|Ava Starr / Ghost (stealthyy) wrote in avengers_logs,|
@ 2019-06-18 17:09:00
|Entry tags:||-complete, ava starr, t'challa|
Everything was still new and strange about this universe. But after traveling to San Francisco to check on Bill; Ava was beginning to feel a little more settled. He’d been her only family for most of her life, so just knowing he was alive and well did a great deal to make her feel more at home here. And the beginning ties of friendship seemed possible with two people Ava would have never expected - Hope and Scott. Things were looking up, especially thanks to the fact that her condition was now more stable than it had been her entire life.
She hadn’t had a single moment of unintentional phasing, all thanks to Hope and Scott’s efforts in gaining the healing particles from the quantum tunnel. It was so oddly exciting to be able to do simple things like make coffee in the morning - all without worrying about breaking something because she couldn’t hold onto it without her body flickering in and out of solidity.
So tonight was a big step. She was venturing out to do normal things people her age did - go out for drinks. No missions, no espionage, and no worrying about having to rush back to a quantum stabilization chamber before her body fell to pieces like some weird version of a super powered Cinderella.
At 8 o'clock on the dot, the doors of the elevator opened and Ava stepped out into the lobby of the apartment complex.
Although Mrs Potts-Stark had given her quite the helpful list of places to choose from, Ava hadn’t yet had a chance to go out and pick up new clothing since her arrival. Wearing the suit to go out for drinks was out of the question, but thankfully Hope had been able to help her out with a simple black dress and heels - Ava appreciated fine clothes (which Hope had an entire closet of).
T’Challa was there - he’d arrived five minutes before, so when the elevator doors dinged shut he turned to face his eight o’clock meeting. Except it wasn’t really a meeting, it was drinks - a night out. Something fun.
In Wakanda, he always dressed as a king - in ways that separated him from the splashes of color and the Afropunk designs. Here was no different, though he wore nothing rooted in tradition, necessarily - it was a sleek black suit, a dinner jacket with a bit of a gloss and sheen to it. Kind of a match to his panther habit, which also shimmered and allowed him to move with a balletic sort of grace.
She looked nice too, and he smiled when he saw her. “Ava, yes? I am T’Challa,” he greeted. He didn’t need to introduce himself as royalty - not for something casual. “How have your first few hours in this universe gone?” he asked before holding out his arm for her to take for the walk to the bar.
Upon seeing him, Ava was all the more appreciative of Hope for letting her borrow something nice to wear. Given how well put together he looked, she would have felt really out of place in just jeans and a tee shirt. She smiled at him in greeting, thinking he looked like the sort of man that wouldn’t infuriate her by the end of the evening - so they were already off to a good start. She had a sixth sense about that sort of thing. Of course she’d seen his face on the news, knew him for being the King of a country that was more technologically advanced than anything the world had seen. Which did intrigue her, admittedly; but she had never been the sort to fumble at meeting a dignitary. Keeping a certain neutrality about new people was one of the many things she’d been trained to do from her days working as a spy.
“Eventful,” was her immediate response, a raise of her brows indicating how much of an understatement that was. She took his arm smoothly, noting the texture of the fabric of his suit as it slid along her arm - very finely stitched, pleasant to the touch. She couldn’t seem to stop noticing little details like that, when it had to do with touch; after having gone so long without reliable access to that sense. She finally felt like she could actually interact with the world around her, fully.
“Someone actually offered me a grant, right there on the network - can you believe that?” A lot had happened since her arrival, yet that interaction stuck out in her mind, as it had happened more recently. “I declined the offer. It was very generous, but I’d prefer to make my own way.” People offering large sums of money for something she hadn’t yet done or earned made her uneasy. “Thank you for inviting me, by the way,” she said, remembering her manners as they walked down the street; it wasn’t terribly busy out and the night was pleasantly warm - not too hot, or too cool.
“People are very generous around here, from what I have seen. It is not a bad thing but I know what you mean - devising your own path is important,” T’Challa said. He was hardly ever certain what to do when people he was meeting for the first time made a big deal about his royal status - Shuri always got a good laugh out of it, but her brother was more reserved. So the fact that right now it was like meeting anyone else for Ava, well, it set him at ease.
