The Carter Interrogations

September 08, 2018:

A trio of Carters conduct interrogations on a pair of defectors.

The Triskelion

Characters

NPCs: Warhorse (NPCed by Rami Ghai), Chelsea Pugh (NPCed by Agent Carter)

Mentions: Phil Coulson

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

SHIELD holding is different depending on the building. The one in the Triskelion is well established and maintained. While they are not exactly a prison facility, they do hold some dangerous criminals in between their trails. Or, they hold them indefinitely because they are too dangerous to be released.

While the woman sitting in the interrogation room does not look to be one of those people, she is someone that was flushed out of the hunt for a leak in SHIELD a few months ago: Chelsea Pugh. She is also not a SHIELD inmate. A favor called in from Coulson put her in a CIA detainment facility and has been brought here late at night in a little used and unwired interrogation room. The woman is in a dressed in an orange jumpsuit, her hair greasy and unkempt. She looks nothing like the well groomed and put together woman she was one of the SHIELD Press Secretaries.

However, she did attack SHIELD agents in a warehouse in Gotham's East End, then claimed utterly no knowledge of where she was or how she got there. Multiple visits have been met with mostly silence and every now and again an assertion that she is innocent. However, there is tape of her in restricted areas, of unexplained corrupted and deleted files on her SHIELD computer, a folder that corrupted the entire harddrive before it was decrypted. Something is fishy. With the addition of Warhorse? It seems time to keep digging.

*

Entering the Triskelion feels a bit like entering the lion's den. Considering how many supposed SHIELD loyalists have tried to kill him lately, he can be forgiven for feeling a little wary. But having a sister and a niece with clout helps things a lot. So Michael Carter has been slipped in (one of the likely several) back way. In SHIELD, a nondescript suit is less likely to stand out than street clothes, so he's dressed the part. Though it pains him to wear such a dull shade of gray. And a black tie on top of that? Ugh. Truth be told, he'd rather be in sweats than this particular suit.

He stands on the other side of the two-way glass and considers the woman. "Is there any evidence for mind control drugs or psionic suggestion?"

*

At least sweats would be comfy. The suit is as sober as a financier.

Sharon, meanwhile, can look the way she usually does: rocking a pair of herringbone slacks and a crisp white blouse. She's reviewing Pugh's files, but her mind is not entirely on the words before her. She knew Chelsea before. Chelsea Pugh, press secretary, whose birthday included Neapolitan ice cream and an Italian cream cake. She was also hard as nails and nobody's fool, and Sharon had admired her ability to handle the press.

Now? She had to wonder.

"Drugs, no," she murmurs. She flips to the information she already knows, but she's reciting rather than reading. "Mentally? It's a little hard to tell. There's nothing currently altering her, nothing currently linked to her. That's not to say there never was; there is some damage to her psyche, but it's hard to tell when psychic scars are fresh or old, and she's had enough of a life to warrant what she has. So if it's drugs, they're long out of her system and leave no trace, and if it's a psionic effect, it's not going on right now and the evidence is at best inconclusive. I'm going to see if we can get someone to actively monitor her while we have a little chat."

*

Having somewhat orchestrated this little rendezvous in a little used part of the Triskelion, Peggy Carter stands behind Sharon and Michael. She is watching Chelsea Pugh with an intent look on her face.

"Next door I also have someone who is most familiar to Michael. The man known as Warhorse. He has also been stewing since the sting Agent Ghai helped us set up and execute. He is quite adamant on meeting 'Carter.' I thought, perhaps, we have been dealing with things too separated. Perhaps, the best thing is to come at it with what we have. We have three Carters, we also have one press secretary who claims her innocent quite loudly. Warhorse does not seem to have any such qualms."

Sharon's question is met with a nod. "I have a WAND contact or two I trust to monitor such things, if you have others that would be good as well. However, these interrogations are as largely off the books as I could reasonably keep them. Even then, they are buried amongst other things. We don't know who may be a threat or who may be an ally and I am not about to let sloppy paperwork be our undoing."

