The Last Blockbuster On Earth
Roleplaying Log: The Last Blockbuster On Earth
IC Details

A mission goes south for Agent Coulson and Captain Marvel comes in as backup. Afterwards, a reconciliation and a resolution.

Other Characters Referenced:
IC Date: August 07, 2019
IC Location: East Coast
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 12 Aug 2019 00:05
Rating & Warnings:
Scene Soundtrack: [* ]
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

There are days when the job goes smooth as butter. In and out, slick as you please, everything's in good shape and you've done the thing.

Today. Is not that day.

In and among the problems brought on by Registration are some of the same old problems. People touching things they shouldn't. People attempting to exploit powers or alternate dimensions or mysteries man isn't really meant to eff with. Aliens who show up, trying to set up shop on a backwater to do things to the parts of space that actually matter.

It's that latter point that has given one Phil Coulson a bad day today. An entire ops team that he took into a West Virginia backwater is dead. The smoking remains of their vehicles and equipment is littered among their bodies. He is exceptionally good at staying alive, is Phil, even with the crushing weight of team member deaths weighing on his conscience. But he's not always lucky.

For one thing, he's being pinned to an upended SUV by some Kree terrorist who has a gun capable of literally vaporizing his head pressed so tightly to the underside of his jaw that it looks likely to leave a permanent impression there.

There are some dead Kree too. Quite a few by Phil's aging-but-still-got-it hand.

And some of the Kree who are alive took one look at his credentials and knew more than enough about Earth to know who they'd just managed to disarm and capture. They're still arguing in their own language about what they should do about that while the beefy guard keeps Phil still and quiet.

The beefy guard is somewhat unnerved though. Phil's hazel eyes are steady, steely, unafraid. He even wears a slight smile. "All the rumors are true, you know," he says. "About me, and Valhalla. If you need some sort of reason to keep me alive, you should pass that on. Your planet will thank you."

He is not, in fact, smiling because he does so habitually whenever he is in situations like these.

He is in fact smiling because he managed to get an SOS signal with a good scan of the immediate area off before it all went pear-shaped, and he suspects it won't be long before the situation takes a dramatic new turn in a more positive direction.

The great thing about the speed of light? There is not a thing faster. No matter how quick that Kree thug might be to pull the trigger, even if he did see the photon blast coming, the chemical signal from his brain to fire the weapon could never win the race.
That said, it is mighty uncomfortable for Phil Coulson to have the gun pressed to his throat explode from the Kree Terrorist's grasp. The blast was carefully calibrated to disarm the gun with as little collateral destruction as possible but the weapon is sniped with serious authority. The SUV behind him gaining a new punched hole and his face suffers some aluminum shrapnel and first degree burns.. But at least now the Grim Reaper won't get a second chance at the Master Agent.

Captain Marvel descends from the heavens now after her long-distance aimed shot, having cashed in the element of surprise to gain Coulson some much needed breathing room. Streaking over the backdrop of the Appalachian mountain side she closes the remaining distance swiftly, blazing fists outstretched in warning as she shouts orders from her re-colored Kree helm.
Stand down or you all join the Collective this day! Ordering the Kree in their own language, perfectly fluent and without the translator.

It only took three minutes for SHIELD actual to receive the SOS and scramble their top anti-alien asset. Thirty seconds of that was Captain Danvers taking real careful aim to not accidentally decapitate one of the most admired Agents left in the organization.
Even with the carnage wrought, Captain Marvel is giving these Kree one last chance to surrender. As slim a hope as that might be.

And that's good, because the Grim Reaper, or at least the one that was in charge of Coulson, is kind of a smirky bastard. Who steals donuts.

Meanwhile, for once, Captain Marvel's mercy bears some fruit. There are exchanged glances, and then every single one of them drops their weapons and raises their hands.

Phil only responds, just a little, to the discomfort of the weapon snipe. It was hot as all get-out, and it left a burn, but burns definitely heal better than death. He rubs gently over it, refusing to acknowledge it more than that, then steps over to pick up a radio. With full, smooth professionalism he is making sure that the captured Kree can be swiftly taken into custody.

As agents rush in to do just that, he steps beside Carol, sliding his hands into his pockets. "Thanks for coming," he says, in that awkward way that even Coulson gets when someone you've been at odds with has just done something for you.

As the Kree Terrorists stand down, there is a confused moment of conflicting emotions for Carol. Sincere relief that the killing has ended here mixed with .. A measure of regret that the Kree warrior doesn't get satisfaction. The dead Agents littering the field also inflame that regret. Maybe these terrorists don't deserve to walk away from this. SHIELD has had enough funerals in the last few months.

