Disclaimer: I own nothing that's been in an actual movie.
1: The Mission
The deep, commanding voice of her handler rang through the cold hallway, stopping Imogen in her tracks. Behind her, she could hear the moaning and coughing of the punk good-for-nothing kid she'd just dropped to the floor and the footsteps of the three people who'd caught her leaving him there. Two sets were quick and light, as much of a threat to her as a couple of feathers. The other steps were heavy, confident. Angry. And they would belong to the person who offered her the most trouble; Agent Donoghue, the man supposedly in charge of her.
Mouthing a curse, she turned abruptly to face the newcomers. "What's up, chief?" she asked, voice as cold and hard as the concrete walls around them.
"Don't play around, Haylock," he growled in response, towering over her and giving her that murderous sort of look that would have any other agent trembling in their boots. "What have I told you about starting fights?"
"He was asking for it."
"When you're involved, no one is asking for it."
They stood there, eye to eye, and silently fuming while the injured boy limped past them, arm thrown over the shoulders of a junior agent. "You'll pay for this," he spat at her as he passed. She spared him a look of absolute contempt, breaking the tension between her and Donoghue.
"Imogen," the handler said when the hall was empty. "You're off training."
She stared at him for a moment, stunned into silence, and then the anger returned, rushing through her like a wildfire and setting her ablaze. "You can't do that! I've barely done anything wrong! You can't kick me out for teaching some stupid kid a lesson!"
"That 'stupid kid' will be missing out on his first mission because of you!" Donoghue thundered. "And he's the third one this week alone! Three young agents, all more promising and easier to work with than you, who are now out of action for several weeks because you couldn't keep your temper!"
"It's not that bad," she returned sullenly. "They could just as easily have been injured in training."
The handler stopped for a moment, taking a deep breath in an effort to calm himself. His face was beet red now, like a cartoon man who was about to explode. "I want you to leave. You're out of control, and until you learn to stop throwing punches and to work with your team, I don't want to see you anywhere near them." She opened her mouth to argue, but he cut her off before she could begin with a sharp, "Quiet!" There was silence for a second as he watched her closely, making sure she wasn't going to start talking again, before he continued.
"It's not just that, Imogen. You're at the bottom of training, barely scraping past on every assessment you've ever had and unwilling to improve your performance. You're argumentative and stubborn, you refuse to follow orders, and you don't play well with anyone else – a vital skill for any agent. I've warned you time and time again that your place here is precarious, but you just don't seem to care enough to fix your attitude and learn to get along with people. There will be no more warnings. I want you off base by dusk. Go to another base, a safe house, a hotel down the road, I don't care; just get out of my sight and stay out of it until I tell you otherwise. Dismissed."
Angrily, she turned and stalked off, wispy blonde curls flying around her face. She didn't even reach the end of the corridor before the alarm went off, the phone in her pocket following it shortly with a loud buzz. She stopped to check the phone, glancing back at Donoghue as she dug the device out of her pocket; the handler was standing in the middle of the hallway looking confused, as if he wasn't sure what an alarm meant or what to do about it. She snorted in disgust. How had someone like him even become a senior agent and handler?
Unlocking it, she glanced down at the text she had just received, almost dropping her phone in surprise. From her brother Will, it was a simple message composed of just two words:
Her mind moved fast as she stuffed the phone back into her pocket and stole another glance at Donoghue. Which side was he on? Surely not HYDRA, not with that confused, stumbling appearance. In any case, it was probably best not to be caught in the same area as him, lest people get the wrong idea. She headed off in the same direction she had been going before, into the maze of halls and rooms that made up the SHIELD base. They were mostly empty down this end of the base, though as she drew closer to the living quarters and main control rooms of the facility she could hear fighting and shouting. The takeover was underway then.
She tried to skirt around the edges of the conflict, knowing it would be bloody and confusing and she could easily be made a target by accident. She didn't know any of the other sleepers here, not in the way her brother would were he based here – he had a knack for know which side was which. It was just another of the many things Imogen was useless at. No matter how she tried to avoid it, the fighting came to her, in the form of Donoghue himself, who apparently had jumped right into it as she had not. He was splattered in blood, his own or someone else's she couldn't tell, and came stumbling down the hall towards her clutching at his shoulder and reeling. At the sight of her, his eyes widened, and he gestured wildly with his one good hand towards the empty corridor behind her.
