Central Chicago is by far the safest area of the sprawling megacity though whether that’s because of all the corps located there or the corps are there because it’s safe is another question. Jericho Trent is walking in the shadow of those towers quite literally at the moment, making his way down toward a meeting with Kaylee and Ian. The subject? A certain red skinned woman who appeared not too long ago, and a certain red skinned man who has been around longer than anyone really wants to admit.
The good news is they don’t appear to be related.
The meeting point is a little food truck that does crepes and OH does it do good ones. The hacker’s mouth might be watering for a little bit of chicken florentine at the moment.
Meetings like this in the open are mostly for convenience but he’s not worried and neither should Kaylee or Ian be. Central Chicago is PERFECTLY SAFE.
Kaylee is hovering near said food truck, checking her wearable as she does. The British-born biochem is dressed as she usually is, jeans, t-shirt and hikers but today she’s wearing a jacket – it’s getting cooler, after all.
She’s not worried that it’s dangerous here, she’s just got something in the lab that will need her attention and she’ll have to return sooner than later.
When it comes to crepes, Ian is more for the dessert variety by way of preference. He’s already put an order in for a strawberry and cheesecake filled crepe. Sure, it might spoil dinner, but at the time it looked pretty tempting.
Ever since their meeting with Aegis his thoughts have strayed back and forth to the things she had said and her mysterious origins. It’s served as a much welcome distraction from other inconveniences that have otherwise been plaguing the librarian’s life. To tell the truth, he hadn’t instantly thought of any potential connection between the young heroine and the lurking terrorist that’s recently decided to resurface after years and years.
Now Ian waits for the hacker, shoving his hands into the pockets of his sweatjacket as he watches the people busy about within the food truck, hoping the coffee’s at least a little decent. He’s certain that nothing will ever top the Busy Bean’s.
Days had passed since meeting some of Earth’s other guardians, but Ivara wasn’t certain it was a meeting she would call a success. A little too curious for her own good in some ways, a little less forthright than she would have liked to be.
She told herself that Jericho, and Kaylee, and Ian all meant well and that their questions, some driven by curiosity and others by duty, were just part of who and what they were. It gnawed at her, for they were the first people she had taken the time to really talk too, the first people who might have been allies. But could they be a danger to her?
More than anything, she liked them.
Here above it all, past clouds and atmosphere where the air is oh so thin, she looks across a world curved at the edges, and feels condensation freeze at her eyelashes, the whole world holding it’s breath before some great, last gasp. She had done much in the last three days. Saved a village that had fallen under Hydra’s expansionist doctrine. Stood before a madman made of fire. Even saved a kitten from a tree. But it was the smallest of measures against this, the whole world poised on the edge.
The view focuses her, and makes up her mind. Atmosphere parts with a sudden rush, billowing around her as heat flares along her skin and costume, until the air is thick enough to burst around her as the sound barrier shatters again and again, the whole of the world coming into a smaller focus as she hits the jetstream and skips off it, hands thrust forward in two fists as if to knock the air from her path and ease her passage as she streaks towards the city of Chicago once more.
She is oblivious to the meeting below, but only moments away, and her imminent arrival will be heralded by a low rumble in the sky like an angry, far off thunderhead, despite a distinct lack of clouds in the sky.
“Hey you guys.” Jericho says as he steps over to the window. “Chicken florentine, easy on the spinach, heavy on the mushrooms and give me a side of hollandaise too. Thanks.” Paying, even at places like this is as simple as waving your payment method in front of a little dongle meant to read it. The hacker, being the paranoid SOB that he is, tends to use prepaid sticks for this kind of thing. Things that can’t be traced back to him specifically.
