7144/The Dollhouse: The Incident (Team 3)

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The Dollhouse: The Incident (Team 3)
Date of Scene: 30 July 2021
Location: Outside 432 Park Street, NYC
Synopsis: While Agent Morse leads her team into the tower to rescue the people trapped within and Agent Couson leads his team to keep deadly Terrigen bombs from unleashing Inhuman hell on the city, Agent May leads a team of agents into the streets to prove SHIELD is still on hand when they're needed.

The Witchblade traps the consciousness of the Living Dream. Black Widow takes out a precog who doesn't realize just how important it is to know one's history. Falcon and Redwing combat deadly drones and disable the HYDRA eye-in-the-sky PR machine. Cale Becker defeats her very own supersoldier with a cleverly placed flashbang. And May takes out all her rage on Gayle Trueshot. (There's no way anyone could survive that.)

SHIELD. Victorious.

Cast of Characters: Melinda May, Sara Pezzini, Cael Becker, Natasha Romanoff, Sam Wilson

Melinda May has posed:
It's a bold move. They're laying their cards on the table. HYDRA commissioned AIM to build them a computer in the 80s that would allow them to predict the movements of their enemies, that would allow them to map out a plan to conquer the world. Gideon Mallick's HYDRA began an elaborate game of chess, moving people to strategic places.

They built a specialised academy - HYDRA Academy - a mirror to SHIELD Academy, for that very purpose. General Catherine Hale, high up in the military, Gideon's own son in to politics and national security, Jasper Sitwell in to the belly of the beast itself: SHIELD, Alexander Pierce in to the United Nations Security Council, Julien Beckers in to European Counter Intelligence, Kirk Vogel and Kathlene Hutz in to critical security infrastructure businesses, and John Garrett at the tip of SHIELD's spear.

All to enact one of the most audacious plans ever put together. Not just a coup d'etat of critical organisations, but of the whole world. The simulation was quite clear. First, SHIELD had to disappear; Second, they needed an enemy to unite the world against; and Third, they needed to act the heroes. It was that last step that was so very against their own nature. But they chose an enemy that they could dehumanise, an enemy they could hate upon as much as the average man in the street. Inhumans would be their nightmare fuel.

It had almost fallen apart once already. Daniel Whitehall had been so close to seeing it through with SuperSHIELD. Usurping the name of SHIELD was a nice little 'screw you' to their adversary but they had thought too small then. The enemy they had chosen was simply 'superheroes'. They were too liked. This time they would build off of that. This time they would shock the world awake in to a fevered nightmare where a single Inhuman could kill tens of thousands of people in the blink of an eye. And then, then the people will welcome their leadership with open arms.

Melinda May has posed:
Peggy's voice comes over the comms, clear and strong even after the week she spent in a bed. Her British tones sound stronger than ever as she begins to speak: "Agents of SHIELD, we've been in the shadows a long time. For months now, the world has called us criminals and terrorists. But for decades before that, they whispered about us, in fear as much as awe. Spies. Big brother. Little does the world know that we are the shield that protects it from the things it doesn't want to think exist. We stand between them and most dangerous threats, from space, time, and more. It's not an easy job. It's harder when they are calling you traitors.

"And yet, you all still stand here. Through life threatening missions. Mental torture. Trauma. The hate of the very people we protect. HYDRA's lies. You stand here today because you believe in our cause as much as I do. As much as agents have for 70 years before you. You stand in a long, strong legacy of doing what must be done in the face of the worst odds. I'm so proud of each and every one of you. I am so honored to call you colleagues and Agents. You do your predecessors proud.

"Today, we are done being in the shadows. Today, we finish this. We let the world see who we truly are and how much they need us. We put HYDRA back where they belong -- hated as the Nazis and traitors THEY are. But, most importantly, we save innocent lives. We do what we have pledged to do. Go. be the sterling agents I know you all to be. Fight hard. Save lives. Show the world what being an Agent of SHIELD truly means."

The S.T.R.I.K.E. force had been divided in to three. With the intelligence painfully extracted from The Framework they knew what HYDRAs plan was. They knew how it would play out if they didn't step in and expose them to the world for what they truly are.

Melinda May has posed:
Team 1: Commander Morse, Senior Agent Barton, Senior Agent Johnson, Senior Agent Simmons, Agent Hunter, Agent Fitz, are headed directly for the tower itself. HYDRA intends to bring down the tallest residential building in New York. 'Mass Casualties' they said. That's not going to happen. Bobbi has prepared for the worst, that if they're too late they can still save the building and the people inside. Specialised suit cases containing a fancy new shielding system built for purpose, to hold a building up even if its foundations are crumbling. They need only get them installed.

Team 2: Commander Coulson, Chief Carter, Agent Sousa, Agent Foster, Agent Drew, are headed to the metro below the tower. A scary prospect if Team 1 fails, but no less scary than if they themselves fail. What better place to create the enemies of tomorrow than from the devastation caused above. HYDRA intends to detonate Terrigen bombs. How they've gotten their hands on so much terrigen we're not sure but in the chaos they will turn as many people as they can and abscond with their new weapons.

Team 3: Commander May, Senior Agent Romanoff, Senior Agent Wilson, Agent Pezzini, Probie Agent Becker, must deal with the most visible threat of all. HYDRA. Acting like heroes. They are orchestrating a play, a falsehood for the cameras. They have their own camera crews set up, they have quinjets with HYDRAs logos on them, they have fancy uniforms to make them look legitimate. They have Gayle Trushoot, the only HYDRA agent of Whitehall's to have successfully adapted to his superhuman concoction of powers dressed like a superhero. They are blocking access to the tower to stop the real emergency responders from getting in so that they can swoop in and 'save the day'. Not on our watch.

