The next 24 hours after the meeting in the PEGASUS facility had been the most harrowing in the history of S.H.I.E.L.D., as far as Natasha was concerned. Even though she knew that he would deny it to his dying breath, she knew, she knew deep down that Fury had been shaken to his very core, at the blatant ease with which the unseen Dr. Potter had destroyed the vaunted the technological superiority of S.H.I.E.L.D.
But she had to give credit where credit was due, and she was grudgingly (and very at that) considering the possibility, that the extravagant claims made by Foster and Selvig had made, could be true. For an organization that prided on overwhelming its opponents with its vaunted technological superiority, for once S.H.I.E.L.D. had been subjected to the same brutal technological assault that it was fond of inflicting upon others. It had been a humbling experience to say the least.
Upon return, Coulson had tried to find any shred of information he could about their new quarry, but he had failed. For the first time since its inception, S.H.I.E.L.D. had failed at locating someone. She idly wondered if this young man, would be the first one in existence to crack through the invulnerable Nick Fury's Iron Mind; and she had to admit, he had done a lot more to gain Fury's attention, than Tony Stark ever could in a dozen lifetimes.
Suddenly, Coulson appeared next to her. "He sent the co-ordinates, Fury's waiting at the bridge," for once, Coulson looked as old as he appeared. Even the old man was feeling the heat, she idly wondered, what else can go wrong this day?
She had no idea.
At the bridge, she noticed that Maria Hill appeared quite tense. Fury, Clint and a bunch of others, stood staring at a map, with what seemed to be a shell-shocked expression.
"What's going on?"she asked Clint, who just shrugged.
"The doc sent his co-ordinates, and the director went to that place, but he didn't show up,"
Natasha raised her eyebrows, ever since the debacle at the base, Barton had taken to calling Potter as 'Doc', and when questioned about that, all he had said was; what else are you going to call a guy who has two dozen doctorates?
Meanwhile, Fury was standing behind his tech team, even as the said team tried their level best, to decode Potter's location from the message he had sent.
Suddenly, the speakers around the bridge became active, "You violated our agreement, director, and I find it difficult to trust men who break their word."
Natasha stiffened, even as Coulson moaned with a pained grimace, while Barton grinned. The voice coming over the speakers was that of Dr. Harry James Potter.
"PEGASUS was one thing, but the carrier as well?" Coulson nearly whined, "this kid is making a monkey of us all!"
A terse silence filled the area, as Fury gazed at the speakers, with an inscrutable look in his eyes.
"The same could be said to you as well, Dr. Potter; you agreed to meet us, and yet you broke the agreement first, what am I to make of it?"
"Indeed," the voice came back, "I agreed to meet you director, what I didn't agree to, however, was to being turned into a museum showpiece for the nearly three dozen agents, who accompanied you as your back-up."
Barton grimaced, Fury had gone in gung-ho with all razzle-dazzle as usual, to try and intimidate the kid, and it had failed. Now, the kid was returning the favor. This would not be good.
"Now I understand that you are accustomed to always giving orders," Potter's voice came out, "but in this instance, you will follow mine, or you will never hear from me again. You are not the only game in town, director; my approaching you was not a plea for assistance, it was just a courtesy. You would do well to remember that."
Natasha stiffened, even as Coulson drew a deep breath. "Hardball," Clint muttered, even as they all looked at Fury to gauge his reaction.
"So, where do we go from here?" Fury asked after a minute's silence.
"I will re-send you co-ordinates for a different rendezvous point, and this time, you will come alone, or else, I will shut down every piece of electrical equipment S.H.I.E.L.D. possesses, for good. Do I make myself clear?"
"Agreed," Fury replied with gritted teeth, even as the speakers fell silent, as everybody in the vicinity slowly backed away from the director.
Suddenly, Fury's smart phone beeped twice, at which Fury took it out. After gazing at it for a few seconds, Fury turned to Coulson, "get my chopper ready."
Five hours later, Fury found himself looking at the entrance of the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies in the Smithsonian at Washington, where the meet was supposed to take place.
