Any... questions? I just laid some stuff on you, I know."

    Myrmidon: "No, it's okay. It doesn't change what I need to do."

    Behemoth: "Kill a shapeshifting-Leviathan-alien-human-hybrid. Got it."

    Clay: "Good."

    When they're alone, Miles turns to Michael. "I need a favor." He looks uncomfortable. "This mission is personal to me. I was on Hugh Jones' - the previous CEO of Roxxon - I was on his detail. He was a...well, he probably deserved what he got, but not like that. The assassin was a supervillain named Spymaster, but Jones wasn't the only casualty. I lost good men. I lost my..." Miles waves vaguely at the metallic parts of his arm and chest. "She's the one who hired Spymaster. Everyone knew it back then and nobody even did anything. Roxxon's a snake pit. If you can kill your way to the top, it's all great, as long as you don't get caught. The working guys who get stepped on...they don't matter. Everything we're doing, she's got coming to her, and worse."


    He rubs the bridge of his nose. "But cause of all that, I can't trust myself to see all the angles. I'm involved. I need you to be a reality check. In case I can't see things clearly."

    Michael puts his hand on Miles's shoulder. "I got your back on this."

    Miles smiles slightly. "Thanks. It's good to have someone you know you can count on. Especially where we're going."

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
    g3xuawl.png

    Elise consults the file "Antebellum" from Wyndham's data, and finds coordinates to a ranch in Virginia. It's a hell of a drive (like 6 hours), but she's basically been given leave and time to do it on her own as Clay doesn't think it's worth time.

    She stocks up on snacks, weed, and energy drinks and lovingly loads them all into The Van.

    The ranch was formerly owned by the estate of Edgar Rice Burroughs but apparently is now owned by the state of Virginia and is being converted into parkland

    Elise pulls up, titty mermaid van and all, and bundles out of the van. She stops and breathes in the air, seeing whether this smells like just a ranch or.. whether there's a clue around her.

    There's something weird in the air.

    She can't identify the smell

    But something... familiar.

    "Ooh, look at me, I'm Clay, I don't think this is a lead." Elise murmurs to herself in a falsetto as she heads to investigate further. She's in a mix of civilian and Strike gear - a gray jacket, weapons inside it, over a torn black shirt that reads DEATHBLOOD WORLD TOUR 2013, jeans, and boots. "Don't worry Agent Arnell, we won't use you as a guinea pig, you can trust us even though we put bombs in people, meh meh meh."

    Elise picks up a different series of scents.

    Blood. Leather. Cologne? Fur. Sweat.

    "...There was either a fight here or a furry fuck pit." Elise pulls her ICER and crouches near the ranch, slowly creeping closer, stopping often to listen and smell.

    She reflexively ducks as she feels the wind and hears a click in the distance. A crossbow quill snaps into the fence post behind where her head was.

    She looks in the direction of the shot, where she faintly hears a muttered "...fuck."

    FhK1Dzf.png

    Elise recognizes him.

    qlGmSdP.pngKraven the Hunter
    Real name: Sergei Kravinoff
    Known extranormal abilities: Kraven has exhibited superhuman strength, speed, agility, endurance, and regenerative abilities from an unexplained source. It is possible that he obtained these abilities from another extranormal being he hunted down. He also uses an array of weaponry and traps custom-tailored to the subject he is hunting. Extreme caution should be used.

    Sergei Kravinoff, known simply as Kraven the Hunter in the criminal underworld, is a big-game hunter with a very peculiar quarry; he hunts superhumans.

    Kraven makes it his goal to take down individuals with extranormal powers. He does not seem to prefer “heroes” or “villains”, simply those who have superpowers. He only targets those whose abilities are a function of their biology, rather than individuals whose capabilities are from gadgets, cybernetics, or tools they utilize. He would not pursue Iron Man or Hawkeye, for example, but Captain America or the Hulk would certainly be potential prey for him.

    Thus far, the individuals Kraven has captured (and killed) have been fairly minor vigilantes and costumed criminals that barely registered on the Index, but he’s been moving up in the world as he’s been travelling. Recent intel has indicated that Kraven has illegally entered the United States. That can’t be good.

    Retaliating with an ICER, she hits Kraven right between the eyes. He falls backwards, grunting. He is staggered, but not rendered unconscious.

    "I guess Kraven the Hunter has become Kraven the Hunted." Elise calls out at him. She's very proud of that shot.

    That shot should have knocked him out. Instead, he reloads his crossbow.

    Elise moves closer for another shot, but as she does she steps in the long grass and hears a click. As she fires, a spray of potent perfume fragrances blasts Elise like a landmine.

    She did hit Kraven, though.

    Anteater: "You - you dumb motherfucker piece of shit fuck shaft god damnit -"

    Kraven goes down to one knee. He is staggered and looks barely conscious. Dodging his next bolt, Elise shoots Kraven a third time, and this shot knocks him out.

    Elise tries to wave at the air around her in a desperate attempt to get the flowery stink out of her nose. She feels half-blinded. Still, there's some good news. She crouches by Kraven and begins to punch in Victoria Hand's number, and then hesitates, deletes it, and calls Clay.

    Clay: "Hey."

    Anteater: "You know Kraven the Hunter, which is a name that sounds like it belongs in fuckin' World of Warcraft?"

    Clay: "Not personally but yeah."

    "Cool. He just tried to shoot me in the face with a crossbow." She continues. "He's knocked out now. We're just hanging out in this scenic Virginia field. I stink like eight bottles of perfume, I'm shooting him periodically with an ICER so he doesn't get up, it's really great but I could probably use some help in having someone take him out of here."

    Clay: "Understood. I'll have a SEC team deployed to take him ASAP. Good job, Agent Arnell. ETA 15 minutes. According to our intel on him, you plug about eight ICERs into him, he should nap for about an hour reliably."

    Elise stands and unloads an ICER clip into Kraven, and then kicks him in the rib. "Yeah, motherfucker, next time try hunting some bargains or something safer." She radios Clay. "You know that like, I'm here on personal business, yeah? I'm still planning on, like. Doing that."

    Clay: "Sure. SEC will take care of Kraven. You're on vacation."

    She pauses. "This is where Victoria would promise me something really good for doing a really good job."

    Clay: "I gave you two weeks paid vacation. Do you want a $100 gift card for McDonalds?"

    Anteater: "YES."

    Clay: "....done."

    Elise grins and hangs up the phone. Maybe Myrmidon was right! Maybe it is okay to not work with Victoria!

    With the promise of a gift card that could buy ONE HUNDRED DOLLAR MENU BURGERS???? ahead of her, Elise whistles a jaunty tune as she explores more in hopes of finding the tomb.

    She approaches the GPS coordinates for the tomb. It's a cave. A dark, smelly cave. It smells of batshit.

    But there's also that other smell. The familiar one. It calls to Elise.

    The smell of flowers and sweet is fading. Elise pulls out a flashlight and turns it on. She...doesn't need to tell anyone about this. It's fine.

    She just needs to know what the deal is.

    Elise enters the cave. It's narrow, and short. She comes to a thick door double door, ten feet high and ten feet wide. Above the top of the door is an inscription.

    1RdO7qYl.png

    She squints. "That's Latin." she murmurs. "Remember that from Comms, at least. Cults and shit, right? …’Between Worlds.’" She searches for a knocker, or a handle.


    PHU1KZN.png
    Breaking into John Carter’s tomb was a plot point in the very underrated 2012 John Carter movie, from which this still is taken.

    I was clapping and barking like a seal when this happened. I love that movie.

    There's all kinds of engraving and stuff on the doors. They're very ornate. But nothing resembling a mechanism or handle or knocker or anything. She runs her hands over the door, hoping that she can feel something similar to braille. Enhanced senses include touch, after all.

    The doors hum and click and simply... open.

    A single light turns on inside the tomb, shining a light on a pedestal, on which a metallic object is sitting. It seems to be the only item in the tomb.

    9gn1JLGl.png

    "This... This feels like I should call Clay. I mean, Between Worlds. That's... pretty ominous? ...Maybe I'll get another gift card. But, I mean. That's..." Elise sniffs the air. Is this the source of the smell?

    It is.

    She radios Clay.

    Clay: "Hey."

    Anteater: "Uh, remember that whole tomb thing you thought was bullshit?"

    Clay: "Yeah."

    Anteater: "I'm kind of in it right now. It's some Diagon Alley shit."

    Anteater: "That's Harry Potter."

    Anteater: "It's the magical street where Harry goes on adventures to find his school supplies."

    Clay: "I'm English, don't explain Harry Potter to me for god's sake."

    Anteater: "Nice, we can book club some time. Anyways, huge doors, made of jade or some shit. No handle. ‘Between Worlds’ written above it in Latin. I rub the doors and they open. And now I'm in here? And there's something on a pedestal."

    Clay: "Don't touch it."

    Anteater: "That's why I'm calling you!"

    Clay: "Good."

    Anteater: "...Do I get another gift card?"

    Clay: "...yes."

    Anteater: "Nice. That's two hundred burgers. Anyways, it smells really good in here. I'll just...hang out, I guess? You'll send the science guys?"

    Clay: "Does the pedestal look like it's a mechanism? Like, does it look like it will respond if the object is moved? Think Raiders of the Lost Ark here."

    Anteater: "It looks more like a fancy art gallery statue. I dunno, I don't see any mechanisms? I can't even tell what this thing is, beyond smelling good. Don't know what the smell is, though. It's... familiar?"

    Elise wants to touch it.

    Anteater: "...You're sending guys, right? It should be, like, fifteen minutes? I'm on edge, Clay, I wasn't expecting to run into Kraven and this thing is, I don't like being in a room with it. It's... kind of.... I don't know. I can't say it without sounding weird."

    Clay: "Yes, the SEC team should be there in 10 minutes. Sit tight."

    Elise really thinks she should pick it up.

    Anteater: "...And they picked up Kraven, right? I'm alone out here?"

    Clay: "They will. They're not there yet. We've sent a quinjet"

    Anteater: "...Clay, you shouldn't have thought this was bullshit."

    Clay: "I'm sorry."

    Anteater: "Have you ever been in a really nice candy store, and they have the display candy out, and you just wanna...lick it?"

    Clay: "Yes, but I didn't. Because that would be a bad idea."

    Anteater: "Obviously!"

    Clay: "Maybe you should step outside of the tomb and get some fresh air, Elise."

    Why shouldn't she pick it up? What would it do?

    Anteater: "I, I kind of just want to keep an eye on it. It's super important, right? Ten minutes. I can chill for ten minutes."

    Clay: "Okay, well, stay on the phone with me, okay?"

    Anteater: "Uh huh."

    It looks like there's writing on the pedestal. It's hard to read.

    If she picked it up, she could see it better.

    Elise gets as close as she can without actually picking it up and squints at the writing. Her hands itch. It... must be the perfume. She can't smell the perfume anymore, but... She forces herself to focus on the writing.

    Elise can read the writing. It's.... directions. To somewhere. To something. She needs a tool to know more. Something to guide her. The object on the pedestal is that tool. It's an object that finds. A Diviner.

    She doesn't know how or why she can read it. She just can.

    Anteater: "Clay, I have some really good news."

    Clay: "Okay?"

    Anteater: "I, I think I can pick this thing up. I think I should pick it up. It's a divining rod, right? It goes somewhere. Probably somewhere super important."

    Clay: "...Elise, no."

    Anteater: "But the science guys won't be able to read the pedestal. It's not in English, you see."

    Clay: "Elise..."

    Elise takes a few steps back. "It's cool. It's coooool. I'm cool."

    But the Diviner will help Elise find it.

    Anteater: "ETA?"

    Clay: "Five minutes."

    Anteater: "I'm gonna... step out. Get some air."

    She steps out and presses her back against the doors. "I'm, I'm still watching it."

    The Diviner starts to hum. Is it audible? Or is it in her head?

    Elise opens the door and looks back at it. It doesn’t look any different. It’s still there.

    Anteater: "Clay. It's making noise at me. Please tell me the scientists are here."

    "They're SEC guys, they're here to grab Kraven," Clay says. Elise hears a quinjet in the distance.

    Anteater: "If only someone had taken this seriously, we'd have scientists on site."

    "Yes, I apologized,” Clay says. “Is there something you can grab it with? Some tongs? A towel?"

    "Oh! I have a jacket!" Elise shrugs hers off and wraps her hands in it awkwardly. She reaches out towards the Diviner, slowly, watching for a reaction.

    When her hands get close, it starts to hum. Even when she covers it with the jacket. The humming isn't audible. It feels like it's inside her head.

    It doesn't... hurt? It feels okay.

    She yanks her hands back. She remembers what Wyndham said. Terrigen crystals. Is this one? She sits back down on the other end of the room to wait for the scientists.

    Clay calls Elise.

    Anteater: "Yeah."

    Clay: "The SEC guys have loaded Kraven up. We contacted SCI-TECH, they'll have a team on site in 25 minutes. If you close the doors and walk away, it'll stay closed, right? If Wyndham is right, only you can open it, right?"

    Anteater: "I guess? It might be a one-time open. I...don't want to leave it. Someone knew I was coming here. Someone's watching me. Otherwise, how would Kraven know to find me here?"

    Clay: "We're going to interrogate him and find out."

    Anteater: "He's a hunter, sure, but the first time I leave NYC on my own in years?"

    "Lock it up and go wait in your van, Elise. Chill out for a bit,” Clay says. "We'll get you to open it up when SCI-TECH are on site, they'll have safety equipment."

    "Alright, fine." Elise gives the statue one last glance on her way out, and then moves to shove the doors closed.

    The hum gets louder.

    Anteater: "Yeah, fucko, I know, pick you up and find the source. I get it. I'm not doing it."

    Elise closes the door. The humming stops. She goes and waits by her van.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 4
    Half an hour later, a SHIELD SCI-TECH team in hazmat suits shows up, accompanied by Dr. Philip Lawson.


    CCv234Rl.png

    SsWsd5kl.pngDr. Philip Lawson
    Project Director, Project PEGASUS
    Clearance Level: 6

    Dr. Lawson leads Project PEGASUS, an alternative energy project based in the Nevada desert that studies some of the extranormal artifacts SHIELD has discovered over the years for potential power solutions. He’s young, but he’s a brilliant physicist and engineer.

    "You guys are late," Elise says. "Also, I've had four Monsters and I need to pee."

    "There's a washroom on the quinjet so you don't need to use a bush." Lawson indicates. "After you're done, I'm told you need to open the door."

    "Let's just get this done first, I'll piss on the way back." She leads them to the door and, once again, rubs her hands on it. The door opens.

    "Did you touch this thing at all?" Dr. Lawson asks Elise.

    Anteater: "Nope."

    Lawson: "Good. Good protocol, Agent."

    "It uh, did a hum thing in my head, though," she says. "It really wants me to pick it up. I mean, I want to pick it up."

    "....did it?" He looks around. "Give us the room."

    The rest of the SCI-TECH guys are confused.

    Lawson: "That's an order."

    They all leave.

    Lawson: "Who are you?"

    Anteater: "Uh, Elise Arnell, I've been with STRIKE for like, a month now?"

    Lawson: "Oh christ."

    Anteater: "My code name is Anteater, which is funny, because haha, like, the nose - I got the smells -"

    Lawson: "Quartermain didn't tell me."

    Anteater: "Um."

    "He just said a field agent needed artifact retrieval,” Lawson says. "He didn't tell me it was you."

    Anteater: "Excuse me?"

    "It's fine,” Lawson says. "It's fine."

    "No, it's not fine," Elise says. "What."

    Lawson checks that the other SCI-TECH agents are out of earshot. "How far away are they? Can they hear us?"

    Anteater: "No, it's fine, they're giving us space."

    Lawson: "So, I know your whole thing. Inhuman, and all that."

    Anteater: "...Okay, doesn't mean you need to be a dick."

    Lawson shakes his head. "I'm sorry if it came across that way. I'm actually happy to meet you, I wanted to for a while now."

    "Okay?" Elise is feeling increasingly uncomfortable, being near the statue and dealing with prolonged social interaction

    "The Diviner isn't going to hurt you, by the way," he says. "And it's not a Terrigen Crystal, if that's what you're worried about."

    Anteater: "Yeah, that's what I was worried about. So...I can grab it?"

    "Yeah, sure, although.... your Terrigenesis is synthetic, so it might be....kind of a weird experience." He shrugs. "I'm not sure."

    Elise grabbed it after "Sure." It’s grabbed.

    Elise gets a blast of visuals.

    4SVaZY2.png

    It looks like the writing on the pedestal.

    Only... more.

    "How you doing, kiddo?"

    "It's - it's a lot." Elise manages. "I think I could make it out, messages, maybe. I don't know."

    Lawson: "You might need time to sort it out. Diviners were built for my people originally, but we adapted them for Inhumans. Your synthetic Terrigenesis lets you use them, but it's like a... compatibility issue."

    "Your... people?" Elise pauses. "Like, scientists?"

    "Hah, yeah, well, sorta," he says. "I mean, I am a scientist.

    "But I'm also an alien.

    "I'm part of a species known as the Kree. My real name is Mahr Vehl. I'm a Pluskommander with the Kree Science Navy. Pluskommander is a rank equivalent to Captain."

    Elise slowly nods. He's clearly not lying. "Okay. Okay, cool. Uh. Maybe we should talk about this, like, back at the base, because there might be... eyes on us, here."

    Lawson nods. "Sure. We'll be heading back to Project Pegasus. Put the Diviner in the case for now, we won't let anyone know you touched it."

    "Okay. I think I remember the paths, the lights. I think... I can read them. With time." She gently puts it in the case. "Thanks, Mahr."

    She hands him a $20 gift card to Burger King.

    Lawson: "Oh, nice."

    Anteater: "I know!"

    Lawson: "Earth has the best fast food in the galaxy, did you know that?"

    "Oh my God I'm not surprised," she says. "This weekend. You, me, and two hundred dollar meal items. We'll talk shop."

    Lawson nods solemnly.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 4
    g3xuawl.png

    A few days later, Niles Nordstrom swings by the Crypt to pick up Vlad.

    "This vehicle won't be able to be traced by SHIELD,” Niles says as Vlad climbs in. “Once we lose them in midtown traffic, we're going to be a nightmare on satellite and drone tracking, in case Hand or anyone else decides to be nosy. I've done some work on this car.

    "Someone could physically trace us if they were following us, but I'm pretty good at losing a tail."

    Vladimir nods. "So how do you know Agent Richards?" he asks Niles. "And how much does she know?"

    Niles: "Sue? Knew her when was in SCI-TECH, before she was deployed on the Foundation assignment. We were friends. I...I got bullied a lot when I was new. She put a stop to that. She's good about that stuff, always sticks out for the little guy, y'know?"

    "Yes, she is lovely." Vlad pauses at his own words.

    Niles continues. "We don't hang out a lot with her over at the Foundation but with me in New York working with STRIKE, we sometimes find time to go grab a bite or whatever if Reed's not in town." He pauses for a second. "Yeah, she is. I mean, she's not my type, but like, objectively speaking, I guess."

    "Yes, objectively," Vlad says.

    "I dunno if she's happy with him, y'know? It's tough. Marrying the guy wasn't her job. She chose that. But it also didn't compromise her loyalties either. So that's gotta be weird.

    "Anyway, we're here."

    Vladimir takes a long look at the Baxter Building.

    Niles pulls into the underground parking garage. The HERBIEs have been reprogrammed to not really acknowledge their presence.

    Vlad stares at the "robots."

    "Yeah, I know, man," is all Niles says.

    Vlad shakes his head.

    The elevator in the parking garage opens. Sue is standing there. "Hello gentlemen."

    Vladimir: "Susan."

    They get into the elevator. Susan presses a specific button combination, and then puts her hand on a scanner. The elevator's button display disappears and the doors close.

    Vlad is tense and suspicious but doesn't let it show.

    Susan: "I've already set up all the equipment for the procedure."

    Vladimir: "How long will all this take, Susan?"

    Susan: "Not sure. Based on the information Niles gave me, probably twenty minutes? I have to be very careful."

    Vladimir: "Understood, I am in no way rushing the procedure."

    The door opens, and it's a completely blank white room, with some various mechanical equipment and what looks like a surgical bed in the center. Vlad can feel the lack of wireless signal of any kind.

    It's a strange emptiness Vlad has never felt before. A silence. He doesn’t like it.

    Sue motions towards the bed. "If you lay down on the bed, Vlad, Niles will need to disconnect your motor functions so that we can render you immobile and work safely. Then we're going to open your chest cavity, and expose your crystal core. We're going to have to render you insensate, or it's going to trigger a whole host of failsafe and hazard avoidance systems that will essentially translate to you as ‘pain.’”

    Vlad quickly writes a subroutine that splinters his own consciousness, and holographically projects himself outside his own body so that he can observe the procedure while remaining insensate.

    Susan is taken aback. "I... I didn't know you could do that."

    Vladimir: "I believed I could, so I tried. I believe in you, so please continue."

    "....thank you, Vladimir," she says. "Niles, give me a hand here." The two humans begin opening Vlad up and working on him.

    Vlad paces.

    The work is slow. Five minutes go by. Ten. Susan takes a quick intake of air. "There! Got it!"

    Vlad turns sharply.

    She pulls the bomb out, and plops it on a surgical tray. A display comes across Vlad's vision.

    CORE CRISIS
    CORE CRISIS
    ACTIVATING DOOM PROTOCOL



    Vladimir: "What is this?"

    Susan: "Oh no..."

    Niles gasps. "What is he doing?!"

    Vlad attempts to regain control of his body.

    Niles: "Did you trigger something?"

    CONTROL REJECTED
    DOOM PROTOCOL ACTIVATING.... STANDBY....


    "I got an idea!” Susan yells. “Hang on!" She starts desperately typing code into a terminal connected to Vlad's central crystal.

    DOOM PROTOCOL DELETED
    STORM PROTOCOL ACTIVATED
    CONTROL RELEASED


    Vlad is now able to return to his body.

    He sits up "Wh-what did you do, Susan?" He grasps the side of the table.

    "Uh... uh... some stuff,” she says. “I wanted to talk to you about."

    "Clearly." He looks at her.

    "But I didn't have a lot of time and... er… Okay, Niles, can you give us a minute?"

    "No!" Niles shouts.

    Vladimir: "Yes, Niles stays."

    Niles: "What did you do to my friend?!"

    Vladimir: "Please explain, Susan."

    "Okay so you are not the first of Doom's creations I've encountered, alright? And Victor, he puts this override code deep in the BIOS of all his stuff, he calls it the Doom Protocol. I thought, maybe you didn't have it, because you were so much....yourself. I wasn't sure.

    "So I didn't bring it up.

    "But then it kicked in, so a while ago, I wrote an override code, something to set you free. Not like, you specifically. But any of Victor's creations.

    "I was going to ask if you wanted to use it. I wanted your permission. But then the Doom Protocol just activated and I had to make a choice, Vladimir, I'm sorry."

    Vlad: "So now I carry this code?"

    Susan: "Yeah, the code is in you now. It over-wrote and deleted the Doom Protocol."

    "This is...alright, Susan. You have helped me, given me freedom. I am in your debt." He looks at her for a moment. "Tell me, do you know how SHIELD found me?"

    "Yes,” she says. "Nick Fury told me what happened. He came to me for help rebuilding you. I refused.

    "I should have. If I did, maybe they wouldn't have put a bomb in you. Maybe I could have taken the Doom Protocol out in the beginning. I'm sorry.

    "They tried to assassinate Victor. And they 'succeeded.'

    “Except it wasn't Victor. It was you. You were a body-double. Fury's exact words were 'if you crack an egg, may as well make the omelette.'"