Melinda May has posed:
SHIELD has been preparing for this almost since they shutdown the Framework. May has painfully sharp memories of the Cambridge Incident. All of the agents originally trapped in the Framework do. But May's are particularly difficult, since she was the one who pulled the trigger on Eva Belyakov in that reality. And with that shot, she was the one that taught HYDRA how to bring the world to its knees.

And she'll be damned if she'll let anything remotely like that happen in the real world.

She sets the Bus down in a large grassy area in the middle of Central Park. As its engines shut down and tick with the heat of landing, cloaked to avoid tipping off HYDRA as to where they are, she swings out of the pilot's seat and move through the plane with a fierce expression in her eyes. As she passes friends and colleagues on the other teams, she wishes them 'Good Hunting', occaisonally brushing a hand or a shoulder with her fingertips. Perhaps it's farewell. Perhaps it's just good luck. Or perhaps it's her way of securing a touchstone for herself -- reminding herself why they fight. It's not just because HYDRA needs to be stopped. It's not just because of the pain the memories of Bahrain bring her.

It's because they're SHIELD. The first and last line of defense against the dark that is HYDRA.

Finally, however, she joins her own team and secures her weapons -- including the tri-split pieces of the Asgardian Rage Staff. She know's she'll need the edge it brings. "We know what we're going into," she tells the handful with her. "The Framework didn't show us everything, but it showed us enough. Our job is simple: HYDRA is going to try to keep First Responders away. They're going to try to swoop in as if they're heroes -- as if they're *us*. Well, they're *not* us. No one's like us. And our is to stop them. Do what you have to do. The priority is to save civilians and open the way for the real heroes to come in and do what needs to be done. We take HYDRA out. Non-lethal if you can, but use of force is authorized if you can't."

She gives them all a rare, tight smile, her eyes sharp and determined. "You're among the best SHIELD has to offer. I'm proud to serve with all of you. Now, let's go do our job..." With that, she heads out into the park and onto the street...


The building in question -- 432 Park Ave. -- is very near Central Park. The streets around it are narrow, clogged with the traffic of a midday rush hour. It's a busy Friday -- early afternoon. The lunch crowd is out and about, increasing the number of people on the streets beyond the usual tourist throngs that choke the sunny summer streets. Already, there's a cacophany of horns and angry shouts as the sounds of distant traffic snarls drift on the humid city air. HYDRA, it seems, has already started. They're beginning with the simplest tactic: Throw as many obstacles in the way as they can. Distract and misdirect. Classic.

May gives a wry grimace as she recognizes it. "Time to clear the streets."

Sara Pezzini has posed:
This was larger than anything Sara has ever done before. Her time with the NYPD hadn't prepared her for just how big the world outside the bubble got, but she had joined SHIELD just as the shit hit the fan. She had learned painful step by painful step what Hydra was, what they were capable of, what they wanted, and it stood against everything that made her the woman she was. As if that weren't enough, Hydra was also in direct conflict with Witchblade's purpose for existing... balance.

Today Sara didn't bother pretending she was anyone other than Witchblade. The armor was already in place, the metal wrapped around her body like a second skin, helmet covering her head, a mask over her eyes. The wings that expanded from her back then folded had the SHIELD emblem forged into the metal in red, white and blue, looking like it had been there all along, and belonged there. Across her chest was a smaller version of the emblem... today she represented SHEILD, and anyone who looked at her would know it.

All of Sara's life she had wanted to serve for justice, even as a child growing up in the house of a New York cop, today was a opportunity to do just that, to use the gift of the Witchblade to right a major injustice.

Stepping up beside May, she offers the woman a single nod as she says, "It's an honor serving with you Agent May, we got your back."

Cael Becker has posed:
    Cael was dressed in SHIELD-issued body armor - with an ICER at her side, and multiple clips strapped into convenient locations if she needs to reload. The blone-haired woman wears a determined, serious look on her features. A more traditional handgun rests on her opposite hip, though she hopes she doesn't have cause to use it. She briefly studies the rest of the team as they all prepare; Pezzini and Wilson she was familiar with - and Romanoff she knew only as one of the Avengers. May was unfamiliar to her, but if the woman had been put in command of a team with two Avengers in it? Well, that certainly communicates something. "Yes ma'am," she answers simply as May makes her appearance, and sweeps them up in their wake, heading down the ramp and out into Central Park. The sight of so many figures appearing seemingly from nowhere must be baffling for the park goers - but only a brief quirk of amusement in Cael's lips betray the thought.
    "We have each others' backs," she remarks in agreement, as she steps down beside the other two women. "Let's go save some lives."

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha's kitted out already. An ICER strapped to every thigh for if things go right; a semi-automatic shotgun slung onto her back for if they don't; and a pair of Widow Gauntlets on her arms, because she's Natasha Romanoff. Among her other kit, most important of all for this task, her dark grey jumpsuit is clearly emblazoned with SHIELD's logo.

    It may be the first time in Natasha's life that she's gone anywhere she doesn't have security clearance for, to straight up announce who she actually is.

    It feels weird.

    "Goodbyes are for funerals." she remarks distractedly when the mood acquires an Alamo-esque finality. "Focus on humiliating some 'puppet-masters'."