(The Center for Earth and Planetary Studies is a research institute affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution. Based in Washington, DC, the Center, which was founded in 1972, conducts scientific research related to planetary science, geophysics and the biophysical environment. As a Regional Planetary Image Facility, the Center hosts for NASA data including images and maps of planets and their satellites. It also houses images taken by the Space Shuttle. Both of these date collections are accessible to researchers. The Center, which is located at the National Air and Space Museum, curates two of its galleries, Exploring the Planet and Looking at Earth, as well as contributing elsewhere in the museum.
Among other research, the Center is studying the tectonic history of the planet Mercury, developing geologic maps of Venus, researching geomorphology on Earth, and exploring terrain formation through Mars.)
Steeling himself, Fury entered the place. Approaching a picture portrait of Saturn and its moons, Fury sat down at the bench opposite at the painting, even as he waited as instructed.
A few minutes later, one of the visitors to the museum, a teenager, approached and gazed at the painting, after which he stepped back and sat down next to Fury, even as he gazed at the painting.
"Always makes me feel melancholy. A grand planet like that, in the middle of space, just gives an ill vibe, don't you think?" the boy asked Fury, who grunted, not really looking at the boy.
"What do you see?" the boy asked, at which Fury grunted "a bloody big planet," at which the boy continued to gaze at him.
Annoyed with the interruption, he got up and made to move, when the next words from the boy stopped him in his tracks.
"Director Fury, I am Dr. Potter"
That stopped Fury cold, as he turned around and took a good look at his companion. The boy was about 19 to 20 years old, with messy black hair, disturbingly green eyes, and a pair of glasses which were held together by tape, on his face. He was wearing black slacks, with a white shirt, and a tie, covered by a brown sweater, with a laptop bag in his hand. All in all, a very unassuming look, which would not be out of place on a college going kid.
"You must be joking," was the first thing that automatically came out of Fury's mouth.
"Why, because I am not wearing a lab coat?"
"Because you still have spots"
"My complexion is hardly relevant"
"And your confidence is?" was the sarcastic reply from the director.
"Age is no guarantee of efficiency director,"
"And youth is no guarantee of innovation," was the rejoinder.
Potter scoffed, "I can do more damage than the entirety of world war 2 combined, from my laptop in my pajamas, before drinking a cup of tea, and you are still asking me this?"
Fury blinked, and then recomposed himself.
"Well then, why did you approach S.H.I.E.L.D. if you can do all that? What do you need us for?"
"Because every now and then, a trigger needs to be pulled"
"Or not pulled, it is hard to know which in your pajamas," Fury retorted, as he suddenly had an epiphany as to why the boy had approached him. Seeing the look in his eyes, the boy smiled and proffered his hand.
"Doctor Potter" Fury returned and grabbed the boys' hand, and released it quickly.
Slowly, Potter turned around, and opened his briefcase, and brought out a small leather case, and handed it to Fury.
"This case contains a DVD, which has all the information you require. It is DNA encoded, and will require the prints of yourself to unlock it. I suggest that you gather Agents Coulson, Romanoff, Barton & Hill, along with my sister and uncle. This will play only once after which it will self-destruct, and I don't need to tell you, that the information in this can't be copied," he finished, while Fury slid it into his trench coat.
Afterwards, he handed Fury a new smart phone, "Once you are done watching it, you can contact me on this, and we can discuss our options," he spoke as he got up.
"Dr. Potter," Fury replied after a moments' silence, "you do know that S.H.I.E.L.D. can protect you from General Ross & the military, I would prefer that you come in with us," the man stated, to which Potter smiled.
"I am not staying away to protect myself Director, I am staying away to protect all of you. When you watch the contents of that disc, then you will know. For now, our goal is better served by my remaining anonymous," and with that he was gone.
In the Heli – Carrier, all of the required members were present within Fury's private office, even as the director took out the DVD from the case. Coulson, Hill, Natasha & Barton, along with Jane and Erik were all surprised at the invitation from Fury, even as the director explained in clipped tones as to what had taken place at the meeting.
Though disappointed that her little brother had not returned along with the director, Jane was nevertheless eager to see the message, her brother had forwarded to them all.
