Howard's 11: Party Busters

Summary:
February 09, 2015: SHIELD operatives close in on some wanted individuals connected to the theft of Howard Stark's old inventions. (Some language)

New Orleans

Celestine is throwing a(nother) party, which is just perfect for SHIELD to get involved.


Characters

NPCs

  • Celestine Bileau
  • Virgil
  • Some other random folks

Mood Music:
None


Bileau House is decked out in fine style. For folks living in New Orleans, ice and snow are almost entirely foreign and somewhat mystical. It maybe rubbing it in that the Garden District mansion is decked out in shades of blue and white, with crystal icicles and silver garlands. There are, naturally, splashes of colour to break up the palate, and the mansion's bones are deep cherry and marble.

The guests are not in masks and beads - that is left to the tourists. Instead, ball gowns and suits with tails are the order of the evening. This is not New Orleans' elite, either. Rather, this is a particular social circle that straddles the hospitality industry and the tour industry. This is their party - a way to relax and unwind before they serve others during the madness of Mardi Gras.

Fitz probably laughed aloud when he realized that Celestine has used Eventbite for this particular party. It's dead easy for him to put whoever he wants on the official guest list. Other security is a bit tighter. The spies know security when they see them - even if they are dressed in nice suits and trying not to stand out. It's certainly not what you'd expect for a society event. It's not paranoia if SHIELD is really out to get you?

*

There are some aspects of being a spy which are, frankly, really damn cool. There's plenty of details which Hill can't complain about. It just happens that the parts which she doesn't care so much for she tends to -really- not care for, such as going incognito to a fancy party.

It's the attire! The dresses, the heels, the jewelry, all of that glitz and glam stuff that she'd sooner toss into a firepit and douse in gasoline than be stuck wearing. At times like this she wonders if Romanoff happens to feel the same about it.

Covers are made. Appearances are changed where and how necessary. Why yes, they are on the guest list, thank you very much. Getting into the event is easy. The real problem…

That happens to be nearly hanging off of her shoulder.

She's here with Howard. Being physically incognito isn't likely to do a damn thing about him being mentally outrageous.

"Since you still haven't described all of the fun things which have gone missing, perhaps you could do us all a tiny favor and point any out if you happen to notice them?" she asks the inventor with a smile which just -has- to be forced.

She's already missing her plasma pistol. It makes it so much easier to deal with the man.

*

Hawkeye has his orders. Flown in from the East Coast, it's given the Senior Field Agent time to read the files of those in question. And once on the ground, contact is made and equipment procured to do his job.

Non-lethal. This means that the now sharply dressed sniper is settled on a nearby rooftop with Fitz' 'Night-Night' gun. Quiet complaints were made earlier to Natasha after landing as she set his tie straight and latched on cufflinks, "Why couldn't he have a cooler name for it? I mean, might as well call it a 'beddy-bye' gun or some crap." His chin is up so the bowtie is impeccable, tied by the expert. A step is taken back, his shoulders roll to get the jacket to sit -just so- on his shoulders and he's off to work.

Outside.

On a roof.

"Pretty sure Bond didn't have to shoot a 'night night' gun."

Though Hawkeye is more than happy to continue bitching, he won't do it on an open com. "In place."

*

Security would have been fun to infiltrate, yes, but people expect that. Admittedly, clever ones also would expect that the recent offer Bileau would be a damn fool to refuse had come at an all-too-convenient time, but such was the way things were. It was one way in. It was the nicest way in. There were much nastier.

Natasha looks fantastic. She does also look nothing like Natasha and nothing like the Jersey Princess she was back in, well, New Jersey. Long straight black hair. Eyes grey rather than blue or green. Foundation garments have utterly changed her proportions, and heels have changed her height. Makeup has changed her features. It doesn't even take latex to make her look like a completely different person.

"Tch," she mutters under her breath. "Best name ever." And she wends her way through the crowd, looking utterly above it all.

*

Working the guest list was easy; every member of Hill's team has a direct invite, along with cover identities if desired. After all, they had the bus, and all of her social-security-and-passport-fu capabilities.

