Sam Wilson and Sharon Carter were sitting in the hotel room garnering as much information as they could about the terrorists and the potential motives behind their European raid when the door to the room opened. Jumping to their feet with their guns aimed at the door they were prepared to take down the potential intruder but, to their relief, it was only Steve Rogers. They let their guard down and then was instantly surprised as Natasha Romanoff walked into the room shortly afterward.
Sharon smiled. Sam crossed his arms. As the door closed behind Natasha she nodded her head at Sam.
“Long time, no see,” she said.
“Romanoff,” he acknowledged with a nod.
A second passed before he asked, “What are you doing here? Weren’t you trying to kick our ass the last time we saw you?”
She nodded. “Yes I was but I’ve changed my views on the Accords.”
“Tony Stark drove you crazy?” Sharon said.
Natasha smiled. “Pretty much.”
“Don’t worry guys,” Steve Rogers said. “She’s on our side now. We can trust her.”
“Are you sure this isn’t some sort of trap?” Sam said. “You know her history. She could be playing the double-agent thing on us.”
Natasha’s expression soured. “You don’t have to worry, Sam. I’m not working for the Deputy Task Force.” She neared him. “And if I was working for them, I would’ve already caught all three of you.”
Sam snorted. “That’s what you think.”
“Enough Sam, Natasha,” Steve said, standing between them. “We have something much more pressing to deal with and that’s The Horrors. As we speak they’re causing terror throughout Europe. We need to stop them before they get any stronger.”
“And how are we supposed to do that?” Natasha said. “Every camera and resource in the world is looking for us. This isn’t like old times. We can’t just march into battle with the world cheering us on anymore. We’re criminals, meaning we’re no better than the bad guys.”
“That’s true but someone’s gotta stop them,” Sharon said. “And we have to try.”
Natasha nodded. “Okay, fine. I’m not going to be able to talk you out of this. But aren’t we missing someone?” She looked around. “Where’s Wanda?”
“She decided to handle this Accords situation on her own but we gave her a special phone designed for emergencies,” Sharon said. “We contacted her and told her to meet us here in the states. She should be here by tomorrow.”
“So…is this where the secret meeting is supposed to take place?” Natasha asked.
Steve shook his head as he started packing a bag. “No. Turns out Peggy has a secret getaway located in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. It’ll have to act like our current headquarters for now.”
“North Carolina?” Romanoff said. She nodded appreciatively. “That is unexpected.”
Sam began to leave to go to his room and get his bags. “We should get moving. The more time we waste here the worst it gets for Europe.”
“Agreed,” Sharon said. She looked at her laptop, at the screaming European citizens who were crying for help, and her jaw clenched.
They needed to hurry.
Slow footsteps echoed in the dark alley as Louie left the bar to throw out the trash. As he threw three heavy trash bags into his restaurant dumpster he suddenly felt an uneasy feeling. He slowly turned and found a man with a bald-head staring right back at him. Shades covered his eyes, which didn’t make sense considering that it was nighttime.
“Whatcha want?” Louie asked.
The man’s stern expression didn’t waver. “Tell me where Natasha Romanoff went,” he said.
Louie spat on the ground. “Get out of here.”
He made as if to go back to his business when suddenly he felt a strong grip on the back of his neck and a blade at his throat.
“I’m not going to ask twice,” the man whispered in his ears. “I know she comes here to wind down. I know she was met by Steve Rogers tonight. Tell me where she is and you’ll get to see your family again.”
“I don’t know where she went,” Louie blabbed. “I only know that she and Captain America are planning to stop those terrorists in Europe and then they left. I swear that’s all I know.”
The Hunter snarled. The man was definitely telling the truth, leaving him in a pretty pickle.
“Good move,” he hissed in the man’s ear before knocking him unconscious with a punch to the back of the skull. As he let the man crumple to the ground he turned around, raising his wrist and pressing a button on his black watch.
From the alley’s wall jumped a metal hound whose red eyes gleamed with deadly purpose. It was comprised of complex AI and was the true secret to his renown success. He named it Orion.
He knelt before Orion, rubbing its metallic fur.
“Find Natasha Romanoff’s scent,” he ordered.
The dog didn’t need to be told twice. He neared the unconscious man, sniffing his body and hands. His ears quickly rose and his expression became alert. He had acquired a scent.
“You got it?”
