Remembrance of Things Past

August 16, 2018:

In tracking down the same lead on the 'enhancements' being sold to Purifiers, Danielle Moonstar and Pietro Maximoff cross paths. Certain memories resurface.

New Jersey :(


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Wanda Maximoff, Lorna Dane, Owen Mercer

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

The infamous Purifiers have been on both the X-Men and Brotherhood's radars as of late, with a spate of renewed activity centering around some odd 'enhanced individuals' they've been fielding in recent conflicts. So far, they've been spotted in such remote locations as remote islands and abandoned offshore oil rigs, though that doesn't mean they don't have some activities going on right at home.

The New York Metropolitan Area is full of remote locations that can be quietly taken over by activities on the less legitimate side. Among them is a series of warehouses on the eastern shore of New Jersey, once used by a shipping company, but fallen into disrepair after said company's bankruptcy, and recently bought back up by… well, the paperwork gets a little fuzzy there.

That was one clue that alerted SHIELD. Another might have been the somewhat erratic energy signatures which briefly emanated from the area the night before.

Those spikes attracted some other attention, as well. Pietro Maximoff has been turning the issue of the Purifiers over and over in his mind ever since it became evident — from what he'd found at the undersea base — that they were merely the buyers of whatever these 'enhancements' were that were being produced. It's still obfuscated, for him, who the seller might be, though the motive can be depressingly guessed at as either 'zealotry' or 'profit.' Or both. It wouldn't be the first time crazy people tried to inject themselves with things, and personal metahuman armies has been a topic on the rise ever since Trask Industries put out the notion that powers could be turned on or off at will by a collar.

It's nominally a scouting mission for him, so he travels alone and travels light. The time is an hour past midnight, and the warehouses in question are largely dark save for one which emanates the barest glimmer of light from its grime-crusted windows.

There are two men who are probably lookouts, hanging around by the doors. Dressed casually, with lit cigarettes, they're doing a pretty good job of looking like graveyard shift workers who really don't want to be there — which, objectively, they kind of are.

Even with all the upheaval within SHIELD that doesn't stop the gears and cogs of the ABC agency from continuing to spin.

Which means missions and assignments are still prioritized and assigned.

While SHIELD themselves have only gotten hints of the enhanced individuals periodically cropping up, that doesn't stop them from observing those odd spikes of energy. In fact, that's what's brought Danielle Moonstar out to this area. The oddity of the energy brought concern of an unknown 0-8-4 as such, the Agent of SHIELD was given the case.

Her arrival upon scene isn't all guns blazing, flash in a pan, or all glory. Instead it's understated, quiet and alone. The operation is *suppose* to be observation *only*.

And so, perhaps a tinge grumpily, Moonstar sets up a small hidey-hole some distance from the warehouse in question and begins the long hours of watching. There are breaks sure, but mostly she sits there and catalogs just about everything she sees.

It's boring work, but work.

"This is the glamorous life." Murmurs the Cheyenne woman to herself as she idly watches the two would-be guards, "Sure is. Two shots from my ICERs and I bet I could get a look inside."

That thought is definitely considered, but if there's one thing Moonstar has learned as an Agent is one shouldn't go looking for trouble. Especially when they're prone to having trouble FIND them.

The operation is supposed to be observation only.

Which is, of course, why Danielle Moonstar has only been out there about an hour — and has only just finished her private grouse about how easily she could just go in — when a sudden wind kicks up, a violent circulation of air that precedes one of the men simply disappearing. There is the briefest impression of a blur, followed by the forlorn sound of a splash, somewhere waaaay far out in the nearby Hudson River.

"Hey!!" His companion is only left to stare for about two seconds before he, too, vanishes. The splash sound repeats.

There is another smudge of a blur, and the door jumps open apparently of its own accord.

