2019-05-08 - They Hire Mercs?


With Batman on the lam, someone else needs to take point on the Nightfall. Who else should that be, but Captain America?

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Wed May 8 05:04:30 2019
Location: WAND Offices

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Theme Song



WAND is a really, really strange part of the Triskelion. It's accessed by a door that moves around the building according to a certain pattern and takes you to a place that is much bigger on the inside than it's blueprints suggest.

The central area is a large circular floor that seems to be made of stone, with windows like a castle - though they all just look out on New York unless they're enchanted to look elsewhere. Work stations both technical and arcane are everywhere and up the stairs and back into the hallways are the offices. Koa's is back near the artifact room because, well, he does artifacts amongst other things.

It is in this office that Koa Turner is now. He'd been asked by Senior Agent Pandora Peters to prepare a brief for no one other than Captain America. 'Things are getting a bit hairy out there, Agent Turner. I need the rest of SHIELD to be up to speed on what's going on. The fact that making sure Captain Rogers is good means making sure the Avengers are good as well is just a bonus.' That had been what she said.

So, here Koa is, in his office, typing on his computer and having sent an e-mail to Captain Rogers with a briefing packet and asking if he could come over when convenient so that Koa could make sure he didn't have any questions.

He's also just buzzed Keiko Kurita in. She appeared at main gate in something of a state and told him it was urgent. So… this should be interesting.

Something of a state might be an … exaggeration … but Keiko had certainly to speak to Koa about. Maybe it's the backpack she's hugging to her chest at the moment.

Her escort had delayed in bringing her up, waiting for someone else who arrived about the same time. She's just now being shown into Koa's office "Agent Turner, your guests are here…" says the Agent.

"Hello Agent Turner…" Keiko murmurs. Her accent is a bit of a mutts. A heinz variety if you will. Steve when he see's the tattooes on her arms might recognise the styling. "I … uh … have something that belongs to you."

The backpack she's hugging is wriggling.


Without a doubt, the sight of the wriggling backpack is enough to make Steve slow in his approach to Koa's office. His mobile eyebrows slowly rise and he gives the accompanying agent at his side a look. No response other than a subtle shrug from the agent, the kind that silently says, 'It's above my paygrade'.

"Agent Turner," he says by way of greeting at the doorway to the office. The Captain's in casual businesswear today, a blue button-down and khaki slacks, and if it weren't for the immutable air of enviable self-confidence, he might hide away nicely behind a desk. "Got your email. Appreciate you reaching out before things get messier." Steve's nose appears to have healed up nicely from the well-thrown punch on a beach not but a few days back. He walks to one side of the office, giving Keiko and her living backpack a polite bearth. Never a dull moment in the WAND sector of the Triskelion. His eyes rise from the bag to the woman's face and do linger briefly on her tattoos. A twitch of recognition flickers through his eyes, but he remains silent, standing off to one side with his arms lightly crossed.


"Captain Rogers." Koa stands up politely. "Of course, my pleasure. Senior Agent Peters thought it would be good to keep you appraised. Have you had a chance to read everything?"

The WAND agent eyes that backpack. "Is that what I think that is, Keiko? Oh, sorry. Captain Rogers this is Keiko Kurita, an informant of mine. Keiko this is Captain Rogers. Or Captain America, which you might recognize better. Please, both of you make yourselves comfortable. Coffee? It's not fae stuff, I promise."

Because, you know, that might be a risk here.

"So, I know what brings you here, Captain. Did you want to go over any of what you read?" His glance cuts from Steve to Keiko. "I have no idea what brings YOU here to speak to me so urgently, though."

"Captain America … " Keikos eyes widen as Steve appears. Of *course* she knows who he is.

"Uh yes, Agent Turner. Dos cabezas came to visit me again. He's been fed and watered and don't worry, I didn't give him any catnip." The bag is placed on Koa's desk and Keiko steps back. There's the whiff of formaldehyde that follows the bag.

Steve can see the tattooes that cover her arms and presumable some of her torso.

They're very detailed and *very* lifelike - from the tarantula at her wrist to the dragon that wraps about a shoulder.

When Steve offers his hand she glances to Koa before taking it. "Uh… nice to meet you, Captain America." beat "Coffee please, Agent Turner, I didn't sleep much last night."


