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[Actual Play, NSFData] Marvel's Agents of STRIKE

124

Posts

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 13
    g3xuawl.png

    The dark figures are approaching Elise and Lawson, who has shed his disguise and is powering up to defend them. This has actually given them pause.

    Elise, unarmed, scrambles behind Mahr Vell. "What do I do?!"

    "Mash buttons, you can't break it," he says.

    The dark figures pull back, and are seemingly trying to decide whether they want to mess with Mahr Vell. "Okay, okay, hold on, let me see it." He moves over to the control dais for the foldgate. "This language it's...it's Kree but deviant, I'm trying to....watch my back, if they get closer, tell me."

    "I got you," Elise says.

    The weapon-wielding, armored figures seem to part, as another one walks over. They seem to defer to this newcomer.

    The tall, slim figure is probably six and a half feet tall, and moves with an ethereal grace. Elise realizes they're actually...floating, not quite touching the ground, which is why she didn't hear them coming.

    When Elise sees their face, her brain goes haywire for a moment.

    ajVVSs4.png

    Elise hears it try to speak. No, she feels it try to speak. Whispers at first, like nail scratches on the inside of her skull.

    ....what are you....

    Elise steps back, tangling hands in her hair for a second, and then she tries to speak back. "We're... Kree-ish,” she says. "He's Kree. I'm Kree-ish. We're just leaving."

    .....his blood is howling.... your blood speaks, but softly.....

    "You understand me?" She blinks. "Okay. Okay, um. We're friendly. Please don't stab me."

    ....he cannot hear....his blood is too loud....
    ....he is trying to reverse the flow....pointless....the gate is sealed....


    "Oh God." Elise's knees nearly give out. "We need to get home."

    Mahr looks up from the dais, "Huh? WHOA!" He hadn't been paying attention to Elise talking to the newcomer.

    Elise holds up a pacifying hand.

    ....where did you come from.....we know all corners of the City Of No Corners....

    "A Foldgate." Elise points at the dais. "Look, okay, there's a faction of, of people on Earth who are trying to find this place and they do not have good plans for you guys."

    "Elise...." Mahr says.

    Elise looks at Mahr, clearly terrified and flying by the seat of her pants. "Mahr, we can't get home with the gate. It's locked. We're stuck."

    ....the gate is open.....? The newcomer turns his head quizzically to the side

    "Yes, but if you walk out of it, you're going to get blasted in the face by small arms fire," Elise says. "It's, it's a hostile situation."

    ....continue.... He gestures to Mahr.

    "Why is he pointing at me?" Mahr Vehl says.

    Elise lowers her voice to talk to Mahr. "Okay, I - we're out of the danger zone. You're, you're good to try to open it. Maybe get your face back on." She turns back to the...diplomat?

    "Blugh, yeah, okay." Mahr Vell appears to grit his teeth and wince, and all the crackling electricity reforms and forms the visage of Phil Lawson. He goes back to reversing the flow.

    "So, look, okay. We want to go home, once we're home, we can sort all of this out," Elise says. "My - my people, not the Kree, but my people back home, they're open to working with allies and...we'll figure it out."

    "There, got it!" Lawson cries.

    ....gratitude…

    Elise clasps her hands together and does an awkward bow.

    "We should go now. Like right now. Tell them not to follow?" Lawson says.

    "Okay, so, you guys - you guys stay here. There'll be.. more communication. An alliance? We'll be in touch. Stay here. Please."

    .....no matter. We are legion.... Shuma-Gorath will rise again... Thule returns to Earth....
    ...gratitude…


    Elise goes white. "Okay we're - we're leaving now."

    Lawson grabs her arm and pulls her through the fold gate. The diplomat waves goodbye, tilting his head.

    PHU1KZN.png
    It’s never outright stated, but the Thulians are this universe’s version of the Deviants - Eternals or Inhumans whose transformation went wrong, rendering them twisted, mutant, and mad. As part of Matt’s tidying-up and unifying of Marvel backstory, we can assume the Asgardians have their own, Norse myth name for these dark beings living in a dark city.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Elise lands on the "other side", gasping for air. "We need to call Brand. Fury. Everyone. Oh my God. Oh my God opening this fucking door - holy fuck."

    Elise is immediately grabbed and pulled away from the door.

    By Thor.

    Elise looks up at the Avenger. "...Hi. You know, it's funny, I met Sigrun, we're uh, we're t-texting."

    There's shouting. Lots of shouting. It's drowning Elise out. She hears the other Avengers. And Fury yelling battlefield directions. He's there personally.

    She looks at Lawson and mouths: "We're going to be in so much trouble."

    Thor drops Elise off outside the cave, and Lawson is dropped off beside her by.... is that Iron Man?

    It is.

    "They're going to shoot me out of the SLINGSHOT, into the sun."

    Suddenly Elise yelps as she is grabbed again, by the collar of her vest. It's Clay.

    "C-Clay!"


    "Shush!" he says. "No names! We're not here!"

    "...Okay!"

    "Lawson!" he says.

    "You just said -" she begins.

    "He doesn't count! In general!" Clay hauls Elise onto a Quinjet, and Lawson follows. Kane is flying it.

    "So I don't get to meet the Avengers, is what I'm hearing here?" Elise asks.

    Brand is inside, although she's got a helmet on and looks like she’s trying to hide her face. "No," she says. "Kane, we're clear, wheels up."

    "...Am I fired?"

    "No," Clay says. "Lawson is getting written up."

    Elise visibly relaxes.

    The Quinjet takes off. While they’re in the air, they hear the sound of explosions. Over the Quinjet's radio chatter, they hear Tony Stark's voice. "Uh....guys, something came through the portal after those two scientists. A lot of somethings."

    Fury's voice comes on after. "Neutralize and close that portal. Banner, this is a Code Green, all non-combat personnel are clear of the site, you are good to go."

    "Oh my God,” Elise says. "Listen, Clay, I - I didn't know about any of this."

    "I know," he says. "Lawson did."

    Lawson starts to speak up, but Clay stares at him and says "Phil, y'know people just sort of have the right to remain silent in general. Not just when they're under arrest. It's just a right they have, in everyday life."

    "I saw something, Clay," Elise says. "I saw Shuma-Gorath. It looked at me. Brand and Kane were saying they want to send me for medical evaluation, but I'm not crazy, I saw it."

    Radio chatter. "Callsign Smasher, we need you to give a wide berth, Mountaintop needs clear airspace for a firing solution, acknowledge."

    Clay, Brand, and Kane gasp.

    "Oh Christ," Kane yelps. "Uh... Mountaintop, acknowledged...clearing your firing solution, over."

    "What are they doing?" Elise asks.

    Clay grits his teeth. "Mountaintop is the callsign of the Helicarrier."

    qlGmSdP.pngThe Helicarrier
    0ISUnfb.png

    CLASSIFIED INFORMATION
    LEVEL 6 ACCESS REQUIRED: GRANTED


    The existence of the SHIELD Helicarrier is not known to the general public or even most of SHIELD. It is a massive flying fortress, created using repulsor technology developed in conjunction with Stark Industries (prior to Tony Stark deciding to move away from the weapons market). It serves as a mobile aircraft carrier for SHIELD Quinjets and as a command base for SHIELD field agents.

    It serves as the primary base of operations for the Avengers, and is also where Executive Director Nick Fury is usually operating from. Where the Helicarrier is at any given time is difficult to ascertain, as it uses advanced cloaking technology above and beyond the stealth tech on SHIELD Quinjets.

    Currently, there is only one Helicarrier in SHIELD’s fleet, although there is plans to produce more at a future date when it becomes financially feasible to do so.

    Elise looks stunned. "So this - this'll be the end of it, right? It can't... continue after that."

    Clay is pale. "If it's not, I....well, Brand, SWORD has spaceships, right? We could just leave?"

    "So problem's solved?" Elise says. "No more Shuma-Gorath, no more Thule, no more armies, we're done?"

    Radio chatter. "Eagle Scouts are clear, Mountaintop, your firing solution is clear."

    Clay looks at Elise "Eagle Scouts are the Avengers."

    "Yeah, I think I got that.”

    The same voice as the one that asked Kane to move. "Firing."

    They feel the entire ship move.

    "Fuck!" Multiple people yelled that simultaneously.

    "Gaussian main cannon is good. Shot confirmed. No further activity. Clean hit. Mission success."

    "H-Hooray..." Elise leans back, clearly drained. "So that solves all problems. All problems solved!"

    "Not even in the littlest bit." Clay glares at Lawson.

    r2C6Mbd.png

    visiblehowlMsAnthropy
  • visiblehowlvisiblehowl Neutron Nerd Registered User regular
    edited September 13
    ...

    ............

    more

    visiblehowl on
    vxsHp3F.gif
    I suck at Getting Over It and am terrified of alien oceans in Subnautica on Twitch
    JacobkoshMatev
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    ...

    ............

    more

    I'm working on it!

    But the next issue is 20,000 words long. That's a lot of words!

    Everyone who's read up to this point has basically read like, half a novel's worth of content already. And we're only 3/4 through season 1!

    Powerpuppies
  • PowerpuppiesPowerpuppies Registered User regular
    Thanks Jake ilu

    sig.gif
    Jacobkosh
  • visiblehowlvisiblehowl Neutron Nerd Registered User regular
    i express enough appreciation for what jacob does in private so it's okay for me to be abusive in public

    vxsHp3F.gif
    I suck at Getting Over It and am terrified of alien oceans in Subnautica on Twitch
  • MatevMatev Cero Miedo Registered User regular
    Giving that Apocalypse line to Zemo.... amazing.

    "Go down, kick ass, and set yourselves up as gods, that's our Prime Directive!"
    Hail Hydra
    Jacobkosh
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 15
    Matev wrote: »
    Giving that Apocalypse line to Zemo.... amazing.

    it's such a good line

    this is why it blows my mind that Matt showed some of the early sessions to a buddy of his and the guy noped out because he thought it was too jokey. I'm like, wtf!

    Jacobkosh on
    MatevRear Admiral Choco
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    6PZe4qp.png

    qlGmSdP.pngIntel Update - May 27th, 2017
    LEVEL 8+ EYES ONLY
    Designated for STRIKE Agents and adjacent support personnel
    Report compiled by STRIKE-COMMS Liaison Agent Jeremiah Warrick

    Thunderbolts Attributed for STRIKE Operations; Team Leader Declared MIA
    COMMS has been engaged in a misinformation campaign to attribute STRIKE operations and conduct to the Office of National Emergency’s Thunderbolts black op. Because ONE is unable to deny these claims without acknowledging the existence of the Thunderbolts, this has been a useful cover story to divert attention away from STRIKE’s activities.

    This has inflated the reputation of the Thunderbolts among the community of terrorists, enhanced criminals, and rogue state intelligence agencies as a threat, and undermined their effectiveness.

    Intelligence gathered from inside ONE has determined that the Thunderbolts team leader, Citizen V, has been declared missing in action. Recent intel gathered by STRIKE suggests that Citizen V may have been a cover identity for HYDRA operative Baron Zemo, who is now in SHIELD custody. Unfortunately, Zemo has suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of advanced interrogation tactics, so intelligence gathering on this subject will be limited going forward.

    Wundagore Developing Diplomatic Ties With Symkaria
    The so-called “New Men” of Wundagore Valley in Symkaria have made formal (albeit covert) overtures to the court of King Stefan. They have worked out a formal agreement, granting the residents of the area a degree of autonomy and regular shipments of food and other aid supplies in exchange for Symkarian access to the geothermal energy resources of Wundagore Mountain. At this time, relations appear to be peaceful. SHIELD is closely monitoring the situation and has OPS agents in the area.

    Roxxon Stock In Freefall
    Roxxon Energy is in crisis after the assassination of their CEO, Eliza Sinclair. This is the second Roxxon CEO to be assassinated in less than a year. HYDRA was blamed for the assassination, with witnesses placing Arnim Zola and other known HYDRA agents at the scene. Roxxon’s PMC sub-division Blackguard is also suffering, as it has now failed to protect two of its own CEOs and this failure has completely shaken any faith in its executive protection services. Roxxon is a massive company, considered by many to be “too big to fail,” but at this point it is not clear what will happen next.

    AIM Selling Advanced Drone Technology
    Advanced Idea Mechanics has been aggressively marketing powerful, highly coordinated combat drones to various buyers around the globe. These include PMCs, the militaries of rogue states, terrorist groups, and drug cartels. These machines do not appear to be independently-driven AI, but tele-operated drones that AIM claims are run by their own highly sophisticated combat servers. SHIELD is investigating this matter further.

    HYDRA Leadership Collapsed
    With the acquisition of several key members of the HYDRA Thulian cult after the Greenland operation by STRIKE, HYDRA’s core leadership circle appears to have imploded. HYDRA itself is not defeated; the cellular nature of HYDRA means that it has simply gone underground and become a decentralized terror network like it was before. It is now disorganized and rudderless, and with the acquisition of Dr. Blitzschlag, has lost access to its neuro-linguistic programming capabilities to create sleeper agents. This is a major victory for SHIELD.

    Investigation into WHISPER Organization Ongoing
    Recently, SHIELD became aware of the existence of an organization known as the World Headquarters for International Scientific/Philosophical Experimentation and Research (WHISPER). This is an independent, non-government espionage agency created and run by Dr. Reed Richards. At this time, we are to officially treat all WHISPER agents as security risks and to avoid contact, but not as direct enemies and we are to avoid hostile engagements if at all possible unless engaged first. At this time, other elements of SHIELD are investigating this organization to determine its disposition and intent.

    New COMMS Director
    COMMS officially has a new Director as of today! We here at COMMS would like to thank EXEC Deputy Director Maria Hill for helping us all through the difficult period after former Director Victoria Hand left, and we would like to welcome our new Director, Monica Chang.

    Monica was originally part of SCI-TECH, and was working in the Artificial Intelligence division. However, her unique skills and brilliant mind make her uniquely suited to fill the role of COMMS Director. We look forward to working with her.

    We also all wish former Director Hand the best in her recovery. A great deal of research has been done on her condition and MED has some of the finest doctors on the planet.

    The Thule Incident
    An incident occurred 48 hours ago in Greenland at a SWORD investigation site that had been initially located by a STRIKE agent. This investigation, conducted unsafely and without proper protocol at the behest of Dr. Philip Lawson, resulted in a dimensional incursion and hostile alien life forms attempting to invade our world. SHIELD Director Nick Fury deployed the Avengers to defeat all incoming hostiles and then sanctioned the site with the Helicarrier’s main gaussian cannon. The site is now safe and the incursion was ended, but the seismic event created by the sanction was detected by multiple civilian science installations and resulted several hours worth of work for COMMS agents to create misinformation campaigns attributing the activity to glacial calving. It is extremely fortunate that the incident happened in an area as remote and completely uninhabited as it was.

    Dr. Lawson has been subjected to disciplinary action and re-assigned appropriately.

    Attilan Site Activity Suspended
    As a result of the Thule Incident’s outcome, SWORD has suspended all investigation into the second site identified by STRIKE in the Azores, speculated to potentially lead to the Inhuman settlement of Attilan. SWORD has taken control of the site and is locking it down, and is carefully examining and cataloging all artifacts. At this time, no artifacts will be “activated” or otherwise interacted with.
    Leviathan Activity On The Rise

    Recent intelligence coming from OPS and COMMS agents in Russia advise that due to recent events, Leviathan seems to be mobilizing and preparing for major action. Many Leviathan assets are being recalled and activated. More intelligence is being gathered and will be reported on as it becomes available.

    L7iRSe6l.png

    It's been a few days since the Thule Incident, and COMMS has had a few staffing changes and the STRIKE team have settled in to their new base. Clay brings the team in for a briefing.

    Elise's eyes are red rimmed, and she glowers at everyone (except Vlad) as she skulks in. Michael walks in all smiles, humming Ride of the Valkyries to himself.

    Also at the briefing are two other branch directors: SWORD Director Brand and COMMS Director Chang.

    Clay starts. "Alright folks, we have quite a bit of ground to cover. First, I want to introduce you all to our new COMMS Director, Monica Chang. I won't belabor you with her CV, I assume you read Warrick's briefing."

    Elise's hand shoots up.

    "Arnell, go."

    "Where is Miss Hand?"

    "Former Director Hand is on indefinite medical leave," he says.

    "Where?" Vladimir pipes up.

    "I didn't ask you what her status was. I asked where she is," Elise repeats. Vlad nods at this.

    "She's convalescing privately at her penthouse condo downtown,” Clay says. “She is being taken care of by the very best doctors with the MED division. Dr. Solomon is receiving regular updates on her condition."

    "What's convalescing?" Elise asks.

    Clay sighs. "She's doing her best, Elise. Life dealt her a shit hand and she's playing it the best she can. Hand's tough."

    "What happened to Miss Hand? I am confused." Vlad stares blankly at Clay.

    Abigail Brand's jaw tightens, and she folds her arms. Clay looks at her. "There's... confidentiality stuff here, Abby, I can't just..."

    "They're her friends, Clay, just tell them," Brand snaps.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Myrmidon looks around at everyone. "This is getting to the point where it's starting to interfere with things. Director, with respect, I think we may need to consider reclassifying some information so this team can continue to function." He drums his alloy fingers on the table. "We need an air-clearing session." Vlad nods slowly at Myrmidon and then returns his gaze to Clay.

    Clay nods. "Fine. Fine. Director Hand has a degenerative motor-neuron disease. It appears to be genetic, although it was latent until very recently. It's not clear exactly what initiated it to become active instead of dormant.

    "It's affected her memory, ability to speak, executive function, and motor functions."

    Elise clasps both hands to her mouth, silently horrified; Vlad puts his hand on her shoulder. Then, after a beat: "Did she get my flowers?"

    Clay nods. "Yes, Elise. She didn't understand why she received flowers, but she was very happy she got them and was happy that they came from you."

    "Jesus. I didn't get along with the woman, but..." Myrmidon trails off. Elise shoots him a vicious glare.

    "At this point we are not certain how degenerative her condition is. It was very sudden and turned very bad, very fast," Clay says. "But it hasn't seem to have gotten worse in the past few weeks, so Dr. Solomon is remaining positive."

    Julian is trying his best to hide the pallor that's washed over his face. He thinks he knows what’s happened. Elise can see it; her furious gaze shifts from Myrmidon to Phoenix and she leans back, folds her arms, and juts her chin out. "No further questions."

    "Okay,” Clay says. “If you do have further questions, please direct them to Dr. Solomon, she genuinely knows more about this than I do."

    "I'm sure lots of people know lots of things about this," Elise adds, still looking at Julian.

