"I can deal with them."
Characters (this chapter): Natasha Romanoff, Bucky Barnes, some Hydra schmucks
Content Warnings: Canon-typical violence, death, guns
The compound is extremely well-guarded. Disguised as an abandoned strip mall, with an impressive amount of attention to detail. There are a few indicators that give them away; too many people parking nearby, the gravel is too well-worn, and the store fronts exhibit a completely identical degree of disrepair. Still, it will pose a few challenges. Natasha watches them for sixty-seven minutes before she feels confident about her ability to infiltrate with minimal personal damage. Destroy some equipment, eliminate all personnel. It's a simple job. She takes another second to consider her options. Normally, she’d be stealthy. After all, this mission isn’t time-sensitive.
Then again, it’s not like she’s hiding right now. She’s on every hit list in the world. Her face is all over the news. If she wanted to hide, really hide, she’d have to go completely off the grid. And possibly change her face. What a hassle.
She’s got things to do.
So fuck stealth.
After she disables the signal tower a block away, Natasha hot-wires the first durable-looking car she can find (she grins, thinking of Steve’s reaction, secretly glad to have found the family car of a Hydra operative). The seat is adjusted for a much taller driver, and she frowns as she forces it into a more comfortable position, snatching the tchotchke hanging from the rearview and tossing it into the back seat. Then she starts the engine and drives through the wall of the compound.
Drywall crumbles all around her, and she turns on the windshield wipers, shooting the first three guards to recover. Awarding herself points for marksmanship (she’d gone for the jugular because the challenge was mildly interesting), she opens the door, using it to shield herself as she opens fire through the shattered window. Natasha scans the room, but there are no surprises. A check-in station, not heavily staffed, but there are plenty of supplies. And there might be a few decryption keys lying around, if she snoops. The other operatives are recovering with difficulty, but she has no doubt they're all armed; there’s one man struggling to crawl away, clutching his side where she’d hit him with the front bumper of the car. He’s coughing up blood and making the most irritating wheezing noises about it.
Without the element of surprise, she needs to dispose of the rest of them with ruthless efficiency. Before they can do something inconvenient like repair the damage she'd done to their communications equipment before she barged in. Reaching back inside the car, she triggers the incendiary device she'd placed underneath the steering wheel, giving herself thirty seconds to get out of the way. It takes her five seconds to shoot two more operatives, clearing her path. In ten seconds, she's leaping over a terminal station, using the monitors to deter enemy fire. She snaps the neck of the woman cowering beneath the station, and shoves one of her pre-programmed flash drives into the base unit serving as the system hub for the compound. More of the operatives have recovered. She could return their fire.
Or she could wait five more seconds.
The car explodes.
She double checks to make sure everyone is dead before she starts poking around. There are few personal effects: one purse, three sets of keys with non-standard issue keychains, one red umbrella, and the remains of several take-out lunches. There's a menu attached to one of the crumbled bags. Natasha thinks Agent Simmons might be hungry when she returns. There are protein blocks stored in the lab, but she's been traveling with Coulson. She will be used to more nutritional variety. Natasha swipes a phone from one of the corpses on the floor, overriding the passcode requirement. Picking up food will be a companionable gesture.
"Georgina's Pizzeria, how may I help you?"
Natasha cradles the cell phone between her ear and shoulder.
"You guys do pick-up?"
The girl on the other side of the line is below the legal working age, and there's a disorganized clatter behind her.
"Sure thing. I have your number as-"
Natasha orders more food than she thinks is necessary, since it's being billed to the credit card they have on file for the cell phone number. She listens to the underaged cashier repeating her order back to her as she sifts through the wreck she's made of the compound. She assembles a tidy pile of weapons (they have an excellent selection of knives and enough surveillance equipment to replace the supply she'd used to track Rogers), laying it all in the center of the room. Her flash drive beeps, signaling the successful retrieval of the system's data. There are sirens in the distance, someone's probably called emergency services for the smoking wreckage of the car.
"I'll have this all ready for you in about forty-five minutes. Is there anything else I can do?"
Natasha grabs a duffle bag from one of the lockers.
"Extra forks and napkins would be great, thanks."
She hangs up. There's a file at the bottom of the bag. Report on airborne chemical toxin. Useful. Simmons might be able to make something of it. Natasha throws her equipment on top of it. She grabs her flash drive, pockets the cell phone, and heads to the back of the compound. The sirens are closer, and the room is filling up with smoke.
One well-aimed kick smashes a hole in the wall. She heaves against it with her shoulder, creating an opening large enough for her to crawl through.
She glances up, scanning the terrain like she always does, and sees the sniper immediately.
He recognizes her, and leans away from the gun, his fingers uncurling from around the trigger.
There's a car parked by the dumpsters a few feet away. From the anonymity of the model, she can safely assume it belonged to one of the dead operatives inside. This, of course, means nothing. He might have been a defector, or just defective. It would be fanciful to assume that the Soldier is on a personal vendetta against Hydra. Loyalties don't change in a day. Recent events have made it clear that Natasha herself is not an exception to that rule.
She salutes, mouthing the word tovarishch, knowing he can read her lips even though there's no point in wasting breath for words he won't hear. He doesn't move. She didn't expect him to. She hoists the bag over her shoulder, pulls her hood over her hair, and starts walking towards the pizzeria. The space between her shoulders prickles, but she's confident he won't shoot. Not when he had the opportunity, as she was emerging from the wreckage and didn't take it. She concentrates instead on reciting the bus routes. If their food is ready on time, she'll be able to return to the warehouse before it gets dark.
Thanks for reading!
This was such a fun chapter to write. Natasha does not care. At. All. I love her.