Elijah's Mantle, Part 4

Summary:
January 23, 2015: Alpha and Bravo Team get together to discuss what they believe HYDRA will be up to.

Triskelion

SHIELD headquarters.


Characters

NPCs


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


A few hours ago, the Alpha team that went out to investigate the brutal murder of a Coptic Church in Alexandria Egypt had arrived back home with news that it was, indeed HYDRA. That much was expected.

What wasn't expected was the booby traps they encountered down in an underground crypt located beneath the St. Mark's Cathedral. They weren't prepared to nearly die. They did not envision that the church held a secret for nearly 1400 years.

HYDRA hand ransacked a relic that had been gone for thousands of years. The inscription on the coffin read that it held Elijah's mantle—the cape he gave to Elisha before being brought up into heaven on a chariot of fire.

The point of this meeting between the Alpha and Bravo teams is to try and figure out what the hell HYDRA wanted, and what their next move is.

Midnighter looks around as he follows Steve to the conference room, no doubt memorizing the route and what floor plans he can see along the path. "You're a researcher, I assume." he says to Fitz. "As soon as we get to a computer, call up any reference to the Mantle you can find from fact to legend. We should be able to get a hint of what it's reputed to be able to do, if anything."

Black Widow's already here, sitting at one of the chairs around the conference table scrolling through some text or other on a tablet. She glances up when her colleagues enter, nodding very slightly before going back to her research. "Have surveillance satellites picked anything up? Do we know where they came from and where they went?"

Sara does crime scenes, detective work, interrogation…and blunt force, frankly, with the aid of the Witchblade. SHIELD-level mission plans? Not her usual cup of tea. So she's settled into a seat down at the far end of the table, where she's checking in on work email and local events as she listens to the current plans and theories.

The specific set of circumstances which led to the Black Panther's presence in the heart of a foreign intelligence center is likely an interesting story in its own right.

Whatever else is known of him the man is the High Priest of Bastet - an Egyptian goddess who has symbolized everything from protection and joy to warfare and cats. As ancient times have given way to present the religious iconography of the Middle-East has become a bit muddied. So, perhaps, he is simply here because while there are likely countless Egyptologists on the East Coast there are few who possess a more mystical connection to the region.
His rigid posture makes him seem taller than he actually is. Positioned at once side of the table his arms are folded high across his chest he seems to have a dignified air — for a man dressed like a giant cat. T'Challa's feline hood has pulled back over his head so that the complex poly-weave fabric pools at his shoulder blades. Although his dark brown eyes are serious there is a certain curiosity as he listens to them put all this in context.

Emmett Argyle is already here, too. He's got an old fashioned notebook in front of him. It's not that he's old school so much as his tablet ran out of juice and he forgot to charge it. Hey, it happens. Even to spies. His hands are clasped together and he rocks his chair back and forth. "Y'know, I feel like I shoulda dusted off my Indiana Jones hat for this briefing. Lost treasure? Did y'all get chased by a boulder? If you did, I really hope you took a Vine." See? Not old school!

Beast follows the others into the Conference room, glancing about as he's in a SHIELD Conference Room. He's trying not to geek out over that…or the others that seem to be in the room. Moving to take a seat, he nervously adjusts his glasses and offers, "Religious artifacts…having lived the life that I do and having seen some of what I've seen, I don't discount the existence of magic in this particular universe. Who is to say that these items weren't magical…or that they could be imbued with special magic due to belief?" He glances then to Captain America, "I do beg your pardon, Captain Rogers, but there may need to be some discussion of these items that could discount religious significance."

He didn't want a repeat of what happened in the jet.

"Surely the story of Elijah and Elisha would give strong clues as to its significance. If I recall, that's the First Book of Kings and the first couple chapters of the Second Book of Kings…"

"Engineer," says Fitz, though it's not a correction as much as a clarification. "Though, research is certainly a part of that game." He quickly and quietly adopts a seat at one of the conference room's computer terminals, doing exactly what Midnighter suggested; searching for distinguishes from what is known of the Mantle, sorting fact from legend. "Not that we should exactly count out legend, apparently." It's not intended to be an offhand remark about the Alpha Team's spiritual conversation in the Quinjet, but rather, a pragmatic and open-minded acknowledgement that in this instance, legend may bear some weight.

That doesn't mean it's exactly easy for the scientist to admit it.

