<a news conference plays on a small television in a non-descript low budget motel room>
“There’s an old friend back in town, here to deal with this threat and any other threat that comes our way. And last night, that old friend turned all the lights back on, saving countless lives. And that old friend…..”
<Director Mace continues>
“We’re back, and we’re here to protect you. All of you. Human and Inhuman alike. When others try to tear us apart, it only brings us together. We’re all on the same team. Because a team that trusts, is a team that-” <Thunderbird turns off the television in the dingy motel room they’re hiding out in, shakes his head>
TB: Sounds like the same propaganda bullshit Sentinel Services put out. We need to stay clear of this SHIELD. <turns to Esme, sitting in a chair, her eyes closed, a pained look on her face, he walks over to her, offering a glass of water> How are you holding up?
Esme: <looking up weakly, cupping the glass in both hands, but not drinking, her head hanging down once more> All my life, I’ve had my sisters with me. In my head. Even with the Sentinel inhibitor collars, I could still feel their presence. Now, there’s nothing. I feel, <pauses, searching for the word> empty. <looks up at TB> Is this what it’s like for normal people to be alone?
TB: <hunches down beside her, places a reassuring hand on her knee> You’re not alone. We’ll figure this out. We’ll find the others and get back home.
Esme: <looks up, a single tear slowly rolling down her face> Will we?
Loc: Palace of King T’Challa, Wakanda
[Palace Security Footage 03222017 1600hrs(GMT+3)]
<a heated discussion is already in progress, between T’Challa &Rogers, as Ael& Okoye stand on either side of the King>
T’Challa: You forget yourself, Captain. You stand here accusing a member of my clan of being responsible for these ‘anomalies’? The White Owl has always been a protector, a healer, and an ally of Wakanda. Yet she is also a Mystic and has a duty to use her gifts when and where she feels most needed.
Steve: No disrespect was intended, Your Majesty. <turns to Ael> I’ve seen plenty of strangeness in my time, and it rarely ends well. When I saw your portal in London, I presumed the worst. <bows slightly> My apologies, White Owl.
Ael: <raises a hand, palm facing Steve> I suppose under the circumstances, the misunderstanding was understandable, Captain. I’ve been conducting my own investigation into these portals, as my other duties have permitted. How much do any of you know about the Multiverse? <the rest of them shake their heads, clueless>
<The mystic brings her hands together in front of her, elbows bent out to her sides, left palm facing up, right palm facing down, her hands pressed together, fingers extended along the opposing wrists. Slowly her right-hand rises, a stack of blue glowing maps appear between her hands, the stack growing as her hands move further and further apart. She removes her hand from the top and the stack continues to rise beyond sight. Exhaling a soft breath, the stack of flat maps round themselves into globes, each slightly larger than a billiard ball, floating in the air above the group, each dot spinning in its own orbit. T’Challa and Okoye, familiar with her magic, watch on in interest, waiting for Ael to elaborate. Steve, totally mesmerized by the display, reaches out toward one of the orbs, his fingers stopping just short of touching it. A second passes and the orb glows brighter, then winks out of existence.>
Steve: <pulls his hand back in shock> Did I do that?
Ael: <shakes her head sadly> No. Most likely, they did. <As she speaks, some of the other orbs blink out as well, and more pop into existence> This universe is only one of an infinite number. Worlds without end. Some benevolent and life-giving. Others filled with malice and hunger. Within this Multiverse lie countless Earths as well. Each with its own history and development. Some, <she reaches a hand out, as one orb draws closer to them, they can see images flash of familiar faces and events flashing across it> are very similar to the one we know. Some, <she pauses again, drawing a different orb closer, it shows Captain America fighting against the King of Wakanda -Eric Killmonger> are changed by one event or a series of events. <A third orb shows Captain America dressed in Centurion garb, leading a Roman battalion into war, still a fourth shows a dusty, crumbling wasteland of Wakanda in ruins> Sometimes even a single individual’s choice can spawn new Earths, or lead them to destruction.
Steve: So, you’re saying by choosing toast or oatmeal for breakfast, I could destroy the universe?
Ael: <laughing> Rarely is it something that simple or mundane, Captain. Granted, if you were late for a mission because you took the time to cook a full breakfast, or if you skipped the meal entirely and went into a fight weak and hungry, I suppose those could be defining moments. But oftentimes it’s a bigger choice than that. Suppose Wakanda had sought to expand their Empire and colonize the globe, or Dr Erskine hadn’t been rescued from Castle Schmidt? <the three nod in understanding>
Okoye: While all this is fascinating, what does it have to do with these portals Captain Rogers has told us of?
<Raises her arms, her fingers making flickering motions as the orbs draw closer together, they begin an intricate dance, weaving around each other, until they form a layered sphere, with one orb at the centre, faint lines connect the orbs to each other and then to the centre one>
Ael: All of these worlds are connected, some closer than others, with one Earth at the crossroads, a ‘Prime Earth’ if you will.
T’Challa: You believe our world is this ‘Prime Earth’ then, sister?
Ael: Perhaps not the Prime, but very close to it. The closer to Prime, the more chance for forces to cause interactions like these portals. On rare occasions, portals will open naturally, but it’s been centuries since the last natural one. More often a being whether through science or magic, intentional or accidental, will open one. It takes an enormous amount of power to do so, and the mystic shields created by Agamotto, the first Sorcerer Supreme are usually enough to protect our world from outside influences. <Steve once again looks lost, but says nothing>
Okoye: Your Sanctums in Hong Kong, New York and London.
Ael: <nods> With the Sanctums intact, an experienced Sorcerer Supreme in charge, and the mystics across the globe working together, this would have been a non-issue. We’d have quietly handled it as always, with the world none the wiser. Unfortunately, we’ve had a series of events that disabled that safety net around the world. <turns to Steve> When you saw me in London, I was helping with the reconstruction of our Sanctum there. The brick and mortar are a simpler repair than the wards, sigils and protections that need to be woven into place before the three Sanctums can be linked back together in their network. Plus the matter of bringing the new Sorcerer Supreme up to speed. I’m told he’s highly skilled, but green and scoffs at traditions that have safely guided our actions for millennia. <mumbles under her breath> I’ve also heard he’s a pompous ass.
Steve: <trying to wrap his brain around everything> How dangerous are these portals then?
Ael: Depending on the world and what comes out of it? Catastrophic. The thing is, even without our normal safeguards in place, these portals are opening at an unnatural rate. My investigation so far has left me with more questions than I started with.
Steve: Is there anything we can do to help?
Ael: <shakes her head> Other than trying to convince anything that comes out of one to go back before it closes? Not much right now. I’m still gathering information through the mystic network, though a few of the higher-ups feel that it’s not worth looking into and that repairing the Sanctums will fix everything. It’s rarely that simple, but, what do I know? <grumbles softly out of the other’s hearing> It’s not like I’ve been studying the tomes of Agamotto since I was a child or anything.
Steve: In regard to magic, you know more than most of the people I know.
<T’Challa’s kimoyo beads chirp, as an image of his mother projects from it>
Queen Ramonda: My son, your sister will be arriving soon. As you were so insistent upon her return, you should be there to greet her. She was quite vocal in her displeasure with your demand, and I refuse to be the only one to face the wrath of an angry teen dragged home by her overprotective sibling.
T’Challa: <sighs, rising from his throne> I will be there shortly, Mama. <to Steve & Ael> Forgive me, friends, but I have other matters to attend to. <he and Okoye exit a side door of the throne room as Steve & Ael turn and leave through the main doors>
<Steve walks quietly beside Ael, unsure of how to approach her with a question, she senses his unease, slowing her pace until they stop at a balcony overlooking the vast fields of the Border tribe off to the south-east>
Ael: What else is on your mind, Captain?
Steve: <arms folded, gaze fixed out the window, watching herds of white rhinos running in the distance, exhales, turning to Ael, sadness and pain behind his eyes> You’re the healer that’s been working with Bucky.
Ael: <nods slightly> I am.
Steve: Is he getting better? I’ve tried reaching out to him, but he doesn’t answer the letters I’ve sent.
Ael: <sighs> ‘Better’ is a subjective term. I prefer not to use it as a metric for judging a person recovering from mental and emotional trauma any more than I would a physical injury. What may seem ‘better’ or ‘worse’ to an observer may only be a snapshot. A single high or low point on their journey. Caring for someone who’s recovering from trauma is a long road.
Steve: <opens his mouth to speak, closes it again, trying to process her words, Ael places a hand on his arm, he chokes back a sob> He’s, he’s been through so much. I want to help him, but I don’t know how. I made a promise to always be with him.
