New Homes and New Problems
[AVENGERS TOWER SECURITY FILES: 04042017 0900hrs]
Loc: AVENGERS TOWER, Broadway & W 58th St, New York, NY
Tony: < in the lounge area, sitting across the table from Peg, a small basket of muffins between them, relaxing, with coffee> So the renovations for the lower floors will be done in about a week, but your quarters are ready any time you are.
Peggy: I’m still not comfortable with the idea of leaving the safe house. What if I’m needed in an emergency?
Tony: <rises, motioning her to join him, still limping awkwardly from the ankle monitor> Just lemme give you the grand tour at least. APRIL and I have both told you that you’re connected to everything through her if anything happens. The safe house is just a few blocks away if you NEED to be there.
Peggy: <sets her coffee down on the table before following> I wouldn’t want to intrude on you and Pepper; this is your home. Especially with the two of you on house arrest right now.
Tony: Pepper and I WANT you to move in, and it’s not like you’ll be the only one. Besides, she’s usually so busy running the company that I’m left rattling around this place all by myself. <tilts his head, looking around with a bit of nostalgia> It used to be a lot noisier around here. <leads her down a set of stairs to the residential floor>
Peggy: You miss your friends.
Tony:<smiles wistfully> It was kind of almost like having a family. <frowns> But, nothing lasts forever.
Peggy: <looks down the hall> Yet you’ve kept their rooms, waiting for them to come home.
Tony: <shrugs, unconsciously rubbing his earlobe, blusters> I just haven’t decided if I want to turn this floor into an art gallery, another workshop, or an exotic petting zoo.
Peggy: <recognizing the gesture, unconvinced> Mhmm. <continues down the hall, a row of doors on either side, looking at the small nameplates above the palmprint lock beside each suite’s door, reading them off, trailing her fingers along the wall as she walks> R Rhodes. C Barton. N Romanov. B Banner. T Odinson. Vision. W Maximov. S Wilson. <she stops at the next to last door, its nameplate is dented & scratched, only the first two letters legible> S R?
Tony: <tugging at his earlobe again> Ah, Storage Room.
Peggy: <eyebrow raised> Oh. Of course. <tries handle, finds the door locked, a red light flashes on the palm pad beside the door> Quite the lock for a simple closet.
Tony: <opens his mouth, then closes it again, rubs the earlobe a third time, catches himself, folds his arms over his chest> Well, I, ah, it’s just a bunch of old antiques& junk leftover from um, one of dad’s old experiments. I probably should just clean the whole space out.
Peggy: <cocks her head to the side, smirking> You know, you picked that tell up from Edwin.
Tony: <grins sheepishly, shakes his head> Every time Jarvis tried to cover for dad, he’d rub his ear.
Peggy: <frowns, brows furrowed> Howard was still leaving him to make excuses after all those years?
Tony: <shrugs> He was always busy with work, but I had a family. I had Mom, the Jarvis’s, and you. <smiles sadly> You kept me from drinking myself to death after Mom& Dad died.
Peggy: <puts a hand on his arm> You mentioned that before. I know I shouldn’t ask, but how did they die?
Tony: <starts to reach for the ear one more time, runs his hand through his hair trying to cover the gesture> Car crash, a tire blew out, and they hit a tree. Totally out of the blue, nobody, <looks away> ah, nobody could have expected or prevented it. <takes a deep breath> That was a rough Christmas.
Peggy: <bites her lip, eyes watering, nods> I can only imagine.
Tony: <sniffs> Yeah. <waves a hand around> This area’s been unused for most of a year. I think the air filtration system needs to be checked. <sniffs again> Lotta dust in the air messes with my allergies.
Peggy: <smiles softly, allowing him the lie> Yes, I noticed, quite dusty indeed.
