//We’re coming in for a landing at Wrangel Island. Weather on the ground is windy, with temperatures near zero and visibility at about fifteen meters. Ground scanning radar is not picking up any movement or signs of life other than animal but it’s hard to tell out there. I’d tell you to stay frosty but I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.//
Wrangel Island has been a priority for Ian, Jericho, Kaylee and Sam for a while and now that they’re all here, it’s time to take a visit and see what there is to see. To which the immediate answer seems to be snow. As the Quinjet pulls into a hover and lowers the ramp the howling of the wind almost outdoes the howling of the engines. Jericho frowns and settles his goggles over his face, putting the hood of his parka up. Yeah. It’s could out there.
Boots crunch onto snow and he looks around. They are – he thinks – at the lip of the valley that he, Kaylee and Sam originally explored. The one that, allegedly, was transmitting a signal asking for Sam. And Ian.
This should be good.
He can’t see crap though. Just driving snow.
Samantha follow Jericho out of the quinjet, her shield already in one hand and ready, the rest of her almost completely obscured by winter clothing. She couldn’t resist, though. Despite all the dark and boring SHIELD-issue cold weather gear, she’s got a BRIGHT red silk scarf wrapped around her face and neck.
Rather than trying to speak to the others in this blizzard, she interfaces directly with their comm system so her voice is eerily clear. “I think we need to stay in shelter until the worst of this passes.”
Even winter on the front lines in the War was not this harsh, and she’s likely more tolerant than the others.
Feeling the bite of the frigid temperatures even when bundled up under a few layers, Ian’s glad that he’d deferred to the suggestions of the more seasoned travelers as he steps out after them. He watches his breath come out in a stream of white as though he’d been vaping, tugging his scarf closer around his neck and face before pulling up his hood over the knit cap snug on his head.
Looking around, he’s not exactly sure what they’re seeking, but if there’s a landmark of some sort, he’s not seeing it. Samantha’s suggestion has merit, and with the wind blowing like it is, he’s glad for the comsys.
“What are we supposed to be looking for anyway?” he asks, keeping close to the others.
Kaylee eyes the storm as she pauses in the door of the quinjet, bundled up in a anorak with a fur trimmed hood. Her face isn’t really visible between the hood and the balaklava she’s wearing and it’s amazing she can walk at all, with all the layers she’s wearing.
Not to mention the equipment she’s decided to bring.
“I want to go to Tahiti…” she grumbles as she waddles over to the group. “If my readings are correct, the pools are that way. Moving in this is going to be difficult, not to mention dangerous.”
Jericho looks to Sam as she talks, even as he squats down to brush the snow away to see what lies beneath. Grass. Frozen grass. So they’re not near the stone channels that seemed to be bubbling liquid nanite. Though they’re going to be headed that way.
“Agreed, Sam. The valley is pretty sheltered and that’s where the signal was from anyway. Winds should be lower and temperatures a little bit higher. Ian, we’re looking for whatever made that signal that asked for you and Sam.”
The hacker gestures for the others to follow. Of the four he’s the one here who is most expendable, though he’d certainly like to not be expended. As the group descends into the valley the winds do die down and – rather surprisingly – the temperature starts to rise noticeably. Soon they’re close enough to a nanite pool to see it and it is not snowed over. To the contrary it seems to be emitting a heat that has melted all the snow nearby.
Like before – though this will be new to Ian – whispers start. Vague, indistinct voices echo around them.
For Kaylee though it’s different. Sharp buzzing in the back of her head.
“All right then, Mr. Trent.” She helps Kaylee with carrying all of the equipment she insisted on bringing, and walks at the back of the group to help the biochem and the librarian along should they need it.
When they reach the same valley as before, she looks to the others, the change in temperature making it feel almost balmy compared to when they stepped out of the quinjet. “We’re here,” she says quietly. Was she addressing Ian and the others, or the intelligence that was speaking with Steve’s voice?
Ian keeps from rolling his eyes. Yeah, that much was obvious, but it didn’t quite answer what exactly they were trying to keep an eye out for. He’s never been here, so he has no idea what sort of things might mark off where their mysterious signal senders are. Then again, it’s difficult enough to see what’s right in front of them.