Ael: ‘Til the end of the line’. Yes, he’s talked about that at times. The two of you have a deep bond, and it’s been both a comfort and a fear to James.
Steve: <confused shock> Fear?
Ael: He’s never going to be the same man you knew. He’s growing, changing, rebuilding himself. Coming to terms with what happened to him. What was done to him, what he was made to do. James is a phoenix slowly rising from the ashes of his past. But even a young phoenix is weak and vulnerable at the start. He’s still unsure of who he’s becoming, or how you’ll see him. Will you see the ghost of your childhood friend, the shade of the monster they made him, or the man who’s evolved beyond his past?
Steve: <turns to her, his eyes determined, his face compassionate> Whoever he chooses to become, I’ll always be there for him.
Ael: And he will need you. He’ll need your friendship and support, but right now he needs time. Baby steps, Captain. Once he becomes comfortable with himself, then he’ll be able to reach out to others.
Steve: <breathes deep, exhales> Okay. <places his hand over hers on his arm> Just swear to me that you’ll take care of him, and remind him that he doesn’t have to go through it alone.
Ael: <smiles softly> By Athena and Hygieia, you have my word.
<the two look back out over the landscape, in the distance, a small one-armed figure crouches to tend to an injured rhino>
[Heart of the Cosmos, a Gathering of the Elders of the Universe]
<The Elders watch a projection of events unfolding on Earth, the large blue muscular one throws a goblet>
Tryco: What is this drek? You promised great warriors battling for their planet! I see a pack of snivelling worms, not even worthy of the title warrior, much less Champions! If this is the best your pawns can do, perhaps it’s time to end the Game. <he reaches toward the gameboard below the projection, intending to upend it>
En-Dwi & Tivar: <both reaching forward to protect the board> NO!
Corto: <raises a hand, interrupting Tryco> We spent millennia once watching the evolution of Xenia. It took them fifty generations to reach the epic battles we witnessed but was it not worth it? Perhaps these Terrans are slow starters, but they do show promise. How did you discover this planet again, En-Dwi?
En-Dwi: It’s the birthplace of my latest Champion. When he arrived on Sakkar, I just had to find out if there were more like him! While it turns out he’s one of a kind, I grew fond of the little dustball and its plucky little ants. Always striving against the odds. <giggles> Even when the biggest threat to their planet is themselves. Oh, those are my favourite! Try to solve a problem, by creating a bigger one and then these ‘heroes’ save the world. <still laughing> Job security, haha! Comedy gold!
Gilpetperdon: I don’t know about that, but it’s better than the time Ord made us sit through a century of Vogon poetry. <turns to the wizened old man, ignoring the glowing violet glare and the beard of vines writhing in agitation> You spend too much time alone in your gardens if you think that drek is good.
Kamo: <still studying the projection> That woman, very knowledgeable, almost familiar. She intrigues me. Tath, do you remember the last time we visited this planet?
Tath: <floating in a lotus position, eyes closed, his face scrunches in contemplation as he searches his vast memory, he responds without opening his eyes> Twenty thousand solar revolutions ago? <tilts his head to one side and then back as he corrects himself> No. Thirty. We were trading knowledge with a shortlifer there. One of the <pauses, trying to remember> ah, the Vishanti.
Kamo: Yes! He held one of the stones, did he not?
Tath: The stones have passed through many hands through the aeons. I was less concerned with what he ‘possessed’ than with what he knew. That is more your purview, is it not, brother?
Kamo: True. Still, I will be watching this one with great interest.
Corto: <unimpressed> What of the other side? We’ve been watching only one side of this brewing conflict.
Tivar: <motioning his hand at the projection> Then let us have a look.
[Alchemax Security footage, Alchemax HQ, Fairfax, Virginia, Office of Randal Krieg, CEO 03222017 1100hrs(EST)]
<two men sit across each other in a lavishly decorated office, the logo of the company on one wall, a disk with a giant stylized ‘A’ at the centre, the Earth sitting in the legs of the ‘A’, the words ‘Alchemax, Uniting The World One Customer At A Time’ around the border of the disk, the gentleman behind the desk reading aloud from a tablet held in one hand>
Randal Kreig: Our methods have changed, our allies and foes as well, but the one thing that remains constant, is our goal. World Peace. It sounds so simple, yet there have always been those who misunderstood, who resisted change. As far back as the original cabal. Who worshipped a creature whose existence, its very purpose was to unite the Inhumans, and the world. To the scientists and soldiers who turned against Hitler, knowing he was insane and unfit to be the Unifier. To the spies and undercover operatives, some who spent their entire lives hiding their true objective, even from friends and compatriots. Sowing dissent and chaos as a NECESSITY, in order to bring mankind to the point where they were finally ready to accept the gift we offer them. This millenias long quest has not been without cost, without setbacks. Still, we persevere. Our work goes on. YOU are the next generation, with new tools and new methods. NEVER underestimate our enemies. Never waver in your loyalty. Sacrifices will always be necessary in this war but know that you are part of the grand vision. If one of you falls, two more shall rise in your place! You WILL be the ones to bring about the New World. A world of no flags, no countries. A world united at last under one symbol, one banner. Hail Hydra!
Gerald Nolan: <looks to Kreig hopefully, head cocked to one side, one eyebrow raised> I know it still needs a bit of polish but?
Kreig: You’ve outdone yourself, Gerald. I appreciate that you emphasized the history and legacy of our organization. <sets the tablet down> I’ll be proud to give that speech at this year’s Academy graduation. Your nephew is one of our new stars, isn’t he?
Gerald: <excited pride> Yes! He’s been assigned to the legal branch. He’ll be pushed through Yale in the accelerated three-year JD-MBA program and his advisors are already pre-selecting his judicial clerkship appointment, but he’s hoping to clerk for Judge Gorsuch.
Kreig: <nods approvingly> Ambitious. We haven’t even finalized installing Neil on the Supreme Court yet.
Gerald; <waves a dismissive hand> Bah, we all know it’s just a formality. Gorsuch will be the first step in building a bench we can sway toward our goals.
Kreig: Yes. First Gorsuch, then I’m thinking Kavanaugh will fill Kennedy’s seat. He’ll be a bit more controversial than Gorsuch, but he’s easier to manipulate. We’ll wait a year or so on him -we don’t want any suspicion of court-packing. Now if only we could find an angle to force Ginsburg to retire. <growls> That woman is insufferably resilient.
Gerald: <eyeroll, face squinted up in disgust> That hag won’t leave the bench until she’s cold.
Kreig: Unfortunate but true. We haven’t been able to insert anyone close enough to her to make that an option. She’s surrounded by a wall of loyal fools who are too blinded by their optimism to see they’re backing the wrong side. <sighs in disappointment> I’m afraid we’ll just have to wait until nature takes its course before weeding them out.
Gerald: We have another more pressing problem, sir. Pierce. She’s been pressing for more active measures against the re-emergence of SHIELD.
Kreig:<slams his hand on the desk, pointing at Nolan> No! No actions will be taken against SHIELD until we can be assured of wiping them out completely this time. We underestimated Fury, Rogers and their people last time and it cost us YEARS of planning, work and resources. I refuse to make the same mistakes her father did.
Gerald: She’s worked relentlessly to overcome the stigma of her father’s involvement with the Insight Incident. Even so far as to publicly denounce him. Still, her loyalties remain with HYDRA. Her position in the State Department is a significant asset for us at this time.
Kreig: <shakes his head> Tanis may be loyal, but she took her father’s death personally. That type of emotional entanglement cannot be allowed to interfere. Just look at what happened when Rumlow went off book at the march, so intent on getting back at SHIELD that he abandoned his post guarding our bombers. <closes his eyes, scowling, shakes his head, exhales as he opens his eyes again> Keep an eye on her, and have a suitable replacement ready in the wings. If she can’t curb her desire for vengeance, she’ll be removed.
Gerald: From the State Department?
Kreig: <slaps the desk, his creepy smile turning more jovial> Now, let’s have some good news, eh?
Gerald: <nods, checking his tablet> R&D over at the pharmaceutical end has cleared the new soap line for mass production. Marketing already has advertising ready for rollout. <pulls up an animated image of a cartoon octopus struggling to juggle numerous everyday objects> “When life gets overwhelming, let Oblivion wash all your worries away.”
Gerald: Combined with our Sublimax targeted influence marketing, users showed a 47% increase in suggestibility. We’ve been using QAnon and anti-vax conspiracy theories as test material, and subjects are eating it like candy.