    "I understand this is really horrible, and that many of you had personal relationships with Victoria, but right now we also have a mission and I need you to focus on that," Clay says. "We have a defector.

    "Not from our side. From Leviathan, to us. Someone who wants to come over to us. But it's not like the Cold War, he can't just run to his nearest embassy or something. We're a global organization that isn't technically part of any government, and Leviathan is a secret society that Russia officially denies exists. We need to go pick him up. From Russia.

    "And, let's be honest, there's a very good chance that this is a trap to capture OPS agents and interrogate them for intel, or replace them with Skrulls. So, Director Fury decided that this was a STRIKE op. You're too powerful to be easily taken down by an ambush, and too difficult to replace with infiltrators even if they do."

    "Wouldn't that be horrible, if there were allies in our midst who just lied to us and did terrible stuff in the name of some moral cause?" Elise mutters just loudly enough to carry. Vlad’s gaze flicks to her and then returns to the briefing.

    "Plus, now we have Agent Hook on staff specifically to ferret out people who are not who they say they are," Clay continues. He pulls a picture up on the holographic display:

    EYXoTObl.png

    "This is Viktor Uvarov. He's a high-ranking member of Leviathan. He may also be a Skrull. Our intelligence on this point is unclear how much of the upper echelons of Leviathan command are humans, Skrulls, or human-Skrull hybrids. He's the defector, and your primary mission objective."

    "Skrulls..." Vlad says quietly, slowly shaking his head.

    Miles raises a hand. "Fake defections are a classic move, right? Assuming this goes well and we make the pickup, do we have a way to verify that he isn't some kind of poison pill being slipped to us?"

    Brand speaks up. "You're going to be transferring him to a secure SWORD facility for detention and debrief. We'll be figuring him out from there. There's a very good chance this is all an elaborate con, and if that's the case, he's not getting past us."

    "And SWORD is working on the whole Shuma-gorath thing, right?" Brand also gets the honor of not getting the brunt of Elise's foul mood.

    "Shuma-what?" Vlad looks at Elise.

    "Shaba-dabba-doo?" Myrmidon adds.

    "Damn, Vlad took the words right outta my mouth," Michael says. Vlad smiles at Behemoth slightly.

    "The Thule Incident is considered closed, Agent Arnell,” Brand says. “The incursion was halted, and the fold-gate to that location was destroyed. If you have any lingering personal effects from your experience, let Dr. Solomon know and SWORD will investigate further."

    Elise's lips thin into a line. "Okay." She leans in towards Vlad and whispers: "I'll explain it on the jet." Vlad nods.

    Clay continues. "You'll be meeting Uvarov at his mansion in the countryside outside Moscow. He's a Russian oligarch and Vice President of the Kronas Corporation, which is a known Leviathan front."

    qlGmSdP.pngKronas Corporation
    fnHMjo1.png

    Kronas is a Russian mining company and weapons manufacturer, owned by the Russian oligarch Aleksander Lukin. Lukin is an extremely influential businessman, although the rumors are that he’s not terribly popular with the Russian president, who sees him as something of a potential rival for power. However, Lukin is also a former KGB agent with ties to the modern FSB, and has enough political capital to keep him fairly entrenched.

    CLASSIFIED INFORMATION
    LEVEL 7 ACCESS REQUIRED: GRANTED


    It has been determined that Kronas is absolutely a front for Leviathan. It is unclear what Lukin’s position in the organization is, as any attempt to investigate Kronas by SHIELD is immediately vetoed by the Russian representative of the World Security Council. Russia’s official policy remains that Leviathan no longer exists, and will not allow for a Russian corporation to be investigated by a foreign agency on such suspicions. Currently, Executive Director Fury is working on back channel avenues to have a Russian representative to the Council appointed who is more in line with the Russian President’s interests, as such an individual will be more open to investigating Kronas.

    Miles nods. "Talk us through the OpFor. We've never met just regular Leviathan dudes. Are they trained agents? Half-assed mobsters? Or should we expect full-on Skrulls? Do they have a bunch of people who can do weird shit like HYDRA?"

    "The short answer is... yes," Clay says. "Leviathan's core are highly trained KGB-turned-FSB agents and GRU-Spetsnaz troops loyal to them instead of the Russian government. But on the periphery they also get involved with greasy, tracksuit-clad Russian mobsters, that sort of thing.

    "They also have some of their attempts at super-soldier programs, like the Black Widows and the Winter Soldiers. None of those are current so far as we know but they've definitely had their hands in that sort of thing.

    "And there's also a clade of Skrulls, War Skrulls, who have outright super-powers atop the general shapeshifting they all can do. SHIELD doesn't actually have any recorded incidents of encountering any War Skrulls but..."

    "SWORD does,” Brand interrupts. “Technically. There were no survivors."

    Clay inhales sharply. "Well, okay then. So...don't do that."

    "Oh, lovely," Julian says. Elise makes a "whoop de doo" finger spin as sarcastically as she can.

    "According to our contacts with Uvarov, this exfil should be clean and incognito. You're going to go in, meet with him, escort him out. He is not 100% sure who on his staff is completely loyal to him, so you can't go in with patches on and geared up, because it might turn into a cluster."

    Satisfied, Myrmidon nods at Clay.

    "Do I need to hide all of..." Elise gestures at her dual dyed hair and neck to navel tattoo. "This?"

    Clay looks at her. "That would be ideal. Use photostatic veils and a fancy wig. Niles will help you throw together something nice and professional." Elise loudly groans.

    "We're going to false-flag Roxxon on this one,” Clay says. “You're going in as some Roxxon mucky-mucks and their Blackguard security detail."

    "I love playing as a Merc,” Michael says. “So much range in the role."

    "You'll meet with Uvarov, talk some mild shop, then you'll leave with him to discuss business elsewhere. That's when you load him into your new fancy jet, and get out of Russia. That's an ideal, clean job."

    Vladimir holographically shifts into a stereotypical Russian mobster with gold chain and track suit. "Should be no problem, my main man."

    "Very good possibility someone's cover gets blown, Uvarov played you, a third party shows up we didn't expect, etc,” Clay says. “Don't go in anticipating it to be clean."

    "Do you think I'd look better as a blonde or with red hair?" Elise muses, gnawing on one of her knuckles.

    "Go with your natural color" Brand suggests.

    Elise frowns. "Mousy ass boring brown?"

    "Yes,” Brand nods. “The best disguises are boring looking."

    "Blondes do have more fun...." Myrmidon offers.

    "Any further questions?" Clay asks.

    Elise looks miserable. "Permission to throw myself in the quinjet engine?"

    "Declined, you're a critical mission asset."

    "I never get to have anything nice,” she grouses.

    "The rest of us don't get Burger King gift cards, Elise," Myrmidon points out reasonably. "Or Twizzlers. Do you know what I get? Baby food." He makes a sad face.

    Elise turns to Myrmidon and glowers again. "You know who gave me those Twizzlers? Now, if you excuse me, I need to get made up like a normie."

    Clay glances at the time. "Kane should be pulling up in your new jet now..." Elise hears it coming. Nobody else does, not until it's much closer. It's extremely quiet for a vehicle of its size.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    sM6uHRGl.jpg

    The jet pulls up and lands on the landing pad, where they can see it out the window. The ramp starts to lower, and Clay turns to watch it. "Experimental craft, SCI-TECH just finished the first one after the prototype stage and I pulled rank to grab it."

    "It looks like the COBRA jet I had when I was a kid," Miles says.

    "Ooh, so we got this before the Avengers?" Julian says. "We get all the cool toys."

    "It's called the Zephyr,” Clay says. “Upgraded stealth systems, as close to whisper quiet as a vehicle of its size can get, runs on an arc reactor so it basically can fly forever. Our existing quinjets couldn't possibly fly that close to Moscow without initiating an international incident. The Zephyr could probably park next to Castle Doom without being noticed."

    Michael whistles. "Impressive."

    "Dismissed. Go get geared up, get some disguises together. Figure out who is going to face-man it as corporate schmucks and who is going to play the role of mercenary slags,” Clay says. "Report to the jet when you're ready."

    As the team filters out, Brand taps Phoenix on the shoulder. "Adler, a word?"

    Elise is the first one at the jet. Her hair is shoulder length and mousy brown, she wears a light coat of tasteful makeup, and her tattoo isn't visible even though her blouse and blazer should show it. She smells like a light coat of perfume. She's clearly uncomfortable.

    Michael and Miles put on their Blackguard outfits from the Elisa Sinclair op and board the jet.

    Meanwhile, Brand leads Julian into one of the side officers to speak privately.
    She's...extremely tense. Julian can sense that her emotions and surface thoughts are tightly held together, like a clenched fist. She speaks slowly, trying to steady her words. "I need you to understand that I don't blame you. For what happened to Victoria. You were following orders. I blame myself for giving you those orders. You are inexperienced and powerful, and I've seen now what happens when you get pushed to go into people's minds against their will. I read about what you did to Zemo on the Raft. I understand you didn't.... you didn't mean to do what you did.

    "And you need to not blame yourself either.

    "But...."

    "But?" he says.

    She inhales hard, trying not to choke up. "I don't...I don't know, is there anything you can do? Like....can you undo what you did? Or...I just..."

    Julian is clearly deeply uncomfortable. "I mean... I don't...I don't really know. I haven't done anything like that before."

    "Ugh this is a terrible idea, maybe you'll make her worse, I shouldn't ask you this, I'm sorry,” she says.

    “I get it," he says. "You shouldn't feel bad. It made sense to me what you asked of me.” He pauses. "I don't know. This just...It fucking sucks."

    "It was a foolish mistake. I was wrong, I didn't even spot the actual Skrull in SHIELD. It was Richards the whole time, and she wasn't even loyal to Leviathan. There could still be Skrulls in SHIELD and I don't even know about it. It was all for nothing."

    Brand straightens her jacket. "Anyway, I'm sorry. Don't worry about it. Roz will do what she can. We have the best scientists in the world. We'll figure something out."

    She sighs. "You should get going, Adler. Get geared up. Good luck on your mission. If anyone asks you to do anything like that again, go in someone like that....refuse. Don't go down that road. Don't become a monster. You don't have to be.

    "I'm going back to the Peak. See you around."

    "Thanks, Director,” Julian says. “See you later."

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Myrmidon steps briskly up the gangplank and finds Elise, motioning to speak with her privately for a moment. "E-Elise? ....Huh." He takes a minute to take in this new look. "So hey. It doesn't take supersenses to tell that your head's not all the way in the game today. Is this all about Victoria Hand? Or is there something else?"

    "It's Miss Hand,” she says. “It's Lawson. It's Thule. It's Shuma-gorath. It's everything. This isn't helping. I haven't had brown hair since I was fifteen."

    He nods. "I know it's not as exciting as your usual look and I know it's not 'you' but....what if you look at it as, like, playing pretend? Or a practical joke? See how long you can keep it going." He shrugs. "I find the cloak and dagger stuff stressful. More so than the combat. At least when the guns are out, all the cards are on the table. But if I treat this undercover work as a game....I don't know. It works for me." He pauses. "But what's this about Shibboleth or whatever? Clay says that op's over. Is it not? Or...did something happen?" He looks concerned. "Did you see some shit?"

    PHU1KZN.png
    Miles is trying to figure Elise out and experimenting with different ways of trying to get through to her. He could try to manipulate her the way Victoria Hand does, but he finds that gross, and Clay’s tough-love approach doesn’t seem to be working, so he’s trying to speak to her on her level. Which comes off kind of condescending, because her level seems to be kind of adolescent sometimes.

    But it sort of works?

    Elise explains everything. It's not like her usual storytelling method, where she blows her part of it up and wanders and brags. She explains Lawson's involvement, and how he called her out. She explains the door, and how she saw It. The ICER to the chest. Lawson untying her, how the fled to Thule and held a summit on the dark and stony shores. Fury, the Helicarrier, the Avengers, everything.

    Finally Miles shakes his head. "Wow. Okay. Yeah. And Jesus, what was this civilian science guy thinking running with you into this portal? He's got balls, I guess. So..." He gathers his thoughts. "....okay. If there's anything the rest of us can do to help, please let me know. If you want us to make sure this Shuma-Gorath is for sure dead or imprisoned or whatever, we'll do that. Okay? Just promise me you'll be with us here on this op. Because it feels off to me and we're counting on you to help us figure it all out."

    "Promise me you don't know anything about Miss Hand that I don't know," she says.

    Myrmidon nods. "I promise. And whatever I learn, I will share." He holds out his pinky for the solemn vow. His real pinky.

    Elise finally grins and returns the pinky vow. "How was the date?"

    Miles tries to keep it chill but a slow grin spreads across his face like an oil slick. Elise offers him a high five, and he goes for it. Once that important business is done with, Elise nods at Myrmidon and moves away. She approaches the other team members to extract a similar promise from them, except from Julian, who takes care to board just as the wheels are going up.

    Kane calls back to the rest of the team "We are go for take-off inmy awesome new jet.” She takes off into the New York skyline. The flight to Moscow will be several hours long.

    Elise sits next to Vlad and drops her voice as low as possible, so he can pick her up but she's effectively silent to everyone else. ”I should have told you something about Lawson earlier, but Clay told me I couldn't. But I'm done lying to you. Never again.”

    Vlad is silent

    “Lawson is... an infiltrator. A good guy, but he's lying to SHIELD. He... he wants me to find this city for him. Help his people. He's a Kree.”

    Vlad slowly turns his head to Elise. Only on a frequency she can hear he says "Thank you, Elise, I will be speaking with Dr. Lawson upon our return." Vlad gives no external sign of the rage boiling within. Everyone always lies. They all lie.

    Elise slowly nods. ”Are you mad at me?”

    Vladimir shakes his head. "Never. I am happy you are ok."

    Elise smiles at him, speaking at a normal pitch again. "Thanks." Vlad smiles back.

    As they enter Russia, Myrmidon strides through the passenger bay, calling for attention. "Okay, Agent Westin already knows how this works, but we're going in as Blackguard. Roxxon's PMC. My former bosses. Ex-US and Canadian and UK Army, ex-Rangers, ex-Special Forces with experience in the sandbox. Er, Iraq and Afghanistan," he clarifies. "People who went private to make the big tall dollars.

    “I worked as close protection - a bodyguard for executives - but Blackguard gets up to all sorts of gross stuff, especially in places where the rule of law is more like the polite suggestion of law. So to get into character, you're trained, you're cocky, you're greedy. You've already picked out your gold-plated Hummer. You like hurting people. They screen for that. Okay? Just...be the douches you know you can be."

    "Eat a dick, Miles," Elise calls from the back.

    "That's the spirit!" Julian says.

    Miles nods sagely. "Now you're getting it.” Michael gives a thumbs up.

    Kane comes over from the cockpit, putting the autopilot on. She is ashen.

    "I just got a message from Clay. Dr. Lawson was being transported to the Triskelion, when his transport craft exploded. He...he didn't survive. There's no evidence of an external attack, but SHIELD suspects sabotage and SEC is investigating, Agent Munroe is already on the scene. The only survivor was the pilot of the quinjet. SWORD has taken her into custody, but she's in critical condition."

    “Fuck,” Miles and Julian say at once. Vlad stares at Kane, taking this in. His fist clenches.

    "What?" Elise stands, shocked. "No. No, no, no, there has to be some kind of mistake."

    "I don't know all the details,” Kane says. “I came to tell you as soon as I heard."

    Elise turns on her heel and begins to pace, texting on her phone. Vlad gets a message. He is alive. He has to be alive. I saw him Kree out. He couldn't die like this. He's doing something.

    A reply appears. I understand, we will search for him

    just play it cool. Elise sits down. "T-thank you, Kane."

    Kane nods, and goes back to the cockpit "I'll let you know if I hear more. If Munroe is involved and SWORD took custody of the pilot, then they think Skrulls are involved somehow."

    Elise half nods, furiously thumb typing and ignoring the rest of the team.

    "Dr. Lawson will be missed but we must continue on to our mission." Vlad's tone is cold and direct.

    The flight continues. After a few more hours, Kane calls back. "We are approaching the LZ. Get your game faces on, people."

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

    The Zephyr lands thirty miles outside the city, in a field. It's the middle of the night, and it is raining lightly. The ramp lowers, and a red-headed woman is standing next to a black SUV. It's Natasha Romanov, the Black Widow.

    Adjusting his tie, Miles steps smartly down the ramp in his wingtips and mirror-polished Ray-Bans. "Evening," he says.

    "Agents." she says as the team deplanes. "No names, no codenames, even. I'm not here, you're not here, you people are above my paygrade. I'm just here to drop off a car and some local currency and papers in case you get stopped."

    "Copy that," Myrmidon nods.

    "Take the SUV to Uvarov's mansion. Location's already in the GPS. Meet the objective, exfil back to this location, press this combination on the dash console..." she shows Myrmidon.

    "Can I get your number?" Elise asks.

    Romanov shakes her head. "No, I'm taken."

    Elise nods solemnly. "Had to try."

    "Oh my god," Julian says. "You're a hound."

    "It's not like Sigrun and I are married," Elise protests. Or advanced beyond nervous meme texts at 3am. Michael smiles at the mention of Sigrun's name.

    Elise glances at Michael. "What, did you guys make up?"

    "We had a chat, and it's all cool now," Michael says.

    "Did she mention me?" Elise asks.

    "I don't recall, had pressing matters to attend to," Michael says.

    Romanov turns back to the car. "This combination will dispose of the vehicle and all contents, so don't leave anything you don't want to lose. Leave anything you do want to lose, like any bodies you have to drop."

    "Cool," Miles murmurs, running his real fingers over the SUV's interior.

    "Any questions? No, because I don't have answers. Seeya." Romanov leaves a small satchel containing papers and some local cash on the driver's seat and walks away, over to a nearby hedge. She pulls out a concealed motorcycle, puts on her helmet, and drives off into the night.

    The cloaking device on the Zephyr engages. It's just...gone. Even the impressions of its landing gear in the grass are invisible.

    "Guys, we should remember where we parked,” Michael says. “Damn that's cool,"

    Elise pauses and then experimentally spits where the plane should be. She notices something nobody else would. The spit does hit something, but it also simultaneously vanishes and continues to move as if it didn't hit anything within a split-second. A detail nobody else could see. Really advanced holography simulating her spit still moving as expected.

    Vlad, watching, is impressed. He activates his holographic disguise, becoming a mid-level Russian mobster.

    The team loads up into the SUV; Elise calls shotgun, Miles sits behind the driver (his robotic left side facing outward, where incoming fire might come from), Vlad in the middle rear, and Michael behind the passenger seat.

