World on Fire: The Central Axis (1948)

Summary:
June 12, 1948: Peggy Carter and Edwin Jarvis try to disarm a temporal time bomb.

SHIELD Headquarters - Bunker


Characters

NPCs


Mood Music:
[*<http://insert.video.or.music.link.here>]


It's the Cold War. Nuclear annihilation remains a very real threat. So it's no surprise that the newly-minted SHIELD has built a fallout shelter in the sub-basement of their building. It also provides a convenient shielded place to perform sensitive tests and also keep potentially troublesome criminals. The cells/supply rooms haven't seen any use yet, but it's really just a matter of time.

Given the temporal radiation the device dubbed the 'blue box' is giving off, Howard isn't taking any chances. The shielded fallout shelter is the best place to examine Doctor Rosh's device. He's been walking around for days, mumbling about readings and rewiring this and that. Finally, he called for an evacuation of the building - of everyone except for Peggy and Jarvis. Normally he consults with Peggy on these decisions, but this one he made on his own.

"I know you're not trained for this, but you're the only people I trust." Howard's looking a little ragged. He's been putting in long days and has been sleeping on a cot in his office for nearly a week. Stark Industries affairs have gone unanswered, but nothing critical has been left to the wayside. "We have to get inside that thing. I have to try and cut the power supply manually."

*

On any other day, Peggy might berate Howard for making the decision to evacuate the entire building without consulting her. There are protocols and excuses that she will have to make up in order ensure that this secret facility will remain secret. However, seeing the state of the scientist, any angry word dies on her lips. She knows he has been spending quite a bit of time with the blue box artifact, but did not realize quite the toll it was taking on him.

"Howard, what you need is a good rest. If that thing is as dangerous as you think, you're in no state to be poking about at it." Her voice has the firm, listen to Peggy tone that she gets when there is no argument to be made against her.

*

Jarvis, in contrast, looks as perfectly put together as ever he does — of course, the world would have to be actively ending in order for Edwin Jarvis to look scruffy. He looked neat as a pin in the middle of the war.

But he's been providing for Howard, and though he does sleep rather more often than Mr. Stark, he too has been on longer hours. He looks up to Peggy when she enters — he's just been setting down a French press of coffee and a generous mug. At her suggestions, he straightens and dusts off his hands.

"Believe me, Agent Carter," he says — he's called her Agent Carter almost perpetually since the founding of SHIELD — "if anyone can convince him where I cannot, it will be you. But I think we had better listen. I will say," he adds, his voice going a bit lower as he turns back to the scientist, "either of us may have steadier hands at the moment."

*

"Peggy, as long as that thing's powered, people are going to keep disappearing and going god knows where." Howard has a 'no argument' tone too, but it's usually reserved for his subordinates. That is a category that Agent Peggy Carter does in no way belong. The fact that he's using it now is rather significant. "I'm all right. I'm thinking clearly. I swear. Jarvis, tell her." He lifts a hand towards the other man, then sweeps his hair back off his face. He, in fact, hasn't had a drop to drink since one steeling shot after they returned from Doctor Rosh's lab.

*

Peggy takes in Jarvis, the large mug of French Press and Howard's tone all in stride. "I am certainly listening. And Mr. Jarvis is right. You're sleep deprived and jittery. If this thing needs to be shut down now, then we'll do it. But, I don't believe you're in any sort of mindset to be cutting any wires. You're just as likely to suck us all into whatever is happening than to save us." She's assuming it's cutting wires or something similar. Though she certainly knows her science from being around Howard, that doesn't mean she has the same level of comprehension that he does with it all.

"It's not so much about you thinking clearly. I trust your judgement, but perhaps not your motor skills. Mr. Jarvis and I are here, let us help you."

*

"Mr. Stark's judgment is sound," Jarvis admits, "even if I would be happier if he'd had a bit more sleep. Would it not be wiser to move this item away from such a populated area? Admittedly," he adds, "as sound as the construction is down here, any damage is likely to be localised. Ah. Here."

He does not approach the box, but he does pass Howard his coffee and walks a wide circuit around it. Clapping his hands and rubbing them together, he adds: "Right. So. Wires. Yes. …Are there wires?"

*

Howard looks unhappy about this. Very unhappy. They're ganging up on him. "I hate when you two join forces. I should never have let you spend so much time together. Some sort of English solidarity," drawls the scientist. He pulls his hands out of his pockets and holds them up. He grimaces when he notes the slight tremor.

"There isn't a danger of explosion. At least, not any explosion that could breach these walls." That's reassuring. "I'm more concerned about radiation, which is why I cleared the building. These walls are lined to stop radiation from coming in." He bangs a fist against the bunker wall. "So the opposite should work as well. Temporal radiation is a bitch, pardon my French. It doesn't like to stay near its source. Hence why we didn't just see a cluster of disappearances around Doctor Rosh's lab."

