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As she looked down at her phone, Tessa Malone could not figure out what was going on. Everything had gone dark and no signal was getting through. “What the hell is going on?” she thought as tried another number. Ever since Commander Hill reached her with news that Director Fury was dead, she had no idea what to do. He had her looking into a possibility of infiltration; she was really hoping that it was not the case.

Suddenly, her phone began to ring and it appeared to be from Natasha Romanoff. Tessa answered it quickly with, “Tasha?! What the hell is going on?”

“Who do you owe allegiance to?” replied Natasha.

Confused, Tessa asked, “What are you talking about? Tash, we worked together for years…”

“Do you work for HYDRA?”

“HYDRA? Is this what this is all about? You think I’m nuts?!” demanded the operative. “I’m going to kick your ass the next time I see you.”

Natasha chuckled. “Good to know that you’re still with us. HYDRA has taken over S.H.I.E.L.D. with Pierce at the head of it,” she started to explain.

“Pierce? Alexander Pierce?”

“One and only.”

“Well, shit,” said Tessa as she sat on a bench. She was currently in Los Angeles working on a lead when all this started. “What about Clint?”

“Don’t worry, he’s fine,” said the Russian. “Currently locking down the base in Panama.”

Tessa sighed in relief. Her boyfriend was still not completely recovered from what happened with Loki. She was not too sure how he was going to handle this. “What do you want me to do?” she asked.

“Pierce is dead. We stopped him from using the helicarriers to murder millions of what HYDRA saw as threats. Commander Hill and Captain Rogers are alive. But we lost contact with the Hub,” replied Natasha. “We have no idea what is going on there. HYDRA has already taken over our bases in New York.”

“Shit,” she thought. “You want me to find out about the Hub?”

“That was the plan. You’re closer.”

“Breaking and entering. Way too easy.”

“Get in contact with Stark. See if he can give you any help,” she ordered. “Oh, and the Fox sends his regards.” And with that, the line went dead.

“The son of a bitch,” muttered Tessa as she put her phone away. Fury was alive and more than likely in hiding. “Time to go see Stark,” she told herself as she made her way to a car rental depot. Time to get to work.

***

“What is going on?!” demanded Tony Stark when he greeted her in the foyer of his new Malibu mansion. JARVIS had let her in with some relief. Apparently, news of what happened had reached Stark and he was trying to get a hold of anyone he could.

“HYDRA has taken over S.H.I.E.L.D.,” replied Tessa as she followed him to his laboratory.

He looked at her with a stunned expression. “HYDRA? That died with the Red Skull.”

“Apparently not. Steve and Natasha barely managed to stop them from murdering millions,” she said. He poured her a glass of scotch. “Fury’s alive but in hiding. Hill is probably in charge with Steve and Tasha backing her.”

“I’ll do what I can to help,” said Tony. “Within reason, of course.”

Looking at him, she said, “Just be on standby and make another suit. The Avengers may get recalled sooner than was thought.”

“I’ll do that.”

“Right now, I need your help,” she said. Seeing Stark paying attention, she continued, “I’ve been ordered to check on the Hub. It’s close but I need some supplies.”

“Anything you need, Tess. You know that,” he said as he motioned her to follow him. “Pepper would kill me if I didn’t.”

Tessa laughed. “She would,” she said.

Grabbing a few things, he said, “Take these. A comlink to connect you to JARVIS as well as a way to upload him if you need help. Here are two laser guns if you feel the need.” He then walked over to a cabinet. “But I think you want these more,” he said as he opened it to show her a katana as well as a pair of sais.

“I hope you had someone else forge them,” she said as she walked over, grabbing the katana.

“Yes,” he said, offended. “A friend of mine in Japan made them for me…out of adamantium.”

Looking at him, Tessa said, “I don’t want to know where you got the adamantium.”

“Better not to ask,” agreed Tony. “Think you have enough?”

“Should be fine. Wish me luck.”

“Call me if you need me.”

“You don’t have a suit. I’ll call Rhodes.”

Rolling his eyes, he said, “I hate you sometimes.”

She smiled at him and said, “And you wouldn’t have me any other way.”

***

A few hours later

She arrived at the Hub in a reasonable amount of time, thanks to Stark’s new motorcycle. Looking around, it looked as if everything was peaceful. “But what is going on inside?” Tessa thought to herself as she slowly made her way towards the base.

Soon enough, she arrived at the gate and was met by armed guards. “State your identity,” one of them ordered.

“Agent Tessa Malone, bonafide S.H.I.E.L.D. operative and willing to kill any HYDRA minion who tries to make me think differently,” she replied, hoping for the best. She was willing to fight if need be; but she wanted to know what she was getting into first.

There was a pause before they lowered their weapons. “The agent-in-charge wants to talk to you,” the guard who addressed her first said.

“Sounds good to me,” she said as she followed him in. It was a few minutes before they made it down to the main situation room. “Who am I seeing?” she asked him as he waved her off the elevator.

“A ghost,” came a familiar voice…a too familiar voice that should not be possible. Turning around slowly, Tessa stared in disbelief as Phil Coulson stood before her.

“Please tell me you’re shitting me,” she said as she moved towards him slowly.

Shaking his head, he said, “I was dead. Then the director found a way to bring me back to life. Only agents level 7 and above were to know.” He paused for a moment before adding, “Except for those who are part of the Avengers or associated with them.”

“I can see that,” she said, considering that she was level 8. Finally stopping in front of him, she then punched him. “You son of a bitch!” she yelled.

“Tessa…”

“You could have contacted us somehow!”

“I’m sorry. We didn’t know how all of you were going to take it.”

“Bullshit. I should punch Fury,” said Tessa.

“Yeah, he’s dead. So no putting the whole blame on him,” he said as he turned around. Tessa stared at him for a moment. He did not know that Fury was alive. Considering that no one knew the status of the Hub, that was probably the case. “What is going on out there?” he asked as she followed him.

“Hill, Romanoff, and Rogers are alive. Clint is securing the station in Panama. Stark is pissed,” she replied. “Tasha sent me to check what was going on here.”

“Managed to barely secure it. Victoria Hand is still on our side and is on her way to the Fridge to drop off Garrett.”

“Garrett?” Tessa had heard of him, of course. Never did meet him.

“What do you know about Centipede?”

“Run by someone called the Clairvoyant, who is trying to replicate the Super Soldier Serum through what is left of Extremis. Gotten close from what I understand.”

“Garrett’s the Clairvoyant,” said Coulson.

Looking at him, Tessa said, “Shit, you can’t trust anyone.”

“What happened, exactly?”

“I have no idea. From what Tasha told me, Alexander Pierce was HYDRA’S top agent and was going to use the helicarriers to murder millions of what they saw as potential threats. Hill, Romanoff, and Rogers stopped them and killed Pierce. That’s all I know,” she replied. And truly, that was all she did know. “I only knew something was wrong when I lost contact with Fury. I was on a mission for him.”

Sighing, Coulson rubbed his eyes. “We have to figure out who is not compromised,” he said. “Do you know how to get in contact with Natasha?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I want to talk to Hill and see what I need to do next.”

She shrugs. “Shouldn’t be hard. Who’s with Hand?” she asked.

“Grant Ward.”

Looking at him, she asked, “Is that wise? Garrett was his SO.”

Coulson just smiled at her before walking away. “We’ll see,” he said. “Be ready for something tomorrow. I’ll let you know if you have a mission or not.”

Shaking her head, Tessa just gave a small smile before pulling out her phone and dialing Tasha’s number. Things were going to get interesting.