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Eleventh Hour

By Genevieve Kelly

Adventure / Action

Chapter 1

Eleventh Hour

Chapter One

About a week after the Avengers' big battle against Loki and the god's army, the Chitauri, both Tony and Pepper had left town on an extended vacation in order to try to recover and relax. As for the rest of the team, Bruce had once again decided to disappear from S.H.I.E.L.D.'s radar shortly after the fight in order to avoid any kind of conflict until he was absolutely needed. Steve remained in New York City, as did Clint and Natasha, in order to help clean up the city, as the battle had torn it apart. And Thor, as he had taken both Loki and the tesseract back home to Asgard, no one knew what he was up to.

Things, for the most part, were finally beginning to get back to normal, when two days ago, a large group of mercenaries had broken into one of Stark Enterprises' many companies in order to try to steal a new project Tony had developed and his employees had been working on building and manufacture. However, they took over one hundred of the employees hostage as the group were suddenly surrounded by dozens of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents before they were able to escape.

S.H.I.E.L.D. had eventually learned that the group had been based at a warehouse in New Mexico filled with weapons and technology that had once been owned by Stark Enterprises, back when Obadiah Stane was around as Tony's right hand. However, after his partner's betrayal and as he had recently gained a new outlook, Tony had given orders for all the weapons to be destroyed. What he didn't know was that before Obadiah's death, the man had made arrangements for many of the weapons to be stolen and hidden at their headquarters by these mercenaries, who were now in New York trying to obtain new Stark technology to add to their inventory.

Once the hostages had been taken, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents backed down to try to come up with a strategy to take the mercenaries down without any of the hostages getting hurt. However, the private army was stronger than expected and so far they were able to keep the agents at bay. It was after no other alternative that Director Fury finally decided to make the call to the remaining members of the Avengers for help.

Fury's first call was to Steve, who was taught by Stark to use his new cell phone, and when the soldier answered, Fury spoke up quickly and to the point saying, "Captain, I'm afraid we're going to need your help once again. Sorry to have to cut your relaxation time short."

Steve replied, "Clint, Natasha, and I haven't exactly been relaxing much, but I have a feeling you already know that."

"Indeed I do and I am grateful for your work to help rebuild the city along with the rest of the men and women down there, but I've got a mission for the three of you and I'm afraid it's rather urgent," the director answered. "Are the others around at the moment or do I need to make a call to both of them as well?"

"Nah, they're here," Steve responded as he turned to face his new friends and gave them a signal that it was time to head back to their base. "We're on our way in."

After Steve hung up, Natasha spoke up as she said, "I was wondering how long it would take before Fury called us all in for our next mission."

Clint replied, "Apparently, not long."

"Are you sure you're up for this?" Natasha asked Clint as she turned to look at him and placed her hand gently on his shoulder, while they walked to their car. "I mean, I know that you haven't gotten hardly any sleep at all since your time spent working under Loki's power over you."

"I promise you, I'm fine, Nat," Clint answered solemnly. "The memories are coming back, but I have control over them as long as I'm awake. Besides, hawks don't sleep much anyway, remember?"

Clint walked on ahead of her and Steve in order to get out of the conversation, while Steve looked over at Natasha and asked, "Does he know that none of us blame him for what he did?"

The Black Widow responded, "Yeah, but unfortunately, it isn't enough. For as long as I've known him, Clint's always had a hard time getting over the mistakes he's made, whether they were his fault or not. Deep down, he's a sensitive guy, but he doesn't often show it. I don't know how to help him."

"He'll be all right with time," Steve said. "Who knows, maybe a new mission will do him some good."

"Maybe," she replied as she laughed. "Maybe it will do us all some good."

It wasn't long before the three of them were back at S.H.I.E.L.D.'s new base, which was hidden in an old, underground bunker that had been abandoned long ago. Once they walked in and took a seat at the table in one of the bunker's main rooms, Director Fury stood and began to brief the team on what was going on. Agent Hill stood nearby, as well as S.H.I.E.L.D.'s newest agent, Jeff Stanton, who had been brought in to take over for Coulson. None of the Avengers really cared for him much, nor did he care for any of them, but orders were orders.