As the DVD was inserted and played, on the screen, Harry's profile was visible.
"If you are watching this DVD, then I will assume that Director Fury has managed to successfully meet with me, and has gathered this disc."
"Before we get into the details, let me give you all a brief outlook of what you are involved in, and know that I gathered this information from our enemies themselves," he waved his hand, as an image of the Tesseract appeared on the screen.
"As you all know, this is the Tesseract, an object of extra-terrestrial origin. This objects power potential is virtually immeasurable. Legend states that this was the crown jewel of Odin's treasure room in Asguard. And by Odin, yes, I mean Odin, the king of the Norse Gods, and the Father of Thor, whom you have all met. Let me take this moment to make this clear, they are not aliens, they are what they claim to be, Gods."
"Christ," Barton muttered, while Jane looked at the screen in shock. She had assumed that Thor was an alien, who had been worshipped by ancient Vikings as a God, but she had no idea that he was the genuine article.
"This changes everything," Hill muttered as she watched the screen, even as Fury resumed playing the disc.
"Fearful of the damage this could cause in the hands of others, Odin hid this in the Earth, where unfortunately during the second world war, this artifact was unearthed by the Nazis, more specifically, the Nazi armed forces' scientific division, also named as HYDRA."
"HYDRA was the brain child of Colonel Johann Schmidt, the greatest scientific genius of Nazi Germany, who dreamed of building a global empire, under the Nazi ideals. His technological ingenuity made him a favorite of Hitler, who provided him with the resources he needed to create HYDRA."
"Schmidt dreamed of creating the perfect human soldier, or as you say, a super soldier. As such, he held Dr. Abraham Erskine, the creator of the original super soldier formula, hostage. Fearful of the damage a madman like Schmidt could cause, Dr. Erskine sabotaged Schmidt's efforts before escaping. Nevertheless, Schmidt managed to use that flawed concept upon himself, and it was 90 percent successful, although it left his skull damaged, by burning off any layer of skin upon it, forcing upon him the moniker, the Red Skull."
"Is that true? I thought it was some freak accident or something, but I never knew that he was a flawed example of the super soldier program," Coulson muttered, while Fury remained pensive.
Jane and Erik, who were completely unaware of this, were left gazing at the screen, spell-bound.
Impatient to hear more, Natasha grabbed the remote, and continued playing the disc.
"Upon unearthing the Tesseract, Schmidt managed to successfully create weapons that could channel its energy. However, before he could utilize them to alter the scope of the war, he was stopped. And the reason for that, was the first true super soldier of the human race, the legendary Steve Rogers, also known as Captain America," here the screen paused, even as a image appeared on the screen, depicting Captain America and the Red Skull in mortal combat.
"Whoa," Jane whispered in awe as she looked at a series of images, which gave a play-by-play account of the final fight between the legendary war hero and his nemesis. She was not alone, as all the people in the room watched entranced as the battle played out before their eyes.
"Schmidt, had managed to devise and build a missile, with a warhead that was made up concentrated energy gathered from the Tesseract, and intended to launch it upon the United States. However, that attempt was thwarted, when the allied forces stormed his base. In the ensuing battle, Schmidt was literally disintegrated, upon coming into direct contact with the Tesseract and its energy. But still, to save his country, Captain America sacrificed himself, and crashed the bomber with the missile into the Atlantic, thereby saving the world, and ending the threat of Schmidt."
For a second, everyone lowered their heads, as a mark of respect for the fallen hero.
"So, did you recover that plane from where it crashed?" Jane asked curiously, at which Coulson replied with genuine sorrow in his voice.
"We have been searching for it for the last seventy years, but we still have not found it."
"And we will not stop until it is found," Fury retorted, even as he resumed playing the video.
"After the war, everyone assumed that HYDRA had been defeated, however that was not the case. HYDRA survived, and retreated in the shadows to reorganize."
"No," Fury whispered aghast, as he stood up in shock, while the members of S.H.I.E.L.D. gazed at the screen in horror.
