The Truth is Out There

March 10, 2017:

In a random shop in Chinatown, a strange discovery is made of items that could hold an other worldly origin.



NPCs: None.



Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Looking a whole lot like a tourist, Alex Danvers wanders slowly along a crowded street, looking in the cluttered windows of various stores as she goes. Instead of her usual black on black, she's swapped out the black polo shirt for a red scoop necked tee under a blue leather jacket. Her purse looks more like a backpack than anything else, and she uses it much the same. She's also got a Yankees hat on, because, again… she looks like a tourist.

Still, she carries her phone and there's a bluetooth earpiece in her right ear. There's a GPS app open on her phone, which makes sense for a tourist, right? She pauses, however, at a darkened entrance to a narrow storefront that has crisscrossed bars in the windows rather than a lot of tchotchkes. Shoving her phone into an inner pocket in her jacket, she pushes into the shop, the brass temple bells over the door announcing her presence.

Lara was already inside of this shop that Alex had come into just now. She was standing near a shelf on the far wall and she was pointing up at a dark leather bag that had a bronze 'coin' attached to the cover flap. "That one…" Lara was saying to a store clerk that was attempting to assist her. He was a small asian man, aging, and he looked up at the bag that the British woman was pointing at. The man started to prattle on about how that bag had been in the store for some time now, many many years. His English was thick with Asian accents, difficult to understand.

"I can tell." Lara said back to him. "I believe that medallion that is attached to it used to belong to my family." She looked back down to the man then. "I'd very much like to get the bag down, please."

The man nodded and shuffled off to get a poking stick used to get stuff that was stored up high.

Lara heard the front door open and she looked over to see Alex enter. She didn't stare long though, she didn't want to be a weirdo afterall. Her eyes went to other items hung up on the walls.

Alex does a quick visual sweep of the store, noting that its cluttered floor plan and narrow architecture make for incredibly horrible sightlines in general. But, she does note the other woman in the store, as well as the Asian shopkeeper shuffling off to the back. She gives a brief, impersonal smile as Lara's eyes sweep over her, but is just as keen on avoiding attention as the other woman likely is. As it is, she moves to the far end of the same wall and starts inspecting some of the knick knacks on display. Eventually, she centers on a particularly garish display halfway down the wall. It consists of what appear to be knock offs of Han Dynasty bi disks — those jade circles with the holes in the center. These, however, are covered in crisscrossing lines in various patterns that don't quite match normal Chinese patterning for the period. Alex picks one up in one palm and traces her fingers over it.

Lara stood about, here and there, waiting for the elderly man to return with the wooden stick that had a metal hook fashioned onto the end of it. She smiled at him and offered to assist him with that rather than let him over-extend himself but he just waved her off and told her he was just as limber today as he was fifty years ago. Nevermind the fact that Lara was almost a full head taller than the man.

Once the bag was down though, he offered it to her and told her flatly "Twenty dollars."

Lara was in the process of examining the bag, but more specifically the bronze medallion that was set into the leather. "Its the same exact face…" She sighed then, knowing she needed to rip the coin off of the bag, but she didn't want to do that here in front of the owner. "Twenty?" She asked, looking up to him as he waddled to the register. "Thats fine…"

Lara walked to the register with the bag, glancing once more toward Alex who was examining something, but the Brit couldn't tell what precisely. She sat the bag on the counter and went to pull her pocket book out of her black leather jacket's right pocket.

Alex pulls a small velvet bag from her pocket and pours its contents into her hand. It's another disc, very similar to the one on the display. She compares the two, one in each hand, feeling the weight of them and then looking at the markings. As she inadvertently brings the pair closer together, there's a momentary spark of energy and she actually yelps, nearly dropping them. "Holy crap!"

That she actually manages to catch them before they hit the floor displays definite reflexes. Not superhuman reflexes, mind. But, she's quick. Taking the disc she pulled from the bag, she quickly begins to move it over the garish display, watching as every second or third knock off lights up and sparks like a shorting wire.

