Over the Arctic circle

It was bright and bitingly cold. The howling Arctic wind almost masked the roar of several massive, Tesseract-powered engines on the Hydra aircraft. On a normal day, it would be gliding like a black manta ray in the sky, imposing, silent and graceful. Today, however, it was wobbling, creaking and heading along a steady trajectory for the ice below.

On board, Captain America grappled with several Hydra agents. One came at him with a dagger, and he seized the man's wrist and twisted it up behind his back. He shifted his weight just in time to deliver a kick to another approaching agent's chest. Wrenching the dagger out of the first agent's grip, he flicked his wrist and the dagger embedded itself into the back of another agent as he battled his way towards the launch consoles of the dozen bombs destined for several major American cities. As another Hydra agent attempted to board the bomb bound for Chicago and launch it, Captain America managed to hit the button for the doors and the wind whipped the bomb out before the agent could get inside.

"Nein, nein-" The man waved his arms maniacally in the air as he tumbled, maneuvering himself towards the still-open cockpit of the bomb. He slid into the black leather seat, pulling the glass roof down the over his head and as he wrenched the joystick, he gave a cry-

"Hail Hy-"

But it was too late, and he plunged into the ice with an almighty crash.

The present

It was dark and bitingly cold. The pale moon was barely visible behind a shroud of grey clouds. The snow was whipped almost horizontally across the land by the unforgiving wind. The whine of a drill shattered the relative silence as well as the ice.

"Is it him?"

Two figures leaned over a hole in the ice. Clad in thick jackets, hoods pulled over their head and face shielded by masks and goggles, they were well protected from the cold. One wielded a light while the other crouched down and brushed away the snow and broken glass. Beneath his fingers was a dead Hydra agent, and around him, the frozen remains of a bomb destined for Chicago.


The figure straightened, lifting his goggles to reveal tanned skin and a left eye hidden by an eye patch. He surveyed the scene of Shield agents swarming over several pieces of heavy machinery- excavators, drills, trucks- as well as delicate computers and sensors, all similarly bundled in thick clothes with the Shield crest stamped on their shoulders.

"But we're close," Nick Fury said.

S.H.I.E.L.D. base camp

Northeast coast of Greenland

"... I'm just saying we need to move now," Coulson said, wriggling one arm out of his thick anorak to reveal his usual black suit underneath.

"What I need now is for you to be a little less over-excited," Fury replied, tugging off his glove.

"I'm not over-excited; I'm at the appropriate level of excitement. But a glacial shift in the coming months is an absolute certainty, which means that at any moment…"

"Relax, Coulson. We'll find your favorite action figure."

"Director Fury…" Another voice cut in hesitantly. Fury turned to face the mustached agent, who nervously ran his hand through his hair and jabbed a thumb over his shoulder at the screens behind him.

"There was a call from the World Security Council."

"Schedule a call for tomorrow night," Fury replied tartly, already turning away.

"Actually, they've already scheduled the call. It will take place in 12 hours… and they'll be calling you at HQ in New York."

Fury turned back, getting a sinking feeling. "That won't work; we're looking at another 2-4 weeks for this expedition."

The man rubbed the back of his neck, offering a placating smile that came out a lot more nervous than intended. "I know, sir. But… the World Security Council gave an executive order to shut down, pack up camp and head home. They said they'd explain everything to you on the call."

Coulson held in a sigh as he pressed his fingers to his temple, anorak still hanging off one shoulder while Fury tried not to burst a vein and terrorize the unfortunate agent that had delivered the bad news.

S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ, New York

12 hours later

Fury's scowling visage was bathed in green light from the massive screens in the communications room that were all currently displaying the message, 'please hold for the World Security Council…' From his hunch in the chair, his gaze flicked up to the deathly still American flag hanging forlornly from a pole above the doorway.

The light in the room shifted and Fury returned his attention to the screens.

"Director Fury, thank you for making time in your busy schedule to take this call," a councilor started placatingly.

"Didn't leave much choice when you pulled the plug on my frostbite mission." Fury slowly swiveled the chair to face the screens.

"Were you able to locate the super-soldier?"

"No. We did locate an important clue that could have pointed us in the right direction. But with the ever-shifting topography of the Greenland ice sheet, I imagine we'll be starting from scratch again." Fury didn't bother to hide the annoyance- well, annoyance was an understatement- in his voice.

"A pity," a councilor sighed.

Fury leaned forward.

"You want to tell me what this is about?" He asked bluntly.

After a brief pause, the council finally replied.

