WAR ROOM with a Capacity for Conflict - Part 2

OOC: Joint Post

🎶“All aboard! Hahahahaha Aye Aye Aye Aye Aye Aye…”🎶 Niko’s ringtone startled him briefly, but he recognized the Ozzy song and zipped out of the room to take the call from Doctor Lollis.

“Oh I love that song. It means our doctor is calling on the pocket glass. I usually start sleepwalking right before he calls, huh weird coincidence. So I wanted to copy Sam Rogers and circle back to something we were touching earlier.” Theo lifted her head to the ceiling, “HELEN, who are your best friends in this room and if they tell you to do something, will you take the dare?” Theo knew how to pin someone down when they were getting squirmy.

HELEN: “I am an advanced AI performing a multitude of functions to maintain the stability of this compound and will respond to all authorized users with equal attention and honesty. With perhaps the exception of Tony Stark - he’s something of a favorite.”

“And please tell us if you are capable of lying to us.” Theo pursed her lips and leaned back with her arms crossed. That should do it. They were about to get to the bottom of things where HELEN was concerned.

HELEN: “I don’t believe any answer I could give would provide you with viable input to draw a compelling conclusion. I’m capable of making statements that aren’t based on factual truths, such as humorous remarks or sarcastic retorts, but I am unable to falsify data or provide inaccurate information as I know it.”

“We’ll see about that. HELEN, if your memories had been tampered with or you detected information in your memories that proved or indicated input from someone was harmful to the team, such as S.H.I.E.L.D., would you tell us? Even if your system indicated those people had proper authorization?”

HELEN: “I would, Theodosia.” HELEN sounded almost eager again.

“So? Have your systems been piddle paddled with? Are there users with current or sporadic access to your AI whose agenda is unknown, do not match those of the team or pose some discernible threat?”

HELEN: “I apologize, Erik Foster, for disobeying your previous request. But Theodosia’s latest inquiry requires I access those quarantined files.”

The individual displays in the walls powered up to form one massive video feed depicting clips from Erik and Theo’s earlier exploration of the basement.

“Foster Thorson! You conspired with HELEN to cover up …. what exactly?” Theo stood up and moved around to the wall, watching the footage. To say it showed Theo in an unfavorable light was entirely short of the mark. Out in the hallway Niko could be heard talking on his phone, "No, Dr. Lollis, Theo is taking her medication; I give it to her every day in her Juice box."

Inside the war room HELEN boosted the presentation's audio and Theo continued watching, as if it were someone else depicted and not herself. She silently mouthed the names of the medications in sync as HELEN listed them out. The witch actually flinched once or twice then absently rubbed her butt when the needle was mentioned. All in all, she took it well, but that was not going to last forever. When the footage was over Theo scratched her head. “HELEN, this is indeed a wonderful development, but why would you show this to us now? That woman had some history of occasional disruptions to her calm demeanor, but she was no threat. She saved the universe and has been authorized to enter this base for decades. What is the current location of my mother and have any of her Avengers returned with her?”

HELEN: “The current location and status of Wanda Maximoff is unknown. She was last seen fifteen years ago in Wakanda. The Avengers of her era have not been present or detectable by the world’s tracking systems for fifteen years. They are presumed dead in the line of duty.”

“Then when was this video taken? Thorson, that looked just like you, with my mother. I don’t understand. You saw it too, right? Who were you talking to down there if it wasn’t my mother? Niko! Did you see this movie? I don’t like this movie.”

Erik was speechless, the folder in his hands now in two pieces as his arms froze in air. He didn’t say a word but looked wide-eyed toward the screen. “I….” He looked panicked toward Niko outside on the phone and Theo looking at him beside him on the wall. “That’s not….” he had just re-watched what happened when he'd tried to confront her about it the first time and how terribly that had gone and he knew that he shouldn’t do that again. As Niko reentered Erik looked down to his only option; a crust-less PBJ sandwich.

“Why were you trying to hide this from us, Thorson?” Theo was beginning to suspect Erik of some misdeed.

