6255/The Framework: Down the Rabbit Hole (II)

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The Framework: Down the Rabbit Hole (II)
Date of Scene: 15 May 2021
Location: The Sphere (Bunker BT-0), Deep Beneath Manhattan
Synopsis: Daisy and a team of agents work on circumventing enough of the Framework's digital defenses to allow a team to go in to retrieve their friends... They don't quite end up where they expect.
Cast of Characters: Melinda May, Daisy Johnson, Lance Hunter, Bobbi Morse, Jessica Drew, Jemma Simmons, Natasha Romanoff, Achilles, Jack Nolan
Tinyplot: The Framework

Melinda May has posed:
Previously, on Agents of SHIELD:

Following up on intel gleaned from an ex-HYDRA operative stationed at the ass end of Russia, Commander May led a small STRIKE team into the heart of the Sphere, an abandoned AIM facility SHIELD stumbled upon some months earlier. Defense protocols in the facility engaged, ultimately capturing the entire team. When they didn't check in, SHIELD sent in a pair of follow-up teams. Together, they managed to shut down the defense protocols and find the missing agents. Having since discovered that the agents are trapped in a VR world far more immersive than they ever imagined, Daisy leads a group of crack SHIELD technicians in creating stable connections to allow a team of volunteers to go in and rescue their friends and colleagues...

The pod chamber at the base of the Sphere has become a beehive of activity. The distruptor field has been extended to cover more ground for the base camp, protecting a greater number of agents. There are close to a dozen agents trapped in pods, now -- May's original team of four, half a dozen from the team that went in to rescue them in the first place, and then Fitz and a handful of agents that went with him on an exploratory mission that went bad. Needless to say... further exploratory missions have been postponed until the people currently caught in the matrix have been rescued.

Sarah Collingwood crouches by one of the pods, jacking the last of the biomonitors into the last of the pods. There are now video monitors and bio monitors and... well just about any other monitor they could think of, clustered around each of the pods, allowing technicians to monitor what's happening to their agents in real time.

Of course, all of those monitors are currently powered off due to setup concerns. But still.

"That's the last of them," Collingwood says. "We're good to go."

"I think I'm getting a handle on the power distribution, too," her partner, McLaren, adds. "We should be able to regulate and monitor most everything, now."

Famous last words, no doubt.

Daisy Johnson has posed:
Daisy has been burning the midnight oil for this one. Yet it's for a good cause. Hours have been spent on a programming terminal. Testing theories, writing code, creating back doors. The theory of creating an emergency hatch is a good one. For when they actually *can* go in there. The problem is turning that into practice. Which is what Daisy has been doing for the last oh .., whoever is counting anymore. So she is a rabid, savage programmer appeased by ways of coffee and looking at those pods to know it all be worth it in the end..

"Still fighting on getting a good grasp on the programming language they are using. Getting there. But with those monitors I think I will have the info I need to properly create the hatch." and hopefully the back door so they can go in and out safely when they go for the rescue.

"McLaren and Nuevo, did the mapping of the underground bring any good results?" she asks, then turning to look at Collingwood and give her a nod. "Ready when you are."

Lance Hunter has posed:
Hunter has found a broken robot to sit on to watch all the action, rising now and again to help set up before returning again. He's close to wearing out his weapons with as many checks as he's done on them, magazines safely removed. He doubted he'd need the bloody things but it was something to do while the brain trusts figured out how to get Bobs and the rest the hell out of those pods.

Daisy's words have him up on his feet. "Aren't you obligated by hacker law to say 'I'm in' or something?" he asks the woman, before his eyes cut to Bobbi's pod for a moment. "Got a way to get them out of there?"

Bobbi Morse has posed:
    "And voila!," says Agent of S.W.O.R.D. Lars Anderson who has been getting to know many SHIELD agents in the process of this mission to recover Captain Marvel from the machines. To what was he referring? the big screen jumps to life with the code he's just written. A large aggregate of all the data they've managed to pull together so far. Individual monitors are useful, but an overview is essential - this place is crazy complex.

    Rubbing the back of his neck, Lars picks up the last coffee provided to him and takes a sip. The point was to take the more mundane work off of Daisy's shoulders because Lars can tell when a programmer is in a deep deep zone. The solution almost in their head - fingers to keyboard.

    "If we had a week we could create a transcomputation module and speak to the darn thing in our own languages," he lilts in his scandinavian accent. The viking's short blonde hair is swept back with a tired hand. "...Yes actually. This place is like a turnip. A big sphere head and roots going out everywhere. It should have been called The Turnip, not The Sphere," he says though his humour is strained from fatigue.

    On a side monitor he brings up a network of resistances showing the general layout of the wiring and what they suspect is where the power is really coming from and perhaps how it's connected to the outside world.

    "Good news is, when we get them out we are confident we can shut this place down safely instead of having to blow it all up," he says though there's a small shrug that may be _also_ blowing it up isn't necessarily a bad idea.