"We'd like to have an open discussion regarding the primary objectives of Shield as an agency and of you as its director."

"You're talking about the Tesseract," Fury pointed out, seeing right through the councilor's words.

"Reigniting the Tesseract. That is correct," another councilor replied.

Fury kicked his feet up on the glowing console and leaned back in his seat, one hand gripping headrest while the other waved at the screens.

"Hey, no argument here. I love that objective, it's definitely one of my top three for four favorite objectives in the whole damn handbook!" His volume rose along with his frustration. "But after trying nuclear, geothermal, electric, magnetic, electromagnetic, static, kinetic, solar, and about forty-seven other mixed variant energy sources without any results… we're a little short on ideas."

"There is a way, director Fury, both in history and legend can attest to it. Inspiration will strike."

"And we hope to expedite this process moving forward now that the lion's share of Shield's resources will be directed to the Tesseract," a councilor sporting a spotted bow tie added.

Fury sat up.

"Say that again."

"A prospectus outlining new budgetary allocations will arrive shortly. In keeping with the agency's mandate, the majority of funding, equipment and manpower will be dedicated to analysis of the Tesseract, coded as project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. The purpose of this redistribution is to take focus away from current wasteful programs and redirect it to Pegasus."

The councilor's words were almost cut off by the sound of Fury abruptly slamming his hands down on the console.

"What 'wasteful programs'!"

The council was unfazed.

"It is a waste of valuable assets to prolong the search for Steve Rogers, considering that his purpose would be in substantial in the present day. It is a waste of precious time to continue coddling Tony Stark when all you need to concern yourself with is the acquisition of his weapons technology. It is a waste of countless productive man hours to maintain surveillance on Dr. Banner, a man that has left you perplexed and undecided as to any course of action regarding his existence. We embrace your enthusiasm, but your approach is misguided. Our decision is that the Tesseract is of greater significance at this point of time."

"And if I choose not to follow these new guidelines set forth in your 'prospectus'?" Fury spat out the word with disdain.

"Then you'll be replaced with someone who will." The threat was clear. "If it helps to put this in perspective, then consider yourself on notice, Director Fury."

Fury glared at the darkening screens, mouth pressed into a hard, flat line. Finally, he folded his arms and headed for the door.

Outside, Coulson waited. He fiddled with his ID badge by the window, he leaned against the wall and checked his watch, and finally settled on resting his shoulder against a pillar. When Fury pushed open the doors, he was instantly there.

"That took a while," he remarked.

"They had a lot to say," Fury growled.

"Anything worth repeating?"

"Not in polite company."

The doors shut behind them as they headed down the corridor.

"So… what do we do?"

"We keep doing what we're doing and tell them that we're doing what they want us to be doing," Fury scowled.


"Hell, I dunno. Get creative, cook the books. Whatever it takes to let us do this job right."

Coulson tugged at the lapels of his suit.

"Is this the best plan of action moving forward?"

"If it's not…" Fury held out his hands. "We're going to find out the hard way."

Screens broadcasting news channels were the only source of light in the room. One depicted a wounded victim being carried into an ambulance at the Stark Expo, which was under attack. Another showed the Hulk, face twisted in rage, holding a Humvee over his head and preparing to toss it at some soldiers. Another, a man with flowing blond hair sporting a rich red cape and armor holding a hammer out in front of him as he shot through the clouds. Talk show hosts discussing Iron Man, the mysterious man of lightning and the Hulk. Iron Man and War Machine battling it out in the skies over the city. A photograph of Bruce Banner with the caption 'have you seen this man?'. People running around in the chaos that was Stark Expo, some pointing their phones at the spectacle overhead. A newscaster referring to the Hulk as a 'monster attack'. A windswept reporter struggling to be heard over the noise of a freak storm as lightning forked crazily behind him. A reporter waiting before a podium for the president to speak.

Wearily, Fury surveyed all the information pouring in.

"… what a mess."


Preview of chapter two


One week earlier…

It was some unholy time of the night when Fury lifted his face off his pillow and reached out to answer the phone on his bedside table.

"Fury," he said, voice rough and gravelly from sleep.

The man on the other end of the line didn't mince his words.

"Sir, in 72 hours Tony Stark will be dead."


Well. I bought this delightful comic today and decided to share my joy. It collects all the significant bits from the Marvel cinematic universe (including those Marvel one-shots) and documents the events leading up to the Avengers movie.

I tried 'reverse-engineering' it, and this is the result. It was not easy. I finally settled on this style and incorporated the elements of the comic into it; please tell me what works and what doesn't. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.