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A Shadow Artifact

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Prologue
He left the subway and began to walk down the dark street. The man could see a little life in the street. It was a hot summer night in the city, but it was still uncommon to see no one enjoying the city nightlife. The man took the time to enjoy the silence, hearing the subway pass him after he all the passengers got on at his stop.
The man did not look out of place in the city. He was dressed in jeans, a button-down dress shirt, blazer, and converse. He was dressed warmly for the night, but otherwise, no person looked at him or noticed him as he walked home. This is how he liked it. He enjoyed blending into the crowd, not letting the people around him know who he was. He arrived at his apartment building.
A modest building made for someone who lived alone or with a roommate. He had a roommate who he knew would be coming home later than usual. He walked up to the apartment door, the letters APT3 written on the first-floor door. He got his keys out of his pocket and unlocked the door. The apartment looked dark, barely lived in. Looking at the man, you would not think he actually didn’t live in this apartment. No furniture, no decorations on the wall. A computer station set up in the corner with 3 monitors, a tool box set, a welding torch, and other technological tools he could not even imagine what his roommate used them for. This was part of the secret he held. No one could tell he and his roommate only planned to be in the city for a week. Roommate… more like partner. The man walked over to the kitchen and reached for the vodka on the shelf. The few things are necessary for this line of work, alcohol being one of them. He opened the bottle and then reached for a cup. After grabbing the cup, he paused. The man smiled and then he reached for another cup. He poured a double shot in each cup and put the bottle away. Before the man turned around, he said: “I was not expecting you to be here old friend.”
There standing in what would be the living room was Nick Fury. Nick Fury looked at the man and smiled. Nick walked over to the kitchen and took the cup from the man. “Still can’t sneak up on you I see.”
Both men took a drink of vodka. “No, you still make the same mistake as you did when we worked on a team. It is your tell. If I didn’t know it was you, then I would be drinking vodka while cleaning up blood off the hardwood floor. And you know how I hate to clean.”
Nick Fury gave a laugh. The two men engaged in conversation as if they have known each other for years, and in fact, they did. “So have you given my proposal any other thoughts?”
“Which proposal?” The man said taking another sip. “I already take the high profile missions from S.H.I.E.L.D., which they will deny even exists in the first place.” The man walked into the living room as he spoke. “Or did you mean your insane idea of us joining your crazy band of misfits?”
Nick glared at the insult to the team. “You know they are a good team and they can use your expertise, not to mention Silvio can lend a big hand in developing technology for them.”
The man furrowed his eyebrows at the last sentence. “If you think I will let S.H.I.E.L.D. use her as a factor worker for weapons and tech…” He took a sip from his drink “then I think this conversation is over and you better leave before S.H.I.E.L.D. needs to find a new Director.”
Nick Fury smiled at the man. “Some things never change, do they?” the mood lightened in the room, both men took a drink. “You still always will put your neck out on the line for those you hold close.”
“And now you want me to decide between two people I keep close Nick? You know how I feel about S.H.I.E.L.D. The only reason I am working for them is because you are the Director and personally asked me to join. Don’t tell me you are hoping our past will hold when you make me choose between S.H.I.E.L.D. and Silvio.”
Nick Fury walked over to the man and looked him in the eyes, sternly stating “Do you really think I would make you choose?”
The man did not have a response. He knew his old friend for years, and Nick would not make him decide between a friend and S.H.I.E.L.D. The man just looked down at his drink and swirled it in the cup. “No, I suppose even you are not cut throat enough to ask that of me. So what does bring you here? We just finished our mission in the city and Silvio is helping with the clean-up. We don’t normally get a new mission for another few days.”
Nick took a sip of his drink, finishing it. He walked over to the kitchen to fill his cup with another eyeing his options. Cheap wine and vodka were the only choices. He reached for the vodka bottle. He opened the bottle as he spoke. “I told you why I came here; I find it insulting you ask me to repeat myself.” Nick poured a triple in his cup, thinking he would need the extra alcohol for a possible argument.
The man walked over to him, “You really guess I should consider joining the team?”