Glancing to the other Carters, she raises an eyebrow. "How do you wish to proceed? Two separate interviews? Or one and then the other?"

*

"Sharon, you worked with her. Perhaps you could, as they say, 'good cop' her? A familiar face might provoke something if she is indeed innocent." Michael looks through the glass, studying the woman's face. There's a nearly imperceptible tic as the name 'Warhorse' is spoken. "He was part of Six-Five's general agent pool. My group was the Latinates. We were spec ops within black ops. Warhorse was, like Courtier," Agent Ghai, "…part of Tower Actual - central command, consisting of field agents, support agents, technicians and so on."

That was probably more intel about MI-6.5's structure summarized in a few seconds than SHIELD has gotten on them in years. Six-Five's existence wasn't even formally confirmed until about fifteen years ago.

Michael's jaw tightens. "I have many strengths, but interrogation is not my strong suit. And I would be foolish if I didn't think this desire to see a Carter by Warhorse was about some suicide run. Of the three of us, I am best equipped to handle any attack should he be equipped to attack with something undetectable."

*

"I admit, I've really been wanting to know what it is she thinks I was a part of." Sharon glances over at Michael. "I'm guessing she's convinced you're some kind of monster. Honestly, whoever you pissed off, I would really love to know. Mostly so that I can avoid ever having anything ever to do with them." Burning an agent is one thing. This consistent attempt to get her family killed…

Sharon takes that sort of thing somewhat personally. Somewhat.

Looking to Peggy, she adds: "I'd rather not delay this further. I just want a live feed on her while we talk. I'm sincerely tempted to put an EEG on her. Even a polygraph. I want to know what happens. These people have been following a pattern when we catch them, and I want to know more."

As far as whether to do one and then the other, she shrugs: "If you're not comfortable with it, I certainly don't mind, but if you think you can handle Warhorse, I'm not going to try to stop you. What kind of suicide run do you think he's going to try in here?"

*

"I do believe Sharon might be the best person to get Chelsea to confess, or perhaps even admit what might have happened to her." Peggy looks to Michael. "However, he wishes for a Carter. We do not have to give him the Carter he wants." That is, she is more than willing to go and talk to him until Michael turns bad cop. "I am not a believer in the carrot and the stick interrogation methods, however, I do not believe giving someone exactly what they want to start yields positive results. I am quite used to interrogation methods, allow me to go in while you monitor, Michael. You can feed me information." And, it does go without saying that she feels that she can handle herself.

Sharon's assessment is given a nod. "Done. We'll hook up a live feed. If you'd like an EEG, we can have that happen as well. The more information we have is better. I'm sick of feeling like we are operating in the dark."

*

"You do remember the man who exploded while hanging from the ceiling in a chair?" says Michael to Sharon with the dryness that only works for the Very British. "Kamikaze seems to very much be on the table. That could include a biological agent released at death, a hidden microtransmitter and sensor that is triggered to go off in the presence of specific persons, an agent that temporarily imbues someone with superhuman abilities…I could go on." What a life he's led!

He looks to his sister, but he's never been the overprotective sort. Still, "But what if you're the Carter he wants? It is entirely possible. MI-6 has been aware of your move to the present for some time. And your counterpart was the target of an assassination."

*

"That was problematic," Sharon admits. "And as much as you can certainly handle that kind of thing, please take precautions. Both of you. I'd prefer not to have either of you laminated on the walls. Being the only Agent Carter isn't a goal I need to return to. Let's be safe rather than sorry; in that vein, let's get that EEG set up, too."

Before she goes in to see Chelsea, therefore, Sharon takes an earpiece to keep herself in communication with her fellow Carters. Whichever one stays outside will be able to listen to them both and feed them recommendations and information, of course. And hopefully neither Pugh nor Warhorse will explode them.

