The Promise of a Legacy

April 05, 2018:

Faora-Ul accepts a long standing invitation to speak with Sharon Carter away from the field of battle. Against her instincts, Faora shares a shocking secret.

Central Park

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Peggy Carter, Phil Coulson

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

CENTRAL PARK - NEW YORK CITY.

Few places in New York could be called truly serene. To many souls wander, even in late hours, even when it is dangerous or ill advised. But at least here, life's constant reminders may not be so prevalent. No symbols to remind someone of a fallen friend, or that look in the eyes of others, lost and desperately seeking direction.

Lamp posts fight against the angry dark, a small bridge can carry the wayward over top an empty bike path. There, just beyond, as the trees give way to a clearing where the clear night sky waits above, motion against the backdrop of stars. Only the attentive might notice it at first, but soon it would draw anyone's eyes, if there were more than the audience of a single pair.

Faora-Ul descends as if she had stepped from celestial home, dressed tonight not in her armor, meant for war. Instead, textured grey reflects in the light of the lamp post, with lines of black across the hips, and the legs, and near her wrists. Black boots touch down, and her cape flutters against the unseen force that had divorced her from gravity, now bringing her back to Earth. On her chest, the symbol of her house, no longer lined in metal and easier to see for what it is: A reminder of a legacy, one that is now lost to time.

—-

Sometimes, one can find solace in routine. Work is great that way: the mind exhausted by grief can settle into the well-worn groove of even quite complicated work. Some people go further for their release: massages, good food, profuse drink, or even losing oneself in music or a really good book.

For Sharon, it's running. Lately, anyway. It's been a profound relief to let everything go, put the earbuds in, and go for a few miles in Central Park.

Of course, earphones aren't a safe thing to wear while running—not at night, not at any other time. Sharon is anyway. She's likely to detect any kind of real danger that might approach…

…such as the descent of Faora, which brings her up short. She withdraws her earbuds and takes a deep breath, heart pounding from the run. Her face, in the light of the moon and the streetlight, is washed out and pale. Her eyes look darker than usual.

If she has something to say, she's holding it back. She just observes Faora, weighing her earbuds in her hands before stuffing them into her pocket.

—-

In Faora's eyes, there is something beyond her usual, self-confident superiority. In her eyes rest a weight of words unspoken, a careful and quiet consideration that stretches on long enough Sharon will be able to catch her breath. Icy blue ticks downward, looking through Sharon as if she might catch the edge of her soul on her gaze, but in truth she is making sure that she is not ill. The pallor of Sharon's skin, the way her eyes hold the dark, it draws her curiosity past skin and muscle and bone.

Finally, she steps ever closer, her chin tilting up just a little, something that casts her face in a pleasant repose, but then Kryptonians all seem cut from the same perfect stone. Clearly, the Man of Steel is not some aberration in this regard.

"You have my apologies, Sharon of House Carter. It was my intention to accept your invitation to meet again on better terms long before now. But it was…"

There, something akin to uncertainty, cracking through her veil of superiority, her gaze shifting downward, as if it might be hard to look Sharon in the eye. "I am uncertain of your custom. Everything I know of your world is written, or spoken on your communications channels. On Krypton, to mourn the passing of an Elder is sacred. On Krypton, this time is marked by grey, by time alone. I did not wish to interfere."

But she wore grey anyway, just in case. She shows her respect in the only way she knows how. Her eyes shift upward again, her admission of her incomplete knowledge, that she feared she might disturb her, now laid to bare for Sharon's judgement.

—-

Kryptonians, Sharon muses, are ridiculous creatures. Did they all look like this back on their home planet? Was there some sort of gene program that weeded out chipmunk cheeks, buck teeth, and people under six feet in height? Did they all work out from infancy?

She takes a deep breath, though it hitches on its way. She also extends her hand, shaking her head a little.

"It's black in my country. White in some others. Grey makes sense. The world keeps rolling on without my mentor. I can't tell you what's worse: the people who crowd me asking what it is they can do, or the people who dodn't know a thing about it and treat every day like every other day."

Sharon does keep her hand out to shake Faora's in a solemn greeting. A part of her wants to shout at the woman to leave her alone, but… as much as she's sought solitude, perhaps Sharon would rather have someone near for a moment. Even someone as blatantly… otherworldly and ferocious as Faora.

—-

Indeed, they did much to weed out imperfection, cutting lines through natural evolution with science and technology. Don't worry, they still left a few people under six feet. Faora might be an inch shorter than Sharon, if not for her boots. But she often seems taller, to fill up a space with her presence alone. Born to lead, to fight, to conquer, gifts nearly wasted on her world, but paramount on this one. She listens as Sharon speaks of those who would do the polite things, to ask if she's okay, how she's doing. To draw the same tired responses from her lips.

