5467/Afterlife: A Meeting of Minds

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Afterlife: A Meeting of Minds
Date of Scene: 06 March 2021
Location: Afterlife Settlement - Nepal
Synopsis: Gonzales and Jia sit down with their number #2's to discuss how SHIELD and Afterlife might work together. They don't see eye to eye, but a common enemy returns in force against them both. HYDRA is back (did they ever really go away?).
Cast of Characters: Bobbi Morse, Matthew Murdock, Daisy Johnson, Melinda May

Bobbi Morse has posed:
    This is only happening because Jia lost control of her feelings and succumbed to the demands of her daughter. She has been reminding herself of that every moment since Daisy's plea brought down the snow on top of a nearby mountain. Still, now it is done and SHIELD has been invited in to her village. Now she must talk to the man in charge of the quinjets and agents.

    Her eyes level with the strangers across her desk and she wraps her fingertips atop the heavy wood. It's like she's daring him to start first, hoping he will slip up his words in some interesting way that she can use to justify ending this meeting as quickly as possible.

    Still, there were things to be discussed - the incident at Bahrain.. how fitting Agent May is here today. Is that fate? or just a cruel slap in the face of Inhumanity. At least she doesn't have Mark in the room bleeding his heart all over the negotiation table.

Matthew Murdock has posed:
To say Gonzales was hopeful about these negotiations would be a gross overstatement, but Jiaying seemed ready to meet so he was going to hear what she had to say, even if it wasn't to his liking.

Limping along with Agent May he allows himself to be led to Jaiying's office, saying as he goes, "We need to be careful," his eyes cut to their guides. "But I am confident we can come to an accord that will benefit all sides." He levels a look at May that suggests he was only certain about the first part of what he said, the rest was for the benefit of their guides.

Daisy Johnson has posed:
Those escorting the delegation to the guest house are a couple of men who seem native to the area. Are they even Inhumans? Most likely, but they show no powers or different features than humans. The only one that appears different is Lash, the man's wolf eyes watching both May and Gonzales. And nope, not really looking friendly. He opens the door to the offices, letting the group in.

Gordon is there as well, because of course he would be. Arms folded over his chest, long trenchcoat. No eyes even if he appears to see normally. His expression is that of someone that isn't here to make friends, lips pressed to a line.

"We should be ready to depart if these negotiations end badly. Some people have started to gather, Mark is still finishing up taking care of getting the people at the infirmary ready to go." this said before the others enter the room.

Melinda May has posed:
The incident in Bahrain was 8 years ago, now. Of course, every morning, Melinda May wakes up in a cold sweat from a nightmare that features the death of Katya Belyakov. And every day, she lives with the knowledge that her decision in that instant destroyed not only the girl's life, but her own. Worse, she knows she'd make the same decision again, given the same situation.

If anything had been different, just one tiny detail, her decision might have changed. But in the moment, in that very moment as it presented itself to her, Agent May saw no other option. Eva Belyakov was dead and it was clear her daughter, not she, was responsible for everything that had transpired. It was clear the child's power could not be left unchecked and, worse, that there was no other way to stop her except with a bullet. So, May did what she was trained to do. She made the hard call. And it cost her everything -- her marriage, her own dreams of a family... and the life of the little girl she'd gone into save.

There is *nothing* about Bahrain that Melinda May finds laudable. There is nothing about the moniker 'The Cavalry' that she finds praiseworthy. And if she knew that was what Jiaying saw when looking at her -- the woman who killed that child -- she would have been on the first plane out of here with Peggy Carter. But, since she isn't telepathic and has no way of knowing all that, she nods quietly to Gonzales' admonition to be careful. "I hope so," she says, offering a rare comment. Perhaps also for the benefit of their guides. She absolutely understands what he's saying.

Thus when they enter the office, she takes up a neutral position near the Director. Her eyes drift automatically around the space, cataloguing exits, entrances, advantageous positions, and mundane things in the evironment that can become weapons in a pinch. She's really hoping it doesn't come to that. For the sake of her friends, never mind everyone else.

The presence of both Gordon and Lash tells her they're not going to have a lot of room to maneuver if things go south. Especially with Gonzales' bum leg. The fact Daisy *isn't* here only reinforces that thought.

