Why People Hate Mondays

January 23, 2017:

Agent Carter receives a troubling Monday morning visit from Red Robin.

SHIELD HQ, Peggy Carter's Office

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Thor, Zatanna Zatara, John Constantine, The Winter Soldier, Jane Foster, Batman, Spider-Man

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

MONDAY MORNING, NEW YORK CITY

Breaking into the Triskelion is, understandably, not an easy task.

There are all sorts of places that are hard to get into - regular government agencies once you get over a certain level of security clearance, the strongholds and fortresses of evil cults or other secret organisations, popular Broadway performances - but SHIELD's headquarters is another thing entirely. Their security is excellent, their people are motivated and cautious, even at an hour when most people are eating their breakfast and staring blearily at some nonsense morning show. You'd almost think they didn't want people just wandering around their top secret super spy headquarters.

All of this means Red Robin has to /work/ to find Peggy Carter, his stealthy movement through the building including a long stretch of having to crawl along the ceiling, and at least fifteen minutes spent hiding in a janitor supply closet because of two agents having a long conversation that was either laden with code words, or was really about one agent's daughter's school bake sale.

Fortunately, the former Boy Wonder is patient and determined, even if his patience is frayed by recent events, even if his determination feels like it might come apart at any moment through physical and emotional exhaustion. He doesn't have the time to give in to those concerns, though - or perhaps it was more accurate to say that /other/ people didn't have the time for him to give in to those concerns.

The caped and cowled young man barely manages to avoid the notice of a tall blond man in a red cloak, who looks like he was brought to life from the cover of a romance novel by some fell magics, before he finally reaches the door of the office of the legendary Agent Carter, a woman he's met, and knows to be extremely formidable.

If she's already in the office, he decides, it's not likely he'll be able to creep in without her notice, even at this early hour. It's so much easier doing this at a police station, Red Robin thinks to himself. You can always just slip in through a window when Gordon or whoever is not paying attention.

Instead, he does one of the rarest things anyone trained by the Batman will ever do on the job.

He knocks.

Through the halls, the colorful Robin makes his way carefully to Peggy Carter's office, overhearing snippets of Project Bake Sale as well as a red-caped blonde issue Peggy is sure to have to deal with later. Though there are a few close calls, he makes it to her door and knocks.

Luckily for the Red Robin, Agent Margaret Carter is currently in her office. That is not always the case, especially when her focus goes into overdrive in one particular direction. Much of her current case research has her digging through old SHIELD archives in an attempt to predict a pattern. As an early riser and a dedicated Agent, that means she's most likely already an hour or so into her work. Though she may not have made a promise to Constantine and Jones about finding a location, but she feels obligated for multiple reasons, nonetheless.

As always, the woman is dressed impeccably in business casual, hair pin curled and lips a bright red. In her office, she holds a tablet in her hand as she paces.

When the knock sounds, she doesn't even pause, instead calling out a brisk, "It's open," as she attempts to finish the next few sentences as the door opens. It's not unusual for people to stop by her office and she has no reason to suspect the man outside to not have clearance. It's only when the door opens that she finally turns her head over her shoulder to greet them.

Upon seeing that the person opening the door is not an Agent, but a masked man has Peggy quickly moving into action. With narrowed eyes and what she hopes is an accurate through, she flings her tablet right at his face.

It's a very good throw.

Pure reflex rather than anything in the way of calculation brings Red Robin's black-gloved hands up, snatching the hurled and probably expensive tablet out of the air before it can hit him in the face. She won't stop there, he knows. She'll use the distraction as the setup to do something else, whether to attack him further or to call for help. He can deal with her attacking him, but the other would be… Problematic.

"Agent Carter," the young man says; it's the same modulated voice from the coffee shop, the scarf and sunglasses-clad youth who'd joined as Constantine's belated 'plus one'. "Sorry I didn't call ahead, it's been a busy weekend. Did you get my email about the Spear of Destiny?"

He doesn't know if the information he got from Gerry Craft was actually /useful/ to anyone, but he was making an effort to be more of a team player, and it behooved him to share.

"I got some more information you might be interested in," Red Robin adds. "About Barnes, and a woman named Jane Foster."