Should Moonstar gather herself up to proceed inside, it will be to find about ten people on site within the warehouse. All seem to be garden variety humans, some kitted out like security and others looking more like scientists. None of them are conscious. In fact, they have all been sort of shoved haphazardly into a corner and tied up as a group, with no particular reverence nor respect for their comfort.

There's no sign of any electronics of interest. Paper remains perhaps the most secure way to transmit information, in a modern age full of listeners across the digital wavelengths. There's only a few file folders, the contents of which seem to primarily be charts and diagrams on vital statistics, recommended dosages, and observational progress reports, as well as a vague memo on 'isolate them and get them to work right.' Apparently, whatever brought these people here, the orders were mostly delivered verbally.

Whatever they were working on appears to be in a basement level, down a flight of stairs.

Right before the wind kicks up Moonstar half-blindly reached for a coffee cup nearby. She just gets it in hand when the wind howls to life and with a look of surprise the woman mutters, "Eh?"

After all, storms do happen, but this dust-up seems rather oddly quick.

Her coffee mug is set back down and with a narrowing of her eyes the Cheyenne woman refocuses her binocs upon the warehouse. It's about that time of re-focus that the first guard disappears and this time Moonstar jerks forward slightly with her surprise. "What the -!"

But there's very little time for her to say anything else as suddenly the second man disappears and it's with that second disappearance and the second splash that Moonstar finally connects the dots.

She's no longer alone on this 'stakeout'.

"Well looks like you're going in." The SHIELD agent says to herself when the door practically flies off its hinges. Her steps are quiet and quick and as she trots to the door of the warehouse she pulls her ICER free. The door, which flew open so mysteriously seconds before, is eased open much more gently by the Cheyenne woman as she steps inside. Only what she anticipated and what she finds are two drastically different things.

Her brown eyes take in the unconscious forms and with those continued light steps of hers, the woman proceeds further into the warehouse. She does take the time to rifle through a few of those memos, a few of those folders, taking in the written 'orders' and progress reports. "What the hell is this." It's only at the steps downward that she pauses to really consider if she should go down or not. After a second of contemplation she shrugs and throws caution to the wind. "I can already see this incident report in my head." But downward she goes, taking the steps as swiftly and quietly as she can, gun still in her hands.

It's dark in the basement, lit only by a single bare bulb that flickers overhead from a low ceiling. The area is bare, occupied only by what the Purifiers have brought down with them: some IV drips set up beside two gurneys, a table of equipment and notes, and the two inert human(?) bodies on the gurneys.

Oh, and the young man hunched over the table, reading the notes, his back to the stairs in frank overconfidence.

(She often saw him like this, in places like this, when the war was still on. Humans still reigned supreme, and they had to do their planning in hiding like rats, holed up in dark places. He would work past the point of even his exhaustion. Often she would wake to see his turned back, the young man still standing, silver head lowered over mission reports and plans of attack.)

There's a SHIELD dossier on this man. He calls himself Quicksilver, but his birth name is Pietro Maximoff. It has been confirmed he is the son of Magneto and the half-brother of Polaris, though in public he has created a distance between himself and their activities on Genosha. He has a twin, the Scarlet Witch, Wanda Maximoff, but she is nowhere to be seen. That does not mean she is not near.

He does not appear to notice her. After a moment, he straightens from the table, but it is only to stand over the female human laid out on the gurney.

A thought lingers in her head something along the lines of 'yeah, this isn't creepy', but the time for speaking is past. Especially as she nears the bottom and with one last step the woman pivots silently into the basement proper.

It may take her eyes a second to adjust to the minimal lighting, but adjust they do and that's when she sees the two on the gurney and then the young man hunched over the table.

It's upon seeing him, standing there just so, that brings her gun upward and pointed at him. Words should follow, she should shout for him to get his hands in the air, but unexpectedly an almost psychic assault of images pan across her mind's eye.

