5207/Another You: May Be A Wild Goose Chase

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Another You: May Be A Wild Goose Chase
Date of Scene: 15 February 2021
Location: Quon's Cafe, Chinatown, NYC
Synopsis: Melinda and Peggy go to dinner at their favourite Chinese restaurant, only to discover that the owner has a problem they might be able to help with -- a son indebted to the Triad. Oh. And they discover the rage staff they've been hunting is probably sitting in a vault belonging to SHIELD. D'oh!
Cast of Characters: Melinda May, Peggy Carter

Melinda May has posed:
It's been a long day. Whatever other duties May has had to keep up with over the past several weeks, she's still managed to prioritize the search for her doppleganger. Or, more precisely, the search for this world's version of hte rage staff. She's spent hours pouring over research leads Jane and Lara, with some help from Daisy and others, provided. She's taken the Quinjet out, Peggy in the co-pilot seat for 'training' purposes, several times, chasing leads down all over the world.

There was the burnt out stump of a redwood in Norway that looked like it had been struck with lightning. DWARF analysis suggested it once held an Asgardian artifact that, based on the scan, was likely a fragment of the staff. But it was gone.

There was a fun time crawling through catacombs under a chaple in Spain, complete with an old crypt that had clearly been raided decades before. If it held the staff, there was no way to know, since there was nothing left.

And then there was a visit to an old monastery in Ireland where the monk-librarian graciously answered all their questions. He was a delightful storyteller. But when it came to the staff all he could say way, "Ah, faith, but that disappeared decades ago. Times were tough, even for the church, after the Great War. Several artifacts were sold off. That was one of them." Which, of course, meant... *poof*. Another dead end.

The old librarian did, however, point them in the direction of a professor at a university in Portland. Eliot Randolph, a popular history professor with a certain reputation among the co-eds. He was less than forthcoming. The most they got out of him was: "Sorry. It's a great story. But, I don't really think such a thing ever existed." Yeah. Fat lotta help he was.

All of which brings May back to square one -- a tablet full of research and an evil twin on the loose. She slides into her usual table at Quon's with a weary sigh, setting the tablet down on the bench beside her and giving the proprietor, Wendy, a tired smile and a brief wave in greeting so she knows she's there.

Peggy Carter has posed:
While they'd come here a few times before Melinda disappeared to the past, Peggy really had become fond of the food, this was the first time in almost a month that they found some breathing room to get away for a proper meal off site. And, of course, they were still bringing work with them, but they could enjoy the food too. There's a look across Peggy's features, a fluttering of memories that comes up in her chest and heart, as she steps back into the place. Whatever she was saying trails off, dark eyes studying the room.

"...It's... very strange... I swear one of our old agents used to live upstairs here." Peggy says out of seeming nowhere, her train of thought completely having diverted, as they make their way towards a table with a wave to Wendy.

Melinda May has posed:
"Really?" May says, her head canting some. "Huhn. I've never heard that story." Not from the Quons, certainly. "Do you remember who?" Phil is the history buff, not her. But she's developed an unusual appreciation for it recently. At least where the early days of SHIELD are concerned. Go figure.

She cants her head, thinking. "The first couple of weeks I was in old New York, I rented a room above here," she admits. A wry smile touches her lips. "Now that I think about it, I think I left some cash and a weapon under the floorboards there. I wonder if it's still there." She'd be highly amused, if it were. Perhaps she'll speak to Wendy about taking a look, later.

She glances towards Wendy and notes the other woman putting a pair of drinks on a tray -- drinks she and Peggy have been known to enjoy in the past. "What do you feel like, tonight?" she asks Peggy. "Looks like the first round's coming."

Peggy Carter has posed:
It takes a moment for Peggy to wrack her brain, there's a lot of decades of memories and cobwebs up there, but then the name hits her. "Lily. Lily Chen. I remember... Hell. I remember she looked so much like you... Daniel and I thought maybe you never made it back here. I'd completely forgot about it all until..." She motions to the room around them, the triggering of old memories that either didn't exist the last time she was in here, or were so deeply buried they might as well not have.

