I was setting up in my new house in Seattle, just two blocks from my mom's gallery.
Darrian and I had broken up. We had been together for almost five years and though we cared about each other...after New York things were just different.
So after I got out of the hospital I headed up to New York where Tony gave me a new arm. It didn't look at all human, he's not all that artistic. but the proportions were right and it was smooth. He anchored it to a nano probe implanted frame running next to and attached to my skeleton. It was about then I realized just how much he actually knew about my physiology and abilities. He never did tell Fury though. I was mustered out as a full Colonel and did the change of command so that now Lieutenant Colonel John Fossey was the new boss.
I was tired. I had lost 45 good troops in the Chitauri invasion and if I ever encountered Loki again, god or not, he was dead. John had had to write the letters because I was in a coma at the time. I don't know how I could ever repay him for that. The civilian casualties alone were in the thousands from the collapsed buildings and the like.
Currently we, well John, had a platoon scouring the New York sewers for stragglers. Chitauri were worse than cockroaches. Fury had wanted me to stay, pointing at his eye-patch and saying, "If I can be here with this... "
The thing is, I just didn't want the job any more. I had my disability check and an early retirement check so I wasn't hurting for money. Baby was now in the Smithsonian as a relic of the Chitauri Invasion along with my much abused combat armor in the 'Heroes of SHIELD' exhibit. The picture they used of me was pretty awful, but I let it slide because nobody would be able to ID me from it.
I had let my hair grow long for the first time in like fourteen years and had it in a Veronica Lake hide the eye style. Anything to keep me from being recognized. I wore long sleeved shirts and blouses all the time and gloves of course. The carbon fiber and whatever other exotic materials my arm was made out of were pretty distinctive after all. The good part of the coma was that it had been impossible to interview me and by the time I was functional the news cycle had moved on.
So there I was in DC in a lonely apartment, no job, no real plans for the future. Seemed like a good idea for a change of scenery. My mom had been living in Seattle and her gallery was still doing well. I thought 'Why not?'Finding a house had been easy, finding an affordable one not so much. Then Pepper called and offered me either a flat out gift or an interest free loan. My mother had called her and Tony I was betting and none of them would let me say no. Now I owned a nice two story two bedroom with a garage for my little car.
I had finished this part of unpacking my meager possessions and pulled on a leather jacket and a pair of boots. I was wearing jeans and a blue cotton chambray shirt. I threaded my holster onto my belt and made sure it was concealed under the jacket before heading out into the late evening.
I needed coffee and since there was a plethora of coffee-shops nearby I decided to to go for a walk. It was February so it was wet and cold. Not freezing at least. I had a wide brimmed leather stetson on that Faith had given me when she found out I was moving up here. She was now working at Brooke Army on advanced courses in trauma medicine.
The little silver bell went ting-a-ling-a-ling as I entered and stepped up to the counter to get a mochachino. As I waited at the counter a swarthy looking guy came in and ordered four coffees to go. I was only slightly paying attention...until I saw the tattoo on the back of his hand.
It was a symbol that represented the Si-Fan. The last time I had seen that symbol was in a rainstorm in Laos on crates in a bioweapon research facility. One with killer trees no less. I collected my coffee and headed outside. He had been relatively dry so he had arrived in a vehicle. Glancing around I saw a van idling with a guy inside. I snapped a picture with my phone of the license plate while pretending to answer a call, then I emailed it to Sam.
Frozen Light Security Services was a very exclusive firm. Considering that the only operatives were Sam Fisher, David Webb, and Alan Schaefer they did executive protection and industrial counter espionage for only the most select clients. Sam had offered me a job, I did turn him down, but we owed each other too much to not help each other when we could.
My phone rang, "And this is because? " Sam's gravelly voice came through loud and clear.
"Si-Fan, " I said.
"You sure? "
"Saw the tattoo, " I took a sip of my coffee while waiting in a bus stop across the street.
"Need backup? "
"Not at the moment. This was a casual encounter. "
"Well it's registered to Davis, Miller, and Strong General Contracting... "
"Funny, the sign on the van says 'Creedmore Office Supplies. "
"Diversification? " Sam said wryly.
