Are We There Yet

May 10, 2018:

FLASHBACK: After Phil Coulson's funeral, there are questions.

Tony's Self Driving Car

There are definitely not enough seats.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Phil Coulson, Nick Fury

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

When last we left our heroes, several of them were angry and confused. As might be expected when one discovers that the guest of honor at the funeral is not, in fact, technically present.

Since Tony's car happens to be self-driving (well done, Tony; hopefully it also has a self-preservation instinct), it made the most sense for the conspirators to bundle into that. Not that it'll be suspicious or anything, all of those people who drove themselves here suddenly deciding to carpool. But hopefully, likely, most people at the church won't be paying much attention.

"So you have questions," Sharon begins as the car doors close behind them all. "I can't answer all of them. Some things I can't answer because I have been specifically told not to; some things I just don't know. But I'll answer everything I have."

The 'you' is directed toward everyone. Even Peggy, who has been swept along in this wave of conspirators. Some of the conspirators, at least, are small enough to fit comfortably in what must be becoming a crowded vehicle.

*

Although perhaps an odd thing to state, it's a good thing that this all happened at a funeral and not, say, on a mission. Rocket is decidedly less capable of immediately blowing anything up or shooting anyone because apparently you don't carry weapons to a funeral, although after this stunt, that might change dramatically if there is ever a next time. Of course, that's not to say that the Guardian is unable to whip up anything should the need to destroy something in the immediate future arrive.

Thankfully the only thing to blow up has been his temper, and since his outburst in the cathedral at the funeral's closing, it's at the very least been brought to a simmer.

One thing's for sure; there's no lap sitting to be tolerated by him. Under normal circumstances he wouldn't have minded making himself comfortable in the lap of any one of the females present but right now he's simply not in the mood. He's more in the mood to rip someone's head off for making him show he has Feelings.

Eyeing Sharon, the raccoonoid folds his arms tightly across his chest. "So what's true and what isn't? And what are we doing about it?"

*

Once the setting had changed, Groot's mind shifted to other things; for instance, he wanted to drive Tony's awesome car. While it worked in favor of distracting him from the initial grief and confusion of the recent funeral which brought about the impromptu meeting, it wouldn't have gone well for everyone present.

Fortunately for everyone else, Sharon Carter resumes command of the group's current circumstances within the car, also recapturing Groot's attention the moment she drops those four words. Large eyes rest on the agent as he pauses on his path toward the vicinity of where a vehicle's steering wheel would be, arms still outstretched before his tiny gnarled form.

*

The somberly dressed Peggy Carter left flowers by Phil Coulson's grave. In a move that she hoped that Phil might appreciate from beyond the grave, she wore her original SSR outfit, complete with pin curls. She is only missing her SSR lapel pins to complete it. Despite that, she is seated in her seat with hands folded neatly in her lap. Her eyes are very focused on Sharon Carter and she is clearly waiting for the explanation she expects to be coming shortly.

However, she will ask a question in addition to Rocket's. "How long have you known?" Her demeanor is not exactly angry or annoyed. She assumes that Sharon has a very good reason for this. Instead, she merely wishes to get all the facts out so that a new plan of action can be reached. A part of her is relieved, though. If they did not bury Phil, there is a possibility that he is not completely gone.

"And how many other than us know?"

*

Seething. Seething is a good word. And it is what Tony Stark is doing right now. Sitting in his chair in his own car. Crammed into a space with a bunch of people, animals, ghosts, and twigs. Only /one/ of which he usually shares quarters this close.

"I have so many questions. Also I'm yelling at Fury." A pause. "JARVIS. Schedule that in would you. Yelling at Fury." Cause he turns to glower at Sharon. "Because I'm going to assume this is his doing."

*

Rin's foul mood has only increased since they got in the car. Mostly, because she's sort of squished between people and doing her best not to phase through them. It's werid, and part of her dosn't care but it's hard to angsty brood when half of your body is sticking out of someone elses. She's crossed her arms like an angsty teenager while her leg bounces inpatience.

"Did the idiots up top really think they were going to get away with putting in a fake body when so many people at that funeral knows what he looks like? Honestly there were so many better ways of going about that it's almost as if they wanted us to know that they're fucking with shit they shouldn't be." She snarls.