Jessica Drew has posed:
Jessica pretends to read her tablet. There are only so many times she can field strip her guns. Combat training, the kind drilled into Jessica as a teenager being made into a crack HYDRA agent, and subsequent training from SHIELD does nothing to help her nerves. It's a test of will not to get up and pace while she waits. Others, like Daisy, have the expertise needed to crack the AI controlling the Framework.

Eyes riveted on Lance; she nearly smiles at his invocation of 'Hacker's Law.' Suppressing a sigh, she picks up her tablet and pretends to concentrate.

Jemma Simmons has posed:
"Our Daisy is more than just a mere hacker. She is not beholden to mere laws." A familiar voice cuts in with an attempt of dry humour. The source of that voice, a certain brunette, sits off to the side, her left arm in a sling, sitting down. Mainly because Daisy absolutely insisted that the good doctor Jemma Simmons sits. Jemma insisted that she come along, despite her apparent injury. And people knew not to deny Jemma when she is in a mood.

Besides, there was talk that there would be need for a medical doctor. Which Jemma fit the bill for that. The snide remark falls to silence as Jemma continues to watch. There was so much that was going on...and it pays to know as much as possible to be able to provide the necessary assistance. The good hand rests on a tablet...Jemma's tablet...and fingers flitter over the surface as she takes notes.

Oh, so many notes.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha Romanoff has been helping set up when needed, but largely she's been keeping to herself. After all, until very recently she was broadly known to Shield at large as a vicious, murderous traitor. An ACTUAL traitor, mind, not the sweeping fake accusation of treason that has since swept up everyone else.

    So Natasha hasn't been pushing her luck. Especially not after bringing another Black Widow home. Mostly she's just here to be ready to kill anything that suddenly needs killing.

Achilles has posed:
    Agent of ARMOR, Angelo has been able to claim that he was -not- a part of SHIELD. ARMOR was not SHIELD. But when anyone in SHIELD asked for help, he was willing to jump into things in order to do so.

    So it was when this mission came along. He is not suited to virtual reality conflict. But he -is- good at safeguarding locations while others make use of them.
    So without really engaging in social discourse, he proceeded to move to the perimeter where he managed to set himself up. A rifle version of an ICER weapon was set up, and he began watching outward, fully intending to prevent anyone from interfering on the outside.

Melinda May has posed:
"*Mostly* confident," McLaren says, glancing over to Lars. "We've got this layer of the Sphere mapped -- I *think*." He tosses a small holographic projection up over a little portable projector. "We're here. The biggest power conduits are flowing right through this room. It's like every single electronic resource in this whole bunker has been oriented to supply and back up this one system." That's probably not a surprise.

He points to a cluster of blue lines and lights nearer the top of the structure. "I think this is the fabrication facility. Gotta tell you, I seriously wanna go spelunking in there."

"Oh, of *course*, you do..." Collingwood says dryly, rolling her eyes at her partner. "Never mind..." She glances over to Daisy and gives her a nod. "Powering up." She moves to a power bank and starts flipping switches. Bio monitors and system spring to life. The vidoe monitors hum, but the visual feeds flash 'no signal' in short order.

Anderson's large monitor lights up with both the power schematics and info from the bio monitors, each labeled with the name of the agent to whom their connected, and even a node map of the matrix distribution. The last image, of course, is still in the process of rendering, changing constantly. To the medically astute, it rather looks like the synapse pattern of a very active brain.

Daisy Johnson has posed:
A grin goes to Jemma after those words. It was good to see her ordeal was keeping her down. So Daisy replies, "What Jemms said." this about hacker law! "Besides..., since when are you a lawyer to be so worried about law, eh?" this to Hunter, a brow arching with brief amusement. Enough to at least take her off some of the stress. That and another long drink from her coffee.

A glance to Lars when he goes about calling 'voila', a peek to his screen and then a look to the 'viking'. "Good job. It'd be good if we had a week, but who knows what will happen then?" she says. "But don't worry, we in SHIELD are masters at improvising solutions in record time. And sometimes we only need some duct tape and screwdriver." a smirk and a tap on the man's shoulder.

With the various agents coming by though she turns to them. Perhaps an explanation is owed on what is going on exactly. "So, for those that are just coming in.." she starts, ".. our Agents are captured in some kind of virtual reality world. An actual immersive world. They are reacting and living it as if it was all real, and apparently .., some of them are leading very different lives from who they are here in the real." a small frown coming to her features. "We are hoping these monitors will help us figure out the extend of those differences, and how they are being affected. The plan is to create an emergency hatch in that matrix, get a team of Agents to go in, aware of what is going on, and lead our Agents back out through that hatch. But right now we are still in the process of building it up."

With that explained she looks to the monitors as they power up. "No signal? What's going on?"

Lance Hunter has posed:
Hunter grins, "Fair 'nuff," he replies to both Jemma and Daisy with a bit of a smirk. Though when the vitals come on line and appear on that monitor he wanders over to have a look at Bobbi's first then the others. He's no doctor but he can get the general gist of things as many times as he's been in hospitals and the medbay over the years. "So? how different are we talking here?" he asks glancing back after hearing that comment.

"And Lars, mate, we're definitely blowing this place up after we get them out, right Daisy?"

