WAR ROOM with a Capacity for Conflict - Part 1

OOC: Joint Post

Niko set out sandwiches - crusts cut off - for each of them in the war room, still having time to pace nervously before the others arrived. Dr. Lollis hadn’t returned his phone call yet, and though Theo had ‘episodes’ in the past, they weren’t on this scale, and didn’t last this long. He blamed the sling rings, the magic, the fighting, and he wished they’d stayed in New Hampshire where it was just the two of them and the naggy old ghost, no Birdy, no sanctum, and no one trying to give him
advice on something he should theoretically be able to handle on his own.

Erik had picked a wall and was firmly planted against it with a sandwich in hand and his mace sitting on the floor beside him. He bit nervously at the one end of the sandwich, unsure of what to do next about the ‘Theo situation’ but was hopeful that maybe she would just forget. However as a precaution he had plans to save his second half of the sandwich as an escape option. The others seemed to be more concerned about getting the facility back into an operational state however, so there was still a chance this whole thing could blow over.

Theo had kept a fast eye on everyone as they all entered the war room. She had to rush quickly around the far side of the table to claim the seat at the head of the table. She confidently claimed her spot and watched the others as not a single one of them moved to sit down. "I'd like to address the elephants in the room," Theo started, nodding to each of them in turn, "by apologizing and congratulating you on my nudity earlier. Niko thinks I like to get naked when I’m sleepwalking and I can tell you that lots of weird stuff happens. So if any of you wake up naked it's my fault I guess, because I sleepwalk? Is that right, Niko? Oh and Niko pointed out that according to the TV it's dangerous to wake me up during those times so please, just go with it and don't resist. This is scientifical people so it's not necessary to get all weird about it. Also, past experience has proven that I can fall asleep at literally any moment so please make sure you're always wearing clean underwear. And that brings us around to uniforms. Why are there only two of these fantastic uniforms?” Theo slammed her fist down on the table for emphasis. “It makes no sense; the Avengers would have provided uniforms to the entire team. We should make this our top priority.” Theo drummed her fist into her open palm to emphasize her point again. “Can I count on your support?”

“No?” Niko said, tentatively. “Ghost Spider Girl has worked hard on her Ghost Spider costume, and Foster-Thorson, you saw what happened with the lightning and the cinged shirt. I told you. We don’t need matching uniforms.”

"Niko, you and I can discuss your opinion later, in private. For right now, we need to hear from those who don't disagree with me."

“I fout aw mawic usr -” Gwen paused swallowing her sandwich first and tried again. “- I thought all magic users were a little … odd. I mean historically speaking ... is the nude thing going to be the new normal now? I know hero stuff; I murder on the social life, but strutting around in the birthday suit? Also, do we really need matching uniforms? I get we're trying to breathe life into the Avengers thing, but they didn’t have matching uniforms,” Gwen pointed out.

Theo gave Gwen an eat-shit-and-die look before gaining her calm with a sigh and a few thumps of her foot under the table.

"Who can say whether the nude thing will indeed be the new norm since we magic users are such an odd bunch. Perhaps I'll start making note of these occurrences in my almanac alongside the plethora of vital data I already record."

And naturally, Theo did keep a journal, which she insisted on calling an almanac. It was a damning set of evidence against her transient sanity as it contained absolute gibberish; made-up math equations with charts and data compiled from useless minutiae like the number of cracks she stepped on since waking or how many liters of blood she could feel pumping through her arms or her body measurements which according to the almanac changed drastically from day to day.

"The point is, part of being a team means that the workaday man who looks to one of us for help can know that the others are part of that same effort. Right now we look like a bunch of folks who met while waiting at the bus stop. Except for Sam Rogers and myself. We look like white hot magic. Thank you Sam for your support." Theo gave Sam a somber nod of her head as she had already misconstrued the situation in her belfry.

"The Avengers did wear uniforms, or at least they intended to. Do you really think they had this beaut made up in two different sizes for the same person? No they did not. They had them made for the entire team and would have been proud to wear them as a team. Except they got poofed, didn't they? This is not about fashion or how incredibly good looking these uniforms make one feel. It's about commitment to a cause and visual recognition and accountability. But I'm nothing if not reasonable and I'm real so that's proof I must be reasonable. If you don't care to wear a functional uniform, I won't make you. But you should know; I intend to track down the rest of these uniforms and when I do, I'm confident you all will have changed your minds about this. Until then, what are these other matters that you want us to look into?" And Theo gave a flippant wave of her hand to move them onto the next, less urgent piece of business.

“Our priority should be to get this place back up to snuff. There's a bunch of security protocols we have to go through, user permission - I’m only a guest in the system myself. Plus, lines and lines of code to read to really get a grasp of this place. There's so much we haven't seen yet! And I actually think stuff might be missing … which could be very very bad!” Gwen explained. “Wait there were lighting and armor? Seriously?” She said, her head whipping to Eric. God she hoped she wasn’t slowly being relegated to the young green anchor of the team. That would suck so hard.

Erik turned his head to avoid anyone's gaze as the attention turned back to him. "Umm, there wasn't armor really. This," he nudged the mace with his foot, "kinda came out of nowhere and I uhh, hit stuff with it." His thoughts went to the aftermath of his reckless attacks and he gave a quick glance up toward Niko before returning his gaze to the ground.