There is a moment.. A flicker of a moment where her burning fists do not extinguish as they surrender. Gritting her teeth, Captain Marvel exhales. Letting the power extinguish in her grasp as she descends the remaining distance as backup arrives soon after to clean up and apprehend.

She gives Coulson a professional glance to make certain he isn't seriously injured before she returns her gaze to the prisoners to make sure they don't try to pull a fast one.
"You okay? Is there anyone else?" Hoping that some of his team may only be trapped or imprisoned. The awkwardness of the reunion not quite set in yet, especially as she clings to professionalism to keep her from doing extremely unheroic things to these .. People.

Phil Coulson looks down and shakes his head. "No. Nobody's left. We got exceptionally bad intel, moved on it, and now a few more of SHIELD's good, trustworthy men and women are gone."

His face clouds for a moment. "I should have seen through it. And I'm willing to bet the 'agent' who gave it to us is now off in the wind."

He, too, can cling to professionalism. And he is clinging, because there's something more than awkwardness for him to be swept away on. Guilt and self-recrimination have always been Phil's demons when anyone is lost in the field. And it's been decades, literally decades, since he has lost an entire team on his own watch.

The whole thing writes the full weight of his age over his face, deepens worry lines and the grim set of his jaw until he briefly looks like an entirely different man than the smiling Cheshire Cat who pulls the strings, and who always has it all under control.

Captain Marvel fights the urge to punch .. something. Stomp a boulder into the ground. Something spectacularly violent. Like Coulson she needs to keep it together but in a different way. She has to set the example. The other Agents arriving feel much the same.. She knows. They too have known incredible loss in the last couple months and seeing dead friends and comrades.. It becomes extremely hard to treat these aliens as anything other than mad animals.
No. If Captain Marvel gives in to barbarity then it inspires others to do the same. When one wears the costume one becomes a symbol and she has to act better. Not because she thinks herself superior but because she knows she influences others.

Once the insurgents have been bound and no longer an imminent threat does Carol turn fully to Coulson. Her helm dematerializing to reveal a concerned expression.. Albeit one tempered with hesitance.

She never hated Coulson even at her most frustrated moments. She may not be on the greatest of terms with him right now but.. It has been some time since their last falling out. There are things that bind them together under the banner of SHIELD and when an op goes south this badly.. This is one of those times.
"You did what you could." Reaching out a gloved hand to place on his shoulder reassuringly, "I know you. I know you did what you could. We got the das't ci-darei sov'en sk-get away. It cost more than we wanted it to but they got it done. They sor'e ts-na."
The foreign language weaving into her english so fluently she does not seem to notice the slip. Steel eyes sincere in their comfort.

He reaches up, accepting the olive branch by patting her hand in a fashion both familiar and fatherly. He does not speak Kree, or what he assumes is Kree, but it matters not. The context is pretty clear. He watches SHIELD armored trucks drive prisoners away before he answers verbally, but it seems he has let bygones be bygones as well. Like hers, his temper has had months to cool. And Coulson was never really a man to hold on to grudges.

To quietly avoid people he's come into conflict with, certainly. He comes into actual conflict with anyone but rarely. And rarer still is a time when he instigated it, when he was the one who lost his temper.

He pats her hand one more time and says, "I'm sorry, Carol. I said some very harsh things to you, last we spoke, and I did not come to your defense, or give you so much as an encouraging word, when that illusion-slinging girl made things take such a bad turn for you. That was wrong of me. I should have been in your corner. I know you, too. And I know you've always done nothing more and nothing less than what you know in your heart to be right. It doesn't matter if we don't always believe the same things about what that is. I should have remembered that the mutual desire for that much is both rare enough, and common ground enough."

Through most of this he had been watching the trucks still, but at last he lifts his haggard head to meet her eyes with his own compassionate, somewhat sad hazel ones.

"Our enemies are doing a fine job tearing the world apart without us doing it to one another."

Carol's look softens. Her hand remaining at his shoulder as he offers apologies, now fighting a different sort of unprofessionalism as she feels a sudden urge to hug the man. To show that he need not even ask forgiveness but also to help him forgive himself.
"It's okay, Phil. It's okay. I .. I did make mistakes too. I was wrong about.."
She stops herself, looking away a moment. They are not alone, even with the armored trucks carrying their cargo for processing. This was the site of extraterrestrial activity and a number of fatalities, this place won't even be touched by the Feds until SHIELD has had its way steam cleaning every grain of dirt of evidence. No matter how much the DEO howls, SHIELD has jurisdiction here.
She is not free to speak about a number of things. Hell, she technically no longer has clearance for a number of subjects she knows by virtue of being half-alien herself. Instead, she has to coach her words with a prosaic vernacular.
"..I have issues with how a lot of Registration has been used. It has not been what I was hoping for.."
With that she looks back to him, giving his shoulder one more gentle squeeze before releasing, "The bad guys aren't sitting this out. We still need you Phil. Now more than ever."