Red Robin is quite correct. In the amount of time it takes the tablet to fly across the room, Agent Carter has moved to the desk to grab a stapler - it's near by and she knows it can be painful. The fact that Red Robin seems to know her name does not phase her: she assumes an intruder here for intelligence or to attack her would know her office and her name. It's only after the Spear of Destiny and the mention of the email that she backs down.

The stapler is still opened and ready to be wielded like a weapon, but she stops her approach, suspiciously studying the man in front of her. Red Robin. She remembers the man. "You have a bad habit of surprising people with your entrances and exits. I would be surprised if this was the first time you were attacked due to your methods," Peggy tells him dryly. Then, with just a hint of humor reaching her voice, "I did not recognize you without your ski gear."

Relaxing, now, she lowers the stapler, clicking back into its proper position and setting it back onto the desk in its proper place. "Yes, I did, though I must say that I have not exactly had the time to research it more, something else of more pressing import has taken much of my attention."

Gesturing first toward the tablet she threw at him, "If you wouldn't mind?" She has no qualms about making the man pick up the improvised weapon she used to try and bean him in the head. Then, she motions at a chair near her desk, she smooths her hair down slightly, looking more desk agent than attack woman now. "The door," she reminds. "As it seems as if you are here under less than above board means."

He wonders if this sort of thing ever happens to the Batman. It must, surely, but of course the Dark Knight has that air about him, doesn't he? Like something more a force of nature than a man. Red Robin on the other hand still has a ways to go, when it comes to discouraging behaviours just by his intimidating presence.

Though privately, he believes that Agent Carter would treat the Bat pretty much the same way.

"Would've looked pretty ridiculous sitting in a coffee shop like this," the young man says, with the faintest shrug of his shoulders. Especially because the last person he saw go into a place of business in superhero gear in New York City was Spider-Man, and /he/ got a shotgun pulled on him for trying to buy a hotdog.

So really, it wasn't worth the bother.

He does shut the door, at Peggy's suggestion, walking closer to the desk and setting the tablet on its surface with care. He doesn't comment on things of 'more pressing import,' as he's had one of those to deal with as well, which is ultimately what brings him to infiltrate the headquarters of SHIELD.

He looks at Peggy through the featureless white lenses of his cowl, the only visible bit of skin being the area around his mouth, and from seemingly nowhere he produces a USB drive, settling it on the desktop as well.

"I know Constantine was in contact with your organisation about his little… Adventure tonight. We ended up in a lab operated by Hydra, and I was able to get some information off of their computer. Locations, some of which are hospitals around New York, the names of some of their active and sleeper agents. I don't know how long that data will be good for, but I figured you could do something with it, if anyone. I was going to bring you some prisoners, but there was a complication. Somebody doesn't want their people being taken alive."

A faint frown tugs at the corners of his mouth, and that cowled head tilts slightly to one side as he regards the USB drive. Will what's on it help? Or will it only cause harm?

"There's an audio file, as well. It refers to Barnes and Foster. You might find it unpleasant to listen to," he explains, a kind of grim understatement.

His assessment of Carter remains accurate - a testament to either his own detective observations or her reputation. Her treatment of his sudden appearance at his door is not reserved solely for him: were it Batman, that tablet would have still been sent soaring toward his cowl.

As she knows the intruder, she feels more at ease, though he would still notice she walks and gestures like a woman still waiting for an attack. It's hard to tell if that is her natural state or if she is still on heightened alert due to the surprise behind that door. Her office is not incredibly large, so she is quickly behind her desk and in a seat. The tablet returned to the desk is noticed, but not acknowledged. She takes only a minute to check to see if she damaged or cracked the screen. Apparently, SHIELD builds their tablets with the possibility of someone using them as a weapon, as it doesn't look any worse for wear.

"Not any more or less than in my office." Peggy raises an eyebrow: it's hard to tell if she's being serious or poking a little fun. However, it's clear in a few moments, though, that she is all seriousness as Tim produces a USB drive from pockets unknown and sets it on the desk in front of her. The Agent looks at it for a moment and then back up at the eyeless white lenses. After a moment, she delicately picks it up, as if unsure if it will break - or perhaps in anticipation of what she knows will not be pleasant information.