Bugging the place had proven a bit more difficult. Using his disguise as an electrician, he managed to place bugs in all of the right areas, save for those that were a bit more difficult to get into.

For those, there happens to be a roach problem. Said roach problem happens to have chewed through one of the electrical conduits, casting a few of those upper rooms in darkness. We'll fail to mention that it was really the fault of Leo's unlicensed mouse hole cutting tool. Mice, roaches, whatever. Point being, it gave him the opportunity to pitch a fit about an hour ago, using his incredibly convincing American accent.

"Look, dudes, you wanna go lights out on your little soire here? Maybe cause a fire? No? Okay, then pay me my damn time and a half and let me get to the bottom of this here problem. That's what I'm here for, right?"

Now, in one of those rooms and armed with a Mag-Lite, Fitz is hard at work, distributing his seekers. The little devices go into stealth mode upon launch, their glowing yellow turning into a very dark black, before they whizz off to take their positions in the shadowy places. Where they cover the party itself, they infiltrate the HVAC ducts. Should be close enough for scream mode to do its thing.

"I hope everyone wore their ear protection," he murmurs quietly over the comm while pretending to work on the electrical problem.

Hopefully, blaming the roach infestation will prompt the powers that be to go ahead and call in the exterminators. Otherwise, it'll take Plan B to get the Portal Buster inside.

*

Howard also looks like a completely different person, to his utter dismay. His is achieved with the help of a SHIELD holo-mask, or whatever snappy name FitzSimmons has come up with for it. He looks distinctly uncomfortable. Not in the tux - oh no - he's worn plenty of those.

There's clearly someone with a sense of humour who programmed his disguise. He looks young - maybe late twenties, with a baby face and a mop of floppy dark hair. The wig made him bristle, but he only relented under protest. A pair of horn rimmed glasses dominate his face. The suit has been tailored to make him look as slim as possible. There's even a vocal modulator to change his voice. This is what's required when a public figure goes undercover at a fancy party. "Did you really have to make me look like this?"

Probably not, but there has to be something to the fact that he looks completely like a comrade of Fitz and Simmons, right down to the awkward geekishness and the youth. He sighs heavily, then scans the crowd. "I don't see anything yet. But I do see the bar."

It's easy for them to spot their hosts, either through eyes-on, or through Fitz's sophisticated little gadgets working on facial recognition. Celestine is near the rear of the grand hall, not far from the entrance to the garden. She is looking resplendent in a floor-length gown that shimmers like ice. Her black curls are done into a neat updo. She's holding a cocktail and talking to a tall man.

Virgil, well, he's in one of the upstairs offices, talking to a pair of men, neither of whom is Manny DiMarco.

*

"It's the best we could do under such short notice," Hill replies to Howard just as stoically..as..she..can…

(Yeah, remember a few hours ago when you tried to push me around? See where that gets you.)

When he mentions seeing the bar she can't help but smirk, just a -tiny- bit, saying "Careful, you're likely to get carded." Because wouldn't that just be the cherry to end all cherry toppings if the guy couldn't even -drink- at the party because of his appearance!

This, right here, fits into the parts of being a spy which she happens to enjoy.

Spotting Celestine isn't difficult. "Eyes on our lady, near the garden," she subtly radios in to the team. Natasha's got point, Maria's (ugh) sticking close to Howard to keep eyes on the center floor. They've still got a few more targets to confirm. And..potentially some really nasty decades-old tech to watch out for.

*

Clint is actually doing that which he likes best; sitting outside and watching. A smirk rises to hear some of the chatter, but he doesn't let it bleed into work communications. "Hello… eyes on our boy Virgil." He pauses before continuing, "Upstairs office. He's having a little meeting," and even as he communicates, he's watching the man across the way. One of the few benefits of being deaf? Lip reading.

*

It's a petty little revenge on Howard. Whoever could have thought of it?

If it helps, Natasha just helped. It takes some finagling to get the settings just right.

Spotting Celestine wouldn't have been hard even if she hadn't had her teammates murmuring in her ear. "Can you see what the nasty one's up to?" she mutters, musing over a champagne glass. Virgil, naturally. He's the one making her itch.

