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).
Their first battle had been a sound defeat. Bruce knew they couldn’t win every fight, but right now they needed to win a war and had no time to waste; while the Avengers had been recuperating from a rather simple sonic attack which managed to bring them all down effectively, their enemies had not stopped: nuclear facilities and factories had been systematically destroyed all over the world.
There were no bombs. There were no real attacks on the human population. The robots merely seized what humanity had built and took it apart. While civilians were not directly faced with the alien threat, they were subjected to radiation – and after the destruction of many critical factories, a shortage of supplies. Food, electricity, clean water, spare parts… it would all be running out too soon.
Bruce saw a pattern and didn’t like it.
“Please tell me there is good news,” Fury said as he strode inside followed by Agent Maria Hill.
Bruce glanced up from his notes that he had been making ever since waking up. The battle had been a blur but the Quinjet had recorded most of it and he had accounts from the other Avengers. “Good? At this rate I consider any information as good news,” he sighed, looking down at the screen and his written notes once again. He didn’t trust technology would be with them forever at this rate and paper was so much more reliable when apocalypse loomed ahead, apparently.
The rest of his team was quiet, as were all the other specialists in the room.
“What do we know?” Fury sighed. His shoulders hunched as he leaned forward against the back of a chair; he looked like a man stretched too thin. Bruce knew how that felt.
The scientist glanced at Erik Selvig and Benjamin Pollack, the older man nodding at him. Bruce turned back to his screen and pressed on one, raising a hologram before all of them. “Four hours ago more of the ships lowered themselves all the way to the troposphere. Instead of these… mecha robots,” he halted, glancing at Clint who had dubbed them as ‘mecha’ after their battle against one, “we got a fleet of Chitauri. This confirms for the first time whom we’re up against,” he stopped again, allowing clips of film to roll on the screen, showing a very familiar sight of their old enemy on their flying vehicles. “Their weaponry and means of transportation are the same as during the attack orchestrated by Loki; that we can deal with, thanks to Mr. Pollack’s tireless work with the R&D department.”
“You don’t sound too happy with that,” Fury noted.
“Oh, I’m thrilled we have something to fight back with,” Bruce huffed. “The Chitauri are not the problem. The mecha are; we don’t know how to fight them and they’ve already laid us bare against the Chitauri assault. They’re destroying our resources, they’re polluting the earth, the skies, the water, and have cut off the production of numerous items we will need in order to survive and treat the wounded – not to mention give the living a chance to survive this.”
Fury nodded brusquely. “What do we know about the mecha?”
“Other than that they wiped the floor with us?” Clint muttered unhappily.
“We went in there unprepared,” Steve soothed the burn of the archer’s words yet he didn’t seem happy with the result either; he was their leader and Bruce knew the man blamed himself for their inability to stop the mecha and prevent it from taking countless other lives as it tore through the rest of the Canadian nuclear power plants before moving on to other critical locations.
“We are still a step ahead of them,” Hill commented. “We have surveillance. We have our military. We will fight back when we find out how.”
“How is the key, but we haven’t discovered it yet,” Bruce noted. He shut down the screen of the Chitauri forces attacking a dam in China; they had already heard the news of the destruction that followed there. He pulled up another screen with schematics and facts he’d been able to collect of the mecha they had fought and footage shot of the others. There were over a dozen of them on Earth right now, all of them still operational regardless of the localized efforts to take them down.
“Their design is advanced. The surface material is difficult to penetrate and unknown to us; we can’t analyze it until we get a sample. The surface also houses an electrical current that serves both as a shield and a weapon – and is able to adapt depending on the target. That’s how he dealt with the other guy.” Bruce could still feel an aching in his bones and muscle tissue. “Also, they seem to have a vast knowledge of human biology; the sonic attack proved that. The correct frequency puts the brain in an almost seizure-like state, stopping all coherent activity. Even Steve’s super soldier serum couldn’t compete with it – or the gamma radiation that usually protects the other guy. They are very basic techniques to overcome our opposition.”
