Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: The Avengers (MCU)
Era: Post-Avengers movie
Genre: Action, drama
Rating: M / FRM
Characters: Bruce Banner (Hulk), Clint Barton (Hawkeye), Jane Foster, Nick Fury, Happy Hogan, J.A.R.V.I.S., Loki, Pepper Potts, James “Rhodey” Rhodes (War Machine), Steve Rogers (Captain America), Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow), Lady Sif and the Warriors Three (Fandral, Hogun and Volstagg), Tony Stark (Iron Man), Thor
(Brief/smaller appearances: Odin, Maria Hill, Darcy Lewis, The Other, Benjamin “Benny” Pollack, Erik Selvig, Jasper Sitwell, Claire Wise.)
Pairings: Happy/Pepper, Jane/Thor. Mentions of: Benny/Claire, Pepper/Tony
Summary: Iron Man never fell back through the portal. The Avengers must deal with the loss of their comrade and move on – until Earth once again comes under an attack from the Chitauri and their new-found weapons that decimate everything in their path with unmatched power and intellect. As cities and nations collapse around their decreasing resistance, the heroes of Earth must find a way to defeat their enemy before there is nothing left to avenge.
Work in progress.
Written for: Apocalypse Big Bang, Round One (apocalypsebang at LiveJournal)
Art: Imaan (insteadofdeath at dA/DW/LJ)
Warnings: Graphic description of torture, major character death, apocalypse & invasion themes (including but not limited to: mass destruction, terrorism, holocaust, death, violence and gore), brain-washing & mind-control, language (including some remarks that could be seen as racist). Serious spoilers for the ending of The Avengers (and other random spoilers for the rest of the movies in the Avengers cinematic universe).
“Sir, we have counted fourteen ships that have lowered themselves into the atmosphere around the globe.”
“Nine more are approaching, sir!”
“The World Security Council is waiting for you,” Hill cut in. Her tone was crisp and impatient, betraying some of the concern and weariness everyone felt.
Steve watched as Fury left his post and disappeared into another room. He could only imagine what the World Security Council wanted him to do; these were the people who’d prepared – and tried – to nuke Manhattan to stop an alien invasion – an invasion the scale of which hadn’t seemed like much compared to what was going on now.
A cacophony of voices echoed across the bridge. Calls and messages kept coming in, tracking the movement of the alien ships that were now orbiting Earth – and in many cases lowering themselves into the atmosphere. Steve hadn’t slept well since Nicaragua and he doubted he would find rest anytime soon, watching the progress and dreading the next step.
After the Chinese fired a missile at one of the ships and got a crater-shaped hole a couple thousand square miles wide as a result, the entire world had been on its toes, waiting for someone to make the next move; there had been no contact from the ships, no demands, threats or information as to why they were here. There had been no sign of what lay inside those ships, either, so they couldn’t tell with whom they were dealing. Were they hostile, or was it the attack from China that had provoked them to retaliate?
People walked in and out past him, trading information and progress reports from around the world. He had gotten so used to the hubbub that he didn’t even notice when Bruce entered, taking a seat next to him. “Twenty three ships hovering in the stratosphere and we have no idea who they are or what their next move is,” the scientist summed up, looking around. It looked like he had a headache and it didn’t seem like he had slept much either.
“I’m sure we’ll know sooner than we would like,” Steve observed.
Bruce nodded. “There are crisis meetings everywhere, between governments, NATO, UN… For now no one has taken another shot at those ships but it’s only a matter of time before someone’s trigger finger twitches.” He observed the screen in front of him, tapping and scrolling for a moment, then switched it off with a flick of his wrist. He slid off his glasses and closed his eyes, a pained expression on his face. “We know they pack enough firepower to potentially destroy whatever we aim at them.”
“Some have a theory that if it’s the Chitauri, they would have already made their move,” Steve mused. He wasn’t sure he bought it – and Bruce seemed to agree:
“They attacked us head-on last time – and lost. Maybe they learned their lesson. They’ve had some time to think about that, and… we have no way of knowing how many of them, whatever they are, are inside those ships. What we do know, though, is that they’ve spread around the globe, not focusing on one spot, which means we may be looking at a full-scale attack or even an invasion.”