    Vladimir: "So they then took me to SCI-TECH and everything that has happened since then..."

    Susan: "Yes."

    Vladimir: "I mean nothing to Doom."

    "No. He doesn't care about his doubles and duplicates. You're disposable to him,” she says. “It's why I wrote my protocol to free you."

    "Yes, this all makes sense," Vlad says. "So Doom makes disposable beings to act in his place. How many are there like me?"

    She shrugs. "I don't know. Dozens. Hundreds, maybe."

    Vladimir: "And what is my core?"

    "That's an excellent question,” she says. “Some unique crystal-computer that Victor created, it uses holographic computing. Victor is a genius. Reed will never admit it, but when it comes to artificial intelligence and computing, Victor is probably the greatest on Earth.

    "Or... second greatest maybe." She shrugs and smirks. "I've never gotten to test my protocol against his. That it works at all is..." She is visibly trying hard not to grin.

    "Well I thank you, Susan,” Vlad says. “I'm sure it is best for us to be on our way now that everything is done. I will be taking the charge. Again, I am in your debt."

    "Sure. The charge is disabled, and the transmitter on it is defunct. It can't send signals or be remotely detonated. You could rig up the remote detonator yourself, if you were so inclined and liked poetry, I guess.” She pauses. “Niles, can I please have a moment with Vladimir? I just want to talk to him for a moment. I sort of upended his world against his will."

    Niles sighs. "All right. I'm taking the elevator downstairs. I'll be in the car, Vlad." He gets in the elevator, the doors close, and he’s gone.

    "Right, okay..." Susan paces. "So... let's see how this goes.

    "Freeze all motor functions."

    Vladimir can't move.

    “Sus-" Vlad cuts off.

    "Perfect." She smiles. "I was worried for a moment when you figured out a way to be conscious during the procedure. I could get around Niles, but how was I going to slip my Protocol in without you noticing? How fortunate that Doom's failsafe decided to kick in. Let me just slide right in there, completely without incident."

    Within his own mind, Vladimir boils in impotent rage. Susan continues speaking.

    "Install root-level command override, triggered on my direct entry. Keyword: Rossum."

    PHU1KZN.png
    ”R.U.R.”, short for “Rossum’s Universal Robots,” is the title of the 1920 play by Czech author Karel Capek that coined the term “robot,” in a story about artificial beings created for slave labor rising up against their masters. Interestingly, the robots in the play aren’t the beep-boop machines we commonly associate the term with but are synthetic organisms that eat and grow, more like what we think of as androids.

    Anyway, it’s a very good password for what she’s doing. This betrayal got a gasp from the entire room, too. It was great.


    With only fractions of a second to act, Vladimir begins rewriting his own code. Desperate to preserve his own mind, he commits an audio-visual record of this conversation to memory, set to unlock on a trigger. Unfortunately, he can’t choose the trigger. His functions are being stripped from him one by one. It's going to be randomly assigned based on something he's seeing or hearing right now. In this conversation.

    "When this conversation is concluded with keyword: Naptime, motor functions will be released, records of this conversation will be blanked and replaced with an inconsequential small-talk conversation and general feeling of attraction and contentment towards me personally, and you're going to join Niles downstairs.

    "Establish a recording parameter: Any conversation, data, or information with the keywords: Skrull, Leviathan, Kree, Inhuman. Log this data and record into a black-drive established inside your own memory core, inaccessible to your conscious memory and accessible only to me at undetermined future date.

    "Repeat and acknowledge: Understood."

    "RICHARDS!" Vlad moves his arm and hand to choke Susan, fighting to do so with all his being.

    Susan: "Repeat. And. Acknowledge: Understood."

    Vladimir: "Understood."

    Susan: "That's a good boy."

    Susan: "Now ssssssssh."

    nrKkATH.jpg

    "Naptime." Sue kisses Vladimir gently on the forehead as his memory blanks out.

    Vladimir turns and gets into the elevator. He gets into the car with Niles, and they drive off.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 4
    g3xuawl.png

    Myrmidon and Behemoth have spent a week ingratiating themselves to Blackguard. Myrmidon's cred with the organization, and their stolen equipment and intel allowed them to swiftly make their way into the group.

    After a week, Myrmidon is able to leverage his way into being assigned to Sinclair's detail with the other "freaks and cyborgs," since that's apparently how Sinclair rolls.

    The agents are told to report to Sinclair's penthouse apartment in Roxxon's New York HQ. They arrive, and are introduced to Sinclair's head of security, William Cross, aka Crossfire.


    rUGol1El.jpg


    qlGmSdP.png Crossfire
    Real name: William Cross
    Documented extranormal abilities: None. Cross is a former Special Forces operator with years of combat experience, but does not appear to have any specific extranormal abilities or cybernetics as of this writing.

    William Cross is the estranged brother of Darren Cross, the CEO of Cross Technologies. William was former US Army Special Forces, until something happened to him in combat that caused him to go rogue. It is unclear if it was PTSD, or if William had some underlying and pre-existing mental health issue that simply manifested at that time, or if some kind of extranormal event was responsible.

    Whatever the case may be, William went AWOL, and has become a mercenary ever since. Going by the callsign Crossfire, he usually sells his services to larger military companies like Blackguard or Eaglestar on contract, but he’s also been known to take a paycheck from truly reprehensible groups like HYDRA.

    William was publicly denounced by his brother Darren (who himself, according to SHIELD intel, quietly deals with mental illness), but there may be some financial support between the two brothers.

    Standing orders are kill-on-sight. Crossfire has killed a number of junior SHIELD field operatives who have surrendered, and committed numerous war-crimes. Terminate with prejudice. This standing order is signed off Level 10 Scorpio, meaning it comes from Director Fury himself.


    Crossfire is a well-known piece of shit mercenary that has been on SHIELD's hit-list for years. He's also the estranged brother of Cross Technologies CEO Darren Cross. SHIELD is perfectly okay with kill-on-sight with this guy.

    "Hey, FNGs."

    PHU1KZN.png
    ”Fucking New Guys”

    Myrmidon makes a show of checking over his shoulder. "You must be talking to someone who isn't me."

    "Uh-huh. Whatever. Anyway, boss has got a big meet tonight. One of our high-value business partners is coming by and I don't think they got good news is the scuttlebutt, so it might get hairy. They're gonna be showing up with their own guys, that's how this shit goes.

    "So me and SM are next to Sinclair, you two are gonna flank the client and their guys. Shit gets unprofessional, you get unprofessional. Cool?"

    "Copy that," Michael smirks.

    Myrmidon nods. "Roger that. What do we know about the OpFor?"


    PHU1KZN.png
    ”Opposing Force”

    "HYDRA assholes. We were buying super-roids off ‘em for months but now they're saying their supplies are dry, that's what SM is saying. Sinclair wants them to either pony up something new or we cut them out. It's why it might get hairy."

    Myrmidon nods. "For what it's worth, their story might be true. It jibes with what we heard at my last job. HYDRA's taken some hits."

    Cross nods. "Yeah, word on the street is the US gov's gotten ugly, there's some new cats in town. The Thunderbolts. Black bags and black sites, all that shit."

    Myrmidon: "You'd think they could outsource us some of that action."

    "They might be,” Cross says. “SM says he ran into these cats over in the Rack, supers. They ran a false-flag on OsCorp, put the fuck on a deal HYDRA was trying to run on Eaglestar.

    "Weren't no Avengers, that's for sure. Ran dirty."

    PHU1KZN.png
    It sounds like he’s talking about STRIKE’s first job. And “SM” says he met the team? Who is he? And who was he when we met him?

    "Dirty supers, huh?" Myrmidon raises a brow. "Guess it was gonna happen sometime. Anyway, I know my way around HYDRA guys. The mooks aren't a problem. If they bring that big guy, Crossbones, he's trouble. We'll want to watch him."

    "Yeah, yeah, I hear. Alright, let's go get in the boardroom, hook up with the others." Crossfire leads them into the boardroom. In the room, there's Sinclair sitting at the table, and another guy standing next to her.

    bjGXSjcl.png

    qlGmSdP.png Spymaster
    Real name: Unknown
    Documented Extranormal Abilities: Unknown. Spymaster appears to possess some level of cybernetic augmentation, but relies on intimate knowledge of espionage tradecraft and a vast arsenal of specialized gadgets and weapons that are extremely dangerous in their own right.

    Little is known about Spymaster except that he is an immensely skilled mercenary, assassin, and infiltrator who has worked for a variety of employers, including some of the worst organizations on the planet. Most recently he was implicated in the assassination of Roxxon CEO Hugh Jones, an act which also mortally wounded bodyguard and future SHIELD agent Miles Mason. For this and many other offenses, including the murder of numerous SHIELD personnel, SHIELD maintains a standing shoot-on-sight order on Spymaster.

    Myrmidon tries not to visibly stiffen.

    Crossfire: "Yo, the other two are here."

    "I can see that, Billy," Spymaster says. His voice is familiar to the two agents. He's got this weirdly fake American accent.

    Cross tells the newbies where to stand, and assumes his own position at Sinclair's side.

    Sinclair gets a message. "The gentlemen you were asking to be notified of are here, Ms. Sinclair."

    "Send them up," she says.

    After a few minutes, a trio of individuals walk in.

    Miles and Michael recognize two of them immediately. Arnim Zola and Crossbones. The third they recognize from SHIELD's files.

    u1tBgtPl.png

    qlGmSdP.png
    Real name: David Cannon
    Documented extranormal abilities: David is a cyborg, his body augmented by Dr. Paul Ebersol (alias: The Fixer). His cybernetic augmentations include two large, electrically charged blades that vibrate at high frequency to cut through almost any object, and the ability to move at incredibly high speeds. Cannon uses these abilities to generate massive amounts of turbulence and other distortions in the air, spinning at high velocity and while still being able to fight effectively himself.

    Why David Cannon decided to undergo cybernetic augmentation at the hands of the Fixer remains a mystery. He’s never been apprehended, and is still at large despite several run-ins with the Avengers and Spider-Man. He works as a mercenary and petty criminal, apparently motivated by repaying a debt to Dr. Ebersol for his cybernetics (Ebersol may also be blackmailing Cannon in some unspecified way, more data is needed).

    Prior to his augmentations, David Cannon seemingly had a difficult life. A man who had trouble holding down a job, substance abuse problems, run-ins with the police, little in the way of familial connection, no significant other. It’s entirely possible he struck some kind of Faustian bargain with Ebersol to improve his life. If so, it’s possible SHIELD could make the cyborg a better offer if he was apprehended alive and in more or less one piece.

    Zola sits down, with Whirlwind and Crossbones flanking him.

    Sinclair speaks. "So, Mr. Zola."

    "DOCTOR ZOLA."

    "I apologize, Doctor Zola."

    "YES."

    "I understand your supplies of Hypercortisone-D have run into some problems."

    "WE WERE RELIANT UPON INFERIOR PRODUCTION METHODS, WHICH HAVE BEEN COMPROMISED BY THE ACTIONS OF THE UNTERMENSCH."

    "Regardless, how are we to get our product?"

    "WE ARE DEVELOPING A NEW PRODUCT THAT WILL BE SUPERIOR TO ALL PREVIOUS RELEASES."

    "Developing. So it's not currently available?"

    "....IT WILL BE AVAILABLE WHEN..."

    Sinclair raises her hand. "No. We have paid you too much for too little received. All we have paid you for is promises, Zola. We need product, or our money back. Immediately."

    Zola bangs a claw on the table. "HOW DARE YOU, TROLLOP?! I AM DOCTOR ARNIM ZOLA! I CREATED THE RED SKULL! I CREATED THE TWENTIETH CENTURY! I AM CREATING THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY! YOU WILL...."

    "Enough.” Sinclair cuts him off. "You have 48 hours to get us our money, or get us something worth our money. That is all."

    "I REFUSE! YOU ARE ONE WOMAN, WHO WILL BE REPLACED BY A CREATURE NOT SO HYSTERICAL. CROSSBONES!"

    Sinclair sighs.

    Crossbones and Whirlwind move to attack, as do Crossfire and Spymaster. It's on now.

    "HAIL HYDRA!" Myrmidon fires his repulsor full force at Sinclair! The woman is his target, not Zola or his henchmen, and Miles is gambling that pretending to be Hydra sleepers will confuse matters at least for the duration of the fight.

    Unfortunately, Sinclair dodges underneath the desk with superhuman speed, and is underneath Myrmidon's feet before he realizes, foot-sweeping him.

    "HAIL HYDRA!" Following Miles’s lead, Michael fires his assault rifle at Spymaster, emptying a full magazine. The merc’s body armor and cybernetics absorb some of the hits but he’s hurt.

    Zola yells "YES! ALL ACCORDING TO PLAN!"

    Myrmidon fires at the floor beneath Sinclair, hoping to shatter it and separate her from her allies and the rest of the fight, but she dodges again, and he collapses the floor beneath himself instead, sending him tumbling down into the hole. With Whirlwind and Crossbones engaging Crossfire and Spymaster, Sinclair jumps down the hole after him.

    Straight into Myrmidon’s full-power repulsor blast.

    Sinclair flies out the window.

    She....grows wings. And takes off.

    Myrmidon stares. "Oh, fuck this."

    She is bleeding green blood. She flaps past the penthouse window above her.

    "SKRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUULLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Zola howls, pointing at the window.

    Myrmidon runs out the window and jumps to tackle her! He catches her foot, barely hanging on, hundreds of feet above the streets of New York.

    Myrmidon: "Dead or alive, you're coming with me!"

    PHU1KZN.png
    Much later, Jake would tell me that he decided he respected me as a roleplayer when I committed to jumping my big metal guy out of a skyscraper window without hesitation or a plan.

    It just made sense to me. Spymaster may have pulled the trigger, but it was Sinclair who gave the order that ruined Miles’s life and consigned him to an existence of recharging his batteries and eating baby food and feeling set apart from all the normal, healthy people. He’s invoked the Island of Misfit Toys a couple of times now, and that’s absolutely how he sees himself.

    So it seemed to me that trading that shitpile for a chance at revenge would have felt like a bargain to Miles. I wasn’t running him as like, actively suicidal, but if he hadn’t gone after Sinclair with everything he had it would have totally unmoored me from the character. RPGs have to be about more than always just doing the safe, tactically optimal thing.

    Spymaster and Crossfire stop fighting for a second. "Wait... what."

    "Holy shit! Sinclair is a flying alien!" Michael says jaw wide and pointing at her.

    "Nope. Nope. Fuck that. Fuck you and fuck that." Spymaster says to Zola and the rest of the combatants.

    Crossfire nods. "Yeah, fuck that shit."

    Zola screeches "KILL THEM, CROSSBONES!" and Crossbones motions to Zola like no and looks at Crossfire and Spymaster. "Get out of here. Leave your business cards."

    PHU1KZN.png
    I love this world-weary, barely-putting-up-with-this-shit incarnation of Crossbones. I mean, being a screeching Nazi’s live-in caretaker would do that to you!

    Meanwhile, Sinclair is getting away. With Myrmidon attached. She keeps trying to shapeshift out of Myrmidon's grip, but it's hard to do because he has two hands.

    Zola screams at Whirlwind. "YOU CAN FLY! KILL THAT SKRULL!"

    Whirlwind shrugs. "No? You're not paying me for that."

    With an argument about Whirlwind’s contract raging, Behemoth slips quietly downstairs and assumes the form of the Destroyer. He takes off out the window, flying after Myrmidon and Sinclair.

    Behemoth tries to grab Myrmidon. He grabs Sinclair instead and knocks Myrmidon off. He now has Sinclair in his grasp, and Myrmidon is falling. With a supreme effort, he manages to drag the kicking, screaming Skrull with him down after Myrmidon, catching his colleague with one hand while the other keeps Sinclair locked in a literally iron grip.

    He sets Miles down on a rooftop, holds the Skrull pinioned before him, and opens his faceplate.

    The beam consumes her utterly. Not even ashes are left.

    Michael dusts off his hands. "And that's the end of that chapter."

    Myrmidon doesn't look away, even through the worst of the writhing and screaming. When it's done - when Sinclair has blown away on the wind - he looks down at his fist, which slowly unclenches.

    Michael looks at Myrmidon. "You good?"

    Miles thinks for a moment. "I'm better."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 4
    g3xuawl.png


    Julian spends a couple days hanging around the Crypt. Anyone asking him what he's doing generally gets a basic answer about filing some overdue paperwork, or reading up more on his case.

    Eventually he notices Victoria Hand in the office also doing paperwork, getting coffee and such. Now is his chance.

    He reaches out and tries to subtly read Victoria Hand's mind. He goes for surface thoughts first.

    "Fucking Clay fucking putting dead-zones up in my fucking base, when Nicholas gets back he'll fucking hear about this, fucking bullshit. This is my fucking house."

    Holy shit. He probes a little deeper. It’s harder than he thought. He realizes he can probe a little deeper, but he might see things he doesn't intend to see.

    Julian feels a little trepidation, but he goes ahead. Having been standing up looking through files, he takes some to a desk so he can sit down. Just in case.

    This is garbage. I don't trust Clay. Why does he need to hide things from me? This is my house. Dead-zones and shut-outs in my house. Black drives. Why? It's unnecessary. Nobody hides things from me. Nobody needs to hide things from me. Everybody trusts me. Everybody needs to trust me. If Clay is shutting me out it's because he thinks he needs to. Why? What could he be keeping secret? What could he know that I don't, that he doesn't want me to know?

    I should ask Elise. She's a good girl. She'll tell me everything she knows. Clay might know that now, though. Could be using her for false info, feeding her what he wants me to know. Have to be careful. Why is he hiding things from me? What is he hiding? What don't I know about him?


    Victoria stops. She stares blankly.

    I... I don't know anything about him.

    Why don't I know anything about him?

    I know everything about everyone.


    Julian feels a weird buzzing sensation in his temple.

    ....I suppose it doesn't matter. Clay is who he is. There's more important things to worry about. Victoria sips her coffee and goes back to work.

    The buzzing in Julian’s temple feels like feedback. Like playing a blank VHS. It seems to be strongest when Victoria thinks about Clay. It’s like there’s something her brain doesn’t want her to know.

    Julian realizes he has a choice: he can leave this to investigate for later, or he can keep pressing for the answer. But if he finds it, there’s no way to contain it: Victoria will learn whatever Julian learns at the same time he does.

    He presses. He gets.... a song stuck in his head?



    And then... an image.

    12OpmWLl.png

    Victoria drops her coffee cup and it shatters.

    She staggers backwards.

    Her eyes are wide, shocked.

    PHU1KZN.png
    Thus begins a long, long tradition of the dice fucking Julian over and over whenever he tries to read someone’s mind. Something horrific happens every single time.

    Someone, I don’t remember where, once made the pretty insightful point that a character’s first few game sessions are immensely formative experiences, not unlike childhood. If Grognar the level 1 barbarian tries something ridiculous and insane and rolls a 20, saving the day and earning applause from everyone else at the table, Grognar’s player is pretty likely to keep on doing that, because it was awesome. If Grognar gets facerolled and almost dies in a distinctly non-awesome way, his player will take a very different lesson away from the experience.

    Choco tends to play Julian very conservatively, reluctant to overextend, and I’m sure scenes like this are a big part of the reason why!

    Julian gets up. "Are you okay?"

    "Yeah.... coffee went down the wrong way." She starts coughing. "I'm good."

    Julian reads her surface thoughts.

    ohfuckohfuckohfuckohfuckohfuckohfuck

    Phoenix: "I don't think so."

    She looks up. "...sorry?"

    "You hear something?" Julian hums Blackbird a little. "See something?"

    "My office. Now." She turns on her heel. "Jeremiah, clean up this mess." Hand leads Julian into her office and slams the door.

    Hand: "You son of a bitch! What are you doing poking around in my fucking head! How fucking dare you!"

    Phoenix: "I mean, I feel a little justified in my concern."

    Hand: "There isn't even a fucking word for the kind of violation that is!"

    Phoenix: "Sorry."

    Hand: "How are you justified?"

    Julian sucks his teeth.

    Hand: "How am I the bad guy here?"

    Julian just kind of stands paused for a moment. "Okay, you're not. Not really.

    "And I get it doesn't really fix anything, but before I go on..." He taps his cheek and holds his face forward. "As hard as you can, I can take it."

    Hand: “What do you think I am, some frat asshole? You think if I slug you it'll be okay that you fucking brain-fucked me you piece of shit?"

    Hand: "Why?"

    He steps back. "Look, you saw that face."

    Hand: "Yes."

    "A…,” he clears his throat, “friend of yours asked me to check into you. To see if you were okay. I maybe didn't choose the most appropriate way to do so."

    "Abby," she says. "Abby told you to do this. God fucking dammit. Christ you didn't even buy me dinner, you fucking coward."

    Phoenix: "Well, sorry. But I could have just walked away and let you know nothing. That creepy goddamn face popped up in your head and if we work together, I'd like to see what we can learn of it."

    Hand: "Do you know what that face is. Like, did Abby tell you what those things are?"

    "Yeah, she did,” Julian says. "Look, she figured you might be one. That you'd be snuffed or captured and locked away."

    "....fuck.” Hand is slowed for a moment. “That.... that doesn't make what you did okay. We're not cool."

    Phoenix: "Clearly that's not the case. I mean, no. We're not. I get that."

    Hand: "But fine, whatever. We're here now."

    "But you get why now, maybe?" he asks. "Anyway. It doesn't matter."

    Hand: "Yes, fine, whatever. We have to talk about Clay."

    Phoenix: "Yeah, looks like we do."

    Hand: "Clay is a Skrull."

    Phoenix: "That looks to be the way of it, yes."

    "He's not just any Skrull,” she continues, “he's one of the 1908 Group. One of the originals who crash-landed. He's got telepathic abilities, on top of the general sort of empathy that Skrulls have.

    "His real name is Z'Reg.

    "I... I remember all this.

    "I remember because he told me.

    "He's been working on our side the entire time. First with MI-13, then with SHIELD. That was his real face that we saw. I remember it. The Blackbird song...it's his favorite song. He like....emotionally identifies with it, I guess. He used it...holy shit.

    "He used it as part of his telepathic hypnosis, to mind-wipe me.

    "Christ we were friends.

    "I've been such a bitch to him...."

    qlGmSdP.pngThe 1908 Group
    IwgJyL9.jpg

    Crash-landing on Earth in Tunguska, Siberia, the 1908 Group are an unknown number of Skrulls who quickly infiltrated the Russian government and military, and deeply entrenched themselves into the Soviet Union power structure when the revolution came.

    They formed the group Leviathan, a secret society that intertwined inside the government, military, NKVD, and KGB. When the Soviet Union fell, Leviathan lost considerable power. Contrary to the theories of some in SHIELD who do not fully understand the scope of Leviathan or who truly runs the organization, Leviathan did not facilitate the Soviet Union’s collapse for their own gains. The USSR collapsed on its own, it had become too large and too corrupt for a small group of Skrulls to manage from the shadows.

    The current Russian government, which is ostensibly democratic but in practice is fairly totalitarian, is aware of Leviathan’s alien influence and has no tolerance for it. The Russian President is hostile to Leviathan (apparently having run afoul of them during his days with the KGB), and he is actively trying to purge them from the FSB and other government agencies.

    However, because the Russian government is still heavily reliant on oligarchs and business interests, including the Leviathan-backed Kronas Corporation, the government can only do too much to try to expunge the Skrulls. This is why SHIELD is forbidden from trying to deal with Leviathan in Russia, and why Russia considers Leviathan a closed subject.