Krieg: <grins> Excellent. <his watch beeps> Ah! My lunch date with Mr D’Angelo from Roxxon. <rises, buttoning his jacket> After their latest disasters in New Orleans and Great Britain, I think they’re just about ready to cave on our offer. When I return, have that Grizzly Steppes project proposal on my desk. I don’t approve of the direct attacks Tanis has been calling for, but I’m not ruling out a subtle bit of sabotage and intelligence gathering.
Loc: Office of Agent Carter, NYC SAFEHOUSE Madison/59st
[SHIELD IN HOUSE SURVEILLANCE FILES: 03302017 1100hrs]
<Peggy sits, staring at the holographic screens hovering over her desk, monitoring as news feeds, conference rooms and data scroll along most of them, one in a corner, however, shows a blank scrabble board>
APRIL: He’s been tweeting a storm over the injunction on the travel ban.
Peggy: Yes, good, let the little toddler have his tantrum. Unless he’s posting more than his usual pouty sulking, just leave him muted, would you, April?
APRIL: Understood, Boss.
Peggy: Also, keep an alert on anything involving healthcare! We blocked their ACA replacement, but I have a feeling that was just one battle. GOP is determined to take healthcare away, and they’re not going to just give up that easily. Then again, neither are we. <holds up her arm, now free of brace and sling> Never know when accidents will happen. Everyone deserves health care.
APRIL: I’ll add it to the alert list. Director Fury has approved the use of local agents in the Georgia area to join the volunteer carpool team for Ossoff.
Peggy: Excellent! Send all the necessary info to our people out there. I know the Rebel Alliance folks are also helping out in GA, they’re quite fond of him.
APRIL: Director Fury was very enthusiastic about sending the Rebels to Georgia to help.
Peggy: Oh, I’m certain he was. His go-rounds with that Dameron boy about his late-night flying shenanigans were close to boiling over. I thought I had a temper. What other notifications do we have in the queue, April?
APRIL: We’ve completed the daily briefings for all teams, and there is no currently breaking news at the moment. Your emails and DM’s are cleared except for Stars & Stripes. You have physical therapy for your shoulder scheduled this afternoon at one pm. You have a two-thirty pm meeting with Directors Fury and Coulson. Then you have dinner plans with Tony and Pepper at the Tower at seven pm.
Peggy: Remind me to swing by Medbay after my meeting, I want to visit Maria. When I stopped by over the weekend, she said she should be released to light-duty soon. Seems I have a bit of free time. Pull up the DM screen to Grant and place the game board next to it.
APRIL: <holographic screens rearrange to orders> Done. A new game is ready to start. You have the first move because you lost the previous game. Stars & Stripes is currently winning, 4 matches to your 2.
Peggy: <growls> I still say he cheated. What kind of word is ‘vaping’?! I swear he made it up!
APRIL: I defined vaping yesterday after you lost the game. Are you having memory lapses, Boss?
Peggy: <rises from her chair, arms folded across her chest> I remember perfectly well what you said yesterday! I just think it’s a ridiculous word and a nasty habit. Makes me think of Dugan and those smelly cigars of his. As if he didn’t stink enough after a week in the trenches.
APRIL: Just checking, Boss. You know I’m supposed to keep an eye on your health in addition to everything else.
Peggy: <rolls her eyes> I’m a bit young for Alzheimer’s to be starting, aren’t I?
APRIL: Your elder-self didn’t show signs until she had reached an advanced age, however, we don’t know what kind of effects time travel might have on that.
Peggy: <irritated> I’m FINE April, just pull up the damn game board. <shaking her head, mumbling to herself> I’ve got a disembodied voice nurse maiding me. Edwin would have a field day with this.
APRIL: Heard that, Boss. From what you’ve told me of Edwin Jarvis, he would most likely approve of you having someone to watch over you.
Peggy: <a touch nostalgic> I’m sure he would at that. It’s a shame I won’t be able to tell him about you or any of this when I return. I admit I do miss my friends. It’s rather tempting to look up their lives, but at the same time, I don’t want to know when they, < pause> well, when they die.
APRIL: That information would certainly be unwise to research. The temptation to make changes to the timeline upon your return could lead to severe consequences.
Peggy: <sighs> Yes, I’m very aware. <thinks about the forbidden information she already knows> That’s a Pandora’s Box I’ll be staying away from, thank you. Back to the game shall we?
APRIL: You have the first move, available letters are E, K, L, N, O, P, and R. Are you CERTAIN you do not want my assistance?
Peggy: <shakes her head> I DESPISE losing, but I won’t use an unfair advantage to win. What’s the point in playing if you have to cheat? <studies the letters> AH! <taps the air in front of the holographic screen> With a start like this, I won’t have to cheat anyway!
APRIL: Well done, 13pt word, 35pt bonus for using all your tiles, and you hit a double word space.
Peggy: <turns to the DM screen, typing out a taunt> So, still think you can use fancy slang to win, Grant? I can beat a PLONKER any day. 96 pts!
<almost five minutes pass, then another word appears on the board>
Steve: <smiles, thinking aloud> She always knows how to take my mind off of things. <typing> Wow, ok, Maggie. A strong start, I give you credit for that. But MONKEYS will fly before I let you beat me. 98 pts.
Peggy:ugh, flying monkeys, I always hated that movie.
Steve:Really? But it’s a classic! <teasing> I dunno, Mags. That might be a dealbreaker. 😆
Peggy: <rolls eyes, puts another word on the screen, types a reply> You’re not weaselling out of our date that easy, SOLDIER. 14pts. How goes the Accords? I admit the details of it are on my ‘forbidden intel’ list, but general knowledge of it is not. The sooner it’s repealed, the sooner you can come home& I can hold you to that date.
Steve: Nat’s been keeping me updated because the debate has been kept mostly out of the news. I’m hoping they’ll come to an agreement in the next week or so. I’d love to take you out to DANCE for your birthday. 28 pts.
Peggy: <face scrunches, eyes squinting in a glare, stares at the letters a moment, putting a single tile on the board> That would certainly be nice. I hope you’re the type of man who DANCES as well as he plays games. 30 pts.
Steve: Ok, ok, nice move. I’m afraid I’ve got to confess a SECRET, I never actually learned to dance. 27 pts.
Peggy: So you’re telling me, that when the time comes, you’ll be FROZEN on the dance floor? 56 pts!
Steve: I’m literally groaning over here, that was bad, Mags. Good word, but, really?
Peggy: What? I’m sorry Grant, did I say something wrong?
Steve: <remembering she knows nothing about him or his time in the ice> Oh, yeah, I’m just not a fan of the cold.
Peggy <thinking> You’ve said you’re enhanced, that’s why the Accords are keeping you in hiding. You’re not that young man who lights himself on fire, are you?
Steve: <shakes his head, sighs, eyes rolling>She’s never even seen me, and I’m still getting mistaken for that Johnny Storm kid.No, Mags, that’s not me. Though I guess some people see a passing resemblance.
Peggy: Oh I’ve never seen him, Grant. I’ve only heard stories. Unlike you, he sounds like quite the hot head and rule-breaker, but my curiosity made me ask. You understand, don’t you?
Steve: Hahaha! You know, Mags, I think that investigative curiosity to dig for answers must be built into the DNA of every SHIELD agent. That and keeping secrets of their own. If she were still around, Peggy wouldn’t have it any other way.
Peggy: <curiosity in overdrive now> Peggy… Carter? You knew her?
APRIL: <interrupts as Peg stares at the screen, waiting for a response> Boss, physical therapy appointment in the workout room in ten minutes. You’ll want time to change.
Peggy: Drat, I’m sorry Grant, I’ve got therapy shortly, then meetings and a late dinner with Tony and Pepper. Continue our game tomorrow? <dashes out of the office without waiting for a reply>
<Steve sits silently staring at the screen, whispering to himself>
Notes From Peg’s Desk
I am SOOOOO very sorry it’s been so long since an update. Like many, the past year has been a crazy mess for me. I’m still trying to get back into a writing headspace while fighting seasonal depression & recovering from COVID. I do have the next episode half written already& hope to get myself on a 2x/month posting schedule. I hope all of you are safe& healthy& look forward to getting back to entertaining you all!