(And when Dani would find Pietro just so, she'd do what any comrade-in-arms would do. She pulled herself to her feet and trudged off for a few minutes before returning and joining him at the table. "Even you have to sleep." She'd often say and once those words were said she'd set down a raggedy-chipped mug next to him. Coffee. They may have been rats at that time but they had a *few* well-deserved, definitely stolen, luxuries.)

With that memory (?) Moonstar's gun half-lowers, as her focus automatically shifts, but when that interlude concludes the Cheyenne woman's awareness returns and she immediately snaps her gun right back up, "What was THAT!" She demands, her own abilities allowing her to feel the 'realness' of those memories.

"What are you and your sister up to now!?" Comes a second demand and while as a SHIELD agent Moonstar can legitimately ask these sorts of questions, somewhere deep within her a twinge of something is felt. Like propriety was lost in some unspoken way.

(The coffee was always welcome. But the fetching of it stopped once the war was won. The commander of the crown prince's Red Guard needed some more dignity and gravitas than to be fetching coffee. They still took it together when it came, though. Years into their 'victory' and their stable governance of Genosha, she remained one of his last actual friends.)

Here and now, she's got a gun pointed at his back.

Her shout startles him, and on reflex he whirls and disarms her within a heartbeat, a whisk of air and flicker of his outline — and the fact that he suddenly has her gun in his hand — the only indication that he's moved at all. Her subsequent question registers a moment later, and Pietro… hesitates visibly, a familiar sort of guilty look flashing across his features in keeping with some ingrained, long-lost memory. He's had that shouted at him a lot, by this particular voice, over the years.

Wait. He hasn't. What the hell?

Angry, he starts to reply. He gets about as far as, "What was what? Who the hell are — "

And the woman on the gurney nearest him suddenly spasms, sits bolt upright, and kicks him clear across the basement. The gun hits the ground and goes spinning back towards Danielle.

Incidentally, the sight of Quicksilver hitting a wall and crumpling with an annoyed grunt is also depressingly familiar.

Her gun disappears.

Just like that.

For a silent moment there's only an incredulous look from Moonstar, then her expression tightens.

It was always this way, right? The Prince would neatly disarm any resistance with the use of speed - wait a minute. Prince?

That forgotten title rings loudly in her head, causing her internal world to tilt slightly. That feeling only strengthens upon seeing the brief flash of guilt on Pietro's face.

"The psychic assault!" Because that's definitely what Dani's considering it and while he asks his second question he doesn't quite get to finish, as the woman on the gurney suddenly rises. And when the speedster sails across the room, punted by that kick, Moonstar can't quite stop herself from yelling, "God dammit!" A familiar curse from the woman and one that was often said and while her head spins with all the deja vu, that doesn't stop Moonstar from grabbing her recently stolen gun from the ground. The ICER raises up and is pointed at the woman on the gurney and already Dani's finger curls against the trigger, "Get up and get OUT. I got this." Those words leave her lips unbidden, pulled from a memory that abruptly pops into her mind.

(A mission for intel, a cake-walk of a mission. The chance for danger was low, but their sources were wrong. Or rather they lied. When the small team arrived they found themselves ambushed. Lives were lost, nearly all of them, including Moonstar's. It where she lost her eye and knowing she was likely sentencing herself to death, she shouted similar words to Pietro, "Get up, get out. Survive so the fight continues.")

And while that memory plays out, muscle memory has Dani completing her shot. Twice in fact. Two pops from her ICER can be heard which sends their specialized sleepy-bullets at the woman who attacked Pietro.

It was always this way. He'd jump in, lightning-quick, for the disarm. Sometimes, he'd get himself knocked silly by something. She'd come in as backup, firing to protect him. The young man to which she swore her life —

Wait. That's not right.

Pietro, briefly stunned against the wall from the force of that kick, doesn't seem up to answering her questions or her confusion in any cognizable way. "What assault," he mumbles blearily, shaking his head in an attempt to clear it. "I didn't do it…" There don't seem to be any other presences in the area, in accordance with his claims. They might both wish Wanda was there pretty soon, however.