"I did read through the email, yes," Steve confirms with Koa. His attention shifts to Keiko and he offers her a small, polite smile as well as his hand. The handshake is returned, gently but firmly, and he goes back to listening to Keiko's regaling. "Coffee as well, please."

He considers the backpack on the desk again, with its odd astringent whiff, and flicks his frown from it to Koa. "Nice to meet you, Miss Kurita, but maybe not that bag of yours. Figure this is a bit more pressing than any questions I have, Agent Turner. Let's deal with it first. Not too keen on it smelling like a mortuary around here, dunno about you."


Koa opens the bag and it meows. He sighs and reaches inside to pull out a calico cat. A calico cat… with a second, surgically attached head. It's siamese, the second head. Both meow. In stereo. And it reeks of formaldehyde.

"This? Oh this is something that got away from us. Twice, as it happens. Slippery. Some guy in the 1870's was messing around with artificial life and…"

The WAND agent gestures with the cat as he opens one of his draws, drops the cat in and shuts it.

And locks it.

"I'll have to put that in containment later." Yes, things in WAND are strange. But having done that Koa does go to wipe his hands off and then get both his guests coffee. From a normal coffee machine, thank goodness.

"Right then. Here you go, both of you. Now, Keiko, I presume it wasn't just THAT which had you in such a hurry to see me."

"It's not my bag that smells but Dos cabezas" Yes Agent Turner, Keiko has named the calico cat. She names everything - with the most innocuous names even if they could tear your head off. "If he wants to keep visiting me, maybe he should live me …" She watches as the cat is locked in the drawer, a slightly forlorn look on her face.

"What? Oh yes. After my … visit … with Miss Rasputina yesterday I was thinking about how Batman, the Bats and Spiders want to invade Plokta's domain." That should get Steves attention. Keiko knows about this? And she knows Batman and his … brood.

"We know it won't work and they'll just get themselves killed but Miss Rasputina's idea about treachery … that might work?" Realising Steve is still there, Keiko quiets "I'm sorry Captain America, I didn't mean to interrupt. I can wait till you're finished."


Captain Rogers might have lost his eyebrows — oh, wait, no, there they are, descending from on-high as he watches the two-headed cat disappear into the desk of Agent Turner's drawer like it's no big deal at all. He does shut his mouth now. Wow — Bucky's usual update on his workday will seem so droll after the tale of the death-scented undead-live-what-on-earth bi-headed Frankenstein cat.

Still, Keiko's got his attention quickly enough with the mention of Batman and especially the pluralized form of the title. He listens with a squint to the woman until she directly addresses him.

"No, actually, continue. I read through Agent Turner's notes. Plotka, splinter lord. Batman and an invasion of another domain is the news to me." He gives Koa a sharp look, like as not revealing connections as well as depth of care for the Wayne clan.


Koa flashes Steve a grain that says 'Magic, right?'. To be fair this thing CAN be dangerous, but only under certain circumstances. And at the moment no one has given it catnip, so…

Keiko's comment has him sitting down and groaning again. He puts his head on his hand and shakes his head.

"Splinter Lords are functionally gods in their own domains, that's why they don't leave them very often. Entering his domain to attack him is at best an exercise in futility and at worst an exercise in suicide. If they do that we're gonna have some Bat corpses in short order or even worse, coopted Bats to fight against."

He shakes his head once more time and then straightens up. "Fighting them directly might drive them out of the city, but it probably won't curtail them much in other parts of the world. Captain Rogers we've been working with a woman named Illyana Rasputina, and she hit upon the idea of trying to drive a wedge between the extradimensional horror and his cultists here on earth. There's reason to believe that some of them may have been coopted over the years by other powers and, well… have you ever done Psychological Operations? I thought I'd read somewhere that's one of the things you did with HYDRA back in the day. Try to split them off and pit them against eachother and against their allies."

He thinks he's read that but he's not sure. Big chunks of Captain Rogers' jacket are classified beyond his level, so he might be conflating that with another dossier, or rumors he's heard. And oh are there ever rumors about ALL the things Captain America can do. It's like Chuck Norris jokes sometimes. Except, you know, you almost believe them about Steve.