Her stomach gives a somewhat audiable growl as the first round of dim sum comes towards their table. She smiles a bit wider, pointing out to some of the steam baskets. Pork buns, shumai, sesame balls, and some chicken feet to start.

Melinda May has posed:
"That's the name of the woman in the photo at SWORDFISH, isn't it?" May says slowly, eyes narrowing as she remembers the shock of seeing her face with the gang from the SSR. "Yeah. That was weird."

She reaches out to snag a couple of baskets to add to the collection quickly filling the table. As she does, Wendy turns up with the drinks, setting them down before them with a small smile. "I was beginning to think something happened to you two," she says to them. "It's good to see you safe." She gestures to the pair of drinks. "First round's on the house."

May cants her head at that. "Thanks," she says. There's subtle curiosity in her tone. "How've you been?"

"Eh." Wendy gives an easy shrug and an off-hand smile that speaks of stress carried so long that it's become as comfortable as an old coat. "Harry's in trouble again. But he won't come home, so..." The lament of mothers everywhere, perhaps?

Peggy Carter has posed:
"Yes.. She was... a mystery. But an excellent agent. One of the best." Peggy is staring a little too hard at May now, too many strange memories kicking around that just well seem to match the other woman's face too perfectly. She tries to shake off the feelings but it's a bit hard, especially in this place. Wendy's offer of the drinks is a good distraction, however.

"Oh, just work... we got pulled away for a while, out of state. But we'll always come back. This place is too good to miss. Hell, I've been coming here a... " Wait. Long time. But she hadn't been. May introduced her to this place the first time ever the other month, right? It's the first time there has been a conflict in her memories, and that makes her smile twitch, just a bit, but not falter.

"I'm...sorry about Harry... I hope it's not.. too awful. And you know if it's something he really can't get out of, you can talk to us... We... have a habit of helping people."

Melinda May has posed:
"Is he gambling again?" May says, her voice dropping low. She'll follow up on Peggy's strange stare and odd memories, later. For the moment... "How much does he owe?"

Wendy lets out a heavy sigh. "I don't know," she says, glancing between both women as she speaks. "They've stopped coming around here to collect. The only reason I know he's still alive is because Jimmy and Liu still see him occasionally."

May's eyes tighten at that news. "Triad?"

Wendy doesn't say anything, but the slight flexing of her shoulders and subtle tilt of her head speak volumes enough.

May looks over to her partner. "Guess we'll earn our drinks." It doesn't bother her to do that. She considers the Quons an extension of her family. She'll happily bring Harry home.

Peggy Carter has posed:
A subtle, quiet nod of agreement is given in May's direction as the woman talks about earning their drinks. There is not an inch of hesitation from Peggy about this, she knows how much this place means to May and the woman has been nothing but wonderful to them. "We'll ...help get him home, Wendy. Don't worry your heart too much." Peggy knows it must be nearly impossible for a mother to fully put that worry away, but she'll help the other woman as she can.

Then she's looking back to May and a wry, tired smile crosses her face as she lifts her drink in a silent toast. "... We will sleep some day. Perhaps in a decade."

Melinda May has posed:
May lifts her glass to reciprocate the toast. "Will we? We haven't managed it yet." There's good humour in her eyes as she says it, subdued though it is. After all... to her knowledge the only thing that's ever let Peggy Carter sleep was a cryopod -- something May, herself, narrowly avoided. So, she takes a sip as Wendy retreats, the proprietress murmuring that there's no need, but grateful to know they'll do it anyway.

"Harry's a good kid," May says with a bit of a shake of her head. "Or was. But he plays it fast and loose. If he's gambling, he's in debt, and around here that means Triad." Her lips twitch wryly to one side. "I know it breaks Wendy's heart, but he's an only child and a son. So..." She leaves the conclusion to that unsaid.

