Five hours. It's been five hours since SHIELD turned into a shit storm. Five hours since I was escorted by my handler Phil Coulson and ordered to sit in this debriefing room on the helicarrier and do nothing. Five hours of waiting with nothing but some water and a few of the health bars they put in our mission packs. It’s been five hours and I haven’t seen or heard anything from anybody about what the hell was going on.
I heard the lock on the door click and the door opened up, I looked up and saw Director Fury walk in with Coulson and Hill. I stood up, but was dismissed by Fury with a wave of his hand and sat back down.
Coulson spoke up first, “We’ve had you in here for quite a bit Madigan, I apologize for that, but we needed to have as much information was we could before speaking to you about the Code Red protocol.”
“So what’s going on? Am I going back in the field?” I had been a field agent in the past, but this past year that I’ve worked with Clint and Natasha. I was working as their strategist and gave them orders over the comms and only went into the field when they needed me.
“Not exactly Barton.” Hill said while handing me one of the electronic mission files. “At around 0300 hours a base was compromised. On that base we had some standard personnel as well as Dr. Selvig, who you studied with for sometime at the academy; they’ve all been compromised.” She hesitated for a second, “As well as your brother agent Clint Barton-”
My heart dropped to my stomach, everything else she was saying just started sounding like white noise. I liked Selvig it was fun studying astrophysics with him, even if I wasn’t really that good at the physics part of it. Clint though he’s my brother,my big brother who always chased away the monsters and made sure to sneak me some sweets after dinner when Barney said I couldn’t have any. He’s the one who should be worrying about me and what I’m doing not the other way around.
“Barton.” Apparently Hill finished while I was spacing out.
“Is he dead?”
Coulson sighed, “For now we are going to revert to using your codename to avoid confusion; we are assuming that he is keeping everyone under his control alive because he needs them for his plan.”
Fury finally spoke up since entering the room, “We are initiating Alpha-Indigo-Four. I’ll be taking the Captain. Whether you like it or not you will be Coulson’s shadow until the team is on the carrier. For now you and Coulson will get ahold of Romanoff and have her find Banner while you two take care of Stark.”
Coulson guided me out of the room soon after that and brought me to the bridge where they established a line on his cell to wherever Natasha was right now. He put the phone on speaker and when the call picked up a male voice answered in Russian.
“Put my agent on the phone.” Coulson responded, I assume the guy who picked up took the phone away from his face because his voice as well as another man’s were muffled from the distance between them and the phone. Another male voice answered trying to start threatening us, but Coulson cut him off. “You’re at 1-14 Silenski Plaza, 3rd floor. We have an F-22 exactly eight miles out. Put the woman on the phone or I will blow up the block before you can make the lobby.”
We couldn’t hear anything for a second then some shuffling and Coulson spoke up. “We need you to come in.”
We could hear Natasha’s voice come through, she sounded a little pissed off at us for interrupting her mission. “Are you kidding? I’m working.”
“This takes precedence.”
“I’m in the middle of an interrogation. This moron is giving me everything. Look, you can’t pull me out of this right now.” I could sense the frustration in her voice.
I could feel myself getting even more irritated than before. First my brother is brainwashed by some psycho demigod from outer space and SHIELD can’t even inform his partner properly because apparently an interrogation with some art thief is more important than the retrieval of one of their best agents. Coulson didn't have time to respond to her before I cut him off. “Nat, Clint’s been compromised.” There’s a few seconds of silence.
“Let me put you two on hold.” We could hear the shuffle of the phone moving, then some movement and what sounds like skin to skin contact. The sounds of his groans then more contact fighting a distance away, from what it sounds like I’d say there were at least one or two more with her and the thief she was there for. A few seconds after the fighting stops we can hear the sounds of chains rattling and the terrified screams of a man.
We hear the scratching of the phone as she picks up the phone from what I assume is the ground. “Where's Barton now?”
Coulson looks at me and then speaks into the phone. “We don’t know.”
“But he’s alive?” I can hear the concern in her voice, as much as she tries to mask it.
An agent comes over to us signaling that our ride was ready. “We think so. I’ll brief you on everything when you get back, but first we need you to talk to the big guy.” Coulson takes the phone off speaker and we begin walking down a corridor and out onto the outside of the ship towards the small jet that would take us to Manhattan.
I can hear a slight chuckle in her voice. “Coulson, you know that Stark trusts me about as far as he can throw me.”
“No, we’ve got Stark. You get the big guy.” I look over and see him smiling as he hangs up his phone. “Let’s go see if Mr. Personality will play nice this time.”
Coulson and I made our way up to the penthouse of Stark tower, having already gotten into the system Coulson was already trying to call Stark from his phone. As soon as the phone picked up he started talking. “Mr.Stark, we need to talk.”
