Ground Control to Major Coulson

August 22, 2018:

Dani Moonstar and Emma Frost—the epic team up that gets Major Coulson's soul back from… wherever it went.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Rituals.

There are many rules for rituals that straddle mutant and magical senses. For the ritual that Dani Moonstar has devised the rules are fairly simple -

Rule 1: Hold the ritual in a safe place.
Rule 2: Remember to eat, drink and go to the bathroom before hand.
Rule 3: Never ever open innocuous seeming doorways.

Rule 1 was easy enough to fulfill. Dani invited Emma to her very small, neat, but small apartment in New York City. Rule 2 was likewise handled as for rule 3 … well, it's still being worked upon.

Once Emma is settled as comfortably as one can be, Moonstar quickly sketched out the plan, "With your psychic abilities and my Valkyrian -" Which isn't a word, "- senses I think we'll be able to get a credible lock upon Agent Coulson's soul. Just remember rule 3, don't open doorways unless you're really certain it's where we need to go." And here Moonstar pauses as she looks across the small dining room table toward the blonde, "If you're good with that then I'm good to go."

It's only after Emma gives her consent, or acknowledges that she's quite ready, that the Cheyenne woman turns to a small metal bowl that sits next to her. Within the bowl sits a small clump of dried greenery; herbs, or leaves, a definite mismatch of vegetation. There's a strike of a match and the small spark of flame is dropped into the bowl. Immediately the heat and flame eat into the plants and as they disintegrate pale gray smoke wafts upward. It's the smoke that triggers the next phase of this particular seance, as it pulls at both women.

In-between one blink and the next the two women find themselves standing outside of their bodies.

It's almost like astral travel, but it's not quite the same. There are threads, colors, noises, vibrations, that aren't felt within the astral realm and oh, by the way, in front of both ladies is a door. A solid oak door.

Rule 1, safety in the eye of the beholder. Emma could do with more laser security systems.

Rule 2, Frost can manage more than well enough as her butler - the epic Emery Papsworth - continues to make certain that she doesn't starve by leaving prepared things in her fridge.

Rule 3, yeah, about that.

The telepath - bedecked in a pair of immaculately creased white linen pants, a sleeveless collared shirt where the buttons stop a point far too low to be considered entirely chaste, and a white vest of a knit so light and loose as to be entirely see through - does at least keep to herself her snide remarks about hippies, their herb selections, and the superior side effects that could be had through a couple substitutions. Her preparedness is questioned, and she assures Moonstar that she'll be just fine.

And then? A blink. There the telepath goes, standing in front of a door and immediately feeling the difference between this moment and the far more comfortable astral travel that she can settle her psychic weight into.

She gestures at the door, her eyebrows arching as she asks of Dani. "One of the expected landmarks, I hope?"

It would be nice to think Moonstar and Frost could just stroll through the big oak door and find Coulson on the other side, politely waiting to serve spiritual tea and grateful for the ride home. Or even that he'd just come walking out of the expected landmark himself. That is not, in fact, what happens.

Instead they emerge on a dusty ruin on a sandy scrub beach. The sea churns, a disturbing blood red shade. Above: stars. A riot of stars. The kind of stars one sees when light pollution is all cleared away, when one stands in the perfect dark in some rural area. But these are all tinged with a hint of red as well.

In the distance, there's a woman's voice, barking something it's hard to hear.

Even with the differences between magic and astral, there's enough similarities that should Emma Frost wish it, she could swatch herself in astral armor.

Her question about the door causes Moonstar to nod, "Yup. The doorway to death." One could take her words to be sarcastic, or even joking, but her tone is all seriousness. "Here we go." She says, and as her hand grasps the brass doorknob her form shimmers momentarily to reveal a winged-helm upon her head, a breastplate of silver and sword. However, that reflection of just who and what she is only lasts a second and by the time Moonstar opens the door she's right back in her 'regular clothes'.

The sight that greets her brown eyes isn't necessarily expected and with a look around herself, Dani murmurs, "Yeah this doesn't look ominous at all." Especially those red stars, they hold Moonstar's gaze for a moment longer than necessary. Then it's over to Emma as another person's voice is heard, barking orders possibly? "I think that's our cue."