"They had learnt their lesson from the war very well. They retreated deep into the shadows, and reorganized themselves, according to the instructions they received from their true patrons. Ladies and Gentlemen, let me reveal to you the existence of the true force behind HYDRA's secret. The Chitauri. They are an alien species who arrived on the Earth, in 1745, and have been responsible for many acts of Genocide since then, with the most notable one being the second world war. Eight feet tall, and reptilian in appearance, they have the capability to assume human form, and as such, they infiltrated the German political movement in the 1920's, and precipitated both the rise of National Socialism, and one Adolf Hitler, and the man who aided them in this, was Colonel Johann Schmidt," even as the screen was bombarded with images of the Chitauri, in their true forms, as well as their assumed guises of Nazi Soldiers, in world war 2.
"Holy shit," Barton muttered, as everybody looked at the screen in pure, unadulterated horror.
"This is nuts, it can't be true … it just can't…" Hill was muttering to herself, trying to convince herself that what she was witnessing was not real.
"Quiet," Fury snapped, even as he resumed playing the video.
"The Chitauri of course, were smart enough to keep to the shadows, because any direct involvement by them, would have forced Odin himself to intervene directly, with the full might of Asguard. We may not know it, but as part of the nine realms, we are under the jurisdiction of Asguard, and are under its protection, which is why no alien race has dared to attack Earth to date, even though we ourselves are unaware of it. They indirectly contacted Schmidt, and provided him the necessary knowledge and knowhow needed to devise weapons from the Tesseract. In that ill-fated battle, Schmidt was about to actually open a portal to allow an invasion force from the Chitauri to come to Earth. The Chitauri would win the Earth for him, and in return they would gain possession of the Tesseract, which would allow them to counter Asguard as equals. That was their plan. But it was all thwarted, due to one man. Captain America. This planet owes that man a debt far greater than any, even though he himself was unaware of the true nature of the foe he was fighting."
"Son of a bitch," Fury swore, even as he turned towards Jane.
"Next time your boyfriend comes a calling, we need to have a really lengthy chat," he all but growled, while Jane just nodded simply, unable to retort.
"So, we have this Chitauri to blame for all this, eh?" Coulson spoke out softly, burning the image of the aliens in his mind, while the others remained silent, even as Hill continued to play the disc.
"After the war, HYDRA retreated to the shadows and reorganized themselves. Today, they call themselves as Applied Idea Mechanics or A.I.M., to be precise. A.I.M. is an organization of brilliant scientists and their hirelings dedicated to the acquisition of power and the overthrow of all world governments by technological means.
Its leadership has traditionally consisted of a seven-member Board of Directors (formerly known as the Imperial Council) with a rotating chairperson. Under the Directors are various division supervisors, and under them are the technicians and salesmen/dealers.
The organization supplies arms and technology to various terrorist and subversive organizations both to foster a violent technological revolution and to make a profit. A.I.M. operatives are usually involved in research, development, manufacturing, and sales of high technology. Members of A.I.M. are required to at least have a Master's degree, if not a PhD, in some area of science, mathematics, or business. Generally, the organization starts scouting for potential members in all the major universities worldwide, and attempts to recruit them directly after they graduate.
Blackmail, Corruption, Coercion or outright Greed, they use any and all means at their disposal to recruit their staff, and they are very successful at it. The combined brain power of the scientists on their payroll surpasses that of all the scientists in the rest of the world combined.
A.I.M.'s reach is worldwide, including various front organizations such as Targo Corporation, Hammer Industries, International Data Integration and Control, and Cadenza Industries. A.I.M. has also operated under some other fronts including Koenig and Strey, Pacific Vista Laboratories, and Omnitech.
A.I.M. has multiple bases of operations, including a nuclear submarine mobile base in the Atlantic Ocean; and bases in the Bronx, New York; Black Mesa, Colorado; West Caldwell, New Jersey; Asia, Canada, Europe, Haiti, India, Sudan and Boca Caliente (also known as AIM Island), an island in the Caribbean.
And their existence is unknown to every single intelligence agency in the world, including S.H.I.E.L.D., until now that is."