Nick smiled. He knew his friend had some interest in joining. “Not just you, you and Silvio. I can’t break up a good duo. Silvio is still young in the field and can use a chance to be part of a team. It will also give you a chance to finally be out of the shadows and let the world see what good you have done.”
The man punched the counter top at the last sentence. A crack formed entirely through the counter top. Nick looked at the crack. “Looks like you will be losing the security deposit on this place.”
The man looked at Nick Fury, Anger burning in his eyes. “You know I belong in the shadows. Nothing about me should be known. Not what I do and not what I am. It sickens me that S.H.I.E.L.D. knows information on me. This is the only organization which holds any information about me.”
Nick calmly put the vodka bottle back in its place and took a sip from his drink. He should have put more vodka in his cup. “You mean S.H.I.E.L.D. only knows about part of your information. You know I work to hide any information from S.H.I.E.L.D., which they don’t need to know. And I know the computer database is no match for Silvio. She wiped information multiple times from the database. Don’t think I have not noticed. The only reason I knew it happened was I was about to do it myself. It is time you stop living in the darkness. You worked in the open before when you teamed with me, why not again now?”
The man released all the tension in his fist, and his hand dropped to his side. He looked at his almost empty cup and decided to pour himself another double of vodka. He grabbed the bottle, poured the drink, and downed the whole cup. He sighed. “What has you worried about me that you would ask this, Nick?”
Nick knew he could not hide his real intent from his friend. Nick Fury is known to be many things; a friend is not one. He knew his typical approach of steamrolling his way to get his friend to join the team would not work and the man would see through his real thoughts on the matter. Nick downed the rest of his vodka. “I have control over most of S.H.I.E.L.D. at the moment. I cannot think of another way for you to move out of the shadows. I know what you live as, and you need to live as the person you are. The shadows give you comfort to what happened many years ago.”
The man tensed up, fists clenching, as he stared at the counter not meeting Nick, but Nick continues, “But you need to move forward. Look at you, any psychologist would have a fucking field day with how you literally live in the shadows to avoid what you’re dealing with. And I hate to say it, but Silvio would agree.”
The man looked at Nick, “She doesn’t know that story. Only you know…and me.” The man turned away and walked back to the living room, right up to the window. He looked at the floor and noticed the shadows which formed from the blinds and how the shadows would cover his body. He smiled at the amusement of what Nick just said and realized his old friend had a point.
“So are we gonna keep taking shots until one of us gets drunk enough to physically force the other to submit to the argument, or does this mean you will consider,” Nick stated as he threw the cup in the sink. He didn’t see a trash can to dispose of his plastic cup.
“Three weeks.” The man said.
Nick looked confused. “Three weeks? Isn’t that a lot of time to pack up…” he looked around the empty apartment, aside from the computer equipment belonging to Silvio, “…your lovely apartment? I mean if you need help, I can get help to..”
“Three weeks we will break into S.H.I.E.L.D.”
Nick looked shocked at this, well as shocked as Nick Fury could ever look through his stern face. “You are gonna break into S.H.I.E.L.D.? What is the point of pissing off everyone?”
The man turned to Nick Fury, a smile formed as he began to speak, “The point, my friend, is to have a little fun as we join the team. Three weeks from today. Silvio and I will break into S.H.I.E.L.D. Let your team know.” The man paused for a moment before adding “And if they need the motivation to believe the threat, in three weeks, I will be standing in your office…” the man took a step forward. Then he held out his hand, and as he did, a dagger materialized in his hand, “…holding a knife to your throat.”
Most people would leave and prepare for such a threat. Nick Fury is not most people, and he knew his friend. Nick just smiled. “You are one crazy son of a bitch you know that.”
The man laughed at Nick Fury’s words. “Would you honestly expect any less from me?”
Nick could not help but laugh at the question. He began to walk to the door, and he opened it. He took a step out, looking back at the man. “I wouldn’t expect anything less. I look forward to welcoming you and Silvio to the team in Three weeks. We will see about the knife at my throat, though.” And he shut the door.