5860/Catching Up One Time Traveler to Another

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Catching Up One Time Traveler to Another
Date of Scene: 05 April 2021
Location: Carter-Sousa Home - Long Island
Synopsis: Daniel and May catch up, talking about the timeline, the problems facing SHIELD and hunting a Russian.
Cast of Characters: Daniel Sousa, Melinda May

Daniel Sousa has posed:
Finding Peggy and returning to his old home had done wonders for untying the knot of unease and existential dread that had formed in his stomach since coming to the future. Now, surrounded by SHIELD agents and with a head of HYDRA in the basement he felt anything but settled, on top of learning what he had about how things had gone for Peggy and their son.

So, dressed in some of his old clothes which were far more comfortable than his borrowed jeans and t-shirt, he asks one of the agents, eating chocolate cake if May had returned and got pointed in the woman's direction, heading their limping along with his cane, his leg not fully recovered from too long wearing his prosthetic.

Melinda May has posed:
May is sitting on the back porch, in spot not terribly dissimilar to where Lily would often sit. She's under the cover of an awning, which means satellites aren't likely to be an issue. She's conscious of that, even now.

She looks up as Daniel emerges and gives him a small, tight smile. "Hey," she greets him. "It's good to see you." They haven't really had a chance to touch base since he arrived, after all. And since her visit with Abcde earlier, she's finding handling the emotions in the house a whole lot easier.

Daniel Sousa has posed:
"Hey," Daniel replies, his smile both warm and a little apologetic, "Likewise, and sorry for not saying hello earlier, it was well," he gestures vaguely, "A hell of a day," he says, before nodding to one of the chairs on the back porch. "Mind if I join you?"

Melinda May has posed:
May gestures mutely to another seat nearby. "No apology necessary," she says. "I know how it goes, really." Better than most. She remembers being lost in 1948, after all. And she had to break out of the SSR, when she was there. So, he's ahead of the game, really. At least he didn't have to convince the local SHIELD agents he was who he said he was. And from when he said he was.

Not, mind, that magic and HYDRA and adjusting to modern life are any more of a picnic. "I swear, things weren't this crazy until very recently." Crazy, yes. Not *this* crazy.

Daniel Sousa has posed:
"I figured you would out of anybody," Daniel says of understanding how things might be for him. "Don't know how you handled it as well as you did, feel like I'm starting from scratch here, even people's reactions are different, nobody seems to notice people any more, they're all in their own little ^bubbles..." he shakes his head at it all "Except for the people here, who all just sort of stare at me, understandably, like they've seen a ghost."

He shakes his head. "Yeah?" he asks. "What's been going on? Abcde's let a bunch of things slip already, a group called the Avengers, Steve is back apparently, and Howard has a kid, or maybe a grandkid named Tony?"

Melinda May has posed:
"Kid, yeah," May says. "Nut doesn't fall far from the tree, though I spent more time with Howard in '49 than I ever have with Tony." She looks out at the backyard and nods. "Yeah, I never really appreciated how much the world has changed, even since I was a kid, until now. But, then, we've been through a lot more since the 40's. The say the 40's was the start of it -- Roger's super-serum, followed by revelations like aliens and magic and weapons that can destroy half the world in the time it takes me to draw my gun."

Her epxression draws in tightly. "And Peggy blames herself for most of it. It's not her fault, of course. But..." She glances to him. "Well, you know her."

Daniel Sousa has posed:
There's a roll of his eyes at the kid not falling far from the tree, "Great, that's got to be interesting," he says.

Though as the topic turns less amusing aspects of the future. "Yeah, and about how things went with our son," he adds to what Peggy was shouldering the blame for. Yes, he and Peggy had that talk. "I don't know how to convince her about that one either let alone all the rest, but it's just like her to take it all on herself."

Which brings his thoughts to something else, and he lets out a low breath, checking over his shoulder towards the door before moving his chair closer to May's.

"There's another thing she needs to know that she's likely going to blame herself for, I didn't have the heart to tell her after hearing about Michael," he keeps his voice low, glancing back towards the door to the house again to make sure none of the other agents are nearby. "Before what happened to me in the 50's I figured some of HYDRA had wormed its way into SHIELD. If we've got someone we can trust out west I can tell them how to get my files."

Melinda May has posed:
May really wishes the revelation of HYDRA's involvement back in the 50's came as a surprise. She can feel his apprehension and doesn't need to be a mind-reader to know where it comes from. She completely understands that. She's learned to censor herself with Peggy on occasion, too. She doesn't know much about the situation with Michael. She's only picked up on it recently, actually. The bronzed baby booties on the mantle were her first real clue. And she hasn't done any digging.