As Hill paused, Fury launched into a furious diatribe, which was frankly speaking, wholly unprintable. Coulson looked like he had been shot, while Natasha, Hill & Barton were pale as ghosts, as they stared at the screen in horror.
"He is lying, right? He has to be … tell me he is lying, Erik," Jane looked at her father figure, for some assurance, which was not forthcoming.
"So, this is what we are up against," Coulson muttered as he looked at the screen.
"A.I.M., now that we know what we are up against, we need to devise a plan of action," Natasha began, only to be interrupted by Fury, "Devise later, for now, we watch," he spoke brooking no arguments, as he continued playing the disc.
"For the last seventy years, since the end of the great war, A.I.M. has been busy preparing for an eventual war of a scale that you can't even begin to imagine. The Chitauri are still in contact with them, and have been providing them extra terrestrial technology to advance their goals.
A.I.M. has entered into an agreement with them. They will gain possession of the Tesseract and hand it over to the Chitauri, and in return they will win the Earth for them.
A.I.M. knows that S.H.I.E.L.D. possesses the Tesseract, they know where it is kept, they even get regular updates on the research you are doing on it. They know everything.
However, something happened that they didn't anticipate. Asguard initiated direct contact with Earth or more specifically one Asguardian did, which they did not expect, and it had the potential to derail their plans, and was a direct threat to them.
The same threat that I posed to them, when I recreated the super soldier serum. When I recreated the super soldier formula, I was approached by A.I.M., who had somehow managed to uncover the details of my true accomplishments, despite my considerable efforts to hide them. They tried to recruit me, and offered me the same spiel they give to their other potential recruits. Women, Money, Power, whatever I wished as mine for the taking.
I however, decided to learn more about whom I was dealing with, and in return, I hacked into A.I.M.'s files, where I gathered all this information. Suffice to say, I had stumbled into something that was beyond me. However, I knew that after coming under their gaze, they would not let me go. Still, fearing the consequences of what that formula could be used for under their hands, I destroyed every single shred of my research and all my samples, and using an invention of my own design, I removed all traces of the knowledge to create that serum from my own brain, as insurance in case I was captured by them. What happened afterwards, you all know, courtesy of uncle Eric. And for the last four years in my exile, I have used all my resources to gather every bit of information on them.
However, I was forced to come out of exile ahead of schedule, when I learned that Jane was the one to initiate contact with Asguard."
Fury paused the video, as he looked at Jane, who looked close to tears, while Selvig was looking at the screen with a frown on his face.
"We need to get rid of the moles in S.H.I.E.L.D., on a priority, this is not looking good, boss," Coulson muttered, while the others nodded their head in agreement.
"Later," that was all Fury would say, as he continued to play the video.
"What you all don't know is that the plan that A.I.M. has concocted with the Chitauri is nearing completion. The Chitauri has provided them with the technology they need to wipe out any opposition on Earth.
S.H.I.E.L.D. is devising weapons using the Tesseract, called Phase 2. What you don't know is that A.I.M. has already done the same, and they are now at what I would call Phase 9, and it is operational. S.H.I.E.L.D. is outgunned, and outmatched and in every conceivable way. You are fighting in a war, Director Fury, one which you have already lost, and you don't even know that this war exists in the first place.
The Chitauri have made their own arrangements as well. Asguard's means for interplanetary travel has been destroyed, and if the Chitauri now invade, Odin and his forces can't come to Earth's aid. Now, all that A.I.M. needs to seal the bargain is to get their hands on the Tesseract. This is where Jane comes in.
Jane's research has the potential to re-establish the interplanetary travel route between Asguard and Earth in short order and that is a direct threat to their plans. The route can't be reestablished soon from the other end, but it can be done from our side. If it is done, Asguard will be able to come to Earth's aid, when the Chitauri invade, and that is something that A.I.M. will not allow. If they were to become aware of Jane and her research, they will not stop until she is dead, no matter the price they have to pay. And if they come for her, you don't have anything remotely capable to stop them. That above all, is the reason why I hacked into your servers, and erased every single shred of data pertaining to her research."
Jane was literally shedding tears, as she heard her brother's confession, while the S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel hurriedly held a mini conference of their own.
