The Death of Nick Fury and the End of the Silver Age

Hydra contract assassin Bullseye kills Colonel Nick Fury in Central Park while he's listening (reluctantly) to Country Joe and the Fish with Laura Brown. The Silver Age Marvel Universe unravels and we find out why there were ever superheroes in the first place, why the Watcher really spent all those years in the Blue Area on the Moon, who Scorpio really was, and the identity of the last Supreme Hydra.

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1. "Nothing can kill Nick Fury" (Part One: AFTERMATH--Chapter One)

Prologue

Central Park, New York City:  November 1969

 

    Phew!  Whatever happened to the Mills Brothers?  Oh well, if it makes Laura happy, I guess I can take it.

    ♫♬ “Sweet Lorraine, ah sweet Lorraine …”♫♬

    Who knows?  Maybe an old goat like me could even get to like rock … if he lived long enough.

     “Sweet lady of death wants me to die,

“So she can come sit by my bedside and sigh.”

He felt her head against his shoulder, smelled the fragrance of her perfume.

    “Just listen to those lyrics, Nick.  Joe’s really saying something.”

    “Yeah … but what?”

    She punched him playfully in the ribs.

     “And wipe away the tears from all my friends’ eyes.”

    KRACK!

     “Then softly she will explain, ♬♬

    ♬♫ “Just exactly who was to blame.”

    “NICK!  Noooo … Noooooo!!  They’ve killed him!”

     “For causing me to go insane, ♫♬

    ♬♬And finally blow out my brain.”

    “Get away!  Don’t touch him!  Can’t you see that he’s …dead!”

     “Sweet Lorraine, ah sweet Lorraine.” ♪♪

 

 

(1)

 

Partial transcript, White House tapes, 15 November 1969

NIXON:  Look, Leonid, I know it’s a big ocean, and, no, we don’t claim an absolute right-of-way for all our ships.  Now, it’s not like your sub sank.  She’ll make it back to port, and we’ll apologize.  With everything else going on this is no big …

(reply inaudible)

NIXON:  You know damn well this hasn’t got anything to do with me trying to divert attention from the My Lai thing, or those protestors …

(reply inaudible)

NIXON:  Yeah, well sometimes I agree with you about that, Leonid.  Some days I wish we could just set up a few machine guns and, ah, send them all home … 

(reply inaudible)

NIXON:  (laughs) I’m sure it does work for you …

(reply inaudible)

NIXON:  If it was up to me I would give Alcatraz to the damn Indians …

HALDEMAN:  Mr. President?

NIXON:  Yes, Bob.

HALDEMAN:  It’s Colonel Fury, Mr. President.  We’ve just had a report from New York …

NIXON:  Goddamn it, what’s that idiot done now?  Invaded Cuba or something?  I swear to God I’m gonna fire that dumb sonofabitch right after Christmas!

HALDEMAN:  The reports are still fragmentary, sir, but apparently Fury has been … assassinated.

NIXON:  Hydra?

HALDEMAN:  That’s what Dugan is saying.

NIXON:  Leonid?  I’m going to have to call you back later.

Transcript ends.

 

(2)

 

    Nothing can kill Nick Fury.

    Timothy Aloysius “Dum Dum” Dugan leaned over the restora-tank, his palms flat against the glass cover, watching the figure within float in the wire-infused vita-fluid, willing the read-outs to change from red to amber or green.  He had been standing there, motionless, for ten minutes when Gabriel Jones put a hand on his shoulder.

    Nothing can kill Nick Fury.

    The inner cylinder rotated slowly, and as the back of Fury’s head turned toward the top of the glass, Dum Dum could see the entrance wound already healing.  He remembered shoving what he had thought was his best friend’s burned and lifeless body into a similar tank three years ago, when an A.I.M. bomb had shredded SHIELD’s detention center during a prisoner interrogation.  That had turned out to be a Life Model Decoy, with the real Fury sitting safely in a tele-operation suite two decks above.