If she understands, it does not show. It is different, where she is from. More formal, perhaps, in how they deal with loss. With that hand offered, her lips part just so, and finally her fingers curl around Sharon's hand with a touch that is most careful. No where near as practiced as the Superman is with this world of cardboard, she must take extra care in moments such as these.

"Then I will only say that her legacy lives in your eyes, fierce and determined, carrying all the weight a guardian of her people must. You will not break under the weight of loss, this much shines through even to me, someone who barely knows you at all."

It is only then that she releases her hand, not much of a shake, fingertips sliding away to give her back her offered limb. Something catches in her eye, some hint of the strain around Sharon's own, searching there as if she means to read her mind. "But there is more. Tell me."

Is there more? Weight, as Faora said, carried with a burden that should be to much for someone to bear? She does not command her as she might others, instead her words are spoken with the undertone of an offer: She will listen, take this burden. Perhaps this too is part of how Kryptonians deal with grief, to be a reinforcement in a time when the soul feels the wounds of war.

—-

A deep breath. Another. Sharon gazes sidelong at Faora. She's dressed in black and grey herself: a black hoodie to keep out the cold, though it has reflective stripes on the sleeves and front and back to prevent her from being invisible in the dark, and heather grey leggings. They seem to leech the color from her. Sharon Carter has looked better.

"Thank you," she mutters. "I mean it. She's a hell of a hard act to follow, so I never tried. I just tried to be as good as I can." Her lips twitch, though they can't make much of a smile. "Coulson says I'm not in her shadow. Which is kind of him. You want to know what the 'more' is? There's a lot of it." And she can't even talk about half of it. But she can let herself, just for a little while, be frustrated. Not vulnerable. Never vulnerable.

"Someone tried to kill her in her bed. I don't know who. I didn't do enough to stop it. She knew it was coming; she'd made peace with it, and she was ready, and there was nothing I could do to prevent it. She was my mentor, and I failed her. Simple as that."

In Faora's eyes there lies no judgement, and as that frustration shows through, a hand rises again to Sharon's shoulder, brief and giving way to a turn, so that even if Faora has interrupted Sharon's run, they can at least walk.There is careful consideration, a regal tilt to her head in the moments that follow Sharon's clear contempt for a past she cannot change. There, the truth waits in plain sight.

"You did only as much as you knew to do. That you were trained to do. When I was young, my father taught me the Kava-Sur, an art of martial prowess meant for those of large stature and overbearing strength. I fought among my peers and lost, again and again. His lesson was one earned in blood, and even, his betrayal. You strike me as someone who has believed the things that have been placed before you because legends placed them there. It is not failure to follow these paths, only to look at the past and not learn."

There is a subtle glance to the side, to look at Sharon as her words sink in, and then she continues. "When I took it upon myself to learn the Horo-kanu, I extracted the same blood from my father, besting him in an arena none had in years. For this, I was stronger. You did not fail her, Sharon, as long as you adapt so that you do not let another suffer her fate."

That last words will drop like an anvil, or perhaps more like the dead weight of Phil Coulson hitting a concrete floor.

—-

Sharon allows herself to be propelled along, or at least to turn and continue to walk alongside Faora. "She asked me to keep SHIELD alive," she replies. "To protect it. To make it what she believed it always had been, always should have been. The shield that protects people from forces they're not equipped to handle. Living the way we do, knowing the things we know; it's not a life other people want. We make the hard choices. Sometimes they're hard to live with, and…"

Those last words, though. They stop Sharon in her tracks. She stares dully ahead, but when she looks back to Faora, her eyes are sharp and bright.

"You've heard, then," she says. Her voice is calm and even.

—-

A shift of Faora's feet brings her to an equal pause, turning once more to face this, another Guardian set to impossible task. The question raises her brows, not at implication, but because she hears so very many things. To have that sharp attention leaves her quiet for a moment to long, perhaps mulling an answer to her question, or maybe just those words that explain her burden in details that feel all too familiar.

"I hear the whole of the world, Sharon. A curse, or blessing, I do not know. I hear sirens screaming at one end of this city to the other. I hear the laughter of men who plot against the best interests of their would be allies, dressing deceit in honor. And I hear a woman who stands before me as the last chance for SHIELD, something that has become twisted and rotten as it slipped from your Matron's clutches."

Her hand extends, and a hologram springs into existence. This, she shows her because of her burden to keep a legacy, a double helix winding and winding until it is oh so clear the X-Gene is on display. The tendrils of a virus move in, showing the deactivation of the gene, so that even two recessive carriers could not produce a X-Positive offspring. There, in the lower corner of the hologram, a SHIELD encryption engram.

