Stiff Upper Lip

June 03, 2018:

Rami calls Michael on the night of the sting operation against Warhorse and MI-6.5

Rami's Apartment

A spy's apartment.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Peggy Carter

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

It's eleven o'clock at night, and the timer on Rami's watch ticks off the last sixty minutes until her meeting with Warhorse. She has seen to all her preparations at SHIELD HQ under Peggy Carter's direction, and now returns to her apartment for one last check off her checklist. She closes her apartment door quietly behind her, seeing to the locks. In autopilot, she turns on the lights of the front room and kitchen, crossing through them to the small hallway at the back with the two bedroom doors. She squats down before the keypad to the Bastion, and keys in her code. She pops off a segment of the trim around the door, revealing the fingerprint pad where she presses her thumb.

The door opens, and she steps inside the stripped, darkened room. She secures the door behind her, giving the knob a quick tug before she steps toward her computer consoles. Settling into her chair, she taps her keyboard and then starts to input a string of code. She takes an old cell phone out of the drawer beneath the keyboard and hooks it into the system. Then, accessing the address book on her computer, the cell phone dials Michael's number.

While she waits for it to ring through, she ties back her hair and starts tapping away into another system on her screen. She gnaws slightly at her lip while she busies herself between the rings.

*

UNDISCLOSED LOCATION

The phone rings once, twice, three times before it picks up. The voice on the other end is all business. "Go ahead." Even the British get a little more direct when times are tough. Michael listens rather than speaks immediately after. When a handler calls a wetwork agent, he listens before he speaks.

*

"Brit, this is Courtier. We're on a secured connection."

Parambir taps twice more on her keys before she eases back slightly in her seat. There's a long enough pause after her words to make her second guess herself, but then she pushes forward. "Your sister is the fucking worst." Then she leans forward again, tapping something once at the keyboard. "We're making a move tonight… on Warhorse. He pulled me into an off-the-books mission that has now revealed itself to be an attempt to steal information from SHIELD."

Which is a short way to say that Rami has made a clear decision: she's changing loyalties.

*

"One moment." There's the sound of shifting on Michael's end. A door closes somewhere in the background. He returns to the receiver. There's a moment of silence, thenm dryly, "I don't see how Warhorse being a traitor to our allies connects to my sister being the fucking worst." A beat, "In my estimation, that makes Warhorse the fucking worst. What was the information?"

*

"She's the fucking worst because she's too damn good at her job. I walked into her office to return the stolen information, and I walked out of her office as the bait for a sting operation. That's how she's the worst. Did she do this to you when you were children? Were you often the one holding the broken cookie jar while she was eating all the cookies?"

Rami doesn't actually sound angry by Peggy Carter's amazing negotiating skills. Her sharp tongue is a total nervous tic.

She shakes her head slightly. "A SHIELD facility in New Mexico recently closed, and I intercepted the hard drive where the facility secured all its top secret information." She hesitates. "Michael, it had information on the super soldier project — blueprints and lab designs, specifically, with some early project notes and draft proposals."

*

"She might have learned that particular tactic from me," says Michael, with more than a hint of fondness beyond the dry British wit. "Though usually it was our cousins holding the jar and not me. I wasn't cruel enough to do that to my baby sister. And anyway, she was far cuter than me."

Family stories aside, there's an exhale on the other end. "Project Rebirth, or some other iteration?"

*

"Carters," Rami replies, the name a proverbial curse on her tongue.

Then she shakes her head while she says aloud, "No. Must have been before they settled on Rebirth, but the word comes up multiple times in one of these draft documents. Here it is." She pauses as she finally pulls up one of the documents she pulled off the drive. Of course she made her own copy, because… spies. "My favorite quote: There is a misconception that rebirth is a process of peaceful design. Rebirth cannot be obtained without recklessness, pain, and above all sacrifice."

She frowns, and it carries through her words. "Even at this clearance level, all the names on the document have been redacted. The blueprints and lab designs are linked to an address in Ablution, New Mexico."

*

"It seems as if you've stumbled on a spot of drama, Courtier," says Michael. He couldn't sound more Proper English if he tried. "The pain of the various supersoldier programs is well-known. Why Warhorse would try and steal that from SHIELD is a touch baffling. We've always had a rather good relationship." He still says 'we' even though he's disavowed. "There must be more to it. Something SHIELD would never disclose to Six-Five. What does your gut tell you?"

*

Parambir closes out the documents with two taps on her keyboard and she leans back in her chair again. She looks at the black screen with its multitude of program icons littering the desktop. Her mouth tightens. "You steal something if you know that it wouldn't just be given to you, or… you don't want anyone to know you asked for it. Warhorse is operating outside the eyes and ears of the home office."

She intakes a breath, letting it out in a meditative exhale. "I haven't had time to go through each file yet in the data drive. I won't have time tonight." There's a long silence before she speaks next.

"My cousin Yashminder is keeping a box for me at the restaurant. It has everything you need to access Bastion… just in case something goes tits up tonight, alright then?"

*

"Is that why you're calling me, Courtier? To access your black box? You should have more faith in yourself than that." There's a brief pause as Michael considers. "I suppose there's a reason you don't want me there. Too much of the wrong kind of attention? Afraid I'll headshot Warhorse from half a block?"

*

"Oh, don't be so sentimental, Brit." Though, by Courtier's tone, there is a touch if sentimentalism there.

His real question though has her shaking her head even before he finishes asking it. "The latter more than the former. I need Warhorse alive, and I need him to give me answers before SHIELD takes him in. He can confess to conducting a rogue operation that endangered the life of a SHIELD agent, but only after he tells me what else he knows." Then her words soften, and she offers a bit less professionally, "More importantly, if you're there, he will get a scent on you. There is no indication that the Agency knows we've made contact yet."

*

"I suppose I can never be entirely sure whether I'm clear of tracking devices. They've certainly had plenty of opportunity to implant me with all manner of devices. I'm relatively sure Stark disabled my kill switch and long-distance locator. But the same can't be said of lower power devices that might be lying inert." Michael's words are grudging. "I can resist the urge to shoot to kill, you know. When that is the best strategic move."

*

"Oh, I know you can, love… but really, should we risk it?" Her amusement is evident in her voice despite the serious words. Then she nods, casting a glance toward her watch as the timer continues to countdown. "I have one more thing I need to do… there is a chance I may not get to sleep tonight." And for Rami, missing a night of sleep can mean hours of disorientation once she dozes off, and the memories of the other bearers flood her synapses.

She starts to close down on her applications, keeping the encryption program running. "I'll drop you a message once I'm in the clear."

*

"Godspeed, Parambir," says Michael in a very military way. He rarely, if ever uses her name out of sheer habit. But the last few months have seen their relationship move beyond simply that of handler and asset. "Keep your wits about you. I am at your service should you need it."

*

"Thank you, Michael. You will hear from me." It is a contradiction of confidence based on the fact she told him where to find her black box. Then she hangs up, and closes the encryption.

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