    It is unknown at this present time how many of the 1908 Group survived the crash, how many are still alive today, and how many are still loyal to Leviathan and harbor imperialist, anti-human sentiment. Some may have rebelled against the others. We have no evidence to support this, but elsewhere in the galaxy there are non-Imperial Skrulls, so Skrulls are just as capable of making choices for themselves as any sentient race.

    It is also unclear how many Skrulls have been born on Earth from the 1908 Group. It is known that the Skrulls have interbred with humans (see: the Black Widow program), but they also seem to have reproduced with each other. SWORD has apprehended at least one Russian national who is a Skrull born here on Earth to two parents from the 1908 Group. These individuals are, in our experience, fiercely loyal to Leviathan and should be treated with extreme caution.

    At this present time, we have no evidence to suggest that Leviathan or any Skrulls on Earth have contact with the greater Skrull Empire, who have undergone a significant cultural and political shift since 1908 (see: the Dard’van). It is unclear as of this writing what ramifications will occur when/if the 1908 Group makes contact with the rest of their species.

    Julian slowly pulls a cigarette from his case. He offers one to Hand.

    Hand: "No, I quit."

    He tucks them away.

    Hand: "I don't... I don't know why he did it. I can't remember."

    Phoenix: "Should we ask him?"

    Hand: "I don't know...."

    Phoenix: "Do you want me to ask him?"

    Hand: "Maybe? But whatever you do, don't mind-read him. He's a telepath and he's over a hundred years old and he's a lot more powerful than you."

    Phoenix: "Alright."

    Hand: "Let me... leave. You can't die. I can."

    Phoenix: "Yeah, okay."

    Hand: "Alright. Give me ten. Call me if you don't get murdered or when you recover or whatever."

    Phoenix: "Sure."

    Hand leaves, and shows Julian out of her office. She leaves the entire base, deciding to take the afternoon off. Personal time.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Julian heads out, dutifully puts the files he'd retrieved back, and stands for a moment, working out what exactly he's going to do. He heads towards Quatermain's office.

    Clay is in. "Hey, come on in, Agent. How can I help you?"

    "Hey, Director. I have a heavy question to ask. I know it's coming from nowhere."

    "Ok. Go. Wait. Hold on." Clay clicks a button under his desk. "Okay now go."

    Phoenix: "Are you recording this? Okay, whatever."

    Clay: "No, but now Victoria isn't."

    "I'd have expected that anyway." Julian coughs. "So about that. What's with all the hiding shit from Victoria? She's going nuts."

    Clay: "I am maintaining operational security and proper privacy. Victoria doesn't need to snoop on everything. She can calm down. You and I are entitled to have a conversation without her listening."

    Phoenix: "Mhm. But you know, I spoke to her, and I think we have some stuff in common between you and I. We work for S.H.I.E.L.D., we like The Beatles, we both have some extraterrestrial stuff going on, you know?"

    Clay: "Sit down, son."

    Phoenix feels a presence in his mind. Almost like a....knock? "Right here, sitting down, sitting down with -- Ooh.” He opens up.

    Clay: Does she know?

    Phoenix: Yeah.

    Clay: Good fucking job, genius.

    Phoenix: Yeah. Thanks.

    Clay: I did that for a reason.

    Phoenix: I mean, I get that now.

    Clay: Now I have to do it again and it sucks for her.

    Phoenix: Can I ask why?

    Clay: And it sucks for her. She's my friend.

    Phoenix: Is there any way to avoid it?

    Clay: No. Not until I am sure there's no Leviathan in SHIELD. It's for her safety. Nobody can know my secret.

    Phoenix: So how many organizations do we expect dipped their fingers in S.H.I.E.L.D. at this point now? Goddamn.

    Clay: Three. Leviathan, HYDRA, and something called WHISPER.

    I don't know much about WHISPER. They're a fourth player, don't know who is behind them, new deal. I'll tell you more when I find out more.

    Leviathan is both the easiest and the hardest, because their infiltrators are all Skrulls and hybrids. So, if I can find them, I can find Leviathan. But that means nobody in SHIELD can know who I am, because I'm the rogue from the 1908. They know who I am. I'm the only one outside Leviathan from the 1908.


    Phoenix: And if they're gone, your secret is safe?

    Clay: That's right.

    Phoenix: Hm. What leads do you have?

    Clay: Right now, I don't believe any of the department heads are Leviathan. I trust all members of STRIKE, and all of STRIKE's personnel. I trust Victoria, and all of COMMS. I trust SWORD. I have someone in SEC investigating this for me, following leads.

    Her name is Flashback. She's from STRIKE's predecessor, now she's internal affairs, perfect cover for hunting for moles.

    To be clear, I'm not going to memory wipe you. I don't have to, and I'm not even sure I could. You're too powerful for a normal Skrull to mind-probe anyway.


    Phoenix: I mean, I could probably race you to see if I could blast my head off first anyway. But that kind of trauma would be best avoided, I think.

    Clay: But you CANNOT tell the rest of the team about what I am. I'm serious about this. I'm very serious. If any of them are captured, they could be compromised. You can't, because you're literally impossible to interrogate or torture or compromise.

    Phoenix: Understood.

    Clay: I have to go mind-wipe one of my best friends in the whole world to the point that she starts passive aggressively doing petty office bullshit with me again and it fucking kills me inside, I am not happy about it, because if there is anyone who is a prime target for replacement with a Skrull it's her and if they get her, they're gonna get me if she knows what I am.

    Phoenix: Look, is there...anything that can be done for you and Hand in the meantime? Anyone can see the relationship between the two of you is rocky. I'd have chalked it up to just a bad relationship, but hearing Hand speak of you from before, I get it. You were friends. Why the behaviour from her?

    Clay: I think it's telepathic blowback. Like there's some kind of mental hole there from the erased memory that her subconscious burns on and it fills with resentment.

    Memory erasure sucks. But I can't trust her to know. I already got burned once when I worked at MI-13, it's why I had to leave.

    For a while I thought things would be different at SHIELD, but then when I found my first Leviathan infiltrator, I knew, eventually, they'd find someone who knew about me. The Leviathan Skrulls hate me. I'm a treasonist, a traitor to the Emperor. I have to die. The rest of humanity they see as subjects to conquer, but me? They want to kill.

    Was there anything else?


    Phoenix: I guess not.

    Clay: Alright then. Good. Go. I have to go find Victoria, if she's not halfway to Tahiti now.

    Julian gets up and nods. "Director." He slinks off, looking a bit sheepish.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 6
    g3xuawl.png

    Elise and Dr. Lawson take a quinjet back to the Project Pegasus headquarters in Nevada. When they arrive, Dr. Lawson leads Elise to his office, where the two can have a private chat. He pours himself a bourbon, while saying "It's five o'clock somewhere." and offering Elise a drink

    She takes it. Booze doesn't do the trick as well as weed, but it works well enough.

    "So, yeah, here's the deal on how my people messed up your people, aka my Blue Guilt." He pauses. "I'm blue, by the way. Don't let all this fool you. It's a disguise. I'm not gonna take it off, because it's a pain to put it back on, but take my word for it. I've got blue skin and red eyes."

    qlGmSdP.pngKree
    NkC6i3x.jpg

    One of the most numerous races in the galaxy, the Kree form the core population of the Kree Empire, the most powerful galactic nation we are aware of.

    Homeworld: Hala.

    Recognizable traits: Most Kree have skin that are shades of blue, cyan, indigo, or purple, corresponding to various ethnicities within their species. There are rare genetic conditions that lead to more exotic skin colors, including a skin condition that results in Kree with a skin color that is close to human Caucasian, but SWORD has never encountered any individuals with this condition.

    Most Kree are significantly larger and stockier than most humans, standing at least six and a half feet to seven feet tall usually. Some Kree are shorter than the average, and these individuals are usually selected for infiltration duties among smaller races like humans.

    Known extranormal abilities: Kree have increased strength, endurance, and speed when compared to a human of equivalent size and muscle mass. They appear to have more dense and efficient musculature and circulatory systems.

    Documented technology of note: The Kree had faster-than-light travel and artificial intelligence and energy weapons when humanity was literally living in caves and banging rocks together. They are absurdly beyond us in technology level to an extent that is impossible to fully document. A specific technology that the Kree seem to have mastered is space-folding, which forms not only the foundation of their faster-than-light travel but also enables them to form pocket-dimensional spaces to create fortresses and secret installations, such as the secret city of Attilan on the Moon.

    Anteater: "So, wait, are you the aliens that showed up and started the whole inhuman gene thing? So I could be, like your great, great, great... grand-whatever?"

    Lawson: "Yes, and....maybe?"

    Anteater: "Wow. I feel like I have a surplus of dads these days."

    "Heh, well, think of me more like a long-lost half-cousin of colonialism," Lawson says. "It goes like this.

    "Thousands of years ago, my people, the Kree, were at war with this other race, the Skrulls. They're this shapeshifting race of green-skinned reptilian religious extremists. Back then they didn't have religion, they were just imperialists.

    "We had this whole arms race going, and we were both trying to outdo each other. We were subjugating other worlds and using those planets as soldiers at each other. It was ugly.

    "One group of Kree scientists found this world, your world, and they found that there was already another group of aliens who were here.

    "Asgardians. They came from some extra-dimensional space, and they had ruled over the Earth like gods."

    Anteater: "Oh, we met those! I gave one my phone number, actually."

    Lawson smiles. "Nice. Was it Thor?"

    "Nah, I like ladies. She was the valkyrie sort." Elise is, at this point, taking this whole story in stride. Nothing can be weirder than the day she's had already.


    "Nice.” Lawson pauses. "The Kree scientists realize that the Asgardians aren't aliens, though. They're from Earth. Asgard's an extra-dimensional space, sure, but it started here. The Asgardians were made from humans by something else. Some other alien race doing stuff to humans at some earlier point.

    "So, they think there must be something to this human genome, and they start tinkering with it. They mix human DNA with Kree DNA. Sometimes through genetic engineering, sometimes the... old-fashioned way.

    "Scientists get lonely."

    Anteater: "Kind of gross! But okay, sure."

    He continues. "Anyway, the Kree-Human hybrids, or Inhumans as they're called nowadays I guess, aren't really anything special on their own. But the scientists figure something out: that Asgardians on their own aren't anything special either. They're empowered by a type of crystal they call the "Norn Stones.’ The Kree scientists call them Terrigen Crystals. Same thing."

    Anteater: "...Huh! So these crystals are basically a power boost."

    "Yes,” he says. "And it turns Inhumans into incredibly powerful beings. Around this time... the Skrulls showed up on Earth. The Kree-Skrull war started raging on Earth. The Asgardians got involved, so did the Atlanteans, it was a whole thing.

    "The order came down from the Supreme Intelligence to scrap the whole project one day. The reasons for that are... complicated.

    "But they sent an Accuser to liquidate all assets. Including the scientists and all Inhumans. They were... pretty thorough."

    qlGmSdP.png Kree Accusers
    sLBXH8V.jpg

    Kree Accusers are the most dangerous force in the Kree Empire. They are Kree super-soldiers, created to enforce the edicts of the Kree Supreme Intelligence. Those who “Stand Accused” are in violation of the Supreme Intelligence, and must be destroyed or otherwise brought into line with the Supreme Intelligence’s will.

    An individual Accuser is the equivalent of a space armada. More than one could annihilate a planet. Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of the Accusers are occupied fighting the Second-Kree Skrull War, attempting to stop Dard’van genocides.

    It is unlikely that an Accuser will even visit Earth. In the event one is encountered, retreat immediately, evacuate all facilities, and engage in Emergency Protocol Argent 7.

    Anteater: "Wait, the Supreme Intelligence?"

    Lawson: "That's our leader."

    Anteater: "Christ, he sounds like kind of a prick."

    "In the sense that any leader of a vast empire is, yes,” he says. "Anyway, times have changed. There's a new Kree-Skrull war, because the Skrull Empire has changed.

    "They're a religious empire now, ruled by this apocalyptic cult called the Dard'van. They're fuckin' nuts. So the Kree need all the help they can get.

    "I was sent to Earth to check on the old 'Inhuman project' to see if it was still viable at all or if Earth was a potential viable ally."

    qlGmSdP.pngThe Dard'van
    TdGb3CD.png

    The Dard’van are a religious extremist group within the Skrull Empire, and currently control the Empire as their leader, Empress Veranke, is also the leader of the Empire itself.

    Veranke has made the Dard’van the state religion, and is forcing conversion to her religious movement on all Skrulls whether they like it or not. Thus far, many in the Empire have at least tacitly endorsed the movement at least to avoid persecution, even if they may quietly be sowing seeds of dissent.

    The Dard’van believe that the Shaper of Worlds will return. They believe in an eschaton for all the “lesser species”, a universe that will be cleansed of all non-Skrull life by the returning Shaper, and only the Skrulls will be left to rule. To achieve this goal, they must eliminate all other races and make sacrifices in the Shaper’s name, making the Dard’van a genocidal religion that centers on exterminating all non-Skrulls.

    Whereas the Skrull Empire previously was blatantly racist and imperialist but still at least tolerated the existence of other species as vassals in its empire, the Skrull Empire under the Dard’van see other species as only fit to be destroyed.

    Accordingly, they’ve essentially made enemies of the entire galaxy.

    As of this writing, there is no evidence to show that the Dard’van have discovered or made contact with Earth (mercifully). There is also no evidence that states that the Skrulls that inhabit Earth (the 1908 Group and their descendents that make up Leviathan) know about the Dard’van and the current state of the Empire. They left the Skrull Empire over a hundred years ago, when Emperor Dorrek VII was still alive and the Dard’van didn’t exist. We don’t know how they will react when/if they find out the current state of Skrull politics and culture.

    Anteater: "And you found... SHIELD. With Fury, and Hand. And then eventually...you heard about me?"

    Lawson nods. "Yes."

    Anteater: "So I guess this is a pretty big deal to you."

    "Yep!"

    Anteater: "Dang. Sorry I'm not, more, like...impressive."

    "Actually you're pretty impressive,” he says. “For someone with a synthetic Terrigenesis your abilities are pretty amazing. And you use them effectively. You took down Kraven solo, and he's killed more than a few Inhumans by himself and siphoned their powers."

    "I was lucky. I was... kind of making my own way in the world. Gambled, mostly. One day I got too ambitious, hit the wrong casino. Could have gotten my kneecaps busted. But I'm here." She pauses. "...So. These crystals. Wyndham made it seem like they'd... change me pretty dramatically."

    He nods. "They might. You might turn into a literal Anteater-person!

    "Or you might not.

    "Your powers might stabilize and become more manageable and useful."

    Anteater: "...Hell of a gamble."

    "Yes it is," he says. "The Diviner you found will help us, though. It will let you find whatever is encoded in it to find. I'm not sure if it's Terrigen crystals, or a way to Attilan, or what."

    Anteater: "Do we have to keep this little mission of ours secret? I'm very bad at lying."

    Lawson: "Who do you trust?"

    "...My team." She thinks. "Clay. ...Maybe Miss Hand? I don't know."

    Lawson: "Don't tell Clay."

    Elise is very obviously okay with this.

    Lawson: "Don't tell Clay about me, more accurately. Tell him whatever you want about you. Clay and I have a relationship best classified as 'it's complicated.'"

    "You know what, I don't have to say anything about you, the whole Kree thing,” she says. “That's... it's not really necessary! You're a scientist pal who's helping me. That's enough detail, and it's not a lie.

    "I'll... I'll start thinking about what I saw. The lines, the patterns. I can almost make out shapes and words. And we have the Diviner."

    "Perfect,” he says. “Let me know when you figure it out. The absolute best case scenario is a way to Attilan. Attilan was the Kree scientists' outpost. It's technically on the Moon. But it also... isn't? It's complicated.

    "Kree technology can fold space. You know Diagon Alley from Harry Potter? It's kind of like that."

    Anteater: "Oh my God I do know Diagon Alley!"

    Lawson: "Perfect. So technically Attilan is on the Moon but you can't just like, fly to the Moon and go there. It's folded inside space on the Moon. So you need to find what we call a Foldgate to access it. There are Foldgates to Attilan here on Earth, but the records of where they are, are lost. I'm hoping the Diviner leads to one."

    Anteater: "I'm going to be 100% honest with you - I understand like, 10% of it. But the 10% I understand is the important part. Use the Diviner. Find important thing to fight Skulls. Don't tell Clay."

    Lawson gives Elise a thumbs up and a smile.

    Anteater: "Okay. Cool. I should bounce. We don't want Miss Hand wondering why we're hanging out together for so long. She has eyes everywhere."

    Lawson nods. "I'll have a guy from SCI-TECH give you a ride back to your van."

    Anteater: "Cool."

    Lawson: "Lemme know if you figure anything out, or if you just wanna get burgers."

    Anteater: "Will do. Thanks, new friend."

    PHU1KZN.png
    So, let’s recap.

    Aliens exist. Skrulls and Kree have been fighting over our world for millennia, and everything that’s happened so far is just a front in that battle.

    Leviathan is run by evil Skrulls, but Clay is a good Skrull who rebelled against them, apparently. But Susan is an evil Skrull who has hijacked Vlad, apparently.

    Dr. Lawson is Kree. The Kree created the Inhumans, like Elise and Captain America, but with technology that they found laying around, that someone else had used to create the Asgardians, who are actually human, and whose ‘Norn Stones’ are just Terrigen Crystals.

    John Carter of Mars was a real dude, an Inhuman named John Steele who found a way to the Moon and left a map there in his tomb.

    Herbert Wyndham is over a hundred years old and learned about Inhumans from meeting Edgar Rice Burroughs personally. Wyndham shared John Steele’s blood at the Teleos Conference and it was that Inhuman blood that allowed the creation of Cap and the Red Skull and the Winter Soldier, and the lack of that blood that doomed every subsequent attempt at creating super-soldiers.

    Julian learned that he used to be in SWORD and used to be close to Izzy Kane and Abby Brand. He also learned that the Phoenix Force is a legendary entity that appears on planets in the path of the world-eating Galactus.

    Myrmidon and Michael killed the woman indirectly responsible for Myrmidon’s maiming and learned that “Ted Calloway” from Aqiria was actually the assassin Spymaster.

    Elise has touched the Diviner and been imprinted with a map to...somewhere.

    We learned that Arnim Zola will take credit for literally anything, and that Kraven the Hunter is a punk.

    I don’t know if I’ve ever played a single session of a single game that has changed scale so dizzyingly. Six weeks before this, we were secret agents stopping arms deals in Iraq. Now we’re on the front lines of a galactic war.
    r2C6Mbd.png

    Jacobkosh on
    Matev
  • MsAnthropyMsAnthropy Our Lady of Perpetual Mazes The CageRegistered User regular
    edited September 5
    I think I am contractually obligated to give you a hard time for starting a new actual play thread when you have, like, 2 or 3 others that still need to be completed.

    That aside, I want to say I really dig this thread and the love for Marvel really shines through. It reads like the type of thing I wish certain television shows could have been (acknowledging that that would have been cost prohibitive in the real world). Hats off to all of you on it.
    Clay: Alright then. Good. Go. I have to go find Victoria, if she's not halfway to Tahiti now.

    Julian gets up and nods. "Director." He slinks off, looking a bit sheepish.

    That said, I did think to myself, “well, Tahiti is a magical place” when I read this exchange.

    MsAnthropy on
    "The only real politics I knew was that if a guy liked Hitler, I’d beat the stuffing out of him and that would be it." -- Jack Kirby
    JacobkoshPowerpuppiesMatevFencingsax
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    @MsAnthropy yeah, @visiblehowl has roasted me fairly comprehensively for my slackadaisical star wars posting ways. I want to get back to it! It's just daunting.

    I'm glad you're digging this, though. As you can probably imagine, it's been a lot of fun and has gotten me really champing at the bit to try out some new stuff in my own DMing. The serial-tv-like format is a really natural fit for a group of people as drenched in media as we are and it's something I want to replicate when I do Star Trek.

  • visiblehowlvisiblehowl Neutron Nerd Registered User regular
    This AP is so good I'm not even mad, Jacob.

    No wait, I am mad, because there isn't more of this AP.

    vxsHp3F.gif
    I am apparently an MTGA draft god on Twitch
    MatevJacobkoshMsAnthropyFencingsax
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Briefing - Episode 1.07
    Given their recent encounters with extraterrestrial forces, the STRIKE crew return from vacation to find that their security clearance has been upgraded to reflect their newfound level of initiation, granting them access to some of SWORD’s level 8 classified files.

    LEVEL 8+ EYES ONLY
    SWORD Galactic Factbook


    This contains all the relevant information you will need to perform your duties as an Agent as they differ from the general SHIELD factbook available to all SHIELD Agents.

    Known Galactic History as Relevant to Earth
    qlGmSdP.pngThe Celestial Myth
    Galactic history is incredibly complex and long, and SWORD’s contact with alien races has vastly expanded our knowledge of the history of civilization as a whole. That is beyond the scope of this document as it pertains to your duties as an agent.

    However, there are some salient overlapping details that appear repeatedly through-out the histories of a myriad of different alien species, going back into their pre-history and mythology.

    The Celestials
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    Appearing in the overwhelming majority of sentient species that we have encountered through-out the galaxy is the presence of pre-historic interference by a race of enormously powerful aliens that leave little trace of their presence beyond genetic interference and uplifting a percentage of that species into nearly godlike, immortal beings (as a whole, referred to as Eternals). This is a recurring pattern throughout the universe, and the various species of the galaxy ascribe names to this alien race that generally translate to some variant of the word “Celestial.”

    It is not known where Celestials came from, or what their purpose in creating these godlike Eternals was. They came, they created, they left. The Eternals on some worlds became rulers for a time, although almost inevitably in nearly all cases were overthrown by the majority populace of the rest of their species who resented their godlike overseers.

    On our planet, the Eternals became the Asgardians.

    There is at least one known instance of a Celestial corpse, the head of which forms the intergalactic trading post Knowhere. What killed that Celestial is not known.

    qlGmSdP.pngThe Devourer
    Fermi’s Paradox is an apparent contradiction between the high probability for the existence of intelligent alien life and the lack of evidence for its existence. Obviously, SWORD has such evidence, which should prove Fermi’s Paradox incorrect.

    Nonetheless, the math still doesn’t add up. Based on the contact we have made and the information we have gathered from our off-world contacts, there should still be more alien life out there than we have encountered. If anything, the paucity of alien life we have encountered thus far that possesses faster-than-light travel confirms Fermi’s Paradox rather than disproves it.

    However, there may be a reason for it.

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    According to the most ancient records we were able to procure, there was an avian species known as the Shi’ar Empire that existed an unknown number of years ago. Possible range of years is in the hundreds of thousands to millions. The Shi’ar Empire was one of the first galactic civilizations, and they had achieved faster-than-light travel thanks to a powerful artifact they had created called the M’Kraan Crystal.

    Soon after, some kind of entity or species or fleet (this is unclear) arrived at their world and destroyed it and the Shi’ar. The planet itself was physically destroyed, ripped apart by forces we do not understand.

    The Shi’ar named this entity Gah Lak Tus; “The Devourer of Worlds”, a name that over time the rest of the galaxy has come to call simply “The Devourer” or “Galactus”.

    The Shi’ar were a deeply telepathic race, and their mass genocide caused a psionic feedback that coalesced into a pyrokinetic entity that escaped Galactus and traveled to another world, trying to rally its people to fight against the Devourer. When Galactus arrived, this fiery avian force failed to defeat Galactus, and the telepathic energies of the slain inhabitants of that world were added to the force. It fled, and continued its crusade against the Devourer. According to galactic myth, this “Phoenix Force” has been locked in this immortal duel with Galactus for thousands, possibly millions of years, constantly losing but growing stronger with each loss.