"We need to get her to a safe location, now. He has bought her some time, but I don't think it will last for long. Sooner or later, this A.I.M., will find her," Natasha spoke out, while there were guarded nods from the others.
"Where do we move her? From what the doc says, we are compromised beyond repair, if we move her, they will know, right?" Barton asked, at which the others lowered their heads.
Suddenly, Fury smirked, "I know the perfect place, where she can work and conduct her research without any trouble," he concluded, while the others looked at him in surprise.
"Where?" Coulson asked, at which Fury replied, "Later, Coulson, and believe me, you are going to love it," even as he began to play the disc.
"Now, Director Fury, I have provided you with the intelligence you need, and will keep on doing so, for the near future. And if necessary, I might even devise a few … weapons," here the revulsion in the young man's face was clearly visible, "to offset the advantage they have over you. But that is for a later time. I will leave the rest in your capable hands. Please move back from the screen, as this disc will detonate in 5…4…3…2…1…" suddenly, there was a brilliant flash, as all the screens, and the computers in the room literally melted down, and a dense and acrid smoke filled the room, as the smell of brunt plastic assaulted their noses.
"God … he really doesn't kid around, does he?" Hill muttered, as she switched on the vents in the room, which cleared out the smoke quickly.
"Right, first things first," Fury was back in his element, "Hill, I want you to make a list of all those bases of A.I.M. the kid mentioned about, and start placing surveillance on them," he ordered as Hill gave a curt nod, and walked out.
"Barton, Romanoff, I am placing you two on full time bodyguard duty for Dr. Foster. You will shadow her at all times. Two squads will be on permanent stand-by to provide assistance if needed," he ordered, even as the two nodded.
"Whoa there, wait a minute, don't I get a say in this?" Jane asked, in an incredulous tone, at which Fury replied in a curt tone, "NO!"
"Where are you moving her?" Selvig asked with concern rife in his tone, even as Fury smirked. "Don't worry doctor; you are going with her, along with the Tesseract. We are relocating it as well," Fury concluded, while the agents raised their eyebrow at it.
"Where?" Selvig asked, at which Fury smirked, "Stark Towers."
"That will make Stark's day; you know that he will poke his nose in this. How do we keep him away from this information?" Natasha muttered, while Fury truly had a devilish smirk on his face.
"I think we will leave that to the most intelligent human being in this planet's history," Fury replied coolly, even as the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. nodded, understanding what the director meant by that.
"I will make sure that we have some popcorn and a handy cam ready when that happens, sir," he replied, while Fury nodded. "Do so; I wouldn't want to miss it for the world."
With that, Barton, Natasha, Jane & Selvig left the room, leaving only Fury and Coulson in the room.
"So, what is the jackpot boss, what have you got for me?"Coulson asked, knowing that Fury had as usual kept the best for the last.
Fury took out the phone that Potter had given him, and looked at a message within, before turning to Coulson, with a full-blown grin on his face.
"Get an arctic extraction team ready, Coulson. You are going to the North Pole. The Doc just sent me the co-ordinates to the place where Captain America crashed in the forties. He says that the good captain is still alive, but is in suspended animation. I don't know how he got that info, but it is enough for us. We are getting the first Avenger back, now."
Two seconds later, Coulson literally raced out of the room, barking orders into his ear piece, while Fury allowed himself to smile for the first time in the day.
Preview of coming chapters:
"Dude, do you even know what you are talking about? My degrees have degrees of their own, and you are just an engineer from MIT! You are nowhere near my league, you are just a glorified garage tinkerer at best," Harry scoffed, while Tony took a step back in outright shock, while everyone began to laugh.
"Whoa there, now hold on kid, that is enough with the Big Bang Theory references. You are certainly obnoxious enough to be Sheldon Cooper, but I am way too cool to be compared with Wolowitz of all people," Tony replied, while everybody else broke out into laughter again, seeing the look on Tony's face.
"Oh, I don't know Stark, I think the doc nailed it right in the head," Barton muttered, while he tried to desperately rein in his laughter even as Tony pouted.