But the news about HYDRA... That's what she follows up on first. "I don't know," she admits. "We ran a major sting against a HYDRA operation in LA just prior to the SecDef's condemnation. His announcement might have used the Iron Fortitude op as its excuse, but I'm pretty sure the mole hunt Peggy was running is the real catalyst." Which is just another thing Peggy will add to her guilt pile, May knows.

She considers it. "I might be able to get someone in there. But chances are, if those records are still around at all, they'll have been relocated to a vault somewhere. Historical archives. They may not be in LA at all. They may be at Trisk, the Playground, or who knows where else." She gives a bit of a rueful smile. "It's been 60 years. Hell, most of those records are considered open to the public after only 50." Not that SHIELD has ever been anywhere near that open. There are other ways of burying records.

She purses her lips. "And our whole investigation into the HYDRA moles started because Peggy found old records from the 40's and 50's were missing from the digital record."

Daniel Sousa has posed:
The relief is palpable from Daniel when May tells him that they already know there's moles in SHIELD. One less hard conversation he had to have with Peggy, though at the mention of the files. "The ones I'm talking about I hid away in my private safe in the old SSR office in LA, so unless they pulled that place apart since then they should be there, for whatever they're worth. If you're on the hunt it might help, I hadn't gotten too far along into checking before my mission, was going to bring Peggy in on it when I got back."

Melinda May has posed:
May's not at all convinced those offices are still there, unless they're in a hidden now-lapsed and off-the-books base. Which, okay, is possible. This is SHIELD and the SSR they're talking about. Still, she doesn't say it. She knows how much a hint of normalcy across the years meant to her. And stranger things have happened.

Particularly to them.

"Did you have any suspects?" she asks. "Or just discrepancies?" Even as she speaks, though, she's considering how they could make it to LA and back without drawing attention. It would be easier with a quinjet, but that's not going to happen anytime soon. But she may know a few favours she can call in.

What spy doesn't?

There's a moment as she studies him. "Do you think they were on to you?" Because she knows how he died. She knows when he died. She knows the official reason he died. She just doesn't know the truth.

And she's sure she's going to need to know before they send him back to face it.

Daniel Sousa has posed:
"As far as agents go, Agent Sam Wallace, he was SSR around when you went back, for him I mostly have discrepencies, put him up against Leviathan, top agent, put him up against HYDRA, all thumbs, sure he gets the small fry but the ones in charge always seem to slip through the net. I wouldn't have thought anything about it but I was warned HYDRA was still going to be a threat and that they were insidious," he says before adding. "Long story about that warning, but let's just say it's a source I trust. Anyhow I followed up and caught that pattern, then looking into who recommended him for the SSR in the first place, Wilfred Mallick," he says. "He's my main suspect, I didn't have a smoking gun but I was able to pull some old Paperclip files from deep storage in Groom Lake, that had his name and people in his circle on a lot of the transfer of old HYDRA people to programs in the US."

As for the last question, "At the time, no, but when Abcde told me how I died and I read the old news reports about it, I think they were. That whole situation at the Roosevelt was wrong, the guys in the bar saw me talk to Stark's guy, hand off the doodad, I mean, I made it look like I took it back, but they weren't amatures and the Stark's guy wasn't an agent, they should have got me then got him before he was out of the hotel but there was only one body, not two, and I assume, history says that guy got back to Stark in one piece, right? I think they didn't give a damn about my contact and were just there to flush me out onto that pool deck where their friend was waiting."

Melinda May has posed:
"Mallick, huh?" May frowns slightly. "His son sits on the World Security Council now, I think." In other words, the guys who chaperone SHIELD for the UN. That doesn't sit well. "And Operation Paperclip was the source of a lot of our file discrepancies. That's where Peggy started." Sixty years too late, it seems.

She nods, a bleaker expression settling on her features as he speaks about history. "That's what I was afraid of," she admits. "According to SHIELD history, you're the first Agent to give his life in the line of duty. Leviathan was blamed. A lot of early SNAFUs are blamed on Leviathan. But it wasn't Leviathan that hit us when you were trying to send me home." She reaches up to pull her hair back from her face, holding it in a loose tail at the back of her neck for a moment.

"As far as I know, history says the tech did make it to Stark. If it hadn't, there would have been a bigger warning label on your legend, and there isn't." She glances to him sidelong. That bleak expression hasn't changed.

