1963-09-12 - Directive Directions
Summary: After losing Coney Island, the Project takes a new turn.
Related: Missing Pieces Plot
Theme Song: None
natasha stryker deathstrike 

It took quite a bit of pomp and circumstance to arrive at the small conference room in the Pentagon. While it hardly counts as a 'major thoroughfare', getting access proved difficult throughout every avenue of the entryway. Of course, having your name on the list helps. And having the correct badge doesn't hurt either.

The long board table of the room has multiple designates sitting at it, including several sitting Senators, an Asian woman, and William Stryker. Of course, the designated Senators hardly have time for discussion. So as the other members of the team arrive, they take their leave, with a white haired man imploring Stryker, "No more mistakes." He taps his temple expectantly. "Remember what we discussed."

A dark haired man sits at the end of the table with his fingers steepled. He turns the chair around. "This is very troubling, Commander," he issues gravely as others join the meeting. Whatever troubles him is not expanded on.

Instead, Stryker assumes point, rising to his feet and clapping his hands together to get his attention of the staff. "We have work to do. Losing Coney Island and New Orleans were huge blows to the project — "


Gretchen Steingate certainly looks better than she did just a week ago, when she was picked up by the security team screaming her head off about feral mutant children and ghosts. Her features are taut as she and the rest of the staff are ushered in, and while her eyes track the white haired man on his way out, they wind up sinking to the table in rather short order. With no interviews to conduct, she's got a notebook tucked under her arm instead of a clipboard; with no patients to see, she left the white coat at home.

Her head flicks up with a start when Stryker claps. After swallowing hard, she is able to reassert a roughly neutral expression while keeping her eyes not-quite-on-him.

"It was horrible, what those things did," she murmurs, barely audible in the confined space. "We have to get back on our feet."


A nod is given towards Gretchen as Stryker begins to move about the room. "Main base continues to be where it always has. Those with restricted access will be given the required codes as needed." His arms fold tightly over his chest. "I'm sure you're all aware of what is at stake. The project itself lost large pieces of research with both New Orleans and Coney Island, but there are far more important components to consider."

Stryker looks towards the turned chair, but the man with the dark hair says nothing, choosing to stare at the wall while Stryker speaks.

And so Stryker continues with his pep talk. "We will deal with the defective weapons accordingly. To my knowledge all assets still have their triggers, yes?"

"Affirmative," the Asian woman replies as she blinks in response. "Commander," she states blandly, "your notes suggest that expediency in activating each out be wise."

Stryker lifts a hand to silence the woman's thoughts. "Brahms lullaby is the simplest trigger. It will call them back to command. When they see Coney Island is no longer operational, they will, inherently, return to the next place in their call structure."


"'Triggers'." Brows knitting, Gretchen half-asks, half-speaks a quietly voiced response to the explanation of the Lullaby, then glances between Stryker and the Asian woman and the rest of the staff for a couple seconds before settling back on Stryker. "Yes, sir."

As Stryker continues to orbit, Gretchen's attention eventually wavers towards the Asian woman and dark-haired man, studying each in turn for a second here, a moment there. She'll bring her gaze back to him if/when he is making a point of some kind - just so he knows she's listening to him - but she's at least as interested in assessing the presumed subordinates he deigned to bring with him instead of summoning as he is in what he has to say.


The Asian woman folds her hands on her notebook and issues a look towards Gretchen when she garners any attention from the other woman. Her posture straightens, and her expression stills. "Yes, Doctor," she states evenly. "Triggers. Built into each of the weapons for occasions where they may be required."

Stryker lifts a hand warily. "Anything designed to pull one of my weapozsback into active duty." His expression turns stern. "The procedure takes weeks. Sometimes months depending on a weapon's assigned tasks."

He walks about the room again, commanding authority to his still-present staff. "We will need to get the lists from central to locate the subjects and bring them in."

The dark haired man shakes his head. "You're going about it wrong again," he mutters while turning slightly in his chair. Shadow conceals his face, but his glasses reflect a strange facelessness — anonymity that won't easily be lost. "Take the losses. Take the research. We have what we need."


Maybe they aren't subordinates.

This in no way deters Gretchen from stealing glances at the dark-haired man. The Asian woman, she dutifully demures from the first time their eyes meet.

"They're so dangerous, though," Gretchen quietly frets after the shadowed man speaks. She certainly doesn't look at him while she does that. "We'd be doing the world such a favor if we could only just contain them again. Nevermind whatever we might get out of studying them."

The redhead shifts uncomfortably in her seat and stiffens once she's gotten that out. She shortly follows up with an even quieter, "Of course, you know what you want, and what's best, I just— the thought of one of them creeping into my bedroom at night, murder in its eyes…"

The doctor shudders, lifts her eyes apologetically towards Stryker for having spoken out of turn, then averts them after a beat.


The man in the chair actually begins to chuckle at Gretchen's uttered fear. The sound is low, rumbling, and quiet at first. It escalates into something far more gravelly, almost like the man was never intended to laugh. The sound echoes across the walls. "Our goals are met for the project." The chair leans back slightly as the man studies the wall behind him. "Shut. It. Down."

Stryker stomps closer to the other man, "We can't. We're too close to getting what we need. These are tools — "

"Defective tools," the dark haired man interrupts.

"Weapons!" Stryker asserts.

"Faulty weapons," the man counters.

"Items that can be honed — " Stryker continues to push.

"Strong willed. Even the engineered ones struggled. No," he states blandly. "I will be heralding and reining in what will be left of the project. We will move back to our new intentions. Those remaining in the Armoury will be used against the impending threat. Those that we've already worked on will be called in if they are seen as irreplaceable assets. All others." He lifts his hand. "The research is finished. We have what we need. Now get the doctors to engineer me a goddamned solution."


