Hawkeye & Black Widow
Disclaimer: No financial gain has been made in the writing or distribution of this story. The author makes no claim of ownership to any of the characters appearing within. The Avengers and all related characters are the property of Marvel Entertainment and the Walt Disney Company.
A View from Afar
March 5, 2004
Agent Clint Barton peered down from his perch on the upper level of the Berlin Central Station. He was standing on the outermost platform of the East-West tracks. There he had an excellent field of view with which to work with. Beneath him was the vast, crowded shopping level. The North-South tracks were located in the subway even further down below.
Clint leaned against the platform's railing in a casual manner, to give the appearance that he was merely relaxing. He didn't turn his head or body very much, but his eyes were rapidly shifting back and forth.
The station was a sea of information, composed of parts both orderly and chaotic. Thousands of people entered and departed in an unending cycle. Though everyone did their own things at their own pace, general, easily recognizable patterns still emerged. Seeing the big picture had always come naturally to Clint.
But this wasn't another simple observation mission, where he would only be tasked with calling out the movements of crowds and enemy troops. Clint was instead searching for a specific man, by the name of Dr. Albrecht Engel. The photographs that he had been provided with showed Dr. Engel as a frail, sixty year-old man with glasses. He had small eyes and a wide face, on which he kept a bushy brown goatee to compensate for his balding head.
To find Dr. Engel among the thousands of people streaming through the station, Clint would have to focus his mind and make use of his sharp vision. But focusing too much on any one thing at a time could cloud his mind, keeping him from seeing everything else around him. What people didn't see was often what was most important.
"See anything, Barton?" Agent Maria Hill asked. The two of them were connected through tiny communicators hidden inside their ears. She was the lead on this mission, despite being far younger than he was. Clint didn't like her strict, hands-on approach to leadership, but there was no escaping it there. At the moment, they were the only SHIELD agents in the entire station.
They were working shorthanded, looking for a secretive man who had only given them a time and place at which to meet him. Dr. Engel had been too scared to even call them with that information using his own phone. Clint couldn't blame the man for acting like that though, after stumbling onto evidence of his employer's shady dealings with terrorists. Engel had worked for one of the biggest European technology firms. Nobody who operated on that scale would engage in international crime without enough thugs and mercenaries to protect their business with.
Clint continued to search the train station until he finally settled on a man matching Dr. Engel's appearance. "Target in sight," he said. "He looks scared."
"Where is he?" Agent Hill asked.
"Just entered the north side of the mall." Engel was doing everything wrong, turning his head from side-to-side to cast suspicious glances as he walked with a briefcase clutched to his chest. Great, just what we need, Clint thought.
It was up to SHIELD to get this man out alive, with all of the evidence that he carried. A team led by Agent Phil Coulson was due to arrive in the subway, riding in on the southbound train that would take Engel down to their safe house in Leipzig. But according to the schedule, they were still several minutes away. If anything were to happen, there would be no immediate back up.
"That's your area," Hill said. "Make contact and provide escort. We need to extract him ASAP."
"Not yet," Clint replied. "I see better from afar." He heard Hill's frustrated sigh through his earpiece, but he chose to ignore it. He stayed put instead, sweeping his eyes over the shopping area in search for threats.
"Fine," Hill said. "I'll go." Her icy tone might have shaken a less hardened agent. Though she was young, Maria Hill was as tough as they came.
She had enlisted in the Marines straight out of high school, spending five years with them before her recruitment by SHIELD. Just four months ago, she had led several SHIELD assault teams on a daring raid against a Ten Rings training camp in Southeast Asia. It was a brutally efficient, military style attack, closely coordinated with strike fighters launched from the Helicarrier itself.
The numbers told the story at the end of that battle: Eighty-three terrorists killed in action, along with a dozen leaders captured. Among the prizes that day was the regional chief of operations, whose presence had been uncovered earlier by Agent Hill's own hard work. The Ten Rings' activities in that area collapsed as quickly as her star rose in SHIELD.
Hill's accomplishments had caught the eyes of the World Security Council, allowing her to climb up the ranks well beyond what her years alone would have allowed. It was for that reason that she was in command of this current operation, even though Clint had more than a decade of experience on her.
"Wait," Clint said as something caught his eye. "Looks like you have a secret admirer."
"Guy in the green jacket. Behind you, thirty feet back." Whoever that man was, he had probably not come alone. Clint kept looking, knowing that he would find even more.
"Damn," Hill said. The tension was apparent in her voice. "Where's the target headed?"
"He's moving south toward the subway. Wait, three guys are moving in on him. No, five. They see him."
"Move, Barton!" Hill ordered.
Though there was no more time for passive observation, Clint was able to keep looking down as he rushed toward the stairs. Two of the hostiles were still quite a distance away. But the other three were perilously close to Dr. Engel, just seconds from catching him in a pincer. The one on Engel's left had a syringe in his hand.