Jack Nolan has posed:
Agent Brad Canton had mostly been pulling security, though once it was clear that the group was no longer under any immediate danger, he had moved back towards where they were booting up the monitors and systems. As he listens the the explanation, he raises a hand, at least slightly, "If they're living way different lives than they have here, and I assume they think everything in there is real...How are we going to convince them to come with us?"

"I mean in Total Recall they brought in his wife to try to convince Arnold that it was a simulation but he saw through it. I know we won't be bluffing, but what if they think they're seeing through us?" It's a valid question, right?

Bobbi Morse has posed:
    Lars made his way over to one of the bio-containment glass boxes that he had used earlier.. 'borrowed' from the biotech section of the team. Jemma's bit. In it is a small robot that seems to be designed to repair broken wires. A fascinating design, like an insect, with legs and pincers.

    Tapping on the glass Lars says, "It appears to be aware that it's not where it should be, but it doesn't seem to know what to do about it." He looks around to anyone interested, "They're wireless. Whatever intelligence is running the simulation is also running these little critters. It is.. astonishing and creepy."

    He smirks to Daisy, "SHIELD has a reputation ya know? - If it can't be done quickly, it'll be outsourced" Though, he is from SWORD.. they spend most of their time monitoring alien signals and trying to decipher them - the universe is a big place.

    As the rig comes to life he smiles and says, "Yah, we're really going to jack in to the matrix?" Because there haven't been enough matrix references thrown around by the team yet. It was the most obvious analogy after all. "I'd like to go in, to try and find Captain Marvel. So she knows SWORD has not forgotten her in this.. mess."

Jessica Drew has posed:
Agent Drew stops pretending to read the online manual. Catching Angelo's eye, she nods to the activity on the monitors coming alive. The schematics are beautifully complex, reminding her of a field of flowers dancing in the wind. They are incomprehensible and difficult not to stare at.

What will they find on the other side? Daisy's explanation, reassuring as it is, doesn't answer the questions that boil up inside her. Muttering loud enough for someone close by to hear her, "Down the rabbit hole, we go. Well, at least hoping to." They are not there yet. Agent Canton asks one of the most pressing questions she has.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha affects a look of mild concern for courtesy's sake and asks, "... Let's suppose these 'different lives' are surprisingly compelling, and they won't agree to come out. How far can we get away with forcing the matter?"

Jemma Simmons has posed:
As the bio monitors spring to life, Jemma's attention immediately shifts from her tablet to the monitor screens. After all, this is why she is here. There are friends in these infernal pods and she is going to help get them out any way she can. The critical gaze of the medical doctor takes in the vital signs on each and every one of the available monitors. "Judging from preliminary statistics, our agents are at the very least not in any physical distress." The tablet receives another couple quick taps, though only for notes.

The bio-containment box is given a once over, with the robot within. An eyebrow raises as Jemma considers the automaton, but she at least remains silent on it for now. Though, that look....it means she has ideas. Ideas that may not necessarily be appropriate for the moment.

But then....the Matrix. "You need me out here, correct? Not within this virtual construct that our friends are in? I apologize for not being completely informed. I have been doing a considerable amount of research. It is a rather daunting task."

Achilles has posed:
    Purely on guard duty, Angelo gives a wink to Jessica before he turns his attention to security fully. Again, no words are spoken. He is fully engaged in the task at hand.

    His forte is not the whole technical mumbo jumbo, or virtual reality. His talent is keeping things safe, placing himself between those he cares about and those who would do them harm.

    And there he stands, a line in the sand drawn, weapons armed and waiting as a silent sentinel.

Melinda May has posed:
Collingwood moves to start checking video monitor hook-ups. "It's hooked up right," Collingwood says, crossing back toward Daisy. "Is the data being blocked somewhere?"

"Anyone else think that looks like a brain?" McLaren says, looking up at the node map. 'Cause it really looks like a brain to him. "Do you think it's blocking the signal?"

The questions about what happens to the people inside the matrix -- whether they'll believe their rescuers or not, and what should happen if they don't... well, those are serious questions that will need to be answered. Neither Collingwood nor McLaren have that answer. Thus, they leave it to Daisy, the defacto head of this little operation, to answer.

There's a flicker in the disruptor field, out at the edge of the perimeter. It is reflected in a flicker on the holographic power display on the little projector.

Daisy Johnson has posed:
"Very different.." Daisy says to Lance, some brief hesitation on her expression before she nods. "We saw .., a bit of Bobbi and May a few hours back. Whatever they went through in there has made them a lot harsher. As if they were living an alternate timeline, undoubtedly worse." a look to the other Agents as they pose their questions. She nods first at Canton, "Exactly where I wanted to go next." a faint smile on his direction, "They may be different but they are still the same in their core. And they are our family. Which means that if there's anyone that can reach them it's us." she says. Defeat them with the power of friendship!

Eyes turn to Natasha. A faint nod of understanding on what she means with that question. "No deaths." she states. "It could very well kill them out here too. As far as we know their minds believe fully on what is going on. They die in there and ..., they die out here too. So it's imperative we keep them safe as well. As for other methods of retrieval. If we need to use force on them we will, but as a last resort." she was leaving those options open though.