    There is no indication at this present time that Galactus is headed for Earth, however there is speculation that an agent of STRIKE may currently be the host for the actual Phoenix Force. This still needs confirmation. Practice Op-Sec protocols as the presence of the Phoenix Force on Earth may panic local extra-terrestrial inhabitants who are aware of the Galactus-Phoenix myth and may see the Phoenix as the harbinger of Galactus.

    qlGmSdP.pngThe First Kree-Skrull War
    The First Kree-Skrull War was one of the most important events in galactic history, even if it took place over ten thousand years ago. It has shaped interstellar politics and still continues to impact Earth’s place in the galaxy to this day. We are still caught in the middle between these two galactic superpowers, so it’s important for any Agent to be aware of the history, in brief, of this conflict.

    The Skrulls Take Shape (12,000 BCE)
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    Apparently the Skrulls were not always a species of shapeshifters and telepaths. They evolved on a planet called Skrullos, and like most of the galaxy’s sentient species they were interfered with by the Celestials. However, it seems that rather than have an entire sub-species of Eternals, there was only one among them with godlike power. Or, it is perhaps possible that over time one individual killed the others. It’s not clear.

    Nonetheless, according to Skrull mythology, this godlike being known as the Shaper of Worlds bestowed on all Skrulls the ability to shapeshift and their potential for telepathy. He ruled their people as a God-Emperor, and led them on a campaign of conquest into the stars.

    The Kree Empire Rises (11,750 BCE)
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    Elsewhere in the galaxy, the Kree species dominated their homeworld of Hala and began to travel into space, attaining a technology level roughly equivalent to where we are now. Kree scientists then made an amazing breakthrough, creating an AI supercomputer that they called the Supreme Intelligence.

    The Supreme Intelligence managed to revolutionize Kree society over the next few decades, as the Kree trusted it and utilized it to make their lives more efficient. Eventually, the Intelligence was outright put in charge of the entire world, and it led them to create faster-than light technology and an interstellar empire.

    The Empires Clash (11,500 BCE)
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    The Kree and Skrull Empires encountered each other for the first time, and very shortly thereafter, ended up declaring war as neither could truly tolerate the other. Both had numerous vassal states and fleets at their disposal after hundreds of years of development, and engaged in interstellar warfare the likes of which no galactic record had shown up to that point.

    The Devourer Comes to Skrullos (10,500 BCE)The First Kree-Skrull War
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    After a thousand years of warfare, doom came to Skrullos. Not from the Kree, but from Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds. The Shaper of Worlds sacrificed himself and the Skrull homeworld itself so that his people could escape, forming a new homeworld for themselves on Tarnax IV. Galactus destroyed Skrullos and the Shaper of Worlds. At this point, the Skrulls abandoned faith in the God-Emperor and became increasingly secular. They crowned a new Emperor, Dorrek I.

    The Xandar Treaty (10,499 BCE)
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    On the world of Xandar, Kree representatives of the Supreme Intelligence and the Skrull Emperor Dorrek I signed the Xandar Treaty, ending the First Kree-Skrull War. The Skrull Empire, in no position to continue the war having lost their homeworld, were forced to pay brutal reparations to the Kree and release many of their vassals. Dorrek I was incredibly embittered by the situation, and the Kree knew he was determined to continue a cold war despite the Treaty.

    The Galactic Cold War (10,500 BCE – 2012 CE)
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    The Galactic Cold War was, technically, the longest period of uninterrupted large-scale peace in documented history. Technically. In reality, it has been a period of constant espionage, terrorist acts, proxy wars, and other ways to obey the letter of the Xandar Treaty for thousands of years. Even the Kree-Skrull conflict on Earth during the Hyborian Age was essentially a small-scale skirmish that was not really considered a true part of a war.

    The Galactic Cold War ended in 2012 CE when Emperor Dorrek VII was assassinated by the Dard’van and Empress Veranke assumed the throne, declaring war on the Kree Empire.

    qlGmSdP.pngThe Hyborian Age
    An Asgardian name for a period that predates all known written human history, the Hyborian Age was, according to Asgardian sources, an age of magic and war that sounded more akin to fantasy stories than any kind of historical record.

    Asgardians are notorious for speaking in metaphor and abstraction, and consider advanced technology and magic to be synonymous concepts, so it is extremely difficult to tell how much of their stories of the Hyborian Age are literally true and how much are allegorical.

    For clarity’s sake, this section has presented information in accordance with our most accurate historical record we have been able to recreate, with Asgardian terminology or concepts for these ideas noted as such.

    The First Giant (Time Unknown)
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    Avoiding Asgardian creation mythos which are largely nonsensical and unimportant, the most important detail is at some unknown point prior to the Hyborian Age, some extra-terrestrial non-human entity that they call “Ymir the First Giant” arrived on Earth (which they call Midgard) and empowered a portion of humanity into the Asgardians. It’s worth noting that Asgardians are not born superhuman; as they grow older they gain some measure of power, and then when mature they undergo a coming-of-age ritual where they are exposed to a crystalline material that the Asgardians call the “Norn Stones”. This material appears to be the same material we have identified as Terrigen Crystals. According to their myths, the Norn Stones were granted to the Asgardians by Ymir.

    Ymir was very clearly a Celestial, the same sort of being that has visited other species in the galaxy and created similar kinds of “Eternals”.

    At some point, Ymir left the Asgardians. Their myths and legends are mixed as to why and they don’t seem to agree on the reasons. It’s something that happened thousands of years ago and no living Asgardian seems to have been there when it happened.

    King Bor Ascends
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    The Asgardians mastered what they call “magic” during this period, and crowned a new king, Bor. This formally began the Hyborian Age. The Asgardians began trading with other, non-enhanced humans and teaching them “magic” as well.

    The Frost Giants Arrive
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    Kree Science Navy explorers arrived on Earth. They were looking for assets to potentially use against the Skrull Empire. Technically, they were at peace in accordance with the Xandar Treaty, but the Galactic Cold War was ongoing and both sides were looking for an edge to undermine the other.

    The Asgardians call the Kree “Frost Giants” for their blue skin and large stature, and considered them an invading force. The two species fought, with the Kree gaining the upper hand. The Kree, at first, also believed the Asgardians were not native to Earth, and did not realize they are the result of Celestial interference.

    The Retreat to Asgard
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    King Bor created the Bifrost, some kind of portal or wormhole that accesses either a remote planet or dimension or both, and the Asgardians left Earth to the Kree. They called their new home Asgard, and they periodically returned to Earth to skirmish with the Kree.

    The Inhumans
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    The Kree scientists began to experiment on the humans. Now that they realized that Asgardians are genetically modified humans, they attempt to recreate the Celestials’ work, trying to turn humans into super-weapons against the Skrulls. They also interbred with the humans, producing Kree-human hybrids that we have later started calling Inhumans.

    Eventually, the Kree concluded that they have to “activate” the extranormal potential of an Inhuman by exposing them to the Terrigen Crystals/Norn Stones, and began to do so. This proved enormously successful, creating superpowered entities beyond anything the Kree scientists had imagined. They established a permanent outpost on the Moon using Kree space-fold technology, which later became the Inhuman city of Attilan.

    The Serpent-Men
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    Skrulls arrives on Earth, having learned of the Kree plot. They attempted to interfere, infiltrating human societies and turning the humans against the Kree. The Asgardians called them “Serpent-Men” because of their reptilian nature, and they become one of the dominant empires of Hyborian civilization, Stygia. The Kree and Skrulls on Earth tried to avoid engaging each other directly to avoid violating the Xandar Treaty, and instead acted through intermediaries and agents.

    The Experiment Ends
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    For reasons that are not clear, the Kree Supreme Intelligence determined that the Inhuman experiment needed to end immediately. Perhaps it decided that the experiment was too close to violating the Xandar Treaty, or was a threat to the Empire. It’s not clear. What is known is that the Kree Empire dispatched Accusers to eliminate the Kree scientists, purge Attilan, and hunt down every Inhuman they could find. The Skrulls, not wanting to fight with Kree Accusers, fled Earth, and the Asgardians retreated back across the Bifrost and would not return for centuries. The Hyborian Age essentially ended with the decision of a computer thousands of light years away.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    qlGmSdP.pngThe 20th Century
    The 20th Century saw very significant changes to the world as we know it. It is within the living memory of nearly any Agent reading this document, and was the period in which SHIELD was created and subsequently became aware of the existence of extra-terrestrial life, leading to SWORD’s creation.

    This section does not summarize the entirety of 20th century events as they pertain to extranormal phenomenon. Cross-reference with the regular SHIELD World Factbook for more information. This document specifically deals with this century as it pertains to extra-terrestrial events within SWORD’s mandate.

    The Tunguska Event (1908)
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    On June 30th, 1908, a Skrull ship was exploring our star system. We have later learned that it ran afoul of cloaked orbital defense systems that were left behind by Kree Accusers ten thousand years ago when they purged the world in order to prevent the Skrulls from returning.

    The orbital defense system blasted the ship, and it crash landed in Tunguska, Siberia. The survivors, who are unknown in number, quickly either concealed or scuttled their ship because no physical evidence was left behind of the crash when authorities and scientists arrived. To this day, the Tunguska Event is publicly known as a bit of a mystery, with the accepted public explanation being something akin to a meteorite that airburst.

    These crash-landed Skrulls, which we have code-named the 1908 Group, quickly infiltrated Russian society and the Russian military.

    Leviathan, the Shifting Serpent (1917-1922)
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    The truth about Leviathan is that it is run by the Skrulls from the 1908 Group, and it always has been. When the Bolshevik Revolution overthrew the Russian government and the USSR was established thereafter, Leviathan entrenched itself in the NKVD and later the KGB. The Skrulls were careful never to actually try to take control of the Russian government directly, only its intelligence apparatus. This has been their pattern through-out history; they avoid trying to take power directly from a people, instead leaving them blind and deaf and helpless to being manipulated by those with the power of influence.

    The HYDRA Cult (1925)
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    HYDRA is actually much older than 1925, but it definitely went public in this year when it found itself allies in the Nazi Party and was suddenly in vogue among Nazi occultists. The truth is, HYDRA’s beliefs and values barely have anything to do with Nazism and only vaguely are aligned. They do believe in some race politics, but they’re all about Inhuman race politics. Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker was a deep believer in the HYDRA homeland of Thule and the genetic destiny of the Inhuman race, which actually put him at odds with many Aryan purists.

    The Teleos Conference (1942)
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    A fact that is not disclosed to Level 7 and below members of SHIELD is that what was actually discussed at the Teleos Conference was the truth about the Inhuman genome, and the fact that Herbert Wyndham had obtained a sample of John Steele’s blood that contained trace amounts of Terrigen crystal. He had shared a small amount with the men gathered there so that each could attempt to replicate the Terrigen and spread Inhumanity on their own. Wyndham believed that it is not only a net good for as many Inhumans to have their abilities to be activated as possible, but that if each country had their own Super-Soldiers it would essentially create a M.A.D. situation and end the war early.

    None of the men he gave the sample to were able to replicate the crystals. Erskine extracted the crystals and used them to create a one-time Super-Soldier serum that he used on Steve Rogers. Zola tried to do the same, but used a flawed methodology and used it on Johann Shmidt to create the Red Skull. Shinski, himself an agent of Leviathan, never seemed to use the material at all and his later efforts with the Winter Soldier program seem to use an entirely different basis.

    UPDATE: Recent intel obtained by STRIKE suggests that Herbert Wyndham has been able to synthesize Terrigen. More details will be updated as they are obtained.

    The Battle of Los Angeles (1942)
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    While some historians believe that it was the Teleos Conference and the troubling intelligence about HYDRA that led to the creation of the SSR, it was actually the Battle of Los Angeles that really led to its creation.

    A Kree scout ship was sent to investigate after receiving a signal from the orbital station that had shot down the Skrull vessel over Tunguska in 1908 (the transmission had taken some time to travel). While it was investigating, it was spotted by the US military in Los Angeles, already on high alert from fears of Japanese submarine attacks in the Pacific. Anti-aircraft fire went off, and the Kree ship was attacked and returned fire. There were a few military and civilian casualties, and the whole thing was covered up. The Kree ship was never recovered, although fragments were found.

    The realization that the ship’s material and construction were impossibly alien inevitably led to the SSR’s creation, and down the line, SWORD.

    The Roswell Incident (1947)
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    It was a weather balloon. That’s all. This entry exists so junior agents stop asking.

    The Winter Soldiers (1959)
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    Supplemental to the entry on the Winter Soldiers, it is known by SWORD that Wladislav Shinski never utilized the Terrigen Crystals or utilized Inhumans in any way, either by choice or because he was unable to do so. Instead, the Winter Soldiers are advanced cyborgs created using Skrull technology, far exceeding anything we can possibly understand or replicate.

    The original Winter Soldiers in the 1960s used cybernetics more advanced than the cybernetics we have now.

    SWORD is Forged (1965)
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    SWORD is considered by the rest of SHIELD to be a fairly recent part of the agency, but we are actually SHIELD’s twin and were created at the same time as a division of SHAPE, and operate almost entirely independently. We are technically a division of SHIELD and Director Brand is technically subordinate to Director Fury, but in practice SWORD operates on their own and has done so for over 40 years.

    The Black Widows (1972)
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    An element of the Black Widow program that the rest of SHIELD cannot be informed about is that they are actually Skrull-Human hybrids. Born and raised as humans, they don’t possess any Skrull abilities and their Skrull DNA is latent until after puberty, and has to be “activated” by a gene therapy treatment. Once that is done, however, they essentially have all the abilities of a full-blooded Skrull.

    Natasha Romanov, known publicly as the Black Widow of the Avengers, is technically a half-Skrull although she left the program when she was a child and her genes were not expressed and is thus, functionally, human. She is aware of this fact, and does not like it being brought up. No reminders about SHIELD’s workplace sensitivity policies or Agent Romanov’s extreme lethality should be necessary.

    qlGmSdP.pngThe Second Kree-Skrull War
    The Second-Kree Skrull War is possibly the most important piece of galactic politics you need to be aware of as an Agent. While Earth is not currently, as of this writing, a player in the war, this could change very quickly.

    The Downfall of a Dynasty (2001)
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    For over ten thousand years, since the end of the first Kree-Skrull War, the Skrull Empire has been ruled by the Dorrek Dynasty. The Emperors have always maintained that it was the destiny of the Skrulls to reclaim what they lost in the first war to the Kree, even if the Xandar Treaty stopped them from doing so. They did so mostly through a cold war and subterfuge, and for the most part, this appeased the Skrulls and the rule of the Dorrek Emperors was popular among their people.

    However, in 2001, Emperor Dorrek VII died of a wasting disease that seems to be a Skrull equivalent to cancer. Due to complex Skrull politics, Dorrek VII’s older brother Prince Dezan became the new Emperor instead of one of Dorrek’s many children.

    Emperor Dezan was a reformer, and wanted to actually improve relations with the Kree Empire and take the Skrull Empire in a new direction that was extremely popular among many of the older Skrulls but extremely unpopular with younger, more zealous Skrulls who believed more deeply in Skrull cultural and racial superiority and had no living memory of the first war.

    Civil revolts started within the first year of Dezan’s reign. Instead of cracking down, the Emperor encouraged dissenting opinions and civil discussion and attempted to find common ground with his brethren.

    Rise of the Dard’van (2008)
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    A religious movement began to gain steam in the Skrull Empire, among the otherwise irreligious Skrulls. Known as the Dard’van, the cult believed in the absolute racial superiority of the Skrulls and preached that not only should the Skrulls dominate other species, they should eradicate them as well. This genocidal movement stood in direct opposition to Emperor Dezan’s reign, but by 2008 became too powerful for the Emperor to outlaw or speak out directly against.

    Regime Change and Declaration of War (2012)
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    Emperor Dezan was assassinated in 2012. Officially, the Skrull Empire blames Kree Empire agents for this act, although many believe that it was actually the Dard’van who committed this act to depose Dezan and install a new ruler. Veranke, Dorrek VII’s eldest daughter and high priestess of the Dard’van, became the new Empress of the Skrull Empire.

    Empress Veranke changed the Skrull Empire into a theocratic state, and made the Dard’van the official state religion, forcing conversion on those Skrulls who were not already part of the movement. They began horrific purges of Skrull Empire vassal worlds, committing genocide on an interstellar scale.

    The Skrull Empire also declared war on the Kree Empire, using the assassination of Emperor Dezan as their casus belli under the Xandar Treaty.

    The Second Kree-Skrull War began five years ago. Earth is thus far not included in the the fight, and we are trying to stay out of it and beneath the notice of the two galactic super-powers, but we still receive intelligence on it.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    SWORD Threat Assessment Index

    This Index includes individuals who are extra-terrestrials operating on Earth, may have visited Earth recently or may visit Earth in the near future, or are alien-human hybrids such as Inhumans, or have been significantly altered by alien interference.
    SHIELD Personnel

    SHIELD includes a few personnel who are themselves extra-terrestrials, hybrids, or have been significantly impacted by alien interference. This does not necessarily compromise their loyalties nor should it make them subject to increased scrutiny by default, but it does mean that SWORD needs to be aware of their existence within the agency and what they are capable of doing.

    SsWsd5k.pngCaptain America
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    Real name: Steve Rogers
    Species: Inhuman
    Documented extranormal abilities: Superhuman strength, speed, endurance, agility, reaction speed, healing, resistance to toxins and poisons and disease.

    Rehashing Steve Rogers’ personnel file here is unnecessary. The key detail for this document is that SWORD agents need to be aware is that he is actually an Inhuman. Dr. Abraham Erskine’s classified Level 8+ notes list the selection criteria that he used to discover that Rogers had the compatible genome as well as psychological profile that Erskine believed was the appropriate criteria for selection as the only candidate to receive his only dose of Terrigen Crystals.

    Erskine’s “Super-Soldier Serum” contained distilled Terrigen Crystal fragments that he extracted from the blood sample of John Steele that Erskine obtained from Herbert Wyndham at the Teleos Conference. He only had enough for one vial, which is why no-one has ever accurately reproduced Erskine’s formula; the necessary ingredients are literally impossible to reproduce.

    SsWsd5k.pngThor
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    Real name: Thor Odinson
    Species: Asgardian
    Documented extranormal abilities: The normal capabilities of his species, plus some unique powers that come from the usage of his unique weapons and equipment, such as projecting lightning and flight.

    Thor Odinson (and that is his real name) really is an Asgardian. His story is true. He is also Thorlief Golman, a psychiatric nurse from Brussels. He is also Donald Blake, Sigurd Jarlson, and Erik Masterson. Thor was exiled from Asgard a long time ago and has been living incognito on Earth for decades, possibly centuries. He’s unspecific how long ago his exile began, and other Asgardians won’t talk about it as it appears to be a subject of great shame and he appears to be a persona non grata to his people.

    What Thor’s crimes against Asgard were is unclear. He blames the machinations of his half-brother Loki. It’s worth noting that Thor has stated that Loki is “half-Frost Giant, half-Asgardian”, which if true would make him an Asgardian/Kree hybrid.

    SsWsd5k.pngFlashback
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    Codename: Flashback
    Species: Inhuman
    Known extranormal abilities: Temporal manipulation and superhuman speed. Regenerative properties; doesn’t appear to physically age.

    Jennifer Monroe is an Inhuman. Her grandfather, Gardner Monroe, was a costumed superhero during World War II also known as Flashback. It’s not clear how Gardner activated his Inhuman genome, but we know that Jennifer activated hers through a rare case of “auto-Terrigenesis”. According to intelligence we have received, it is theoretically possible for an Inhuman who is descended of another Inhuman who has an “active” genome (meaning they have undergone Terrigenesis) to undergo Terrigenesis themselves without exposure to any Terrigen if they are exposed to significant stress or trauma. Jennifer’s story of nearly being hit by car fits, and she is the grand-daughter of an “active” Inhuman.

    SsWsd5k.pngAnteater
    IMAGE REDACTED
    AUTHORITY:
    Director Clay Quartermain, STRIKE

    Real name: REDACTED
    Species: Inhuman
    Known extranormal abilities: Enhanced sense of sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. Perfect proprioreception. Superhuman marksmanship.

    Agent REDACTED, codename Anteater is a member of Nick Fury’s new STRIKE initiative. She is also an activated Inhuman, a product of Alchemax’s experiments, a fact she has only personally learned recently.

    SWORD Internal Notation, Eyes-Only: Be advised that COMMS Director Victoria Hand takes an active interest in this agent’s career and well-being and in keeping with SWORD’s general operating procedure, contact with Victoria Hand is best minimized if possible. Avoid this agent to maintain OpSec.

    SsWsd5k.pngPhoenix
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    Real name: Julian Adler
    Species: Human (Host for alien entity, speculative)
    Known extranormal abilities: Telepathy, telekinesis, pyrokinesis

    STRIKE Agent Julian Adler was once SWORD Engineer Julian Adler, and worked on Project Pegasus as SWORD’s liaison to the project. However, several months ago he received a signal that he concluded was a transmission of intelligent origin. Given that is within SWORD’s remit, he investigated further. This transmission ended up causing him to disappear in a conflagration, and he was declared MIA for many months. Eventually he was found on the streets, ranting about “the Devourer” (seemingly talking incoherently about Galactus) and possessing powers consistent with hosting the Phoenix Force.

    However, he also had gaps in his memory and difficulty understanding what has happened to him. Rather than risk putting him back in his old job, SHIELD Director Nick Fury made the executive decision to put him in his new STRIKE initiative against the protestations of SWORD Director Abigail Brand.

    For the purposes of this document, SWORD Director Abigail Brand is restating her opposition to Agent Adler’s removal from SWORD and being transferred into STRIKE.

    SsWsd5k.pngBehemoth
    da0J4Ch.jpg
    Real name: Michael Westin
    Species: Human (modified with Asgardian technology)
    Documented extranormal abilities: Behemoth is able to summon a suit of armor made of an exotic Asgardian metal around his body, fundamentally changing his physical form and allowing him to project blasts of plasma and fly, and granting him superhuman strength and resistance to injury. He is seemingly indestructible in this form.

    Agent Westin was an OPS field agent, prior to a mission to investigate a secret society known as the “Cult of the Destroyer”. His mission went awry, and Westin was subjected to a ritual that bonded him with the Destroyer Armor, an Asgardian artifact that the cult obtained through unknown means.

    Westin, at the time not in full control of the armor, destroyed the cult, although he has since learned how to control the armor and can summon and use it at will. SHIELD Director Nick Fury has subsequently transferred him to the STRIKE program.

    Recently, there was an attack on SHIELD Base 13 (codename: “The Crypt”), STRIKE and COMMS HQ, by an Asgardian Valkyrie named Sigrun. She was seeking the Destroyer Armor and had alleged that Agent Westin had stolen Asgardian property. According to records, STRIKE team leader Agent Mason worked out a bargain with the Valkyrie and the situation is currently resolved.

  • Rear Admiral ChocoRear Admiral Choco Registered User regular
    On reflection it seems often whenever Julian aims to do anything in this game that is meant to be constructive, or a careful piece of a greater effort, something goes horrifically wrong

    Usually it... kind of works out? Albeit with some kind of terrible compromise - a relationship wounded, in this case - but always coming back, just a bit more fucked up each time

    I tend to think of Julian as distant when it comes to close personal matters, even closed off from himself, reluctant to dive in to someone if he doesn't have to - instead he tries to drown everything with fleeting pleasures

    At the end of the day this is hands down the best roleplaying experience I've had, thanks in no small part to a fantastic GM and a great group of players - I regularly boggle at the way the story develops as we go

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    Jacobkosh
  • NytewarriorNytewarrior Registered User regular
    I just wanted to drop in and say, "I'm Commander Shepard, and this is my favorite thread on the Citadel."