Bobbi Morse has posed:
    Jia lets the stubborn silence linger for a while longer. She promised she'd meet with him and listen to what SHIELD had to say, but the spirit of the meeting is to find common ground. She is nothing if not loving of her daughter. "My daughter," she begins - the thing that connects them all - "thinks we should work together."

    Her eyes narrow a touch at both the SHIELD agents. She must mentally push aside all the bad blood between herself, Inhumans, and the world. In her eyes SHIELD was just another in a long line of groups trying to push their agenda upon them.

    "How do you imagine we might do that," she says challengingly. If it weren't for the terrigen crystals that SHIELD still had in their possession and Daisy's imploring, she had considered using this moment to rally her people behind a new enemy, SHIELD. But, instead, she is trying to act on good faith.

Matthew Murdock has posed:
A small nod is offered to May in response before they step through the door into the office, seeing Lash there and Gordon, he has the same reaction as May, concern, which manifestes as a flicker of a frown before he steps forward to greet Jaiying, "Your daughter and I agree on that point," Gonzales says. "As to what we can do to help, we are usually the first point of contact when someone manifests powers within our jurisdiction, if the person in question is Inhuman, we can make sure your people are contacted to help them gain an understanding of their abilities in a safe environment, and if they or anyone else here in Afterlife wish to return to the rest of the world we'll be able to help them with their logistical and security needs. In addition we can certainly make sure Aferlife is supplied and otherwise left alone."

Melinda May has posed:
Fortunately, no one seems to be expecting the taciturn Agent May to speak. She listens to Jiaying's challenge and watches Gonzales school himself. Privately, she can admit: The man is more temperate than she might have imagined him to be before he ordered her on the plane to come to this remote hiding spot. It's a good thing, since it's his job to do the talking.

Her job is to do the watching. She has no doubt she'll end up having to give him her impressions of this meeting later -- assuming, of course, that it doesn't go so far south the debrief they have later isn't a 'what the hell happened?!!' assessment, instead. For the moment, though, she chooses to hope. Prepare for the worse, always... but hope.

Her hands rest neutrally at her side and her body remains at ease in the way only well-experienced warriors can.

Daisy Johnson has posed:
Gordon's 'eyes' shift from Gonzales to May when they walk in. In fact they stay glued on the woman, the posture tensing. He looks down at Jia just for a second before his fists close, feet a touch more apart as if he was ready for a fight. Clearly something *is* going on. But he chooses to stay silent for now. Or at least until Jia allows him to speak.

But at least Lash isn't staying inside, the wolf mutant closing the door once they are inside. It was probably a wise choice to keep that hot-headed man outside.

Bobbi Morse has posed:
    Jia is somewhat surprised. The man came in with a plan. May be they do want this. May be they will be reasonable in that case. "I see," she begins and says, "But there are issues that must be addressed." Daisy was right though, Gordon is but one teleporting man. And so many more Inhumans have been popping up everywhere all of a sudden. She has no answers.

    "Firstly, it is unacceptable that SHIELD keeps a list of Inhumans and their abilities. This is abhorrent. Second, crystals SHIELD has classified as 'weapons' belong to us, stolen by Eva Belyakov, must be returned immediately. Third, the use of lethal force against Inhumans must cease immediately, we have our own ways of dealing with Inhumans that have transgressed our laws," this last part she says staring at Agent May.

    A hand rests upon a small wooden box. Within it, no doubt, a diviner. An object SHIELD has yet to see beyond Bobbi and Lance's first glimpse at Harry's Bar. "These terms are non-negotiable," she says sternly. Jia's idea of playing nice is not to name names but it's clear that Bahrain deeply affected Afterlife too. "Then, Afterlife might begin to trust SHIELD," she adds as a consolation.

