A Case of the Mondays

April 06, 2017:

The looming threat of an unusual terrorist attack leads Phil Coulson to reach out to Emma Frost, securing her help through an appeal to enlightened self-interest.

Starts at Frost International, ends at the Triskelion

The world won't end with a bang or a whimper. It will be a traffic jam. One ginormous traffic jam.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Monday mornings are the worst. Which is why Emma Frost has made it something of a practice to avoid them entirely.

It is no longer morning, but rather partway into the afternoon when she finally deigns to make her appearance at the Manhattan headquarters of Frost International. Her exquisitely tailored white skirt suit and towering heels are a proverbial suit of armor She does a few cursory things, including the checking of her agenda kept by her executive assistant, and then disappears into the cavernous tribute to modern design that is her office.

The wall of windows allows in the full of the afternoon sun, and the memory of a late night comes to bear as she squints against its brightness. A tap of a button by the door, however, and they begin to tint and dull the sun's intensity.

She walks past a beautiful abstract sculpture of organic curves, down a pair of steps, and into the small sitting area she's established with a pair of round armchairs swathed in white velvet and a white leather couch. She snags her reading tablet, claims a chair, crosses her legs, and begins to scan and tap at the screen as she awaits that aforementioned assistant to bring in some coffee.

—-

The assistant does, looking as decorative as the sculpture in her royal blue suit. She offers the coffee, and clears her throat. "Ma'am, there's an Agent Phillip Coulson outside who says he needs to see you." She lowers her voice, adding, "From SHIELD. He's insisting he needs to see you now, ma'am. What should I do?"

She is a little nervous, this hard-working young woman, concerned that she should already know what it is she should be doing when a government agent shows up without an appointment to bother Ms. Frost in her natural habitat. It seems that the encounter with Coulson left her a little off-balanced just in general, too. She glances nervously behind her at the door, the proverbial mouse caught between what she perceives to be a pair of dangerous cats who could easily make her life miserable, between them, in a number of ways, each unique, each terrible.

Each unique and terrible indeed.

Emma sets down the tablet to gratefully take her cup. But there's more. Even before the assistant speaks, the dread is palpable around the periphery of Frost's own thoughts and it sparks the hint of it in herself. As the other woman speaks, the blonde sips from her perfectly balanced au lait, and then just considers her assistant for a moment. "Agent Coulson," the mind witch finally echoes, if flatly, slowly, and with a long beat falling between the two words.

Her ceramic cup is set down, and then—with a coolness that rivals her gleaming glass desk mere yards away—Emma smiles. "Well, I suppose we shouldn't keep him waiting. If he insists on immediacy." A large, pained sigh escapes her lungs as she continues, "Show him in."

Mondays.

—-

"Yes ma'am," the assistant says, with clear and obvious relief. She all but flees to go tell the man, all to the goal of getting out from between the two of them.

The man arrives with a mild smile that belies the churning tension at the surface of his own thoughts. He could be anyone, but nobody impressive, outwardly. A professor. A bean-counter. If not for the laser-sharp focus. This man's mind is honed like the finest of blades, and that's exactly how it used.

"Ms. Frost," he says, without preamble. "I'm sorry to start your week off like this." He flashes his badge, then offers a hand, all very professional. "But as it happens, I have urgent need of someone with your particular skill set. I've got a car waiting."

Emma simply picks her cup up, suspending its smooth white bowl from perfectly French manicured fingertips. "Do tell," she offers in the accent stripped of all sign of her Bostonian upbringing—an unhurried, unworried reply. She stretches her mind out to feel that little bit of tension where it twists in her guest's brain, looking for the tail end of something to catch onto and ease her hidden curiosity. "And what is it that you need, hm, Agent? I find it hard to believe that S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn't have all of the toys and gadgets that it needs without my company's projects or assets."

Urgent, huh? Right. She's definitely not bleeding concern about his timeline. "But if you would like a cup of coffee to take with you, please, do be my guest. My assistant just brewed a pot."

—-

Phil doesn't even respond to the offer of coffee. The lines on his face tighten, and his smile evaporates. But he gets right to it. "SHIELD is looking for five briefcases full of high-grade biological weapons of alien origin. The contents of any one suitcase could easily wipe out half the planet's population, and this joker somehow got his hands on all five of them." His thoughts reveal he can't wait to strap all five of them onto a rocket and shoot them into the sun which…is apparently a thing SHIELD does.