The bar they were going to was out of the way and difficult to find - it was purposely tucked in an alleyway which did not smell great. New York had many different aromas, depending on the time of day. Like the subway was practically baking in urine in the morning, and at night it was more...wet garbage left out on the street. Not pleasant, but the bar was something else entirely.
He held the door open for Ava. Inside, it took you back to an apothecary of yore, with a menu describing cocktails for whatever was ‘ailing’ you.’ The bartenders were wearing white coats, just like pharmacists, and fit in with the whole vintage atmosphere - sconces made of boiling flasks, wooden furniture, cascading velvet curtains. A table was selected, one out of the way of traffic - people coming in, looking around in delight, and immediately whipping out their phones to take photos.
Phones. So primitive.
“But if you wish to make your own way, what is it that you would like to do?” he asked, handing her a menu to look over.
People were oddly generous here, and it made her a little suspicious; but it was probably just how things were. Hard to believe, but she’d get used to it.
Ava was pretty delighted by the interior of this particular bar, her eyes going wide as she took in the details. She’d never seen anything like it before, most bars were sort of dark and depressing; but this was so lively and creative. It was also good that he’d chosen a table out of the way of the main entrance; having people snapping photos of the interior while they were trying to chat would get old quickly.
“I haven’t decided that yet,” she answered, after sliding into her seat and taking a look at the menu. It was a little overwhelming, so many choices and colorful names; but she liked that many of these drinks were completely new to her. “I used to work as a covert agent for SHIELD. That didn’t end well,” she stated, and left it at that. Couldn’t very well get into the whole tragic back-story within moments of their first drink.
“Whatever I do, I want it to be something that… benefits people,” she said, struggling a little at how best to word it. “Rather than causing harm. There’s enough of that already, everywhere you look.” She’d done enough harm in her life. Some of those people did deserve it, so she held no regrets there. She was seeking a form of redemption now, and the path to get there wasn’t exactly clear cut; so long as she avoided working for a corrupt organization that used people - that was a good enough start.
“If you’ve been here before, have you got any recommendations?”
Working for SHIELD was quite self-explanatory. It had been rocky for the organization, T’Challa was well aware. “I recently handled a...situation, one that involved Wakanda and working in conjunction with SHIELD. I know they have reformed and are starting fresh. Let us hope it goes smoothly this time,” he replied, opening his own menu to scan the offerings. “Working to help others is a noble endeavor. It is all I want to do as well, with the various outreach centers.”
But he wouldn’t go on and on about that all night - he’d sound boring and far too squeaky clean to be interesting. Truth was, there was a lot on his mind lately, a lot he carried on his shoulders - the dealings with Thomas Green, for one, not to mention the fake vibranium weapons still out there. And the increase in undersea quakes, something he was talking to Okoye about late into the night here - there was the time difference, but also the fact that he was growing more and more concerned about it all.
“I actually have not been here before but we can try new things together,” he grinned. “The Old Fashioned sounds quite good.” It was under the aphrodisiac section, but surely it wasn’t actually one, unless they dumped in a gallon of liquor.
There was also a drink called Pink Panther but he’d avoid that. It sounded like it’d rot his teeth.
Ava wondered just how different things were within SHIELD, if even the King of Wakanda was open to collaboration with them. She supposed time would tell how reformed the organization was; either way, she’d be keeping an eye on things from a distance. And with Hope working for them, Ava trusted that she would inform her if any corruption cropped up again - she’d want to help put a stop to it, if so.
T’Challa had called working to help others noble and honestly, that wasn’t ever a word she would associate herself with; but maybe it was something she could gradually work up to. It was a good goal to have, at least; and she liked that he seemed to have the same drive toward helping others. Especially for a King - she’d dealt with some questionable rulers over the years, not all of them were concerned over helping their people.
“I’ve read about the outreach centers,” she commented, interest in her tone. “Not many countries care enough to offer that, and there’s no shortage of people who need help.” Not that every country could even offer what Wakanda could, but it made it all the more impressive that they did. They had a lot, and they were willing to share it. Other countries ought to follow that example. Ava had grown up in Argentina, Britain, and lived all over; as a result, there wasn’t any particular country she felt a strong loyalty to; and she was still getting used to America.