*

A man exploded while hanging to a chair? Peggy looks between Michael and Sharon at that tidbit of information she was not aware of before this. "If he wished to explode, I am sure he could have done it at any time before this. And if I am the Carter he wants, he infiltrated the wrong intelligence agency to get me. From all reports he was there long before I was ever in this time period. Therefore, the most logical choice is you, Michael. If he wanted to get me, this was the most fortuitous of events he could have ever wished to achieve."

Making like Sharon, she inserts a communicator into her ear. While she doesn't get telepathy, communicators she can handle better. With a raise eyebrow to Michael, she steps out toward the room where Warhorse is being kept.

Chelsea only briefly looks up as Sharon enters the room, disheveled hair in her face, giving off little emotion other than numbness. "Another one, huh?"

*

"Warhorse had ample opportunity to come at me in the years where he was supporing the activities of the Latinates. Why would he choose now?" Michael inhales slowly. "I suppose we shall never know unless one of us asks him." He doesn't look especially pleased to be on the outside of both interrogation rooms, but he takes his own earbud and doesn't kick up a fuss about it. There is however, a stoic frown. "Be careful." Those two words are for both the Carter women.

*

THEN

*

Reginald "Warhorse" Cotswald has been quite cozy since his capture in Central Park. Only a spy can truly be comfortable in confinement, and Reginald has been a spy for long enough to find a bit of serenity in having absolutely nothing to do but whittle away the time. When the man is shown to interrogation, he sits relaxed in the chair despite the fact that his wrists have been properly secured to the table in front of him.

Warhorse is a lean, dark man who can actually look poised even while being so close to the place where SHIELD could just make him disappear for the rest of his living days. He looks up when Peggy enters, and his mouth twitches with a warm smile. "Ah, Peggy Carter…" he says in his equally warm voice, "I had wondered if I would finally be graced with the presence of a Carter, or if I would be staring down one of your lovely lackeys again. We must be desperate."

*

The earpiece snugly put in, Peggy gives Michael a wink before pushing out of the windowed room and into the one containing the man they know as Warhorse. By the time she enters, she's back to being entirely professional. Her expression is neutral, if curious. The door shuts and she studies the man in front of her for a few moments. She doesn't seem to care about silences.

Even with his wrists secured to the table, she does not move forward overly far. Instead, she stands by the door. There are multiple ways she could handle this. However, she trusts her instincts and the fact that this man worked for so long in MI:6.5 without detection. The general run around will not work. Instead, she holds her hands out palms up, as if in offering.

"I had heard you wished to speak with a Carter, Cotswald. Here I am."

*

Michael takes up his position outside the two-way mirror. He folds his arms stiffly across his chest and watches Warhorse's every move. His jaw is clenched, his fingers slightly curled under. He's fighting a very strong urge to charge in there and garrotte the man until his head is half off. Fortunately for all involved, he resists said impulse.

*

"Indeed." Warhorse smiles through his words as he looks at Peggy, head slightly tilted in a casual manner. "SHIELD's finest… or should I say SSR's finest. How long has it been now? Peggy 'Out-of-Time' Carter. Quite a few connotations there. Do you feel often out of time, Peg?"

His tone is relaxed, but no less taunting. He leans forward a bit, resting his weight on his forearms. "Now, the question I have is… where's Michael?"

*

While she cannot see Michael, Peggy can almost feel his own anger at Warhorse: the man who set him up, that had him disavowed. She has known that MI:6.5 has had the information about her situation for awhile. He tells her there are many connotations in her being out of time. Some may have even though that her Elder Self was out of time, out of touch. "You know how long it is been," she tells him. Then, she adds, "I am not sure. Do you often feel regret for your actions that led you here?"

The taunting is met with little change in expression. Though, his question about Michael is met with a bit of a smile. "I see, so it is a specific Carter you had hoped would visit. Why would you wish to see Michael? You already have done enough for him, I think."

*

"Watch him, Peggy," murmurs Michael in a tone that is notable in how dreadfully icy it is, even filtered through the ear piece. "Six-five has trained its agents in techniques that SHIELD would consider…extreme." The word clips off his tongue. "You're not going to get a thing out of him that he doesn't want to tell you without the application of force. Even then, he's likely to have a method of suicide before he breaks. And that…would take a very long time."

