|No Planet for Old Aliens, Part 1: Durlan Intervention|
|What: Wisdom and Harper introduce Maria Hill to their recent alien interlopers, and try to determine their purpose.|
There's all these well-uniformed professionals here on the bridge of the Helicarrier. But there's also an unshaven floppy-haired guy in a rumpled suit-- badge clipped to his lapel-- slouching in one of the chairs at an otherwise unoccupied station, and flipping through text messages on his phone.
One well-uniformed professional in particular will have none of this. Some say that Maria Hill does not exist, and that the apparition merely appears when there is a reason to be abusive. This is pure fabrication - Maria is, after all, an entirely corporeal being - but it does have some basis in fact. For example, she is now directly behind Pete Wisdom. And an instant later his phone is snatched out of his hand, and summarily thrown to Wisdom's proper work station with a sound that speaks poorly of it's potential survival. She looks down at Pete, and says, simply, "It's like fetch. But you stay where you belong." She then begins to walk away saying, curtly, "Get back to work."
Almost as unshavened, but at least dressed in a SHIELD uniform, was Agent Roy Harper, currently coming up towards Pete's workstation. Tossing a pile of papers onto his desk, Roy grins at the woman starting to walk away. "... well, at least she looks better going than coming," he murmurs as low as possible, before motioning towards the paper. "Ran into another one of those tentacle-face dudes downtown the other day. Some panther-girl gave me a hand with 'im. Two in a short time might be a coincidence. Seen any more of 'em?"
"I'm off. Waiting for Ramsey. You think I know how to use one of these things?" Pete calls after Hill irritably. "If you broke that, SHIELD better buy me a new one." Then he looks at the papers Roy's dropped on the workstation in front of him and says mournfully, "Are you telling me I need to do paperwork for shit I wasn't even there for? This is harassment, Harper." He slouches back further and picks up one of the papers, glancing over it. "Panther-girl? Was she fit? Also don't let Hellboy near her." He pauses, then looks up at Roy suspiciously. "Hang on is this a trick question? How in hell would I know if I saw a shapeshifter unless they were shifting at the time?"
Maria stops dead in her tracks. Taking a very deep breath as the boys speak before turning on her heel. Pacing back she once again uncerimoniously picks up the files and sits down on Doug's desk, muttering, "Speaking of harrassment." and begins thumbing through them while distractedly saying. "Agent Harper, judging by your tone, I'm getting the impression that you think we pay you *too much* here at SHIELD..."
"Nah, just thinking that this case I had might be related to the one we ran into earlier, and see if there's a pattern going on here..." Roy amends, before turning his head towards Maria Hill. There's a quick flash of a grin. "No, ma'am, I was just commenting that it's such a tragedy to watch you have to go. Won't you join us? There's a couple of alien cases that could use your watchful eye."
Wisdom snorts quietly at Hill's threat, keeping the top page even though the rest of the stack's been confiscated. He finishes looking it over, then offers it wordlessly to one of the few people whose clearance is as terrifying as Fury's. Uh, that being her. Maria Hill. Queen of the Ice and the Bit-- Bridge. And then his mouth twitches again at Roy's save, but he doesn't comment. No. Instead, he hoists himself up slightly in the chair next to Doug's, pushing his hair out of his face with his other hand. "It probably is related. We've still got the first bloke-- er. Or woman. Whatever. In quarantine. Could ask. With threats and la. Only so many green-tentacled unknown aliens to go around, I'd think."
Maria sighs softly and murmurs, "Oh dear lord, someone told you you're clever." and takes the offered page without looking, muttering aloud, "Shapeshifters operating in the same city- both impersonated half of a pair, more or less- uniquely unstubtle in their mission, though no current signs of the original's abductions. Replacing? Possessing?" she looks up absently, having apparently forgotten about anyone else in the room. "Awfully clumsy invasion plan- goal could be smaller in scale. Got lost? Scouting? Hungry?" She returns to eye. "I want to know everything the witnesses saw and heard. Both of you. Anything you can find; anything that might lead you to more of these, or whatever's left of the victims, I want to know what they want." She sets the file down. "Wisdom, you have paperwork." She stands up and looks at Roy. "The one we captured. I want to see it."
"Well, mine's also in lockup, so we got -two- of these aliens to interview, Wisdom," Roy shrugs. "No signs of the plumber mine impersonated."
Looking towards Maria, Roy grimaces, jerking a thumb towards Pete. "Can we skip the paperwork for right now, and just have a talk with -his- alien? I mean, his was first."
/Now/ Pete actually stands up, about to open his mouth to say something-- then shuts it. He glances down at Harper, momentarily stymied. "Ma'am," he says respectfully, starting to follow, "I didn't get a chance to read through his entire report; mine's in the system wherever the tech girl put it. But his knowledge of the other alien would help me put the screws on," he explains doggedly, unsure of Hill's experience with recalcitrant prisoners. "The bit with the 'no he told us things already'."
