The next morning, Carol looked over the files Steve had given her before being called back to the tower. Images, faculty layouts, mission reports, mysterious meetings, and oddly high profile smuggling that was going unchecked. All of it looked like nothing on its own, but together they formed a bigger picture.
“But of what?” Carol murmured, picking a picture marked with a red star. Something about it looked familiar, but she couldn’t place a finger on it. That was when the doorbell rang. Throwing a blanket covered in dried paint over the table, Carol grabbed her pistol and went to the door. Standing outside was a nervous college age kid, holding a covered dish in his hands. Opening the door, Carol gave him a polite smile.
“Good morning, can I help you?” Carol inquired cheerfully.
“Um, good morning. My aunt sent me over with this. She wants to welcome you to the neighborhood.” The young man said haltingly, handing over the dish in his hand and scratching his head.
“Thank you,” Carol said leaving the unspoken question hanging in the air, having stuck her gun in her waistband and holding the dish with both hands.
“Peter, Peter Parker. My aunt May lives a couple doors down.” Peter Parker replied, coloring slightly at his mistake.
“Thank you, Peter. Tell your aunt thank you for me.” Carol finished, smiling at his expression. Nodding, Peter retreated down the steps and Carol could tell it took some restraint for him not to run.
Smiling to herself, Carol stepped back and closed the door with a shove from her foot. Walking into the kitchen, Carol placed the dish on the counter and opened the note on top. After reading it, she peeled pack the plastic wrap to see her favorite casserole. Sticking it in the fridge to make when Steve got back, Carol went back to the files on the table sitting in the middle of the empty living room. After studying them for another hour, she repacked them in the boxes and piled them in a corner covering them with the paint shield. The nice thing about a house under renovation was that there was plenty of places to hide things.
Steve sat in his chair at the table, his mind wandering from the discussion of the mission they had just completed. Carol had texted him with the extra phone he had given her to tell him that one of the neighbors had dropped of dinner. He had been doing his best not think about his decision to let her in on his secret mission, but now he didn’t have much else to think about.
“Steve, you ok?” Natasha inquired, breaking his train of thought.
“I’m fine.” Steve responded automatically, remembering Carol’s first comment upon seeing the pile of evidence he had gathered. “How in the world did you manage to get all of this past Black Widow?”
“Are you sure? You’ve been acting strange lately, even for you.” Tony probed, and Steve gave Sam a questioning glance and noticed his friend wouldn’t look him in the eye.
“Sam?” Steve said his voice reflecting the growing suspicion he was feeling. Falcon didn’t reply, but Steve noticed the way he was looking at Tony.
Steve stood up, suddenly done with dealing with the intrigue that seemed to follow Tony Stark around. Ignoring the pleas of his teammates, he left the room and, gathering a few things from his own room, left Avenger’s Tower. Taking a complicated route home to throw off pursuers and keep his mind occupied, Steve tried to figure out what he was going to do. Walking into the house, he closed the door behind him and hung up his coat.
“Steve, are you alright?” Carol asked as she appeared in the back room doorway with a folder in her hand.
“I will be. The one person on the team I thought I could confide in, went behind my back. We are completely on our own now.” Steve replied with a heavy heart.
“I’m sorry, Steve.” was all Carol said as she put a hand on his shoulder, but it was enough. They stood there for a moment and then Steve noticed the file in her hand.
“Did you find something?” Steve inquired indicating the file.
“Actually I did. I noticed that one of the pictures looked familiar and I couldn’t quite figure out why. An hour ago it hit me. I used to work in that base. It was abandoned due to safety issues shortly before I left.” Carol explained, leading him into the backroom and showing him the pictures and paper scattered over the table.
“I have a plan. Let’s go, I will explain on the way.” Steve ordered, grabbing his coat and shield from the closet.
Finding a good vantage point to observe the front door, they waited. Within a few minutes the security was weakened as the commander moved troops around to prepare for an assault on the back door as predicted. Picking the path with the least noise, they climbed down and slipped past the outer guard ring. Sneaking through the base, they managed to avoid contact with the Hydra agents. Carol marveled at the ease with which she had slipped back into her old habits. Not a word had been spoken since they had left the bikes and started the hike up the hill.
As they approached the point of interest however, they could see the two guards standing on duty. Glancing at each other, they moved as one. Steve took the first guard out with a blow to the head, while Carol whacked the other over the head with the handle of her pistol. Dragging the guards in behind them, they went into the small storage room. They both had pre-planned jobs, so while Steve covered the door, Carol searched the boxes for the one with the piece of data they needed. Finding it, she opened the box carefully and dug around for a moment inside it. Pulling out a small thumb drive from a plastic bag, Carol replaced it with the decoy and resealed the bag. Putting the box’s lid back in place, she slipping the drive into her hidden pocket.
“Got it.” Carol whispered, tossing her jammer on top of the two guards.
Steve just nodded before leading the way out of the base.
Neither of them spoke as they snuck out of the base and headed for their bikes.
“What now?” Carol inquired as she secured her helmet under her chin.
“We use that information to find out where they are doing the experiment and stop them before they hurt anyone else.” Steve replied, putting on his own helmet.
Carol nodded her agreement, feeling a burden lifting from her shoulders. For the first time in years, she was able to be herself. Not just the side of her who owned an old-style cafe in downtown New York, but the side that was both expert spy and soldier.
To be continued
Want learn more about Carol Richardson? Check out the Beyond S.H.I.E.L.D. page!