Tony: I’ll have maintenance get right on that. I wouldn’t want you to go into sneezing fits while you’re trying to relax in your new rooms. <points to the door across from the ‘storage room’, the nameplate above the palm lock is blank> We’ll put your name on there & encode your palmprint once you decide you’re ready to move in. <opens the door, encouraging her to enter first>
Peggy: <steps inside the suite, looks around, eyes wide> Why I could fit my old flat in here three times and still have room! What would I ever need with so much space? <looks around approvingly at the classic but straightforward furnishings> At least the couch seems more comfortable for sleeping than the one in my office.
Tony: <brightens, laughing> No! Aunt Peg, this is just your living room! These are entire apartments. <grabs her hand, leading her through> Kitchenette. <she grimaces, as he continues to laugh> Yes, I remember. There’s a microwave, coffeemaker, and the numbers for twenty different restaurant delivery services are on the fridge.
Peggy: <face squints in laughter, giggles sarcastically> ONLY twenty?
Tony: <smiles, still laughing, shrugs> That’s the quick reference list. I’ll have FRIDAY send APRIL a more comprehensive one with menus.
Peggy: <turns back around> Is there an office space for me to work from home if anything happens?
Tony: <still grinning, enjoying the chance to show off> Would you even think about moving in if there wasn’t? <doesn’t wait for an answer, leading her into another room, a marble-top desk at the centre monitors covering the walls to the left and right, an expansive view of the city displayed by the glass wall behind the desk> You’ll be able to do everything here that you could do at the safe house. With a way better view. Fury and Coulson are just a vid conference away if you need to consult them.
Peggy: <sits down in the chair, swivels around to take in the view> It certainly is a magnificent sight! The city has grown so much! We’re so high up! I swear I can almost see Brooklyn!
Tony: Your office is already set up for you and APRIL. I even made sure <opens a drawer of the desk> to stock everything you could need. <pulls out a bag of potato chips, tosses them to her>
Peggy: <catches the bag, beaming and chuckling> Crisps! Oh, you do know me so well! <considers opening the bag right away, then puts it back in the desk> I suppose I’ll just save these for later when I’m up working late.
Tony: <eyebrows raised in happiness> Sounds like you’ve already decided, and you haven’t even seen the whole place yet.
Peggy: Well, I suppose I should let you finish the tour before I agree to anything. <spins again> Though this chair IS rather comfy. <rises>
Tony: <leads her down the hall> You’ve got a full bathroom with jacuzzi tub, no sauna, but there’s one by the locker rooms off the gym upstairs. <Peggy shakes her head at the excessive luxuries but lets him continue> And this is your bedroom.
Peggy: <taken aback by the great open space, explores, opening the walk-in closet, peeking into the bathroom, nodding in approval once more at the furnishings, sits down on the edge of the massive bed, giving it a light bounce> Oh good! I was afraid it would be one of those dreadful mattresses one sinks into, like trying to sleep in quicksand or marshmallows. <looks to the glass wall on one side of the room> Please, please, tell me I can pull some drapes across that! I’ve no wish to put on a show for any planes, helicopters, or enhanced peeping toms flying past!
Tony: Better, it’s two-way adjustable glass. No one can see in, and APRIL will adjust the level of light that comes through. So if you have one of those late work nights and don’t get to bed until five am, you can still have it pitch black in here if you like. Also, <knocks on the nearest window> while we’ve never needed it, bullet-proof.
Peggy: Splendid! <shakes her head> I admit, I had already decided I was going to remain at the safe house before I even arrived here today. <Tony’s moustache droops> However, after seeing how much thought and work you put into creating a space where I can be not only productive, but comfortable as well, I suppose I really can’t say no, now can I? <thinks to herself> Plus, you’ve given me another mystery or two to unravel.
Tony: <brightens immediately> Great! How about we move you on Saturday, and then you can wake up in your new place for your birthday?
Peggy: <smiles> You’re enjoying this way too much, Anthony. I never really celebrate my birthday. There’s always work to be done—some sort of emergency or crisis.
Tony: <holds up a hand> Not this year, I swear, Aunt Peg. You’re going to enjoy your birthday for once. NO WORK!
