Disclaimer – Anything you see and recognise does not belong to me. Harry Potter is JK Rowling's; The Avengers and other related characters belong to Marvel. I'm simply playing in their sandboxes.
Chapter 49 – Out Of The Shadows
Buried deep within the frequencies that S.H.I.E.L.D. used to communicate with its personnel was a band that was rarely ever used. This method of communication had a singular purpose: to send priority messages to HYDRA operatives hidden within S.H.I.E.L.D. Every member of HYDRA knew to watch and listen to it so that they were ready to serve, to carry out the orders that would further HYDRA's agenda.
Now, today, for the first time since that frequency had been established, a particular, singular, brief message was broadcast. Those who sent it knew that there was a chance that it could be intercepted, that it could be decrypted. But really, what could they do? All who would hear it would know their orders.
OUT OF THE SHADOWS, INTO THE LIGHT
"Who the hell's shooting at us? And why?" Hartley cursed as she ducked behind an upturned table.
From across the room where she was sheltered by a convenient bulkhead, Bobbi Morse fired off a couple of shots before replying.
"Looks like S.H.I.E.L.D. agents," she called. "As to why …"
Firing off three shots in quick succession, Bobbi raced out of cover, pulling one of her batons as she did so. The Agent – and, judging by his uniform, he was an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. – saw her coming as he checked back in through the doorway to return fire. His eyes widened slightly as he saw her coming and he attempted to raise his gun.
Bobbi's baton took care of that problem, coming down hard on the Agent's arm, eliciting a heavy grunt from him as his gun dropped to the floor with a clatter. Bobbi's other hand whipped out, her gun slamming into the side of his head, staggering him further.
A grasp of his shirt and a sharp yank pulled him inside. Seeing Hartley rise, her knife ready in her hand, Bobbi kicked the door shut and bolted it.
A strangled cry tore through the room as the Agent clutched at his shoulder before dropping to knees.
"You didn't kill him, did you?" Bobbi asked.
"Nah, just a flesh wound," Hartley replied, walking out to stand behind the Agent.
The man looked up, his head swivelling between the women , pain evident in his eyes.
"What's going on?" Bobbi demanded. "Why were you trying to kill us?"
"And who else is involved?" Hartley added.
It was obviously true that this wasn't an isolated incident – the sound of gunfire, yells, explosions and screams reverberating all throughout the Iliad was testament to that.
When the Agent simply straightened and stared back at them defiantly, Hartley stepped forward.
"Look, we don't have time for your games," she snarled. "Answer the questions!"
When the Agent still didn't reply, Hartley shared a glance with Bobbi before grasping the handle of her knife in his shoulder, twisting it violently and tearing it out of him.
That was enough to get him to talk.
"Hail HYDRA!" he panted before his jaw worked as he deliberately clamped down on something in his mouth.
A white foam bubbled up from his mouth and the Agent's eyes rolled in his head. With a heavy thump, he fell on to his side and spasmed once before going completely still.
Bobbi and Hartley looked from the Agent to each other.
"Damn!" Hartley said for the two of them.
Victoria Hand, the S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent in Charge of The Hub, checked the cartridge of her gun before sliding it home. To her left and right were the only two Agents that she still trusted. At least, the only two still alive – all of the others having been killed mere minutes before by people that she thought that she could trust.
"Give it up, Hand!" Agent Baker called gruffly from the far side of the room. "You've got no where to run. Fury's dead. All of the other Level Eights have already joined HYDRA or are dead. You're the last one. S.H.I.E.L.D.'s finished and you know it."
While he was still speaking, Hand nodded to both Agents Gordan and Lovett. At her signal, the three rose, their guns up and ready.
Hand targeted each of the HYDRA agents as quickly as she could, one after the other. Her shots were precise and efficient, causing body after body to hit the floor.
By the time that the last echoes of gunfire had finished ringing in the room, there were only three left standing alive: Hand, Gordan and Lovett.
"Secure the room," Hand ordered and the two sprang for the doors, sealing them tight, giving the three of them complete, uncontested access to the Operations Centre of the Hub.
"Status," Hand barked.
"There appears to be fighting on every level and in every section of the Hub," Lovett reported as he scanned through the dozens of security cameras that permeated the Base. "There are people fighting back."
