The air is full of ozone and cordite. There are holes in all of the walls and several combat bots are laying on the ground sparking and leaking fluids. There are probably a couple of people in here somewhere also. Dead. Injured. Hard to say. Jericho doesn’t check in the heat of combat except to make sure that they’re no longer a threat.
This had been collection of townhouses in the sprawl, turned into more dense living accommodations as the sprawl became more sprawly. Jericho had come here following what had seemed to be a signal related to the escaped HYDRA twins, and possibly also Red Skull.
It was a trap. And at the moment he is rather annoyed.
He hadn’t come alone though. And now he’s moving through the building quietly, looking for where his backup had gotten to. They’d gotten split up in the fighting.
Kaylee had been called to go with Jericho. In a way it was a pact they had made. With his emotional control stretched thin, there were few who could begin to understand what was happening to the man and even less who might be able to help him. The Institute telepaths preferred not go near his mind – it was too … turmultuous.
But Kaylee would and she could. Sort of.
Which was fine until they get situations like this. With her seperated like this, it’s actually quite dangerous. For Jericho but probably more so for her.
Jericho brings his weapon up at the sound of the voice. One can never be too careful. “Over here.” He calls.
Another corner and he spots her, finally lowering the weapon. “Good. It’s really you.” He seems tightly controlled right now. And he is. But she knows that he has to be a storm of mostly anger.
“Have you seen anyone else or is the building secure?”
“Er… also. Are you okay?”
Kaylee’s traces aren’t active, she tries not to work with them ‘on’ all the time, so when Jericho sees her it is just her, in her SHIELD body armour and her weapon.
The //it’s really you// has Kaylee staring around. Did that mean Jericho thinks that KK is around or is he just being cautious. Either way, she can’t blame him.
“It’s me. You should be able to tell by the connection you have to my implants.” They need a better way of doing that. Making sure she wasn’t an imposter.
“Is the building secure? I’m not sure. From what I can see, yes. And I am, thank you for asking.”
She considers the Hacker and what she can tell “You’re not though … are you?”
She’ll worry about this trap in just a moment.
It’s mostly actually that HYDRA has voice emulators and he’s been tricked by calls before. He hasn’t seen them duplicate people physically though except with mutants who have that particular talent. “I took a few hits. I’ll be fine. They were expecting us.”
Well specifically they were expecting him. They’d seemed surprised that there was a second person when they sprang their trap.
The hacker sighs and growls a little bit as he does. No. He does not like any of the implications of what he just said.
“We’ll get you seen to when we get back.” Kaylee murmurs, watching Jericho carefully and wincing just a little when he growls. “Centre yourself, Jericho. Lean on me if you have to. It’s why you bring along, isn’t it? I mean, apart from my wit and charming personality.”
“What are we looking at here? I can tell they were expecting us. They baited the trap good and well.” That it was HYDRA that had done so, is very concerning. Kaylee had seen what they’d done to Gabrielle.
“Well lots of warbots and a few guards means they had time to move heavy equipment into location. This was calculated, definitely. They knew I’d be looking for this signal and they knew I’d come here to investigate it. Or at least felt confident enough that it would be a good use of their time. I doubt they’d have anything here useful information wise…”
He glances back. “Though it’s possible there’s something on the warbots or one of the agents we downed. I don’t think they expected to make me out of it here alive…”
Jericho activates his link to Kaylee’s processors and offloads some of his… load. Lets her deal with a bit of what he’s feeling rather than all of it.
It’s still rather intense.
Kaylee huffs as her teasing falls flat and Jericho doesn’t respond to it. It’s normally a good indication of how rung out he is.
She winces as his emotional overload floods to her and it takes her a moment to deal with it. How Jericho survives like this, she doesn’t know. “Well well well let’s go check the bot and agents shall we?” She turns with her weapon still drawn to the nearest agent that Jericho had downed.
Keeping them both busy and focussed will help.
