“I’m sorry,” Mrs Sherry said. “I have no record of your application.”
Mrs Sherry was wearing a crumpled jacket with a tiny red stain on the lapel. The hollows of her eyes were a purple so dark they were almost black, dark hollows in the woman’s brown skin. The wrinkles in her forehead looked as if they’d been scored there by a claw. Mrs Sherry looked like she would normally be a kind woman, the kind of person who would always have a smile for a stressed intern or a cup of coffee for a new co-worker who really needed five minutes and someone to listen.
Darcy thought Mrs Sherry probably was sorry.
Unfortunately, that didn’t help her much.
“I didn’t actually apply for a position; I was headhunted,” she said. “I signed the contract in London, and I took a photo on my phone, see, so there’s my proof of offer. And I’ve got my passport for ID and my proof of address” - a hotel, one she couldn’t afford to keep staying in without caving and asking Jane for a loan - “and I understand that you have to be careful, especially right now, but I really am Darcy Lewis and I really do have a job waiting for me, and if you could please just get hold of Mr Gautier he could tell you how eager I am to get to work on Congresswoman Jeffrey’s clean energy intiative-”
Mrs Sherry looked more alert. “Jerry Gautier hired you,” she said.
“He didn’t interview you here. I would have arranged that.”
“No, it was in London. I mean, I was in London. We did the interview over Skype.” With Darcy wearing Jane’s best conference jacket on top and her own Hulk pajama pants on the bottom. Well, it had been 9pm, London time.
Mrs Sherry pursed her lips. “Let me just check on something,” she said. “Stay here. Would you like a coffee or anything?”
“Coffee would be great,” Darcy said, and winced at her own enthusiasm. “But, uh, don’t go to any trouble, I’m fine.”
Mrs Sherry nodded sharply. “Of course. Wait here. I won’t be a minute.”
She walked out, smoothing her skirt over her hips with fast, jerky motions. Darcy took the opportunity to reapply her lipstick and check her phone.
Jane’s latest text read ru ok?? Cn get you out NOW!!! Jst call… Mkg progress e-r flux gnrtr
Darcy typed Everything’s fine.
Then she looked out the window at the broken skyline of Washington DC. Three days after the Triskelion, and the dust hadn’t settled. There were still fires in the Southeast quadrant, and there was no river traffic. Too much debris in the Potomac.
Puente Antiguo had been a no-fatality incident; some bad burn injuries, but mostly a lot of smashed glass and a few badly damaged cars and buildings. London had cost a couple of civilians, a university library, a spaceship full of bad guys, and that jerk Loki, who Darcy didn’t plan to mourn any time soon.
Both times, Darcy had been in the thick of it, moving too fast to get scared, and thinking too hard to get sad. She’d felt way worse about New York; sitting in a hotel room in Tromsø and watching aliens crawl all over the skyscrapers while Jane silently tensed with every flash of a red cloak had been one of the most terrible experiences of her life.
And then she’d landed at Dulles International Airport half an hour after her estimated time of arrival. Ten minutes before three helicarriers had fallen out of the sky.
She’d spent that night in the airport, watching President Ellis address the nation “from a secure location”, and texting until her phone ran out of power. Then she’d come into the city to help. There wasn’t much she could do; no civilians to herd away from battling demi-gods; no spiky things she could drive into the ground to make the aliens disappear.
People had done this to themselves.
So Darcy had donated blood and gleaned bags of groceries from the stripped bodega shelves and dropped them in at the food banks. People always forgot to donate shampoo. Washington was going to need a lot of shampoo. Then she’d checked into the cheapest hotel that had a room free, which was still fancier than anywhere she’d ever stayed before, even on Jane’s expense account. She showered and laid out her clothes and curled into a tight ball under the white sheets. From experience, she knew that the shaking would eventually stop.