“So do you want the good news or the bad news. The good news is that Aegis has been buy enough for me to get some whispers of her activity. HYDRA doesn’t much like her – though they also don’t seem to know much about her. Both of those things are good, I think. Pinning down a location for her is proving a problem though. She’s kind of everywhere at once. Now the bad news is-”
Jericho cuts off as winces as his electronic senses are flooded with EM noise. Like someone turned the static on an old TV up to eleven and then made a funky club beat out of it. It rolls out over the city, an incredibly powerful signal pulsed several times and broadcast from something beaming it down from if not orbit then a very, very high altitude.
As Jericho winces a man next to him looks ill and leans over the table.
“Ugh… crepe disagree with you buddy?” The hacker says, shaking his head.
The man suddenly goes to his knees, sliding – almost falling – out of his chair to the shock and dismay of the other patrons nearby.
“Jericho…” Kaylee’s greeting is warm as the Hacker joins them. She’s ordered something that many would consider a travesty. A Ham, Cheese and Pineapple delight with a cheesy sauce to go over the top. What? She’s British!
Well, Jemma was.
“I’ve been getting hits on our foreign desks about her. Nothing that we can trace but she’s active …” she concurs with Jericho’s findings. That’s all she can say before the EM noise hits and messes with her implants, causing her to drop her plate as she clasps her hands to her head. “Owwwww. What the hell….” The tears that spring to her eyes are real enough.
Normally she’d rush to the mans aid but she’s a little preoccupied right at the moment…
“Hey,” Ian waves, lifting a hand to wave at the hacker once he’s arrived. The man’s preamble isn’t at all anything new to him, and he waits to see which of the two Jericho decides to open up with first.
“I’d agree on it being positive,” he nods. If he knew more specifics about the activities mentioned, he’d feel that they lined up right with Aegis’s stated intentions. It’s a little worrying that she’s caught HYDRA’s attention, however. “Hopefully she’s stayed out of trouble…”
He starts to move towards the window to get his order, eyes drifting up towards the skies at the distant rumble. Was it supposed to rain today? Or was that his imagination?
He glances back at Jericho expectantly when he trails off from his delivery of this ‘bad news.’ “Hey…” he starts, blinking then at the reactions not only from the hacker, but from Kaylee as well. “What happened?” His eyes widen as the man at the table nearby falls, and he turns away from the window, stepping towards him cautiously to check on him.
Slowing her approach as she nears the place where she had learned SHIELD may have an important office, her speed could be matched by a fast car by the time that horrible sound begins to thrum over the city, her own senses, burgeoning with power that have not yet been realized, are overcome for a brief moment, wincing away from it.
When her eyes squint open, she is nearly tumbling into a building, disoriented by the sudden burst of electromagnetic noise. Putting on her breaks as it were, she barely comes to a stop before smashing into glass and concrete, her gaze turning to regard the city center, and those people in it, staring down at them all – including those she recognizes.
Aegis thinks to cry some kind of warning, but instead she is forced to look upward, drawn to the source of this malcontent that blankets the city like a banshee’s wail.
The signal pulses twice more, blanketing the city and then ceases. Whatever it was it was high and moving fast. It seems to be gone now. Jericho shakes his head to clear it. “I’m not sure. Some kind of powerful broadcast…”
There aren’t many people with senses like him. Kaylee is… partly cybernetic so that explains her discomfort. He hasn’t seen Aegis yet but he probably wouldn’t be surprised that she sensed something.
When the man looks up though there’s something wrong with his eyes. Their color… it’s like steel cable. And there seems to be green in the iris… moving about. As if scanning or…
He lunges. The man lunges with far more speed than a man of his apparent age and fitness should have and he grabs for Ian, seeking his throat. The eyes go completely violet and some kind of ‘second skin’ seems to pour out of his pores to coat him in armor.
“What tha-” Jericho draws his weapon… only to be blindsided by a similarly armored woman who was just a second ago across the street. She smashes into him with jets of flame burning from her feet to propel her and slams him into the concrete facade of the office building behind him.
Aegis will have to forgive Ian for not noticing her arrival, sudden as it is. Between soaking in what Jericho says and well, the strange effect that’s apparently gripped the man he’d moved to help, there’s plenty of cause for distractions.
