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Once A Ranger

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Nick Fury has been raising through the ranks at SHIELD for a few decades. Ever since meeting a woman who could shoot a photon blast from her fists, he's been keeping a closer eye out for special individuals. When, after Bogotá, he got promoted to Director, it came time to pick a second in command, he kept to that policy of attempting to surround himself with those who had resources no one else did.

The first few months are a disaster. The first guy he picks, a level 8 field agent, cracks under the pressure after just a few months. After being assigned one task too many by Fury, he breaks down screaming, loud enough to be heard through the closed door of Fury's office, before quitting the agency altogether.

The second guy is no better. This time, Fury had picked someone from the HR department, hoping the crazy hours and crazier situations that regularly fell into HR's lap would have prepared the man for the pressure. However, having been out of the field for a few years, the man has to be fired after he makes several calls that made sense on paper, but that even rookie field agents could see were not practical, and end up leading to too many disastrous missions.

Just as Fury hires his third choice for the position, he gets a call from an old contact. Apparently, the army had managed to get a program that did work with enhanced individuals. One very specific kind of enhanced individuals.

The army base in Mariner Bay has managed to turn five people into Power Rangers. Soon after that, a sixth Ranger shows up and joins the team.

As soon as he can while still being covert, Fury travels to Mariner Bay and gets introduced to the latest Power Ranger team. Over the next few weeks, he makes several trips to the city, getting a feel for all the noteworthy people in their base.

When his latest Deputy Director eventually fails, due to a refusal to listen to the opinions or ideas of anyone with a rank lower than his, Fury does not appoint a new one. 

He tells the WSC that he has someone in mind, but that they had to wait a few weeks before that person can finish their current assignment. In the meantime, he would shoulder all the Deputy Director’s responsibilities on top of his own, with some help from other department heads.

The Council insists on getting more information, but Fury keeps his cards close to his chest even as he keeps up with the reports from the Mariner Bay base. The Yellow Ranger, one Maria Hill, had caught his attention.

Over the next few weeks, Fury keeps up with his assessment. He reads over the reports of the team's missions, impressed with Hill's ability for problem solving, her outside-the-box thinking, and her obvious clear head during crises. 

He also speaks with the Rangers themselves, and learns a few things about the structure of Power Ranger teams in general.

It seems Yellow Rangers are typically the second in command. Smart, stubborn, not afraid to call their leader out on their bullshit, able to hold their own, and capable of taking over and leading themselves whenever necessary. Naturally good at seeing several different solutions to a problem, weighing them against each other, and picking the best one for their goals. All of it while literally having the fate of the world on their shoulders. They could also deal with the very varied personalities that often made up a Ranger team, and needed an almost innate ability to roll with any weird new developments the world could throw at them with no trouble.

That all sounds like someone Fury could seriously use around SHIELD.

 

~*~*~

 

When the LSR team saves the world, and the Power Rangers lose their powers once the need for them is gone, Fury is there, with a job offer and a major promotion for Maria.

Maria accepts and becomes the highest ranking person in SHIELD to be recruited from outside the organization and straight into such a high position. 

It gets a lot of hate, and raised eyebrows, and a lot of people question Maria's appointment, both behind her back and to her face.

And then she proves herself, and continues to prove herself every day.

She can assess a situation in moments and come up with the most effective solution. She never cracks under pressure. She is smart and perceptive and sees sides of a situation that others wouldn't, and can turn anything into a resource she can use.

As time passes, Maria flourishes in her new position, and helps Fury pull the agency up with her. She makes a lot of enemies, but always seems to have a sixth sense for danger.

That sense comes handy many times over her time with Shield. 

One time, after the first Helicarrier becomes operational, she and Fury spend a week flying between the Carrier and the Triskelion for meetings. One day, as they're halfway through the 20 minute flight, Maria suddenly sits up on the copilot seat.

She reaches over to his controls and yanks them hard to the side. Not a moment too soon, since a missile barely clips the tip of a wing. The quinjet rocks, but they're still flight worthy. 

"Sir, give me control of the bird, now!"

