Melissa sat up straight from her cot as the door to her cell was knocked upon. Though they were technically still prisoners, they had been giving more a bit more freedom around their wing of the helicarrier. They were still guarded and restricted from certain areas and activities, but she was able to come and go from her cell during the day as she pleased. It was not usual for her to receive a knock on the door, especially after returning from a mission.
"Okay, okay, it is safe to enter," she called out, throwing her blanket over her legs to hide the fact that she wasn't wearing any pants.
A male guard stuck his head in the door. "Gold, Melissa. Get dressed and get to Director Hill's office by 0830. Don't be late," the guard called, shutting the door back.
"Weird," Melissa said to herself, swinging her legs out of the bed and making a face. "Not even enough time to get breakfast."
Twenty minutes later, Songbird was walking down the corridors and through several checkpoints that led to Maria Hill's office. She munched on her third granola bar, shoving the wrapper in the pocket of her blue jeans. Since she was meeting with the Director, she chose to wear the nicest clothing that she possessed, which was a decent pair of blue jeans and a black tank top. Though she looked casual, there was no mistaking that she was a Thunderbolt. The null cuff on her wrist was a dead give away. That and by this point, most of the Agents around the helicarrier knew the T-bolt's faces.
After she went through yet another security check point, she walked in to Director Hill's office right at 0830, which was right on time. She approached the secretary or receptionist or whatever she was and smiled. "I was told to be here at 0830," she said, raising a hand up to smooth out her hair. She hadn't had the time to do much to it before she came to the office. Not to mention that she was so sore all over her body from her previous mission that washing her hair was painful.
"Name?" the secretary asked.
"Uh, Melissa Gold," she replied, raising a brow at the woman. Who else was she expecting?
"Oh yea, the Thunderbolt. I'll let her know you've arrived. Sit over there," the secretary, who was probably a trained killer just as the other Agents were, said and pointed towards a few chairs near one of the helicarrier windows.
Window offices in the helicarrier were pretty rare. It wasn't every day that she was able to sit down and take in the city below. Melissa complied as she always did and took a seat in the chairs, turning to sit sideways so that she could view New York City out the window. They were currently over the Upper Bay, somewhere between Liberty Island and the city, and there was an excellent view of the skyline. The sun had already risen, but the sun was just over the top of the buildings. She had to squint in order to view everything, but a smile came to her face as she saw cars and buses and taxis moving along on the roads below. One day... she'd be down there again.
A person like Maria Hill had about a thousand things on her mind at any given time. The running of an organization like SHIELD was not a job so much as a lifestyle. It was every minute of every day. The decisions she made, though they were pressing and urgent, could not be contemplated for too long, even if they did have Earth changing consequences. There just wasn't enough time.
As the Thunderbolt known as Songbird entered, Director Hill winced, knowing another of these decisions was upon her.
"Take a seat Agent Gold," she said. Since the slight reformation of the Thunderbolts, they had been integrated into SHIELD proper, they were technically Agents and could be addressed as such.
"I won't mince words or waste your time, partly because I don't have much of it myself, though mostly because I don't believe in that sort of thing."
She leaned across her desk. "I'm offering you a shot to make it in the world. As I'm sure you're aware, SHIELD has had a history of sorts with X Factor and, through them, Mutant Town.The events that led to the dome, as well as the dome itself, has cut off our ties with the group and weakened our stance in Mutant Town. Which, to be quite honest, sucks."
"How would you, Agent Gold, like to help remedy that for us? I've arranged for you to begin work at the newly formed X Investigations, a subsidiary of the defunct X Factor proper. If you accept this offer, while your debt to us will officially be completed, I would like to remind you that your probation won't. You will be able to live unsupervised, with no restrictions on your actions other than to abide the laws of the land. You will work for X Investigations but keep your ties to SHIELD. You will act as a bridge, to make it a bit plainer. What do you say?"
After waiting for a short time, the secretary finally stood and motioned for Melissa to enter the director's office. She complied and stood from her chair, moving into the office. Despite their new found freedoms, she still felt like a prisoner. They all were, really. So even if there were some things that they were allowed to do around the helicarrier, it wasn't like they could head off into the city when ever they pleased.
Melissa stood just inside the doorway and looked towards Maria Hill. In truth, she had only seen the director on a few occasions. She was a beautiful woman and her strength was obvious, both physically and mentally. Just as she usually felt around the helicarrier when she was with SHIELD agents or some of the Thunderbolts, she felt intimidated. Out of place. And though she could train and she had made progress with her tactical skills that were needed on Thunderbolt missions, she still didn't feel as capable as Zita, Creed, Juggernaut or the rest.
"Take a seat, Agent Gold," Maria instructed.
"Yes ma'am," Melissa complied, walking further into the office and taking a seat on the other side of the Director's desk. She crossed one leg over the other, placing both hands in her lap and immediately began playing with her fingers nervously. She had no idea what to expect. Was she about to be sent on another mission? Or maybe that guy in the mess hall finally complained about eating more than she paid for and the mess she made that time? He always said he was going to tell someone. That bastard. That had to be it.
She nodded as Maria said that she wasn't going to waste time and then she looked down to her lap, expecting the worst. The Director then made an offer and further explained it, causing Melissa to look back towards her with a bit of surprise on her face. Freedom? She wanted to know if she wanted to be set free? Sure, there were some stipulations involving a group called X-investigations, which was a splinter off of X-factor. Sure, she might have to report back to SHIELD at times. But she'd be allowed to go free?
"Uh," she began, not because she was considering the offer, but because she was in disbelief. She had been in prison for almost five years now. That was a long time for someone as young as she was. "Yes ma'am. I... don't know what to say other than that," Melissa said and she couldn't help but to smile, despite the tears that came to her eyes. "But I will do my best, Director Hill. Thank you."