He recognizes her problem right away of course. And with things so ultra untrustworthy in SHIELD itself, he doesn't even want to make a big issue of taking her out of there to a place where they can talk. To a place where he can use his clearance to ensure her lack thereof is not an issue.

So he says, casually as ever: "We should rent a video tonight, like old times."

The kind of slip that could easily be covered by him being old enough to have rented such a thing as a video.

But he pretty well figures she'll know where to go.

"In about three hours, once this mess is cleaned up."

Anyone else who would know is basically either Nick Fury, or dead.

Three hours later.

Carol Danvers stands not far from a parking lot street lamp, hands in her familiar aviator jacket pockets wearing a casual t-shirt and denim pants. Aviator glasses perched on her forehead as she surveys the long-boarded up Blockbuster video that once dominated the small strip mall.

It was over a decade ago now, back when she went by Ms Marvel during her previous solo career. A run in with Skrulls and she ended up working along side SHIELD on the case. It was the first time she saw the professional outfit at work and they certainly left an impression on her.
It was one of the events that ultimately led her to join SHIELD after she lost her powers for awhile. She saw that normal humans, if extremely well trained and outfitted, could make a difference. It was something she desperately needed to believe in at the time.

There are few Agents left in SHIELD that remember the OP.. Or have the clearance to know about it. Coulson is one of the extremely few.. Being that he was there.

All that's left of movie rentals now are red kiosks in grocery stores. Though SHIELD has taken its lumps over the years, thankfully it's faired better.

The bright red classic car arrives in the sky about 15 minutes after Carol. There is no beating Carol Danvers to a place at her flight speeds, even if Phil had managed to score a head start.

Once it's landed, the classic vehicle looks exceedingly odd next to the boarded up old video. Phil, wearing sunglasses, slides out of the car and comes to stand across from her.

"I expected," he admits, "that there would be something else here. An escape room, at least. But it looks like time hasn't been kind to this little place. A ghost Blockbuster in a ghost town."

His lips quirk faintly, as some private amusement comes to him in response to his own words.

The sound of the engine alone gives away the arrival of its owner long before its sexy red curves come into view. Carol's sly smile grows as she tilts her head to better see Lola park in the lot.
A few steps and she's within conversation distance. She follows his gaze again to the empty building as she muses, "Well they say the economy is good but.. Some places just haven't recovered."
The neighborhood was fueled by local manufacturing and certain tech firms. Both have long-since moved elsewhere and those who could have followed.
Those left behind? .. That's another story.

Danvers exhales slowly, thoughts now drifting to the hours of debriefing and paperwork. She does not envy Coulson in the slightest right now. She's actually amazed he managed to be here.
Nearly a dozen letters he has to write to families. The hardest letters any field commander has to write. She had to write more than a few of them and far too many in the last couple months. Of course.. They aren't needed immediately but in her own experience, it's hard to think of anything else after an OP goes spectacularly wrong.
"You alright?" She asks again, now that he's had time to recover and process.
The desire not to slap away Carol's concern wars with his desire to avoid showing weakness. The struggle briefly flashes on his face. He's more calm, composed, serene than he was when he first returned from death. Back to being himself. And that means he plays it all very close to his chest. It's a measure of how not alright he is that the microexpressions flicker over his face at all.

"Death is not the end," he says softly. "But I hate seeing it come early. I hate—"

But whatever else he hates gets thrown behind the wall and locked there, left firmly in place as he raises hazel eyes to meet hers once more.

"You had something you wanted to say, back in West Virginia. Free reign to say it here and now. We're as clear and secure as it's possible to be at the moment, thanks to Lola's scramblers, and the location."

Carol's expression darkens as she nods. Sadly, Coulson knows how transitory death actually is better than most. However she understands as the hardened Agent returns to a guarded nature. No two people express grief the same way but soldiers tend to be less public with emotion.
She nods to his reply and his quick change of subject. She lets it drop mercifully and moves on to a topic nearly as painful but in a different way. Nodding again as she fully trusts Coulson's surveillance countermeasures, there's no one in the business who's better.