The dog barked once more before running down the alley faster than any normal dog could’ve. He too sprinted down the alleyway before jumping on his parked motorcycle. Swerving off of the sidewalk and onto the street he pressed the right side of his jet-black shades. Immediately the digital red screen on the inside of the lenses sprang to life and he was able to pinpoint his dog’s location.
He pressed the gas and swerved through traffic, ignoring the frustrated horn blares and middle fingers thrown at him. He had fugitives to catch.
Natasha Romanoff gazed in shock at the old tan car Steve, Sam, and Sharon had been riding around in for the last six months as a valet driver brought it to the front of the hotel.
Sharon was inside checking out while Sam and Steve were putting the bags in the trunk.
“And this is what you all have been reduced to?” Natasha asked.
Sam looked at her. “What? You still drive your luxury sports cars everywhere you go?”
“Always,” she responded. “I have a reputation to uphold.”
“I thought you were done being who you used to be.”
“Sam, there are some things I’m not willing to let go of.”
There was a brief pause before he smiled at her. “I like the hair.”
That made Natasha smile back. “It’s good to have a change every once in a while.”
Sharon joined them, fitting her leather jacket around her tightly. “Well, that’s taken care of.”
“Let’s get going then,” Steve said.
Sam got in the driver’s seat and Steve and Sharon got in the back seats. Natasha was just about to get in the passenger seat alongside Sam when she heard a bark. It stopped her in her tracks. She couldn’t tell why but there was something off about that bark. She turned to look and her eyes widened as she saw a black dog that seemed to be made of metal running straight toward her. Its fangs were bared and clearly ready to do lethal damage. It jumped at her, its claws extended to grab her, but she simply used the open car door to propel herself over it as it leaped by. Landing on the ground, she whirled, aiming her gun at the robotic dog. It was already turning and preparing to attack.
Pop. Pop. Pop.
Three shots to the robotic dog’s head sent the artificial animal falling to its knees.
The valet drivers, frozen in shock, were suddenly able to move again and went running into the hotel.
“Get in the car!” Sam said.
She didn’t need to be told twice. She jumped into the passenger seat, slamming the door behind her.
Sam pressed the gas and sent the car flying out onto the disheveled street where it hit pothole after pothole.
“What the hell was that?!” Sam yelled.
“I don’t know!” Natasha said.
“I do,” Sharon said.
Natasha looked in the back seat where Sharon Carter looked pale in the face as if she had seen a ghost.
“That’s The Hunter’s dog,” she explained.
“And who is The Hunter?” Natasha asked.
“Probably him!” Sam said as he threw the car on brakes.
Natasha faced forward and found herself staring at a stern bald man dressed in black leather from head to toe and holding what appeared to be a rifle in his hand as he sat on a black motorcycle barring their way forward.
“What do we do, Cap?” Sam asked quietly, readjusting his grip on the steering wheel.
“We get out of here,” Steve Rogers said.
Sam threw the car into reverse and pressed the gas, speeding backward as the man on the motorcycle started shooting at them. The front window glass shattered where it was penetrated by bullets. Natasha rose from her crouched position, shooting out of the window at The Hunter just as they rounded a corner backward.
Sam threw the car around in a screeching 180°, sent the vehicle into drive, and roared down the bumpy street. Natasha rolled down the window and stuck half of her body out of the window as she shot at their pursuer who simply dodged her gunshots with ease as he sped after them on his motorcycle. She returned to her seat.
“Who is this guy?” Natasha said.
“He’s a bounty hunter that works under Secretary Ross,” Sharon said. A bullet shot through the back window, causing Sharon and Steve to instinctively duck. “I haven’t heard much about him but he’s obviously really good at his craft. He has a record for bringing criminals to justice.”
“Well he’s not getting us,” Sam said, sending the car screeching around a corner.
They sped down the street when suddenly they heard a loud crash on the roof of the car. Natasha’s aim rose as she turned sideways just as a claw ripped through the roof. They saw gleaming silver teeth inside a black maw and red eyes.
“I thought that thing was dead!” Sharon said.
“I guess not,” Natasha said as she began shooting at it.
The robotic dog made a screeching sound before tearing a wider hole in the roof, pushing its head into the car. Sharon fell back against the seat and kicked at the dog’s head. Her feet connected with its head but it barely disoriented the beast.
At the same time, the bounty hunter accelerated alongside the car, removed a gadget from his side that expanded into a metallike whip, and latched onto the right door of the car. With a yank of his hand, the car door was pulled off with astonishing ease.
