For the Future

July 19, 2016:

Nathaniel Richards visit Black Widow and Falcon with the idea of reforming the Avengers

SHIELD office somewhere in New York

Just a modern meeting room


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Nick Fury, Iron Man


Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

‘You might want to talk to a senior agent’. That is what Jemma Simmons said. Honestly, Nathaniel would have been happy to tell SHIELD’s genius biologist all his plans. Because he likes when people will understand what he says the first time, without him dumbing it down.

But it was good advice, too. He should try to catch the attention of Nick Fury, or Phillip Coulson, or maybe Maria Hill. On the other hand there are people that can do that much better than him. And so, ‘Iron Guard’/Nathaniel Richards requested through official channels to talk to a senior SHIELD agent. And the request should have been assigned to some bureaucrat (certainly not a senior agent at first) but instead it ended in the hands of a very unlikely senior agent. To make it even weirder, Falcon was also requested to attend the meeting.

In truth hacking SHIELD’s computers was far easier it should have been. That is definitely something Nathaniel intends to correct in the near future. But it got him two important heroes in the same room, which is what his plans needed.

“Good morning,” he greets, armored in silver and red, his armor is clearly inspired in Iron Man. But if Widow and Falcon did some research, he was already around as ‘Iron Lad’ five or six years ago. “It is an honor to meet you two. Allow me to introduce myself.” He takes off his helmet and offers his hand. “My name is Nathaniel Richards, and I come from the future, from nearly a thousand years in the future.”

When he first got the summons, Sam assumed that SHIELD just got their wires crossed, thinking that this was his good buddy and sometime employer, Tony Stark. It makes sense to have Falcon help you liaise with Iron Man — they're already known quantities who work well together. This Iron Lad… Guard… wasn't anyone he felt he had any particular inroads with. But when he checked, the paperwork was legit — maybe the clearly tech-based hero has some kind of medical technology they want him to take a look at?

When he shows up for the meeting — dressed in a simple civilian outfit, olive drab over neutrals — Sam doesn't know what to expect. Nathaniel's opening line definitely wasn't it. The flier pauses with his hand only halfway to Richards', raising one eyebrow. "I've never even met Sarah Connors," he feels obligated to point out.

More suspicious than Sam, was Natasha Romanoff, it is well known around S.H.I.E.L.D. that Romanoff is an outlier in the organization. One can consult with her, but only Director Fury himself has the authority to hand her direct orders. Otherwise she is left to her own assignment, many of which are assigned by Nick Fury directly. So when she had a meeting scheduled with Iron Guard, that did not originate from Fury, she knew something was up. Still, for sports' sake, she decided to go to that meeting. She hows up fully geared, as if she was heading for a mission. She wholeheartedly expected an ambush or an assassination attempt. When Nathaniel Richards actually shows up at the meeting, along with Falcon, she is a bit surprised. "Coming from the future might explain how I had a meeting scheduled with you when we had no personal contact. Is there a better story?" Natasha asks, "just need to know if I need to look over my own computer security needs." She nods at Falcon, not saying anything for the time being, though he might not the gratitude in her eyes for his recent support when it was asked for.

“Connors?” Nathaniel, looks at Falcon for a few instants, than smirks. “Oh, my grasp on popular culture is still lacking.” But hey, he really likes Game of Thrones. Unsurprisingly.

Then he turns to Natasha. “Computer security is rather poor for my standards. You should have dedicated A.I.s for the firewalls. It is going to become an important issue soon. One among many.” He pauses, and places his helmet on the table. “There are actually a few time travelers in the New York area right now. It is possible SHIELD has some of them already under watch, or even in their payroll. I mention this because maybe you will want to verify what I am going to tell you now. I need your help to ah…” he looks at Sam again, “to save the world, of course.”

Sam inclines his head toward Natasha. He had halfway wondered whether the whole "Iron Lad" thing was her doing — a cover to allow them to have another conversation about their recent work together. Apparently not.