Fury spoke up saying, "These mercenaries are still holding at least a hundred men and woman, if not more, and they're ordering us to let them go with the technology they came for in the first place, or they will kill all of their hostages. They've already killed some and the longer we delay, the more people will die. I need the three of you to go down there to take them out and save as many hostages as you can."

Steve asked, "Exactly how many mercenaries are we going up against?"

"They're a large group," Agent Hill answered. "We believe that there are at least forty men and women, all of them armed with serious weapons that were once made a long time ago by Stark."

"We believe that Stark has no recollection that these weapons even exist anymore, as we've learned that they had been stolen back when his now deceased partner, Obadiah Stane, was alive," Fury continued. "I've gotten in contact with Tony and briefed him on what was going on. Despite his annoyance of having his vacation cut short, he's on his way back now and will be here as soon as he can. He said to be sure to save some of the fun for him."

Clint responded, "Sounds simple enough. Forty against three; this may get interesting."

Steve retorted, "It will be four if and when Tony arrives, but we can't wait any longer. We'll have to do what we can until then. Let's go. Suit up."

Thirty-five minutes later, Captain America, Black Widow, and Hawkeye arrived to stand with the rest of the agents on the cliff overlooking the building where the mercenaries were holding the employees hostage. The Avengers had driven from the bunker in order to keep from giving themselves away, so that they would be able to have the element of surprise on their side when they made their first attack. As they looked down to observe the scene below, the three were told that the building was being well guarded.

"It looks like there are two men at the front entrance and at least two other guards by each way in or out," Hawkeye said. "I can easily take out the guards, but as soon as we get inside, we'll have no idea what we'll be dealing with. One gunshot and the rest of them will be on to us."

"And we'll be ready for them," Agent Stanton replied as he walked up from behind them. "We've got technology just above an infrared scanner that can tell us where they are located, but it may be a little difficult to tell a mercenary from a hostage."

Steve spoke up into his com saying, "Which is why the three of us will be the ones going in and not you guys; no offense. Director, exactly what kind of technology is these men and woman after?"

Nick Fury answered, "Stark invented and began manufacturing devices that with a push of a button can emit a force field around a person or object, much like the alloy that is Captain America's shield. These devices can be worn by our soldiers during a war, or placed all around a vehicle or building in order to create a force filed large enough to protect it."

"No wonder these thugs are after them," Natasha responded. "Either they could use this technology for themselves, or they could sell them for high profit to whoever does want it. We can't let it get into the wrong hands."

"Which is one of the reasons why I called you in," Fury replied. "Good luck!"

Steve replied, "Well, it's now or never. Let's move in. Hawkeye, it's all you."

Clint pulled up his bow, tethered two arrows, took aim, and fired them fast and far, hitting both guards on both ends of the balcony above the main entrance to the building, dead center to the chest. Both men went down quickly and silently, without alerting the two men directly below them on the ground. Swiftly and smoothly, Hawkeye was able to take out each guard around the perimeter of the building as he moved down to ground level from his original perch, without any of them getting the chance to make a sound.

Once he was finished, Steve walked up behind him and patted him on the back as he said, "Nice shooting! You're going to have to show me how you do that sometime."

"Sounds fun," Clint answered. "What's our next move?"

"We split up," the Captain responded. "Stanton, you better be sure to tell us what we need to know. Hawkeye, I want you to head up to the right wings of the building. Tasha, to the left. I'll head straight down the middle. Do whatever it takes to save as many hostages as you can and be careful."

Each of them walked the halls in their own directions, while looking for where the rest of the mercenaries were, as well as their hostages. It wasn't long until a fight between the three Avengers and the mercenaries broke out, when Captain America was the first to be seen. At first, the team had no problem taking the bad guys down, that is until the hostiles started to use the force field devices they had already managed to get their hands on. However, the soldiers were having trouble using them for long, as the devices were only prototypes. The power didn't last more than a few seconds at a time.

Hawkeye found the hostages being held in a large room toward the back end of the building with Stanton's help and fought through over a dozen soldiers to get to them, not only using his bow and arrows, but his fighting skills as well. As the guards were finally down, he helped them out through a doorway that led to a set of stairs in the back, where the rest of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents were waiting for them on Hawkeye's instructions. Once he knew the men and women were safe, he headed back inside to find and help his friends.