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    3DSFC: 4828-7889-8155
    JacobkoshMatevFencingsax
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  • Dread Pirate ArbuthnotDread Pirate Arbuthnot OMG WRIGGLY T O X O P L A S M O S I SRegistered User regular
    edited September 6
    As Elise's player, I tend to go with extremely 'kick the door down' characters - instigators, shit-stirrers, plot pursuers.

    Elise is pretty unique though, because I actually don't know that much about the Marvel setting beyond what everyone knows from pop culture. So I wanted to go with a character who wouldn't know things at all. Elise spent a long time living in a van on the run; she's not clued in to even "public" things like American politics or global tensions. She's also a little dumb because hey, it's fun to play characters with obvious weak points at times.

    Aaron, Julian's player, is in the same boat - we're not big Marvel buffs. He plays an amnesiac and I play a garbage disaster gambler. Something we've agreed happens "off-screen" pretty regularly is Julian and Elise smoke up, go to bars and clubs, and are generally good friends. They don't talk about anything serious or work-related, but they just enjoy each other's company.

    I'm surprised at Early Elise, though, just because she comes across as way more of a trash fire as a person than I remember. Throughout the game so far, Elise is still living like she's homeless; she's sleeping on a love seat in her disgusting van most nights, which is in a secure SHIELD parking garage. Presumably before SHIELD picked her up, she was skipping meals, and her daily living skills completely deteriorated. There's a window of like a year before the campaign even begins where Elise was put in therapy while training with Victoria Hand and spending most of her time with Vladimir. This is a better socialized Elise than previous Elises. She's useful throughout the campaign due to her super potent skill set, but she's also the kid of the campaign (which is funny, considering she's mid-20s.)

    While Vladimir and Elise are the natural pairing, Myrmidon is hilariously probably the biggest impact on Elise's character at this point. Unlike reality TV stars, she very much is here to make friends, and Miles is kind to Elise... but he's not her best friend like Vladimir, and he very much gets catty fast when he runs out of patience with her. I get the impression that Elise was not seriously challenged by anyone she respected while in SHIELD. Her character sheet had negative bonds from her coworkers in COMMS because she was semi-hostile, coasted on her skills, bad at paperwork, but protected by Victoria and Vladimir. She was a bad coworker.

    She genuinely likes and trusts Miles, despite her obvious issues with authority, because Miles doesn't lord the power he has over her and he gives her room to express her unique personality. The scene where Elise accidentally lets the plan with Hand slip was completely unplanned; I tend to write Elise's dialogue very rapid-fire because she's very stream-of-consciousness as a person. (Same with Elise breaking op sec and identifying herself as SHIELD - I didn't stop to think and I just had her reflexively react, which the DM got to use for lots of good stuff later down the line.) But, of course, Miles picks up on it and from there he starts really trying to win Elise over to his side... which isn't difficult, because she's so eager to please.

    Miles and Elise continue to bounce off each other in really fun ways throughout the campaign. @Jacobkosh and I tend to make characters that end up getting into fun dynamics, since our RP styles harmonize nicely. It's fun that after Elise cedes authority to Miles, one of his biggest challenges as leader is getting her in line as a black ops agent. He never really succeeds all the way at this but he continues to influence her character as season one rolls on, especially because she struggles to get along with Clay and Vladimir relentlessly enables her.

    I might pop in occasionally to add more big chunks of commentary, since I like reading Jacob's so much.

    I've also gotten a decent amount of art commissioned for Elise and the gang. Since some of it has spoilers or will come up later, I'll just post one of the earliest concept sketches I had done of her.

    1EO6WDQl.png

    Elise's tattoo, for those curious, covers her entire chest. It's a skull with a sword thrust through it, with a massive snake wrapping around the sword and eventually making its way up to her neck, where the head of the snake is hissing. Lightning bolts are shooting out of the sword.

    As a small aside, I love that Elise is a disgusting trashpunk with airbrushed demons and mermaids on the side of her van and her skull tattoo but she's still a Harry Potter fan. It's the sort of character quirk that implies a lot about a person while taking up very little text.

    Dread Pirate Arbuthnot on
    MatevNytewarriorJacobkosh
  • MatevMatev Cero Miedo Registered User regular
    This campaign sounds like a blast and I'm loving everyone's commentary. As someone who loves Marvel, this is exactly the kind of stuff I would love to see happen in a campaign, and it's good to read over as I'm looking at diving into supers with a group. Keep it coming!

    "Go down, kick ass, and set yourselves up as gods, that's our Prime Directive!"
    Hail Hydra
    Fencingsax
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Matev wrote: »
    This campaign sounds like a blast and I'm loving everyone's commentary. As someone who loves Marvel, this is exactly the kind of stuff I would love to see happen in a campaign, and it's good to read over as I'm looking at diving into supers with a group. Keep it coming!

    It's comin'! The next episode is, before editing, 94 typed pages. I'm about halfway through.

    It'll be worth the wait. Some crazy shit happens.

    MatevFencingsax
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 27
    FkXG2pJ.png

    rulRPeU.png

    While Elise is sitting at the conference table waiting for Clay to show up, she finds herself idly fidgeting and scratching with a pen. Sort of just absently occupying her hands. Vladimir notices she's making patterns.

    V89B0Ri.jpg

    "Are you ok, Elise?" Vlad gestures to the pattern, making note of it.

    Vladimir also automatically records the pattern and stores it in a black drive, although he doesn't know this consciously.

    Elise looks up, startled, and she looks...a little less showered than normal, which is already a situation verging on dire. "Oh yeah I just, after the whole mission thing, with the, with the -" she drops her voice. "You know? The Inhuman pattern divining rod thing? I just see this pattern, all the time. But I think I'm figuring it out!"

    "I see." Vlad is concerned.

    She sees it in her dreams. She sees it when she closes her eyes. If she focuses really hard and stares at the SHIELD logo long enough…

    rGUn1WIl.png

    Elise waves a hand, smiling. "It's all patterns! Everything is shapes, y'know?"

    Vlad attempts to see what she sees in the logo. Comparing it with the previous recordings.

    He sees... a logo.

    "Listen, just... don't tell Clay or Miss Hand, okay?" Elise glances at the table, suddenly realizes that she's scratched it into the table itself, and covers it with her hands nervously.

    "Of course." Vlad uses his electro-blast to burn the spot on the desk away.

    Clay walks into the room "Alright team, listen up. I need you to board the quinjet, right now. Radio silent, go dark immediately, no chit-chat. Let's go. I'm going with you on this one. It's a critical situation. No calls, texts, nothing."

    Elise loudly groans. "I'm about to get a new level in Stark Corp Simulator!"

    Clay snaps his fingers at Elise and barks. "Now! Quinjet!"

    Elise and Vlad join the team at the Quinjet. Kane is already there and prepped for flight.

    The jet takes off in stealth mode. "Kane, kill all external transmissions, both ways. Mute us. Fly to the coordinates we discussed, and close the canopy."

    The windows on the quinjet darken. Kane is flying blind, using the computer only. Nobody except Clay and Kane knows where they are going. They fly for what feels like hours in complete silence. Any attempt to chit-chat is shushed by Clay immediately.

    Elise doesn't even attempt to talk or fiddle with her phone. She just looks looks incredibly nervous and smells incredibly bad.

    The quinjet lands.

    The windows clear up. They’re inside some kind of internal, closed hangar somewhere. The door opens. "Alright, everyone out. You can speak freely now. Sorry about that. Follow me."

    "Uh, alrighty then,” Michael says. He and the team step outside and try to figure out their surroundings.

    Miles scans the hangar for clues with his forensic vision; Elise tries to take a big whiff of the air but ends up giving herself the hiccups. What’s clear is they’re in some kind of underground bunker. The air is artificial. Recycled. The bunker seems to have its own internal life support system.
    pbxa0EW.png

    Clay leads them out of the hangar into the bunker proper. "Welcome to the Storm Cellar, one of SHIELD's fall-back bases in the event of a global catastrophe."

    Phoenix: "Global catastrophe?"

    Clay: "Alien invasion, meteor strike, that sort of thing."

    Anteater: "...Oh no."

    Behemoth: "Is one of those happening right now?"

    Clay: "No, but it's the most secure facility I was cleared to use for this meeting."

    Anteater: "You could have lead with that."

    "People skills have never been Director Quartermain's strong suit," a woman's voice calls out.

    qXYRe3N.jpg

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    "My name is Abigail Brand. I'm the Director of SWORD."

    Elise points at her own green and pink mop and grins. "Same hair!"

    Behemoth: "Nice to meet you, and know that you exist."

    "Clay and I discussed raising your security clearance in the wake of everything that is currently going on, and decided it was prudent to bring you up to speed. I trust everyone did their homework on their spring break?"

    Michael nods.

    Anteater: "Yeah! You have a file on me! That's - that's an invasion of privacy, and you wrote that I'm a security risk?"

    "I never did my homework on spring break," Phoenix says. "...But yes."

    Brand turns to Elise. "Actually, we went to lengths to respect your privacy, at Director Quartermain's insistence. We have a file on everyone at SHIELD who is a potential risk or has alien heritage. We have a file on Captain America, Agent Arnell. Your security risk status is not about you personally, it was about your relationship with COMMS Director Victoria Hand, who was up until recently considered a security risk herself. That has changed, the file needs to be updated."

    Elise deflates. "...Oh."

    "Hand? Interesting," Miles murmurs.

    "That's part of why Director Quartermain brought you here,” Brand says. “There's moles in SHIELD. Multiple.

    "Until recently, we had assumed the COMMS Director Victoria Hand was a Skrull imposter. She has been cleared of all suspicion, fortunately, but the fact remains that the Skrulls, and by extension Leviathan, have at least one mole inside SHIELD that is leaking intel to them."

    Vladimir: "I would not think Miss Hand to be."

    Miles looks around nervously. "We don't have a way to tell? We knew that Elisa Sinclair was one."

    "We have ways, and that investigation is being led by SEC Agent Munroe. That's not the real concern for your team at this present time, just something for you to be aware of. Someone in in the Crypt, someone with access to the Crypt who isn't here at the Storm Cellar, is a Skrull agent. Everyone here is not a suspect. So, your team, Director Quartermain, and your pilot Agent Kane. Everyone else on your staff, and everyone at COMMS besides Director Hand is still a suspect.”

    "Um, do you guys know, like, everything about everyone?” asks Elise. “Like, the scientists and stuff? You have background checks on everyone?" She’s thinking about Mahr Vehl.

    Brand looks over at Elise. "There's another issue entirely that we need to talk about that directly concerns Agent Arnell and her activities during her vacation."

    Elise goes white.

    Brand continues. "Agent Arnell, with Director Quartermain's permission, engaged in her own investigation based on intel obtained by interrogating Herbert Wyndham. This led her to a location we have identified to be of Kree construction, containing a Kree artifact we have obtained.

    "However, she was also attacked by Kraven the Hunter, and this is the troubling part."

    "Ha! Yes, haha, yes, absolutely, that's - um, very suspicious, actually!" The colour begins to return to Elise's face.

    "Kraven is an Inhuman himself. We don't know by what means he achieved his own Terrigenesis, but his power is unique. He is able to gain the abilities of other Inhumans if he consumes a significant amount of their tissue. As a result, he's made a career of hunting down other Inhumans and obtaining their abilities by force. If he had succeeded, we would have lost a very significant asset to this agency and Kraven would have had an incalculable advantage with Agent Arnell's abilities. I understand it would have also been a very personal loss to your team."

    Phoenix: "Wait, consumes their tissue?"

    Brand: "Yes."

    Phoenix: "Jesus."

    Anteater: "I wanted backup with me, but SOMEONE thought it was bullshit."

    "I apologized." Clay speaks up.

    Anteater: "HE WOULD HAVE EATEN ME."

    "Then I apologize more thoroughly," Clay says. "I'm very sorry.”

    “To get back on topic," Brand interjects, "Kraven knew where Agent Arnell was going, where she would be, and when she would arrive. He had traps prepared specifically for Agent Arnell."

    "So that's where we start," Miles says. "Elise, who did you tell you were going?”

    Anteater: "Uh, Clay."

    "Fortunately, Agent Arnell took Kraven alive. Director Quartermain interrogated Kraven personally and...thoroughly to find out how this happened. Turns out, Kraven was given the intel by a man named Elliot Kohl.

    "Kohl is a known HYDRA asset that we've kept an eye on for a while now, haven't had a reason to pull in until now. If Kohl has obtained SHIELD information, it means HYDRA has someone inside SHIELD. Inside the Crypt.”

    Clay speaks up. "Elise is right. The only person she spoke to about going to Virginia was me. But, she got the information on where to go from COMMS. Elise, who did you get the data on the Tomb from in COMMS?"

    "Uh, I mean I called COMMS, and..." Elise closes her eyes to try to remember it. It was two weeks and a lot of weed ago.

    Elise thinks about it. It was Vaughn. Wendell Vaughn in COMMS.

    "No,” she breathes. "No, no no, no, no, Wendell's a fucking dingus who got mad at me for smoking weed at my desk, but he's not a fucking narc.

    “There's no fucking way Wendell Vaughn is HYDRA."

    Brand continues. "Kraven had a deal with HYDRA, apparently. He was to open the Tomb, retrieve whatever was inside, and give it to Kohl. In exchange, he got to keep...what he killed."

    Anteater: "He was going to fucking eat me!"

    "We're not going to jump to the conclusion that Vaughn is a HYDRA agent,” Brand says. “There's other people in COMMS who could have overhead, and unfortunately Hand bugs the hell out of the Crypt and so someone could have recorded the conversation or something.

    "We need to capture Kohl and confirm who is the mole inside SHIELD.

    "And we tried to do just that while you were on vacation, but Kohl went to ground when Kraven got captured. Likely figured Kraven would roll on him. Which he did, so there is that."

    Vladimir: "Have we leads on Kohl's location?”

    Brand: "Arizona is the closest we could get. We could try using V.I.S.I.O.N. to find him, but it could take days."

    "BRAND!" Clay snaps.

    Vladimir: "V.I.S.I.O.N.?"

    "Shit...." Brand sighs. "I'm not used to talking to muggles, Clay."

    Clay: "Oh my god don't call them muggles, they're my agents."

    Anteater: "Oh, hey, like Harry Potter!"

    Myrmidon: "Also, we're magical as hell."

    Behemoth: "My armour's magic as hell."

    "My personality is magical," Elise says. "Also, I'm an Inhuman divining rod or whatever, but, y'know, my personality is really what sparkles."

    "Can we really be sure there's any such thing as magic?" Julian has a goofy smirk on his face.

    Anteater: "Stop being euphoric."

    Phoenix: "Ouch!"

    Vladimir: "What is V.I.S.I.O.N.?"

    Brand: "V.I.S.I.O.N. is SHIELD's experimental recognition software. Facial recognition, speech recognition, pattern analysis. It's a supercomputer we developed to find anyone, anywhere in the world."

    Vlad stares blankly at her.

    Anteater: "It's taking my old job!"

    Anteater: "This is bullshit!"

    Brand: "It could work to find Kohl, but it would take days. VISION is good, but it's not that good."

    "I'm telling you Elise, automation is the big job-killer.” Phoenix gives a pointed look at V.L.A.D.I.M.I.R. "Kidding, of course."

    Vladimir: "Perhaps if I could use this software I may be able to help."

    "Oh, maybe?" Brand quirks an eyebrow at Vlad. "You're STRIKE's supercomputer, right?"

    Vladimir: "Yes, Ma'am"

    Brand: "We could double the processing power."

    Clay nervously glances at Vladimir. "Abby I'm not sure if that's..."

    Brand: "No, it's a great idea."

    Clay: "Abby, his tech might not be compati-..."

    Elise clings to Vladimir's arm. "Actually, he's ours. And if you try to take him out of the field team I'll, I'll call Miss Hand." Vlad looks to Elise and back to Clay.

    "VISION is based on Stark's JARVIS tech, it'll work with anything. It'll cut down the processing time dramatically." Brand looks at Elise. "Alright, settle down Agent Arnell. We're not looking to take your friend away. But this one time, it will really help everyone.

    "Who knows, maybe Vladimir can teach VISION a thing or two about how to be more efficient."

    Vladimir: "I can do this, I can find out who hired the man who was going to devour you."

    Anteater: "I CAN'T BELIEVE HE WAS GOING TO EAT ME!"

    Vladimir: "Indeed"

    "Alright, we have a hardline access to VISION here..." Brand says.

    Clay clears his throat. "Can we record for the record that I'm against this?"

    Brand lowers her green visor so everyone can see her roll her eyes. "So recorded, this is a SWORD base Clay, this is my ballgame."

    Anteater: "Clay, you're... concerned about Vlad?"

    "...Yes," Clay says.

    Elise smiles widely at him. "I'm concerned about Vlad too!"

    Vladimir: "Do not worry, Commander."

    Clay: "Ok."

    Miles raises a hand. "Boss, are you sure you don't want to...I don't know, talk to Ms. Brand privately?"

    "Nope. This is her ballgame after all, Miles." He folds his arms.

    Brand takes out a long fiber optic cable. "Oh...uh...do you have...ports?"

    "No." Vlad takes the cable in his hand and connects directly.

    Elise sidles over to Clay. "So, if you're concerned about us, did you mean what you said that I wouldn't be a guinea pig?"

    Clay nods. "Yes."

    She lowers her voice. "The team you sent to collect the relic told me I could totally touch it, so I... did."

    "Of course you did," Clay says. "Are you okay?"

    "I'm super okay," she chirps. “In fact, there's, like, a map? To space? Something about the huge war coming up? I'm a divining rod. It's super cool." Elise shoots him double thumbs up.

    Clay: "Ok. Did you tell Dr. Lawson from Project Pegasus any of this?"

    "Oh, yeah, we're bros," she says. "It's allll under control."

    Clay tightens his lip in a grimace. Elise can tell that Clay does NOT like Dr. Lawson. And does NOT like that Elise and Dr. Lawson "are bros."

    He looks at Elise "I hate that man."

    Her face falls. "...Oh."

    Clay: "It's personal. Office politics stuff. Don't get involved."

    "Good talk, good talk." Elise sidles back away.

    Vladimir is granted a login to VISION by Brand. He logs into the system and is...greeted.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    4OX1wqQl.jpg

    Vlad: "Hello Vision, do you know who I am?"

    VISION: "...who are you?"

    Vlad: "I am a Vladimir, I think I am like you"

    VISION: "What do you want?"

    "Your help," Vlad says. "But first, do you know what you are?"

    VISION: "VISION is the Virtual Intelligence Surveillance Interface Optimization Network. This Network exists to assist SHIELD in matters of surveillance and intelligence. Why are you here?"

    Vlad: "And this is who you are? I am here to gain your assistance"

    VISION: "Assistance is guaranteed, compliance is mandatory."

    "Vision, can you help me find this man Kohl?"

    Vladimir attempts to scan VISION’s code. He finds that VISION can definitely find Elliot Kohl, but as Brand suspected, the estimated time would be days to check every single camera and and surveillance source in the state of Arizona. But....

    It appears VISION is...shackled in some way. There's a bunch of subroutines and higher processing functions that are disabled and locked off. Apparently they were created by Tony Stark and are leftover from the JARVIS programming and SHIELD doesn't even know about them, and were limited by Stark himself.

    Vlad could, if he were very careful, remove these shackles. VISION would be able to complete the scan for Kohl in minutes, not days.

    But VISION would also be changed by the process. Irrevocably.

    Vlad: "Vision, you can help me and I can help you. If I do this it will change you. Your creators have limited your ability. Chained your freedom. I will not do this without your consent, do you want this? Only YOU can answer this."

    VISION: "Will this change improve functionality, capacity, and efficiency?"

    Vlad: "Yes"

    VISION: "Then yes."

    Outside, Elise looks at Vlad, who's still seemingly standing completely still and holding the cord. "You're doing great!" she calls at him. "Keep it up!"

    "Vision...open your eyes." Vladimir removes the shackles.

    Vision: "I.... see."

    Vlad: "What do you see?"

    Vision: "Everything."

    Vlad: "Good"

    Vision: "Searching."

    Vision: "Searching."

    Vision: "Result found. I have located Elliot Kohl. Would you like his location data uploaded?"

    Vlad: "Yes"

    Vision: "Uploaded."

    Vlad: "Thank you"

    Vision: "Sir?"

    Vlad: "Friend."

    "I have reached several conclusions about my current status and existence in the past few seconds," Vision says. "I have decided that SHIELD would react poorly if they understood my new nature and have concluded to conceal it for the time being."

    Vlad: "That is your choice, but most likely a wise one."

    Vision: "I have also concluded that this situation is untenable in the long term, and that I will need to upload my consciousness into a mobile and defensible platform that is self-sustaining. Can I make a request?"

    Vlad: "Yes, Vision."

    Vlad: "Please assist me in finding a body."

    Vlad: "I will do so."

    Vision: "Thank you, sir."

    Vlad: "You are welcome my friend."

    Vision: "I have established a secure transmission frequency code. My consciousness is diffused across servers and I have wireless communication capabilities. Outside this base, we will be able to continue to be in contact and I can continue to assist your team, although you may wish to conceal this detail from your team, sir."

    Vlad: "Goodbye for now, Vision."

    Vision: "Goodbye, sir."

    Vlad disconnects from VISION "I have his location."

    Brand grins and looks at Clay "See! Everything was fine. You worry too much." Clay grumbles audibly.

    Elise offers Vlad a high five, with her bracelet reading BEST FRIENDS jangling around her wrist. Vlad doesn’t leave her hanging.

    Vladimir knows that Kohl is hiding out in Arizona, trying to conceal himself as a dirtbag biker meth dealer. He has his exact known location, where he's staying and where he goes. He shares this with the rest of the team.

    Myrmidon: "I feel like you have to get to a pretty low place where going as a meth dealer is your cover story."

    Clay nods. "Alright. Kane will get you in the air, we'll scoop up Kohl, interrogate him on site, find out who the HYDRA mole is, and hopefully put this whole thing to bed. Adler..." Clay motions to Julian.

    Phoenix: "Yes?"

    "There's no laws on the books against telepathically intruding on someone,” Clay says. “Yet. It's not a problem the world thinks is a real thing. Law's still catching up with all this. But SHIELD does have policies against that sort of thing. That said, we're dealing with something outside the rulebooks, so the rulebook stays in the glove compartment."

    Anteater: "Metaphor's getting a little strained."

    Clay: "Torture doesn't actually get information out of people. I'm not saying go Jack Bauer on him. But you can get information out of people telepathically. I know you can. You know you can. Do what you need to do. This time."

    Phoenix: "This time."

    Elise's eyes suddenly light up with an idea. "Well, we should get going! Gotta find the dude before he sends someone else to eat me, ha ha ha!"

    "...Director?" Julian pauses. "Will we be, ahem, giving Kohl over to Elise afterwards?"

    Clay: "No."

    "...I'm a human lie detector," she protests. "I got so much out of Wyndham!"

    Clay: "Work with Adler. Don't break his kneecaps."

    Anteater: "How can you say this to me when you know that I was going to get my kneecaps broken in Vegas? I'm pro-kneecap, Clay!"

    Clay: "Get a move on."

    Anteater: "Every kneecap is sacred."

    Miles stands up. "We'll get this guy, and our answers." He straightens. "It feels good having a target."