It sounded like a bad sci-fi film. Steve had once thought it was surreal that they were fighting aliens. Perhaps this was what he got for being a skeptic.
Another message came from an observatory somewhere in Alaska and agents flashed back and forth delivering it to whoever needed to know about it. Erik Selvig and the young man, Benjamin Pollack, had barely been seen after their first briefing and Steve was certain they were busy figuring this out – and perhaps finding a way for them to fight back. Steve had been a soldier in his time and knew the importance of weapons and gear.
He wouldn’t be doing much damage with just his shield and a rifle, although that wouldn’t stop him from trying if need be.
Hill barked orders to get some diagnostics and data transferred, then Steve saw a flash on her screen that caused her to fall silent mid-sentence. Her entire posture froze until she snapped out of it and turned around, looking for something, landing her gaze on Steve and Bruce. “It’s starting,” she said, striding over. “One of the ships has lowered itself down to a couple thousand feet.”
“Where?” Steve asked, already getting up, ready to move out. Fury had told them the Avengers would be the first on the scene, if possible.
“In Japan, above the coast of Niigata Prefecture.”
“What’s over there?” Steve frowned. “Have the Japanese made contact?”
Hill shook her head then barked at another agent: “Inform Director Fury that he needs to return to the bridge.” The agent in question ran off without so much as a ‘Yes, Ma’am’.
Bruce thought about it for a moment, fingers drumming over his chin, then something seemed to come to him. “Kashiwazaki-Kariwa.”
“Ka-what?” Steve had to ask.
“It’s the biggest nuclear power plant in the world after going back to full commission in the aftermath of various earthquakes.”
“Is there something else in that area?” Hill asked.
“Nothing that pops into my mind,” Bruce shrugged.
“So they’re here for… what, energy?” Steve wasn’t certain whether he wanted to know the answer.
“Agent Hill!” an agent shouted from across the room. “Another ship is lowering its altitude.”
“Where?” Hill called back.
“In Canada, near Lake Huron in Ontario,” came the reply.
“I have to ask; what’s over there?” Steve looked at Bruce.
“Among other things, Bruce Nuclear Generating Station,” the scientist smiled grimly. “I assume we’re heading that way?”
“You assume correctly, Doctor,” Fury’s voice carried over the din as he strode towards them, looking just as flustered and irritated as he had been for the past few days. “Call the Avengers together and go to Canada. We’ll clear it with the local authorities while you’re in the air.”
Steve nodded; he didn’t need to be told twice. “Assemble,” he murmured and turned, Bruce following him. “What do you think they’re doing?” Steve asked the other man, needing to know even if it was guess-work at this point.
“Either they are after power or the control over that power…”
“Is that all?” Steve pressed.
Bruce may have looked a little green for a moment. “I think we both know it isn’t.”
Clint and Natasha picked them up in the Quinjet.
Thor, unfortunately, was back in Asgard and unable to join them. Steve had assumed he would have returned to Earth by now; Thor had told him that this man called Heimdall could see all that went on in the Nine Realms and would alert him should a need for his return arise. If this wasn’t big enough for the God of Thunder to join them, then nothing was.
“Are they doing something other than hovering?” Clint asked about the alien ships as he flew them north-west.
“Not after the two ships came significantly lower than the others,” Natasha replied; she was in radio contact with S.H.I.E.L.D., monitoring what went on. “Wait, something’s happening in Japan…” She fiddled with some dials then brought an image to a few screens around the aircraft. They watched as the bottom of the alien ship began to open, like flower petals in the morning, then a shape fell out through the gap.
“What the hell is that?” Clint asked, watching as well.
The shape unfolded itself into an almost human-like form, only it was much larger. It fell through the air then hit the ground, hard, landing on its feet and rising to full height. It was hard to tell from the image but Steve guessed it was at least five or six stories tall, with long legs and arms yet not disproportional from the usual human shape.