There were lots of drinks with fruity and sweet ingredients, but an Old Fashioned sounded the most appealing to her; so that was what she ordered when their server wandered by a few moments later. “How long ago did you… arrive here? In this universe, I mean.”
The Old Fashioned boasted a combination that T’Challa was looking forward to trying - saffron, a bit of orange, some agave. A little sweet, but not in a way to make the eyes cross. Plus, he found he was a fan of bourbon in general - he liked the spicy ones. Not red pepper spicy, but reminiscent of baking spices instead - clove, cinnamon, vanilla.
“We aim to open more outreach centers around the world,” he shared. “We have one in Oakland already, in a building that is...let’s just say very important to me. But Brazil, Australia, and Sudan are next. We will work with the local populations to meet their needs, and Wakanda has the means to do so. We will call these centers hubs of creativity and innovation. The centers are almost complete - for me, it’s more rewarding to oversee this. Then you have HYDRA engineer scum trying to push out fake vibranium weapons,” he uttered darkly.
One of the risks of breaking away from isolationism, the King knew that. People felt threatened and envious - some politicians even thought Wakanda could not be trusted with vibranium (despite how rich they were in the metal, and had been for thousands of years).
But anyway. “I have been in this universe about a month,” T’Challa added, then checked his Kimoyo beads to be certain - yes, there we go. “28 days, 9 hours, 5 minutes and 46 seconds.” There was a spark of amusement in his eyes. “It has been interesting so far.”
Ava smiled as he spoke about the outreach centers. It was clear they meant something to him, and as far as ‘noble’ went, she was pretty sure his efforts toward that fit the definition perfectly. She could understand why it would be such a rewarding endeavor - giving assistance to people and locations that needed it. It was, sadly, the opposite of what she had spent her early adulthood years doing; when working for SHIELD.
Her expression darkened when he mentioned HYDRA. “My time with SHIELD ended before HYDRA took control over the organization, but I know about what they’ve done.” Although SHIELD itself had treated her poorly before HYDRA even came into the picture, she still considered HYDRA to be the greater evil. And now they were interfering in Wakandan weapons, apparently. It wasn’t surprising, but it did spark anger in her. They really did think they could get away with just about anything, didn’t they?
“Fake vibranium?” she echoed, as if it was a little preposterous. As far as she knew, that highly valuable metal was only found within Wakandan borders. “Is anything being done to combat this?” She was pretty certain the answer was yes, but she wanted to know specifics; assuming he would share. It might be highly classified information, not entirely suitable over drinks. But as usual, Ava tended toward bluntness, and didn’t much care for what was or wasn’t suitable.
“Having only been here a few days myself; I think ‘interesting’ is probably an understatement,” she said with a grin as their server arrived and set down the drinks. That first taste was strong, but pleasantly so - the sweetness of agave mixed with the orange was a nice combination. “Not interesting enough for you to need more security detail on you, I take it?” she asked, in reference to his Dora Milaje. From what she’d seen of him via the news, he was rarely without them.
“The whole fake vibranium situation has increased my desire for security - a different sort of force though, not the Dora Milaje,” T’Challa clarified. “I speak regularly with my top general, and she is handling things in Wakanda.” For the meantime, he could handle himself - it was difficult, running a country from abroad but technology and the ability to travel quickly to his home made it a little easier. He would persevere.
Picking up his glass, he sipped his drink, eyes closing for a moment to savor the flavor. The saffron came out very nicely but it was subtle - floral, almost. “Thomas Green, the engineer in charge has been handled - “ Meaning, dead, “...and his team’s research has been recovered. There are still some weapons floating around, however. Ones with a self-destruct mechanism should they be tampered with.”
Another sip of his drink; he already knew he would order another. There was no question about it. “Not that such a simple mechanism can’t be worked around - child’s play for my sister. It is just a matter of finding the strays.”
She nodded as she listened, taking another sip from her drink. What he was describing sounded familiar enough to her, or rather, someone like Thomas Green sounded familiar, in her previous line of work. How many men like him had she been tasked with killing, or stealing from? She couldn’t guess at the number. But in this case, the fact that Thomas Green had been ‘handled’, was a very good thing. People like that ought to be removed from the world. One less threat to worry about. But she knew that wasn’t a sentiment shared by everyone.