As they begin to move, the librarian steps along, keeping to the middle of their small entourage. He’s not about to argue against Jericho’s taking point nor Samantha’s watching their backs when he knows they’re both the best suited for keeping alert of things, be it surroundings or unexpected company.
It’s a relief to be out of the direct winds, and for a brief moment Ian can try to appreciate the landscape as it is, although he finds it strange how different the temperature is as they get further down.
His footsteps slow to a halt as he lifts his head, squinting into the distance, or perhaps just in general as he can make out…sounds just at the fringes of his hearing.
“Is that…?” he begins to ask quietly, as though afraid he’d disrupt the whispers, hoping however that he’s not the only one hearing them as he begins to step forwards again.
Kaylee can’t bend – she’s wearing too many layers but she sees the grass as Jericho exposes it. “The base we set up is just over the–” Kaylee turns as the whispers start, shaking her head sharply and squinting.
“I wonder if the power overload did something to my implants. You checked them right, Jericho?” There’d been an incident a couple of days ago that had Kaylee and Jericho confirmed to med lab for a day. “Something’s … talking to me.”
Turning again, she gazes in the direction of a pool they know is there. “It’s calling us over there, telling us to be careful and quiet and not waken it.”
“I think … we should keep our voices down.” she murmurs. “Jericho, can you connect to my implants and see if we can communicate with it?”
“I can try…” Jericho says as Kaylee looks over toward a pool some distance away. It’s easier to see here in the valley without the snow driving so thickly but visibility is still limited. The hacker cautiously moves in that direction as he’s working with Kaylee’s implants.
“Your implanted computer matrix is receiving some kind of… short range signal. Almost like… bluetooth. Something is transmitting data through your implant directly into your head.” Exactly what data he’s not sure. That computer can’t do much to affect Kaylee directly other than maybe give her a headache. It would be a decent way to communicate. In theory.
As the group approaches the pool the silver-grey liquid within bubbles and something rises out of it. It’s a profile of a man. A very muscular one with a squarish jaw. It’s a profile that should look familiar to Samantha in particular.
It looks at Sam and Ian seemingly approvingly and then stares at Kaylee.
Jericho winces. “Ow. Whatever the transmission is, it’s coming from that pool right there.”
The whispers about seem to intensify but get no less intelligible. Still the silvery humanoid figure gestures for the group to keep their profile down, both visually and aurally. It’s looking around as if it’s… nervous, somehow, constantly glancing deeper within the valley where snowfall obscures vision.
Samantha looks at Kaylee in concern as something in this place starts affecting her implants, but then the silvery profile appears in the nearby nanite-pool and she’s mesmerized. That’s a face she’s not seen in person… well, ever, technically, but it feels like decades.
She sets the case she’s been carrying for Kaylee down a comfortable distance from the pool and gestures for Jericho and Ian to perhaps invite the biochem to sit before she herself kneels at the snow-free edge of the pool.
“Steve?” she whispers, pulling the scarf down from around her face. “Is that really you?”
“You all right, Kaylee?” Ian asks when she breaks off for a moment, but she at least seems fine as she inquires with Jericho. Continuing on he can’t help but grimace a little. The whispers are getting a bit too much, an unending susurrus of near white noise. Fitting, he decides, for the landscape. But then they’re no longer alone.
If they were ever alone.
The figure that rises from the ground is a little startling, but aside from drawing in a sharp breath, Ian says nothing, watching. He glances at Samantha when she starts to address it. Him?
It does hurt Kaylee, the way whatever that is is messing with her implants. Jericho can certainly ‘see’ them activating. “So it is something, at least and not faulty hardware.” Those damn implants had caused her problems since she’d awoken in this body.
Thankful for Sams help with her equipment, the biochem isn’t sure she would have managed at the moment. “Owwwww.” it’s quiet but they can all hear the pain in her voice. “He’s he’s talking to me … As I suspected, they’re self aware. This colony, or this part of the colony, it’s hard to tell which – took in, absorbed a lot of memories from super heroes. They absorbed a lot of Captain Rogers and they say they’re like him.”