"Probably. Thanks Sam. "
"Dutch and David are on jobs right now, and I have one tomorrow... "
"If I need help, I can get it Sam...relax. "
"You have been doing this for a while. Not as long as us of course... "
I hung up. The van was pulling away and stopped at a light. I took off running, staying low behind the parked cars on the side of the street. The rain was pouring down now, reducing visibility to a matter of feet. I used it to move to the back of the van without getting spotted. The light changed, and as the van lurched forward I climbed up the back and onto the roof rack. The motions I added lost in the street bumps.
I stayed on it for about a half hour then the van pulled up outside a corporate campus of some kind. Two people exited out the back and headed for the side of the one story building. The door slammed shut and the van pulled around to the loading dock area.
As the van was backing in I jumped for the building roof and chinned myself up. The two guys who had bailed were swarming up a rope and grapnel, so I ducked out of sight behind a HVAC unit. They were speaking Arabic and checking in over a radio with command. Right now visibility was down to probably twenty feet or so unless you had eyes like mine. They were moving to the roof service hatch and had it open quickly and quietly. This would be a two prong assault then. The van team coming from the service area, while the roof team did the real mission.
I waited till they had entered then moved up; carefully checking for alarms and boobytraps. There it was, fishing line strung around the access door connected to some electronic device. I avoided that then checked the hatch. There was a small pair of tongs inserted. Probably shorting the alarm. I kept them in place and listened with my ear to the hatch. It was silent except for the clatter of the rain. I screwed the suppressor onto the barrel of my Sig and lifted the hatch a crack. There was no light and no movement. I dropped in and got my back to the wall.
I was in a machine room with the whirring of air handlers. I called Sam, "Lindsey MicroSystems."
"Oh god, you're in it up to your neck. "
"Looks like a heist is going down. "
"Hang on Buffy...LMS is a specialist in designing next generation filtration systems. "
"Like air and water? "
"Looks like it. They have the DARPA development contract for next gen protective mask systems. "
"Gas masks and Fu Manchu... "
"No, that does not sound good Buffy. Want me to call in back-up? Even the local cops? "
"No Sam, I got this. Only four of them and they don't know I'm here. "
"You're the one on site. "
"Thanks Sam. "
I left the machine room and was in a back hall. I followed the trail of water drops. They had pulled off their overboots, but their hair and some of their clothes were obviously still dripping. The trail led to the server room, a pretty sophisticated shunt on the electronic lock. I slipped inside and crouched behind a rack while they were working on a pair of terminals. It looked like they had just logged in and they were preparing to connect some kind of drive and I really could not let that happen. I leaped into a flying kick which sent one of the guys flying over the sysadmin's desk and dragged the monitor, the keyboard and the drive with him, with the whole assembly smashing into the wall. His buddy rolled away and pulled some kind of dart pistol. I caught the first shot on my right arm. He did not have time for a second.
Then the shooting from outside the server room started. I heard gunshots echoing in the building, obviously the loading dock team had made their entry.
I finished incapacitating this duo, smashed the drive, and tied them together with a spool of CAT-5 cable. Then it was off to see what I could see.
Building security was in the middle of a gun battle. There were two of them and one was down. His head swollen to the size and color of a watermelon. I looked at the fragment of the dart embedded in my jacket and shivered. Picking up a desk I sailed it across the hall one handed. It smashed aside the cubicle wall the attackers were using for cover and flattened at least one of them. The other looked over at me, just in time to get shot through the forehead with a 9mm Glaser Safety Slug. The surviving building security guy fired a few more rounds then realized he was the only one left shooting. I retreated out the way I came, grabbing my brass off the floor as I left.
Once I was outside I called Sam back, "Taken care of. If the Si Fan is operating in Seattle, that means Dr. Fu has to be close by. He likes to stay close to his jobs. "
"That's what the limited intel says. You sure you don't want backup? "
"Not yet. Once I find his place...then I'll need backup. I am pretty tough to take out remember. "
"Hard to forget. Stay in touch Buffy and good hunting."Everybody Property of somebody other than me.
And it's the return of Fu Manchu vs. a very tough and experienced agent/soldier/hero. The reason I did the Avengers cross was because I wanted to show what this version of Buffy was capable of and more importantly not capable of. Also it was time to get her back to being a super agent with luck, skill, and raw ability on her side.