The Aspect Protocol

July 28, 2014:

May picks up Jericho and Sam and both get some answers from him. Even if they only lead to more questions. Continuation of The Aspect Question

The Chrysler Building and Hangar 17

As the crow flies is an expression for most. For Melinda May it's just what she does.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Jericho has gotten the gunshot wounds to stop bleeding. And as May had instructed he'd gotten some altitude. Not that he's gonna hang out flapping around in circles until she tells him what the next step of the plan is. No, He's hanging out atop the Chrysler builing. Not the very top, like an idiot. There's not footholds up there. No, rather, he's perches several floors below the top where the Art Deco lawn dart starts to taper. Perfect for hanging out, waiting for spy friends and not getting whipped around by twenty mile an hour winds. He'd be in a lot better mood about the whole thing if he wasn't in so much pain.

And if Manning hadn't been so… Manning.

As requested he'd gotten ahold of Sam Wilson. He's not sure if the guy will show, but he had texted a polite request for a meet and instructions on how to find him. They're odd, sure but there you go.

*

Melinda May did indeed get her hands on a small four-person copter, but there's no way she can just fly on up to any old building she wants to — especially not any of the noteworthy ones. Too much paperwork involved. So, she locates the nearest rooftop helipad and really hopes that the owners of that building aren't going to need it in the next several minutes.

*

'Odd' is certainly one way to put it. Recent explosive clashes in Manhattan already had Sam on edge — now people he knows to be involved (at a two-degree remove at most) with one of the most secretive and elite covert agencies in the world are calling him to the roof of a municipal landmark. He exits the access stairwell, having bluffed, sneaked, and in one case flirted his way through the measures intended to prevent just anyone from doing so.

He's still debating whether to actually call as he approaches Jericho. "Weird choice of hangouts," he says to the man, glancing around as though he half-expects an ambush. "Is the rooftop thing symbolic or just supposed to intimidate me?

*

Jericho half turns. He'd been crouching on the roof like a luminescent gargoyle, having just espied May on another, lower, rooftop about half a mile distant. "He's here, May. What's your plan for getting us aboard that bird of yours? Please don't say 'carry him' because that's gonna hurt. A lot."

"It's more intended to prevent anyone from ambushing me." As Sam approaches he can see there is indeed blood from a pair of gunshot wounds on him. One in his left bicep, the other in his right shoulder. There's also a painful looking burn peeking out from under his collar.

"Glad you made it though. One of my friends insisted I contact you. For… some reason."

*

"I see you. Can't get that close, though, not for more than just a moment or two. NYPD gets twitchy and then I have to explain things to Hill. Ask Wilson if he can handle a rappel line." May judges the height of the Chrysler building, how bad the winds are going to be around it, and how difficult it'll be to keep this bird steady while she throws a rope down for Wilson. Eh. She's dealt with far worse.

The copter lifts off of the borrowed helipad and starts moving closer.

*

"There's our ride. You handle a bit of a climb?" Jericho hopes there'll be a harness on one end. "I'll winch you up when I get into the bird myself." 'Cause he's not climbing. Not with the way his arms and chest feel, oh no.

He flicks one bright amber wing back as he backs away from the edge as the little bird gets closer, glancing over at Sam.

It's possible Sam's not seen Jeri like this. He's got weird circuit like designs in amber light glowing through his shirt all over his chest, back arms and neck. And he has wings. Made of light. That he seems pretty confident in.

*

Sam grits his teeth as he sees past the light show surrounding Jericho and spots the man's injuries, hurrying over with little regard for their precarious position. "Shit, Trent. The reason might just be that you're leaking from your damned arms. You should have told me you needed a medic

I would have brought a kit." He crouches next to the man and, provided Trent doesn't take a swing at him, inspects his makeshift dressings with a small frown of professional disapproval. "I can handle a climb, no problem. But are you going to tear yourself up even worse flying? I can tie you a harness in seconds flat and winch you up myself." He has spotted May's approaching aircraft and overheard half of their earpiece conversation, so he has pieced together a pretty good picture of their situation.

*

Melinda May sidles the little copter almost dangerously close to the building, especially considering the wind conditions, then with only a bit of a buck from the bird frees one hand to reach back and toss a line down to the two men. Thankfully, there's already a harness attached to end of it. Not that Sam wouldn't be able to jerry rig something, but still. "Two minutes before NYPD gets cranky," she says over the comlink.