Peggy: Well, to be honest, there was one thing I had hoped for, <Tony’s ears perk up> but it doesn’t seem that will come to pass by then.
Tony: <reaching for his phone> Something I can help make happen?
Peggy: <sighs, shaking her head> No, Anthony, I was just hoping a friend I had made would make it home in time to celebrate with me.
Tony: <squirms slightly, rubbing the back of his neck> That, ah, Grant guy you’ve been talking to? The one who sends you music?
Peggy: <blushes> Yes, Grant. He promised to take me dancing. <looks downcast, shrugs> However it doesn’t seem he’ll make it back to New York before then after all.
Tony: <scowling> Let me guess, he’s a workaholic like you and can’t take the time away.
Peggy: <looks up at the ceiling, biting her lip, stretching her words out slowly> Nottt Exaaactlllly. You’re not going to like it. <Tony tilts his head to the side, eyebrows raised, waiting for her to explain, she answered hesitantly> He may, just slightly, technically, be, well, <pauses> a fugitive.
Tony: <eyes widen, stares at her for a minute before going off> Jezus Aunt Peg! What the hell are you thinking?
Peggy: <hackles up> I KNEW you’d be upset. Don’t even THINK you’re going to give me a lecture. I’m not some empty-headed fluttering teenager making poor decisions. The only reason he’s a fugitive is those bloody damned Accords. He’s been waiting for them to be rescinded. Then he wants to come back to the States and join the Resistance fully. He already does as much as he can right now from wherever he’s hiding. Don’t bother asking; I have no idea where he is.
Tony: <puts his hands up defensively> Ok, ok. Let’s not ruin a good day with an argument. From what you’ve told me before, he seems like a decent guy, but the Accords were put into place to protect people from the types of dangers enhanced individuals can cause. If he refuses to sign, that makes him either stubborn, dangerous or most likely both. Do you know what powers or abilities he has that make him qualify for the Accords?
Peggy: <stops to think> We haven’t discussed that. All I know is that he’s not that fireman, John Storm? I think his name was?
Tony: <nods> Johnny Storm and the rest of the Fantastic Four did sign. Though I heard it was a real Yancy Street slobber knocker of a family squabble over the decision. So you have NO idea who this guy is?
Peggy: None. I wouldn’t even recognise him if I saw him on the street. I don’t even know if Grant is his real name; I admit I didn’t give him mine.
Tony: <sighs> Just, just promise me you’ll be careful, Aunt Peg.
Peggy: I can handle myself, Anthony. <her phone pings with alerts, she checks it, looks back at the kitchenette area and then to Tony quizzically> So, those microwave machines, can they actually be used to spy on someone?
Tony: <raises an eyebrow, shakes his head, trying not to laugh> NO. Do I even want to know what’s going on?
Peggy: <looks around the apartment> I have to get back to the office, can we discuss the details of moving day later?
Tony: Sure, I’ve got some things I’ve got to check out with FRIDAY, so you take care of whatever mess that is and call me when you have time tonight. <walks her to the elevator>
Peggy: It may be late. Apparently, GOP Barbie is yammering away about some sort of wiretapping conspiracy. <steps inside>
Tony: I’d tell you to have fun, but <rolls his eyes, laughing>
<the elevator doors close, Tony awkwardly hops and skips up the nearby stairs to the upper lever workshop/office>
FRIDAY: <lilting Irish brogue fills the room> Yeah, Boss?
Tony: Got some detective work to do. I need a list of all known male enhanced individuals affected by the accords. Remove any that have signed or been incarcerated.
FRIDAY: Do you want me to include those killed in anti-Inhuman terrorist attacks by the Watchdogs?
Tony: Ah, no, exclude them as well, strike any deceased from the list.
FRIDAY: Even with those parameters, this list is going to take a wee bit of time. I hope you didn’t have any other plans for me for a while.
