Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – 0230 a.m.
Vegas. Sin City. The place goes by many names and contains a treasure trove of vices to explore. Sound and light and all seven of the deadly sins assaulted synapses a million times a minute. Everything is attainable.
The two people exiting the Stratosphere Hotel, their minds clouded by booze, knew this all too well. They were not from here, but they were here to do a job. Such is the life of a reporter for the Daily Bugle. Of course, the job wasn’t until the following day, so what was the harm in a little fun? Everyone else was doing it. They had seen several people from other news agencies in the Casino and other places on the strip all night.
The strip wasn’t completely deserted. Cars rolled down the main throughway, but it was calming down to the point where you could hear yourself think.
Earl Cubbings, a tall man with thick sideburns and crooked teeth, staggered and thrust a hand out, pushing a young couple out of the way. Then he vomited, flailed a bit, and ran smack into the wall of the hotel, falling flat on his face on the sidewalk.
“Jesus, Earl. How much did you drink?”
William Castle was working his own buzz, but felt okay, more or less. He helped his friend, wrapping an arm around his waist and hauling him up to a standing position.
“Geez, man, you look terrible.”
Earl’s eyes were unfocused and red streaks spiked throughout the whites.
Even buzzed, William was cognizant enough that he knew something was wrong, “Hey, Earl. Come on, man. Wake up.”
Earl gurgled unintelligibly.
“Dude, you’re freaking me out.”
William Castle did not see the two men approach them. Nor did he feel the needle being plunged into the nape of his neck until it was too late. He tried to speak, but the paralytic agent was already taking effect.
“We shall help you gentlemen get back to your hotel.”
The voice was cold and indistinct.
As strong arms turned his body, William made out a cloak of some kind. The face that came afterwards was surrounded in a haze, but it was completely devoid of human emotion. It looked artificial.
“The Eye welcomes you, my brothers.”
It was the last thing that William heard before his world turned to black.
S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier ARGONAUT – VIP Apartments 0353 a.m.
Somewhere over the North Atlantic
Sean Cassidy couldn’t sleep.
The bed wasn’t the world’s most comfortable, not like the one in the castle where he grew up in Ireland. That was something else entirely. Or perhaps it hadn’t been. Memories were funny that way, especially when you were a child. This bed was standard issue, the same with the sheets and the slightly thin stack of pillows that rested beneath his head.
The woman sleeping next to him, however, was not.
Her lithe body was wrapped up in the plain white sheets and her silver hair pooled around her, strands covering the soft curves of her face.
She was lying on her side, facing him and snoring lightly. It was an action she would no doubt deny to anyone if he ever brought it up. Princesses did not snore.
He pulled himself out of bed, his body moving with tender ease so as to not wake her up. His bare feet touched the floor and once again he was reminded that they were currently flying some 39,000 feet in the air. All commercial airline traffic had been waved off and the cloaking systems, newly upgraded, were supposed to be working at 100%. A simple hum coursed through the metal of the ship. Sean could feel it running through every surface. Others didn’t seem to feel it or be as bothered by it as he was. The inertia-less drives and solar engines of the Helicarrier were silent and stealthy for most. The best that money could buy.
The room was about half the size of the one he grew up in. In military terms, befitting a man in Sean’s position: Special Advisor and Director of Operations for one of the most powerful men in the world. It had been sixth months and he was still getting used to it. He missed his old life, being on the ground and following the clues and catching the bad guys.
He questioned his ability to do the job that he was tasked with.
But Nick Fury believed in him.
Thirty paces got him across the room and into the more luxurious private bathroom. The entire domicile was mostly devoid of personal touches. With what had been going on, there hadn’t been time, and it hadn’t felt right anyways. The only thing that was not standard SHIELD issue was the LP player and a stack of records that were stashed on top of his desk.
Sean splashed some cold water on his face and looked at himself in the mirror.
What was reflected back to him was the face of a forty year old who had all of the accoutrements that came with spending years in various police and government organizations. A thin scar marked the right side of his face, the line moving up until it disappeared beneath the mop of red hair. Sean ran a finger over the scar, an image of the man who had given him the injury flashing in his mind.
In the reflection of the mirror he spotted the blue light pulsating from the watch on his wrist. The watch was no mundane timepiece; it was his connection to the SHIELD Network. Thousands of man-hours had gone into its creation and for those in the COMMAND designation, it was standard issue, right along with a sidearm. The light itself meant that there was an incoming data packet. That it was blue meant a potential, non-verified threat.