"It is against every instinct of mine to show someone who should be my enemy favor. To share information taken from them, to let them know that I know one of their secrets. But I fight my instinct because of the earnest good I see in you. Because I believe you when you say that you would make SHIELD everything that she believed it always had been, and always should have been."

Faora does not answer the implication that she may know of Sharon's other loss. Perhaps the chord was struck from Kryptonian bluntness, perhaps it was a calculated maneuver, but either way it is unlikely that Faora will share the truth.

—-

Sharon's eyes flick to Faora's. She's angry. She's so, so angry, and she never knew how much anger she could have inside until the people who kept her balanced were taken away. She's not angry at Faora, though. She's right. She failed Peggy by letting Coulson die. It's the blame she wants to give herself, and it feels almost good to blame herself this way.

But what Faora shows her stops her short. It doesn't derail her anger: it merely changes the track and the direction. She steps closer, eyes widening as she watches the virus deactivate the gene. Sees, with a moment of sickening horror, the SHIELD encryption.

There's a lot of questions. How Faora got this, for one thing. Who was behind the program. Whether it's all a fake. It could be all a fake. But if what Faora believes is 'good' includes outrage that SHIELD had this in their back pocket, then her faith is well founded.

"This is wrong," she whispers. "It would be genocide." But she still knows the temptation those scientists must have felt. She knows what they'd say if she confronted them, too: they wouldn't be killing anyone. They'd just be rooting out an incredibly dangerous mutation. Surely that would be better than the alternative?

"Where did you get this? Can you tell me more? I need to find out; if this is real, this… is not right. We don't have the same way of doing things, Faora— though God knows right now I wish we did— but you know I agree. This can't be allowed."

—-

If anger were fire it would not reflect so easily in Faora's eyes as Sharon's outrage does now, a gaze that remains unflinching in the face of so much raw emotion cast in her direction. Her line is one meant to use this as fuel, to absorb the rage and despair of others, to let it spur action. More instinct that she must fight, like a lioness watching an injured gazelle limp by, so too does she wait until rage turns to disgust and questions that seem unending.

A hand comes to rest on Sharon's cheek, meant to stop her questions cold, facilitating a close lean that lets her speak a whisper into her ear. To anyone watching, it may appear to be intimacy. Instead it is a cover for what she has to say, when one is unsure who might be taking notes.

"It was taken from a dead man, a man who hated mutant kind very much. I cannot tell you if it is research, theoretical, or a finished weapon. I can only tell you that this has earned SHIELD enemies, enemies it would not have if Peggy Carter's dream had not been corrupted. It is up to you now, to make it what it should have been."

Her hand falls away, and so too does she lean back, enough that she can look Sharon in the eyes with a steely gaze that yet holds some uncertainty. For all of Sharon's outrage, for her proclamation that this should not be allowed, this may be a mistake.

Lips part, as if to say something else, but instead she takes another step back, her head tilting up again, to wash any semblance of vulnerability from her resolute countenance.

—-

It's possibly no mistake, says the eternal inner spy, that Faora has come at a time of incredibly vulnerability on Sharon's part. The hand on her cheek does stop the questioning, and she stands stock-still as she listens. There's a name that comes to mind, and though she doesn't go blabbing it in the middle of Central Park, she has a fair idea of where she could start looking. Just one more thing to add to her list.

"There are people who so blatantly refuse to step into the future that they think they can stop it in its tracks. SHIELD is here to protect against threats. Not every metahuman or alien is a threat. Not even most of them. I'm not going to let my organization bow to fear. As much as I can help it."

Her mouth crooks up at the corner. God help her, she wishes Coulson were here. He was the better agent, cannier and far more of a politician. She's too much like Peggy: she wears her heart on her sleeve. "I can't speak for the organization officially," she says. "But anyone who believes SHIELD is their enemy because of this? Let them know that I, at least, am going to address this."

—-

"Speaking for yourself is enough, Sharon of House Carter. I will let them know that you are everything your legacy promises." A pause, as if she might take stock of the resolve in Sharon's eyes, that crook at the corner of her mouth enough to bring an expression from Faora that nearly draws a smile. "And perhaps much more."

It will feel strange, to be this close when gravity releases it's hold on her. To see her cape flowing behind her as if caught in some unfelt wind, and her hair shift as if the sky itself had fingers to run through it. Faora rises, looking down upon Sharon with a hope that she did not make a mistake, that there is some good left in those who would guard the world, good that extends beyond her singular focus.

But if any doubt remains, it does not show. Instead, just the resolve of someone who would see the new dawn, one she hopes will someday resemble all the best parts of what her homeworld should have been. In this, she shares a quest of redemption, and turns towards the sky to once again leave Sharon to solitude.

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