Planning Session

November 25, 2015:

Kwabena, Steve, Betsy, and Agent Lewis meet to discuss the action needed to be taken against the new threat in the UAE

Some Tea Joint in Chinatown

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Two months ago (give or take)…

Kwabena Odame, known to her as 'Shift', became entangled in a plot with Psylocke. The woman, still known to him only by face, made a commitment that they would work together to take down a vice operation that appeared to be bringing 'smooth' back into the market. That operation turned out to be a bust, but shortly after, Shift… disappeared.

Yesterday…

A message was delivered to Steve Rogers, care of Darcy Lewis. A series of numbers written on a napkin, but those numbers eventually pointed Steve, with the right guidance, to an IP address. The IP address contained nothing more than a single video file, an uncompressed HD video that was clearly taken from a GoPro camera. How this particular video was shot may remain a mystery, for it appears to have been raised up from the inside of a small ventilation pipe, the movements jerky and juggled around, as if operated by a human hand rather than some kind of mechanical device.

Regardless, the video shows a group of middle eastern men, radicalized militant types, discussing their plan in an Arabic dialect that S.H.I.E.L.D.'s computers would have quickly and easily translated. To make a long story short; these men are from the radical terrorist group known as 'IWO', or Islamic World Order, and they have devised a plan that would quickly and easily poison five of the United States' major sources of water with a heavy concentrated and water soluble form of exgenta-diacetylmorphine.

Agent Lewis' e-mail was received and confirmed. The location would be a nondescript tea cafe, deep in the bowels of Chinatown. The only problem was tracking down the nameless Betsy Braddock, and all Kwabena had was a single phone number, to which he sent a message, and an address.

Overnight, Shift shaved the goatee and cornrows from his head. No longer dressed as some kind of street punk, he wears a less-worn, lighter colored leather jacket over his frame, complete with a scarf around his neck to ward off the bitter, late November cold that grips Manhattan. This tea shop is open to the air, and the garage doors that are usually lowered to block out such cold air are broken, letting the biting breeze waft in. All the better; most patrons come and go, getting their hot tea and drinking it quickly before blending back into the dense markets and small streets of Chinatown's underbelly.

There he waits, with a beanie on his head and tea warming his hands, until the others arrive.

*

As promised, the moment Darcy got a hit back from that email address, she forwarded it to Steve. With an addition: ''Date night. Want a chaparone? I have my tazer if he makes you feel uncomfortable. XOXO Darce'' And then she went back to sorting office supplies.

*

It's a wonder that Betsy can go anywhere without being noticed, but somehow she manages to get into the tea shop, past the milling crowd, and to Shift's table without being particularly noticed by anyone. Which is surprising— she's easily six foot in her boots, and the wool jacket she wears wouldn't look out of place on Madison Avenue. The dark, lustrous purple hair wouldn't normally do anyone any favors, either, but … there she is, rather suddenly, standing next to Shift's table, with an upticked eyebrow and her hands jammed into her coat pockets.

"Lovely choice for a venue for a discreet rendezvous," Betsy says, looking down at Shift, with a distinctly Imperial British accent. "I'm not much of a fan for Chinese teas, though. Couldn't have done this at a bar?"

Without waiting for an invitation, she slides into the seat at the booth across from Shift, legs crossing smoothly under the table, and rests her shoulders against the worn old vinyl seatback, and giving Shift a blandly unreadable look that speaks no words towards her thoughts.

*

It's hard to rumble through Chinatown on a motorcycle since it's usually overflowing with pedestrians making their way to the assorted stands—the sidewalks are just not capable of taking everyone.

Nevertheless, Steve Rogers finally makes it to the spot in question. On the back of his Harley, wearing his helmet, is Agent Darcy Lewis. Rather than some SHIELD outfit or the star spangled outfit he's known best for, he's wearing a simple pair of jeans, boots, a white t-shirt, brown leather jacket, a blue Yankees cap, and a pair of aviator sunglasses to keep his identity somewhat masked.

Soon enough he's joined Shift, giving a bit of a chuckle to himself and thankful to see his friend alive. They've been through a lot of mileage together: dead dictators and their dead wives, forced to fight each other, and even fake one of their deaths. It's a friendship marred by chaos.

That sort of thing happens a lot in Cap's life, he fears.

Unexpectedly, Steve then notices Betsy at the booth and slides in next to her. "Fancy seeing you here, Braddock," he says before looking back to ensure that Darcy followed behind.