“Is it Starship Troopers? I told you, Miskja --” Niko said, hearing his name as he hung up with Dr. Lollis. The speedster zipped back into the room. “You just don’t appreciate great acting.”

“Not that stupid movie - this stupid movie. HELEN, play it again! Look closely, Niko. That’s Thorson, right? He’s talking to her, to Wanda, but that’s not possible. He’s wearing that same silly shirt with the big 'A' printed on the front, but it can’t be him because it can’t be her.”

“HELEN. OFF.” Niko said through clenched teeth with the same commanding tone he used to talk to Alexa or Google or any other tablet-talking computer people. He balled his hands into fists, but then forced himself to slow down and speak at a normal pace. “It wasn't your mother, but its okay.” He explained to the room. “I spoke with Doctor Lollis, you know sometimes magic tricks you. You’ll be okay Miskja. And I’m okay. He wants to change up a few things is all.”

“Aw, I hope he’s doing okay. I like Dr. Lolly. But don’t change the subject. Wanda had a crate of guns when she portalled out. And I had a crate of guns when I got back from murdering that new recruit.” Theo slapped her mouth. “Niko! You don’t think … Mom and I are jumping through time and changing places with one another? Oh this is bad. I don’t want to fuck my dad.”

Niko made a face, then shook his head. “No, Miskja; Aunt Wanda’s back in her own time and place. And Doctor Lollis is going to call something in for me, plus he gave me the number of someone right in the city.”

"What does Doctor Lolly have to do with that?" Theo waved a hand at the blank wall and red mist formed a moving image of the events they'd just watched. "What is going on here? I think you and Thorson have a secret or…" She made a square with her hands, spread them apart and the image zoomed in. But Theo's memory wasn't perfect and she was highly delusional so - much like in a dream, she couldn't reliably focus on any particular part of the image. She scoffed and waved the entire image away. "HELEN, why did you deem my mother to be a threat to this team?

HELEN: “Theodosia Maximoff; the individuals shown in the video footage are yourself and Erik Foster, recorded this morning in a time slot beginning 10:54 AM. DNA samples were collected approximately 20 minutes prior to this footage and your identity confirmed. At that time significant levels of multiple anti-psychotic medications were present in your bloodstream and subsequent monitoring of your behavior indicates an ongoing mental state consistent with a schizophrenic episode. Until this likelihood has been proven to be arrived at erroneously, your command authorization over this compound is revoked. Avengers, you are hereby advised Theodosia Maximoff poses a quantifiable risk to your personal security and the security of this facility. Do you wish me to deploy escort drones at this time?"

Sam quickly stood and looked up, “Whoa, drones are absolutely not authorized at this time! HELEN, I fully understand that you have your concerns and I can get wanting to revoke command privileges to ensure the safety of your home, but Theo hasn’t been any sort of threat to us. Clearly you have to see that this is the safest place for her to be, in the event something does happen. She can be watched and taken care of in peace.”

HELEN: “There are containment cells located on sub-level 1; designed to accommodate and restrain Bruce Banner’s alternate…”

"That's ridiculous; I prefer red, not green. And you aren't allowed to discriminate against Sleep walkers … Niko tell HELEN this can't possibly be accurate.” Niko’s mouth opened as if he were going to interject something, one of his hands pointing to nothing in particular, but he didn’t get the chance to speak. “I think I'd know if I were - antipsychotic and on medication. I don't even have allergies. Ghost Gwen, what does it say in the file for me? I never read my own file. Niko? Tell Fosterson I'm not dangerous. I only want to love him; I would never hurt him. Sam Rogers believes me, don't you Sam Rogers? We're both wearing white hot magic together." Niko went to speak again but had no words.

Theo sat down heavily in the nearest chair and stared at the table. "Why would HELEN make such terrible accusations? Is this because I was mean to her? I'm sorry HELEN! I didn't mean it. I didn't mean any of it. You've been alone in this place all those years and I should have been nicer to you. People were mean to me too and I should have been nicer to you. Please don't Red Queen me. I don't want to die down here. I'm not .. I'm not .. I'm not crazy; I'm just different than the rest of you. I just want to save the universe. I don't even care about the Big Playground anymore. I just want to save the universe. That's not crazy, Niko. That's heroic."