"Hill to Coulson," Maria said. "How much longer till you get here?
"Still three minutes away." Coulson said. "Hold on until we arrive."
"Can't hold on anymore," Hill replied. "Things just got hot."
Clint ran down the stairs two or three steps at a time. He was lucky that they led to the same place where everyone else was converging. Having neared the bottom of the stairs, he leaped and tackled the man with the syringe.
The two of them rolled on the floor and separated. Clint got up in time to see the man lunge forward in an attempt to inject him. He sidestepped his attacker, who immediately jabbed at him again. That second attempt came within a half-inch of his face, stopping only because the attacker's arm was too short to reach any further.
Lucky you, Clint thought as he kicked the man in the stomach. The man bent over and exposed his face. Clint gave him a hard left hook that spun him around. He grabbed his dazed opponent and used one hand to guide the man's needle into his own leg. His opponent opened his mouth and gagged, shaking for several seconds before going limp. Whatever was in that syringe, it wasn't nice.
"No!" Dr. Engel cried. "No! Get off of me!"
Turning around, Clint saw Engel being seized by the other two men. The first one held the doctor's arms, while the second one pulled out switchblade. Clint had a Glock with fifteen rounds holstered under his jacket, but he couldn't use it. Not without creating a mass panic and calling a SWAT team down on himself. He ran to grab the knife-wielding thug and pull him away from Dr. Engel.
The man swung at Clint instead. Clint jumped back, seeing the knife graze his chest and slice his shirt open. Didn't feel a thing, he thought with a sense of relief, even though he knew that pain didn't always come right away. He didn't have time to check for sure before the man tried to stab him in the side.
Clint smashed his left arm into the man's weapon hand to block the attack. From there his hand flowed toward his opponent's wrist. He twisted it as he hammered the middle of the arm with his right. The man screamed and dropped his knife. A quick back fist strike silenced him.
A fist suddenly pounded against the back of Clint's skull, sending him to the floor. Two strong arms wrapped around him before he could fully get up. Clint drove his elbow backward in an attempt to relieve the pressure. The first strike didn't do it, but the second one did. Free to move again, Clint grabbed opponent's loosened arm and took him down with a vicious judo throw.
"Where are you, Hill?" he asked as he spun around to see his surroundings. Two cops were on their way, but so were three more hostiles. Clint didn't want to stick around for any of them.
"I got my hands full," Hill answered. "Go on without me!"
Clint turned to Dr. Engel, who was crawling on his hands and knees as he frantically searched for something. "What are you doing?"
"My thumb drive! I dropped it!"
Clint looked in the direction that Engel was crawling in. His eyes zeroed in on a small object on the floor, among the crowd that had stopped to watch the brawl. "I got this," he said as he dove toward the spectators. He snatched up the thumb drive as startled civilians stumbled all around him. "Alright," he said as he stuffed the thumb drive into his pocket. "Down the stairs, Doc!"
"Yes, yes," Dr. Engel said as he nervously nodded his head. The two of them made their way down into the crowded subway, which made the shopping level look orderly in comparison. There, people walking through the platforms collided into passengers departing from the newly arrived trains.
Got to get through, Clint thought. He hated being in the middle of everything. He couldn't see with clarity there, not without the distance that he needed to think and breathe. It was a struggle just to stay with Dr. Engel, as person after person intruded across his path. One of those people swung a fist, and then another. Where did he come from? Clint thought as he reeled back from the blows.
He placed both hands on his head and raised his elbows as he continued to take more hits. Twisting around in that guarded position, he flowed from defense straight into counterattack. Several elbow strikes set his opponent up as he closed the gap between them. Clint grabbed his enemy and powered forward to send him down onto the track below. The man landed hard on his back and didn't get up.
Clint turned around, thankful to see Dr. Engel. The poor guy was standing there confused, looking like he was about to freak out. "The overpass!" Clint yelled as he pointed to it. "Get to other side! Now!" He looked behind and saw one of the same men from before trying to push his way through the subway. The crowd would slow him down enough. Clint turned back to Dr. Engel and followed him up the overpass.
"Barton to Coulson," he said. "You guys here yet?!"
"The train's coming to a stop," Coulson answered. "Just give us the doctor and we'll be good to go."
"On our way," Clint said. He went down the overpass and toward the next platform, where he saw the train's arrival. A mass of people had already gathered near the edge of the platform, ready to fill the train before anyone had even gotten off. The train doors opened, and the situation became as disorderly as he had predicted.
"Come on," he said as he grabbed Dr. Engel and pulled him along to pick up the pace. They tried to push their way through, but they didn't get any special treatment from the crowd. "Coming through! Move aside!" Someone suddenly grabbed Clint's arm and pulled him back. "Get on the train!" Clint yelled as he struggled with his latest attacker.
"Okay…thank you!" Dr. Engel said.
Clint pushed his opponent off to give himself time to catch his breath. That only gave the man some time to whip out a metal baton. The thug charged at him, swinging wildly.