In the conference room, finishing up making sure there's coffee and iced tea and water bottles enough for everyone is one Agent Lewis. SHIELD standard white blouse tucked into a black pencil skirt with a black blazer over it and her hair in a bun, the only thing that's brightly colored about the Agent is the bright red hipster framed glasses and matching red lips. She looks over as the doors open and people begin filing in, and Darcy takes a place toward the back of the conference room where she can be out of the way but near by in case anything is needed that she can get. Her green eyes glance about those gathered, tracking speakers.

"Well," Steve says in an elongated way as he gives a weary sigh after sitting down. "Depending on how you might believe on the construction of the Old Testament," Steve begins, "Elijah wore a cloak with him like many religious leaders of then and today. When he knew he was about to ascend into heaven, his follower Elisha asked for the baton, so to speak."

"When Elijah had it, he'd do all sorts of things like control animals, bring storms, call down fire from heaven. He even brought people back to life. Of course, like I said, that's all the Old Testament. I don't imagine such a document would convince some of you."

"So? Theories?"

"I suspect we'll be relying on legend more than fact." Midnighter points out. "Given we're talking about a two thousand year old artifact that's apparently been lost from over half that time. And since I've seen Thor on the news, aside from him not being a red head, the myths come pretty damnc lose to reality." Thor, Jesus, no diff.

"I'm feeling the Indiana Jones vibe," Natasha agrees, giving Emmett — Socks — a little nod. "Except I'm not sure the cape of Elijah is going to immolate any non-prophet jerk who wears it. Magic clearly isn't unknown; there's sorcerers, there's hell-dimensions, I've seen dozens of things even I can't explain. Discounting some kind of divine — or extradimensional or alien or anything else — intervention is dangerous."

She straightens a little, counting off on her fingers. "We need to have a team comb the site for readings of any kind. Including magical specialists, assuming we have any. If there's some way of tracking the artifact, we'll find it there." Another finger. "We should research history and legend in the area. There must be some local lore." Third finger: "We should figure out why HYDRA thought it was so useful. They don't just knock over tombs without a reason. This was a risky strike. They must have thought there was some serious reward to be had."

Sara Pezzini glances up from her phone at one thing Natasha says. "Valid point," she notes, pointing toward the other woman. "These sorts of things tend to be very choosy about who uses them. Speaking of Indiana Jones," she adds with a brief smirk in Emmett's direction. "Choosing poorly is a real danger. Sometimes you get delayed responses, though, and if HYDRA had an expert in whatever it is, they could've known how to handle it properly."

Without turning his head he seems to regard Midnighter and then Natasha in turn with the barest flicker of his eyes as if quietly assessing their recommendations.

"It's mythological implica are less important than its practical application," the Panther says without waxing philosophical, "Whether divined by gods, engineered by extra terrestrials, or cast out of an alternate dimension its potential capabilities may lie in the hands of a global terrorist organization."

"Even arcane energies are bound by fundamental extra-planar principles. I volunteer my expertise in working out a means to figure out its dimensional attunement and to devise a means to track its location with your satellite systems."

Beast nods his agreement to Midnigher, "I agree. Legend might give us more information than science in this case, especially if there is something to it. So, of that list, and knowing what HYDRA has been up to for these last few months, I would wager that they're most interested in the whole 'bringing the dead back to life' bit. I know -I- would be. The other legendary abilities…interesting but accessible by others in this mutant and meta community." He could name those he knows who could call storms, call down fire…"But I don't know anyone who can bring people back from life." He nods to Natasha and Emmett, "This is VERY Indiana Jones. It's kind of awesome that way…" His voice trails off before his eyes widen and he looks to Captain America.

"What if they're trying to resurrect Red Skull?"
Argyle tips an invisible Indy-shaped hat at Natasha, then looks around the table. He raises an eyebrow at Black Panther. "Like I think the cat-man said…we can speculate all day whether or not this cape thing has real power, and whether it gets it from alien magic or some kinda real-deal Biblical source." He presses pair of fingers against the conference table. "The important bit is that Hydra thinks it's got power, and that it can be used. Whether its source is symbolic or the thing actually has power, makes no difference." He pauses and makes a face. "…okay, makes a difference. But the big question is, how'd they track it, and why'd they go looking for it? Where are they now, and what are they gonna do with the thing now that they've got it?" He pauses, "…okay, several good questions. I should start counting my points before I open my mouth." Throatclear. "My overarching point is, let's not get sidetracked by theology. Except the theology that is important for figuring out motive." An agent with ten years on the job, ladies and gentlemen. There's a reason he has the reputation of being a terrible interrogator.
He snaps a finger and points at Sara. "Yeah. Sometimes you choose poorly and your face melts off. I…just realized that whole movie is pretty much a fictional account of Hydra." Mind. Blown. "We got any experts out there on the interwebs who are particularly in to bible magic stuff who might be lookin' for the Christian equivalent of Thor's hammer? Cause that sounds like someone who'd have a website."

