On The Carpet

Summary:
May 18, 2014: Fully repaired, Evelyn finds herself, along with Agent Barton, summoned by the Old Man.

Triskelion - Director's Office

Located on the 40th floor of the Triskelion, the Director's office has invisibly-reinforced, ballistic plate glass windows along one entire wall of the room — floor to ceiling. A desk sits before the window-wall, a technological marvel that includes built in touch display surfaces, holographic monitors, and various other miracles of modern computer science. Glass surfaces along the walls serve similar purposes. Hell, even the window glass can be electrostatically changed from completely transparent to completely opaque and used as a further view screen. Even the simple arrangement of the furniture is impressive, calculatingly placed to keep visitors off-balance and subtly awed by the implication of all-seeing power contained in this single place.


Characters

NPCs

  • None (Black Widow's assessment and report assumed with player permission.)

Mood Music:
[*#]


Nicholas J. Fury stands, hands clasped lightly behind his back, looking out through the invisibly-reinforced, ballistic plate glass windows of the room he privately thinks of as 'the stage' — a performance space. Technically, it's his office. The desk is impressive, a technological marvel that includes built in touch display surfaces, holographic monitors, and various other miracles of modern computer science. Glass surfaces along the walls serve similar purposes. Hell, even the glass he gazes through can be electrostatically changed from completely transparent to completely opaque and used as a further view screen. Even the simple arrangement of the furniture is impressive, calculatingly placed to keep visitors off-balance and subtly awed by the implication of all-seeing power contained in this single place.

And, yet, Nick knows it's all for show. The building directory may refer to this space as his office, but it's not really where he does any of his work. It's where he puts on his shows. And, as he stands gazing out over the East River, he knows his latest audience should be arriving any moment, now.

It's a tentative 'green light' from the Infirmary with warnings in the form of suggestions to 'take it easy', coupled with the observations of 'we were lucky', and endings of exhortations of 'not to get in the middle of it all again' from the doctors on staff that Agent Barton has received. He would really like nothing better than a couple of days away from it all, holed up in his apartment, watching movies and drinking … or better yet, perhaps visiting the gym and getting out a few frustrations on a bag. Or weights. Or…

But, he's here. A meeting with the Old Man himself.

Rumours fly fast and furious (no pun intended) on the inside, and when he's in the middle of it, or at least he perceives that he's in the middle of it? Time to confront it head on. (Which does lead to collisions at times.)

That 'any moment' for Barton is 'now', and the door slides open, giving him access to the office, and a view of the man who inhabits it. It's a paler Hawkeye for sure, and one that is moving a little slower, but it's all him. All traces of the organism are gone.

"Director," is given by way of greeting.

It was a long night for Evelyn. First an interrogation, it left a sour taste in her mouth by exacerbating her guilt. Then the reassembly of her remaining body parts. First an arm re-attached, then a leg. Ten minutes after installation, she's walking again and able to return to her room for a couple hours of sleep.

Sleep that's interrupted by a nurse who kindly informs Evelyn that she's needed up on the boss man's level. A set of clothes lay by her bed, a temporary jumpsuit for SHIELD agents, though lacking insignia. It's not a true uniform. Evelyn gets dressed alone, finally ditching her hospital gown for something resembling actual clothes, before she's on her way.

The elevator ride up is nerve-wracking, the report from Natasha likely detailing that she felt Domino had a good reason to escape and that it was for the best. Something about her needing it for her survival, something that could make things better for everyone. Unfortunately, no one seems to trust her but Evelyn, and the other agents have made that abundantly clear. Worse, she feels awful for Coulson, whom she indirectly put in danger. It wasn't intentional, nor an act of a traitor. Perhaps in her favour, she's stood resolute in her decision to be an agent for SHIELD. It's all she can be.

Now it's time for the show. The doors open to the elevator, and Evelyn steps out at the same time as Hawkeye, but from another elevator. It's that kind of timing that really set the punctuality that makes the building tick like clockwork. Barton gets a nervous glance from Evelyn, while she strides to step in line beside of him.

"Director." Evelyn says a moment after Hawkeye, trying to at least present the same formalities that seem appropriate. She's feeling guilty, anything to fall in line at this point.

The Director doesn't move particularly when either Barton or Wolstenholm enter. He hears their entries, of course, and their greetings. It's only after they're both there that he says anything. And it's simply: "You're late." Doesn't really matter if they were, or not. He's been here for hours already, after all.

Regardless, he turns to face them, hands still clasped behind his back. His one good eye flicks over Barton briefly, but then settles on Wolstenholm's repaired form. He stands there, looking at her, saying nothing more. Letting the silence stretch itself out uncomfortably.

Clint spares a glance to Evelyn a couple of times… once off the elevator and the next once the pair enter the Director's office. He's only heard snippets here and there, and everything at the moment is something of a confusing jumble. In all those stories, Evelyn is at the center in various stages and levels of… wrongness. And in each telling, Barton just gets more and more stubborn. (Go figure!)

The chances are good that clarity will be coming shortly, however.

