To Rebellion

June 03, 2018:

Rami comes to return the SHIELD data and look for amends with Peggy Carter. Instead, the two toast to defection. And rebellion.

Peggy's Office, SHIELD HQ

It's Peggy's office.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Parambir Ghai had run out of time. She delayed as long as she could, finding excuses to not get the so-called broken data device to the home firm. She needed to make sure that the terrible treason she was about to commit would be as secretive as possible. Every sour tightness in her gut told her she was being a turncoat, but she also knew she had to get this back into the hands of a Carter.

It is late in the evening by the time Rami shows up at Peggy Carter's door. She waited for most agents to head home for the evening, leaving the population in SHIELD HQ to be sparse. Carrying several folders in her arms, she approaches Peggy's door and confidently raps her knuckles against the door — quite different demeanor in place compared to her noncommittal look the last time she was at this very door. She waits to be invited in, checking her phone in a casual glance at the time.

The drop would happen in just about three hours — where Rami will hand off the compromised data to her MI-6.5 contacts. It gives her just enough time to get Peggy the actual data, and to hopefully not end up in a US holding facility for crimes against the US Government. Just in a day's work…

*

It is not hard to figure out where Peggy will be. With moles almost certainly in SHIELD and a murderer who killed the elder Peggy, she has been burning quite a lot of the midnight oil. That's not unusual for her on a general work week, but she has certainly been even more determined than before. And that's saying something.

The knock on her door is met with a brisk, "It's open." Having people come in and out for her to sign papers is not at all unusual and it's quite possible she has lost track of the time.

Looking up from both a laptop and a tablet, the time displaced SHIELD agent looks a little tired, though still well put together. There's an expectant expression on her face for when Rami enters, though it is not exactly unfriendly. It is, instead, a look of curiosity. "Agent Ghai, hello. What might I do for you?"

*

At the invitation, Rami sweeps in on her sensible flats and gently shuts the door with a smile. It is all on the up-and-up until the door clicks into place. Brown eyes sweep around the room with a trained eye, and then she advances until she is before Peggy's desk. Very carefully — very deliberately — she palms the quarter-sized data device into her fingers, and gently sets it down on the empty space on Peggy's desk. It's just a thin, black matte square — but a typical device for storing encrypted data. "You've been looking for this."

She slowly takes a seat, the folders — filled with blank papers with the occasional paperclip — set down in her lap. She meets Peggy's eyes. "I took that off one of your agents on May 30th at a nightclub. I was ordered to intercept it. I didn't know the target was one of yours. I was told that I was intercepting stolen information — a breach of national security." The confession comes easily, with a strict adherence to facts.

Just to set the record straight before Peggy can even ask, Rami adds quietly, "I didn't look at what's on it."

*

It's not unusual for people to have closed door meetings. And as the last time she saw Rami it was disclosed that she was the one that sent Peggy the text message that helped her recover her brother, she is not at all surprised that this meeting would turn that way.

Without any other indication as to what this impromptu visit might be about, she studies the Brit from the other agency with a minuscule tilt of her head. Her eyes track the woman's approach to her desk with a neutral expression. It's when the device is set carefully on her desk that eyebrows rise.

This disk could be one of many that are generally used when passing encrypted data back and forth. However, Rami's next words are met with an exhale of breath. Peggy does not pick up the drive. For now, she lets it rest exactly where Rami set it down.

There's a long silence as she processes all of this information. Her first words are rather unimpressive: "I see." However, wheels are turning. "You saying that one of your superiors asked you to incapacitate and steal confidential information from SHIELD without your knowledge. Have you told them that you acquired this drive?"

*

The initial words from Peggy stiffens Rami's spine a bit, but she doesn't let her softened features betray her. She holds those nerves in, waiting to hear more than the simple start. The question that follows causes the Sikh woman to lean forward a bit while tucking a curl of hair behind her ear.

"Yes." She hesitates just a moment. "I received a call, told that information stolen from the home firm would be exchanged at the nightclub. I was in the vicinity." Or in the very club that the exchange was happening — a coincidence that Rami is still unpacking. "I went in, subdued your agent, obtained the data, and got out."

The next question is met with another short, thoughtful pause. "I told them I had acquired compromised data, that the casing of the device had been broken."

*

There are quite a lot of things that are possible in this moment and Peggy is attempting to make sense of them all. With the moles in SHIELD, the attack and disavowment of her brother and the general atmosphere, it can be hard to know who to trust. Could the attempt on this information be a legitimate lead? Perhaps the SHIELD agent that Rami was set upon was someone that can no longer be trusted. Or, it's possible this is all part of a larger set up.

This more information is again met with another nod. There's no anger or panic on Peggy's face. Right now, there is only contemplation. "And you were not told what was on the drive? Just that it was a matter of your national security?" She needs to get all these facts put together before she makes a judgement. "And you know the person who instigated this mission?"

*

"Yes, Ma'am." The agent hesitates again, but then powers through. If her gut is to be trusted, someone in MI-6.5 set up Michael to get disavowed. She trusts that gut feeling, because the facts support it. Being asked to blindly obtain information by someone like Warhorse — no other handler involved — twists her the same way. She knows something is up, she just doesn't know what.

