Coulson opened the door to Fury’s office and walked over to his boss, file in hand. Fury was sat there, feet on the desk, leaning back, casually reading a piece of paper.
“Sir,” Coulson began and Fury looked up from his paperwork, eyes evaluating the agent in front of him. “We have a lead.” The atmosphere in the room instantly shifted. Fury quickly put his feet down and leaned forward, reaching for the file Coulson carried. “He’s going to be in Nigeria in three days.”
“Are you certain?” Fury asked, opening the file and looking at the intel.
“No Sir,” Coulson replied. “But this is the closest we’ve got.” Fury nodded, their prey was an elusive son of a bitch.
“Get on a plane, and bring the bastard in.”
“Sir,” Coulson finished, leaving Fury to look through the file. Phil had preparations to make.
Coulson walked up the ramp into the cargo plane. Where they were going required subtlety, thus Coulson wanted to ensure that they fit into their surroundings. A battered cargo plane would fit in with the run-down freight airport they were going to in Nigeria. If anyone there witnessed what was inside the plane, their cover would certainly be blown. Either side of the jet was a row of seats, the rear was occupied currently by a strike team, of ten, fully equipped and in tactical gear. The nose held the surveillance crew, the small team of analysts, who were sat in front of their computers, updating the intel on their target. The strike team sat up straighter as Coulson passed, each nodding their head in greeting. When he reached the nose, agent Sitwell stood and Coulson shook his hand.
“Sir,” Sitwell greeted. “The pilot’s ready when you are. ETA 11 hours.”
“Lets get us in the air,” Coulson replied, sitting in the seat next to the Lieutenant in charge of the strike team. He was not a fan of Sitwell and didn’t particularly want to sit next to him for half a day.
“Sir?” Lieutenant Riley questioned. Coulson turned his head to the right to look at the mass of muscle sat beside him. Riley was forty-two, ex-Navy Seal and an incredible soldier. Coulson was 100% confident that Riley, accompanied by his team, could get any job done. “The target, how long have we been after him?”
“9 months,” Coulson replied. Riley whistled, continuing to clean parts of his weapon.
“And all we’ve got is a few photos of him in a hat.” Coulson smirked.
“You make my work seem so important.”
“Soldiers need spies Sir. Someones got to get the intel.”
“Lets just hope it pays off,” Coulson finished, putting his sunglasses on and settling down for a kip. It was going to be a long flight and afterwards they would need to travel to the drop-off strip and prepare for their guests to arrive.
The strike team were all in position, concealed in the trees and the bush-land around the abandoned landing strip. Coulson took residence in one of the rusted freight containers near the main hangar, taking the role of over-watch. He would instruct the strike team from a hidden location as he was able to see the events through the cameras on their helmets. They had been waiting all morning before there was finally some action.
Along the dirt path, a train of jeeps sped, music blaring and weapons raised to the sky. Coulson had witnessed it before, child soldiers and blood-thirsty men. The rebel militia. The train came to a halt beside the middle of the landing strip and a man wearing a red beret walked out onto the strip, cigar in his mouth.
“Shut-off the music!” he yelled, with his Nigerian accent. The jeeps instantly went quiet. “Listen,” he said quietly and the roar of a turbine could be heard approaching. Soon a cargo plane, even more battered than SHIELD’s decoy one came into view and made its descent. Coulson got excited when he recognised the vehicle, the intel was good, their target was here. The man wearing the beret slowly walked off the strip as the plane landed and came to a halt just past the gathered crowd.
After a few moments the side-door of the plane opened and a man in a red sun-hat and shirt stepped out, his face was covered by the shadow.
“Target acquired, 5ft 10 male, red hat. Confirm?” Riley stated.
“I confirm,” Coulson stated. “That’s him alright. We need him alive, understood.”
“Wait for my mark.”
The target walked out towards the militia, keeping his head bowed, he never let anyone see his face.
“The fuel,” the target stated. ‘Beret’ whistled, motioning his hand towards the plane and three men jumped out of one of the jeeps, carrying red canisters of fuel and a tube. “Right rear,” the target guided and the men set to work.
“Your boss, strikes a hard bargain,” ‘Beret’ announced.
“We sell the best.”