"If what I've seen on social media is correct, Batman isn't going to be doing anything for the moment." Keiko points out. Wanted for murder, that's what the reports say. "But yes, I know how powerful Lord Plokta is but they really kind of fixated on that."

Lord Plokta that's what Keiko calls the Splinter Lord. That's … odd, really.

"If we make it too expensive for the Nightfall to harv—- collect here, they'll stop but Spider-Man is set on stopping them entirely. There's several thousand of the Nightfall, I don't know if that's possible but …. I had a dream last night, Agent Turner. I … remembered something."

The mention of Illyana gets a sour look from Keiko. "Just before I ran, I saw one of our high magi perform a ritual from the sacred texts along with a box. It … put a brand on them."

Now that she's not hugging her backpack, Steve will see part of a brand above her collar.

"I think the high magi wasn't doing that for Lord Plokta."


Keiko's not wrong about the Batman and it's enough to make Captain Rogers sigh silently to himself. Not only that, but dealing with Bruce and his tenacious stance on resolving issues of his own accord…

Now he knows how Bucky might feel. What a shoe to wear, on this other foot.

He does catch sight of the brand upon Keiko's neck and the undercurrent of suspicion peaks briefly with a frown. "You're not wrong, Agent Turner. Once or twice…I might have put two spiders in a jar and shook it to see which came out atop, to reference a juvenile pasttime. A little psychological sabotage can be a devastating thing when applied correctly, like an icepick to a glacier. Don't like to use it myself, but if there's a way to make it work for the good of Earth and this dimension? Use it." He never stops looking at Keiko. "Wonder if they've got the same idea."


"To quote Tolkien…" Which Keiko may or may not recognize. "… 'It is difficult to know when these creatures are in league and when they are cheating one another.' If I had to guess though it's no loyalty to our dimension and our home. I've been digging into the Nightfall's history. Well, I've been digging into the history of groups that preceded the Nightfall. They've been collecting Artifacts for a long time without regard to 'whose' artifacts they are and a lot of the stuff they've got? Well it gets hooks into you. And not the good kind. I think it's likely that there are factions within the Nightfall that are working for other powers. And I think it's also likely that this just… happens from time to time and Plokta has to abandon and rebuild his power base here."

The question right now is… how to accelerate the process.

"Groups… crack under pressure right?" That's to both Steve and Keiko. "So whatever else we do, applying maximum pressure to them here will help things." And THAT seems like something Captain America might be one of the best at. A keen military mind with a talent for rallying people? Koa can't think of anyone better.

"We need to learn more about them too. They suicide if we try to capture them. Keiko, any thoughts there?"

Steve might expect his scrutiny of Keiko to make the young woman squirm. She doesn't. Under his watchful gaze, the tattooed woman stills - Koas seen this too many times now. She's … used to being examined and knows better than to and avoid it.

Just like she doesn't show pain. She experiences it, but she doesn't show it.

"Why would you put spiders in a jar and shake them?" beat "Those movies were wonderful, Agent Turner." Because of course, Keiko's seen the Lord of the Rings, extended editions. She wouldn't have the faintest they were books though.

"Groups might, yes." Keiko is frowning as she follows the other two thoughts. "I'm not sure you can do it with the Nightfall, our sibkos … they are very close. When I ran, that was the hardest to leave behind."

Koa has a good question though and Keiko nods. "I've been thinking on that. They suicide when they know they can't get out and they're fairly perceptive. We can't risk getting that close. But we know the magi here are carrying texts and artifacts - could we use those? I … can't read them but …" who do they know that might be able to.

Steve rubs behind his ear, half into his blond hair, as he stands and muses over potential answers to this problem. It's a doozy. He thinks back to his time on the front and eventually, his eyes rise from a slant squint at the middle nothing of the corner of the office.

"Gotta know how they suicide before we can stop 'em from doing it. I used to watch for cyanide capsules in the teeth. If it's magic, gotta stop the magic somehow. I'm not anywhere near familiar with the fine details of magic, but if it's a matter of both stopping them from suiciding and deweaponizing the magical items, isn't there something like a magical EMP? Or a spell that could be put into ammo fired by a SWAT-standard Remington 700P. Could tag 'em and drop 'em like that. Rubber bullets are still nothing to sneeze at."