"I know who asked for the data… someone in the same agency that Michael was disavowed from, and I still am… by the books… loyal to. But, the agent was SHIELD… I'm supposed to be here in partnership with SHIELD. Those two things do not add up, Ms. Carter."

*

And those things generally wouldn't, if things within SHIELD had not shifted so drastically in her mind recently. However, if these are the same people who disavowed Michael under those same dubious means, she frowns. Peggy has to start trusting people and making judgement calls.

Tapping at the screen of her phone, she blinks a few times. It's later than she thought it was. That's not exactly unexpected lately, however. Leaning back into her chair, Peggy runs a hand through her straight hair and shakes her head. "Okay." The rigid professionalism doesn't exactly melt away, but she looks far less like the rigid black and white photo of herself that hung in many SHIELD facilities for years and more like a flesh and blood woman.

"Dammit." Pulling out a drawer of her desk, she pulls out a bottle of scotch and two glass tumblers. "I could do for a drink. You?" She pours herself one and takes a quick sip of it.

"This is a proper mess."

*

The release — the slow uncoiling of the nerves that hold a spy upright — is met with a slow exhale of her own. No matter her relationship with Michael, his time-lost sister has been an unknown. She may possess the memories of generations of ancestors, but the idea of time travel leaves her watchful. She relaxes a bit in her own seat, the softening seen mostly in her shoulders and arms. Now is time for trust.

"Okay," Rami echoes.

The blaspheme and then the appearance of the scotch and tumblers starts her chuckling. "At this point? I think the proper answer is 'always.'" She leans forward to pour herself a finger out of the bottle. She stays just lightly posed at the edge of her seat, fingers cradling her glass after taking her own first sip.

"So I have gathered," she confides softly. "This does not feel like typical spy games… I've played those games. The rules are changing, as are the stakes."

*

Rolling the glass in her hands, Peggy sighs and looks more into the scotch than at Rami. "Yes. This is more than spygames." While she is deciding to trust Rami, that does not mean she is about to give over every bit of information she has at her disposal. "Something large is at hand and we are only slowly starting to understand the scope of it."

Frowning, she takes another drink. "I take it by your approaching me that you are entrusting me more than the person who sent you to retrieve this information?" An eyebrow is raised. While she is more relaxed, there is still an element of interrogation to her questions. She cannot help that. It's partly her speaking style.

"Would you have any reason to believe that should I boot up this drive, it would send a signal to someone? Could this be a means of testing your own loyalty, Agent? If someone suspects that you were the one that tipped me off about Michael, it is entirely possible that they are attempting to begin the process of cleaning house." It's a grim theory that she is spinning, but that is what she is here to do.

*

"Michael trusts you." The blunt earnestness in those words is delivered without hesitation or reproach. She means them. "And they burned Michael. That's something I have not taken lightly, Ma'am." There's a small flicker in her simple smile, like she's spoken something aloud she hasn't fully confessed since she started this slow spiral — first by contacting any who would help Michael, and then tracking him here.

The idea that her own loyalty is being tested had crossed her mind. It would be an easy test that she could pass or fail without much trouble. But, then again… "They are using your own agents to do so, if that's the case. I recognized him once I had a chance to catch my breath. I had seen him here, in this building, just a few days before. If this is a test from my agency, then they are using a SHIELD operative to administer it."

The Sikh woman tightens her lips after taking another sip of scotch.

*

"Well, siblings tend to do so." The tone is wry, but Peggy smiles at the thought. It took a little while to get back to this place, at least. The fact of Michael's supposed death and then reappearance was a sore subject between the two for awhile. And as far as she can tell, Michael trusts Rami. Which, while she will not say it outloud, gives the woman quite a bit of pull in the Carter department.

As for burning Michael, her eyes narrow a bit at that. Yes. That is another thing that has been at the back of her mind for awhile. She gets interagency and even internal agency turmoil. However, this is her brother.

"Yes. That certainly troubling, unless they are working with others not in my purview in order to do this sting. This is a spy agency. Things are rather…up in the air, depending. There are multiple different operations going on at all times and not all of us are in the know." She frowns. "What did you think your next steps were going to be?"

*

Parambir smiles a bit ruefully at the comment of siblings, knowing the connection all too well. Not only has she had her own siblings, but the mere thought of the connection between sisters and brothers sends a flood of memories from other bearers. She lets the memories wash over her, following the rapids until she resurfaces back within herself. It is an almost undetectable moment as Rami's focus falls to her tumbler, and then she takes a sip of the scotch once more.

"Ultimately, I cannot make assumptions for good or ill. The data came from SHIELD. If this is a loyalty test, and I fail… well… to Hell with all of them." Her next drink from the tumbler is more of a heavy swallow — paralleling to the weight her words carry. She's stepping over a line now, no longer toeing at it with uncertainty.

"I would deliver a compromised data storage device, not dissimilar to what you have there. The data will be corrupted enough to present evidence to support what happened in the bathroom, according to the handler." Rami frowns herself. "Best I can do."

