Core of the Matter

Summary:
March 09 2015: Jericho takes the corrupted SHIELD core to the Fantastic Four for analysis.

Baxter Building

The Baxter Tower is the headquarters and private living area of the Four. It's… prominent and quite secure, generally.


Characters

NPCs

  • K'nert

Mood Music:
[* None]


Jericho finally did get the okay from May to go see Reed and his team about the little problem bedeviling SHIELD's techs. The plan had been for May to come along herself but as happens sometimes, she was called away at the last minute to deal with something that sounded both official and unpleasant which left Jericho - about the most unofficial offical consultent one can have - to take the Insight's computer core over to the Baxter building. He'll wait to unload it. It's fairly large. First things first, go to see the man himself and see if he'll be willing to take on the request.

The Baxter building is, he has to admit, fairly impressive. And a lot more secure than he thought it'd be. Leave it to the Four to see to that. They have been in this game a little while after all. He buzzes in and waits to be let up to wherever they've decided to meet him.

***

Sue Storm is usually the one who takes care of appointments and calendars for the team. She can be trusted to remember when they're scheduled, after all, and to care that they're kept. Important details. The top floors are where the Fantastic Four live and work. The place is full of scientific equipment, steel, glass. It's the building of tomorrow, in the best and brightest way.

When the elevator doors open, Sue is waiting on the other side, a white lab coat over jeans and a t-shirt, with a pair of safety goggles hanging from the chest pocket. She has her hair pulled back into a messy ponytail, and the sleeves of the lab coat half rolled up. "Mister Trent?" she asks, as though security hasn't already told her.

***

Reed, meanwhile, is sitting behind a desk, propping up a pencil and trying to balance it on his finger that looks as though it's been dripped away from a single point. And the pencil rests there, perfectly balanced on the most infinitesimal point Reed can make with his powers.

He is transfixed by this.

"Jericho Trent," Reed says passingly. "To what do we — myself and my much better looking partner — owe the pleasure?"

***

Jericho nods to Sue and just kind of stares at Reed for a moment. He is getting used to seeing strange things, but a man who can manipulate his body in that precise a manner is an enirely new one to him. It takes him a moment to shake himself out of the same thing that has Reed transfixed. Ahem.

"Miss Storm. Mister Reed." He greets them both. "Yes, I am as you have both intuited, Jericho Trent." The fact that they know his name may or may not be a good thing, depending on what they've heard and from whom. "I'm here on behalf of SHIELD. Agent May was supposed to come with me but she ended up having an urgent call. Sends her regrets." May said no such thing. But it's a polite thing to say. "SHIELD has a problem they can't crack after the HYDRA-Carrier incident in the Bronx last week. They called me in but frankly it's a bit beyond me too. I told them that you were the last word in advanced computer sciences, and apparently they've decided to listen."

He pauses to gauge the two scientists. Reed has a reputation - a justified one - of being wary of the Man. Jericho gets that. He is too. For slightly different reasons yes but he understands the sentiment. Or at least that's the rumor. He's never met the man before so can't say if it's true or not. "SHIELD recovered the computer core from the Insight after it was transformed back. It's… re-written itself. They're convinced there's valuable intelligence on it about what HYDRA has planned, but they can't read it. It's been altered by some kind of dimensional energy."

***

"Re-written itself?" Sue echoes with an arch of her brow, stepping closer as if she's going to be able to see it all just by looking. "As in some sort of artificial intelligence? Fascinating." She waves a hand, mostly to herself, then leads the way toward Reed's desk, leaning in to start moving a few things out of the way to make space. It's not just piling, though. She knows Reed well enough to shift things to just where he'll expect to find them later.

"Reed is the expert on the computer sciences," she adds, "But I'm very interested in what's been going on. I'm sorry we weren't able to make it there in time to help with that. I'm afraid we were in Africa at the time."

***

"And it was romantic," Reed says in response to Sue's note about Africa. He releases his tenuous control of the pencil to flip his hand and catch it in the palm. One scientific marvel done, a new one on the horizon.

"Intriguing, Mr. Trent. And do give our love to Miss May. It's been awhile since SHIELD has called upon us. I was beginning to think the retainer fee was easy money."

With a sigh, Reed stands and sits on the desk where he can come to more of Jericho's height. "My hypothesis would be that whatever energy changed the configuration, like most energy, it might have left traces. Perhaps it ashes, perhaps it smolders. I won't know until I get in there, but what I'll be looking for is the afterglow. The 'waste' if you will."

***

Jericho nods. "Sounds like a regular party alright." He grins a bit. "I mean Africa. I've not heard any big news out of there, which in the hero business usually means you did your job very, very well." Definitely, news of disasters travels faster than news of disasters averted.