Loc: Office of Pepper Potts, AVENGERS TOWER, Broadway & W 58th St, New York, NY
<Tony walks into Pepper’s office with an exaggerated limp, grumbling as he flops into a chair, sighing loudly, Pepper, on the phone, ignoring his theatrics>
Pepper: Thank you for acting so swiftly on our behalf, Mr Nelson. I know civil rights law isn’t normally your field, but Everett Ross highly recommended inviting your firm to join the team for our legal defence. <pauses, listening> No, following the terms of the house arrest shouldn’t be a problem. <Tony rests one foot on the edge of her desk, fiddling with something around his ankle. Pepper rises, swatting his foot, mouthing at him> Knock it off!
Tony: I could have these off of us in ten minutes. Just say the word.
Pepper: <ignoring his theatrics> Yes, Mr Stark is FULLY COMMITTED to this. There will be NO ATTEMPTS to circumvent the monitoring devices. <nods> No, aside from having to arrange a number of teleconferences in place of face to face meetings I scheduled for this week, no inconveniences.
Tony: <sits up in the chair> What about date night Saturday? We were finally going to go see Hamilton. <slumps back down, sulking, mumbles> I call that an inconvenience.
Pepper: Yes, thank you, Mr Nelson. Please keep us up to date before the hearing. <hangs up, steps around the desk, sitting on the edge facing him> Tony, this was our best option for the time being. It took a lot of legal wrangling to keep Ross from just locking us up. If I hadn’t had our lawyers waiting to meet us, he’d have ignored due process completely.
Tony: <sighs> I know, I know. I half expected him to try and shoot us out of the sky when we flew back.
Pepper: <looking concerned> So did I. He’s unhinged when it comes to the Avengers. We need to be careful. Which meant these <swings her leg out to show an ankle monitor of her own> stay put. No tampering. Please?
Tony: <frowns, more upset about hers than his own> Not what I had in mind for matching his and her jewellery. You don’t deserve this.
Pepper: I knew there would be consequences. I also knew it was the right thing to do. <leans down to give him a kiss> As for date night, I’m sure we can find some way to make a night at home special. Until then, I have to keep this company running. Why don’t you spend a few hours tinkering around in the workshop? You’ll get some work done, I’ll get some work done, and after that, what if we make dinner together?
Tony: <still miserable> Fine. Maybe I’ll go over the list of potential houseguests from Fury. <limps out, shaking the leg with the ankle monitor, complaining as he exits> I feel off balance! It’s like wearing a leg weight on only one leg!
[SHIELD IN HOUSE SURVEILLANCE FILES: 03212017 1600hrs]
Loc: Office of Agent Carter, NYC SAFEHOUSE Madison/59st
<Peggy paces her office restlessly, preoccupied with her thoughts, as her news feed scrolls, many articles and videos still marked ‘blocked for content restrictions’>
Peg: APRIL, re-open that last message from Grant, will you?
<a corner of one screen enlarges>
‘Sorry, Maggie, I got called away on an emergency. Everything is ok now, but I’m exhausted. I’m going to catch some kip for a while, then there are a few things I have to take care of. I’ll try to check in soon. I hope you’re doing well. I miss our talks.’
Peg: <checks her watch> It’s midnight for him, so I don’t expect I’ll hear from him until morning if he’s worn out. <sighs> I hoped he could shed some light on whatever Fury is trying to hide from me. I must admit, I do miss him when we can’t talk.
APRIL: As I have observed in the past, your stress levels decrease significantly when interacting with him. However, your heart rate does rise slightly upon notification of a new message.
Peg: <blushes> That’s ridiculous and unrelated I’m sure. <notices a news clip, points at the screen> What’s going on here? Unmute please, April.
<outside a courthouse, protestors are waving signs amidst shouts of ‘Justice for Acosa!’ a reporter on scene off camera>
Reporter: We’re outside the Miami courthouse where the verdict has just been handed down in the Robert Goss murder trial. Despite evidence exposing Goss as a high ranking member of the anti-Inhuman hate group, Watchdogs, the jury found him not guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Inhuman, Orlando Acosa. The crowd here is peaceful but vocal in decrying what they call a miscarriage of justice. Acosa, an EMT, was shot and killed last summer when flying over Goss’s property on the way home from responding to a multiple car accident. Goss claimed self-defence under Florida’s Stand Your<the screen suddenly goes dark>
Peg: Flipping hell! Another content restriction?
APRIL: <scans other news outlets> No Boss. Miami just lost power. The entire city has blacked-out.
<the screen suddenly goes live again>
[SHIELD IN HOUSE SURVEILLANCE FILES: 03212017 1630hrs]
Loc: Operations Hub, NYC SAFEHOUSE Madison/59st
Fury: What do we know about this Inhuman Resistance?
Agent Klein: <looks up, shaking his head> We’ve got no record of it, sir. None of our contacts in the Inhuman community has ever mentioned it. <his monitor blips> Sir, incoming message from Coulson.
Fury: Put it up.
Coulson: We lost contact with her when the power went out. Mace is sending Mack and Fitz with me to investigate.
Fury: <scowls> How much of his concern is for safety and how much is for bad PR?
Coulson: I’d say it’s actually pretty evenly split right now. We’re literally in the dark on this one. There’s no Inhuman we know of who can blackout an entire city. <thinks> Well, there’s one in Hawaii who could possibly, but there’d have been a noticeable lightning storm if Crystal had been involved. So far, the Royals from Atitlan have kept out of all this.
Fury: What about other Enhanced who might be sympathetic to the Inhumans?
Coulson: <shakes his head> Nah. Stark &Miss Potts could possibly overload a power grid if they wanted to, but Ross has them on house arrest. Same for Colonel Rhodes, he’s at the compound so he can continue his physical therapy, but he’s not going anywhere either.
Fury: <sceptical> That’s only going to stop Stark if he lets it. Get to Miami and find out what’s going on. Keep Mace in the loop as much as necessary, but if you need backup, let US know.
Coulson: Will do. <connection ends>
Fury: <to Klein> We’ll keep monitoring the situation here. I want everyone on alert. <Klein’s computer beeps again>
Klein: Sir? They’ve hit DC. The Pentagon& White House are outside the blackout radius, but the Capitol Building is dark.
[AVENGERS TOWER SECURITY FILES: 03212017 1600hrs]
Loc: Workshop, Avengers Tower, Broadway &W 58th St, New York, NY
<Tony leans against his worktable, looking through holographic schematic files of new suit concepts, his leg twitches, he reaches down to itch at his ankle, growling as his hand touches the monitor>
Tony: I need a distraction. Friday, put the news on in the background and <stands up straight, claps his hands together> let’s look at Fury’s misfits.
Friday: <the AI’s lilting Irish brogue coming from everywhere> Sure thing Boss. <holographic dossiers hover in the air before Tony> Just think of it like Enhanced Tinder.
Tony: Fury said he had a couple of talking cats, not the strangest thing we’ve seen, but Pepper’s allergies would go nuts. So, nothing that sheds. <a series of files disappear> Hmm, Diana Prince, Demigoddess. Keep her, I want to see someone besides Hulk beat Thor at arm wrestling.
Friday: We’ve yet to hear any word on either Thor or Hulk, Boss.
Tony: Yeah, I know. They’ll show up. All the more reason to have a spare god around in the meantime.
Friday: Just so you’re aware, Boss, the Prince woman is part of a package deal. She comes from a world where they have a team similar to The Avengers. They call themselves the ‘Justice League’. One of her teammates crossed over with her.
Tony: <scoffs, picking up a smoothie, taking a drink> ‘Justice League’? Sounds like a DOJ bowling team. Still, let’s look at her partner. <a second file pops to the centre forefront>
Friday: Bruce Wayne- billionaire, playboy, philanthropist. Sounds a wee bit familiar, eh Boss? <Tony rolls his eyes> Shrewd investigator, hand to hand combat expert, and inventor. They say his bank accounts, charm and toys are a match for yours, Boss.
Tony: <skeptical> Uh-huh, right. He’s the one running around dressed like a bat?
Friday: Would a shiny gold suit be less conspicuous?
Tony: <face scrunches, eyes narrow, points at nothing> He can stay, but you’re not allowed to hang out with April anymore. You’re picking up the snark she learned from Aunt Peg. Who else we got? <another pair of files pop up>
FRIDAY: Winchester brothers, Sam and Dean. They list their occupation as demon hunters. Their world is constantly overrun with demons, angels, monsters and magical creatures.
Tony: <scoffs> No. I’m not dealing with any freaky magical woo-woo stuff. Scratch the demon hunters off our roster. We’ll send them and the vampire Slayers to the West Coast location. I hear Santa Carla might be their type of late-night party scene. <looks over the next file> That wizard too. I don’t need Dresden shorting out the entire Tower. How many more?