She looks over to where the man is trying to process Lara's transaction while staring at the lightshow Alex is creating. "Where'd you get these?" she asks, perhaps a trifle sharply.

Lara slid a 20 spot across the counter to the man behind it and he went to place it in the register. When the lightshow started over in Alex's location, both the clerk and Lara looked as well. She still couldn't quite see what the woman was holding until the various similar stones started lighting up. Lara's eyes narrowed as she watched this unfold.

When Alex approached, demanded to know where these discs had come from the little Asian clerk shook his head and threw up his hands. He said that this store dealt in large amounts of trade, things come in and things go out. He gave no solid answer on where those stones came from, but he was also jumping from English to Chinese pretty randomly.

"Those are Jade Bi Stones." Lara said to Alex. "They're quite common in China. They come in all sizes but generally always hold the same design." Lara wasn't the type to study in aliens and she may or may not even have Dropa-stone knowledge at all.

Alex gives Lara a wry smile. "Yeah. So I've been told. But most don't light up like misfiring firestarters." She scoops up the ones that lit up and brings them over to the counter. "How much?" she asks the babbling shopkeeper, raising a hand to try and slow him down. "Look, we can discuss where you got 'em later. Right now, just… how much?"

She lays the discs on the countertop, pulling the little velvet bag from her pocket again and sliding the original she had back into it. She then gives Lara an apologetic smile. "Sorry. Don't really mean to interrupt." But she does point to the designs. "I'm not archeologist," she admits, having no idea who she's speaking to, "but my friend said to look for markings like this because they're more unique than most."

Lara had admittedly thought that the stones had been coated in something that had 'sparked' which must've caused them to light up like that. So when Alex approaches the counter and sets them down, she listens to the woman but her eyes are locked onto the discs. It didn't take her long before she saw what Alex had seen… and it made her dark brown eyes narrow and her brows furrow.

Lara shifted the bag she'd just purchased under her left arm and she leaned down clsoe to the stones, maybe even to a degree that would seem odd to Alex. She reached out with her right hand and moved her first two fingers toward the closest one. "These designs are remarkable." She muttered. She went to pick one of them up, because… when Lara Croft got started down a path in her mind she kind of got easily lost on said path. And as such, she now seemed really distracted by the disc she was reaching to pick up so she could eyeball closer and hopefully turn around to investigate its every edge and surface.

Alex has seen that look before. She has colleagues who get that look around artifacts like this. Her? She gets it when someone dangles a new alien biology or weapon to dissect in front of her. She cants her head as the other woman begins her own examination. "You… know something about these things?" she asks tentatively, eyeing the shopkeep as she does. The dollar signs are almost flashing through his eyes. Oh, this is gonna make for a fun 'negotiation', she's sure. She's already considering shifting the badge in her pocket to a Homeland Security or USITC ID, since DEO isn't going to get her anywhere.

It took Lara a second before she realized she was being asked a question by the woman. She'd look up at her then and try to regain her focus into the here and now. "Oh. Uh…" She searched for the right words. "Admittedly, no." She told the other woman. "These are not what I thought they were. They appear to be something, unique. Cousins to Bi-stones, perhaps… long removed cousins." She glanced back to the pile of them on the counter.

A second later and Lara extended her right hand toward the woman, she was wearing a black wool-glove that was fingerless so her fingertips were poking through. "I'm Lara. I… am… an archaeologist." She said with a soft, but friendly smile.

"Whole pile, two hundred!" The store clerk announced.

Lara's eyes went over to look at the man, clearly able to see his angle here… she may have made it worse infact too. A sigh came from between her lips and she looked back to Alex and tried to give an apologetic stare.

"Alex," the American woman replies with a smile, accepting the hand shake. "Nice to meet you Lara. I might need an archeologist before all this is over."

But, $200? She turns back to the shop keeper, laying her palms on the counter and leaning forward. "Like hell. The rest of those discs over there aren't worth more than five bucks each. $50." Maybe she's done this before? Maybe she hasn't. That badge in her pocket is still an option.