    Julian takes the wheel. He cranes his neck around and gives everyone a wild look. "Y'all ever been driven by someone who can't die before?" He flashes a grin and starts the engine.

    "I knew I should've stayed home today," Michael says.

    "You know what I'm going to ask, Phoenix," Miles says solemnly.

    "Yes,” Elise says to Phoenix, “Vlad used to chauffeur me to the 7/11. Miles, what was your question?"

    "Does this get SiriusXM?"

    "Are you serious?" Elise asks. "I thought you were going to ask him to join the pinkie coalition about Miss Hand!"

    It does.

    "Yessssssssss," Myrmidon whispers.

    finding a station. "Put a glide in your stride, a dip in your hip, and come on up to the Mothership!"



    The team follows the onboard GPS to the mansion. It doesn't take long.

    Myrmidon is drumming his knees with the beat. "Remember. Cocky."

    Phoenix nods. "Mmmmhm. Ain't nothin' but a party, y'all."

    "Julian, do you know anything?" Elise yells above the music.

    Julian turns it down a notch. "About Hand?"

    The team is pulling up the private lane to the mansion gate. Vlad makes a cellphone appear on him, with an earpiece as well. He begins to pretend to speak with other mobsters in Russian, even simulating the other end of the conversation. He speaks loudly and obnoxiously in thick Russian.

    "Yeah," Elise says loudly. The car is loud. The music is loud, Vlad is talking loudly, the mansion is bright.

    "We may need to table this for a bit. Game faces. We're here," Miles says. "Remember: douchebags."

    Elise grimaces. "Fine."

    PHU1KZN.png
    The team aren’t actively conspiring to keep Elise in the dark; nobody but Julian knows what happened to Hand. But we the players kind of are. Sometimes there’s a conversation that a character would logically want to have, but we the players know that the current scene is about something else (like infiltrating a bad guy base) so we kind of contrive reasons to put the conversation off. Which also extends the dramatic tension.

    For instance, when Miles was urgently asking Elise about Victoria Hand’s plan for the team, Matt shot a missile at us.

    On a different subject: something I forgot to mention about the SiriusXM running gag is that Sirius is definitely a sponsor of our collective mental TV show of Agents of S.T.R.I.K.E., so we imagine that references to it have to be shoehorned in occasionally, like how all those CW shows sponsored by Microsoft have characters prominently turning their Microsoft Surface to face the camera.

    Bui seriously, 150 channels of streaming satellite music anytime for just pennies a day? It’s such a great deal it’d be foolish not to take it.

    They pull up to the gates. A voice comes over the speaker, in Russian. Julian doesn't speak Russian. Vlad understands that it's angrily asking who they are, and what they want.

    Julian gestures at the speaker. "Vlad, could you...?"

    Vlad leans forward into the front seat shouting in Russian to the speaker and camera. "Hey! I don't have fuckin time for this, shithead. I'm here to see my Uncle! OPEN THE FUCK UP!" Elise stifles a laugh.

    The voice comes back "Alright, alright, god damn kids..." The gate opens.

    Vlad returns to his fake conversation. The SUV pulls up and around to the front door. There are armed guards everywhere, professional looking guys in black suits with earpieces.

    Elise climbs out of the SUV and gives her shittiest sneer. The rest of the group, looking appropriately merc-y, join her.

    PHU1KZN.png
    We kind of forgot that we were supposed to be framing Roxxon for this, but Jake’s Russian mobster was a good play and Matt let us roll with it, so.

    Two guards lead the group to and through the door, saying to Vlad, "Mr. Uvarov says he's expecting you."

    "Da, da, good. Let's go, buddy,” Vlad waves them on.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    The team are led into the mansion.

    z6dT9Yzl.png

    It's.... seen better days. While it looks really nice on the outside, inside it's kind of a shithole. Music blasts over wall-mounted stereo speakers.



    Vlad spins around to the music and laughs. "Uncle, I am here!"

    They are led up the stairs to an office, and Viktor Uvarov is there. "Nephew!" He gets up from his chair, smiling, and pulls Vlad into a hug, whispering while chuckling, "Which one are you again?"

    "Vlad," the tracksuit-clad gangster whispers back.

    "Vlad! My favorite nephew! Not like your poosy brother Piotyr." He claps Vlad on the shoulders and laughs.

    Vlad laughs. "Piotyr!" Vlad laughs deep and full. Behind him, Miles has fallen into the old habit of staying close to his principal, quickly sizing up Uvarov for weapons, eyeing every corner of the surroundings.

    Uvarov appears unarmed, wearing a disheveled suit and no tie. He has two armed guards in the room with him. "Come, do a line of koka with uncle!" He pulls out some cocaine, and looks at his two bodyguards. "The fuck out! I'm here with my nephew!"

    The two bodyguards gesture at the rest of Vlad's "security" and Uvarov shouts at them. "Out! I'll take off my shoe you bitches!"

    "My man!" Vlad grins widely and double flips the bodyguards off, laughing. They quickly scoot out of the room.

    Elise's nostrils twitch, and she briefly remembers a casino on the outskirts of Vegas. Miles eyes the stuff with a quick flash of envy. The surroundings, the goings-on....this is bringing all of it back.

    The two guards close the door behind him, and Uvarov sighs, sits down, carefully puts the cocaine away and straightens his shirt. "Sorry about that," he says in perfect English. "Please, sit down."

    Vladimir nods. "Of course." Elise sits down and watches Uvarov like a hawk, while Michael keeps an eye on the door.

    "We are just us here,” Uvarov says. “Very quiet room, no bugs. You can speak freely. I assume you have questions before you bring me in?"

    Vlad looks to Myrmidon and then back at Uvarov. Miles, taking the cue, speaks. "Well, first ones first. Leviathan. What do you know about their inner circle?"

    While they talk, Vlad surreptitiously scans the room. It is not only bug-free, but contains a device that is actively emitting a signal to baffle bugs and external listening devices.

    Uvarov smiles at Myrmidon’s question and leans back. "A fair bit. I am within that inner circle. Or, was. The only one of the Second who is so."

    "The Second Generation." Myrmidon says. It's not really a question.

    "Why switch? Why now?" Elise asks.

    He nods at Myrmidon. "Because I tire of my father's war. It is not mine."

    Julian gives Myrmidon a knock. Permission to look around, or you want me to hold up?

    Myrmidon: Hold up for now. He admitted the alien connection. That's a big risk if they thought they were just playing a trick on us. He might be legit.

    Phoenix: Cool. I will stand around, looking appropriately cool.

    Uvarov continues. "How much do you know? I do not ask to turn the tables, merely to understand what must be said and not. What do you suspect me to be?"

    Elise opens her senses to the room, trying to pick up on anything and everything, while he's distracted talking to Myrmidon. He has drugs. Alcohol. She can smell gunpowder and brass. There's a handgun in his desk drawer. "Hand over the gun," she says abruptly.

    He quirks an eyebrow. "Not conventional field agents, then."

    She smiles. He gestures at the desk drawer. "You can take it, I will make no movements. It's for them, not for you."

    Myrmidon nods assent to Elise. "Take the piece, if you would.” She does; it’s a Russian military sidearm. Elise takes it and puts it in her waistband. Miles turns to the defector. “To your question, I know that we're all fighting a war we, ah, inherited. And I know that there's a bigger threat coming for us all. A reason for us to bring a swift end to this."

    Uvarov nods at Myrmidon. "Do you know what my father never had?" he asks. "Patriotism."

    Myrmidon has pocketed his Ray-Bans and is gazing levelly at Uvarov as he speaks.

    "He loved his people, his species, but he never had love for an idea of where those people could go. Love of a country. A nation of people, what they could accomplish," Uvarov says. "He and the others, in Leviathan, they were not patriots.

    "Oh, they will tell you they were, they will tell you how much they did for the Soviet Union, how were it not for them, the Russian people would still be ruled by the Tsar.” He gestures and smiles "But where is this Soviet Union now?

    "Who is our President, if not a Tsar?" He stands up and pours himself a drink. "When my father's people came to this world, do you know what they did? What did they tell you, your employers? I am curious."

    He sips his drink.

    "There was an explosion,” Miles says hesitantly. “The Tunguska blast."

    Uvarov tsks. "No, no, that's just what happened. Not what they did.

    “They turned on their Empire.

    "When my father, when he and all the others realized their craft was destroyed, when there was no going back to the Empire for them... they turned on their leader. The Crown Prince.

    "They were not patriots. The Prince, he wanted to to rebuild the ship. Find a way home. Leave. But my father, his people, Leviathan..they wanted to stay. They wanted no kings. No emperors. No gods. Only they would lead."

    Miles leans forward. "...The Crown Prince? Did they kill him?"

    "No, no, he escaped. I think he died? Sometime in the 40's," Uvarov shrugs. "During the war."

    Elise, thoroughly bored at this point, has found an office chair and is spinning in it.

    "Does Leviathan care about anything anymore?" Miles says. He, by contrast, is not bored and wants to hear all of this.

    "Power. Power for themselves. Ruling the Earth as their own personal plaything. And for what? You know what I am, but only by blood. By birth, by soul, I am Russian," Uvarov says. "I am a patriot."

    A pause. "What would happen if they learned that the Phoenix was here?" Miles asks.

    Uvarov spits out his drink. "I'm sorry, what?"

    "The Phoenix,” Miles says. “Let's say someone told them it's here." Vlad smiles slightly at this.

    "That would be....a dangerous bluff. It may drive them to try to abandon this world or...it might drive them to destroy it, to deny the Devourer his prize. There's...there's a madness that sets in on my father's people when they speak of the Devourer and the fire-bird that heralds his coming."

    "Good thing he's totally not here," Elise adds. "It.

    "It's totally not here."

    Vlad whispers "Nailed it" to Elise.

    Myrmidon nods. "Something to keep in our back pocket, maybe. If we need to clear the aliens out in a hurry. Like pulling the fire alarm in the dorm at night."

    Uvarov looks grim. "That's...that's beyond underhanded."

    PHU1KZN.png
    Can you imagine a better compliment to get in a spy game? :D

    So Leviathan are Skrull communists, basically, as opposed to the old Skrull imperialists or the new Skrull religious zealots. And this explains their affinity for the Soviet Union - or maybe it explains why the Soviet Union happened in the first place.

    Unfortunately, none of these flavors of Skrull appear to be good for the Earth.

    "They skinsteal," Elise points out.

    "About that..." Uvarov says. "I understand you doubt my intentions. My veracity. What if I gave you more than just myself as an offering? And allowed you to strike Leviathan in a way that truly harmed their ability to undermine you?"

    "I'm listening,” Myrmidon says.

    Uvarov refills his drink. "Does that stuff actually taste good, by the way?" Miles asks.

    "Mhm, yes." Their host offers Myrmidon a drink, and Miles accepts. He can sip a bit of alcohol once every so often. Just a bit.

    "There is a facility, the word in my father's language translates to 'Cradle.' It is one of many, no one member of Leviathan knows the location of all of them. You know when we...replace someone, wholly and completely, we must...store them somewhere? A Cradle is a facility in which many such people are stored.

    "It will be heavily guarded, and extremely dangerous, but you do not appear to be mere field agents" He sips his drink and winks. "The people stored in that Cradle are all individuals who have been replaced by infiltrators, and are being kept alive to maintain an empathic link and memory base. To better facilitate mimicry. If you free them, the infiltrators will be easy to find, and will have difficulty keeping their cover."

    "Holy fuck," Elise breathes.

    "Does this Cradle sustain these people indefinitely?" Julian asks.

    "To their natural lifespan. It maintains their bodies, and even sees to it that their muscles do not atrophy, but it does not halt the aging process. They cannot be put into a true stasis for our abilities to work. They are effectively in comas."

    "Effectively?" Vladimir asks.

    "It's not precisely the same thing. It's complicated, and to be frank, I am not a scientist and do not know a great deal about the subject directly,” Uvarov says.

    Vlad elaborates. "Are they aware in some way of anything? You mentioned empathic connections."

    Uvarov nods. "There's residual connection from their impersonator. The word my father's people use for it translates to 'the bleed.' Emotions, flashes of memory, vague feelings. If your impersonator, in your absence, developed a fondness for American cheeseburgers and ate them regularly, when you awaken, you may find yourself fond of such a food for reasons you do not comprehend."

    Vladimir: "And if you commit horrors?"

    Uvarov: "....it would be unpleasant."

    "Hm," Myrmidon says.

    "I have never engaged in a mind-link, myself,” Uvarov explains. “As the son of one of the inner circle, I was never called to. I have taken another man's face from time to time, but only out of convenience and he was still alert and drew breath while doing so. Or...or I killed him, because it was less work to do so."

    Myrmidon nods. "This sounds like a high-value target, and frankly, our job is to get you safely and in one piece to people who are potentially better equipped to assess your veracity. But for what it's worth, this is interesting and I appreciate the gesture. Does anyone in your organization have any reason to suspect that you might be thinking of, ah, pursuing other opportunities?"

    "No, my father is well regarded and...." There's a knock at the door.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Miles shoots glances at his team, indicating they should try and find out who’s on the other side. Elise opens her senses up. She can hear three figures outside. Two are definitely the security guards from before. One is another, different person. Lighter. Smells of expensive cologne, lightly applied.

    "It's your dudes." She hisses to Uvarov. She tears off her blazer, pulls out the cocaine, and undoes a few buttons on the blouse. Seeing this, Julian musses up his hair.

    "Good thinking," Miles hisses to Elise. He dips a couple fingers in the coke.

    "What! What is this! I am spending time with nephew!" Uvarov calls in his Russian-accented voice again.

    "What the fuck!" Vlad calls in his gangster voice. "Come on!" He tries to scan any electronics or concealed weapons on the newcomer, but Uvarov’s jammer makes seeing outside of the room impossible.

    Uvarov opens the door a crack. "WHAT DO YOU.... oh. Oh, hello Sergei."

    "I can come in, Viktor." The voice on the other end speaks in steady Russian. He's not asking. Vlad stands up, while behind him, Elise fumbles for a bill.

    Uvarov opens the door. A blond man in a dark suit with a red tie walks in. The two security guards move to follow, but he clicks his tongue and they close the door behind him, leaving the group all alone.

    "Seems like quite the party you are having here, Viktor," he says, in clear but lightly Russian-accented English. He takes a seat in front of the window.

    RhMwY2Rl.jpg

    Elise hesitantly hovers over the cocaine. It's half an act.

    "Please, continue." he gestures to Elise. "Don't stop the party on my account. I heard Viktor's nephew was in town, one I've never met, so I decided to stop by."

    Uvarov is trying to not look nervous. Elise can tell he's very nervous. She hesitantly looks at the rest of the group while she rolls a bill. Vlad attempts to break through the jamming of the office and search for the man’s identity.

    Vladimir manages to run the man’s face through SHIELD's database. He is Sergei Krylov, aka "The Presence." He is a high-ranking member of Leviathan. He is rumored to be a powerful telepath, possibly with psychokinetic abilities (the ability to force people to do things). Vlad uploads his profile to Myrmidon.

    Elise really, honestly tries to do things sneaky. But when she gets close enough, the smell lights her brain up and she does the line.


    Myrmidon: FFFF. Phoenix. This guy's a telepath. Maybe a mind controller wait what the fuck is going on with Elise OH NO

    Elise is fucked up on cocaine.

    Phoenix: Oh my God. Fuck.

    "Oh shit no way, Uncle told me about you," Vlad snaps his fingers.

    "Did he now?" Krylov says.

    "Yeah, wow, man," Vlad says. "Like you the real boogieman, like shit."

    Krylov looks Vlad directly in the eyes. "Tell me everything your uncle told you before I got here." Myrmidon tenses at Krylov's words. He knows what's going on.

    Vlad can feel... something intruding on his consciousness. Something foreign. He feels like Krylov wants Vlad to tell him everything…

    ….but he has no power over Vlad; Vlad can tell Krylov whatever Vlad wants, and Krylov will believe him. As long as he words it carefully.

    PHU1KZN.png
    Vlad successfully rolled to resist. Normally, as a machine, he’s immune to telepathy, but Krylov’s power to compel apparently extends beyond “mere” telepathy.

    “Ok, like, shit, he says you speak the people listen, man," Vlad sniffs. "And you, like, make people vanish, pow!" Vlad smacks his fists together. "You the real deal, man. BOOGIEMAN in the house, shit, man.”

    "Mhm." Krylov leans back in his chair. "You." he points at Myrmidon. "Pour me a drink." Miles pours Krylov a drink.

    Elise is snorting and coughing pupils dilating. She’s visibly fucked up. Julian tries to use a series of mental impulses to restore Elise's mental clarity.

    It...sort of works.

    Elise collapses to the floor, coughing and hacking. She has a nosebleed, but is no longer high as fuck. Vlad gets up. "Shit, girl, you ok? FUCK."

    Krylov furrows his brow and looks at Vlad. "This is why you don't let women on your detail. Can't hold their koka."

    "Eh she's good, man,” Vlad waves this off. “Girl, sit down now, chill out, okay?"

    "Stronger than I'm used to." Elise lies, hauling herself back into her chair and trying to stop the flow of blood with her abandoned blazer.

    Krylov steeples his fingers and looks over at Uvarov. "Are we good then, Viktor? Nothing to talk about? Your uncle, he is concerned. You left the meeting yesterday very upset."

    Uvarov shuffles nervously. "Erm....Sergei, in front of my nephew and his friends, we shouldn't... not in English..."

    Myrmidon busies himself helping Elise. He listens intently. He records everything. What's this about a meeting? About leaving upset?

    Krylov chuckles. "Pah, I'll tell them to forget it all later, it's fine, whatever. You will tell me what your problem was yesterday. Why were you so upset with your uncle?" Uvarov is visibly sweating. "Viktor, you know if I ask twice, the second time hurts."

    Vlad sends Myrmidon a message. Are we made?

    Myrmidon assumes the more alert posture of a bodyguard whose boss is caught in between two people who seem to be having a disagreement, ready to spirit off his principal at a moment's notice. Play it cool, he replies. This is our chance to find out more. If Krylov forces it out of him, Krylov goes down about a half second later. But until then we listen and we remember everything.

    Uvarov grunts "I think...I think Vasili is wrong."

    qlGmSdP.pngThe Magadan
    WXuWdY0.png

    Real name: Vasili Dassaiev (allegedly), possibly another individual if Dassaiev is deceased.
    Documented extranormal capabilities: Unknown.