Matthew Murdock has posed:
Gonzales' hand tenses slightly on the handle of his cane, a slight tell that the list of demands have rubbed him the wrong way but one noticeable to those who're looking for them. Still when he speaks his voice is calm and measured, "We keep a list of all powered individuals and their abilities to better understand them and to be able to respond to any situations where we might be able to help them or the community they live in. I am sure you have a similar file in your head or even somewhere in this room about the people in your community. I know it looks sinister, but, it is for the good of everyone involved. As to the crystals, we can definitely discuss their return, as for the last request,"

Gonzales lets out a breath, eyes glancing towards May for a moment. "I can promise you lethal force is always a last option with us, and since the unfortunate event eight years ago, our technology has improved and reduced SHIELD's reliance on lethal options. That said we're not willing to take the option of lethal force off the table entirely, not if the lives of innocents or our agents are in danger like they were in Bahrain. As I said, we do not take the burden of making those calls lightly but we do trust our agents to know when to make them as the situation demands."

Daisy Johnson has posed:
The talk about Bahrein so openly has Gordon grunt, "I thought she looked familiar..." the no eyes still on May. But as they continue negotiations he does start to ease just a touch, specially as what they are talking about interests him quite dearly. It's important talks, and ones that can decide the future of their people.

Outside things remain quiet, no sounds. It's all very peaceful in the village at least.


Melinda May has posed:
Even though he doesn't have eyes, May can somehow feel Gordon's 'eyes' on her. The tension in his body is hard to miss. And when Jiaying lays out her terms, speaks Belyakov's name, and pins her hard gaze on May, prompting Gordon to make his soft comment, the Asian agent realizes just what a serious miscalculation bringing her along on this mission actually was.

Externally, the only sign she gives to acknowledge this is a slight rise to her chin and a subtle shift of her weight -- just a little more forward onto her toes. Could she get past the mention of Belyakov and Bahrain, she might reflect just how right she was about the bone of contention the Index would inevitably become. But the name is still ringing in her ears and her focus needs to remain on the here and now... just in case.

Wolf at the door. Teleporter on the side. Angry queen on her throne. Break it down, Melinda. The way out of this when it goes south is (and it's so totally WHEN)... move against the queen so the teleporter takes her away, then go for the wolf... long enough for Gonzales to get on his feet so we can run.

That's about the best she can come up with in the fleeting instant between the end of Jiaying's words and the start of Gonzales'. And she's really sure when the shit does finally hit the fan, none of that will actually work.

Then the ringing in May's ears becomes an acidic stone in the pit of her stomach. Gonzales knows the details about Bahrain, obviously, and he brought her along anyway. Well... crap. That means she's here to keep the Inhumans off-balance in a 'we can hurt you if we have to' sort of way. She doesn't flinch, however. She still simply stands there, eyes narrowing slightly, expression guarded, but still neutral.

Bobbi Morse has posed:
    Jia shakes her head and frowns, "This isn't a game. You reside in the United States of America and even there keeping detailed lists of citizens is illegal unless they have committed a crime. We demand the same dignities, not to mention the risks you create for us simply by having the list to begin with. It is one thing for us to govern ourselves, but we will not be governed by a foreign power."

    She makes a motion with her hand as if to cut through the air and slams her palm down on the table top. "No killing of Inhumans, you claim a right to dictate life and death over us we do not cede to you!" The anger on her face is clear and intense. Her voice lowers and she rests back in to her chair just a touch, "if your agents or people are in danger, they should be evacuated. You will ask for us to attend. Inhuman problems are ours to deal with, not yours."

    Her jaw works a touch as she watches May and her eyes slide back to Gonzales. Her demeanour becomes calm once more, "We are very few in a big angry world. Our survival depends not on the temporary charity of others, but on our own autonomy."

    Her fingers return to the box and she opens it up, revealing an oddly shaped black object and next to it a strange blue crystal - one of the 'weapons' recovered by the SSR, one of the 'weapons' recovered from Eva. "We face the very real prospect of extinction every day. We are endangered and hunted like prizes by our enemies. If you wish to use your lethal force, use it on them - not us."

    She picks up the blue crystal and holds it out for all to see, "This.. is terrigen." She has decided to put her trust in her daughter and attempt to get through to Gonzales, "Without it, Inhumans do not go through terrigenesis. When crushed it releases a fine mist which activates terrigenesis, but for those who are not Inhuman, causes death. Without it, Inhumans will go extinct. Our survival depends on so many things.. do you not see how we cannot accept the help of a hand that is willing to bite us?"