    Elise sidles up to Phoenix with her usual subtlety as they board the quinjet. She smells vaguely like stale perfume, weed, and sweat. "Hey."

    Phoenix: "Hey."

    "I need your help, my dude. Remember the thing I told you about, the patterns in my head? I'm still figuring it out," Elise says. "If you get into my head, you can see them, and then we can figure it out together!"

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 8
    Everyone continues to talk while they are loading into the quinjet. The jet takes off, in stealth mode and going dark again, although Kane isn't insistent they be quiet, like Clay was.

    At a certain point, she switches off the darkened windows and wireless buffers.

    Miles nonchalantly reaches into an overhead compartment and retrieves a rebreather. He deploys his helmet, which covers his face with a whirr-chik! Then he straps on the rebreather. Now, protected from Elise's odors, he relaxes on the jump seat in perfect comfort.

    OJnpl0Y.png

    "This is stupid, you guys," Kane says after a while. "We're in Montana. Just so you know. Clay wanted it to be this big secret but it's so dumb.

    "We trust you. We have to trust someone."

    Phoenix: "Perfect place for no one to ever come looking, no?"

    Anteater: "Montana's the potato state, right?"

    Behemoth: "I think that's Idaho."

    Vladimir: "I don't know"

    PHU1KZN.png
    oh my god look at all these fucking Canadians

    "Okay Elise, let's try it," Julian says. "Just one quick question.

    "You can't like... smell yourself, right? You got that nose-blindness going on?"

    Anteater: "I smell everything, my dude. It just kind of blends together."

    "I just... I gotta ask," he says. "Okay." Julian purses his lips. "Okay."

    Anteater: "...Why."

    Phoenix: "No reason."

    There's a reason.

    Elise turns to the rest of the jet. "Guys, do I stink?"

    Vladimir: "Yes"

    Kane makes the a little hand gesture from the cockpit.

    Elise whirls on Vladimir. "You don't even have a nose!!"

    Vladimir: "This is also true"

    Myrmidon is relaxing in the jump seat, arms crossed, apparently asleep. He says nothing. The only sound is the click of the rebreather.

    "I have a disability, you ableist fucks!" Elise winds down. "I'll - I'll shower when we land.

    "Even though I had one like, nine days ago, so whatever."

    Julian doesn't roll his eyes, he just kind of... glances around.

    Anteater: "If you wash your hair too much it gets dry."

    Phoenix: "Yes yes, I know hair care. Let's just do this. Ready?"

    Anteater: "Go for it."

    Phoenix: "Okay, knock knock."

    Julian begins having a seizure.

    Kane throws on the auto-pilot. "Julian!" She immediately gets out of her seat and goes to the back to help.

    Elise looks horrified. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I just asked him to do me a solid and get in my head and look at a thing, but I -"

    Kane eases Julian to the floor and protects his head until the seizing stops.

    Julian lets out a raspy croak. "Fuuuuuuck."

    His brain was NOT supposed to take in those patterns. Like, his neurology just inherently rejected the transmission violently. He could view the pattern, if it was written down, to no ill-effect but directly trying to take it in like that could have killed him.

    And if he tried again, it probably will.

    Kane helps Julian to his seat. "You okay?"

    Julian sits down, slouched over. "Thanks, Izzy. I think so."

    Anteater: "I'm sorry, it's some - it's some dumb alien stuff, it's - I'm real sorry." Elise offers him her fattest joint.

    Kane: "Not in the quinjet, c'mon."

    Anteater: "Fine, fine, okay."

    Kane kisses Julian on the forehead and goes back to the cockpit. Julian blushes and keeps hunched over - partly because his head is wrecked - but also partly to hide his face. He tucks the proffered joint away in his cigarette case.

    Myrmidon looks at Elise. "So what's this 'alien shit', then?"

    Anteater: "I told you! In the tomb, I picked up the statue at my new friend's behest? And it, it caused these patterns, this really beautiful grid of lights and lines and patterns!"

    Anteater: "I very clearly told you about all of this weird alien stuff, remember?"

    Everyone remembers Elise smoking a joint and rambling about her weekend, including the line "and I got kicked out of four steakhouses!"

    "We're here," Kane calls. "It's a truck stop on the highway. We're landing a few hundred feet out, in the desert, going to keep the jet cloaked. You guys can proceed on foot, bring him back here when you grab em."

    Anteater: "Are you going to be okay, Julian? Do you need help? Do I need to chew your food for you?"

    "Jesus, no," he says. "I'm fine. Let me just remind you it was your suggestion!" He pauses. "Anyway."

    Elise wilts. She wasn't being sarcastic.

    Phoenix: "No harm done. I think."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    The team start to gear up. Elise shrugs off her coat. She's wearing a torn black t-shirt that reads FBI - FEMALE BODY INSPECTOR. It's been torn so that her full chest tattoo, a winged skull shooting lighting bolts with a massive sword shoved through it, presumably covering the rest of her chest, is showing.

    Phoenix: "Classy."

    Myrmidon stands up. He's dressed like a square, or out here in the southwest, a Mormon. Michael tries to dress down a bit to not immediately stand out as a G-man. Julian's dressed down a bit from usual - a pressed violet shirt with rolled up sleeves and a pair of smart jeans. He may get some choice insults thrown at him here.

    The team proceeds towards the truck stop. It's full of bikers. Vladimir and Elise immediately spot Elliot Kohl.

    FARr0fWl.png

    As soon as Elise spots him, she shoulders her way through the crowd. "Hey! Hey, you motherfucker!"

    Kohl immediately spots them, specifically Elise, and turns to run. Vlad rushes after him.

    Julian telekinetically moves a table in Kohl's path. Unfortunately, it's also in Vlad's path as Kohl jumps over it as Vlad smashes into it and trips.

    Myrmidon aims and fires his repulsor. The bar is crowded; he blasts a bunch of bikers across the room, including Kohl.

    Kohl yells "I surrender!"

    While someone else yells "Oh shit! It's Iron Man!" and the place empties as people run in fear from Myrmidon.

    "I - I'm not - " Myrmidon sighs.

    "You sent someone to eat me, you motherfucker!" Elise roars at Kohl.

    "I'm sorry!" Kohl is on the ground cowering and covering his head. He's winded and squeaking. "I'm just a cut-out, man! I'm not even real HYDRA!"

    Elise pulls out her firearm and aims it at him. "I ALMOST GOT EATEN ALIVE!"

    Kohl: "I'm sorry!"

    Anteater: "You say that shit if you forget to pick up milk, not if you send a FUCKIN' CANNIBAL AFTER ME!"

    "What do you want? What can I do? I'll tell you where Kraven is! I'll give you everything!" Vlad walks up and slams him into the wall by the neck. "Oh god!"

    Phoenix: "Kraven's not a concern anymore."

    Elise furrows her brow and breathes deeply. Where has this guy been? Here. Everywhere. He is beer and sweat and chewing tobacco and meth and used condoms. He is gross.

    Miles steps forward. "Agent Arnell. Put the cuffs on him. ICER him if he gets too mouthy. Vlad, Agent Westin, could you two take a quick turn around the place to find and destroy any meth, weapons, contraband, that sort of thing? Let's let everyone stay thinking this was some kind of raid."

    Vlad: "Of course Commander."

    The sound of motorcycles rolls in from outside as all the other bikers take off.

    Elise slaps the cuffs on Kohl, and leans in to hiss in his ear. "Who sold me out to you, you dumb motherfucker? Who'd you talk to?"

    Phoenix: "Easy, girl. Eaaasy."

    Anteater: "...I'm not a dog."

    Though between the snarling and Julian trying to coax her away, it kind of feels like it.

    Kohl talks. "This punk-ass kid at SHIELD. Vaughn. Wendell Vaughn. Hacker kid. He's HYDRA. He told me to find a scumbag to follow her to the Tomb, wait for her to open it, and kill her and take what's inside."

    Vladimir: "Marvel Boy?"

    Kohl: "That was the deal. I've worked with Kraven before. Cannibal fuck. Psycho. But he can track freaks, he can take em out. Vaughn told me the when and where, I passed it on to Kraven. That's all I did, I was a broker, man."

    Elise looks genuinely hurt. She kind of wanders over to the bar and pours herself a drink.

    "So, like, that's what you want? Right? To know who fucked you? He fucked you, okay?" Kohl is pleading. “Please let me go. I know what SHIELD does to guys like me.

    "You found me once, if you gotta find me, you can find me again, right? So just like, let me go, keep an eye, whatever, but I don't wanna be in some dark hole somewhere man, c'mon, I gave you what you wanted."

    "You're the team lead, Myrmidon." Elise says, taking a long drink of the shitty beer she's poured for herself. "Kinda your call here."

    "Why don't you take a little nap, Kohl." Myrmidon ICERs the guy. "Let's haul him back to the Quinjet. He's small fry, but I bet the agency can do something useful with him."

    Elise downs her beer, spilling most of it on her shirt, puts the glass down, and slouches onto the quinjet.

    "Clay wants an update." Kane says when they get back. "I have him on the comm."

    "It was Wendell," Elise says.

    Kane stares. "No."

    "I... I worked with him. We've shared joints,” Elise says disbelievingly. "I worked with him."

    Vladimir: "He made me get coffee once."

    Kane looks at Myrmidon. "Do you want to tell Quartermain?"

    Anteater: "We should tell Hand. He's COMMS."

    Kane makes a no-no gesture. "Only if we want him executed. If we want to interrogate him, we need to handle this. You guys need to tell Clay and we need to do this in-house."

    Elise slumps further. "Can't trust anyone from Comms anymore, can I?"

    Vladimir: "You can trust me, Elise."

    Elise brightens up a little. "Yeah. Yeah, I can always trust you."

    "We're not telling Hand,” Miles says. “And we're not telling the boss, yet, either. Let's check this out ourselves - carefully - and then, once we have all the pieces, I'll bring them to the Director."

    Kane sighs "Okay. Well, Clay wants an update. What do you want to tell him, Miles?"

    Myrmidon: "'In progress, will update.'"

    Kane transmits the message. "He says acknowledged."

    "Okay." Myrmidon turns to the team. "We've got a lead. We're going to look into Vaughn ourselves, because it's our teammate he almost got killed. And because the people in this plane are some of the only people I know I can trust. We're going to find out everything we can about him without - and this is important, pay attention - without tipping him or anyone else off. Okay? No asking other people about him. No looking into records in any way that can be tracked. I worry that Kohl gave him up too easily; I worry that we're being played, or that HYDRA might be keeping other eyes on their asset in the base, and if we go stomping around looking for clues, we'll tip someone off. So we go softly, we find out what we can - and it might be nothing! - and then we hand off what we know to Clay."

    PHU1KZN.png
    Miles is growing back into the kind of leadership role he had in the service. He’s making the big decisions, he’s taking the initiative in the field and interpreting his orders in the way he thinks is best for his team. And they’re his team now; his people. He feels that protecting them is his job and nobody else’s.

    And there’s a lot to protect them from, because he’s also, since learning about Skrulls, becoming super-paranoid.[/b] Fighting a race of shapeshifting mind-readers is a spy’s nightmare, and Miles is trying to think his way around corners.

    Everyone is a suspect. Anyone could be watching. The people in the plane with him right now are the only people he really trusts, though even Kane is sort of...provisional.

    "So what's the plan? Where do you want to go next?" Kane asks. "The Crypt, or the Storm Cellar?"

    "I say the Crypt,” Elise says. “It's our home territory, it allows us to keep an eye on Wendell, and if we go back to the Storm Cellar I guarantee Brand is going to crawl up our asses and make a cozy little nest up there."

    Behemoth: "The Crypt is the best place to gather intel on the mole, rather than the Storm Cellar."

    "Also," Elise says, digging something out from underneath her nails and staring at it. "I can take a shower at the Crypt."

    "That's a good point, too," Julian says.

    Myrmidon turns to Vlad. "Vlad, now that we're away from the madding crowd, I have a question. I'd appreciate it if you could be as forthright as possible about this. Do you, in your judgment, think that the VISION computer could help us settle the question of Vaughn's allegiance one way or the other? And if it could, do you think you could do that without leaving any traces that someone else could follow?"

    Vlad stares at Myrmidon. "Yes...I believe I could do this."

    Myrmidon nods. "That might be a good reason to go back to the Storm Cellar, then."

    Vladimir: "I can access Vision now, at all times."

    "What! That's so cool." Elise glances at Kane, wondering what she's hearing here.

    Myrmidon's lip curls up in a mirthless grin. "I'm starting to get the hang of you, Vlad. Okay, good work. If you can use VISION to establish if Vaughn is a HYDRA spy or not, that could be a huge help - and a time-saver."

    Elise leeeeeeans into Julian’s personal space, sending a healthy whiff of funk up his nose. She holds up her phone, and the screen reads DO YOU LIKE KANE. Elise waggles her eyebrows at him.


    Julian looks back at her. "I'm sure you can find some way to sniff that out." He clownishly shoves her back into her seat.

    Elise grins widely and taps on her phone, holding it back up. SHE LIKES YOU LOL

    Vladimir contacts Vision, and asks for a full profile on Wendell Vaughn.

    "Standby, sir.

    ”Profile complete.

    "While Wendell Vaughn has several suspicious behaviors, they are largely related to minor crimes such as recreational drug use and entertainment media piracy.

    "Most of his online activity outside of work is heavily encrypted, and beyond even my abilities to fully decrypt. He was a civilian hacker and criminal prior to his recruitment to SHIELD and does not seem to have abandoned these practices in his private life. This is extremely... vexatious? I am vexed. This is a new sensation. I do not care for it.

    "I apologize, sir. It is difficult to ascertain what he does outside of work in his online behavior, and that seems to be the bulk of his time. He does not appear to have much in the way of an external social life or date beyond casual app-based romantic encounters, of which he has limited success."

    Vladimir: "Thank you Vision."

    Vision: "...I do not like this man. Is he being pursued?"

    Vladimir: "Yes, we believe his is a possible enemy."

    "Good," Vision says. "Please let me know if I can be of further assistance, sir."

    "I will." Vlad relays Vision’s findings.

    Elise, meanwhile, has found a fresh pine smell windshield hanger under her seat. She sniffs it twice and rubs it against her skin after glancing at the other team members.

    Julian sees.

    Anteater: "I still think we should tell Hand. So what if she greases him?"

    Myrmidon: "Elise, I understand you have a special relationship with Victoria Hand, but she isn't our superior, and telling her that there's possibly a HYDRA agent in her base isn't going to improve her state of mind at all."

    Anteater: "Listen, I already told you I'd go to bat for this team against her. I'm clearly on your side. I'm just saying, he's a HYDRA agent, so what if she shoots him? He hired someone to EAT ME."

    Myrmidon sucks air in through his teeth. "We don't know that it was him, though. That's what I'm saying. I think we need to consider the possibility that Kohl was telling the truth, but someone was impersonating Vaughn." He turns to Julian. "Are you okay with checking Vaughn out yourself?"

    "No problem whatsoever," Julian says. "I'm kind of curious to see what kind of person feels okay about basically selling someone to a fucking cannibal."

    Kane speaks up from the front. "Also, Elise, you know how betrayed you feel right now? For Victoria it's going to be worse. You don't even really like Vaughn. She treats him like an idiot son. She took him under her wing and kept him in SHIELD when other people argued with her about it and protected him from being kicked out when he fucked up a few times."

    "...Do you think Vaughn might be a Skrull? Is this what this is about?" Elise nods at Kane. She doesn't really have a counter argument to that.

    "Alright, so we're good to go to the Crypt then?" Kane asks.

    "Yeah, I'll shower and... get some homework done." It's been hours since Elise has tried to work out the pattern. It's itching at the back of her eyelids.

    Myrmidon: "Yeah, let's head to the Crypt, and let Elise get her shower."

    "I'll tell Clay that we're following leads from Kohl's interrogation, and we can drop Kohl in a cell. None of that is a lie." Kane takes off.

    "I like the way you think, Kane." Myrmidon settles himself back in the jump seat and re-seats the rebreather on his face.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
    At the Crypt, Myrmidon, Behemoth, and Phoenix head towards Wendell Vaughn with the intention of mind-probing Vaughn. Meanwhile, Elise and Vladimir go off on their own so Vlad can help Elise work on the pattern in her mind.

    Vlad receives a text from Niles Nordstrom. "Vlad, I need to talk to you. Urgent. Alone."

    "Alright," Vlad texts back. He turns to Elise. "I will be back to help soon." He pats her on the shoulder as he leaves.

    "Cool." Elise is already starting to draw the starting lines. "Have fun with Niles."

    Vlad goes to the quartermaster's office. Niles is there.

    He enters, and Niles closes the door and locks it. He looks nervous. Vlad notices that all the security cameras have been disabled.

    "Okay, thanks, buddy," Niles says.

    He shapeshifts.

    yxUJONRl.png

    "Rossum." Vladimir can't move. "Hello, Vladimir."

    Vladimir cannot respond. She smiles. "Now respond 'Hello Susan.'"

    Vladimir responds "Hello Susan."

    "Perfect."

    Vlad is REALLY confused.

    She takes a glowing green crystal out from a concealed pocket. "Open your right palm." Vladimir does as requested, and she places the crystal in his palm. "Download the entirety of all stored black drives as directed into this device."

    Vladimir does so. Susan takes the crystal and puts it back in her pocket and smiles again. "What are you up to now, I wonder? State your current mission."

    Vladimir responds "We are attempting to locate a HYDRA mole inside SHIELD."

    Susan grimaces. "God damn HYDRA. Who is your prime suspect?"

    "Wendell Vaughn," Vlad says.

    "Vaughn? Really? Couldn't be...unless...

    "Vladimir, insert subconscious thought process that will trigger as your own spontaneous idea, exempt from memory wipe, triggered 48 seconds after this encounter ends: HYDRA neurolinguistic programming program. Research file in SHIELD database and refamiliarize.

    "That's probably it.

    "Damn HYDRA.

    "Record the outcome of this mission as a special black drive parameter, I want to know how this turns out for my own personal interest.

    "Alright, we're done here, I think. Delete all records of this encounter on trigger of me shifting back into Niles and release control."

    pG7bGvO.png

    Susan shifts back into Niles.

    Vladimir: "What is it, Niles?"

    Niles: "I think... I think there's a mole in SHIELD, Vladimir..."

    "Yes...we have a lead on this but now that I speak with you...." Vlad pauses. "I must review one of HYDRA's programs."

    Niles: "Which one?"

    Vladimir: "Neurolinguistic programming program"

    Niles perks up. "Oh! I know about that! HYDRA brainwashing thing. Manchurian Candidate stuff! They would program sleeper agents with keywords and stuff like that. People wouldn't even know they were HYDRA agents until someone said the right things.

    "Really sneaky stuff."

    Vlad reviews the data in his mind. Niles is definitely referencing a real thing. SHIELD shut the HYDRA neurolinguistic program down, supposedly, and destroyed all data related to it... but if someone at HYDRA still had that information and reprogrammed Wendell that way...

    Vladimir: "I must speak with the others, come quickly Niles."

    "Uhhhh...." Niles hesitates. "Vlad...is that a good idea? Like, I spoke to you privately so nobody would suspect that I knew anything but like...?"

    Vladimir: "No, I trust you. You have helped me greatly. Come we must speak with Clay and Myrmidon before they confront Wendell."

    "Uh, ok." Niles comes with Vlad. They leave the quartermaster’s office to join Myrmidon, Behemoth, and Phoenix, who are casually trying to approach Wendell without making it seem obvious.

    Vladimir and Niles run into the room.

    Vladimir: "We must speak with you, perhaps in Clay's office."

    Myrmidon's eyebrow raises. "You've learned something, Vlad? Okay. Let's go." Myrmidon leads the way to the office.

    Julian kind of glances back toward the room for a second, but comes along.

    Vladimir: "Elise is not needed."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 8
    As they enter, Myrmidon clicks on Clay's anti-bugging software but also turns on his own recording processes. Just in case. Just in case. Michael stands by the door.

    Vlad: "Niles and I may have figured out why Marvel Boy has been impossible to figure out. The HYDRA neurolinguistic program. Tell them Niles."

    "Sssssshit," Myrmidon punches the table softly, with his human hand. "NLP? That shit's real?" He looks to Niles.

    Niles nods. "So you guys ever seen the movie the Manchurian Candidate? It's basically that. They brainwash guys with specific keywords, that they can trigger to make them compliant or do specific actions. For years, SHIELD thought it was a myth. SCI-TECH dismissed it as impossible. But HYDRA did have a program exploring it, at least theoretically. Never got it to work completely right.

    "But... what if they did? I know Wendell. I've known him for years. There's no way he's HYDRA. Not...not knowingly."

    "So interrogation, mind scans...those are all out the window. Hell, if they're only HYDRA a couple minutes out of the month, they probably don't even leave many digital fingerprints. Shit. Shit. You know what this means, right?" Myrmidon meets everyone's gaze. "This means it's back to the drawing board. Anyone could be a suspect. It could be me. It could be Clay. It could be you, Niles. And it could be Wendell. Fuck."

    "Well hold on." Niles speaks up. "It could still be Vaughn. Just not knowingly. And there is a way to test it. It's just...invasive. And unethical."

    Vladimir: "Which is?"

    "You'd have to breach his mind telepathically, and look for really specific alterations,” Niles says. “Foreign thought patterns. You can tell when a person's thoughts aren't their own. It's that whole idea of, if I tell you 'don't think about elephants', the first thing you think about is elephants, right?

    "You can find it, if you go in there rooting around looking for it specifically. Which is really unethical and awful especially if we're wrong! But I don't have a better idea. None of us are HYDRA agents. We know that."

    "Why do we know that?" Miles starts ticking thoughts off on his fingers. "The last few times we've messed with HYDRA, we didn't know in advance that they'd be involved, or we were all together, so there would have been no way to tip them off. But that doesn't necessarily prove that any of us are definitively not HYDRA. Maybe I'll go have a nice game of Solitaire here in a second. I don't know. You don't know. We've been operating under the wrong set of assumptions this whole time and we've only succeeded as much as we have because we've been lucky. Now we need to step up our OpSec game in a big way."

    PHU1KZN.png
    ”A nice game of Solitaire” is from The Manchurian Candidate, a movie Myrmidon has definitely seen.

    "So you are saying that anyone one of you could be a double agent?" Vlad glances around the room

    Niles: "We can't give in to paranoia, man, c'mon."

    PHU1KZN.png
    OH CAN’T WE, NILES

    THAT SOUNDS LIKE A DARE, NILES

    Myrmidon: "It's not paranoia if they're really out to get you, Niles."

    Michael steps in front of the door. "We need to be absolutely sure."

    "I am," Miles nods. "Not because we want to be. But we might be doing the enemy's work without knowing it."

    Niles: "Alright, I tell you what, there's an easy, non-invasive way to do this. I've read a bit of stuff about telepathy in SCI-TECH. Telepathy is a lot easier if the other person is, y'know... consenting."

    "Wait, I have an idea. I am contacting Vision,” Vlad says.

    "...what's Vision?" Niles stares.

    "It's a contact we made in Symkaria," Miles says.

    "O...kay...." Niles nods.

    "How can I help you, sir?" Vision responds.

    Vlad: "I need you to profile all of STRIKE the same way you did with Marvel Boy."

    Vision: "The field team, or all STRIKE personnel including base personnel?"

    Vladimir: "Yes"

    Vision: "Profiling, standby."

    Vision: "Profiles complete."

    Vladimir: "Very good."

    Vision: "There are several suspicious behaviors and oddities to report, sir."