Natasha fought her way through several soldiers herself. A few of them used the devices, but like Hawkeye, she didn't have much of a problem. However, as she was fighting off her two last soldiers she had run into, she found some kind of bomb attached to one of the building's posts in front of her.

Before knocking out her last attacker, Natasha knocked the man down to the ground and locked his head in between her legs as she growled, "How many bombs are there? What are they doing here?"

The man struggled in her grasp as he replied, "We were ordered… to place them around the entire building in… case things went wrong. As soon as you guys broke in here… to rescue the hostages, our boss set them… to go off in… now five minutes. We need to get out!"

"Captain, did you hear that?" Natasha called out through her com. "We need to get out of here! Hawkeye, can you read me?"

"I heard you, Tasha," Hawkeye answered. "I found the hostages and they're out. I'm on my way to you guys."

Steve came on over the com as well saying, "I read you guys loud and clear. Nice work. Just work your way to an exit. I'm already out. I had to take down these guys' leader after he tried to run."

Natasha responded, "I'm on my way out with a prisoner of my own."

Clint ran fast through the building to try to find Natasha in order to make sure that she got out all right, but as soon as he arrived into the lobby, the first bomb detonated, followed by a second, causing the entire building to start to come apart around him and just as he was about to make it to the stairway down to the front doors, a large beam from the ceiling collapsed down on top of him, pinning him down firmly to the floor.

When Natasha made it out of the building with her prisoner just before the first bomb blew, she ran over to where Steve stood over the leader of the mercenary group and handed the man she fought off to two of the agents, as Steve finally did the same. After doing so, they turned back to the building and waited for Hawkeye to make it out, but when he didn't come out seconds after the third blast blew in the back, they realized something was obviously wrong, especially when he didn't answer their calls over the coms.

"Hawkeye, answer me," Natasha called out. "Please, Clint. Come on. Answer me!"

"I'm going back in," Steve shouted as he ran back toward the building. "I'll find him, Tasha!"

As Steve made his way back inside, he tried to call out to his friend, but it was then that another bomb blew, causing the wall from behind him begin to collapse, until an arrow suddenly shot out from above him and blew the wall into pieces, crumbling it enough so that Steve was able to block the falling debris above using his shield. Hawkeye had saved his life.

As he looked up toward where the arrow had come from, he saw that Clint was on top of the stairs, trapped under a beam, but when he was about to rush up to help him, Clint called out, "Stop, you need to get out of here. This place is going to blow any second."

Suddenly from out of nowhere, Tony came flying in as he shouted out, "He's right, Captain. Get out of here now! I've got him!"

It was then that the final bomb blew and Tony dived over on top of Clint as the fire engulfed them. Before the fire could reach him, Steve ran as fast as he could out through the doors, clearing the building just in time before it collapsed and burst completely in flames. Natasha cried out Clint's name as she began to rush forward, but Steve grabbed a hold of her to keep her from running in.

She collapsed up against Steve in fear as she and Steve both believed that Clint and Tony were gone. They stared into the flames, when all of a sudden Tony came walking out, still fully suited in his armor, with Clint unconscious in his arms. Both of them were surrounded by a force field until Tony pushed a button on his arm, causing the field to collapse.

Natasha ran forward and pulled Clint into her arms, as Tony gently lay him down on the ground, then looked up at Steve's face and when he saw that he was looking for an explanation, he said, "I'm sorry I'm late. I had to stop by Stark Towers to pick up the only fully working force field device I had. I figured I'd need it. It appears I was right. I'm just glad I was in time. Hawkeye's hurt pretty badly, Miss. Romanoff, but he should be fine in a few days. What the heck did you guys do to my company?"

"You can blame those scumbags over there for this," Steve replied. "All we did was rescue the lives of all your employees. No big deal."

"Right, well, I suggest we get Stanton and the rest of S.H.I.. to do the clean-up, since we did all of the heavy work," Tony responded. "I'm trying to be on a vacation with Pepper."

"I think you're right," Steve answered. "It's about time the rest of us join you."

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