“You’ve reached the life model decoy of Tony Stark please leave a message.” Natasha told me about his immature attempts to avoid SHIELD and it's obvious that this is going to be more of a challenge than I thought.
“This is urgent.” I could tell Coulson was getting frustrated with him.
“Then leave it urgently.” Also very snarky too from what she’s told me.
The doors of the elevator open to show Stark and Pepper with what I assume is champagne. Coulson stepped out first, blocking me from view.
“Security breach.” Not really, I’m sure the AI told him we’ve overridden his protocol. He pointed at Pepper, “I blame you.”
Coulson still holding his serious demeanor, “Mr.Stark.”
“Phil, come in!” Pepper, she stood up and started to walk over to us, Stark following her in protest.
“Phil? Uh his first name is Agent.”
Coulson had a very annoyed look on his face. “We can’t stay.”
Pepper looked towards me, noticing that I stepped out from behind Coulson, “Come in we’re celebrating.”
“Which is why they can’t stay.” Stark said now noticing me as well, still very adamant that we leave.
They walked over to us. “Hello Ms.Potts.” I smiled at her and she gave me a hug which I returned after a few seconds, not really sure it's okay with protocol though. We had met a few times before when Coulson couldn't make the meetings that Stark would bail on.
“You know you can call me Pepper, right Madigan?” She smiled down at me.
“Sweetheart, please don’t fraternize with the smaller agent.” I roll my eyes at his comment, it doesn’t take long for him under a person’s skin.
Coulson goes to hand Stark the electronic file. “We need you to look this over as soon as possible.”
He held his hands up in defense. “I don’t like to be handed things.”
“That's ok because I love to be handed things, so lets trade.” Pepper grabs the file from Coulson and hands him her glass of Champagne in return. She turns to Stark and does the same; giving him the file and taking his glass.
Stark looked at Coulson and I. “Official consulting hours are between eight and five every other Thursday.”
I rolled my eyes in frustration. Would it literally kill him to be serious for like two seconds. “This isn’t a consultation Mr. Stark.” He started to walk away with the file to a glass desk across the room. The desk was apparently a computer too because it started displaying all of the files for the Avengers Initiative; Banner, Rogers, Thor, and Stark himself.
Pepper speaks up with a look of interest on her face. “Is this about the Avengers-” Coulson looked at her with a raised eyebrow while I smiled to myself fully knowing that she knows all about the Initiative, she told me Stark told her. I did however tell her not to mention it again. Good thing it's just me and Coulson, anyone else would have flipped shit that she knew about it. “-which I know nothing about.”
Stark walked away with the file. “Psh, the Avengers Initiative was scrapped. I thought, and I didn’t even qualify.” He sounded offended, I’m not really sure why since Fury said that he didn’t want anything to do with the initiative or SHIELD in general.
“I didn’t know that either.” She noticed my smile and gave me a small one in return.
He turned to speak to the three of us, still walking to the computer. “Yeah, apparently I’m volatile, self obsessed, don’t play well with others.”
Pepper had a small smile on her face and said,. “That I did know.” I snickered, maybe a little too loud considering Stark sent a small glare towards me from across the room. I got back into agent mode and made sure my face was stoic, showing minimal emotion again.
Coulson, now with a small smile on his face. “This isn’t about personality profiles anymore.”
Stark waved Pepper over “Whatever. Ms. Potts, got a second?”
She turned to us and held up a finger then walked over to Stark and they began discussing something over by his computer while looking at the files on the rest of the initiative. She whispered something in his ear and he got a weird sort of scandalized grin on his face. Coulson and I tried to distract ourselves by looking around, his face was a little creepy. She made her way back to us. “So any chance you guys are driving by LaGuardia?”
“We can drop you off.” Coulson pushed the button on the elevator and we all started walking in a few seconds later when the door opened up.
“Fantastic! Oh I wanna hear about the cellist. Is that still a thing?” Pepper asked as we all situated ourselves in the elevator.
Coulson pushed the ground floor button. “She moved back to Portland.”
“What? Boo!” She looked disappointed, I was too Coulson really liked her. It’s hard to find someone to be with especially if it's with someone who isn’t a fellow agent.
I smiled to myself, “It's the only thing, other than work, that he's talked about for the past two weeks.”
We both laughed at Coulson who gave a small chuckle as the elevator started to make it’s way down.
“We’re about 40 minutes out from home base, sir.”
I sat next to the computer station Coulson was at across from Captain Rogers while he looked at the electronic file that Coulson had given him when we met earlier getting on the jet. “So, this Dr. Banner was trying to replicate the serum they used on me?”