Instead, she picks up some chopsticks and starts portioning out a bit of food. "I don't know where else to look for that staff. I may need to drop a missle on her head and be done with it," she says, switching topics abruptly to her doppleganger.

Peggy Carter has posed:
"How bad will we hurt his rep for sweeping in and getting him home? I've...generally stayed out of triad stuff, not SHIELD's perview, but... If he's a good kid, this place has been good to us for a very long time. I'd like to help Wendy if we can. Maybe just put a bit of fear of god into those giving him grief..." She considers, though the slight frown that comes to follow her words says she might be thinking better of that plan.

"I went through the archives again looking for ANYTHING about that staff...and I think where ever that church sold it is...probably where it's gone. God knows where. But, if we can draw her out of the city limits, I'm all for dropping a proper missile on her."

Melinda May has posed:
"We'll need to do it off the books," May admits, returning to the subject of Harry. In fact, she's sure they will. "Harry gets one pass, because of his mother. We can go in, bring him home, encourage his creditors to forget they met him this one time. Wendy won't ask again. At some point, a man needs to take responsibility for himself and she knows it." But she brought them drinks. It was a quiet ask and May knows it. She also knows Wendy won't ask again. So, she'll do this for her friend. "I'll speak to her before we leave, find out where he's most likely to have gone. It'll be a start."

She considers the problem of the staff. "If the church sold it," she says after a moment, "there'd be provenance attached to it, right? Maybe we can start with that. We've been looking for legends. Maybe we need to look for the money, instead."

Peggy Carter has posed:
"The money is... probably a more likely in tact trail than legends. I don't know that the church would be interested in turning over those records but... we have ways of getting our hands on things if they don't." Peggy states with a slightly wider smirk, not minding breaking into a church at all, it seems. She might even be amusingly tempted by the run.

"And I'll follow your lead about Harry... but even if it's an easy favor to the family, you're not going in alone... Unless you think I'm too white for the... situation. I don't want to make things worse with my presence." Peggy knows that outsiders are often unwelcome in such places. She's worked in so many different communities over the years..

Melinda May has posed:
May smirks a little. "We can both use the flight hours from here to Cork, anyway," she says with regard to the church. "You'll be ready for your eval flight before the end of the month, at this rate." That's no bad thing.

As for the Triad? "I'll take the back up. You'll stand out, but if you follow my lead, we'll be fine." And she's confident that won't be a problem. They've been trading lead back and forth between them for what feels like ages, now. "Unless the situation turns out very different than I'm expecting, it'll be embarassing for Harry any way it happens -- whether you're there or not. A woman stepping in to settle his accounts? Don't expect him to be glad to see us."

Peggy Carter has posed:
A slight chuckle leaves her lips at the commentary on Harry. She dips her head in quiet agreement, "Then we try to help get young Harry home this afternoon or evening, head off for Cork in the morning? I can even give the church a call and see if they might just email us those records but...I could use the flight hours too." Peggy's weighing how much time they have, or don't really have, against if it's worth the flight just to get her hours in.

Melinda May has posed:
May nods to Peggy's words. "Yeah. Let's try giving Cork a call. The sale was so long ago, maybe they'll be willing to disclose them." Actually, the chances are pretty good. That's the thing about records that old. If they even still exist, people will sometimes share them out of some strange sense of nostalgia, as Peggy likely well knows. And, hey... she's got the accent to charm the old priest.

They'll get the flight hours in, regardless. Right now, though, that staff needs to take priority. May continues to eat as she thinks. Eventually, she says, "I really wish FitzSimmons had an Asgard artifact tracker or something. That would be so handy." Unless, of course, it shows that the Asgardians have left their junk all over the freakin' planet. Then it becomes less helpful -- for her, anyway. WAND might enjoy it.