*

Jericho nods to Sam. "I should be fine so long as May doesn't shoot me when I get up there." Which she wouldn't… right? The wings flap and he makes the cabin in a couple seconds, nodding to May before hitting the button to winch Sam up when he's all hooked in. "We got him. Let's get outta here." Anywhere but the Triskelion. Because seriously, no. Hill and Manning? All kinds of no.

*

If a man flying into a helicopter using some sort of glowing computer wings strikes Sam as strange, he's doing an admirable job of pretending otherwise. He straps himself into the harness, but then ascends the line hand over hand at a clip that would do his trainers proud. (Or, at least, the particular flavor of not-quite disapproval that they would display in lieu of pride.) He is not going to twiddle his thumbs and wait for the winch while there's an injured man waiting for him. Once he's inside the aircraft, he wastes no time helping himself to the onboard first aid kit. "Painkillers yes or no?" he prompts Jericho brusquely. He has no idea where they're going or whether the man is going to need to remain sharp.

*

Melinda May veers them away from the building the moment Sam's feet clear the opening and she gains enough altitude to be out of helicopter traffic lanes, but not high enough to interfere with the air traffic patterns around LaGuardia. And then she heads west. Jericho might have an inkling of where she's taking him, better speak up if he doesn't want to end up in Partisan-town.

*

Parti-Girl's place will do fine. Hell, any place that isn't somewhere that people think they can leverage him will do fine. But he can think of a place closer than the CCU headquarters. "There's a little private air excursions business at Hangar 17. There'll be supplies there." He says to May. And that's also Partisans. In fact it's the place May helped them move all the munitions out of, so she should know it.

"Nothing that'll dull me, Sam, if that's okay. I'll deal with the pain." Which it must be said he's doing admirably, though clearly he's in quite a great deal.

*

Trusting Jericho's estimation of his own pain tolerance, Sam skips the hypo and gets right to work. "Hope you weren't attached to this shirt," the medic says as he efficiently cuts it off of Jericho, "because I'm not going to drag it through a bunch of fresh burns just because you want to suffer for fashion." Once that's done, he gets Trent's improvised bandages off, cleans his wounds, and patches him with sterile replacements, hitting each wound one at a time to minimize the chance of infection. He works lightning-fast, and has finished by the time May gets them to their destination. As he clicks the kit shut, he glances back and forth between pilot and patient. "So. Anyone want to fill me in on what's going on?"

*

Melinda May is focusing on piloting, and keeping them out of official air traffic lanes because this flight was by NO means planned and they could get in hardcore trouble. But, yes, she knows where Hangar 17 is, and that's where she takes them. With a few detours to skirt around police and news and private birds also in the area.

*

"A mercenary named Domino took a shot at me this morning. Caught me out on my morning run. Good ambush. Fortunately she was working solo, so I got away." Also, I wrecked two cars, one of which I threw at her. Some things don't need to be said. Ever.

"Just another day in the life." He adds dryly, wincing slightly as Sam tends the burns and bullet wounds. "Thanks, Sam. Sorry you got dragged in." He's still not quite sure why.

*

Melinda May mutters darkly and seemingly to herself, "Thurman."

*

"Don't be," Sam answers with a tight, resigned half-smile. "You need bullet holes patched in midair, there is no one on the planet better to call than me. Mercs, I can deal with — but I'm also asking in a broad sense." He points at the man.

"You're covered in circuits and have wings, which, yeah, I'm kinda jealous." He hooks a thumb over his shoulder at May. "She's with SHIELD, apparently." He waves a hand more generally. "Enemy helicarriers and car chases and shootouts in the streets. There is a big picture here, and I'm too low to the ground to see it."

*

"She is SHIELD, though she doesn't appreciate it being spread around. The circuits and wings… I wouldn't be too jealous." Jericho shakes his head. "They're half the reason people shoot at me. As for the rest? Well, the world got stranger. Or maybe it always was and we’re just now noticing. There's a lot of folks who can do unusual things and some of them like to make their own rules… or think they should be on top." And it's not just bad guys either. Hill and Manning are - fairly or not - firmly in that category in Jericho's mind.

*

"Yeah, I was definitely planning to gossip about a SHIELD agent's identify," Sam answers wryly. "What my life could use is a bunch of jump suited secret agents crashing through my window in the middle of the night and giving me the Men in Black brain eraser treatment."

