The SHIELD HQ in Chicago maintains a number of ‘situation rooms’ that it can use to monitor developing events or long term committments and it’s no surprise that the drug crisis has one dedicated to it at this point. On various screens and holo projectors are everything that the agency knows about what is presently going on. The fact that this particular situation room is not far from the interrogation rooms makes it a convenient place for Jericho Trent to hang out while other business is being finished up, which it should be, shortly.
The hacker is here mostly because he has a security clearance and SHIELD had wanted someone to look at some framework data pulled from the last raid site where Aleksei Rasputin and Rowan Grey had played a large part in taking down the storage, production and security systems before apprehending one of the ‘duplicates’ apparently vital in making this particular drug.
The footage on the screen isn’t good. Trent’s glad that Carter isn’t about.
“Yeah, same as last time. Stalk and kill scenarios. Simulations designed to engender feelings of helplessness and fear. Real nasty stuff. Put the subject in a constant state of fight or flight and let pharmacology and the endocrine system take care of the rest.” Not unexpected, really. More evidence of involvement from across the pond. These programs are made by HYDRA but they would surely have parted with them for the right price.
“Any word on what that dupe gave us?” The hacker asks of the room?
Rowan Grey looks like she’s suffering from one hell of a headache. Wandering around through the mind of a half-mad duplicate of a fully mad mutant will do that to a girl. “It was not easy,” she shakes her head to Jericho, pouring herself a coffee. Maybe that will help with the pounding in her skull. “And not entirely clear, either. We should probably work up some gas-based tranquilizers for next time if we want to catch dupes. Or next time I’ll be smart enough to just grab them with TK, that would probably work too. Can’t impact if you’re floating in…” She trails off, clearing her throat with a shake of her head. “An island, looks like.”
“So they hook the duplicates up and terrorize them so their bodies produce lots of hormones and keep them that way till they’re used up?” Aleksei asks. Lacking the technical skills, he’s just seated on a chair with his feet up on the corner of a desk as he listens to the others. The tone of his voice when he asks that doesn’t bode well for anyone who gets in his way on the next mission. “Can you erase his memories of all that and fix him?” he asks Rowan. “Reset his mind to pre-lab rat?”
“I’m not sure we can, Aleksei…” Kaylee says as she enters the room, grimacing at the footage on the screen. Today her hair is sea-foam green and sits just below the base of her skull. “… all my examinations of the young man so far show that the mental damage is … physical. When the PRIME created him, it duplicated the damage and … ” she lets that trail off.
“But yes. That’s the idea. Keep them in a constant of fear and anxiety to keep the hormone pumping. It’s disgusting.” Jericho gets a searching look from the biochem, his shoulder and then the rest of him. “Gas based tranquilisers are possible, Agent Grey but we’ll have to upgrade the masks on your suits to filter it.”
Jericho nods to Aleksei. “Yeah, pretty much. Juice them up to increase hormone production and then just put them into panic mode until they burn out.” The paused image on the screen the hacker is standing by is of a man in a red, white and blue outfit and a big round shield. The image is the one of the ‘antagonist’ of the simulation. The one who stalks and kills through a burning, ruined military complex. Definitely the stuff of nightmares.
“Floating in a telekinetic grab would probably work.” Or gas weapons. Either way. Simmons might be able to synthisize something that could go into a gas grenade.
“Island eh? There’s a lot of islands on the lake. Any ideas where?”
“It’s an island that’s got a lake on it, so probably pretty big. Which narrows it down,” Rowan answers, taking a long drink of the coffee and settling into a chair, sitting crookedly in one corner of it with a hand on her brow. “I think the lab itself is underground, under whatever nice house they’ve built is. Or at least there was something in there that called for going down, and under. If you could get an aerial image, I could confirm a match, for sure.”
Aleksei looks over at Kaylee as she walks in. “Physical? So the Prime is insane from a physical cause? So why isn’t the one who defected? The other ones who were chasing him seemed pretty normal too. Though I suppse they could have been created before whatever it was that damaged him. I got the impression the defector was more recent though, created just for the purpose of being the next sacrifice. We should talk to him if he’s around.”
“I’d practice your telekinesis, Rowan …” Kaylee smiles, switching to using the other womans first name. Kaylee herself //hates// being called ‘Simmons’, preferring the individuality of her name and appearance. People might be catching that as they get to her know her.
“His brain is broken, Aleksei and when he duplicates, the synapses and pathways are all mashed up. Not even I know how to rebuild those. I’m conjecturing that the one who defected, and the others we saw, were made before the Prime went //too// mad. I’m also conjecturing that if I was to scan the defector, I would find indicators of the degradation – just not enough to effect him badly.” Though she’s sure he’s affected to some degree. “We can get him to talk to you, if you like, the gentleman has been very accomodating.”