At the least, the man on the other gurney seems nowhere near waking up. The cocktail that was meant to keep them out seems to be working properly on him.

The woman is clearly buggy, however. The 'enhancement' clearly did not agree with either of these people, though it agreed with her much less. White-hot heat pulses erratically under her skin as she moves, and the regeneration that the others of her ilk boasted seems to flicker 'on and off.' One moment she's speeding across the floor towards Moonstar… and the next, with a terrible snap, her left leg suddenly loses integrity and breaks, sending bone jutting through the skin and reducing her to a dragging shamble.

(Get up and get out! she shouted then. He didn't listen. He never did. Often, it saved his people's lives that he didn't listen, which only served as positive reinforcement for his recklessness. Even after his family crowned itself, he still snuck out on occasion, in the early years when resistance was still a significant problem. She'd track him down and find him, facing down human resistance all desperate to capture the prince for leverage… still ignoring her even as she told him to get the hell out.)

Dani's fired shots plow into the woman's chest, spraying blood and spasming her… but after a moment, the regeneration seems to kick back in, and in overdrive. Flesh knits, bone knits, and with an incoherent shriek the woman lunges at Moonstar —

— only to be knocked out of her trajectory by Pietro, still a little punch-drunk but at least capable of moving — and who doesn't appear entirely certain, himself, why he did what he just did.

"The hell with that." Saying that, at least, he does seem a lot more confident about. "You haven't seen how hard these things are to kill — "

The pop of her gun helps to shake her loose from those cloying memories. It's enough that she can momentarily move her gaze off to the woman and over to where Pietro is.

She'd ask another question, but the woman (somehow) manages to pull herself up again. "Dammit." Growls Moonstar, the tone similar again to another version of herself. "Stay down!" She shouts at the woman and her gaze is readied to be fired yet again. Only before that trigger is pulled for a third time the woman lunges and Moonstar only has enough time to brace for impact. Only that impact never comes. Pietro's there shoving the woman forcefully a way.

Again her gun swings to Pietro, though not necessarily in a 'I'm going to shoot you' way. It's more reactionary as the black-haired woman says tersely, "What did I say?" And if the situation were less hairy she might really wonder why she's saying what she is, but adrenalin has her, "You never listen!"

("You never listen." The woman said quietly to the Prince, a portion of her face damaged and her eye forever gone. "Thank you." Those two words filled with a lot of unspoken things, but mostly her thanks was for saving her life.)

"And what the hell are those things?" Which prompts Moonstar to redirect her gun at the momentarily downed woman. After a thought, Moonstar brings psychic abilities into play, as magenta energy shimmers to life around the gun.

"I listen to things that aren't STUPID," is Pietro's scintillating rejoinder. He's under a little stress, so he's not at his usual wit. "And you dealing with this alone is stupid."

A pause.

"And what do you mean 'I never?!' Who are you?!" Agitated, he stabs at her in an accusatory point, a gesture which is also painfully familiar on some level. "Why do you have your eye?" (Your eye you lost for me.)

Another pause, as he realizes what he just said. He looks briefly confused —

And the woman regains her feet, her hands flaring with white-hot heat as she rushes them again. "I don't know," Pietro says, the thumb of his left hand folding to brush against a red-metal ring worn on his fourth finger. "But they've been popping up everywhere, and I'm trying to find out…"

"Stupid!" Snaps Moonstar, her voice rising in agitation, "I'm not the one that's being stupid!"

This definitely seems familiar. She really just needs to end that sentence with a 'sir'.

"And where would my eye *be* -" She continues, then abruptly stops. It's the mention (and memory) of her missing eye. She knows this. Or she should. Or she thinks she does. Owen mentioned an eyeless her -

And while there's a conversation that definitely needs to happen, it has to wait. There's more important things at hand, like surviving.

Again the gun is raised, but instead of the sleepy-time bullets being fired, now they're magenta. Each bullet is nightmare laced, intending to pull out the person's worst feels so that it plays continuously in an incapacitating feedback loop.

