Agents of PRT: Call me Phil
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Disclaimer: This story is based off of "Worm", an original web serial by Wildbow, all intellectual rights to and characters belong to Wildbow. Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., is a television series created for ABC by Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen, based on the Marvel Comics characters and organizations.
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I am tired of this whole thing with the PRT asking questions, questions about the future, about odds of how the economy is going to be affected by the portal, of which villains are coming to town next, questions about the next heist of the Undersiders. Even if they never believe when I tell them the low odds of them doing anything but to defend their territory and help with the recovery of the town.
They always treat me as if I was on their side, as if I had wanted to help Coil. As if I'm still colluded with Skitter despite all the information I have gave them, of how much of her trust I have broken. I do want to help Skitter. I ought her a lot more than these guys can ever imagine; not only my life or my freedom, but my family, believing in me and in them even when I lost hope.
But I can't repay her, not if I want to make the numbers just a little better. The best thing I can do is to betray her in such a way that she can't fight back, that she can't hurt or be hurt when they go after her.
So I tell Miss Militia about her visit to the school, about how she's going as a civilian without gear or backup, about the low probability of any hostage situation being successful, different variables to increase the probability of capture. Even some of the longer odds for her to understand that resistance is futile.
I hate myself so much for it that I didn't take the Ibuprofen they offered afterwards despite it being the longest Q&A session I ever had for the PRT.
And yet not even a day later than that and I'm having another meeting with the PRT while my parents are filling even more pointless paperwork. At least this time is not in their headquarters, but in a small restaurant nearby that survived the lasts months mostly by catering to the officers and capes going in and out of the building. I figure that this is one more attempt to get me into the Protectorate, one a little more subtle than the heavy handed approach they have been doing on me and my parents.
Luckily the comprehensive price list for my powers, including things such as questions per hour and reevaluation of probabilities, alongside the recommendations for an independent security outfit that I suspect was send to my parents by Tattletale nipped that in the bud in a decisive manner, taking both their greatest carrot and their biggest stick at the same time.
At least the location reduces the probability of meeting that man Tagg to a single digit; in all futures he's a jerk, unable to do something nice for a anyone, cape or not. Not that I'm not meeting him eventually, he has over a 75.18% chance of being appointed Coil's successor, and a 21.89% of being the second in command of whoever is chosen as the new Director.
Finally someone comes to my table in the terrace just that instead of being Miss Militia or Vista is a balding old man in a suit with a warm smile. Then either a PRT agent from their main branch or a recruiter from Cauldron in which case she was dead or slaved again. Trying the best I could to cover the sudden spike of fear I used my power to ask myself the identity of the man as he started to introduce himself.
"Good afternoon Dinah, my name is…"
The moment I heard of the meeting place I calculated the odds of who I was going to see, just in case it was neither Tagg nor Miss Militia. "63.27% you're a senior PRT officer, 21.13% you're a cape send by Alexandria to get me into the Protectorate by any means necessary, 14.54% you're a negotiator from a third party that bribed his way into this meeting, 1.06% you're the new Director of Brockton Bay's PRT."
"It's the last one; I always go for the long odds. While Director Costa-Brown and I don't agree on a lot of things, Legend put a good word for me before his retirement. Nice Guy, he of all people deserve to rest. A few tears back I would have recommended him Tahiti; now that was a magical place for a holiday, shame it's no longer the same place."
"What do you need to know?" I know that three questions have been prepaid so the sooner I answer them the sooner I can leave.
"Do you know which dishes on the menu are the best? I asked around but the guys at the headquarters tell me this place menu is getting to the old quality standards now that fresh produce is arriving once more to the city. I'm particularly interested on the desserts."
I am still learning to control how not to ask questions to my power after so much time answering Coil to stop the cravings for candies, so I could barely stop myself before wasting one attempt on the fool in front of me.
"Oh, sorry. Miss, what do you recommend from the menu?" He ended getting each of us a hamburger and a coke while I gave him my best glare. I was starting to feel the first non-powered non chemical headache I had in months.
"Stop this; just tell me what you want to know before I increase the price of the predictions for the PRT in a 5%."
"Well, that clinches it. You got a very impressive scheme for payment for services rendered. It takes so many variables into consideration, from the amount of questions done per hour, day and week to such nebulous concepts such as punitive damages under your direct control and for breach of contract. Now while a really good actuary might be able to balance those numbers as well as your father did with some effort but I don't think that you would tell anyone all the particulars of your power, some of them maybe but with the stakes in play that would be a little too much trust. So I'm guessing that someone who knows your powers as well as you do helped to calculate the rates. Maybe Tattletale?"