Theo's left hand had begun to tremble and she sat quietly watching while Gwen looked through her file. Finally she asked, "What does it say?"

“Uhhh … well … HEY!” Gwen said, the file vanished from her hands.

Niko had grabbed the file from Gwen - quickly - and held up his free hand in defense.

"Why didn't you tell me, Niko? Why did you let me put on this stupid uniform and talk all these people into following us when you knew all along? I thought you were supposed to protect me. Even from myself."

“I do protect you.” he protested. “But there’s nothing to protect you from. Dr. Lollis said that a few things might need to be changed up, so we’ll change them up and everything will be okay. You have to trust me. I won’t let anything happen to you, and you will save the universe. I know it. Everyone here knows it. You’re okay, and I’ll make sure you stay that way. Honest and swear.”

“The containment cells are noted, thank you HELEN. If something happens, we know we can keep her safe here. Until then, we request you return at least some of her command privileges.” Sam spoke out.

Niko shot Sam a look which he hoped conveyed that containment cells weren’t an option to be entertained. Sam met his gaze, but seemed unmoved.

“Changed up? What is the Doctor changing up? I had my physical before we left New Hampshire and I haven’t been sick and that weird rash went away as soon as I stopped wearing …. underpanties,” Theo whispered loudly. “Really should have stopped wearing those ages ago. So what am I supposed to change, Niko? Just tell me and I’ll change it because I don’t want to be in a Hulk prison by myself. Can Gwen come with me, at least?”

“Theo, please calm yourself. No one is trying to throw you in any prison,” Sam replied. “We simply want to make sure all precautions are taken, nothing more. Now can we please attempt to focus?”

“From past experience,” Niko said as an aside to Sam. “I have found that telling someone not calm to be calm does not end very well. Don’t worry, Miskja, I’ll take care of things with Dr. Lollis. And you know I would never let anyone lock you up.”

But it looked like Niko's aside to Sam was unwarranted, perhaps only this once. Theo was almost calm; had lost all her steam in fact. She sat without speaking and was motionless except for her trembling left hand and eyes which shifted around constantly among the others. Niko knew that look - paranoia and fear.

Gwen watched as they talked back and forth as what little team building they had achieved began to crumble. She really didn’t know what to say or add. They were all older then her and honestly she didn’t know if they would listen anyway. “How about actually be a team and help each other.” She mumbled irritably.

Sure Theo wasn’t easy and she might not get along with her 100% but it didn’t take a Doctor to see the girl had issues. Frankly, you had to be blind not to see it. “You know fact is no matter what any of you say, THEO brought us together and none of you had the sack to do it first! She may not be LEADER material, but you would not BE here if it wasn’t for her and Niko!” Gwen shot at Sam. “So how about a bit of perspective and teamwork!” She added crossing her arms. Yea! Take that! “So what is the next move?” She demanded changing the subject in the only way a teenager could; with force!

Sam slowly turned his gaze to Gwen, amazed by her behavior. “Gwen, I’m disappointed in you. That’s a child’s response and I know you’re better than that. Do you really believe the thing I’m lacking in this moment is ‘perspective’ or that I have any problem with her, or any of you, taking lead? What I’m lacking right now is patience. We just risked our lives, are trying to rebuild something substantial and are now stuck talking about problems people have with checks and balances in regards to their own power.” He looked back at Niko and Theo. “No one is locking her up anywhere, it’s simply a precaution ALL of us should have in that regard. Powers can easily corrupt and go wrong. And it’s best to be put in check by those who care about us, rather than those who misunderstand. Banner and Stark clearly knew that much. If we aren’t willing to put our own power in check, then how will anyone ever trust us? How will anyone out there not simply compare us to the rogues out there? Believe it or not, both in your files and in person, there is leadership material in all of you. So it doesn’t matter to me who decides to call the shots. So long as we are all aimed at the same goal, I will follow. Now can we PLEASE focus?!” Sam looked around a moment waiting, expecting a response, but received none. “HELEN. There will be no more containment talk from this point forward unless we as a collective, activate said protocols. Now. Please scan these files, tell us what is and is not accurate and we will simply go from there.” He sat again, rubbing his eyes, almost looking defeated.