Tony: This is your main focus right now. I need to know more about this guy and make sure he’s not putting Aunt Peg in danger.
FRIDAY: It seems your godmother is quite capable of both putting herself into and extracting herself from danger without any help, Boss.
[Loc: Small non-descript hotel room, Atlanta, Georgia, 04042017 0900hrs(EST)]
Esme: I don’t see what the big deal is. We shouldn’t even have to get jobs. I could just get into the managers head and make him think he’s getting paid for the room. <spins around the dingy room with a look of disgust> Hell, I could get us better accommodations than this in a heartbeat.
Thunderbird: No. You’ve been using your powers too much as it is lately. Someone is going to notice.
Esme: You said yourself that we don’t know how long it will take to find Clarice and the others, much less a way home. We need a place to lay low and gather information.
Thunderbird: Yeah, I said to lay low. We need to blend in. Using your powers to peek into peoples minds, pick their pockets and make them forget things ISN’T keeping a low profile.
Esme: <matter of factly> If I make them forget, then it’s not an issue, right? I got you that construction job at the new Alchemax distribution centre, and you didn’t even need an ID. You should be thanking me!
Thunderbird: The boss hired me, yes, but what happens when payroll doesn’t have any record of me? Remember the migrant family down the hall that got taken away by ICE last week?
Esme: <stiffens at the memory of a small child crying out> They’re as bad as Sentinel Services. We should have helped them.
Thunderbird: <looks down, inhales> I know. But it was a risk we couldn’t take. We need to find a way to get papers and blend in around here. We can’t go looking for the others if we’re constantly looking over our shoulders.
Esme: Fine. How’s this? We go to the county offices, and I do one last mind push to get us what we need. We’ll have official driver’s licenses and social security cards. Then I promise, <fingers crossed behind her back> to behave and not use my powers unless it’s an emergency.
Thunderbird: <sighs, knowing it’s their best option> You swear? <Esme nods, fingers still crossed> Ok, that gets me a job and keeps a roof over our heads. What are you going to do?
Esme: <looks down at a newspaper on the table, an article stands out about a local political campaign needing volunteers, she smiles> You get money, I’m going to get information. <Thunderbird glares at her> What? It’s not the first time I’ve gotten involved in politics. Politicians tend to know things, and canvassing neighbourhoods gives me a chance to talk to all kinds of people without looking suspicious. I can learn more about this world and find out what may have happened to our friends.
Thunderbird: <considers> Ok. See if you can find anything out about SHIELD and these Inhumans too. < points the finger at her> But be careful. NO powers!
[An apartment overlooking Sennaya Ploshchad Subway station, Corner of Nevsky & Ligovsky Aves, St Petersburg, Russia 04042017 (10 am MST, GMT-3)]
[Dressed casually in jeans, a hoodie, and a knit cap over her short blond hair, Nat creeps through an open window, gun drawn at her side, stealthy exploring the apartment, noticing a pile of mail by the door, dirty dishes piled in the sink, the apartment’s resident dead at the kitchen table, a middle-aged dark-haired woman at the kitchen window, looking out at the mourners and rubble below, ignoring Nat’s presence, her dark blue jacket has the word ‘фельдшер’ on the back]
Nat: <shakes her head> Sloppy.
Ninotchka: <turns, the first aid cross and hospital insignia visible beneath a large amount of blood on the front of her jacket, rolls her eyes sarcastically> Oh, I’m so sorry. Should I have cleaned the house and baked marlenka? I’ve been a bit busy working—no time to make friendly for uninvited guests.
Nat: <both hands on her gun, but keeping it lowered> So I noticed. Still, a subway bomb?
Ninotchka: <casually shrugs off the bloody paramedic jacket, setting it on the back of an unoccupied chair> Another political dissident ‘accidentally’ falls out of a high story open window or succumbs to a mysterious poisoning; it looks suspicious. A random college student dies of a terrorist bombing along with others, not so much. Bonus, it scares the protestors from gathering without making them look like a direct target.