Niko gave Foster-Thorson a quick double thumbs up to show all was well, but the Demi-God didn’t seem to notice.

Sam interjected as he sat on the right hand side seat of Theo, “Quickly circling back to Gwen’s point, yes we need this place operational asap. And preferably without SHIELD’s help. I’d rather not bring them in here until we know we can hold this place down. Gwen, I believe with HELEN’s help, you’ll be able to repair the defences and get the drone repair system online so we can clean up the yard. The rest of us should be on heavy lifting duty, need to move some equipment up, some down and toss what isn’t working anymore.” He reached in his bag and put all of his files on the table. “In here is a list of last known inventory and their whereabouts. I suggest we each take one, go to the appropriate area and check how accurate the lists are. We can ask HELEN to compile our info so everyone will have a copy of the updated inventory. From there, we can distribute items as needed.” He turned to Theo, “In regards to the sleepwalking episodes, I’m sure we can all keep an eye on you, there are more than enough security monitors to make sure we know you’re at least still safe in the compound somewhere.” He smiled, trying to reassure her. He glanced back to the rest of the room, “Once those objectives are achieved, we’ll take the night to rest and start our training bright and early.”

“Slow down there, Cowboy. We tried something similar already, remember? I don’t think wandering off on our own to peek through crates and closets is the way to do this. The rude lady trapped in the walls seems to like you - why not get these,” she reached over and swept the files together, stacking them squarely as she continued, “scanned into her memories so she can put them into the roboto’s memories and let them track down the inventory for us. That way we can focus on other things.” She gave Gwen a sideways glare. “What did you mean about only being a guest?”

Niko tentatively raised his hand again. "How do we know HELEN doesn't work for or report to SHIELD? And what other things are we to focus on? I'd like to know my choices." The words "bright and early" also didn't sit well with him, but one thing at a time.

“At the moment we don’t. In fact, we don’t know what SHIELD may have done to this place while it has been empty. They could be listening and judging us right now.” Gwen pointed out.

"We knew what was in here already? Sorry I know I was apparently the last one to join but that feels like something that could have been helpful an hour or two ago." He left the wall and grabbed one of the folders from the stack in Theo’s hands and began very carefully and slowly opening and fingering through it.

Theo rested her chin on the palm of her hand and gave Erik a dreamy look full of eyelashes. "If you had come back to the Sanctum yesterday after I violated your mind we could have gone over all these files. Slow and alone. And stayed up late brushing each other's hair." She seemed to actually catch herself this time even though it was after the fact. Theo cleared her throat and sat up straight, thrusting her chest our respectfully. "I apologize, Erik Foster-Thorson. Some of that was inappropriate. You're more than just a gorgeous demi-god and deserve to be treated as such. I'd like to worship… What Niko? I can feel you glowering at me."

“SHIELD only had a rough inventory of what was last known to be in the facility as well as an approximate knowledge of the kind of data stored here. It’s something I stated this morning, everyone had a chance to read up, but we went straight in. But Theo is right, it may be easier to ask HELEN to just scan them and tell us how accurate they are and where everything is. And if HELEN was with SHIELD, would she seriously have tried to kill us all like that?” Sam asked.

Niko looked to Theo with a snarled lip and made an ‘iffy’ gesture by rocking his outstretched hand back and forth.

Theo returned Niko's gesture with a knowing nod of her own. "I don't trust very many computers outside of Speak-n-Spell, but there's definitely something off with HELEN. Maybe Mister Stark intentionally programmed her to be creepy. Maybe she was turned to the dark side while she slept or placed here by S.H.I.E.L.D. to watch over us. We just don't know. What if she sleepwalks? What if she has a crush on Erik Foster-Thorson? I don't want to compete with that and I don't think we should take the chance. Gwen, you like to touch computers and get into their software, right?" The Maximoff cousins shared a stifled snicker. "Is there anyway you can reboot it into safety mode or something? Maybe require HELEN'S actions or commands to need consent from one of us people before activating? Or change the voice to something rugged and manly? Surely that would help. I recommend the voice of Terry Crews. Male computers are far more trustworthy than lady computers."

Glancing through the inventory list, Erik didn't find much to be excited about. Lots of equipment and various other boring day to day supplies. At least they wouldn't be in trouble if someone got a paper cut, as the multiple zeroes next to the adhesive strips assured him. Coming back to the conversation at the mention of his name, Erik added, "Maybe messing around with what I'm sure is a super advanced AI isn't the best thing to do right out the gate, H.E.L.E.N.'s been nothing but helpful so far, a bit late on the advice sometimes sure, but I wouldn't see her as a threat, right?" He looked about the group for affirmation.

Niko looked to Erik with a snarled lip and made an ‘iffy’ gesture by rocking his outstretched hand back and forth.

"Well … Erick has a point. HELEN is not so much a computer as a heuristic AI tailor made by Stark. Fact is we could be asking the wrong questions or she may be acting that way because she was programed to by Stark. Why? I dunno, ask the AI." Gwen tried to explain. This wasn't a glitchy computer that needed a reboot. It was a very sophisticated set of programming and processing power that made an AI Butler! "She isn't a threat to us at the moment. I mean Stark did make her … he also made Ultron too … so … there is that." The spiderling added.

Niko gave Gwen a snarled lip and made an ‘iffy’ gesture by rocking his outstretched hand back and forth.

"Sure what Niko said." Gwen said with a shake of her head.

TBC

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