“So it’s possible it can stop an entire army by emitting a simple sound?” Benjamin Pollack frowned. “Is there a way to block it?”
“Perhaps,” Bruce thought about it for a moment. “It is also entirely possible the mecha would then change the frequency and find another way to disrupt the human brain, regardless of high-tech earplugs.”
“Let’s not assume that before we’ve seen it happen,” Fury decided. “Get the scientists working on that. Perhaps there’s also a way to neutralize that surface charge and get us a clear shot at these things.”
“Do we know what their power source is?” Pollack asked. “Moving that much mass effortlessly – and the charge they have to maintain or produce… it has to come from somewhere.”
“That’s another angle to consider. So far we haven’t seen anything that points to a recharging of energy,” Bruce mused, tapping his lips thoughtfully then closed his eyes and sighed.
“Dr. Banner?” Selvig asked after a moment, prodding him to hear if there was something on his mind.
Bruce took off his glasses without opening his eyes, wanting to imagine it just for a moment. When he looked at the room again, the reality was harsh and unforgiving. “I wish he were here,” he said quietly, looking at the screens, then away, searching for something that wasn’t there.
“Who?” Hill asked, clearly confused.
Bruce knew he couldn’t say it. He wondered if he would have time to visit Malibu in the middle of all this, to strengthen his resolve to face this. Not that there was anywhere in the world he could run in order to escape this.
“Stark,” Fury finally offered the answer.
Bruce looked at him, facing the expression that revealed so very little, yet he saw his own thoughts reflecting back from the brown eye; if Tony were here, he might be able to crack this. Robotics had been his specialty. Weapons like this, an energy source, tracking it down, hacking it apart, finding that missing piece of data…
“We’ll just have to make do without him,” Selvig said gruffly, crossing his fingers under his jaw.
A knock came from the door and an Agent – Sitwell, Bruce recalled from some meeting – poked his head in. “Sir, the Chitauri have moved their attacks to areas with civilian population. The robots seem to be joining them. A branch of them is headed for New York City.”
“Alert the Army. Get our men ready,” Fury replied, then looked around the table at the remaining Avengers. “We need you. The world needs you.”
Steve nodded slowly, looking at the three of them in turn. “Let’s suit up.”
Clint didn’t protest; Natasha said nothing at all but was the first to get up. Bruce, who was already on his feet, exchanged a look with Steve and felt the other guy stir inside him, ready for revenge and payback.
He wondered if the Hulk would still feel that way by the time this was over, one way or another.
Benjamin Pollack turned to look and saw Claire running down the hall. His girlfriend appeared just as energetic as always, as if the world wasn’t falling to ruin around them.
“I’ve been looking for you,” Claire announced, reaching up to hug him tightly.
“I was in a meeting,” Benny explained.
“With the Avengers?” Claire asked, eyes shining a bit.
“They were there.”
“That’s so awesome,” she grinned, then slid her fingers through his hair. Benny tried not to look as bashful as he felt. “Come on, admit it: it’s awesome. They’re superheroes and you get to go to meetings with them!” Claire enthused.
“With a bunch of other people,” Benny shrugged.
“Do they know your name?”
“Yeah,” he admitted.
“Then you’re way ahead of most of the Agent-what’s-his-names!” Claire reached up and kissed him deeply, as if it were a reward. “I told you this would turn out great. You’re so smart and they need you here.”
Benny felt like pointing out how things hadn’t really gone all that well for them after finding the alien weapon and getting it to work – which almost landed them in jail or got them killed, whichever you chose to believe. Then again, he had just sat in a meeting with the Avengers, got to work on defending the world from another alien invasion… which reminded him of how close they actually were to being taken over by said invasion.
He pulled Claire closer, cheer disappearing from his mind.
Claire noticed the change. “Benny? What’s wrong?”