Her lips press tightly together. "Okay. I have a buddy from back in flight training who owes me a favour. I can probably talk him into letting me borrow a cesna to get us to LA and back. We can check out your lead, see if we can find the papers you're talking about and whether they shed light on things now. But we have a bigger problem. And I really don't know how we're going to solve it."

Daniel Sousa has posed:
"That's not good," Daniel says about Mallick's son. "I mean, he could be clean, but when are we ever that lucky?"

A humourless wry noise escapes his lips, "That might be because I have some of those files, but any I missed probably got sanitized ages ago if they were on to me. I pointed them right to where they were vulnerable."

He lets out a tired and annoyed sigh, guilt and frustration clearly detectable from him, feelings that grow as she tells him the official story about his death. "Well good to know they were nice enough to let me be a hero after murdering me," he says, bitterly. He definitely didn't feel like one. "Should have told Peg right away, but didn't have more than Mallick had recommended Wallace until I found those files," and by then it was already too late.

"Sure, I'm good to make the trip," he says about following up on that lead. "And which problem? Mallick?"

Melinda May has posed:
"We really need to bring you up to speed on our HYDRA investigation, I think." May says. "We'll start there... the other problems will wait." For a little while.

She considers where to begin. Finally, she leans forward, her forearms resting on her knees as she looks at him. "From my perspective, it's only been a couple of months since I made it back from 1949. It was mid-January. Now we're at the beginning of April. Over the past two months, most of my time has been divided between three things: the Iron Fortitude op that got turned against us, Peggy's investigation into HYDRA in our midst -- most of which we've done off-the-books, by the way -- and a diplomatic incident in Nepal that... well, in case you haven't caught the rumours, it screwed me up a little." She'll get to that.

"The Iron Fortitude op involved a high-ranking senator and a Saudi prince, a lot of stolen SHIELD technology, weapons, and information, as well as clear indications of political fixing and under-the-table trading. It doesn't have a lot of direct bearing on the HYDRA investigation, other than the fact there's no way anyone could have gotten the info they have from that op unless there's a mole embeded in the agency. They used footage from the missions that couldn't have easily been gotten from anywhere but the Triskelion. And the footage they used was actually evidence of HYDRA's activities, not ours. But we've been blamed for it. That's why we're in hiding, right now." She doesn't need to watch him for his reactions. She can feel them. But she does, anyway.

"Regardless, Peggy started her investigation sometime back in the summer. We started working together sometime in the fall. But it wasn't until after I came back from your place that things ramped up. We followed a ton of leads that took us all over the world. Ended up in Rome, at the Vatican, where we discovered a temple dedicated to HYDRA, dating back to sometime in the 1400's. I interrogated a woman we believe is one of the current heads of HYDRA. We had believed that HYDRA started in the War with the Red Skull. I think we were wrong. This woman spoke of an early Rennaisance philosopher named Arturo Malevolo who saw HYDRA as a sort of balancing force of nature." She frowns, trying to recall the words she was given. "'We stand between the right and the wrong, human nature dictates that this is the eye of the storm where we shall call home,'" she recites. "It's the maxim she, the asshole in the basement, and several others have been operating under. They're playing all sides to the middle. It's a very different form of HYDRA than what Schmidt or Reinhardt envisioned. Very different from anything we've encountered before. But if there's any truth to it, then we're not really dealing with some neo-facist, Fourth Reich wannabes. We're looking at a far more insidious, and probably far more wide-spread movement based on religious ideals stretching back centuries."

What's probably scarier is that it's obvious she's not done yet, though she pauses for breath. And to let him catch his.

Daniel Sousa has posed:
"Sure," Daniel says of being caught up on things, as he settles back to listen. "I didn't hear about the diplomatic incident," he says concern in his eyes as May lays out the outline of the last few months. Though he doesn't comment more, following May's lead on the conversation.

His reactions range from confusion to anger, both readable from her senses and on his somewhat expressive face. "I saw some of the stuff they had, when Abcde showed me the Sec Def's speech, so figure the Iron Fortitude thing was just a set up to put you guys into compromising positions they could use or did they just grab what they could find and throw it at you?" he asks before they dig even deeper.

"HYDRA has a /temple/ in the /Vatican/" there's something about that makes his former Catholic school boy self's skin crawl, though he takes a breath and steadies himself, focusing on the facts and not the feelings. "So, these guys are big, devoted, and I'm guessing it's not a coincidence that when I got pulled into the future a guy that looked like he was from 1400's Italy got pulled along with me and got picked up by HYDRA right after, huh?"