Lara shook the hand and then released it while nodding softly at the needing an archaeologist bit. She would then place the disc back down onto the counter that she had picked up. "I'll pay half the price." She said to the storeclerk as well who looked between the two women. He seemed displeased by all of this.

"Seventy…. five." He said, slowly and calculated while picking at a bowl of tortilla chips that he had next to his register (not very asian, but he had his own tastes!)

Lara would hear his bargaining and she'd look back to Alex to see if this was a price she'd accept. "Its only fair that I pay half of whatever." She says softly in her British accent.

Alex eyes Lara for a moment. And then the shopkeeper. She makes a brief calculation about how that's likely to work out. "I don't know about fair," she says, "but…" She looks at the old man. "$60. Thirty from her, thirty from me."

He's probably the one getting the short shrift, now.

If those discs are what they would appear to be, the value of them would be astronomical.

"Fine." The storeclerk said. "Cause I like your smiling faces." He added and then went to ring them up and get a bag for the discs.

Lara smirked at the man and she went to get yet more money out of her pocket. A few seconds later and she was sliding another twenty and a ten across the counter toward the register. "That should do it then." She said, her eyes once more glancing at the items in-question. They intrigued her, but she needed not to so openly show it off and start this bidding war all over again.

Alex lays thirty down on the counter and, with Lara's bills there to match, scoops up the discs before the fellow can change his mind. She gives him a winning smile in response to his perhaps begrudging compliment, knowing the pair has won. "Thanks."

As he passes over a receipt shortly there after, collecting the green off the counter, she looks to Lara. "Care to join me for a coffee?" she asks. "Or tea. I think I saw a bubble tea place back a block or two."

The asian clerk was coming back up with the bag for the discs when Alex swiped them and he just stared at her with a dumbfounded expression, but he didn't fight it. He just set the bag down and went back to his bowl of chips. He waved the two women off and turned his eyes back to his tiny tv that was showing old episodes of MASH.

Lara nodded once when Alex got her items and she turned to look toward the woman. "I can't let those things just vanish with a little more story as to why you're after them, let alone how you knew they were here." She said with a small smile. "Tea sounds wonderful." She'd add and would move toward the exit to the store, pushing the door open and causing the bell to ring again, holding the door open for the other.

Alex nods her thanks to the other woman as she holds the door. Then, the disks now securely in her pockets, she steps out on to sidewalk and looks back up the street where she saw the tea shop. "This way, I think," she says, taking a step or two and glancing back to make sure the Brit is still with her.

"I owe you thirty dollars, by the way. Because I don't know that I can really share these things with you, unless my boss clears it." Which might partially explain how she knew the discs were there.

"I work for Customs and Boarder Protection. We're trying to stem the import of illegal artifacts. These knock offs are potentially dangerous due to the materials used in their fabrication." The only lie in the whole explanation is the name of the agency she works for, because she can't very well come out and say, 'Yeah, so I work for the government's alien hunter agency, um-kay?' The planet is still only just coming to terms with the idea of extra-terrestrials.

Lara took a second to put that leather bag she'd bought into her black Jeep that was parked alongisde the street outside of the store, the vehicle looked brand new. She moved to catchup alongside Alex then, her freed hands now going inside of her jacket pockets. She listened to the woman's words and bobbed her head two small times in understanding. "Really, I just have an undying love of such artifacts." She told the woman. "Its been my life's obsession, as it was my father's before me."

With a bit more hesitation, she continued. "I am… an agent with SHIELD. I work in their acquisition's department, in fact. Its a new job, but it has already come with its fair-share of eye-widening experiences." A soft exhale came from between her lips then. "I don't wish to actually take the discs from you, more-so just want to understand them more. Afterall, what hapepened in there… was more than a little, curious. To say the least." She showed another faint smile then.

Alex actually laughs, now — a dry, ironic sound. "Of course, you are," she says with regard to the revelation Lara is in SHIELD. The DEO's favourite adversaries… when they aren't out beating up on recalcitrant aliens and metas. She reaches into her pocket now and pulls out her legitimate badge. " Ok. I'll come clean. DEO. Please don't make this into a jurisdictional battle. The paperwork will bury us both." Not to mention it's probably both their directors will go postal on their asses. A beat. She gestures to the tea shop. "We should definitely talk."

