Belief But Not Trust
Roleplaying Log: Belief But Not Trust
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Sloane and Peggy discuss the recent events at the Triskelion and Sloane's desire to resign

Other Characters Referenced: Phil Coulson, Carol Danvers, The X-Men, Daisy Johnson
IC Date: March 05, 2019
IC Location: Triskelion and Veselka
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 08 Mar 2019 00:19
Rating & Warnings:
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

THE PLAN:

Return to New York, gather her things, deliver her letter of resignation, and then be ready to bolt for an exit as fast as possible. Be quick about it, be respectful, and then make sure that relevant people have relevant contact information. Try to be a professional.

Most importantly: Don't raise a ruckus.

THE PROBLEM:

Yesterday, Sloane L. Albright may have just re-broken her healing hand by punching an alien in the face in a brawl at a museum that left Nico Minoru wounded, questions about the strange woman with ankle-wings, and her poking and prodding at a strange device that she picked up from one of the invaders.

It was a whole Thing.

BUT TODAY:

Sloane called ahead, though not from her personal phone, nor her work phone — the phone that she left in her desk when she went on her sick leave — but a check-in from a public phone using proper authorization channels. She was in rough shape when she checked out from SHIELD medical with the intent to go home; ambulatory, but only barely: Old bruises, healing cuts and scrapes, hand braced and fingers splinted to keep them from moving, and she was missing scales all over.

Something happened in the last week that advanced that healing quite a lot, but … punching an alien in the face is not exactly the most conducive decision for accelerating that healing process.

Dressed in t-shirt and close-cut jeans, tennis sneakers, and a motorcycle jacket with a canteen on her belt rather than a gun, she holds an envelope in her hand and stares nervously at the door in front of her — and then knocks twice.

"Agent Carter?"

* * *

"The door is open, Agent Albright."

The voice inside is undeniably Agent Carter's.

Seeing Sloane in her civvies is something that should be a shock, but one that she seems certainly prepared to see.

"I believe you have something to say to me, Agent Albright?" Standing, she puts her fingers on the desk, tented and almost as if she is ready to push off of it to leap across. However, she looks to Sloane in a very neutral and expectant sort of way.

Agent Carter tries to have her finger on the pulse of things in SHIELD when she can. The rumor of Sloane's absenteeism is certainly not one she would have missed.

* * *

Facing Peggy Carter is a bit of a horrifying prospect; she's always been The Boss rather than the colleague or the father figure as it was with Coulson — Sloane has always seen her as /the/ agent, the one that cast the mold for those to follow. Before she even opens the door, she takes a deep breath and swallows hard, getting herself centered.

When she steps inside, Sloane looks leagues better than a week ago; rested and well, though her right hand is re-wrapped in fresh bandages and padding, arm in a sling. She crosses the office to her desk, praying the rehearsals in the mirror will end up paying off for her.

"Yes, ma'am."

Deep breath. "In light of SHIELD's stance on metahuman registration, the use of my image to promote this legislation that I oppose, and the tactics used for recruting meta-assets of late, I cannot with good conscience continue to serve as an asset — or promotional tool — for SHIELD," Sloane says, setting the envelope down on Agent Carter's desk.

"This is my resignation."

* * *

Peggy looks at the envelope on her desk and then at Sloane.

"I see." The words are not flippant, but also filled with some sort of meaning.

Picking up the envelope set on her desk, she holds it in her hands for a few moments as if weighing it.

Then? She hands it back.

Reaching out, she places the envelope in Sloane's hands very directly and puts another hand on top of it. From there, Sloane can feel a slip of paper that Peggy slips into it. "Agent Albright, please, give me at least give a week. I am sure you have thought this through incredibly thoroughly, however, you have also been through quite a lot of trauma. Do not make any rash decisions while under medical leave. I apologize for Captain Marvel's use of your image without consent. We shall make that right."

Giving her a smile, she pulls her hands back and sits back down in the chair. "I've made an appointment for you next week. We shall talk again soon. I will not accept your resignation until then."

Once Sloane leaves the office, the slip of paper Peggy gave her can be studied. It's a lot of random numbers and symbols. When translated, however long that may take, it gives a simple address: 144 2nd Avenue. It's a Ukrainian Restaurant named Veselka.

* * *

It's no secret that Sloane does not exactly have the best poker face in SHIELD — it's easy to tell that while she stands straight and resolved, her legs are jelly and a stiff breeze could knock her down right now.