"Our only lead is the broker who was geared up to sell them to people who should not have those kinds of toys." Not that anyone should have those sorts of toys.

"Unfortunately, during his capture a third party activated a device which put him right into some sort of coma or stasis state. We're trying to wake him, of course, but by the time we figure out what's going on, get him functional, and get through the long and tedious interrogation, it may be too late. Whatever failsafes he put into place in regards to those weapons would have been triggered, they'll be in the wind, and he won't know where he's hidden them anymore. So I am here to ask you to come with me, personally, to go dig through his tiny little brain so that we can go pick these things up and get rid of them before anyone is harmed."

—-

Well, enlightened self-interest is, indeed, a Thing. It does not, however, quell the concern rising in here that Agent Coulson is here on account of looking for a telepath. Hrm. That's a problem.

But he does at least manage to cut to the chase with a surgeon's precision, and that most likely is the most important thing to consider. To appreciate. "Is there a present attached to my decision to not just pretend that you're crazy for suggesting I can do that and call security? Not that I'm in a hurry to die at the hands of some version of E.T.'s influenza, mind."

—-

The faint smile that crosses Phil's features is fatherly. Patient. Like someone who has just been invited to a game of chess and can't wait to sit down and launch his opening gambit.

The surface thoughts say all of that is true except for the patience part.

"A present for not calling security," he muses. "Well. The fact that I'm here tells you that you have a bit of a dossier despite your best efforts. It would really be a shame if we got interested enough in you, or your company, or your affairs to really fill that thing out. I mean…I've got dozens of eager beaver little agents who would just love to get underfoot every chance they get. Who knows what plans they could upset, what investors they could spook, what secrets they could uncover, what actions we'd have to start taking in response?"

He tilts his head, thoughtful, birdlike. "My goodness, given my clearance at the agency I could make you an incredible priority. So how about I express my appreciation for your efforts by not doing that? I'll even throw in brunch after you help us save the world. I mean. Not only would it keep you from dying to ET's Influenza, this is also the place where you keep all your stuff, and dangerous, unpredictable widespread outbreaks do tend to lead to the types of societal collapses that can really tank stock prices. People start setting things on fire. Basic services tend to go away."

He slides his hands into his pockets, for all the world as if he's relaxed, calm, collected, unruffled. "So how about it, Ms. Frost? Care to take a ride over to the Triskelion with me?"

—-

Slender shoulders shrug atop a deep sigh, and there's a final parting sip of that blissful caffeinated beverage before she sets it down. "Brunch? Well. There, you see? You never get the extras unless you ask for them."

Making a show of uncrossing her legs and running hands over her suit to smooth invisible creases, the blonde lifts a hand to brush back the soft cascades of hair and set them behind her shoulders. She has all the outward appearances of being gentle and gracious, unaffected by the threats leveled at her. She's even smiling with some amusement as she walks past him towards the door and, with the coolness of her, you'd think this were all her idea.

"I suppose I might as well if you've left your car illegally parked in front of my building."

—-

This produces a smile that's a bit more genuine; a crinkling of the laugh lines around the agent's eyes. He lets her lead the way, falling into step behind her until they get to the elevator, at which point he positions himself beside her once more.

"Illegally parked? Perish the thought. The driver was instructed to keep it running," he says.

Affable and easy-going though he may seem, his mind is almost entirely devoted to the crisis before him. It maps contingency plans and what-ifs. Potential responses if the briefcases have already been moved, mostly, to say nothing of the line of thought that tracks what he'd need to do, within the first 5 minutes of becoming aware of it, should one of those weapons happen to be set off.

He did not bring Lola to this meeting. The car that's waiting downstairs, illegally positioned in the parking space even though its engine is running, is just a standard-issue, tinted windows, government black-SUV of the sort that can effortlessly lose itself in traffic or a parking garage without ever being easily picked out from the crowd ever again. Phil will hold open the door of the vehicle for her though in gentlemanly fashion.

—-

"Semantics," Emma says as she leads out the door, snagging her purse on the way, although some of her amusement dims as she must now walk out of her office. Her assistant is given an airy wave of her superior's hand, with a quiet comment to clear her calendar for the rest of the day.