Touching her fingers to her forehead, Kaylee sways a little “It’s not clear really. I’m putting a lot of ‘images’ together to get this.”
What does ‘like him’ mean. That might be answered by the next thing that Kaylee says … “They’re afraid of the rest of the colony. That they’ll be found and … destroyed. But they feel what’s happening here is dangerous…”
The silvery figure comes close to the edge of the pool and holds out a hand like… well Samantha may have memories of that too. It’s not an invitation INTO the pool clearly. Just an invitation to touch. Jericho crouches down along with the others and looks deeper into valley but… of course he still can’t see anything.
There’s a rumble from deeper in a few good sized rocks roll down the hillside and into the pool, causing ripples that even extend into the ‘Steve’ form…
Ian gets a look and a beckon. Closer. Closer young librarian.
The small rockslide causes Samantha to startle, but when the image of Steve reaches a hand out to her she hesitates. “If they’re at risk from the rest of the colony, what’s the best way to carry them safely away from here?” Perhaps… literally?
Following a hunch, she sets her shield down gently (wouldn’t do to have it start resonating here) then pulls off one of her gloves to reach out and meet ‘Steve’s’ invitation to touch. She’s also fully prepared to pull her hand back again if Trent or Kaylee tell her to stop.
If he were the sort to have watched those old movies he might have likened the shining figure to some sort of old sci-fi depicted alien. It’s more than a little eerie, but the colony as Kaylee has called them, doesn’t seem to want to hurt them. And they’d asked for their help, and specifically by name. That’s still concerning to him, but Ian still felt inclined to come help them, somehow.
Even if you’re not sure how you’re supposed to do that, he thinks.
With the strange figure seeming to look towards him, the librarian blinks. He seems hesitant at first, but he steps forward, if cautiously.
Kaylee frowns, she heard Sam but she’s still working on the message that was given to her. “They keep saying the rest of the colony is building a Guard or … it might Sentry. I … don’t know.” She winces as her implants fire again, stumbling in the snow a little.
“Sorry Ian. It hurts and it’s had to decipher.”
She’s silent for a moment, clearly the figure is ‘talking’ to her again. “He remembers you, Agent Carter.” The words are soft. “I … Ian, you’re part of the key to keeping to them safe. They need you … something about your nanites being ‘clean’. They think they can take the … vaccination … from you. Go to him….”
Steve’s ‘skin’ is smooth, not at all like flesh. But it’s also warm and Sam can see the smile as she reaches out. A smile that is all too quickly wiped away when a deep noise that can only be described as ‘mechanical’ echoes out from deeper into the valley. For a brief moment the pressure wave of the sound pushes the swirling snow away and the outline of an absolutely massive figure appears, like a phantom. It’s tall. Stories tall, and only technically humanoid. Chunky and clearly robotic. And it’s being ‘fed’ by lines of silvery liquid. Like… the nanite colony is constructing the massive thing.
“Did you see that?” Jericho whispers, his voice harsh against the wind.
The silvery figure points Sam deeper into the valley, as if to say ‘Look!’ and beckons more urgently to Ian, pointing at… the pool itself.
Samantha can only smile as she touches the nanite image of Steve, but then the mechanical noise echoes from further into the valley and she looks toward where he’s gesturing. Oh. That’s … very not good. She keeps a hold of Steve’s hand while looking at the others concernedly, especially Ian.
“We need to hurry,” she whispers to the librarian. If she could, she’d scoop up the entire pool of nanites and get them away from here as quickly as possible. And not just because they’ve taken on Steve’s appearance.
Kaylee will reflect later that she’d been right in a way. These nanites were certainly worth studying and keeping. Right now though, she sways again and winces, skin pale where it can be seen over the balaklava. She’s … well, she might not be doing too well.
“In … the pool, Ian. Get in it. It won’t hurt you and you’ll save them.” Does the librarian trust her enough to do that? It’s a big ask.
If he doesn’t and these nanites are discovered, this group will be hunted as well.
“Sentry. A … Sentinel …” Now it makes sense. Or at least that does.