All the while, Fitz has remained vigilant in his scouring of the SHIELD databases. Surprisingly, he's exercising a healthy portion of tact in not countering or arguing the talk of magic, spiritual things, and religious mumbo jumbo. He does, of course, make eye contact with Black Panther and Argyle, denoting their acknowledgement that strange things very well may have their root in science. That's why he's here; if science is involved, he'll probably be the one to figure out about it.

"My D.W.A.R.F. drones went over every inch of those catacombs," he offers. "If there's anything scientific to be discovered, well, the information will be parsed and sent to my terminal in approximately ten minutes."

Agent Lewis remains silent, though she's listening and watching and her brows lift at mention of Thor.

Steve nods towards Widow, "We've got a specialist team heading back there in the morning, Natasha. Egypt was kind enough to allow us first dibs, but I'm not sure how long we'll be able to hold them off. They've been accommodating, but eventually that's going to run out. Hopefully our techs can get everything we need before we lose control of the sight."

Captain America nods towards Black Panther, "I think you hit the nail on the head, King T'challa. HYDRA wouldn't have risked everything if it wasn't going to work. Or if they couldn't handle it. So, if you want to assist, I'm sure we'd be willing to use all the help we can get."

Nods are given to Beast and Emmett as if it seems the conversation is finally getting back on track. "I take it Indiana Jones is a television program or something?" he asks, shaking his head slightly. "Either way, we should probably stick to the point."

"While we wait for Fitz' information to come back, it sounds like Beast is thinking it has something to do with resurrection. Anyone got any other ideas? If not, who would HYDRA be aiming to resurrect? And why?"

But when Hank McCoy mentions Red Skull, Steve turns to stare at the mutant scientist in a vacant way. For some reason, Steve believes with every fiber of his being that the man from the X-men is right.

Midnighter is not just the type of guy to say 'I told you so'. He's also the type of guy who walks over to stand just behind Fitz and watch over his shoulder. "Also check conspiracy sites for mention of the Mantle or the city. Some of those crackpots have just enough information to make them dangerous."

Natasha frowns very slightly. She glances over at Hank, choosing her words with care. "Storms and heavenly fire — we shouldn't necessarily discount those; they're certainly the kind of thing HYDRA is interested in. But that's nothing they can't do themselves. If they wanted to raise soemone from the dead, my money's where yours is. Red Skull. Any HYDRA groupie would be all over themselves to get the old master back…"

She hesitates, then adds: "Though some people at or near the top might not be as excited. Here comes the new boss, and now you're no longer the boss."

"Was there even a body for them to resurrect?" Sara asks with a frown at the suggestion that they might be trying to bring back the Red Skull. "I mean. I've seen a lot of things come back, but usually they need either a host body, or their own body to be there in the first place."

"Would they need a body?" the Panther asks in such a way you get the sense he already has an answer, "Or simply a sample of his tissue preserved until technology allowed them to clone a new one?" Then adding, "Or, perhaps, a zealot who would gladly exchange his soul so that his body could be the vessel for the glory of the master?"

"Captain, if you have a list? Put it on the list. Movies. Indiana Jones. Three of 'em." Not four. "Indy punches Nazis. You'd like his style." Argyle gestures towards Steve, as if that point is as important as anything else they're discussing. "Red Skull or someone else, I can guarantee it ain't gonna be anyone we like."
Argyle-codenamed-Socks (who thought that was cool?) crosses arms over his chest. "Natasha's right. The one thing the minions in Hydra look forward to is probably that all the heads keep getting chopped off. Leaves room for upward mobility. Having granddaddy redhead come back from the grave is not gonna sit well with everyone. If there's any kind of internal strife over that, maybe we can use that. We got moles in snaketown, right? Maybe handlers can feel 'em out, see if we can't find one who doesn't want the Skull back who might give us some info. That is, assuming this magical cape brings people back from the dead, and that is, assuming that's their plan. And yeah," he motions to Sara, "…assuming there's a body for him to resurrect into. And all those options are just plain creepy, man," this to Panther.