    It might be the sunniest thing she's ever said.

Sam Wilson has posed:
    There are probably considerations Sam should have spared some time for before answering the call. He's been a SHIELD agent alongside being a public member of the Avengers, and his presence here, now, it's going to be a statement. Maybe it won't carry the same weight as Captain America or Iron Man, but his whole wings shtick, it's pretty flashy. Unlike someone on the team, say... Natasha, who can sneak in somewhere, save the world, and sneak back out without anyone noticing her presence.

    People are going to notice him. It's kind of inevitable. Maybe they won't recognize him on the street, but all they gotta do is look up.

    The thing is, though, and pardon his language: fuck HYDRA. Ignoring everything else, Sam's going to show up to put HYDRA down, that's just a given. But more than that is the threat to innocent lives HYDRA poses in the here-and-now, a potential catastrophic event. Sam isn't the type to think about if he needs permission. He's always been more the ask forgiveness type when lives are on the line, even after serving a couple of tours.

    "All in a day's work," he answers, sparing a glance up at May as she passes by. One quick nod and then he's back to his pre-flight checklist, running over everything one last time before he rolls his neck, rocks his shoulders up and down, and flexes the fingers of his left hand. "Let's do this."

Melinda May has posed:
There's no question they're all in their SHIELD finest, today. May's tacsuit is classic blue and black, the silver and black eagles on her shoulders, the pieces of the staff arranged across her back and ICERs on her thighs. She gives Sarah a tight nod and even a bit of a smile again. It must be a rare day, indeed.

Then, however, there's business to be done. The sound of the alarms in the tall condominium can be heard on the street. Bobbi's team is inside it, dealing with the clear and present danger there. But as the alarms begin to attract attention and people start to react outside, the confusion begins. May can feel it -- confusion and the stirrings of panic.

Along with the small team is a quartet of other agents -- Piper and Davis, Collingwood and McLaren. May looks to them. "You're on accident duty," she tells them. "Clear routes in for the first responders. Get us a perimeter to work with."

"Falcon," she calls to Sam, "get airborn and get me eyes in the sky." She trusts the Avenger up there. And she knows what she's asking of him is easily as dangerous as being on the ground -- because she's had to fly a wingsuit (albeit Mockingbird's wingsuit) in the narrow confines of the city. No one better, up there, than him.

That leaves the four women on the ground. And it doesn't take long for the first signs of trouble to arrive. A hissing crackle sizzles in the air, followed by a >>THOOM<<. It's something Sam would recognize. Sara, too. Perhaps even Natasha. Especially when it's followed by the >>ssssskTHOOM!<< of displaced air.

A featureless, humanoid shadow that, when looked at straight on seems not to even be there at all, save for a limning blue rimlight, provides transport for a small squadron of grotesque-looking Inhumans. These are not Inhumans like May or Daisy, able to pass as human at a glance. They are the ones with obvious deformities -- bulk and tough hides, claws and horns, or bodies covered in thorns. It varies. Though it becomes apparent at least one has super strength.

The teleporter flickers away like an electrical afterimage when glanced in the periphery.

May doesn't even need to point the group out. The moment they arrive, people go into a panick. Especially when the purple-skinned 8-foot-tall rino man charges as them. Those that aren't quick enough to scatter are trampled and tossed.

In moments, the street is chaos.

And the team has its targets.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    For a split second, Natasha feels almost nostalgic for Loki's invasion of New York.

    Having taken a heartbeat to indulge that feeling, Black Widow brings her outstretched arms together and releases two blasts of electric energy from her gauntlets aimed at the giant's back, before she re-draws her ICERs and begins firing at the menagerie of Inhumans. Urgently, she shouts to the masses, "Everyone, get behind us! Clear the area!"

Sara Pezzini has posed:
Targets, that made things a hell of a lot easier and that large purple thing, well that looked just like something Witchblade could tackle. Sara jumped out the back of the bus and took enough air to close the distance, but pulled up slightly before actually attacking. Something wasn't right, something screamed through her entire body and send the armor around her to almost audibly humming. A warning, something she had to pause to listen to, to /feel/ from the artifact.

<<"Shit... Agent May, these Inhumans... they're being controlled by... someone, a consciousness present inside their minds. This is becoming something of a regular pattern for Hydra, and it's starting to piss me off!">>

Now she dives in, attempting to get the purple rhino man's attention. She didn't want to have to kill him, she'd settle for maybe hurting him if she had to, but this wasn't his choice... that changed her plans to distraction and taking his attack until a decision came down as to what should be done. The call wasn't hers, so for now she would keep him busy to stop him from harming anyone else.

Cael Becker has posed:
    Just the sound, when combined with the knowledge of what they all knew they were walking into, was enough to get Cael's heart rate up as adrennaline begins to flood her system. But what was fight-or-flight for if not for just this sort of thing? She jogs towards the Inhumans, fighting through the fleeing, screaming people on the street as she draws her ICER, waiting for a clear shot. It takes a moment for enough of the people to move, so that she has a shot at one of them - a man with with strange, tentacle like appendages who has grabbed up some businessman in a suit, and is slamming him into a car. She fires off two carefully aimed shot at the Inhuman, adding her own voice to Natasha's.
    "Everyone - remain calm! We're here to help. Please clear the streets in an orderly fashion."
    Like that'll ever work.

Sam Wilson has posed:
    You don't have to tell Sam twice.

