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Story [SHIELD, E-Branch] Alright, Who Have We Got Left? (OTP Challenge #9 COMPLETED)

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by Sith-I-5, Jan 4, 2019.

  1. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002

    Post-Thanos SHIELD and E-Branch tie-up [OTP Challenge #9]

    The Distant Beloved. Reason: "Asleep (but not dead)"
    Alastor Zingari - created by @Kahn_Iceay
    E-Branch, and characters Liz Merrick and David Chung - created by Brian Lumley
    Mary Formal - one-shot Torchwood character.
    Nadia Paquet - Backstrom character
    SHIELD - created by Marvel

    Dugan's Tavern happy hour, SHIELD's Triskellion Island, NYC

    If Mary Formal had a business card, she reflected as she sat at the tavern table with friends and new colleagues, it would be the length of her arm.

    Extra-terrestrial-in-hiding from the planet Arca; conscripted but mostly-willing E-Branch agent; recently seconded to SHIELD, the...whatever it meant; and one-time conditional Acting Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Australian Navy; that was a lot to write on the thing.
    And that was assuming that she resisted adding her regular fiction, of being an U.N.C.L.E. agent, as well.

    E-Branch was a sort of British Secret Service, staffed by esoterically-powered individuals, such as telepaths and suchlike.

    “A Helicarrier, is one of those large aircraft carriers you can see docked on the east side of the Triskelion’s docking area.” The compact powerhouse that was Alastor Zingari answered Liz, having clearly heard the other E-Branch secondee's repeated whispered queries to her new boyfriend, Bryan Dale.

    Liz Merrick smiled gratefully, and politely murmured her thanks, whilst Alastor looked around the others and belatedly enquired if that information was secret these days.

    Their eyes meeting across the table, Liz and Mary both surmised that a 'helicarrier' was basically an aircraft carrier that couldn't get enough of helicopters.

    Liz was like that with Haagen Dazs. Thanks to her tomboy's fashion sense that prioritised jeans over skirts, and tonight had her in skintight black leathers that had her looking like she had just roared up on a Harley', no-one was going to be seeing her thighs, anyway, so what did she care?

    “Anyway, one I was on was an older one, one of the ones that survived the Skrulls, was designed to purge certain areas if need be, like if it took damage, got boarded, or had a biological outbreak. So it was able to keep flying, really all the thing needs to fly is it’s engineering area and central infrastructure."

    Mary frowned. She had forgotten that the thing was supposed to fly. So maybe not a normal aircraft carrier after all. She had no idea what Skrulls were.

    "But anyway that’s not the point. I’m just surprised you didn’t know about 'em, they’re a pretty common sight around here, even before I joined SHIELD.

    "Oh, we're new." Liz advised.

    "And thanks to Jocasta," Mary chimed in to throw SHIELD's omnipresent Artificial Intelligence under the bus, no IT pun intended, "I've got lower clearance than your Dugan's Burger."

    She thought she heard her new boss, Doctor Scarletpebble, head of SHIELD's Department of Metaphysics, murmur something that sounded like "Dogman? Huh." and glanced at him to see a gadget of some type materialise in his hands, and he now divided his attention between it and the table conversations.

    "Anyway, I have derailed this conversation enough." Alastor drew Formal's attention back to himself. "Now that we know about my impression of Lazarus-"

    He had already told the table that he was back after apparently jettisoning his section of said helicarrier, with him inside, whilst over an ocean, and drowning in the process.
    The only impression Mary was getting as she peered at the speaker, was that he was really piling on the superlatives, for beating death one time. She was no psychologist, so she had no read on what that meant. She briefly wondered if everyone at Spectrum had to put up with this in the Cloudbase' break room, every time a regenerated Captain Scarlet got back from some mission he'd been killed on.

    A secret smile graced the Arcateenian's face and eyes as the theme music from the Sixties children's television series popped into her head, along with that raspy sing-along voice: "This is the voice of the Mysterons. This-"

    "-why don't you all tell me about yoursel-"

    Mary had been looking down at the glistening surface of the pizza slice that she was biting upon, and it took a second for Zingari's cut-off sentence to pique her interest, in time to see several of the people around the table, dissolve into what, dust?

    The dark grey particles uniformly drifted to her right, about a foot or two beyond their seats, then disappeared.

    Zingari; their liaison agent, Peter Neidermeyer; the late-arriving bespectacled redhead, Doctor Moira MacTaggert. All gone.

    Mary's eyes widened as she observed this, then she shot a glance up at her partner from E-Branch, noting with relief that her friend was still there and solid, however the telepath was not staring back at her, or even noting that three people from their table of eight, had just disintegrated without warning.