He hauls himself up into a standing position to spy out the lay of the land below them. "Well, call me crazy, but I'd trade a few potshots from mercs for another pair of wings. Hell, just being up here again — gets the blood flowing." He glances back at Jericho with an apologetic wince. "Ah… so to speak."

*

"They're not ordinarily in the habit of doing that." Jericho grins, leaning wearily against the side of the aircraft. "I hope." There's another short pause.

"You miss the action? Or just the flying?" He sounds thoughtful… almost, speculative. 'You were on the EXO-7 project weren't you? I thought the Air Force retired those." There's no way in hell he was cleared to know that.

*

Melinda May tossed out seemingly randomly, "Neuralizer technology isn't ready for widespread use." And then they're approaching Hangar 17.

*

Sam turns to stare at Jericho so fast that his head nearly flies off his shoulders. He debates whether to confirm the project's existence for several seconds, before realizing that he probably shouldn't second-guess the information sources of a man who can call in a SHIELD drop ship.

"How the hell do you know about Exo-7?" he asks, deciding to run the risk of confirming an unbelievably detailed and accurate guess.

"If I had to speculate, they probably killed the project because they couldn't find another pilot who could handle the rig as well as I could," he continues after a moment's reflection. "But sure, I miss the flying. Maybe I miss the action. I miss a lot of friends, too. Everybody has to make that trade-off eventually."

He glances forward at May, brows drawing together, and adds, "I don't know what's harder to believe: that SHIELD has a flashlight that erases your memory, or that you just made a pop culture reference. To a comedy, no less."

*

"I looked at your file when we first met, Sam. It's a bit paranoid of me but I do like to be able to confirm that people aren't Hydra plants. It's happened a few times before." Jericho is staring at the back wall and doesn't seem to be looking at anything in particular.

"I was a cyber-warefare specialist, among other things. I wrote some of the security protocols in use today. Getting DoD systems isn't exactly a cakewalk, but I can do it."

He sighs and then chuckles a bit at May's possible joke. Hard to tell with SHIELD, isn't it.

"The other test pilots didn't fare nearly so well it's true. And yeah… everyone does. I do miss the old unit, sometimes. Got out for a reason, but we had… some good people." Jericho doesn't elaborate. Just stares at nothing for a few more minutes and then shakes himself and sits up as they come in for a landing.

"Anyway… what would you do, Sam, if you still had your wings?"

*

Sam doesn't interrupt Jericho's moment of quiet reflection. He knows that face all too well. This isn't the time to try to get Jericho to open up, but he files the possibility away to consider at a more opportune moment. Instead, he laughs at Trent's overly causal description of his security expertise. "Not a cakewalk, huh? Damn, man. And some people worry about Facebook stalking." He shrugs and glances outward at the fast-approaching tarmac.

"If I still had the wings? I'd probably be out there trying to keep up with Captain America like a damned idiot." He grins. "Hell — that's probably reason enough to keep 'em away from me."

*

This guy and Cap? The very idea makes Jericho kind of smile. Cap's an old school fighter. One of the greatest generation. But the wars today, especially from SHIELD, are very, very different. That alone is probably a good reason to find a way to get him those wings. Then the chopper sets down with a thump. "Nice landing."

*

Sam nods his agreement. "Thanks for the lift, May." He takes a quick step down to the airstrip, glancing around both to scope out direct threats — and see if the birds in the immediate area have anything interesting to tell him. "Where are we? This doesn't look like a SHIELD facility."

*

"We're here," May announces as the little copter moves to settle probably closer to a particular hangar than is considered wise or safe. As soon as the unit is settled she hits the toggles and buttons to shut the bird down, hitting them while looking over her shoulder at the two men. "I know we got here without calling first. That gonna be a problem?"

*

"This isn't a SHIELD facility." Jericho says, sliding out of the chopper. "Parti-Girl isn't here right now though and I'm sure she'll be okay with it." He opens a door and gestures for the other two to come inside. Within there are several machining stations, a small kitchenette and a few civilian helicopters. "Right… here we are. Safe and sound. Ish. Thanks for coming to get me, May. You too, Sam."

*

"Happy to help. But Party Girl?" Sam grimaces at the misinterpreted name, and glances around at the shop he follows Trent into. "What, like, there's a secret lever you pull and suddenly it's all smoke and lasers, disco balls, and LED pacifiers?" He inspects a lathe closely. "Pretty solid disguise, if so."