    He doesn't actually need a running start to take flight, because the EXO-suit has enough thrust to propel the weight of a human body up into the air from a complete standstill. But he still does it, a few quick steps that get him off the Bus and onto the green grass of Central Park before he's up in the air. The tip of one wing clips the very top of a tree as he banks, climbing until he's no more distinct than the silhouette of any bird surfing the thermals above the city.

    Of course, Sam's not up here to enjoy the breeze. His eyes are on the ground, Redwing's onboard AI scanning what comes in through the feed of Sam's goggles. The drone is already throwing up warnings about strange sensor readings as the sound of the teleportation travels through the air up to him.

    <<"We've got incoming. Hold on--">> His words are backed with the rush of wind as Sam dives in closer, his shadow rippling across the sides of buildings as he swoops down. <<"Five Inhumans that Redwing can positively identify.">>

    A twitch of his arm outwards and an ICER deploys from the weapons harness underneath the wingpack, swapped out for his usual SMGs. He fires a few shots at the rhino man, well-aware that they're probably not going to do much of anything. Mostly he's trying to just get some attention on him so that Agent Pezzini can close in for a KO. Sam knows she's much better equipped for that. <<"Helicopters inbound too; just media so far, no first responders.">>

    Speaking of. Sam alights on the corner of a building just long enough for a full scan of the area. <<"Yeah, I though that was weird too.">> Is he talking to the drone? <<"We've got people blocking off access routes. Might be HYDRA agents in disguise.">>

Melinda May has posed:
May has her own ICERs out, joining Natasha in her bid to cull the Inhuman herd and trying to get civilians out of the way. Sara's voice over comms attracts her attention. "<<Can you isolate it?>>" she says, leaping over the hood of a car to roll out of the way of a volley of spikes from one of the Inhuman terror squad. Her eyes narrow as she risks opening up her emotional shields. She inhales sharply as she starts to sense the consciousness Sara's talking about.

It's malevolent and enraged, taking great pleasure in the chaos being wrought here by its actions. Distruction. Genocide. A thirst for vengeance second only to the Spirit of Vengeance itself. "<<Can you do something about it?>>" she asks the Witchblade, crouched beside the tire of the car, now. "<<Separate it from the people it's controlling?>>" At the end of the day, if she can save the inhumans, too, she will. "<<I can feel it. I can't do anything against it.>>" She can't do much more than perhaps absorb its rage. And if it possesses people, it's quite possible opening herself up like that could let it in to possess *her*. None of the SHIELD agents on the ground, today, need to be turned into a bad guy by a living ghost.

Sam's intel comes in and her mind shifts gears. There's no way people can clear the streets if someone's actively blocking them. "Romanoff! Becker!" she calls to the pair, "Find out who's getting in the way and get them out of the way!" She *knows* what Natasha can do. Natasha will have no problem differentiating real first responders from HYDRA impersonators. She's heard of Cael's reputation. If those are HYDRA agents in disguise, she expects the young woman will be able to handle them. She also expects they'll put up a fight.

In the distance, even with the sounds of the streets and the blades of helicopters in the sky, there is the distant whine of military aircraft engines. Sam would recognize that for sure, even if he didn't have the advantage of a HUD that shows two rapidly incoming F-16s. They're headed to a trio of bogies that appear on radar as if out of nowhere as three HYDRA Quinjets decloak. The fighter jets release a salvo of missiles that catch the HYDRA QJ's off guard. All three of them explode in impressive fireballs.

There's no question, now. HYDRA has arrived.

As if to prove it, the ground begins to shake and the WUBWUBWUBWUB sound of vibrational quakes rumbles like an overclocked subwoofer beneath the streets. It's not Daisy, however. Dressed in full regalia -- like a female Captain America sporting a HYDRA logo instead of a star -- is Gayle Trueshot. Her fists are pointed at right at May, who finds both herself and the car she was momentarily hiding behind, upended and tumbling through the air, clear across the street.

"SHIELD!" she calls out, her tone mocking. "You're all terrorists and have no place in this fight. HYDRA's the one who'll be saving the day, today. We're the *only* ones who can protect this city -- this country! -- against the *real* Inhuman threats."

Oh, yeah. She steps away from the back of a truck in which she was hiding, along with a couple of squads of HYDRA-uniformed soldiers and storm troopers... Looking for all the world like a twisted version of the Avengers.

May crashes heavily into the plate glass of a storefront, the air knocked entirely out of her.

Sara Pezzini has posed:
It is likely that Witchblade could in fact track the source of this thing inhabiting the Inhumans, but not while trying to keep the purple rhino from charging into any more people. Sam's ICER strikes don't seem to even effect the guy, which honestly she didn't think they would, that means resorting to plan B.

<<"If I can find it, I can try to deal with it and I should be able to find it.">> She replies, then in her gauntleted right hand metal club appears. Direct strike to the base of the skull, it was the only hope she had of dropping the guy. There are still innocent people running past him and her, screaming, drawing the man's possessed eyes, so a second blow is given.

"Son of a..." she mutters, pushing back against him, taking numerous blows to the head from his hands madly flailing, trying to get free from her. "What are you made of?!" Finally a third blow, and that's the one that does it. He does down and frees her up.

The flight of the Witchblade may look like the flapping wings of a bird, however it is in fact a source of magic that flows around her. Jumping into the air, the wings beat at a slow, steady pace as she hovers, letting the magic of the armor seep slowly into her eyes so she can start searching for the entity behind possession, at the same time she holds up the gauntleted hand and start moving it slowly out in front of her, like a water divining stick, in search of the power of the entity.