"Fitz is in there too, Jemms." She addressing the biochemist now. "You may be the only one that can reach him." which means she most likely will need to go in too. "But we can figure out a more concrete plan when we have more info. Suggestions are welcome too. We are all experienced agents here. Ideas on how to get them out, on how to reach them... Please." she says with a faint, tired smile.

She seems to register that part about the block as an afterthought. "A block?" she frowns, turning to sit down on her chair, "The channels were open. Like with Bobbi's feed. All should be working .., uh.. Interesting." she starts taptapping on the keyboard, the rest of the world a touch forgotten, "Nuevo.., check this out, something appears to be blocking us actively." the next few minutes are spent ignoring pretty much everything around her as she works in tandem with the other hacker so they create an alternate route for those feeds to be seen. "Fascinating. It's as if it's adapting to our coding.." fascinating and scary. But eventually a couple of feeds do start to pop up. Both Peggy's and May's..

"I have unlocked these two, but it's unreliable at best..." she mutters.

Lance Hunter has posed:
Hunter's head turns when they mention they saw Bobbi and May. "You did? Was she alright? And just how different are we talking here?" he asks.

The rest is taken in with a nod. "Do they wake up if they realize it's fake? I mean if we go in there and talk to them, that going to do it? Or do we need a bit of computer mojo going on too?" he asks. "Either way, I'm game to go see what there is to see on the otherside," he says before he pauses a beat then asks. "Also, don't suppose since we know this isn't real we get superpowers like that Matrix movie, or we can get kung fu uploaded into our heads?" he asks hopefully.

Jack Nolan has posed:
"I mean it might be best if some of us wait out here too. Just in case." Canton says, "To ensure that the folks that do go inside are able to get back out." Though as feeds start to finally come online, his attention goes towards them, "So are all of them in the same simulation?"

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha nods slowly, but doesn't look reassurred. "Hm. I'm not really on a heart-to-heart basis with most of them." She eyes Bobbi's pod in particular. "I'd lean towards a quick nerve strike, and then drag them home, but... fighting some of these people would be pretty counter productive."

Jessica Drew has posed:
The lights flickering bring Jessica out of her seat. Break over, she unslings the rifle from her shoulder and stands, joining Angelo in ready mode. Is the interference a physical threat or pure software existing in the virtual world?

Her chin raises at Daisy's words concerning family. "Two online, it seems," she comments to Angelo. "We will get them out."

A smile flickers on her face at Lance wanting superpowers. "I'm in for the kung fu upload, Lance."

Bobbi Morse has posed:
    "My guess. Given the way the code has been changing when we've looked at it - the intelligence running the simulation is aware we're in here and is trying to counter our actions," he frowns. "We may have less time than... what was that?," he asks as he sees the flash of power run through the system.

    "It might be testing our disruptor field, trying to find a weakness in our defences. Like I say, adapting," Lars surmises and then looks at the heavy hitters that are defending this position. "You guys have got this, ya?," he asks of Angelo.. then looks to Nat. "The robots and tentacles were scary enough I don't even want to imagine what other defences this place could have," he warns.

    Though, he does sit down and starts reviewing the code that Daisy first wrote to get the video and audio working. The sands must have shifted and the more eyes on adapting their solution the better. But as he looks over it, it seems like everything *should* be working, Daisy's code was even designed to handle this kind of drift. It's almost as if the feed is being deliberately censored. "Hmmm," he says suspiciously. But then they're getting May and Peggy signals back.. still nothing from Morse or Danvers.. "Ya but.. we should be getting all of them, or none of them.. why only two of them?"

    But the topic about different lives, "Though Agent Morse was living in a really nice looking house and had a wicked quinjet parked outside and a pet dog and the two of them drank some whisky as they planned some operation going after terrorists... so... may be not that bad or different ya? Though.. she did have a messed up eye and a scar down her face. It looked like an old wound."

Achilles has posed:
    "I -could- upload you some Kung Fu. Just at a low baud rate. It'd take five to ten years to get it properly installed." offers Angelo, his first words since arriving. Spoken in jest to Lance.

    But then he nods, "Drew and I will watch everyones' backs. We.." and then he sees the flicker and he goes silent, eyes snapping towards it.

    His rifle comes up and he peers through the nightvision ACOG scope, searching for the source of the flickering and somewhat smooth crabwalking to one side to separate from Jessica, just in case someone wants to get them while they are close together.

Melinda May has posed:
When two of the ten or twelve A/V feeds come back online, Collingwood lets out a soft whoop. "Don't know what you did, Daisy," she says, stepping back to look at the scene on the pair of monitors over May and Peggy's pods, "but whatever it was, it worked."


On Peggy's screen, the view looks as if it's seen from her eyes. There's a great close-up of Daniel Sousa's face, as she clearly leans up to kiss him, eyes drifting briefly closed. Bio monitor feedback suggests definitely elevated hormones. Hope no one's easily embarrassed.