    Instead, Liz was staring past her.

    Mary spun so fast in her seat that she felt the friction on the back of her thighs, but that didn't matter as she noted that her table had not been singled out. Whatever was happening, was being repeated within the rest of Dugan's!

    She could tell from screams or exclamations that the queue that had been outside the clearly popular nightspot, were experiencing the same thing.

    "What in the Original **** is going on here?" She murmured aloud.

    * * * *
    Several days later

    Inexplicably decimated, the world's military, intelligence and emergency services had mobilised to stabilise the global disaster of losing fifty percent of its population, along with the after-effects of losing airliner pilots, power station operators, innumerable car drivers, and so on, whilst in the performance of their duties.

    Now, enough of the situation had been stabilised for SHIELD to address one of the elephants in the room: the locations of many of their superheroes.

    The loss of Director Fury, and Deputy Director Hill, meant the agency had been directionless, as an entity, but a lot of regional chiefs had started mobilising, and were willing to take suggestions.

    Formal had picked up the distraught CEO of Stark Industries, a slim woman with strawberry-blonde hair draped over the shoulders of her fitted black executive jacket and pencil skirt, and was with her aboard a Quinjet - compact supersonic plane - heading to the eastern Atlantic Ocean, where they were due to rendezvous with an actual helicarrier, and Liz was supposed to be already.

    The spouse of Iron Man, with the unlikely name of Pepper Potts, was far too upset for Mary to comfort, and she sat awkwardly across from the woman, leaning forward with her elbows on her thighs, occasionally glancing left towards the cockpit for some visual clue as to how close they were to their destination.

    Hardly soon enough for her, she felt the sensation of the craft decelerating, descending through the air, extending landing gear just before settling onto a hard surface.

    Light beamed into the widening horizontal gash at the rear of the cargo area, as the ramp lowered, cold salty air rushing in to bite at the Arcateenian's bare shoulders, arms, and legs.
    Perhaps hardened by events, she had refused to change out of the metallic red and blue cosplay mini dress that she had been wearing at Dugan's; curtly deflecting all suggestions that she be in blue SHIELD uniform.

    Steeling herself against the frigid breeze, she stepped across the aisle to Potts' side, to release her seat restraints, and hand her a fresh roll of toilet tissue to ruin.

    She gently told Pepper not to worry, as the other tried to apologise for the countless small wads of pink Andrex being blown like tumbleweeds towards the cockpit.

    "I'll take the trolley." Mary volunteered, referring to a metal basket on wheels that held such diverse objets du art as Captain America's circular red-and-blue shield.
    It looked heavy, and coupled with that ramp, her imagination was sizing it up as a Youtube Vine waiting to happen.

    Pepper did not object, and followed obediently as Mary pushed the trolley out onto the dark grey surface of what looked like the flight deck of an oddly-shaped aircraft carrier.

    Crew in helmets and hi-vis tabards, were hooking high-tensile lines to the Quinjet's wheels, and a SHIELD crew member stood by to direct them towards an open hatch in the superstructure.

    "Welcome to the Bellerophon, Agent Formal, Mrs Potts." He greeted, waving a hand towards the dark oval of that door.

    "Thank you." Mary ducked her face away from the wind, her bobcut flittering around the sides of her face. "Any E.T.A. on the E-Branch Quinjet?"

    E-Branch were sending over a locator, a person who could, by handling a personal item of a missing person, get a fix on their location.

    "They ought to arrive thirty minutes after you, Ma'am."

    "Good. Okay, where are we setting up?"

    "Hall Five. Deck Three. I will show you once we are inside."

    Mary dropped her datapad into the trolley so that she could push it with both hands, and headed for the doorway, pushing down on the handle to raise the front wheels to get them over the bottom lip of the doorway, then lifted the trolley through.

    * * * *

    Hall Five, Deck Three

    Three walls of Hall Five were light grey metal, while the fourth was transparent plexiglase, with the below deck store for all the aircraft carried by the huge vessel, on the other side of it, along with ordnance, and dozens of technicians.

    The pilots were elsewhere, although two of the fighter jets were manned, Mary had noticed earlier, before getting stuck in, preparing the hall.

    The back wall opposite the ceiling-high window, was covered in a map of the entire world, framed by a vertical and horizontal slide rule arrangement that controlled the motion of a saucer-sized magnifying glass with a cross-hair etched into it.

    White cotton bedsheets were laid over the deck, along one wall, with various personal items spaced out on them.

    Mary was down on one knee, carefully lowering Captain America's shield into place. Was about as heavy as it looked, and she was particularly careful not to trap any of her fingers.