He motions to the blue box, which sits on a metal table behind a blast door. There's a large window and a control panel beyond it. "I'm betting on the inside of that thing making more sense than the outside. If it doesn't, I'm going to have to go in. I won't be able to talk you through it." He looks between them both. "You sure you want to do this?"

*

"It was your idea to have Mr. Jarvis and I help you recover your stolen artifacts, which as you will remember actually turned into your attempt to steal a vial of Steve's blood in order to try and use it for science experiments." Peggy raises an eyebrow at Howard, though the sting of that bite has gradually fallen away after the years. Now it is just teasing, especially since they are all still friends and are willing to try and deactivate a radioactive-type bomb together.

"Of course we're sure, Howard. It's either this or more people are killed. The best way to ensure the safety of the city is to get this done now and with our help." Pulling off the jacket to her suit, she rests it on a chair and then turns to Jarvis and Howard. "What should we do?"

*

"Yes, we did share a great deal as a result of that time together." Not too many stories about Howard, admittedly — professional demeanor and all that — but there was a good deal of fellow feeling regardless.

"But there is no question that we will do whatever is necessary for the safety of others. However it is we may serve, we all of us do. We know what we signed up for. I have always been ready to do what is necessary."

Very staunch. Very British. Very Jarvis, really.

*

Howard gives them both the 'I'm going to regret this' look. He rubs his forehead, thinks a moment, then reaches for the coffee. "Look. It should just be a matter of disconnecting the power supply. But Doctor Rosh's mind was brilliant. Scrambled." He purses his lips. "He made this thing work despite all odds." He looks for a moment like he might call it off, might insist he be the one to work it. He looks down at his shaking hand, then at the data that suggests more anomalies are about to form.

"All right. Go in. I'll talk you through it."

*

Peggy gives Jarvis a grin at his incredibly British vote of confidence in Howard. Perhaps this is why the two of them got along so well to start with: their similarly British attitudes. Two people away from their home country who desire to serve.

As she watches Howard look like he may attempt to dissuade them from doing this, she merely raises an eyebrow. Her and Jarvis' minds are made up. Woe be to him who would try and fight both of them in order to do this on his own. "Then I'd say what is needed is a clearer head to work it through." Nodding at Howard, she opens the door into the room holding the blue box that has caused so much trouble, waiting for Jarvis to join her before shutting it behind them.

*

"Given that Doctor Rosh was heavily sleep-deprived," Jarvis adds, giving Howard rather a pointed look, "I do believe you have a point." He steps forward then, pausing in front of Howard and extending a hand. "It is as opportune a time as any to say that it has been an honour and a… an experience working for you, Mr. Stark. And one I would not have given up for the world."

There's no need to say more. Howard knows what to tell Anna if anything happens. After a hearty handshake, he turns and steps into the room, closing the door or allowing Peggy to do so for him.

*

"Don't be so dramatic, Edwin. I'm not going to fry you." Howard wobbles his head. "Probably." How reassuring. He shakes the other man's hand. His smile is full of confidence despite his disheveled state.

He flicks on the intercom and leans in. "All right. See the tool box off to the side? There's a flat and short screwdriver that should remove the casing."

*

At Jarvis' goodbye to Howard, Peggy raises an eyebrow. "Everything will be fine, Mr. Jarvis," She tells him, confident. There is no goodbyes for Howard or messages to be given to her loved ones. As far as she's concerned it will be only a moment before they diffuse this thing and then they'll have a tense tea while forcing Howard to go to sleep. "Listen to Howard, there's no need for high drama."

It's perhaps, though, telling of how nervous she is by saying they should listen to Howard. How often does that happen? "This is starting to feel like a surgery," she says lightly before moving to the tool box to get the described screw driver. "Shall I unscrew it while you take off the casing, Mr. Jarvis?" Turning to the observation area, she adds, "Perhaps I should have asked this sooner, but should we be wearing gloves or something protective? It must be too late now." With a sigh, she moves back to the box.

*

Jarvis isn't USUALLY the canary sent into the coal mine. It's possibly affecting him. He'd like to be wearing a lead apron, or perhaps a full suit of lead armor, but he's going to be facing radiation with a three-piece suit and a stiff upper lip. Cough.

"That sounds sensible to me," he replies to Peggy, reaching out to grip the edges of the casing. When she loosens it, he'll be able to give it a careful jiggle.

*

Howard's voice crackles over the radio. "If temporal energy leaks, gloves aren't going to do any good. So uh," the radio crackles again. "…don't start any leaks." King of calm, him.