“At least it’s not red,” He thought, “Be thankful for that.”
He tapped one of the three buttons on the side of the watch and let the Haptic interface coalesce before him in all of its 3 dimensional glory. Information burst into blue life and in the confines of the bathroom, leaning against the sink, Sean sifted through it with determined motions.
SENATOR OWEN DANVILLE (NV)
THE OPENING EYE
Sean moved out of the bathroom, “Lights.”
Harsh lighting, slaved to his voice, flooded the room. The woman on the bed rolled over, pressing her face into the pillows as Sean took a seat at the desk and logged into the network. Three monitors blinked awake and a keyboard slid into position beneath his fingertips.
“It can not be morning yet. I utterly refuse to believe that the sun is even remotely close to the horizon.”
“Sorry, Lass. Spies get all of the interesting wake up calls.”
She grumbled something.
“You’ll have to speak up, Silver. I can’t hear what you’re saying when you do that.”
She threw the flimsy sheet from her body and sat up, pulling her knees close with her hands, “I was cursing your very existence, my dear Sean.”
Sean didn’t have to be looking at her to know that she was saying that with her usual cold demeanor. He had learned quite quickly that Silver Sablinova was not a people person. Sure, she could act the part if that’s what was needed, but that wasn’t her. It was a mask that could be put on and removed at will. That didn’t stop him from falling for her. He was with her because of who she was, not who she could become. Her bluntness didn’t mean anything other than the simple fact that she had issues. There wasn’t a spy around, himself included, who didn’t have one or two issues locked in an emotional closet.
“No rest for people like us. Better gear up.”
“Yes, Princess. You must. Looks like someone has decided to attempt to assassinate a Senator from Nevada.”
“And doesn’t the lovely man have a security detail already in place? My father does not venture anywhere without a cadre of specially trained men at his beck and call.”
“Yes, he’s got a security detail, but they’re not designed to handle this kind of a threat. And also, Silver, you’re father’s a King.”
“Bah! If I must, I must.”
“I’ll give you a more detailed briefing in a bit, but get the others up. Let them know. I’ll throw up the alert to their rooms, but you know how some of them are.”
“James will not care for this, you do know that.”
Sean’s mouth twitched, “Well, James can stop acting like a child and get over it. He works for me.”
Silver sinuously moved off of the bed and wrapped her arms around Sean’s neck, positioning her mouth beside his ear, “I love it when you do that. That commanding tone in your voice. Intoxicating.”
“Not now, Silver. Mission first.”
“No way to talk you out of that?”
“Afraid not. A Nevada Senator’s life is in our hands.”
She cracked a small smile, “Well, at the very least Sin City will afford us the opportunity to have a little fun. It’s been ages since we’ve been able to properly stretch our legs.”
Sean turned in the chair and looked directly into Silver’s hazel eyes, “Mission first.”
“But of course, darling.”
Sean dressed in his standard attire: a pair of black slacks and a black turtleneck. He headed for his superior’s office, knowing that she’d be up. He was actually convinced that Yelena Belova never slept. How she was able to accomplish this feat while still being at the top of her game was a mystery.
But he was good with mysteries.
He’d solve it eventually.
Instead of finding her in her office in the stern of the ship, sub-deck 2, Sean found the Deputy Director prowling the corridor that led to the Mess. Yelena Belova, close to 60, was a unique specimen of beauty: Blonde hair with a few streaks of grey, tied in a ponytail; sharp Russian features; a body that was still at the peak of physical conditioning, and a pair of cold blue eyes. Years ago she had been the Black Widow, Soviet super-spy who had defected to the U.S. The reason for the defection was redacted from the permanent files, but Sean had his suspicions.
She turned, her arms filled with a stack of manila folders with an apple perched on the top most file, “Mr. Cassidy. Feeling peckish?”
“I could use something to drink. Mind if I join you?”
The pair walked down the almost empty corridor. Each one returned a salute to the guards who had been unfortunate enough to earn the overnight shifts. To their credit, none of them looked tired, or yawned a single time.
“I assume that you and your team are up because of the Nevada situation.”
“You know everything, don’t you, Deputy Director.”