*

Braddock's arrival doesn't take Kwabena by surprise in any way, though he silently chides himself for not recognizing her arrival. The self-depreciative inner dialogue is short-lived; the woman has displayed telepathic capabilities. Odds are high she just Jedi mind-tricked everyone, including himself, into not recognizing her arrival. The idea of it does draw a light scowl to the African's face.

"I spend too much time at bahs," he answers easily. There's a subtext there, of course. The impending conversation may not be entirely pretty, and he doesn't like to shit where he drinks. Beyond that, a heavy majority of the Chinese Americans who come through this place don't speak more than a limited English, which plays in he and his guests' overall favor.

"A man named Steve Rogers is coming," he mentions to Braddock, pausing momentarily at the nearing rumble of a Harley. "May have heard of him?" His head moves in a slight nod her way, giving her a moment to do whatever disguising or mental mumbo jumbo she may feel is necessary to protect her identity. In the back of his mind, he begins to wonder; has she always had purple hair, or was it green before she mind-fu'd him into believing it was always purple?

Goddamned telepaths.

At Steve's arrival, a sly grin spreads across Shift's face. "Cap. Good to see you on dis side of de aftahlife," he quips, before scooting over to give Darcy a place to sit. "I'm guessing one of you figured out it was an IP address, yes?" He retrieves a smartphone, spins it around so that Elizabeth can see, and begins to playback the aforementioned video. "Sorry to bring dis to you all on such short notice. I had to get deep into some ugly territory in de UAE in ordah to record dis."

*

Seeing a very casual Cap collect her from her office had Darcy scrambling to change into not-SHIELD looking and ultimately to her more comfortable clothes. She has a change of clothes in her oversized purse because… well, because Daisy. Darcy yanks on tights under her black skirt, then flings it onto her desk. Button up gets tossed atop with her jacket, and a knit sweater is pulled on over the tank undershirt. Her scarf and knit beanie, which were in eveidence because it's cold outside is donned right before her oversized jacket. Thank God for her slouchy boots.

Riding behind Cap was very nice, and Darcy was not shy about clinging to his midsection, borrowing his helmet, or leaning into his back. She keeps her hands nicely above beltline because crashing would be bad, and then God would kick a puppy. Darcy is actively avoiding this. So, when they arrive, she hustles to keep up with Steve's longer strides and drops herself into the chair next to Shift as it's offered. Hell, she even plants a smooch to his cheek.

"Wasn't me, Fatass. But thanks for thinking I'm that smart," she quips to him before reaching out to snag his teacup for a taste.

*

Betsy's eyes slip up and locate Steve long before he reaches the table, the corners of her mouth curling up in recognition. In other words, she smiles, an expression that's clearly quite rare for the normally stoic-featured woman. "Steve. Small world," she says in a clipped tone that is just a bit higher pitched than the laconic greting offered Shift. Her smile lasts only a lingering half-beat less than her eyes following his path to the table, and her amethyst gaze slips towards Darcy with a flatly unreadable examination. She's offered a short nod, but certainly more for the woman's association with Captain Rogers than any real inclination to civility. "Hullo. I'm Betsy," she offers politely, with a tone that indicates that the propitiousness of espionage is going to deprive Darcy of anything more than that. An eyebrow upticks at Darcy minutely, as if she'd said something out of turn.

She reviews the video with an unreadable eye, though her hands slip from the dark Merino wool peacoat she wears, to fold neatly on her thigh.

"Unsetlling," she remarks, finally. "How old is this?"

*

"Kwa, if I knew what an IP address was, I'd probably be able to answer that question better," Steve quips back. He knows what it is, but doesn't hesitate to throw out a quip.

"So you've got a group of militants violating their own religion by intoxicating water supplies and compartmentalizing it as the greater good. Names have changed but the strategy has changed from Afghan poppies to something new. Exgenta-something or other. At least that's what the tech I was working with thinks it is."

Steve almost winces at Darcy's language towards Shift, but let's it pass. This is more important.

After waiting for an answer to Betsy's question, Steve asks one of his own. "What more do we have for intel?"

*

The lids encasing Kwabena's silver eyes narrow just so when Darcy refers to him as 'Fatass'. Really, he's in excellent shape for a mercenary. Most of them run too thin because they do too much blow, or have developed some flab because they eat too many late night energy dinners. He may not have the Super-Soldier physique or the ninja's musculature, but he's an easy Bronze Medalist here.

