the magical place
“Can you tell me what SHIELD stands for?”
“Can you tell me what SHIELD stands for, Agent Taylor?”
The young man breathed a sigh and muttered an ugh under his breath before replying. “Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division.”
“And what does that mean to you?” Deputy Commander Emlyn Pierce leaned forward, her quill poised over her sheet as he narrowed her eyes at the subject of her evaluation.
Nathaniel crooked a grin. “It means someone really wanted our initials to spell out SHIELD.”
Commander Pierce rolled her eyes. “What can you tell me about Agent Lee Hart?”
The young man shrugged nonchalantly. “I know that he was badly injured in the Battle of London about a year ago and that he didn’t survive the attack,” he replied after a moment in thought.
“That’s where you’re wrong.” A curly-haired figure stepped out from the other end of the room, glasses on the bridge of his nose as he grinned benignly at the field agent sitting at the conference table. “Welcome to level seven.”
Nathaniel gaped between Leander and Emlyn for a moment before he groaned. “I’m being drafted into some special team, aren’t I?”
Lee only smiled at him and quirked an eyebrow at Deputy Pierce, who nodded.
Nathaniel followed Leander as the more experienced agent flipped through his file. “It’s quite impressive. Agent Pierce has given you some of the best marks in combat and espionage since Madison Perkin, and given that Quincy Lee was your supervising officer, you’re qualified.”
“Are you going to specify what exactly I’m getting myself into, sir?” Nathaniel added, trotting behind the other man.
“I’m assembling a small, mobile team to work under me. The Muggle world isn’t ready for the horrors of the magical; we need to act as a shield between both words,” Lee continued, flipping through a file.
Deputy Pierce appeared and tossed another file into Hart’s hands. “Witty isn’t cleared for combat. And Agent Hamilton-Reed only agreed to join if you promised that her only role was to act as the pilot. No combat whatsoever.” She pinned the curly-haired man with a look before disappearing.
“What happened after you died?” Nathaniel asked the commanding officer warily.
Leander sighed as if he’d had to tell this a thousand times. “Apparently the spear didn’t pierce my heart; they only thought I was dead for eight seconds. But they revived me, and Director Tierney sent me off to recuperate for a few months on Tahiti.”
“How was it?”
“It’s a magical place.” He grinned and then glanced at his watch. “We start tomorrow.” Lee clapped a hand on Nate’s shoulder. “Get some rest.”
“You’ve gone and mucked up the Potion again! I distinctly said stir it twice—“
“I would have if you hadn’t been on my back about how this new gun worked –“
“It’s important I need to know! I can’t make a concentrated poison until you get your bloody delivery mechanism going –“
“The Night-night gun works perfectly fine, thanks—“
“And we are not calling it that—“
A bag thudded on the ground and both the bickering agents turned from their spots on opposite sides of the lab table to face the newcomer; Nathaniel Taylor, combat specialist, had arrived onto their plane – affectionately nicknamed the Hogwarts Express. “Witty?” he asked, brow furrowed in confusion, considering he’d only expected to see one person.
“Will,” the woman pointed across the table.
“Tatty,” the man added, pointing back as the brunette girl bustled about suddenly, trying to organize the new lab they’d just settled into. “I’m engineering, she’s biochem,” he added in explanation.
“Are you excited to be joining our little team?” Tatty beamed at Taylor as she approached, pricked him in the arm for a blood sample and then disappeared. He flinched and refrained from answering.
Leander and Chastity chose this moment to walk by. “Settling in?” the leader asked, leaning against the door frame of the lab as he watched the three other agents work.
Nathaniel caught sight of the redhead. “Sir, is that her?” he asked under his breath.
Lee leveled a glance at Chastity. “She’s only here to pilot the plane, nothing more.”
Nate laughed dryly. “Chastity Hamilton-Reed is only the pilot, seriously? You’d think the Cavalry would be here for combat.”
