maria > harry


             He’s not expecting it. Anticipation having been eroded by the slow burn of time in these last few days, concern over multiple pressing projects and numerous disappearances having blended together into a general haze of anxious urgency. A dozen things on his mind, moving cogs and burning charges needing to be oiled, doused. So that when the number flashes through on his phone, after that split second it takes for his memory to stir and realization to set in–   he thinks his chest stills, even for a moment.

                His mind washes blank as he lifts his phone to his ear, setting down his helmet on the seat of his Kawasaki and resting his palm against the leather; a means of support as he slides his thumb across the screen of his OsBerry to answer the call. 


                            Harry doesn’t know where to begin.

                                           So he begins naturally.

                “Ahh, well… You know me. Nothing but the best for my spectacular loyal customers.”

                                                   There’s a smile edging into his tone, the slow slide into a gentle comfort at this shock (was it a shock? He’d been expecting something like this, maybe. Even just slightly.) gradually taking effect. He crosses one leg over the other at his ankles, an increasingly relaxed stance.

                                            “You are very welcome, Director Hill. You’re even more welcome back to the land of the living. Or, the land of the Present-In-Action  I guess…  ‘PIA’? If that’s not a thing already, I’m making it a thing now alright.”


               Something of a laugh- she can afford it. Maria turns her head, watching the side street before she steps onto the asphalt, pulling her coat a bit tighter around her neck with one hand. Tucking the smile into her shoulder, she makes her qay quickly across the street.

                                          “We’ve really got to get you on a punch card system.” Irony, she knows. She assumes he’s just been keeping a tab, but thus far she’s never seen a bill from Oscorp.

                                  “Present-In-Action I’ll take, never really was dead.” Ducking her chin, the smile she harbors is fond- he’d come looking for her in the aftermath and the gesture was sweet. “I appreciate it, Harry.” Her words hum against the speaker, an inhale sucks in a breath of the dry chill. “Really.”

                                                 And then there’s the unspoken. Maria purses her lips. 

       “Heard you came by. Just after the carrier went down.” 


–> { Sh }


   It’s why he’d rushed to call her even after informing Sharon. It wasn’t enough to let one S.H.I.E.L.D. operative know and then sit back twiddling his thumbs hoping they’ll pass it up top. He’d gone straight for the top himself, because in his head, no-one else in the United States was as prepared or capable in a crisis as Maria Hill.

        Just like that, she’s confirmed. Relief pushes into the rounded front of his cranium.

                 –> Next problem.

             Her matter-of-fact tone is infectious, and he can hear his own voice becoming more steadied beneath it.

                     “Already done, I’ve got everyone I can spare over there. Security footage is active, I’ll make sure your guys can access it.”

                         He pulls up a holographic control panel and expands it across his desk, utilizing executive protocols to break through the various security walls that have been cast up around Chemicals’ server. His emergency authorization notification passes through without a hitch, granting external access to the relevant ID-carrying S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives to be detailed shortly.

                                      “Send their IDs through for clearance. They’ll get hands-on access on arrival.”

    “Perfect. And make sure you don’t turn over any footage or potential evidence to anyone other than our agents. For now we’re going to be taking point on this.” 

       Maria can hear him start to come back to even-keel, telegraphed in the slowing tones of his voice, the spaces between his inhales and exhales. She doesn’t have time to panic, or time for anyone else to panic. The fact that he’s on the downhill from this adrenaline high is a good thing, and she can’t have him fussing around a crime scene while he’s all strung out ( she’d rather not at all, but at least he can be calm and cooperative ). 

                               She’s alternating tapping out messages on her computer and on the phone she’s currently using. Incoming texts from Sharon Carter confirm she wasn’t at the top of the calling tree. 

               “IDs are coming your way. We appreciate your cooperation.”

   The sentence falls from her mouth in a weirdly clinical way with a sterile aftertaste and Maria finds herself, oddly, wanting to soften it somehow.

       “I’m sorry that this happened to you, Harry. It seemed like things were going so well–”

   She can’t help the uptick on the last word, like it’s a question somehow, and maybe it is. Maybe she’s probing for information, or not. Wondering if there’s any party in particular that springs to mind when he thinks about who could be responsible. 

                               “Agents should be on site in twenty. Hold tight until they get there.”

–> { Sh }


    He can feel himself physically sink into the plush leather of his office chair, deflated by the last conversations he’s already had; brought him spent by the time he reaches one of the most important contacts to have out there. He wishes this were one of their more casual conversations. He wishes they could make amends over last time they’d talked. Something overdue, he thinks.

              He can’t. They both need to do this. They both need this fixed, for one reason or another. The same reasons, in places. His next breath shivers at the edges, he closes his eyes and swallows to himself in the ensuing pause. Tries to think…      Priorities, first.

              “Support for my team at Osborn Chemicals, Brooklyn. There might still be time for us to catch whoever it is, keep the stabilized sample safe from third-party hands. That’s top priority right now.”

             This wasn’t the time for amends or for small talk. Whatever they’d been tripped up by before ( ironically, the very subject they were now rehashing, though on very different terms ), was no longer in the forefront of her mind. There’d been a breach, and security was one of her specialties. Preventative, reactive, either way. Maria had abandoned the chopsticks for her keyboard, already tapping out a brief memo to a STRIKE team she had on standby. 

                           “En route. Next.”

         Molars grind at the mention of the sample. Fuck. An actual SAMPLE had slipped out? She closes her eyes, breathes silently for a beat or two while she processes the implications of a biological sample of that degree simply growing a pair of legs and waltzing out the fucking door. 

             “Shut down all exits. Secure your perimeters as best you can. Do you have security footage? I’m tacking on an extra team of tech goons. Is there anyone on site with authority to sign over access to your servers?”

          It’s all protocol- they’ll want to be thorough in their shakedown if they want to suss out a lead, and from what Osborn’s let on so far, he doesn’t know much. The server access is routine and at this point, heavily necessary.

–> { Sh }


    His voice itches with use and strain, fatigue betraying him at the ends of his words. The drag upon his tone only increases as his state begins to deteriorate from panicked activity into a sinking horror, each syllable a weighted task that hangs heavy upon his head. Something he can’t shake. A dull, numbing pain…

                 He can tell by her tone, Sharon hasn’t reached her yet.

                           It’s on him.

                “We’re under attack, network’s down– file sweep of Extremis, someone’s in Chemicals in Brooklyn trying to steal the sample. Sharon Carter’s been informed. The Avengers–. Locking down everything else, system’s almost up again. Don’t know who it is, but they just hacked one of the most secure systems in the world with an old school DDoS attack just to get to it–. We’re compromised, Maria.”

She’d been prepared for lighthearted banter, apologies exchanged for the way their previous conversation had ended. It’s not going to be like that, she knows immediately from the tone of his voice, the flustered rush with which the words tumble from his mouth and reverberate through the speaker on her end. 


Her mind jolts into overdrive- she doesn’t yet know the extent of the danger, aside from the theft of intellectual property. Information is information, expensive to lose and dangerous to a degree in the wrong hands. A hand lifts, fingers massaging the spot between her brows. There had to be a reason Stark’s PR team wasn’t all over the theft of their joint-venture.

     “What do you need?”

–> { Sh }


       [exhausted; Maria.]

She’s midway through a box of lo mein when her phone buzzes and she briefly considers ignoring it. Considering the amount of contact they’d had since their last conversation, that might not be the beneficial course of action. With her free hand she reaches out and taps the speaker icon.

Still, she can’t help the dig at his expense when she answers brightly.

     “This is Maria Hill.”