*

"And what actions are those, Peg?" Warhorse weaves his fingers together in front of him while he looks at the Carter across from him. "I believe all you have is that I set up an operation to catch a turncoat, and that SHIELD retaliated by killing my agents and capturing me. I assume that my Agency assumes that I am to the wind, lost."

He turns his glance toward the mirror, and he up-nods slightly. "Because… a storyteller needs an audience, and you, Agent 13… are not my audience. Though, I have to congratulate you on how easily you have taken your winter-yeared self's place. Tell me how things are going with Captain Rogers."

*

The words from Michael are heard, though she gives absolutely no indication that they have been. Michael will have to trust that he heard her and the ear piece is not malfunctioning. "Betraying your country, setting up what I must assume is multiple agents from your agency to be killed and disavowed. We have evidence against you, don't worry. But, to be truthful, I must believe your biggest regret is your general attempt to destabilize governments and agencies but being unsuccessful due to not being as smart as the Carters."

With Michael's warnings still fresh in her head, she smiles. She ignores his ploy to bring up Steve, ignores his taunts about the death of the Elder Peggy. "I am sure you do wish an audience, but why would you think Michael cares about you or what happens to you? You're the past and we both know that Michael severs that when he needs to survive."

*

Ouch. Michael tightens his grip on his own arm and worries his lower lip. It's true, of course, but it's still hard to hear from Peggy. He did, after all, let her and their entire family believe he was dead for their entire lives. He keeps a careful eye on Warhorse, watching for any tells that he might have picked up over the years. His HUD might not be hooked up to a central database, but he can still track movement and scan the man.

"Ask him why I got out of Norway alive. That was sloppy. Either they were in league with Felix or they expected him to finish the job. Our type don't like failure. You might throw him off-balance."

*

"You Carters do like to go to the most dramatic extremes." Though, something in Warhorse's tone — a small coolness and the way he flashes his teeth briefly at Peggy. He flexes his knuckles slightly. "And always assume that you are the saviors that your countries need — the world need. You mishear screams of despair for cheers."

Then he relaxes his shoulders, and his fingers, bringing liquid back into his joints. "My guess is we're going to casually sidestep the hypocrisy in calling anyone the past, and instead we can focus on what's going to happen. I will tell you and Michael what I know, and you will deliver me alive and well back to the Crown, and allow MI-6 to deal with its own. And that will be that."

His smile returns. "What do you say, Peg? Let's play this fair… for once."

*

"Yes, we do like extremes and neat boxes." Peggy consistently keeps her distance, watching Warhorse from her place nearby the interrogation table but not actually sitting down at it.

Thinking for a moment, she shrugs. "You are the one that allowed Michael to live in Norway. That leads me to believe you're sloppy, Cotswald. Why should I believe anything you have to say to me? Sure you know about the fact that I'm here from the past, but so does any intelligence agency with six months and two brain cells. I've been on local TV recently. You have little to bargain with right now."

Shrugging her shoulders, she sighs. "I already don't believe you are MI:6's own. So, I see no reason to get you back to them in any sort of hurry. We are spies, we don't play fair."

*

"There's no way he'd want to go home if he didn't have allies there. If he is doing all of this without the blessing of his superiors, then he would be dealt with with extreme prejudice. And he must know you would know this." Michael shifts his weight and huffs a breath. He's standing closer to the glass than he needs to, unconsciously taking up an intimidating posture even though he can't be seen. "Whatever he has to tell us, if it's even true, is part of some greater plan." Because it's a private channel and he doesn't have to keep up a brave face, the irritation can be plainly heard in his voice. The bitterness. The touch of bile.