“I’m paid to know everything, Mr. Cassidy. I would have hoped that you would have figured that out by now.”
She fished one of the manila folders out from her pile as they turned the corner and entered the vast mess hall. It was quiet, but there was a staff always on duty due to the rotating schedules and shifts of agents.
“This is what I could put together about The Opening Eye.”
“I was working on that.”
“And I’ve finished it for you.”
Sean took the file with a grunt. He didn’t want things handed to him on a silver platter. He had never needed before and didn’t need it now.
“Don’t be that way, Mr. Cassidy. You’re still getting used to how SHIELD operates. The job won’t get easier though, so please, step it up.”
Sean opened the file and glanced at the cover sheet and the few pages beneath it, “Basil Sandhurst?”
Yelena gracefully took a seat at one of the many tables. A menu sat in front of her but she stacked her files on top of it and instead stared up at Sean, who was still standing.
Without even needing to look at the file, she began to rattle off the contents, “Born in Maine. He was a scientist. Mostly worked in the degrees of electro-mechanical and chemical research. That was until the accident. How does the phrase go, “The Schmuck found God?”
“After that, he went off grid. Six months ago he popped back up. A blip. A religious outfit called The Opening Eye. There’s a synopsis of the information packet that they give to all of their new recruits. Nothing too out of the ordinary. Forgo your earthly possessions and all of that.”
“Sounds like a grand ole time.”
“If you’re into that sort of thing, I guess.”
It was valuable intelligence. Sean knew that he would have dug it up eventually, but having it in his hands now meant he could focus on other things.
“Thanks for this, Deputy Director.”
She nodded, “Make sure your people do their jobs, Mr. Cassidy. That’s all I ask.”
“Should I inform Director Fury?”
“No. I’ll perform that little pleasure myself. The Senator from the great state of Nevada may not seem like much, but he’s on several key committees and is brokering a peace agreement across party lines that will keep Oversight from breathing down our necks. The man is important at the moment, especially to SHIELD. This operation will accomplish two goals, Mr. Cassidy. See that it gets done properly”
“A senator from Nevada is doing all of that?”
“Again, what’s the phrase? Miracles can happen.”
Sean gave a small nod. He needed to get his team up to speed and on their way, but if there was one thing he knew, it was to never turn down the chance at getting to swap stories and methodology with Yelena Belova. He allowed himself a few minutes and a drink before excusing himself.
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA 0153 p.m.
THE RIO – The Osborn Executive Auditorium
“Has anyone addressed the nagging question of why the Senator was marked for execution? I mean, yes, there was chatter that led us down this path, yet why? Why him? And why must I dress like I am some frumpy house-wife?”
Silver Sablinova regarded her undercover status with utter disgust. It made no difference that the items she was wearing were top shelf and would cost the average taxpayer almost half of their monthly salary to purchase. She was royalty, after all.
“You should have asked your boyfriend before we left. By the way, the look suits you, Sable.”
Sable scowled at Agent Jimmy Woo from across the large ballroom of the Rio. He was wearing a standard charcoal grey suit. A crimson red tie that gave his ensemble that little flourish, like a cherry on top of a sundae. Woo was of Chinese descent, with close-cropped black hair and a smile that was both mischievous and alluring. Compared to what she was wearing, black slacks and a V-Neck blouse and jacket combo that had come off some rack in a department store, he looked to be the epitome of fashion.
“If you have a problem with whom I share my company with, James…”
“It’s Atlas, if it’s all the same to you. At least on missions. And I don’t have a problem with whom you spend your time with. I’d just like the protocols that are in place to be used.”
The entire conversation was had without moving their lips or vocalizing a single word. SHIELD got all of the cool toys, one of them being The HIVE (High Intensity Vocalization Emitter), a product first introduced by Howard Stark in the late 70’s. The idea of a hive-mind like communication system had been a necessity considering the amount of effort that went into cracking the other side’s codes during more volatile times.
The HIVE consisted of two layered strips, no thicker than a sheet of paper, layered with sensors and microprocessors. One of them acted as a transmitter while the other performed the action of a receiver. The sheets were attached to the zygomatic bone on either side of the face, just behind the jaw, and the information that would be transmitted from brain to the mouth was transferred between all parties wearing the device. It had been made even more complex and compact since Stark’s time.
