She Awakens

March 14, 2016:

Natalia Utretch wakes from her coma. X-Red and SHIELD make some decisions

DCI Building - New York

Characters

NPCs: Natalia Urtrecht

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

The message had come from Gabby. There's been a change in Nathalia's condition. She's still in the offbooks safehouse and still in a coma although her vitals are showing that might be about to change.

Brin, Berto and May have all received the message and their presence has been requested.

Of course, security of prime concern so getting there and not being tailed is paramount.

Brins waiting for Berto in what might soon become the new DCI annex of X-Red.


Tailed? Please. May knows EXACTLY how to counteract that, even without making use of her Leyline Pendulum. (She remembers that Berto didn't take so well to that mode of transportation.) Rain's teleports are unreliable, and other spellcasters are busy elsewhere so she won't pester them. Plain old SHIELD know-how it is. Let's try this on for size.

Brin's comm gets a ping: There's a SHIELD quinjet requesting permission to land. And a black SUV just pulled up. And May just walked into the room carrying a motorcycle helmet.


The original Red Team headquarters couldn't be easier for Roberto to get to quietly: they're exactly one floor below his penthouse atop the DCI building. The area has been cleaned up and refitted from the dance-party disaster it was when the team last used it for anything — that being a fight with Sunspot's erstwhile impostor. Most of the work to ready it for productive use has been done for a few days, so the floor is entirely empty. The effect is a little bit spooky, to be honest.

And speaking of spooky, a pair of eldritch stepping disks flare to life in a semicircular alcove set up for teleportation-based arrivals and departures. May, of course, has been trusted with her own transportation, but Roberto decided to use the fastest and most secure method he knew to get Natalia here. The left disk slides upward, depositing the woman, her bed, and her treatment team without so much as jostling them. The right disk remains open: an escape hatch to Limbo, should they need it.

When the SHIELD agent's elevator arrives, she won't find anyone on security duty at the front desk. But once through the entrance into the two-tiered hub area, she'll be able to see Sunspot with his back to her. The Brazilian turns and waves, his expression serious.


Of course May is given permission to land and directions to join the two X-Reds in the location.

"You know Berto, we could have just gone to them" Brin sighs a little but she supposes this as a safe as anywhere, given that noone can tail them this way.

Gabby looks up as they're transported "What the hell. Do you have any idea what you're doing?" Natalia's still not awake, but the signs are it won't be long before she is.


Melinda May pauses as she sees the stepping disk bring Natalia to them. Well then. She can still send off the decoys. Speaking into her communication earpiece quietly, she stays by the elevator entrance until a younger agent — who is kind of eerily similar to May in stature and hair color — arrives. The motorcycle helmet is handed off to her with some additional instructions, and she's sent on her way again before she can get a look beyond the front desk.


"Call it paranoia," Roberto explains to Brinley. "Given the level of tech our enemies have, this means that if one of us is being tracked somehow, we won't suddenly go missing — we're right here in the building. No reason to think anything important is even going on."

Gabby's more strongly-worded objection gets an annoyed glance in response. "Yes," the Brazilian answers flatly, declining to elaborate as he approaches the bedside.

May's network of decoys will find that the DCI building is heaven for the sort of operation they're trying to run. Between the helipad, the underground parking deck, X-Red's separate underground parking deck with the hidden entrance, the ground floor entrances, and this Enterprise-style transporter room, there are more confounding ways in and out of the building than you can shake a stick at.


There's a second, perhaps unexpected, light flare in the room not far from May. The disk opens, perpendicular to the ground, and Jericho trent steps out along with K'nert. He gives everyone an arch look and then glances over to Gabby. "How's she doing?"

"I'll let you know soon as I get her monitor plugged back in." Gabby sighs. It's a good thing that the equipment more or less came with the patient and that there wasn't any of it that was too large or involved or heavy. The ER nurse finds an outlet and pretty soon there's a familiar 'beep beep beep' in the room.

"Yeah. Heart rate's speeding up. Rhythm's normal. Breathing is good. She's coming-"

Natalia's eyes snap open. Her heart rate starts to race as memories come flooding back to her. Her first instinct is to rip at the IV lines and begin thrashing. Gabby and Jericho both immediately move to hold her down.

"LET ME GO! LET ME GOOOO!"


Brin winces at Gabby's tone and starts just a little as Jericho appears. She hadn't been expecting that.

As Natalia starts yelling, the small brunette moves closer, leaving room for Berto, Jericho and Gabby to get closer. With a little concentration, and expecting the headache to begin, Brin sends a wave of reassuring and calming emotion towards poor Natalia. She'll let Berto do the talking.