The redhead caught that last comment, narrowed her eyes, and slunk away to the front of the plane. “Wheels up in five,” she informed them as she coolly left.
“Don’t call her that,” Lee warned the other. “I know she’s a legend after she rescued those soldiers in Bahrain, but something changed her there. She retired from combat. Just keep on her good side and you’ll be fine.”
“Sir?” Will’s voice was tight in worry. “We’ve got a problem. Our server’s being hacked.”
“What?” Lee was on the alert. “Can you trace the signal?”
“I’m not really a computer guy, but…” Will tapped on the keyboard a few times and nodded. “It’s coming from a café in Brighton. We better get there fast.”
“Chastity, you’ve got new orders,” Lee called as he left the lab.
“You’re the guy from the video, the one who jumped out a five story building to save that woman!”
Benjamin Gray flinched. “Keep your voice down,” he hissed at the blonde who had just taken a seat across the café table from him. His eyes flitted quickly to his young son, playing with the napkins a few feet away and then back at the woman. “Who are you, anyway?”
“My name’s Seren,” the bubbly woman replied, her lips curving up as she leaned in, voice low. “You’re a wizard, aren’t you?” When Benj started, she shook her head quickly and reassuringly. “Don’t worry, I’m a witch. I’ve tracked you down from my laptop and then hacked SHIELD. You’re on their radar now.”
“Scary people in dark suits who know how to Obliviate,” Seren clarified, opening up her laptop. “Listen, you need to get off the grid. Leave. If they find out who you are, if they find you – and they will, trust me; if I can do it they probably can – they’ll take you in and consider you a threat to the Statute of Secrecy.”
“Listen, lady, I don’t need your help.” Benjamin shook his head and tugged on his son. “Come on, Ace. Let’s get out of here.”
“Hey!” Seren hastily shut down her laptop and followed him, tucking it under her arm. “I can help!” She pushed open the door just in time to see two men in dark suits before one of them grabbed her, stabbed her in the arm with Tatty’s perfected toxin, and dragged the drugged girl to the SHIELD van.
After several heated interrogations between Seren and Lee and Nathaniel, followed by a briefer and more enlightening one conducted by Chastity, they had the information they needed.
“His name’s Benjamin Gray, and he’s deadly.” Will brought up a picture of their suspect on the screen. “According to that Seren girl we’ve got in custody, Centipede found him and experimented on him. His wandless magic is far more powerful than anyone’s should be, because they’ve got poison flooding through his veins.”
“See, it only makes him stronger at first,” Tatiana added for clarification. “But after a while, his cells can’t handle the strain. So he goes…”
“Boom,” Will added for clarification.
Leander took this turn of events stoically. “We need to find that man now. Nate, get Seren out here and to a computer. She can track him.”
“She hacked us,” Nate complained. “I don’t think it’s a good idea for her to join us, Sir.”
“Benjamin’s life is in danger. Besides, Seren is an asset. We need someone to hack for us, and some fresh eyes are appreciated.”
“But,” Nate scowled, not finishing this thought.
“Your frown has been taken into consideration,” Lee replied. “Get her out here and have her track him down. Witty, you two work on a cure. We need to stop this man from exploding.”
So Seren acquiesced and they tracked him down with Chastity hastily flying the plane to find him. Will and Tatiana were arguing in the lab over the compounds and running test trials and simulations until they’d found a solution. When they found Benjamin, Chastity went in and found herself facing combat again – although this time, she fought with vigor and decided to become a field agent again. And when the time came, Nate did end up taking a shot at Benj – using the cure, not an actual bullet.
Benjamin Gray’s interrogation revealed a few details: the woman who recruited him had worn a flower dress, she worked for an organization called Centipede, the doctor had been named Beckett, and there was some ‘Clairvoyant’ overseeing it all.
“I want to join SHIELD,” Seren confessed after the mission, perched on a lab table, twisting her hands in front of her.
Nate opened his mouth to object then thought better of it and closed it.