Still, eventually she steps back, her eyes reopening and focussing on her husband again. She gives him a light smack. "Teaching our daughter such words," she says, the volume of the audio quiet enough to require standing near her pod to hear it. "You are a horrible influence. How am I supposed to keep *any* discipline over these children with you in the house?" The tone of her voice is all love and teasing. Her exasperation is tired warmth, if nothing else.

She then settles back against his side, eyes perusing over the spread of food that he's brought home. Her head tilts a bit, "I see you... cooked again tonight, the way I cook. Had to stay late with work?" She asks, glancing back at him, "And you ordered from the good Chinese place..." Is that suspicion in her tone?

For the record, Peggy looks somewhat different in the matrix, too. Unlike either Bobbi or May, however, her demeanor has gentled. Her lean muscles have relaxed into matronly curves -- though she's not at all overweight. She's merely... softer. No hard edges at all.


Meanwhile, on May's screen, it looks more like a driving sim than anything else. The senior agent is clearly on a motorcycle of some sort, and driving fast. She weaves through traffic, street lights whipping by. Eventually, as Peggy is surveying her Chinese food feast on the other monitor, May stops the bike in front of a middle class townhouse with a children's playset in the yard.

She swings off the bike, grabs a brown paper back from a harness on the back of the bike, and heads for the door, fishing out keys and letting herself in. It's obvious, only moments later, that she's arrived and Peggy's and Daniel's house.


The flicker at the edge of the disruptor field happens again. The shdows beyond it seem to ripple and writhe for a moment or two. There are a few sparks, too.

Daisy Johnson has posed:
"Not fully..." Daisy is still frowning a little. "It's as Lars says. Should had worked for every feed but it didn't.." this makes her lean back on her chair.. But at least a couple of them were up now. She casts a look over to Hunter with a faint smile. "I am surprised you didn't immediately go for the X-ray vision, Hunter." a wink at the man before she addresses the others. "So far I believe they are all in the same simulation. It's a shared world, they have been interacting with each other. At least Bobbi and May were." a faint smile then to Natasha, "And nerve strikes may be needed if nothing else works. If we are talking about some kind of 'conscience', or program, controlling this it may mean we will be seen as virus when we go in. Which means we will require those with capacity for infiltration, combat, spying. You know .., an actual black widow." another faint smile at Romanoff before she finally goes quiet to watch the monitors.

The change is something noticeable, Daisy furrowing her brows. "Well, they seem to be leading happy lives on this one.." she comments. A look to Jemms. "Any change on their bio feeds?"

She is totally oblivious to any danger around the place right now.

Lance Hunter has posed:
Lance flashes a quick grin to Angelo and Jessica. "Well, don't know about Drew but might take you up on that, after you know..." he gestures vaguely at the machines.

Then he's back on task. "Oof, Bobs must hate that scar, and I didn't think she was a dog person, but her and May hunting terrorists sounds about right. At least it doesn't sound like a bad virtual world."

There's a grin about the X-Ray vision but his attention is taken by the screen and the bio readings from Peggy. "If you guys are going to be watching us like that when we're in, just be sure to turn it off when we're in the bathroom, yeah?"

Jack Nolan has posed:
"I dunno, that looks pretty cozy." Canton notes, as he looks at the screens, "Might be hard to get them to leave that life." He considers a bit, "But I'm sure we'll be able to convince them it's fake. Any luck on getting the others yet?"

Bobbi Morse has posed:
    Lars looks back to Daisy and says, "We should work on the interface. We're never going to understand what's happening from out here. McLaren, how is the hardware looking?"

    He opens up a different and much bigger folder of code that Daisy had been working on and starts working on some of the scaffolding code to bring it all together for their own custom hardware. No one wants to get trapped inside a pod like their trapped agents.

    "Daisy do I understand this piece of code you've written right? when we sleep we will exit the framework ya? that's a good idea. How are we creating an exit for our trapped friends? is it a physical place. We should put it somewhere easy to get to but out of prying eyes," he suggests as his brow furrows studying her amazing work closely.

    "Sorry Lance," Lars says, "If we knew how to do that we'd probably know how to get our friends out. Or may be we'd accidentally wipe your mind or something equally bad. It is as Nirvana says, come as you are." He smirks though. With time they could replicate this framework thing and make some wicked games with it. Once it's safe.

    "This is going to be super weird when inside it. Bathrooms and all. Like 'Second Life', but with less furries or flying around." He realises, though, that almost all the agents in the room will not have heard of the game second life.

    "Oh, I should work on a record feature. No one is going to believe us if we can't show them what happened ya?," he begins typing furiously as he gets emotionally invested in recording the footage playing out. Children! Peggy and Daniel have children!

Jessica Drew has posed:
Jessica chuffs a laugh at Lance. "We'll sees."

The sparks wipe the smile from her face. She sees Angelo go on alert; trusting his instincts, she extends her spider senses. Something is creating vibration at the edge of her awareness. Gesturing towards the disturbance, "You seesing it, too, Angelo? Lance?"

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    "Well..." Natasha sighs softly in response to Daisy, "... we have no shortage of those."