"But no way to tell who's on the side of S.H.I.E.L.D. and who belongs to HYDRA," Hand finished grimly. "What about what Baker was saying about the other Level Eights."
"There's no way to confirm," Gordon replied. "We've lost contact with all other S.H.I.E.L.D. bases. He could be right, you could be the last remaining Level Eight S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent."
Hand grimaced at that before a thought occurred.
"What about Garrett and Coulson? They're both Level Eight," she stated.
"Agent Garrett is currently aboard a long-range S.H.I.E.L.D. jet," Gordon replied. "Agent Coulson is onboard S.H.I.E.L.D. Six One Six."
"Do we still have control over the Bus?" Hand asked.
"Yes, Ma'am," Lovett grinned.
"Then turn that bird around. We'll deal with Coulson when he gets here," Hand stated. "As for Garrett, send a pair of drones to shoot that bastard out of the sky."
Samuel Sterns eyed the unlikely scenario with acute interest.
Exactly what the odds were that there'd be a revolt at the exact time that he was out of his cell causing his two 'minders' to be killed in front of him was certainly not high. For the man responsible to simple look at him balefully before shrugging and jogging away afterwards raised those odds exceedingly.
What was even more interesting was the fact that the man that had essentially freed Sterns was himself killed mere moments later. Just as the Agent had been rounding the nearest corner, three shots rang out. The Agent's body jolted with the impact of each one before being flung backwards to land in a tangle of limbs.
Sterns knew that he had limited time to make use of his new-found freedom. Fortunately, due to the combination of a cut that he'd once sustained to his forehead being contaminated by the blood of Bruce Banner aka 'The Hulk', followed by an extremely high concentration of gamma radiation infusing his body, Sterns no longer thought the same way as a 'normal' person.
No, instead, Sterns' thought processes were approximately one thousand times faster. He was able to make connections between thoughts and ideas where none would think to look. His ability to learn and remember everything was off the chart. In point of fact, he was now the smartest individual on the entire planet. None could rival him. Not Banner or Stark or Hawking or Xavier or even the new kid that he'd read about, Richards. Even Einstein – if he'd still been alive – wouldn't have been able to match what Sterns was now capable of.
With all of that 'computing' power in his head, a plan had formed before the second bullet had even struck the Agent.
As Sterns raced for the nearby door, he plucked up the three most useful items from the downed Agents: a gun, a taser and a passkey.
Using the passkey, Sterns unlocked the nearest door, ducked through it and locked it firmly behind himself. As luck would have it, he'd stumbled straight into a room with a computer. With a smile, Sterns let his fingers go to work. It was only marginally frustrating that the computer was slower than Sterns himself was.
Nevertheless, within ten minutes, Sterns now knew that he was at a base called 'The Fridge'; he knew the most efficient way out of the place; and most surprisingly of all, he'd found a file that offered him endless opportunities. Especially once he'd gathered the others that were connected to his own name within the file.
'Project Sinister', it was called.
Well, he could think of any number of 'sinister' ideas for that particular group of individuals to do.
The Hunter grinned at his prey. Their fear was so evident, it was all but palpable in the very air. The way the twenty or so huddled away against the wall, as though they could hide from him in their numbers or perhaps melt into the wall itself, was laughable. They were well and truly cornered, captured for him to do with as he liked.
"Kravinoff! Stop playing with them and get on with it!"
The Hunter shot the man in black trying to issue him orders a fierce look. This man, this Agent may think that he was in charge but Kravinoff knew better. He was nothing more than a jumped-up wannabe with his black fatigues, guns, knives and all that tech. In a real fight between man and prey, there was no doubt that he'd come up wanting.
In contrast, there was one of his prey that had proved herself a worthy adversary. The black-skinned woman, Weaver, he thought her name was, she who was in charge of the S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy that they'd infiltrated.
Weaver had planted herself in his path, directly between him and the young that learnt here. The look of absolute defiance and determination on her face had won her his respect. And then. And then, she'd attacked. And not as a mad-woman in desperation, but more akin to a she-bear defending her young.