"Let's see if that takes care of her. If not really be prepared to run."

"You are definitely the one being stupid," Pietro snipes back, as if they weren't facing down a dire threat (he always found time to argue, especially when they were probably about to die). "How am I the one being stupid? And — " The eye? Where should it be? A hesitation. "It's just not supposed to be there. It's — "

He stops. The memory is gone again as quickly as it surfaced in his mind, leaving him more confused than before. He searches for it, but the sound of the woman rising again for another bout seizes his attention, and it slips away far beyond any recall. He curses internally.

If this doesn't work, be ready to run. "Oh, I know running," Pietro says, sliding the ring off his finger. "But I'm not leaving these things intact to come after us again in the future." A pause. "This should work."

Moonstar's laced bullets hit home, and these have a decidedly more significant effect. The 'enhanced' woman stops dead in her tracks with a shriek, clawing at her own face and turning mindless circles as whatever is left of her ravaged mind turns on itself in terror. But the flaring light of Dani's psionic assault isn't the only pyrotechnics in the room right now.

A burst of familiar red light, sourced from Pietro's hand, accompanies his disappearance from Moonstar's side. The woman's shrieks stop abruptly, as do her movements. Her hands drop. A moment later, so does her head, sliding from her shoulders courtesy of a clean slash through the neck.

Pietro reappears near Dani, looking a little annoyingly cocky, the short red hex-blade in his hand already folding back up into a ring. "That takes care of that — "

The body starts glowing white-hot, all over, very ominously. Pietro's eyes widen. "Oh — "

There is a brief moment where he glances at Danielle. He could leave her. (But he owes her his life a thousand times over. But she's the last friend he has left.)

Her feet leave the ground, of a sudden, and one heart-stopping half-second later they're half a mile distant. The muffled sound of the explosion is still fading, in their wake. And he's still carrying her, as if they weren't total strangers.

The woman's shrieking automatically has Moonstar tracking the circling woman with her gun. Almost Dani says 'that's usually not what happens', but she doesn't quite get the words out before Pietro is moving again. While she can't necessarily follow is speed enhanced movements, she can definitely see the results. Surprise writes itself across her features as she watches the head fall to the ground.

A certain brand of disapproval all but emanates from Moonstar now, "That was a little *extreme*, don't you think?" And then when the body glows Moonstar says, "I'm pretty sure that means we're still in trou -"

Trouble. That's what she was going to say, but then Pietro picks her up and off they go. The two move far away from the warehouse and its explosive contents. The distant boom of an explosion is heard and while Dani feels the urge to try and look *for* the explosion, she resists that temptation. Instead the Cheyenne woman has to now address the very awkwardness of their current situation.

It seems in both realities Dani is not one to play damsel-in-distress.

"You k-" (You know I hate being carried like this.) "Can you put me down. Now."

For whatever reason, Dani's disapproval seems to have an extra effect on him, and Pietro doesn't like it. He shifts his weight impatiently as she lectures him about his action being 'extreme.' "It takes extreme measures to get rid of these things," Pietro says in his own defense, scowling. "I've seen these things pumped full of white-hot metal and still keep going. You want to live, or no — "

And the body starts glowing.

Fortunately, a speedster is just what is needed in such a situation. Not so fortunately, once they're both clear, they realize at exactly the same time that their situation is now very awkward.

Can you put me down. Now.

Cold blue eyes narrow. "…Gladly."

And that is the story of how Pietro Maximoff dropped Danielle Moonstar flat on the ground.

"Now," he says, trying to shake off whatever feelings of recognition want to keep struggling back to the surface, keep clamoring that they'll need to head back and go over the mission report together, "you'd better get out of here… whoever you are…"

And it becomes quite clear then, as he vanishes again in a crack of speed, that whatever reality it is, Pietro is great at running away from his own feelings of confusion.

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