Off the Books

March 01, 2018:

Steve and Peggy talk about certain discrepancies in SHIELD that she has found.

//SHIELD Satellite //

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Michael Carter

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

SHIELD is quite a large agency, which multiple branches spread out amongst both the US and the World. Though the Triskelion is its largest and its headquarters, there is even a small satellite space elsewhere in New York.

While Peggy's office is at the Triskelion, today, she's at one of the smaller spaces, working out of what seems to be a little used conference room. There are boxes piled up in here - though it's hard to say if that is due to her or if the people here are merely use the space as an extra closet or if this is Peggy's doing.

A few bags are set to the side and a large stack of papers, neatly organized, is in front of one of the chairs. Peggy, however, stands and paces chewing a fingernail as she does it.

She's asked Steve to meet her out here as opposed to her actual office, which is odd - but also not exactly worrying.

*

"If you need anything, just be sure to call the number on the card. If I can, I'll try and respond myself, but SHIELD has a whole department for this." An awkward pause lingers in the air as blue eyes meet a woman dressed in a long sleeved blue dress and a lighter blue hijab. The speaker himself is dressed in his usual attire, the proud uniform of Captain America, though it lacks the helm, exposing his expression both awkward and pained at the same time. "…to be honest, I think they are better at this than I am."

"I'm touched you came at all. Sameer spoke highly of you."

"Agent Sameer was a good man, he deserved nothing less than to make sure that his family was taken care of."

A phone rings and Cap looks to see what the message is about. "I'm sorry, but I have to go. Again, if you need anything, let us know."

The woman merely gives a nod with a sad smile, having understood how the government agency enough to allow that to be a goodbye and the door slowly closes on the Leader of Men, Steve Rogers.

TWO HOURS LATER….

"Sorry, Peggy, I came as quickly as I could," Steve begins, moving into the room still in his red, white, and blues sans helmeted cowl. "What's up? This about Stark?"

*

Peggy glances up from her pacing, expression still creased with contemplation. However, seeing him in his Captain America outfit makes her stop in her tracks. "It's quite alright, Steve. The pacing is not from impatience, but from an attempt to jog a line of thought, as it were. I hope I didn't pull you from something else."

The question about Stark is met with a shake of her head. "No. Perhaps it may involve him and what happened on another level, but this has to do with something else. Shut the door, if you would?" While they're in a secure facility, it's not the facility itself that she's worried about so much as prying ears and eyes.

"There's bagels and muffins in the bag. They're from a few hours ago, but they should still be good. I was told it was from the premiere bakery around here." Once the door is shut, she takes a few moments. "There is a mole in SHIELD. High up. I am almost certain of it now. I wasn't sure if you knew or not." Mincing words is not exactly a weakness that Peggy has.

*

A brief look back is given as Steve recalls the last few hours, blue eyes lost in momentary regret. "If I'm not being pulled from one thing to the next, I'm not doing my job right," Steve admits with a half hearted smirk, a poor attempt to make things lighter.

At Peggy's explanation and request, the door is slowly closed. "Love that place," Steve replies as he recognizes the brand. As Steve is halfway to securing a bagel, Carter goes right into it. The hand freezes and slowly retracts. "Are you're sure of-Well, of course you are, you said as much," Steve replies, having slowly learned of Peggy's intolerance of pointless questions. "I didn't know, but there are times I purposefully try and keep myself from information like that. Considering the stuff we do, I understand entirely the concept of need to know."

Despite the subject matter, hunger looms within the fast metabolizing body of Captain America and he secures himself a plain bagel before getting out the garden spread cream cheese. "I guess something must be going down if I need to know," he muses darkly as he prepares his snack.

*

Peggy recognizes the look in Steve's eyes and attempts to give him a reassuring look. She knows she's not exactly helping matters here, she knows. There is a lot that Steve takes on and has to do and she does not exactly wish to make it harder, but she also thinks he should know.

As for his general thoughts of being 'need to know' she nods her head. "Yes. If you'd prefer me to simply continue in my investigation without your input, I understand. However, I think this is becoming bigger than simply a matter of political intrigue. I think it's larger than that and that it may threaten SHIELD itself."

The thought of that must be what has gotten her to pace. As Steve procures some food for himself, she waits until he's a bit more settled and answers her question before launching into her thoughts. "There are things that we can discuss and things I had hoped you could look into that do not necessarily need an explanation, if that is what you would prefer."

*

Rogers arches a brow as Peggy offers her deference to the Star-spangled Man with a Plan. "You know the situation and have more experience with this sort of thing, so I'll go with what you feel is best. I'm fine either way. I obviously like to know what I'm dealing with, but I understand there are some cons that come with that as well," Cap admits, understanding in the world of telepaths and magic, it can take more than just good intentions and a strong will to keep a secret. "But either way, what things do you need me to do?" While Peggy responds, it is only then that the tasty bagel is swiftly consumed.