“Uh…” Those eyes do not look all right, that much Ian can tell from a glance.
There’s no warning as he finds himself abruptly attacked, and even if he’d been expecting it the librarian wouldn’t have stood much of a chance to evade. His shout is cut short as hands grab at his throat, the wind knocked out of him as he’s more or less shoved to the ground, his own hands trying futilely to pry at the ones holding him down. Seeing whatever starts to ooze from the man’s skin to form armor just makes him more desperate to try getting away.
For Ivara it seems to happen in slow motion. A man who seemed to be writhing in pain leaps up and towards Ian, intent on his throat. A woman rockets across the cityscape and pancakes Jericho into a building.
Horror washes over her face as the sound of the impact rocks her mind, the kind of violence she was trained for and has even face here on this world, but it will never cease to illicit a visceral reaction.
The shout echoes against buildings, booming from the depths of her very soul, torn in her response, hesitating for a brief moment that evaporates in the sudden rush of wind that will gust past Ian and his attacker as she comes to a full stop, interposing himself between him and Ian with a hand reaching for each of the man’s wrists. Squeezing, powering, she seeks to pry his grip up and away, and all the while forced to look into the cold, dead eyes of a man who is not himself.
Someone who did not ask for this.
This she says to Ian, and all those around, her voice holding the presence of someone who might have been meant to command, but who knows who will listen.
In the back of her mind, she knows she has already failed Jericho, and perhaps the people in that building, and some measure of panic wells deep inside her.
It takes Kaylee many long moments to clear her head, starting to think she needs Jericho to look at the implants again when all hell erupts.
The biochem takes a half step towards Ian, only to have Aegis appear. A fact for which she is eternally grateful as she turns to face Jericho’s assailant. Somehow she expects a glowing wolf to appear in any moment – in fact, she’s banking on that as her traces glow and a buzzing swarm of light emits from them, to surround the woman attacking him and try encase her in one of her shields.
There’s a great cloud of concrete dust and – by this point – also a number of news drones filming. Kaylee may find it challenging to encase a target in one of her shields. That’s not what she’s ever trained to do with them and doing it on someone moving is… rough. There is a sudden blue glow though and the woman who hit Jericho gets launched from the cloud and rolls and skids into the street striking up sparks.
What bounds out of the cloud behind her is an angry looking, ghostly blue ‘werewolf’. An eight foot tall construct of glowing blue vaguely translucent light that’s very lupine in form but for the spikes on it’s back and the spined, lizardlike tail.
When Aegis shouts the patrons of the food truck start to scatter. The man who has Ian has a vice grip on his throat but the red skinned woman is clearly stronger and she CAN pry his hand off the librarian.
Is she ready for the sucker punch that follows from the other hand, though? And is Kaylee ready when the armored woman gets up and grows a cannon from her shoulder?
Suddenly he can suck in a breath of air without having to fight for it, although it’s wasted as he coughs in finding himself just as quickly freed. Ian blearily realizes what’s happened and who’s come to his rescue. Well, she had said she’d come to save them all. He hadn’t quite expected it to be so literal, or rather had hoped it wouldn’t be.
That’s not to say he’s ungrateful for it, but their problems are far from over!
He pushes to his feet, staggering away from Aegis, closer towards the truck for cover. She tells him to run, but where? Chaos has erupted, and he can’t just leave his friends. Just what is going on??
Heart pounding, he reaches into his jacket to tug free his ICER from its holster, although given it looks like those people are armored he’s not sure that it’d be very effective. But if it doesn’t get through that strange skin layer, maybe he can at least cause a distraction.
His mind made up, he pulls his weapon up, safety off as he takes aim at the woman Kaylee’s fending off against, squeezing off a few shots.
Eyes brim with near-white flame when she pulls that hand aside, freeing Ian from that deadly grasp and seeking to make a plea, some call to reason for the man to latch onto.