Lara had only come to the United States a handful of months ago, and she'd gotten this job with SHIELD due to ther abilities and her notorious past exploits that had made headlines a few years back. All of this was still new to her, and she'd been fast-tracked to Agent status within the group. Which has lead her to often feeling quite clueless in official SHIELD business.

"I don't care about the politics between government agencies." Lara said then, seeing the badge.. she had one of her own in her pocket, but it stayed there. "I'm honestly just an archaegologist with an avid desire to uncover truths and protect the world from anything that might wish to harm it. I may not be as capable as… say, a Thor or a Superman, but I know I can do my part."

The Tea Shop's door was opened for Alex as well, allowing the other woman to yet once more pass ahead of her, she was nothing if not well trained with manners.

Alex steps ahead of Lara into the shop and looks around for a suitable table. She gestures towards it and waits for Lara to obtain her seat, sitting herself simultaneously. The badge is tucked away.

"You don't need to be Thor or Superman to make a difference," Alex says, then, with some conviction. "If you did, there wouldn't be a point in what most of us do." She's no superhuman, either. "I'm a bioengineer," she says, then, seeking common ground. "These artifacts are little beyond me, but my higher-ups are convinced they're alien in origin and that Earth is essentially being used as a galactic black market." She pulls the artifacts out of her pockets and lays them on the table. "My job is to figure out how they connect, what they do, and where they come from." A beat. "Maybe we can help each other?"

Not, mind, that she won't check into Lara's story later; just as she expects Lara would do concerning her.

Lara sat across from the other and she shrugged her leather jacket off of her shoulders, having a dark grey hoodie on beneath it, she draped her jacket over the back of her chair. "Alien?" She repeated softly and her hands went out, fingertips outreached toward the discs once more, She slid two of them together and turned them around slowly until their patterns seemed to be side-by-side. Her head gently shook after hearing Alex's rundown on it all.

"If that is true, these could be anything. Data storage. Tracking devices. Currency?" She would look up again toward Alex, a calm expression on her face. "Obviously the patterns upon their surface hold the greatest clues as to their nature." She paused. "I'm a bit fuzzy on alien languages, however." She said with a soft smile.

Lara took a second to reach into ehr jacket then and she pulled out her own identification, deciding it best that she did show it. She unfolded the leather slip and slid it over to Alex. "For peace of mind." She told the other, her voice was calming and soft. The badge had her photo and SHIELD information on it. It ID'd her as amember of WAND, which was a division operated by Melinda May.

Alex gives a wry smile. "Yeah, me, too." Alien languages aren't her forte. "Put one these under a microscope, though, and you get all sorts of interesting script. Not that we can read it, mind, but I have it under good authority that the hieroglyphs mean something." She looks entirely earnest. Then, her wry, ironic humour returns. "Not that any of us know what."

No surprise.

She glances at the badage and notes the WAND designation. Could be a useful contact there, yeah. "Thanks."

"What we know for sure is that they react in close proximity as one another, as you saw, I'm sure, and that they seem to be interconnected, like fragments of a puzzle or blueprint. Or possibly a message. We're not sure."

Announcement: Danny Rand has been approved. Congratulations, Danny Rand!

Lara brought the ID back and closed it, slipped it into her hoodie pocket at her left side. She put her hands together on the table then and laid the right overtop of the left, her fingerless wool gloves were still on.

A gentle single nod was shown then as she listened to Alex's words. "Do you have any idea how many there are out there?" She asked. "If they do share a symbiotic relationship, then getting them all together might be the first step in figuring out why they… light up, like that." Lara's head started to gently shake side to side as she thought it all. So many crackpot stories out there about alien's visiting earth and what they were up to… People believed that aliens first visited Earth countless years ago and shaped everything up to today. Let alone the more mundane stories about adductions and experimentations.

"You seemed, surprised, when you found them in the store this evening." She said then to the other agent from another agency. "Did you receive a random tip that said you could find some of them there?"