Melinda May has posed:
"Could be," May concedes about Iron Fortitude. "Given all we know now, I'd say it's even probable. It feels very much like we've been played from the beginning." And it rankles her. Deeply, deeply rankles her. "But the truth is, it could damn well have been nothing more than opportunity. We weren't exactly subtle and we should have been. What we didn't count on was the possibility of a mole -- mainly because Peggy and I didn't know who we could trust; even our friends."

She regrets that, now.

"The thing is, it's not a far stretch to believe HYDRA has people in government. Look at the Council of Nine back in your day. The SecDef could be one of them. Or he could be a patsy. We don't know. And Mallick? He could be his Daddy's protege. If you're right about Wilfred Mallick, it's not a stretch to think his son could be in the same business. Not when there's potentially religion involved. So, we're looking at a very, very broad net we have to escape."

As he reaches the same conclusion she did about the Rennaisance Man, she nods. "That's my guess," she agrees. "I'm willing to lay good money on a bet that says the man who came through the mirror with you is actually Arturo Malevolo. But remember: Even in the 1400's, a man doesn't just come out of nowhere. That temple we found had to have been commissioned when the Vatican was being built -- or that part of it, anyway. Or it was built over while they were doing so, which means it comes from even further back." She shakes her head. "Of course, this just sucks us into conspiratory theory territory." Real Illuminati stuff. And she's not willing to go there. "We need to deal with the here-and-now. It doesn't matter how they came to be; it matters that we stop them. But I don't think we can ignore the fact that what we're really doing is stomping out fires."

She takes a deep breath. "And the problem is... if we fail, I don't know that Peggy will survive it. Not... if we end up losing you, too." Which she very much fears will be the case. She can't see a way out of it, in fact. Both he and Arturo need to rejoin their natural timestreams. She knows it. She just can't say it.

And it's killing her.

Daniel Sousa has posed:
Daniel takes it in nodding, feeling a bit rankled on their behalf. "And it's understandable, not trusting your friends, I know I looked at a lot of people differently when I started down that path in the fifties, and by the sound of it, probably would have been better off if I brought others in sooner, but I think I just let myself hope I was jumping at shadows, didn't even mention it to Peggy, for the most part, had planned to after I checked things out at Groom Lake, but well we know that never happened."

He takes a long slow breath as he considers Arturo and what the temple suggests, "Yeah, from the sound of it all we've ever done with HYDRA is stomping out fires, while the source of the flames keep on burning."

Daniel nods at May's words, a sense of sudden worry shooting through him suggesting he's had the same thoughts before he quickly locks them away, "Then we better not fail and she better not lose me," he says. "As far as I know there was a body in the past, and me being here hasn't changed that, so, until I see evidence to the contrary, I'm going to assume the timeline worked itself out somehow and this is where I'm going to be staying," he says. "Unless the timeline starts to fray," he couldn't quite let himself be selfish enough to let that happen even for his own happiness. "I've already done Peggy enough harm dying the first time, I am not looking to do it again unless it's absolutely necessary."

Melinda May has posed:
May falls silent, mutely nodding to his assertation about the timeline. She dearly hopes that's the truth. But... she's not yet convinced. Still, Lily's letter didn't indicate that Daniel's presence was a problem. And May suspects her strange doppleganger may have some knowledge she doesn't, given what little she's seen. But she also suspects the woman probably didn't write down everything she knew. In fact, she's sure of it.

Regardless, she can tell from Daniel's emotions that he's not ready to really contemplate the posibility that his fate and Arturo's are bound together. But May can't ignore it. She's seen too much magic. Thus, she's already considering the fact that the djinn in Abcde's arm isn't a benevolent creature. A tight, sickly sensation in the pit of her stomach is telling her their way out of this will simply *not* be that easy.

It just never is.

"It's possible," she concedes ultimately. "Your friend Lily... left me her diary. Sort of. What I've read of it at least proves that it's possible another version of you was left behind. And that it's possible he was the one who experienced your fate." Why she's giving this hope she isn't sure.

Except that she needs it, too.

She's just been at this game too long to really accept it. But Daniel and Peggy need to get there on their own. She understands this.

God damn, but she feels old, now.