"That'd be your guys wheelhouse. I'm familiar with non-standard coding languages…" Some of them very non standard. "… which is why I was brought in, but this is as I said beyond my expertise. The core is downstairs with a security team. I can have it brought up if you like. And you may well be quite correct. The energies it was exposed to were highly exotic in nature." Possibly arcane, but we won't go there. He's not sure at all where the power for that spell was being pulled from. Only that it has fundamentally altered the structure and coding in the core.

"It would have been good to have you on board." Jericho notes to Sue. "But it got handled and I know news of the Four well enough to know that whatever you were doing, it was important. All that matterss to me is that you're here now." And seemingly willing to help which is a big thing. "Could have an AI on it, yes or… something similar." The hacker is keeping his code-imp from trying to touch anything here. He doesn't want these two to get mad at him for all kinds of reasons.

***

"Very romantic," Sue agrees with a gentle smile, leaning in to brush a kiss to Reed's cheek as she finishes clearing the space. "I would pass on the Caribbean vacations right now, though." As he explains the issue with the computers, though, Sue is watching Trent. She's made quite the study of abnormal biology, and…Well, there's something very abnormal about the hacker. "Is there any reason to believe whatever got into the core is, so to speak, contagious?"

***

"Indeed," Reed adds. "If it's something that will put us at risk, we'll need to take the necessary precautions."

Reed waves with his hand, "Either way, I'd very much like to see it." He gives Sue a look and then two quickly raised eyebrows. In the words of Sherlock, the game is on.

***

"Not that I'm aware of." Jericho says, folding his arms in thought. He's dressed, as he almost always is, to hide his cybernetics, but there's no hiding the way his amber eyes glimmer with his emotional state. They're rather dimly 'simmering' at the moment, as if someone had lit a flickering candle behind them. He honestly hardly notices anymore, but people on the street often do, and he's thinking of Sue's question more in terms of the core than himself. "SHIELD had it in a clean, contained lab the entire time as a precaution but there wasn't any hint of harmful radition or anything that they could detect. Exotic energy signatures might be a bit beyond them though outside a narrow, recently researched band…" Hrm…

With a thought the hacker texts down to the team to bring it up. Should just be a couple of minutes.

***

"I'm not worried about us," Sue notes, a touch of amusement in her voice. "Our own mutations seem to be enough to take care of most things. Funny how sufficiently irradiating your system scares off normal things." There's a teasing, sidelong look toward Reed at that before she looks back to Trent. "I meant the machinery. My understanding is that whatever hit the helicarrier functioned as some sort of…transformative infection. A virus. The question, then, is whether it's contagious to other machinery. With as much damage as this building goes through, I wouldn't blame it if it decided we were an infection."

***

As almost an aside to Sue's comments, Reed raises a hand in interjection, "I am somewhat worried about us." He grins a bit devilishly as he stands and moves off behind Sue's shoulder. "Sue's right," he says, growing more serious. "It will take some time but we should consider building some sort of throw-away containment apparatus. Just in case."

***

"SHIELD had it plugged into a isolated system." Jericho notes. "As a precaution. But they couldn't read it and nothing happened. I can't say whether or not the core might cause another transformation. Hopefully the magic that reversed it burned that out but…" He shrugs. When it's read, who knows.

The core comes up with a pair of SHIELD lab techs. No soldiers as a sign of respect to the Four. The security was for outside the building. Now that it's inside, security can be handled by the heroes.

***

Sue considers for a moment, lips twisting. "Let's use the containment ward," she finally suggests. "It works for actual viruses, and it's an isolated system to protect the life support. Since there's no one currently recovering there, it should be relatively safe. As long as Johnny doesn't wreck himself," she adds with a roll of her eyes. "Or try to use it to power his Playstation. I'll put a sign on the door."

***

"Good thinking. I'll gather any additional equipment we might need." As Reed begins to head to another room he stops, looking Jericho in the eye, "We'll do our best on this, you have my word."

***

"I know you will." Jericho actually grins at Reed. He's finding he likes this guy. "That's why I suggested you guys in the first place." That gets a flash of amusement from him. A literal flash, his eyes lighting up quite brightly for a moment. "I'll leave my number with you or… Miss Storm or… your receptionist? Whomever is appropriate. Give me a ring if there's anything I can do. It'll be off the record. I'm not an agent myself." Which they may well know.

There's a pause. "Playstation?"

***

"Yes, and you're welcome to come and play it with him if you promise to keep him from plugging it in somewhere he shouldn't," Sue grins back at Jericho, laughter in her voice. Johnny may be a handful, but he's her brother and she loves him. God help anyone who forgets that. "Mister Trent, I hope you'll forgive me for asking, but…your eyes. Is that a natural mutation, or an implant of some sort?"