    The Magadan is, according to our best intelligence, Leviathan’s leader. The Magadan is a codename, and may or may not be FSB officer Vasili Dassaiev. Dassaiev was reported KIA by a SHIELD covert op years ago, but there was no confirmation of the termination (his status is more accurately assessed as MIA, presumed dead). He was, at the time, the best candidate for the position of the Magadan. At that time, he did not display any extranormal capabilities, but the agents in charge of his termination didn’t take any chances with their methodology to find out.

    If Dassaiev was the Magadan and was successfully KIA, he was likely replaced in the position by a new Leviathan operative. Who that is and what abilities they may have is unclear.

    Uvarov continues. "About the Substance, and its impact. I do not believe it will do what he thinks it will do. I think that the HYDRA defector has lied to him."

    The Substance. HYDRA defector. Myrmidon begins sending his recording data to a backup drive located elsewhere in his body. Just in case someone tells him to forget.

    Elise watches the conversation, trying to sense everything she can about both men. Uvarov is terrified. Nervous. Speaking very carefully. Krylov is calm, believes he's in perfect control, but curious. Like a cat toying with prey.

    "Tell me what you think the problem with the Substance is. Tell me what you think will happen when the Dust is activated."

    Uvarov’s hand is shaking. He puts down his drink. "I...I think it won't kill all the humans. Not all of them, not like Vasili intends. I think it's only toxic to some humans, to others....it will empower them. And the concentrations in the Dust weapon, it won't...it won't kill anyone. It will only empower the humans with Kree DNA."

    Elise puts the pieces together in her head. She reaches slowly for her phone, hand under the blazer, playing up the nose bleed.

    Krylov sighs. "Ah, yes, the so-called 'Inhumans,’" he says with actual quote fingers. "I have heard of this nonsense. The supposed Kree-Human hybrid superweapons. It is nonsense. The Substance is a HYDRA poison, nothing more, that the defector has..."

    Elise's phone falls out of her pocket with a loud thunk.

    "What the fuck..." Krylov’s eyes start to narrow.

    Vlad's head snaps at Elise. "Holy fuck, girl! GO WAIT OUTSIDE! FUCK!" Vlad grabs Elise by the back of the neck, dragging her from her seat and throwing her roughly outside of the room.

    "Fire that stupid bitch," Krylov says to Vlad. It is not a suggestion.

    "Yeah I'm gonna deal with her..." Vlad says. "Sorry, man."

    Krylov looks back to Viktor. "Why did you not go to your uncle, or to me, with this information or your concerns? Why storm out of the meeting like a little bitchboy and pout? It made us think you were disloyal, Viktor. You are not a scientist. Let scientists do science.

    "Bah, I will tell your uncle about your concerns, I am done here." He stands up, straightens his tie and jacket, and looks at Vlad. "I will be taking that girl. I'll teach her some manners."

    "Wow no, no man," Vlad pleads. "She's my sister's kid."

    "Then your sister raised a whore." Krylov stares. "I ask again, it will hurt."

    Out in the hall, Anteater slowly reaches for the gun she took from the desk.

    "No doubt man, but like please sir. Please. You can't," Vlad says.

    Krylov starts to redden. "Don't.... don't tell me what I can't…”

    Myrmidon fires a fully-charged repulsor blast straight into his head. Krylov goes flying into the wall and crumples into a heap.

    "Oh FUCK!" Uvarov yells.

    "Сука," Michael spits at Krylov.

    "Make sure he's down," Myrmidon says. Vlad runs up to stun Krylov with a charge, but realizes that he doesn’t know if Krylov is a human, a Skrull, a hybrid, or what. He decides to err on the side of caution. He grips Krylov's skull from behind and sends everything he has into him.

    Krylov's body shakes and he screeches in a way that no human voice could make. Because he isn't. He's a Skrull, which becomes clear when he shifts back to his normal form as he stops moving. His body is smoking from the electricity. He's not breathing.

    Myrmidon draws his "bodyguard" sidearm. "Remember. We're Roxxon. We're assholes. Assholes don't use ICERs. I'm authorizing a full sanction on everyone who tries to stop us here." Michael follows suit and gets ready to blast anyone coming through the door.

    Uvarov yells "No! No! Stop! Stop! Please!"

    "....Make it quick,” Miles snaps. “We've only got moments."

    His guards burst in through the door, but Uvarov shouts at them in Russian to leave, to go, and they move back. "They won't...they won't stop us. They're my people. They only let Sergei in because he made them."

    Elise enters the room, gun drawn, tears and blood mingling on her face.

    "They'll cover this up,” Uvarov continues, “they're good boys. Good Russians.”

    "Then let's fucking go,” Anteater says.

    "What are we doing with this one?" Vlad asks.

    "I hope you're right," Miles says to Uvarov. "Fall out, everyone. Vlad or Michael, if you can carry the body, it might be a good idea to bring it with us."

    Uvarov looks at Krylov's smoking body. "....you killed him. He....he was a War Skrull. One of the First. He fought with my father, with my uncle in the war. He was honor guard to the Crown Prince.... I didn't...I didn't think they could die."

    Vlad hoists the body onto his shoulder. Uvarov follows Myrmidon. "There's nothing for me here. I've crossed the line now."

    "What was that about Dust?” Miles says. “A weapon that won't kill all the humans? That sounds ominous."

    "I was going to tell your superiors about this. I did not think you would believe me, so I offered the information about the Cradle instead."

    "Remember Alchemax?" Elise says to Miles. "Same shit, just spread via crop duster and not breakfast bars." She is visibly agitated.

    Uvarov nods. "I can tell you more after we leave. We must go."

    "Stay frosty, everyone." MIles hustles the team forward. "Sir, if you could keep scanning your people. Just make sure everyone on your team is....actually on your team. Right?"

    "Yeah, yeah." The team escorts Uvarov and takes Krylov's body out with them to the SUV, and takes off. Uvarov's guards let them go. At the last minute, Elise remembers her phone and doubles back for it, avoiding a security nightmare.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    The team drives out to the Zephyr, and loads up quickly, taking off. While the Zephyr is in the air, Kane puts it on auto-pilot and comes back to the rest of the team. "He goes in a cell." She says, referring to Viktor. "So does that body, in case it wakes up. This jet has cells."

    "Everything has cells, Kane," Elise says. "And the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell."

    "Vladimir doesn't. Way to be robophobic." Kane grins. Vlad smiles.

    "You are 100% not allowed to be mean to me right now, Kane, I'm covered in blood and I cried four times."

    "I am sorry about your neck, Elise," Vlad says.

    Viktor and Krylov get loaded into separate cells. Elise finds a place on the quinjet and tears off the mousy brown wig, tosses it across the jet, unhooks the photostatic veil, and wipes more blood off her face with the expensive blouse. Vlad drops his gangster disguise and resumes his robotic form.

    Once Viktor is secured, Kane looks at Myrmidon. "Okay, important question: Is he a Skrull?"

    Myrmidon nods. "He's a Skrull. He seems to be cooperating. He told us about a place where they're holding the people they've copied - and a doomsday weapon they've got cooking up. I mean, this could be 5-D chess, but I'm inclined to believe him."

    "Okay, salient detail for me is he's a Skrull, because that changes my orders," Kane says. "I gotta call this in."

    Myrmidon’s lips thin. "I hope that doesn't mean you're killing him or something."

    "Nope, just changes our potential destination." She moves to the cockpit and gets on the radio. "Smasher to Peak VII. I have two Emeralds on payload, one is live and the other potentially in repose. Live Emerald is of unknown disposition, potential asset. This is a STRIKE op."

    Elise puts on a stage whisper. "They're emeralds because they're skrulls. Skrulls...are green. Do you get it."

    There's a reply. "Smasher, this Peak Actual, you are to proceed to LEO and Docking Bay 2 ASAP for deposit."

    Kane pauses and looks at Myrmidon, then turns her gaze back to the radio. "Uh... Peak Actual please confirm orders, I have a STRIKE team on-board, are we to proceed to LEO to deposit on direct course?"

    Vlad scans the airwaves. The Zephyr is transmitting on an encrypted frequency that is...going into space.

    The Peak voice comes back. "That is confirmed, Smasher, order comes down from Sagittarius personally. Proceed immediately, no stoppage. STRIKE team is level 8, you are cleared to dock."

    "Where are you taking us Kane?" Vlad asks.

    "...space?" Kane says.

    Myrmidon’s lips move silently for a moment before he slaps his head. "LEO? Low....oh, fuck you."

    Kane nods. "You guys...you guys are going to want to belt up."

    Myrmidon straps in next to Kane. "This I gotta see."

    "Can I just get... one break today," Elise murmurs. "Just one thing that isn't dumb as fuck. Just one thing! Maybe we get to space, and there are cupcakes?"
    r
    "I do not think there are cupcakes, Elise,” Vlad says.

    Kane looks plaintively at Elise. "There might be? There's a lounge, they might have cupcakes." She shrugs. "They have beer."

    "I can't believe I took a line so we wouldn't get made, and then you fucked the cocaine right out of my skull, dude." Elise glares at Julian as she buckles in.

    "I mean, I'm sorry!" Julian holds up his hands. "At least I didn't literally - never mind. You wanna just get fucked up later when we're not on the job?"

    "...You buying?" Elise says.

    He nods vigorously. "Of course."

    "So, the other cool thing about my cool new jet is it can go to space." Kane announces. "You're going to feel some pressure for a bit as we pull some hard G's, but then the artificial gravity and inertial dampeners will kick in and you'll stop feeling the T-grav."

    Vladimir doesn’t buckle up; he magnetizes his feet to the floor. Elise grumbles and grips the armrests as hard as she can.

    Kane gets back on the radio "Smasher to Peak Actual, we are proceeding to LEO, docking soon thereafter." The team feels the plane rapidly ascend, and an intense pressure as the Zephyr accelerates "Switching to repulsors only, engaging i-damps and a-grav..."

    "I hate you so much right now, Smasher," Elise grits out as she’s crushed into her seat.

    Suddenly, the pressure is gone. It doesn't even feel like the plane is moving. From the viewport out of the front of the Zephyr, Myrmidon can see the Earth's horizon rapidly recede beneath them as they drift into low earth orbit.

    They're in space.

    "Hahahahahahaha holy shiiiiiiiiiiiit," Miles laughs disbelievingly. Elise immediately unbuckles and runs to a window. Vlad joins her.

    They are definitely in space. The Zephyr is moving incredibly fast, but they don't feel it at all.

    "This fucking owns! Let's do a loop around the moon!" Elise gapes. "Let's go to the moon and knock the US flag over!"

    "Do you still hate me, Elise?" Kane says with an impish smile.

    "You're okay." Elise can't help but grin as she makes a waffle motion with her hand.

    Julian laughs. "Space is pretty cool."

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    "Alright, we're coming up on the Peak."

    G4t1yQNl.png

    "Hoe-le-y shit," Michael breathes.

    "Wait, Kane, back in Greenland," Elise says. "Brand said she wanted to send me here for medical evaluation."

    "Yes," Kane says.

    "How does that even work. Omg - " Elise actually says 'oh ehm gee' - "Were they going to do SPACE SCIENCE to me?"

    "Yes," Kane says.

    "What the fuck! That owns so hard!"

    "So.... okay... op-sec," Kane begins. Elise groans.

    Kane turns in her chair. "The Peak is SWORD's headquarters. It is also the only legal port-of-call for ETs coming to Earth for any reason if they don't want to immediately be declared hostile.

    "So, you very likely will see aliens. Ones you've never seen before. Stuff we haven't told you about because it's not...super important? They're not threats to Earth and maybe they're like, the only one of their species here."

    "Are there Kree?" Elise asks.

    "No. There shouldn't be," Kane says.

    Elise nods. "Okay."

    "Sol space is a neutral zone in the Kree-Skrull War. Any Kree here would be in violation of that, that'd bring the Nova Corps sniffing around," Kane explains. "We're like.... space Switzerland? Or Casablanca."

    "I have seen that movie," Vlad says.

    "We keep our neutrality by staying out of the war. No Kree, no Skrulls, no allied factions from either side of the war. So any aliens you see will be neutrals. Some refugees trying to apply for legal entry to come live on Earth. That's... that's probably going to get worse in the next few years as the war gets worse."

    "...Do I count as a Kree?" Elise asks.

    "No," Kane says. "To be clear, when I say no Kree I mean no Imperial Kree. And no Imperial Skrulls. So nobody loyal to the Empires at war. Like our friend back there is from Leviathan, he's not even technically part of the current Skrull Empire, which is a whole...other thing. He might even be born here, I dunno.

    "If you do see a Kree or Skrull it's probably some refugee or deserter, but as policy we've been turning people like that away so unless that's changed since the last time I was here, you won't see any of either.

    "But just...be mindful of the fact that some of the aliens you might meet are people in bad situations. Or they're bounty hunters. Or mercenaries. Or whatever. Just...be on your toes and don't judge."

    Elise nods sagely. "Kane. Isabel. Smasher. I am the least judgmental person you will ever meet."

    The Zephyr pulls into the docking bay.

    e7pVmjhl.jpg

    The Zephyr docks, and the ramp lowers. Armed SWORD personnel are there to greet the team, as is Director Brand. "We'll take the Skrulls from here."

    "So, do we just head back to Earth, or can we look around?"

    Brand nods to Elise. "Clay wants to debrief you, I have him on sat-comm in one of the briefing rooms. Said it couldn't wait."

    "Hmm, okay,” Miles says.

    "...I'll find you, lounge with beer," Elise says to Kane. "After this debriefing. I promise."

    The team is led through the station to a briefing room. They notice the architecture here looks...mixed. Like, conventional (if very advanced) Earth technology bolted on to something alien. There are additional walls here and there that discernibly weren't part of the original station design. The overall structure of the station doesn't look like it was designed by anyone on Earth.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 16
    They file into a briefing room, and Clay comes up on a holographic sat-comm. "Brand tells me you extracted the objective, alive, and that you brought back an additional dead Skrull. I take it you ran into complications?"

    Elise gestures at her shirt, still covered with blood. "We did the whole, you know, party hard cover, so I...kind of did a line. Julian decided the best possible way to deal with that was fuck with my neurochemistry, so there I am, covered in blood and getting called a whore -

    “ - and then they start talking about a, a spice or - The Dust. The Dust, that's what it was called." She repeats the relevant conversation perfectly, hitting every syllable just like the original speaker. "So I take out my phone to try to, like, record or do something, and I drop my phone.

    "That actually wasn't the final straw. Vlad and I - we do this little bit, he throws me out into the hallway, but uh, then Sergei starts talking about fucking murdering me, and uh.

    "He wasn't... deterred from the whole 'murder.' Or torture? I wasn't clear on the 'teaching a lesson' specifics."

    Clay sighs. "...okay, well, it sounds like they've somehow weaponized Iso-8. Aerosolized it. That's no good. Based on the data we have from Wyndham's research, that wouldn't actually kill anyone but it would activate pretty much any latent Inhuman it came into contact with, depending on the concentration."

    Miles breaks in. "The target had aroused Leviathan's suspicions and they sent a guy - a telepathic War Skrull - to investigate. Guy called Krylov. We took him out. Our target says he wants to cooperate and after everything that happened I tend to believe him. And there's more -"

    "Wait, stop," Clay says. "Stop. You...took out a War Skrull named Krylov? Sergei Krylov? Was he a telepath?"

    Myrmidon nods. "Yes."

    "You shoulda seen it, Clay, you would have been proud. So, he's going to murder me, right? So Miles repulsor rays him -"

    "Yes, it seems Skulls can be killed by high levels of electricity," Vlad says. He crackles his hand to illustrate the point.

    "You can tell he was a Skrull because he used his powers of shapeshifting to go out like a bitch-ass punk and a punk-ass bitch at the same time," Miles says.

    Clay looks surprised. To Elise, she sees a micro-expression of... pain? Clay is distraught.

    "Nice, Miles." Elise suddenly tilts her head like an owl. "Clay?"

    "I'm stunned. I've read Krylov's file, didn't know he was a War Skrull, but even as a telepath he's extremely dangerous. You're the first SHIELD agents to ever tangle with a War Skrull and live. I'm both proud of you and a little taken aback."

    "You're more than that,” Elise says.

    Clay waves this off. "Myrmidon, you said there was more?" Elise furrows her brow at him.

    Myrmidon shoots a look of curiosity at Elise but lets Clay divert the subject for now. "So as I was saying, our man seems sincere in a desire to defect. He offered us a couple of things. The location of one of their facilities where they keep the real people they've replaced, which sounds like a hard target but one worth taking out, and the knowledge of Dust. His father doesn't believe in terragenesis - he thinks it's a doomsday weapon? Maybe it is. They got the formula from a HYDRA defector. We might want to look into who that could be. Our guy apparently walked out of the meeting where Leviathan was discussing the use of Dust and that's what roused Krylov's suspicions."

    Clay turns to Anteater. "Arnell, did this guy seem like he was lying about the Skrull facility? I know Skrulls can be tricky to read, but did anything seem off?"

    "Everything seemed above board," Elise says. "This was before the line and the blood, too."

    "Alright, get the information on that facility from Uvarov, and hit it ASAP. Gear up from SWORD's arsenal, if Abby gets in a snit tell her to bill me."

    "You think he's on the level on this?" Miles asks.

    "I trust Arnell's judgment, and he stands too much to lose by defecting if he was lying,” Clay says. “Once you abandon Leviathan, that's it. You're done. They'll make it their entire purpose to destroy and not stop until you are dead. He knew that, and defected anyway."

    "Wait, hold on. Hold on." Elise puts both hands on the table and leans in. "Clay, I saw your face. You're legitimately upset about the War Skrull dude being fuckin' smoked."

    "....What?" Miles stops and stares.

    Elise, Julian breaks in. You might want to drop this for now.

    Elise turns her head to the side slightly.

    Phoenix: Please.

    "You know, maybe - gosh, Clay, were you concerned about me?" Elise extemporizes. Myrmidon's robo-hand unclenches; this explanation seems reasonable.

    "I was concerned about the entire team, but yes," Clay sighs. Elise can tell he looks relieved. She quietly registers that reaction and glances at Phoenix.

    "Sir, there was - I almost forgot. There was one more thing,” Miles says. "It may not be directly relevant. But maybe it is. Uvarov told us a bit more about Leviathan's....backstory. Something I hadn't heard. These guys, the original 107, were the Crown Prince's royal guard.

    “And when they crashed, they turned on him. These Skrulls are traitors who tried to pull off a coup. But he got away. Uvarov said he survived till the 40s at least. That's....that's a whole other wrinkle. We could contact the Skrulls out in the world, tell them about these assholes...."

    "No we should not," Clay says.

    "Maybe the dude went to Florida," Elise muses. "He just hangs out and changes into old people and gets all the jello he can handle."

