|What: Natasha finally submits to SHIELD an account of 'the incident' during her three months in Tokyo.|
With a heavy sigh, Natasha opened the selection screen on the computer terminal. Total mental autopilot: she clicked through the three layers of passwords for a level-9 agent, and proceeded to read up on some of the SHIELD activities over the week. A procrastination tactic that could easily be justified.
It’d been thirteen days since Widow had been back in the America, but today she finally stepped foot onto the ARGUS. Three months away, but nothing had changed. Why should it? Scanning the ship idly, she began composing her thoughts... was she delaying more?
Nick Fury, as far as shipboard scanners would report, was not onboard. Good. This was an interaction that Natasha didn’t want to have, the one where Nick tells her that she screwed up. The one where he tries to micromanage her time, or tells her she needs more PTO days after ‘the incident’--that’s what he called it when he pulled her off the mission.
Finally tossing away her reservations, Widow decided it was time to get this over with. Opening up a report screen, it looks someone had already started an entry for her! Agent Mamoru, the liaison that set-up her orientation in Japan, had detailed much of the preliminary situation. She needed only to update, and sign-off.
“October 16: Summary by Agent Mamoru. Nick Fury decides that immediate embedding, investigation, and subterfuge is necessary to confirm and handle reports of the hard-to-acquire but extremely addictive drug being called “mist.” Across several countries in Asia, there are dozens of reports of missing person, thievery, seemingly random destruction of private and public property—all associated with the substance. The only common thread SHIELD has been able to ascertain is that some form of business activity is happening near Tokyo. After consideration, The Black Widow has been selected to go under cover, as an employee of the American-Japanese Embassy, and investigate numerous suspects. Our primary lead is the Kumata Corporation, as some of their technology was found rather unexpectedly during a police investigation in China. For now, many international authorities have granted SHIELD the powers and information access to assess the severity of this situation. There is something bigger going on here--beyond my clearance level, obviously--because gangsters running crazy drugs has been around, especially in Asia, since the beginning of time, and wouldn’t spark quite so much interest. The media blackout on this matter has only been promised for six months, after which reports of the drug may leak into the mainstream media. Nick Fury has suggested that this will, for unspecified reasons, be a ‘disaster.’
I have been told that Black Widow is an exceptional agent—one of our best. I have sent her a detailed scenario of her presumed identity and mission goals, but her M.O. is to spy and observe. Identifying chief orchestrators of the ‘mist’ operation will be her primary objective.”
Natasha took a deep breath. Kind of a minimal summary, especially by SHIELD standards, she thought. She considered this, remember that Agent Mamoru wasn’t really one for much conversation. Only now, in hindsight, did this seem odd.
She figured that it was better to give more, not less, and spent the next thirty-two minutes detailing the many, many avenues of research and investigation the agent employed over the first ten weeks she was stationed in Japan, the list going into excruciating detail. At least others wouldn’t retrace her steps. The Kumata Corporation was a total bust, and there wasn’t a single lead—despite initial reports to the contrary—if they were involved, they’d been tipped-off somehow, cleaned up and moved elsewhere. This was before finding out about Jin'ichi Tanaka and Shuso Ikeda.
Pushing her wheelie chair away from her computer, she stood up and moved over to the water cooler nearby, and just stared into the jug on top. She’d seen failure before, sure—but most of Natasha’s failures in life were *glorious failures*, as she put it. Never before had she spent so much time digging and finding nothing. So much for the esteemed reputation.
January 4: “Summary by Agent Romanov. The very moment I decided that I might have to call Fury and give up this project, I found my lead. He was a strange man, dressed in some sort of religious cloak, gems and silver thread stitched into it, forming unknown religious symbols… the back of his cloak running across the ground for a full six feet, like a brown, freaky train of a wedding dress. I’ve attached an image of the man’s face and his cloak below. He was lurking around one of the Kumata subsidiaries, eyeing it. I read his look as hunger—perhaps ‘fiending’, like a drug user. It was a stretch, but he was strange enough to question.”