That report he'd just put down on Pete's workstation is picked up and handed over to Maria. "Sorry, ma'am, I should've handed it to you earlier," Roy adds, looking slightly sheepish. "I just wanted to get his thoughts first."
Maria takes the report and arches one eyebrow as the men speak. "We have a system in place, gentlemen. I'd thank you to use it." Looking up again she nods. "If Agent Harper can stay focused, he can come along." She says then pivots slightly to look at Wisdom from the side. "And it's about to tell us a whole lot more. Come with me." "Yes, ma'am," says Wisdom without any kind of troublesome inflection. Just matter-of-fact. He grimaces at Roy behind Maria's back, though, once she's stopped looking at him. Another thing he does while he's following? Reaches into his back pocket, pulls out a pair of black gloves. He's silent the rest of the way, putting them on, then putting on his sunglasses, then just walking. Some people have armor that stops bullets and knives. Other people have armor that stops compassion.
"Thanks, ma'am," Roy grins. Bringing up the rear, of course, because there's no better place to be. Wait, what was that about focus? Oh, right. Tentacle-faces. Tentacle-faces. Just keep thinking about that.
Glancing at Wisdom's face, however, it becomes -far- easier to concentrate on the task at hand.
The holding cells are extremely high-security, and forcefields applied to ensure that the Durlans couldn't escape. The first one that had been captured is currently slumped on the floor of his cell, and a quick report from a security guard will assess that the aliens had been trying to test the limits of their cells. And while the second one is still shapeshifting and getting stunned for its trouble, the first one seems to have just given up.
Maria nods curtly to the security officer and walks past him to the cells turning her head just slightly to looks at the creatures from the corner of her eye. "As at least one of you has evidentally realised..." she says until she's in view of both of the cells, turning on her heel to face them and clasping her hands behind her back. "You can't escape. You're alone on an alien planet. Your people will not come for you. You can not be tried, and you have no rights on my world. As far as the universe knows, you have dissappeared... and you will rot here. Unless you answer my questions." She takes one step forward, her face expressionless, her eyes cold. "First. Why have you come here?"
Black eyebrows go up behind black sunglasses, but that's the only change in Wisdom's expression at Hill's initial volley. He clasps his hands behind his back, watching. The Durlan will recognise him, of course, as the man who fought him, hurt him, knocked him out, got him locked up. Or her. Whatever. He keeps silent until Hill /does/ need the thumbscrews, metaphorically speaking.
Roy's expression shifts to a slight note of disapproval, which he hides by moving to talk to the security guards instead, about how -his- alien was behaving. Perhaps it was the whole idea of lack of due process that bothered him. But knowing what became of the people that these Durlans replaced would be of interest.
What hurled out at Maria Hill are invectives in Interlac. It's alien gibberish to those present, but by the tone of its voice, the alien doesn't hold much respect for the humans that was holding it there.
Maria is either oblivious to the disapproval, or simply does not care. At least two people are most likely dead at this point, and SHIELD agents were attacked. She doesn't visibly react as they speak to her in a tone that would probably get a subordinate thrown off the Helicarrier if the rumors are true. She waits it out and starts again. "You've replaced and impersonated two of my species. I know you can speak my language. Do so, or assume a form that can." The funny thing is, see, Wisdom's eyes are sort of visible behind those dark, dark glasses. Visible as blank eye-shapes. Like they're glowing or something. He still doesn't say a damn thing, or even shift his stance.
Further abusive words in Interlac continued, at least until Maria gave the guard a look.
And then there was a crackling jolt of electricity, much like the ones discouraging the other durlan from trying to shapeshift its way out of its prison.
The durlan remains stunned for a minute, before shifting to its robed form, tentacles looming behind its hood as it replies in a sepulchral voice, "What do you care, earthling? You would never have missed any of them, if it wasn't for..." And here, it spits something in Interlac at Pete.
Maria watches them writhe in pain without expression, until one of them finally speaks, at which point a slow smile creeps across her face. "I'm not interested in an ethical debate. You have committed multiple acts of aggression against my species. Wars have been started over lesser crimes." She steps forward again. "And you will be treated appropriately until such time as we have reason to believe it's not necessary. I know 'reason' is not unique to my species. You're not leaving unless we let you. So I'll ask again. Why have you come to Earth?" No flinching, no reactions: it's like Wisdom's made of stone, a statue, totally unaffected by spitty invectives from Cthuluface. No reason he shouldn't be; there's a forcefield between them, after all.
The Durlan speaks something in Interlac, before hissing. "Durla shuns us, because we seek a return to finding the -original- Durlan form. Your race has stable genomes. That your little-missed social nonentities would draw such attention from you... what do you need them? The holy race of Durla needs to be returned to its former glory. Who cares about human cattle?"