He wondered how much she knew, but then, any working news station was blasting their broadcasts with horrible images so even if she hadn’t been officially notified of the situation – although he doubted anyone at S.H.I.E.L.D. was unaware of the disaster unfolding before their eyes – she would have seen it on TV. “I’m worried this won’t end well,” he admitted.
Her smile fell somewhat and she held him closer, too. “It will be okay, Benny.”
Maybe she said it to cheer him up, to give him faith, yet he didn’t see right now how it would end in any way but badly. Even if the aliens up and left right now, there were thousands of people, if not millions and more, affected by the nuclear disasters.
“Miss Wise,” a man called from the other end of the hallway. Benny looked up, recognizing Agent Blake. The man seemed to be in a hurry, but who wasn’t these days?
“Yeah, right,” Claire cleared her throat then looked up at Benny. “We’re going out with another Helicarrier. That thing’s awesome, I’ve been told, and I’ll hear from you soon, right?” She smiled brightly then pulled him into another kiss. “Go save the world – if I don’t beat you to it,” she grinned and then left. Perhaps she knew what was at stake and would rather not mention it. Well, Helicarriers were pretty safe, having the best cloaking devices in the world, so Benny decided not to worry about it. They wouldn’t drag her into a war zone, assistant or no.
“Pollack,” a voice called from behind him and Sitwell appeared there. “She’ll be safe,” the agent went on.
“I know,” Benny replied.
“No, you don’t know that,” the agent corrected him. “You need to focus right now. I’m going with Claire and Agent Blake, and I promise you I’ll do all I can to keep her from harm, should the worst happen.”
Benny frowned. The worst? What was he talking about? “Okay,” he replied hesitantly.
Sitwell placed a hand on his shoulder. “A lot is riding on you, I realize that. You’ve brought us far but we still ask a lot of you. Help us defeat those alien bastards.”
“Yes, sir,” Benny tried standing a little taller, a little more confident.
Sitwell nodded, pep-talk over, and strode down the hall to follow Claire and Agent Blake.
Benny suddenly got a funny feeling he might never see them again but pushed that to the far reaches of his mind and headed down to his lab to run a few more tests with Dr. Banner’s calculations. The guy was smart, frighteningly so, and he wondered if that intellect wasn’t wasted on him turning into the Hulk. Then again, the rage monster was their failsafe against any enemy so he guessed they would have to take the bad with the good.
The first city battles were brutal, not just in New York City but everywhere around the world.
While the Chitauri were not a new enemy their weapons had slightly changed over the gap of a few years. It was nothing their scientists couldn’t handle in a short amount of time they were given to respond, but coordinating defense and attacks in multiple countries, under various chains of command, was nigh on impossible. Some people in command were arrogant and wanted to test their own theories instead of accepting information and orders from someone else. Nations stood divided when it mattered most, holding onto their independent decision-making.
Most of the fights ended worse then the few small bursts of success. As humanity was lacking a world-wide response, their enemy had the upper hand – and that was before the mecha arrived in the cities; the force that had torn apart factories and brought down entire buildings, unaffected by the chaos and screams of terror.
The evacuations weren’t fast enough.
Their responses were ineffective.
While they concentrated their efforts on one mecha, the Chitauri were free to wreak havoc elsewhere, which in turn made them divide their forces too thin.
The loss of human life from the first few days could not be calculated at the time.
The armor wasn’t made for running, Rhodey realized, storming across the hallway after smashing in through a window of Pepper’s office at Stark International headquarters in California. He had tried calling her before the phones went dead. The communications with the Air Force were going all glitchy on him as well, separating him from the base. If the plans were still in effect, the fighters would be engaging the advancing enemy while the Army pulled as many of its forces from the evacuations as they dared.
Los Angeles had been hit just an hour ago and it didn’t look good.
“Pepper!” he called out, popping open the faceplate.
Rhodey kept moving down the hall, scanning rooms with his eyes. Every once in a while a person would poke their head out of an office and stare at him. Hadn’t they gotten used to Iron Man being their boss? War Machine’s armor wasn’t that different and he sure as hell couldn’t afford the time to explain his hasty entrance. He simply told whomever he encountered to leave, to take their family and get out of the city right now.