“Oh sh**!” Sam yelled.
The bounty hunter aimed his gun at Steve Rogers but Steve was a step ahead. He jumped out of the car just as the man pulled the trigger.
“Steve!” Sharon screamed.
Steve jumped aboard the motorcycle, turning it onto its side and sending him and the bounty hunter rolling.
The dog fell into the car, snapping at Sharon with an enraged ferocity. It swiped her arm and she screamed as she desperately kicked it away. Natasha unsheathed a knife, driving it into the robotic dog’s head. This only made the dog madder. It jumped toward her, pressing her against the dashboard.
Meanwhile, Steve managed to jump to his feet, ignoring the pain in his abdomen from where he had been shot. Cars swerved around them as the bounty hunter stood, wielding two curved daggers. Rain began to fall, intensifying the night. Steve raised his fists, waiting for the man’s attack.
The Hunter snarled before charging Steve Rogers, sending a flurry of slashes at his opponent. Steve deftly evaded the attack before ducking, punching the bounty hunter in the face, and kicking him in the midsection. The bounty hunter fell to the ground but quickly stood, throwing one of the daggers at Steve’s face. Steve dodged the projectile but was unable to dodge the hunter’s lasso that wrapped around his upper body. He tried to break the rope but the hunter pulled it tighter before pressing a button on his watch that sent an electric current through the length of the lasso. Steve fell to his knees, groaning in pain and clenching his teeth.
Natasha Romanoff released a cry of pain as the dog swiped at her face before slamming one of her electric disks on the dog’s face and igniting it. The robotic dog, whose fangs snapped at her neck, yelped as it was zapped of power. It fell out of the car and as Sam spun the car to go back and help Steve the wheels rolled over the dog, ending it with a crunch. It sparked into flames.
With every bit of his strength, Steve managed to snap the rope and yank the bounty hunter toward him. The bounty hunter, however, was ready for this. He took his other dagger and, with Steve’s momentum, drove the blade into his shoulder. Steve cried out as the bounty hunter used Steve’s sturdy body to flip onto his back and hit him in the back of the head.
Steve fell to the ground hard, laying semi-unconscious as the bounty hunter pulled a gun from a hidden holster.
“Good night, Steve Rogers,” he said.
And then his head whipped to the left as he saw the three-door car barreling toward him with Sharon Carter and Natasha Romanoff aiming their guns at him out of the car windows. He knew he wasn’t going to be able to take on both of them. He turned and ran toward his motorcycle, pulled it upright, and drove away.
Sam pulled the car to a screeching halt alongside Steve’s unmoving body. Before the car had even come to a full stop Sharon and Natasha were jumping out of the car, running over to Steve. Sharon turned him over. His chest was still heaving up and down but he looked worse for wear with blood staining his back and his midsection.
“Steve!” Sharon screamed. “Steve!”
His eyes opened and focused on her face. He touched her cheek. “Are you okay?”
She nodded, running her hands through his hair. “The question is; are you?”
He smiled. “I haven’t had a beating like this since I fought Bucky.”
Natasha’s gaze swiveled. “We should go. Who knows what else he has up his sleeve?”
Steve grunted his agreement before letting Sharon and Natasha help him to his feet and into the beat up three-door car.
“You okay, Cap?” Sam asked.
Steve’s head fell back. “I’ll live.”
“We need to get to the Quinjet as soon as possible so we can stop the bleeding,” Sharon said.
Sam nodded. “On it.”
As soon as Natasha got into the passenger seat he hit the gas and they accelerated down the street, heading for the Lincoln Tunnel.
Steve drifted in and out of consciousness, the air from the open space where the door should’ve been hitting him in the face. Before he knew it the car had come to a stop before an abandoned warehouse. He was being helped out of the vehicle by Sam and Sharon while Natasha walked ahead.
With Steve barely conscious, they entered the warehouse where he struggled to the dormant Quinjet that sat within the building’s confines. They walked onto the jet and he was immediately taken to the medic table where he was laid down and attended to by Sharon Carter as Sam Wilson readied the vehicle for takeoff.
“You’re gonna be okay, Steve,” Sharon told him. “Just hold on.”
He gazed at her worried face as his vision grew dimmer…and dimmer…and dimmer.
Header Photo Courtesy: Marvel Studios