    Nothing can kill Nick Fury.

    Gabe gently but firmly pulled Dum Dum out of the way so that Dr. Carlson could reach the tank controls.  The short, balding physician touched several keys to reset the tell-takes for cerebral function, watched the lights flicker green-amber-red in rapid succession, and tore off the strip of paper printing a hard copy of the same results.  He examined it carefully for nearly a minute before rubbing his eyes and saying in a choked voice, “Shut it down.”

    Nothing can kill Nick Fury.

    But Nick’s dead.

    Dum Dum already knew it before Carlson said, “The bullet was a special round, designed for a head shot.  If it had hit him anywhere else, he’d probably have gotten up and walked away.  Just enough penetration power to crack the back of his skull, then a tiny ball of mercury rammed forward, forcing out nearly microscopic bits of shrapnel that shredded his brain stem.”

    The doctor put the paper in the pocket of his lab coat.

    “He was in cardiac arrest before he hit the ground, but the vita-tank could have handled that.  It’s been keeping the rest of his body alive—or at least from decaying—for the past hour, but it simply can’t rebuild that much brain tissue.  Even if it could, what came out of the tank would not be the man you knew; he’d be a vegetable.”

    Gabe said, “Doc, can you retrieve the bullet for us?  That’s pretty sophisticated stuff, and we need to track it down.”

    “Not a problem, but not necessary, either,” said Carlson.  “We’ve seen these rounds before:  Hydra assassination specials.  The only new wrinkle here was the sabot casing that Bull’s-Eye used to get extreme range and still have the velocity drop right before impact.”  He walked over to a nearby table where Fury’s clothes had been hastily piled.  Picking up a sports coat, Carlson felt carefully along the collar for a moment, then grasped something.  There was a tearing sound, and the doctor held up a small disk.  “Targeting sensor.  Almost entirely ceramic, difficult to detect with our standard scans.  This is not Hydra technology; probably proprietary to Bull’s-Eye.

    “I’m sorry, fellows.  We all loved the Colonel, but I know how close you guys were to him.”

    Gabe said, “Thanks, Doc.  Can you see to … Nick’s body for us?  Until somebody can make arrangements?”

    “Of course.”

    Gabe turned to find that Dum Dum had walked to a nearby portal, standing as if staring out into the clouds.  He had taken off his trademark fedora, and was absently turning it in his gnarled fingers.  There was a bald spot growing at the crown of his head, and for the first time Gabe realized that a significant amount of grey was interwoven into his friend’s fiery red hair.

    “I thought he was dead on Hydra Island,” Gabe said.  “And when the Claw hit him with that space-time disintegrator.  I thought sure Scorpio had killed his ass with that missile out in the desert.”

    “Funny what you think about,” Dum Dum finally said.  “I mean, when you first stop refusing to believe it happened.  I was standing there by the tank, and I’m not worrying about Hydra, or Laura Brown, or anything like that.  I’m thinking that Nick’s not going to be at your wedding next week.”

    The ghost of a smile crossed Gabe’s lips.  He said, “Carla would probably kill me for admitting this, but that never crossed my mind.  You know what I was thinking?”

    “What?”

    “Country Joe and the Fish.  I understand Hydra trying to kill him.  But I just can’t wrap my head around Nick Fury getting killed watching Country Joe and the goddamn Fish sing protest songs against the war.  I think I need a drink.  How about you?”

    Dum Dum settled the fedora back on his head.  For another long minute he stared out the porthole, although Gabe was certain that he didn’t actually see either the clouds or the swarm of fighter jets pulling combat air patrol around the heli-carrier.

    Nothing can kill Nick Fury.

    Then the acting Director of SHIELD squared his shoulders and said, “Drink, hell.  I need a goddamn bottle.”

 

(3)

 

    “HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND, NUMBER TWO?”

    The booming voice cut through the roiling buzz of transmissions and conversation in the main control room of Hydra headquarters, New York.