    Behind her, Nadia Pacquet, a petite blonde Frenchwoman that she had only just met back at Dugan's Tavern, was behind her, clutching a crumpled black waistcoat that she did not want to let go off.

    The waistcoat belonged to Agent Neidermeyer, whom Mary had seen dissolved along with the rest of the missing, so she did not see much point in handing it to the locator, but strange guano were SHIELD and E-Branch's stock and trade, so perhaps it could not hurt.

    Three rows of chairs were behind them, for observers. Spouses and significant others of the missing, as well as SHIELD supervisors, and counsellors. Pepper Potts was already there, looking devoid of all hope.

    As newcomers entered, Mary rose off the floor, turning to spot them beyond Pacquet.

    "Welcome, David Chung of E-Branch." Jocasta's artificial tones announced, helping her out.

    Mary smiled as her colleague looked around in confusion. "Dave, that's Jocasta, SHIELD's see-all and hear-all artificial intelligence. Just generally wave and speak up towards any part of the ceiling."

    "Hello, Jocasta?"

    "Welcome, Agent Chung."

    "Why the hell are you dressed as Wonder Woman?" The balding Anglo-Chinese man who was one of E-Branch's best locator's, asked by way of greeting, taking in her armour-effect bodice, and the abbreviated strips of metallic blue fabric, accentuating her bottom and upper thighs.

    Sighing with relief, she stepped forward to embrace him. "Oh thank God. Finally, someone from the Real World. Literally no-one here, or back at Triskellion Island, seems to recognise the outfit." She pressed her face to his chest, then released him to step back, grinning up into his surprised face.

    They had known each other for many years, but outside of Christmas parties, and times of great danger, they were not really huggers.

    "Hello to you too." He chuckled, holding a hand between them momentarily flicking his forefinger to point at her, then, him, and back. "What was that about?"

    "Never mind." She turned from him, reaching for the waistcoat, then paused, her grasping hand stopping just short of the vest.

    "What?" Nadia sniffled.

    Formal was just thinking that it might be best not to have David try Niedermeyer's item first, as a guaranteed null result might discourage him. But then it occurred to her that any of the other items could have the same result.

    "Nothing. Nothing's wrong. Let's have it, please."

    Nadia handed the clothing across, Mary passing it to Chung.

    The locator pressed it between both fists, like he was passively wringing out a wet towel, and closed his eyes while the girls looked on, attentively. Eventually, reluctantly, he opened his eyes, and with sadness evident in his tone and demeanor, announced that he could not sense anything.

    Paquet's pent up keen of distress speared into the Arcan's heart, and she put up an arm around the woman, and held her close, whilst accepting the waistcoat back.
    "Alright, try the shield." She pointed to the shallow dome formed by the metal disc.

    "Right." David stepped over to the line of objects, stooping over to collect it.

    "It's heavier than it looks." Pepper advised from her chair. "You'll wanna bend your knees."

    Chung glanced back at her. "Yeah, you are probably right." He dropped into a squat, and tried to get his fingers under the edging for several seconds, then sighed with defeat and simply placed a palm on the coloured metal. His eyes closed again for several seconds, then re-opened, looking up at Mary. "Alright, I'm getting something."

    "Well, Jocasta's controlling the map on the wall, remember. Just talk to her as you would speak to a normal person."

    David swiveled on a heel to face the map, and noting where the tracking lens was already, gave Jocasta a series of directions and temperatures that had it skimming across the aqua expanse of the Atlantic, until the lens was settled somewhere inside the African continent. "Okay, Jocasta. Where is that?"

    "The nation of Wakanda."

    Still disconsolately rubbing Nadia's bare back, and only now realising that she was not the only one not to get changed since the Event, as she and some of the SHIELD folk were starting to think of that fateful moment; it occurred to her that she might be the senior SHIELD person in the room, which was a bit of a shock, considering she and Liz had only been seconded from E-Branch a matter of days before.

    Still, she was a couple of hundred years old, so drokk it. She could manage.

    So Captain America is in Wakanda, is he? Mary wondered. He would literally be the first Avenger, current or former, that they now had a reliable line on.
    Agents sent to Director Fury's apparently abandoned vehicle in New York City, had found a pretty red-and-blue insignia on a handheld device dropped beside his SUV, and Jocasta had ran the pic and identified as a 'Captain Marvel'. But finding the woman's file, did not tell them where she was. We need to know what he knows. "

    "Agent Formal."

    "Can you get Liz, uh, Agent Merrick up here, please."

    "Of course, Agent."

    She wanted Liz to piggyback her telepathy on Dave's locator probe, to reach Captain America's head, and see if he knew what the heck had happened around the world.