“It’s some kind of robot,” Bruce frowned at the screen, leaning closer, changing the settings to zoom in. The machine had begun to walk, its movements strangely graceful – heading directly towards the nuclear facility which loomed ahead.
“It looks like a mix between an Evangelion and Godzilla, only slimmer,” Clint commented.
Steve knew only the latter but thought the robot looked too human to be modeled after a giant lizard. Well, that was until the robot reached the nuclear plant; a small army had gathered at the gates, alarmed by the approach of the ship. Tanks and armed vehicles were spread out between the robot and the facility. The machine halted as if surveying the situation, then something sprouted from its behind: a tail. Its entire body shifted slightly forward and then it moved forward again. The tanks got a few pretty good shots in as well as some RPGs, but as the smoke cleared the robot was still moving without a dent in its surface.
The army pushed relentlessly, refusing to budge, and perhaps it was working because the robot stopped, looming over them.
“They’re calling in fighters,” Natasha spoke up, listening to the radio. “The planes will be within striking distance in one point five minutes.”
“I don’t think they’re gonna survive that long,” Clint noted and all of them looked intently at the screens.
Steve narrowed his eyes as the robot’s fists clenched. He hadn’t even paid attention to see it actually had fingers although they seemed slightly different; more reptilian. Something popped out from each forearm, sliding out past the fist, ending in some kind of blade, almost.
“That can’t be good,” Bruce murmured.
The mechanical body shifted, the tail rising higher, then it punched down arm first, thrusting the strange blade through one of the tanks with such force it looked like piercing tomatoes with a barbeque stick. The other arm stuck out, cutting through the tank on its left then whirled and dragged the first tank along, sliding it free only so it could carve a path through the remaining military forces. People were running for cover, abandoning their posts in a mad dash to survive.
With the threat dealt with, the robot straightened itself and stepped over the fence protecting the nuclear facility.
“Fighters are less than a minute out,” Natasha narrated in a hushed voice.
“Can they hit this thing while it’s in the middle of a nuclear facility?” Steve jerked up suddenly, imagining the catastrophe that might follow.
Inside the plant area the robot swung its body, the tail cutting clean through a building. With the top severed off, the robot moved closer, the blades withdrawing back into its arms. It gripped the remnants of the structure, clawed fingers digging in, slowly prying the building apart, exposing equipment and lab areas.
Bruce swore in at least five different languages. “That was the containment building,” he finally managed in English.
“It’s going to expose the rods!” Clint’s tone jumped with alarm.
“They’re not here to harvest energy, are they?” Steve asked, leaning back, feeling sick to his stomach. The robot abandoned the building, sparks and smoke filling the air as it moved onto the next. The robot had destroyed most of the second structure when suddenly something slammed into it, turning the air into a fiery inferno, followed quickly by another impact. Missiles. The explosions echoed across the area, covering everything in smoke and fire, making their screens turn to static.
“Did they get it?” Clint asked hopefully.
Natasha brought her hand up to the headphones, listening intently. Her face was blank – too blank. “Multiple explosions,” she told the rest of them; clearly there was still some feed from the area, some cameras working, or perhaps some unmanned aerial vehicle. “It’s… We’re getting a feed from a satellite…” She swore in Russian. “It’s still moving, tearing through the reactors. They won’t have time to shut any of the cores down and all personnel are either down or unresponsive.”
They all sat in silence for the longest while. Natasha looked like she was listening to the chatter on the radio very distantly. After a while she sat up, concern crossing her face. Her eyes moved over to Steve. “The ship above Canada is doing the same maneuver, opening up. The robot emerged and has just landed.”
“What are we going to do?” Clint asked, his hands gripping the controls. “If we don’t get trampled or caught in an explosion…”
“It’s attacking,” Natasha said. “Clint, change direction; there’s nothing we can do. Fury is asking us to re-route, to… intercept the robot if it moves to another location.”
“Does he know what’s going on down there?” the archer muttered but slowed their speed to wait for new directions.