“Aerial views can be done.” Kaylee gestures to the holo display and an aerial view of the city is displayed “These aren’t recent, but it might give us somewhere to look and we can send drones out to get updated information.” For now, the display ‘centres’ on the lake, letting Rowan and Aleksei decide where to zoom in.
Jericho looks at the map and frowns. He can do his own searches and is which means he doesn’t have to hijack Kaylee’s map to refine it a bit further. “Lakes. Well if we assume the island is somewhere in Lake Michigan that means up in this section of islands up here, north of old Glen Arbor. Uh, these two down here. Manitou Islands I think it says? And Beaver Island up here. Any of those look familiar?”
The hacker glances back at Aleksei and Kaylee and then to Rowan. “Psychically reconstructing them I suppose is a bit dangerous?” He knows that touching crazy can get you crazy because he’s known one or two telepaths. What he doesn’t know is how difficult it is and what the limits of that are. Rowan, of course, is in a much better place to know that.
“Is it possible, Kaylee, that the continued deaths of his duplicates are affecting the prime somehow? I can’t imagine that’s… beneficial in anyway.”
Komodo has partially disconnected.
“He’s got to be getting feedback from it,” Rowan nods to Jericho. “You can’t be in contact with all of that for that long and not be affected. And if you could, it’d be because you were already some sort of crazy or broken.” She takes a deep breath, closing her eyes for a moment to center herself, before the looks back to the islands. “Those are all the right size. There was a big lake, with a big, nice house by it. Any of them have that, and it should be the right one.”
“Psychic rebuilding is possible, but you have to have a…a foundation to work on first. Most people have a core personality inside themselves, a place where who they are retreats when there’s damage. But with these duplicates, there never was a foundation. They came out…already mixed up. Probably intentional on the part of the creators, now that I think about it,” she muses. “Be a lot easier to push them into a state where they’re producing what’s wanted.”
Shaking his head, Aleksei shrugs slightly. “No, probably no need then. Do we know what’ll happen to the duplicates if the Prime dies? It might just be kinder to kill the guy and put him out of his misery. Not to mention the misery of all the duplicates he creates who are just as crazy. Bastion said his mind might jump to one; if so, might want to kill him while he’s standing next to a sane one. Though I suppose that would kill the duplicate he took over.” He shakes his head again and says “You’re going to have to kill him no matter what. Lock him up and he can just keep running into a wall till the cell is completely full. The only other way would be to keep him unconscious and strapped down and frankly, I’d rather be dead.”
Kaylee watches Jericho, giving him the control of the maps if he wants it, hopefully reducing the processing power he needs to use. Searching at least, he can offload to other machines and won’t tax his systems to much. But still, the biochem’s watching him carefully.
“That would be for Rowan to say but we could certainly seek the assistance of The Institute if you wanted to try.” Could it really get worse for the poor duplicate? Kaylee’s not sure. Probably, actually. But Rowan makes a good point “That’s a thought. Push the Prime to madness, bring the duplicates forth in a form that’s easier to tip over the brink.” It’s … horrific … whichever way you think on it, even for the scientific minded Kaylee.
“Without a doubt, Jericho. Bastion warned us of this. But I’m not sure it’s //just// the deaths of his duplicates, it’s the sheer number he’s been creating. Who knows how many more he created after the defector and really, the strain on his physiology must be enormous – despite that’s what his power is. Again, though, I’m conjecturing. I’ve little to no data on this power.”
Aleksei’s words get a shake of her head “We don’t. But I’m working on containment for him. I’m … thinking … maybe a Framework will do the trick. Strap him into a Bay and let him live what’s left of his life there.” She winces. She knows how Aleksei feels about that. Sort of.
The hacker gives Kaylee a nod of thanks and manipulates the map. There’s old vacation houses near the lakes on all three of the islands but most of them are in pretty bad shape. After a little bit of zooming and shifting though, the hacker focuses on one that looks almost intact. One that may look familiar to Rowan “Here. North Manitou Island. Look… the picture shows lights too.”
It does. There’s definitely shadows from some of the structure being generated by light coming from inside the structure. So it has been inhabited in the recent past, whether or not it is now.
Aleksei’s grim pronouncement gets an equally grim nod. “I think you’re right. If reconstructing his mind isn’t an option I don’t see how keeping him alive is.” It’s distasteful for Jericho to say, a man who has spent much of the last several years trying to save mutants but one of the hard lessons of that kind of work is ‘you can’t save everyone’.
This might be one of those cases.