"Run, girl! Get out of here, before they kill you! Go, go!" He shouted empty words at her but she only moved back a single step, standing steady as two armed men came bearing down on them, one quickly pinning Donoghue and pressing a gun to his forehead. A moment later, the shot rang in the air, deafening in the enclosed space, and the handler's eyes glazed over, his body crumpling to the ground.
They turned to her, weapons fixed and a miss nearly impossible at such point blank range. "Which side?!" one called, voice cold and wary.
"HYDRA!" she returned before the entire question had even left his mouth. "HYDRA," she repeated, slower. "Hail HYDRA!"
They eyed her suspiciously. "Haylock," one said suddenly. "You're the Haylock girl, aren't you? Will Haylock's sister?"
"Yes," she answered, suddenly grateful for her brother's networking skills.
They relaxed, weapons falling away from her. "Hail HYDRA," they both responded, sounding weary. "Stay out of the fight, girl," one advised her. "You'll more likely get killed then anything, and young agents like you are the future of HYDRA." He nodded once in farewell and then both turned back towards their fight, leaving her alone with the body of her handler. For a moment, she gazed at his prone figure and staring eyes, trying to find an ounce of pity or remorse in her to spare for him, but she had felt no love for this man who had just minutes ago taken away the only life she knew and so could find not a single sorrow for him. Instead, she turned and left, happy enough to leave the fighting to the others this time, however much she loved a good fight. The soldiers had been right, she would do nothing but get herself killed out there, and besides, with HYDRA in control? It wouldn't be long at all now before she was moving on to bigger and better things.
Bigger and better wasn't far away at all – that very afternoon, there was a tap at the door of her quarters. Imogen opened the door to find a nervous-looking young agent standing in the hallway beyond, shuffling his feet nervously. "What?" she asked in no uncertain terms, ready to shut the door in his face if he took too long in answering.
He seemed to sense this, swallowing hard and scrambling for his given message. "Agent Ferson would like to see you in main control," he said hurriedly.
"I'll be there soon," she sighed, and with a tight nod, the boy turned and scurried away as fast as his short legs could carry him. She watched him go, wondering what on earth had made SHIELD or even HYDRA choose him for service, then grabbed a jacket and followed him, grimacing at the SHIELD logo on her shoulder. She'd have to get rid of the jacket, she supposed. A real shame; it was the most comfortable one she owned.
There were several people waiting for her at control, though only one was of immediate interest to her – Ferson, the guy that had apparently taken charge of the base until HYDRA appointed someone permanently. Imogen hadn't met him before but something about him was definitely familiar. She stored it away for later thought, focusing instead on the reason for their meeting.
"Agent Haylock?" Ferson asked, and she nodded. He cast a critical eye over her, frowning. There was a hint of malice in that eye, she noticed, like he had a score to settle. "Your brother has informed us that you are a member of HYDRA and trustworthy. Usually I wouldn't go just off the word of another agent, but given your brother's reputation and record…" He shrugged. "What's really important is this; what do you have to give to HYDRA's noble cause?"
For a moment, she was speechless, trying desperately to scrounge up a suitable answer. What skills did she have? She had never performed particularly well in training, nor made an effort to pay attention to anything but the few lessons that suited her…all she had going for her really was a red-hot temper that she couldn't control. For the first time that she could remember, she felt completely out of her depth. "I…can fight," she said slowly.
"Oh, believe me Miss Haylock, I know you can fight," Ferson said, cutting her off. "I've seen your victims – the one from this morning, for example." His eyes flashed dangerously, and suddenly she remembered why he seemed so familiar – he and the boy who had crossed her that morning were extraordinarily similar in looks and behaviour. Knowing her luck, she'd beaten up the younger brother of her new boss the very day he took over. Her stomach dropped at the thought, at the anger she could now see simmering just below his calm exterior.