***

"Playstation is big with the kids these days," Reed says, his voice echoing from the hallway. "I hear a lot about a game called Destiny." Though the pair cannot see him, they can see his shadow. He's nearly skipping with excitement. Indeed, the game is on.

***

Jericho watches Reed go. There's another flash of amusement in his eyes. It's odd, the way the lighting seems to accentuate what he's actually feeling. One would not think simple glows and flashes could be so expressive. The grin on his face helps. It's still there when he turns back to Sue.

"The light you mean." He's hand to answer that a few times. Mostly he just puts it off to contacts and tricks of the light. Works well enough on people who don't see it much or didn't get a good look. "Bit of an… unnatural mutation, I guess. I have an… augmentation that turned my eyes partly amber. And then was exposed to something that turned them all the way and did that." If she wants a more detailed explanation, he might be willing to give it. He's curious why she's asking though. "Hope it didn't put you off."

***

"Really?" Sue doesn't seem put off in the least. In fact, she seems very bit as fascinated as Reed does with the prospect of having the core to look at. In fact, she reaches into one of her pockets for a scanning device. "Would you mind if…?" She trails off, smile flickering with a sheepish look. "I'm sorry, you're our guest. And of course you certainly don't have to agree, it isn't any of my business. But I've made something of a study of these sorts of things."

***

Jericho would normally have said 'no' before the question had finished being asked. But Sue Storm is famously ethical, as are the Four as a group and he's had favorable run ins with one of their auxiliaries: Chavez. "Sure just… don't go giving it out, you know? Probably doesn't need to be said but…" He'd appreciate it in general. The hacker extends an arm, if that's needed. For all he knows she's got a 'tricorder' or something.

Maxwell, no touching the devices now. Be a good little digital demon.

***

"Of course not," Sue sniffs softly, holding the scanner out over Jericho's arm. It does basically function like a tricorder, scanning, flashing pretty lights, and sending back readings to the screen. "Augmentation," she murmurs, glancing between the screen and the arm. "They were implants, you mean. Good God. These go into your nervous system. They're linked in with your brain, aren't they?"

***

Depending on what the scanner is calibrated to pick up and in what detail there's all kinds of interesting things on that readout. The implants are of two distinct types, consisting of a series of nodes implanted across his body which has seemingly 'grown' a network of wires and traces hooked into his nervous system, brain and spread throughout his soft tissue. The traces and 'network' wires themselves are composed of a number of odd elements: silver and iridium prominent among them though there are traces of several elements that aren't on the books. It's not even entirely clear what their atomic number is.

Then there's the power source. The implants are powered but by what is entirely unclear. There's no generator or battery of any kind inside him and the signature of the energy is… shall we say 'unique'. Finally, there's hardware integrated into all of that that appears to allow him to interface wirelessly with networks and other information technology.

"Yes, they do, and into a number of other places." Jericho answers. Understatement of the century, possibly.

***

Sue looks up at the last, lips twitching against a smirk. "Apparently. May I?" She arches a brow, fingertips hovering over the traces on his forearm. "This is…light years ahead of most medicine. Reed and I working together might be able to duplicate something like this, but even then, we'd have to spend some time on it. Seamless integration. If this technology could be adapted to regular neural pathways, it could cure paralysis."

***

Jericho rolls his sleeve back so that the silver-grey traces on his forearm, terminating at the wrist, can be seen. "The growth period lasted about two months and hurt. Quite a bit." As does make some sense. It was literally growing wires into him. "The tech's experimental and I'm not sure how it works. I've also had it way… way longer than the prescribed test period and there have been, um… side effects. I don't think the people who developed it ever though of putting it to medical use."

***

"They never do," Sue shakes her head, running a fingertip along one of the traces. It's a clinical touch, testing the feel of it. "Painful is bad, though, especially if someone's been recently injured. You could induce a coma, but it might interfere with full neural integration…" She trails off, brows rising as she shakes her head. "Incredible. Thank you," she adds, putting the scanned back in her pocket and stepping back with a small smile.

***

There's that flash of the eyes again. It probably doesn't actually serve a purpose which makes why it's happening something of a mystery. "I'm actually kind of curious what you got off it. People have been, um, after this stuff for a little bit."

***

"Oh?" Sue smiles crookedly. "Well, I'd be happy to send you the print out, if you'd like. And if you'd like to find out more at some point, we have a full-body scanner. It's what I've been using ever since the accident to study what's happened to our team. As high-tech as we can get and Reed can improve, honestly. If it was made by men, there's a reasonable chance we could figure out how it works."

***

Jericho looks a bit dubious at that. But he's been trying to figure out the where and why of these things and he hasn't particularly gotten anywhere on 'why' Hydra wants this stuff beyond the obvious. And he doesn't get many chances to have someone look at it that he can trust to not let the data out accidentally or otherwise. "Mmmmm, sure." He finally nods. If the Four's servers are breached then there are far bigger problems.

