"I don't understand."
"I don't think that this is a good fit for me anymore, that's all." Sarah replied.
"But we've always worked together." Her cousin replied. "I don't understand." He repeated, a confused look on his face. He leaned back in his chair and looked down at the papers on the table in front of him. "Where is this coming from?" He asked.
"Brian, I literally just told you." Sarah Gray replied, looking across the long conference table at her cousin. "Working here, with the Thunderbolts, has been great. But at the same time, I want to do other things. I want to try new things." She said. "I can't do that here. Besides, your attention is focused on the Avengers and the work that they're doing. The Thunderbolts clean up the smaller stuff, and that's fine. You brought me on to provide structure to the team." Sarah said. "I've done that. They're a solid team now. There's not much more that I can teach them or show them."
He nodded, thinking about what she was saying. She had a point, he could admit that. The Thunderbolts had come a long way since he had convinced her to work with the team. Marvel Queen, the team's leader was almost trustworthy at this point. But that didn't mean that he wanted his little cousin away from what he considered the family business. After all, Brian Grace had very little family in this world. It was mainly Sarah and her mother, Barbara. Of course, there was his half-brother, the man who had recently tried to kill Nick Fury, Derek Sheppard. Keeping Sarah as part of Vanguard meant even more when you considered what had happened to their family. "I can't accept your resignation." He said.
Sarah raised an eyebrow. "I wasn't...asking you to accept anything." She said. "I was telling you I'm leaving."
He shrugged. "Either way, the answer is no." Brian replied. "Sarah, family is important to me. You and Aunt Barbara are all I really have. I can't afford to lose you like I lost Derek." He said.
"Derek chose his path." She said. "You know, you put way too much stock in him, sometimes." Sarah replied, crossing her arms over her chest.
There was another good point. One that Grace had known for some time. It was a knee jerk reaction for him. After all, your older brother was the man who, basically, single-handedly saved the entire world from the Chrell Invasion. No one had been right to bear the weight of that responsibility on their shoulders. No man, no woman had been willing. Derek had understood that it was a sacrifice, but that it was also an honor and a duty to be the savior that the world needed. Undergoing the Super Soldier Serum was always hard to do. No one had ever been able to fully decipher Erskine's formula. But to do so and pick up the shield? In a time when the world was besieged by an onslaught of aliens that couldn't be stopped? When you knew that so many had died before you, including Steve Rogers?
That was why he wasn't always on good terms with Benjamin Davis. Davis was the Captain now, yes, but Davis had yet, in Grace's eyes, be tested the way that his brother had been tested. The baptism of fire that Derek had undergone had been nothing short of cataclysmic, and it was understandable that he hadn't come out of it unscathed.
It had made the attempt on Fury's life that much more difficult to deal with.
"He's my brother. My older brother and-"
"-the man who saved us all." Sarah said as Brian frowned at being interrupted. "I know. He was great. But he's gone. He's not that guy anymore. He's not a hero anymore. He damn near killed Tiffany and he did kill Francis. Look, cousin, I'm not saying family isn't important. But family also understands when you've got to spread your wings." Sarah said. She reached down onto the floor next to her, and picked up her Vibranium-Adamantium alloy shield, one that looked like the one used by Benjamin Davis, the true shield of Steve Rogers. "I won't be needing this anymore." She said. "Give it to someone who deserves it." Sarah said, pausing to think about it for a moment. "Don't give it to Strega. He's a dick."
"That's why I keep him around." Brian said, rising and extending his hand.
Sarah rose and shook it. "I'll see you around, Gracie Boy." She said, using Fury's nickname for Grace.
"God I hate that nickname...actually, I hate that man." Grace said. "I should have let Derek kill him." He said.
"Well, you've got to live with that."
"Where are you going to go?" He asked.
"I thought I'd go across the hall." Sarah said and waited for realization to dawn on Brian's face. "I got you, didn't I?" She asked.
"You're staying part of Vanguard." He said and she nodded. "I might hate you more than I hate Nick Fury."
"Nonsense. No matter who it is, the one person that everyone hates the most, one on this planet, is Nick Fury." Sarah said. "I'll need a new code name. I plan on working the more undercover jobs that need to be done." She said.
"Code name Asshole." He said. "I'm the director, I'm in charge."
"But then the bad guys will just stare at my ass." Sarah replied, giving him an innocent church girl look. "I thought you wanted to protect your cousin."