“We’ll take you on as a consultant.” Lee turned to Nate. “She’ll need a supervising officer. Someone good and experienced.”
Nate paused and then nodded. “I’d be honored, Sir.”
Seren beamed at him.
MISSION REPORT: SEPTEMBER 23
Consultant Seren Jones has been sent into Alarika Fox’s private party as SHIELD cannot intervene in this matter. Information about the Clairvoyant has been recovered. Fox is funding his research with Centipede. File to be added to archives soon.
A glass door separated the scientists as they sat against it, their backs together as if the glass wasn’t separating them. Tatiana’s eyes were glazed as she stared off sadly within the lab; being quarantined after contracting a magical virus was taking a hard toll on her, both physically and emotionally.
Will, on the other side of the glass, calibrated the small device in his hand and glanced at his watch before looking at the other team members. “How long has she got?” His throat was dry.
Chastity was stoic but there was a sorrow to her movements as she checked her watch. “Two hours. And then the virus will emit an electric pulse to knock the plane out of the sky.” She pursed her lips. “She has to find a cure now or we all go down.”
Will turned and knocked on the glass, holding up the small device he’d calibrated and smiled at her. She smiled back half-heartedly and got to work as he sent the device through with a flick of his wand.
The rest of the team dispersed after a few minutes as Tatty bustled about inside the lab, the other scientist on the outside calling through helpful instructions (or at least, they sounded helpful to him until she snapped at him and told him to shut up).
“I didn’t ask to join this flying circus, but you told me we’d be fools to pass up on this opportunity!”
“I didn’t force you to follow me anywhere,” she replied, teeth gritted as she moved a cauldron from one lab surface to another. “This was the highlight of your sheltered little life anyway.”
“Sheltered? We were happy back in a non-mobile lab back at Hogwarts! When did you get so worldly and experienced, anyway? Because I’m pretty sure that you’ve been beside me here the whole damn time!”
They were facing each other on either side of the glass now, jawlines rigid, tension tangible, and she breathed a sudden sigh and turned away. “I don’t know how to fix this,” she murmured, tears springing into her eyes.
For a moment, Tatiana remained slumped against the counter until she suddenly had a breakthrough and nearly dropped her cauldron in excitement. “I wish I had an extra pair of hands,” she fretted as she bustled about.
Will broke quarantine and stepped into the lab and she turned in shock. “What are you doing? You can’t be here!”
“Too late, it’s done.” He pulled the cauldron gently from her hands. “We’re going to fix this, together.”
But when nearly two hours later had yielded them terrible results, and their third try seemed to have been just as detrimental on the lab rat that they were using, Tatiana gave up. With a flick of her wand, she stunned Will and slipped out of the lab and leaped from the cargo hold before the virus would take down the plane with her.
Will regained consciousness just before she jumped, and noticed that the cure on the rat had worked. He shoved his way out of the lab, trying to follow, but Nate got their first. “You failed your field assessment,” he informed the engineer gruffly as he took the parachute and the cure and jumped out of the cargo hold as well.
When all was well and done and Tatiana had been hit with the cure and the two had been pulled from the ocean and treated to a long lecture from Lee, she found herself in Will’s bunk.
“Taylor did a very brave thing back there, but it wasn’t him giving me hope back in the lab when I had none. It was you. You’re the hero.” Tatiana pressed a quick kiss to the other scientist’s cheek before slipping out.
He watched her, a small smile curving up his lips as his heart wrenched uncomfortably as he imagined her jump again. A realization hit him. Oh, fuck.
They were at base in Hogsmeade now, the headquarters run by agent Ariel Jameson. “We need a field agent and an engineer from your team to help disable a device,” she informed Lee boldly as she strode down the corridor, consulting a clipboard.
Will was not happy with going into the field. Nate was delighted until he realized who his partner was. Seren was just unhappy that she wasn’t yet a proper agent and didn’t have clearance to know about the mission.