*

Melinda May follows Jericho in and manages to refrain from rolling her eyes at Sam's comments about "Party Girl". She knows the individual in question, and yeah. That's the last term she'd use for her. "Trent, you're going to help me fill out the paperwork for this last minute joyride." Luckily, she can get actual paper, so he won't have to deal with SHIELD computer systems at all.

*

"Sure…" Jericho goes to the 'fridge in the back of the place and opens it, snagging a beer for himself. "Sam? May?" There will be beverages for them too if requested.

"Soooooo… I take it I interrupted something? Why was Manning yelling orders to me over your phone?"

Manning, Sam may know the name. He was the cop he ran into when he first met Jericho.

*

"Manning's involved in this, too?" Sam asks, shaking his head. He's apparently been networking without even knowing it. "Joyride? Speak for yourself, May. Plugging a bunch of bullet holes in a guy is not my idea of a — wait a minute." He stares at the SHIELD agent, eyes going wide.

"Are you Party Girl? Is this exactly your kind of party? Don't worry, your secret is safe with me. I'll have one of those beers, Trent — I mean, I'm hanging out with the one and only Party Girl." Oh my God, he's teasing May. He must have a death wish.

*

Melinda May shakes her head no at the offer of a beverage, then is again honest with Trent, though Manning will likely distrust her even more for it. "He asked to speak with me. About you. And why you're more and more demon-tainted." And other things, but that's the part she wants to know about as well. When Sam asks if SHE is Party Girl, she scoffs openly.

"Don't insult me like that." She looks ready to turn and leave. Wilson can find his own way home.

*

Jericho returns with a beer for Sam and sits down on a table. "Ah." Is all he says. "I can see why he might ask those things… May I ask what you told him?" There's a pause.

"And, I suppose I should also ask if you share those questions." Ordinarily talking about demons and stuff around Sam would be a no go, but the guy did just patch him up for no reason at all. He's earned a bit of consideration.

*

Sam holds his hands up in a gesture of surrender, falling back on his most disarming smile. "Sorry, May. Agent May. I couldn't resist. It would at least be a bulletproof cover, you have to admit." He ducks his head deferentially to her, then accepts the beer and listens more soberly to the exchange about Jericho's demons.

"I'm guessing by your tone that these are not personal demons," he ventures, "so a spot in a support group wouldn't be much help."

*

Melinda May looks at Wilson for a moment longer then turns her attention to Trent. Almost like a snake that's decided to focus on better prey. Good night, sleep well, most likely kill you in the morning.

"I told him that I know less than he does. Because it was the truth." Was. She means for that to change. "If what he's saying is true, you're walking a really dangerous tightrope, Trent."

*

As if to answer Sam's questions, and underscore May's concern, a demon cat thing - one K'nert by name, skitters out from under the table where it absolutely was not before and climbs into Jericho's lap. "You… need to work on your timing."

Jericho says down to the cat-thing which just looks up at him smugly and then lay itself flat on his lap. Jericho rolls his eyes and takes another sip of beer.

"I'm fairly sure Manning knows less than he thinks he does."

*

If Sam is unsettled by May's long look, he does his level best not to let on. He focuses his attention instead on the demon cat. Yes, the demon cat is less inherently unsettling than being glared at by May. Why would you even need to ask that?

"Okay, so not a personal demon and not a metaphorical one, either," he summarizes. "I saw some shit in the sandbox, but this is a new one on me." He glances at May to see if she has any more expertise in these matters than he does.

*

Melinda May actually gives the CAT a flat stare. "Well all I know is what I remember from church as a kid, and it didn't look anything like that." At Sam's glance she shakes her head once, curtly. It's as foreign to her, and she doesn't like things she doesn't at least partly understand.

"Where did this one and the other one come from, Trent? Why are they here? And don't say it's because 'a friend forgot to put them back'."

*

"Oh no, this one's here quite on purpose now." Jericho gives Sam a nod. "Yeah, not metaphorical, I'm afraid." He's mixed in with… some strange stuff.

"Okay, let me try this. I'm not going to give you names because the person involved is a friend of mine and while I trust you, Hill can go die in a fire. She doesn't need the extra stress." And he won't put May in the position of hiding things from Hill. Better if he just doesn't tell her and she can answer honestly.