Nat: <drawing slowly closer, still tense> Smart, but how could you be sure to kill the right target?
Ninotchka: <grins satisfactorily, placing her hands on the back of the chair, brushing off a bit of debris from the jacket> A first responder found him still breathing with a nasty head wound and jagged pieces of shrapnel in his chest; one had stopped just short of a major artery. <tilts her head, still grinning> Unfortunate for him, the responder must have nudged it while putting pressure on his other wounds. Dead at the scene.
Nat: And what about all the other people who died?
Ninotchka: <tilts her head, glaring> Collateral damage. Unimportant. There was a time you understood that—a time before you betrayed your heritage. The Red Room made you who you are, yet you turned your back, then tried to destroy us.
Nat: <calmly, holstering her gun> I was given a choice. A chance to be something more. You could have that too.
Ninotchka: <growing more agitated, her voice rising in sarcasm and anger> Oh, yes! Become a SHIELD agent, <pauses> or an Avenger? And how did that work out for you?
Nat: <sighs, looking her in the eyes> I’m not saying it’s been perfect, but I’ve worked to make the world a better place, not throw it deeper into chaos and bloodshed. To make a world where little girls can have real childhoods, not be raised as weapons.
Ninotchka: <her eyes full of rage> I’m sure the little ones you stole away call you a hero. Those of us who remained loyal call you a traitor! <with lightning speed, she whips a knife from her belt, slashing at Nat> You took them from the only home they ever knew!
Nat: <rolls to the side, across the table, dishes crashing to the floor> That wasn’t a home; we just didn’t know any better. It was a prison. It was a factory. Children went in, and killing machines came out. Too many didn’t make it out at all.
Ninotchka: Those that came out were survivors! The elite! The malen’kiye sestry you kidnapped will grow fat, lazy, and undisciplined without the training and order of the Red Room!
Nat: They will grow up with the choice to become whatever they choose to be.
Ninotchka: NO! Destiny chose them! This is their birthright!
Nat: <backs up a step, raising her arm, palm up in a stop motion> This isn’t you, it’s the programming talking.
Ninotchka: NO! I was given your little ‘cure’<spits on the floor> and it changed nothing. Ironic that it was sprung upon me against my will in order to ‘free’ me.
Nat: We may disagree, but at least now, your choices are your own. You can choose to remain in this life, hurting, killing, and sowing chaos to protect the power of evil men. <reaches her hand out in a gesture of friendship> Or, you can walk away. Create your own life. Find the things that make you happy and make your path in the world.
Ninotchka: Structure and order are what makes me happy. You’re the one sowing chaos, disrupting the natural rule of our world. <lunges at Nat again, screaming> You’re no hero! You’ve destroyed everything!
<a calm, steady male voice comes across Ninotchka’s earbud>
Control: Stand down. Disengage and return.
Ninotchka: <enraged> NO! I have the traitor! I can end her!
Control: <repeating in the same calm, unemotional voice> Stand Down. The traitor is not your assignment. Disengage and return.
Ninotchka: <shakes her head> If I eliminate her now, she won’t interfere when we reclaim the lost ones.
Control: <recites a list of seemingly meaningless words> Twenty-Three. Empress. Garden. Ballroom. Swan. Crimson. Graduation.
Ninotchka: <blinks multiple times, her face contorting from one of rage to calm, a serene blank slate broken by a faint smile of happiness as Nat watches only one side of the encounter in confusion> Ready to comply.
Control: Compliance will be rewarded. Cleanup, disengage and return.
<before Nat can react, Ninotchka grabs the gas line jutting from behind the stove, ripping it loose from the wall, the broken line emitting an angry hiss as natural gas rushes from it, Nat jumps out the kitchen exit as Ninotchka crashes through the window, firing a widow bite as she dives, the electrical spark igniting the gas, causing an explosion that rocks the apartment, fire spreading quickly, Nat makes it out the door, slamming it behind her, running down the halls, banging on doors>
Nat: Огонь! Убирайся! Огонь!
