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Following the events of "Shadows", mercenary Lance Hunter is captured by Brigadier General Glenn Talbot, who offers him $2 million and a proper burial for late S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Isabelle Hartley, in exchange for selling out Director Phil Coulson. Agent Melinda May meanwhile follows Carl Creel, who can absorb the properties of anything he touches, and has absorbed the abilities of the mysterious Obelisk, which causes him to accidentally kill a waitress. After losing May, Creel is confronted by former Hydra associate Raina, who tries to bargain for the Obelisk. When this is unsuccessful, she contacts Coulson, and gives him the location of a meeting between Creel and his Hydra superior.
Hunter returns to the team and reveals his deal with Talbot, but explains that he wishes to work with them to take down Creel, who killed Hartley. Realizing that Coulson would rather take Creel prisoner than kill him, Hunter turns on Agents May, Skye, and Antoine Triplett, and attempts to assassinate Creel. A fight breaks out between Creel and Hunter, ended when Coulson uses a refined version of the Overkill Device, created by Agent Leo Fitz and Mack, to turn Creel to stone. During the fight, Raina steals the Obelisk from Hydra, and delivers it to Skye's father, "The Doctor". She discovers that she is able to hold it without dying, and "The Doctor" promises to reveal its secrets once Raina brings Skye to him.
At the Playground, S.H.I.E.L.D.'s headquarters, Coulson has another 'episode', carving symbols also found on the Obelisk into the wall, with May documenting the process. After Hartley's funeral, Hunter agrees to join S.H.I.E.L.D. permanently, though Coulson asks him to follow through with Talbot's deal.
In an end tag, Coulson and Talbot meet, but Talbot refuses to negotiate. Despite this, Coulson remains open to working with the U.S. government and military, and reveals that S.H.I.E.L.D. now has both a quinjet and carrier plane with operational cloaking technology among their arsenal.