The Senator’s speech was scheduled to begin in less than half an hour, but people had been milling in and out of the hall for quite some time. The place was loud and crowded and someone had neglected to turn the air down to a proper setting in order to compensate for the number of bodies. The stage was set up with the standard podium flanked by three chairs. They sat empty for the time being, but technicians and members of the Senator’s team were making a few last minute adjustments.
To Atlas and Sable, the security that was in place was a joke. The event was not open to the public, which limited things, but each of the SHIELD Agents had counted numerous gaps that could be exploited.
Sean Cassidy’s voice came into each of their minds, his tone calm and authoritative, “Can the chatter and get your heads in the game, people. Be ready for anything.”
Atlas and Sable turned away from each other and began to mingle, obeying their boss. It wasn’t often that Sean put his foot down or came online during operations. He trusted his team.
The Senator was aware of their presence at the function, but had not been told of the possible threat. SHIELD had of course alerted the Senator’s security detail but like everyone else, no one appreciated having his or her toes stepped on. They had acquiesced only because it was in their protocols.
With their heads properly in the game, Atlas began to move towards the back of the auditorium. His eyes scanned each and every person making their way into the ballroom through the main doors, where invitations were taken and guests passed through a meager security system consisting of a metal detector. Reporters carrying bags and cameras were ushered in without much more than a cursory glance.
None of them looked out of the ordinary, nor did any of them exhibit any facial or body tic that ousted them, either. He had looked over a guest list before arriving, but there hadn’t been enough time to upload facial scans to the database so another redundancy could be put into motion.
Sable was not having much luck either. A few men had tried to hit on her as she made the rounds, pretending to find her seat, but nothing out of the ordinary popped. Minutes and seconds ticked by and inevitably, time was up. Senator Owen Danville appeared on the floor of the auditorium. He was around 53, a bit stocky and a bit overweight, but overall he seemed more livelier than some politicians.
Still, Sable did not care for him. It wasn’t him personally; it was all politicians across the board. They reminded her of her father, which was not a good thing.
He glad-handed a group of people as he made for the stairs to the side of the stage. The security detail surrounding Danville were doing their job. Sable counted 4 of them: three men and one female agent.
People had begun to settle down and move to their seats.
The show was about to begin.
Atlas stayed towards the back of the room, along the wall, keeping a flanking position in case something did happen and the attackers tried to flee.
The Senator started his speech.
Atlas could feel something in the auditorium change. There was nothing permeable about the feeling, nothing obvious, and yet it was there.
He moved in closer, eyeing the crowd.
A line of photographers had pooled near the stage, recording and snapping moments of the Senator’s speech.
The camera crews broadcasting the speech had set up closer to the back, allowing them to get a full panoramic view of the hall.
Senator Danville made it to the fifth line in his speech before all hell broke loose.
Seven people in all pulled weaponry that looked like something out of a horror film by way of the year 3217. The weapons were all odd angles and green glows and emitted a hum not of this world. None of it looked real. On the surface there was no rhyme or reason to the group, but what they did have in common with each other was how they acted. It was almost as if a switch had been flipped and they had synchronized and become a part of the same animal.
Atlas was too far away from the majority of them and a cacophony erupted the moment the assassins brandished their futuristic weapons, but he could have sworn that he had heard one of the women bellow, “The Eye demands…SACRIFICE!”
The attendees of the speech began to run for their lives. People trampled upon each other in a desperate desire to simply get out of the auditorium.
The group, obviously linked in some unearthly way, paid no attention to the crowd. They only had eyes for the Senator.
They opened fire.
Sable and Atlas acted in syncrony, their training perfectly kicking in. Guns appeared in their hands and their feet moved of their own volition.
Yet even though they were both fast, they also knew that they wouldn’t be able to get every single one of their targets.
Atlas shouted inside his head, “Mimi.”
Even above the noise level, the shrill cry of Melissa Gold, know in the field as Screaming Mimi, could be heard. She had been posing as one of the Senator’s security team and had positioned her medium sized frame directly behind her mark, deciding that it was better to be prepared for the worst than simply hoping it didn’t happen. Her hair changed color as the scream permeated the air around the Senator. Streaks of red tinged the short, tomboyish, blonde strands to create an almost swirl-like effect.