Jericho really needs her to lean on at the moment. He is indeed wrung out. Emotionally exhausted. He takes a calming breath as she says and tries to center himself. When Kaylee starts moving, he does too.
The bots are simple affairs. Frames with hydraulics, mobility systems and weapons. They’re not especially armored but they are made of steel so there is that. The hacker kneels down and opens up the control box on one of them. Whatever he jolts when he does that, the bot jerks and starts projecting a holographic image on a two second loop. Red Skull. He’s standing in this very room talking to…
Talking to Kaylee. Or someone who looks very much like her.
That can only really be one person.
Kaylees got a lot of mental discipline and it takes a lot of it to manage Jericho’s emotions. Which is why she blinks at the projection as it starts up. “That’s that’s ….”
She looks at the bot and she looks at the room and looks at the bot again.
“KK.” she swallows. “And she’s with Red Skull. I shouldn’t be surprised. His progenitor was quite the scientific mind. It doesn’t surprise me … Can we get any audio on this?”
It’s possible Jericho gets a jolt of Kaylee’s own anxiety.
Jericho stands up and watches the loop. It’s two seconds. He makes a face. Red Skull and the insane LMD. “Let me see if we’ve got anything for audio.”
The hacker kneels back down and fiddles with the bot some more. It was damaged pretty badly when he disabled it but finally a speaker does squeal to live in a tinny, unpleasant fashion.
“We’ll make sure you get the hacker alive, but the scientist will be going to Pa-”
“Well make sure you get the hacker alive but the scientist will be going to Pa-”
It loops over and over again. It seems KK helped arrange this little hit and plans were to take both alive. That seems odd since HYDRA hadn’t seemed to be prepared for Kaylee.
Poor Jericho gets a spike from Kaylee as she hears the words that are spoken. She doesn’t move, turning a stricken to Jericho. “KK sold us out. She was going to give you to Red Skull.” For herself she’s not surprised that KK wanted her but who or what was Pa…?
“Did KK not tell them to expect me? What I was or that I would be with you? Or was this … a test?”
Pa- is clearly only part of a word, but a name or a place or something else is hard to know. All they have is a two second clip. “Not sure if she was going to give me to Red Skull or Red Skull was going to give me to her to get me out of the way. I am something of a pain in the ass, as I understand it.”
The hacker rises again and frowns. “Well she is a bit crazy. It could be she was testing them. Or that they misunderstood. Or that they were planning to grab you separately.” He pauses. “It’s also possible that ‘the scientist’ is someone else entirely though that seems unlikely. The question I have is… if KK set this up… where is she?”
Kaylee’s pale ans she crouches there, watching and listening to the clip that plays over and over. “KK had to know that I would be with you. She knows me well enough for that. KK knows how I think, she was me even if she is mad.”
Jericho can see Kaylee tremble as she thinks through this. She’s remembering what KK did to her recently. There’s something so very sinister about all this.
“Mmmaybe the scientist is someone else.” Kaylee knows they’ve had their suspicions about Cullen, so there’s that. “If she set this up, she’s … watching us.”
Kaylee looks up at Jericho “She can connect to my traces, I wish I knew how to do that in reverse.”
“It’s got to be possible to do it in reverse. Logic suggests that any connection that can be made one way can be made the other. The trouble is we don’t know if she’s doing that technologically or magically. I’m starting to suspect the latter and we don’t know enough about that to defend against it, much less duplicate it.”
Jericho folds both arms and sinks into thought. He glances up and puts a hand on Kaylee’s arm when he sees her shaking.
“We don’t… but others might have. There might be notes in the original project documents, or Jemma’s diaries that might have something in that. Jemma and Calvin were both scientists. But they knew they were playing with something that danced right on the edges of science.”
“It has to be magical, Jericho …” Kaylee finally stands, moving closer as he puts a hand on her arm. “I don’t believe in magic, I can’t tell you how much it grates to even say that.” She’s still trembling. This whole thing unnerves her. “But I don’t have any other explanations to offer now.”