*

Peggy matches Steve's own expression as he defers her deference back to her. With something a rueful smile, she nods at that. "Alright. I had hoped for your insight, so I'll proceed with my original plan. It requires some discretion, a bit more espionage rather than straight infiltration," she agrees to the fact that moving forward is a bit more complicated than simply diagnosing a problem and immediately moving forward to solve it.

As Steve makes quick work of the bagel, she starts pulling out her files. "I've kept everything on paper, as I have a feeling that should I keep digital records they could easily be compromised."

Arranging folders, she continues, "I started to grow concerned about the politics of SHIELD after I was suspended for giving testimony at James' trial regarding the documents from our rescue mission for Jane. However, Agent Coulson all but confirmed those misgivings when he reinstated me a few weeks ago. He also believes that there is a Hydra agent in SHIELD. Possibly in one of the council positions. Only someone of the highest levels could have both sealed those documents when all other protocols would suggest them to not be sealed as such."

With a sigh, she gestures about. "I'm going to see what I can do to poke about at what else might have been classified that shouldn't have been. I was hoping you might rattle a few bars to see who might startle."

*

"Talking about me giving insight of moles." There is a long pause as Cap recalls his time dealing with them.

August, 1944, European Air:

Captain America is dressed like a grandmother while seated on a plane flying to Poland.
Bucky Barnes looks over, just slow frowns from his much more natural disguise looks back to his newspaper written in German.

Slowly, the SS soldier looks over to Rogers. "«Do you have needs I can attend to?»"

"EH?" Cap replies.

"«Do you have needs I can attend to?»" is offered again, much louder.

"«Do you have needs I can attend to?»"

"«CAN'T HEAR YOU WITH OLD WOMAN NOSE.»

Barnes sighs as he reaches toward his holdout pistol.

October, 1944, Berlin:

The woman trains her gun on Captain America and Bucky Barnes. "No, I expect you to die."

Captain America blinks is surprise, his shield a few feet away from him; something he did not think was an issue until now. "How can you? I thought you were supposed to be helping me!"

Dum Dum Dungan explains with a tired deadpan tone, "She's German. And had valuable intel that was always right. And wanted to help you 'out of the goodness of her heart'."
Steve looks back with shock. "I know, right? We've been had!"

Dum Dum Dugan gives a tired sigh as he reaches toward his holdout pistol.

Now:

"I think your judgment is likely best," Cap replies.

As the information is shared, Cap frowns as he considers what all this means. "Rattle bars… You mean call for an internal investigation?" he replies, rubbing his chin. "I thought with moles, you wanted to make them think they were moling so you could out-mole them. But I guess I could try and see if they make a move toward me while I'm being overt." Slight pause. "Usually better with being overt."

*

As Steve frowns and considers about both the information she has given him and also his own experience with espionage work and mole hunting, Peggy can't help but smile. It's something warm and fond and also quick. It's there for only a few moments before it falls back into a more professional expression. "That is exactly it."

Plucking a few specific files, from those she has already lain out, she slides them over. "I don't want you to call for an internal investigation. Honestly, I was hoping I could simply ask you to be who you are and just look into things." With a shrug, she crosses her arms in front of her. "Honestly, this is what I was going to ask you to look into with or without knowing more about the mole. I just want you to look into these things and not take no for an answer. Be overt, be stubborn, be righteous. Much of what I'm giving you has been classified for seemingly no reason. I have no idea what is in some of these files, but from what I can decode, they do not seem as if they should at all be Level 9."

She gives him a smile. "Perhaps I'm wrong and I simply cannot understand the scope of the world as it is today, but I do not believe that the case. Some of these files may be red herrings, but few have started to look into their discrepancies because of the system already in place. If you start to ask questions, people will take notice and moves will have to be made." She gives him a bit of an apologetic look. "Do you mind being a Trojan Horse of sorts? Even in the explanations given to you, you may garner answers I would never be able to recieve."

*

"I can see what I can do. Remember though, I'm working with SHIELD as more of a 'guest of honor' than a true position," Steve points out as he takes the files and looks up at them. While working with most of the founding members of SHIELD puts him in a special position of favor, Rogers knows that favor can be dropped at a moment's notice and there are times friends are powerless to stop the tide of procedure. "I'll see what I can do. I can't promise much, but I'll do my best," he answers simply, raising the files in a motion to say 'can I have these' before putting them with his things or handing them back toward Carter depending on her answer.

"Hopefully, this is us just making this all overblown or the like," Steve notes. "I really don't like the idea of the thing we fought against being in our midst. We fought so hard against them /back then/ to have them poisoning the well /right now/."

*

Peggy gives Steve a smile. "You are a guest of honor, but you are still Captain America. Even if you don't have the proper clearance, the very fact that you are digging…well. It brings credence to the idea." Peggy gives him an apologetic smile. "This is why I wanted to talk to you openly. I don't like the idea of using you as a tool, though in this moment, your actions of merely looking into these cases may cause a stir without any actual infiltration or spywork. That's what I would like."

One of the files is SHIELD helping Stark Industries look into alternative energy sources back in the 60s. Another is her own file, which involves Barnes' classified documents, another is a document of flight logs documented to a SHIELD pilot named Percy Maher that seem to be all in order but the gas logs of the Quinjet he was flying is slightly off.