It dies in her throat with the blow that powers into her stomach and lifts her through the food truck, turning it onto its side and flying into the ground just past it.
It leaves Ian back in the predicament he started in, and she can already hear the groan of the poor food truck vendor inside. Pain she caused. Pain she’s responsible for.
Red and white and silver streak up an into the air, her eyes blazing at the edges with psionic fire, and then she powers forward and into the man, intent on taking the battle from him with a haymaker dialed up to be a match for the man’s armor. She never strikes to kill, but she certainly strikes to disable, hoping to stop this man from harming anyone else before it’s too late.
Kaylee grimaces as the shield alludes her. At least she’s not burnt from the traces powering up, right?
Sparing just a glance for Ian and Aegis, she’s completely unaware of the drones filming – when she realises it, she’ll know she’ll have to face the SHIELD music.
For now though, she falls back a step as Jericho appears – more than happy to let him have this fight. Truly. Kaylee’s a lover not a fighter and this really isn’t her thing but that cannon has her eyes widening in shock.
The light swarm starts to circle the cannon and for those close enough, they’ll see markings being made on it.
She jumps at the sound of Ians weapon firing, she truly hadn’t expected that.
Whatever the metal armor is on these people it’s fluid and flexible. The man who was going for Ian again gets blindsided and taken down. The shock of the impact seems to break whatever is holding him and the armor just falls away from him in liquid drops leaving him limp and unconscious.
Ian’s ICER rounds don’t do much but draw attention to himself and that canon fires at him as Kaylee starts to try to affect it. A ball the size of a softball burst in front of him rather than slamming into him and sprays the area with a rapidly disippating gas… which may make Ian a bit… drowsy. Or nauseous. Or both.
It doesn’t last long though. Kaylee’s swarm disables the canon as the wolf-thing rushes past her and delivers a similar though far angrier impact to the the woman. Like the man she goes limp and the armor simply sloughs off her.
Leaving four people in the street. And, incidentally, on the nightly news.
The glowing wolf thing turns, seeking other threats and finds none. He lets out an almost offended huff.
Well it kind of worked? He -did- distract her, although the outcome’s the one he was hoping against. Ian steps back, thinking that maybe Aegis’s advice is good to follow after all, except suddenly there’s a truck in his path.
Jerking around, he brings his arms up no matter how useless it would be to stop a blast from an arm cannon- the resulting more surprising than anything else. It’s still alarming when gas begins to erupt, and there’s no hope for trying to get out of range then. Coughing, Ian stumbles backwards and crashes to his knees, finding it hard to concentrate, much less keep his eyes open. He might also be glad that he hadn’t been able to partake of his delicious crepe for all that it might have been wasted. Sounds and visuals blur into one, his eyelids growing heavier as he slowly sinks to the ground, ICER loose in his grasp.
Burning white eyes fade to their natural brown, and in the wake of this violence, so senseless and brutal, Aegis bows her head and closes her eyes. It is a brief thing, a respite that she can afford herself only so that she might take further action. Turning to the food truck, she extracts the owner, glad to see he has but a few cuts and scrapes.
There in the wake of it all, the buzz of drones that show the world who these defenders are to everyone who might be watching. It draws her gaze upwards, and everyone in the world will get a good look at her face. What can she say to them, to the world, to let them know it’s alright?
In that moment she does not look like a savior, but a teenager lost on the edge of forever, and she looks to the glowing wolf, the stalwart scientist, and the downed form of archivist and moves to his side to kneel and make sure he still lives.
Kaylee lets out a shaky breath as the cannon dissolves. She couldn’t break off what she was doing as the shot when out, she can only pray that Ian, or Aegis, or both manage to avoid it.
It’s the armour though that has attention, the way it flows from the victims and she’s scrabbling to collect whatever samples she can before it’s lost. They’ll be contaminated but she can work with that.
“Is is is everyone alright?” She manages to ask, glancing up at the offended glowing werewolf. “I left her for you … Those…” she adds slowly looking at the woman and the man that are left “… looked like Sentinels. Mostly. Jemma has memories of a few versions of them. But they never presented like that.”