"Amon goddamned Bell." Spitting out the thorn in her side, the monkey-wrench in her hopes. The vitriol for that man erupts from her like sickness from a lanced boil, "He made a liar out of me. I hoped.. I really hoped Registration wouldn't turn out the way you feared it would. That bastard is hell-bent on putting innocent people behind bars and he's rolling out goddamned war machines on American soil to do it."
She turns around and fights the urge to just kick one of the concrete parking stops across the lot. Needlessly destructive that would cost someone money but oh-so temptingly satisfying. As is she just glares at one on the ground ruefully.

"I'm on it," Coulson murmurs. "I have two agents working the problem from opposite directions, but these things take time."
He sighs and says, "If it's any consolation, I wish to god I had been wrong. But we're going to work this problem like we work every problem, Carol. Slowly. Methodically. Carefully until we get to the highest good we can get to, the one that protects the most innocents. You weren't a liar. You were an idealist, and the world still needs those."

As Coulson says those words, tension visibly leaves Carol's shoulders as she exhales, "It's good to hear you say that." She states with all sincerity.
Now that she's in the Dog House of clearance she's no longer privy to the tighter circle of Agents and what they're doing in SHIELD. She frankly has no idea what SHIELD is doing about current policy and with the organization is starting to show more than a few insider turncoats she can only begin to wonder how many pro-incarceration Agents are starting to fester.
The death of so many SHIELD agents at the hands of Mutant terrorism has to have colored more than a few outlooks. Her own teetered until a terrible event shocked her out of it.

"I don't know." Carol murmurs, fingertips massaging above closed eyes and tipping her baseball cap back a few degrees, "Magneto was an idealist too. Maybe we need a stronger dose of pragmatism and leave idealists to cool their jets for awhile."

"At least since the riots the DPS hasn't wanted to field me again. Suits me fine. If I have to fly formation with those goddamned Sentinels I'll puke my guts out for a week."
She turns to Coulson, "I guess its up to the lawyers now to get those people out of the Raft. Archer approached me a few weeks ago to testify for the upcoming hearings. This is going to get uglier before it gets better."

Coulson considers all of this. Each fact, each one of the words, a careful piece of the puzzle that he has to shift around, put together, stare at. Deciding what to say. And what not to say. And where Carol can best be put to work, so that her talents don't go to waste in the sour milk of her ideals.

"As this is a spy agency, as you might expect, there are those who hate registration who pretend to be for it, and, I imagine, those who are for it who pretend to be against it. Keep them guessing for the time being. You might end up being told things we really need to know because people assume they know exactly how you feel about everything. That is useful. And, frankly, if anyone can get that case won, it is Matthew Murdock and Foggy Nelson."

A pause.

"Meet with Murdock in secret, if you can," he suggests. "Get his advice on how you can subtly undermine yourself on the stand, subtly sabotage Archer."

Who is a prick. Coulson has always thought that man was a giant prick.

"Very subtly. I know you think we need something, Carol, and perhaps we do. But we won't get it if we don't overturn this current mess first. It will continue to be a political football in new forms for some time, but if we can overturn this law we can dismantle the Sentinel program, and then, perhaps, we can worry about influencing policy for the better."

And if he's disturbed that he has just told Carol Danvers that she should subvert the American justice system for the greater good, it doesn't show in a flicker of lash. But then. Phil isn't a patriot. He joined an International agency. And he's always been clear about his goals, and what he is and isn't willing to give up in order to achieve them.

Carol grunts in acknowledgement at being tasked with 'keeping them guessing'. She isn't the best at clandestine matters but she's had a lot of practice over the last few months. She's met with a number of people she shouldn't and told others what she shouldn't. It goes against her enlistment-driven sense of honor but these are extraordinary and dangerous times. She is forced to acknowledge that components of the government are not working in the best interest of the people.. Far from it.
Destroy enemies both foreign and domestic, that was her oath. Unfortunately at times like these those enemies are awfully hard to distinguish.

The names Murdock & Nelson ring a bell. Among the most famous lawyers in the nation since the Trial of the Century a year or two back. She is aware that they're actively litigating against the Registration Act.
However as he overtly states to work WITH them to compromise Archer she turns to look Coulson in the eye. The weight that suggestion full in her plain expression.
She isn't extremely well versed in Law but she knows enough to know exactly how illegal that is. God help her she's actually considering it.
"If we get caught.. They will mistrial and Murdock, Nelson and me are out of the picture." To say it would be a disaster for Anti-Registration would be an understatement. To say the least that she would join a whole lot of other metas in the Raft is understood but she isn't worried about her own fate so much as how far Bell could run with that kind of coup.