    Constantly aware that the Supreme Hydra could cut into all circuits at any moment without warning, Number Two had trained himself never to flinch.  Not even an errant ash drifted off the end of his cigarette.

    This is critical.  If I do not convince him that I am following the correct strategy, I will be dead in the next five minutes.

    “Exalted One, we are on the verge of victory.  Fury is dead!  Hydra has been attempting to kill him for over four years, and thanks to your leadership—and your confidence in me—he is dead, and unlike Hydra, now that we have cut off SHIELD’s head it will not grow back.”

    “THE PLAN CALLED FOR AN ALL-OUT ATTACK ON SHIELD THE MOMENT THAT FURY HIT THE GROUND.  EVERYTHING WAS READY, BUT YOU CALLED IT OFF.”

    The Supreme Hydra’s image, his mouth open in raging anger, suddenly appeared on every screen in the control room.

    “THIS IS TREASON!”

    No, this is REASON.

    “Supreme One, consider:  in the hour after Fury’s assassination, SHIELD was at its highest level of readiness, with all response units mobilized and converging on Central Park.  They were operating on emergency doctrine, not orders.  Had we attacked, SHIELD would have responded with maximum force, regardless of the sudden command vacuum.”

    Not knowing where the video pick-up to the Supreme Hydra was hidden, Number Two did not know how to make direct eye contact with his leader.  So he paced around the room, gesturing broadly as he made each point.

    “When we do not attack, however, even SHIELD must eventually stand down from its highest alert condition.  Men and machines cannot be maintained at peak battle stress indefinitely.  It is at that point that Fury’s absence becomes critical.  Dugan is a combat soldier and a follower, not a leader.  The Negro Jones and the Asiatic Woo would not assert themselves even if they knew what to do.”

    The voice still echoed loudly, but Number Two thought he could sense some hesitancy:

    “I RECALL THAT SITWELL REACTED DECISIVELY WHEN THREATENED WITH THE OVERKILL HORN.”

    “Sitwell is still recuperating from the injuries he sustained trying to rescue Tony Stark from the Unicorn,” Number Two said, waving his cigarette holder.  “No!  SHIELD’s leadership will quickly devolve into a committee of inferior leaders.  The Pentagon might even try to bring SHIELD under control of the Joint Chiefs.  SHIELD’s ability to react to our attack will be significantly lower in seventy-two hours than it currently is.  Then we will strike!”

    “YOU ARE WAGERING MORE THAN YOUR LIFE ON THIS ASSESSMENT, NUMBER TWO.  FAILURE COULD ENDANGER HYDRA’S VERY EXISTENCE.”

    Normal signal traffic returned to all speakers and monitors.

    For a moment, Number Two allowed himself to feel the nervous tension running through his body.  A bead of sweat crawled down his forehead.

     I am aware of the risks, you fool.  You, and all of Baron Strucker’s successors are what has endangered our existence.  At some point in these next seventy-two hours I will know who you are, and when that occurs, there will be a new Supreme Hydra.

 

 

(4)

 

 

    “Captain, I’ve got an inbound helicopter out of Washington requesting landing instructions.”

    “What the—?  Warn them off.  Dugan put us on Status Epsilon.  Nothing flies or lands without the Director’s permission.”

    “That’s the thing, sir.  The chopper is transmitting the Director’s override code.”

    “That’s impossible.  Dugan’s down in Medical, and he hasn’t sent up any authorization.”

    “I didn’t say it was sending Dugan’s code, sir.  It’s sending the Director’s code.”

    A long thirty seconds passed before the duty officer said, “The copter’s out of Washington?  The Pentagon?”

    “No, sir.  Flight plan shows it took off from the White House.”

    “Oh.”

    The pause was shorter this time.

    “Instruct the pilot to use Pad Four.  Have a full security team there before it lands, loaded for bear.”

    “You think this is some kind of trick, sir?”

    “No, I don’t.  I just prefer that our new boss—whoever he is—doesn’t get the idea that we’re not on our toes.”