Fury starts a bit but quickly presses the needed buttons. Immediately, Maria does a quick dive and deploys flares, while Fury requests backup from both the Carrier and the Triskelion. The flares stop another two missiles, and Maria dodges another one. She starts maneuvering to get them on the ground as fast as possible while still keeping an unpredictable flying path. Suddenly, she engages the weapons system and fires her own missile. 

She hits the wing of another quinjet that had been circling them while on stealth mode. The other quinjet starts plummeting. The assault stops. 

Maria relaxes a little, and then turns a slightly sheepish look at Fury. He gives her a searching glance, but then returns his attention to the controls, and to the other Shield quinjets that are approaching, responding to their distress call. 

Maria tenses once more.

"Uh. Sir?"

Fury looks questioningly at her.

"I think-" she gives three of the approaching jets a mildly confused glare, "I think, one of those birds is dangerous to us."

Fury raises an eyebrow at her, but turns to put those three jets in front of them. When the one furthest to the left opens fire, Fury immediately sends out two missiles. One to block the enemy fire, one to shoot them out of the sky. 

Maria gives him an impressed look. Fury almost rolls his eye at her. "You're not the only one with a few tricks up their sleeve."

She hides a grin. "No sir."

"Are we clear to land now?"

"We should be, sir."

"Very well, brace for a shaky landing, that clipped wing may give us some trouble. And Hill?" 

"Sir?"

"Good job."

 

~*~

 

Over the years, Fury can almost forget he's working with a Power Ranger. Maria is a highly competent agent, an excellent Deputy Director, and easy to work with and trust. Besides, Power Rangers quickly fall low on the list of the weirdest or most impressive things SHIELD regularly deals with.

Other than a few times the agency had need to actually interact with Power Rangers, or a couple times when the Rangers themselves sent a message through Maria, her being a Ranger simply became one more experience she had, no more or less important than any of her other skills.

And then one day the Tesseract blows up a SHIELD facility, and brings with it a crazy, power hungry Norse god.

The moment Maria steps on the same side of the country as the 'misbehaving' Tesseract, she tells Fury whatever is going on is not going to end well.

She isn't wrong.

Within half an hour of Loki coming to Earth, he has taken over the minds of some of SHIELD's best specialists and scientists. Thankfully, when he tries to take over the mind of SHIELD's second in command, a combination of Maria's instincts and her residual Ranger Powers had kept her out of his grasp.

After being trapped under the collapsed base, she and Fury figure she's going to have to be left out of the action, since there is no way of knowing how long it would take relief efforts to dig her out, or how long it would take Loki to make his move.

They are both equally surprised when a couple of active Power Rangers show up with their Zords less than 20 minutes after the base collapse and start helping dig people out of the rubble. 

The official statement they give is that their sensors had picked up an explosion caused by a massive release of alien-origin energy.

Later, Maria tells Fury that what had really brought them there was sensing Maria's long-inactive powers flare up to protect her, both from Loki's mind control and from the cave in.

 

~*~*~

 

A couple of very busy days later, the prospective new team, the Avengers, are brought together in the Helicarrier for the first time.

Stark is the first one to ask if the Rangers will be part of the Avenger Initiative. Hill keeps a perfectly straight face as she tells him communication was had with the Rangers, but they'd told SHIELD that Rangers were unable to step in on problems that weren't either an active, immediate worldwide threat, or Ranger specific problems. They couldn't risk any Ranger joining the Avengers only for a villain to bait the Avengers with a battle in order to keep the Ranger busy.

The team to be seems to accept this, and the subject gets dropped.

 

~*~*~

 

The Avengers are a disaster at first. They argue and they fight and when Barton gets into the Helicarrier he throws them all into chaos far easier than he should have been able to.

A minute before Barton’s explosive arrow hits the Helicarrier’s turbine, Maria's senses start screaming at her. She quickly checks to see who’s the closest high ranking agent she can find. Spotting Coulson, she waves him and tells him to take over command for her. She starts to run off, and before Coulson can call her back to explain, and explosion rocks the whole ship, and Phil is quickly too busy overseeing the chaos to think about Hill anymore.