"Depends on the mechanism of the suicide." Koa nods. "It's entirely possible that there is some way to capture them. But if, for example, they're poisoned by their own tattoos, if the spirits that are bound to them rip them up from the inside out… that's gonna be tricky. The only reason to anchor a spell to a person's body like that is to give it permanence. Our research indicates that trying to remove the tattoos or destroy them will kill the bearer. Which means that if we come up with something to disable them, which would also be tricky…"

Koa doesn't finish that sentence but the dots are easy to connect. They run the risk of killing the people they're trying to capture. Not a hundred precent, but it's rolling the dice and the odds are not weighted in their favor.

"Mostly magi can't depower eachother. It's like trying to shoot a mutant with something that takes away THEIR powers. Maybe that's possible, but you're way more likely to just kill them."

"We should have a few Nightfall corpses in the morgue though. I'll aske the morgue to release them to us and see if we can figure out the mechanism of death, if they haven't already."

Koa jots that down on a sicky pad on his desk. Then he draws a couple of wings on the pad, which animate and cause the slip of paper to fly up and attach itself to his 'to do' board. WAND, yes, is a strange place.

"Even if we can't get them, though, getting their stuff can tell us a lot about them and it's possible that we could reconstruct conversations from some of their talismans with our resident post-cogs. We just… you know, need those talismans. Which means either way it comes down to finding them, beating them and either running them in or taking their stuff. And I won't lie to you, Captain, WAND is stretched pretty thin right now. We've had multiple reality breaches in M-Town and Salem that we're trying to stay on top of and that's aside from the rest of the stuff they're doing in the city. Hence Agent Peters asking me to to prep a brief for you."

Koa gets a little bit of an impish grin on him. "I can loan you my sidekick, if it helps." Keiko is not his sidekick. She's made a point of saying this. Which is why Koa makes a point of teasing her about it.

"Most of us are given a compound to use when we're sent out." Keiko says quietly. With Steves attention wandering a little, she shifts a bit. "We're to use it if we don't we think we can get out. Most of it is in capsules that we bite down on. And before you ask, I don't have mine. I got rid of it as soon as I ran."

Koa can probably pull the reports up, in fact.

"They'll be dead before the bullet hits them, Captain America." the tattooed womans dark eyes land on Koa as he says he'll loan her. "Given you're paying me, I suppose I am your sidekick now…"

Mostly because her language is so poor she doesn't realise consultant would be appropriate.

Steve unfolds his arms as he shrugs and settles into something more akin to parade rest. "Lemme know what the morgue finds and we'll equip the weaponry accordingly. I'm not leading a team into into a magical situation blind. We gotta have more info than they'll either kill themselves or use an artifact against us." He sighs. "Granted, not all of 'em are magical from what I can tell."

His gaze flickers between Keiko and Agent Turner. "Ran into Taskmaster. He's tough, skilled and able to mimic a fighter's moves with near-identical accuracy. Throws a mean punch." The Captain wriggles his nose as if reminded of the pain of his briefly-broken nose. "He's entirely mortal last I checked with no propensity to toss around any magic unless we're talking an artifact." He glances at Keiko in particular now, his expression neutral.

"Seems you were into their business up to your ears at one point." His eyes noticeably travel from her face to the brand, to the tattoos on her body, and back to her face again. "Defected? Can't play the double-agent for us?"

"Taskmaster? Interesting. Keiko, does Nightfall use Mercenaries?" If that's something unusual then it means that something has significantly shifted. Possibly power dynamics at play. Which is potentially useful.

"I'll pull up a supplemental report for you, Captain and send it over as soon as I can. I know the Bats have been working on countermeasures and weapons to use against the Nightfall but I might be able to assist with that a bit more… directly. We've got several talismongers here. I'm sure we can whip up some protection for any team you took out." The Artifact Specialist grins again. "We'll even make sure they're properly stylish. Patriotic, in your case, sir."

The question to Keiko gets a look from Koa. How would she feel about that? Would it be possible? He's not sure.

"I do know that they are VERY interested in having her back. Whether or not that would be good for her…"

"It depends on what you mean by magical." Keiko answers quietly. "The Nightfall themself have Magi's, Fighters and Bearers - like me. Bearers can fight but our focus is different." Koa's already offering a jacket and that information is all in there, so the tattooed woman falls silent for the moment.