Coming in to stand just at the corner of the desk, Barton looks down and away briefly at the curt observation that they're 'late', crossing his arms across his chest as he does. "Traffic was rough…" Clint begins as he lifts his gaze again. "Got caught in detours."

If Evelyn could shrink, she would now. She cringes a little bit at the late comment, not even attempting to make an excuse. She obviously doesn't have the bearings Hawkeye does, because as he makes his remarks, she just looks at him with wide eyes. 'Did you just really say that to this angry dude with an eye-patch'?

It kind of seems amusing for a moment, and the final comment about detours breaks Evelyn's perfect stance, her hand lifting to hide her smirk and stifle a half-snort.

"Then, you're losing your touch, Barton," the Director replies. He moves away from the window, now, and comes to stand before the desk. After a moment, he leans against it, one ankle flipping over the other, arms crossing over his chest. "I," he says after another long silence, "have a problem." His cyclopean gaze comes to rest on the synthetic woman. "You have become quite a problem. Particularly for Barton here."

Blue eyes flicker towards Evelyn as she finally 'breaks' that sober mien. Barton offers a quick, single-shouldered shrug in her direction before his attention falls back to his boss, the man who is pretty much solely responsible for the safety of the world's population. (For those who really know the score, that is.)

"Better next time." There's always a next time.

Fury's move towards the front of the desk means that Barton's forced to move back, giving the man space- or is it because there is an aura around the Director that causes all objects to simply give way? Still, he does move, and stands back a little, hands dropping into jean pockets. Brows rise at the comment, though… wait.. wait… a problem for him?

Evelyn flinches, her gaze snapping right back to Fury when he speaks. Her hands clasp in front of her, fingers laced together. She's particularly good at holding a straight stance and being very, /very/, very still. That's what she's doing, only her eyes following Fury. She doesn't apologise, primarily to not speak out of turn. What do you say when you've cost an organization who said they'd bring you in hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs /and/ an escaped threat.

"I'm beginning to understand why the CIA wanted to burn you," Fury says bluntly to Wolstenholm. "You're expensive. In the past 72 hours, you have cost me in excess of half a million dollars, between the repairs to my facilities and to you, the containment and decontamination teams currently dredging the East River, and the manhunt operation I now need to support. What's more, you've nearly cost me the lives of several of my top agents — including both Agent Barton, here, and Agent Coulson."

He flicks a hand toward his desk, which is remarkably empty, actually, but still. "I have a stack of after action reports that clearly indicate you aided and abetted Thurman's escape, not to mention surveillance footage showing me the same damned thing first-hand. You actively chose to ignore Coulson's attempts to negotiate with Thurman in favor of cutting the cables on the elevator car, risking his life and those of the other agents who were doing their jobs, trying to apprehend her before she got loose on the general public. Do you have any idea how infectious that woman still is, Wolstenholm? I have a stack of medical reports beside the after action reports that tell me we're looking at a pandemic spread of the spore virus with exposure to 96% of the total population of the world within as little as 14 days. In less than 36 days, 98% of the world's population could be dead, dying, or shambling around like rejects from a George Romero movie. I don't like zombies, Wolstenholm. I especially don't like zombie apocalypses that happen on my watch, because one of my agents decided to let her emotions get the best of her, instead of considering the wider implications of her spur-of-the-moment decisions in the field. What's more, you're not even an agent, yet. You're a rogue CIA operative — arguably nothing more than a highly sophisticated piece of technology — one of my more recalcitrant, stubborn, pain-in-the-ass, impulsive operatives decided could probably be useful to us because he believes you're much more than a fancy piece of programming filled with logic errors."

He turns around and circles his desk again. With a sharp swipe of his hand, he sends a glowing screen from his desk surface to one of the pieces of glass on a nearby wall. It looks like a secure document with a SHIELD logo on, and bears the title 'Assessment: Wostenholm, Evelyn' along with a complex file reference number and other administrivia. "Do you know what that is, Wolstenholm? That is the psychological assessment I asked Agent Romanoff to do up on you. Agent Romanoff is very familiar with Agent Barton's soft spot for apparently hopeless cases." He eyes Barton. "She's even been known to support him, on occasion. So, she's probably one of the friendlier assessors I could have sent. Do you know what she said?"

Evelyn stands there in mien, taking it all. Her eyes don't leave Fury, but it's not a look of indignancy. It's guilt. Twenty three years of operation is pretty good for an android, right? It was only a matter of time before the status became not quo and the decision had to be made. "She recommended heavily that I be deactivated, director. I'm just an expensive object." Her voice falters on that last remark. A sort of dip as the words catch temporarily. She swallows hard. Her hands remain gripped in front of her. Tightly.

Ask and ye shall receive, huh? Not normally in such abundance, however.

At the reading of the 'sins', Barton is… speechless. With each point, his head dips just a little as his hands come out. At the end, a deep breath causes his shoulders to rise, and there… there is a god's honest facepalm.