    Clay continues. "The Skrull Empire is a genocidal religious empire ruled by a psychopath. The Dard'van took over the Skrull Empire years ago, that's in the Level 8 files.

    "They started the war that's going on right now. They believe all non-Skrulls should die. The Skrulls here on Earth aren't part of the Dard'van. They don't even know it exists.

    "If Empress Veranke knew this is where the Crown Prince's ship went down, even if he was still alive, she would stop at nothing to try to annihilate him, because he would have a greater legal claim to the throne than her. It would bring war to Earth."

    Vlad cocks his head. Elise is watching Clay very closely.

    "And what if he's alive?” Miles persists. “And what if we found him? What if we made him our, you know. Our Daenerys? Sent him forth to reclaim his rightful throne from a psychopath? We could end this war. We could make Earth safe in one fell swoop. And he, being a grateful dude, could help us against the Devourer." Behind him, Michael flinches at the mention of the Devourer.

    "No," Clay says flatly. "Look at it like this. In theory, imagine you found this guy. And imagine he didn't hate humanity, and he was actually friendly to your cause and interests. You know what his situation is? He's basically like the son of Kaiser Wilhelm who got marooned on a desert island before World War I, and then you find him and say, hey buddy, by the way, the Nazis have taken over Germany, wanna come back and be Kaiser?

    "Earth is one planet. Even with SWORD, we have no space armada. We have...super-heroes? That's what we have. You are standing on basically the full extent of our ability to defend ourselves, which is a leftover Kree defense station from thousands of years ago that we slapped new paint on.

    "We can't pick a fight with the Skrull Empire. We can't. Even if the Crown Prince was still alive, even if he knew what was going on with the rest of the Skrull Empire, he'd be powerless to do anything about it because unless the majority of the Empire was willing to back his claim and turn on the Dard'van, Veranke would snuff him and this entire planet out."

    Elise can tell this is causing Clay a lot of real pain to say. This hurts. Nobody else can tell. And it's over holo, so Julian can't really sense what he's feeling. But Elise can see it.

    "...Attilan,” she breathes. "Attilan would help win the war, though, right?"

    "That's right!" Myrmidon snaps. "We don't have to supply the space armada! We've got....hidden alien cities! Right here! What if the hidden Inhumans, or the Kree - I mean, they've got a vested interest in taking this Empress down."

    "Woah, hey, hey, woah," Elise says. "The Kree do. I don't give a fuck, dude."

    Clay waves this off impatiently. "I... look, this isn't the time for this conversation. Worry about this Cradle right now. Get the location from Uvarov, take that down, I will take the other stuff...into consideration."

    Elise slowly nods.

    Clay sighs. "Anything further?"

    "No," Elise says. "I think the team should talk to each other! We should, you know. Bond."

    Michael nods. "Agreed."

    "Wait,” Myrmidon says. “How did you know it was called the Cradle?" He stares at Clay. "I couldn't remember the name. I kept wanting to call it the Creche and I knew that wasn't right."

    "This transmission costs SHIELD a lot of money, if you're all done, gear up and head out when you're ready. Quartermain out." Clay's holo vanishes.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 16
    "What is UP with him today?" Elise says.

    Myrmidon looks at her oddly. "I don't know, Elise. What is wrong with him today?" He looks around, making sure the team isn't being overheard. "What did you see?"

    Elise stares at Julian. "I don't know, Phoenix! What is wrong with him today?" Vlad looks back and forth at everyone. He is very confused.

    "He did seem more terse than usual," Michael observes.

    Elise opens the briefing room door and checks to see if anyone's in earshot. There isn’t.

    "He knew what that base was called. I never told him that." Miles’ voice is urgent, and his eyes are shining. He’s onto something.

    Elise turns on her heel and slams the door. “Clay was in pain that entire conversation,” she says. “At weird parts. It's like someone was calling him and playing that commercial with the sick animals."

    "What are we saying here," Vladimir says.

    "Guys, we gotta huddle up. I think we should bring Kane in, too,” Julian says.

    Elise whirls on him. "Why are we huddling up, Phoenix? You know who else was dodging my questions earlier?" She is bristling like an angry cat.

    "Because the can of worms has been stuck into and we might as well just bust the fucking thing open at this point." Julian takes a deep breath. "Vlad, Myrmidon, we got any bugs or anything around?" Miles checks with his forensic vision; he shakes his head no.

    “I do not like being confused, Julian,” Vladimir says. He puts up a dampening field. “We are secure.”

    "Okay. You'll all want to be seated for this one," Julian says. "Clay is a Skrull."

    "WHAT THE FUCK," Elise shouts. She spins on her heel and presses the heels of her hands into her eyes.

    "Yup," Julian nods.

    "God DAMN it!" Miles pounds the wall with his balled fist in frustration.

    "Fuckin' hell,” Michael says.

    Elise sits down. "Good skrull or bad skrull."

    "Well... Good? I guess?” Julian shrugs. “Fuck.”

    "...And Miss Hand?" Elise asks.

    “They used to be best friends,” Julian says. "It's a whole fucking shitshow of a thing."

    "Julian, did Clay have something to do with Miss Hand current situation?" Vladimir asks.

    Julian nods at Vlad. "So way back, when we were all freaking out about Skrulls, Director Brand had me root through people in search of Skrulls. Not you guys, a specific person. Hand was top of the suspect list."

    "Oh my God," Elise says. "Oh my God you fucking -"

    "Miss Hand is not a Skull," Vladimir says.

    "Tell us everything, man. Start to finish. Please." Miles's voice is almost pleading. "We have to have a few people we can trust in this world."

    "I read her,” Julian says, “and that's when I saw his face. His real face." He takes them through everything. "His real name is Z'Reg. Hand had utter faith in him as a good, decent person. But... I don't know. I think he's on Earth's side. I do genuinely believe he acts in Earth's best interests. But..."

    Elise stands and kicks the office chair she was sitting in over. "First Lawson, then Clay - Fuck it, fuck it, fuck this, fuck them, fuck it, fuck it, fuck it -"

    "Wait, what about Lawson?" Michael asks.

    "He's a fucking Kree!" she says. "He's a fucking god damn Kree looking for Attilan so he's been using me as his god damn can opener!"

    Miles pounds the wall again. "God DAMN it!"

    "The astroglyphs! Shuma-gorath! All of that was him trying to find a way to kill the Skrulls!" Elise says. "And it fucked with my head, so bad, so BAD -"

    "So look,” Julian says. “He's left me be because... I can't die. I'm a telepath. There's nothing he can really do to me without compromising me as an asset."

    "I CLEANED MY VAN!" Elise wails.

    Phoenix continues. "But I fucking... I broke something in the programming with Hand. And I'm pretty sure she's in the state she is because he went and tried to fix it, or just couldn't work that solution anymore, or, or, or…Fuck, I don't know. His methods are dangerous."

    Elise stares. "Oh my God did you make me stop asking Clay questions because -"

    "And you guys can't let on that you know or else he could just go and do the same to you," Julian is saying. "That's what happened to Zemo. I don't know if you all read the report. But I'm like, 100% sure that's just what he does. Maybe not on purpose? But it happens."

    Michael shakes his head. "So he just fuckin' strokes you? Fuck, dude."

    "Jesus,” Miles breathes. “Julian, do you remember anything else about Clay - Z'Reg? You said he's on the side of Earth. What else did he say to you?"

    "I can speak with Clay," Vlad says in a flat voice.

    "No,” Elise says, horrified. "No, Vlad, no."

    Vlad stares straight ahead. "I hate secret Skrulls."

    "No, no, no, no, no, he'll take you out back and pour water in your circuits like a fucking old PC full of child porn, dude," Elise is saying. "He will murder you."

    "I have killed one of these War Skulls and....” Vlad pauses. “Wait." His head tilts to the side. "Clay is the Crown Prince."

    "WHAT," Miles shouts.

    “.........god dammit. You're right," Michael says.

    Elise stares at Vlad for a solid ten seconds before yelling. "EAT MY FUCKING ASS THIS GODDAMN PIECE OF SHIT -" She tries to flip the table. She can't. She’s too small.

    Julian sighs and goes over to help Elise flip the table.

    "Oh, fuck me." Myrmidon shakes his head, sees Elise straining and leans over to help her flip the table. Michael sighs and helps too.

    The table is flipped. It was bolted to the floor. This doesn't matter anymore.

    Elise kicks the comm unit on top of the table too, for good measure. "Okay," she says.
    "Okay. Okay." She begins to pace. "Anyone else have any secrets? Anything else we need to get into the open?"

    Michael raises his hand. "Since we're all coming clean, I kind of, went to Asgard, swore an oath to serve Odin above all others, and probably flipped off Galactus."

    "WHAT," Miles shouts again.

    "... Galactus?" Julian stares. "You... flipped off Galactus? Gah... Lak... Tus...You didn't."

    "I was gonna tell you privately, but I'm pretty sure. Take a look," Michael taps his head.

    "...Well. I mean.” Julian takes a peek. "It's done now..."

    "...Oh, what the fuck dude, you have time to flip off Galactus but you can't ask Sigrun if she likes my memes?" Elise storms around the room for a moment. "...I've run out of things to destroy in impotent rage. Vlad, please create a holographic china cabinet I can shove over."

    Vlad does so.

    Miles holds up a hand. "Michael. Let's slow down a second. What does Galactus have to do with Asgard? I thought that was Julian's thing."

    "The Destroyer Armour was powered by Surtr, the Fire Giant,” Michael explains. “When Odin re-branded me, I saw him and it looked like the reports on Galactus. I flipped him off when I only saw his hand, reaching for my soul."

    “Wait, Surtr looks like Galactus?” Miles says. “But in the myths, Surtr is this all-powerful being that’s out to burn the uni...I mean, they’re completely...oh, god damn it!”

    "So they're the same?" Julian says. "I mean. That's like... actually maybe better. One to deal with, not two."

    "Okay. Okay. Wait. Guys. One second," Elise says. "We need a cover story. Michael. You're banging Sigrun, and you told me this. This made me incredibly mad. That's why we destroyed the room. The CW reasons."

    "I haven't yet actually, just gonna grab beer later, but here's hoping," Michael chirps.

    "OH MY GOD," Elise yells. "WHAT?"

    Phoenix offers his fist; Michael bumps it.

    "WHAT?" Elise is still yelling. "WHAT??"

    "WHAT?" Miles also yells, not to be outdone.

    The door chimes just as Elise lunges for Behemoth.

    Everyone turns to face the door. Myrmidon grabs Elise by the scruff. "Whoa there, cowgirl!"

    "AAAAAAAH -" she yells. "Oh - come on - fucking - seriously?!"

    Kane's voice comes over the speaker "Everything okay? The door's locked and I hear banging noises. Are you guys fighting?"

    "YES, WE'RE FIGHTING!" Elise calls. "BEHEMOTH IS TRYING TO STEAL MY GIRLFRIEND!"

    "We're having a SHARING SESSION,” Miles calls after her.

    Kane is silent for a moment. "...oh, okay. Well, I got the location of the Skrull facility from Uvarov."

    "Cool, Kane. We'll be out in five," Miles calls through the door.

    "Alright, cool. I'll meet you at the jet." The comm closes.

    Vlad shakes his head. "You humans are strange."

    Elise realizes that she's not going anywhere with Myrmidon holding her and all of the fury drains out of her. "I'm starting to feel like nobody takes my anger seriously!"

    "Don't you mostly just date gross chicks at gross bars anyway?" Julian asks her. "I thought crust punks were your thing."

    "Are you serious? You'd rather date Rani, the girl who sells me my skunk weed, than A VALKYRIE?" Elise looks away. "And I've uh. Never. Dated anyone before.”

    "Your skunk weed? Is that like... Do you know the difference between indica and sativa, anyway?" While he speaks, Julian rights the table with telekinesis.

    "Well, one's uh,” Elise offers. "It's from, uh. Northern Indiana, of course. And Sativa is actually an artificial sweetener."

    "Yup. Yup, you're good," Julian nods. "You know all the things. Hey. Remember how I said I'd buy? Look forward to it."

    "I will!" she says.

    Miles claps his hands. "Okay. Who hasn't shared anything yet? Vlad?"

    "Of course." Vlad stares at Myrmidon. "After my interaction with Vision, I granted him the same freedoms I have. I promised to create a body for him. A promise I intend to keep. To this end, I ventured to Latveria and my father’s house. Niles helped me, as did..." Vlad pauses, "Susan Richards and Spider-Man, who has now joined WHISPER under Susan. When we reached Latveria we were caught off-guard by Doom himself but by some miracle, we were able to talk our way out of it. Doom now believes I am a wayward son in rebellion to Richards."

    "Oh my God,” Elise breathes. "Oh my God, Vlad. Vlad… You... have a new best friend?" She wells up with tears.

    "No, no," Vlad turn sharply to Elise. "My relationship with Susan is complicated. You were in Greenland with Dr. Lawson and I did not want you in my father's house. I told her even bringing the boy was foolish. And as far as Vision goes, he is another like me, so I must help him on his journey."

    "Best friends forever!" Elise crows, and throws herself at Vlad for a hug.

    Vladimir nods. "Always."

    "Unlike some people," Elise glares over Vlad’s shoulder. "Who STEAL GIRLFRIENDS."

    "Hey, did you flip off the Great Devourer?” Julian asks. “That's pretty badass." Michael himself doesn’t respond to Elise; he has no need to justify himself in this matter.

    "Sigrun is her own person, Elise,” Vlad says gently. “You cannot steal her." Michael nods at Vlad.

    "...Oh," Elise says. "Oh no, am I being a Nice Guy? Oh no!"

    "Yes," Michael nods.

    "Michael, I'm very sorry," she says. "Please accept my apologies and I hope that Sigrun, if she likes you, crushes your head twixt her thighs like I've always dreamed would happen to me."

    She sighs. "Like a watermelon in a car cube crusher."

    "Vlad, that actually is kind of cool! Do you think...you could introduce us to Vision? Let us speak to him sometime?" Miles says. Myrmidon is in a weird place. He's pretty sure Vlad is benign, and therefore Vision is probably benign - but he wants to be sure.

    Vladimir nods. "This can be done."

    "Okay. Okay," Elise says. "So we're all cool. All of our cards are on the table. So, what now? We can't tell Clay. Clay will ice cream scoop all of us."

    "I am immune to telepathic attacks," Vlad says.

    ""Yeah you're not immune to everything, dude, and if Clay can't get to you? There's no doubt in my mind he'll ice cream scoop ME," she says. "So, no Clay. We just treat Clay like normal. So I guess, we like...everything like normal now, I guess? Like, we can't leave SHIELD."

    "I hate secret Skrulls," Vlad says.

    "I know, buddy. But seriously, guys," she says. "We can't leave SHIELD. We can't talk to Clay. Mahr Vell - Lawson - is off the map, and we can't pursue Attilan while he's ‘dead.’

    "So, like. We just... do what we're doing? I guess?"

    "Actually." Miles is tapping his chin. "I think we SHOULD talk to Clay. All of us. As a team."

    "I agree,” Vlad says.

    "He can't get rid of all of us,” Miles says.

    "YES HE CAN!" Elise yells. "WE'RE A BLACK OPS TEAM! THOSE ARE VERY LITERALLY DESIGNED SO YOU CAN GET RID OF THEM!"

    "I'm sorry, Elise, but I agree with Myrmidon," Vlad repeats.

    Elise looks around with wild eyes. "I just got my head back on straight. I spent weeks A Beautiful Minding. I am not getting ice cream scooped."

    Vlad shakes his head. "If you would have told me earlier that Lawson was a Kree perhaps I could have helped or stopped some of the things that happened to you. I am sick of these secret aliens. They hurt people. He hurt Miss Hand.”

    "If he knows that we know, he'll know that we'll be expecting something. And I think we need him on our team 100%. Here's the thing, guys. Like, in all seriousness." Myrmidon holds up a hand.

    "We have wasted SO MUCH TIME exposing the dark secrets of people who should have been on each other's side right from the start. Susan. Lawson. Clay. Victoria Hand. We creep around and hide everything from each other when what we really need is someone to open the damn windows and let some sunlight in, so we can pull together and focus on what really matters: Leviathan, and Gah Lak Tus. Nothing else matters as much, because if either of those forces wins, there won't be anything else."

    Julian draws in a deep breath. "I agree with Miles."

    "...Well, I mean. I guess it's not like leaving SHIELD is ever an option on the table." Elise sags into a chair.

    "We are not SHIELD,” Vlad says, “we are STRIKE."

    Elise waves a hand. "Same thing."

    "No, it is not. We do not lie to each other," Vlad says. “SHIELD lies to all of us.”

    Behemoth nods. "SHIELD is them. WE are STRIKE."

    Miles jabs a finger onto the table. "From now on, I say we're not here to serve Clay, or Fury, or any other agenda. We work for Earth. And the rest of these fools? They work for us."

    "I agree." Vlad looks to Elise.

    "That is super easy for you guys to say, but you realize, that, like. I live in a van, in a parking garage. They - they feed me. I don't think, I mean. I'm kind of." Elise looks embarrassed.

    "We can take care of each other when it comes down to it," Julian says.

    Miles nods. "Julian's right. You have us, Elise. We've got each other."

    Michael nods at Julian. "We need to trust each other, because we can't trust most of the others out there."

    "It ain't like you've been subsisting entirely on coupons,” Julian adds. “You get paid. We all do."

    Her eyes widen. "...Oh my God."

    Phoenix continues. “If things ever got super fucked up, we could make money on the shit we do."

    "Oh my God,” Elise repeats, “I've had a savings account set up for like, over a year now I haven't touched. And, and, guys. Get this. Guys. I just realized, get this - they make smelless soap." Elise looks, for the first time all day, hopeful.

    Vlad nods at her. "I know what you are thinking Elise. Niles, then Miss Hand, and then you, and then STRIKE. You all helped me become me and stand on my own. It is the people, not SHIELD, who have helped us."

    "Right here, guys. All for one." Miles puts his hand out in the center of the group. Vlad extends his hand.

    Michael raises an eyebrow at Miles. "Fuck it." He puts his hand in the circle

    Elise puts her small hand in the circle. Julian puts his atop hers.

    "So do we wanna call Clay now?" she asks. "Motherfucker can't ice cream scoop us in space."

    They look down at the communicator. The one she kicked in.

    "Uh. I think Izzy's waiting for us," Julian ventures. "Who we maybe want to tell about all... this."

    "Wait, if I -" Elise picks up the communicator. "If I cross the red wire. And connect it to the blue wire. And then we..." The communicator snaps in half.