But then they're off, through her building with a clearly official-looking man. She'd be a liar if she told anyone that she wasn't steering people's eyes away at convenient moments so that she isn't seen with him, enough that her "guest" would find it difficult to make eye contact with anyone on the way out. Even security.

Unfortunately, her mental gymnastics make it so that she can only occasionally tap into Coulson's running itinerary and strategy, but what she finds is enough to keep her hackles down. For now. She folds into the seat that is offered her with the same careful artistry that saw her rise, a cursory murmur of thanks escaping her painted lips as she folds her hands in her lap.

—-

Does Phil Coulson notice the sudden oddity? Probably. Does he react to it? Absolutely not. He may in fact appreciate it. It adds to his own layers of secrecy and discretion.

He slides in beside her in the back, noting, "I have a feeling you've moved a few mountains on the strength of semantics." It's just a mild, idle statement as he says to the agent-driver in the front, "Let's go. There's no time to waste."

He leans back and pulls out a small device, which he programs rapidly to produce a visitor's badge, one that basically gives Emma clearance to go anywhere Phil is and…not much else. He hands it over, though. The car moves as quickly as it's able on the congested streets of New York. Certain delays do produce the slightest tightening of Phil's mouth, the tiniest hint of annoyance and concern.

By the third or fourth stoplight: I really should have just brought Lola. Damn it.

Out loud, he says, "With any luck we should, in fact, be done before all the really good places stop serving the mimosas." It's an idle comment. Perhaps oddly, some part of him does seem concerned with…putting Emma at her ease? He doesn't trust her, of course— that would be foolhardy. But it seems he likes her well enough, at least enough to not want her to be uncomfortable with the arrangement. At least, now that she's doing what he wants her to do.

—-

While she'd never admit to knowing it, she does. And, likewise, she appreciates the deference and the way his thoughts linger on the task ahead with some singularity, but would never confess. There's something to be said for being known for one's more private talents, but moreover for being treated like a human being when it isn't strictly called for. The thought about his other car, however? That brings a small smile difficult to contain. She'd mention it, but he beats her to the punch—spares her the apology for traipsing through his surface thoughts. She closes her eyes and leans her head back against the headrest as she just begins shutting down the hum of Manhattan and just enjoying the relative silence.

"If it takes longer," she murmurs, "I know plenty of places that can accommodate us." A pause, and then her head lolls in his direction as she smirks. "Is that the real reason you came my way? A chef's table?"

—-

That provokes a sudden, surprised chuckle from Phil. He raises his hands as if that had indeed been on his mind, even though it was not. "You've caught me out, Ms. Frost." Hazel eyes twinkle. If he couldn't laugh, even in the face of a crisis, he'd have gone insane by now.

The Triskelion is at least coming into view, and as it does he loses the rest of his well-hidden impatience. This causes a shift as he decides it's time to provide a little bit more information about the task at hand.

"We've got him up on the hospital wing," he explains. "We've still got vitals and brain waves, so it's not a true stasis. I suspect whatever was done to him has something in common with the dendrotoxins we use in our own ICER rounds, though if it were the same we'd have had him up by now. I've got a small medical team waiting in case their support is required. If you can think of something else you'd want or need done to make the task easier for you I can probably make it happen."

Ah, to business. Emma allows the smile to fade as she follows right along with the details as they're given. "No one else has been mucking around in there, that you know of? No history of mental illness, to your knowledge? And nothing funny on the readings, other than the poorly timed oversleeping?" There's a pause, and then the woman more quietly offers, "Comatose states can be complicated things. But otherwise, I can't imagine that it should be too terrible if he hasn't been in this state long. Not enough time for things to get…" There's a sniff as the woman shifts her course, deciding to just offer instead, "Well, it's just better all around." After that, she opens her eyes to begin taking in her surroundings with her own eyes.

—-

"Other telepaths? No, we don't have any on staff," Phil replies. If they had, he probably wouldn't have shown up looking for her. "As for mental illness, well, none that we know of. Personally I think you have to have a mental illness to do the kind of stuff that he is doing, but that's just me. He's been under for about 3 hours, that's about how long it took for me to decide that we didn't have time for this."

He looks mildly curious as to what happens inside a brain when someone has been in a coma for awhile, but he doesn't press the issue. He has a decent imagination anyway: he can imagine things might get scrambled, garbled, at the very least.