Cael Becker has posed:
    Cael's carefully aimed shots take out the tentacled being - who drops the bleeding man he had been whipping around into a worryingly still heap. She doesn't have time to deliver first aid, though - she has too many other things to work about, like trying to evade another rain of spikes, one of which clips her side as she twists out of the way to take cover behind a car. Damnit - it was a minor wound, though, so she would simply have to soldier on.
    <<Copy, Agent May. Wilson,>> she speaks into the comm as she hops to her feet. She fires off a few quick shots towards the being firing off volleys of spikes like a demented porcupine, but her attention is only partially in her aim as she dashes towards the end of the block to see what was keeping the First Responders at bay. The mad woman screaming at their team's Commander will have to be dealt by someone else - after all, she has her orders.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    "Ma'am." Is Natasha's curt response, before she turns and rushes through the chaotic, ever-tightening gaps between the panicing throng of people, not hesitating to leave allies and civilians behind amidst the Inhumans, even when an explosion marks the appearance of Hydra.

    She has her orders, and her goal, and those typically come first.

    Natasha makes a point of the loud metallic THUD that fills the air as Widow-lines her way up to a street lamp, and then lands on the hood of a police car blocking the road. "Who gave the order to block this road?"

tNatasha doesn't actually need the answer. Her process is simple enough. Everybody looks to her, and her gaze quickl sweeps across all of them. Who's confused? Who has doubts about this? Who seems oddly composed and completely sure of what's going on?

    Anyone who displays the latter sufficiently enough to erase doubt from Natasha's sharply trained mind promptly receives a kick in the face. "Terrorists have infiltrated your forces. Ignore anyone who orders you not to do your jobs. For god's sake *protect* these people."

    It's a pretty wild pitch to come out of nowhere, but, well, the situation's too chaotic for a proper rundown and evidence, so Natasha's counting on an extremely authoritive voice and recognizable figure to rattle these men into the proper course of action. Failing that, she may have to start kicking more people.

Sam Wilson has posed:
    There's a lot to process up here from Sam's bird-eye view of the situation. Generally, he's pretty spoiled by Redwing, who houses the majority of the suit's on-board computing power. Right now, though, there's so many warnings splashed across his HUD that Sam has to find another building to perch upon.

    Did Sam say there was a lot? This is too much. Too damn much.

    His head snaps up as Redwing puts another flashing notice in front of his eyes, and he's just about to call out the HYDRA quinjets when he hears something that brings a wide smile to his face. Sam's fist is already in the air when the F-16s go screaming by, knocking HYDRA out of the air. "Hell yeah!" he shouts, before he toggles his mic back on.

    <<"We should probably expect more HYDRA air support to arrive,">> he reports, but for now it's just the Falcon and the F-16s (officially name Fighting Falcons, which feels especially appropriate right now) up there. That and too much media, which--well, they want to be seen, right?

    Unfortunately so does HYDRA.

    Sam turns and crouches down as he scans the new arrivals. <<"Captain HYDRA and her goon squad are on site too.">> The roll of his eyes is audible over comms. <<"Pretty sure Steve could sue for c--">>

    The ping of bullets impacting the sides of the building Sam's on makes him reel backwards, one wing coming up in shield formation to protect himself. But there's no accompanying sound of gunshots because it's one of the Inhumans on the ground, firing some sort of projectile from strange crystalline growths on its arms and hands. A few hit Sam's shield, and a couple of seconds later a chain reaction follows the line of glowing spikes embedded in the building's exterior.

    Pop pop poppoppop pop-pOP POP POP! They shatter into hundreds of sharp particles that rain down on the street below, and with enough force that the two embedded in Sam's wing cause him to stumble further backwards. But then he's back up in the air, dodging around another burst of glowing crystal bullets as he returns fire.

Melinda May has posed:
The perceptions of the Witchblade take very little time to recognize the consciousness that floats away from the purple rino -- as well as the others of the terror squad. He appears like a malevolent ghost, green ectoplasmic energy with lightning crackling around him. When it becomes apparent his current puppets simply won't do, he drifts toward the people who are now stampeding from the tower.

The tower trembles, looking for all the world like it's tearing itself apart... or maybe like it wants to implode. Either way, it's clearly cracking and crumbling. That it's still standing at all is a testament both the the SHIELD tech Bobbi brought to prevent such a thing and, more obviously, the work of Daisy Johnson. Quake stands at the base of the tower, all her energy channeled at the giant edifice, trying desperately to hold it together while people evacuate.

But that means the people that pour out of its doors are terrified and panicky. And the non-corporeal entity that Sara can see drifting over them takes advantage of that, sinking into several of them and causing them to turn on each other and the others fleeing the disaster in the making. Clearly, the living ghost takes great pleasure in his work.

At least one of Cael's shots hits true. The demented porcupine goes down thanks to the young agent's ICER rounds. However, that attracts the attention of several of the imposter first responders who, being in fact HYDRA, now deliberately turn on her. "Freeze!" one yells, looking much like a cop. "Drop the gun!" He doesn't wait much beyond that, unlike a regular officer, before he starts firing to make his point. The young woman will have to think fast or end up a bullet sponge.

Natasha, however, is quick and decisive as ever. For most of the officers she faces, a single kick is enough to incapacitate them. One of them, however, moves just fraction of a second before she does. He dodges, staying just out of reach. Somehow, it's like he can anticipate her moves. And when he strikes at her, its as if he can anticipate where her guard will be, how she'll block him. Which means... he may very well score a hit or two on her as he attacks.