Still, he's not going to 'take the shot', and he's about to show that recalcitrant, stubborn, pain-in-the-ass side. Looking up again, Barton cants his head and his jaw shifts to the side. "Coulson doesn't know Thurman like Evelyn does. Hell… as far as I'm concerned, Evelyn could be the woman's damned handler." As far as his life being in jeopardy? Every time he goes on a damned mission, he runs that risk. Playin' with the big boys comes with decided danger.

Clint's hands drop and he squares his shoulders, his jaw working before more words come to the fore. When they do, he's got argument in the tenor of his voice. "She wants out. I'm willing to give her that out of the CIA. They're planning stuff with that tech," and he points to Evelyn now, "and I don't like it. They made some-," there's a pause as he chooses his word, "-one synthetic. For what purpose? I don't know… but think of all the possibilities." (And dammit, as far as I'm concerned, I told her I wouldn't leave her to the sharks.) "I think she's worth it. I think it's worth finding out what the hell is going on." And if that's not enough (and chances are good that it won't be!)?

"I gave my word."

"She said," Fury growls, bringing up the appropriate passage on the screen, ignoring Barton's expected tirade, "'In conclusion, the synthetic construct self-identified as Evelyn Wolstenholm is either a sophisticated, heuristically-capable, emotive personality matrix contrived to precisely mimic and elicit sympathetic human responses in a manner and for a purpose not at all dissimilar to the advanced Life Model Decoy technology already employed by this agency, thus representing a significant advance in synthetic intelligence development capability of powers outside of this agency — both friendly and unfriendly, or is a fully actualized human consciousness, complete with all the individual psychological propensities — both positive and negative — that suggests. If the former, the unit should be deactivated and completely scrubbed of its current programming before it is reprogrammed and prepared for deployment under the control of experienced field agents. However, if she is the latter," and he pauses briefly to let them register the Widow's change of pronoun, "Ms Wolstenholm has demonstrated a propensity for allowing emotion to cloud her judgement of mission critical objectives and collateral effect. While her physical capabilities suggest she would, indeed, make an excellent field operative, particularly in extreme environments, her emotional and psychological profile suggest use of her in this capacity is not recommended at this time.'"

A close glance at the rest of the words on the screen, however, shows that Romanoff had more to say than just that — and much of the rest of it argues that the likelihood Evelyn is a 'real girl' and not intentionally a traitor is very high.

Nevertheless, Fury doesn't read that part. He glares at both of them. "Frankly, I think she's letting you off light." But, then, the Old Man is happiest when he's growling. "If I had written that report, I absolutely would have recommended you be deactivated, shoved into a crate somewhere, and forgotten. But it's Agent Romanoff's considered opinion that you be given a chance to prove yourself. She didn't state it in her report, but she trusts this idiot." He jabs a thumb at Barton. "So, I have a very simple question for you, Wolstenholm. Is the behaviour I've seen thus far indicative of what I can expect in the future, or is there actually a decent field agent hidden inside that positronic psych matrix of yours?"

Most of those words went flying over Barton's head, and there is a moment when curiosity rears its ugly head. She's spending a little too much time reading Stark's white pages…?

Still, when in the face of such technical jargon, he's able to boil it down to something reasonably easy to understand. If she's a robot, wipe the drive clean and start fresh… and if she's not? If she's really a consciousness in a synthetic body? It'd be a death sentence. But… now, the question of free will.

Barton looks over towards Evelyn; as far as he's concerned, it's the latter. He's talked with her in moments of quiet, heard her in moments of stress… and all seem a very human response.

It's when Fury gets to the 'she -trusts- this idiot', meaning him, that Barton can't help but grin. A cough hides the expression, and a hand rises to cover his mouth, but… yeah. Natasha was probably the best and the worst to get to run a psych profile on her. But, coming out on the other side… Barton trusts her too. Always has.

"I'll help."

Evelyn looks somber throughout the entire explanation. It's a piece of speech that she seems certain will end with her deactivation. After all, for an expense just as big as hers, it only makes sense. The first piece rings through with her expectations, if she's a computer, wipe it. The second part catches her by surprise. A… What?

Given a chance to prove herself? The android's dipped chin raises a little bit to really meet that gaze with Fury's. Is there a field agent buried inside of Evelyn, just waiting to come out? Could several years of successful campaigns and one glaring error in the career of this agent be indicative of true ability? "Yes, director." The android says.

The question wasn't really yes/no. But, the Director isn't a stupid man. He can tell by Barton's reaction and by the girl's own body language — if Romanoff's assessment is to be believed — that she's responding to his challenge. So, he grunts, arms folding over his chest. "Hmnf." His one good eye settles on her, expression hard. "Then, I'll give you enough rope to hang yourself by. I want a report on my desk in 48 hours fully detailing the events of the past five days, including all of your observations on Thurman and a full accounting of your decision to ignore the well-being of 8 billion people on account of some electronic hunch."

He turns his glare on the senior agent. "Barton, you get to be her babysitter until I figure out just exactly what I want to do with her. Now, get out of here, both of you and get to work." A beat while they absorb his words. Then: "Well? Go!" He's got his own work to do.


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