The car pulls into the garage; the driver gets them through the first checkpoints. Once parked, Phil slides out and opens the door for her once more. This is just habit for him: he was raised with a full-scale set of old-world manners.

—-

The ones on staff would probably not be the problematic ones. ….Probably.

If there's any trepidation of being in a facility so securely locked down, it doesn't show on Emma's pristinely painted features. Instead, the woman's demeanor simply cools down a little as she considers the task ahead of her. "And you mentioned a device?"

As for the matter of the car door, his old school manners dovetail neatly into her expectations (even if she weren't a telepath). She waits for him to come before smoothly shifting in her seat and then unfolding. She rolls her subtly and then falls into line with her sharp and even step behind Coulson whenever he begins to move, talking as she goes. "A device, I presume, that is no longer actively doing… whatever it did?"

—-

Here, Coulson frowns as the elevator pulls up and up. "A presumed device," he admits. "Our instruments picked up a sort of one-time pulse. Electromagnetic in nature. We thought perhaps it was remotely triggered. He does have some sort of an RFID implant. It seems to make sense that someone triggered said implant from afar, but it's not doing anything at all now."

His brow furrows still further and his mouth tightens. "I won't lie to you. We have no idea if that thing could be a threat or a complication for you at all. The possibility of having it surgically removed has been discussed, but it's not quite like anything we've ever seen and we're hesitant to tamper with it. It's implanted in a tricky spot in his brain; the attempt to remove it could kill him. Which would definitely put a damper on the amount of intel we could get from him through any means or method."

—-

Emma, who had been content to look at the door from behind her "host's" shoulder, allows her gaze to shift slowly in his direction as her frown grows. If she melted his brain right now, she thinks, she could probably make it to Barbados before anyone was the wiser. She begins to play that scenario in her head, even as she replies with a overtly superficial politeness, "Well, we'll just have to hope for the best, now, won't we?"

She's just filled to the brim with confidence now about this whole endeavor.

—-

If Agent Phil Coulson is concerned about Emma Frost melting his brain, he doesn't let it show. Indeed, he gives her a smile. "Well. I went and got the best, now didn't I?" And with that, the elevator doors open and he just walks right out, stepping one room to the left of the elevator to admit her to the hospital room where this guy is strapped down and monitored. On the bed, he doesn't look like much: a lean and hungry looking man with midnight hair, eyes closed, vitals steady.

He introduces the medical team: Dr. Hal Kuresh, two nurses named Shelly Coldwell and Marcus Banks. The Doc nods curtly and says, "I'm really going to have to register my protests to this yet again, Agent Coulson."

"Noted." Phil replies. "You may continue to protest while you give Ms. Frost whatever she needs to get this done."

A scowl, which Phil ignores.

Not unfamiliar with being the least popular person in the room, Emma's posture is bulletproof as she follows Phil's lean form into the room du jour. "A chair will likely be sufficient," she says, once she's considered the team without much in the way of pleasantries. In fact, she may be going out of her way to look her absolutely most unapproachable.

—-

They don't want her here; she doesn't to be here. It's common ground that is likely best kept unspoken. Intimidating them with her scathing glances will have to do.

At least, until the target in his bed becomes the focus of her attention. Her eyes lock there, and she's moving towards him only a moment later.

Without asking for permission, she reaches out one of those perfectly manicured hands and moves to gently run her thumb over his forehead. "Hello, darling," she softly murmurs to him. "You're going to make this easy for me, aren't you? I need to know a couple of things, and I need you to not fight me about it." Then she leans down and whispers harshly in his ear, "And you'd best be in there."

—-

It is Phillip Coulson who gets the chair. He pulls it from a corner of the room and brings it to her in gentlemanly fashion again; it's not exactly pulling it out for her but it does allow her to settle down into it with a minimum of fuss.

The broker, of course, doesn't answer, but as she touches him she'll notice a few things. His mind is…somewhere. She can feel a thin pulse of it, stretching out and out to somewhere else. It's still linked to him somehow, but it's not directly in the skull. She begins to get the distinct feeling that despite electromagnetic pulses and the release of dendrotoxins from this implant, that what SHIELD thinks is happening here with this guy is not at all what is happening with this guy.

Because the distant mind is active, not at all foggy or fuzzy. She'd have to pursue it with her own consciousness to learn more, but that much is immediately clear to her.