If there are other HYDRA QJ's enroute, the F-16 patrol is apparently keeping them at bay. Sam's not wrong, though. There are always more. It becomes clear enough, however, as drones deploy from one of the helicopters, that HYDRA is gunning for as much coverage of this fight as they possibly can. They swarm around the breaking building, they buzz over the heads of fleeing people, and they deliberately get in the way of Redwing's flight path. All this while crystal bullets fly to keep Sam well occupied.

May pulls herself slowly to her feet, shaking her head as recognizes Trueshot. "Seriously," she coughs, pulling in a breath and playing for time as she reaches for two out of the three pieces of her staff. "Why aren't you dead yet?" Her eyes glow red briefly. Fiery Norse runes crawl over her skin. Her expression tightens as the first of the staff's rage floods into her. She twists the pieces together and reaches for the third, securing it into place at the top.

"HYDRA will never die," Trueshot replies, a fierce grin on her face. Lightning ignites on her hands and she lashes out with her fists. Streams of electricity crackle through the air at May, who launches herself to one side with speed born of a beserker's adrenaline. The storefront window explodes, but the SHIELD agent is on her feet, shouting a cry of rage as she charges the Captain HYDRA wannabe.

Sara Pezzini has posed:
For Sara, there is no Hydra, there is no combat on the ground, there is this entity that she can clearly see. He is not physical, and yet he is, he is not dead and yet he is not alive. She watches him moving, even as she starts to head toward him. In the back of her mind is the soothing calm sensation of Watchblade, he knows exactly what to do even if Sara is a little hesitant about it. However, hesitant or not, there doesn't seem to be another choice.

<<"No way to explain all of this in time, but the entity has moved to the panicked humans. I'm going to get his attention, Witchblade will contain him.">>

More than likely not a single person understood what any of that meant beyond humans being controlled by the entity now, but there wasn't time for much else. Moving in among the humans the entity had possessed, she used her own ICERs to start taking them down. It looked bad, she realized that, but she had to get enough of them down that the entity coalesced again. When, if he did, she was right there to announce, "Hey ghost boy, come play with me for a little while! I got some abilities you'd /love/ to play with!"

Here's to hoping Witchblade was right.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha was really really hoping that SOMEBODy at the road block would be on her side. She blames the Avengers, frankly. The poisoned her with the concept of 'nice'. Bastards.

    <Fair enough,> Natasha mutters in Russian before she leaps into the fray, decking one man across the mouth, and turning with the moment to snap her leg out into another man's face. A third officer; she takes his wrist and redirects his gun right - where it fires a shot - and then left, where it's aimed at one of his comrades, causing him to hesitate long enough for Natasha to break his wrist and hurl him into the comrade in question.

    The last one though? The last one... surprises her.

    One of Widow's punches is blocked, another... ducked??? And suddenly Natasha is deflecting fists out of her way, and making sure his gun can never stay on her long enough to put a bullet in her; attacking when possible, only take an unexpected kick to the thigh that shoves that leg backward out from under her, and puts her on one knee.

    Things... usually don't like this. Not when her enemies aren't extradimensional creatures, or clones, or Avengers and the like.

    With a grunt of discomfort, Natasha rolls backwards on the weight of her attacked-leg, lands on her feet, and immediately fires an electric Widow Sting at him from relatively close range.

Cael Becker has posed:
    "People don't 'freeze' when you're shooting at them, asshole!" Cael shouts back from her position taking cover behind a car. The driver is still in the car - and he's rather panicked by the fact that police officers seem to be firing on him. If anything could convince the video cameras that these guys aren't the heroes in this situation - she'd like to believe that would do the case.
    She'd felt the impact of a couple rounds before she'd made it under cover - thankfully, her vest had taken the impact for her. There'd be bruising in the morning, but that was nothing new. Now she needed to deal with these bastards.
    She pulls from her vest a flash bang, rolling it under the car and towards her attackers before they have a chance to close on her. 3, 2...
    Just after it goes off, she over the hood of the car, heading towards the 'officers' that had attacked her, putting a few ICER rounds into one, and bringing her knee up into the gut of another. The moment of disorientation seems to be enough for the young agent to easily flip one of them over her back onto the pavement, where he cracks his head with a resounding *thud* before she fires off more rounds from her ICER. She's just slamming a new cartridge into place when she spots Natasha going to one knee out of the corner of her eyes - and re-aims, firing off a quick shot at Nataha's attacker.

Sam Wilson has posed:
    Staying ahead of those crystal projectiles is a serious task for Sam all on its own, without any consideration given as to where the shots that miss end up going. And that's something the Falcon has to think of too, which means he has to keep himself to a tight path along the facades of buildings, where they can impact plaster and shatter against brick.

    Minimizing civilian casualties means Sam has to take a few hits himself instead. Most of them, at least, he manages to twist himself so his wings take the brunt of it, though one of his forearms and the side of his face get speckled with shards of crystal at one point.

    Which stings like hell, as if tiny needles are embedded in his skin, but aside for a few pinpricks of blood he's okay.

    He sweeps down low enough that he can duck behind a delivery truck, and the Inhuman firing on him tracks the expected flight path across the side of the truck--but then there's no Sam.

    Because Sam's crouched down and firing from between the wheels. A few ICERs in the shins and ankles still do the trick no different than if they hit center mass.

