Never a Night Off

May 30, 2018:

Michael drops in on Rami after the events of the Hanged Man, and interrupts her night off.

Rami's apartment

It's an apartment in New York City: tiny and overpriced.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Erik Killmonger


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

The hour is late in New York City, and Rami Ghai had been preparing to call it a night. She had started her evening with a quiet meal — Yashminder had dropped off some food while on his deliveries, and she was thankful to not have to cook. Her days with SHIELD were long, and full of meetings that most didn't think she should be allowed to attend. The outsider who was let inside, that's how most saw the MI-6 agent. With no date on the schedule, she was immensely happy just to plop on the floor in front of her couch, eating tikka masala and watching a rerun of some American sitcom she didn't recognize. With the commercial break on, she eases up to her feet to get herself another refill on wine.


There's a light rapping on the door that Rami might not actually hear at first, though it quickly grows a little firmer. Michael was prepared to slink away, but he can faintly hear the TV through the door. When she opens the door, she'll find the disavowed spy worse for wear. There's a spot of blood trickling from his ear, and his clothing has a faint sheen of debris.


Rami is stalled by the knocking at the door, sitting quietly amidst her food while she listens to the growing firmness behind the rapping of knuckles. Slowly, she pulls herself to her feet. She's got a small sidearm near the door, tucked in a drawer, but she doesn't go for it. She keeps a casual air as she opens the door — after unlocking and undoing the chain. When she looks at Michael, her eyes widen and she opens her door wider.

"Shit! Get in," she tells him, not saying another word until he's inside and the door is shut and secured once more. She cuts across the room, muting the TV and opening the drawer of the side table to retrieve a small first aid kit.

She turns toward him, brows arched high. The sight of blood and debris has her open expression turning toward concern. "Bloody hell, Michael… what's happened?"


Once the door is open, Michael walks in and makes a series of movements Rami will recognize as a cursory sweep. Then he closes the door gently and locks it with whatever array of locks there are. He won't insult her by checking for bugs. There's not much of a chance one of those could get past her. Not a technological one, anyway.

He walks over to the window and looks out. Either he just pulled his sidearm or it's been out the whole time. It's hard to say. He checks the area across the street. "An entire bar erupted on me earlier. Several men tried to kill me, including at least one SHIELD agent who did everything but cackle evilly and twirl his moustache before he blew himself up."


Courtier notices his vigilance, and she reaches back into the same drawer she pulled out the first aid kit. The remote she's selected is tiny — no bigger then the width of her palm. There's just three buttons on it, and she hits the third one. The TV screen immediately goes from the sitcom to a quad-split video feed. The cameras that Rami installed soon after moving in show just outside her door, the hallway, the elevator, and the main entrance to the building.

Never can be too careful.

Only once she's satisfied the areas are cleared does she step toward Michael. "He blew himself up? Suicide bomber?" She passes him the kit. She frowns. "Are you certain it was a SHIELD agent?"


"Quite certain," says Michael. He pulls a wallet out of his jacket and holds up a SHIELD ID. "Sharon knew him." The ID indicates a Level 3 agent named Patrick Burnham. Rami might have even seen him around the Triskelion. A paper-pusher, by all appearances. "He played his gambit well. He had us convinced he might be some kind of pawn up until the moment he turned himself into a white hot ball of human bomb."

He turns to examine the video feed and nods once in approval.


News that Sharon was there relaxes Courtier a bit, and she takes the wallet if offered. She looks over it, and she immediately recognizes the face as her brain rapidly suffuses through her eidetic memory. "Yes… I've seen him. Likes to hang around the mail room." She frowns as she offers the wallet back. Something in what Michael says makes her pause, brows furrowing.

"Wait, he fucking turned himself into the bomb? How is that even possible, Michael?" She says, a woman with ancestral memories of a thousand or more bearers, to a man who is a nearly immortal super soldier. Her lips tighten. "Have we seen anything like this before?"


"I've seen my share of suicide bombers. But this seemed to trigger when he was hit with a bullet and an ICER roughly at the same time." It would shock Rami to know that Michael was not one of the itchy trigger fingers in that scenario. "It was as if he was expecting to be held hostage. Only a…" He works his jaw to the side, "Courtier, did you ever run any missions relating to Wakanda?"


Courtier's frown deepens at Michael's description of what caused the man to explode; she will have to unpack that more. But, instead, she's shaking her head slightly at the mention of Wakanda. "No. I've read reports on it… yours, specifically. But, I've not been to Wakanda." Her brows furrow deeply. "Is this to do with Wakandan, or their tech?"


"No. But a Wakandan is the reason that Sharon and I weren't blown to pieces by the bomber. Or at least, Wakandan tech." Michael dabs at the side of his face. "The people who attacked me weren't wholly incompetent. One of them shot me in the bloody ear." Which, along with his open eyes and mouth are among the few places he's not entirely bulletproof. "Or they're a fucking lousy shot and got lucky."


Rami pushes the first aid kit at Michael. "Don't bleed on my carpet. I'm on a short-term lease." Then she gestures, stepping away from the window to gather up her food. "Take care of your face, and I'll get you some food." She has the tone of a woman who isn't going to take no for an answer on the food thing; it is almost a residue of all the pushy women in her family.