Emma doesn't immediately gear up for war. The blonde telepath is more than content to walk in the other world as she does the normal, waking one. Instead, she contents herself to the expanding of her own consciousness in her new surroundings, acclimating herself to the way they resonate differently. The difference in the feel of it around her, beneath her feet. Subtly, she plays with lightening the 'weight' upon those feet as a precursor to a full on levitation. Her fingers spread and close, as she considers whether to try materializing her thoughts. She does, a few steps in, in the form of a small mass like a smooth river stone.

As she hears the woman's voice, Frost's brow creases. Ominous, Moonstar suggests as a proper descriptor. Emma simply 'hmph's as a means of agreement. And then her empty hand gestures in the direction of what sounds like should be a woman. "After you."

It is a woman. Or rather, it's two women.

One is tall, with short, greying brown hair and narrow brown eyes set into a mess of laugh lines beneath a mess of worry lines. The other is younger, with glossy black hair that falls around a delicate face.

Both are wearing SHIELD Agent uniforms. They face each other, at least until the older shoots the younger right in the chest. The sound of the gunshot is rather deafening.

Then the older steps into a bit of cover, narrowing her eyes at Moonstar and Emma.

"Agent Coulson," she says, pointing the gun at Dani. "Step back. Palmer," and here the gun swings to Emma, "Back. Now."

A wind starts to howl, bringing with it a splattering rain. The drops are too thick. It's not exactly a rain of blood, but it seems like a rain of somewhat diluted blood. The woman with the gun ignores it, even as her companion stares sightlessly up at them both.

There's an ironic tilt of Dani's head when Emma offers that 'after you', but take the lead the Agent of SHIELD does.

Her pace is rather quick as she follows the voice to its owner, just in time to see the woman shot. Almost Moonstar gasps, because it's shocking, but the understanding of where they are allows Moonstar to stifle that sound.

When the gun is pointed in her direction Moonstar automatically raises her hands upward. "Easy." She says and whatever else she might have continued with pauses, when the woman 'identifies' who she is.

A look is sent to Emma and then with a deliberate step, 'Coulson' steps back.

The rain splats down and that causes the Cheyenne woman's attention to shift toward the would-be droplets. She can't quite stop the grimace that washes over her features, even as Moonstar turns her attention back to the woman pointing the gun. Words are tried again, "Let's take it easy now."

Well, it's so nice that Dani knows where they are, because Emma is faltering for ground. Against the rain, she turns her stone into an umbrella and continues along with an ever increasing lift in her step. But - as that scene plays out before them - the psychic only registers it with the smallest wince against the deafening sound and a clench of her jaw.

But then she quietly sets to work, searching for an awareness to latch onto, a source, as 'Palmer' lifts her empty hand and lets her pale gaze flicker briefly in Dani's direction with a frown. She's not putting down the umbrella so long as she's got a choice about it, and she's more than willing to let the Valkyrie talk on her home turf

The woman doesn't shoot, and that's the good news. And a brief look of confusion passes over her face. Then her jaw firms. "Tara was a traitor," she informs them. "And one of you is working with her. Until I figure out who, you both stay back."

Psychic reverberations ring through the air though, something Emma could read if she chooses to. There's now a sort of…dissonance…going on.

But the Agent backs up a little, gun still in hand, swinging it to Moonstar as the one who is talking to her. 'Palmer,' after all, is just holding an umbrella. The Agent's training causes her to zero in on the person who is the larger threat.

The look Moonstar turned toward Emma turns almost incredulous at the sight of the umbrella, but with matters being the way they are -

Moonstar keeps her hands up in the air, to show how non-threatning she really is, as she watches that gun swing back over to her. "We'll stay back." Confirms Moonstar, "Don't worry. Why don't we talk this out and see if we can't straighten it all out."

Her words are said in a quiet tone, an even tone, one that's trying hard not to rock the boat. This may be a memory (possibly), but that doesn't mean getting shot might not kill her in reality. There are consequences even here.

"Start from the beginning and tell me what's going on."

And hopefully, with all of her talking, the Agent pointing that gun will stay focused upon her versus Emma.

It's hard to say whether Emma's eyes will glow blue here like they do when she exercises her abilities on the astral plane. The mark of a psychic in her glory. But she will use the diversion offered shamelessly and stay drier than her partner for this evening's exercises.

While Dani occupies the phantom, the stone-faced White Queen absolutely chases down the reverberations she finds and does her best to keep a tab on the disconcerting dissonance. The ability to multi-task is an important one, and she does her best to observe the three views at once: the phantoms, the vibrations, and the dissonance.