That and this is a room full of metahumans, potentially. Potentially any of them could make their lives a briefly-living hell. Though she needs to appear to be in no hurry at all, she meanders to a point where she will be near the wandering steps of Ms. Bileau herself. They do need to talk.

*

With a mess of dead wires before him, Fitz hunkers over his so-called 'electrical problem', using his frame to conceal the small control unit, designed to look like a state-of-the-art amperage meter. Through it, he monitors the seekers progress. "Still no sign of M-D," he reports quietly, using a soft code in place of DiMarco's name."

Meanwhile, just in case some bad guys happen to stray by, he mutes the comm and begins whistling the tune to 'Here Comes The Big Parade' by Harry Connick, Jr. When in Rome…

Some distance away, a trio of SHIELD agents wait inside their commandeered Sure Thing Pest Control van. If the call doesn't come, there's a very large, hollowed out cake and some cheesy tuxedoes to change into.

*

It's funny how a look that is sour on Howard's youthful, but decidedly adult face looks petulent and sulky on his current one. "If I look that young, that would make you a cradle robber," he points out with a wry drawl, then takes her arm a little tighter, and even reaches down to hold her hand. Oh, he's just begging to be punched, but he knows she won't - not here, not now.

Then he grows serious and angles Maria towards another corner of the room. "Hold on. I think I see something. Small woman, silver pantsuit and stilettos. She's got a watch." It looks to the untrained eye to be a fitness tracker or a smartwatch. A closer look indicates that the styling is off. It's not slick enough, and the display is analog. "Personal shield device."

"Hey, you! " says a woman in a crisp black suit as she comes up behind FItz's position. "How much longer are you going to be? This is not a state for our guests." She sets hands on hips and glares daggers at the young genius.

*

Metahumans… Potentially each and every other person in the room. Hill's not defenseless but she is feeling rather under-armed for this kind of encounter. Like being stranded in the middle of District X. Or anywhere in Jersey. If you don't look like you belong with absolute conviction, someone's going to make you.

Which is yet another reason why she never lets Howard stray too far. His conviction falls a long distance shy of 'absolute.'

Of course, at the same moment he does a great job of reminding her that he isn't exactly human anymore, either. As the hold on her arm tightens, so do the lines in her jaw as she bites back a soft hiss. "You know how much women of all ages love rich men of all ages. All that matters is the bottom line, and if you squeeze my arm any tighter I'm gonna jam an EMP pen so far up your ass-"

'Hold on.' "A watch…" she flatly repeats with a knitting of her brow. "God knows I've always found myself longing to know what the time of day was," she deadpans under her breath. "What will they think of next."

Oh, no, -not- a watch. Her expression shifts as she sides to Howard "Any offensive capabilities or does that just make her a tougher nut to crack?"

*

Hawkeye's got his hand on that blasted gun as he watches Virgil and his conversation with the two, now obviously minions. Er.. associates. "… exchange… mini EMP gener.. okay, generator." Clint's concentrating, shifting to try and make sure he can actually get a good look at lips. Damn people keep moving. "Virgil doesn't think they're on the level. The shmoes are trying.. 'copied formula and.. device..' They can't open some device, or copy one. They want to trade it out for something they know will work."

*

"Ah. Manny's boys. I do hope their deal doesn't go awry." Natasha taps her fingernail against the rim of her glass, adding: "Lots of powerful people here tonight. Be nice."

And then she's adding a few words in to a conversation nearby, and isn't it just a force of nature and a matter of fact that a pretty woman is welcome just about wherever she goes? Her name? Marie-Daniele, of course. So charmed to meet you all. She's just ever so pleased to be here.

*

With a touch of a button, Fitz opens his comm again. Then, he rises and turns on the woman, scowling. "Listen here, missy!" Back to the American accent, and it's quite convincing. "Your 'guests' are fine. Long as they don't get too drunk and wander off up in these parts for a little T 'n A, you follow?" He rubs his nose for effect. "You wanna make my job easier? Get some goddamn pest control in here, I don't like workin' where there's roaches lurkin'. Now, go on, sweetheart!" He waggles his hand at her. "I got wires to fix."