There had been no chance that Weaver would win, but still, she'd managed to land more than one blow, something that many before her had been unable to achieve. Even after he'd finally subdued her, she still stared back at him through her one good eye and the other that was barely more than a slit, daring him to do his worst but to do it to her first and to leave her young alone.
He'd been ordered to kill her. And he would. In time. But when that time came, it would be a quick, merciful death. She'd earnt herself such an honourable death.
The whine of engines interrupted The Hunter's slow advance and he looked up and around.
Coming in behind them were a squadron of half a dozen quinjets, their bright searchlights scouring the campus grounds.
"S.H.I.E.L.D.! They've found us! Time to bug out!" Lawnton, he-who-thought-he-was-in-charge, bellowed.
As one, the others, the HYDRA Agents, turned tail and ran.
Kravinoff, though, paused just long enough to catch Weaver's eye and give her a solemn, respectful nod. Today, she'd live. And so would her students because of her actions. Kravinoff could only hope that one day he'd meet her once again on the field of battle. He looked forward to such a confrontation.
The knock at his door caused a frown to appear on Baron von Strucker's face. He did not like being interrupted when he had paperwork to do. His underlings knew this. Looking up, his frown deepened. The anxious expression on Lars' face told him that something had happened.
"What is it?" he snapped.
"We have received a transmission," Lars replied. "'Out of the shadows, into the light'."
Baron von Strucker merely nodded. A quick glance at the calendar on the wall confirmed his thoughts.
"That was to be expected," he said. "Project Insight was due to be implemented today. I assume that the launch went successfully. Has there been confirmation that the Avengers have been eliminated."
"No, Baron," Lars replied before quickly continuing. "That is, the helicarriers never reached altitude. The Avengers grounded them. Worse, they released all of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s files to the world and exposed HYDRA as still being active and a threat to the entire world."
"They released all of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s files?" von Strucker asked, leaning back in his chair in his surprise. "That is most unexpected and incredibly foolish."
"They were encrypted," Lars replied.
"Ah, that makes much more sense," von Strucker nodded.
"Sir. If I may, what does this mean for us?" Lars asked tentatively.
"Why, nothing," von Strucker replied. "Our Base here in Sokovia was never a part of S.H.I.E.L.D., even if we did use our HYDRA allies within S.H.I.E.L.D. to help us secure it. No, nothing for us changes. We will continue our research into the sceptre; I am positive that we have only scratched the surface of what the secrets that it may hold can teach us."
"And the 'volunteers'?" Lars prompted.
"We continue our experiments," von Strucker stated. "Especially when it comes to the twins – those two show much promise and potential."
"Of course, Baron," Lars replied before giving a brief bow of his head and withdrawing.
Baron von Strucker tapped his chin thoughtfully as he considered the ramifications of the encrypted message going out. All throughout the world, he knew, HYDRA agents would be securing assets and intelligence. When next the HYDRA High Council met, he was sure that there would be much to learn.
For now, however, his paperwork awaited. With a sigh, he bent once more to the task.
A familiar head of messy, brown hair caught Sharon's attention as she entered the main lobby of the Triskelion. The S.H.I.E.L.D. Technician was sitting on the ground, back against the wall, his knees raised and his head lowered between them. To complete the picture, his arms were folded over the top of his head.
Swiftly, Sharon crossed the lobby and hunkered down beside him.
"Cameron?" she asked gently, laying a hand on his shoulder.
Bloodshot eyes looked up warily at her before recognition dawned.
"Agent Carter," he said.
"Are you okay?" she asked.
He nodded, rubbed his hands over his face and nodded again, this time seeming more sure of himself.
"Good," Sharon said and straightened as she stood.
Maria Hill appeared in front of the two just then and Cameron scrambled to his feet to stand at a loose type of attention beside her.
"Agent Carter," Agent Hill nodded. "Technician."
"Cameron Klein, Ma'am," Cameron supplied.
"I need the two of you to come with me," Hill stated. "You're next in line for questioning."
"If this is to determine whether we're loyal to S.H.I.E.L.D. or to HYDRA, I can assure you that we're both loyal to the oath we took to S.H.I.E.L.D.," Sharon stated.
Hill's nonplussed look didn't reassure her.
