"Ce crezi că faci? Obține aceste lucruri încărcate în camion," One of the men barked. The room was a flurry of activity. Her Romanian was a little rusty, but she could make out just enough to tell that they were leaving in a hurry. Three men in lab coats rushed around the room packing equipment into boxes and shouting at each other. She watched from her hiding spot in a rusty cabinet, enjoying their agitation.
The shortest one let out a low curse as a can of soda knocked over before he caught it and set it on a nearby table, half the contents spilling onto a stack of papers. „Care a părăsit băutură lor stând aici," he shouted angrily while wiping up the red spill.
His companions looked up after a moment both shaking their heads. „Trebuia să fie unul dintre voi . Unde sa dus? A fost chiar aici," he continued shouting, looking around for the can he had just set down. He looked around and accidentally banged into an open cabinet door. The other two barely spared him a glance as they continued frantically throwing documents into cardboard boxes.
The only sound she heard was the sharp staccato of her heels as they echoed down the dimly lit hallway. She took a sip from her strawberry soda, smiling to herself wryly. This had all been so easy, she thought to herself as she twirled the flash drive around in her hand. It was amazing how easy revenge could be when you put your mind to it.
Up ahead there was one last turn that would lead her out to the lobby. She quickly pocketed the drive and smoothed out her clothing. Giving one last brush through her hair to ensure it was laying the way she liked it, she pushed past the last door. The lobby was bland, but better lit. She kept her head ducked down as she travelled across the pale carpet that muffled her noisy heels.
"Hei, tu! Așteptați,"a voice called out before she reached the door. Turning, she hid her trepedation with a polite smile. Ah yes, one of the guards. He moved across the room at a lazy pace, all the while grinning at her like a wolf. He must have thought he was a modern day Casanova.
He began flirting with her in Romanian that she struggled to understand, but she managed the jist of it by his body language. She giggled and looked down shyly; her accent and poor pronunciation would surely give her away. It soon became apparent that he was on a roll and she desperately needed to get going. Leaning forward, she took the pen out of his shirt pocket while trailing her hand down his chest. He smirked as she grabbed hold of his hand and wrote a phone number on his palm before putting his pen back and walking towards the door. She turned and gave him one last wink before stepping out into the hazy sunshine of another rainy Baltimore morning.
Unfortunately, that little setback cost her precious time. She was only half a block away when the explosion went off. It was a smaller explosion and barely shook the ground, but she was much closer to the scene of the crime than she cared for. Looking around the sidewalk on the crowded street she saw many passersby stop and turn back to see the commotion. Cursing in her head, she turned as well to maintain her cover, pretending to be just another curious person running late for work.
It became apparent, however, that she couldn't linger; a security camera blinked from the top of a corner store and caught her attention. It wouldn't take long for her route to be pieced together and traced back to the lab. She glanced around and quickly found what she was looking for. Moving towards the alley as fast as she could without drawing attention, she hurried towards the back and scaled the fence. High heels were not ideal shoes for this, she thought dryly.
Once safely over the fence, she peeked over her shoulder to make sure no one saw. The streets weren't crowded at this time of day, but most of them were still caught up in the smoke pouring out of the lab to notice anything else. Bending over, she knocked over some bags of trash and found the duffel bag she had hidden for herself. She continued on her path, crises crossing her way through several blocks and cutting through alleys where possible to gain some distance.
Eventually she reached her goal: the docks. People out here were more concerned with what was happening out in the water, so it was easy to find an old, beat up Dodge and slip inside. The owner hadn't even locked it. She pried open the steering column with practiced ease and fumbled with the wires inside until she got them to spark. The engine wheezed to life. Not the ideal getaway car, but none of this was her ideal plan. She would take a seventy percent success rate if it meant a more or less clean getaway.
The car moved reluctantly, but at least it moved. She coaxed it through the streets, carefully sticking to the outskirts of the city where she was less likely to be detected. It ate up her time and increased the risk of being caught with every minute, but she didn't dare take her chances going directly through the city. Besides, if she stuck to her plan there was no chance of her being caught. She had been meticulous in mapping out her plan and accounting for every detail; it was foolproof.
A police car entered her rearview mirror and she swore. She definitely hadn't foreseen that. The extra minute or two that security guard had cost her must have messed with the timeline too much. Her breath caught in her throat as she stared at the cop car. His lights hadn't turned on yet so perhaps they weren't after her yet. Taking a gamble, she turned off onto a side road that lead to a gas station and parked in the back, by the employee cars. The cop car kept going, much to her relief.
Leaving the car running, she decided to head in for some coffee. She had been up for 37 hours straight and counting and her frayed nerves could use a caffeine boost before she got her chance to rest. She also needed to rethink her plan and make sure there weren't any other new surprises ahead of her.
She paused for a moment before taking off her blonde wig and throwing it into the backseat, letting her long auburn hair untangle into waves. It was a mess, but it was her mess, she thought as she popped the colored contact lenses out and put on the glasses stored in her jacket pocket. She didn't need them, but they helped hide her face. The jacket went into the back seat as well. It was too conspicuous. Picking up her duffel bag, she sighed deeply. Changing in the gas station bathroom might be too conspicuous as well. She grimaced at the dumpster a few feet away. It wasn't her ideal changing spot, but at least it had a thick fence around it with a few feet of free space to change in.