But then Peggy returns the letter of resignation to her. "Agent Carter, with all due —"

A hand over her hand --
"Agent Cart--"
A slip of paper in her hand --
"Ag--"

Agent Merrow can control the seas, heft a 400 pound Asgardian spear with one hand and weighs far more than she looks, but suddenly Peggy Carter is powerful enough to spin her right around and practically shove her right back out the door, her face a drawn and blank slate of SO. MUCH. CONFUSION.

Looking back at her door after she's ushered right back out, she looks down, thumbing the extra paper in her hand. Frowning, Sloane looks down at it, still layered with her letter. "More of this," she murmurs, sounding frustrated.

LATER

Hiding the sheet inside a cheap news-stand Sudoku book and taking some time to translate it with a pen and trying very hard to remember her ciphers, Sloane makes her way to Veselka as calmly and casually as possible. She's never been here before; a plain dark baseball cap sitting on her head and wearing sunglasses to keep her eyes hidden.

Eyes that are now scanning for Agent Carter, while she is frowning /very/ hard.

* * *

Agent Carter is a very deft woman. She knows exactly how to stop or start things in her office and she knows how to use her authority. With a smile, she very politely and eagerly shuts out Sloane Albright.

When Peggy meets her again, she is in a very different outfit. It will take practically a second take to realize this is the elegant and put together Peggy Carter. That is, probably, the point. This Peggy is dressed in jeans and an oversized collared shirt. Her hair is down and covering her face in something that looks almost greasy.

Immediately, she sits opposite of Sloane. "Thank you for coming. I didn't think it proper to talk in my office. Now, how can I help you?"

* * *

Looking around from her seat, Sloane is allowing that training to kick in — she's checking for exits, sight lines, and all of the other paranoid stuff that someone that's been in the field for two years picks up in training. But, she is just so not used to seeing Peggy Carter — /THIS/ Peggy Carter — that it catches her off-guard, leading to her double-taking and even taking off the large plastic-rim sunglasses to confirm what she's seeing.

"I— uh. …"

Sloane looks confused, for a moment, then slips her hand back into her jacket, pressing the envelope down on the table with a frown. "I'm quitting, Agent Carter. I thought I made that obvious when we were in your office."

"Coulson was alive, and no one told me. The registration deadline got pushed back, but the law is still alive and we both know they're not gonna push that back forever. Carol Danvers puts me on TV, and then I get three feet of re-bar through my side and have a target on my back from the Brotherhood now. And, Daisy Johnson told me how she was recruited."

"Don't get me wrong: I'm grateful for what SHIELD did for me, getting me back on my feet after I changed, but I'm done. This wasn't what I signed on for."

* * *

Peggy sits and sets her hands down folded on the table in front of her. There is a reason she asked for this meeting out of the office and in a place she thinks many people would not look for her. "I see. And what did you sign up for, Agent Albright?"

* * *

Sloane settles in her seat, challenged with the question. "I signed on because I was told I could use my abilities to help and save people. I wanted to show people that we weren't the big scary boogey-men in the shadows and that we could be trusted. I can't pass for human, Agent Carter, we both know that — so I wanted to do everything I could to build a rapport with other metas."

Her hand lifts from the table. "This is a bad law. It's going to hurt us in the long run. Think about how many organizations out there that are chomping at the bit for a chance to get a list like this in their hands. How many meta assets SHIELD has that are going to end up getting hurt because our data ends up in the hands of a public agency. I can't stand for that."

* * *

"Agent Albright," Peggy looks at Sloane with a very steady voice. "Do you think that everyone follows laws because we believe them right?" Her head tilts, looking to Sloane for the answer. "Do you think we do this because we like it? Do you think I follow SHIELD because I wish to lock people up like yourself? Do you think that is my mission statement?" This is not a petty argument, she clearly wishes an answer.

"SHIELD is at the mercy of the law. We are a government agency that must follow the will of that government at times. We are an agency. I understand why you are doing this, but I think you are forgetting our main purpose: we are a spy agency, Agent Albright. If you quit, you are giving up your most valuable resource: your clearance. I do not know what Fury means to do with this, however, there is something going on."

Peggy looks about her and frowns. She wants to be clear they are speaking alone. "Can you save reassign metahumans as a civilian?" Then, she adds, "Can you protect the people who protected you as a civilian?" She raises an eyebrow. "I don't think you realize that the most important power that you have right now is not water, it is not your genes, it is this government and that you have a place in it. Do you want to give that up right now?"

* * *

Sloane is silent for a good long moment, her gaze dropping to the table. Her free arm falls to rest on the table, fingers curling into a ball. She's … mad, really, even if she has a hard time focusing it.

