Fresh Start

December 01, 2015:

Johnny and Peggy discuss the Corona case.

Department H

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Their last meeting was rather rudely cut short by Johnny's phone going off. He doesn't usually jump when called, but Corona is on the loose. He had a call in to an old friend and he needed to get the info ASAP.
Peggy got an old fashioned handwritten note delivered to her at SHIELD, with an apology written in it and an invitation to talk again, this time in a nondescript office building that Peggy would find out belongs to Department H after a bit of digging. The whole building has a very 1930s, noir detective feel, right down to dark wood trim, patterned carpet and frosted doors with names etched on them.
The name on the door that she's been directed to says 'Axiom Technology.' Someone at Department H has a sense of humour, at least.

After a bit of research, Peggy arrives at the Department H building. She gives it a curious look around before being directed to the proper doors for Axiom Technology. Slipping the handwritten note back into her pocket, she knocks on the door. It's quick, but forceful: the knock of someone who has things to do. While not quite as flustered as she was before now that she's had time to let information settle, she's still strangely nervous. This is an entirely new realm for her. The people who knew her mostly still knew who she was during the war and have a frame of reference. This man only knew her after the split. It's a strange confluence of events.

Johnny tugs open the door and smiles when he sees Peggy. "Agent Carter. Come in. Thanks for seeing me. I uh, well, I have some things to show you, and forgive me for saying so, but I don't feel very secure in SHIELD. We have some…" he bites his bottom lip. "Well, let's just say that sometimes Department H and SHIELD have been at cross-purposes. Come in," he stands back and holds the door open for her.
It's clear the office is not meant to be used permanently. It's a single room with an empty old desk. There's an office chair behind it, one of the squeaky ones from the 80s with bad arch support. There's a pair of wooden chairs that face it. In fact, everything in the office looks like it was surplus from the late 70s or early 80s. The only modern touch is the ultra thin, chrome laptop that sits on the desk. Through a room to the left, she can see a suitcase and an air mattress. "This isn't exactly my homey cabin in the woods, but it works." He sounds almost sheepish. "Can I get you something to drink?"

"Thank you," Peggy nods, moving in. Despite her inner hesitance, it would be hard to tell that she feels at all at odds or slightly flustered by this turn of events. Her stride is confident and her eyes take in all the furniture and the lay of the office - as well as the air mattress in the back - with a quick study of a practiced SHIELD agent. After her quick look about, she turns and gives him a bit of a smile. "I'm quite used to working with people who do not trust SHIELD for one reason or another." Not all of those reasons are unfounded, either.

"You're staying here?" It's a question she can't help but ask. "I believe New York has an abundance of hotels," she adds, lest he get the wrong idea. At the question, she shrugs her shoulders. "A glass of water would be appreciated, thank you." A brief pause and curiosity can't stop her from asking, "Does this have to do with the Corona?"

"A hotel wants ID. A credit card. All of this is paid for by Dep H. It's off-books." Which is the way Johnny likes it. He's an insurgent and a black ops soldier - in style, if not in form - rather than a spy. He remains anonymous by staying off the radar as opposed to masquerading as something else.
He crosses to a small bar fridge and pulls out a glass bottle. He filles a glass with the water and hands it to Peggy, pouring one for himself as well. He leans on the front of the desk and sips from his glass. "Yes. But I also want to make sure things are all right between us. I know the British don't really like to talk about things. But I prefer to lay all my cards on the table." He arches his brows and folds both hands around his glass. "I want you to know that despite what happened with your counterpart, I'm treating things with you as completely separate. Doing otherwise wouldn't be fair to you."

While it's not how Peggy typically runs operations - she's far more cloak and dagger - she understands that it's not how everyone or every department works. "I see," she nods. Once explained, she won't push for a further explanation. That seems well enough for her. Taking the glass from Johnny, she takes a sip and moves to a comfortable distance between desks and chairs. She's not deliberately trying to keep space between the pair of them, but she's also careful to not stand too close.

"Yes, well, I am also British and a spy. I believe that makes me doubly secretive." She smirks a little and then settles into one of the wooden chairs. "I appreciate that. This was simply…surprising. Not the, ahem, romance aspect, but the ability to meet you. There are quite a few things from my past making resurgences lately." She smiles. "We're fine, I assure you. It's a mite awkward for me, truth be told, but we have a a job to do and, well, I can see why I would have trusted you." With a shrug, she takes another sip of water.

"Honesty tends to be a commodity people I know can ill afford."