Ian casts a glance back at Kaylee, clearly concerned about what she’s putting up with to convey the words of the colony to them. When she stumbles he looks about ready to backtrack towards her again, but as she continues with whatever new information she’s been given, he slowly looks…
And nearly falls back himself with the sudden sound that breaks through the whispers that had become as much a neutral ambiance as anything else here. He stares in the direction of the huge figure, shock freezing him in place. The words of the others manage to snap him out of the terrible flashes of nightmares and memories, and shaking his head, Ian turns and begins to move again.
To the pool? “What do I…” Wait, did she say in?? He looks at Kaylee as though wondering that he’d heard right, but he’s just at the edge of the pool, and with a Sentinel so near, he’s not inclined to question too much. With a gulp, he takes a step. Bloosh.
Kaylee can feel the connection abruptly terminate and that’s just about as bad as it was when the thing was talking. Ian… well. He can’t see. He can’t breathe. This silvery liquid is around him everywhere and he can feel something being pulled out of him. It comes out of every available pore. Out of his mouth. Out of his eyes. It hurts like hell.
Outside the pool Sam, Kaylee and Jericho can see it roil and spatter as if boiling. Then it starts to contract. The ‘Steve’ construct vanishes with a splash and the whole pool shrinks, down down down as if freezing into a little hardened crystal about the size of Jericho’s hand.
Oh also, there’s Ian. Curled up in the bottom of a bowl like pit.
There’s a rumble and this time it’s sustained. A wash of heat and steam comes out from the center of the valley and Jericho can see and orange glow.
“That thing is taking off!” He shouts above the rumble just as something flies past his head and embeds into the rock six feet past him.
It’s a blade. Made of nano-goo.
They’ve been found out. Whatever is left of the nanites is coming for them.
Samantha watches in concern as Ian’s engulfed by the nanite pool only to have it compress down and leave the young man there at the bottom. The rumble of the Sentinel — oh dear God, a Sentinel — spurs her into action and she rushes forward to snatch up the crystal of compressed nanites in one hand and heft Ian around the waist with the other. Then she’s clambering back up out of the pit to get her shield.
“Back to the quinjet! Now!” Hopefully Jericho or Kaylee will think to pick up the case of equipment, because Sam has no intention of trying to lug that as well.
Kaylee falls to her knees as the connection is severed. That was like a hot knife slashing through her head. Slowly she drags herself to stand again, watching as Ian is engulfed by the silvery ‘waters’.
She might actually send up a silent prayer for the Librarian, holding her breath while she does.
The streak over their heads has her jumping and scooping up her case as Sam helps Ian. Anything else, they can do and look at in the air.
He hadn’t known what to expect, but Ian knew that they were out of time. And then suddenly he lost track of everything.
The only thing he’s aware of is pain, and he can’t even tell which side is up or where he is. He’s still left unaware even when it’s all over, exhausted, numb, and perhaps in this case blissfully ignorant of whatever terrible thing has found and now threatens them. At least Samantha can manage to gather him easily, senseless as he appears to be.
The things that are coming after them are… multi-limbed constructs of liquid metal goo. There are four of them visible and possibly more in the swirling snow. Jericho grabs Sam’s bag of equipment. “Kaylee! Shield!”
As the group retreats up the hillside with silver spider things in hot pursuit, flinging darts and knives at them, the rumble of the sentinel increases and even through the snow they can see the great shadow of it’s bulk lift into the sky.
//Ground team! We’ve just had mudspikes on the Russian Mainland. Tracking makes it four medium range missiles lifting off from bases in Sibera. We need to extract now! Estimated time of impact in five minutes!//
The scramble to get to safety while carrying Ian twigs on a memory for Samantha — one of Peggy’s memories. It was still bitterly cold, but there was far more mud than snow. The deafening explosions all around seemed to resemble one constant gigantic roar, and she was scrambling to try and get a private back to the medics toward the back of the line. The kid is barely nineteen, still a bit gangly, with straw-colored hair and ruddy pale complexion so reminiscent of Steve. She can feel the shoulder of her army-issued gear getting soaked through, the only spot of warmth on her entire body, it seems. But not warm enough.