"Something is wrong here, Steve." A look of pure worry and emotion crosses her face. "This is something I built and I fear there is something rotten within it. Does that make it my fault?"

*

Steve begins to look over the files, perhaps putting together his own theories on why these files were singled out. One supposes that is a good thing since his involvement would need to look as natural as possible. He doesn't study them in too much detail, merely putting them away and tucking them under his arm.

"I'd say you have as much responsibility to it as George Washington does for the American Civil War or Einstein for Chernobyl," Steve replies, his calm eyes staring into hers with that righteous strength that always seems to be with him like an aura. "You can't control something when you're removed from it. Besides, it wasn't just you who helped make SHIELD. For better or worse, there were a lot of hands that went into making this. All we're responsible is doing our best to make this world a better place. Nothing more, nothing less."

*

"I don't know how I feel about being compared to Washington or Einstein. I think I should be flattered." Peggy gives Steve something of a smile. Then she gives him a look. It is both professional and concerned. "Is this alright with you? What I've asked of you? I can have you look into other things."

As for the lot of hands that went into SHIELD, she nods. "I know. However, I was one of their head amongst them. I can't blame others for fundamental mistakes I might have made. Just because we want to make a better place doesn't mean we are absolved from the repercussions of our actions, no matter our intentions."

There's a shake of her head. "I sometimes wonder: would the world have been a better place had the power of the nuclear bomb not been harnessed? SHIELD is not a nuclear missile, but it has the capability to be very damaging if left in the wrong hands. And I had a hand in that."

Peggy sighs and runs a hand through her hair. "I'm sorry, the idea of a mole hunt on the toes of my brother's troubles has made me melancholy."

*

As Peggy speaks, Rogers continues to study the files, frowning to the suggestion that SHIELD is perhaps not as perfect as he wished it were. The question of 'is it alright with you' is ignored, perhaps because he figures it's something he's agreed to do. Instead, he talks of other things. "Because of Project Rebirth, my best friend was almost killed, turned into an assassin, and now deals with the aftermath of that every day. Various governments and organizations want to discover the secret to have their own super army at their disposal. Radio, TV, the telephone, the internet… Every technological advancement, almost everything man can create has the potential for something horrible." It's odd how calm Steve can be while saying such things.

"All you can do is the best you can do," Steve continues, finally putting the files down. He doesn't need to memorize them. Just get a general idea. "If you make a mistake, own up to it. If you drop the ball, pick it back up. Don't beat yourself up if you failed if you're willing to move forward."

A small smile is given as Rogers moves closer toward Peggy. It's rare that he is willing to even touch the woman in the workplace for reasons they've discussed at length. But he does rest a supportive hand on her shoulder. "And there are few people that I think are better equipped to keep moving forward than you. It'll take some time to do so sometimes, but that means you're still human."

*

"Yes, I know." Peggy sighs, hating how she feels both responsible and helpless in the face of these files. "I know all things can be used for good or for ill, that we are not inherently responsible for everything that other may do with something we have made. However, it doesn't mean I don't still feel the weight of it."

There are more files, some involving glitches in the secure internet that feeds into the Triskelion, a the mislabeling of some 084s, and so on and so forth. All of these things may mean something, or they may all simply be coincidences. It's simply impossible to tell without looking into it more.

Her palms lay flat on the table in front of her and she responds with something of a smirk. "I know that in theory," she agrees. It's easy to tell herself that she should not beat herself up. In practice? Well, that becomes a bit harder at times.

The hand on her shoulder is met with a freeze. They have talked about their relationship in the workplace. Work is work and that is a very strict line in her mind. Not only that, Peggy heard far too many episodes of the Captain America Hour and the simpering nurse Betty Carver. She has no wish to only be known as Captain America's girlfriend.

That momentary reaction, however, softens an she reaches up to place her own hand on top of his. There's a slight turn of her face toward him and their clasped hands and she relaxes. "Thank you, Steve," she tells him. It's soft, earnest and with less of her authoritative Agent Voice. "I needed to hear that."

*

A few awkward moments pass in the wake of Carter's kind response. Finally, the clock seems to resume for the Man Out of Time. "Well, I suppose I should get going on these," he offers simply, retracting himself back toward the files. "I'll keep you posted if something turns up one way or another."

The files are gathered simply and placed into his hand with some chagrin. "In any case, if there is anything I can do to help, either on these or with your brother. Let me know." It's clear that he's keeping an arm's length at the moment when it comes to Michael, but the tone suggests more of a respect rather than a desire to avoid.

*

"Of course," Peggy smiles and her hand drops back down to start putting the files she did not give to Steve away. They'll all have to go back shortly. "Thank you," she says again, though this time it is in regards to him completing his mission.

She nods. "I will," she tells him about his offer to help. His distance is met with a nod of respect and appreciation rather than annoyance. "I'll keep you up to date on what I know when I know it."

Pushing folders into boxes, she pauses and looks back at Steve and smiles rather than says anything else. Then, she goes back to her work.

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