This is getting ridiculous, she thought as she closed the fence door behind her and started pulling her blouse over her head. At least it's better than being caught. Once she was done she pulled her hair back into a loose ponytail, completing her rolled-out-of-bed-and-threw-on-yoga-pants look. She looked nothing like the chic blonde woman she had been pretending to be a few moments ago and that was all she cared about.
She threw the old clothes in the duffel and tossed that into the trunk, but not before depositing the wig and jacket in there as well. There, that should buy her a bit more time. A yawn escaped as she walked around to the front of the gas station. Avoiding eye contact, she made her way to the back of the convenience store and towards the coffee.
„Breaking news," the old television in the corner blared. „We're coming to you live from the corner of Jackson and Seventh, where a building appears to have exploded. There is no word yet from authorities on the situation, but moments ago the earth shook and flames were seen coming out of the building which appears to have been used as a pharmaceutical research lab. We're not sure how many people are injured, but paramedics are on the scene and firefighters have been going inside to investigate..."
She drowned out the reporter's voice as she focused on pouring her coffee. Leave it to the media to focus on creating sympathy. She had none. The reporter could drone on and on for all she cared though. The first part of her mission had gone...well, not quite seamlessly, but well enough to continue her plans. She mixed in enough creamer to turn it a light brown and added a pump of chocolate syrup. Two pumps. She needed the sugar.
„It is unclear whether this is in fact the scene of a crime, but as you can see police officers on the scene are taking the situation very seriously and urge everyone to be cautious. There has been speculation that this is in fact an act of terrorism..," the reporter was still going on as she got closer to the counter. She rolled her eyes at the TV.
„This is what I'm sayin', man. We got whacked out shit goin' on right in our own damn backyard and the government ain't doin' nothin',"the man in front of me rambled to the cashier while rummaging in his pockets. The cashier nodded along absentmindedly waiting for him to find his change. She exchanged a glance and the cashier gave her a look.
The man finally left, still muttering to himself, and she stepped up to pay."Crazy stuff, isn't it," the cashier said while taking her money.
„Hmm," she responded with a nod while sipping her coffee.
„I think it's a bunch of crap," he continued. "You'll see, just some gas explosion or something. The news will jump at any story they can get. I mean, just look at the Avengers. A bunch of super powered freaks and the media takes them and turns them into prime time news and a bunch of merchandise." He breaks off to point at the wall of Iron Man bottle openers and Captain America bobble heads. „Don't get me wrong, they've done a lot of good, but I can't turn around without seeing Stark's face plastered somewhere or a replica of Thor's hammer. Whatever happened to the normal people?"
He dropped the change into her hand and she leaned forward until her face was about a foot from his. „Nobody's normal," she said, her eyes flashing with anger. She turned and exited the store as quickly as she entered.
Once safely in the stolen car, she set her drink down and closed her eyes, allowing the images to flood her head. She didn't always control what she saw, and it took great effort to narrow them down into something she could use. As it was, she worked through the tiredness and the pain to focus on a few images: flashing police lights, road signs, and incoming vehicles that looked like a SWAT team taskforce. Narrowing it down, she focused in on a back route that took her through a less than savory part of the surrounding area. If she timed it just right, she could avoid most of the traffic and make it to the highway before noon.
It was almost child's play after that. Weaving in and out of the midday traffic on the interstate, she got off right before reaching the toll booth. Too many cameras for her taste. In fact, it was about time she got rid of this clunker. She pulled off into the nearest town and parked the car in the back of an abandoned building near some other run down vehicles. No one would notice it there for days. She cleared out the trunk of anything that belonged to her, and then moved along at a brisk pace. There was a bus stop not too far from here, and it was probably her best bet.
The bus still had twenty minutes before it would get there, so she had time to grab a quick lunch and a book to read. That way no one would bother her. The less people took notice of her, the better. It was pretty quiet since it was the middle of a Tuesday. She took the seat a few back from the driver and watched the other passengers over the top of her book. Just a bunch of elderly and a single mom with her toddler, no one too suspicious. Luckily, she found a charter bus that would take her to Philadelphia, and from there she could find another ride back to New York.
It was about halfway through their trip that they saw a military van fly by going the opposite direction. „Hey, did you see that," the driver said over his shoulder. „That van had the SHIELD symbol on it. You know, that government agency with the Avengers. Wonder where they're speeding off to."
One of the old men up front started up a conversation with the driver about it, but she ignored them and focused on the words on the page. She knew exactly where that van was heading off to; she had just hoped it would take them a bit longer.
„Alright, what do we have," Steve Rogers said from the back of the van.
Natasha glanced back from the driver seat, looking through the window between the benches lining the back and the front compartment. „Locals aren't sure yet, but it looks like a bombing on a pharmaceutical research lab. Wouldn't bother with it, but it used to be a SHIELD station. We actually thought the place was shut down until this morning."
„You think it might be HYDRA," Sam asked from his reclined position opposite Rogers.
„I think it's worth looking into. That lab was looking for genetic coding in cancer patients. When SHIELD fell they were getting pretty close too. Either way, it doesn't look like a harmless chemical fire," Natasha responded.
„Guess we'll find out," Sam replied, settling into his seat. It was just the three of them today; the others were back at the base training. No sense in dragging out the whole team for a recon mission.
Natasha flipped through the radio stations as she zoomed along the highway. Something told her this wasn't going to be a normal mission; things weren't adding up. Why was a SHIELD lab still operating unless it was HYDRA?