 

 

(5)

 

 

    When he saw the two figures exit the helicopter—one wearing a flight suit and the other wearing an eye patch, Clay Quartermain flipped back the visor on his helmet, rested the stock of his mini-gun against his thigh, and shouted to his squad, “Stand down!”

    He walked up to the individual wearing the blue shit, shook his head, and said to the one in the flight suit, “Well, I know he’s not the new Director.  You really think this is a good idea?  Right now, I mean?”

    “I may be the new Director, but I still take orders from the President, and he thinks it’s a good idea.  You have a problem with that?”

    Clay always smiled. It was his trademark, that big-toothed grin.  Yet he could somehow make it look like a frown when he needed to.  “Not a bit … boss.  I just work here.  Dugan’s still down in Medical, but I think they’ve called him up to Ops.”

    “Good.  Take handsome here down to Ops, then.  I’ll be there in fifteen minutes or so.  I’ve need to make a stop first.”  To the Fury LMD:  “Go with Agent Quartermain.  Follow his orders until I arrive.”

    Hearing the familiar gravelly voice say, “Yes, Director,” Clay thought, This is NOT a good idea.  But neither is Vietnamization.

 

 

 

(6)

 

    They had shuffled Laura Brown off to VIP quarters, politely but efficiently, the moment that the saucer landed.  Under Condition Epsilon non-priority communications were prohibited, and she lacked access codes for official signals traffic.  If she stepped outside her door, a solicitous agent would undoubtedly usher her back inside.

    Nick is dead, and they expect me to sit here and do nothing.

    Almost the anger at being manipulated, ignored, and coddled cut through the searing pain in her heart.

    Almost.

    I have Nick’s blood on my hands, Laura thought, looking at the crusty red stains under her nails.  She had instinctively cradled him in her lap, though she had known when she heard the crack of the shot and saw his body tumble forward that he was gone.  I have his blood on my dress, too.

    She took a shower—long, hot, and successful in relaxing the muscles in her shoulders, loosening the knot in her stomach.

    For a few minutes.

    The dress was ruined.  She found a robe to wear while looking for something more suitable when—if—anyone remembered her.  The contents of the closet made it evident that SHIELD expected male visitors to inhabit this suite; the only item she could possibly wear was one of SHIELD’s distinctive orange battle suits.  One size fit all: unstable molecules in the polymer would shrink or expand the coverall to fit the size tapped into the belt buckle controls.

    Laura touched the suit on the hanger, remembering …

    Had it only been two years since she and Nick had escaped Hydra Island?  Since he had given her life back by offering her a commission as a SHIELD agent?

    She had turned him down, knowing what a man like Fury would never understand.  Dum Dum, Gabe, Jasper—none of them would ever trust the daughter of Supreme Hydra Arnold Brown.  None of them would have been the woman watching their backs who had once been Agent G, first female member of the Circle of Assassins.  Despite her grief, Laura smiled ruefully.

    They could only guess what I did to reach that level.  This is definitely not the first time I’ve had to wash off blood.

    Determined to make restitution on her own terms, she had assumed the identity of Frau Herta Kline, infiltrating the Hate Monger’s organization.  That was where Laura had found Nick Fury again, when they teamed up to stop that madman’s master plan a few months ago.  Thrown back together, and seeing him finally pushing aside the ghost of long-dead Pamela Hawley, she had dared to hope …

    They are going to let me out of here.  I am going to participate in taking revenge for Nick’s death.  

    She dropped the robe and put on the battle suit, setting it to a skintight fit and pulling open the zipper to expose a generous amount of cleavage.

    Whatever it takes.

    There was a knock at the door.

    The woman standing in the corridor was also blond, but her hair was cropped much shorter.  She stood several inches taller than Laura Brown, and was perhaps five years older.  She wore a silver flight suit with a SHIELD emblem above her right breast.

    Laura had never met her, yet knew immediately who her visitor was.

    “Sharon Carter?  Or should I say, Agent 13?”