***.

Sue laughs softly at that response. "Well, and perhaps we won't be able to figure out a thing," she allows with a wave of her hand. "But either way, I would love the opportunity to study it. Who knows? We might not be able to determine perfectly what you have, but something we learn from it could help injured soldiers walk."

***

Jericho chuckles. "Well, I'd be curious to see what you get. Normally I don't let anyone look at this stuff because I'm concerned who gets to see what but… I imagine you're pretty secure here and honestly if anyone can make sense of it it'd be you guys." Beat. "Or Fitz. I should probably arrange an introduction at some point. So… where's this scanner?"

***

"We keep everything very secure here," Sue agrees with a nod, starting down a hallway. "As I said, it's what I've been using on all of us. And we certainly don't want our personal specs out there either. We try to use science for good here. To advance the whole world. Reed and I were in Africa coming up with a treatment for gut bacteria that are contributing to malnutrition there," she explains. "The right reasons…they're key."

***

"Half the key, anyway." Jericho says as they walk. "The right people are the other half. Reasons don't matter for a damn if the people you get aren't up to the job, or prone to changing their reasons. Road to hell and all that." The hacker's more than familiar with it. Though curiously it's not as if he regrets it.

***

Sue leads the way down various halls until they reach a large room. Inside, there's a very large apparatus of some sort. At the moment, it looks almost like a young stage, about three feet up from the floor, with a pair of circles arching up and around it. "That's the scanner," she explains with a small smile. "We needed it to be able to stand up to Johnny's flames or Ben's strength, so it's…heavy duty."

***

"Ah. Well I'm not… either of those." Jericho looks impressed. Very impressed. This is tech he's not seen before and he's frankly a little bit of a tech-head. Much of it is military technology, but still. "Should I expect anything out of the ordinary?" Pain? Tingling? What have you?

There's a small hiss from behind Jericho and the hacker turns as a little imp-creature skitters into view.

"Easy. She won't hurt me." Another hiss. "Or mess with that." Another hiss and a growl. Jericho's rolls his eyes and response in a language that definitely isn't earthly. The answer seems to satisfy the small creature.

***

"Oh, goodness, I didn't mean we should use it now," Sue says quickly. "There's programming that ought to be done to make certain it's looking for the right things, that we're measuring things in the right spectrum, that sort of-" She cuts herself off as the creature appears, instinctively dropping a dome of force right over it. Like a spider in a jar. "What is that?" she asks when Jericho starts speaking with it. Once again, she looks more fascinated than anything else.

***

K'nert looks a bit nonplussed at the force field, tapping at it with a claw and then pushing at it before sitting down. "That's K'nert." Jericho says, keeping one eye on the creature. "He keeps an eye on me. He's an… imp, I guess you could say."

K'nert hisses something that sounds vaguely like a protest. "If the shoe fits, K'enrt."

***

"Fascinating," Sue murmurs, crouching by the field to get a better look. "Where does he come from?" Because it clearly isn't this world. "And who is he keeping an eye on your for?" she adds, looking up with an arch of her brow.

***

"Another dimension. Limbo." Further explanation is probably not real productive since he'd have to explain a it. "And he's keeping an eye on me for a friend. Actually she gave him to me. Long story. He's not a pet, but he shouldn't hurt you." Beat. "Not if he knows what's good for him."

K'nert hisses again and Jericho responds in that other language. No, Sue's liver is off the table. If you try to take it throwing you across the room is fair game.

***

"I don't think that would end very well for him, no," Sue agrees, amused. Straightening once more, she lets the force field disappear. "You're a very interesting fellow, Mister Trent," she says, stepping back out into the hallway and holding the door open for him and K'nert.

***

"Interesting is a word… that's nicer than many others that have been used to describe me." Jericho smiles. "I'll be in touch about that core. And you'll have a way to contact me for other things." Like poking at him. "If you're amenable i might introduce a couple of friendly SHIELD types. Researchers like you. I'm sure, even if you can't collaborate they'd be good people to know."

"I'm always happy to meet with fellow scientists," Sue smiles swiftly, closing the door behind them once they're out of the scanning room. "And I must say, it's been a pleasure. Reed and I will be in touch on the core once we have a better idea of what's happened to it, of course."

***

"Wonderful." Jericho's voice doesn't have the cheer Sue's does. The reason's for which become apparent quickly. "I hope it's soon too. Whatever HYDRA's planning I get the feeling they're on a timetable and close to completion." He sticks his hand out as they reach the front office with K'nert in tow and he prepares to depart. "Nice to meet you Miss Storm. See you soon. I hope."

***

Sue Storm reaches out to take his hand. Her handshake is one of those warm things, almost motherly. "A pleasure, Mister Trent. And I look forward to seeing you again soon as well."


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