"Daisy Johnson was bagged on the street because she couldn't control her powers. Instead of having someone there to talk her in, she got tranqed, more than once, and thank God she didn't end up with her heart stopping with how much they put in her. That she got cuffed in a room and given a hard sell. So really— I hope that you'll excuse me if I don't know /what/ to believe right now, Agent Carter."

"I /can/ do things as a civilian. There are places I can go. There are people I can help. Things I can teach to others. I know I've got a place out there, but I don't even have a clue what my place in the government is right now— especially if people like me are going to be looked at like weapons to be registered before we're citizens."

* * *

"That was not the SHIELD way. Fury told them they were out line and I would have." Peggy shakes her head. "You're again saying that a few agents are all that SHIELD has to offer. The Widows are not how we do things, or at least it is not how we should do it."

Peggy makes a frustrated sound. "Really? You think you can do the things you can do as an agent as a civilian? Do you want to burn bridges? The minute you turn in your resignation they're going to look into everyone you know and everyone who helped you. They will look into Xavier's, they will look into every place you have been in the past six months. Registration is a strange deal breaker. They're looking for scapegoats and don't let that be you."

Peggy gives Sloane a look. "You think you can get to the same places with a civilian pass as you could with a vacation visa?
She sighs. "Look, if you don't want to be in SHIELD any more, I can help you. But, I want you to know what you're giving up right now. No weapons involved."

* * *

Over two years of work starts filing through Sloane's mind: The lives she's touched, the people she's met, and the places that she's been. The progress she made trying to be a friendly face in Mutant Town, her appearances and being a near-literal fixture certain nights of the week at the Shakedown, and her not-entirely-secret connections with figures like Tony Stark.

She had a feeling they were keeping an eye on her. Tracking her to Westchester probably didn't take much of a leap; she tried to keep her tracks covered, but by the time she reached Stark's safehouse she was already a mess in bad condition.

Sloane slouches to one side, pinching the bridge of her nose with her eyes closed. She can't do that to everyone at the Institute, can she? Bring SHIELD straight to their doorstep? Be the example the bastards pushing the law want her to be?

"Help me how? I mean — What am I supposed to do? Wait for this whole stupid law to go south and blow over? Wait for another riot to happen because this is infringing on our rights? Smile for the cameras? Get chained to my desk?"

* * *

There's a long pause.

"Sloane." She has not yet called Sloane by her first name, possibly not since the two have known each other. Peggy tends to stand on ceremony when it comes to the office. The title of Agent means quite a lot to her and she would not strip that respect from anyone else, however this time she is not speaking to Sloane as an agent; she is speaking to her as a person.

"No, I do not expect for you to wait and I do not expect for you to take this law sitting down. I simply want you to see the good you can do within the system. If everyone who opposes registration quits, the people who are left are the ones who believe in this law and can then use their power unchecked. I mean to tell you to make SHIELD listen to you. This you cannot do while a civilian. They will use your defection as an example."

Running a hand through her hair, she looks to Sloane. "Within SHIELD I can transfer you to Coulson. I just did similarly for Daisy Johnson. You would answer to him and, should you wish, you will make some noise. This law is soon to be an actual law and I need people on the inside of SHIELD that can help me figure out what the hell is going on. And as a bonus, you can use your authority to quietly and discreetly help others that need it."

* * *

Sloane continues to let her head hang, her hand shifting from the pinch at the bridge of her nose to holding her face, trying to keep herself collected; weighing the scenario against the other scenario. The fact that Peggy is absolutely /making sense/ is what's crushing her right now.

"Coulson already wants me on his team," she says, sniffling, mouth pulling into a tight line. No matter how much she absolutely refuses to get emotional in front of Agent Carter, it's tough.

Orange eyes lift to look at the displaced Agent. "What do you mean, 'what the hell is going on?' It's obvious — Fury is gung ho on this stupid law. The state's all for it. They've got everything in place, right? People I know and people I care about are going to be affected by this and I'm supposed to be expected to help enforce it. There's no way you don't know the /second/ I don't follow this law to the /letter/, I'm gonna be the first one put in the meat grinder over it. Danvers went to bat for it. I bet you Cap's all for it, too."

"What /is/ going on? Seriously? What's going on right now?"

* * *

At the sniffle, Peggy reaches out to gently put a hand on the one left on the table. "Coulson's a smart man."

There's a moment when she studies Sloane very hard and then her expression softens. Oh dear, she really doesn't know and has not even come to anything like a guess. "Fury has his own angle. The thing about spies is that they're never going to tell you what they're up to if the can help it. Is he for it? Or is he merely trying to use the law to his advantage. Something is going on within SHIELD, I am sure you have noticed that. Very real people are going to be effected by this law…and it is our duty to protect everyone we can."