Regardless, the look is short-lived. He'll school Darcy on more aptly appropriate nicknames later; for the moment, the sharpness of his tea prompts him to be mildly curious of her response to it. It's non-alcoholic, of course, but the flavor of it is so strong that it might overwhelm someone not experienced with such things. Steve's quip is met with raised eyebrows and a conspiratorial smirk.

"Three days ago," he answers Braddock. "Fresh as de spring lamb. I made arrangements to get dis stateside as soon as I was finished recording it." Folding his arms, Kwabena leans back somewhat, adopting a more casual demeanor. "-diacetylmorphine, Steve. It's a derivative of street heroin, shuts down mutant abilities, highly addictive. Now, we thought dis whole mess was bottah'ed up, till Braddock and I stumbled on something." He glances Betsy's way. "Couldn't include you after dat warehouse op. Promise I made to a contact. Had to go to ground, had to go alone. Sorry." He expects she would have done the same if dealt a similar hand.

"Radicalization is an ugly thing, Steve," he answers. "Dis guy? Aiman al Radim. Used to be with Al Qaida til he decided to branch off on his own. Seems he paid big money to collect dis one from Federal Prison." He indicates another figure on the video. "Damian Woods, aka 'Scales', aka de original creator of 'smooth'. Last I knew, he was in Stormwatch custody. Apparently, dis al Radim jackass had de clout to get him busted out. I'm guessing nobody heard anything, since, well, Stormwatch doesn't exist anymore, and when dey were around, dey didn't like owning up to mistakes. I don't know how long Woods has been in IWO custody, but, it seems it's been long enough for him to become radicalized."

Kwabena points out a the young man again; he wears the same militant garb as the others, only his skin tone is clearly darker than the others, of pure African (or at least African American) origin. "I suspect Woods is metahuman. De way he's talking about changing de smooth, about concentrating it and making it water soluble - it's not de way a chemist would speak, you undahstand? He speaks of it like an artist would."

*

The sip of Shift's tea is followed by a loud bleck. Darcy's quick to set the cup back down and wipe at her tongue with her fingertips. For the telepath at the table, her inner thoughts are an exact mirror of her physical actions. "Ugh! God! What the actual fuck, Thunderfoot? Ugh! Bleh! Yuck! Fuck. How do you DRINK that swell? Glaaah!" she's blabbering, lips grinning at Shift regardless of her reaction to the tea. She calms a moment after, and clears her throat as her eyes slide toward Steve. A sudden sharp blush flares to her cheeks before she clears her throat and looks over at Betsy. "Darcy. Or Darce. Or Whatever," replies the Junior Agent to Betsy's self-introduction. If the greeting was in any way cold Darcy must not have caught on. Her reply is as flippant and light hearted as the rest of her motions. Inwardly, however… only Betsy can say. "…Your hair's badass, by the way…" It's said as an aside, as if finishing a thought, with a warm smile before she glances between the others at the table, realizes that there is Work Happening, and so pulls out her phone to play with so she'll stop talking. Not that she's not paying any more attention. She is, and she can multitask, but she's not running her mouth any more.

"Hippy dippy artsy fartsy drug-dealers? What is this world coming to?" Darcy quips, clearly not able to stay quiet for all THAT long. Her green eyes never leave her phone's screen though.

*

Betsy watches the video steadily, then loops it again while Shift is talking, keeping the sound muted. She barely blinks, showing little emotion, then slides the phone towards Steve so he can examine it himself if he wishes.

"To recap, a radical Al Qaeda operative has co-opted young Mister Woods, who is, effectively, an expert in chemical weapons," Betsy says. "The particulars of how he extracted Mr. Woods are incidental, in my mind. Either someone let him out, he escaped, or someone allowed him to be abducted. Betrayal or ineptitude; neither is sanguine to the issue at hand."

Betsy glances at Darcy and makes a gesture of the head that's somewhat akin to a curtsey. "Too kind, Darcy," Betsy tells the woman with a politely exact tone. There's an undercurrent of elitism about her that'd be absolutely infuriating were she American— verging on lofty superiority, and saved from being completely hateful by dint of her perfect self-possession.

"Three days is longer than is ideal, but workable. If he's still in the area, I imagine he somewhat stands out in that particular locale and custom. An infiltration team would have little issue finding and dispatching him, I should think," Betsy says, as calmly as one might discuss preparing for inclement weather.