“I want to inspect my stock.” The target climbed back into the plane, coming back with a wooden box and placing it in front of ‘beret’. Too nervous to open it himself ‘beret’ got one of his men to open the container and hand him the brand new AK-47. “I will give you 200,000.” The target stroked his hand along his jaw.
“The deal was 300,000.” The situation suddenly grew far more tense and the strike-team’s fingers got closer to their triggers.
“I’m changing the deal,” ‘beret’ announced pulling a pistol on the target. The man didn’t even flinch, he just continued to glare at ‘beret’. “Take the 200,000 and leave.” ‘Beret’ then motioned for his men to start unloading the boxes on the plane, they quickly did so.
“I thought you knew who you were dealing with,” the target stated, watching the cargo being loaded onto the jeeps. “We will not allow this to go unpunished.”
“Then we will destroy the evidence, make it look like your plane never arrived. You never know when an engine failure could drop you into the oceans. Any last words?” ‘Beret’ asked as he cocked his gun. The next few seconds were a blur when everything happened at once.
The target grabbed ’beret’s hand, twisting it until he heard a pop, causing the weapon to be dropped, before he pulled out a knife from his belt and stabbed the leader in the chest. At the same time the men fuelling the plane had dropped their equipment, leaving a trail of fuel as they hurried to aid their leader. Coulson however wasn’t going to let their target be killed, thus the strike team came out of the trees, shooting the members of the militia who had their guns aimed at their target. They were able to either detain or injure the children, Riley would not have their deaths on his, or his men’s shoulders. The target had managed to take out a few more of the militia with concealed knives and upon seeing the strike team made a run for his plane, but quickly stopped when he saw that one of the militia left standing had thrown a grenade towards the plane.
“Shit,” he stated, turning back towards the jeep as the grenade blew, igniting the trail of fuel on the ground and blowing up the plane. The target was thrown forward by the blast and slammed into one of the doors of the vehicle, falling to the ground. Winded, he coughed on the floor and was about to get up when his hat was knocked off and a bag was suddenly placed and secured over his head. A zip-tie immobilised his hands. The rest of his concealed knives were then taken from him.
“Target acquired,” Riley announced as they dragged the man to his feet.
“Good work Lieutenant, lets get him back to the Triskellion,” Coulson replied, inside he was thrilled. They had finally caught the link between the new elite network of smugglers, Hamlet. They had finally caught the pilot.
George felt himself be tied to a seat on what he assumed was a plane due to the noise. He couldn’t be entirely sure given the ringing in his ears from the explosion. He found his head drooping and he quickly shook himself awake; he had to stay focused. Suddenly someone grabbed his wrist, twisting it upwards and something stabbed him in the vein.
“Arschloch” (Asshole (German)) he stated to whoever was wielding the needle. “Sie Amerikaner sind stolz auf Ihre kleinen Stacheln sind Sie nicht?” (you Americans are proud of your little pricks aren’t you?) George heard one person laugh in front of him, but other then that it was silent, apart from some rustling a distance away from him.
George was the one to break the silence when he entered into a coughing fit, unwillingly. He was pretty sure he had damaged a rib when he was thrown against the jeep. A firm grip was suddenly on his shoulder, holding him upright and another hand grabbed his shirt and lifted, revealing his chest. The hand pressed against his lower right rib and George painfully coughed once more.
“Its not broken, just bruised,” a commanding voice said in front of him, it sounded like the laugh, but had more authority. “You need to stay upright.”
“Ihre Plätze wurden in der Hölle gemacht,” (your seats were made in hell) George replied as he felt the hard wall behind him. A hand then grabbed the bag on his head and it was pulled up slightly, revealing his mouth. A bottle was pressed against his lips and George was allowed a sip before it was taken away. His head followed it before he was pushed backwards. He needed the water, it was a hot country, but he was denied.
“Ihr Service ist Scheiße,” (your service is shit) George stated after the bottle was once more placed against his lips, again only allowing him a sip. When something touched his mouth again George opened eagerly for more water, but suddenly a cloth was placed inside and his jaw was held shut as tape was placed over the top. Rawdon tensed, throwing his head forward into nothingness before pulling at his restraints as hard as he could. All the while swearing at the man through his gag, causing him to painfully attempt to cough again and again. When it was clear fighting would achieve nothing and was only making him weaker, he stilled, head bowed and waiting. Breathing harsh through his nose. The bag was then pulled back over his mouth and he sensed someone kneel in front of him.