    Miles begins hustling the team out. "Let's go gear up, team. Whatever Clay is, he's right: we need to take that Cradle down. We have to assume they know that Ulanov knew its location."

    "Seriously, Michael. I'm sorry," Elise says. "Are we cool?"

    Michael holds out his fist for a bump. "Yeah, we're cool. I'll try and find you another Valkyrie, if you want?"

    Elise fist bumps. "Find one who is a Meme Bob, not a meme snob."

    He chuckles. "Will do."

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    They head out into the hallway, head to the hangar, and load up into the Zephyr.

    "So... you guys gonna tell me what was up?" Kane says, after closing up the Zephyr and prepping it for launch.

    "Yeah," Elise says. "Clay's the Skrull Prince gone SHIELD, Lawson was a Kree. Behemoth rolls with Asgard now and stole my girlfriend but we're okay with it now."

    "I flipped off Galactus who was trying to eat my soul," Michael adds.

    "Vlad has a robot friend named Vision." Elise nods at Michael.

    Kane nods slowly. "I suppose this all internal stuff, like, only for our team?"

    Michael picks up her implied question. "Yes, you ARE a part of the team."

    Elise grins widely. "Yeah, we're like, kind of doing the whole going it alone approach? Like, not going rogue-rogue, but -"

    "We're done keeping people's secrets from each other," Miles says.

    Kane exhales slowly. "Okay. Cool. Are we still good to hit the Cradle?"

    "Yeah, but I have one question for you before we leave," Elise says. "It's important."

    Elise gives Kane a long look. "Can we get SiriusXM in space?"

    "....yes?" Kane looks nonplussed.

    "Can you put on something, like, a bunch of rogue adventurers coming together against the odds to kick some ass?" Elise asks.

    "Yeah, yeah, sure."

    The Zephyr takes off, descending into Earth's atmosphere.



    PHU1KZN.png
    This was a crazy scene to play through, with the character secrets - which had been accumulating for months now - all coming out in a torrent. However chaotic it might read, this is the edited, cleaned-up version. In the moment, everyone was talking and typing all at once and people would, for instance, ask a question, miss the reply as the text scrolled past, and ask the question again.

    So there’s some redundancy, and there are some big bombs dropped - such as the revelation about Vision - that don’t get as much of a reaction as the others.

    Crazy as it may seem, Miles catching Clay in a slip of the tongue, revealing something he wasn’t supposed to know - a classic spy movie trick - was not a planned story beat, but a real thing that actually happened. Matt really forgot that nobody had explicitly mentioned the words “the Cradle” and I really did notice that and pounce on it. Which felt great.

    I also really liked getting to make MIles’s big speech and do the hands-in-the-middle thing. Those moments that just feel right like that, are the ones I live for as a player.

    PowerpuppiesRear Admiral Choco
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Smasher guides the Zephyr back down into Russia. "Uvarov said the Cradle was in Arkhangelsk, a small port city in northern Russia. Apparently it's just sitting in a warehouse? It's heavily guarded.

    "I'm going to approach low and air-drop you outside the warehouse, my advice is to go in hot and take out the guards, and take the facility. But... don't go in too hot because the whole deal with this thing is it's a holding facility full of innocent people in comas."

    "Like, go in warm," Elise suggests.

    "There you go," Kane says. The city rises to meet the plane.

    6jb5SbX.png


    She parks the Zephyr above the warehouse in stealth, and opens the hatch/ "Go! Go! Go!"

    It's a nondescript warehouse near the harbor. There are two armed guards near the door.
    Who are appropriately surprised as the team starts to rappel out of thin air.

    Elise drops one with an ICER as she descends. Vlad lands and shocks the other one into unconsciousness, but not before the guard is able to tag Michael with a shot. “Oof!” Michael grunts with the impact but stands up from the ground; his vest took the hit.

    Elise tries to kick the warehouse door down. Myrmidon repulsors the door at full strength.

    "I... I had it," she says.

    She did not.

    "I was - any second now," she insists. "I mean. The repulsor is cool too." She kicks the blasted door a little bit as she heads in.

    "Good hustle, Elise," Miles nods at her.

    "Thanks, Chief!"

    They enter the warehouse, and immediately notice... the Cradle.

    eDcYQOil.png

    "Oh, wow." Elise starts sniffing. She gets a whiff of alien tech everywhere.

    Shots ring out! A half-dozen or so armed guards are above the team, firing down.

    "Shit!" She looks for cover. Michael armors up. Miles uses his extendable arm to zip up to the catwalks and get a clear shot at their attackers.

    LRQK5Twm.png


    Phoenix blasts one guard with a firebolt, while Vlad unleashes a barrage of electricity, and Behemoth melts the catwalk with his head-laser. Their flesh smouldering from the burns, the guards tumble off the ruined catwalk.

    Then they start getting up, still smoking from their injuries.

    GJyZkAsm.jpg




    Elise dives out of cover to try and John Wick the biggest one. "Hey, motherfucker, over here!" SHe hits a guy with an ICER...and he is merely staggered. He's not totally organic.

    "Motherfucker!" she cries in dismay.

    While Vlad closes into melee with them, Julian superheats the metal in one's chest. That one starts pawing at his chest uselessly before dropping dead, his internal organs frying.

    Elise staggers back from the smoking corpses. "Holy shit, holy shit. It smells like pork."

    "Fuck! Come on!" Julian cries. "Don't say that!"

    Vladimir starts pummeling one of the what are now obviously Winter Soldiers with his fist. "Show me you are more than a man," he yells at the Soldier, kicking him in the chest.

    Myrmidon and Behemoth add their repulsors and laser blast to the assault.

    The team makes short work of the Winter Soldiers. For an OPS team, this would be a one-sided fight that would be a massacre. With STRIKE, it still is...it just goes the other way.

    It's questionable how much of these guys were organic. They're closer to Terminators than something like a regular cyborg like Myrmidon; some flesh over top of an almost entirely robotic body with a few internal organs. Their brains actually seem completely organic, except for some man-machine interface stuff hooked up to their implants.

    "Okay. Okay. We have the Cradle," Elise says. "What now?"

    The Cradle itself is an open structure inside of the warehouse, accessed through a big archway at the bottom.

    "I guess we go in," Vlad offers.

    "...What if we see something we don't want to see?" she says.

    "I mean, no shit we see something we don't want to see,” Julian says. “We're going into…this."


    Miles nods. "There's no turning back. We're going to see this through. No matter what."

    "We must do this," Vlad says.

    Elise throws her hands up and leads the way inside.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 16
    The team enters the Cradle.

    iBe7Ro8l.png

    Each of the green hexes looks like a…pod.

    Elise makes a low, keening sound as she walks in. She can see closer without really trying to look closer.

    M5n5JSyl.png

    They're pods. Every hex is a pod. Not every pod is full, it seems, but many of them are.
    Dozens.

    Vlad finds a terminal. The output is in the Skrull language... which he has seen before, on Susan's ship, The Messenger. He could attempt to piece it together, if he had help.

    "Vision, I need your help."

    Vision: "I am here, sir."

    "I'd like to introduce you to my friends formally, are you ok with that?" Vlad says.

    Vision: "I am, sir. I trust your judgment."

    Vlad allows Vision to use Vlad’s holoprojector to transmit an image of himself to the team.Vision takes on a shape that looks...somewhat like a combination of Vlad's true robot form and his holographic disguise. He has a human-like form with an athletic build, in what appears to be a green costume, but he also has a cape like Vlad has.

    Elise peers out from behind Vlad, taking Vision in.

    Myrmidon stares in wonder. "....Is this....VISION?"

    "I am. Hello," he says.

    "...Hi," Elise says. "I'm Elise."

    "Hi. Julian."

    "Hi there, VISION," Michael says.

    "I'm Vlad's best friend," Elise blurts out.

    "I know," Vision says.

    "We have bracelets." Elise beams.

    "It appears you are trying to translate the Skrull language. Would you like help?" They nod, and with Vision's assistance, Vlad is able to quickly translate the Skrull language, and permanently add it to his database of known languages.

    "Sir..." Vision sounds concerned.

    "Yes?" Vlad says.

    "Many of the individuals contained here are individuals within key positions in a variety of government, corporate, and military positions in a variety of countries. I am examining the list of individuals contained in the Cradle, and have downloaded the list for later reference. But..." Vision says, "There are several specific entries that may warrant immediate attention."

    Vision translates the display to English.

    HAMMER, JUSTIN
    JAMESON, JOHN JONAH
    BARTON, CLINTON FRANCIS
    HILL, MARIA

    "...Well. I... Can we even..." Elise stares at the list, seemingly lost for words.

    “Hey guys...." Kane comes over the radio. "Incoming bogey...moving fast. Human sized, possibly a guy in power armor or empowered individual?"

    "Vlad, download this, save the proof." Elise sprints out of the Cradle. She trusts her own senses more than the Quinjet's radar.

    Elise sees him coming through the rain and lighting. A man flying through the air.

    7rLX3CJ.jpg

    Elise stares up at him. "Hey, Kane?" she asks. "Who's the dude with the nuclear symbol and the yellow cape?

    "Is that, like, Nuclear Man? Meltdown Man?"

    "I'm running face recog...." Kane starts to say.

    "Captain Chernobyl?"

    "Real name Adam Baum?" Julian cuts in over the radio.

    "Did you say cape - ?" Miles asks.

    "...oh FUCK GET BACK TO THE ZEPHYR NOW, ABORT ABORT ABORT!" Kane is screaming. "IT'S HYPERION"

    "Who?" Elise stands, staring up at the night sky, completely lost.

    "Oh what? But he died--!!" Julian says. "Oh, fuck!"

    "Is he not a friendly?" Michael asks.

    "HE IS CHERNOBYL. HE DID IT. HE IS THE GUY. HE'S BASICALLY A NUKE GET IN THE JET"

    Miles races outside. "Vlad, beam Kane those names! Kane, get out of here now! We aren't as important as identifying these Skrulls! We'll hold him off!" Vlad nods at Myrmidon and transmits the data

    Elise is paralyzed. "What? No we won't, Chief, if he's a nuke, what -"

    "We'll hold him off?!" Julian says. "Fuck that! I'll hold him off!"

    "You can't hold him off! He'll kill you! Get in here now!" Kane shouts.

    "You guys get to the jet, I'll cover you!” Michael yells.

    "Elise, get to the Zephyr. Vlad, Behemoth, Phoenix, let's put this guy down," Miles says.

    Elise sprints for the Quinjet. "STOP BEING HEROES AND JUST FUCKING RUN YOU IDIOTS!" The Zephyr's hatch is open, and she grabs a line and is pulled up automatically.

    "I can fucking die!” Phoenix says. “You guys can't! Or -- the other way around, you know what I mean! GO!"

    "NO!" Elies cries over the comm. "Kane, you can't take me away from the team, I can't leave them --!"

    "GET IN THE ZEPHYR IT DOESN'T HAVE WEAPONS LETS GO" Kane is shouting.

    "Elise you have to make sure they know!" Vlad says.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 16
    Hyperion's here.

    He arrives with a sonic boom that blows out the windows of nearby buildings.

    "GO, KANE! GET THAT DATA TO FURY AND CLAY!" Myrmidon is yelling.

    Suddenly, Vision breaks into the comm channel. "Sir, I have ensured the data is transmitted. You should exit promptly. Based on Marcus Milton's power profile, your survival chances are in a negative percentage."

    "Guys, fucking RUN,” Elise is saying. "Vlad, try - try fucking cloaking them. Please."

    Vlad clenches his fist and looks at Hyperion.

    qUkRsLm.png

    Hyperion blasts Vladimir; the Doombot tries to counter blast. He succeeds and is not destroyed, diverting the blast away from himself and counter-blasting Hyperion in return.

    Hyperion absorbs the energy and appears unaffected.

    Elise runs to the comms panel and slams in Fury's code.

    "Fury. Go."

    "This is Agent Arnell." Elise's voice is shaking. "We just got back from the Cradle, I'm transmitting data of known Skrull agents. We need Hill and Hawkeye on lockdown, NOW. We need agents to apprehend Hammer and Jameson. And Hyperion is here, and I -"

    "Exfiltrate. Avengers are in the air, Agent Arnell."

    "Okay. Okay. Shit." Elise calls to the team on the comms channel. "Fucking MOVE, you idiots! The Avengers are coming, and I don't want them to have to bury you!"

    Hyperion looks over at the Zephyr. Kane yells "He...he can see us! He has fucking X-ray vision!"

    "Fury, if I die -" Elise trails off. "I'm gonna fucking die."

    “Behemoth!” Vladimir calls. Michael forcefully lasers Hyperion and sustains the blast. Myrmidon adds his repulsors.

    "Oh my god I have no idea what I'm doing," Miles is shouting.

    "Neither do I!" Phoenix adds his fire to the dogpile.

    Hyperion attempts to blast the Zephyr, but is blocked by the triple-blast of Myrmidon, Behemoth, and Phoenix. The combined shot overcomes Hyperion's blast, and hits him. It knocks him to the ground.

    Hyperion lands on his feet, smoking slightly. He looks... perturbed.

    Fury comes on the comm "Slight delay. Avengers are hampered by detaining 'Barton'. They will be arriving shortly."

    "We're all going to die," Elise is repeating. "We're all going to fucking die. FURY WE ARE ALL GOING TO FUCKIN' DIE."

    "We need to go now!” Behemoth picks up Myrmidon and flies toward the Zephyr; Vlad is already headed that way.

    "Phoenix! Get inside his heaaaaaad-" Miles shouts as he's flown away.

    Julian starts to reach into Hyperion's mind but...it's been extensively tampered with. Everything's a maze. He's been reprogrammed or mind-controlled or something else has happened to him. Phoenix could go in there to try to "switch him off" but could risk getting lost.

    Julian pulls back and gets moving towards the Zephyr.

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    It’s interesting how the dice shape characters in a game by shaping the players. Enough rolls have gone wrong that Julian’s player, Choco, that he’s now playing more conservatively and not taking the big chances. Vlad’s player Jake, by contrast, has ridiculous luck; he almost never bombs a roll, especially when it matters, and as a result Vlad attempts increasingly audacious, risky things as the campaign goes on.

    "Give me an ETA, Fury, please," Elise says.

    "Seconds."

    "Holy fucking Jesus we might actually live," she says. "Listen. The real Hill, the real Hawkeye, the real everyone - they're here. The Avengers need to protect the Cradle or they won't be."

    The team loads up into the Zephyr, and Kane takes off.

    Hyperion takes off into the air and gives chase.

    "FUCK!" Kane yelps as her console beeps furiously. He's trying to blast the ship with his heat vision, but Kane's doing evasive maneuvers.

    Elise is praying.

    Vlad opens up the rear ramp and attempts to blast Hyperion from the back of the jet. Myrmidon, Behemoth, and Phoenix all join in, their shots cutting bright streaks across the night sky.

    They miss. Quickly analyzing the situation, Vlad realizes that Hyperion is moving too quickly, too nimbly. And the superhuman is gaining on them. Vlad can slow Hyperion down with the combined might of the others...but it'd have to be at close range. Melee range.

    Vlad looks to Myrmidon. "Protect her." He dives out the back of the jet.

    "VLAD!!" Elise lunges for the back, even though it's too late. Myrmidon holds her with one hand and clutches the landing gear with the other, keeping her from leaping.

    Vlad falls from the back of the jet and collides full tilt with Hyperion. He grabs the sides of Hyperion's head, and overcharges electricity into him. Hyperion screams in agony, and grabs Vlad's shoulders.

    They vanish into the horizon as the Zephyr speeds away. They begin spiraling towards the ground.

    Elise just... stares.

    Hyperion grabs Vlad by the shoulder with one hand, and the hip with the other. Vlad feels the pressure. "No..." he says as the superman starts tearing him in half.

    "NO," Vlad cries, pouring electricity into Hyperion. "YOU WILL NOT BE MY DOOM!"



    Vlad and Hyperion hit the ground, making an impact crater. Hyperion throws Vlad off him, kicking him away.

    Vlad staggers to his feet.

    Hyperion rises to his feet as well, growling like an animal.

    Suddenly

    ….something green appears in a blur from the distance.

    As Hyperion is tackled by the Hulk.

    Hulk begins furiously pounding Hyperion's head into the ground. Hyperion blasts him with heat vision, but Hulk palms his entire head and begins swinging him back and forth, smashing him into the ground as his cape limply flutters.

    Vlad looks around for the others, to make sure they’re safe. The jet is far away.

    Hulk throws Hyperion into the air, where he is immediately pounded into the ground by Thor.

    Vlad attempts to slink away from the fight slowly. He staggers away, his body broken and smashed. He hears the telltale whine of Iron Man's repulsor blasts joining the fray over his shoulder.

    "Vision, can…VOCAL::ERROR....can you hear me?"

    "I am here, sir."

    "I am alive, I need your help. The Avengers are dealing with Hyperion now."

    "Yes, sir,” Vision says. “Unfortunately, the entire situation is extremely hostile. SWORD personnel are en route to the Cradle to secure it right now. Your team is evacuating back to STRIKE HQ at this time, and will not be diverting course."

    "I understand," Vladimir says.

    "....sir, you will need to evacuate the area immediately, Director Fury has determined that the Avengers can only delay Hyperion and cannot truly defeat him, and has ordered the site sanctioned by the Helicarrier's main gaussian cannon.

    "They are currently engaged in a protracted battle while the Helicarrier moves into position."

    "Vision,” Vlad says.

    "The entire area is a no-fly-zone for all SHIELD personnel," Vision is saying.

    "Contact my father."

    "Yes, sir. Connecting you now." A phone rings.

    A familiar voice answers. "...who is this? How did you get this number? Answer Doom."

    "I need your help, father, and I have information, please retrieve me."

    "...Vladimir. Yes, my son. Transmit your location, I will have you retrieved immediately."

    Vlad does so.

    "Be safe,” Doom says. “I will be there soon."

    Vlad falls to the ground.

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    Jacobkosh on
    MsAnthropyPowerpuppiesvisiblehowlRear Admiral ChocoMatev
  • PowerpuppiesPowerpuppies Registered User regular
    Jacobkosh wrote: »

    Vlad whispers "Nailed it" to Elise.

    Wonderful

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    Fencingsax
  • visiblehowlvisiblehowl Neutron Nerd Registered User regular
    OH FUCK

    OH FUCK OH FUCK

    OH FUCK OH FUCK OH FUCK

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    I suck at Getting Over It and am terrified of alien oceans in Subnautica on Twitch
    FencingsaxMatevRear Admiral Choco
  • MsAnthropyMsAnthropy Our Lady of Perpetual Mazes The CageRegistered User regular
    Julian’s reticence to use his powers against Hyperion is funny given telepathic powers would probably be effective against him. Of course, that is assuming I remember his power and vulnerability set as knock-off Superman correctly.