The orange fire of the enemy’s weapons blazed as they blasted their way towards the Senator, frozen behind his podium, his eyes bulging, the fear of being able to do nothing settling into the pit of his stomach. The three man security team rushed out in front of him, their guns pulled and leveled at their targets, but the onslaught that was unleashed was too much, and each of them fell.
At the same time, the scream that blasted from Mimi formed a pink cocoon around Senator Danville’s body.
As each blast connected with the construct, Mimi’s body shivered.
She had never once felt anything like it and instantly knew that her maneuver wouldn’t hold out forever.
Atlas and Sable fired upon their targets.
Their groupings were right on the money. In less than five seconds, Atlas had fired six rounds into the backs of two of the assassins. The acrid smell of gunpowder wafted out of the barrel of his Sturm Ruger KP89C.
Sable took down another two, one with a sweep to the leg, followed up by a crushing blow to the larynx. The second dropped with two shots from her S&W Bodyguard 380.
The remaining assassins continued to fire, not even noticing their compatriots had fallen.
Seeing this, Mimi reacted by pulling her cocoon construct towards her body and lobbing the Senator behind her to get him out of harm’s way. At the same time she loosed another scream created construct, this time in the form of a wall, and jabbed it like a boxer at two of the assassins who had begun to advance.
It was a stalling tactic, but it was one she’d practiced. She knew her team and trusted them.
Sable took aim on one of the three remaining assassins and winged him in the shoulder.
The two other attackers whipped around, again with almost mechanical-like precision, and scattered. Moving like they’d just had their internal batteries changed, the two vaulted over the collection of seats and headed for two different exits.
Again, Atlas got that feeling in the pit of his stomach.
He raced towards the remaining shooter, allowing Sable to take a stab of at getting one of the others.
Atlas got within ten feet of his target and let the details flood his vision: Tall, sideburns, Daily Bugle Press badge, limp, eyes with black streaks in them, and what looked like a crude bomb strapped to his chest.
Another second and Atlas could see the cord that connected the bomb to the trigger, a handheld device that the man was cradling in his left palm.
“FOR THE EYE OPENS. A SACRIFICE MUST BE MADE.”
Atlas lowered the gun, extracted a curved silver knife from a sheath beneath his suit jacket, and covered the ten feet that stood in his way.
The gun would have been the easy way out, and it wouldn’t help them get the information that SHIELD needed.
Atlas moved, and before the man could see what was about to happen, Atlas raked the edge of the knife across the tendons in the man’s wrist, removing his ability to depress the bomb’s trigger. He followed that up with a quick spin, the torque in the movement allowing him to add more power as he bashed the man’s head with the grip of his gun.
The man dropped without a sound.
Atlas pounced on him, making sure that the detonator was removed from the device and that the man’s hands, functional or not, were handcuffed and secure before he allowed himself to breathe.
He felt someone standing over him.
“One day you’re going to get yourself killed, you know that?”
Atlas could only smile at that.
S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier ARGONAUT – Director’s Office – 0653 p.m.
The man behind the desk looked at the piece of paper in his hands, the Operation’s after-action report, while taking a sip of 60 year old scotch out of a tumbler. The ornate bottle sat near him, opened and half emptied. The man wasn’t old, nor was he young. If an average person had been asked to describe him, they more than likely would have stated: Sandy blond hair cut in a Marine style, tanned muscular skin, and an eye patch.
“No civilian casualties,” The man said approvingly.
Yelena Belova, sitting opposite across the desk in her own leather chair nodded.
“Yes, that’s correct. A few injuries. Some broken bones and no doubt there will be more than a few people speaking to their therapists, but no loss of life.”
“Something to be thankful for, Yelena. It doesn’t happen too often.”
“Can the Sir crap. You know that I don’t care for it.”
“I can’t, Sir. It’s the way things are done, Director.”
The man who bore the name and title of Nick Fury resettled in his executive chair. He turned a bit to look through the bubbled dome of a window that was one of the room’s defining features, and stared at the sun as it began to set. The dying light streamed into the massive office, the cold metal floor and chrome surfaces taking on a orange hue.
“What do we know about the discs that were utilized to turn these men and women into assassins?”
“Not much. But we hypothesize, based on what Agents Woo and Sablinova stated in their reports as to how the individuals coordinated, they act as a remote control. Unfortunately, the tech is unlike anything we’ve ever seen. We’re running down some possible leads, but nothing is for sure at the moment, Director Fury.”