—-

Emma draws her hand back after that, and then frowns. "Well, then." She bites her lower lip as she considers the situation, her blonde head tilting a degree to the side. After a deep breath, she looks over her shoulder. "So, just a couple of ground rules since I don't exactly know what's going on in there and I doubt you've dealt much with telepaths. If something looks like it's going wrongand trust me, you'll know it if you see itplease just make sure my physical form stays as intact and nearby as possible. I'll want it back in good working order. I've invested a great deal into its present condition."

Then it's her she shifts gears, her mind stretching out as she settles herself into the chair he brings her. He receives a grateful tip of the chin for his courteousness. She looks up to him then, an eyebrow pricking upwards and her lips turning a nearly mischievous curl as she speaks without speaking. 'Would you like to take a walk with me, Agent Coulson, or am I tiptoeing through the tulips by myself and reporting back?'

—-

She might sense his surprise, though it's really…faint…in comparison to what others might give her. On his face, that faint, habitual and enigmatic smile widens fractionally. The surprise soon morphs to a sort of boyish wonder; Phil Coulson isn't done being delighted by the world yet.

For a moment, he considers in a very unfocused way what secrets she might gain access to in such a scenario. But even now, his mental discipline doesn't allow any to float to the surface. They are behind a wall. She will know the moment, however, when he decides that he's trusted her this far, and if she'd really wanted to go spelunking she's had ample opportunities. He also has this moment where he worries, briefly, whether he might accidentally have ungentlemanly thoughts (there's no denying that Emma Frost is lovely to behold, after all) which might trouble or distress her. Then he puts that aside as well; merely deciding that anything unintentional is unintentional and can be apologized for later if it truly causes an issue. Once he decides this, he thinks no more of it…he really does have a very orderly brain.

And really, it's too good of an opportunity to pass up.

He gets his own chair and places it beside her, forming his thoughts deliberately, carefully, even as he nods just in case— like most who don't have any telepathic capabilities whatsoever, when he does this he has no idea if he's being 'heard'. I would be delighted to take a walk with you, Miss Frost.

—-

The amusement that lights up her eyes at that should be sign enough that she indeed hears him. All of the errant thoughts and curiosities. So far, anyway, there's nothing there that seems able to even ruffle her proverbial feathers now that the initial huffiness of being summoned is gone.

One soft hand stretches out once more to the broker's forehead, caressing it and then settling her cool palm flatly against it. Good. You know more of what you're looking for than I am, and it's just so much easier all around. I've got a few other… things… that may need my attention.

One glance to the medical team, and her eyes narrow threateningly. "I'm serious about the body, by the way. No scratches."

And then, without any further ado, she closes her eyes and gently moves to set two fingers against his as she sets herself to play the intermediary. 'Here we go,' she warns. It will be a little disorienting at first.'

—-

Dr. Kuresh lets out an exasperated sound. "I am not in the habit of scratching bodies," he says, rather huffily.

Meanwhile, Phil closes his eyes as if he thinks he has to, or should; the team around the hospital shifts. There goes Phil, doing something else they think is crazy or dangerous or stupid.

Once she is fully engaged with this she will feel it; the way they seem to be standing in an empty, cavernous dark hall. She can see a silver star in the distance, somehow outside of this head but connected to it, tethered but outside it somehow, creating a pulsing path that can be followed. The broker's mind almost echoes unpleasantly as a result, like an empthy cathedral; from here it's impossible to even pick up so much as his name.

Duly warned, 'inside' with her, Phil takes a moment to slowly orient himself. The presence with her is warm, analytical, but most of all alert and attentive. He appears, here, like a great silver and black eagle with a faint blue-white aura, hovering beside her in the dark. Can you hear me? The question is almost routine; he'd check a Bluetooth headset exactly the same way. Are we good?

—-

Phil will hear a dark muttering, and easily see as Emma keeps her own familiar and curvy form and looks about. "Well. That's irritating," she states, her voice resonating through the space with an ethereal otherness but seemingly tangible and familiar. "Yes, I can hear you. You'll have to forgive a little bit of a deeper dive than I was hoping for. But your friend had to go and make things a little more complicated."

There's a world-weary sigh, and then the blonde lifts her feet up to start floating down that path as it's laid out. "This should be fun," she remarks, voice dripping with sarcasm and unworried enough.