“Aegis, thank you…”
And then Ian drops and Kaylee is moving again. She’ll check him out and call in a team.
The big blue wolf thing fades like a ghost and the man – Jericho – who was apparently inside it drops lightly to his feet from where he had been seemingly hovering.
“I thought Sentinels were huge robots, not crazy people who sweat metal armor.” He grouses.
“Well well. Were your ears burning Aegis? We were just speaking of you. You’ve been busy from what I’ve heard.” And read. And dug out of peoples files that he wasn’t supposed to see.
“Is Ian okay?”
He is indeed okay. Sleeping peacefully, from the looks of it. His crepe is ruined though. Alas.
He knows they’re being filmed. It’s a bit annoying to him, he likes a lower profile, but he’ll deal with it. Mostly he’s going to have to be very careful that he doesn’t get ‘visitors’ in the next few days.
The scientist thanks her, but she does not feel it is warranted – far to much went wrong, and now their is ruin all around to prove it. Blue reflects in her eyes as Jericho undergoes his transformation, and when Kaylee leans down to look after Ian, Ivara stands to face the Wolf-Turned-Man, his question screwing her features up in confusion. “My ears?” A hand moves to check one of them, the expression utterly lost on her. Finally, she gives a slow, grim shake of her head. “Sometimes my eyes.. it looks like fire, but it is not. I assure you, my ears are unharmed.” Earnest in every word, and certainly her actions, she reaches out to give one of Jericho’s shoulders a gentle squeeze.
“I am sorry I could not stop this from happening. Or that we could not speak under better circumstances. As busy as I have been, I see now that it does little to turn the tide. It means I will need all the help I can get. If…”
Sentinels. Things lost to an ancient archive. One that was pure fiction, but she knows the name.
“A new kind of sentinel? One that might hide in plain sight?”
Kaylee glances up at Aegis as she makes such innocent remarks “He means we were talking about you.” There’s another glance to Jericho and the biochem wishes they had a silent mode of communication. Which future would Aegis be from that venacular like that was eliminated? Really, she’s thinking more and more that Aegis is an ‘escaped’ clone.
“Ian’s fine. Whatever was in that cannon is a potent sleeping gas. I’ve a team incoming and they’ll take care of him. I need to cordon off the area, make sure we can get samples of everything.” She’s babbling again. This time because she’s badly shaken.
“But yes, the shape was sentinel. But they were never like this. I … this is bad.”
“Well…” Jericho is very, very good at the straight face. He’s had a lot of practice over the years. “Good that your ears are okay.” Don’t laugh. Don’t laugh.
It’s easy not to laugh in this case because something very un funny is laying not too far from them.
“I’m not sure you COULD have stopped it, not without knowing that broadcast was coming. I’m assuming the broadcast triggered the transformation which… isn’t a given but seems likely.”
The hacker rolls his shoulder. He hit the building pretty hard and yes, he is more or less human. That hurt and hurt quite a lot.
“Made by who though? The Sentinel Program was dismantled in 1997, over fifty years ago. The production facilities were destroyed. Did the Europeans or the UN rebuild them? And if so… what are they doing with them?”
There’s a bunch about this that doesn’t make sense, not the least of which is why HYDRA, which has access to anything the EU does, would be looking for it.
Those questions aren’t getting answered right now. Instead the hacker looks at Aegis. “Turn the tide? Oh. Make the world a better place, I suppose you mean? We all do what we can, but the worlds a bit messed up right now. I don’t know that there’s any one of us that will be turning any tides any time soon.” He sighs.
“People get that way when extinction looms.” Does she know about that? She might… but she might not. Jericho is most unclear about what common knowledge she has.
A mysterious EMP triggers some violent changes to random people and Aegis, Jericho, Ian and Kaylee find themselves caught in the middle of it.
October 13, 2051