*

"Perhaps best, if that is what you wish. Keeping that line of communication open could, of course, be quite an asset." Peggy tilts her head at Rami. "Forgive me for making an assumption, but I believe that you are not someone accustomed to the field with an unknown hostile?" It's an observation she's made over the few conversations she's had with the woman.

"I can tell you that coming to SHIELD with this drive," she points at it for emphasis, while still not yet touching it, "can give you quite a bit of good will of the agency. There is quite a good probability that should a proper sting happen, we could fold you in. However, that also does mean that most bridges would be burnt between you and the British Intelligence Agencies." It's a risk, to be sure.

"If you are intent on turning a falsified drive in, then I will be glad to provide you with one that would be - at the very least - legitimate SHIELD equipment with legitimate but old corrupted SHIELD intel."

*

"That is my thinking, and… there is no evidence to suggest that what has happened with this, and Michael, is completely at the orders of the Agency. It would not be the first time, or the last, that a handful of individuals commit their own machinations." Rami has thought this through in recent days, tucked away in her little personal control room. Not everyone in MI-6.5 may be working against the cooperative between London and SHIELD.

However, her thoughts are derailed when Peggy — far more delicately — calls her out on her field experience. Her smile turns chagrined. "Michael fondly likes to remind me that I'm a shit field agent," Rami replies. The fondness is assumed, of course. "I'm best in two situations: out of sight, where I can observe and direct an agent; or to cause bodily injury without prejudice." The corner of her lip twitches slightly, but then the words that follow sober her.

"I know." The Sikh taps her fingers lightly against the tumbler between her palms. "I'll take the good will, and the risk of the bridges. New timber can always be found."

She finishes off her scotch, setting it down on the table with a heavy clink. She looks up to Peggy, brows raised. "I had intended to use old shit data, but… your offer is better." Beat pause. "Thank you, Ma'am."

*

"If you wish to attempt to turn the tables on someone who is well established in the game…" Peggy frowns. "It might be better for you to take my offer and remain within SHIELD. We can help you here. However, if you wish to make this drop off? That is quite a field agent assignment and I have little authority to assign any Field Agents to an outside agent in order to help you with it." She finished her drink and sets the glass down gently on the desk in front of her. "Can you tell me that is alright? That you are comfortable with that handoff? Alone?" This is was trying to get at before, whens he was mentioning the field agency.

*

To her credit, there is a long silence from the Indian woman. She does not immediately reject nor accept the plain offer that is placed before her. It has weight to it — a simple offer to defect from the Agency that has kept her for the better part of a decade. Her lips press together, and then she nods. "I stay in SHIELD… that's it. There will be nothing more I can offer from whatever is happening within MI-6, or point-5." Her mouth tightens. "And my guess is that I will not be able to return to London any time soon."

She leans back in her chair, keeping her gaze on Peggy. "Is this the type of situation where I should tell my family to visit the Punjab? Are we that deep into the game?"

The fact that Rami is actually considering may or may not be a surprise to Peggy. her expression reveals nothing. Instead, she takes the bottle and pours more drinks for the both of them. That seems prudent on an occasion such as this. "Yes. That would be accurate," she says about the link to MI:6 and .5. It seems a risk Peggy is willing to take. "I am sure you will be able to return to London to visit. However, I would recommend finding a permanent place in New York."

As for her family? She frowns and shakes her head. "I don't think it is that serious. However. In our line of work, there is no such thing as too cautious. SHIELD is international. We can help ensure your family's safety, but it would not be anything along the lines of an around the clock surveillance."

*

Rami's mouth tightens a bit. Circumstances are flying through her head, and ancestral memory is colliding with her own rationale. It takes her a heartbeat longer to parse it all out. "They are expecting the drop in two hours." Which means that Rami has very little time to actually consider and weigh the pros and cons of the offer before her. In two hours, she is either showing up at the drop with a compromised device… or she isn't. And with the 'isn't' comes the hard truth: she would no longer be part of MI-6.

She reaches for the bottle of scotch, and pours herself another decent inch of booze. She sets the bottle aside, and then holds the glass out to Peggy. "To defection and rebellion."

*

"Two hours." Peggy thinks this through. "I can work this." She has, certainly, been under quite a few time crunches in her experience. Arranging something like this for a dubious asset is one thing. Arranging this as a sting? Well, that is something else entirely. There is quite a lot she can officially pull into her purview at that point.

"Okay. To do this right, you will still need to be in the forefront. However, now I will be able to surround you with SHIELD agents and allies. Get what you can, we'll extract you, if and when necessary." Raising her glass he clinks it against Rami's. "To rebellion."

*

Rami listens, but she is draining her scotch. It settles like a heat of confidence in her belly. Then she breathes out a slow exhale, and leans forward to set down the empty tumbler. "Alright. I can give you whatever intelligence I already have. I've worked the control room enough, and I know the right communication channels to tap. That should help whoever you assign." The words flow easily, precisely — just another mission on the table. This time, one against her own people.

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