“Better than most,” Natasha murmured. “Armies are mobilizing. They consider this a declaration of war – extreme terrorism.” She listened for a bit longer. “The robot in Japan is moving. No clear damage to it can be seen. It’s heading away from the nuclear plant. The fighters are circling to take another shot.”
“This means we can expect for the other one to move as well,” Bruce decided. “We’ll take it down before it reaches a populated area – or worse, another nuclear facility.” He was already unbuttoning his shirt, which was a controlled version of planning to unleash the Hulk.
Steve was glad he was on board with that idea because he was certain they couldn’t afford to lose the upcoming fight.
Clint could admit his hands shook slightly as he guided the Quinjet lower. Beneath them on the ground the sleek robot moved steadily eastwards, unaffected by the destruction at Bruce NGS. The Canadian government was busy dealing with the nuclear disaster and the Avengers were, for the time being, on their own. It was possible that was how S.H.I.E.L.D. wanted it, too, because for now everything the military had done had had no effect on this thing.
“Okay, take her down,” Steve commanded, pulling his cowl on. His body was tense, eyes hard, no doubt knowing what was at stake. Well, if it was unclear to anyone then they didn’t deserve to be handling this.
“It seems there are only minor levels of radiation hanging onto the robot,” Bruce announced. He stood there in just his pants, looking naked beside the rest of them but once he let the green part of himself out, it wouldn’t matter.
Clint guessed it was good news, everything considered, and took the Quinjet down as close and as quickly as he dared. He didn’t want to see those blades reappear and cut them in half while mid-air.
“Another spaceship is moving lower above Europe,” Natasha said. “Possibly heading for France. The authorities have been alerted but they’re not shutting down their reactors fast enough.” She sighed and pushed the earphones away with disdain; Clint could tell she knew what was at stake and that she might be a little scared, too. Scared never helped in a battle, however, so she was working furiously to replace that with something more useful. “We’re going to have a global nuclear disaster on our hands if this goes on. These things are moving too quickly for us to respond.”
“Then let’s slow them down,” Steve decided and as soon as they touched down, Clint lowered the ramp and took off after the rest of them.
The thing was huge up close. With one foot it could step on all of them at once and Clint had no delusions that he would survive that. The feet in question had toes, just like it had fingers, yet they were clawed as well, digging into the earth with each step.
“It’s ingenious, really,” Bruce noted as they moved closer to it although every fiber in Clint’s body suggested moving away might be smarter. “The tail works as extra balance, not just a weapon, yet it’s retracted right now, perhaps for smoother mobility. Its toes create stability, burrowing into earth, making it less likely for it to fall over like a human body would when unbalanced.”
“Will that knowledge help us to stop it?” Steve asked.
“Well, we know it’s been designed to stay upright,” Bruce noted, stopping, his eyes starting to turn green.
“Then we shall take it down!” Steve decided.
Behind them, Bruce’s body swelled with green, joints and bones popping with sickening sounds. It was over soon, though, a roar from the Hulk louder than the robot’s thundering steps.
Clint cringed. So much for a stealth approach.
The robot stopped, twisting around to watch them. It had strange eyes, filled with inner light and it seemed to cock its head to the side as it regarded the four of them on the ground, like large insects next to it.
“What’s the plan, Cap?” Clint asked.
“Hit it with everything you’ve got!” Steve commanded then moved forward. Hulk raced past him with a wide grin which forebode destruction all around him.
“That’s helpful,” Clint quipped then followed the others with Natasha. Right now he doubted whether the two of them could do any good but Clint was willing to play distraction then wait for an opening where one of his arrows could bring this thing down. He had no fear either that the Hulk wouldn’t be able to do what the armies had failed to do.
Not wanting to be left waiting, however, Clint attacked the robot first; he chose an arrow and sent it flying, hitting the machine square in the chest, electricity exploding from the arrow. It had been enough to shut down other robots and doomsday machines in the past.