*

"This… is under Fury's orders," Sharon replies, choosing her words with care. "But I don't know that we can say it's anyone's 'doing'. Fury gave the orders once it was realized what… what was going on."

She takes a deep breath, composing her thoughts and trying to find the right words for this.

"Before we go on," she continues, "I need you all to understand this. Coulson's heart got cut to pieces by his assassin. He died. You saw it happen, Rin. There was nothing you or any of us could have done; Phil Coulson did die. The fact that he wasn't in his coffin doesn't change that. But it wasn't him in the coffin because his death had… complications. Before you ask? I don't understand them entirely. Something to do with fate, maybe. Or the weird energies that were flying around when and where he was attacked. Or something Man Was Not Meant To Know, nor Agent 13 either. I haven't known for long. I'm not on a need to know basis here; for that matter, as far as Fury's concerned, neither are any of you. And none of you know. Bringing people back from the sort-of-dead, it's not something SHIELD wants to be known for."

"As for what we're doing about it," Sharon continues, nodding to Rocket, "what I'm doing about it is hunting down his murderer while I try to put together what's happened to Phil and how to bring him back. If we can. Fury has… hope, I guess you could say, that it can be done. Or I guess you could say that he isn't ruling the possibility out. He doesn't want to lose one of his best agents, so if there's even a remote chance of bringing him back, Phil's earthly body is on ice until that's definite. I'm going to be speaking to an expert — a trustworthy one — to suss out the situation."

She looks to Rin then: "They're burying an LMD today. Let's be real here: people look different after death, and no one had a reason to assume what they saw was anything other than reality. In this car, we either have people who can do something about it or figured it out because they're that clever."

*

"Tony," Peggy gives Tony a look. "You will not yell at Fury." She will also assume this could be Fury's doing, but she stops the buck where she can. "Agent Coulson gave his life for SHIELD, so I think the best thing we can do right now is to trust that his sacrifice was not in vain. That there is a plan here and that we are now learning of what is happening in order to help. SHIELD is an agency built on secrets, that doesn't change simply because someone we care for has made an ultimate sacrifice."

To Rin, she puts up a bit of her hand. "Most likely they were going to insist on a closed casket service. In which case the only people who would dig his coffin up where enemies or people who were very suspicious. If I were Nicholas Fury and I was trying to figure out who the moles of SHIELD were? I would put a fake body in Coulson's grave and have someone stake out the site in order to see who or what would try to do such a thing."

Then Sharon speaks, however and she blinks a few times. Complications. He is dead but possible not dead? That is, actually not what she was thinking. There's a frown, cogs begin to turn. She nods. She has none of Rin or Tony's anger. Now, it is just pure investigative thought and compartmentalization. That's what espionage can truly lead to, after all. "What do we know of the murderer? Do we know what was inside the crate he was attempting to steal? Or how he even was able to get to one of our most secure sites? If we found where the leaks are coming from, that may lead us to who they might have told."

*

Emma is swept up in the small crowd of people exiting the funeral, and somewhere along the path, she removed her outrageously large sunglasses. This scenario, however, presents several problems. First, she never really likes following crowds. Second, this is going to require her sharing a car with strangers. Third, cramped quarters.

The blonde does get into the car, however, and glowers at the company at large. And she listens. And she glares at Groot in particular for a long moment, even as her thoughts stretch out to Stark in particular. « I'm not hallucinating about the tree, right? I don't think I grabbed those sorts of pills… »

But then, yes. Emma is paying full attention to Sharon as she explains. And still unhappily sitting in the corner, silent.

*

Hopefully Groot keeps himself out of trouble. Rocket's attention's decidedly elsewhere as he continues to glower, even as he mulls upon this information that Sharon's volunteered.

"So normally when people're dead, they stay that way. I dunno what kind of freaky things you Terrans have around here, but I've seen my share of impossibilities while I've been here." He pauses, his eyes finally shifting towards Groot, whom he makes a grab for then. Hey kid, you're too young to drive.

*

Groot listens. Pays attention. Ignorant of how everyone else is feeling and crammed in the same space, the tree tries to follow, tries to comprehend the information Sharon shares with the party. But his eyes…his eyes slowly drift back over to the wheelâ¦

…Which comes across Emma's frosty glare for longer than he intends. It makes him freeze up, a flimsy attempt to pretend that he isn't thinking of trying anything. A quick glance in Rocket's direction reinforces his pretense, shaking his head vigorously.