He rolled his eyes, picking up his old shield and hefting it. "Pick a code name, and we'll figure something out. I've got to find someone new to carry this. You were the last of us with one of these." He said. "Members of our family have been carrying the Shield of America for almost twenty years." He said, looking down at the shield and reminiscing.
"Times change." Sarah said, as she headed out of the conference room.
Annabelle Nolan Roquefort walked through the Vanguard building like she knew where she was going. Really, she was lost. It was her first time in the National Security Building in D.C. She had been part of Vanguard for some time, but she had never been asked to come to the actual headquarters of the organization. If there had been something wrong with her work, it would have made sense. But she was known for her abilities and efficiency, so this meeting couldn't be about that. She didn't even know who she was meeting, for that matter. The communique couldn't have been anymore vague. It had simply told her that her presence was required at the National Security Building on a Monday morning. She stood in the lobby, trying to decide where she was supposed to go, when finally, there was something familiar. She heard a voice, one that she hadn't heard in a few years.
She turned to see Duncan Strega walking towards her. The man was a member of the Thunderbolts but he was more than that to her. He had been a mentor and a friend when she had first joined Vanguard. Her father had died in the Chrell Invasion, fighting against the aliens, and Duncan had served with her father. So when she had decided to follow in her father's footsteps and join Vanguard, he had been more than willing to help her.
"Cal." She said, and lifted her phone with the request visible on the screen. "Do you know what this is about?" She asked.
He smiled. "Maybe. But I'm not telling you." He said.
She frowned. "I don't like surprises." She said.
"That's not true." He replied, placing hands on her shoulders and steering her towards a set of elevators. "Remember that time you had to hide in a cake to listen in on a meeting with those organized crime fellows from Russia who were on vacation in Bali for a bachelor’s party and then you popped out of the cake in your undercover role as a stripper cake girl?"
"I was the surprise." She deadpanned.
"Okay." Duncan said, nodding as they stepped into the elevator and he pressed a button. "And do you like yourself?" He asked. "Because if you do, and you were the surprise, then you like surprises." He said.
"Your logic is horrible."
The doors opened and they walked out. She followed his lead, but it didn't take her long before she realized what floor they were on. "This is one of the administrative floors. There are heads of departments on this floor. Who am I meeting with Cal?"
Caliber merely shook his head. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” He said, opening the doors to a conference room.
She stepped inside, her gait slowed as her eyes picked up the only person in the conference room. "Director Grace." She said, slowing to a stop as Caliber moved past her and dropped into one of the seats across from Brian. "I'm sorry, I didn't realize this meeting was with you." She said.
"That's quite alright." Brian replied, and gestured for her to sit across from him. When she did, he opened the folder that was on the table in front of him. "Annabelle Nolan Roquefort." He said.
"Nolan." She said and he looked up. "I'm sorry, I go by Nolan. Sir." She said.
"Sure. Nolan. Nolan Roquefort." He said and went back to his reading. "You graduated very high in your class. Bottom half of the top 10. You've got some very good recommendations from various members of Vanguard, including the delinquent across from me, Duncan Strega." He said, looking up and then smirking as Duncan gave a little wave. "You've demonstrated restraint when needed and a drive to complete the mission." He said. "You're a solid choice."
"Thank you, Director." Nolan said, and then paused. "Solid choice for what?" She asked.
Now Grace smiled and leaned back in his seat, closing the folder. "Recently, one of our top agents...retired. She's looking for better pastures within the organization. This has left a void, one that I'd like to fill with you. Tell me, what do you think of the American Dream?" He asked.
"The ethos of the country?" She asked. "I don't really give it much though, but I guess it's always there in the back of your mind. You remind yourself about it when you have a bad day and...that's not what you meant." Nolan said, looking back and forth between Duncan and Grace, who had a bemused look on his face. She blinked. "Oh! American Dream, Sarah Gray." She said. "She's a great agent, and she's been an integral part of the Thunderbolts."
"An integral part no more." He replied. "Sarah is no longer operating under the code name of American Dream, and as such the position is open and available. If you agree, you will be injected with the Vanguard variant of the Super Soldier Serum." Grace said. "You will assume the role, you will use the shield, and you will be a part of the Thunderbolts." He said. "So far you're the first candidate asked."
She nodded. There was a lot rushing through her mind. The uncertainty of it all was staggering. But Nolan smiled and looked Grace square in the eyes. "You don't have to ask anyone else."
"That's what I wanted to hear."
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