    <<"We need to get this area clear,">> Sam says. <<"This is way too many people.">> And way too many media helicopters. His brain keeps going back to that thought, because Sam has responded to emergency situations like this before, and he knows what kind of response they get. Of course it's Redwing who makes the final connection, starting to highlight helicopters above as targets when one begins to deploy drones. "Oh, great."

    By the time Sam is back up in the air, Redwing has already deterred one drone out of its way with a quick burst of crackling laser beam, carving through its opponent's chassis. Another, Sam swats out of the air, sending it towards a collision with a nearby wall. <<"Think they might be trying to spin this to their advantage. I'm gonna see if we can take disrupt their signal.">>

    Redwing cruises up and latches itself onto the bottom of the HYDRA helicopter, beeping quietly as it starts jamming any signal it can identify as out of the ordinary.

Melinda May has posed:
May registers the sound of Sara's voice. She is far too busy to really understand what the woman is saying beyond some variation of 'I got this'. Thus, she trusts the young agent to do what she does best -- deal with the super weird shit. She trusts her team to each do what they do best: Put HYDRA down.

The entity Sara faces ripples from one person to aother. His face changes as he reaches out to touch the soul of each poor victim. His face becomes a mirror of their own -- albeit always with a sharklike grin on their face. Still, as each body goes down, taken out by a well-aimed ICER round, he turns toward Sara. Perhaps it's arrogance or overconfidence, or perhaps he really is just that good, but he doesn't back down from the offered fight. Possessing her would increase his reach greatly. Pulling out of the mere humanity around him, he streaks incorporally towards her, hands outstretched like claws and a snarl on his face.

The man Natasha fights falls back, both Cael's ICER round and the Widow's Bite missing him by mere centimeters and microseconds. He tucks and rolls to his feet, coming up to face her. Rather than charge at her for a new physical attack, however, he reaches out his hands. Long tendrils of glowing light -- in fact a sort of psychic energy -- lash out from his fingertips. They carry in their touch the sting of the future as he sees it... HYDRA ascendant, SHIELD in ruins. What descends upon her, should any of those lashes touch her, is a psychic hell of HYDRA emblazoned Project: Insight helicarriers and patrolling Zepelins, the world under the martial law of their jackbooted storm troopers. Nazism given new life and new form, but nothing less than the rise of the Reich Hitler once envisioned, but taken to super powered extreme. There is no room for freedom, no room for hope, no room for redemption in such a future...

Cael's efforts may not immediately help Natasha, but they certainly do take a toll on the HYDRA teams trying to keep the first responders from getting through. As they go down, the pressure on the real cops eases and they're able to actually begin to effect an evacuation. Still, a man in a black and green HYDRA uniform steps out from behind a black van and rushes towards the young agent. He's got cuff on his wrist that suggests he's probably been juiced... HYDRA style. Possibly a supersoldier. Which means a single ICER round won't take him out.

Trueshot laughs as May charges her. The SHIELD Commander swings her staff viciously, but it goes right through the intangible body of the HYDRA champion. May's lips curl in a snarl, but she doesn't lose control. Instead, she feints back and makes a target of herself to coax the arrogant squid to make her attack. Because May knows: Trueshot must be tangible if she wants her blows to land against the Inhuman empath.

She's proven right as Trueshot launches herself at her in return, a vicious roundhouse May blocks with her staff and then follows up with a series of blows of her own. In the end, Trueshot doesn't have time to go intangible, because the ragestaff in May's hands gives her speed and strength nearly equal to that of Trueshot's own. And May's the more experienced fighter.

But even as the fight rages, and the people stream in panic, there's a change in the atomosphere. It starts softly at first, rising out of the deep WUBBING sound of Daisy's power. But eventually, it can be clearly heard:

The building sings. Even as its foundations decay away it remains in place, the wind around it vibrates and so do the windows and every object and person inside can feel Quake. It feels like that person who has your back, right through every cell of your being. The building sings a beautiful song, a song the whole city can suddenly hear like a tuning fork at just the right pitch that is so utterly satisfying.

Sara Pezzini has posed:
Sometimes in life you make these decision in the heat of a moment that sound good in theory, and then in reality you have a green horror entity charging at you and begin to question everything. Sara was having one of those moments. She doesn't move other than to give the appearance of being ready to fight, a change of her stance, and even offers a 'bring it' gestures at the thing.


The scream in her mind is echoed from her lips as this entity slips into her mind like water flowing into a pond, the sensation is alien, invasive, horrifying. Every Inhuman and human he had touched had felt this invasion, felt the moment their control was lost and they were acting in ways foreign to them.

Thankfully that moment was short for Sara, as the second the entity gained control it also lost it. Witchblade acted with the speed of lightning, in Sara's mind the battle was quick as the magic of Angeles and The Darkness worked together to form a magical, mental box to lock the thing in.

On the outside, the visible change was Sara going from screaming, to staggering side ways, and then regaining herself. Parts of the armor has withdrawn back into the gauntlet, leaving sections of her body exposed, the concentration of the magic required to keep the entity locked up hampering the magic Sara could rely on. The wings withdrew back into the armor as well, leaving her on foot, but she was alive, and herself, and that thing was contained.

<<"On foot now, contained the entity... for now, headed back to the bus unless there is another direction you need me to go.">> Through everything, she had lost where the team had ended up, and it was going to take her a moment now to figure out where she was needed.

