Surviving is Winning
Roleplaying Log: Surviving is Winning
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Daisy calls upon Phil Coulson for a meeting out of the blue, uncovering more questions than answers.

Other Characters Referenced: Emma Frost, Bruce Wayne, Tony Stark, Ulysses Arngrim
IC Date: October 15, 2019
IC Location: New York City
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 16 Oct 2019 01:18
Rating & Warnings: PG-13 for a bit of language
Scene Soundtrack: [* ]
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

It isn't unusual for there to be some radio silence after Daisy's last check-in with Phil Coulson, yet something might seem out of the ordinary when the next request for a face to face comes through. Unlike the last time when the rendezvouz point had been at a public park she asks to meet up with the senior agent in the middle of the city. New York City, at that. She had been working out of Metropolis for the last couple of months so the sudden change of location might seem peculiar.

Futher, the meeting point being requested is underneath a bridge where it's dark and grimy and not very frequently toured by the locals but also not the most secure of locations. No explanation is given though there also isn't much feeling of urgency from her limited communications. Regardless, there's enough info for any level of spy to suspect that something might in fact be wrong.

Upon seeing the hackerette there's some visual oddities as well. Where she had previously been going with more of a dark 'rebel' look she's now looking rather plain and casual. No gauntlets from the looks of it, either.

***

Daisy can bet with requests like that she gets watched for quite a bit before Phil actually approaches. He scans the surrounding areas for signs of hidden individuals. The problem is, unlike the late 80s and early 90s, when the spy game was still relatively straightforward, the people he's looking for don't necessarily have any tells. In the early 90s, he would have looked, say, for a sniper.

Here in 2019, the threat could be anyone, doing anything, clear up until the moment they launch a nuke straight out of either eyeball.

In the end he just approaches, looking as nondescript as ever. His suit is slightly wrinkled in a way that turns him into a very forgettable accounting or mid-level manager type. And if those types don't often meet women under filthy bridges, well…maybe he's scooping up a wayward daughter, or scoring cocaine for the first time in his life.

Certainly, nobody spares him a second glance as he draws up beside her.

"You take me to the nicest places," he comments. Despite the lightness in his tone as he delivers this cliched quip, there are worlds of questions in his single lifted eyebrow.

***

The smile is quick and fleeting upon recognizing a familiar face, feeling enough sense of relief that both of her shoulders dip slightly before the first steps can be made toward the arriving Phil. Some distance is kept in the end and it probably has something to do with the troubled look in her eyes.

"Hey, so, um… This is gonna sound pretty weird but I guess that's ..kind of the norm," Daisy starts in with an awkward glance to the side and a momentary rubbing at her nose with a sweater sleeve. Arms firmly cross as she looks at the ground, either avoiding saying something or trying to find the right words for it.

Eventually she looks back to Coulson and bluntly asks "Have you ever woken up one morning and had this feeling like something -really bad- happened?"

With the question asked she goes right back to looking somewhere else, -anywhere- else other than directly at Coulson. Her arms unfold long enough to get out a few quick jabbing motions to help in the explanation.

"I wake up andand it's like I hadn't been living at my own place for -months.- There's dust everywhere and all of the food's gone bad and my -workstation- is missing and I keep..having this thought about owning a ..blue van.. and for the life of me I can't remember why? II feel like I'm..losing my damn -mind- and I don't know what's going on."

Her head gently shakes before she's able to look back to Phil, the confusion clearly etched into her features. "I didn't know who else to turn to."

***

A pained look comes over Coulson's face.

He starts connecting some dots immediately. Or, at least, drawing some inferences.

The Brotherhood made Daisy Johnson, and rather than killing a mutant, they chose to either wipe her memory with some some sort of telepath, or get the Scarlet Witch involved to use her very strange power set on the woman. Either way…

"You do own a blue van," he says quietly. "Well. You might not any longer. It might have been stolen. You've been undercover for me for months, Daisy. So you have not in fact been to your house. You're probably not losing your mind. Your mind has probably been tampered with."

***

As was her earlier question there's a bluntness to the response which Phil gives to her. From the outside it might make perfect sense but from where Daisy is standing the vacant filter covering her eyes doesn't sharpen any with the idea that someone might have -messed with her mind.-

"That… Can someone even -do- that? I—wait. ME? Undercover. Like..for real. I..oh this is bad."

Both hands come up to cover her nose and mouth while turning to one side, struggling to link together what fragments of her memories are still intact with consideration to this possibility. Soon enough she's looking down at these hands, now only covered halfway up by the sleeves as if they're attempting to hide from the world.

"Do you think…I mean is it even possible that someone could have also…" Her jaw sets, forcing a growing lump back down her throat.

"I don't have my powers. Likethey're -gone.- Nothing. I can't"

***

That's new.

Coulson has never heard of anyone's powers just up and getting wiped out before.

"Come on," he says. "You're not undercover anymore. We need to get you to one of the medics."