    “Sharon will do.  May I come in?”

    They sat in uncomfortable chairs, facing each other across a low wooden table.

Sharon said, “If a woman had designed these quarters there would be something to drink.”

    Laura said, “You must have drawn the short straw.”

    “I’m not here to babysit you.  I’m here because I know exactly how you feel.  I’m going to give you the chance to do something about it.”

    “You couldn’t possibly know how I feel.”

    “Four months ago I believed that Hydra murdered the man I love.  I damn near got myself killed trying to take revenge before somebody let me know he was still alive.  I know exactly how you feel.”

    The older woman stood up.

    “For whatever reason, President Nixon decided I’m to be Fury’s successor.  I think it’s a mistake.  I’m field agent, just like you.”  She waved aside Laura’s protest.  “Hydra, SHIELD, freelance—the skill set is the same, even if the rules are different.”

    Sharon unzipped a cargo pocket along her left thigh and extracted a slender hand weapon with a flared barrel.  She laid it on the table between them.

    “I put this uniform on because it was the only thing here to wear.  I’m not going to work for SHIELD,” Laura said.

    “I wouldn’t want you.  I’d never be sure you’d follow orders, and I know you’d put avenging the Colonel’s death ahead of any mission assignment.  Aren’t there at least some paper cups in the bathroom?”

    Confused, Laura checked and returned with two cups.  Sharon pulled a small brown bottle out of another cargo pocket and filled them.

    “It’s aguardiente—made from sugar cane.  I picked up a taste for it in Costa Verde.  To Nick Fury.”

    “To Nick Fury.  Damn, that really is ‘fire-water.””

    “Have another.  To killing the bastard currently wearing the robe of the Supreme Hydra.  Slowly.”

    “That’s not an appropriate toast for the Director of SHIELD, is it?  There are rules, even if Nick generally honored them in the breach.”

    “The hell with the rules.  I can’t go after the son of a bitch, and if I send my agents after him, they’ll try to bring him back alive.  You, on the other hand, will kill him.  Or her.”

    Laura said, “Death to the Supreme Hydra, then,” and winced as the second draught went down.

    Sharon crumpled her cup and tossed it aside.

    “In ten minutes I’m going to meet with every section chief aboard.  That is a sonic pistol.  It won’t kill anybody unless you knock them off the flight deck with it, so please try not to.  I neglected to cut the power to my copter; the password is R-O-G-E-R-S, and the transponder has been disabled.  There’s a jetpack and a small satchel containing $10,000 in the cargo bin.  Beyond that, you’re on your own.”

 

 

 

(7)

 

    “The President has decided that, for the next few days at least, Colonel Fury is still alive.”  Sharon Carter watched her words sink in around the briefing room.  Gabe Jones shook his head.  Countess Valentina Allegra de Fontaine could not take her eyes off the Fury LMD standing beside the podium.  The “Gaffer,” Sidney Levine, was muttering to himself, and Clay Quartermain had looked away.  Jimmy Woo’s expression was unreadable.

    Dum Dum Dugan sat with his head cradled in his hands, giving no indication that he had heard anything.  He’d been like that since Clay had brought the LMD down to Ops.

    “The LMD has been programmed to conduct a press conference, to prove that the Colonel was not assassinated in Central Park.  Officially, Bullseye missed.”

    “Let me see if I have this right,” the Gaffer said.  “The LMD Nick Fury who is doing the press conference because the real Nick Fury is dead will be telling everyone that he is the real Nick Fury, who survived a Hydra assassination attempt?”

    “And Hydra—which was undoubtedly monitoring all of our signals traffic—is supposed to believe that?” asked Jimmie.

    This isn’t going to work, Sharon thought.  I told the President it wouldn’t work.  It wouldn’t work even if I were a part of Fury’s inner circle, which I’m not.  She had always played a lone hand, or been teamed with Captain America.  They knew her and respected her, but they weren’t used to taking orders from her.