Beast gives a wince towards Steve before he nods to Natasha, "We can control storms and fire. Believe me. Probably better than someone with a biblical mantle ever could. HYDRA probably is aware of that," seeing how they were trounced when they tried to attack a bunch of mutants. "I'm not saying that it should be discounted, only that it shouldn't be considered the major threat." He also looks over to Fitz to see what he's pulled up before turning back to the other conversation. "Tissue…possible. I don't know how this mantle works, but they might just need tissue. An iota of dna. An old glove or toothbrush."

They can take DNA from those things for forensic evidence, why not potential resurrection. "I agree with the three movies…the fourth was rather sad. And silly, but not in a good way." As for the options of resurrection, "I doubt this has something to do with possession of another body. The Bible didn't really deal much in that if I recall."

"Cut off the head, the original grows back," quips the SHIELD Engineer. Fitz is already running another search based on Midnighter's suggestion. His software is fairly significant, capable of cross referencing millions of words in a matter of seconds. It's only a matter of time before probable points of interest begin populating the screen.

Something Natasha says draws Leo's attention. "Would it be possible to exploit any of their top dogs?" he asks, having come to the same conclusion as Socks, then turns his attention to Rogers. "Do we have access to any of them? Self preservation could very well turn an enemy into an ally."

He looks down to the terminal again, perusing the results. A response is offered, however, to Sara. "Or a DNA sample. Cloning has coming a long way. You don't even need a full tissue sample for that, just a small handful of cells." That's at least what science says.

Still silent Agent Lewis is still silent. In her head, she's trying to keep up with the conversation and finding it a little challenging for the most part. For the moment, she's just imagining what medals Hill's going to give her for staying this still and this quiet for this long.

For the second time since they've gotten here, Steve is struck by the bossiness of Midnighter. He's not one to really look for conflict but the S&M outfitted mystery man is pushing all of the buttons. "Black Widow is the ranking officer here, Midnighter. Fitz will take his orders from her." Of course, the comment doesn't much matter. Fitz is doing it anyways.

Steve nods to Sara, "Well, Red Skull was imbued with a similar serum compared to what I was. If I survived without the need for another body, maybe he did too. Frankly, I don't know."
He looks to Nat then, "Maybe we should focus our satellite feeds toward the arctic circle?" Though if he didn't, Black Panther's comment might also be valid.

Steve gives a nod at the recommendation of Socks, but is eager to get back to the topic at hand. "I'm not sure. To be honest, they haven't shared that with me." The longer he's around this building, the more he realizes that SHIELD doesn't tell him a whole lot.

Sara groans T'Challa's suggestion. "Never underestimate the level of crazy in a cult," she sighs, nodding to the man. "You've got a point. Wouldn't put it past them." She takes a deep breath, letting it out slowly as she thinks. "If we're filing this under magic, location probably matters," she points out. "Once we've got more information on legends about the whole story, I'd see about finding out where important parts went down."

"You're Fearless Leader," Natasha replies with a slight smile lofted at the good Captain. "Arctic Circle, yes, but it might have been done years ago. Or not at all — frankly, it's a miracle we found you, and you were inside a ship. The body of Red Skull was probably fish food years ago unless he managed to be flash-frozen. We can check, but my money's not on finding anything there."

She sits up straight, considering Fitz's question and Socks's agreement. "If we had really good access to their higher-ups, that would be one thing. But I'll see about putting some bugs in some ears. The right nudge in the right direction, the right word at the right time… I don't think it'll solve the problem, but it might shift the balance. And if we're very lucky, it could cause some entertaining infighting."

She nods to Midnighter, too: "We can get some analysts on the conspiracy theory sites. I mean, I'm sure we have some there already; we'll just start filtering for anything related to this. And the other point is good: depending on how this may or may not work, the original body may not even be required. But that's all speculation. We need to figure out how they got in and where they went when they got out."

T'Challa's brow arches slightly when he is referred to as 'creepy' and it is there his hard features soften to patient understanding at Argyle, "It is unsettling." He agrees without belaboring the point.

