Somewhere below the northern Pacific Ocean
It always amazed Agent 13 how much terror one person with a gun could inspire in a room.
“I am an agent of SHIELD!” she shouts, standing atop one of the computer terminals that line the nerve center of the underwater base she had infiltrated. Standing below and next to her is the fake Captain America, one of the many faux-Avengers that she had spent the past day and a half investigating. He stands with his back to her, a grimace on his face and a knife in his hand. His allegiance was a purchased one, but so long as he didn’t literally stab her in the back, Agent 13 could handle it.
The room itself is small and cramped, one full level and then a half-level of the tick-shaped base. The floor was made of metal grating on both levels and dozens of computer stations lined the floors. Power cables, electrical wires, and tubes of cold seawater ran everywhere. A set of stairs goes up the center of the room, leading to the partial-second story. The office workers – which is the only thing that Agent 13 can think to call them – are dressed pretty much like normal people. Dark khakis pants, short-sleeved, button up shirts, ties. The only difference she noted was that these people wore small, organically shaped collars around their necks. 13 hoped that they were for breathing underwater in case of an emergency. The other option was that they could be used for punishing disloyal employees.
The computer guy scoffs – actually scoffs – at her. “Do you really think that we’re scared by a mere SHIELD agent? We’ve been trained to withstand - ”
The last of his sentence never comes as Agent 13 shoots him in the head. The shot echoes through the cramped space and an alert cry goes up around it. Some of the computer jocks duck beneath their desks, others stand and a few don’t even dare to move. Then Agent 13 turns to the woman sitting behind her, aiming the gun at her forehead. “Were you trained to withstand that?” 13 asks, tilting her head at the bleeding mess behind her.
“I wasn’t,” the woman says, fighting back a choking sound. She’s already clicking through her computer, moving through the windows with ease. “Th-there. Only person brought in during the last two days.” 13 leans over her shoulder. Her eyes flit over the screen. “H-he’s, ah, he’s in the conference room.”
Behind her, Cap grunts. “Weird place to keep a prisoner.”
“Let’s go,” 13 says, moving away from the terminal, towards the thick door at the back of the room. 13 waits for Cap to exit, keeping him in front of her.
“We’re clear,” Cap says and Agent 13 follows him out into the hallway. “Ain’t you worried about one of them geeks setting off an alarm though?”
“I don’t care if the boss man knows I’m here,” Agent 13 replies, moving at a brisk pace. “I can handle danger. I’m worried about Black Box. Can you get us to that conference room?”
“Yeah, s’where we get our assignments,” Cap replies, his square, rough face contorted in though. “But if yer so confident about your chances, why worry about this Box guy? I got the feeling the boss wouldn’t kill him.”
“Hey, I don’t suppose you know who your boss is,” 13 says, stopping at a T-junction to look both ways. “Save me some time.”
“A black shadow on a screen,” Cap replies as they round the corner. “Keep on the right. And you dodged my question.”
“Keep in mind that we aren’t partners here ‘Cap’,” Agent 13 says sarcastically. “I don’t owe you any answers, especially after you and your team killed a whole town of innocent people.”
“You think that doesn’t bother me? That I helped in that? You think I wanna go around killing people for money?” Cap says, his face turning an angry shade of red. “I DON’T. But I got a family to feed and no one else was giving me money. Not the corporations, not the government, not the super-heroes. These guys offered me a job and an’ I took it. S’at simple. And besides, I was just a guy with a gun and a shield. I killed like twelve people.”
Agent 13 glares at him. “And that absolves you of your involvement?”
“Didn’t say that,” Cap replies. “And you still didn’t say why yer so worried about this guy yer after.”
“You’re right, I didn’t,” 13 replies as the reach a long set of stairs. “Lead the way.” They start to head down them, boot steps ringing. Surprisingly, there was still no alarm. While Sharon wasn’t worried about the alarm – really, she wasn’t – it did worry her that there hadn’t been one. No self-respecting underworld organization didn’t have alarms. That was just dumb. This meant that something else was going on, something that Agent 13 couldn’t control.
The conference room
Garabed Bashur, the self-named Black Box, sits in the plush leather chair comfortably, swinging back and forth slightly. His hands are cuffed in front of him, chaffing, but nothing too terrible. He was allowed to keep his comfortable clothes, a dark pair of pants with a white button up shirt. His jacket had been taken away, bothering him to no end. Curling black hair tops his head, setting off his dark skin tone nicely. Being of Indian descent agreed with Garabed. To wit, he made it look better than good.