“That looks like it,” Rowan nods as she gets a look at the image. She’s pensive at the talk of the duplicate’s fate, considering for a long moment. “Framework for now would be worth a try. If we can get the prime, then there’s a chance we might be able to repair //his// mind. And if we can, then he should be able to reabsorb the duplicates, putting them out of their misery without any undue suffering.”
“Yeah, rather be dead.” Aleksei repeats, flatly. “Insane in a framework is no more mercy than insane in the real world.” After a moment, he muses “You could clone him a new body and see if he jumps into it when he dies. His DNA is undamaged.” Putting his feet back on the floor, he leans forward to see what Trent has on the screen. “Call up the power consumption records from the elctric company that services the island and you’ll be able to see how long it’s been lived in and if it still is. Also get a guess as to how many people are there based on how much power they consume.” Not numbers but small, medium, army. “Get the blueprints too though there’s probably been construction to it. See if you can zoom in on any boats at the dock and find out who they’re registered to.” He might not have liked the training his creators gave him but he did learn.
Letting the others discuss where the island may be Kaylee shakes her head at the rest of the discussion.
“You don’t understand. According to Bastion, there’s a high chance that killing the Prime will just send him into the body of one of his dupes.” As Aleksei just said “We’ve nothing to say it will or won’t but let’s assume it does. If you want the Prime truly dead, you’ll have to kill all the dupes. //All// of them and we don’t know how many he created. Do you want that on your hands and conscience? A clone body might work or as Rowan suggested … ” she’s not relishing this dicussion at all.
“Power records are difficult unless Jericho can confirm that the power isn’t provided by Alchemax or Stark-Fujikawa.” That’s possible but not likely. “But blueprints … ” it takes a bit for the City archives to be searched but blueprints from some time ago are soon produced.
“Given that the dupes were created to be killed to begin with…” Jericho says, glancing back to Kaylee. “Odds are good they’ve already done a lot of that work for us. I like to think that if one had escaped prior to the one we found, we might have heard about it somewhere…”
“I’ll get the plans and make sure you guys have them. When are you going to go?” That’s to all three. Rowan and Kaylee are the SHIELD agents here and Aleksei has been important to this operation in general. He suspects SHIELD isn’t about to shut him out now. The buff metal man wouldn’t have it and Jericho long ago learned not to argue with Russians about certain things.
“I’ll help you do cleanup after the fact if we have to. Even without the prime dupe, though, if we get the chemist behind all this and his productin facilities then the rest of it becomes a lot less… immediately dangerous. No more drug on the streets etcetera.”
Another zoom has the hacker frowning. He had been looking at the boats as Aleksei suggested. “That yaht… has a Norweigan registry. Jorn Halvorsen. And… huh. He’s got some interesting affiliations. He’s wanted by EuroMIND for terrorism.”
“I don’t feel like I’m qualified to discuss the personhood of power-produced duplicates,” Rowan admits, rubbing a hand at her brow again. “But I think we can all agree that getting this drug off the streets means getting the dupes away from the producers, which means stopping the prime somehow. And I hate to say it, but you’re going to want a //team// of psychics to work on that guy. He is seriously messed up.”
“It’s a secluded island.” Aleksei points out. “I bet they don’t do their own grocery shopping. Get some of your agents to call around and find out who supplies them. There’ll be regular deliveries to the island or the dock, where someone from the house will come to pick them up. It’ll take time and lots of grunt work but that’s what junior agents are for, right?” At Jericho’s bit of news, he adds “Check the Canadian side of the lake first. Less chance of a connection being made. What’s this guy’s MO? Might give us a hint as to what to expect when we hit the house.”
Komodo has partially disconnected.
Kaylee’s quiet. There’s dupes out there. The defector and the ones he was running from. That means there more but it’s moot conversation until they have the Prime in custody and by then, maybe she’ll have some other options. But killing him – even if she was ok with that – doesn’t mean killing just him.
Maybe it’s the discussion about the legitmacy of ‘personhood’ that has her a bit antsy.
“You’re right.” she nods to Rowan “Priority is the drugs and getting them off the street.” Then finding out what’s behind them. “Another european connection? This doesn’t bode well…” she just can’t quite see what they get from this. Not … exactly.
“Rowan, would you work on the Canadian side of things? Get a team together and all that? Agent Carter would be interested in assisting, I’m sure.”
“He’s a chemist. Does bombs mostly but he’s been noted for dabbling in biochemistry and pharmacology. Terrorist org in question sells a lot of drugs to fund itself. Explains why the MGH drug is bound up in an opiod. It’s what the guy knows.” Bombs though. That’s worrying. It means there might be some explosive surprises waiting for them when they take a look at that house and whatever else might be out on that island.
“That he’s here in the States means that he’s branching out likely. Or maybe he was brought over for something specific.” Hardly matters until they get everything stopped and caught. Then they can sort it all out.