"Yeah, I think it's a safe bet that we'll want to verify your story," he tells Nathaniel, his tone dry. Without completing the handshake, he sits in one of the chairs encircling the conference table, slouching noticeably. He has a distinct impression that someone might be wasting his time. Still: "I like saving the world," he says, willing to go out on a limb at least far enough to hear the 'time traveler' out. "What exactly are you expecting us to do for you?"

"The world? It's a good thing you don't aim low in your ambitions," Natasha comments dryly, though she does give Nathaniel a chance to offer more exposition before deciding to give up on this meeting altogether. Natasha remains on her feet, not far from the door, she's yet to decide she'll definitely stay for the duration.

“I live in this age now,” states Nathaniel, sitting down. “And for now, I cannot leave this timeline. I would like to prevent the events that my history records state will happen in the next few years. These events are already in motion, and are the almost inevitable produce of the societal and political movement of the current world. I could demonstrate it mathematically, but you would need a strong background in both sociology and statistic calculations to really understand the psycho-historical analysis. So I will summarize.”

His helmet collapses into a disk and a holographic display is appears over the table. “So far the most important political constructs on Earth have been the nation states, of which the United States of America has been the most powerful in the last century. But now technology is advanced enough that multi-national societies have become feasible, and are quickly gathering power. You already know about Hydra, which is perhaps the most well-known. However, other organizations just as vast and powerful do exist, and they appear legal to the eyes of current human institutions.”

The holographic display was showing a string of past Hydra operations, some of which are from the last few years, in New York and Metropolis. But now it shifts. Shows AIM, briefly. Then shifts to Roxon, and Stark International, and Cyberdata, and a few other famous and powerful international corporations. Then, it shows SHIELD.

“SHIELD, of course, is also one of those super-national organizations.” He explains. “And it is one of the few that has been created to protect the interests of humankind. It will also be the first one to be destroyed when the other organizations band together to topple the current status quo.”

Natasha's snark inspires a quiet snort of amusement from Sam. He's still not convinced that he should take this kid's claims seriously. Then again, he did just help root out some kind of alien demon bodysnatchers from their infiltration of SHIELD. Time travel is ludicrous, but so is his life. So, apart from glancing at Natasha to roll his eyes when Iron Guard bemoans their lack of academic credentials — can you believe this kid? — he pays attention. His fingertips drum on the tabletop as Richards runs down the list of international nasties and his eyebrows rise when SHIELD is added to the list.

"So, you're saying we're at risk of being knocked off the board," he finally summarizes — a bit more summarily than Nathaniel managed, it must be said. "That's something SHIELD deals with pretty regularly. If you're trying to spook us with the stakes, you'll have to do better, but I'd rather you just skip to what you expect us to do about it."

"My expertise is in ending targets, and completion of objectives, unless Mr. Wilson has a PhD I'm unaware of let's skip the math, and get straight to the part that makes sense," Natasha suggests with little patience, though she does venture further from the door, and eventually slinks into a seat. Listening to the part she already knows, Black Widow isn't all that interested, but once it gets to the actual prediction of SHIELD's demise, she takes more interest, "and how does your future suggest they accomplish that? Because the last 4 attempts ended with the demise of those who sought to end SHIELD. We're good at staying around, because we enjoy annoying those assholes so much."

“It is not just SHIELD what is endangered,” adds Nathaniel, leaning back. “We are currently living an Heroic Age. The world is protected by superhuman champions with the power of gods. They protect the status quo as strongly as SHIELD. In the perhaps ten years, they will all be dead. The mutant and metahuman genocide will leave a billion people dead, and start a century long Dark Age. The Twenty Second Century sees humankind reduced to less than a hundred million survivors standing on a despoiled, shattered world. It will take them centuries rebuild civilization.”

The holographic display was actually showing it, but it is not very relevant as it could all be special effects. “I have a plan to prevent it. It involves the creation of a group of heroes, the Avengers, with strong ties to SHIELD and the United Nations, a group I know you two are suitable to lead. Meanwhile, I will support SHIELD with advanced technology that will give them a head start over anything the opposition can field, as well as serve as a member of the team, of course. That is why I need your help.”