Cael Becker has posed:
    <<Pezzini?>> Cael's concerned voice comes through the comms - but she doesn't have much time to think about it as the man in black and green comes charging towards her. She brings her ICER pistol around to bear, firing off several rounds - but still the man is coming. "What the shit?" she asks.
    That's about all she manages to get out, as she dodges out of the way of a punch that shatters that dents the light pole it hits instead. "Oh. Fuck," she adds. Don't get punched him - okay. Mental note firmly made.
    She ducks and dodges his blows, using her hands to redirect his momentum a few times, but the blows she seems to land make little difference. She is going to have to ask Barnes or Steve for a few sparring matches if she's going to go up against assholes like this. Right now, though, she's stuck thinking on her feet - and the first thought that comes to her mind is born of her mis-spent youth. She'd learned a bit of pick-pocketing in her time. Why not reverse it? A flash-bang slipped into a pocket is sure to be an unpleasant experience for anyone.
    3, 2...

Sam Wilson has posed:
    It might be true that Redwing's AI isn't anywhere near as advanced as, say, FRIDAY or any of the other virtual assistants Tony Stark uses. But Redwing is very good at doing the things it was designed to do.

    Which includes a whole lot of electronic- and cyberwarfare. It's the battleground of the future, after all.

    Jamming signals is easy. Redwing does that on its own while Sam picks off some of the obvious HYDRA agents with well-placed ICER rounds in-between directing fleeing civilians towards the waiting arms of first responders. More than once he swoops down to ground level to assist someone who has become injured in the fray, helping them to their feet or personally ferrying them out of the danger zone.

    All the while, Redwing is an inobtrusive presence, latched on with a magnetic hold to the bottom of the helicopter. Don't mind it.

    Sam has no idea how far the spread of HYDRA is, or if they're pulling their usual sleeper cell thing to go along with the whole "cut off one head" ideology that he has come to really, really hate. Even past the normal amount of hate necessary for literal Nazis. It's both disgusting *and* annoying. So when he's on the ground, Sam considers the display on his gauntlet's touch screen for only a second before he taps play.


    Any HYDRA agent tuned into a channel Redwing has managed to take over gets blasted in the eardrums with the blaring trumpet of a jazz solo. Any video feed cuts to a recording of Louis Armstrong. Attempts to mute or overtake the signal only result in Redwing cutting back in less than a second later.

    <<"Damn, look at that,">> Sam says as he spares a glance back over his shoulder towards the high-rise. <<"Everyone good? It looks like we're getting civilians through now.">>

Melinda May has posed:
Deep within the Witchblade, the Living Dream awakens from his own nightmare. Insulated by the mystical artifact's strong magic, he is no longer himself subject to the brainwashed whims of his erstwhile masters. Sara will sense that change, no doubt... the fact a tormented soul is now free -- weary and confused, but free.

The thing about the Black Widow, of course, the thing her attacker could never really know, for all that he can see glimpses of the future, is that her past has conditioned her so deeply to the effects of mind control and psychological attack that, as disillusioning as the visions he shares with her are, they will never compare to the nightmares she's already lived through. How could he know any of that? He doesn't see the past. So, he's unprepared, thinking himself victorious, when her second Widow's Bite takes him by surprise. He goes down in a spasmodic heap.

Cael's light fingers do their job, tucking the flashbang into the man's chest harness. As she's dodging out of the way, it goes off spectacularly -- loud and bright. He lets out a shout of surprise and pain, clapping his hands over his ears, his eyes squeezed tightly shut. This leaves him exposed to another, more debilitating attack.

Louis Armstrong sounds from a handful of helicopters and even the dash of a couple of trucks on the ground. At least it makes it easy to figure out who's a squid and who's not. By the time Sam has begun assisting the injured, Daisy's song -- the one that suffuses the building -- has shimmered its way into the building and combined with the technology the rest of Bobbi's team put in place. Miraculously, the building ceases trembling and stabilizes. Secure on its new foundation.

May's blows rain down on Trueshot, who lashes at her with electricity and every little trick she knows. The HYDRA woman has the advantage of super strength, super senses, and rapid healing. She doesn't tire and every cut and contusion heals before her blood hits the ground. May, however, has years of pent up fury and decades of martial skill. Suped up with the strength of the staff, she ducks beneath blows and finally comes up beneath Trueshot's guard. Her shout releases all that anger and grief -- everything the Framework put her through and everything that led to SHIELD's fall in the first place.

The staff impacts Trueshot's jaw from below. She has a nanosecond to look shocked before she's flying backwards through the air, her jaw and teeth broken, tongue bloodied and bleeding. When she hits the side of a nearby building, it's with a force worthy of a hit by any Avenger. Her neck snaps in such a way that her body never has the chance to heal itself. She falls to the concrete in a lifeless heap.

May's knuckles are white around the shaft of the staff. Her jaw is set and her nostrils flare with the rage that courses through her. But she knows... she knew as soon as Trueshot's taunting emotions winked out... the woman will not be rising again. Closing her eyes for just a moment, the Commander pulls herself together. She gets her greathing under control and slowly disassembles the staff to put it away in its tri-sling.

Only when its seated safely in the leather and metal bindings that keep it safe from errant touch does she raise a hand to her ear and call to her team. "<<Status?>>"

She hears from Bobbi and from Phil. Mission accomplished there. Here, around them, the first responders have moved in at the evacuation is proceding without any further HYDRA interference. Though bleeding from where Trueshot hit her, bruised and probably cracked in more than few places, May looks down at her fallen foe and exhales heavily.

SHIELD has won.