As for Cap being all for it, she simply raises an eyebrow. "I believe you know that Captain Rogers will follow the law, however when have you known him to be a man who would fully support something that would repress innocent people?"

Patting her hand, Peggy shakes her head when asked what is going on right now. "I am not sure, yet. But I know it's something big. I can feel it…and I need all the people around me that I can trust to make sure it doesn't spread." Looking to Sloane, she adds. "And if you can help me, I can help you. Coulson and I are your superior officers. Let us protect you."

* * *

Sloane's bandaged, slung hand left on the table does not shy away from contact, but neither does she reciprocate or seem to openly acknowledge the presence of Peggy's hand — at least other than a quick flick of her eyes down to see it. She's never seen Agent Carter like this, but …

Her eyebrows scrunch. "I believe you, Agent Carter. I shouldn't, but I do. I really do believe that you want to help me. I really do believe that there /is/ something big going on, 'cause I've heard things. Some really vague things, sure. But … I just don't know if you want to help me get out of SHIELD."

The inhuman sits a little more straight, her mouth bent in a frown. The confidence is building back up. "I'm tired of this spy shit, so I'm gonna be honest with you — I owe you that much, so: I believe you, but I don't trust you. But, I would follow Coulson to the gates of Niflheim if he asked. And I've been there, literally."

Sloane's gaze gets a bit more steely. "I'm pretty sure you already know where I'm staying, so… you already know where I'm gonna ride out the rest of the sick leave I put in for. I don't trust my apartment to not be bugged. I don't trust my work cellphone to not be tapped."

Her fingers tap on the envelope on the table. "I really do /want/ to help, if there's a problem. It doesn't matter to me if it's human problems or meta problems or some asshole group like AIM or HYDRA. But I want you to /also/ respect that right now, I can't stand where I work."

* * *

"I am not sure you will believe honesty or not, but I do not want to help you get out of SHIELD. I want to help you within SHIELD. However, if you want out, I can see what I can do." If she's hurt about Sloane trusting her or not? She certainly does not show it. There is no flinch, no sudden hurt feelings. She's a spy: either she's hiding it very well or she knows that many may not trust her.

"Good, trust those instincts," she says about not trusting whether her place or phone is bugged.

Peggy pulls her hand back now and takes a long drink of her water. She does not say what she respects, nor does she promise to do one thing or another. Instead, she watches her. "What made you join SHIELD? Was it a sense of patriotism? A wish to help others? The paycheck?"

* * *

There's a long silence, as she thinks about it long and hard. Then, coming to a bit of a realization, she just says it:

"Coulson."

She leaves it at that, at first, before explaining herself further. "After I woke up in SHIELD medical, Coulson dropped a cheeseburger on my lap and asked me how I was doing. He made jokes. He treated me like a /person/. He questioned my expectations after becoming this," she says, holding up a scale-backed hand.

"He swore to me I wouldn't get locked in a box or tagged like an animal. He helped me reconnect with my friends and my family, even if my family wanted absolutely nothing to do with me after I changed. Coulson never expected anything of me. He gave me space. He gave me help and sent me off to learn how to use my powers, because he was afraid of what would happen to me if I had a gun to my head and was told to cause a tidal wave."

"Yeah, I… I wanted to help people. I wanted to use my powers to help people. I never thought I'd have powers like this in my life, but I had an open ticket, and I was offered assistance in doing whatever I wanted — getting a job with something like the Coast Guard, aquatic research, or even just going back to school so I could finish getting my degree in music, but Coulson was why I stayed."

Sloane's eyes drift, frowning a deep arc. "… and paying back my student loans on that salary wasn't bad."

* * *

Peggy nods as she listens. For one thing, she is actually a good listener. The conversation about Coulson is met with a bit of a smile. Coulson does inspire quite a few people.

"I didn't make a decision to join SHIELD," Peggy tells Sloane. Of course, she knows this. Peggy helped start SHIELD. There's a decision to join and there's a decision to create: they can be similar, but they can also be more than that. "When I worked for the SSR, they only saw me as a coffee girl, Captain America's government 'liaison'. I was openly harassed, derided and demeaned. My experience is different, as I did not have a law working against me at the time, however I was put in a box as dismissible and odd. The only time I felt as if I were in a non-hostile working environment was for the six months after I started SHIELD."

Peggy looks up to Sloane then. "This job isn't easy. It tests us, it pushes us, it makes us examine what we want and what we are willing to do to make sure that it happens. It's easy to do this when there's no stormy weather and I certainly do know the desire for a clear conscience. However, I do strongly urge you to think of the good you could do inside this agency compared to what you could do outside of it. Coulson trusts you and that means that I do, too. You're one of the good agents and I would hate to lose you."