Emma's concentration yields some information. The source of the dissonance is the real memories of this event trying to assert themselves. From the moment Moonstar said 'let's talk about this' the events veered off how they really happened. This isn't necessarily a problem, but it tells Emma she could easily tune those into greater focus to get exactly what did happen on some night on some island just like this one. Probably sans blood rains and red stars.

The dissonance is a pair of emotions, both tinged with the mental feeling of Phil himself, if Phil since his death. Scattered, with all the orderly file cabinets of his mind tipped over, ransacked and ruffled through, thoughts spilling out on the cold metal floor. But 'this' file is on the top and opened to the events therein, and the emotions surrounding them are twofold.

Horrified realization and sudden, crushing guilt.

Meanwhile, the Agent shakes her head almost in time with Emma tuning into those things. "You're…you're not Coulson," she says.

With her free hand, she reaches her hand up to her head and dabs blood away from the perfect bullet hole between her eyes. It doesn't seem to be bothering her more than that, as if the river of blood running and dripping down her nose is little more than an annoyance. "That's not Palmer," she says, in confusion, of Emma.

But it also makes her lower the gun, if only to point it at the ground and not at the two women.

"I had to figure out which one it was," she says. "I knew it was only one of them. Tara was only working with one traitor. The other was loyal. But I couldn't figure out which of them it was. I have to make a move. Maybe if I do, the traitor will show his hand."

When she realizes they're not who they say they are and then points the gun downward, Moonstar slowly lowers her hands.

Side-eye is given briefly to Emma, but even the Valkyrie knows the other woman is working hard, so for this moment Moonstar continues to speak.

"You're right. We're not Coulson or Palmer." Agrees Moonstar quietly, "But we're friends and we're trying to help. That's why we're here to find a friend." The bullet wound is looked at, but not necessarily remarked upon. Instead the Cheyenne woman considers the last words that were spoken by the woman.

"Did the traitor show their hand?" Even though Dani is quite sure she understands just who the traitor likely was in this situation; obviously not Coulson.

«There you are,» Emma quietly projects upon the plane they occupy, and her eyes close to properly focus herself. She looks pretty serene, all told, nestled in the shadow of her umbrella. The truth of that day, what is happening now… Neither of those are what she's come for. What Danielle Moonstar has come for.

The feelings are answered with a suffusing peace, emanating from one morally grey telepath.

Traitorous phantoms, unless they interfere, are ignored to the best of Emma's ability now. And she trusts - for better or for worse - Dani to handle this side while she sorts out the other.

Everything of a mind tipped over, spilled out, disorganized. It's the mark of a butcher at work, and it takes everything in Emma to keep her less charitable thoughts about it at bay while she is still here in a place where thoughts might carry a little further. But she's done it before, the tucking in of frayed edges. This is just a little more… involved.

«Can you hear me, Phil?»

In stark contradiction of Dani's thoughts:

"Yes. Coulson ditched Palmer and shot me. But not before I destroyed the drives," the Agent says, with some satisfaction, putting her gun away and crossing her arms. "I never would have thought it of him. I was sure it was Benjamin, that smug son of a bitch."

On the astral plane, most people aren't that concerned with being dead, after all. If this is even the spirit of this woman. An echo, a memory, a thoughtform. All are equally likely.

Emma latches on to that bit of thought from Phil Coulson himself, the guilt and recrimination. She reaches out to it, speaks directly to it, and gets a sudden, startled feeling in return. There is a long moment of the same level of confusion he exhibited on her balcony, and then he manages to get himself into focus, and control. «Emma?» The question is uncertain. He sounds faint. And Lost. He's been dead for months now, wandering for nearly this long. It has taken its toll.

"What drives?" Comes the obvious follow-up question from Moonstar, striving to keep this figment of a memory talking. "And what were on them?"

And while she waits for the answer something of Agent Coulson is felt when he 'speaks', as the Valkyrie cocks her head in an obvious 'listening pose'.

Whether she can hear the full conversation isn't quite clear, but something has piqued Moonstar's senses and it has her splitting her attention from what's in front of her to what's all around them.

«Mm-hm.» The affirmation as to Emma's identity for Phil's benefit is presented as calm and unworried, and her great ego helps bolster it. This is under control, she surmises, and is growing in her confidence despite the slight change of medium.

She warned Dani, didn't she? That this process had left a mess.

