Moira's life has never been anything more or less than absolutely ordinary.
She's pretty sure, but there's... moments. Gaps in her memory, things that don't quite sit right. She had a job, she knows, working for a government agency. She worked hard there, she thinks, because at one point she was the only woman with the right clearances to know about... something. She can't remember what. Neither can anyone else, which is why she was fired. She thinks.
She doesn't know how forgetting something - or being made to forget it, maybe - could be blamed on a single person, but she doesn't think about it much. She received a hefty severance package, which she also doesn't think much about. It gave her enough money to live off of for years, and she decided to use it to go back to school.
Genetics is a fascinating field.
She has more of her... moments... during class than out of it, which she should perhaps be wary of. Instead, if anything it makes her more interested. So she continues, reading and learning and investigating, studying, asking questions constantly, constantly. Many of her teachers have long since grown weary of Moira and her constant questions, but luckily her thesis adviser is not one of them. He nods, and listens, and directs her towards papers and research in her field of interest. Most of them are wonderful, but one of them -
One of them she doesn't read. She doesn't think much about that.
There are a lot of things she doesn't think much about, focusing instead on her studies, on her thesis. She finishes her work in a year and a half - astounding, she's told, for any student. Most professors are kind enough to leave off the "let alone a woman". Those that don't... well, she's grateful none of them are on her thesis defense committee. The defense is brutal, and once or twice a question tries to go down a path that she knows will result in one of her moments, so she quickly cuts those off; better to appear rude than struck dumb. That displeases some of the committee, but the majority of them are nodding approvingly at her when she finally steps back.
She walks out of there with a wide grin on her face, imagining the M.S. after her name, wondering if those doctorate programs that turned her down before will accept her now.
There are two women waiting for her outside.
Moira doesn't know why she's certain they're waiting for her, but when she passes by and they stand up to follow her, it becomes clear that her instinct was right. She walks another block, just to be sure, then turns around to face them.
"Ms. MacTaggart," says the older of the two. It's not a question; this woman knows who she's talking to. Moira can't say the same. It's possible she's previously met this British woman, who wears slight signs of age with complete dignity. But if she has, she doesn't know where, or when. The woman asks, "Do you ever feel as though you're... missing something?"
"Constantly," Moira says automatically. She sucks in a breath, looks between the women and asks, "Do you know what he made me forget?"
The blonde woman tilts her head, looking slightly surprised. "You're aware of what was done to you?"
"I... no." Moira bites her lip. "But I know there should be something else. I know I avoid thinking about certain things, though I don't know what things they are."
"I see," the blonde woman says, and her voice seems to echo strangely in Moira's mind. "You're stronger minded than he expected. Good. That will make things easier."
The older woman coughs lightly. "That is," she says once their attention is on her, "if you want to know."
Once again, Moira speaks without thinking. "Of course I do!"
"Are you sure?" The older woman watches Moira carefully. "You're building a life here. After you remember, you might not be able to keep it."
"I might not want to," Moira responds, clutching at her bag. There's a copy of her thesis inside, the version she typed up herself for a typist at the school to duplicate. A year and a half of work, in an inch-high stack of paper. If what she remembers makes her want to give it up, she must have done something amazing. "I'd rather know than not."
The older woman smiles. "Very well. Ms. Frost, if you please."
"Of course," the blonde woman says, voice echoing, and reaches out to touch Moira's temple with one hand. She hums, a disappointed sound. "She may be breaking through on her own, but he's set up all kinds of trap doors. It won't be as easy as I'd hoped."
"Take your time," the older woman murmurs. Her voice sounds oddly faint to Moira - everything seems oddly faint. Like white noise, or static, but the white noise isn't nothingness, it's... her? "Let's do this right if we mean to do it at all."
"Of course," Ms. Frost replies, bringing up her second hand. Frost... Moira knows that name, she - oh! "There we go," Emma Frost says approvingly. Emma Frost, the telepath, the diamond-skinned woman who - oh, telepath, Charles, how could Moira forget Charles, and Raven, and - and Erik Lehnsherr, revenge-obsessed and murderous, and she'd - and then Charles had - and then he'd -
"I think that should do it," Emma says, pulling away.
Moira blinks several times, resettling herself.
"How do you feel?" the older woman asks. As it turns out, Moira hasn't previously met her - she's not one of the so-called mutants that Moira worked with. And yet she has Emma Frost at her side.
"Like I want to punch Charles Xavier across the mouth," Moira says, rather than ask her questions. Emma snorts, and the older woman smiles.
"I understand that impulse all too well," she says. Turning to Emma, she adds, "Ms. Frost, it's been a pleasure. Should we have need of your assistance again, we'll let you know."
"So long as my school remains under your protection, you'll have it," Emma says with a small smile. Emma Frost has a school? Moira frowns, but Emma is gone before she can ask. Projected images - Moira had forgotten telepaths could do that. She had forgotten that telepaths exist.
And to think she ever considered her life ordinary.
The older woman is still here, though, watching Moira expectantly.
"We?" she finally asks.
"An organization that appreciates your varied skill sets far more than your past employers have," she says, an incomplete answer. "One that would benefit from your presence."
"You want to hire me?"
"Of course." The older woman holds out a card. "We can facilitate your enrollment in the doctoral program of your choice, if you'd like. Or you can come work for us straight away."
"But - me?" Baffled, Moira takes the card.
"You are precisely the type of employee S.H.I.E.L.D. is looking for," the woman says, rising to leave. "I hope you take my offer seriously. We'd be lucky to have you." She walks away without another word, stopping at a discreet black car that's been waiting at the corner. A man in military uniform opens the door for her, then climbs in the front and drives off.
It's only then that Moira thinks to look at the card. S.H.I.E.L.D., it says on one side. Like that tells her anything at all. On the obverse side there is a name and a title, with contact information beneath it: Margaret Carter, Director.
An organization run by a woman. An organization that will wait for her to get her doctorate. An organization that appreciates her skill sets.
Moira grins. She's not exactly going to be a hard sell.