*

Howard laughs like Maria just said something utterly delightful and charming. He's been to a lot of society events. He knows how to do that laugh when absolutely nothing tickled him. He leans in companionably and murmurs to her, "Well, you don't want to touch it when it's active. It'll hit you with the force of a taser. It also leaks radiation like a sieve." A beat, "It's a prototype, remember? I hadn't worked all the kinks out." He tilts his head when he hears the bowman over the radio. "Hawkeye. Can you see my devices? Is one of them a blue box about twenty inches square with deep grooves on it?" He looks worried, even through the mask. That can't be good.

In fact, the box sits on Virgil's desk. The man picks it up and turns it over in his hand as he continues to speak to his associates. It's an animated discussion. A man in a yellow suit and glasses looks utterly paranoid as Virgil handles the box in a casual manner.

Meanwhile, Celestine continues to speak to the tall man. She excuses herself after a moment, saying she needs to go check on something. She moves off and starts towards the back stairwell that will take her up towards Virgil's office. There's a whole floor and several winding corridors before she gets there, though.

The woman narrows her eyes at Fitz, curls her lip and looks like she wants to go and fetch a wooden spoon. "Just…hurry it up! And don't say the 'r' word where any of our guests can hear or you won't work in this city again!" And then she's stomping off in a huff.

*

"How charming," Hill replies with a well-practiced grin of amusement. It's one she has to use frequently, what with her typical lack of a sense of humor and all. "Now we just need to figure out how to get it back short of the disco-flash."

Flash-bangs, seekers, that sorta thing.

Though, 'just' a shield/taser-like device which dumps radiation everywhere is surprisingly low on her list of things to worry about at the moment. Reaching up to brush a wisp of hair behind her ear, she quietly radios in "Nat, our friend is on the move. Please take care of it now." (Before we lose our chance…)

She's debating if some manner of distraction might be in order. Then she remembers that this place could be -filled with metahumans.- Any sort of distraction-causing technique could potentially end very poorly for her.

She's also distracted by Howard. Leaning his way slightly, she mutters with the same faux smile "If we do this again I would -really- appreciate a full inventory beforehand."

*

"We'll see," Hawkeye murmurs. "Clear shot on all three." He pauses and shrugs from his nest, "Just in case you wanted me to take the shot or something." Clint can hold his position for hours, sitting in the dark and quiet.

Blue eyes don't leave the scene before him, and as the question comes up, the answer is proceded by a nod, "Yeah. Blue box. Our boy is picking it up. I swear he'd shake it like a Christmas present if he thought he could." As he watches, his eyes narrow again in concentration.

".. don't. It could.." Clint chuffs a breath, "C'mon, keep facing me." Clint is annoyed but he keeps it in check. "One of the associates looks like he's about to panic the way Virgil holds the thing."

There… and in the minutes as he's shadowed in darkness, a slow rising smile comes to his lips as he announces, "Exchange in about twenty minutes." "…too dangerous.. go with.. EMP. Easy.. to repli.. replicate."

*

Natasha is on it. She gently extricates herself from her conversation, breaking away in the direction of the buffet table. But as soon as she's around one clutch of people she's snaking around another; pulling out her phone. Apparently she's gotten an important call and is heading to a handy wall or, better yet, a door out of the room so she can take it. And being a privileged chick, she's going to saunter through whatever door she can in order to do so.

Luckily, the door's not guarded, and as she makes her way through, she does what she must:

"Madame Bileau," she calls out, a delighted smile on her face. "I wonder if I might intrude upon your time. I sent word earlier; Marie-Daniele Babineaux?"

*

"Rrrrrrrooaches!" Fitz calls after the woman, just to be obnoxious. Odds are it'll push the woman away even faster.

Once she's gone, the engineer adopts his normal Scottish, speaking into the comm in a hushed whisper. "Either send in the exterminators, or go with Plan B." He's not about to make that call, but knowing that Celestine is on the move, he's feeling jumpy. That Portal Buster can't collect dust in the van all night, after all.

A few Sparks and the lights come on in that particular room. Collecting his things, he moves off toward the next darkened room, eyeing his 'amperage meter' as he goes.