Matthew Murdock has posed:
Gonzales' hand tightens on his cane again for just a moment. "I understand your concerns, but I assure you our goal is not to harm your people, but to help them, as for using lethal force on the people who hunt you, if you mean HYDRA, we've been doing it since before SHIELD was founded," he explains, his gavely voice calm and seemingly sincere. "And we do not intend to infringe on your autonomy, all we're doing is offering an alternative to your current situation, one where we work together as partners where our resources and your knowledge can ensure the best outcomes for any more Inhumans that come into power without the help of this community. As to the matter of lethal force, if someone attacks us or others we will respond, but as I said lethal force will always be our last resort and if at all possible we will leave the handling of your people to you. Will that be acceptable?"

As for the Diviner, by Gonzales' reaction, he's seen one before, but perhaps not what was inside the metal cover. "I can see why they would be important to you and your people, we can certainly give you the ones SHIELD discovered in Belyakov's effects in Bahrain, given their danger to non-Inhumans, there's no better place for them than with you."

Daisy Johnson has posed:
The revelation of the diviner has Gordon dip his head just so, solemn. Clearly this is a true believer in the meaning of the diviner and all it's meaning. One that seems to run deeper than simply being a tool to change people into Inhumans. But whatever is behind his belief, or what exactly he believes this to me goes unsaid. He is hear to listen, and to bring Jia to safety WHEN this goes wrong. Or maybe not. The talk isn't going as badly as he first thought it would be.

Still, the Killer is still present. And with her here it means things won't be safe. It may have been eight years but there's still a grudge visible. It's the kind of grudge that doesn't go away easily. Or at all.

The offer to give the crystals back. The ones lost by Belyakov is met with a very subtle relaxation of the man's stance and at least that appears to appease the man.

Melinda May has posed:
May wants to break her silence. She wants to tell these people why she did what she did. How there was no other choice. She wants to tell them that SHIELD exists to protect everyone -- human, mutant, and Inhuman alike. And that sometimes... that means pulling the trigger, making the hard call. She wants to tell them that it also means she's had to live with the consequences afterward... the grief, the remorse, the self-recriminations, the self-loathing. The fury. At herself. At SHIELD. At the Inhumans who should NEVER have let a child with the instability Katya Belyakov displayed near a terrigen cyrstal.

But she doesn't. She hasn't even told Peggy Carter, the only person aside from Phil Coulson to hear the full story from her own lips, how fucked up that shot left her. Of course... she doesn't need to tell her that. Peggy knows. Phil knows... *Andrew* knows. And he's never even heard the whole story.

So, May's certainly not telling these strangers who, to her profiler's eye, really have no inclination to see things from the other point of view. And who aren't remotely interested in anything she may personally have to say.

Besides... Gonzales is still trying to salvage this. She'd like to think he can. She knows it's a pipe dream. But it's a nice pipe dream.

Bobbi Morse has posed:
    In some ways, the absolutely worst part about these negotiations is.. she does need them to succeed. At some level. The one and only solution to people like Eva and Katya was Jacob and they lost him to HYDRA. Now the potential other solution works for SHIELD.. and so does her daughter. Her jaw works slightly as she considers plan A once more. It was a good plan, a simple plan, a plan she would be forgiven for eventually.

    She lets out a sigh and says, "You are stubborn, like me." Her expression softens and she says to Gonzales, "And though you have grey to mark your years, I do not. I think you know by now that I am a lot older than I look. I am telling you, as someone who has seen more war than you can imagine, that there is always another way to killing. Always."

    But despite Afterlife and SHIELDs desire to find common ground, their enemies do not.

    The moment happens with a quickness, isolated from the goings on outside, as the missiles hit the main building housing Jia's office and the meeting of minds. The side wall explodes violently and Jia cannot keep hold of the terrigen crystal as he crashes to the ground, exploding in a puff of terrigenesis enducing mist, mixed with the building falling down around them.

    Hot on the tail of those missiles, HYDRA decked out in full metal gleaming metal armour and jetpacks halo jump down from their drop ships. Five of them land amidst the chaos and raise their weapons. The metal men have arrived, Reina's vision has come true.