 

~*~*~

 

Maria runs to R&D for a weapon and then to the containment area. She gets there right on time to see Loki trap Thor in the Hulk-proof glass cage. She walks in, aims the gun at Loki, and tells him in no uncertain terms to step back from the cage.

Loki seems surprised to see anyone else there, and glances quickly at the gun in her hands. 

"You like it? I'm not sure what it does, but I do know how to shoot it. And with the heavy recoil it has, I'm sure it won't be pretty, especially not this close."

Loki looks mildly apprehensive for a second. Then, all Maria knows is that all of her instincts are going haywire and yelling at her to move . She steps to the side quickly, and sees Loki's scepter stab the air right where she had been standing. 

As soon as she turns around, the Loki that stabbed at her unfolds into two Lokis that step away from each other. Maria trusts her instincts and shoots at the air between them both. The real Loki slams against a wall as the duplicates fade away.

Maria takes a quick step forward and kicks the scepter out of Loki's hand. 

She picks it up with one hand while she holds the gun steady with the other. A gun that big should be too awkward to hold with one hand, but Maria manages it until she can use the hand holding the scepter to support the gun.

Loki eyes her carefully. Then, his eyes widen. Maria thinks she sees a little awe and fear before he schools his face again.

She carefully steps back a little, trying to get out of reach while keeping him in her sights. Loki doesn't give her the time though. He flings his hand at her and a wave of magic throws her back against Thor's cage. Then Loki throws three knives at her. 

Maria tries to shift the large gun so that it covers her, but only manages to block two of the knives. The third one sinks deep into her torso, a little to the right of her stomach.

Seeing her get seriously hurt, Thor cries out and takes another swing at the cage door. 

Loki gets up and stalks toward Maria, intent to grab his scepter back. Before he can get close enough, Maria manages to stumble forward and push the button to open the cage. Loki throws another wave of magic at her that knocks her back against a wall, but Thor immediately runs out of the cage and charges Loki. 

Thor's first hit knocks Loki down. When Thor is advancing on Loki's fallen form, Maria fires the gun she's still holding at the air right behind Thor. The duplicate on the ground vanishes as her shot knocks the real Loki away from Thor.

Loki stumbles right into Thor’s backhand. That stuns Loki long enough for Thor to punch him through a wall and follow after him. A moment later, and Maria is alone. 

She takes a shaky step back and slumps against the glass door of the cage until she’s sitting on the floor. A look down tells her she still has the scepter and the gun, though she can also see the hilt of Loki's knife where it’s stuck deep into her body. A glance up shows her she left a bloody smear on the glass of the cage.

She moves the scepter so it’s on the ground between her back and the cage. Then she puts the gun on her lap, where she can grab it quickly if a hostile shows up, and then she puts all of her attention into putting pressure on her wound.

"Hill!" 

She startles. Looks up. She finds Fury kneeling down in front of her. She hadn't even heard him come in.

"Sir." She gasps. "How's the fight going out there?"

"Don't worry about that right now. Keep your eyes on me. What happened here?"

Maria nods, knowing he is trying to keep her conscious and the easiest way to do that is to keep her talking. "The god got away, but I got the scepter," she gestures at it with her head, "Thor was fighting him last I saw them."

Her vision starts to blur but Fury keeps her talking until the medical team arrives. They load her in a gurney and take her away, and the next thing she’s really aware of is Fury and Dana walking into her hospital room.

"What happened?" She asks, "how long was I out?"

"The rest of the day, the battle was yesterday." Says Dana, walking up to her bedside.

"Battle?" Maria asks, looking at Fury.

"Loki managed to trick Thor and get away. Then he stole a quinjet and escaped to New York." Fury says.

“New York? Why New York?” She asks.

“He used the power source in Stark’s tower to open up a portal for his alien army.” Dana tells her. Fury’s eyebrows rise at just how casually Dana had said it, only to rise even more at Maria’s almost bored “so we got invaded by aliens?”

“Eh, it wasn’t much of an invasion.” Dana replies almost cheerfully, and Fury forces himself to remember that Power Rangers have wildly different experiences that he just can’t understand. 

