In the 1980s, S.H.I.E.L.D., NASA and the United States Air Force cooperated in a project with the goal of studying the Tesseract, led by the Kree scientist Mar-Vell working under the disguise of 'Wendy Lawson'. In this facility, she developed a Light-Speed Engine, a device that could help Skrulls escape the Kree, ending the Kree-Skrull War. The facility also stored the documents relating to the project.
Search for Wendy Lawson
Nick Fury accompanied Vers to the Joint Dark Energy Mission Facility, where they asked to meet Wendy Lawson. Although asked to wait, Fury and Vers decided to investigate on their own, breaking into Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S.'s archives. They discovered Lawson's file and learned about the crash and Mar-Vell's plans for the Light-Speed Engine. Vers found a file with Maria Rambeau's name in it and a photograph of herself. Unbeknownst to Vers, Fury contacted Keller with their location. Keller had however been replaced by Talos, seeking to recapture Vers.
Talos, still disguised as Keller and accompanied by several S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, met with Fury at the facility and planned to ambush Vers. However, Fury became aware that Keller was an impostor by Talos' use of Fury's first name when they were traveling up in an elevator. Fury decided to trick Talos and got off the elevator a floor before. Talos quickly became aware of Fury's trickery and ordered the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to shoot him on sight. Fury and Vers managed to escape but were cornered by Phil Coulson. Trusting Fury, he let them go. Vers and Fury escaped to the facility's hangar and boarded a Quadjet. Talos fired upon them as Vers took control of the craft and flew away from the facility.
Restart of Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S.
The World Security Council decided to re-start a Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. dedicated to the analysis of, and to eventually weaponize, the Tesseract. Both S.H.I.E.L.D. and NASA provided scientific expertise to the project, and due to the highly sensitive nature of the research, S.H.I.E.L.D. also provided its security force.
Recruitment of Erik Selvig
Erik Selvig, having impressed S.H.I.E.L.D. with his discoveries following Thor's arrival on Earth and the reveal of other inhabited planets that could be reached by opening stable wormholes, was called to the Facility by Nick Fury. Fury tasked Selvig to examine and study the Tesseract, describing it as an object belonging both to history and mythology, and a source of unlimited power. Loki became aware of the Tesseract's location on Earth and started manipulating Selvig's decisions in order to eventually gain access to it.
Selvig's First Tests
Erik Selvig received a call from Jane Foster, who wanted to consult him about data she collected to reproduce the same Wormhole that was used by Thor to come to Earth. Both Foster and Darcy Lewis noticed that something was happening to Selvig, but he dismissed them telling that he simply was not sleeping well, as the Tesseract was experiencing energy fluxes.
Assignment of Clint Barton
Nick Fury assigned and personally took Clint Barton to the Joint Dark Energy Mission Facility, with orders of both guarding the Tesseract as S.H.I.E.L.D.'s most important possession, and investigating Erik Selvig's strange behavior. Upon arriving, Selvig informed Fury of some advances made thanks to the new element discovered by Tony Stark, that allowed the scientists working in the project to create several power surges, hoping to stabilize the direct current and maintain a safe level of input and output energy over time.
Fury introduced Barton as one of his best men and departed to take a plane to the Arctic. Selvig, under Loki's influence, asked Barton if he was one of the men deployed to New Mexico a year before, as Loki noticed him then and remembered his face.
Nick Fury and Maria Hill arrived at the Joint Dark Energy Mission Facility in order to check a spontaneous activation of the Tesseract, that forced to apply a protocol to evacuate the facility. Phil Coulson, already stationed at the facility, was ordered to improve the evacuation time. Hill noted that the evacuation may be futile as if the Tesseract couldn't be controlled, may there not be a minimum safe distance, while Fury ordered the evacuation of the technology pertaining to the project only known as Phase 2.
Erik Selvig briefed Fury about the status of the Tesseract, and how they were not ready to handle what was coming. Agent Clint Barton informed him that none could have activated the Tesseract and that Selvig was not suspicious of anything. However, Barton noticed that, as the Tesseract was a door to the other side of the universe, it could have been activated on the other side.
During the conversation, a portal was opened and Loki appeared. Fury asked him to drop his weapon, but Loki attacked without answering, killing many of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents securing the room. However, he decided to spare Barton's life, controlling him to gain his assistance with his Scepter and went to control other agents.
Fury tried to leave with the Tesseract, and while politely asking him not to leave, Loki introduced himself as a denizen of Asgard, sent with what he defined as a glorious purpose. Selvig recognized Loki as Thor's brother from the legends, and Fury tried to appease him claiming humans had nothing against the people of Asgard. Loki gave a speech about his purpose of unifying the world under his rule and controlled Selvig.
Fury tried to stall Loki after realizing that the energy liberated by the Tesseract would collapse the room and probably the entire facility over them, but Barton warned Loki about the ruse. Barton shot Fury on Loki's orders and then left with Loki and the people under Loki's thrall. As the group left the facility, they passed by Hill who questioned Barton about Loki's identity. After failing to receive a substantive answer and upon being warned by Fury, who survived Barton's shot, the group was enemies, Hill pursued Barton and Loki in a vehicle. She was attacked by Loki and trapped by the facility's collapse.
Coulson informed Fury of the full evacuation of the facility, and Fury himself managed to board a helicopter before the ground collapsed. Meanwhile, Barton managed to escape Hill after she was trapped by debris falling from the tunnel as it collapsed, but his vehicle was pursued and attacked by Fury's helicopter. Loki shot at the helicopter and, although Fury was able to jump and survive its crash, he couldn't prevent Loki from finally escaping with the Tesseract.
Fury informed Hill and Coulson that the two priorities for S.H.I.E.L.D. would now be the rescue of the people trapped in the ruins of the facility, and the search of the Tesseract, as from that moment, they were at war.
Behind the Scenes
- The real-life location of the Joint Dark Energy Mission Facility is Atrisco Heritage Academy High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The interior scenes were shot in Plum Brook Station, a NASA facility near Sandusky, Ohio.