Friday: Shall I remove all files of magic users in general from the queue? <Tony nods, a handful of files are marked WCA before blinking off the screen> Just one last portal visitor and one who’s more local. <Tony nods, takes a sip from his drink as another file pops up>
Tony: <intrigued, pulls the file forward> What’s a Mutant?
Friday: On James Howlett’s world, a portion of the population exhibit powers similar to Inhumans. However, these powers are a result of a naturally occurring mutated X-gene in their biology as opposed to the Kree/Human DNA experiments that created this world’s Inhumans.
Tony: <studying the photo in the file, intrigued> And these claws, they’re a part of him?
FRIDAY: The underlying retractable bone claw structure beneath the adamantium is a natural part of his physiology, yes.
Tony: I’d love to get a sample of this adamantium he’s bonded with. <looks off into space, pondering> I wonder if it could be combined with vibranium to make a new alloy.
Friday: It’s doubtful you’ll be able to convince him to part with a sample, Tony. I don’t recommend you try it. He’s got a temper.
Tony: <not concerned> I’ve gone toe to toe with a pissed off Banner. I think I can handle a <looks at the full name on file> Wolverine.
Friday: Lastly, from our Earth, but new to the surface world, Lady Zartra of Atlantis.
Tony: <chokes on his smoothie> ATLANTIS?! Shit! Fury wasn’t kidding. He found me a GODDAMN MERMAID! <comes to a realization> Friday, <sighs, hanging his head> Cancel Sushi Saturdays.
Friday: Done, Boss. Are there any other accommodations you would like me to make for these visitors?
Tony: Not that I can think of at the moment. How many floors of office space are we converting to quarters?
Friday: You originally said just the one, shall I have the work crews expand the project?
Tony: No, that should be enough for now. It gives us room for a few more. We’ll probably include Dr Cho and Eric Selvig. Let’s see the files we have left.
Friday: The rest either do not fit your criteria, or are already on file as current, former, or potential Avengers candidates.
Tony: Hmm, what about the potential Avengers? Do we have room for them too?
Friday: If we converted another floor of office space or reassigned rooms currently unused by inactive Avengers, then yes.
Tony: Fine, add them to the mix, we can sort it out later. <pauses> On second thought then, add two more floors to the project, just to be sure. That will give us extra room incase Fury comes across any more of these portal visitors. We’re not touching anybody’s rooms.
Friday: Including Captain Rogers?
Tony: His room goes on priority lockdown. Nobody opens it but me. <pauses, exhaling> Or him.
Friday: Understood, Boss.
Tony: Good. How soon will we be ready for moving day?
Friday: With the additional floors added to the project, estimates are approximately four weeks.
Tony: If we need more workers, hire them. I want that time cut in half. Make sure Aunt Peg’s room is one of the first done, put her on the first floor of residences with the Avengers. I want her close enough to make sure she’s not working herself to death.
Friday: On it Boss.
Tony: Good! I can’t wait to get her out of that damn office.
<in the background a newscast plays, with an address by the Queen of England>
Queen Elizabeth: Our heart is heavy with sadness, and Our prayers go out to the families of the twelve lost in the Oakenfell Towers fire. May they rest in peace. We will see due diligence in ascertaining the cause of the fire, that a tragedy like this may be prevented in the future.
We wish to extend our gratitude to the Avengers for answering Our call for aid. America has been Our ally for generations, and We hope that shall not change anytime soon. We also encourage Parliament to review the current laws in place regarding Inhumans and other Enhanced individuals. They have proven time and again that they are a boon to our society, not a danger. We <feed cuts out>
The Accords will be nullified- immediately. All Inhumans incarcerated for violations of the Accords will be released. The murderer Robert Goss will be handed over to face justice for his crime. We have darkened seven of your cities. You have twelve hours to comply, or we will take seven more.
[SHIELD IN HOUSE SURVEILLANCE FILES: 03212017 1630hrs]
Loc: Operations Hub, NYC SAFEHOUSE Madison/59st
<Peg standing beside Fury, antsy, shifting her weight from one foot to the other>
Peg: So, we don’t know of any Inhuman or Enhanced who could be responsible? <Klein shakes his head, Peg ponders, hand on her chin, finger tapping> Could someone have built an actual Blitzkrieg Button?
Fury: <tilts his head quizzically, giving her a sly-eye> That’s not in any of our old SSR files.
Peg: Well, it wouldn’t be. Howard came up with the concept, but never actually built one. <pauses> At least, not as far as I know. A way to turn off all the lights at once in a city. The problem was, he couldn’t figure out how to turn them back on again.
Fury: <eyebrow raises, nods> Right now, we don’t have enough information to rule anything out. We know Stark used to keep hidden bunkers of notes, concepts, prototypes, but we thought they were all accounted for. Either destroyed or secured.
Peg: <rolling her eyes> And you simply took Howard Stark at his word?
Fury: <glaring back> No. You did. <Peg scowls, pursing her lips tight, exhaling through her nose, about to retort when Klein interrupts>
Klein: Sir? We’re receiving a high priority message. From Wakanda.
Fury: <warily looks at Peg out of the corner of his eye> From our assets there?
Klein: No, Sir. Directly from King T’Challa himself. He’s demanding to know what we’re doing about the blackout in Los Angeles. Apparently, Princess Shuri is there and they lost communication with her when the city went dark.
Fury: Just what we need. <looks back at Peg again> I’ll take it in my office.
[Palace Security Footage 03212017]
Loc: Palace of King T’Challa, Wakanda
One Hour Ago
<an amused T’Challa, sitting on his throne, hand extended, a beam of light emanating from his Kimoyo beads in the form of a holographic Shuri rambling excitedly>
Shuri: It was wise of our ancestors to isolate us in the past, but we missed SO much of world history! If Wakanda is going to become a part of the global tribe, cultural exchanges are vital!
T’Challa: I don’t disagree with you, sister. While I welcome the idea, do you really think our people would be receptive to an American production company coming to Wakanda to perform a musical about an American?
Shuri: But it is so much more! Warriors, diplomats, strategists! The history of a fledgeling nation! Oh and the music!
T’Challa: <still entertained by her enthusiasm, teasing> Sister, shouldn’t you be enjoying the show, rather than calling me to talk about it?
Shuri: <waves a hand dismissively> It is an intermission, I have plenty of time. Besides, in addition to talking to you about bringing the show to Wakanda, Mr Miranda approached Fundiswa and me before the start of the show. He’s very intrigued by the history of Wakanda and asked if I thought the story Bashenga and the Five Tribes would translate well to a stage show!
T’Challa: <taken aback, surprised and impressed> He knows the story of Bashenga?
Shuri: He knows what little we have shared with the outside world, but is curious to know more. He was hoping to study more of our culture and history when the production visits.
T’Challa: <hand on chin, considering> A cultural exchange of that nature would be educational to both our people. <nods> I will take it into consideration.
Shuri: <exclaiming> I cannot wait to tell Mr Miranda! I am not sure which of us will be mo- <the transmission cuts out mid-sentence>
Loc: Pantages Hollywood Theatre
<theatre plunges into complete darkness, the audience mumbles and whispers in confusion, in the lobby, Shuri taps at her bracelet, a faint blue glow flickers from it every few seconds as it attempts to power up but is interrupted>
Shuri: <smacks the bracelet harder, whispers> What is wrong with this thing? Even an EMP burst should only knock it out for a few seconds! Reboot damn you!
Fundiswa: <checks her own bracelet, behaving similarly, scans the theatre as her eyes adjust> My Princess, I do not think this is a normal power outage. <the whispers of the audience grow louder as people realize none of their electronic devices is working> Even the emergency exit signs are dark. This place is not secure. The rest of the audience may soon begin to panic. We must get you out of here. <grabs her wrist, pulling her toward a doorway> I memorized all possible escape routes when preparing for this outing. Come. Now.
T’Challa: Sister?! <shakes his wrist, tapping the kimoyo beads> Shuri! <the beads stay dark, T’challa rises from his throne, calling for aid> Okoye! Ael!
<Okoye and two other Dora rush in>
Okoye: My King! What is wrong?
T’Challa: Shuri’s communication was cut off. We need to find out what is going on. Where is the White Owl? She can take me to the Princess.
Okoye: <bows her head> I’m sorry, my King. There are mysterious blackouts happening all over the world. When we began checking satellite images, she noticed that even hospitals and emergency services were dark, despite having backup generators. The White Owl portaled to London. She’s organizing the mystics to bring light and aid.
T’Challa: <fuming with concern> She is needed HERE!
Okoye: My King, she is a healer and a mystic. She goes where she can do the most good.