Still no sign of Manny. "Bloody hell," he murmurs.

*

"Not going to happen," says Howard through a smile to Maria. "Any more than you'd give me an inventory of everything in the SHIELD labs. Though you really should. I bet half of it is based on my designs." That's not even a boast. A boast would be saying that most of it was his. He grows serious at Hawkeye's confirmation though. "All right. You have a choice. You can try and get everything of mine back by trying to take out Virgil and Manny. Or you let this exchange happen and we get our hands on a pocket-sized EMP device with the power to take out all of Manhattan for days."

And no, no sign of Manny yet. Either the rat has sent a proxy, he's not here yet, or he's in disguise. The facial recognition is having no luck.

Celestine turns back when she hears her name. She looks over her shoulder at Natasha, and looks the other woman up and down. She frowns. "Excuse me, I'm on my way to take care of an important matter. I won't be long." Her voice is warm and pleasant, but she clearly doesn't want to stick around and talk to Natasha.

*

"The difference here is that our toys are part of a global security agency, and they aren't ending up on the open market," Hill replies with that bright smile still firmly in place.

"Hang tight, Eagle," she then softly radios to Hawkeye. All of the pieces are in motion, though she's not too fond of which direction they're all currently headed in. Widow's got a small window to work with.

"Spider, if you can't shift her focus soon then put her down. We need to ground our dealer." If Celestine's unconscious then she shouldn't be able to teleport Virgil to safety, which means Hawkeye can take the shot. They could knock both pieces out of play in a matter of seconds. With complications. It's a quick solution strategy, but one which is far from clean or ideal.

There's also the matter of the Portal Buster, and if she thinks they're going to need it. Calling it in, regardless of plan A or B, is rather high profile. At the same time that it may not be necessary, if it -is- necessary it may well be too late for Fitz to use it.

Oh, and there's -also- the mysterious blue box, and the yet unanswered question of whether its inclusion is going to force their hand.

Here she turns back to Howard, pointedly asking "How bad is it?" She needs some parameters to operate with, dammit!

It's time to make an official decision. Widow needs more time. Fitz wants his Portal Buster. An exterminator should be a solid distraction without setting a bunch of metas on a razor's edge. Hill dips her head and turns to the side, thinking. Weighing the odds.

"Bugs are go."

*

"I can take 'em out and line over. No one'll know I was ever there," Hawkeye mumurs. Now, he's settling back with the stupidly named gun. "This thing is almost embarrassing. Don't tell Kate I even held it." Of course he has his bow and arrows; never, ever leave home without them. The order comes through, however, and Clint nods, "Roger. On your order." Sit tight just a little longer.

*

Under her breath, Natasha manages: "Upstairs, Fitz. Intercept."

Obnoxiously persistent. It's a good way to get things done. Not necessarily the best, but sometimes, if you act stupid enough, it can allay suspicion.

That, or you can be a jerk.

"I certainly wouldn't want to interrupt you with a business deal," Natasha replies, arching a dark eyebrow. "I haven't come for your autograph, madame. If you don't have time to discuss my offer now, would you be so kind as to show me to a quieter room? The party is a delight, but the light and the noise, I am more sensitive to them than most. They give me a cracking headache."

She smiles sweetly, though there's a bit of sharpness. If she can just get the lady close to a window.

*

Arriving at the next room, Fitz sets his toolbox down and gets to 'work'. When the word is given, he produces a smart phone. Even electricians have them these days; they make appointment booking easy, and have you seen how easy it is to accept payments using Square?

Facial recognition does have one advantage; it's got a name on his black suited benefactor. Within seconds, Sure Thing Pest Control receives a call from one Amber Stinson, which is likely to distract his little babysitter when they do finally show.

Outside, the van rolls in. Three SHIELD agents, dressed as exterminators, disembark. Two of them carry what you might be familiar with, the large tanks with hoses used to spray for pest control. The third wears a much larger device, having been redressed a bit to appear a bit less conspicuous. Pregnant roaches are no laughing matter.