*

"I am fully aware of my failure to save Coulson's life." Rin says dryly. She still hasn't shut up that part of her brain that plays the scenario over and over, trying to fix what she did wrong. Still she lets the Carters talk, still brooding in the backseat as she shakes her head with each new bit of information she's getting. "See here's what I don't like. I don't care if he was the worlds be everything, he did make that sacrifice. He's done, he's out. We knew he was never going to retire, he wouldn't have gotten a desk job if he was forced into it. This is his retirement. Who are we to pull him away from the only rest he's ever going to get? I don't give a shit about fate or whatever magical bullshit happened when he died, this is wrong."

*

"Because he's NOT at rest."

Sharon almost shouts this. Her eyes are red-rimmed; she's either been crying or staying up all night, and it's very likely both with someone like her. "Phil's not at rest. He's caught. Again, I don't entirely understand what's happening here, but my understanding is that he's stuck between life and death. And yes, having things like 'a soul' or — or something like that — is really unnerving to me, too. Some part of Phil is in limbo. I suspect that what happened to you, Rin, may be similar to what happened to him. Not here, and not there."

But she looks with sincere relief at Peggy. She rubs a temple and nods slowly. "I don't know exactly what was in there. As far as the rest — who killed him, how he got there — that's something I want to discuss with you later. I think I know how he knew, but the rest of that… well, we have some work to do."

She casts a brief and apologetic glance to Emma. "I didn't want you all to find out like this. I'd planned on some more private circumstances, particularly for you, Ms. Frost, and you, Tony. Ms. Frost, Phil spoke very highly of you. He left me a memo in case of his — in case of what happened."

*

«No the Twig and the Trashpanda are real. Apparently SHIELD recurits from off planet now.» Comes the thought towards Emma as he looks at Groot. Then with a blink deactivates the wheel from the drive train of the car. JARVIS doesn't need it after all. Now Groot can play all he wants with it, and not kill them all.

Then Tony raises his hands to his temple as talk turns to souls and what happened to Phil's. "So." His tone clipped and annoyed. "If his spirit is somewhere inbetween, I /hate/ magic by the way, and you just buried a LMD that I bloody well built. Which is why I know what it was. Then the question is where is his /actual/ body, what is Fury doing with it, and how to we /fix/ all this before I just start carpet bombing something until I get an actual answer."

*

"I didn't mean to imply that anyone failed in saving Agent Coulson," Peggy quickly interjects. "The only one responsible for his murder is the man who stabbed him." She gives Rin a bit of a look - something between kindness and stern. "This is not your fault, Agent Nakano. And if Agent Coulson is able to come back and wishes it? We should do what we can in order to ensure that it happens."

As Sharon continues to speak, the former founder of SHIELD nods a few times. "If he is stuck somewhere, we shall rescue him." This is not a speech, nor a grand gesture. This is merely a statement of fact for Peggy. "Who is it that we might speak to in order to find him in this limbo? You have said there are experts? Ones who might be able to parse out this strange almost religious problem that we now face?"

There is a sigh. "However, another question must be asked. If you know that he is not at rest, that he has been caught somewhere…how do we actually know this to be true? Has anyone actually spoken to him?"

Then, another look is given to Tony. "There will be no carpet bombing."

*

Rocket's attention once again shifts from the tiny Tree tot as Peggy brings up a good point. He snap-points in turn.

"That is an excellent question that I would very much like the answer to. Unless you're somehow an expert in this crap."

*

Behaving is what alien trees do best. Groot, being Groot, uses the opportunity of each comment and question shot the younger agent's way to clamber over onto the dash. He jumps on to the now disengaged wheel, clinging to it as he tries to use his weight to steer.

Multitasking is not for him.

*

Rin furrows her brows at the news of Phil not being at rest. She shakes her head and scowls looking between the people gathered in the car. "Did you ever think he isn't at rest because his body is on ice and not in the ground? People have been buried and burned for centuries and probably for a reason. Look, I get it, it's hard to train a new Phil but I have a feeling thits is going to make things worse. I get that I'm probably dead myself, or half dead, because this is existing is the definition of hell for me." It's been forever since she's touched a computer properly, it's terrible. "

Looking to Peggy she frowns. "I've turned in what little I've found, but the interns I have that can type for me don't have the skills or clearance I need to get shit done. I'm fighting with all of my limbs chopped off." Which isn't helping her mood in the least bit. Looking to Tony, she points a finger at him. "No no, I like this carpet bombing idea."