The next day, she’d put the news on in the background while she trawled through the information that had been leaked online. Everything about Puente Antiguo was there. She was there: Lewis, D; non-combatant. Tasing Thor didn’t count, apparently. There wasn’t much about London. S.H.I.E.L.D. - and/or Hydra, ugh - hadn’t known anything about London until afterwards.
The worst thing had been finding Jane’s and Erik’s names on the Hydra cull list.
The second worst had been the file about Jane and Thor’s relationship. Darcy had read it for about twenty minutes, feeling like ants were crawling all over her skin. Creepy, voyeuristic ants. Then she’d muted the news anchor reciting another list of prominent Americans in Hydra pay, and opened the .pdf Mr Gautier had sent her about Congresswoman Jeffrey’s energy initiative, the one he’d thought Darcy would be perfect for. She needed to be ready for her first day. Mr Gautier wasn’t answering his phone, but there could be lots of good reasons for that.
And now she was sitting in the Congresswoman’s reception area with a blinking blue cursor after the word fine.
Darcy hit the backspace arrow with careful, even motion, until the message line was empty. I’m ok, she wrote. Don’t send Big Blond. At work for first day now :) Congrats on flux thing!
Mrs Sherry was taking her time with that coffee. Maybe Mr Gautier hadn’t been around to answer his phone. The office wasn’t far from the Triskelion. Maybe they were drawing straws on who was going to tell the new girl her new boss was dead.
A couple of cops came in, looking even more tired than Mrs Sherry. Darcy nodded politely at them. She wasn’t always a big fan of the police, but it had to suck to find out that your Deputy Commissioner was part of a plan to kill millions of people.
The heavyset white cop stayed in reception. The leaner, darker-skinned one - Latino, she thought - went past the front desk like he knew where he was headed.
Darcy’s phone pinged.
ok if ur sure. Call me if you need anything I mean it.
If Jane was spelling out full words, she really did mean it. Darcy smiled at her phone and looked up to catch the white cop watching her. She smiled at him, too.
He didn’t return the smile, or turn away from her look.
Darcy’s stomach flipped over.
They hadn’t identified all of the Hydra agents - that was obvious. Captain America and the Black Widow and the new guy, the one they were calling Falcon - they’d exposed a lot of them. Probably most of the really dangerous high-hitters. But there were so many people involved at all levels, and Hydra hadn’t exactly identified them all by name and social security number.
She didn’t have her taser. There was pepper spray in her purse and a whistle attached to her key ring and she could deliver a decent elbow throw, none of which was going to do her any good against a man with a gun. Darcy looked at her watch and huffed, then stood up, shaking her head as if she were super annoyed at Mrs Sherry’s tardiness.
The cop tensed. His hand twitched, unmistakably, towards his holster.
There was a clatter from the inside office, and Darcy whipped around. The Latino cop was coming back, Mrs Sherry behind him. He was pointing at Darcy, and Mrs Sherry was nodding oh crap.
Darcy took one step towards the door, and was not exactly surprised when both cops drew their weapons.
“Get down!” they were shouting. “Hands on your head!”
Two men with guns, not good odds, and Mrs Sherry might get caught in the crossfire if she tried anything, so Darcy sank to her knees. Her cheap pantyhose snagged in the carpet, and then one of the Hydra-cops was kneeling on her back and cuffing her while the other pointed his gun right at her head.
They were reading her Miranda rights, exactly as if she’d never seen a cop show, or as if they weren’t actually traitors to humanity who didn’t give a crap about anybody’s rights to silence or lawyers or liberty in general, and it was so ridiculous that she would have laughed if she hadn’t been so angry.
“You guys are stupid,” she said. “My best friend’s boyfriend is basically a god. Whatever you do to me, you’re going to really, really regret it.”
“Shut up, Hydra bitch,” the white cop said.
And Darcy said, “Wait, what?” and tried to get up, and that was when the taser prongs hit her ribs.
As she convulsed into unconsciousness, Darcy had the brief and fleeting thought that she probably owed Thor an apology.