"The truth of it is, I'm a different person than when I met the other you. So things are, in truth, very new between us. I know what kind of person you are and I know I can trust you. But I know I have to earn the same from you." Johnny sets his glass aside, then stands and opens a drawer in the old desk. He pulls out a file. "What I'm about to show you doesn't end up on SHIELD's servers. This is strictly between you and me." He holds up the file. It has an old Department H logo on it, circa 1942. "If you're not comfortable with that, I understand."

"It's all rather confusing," Peggy gives a soft laugh, finishing the water in her glass and setting it gently down. "Other mes, other yous. It seems simplest to simply say that we mostly trust each other and take it all from there." As it seems they are getting back to Corona, she stands to move around the desk. At the question, she nods. "Just as we are not the same, neither is SHIELD. It's quite a different place from what I remember. I believe a few secrets between spies is generally expected."

Johnny holds the folder out towards her. "In 1942, I was called as backup to a camp in Brussels. A platoon of Canadian soldiers were wiped out, along with a half-dozen rescued American soldiers and five Russian POWs. This is on the record. Those never made it there." He points to the folder.
What's inside the folder are a series of gruesome pictures. Piles of bodes, all with their eyes blackened and burned. It's hard to look at, even with the old, poor quality photographs. "I walked in on that, along with a small contingent of RCAF men. What did that was still there. It attacked us. I watched a…strange energy leap from each of my men and burn right through them. And then it lept into me."

Peggy has seen dead bodies. Hell, she's made a few of them. This is still gruesome and hard to look at. Her face sets into a neutral mask and she flips through the pictures to get a look at them. It's for the case. At his explanation, however, she looks up - glad to not have to look at the carnage any longer. "Into you?" she asks. "You survived this?" She had no idea.

Johnny looks a tad sheepish. He tends to when his own oddness becomes the focus. "I…what I am…" He's struggling with how to explain it. "I'm not indestructible. I break bones. I bleed. I've even required surgery once or twice. I heal faster than normal. I can regrow limbs. But I can get really beaten up under the right circumstances. But…" he reaches for his water and sips as he thinks about how to phrase it. "…something happens if the killing blow is about to happen. I've been shot point blank in the head and walked away with only a skull fracture. I think…I'm protected. So this thing was supposed to fry my brain, but it couldn't. It existed in me for a fraction of a second, but it was enough. Peg…" he takes a deep breath. "This thing has intelligence, but it's raw and primal. It's driven to survive. The time it spent in my brain, I think it gained a kind of awareness. Because then it jumped into an unconscious Russian who escaped the initial assault. That thing burning through my brain dropped me, but I saw that thing walk away inside the Russian's body."
Johnny stares off at a spot on the wall, then lifts a shoulder. "There's theories. Mine? That the Russians realized that this thing could be communicated with. I think they worked out some kind of a deal. And now the deal's either broken down, or this thing has lost some of its awareness and intelligence."

As Peggy listens to Johnny explain what happened to him, her attention remains on his face. She doesn't interrupt, nor does she look horrified or confused by what he's relaying. Instead, she nods, understanding, though there's a twitch of a smile that graces her lips when he calls her 'Peg'. There are very few people in this time period who do that. A hand reaches out to briefly touch his shoulder in a moment to comfort him through the bad memories. It's a fleeting, gentle gesture.

She waits a few moments after he's finished speaking and given his theories before she puts forth a few observations of her own. "Perhaps after all this time it's attempting to get the awareness back? Through you?" If the thing was aware and driven to survive, it seems likely it could be attempting to gain back what its lost.

"I don't know," says Johnny. "This thing…it's dangerous. It's dangerous not because it has a motive. It's because it seems so…alien. I don't know if it is, or if it's a science experiment gone wrong, or what. But whatever it is, it's very hard to predict." He looks over at her and takes a deep breath. "I need your help on this one. This isn't my turf. You have access to resources and intel that would take some political wrangling to get my hands on. I have a…checkered history with SHIELD. Even if they've been ordered to cooperate, it's going to raise some heckles if I'm the one directly asking questions."

"Yes, it does seem to have quite a long string of destruction in its wake," Peggy agrees. At the request, she lets out a soft laugh. "And here it was that I thought Agent Romanoff and I were the ones asking you the favor and pulling you out of retirement." Crossing her arms, she nods. "I don't have the same pull as I used to," she tells Johnny truthfully. "I thought I had what they knew, but I can delve deeper. There always seems to be another Level that no one else has access to."

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