About halfway through the flight, while we were somewhere
over the North Atlantic, Steve called us all over to discuss the game plan.
"Alright, now that you're all here, let's talk strategy. Natasha and I are team A, Taylor and Clint are team B, Thor and Bruce team C. Objections?"
There were none, so Steve continued.
"Before I start, there is an almost certain possibility that Stark is injured. Anybody that can't deal with that, sit down now or forever hold your peace." Steve says, shooting not-so-subtle glances my way.
I notice and roll my eyes. "I'm a big girl, Steve. I need to be here. Bench me and I'll fly in myself." I finish with my tone dropped and my eyes boring into his.
He holds me gaze for a few seconds before looking at his feet.
Bruce clears his throat, diverting Steve's attention back to the matter at hand.
"Right. Team A will be entering through the back door and start searching the storage rooms in the back, here.” Steve points to a spot on the blueprints we’re all gathered around. “Team B will be dropped, on my mark, onto the roof and enter through the vents here.” Steve points to another spot in the center of the compound.
“Putting us in the center of attention, aren’t you, Cap?”
“Two people dropping through the ceiling tend to do that, yes.”
“Team B will be searching the rooms and the sides, here and here. Team C is brute force, they enter on signal through the front. Thor, you are responsible for Hulk.”
He hand out comms, giving an extra one to me in case I lose my suit somehow.
“As for the climate, we all know Russia is freezing. Taylor, you have heating in your suit, right?”
“Bruce, do you know how Hulk responds to cold?”
“He’s unaffected for about five hours. Then he gets cold.”
“We shouldn’t be that long. Natasha, how well are you adjusted to this weather?”
“Pretty well. My suit has new heating aspects, thanks to Stark.”
“Got it. Barton?”
“I’ll be wearing jackets. The serum protects me slightly, but I am human and haven’t gotten around to seeing Stark about anything. I’m going to check on our ETA.”
Steve disappears into the direction of the cockpit as the rest of us return to our seats to gather and check weapons and supplies.
I sit next to Clint and pull and arrow out of my quiver and begin sharpening it with steady strokes of stone against metal.
“You’ll be careful?”
His soft voice startles me, and I jump to see his face mere inches from my own.
I mentally shove the color rising into my cheeks back down as I smile and reply.
“Of course. If we walk in on them torturing my dad, all bets are off. But otherwise, yes. You be careful too.”
I open my mouth to reply, but my response was cut off by Steve re-entering the cabin.
“ETA fifteen minutes. Suit up guys.”
I stand and open my pack, relaxing and letting the familiar metal enfold me.
I let the suit fully form before retracting the helmet and looking at the rest of the team.
Steve is pulling on his helmet thing and strapping his shield to his arm as well as holstering a pistol for back up.
Natasha is clipping on the last of her Widow Bites and checking and holstering all of her guns.
Clint snaps out his bow and makes sure his quiver is secure before going over to check my gear, just in case.
Bruce? Bruce is just sitting of to the side looking faintly amused. Lucky, my subconscious whines, he doesn’t have to do anything. Besides get angry. And that’s not too hard.
I walk over to him and open my mouth to start a conversation, but once again I am cut off, this time by the jet intercom.
“ETA one minute. Team A in position to drop.”
Everybody except Natasha and Steve move away from the door. They both quickly strap on parachutes as the ramp begins to open.
They jump, and I watch the bright blue spot that is Steve until I can’t see it because of the snow.
Our comms buzz and crackle to life. “Team A is on the ground and moving into position.”
I smile, glad they made it down, as Clint and I move towards the ramp and wait for our call.
“Team B in position to drop, we’re coming in low.”
Clint and I forego the parachutes as we nod to each other and watch as the ramp opens to show a snow covered, sparkling white roof.
I have about a second to wonder if I’m crazy.
And then I jump.
I fire up my boosters and put out my flight stabilizers as I fight the harsh winter winds.
My boots touch down about a split second before Clint’s, and after a silent conformation that we are both okay, we make our way over to the vent cover on the roof. I can see Clint radioing our status back to the jet, telling them to get Thor and Bruce ready for drop.
I drop to one knee beside the cover as Clint joins me and we wait for our signal.
“Team A moving in.”
I vaguely hear doors slam over the wind, then shooting, and I tense as I wait for my que.
“Team B, move in! Move in!”
Clint flings off the cover with a clatter as I dive in with thrusters at full power, Jarvis immediately scanning the area around me for possible threats.
The room around us is a hallway, not unlike one you’d find in a hotel, except wider, and instead of ugly carpeting, there are steel floors.
Strangely enough, it’s empty.
“Team B is in.” I say over the comms as I hear Clint land beside me. “Area completely clear.”
“Just be on the lookout Beta.” Steve warns me.
“Maybe everyone is on vacation?”
“Take the right, I’ll go left.” Clint whispers beside me, barely audible.
I nod and watch him string an arrow and creep in the direction of his choice before readying my repulsors and doing the same.
“Jarvis, activate thermal sensors.”
My holoscreen gains a slight orange hue as the sensors take effect, but I can’t sense anyone in the area.
I cautiously approach the first door, holding one hand up with repulsor charging as the other hand reaches down and springs the handle.
The door swings open and I barge in-
-only to find an unoccupied, break room-type room.
Doors two, three, four, and five produce similar results.
Door six is a bit of a mystery. Because door six is a gigantic, vault-style door with at least ten padlocks and even more keypads, which Jarvis tells me is made of tempered steel.
“Guys, I’ve encountered a bit of a problem.”
“Problem? What kind of problem, are you okay?” Steve says above the sounds of fighting.