Peggy Carter has posed:
"Have you...*asked* them, if they have some sort of artifact tracker? Or could maybe develop a way? We could endeavor to get more energy readings on the staff the next time your doppleganger attacks. Have we... entirely lost track of her for the moment? We'd have to provoke her into coming out, if so..." Peggy's mind is moving a mile a minute, but she does pause to reach over and pop a dumpling pat her lips. That gets a small sound of contentment from her.

"And...I should try and call that place in Cork now, before it gets too late over there. Soon as we're done, I'll make the call..." Peggy's pulling out her tablet and opening the research files, looking to see if they got a proper number for the church. If not, the internet will yeild one.

Melinda May has posed:
"Actually, no," May admits, brows rising some. "I spoke with Lara and Jane--" before the astrophysicist landed herself unconscious in medbay-- "about the best way to track it down. They had a few ideas. We've exhausted them, now. So, talking to FitzSimmons is the next step, if the records in Cork don't yeild any answers."

She wrinkles her nose some, chewing thoughtfully again for a moment or two. "As for finding... the other me... I've kept my ear to the ground. I have a fairly good idea where she's gone." Her expression darkens. "Philadelphia. I called my parents and told them they needed to get out of the city for a while." She snirks. "*That* was a fun conversation." Not. Her mother is an intelligence agent, too. Not with SHIELD, but that doesn't matter. She knows how the game is played. And in order to get her to take the threat seriously, May had to actually explain what the threat was. Worse... her parents are divorced. The fact they have to go away together so her mother can keep her father safe means Melinda is going to be paying for that in spades for YEARS to come.

Peggy Carter has posed:
"...*That* sounds like it was a...conversation." Peggy can practically read the stress radiating off of May with her comment about the phone call. The older woman lets silence linger in the air for several heartbeats, giving her friend room to vent or feel more things about the mess with her parents if she wants to. Sometimes, things just need off of one's chest.

But then she's moving on, juggling the personal and busines rather easily as she looks down to her tablet. "I've got a number for the place. Maybe we can be lucky and there will be one thing that goes easily... We do deserve it, after all this."

Melinda May has posed:
May snirks again, reaching out for her drink. "Oh, I'll be paying for it," she says with conviction. "Probably for the rest of my life." She grimaces. "No one holds a grudge like my mother. Just ask my Dad."

She turns to pull her cell phone out of the pocket of her coat. "You want to call now?" She offers Peggy the phone. Might as well get it over with.

As it happens, the monks quite willing to share what little they know -- which isn't much. Only that it went to a collector in New York, the contact being a fellow by the name of Chester Phillips... Yeah. That Chester Phillips. Which means it probably didn't end up in the hands of a 'collector'. It probably ended up as an 0-8-4...

Peggy Carter has posed:
"Might as well." Peggy talks around another dumpling, but actually bothers to fihish chewing before she makes the phone call. Her 'customer service' voice is... very different, and incredibly polite, especially dealing with an old priest. She lets the man yammer on a bit about old memories and the sell of it all, agreeing how sad it was that the church had to do such things, before she finally gets her answer. May can see the shock on her face when she gets it and finally says good bye on the phone.

"Phillips. Chester. Phillips. Bought the *damned thing*. Which means... it SHOULD still be in 0-8-4 storage, unless someone broke into SHIELD and stole it. I need to go back through the original records...It might not have even made it into being digitized, but...I'd hope it had. Still. God, May...we might have had it this whole damn time."

Melinda May has posed:
May's brow arches as she sees the shock on Peggy's face. She blinks in clear surprise when Peggy reveals Chester Phillips -- in other words, SHIELD -- was behind the purchase. "Seriously?"

Of course. Why wouldn't they start by checking their own records? Because nothing is ever that easy. Until, apparently, it is.

"You don't think it got mixed in with the Paperclip stuff, do you?" It shouldn't have. But anything's possible. She picks up her own tablet and starts bringing up a secure link to HQ. "Let me see what I can find in the records we do have." Not that she has full access to Fridge records, mind.