"You know my legacy, Ma'am," Sharon stated, "you can't honestly believe that I would betray the S.H.I.E.L.D. that my great-aunt founded."
Hill's eyes briefly shifted to Cameron before snapping back.
"I witnessed Technician Klein standing up to the HYDRA Agents when they insisted that the helicarriers be launched early," Sharon stated. "Even with a gun pointed at his head, he was adamant that he would follow Captain Roger's orders rather than HYDRA's."
"Is this true?" Hill asked.
"Yes, Ma'am," Cameron replied, straightening at her words. "And Agent Carter saved my life. She tried to stop the HYDRA Agents, too."
Hill stared between the two of them for nearly a minute before finally, she nodded.
"Very well," she said. "I believe you. Of course, I'm assuming that I don't need to say that Klein here is now your responsibility?"
"No, Ma'am," Sharon replied. "Won't be a problem."
Their conversation was interrupted just then as a trauma team came out of the nearby lift with a heavily bandaged man on a gurney. What little of the man that could be seen was blackened as though he'd been severely burned. A hint of green and yellow on what was left of the shoulder of his uniform identified him as a member of S.T.R.I.K.E.
"Wait!" Hill called as the team began to jog towards the exit and the waiting fleet of ambulances. "That man isn't going anywhere."
"If you need to question him, you can do it at the hospital," the paramedic replied, barely pausing as they passed. "Assuming he ever wakes up. This man has suffered extreme trauma to most of his body. He'll be in surgery for hours just correcting the major damage to his organs."
"That's Brock Rumlow!" Sharon blurted, finally getting a glimpse of the man's blackened, bloody face. "He attacked Captain Rogers; he's definitely HYDRA."
"Agent Carter, you've just been reassigned," Hill snapped. "Your new assignment is to guard Rumlow until he gains consciousness so that he can be questioned for trial."
"Yes, Ma'am," Sharon replied quickly.
With a parting nod to Cameron, she hurried after the paramedics, already preparing herself for the fight she expected just to get herself onboard the ambulance alongside Rumlow.
Ten men gathering in a broom closet would have been akin to a game of sardines in any other situation. Luckily, though, this particular room was much bigger on the inside than the plans would suggest. All ten were S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents, originally assigned to separate places and positions but it had been child's play for them to manipulate matters to ensure that they were all assigned here to Kratos Base in far northern Greece.
Many of their colleagues 'knew' that these particular ten were more loyal to something else than to S.H.I.E.L.D. Exactly what that was, though, wasn't what they thought it was. No, it wasn't HYDRA that these men owed their allegiance to, as much as they pretended otherwise. Nor was it to the International Confederation of Wizardry who had originally placed these ten undercover within S.H.I.E.L.D. to 'keep on eye on the most advanced spy agency in the world'.
The ideal that these ten served began before even the muggle World War Two. Their first leader had found a common purpose with firstly Adolf Hitler and then with Johann Schmidt and the organisation that he had founded. The very idea that one race was superior to all others was indeed what they had in common. What the HYDRA founder and leader didn't realise was that Gellert Grindelwald's vision of the Greater Good included all muggles, HYDRA included, as being ultimately under Grindelwald's – and by extension the wizarding world's – rule.
Albus Dumbledore may have defeated Grindelwald and imprisoned him within the walls of Nurmengard Prison but his ideas, his movement persisted. Grindelwald's Knights continued, albeit in a slower, more subversive way. And when the opportunity appeared for some of those Knights to infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D. and to reconnect with their HYDRA compatriots of old, they leapt at the chance foolishly offered to them by the ICW.
"You saw the order?" Daimon Mavrodi asked the others.
He eyed each one as they nodded solemnly at him.
"Then it is time," Daimon stated. "We use this to take over Kratos Base. Once we are in charge, we call the rest of the Knights to us and begin Grindelwald's Great Plan in earnest."
"What of the HYRA agents here?" Nathan asked.
"We ally ourselves with them," Daimon stated. "We continue our role as HYDRA Agents but we reveal ourselves as wizards. For now, they still have a use, there simply aren't enough Knights to control the whole world, but we can show these ones exactly how powerful we are; it'll make it all the easier for when we take over their leadership."