Once inside, the agent wearing the disguised Portal Buster heads straight for one of the stairwells, accompanied by another. It will put them at least somewhat closer to where Natasha and Celestine disappeared to. The third pulls out a clipboard and speaks with one of the party's attendants. "Yeah, I'm lookin' for a Miss, uh, 'Stinson'. Need to have a chat with her about payment."

Hearing Widow's report, Fitz is on the move. Strolling along and whistling that song again, he doesn't seem to have a clue where he's going. Would be a damn shame if he collided with that pesky teleporter.

*

"Look, I just spent weeks getting the power back up. If someone set off this EMP? It'd be a mess. And I can't promise it won't go off accidentally." Howard glances around the room, then looks back to Maria. "It's your call." He's not saying what the blue box is, but it seems to be that he's implying that the EMP is worse.

In the office, Virgil is growing ever more impatient. He throws the box to the man in the yellow suit, who grabs it and grips it protectively, then moves to set it carefully down. Virgil points at him, slips on his suit jacket, then picks up a foilo and another small device that looks about the size and shape of a microphone.

Celestine turns fully and faces Natasha. Her fingertips start to glow, and all over her skin, veves appear like hidden tattoos. "Who are you? I don't recognize you."

For their part, the staff cooperates happily with Fitz's team. They're in the restaurant business. Roaches just won't do. They're told to be quiet about it.

*

Not enough time, not enough-dammit! If Hill winds up being responsible for the blackout of New Orleans, well…

Then she'll answer for it. Same as she does for every other mistake that she makes.

"Eagle, you are green. Ground 'em all." (And please for the love of God take the teleporter out first or we risk losing it all.)

There's nothing else she can do here. Nothing beyond holding her breath and waiting, praying that everything works out in their favor. This is an uncomfortably close call. Now it's all down to the other agents on her team.

*

"They're getting a little agitated in the office," Clint murmurs. "Our boy Virgil is on the move. And he's got something else in hand. About the size of a mic."

Clint's gaze drifts down slightly; he's been listening in on the traffic, and he's known 'Tash long enough to (almost) be able to predict her moves. Particularly when she knows that he's outside and in place. Well oiled machine.

"C'mon," is whispered. "I got it…"

And there's the call. Clint's expression deadens to a neutral expression and the barrel of the rifle lowers. A shot is squeezed off in the direction of Celestine; if 'Tash succeeded, it's his turn, and she's going down.

The second the shot is fired, the barrel lifts and another one, two, three shots are fired in rapid succession. Virgil and the two poor slobs.

Of course Celestine was going down first. In Clint's mind, 'Tash was on her. The Widow isn't assigned some side-thought. She's on the most important/most dangerous asset. So, that's first. The other men? Contained. Didn't matter where they went in the room. Clint still had them. And with Celestine down, if need by, Clint could have shot a line and taken them down.

*

One. Pop. Celestine gets a night-night bullet right into her left shoulder. Her body jerks forward and she collapses to the floor. The glow from her fingers extinguishes and the veves fade away.

Two, the scientist in the yellow suit goes down, head bouncing off a chair as he goes.

Three, the other guard goes down with ease.

Four. Well. Four hits its mark, but the bullet digs a hole in his shirt and goes pinging off. Virgil's moving quickly. The tech is scooped off the table and then he's into the interior of the house, away from any windows.

*

"I've come to talk to you about — oh goodness!"

Because Celestine just got hit in the shoulder and she's going down.

"Full marks, Eagle," Natasha murmurs warmly. "You're getting an extra tot in your hot cocoa tonight." But the tall woman with the long dark hair is embracing her long-lost friend, isn't she? Yes. Yes she is, for anyone watching which, given the relative emptiness of the stairwell, isn't many.

So up they pop, Natasha and Celestine, and through the nearest doorway that isn't going to more party. The voodoo woman is going to get her wrists tied, her mouth gagged, and the rest of her shoved neatly into the first closet Natasha can find.

"Status?" she breathes. "Bileau's trussed and in the janitor's cupboard."

*

When the order is given, Fitz immediately stops whistling and ducks down another hallway, getting the hell out of his trajectory toward Celestine and Widow. They're all about to see just how finely calibrated his Night-Night Gun is!