Peggy shakes her head. "I feel as if right now there is a war being waged over the soul of SHIELD. I do know how dramatic that sounds, however, the other Peggy Carter died over it. I will to find a way to fix this or if the disease is too deep I shall dismantle the whole thing."

* * *

FUN FACT: In Sloane's closet is an honest-to-god vintage replica of the jacket worn by Bucky Barnes in World War 2, just like one would see in a museum, right down to the stitching. She has some actual prints of the war effort posters of Steve Rogers. Even if she wasn't a superhero back then, she grew up knowing the importance of some of those men and women that came from the era Peggy did — /this/ Peggy — and what that all means.

Agent Carter looks up at her, and for a moment, they lock eyes. She /knows/ how important this is.

For a minute, she really thinks about it. What this means to /this/ Peggy. What it means to the Peggy Carter she only heard stories about after enlisting, far too old to be in charge as she is now.

Sloane's fingers press down on the envelope and push it toward Peggy.

"I need time."

"Accept it or not, I don't care. I need time. Put it in your desk for later, if you want. But right now, I can't be here. I need to figure this out. I understand how important this is to you, and if you can find something I can act on — something to help you help out SHIELD and get it back to being the organization that I believed in, /tell me/. I'll help you," she says. "I honestly, sincerely will, no strings attached. But right now, I need space. I need time. May I have that time?"

* * *

"I never said you could not have time. I gave you at least a week, after all." Peggy looks to Sloane without disappointment or anything else. Instead, she looks at the envelope pushed across the table at her. With just as much resolution, she pushes it back.

"I do not accept it at this time, no. If you wish to give it back to me when you've made up your mind, after you have had your time, I shall accept it. However, you will have to give it to me at that time."

With something of a sad smile, she actually gives a soft and quick laugh at Sloane saying she knows how important this is to her and shakes her head. "No, I appreciate the sentiment, but you do not know how important this is to me. I don't expect you to, it is entirely personal."

Shifting, she moves to stand. "Have a good night. Order whatever you'd like: the Pierogis are delicious. I paid in advance."

* * *

The envelope slides back toward her.

Frowning, she feels like she had just insulted Peggy — it's hard to tell, of course, given that she /is/ a spy, and that she isn't /just/ a spy, but /the/ spy — one of those folks that really needs to be thought of as the origin of the term, especially in the modern context.

SHIELD is her baby, and Sloane just spit on it.

The frown is less out of anger and carrying more sadness; looking up at Peggy and feeling like she had just made a horrible decision; her earlier resolve shaken and wondering if she did the right thing. Her eyes drop, almost ashamed as she murmurs, "Thank you, Agent Carter."

Order what she wants, but —

"… I'm sorry. I'm serious — I'll help the second I'm called for. Clearance or not."

Whether or not she accepts it, or acknowledges it, Sloane shifts her hand to cover part of her face again. She's letting the moment crawl into her head, or … more aptly, letting it settle around her shoulders. She thought she would be rid of that weight — the worry, the pain — but now it just feels even more heavy.

"Damn it," she murmurs to herself, hands clenching up into fists.

* * *

"There is no need for an apology," Peggy tells Sloane, sincerely. "I will certainly remember the offer. Take your time."

Slipping out from the booth, she stands and settles her coat about herself, getting herself ready to go. "I will call should I need it. Otherwise, I shall hear from you. Should this be our last frank conversation together? I will offer one piece of advice: you know what is right and what is wrong, you know what you can do and what you can't. From your expression, I can see that you have a lot on your mind and a lot of people telling you what you should do. Many of them may be the voices in your head."

Slipping a hat over her head, she tucks her hair underneath it and looks at Sloane. "You know what you want. You know what is your course. Listen to the advice of others, take it to heart, but you also know where you can compromise and you know where you cannot. Let that be your guide."

* * *

Many of them may be the voices in her head— Christ, if that isn't the truth. Sloane frowns, letting herself stay steady as Peggy gets herself ready to leave. The inhuman's head turns to look up at her; though Sloane remains silent while Agent Carter speaks, the look on her face suggests that she would rather not this be /the/ last time that they ever spoke.

There's a lot that Peggy can pass on, and teach, even if their paths may end up diverging, but—

Listen, think, decide.

"I understand, Agent Carter," Sloane says, shifting her weight in the seat. "The same goes for Coulson — if he needs anything, just … I'm sure you have the means to get in touch with me, even if I left my work phone in my desk. If I hear anything that might be useful to you, I'll get in touch with you."

She owes them that much.

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