After the other four waved off Will and Nate, Leander and Chastity departed for another meeting, leaving Seren and Tatiana alone in the lab at the base.
“I wish they’d let us know what the deal is with this mission,” Seren complained, laptop open on the table in front of her.
“SHIELD keeps secrets for a reason,” Tatiana replied evenly.
“Still! They could be getting tortured out there!”
Tatiana froze. “You think they’re torturing Will?” she asked delicately.
Seren nodded and the brunette tensed up. “This is why we need to hack into the mainframe – but I can’t get into the room since I’m not a proper agent like someone is.” She eyed the other.
“No! I’m not going to be a part of your … bad girl shenanigans! Leave me out!”
Seren raised an eyebrow.
Ten minutes later, Tatiana had snuck into the main control room, tried to distract and flirt with superior Agent Seth Allen (she’d failed), and had ended up stunning him just to get him out of the way so she could get Seren into the main archive system. “I’m going to be sent to Azkaban for this,” Tatty moaned through the communications device around her ear.
Seren’s hack proved that the mission was actually a suicide mission that neither agent knew about going in. After Lee yelled at Ariel for neglecting to inform him about his own agents, the team left to make their own extraction team for the other two.
Down in the south of France on their mission, Will and Nate were having a power struggle.
“I don’t need you to protect me,” Will snapped as he shoved off the other.
Nate bit back an ugh. “As soon as you detonate this thing, we’ve got five minutes before this place is swarming with mercenaries. You better head out now so you don’t get hurt.”
“No,” Will replied defiantly, fingers working on the control panel for his detonation device. “I am every bit the SHIELD agent that you are.”
Nate sighed but let him stay – fortunately, their team arrived before the mercenaries and the Hogwarts Express was back in the sky before anyone could detect them.
MISSION REPORT: DECEMBER 19
Seren Jones, on a mission to find out more about the Clairvoyant, was shot through the stomach twice by Alarika Fox. She remains in critical condition, although the healers predict that she has only forty-eight hours left. Agent Hart has requested back-up for his team.
Alarika Fox was in custody, and Chastity had already screamed herself hoarse during the interrogation. Nate had split his knuckles open on a punching bag – somewhere through training this girl, he’d developed some sort of feelings for the rookie. Will and Tatiana were aghast, trying to find a cure. Leander refused to admit defeat, so he called in his old comrade for back up.
Agent Quincy Lee stepped through the door, Timothy Sherick in tow. “Hart,” she greeted the man warmly enough. “We heard your agent needs help?”
“Whatever they used to revive me can save her,” Lee affirmed. “I’m taking you, Will, and Nate down with me. We’ve located a base that might give us answers.”
Quincy’s lips curved up. “Tahiti changed you, didn’t it?”
“It’s a magical place,” Lee replied automatically.
“Are you a healer?” Tatiana questioned Tim as she stepped toward him brightly.
He grinned over at her. “I’ve got basic medical training. Looks like we’re going to be working together to save your friend, then, huh?” He winked.
Will glared at the two of them and reluctantly readied himself for combat again.
The four agents managed to locate the cure in the base and quickly returned to the plane, injecting it into her arm as soon as possible. Her vitals returned to normal, but the team’s hearts dropped when they read the inscription on the vial: The Clairvoyant sends her regards.
URGENT MEMO [ALL TEAMS]: DECEMBER 22
SHIELD has fallen. Director Tierney is dead. Hydra is coming.
“Join Hydra,” Quincy offered to the bound agents, their arms tied behind them.
“How could you say that?” Chastity spat back. “You were our ally.”
“I’m the Clairvoyant,” she grinned much like a snake, her lips curling upwards diabolically.
“We’re loyal to SHIELD only,” Seren declared. “And we won’t join you.”
Quincy sighed and fluttered a hand dismissively. “Your loss.” She turned to the soldiers at her side – all former SHIELD agents who’d switched sides. “Shoot them.”