—-

"Doesn't it always get more complicated?" Phil asks dryly, his voice gaining more resolution as he starts to realize how this works. He doesnât seem to realize he's a bird right now, though he flaps powerful wings to keep up with her, following her through the dark. A completely unruffled bird, who is more surprised by a lack of problems than the presence of them.

The moment she follows that path she's pulled along it in a WOOOSH; and suddenly for the moment sheâs looking through the eyes of…

(Alexander Kumerov)

He walks briskly down a New York Street, focused on a particular gym with very good lockers.

He is nervous. He only has the—

Is someone watching him? Is someone with him?

Emma begins to piece together this man's story. He is one of three; triplets, but the only one whose mind now lives. He was the only one with telepathic abilities. He's nowhere near on Emma Frostâs scale of ability, but the Organization gave him what he needed to destroy the minds of his brothers so he could leap from body to body via the implants. He activated it himself, so he could jump, jump to a body lying prone halfway across town so he could race to recover the suitcases himself.

A situation which makes everything much trickier.

—-

As the tale unfolds, Emma Frost's demeanor begins to chill. But she silently allows the man to fulfill his task. Lockers? She presses gently against the fact, trying to motivate the memory to peel back its layers and the details about the locker before he moves on. About the gym. Anything that she can allow Coulson to "see" for himself.

Can she do that?

The brothers' minds must be linked by more than the tech, mustn't they?, but it does give her concerns about the technology. Coulson might feel a twist of tension mixing with some vague but mostly mild disgust from the telepath; there is no attempt to even mask the bleed of emotions from the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent she pulls along with her.

—-

Memories unfold before her; a swarm of images. The lockers. The menâs locker room. Purchasing the membership. A card that says UFC. Soho. It's the UFC gym in Soho.

Crawling sensation at the base of his skull, behind his ears. He feels Emmaâs touch, he suspects something.

Should he jump again? Flee again? He's so close to the very first oneâ¦

"I agree," Phil says, more to her emotions than to her articulated words. His entire demeanor is grim and cold. This technology disgusts him as well, the organization the man is tied to, the people behind the chips, moreso.

"If we seem a team to intercept that suitcase he'll just jump to the third body." Phil's voice is tense. "But now we know where he's going. Can you get the other four first, so we can sweep them up? And the location of the third…" Body? Shell? Phil's mental imagery settles, distastefully, on the word 'shell.' "If we have all three of those in a cell he can jump all he likes and it won't do him a lick of good."

—-

«If you had all three of them in a room,» Emma tells Coulson plainly, «I could be a little quicker to just get what you need.» And, if the dossier is as telling as she fears it is, that shouldn't exactly fill the agent with confidence about her preferred methodology. Butfor now, at leastshe behaves herself.

She does her best to cloak her presence and that of her tagalong guest, reining in her own emotions to loom less large in the foreign psychic landscape… but it's hard. It's hard to hide from another telepath when in their own mind, on their turf. And it can be dangerous, even if the other telepath is considerably less formidable. And this is… some nasty bastardization, wrapped in fratricide. Gross.

But still. She’s got her own tricks, and softly Emma tries to assuage the other mind’s concerns. To urge the man to instead continue fulfilling his task. There were five briefcases. Hurry, hurry, now. Need to get them all. No time to waste being paranoid.

—-

It's a funny thing about the way a black and white picture changes, like an optical illusion. Acts that might seem heinous or unacceptable— black as pitch, in other words— turn and twist until they're as white as snow when the scale of the disaster they're facing looms.

At least in the mind of one Phil Coulson, who merely gives a grim, silent assent that doesn't flinch or hesitate. When he gets the idea that emotions might be a problem— backwash, perhaps, from their link— he just systematically shuts his own down, until he seems an eagle in truth, viewing the situation with clarity, precision.

Hurry. Yes. Hurry. He's just nervous.

Five briefcases makes him think of the other four locations. Cached in the attic of a vacant home in Scarsdale. He'll get that one last…the one that he tucked away inside of his buddy's funeral home, locked in a display coffin. That one might need to be next, in case they start figuring out his connections, go after his buddy. The one hidden in the train yard. The one hidden, literally, in a store full of closed suitcases.

He swipes his card, he's at the gym now.

—-

Five locations. Oh, happy day. But is it enough?