Melinda May rushes forward the moment Natalia's heart rate speeds up (easy to hear with the machines in place). She moves to help Gabby and Jericho with holding the woman still, doing so by putting a hand on her forehead and holding her head still. At the same time, she's looking at Berto to start talking to the clearly panicking woman.


Roberto's greeting for Jericho is postponed by what is obviously a more immediate need. "'Talia, calm down, it's okay," Roberto says, shouldering past whichever Trent is nearest to gently take hold of the patient's shoulders and make eye contact. He's thinking that being forcibly restrained by total strangers is not going to do anything for Utrecht's peace of mind — a familiar face and a soothing touch might be a better choice. "It's me. You're with friends. We're in my building. See?"

The hub has a commanding view of the Upper East Side through a large wall of windows currently off to Natalia's left side; for obvious reasons, this has been shielded against known forms of monitoring equipment for over a year now. The view is relevant because it's the same view afforded from Roberto's home, adjusted slightly for altitude. It should be another familiar sight to reassure the frightened woman.


Fortunately holding Natalia down isn't hard. Gabby and Jericho (and May and Berto when the time could be spared) have been taking care of her but she's got weeks of muscular atrophy in play. She's not in peak physical form by any stretch of the imagination.

"LET ME G-Bobby? Bobby what… where…"

As Roberto explains and the pressure on her chest eases (because she stops thrashing) she quiets and looks around. Jericho. May. Brinley. "I think I might remember you…" She says to May.

Then she's trying to sit up, blinking owlishly at the view. "What… happened? Why am I here? And why do I feel like I just woke up from hibernation?" And who the hell are the rest of these people?


Brin moves closer so the woman can see her properly, speaking quietly but loud enough to be heard "I'm Brin…" she introduces herself with a slight smile "You were shot, Ms Utrecht and we've been caring for you for a number whilst you were in a coma." Yeah … that's going to need to some explanation.


Melinda May lets go of Natalia the moment she starts to calm down again, stepping back out of the way but staying in the woman's line of sight. She nods when Natalia says she might remember her. That's actually a good thing.

"Agent May, SHIELD." She leaves it at that, again giving Berto the chance to be the one to explain.


"You did just wake up from hibernation, 'Talia," Roberto confirms, grinning in spite of himself. It's such a relief to have her back, pushing for answers like always. "Some of them saved you from the people who attacked. Some of them have been taking care of you ever since. It's been —" The mutant falters on the edge of his admission for a moment, but continues in a rush: "Madonna, I was so scared." He releases her shoulders, one of his hands finding hers, thinner and more delicate than he remembers. "But you're back now."


Jericho has stepped back from the crowd around the woman now and K'nert… well K'nert gets one look from the hacker and slinks off toward the kitchen. No trolling the recently returned from the not quite dead woman if you please.

"Saved my life… I remember someone in front of me. And pain. Gunshot? Then it all goes black." She looks around again. "But why am I at your office and not in a hospital?" Her smile, thin and shakey though it is becomes ever so slightly teasing as she squeezes Berto's hand weakly. "Don't tell me that you went all soft and couldn't bear to part with me. Did you read me the papers every night?"

She looks over to May and Brinley. "Okay, really… what's going on?"


Brin looks between the group gathered. Explanations are certainly needed but where does one start? The hospital question is kind of key.

"It's a long story, Ms Utrecht." The small brunette thinks Berto should perhaps deliver the more delicate news - that the woman has been replaced by a LMD … Brins' confirmed that…. and why she's not in the hospital.

"It seems that you managed to upset some people who are highly patriotic and didn't like your stance on Mutants Rights. They took action to fix that, which is why you were shot." They had certainly been shooting to kill.

May can add to the rest of that night, how they saved the woman and all.


Melinda May says, "I was assigned to help with extracting you safely, but the people trying to kill you got there first." May continues the explanation where Brin left off. "We couldn't stop the shooting, but with the help of the Trents," she nods to Gabby and then Jericho, "We got you to a place where your injuries could be treated without the risk of another assassination attempt.""


Roberto's laugh is sharp and sudden. He runs his free hand through Natalia's hair once, eyes bright with tears, and takes a deep breath. "The papers? So depressing. I played you viral videos instead," he jokes, trying to match her tone. "Cats falling off of things — all kinds of ridiculous shit. I probably knocked your IQ down ten points."

He swallows against the lump in his throat, growing serious again. "We couldn't take you to a hospital. They're trying to replace you with a fake. If they found out where you were…" He trails off and shakes his head. "We had to help you in secret."