    Especially not somebody else’s orders delivered via my mouth.

    Sharon walked around the podium, pulled up a chair and sat down with the six of the people who’d been closest to Fury.

    “What would you do?” she asked.

    “Take it to them,” Gabe said, without hesitation.  “We know where some Hydra bases are, we’ve identified some of their operatives.  Hit every single one of them tomorrow morning.”

    “As much as I like that idea, Gabe,” said Jimmie, “it won’t work.  There’s been so much back-and-forth infiltration between SHIELD and Hydra that they know which assets we know about.  They’ll either be ready for us when we get there—”

    “—or they’ll wait till we’ve committed and hit our own nerve centers,” Clay said, finishing the thought.

    Sharon said, “The Joint Chiefs are pressuring Nixon to bring SHIELD under the Pentagon.  They want to execute exactly that counterforce strategy, except that the brass wants to bring “Thunderbolt” Ross’s task force up from Florida to coordinate operations.”

    “I don’t recall that working particularly well last year,” Val said.  “Ross could not even handle the Hulk in the middle of New York, much less take on Hydra.”

    “Quit asking them what to do.”

    The voice was hard, projecting pain in every syllable.  Dum Dum raised his head and looked straight at Sharon Carter with red-rimmed, haunted eyes.

    “This ain’t what Nick did, and it ain’t the way to beat Hydra.”

    “What are you saying, Dum Dum?”

    A shudder wracked his body; he visibly gathered himself together.

    “This wasn’t no staff operation under Fury.  Nick gave the orders, we carried them out, right or wrong. We beat the bad guys ‘cause we were faster off the mark than they were.  So now … Nick’s dead.  Nick’s dead and you’re the boss.  Be the damn boss, Sharon—even if we don’t like it, even if Tricky Dick wants to fire you.  Just be the boss and tell us what to do.”

    “He’s right,” Gabe said.  “We’re all good, but we need a leader.”  He smiled—a brief glimmer that lit his face for a single second.  “We couldn’t even get our act together to catch the Colonel when he was on the run.”

    Sharon looked around the room again, searching each face in turn.  They were grim, grieving, but determined.

    This is good steel, she thought.  If I’m good enough to wield it.  A instant of weakness:  I wish Steve was here.  Then, a moment of resolve:  I’ve never been afraid to take my chances before.  I’m not going to start hesitating now.

    “All right, gentlemen—and Val.  In that case I do have my own idea.  It will work, or else either the President or the Supreme Hydra will have somebody else in my place by the weekend.”

 

 

(8)

 

 

Transcript of SHIELD press conference:

PRESS:  Ted Braddock, “New York Today.” Colonel Fury, I don’t think you’ve ever held a news conference before.  Why now?

FURY:  Yer right, I ain’t much for gabbin’ with reporters.  But with all the rumors that Hydra had killed me off, the President thought I’d better make an appearance.

PRESS:  Then let’s be clear, Colonel.  Was there an attempt on your life last night in Central Park?

FURY:  Well, there was definitely an assault on my eardrums.  That Country Joe and his Fish are awful darn loud, and I’m not sure I liked the parts of the songs that I could actually figger out.  Anyway, yeah, somebody took some potshots at me.  Happens on a pretty regular basis with this gig.

PRESS:  Can you give us some more details, like the identity of the shooter?  Is he in custody?

FURY:  He’s in the morgue.  SHIELD don’t take too kindly to assassins, and he wouldn’t surrender.  We don’t know his real name yet, but he used the moniker “Bullseye” according to our Intel.  Contract killer.  Probably involved in a buncha them agent killings over the last two weeks.

PRESS:  Harris Hobbs, from the Daily Bugle.  Colonel, there have been reports that SHIELD possesses the technology to create robots so life-like that they can be used to duplicate people in many, if not most situations.  Could you comment on that, and—if it’s true—how would we know that we’re speaking to the real Nick Fury right now?