But they're going to clean it up now. «I think your time as a space traveler has gone on rather long enough, don't you? I'm here with Danielle Moonstar. We're here to collect you. It's been dreadful, you know. No one appreciates my choice in restaurants the way you do.»

He sounds lost, and she's already flying the distance to find him and anchor him down. Tether him to her more healthy psychic weight, lend him what she can of her own energy.

Moonstar asks about the drives, and there's just a distorted sort of ripple, like a scratch across a record player. The 'Agent' doesn't know.

Much like the drives themselves, the memories are fragmented. There are pieces of memory, attached to sounds that are high pitched…almost like a shriek. It at times dulls into modem sound and then crescendos into a human cry.

What Dani gets does not look like digital information. Instead, it seems to be a read out of other images. Images flash and glitch. The beach is in front of Dani and yet it striates and something else is there.

"We're letting this get away." Palmer says annoyed, exasperated. He looks at Coulson, looking for back up. Behind this image, another one of Palmer in distorted reds and greens grins and pushes at Phil.

Petronoff has a laptop in her hands, still raised, trying to destroy it completely. She looks to Coulson, who holds a gun at her. The expression is calm. "You?" she asks him. She looks at the bracelets, then looks up at him. She looks guilty, angry, foiled. Then, the laptop crashes on the ground. Over her shoulder, Petronoff is distorted blue and white. She looks to the Coulson with surprise, with disappointment and then resignation. In her ghost form, she smashes the laptop alongside the image in true focus.

The sound of a helicopter. Palmer puts a hand over Coulson's. "You did the right thing, Coulson. Any of us should have done the same. Invisible, sickly green, snakes wrap from the hand over Palmer's over Coulson's and wrap up around him.

Meanwhile, Emma is tethering Phil down, and he finally comes into focus beside her. He seems unaware of the drama playing out around him, even though that emotion is still there. In the air. Horrified realization, over and over again, coupled with intense guilt.

One wouldn't know it to look at his face. He's got that same Cheshire Cat smile he always wears, avuncular, even. Sad, concerned hazel eyes. He's in a nice suit and for once he's not actively bleeding.

«That truly is a tragedy,» Phil agrees, on the matter of restaurants. «I've forgotten what food tastes like, but I remember enjoying it.»

A pause, a beat, and he adds, «I went looking for my body, but I can't find it. Something weird happened. It was like…the veil ripped open hard and everything went mad. Thousands of souls pouring in as other…things…tried to get out. I got attacked, shredded…tried to escape. Ended up here, just wandering in my own memories. Dani, Emma…»

It's a rare thing for him to admit. «I don't know what to do. I think being dead is above my paygrade.»

Those double exposed images are watched with interest by Dani. She turns slightly this way and that to follow the path they take.

To continue to watch this memory glitch and repeat, and try to ‘play’ correctly even with themselves interposed within.

It’s only as Emma makes actual contact with Phil Coulson’s soul that Moonstar stops. Then, thanks to her own mystical senses, the Cheyenne woman turns to face both Emma and Phil. At the sight of Phil relief floods Dani’s expression. Relief that he seems whole, both ‘physically’ speaking, but mentally as well.

A look is turned to Emma for a second, before Dani says, “You’re not quite dead yet. We’re here to bring you back.” She extends a hand toward the man, “You just have to take our hands. We’ll get you back.”

«When you’re home safe and rested from your little misadventure, we’ll have to start adding international destinations. There’s this place in Portugal that…»

The telepath doesn’t finish her thought.

When Dani looks in Emma’s direction, the other woman will find that the blonde’s expression has already resolved into something along the lines of ‘resting bitch face’. Whatever softness and encouragement she allowed to contort her porcelain-pale features is now gone in order to convey that she’s still not entirely convinced on this end of things. It is mostly subtle and certainly swift, because she returns to agreeing with a sweet smile only a moment later.

You’d best believe she has every intention of holding him in place on their present plane until he’s secure on the one they’re returning to.

Whatever Coulson feels about his 'mostly-dead-is-not-all-dead' status remains a mystery. Mostly because he doesn't really know how he feels about it. The ambivalence swirls around him in waves, even though his 'face' remains as it ever does, pleasant and not particularly expressive. What he does know is he can't stay here.

He reaches out to take their hands, or rather to offer his, holding them both out but letting them take it. It's a gentleman's maneuver, despite having been told what to do, letting the ladies call the shots on being touched. Even if there's no physical touching happening here at all.