“Happy!” he finally shouted, seeing a familiar shape. The man was just getting out of the elevator and Pepper followed him, looking a bit flustered. “Pepper, we need to leave right now. Happy, take her to the car and drive. I’ll cover for you.”
The bodyguard was already moving, grabbing Pepper’s arm, but the woman resisted.
“What’s going on, Rhodey?” she asked.
“They’re coming, the aliens. They bombed and attacked L.A. just a moment ago and are moving north along the coast.”
“No one’s said anything –”
“The communications are down,” Rhodey snapped, stepping forward, grasping her other arm. “Damn it, Pepper! We need to go.”
“You should be out fighting,” she said, voice quieter. As if those were words she had only ever said to someone else. She had. Well, maybe she had prepared herself to say them to Tony, one day, if he ever fell behind on the action.
“I will be, but when I realized I couldn’t call you I had to come,” Rhodey told her, pushing her towards the elevator. “Sound the alarm when you’re down. Get out of the city. Take the small roads if you can; the big ones will be crowded after the people realize what’s going on.”
“Aren’t they going to evacuate?” Happy frowned, holding the elevator door open.
“They are trying to block the attack at Santa Monica. Seeing how much success we’ve had with every other attack, I’m not going to put too much stock in that,” Rhodey admitted. He hated how they hadn’t stood a chance, even the Avengers; the enemy was spreading them too thin and attacking too fast for anyone to properly mobilize. They needed more time to respond but if they did that, thousands of lives would be lost.
Happy finally pulled Pepper into the elevator and once it stopped at the garage floor, Rhodey walked back out to the window he had broken, then smashed a fire alarm on the way out. As he lowered the faceplate and looked out, he could see smoke in the distance.
It was too close.
They were coming in too fast.
He stepped off the ledge and fired the repulsors, shooting up into the air, circling the building until he saw Pepper’s car speeding away. As if on cue, the city-wide sirens begun to wail, causing immediate chaos on the streets.
Rhodey knew he had already been selfish coming here, but had it been Tony…
Three fighters passed above him and he moved to join them, moving south, towards the smoke pillars. The fighters fired missiles at something and Rhodey kept tracking them all the way, seeing a shape move on the ground along the Pacific Coast Highway.
He squared his jaw. A mecha. He had been briefed about them, seen footage, but hadn’t seen one in real life until now. “Time to see what your little robot insides are made of,” he said and dove lower. The traffic was jammed, people abandoning their cars and running for safety. The army was nowhere to be seen. The radio was still silent – something he hadn’t known to happen in prior attacks around the globe.
Rhodey looked around but didn’t see Chitauri anywhere. Maybe they had stayed in L.A. Where was the mecha headed, then?
“Let’s go and ask it,” he mused, not expecting the suit to respond, of course, but it felt like he wasn’t alone when he was wearing it. Maybe that’s how Tony felt – although he’d always had J.A.R.V.I.S. for company.
He prepared the weapons and dove lower, waiting until he was in range and then let the robot have it. Rhodey couldn’t really say he was surprised when even the ammo of the biggest caliber didn’t slow it down, merely bouncing off the smooth surface. With an annoyed huff he stopped, hovering in the air, then decided to try something else; he aimed his hands at it and fired the repulsors, the beams hitting the thing square in the chest. He had heard how unfortunate others had been when trying to fire at a mecha with energy-based weapons but he didn’t see any of that. Instead the rays seemed to grow more focused, making the robot’s surface gleam and glow with a charge, creating ripples of sorts.
Clearly he was making some kind of impact because the mecha stopped, regarding him – then a long blade-looking thing slid out from its forearm.
“Shit,” Rhodey swore and started moving, the blade swinging through the air, ready to cut him in half if it hit him. He dodged, flying closer, sliding between the giant legs, shooting the robot a few more times before coming up behind it. The mecha followed, swinging again, fast and agile. Its back panels seemed to shift and it sprouted a tail, almost whipping Rhodey to the ground as it came at him rather unexpectedly.