“In that case, I’m glad to hear he’s been taken care of,” she commented, glancing at him as she took another sip from her drink.
“Rigged to self destruct if tampered with sounds like another level of petty,” she said with a small sigh. Couldn’t people just be evil in more straightforward ways? Apparently not. But those weapons sounded dangerous, especially if they wound up in the wrong hands. Innocent hands, to be more specific. It was rare, but still possible; and Ava knew more than a little about being at the mercy of a technological device gone haywire.
“I take it your sister is busy with things at home, not traveling the world to locate these weapons?” If she was as intelligent as T’Challa said, Ava imagined they probably needed her close to home to deal with the country’s own engineering and scientific needs as they cropped up. Talent like that was too valuable to risk. “If you need someone to gather up those weapons, I’d be willing,” she offered, almost as an aside. “I can’t be hurt by a malfunctioning device.” She phased her hand through the table in a brief demonstration. Technically, she had been greatly hurt by one before - the quantum tunnel her father tried to engineer. But if she could prevent something similar from happening to anyone else; it was worthwhile to at least offer.
T’Challa coughed, drink sloshing in his glass and down the wrong pipe along his throat - he hadn’t been expecting a demonstration, so he was caught a little off guard. In a good way, however. He was impressed.
“No, my sister is home - she has her own lab there and it is where she wishes to be.” Shuri would fight if she needed to, and she enjoyed traveling to Oakland (additionally, to the menace known as Disneyland much to her brother’s exasperated dismay) but her heart lay with her science and engineering work. Traveling around, hunting fake vibranium? Definitely not for her. “But you - well, now you must tell me more about yourself,” he encouraged.
She had his rapt attention.
She had to chuckle a little at that reaction. Nearly sputtering out a drink was better than a room full of men shrieking and calling her Baba Yaga, at least.
Ava wasn’t the best when it came to talking about herself. She was better at listening and gathering information; rarely ever did the focus shift back onto her, which was usually intentional. But in this case, she had offered T’Challa her help, so it seemed fair to disclose certain parts of her history to him.
“Well, if you’d like to know how it’s possible for me to do that, I’ll start there,” she began, leaning back in her chair a bit. “I grew up in Argentina. My father worked for SHIELD, in the field of quantum research. He had a falling out with a colleague, which lead to him being fired and discredited. He was desperate to continue his work and restore his name; so he kept going, kept experimenting, kept building.” Ava’s voice became slightly softer as she went on, the pain of her memories not having dulled even after so much time had passed.
“One of his experiments with a quantum tunnel went wrong. He told me and my mother to run - there was nothing left to do. But I didn’t want him to die alone. So I ran back, just as the tunnel exploded. It killed both of my parents, and left me with this,” she demonstrated once more, her raised hand flickering out of solidity then disappearing for a brief moment, utilizing her ability to pass in and out of the visible spectrum. To demonstrate her enhanced strength would likely cause property damage, so probably best to avoid that for now.
“I was inundated with quantum energy, which left me in a far worse state than death; for many years. Constant pain, and an inability to control my phasing. I couldn’t touch anything, nothing was solid. It was agony.” She fell silent as a group of people walked by, not wanting any of this to be overheard, she waited for them to pass before continuing. “Afterward, I was placed in a shelter; which was where Bill Foster found me. He’s a good man. He helped me, built a stabilization chamber for me, encouraged me. Eventually, SHIELD saw potential in me, regrettably,” her tone hardened then. “They trained me, built me a containment suit, and… I did… a lot of bad things for them, because they promised to cure me of my affliction. It doesn’t excuse my actions, but—” she paused for a moment, thinking she was saying too much. “Long story short, Hope Van Dyne and Scott Lang were the ones to actually help stabilize my condition, when I appeared in this universe. Hope’s mother started it, they finished it. I owe them a great debt. And I… have things to make up for, in my past. I want to help where I can, so people don’t have to be harmed the way I was.”