"They come from a place called Limbo. I have a friend, a very good friend mind you, who is from there. She spends time with me to get away from things sometimes and I'm helping her with a couple of projects. That brought me the attention of the other residents, demons like K'nert here - well, some of them are larger and more hostile - who are either curious about me or would like to hurt her by hurting me. K'nert isn't hostile… ish. He's been instructed to look after me." Which he has been helpful with. Jericho's traces are starting to flush red, slowly spreading up his shirt as they absorb magic from the demon on his lap.

*

A long swig of beer goes a long way toward reestablishing normalcy for Sam, and he tries to explore the question of Trent's demonic companion as objectively as he can. "Okay, so, it's like a friendly pet demon," Sam says, his skepticism evident. "It's all curled up in your lap, and it you adopted it from a good friend."

Sam points at the contented entity with an open hand. "That all seems a little weird to me, because — and I admit I'm not a world-renowned expert, here — because it's a demon. You don't call something 'demon' because it sheds less than a Persian and is great with kids."

*

"And your implants are turning red." Yes, May noticed. "And you're not worried about what this friend's influence could mean in the long run?" Again it goes unsaid: The Initiative. Though considering how well Wilson is taking all of the weirdness of the past hour or so, she's already seriously considering dropping his name with Romanoff to share with the Old Man.

*

"My implants, in a separate but sort of related development, have decided that they want all the magic." Jericho chuckles wryly. It's been in interesting ride so far. "They're absorbing magic whenever I'm exposed to it and siphoning it away. Somewhere. I'm not sure where yet but it hasn't done anything so far."

Sam gets a laugh. "Well he'll remove the skin from your face given half an excuse but then that's not any different from a regular cat, is it?"

K'nert hisses something, not moving his head and Jericho looks down. "You do know that I don't understand you right? Anyway, Sam, he's under instructions to protect me and he'll obey me… sometimes. The latter is mostly because I've wing slapped him a few times when he's misbehaved in ways that were inconvenient or dangerous."

May's question gets a nod of acknowledgement. "No, I'm not. Because I trust her. I recognize that there are dangers involved, but really, this is no different to me than getting shot at for other friends. Which I do. More than really is healthy for me by any measure."

*

Sam crosses his arms, beer held by the neck and dangling at his side, and considers that for a long time. Finally: "I can't really argue with that. I jump out of the sky with a rocket strapped to my ass because taking those risks lets me protect people more effectively."

He lifts his bottle to take another sip, but pauses first, adding, "Just make sure you're getting enough out of the deal to make it worth what you're putting on the line. That's the difference between a smart risk and a death wish."

*

Melinda May is clearly not pleased by Jericho's declaration, but she has no choice but to accept it. She's not Hill. She won't shove her agenda on him. AND, Wilson just made a very good point. "I'm heading back. Do either of you need a lift anywhere while I'm going?" At least she didn't use that Midwesternism 'can I drop you somewhere?', because she could potentially have meant it literally.

*

"I'm going to make way back to my place." Jericho says, giving Sam a grateful nod. "But thank you May. And May…" He waits until he's sure he has May's attention.

"If you ever want to know more, you know off line, let me know." Translation: This is about SHIELD. If May decides she has to know more, that's fine. So long as it's May he's talking to.

"Sam… I'll be in touch. We should talk about a few things after I've had time to look some stuff up."

*

If May were to literally drop Sam over Manhattan, that would only make this day the total para rescue nostalgia package. Still, it would probably be pretty tough to explain once he landed.

"Sure thing, Jericho. You've got my number if you ever need patching up again. Same goes for you and your people, May. I don't even need to ask whether SHIELD knows where to find me." He smirks, polishes off his beer, and sets the bottle down. "That said, I could use a lift back home."

*

Melinda May nods to Trent, then appears to be waiting for Wilson to finish that beer. Oh, and she finally answers a question Trent asked a while back. "I told you to call Wilson because I read that file you sent me."

Translation: she knew that he was a medic and would likely be able to handle weirdness. She was proven correct. She then looks at Wilson then leads the way back outside. Yes, Trent, you are SO helping with the paperwork for this.

*

That makes Jericho quirks a smile. He's gonna have to get one of the backup modes of transportation here ready to go, but the thing just needs a few quarts of oil, which is sitting around here.

"Feel free to stop on by with that paperwork. I'll even supply dinner if you let me know when you're coming." Just… try to do it without the entourage, mmm? Well, no need to say that part, he supposes.

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