*

"Believe me, Agent Nakano, we've thought of a lot of things. I'm not going to try to tire you by describing all the times I've had the chance to deal with someone dead. Even plenty of times dealing with a friend or a mentor who died untimely. Or was lost forever, or unburied. This is emphatically not my first rodeo."

Sharon's coming off as sharper than usual. Tense. Harried. Under a lot of stress. "There's an expert I'm speaking to, yes. I don't know everything she has to say because I've been arranging this funeral, completing the arrangements for the last funeral, and chasing down every lead Phil left me. Because one thing I know he'd want is for us to find his murderer and see to it that he sees justice. Phil really enjoyed that kind of thing. I have a meeting scheduled with someone who found a name. I've made contact with some people in the know. Tony, if you would like to help Phil, then please start by helping Agent Nakano here. Her predicament may provide some clues to Phil's. Rocket, there's going to be a chance for some violence as soon as I find wherever this guy's hiding. Agent Carter, I… you're one of the few people in SHIELD now who I still trust. I need your help to tie all these loose and flapping ends into a solution. If anything blows up, I want it to be with precision."

To Rin, at last: "And no. You didn't fail Phil. I did. I tried to go easy on the people who broke into that facility. If we'd taken them out quickly and properly, things wouldn't have escalated the way they did."

*

"Just a /little/ carpet bombing?" Stark asks as he drops his hands and thumps his head back on the headrest. He gets a seat because its his car, Emma gets a seat because /Emma Frost/. Everyone else can fight it out.

"Which expert? Zee? Mooney? If its souls its prolly Mooney." Stark says in Sharon's general direction. A pause. "And I already got half a solution for Casper there. Even though she doesn't sound friendly. I just have a fab up a suit and she'll be fine."

Because this is what he does. Multitask.

"You also didn't answer my question of whats up with his actual body." A growl. "Send me the footage from the attack and I'll see what I can do with it too."

Urgh.

Hate metaphysical stuff.

*

A feral grin finally makes its appearance on the currently bigger of the two Guardians. It looks all too natural an expression.

"Now that's what I like to hear," he says, and the simple response just makes one wonder if they might ever think to be even the least bit sympathetic for whoever might end up on the receiving end of Rocket's violence.

Perk. He pauses, glancing at Tony. "Mooney? You mean like, Dani? Oh yeah, now that you mention it, this is right up her alley." All that aside, Rocket's right in the same boat as Tony when it comes to the metaphysical. Give him a target he can bust or obliterate.

*

"Agent 13, I will be glad to see what I can with SHIELD. However, you haven't exactly answered my last question yet. How do we know this is Agent Coulson? How do we know he is actually in this state of limbo? You're saying you have spoken with his spirit, as it were?" There is no accusation, no attempt at dissuasion. Peggy is very clearly trying to tease out the facts of this matter right now. It's what she has to focus on.

"I will see what I can do. I will point out that in the percentage of things that have blown up that were not supposed to, it is generally not done with precision. However, if it is us who are wishing to select a target, I am certainly glad to tighten the target window."

*

"I haven't. They guessed: Dani Moonstar has." It's like pulling teeth to get this out of Sharon; every instinct has been telling her to tell nothing to anyone, and coming clean is something no spy does _that_ easily. "But that's as much as I know about that part of it. I'm going to talk to her, find out what's going on and what we can do about it. Until I do, I don't know much."

"As far as where he is…" Sharon takes a deep breath. "In stasis. In a very safe place. I really can't say more than that. He's not a pretty sight right now, and he's not saying much. Or if he is, it's not through there." She pinches the bridge of her nose. "I'm going to have a meeting with Moonstar after we're done here. I'll have more news for you then."

*

"Knew it was Mooney. Tell her when you see her that I finished the suit for her horse. Pegasus. Thing." A pause. "She keeps saying its /not/ a Pegasus because its from Asgard, but it sure looks like a Pegasus!"

He takes a deep breath though.

"And I'll go yell at Fury later and figure out what /else/ he needs me to do. Since I don't do spirits and blowing stuff up is covered."

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