"Perhaps with my organization, but the last I spoke with Constantine, he was still…on a hunt of sorts." While she knows that Constantine may vouch for Robin, she also is not about to divulge what she believes to be personal information. There's a tick of a grimace as he mentions the complication. "Yes, they were quite fond of cyanide caps during the war. Thank you for the information, if they believe their locations compromised, I am sure they will not be hesitant to burn and run." And who knows who they will hurt along the way. "I will pass this on to our teams."

The audio file, though, makes her frown. "I have heard quite a few unpleasant things in my life," she tells him. There is no false bravado, however. She has an inkling as to what may be on that digital file. "I assume you have already listened to it?"

Secrets on top of secrets.

It's something that's second nature to both Red Robin and Agent Carter, and when you boil it down it's for much the same reason: They are both soldiers, fighting wars where information is as important - or even more important - than their ability to bust heads. Information is a weapon, and secrecy is an armor and shield, protecting people from those who would do them harm. Red Robin's vagueness, too, comes from a similar place as Peggy's; they might both have a certain trust in John Constantine, but for her this masked young man is essentially a cipher, a player whose goals and motivations are an unknown. For him, SHIELD is an organisation to treat with suspicion and care at the best of times. And neither of them is about to release very personal information, which could endager someone else.

"They've moved on to a small implant behind the left ear, with some kind of explosive charge. I didn't have time to collect a sample. It's mentioned on the audio file," Red Robin explains, because he has indeed heard it. He doesn't doubt that she's heard quite a few unpleasant things in her time, given the job she does, and the times in which she's done it, but under the circumstances a warning seemed like a good idea.

"I have," he confirms in that low, electronically fuzzed voice. "It describes the conditioning process they've started using, under the guidance of someone or something they call 'AVG'. It involves coercively rewriting the subject's memories, through the application of torture. The two subjects listed in the file are Barnes and Foster. I'm not sure if there's information in there you can make use of, but it seemed better to be safe than sorry."

Thoroughness is important.

The pair, while seemingly very different, have similar view points and methods, most likely. They are both more likely to operate in the shadows and to use information to their advantage rather than brute strength. Trust is not a thing that is easily given: it's simply impossible due to the nature of their works. This Red Robin may be helpful now, but it is just as likely that it serves his own purposes to give her this information than to do it out of the goodness of his heart.

The grimace becomes more pronounced at the description of what they have moved on to. "It sounds…messy." The subject matter calls for solemnity, which she certainly gives. However, she finds it hard to find too much sympathy for Hydra agents who might have had a hand in torturing others, who made the choice to die for their corrupt cause without concern for others.

Her eyes move down to the small plastic object in her hand. There's a small, barely audible sigh that escapes. There's no doubt in her mind that this is not something that she wishes to hear. What she already knows of it - Barnes, Foster, implanted cranial explosives - is disturbing. Then, Red continues to describe what else she will find. "Ah." It's a flat syllable that she emits to exhibit understanding. It does not convey the immediate twisting of her stomach, the images she is already associating with the this USB drive, the pain. A decision is immediately made. "Yes. It is always better to be safe than sorry. SHIELD is rather fond of holding things for rainy days." And that says nothing about her own intentions.

"Thank you." It's a sincere thanks, despite the subject matter. While she may not trust Red Robin, she sounds as if there is respect there. Toughness of spirit certainly counts for something in her book.

Even if it were out of the goodness of his own heart, his dedication to doing the right thing, well…

That's what makes the world such a complicated place, isn't it? Not the existence of monsters who deliberately set out to do the /wrong/ thing, dangerous though they may be; it's the fact that people hold so many different views on the 'right thing'. SHIELD's idea of what's right, of the best way to go about bettering the world, might not match up at all with Red Robin's, even if their goals are nominally the same.

Red Robin, too, had felt little sympathy at first for the technicans who had lost their lives because of the mission to restore Zatanna's soul; they had been party, after all, to a scheme that had included the torture and violation of someone he cares about - cares about far more than he should. But their behaviour, and the audio file, had introduced doubt. What if they, too, had been victims? Just people with useful skills, that Hydra had taken and twisted to their own ends?

Probably he would never know the truth, which meant that would almost compulsively give them the benefit of the doubt. And so, in the end, they'd been added to the list of the dead, the people he hadn't been able to save.

It was a long list.

"You're welcome," Red Robin replies to Peggy's thanks, with only a brief hesitation. There was no point in being impolite, right?