"Right. Once you get that off…"

And once they do, they see something that looks positively alien, yet familiar. It's not unlike the inside of HYDRA weapons in that tubes and capacitors are intersecting with devices no one has seen the likes of before. The good news is, the power source looks pretty obvious. It's the yellow thing that's pulsing.

*

Once the top is off, Peggy straightens, looking at the insides of the strange device with curiosity and alarm. It actually does look somewhat familiar, reminding her of a fight on a snow base. "Yes, we'll be sure to not allow any radioactive leakage," she replies sarcastically. Setting the screwdriver onto the table, she stares at the insides and the yellow pulsing object inside. Her gaze shifts from Jarvis to Howard. "So, I would bet quite a bit of money that that is the power source. Is it really as simple as pulling it out of the box?"

*

"I expect it's not going to be quite as easy as that," Jarvis murmurs, peering a bit more closely. "There'll be something keeping it secure. Wires going to it, given that it's a power device. Though they could be going to a socket inside…"

But he's not the scientist. He looks around to Howard imploringly.

*

"Jarvis is not wrong," says Howard. He cranes his neck to try and have a look. Using a remote control, he adjusts a mirror mounted to the roof. "I've got to come in there. I don't know if I can talk you through it."

The box was perfectly formed and was keeping all the parts immobile. Now that it's off, there's several discs that look like they could easily be nudged out of formation. There's a few of those right where the power source looks like it connects. Not exactly the best place for less-than-steady hands. "Look, this requires a microsaw to breach the connection. It looks like it was tooled as a single component and the actual socket is buried beneath those discs. Presumably the power off mechanism would have bled out the power before anything would move. But the off button's essentially been fried."

*

"Look at this thing, Howard, it's all fine lines and technicalities. Looking at it wrong might set it off. Stay right where you are or I will shoot of the lock in here." While Peggy certainly is nervous about dealing with the ramifications of such a volatile system, she also is the kind of person who defused a bomb in her apartment's bathroom. That is, she can handle this. And she certainly brings a gun to a bomb defusing.

"There must be an override, though," she continues. "Mr. Jarvis, follow the wires as best you can, it must feed into something that we can disconnect without setting everything askew. While the wires go underneath the discs, those must connect to something else we can cut through?" She hopes.

*

"Do we… have a microsaw?" Jarvis inquires. It's not likely, but there's hope in his voice. He peers more closely, though, even pulling out a pair of tiny glasses from his coat pocket to put on. Reading glasses, generally, but evidently they are (hopefully) also good for following wiring diagrams.

*

"Hold on, hold on. I think we might be able to diffuse the energy within those discs. If we can do that, we might be able to move them and access the socket. Peggy, see that device over on the work bench that looks like a hair dryer? Point that at the device, but don't let the energy output spike past .0074%."

They're not going to get the chance to investigate further. The yellow energy source starts to pulse. The little discs start to rattle. "Energy readings are spiking! It's about to set off another portal. Get out of there!" The urgency in Howard's voice is something so rarely heard. "Peggy, Jarvis!" He's bolting for the door.

It's too late. The lack of protective casing causes the temporal bubble to push out past its usual contained boundaries. The discs rattle off one another. When the energy hits the various devices on the work bench, temporal energy is disrupted and redirected. The energy snakes through both of their bodies and bounces off the ceiling mirror. The entire room is bathed in pure white light that takes an unnaturally long time to fade.

When the light does fade, the whole room is in a pulsing state of temporal flux. The last thing Peggy and Jarvis will see before they drift into unconsciousness is a mirror image that isn't moving in an identical manner to themselves.

What Howard sees, when the proverbial smoke clears is…two boxes. Two Peggys. And two Jarvises.

*

Just after the vivid white light there is another flash, although this is far more contained. The air glimmers right by one set of Peggy and Jarvis, and then there is a crackle as a figure appears. As it turns out, it is a blond man wearing dark glasses and a topcoat, nothing that is entirely out of place in the 1940s. He crouches down and puts his hands on the pair, and a golden glow outlines them as well as their box. Glancing up and looking over the tops of his glasses, he winks at Howard before he and the superfluous Peggy and Jarvis vanish in another flash of pale blue light.

*

Howard has no time to react to the intruder, nor their sudden disappearance. He stands there in stunned silence for a moment, then enters the lab in a mad scramble. The device seems to have lost power due to either the surge, or Booster's appearance. In any case, he takes the opportunity to reach in, move the discs and disconnect the power source. Then he's dropping to his knees to check their vitals. Steady, but unconscious. He hits the radio, which connects him to the unit he placed outside to make sure no one comes in.

"Thompson, Thompson, get a medic in here, pronto. There's been an accident."

What the hell was that? It's going to take him decades to get the answer.


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