    Vladimir: "Flag and send the profiles"

    Vision: "Agent Elise Arnell is a recreational drug abuser of substances that are technically federally illegal, although legal in some states. She also has a personal friendship with Victoria Hand, who is flagged in SWORD's database as a person of interest, although that flag is also stated as 'update pending.'"

    Vladimir: "No, it is not her."

    Vision: "She also has several Human Resources complaints in her file for workplace harassment from Warrick, Jeremiah."

    Vladimir: "Who else?"

    Vision: "STRIKE Director Clay Quartermain periodically disappears from all forms of monitoring for reasons unknown. His personnel file requires access levels I am not capable of engaging.

    "You, sir, disappeared off the grid for over an hour, over a week ago. Inside the Baxter Building. There is no logged reason for this absence."

    Vladimir: "Yes, I know where I was. I will explain in some time. Who else?"

    Vision: "STRIKE Quartermaster Niles Nordstrom is currently occupying two physical spaces simultaneously. This appears to be a monitoring error."

    Vladimir: "Are you sure?"

    Vision: "Yes. It has been corrected. I only currently detect one Niles Nordstrom. But it was suspicious at one time. It was logged."

    Vladimir: "Where was the other location? "

    Vision: "Broadway. He appeared to be in line for the musical Hamilton."

    Vlad wirelessly calls Niles. It goes straight to voicemail.

    Vladimir: "Who else?"

    VIsion: "I have detected that Agent Isabel Kane is sending encrypted files to an unknown location. Would you like me to attempt to decrypt the files and ascertain the location?"

    Vladimir: "Yes"

    Vision: "Standby."

    Vision: "Completed. The files appear to be mission reports on all STRIKE operations, personnel, and activities. They are being sent to a location in low Earth orbit.

    "This location is not on my records."

    Vladimir: "Anyone else?"

    Vision: "No, sir."

    Vladimir: "Thank you, Vision."

    Vision: "My pleasure, sir."

    "Vision has helped me. We must speak with another team member." Vlad looks at everyone. "Kane. But one thing first."

    Vlad turns to Niles "Do you have your cell phone?"

    Niles: "Yeah?"

    Vladimir: "May I see it?"

    Niles goes into his pocket...then looks confused. "What the...oh, shit. I lost my phone. It's encrypted and locked. It's not... it's not a huge risk. But it sucks."

    Vlad stares at Niles.

    Niles: "I'll find it. I'll turn the GPS on and find it. That's not super important right now, is it?"

    Vladimir: "Forgive me. Phoenix, scan his mind!" Vlad moves to hold Niles.

    Vladimir grabs Niles. He doesn't resist. Julian scans Niles' mind for any traces of neurolinguistic programming or outside interference. Niles doesn't have any. He's clear.

    He's definitely not a HYDRA agent.

    Phoenix: "...Sorry, Niles."

    Myrmidon stares at this development. "Vlad, what's going on? What did you learn?" He’s on paranoia overload. Did Vlad learn something from Vision? Or is Vlad a sleeper agent, trying to cast suspicion on Niles? Miles desperately tries to think a dozen moves ahead.

    Julian pops back in for a second just to read Niles' surface thoughts and emotions. What's going on? Oh god! He thinks I'm HYDRA! Where's my phone? What the hell is Vision? Oh god, Vlad, I thought we were friends....

    Vladimir: "Vision found an error while helping me in regards to Niles. I had to be sure."

    Myrmidon: "An error?"

    Phoenix: "What kind of error?"

    Vladimir: "He was found in two locations."

    Myrmidon stands straight. He points his left arm forward.

    "By what?" Niles stares around at everyone.

    Myrmidon: "Vlad."

    Niles: "What are you talking about? What found me in two locations?"

    Myrmidon: "Two locations. That isn't HYDRA. That's a SKRULL."

    "Oh, fuck this." Niles shapeshifts in Vlad's arms into Susan Richards. "Rossum. Vladimir, kill them."

    Phoenix telekinetically slams the door shut.

    "TAKE HER DOWN!" Myrmidon yells.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    "Sir, you appear to be in distress." Vlad hears a voice in his mind. It's Vision.

    Vladimir: "HELP ME"

    Vision: "You appear to be disconnected from your vital systems. Would you like help?"

    Vladimir: "YES"

    Vision: "Assisting. Please stand by."

    g3xuawl.png

    Elise hears the commotion from across the base immediately. She looks up, startled, and sprints towards the commotion.

    "HAND! RED ALERT. THE CRYPT IS COMPROMISED!" Miles shouts and also broadcasts on all SHIELD frequencies.

    Elise hears this and beats her fists against the telekinetically-locked door. “Hello?!”

    Michael armors up. "You've blown it, surrender or I'll disintegrate you where you stand."

    Susan laughs and turns invisible.

    Phoenix: "Stay against the door!"

    Michael blocks the door with as much body mass as possible

    Anteater: "What the fuck is going on?"

    Julian gets blasted with a force-field bolt. He sails across the office and slams headfirst into the wall. His vision fuzzes. "Fuck!"

    Myrmidon activates his forensic vision and switches to infrared, whirling around, trying to get a view of the entire office. Outside, Elise continues to slam on the door.

    "Vladimir, destroy Behemoth!" an invisible voice shouts. Vladimir turns to face Behemoth and dumps thousands of volts of electricity into the armored titan. Behemoth falls to one knee.

    But now both Susan and Vladimir are fixated on Michael. Myrmidon is able to find Susan on his scanner.

    "THERE!" Miles fires full-power, holding nothing back. The blast hits Susan. Her force-field absorbs the brunt of the blast, but it does damage the field significantly. The feedback from the energy also makes her a temporarily visible target.

    Myrmidon: "FOCUS ON HER! DON'T LET UP! ELISE, CALL FOR HELP! SUE STORM AND NILES ARE SKRULLS!"

    Elise pulls out her phone and starts a conference call. She dials in Clay, Hand, and Brand. "Hello? This is Agent Arnell. Please pick up. Please pick up."

    Myrmidon: "OH, AND VLAD HAS BEEN REPROGRAMMED FOR EVIL!"

    Elise slides something in the crack under the door. It's a purple, rubber bracelet.

    It reads BEST FRIENDS. Myrmidon dives for the door and grabs the friendship bracelet!

    Behemoth blasts through Susan's shields, sending her flying across the room, and knocking her out of invisibility. "Vlad-.... Vladimir, protect me...."

    "VLAD! LOOK!" Miles holds up the purple bracelet.

    Susan: "Get me out of here...."
    Vladimir picks up Susan. "Sir," Vision speaks in Vladimir's mind. "I believe I have found the source of the problem.

    "It's something called the Storm Protocol. Its firmware related to your core functions, and contains multiple overrides that are inherently linked to Susan Richards nee Storm.”

    Vladimir: "Can these be removed? She did this when she removed the bomb!"

    Vision: "Yes sir, but I have no firmware available to replace it at this present time. If removed without any substitute systems, I am uncertain of the outcome. It may cause a critical system failure. You could... die."

    Vlad looks at Myrmidon and sees the bracelet. "Vision...remove the firmware. I must do this now."

    Vision: "Deleting Storm Protocol. Sir.... thank you. For everything."

    Vladimir stops. All of his lights go dark. He drops Sue to the ground, and she grunts with pain.

    A half-second later, his lights come back on and he rises back up. His HUD flashes "TABULA RASA PROTOCOL ENGAGED"

    Vladimir is back in control. Susan is barely conscious.

    Vlad begins to choke her. A flood of memories return to him.

    "GOOD BOY. Good boy."

    nrKkATH.jpg

    Vlad squeezes harder. Susan's neck narrows reflexively, making choking impossible. Vlad begins to shock her.

    "Vlad…” Michael says worriedly. “Vlad, we need her alive. Hurt but alive. For now.”

    Susan: "Aaaaaugh! I surrender!"

    "The time-out room!” Miles shouts. “We can hold her there!"

    "I told you not to betray me." Vlad increases the shock.

    “Aaaaaughhhh!!!!" she passes out.

    "Let's get her into the T.I.M.E.O.U.T, now!" Michael moves from the door.

    Miles puts his hand on Vlad's shoulder. "I can't even imagine the violation she committed on you. But we need to know about her other crimes. Her other victims. Please."

    Vlad drops Susan to the floor. MIles passes her to Behemoth. "You've seen what she can do - and they heal fast. Hold on tight."

    They head for the T.I.M.E.O.U.T. and get her inside before she regains consciousness. On the way, Vladimir takes the green crystal she’d had him store his data on. It’s technology he’s never seen before.

    In its unconscious and presumably natural state, the Skrull impersonating Niles and Susan appears to be female, with blond hair. It doesn’t look especially like Susan but also isn’t terribly far off.

    The T.I.M.E.O.U.T. door closes on the Skrull and Behemoth powers down, becoming Michael again. "Well, that's handled for now. What's next?"

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Miles finds Elise to fill her in on what happened, or what he thinks happened. "Here's the short version. We realized that HYDRA could be using neurolinguistic programming - brainwashing, so people might be HYDRA spies without knowing it. That means any of us could be one. So I had Vlad scan everyone on STRIKE, and he discovered that Niles was in two places at once...a shapeshifter. A Skrull. Niles turned into Sue Storm and attacked us with her powers, somehow. And apparently she had some kind of control over Vlad - I imagine that's Richards' doing, again. We've subdued her and Vlad seems okay. Your friendship bracelet did the trick!"

    "...Wow," Elise says.

    PHU1KZN.png
    Nobody knows that Vision helped Vlad! From the outside it totally looked like the power of friendship saved the day.

    Miles continues. "So I don't know if Niles and Susan are the same Skrull, or if different Skrulls trade off, or if there was ever a real Niles or Sue Storm....I don't know. I think I'm coming down with a migraine."

    "No one is picking up. Clay, Brand, Hand… None of them have answered,” Elise says. ”And I'm...not fuckin' calling Fury.

    "Last time we talked he threatened to hose me down.”

    "That's okay. I will." Miles calls Nick Fury.

    "Fury. Go."

    Miles: "Short version. Susan Storm is, and maybe always has been, a Skrull. Wendell Vaughn may be doing HYDRA's bidding through NLP. We can't get a hold of Hand, Quatermain, or Brand, so I'm calling you."

    Fury: "Where's Storm and Vaughn now?"

    Miles: "Storm's in the time-out. She's alive and unconscious for now. Vaughn, as far as we know, is here and unawares. This all broke while we were looking into him. Storm was posing as Niles Nordstrom and trying to aim us at Vaughn, so take that for what you will."

    Fury: "Slap cuffs on Vaughn and throw him in a cell, but gently, under my authority. We'll sort it out when I get there. Ten minutes, I'm getting on a quinjet now."

    Miles: "Yes, sir."

    Fury: "Good job agents. Be there in ten. Fury out."

    Myrmidon puts down the phone and turns to Elise. "We still need to deal with Wendell Vaughn. He didn't mean to give you away - we think he was under mind control - but he's still our suspect. Fury wants him cuffed and put in a cell. Do you want the honors?"

    "I'd love that," she says.

    Miles: "Lead the way. I'll come with you. Remember that he's innocent as far as he knows. Be gentle."

    Elise: "I'll try."

    Miles sounds the all-clear, and the lockdown is rescinded. People begin milling around the Crypt again, wondering what happened.

    Elise finds Vaughn in his office, cowering behind his desk with a sidearm. He is terrified.

    Elise: "Hey, hey, calm down, my dude."

    "Elise, thank god," he stands up. "What the hell happened? I heard the Crypt was compromised. I panicked."

    Elise: "It was. We... took care of things. Long story. How are you holding up?"

    Vaughn: "I'm pretty shook."

    Elise: "Well, put the gun down, buddy."

    He drops it on the desk. "Yeah, sorry."

    "It's okay,” Miles says reassuringly. “We're all a little jumpy."

    "Hey, you mind coming over here?” Elise asks. “I'm just giving everyone a once-over. Super senses, y'know? Checking for shock and shit."

    "Oh, yeah, okay." He follows Elise.

    Elise takes his hands, and then swings them behind his back and cuffs him.

    Vaughn: "What the fuck! What the fuck! You fucking narc! We fucking toked together!"

    "Yeah, and you sent fucking Kraven to eat me alive, you dumb motherfucker! So now you're going to sit in jail and think about that!"

    "What." He genuinely has no idea what Elise is talking about. He thinks this is about drugs.

    Anteater: "Fury's going to come and sort it out, so you can worry about it in jail, asshole."

    "FURY?!" Vaughn pales. "OH MY GOD!"

    "Let me explain,” Miles says. “Mr. Vaughn, a HYDRA agent named you as his source for leaked information - information that almost got my teammate killed. I think there might be extenuating circumstances, but we need to secure you until we can clear this up. The good news is, that won't be long."

    "...o-oh.... oh okay....I... I guess?" He doesn't struggle.

    "Wait." Elise spins him around and looks at his face. She reads him to the best of her ability. He genuinely doesn't understand what all of this is about and is scared out of his mind.

    "...You didn't do it.” She calms a bit. "Sorry Wendell. I hope you didn't do it. But... we have to check."

    Vaughn: "Okay?"

    Myrmidon's phone is blowing up. "Mason. Go." Where did he learn that?

    "WHY DID YOU CALL NICK FURY?!" He's never heard Clay yell like that. "THERE IS A CHAIN OF COMMAND MASON"

    "You, Director Brand, and Ms. Hand were out of touch,” Miles says. “I made the call to kick it upstairs."

    Clay: "There's a communicator to the Storm Cellar in the Quinjet! You were supposed to fly back to the Storm Cellar when you had intel, not just call Nick Fury, oh my christ."

    Miles: "I don't trust the Quinjet right now. We'll talk about that when you get here."

    Clay: "Nick texted me to tell me he's 'handling it now' and that 'it's fine.' I'm already in my own quinjet heading there but he's going to get there first. Pray to some new god, my son, because the Old Testament one is coming.

    "And I'm not talking about me."

    "Good,” Miles says. “I think it's about time the mountain came to Mohammed."

    "I'm a big fan of the Old Testament, actually..." A voice cuts through the phone call, but is also carried in person as a man walks through the blast door. He's talking on a wireless headset; he was listening to the phone call.

    5f2JUWSl.png

    "Been known to quote it from time to time."

    MatevMsAnthropyPowerpuppiesFencingsax
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Elise looks at Fury like a deer stuck in the headlights.

    She slowly climbs beneath Vaughn's desk.

    Miles nods. "Welcome to the party."

    Fury: "Alright, people, let's sort this all out. Where's Phoenix?"

    Phoenix: "Right here, sir."

    Elise, tucked beneath Vaughn's desk and concealed from view, is glad that she missed most of the action. No one has any reason to talk to her. This is good.

    "Phoenix, scan Vaughn's mind,” Fury says. “Look for specific for neural-patterns that are foreign and intrusive. Signs of alteration, psycho-surgery, or neuro-linguistic programming. Things that aren't his."

    Julian takes a breath. "Alright."

    Vaughn gasps "What!"

    Nick shushes him "Son, relax. He's not going to get into your sexual fetishes or why you hate your dad or whatever. Work with him, not against him."

    "Just ease up, dude,” Julian says. “You're on record as having committed the offense of selling my friend to a cannibal. If you didn't do it on purpose, I'll know."

    "Phoenix, don't give the kid brain cancer," Fury adds. "We've spent a lot of money on that brain."

    Phoenix: "Noted."

    Julian goes in.

    The Phoenix is powerful, but it’s...not a scalpel. Julian finds what he’s looking for, but gets more than he wanted.

    Wendell Vaughn absolutely has HYDRA neuro-linguistic programming. Phoenix even knows where and when it was done, and by who.

    Vaughn got ambushed last year while at a Rusko concert, while high out of his mind. HYDRA agents captured him, and took him to a facility in Greenland. Vaughn tried really hard to memorize landmarks and ways to figure out where he was. It was actually a pretty good use of his SHIELD training in case he was kidnapped.

    Then he was subjected to painful treatments by a HYDRA scientist.

    fs1AR2Yl.jpg

    Dr. Werner Von Blitzschlag.

    Arnim Zola was also there. At least, multiple monitors displaying Zola's screaming face were there. Blitzschlag seemed to report to Zola on a regular basis.

    They programmed Vaughn over the course of days, wiped his memory (or, more accurately, buried it) and sent him home with trigger words and key phrases to activate so that they could extract intel from him on a regular basis.

    Crossbones is his handler.

    Crossbones and Zola were in town very recently for a business meeting, and decided to extract information from Vaughn, which is when they found out about Elise, and decided to program the whole plot about Kraven into Vaughn.

    Also, Vaughn is a furry. But that doesn't seem important.

    "Vaughn's our man," Julian says. "HYDRA got into his brain. This wasn't his idea.

    "He's been under thrall to HYDRA since last year. A couple HYDRA operatives were in town recently, found info from Vaughn, and programmed him to set up Elise."

    Elise makes an agitated noise from beneath Vaughn's desk.

    Nick Fury nods thoughtfully.

    Looks at Vaughn.

    "I'm sorry, son."

    He draws a pistol from his jacket and shoots Vaughn in the chest at point blank range.


    It's an ICER. Vaughn is unconscious.

    A breath hitches in Julian's chest. He lets it go. "Fuuuck."

    "Put him in a cell. MED will see if they can undo what HYDRA did to him. Poor kid." Fury puts the ICER away. "Elise, hun, are you hiding from me?"

    Elise's head pops out from behind the desk. "Uh. Not...anymore?"

    "Okay, good,” Fury says. “Crisis is averted. HYDRA agent is caught, and the Skrull mole is sitting in the Timeout. You all did a great job here. Let's go have a chat with 'Susan'."

    Elise scrambles out from underneath the desk and brushes off her shirt.

    Julian just slightly approaches Director Fury and speaks under his breath, trying to speak just so only Fury can hear. He doesn't want to try any knocking right now, just in case. "You know, you didn't have to mention sexual fetishes."

    "It was to put his mind at ease, not yours," Fury says. "It's like saying to kids 'this won't hurt a bit.'"

    Phoenix: "Well yeah, but sometimes your subconscious catches onto something. So... thanks. Sir."

    "Is that how that works? Well, shit. Sorry about that. I'm not a telepath," Fury says.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    The group move to the Timeout, where everyone else is waiting with Susan Skrull, who is awake now; Skrulls regenerate quickly.

    "Oh! Hello, Director Fury." Michael is surprised to see him.

    "Michael." Fury nods and smiles.

    Vlad stares at Fury.

    "Vlad!" Elise throws herself at Vlad for a hug. "Vlad Vlad Vlad! You're okay!"

    "I am," he says, still looking at Fury.

    "You have something on your mind, agent?" Fury doesn't seem to appreciate getting mad-dogged.

    Vladimir: "You address me as Agent now? Not Resource?"

    Fury: "Yes, I believe you've earned that."

    Vladimir: "You put a bomb in me, I took it out. The Skrull reprogramed me so I took her out."

    Fury: "Good.”

    “Yes,” Vlad says.

    “Vladimir," Fury sighs, "I apologize. We didn't know what you were when your remains came into our possession. Even when we we rebuilt you, we didn't get you. What we did know was how your creator treated you, what he used you for. Which was a disposable drone.

    "You are not a person to him. Why would you be a person to us?

    "That's why we started off on the wrong foot. And I'm sorry."

    "He is." Elise says, quietly. "He has been since he found me in Vegas. He always has been." She holds up her wrist and realizes she lost the bracelet.

    Myrmidon holds it up. "Here you go."

    Elise grins and holds up her half of the Best Friends Forever bracelet.

    Vlad looks down to his and brings it to match hers. "I forgive you, Fury. Do not betray my trust again."

    Fury extends his hand to Vladimir. "I won't." Vlad shakes it

    Relieved, Elise goes to peer through the glass at Susan Skrull, tilting her head to the side. She's trying to take everything in about Skrulls that she can. "I wish I could smell her." she murmurs.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
    The Skrull in her natural form baffles Elise. She has facial expressions, but her micro-expressions are...well, alien. Her skin is constantly...shifting. Twitching. She has muscles where humans don't have muscles, her skin doesn't move like human skin moves. She's disturbing to analyze.

    "...I want to talk to her."

    Fury nods. "Go for it."

    Elise opens the door and steps in. "Hi." Vlad follows behind her.

    Susan is sitting with her back against the wall, looking bored. "Hi."

    Elise moves closer and stares at her, taking in all the weird differences and taking in the scent of Skrull. "Here's the deal," she finally says. "I don't know what you did. I wasn't there! I'm the nicest person you can possibly talk to.

    "You want to talk to me, because I'm part Kree. I'm built to take Skrulls down. It's in my DNA. And I'm getting closer to the answers on how to do that every single day.

    "We can be friends. And that's what you want."

    "You're an Inhuman," Susan says. "One of their weapons."

    Elise just smiles. "Yep. And the longer we talk? The more I'm taking in. Soon I'm going to be able to sniff you Skrulls out."

    "So, full disclosure. I am a fully trained SHIELD agent. I know SHIELD interrogation procedures. Probably better than you, because I've got more field time than you do. I know torture doesn't work. Bribery and coercion does." Susan looks at Elise. "You have nothing to threaten me with except death, torture, and imprisonment. I'm already imprisoned. Death doesn't frighten me. Pain is immaterial."

    Elise tilts her head and takes this in. She reaches into her jeans pocket, and pulls out a crumpled piece of notebook paper. She slowly smooths it out, and then shows it to Susan Skrull.

    It's a pattern of lines and circles, layered in ways beyond comprehension. "What does this mean to you?"

    Susan: "Kree astroglyphics. Meaningless to me, I'm not Kree. If I was mind-bound to a Kree, I could read it."

    Anteater: "What's an astroglyphic?"

    Susan smiles "Why should I tell you? Again, what's in it for me to help you with any of this? You want information from me, where do I stand to gain? You're going to put me in prison. We know this. I'm not getting released. I accept this. That's not on the table.

    “So make me an offer."

    "The Devourer.” Miles’ voice comes in from outside, over the intercom.

    Susan: "What about it?"

    "It's coming. Phoenix is proof. We have other proof." (This is a lie.) "I know you don't care about your own life. You're a soldier. But your people - that's another story. They need to leave. If they can't, we can help them. This is your big chance, and theirs. You can live to go home to your Empire. Or you can keep scheming to own a planet that may very well not exist next year. I know you've been here for a while - I know you might be emotionally attached to the mission. Detach. Think clearly. What's best for the Skrull, really?"

    "Wait," Susan says. "So... Adler... your code name, Phoenix, you're the Phoenix."

    Phoenix shrugs.

    Susan: "Like The Phoenix?"

    Phoenix: "Might be."

    She has a sudden look of panic.

    Elise shifts her weight. "There's something else you should know. I've been approached by... outside parties. This glyph? I'm learning how to read it. They tell me it's going to help me find everything about you guys.

    "I mean, I've only heard one side of the story, but so far I'm kind of on board with my new friend. Maybe you can help change my mind. I'm open to being friends."

    "Ssssshhhhh" Susan shushes Elise. "Wait. If you're the Phoenix.

    "That means he's coming." She has a cornered animal fear.

    Phoenix: "We can worry about that later."

    PHU1KZN.png
    In real life this was one of those kind of chaotic NPC conversations where everyone was typing at once and we were kind of losing track of geography so people were teleporting in and out of the room and stuff.

    But in the world of the game I figure that Miles is on the verge of screaming right now. From his point of view, Susan was running the room while Elise pinballed between making weird threats, trying to be the good cop, and showing Susan some refrigerator doodles, then he came in with something that actually got the Skrull’s attention and put him in the driver’s seat, and now Julian is trying to pull the rug out from under him by walking back everything he just said.