*

"Tsk, tsk, Peg… you're being far too single-minded… surely there's some reason to keep Michael alive, to make sure he got out but still completely removed from the board. Because that's what I've done… Michael has been locked out. Even now, he's snarling in some dark corner, watching or listening to us, and completely unable to interact. Why kill someone when I can severe them completely?" He shakes his head ruefully. "You lack creativity, Peg. That's quite disappointing."

Then his leonine smile returns. "But why should you believe anything I say?" Then he relaxes his fingers, rubbing his palms together idly with the smallest rattle of his cuffs. "Obviously your assets have provided you with secure, legit information." There's something there — the way he says that, it almost includes a silent: Or haven't they?

*

Peggy pokes and prods at Warhorse. Her attempts at him and his barbs back mean little to her. This is all part of the interrogation game. They play parts, they pry at wounds, they attempt to evoke emotional responses that will give them information. So far, they have been rather even handed on that. Michael's words echo in her head: 'part of a bigger plan.'

There is a singular pause as she listens to Michael and then processes Warhorses' implicatoin about SHIELD. A pause can mean a lot in an interrogation between to people such as them. However, she presses forward: "I have few assets," she tells Warhorse with a frown. "I am merely a shadow, remember. You must be the one upset that your own friends have done nothing to attempt to extricate you. I expected pressure from MI:6.5. And yet…nothing. They seem to not care a whit whether you rot with us or if you stand trial in the homeland. Perhaps you should be worried about your own information."

*

"Good show," murmurs Michael, the note of approval lifting some of the previous coldness from his voice. "If he wants to tell you something, he should just be out with it." He paces a little bit, and then adds wryly, "It might not be tactically prudent but I did kill a rather large number of agents sent to kill me. I wouldn't exactly call that 'out of the game.'" And then, "I'd call him out on the usage of the familiar. Not as a tactic, just because it's disrespectful. And rude. Git."

*

Warhorse's expression cools once more, and this time he does little to hide the reveal. "If I am still here, it is for a purpose." There's something unsaid there… because he believes himself valuable. It is almost in the way he holds himself up a little higher rather than deflating under Peggy's accusations of abandonment.

"How about I leave you with something to chew on?" He leans forward again, voice dropping a touch. "Your so-called secure systems are not secure… we don't need to poison your assets… why deal with people when you can deal with data? You've been playing with a marked deck, Peggy, and we know every move you've played. In fact, some moves you played were really for us."

*

"You seem to think," Peggy presses. Michael's encouragement in her ear is a spur to her tactics. Finally, she moves forward a bit toward the table. "Unless they are done with you. Perhaps you have served your purpose. You may stay here to rot. They believe you to be loyal and they know how SHIELD operates. You'll be here for decades and they will never send for you. You've done your duty, who cares about what happens to you after that. As you said, this is about the Carters. Michael Carter, to be exact. He remains outside while you stay here." Peggy smiles and leans forward just a bit. "Forever, if that's what we wish. Because no one else cares."

The eyes narrow at that, though, unable to stop herself. She's been playing with a marked deck? She knows there may be moles in SHIELD, that things may not be as they seem, but to hear it so casually, to think many may just know causes her to straighten. "Us. So you're admitting you're not doing these things for your agency." Her words are tight, annoyed. "You know nothing about me, you only have papers."

*

"Mhmmm, yes. If Six-five is truly done with him, why would they burn a favour with SHIELD to get him back? If they are aware of their own security flaws, they possibly couldn't risk bringing him back. He might have allies." Michael is mostly just musing out loud.

"Easy, Firecracker. Don't let him hear your annoyance. Perhaps best to let him stew for awhile, yes? Maybe he'll come out a bit less gristly."

*

And that's when Warhorse clasps his fingers together once more in a simple crisscross of his digits. His expression settles relaxes into an unreadable canvas of dark skin, roughened by his salted beard. "What I know about you, Margaret… well… I'm afraid that's not part of our arranged topics, is it? For another time, perhaps…"

He waits for a heartbeat before continuing onward. "I think we've had a lovely talk so far. And, since I'm here for an extended period of time, perhaps you could get me a better toothbrush."

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