    As their liaison agent, the dissolved Neidermeyer had impressed upon her and Liz that telepathy was not to be used on fellow agents, due to something to do with the Skrulls; however, she determined, if SHIELD were not going to supervise her, and Jocasta did not object, she was going to pursue the investigation her own damn way.


    She glanced down to see David still squatted by the shield.

    "My knees are hurting."

    "Oh sorry, get up!" She waved him up, the waistcoat flopping about. She passed that to Nadia. "When Liz gets up here, I want you to use the shield again, to try to give her a link to Captain America; like we did out in Australia to find...y'know."

    E-Branch, coupled with the Australian Special Air Service (SAS), had carried out a vampire-hunting mission Down Under, with both Liz and David combining their Talents to detect a backup nest several miles out to sea, amongst a collection of tiny islands, called the Capricorn Group.

    As far as Formal knew, SHIELD were not a party to the existence of vampires, which was why she was being a bit cagey around the A.I.

    "But for the time being, can you work with Iron-"


    Mary glanced across to Pepper, unconsciously manoeuvering Paquet around with her. "Pardon?"

    Pepper was looking up, a wad of damp toilet tissue held under her now-rosy nose. "His name is Tony. Tony Stark."

    Dave crossed to her, clasping her hands in his. "Do you have something of Tony's, that I can hold?"

    Pepper's eyes flicked to the wall. "The trolley."

    Dave and Mary looked over there, both confused as the thing was empty, the various contents having been added to what had already been laid out on the deck.

    "There is nothing in there." Dave advised gently.

    "No, THE trolley." Potts emphasized, becoming more animated than Mary had seen her since picking her up from her home on the coast.

    "David. The trolley itself. Try that."

    "Oh. Okay." He toddled over there, and gripped the handle with both hands, closing his eyes. He drew in a long breath through his nose, then exhaled loud enough for the women to hear. "Oh, he is a long way from here. Long, long long long, way from here."

    "But you have him?!" Pott's voice was riddled with hope, her face coming alive as she turned towards him, leg scraping across the chair to her left. "He's alive?"

    "Yep, he's alive!" Though his eyes were still closed, Dave was clearly breaking into a smile. "Asleep, I think. But definitely not dead."

    Pepper Potts was squeeing with excitement, and actually, vibrating a little bit too. "Where is he?"

    "Can you work the map with Jocasta?"

    "Wouldn't do any good. I don't think Tony's even on Earth."

    That clarification did not seem to phase Pepper. "As long as I know he's alive, that will do for now. He will be trying to get back to Earth, I just know it."

    Hope he can cadge a lift." David murmured, low enough not to be heard.

    "Hey Guys." Liz voice announced as she entered. "Someone called?"

    "Liz!" Mary waved at her friend, and directed her to Chung. "Can you help Dave? He'll fill you in."

    "Hey Liz."

    "David! When did you get in?" The brunette grinned upon seeing her colleague, even though it was probably only a week since they had been at E-Branch's London HQ together.

    "Just a few moments ago. Good to see you." Her skintight black bodysuit gave him a bit of a pause, but it was not as drastic as Mary's costume, so the two simply convened without further preamble, beside the shield on the floor, her squeaking into a kneeling position beside him as he returned to his squat, and put his palm back on the metal disc.

    "Anything?" Mary prompted after a couple of moments.

    "Thanos." Liz relayed thickly, like her tongue was too big for her mouth.


    "Thanos. Steve, Natasha, Vision, Wanda...everyone...they were trying to stop him. This population loss thing; he's been collecting the Infinity Stones to do this to the, the entire universe, not just us." She opened her eyes and looked bleakly up at everyone. The blood had drained from her face, and she looked shaken. "Not just us."

    The End
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2020
    Mira_Jade , Kahara, pronker and 2 others like this.
  2. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Feb 27, 2014
    So I haven’t seen Avengers: Infinity War myself, but I have heard about the certain very infamous and calamitous, er, plot event that is referenced in this story (and can’t honestly say I blame those Marvel fans who were upset about it). But it’s heartening to see that, in this universe at least, there’s hope for at least a couple members of the Marvel cast. Half the world’s population (if I have it right) is an awful lot, and that fateful moment at Dugan’s must have shocked even the unflappable Mary Formal! But after all that is happened, I can’t imagine how relieved Pepper must be to learn that her husband is “asleep but definitely not dead,” even if he is on another planet (he’ll make his way back, I’m sure, and likely Captain America is A-OK in Wakanda for now). It’s encouraging to see the agents of E-Branch getting immediately on the case, though it looks like they are up against one heck of an enemy this time—one that more than warrants the tone of uncertainty and foreboding in Liz’s announcement at the end. (And I just to hug poor Nadia with all my might... =(( )

    Thanks so much for this fun, clever, and sensitive response to one of the most harrowing events in recent superhero history, and for being part of the OTP challenge! =D=
  3. pronker

    pronker Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jan 28, 2007
    Excellent sense of overwhelming events dampening an interesting party! I enjoyed the foreboding atmosphere dominating the latter part of the fic especially.