“Jemma knew there was something. She’s hinted at it throughout her journal but there’s nothing specific I can find.” She nods slowly though. “Do you fancy some late nights and take out?” It’s a poor try at humour but Kaylee really is worried.
Jericho nods slowly. “I think Jemma knew someone was watching. If she left anything it’ll be encoded or physically hidden. But she had to know she was playing with fire and I think she would have been cautious as to exactly what she recorded and who she told about it.”
She clearly left clues though.
There’s a pause again.
“We might be able to ask her, actually…” Ask Jemma Simmons directly. “SHIELD took regular backups of her, though only a select few of them are used in the LMD program. I happen to know the facility that they’re kept at. It’s offline. But if we can access it, we can load her up and… ask her ourselves.”
Ordinarily he wouldn’t consider this but… desperate times.
“Otherwise yes. Late nights and take out sound like they’re in our future.”
“Can we get out of here? Or do you need to clear the rest of the building?” Kaylee asks quietly, looking around. “Jemma knew something was wrong. She’s said as much in that section we decoded. The biochem rubs her arms and touches Jericho’s hand where it lays there.
“Let’s do that but let’s also find if there might be personal effects of hers. Maybe there’s family? I … don’t know.” If not, they might well be in storage.
“You sound like you don’t relish the prospect of my company.”
“Your company? No I relish that all the time.” Jericho says with a smile. “The idea of spending some of those long nights digging through an encryption? Somewhat less so. And the possibility that we might need a Fitz to help. Even less so.”
Jericho sighs and shakes his head. Then nods to Kaylee.
“We can leave. Nothing we wanted is here and remaining just leaves us in more danger. Come on.” And with that he starts to move.
“Are you working on anything that Red Skull might want you for? Or have you recently? Assuming the scientist he spoke of is you… I wonder why he’d want you alive?”
Why her? Especially if it is her. There’s a dozen Simmonses and most of them have the same expertise.
“You don’t like to share?” Kaylee teases. It helps a bit to relieve the tension she’s feeling. “You’re still worried one of the Fitz’s might be compromised, aren’t you?” beat “I don’t know, Jericho, a late night, LED lighting as we read to each other from Jemma’s journal? Don’t you think that sounds rather romantic?”
“I’m not for him, remember?” Kaylee points as they start to move. “They want me, or the Scientist, for someone or something else. But lots of things. The Steve Nanites that we found in Russia, the proto-sentinels. Don’t forget the work I was doing on MGH when I was woken. And there’s always my traces and how they’ve manifested.”
“They aren’t like yours or Gabrielles are they? Not really.”
“Also the Fitz’s are kind of annoying.” Jericho adds to everything Kaylee said. Which they are. They’re skittish around him for reasons that are kind of obvious if one knows the history.
The question of late night reading gets a snort. “From an encrypted journal? I don’t think we’ll be taking turns reading from it. We’ll be bashing our heads against the table trying to figure out what it says.”
He sighs and moves them toward his car. “All the traces are unique. Well they’re all the same but they’re all unique manifestations of the technology. I don’t think there’s much if anything in common with most of them. They’re all very… personality dependent.”
“But you’re right, he could be interested in you specifically for that.”
“Fitz’s are just … intense.” Kaylee murmurs. Stubbornly loyal despite the fact that she doesn’t want to be entangled with one. “And you scare them. Taking a pipe to Arthur didn’t help that. And I know you yelled at them when they decided to improve the computer.”
“I still think it sounds romantic …” She teases, following the hacker to his car. She feels a little better now. Out of that building and focussing on a way ahead.
“Well, we won’t really know, will we? Maybe he just wants me for my mind…”
“That’s possible Kaylee. And that’s what scares me the most. Because if he does… well, you saw what the Russians did to Illyana. If HYDRA has anything close to that they’ll upload you into a Sim and then you’ll be theirs. A program they can run and manipulate at well…”
It’ll break her. Drive her insane. Like it nearly did to Anastasia. And nearly did to Gabrielle.
“We should take precautions. For now though…” There’s his car. “Lets get out of here.”