“We wish you a pleasant flight,” the man smirked. “I apologize for the inconvenience, but the other passengers are wanting to get some sleep and your profanity was growing tiresome.” George instantly started swearing again, but it only came out as muffled hums, making him start coughing again. The hand was on his shoulder once more and pushed him upwards. “I must insist you sit up. We did not go to this much effort to have you choke to death.” The man then seemed to walk away and George remained in his seat, head drooping as he eventually lost consciousness.
George woke up when he was man-handled out of the plane into a building nearby. He was escorted/dragged for quite a way before he was dumped back onto another chair, his hands cuffed to a table. The bag was suddenly removed from his head and the gag pulled out. He was blinded momentarily by the white light of the room and was thus unable to see Riley exit.
“Jesus Christ,” Fury stated behind the mirrored window. The target was a fucking kid, barely twenty years old. “You knew this?”
“No sir,” Coulson replied as he looked at the boy in front of him. The boy he had just fucking gagged and dragged out of a plane. There was a small trail of blood coming from one of his ears but other than that he just looked muddy; the explosion had caused that. “Riley bagged him where he fell, didn’t pause to look.”
“Well fuck…,” Fury stated, rubbing a hand over his head. “This can’t change anything Phil,” he said gently. He knew how Coulson felt about young wayward mercenaries, how else would Barton and Romanoff be part of SHIELD?
“It doesn’t,” Phil replied assuredly, though Fury could see Phil watching the kid like a hawk, evaluating his every move and breath. “Who’s taking the lead?”
“Sitwell asked for it,” Fury replied.
“Sir, I don’t think that’s…”
“He’s done good work on this case Coulson. Besides if he fucks it up I’ll send you in.”
“Sir,” Coulson replied, reluctantly accepting the Director’s decision.
George was starting to get bored when the door behind him opened. A bald guy in a suit and glasses suddenly came into view and sat opposite him, unbuttoning his jacket as he sat and slammed a thick file on the table for effect. George nearly burst out laughing at the attempt at intimidation, this guy was pathetic.
“Wissen Sie, was in dieser Datei?” (Do you know what’s in this file?) the guy asked and George’s assumptions were completely correct, they had no idea who he was. They had fallen for his trick of speaking German to test if they knew his true British identity, but he would go along with the routine for a while, let the guy think he was in charge. George looked at the file and made an expression of anxiety plaster itself on his face.
“Es spielt keine Rolle, welche Schmutz du auf mich haben, können Sie mich einsperren für die Ewigkeit, und ich will immer noch nicht sprechen,” (It doesn’t matter what dirt you’ve got on me, you can lock me up for eternity and I still won’t talk) George replied, making his bottom lip quiver slightly. The guy sat up in his seat and George’s eyes flickered in fear as if he was terrified of being trapped in there with him.
“Früher oder später wird jeder redet,” (Sooner or later everybody talks) the guy stated and George couldn’t help himself any longer. He burst out laughing and soon turned hysterical. The guy had no idea what was going on and started to shuffle in his seat and glance at the mirror, to the side. George now knew the location of the guys in the other room, this interrogator really was an amateur.
“Forgive me,” George suddenly stated in a strong, English accent. “But did…” George stuttered between laughs. “Did you really just say that? Oh mate, that was like a movie…” The guy shuffled again, placing his hands on the table trying to regain the authority.
“I don’t think you understand the situation you’re in,” the guy warned, his irritation growing. George went quiet and motioned to the file on the desk.
“You asked me what’s in that file. I know what’s in it. If you take out whatever shit you’ve tried to pile in there you’ll be left with… I assume four photos of me by my plane in a hat. The only substantial evidence you’ve got on me is that shit-storm in Nigeria. You don’t even know who I am, you don’t even know my Nationality,” George then turned to the two-way mirror. “You don’t know shit!” The guy stood in anger and was about to shout at him when the door behind George suddenly opened. The guy instantly hesitated and then hurried out of the room.
“That was a complete fuck-up Sitwell, get back to your desk,” Fury stated.
“Yes Sir, sorry Sir,” he replied, hurrying away. That kid was playing games and he didn’t know how to cope. Fury then looked back into the room and watched as Coulson entered.