“Fine, thanks, Steve. My sixth door is thick, Fort Knox style.”
“You’ll have to blast it.” Natasha enters the conversation. “It’s the only way.”
“But what if-“
“The only option, Iron Beta.”
The comms fall silent. Anyone only uses my full codename when they’re ultimately serious, so I take a deep breath and raise my left hand.
“Jarvis, full power to left repulsor.”
My suit hums as the power runs its course. Once Jarvis informs me the power is where I need it to be, I blast the door.
The door explodes with a nuclear-sized blast, and I’m faced with another room.
This one is full of surprised looking people in black. Who are quickly scrambling for their guns.
I recover from the shockwave and revert power back to both repulsors as I start shooting and dodging bullets.
Ten minutes, fifty dead people, and a few minor dings later, I’m the only alive one in the room.
“That was ridiculously easy.” I chuckle. “Were they not expecting me or something?”
I take a moment to finally look at my surroundings.
There is a single door in the back, with even more padlocks than the first.
“What is this, the White House?” I groan as I approach the second door.
I blast it and tense, ready for more attackers.
And I get nothing but silence.
And the unmistakable scent of blood and…other…bodily fluids.
I’m trying my hardest not to throw up inside my helmet - because, ew – as I approach a huddled mass on the floor that is probably the source of the rancid smell.
I nudge the mass – which I can now see is a body – with my foot, and it turns over to reveal a very familiar, if not slightly overgrown, goatee.
Attached to an equally familiar face.
“Guys…” I whimper into the comms, “I found him.”
A few seconds of silence. And then…
“Hold on, Beta. We’re coming.” Steve, ever the soldier, is the first to respond.
“Stay calm, Beta. Deep breaths.” That’s Natasha. I do as I’m told, but it only helps in the slightest.
“Hey, Taylor.” Clint’s soothing tones float over the radio – ignoring Steve’s request for codenames-only-on-the-comms.
“Just calm down, listen to Natasha, I’m coming, hold on.”
True to his word, he, along with Steve and Natasha, burst through the door about two minutes later. They all freeze at the sight before them for a moment before shaking their heads and springing into action.
Clint drags me gently away from my dad and turns me away slightly. Natasha starts checking for responses from my dad, signs of breathing, a heartbeat, anything. I can hear Steve barking orders into his comm, telling Team C to get in here fast and for the Quinjet and med staff to standby for extraction.
Clint eventually helps me up just as Thor comes running in with the Hulk on his tail. He, like the others, freezes slightly when he sees my dad, but quickly listens to Steve’s orders and gingerly picks him up and heads back towards the door.
Everyone is on edge as we make it outside about twenty minutes later. We are about twenty feet away from the jet and waiting medevac when the world lights up green.
When the light dies down, we are met with the sight of a hundred or so Zygones beasts and Tesseract soldiers.
Headed by none other than the God of Psychotic Maniacs himself, Loki.
The tension in the air around me instantly rose from ‘cut with a knife’ to ‘a nuke couldn’t even make a dent’. Clint gripped his bow so hard I was afraid for its safety. Thor set my dad down and took a protective stance over his body. Natasha put a hand on her gun. Hulk growled. Steve clenched his shield. I froze.
“Ah, hah, hah! What a wonderful surprise! If it isn’t Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.” Loki crowed, stepping forward with the look of a cat that just got the canary.
I really hope we weren’t the canary.
“Not so mighty now, are you? What with the Man of Iron lying at your feet like a doll. It pained you all to see him didn’t it? I’m not usually one to toot my own horn but…” Loki spread his hands, palms up, in a not-to-sorry shrug.
“Now it’s time to let someone join him. Let us see, let us see…” He spun slowly in a circle, and I could almost see him playing eeny-meany-miney-moe in his head.
“Ah ha! What about…you?” Loki pauses in front of me, scepter coming closer to my face with each passing second.
“So you, Daughter of Iron, so innocent…I wonder what would happen to that innocence if I did this.” He jabbed towards my heart with the scepter, and I waited for either the pain of being stabbed or having my mind turned inside out.
Neither came. What did come is crack and an agonized muffled scream.
I cracked open an eye to see Clint standing in front of me, holding his bow like a bat, and Loki holding his nose with a hand stained red.
“No.” Clint was growling. “You were not about to do what I think you were about to do. You were not going to so much as touch Taylor Stark, my sparrow, let alone take her mind or stab her. You were not. Because if you were? I will stick an arrow through both your eyes, let you die slowly, burn your body, and dance on your ashes. Nobody hurts my sparrow. NOBODY. Got it?”
Loki glares but nods slowly, in a creepy, this-is-so-not-over way. But he backs away slowly, turning back towards his army and disappearing in a puff of jade smoke.
Natasha jumps up and herds the medical team towards my dad.
The rest of the team are staring at Clint, slack-jawed and bug eyed.
“Holy crap, Clint! What was that?!” That, surprisingly is Steve.
Clint shakes his head and blinks as if he just realized we were there.
“Like you wouldn’t to the same?”
“Not the whole dance-on-your-ashes spiel!”
Clint just shrugs and offers me a hand, which I probably take a little too eagerly.
“Come on, we have a hospital to be at.”
“Is your bow okay?”
Clint just laughs and shakes his head, “Just fine. Now c’mon.”
I allow myself to be led back to the jet, where the ride to the nearest hospital is fast and heavy with silence.
I stare out a window the whole way there, one train of thought occupying my mind.
He has to be okay. Clint didn’t just scare off Loki for Loki to win by killing my dad. Please let him be okay…