“Ten months in Japan had given me quite a lot of time to practice my immersion skills, and I’d all but mastered the fine art of being polite yet delicately instigating others to share information. Without much prompting, he began talking about mist—he said that it wasn’t manufactured at all, but it was a hallucination supposedly ‘gifted’ by the Gods—he ever referenced ancient Grecian Oracles. All natural crazy. But that didn’t explain why there was so much talk of ‘addiction’, or the massive amount of chemicals being stolen across Japan, China, Vietnam, Korea, and India. It didn’t explain the disappearances, or the tremendous amount of completely unexplainable property damage during many of these acts. A religious vision—as suspect as this might be—would not instigate more than a foretold fortune.
“I went into a slightly more direct round of questions, to which the religious kook backed away. Literally… as if I were somehow hurting him. This is possibly the critical moment that my cover was blown. After ten weeks, I got too impatient… and my questions, as innocent as my delivery was, had possibly revealed my hand. He told me to talk to the leader of his Church, Shuso Ikeda. And then he began, like a criminal on the run, to run. And I did chase, though with a far measured pace. But he lost me. At the time I chalked it up to him knowing the streets better than me, but in retrospect I believe more powerful forces may have been at work.”
“Tracking down Mr. Ikeda was easy, but finding out anything from him, or any of his order, was near impossible. They barely spoke, and trying to earn their trust while not giving myself away was a game of chess not worth playing. I did stake out, instead. Three days passed, and that’s when I saw a meeting between Shuso and another man. A business man, sunglasses. Photo attached below. They didn’t speak long, and nothing was exchanged. I followed the man to the outskirts of the city, and he entered the headquarters of a small tech company, のライト. The name translated means “Lights On.” No, they didn’t do electricity—they did separation sciences for weapons systems. I would later find out that their CEO, Jin'ichi Tanaka, spent 90% of his time in America. In Gotham, of all places.”
“Nick, when you read this: I’m sorry for not reporting any of this sooner. I know you were grasping at straws, and you hoped I’d be your trump card. Normally I am… this time I wasn’t. As you know from our phone conversation, this was the day that things turned real sour. Getting access inside the Lights On HQ was surprisingly easy—and I had assumed they had nothing in there to hide, and I’d be scrounging for bitty clues. I was wrong.”
“Moving a few turns into the maze of long hallways, I began hearing what can only be described as otherworldly chanting. As I approached, I noticed numerous trip wires scattered along the ground. People were not meant to be walking these halls frequently, I thought. There must’ve been an alternate entrance. I’m not sure if I tripped one of the wires, or another means of detection, but what followed was like nothing I’d ever encountered.”
“It started with arrows. My reflexes were sharp, but I decided to retreat. This decision was not because the arrows relentlessly continued to fire at me by the dozens, with no end. Nor was it the fact that the arrows were appearing from no one direction—but from five or six sources… INVISIBLE sources. It was, perhaps, around the fiftieth arrow that I got hit in the leg. It wasn’t so much the blood, nor the searing pain that bothered me… it was the poison the arrows were dipped in. Apparently an unknown to the hospital I ended up in. For the sake of records, I will outline the basic premise of what would happen next, as I fled the Lights On headquarters.
“It was a hallucination, I think. But whoever instigated it, whatever force was involved, had to be at least some degree present. Because I remember the beatings, and feeling of helplessness, being only able to move enough to run. I started to see soldiers—dozens of them, dressed in freaky samurai-like armor. Drawn swords that became alive, floating, alighting themselves on fire. It was truly a nightmare, and I still remember the pain of the experience, still unsure how much was real and imagined.
“Agent Mamoru told me the headquarters was looted, and that virtually no evidence was found by SHIELD investigators. That’s why I got your call to come back to America. And I did.”
Natasha clicked ‘SAVE’ with haste, and felt a mild sense of relief, lasting only a minute. No, failure did not sit well with her. She decided to write an email to Nick Fury, hoping he would not suspect what would be a bold-faced lie.
I know I’ve been telling you that I’ve been okay, and I disregarded your orders to take a weeks vacation after ‘the incident’. Well, I’ve changed my mind. I’m going to go on my first real vacation… ever. I’ll report back in two weeks. If you need me, you can find me. As you always do.
Natasha spent the next ten minutes packing supplies. She was going to get answers, and she was going to do it alone, without permission. She was going to Gotham.