"Who's Taskmaster?" That has her looking between the two men "Not that I know of, Agent Turner. Normally it's a gang in the village or city we target. I didn't realise the Nightfall were using more than one here. Something is different. We never send in this many operatives, to start with…"

There's something about her air - it's *almost* fear, like she's terrified she's going to be punished for not knowing.

"Double Agent? No. I've come across two Nightfall recently and both of them wanted me back." she swallows and takes a deep breath "You could give me to them … use me as bait. If they took me though, it wouldn't be good …"

"I appreciate anything you can give me, Agent Turner, but it doesn't need to match the uniform. The suit's a symbol. Protect the man in it, that's all I ask. If it doesn't match, doesn't matter as long as I get to see how the mission ends." Steve nods his gratitude to Koa regardless.

"And no reason to attempt playing both sides at once if you're easily compromised. Not worth the risk, especially since it appears to come with some hefty consequences not in our favor. Stick with us for now," he says to Keiko. "Especially if we run into Taskmaster again. Agent Turner had it right: mercenary for hire, so someone from Nightfall's throwing a hefty fee at him."

"If it's not part of their MO it could indicate that some of the people locally are operating off the reservation, as it were, and if that's the case we might have an opportunity here." Sow distrust and discord and all that good stuff.

"I'll have the analysts in the main office check and see if anyone else is buying up guns for hire. There's some big names out there we haven't heard from in a while. David Cain, Lady Shiva, people of that nature."

That does seem to be that. "Keiko of course you're doing this of your own free will… we're paying you for that but it's still your choice. I think you might be able to help the Captain here, so if you'd like to give him your contact info I'd be obliged. Is there anything else I can do for either of you?" Because if not, Koa's got some work to do and once he's done with that, Cap might have some people wrangling to do.

"I'm not *easily* compromised…" Keiko responds, there's a hint of her stubborness there. But she's completely misinterpreted what Steve said - it happens when your grasp on language isn't strong. "Stick … where?" Oh my god, Keiko!

Retrieving her backpack from Koa's desk, Keiko rummages through one of the compartments and hands Steve a card. Keiko Kurita, Handyman with a phone number. Maybe she'll be able to answer the phone if Steve calls. No email account though.

"I don't think there's anything Agent Turner."

Kieko's business card is taken, examined, and slipped into the pocket of the Captain's shirt. "Stick with us. Next to us. Be available and present during a mission." Bless Steve, he's caught on that she's not completely certain of some of his turns of phrase, and he tries. "Us being the team of folks we work with."

His attention turns to Koa. "Nothing else necessary from me right now, Agent Turner. I'll keep a watch for the report you're sending. Once I have it, might be time to reach out some feelers myself."

"I'll get started on it sharpish then." Koa nods. "Keiko if you like, you can stick around and help me take the cat down to containment." No, WAND isn't prepared to let it live with her. Though that is twice it has gotten out now, which is something of a mystery. Just not a critical one.

Koa gives Captain America a salute. It's even pretty decent for civilian.

The Captain's lips rise into what might be a mild and ultimately wry smile. "No need to salute, Agent. Not in the regalia right now." He turns to leave the office, intent on giving himself at least some time to muse at his desk and review the information sent to him prior. Maybe he can make it there before some poor 'gofer' SHIELD intern hunts him out with other paperwork.

His eyes fall to Keiko again. "I'm sure Agent Turner will help you keep in touch with me if I don't get a-hold of you myself first. Contact me at anytime if you have pertinent information about this whole mess."

He looks across the desk a last time. "Agent Turner, if you could give her my contact information both at the mansion and here at SHIELD — extension number and all." With that and a final firm nod, Steve excuses himself from the WAND office and heads off towards the decidedly more normal section of SHIELD offices he calls 'home'.

Keiko doesn't wait for Koa to ask, she just hands him her phone so he can enter the number. The small woman and technology are a bit like oil and water. "Thank you Captain America, I will be sure to do that." she murmurs.

As Steve leaves, Keiko turns to watch. "Now that's America's Ass…." That's said to herself but it's loud enough for both men to hear.

Koa just leans forward and puts his head on his hand. "You… nevermind." He sighs. Hopefully, Cap didn't hear that. He's got no idea what a man from the 40's would think about that.

"Come on. You can carry the cat, just for that…"

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