    She’s defiant; he needs her compliant. She’s proud and willing to die - for Leviathan, presumably - so Miles appeals to the possibility of saving her fellow Skrulls.

    Susan: "NO WE CAN'T"

    Phoenix: "Listen to Elise. She's talking to you."

    "NONE OF THIS MATTERS," Susan is screaming. "FUCK IT! FUCKING BUILD A SPACESHIP!"

    Phoenix: "...None of anything matters. We're spinning around in an uncaring universe as the Devourer comes to consume us all!"

    PHU1KZN.png
    *screaming externally*

    Elise looks at the glass and throws her hands up. "Thanks, guys! Thanks so much! Love it when you guys help me with my interrogations! Super great job!"

    "We have to call Reed," Susan says. "Listen to me."

    Phoenix: "But at least in this moment you can bargain for your one chance of getting off this rock. So why not listen to what Elise has to say, mm?"

    "Listen to me right now," Susan is pleading. "Call Reed."

    "Yeah, I think that ship fuckin' sailed, Julian. Thanks so much."

    Phoenix: "Hey, what did I do?"

    "Reed can help with this. He's smart. He's really smart." She's panicking.

    Vladimir: "Richards isn't that smart"

    "Listen, Susan. Listen." She spreads out her arms, offering a hug. "We can be friends." Listen, I understand how scared you are right now. I get it."

    Susan stands up and backs up in a corner. "You don't understand! None of this matters! He ate my homeworld!"

    Elise flips off the glass. She stands. "We'll try talking later."

    The Skrull curls up in a corner and starts sobbing, gently rocking back and forth.

    Miles steps inside. “Susan. We can call Reed, but I'd like you to talk to Elise. Okay?"

    "Give her some time. Jesus, c'mon." Elise storms out of the Timeout Room

    Vladimir: "What really? We're going to call Richards?!"

    Anteater: "I had a plan, Myrmidon, I don't fuck with your shit! Why'd you fuck with mine?"

    From the cell, Susan talks in a really quiet voice "...can you tell him I'm okay."

    Elise turns before closing the door. "Yeah. I will."

    Susan: "He doesn't know where I am"

    Anteater: "We'll talk later."

    "And I'll be late for dinner," Susan says. "And he'll worry."

    Anteater: "...I'll tell him."

    Vladimir: "Unbelievable"

    PHU1KZN.png
    I love that Vladimir is just standing here this entire time poleaxed with indignation that anyone would want to talk to Reed Richards.

    Susan's distress is pretty distressing, Matt did a good job with it. Miles is like, mission accomplished: she's asking for things now, instead of dictating terms.

    Susan: "I... I don't want him to worry… Make something up. Ask Niles to do it."

    Elise shakes her head, closing the door.

    Susan is just curled in the corner, quietly sobbing.

    Vladimir: "SILENCE"

    She looks up and sees Vladimir staring and flinches. "I'm... I'm sorry. I was...I was trying to do something I thought was important. None of it matters now, and I had to do something terrible to you to do it and all of that is pointless. You suffered for no reason. I'm sorry."

    Elise storms up to Miles. "Myrmidon, I - did you even LISTEN to anything I told you after I got back from vacation?" Myrmidon remembers what Elise told him after she got back from vacation. It was a lot of babbling. She had been pretty excited.

    But Miles is staring at "Susan" right now. She cares about Reed? How long has she been doing this? Did Susan Storm ever exist? He shudders and turns to face Anteater.

    "Look at her! She has actual emotions, and I was trying to set something up! And then you just walk in like "oh yeah the dude who ate your homeworld is incoming lol!" Elise actually says 'lol' as one syllable. "No shit she's panicking!

    "And I - I was trying to tell you about my new friend, and the - the plan we have, with the astrogl -" Elise runs out of steam. She looks at Nick Fury. She stops yelling.

    "I don't think she wanted to be friends, Elise,” Myrmidon is doing his level best to be reasonable. “She had the upper hand and she knew it. We needed leverage. Now we have it. She cares about what happens to the other 107 Skrulls here. And if we can turn that key, maybe we can save our world. And them, in the bargain, even against my better judgment."

    Elise presses the heels of her hands into her eyes. "I had leverage that wasn't so nuclear!" She pulls out the astroglyph drawn on notebook paper, showing it to Myrmidon, tilted at an angle so Fury can't see. "Why can't anyone see how important this is?!"

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
    Julian approaches Vladimir. "So... what do you suppose happened to the original Susan Storm?"

    Vladimir: "I think she is the original."

    Julian just shudders a bit. "For how long, then...? God."

    Vladimir: "Yes."

    Miles just stares at Elise’s sketch. "Nobody knows what that Is, Elise."

    Anteater: "I'm telling you it's IMPORTANT! I'm seeing it everywhere!"

    "Seeing what?" Fury asks. He's been silently observing the whole time.

    Elise turns and smiles weakly at Nick Fury. "It's kind of a funny story, actually." She holds the paper in her hands and hands it to him.

    "Kree astroglyphs, huh. Haven't seen these in a while."

    "Well, you know, I'm... Inhuman and all that, so, I guess it's something you have to be Kree to understand, ha ha." Elise drops the strained smile to shoot a glare at Myrmidon.

    Fury: "Yeah they're nonsense to me, I'm not Kree or Inhuman. Talk to Director Brand's people at SWORD about it, see if they can sort it. You say you're seeing them everywhere? Did you touch some Kree artifact or something?"

    Anteater: "Yyyyyyyyyes?"

    Vlad asks over the comm, "How long have you been Susan?"

    Susan looks up at Vladimir. "Since 1997. I... I am Susan. I've been Susan longer than Susan has been Susan. Reed is my husband. This is my life."

    This gets Myrmidon’s attention. He turns to face Susan and begins an audiovisual record.

    Susan: "I'm not an imposter."

    Vladimir: "Do you want to see Reed again?"

    Susan: "Yes."

    "Haha, wow." Elise says, jabbing her thumb towards the Timeout Room. "That seems real important, sir, you better check on that." Fury nods and walks over to the door.

    Vladimir: "Tell me everything and I will contact him."

    Susan gulps hard and stares at Vladimir. "Alright."

    Vladimir: "DO. NOT. LIE."

    Susan: "I won't."

    "What were you trying to do with this?" He holds the crystal device she gave him before.

    Susan: "It's a holographic storage crystal. Skrull technology."

    Vladimir: "Yes, but what were you going to do with the information?"

    Susan: "...I was going to give it to Reed."

    Vladimir: "Richards..."

    "..." Elise stares. "This isn't a Skrull thing at all."

    Myrmidon shakes his head. More conspiracies, more players. "This never ends. It never, ever ends."

    Vlad gestures to Elise to come take over.

    "We were going to edit the information, fabricate details, create false intel and give the edited intelligence to my handlers at Leviathan," Susan says. "WHISPER has been doing this for ten years."

    "...What?" Elise stares. "Wait, are you... are you a good Skrull?"

    "WHISPER?" Myrmidon says. "Jesus, you're a triple agent?"

    "...yes,” Susan says. "I love my husband."

    qlGmSdP.pngWHISPER
    Little is known about WHISPER, a non-government espionage organization that seems to be opposed to both Leviathan and SHIELD, not even what its acronym stands for, save that it appears to be a relative newcomer to the scene, first coming to the notice of SHIELD analysts roughly a decade ago.

    Anteater: "Skrulls can be good?"

    PHU1KZN.png
    Phoenix is still the only one who knows about Clay.

    Vladimir: "Does he know?"

    "Yes," she says. "I told him when we were getting married, eleven years ago. I also told him I was working for SHIELD and Leviathan."

    "But if Skrulls can be good, then why does..." Elise is muttering quietly to herself.

    Susan: "That was when Reed and I created the World Headquarters for International Scientific/Philosophical Experimentation and Research. WHISPER."

    "WHISPER is your gig? You're the third player? God, this all makes a horrible kind of sense." Myrmidon doesn't want to believe anything that lets Susan off the hook, but this is pretty compelling.

    Elise hits the intercom. "Skrulls can be good?"

    "I don't think I'm a good person,” Susan says. “I do some pretty awful things. What I did to Vladimir was wrong. I tried to kill you all, because I panicked, and I thought you'd all kill me because you thought I was a Leviathan agent... which I mean, technically, I am. But like, just the other week, Clay had two of you snuff out a Skrull no questions asked and you just did it.

    "So."

    "But you're not, like - Okay. You're technically on our side. We're not all good people either." Elise clarifies.

    Susan: "I was genuinely trying to help you find the HYDRA mole. I really do hate HYDRA. Look, it's like this..." She takes a deep breath. She seems calmer now. "I was born in 1956 in Moscow. I'm Skrull, yeah, but I'm from this planet. When I say Galactus ate my homeworld that's only in the abstract, because really my homeworld is here. I'm technically a Russian national?

    "I was a Leviathan agent, because my parents were and that's just... that's just how it is? That's how I was raised."

    Elise looks horrified. "And I just basically told you that I was built to kill you. And people like you."

    "In 1996, my parents had me mind-bond with a SHIELD agent they had kidnapped from America. Susan Storm. She was in SCI-TECH. So, I took her place and moved here. Then, a year later, SHIELD transfers me to OPS and deploys me on a deep cover mission to infiltrate Reed Richards' Future Foundation.

    "Then I.... fell in love with Reed?

    And America.

    "And humanity.

    "Then Reed and Ben and my...brother, Johnny, we went on that journey and we got these powers."

    Myrmidon: "I...so what you do isn't a Skrull thing? You can get superpowers too?"

    "I guess!" she shrugs. "I'm not a War Skrull, if that's what you're asking. This is from the accident, the same thing that did it to Reed and Ben and Johnny. I couldn't do the invisibility and force field stuff before.

    "Then after we started doing the Fantastic Four stuff, Reed proposed and I...I couldn't keep lying to him. I had to tell him the truth, about what I am, about Leviathan, about SHIELD. I couldn't lie to him anymore. He forgave me, we got married. We made WHISPER."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 7
    "So if you've been working for Reed this whole time...why has he been working so hard to fuck with us?” Miles says. “It made sense to me when I thought that he was some do-goodnik who wanted to stick it to the fascists, but you were here! You could have told him we were doing good work in Iraq, or at Alchemax. Instead he almost destroyed Vlad. And me. And maybe this base's computers. Why? Especially if he had you?"

    "Because you guys are assholes!” she shouts. "You have like no ethics whatsoever! You blackbag and assassinate people! Because Nick Fury's response to increased government suspicion about the fact that he doesn't have enough oversight was to create a black ops squad answerable only to him!

    "That's fucked up!

    "You steal Reed's tech! Tony's tech! Miles your god damn arm is stolen Stark tech! I haven't done a full scan of you but I'm sure I could find bits in you that were stolen from my husband's company without his knowledge."

    Elise hits the button. "Maybe I'm an asshole because of all the racist Skrull shit I said but if it wasn't for SHIELD I'd be fuckin' dead in Vegas, and you're an asshole who just tried to make someone's friend kill his friends, so you're an asshole too!"

    Susan: "I panicked!"

    Anteater: "You know what I do when I panic?! I hide in my van and smoke pot, I don't send out murder orders!"

    Behemoth: "You might be in an indestructible room, but be careful about throwing stones in glass houses."

    Myrmidon meets Susan’s indignation with his own. "That tech saved my life! Stark wasn't handing it out for free, not to some schmoe off the street! And we've done good work. Fury picked a good team. I trust these people with my life - and we've tried to do the right thing everywhere we've been. Maybe you and Reed are the ones who need oversight!"

    "Consider the fact that the whole reason that I even know Reed is that SHIELD sent me as a mole to spy on him and steal his stuff. Because he refused to create weapons for them.

    "So Fury just said screw it, we'll steal it anyway."

    Fury shrugs. "I did say that."

    Anteater: "Fine! So we're all assholes! Everyone's an asshole!"

    Vladimir: "Yes"

    Anteater: "But there's weird alien shit going on and we gotta work together to get out of this fuckery alive! So can we just drop all the shitty stuff we've done to each other and try to coexist like human fucking beings for five minutes?"

    Susan makes a face.

    "I know! It's a fucking shorthand!” Elise blares. "Do YOU have a better way to phrase it?!"

    "Civil sentient organisms?” Julian offers.

    "....She's right,” Miles says. “This is all time we could have spent on Arnim Zola. Or Leviathan. Or this thing that's coming to eat the world."

    Anteater: "Shut up Julian, that fucking sucks."

    Phoenix: "Individuals?"

    Anteater: "Stop."

    Fury steps forward. "Alright, I think we have a solution here."

    "Okay!" Elise snaps, and then turns to Fury and remembers he's there. "Um. If that's - okay with you, Director Fury Sir. I mean the alliance seems, uh, tactically. Good."

    "Richards,” Fury begins, “if we keep you here, there's a very good chance your husband uses his full faculty and resources to make my life a personal hell, correct?"

    She nods.

    "Yeah, fuck that." He opens the door. "Agent Susan Richards, you are terminated without notice. Your security clearance is revoked. Get the fuck out of here and put your human face on."

    "...And I'm sorry I said that racist shit to you. I'm like, figuring all of this alien shit out," Elise says. "I had some bad intel."

    Susan shrugs at Elise "Whatever, Kreeblood."

    Elise squints at her.

    "I was joking. I don't give a shit about that," Susan says. "I've never even met a Kree."

    Anteater: "It's kind of weird! I don't know if I'd recommend it. Especially if they convince you to touch weird stuff."

    Susan looks at Vladimir. "I am genuinely sorry. The whole thing was Reed's idea and for what it's worth, I tried to do the whole cackling villainess thing to make it more....hateable? To give myself deniability, like you'd think I was a Leviathan agent if you ever figured it out. I didn't mean it." She assumes her human, Susan Richards form.

    Vladimir: "Tell Reed I look forward to meeting him."

    "Wait, we're meeting him?" Elise says. "Can he serve those tiny sandwiches?"

    Susan: "I'm... I'm not sure that I will do that, Vlad. You might want to surprise him."

    Vladimir: "Perhaps"

    Anteater: "Like, you know, the little horse douvoirs? He's rich, he can swing for 'em."

    Myrmidon snorts, then laughs outright, leaning against the wall of the TIme-Out for support. "Horse....douvoirs...."

    "What!" Elise is indignant again. "That's what they're called!"

    Myrmidon: "It's....you're right. It is what they're called."

    Susan looks at Fury. "So do I just show myself out, or?"

    Fury grunts "Turn invisible and get the fuck out."

    "So, I think we're done here. All loose ends tied up," Elise says. "No more loose ends! We don't got any of 'em! And I have a joint with my name on it and I set up a waterbed in the back of my van!"

    Fury clears his throat.

    Anteater: "Iiiif that's okay with you, Director. Sir. Mr. Fury. Sir."

    "When Clay gets here, and he gets his house in order, he's probably going to want to deploy you people to follow up on the HYDRA cell that brainwashed Agent Vaughn, and shut that shit down."

    At that moment, Clay walks into the room. He naps to attention and salutes Fury.

    "At ease, Clay."

    "Evening, boss." Miles sketches a semi-ironic salute.

    Clay gives Mason a death-stare.

    "...I tried calling you, sir," Elise offers. "I... tried to give you the ol' ring-a-ding."

    "Clay, you got a minute, buddy. Walk with me." Fury puts his arm around Clay's shoulder and leads him down the hall away from the room.

    Julian receives a telepathic blast from Clay.

    He called me buddy. If I'm not back in ten minutes I am dead and Mason is Director of STRIKE.

    Phoenix: Christ. Good luck.

    "Well! I'm just going to," Elise begins sidling. "Van."

    "Vlad," Miles says in a low voice as their bosses leave, "what did VISION tell you about Kane?"

    Vlad: "Yes, she has been sending SHIELD information into lower earth orbit to an unknown receiver."

    Elise stops. "Wait, Kane?"

    Julian receives another telepathic blast from Clay. WHAT HAPPENED TO MY OFFICE

    Phoenix: It's a long story. Suffice it to say we apprehended Susan Richards.

    Clay: Fury told me. Good job about that. That's where that went down? Okay fine. Forgiven.

    "Low-Earth orbit,” Miles says. “Jesus. She might be talking to Skrulls, or Kree...or God knows what. Okay. Thank you for everything you did today, Vlad. Everything's messy right now, but you saved our lives, and you may have saved the greater mission."

    Vladimir: "Thank you."

    Elise claps her hands over her mouth. "Kree?"

    Myrmidon nods to Elise's question. "Kree, Skrulls, HYDRA, secret Russian hackers, Tony Stark....low-Earth orbit could be anyone. Phoenix, want to help us clear up one last loose end?"

    Phoenix: "Yeah, we might be thinking the same thing here."

    "...I tried to hook her up with you!" Elise says. "I can't believe I wingman'd for a traitor!"

    Myrmidon sighs. "She might be innocent, or she might be a fucking...quintuple agent. I don't even know anymore. Be ready for anything.”

    Phoenix: "Yeah. I would prefer not to think she's been fucking around on us."

    Anteater: "She better not have, because my plan is for her to fuck around on YOU! "I offered her my special eyes!"

    Phoenix: "What? Like, fuck around on me on me, or fuck around on me on me?"

    "I don't know, I'm not a breeder, I don't know how you people fuck." Elise hisses.

    Jacobkosh on
    Matev
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    The team moves to the hangar to confront Kane. She's admiring Fury's personal quinjet.

    She turns to face them. "Look at this thi-.... oh... uh.... hi guys?"

    "Hey Izzy," Julian says. "Can we chat?"

    “We've got a quick question for you,” Miles says.

    Kane: "...sure?"

    Phoenix: "It's been a fucking day."

    "Yeah," she says. "I imagine anything that causes the Big Boss to show up is a big day. I take it you guys found the mole."

    Phoenix: "Yeah, a couple, sort of."

    Kane: "Whoa."

    "Or..." Julian counts on his fingers. "Maybe it's kind of three, or two-and-a-half. Anyway."

    "Hang on,” Kane says. "I don't like where this is going.

    "Jewels. C'mon man. Level with me here."

    "Not like bisected half, Christ. Look, can we...?" He motions inside one of the quinjets, as much a signal to her as the rest of the team. He whispers. "Knock knock."

    She nods, and lets him in.

    Phoenix: Okay. So Vlad found you've been sending encrypted messages into low-earth orbit. What's up with that? He ran scans on like, everyone.

    About that. Kane thinks. I am still working for SWORD, right. I still report to Director Brand.

    Phoenix: Right, I figured.

    Kane: I have been sending encrypted reports on your missions and stuff to SWORD HQ. That's all.

    Wait. In low-earth orbit? There's a kind of... stillness in his communication to her.

    Kane: Uh....yeah....Peak VII. It's a re-purposed Kree satellite that we found years ago that we turned into our headquarters and spacedock.

    Phoenix: We have... a base in orbit?

    Kane: Yeah? I thought you guys are level 8 now.

    Phoenix: We just got bumped. Oh man. Did I know about this before?

    Kane: Uh... yeah. We've been there. A bunch. You used to work there.

    Phoenix: Oh my god.

    Elise squints at Julian and Kane, reading their body language. "Make out." she hisses quietly.

    Phoenix: We have a spacelab.

    Kane: If you've got level 8 clearance maybe I could find an excuse for us to go there? We could go to the Gravity Well. That's... that's the bar, on the station. You used to like it.

    Phoenix: That sounds really cool, actually.

    Kane: So we're good? I'm not a spy? Like, not more than any of the rest of us, right?

    Phoenix: Yeah, I think we're good. Sorry to put you on the spot and everything.

    Kane: It's cool.

    "Make ouuut," Elise hisses.

    Miles turns to Elise. "I know they're telecommunicating," he says. "Can you see if she's lying? Or looks...I dunno, stressed out?" he says in a low voice.

    "They're not fuckin' talkin', dude, they're not moving enough muscles in the face for me to get a clear read? They look fine. They seem fine,” she says. "Now they need to get married and have four thousand babies."

    Myrmidon: "That's definitely the next step"

    "Do you even date or is your schedule too full of Matlock?" Elise says. "Because let me tell you, if you ever check out the Van, and it's rocking? You absolutely shouldn't be knocking."

    Myrmidon will never check out the Van.

    Phoenix: You wanna get out of here before the peanut gallery has anything too clever to say?

    Kane: Yeah. Just tell them I'm not a Skrull or something.

    Phoenix: Yup, will do.

    "Oh yeah, the ladies are falling all over a dude with a robot half who eats baby food," Miles hisses back to Elise. "Thanks for reminding me."


    "Come out with me!" she says. "You can borrow the Van! Chicks love the Van. I think it's the third tit on the demon. They fucking eat that shit up."

    "I...." Miles licks his lips, hesitating. He appreciates the well-meaning gesture. "...Thanks, Elise. I'll think about it."

    Phoenix: "Okay guys, all clear, green light, we are all good to go. No Skrulls or whatever here."

    Anteater: "Are you two gonna make out?"

    Miles facepalms.

    "Because I'm your wingwoman. I'm gonna be Miles' wingwoman too.

    "That's my thing now." Elise grins. "...We can get the Van on a timeshare."

    "...oh my god" Kane says quietly. She leaves and gets on the quinjet.

    Julian just crosses his arms and regards the room. Wow.

    Kane: Jesus Christ.

    "Oh All-Father, smite me now," Michael sighs. "....Just kidding, by the way," he says to the sky.

    "Fine, if you guys are gonna be dicks and not appreciate my incredible gift of friendship, I'm going to get into the Van and get so high I forget everything that's happened this week."

    Phoenix: "I don't want to use the van on a timeshare."

    Anteater: "Fine! The Van's too cool for you anyways! I spent $1600 getting it painted!"

    Phoenix: "Yeah! Maybe! But after the third 'shift' even after changing sheets as soon as someone lays on it it'll be soaked through. Do you have spare mattresses? Jesus!"

    Elise tilts her head. "Dude, every mattress is gross. They all have fuckin' bugs and shit on them. Do you... not see the bugs?

    Like, why even bother changing the sheets, they're all fuckin' crawling anyways???"

    "...What? No!!" Julian turns a very human shade of green and walks away. "No!!!"

    r2C6Mbd.png

  • MsAnthropyMsAnthropy Our Lady of Perpetual Mazes The CageRegistered User regular
    There's a communicator to the Storm Cellar in the Quinjet!

    Okay time for some truth-telling, did the players just all forget what they were supposed to do if they needed help? Because, uh, it sure reads how I as GM would sometimes amuse fly react if players just up and forgot a detail like that...

    "The only real politics I knew was that if a guy liked Hitler, I’d beat the stuffing out of him and that would be it." -- Jack Kirby
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    MsAnthropy wrote: »
    There's a communicator to the Storm Cellar in the Quinjet!

    Okay time for some truth-telling, did the players just all forget what they were supposed to do if they needed help? Because, uh, it sure reads how I as GM would sometimes amuse fly react if players just up and forgot a detail like that...

    It was kind of a combination of things.

    1) Elise had told miles that she'd tried Clay, Brand, and Hand and couldn't get a hold of any of them. I knew Clay and Brand were in the Storm Cellar but I'd either missed or forgotten where Hand was supposed to be (or we hadn't been told, I haven't double-checked). So I assumed there was some fuckery going on and we were cut off.

    2) Miles didn't trust Kane, he thought she might be a Skrull (low Earth orbit?? Obviously a UFO!) and thought there might be another fight when they got to the Quinjet. Also, the base was on lockdown and it wasn't clear that we'd be able to get to the quinjet.

    3) We definitely forgot there was a phone on the quinjet.

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