Case in point.
“Mr. Bashur,” the black shadow on the screen before him says, its voice deep and menacing, a slight shift in it thanks to the digital scrambling. “I am sure that, in all of our working history, you have come to learn that I am not a…terribly patient man.”
“Or good looking,” Box replies with a shrug. “But I don’t judge. Not that it’s easy to judge mysterious employers who never reveal their identity and then try to kill you once you finish the job instead of giving you a pat on the back and a ‘job well done’. Hm, wait, no, I do judge for that and you, sir, are an asshat. A big one. Like, you are the top hat of asshats.”
To Box’s satisfaction, he sees a slight tremble in the shadow. “It would be so easy to kill you Garabed. Do you understand that? I’m not sure that you do.”
“I understand that if you wanted me dead, I would be dead and not enjoying your gracious hospitality,” Box replies, folding his hands together in his lap. “Although I don’t get how you think I’d be willing to keep working for you given that you, y’know, TRIED TO KILL ME.”
“That was merely a warning,” the shadow replies, leaning forward. “I don’t want much from you Garabed. Simply a change in our…contract. Rather than working freelance, I’m offering you a full time job, nigh unlimited pay, resources you could never have otherwise.”
“I didn’t like have a full-time job when I worked for Burger King,” Garabed says, a bitter expression on his face. “And I sure as hell don’t like taking orders. I’m my own boss. I like it that way. I’m always employee of the…forever.
“Then no deal it is.” The shadow replies, sitting back with a sigh. “Such a pity to have to kill you. What a waste of rare talent.”
“Man, think how I feel.” Garabed says, standing up. “This whole thing’s been a HUGE waste of my time. I’ve got far more expensive things I could be doing now and far better looking people to spending my time with.” Then he smiles. “Speaking of.”
Behind Bashur, the thick metal door suddenly swings inward, allowing Agent 13 into the room. One step behind her is Cap, standing over the bodies of the two guards, his head swiveling up and down the hallway. Already 13 has switched her gun back to its pistol-setting and she enters with it in front of her.
“Hey good looking,” Bashur says, looking over his shoulder. “It’s about damn time. Can we get out of here already?”
Agent 13’s eyes, scanning over the room, finally land on the screen. She futilely points her pistol at it. “I think this goes without saying, but you’re under arrest.”
On the other end of the screen, the shadow puts a hand to it’s mouth. Chuckling, the image cuts out and the screen goes black.
“Hello?! Let’s GO!” Box shouts, holding up his hands. “I gotta say, not real impressed with SHIELD’s standards for protective custody. I think these cuffs may have given me carpal tunnel.”
Sharon slaps Cap on the shoulder, motioning for the knife. Then she uses it to snap the links on the cuffs. “Whine, whine whine. You’re still alive aren’t you?” She tosses the knife back to Cap.
“Why is everyone taking credit for me being alive?” Box says as the pair heads towards the door. “I keep saving lives and no one gives me a wink! I saved my life, I saved your life, I saved – “
Sharon snorts a laugh. “When did you save MY life?”
“Oh, only all day today,” Box says. “Who do you thinks been keeping all the alarms and shit off of you? Cuz it wasn’t the tooth fairy good-looking.”
“You mean - ?” Agent 13 is honestly surprised. These guys weren’t terrible at defense; Black Box was just the edge she needed. “Well. Thank you.”
“You are most welcome,” Bashur says smartly. “Although now that the big boss knows for a fact that you’re here, I doubt I’ll be able to - ” Suddenly the entire base is plunged into red light as a wailing alarm goes off over head. “Yeah. That.”
“How about the ‘getting out of this’ part of your plan?” Cap asks, sweat breaking out on his brow. “This is a plan for that, right?”
“Who the hell is this guy?” Box says, eying Cap’s smaller, thicker frame. “Captain Lower-Class America?”
“I will beat the shit outta - ” Cap starts, stopping only when Agent 13 holds up a hand between the pair.
“Squabble later gentlemen,” 13 says, looking from Cap to Bashur. “Presuming you two don’t get us killed, we’ll be out in five minutes. Box, where’s the central computer for this place?”
“We were just there!” Cap suddenly whines, shaking his head. “You couldn’t - ”
“That wasn’t the central processor,” 13 replies confidently. “I need the machine that those computers plug into. Location?”
“I’ve got it,” Bashur says, making a face. “But we’re going to run into trouble along the way.”
