What Turns a Man

May 31, 2015:

Agent Carter interrogates the man who attacked a restaurant to kidnap Howard and Tony Stark

SHIELD Facility


NPCs: Anatol Erben


Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

The SHIELD holding facility where Anatol is being held is monotone. Each cell and interrogation room looks exactly the same as all the others. The walls are soundproofed with large black hexagons. In fact, the entire room is covered in the exact same pattern. A singular gleaming silver metal table rests in the middle of the middle of the room to which Anatol is handcuffed. He sits in a metal uncomfortable looking chair. Another one sits opposite of him: currently empty. For now the room is rather dark, even low lit by glowing lights in the corners.

A panel opens and for a brief moment, the room is filled with light before it is quickly gone once the door shuts. There, Peggy Carter stands. She moves to the table and slides into the opposite seat without much of a greeting. "Mr. Erben. I must say this is quite the surprise. From your file, it would seem you don't have much of a reason to take a Manhattan restaurant hostage and threaten to blow it up."

Anatol has been a model prisoner. From the moment he woke up in custody, he's been quiet and cooperative. He hasn't been asked about his motivations yet - just his personal details. He's been forthcoming about all of that. The thugs who helped him at the restaurant were hired Eastern European immigrants. They didn't share his crusade, and most of them had a long list of priors.
He shifts, the chain from the cuffs griding against the metal table. Then he squares his shoulders and looks up. He doesn't say a word - but then again, she hasn't yet asked him a question.

This is not Peggy's first interrogation. It's not even, exactly, the first one since she arrived in the present. Even if it were, some things just don't change. It's easy to tell the differences between Anatol and the others they apprehended at the restaurant, which is why she's spending time with him and not anyone else. When she receives no answer to her set up, she nods just slightly. Everything she does is to get a better read on him and his character. The squaring of the shoulders, the silence, the looking up: it all shows her something.

For now, she will play along. "So, I must ask, what do you have against the Starks?"

Anatol kicks one foot out and considers her. And then, oddly, he smiles. Then chuckles. "You ask me this? Do you know the Starks at all? It should be no mystery why someone might want to turn them into confetti."

Peggy tilts her head just slightly, matching his smile just a touch. "Yes, they're rather infuriating, aren't they? However, from your file it seems you've worked quite closely with the younger Mr. Stark in helping your village rid itself from the war lords that plague that region. One might think that would preclude him from a personal kidnapping."

Pulling out a tablet, she starts to flick through the information there. It's possible she's not even reading it as she's studied it extensively beforehand. "Not to mention the fact that you are a gifted engineer, a freedom soldier protecting his village from those that would harm it. I wouldn't mark you for a terrorist willing to put innocent lives on the line due to a personal dislike."

Anatol smiles. It's a broken, distant smile. He doesn't look at her as he shakes his head. "You do not understand." He looks up again. "The repulsors would not have overloaded. I did not disable the failsafes. Each would have powered down before reaching critical. There was no danger."
There would have been no way for Tony to realize that when he was working to disarm the devices. Only a thorough examination afterwards would reveal that. Even then, the SHIELD techs would have concluded that he didn't know about the failsafes.

"Then, that returns us to the original question, which you have still not answered: why the Starks?" Peggy sets the tablet down in her lap, leaning forward and folding her hands on the table. "You've worked with Tony Stark before. More than that, you have fought alongside him. And his father has nothing to do with what has happened in that region. More than that, your visa here is partially sponsored by SHIELD, which will now surely be revoked. Why risk it on the off chance you might be able to kidnap someone who would surely be pursued by SHIELD if not the Justice League Avengers?"

"Why are you here, Peggy Carter?" asks Anatol. "If I am going to tell my story, I would want that story to have a chance of being taken seriously. You are one of Howard Stark's oldest friends. There is not a chance you would believe me over him. So why should I speak?" He lifts a shoulder. "Or I can speak for a long time. I can read out my favourite recipe for pierogies and tell you all about my favourite show which is very funny and clever but does not translate well into English. Or I can speak of how there is a sharp pain in my lower back because these cuffs cause me to slouch when it has never been my custom. We can have a nice chat about things that do not matter, yes? Because your ears will be closed to the things that do."

"You are mistaken in thinking that you are here under my personal request." Peggy's almost friendly demeanor toward him turns professional incredibly quickly. "The only reason you were allowed in this country was because SHIELD co-sponsored your visa. Now that you have betrayed that trust, you will now be interrogated and questioned by that very agency. I am here because I am a part of it and I am to help determine whether or not we should turn you over to Sokovia government or if we should keep you in our own holding facilities."

Unfolding her hands and laying them flat on the metal table, she leans back just slightly. "So, yes, you can recite whatever recipes or aches that ail you. In fact, you could sing God Save the Queen, but if you do not wish to be turned over to some of those same war lords you so poignantly fought against, then perhaps you should tell me your story. You're under the false pretense that this is a negotiation, Mr. Erben. It is not. Your attempt failed and now it is just a matter of finding out how to deal with you."

Anatol remains entirely relaxed, perhaps even infuriatingly so. "And you are under the mistaken impression that I am not entirely aware of my situation, Agent Carter. I knew what would happen should my attempt fail. I accept this. What happens to me is of no consequence. I have worked with SHIELD for many years. I am aware of your operations. I also am aware of the conditions under my own government. I am not an idiot. I am not naive."