<doors begin to open in confusion, some closest to the apartment see smoke curling up from under the door and join in raising the alarm as they evacuate the building, Nat pulls up her hood and blends into the crowd spilling out into the street, making her way towards a motorcycle parked in an alley, straddling the bike, a faint whistling tone comes from her pocket, she checks her phone, one text message, the sender name is nothing but an emoji>
🙃: You need to come back. I have an emergency.
Nat: Yeah, so do I. They may be related.
🙃: I doubt it. You’re not dealing with stupid old people. Or stupid young people.
Nat: You love it, and you know it. But they may be in danger. How goes the history research? You may have some of the answers I need.
🙃: Not much other than what I could find out from elders in other safe houses. I did find an abandoned training facility in the Maryina Horka Forest. Actually, it’s only about 50 miles from our safe house. It looks like it was evacuated in a rush. They didn’t even take the time to set fire to the place. I found a wall breach in one of the lower levels and evidence of a firefight. Skeletons of soldiers -primarily Russian, but a couple of Americans.
Nat: Wow, that’s not normal. Anything good?
🙃: Lot of ancient history. Most of the files and books are like, I don’t know, a hundred years old or more, maybe? I can’t tell; it all just looks old. I doubt they’ll have anything you need.
Nat: It was worth a look. I can be there in 12hrs. Meanwhile, I need you to contact all the sanctuaries and put them on high alert.
🙃: That kind of emergency? Shit. Ok, just get here soon. And DON’T ruin my jacket!
Nat: Love you too, sis. Be careful.
<Nat tucks the phone away, putting on a helmet, revving the bike and speeding off>
[Belorusneft Petrol station on M5 just north of Minsk, Belarus, (9 pm MST, GMT-3)]
<Nat parks her bike next to one of the pumps, pulling off her helmet, and begins to fill the tank, her phone gives another whistle from her pocket, this time the text sender is identified by an eye>
👁️: Thad is out of our hair. Spring break is over in a week. I’ll need you kids to come home then. I’ve got a lot of work for you to catch up on.
Nat: <sighs, mumbling to herself> Jeezus, Fury. Great news, lousy timing. <tucks the phone back in her pocket, replacing the pump and walking toward the cashier booth, paying without a word, hopping back on the bike> Sorry, Nick, I can only help one family at a time.
Notes From Peg’s Desk
I know I’ve been away for a while. I could shrug it off as oh, waiting for Black Widow so I can fit it in the story or I couldn’t get that fight scene with Nat & Ninotchka down the way I wanted it. Or life& work& health got in the way. Or I could be bluntly honest& say I’ve been lethargically, numbly, depressed more on than off for most of the past year. Stuck between 2 voices arguing.
“You NEED to write something. Why aren’t you writing? Why is this page so empty when the story is all in your head? You’re letting your readers down. You suck, you’re a horrible person. Who cares if you’re tired? You’re not allowed to sleep! Stop doing fun stuff, it’s distracting you, not recharging you. I don’t understand, WHY AREN”T YOU WRITING!?”
“Your stuff sucks& no one want’s to read it. I’m protecting you by giving you writer’s block. You’re just going to embarrass yourself if you post anything. Besides, there’s more important stuff than your silly stupid story going on in the world, in the country, and on Democracy Town. Don’t bother. Just curl up with the cat & play video games, or sleep, or binge-watch something written by someone WAAAAY better than you. Just give up.”
So yeah, that’s been fun. berated by both sides of my brain at the same time. Not looking for sympathy or anything, just, idk, maybe if I put it out there, the two of them will FINALLY STGDFU. I’ve got about three more episodes almost ready -just need some edits& polish. They’ll be a bit gif light, but I’m hoping to drop them over the next few weeks. We have to follow up with Nat& her family, get Peg moved in at the Tower, see what some of our other heroes are up to, oh& a not so great birthday surprise! Till then, happy reading!