Smiling, Sharon activates the mechanical gauntlet on her wrist. With a dazzling burst of energy, red, white, and blue, a replica of Captain America’s shield hums to life. “I can handle trouble.”
“Yeah, I know you can,” Bashur says bashfully. In the background, the sound of metal tearing and screaming can be heard. It follows a neat pattern, timed, and it gets closer with each screech. “But I don’t think that you can handle this level of trouble.”
The floor suddenly bursts open, ejecting a man into the ceiling! He promptly bounces off of the ceiling and back down to the floor. He stands up slowly, his muscular body uncurling, his face a mask of rage. Faux-Thor stands tall in the cramped space, the rage blending into glee. He points Mjolnir at 13. “Time for round two bitch.”
“Now hand on Al,” Cap says quickly, holding up his hands. “No need to go all Viking on us. We can still - ” Suddenly he swings his arm out, side-punching Box in the face! Before 13 can react, Cap wraps his arm around her neck and holds the knife against her throat. “ – Work this out.”
13’s eyes go wide. “You son of a bitch! I offered you an out! Clean and easy!”
“Sorry,” Cap says, his voice suddenly hard and rough in her arm. “But like I said. I’ve got a job t’do. Even if I don’t like it much.”
“I like it,” Thor says, tossing and catching Mjolnir as he crosses the space. “And I’m gonna like showing you just exactly what I can do with this hammer.”
Annoyed – partially at Cap’s betrayal, but mostly at herself – 13 shakes her head. “I cannot BELIEVE this,” Then she reaches up, grabbing Cap’s knife-wrist and twists, forcing him to move the limb. She juts her head back, slamming it into Cap’s face. With a twist she hooks her foot behind his leg and pulls it out, dropping him to the ground. The impact stuns him long enough for 13 to snatch her knife back, glaring at the man. “Next time I see you, I shoot you first, asshole.”
“There isn’t going to be a next time,” Thor says, grabbing 13 by the hair. She lets out a shout of pain as he lifts her up, her hands shooting to her head. Sliding the knife in her hands, 13 puts the blade against Thor’s fingers and pulls, severing the pinky and cutting through the bone on two other fingers. The big man screams, loud and hard, and drops her.
By now, Box is just finding his feet. He works his face, carefully feeling around his nose. “Is it broken? Am I dead? Tell me it isn’t broken. I’m willing to pay to fix it, but beauty like this - ” Ignoring him, 13 holsters her weapons and helps him up.
“You’re fine, we need to move.”
“But my - ” Box starts.
“MOVE!” 13 shouts, practically dragging him away from the stirring Cap and now enraged Thor. “You found the computer center right? The main one? Download the location to my chest piece.”
“My fucking face - ”
“DOWNLOAD IT NOW!” 13 shouts, watching Thor over her shoulder. The big man shakes off the pain, his face red. With his right hand he starts to swing Mjolnir, creating a wide arc. The air in the tunnel seems to shift as the hammer gains speed. Finally, Thor FLINGS the hammer forward – but he doesn’t let go. Hanging onto the strap at the end of it’s handle, the momentum of the throw pulls him forward as well! He streaks down the hallway like a comet.
“Dude!” Box shouts, holding the back of head in pain. “Your protective custody SUCKS.”
“BOX - ”
“Yeah, you’ve got it, you’ve got it!” Box says, getting to his feet as well. “Although we’ll just be lucky to get out of this hallway alive, much less there.”
“My luck I’m not worried about,” 13 says, pulling off her watch. She hands it to Box and activates her new shield. “YOUR luck I am. Put that on and activate it.”
Box does indeed put it on, but he waits to activate. “A teleporter? Yo, after the way you came to save me, there is no way I’m leaving you to - ”
A thunderous scream echoes down the hall as Thor throws Mjolnir – this time letting it go! The hammer streaks through the air and SLAMS into 13’s shield with a crack like thunder! She’s thrown back by the impact, the shield sputtering, and rolls along the floor. As she bounces off of one of the raised steel gateways, she finally comes to a stop.
“Well, best of luck!” Box says as dazzling light envelopes him.
13 smiles, glad to have him gone. She stands, shakily. Her shoulder is bruised from the impact and her shield-arm stings. Fractured, if not broken. Damn. The shield keeps flickering in and out, the impact too much for it. Injured, alone, and out-gunned 13 braces herself. With Black Box gone, she knew that at least he was safe. But on the other hand, his absence meant something really bad.
She has to stand alone against a pissed off fake god.