He offers her a gentlemanly arm mostly so she can lean against him if she's feeling sick or woozy, and that's the least inappropriate way he can think of to offer support to a young woman in his employ. "How long have you been wandering around trying to figure out what's going on?" he asks quietly. "What's the last thing you remember? It's going to be okay, Daisy. We're going to figure this out."

Obviously she remembers something because otherwise she never would have been able to call him.

***

At the call that she's no longer undercover there's a quick and tense nod before she comes the rest of the way over to take Phil's supporting arm. Physically she seems to be doing well enough, there's no sign of obvious trauma. Mentally it's looking more like Daisy just woke up from a particularly horrific nightmare.

"Wandering..? Not long. I remember my studio. Like one morning I had closed the door and walked away because I had it in mind to go somewhere, then ..just..bits and pieces of things. There were some weird things happening in Metropolis I had ..I might have been involved with."

These metahuman encounters did happen, she had outlined them in previous verbal reports. They were rather anomalous though, no ties back to the intended mission.

"And then I woke up the other day like I had never left but like -half a year- went by. Somewhere in there I lost my roommate, and..there was some stuff going on at LexCorp involving my gloves, it's just..all so..scattered!"

"I figured if the guy with the flying car couldn't help me then no one could," she meekly attempts at some humor.

***

"Well, you're right, I can help. I assure you that you did some outstanding work for me during that time. Really, you're lucky. I suspect they figured out you were one of our spies and decided to take matters into their own hands. You were definitely working in Metropolis. You were spying on the Brotherhood."

Phil guides her to said flying car, in fact, but he does not launch it into the air. He just puts her carefully into the front seat and gets behind the wheel. It will be a long drive to the new base, but it's what they're gonna do. He doesn't want to draw attention to this situation for a whole host of reasons.

"I'm just glad they didn't kill you."

But they may have killed parts of her, something his tight jaw says he's already desperately, intensely, grimly aware of.

"We're going to have to monitor you closely for other reasons, too. Whoever did this to you might have turned you into some sort of sleeper agent. They may have planted orders in your head to be activated at a later time."

***

Any thoughts of relief of having done something good for Coulson are quickly pushed aside when the former mission is so neatly summed up. It seems impossible that Daisy could have zero recollection of any of what had taken place right up until he drops the word 'Brotherhood.'

"Oh my god," comes as something of a whisper. "They're the ones that attacked the Triskelion, right? And the Helicarrier?" The one she happened to fall off of and straight into the harbor.

"-I- was spying on -them?!-"

They totally could have killed her. This twisted new reality it feels like she had been dropped into the middle of is unsettling enough but to think that it -could- have been a whole lot worse almost helps to put things back into perspective.

Then, somehow, it gets worse. The thought that she could have been turned into something to use against SHIELD has her eyes going wide. "Coulson, you don't actually believe they would—oh my god," she repeats. "I would never turn on you guys!"

She may not understand how this whole 'sleeper agent' thing works yet.

***

"You in fact set yourself up to do it without talking to anyone first," Coulson says dryly. "You saw an opportunity and took it and told me after the fact."

But he spares her a glance, since they are almost immediately in parking-lot level traffic. His car is at this point completely stopped, not even rolling along at 1 mph. New York City traffic at its very finest.

"And of course you wouldn't turn on us. Not on purpose. Mind control is a thing, Daisy. You've seen The Manchurian Candidate, ri…well, maybe you haven't. Dated reference. The point is, there are a lot of ways to make good people do bad things against their will. And if they were deep enough in your head to wipe six months of memory, it's conceivable they may have gone deep enough in your head to do other things."

***

Blink. "Better to ask forgiveness than permission, I guess," Daisy replies in a hollow voice. "Hopefully they didn't also take my audacity."

It isn't long before she has something else to consider. How silly it was to ask to meet in the middle of the Big Apple! It's a small comfort to be in the quasi-familiar setting of Lola, at least. One of her best memories of being with SHIELD had involved a ride in this very classic. Her first time seeing it, in fact.

It's almost like history is repeating itself. Just with a lot more traffic.

Phil's further explanation leaves her silent for a time which is probably for the best. The very notion has her mind reeling in preemptive retaliation wanting to convince the senior agent that it would never happen, that it -couldn't- happen, that she'd never turn on the Division despite a notably rocky start, but…

"This really is bad, isn't it," is what she eventually settles on with a note of defeat. "That feeling that I had."

If she didn't need Phil's help, perhaps all of SHIELD's help, the thought of ducking and running might have seemed quite enticing. It's not like she couldn't just open the door and hit the pavement running, they aren't going anywhere fast.

Such an idea never enters the implementation phase. Instead she turns to look at Phil again, asking "What happens next..? Once we get out of gridlock, that is."

***

"First, I'm going to take you to get examined by a doctor who might be able to figure out what happened to your powers. Then I'm going to call a telepathic friend of mine who I trust with my own life and sanity, and beg her to examine you to see what's happened to you," Phil says grimly.