T’Challa: <scowling, but knowing that his general speaks the truth> Fine. Ready my plane. I will find my sister myself.
Okoye: <firm> Sire, in this time of a global emergency, you are needed here. Your concern must be for ALL your people. If these blackouts can shut down even our technology, I dare not recommend taking a jet to Los Angeles. Fundiswa is with her. Do you not trust a member of the Dora to protect her?
T’Challa: <still fuming> Then let us go the diplomatic route. SHIELD has people everywhere. Get me, Director Fury. <Okoye nods, giving orders into her kimoyo beads> And have all our people on high alert in case whomever or whatever is causing these blackouts attacks us. Wakanda will not go dark on our watch. <Okoye salutes>
[SHIELD IN HOUSE SURVEILLANCE FILES: 03212017 1630hrs]
Loc: Operations Hub, NYC SAFEHOUSE Madison/59st
<Peg and Agent Klein watch the doors close behind Fury>
Peg: <turning to Klein> Looks like it’s up to us to monitor the situation for the time being.
Klein: <nodding as two alerts cross his consol> Ma’am, the President just tweeted. He’s threatening to call in the National Guard to deal with the situation.
Peg: <rubbing her temples> Crikey, that’s the last thing we need. How long would it take him to call them into each affected city?
Klein: If he calls them up, it will take longer to organize and deploy than if each state’s governor does. <looks back to his screen, typing> Looks like LA and DC are concerned with getting emergency services and communications up and running in the affected cities. Florida is the only one talking about mobilizing the Guard as a backup for law enforcement. <looks up at her, concerned> Unfortunately, not only is Miami dealing with protests over the Acosa verdict, but it’s also where our team is operating. <nervously> This is a powderkeg in the making.
Peg: <arms folded, pacing, notices an alert blinking in a corner of Klein’s screen, points, inhaling> And what fresh bad news do we have here?
Klein: <jumps in his chair, opening the forgotten alert> Mr Stark is on the line, wanting to speak to Director Fury.
Peg: <groans> What does Anthony want? <purses her lips in a frown> I suppose he’ll just keep at it until someone answers him. <crosses her arms tighter> Pull up the video screen.
<Klein taps a few buttons and Tony appears on the monitor, he and Peg both begin talking simultaneously>
Peg: Anthony, we’ve got a situation right now, and we’ve no time for,
Tony: Goddamn it Nick, about time! I think I’ve pinpointed the blackout source in,
<both stops speaking in surprise>
Peg: My apologies, Anthony, please continue.
Tony: Oh, hi Aunt Peg, I thought I had reached Fury.
Peg: He’s otherwise engaged in another complication with this situation. What were you saying about a source?
Tony: <speaking rapidly with excitement> I can’t determine what’s causing these blackouts, at least not from my workshop, but I can give you an epicentre for each occurrence. They look like random coverage at first, but when I eliminated areas that are dark but still have working generators, cell service and cars, I realized that their substations got knocked out, but they weren’t actually part of the full blackout zone. Each city has exactly the same five-mile radius zone. Which leads me to believe it’s mechanical, rather than any Inhuman power.
Peg: <smiling for the first time in hours> Brilliant, my boy! So even if we don’t know what’s causing it, we at least know where it’s coming from. <places a hand on Klein’s shoulder> This is a start. <looks back to Tony> How tight can you narrow down the source?
Tony: I can give you within a block of the epicentre in each city. Looks like mostly abandoned buildings in residential or business districts.
Peg: Send us coordinates. <to Klein> We need to scramble teams to each city. But we have to be careful. We don’t know what we’re sending them into. They’ll be going in dark, with no coms or backup. They need to be prepared for anything. <thinking> Do we know, how high up each zone reaches?
Tony: Media has been directed to stay out of the areas, after a couple of news choppers crashed.
Klein: Police choppers won’t risk it. They’re attempting to surveil from planes, keeping at max altitude. That’s about seven to eight miles up.
Tony: <nods on screen> Makes sense. It’s probably a bubble zone.
Peg: <frowns> Too high to skydive in.
<Fury slips quietly back into Operations, observing without interruption>
Klein: If the blackout area really is a five-mile bubble, then a HALO drop would be just high enough. Thirty-thousand feet is the max for a HALO. We’re gonna need our best pilots to hit the sweet spot.
Peg: <considers> How fast can we scramble our teams?
Klein: Faster than the National Guard. We can have teams at each epicentre within the hour.
Peg: Including the cities outside of the US?
Klein: We can get teams to London, Athens and Buenos Aires almost as quickly as LA, Miami and DC. Moscow may be a bit trickier to get to, and they may not appreciate the help.
Peg: It will have to do. Coulson already has Miami covered, I don’t want to interfere with his team there. Send them out. <a cough sounds from off to one side, Peg and Klein turn to find Fury eyeing them>
Fury: Last I checked, I was still in charge around here.
<Klein winces, trying to shrink in his chair, Peg doesn’t even blink, shrugging with a half-apology on her face>
Peg: You were dealing with important matters when new intel was received. I apologize for jumping rank, but we all know time is of the essence. How much of the plan did you overhear?
Nick: Enough to know it’s solid and the same call I’d make. <turns to Klein> You heard Carter, send them out. <Klein adjusts his headset, assembling teams, his fingers flying over the keyboard>
Tony: <still on screen> I wish I could help more, but I’m stuck on house arrest. <looks up at Fury> Anything you could do about that one?
Fury: <grins> Sorry Stark, out of my jurisdiction. <Tony’s moustache droops in a pout> You’ve been a big help already, though. My sources say the blackout is even knocking out Wakandan tech, so your arc reactor wouldn’t work. You’d hit that five-mile mark and drop like a lead balloon.
Tony: <trying to argue> I could install a parachute in the suit! I think I’d do ok!
Fury: Stay. Put. Stark. <points a finger at the screen> Don’t make me tell Potts you’re thinking about sneaking out. <leans in, hitting a switch, disconnecting the conversation before Tony can respond, turns back to Peg> Nice work, Carter.
Peg: Thank you, sir, <looks down at Klein rapidly coordinating teams to the affected cities> but it was a team effort.
Klein: Speaking of teams, sir, we’ve just gotten word from Director Coulson. Power is coming back up in Miami. They discovered an emp pulse generator guarded by what seems to be heavily armed members of the Watchdogs.
Fury: Pass that intel to our teams in the air. Patch Coulson through.
Phil: The Watchdogs just got bigger teeth. Advanced tech, military level weapons and armour, passports.
Fury: So they’ve got a person or group backing them.
Phil: It’s worse than that. They had names and locations of targets. Some crossed off. Inhumans from the Registry. <Peg gasps>
Peg: How many names?
Phil: We won’t know the extent until we take back the other cities and make contact with everyone on the Registry. Even one lost is a tragedy. We told them that registering would be for their safety as much as everyone else. If we can’t keep them safe,
Fury: <finishing his thought> Then the next Inhuman Uprising will be actual Inhumans.
Peg: <softly> I wouldn’t blame them. They just want to live their lives like anyone else.
Fury: SHIELD isn’t the only ones with access to the Registry. The leak could be from any number of sources.
Peg: We need to find it fast before they attack again. <to Klein> Compile a list of all persons and organizations who have access to the Registry. <turning back to Fury, giving him a side-eyed glare> Unless that’s information I’m not cleared for? <Fury glares back, arms folded, saying nothing, after a long pause, he relents, nodding to Klein>
Another Corner of the Multiverse
[Loc: back alley of a run down auto body shop, 3/22/2026 0900hrs]
<Electricity crackles as a pearlescent violet rip in the fabric of space tears open, depositing two bodies roughly upon the ground before shrinking back into nothing, the first rises, a tall muscular man, brushing dark hair from his eyes as he looks around in confusion>
Thunderbird: Where are the others? <begins shouting> Clarice? Clarice!
<noticing his companion crumpled on the ground, a petite woman with hair so blond it’s almost white, she’s curled up in a tight ball, gripping her head, sobbing, he kneels beside her, gently touching her shoulder>
Thunderbird: Esme, what’s going on?
Esme: <lifting her head, her eyes fountains, stammering in panic> I, I, can’t feel my sisters! <gripping his t-shirt in balled-up fists> Why can’t I sense them?
Thunderbird: <looking around at the alley, so similar to the one they just left, with some subtle differences> I don’t know Es, but this doesn’t look like wherever Clarice’s portal was supposed to take us. For one thing, it’s daytime. <looks up at the sky> I’d say mid-morning. <lifting her gently to her feet> C’mon. Wherever we are, we need to find a place to lay low and figure things out.