There are few things/policies/people that everyone will recognize as evil from the start. Villains do not believe themselves to be villains. Peggy has seen what her own attempts to make the world safer spiraled into. SHIELD is much larger, much more overreaching, much more of a rabbit hole than she ever imagined it to be when she, Howard and Phillips started it. It's a sobering dose of reality injected to situations such as this.

Perhaps after she listens to the file, more doubts will creep into her mind. Is whatever is in this USB drive the slipper slope down the path which her other self went? Is this why some thought her cold, willing to do what it takes no matter what? She couldn't have become so unfeeling, so willing to ignore morality for results. If she was, she could not have been so strangely revered. However, there remains that doubt in the back of her thoughts.

They both have long lists of names, of deeds that may need explaining to others or themselves. For Peggy, however, much of her list was done after the split. So, she is left with only the anticipation of it, the need to reconcile herself to the woman she became.

Her fingers close over the drive and she looks back up to Red Robin. "I appreciate the drive and the information." There's a pause. While she may not know what Tim truly looks like, she's seen him in disguising street clothes: enough to get a rough guess to his age and build. "You know, I had hoped back in the day that by now young people would not have to fight these battles." The battles not only in the hospital where he retrieved this information, but also what that information contained.

"The war never ends, Agent Carter," Red Robin replies, in his electronically shrouded voice. No doubt she would find the full shape of his own history with it to be an outrage: He'd only been a child when he started this, a boy of fourteen tangling with some of the worst monsters humanity could expel from its collective Id into perhaps doomed city of Gotham. "Not unless we give up and let the other side win."

Naturally, that would be unacceptable.

But there will always be new threats, new dangers. There will always be evil in the hearts of men, unless their free will was stolen. And wouldn't that be the greatest evil of them all?

He pauses, consideringly, wondering if he should say anything else. The Batman would've already left by now, he knows… But then, he's not the Batman.

"We'll get them back," the cowled youth says. "Barnes and Foster." Jane Foster is a stranger to him, and he might have some irrational ill-will towards Barnes over what happened with Zatanna, but even that doesn't override the lessons he was taught. The Code that he clings to, a source of order in a world of chaos, something to divide him from the vigilantes who kill with impunity. Save lives, don't take them.

He turns for the door, then, listening for a long moment with his gloved hand on the knob before he starts to open it, satisfied that the hallway outside is reasonably clear. It's no slipping out a window while Peggy's back is turned, but it'll do.

"Eighth floor, north face," Red Robin adds offhandedly, as he starts to slip out. "Might wanna get your windows checked."

"We hoped that it would," Peggy tells him. Her voice is low, but earnest. World War II was supposed to end the war. The atomic bombs were supposed to be the last bombs dropped. Were she to know his background, it would truly enrage her. She is no stranger to young people fighting the good fight. Eighteen year olds, nineteen year olds. She was nineteen while she worked as a codebreaker during the war. Twenty when she went into active duty. However, fourteen years old is too young to become a vigilante in her opinion.

The pause and the assertion is met with a brief look of surprise that this young man is attempting to bolster and assure her. The stern, business neutral expression that she has worn since his entrance melts to something warmer as she stands, eyes not leaving his face. "Yes. We will." Though, in what state, is her unspoken thought. The files on the drive she was given may have more insight into that.

Peggy watches Red Robin wait for his proper moment to leave her office, now unable to hide a small amount of amusement she finds at the situation. "I'll be sure to pass that along." As the door opens, she tosses a card at him - the throw almost as accurate as the tablet before it. She's sure he knows how to get in contact with her without it, but at least this adds some legitimacy to their meetings. "Next time, feel free to make an appointment. As you may know, my job does not exactly have office hours. "

The card is caught, between two extended, gloved fingers; Red Robin has had to catch much sharper things being thrown at him before, so in the grand scheme of things this one is kind of a relief. He did, after all, figure out how to send her an email without having ever /asked/ about it, but he can appreciate someone in a position of authority wanting to do things by the books where they can.

"All right," the cowled vigilante agrees, with a grim little smile in response to Peggy's remarks; that seems to be about as much mirth as he's capable of, these days, especially when armoring himself in the Red Robin persona. He wasn't always like this, he knows. But everyone changes. "Next time I'll wear a more casual cape."

And then he's gone, the door shutting silently behind him.

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