Ducking into a closet, Fitz whips out his disguised control device and begins monitoring surveillance. Each mark drops as it was intended to…

With one exception.

"Lead, Verge is on the move!" It's a murmured report for Maria, but there's no shortage of urgency in his voice.

A few tapped commands sends one of the seekers on a pursuit course through the HVAC, tracking Virgil's movements.

"Screamers could take him out."

Of course, if Fitz activates the seekers' scream mode, Virgil won't be the only one writhing on the floor. If they want this to be a quiet, low key kind of operation, that would create the opposite.

The 'exterminators' arrive on Natasha's six, moving to 'cover' that janitor's closet. Just in case.

*

Virgil is on the move like a bat out of hell. He's darting left and right, then pauses at a hallway corridor. Then he's moving again, with something tucked under his arm. He's making a beeline towards Natasha's position, presumably because he's looking to find Celestine. Well, hey, maybe he does care about her and she isn't just a pawn. Stranger things have happened.

*

Dammit. Dammit. Dammit.

-Dammit!-

Hill's going to have to abandon her post at Howard's side, which is not something she wants to do. -Why- she has to do it is -also- not something she wants to deal with. "Get the seekers primed but hold fire," she coms back while ducking out of sight, heading for the same stairs that Celestine had been heading for. "He can't teleport, keep an eye on the windows. Don't let him get the jump on you, he could be carrying something nasty." Like '1970's Stark Tech' nasty.

"Eagle didn't miss, our boy must have learned something new." Which begs the question, will she be able to counter it if she does come across the guy?

It sure is a good thing that she tried to prepare for dealing with someone like Howard Stark in all of his LMD glory. Metal skin? Shouldn't be a problem with the kind of current her own weapon's about to put out.

"Tango spotted, on the move-"

Hill nearly throws herself shoulder-first against the wall for cover, both hands snapping up to hold the small pistol-shaped implement out in Virgil's direction. This time there's no hesitation, she pulls the damn trigger.

*

If Hawkeye didn't hit him, that means the man has armor. It's not a big leap to go from that to the notion of that metal skin that Cass Wren had. Of course, any kind of armor hidden by clothing is going to be lacking one vital thing.

The veve means that Virgil can probably find her. Given that he's marked, it means he might be important to her. They might both be true believers. It doesn't make a difference to Natasha, though. They need to get what they need to get, and being sentimental about it rarely helps.

So when Virgil starts running down that hall and Maria shoots him, Natasha joins in. She would electrocute him (taser discs can show you why you shouldn't metallize your skin) but given that whatever he's carrying might blow them to kingdom come…

Yeah. Instead, she just swoops in to catch that before it hits the ground.

And, if necessary, she'll kick him in the head.

*

Primed and ready! Got it. Fitz bats a few more commands into the control device, working to separate the seekers from their master programming. They all begin to converge on Virgil's location; to hell with the rest of the party.

Watch the windows? You got it. Four of the eight go busting through the nearest clear passage outside, quickly whirring along until they hold a floating position along the proverbial four exterior walls.

He's watching the marks as they move, finger over a very different trigger. It trembles, but it holds, waiting to hear whether Hill is able to pull off the dirty deed.

Damn, the kid's gonna need a shower after all of this sweating!

*

There's a very satisfying 'oh shit' look in the Cajun's eyes as he comes around the corner. And down goes Virgil in a blaze of sparks and convulsing. He drops to the ground and a device falls, too. Thanks to Natasha's quick reflexes, it doesn't hit the ground. It's…not the blue box. It's a device the size of 2 litre bottle, with lots of visible machinery. Fitz would know an EMP device when he sees one. Somewhere in all that running, Virgil made the switch. But how, and when?

Fitz's machinery will tell the tale. It shows (too late) a residual energy signature going down a dumb waiter and then, the signature disappears. Unless they've been watching every guest and every staff member that goes in and out, they're not going to be able to track who. And still no sign of Manny DiMarco.

Meanwhile, down at the party, Howard gets himself a gin martini, dirty, two olives.

He reaches inside his right ear and pulls out another earpiece, one that is not SHIELD issued. He crushes it between his fingers and disposes of it in a nearby bin.


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