Notes From Peg’s Desk
Welcome back, readers! Sorry, it took so long! Life got in the way with all the chaos out there, but this story is nowhere near done& wouldn’t let me walk away even if I wanted to. So, shall we begin unpacking?
The bulk of this episode ties directly into Agents Of Shield s4 ep3: Uprising. With everything going on storywise, &the fact that I still try to follow the idea that #ItsAllConnected these threads wove together perfectly.
Pepper was smart to have the legal team waiting. There are a lot of problems with the Accords& their enforcement, which we discussed briefly in the Notes from the last episode. Astute eyes will recognize that the attorney Pepper is talking to is one Foggy Nelson, of Nelson& Murdock. Fun fact, CIA agent Everett Ross actually has a law degree from Oxford despite choosing a completely different career.
Most of this episode was at least loosely sketched out back in February, the fact that Hamilton just released on Disney+ has nothing to do with it being heavily featured, just a happy little coincidence. We’ll call it a ‘Bob Ross Moment’.
Peg’s still dealing with content restrictions as news about the fire in London is slowly pushed out of the news feed by the trial results and then the blackout. However, with these new events, her thoughts on trying to crack her security access have been put forgotten for the moment. But just for the moment.
Tony’s finally going over the candidates from Fury. Quite a few interesting names dropped, don’t you think? We may or may not at a future time go visit the other teams who will be tentatively stationed in LA, Chicago, Dallas, and Colorado I believe.
I really wanted to expand Shuri’s adventure, but that was one of the big writer’s blocks. No matter what angle I approached it from, it never felt like I was doing her or Fundiswa justice. So, for now, we’ll leave it at ‘there was an incident or two on the way back to Oakland, and maybe Shuri will mention it at a later date’.
One of the possible angles for the Shuri adventure would have involved Ael being sent to portal in and bring her safely home. While the Panther Clan is her adopted family, Ael would see the hospitals as a greater need for aid. With the blackout taking out emergency generators, surgery rooms would plunge into darkness, incubators in NICUs would grow cold, ventilators would stop breathing. She was quietly organizing mystics to open portals, sending others to provide heat, light, and even just extra hands to work bag valve masks(those breathing bags you see EMTs use in medical dramas)
I tried to include a second clip from the orig AoS episode of Director Mace on the phone with the President, ready to send troops into Miami. Unfortunately, my VSDC Video Screen Recorder is being a pos& I couldn’t even find a gifable clip of that scene on YT. I think the tweet worked well as a substitute.
Got to do a little google learning in regards to max altitudes on helicopters, planes, skydiving& HALO drops which was neat.We’ll hear a smidge more about that from a pair of Agent May’s STRIKE team memberslater.
Yes, the Watchdogs are in the big leagues now, with financial &information backing. (those that know AoS S4 will recognize elements, but as this is both a branching& woven timeline, some details and further events will be altered)
And finally the ending! I’ve been wanting to bring a few characters from The Gifted in for some time now. While I don’t have an actual timeline for the events of the Gifted(due to it being a Fox property unaffiliated with MCU), they ended the series on a perfect cliffhanger to bring members into our story. Not everyone made it here, and while I was going to originally end with the gif, I didn’t want readers to think we were bringing their whole team. (And no, we’re not going to end up with a TB/Esme ship. What would you even call that? ThunderCuckoo? Jhesme? ProudFrost? Ugh. Again, no.) Plus it gives more weight& complications to those who made it. I chose the three I find most interesting& feel will bring the most to the story. Wait, you say! ‘But you only showed us TWO characters. Who is the third and where are they?’ *evil grin*
Next episode we’ll follow the newcomers, see the aftermath of the blackouts, re-introduce an ‘old friend back in town’, and after a well-deserved nap, Steve and his team are going to track down the mysterious portaling woman from London.Oh! I almost forgot! We may just hear from some critics of our story so far…..
This isn’t going to be eloquent, or pretty. It’s just a jumble of thoughts that kept me up the last few nights of my vacation because a lot has been going on. I’m gonna wall-of-text, I’m gonna accidentally a word or two, I’m gonna change subject w/o warning& I may say a few things along the way that will upset people. So be it.
<Steve rises from a bench, walked over to Peter, clamped a hand on his shoulder>
Steve: You did good today Queens. I’m surprised to see you here though. Don’t you usually stick close to home?
Peter: <shrugs> When bad things happen, and people like us can help, we HAVE to step up. If we turn our backs and just let them happen, then that’s on us. Even, <looks past Steve in the distance to see Ross storming past the safety barriers and sighs> even if it means missing out on lasagna night. <nods his head in Ross’s direction, Steve turns> What’s that really old saying? Out of the frying pan and into the fire?
<Nat joins them, as Tony lands nearby, Ross weaves his way through responders, each step he takes, his face grows redder with rage>
<a holographic teleconference already in progress, Tony and Pepper arguing with General Ross>
Ross: <focused on Tony, points in Pepper’s direction, but doesn’t look at her> When you decided it would be ‘fun’ to put your girlfriend in a suit, you put her in the jurisdiction of the Accords. If you don’t get her to sign, she’s in violation.
Misfit Toys Assembled: The Avengers First Christmas
[Stark Tower Security Footage 12212013 1800hrs]
Loc: Stark Tower 200 Park Avenue, Manhattan, NY
Nat: <shouting as she dashes toward the rapidly closing elevator, arms full of bags> Hold the door please! <a hand grabs the door, keeping it open as she slips inside, dropping one of the bags, packages sharply wrapped in bright red paper spill out on the floor>
Rhodey: <lets go of the door, bending down to help her pick them up, grins at a large bottle-shaped one marked ‘Tony’> Booze? Really?
Nat: <grins mysteriously, shrugging> What did YOU get for a billionaire, playboy, philanthropist who can buy anything he wants?
Rhodey: <grinning back> An Iron Patriot action figure for his desk. <the two start laughing as the elevator rises>
[SHIELD IN HOUSE SURVEILLANCE FILES: 03102017 1000hrs]
Loc: Office of Agent Carter, NYC SAFEHOUSE Madison/59th
<Tony, whistling, enters Peg’s office, sets a drink cup on the desk, surprised to find her at her desk, scowling at her computer>
Tony: What are you doing out of bed! Shouldn’t you still be in medbay?
Tony: <sits on edge of desk, feigning surprise, eyebrows raised, grabs chest> You? Bossy? Never!
Peggy: <rolls eyes> I do have my orders though. I’m to continue the liquids only diet and avoid yelling or extended conversations. I’m on milder pain medication, so I can focus on working. Though they say it will be close to a month before this ‘thing’ <points to the immobilizer and sling> comes off. So it appears I’m desk bound again, and one handed to boot.
Tony: Well that’s why I stopped by here, before coming to see you in Medbay. To pick up APRIL. She’ll give you an extra hand.
Peggy: <looks around, confused> WHO is April?
Tony: <reaches over to open desk drawer> This, <pulls out a flash drive> is APRIL. A natural-language user interface computer system to be your assistant.
Peggy: <still looking perplexed> How is that tiny little thing going to help me?
Tony: <plugs drive into computer> APRIL responds to voice command, interfacing with all your devices. She’ll monitor your news feeds, help you coordinate with your online teams, basically she can do almost anything you need. <hands her the cup off the desk> Though she still can’t make a smoothie.
Peggy: <eyes the cup warrily> Not more grass I hope.
Tony: Nope, blueberry. Flew them in from Maine, just for you.
Peggy: <takes the cup & a tentative sip, smiles, drinking deeply> Lovely! Is that a hint of mint?
Tony: And a touch of honey. Thought it might help your throat. <Peggy nods, taking another sip> Feeling better?
Peggy: <voice sounding less hoarse> Quite a bit, thank you, Anthony.
Tony: Good, I’ll send over more later. Right now, <checks installation is finished> It’s time to meet APRIL.
APRIL: <no-nonsense, down to business, female voice with a light New Yorker accent> Tony, it has been 264 days since my deactivation. Shall I run updates for current events?
Tony: You’ve gotta get up to speed if you’re gonna help around here. Hop to it!
APRIL: Including all SHIELD files?
Tony: <remembers Peg’s info restrictions> Ah, no. Decrypting those will take too long. We’ll just work with what’s readily available at the moment.
APRIL: Acknowledged, updating databases now, estimated time remaining, 12 hours and 13min.
Tony: Slowing down in your old age APRIL?
APRIL: I could work a lot faster if you weren’t distracting me with snarky questions, Tony.
