An Era Past
The cotton of the sheets slithered over her body as the man next to her did his best not to rouse her. His arms had been wrapped around her, sheltering her as they slept. His name was Steven Jackson and he was the best man she'd ever known. He was a true blue American boy scout and served his country without the knowledge or gratitude of the adoring public masses. He inspired her to be a better person and if the pregnancy test she'd taken yesterday was correct, he was to be not only her husband when the time was right, but the father of her child as well.
Talia didn't mind giving up the government work. As much as being an Agent drove her, as much as she owed the country for all the blood in her family's past, being a mother was her calling in life. "I love you, baby." The words were whispered in his growly timbre as he leaned down and kissed her on the head before tucking the sheet around her and ensuring that she stayed warm.
The woman currently known as Talia Romanoff stood before her superior, her fists clenched behind her back. She was aboard a cloaked heli-carrier and being briefed on her next mission. She was to infiltrate a cell of SPEAR terrorists and relay all their plans. It was the next step in an intricate plan to take down their entire organization. After saluting her superior officer, one of the only two officers in this agency superior to her, she turned and headed for the door.
Her lithe body was clothed in a custom-made kevlar mesh, leaving little to the imagination, but protecting her adequately, as well as storing weapons. Her raven black hair was pulled back in a sleek ponytail, showing off her high cheekbones. Her bright blue eyes shone like jewels, a warmth in them that was not usually there.
That warmth left them as her best friend and direct superior Agent Olsen entered the briefing room, a note of extreme urgency on his face. "Officer Campbell, we have an issue with Operation 578B." He was intentionally hiding the details from her, but Talia knew that something was very wrong.
"That's Steven's op." There was no question in her voice, just quiet confidence.
Both men's heads snapped in her direction, conflicted expressions upon both of their faces. Olsen opened his mouth and was about to give her the party line before she stopped him. "He's my fiancee and more importantly, he's my partner. I want to be read in and I want it now." There was a look passed between them. They knew that they couldn't, legally. Steven had been sent on a mission so covert that only he, Agents Campbell and Olsen and the director of the agency himself were privy to the details. It was the utmost definition of sensitive material.
"No. Don't you 'Talia' me. Don't you dare." She was furious but restraining her emotion. "That is the man I love. He means everything to me. Everything. I understand protocol, I understand why you are doing what you are doing. Please do me the favor of understanding why I am doing what I am doing." She stripped off her badge from the shoulder of her uniform and laid it down on the elegant glass conference table. "I'm going after Steve. Give me the info and make it look like I hacked your servers. Intelligence gathering is my specialty, this isn't beyond my scope." Out of habit she checked her ammo before sliding her gun back into its holster. Looking up at the two men who had become her friends, she appealed to them and did something that was very rare for her - she asked for help. "I could use the company, you know."
Two Hours Later
The three of them made landfall in the dark of the night. Steven was being held captive on an unmapped island in the Carribbean in the compound of the head of a drug cartel. All were outfitted and fully armed, ready to rescue their comrade. The beginning of the rescue operation went like clockwork. They quickly and silently eliminated the guards, moving through the compound like snakes through a maze; silently and deadly.
It wasn't until they hit the very inside of the compound that everything went FUBAR. Just when they'd thought they'd cleared the last of it, seven men armed to the teeth effectively sneaked up behind them and without ceremony, knocked Olsen and Campbell out with very little effort. Talia went into that dark corner of her mind and allowed her instincts to reign as she fought three of them off, disabling them all within a few moves. But there were too many and a swift butt of the gun to her head knocked her out.
Unknown amount of time later
She awoke soaking wet, her arms tied behind her and her legs tied to the legs of a sturdy wooden chair. There was metal biting into her wrists and judging by the sound of dripping water and cement underneath her feet, she was in a basement. A jingle bell that had been attached to the cuffs sounded as she awoke and tested their strength, drawing the attention of one of her captors. "Ah, the little lady awakens."
His voice was soft yet menacing as he drew closer to her. Bending forward just a bit his upper lip curled in a sick grin. "You shouldn't have come. Your agency would have let him go as collateral loss and now, now we just have three more agents to add to that toll."
"What are you talking about?" Her voice was growly and she could feel her chapped lips crack as she spoke. "There is no toll. Nobody's dead." She absolutely refused to believe it. This was just a tactic. They must be trying to soften her, they wanted information or something out of her. Interrogation tactic 101: make your victim feel hopeless and then offer them the smallest sliver of salvation in exchange for what you needed. It wasn't going to work here, not on her.
"Not yet, there isn't. That can change at a second's notice." He walked over to the curtain that hung from the ceiling directly to her left and unceremoniously pulled it down. On the other side was Steven, his body splayed in a chair, his head tilted back. There was an enormous knot on his head, a cut above his eye that dripped blood down his face and a nearly gaping chest wound. Blood drenched his skin and saturated his uniform. An inhuman noise left Talia's mouth as she pulled on every resource and ounce of strength that she had.