Maria's eyes grow colder as the Durlan speaks, taking a deep slow breath, and smiling again. "The human cattle cares about the human cattle. But I understand. Why bother caring for the rights of a strange species you just met?" She turns her head slowly to Peter. "Agent Wisdom, please show our new friend how important he is to us." "Ma'am," Wisdom acknowledges the order, then steps forward and lifts a black-gloved hand to key in the 'let humans through the field' code. Then pauses. 'Let mutants through the field, dammit' code. And then he steps through it, and smiles warmly at the captive, glowing eyes /distinctly/ visible behind the shades. "So you're outcasts on your own world. Can't go home again, it's not *your* home. Makes you feel alone, doesn't it? Like you're missing a piece of yourself." Must be special gloves: they're not smoking or burning as he lifts a hand, glowing bright at the fingertips. "Are you looking for redemption? If you find this original form you're looking for, do you think they'll take you back? Laud you?"
He steps closer still, unafraid. The heat's palpable even on the other side of the forcefield. His hand comes up toward the cthulhuface's hood, singes it. Traces the shape of the being's shoulder(?) in the air, not touching. "Do you think they'll have any use for you at all? They won't believe you. They won't trust you. You'll still be alone, just like you are here."
Roy looks distinctly uncomfortable, glancing back towards Maria and then Pete, before lowering his gaze.
The Durlan does its best to pull back from Pete. It seems almost ready to attack, but that it's already dealt with Pete and found him the stronger makes it practically swallow its tentacles, the tendrils receding back into its hood. "... Durla must be -saved- from itself," is the reply. Not that the answer was -strong-, but there was a strong undercurrent of conviction. "Hisss... Durla seeks to lock itself away from the universe, to hide, to avoid finding the -true- might of Durla. Durla must be brought out into the light with the -true- form of Durlans. Hisss.... away from me, earthling, you are preventing the -salvation- of Durla!"
Maria crosses her arms in front of her, inclining her head slightly and frowning as the alien speaks. "You've treated us like disposable tools." She returns icely, though the potential irony is lost on her. "You've given me no reason to care for your species. The only way you leave this planet alive is if you tell us just how many of you overgrown squids are on this planet, where they are, and where the people you replaced are. How much pain you and your friend endure before that happens is entirely up to you." And then, a sharp, curt, "Wisdom!"
"No salvation will *ever* come of deliberate harm," says Wisdom flatly, "no matter the cause. Your world is your cause: mine is mine. The difference is, I'm not looking for salvation. Just answers."
Abruptly, the Briton's hand flicks downward, and there's a brilliant flash of light and contained heat, and there are still-wriggling tentacles on the floor. The agent in the suit isn't smiling anymore; his face betrays nothing in the aftermath of the action, in the smell of cauterized alien flesh.
There came an unholy scream, and then the other Durlan roars, as it tries once again to shift, only to come up -electrocuted-. And Roy is moving already, turning to Maria. "Christ, is this necessary?"
The tortured Durlan twists, shifting into a human form, writhing and whimpering. It's a familiar form, perhaps, to Pete; the woman who -disappeared-. "N-no more. N-no more...." it whimpers.
Maria casts a sharp look at Roy, hissing, "I don't remember asking for your opinion, Harper, then steps towards the beaten alien, going down on one knee to be closer to eye level with the creature. "If I could ask Ms. Chloe what she thought of this, I might feel a little more sympathetic." she says, glaring a hole through the creature. "This can go on forever, you understand me? The tools at my disposal? The *Mutants* scattered throughout our cities? You are nowhere *near* the scariest thing on this planet, and you will meet all of them, one by one until you forget what hope *is*, unless you *tell* - *me* - *everything* - *NOW*!" There's not even a glance from Wisdom to Harper or Hill. What's worse, though: his face doesn't change when the shapeshifter turns into Cleo, Terrie's barista girlfriend. He /does/ add in something like disgust, though, "Honestly, you think wearing her face is going to stop me?" He addresses Maria without looking away. "I believe it's wasting our time, here, Agent Hill. They're zealots. /Outcast/ zealots. Let me deal with them. Whoever put their cells next to each other needs to be written up."
Sobbing could be heard from Cleo, long and full of pain and agony, before the gasping hacks turn slowly sybiliant hisses. "Foolish cattle, don't you understand...?"
The other Durlan hisses, shifting into a fat Italian plumber. "... they do not understand."
"The cattle you want... they -are- us."
"... hissss... Durla has never -known- their true forms."
"Now we -have- stable forms."
"... your flesh, human cattle..."
"... they are -ours-."
"Fuck /me/," says Pete in /massive/ irritation, "I've seen this lot on Doctor Who."
Maria's eyes dart between the creatures as they take turns speaking, furrowing her brow as a scowl overtakes her features. Maria stands back up, finally looking straight ahead as she takes one slow, calming breath and, in a more level tone says, "Noted, Agent Wisdom."