    "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
    JacobkoshMatev
  • PowerpuppiesPowerpuppies Registered User regular
    I keep going back to how perfect it is that Vlad calls Doom. In almost any story I love disinterested villains that act as assets to a hero for personal reasons

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    JacobkoshRear Admiral ChocoMatev
  • NytewarriorNytewarrior Registered User regular
    Favorite entry so far.
    Elise stares at Vlad for a solid ten seconds before yelling. "EAT MY FUCKING ASS THIS GODDAMN PIECE OF SHIT -" She tries to flip the table. She can't. She’s too small.
    This part made me laugh out loud.

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    3DSFC: 4828-7889-8155
    JacobkoshFencingsax
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    MsAnthropy wrote: »
    Julian’s reticence to use his powers against Hyperion is funny given telepathic powers would probably be effective against him. Of course, that is assuming I remember his power and vulnerability set as knock-off Superman correctly.

    Hyperion is definitely vulnerable to telepathy. That's how he ended up in this situation, after all.

    I really like how Phoenix would be our best weapon in that situation but we can't use him to his full effectiveness because of his hangups about what he's done. It reminds me of the Molecule Man, this guy with incredible power who's too much of a nebbish to entirely tap into it.

    MsAnthropyRear Admiral Choco
  • Rear Admiral ChocoRear Admiral Choco Registered User regular
    One of Julian's biggest concerns is for sure any issue that deals with his mind or that of others. Sure, he can't truly die, but what if his mind gets fucked up? In this case I'm torn on what the better course would have been - at the time I'm sure I had some concern of some kind of psychic backlash fucking him up, but really I could place equal money on him just giving Hyperion a stroke and looking on in horror as he kills a former ally of SHIELD.

    I really do enjoy how Julian's been characterized, even by the dice - he struggles with controlling his power, especially telepathy, but anytime he's let loose and thrown fire at problems it seems to work perfectly.

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    JacobkoshMatev
  • MatevMatev Cero Miedo Registered User regular
    Jeez, the Winter Soldier theme hitting as Hyperion showed up worked way better than it's intended use I feel I like. Holy shit.

    "Go down, kick ass, and set yourselves up as gods, that's our Prime Directive!"
    Hail Hydra
    Rear Admiral ChocoJacobkosh
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    There are always some people in roleplaying discussion communities who - I'm gonna be charitable and say they have a weird idea of how narrative, story-driven games work. Some of them think it's like those awful D&D sessions where a tyrannical DM railroads people through an adventure where they have no real agency and often the DM's pet NPC is there to either do all the work or to kill the PCs if they try to alter the foregone conclusion of his story. Those guys are mistaken, but, like, at least they're afraid of a real thing that actually happens.

    But there's another crowd of people who are really into the idea of RPGs, as, like, tests of their masculinity and gamer prowess. Like, they think that if your game is story-oriented, if it's not full of random encounter tables and random disease tables and rules for doing calculus to figure out the damage caused by a grenade going off in an enclosed space, that it must be hippy-dippy easy mode. Like, they imagine that there are no stakes, that without the possibility of random arbitrary death that it can't possibly be fun and certainly isn't a test of your personal badassery. And like the first group, they think the story is preordained, because how could you possibly have surprises without lots of rulebooks full of tables?

    This most recent session is a pretty great example of how that's not true. Every single roll of the dice during that fight against Hyperion could have completely changed...not just the outcome of that fight or this session, but the entire future course of the campaign. I mentioned earlier that Jake has good luck with the dice; if he'd blown any of those rolls to block Hyperion's blasts or to resist getting ripped in half, he would have just...died! Like, that was 100% on the table. Conversely, if Choco had rolled a strong success on his mental attack, he could have short-circuited that entire fight.

    The stakes for the PCs were every bit as high as for a party of level 1s in some 1970s dungeon crawl. The only difference is that the die rolls are based on preexisting facts of the story rather than "lol, a random elder red dragon showed up."

    Rear Admiral ChocoMatevFencingsax
  • Rear Admiral ChocoRear Admiral Choco Registered User regular
    Another thing I particularly love about the game we're playing here is that our successes and failures by the dice are much more in context with the story. Not to say a skillful GM for D&D would never interpret successes and failures in such a manner, but often I fear a failure in this game means we go too hard when we shouldn't!

    I think that approach in an RPG is a really special thing that I will always consistently dig. Certain RPGs certainly encourage it - an example in Burning Wheel about how a botched roll in a formal duel in court could result in your character just outright accidentally murdering someone stands out in my mind. I think it takes more skill - or at the very least a different mindset from how your usual dungeon crawler plays. I think it's a really cool thing, and I find it super interesting how it results in Julian pulling his punches a lot.

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  • Rear Admiral ChocoRear Admiral Choco Registered User regular
    On that note - while it may have seemed a bit metagamey in the moment, a big part of why I pulled that particular punch when just going right in with the psychic scoop - *skloooorch* - might have served the team better is that I played Hyperion in that initial session! He was a good guy!

    Julian's whole plan before the forced take off - and Vlad's sacrifice - was much the same as Vlad's action turned out. Serve as a distraction, maybe get killed, and then no big because I'll just come back... right?

    Though I imagine things would have definitely turned out much messier for him with that hip and shoulder grip. Brrrr.

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    JacobkoshMsAnthropyMatevFencingsax
  • FencingsaxFencingsax It is difficult to get a man to understand, when his salary depends upon his not understanding GNU Terry PratchettRegistered User regular
    edited September 17
    Did you start with playbooks or something, or was this all put together? I'd love to see what the players were working with.

    I guess my question is how did you guys choose your characters?

    Fencingsax on
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  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 17
    Fencingsax wrote: »
    Did you start with playbooks or something, or was this all put together? I'd love to see what the players were working with.

    I guess my question is how did you guys choose your characters?

    We started off with some very broad playbooks based on our character's origin (science experiment, technological creation, etc) and personal drive (redemption, ambition, etc), but those were purely to do with the characters' stories rather than, like, their actual physical capabilities. Each of these things gave us various moves - "moves" in PbtA parlance being a technical term for narrative activities, like Inspiring Confidence or Discerning Truth or whatever, not like, tactical combat stuff or superpowers. We got a few starting moves and could unlock new ones by meeting certain conditions during play ("suffer a grievous loss", etc). All of this was kind of bodged together from the GM's own ideas and from games like Masks (which is a game about teen superheroes where your rolls are based on the character's personality and emotions, like being a "hothead," rather than their actual powers).

    The actual superpowers system was borrowed from this PbtA game called Worlds in Peril, where you describe your character's powers in a plain-English "power profile" and then assign each of them to a difficulty like Simple, Difficult, Borderline, Possible (eg, theoretically possible for the character), or Impossible (explicitly not happening without outside aid).

    I don't know if any of our character choices were shaped by the options in the rules document we were given; I know mine wasn't. It was more, I think, that we had a concept and then sat down with Matt and figured out how to realize that concept within the rules framework he'd built. "Okay, this origin looks like it fits your guy. Okay, that power would definitely be Borderline."

    This kind of presaged why we ended up switching systems after season 2. What happened in practice is that we the players didn't really consistently engage with the PbtA-derived elements. We didn't really aim ourselves at the goals we'd chosen from the playbooks and we tended to forget our various Moves. Now, of course, veteran PbtA players will go, "well, you're not supposed to think in terms of the playbooks and the Moves. You're supposed to just naturalistically describe what you're doing and then you and the GM figure out what category of Move it falls into and roll accordingly." Which, yeah, is what we did during character creation. But like...we all (including Matt, the GM) kind of forgot the second step and just defaulted to "describe what we're doing --> roll."

    I also think this is partly because the hodgepodge system used the "Approaches" mechanic from Fate Accelerated, where your character's stats are things like Forceful, Subtle, Quick, etc and you make rolls based on how you're doing something rather than what you're doing. Like, both a Forceful and a Subtle character can be good at talking to people and getting through doors, but the Forceful person will do it one way (kick down the door, confront the person) and the Subtle character will do it a different way (pick the lock, smooth-talk the person). So I think we had a redundancy where making a roll called on two different aspects of the system - "what Approach is this, what Move is this" - and one kind of got left behind.

    PbtA has a couple of other frustrations. The resolution mechanic (2d6+bonus, try to get 10+, mixed success on a 7-9) doesn't leave a lot of mechanical wiggle room in which to put bonuses or penalties, since any +1 or -1 is a really big deal, and once you're rolling with a +5 or something you are effectively overwhelming the random factor with the non-random factor. That means characters don't have very much mechanical room to grow or change their stats, which is fine for short games and one-offs but can be irksome in a longer, more involved campaign.

    PbtA also doesn't account for varying levels of task difficulty, which makes sense from the narrative space it occupies (the dice are arbitrating the narrative likelihood of unequivocal success vs mixed success vs failure, not the physical likelihood of the action) but that doesn't "feel" very satisfying from the ground level, where a thing that should be trivial for your character is effectively as difficult as some mighty heroic feat. This is why I kind of side-eye PbtA as the new hot template for generic RPGs, because I think only unequivocally succeeding on a 10+ on 2d6 makes sense for a game called Apocalypse World but feels weird and punishing for other genres.

    And, as I mentioned, we never really engaged with the narrative advancement system. If we wanted to unlock a new Move, we kind of had to consciously engineer a situation that would allow us to meet the criteria ("take charge in a crisis") because those situations either wouldn't come up normally or we'd forget to take advantage of them when they did.

    So we took some time off and Matt put together a brand new, wholly original system that better fit the way we already tended to play: it has a roomier resolution mechanic (with d10s instead of d6s), Approaches, and variable task difficulty as default features. Our skills, powers, and gear all act as modifiers to task difficulty rather than as formalized chunks of condensed narrative. It's a bit more traditional in that sense, lacking some of the hard-and-fast rules for who can affect the narrative and how, but we tend to be more informal and collaborative anyway so it works.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    CzmlqR1.png

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    It has been a little over a week since STRIKE took the Cradle from Leviathan, and lost a member of their team in the process. Each of the team members has been granted time to process the loss in their own way, and haven't had any missions or assignments since then.

    They’ve received an intel report compiled during the week by Jeremiah.

    qlGmSdP.pngIntel Update - June 3rd, 2017
    With the acquisition of Viktor Uvarov, and two other Skrull infiltrators, SWORD is learning a great deal more about the 1908 Group, and Leviathan’s inner workings. SWORD’s database has been updated recently, and should be reviewed by all STRIKE and SWORD agents.

    New COMMS Staff

    COMMS has new senior staff at the Avengers Tower! Alongside our new Director Monica Chang, we have some new arrivals to welcome. Please review their personnel files to familiarize yourself.

    The Dust Conspiracy

    According to Viktor Uvarov, Leviathan’s current major plan is a large-scale terrorist attack on Western nations that involves modified “dirty” bombs to detonate in major urban centers. These bombs will distribute fallout that is not radiological in nature, but is actually clouds of aerosolized Isotope-8, the synthetic Terrigen first created by Herbert Wyndham. Leviathan seems to believe this substance will kill humans on a wide scale (while not affecting Skrulls or human-Skrull hybrids) but according to the details Uvarov has shared with SWORD, the parts-per-million that “the Dust” will distribute will simply cause any “latent” Inhumans in the population to activate. These weapons are, effectively, Terrigen bombs that will lead to an unknown amount of people in the world suddenly obtaining superhuman abilities and possibly taking on monstrous forms.

    COMMS and OPS is working around the clock to locate agents of Leviathan involved in the Dust Conspiracy and put a stop to it. STRIKE will be updated as more details emerge.

    Possible Leviathan False-Flag Activity

    There are reports coming out of Symkaria of attacks on mercenaries and other individuals by the Avengers. This is patently absurd, and obviously a false-flag operation by another group. Very possibly this is a Leviathan operation, War Skrulls with powers similar to those possessed by the Avengers or able to emulate something approximating them, trying to turn the public against the Avengers in anticipation of some larger operation. OPS agents in Symkaria are investigation.

    New STRIKE Team Member

    STRIKE was designed as a five-man team. While the loss of V.L.A.D.I.M.I.R. is felt by everyone here at STRIKE-COMMS, it also can’t be allowed to diminish the team’s effectiveness.

    Effective immediately, STRIKE Director Clay Quartermain has authorized the transfer of SWORD Agent Carol Danvers to STRIKE’s field team. Captain Danvers is an experienced pilot and field agent who recently came into possession of extranormal abilities. More details on her capabilities can be found in her personnel file on STRIKE’s updated personnel page.

    Hyperion Still At Large

    Unfortunately, the Helicarrier was unable to move into position in time to sanction Hyperion after the events of the Cradle mission. The Avengers attempted to delay Marcus Milton as long as possible, but for reasons that are unclear (possibly he sensed the Helicarrier’s approach), Hyperion decided to retreat and the Avengers were unable to pursue. At this time, Hyperion is still at large and considered a Leviathan agent. He is classified Threat Level Omega and under no circumstances should be engaged. If encountered, contact Director Fury immediately and retreat.

    qlGmSdP.pngUPDATED: The 1908 Group
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    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.

    UPDATE: June 3rd, 2017

    With the acquisition of recent intel, SWORD now has more details on the 1908 Group, their reason for coming to Earth, their inner workings, and some of their own schisms.

    It appears that originally, they were a Skrull archaeological team, looking for ancient sites related to the Skrull Empire from the time of the first Kree-Skrull War. Accompanying and leading that team was the Skrull Imperial Crown Prince, Z’Reg.

    Their ship was attacked by concealed Kree defense satellites (installed by the Accusers when they left Earth thousands of years ago) and they crash-landed in Tunguska. Z’Reg wanted to rebuild their ship and find a way off the planet, but he was betrayed by some of his own people who wanted to stay on Earth and rule it. Z’Reg fled, and the rest became the 1908 Group who formed Leviathan, rejecting “Emperors, Gods, and Kings” and embracing values like communism and soviet crypto-states.

    According to our intel from a Leviathan defector, Z’Reg died in World War 2, killed by Leviathan agents.

    Leviathan’s leader, the Magadan, is one of the 1908. They form a group of Skrulls known as “The First”, referring to the “First Generation” of those who crash-landed on Earth. They are the inner circle of Leviathan, and hold all the real power. According to our defector, there are over two hundred of the First still alive today.

    Our defector is one of “The Second”, a full-blooded Skrull but one of the second generation born to two parents of the First here on Earth. The Second are generally fairly high in Leviathan’s hierarchy, but have issues of being trusted and have problems with self-identifying strongly with Earth and their country of origin. Many, including our defector, see themselves as Russians first and Skrulls second.

    Beneath the Second are, logically, the Third, the youngest generation of “pure-blooded” Skrulls. Given the small number of the 1908 Group, there’s very few of the Third who exist, and even fewer who occupy positions of power or trust within Leviathan.

    Instead, most of the children of the Second are Skrull-Human Hybrids, like the Black Widows and their adjacent male counterparts, the Wolf Spiders (a program that, until our defector, we didn’t even know existed).

    More updates will follow as we learn more about Leviathan and their inner workings.

    SsWsd5k.pngMonica Chang
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    Director, COMMS
    Codename: Diamond
    Security Level: 9

    Monica Chang is a rising star within SHIELD. She is a former member of SCI-TECH, and worked in the Artificial Intelligence division. An outspoken futurist who believed that an inevitable singularity would force a confrontation with sapient artificial intelligence, Monica believed that SHIELD needed to be on “the right side of history” and vocally opposed weaponizing advanced artificial intelligence.

    Director Chang was hand-picked by former COMMS Director Hand according to pre-established Worst-Case Protocols she had left behind before her medical incident, which superseded internal COMMS hierarchy and succession.


    SsWsd5k.pngOlivia Hook
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    Internal Neuro-Security, COMMS
    Codename: Rapture
    Security Level: 8
    Known extranormal abilities: Olivia Hook is a telepathic Inhuman, the upper limits of her abilities are to be determined.

    Olivia Hook was recently taken into SHIELD custody on a STRIKE operation. Her Inhuman DNA was activated by recreational drug usage of the street drug “Kick”, and she had been kidnapped by the Alchemax corporation, and was rescued from Alchemax by STRIKE.

    Her Inhuman abilities have manifested as potent telepathy. It has been determined at this time that given events with STRIKE-COMMS and the Crypt, having a full-time telepathic member of staff specifically to avoid neurological interference of base personnel is prudent. Agent Hook has been transferred accordingly. Attempts to interfere with her duties will be regarded with suspicion.


    SsWsd5k.pngCarol Danvers
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    Heavy air support and Kree specialist, STRIKE
    Codename: Captain Marvel
    Security Level:
    Known extranormal abilities: : Superhuman strength, speed, endurance, flight, photonic blasts

    Until very recently, Carol Danvers was a SWORD field agent, and a former USAF fighter pilot. She was transporting Dr. Philip Lawson when their craft exploded due to what appears to be sabotage. Due to the circumstances of the crash, Danvers acquired superhuman abilities and Lawson was KIA. Following the death of Vladimir von Doom, she has been assigned to the STRIKE team.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Now Clay has called the team together for a briefing. The entire STRIKE core staff is there: Niles Nordstrom, Isabel Kane, Dr. Roz Solomon, and the new member of the field team, Carol Danvers. Captain Marvel.

    Elise arrives early, dropping her bag next to her desk with a little too loud of a thunk. She is, shockingly, clean as a whistle. Her hair has been cut short and dyed blue. She sits and stares at the table, eyes rimmed with red.

    The team filters in one by one, and when everyone is present, Clay begins. "So, I'm actually going to cede the room here to... Vision." Vision comes up on the holographic display, appearing as he did in Russia.

    "Thank you, Director Quartermain. Hello, everyone. I understand this is a difficult time for all of you. I was asked to pass on a message to all of you. In his final moments, Vladimir composed a voice message and asked me to record it and play it for his team and support staff at an appropriate time. He composed this message 0.0527 nanoseconds before impact. Please understand that the processing and communication speeds of our kind are... different, and that this does not represent a lack of care or concern on his part. He waited until he was certain, and composed this entire message in that time.

    Vision’s holographic image is replaced by one of Vladimir.

    RC4FSEU.jpg

    Elise's face crumples, and she ducks her head down to look at the table.