Sam’s scramble to get back to the quinjet seems uncoordinated, bordering on frantic. Possibly a bit more than the situation actually warrants. She slips in the snow and promptly pushes back to her feet again without letting Ian fall from her shoulder, apparently having forgotten that she’s got her shield on her arm and the compressed nanite ‘crystal’ in her hand.
“Private, don’t you DARE give up on me now,” she all but snarls at … Ian? Her accent is full British, with faint undertones of something else. Germanic?
“Agent Carter has her shield…” Kaylee throws back to Jericho as they run. That’s what he meant hadn’t he?
Oh wait. No he hadn’t. She’d forgotten….
There’s a hum and the biochem glows azure blue, a buzzing swarm of light emitting from her. It swirls and dips around the small group as they run, forming a shield to protect them from what.
“Agent Carter?” She can hear the woman but there’s little they can do – as long as she keeps running.
Everything sounds muffled around him, their trek back to the quinjet anything but smooth. The cold fights to seep its way into recognition first, the dull thunder of snow and thrusters and intermittent explosions swelling into full volume like breaking through the surface after being plunged underwater.
As though finally pulling clear from being submerged beneath cold and pain and sensory overload, Ian drags in a desperate, ragged breath. The cold air stings, but it’s enough to shock him back into wakefulness, a jumpstart fueled with everything else. Pale eyes snap open, wide and picking up from the initial shock of being engulfed and practically drowned by nanites. He coughs, wincing as everything hurts, and each jolt from Samantha’s steps in retreat to her near fall transmit right through him.
Is…that Agent Carter? Why is she… Is she talking to him? It’s not something his pain-addled mind can process right now, but he attempts to raise his head, finding himself staring yet again as Kaylee summons up a shield. “Wh…” he attempts to ask, then quickly thinks better of it when he nearly bites off his own tongue.
Ian is being rather dragged along like a sack of potatoes which is no doubt quite comfortable and comforting. He also has a really good view of incoming murderous doom as two quicksilver blades burst on Kaylee’s shield. The one she creates not the one that she’s carrying. The Quinjet comes in low – not that Sam will be seeing that. She’ll be seeing something else. The ramp is down. They’ve just a dozen more meters to go.
Above the heat glow of four missiles on a sub-orbital impact trajectory lights up the sky even through the snowstorm.
“We’re out of time!” Jericho yells. He makes the jet and turns to hold a hand out for either Sam or Kaylee. Whichever makes it first and is in a frame of mind to reach for him.
Kaylee yells in terror as the quicksilver blades burst on her shield. She … felt that and with the blistering from her mishap earlier, it hurt.
With Jericho’s hand out, the biochem waits for Sam to stumble past her and pushes her, into Jericho’s outstretched hand. When she’s sure the other Agent and Ian are secure, she throws herself at the Quinjet, prepared to drag herself in.
Maybe she’ll make it.
“Whoa!” Ian exclaims, flinching involuntarily as something comes flying in to impact against Kaylee’s shield. He swings up an arm out of reflex, feeling like his limbs are so floppy. All the more is he glad there’s something keeping them safe, if just barely.
Hearing more than seeing that they’ve reached their pick-up, Ian more or less collapses inside once Samantha’s gotten them in by aid of Jericho. While the librarian may still be processing things a bit sluggishly he can still count, and with Kaylee still well within his sight he reaches out to grab hold of her best as he can when she makes a dive for the hatch.
Once Kaylee, Sam and Ian are all inside Jericho slams the close button on the door and yells to the cockpit. “PUNCH IT!”
The Quinjet’s engines roar and it rockets forward, bouncing the people inside around a little bit. Through the closing door all four of the ground team can see Wrangel Island go up in flames.
It’s a minute or so before the turbulence in the aircraft dies down.
“Anyone need medical attention back there?” The copilot calls back.
Jericho just shakes his head. “Just get us back to a base and quick. These three have a lot to report.”
And… a crystal to look at.
With the situation at Wrangel Island still unsettled, those charged by S.H.I.E.L.D. to appraise the matter make their way out to help the mysterious nanite colony.
January 28, 2052