"They succeeded in replacing you with a fake." Jericho says from about five feet away. He holds up his arm, projecting scrolling text from news stories over the last few weeks. "You just announced your retirement from public life today."

"That's… impossible. I've been. I…"

Jericho glances to Gabby who pats Natalia on the shoulder. "I'm sorry. As Roberto said we had to keep you utterly secret. They're likely still looking for you. If they find you they'll try to finish the job."

So yes. That's a bit bleak. Natalia takes it in for a moment and then swallows hard. "I guess I owe you and your husband then, Missus Trent."

Gabby opens her mouth and then closes it. And then opens it again. Jericho just facepalms. "Sister." He mutters. "She's my sister."

"Oh…"


Brins eyes widen as May describes Gabby and Jericho. Oh yeah, she'll use that … later, when Jericho is being all smirky at her. Still, he hasn't been mistaken for one of Berto's girls.

"I know it's not good news, Ms Utrecht." It's far from good news. The woman can't go back to her life. At least not yet. "But we need to keep you safe until you're fully healed."


Melinda May looks from Gabby to Jericho and back. Nope. No apology. Turning to Natalia again, she offers at least some positive news. "Now that you're awake, I think we all agree that the DaCosta building is likely the best place for you to finish recuperating safely." Okay, Gabby likely doesn't agree. But only Gabby.


"They haven't succeeded," Roberto insists. "They just think they have. Now that you're awake again, we can put an end to their lies. If anything, it'll give you an even bigger platform — the activist they tried to kill and replace with a robot? It'll be global news. Exactly the opposite of what they want."

Brinley's suggestion of caution draws a puzzled look from the Brazilian. "She has to heal, claro, but I don't see why we can't announce their deception now. Record a quick video, upload it to the internet, reveal that stupid machine for what it is." He nods at May's suggestion, adding, "I like that idea. I don't think you can get better security than being surrounded by superheroes — even if we have gone a little corporate."


"Berto." Jericho says quietly. "If you announce that Natalia is alive you'll be telling an organization with the resources to hire a pair of people with ex Army superweapons that they have a loose end. I promise you if she goes public she'll meet with an 'entirely unrelated' accident in a week's time." Which isn't to say that they shouldn't expose the lies for what they are, but they need to be able to keep Natalia alive at the same time…

He looks up for a long moment as Gabby takes a blood pressure. Yep. She's still okay.

"We need a way to ensure that they have more to loose by her death than by her life. I'm not sure the way to get that is by threatening them." Beat. Smirk. "Well, at least not publically."

Natalia looks at Jericho and pales, then back at May, Berto and Brin. "I… for the first time in my life… I'm not sure what to do. What do you think?"


Jericho and May can handle the information on The Section and what it means to them in those terms. "Berto, the LMD in the hospital is Ms Utrecht as far as any can tell. Surgically, mentally, everything. Even the LMD believes it is her. Remember …" when they went to steal the blood panels. "The only reason we know the truth is because someone slipped us the information we needed."

"If we upload a video it will be our word against theirs and they've got far more resources than we do." She glances to Natalia for a moment "I'm sorry about that Ms Utrecht, I truly am."

Jericho's smirk gets a narrowed eye look "Threaten them privately?" But who? Back to Natalia "Rest here, heal, we'll work it out but we've kept you alive and we're not going to let anything happen now."


Melinda May nods in agreement with Brin. "Trust us to continue keeping you safe. When we figure out when and how to get you back to your life, we'll do so. But that won't be today." She glances sidelong at Berto. "Is there anything we can bring you to make your stay more comfortable?"


With a sigh, Roberto tears his attention away from Natalia to address the rest of the group. "Sinto muito, I might be missing something, but if these people are as powerful as all that, isn't going public the only thing that would stop them from coming after us?" he asks. "So long as her survival is a secret, we're running a massive risk. If we make the slightest slipup and they discover she's alive, they can complete their mission by killing her. She would be truly silenced and we could no longer discredit their impostor."

"On the other hand, once everyone knows what they did, she is already a hero, and they stand to gain nothing by making another attempt," he continues. "In fact, at that point, any more violence against her would only fan the flames of outrage against them." He squints upward, considering the scenario, then smirks and says, "Either I'm too used to doing things openly and missing the benefit of more secrecy, or you're too used to being sneaky and missing the benefit of going public."

He raises one eyebrow and smiles at Brinley. "I think you might be underestimating my resources. You might also be overestimating the perfection of this decoy robot. If it has any mechanical parts at all, they can be detected by someone who knows where to look."