Weirdly, the infernal baritone reveberating through the room does absolutely nothing to bring Gretchen any relief, but she makes a good show of tamping down on her nerves to put a game face on.

And then an enigmatic threat is alluded to. Green eyes widen a moment, then scan the room rapidly. This is both to figure out if the other staffers seem to know what he is talking about and because there's an enigmatic threat looming on the horizon.

"I'm, uh. I'm sorry," she tentatively murmurs. "What threat? I'm in psych, I'd only just begun doing a work-up of the Coney Island experiments. What threat?" She looks between Stryker and the shadowy man, ending up on the latter. "What can I do to help prep the other assets? I'm sorry. Sir. I just— I can't let this go, any of this. I can't just go back to talking to soldiers about their mothers— I can't. Not with what's out there."


The Asian woman is now the one to stare openly at Gretchen. "Doctor," she states blandly. "The threat has always been the goal." She looks towards Stryker whose expression edges on severe. But even with Stryker's angry appearance, the woman remains even. "The red threat looms." It doesn't take much more explanation than that to fill in at least some of the gaps.

"What do you expect me to do about the other assets?" Stryker speaks directly to the chair, or rather, the man behind it.

Silence is allowed to grow as the man in the chair finally rises to his feet to tread towards the door. "Let me handle them. There's always Shiva protocol," his tone almost sounds pleased. "I have another meeting. I will recover those we need. You will work with those we have." He steps out the door.

Stryker inhales a sharp breath. "You heard the man," he hisses. "We will be reconvening in Wisconsin, and then heading North shortly thereafter. The Director will be headed. Doctor Steingate, Miss Oyama, you will both accompany me. Doctor, I will give you additional orders later this week. Miss Oyama, you will act as my personal assistant for the duration of the project."

Stryker turns his gaze expectantly to each of those gathered, "Any questions?"


Swallowing, Gretchen rapidly nods without quite looking at Miss Oyama. "Understood," she flatly says.

Afterwards, she lets Stryker and the Director speak without interruption, nodding emphatically towards Stryker when she receives her orders. She even waits a tick before tentatively lifting her hand and head alike towards him.

"I'd like to request access to the Coney Island triggers. In case one of them happens to find me out there— they may not have had very long to become familiar with me, but I don't think that that'd matter much, either."


A glance is cast towards the doorway where the Director has left. "I will discuss your request with the Director, Doctor. He has very particular feelings about such things. That said, get something that plays Brahm's lullaby and all of the weapons will be called back to the Armoury where they belong. It would be wise to keep something that plays the tune on your person at all times."

He glances towards Miss Oyama. "Yuriko," his voice is gruff, "you will accompany the doctor home following our meeting to ensure she arrives safely." He turns back to Gretchen, "Yuriko will ensure you are well taken care of for the evening."


Gretchen finally looks directly at Yuriko after that order.

"Colonel? I well, thank you, but I don't think that that will be necessary. I know that Miss Oyama must have plenty to do for you— we, you have so much to do, after all," Gretchen gets out while glancing between she and he. "I'm not worried about DC. I'm not even worried about tomorrow, or a week from now—"

She slowly exhales, shaking as she does so but sounding progressively more collected as she speaks just the same. "— they're too damaged for that level of revenge, and the odds of us running into each other incidentally while I'm busy working with you… no. It's six months, a year from now that worries me. When they've had enough time for what they went through to fester in them— when they've collected themselves enough to beat their fists against the wall of civilization and go hunting for people like me because they think we'll give them an edge to fight the Program. That is when I will feel the least safe, and Miss Oyama can't protect me forever when she needs to take care of your needs. I— I think that I will be alright for this evening."

She lets out another, steadier breath, then sets her eyes firmly on Stryker.

"I will take a pistol, if you're willing to compromise…?"


Gretchen is allowed her assertions, and it seems like Stryker also silences during the speech. "Fine," Stryker virtually barks. "Oyama, get the doctor a pistol. And make sure she understands how to use it." Pause. "Not like the last one."

"Yes sir," Yuriko stands and reaches for a weapon that is attached to her side. How she managed to get that in the conference room is anyone's guess. Possibly because she's a metal detector's nightmare.


Gretchen tries not to look too relieved when Stryker responds. That his volume makes her tense up momentarily helps.

There is a questioning expression at the mention of the last one, but she edges expectantly towards Oyama instead of pulling on that thread. "Thank you for the consideration, sir. I apologize for speaking out of turn with the Director, but these things—"

She pauses when Oyama just hands her the gun that she was carrying all along and the inquisitive expression returns, lingering for a long moment on Yuriko before she manages to bring her eyes down to the pistol itself. Frayed nerves and cautious relief return to her features as she gingerly turns the weapon over in her hands, then tests deathgripping the handle. The barrel remains pointed straight down, of course.


"Just point and pull the trigger," Oyama instructs dryly like someone bored of their lot in life. "But be sure to aim it at something you actually want to shoot." Her head turns to face the commander who simply shrugs in response. "Oh, and make sure the safety is off. Without that the weapon won't work."

Nothing seems amiss about Gretchen's performance, and so Stryker rolls with it. An approving nod is given to Oyama. "Good," Stryker states. "If that is all, we will reconvene early next week once the Director chooses our exact next orders."


"Oh, so—"

After a quick scan, Gretchen's fingers brush, but don't actually toggle the safety. She then narrows her eyes at a potted plant, extends her arms, peers down the sights…

After the trigger doesn't budge, she sharply sighs, nods, and brings her purse up so she can tuck it away. It is not a large purse. There is an awkward bulge or two.

It should hopefully suffice until she's able to get back to her hotel.

"No, thank you," she says, looking up from trying to fix the fit and just adjusting the strap on her shoulder. "I won't let you down— either of you."


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