    Regarding their comrades virtual life she says "That makes sense. Probably makes them less restless in the pods." She's not sure, though, she's never tried to forcibly redefine someone's life and identity.

    Not like this, anyway.

    Natasha regards the source of the sparks when everyone else does, and worldlessly draws her pistol from her thigh holster.

Achilles has posed:
    "Cover me." Angelo mutters into his subvocal throat mic as he begins the Army Duckwalk forward.. that odd looking shuffle to cover ground and yet keep your upper body as stationary as possible so the weapon is stable in your hands.
    Why is he moving forward? Simple. He's bait. It's his usual job. His callsign should be SHOOT ME!...

    Either way, he investigates those sparks, moving closer and closer.

Jemma Simmons has posed:
Jemma actually stands up, the tablet placed off to the side as she approaches the nearest bio-monitor. Which...happens to be Peggy. "Well, from the heart rate and stress levels indicated here, it at least looks like Peggy is actually experiencing the normal stress of a happily married mother in love with her husband." A glance towards May's monitor is all that is needed for Jemma to ascertain that May is typical May. Though....others receive frowns. "Some of these readings are demonstrating higher stress than normal...and certainly more than would be considered healthy."

Still...the comment about Leo being in the virtual world has Jemma concerned. She purposely starts to walk...searching for Fitz's pod. She has to see if he is okay.

Melinda May has posed:
Outside the perimeter of the base camp, dark figures move crabwise in the muted glow of the distruptor field. Close inspection shows the hulks of the burnt out centipede and spider bots the agents first fought when they came in to rescue May's team slowly inching their way along the walls. Occasionally, appendages hit the field, sending up sparks. They appear to have sprouted dozens of small, mechanical legs beneath them, giving them locomotion.

Fitz is in a pod nearer to May and the others. His skin is suffused with blue circuitry lines that look like they've been etched on, though scanners indicate they are actually nanowires woven through his skin. As with the other bodies, groups of microwires feed out of the pod walls into his skin, clustering around his temples, the base of his brainstem, and all through the major muscles groups. It's obvious from readouts that the pod system is designed to keep the whole body healthy -- eliminating toxins and providing nutrition in addition to whatever other feedback activities are going on. His vitals are stable. Indeed, they could actually be described as zen. His usual nervous tension is greatly reduced. So, he appears to be doing quite well.

"We've rigged up half a dozen VR stations," McLaren says from where he and Collingwood are dragging more cables and monitors around and hooking them into a secondary genny. "We can bring in more, but these will have to do to start. As soon as Simmons gives us the okay on the biofeedback hook-ups, we should be able to start interfacing with whatever you and Daisy are cooking up."

Collingwood stands up from where she was crouched. "It'll be important people can disengage," she notes. "We don't have nearly the same ability to clear out toxins or administer nutrition the matrix pods seem to have." She's more a biologist than an engineer, but her specialty is emergency medicine for field triage situations. So... she's extrapolating and following Jemma's lead, now.

Daisy Johnson has posed:
"I am still not fully convinced, but we need to send a team in." Is what Daisy concludes, "I will craft up an escape hatch on the Playground so we can run out through it with the captive agents." she says, "And yep, when we go to sleep we will automatically exit the simulation so we will be safe. We will also retain our memory so no happy-happy lives for us." only the grim, dark lifes of being a SHIELD Agent with lots of baggage on their shoulders!

She gets up to her feet, a look to Jemma. "When you can, I will need your help getting these pods up and running. We will have to make them similar to the others but allowing for our own tweaks." she explains.

And that's what she sets herself doing! Problems with attacking enemies? Not her call for now, she will let the other ones handle that part. Time is of the essence she feels.

"Lars, I will need you to keep an eye out to make sure our programming doesn't go haywire while the teams are in there." always a danger for such things to happen! But they are pro hackers right? How bad could it go, mmm?

She gives a thumbs up to McLaren and Collingwood as they are already getting it started up. "Alright, lets get it going people!" still fully oblivious about the approaching multi-legged robots! She has a mission to handle here that affords no distractions!

Lance Hunter has posed:
Hunter keeps his eyes on the robots moving outside the field. "We need to be worrying about this lot?" he asks nodding towards them. Though he does take in what they're saying about going into the Matrix (for a lack of a better term). "So when we sleep, we wake up here, and we can get food, and so on then hop back in? But to get the others out we need to take them to the escape hatch that's going to be in the Playground?"

Jessica Drew has posed:
Eyes widening in recognition at the multi-legged horrors, Jessica ejects her ICER cartridges, letting them clatter to the floor, replacing them with explosive ammo from her belt.

"Iron mongery," she subvocalizes back. "On your right. Lance? Cover left."

Achilles has posed:
    Seeing what they are up against, Angelo snorts. He subvocalizes, "It's like Hephaestus's wet dream out here." as he presses a stud with his thumb and drops the ICER magazine out of his rifle.

    "Small robots. ICER rounds won't help. Switching to standard ammo." he says as in one smooth motion, he brings up his left hand and slaps a magazine into his weapon.