"Except that right now we don't have a 'they' to attack. Just a nebulous conspiracy that created a robot so perfect it wasn't detected as such in surgery. We can go public but-"

Natalia holds up her hand, silencing Jericho.

"Mister Trent, thank you, really, for all you've done, but I trust my friends. If Berto thinks he has a way to go public with all this and keep me safe… well he knows a thing or two about publicity."

Gabby looks at Jericho who blows out a long sigh and calls something out in the direction of the kitchen. In demonic. Not something any of the others will be able to translate but the word 'vodka' might be picked up.

"I'll stay until other medical personnel can arrive." Gabby murmurs softly, partly to May and Brinley and partly to Jericho. "I assume you have people on call Roberto?"

Jericho just nods. He doesn't like it but this is for them to sort out.

He has a feeling he's gonna need more than one drink.


"I'm not. We're talking about next generation technology that's undetectable … " Brin shakes her head and folds her arms. She's done the research on this. But … Natalia's spoken and it's her life.

"If you think you now how to do this, Berto and Ms Utrecht agrees, we'll support you." Brin just knows things are going to get a whole lot worse before they get better. She'll need a drink as well.


Agreed. It's their decision. "I'll see how much support SHIELD can provide." May's being careful to not let on what she has spoken about with others recently, because let's be honest. This situation is already messed up. Adding to it by admitting that SHIELD is likely compromised? Bad idea. So, she doesn't.


"Obrigado, May. You have already been an immense help." Glancing over at the others, Roberto exhales sharply through his nose. "Jericho, Brinley, por favor — I am not the team leader, and I am not all-knowing. When I say I might be missing something, that is not just for effect. I sincerely want to know why you think secrecy is a better approach." He spreads his hands and shrugs. "Even assuming we can't prove which Natalia is real, what would they stand to gain from an attack, once everyone knew there were two of her? It seems to me that further attempts on her life would only prove to the public that our claim was legitimate. But if there's an angle I'm missing, the reason I ask you is because I want to hear your thoughts."


K'nert appears with a tumbler and a bottle of Vodka which Jericho avails himself of. The imp is deliberately and carefully not antagonizing Berto or Miss Utrecht… well, not antagonizing Jericho by antagonizing Berto or Miss Utrecht. But he's in plain view now and Natalia is kind of staring at the lizard like little guy.

"Well, you might be right, Berto. Let me play it out for you, though. If it were me at the first hint of trouble I'd either eliminate my double and do everything to discredit Natalia as either tragically impaired from her injury and ordeal or I'd go on the attack, claiming that the real Miss Utrecht here is actually the fake. I understand that Brinley was given ways to detect the presence of this LMD and verify that it was indeed an LMD but to normal medical proceedures including surgery she checked out so it might be difficult to get traction with that. And convincing your average person that an evil government conspiracy tried to replace a mutant activist with a bio-synthetic decoy doesn't sound…" He trails off and shrugs one shoulder.

"Well it's probably workable, honestly, but you'd need some damn good medical experts. They exist. Sue Storm. I think the rest of your, uh, association…" He means the X-Men. "… have some people like that on staff, yes? On the other hand, Natalia ould go underground. Contact her supporters. Pick up her work where her double has retired. Basically replace the replacement. My understanding is that 'they' viewed Natalia as a potentially 'destabilizing' element which suggests that they're trying to avoid a major uproar. Arrange things so that her disappearance will cause one… and they might just back off." Both are options. Both have their good and bad points. Jericho doesn't like exposing Natalia but if they decide to go that route, it could work. It's just a risk and ultimately it's up to them to decide.

Natalia nods slowly as Jericho explains the options as he sees them. But Jericho she doesn't know, and Berto she does. Hell she even knows May and Brin better than the strange glow eyed man with the disturbing vodka fetching pet. It's no surprise that she's looking to them now. She's out of her depth. She wants to know what her friends think. Particularly Berto the way her eyes go to him often.


"I don't know, Berto. All I know is what I've read in our reports about who they are." Brin hadn't been present when Shift briefed X-Red, but Jericho had.

"Discreditation." Brin murmurs. "We get into a slogging match with an agency that has years of perfecting their approach. We go public, say 'oh look, there's two of her' and they go after each of us, the team and the business." DCI might weather it, but X-Red wouldn't. And how would the DCI Board take such an attack? Berto still has Reignfire to consider.

"Here's how I think it will look. It's been weeks and we've said nothing. All of sudden, that's how it will appear to the public, we post a video saying the other's a fake. What happens? An outcry against mutant kind … she's a shapeshifter or something else. There's already enough public sentiment against us…" she shakes her head.