Coulson contemplates that. He nods, acknowledging her point, then says, "You can't meet with them. I think you could probably not get caught, but lawyer ethics might force him to report the offer anyway, and that would be a disaster. No, I think…the only safe way is for you to think about how you phrase things, Carol. You can answer the question exactly as asked, and phrase your answers in damaging ways wherever possible. You'll just have to reason out what those might be without the help of the attorneys. They can't declare a mistrial just because a witness screwed a case on the stand. That happens every single day."

Carol nods slowly as Coulson alters his suggestion. She feels embarrassed and cowardly backing down from a challenge but she knows her own limitations. She knows as a prime SHIELD asset she's monitored at every turn and meeting with the spunky two-against-the-world law firm without being watched would be difficult. She can only imagine both Bell and Archer has people watching that firm for just this kind of witness collusion.

Apart from the fact that it's against the law and she would be breaking her face-to-face promise with Archer, what they stand to lose dwarves what they stand to gain. Having Captain Marvel turn out to be a poor witness isn't nearly as dangerous as losing Murdock and Nelson.
"I promised Archer I would tell the truth. I think he's going to regret that." She honestly liked the man. He may have been business but he has a family. He's putting everything on the line for what he believes and she respects that. She hates the idea of working directly against him but she thinks the man has misjudged how her opinion has changed of late.

Time will tell.

"To be honest, that trial is going to be a temporary reprieve at best." Readjusting her jacket on her shoulders as she steps to the side to better admire Lola, "While Bell heads the DPS with political backing he'll find some other way to put innocent metas in cages. The more contracts are funneled to Trask the more reasons for Sentinels on street corners will 'mysteriously' be found."

"You're certainly not wrong there." The thing about Coulson is he listens to his people. His first suggestion is just a starting point, more often than people sometimes realize. While he might prefer to instantly hit on the right plan without revisions so as to buff his own reputation and everyone else's confidence in him, the truth is perspective is a valuable thing, and everyone only really gets their own unique one. Thus, Carol sees things he doesn't, and it would be foolhardy not to adapt to that. Like putting someone in the air for intel, and then stubbornly ignoring it from behind the wheel.

"I am not sure even finding something that would discredit him under normal circumstances will put an end to that. Not in this climate. There are times, dark times, when people deliberately see and hear only what they want to. We may well be in one of those times. And frankly, I don't have a long-term plan. There are too many unknowns. Too many variables. We've got precious few cards to play. We must play them as we are positioned to play them, and look for additional opportunities. This could be a ten, twenty, thirty year problem. We might be doing well just to avoid widescale, open warfare instead of small-target terrorist actions and group skirmishes."

His brow furrows as he realizes that's exactly it. He sighs.

"I don't think we're going to stop the train, Carol. We only get to change the tracks every now and then. Buying time helps us do that. And buying time the next time we can. And the next. Our goal, our number one goal, can't be ending or retaining Registration."

It is the common ground they couldn't find before, perhaps, coming to this realization, but he meets her eyes steadily to see if they have reached it in truth, reached a principle that can guide their actions and pick their battles.

He wonders if Peggy, 20 steps ahead as ever, came to this conclusion months ago.

"Our number one goal must be to prevent and undermine the war certain extremists on both sides so desperately want to ignite, whenever, wherever, and however we can."

Carol's eyes remain aligned with Coulson's as she nods in turn. This time there is agreement. No ifs, ands or buts.
Before they thought they had time and room to consider the ideologies of the Law and how Metahumans can best be a part of society. The truth revealed itself in a very painful fashion. They do not have such luxuries.

Small corrections then. Course corrections and taps in the right direction. A long-term approach has to be taken now, the general population is too hard set against metas considering all the death and terrorism that has taken place over the past two years.
"Alright. Lets do it." Carol answers. "I have to leave Bell to you but I'll drag my feet as hard as I can next time DPS needs my help. On the other end I'm waiting on a breakthrough to crack the Brotherhood's movements. Unless we can stop Magneto's kids they're going to give Bell all the excuse he needs to turn America into a Sentinel State."

"I can handle the DPS, I think, but it might take me a little time to have the necessary conversation. The right word in the right ear, and you can absolutely be blocked from on high from going on any such missions ever again. And as long as they're not sure what your reaction to that means, you're still in a fantastic position."

As ambivalent as it may seem. But too many people have made cut-and-dried declarations, and ambivalence is actually the rarer and more useful stance at the moment. Because everyone wants to convince the ambivalent one back to their side, and ends up revealing way too much while they do.

That's the theory, anyway.

But again, angles and angles. Wheels within wheels: "I think you've just given me an idea," he admits. "There is more than one way to slow or stop the Sentinel program. I'll tug another string, see if we can't capture more cards to use."

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