The mind witch softly asks it of the agent, her psychic representation turning to face his. «Can we go now? We shouldn't stay longer than we need to…»

—-

The Agent hesitates. There's still the third body…

But in the end he respects the expertise of the woman he has recruited into this enterprise. If she were a true member of his team he might push a little farther, but she's not, and she's already gone above and beyond the call of duty. "Of course. I need to get my teams on this, and I don't think I can do that from in here." Or at least, he has no clue how to do that, beliving himself on some level to be fully here and unable to speak in the 'real world.' It's enough to get the suitcases, whether the broker slips his leash to his final body or not…and he won't be able to slip again without putting himself right in their hands.

"You've been more than helpful, Ms. Frost. I appreciate what you've done here."

—-

Permission granted, Emma is very swift to extricate herself out of the other mind, through the strange echoing chamber of thoughts, though the chasm. Phil's a little quicker out, as she simply stops allowing him to the opportunity to piggyback on her psychic senses.

And, assuming all goes well enough on the swift retreat, it should be fine enough a thing for the White Queen to surface again and pull her hands back. She subtly flicks the one that had been touching that still, nigh-thoughtless body as though to shake off some unseen dirt.

"I don't recognize that technology, but…" But it's none of her concern. Rubbing softly at her temple, she rolls her head around a little to fight the start of a headache. Eventually, she does level her ice-blue gaze in her host's direction. She begins again. "You'll keep your end of the bargain?"

—-

The moment he's out Phil offers an opinion.

"That was fabulously trippy!"

Dr. Kuresh scowls again, but Phil ignores him. He is on the headset, pulling up an AR display on his wrist watch as he taps 'keys' and issues orders, sending teams after the suitcase and after the man of the hour. Men of the hour?

(Evil bastard of the hour. We'll settle on that). He paces around, spotting her as she wipes the unseen dirt. He gives a small, sympathetic smile.

He pauses it all to listen to her though, and inclines his head. "Of course." He suddenly smiles again, a muted thing that contains plenty of amusement. "I'd miss that chef's table otherwise. Just give me a— " He's cut off as the moment requires him to interact with his team again. He gives focused, firm orders.

"I'll need a little time to get this wrapped up," he adds. "Would you like to relax somewhere a bit more comfortable while I do? I can— "

"Roger that, Carpenter— "

"Make sure you get your coffee refilled. It's good— yes, of course, clear the civilians out, then move in. You've got this, Russell."

He gives her another aplogetic smile for his flurry of activity, but offers a gentlemanly elbow. "We'll take Lola," he promises. "We'll beat the traffic that way." Ok, so maybe he also just likes her well enough to want to impress her with his red, shiny, flying car.

He's only human.

—-

The giddiness is almost endearing. Almost enough to make up for the circumstances under which her help was commandeered. Emma takes the preferred elbow, playing up all of the delicacies of femininity as she does. The tuck of her chin, the exaggerated sway of hips over those towering heels of hers. She is, after all, a woman with a reputation to keep.

"Take your time. I'll have to a phone call anyway." A pause. A nearly suspicious glance follows it. "I am allowed to make those, aren't I?"

Phil's laugh lines crinkle ever-so-slightly. "Of course. You're not under arrest," he points out. "Today, you're a visitor and an ally."

The lounge he leads her to is comfortable and clean. A lounge in truth, if one overly-innundated with the SHIELD logo. It's on the walls, the ultra-modern table, even the chairs. Someone just really overdid it. He even goes so far as to pour her a cup of coffee from the nearby pot, bringing it over to her while he offers a few more orders, praises, or coaching comments to the people on the other end of the line, effortlessly dividing his attention. He's in his element now, doing the thing that he does best, a thing which leaves him full of energy and excitement as he works it. But soon he goes out of the room to work it, so that she might make her phone call in…

Well. Peace. Privacy, true privacy, might be a bit much to ask for, here.

—-

Ally? Oh, that has a dangerous sound to it. But Emma keeps on smiling. And as Phil talks, she settles herself in and takes the coffee with a murmur of thanks. (When he's not looking, she sniffs it cautiously before daring to sip any of it and deigning it tolerable.)

But soon enough he is gone, and peace is good enough to make a call for a table for two. Which is precisely what the businesswoman does as soon as she slides her slim phone out of her purse. "Robert!" she enthuses after dialing and waiting a few moments, her smile bright and her hand enthusiastically—if needlessly—emphatic. "Just the handsome devil I was hoping to reach…"

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