The robot’s smooth surface seemed to hang onto the energy and transform it into angry, twisting blue lines which traveled almost faster than the eye could follow. It reminded Clint of a huge plasma globe, only no one was touching it to direct the current – not until Cap’s shield went flying through the air and hit the robot just below Clint’s arrow. The energy seemed to concentrate there, curling into itself – then shot out in a beam which carved a crater in the ground. Cap barely managed to avoid it by throwing himself aside with half his usual grace.
“Okay,” Clint hesitated, his steps slowing slightly. “That didn’t work very well.”
By that time the Hulk had decided to make an appearance, roaring and jumping up high, clearly aiming for the head. The robot, however, slammed up its arm, fist connecting and the green beast went flying off into the nearby woods, taking down trees.
“It knows what we’re trying to do,” Natasha murmured. “It keeps seeing our attacks coming.”
“So not only is it a very strong, chaos-causing hunk of metal, but it’s also smart? That’s never good. What happened to the good old days when the bad guys were dumb as a rock?” Clint complained and pulled out another arrow. If the Hulk never even got close enough to land a hit, what were they going to do? Wait for the thing to rust? Maybe it could be a surprise, though…
Cap had moved to another attack, sending his vibranium shield flying, yet it did little but bounce back. “We need a plan,” he stated a moment later through the comm signal.
“We need to find a weak spot,” Clint added, “although I can’t see any yet.”
“It’s not attacking us directly, only deflecting,” Natasha said from beside him.
“Should we try and piss it off?” Clint mused. “Can you make a robot lose its cool?”
A deafening roar rose as the Hulk came crashing back right then, running across the distance, fists tight, a very angry, serious look on his face; the Hulk liked smashing but didn’t much appreciate being smashed in return – plus he had a bit of a thing about ‘Hulk is the strongest there is’.
This time the Hulk didn’t attack the robot’s face, however, but latched onto the offending arm, hanging onto it. The weight of the impact made the robot bend backwards, trying to catch its balance in a very human-like fashion, and Clint took the opportunity to send an arrow flying, hitting the face just beneath the eyes. It didn’t cause damage but the sudden pressure of the explosion delivered the final push to send the machine down onto its back.
“Avengers!” Cap called and they all moved in, seeing their chance.
The Hulk was on top of the robot’s chest, banging it with huge fists, snarling and growling. Perhaps Bruce had been right in his first assessment that the robot would be defenseless once down.
They should have known not to celebrate early.
“Shit!” Clint exclaimed in frustration as the robot twisted beneath the Hulk’s onslaught. An electric current began to form on its body once again. The Hulk roared in pain and annoyance, caught in the middle of it; some of it had to be hurting the rage monster, prickling through skin that could take more punishment than anything Clint had ever seen. The current seemed to intensify, lighting the Hulk from the inside, making him arch back and bellow out in apparent distress – then one giant robot arm came up and swatted the Hulk off its body as if getting rid of an annoying fly.
However, Clint could see there was damage, which meant they just had to get a little closer, hit a little harder –
The robot rolled over to its side then got up to its knees, lifting itself up. A few sparks spat out of its chest where the Hulk had managed to get through.
“Now!” Cap shouted.
If anyone replied, Clint never heard it; a piercing sound vibrated through the air, blocking his ears, freezing his brain in an agony that lasted forever. It felt like his ears would blow from the inside out and all the blood vessels broke beneath his scalp, the pain so intense he couldn’t even breathe.
When he came to, he heard someone – Steve – groaning and Natasha was down on the ground beside him. He didn’t even remember falling. He saw Steve struggling to his knees then trying to hoist himself up by leaning on his shield, yet soon enough gravity pulled him back down. It was nice to see even the super soldier was affected.
Natasha wasn’t much better, not trying to get up for the time being. There was a thin line of blood running from her nose.
Some distance away, where the Hulk had landed, Bruce lay on the ground, unmoving.
“Fuck,” Clint finally commented and plopped back down onto his back, then grimaced as he felt the quiver press against his spine.
Although he wouldn’t say it, Steve seemed to agree, defeat and pain playing catch on his face. It was hard to say which was winning.
to be continued…