The mention of a team of telepaths has the hacker thinking. “Well there’s a couple at the Institute we could call on, especially if you were willing to be part of that team, Agent Grey. There’s Dora, she’s pretty dependable.” Another redheaded telepath like Rowan, though slightly older if in a much easier job most of the time.
“And… one other I could call…” There’s a reluctance in his voice that Kaylee knows Jericho well enough to pick up and it’s possible that Rowan might pick it up herself, albiet differently. “She’ll probably come and help out.”
Rowan quirks a brow at Jericho’s reluctance, though she doesn’t press. Maybe she’s picked up enough already. “We’ve got to catch him first,” she points out, rueful. “Let’s focus on that before we get ahead of herself. I got some uniforms when I was digging around in there too. Looked like ULTIMATUM, from what I could tell. I don’t know how much that helps, but…” She trails off, taking another swallow of coffee. “I can work with Canada,” she nods to Kaylee.
“We’ll want someone who can dismantle or neutralize bombs.” Aleksei states. “Nastya can make them go away but that might set the off simultaneously. If all else fails, I just set them off and everyone else follows at a safe distance.” A pause as he thinks then says “I might be able to absorb and redirect the energy of the blasts. Kaylee, we should probably practice blowing me up and see if I can get the hang of it.”
Kaylee frowns at Jericho’s reluctance and exhibits a level of restraint. She’ll ask later. “As Rowan says …” and there’s Ultimatum again and Jericho gets a speaking look. “Not the first time we’ve heard that name in relation to this…”
“We… should … what?” The green haired biochem blinks at Aleksei slowly. Even though she’s a LMD, that’s taking her a while to process. “Uh…” she finally says. “I’m sure something can be organised.” Just. Wow.
The mention of Nastya has the LMD shifting uncomfortably and becoming very interested in her tablet.
“Ultimatum, yeah.” The hacker nods to the psychic. “That’s Jorn’s affiliation.” The ‘Underground Liberated Totally Integrated Mobile Army To Unite Mankind’. Clearly a case of coming up with the acronym before the name. Which he won’t mention here. They’re serious enough, silly name aside. They’re just usually someone else’s problem.
‘We should probably practice blowing me up’ gets a quirked brow from Jericho and a cough. If anyone has the equipment for that it’s SHIELD. “Well I’ll leave you to it then. You know where to find me when you’re ready, mmm?” Either for him to call in help for Rowan – who is correct about that being one step ahead of where they’re at right now – or for him to help with whatever they find at the other site.
“Anything else you folks need?”
Rowan is also a little skeptical of the whole practice blowing up thing, but she //did// survive Air Aleksei, so she doesn’t have much room to judge. “I’ll go start reaching out to the Canadian side of things,” she says, carefully unfolding from her chair. “And then I’m going to take a nap,” she adds with a wince. “My head is killing me.”
“I can channel and manipulate energy.” Aleksei explains. It’s not something that usually comes up and it’s not as flashy as turning into metal so he’s not surprised it takes Kaylee a minute to process. “It’s how I fly. I absorb light, heat, background cosmic radiation and turn it into thrust.” Holding up a hand, it starts giving off a soft glow that runs through the colors of the spectrum. “I’m still trying to figure out how to cook with microwaves.” he adds dryly. Joke or not?
“Take a rest first, Rowan. No need to tax yourself.” Kaylee says quietly, gesturing so the maps disappear from the holo display.
“I could use your assistance in a few, Jericho. Cullen gave me something on that bridge we’re working on. I need to test the interface. And I’ve had an idea about those sensors … ” Then to Aleksei, watching as the glow runs through the colours “I’ll work out a set of testing protocols. See how much energy you can absorb and still reintegrate. But it’s a good idea to test – just be careful that some Agents don’t decide you aren’t just the ‘one man bomb disposal team’. Drop by the lab after class tomorrow and we should be able to get started.”
Jericho snickers. If Aleksei could channel it right, he could probably turn himself into a cell phone tower. Which has interesting implications. For now though, folks have things to do including him.
“Alright, I’ll be back in a bit. I need to make a few calls myself. See you soon Agents. Aleksei.” With that, and a wave, the hacker rises and heads out, holding the door long enough for anyone who is also leaving before he makes for the front of the building.
Aleksei nods and stands up as well. “Sure, I’ll come by tomorrow. And speaking of things to do, there’s always homework so I should try and get some reading done in advance since it seems I’m still going to be busy for a while.” House, warehouse, island. A city is next followed by a small country. “You know how to get in touch with me.” he says as he heads out.
Rowan gets into the head of the Duplicate and it leaves her with a headache, but with some good information as well.
February 19, 2051
SHIELD Headquarters - Chicago