Dark eyes rest on her teammate "We've no teamleader, Berto, leadership is shared. This touches on you, more than anyone. I'll back whatever play you want to make … but I wish you wouldn't do it."

"We could always try a 'switcheroo'… swap Ms Utrecht for the LMD …" Brin looks to May "… SHIELD would like a live model to look at, I'm sure." Maybe they can get those markers into the 'real' Natalia's blood - stave off suspicion for a little longer.


Melinda May nods slowly at that. "We would like to see how these LMDs are made. Life Model Decoys of this level of sophistication are a very serious threat to everyone. There are several options still available to us, and I would not risk putting Ms. Utrecht in the place of that LMD until we were absolutely sure that the people who put the fake there in the first place have been dealt with." She does NOT put civilians at risk if she can avoid it.


"Obrigado, both of you, for clarifying. I do prefer a stand-up fight to all this sneaking around," Roberto says with a self-deprecating smile, "so I want to make sure that's not coloring my judgment." Elbows on his knees, the Brazilian steeples his fingers and thinks for a second, then proposes, "We could combine aspects of these approaches. Perhaps give Natalia a little more time to get stronger, strong enough to manage her own return to public life. We don't put the DCI stamp on it, don't announce her location or who is helping her, don't touch on anything we've discovered. She simply starts releasing videos as herself: she was attacked and survived, she awoke from her coma to discover that someone is impersonating her. She keeps hiding her location, and explains, truthfully, that it's because she's afraid of being attacked again."

Roberto cocks his head to one side, gesturing as he continues, "It's quieter, more personal. Instead of a multinational corporation and a superhero team versus a government agency and a robot duplicate, it's just a victim of an attack speaking out about what happened to her. Her location is secret, and our involvement is secret, so she's safer and we're free to pursue more leads." He looks at everyone gathered around, eyebrows rising. "What do you think?"


Natalia looks to Berto and nods approvingly. It's instructive, perhaps, to note that she hasn't let go of his hand. "If there's one thing I know how to do, it's appeal to people's emotions and their sense of right and wrong. I don't like hiding either and I was about to object but if we can make people see what's happening, if we can paint it as the monsterous injustice that it is…" Ever the optimist, Natalia, believing that the people are fundamentally decent no matter what the government does in their name.

Jericho is also nodding and taking another sip of vodka. "I think that'll work. I know you've got resources but if you need locations or scrambled network connections I can provide."

"I like keeping our involvement secret." Gabby says quietly. She's had some frightening folks come after her. Something in common with Natalia, actually.

Jericho looks at her and chuckles wrly. "This is the life, squirt."

The younger Trent looks more than a little frightened but no less stubbornly determined than her brother as she nods.

"I think you've got it there Berto. Minimizes the risk to her and us and starts to use the weapon they've been holding over our heads be it ever so quietly since this started: Public opinion." Now it's Jericho looking to the other two. What do they think?


"They'll still try to come after you, Ms Utrecht." Brins quieter than usual "And there will be those that cry 'mutant involvement'. If you can weather that, I think it's a good idea."

Berto should know that Brin would love for DCI and X-Red to be public about this - to use it for something positive for both organisations, that she isn't speaks volumes about her concerns about who they are up against.

"I'd like for Doug and Mike to work with Jericho on this." the lines around Brins eyes are tight. "Leverage all their talents and resources to keep the lady safe." Public Opinion in some instances is hard to sway, but Berto and Natalia are veterans at that … and Brin will certainly support them.

"I'm in."


"Then it's agreed," Roberto says happily, giving Natalia's hand another squeeze. "Once you're feeling up to it, 'Talia, we'll help you let the world know what's going on. In the meantime, we'll keep digging up whatever we can. Between us, we'll show these otários who they're dealing with."


Melinda May nods as well. "Any resources or support I can offer as well. I'm in." She looks at Natalia, and if possible looks a little more serious. "Ms. Utrecht, I know there's likely nothing to worry about in this regard, but please speak up if anything makes you uneasy or doubtful. Ultimately, it's your decision how we handle this."


"Sounds like we've got our work cut out for us." Jericho drains the vodka and sets the tumbler down. "You guys know how to find me if you need me, but I'll be in touch." He'll be following this very closely.

That said the hacker nods to K'nert who wanders up to the 'transporter pad'. Seems that it's been used often enough that there's a stepping disk just kind of 'hanging out' there. Closed. K'nert coaxes it open and the two vanish back into… well… elsewhere.

Natalia stares up after them for a little bit as May's words register. "Uh, that thing makes me kind of uncomfortable…" She murmurs.

Gabby just bites her tongue.

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