FURY:  You ain’t seriously expectin’ me to compromise national security, are ya?  If we did have robots like that (and I’m not sayin’ we do or we don’t), then wouldn’t ya think we’d all be better off if the bad guys weren’t sure about it?  Next question.

PRESS:  A follow-up, please, Colonel, before you move on.

FURY:  Okay, shoot.  Hmmm—maybe not the best choice of words, considerin’ everything, huh?  Go ahead.

PRESS:  If you won’t confirm or deny the rumors, then how can we let our readers and viewers know with confidence that you really are Colonel Fury, and not some kind of technological duplicate?

FURY:  Whaddaya want me to do?  Cut myself and bleed for you?

PRESS:  Hardly, sir.  But I did ask Dr. Alex Niven, chief scientist for Cord Industries, if there might be any clues that help differentiate between a person and a robot impersonator.  He had an interesting idea.

FURY:  What’s that?

PRESS:  Dr. Cord suggested that current computational limitations would require you to have been programmed with only a limited range of responses to question—if you were a robot, which, of course, you’re not.  But he said that asking a suspected robot something obscure about his own life might expose an impersonation.  So I was wondering if I could ask you a question that’s way off topic.

FURY:  Sure, if it’ll make your day.

PRESS:  What are the names of your brother and sister?

FURY:  What’n hell kinda question is that?

PRESS:  I’d just like you to confirm the names of your brother and sister.

FURY:  Mister, you’re wastin’ your time.  I don’t take personal questions.  Next.

PRESS:  Dr. Niven predicted that any robot would be programmed to divert attention from questions it couldn’t answer, Colonel.

FURY:  An’ Nick Fury is programmed to punch out jerks like you, buddy.  This press conference is over.

 

HEADLINES:

 

THE DAILY BUGLE:  “SHIELD being led by a robot!?  Col. Fury refuses to verify identity!”

THE WASHINGTON STAR:  “Nixon denies cover-up at SHIELD:  ‘There are no robots in this administration!’”

LOS ANGELES SENTINEL:  “Leak from Pentagon:  Are Joint Chiefs trying to take over SHIELD?  ‘Robot fiasco highlights need for new leadership,’ source alleges.”

CHICAGO EXAMINER:  “Is Tony Stark running SHIELD?  ‘Only Stark Industries could produce such a robot!’—Alex Niven, Cord Industries.”

 

 

 

(9)

 

“Yes, Mr. President, I’m aware of the damage done, and I take full responsibility,” Sharon Carter said.  “But the Stark programmers assured us that the LMD could handle the press conference.”

Gabe Jones carefully studied some non-existent dirt under his fingernails, trying not to grin.  He had just sent the Daily Bugle’s city editor, Robbie Robertson, a case of his favorite Scotch.

“No, Mr. President, I don’t think that the Pentagon will think this is funny, either.”

While he wasn’t smiling, at least Dum Dum Dugan’s expression seemed relaxed; he’d finally showered, shaved, and changed his clothes.  The funereal pallor had left his face.  Until moments ago he had been arguing on a view screen with the three-star general who ran G-2 (Intelligence) at the Pentagon.  At sign from his new boss, however, he had muted the sound, and was amusing himself watching the general fume.

“Absolutely, Mr. President, we do have to counteract this impression of complete disarray before Hydra tries to take advantage of it.  I was hoping you’d have some ideas about that.”

She gestured for Jimmie Woo as she scribbled furiously on a note pad.

“No, sir, I’m not expecting you to run my agency for me.”

Jimmie had been sifting through reports on the lack of progress in locating Laura Brown.  Sharon wondered if he suspected her yet.

“Yes, sir, I do have an operation planned.  But while I am certain you have a ‘need to know,’ I am equally certain that you don’t want to know.  That way if something goes wrong, you will have deniability.”

Written on the pad were three words in block letters:  SET THEM LOOSE.

Jimmie winked, flashing her a thumbs up.

“Of course, Mr. President, I’m absolutely sure that you know how to cover up anything that needs to be covered up.”

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