Thinker, I realized, the PRT is supposed to be formed with only common people but Alexandria didn't hold herself to that standard anyway. Hastily I reached with my power to see what kind, and the answer surprised me so much that I just blurted it. "0% chance of you being a thinker, or any other kind of cape."
"No, I'm not a thinker, but I like to think I can think from time to time," he said with one of his smiles, "in this case my thinking was to ask for help to a friend of mine who is a forensic accountant. Nice guy, you wouldn't believe how much of a party animal he is." He paused to eat from his hamburger, giving me time to recover from the previous shock. He was almost like a male Tattletale.
"Now seriously what I need is information on Skitter and Tattletale. Not about her future, but things like her personality and goals. Would you believe that no one knows what they are planning now that they aren't working under Coil? They aren't normal criminals, in fact I don't know if calling them criminals is the proper word. I already had a long chat with Defiant about Armsmaster's relationship with Skitter, and Clockblocker and Miss Militia had and interesting conversation with her during the Echidna incident but you're probably the person that knows her mo…"
For the second time I interrupted him midsentence. "I already gave you all you need to get her tomorrow at school; you even know her real name. What else do you need?" I asked bitterly.
"Frankly I don't plan to try to capture her tomorrow at school, Chief Director's orders or not. It is never a good idea to corner someone so blatantly, much less with children in the crossfire; simply not worth it. And even if I was certain that there would be no casualties I wouldn't do it anyway, not by breaking the truce more than it has been broken by forcing Dragon to unmask her. She sounded so ashamed of it when I talked to her this morning…"
"Oh shit." The whisper came out of my mouth unbidden. All of my actions were done on the basis that Tagg or Williams or any other of the rising stars of the PRT would take the post; someone who wouldn't hesitate to break the game and get such notorious criminal as Skitter. When I did my calculations he wasn't even in the single digits, Alexandria in her guise of Costa-Brown always choosing someone more aggressive before she stepped down from her position as Chief Director leaving a puppet in her place. And always pressuring Taylor to the point she would fight back and cripple her standing and influence in the PRT and the Protectorate or even kill her if the circumstances were just right.
But now the long odds caught me completely unaware.
"Don't worry, when we go after Skitter I promise you that we'll do our best not to hurt her."
"No, you have to do it tomorrow, if not the numbers get worse!"
"The numbers, you mean your predictions. Then why don't we work together to make them better? There is always the chance of a better solution."
"No there isn't. No matter what I try, the numbers get worse every time. The end of the world was supposed to be in sixteen years, then in fifteen and then in two. And if you don't force her hand then it only gets worse."
He frowned, his face demonstrating sympathy rather than the pity I have grown used by now. "You shouldn't have to carry that burden alone. Let us help you; between the PRT and the Protectorate and many other smart and resourceful people we might find a solution."
"No, I can't. Not with them watching, not yet!" I know I am spluttering nonsense. But he doesn't understand how many players are in the game, of how Cauldron won't hesitate to kill anyone that blows the whistle, regardless of strength or notoriety, as they have been doing it since almost the moment I was free.
"Okay so let me ask my prepaid questions, you don't even need to give me the answer out loud. What are the odds for me to listen to you and do my best to help you with this burden? What are the odds that regardless of affiliation and chain of command I keep the secrets you want me to keep and support your plans to the limits of my conscience and skills? And finally what are the odds of me trying to do the best not only for the world at large but for all people under my care, capes and common people alike?"
I processed the numbers at once and then when I was done I did variations of the questions. I felt my eyes fill up with tears.
"Okay why don't we try to introduce ourselves once more? Good afternoon Dinah, my name is Phillip Coulson, I'm the new Director of Brockton's Bay Parahuman Response Team. But you can call me Phil." He extended his hand and I gingerly took it. "I'm Dinah Alcott, nice to meet you."
"Good, now why don't eat your hamburger and then help me to decide which dessert is better, I'm taking the A for Apple Pie."
Never had the power induced headache seemed as light and irrelevant as I ate that afternoon with Phil.
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I was wondering how the story would be different from Chrysalis if instead of a Hung Ho psycho the PRT was led by a competent and humane director. Then I saw Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and got this idea. Hope you like it.