She picks up her containers and cartons, starting toward the kitchen. "Alright, so the bomber was a SHIELD agent… who else was there?" Her voice is tight. "Any from our Agency?" She could correct herself; MI-6.5 isn't Michael's Agency anymore. Its just hers.


Michael Carter has English aunties. Had. And with them, tea and biscuits was going to happen no matter what. So he doesn't argue. He reaches for the first aid kit, but he goes just for the alcohol swabs. Nothing else is going to do much good. He's just going to be a bit deaf and sore on one side of his head for awhile. There's nothing else for it. "I'm not certain. We only grabbed the one. Most of the others were, well, killed." He wasn't going to risk debilitating shots when it was a dozen against two.

Then, "Do you know anything of Erik Stevens? He's an American black ops soldier. Or at least, I thought he was. He was there. He fought with me and came to warn me. Ostensibly paying me back for a mission we were both on a few years ago. At least that's what he said."


Rami pops open a cabinet, fetches a plate, and then piles some of the saffron rice, chicken, and vegetables onto the plate. She clatters about in a drawer, tucking a fork into her hand before she carries the plate back into the main room. She is distracted a moment by a pass of movement along one of the screens — the gentleman on three just got into the elevator. He doesn't spark suspicion from Rami, and she instead offers Michael the plate.

"What the hell is going on," she says flatly before she drops into the couch, tugging at her t-shirt emblazoned with the bright red rose of the England Rugby team. She frowns. "Yes… I've heard of Stevens." Her lips tighten together. "Was he coincidentally there?" Her voice sounds doubtful even while she asks the question.


"No. He knew I was going to be attacked. He said he's been tracking me." Despite himself, Michael's stomach rumbles when he catches a whiff of the food. "He was wearing kimoyo beads. He tossed up a shield around the three of us. That's the only reason I'm still in one piece." Well, he's pretty tough. But it still would have hurt a lot.

He takes the plate with a mumbled, 'cheers' but doesn't immediately start eating. "Stevens also claimed that I was the subject of some kind of…cloning program. I don't suppose you know anything about it?" Not accusatory, but definitely…exploratory.


"You're very popular." Rami's dry retort just hides her disquiet of a black ops soldier tracking Michael. She cannot help the way her mind slides to nefarious intentions. The news of the kimoyo beads draws her mouth thin, and she nods in understanding. As the resident tech expert, she knows what the beads do. "I suppose we owe him then, for you and Sharon both."

Courtier pulls her hair back with both hands, running her fingers through it only to clamp her hands down at the back of her neck. It is a nervous gesture, and the sigh that accompanies it only verifies her discomfort. She looks up sharply at the words of cloning, and her mouth drops open a bit even while she shakes her head. "No. Wait, Stevens thinks you've been cloned?" Her question is almost incredulous. "By the Agency, or back in the Project?" Being of course, the Super Soldier Project.


"If I had to guess, and you know it's rather my job to guess…" says Michael as he picks up his fork, "Is that Stevens wants something from me, or from me and my allies, long-term. I haven't a clue what that might be. So all I can do right now is remain guarded, and hope that he's genuine in his desire to help. But he could have let them kill or capture me in that bar. The skeptic in me realizes it's entirely possible it was all a ploy to gain my trust."

He scoops up a forkful and listens to what she says. "We didn't get much of a chance to properly chat about it before the firefight and the interrogation. But the gist of it seemed to be something about cloning, and that Six-five wants me dead."


"With this, I doubt I can put a tracer out on Stevens… if the Agency was behind the bombing at all, putting feelers out there could raise suspicion." Not that Rami hasn't already started to believe the suspicion is on the rise. She's starting to wonder why she was given this assignment to begin with; they knew Michael was in New York City, and sending his old handler there as part of a cooperative… She just shook her head before the thoughts could build too high.

Her mouth tightens. "I'll look into it." There's no request for approval in those words. She has access, and she must trust that other handlers in the Tower are not all playing the same game. "The cloning." Her mouth has not loosened. "I already suspected the latter."


"It would make sense why they would try to kill me the old fashioned way. There was a time when the could have done it with the push of a button. So either Stark damaged that mechanism as he repaired me after Norway, or whoever has my kill code doesn't want me dead." And Michael has absolutely no delusions. He's well aware of the kill switch, even though he doesn't know when it might have been installed - or how close they were to using it over the years.

"It seems ridiculous that anyone would want to clone me. I'm a failed experiment that took decades to salvage. More of me seems a terrible waste of resources." Dry as the desert sand. He eats a mouthful of curry. Then, he nods towards her control room. "By the way, I thought of a name for your little control room." He looks back, grinning in spite of the situation. "Bastion."


"You may be a failed experiment, Michael, but there are reasons to try to try again with the same genetic code," Rami says without preamble. She sighs heavily as she sinks down further into the couch. Once he starts eating, she nods slightly in satisfaction. She can now reassure her grandmother that Michael has eaten, because the old woman is a nosy old crone. She rests her head back into the back of the couch, watching him.

When he nods to her control room, she looks after his gesture. "Bastion." She starts to laugh softly, and then nods agreeably. "Bastion it is." A long silence passes as the handler thinks, and then she looks back to Michael. "Whoever has your kill code, if it's still active… they might actually be an ally. The shadows are getting thicker, Michael. It's getting hard to know who the fuck to trust… and we're getting to the point where we can trust the blighter with your kill code for the simple truth that he hasn't used it."

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