He hadn't wanted to involve Emma. He is aware, on several different levels, that Emma Frost might have at least a little sympathy for Brotherhood causes. But he does not think she is involved, either. Not given company she keeps. Bruce Wayne. Tony Stark. Himself, for that matter. Most of the Brotherhood would as soon take a slug out to dinner as a human.

And he can't think of another telepath he'd let at Daisy. "That will take me some time. I'm going to have to restrict your clearance down to nothing until we've cleared you, but you'll remain on the payroll and you won't be suspended. You are due an extended vacation anyway. You'll also need psychiatric visits for a long time. Everybody in SHIELD ends up needing them sooner or later, so don't get too worked up about them. From there, we'll evaluate. You're a valuable agent with or without your powers, but I'm sure you'd like them back if at all possible. I'll put you back on duty when you're physically, mentally, and emotionally ready. And not before. I suggest taking full advantage of the R&R."

***

Yep. It's definitely that bad. Phil doesn't have to repeat the words to confirm it in Daisy's mind. A doctor, a telepath, straight back to ground zero security clearance, lots and lots of evaluation, and..on the upside..enough vacation time to both clean the hell out of her studio and maybe figure out where this van of hers got off to.

Ulysses might be able to help her out there.

She almost wants to apologize for how much more work she's going to be making for everyone but she can reason it out that it isn't her fault. ..Probably.

"As long as I don't have to wear another Net Nanny Cyberbracelet," she grumbles. "And you're right. You are absolutely right. Those powers might have terrified me before and gotten people hurt but they've come to be a part of me. With them gone the world feels so … Numb," is suggested with a frown.

Fingers slowly rub at her forehead, taking a moment to close her eyes and not bother to open them again. "I hate to be in this situation, AC. I try to help, I really do, but this is a huge mess. I mean—can we ever bounce back from this? Am I going to be stuck at level zero forever? Sitting in a cubie for the rest of my life isn't a particularly motivating image."

***

"You won't. You're still on my team and I don't treat people who are on my team that way," Coulson says firmly. "Remember, this isn't about whether or not I trust you. It's about safeguarding you from waking up one day to find out you killed a bunch of people against your will. Pull a Lexus Nexus transcript of The Trial of Two Centuries if you want some nasty first-hand accounts of what that looks like."

But she is confessing some very real vulnerabilities. He quiets to listen to them: the loss of her powers and what it's doing to her, and her question of whether she'll bounce.

"For your powers, all we can do is take a look," he says quietly. "For the rest? Yes. We will get you back in the saddle again. Don't think of this as me sidelining you. This is just after-action stuff. You've been undercover for months. Even if you hadn't come back in this state, there would have been psych evals and downtime. As soon as we've cleared you or corrected any problems in your brain, we'll get you back to work."

He gives her a gentle smile, which he really shouldn't because now traffic is moving. Kinda. But he's got great peripheral vision, at least for the few seconds it takes to do that.

"Believe it or not, it wasn't really so long ago that I had no security clearance. On lockdown, in a safehouse, undergoing lots and lots of psych evals while a telepath had to dive into my brain and fix all kinds of problems. And look at me now. It's going to be okay. I promise."

***

There's a brief moment in what Coulson says that brings a light smile to Daisy's face. 'You're still on my team' seems to be exactly what she needed to hear. It passes quickly and without fanfare as he's allowed his moment to speak in return, soon bringing her focus down to the dashboard as if she might find the meaning of life hidden within the immaculately restored trim.

The smile does make a return, catching Phil's look her way then emulating it a second later. Following is another look of surprise. "For real? Is this, like, a normal part of working with SHIELD then? You're the most level-headed person I know, AC. If you had to go through all of that…"

Then it was bad. Really bad. So no, it isn't just her.

Her attention returns to the dashboard with a subtle bobbing of her head. "Point made."

A long breath is taken then released, the simple action helping to get herself grounded again. "Okay, so. Whatever you guys need from me, I'll do it. Especially if this 'sleeper agent' deal is a legit concern, I don't want to give anyone a reason to lose trust in me. I'll even ..gosh, I'll even 'take a vacation,' but I still want to talk to Uly. If there's any chance that my system is still around and online somewhere then he can help me figure out where it ran off to."

***

"You're welcome to talk to anyone," Coulson replies. "Clearance loss doesn't mean you can't see Uly or anyone you want to, I promise."

The Interstate at last. Coulson merges into it, where the speed goes up to a grand total of 15 whole miles per hour.

"And yes," he adds, after a moment. "For real."

He does no more elaboration on that whatsoever (of course), but he speaks in a way that makes it clear that he's not bullshitting her in the least. What he says instead of providing details is: "We stand against threats nobody else is prepared to face, and the work is stressful. Or few others are prepared to face, I suppose I should say. And we have the whole covert element. Things go wrong. Surviving is winning. Everything else? That's something we can adjust to."

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