“A lot of people were.” Coulson walked over and stood next to where Rogers was sitting with the file in hand.
“Even SHIELD in it’s earlier days.” Rogers looked up at me briefly before looking back at the information in his hands.
“You were the world’s first superhero. Banner thought gamma radiation might hold the key to unlocking Erskine’s original formula.”
“Didn’t really go his way did it?” Rogers seemed to hold it close to heart that Banner turned into the Hulk, like it was somehow his fault. His files never really talked about who he was as a person, but from what was reported after Barnes and the train incident it seems like he is the kind to take that sort of thing on like he’s at fault and blame himself.
Coulson spoke a bit softer, “Not so much. When he’s not that thing, though, the guy’s like a Stephen Hawking.” Rogers looked up at him with confusion. He’s been in the ice since the forties and just got out like a week ago he’s not going to know Hawking, Coulson. “He’s like a smart person.”
“Great explanation Coulson.” I whispered to myself. They didn’t notice thankfully. “Captain. He’s a genius kinda like Stark, but instead of technology he works with Science.”
Roger’s seemed to catch on to what Coulson was trying to explain. Coulson looked a bit relieved that I stepped in to squash the awkwardness a bit so he continued talking. “I gotta say, it’s an honor to meet you officially. I’ve sort of met you. I mean, I watched you while you were sleeping.” Oh god no Coulson. Rogers got up to stand near the pilots and I just put my head in my hands. “I mean, I was present while you were unconscious from the ice. You know, it’s really just a huge honor to have you on board this.” He trailed off from there, god that hurt me it was so awkward. Why did he have to go and make it weird meeting his idol, I get that he’s excited to finally meet him and work with him, but come on Phil it was bad enough having to watch you be creepy you don’t have to let the guy know about it.
“I hope I’m the man for the job.” Rogers said as he looked ahead through the window, probably trying to spot the ship and avoid looking at Coulson.
“Oh, you are. Absolutely. We made some modification to the uniform. I had a little design input.” Coulson had a proud little smile on his face. Man, I gotta fuck with him.
I stood up and walked over to them, “You mean you volunteered all your free time and had all the input in the new suit design.”
“Watch it Canary or I’ll take away that new toy you wanted to test from the arsenal.” Coulson said playfully, both men smiled a bit so I think it’s a little better than before.
Rogers looked over at Coulson with a bit of confusion. “The uniform? Aren’t the stars and stripes a little old-fashioned?”
“With everything that’s happening and the things that are about to come to light, people might just need a little old-fashioned.”
Soon enough the jet landed and we were walking onto the helicarrier and Coulson started trying to shout orders to the personnel over all the noise. “Stow the captain’s gear.”
When we exited the jet Natasha met us and Coulson introduced her to Rogers. “Agent Romanoff this is Captain Rogers.”
“Ma’am.” Rogers gave a nod of acknowledgment.
“Hi,” Natasha looked over at Phil. “They need you on the bridge. They’re starting the face trace.”
He grabbed my shoulder encouragingly before walking away, the Captain yelling after him that he would see him there. We walked with Rogers on our way to get Dr. Banner from his jet.
“You were quite the buzz when they pulled you out of the ice. I thought Coulson was gonna swoon.” Natasha said.
I chuckled at her comment, “I think he almost peed his pants when he found out.”
She smiled and then asked him, “Did he ask you to sign his Captain America trading cards yet?”
“Trading cards?” He asked. Oh god that would have made it so much worse. I’m glad he's too afraid of ruining then to carry them on his person.
She replied, “They’re vintage, he's very proud.”
We came up on Banner outside of the jet. Rogers being the first to speak up. “Dr. Banner!”
He walked over and greeted Rogers with a handshake. “Yeah, hi. They told me you’d be coming.”
Nat picked up her phone, I looked at her with a raised eyebrow. She mouth ‘Hill’ to me and I nodded.
“Word is you can find the cube.” Rogers said to him.
“Is that the only word on me?” Banner looked around while speaking, his eyes stopping on me and Natasha for few seconds.
Rogers told him firmly. “Only word I care about.”
Banner nodded. “It must be strange for you, all of this,” he gestured to the ship.
“Well this is actually kinda familiar.” Rogers looked around as he said that.
Natasha hung up her phone and turned to the two men, “Gentlemen you might wanna step inside in a minute. It's gonna get a little hard to breath.” We both smirked watching them look around as an agent came on the PA giving the signal to prepare for our take off as the ship began it’s slow ascension from the water.
Rogers turned to us. “Is this a submarine?”
“Really, they want me is a submerged pressurized metal container?” Dr. Banner said while walking with Rogers to the edge of the carrier. They both realized that the ship was going to fly. “Oh no this is much worse.”