Wands appeared in hands as silver pendants that each usually wore under their robes were pulled out to lay over the top of their shirts. These pendants showed their allegiance to Grindelwald – a triangle with a circle inside it and a line bisecting them both from top to bottom.
"Let's go have some fun," Daimon stated with a grin as he tapped his wand to the door, causing it to swing open before them.
Gunfire blasted up and down the hallways of the Cube. Men and women ran in every direction, some towards the gunfire, others away from it. Bodies littered the floor, along with pools of blood. More blood was splattered over walls and in rare places, even the ceiling. Bullet holes riddled walls. Doors had been blown off or now hung from a single hinge. Jagged holes had ben blasted in various walls and smoke wafted about.
As time passed, more and more areas within the Cube were falling silent as one side or the other gained control. The silence never lasted long, though, as the survivors quickly found others to combat and to make the gunfire, yells, screams and death begin all over again.
The battle here between HYDRA and S.H.I.E.L.D. had been long and hard fought but slowly, the revolt was coming to a close. And not just a close, but to a failure as far as HYDRA was concerned; S.H.I.E.L.D had all but won, now taking more and more prisoners and less and less casualties.
"I don't know how much longer we can hold them off," one HYDRA agent panted.
His compatriot glanced across at him before quickly ducking out, firing off a brace of shots and retreating.
"Then let's make them work for it," he growled. "We're close to the prison level. Let's release all of the inmates."
"Good plan," the first HYDRA agent grinned back. "And if those idiots are shooting at the prisoners, then we'll have a chance to escape as well."
"Exactly," his partner nodded.
Then, after both had fired off a few more shots to keep the S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents at bay just a little longer, the two raced down the corridor and around the corner.
Neither had a key for the Detention Area; one did have a grenade though and that proved just as good.
Once the smoke and dust had cleared, the two HYDRA agents found themselves facing a half dozen prisoners, all staring at the two in shock and confusion. Those emotions, though, quickly gave way to menacing grins as they realised that they were free.
"Go on! Get out of here!" one HYDRA agent yelled, waving wildly at the six to emphasise his point.
"Just watch out for the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents; they're just down and around that way," the other added, pointing to the left.
The first prisoner to reach them paused just before he passed.
"You ever need anything, you come find Herman Shultz," he said, slapping himself on the chest. "I owes ya and I always pay my debts."
The two HYDRA agents looked at each other before looking back at Shultz.
"If you want to repay us, how about you help us get out of here alive?" one asked.
"You got yourself a deal," Shultz grinned. "You wouldn't happen to have a spare gun would you?"
As soon as one was produced and the handle turned towards him, Shultz took it, gave it a quick once over including checking the magazine and nodded to the two.
"Stay behind me and we'll be out of here before you know it," Shultz stated.
"Sir, The Sickle is ours."
Luduviko Kruger looked up from the files on his desk and nodded to his second in command.
"Did the S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel put up much of a resistance?" he asked.
"Nein, Herr Kruger," Muller replied. "We had them surrounded and disarmed before they could even pull their weapons."
"Well done," Kruger praised. "How many did we capture?"
"Fourteen," Muller replied. "Shall we have them executed?"
Kruger paused for a moment as he considered.
"No," he said slowly. "Put them in the cells. Our experiments always need new 'volunteers'."
"But the Connors Serum requires volunteers with missing limbs," a confused Muller replied. "And none of the S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel are missing limbs."
"Not at the moment, no," Kruger replied.
The light of understanding blossomed then and Muller nodded.
"While you're at, bring our 'volunteers' across from the secondary facility so that they're closer to hand. Without the S.H.I.E.L.D. busybodies here looking at things they shouldn't, there's no reason not to have them more accessible for our scientists," Kruger said.
"I will see to it personally," Muller replied and turned for the door.
Kruger, though, stopped him before he could leave.
"Muller. The American girl missing both of her legs. Bring her straight to the laboratory. Her file indicates that she'd be a prime candidate for the next round of experiments," Kruger ordered, tapping the file on his desk that he'd been perusing. "It will be interesting to see how her physiology reacts to the Connors Serum, once it's been adapted for her use, of course."
"Yes, Herr Kruger, at once," Muller replied.