Part One: The Wooden Puppet

-Chapter One-


Director Nicholas Fury watched with mixed feelings of confusion and disappointment as yet another interrogator sped out of the borrowed interview room. This one, a middle-aged man who had been recruited for his tenure in Iraq and Afghanistan, looked even more spooked than the last. He avoided making eye contact with Fury, beyond the obligatory need to tell him that he wouldn't be able to continue with the woman, before he sped out of the viewing room entirely. He had the decency to look ashamed underneath his discomfort, although that did nothing to lessen Fury's feelings of anger.

He'd hoped the soldier would be able to make some sort of headway with the obstinate woman, girl more like, currently glaring at the two-sided glass. Apparently he had been wrong. It was a fact that didn't sit well with him.

Fury rolled his shoulders back and tucked her file under his arm and stepped into the obscenely bright room. She didn't look up, choosing instead to find a sudden fascination in her nubby fingernails. She picked at them, flicking dirt to the floor in a defiant way that made his eyelid twitch underneath his patch.

She was posturing, he knew that, and yet the action made him more annoyed than he should've been.

"What did you do?" Fury folded his arms over his chest and narrowed his one good eye at the young woman. She continued to avoid his gaze. When she said nothing in response, he asked her again, more bite in his voice the second time around. "I'm not in the business of asking people twice."

"And yet, you just did."

Fury's eyelid twitched again.

"You'll answer me when I ask you a question."

"I didn't do anything," She said after a moment, looking away from her hands to the air conditioning duct that ran along the length of the room. She gazed at the small ice crystals that formed on the vent a bit closer than was necessary before she finally turned to look at him. Her large amber eyes were filled with anger and fatigue, although he was pleased to see there was small amount of fear.

Fear was good. Fear produced answers.

"I think we both know you did something, so why don't you just cut the bullshit and call it a day."

"I hope you realize I'm not going to talk just because the room is cold." All the same, she rubbed her goose pimpled flesh discretely, pales hands moving along her skin before she stopped and tucked them into her cap sleeves. It was his intention to make her as uncomfortable as possible so he did not find it in himself to care that she was a bit chilly.

Fury sat down in the chair across from her casually, dropping the file he was holding on the table. Her eyes slid from his face down to the manila folder, widening when she read her name printed brazenly across the front in red letters.

It was always the red letters that caused them to panic.

"You cause me concern," Fury said plainly, sliding the folder closer. She seemed conflicted, fingers twitching, before she reached a shaking hand forward to snatch her file off the table. He watched her, waiting for her to process the information. When the look of alarm finally showed on her face, unmasked, unaltered, he thought he might be making progress. She looked pale in the fluorescent lighting of the room, sickly almost. It took her a few moments to get to the last page and, when she did, she put the file down and closed it.

"Apparently, you aren't the only one I cause concern for. Does the government have files like this on everyone? Or am I just special?"

"Special is one way of putting it."

"But it isn't the way you would put it?"

There was a defiance in her voice that Fury did not like. It didn't reach her eyes, however, and the veins in her forehead and along her neck were starting to show. The pale blue made her skin look almost translucent and he wondered how long it had been since she had spent any solid amount of time in the sun. He wasn't in the business of caring, however, so he took the folder back and tapped it so the papers were neat and orderly.

"No, no I wouldn't."

"How would you classify it?" She tilted her head to the side just enough to cause her hair to swing over her shoulder.

"Bothersome, at best. Problematic, at worst."

"Nick…"

"Director Fury would do," Fury corrected, noting the way her nose scrunched.

"I'm assuming it's problematic for you specifically."

"And for you," Fury said. "I don't think I need to tell you, you especially, what sort of trouble you're in."

"Enlighten me, Director Fury," She emphasized his title in a mocking manner. His eyes twitched again, worse than ever. She was going to be a problem, he could feel it.

"Miss Gudrun," Her mouth twisted at the use of her last name. "Now is not the time and place…"

"Santa Fe, you mean."

"Santa Fe." Fury didn't question why she knew where she was, despite the fact that she shouldn't even know what state she was in, let alone which city.

"A bit bleak, wouldn't you say?" She leaned forward on her elbows. Her eyes flashed in the intense light of the room with the movement. Fury wondered what it was about her that caused three of S.H.E.I.L.D.'s best interrogators to leave after only an hour or so in her presence, if there was something about looking her in the eye that caused them to panic. It wasn't her size, which was unimpressive at best, nor was it her voice, which was accented in a way that most would consider to be charming. He had to assume it was her eyes, although he didn't find them to be particularly intimidating or remarkable.

"Stop deflecting."

"You haven't asked me any real questions," She replied, sliding the folder back towards him. "Or told me anything I don't already know."

"I haven't told you anything at all," Fury said, ignoring the papers she was giving back to him.

"You haven't, but they did." She leaned back in her chair, appearing calm. Her muscles were tense, however, and he could see the way her hands gripped the sides of her chair like she was scared she was going to suddenly fall off.

"And what exactly did they tell you?" Fury hoped that he might be getting to the important part, the part he cared about.

"Everything."

"Why don't we start at the beginning then? Tell me what you know about the incident in New Mexico."