Her story was fascinating, truly - and sad, in a way. To think of all Ava had missed out on while growing up, not even getting a chance to mourn the loss of her parents, her self-worth essentially being defined as how good of a weapon she could be. Made for someone else’s use,
“You are obviously quite talented but the wrong people used you - you were not a tool to be used,” T’Challa frowned a bit, glass twisting around in his hands. Not to mention a life of pain, every second, every heartbeat - just feeling it. “If you work with me, you can be assured my methods and goals differ from that of SHIELD’s. I only aim to do what is best for Wakanda - we are no longer hiding from the world, but we will not tolerate attacks of any kind.”
No one was stupid enough to try to physically attack the nation (besides Thanos - and that had been a big enough mess) but to attempt to besmirch their standing, to stir up chaos and trouble out of jealousy, well, that was just as bad in T’Challa’s view.
Ava’s gaze turned steely for a moment, when he’d made mention of SHIELD having used her. It was a long time ago, but not quite long enough for that anger to completely abate. And maybe it never would - after all, it still simmered near the surface; ready to tap into at any moment. Her earliest experiences in life were grief, pain, and then being a disposable weapon for an organization she thought would help her.
It was enough to fuel her anger for a lifetime. But what she did with that anger, and how she used it; Ava wanted that to be different. She’d been given a remarkable gift in the quantum healing particles, a respite from constant pain. She didn’t want to use her abilities the way she had when she’d worked for SHIELD. She wanted to do something better with what she’d been given. Which was why she felt some relief when T’Challa mentioned his methods differed from SHIELD’s. “I don’t doubt it,” she said, in response. What she’d seen of Wakanda was an advanced society, flourishing and abundant. You didn’t get that way by acting out of excessive greed, or corruption.
“I don’t know as much about your country as I would like,” she admitted, “But if it’s anything like what you say - that’s a place I’d like to protect,” she said with conviction. It wasn’t her home, but she’d never really had one to begin with. Still, she wanted to help.
“Though I won’t lie to you - I’ve done things I regret, in my past. I’ve killed for SHIELD, and far worse. That’s not a path I’m on anymore, but I’d understand if you would rather hire someone with a cleaner record.” She’d leave it up to him. Better he know beforehand that she wasn’t exactly Captain America.
T’Challa understood. He had asked Bucky to assist with the formation of the new international security force - and he was aware that the White Wolf’s record was not exactly sparkling clean either. “We do what we have to do,” he said grimly, thinking of Erik - he wished he had been able to save his cousin. Didn’t even want to jam a blade into his stomach at all - but that’s what it had come down to; Erik would have destroyed the world otherwise.
“I have killed my own family - but we were at odds, me and him. His slash and burn way of looking at the world...no, I could not let him continue. Perhaps previous rulers have made mistakes in isolating Wakanda and purposely choosing to not share its gifts with our brothers and sisters in need, but I will do what is right to rectify that, not just kill more people to make up for it.”
He hadn’t meant to ramble - but the situation with Erik still stuck to his heart like burrs; it still weighed him down. Knocking back what was left of his drink, he asked for another - and whatever Ava wanted next - when the server checked on them. “I will give you all the information I have on the remaining weapons,” he promised. “And then, when they have been turned over to Wakanda, I will meet you there. Show you everything about our country.”
We do what we have to do. That was a truth that not everyone understood, and though T’Challa didn’t know the exact specifics of all the things she had done to try and save her own life; she felt as though he would have understood that as well. After all, if he had been forced to kill his own cousin, there were few wounds that went deeper than that.
“I’ve known my share of people who operated with the same outlook,” she commented. The slash and burn tactic was pretty popular when you were desperate and angry. She could relate to it, for all that she knew now that it wasn’t the only way to get things done. But without Bill Foster’s influence, she might have never realized that until it was too late. “I was on a similar path myself, for a while,” she admitted, casting her gaze away for a moment. “But I agree. It’s not a path that leads to anything other than destruction.” She felt for him, having to make what must have been an agonizing choice for the good of his country.
“I look forward to it,” she said, offering a smile as she knocked back the rest of her drink, just as the server placed a new one down in front of her. Ava would look forward to gathering up the stolen weapons, as well as the invitation to see Wakanda in person. It didn’t seem real - a country filled with people that looked similar to her, yet none of them were struggling to get by, everyone was flourishing. She was eager to see it; and to take a step in the direction of rectifying her past deeds, by using her abilities to help rather than harm.