*

Steve sits back in the booth and brings his thumb to brush away at an itch on his chin. He holds his arms together, eyes on the video, deep in thought. "Seems like the sooner we act on this the possible, Kwa. Who are all the players from our side?"

Not everyone seems to know everything—that's one of the things he's learned about SHIELD in his time working there. Steve clearly knows they're going to need a team on this.

*

"It clears de mind and purges de soul, doesn't it?" Kwabena asks of Darcy. Said tea is an acquired taste, after all.

"Incidental, yes," Shift agrees with Betsy. Something to address later, when Woods is in SHIELD custody. "It may not be dat easy. If he's already created de chemical weapon, den said team would need to track it and nullify it before it breaches U.S. soil. Once it gets beyond our borders, it becomes exponentially hahdah to follow."

A nod is given to Steve. "Just de four of us. Eyepatch, if you've elevated dis to him. If dey're still on UAE soil, we'd need to be extremely cautious. As fah as I know, we're on good terms with de Emirates. We can't afford to fuck dat up. But, if you want my advice? Assemble a team and get dem in de air by nightfall." He produces an envelope, and slides it over to Steve. "Maps, head count, list of all de weaponry I could find. GPS coords, so you can get more via satellite."

*

Darcy glances up from her phone to smile at Betsy's head-bow. There's moment as if Darcy is weighing the other woman, and then Dracy nods once with a big bright smile. Seems as if the Darce has made a decision about something. Then her attention is taken by Shift. She snorts.

"That's one way to put it," she chirps before returning her gaze to her phone. At least for a moment, adn then she stops. And blinks. And clearly is counting. in her head.

"Me?! Hell no. Fuck no. In evey way just no-no NOPE! I'm not a field agent. I'm not even cleared for side arms. My tazer's still personal property." And then her brain catches up to what Shift says and she clamps a hand over her mouth.

"Ignore me, please. I'm a nobody. And I'll just go back to Neko Atsume and forget I was even here, kay? Kay, thanks, bye…" Darcy hunches over her phone, face bright red.

*

Betsy glances at the tea in question and manages to refrain from a disdainful sniff. She can smell it from here, and- well, between British preferences and Japanese tradition, the elegantly attired woman seems inclined to demure on getting a beverage for herself. Also, Steve's in the way, and it'd probably not be the best idea to reach for the emergency flask while the Super Soldier's sitting /right/ there.

Still, fingers itch.

Her reply is cut off by the stream of protestations from Darcy, one eyebrow ticking upwards in as loud an expression of surprise as she ever permits herself. "I'm fairly sure your cats will be there when the mission's concluded," Betsy tells Darcy. "But, as far as I'd reckon a guess, this isn't precisely a formal operation being proposed. The gentlemen in dark suits and sunglasses haven't descended— which leads me to think we've some personal latitude on the matter. If you don't want to come along, I'm certainly not going to break your arm to encourage you."

She looks back at Shift. "You're proposing two potentially exclusive objectives," she tells the other mutant. "We can either track the weapon or the weaponmaker, but not both. If the weapon's completed and pending delivery, then international customs and INTERPOL has the resources to track and cover that action much, much more effectively than a few of us can. However, if he's hiding in the Emirates— or has retreated to Qatar or even Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East- our talents are better suited for locating him."

She glances sidelong at Steve. "Not all of us are ideally suited for espionage abroad in the Middle East, though. I'm sorry, darling, but you'll stand out like a floodlight in a dark room," she comforts the strapping soldier. "If we're to do this, you best leave reconnaissance to myself and Shift here."

*

Steve nods, "I'll put a team together." He turns to Betsy and raises an eyebrow, wondering if she wants in. "I take it you're along for the ride, too, Kwa,"

He peers to Darcy as she has a small meltdown. "I guess that's three."

Steve turns to Betsy at her remark, "I have darker suits. It's nothing I haven't done before."

*

Shift has every reason not to trust international customs or INTERPOL with this tracking affair. Those concerns remain unvoiced, even if an expression of distaste appears when Betsy makes that recommendation, but he nods his head in reluctant agreement. "You can make dat happen?" he asks Steve, trusting the man has the kind of clearance and clout to get international gears moving. "I agree. If anyone's to focus on locating Woods, it needs to be us."