“Cho is working on them. Gleefully, I might add.”
Fury nodded, “Kid’s good. He’ll find something.”
“And if he doesn’t?”
“Then you better hope that the operative that you sent into Sandhurst’s cult when he resurfaced gets back in contact with you. Something’s brewing and I don’t like being in the dark. He’s involved in this and I want my Agent back. Do you copy me?”
“Good. Get it done.”
“Before I go, Sir. May I ask you a question?”
“You just did, Yelena. But yes, go ahead.”
She could tell by the look on his face that he had expected the question to be asked.
“Why was Danville targeted? I understand on paper why, but I get the feeling that there’s something that I’m missing.”
“It’s a need to know sort of thing. Let’s just say that someone was sending me a message.”
Cryptic, but when you’ve been a spy for as long as Yelena had been, you got used to things being cryptic.
“Thank you, Sir.”
She stood and left, leaving her Director alone with his drink and his sunset.
NEXT ISSUE: Wonder Man and the Wrecking Crew!
BACKUP STORY by Randy Lander
Sergeant Nicholas Joseph Fury looked up at the building, then back down at the piece of paper in his hand, then back up at the building. This was definitely the address, 59th Street and Madison Avenue. He was in the right place, at the right time. But he found it hard to believe that his high-powered meeting, set up by the President himself, was at “Bert’s Barber Shop.” But there it was, complete with spinning barber’s pole and “Shave and a Haircut – 75 cents” sign on the window.
What the hell, Fury thought. If nothing else, that’s a decent price and I could use a good shave. He walked in and was greeted by a whirlwind of activity, albeit activity that belonged in a barbershop, not a top-secret OSS installation. No, not OSS, Fury had to remember. They were the CIA now. A black man sat at the shoeshine booth at the back, an older white man with a bushy black mustache was at one of the barber chairs, and a beautiful blond woman sat at a table with a light at the front. Each of them stood and greeted him. By name.
“Hello there, Sergeant Fury! Come in for a haircut, have you?”
“Uh… sure,” Fury answered. His time in the service had given him a good eye for people, and one thing was certain… these were not barbers. He wasn’t sure, but he thought that the woman had her hand on a gun under the desk. He was sure that the man at the shoeshine booth could have picked him up and cleaned his clock if he was of a mind to. And the other man, the “barber,” carried himself with the same poise and preparedness that Fury was used to seeing in his Lieutenants. Strange as it seemed, this was definitely a spy house.
Fury sat in the barber chair, and the white man leaned over and pulled the lever. Immediately the floor slid open, revealing a long elevator shaft, and the chair began sinking into the floor. Fury couldn’t help but grin. The others returned his smile. Spy games, he thought, shaking his head. But hey, nobody would think to look for the OSS here. Certainly Fury hadn’t.
When he reached the bottom, Fury was still sitting in the chair, but now he was facing a large oak podium, behind which were seated three people. The room was dark, and the only lights were the one shining into Fury’s eyes and the ones shining down onto the podium in front of each person, hiding their faces in shadow but illuminating the papers and files on the desks in front of them.
“Sergeant Fury,” one of the voices said, with a clear Boston accent. “Thank you for coming.”
“I wasn’t given the impression I had a choice,” Fury replied. “When the President tells you to go somewhere, you go.”
There was a chuckle from the other man, clearly a bit older, who said, “Yes, I guess you do at that.”
“Do I get to know who I’m talking to?” Fury asked.
A second later, full lighting flipped on, and Fury saw the three men sitting in front of him. He didn’t need an introduction to any of them. One was Allen Welsh Dulles, recently installed as the head of the Central Intelligence Agency. Another was the freshmen Senator from Massachussetts, John F. Kennedy. And the other was the noted inventor whose weapons had helped win the war, Howard Stark.
“Sergeant, would you please take a look at the files in front of you?” Stark asked.
Fury reached over to the table that he hadn’t even noticed was on his left and grabbed a manila folder thick with papers and photos. It read “Top Secret – Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-enforcement Division.”
“S.H.I.E.L.E.D.?” Fury remarked.
“We’re just calling it SHIELD,” Dulles corrected him.
“And you want me to join up?”
“No,” said Kennedy. “We want you to be the Director.”
Fury let out a belly laugh. “All due respect, Senator… I’m a grunt. I work for a living. I’m not the guy to head up some kind of international spy/cop organization for you. And isn’t this the CIA’s job, anyway?”