When Beast cites that the Bible does not deal in possession the Panther reflects for a moment before reciting, "..he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out.." pausing to denote a shift in passage, "..I command you, come out of her."

Then, to Sara, "As the leader of a cult, I shall take that suggestion under advisement." He replies with a dry humor then nodding to Captain America, "I appreciate the honor to work with you on this," he circles back to the man's earlier gratitude at his offer to assist, "I provide aid where I can." He affirms a second time as if signaling his part in this particular meeting were drawing to a close.

"He can choose to listen or not." Midnighter says, glancing over his shoulder at Steve. "But thank you for letting me know that brainstorming in SHIELD needed to be submitted ahead of time in triplicate before anything can be said. Do we need to raise our hand to go take a piss too?"

"Yyyyeah. Ole' Harrison sure tried hard, but he didn't quite get there," says Socks in agreement with Beast. "Someone's gotta have the contacts. It's not possible that we don't have any moles in Hydra," and you could, disconcertingly, assume the opposite. He glances to Natasha and gives her a wry little smile. "Figures you'd be the one to come through, Romanoff. I gotta say, the idea of Hydra biting heads off each other is a pleasant prospect." He leans back and glances towards Fitz. "You thinking this cloak thing might be some kinda…alien cloning device?" He shrugs. Stranger things!

Beast looks to T'Challa, "Is that Old or New Testament? Elijah is definitely Old Testament…" and there is a sigh given as he looks to Midnighter, "Play nice. We're guests here."
Socks gets a return grin at the agreement before it fades. "Are you saying that the cloak is alien technology that's been here for millenia? That's…well…I suppose that's one way to look at the bible. I'm not entirely sure even -I- can follow that theory though."

"I'm not about to discount anything," answers Fitz of Argyle's question. It's a bit distracted though, as he gradually seems to be growing frustrated with his computer. Results from the SHIELD database, along with a massive scouring of blogs and conspiracy sites, after being passed through his probability algorithms, is coming up dead. "Whatever's going on, I'm not finding a bloody thing. It'll take days to determine if the stuff I'm looking at has been compromised by HYDRA hackers." He sighs, sits back, and runs a hand through his hair while assaulting the terminal with a very cross frown.

Then, out of nowhere, the scientist leans forward again and punches up another screen. "Captain Rogers, I think you're right." He quickly feeds what he's found to a holo table in the middle of the conference table, bringing up satellite feeds from the Arctic Circle. "Lots of movement in the arctic circle, says here it's related to a Russian science expedition on climate change, but I've never seen this much activity around climate change." He sits back, gesturing toward the satellite feeds on display for all to see. "I don't think we've seen this much activity on the Russian science front since the Space Race. Anyone else here smell a big pile of HYDRA dookie?"

Yep. Leopold Fitz just dropped 'dookie' in a SHIELD meeting.

From the side, Agent Lewis can't stifle the snicker at the SHIELD dookie. She clears her throat after a moment and goes back to looking 'serious'.

Steve can't help but smirk at T'Challa's quoting of scripture. Point: King of Wakanda. He gives a nod to the Black Panther. To Midnighter he shrugs his shoulders, "Brainstorming and acting like you run the joint are two different things. And raising your hand when you gotta go is a fine idea. Sometimes there's a line on this floor."

When the hologram goes on, it takes up the entirety of Steve's attention. As the satellite images play out in front of him he's shaking his head. "Those aren't Russian helicopters," he says.

He looks to Widow, knowing her well enough to guess what her response will be. "I'll start getting ready." Someone had better tell Hill and Fury.

DEEP WITHIN THE ICE CAVERNS OF THE ARCTIC

There are scores of men dressed in black, but the most interesting figure is the smaller one with the grey fur trim on her parka.

Men who look to be advanced scouts lead her through the caverns, lit up with flourscent blue lighting. "It's not far now."

Once they turn the final corner, there is a large sheet of ice. There, perfectly suspended in the wall of frozen water is the unmistakable body of Red Skull.

There have been tons of little punctures into the ice over the years. Perhaps those at the Triskelion were close to the mark about the DNA.

The woman lowers her parka hood to let her red hair loose as she peers out over her freckled face with her green eyes.

"Get him out of there and do it quick. We don't have a lot of time before our American friends get here."


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