Daisy Johnson has posed:
Gordon is surprised. Truly. It does seem Jiaying is about to accept all this. Maybe she is softening with her old 'age'. Ha! But she was already old when they met so.... It brings a faint smile to his face, just enough to distract him and not having the man react right as the sound of those missiles whistle closer. The explosion takes the man by surprise, tossing him against a stone wall of the building, one that is soon turned into debris as it begins to shake and come down.

The wolf-man, Lash, was standing right outside and as the explosion happens he is thrown into the room, wheezing as a large rock hits his head. Bone headed as the man is it only makes him bleed instead of killing him outright, but he appears dizzy. "We need .., to go!" he growls.

At least his attention on the dropping metal men is keeping him from shifting attention to Gonzales and May. Priorities! But a wolf with his pack threatened won't look to who is or not to blame for this.

Screams are heard out in the village, the sound of shots ringing through the air. More missiles drop in, a house nearby literally exploding and sending debris flying everywhere.

Matthew Murdock has posed:
A glance is given back to May as they touch on what he understands to be a sensitive subject for her. He may not understand the full depths of her feelings on the matter but even the bare facts of having to shoot a child even a dangerous one tell their own story. Still as things move forward he turns to Jaiying offering, "Then I am envious of how kind the years have been to you," he says with his first smile of the discussion. "Then perhaps if you'd be willing to talk just the two of us, we can discover a suitable alternative," he says about lethal force before very carefully reaching into his jacket and producing an envelope he's carried with him. Though before he can do or say anything further the missiles hit, the building shudders the crystal falls and the mists expand in a rush.

At first nothing ^happens, then, Gonzales feels a heaviness in ^his legs that begins to rise rapidly upwards, his cane falls from his hand even as he holds onto the envelope as he looks seeing his clothing become an ashen colour as the effect rises up his body. He looks to May, "Agent' May" he begins before the effect reaches his throat stopping his vocal cords, a moment latest it has covered his jaw, his nose and all the way to the top of his head, leaving him little more than a statue holding an envelope a surprised look etched into his stoney features.

Melinda May has posed:
May doesn't miss the softening in Jiaying's features. She can probably read it better than Gonzales can, given they have at least a fractional shared heritage. Softening, but not relenting. May has seen that technique used on any number of iron-spined matrons over the years. She meets Gonzales' eyes when he glances to her, but gives very little away. She's supporting him, that much is clear. But anything else is being held tight to the vest. If she could feel nothing at all, she would. But she can't. So she swallows it, saves it for when she'll really need it.

Then HYDRA's missiles strike. She pitches forward. The crystals shatter. Mist envelops Gonzales first; he's closer. He turns toward her, body turning to stone and her eyes widen.

Of course, there's nothing she can do. She reaches out for the envelope, her hand closing over it. But volcanic rock is spreading across her own body, crawling up her legs and over her hips. She looks down at it, feeling it flow over her ribs, making breathing tighter. Not the first time she's been in a full body cast. It's just the first time she doesn't expect to wake up from it.

Her eyes rise. The rock climbs higher as people scream outside, over her collar and down her arms. Up her throat, encasing her jaw. She looks at where Jia has fallen. The rock wraps around her skull, over her nose and mouth, until, at the last, it takes away her eyes.

But her heart still beats.

Bobbi Morse has posed:
    Jia's ears are ringing as she stumbles up from the floor. She can feel the blood all over her body. It's hers, she knows this feeling well. Gordon.. where is Gordon? her eyes focus first on the two SHIELD agents exposed to terrigenesis.. well.. shit.

    One of the HYDRA shock troopers lifts up a net gun and fires it at Lash. Another walks over and picks up Jia by the shoulder and laughs, pulling back his visor to look at her, "Not so powerful now are you."

    Jia shudders as she is pulled about like a rag doll. She reaches in and cups his chin. His body freezes up and he starts to struggle to breath as the life starts to drain from his very features. Even as he starts to fade in her grasp, she begins to heal. "Ssh," she says softly to him as she feels his life force drawn in to her. "Not so powerful now.. are you," she quietly whispers back to her would be attacker.