“If I knew you were going to be uncivil, I wouldn’t have asked for your gag to be removed,” the commanding voice stated behind him, George tensed slightly, he didn’t like people being behind him.
“I want a discount on my flight, the air steward was a dick,” George replied, this guy put him on edge a little, but at least he had a sense of humor. The guy walked around him and George saw the neat, tailored suit and the head of brown hair. As soon as he turned around however George instantly froze in recognition and the suit noticed. He slowly lowered himself into the chair and stared at the boy, trying to work out why the cocky kid had suddenly gone rigid.
“Philippe J Coulson, born 8th July 1964, Wisconsin,” George recited as if he was reading a book.
“Have we met?” Coulson asked, not reacting to the comment on the outside, inside his mind was reeling. The kid seemed to blank out for a second.
“…not officially,” George replied. Coulson then seemed to move on, opening up the file Sitwell had brought it, it really was full of shit. Coulson slowly sorted through the crap until he pulled out the four photos of the kid, he had got the number right. Coulson then collected all the sheets, put them back in the file and dropped it on the floor. The photos were laid out on the table, and turned to face the boy.
“Four photos, like you stated,” Coulson said. “You want to tell me what’s going on here? As it seems to me like you’re not surprised to be here.”
“No, I’m not,” George conceded. “I knew that SHIELD were there in Nigeria, that’s why I decided to take on the militia on my own.”
“How did you know?”
“I led you there.” Coulson nodded, it was as he expected. “I leaked the intel. I know how many photos you have of me as I allowed them to be taken.”
“I presume there’s a point to all this.”
“Yes,” George affirmed. “I’m going to give you everything you need to take down Hamlet.”
“Why?” Coulson asked intrigued.
“Is that relevant?” George replied.
“I suppose not. And in return?” Coulson asked, impressed by the kid’s statements so far.
“Chamber’s gets nothing less than life in the most secure place you’ve got. I don’t give a shit about anything else.” Coulson smiled, he was starting to like this kid.
“You got a name?”
“You can call me Sam,” he replied.
“That’s not your name is it?”
“No,” George stated.
“Well then Sam,” Coulson said unlocking him from the table, before securing him in handcuffs. “You can come with me.” Coulson then held his elbow, pulling the kid up and leading him out of the room. George stayed silent as he was led down a white hallway. Those who passed him were either in all black tactical gear or suits like Coulson. They all ignored him and acknowledged Coulson with respect. Coulson was definitely a big shot in SHIELD.
They were walking for about two minutes before Coulson opened a room and led ‘Sam’ inside.
“Cozy,” the kid stated as he looked inside. There was a single bed, with some clothes on, a desk and a door leading to a bathroom.
“Its 3a.m, feel free to freshen up. I’ll come for you at 7,” Coulson said, unlocking the handcuffs.
“Coulson?” George began, picking up one of the t-shirts. “You got any proper shirts?” Phil looked at him, face hiding his confusion.
“I’ll see what I can do,” Coulson replied.
“I assume I’ll be locked in,” ‘Sam’ asked. Coulson nodded and then left the room.
“Good going mate, yeah let’s get yourself caught, that sounds like a great idea,” George mumbled to himself as he grabbed the pants and headed for a shower, slamming the door shut.
Coulson entered Fury’s office where the security tape from the interrogation and ‘Sam’s’ room were played on repeat on the glass wall. Fury was stood watching the kid’s reactions during Coulson’s questioning.
“Any more surprises today Coulson?” Fury stated.
“Not that I’m aware of Sir, I think we’ve had our fair share.”
“Who the hell is this kid?”
“I’m not sure Sir, I just got the report from the blood sample we took; nothing. He’s a ghost.”
“A ghost who’s seen you before,” Fury observed.
“That, I’m working on, but right now I can’t remember him.” Fury then focused on the screen.
“Jesus,” Fury stated as ‘Sam’ walked back into his room, bare back facing the cameras before he pulled on a shirt an agent had dropped off. There was one deep scar that was red raw, travelling upwards and twisting around his neck. His collar allowed the worst to be concealed. ‘That explains the shirt fetish’ Coulson thought. Both men stood watching the image, blood boiling. That scar was old and the kid wasn’t.
“Keep me updated, he’s not to leave that cell without you, am I understood?”
“Get some sleep.”
“Only if you do Sir,” Coulson said as he left the room.