"The problem is-" he began to pace then, wandering back and forth across the control room, "-you don't have a very impressive track record here or anywhere, and even your brother can't fix that for you. If I'm right, old Donoghue kicked you out of training just this morning – the only reason you're still here is because of the takeover. You're going to have to work to keep that place though, Haylock, because from where I stand you're a liability to any team we place you on and to the cause."
Imogen's mind moved fast. She had no other life besides HYDRA – she'd been raised in or close to bases all around the world, trained at the academy, been placed here to await her first missions. Her brother was a HYDRA agent, her parents had been sleepers in SHEILD. Hell, if she went far enough back in the family tree, she'd probably find relatives who were original HYDRA agents. Sure, she knew the outside world and how it worked, but this was the life she knew and was trained for. SHIELD had already thrown her away like useless garbage, and that had hurt, but HYDRA giving up on her as well? She wasn't sure what she would do with herself after that.
Mentally, she slapped herself, told herself to pull it together. He hadn't fired her yet. Resolve hardening, she had only one question to ask.
"What do I have to do?"
He smiled, but there was nothing friendly in the gesture. "We have a mark for you. SHIELD agent, gave us the slip initially and tried to make himself scarce but we've got a tracker on him. He's a danger to the entire operation, and needs to be taken out before he gets it in his head to start causing trouble."
"He sounds like a more skilled agent than someone fresh out the academy," she argued. "Why not send someone more experienced, or a whole team of people?"
"A whole team can be easily picked off from a distance. We need someone who can get in close and get him when his back is turned. That's your job. Pretend to be SHIELD, make friends with him. Buy him a drink. Whatever you like, as long as you're discreet."
She nodded slowly. It sounded easy enough. "Where is he now?"
"At a safe house a few miles from here. You'll want to move quickly – we think he's planning to move on in the next few days, and once you leave here you'll be on your own until our communications are back up."
"I'll be gone in ten minutes." She headed for the door, almost escaping the busy room before he called out again.
"You screw this up Haylock, and you're out."
She didn't answer, pulling the door shut firmly behind her and walking away.
The house her mark had apparently gone to ground in was a large family home in a sleepy town several hours away from the base. It was late at night when she finally pulled into the street and parked a few houses down, and she was bone tired from the action of the day and the drive, wanting nothing more than to go in and get this over with, but she had to do this properly. She'd had no reason to listen to SHIELD, to follow their protocol and let their training turn her into a mindless soldier, but now that HYDRA was in charge, she would have to do this properly. Her own people wouldn't give her false information, and they would give her room to prove herself on her own – none of this team work ethic Donoghue had been inclined to.
Properly would mean doing as Ferson had suggested, getting close to her target and tricking him into relaxing before striking. Easy enough, she supposed, though she was no great shakes at acting. Just pretend to be on his side, Imogen reminded herself. Easy.
Her phone buzzed loudly, her brother's name flashing up on the screen. Sighing, she brought the phone to her ear, greeting him with her usual deadbeat, "Hey."
"Imogen!" he crowed, altogether too cheerful for her tastes. "You made it through the day then?"
"Yeah," she said, eyes fixed on the house. A light shone through the cracks in a curtain, but there was no sign of movement there or anywhere else. As far as she could tell, the mark hadn't even noticed her arrival. She focused back in on the conversation at hand. "Some more warning would have been nice."
Will laughed. "I'll remember that for next time. I hear you were given a mission?"
"I've got to take out some SHIELD agent who gave us the slip. I'm outside his base now, actually."
"Should I be worried?"
"No. It's a pretty simple mission."
There was a long silence, and she knew immediately that he wasn't convinced. "Alright," he said eventually, the word slow and drawn-out. "Hey, I'll be down to your base in a week or two, see if I can get you moved over here with me, now that you're out of training and all that."
The thought of moving away from Ferson and her so-called 'team' actually made her smile. "That'd be good," she admitted, making him laugh again.