    That done, he drops to one knee, right out in the open, and then his weapon barks. Once, twice... he fires single shots, not bursts... conserving ammo and trying to draw the counterattack of the machines down on him. But after firing twice, he pauses and inclines his head. "Wait one." he says as he lifts his left hand with a fist held high. "These aren't -attacking-."

Bobbi Morse has posed:
    "Oh no. This is almost all Daisy's work. She is a wizard," he remarks with a raised eyebrow, his attention still fully on the code he's trying to understand. He sits back in his chair as Daisy starts to lay out the game plan. There's a nod given to McLaren and he smiles. "Alright. We will take shifts then. I take it you want to go in first ya?," he asks of Daisy.

    He is already starting to write some specialised code monitoring code. To make sure the way the operating system of the framework doesn't shift too much underneath them while they're in there. Or if it does, try and get their agents out.. or adapt. There's a lot of furious typing but he too is breaking the hacker trope - no thumpy dance music and he's also pressing both the space bar and the enter key.

    With a thumbs up he says, "I have it from this end ya, go save the virtual world." He looks up and gives a firm nod to Hunter, "Ya Lance. That is exactly it. Get them to the playground, go through the special door Daisy has coded. They should be released from their pod."

Jemma Simmons has posed:
When it comes to Fitz, Jemma takes her time in reviewing his vitals. There is a care there...something more than her usual attention. Perhaps it is because Fitz is the one that she is closest to...the one she knows the best. Still, she notes his vitals...noting that he does seem rather calm and certainly more relaxed than usual. "Of course. Leave it to Fitz to find peace in a virtual construct, even if he doesn't know he is in one." A soft smile sneaks its way to her expression...before it melts into a more neutral expression...still gentle, as Jemma is, but more focused. She's got some work to do.

Turning to Daisy, the scientist nods affirmatively. "Yes. We can get close...but co-opting the specific system that the virtual reality is using to maintain bodily function gives more of an opportunity to claim our agents. More control for us would, unfortunately, mean more maintenance for us. But, this is a good thing." Jemma walks over to her tablet, balancing it on her left arm in the sling, while the right pulls up some plans she was formulating. "I have preliminary concepts....the best I can do with such short notice...but they should enable us to remain in the construct for a considerable length of time." Eyes shift to Daisy. "We can incorporate this as soon as you wish."

Yes...someone has been doing a lot of thinking.

Melinda May has posed:
On the screens above May and Peggy's pods, a relatively delightful domestic scene plays out. It may be a surprise to see just how friendly, how enamoured the Asian woman is of the toddler, who throws her arms enthusiastically around her "Auntie Mel". There's light conversation -- though the truly astute, those who know May and Peggy well, may well pick up on the odd subtext and careful nature of that superficially easy exchange.

There are two or three other monitors that have lit up, agents farther along the row from Fitz. They, too, seem to be in fairly benign domestic situations. One of them shades his eyes and watches the lights of some derigibles float across starry sky over a city by a river.

"Point me where you want me," Collingwood tells Jemma. She's capable of serving as a med tech and helping the English biologist work whatever magic they need to in order to keep everyone safe. "I can stay on monitor duty while everyone is jacked in," she notes. "Make sure no one crashes."

McLaren nods. "I'll monitor the digital systems and hardware," he agrees. "If you want to go in after Danvers, Lars, I've got your back." He's not quite on the level of either Neuvo or Quake when it comes to hacking, but he can hold his own most of the time. The matrix might prove tricky -- but it's tricky for everyone.

As Angelo and Jessica get closer to the perimeter, perhaps even redirecting lights to illuminate just what the mechanical creatures are doing, it does indeed become evident... they are dragging their dead away. Dozens of little robots, each about the size of a chicken, with spider-like bodies, have wedged underneath the hulking corpses and are now hauling them away. And if the agents look really, really closely, they'll see in the distance where some of the robots are actually chopping up the bigger carcasses with lasers, to make them easier to haul away. It's a whole automated salvage operation.

Daisy Johnson has posed:
With preparations finished on getting it all prepared it's now time to go in, even as those shots and fight do register for Daisy at last. "What were those things trying to do?" she asks of the group intercepting them.

Something is certainly off.

But Daisy is the type to go in on an impulse so .... "Alright, if we are set on who is going in then it's time to get a move on." she says, moving to one of the chairs to get hooked up.

Sitting down she starts hooking up to the device and takes in a deep breath.

Lance Hunter has posed:
With the system ready Hunter leaves defending things to the people staying behind, he puts down his weapon and gets into a chair. "You lot wake me up if there's trouble," he says. "And don't be watching my video feed either!" he shouts before he's connecting to the device with a thumbsup and 'here we go' look flashed over to Daisy before the world falls away.

Bobbi Morse has posed:
    Lars taps a finger to the side of his nose, "Okay come take a look at this then." He begins to show McLaren the output from the scripts he's written, "This indicates code drift ya. It has critical hooks in to their system that have shift tolerances. If it shifts past 5% from the current state we are all fucked." Hey always trust a Scandinavian to swear when it matters.