It was impossible to dodge every blow. Clint instinctively raised an arm to block, for what little good it would do. The steel rod slammed against his arm, which went numb in an instant. "Ah!" he yelled as he fell to the ground. His enemy gave him no chance to recover before clubbing him several times on the back. Clint twisted on the floor in pain, but he managed to trip the other man with his legs.
His opponent climbed right back on top of him. Clint had been trained in ground fighting. He knew of a half dozen ways to get out of this position…if only the man wasn't so damned big. All Clint could do was put his hands up, trying his best to survive as the blows kept raining down.
"Excuse me," he heard someone say in a loud but remarkably calm voice. Both Clint and his attacker stopped and turned to the side, where they saw Agent Coulson standing in front of an entire team of policemen. "But assaulting someone in front of the cops is clearly against the law." The cops pulled Clint's attacker off, manhandling him as they pinned him down and slapped on a pair of cuffs.
Clint pushed himself up, squinting in pain as he hunched over a trash receptacle. There he groaned and gasped for most of the next minute. He had seen a lot of combat over his career, but it had been almost twenty years since he had been on the bottom like that during a street fight. Clint sensed someone very close by, watching him as he tried to recuperate. When he thought that he had finally gotten over the pain, he turned to see who it was.
She was a stunningly beautiful woman, standing not three feet away from him. Everything on her was black, from her beret, to her well-fitted skirt suit, to the leather bag in her hands. Clint didn't know how much her outfit had cost. He just knew that it was very stylish. The clothes flattered her, but the contrast of her fiery red hair stood out even more.
Hers was a striking, sophisticated beauty. Though she was young, she looked appealingly smart and mature. Sort of like how Agent Hill would look, if she wasn't such a hardass. A gorgeous woman was right there in front of his eyes, but Clint knew that he looked like a loser.
He turned to his handcuffed enemy and did what he could to rectify his image. "Not so tough without your stick!" he barked. He turned back to the woman and nodded in acknowledgement of her. She just rolled her eyes and walked away.
Only after that did Coulson come to stand at his side. Phil whistled sharply as they watched the girl board the train.
"You noticed too, huh?" Clint said in response.
"Saw every second," Coulson said, still sounding calm and upbeat. "Oh well, can't win 'em all." The two of them stood quietly as the train closed its doors and departed.
"Why'd you get off the train?" Clint asked.
"I'm your handler. I need to make sure you're properly handled."
Clint just nodded, too tired to say much more. He slid his hands into his pockets, where he felt Dr. Engel's thumb drive. "Aw crap," he said as he pulled it out.
"That's fine," Coulson said. He casually took the thumb drive and slipped it down one of his own pockets. "You did well, Barton. The police can take care of these guys for now. Let's just get you and Agent Hill back to the apartment."
Natasha Romanoff adjusted the strap on her purse as she entered the front of the quiet car. The target was sitting on the other side of the car, surrounded by four agents. She could tell what they were, even though they were all in plain clothes. One of them was clearly watching her, even while he pretended to read a magazine.
Amateur, she thought as she walked past several passengers to take a seat in the middle of the car. The agent was young and green. With the likes of him providing lookout, her cover remained safely intact.
Most of the other passengers whom she had passed were tired and elderly people, already asleep not five minutes after boarding the train. There was a man watching a movie on his laptop, and a teenage girl with an iPod. Both had headphones on and seemed completely unaware of their surroundings. No one from that side of the car was going to lay a hand on her from the back.
She sat in her seat for several minutes, letting things settle down to avoid suspicion. Waiting was something that she had to do, but didn't want to. She was anxious to just get things done already.
The performance enhancers that she had taken two days before were still in effect. The drugs honed her body, but far more important was the mental edge that they gave her. They greatly increased her capacity for information, allowing her handlers to quickly teach her everything about her missions and her targets.
Their wealth of information helped to focus her mind, instilling her with a sense of purpose. She knew Dr. Albrecht Engel. She hated him. His face was in her mind, during her dreams as well as all waking hours. She would not stop thinking about him until he was dead.
There was no getting closer to someone than she had to him. She knew his every record, his every trait. His every deed. Every immoral, two-faced act of his had been brought forth and held up before her eyes. She saw him up close, inside and out, and it sickened her.
He was a man who had profited from entire decades of war. A coward who had betrayed his employer to Western agencies in order to save his own skin. He would probably go on to work for them, developing weapons to promote their decadent, imperialist agendas.
Now, Natasha was as physically close to Dr. Engel as she had felt in her mind for days. He was every bit as disgusting to her in person. But he was also very vulnerable. Natasha reached into her purse, digging through her cosmetics and accessories for the deadly content that they concealed. She slowly pulled her hand out, removing a pocket-sized pistol from the bag. There was no reaction from the agents in the back. They don't suspect a thing, Natasha thought. It was all too easy for her.
To be continued in Chapter 2: See No Evil