Daisy Johnson has posed:
Lash howls as he struggles against the bindings keeping him down. Of course that a net gun would very well keep him down if he was *normal*. But this is no normal man. Sharp claws rip through the net and a truly murderous grin falls on the man's expression. There is no thought. Only action. He jumps and latches onto the metal-armored man that was shooting at him, starting to rip at armor and flesh alike..

As for Gordon, the man stumbles, trying to get up and failing to do so. He 'looks' at the two SHIELD agents now encased in terrigen. A grim resignation followed by a, "Good riddance.." whispered at May. But it also means peace is a mirage. Perhaps it never was to happen. But right now...

Get up!

The man turns to be on his hands and knees. "Jiaying.." he says.


Outside the struggle continues, some pockets of resistance found, some more shots. But the hydra shock troops appear armed mostly with weapons to capture, only a few with lethal weapons to take care of those more .., problematic ones.

Vibrations are felt running through the house. Another attack? But it's a familiar feeling, that of Daisy. The young SHIELD agent bursts through into the house with an urgent look to her face. "Mother, May!" she says, the tone equal in caring. In many ways May had been a mother when she had needed one.

So her eyes widen when she notices the scene in front of her. Jiaying draining a man.. And May's figure surrounded with the terrigen transformation.

Matthew Murdock has posed:
Was it the explosions? Or Daisy's vibrations is that do it? Either way cracks begin to form on the stone shape that is Gozales. For a moment that's all it is but then pieces begin to fall away and unlike May it's not the covering but whole fingers, then an arm, then part of his jaw. Then, like a chain reaction what was Director Gonzales starts to fall away until the man is nothing more than a pile of rubble on the floor his stone face sightlessly looking up at the ceiling, the evelope falling open spilling his gift to Jaiying onto the floor, pictures of Daisy as a kid requested from the sisters at St. Agnes before the trip, some small way to give Jaiying back some of the moments she'd lost with her daughter.

Melinda May has posed:
Unexpectedly -- right before Daisy's eyes, no doubt -- the rock encasing May begins to crack. Splinters break away, crumbling as her earlier arrested momentum breaks free, sending her stumbling forward towards Jiaying. She doesn't collide with the woman. She catches herself on Gonzales' stoney form before he begins to crumble. Her fist tightens around that enevelop for a moment before its contents spill. She takes what remains in it and jams it into her pocket. It's an automatic move, not one she thinks about. Perhaps later she'll be able to give the last couple of shots to the leader of this doomed Inhuman enclave.

Indeed, as Daisy's quake shakes the building and the ground beneath her feet, May is disoriented for a moment, her senses finally reasserting themselves as the last of the rock falls from her shoulders and hair. But she is a warrior, well-trained and well-experienced. Muscle memory takes over.

She reaches for her ICER, but somehow registers that the metal clad men have very little in the way of weak spots the dendrotoxin can penetrate. The ICER stays holstered. Instead, she stoops and picks up the deadly weapon fallen from the fists of the man Jiaying has drained. She lifts it to her shoulder and starts firing at every HYDRA trooper that steps within her sights. And when she runs out of ammunition, she flips it around and uses it as a club. When it finally breaks, she starts in with fists and feet.

There is no fury in her eyes. No fear in her body. Not even a sense of vengeance, shock, or grief. She is nothing more than a swift, efficient, relentless fighting machine. Gordon wasn't wrong to label her a Killer. She is. But, she is also The Cavalry. She will buy these people -- human and inhuman alike -- all the time she possibly can to escape.

It's just who she is.

Bobbi Morse has posed:
    The man Jia is gently holding collapses to the ground as Jia watches May stumble out of her casing. The look of shock on her face is immeasurable. Her head jerks up as she hears 'Mom' and sees Daisy, having just witnessed her using her gift to heal herself and end the life of a HYDRA shock trooper.

    "Daisy...," she says as the chaos of the room erupts amidst sudden gunfire from May. Gordon has a job to do and Lash is too engrossed in tearing the metal men apart. He places a hand on Jia's shoulder and a blue aura spread around them both. "Gordon NO!," Jia protests. It is not her call, a higher Inhuman power demanded it of Gordon.

    With a crackle, they are gone...