Darcy receives a coy look at her meltdown. "Nobody's forcing your hand. Dis kind of opahration is incredibly dangerous. You could end up dead, or worse, in some third world prison, undocumented, left to rot in a hole for de rest of your life. But, if dat drug ends up in our watah supply…" He looks between the three. "I've estimated it could impact up to one third of de entire U.S. population. All of dem, immediately addicted to de nahcotic, and for dose of dat third who are mutants? We're looking at a total loss of metahuman control. We have to stop dis plot."

Kwabena nods his head to Steve, indicating he will be there. "I have to see dis through," he says, plainly.

*

Darcy uncurls from her little ball, shame on her face for the outburst. Her green eyes track to Shift and for once she's completely silent. The gravity of the situation is not lost on her. Darcy brings the screen of her phone to her chest.

"…Count me in," she says softly, steadfastly. Her eyes go to Steve. "You've got four. Right here. Right now."

*

"Mhm." Betsy gives Steve an arch look, but lets it pass. The purple-haired aristocrat seems confident she'll be able to blend in, as if the idea of an armed insertion into an Arab state doesn't bother her in the slightest.

She picks up her cell phone and scrawls through some messages while Shift lays out the issues at hand, face calmly composed, and then drums her manicured nails on the tabletop thoughtfully. "With Saudi Arabia and Oman bracketing him, I doubt he'll try to move the weapon over the mainland," Betsy says. "That's a huge liability. My inclination would be to guess that if he's no longer in the area, he'd have headed north through the Gulf towards Iraq— Basrah isn't far upriver from the mouth of the Arvand. That's an area of sufficient turmoil that an affiliate group could easily negotiate passage with a small bribe or a handshake. I can make the arrangements for us to get into Qatar," she advises the others. "We can fly into Turkey and take a private plane to Qatar, and fairly easily avoid customs. From there, we can drive into Abu Dhabi in a few hours and search up leads as we go."

*

"With our alliance with the UAE, I'm not sure we need to go through the dog and pony show of crossing over borders. It'd probably be just as easy to go there directly with fake passports and disguises. The last thing in the world we'd want to do is make it look like other nations were assisting us if this goes belly up on us," Steve reasons. "Alternatively, we can do an air drop from above. Mock it up as a commercial air liner."

"Either way, Kwabena, I'm pretty sure I can get a team together. In addition to Darcy, even. Whoever else Braddock wants in and I think that'll be our team. We'd better get to work."

*

"Remembah de last time we did an air drop?" Kwabena asks Steve. See, Shift doesn't require a parachute, and he has the landing zone cleared of hostiles before anyone else landed. Seems he's in favor of that idea; not that Betsy's isn't a bad one at all. He looks to her next. "If we do an air drop as an insert, can we use yah private plane connections for potential extractions? I recall you're quite capable of… 'influencing' Woods, once we have him."

He looks next to Darcy. "How do you feel about a crash course in firearms and aggressive driving?"

*

"Sounds like a blast," Darcy says.

*

"If you can procure us acceptable false passports, then yes," Betsy nods at Steve. "The air drop seems excessive, though. We can just fly in, land, and find reasonable accomodations at a comfortable hotel. There's no reason to travel as aescetes until we're good and ready to track the target and his package across the desert. We'll set the air drop as a contingency if we have to insert suddenly and during cover of night, for some reason. I can rent a cargo plane and with a few thousand dollars in bribes we can land anywhere in the desert, no questions asked. I'm not overfond of the idea of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane for no reason, particularly as Darcy doesn't strike me as having a lot of experience in tactical nighttime parachute insertions."

*

Steve sits back and gives a single shake of his head. "The benefit of an airdrop is it's quick in. We get in, we get this guy, and then we convince whoever we need to to fly a plane out of there. Comfortable hotels and thousands of bribes put our faces out there. That's not the sort of thing we want to come back to haunt us."

*

"Eidah way, we need both options available," Kwabena barters. "Sat coverage is going to make a lot of dese decisions for us, so, we need to be ready for anything. Darce?" He glances to the woman next to him, then nods his head toward the exit. They have work to do.

*

Having tried to keep up, Darcy had stayed quiet and respectful as she watches the growing arugment between Princess Purple and Captain Spanglpants. When Shift motions her to the door, she nods.

"Yeah. This sounds like it's going ot take a while. And me without my tape measure," she retorts as she pushes herself to her feet and follows Shift out of the tea shop. Wreckless driving while putting on mascara, here we come!

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