    Poignant picture of a mundane pushcart holding the iconic shield ... humorous to think of her trundling it around, despite all serious events.

    If they weren't before, these happenings would make them now!=((

    Appropriate mention of the past to give a greater sense of just what these operatives are capable of, that is to say, Big Things.@};-
    Findswoman and Sith-I-5 like this.
  4. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002

    Thank you for reading and reviewing.

    This Thanos character witnessed his planet suffer from over-population with a lack of resources, and took it into his head to help out every planet in the universe with this deletion of half their populations to prevent such a crisis from occurring. Good intentions, eh?

    His sudden appearance in the lives of the various MCU characters, meant that no-one had a chance to sit down and think up a sensible counter-argument to his intentions.

    I felt Thanos' view mirrored that of a standup comedian called Bill Burr, though the latter's nirvana would have been an easier commute, rather than being related to food resources.

    Oh indeed! Offscreen, I decided she would have asked E-Branch not to tell her who they had lost, just so that she could function, and not be in the same boat as Pepper and Nadia.

    My muse was helped immensely by the trailer for Avengers: Endgame, which focussed on Tony's predicament. In the first Avengers movie, Iron Man went through a wormhole above New York City, and returned; so I used that to have Pepper comfortable in the immediate-term that he is in space somewhere. It worked out last time.

    Thank you. I enjoyed the team before intertwining Mary into their mythos, but now I feel much closer to them, and even if this particular story is never continued, I do appreciate the sentiment. :)

    Yeah, I hope we manage to get the disappeared back.

    You are most welcome. Thank you for running the Challenge, and your inspired addendum, eg. (...and not dead) to the prompt, got used, to boot.
    pronker and Findswoman like this.
  5. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 29, 2004
    As always, you have a wonderful knack for bringing several unique characters and fandoms together to tell another side of the story. Thanos' snap was a gut-wrenching event for everyone involved, and the imagery of the party ending in half of the goers disappearing was heavy hitting to read. I think that Mary summed it up perfectly in her reaction; there really was nothing else to say in the moment. :p

    But, for me, my favourite part of this - and I think where the OTP challenge prompt really had a chance to shine - was in Pepper's reaction to finding out that Tony is still alive. I was completely drawn in by her grief before Mary was able to locate Tony; you could tell that she was gutted, but still holding herself together because that's what she had to do. The world needs strong types like her to step forward right now and help maintain some semblance of order, and she's not going to falter. Pepper's insistence that Mary call him Tony, instead of Iron Man, was a line that particularly hit me. And then of course she is certain that Tony is going to find his way home to her - no matter how far he has to go. He's done it before, and he can do it again. What a great way to use the prompt! [face_love]

    Thank you for sharing this piece, and for representing the NSWFF side of things in the challenge. :D =D=
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2019
    pronker, Sith-I-5 and Findswoman like this.
  6. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Aug 14, 2002
    @pronker - Thank you for reading and reviewing.

    Thanks! I am glad that that came across.

    I remember a Youtube video pointing out this trolley in the background of Tony's laboratory, and holding the Captain America shield, amongst other odds and ends.

    Yeah, you are probably right. I was so intent on paying off Mary's relief upon someone finally recognizing what she was wearing, it did not occur to me that the three E-Branchers, Dave and Liz as well, had a reason to hug each other.

    Just like with Findswoman, I am invested enough with E-Branch, that I really do appreciate anything nice said about them, even though they are just side-players to this situation.

    @Mira_Jade - lovely to see you here. Many thanks for reading and feeding back.

    Thank you for saying so.

    Indeed. Out of all the planets in the universe, most are not going to have an idea what triggered the Event, or know that it is not going to re-occur at any random point in the future, and hit them again.

    It is very hard to wrap feelings around the effect of the Snap. [face_plain]

    There is something magical about squeeing, it has to be said.

    You are so right.

    That was quite unplanned. One of those stream of consciousness, go with the flow moments, along with Dave going over to hold Pepper's hand.

    Aw, thanks. [face_blush]

    I tried hard for the other side, but I think the recent Avengers 4' trailer hooked the muse to this tie-in.
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2019