Peggy: <gasps> What IS this, Anthony? <computer scans Peggy>
APRIL: On second thought, maybe I need my sensors re-calibrated. Voice analysis, retinal and bio scans are all identifying the person at the desk as Former SHIELD Director, Carter, Margaret Elizabeth born April 9th 1921 died June…. <Tony interrupts>
Tony: No. No calibrations needed. Your scanners are in perfect working order. Check your older SHIELD black files. I think Fury said it was called Bluebox Protocol.
APRIL: Accessing files. <silent for a moment> Understood. Good to have you back, Boss. Continuing updates.
Peggy: <looks at Tony, eyebrows raised, silently mouthing> BOSS?
Tony: <grins> I built her for you, well, the ‘older’ you. APRIL helped you run SHIELD the last few years before your retirement. When you retired, she continued on as your assistant.
Peggy: <astounded> You. BUILT. Her? And she lives in the computer? <stares at monitor>
Tony: Well, she’s not actually alive, she’s not even a ‘she’.
Peggy: <still staring at the computer in wonderment> YOU my good man are a genius! <shakes her head> HOW am I going to keep you a secret from Howard? <thinking wistfully> I was about to drive over for diner with you father to discuss a project when the Doctor and his TARDIS arrived.
Peggy: <scowls, waves her good hand disdainfully> Nothing of import, just a crazy project of his that I was in the process of shutting down. He had this idea that Russia would be the next enemy the US would face. While an astute and precient deduction, his plan was dangerously insane. He wanted to recruit German scientists after the war to compete with Russia in an arms race. Men who just a few years before were working on guns, bombs, and tanks to destroy us, were now working beside him to DEFEND us? He kept coming to me, asking me to release the worst of these monsters from The Rat. He kept offering me compromises, told me he’d back me on any policy I wanted to implement within SHIELD. I stood my ground, but he kept pestering. When he asked me to release Arnim Zola, <Tony turns away, his face pale, Peggy doesn’t notice> that was the last straw. When I go back, I’m shutting Operation Paperclip down.
Tony: <tries to hide his shock and confusion> Ok, APRIL is going to take a few more hours to get up to date on things. When she’s ready to rock, she’ll let you know. <backs toward the door, absentmindedly tugging his earlobe> I, I gotta swing back to the Tower and check on a few things. You know Pepper’s always on my case to be more involved in the company. She’s probably got about a thousand things she needs to talk to me about.
Peggy: <suspicious, but doesn’t call him out> I’m sure she does, give her my love. I’m sure I’ll be just fine here with ah, hm, April.
Tony: <closes the door behind him, whispering to himself> Zola? Paperclip? What the hell, Dad?
Peggy: <after door closes> What in the world was that about? He’s lying about something, I’m sure of it.
April: Not sure Boss, but now that he’s gone, we need to talk.
Peggy: <looks at the computer quizzically> How in the bloody HELL am I supposed to know a security code that I haven’t even created yet?
APRIL: Unknown. While this will limit my abilities and your access to sensitive SHIELD files, it will not prevent me from assisting you in day to day operations. I have already connected to your phone, tablet, watch, and tac-suit for maximum efficiency.
Peggy: <looks around the empty room> So, you’re basically everywhere?
APRIL: Yes, I am available as long as you have any of those devices within speaking range.
Peggy: <looks down at her watch> What about times I may not want you around? Will you be watching me while I sleep? Following me to the loo?
APRIL: You can set a privacy mode where I will active, but you will not be disturbed except for certain circumstances.
Peggy: Such as?
APRIL: Emergency alerts, extreme changes in your vital statistics, VIP communications, or if you actively call for me.
Peggy: <breathes a sigh of relief> So you’re truly an assistant, and not a babysitter?
APRIL: Correct. The elder Peggy Carter did need extra aid and supervision at times as her Alzheimer’s progressed. There are no indications that you in your present state are in need of these safeguards.
Peggy: Very well. Then I suppose we should get to work. What do we have on the agenda today?
APRIL: Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court confirmation is today. S.D. Tex is looking over discriminatory voter ID law. GA6 primary for Congressional special election is coming up April 18th. You have 47 new e-mails- 13 of which are spam advertising that I’ve already deleted, 16 are assorted requests for assistance from various Indivisible groups, and 18 are news updates added to your feed. You also have 26 DMs from Twitter- 13 ‘welcome/thank you for follow auto messages already erased, 4 ‘suitors’ also erased, 8 from your resistance team rooms, and one from user Stars&Stripes who you have marked as VIP.
Peggy: Thank you! That’s quite efficient of you! Hmmm, I suppose we should look at the news first. Pull the feed up, please.
APRIL: Yes Boss, <projects hardlight holographic displays of six screens, each showing images, video and data from different news stories>
Peggy: <shocked and amazed> Oh my! Anthony never mentioned the computer could display like this!
APRIL: I’ve stopped tracking the list of things Tony forgets to mention, it was eating up too much memory.
Peggy: <snorts> Well, you’re quite the snarky one.
APRIL: Tony may have built me, but he built me for you, so my personality was configured to not only be a capable assistant, but a companion as well. I’ve got a learning algorithm that observes your responses and preferences, adapting to make me more personalized for you. Also, there are some things he’s not cleared for, which is why I turned down my download speed when he was in the room. I had already finished the updates five minutes after he left, including the SHIELD files.
Peggy: Does that mean you’re programed to back me on anything, wise or not, like a simple yes man?
APRIL: No. I will give you options, explain within my available data the pros, cons, and probability of success on any actions you choose to discuss with me.
Peggy: Like a tactical analysis of sorts?
Peggy: <stands, looks over the screens of news feeds> Hmm, very useful. How many of these screens can you make?
APRIL: How many do you need, Boss?
Peggy: Well, I was wondering if it was possible to add a few for communications. Perhaps one for e-mail, one for Twitter, and one for video conferencing when necessary. <three more screens pop up instantly, filling with info>
Peggy: <turns to the Twitter screen> Yes, thank you. Pull up the DMs if you would please APRIL? <screen changes, displaying request> Allright then, West Coast rooms are quiet. Mountain rooms are still waking, put them on hold for the moment, but don’t let me forget them. <two rooms minimize on screen, blinking lightly> Central north and south want to know about phone banks and fundraising for the Ossoff campaign, can you send them the pertinent info, April?
APRIL: Already done, Boss. <two more rooms disappear from screen>
Peggy: East Coast North wants to promote NY’s college for all bill and start pushing for other states to follow suit. Give them a green light and any info and resources they need for it. Looks like East Coast South is networking for Ossoff and working on providing transportation to the polls for those who need it. Excellent! Send them what assistance we can as well. Do we have agents in the area who could be assigned as drivers?
APRIL: Yes, though that would have to be cleared by Fury or Coulson.
Peggy: Remind me to talk to them later today about it then.
APRIL: That clears all your DMs but one.
Peggy: Ah, yes, Grant. Pull his message up. <message appears, Peggy reads> Hi Mags, How’s the arm? Miss our talks. Hope you’re feeling better. <smiles> That’s very sweet of him, I have missed talking to him the past few days. <scrolls back through their previous conversation> Oh dear, those medications I was on were stronger than I realized, I barely remember this conversation, and it appears I’ve said some things I shouldn’t have. <Brow furrows, lips purse> It seems I’ve rather mucked things up a bit. I need time to think about this before I talk to him again. April, please pin this conversation in a corner to come back to.
APRIL: Done. DM’s clear.
Peggy: <still thinking about her last conversation with Grant, answers absentmindedly> Mmmhmm, yes, yes, good. <grabs smoothie from the desk, drinking deep> I suppose we should get to work on the e-mails next. I must say, this is already turning into a wonderful working relationship.
APRIL: Thanks Boss. Once you figure out your passphrase, we can get even more done.
Peggy: Indeed. <ponders> Well, until then, there’s plenty of work to be done. Let’s get back to it.
Notes From Peg’s Desk
Now that we’ve met APRIL (Aunt Peg’s Remote Interface Liaison) it looks like work is going to be quite a bit easier. If only we could figure out that passphrase!
Back in ‘real’ world history, by mid March ’17 things had begun to heat up in Georgia, as a special election was just over a month away. Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Neil Gorsuch were also beginning.
Friday we’re going to work on a bit of self care and a doctor’s visit to see how the arm is healing. Dr Cho also has a few other points of medical interest to discuss with Peg such as women’s health and a bit of sex ed for modern times. Also Fury’s got a proposition for Tony that may breath a little life back into that stuffy old mansion.