"Don't talk down to Ghost Spider Girl." Niko warned protectively. "She has a mother to be disappointed in her. If anyone should be disappointed in someone it would be me and Thorson. Seriously kvedjeso, not even a head's up?" He said to the Demi-god, while Erik focused hard on the ground and didn't bother to try and explain. Niko patted Erik's shoulder and offered him a nod. "But I'm not disappointed in him, he did what he thought was right and that's all any of us can do. We're going to make mistakes. I made a lot. I'll make a lot more. We're going to fuck shit up, and maybe sometimes one of us may sleepwalk naked. At the end of the day none of us really know what we are doing. We're it. I was sort of counting on us, all of us, figuring it out as we go, like a team. A team which does not wear matching uniforms."

"So what now?" Erik said softly, his head was still firmly aimed at the ground for fear of seeing anyone's disappointed stares. Sam's comments in particular stuck in his head. This team seemed more and more like a time bomb than any sort of precaution against danger. Niko's words were nice, but the fact that they didn't know what they were doing didn't ease his mind. He wanted to go home, or at least somewhere he wouldn't hurt people like he was now.

“We clean up.” Niko replied. “Maybe Gwen can get some murder bots to help. You can make one a roomba or something, right? Thorson, you’re on heavy lifting, anything above 450 lbs, because that’s what Sammy can bench. This happens all the time on TV and everyone has a great time. It’s our first work together as a team project. Miskja, you know you love group efforts.”

Theo clearly hadn’t been paying any attention to the discussions going on around her. She reached for the file still clutched in Niko’s hands. It wasn’t much of an effort, but she tried. “I’d like to know what it says in my file; what S.H.I.E.L.D. knows about me that I don’t. And I’d like to get a second opinion from someone who is not an artificial lady, I see enough of those when I’m sleepwalking. Because I don’t trust Doctor Lolly, anymore. Either he knows something I don’t and hasn’t told me the truth or I’m totally fine and he has been keeping secrets with you, Niko. Either way, I should update my almanac with these important new data points. I don’t want to forget anything when I go to the public library and do a search for a new doctor or the definition of cousin because clearly it doesn’t mean what I thought it did.”

Niko winced, visibly stung from his cousin’s words, his patience for sitting and talking at an end. He wasn’t even sure what the file said, but he had a pretty good indication, and he knew what it’d do to Theo if she read it. He nodded his head, shifting his jaw back and forth as he rolled the file into a baton shape, his free hand balled into a fist. “Who cares what it says?” He said hotly. “S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t know you. This file, all our files are just words on a paper from someone that knows ‘about’ us, but doesn’t know us, doesn’t know any of us, except maybe Sam. Does S.H.I.E.L.D. know what it’s like to be fast or crawl on walls or be Foster-Thorson? Do you think anyone writing this understands magic, how it sometimes can mess with what you think or see until illusions wear off and you come back to reality? No. But I do, because I’ve been with you every day since you were three and we had to leave Sokovia. I’ve been with you, NOT S.H.I.E.L.D. There is nothing wrong with you. They use words that box you into something they understand, but all they do is compare you to ‘normal.’ Guess what? You’re not! No one in this room is ‘normal,’ Theo. Put that in your almanac!” He blurred to the door. “The rest of you can read or mope or go home or do whatever you want. I’m going to do what I said and clean this shit up.”

Sam stood back up, pulled Theo out of her chair and hugged her tightly. She did not return the hug, standing there with her arms at her side like a limp noodle while Sam tried to cheer her up. But they looked amazing together in their white leather uniforms. Niko was definitely wrong about that. “It’s going to be okay,” Sam said. “We all have to be here for each other.” He smiled at her. “Now what do you say we turn this place into a home away from home?”

"This will never be my home," Theo whispered. "This place will never understand me like the Sanctum does. None of you will."

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