"True," Sam agrees, pointing at Nat with a smile. "We're harder to get rid of than cockroaches." Then Nathaniel is back to the speculative history, and Falcon is leaning back in his seat. He's paying attention, but it's the sort of attention one gives to a particularly plotty TV show. Not genuine life-or-death investment, but you wouldn't want to miss the setup for the big twist, right?

Still, he can't help but wince at the idea of enhanced and meta humans being wiped out. The people in this room notwithstanding, a surprising number of his friends fall into that category. The idea of billions of people being wiped out, on the other hand, is simply of too great a magnitude to comprehend.

After a second to collect his thoughts, he leans forward and says, "One problem, though. The Avengers already exist. They're essentially an emergency backstop for when SHIELD or the JLA are too tied up in red tape to help. Not having ties to the UN was the whole point." Nathaniel does have a point that the group has been lacking leadership a bit, to be fair. Steve Rogers has been tied up with other things, but that hardly seems like a world-threatening emergency.

Black Widow listens, for the most part only paying cursory attention to the holo display. She's not about to be wowed by something that could be doctored, and Nathaniel isn't even close to having her blind trust when it comes to such matters. She turns to look Falcon's way towards the end of the argument, when Nathaniel and herself are fit to lead this would be Avengers group. "I must say, we do work well together, so far." She then turns to look directly at Nathaniel, looking a bit less impressed then before, "your solution to a genocide of heroes, is to create a group of heroes? How will these heroes, be it us, or someone else, manage to elude this genocide your future foresaw?"

"Yes. I am aware, and I wish to speak with Captain America," Nathaniel is also aware the old Avengers team has gone inactive due to a variety of reasons. "And a few others key players, too. But meanwhile the Justice League is under intense pressure and I do not expect it to survive in its current incarnation for more than a few weeks. SHIELD is also under intense pressure," which might be news to Falcon and Widow. "Operations in the US are being limited, and the operational budget will be severely reduced. General Fury has enough influence to block and delay some of your enemies' attacks on the political arena, but it is only because they are not yet coordinated and focused. The enemy is divided, the war has barely started and it is not lost yet."

As for the Widow question, he nods. "To prevent the Dark Age a number of elements need to be created and set in motion. For one SHIELD needs to be far more powerful. But also a group of informed and prepared agents needs to deliver appropriate responses to the unfolding events. Extremely forceful responses in some cases; and that means super-humans. The Avengers… the Avengers have historical relevance. In fact, they should be far more important than they are now. But the timeline diverged from what I knew at least six years ago. Maybe earlier. Specific events are no longer predictable to me." He picks up the helmet. It is a helmet again. "But the general sequence of events is clear, as society has a good deal of inertia."

"There's no harm in prepping, even if your warnings are dubious at this point." Natasha more or less accepts the suggestion, "I can see the merit in a group that deals with issues SHIELD cannot due to legalities. Sometimes actions need to be taken without red tape." She taps her fingers on the desk, nodding at Sam's words, "I think we should have this conversation with Fury, but I will give you a tentative support for this."

“Thank you And I can provide some proof of what I just said, and I will,” notes the young man. “For obvious reasons, it cannot be overwhelming evidence. Most of it has yet to happen. If we cannot convince General Fury, there are a few other options. Anthony Stark is one of them. I think he will understand the analysis and predictions I have prepared and he has vast resources. But a close alliance with SHIELD would be much better.”

"I will see what I can do about arranging such a meeting for you," Natasha says, "can you leave me a copy of your holographic show? I can make sure to forward it to Fury." She doesn't mention anything about the pompous Stark, if Nathaniel can schedule a meeting with him, and get Stark to listen, all the more power to him.

Hey, Iron Man was Nathaniel's favorite 21st century hero. (As if his armor was not a clue). But SHIELD is still his first choice for this plan. "Very well," he replies, "I will forward you both the show, the reports and the real psycho-historical analysis. As well as a list of potential candidates for the Avengers. Some are government agents, others are veteran heroes, others are people that in historical records will become great heroes in the next few years, and a few are just people I have come to trust."

"I appreciate it, spares me the time I don't have, I'll be in touch," Natasha says briskly as she turns to leave. She really has no way of knowing just how futuristic Nathaniel's getup is, most time travelers don't bring vessels with them.

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