But fortunately, they’d managed to escape with minimal damage after a scuffle and a quick escape on their plane again.
“It’s the girl in the flower dress, the one that Benjamin Gray mentioned,” Chastity pointed at the screen and the grainy security camera pictures. “She’s still working on the Centipede project, and it appears she’s affiliated with Hydra and the Clairvoyant.”
“What’s she done?” Seren questioned, frowning at the screen.
Lee sighed. “She’s released Reece Kelley from Azkaban. He was contained at the highest level of security – SHIELD protocol.”
“What did this bloke do?” Tatiana inquired.
Lee paused. “He stalked a young designer named Emrys Pierce.”
The other five glanced up in shock.
“But, Sir…” Seren was the first to break the silence. “Didn’t you used to date Emrys?”
Lee’s lips were set in a thin line as he nodded. “That’s why his safety is our utmost priority. Hydra is trying to completely destroy SHIELD, and we can’t let them kill innocent lives during it.”
Unfortunately, Emrys still though that Lee was dead. It was a small team of Will, Tatiana, and Timothy (who’d unofficially joined the operation after he’d discovered that his supervising officer was a traitor) who were sent in to save the redhead. He was given no knowledge that his once-lover was still alive and well, and Reece was taken into custody.
“Alice Fairchild is the girl in the flower dress,” Seren confirmed, clicking away at her laptop. “Reece Kelly confirmed it. We just need to track her down now.”
“Our first priority now is detaining Quincy somewhere far away,” Lee interjected. His gaze moved to Nate. “Agent Taylor, you’ll be escorting Agent Jameson. She’s flying Quincy to Azkaban; the lower levels. Alice won’t be able to break him out.”
“She was my supervising officer.” Nate’s jaw tightened. “She deserves this punishment for betraying all of us.”
Two hours later, on the plane, Ariel reported a change of plans. “Quincy’s too dangerous to be locked up,” she informed Nate under her breath as she pushed a gun into the palm of his hand. “You were wronged by her the most. Would you care to do the honors?”
Nate picked up the gun and leveled it at Quincy. She sat, unflinching. The field agent suddenly turned his wrist toward the redhead and pulled the trigger twice, rapidly, before turning back to Quincy.
A malicious smile curved up her lips. “You sick of the charade, rookie?”
“It’s served its purpose. They think that I’m still loyal to SHIELD,” Nate laughed as he stepped over Ariel’s body growing cold on the ground and took a seat with a grin beside his former supervising officer.
“We’ve been betrayed.” Tatiana’s voice was flat as she hesitantly pulled up a video on the screen. “The security cameras in the other plane show Nate taking out Agent Jameson instead of Quincy.” She shook her head. “Why would he do this?”
“He’s a good person,” Will argued.
“But he shot her in cold blood!” Seren’s eyes were brimming with tears. “He was our friend!”
A tense silence followed.
“We have a choice now,” Leander said at last, pulling his glasses off of his nose and rubbing at his eyes wearily. “You can get out now and leave SHIELD entirely. We’re a terrorist organization, anyway, and Attaway Industries is trying to salvage as many of us as they can. You could join them.” He paused. “Or you could stay with me and make this right.”
Will, Seren, Tatiana, Chastity, and Timothy remained in place.
“It’s settled, then. We’re hunting down Nate and Alice Fairchild,” Lee announced, striding past them.
On another plane, where a stain of blood on the ground marked where Ariel Jameson had been shot, Nathaniel Taylor, Quincy Lee, and Alice Fairchild sat on a sofa, wineglasses caught in their hands.
“They have no idea, do they?” Alice mused aloud, tracing a flower from the pattern on her dress.
Quincy grinned like a Cheshire Cat. “They don’t know enough about Hydra. After all, even if you cut off one head –“
“Another will grow in its place,” Nate finished.
The glass jingled like bells as they clinked them together and drank, devious smiles remaining plastered on their lips.