Daniel Sousa has posed:
May's silence speaks volumes but Daniel resolutely does not comment on it. No, things are going to work out, they have to, anything else isn't worth contemplating. And he's more than happy to grab hold of the lifeline she throws him with her comments about Lily. "Yeah, if anyone would know if things were going to go bad with the timeline it's Lily," he admits, before grimacing about the possibility of a double taking the bullets meant for him.

"I've thought about that too, as much as I don't want it to be me, the fact someone like Lily had to die in my place, isn't exactly the greatest feeling in the world, you read her diary, she was a real person, but it does make sense?" he shakes his head and lets out a breath. "Anyhow, I'm here now," for however long that was. "And I'm happy to do whatever needs to be done now to help SHIELD get back on its feet," he says falling back on that all too familiar habit of pushing aside feelings in favour of work.

Melinda May has posed:
Yeah. There's not a SHIELD agent in the world who isn't good at that: Subliminating emotions rather than dealing with them. God knows May is a pro at it. Probably better than almost anyone else she knows. But she's also beginning to sense just how destructive it is. Every emotional spike that pummels her is a pretty big clue-by-four to the face.

She's just not really ready to face that, yet. She's still trying to simply get her own reactions back under control.

God bless Abcde and her little holdout blade.

Thus, the senior agent gives a tight smile and nods. "Well, good. Because there's a lot. I haven't spoken with Peggy about our next steps since before Wilcox slipped me the intel on you. But we were breaking down priorities at the time." It's so much easier to talk about work. She's done with emotions for now. She hopes.

"We've got three -- four, now, given what you've said -- leads we need to follow up. Vogel, our houseguest, told us about a Russian who may know about our mole problem. We need to find Katherine Huttz, the woman I interrogated, and bring her in. She may have more information, too. Helmut List is still at large; he was in charge of the LA facility, which was being used to experiment on powered people and use the results of those experiments to create super-soldiers. And, there's whatever it is you think we'll find if we find your stash."

She shakes her head, looking back towards the house, the wind brushing her hair into her face again. She pushes the hair back. "That just covers our mole problem. Abcde needs help. She can't stay with us like this, but it's not safe to send her home. So, we've got to clear SHIELD's name, somehow. We've got to find out just how far the rot really goes -- wether the SecDef is involved. And even how badly the WSC is compromised."

Daniel Sousa has posed:
Daniel certainly seems ready to be done with emotions for now, getting down to the business at hand. "Of those four, I guess I'm on getting my stash back and seeing if we can turn it into something useful for any of the other three, or? all the other stuff we have to deal with. Out of those it's likely going to help best with the Mallick on that council, if he's followed his dads' footsteps into the HYDRA cult," he says making a face. "Yeah, that still sounds weird to say," he remarks as an aside. "Anyhow other than that, it sounded like Abcde had some family that could maybe help with her issues, not sure what they'll need but given how HYDRA's been looking for her, a big escort for that trip might not be a bad idea, I can go with them as well, just in case they need me for whatever mojo they have to do." Given he came through the mirror the shard came from and all.

Melinda May has posed:
May considers that. "I think," she says after a moment, "that we actually need to speak with the others before we decide about who's going to go do what, when, where, and how. We'll need a minimum of 48 hours to retrieve your evidence, at least. And that's assuming its still there and not relocated somewhere else. Vogel's not going anywhere; not until we have a place to put him." Or someone gets tired of him and puts a bullet in his head.

Except, of course, that would be murder. And it's wrong. May tells herself that firmly.

"Huttz... I think we can pick up almost at our leisure. List and the Russian are the most pressing. And of them..." She leans back finally and gives a weary shrug. "The Russian's probably easier to find."

Daniel Sousa has posed:
"Good point," Daniel says about deciding who does what, he'd let himself get carried away in his eagerness not to talk about timelines or anything that might suggest his stay in the future is anything but permanent.

"Sounds like we're looking for the Russian then," he says, before a thought occurs. "Guess this would be a good time to ask if Leviathan is still around?" or for that matter the USSR. But there would be time for those little history lessons on the road.

Melinda May has posed:
"Oh, Leviathan's still out there," May says dryly. "They nearly blew this side of the time bridge to hell when I arrived home." She frowns faintly. "Though they haven't been a problem for years, before then. Not since the USSR fell." No time like the present.

She pulls herself to her feet, rolling her shoulders. "Come on," she says to him. "Let's go in and see what Peggy's doing. I think she needs to be here for the rest of this discussion." A beat. She looks at him. "I'm glad you're here." She just hopes it doesn't end badly.

But that's a worry for another day.