«Portugal sounds lovely,» he says, earnestly.

As for the memory, he mostly tries not to watch it. A day he made a horrific mistake. One he only realized the extent of much later, months after Palmer pierced his heart and literally gutted him.

The look that Emma sends to Dani is acknowledged with the slightest dip of her chin.

She's seen it. She understands, but this particular journey still has to be done.

When Coulson extends his hands to them and waits for them to take his own, Dani just smiles. Then she clasps his hand within hers and with the touch of the Valkyrie, Coulson might feel some measure strength within it. Not just physically, but mystically. It's like a rush of caffeine in the morning right after you woke up.

It's only after Emma is ready that Dani moves. It's one step away from the memory and with that first step a lighted path appears. It's winding way leads back to the solid oaken door. The door itself seems far off, relatively speaking, but what it looks and what actually is are often two different things within these types of planes.

"I personally like Tahiti."

They clearly have very different opinions on the actual definition of “must”, but Emma is at least true to the word she’s given. As long as it is going to be a journey taken regardless, she’ll do what she can to mitigate the work of barbarians and butchers.

Those who do not understand the intricacies of what is being done here.

…Not that Frost is entirely certain that she understands all of the intricacies, and that likely terrifies her more for the wayward consciousness she’s taken under her wing than everything else combined.

However, there’s an invitation waiting, and the telepath doesn’t leave it hanging. Despite the dreadful possibility of looking like the end of some sappy movie, the woman strides forward—still under the protective cover of her summoned umbrella—and moves to take the hand offered her and follow as she’s led. She’s still frantically trying to weave together whatever she can before he starts crossing anywhere, amplifying the strongest parts to compensate for the weaker ones.

It’s messy and perhaps more than a little disorienting for Coulson as she attempts to make mid-course adjustments, but still better than what came before.

“As the gentleman prefers, then,” she murmurs. “I defer.”

«Defer? About what?»

It's a measure of how messed up he really is. Or of the disorientation of Emma's repair-work. He normally follows the thread of conversation with ease, is quick on the uptake, and now he's almost groggy. Still, he makes zero complaints, and he follows them down the path.

He almost puts his hand to his head before he remembers they're keeping him anchored, and squeezes each of theirs instead. He decides, apparently, to wave away the conversational thread he's apparently dropped and lost, murmuring only, «Thank you for coming to get me, ladies.»

And then he sort of squeezes his eyes shut, and does issue a single-word complaint. «Stars.»

But still he walks with them, all the same.

While perhaps not as psychically gifted as Emma is, Dani still has a sense of what the other woman is doing. From that, Moonstar strives to take the burden off of Emma in other ways.

Like getting them back to the heavy oaken door safely. As such, she takes the lead in finding their way home.

The road continues to wind and weave, perhaps oddly so, as the journey home seems longer than when the journey started.

As the trio walks, the Cheyenne woman stays mostly quiet, only speaking when Coulson offers that single-word complaint. A look is turned to Emma for a minute, before Dani says gently, "Stars? What stars?" And whether he keeps his eyes shut or not, he'll find Dani's hand firmly guiding him along.

The word means something to Emma, and grim understanding and a barely restrained and seething sort of anger is scrawled upon her features for a fleeting moment. But her rage is something counterproductive and so she shuts it down, a blip in the feelings of peace that she uses to try to mask her work organizing thoughts and memories as quickly as she can without being sloppy.

She wants the core solid. The fringe of his consciousness - the peripheral things that matter less in the making of a person - she tries to sort away from the core. And she prays that she’s making the right choices. But, more than that, she wishes this didn’t feel so much like leading a lamb to slaughter.

Mutant looks to mutant, and unspoken accusation lies there. SHIELD has birthed this monstrosity. Dani, as its representative, must thus bear the rare moment that seems to be being judged on morality by Emma Frost.

It is brief, at least.

“I know,” she tells Phil, still looking coldly at Dani. “Almost done. Almost there.” Then, there is a change in her tone, whatever warmth she had for the man unavailable to the other woman who she addresses next. A counter movement is found in her insincere smile. “Good as its going to get, so let’s be done with it.”

And then she is the other half she needs to be, leading Phil on by the hand.

“Let’s get you home, Mister Coulson.”

Then through the door that finally reveals itself by Dani’s skillful navigations the three go.

FIN.

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