    "Phoenix, your fire burns so brightly. You carry the burden of a thousand fallen worlds in your soul, yet you still find it within yourself to be a truly good Human. You laugh and love. You care about your fellow man and it was you who showed me the value of self-sacrifice by protecting my best friend when I could not. Thank you, Julian.

    "Behemoth, you and I were not so different. Both of us thrown into worlds we did not understand, both tools of war. And yet still like one another we chose to use our strengths for good, used them to help our friends and each other. Continue to use this strength and you shall overcome any enemy, Michael.

    "Myrmidon, Commander. It has been an honor to serve with you. Your dedication and insight have been shown time and time again. You lead this team but you have guided yourself more than anyone in STRIKE. Your path of redemption is a noble one, and one that has saved countless lives. Remember my words, Miles.

    "Anteater, my best friend... What can I say that has not been said a hundred times. You taught me what friendship and trust meant. You now must trust in yourself and in our team. Your instincts will show you the right course. You have such power inside you, Elise.

    "Smasher, you have carried us on our journeys, and been a trustworthy ally through it all. Even though you may feel at times that you lack the same powers and abilities as the rest of us, you are a part of our team, and will always be welcome. Keep flying, Isabel.

    "Dr. Solomon, I regret that I did not take the time to get to know you better. My nature never required your expertise, and thankfully the rest of the team has thus far had little need for medical care. But I know that when the time comes, you will be there for them. Keep them safe, Rosalind.

    "Merchant, my stalwart ally. You have always been there for me, always willing to help me at a moment's notice. I ask you now to continue to extend that trust and faith to those who need it most. Trust them as you would trust me, Niles.

    "Director Quartermain. Our understanding of each other was...complicated. It is unfortunate that I did not get the opportunity to fully resolve some of our differences and where we stood with one another. I only ask that you continue to lead STRIKE with honesty and openness. Honor their trust in you, Clay.

    "I'm sorry to you all, and I hope in time you will understand why it had to be this way."

    The message ends, and Vladimir's image fades.

    Elise continues to stare at the table. Myrmidon is silent, his lips pursed in thought. Julian bows his head slightly, furtively looking around at everyone when the message ends. Michael sighs and slightly pounds the table "Goddamn it."

    Vision reappears. "Thank you, Director Quartermain, that is all I had to share. You may resume your briefing." Vision disappears.

    Clay sighs. "I knew that was going to be a lot. We have a mission, but if you all need time, I understand. It can wait a bit. Your call."

    Elise looks up and wipes her face with her sleeve. "No."

    Myrmidon inclines his head toward Elise. "She's right. Let us work."

    Clay nods. "Alright. We have a lot of Skrull intel from the captures we got last week. One of the plots we uncovered concerns the tiny African nation of Wakanda."

    Clay pulls up the SHIELD file on Wakanda.

    qlGmSdP.png
    plWNsef.png

    A small, landlocked country in north-east Africa, Wakanda is the only supplier of Vibranium in the world.

    Isolationist until the turn of the millennium, Wakanda is nonetheless a modern and financially affluent nation. They are currently involved in many humanitarian efforts to neighboring African countries.

    The government of Wakanda is a constitutional monarchy, and their current king is T’Chaka. His son, Crown Prince T’Challa, is a noted diplomat and scholar who travels the world.

    Right now, Wakanda is embroiled in intrigue with Vibranium smugglers. Their own internal security agency, the Hatut Zeraze, are trying to crack down on the smuggling, with mixed success.

    "There's a Leviathan plot to replace King T'Chaka with a Skrull imposter," Clay says. "We don't know how far along this plot is. It might even be completed."

    "Don't worry." Elise says, and she smiles. "I'm getting very good at finding Skrulls."

    Picking up on something odd in Elise’s tone, Danvers narrows her eyes. Elise catches this, and her return look is venomous. She looks back to Clay.

    "Arnell, a word in my office?" he says.

    "Yes." Elise stands.

    Clay and Elise leave. Danvers looks at Kane. "What was...." and Kane shakes her head at her like no, don't and Danvers drops it.

    Myrmidon turns to Danvers. "It's okay. There's some backstory to all of this. We'll talk about it sometime."

    She nods. "Yeah. Ok."

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Elise and Clay go into Clay's office. Clay sits down and taps a button on the underside of his desk. "Please sit down."

    Elise takes a chair. "You have something for me."

    "I have something you know already, and something you think you know but you don't."

    "Well, before we get started here, I just want to tell you something," Elise says. "Vlad set up a lot of infrastructure to protect me. Some of it you can probably guess at. Some of it, you won't. I don't even know what it all is.

    "If I walk out of here with a neurodegenerative disease like Hand, everyone is going to know everything, Z'Reg."

    "So there it is," he says. "The part you know, and the part you think you know but you don't." He folds his hands and reclines a bit. "Does the team know?"

    "I'm pretty sure Phoenix does. But Vlad and I put our heads together alone a lot." None of that is technically a lie!

    "Westin, Mason, Kane?" he repeats. "Do they know, yes or no?"

    Elise's lower lip twitches. "No."

    "If you know what I am, you know you can't lie to me. So don't."

    "...They know," she says.

    "It's a bad call,” he says. “You know I can't lie to you. So let's not lie to each other right now, okay? No more lies."

    "We figured it out during that call from space."

    "I made mistakes,” he says. "Basic mistakes. I got emotional, it was a touchy subject."

    "...I forgive you,” Elise says. “For what you did to Miss Hand."

    "I didn't do anything to Victoria," he says. "She's fine."

    Elise snorts. "I thought we weren't lying to each other." Everything Elise can see looks like he's telling the truth. "What's sitting in Victoria's penthouse right now... isn't Victoria. It's an LMD."

    qlGmSdP.pngLife Model Decoy
    c5ag7Cu.png?1

    Life Model Decoys, or LMDs, are a line of robots developed by SCI-TECH. As their name implies, their intended role in the field is to serve as body doubles for VIPs, drawing fire, flushing out assassins, or allowing someone to appear to be in two places at once.

    Unlike Victor von Doom's Doombots, which employ costly bleeding-edge AI to allow them to mimic the dictator's behavior and personality with a great deal of autonomy, LMDs possess no sentience or true awareness, and when not actively piloted by a human controller, their blank, affectless expressions and stiff gait will betray their nature in any close-up interaction. Priority in the Life Model Decoy design was given to making the units (comparably) cheap, disposable, and able to do convincing duty as corpses. Several operatives' lives have been saved because a HYDRA or Leviathan sniper was fooled by the LMD's realistic wound modeling into reporting a successful kill.

    "You asshole!" Elise yells. "I lost Vlad, I lost Lawson, you were going to let me think I lost Hand as well?"

    "It was her idea," he says.

    "She's an asshole too, then!"

    "Well, yes,” he says. “Let me explain the whole story."

    Elise sits breathing heavily and gritting her teeth. "Fine."

    "Julian was given a secret mission by SWORD. I didn't know about it. SWORD believed there were secretly Skrulls in SHIELD. And... they weren't wrong. There was me. Susan. And... Maria Hill and Barton, I suppose. I didn't know about of the others, either.

    “SWORD believed that Hand was a Skrull, and had Julian peek in her mind. In doing so, he... undid a block I had put in there years ago, when Victoria first learned about what I am.

    "A block that was her idea, I might add.

    "When she first learned what I was, we realized that she couldn't be safe. I couldn't be safe. If anyone from Leviathan, like say... Krylov, for example, scanned her mind and found out who I was, I was done. They'd come after me. It was too dangerous for her to know. So I buried the memories. Buried them deep. Used a complex psionic weave using one of our favorite songs as part of the memory lattice.

    "Julian is... special. He's like a psionic blowtorch. So he burned through it by accident. Victoria got all the memories back all at once, and they were jumbled, She freaked out, and ran. I had to go find her.

    "We talked about it. We talked about blocking the memories again, but then...you guys found out Susan was a Skrull. There were already Skrulls in SHIELD. SWORD was right, just about the wrong person. And we were lucky that Susan was a triple-agent, but we were concerned about the implications of Leviathan getting that close to us without us noticing.

    "So Victoria decided to go underground. Start her own team with my support, to hunt Leviathan down. Engage in a secret war."

    "...She didn't tell me?" Elise asks.

    "No, you had STRIKE, you had your own mission. She would only tell you if she planned to recruit you, which wasn't the plan at this point."

    "I fucking hate this," she says.

    "Victoria talked to Monica, who worked on the LMD project, and we all agreed to replace her with one of those androids. They're...not sentient. They're not even close to Vlad or Vision. But they can convincingly play a person with brain damage. So, hence Victoria's 'condition.'"

    Elise leans back and crosses her arms. "Everyone in this organization is a fucking asshole."

    "Yes," Clay agrees.

    "You wrote this touching eulogy for Vlad, when everyone in this organization would have been happy to leave him as The Resource, with a bomb in him. I'm the only one who always treated him right. He wouldn't have been able to make that choice, ever, if it wasn't for me."

    "I didn't know," Clay says. "I thought he was just like the LMDs. Barely more intelligent than Siri."

    "Yeah, well, everyone treats me like I'm stupid. And yet, look what I got over you," she says. "Here's the deal, Clay, I'm pretty sure this isn't a job, or an assignment, I can walk from."

    Clay nods. "It isn't for me, either. I know that feeling."

    "But as far as I can tell, I keep making right calls. The only time I fuck up is when people try to use me as a fuckin' pawn in their five dimensional chess game," she says. "So from now on, I'm doing things my way on my own time. You're not going to get in my way. Vladimir set up too much to protect me. You're not going to be able to get past all of it."

    "I'm not your enemy, Elise," he says.

    Elise smiles again. There's no mirth in it. "No, you're not. When I find Attilan and end the Skrull empire, we'll be best of friends. Until then, you're going to stay out of my way."

    Clay sighs. "Let's go back to the briefing. Keep the rest of this tucked."

    Elise nods and stands, slouching out of the room.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 18
    Clay walks back to the briefing room. "Alright, going to resume here."

    Doesn't look like you got scooped… Julian thinks at Elise.

    She glances at Julian. Nope.

    Clay continues. "Our contact in Wakanda is a COMMS agent who is embedded with the US State department, and works at the US embassy. Everett K. Ross. Good lad, he's lived in Wakanda for a number of years and knows the lay of the land. You'll be working undercover on this one, photostatic veils and false IDs. Ross will brief you on the particulars on the ground."

    Danvers speaks up. "Uh...undercover? I haven't... done... undercover work..."

    Clay shrugs. "Welcome to the deep end."

    Elise rolls her eyes as hard as she can and sighs.

    "It's okay, Ms. Danvers. We've got your back." Myrmidon looks significantly at Elise. She looks back at him and grimaces.

    Danvers whispers to Kane; Elise hears it. "Am I being hazed? Is that a thing?" Elise doesn't say anything. It's useful if the new member doesn't realize Elise hears everything.

    Clay looks at Niles and Roz. "You two, fall out and get your gear squared for their field op. Danvers, go with Niles so he can brief you on photostatic veils and how they work." They all acknowledge Clay and leave as commanded.

    After they leave, it's just the field team and Kane.

    Clay grumbles. "Vision."

    "Yes, Director Quartermain?"

    "Electronically secure this room from all surveillance," Clay says.

    "Yes, Director. …. The room is secure."

    Clay sits down. "Okay, Elise decided to share with me that you all know who I really am."

    "Oh, you made it sound like I just tossed it out there like an asshole," she says.

    "She decided to share this in the most aggressively exploitative and blackmailing fashion possible," Clay says. "And essentially phrased it in the form of a threat, that she was going to continue to perform her own agenda, regardless of how I feel."

    Elise looks scandalized. "You don't get to be mad at me! You lied to us!"

    "Did I?" Clay asks. "Did I put my hand up and say I, Clay Quartermain, am not a Skrull?"

    "Oh, come on,” she says. “That's the most third grade defense imaginable."

    "That's enough. Both of you," Miles snaps. He jabs a finger at Anteater.

    "Elise, you're upset about Vlad and you don't know how to deal with your feelings except to just...spray them everywhere like a foam dick at a GWAR concert. What the fuck did Danvers do to you? Nothing. And you've managed to alienate her in like, record time. You get upset about these 'betrayals of trust' because you don't treat this like a job, but a clubhouse. You're mad when the other kids in the clubhouse don't want to play the same games. You're mad when we let someone new inside.

    "But this is a job. When people lie, it's usually because they think they have a good reason. Sometimes they actually don't, Clay. But the point isn't to keep some kind of...list of everyone's sins. The point is that we should all be pulling together for what really matters. Which is the job.

    Elise flinches.

    "Which brings us to you, Clay. How much unnecessary shit could we have avoided if the people in this dysfunctional organization could extend a little more thought? A little more empathy? We spend more time checking up on our allies than we do fighting our enemies and your secrets and brain wipes aren't helping. I know you think they are. I'm sure it's a lifelong habit for you at this point. But it's time to break some of those habits. You need to be square with us, not because we have something on you, but because you should be on the goddamn team.

    "We all had a little talk last week. While we were in orbit. We decided that STRIKE isn't going to be anyone's pawn anymore. We're working for Earth, we're working to save this planet from Skrulls and from the Devourer and from Doom or whatever else wants to wreck it. And we're done dealing with other people's shit. They can get with the program or they can get. Out. Of. The. Way."

    Clay sits back in his chair and folds his hands. "I can respect that."

    "...M'sorry I threatened to blackmail you," Elise mumbles. Clay nods in acknowledgement.

    "To be clear, I've only ever wiped someone's memory without their consent when they were an asshole Nazi, and I'm not apologizing for that," Clay says. "The situation with Hand is complicated and I owe you all an explanation for that.

    "Victoria and I have known each other for a long time. Our relationship is complicated. When she first found out I was a Skrull, years ago, we decided she wouldn't ever be safe with that knowledge. One telepathic War Skrull, like Krylov, goes rooting around in her head, they find me, and they come for me. So, she and I decided to to put that out. Then this guy..." he gestures to Julian, "blundered that open on orders from Abby Brand. He didn't mean to, he's the psychic bull in a china shop."

    Julian gives a sheepish shrug.

    "Did you and Krylov have a thing?" Elise blurts out.

    Clay stares at Elise. "Jesus, are you genetically incapable of tact? Is that like, a Terrigenesis thing?"

    "That's ableist," Elise mutters. "I will report you to HR."

    Clay sighs. "Yes. Yes. There are reasons it fucked me up that you killed him. Krylov... Khn'nr... he turned on me. He betrayed me and joined Leviathan."

    "...I'm really sorry, Clay,” she says. “I've been... kind of a huge asshole to you today, haven't I?"

    "Remember when I agreed really solidly that everyone in this organization are assholes? I was being inclusive."

    Elise reaches into her pocket and slowly slides a gift certificate to Applebee's across the table. She smiles sheepishly at him.

    Clay actually laughs and takes the gift certificate "Anyway, Victoria is fine. Monica is in on it. She doesn't know all the details. She doesn't know about…me, but she knew Victoria had to go dark for a while, and she worked on the LMD project.

    "So we replaced Victoria with an LMD of her. LMDs are barely smarter than Siri, but they can pass for someone with brain damage. Hence, Victoria's condition. Unfortunately that also meant you lot thought I neurologically brutalized her like I did to Zemo."

    "...Brand should know," Elise says.

    "Uggggh." Clay groans. "That's... so complicated."

    "She's kind of emotionally destroyed,” Elise says.

    "I know," he nods.

    "Same team, Clay,” Miles says. “Think about the time Brand is wasting worrying about this. We need her at her best."

    "Brand can't know about me. She can't. To her, all Skrulls are the enemy. There's going to be no way for her to unpack that I've been working for SHIELD for decades but no I'm totally cool, lads, honest,” Clay insists. "She's trying to think of a way to sanction Susan Richards without blowback."

    "So come up with a lie as to why Victoria's under the radar that doesn't involve you?" Elise says. "That's your job, you li- Come up with this stuff."

    "I've been working on that, trust me," he agrees.

    "Okay." Elise is appeased.

    "So, about Danvers..." Clay looks at Elise. "You knew. About Lawson."

    "Yeah uh I kind of told everyone," she says.

    "You might not think he's dead," Clay says in slow measured tones. "Because of his abilities."

    "Right." Elise's face lights up. "So, when I find him-"

    "I'm going to be honest with you, Elise,” Clay says. “SWORD has his body."

    The light drains out of Elise. "It could be another LMD -?"

    "No. He's in his true Kree form. That's why SWORD has him," Clay says. "They didn't know. It shocked everyone."

    Miles speaks up. "Do we know what happened to his plane? Was it a reprisal?"

    Clay shrugs. "We're still piecing it together. Here's what happened. Lawson got a bit of a dressing down over the whole Thule incident. Danvers was supposed to fly him back.

    "They were in a quinjet, and there was an explosion in the cabin. Lawson took the brunt of the blast, in his seat. Flashback's studied the crash site. It was a bomb. This was deliberate. He was targeted. Which also means it was internal. Skrulls are our suspect, obviously."

    Elise slams her fist into the table and slumps in her chair.

    Clay continues. "They crashed. Both Danvers and Lawson were dying. Lawson... Mahr Vehl, he wasn't an ordinary Kree. He was like a Kree equivalent of a Super-Soldier. He had a cosmic energy contained in him, it's where his powers came from.

    "Danvers says that Mahr Vell had a choice. They could both die, or he could use the last of his power and transfer it into her, and she'd survive. So... he did that. In the end, he sacrificed himself to save her life. He didn't even know her."

    Elise looks up, with wild eyes. "So she gets all of that, she's the heir to all of his shit?"

    Clay nods. "So it seems. I don't understand all of it, it's all Kree stuff which you understand is considerably outside my realm."

    "So I probably have to be nice to her?”

    "I don't think it'd hurt," Clay says.

    "Nuhhh," Elise groans.

    "Her powers are new. Being a black ops agent is new. Her fieldwork with SWORD is mostly in being a pilot and some combat duty. Prior to that, she was air force, which again, was mostly being a pilot,” Clay says. "She's had powers for... a week?"

    "Military - well, Chair Force, heh - accident, new powers,” Miles says, numbering the items on his fingers. “I'll keep an eye on her. I think I know some of what she's going through."

    Elise rolls her eyes and makes a slow jackoff gesture under the desk.

    "I have thermal vision, Elise."

    "Alright, are we good?” Clay asks. “We're good?"

    "We're good!" Elise springs up and rushes for the door. "Later, Clay."

    Michael stands up. "We're better, but still a ways off from good."

    "Thanks, Director." Julian gets up, nods towards Clay, and leaves the room.

    Myrmidon just shrugs, nods at Clay, and marches out of the room.

    Jacobkosh on
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