Dulles spoke up again. “SHIELD has a different purview. The mission of the CIA is intelligence-gathering, support for the military, national security, that kind of thing. SHIELD… well, SHIELD is going to be tasked with something different.”
“You’re familiar with Captain America, I assume?” Kennedy asked.
“Familiar enough that I’ve seen what he looks like with a hangover,” Fury agreed.
“And presumably the Red Skull?”
“Yeah, Nazi bastard. I know him.”
“We believe that these two are just the beginning. We believe that a new form of threat and potential ally for the United States developed during the war, not just super soldiers but supermen. Our intelligence leads us to believe that this may be a growing concern, and that a simple sliver of the CIA won’t be able to keep up. SHIELD will be tasked with dealing with these kinds of threats. Above the norm. Beyond the usual explanation, beyond even cutting edge science. And they’ll be equipped with the best training, the newest tools, to deal with them.”
“They came to me a couple years ago,” Kennedy said. “But my family lead me in a different direction. Plus I’ve got the problems with my back, and I suspect my wife wouldn’t have been thrilled with me taking a job that involved being shot at regularly.”
“Shot at? I thought this was a desk job”
“Not as such, no,” Dulles said. “The director of SHIELD will be responsible for day-to-day policy and strategizing, but he will also need to be a field-capable leader. That’s why we want a military man, rather than an intelligence agent. We want someone who can lead a unit, as you proved over and over again during the war. You’ll have plenty of support from CIA-trained operatives to get up to speed on the more covert and political aspects of intelligence-gathering, we want you to fight for us.”
“I thought my war was over,” Fury said. “No offense, gentlemen, but I think I’m going to have to decline.”
“Before you answer for sure,” Dulles said, “Why don’t you flip to the second stack of papers in that dossier? The one marked Hydra?”
Fury knew all about Hydra. The Nazi’s experimental weapons and tactics branch, headed up by the Red Skull. He and the Howling Commandos had engaged with them plenty of times, usually with Cap at his side. But the Skull was dead, as far as Fury knew, and he thought Hydra had been mopped up along with the rest of the Nazi command.
The picture he saw set his blood boiling. An older, bald man with a scar across his face and a monocle over his left eye.
Baron Wolfgang Strucker, a Hydra commander, had battled Fury throughout the war. One of those battles had cost Fury one of his eyes, the reason he wore a patch now.
“He’s taken over Hydra and taken it private,” Dulles said. “Instead of pursuing Hitler’s goals, the advanced weaponry and fanatical soldiers are listening to Strucker now, following his own personal path for world domination. And there’s reason to believe, if we don’t oppose him soon, in force, and in the right way, he could do it. The world’s in a fragile state… it needs someone to stand up and protect it while it puts itself together. We think you’re that man. Are we wrong?”
Damn it. They knew just which button to push.
“No,” Fury said. “No, you’re not wrong. I guess you got yourself a director.”
“Congratulations… Colonel Fury,” Kennedy said.
“There are some perks that come with the job too,” Stark said, smiling broadly. “Here are the keys to one of them.”
He tossed a keyring with two keys out, and Fury caught it in his right hand.
“It’s waiting outside. It’ll take you where you need to go next.”
The barber’s chair began to rise, and Fury found himself in the barbershop once more. The three agents of SHIELD (because what else could they be) looked expectantly at Fury.
“Yeah,” he said. “I’m your boss now.”
He stood up and walked outside. He hadn’t seen it before, or hadn’t connected it to his meeting, but now he saw it. A beautiful, bright red Alfa Romeo Disco Volante sports car.
“Not exactly subtle,” Fury growled to himself, but he had to admit that it was a beautiful car, even if it looked like a UFO. He got in, turned the keys, and felt it shudder to life. Then he felt it begin to lift off the ground. Surprised, he looked down and saw that the wheels had folded inward, revealing blocky electrical generators in their place, and that sleek, small wings had emerged on either side.
“Well, I’ll be damned,” Fury said. “Stark finally got his flying car working.” As the autopilot kicked in and the car lifted into the air, Fury reached into his pocket and pulled out a cigar. Whatever the job, this wasn’t the worst way to get to work. Now he just wondered what the destination on the autopilot screen meant. What in the Sam Hill was a “Helicarrier?”
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