“Then what happened?” asks Maria.

“Well, we think it would have been a lot worse if it hadn’t been for you and Agent Coulson.”

Maria blinks at Dana. “What? Me and Coulson? What are you talking about?”

“We have a theory,” Fury says, “that the moment you managed to take the scepter from Loki, after he’d been away from it for a few hours, his hold over the people he was controlling started to slip.”

“We’re not sure yet how the scepter works, but its energy signature seems to be directly conflictive to the energy of the Morphin Grid” Dana says. “And when you managed to take it-”

“It stopped doing what it was doing.” Maria finishes for her.

“Right. And everyone who was under Loki’s control started to fight it. No one got free right away, and Loki managed to get to Stark Tower and open the portal himself, but once the fighting started, Loki left to join it and the shock of seeing aliens flying around snapped Selvig out of it. He managed to get in touch with us and told us how to close the portal.”

“While all this was happening,” Fury says, “Coulson gathered the Avengers that were still in the Helicarrier after the attack and gave them the dressing down of their lives. He went off about how the world was more important than their egos, and how they were letting Loki manipulate them. He even pulled a guilt trip and told them if they had gotten themselves together sooner, you wouldn’t be down here now fighting for your life.” He finishes with a slightly sheepish tone.

“Fighting for my life?” Maria raises an eyebrow at him.

“Yeah,” laughs Dana, “the story of your fight with Loki has been greatly exaggerated, but at least Fury did say you won the fight in the end.” Dana pauses to glare at the bandages on Maria’s torso, “Well. Arguably.”

“With Selvig’s instructions, and the Avengers fighting together, it didn’t take them very long to secure the portal. Casualties were minimal, and property damage was limited to a relatively small area.” Fury says. But… Maria has worked with him too long not to know when there’s something he’s not saying.

“So the Avengers won?” She prods.

“More or less.” And oh, Dana’s amusement is a bad sign.

“More or- Dana, I’m on painkillers here, can you just speak clearly?” 

“Your presence on the bridge was missed, Agent Hill,” starts Fury. “Coulson is an excellent agent, but he does not have the sheer talent at multitasking that you do. Without you there to help manage the Helicarrier’s internal crisis, I didn’t really have time to give the Council a report of the situation that they liked. Before we noticed, they had sent off a jet with orders to drop a nuke in New York.”

Maria gasps, but Dana takes her hand and gives her a comforting smile. “It’s okay. The nuke got redirected by the active team’s flying Zord and disposed of safely. And the active team was here because when we, your team I mean, felt you in danger, we convinced the active team to give us a ride. The Ranger flying that Zord got rid of the nuke -and- took the scepter from here to the portal, since you managed to take that thing out of the fight.”

“So the rest of the team is here?”

“Yeah. Well, they’re in New York, helping with the relief efforts. The battle was short but there was still a lot of damage. They’ll probably be by to see you later today though.”

Maria smiles. Then she notices the way Fury is looking at her. “Hey Dana, could you…?”

Dana looks between Maria and Fury. “Yeah, sure, I’ll be back in a few minutes. I need to tell the team you woke up anyways.”

With that she leaves the room. Once they are alone, Fury approaches Maria’s bed. He’s looking solemn, and serious, and like there’s something on his mind.

“Hill. You saved all of us today. You went up against a god that not even another god could beat without help, without your help, and not only did you survive, you managed to disarm and injure him. You were crippling his plans from the start, and you gave us the edge we needed to win as fast as we did. That was beyond remarkable.”

“It’s what I do, sir.” She shrugs. “Saving the world is the job. It doesn’t matter to me if I’m doing it as a Power Ranger or as a SHIELD agent.”

Fury smiles. “For that, Agent Hill, the world is lucky to have you. SHIELD, the Rangers, we’re all lucky to have you. And, I’m glad you’re okay.”

Maria smiles. It’s not often that Fury speaks from the heart like that.

“Thank you sir.”

Fury nods at her. Maria smirks. “You do have to admit, sir,” she says. “The Power Rangers have cooler toys than we do.”

Fury just laughs.