Lara would take a moment then to place an order for a cup of hot tea.

Alex has come across some of the myths and stories about aliens visiting Earth throughout the course of her career. But, to be fair, the ones that most interest her are the contemporary ones. Ancient history hasn't been high on her list of active subjects until very recently. (Like earlier in the day.)

"I was," she admits. "I didn't think they'd be out in the open like that. We're not sure if they're being passed through knowledgeable channels or just muled in on unsuspecting patsies. So, I really need to find out whether or not that old man knows where they came from or not. I just didn't want to risk a violent confrontation in front of an audience." In other words, she didn't know the other woman was any sort of agent at the time and was trying not to tip her hand.

"The working theory we're basing our investigation on is that there are multiple copies, but that they group in a Fibonacci sequence based upon significant prime numbers." That part she actually understands. Math geek. She looks at those spread on the table. "I have six here. That's not a prime number. So, the next possibilities are seven, eleven, and thirteen. But until I know the sequence, I can't begin to postulate on the final numbers we're dealing with. It will largely depend on what they're designed to do. We've determined they utilize some sort of energy transference, and are guessing they may create or trigger some sort of power source. But it's all speculation."

Once more Lara's head gently shook side to side. "By the sounds of it…." She started. "They could simply contain alien recipes on how to cook the perfect space chicken dinner." She then showed an apologetic smirk to the other and leaned forward to put her elbows onto the table, folding her arms atop one another.

"You'll have to go back to the store, ask the man if he had any other's in his possession as well." She said over the table to the other agent. "He may ahve sold one or two to… god knows who." She glanced down to the items. "They share such a similar appearance to something that is considered quite common in Asia." Another little headshake. "Perhaps your people will be able to find a way to track others. If these have the ability to create a lightsource, then maybe that energy can be measured and tracked."

Lara's eyes went back up to Alex. "All the same. I'm going to do a fair amount of research on these once I get home, see if I can't learn a little more about these curious fellows. They certainly have secrets that they're just dying to share, that much I am sure of."

When the tea arrived, Lara sat back in her chair again and accepted her cup with a grateful smile for the employee. She brought the beverage up with both of her gloved hands for a welcomed sip.

Alex accepts a cup of tea of her own, and thanks the server as she retreats. Then, she slides one of the five new discs across the table. "Take this," she suggests. "Just promise me you'll let me know what you find." A beat, she smiles while fishing out a card with her contact info on it. "We can trade info. Make both our bosses at once happy and miserable." She knows how that game is played, and she plays it well.

"It could be that it's just an alien cookbook. But, who knows if one of the recipes in it isn't Sauted Human, right?" Not that she believes most aliens eat people. That doesn't strike her as a likely thing. "My team is betting on it being something closer in nature to that thing they built in the movie Contact." (She's also a somewhat closeted sci-fi geek.) "Cook books don't usually hit the best seller list on the black market."

Lara looked down at the disc when it was slid her way with the card. She placed her left fingertips over them both and then looked back up to Alex. A smile showed and she nodded a single time. "My superior has a way of being intimidating, even when she's at her happiest moments."

At the recipe stuff, Lara smiled with a bit more strength behind it and she shook her head. "Yes, I strongly doubt that that is the nature of these little ones. I would think it more likely that they are storage devices for data, or pieces to a puzzle that is a message when properly placed together. But the curiosity certainly fans the flames of the discovery. So I will look into it."

She pocketed both items and then pulled out a card of her own, they were… SHIELD standard, printed up with basic info and not very flashy. Lara had actually only been given them about a week ago, it'd taken a month to get her that far into the system. The card was similarly offered across the table.

"Well, this certainly became a more interesting day than I had originally thought it would be." She smiled again and once more sipped her tea.

"For me, too," Alex agrees, flashing a smile. She takes the card in trade and slides it into her pocket, though the rest of the artifacts are slid into her purse. She reaches for her tea and actually savours it in a decidedly unAmerican fashion. But, that's likely more a learned behaviour than a natural one. "I'll look forward to hearing from you later, I know," she smiles.


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