Peggy smirks. Perhaps she was expecting to get a rise out of him, but every failed barb and mention just narrows things down a bit for her. She's not a rookie and she's interrogated quite a few infuriating members of Hydra.

"Ah, but I believe that you are. You're a man who worked very hard to get to where you were. An exploited factory worker managing to pull himself up and become a respected member of his village. You attempted to free it of war lords, working with SHIELD and Tony Stark to get it done. So, now you are here. Like you said, you've worked with them both the man and the agency before, so you knew that your plan would fail. HYDRA must have given you quite a scare."

Picking up her tablet from her lap, she starts tapping on it again. "Unfortunately for you, you might have worked with SHIELD before, but that was when you were an ally of it and before current events. The times are shifting. The President of the United States was assassinated by HYDRA. Your current actions extend beyond not just you, but your village. If they've infiltrated so far up the ladder to have gotten to you, well, it doesn't speak well for the rest of the region, does it?"

Anatol starts to laugh. It's a deep-throated, surprisingly rich sound. If his hands were free, he'd place a palm against his cheek. "HYDRA? HYDRA has nothing to do with this. This is personal." And then his demeanor shifts. He leans as far forward as the cuffs will allow. He strains against the chains. The short length causes him to hunch his shoulders forward. "Did he tell you that he did not know what the factory was producing? Did he claim it was all done without his knowledge?" He pauses, eyebrows lifting. "I saw him tour the factory when I was young. I remember that day very well. The world has forgiven him for his crimes, but only because they do not know them."

The smile Peggy gives him is a tight one, the relief she feels at him finally talking buried. There's always a tension in attempting to figure out how to get someone to talk. It takes the right buttons, the right half information left dangling. And at least now she has some confirmation, as much as she can trust it.

"A personal vendetta is very hard to prove, Mr. Erben. Congress has a hammer specifically for HYDRA and they will likely see every problem that comes up as a nail rather than dig deeper.

She watches him hunch forward, studying his expression and listening to what he has to say. "You've worked with Tony Stark before - for years, even. Why the sudden change in tune? You might have attempted this stunt with a much better success rate had you attempted it in Sokovia." She's working up a theory, but no need to let him in on it just yet.

"Not Tony. I do believe that Tony is genuine in his desire to stop producing weapons. I saw him risk his life multiple times." Anatol tries to hide the note of admiration in his voice, but it's there for someone as perceptive as Peggy. "His father toured the factory when I was a child. The factory begins producing again only weeks after he is risen from the dead, before the world knows he is alive."

Peggy has very little knowledge as to what Howard did or not do on a small scale after the forties. Is it possible he toured this factory? Yes. For now, she just tucks that knowledge away along with his words about Tony. "I see. And you did not see who it was that started up the factory again? Didn't question those in the building?" The workers most likely would not know, but those higher up might. She does not either confirm or deny that she believes him, though, doesn't give him any other information about what she know of Howard's whereabouts or business in the weeks before his announcement. "As I'm sure you know, Howard Stark is not in charge of Stark Industries any more."

"I wasn't at home. I was assisting SHIELD on an operation in Transia at the time." Something tics at that. Anatol's facial features tighten. His facade slips, ever so slightly. "My people went to investigate immediately. They came ready to fight." He straightens as best he can and looks Peggy in the eye. "Thirteen dead. Including my sister."

Peggy meets Anatol's eyes, unflinching. She has met her own fair share of death and loss of those close to her that she can hear proclamations like this and hold that illusive line between true sympathy mixed with a serious demeanor. "I am truly sorry for your loss," she tells him. And despite the fact that her position has not shifted, nor her eyes lowered, it does sound as if she sincerely means it. She lets that sink in for a moment before adding, "And did any survive to report what they saw?"

"No," says Anatol, plainly and directly. "My village is small, Agent Carter. A few hundred. My sister's attack on the factory forced their hand. The villagers who weren't able to flee were pressed into service in the factory, or killed." He lifts his chin. "So you can't threaten my home, because it has already been taken. I'd welcome SHIELD's intervention."

"I see," Peggy tells him. While her words are still proper and even toned, there still seems to be some form of sympathy for the man. "And so the attack on the restaurant was revenge? An attempt to bring Howard Stark and his son to justice for his crimes against your village? If you hold no ill will for Tony, why take him as well?"

Her face still does not change when she tells him, "That is how the times have changed, Mr. Erben. I did not mean that SHIELD would intervene." There's no elaboration. She doesn't feel as if it is needed. Nor does she really have the authority to back any of it up, but it would be hard pressed to tell that from either her expression or her tone. She certainly seems as if she does command such power.

"You cannot threaten what is already under threat, Carter. If SHIELD were to go into my village, they'd find it compromised." Anatol sounds…tired, frankly. Run over. He's a man who has seen more than his fair share of tragedy. "I wanted to bring attention to Howard Stark and his crimes. That man walks free and is celebrated. His hands are not clean."

Pursuing the topic seems pointless now, she Peggy lets his last statement stand. Arguing semantics is not why she's here. She's here to get answers and, luckily, has at least gotten a start on those, at least places to start digging. "You have certainly gotten attention, though it may not be the kind that you want."

It seems as if that is the most she will get out of Anatol - at least from what she can judge of such things. It's always better to leave the interrogation before it becomes too mired. As far as she can tell this is just mired enough. Standing, she tucks the tablet under her arm and moves toward the door. She doesn't look behind her as she tells him, "Perhaps we will see each other again, Mr. Erben."

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