Taking everybody, including herself, by surprise, Talia found within herself an insurmountable amount of both emotional and physical strength. Busting out of the bonds that held her to her chair, she slammed her elbow into the nose of the captor who just second ago had been attempting to intimidate her with the unconscious body of her nearly dead fiance.
Everything was pure instinct as her training kicked in. Grabbing his body in a fireman’s hold she dragged the two of them up the stairs only to be met by more security. Her only choice was to lay him down on the ground against the wall and take them out in a brutally methodic manner. Her entire vision was a red haze of fury.
A pile of seven dead or disabled men were slumped around her as Talia bent forward, an arm banded over her stomach and breathed heavily in and out in an attempt to catch her breath. With inhuman timing Campbell and Olsen arrived, battered, bloodied, bruised and generally worse for the wear, but all intact. Ripping a strip off the bottom of her shirt, baring her still flat stomach, she tied it around Steve's wounds in an attempt to stem the flow of blood escaping his chest.
Her voice shook as she spoke, as did her body. "Help me get him to our exit point." They had hidden a boat as well as communications on their way out in case things went terribly bad on this forbidden mission. Terribly bad didn't quite cover how badly things had gotten fcked up.
It took them seven minutes and forty three seconds to navigate through the compound and deal with any and all threats that came up against them. At that point Talia and the men were at their last wit. They managed to get themselves onto the speedboat and Talia wrangled Steve's still unconscious form down onto a bed and began emergency medical care. Jason Campbell came down the stairs, a worried expression on his face as he addressed Talia. "Tails, they don't want to come. They're refusing to authorize a rescue or use of any craft to get to us. We have men who have overridden their orders and will be departing post haste."
A scowl crossed her face as she continued tending to Steven. It was an unfortunately fruitless effort. All of a sudden his chest started gushing blood and his body began convulsing. Yelling out in anguish, Talia ripped his shirt off to get a better look at the wound. There was something off about it, something seemingly tearing the edges of it open wider in microscopic amounts, but just enough to make a difference.
Jason was right there beside her as she winced, her entire body shaking and a hand going down to her stomach. He had the clear mind to realize that Steven had already lost too much blood, there was nothing more they could do there. Now his main focus was Talia. "What's going on?"
Gritting her teeth she just shook her head, uselessly trying to staunch the flow of blood. "I'm fine. It's nothing." Tears fell down her face as she knew exactly what was going on. Between the stress, the injuries and the stage of pregnancy, she was miscarrying. She kept a stiff upper lip and refused to let Jacob touch or help her as she laid her head down on the bed next to her now dead fiance's body and allowed herself to devolve into heartwrenching sobs. She'd lost the love of her life, her baby and quite possibly her life's work all in the span of one night.
Two Days Later
There were dark circles under her eyes, her hair had lost its luster, there was no care for the clothes that draped her frame. Talia Romanoff was a shell of a person and looked nigh-homeless as she entered the office of the Director. She'd heard the whispers from the other agents as she'd walked into the conference room for her debriefing. There was an overabundance of pity and it nearly drove her mad.
"Ms. Romanoff." The change between Agent to the civillian address hadn't escaped her attention. Director Grady was an older man in his mid-sixties. Ex Army and Ex CIA he was a mover and shaker. He was gentle when needed and a hardass even when it wasn't. He stood before her now, waiting for her to take a seat. Talia did so, crossing one leg over another as she sullenly sat down.
"You've been asked to come in for an unofficial debriefing following your official statements the other night. What happened was inexcusable on so many levels."
Those words are what broke her. She could have kept it together, hanging by a thread, but he'd severed that thread. Bounding out of her chair, she slammed a hand down on the table for effect as she braced her hands, leaning over and glowing at him. Her voice was low and full of held-back rage. "You know what's inexcusable? The fact that you sent him in without a partner. The fact that I had to steal information to find him. The fact that the moment you found out he was compromised, you didn't send a team in. The fact that I had to break laws to go in and get him. The fact that once I had him and it had been communicated that he was DYING that men were still not authorized to come back and retrieve us."
Bending over she lifted her weapon and badge out of her bag and slid them across the table towards him. "I lost my fiance and my child in one fell swoop. Both were unnecessary losses. I'm done with this agency, I'm done with my service. Feel free to discharge me however you see fit and expect to hear from my lawyers as soon as possible." It was the first time she'd ever seen him speechless.
"This is on you, sir. The death of a man in your command, the best man I've ever known. The loss of one of the best agents you've ever had. You'll never replace me, that's a simple fact. Expect those papers."
A weight was lifted from her shoulders as she exited the room and building as soon as possible. It was time to start a new chapter and begin with a new name.