    "These less critical points in the code stream, the can drift up to 33% and we will still be fine. These ones, they are nice to haves - like the video and audio feeds. 66% drift and we lose them. Everything drifts independently, see?" He pats McLaren on the shoulder and says, "You'll do fine. Mighty Odyn watches us from his throne."

    He joins the group where the VR stations are assembled and takes a deep breath, "I shouldn't have had so much coffee writing code and tracking cables." He's nervous as one should be when entering a bizarre virtual reality that has abducted people. It's not just the coffee giving him slightly nervous shakes. He sits and looks over to the pods, "Don't worry Captain, I am coming for you." Because a close team like SWORD .. they know just how much she hates the Supreme Intelligence, gaslighting, liars, and general mind screwery.

Achilles has posed:
    "Well, there's something y'don't see every day." mutters Angelo as he lowers his weapon. He even steps back a pace and crouches to recover his dropped ICER magazine. "I guess we hold this line. If anything decides to push it, we can deal with that at that time. Until then... let's keep our cool, eh?" he asks with a shrug.

    But then he looks to Lance and snorts, "Should I clear your browser history too?" he asks.

Jessica Drew has posed:
Lowering her rifle, Jessica doesn't look away from the scurrying creatures, subvocalizing, "Ants. They're like a colony of insects." Behind her, other agents are preparing to leave the world. She'll be one of their line of defense.

Wary of the robots, she only glances sideways at Angelo, shaking her head at his poor joke, "Eh, I don't like the look of them. We'll be sure to change your browser history."

Jemma Simmons has posed:
Of course, leave it to Daisy to react with her heart and not her head. Jemma watches as Daisy immediately heads to one of the chairs to plug herself in. And...for the first time in a while, there is actual confusion in Jemma's expression. It does not take an empath to see that there really is an inner conflict battling within the biochemist currently. The gears can almost be seen working as Jemma's eyes flicker to Daisy's chair, to Fitz, to her tablet, then back to Fitz's tube...and back to an open chair. It would be almost comical if Jemma wasn't so damn serious and fretting so.

Finally, with a shake of the head, Simmons turns...and hands Collingwood her tablet, complete with Jemma's notations and designs for the biological components. "Here, Agent Collingwood. You will need this. This should assist in identifying potential statistical algorithms that could prove detrimental." Translation? Look for these symptoms and pull the agent that can be extracted safely out if identified. Then, with a swallow, she turns to an empty chair...and straps herself in. "Allons-y..."

Plunging into the unknown with a 10th Doctor quote? If there needed to be any more proof that Jemma is indeed herself, that would be it.

Melinda May has posed:
           [Mood Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCsKshg2BsY]          

McLaren doesn't share Lars' belief that the Asgardians are gods, but he does share his confidence in technology. "Yeah," he nods, looking at the drift numbers. "I got this." He gives the viking a fistbump. "Go get your superhero out." He snorts when Lars mentions coffee, but leaves the man to his preparations.

The mechanical critters continue their macabre clean up, heedless of the nervous agents watching them. The occasional piece topples, sparking against the disruptor field and pushing the envelop. But it's usually collected without further incident. Just a clean up routine. No way it could actually be a test of the organics' defenses. Nope.

The node group map on the big screen sparkles as, one by one, the quartet of rescuers settles into their chairs, the real world fading around them...



> Wait. Can they be integrated?


> Do it. Let's see if they can be useful.



Beneath the light of an overcast day, the trees of the forest in upstate New York cast long, pale shadows over the small cabin that once served as a base for the survival training course HYDRA Commander John Garrett once ran. The windows are dirty. The concrete floor is stained with old blood. Awakening in the dark, Lance finds himself in worn, moth eaten clothes, in the middle of that old stain -- a black smear against dark grey in the night.


The small house is comfortable, for a suburban post-war fixer-upper. The decor is dated. The basement room is covered with ancient shag and papered with photos, news articles, and other pieces of evidence linked with strings and lines drawn across the walls. Some of that evidence should be familiar to Lars Anderson. Some of it brought him to SWORD's attention.

Pizza boxes and empty big gulp cups scatter the floor. The computer banks set up on the makeshift desk alternate between SETI analysis and the muted images of UFO footage on loops. It's a conspiracy theorist's batcave, no question...


"Are you okay, Miss Simmons?" The girl is probably 15 or 16. Old enough to be able to think for herself. Young enough to still have hopes and dreams in her eyes. She stands in front of the desk -- standard fare in any middle class high school in the US -- concern in her dark brown eyes. She is holding something that looks like it could be part of a science experiment. The room is empty, save for her. But it is filled with the double occupancy lab counters useful in any decent science program. Well. Any decent science program in a Middle American high school. And on the desk sits two items of note: A mug that says "World's best teacher" on it and a folder marked as holding standarized tests within... a small, chilling octopus logo on the corner.


The lights are bright, hot on her face. The roar of the crowd is incredible. They sing loudly along with the music of the band. They know every single word. And as Daisy looks around, shielding her eyes from the brilliang stage lighting, it becomes clear... They're cheering for her.

And they're expecting her to sing, too.