Peggy Carter has posed:
"It *shouldn't* have. Phillips and I tried to keep everything from Paperclip as far as possible from SHIELD, much less anything that's an 0-8-4. We didn't trust those bastards with basic files, much less top secret ones. It doesn't mean someone didn't trip across it, but... it shouldn't be at all related." Peggy is still half on the edge of laughing as she considers just how ridiculous it is they may have been sitting on the thing the whole time.

"We were all trying to get artifacts out of the public's hands as quickly as possible at that point. Everything was in chaos after the war, we didn't need them hurting anyone else. Any weird reports came up and one of us was dashing off after it almost immediately..." Lily Chen included, a strange memory flickering across Peggy's face. A moment of deja vu, sitting with a woman who looks like Melinda May, at this restuarant, talking about artifact retreval...

Melinda May has posed:
Maybe they'll get lucky, then. May snirks again, as close to laughter as she'll come at the stupidity of it all. "The worst part?" she says dryly. "It actually makes sense. SHIELD was founded before that monster thing ever took over the other Earth. It would have been in operation when it arrived and as it came to power. That means SHIELD either converted to its whims or was destroyed. Either way... I've been at this about 40 years. So... it's possible she got it off of SHIELD or its successor." She rubs her fingers over the center of her forehead, her thumb on her temple as she does. "I hate trying to keep track of timestreams."

Gee, go figure.
At least, she's had practice. "This search will be easier back at the office," she decides. "We're not going to get anywhere further with it, here. So..." She lifts a dumpling. "I say we enjoy the food while we can." She's not going to cut dinner short.

Peggy Carter has posed:
"...I swear I remember sitting at this very table, talking to Lily Chen about... maybe not that exact artifact, but having her going hunting for one. It's a... very strange bit of deja vu." Peggy confesses, but she seems content to linger to finish their meal, at least. She eats without reserve or shame, fully enjoying every bite of the savoury little dumplings, and even sucking every inch of joint meat off the chicken feet. Those are some of her favourites, even if there is no lady-like way to eat them.

Melinda May has posed:
May actually appreciates Peggy's enjoyment of her food. Not everyone does. Especially those not brought up with it. She cants her head. "I feel like I need to pull Agent Chen's file," she says with wry humour. "It's kind of freaky to think I may have 2 dopplegangers, you know... one who's probably dead by now, the other I need to kill." Or, okay. Stop. But... May holds a grudge as well as her mother does.

Of course, Lily Chen isn't dead. But, she's certainly not anywhere Peggy or Melinda will ever find her. So, it hardly matters.

Peggy Carter has posed:
"I...still don't know if she was some sort of... reflection of you, or just a very, very strange concidence. But if she was somehow a part of you..." Peggy smiles a bit wider, picking up what is left of her drink in a quiet toast, "I feel lucky to have gotten the chance to serve with you twice. And we'll get this other May handled. I just didn't pack heavy enough weapons last time, it seems." Peggy smirks, having certainly packed heavier than the others did. It still wasn't enough.

Melinda May has posed:
May actually laughs. It's a rare thing, but it happens. She raises her glass to reciprocate the toast. "I feel like I should either be exceptionally humbled by how highly you regard my skills, given the fact you brought a *plasma cannon* to the fight... or frightened at just how willing you were to use it on me." She leans more to the former than the latter, but she's under no illusion that Peggy would do whatever she felt necessary, if it came down to it. She'd feel guilty for *decades* after, but she'd still do it.

Then she touches the glass to her lips and drains most of it away. Working dinner or not... it's good to actually have a friend.

Peggy Carter has posed:
"I know you and I know just how dangerous you are. I wasn't going to let anyone hurt or get one up on my friend, Melinda May. Even if it's Melinda May." Peggy winks as she says that, but then settles back into her food. The last bit of dinner is spent in more relaxing conversation and some war story recounting, but the relaxing sort. They both needed it before diving back into the mess.