"I'll see what I can do." Faint voices filtered through the line from his end, and he was silent for a long moment as he listened to them. "Hey Immy, I've got to go," he said finally. "Good luck with the mission and all." The line clicked off and she dropped the now silent phone into her lap, studying the house once more. Nothing had moved since she had pulled up, everything just the way a quiet little town like this should be.
Finally, she grabbed her backpack and locked the vehicle she had borrowed from base for this assignment, slipping across and down the street to the house. The door was locked, predictably, but she was adept in lock-picking if nothing else. A flash of fear shot through her as the lock clicked, making her pause and take a deep breath, settling herself before entering the warm house.
Shutting the door, she turned to the rest of the house and stood quietly, listening. Three doors and a hallway led off from the small landing, the door of the front room she had seen lights in earlier standing ajar. She could see a TV inside, playing a movie or something and muttering quietly to whoever was watching it. Was that where her mark was? He didn't seem like much of an agent if he could be caught watching TV.
Softly, she dropped her backpack to the ground and crept towards the living room, peeking around the corner. She only caught a glimpse of the face of her company before pulling back, a knife hissing through the air just centimeters from her head. Flattening herself against the wall, she took a deep breath in an attempt to calm her racing heart and then gathered herself, shifting away from the dangerous doorway and back toward her bag, silently cursing Ferson. She didn't have a gun or anything, just one sharp knife for stabbing that was about as useful in this situation as a needle. She was pretty certain that his throwing skills were impressive – he was probably used to range weapons as a pose to close combat. Plus, Ferson had said something about him being more than capable of picking off a whole team of agents with relative ease.
Imogen didn't have much going for her in this fight. She felt her temper flaring at the very thought of being bested so easily and squashed it – this was too important to lose her cool over. However much she tried to kid herself, she was walking the thin line between life and death right now, and she didn't want to fall to the wrong side when her walk was done. Now wasn't the time for anger. Now was the time for play-acting and manipulation, no matter how outstandingly average she was in that particular field of espionage.
She took another deep breath, resolve hardening and courage finding itself again. "Hello?" she called experimentally, knowing her mark would hear her easily. There was silence; then, the groan of a couch and shuffling of feet. He wasn't keeping silent anymore. A moment later, the man appeared in the gloomy hallway, several years her senior but no doubt just as capable as any young agent. Fierce, storm-grey eyes met hers, testing her strength but she met him head on, not caring for the consequences.
"Who are you?" he demanded finally, their stare-off coming to a draw.
"SHIELD Agent Imogen Haylock," she replied, too lazy to be bothered with a false identity that she would have to keep up. Besides, there was nothing to connect her to HYDRA in any way – he could dig through SHIELD's file dump all he wanted, but all he would find was old records of fights and arguments that hadn't ended her way.
"And how do I know you're not just another HYDRA agent sent to kill me?" he asked, a note of amusement in his voice.
"I have nothing to do with them," she lied, pulling her face into a mask. "I just heard there was a safe house nearby and thought I might crash out here for a while." He still didn't look convinced, so she turned back to her bag, rummaging through the pockets for her SHIELD badge, handing it to him.
"This has no meaning anymore," he stated, tossing it back. He sounded bitter, she noticed – there was no doubt that he was a SHIELD agent.
"Would I have kept it if I was working with HYDRA?" she challenged. "I don't think a SHIELD badge would be welcome in that lot."
He went quiet, considering her argument. It wasn't strong, she knew, but it was better than nothing. Eventually, he sighed and relaxed a fraction. "You're kind of young," he said.
"You're kind of old," she shot back.
His counter was just as quick. "More experienced, don't you mean?"
"I mean what I say."
He laughed. "Alright kid, you can stay. One night only though." He jerked his thumb towards the hall. "Rooms are that way."
His comment irked her. She was twenty three, however young she looked. "I'm not a kid," she said, shouldering her pack and pushing past him. To her surprise, she couldn't stifle the satisfied grin that broke out across her face at the exchange. She might have finally met her match, someone she could go toe to toe with and still end on a good note, rather than yelling and anger and being kicked out of training.
The smile faded as she realised that soon she'd have to kill him.