He dodged and attacked for a moment until there was a sort of a mechanical roar and Rhodey looked around long enough to see another mecha approaching. This one was coming from the north which made his heart sink a little.
“War Machine?!” his radio suddenly burst into life, almost giving him a heart attack. “We’re sending you coordinates to a S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier; Director Fury wants a word with you.” That was an indication this contact was coming from S.H.I.E.L.D., not the Air Force.
“I’m a little busy here,” Rhodey noted, firing at the oncoming mecha, then was slammed down as the first one struck him from above. He crashed into the road, picking himself up as fast as he could, stumbling to the side as his suit tried to catch up with the impact. The sword-like weapon struck hard into where he had just been, embedding itself deeply into the asphalt.
“We have sent a team to extract Ms. Potts and Mr. Hogan and to bring them safely to the Helicarrier. We need you to come in,” the voice on the radio insisted,
A huge explosion skirted his vision as he rose into the air again to dodge any further attacks. Flames rose high in the direction of Los Angeles and he had a sinking feeling he couldn’t do much else here. “Fine,” he grunted then weaved past the two mecha, giving them a couple parting shots before flying higher.
The last time he turned to look towards Malibu, he saw a huge spaceship hovering near the shore. It was unlike any he had seen before, bigger and different in design. Currently it just seemed to be sitting still in the air – waiting for what, he couldn’t tell.
He doubted it would be anything they’d like.
The coordinates came in and he turned to follow them, focusing on that, seeing as he had a bit of a flight ahead of him and he didn’t want any of the enemies following his trail. He wondered what Fury wanted with him – other than maybe to try to fill Tony’s shoes.
Claire Wise watched the screens in silence. It was unlike her to be so still, so focused – so concerned.
The attacks were spreading from one city to another – from one continent to another.
Somewhere out there Benny was working to counter the strange armed space-lizards called the Chitauri. He had been smart enough to get their weapon to work in the first place, before anyone else. He was important right now, helping real heroes to save the world.
Her optimism was beginning to crack. They hadn’t won yet, people kept dying, and as easy as it may have been to pretend nothing horrible was going on while they flew among the clouds… It was happening, and it was very real.
The Helicarrier, after the first few hours of amazement, was beginning to feel like a cage. No ships were coming in or out. They were floating hidden in the sky, receiving messages and data, monitoring and forwarding information. She hadn’t actually seen or talked to Benny since they parted ways in a S.H.I.E.L.D. base. She was confident he was safe, though, because he was important.
That didn’t mean everyone else was.
“West Coast is being hit hard. We’ve lost communications with everything between Costa Mesa and Santa Barbara in California,” an agent announced from one of the stations.
There was a collective silence for about three seconds, everyone paying their respects for those who had died, but whom no one mentioned anymore. There were just too many. They wouldn’t have time to talk if they mourned all of them.
“Houston’s gone,” Agent Blake announced after a moment. “They tried to stop one of the mecha with a nuclear missile. The energy seemed to rebound and destroyed everything around it. No survivors within a fifty mile radius and that goddamn robot is still moving.”
“Did they at least dent it?” Agent Sitwell asked, walking into the room, files in hand.
“Not that the satellites can detect, no,” Agent Blake grunted.
Sitwell nodded. “Log that. Someone needs to find a way to get past that protective surface.” He glanced at the screens, several feeds from satellites showing progress of both the enemy and their allies.
Claire looked at them as well, knowing she wouldn’t recognize the places and maybe it was better that way; less personal. A little less real.
But it was real and had to be dealt with.
“If you were invading a planet,” she mused out loud, biting her thumb thoughtfully, “wouldn’t you first make sure your enemy wouldn’t be able to track your movements? These are aliens, with spaceships, yet they haven’t shot down or disabled our satellites or communications, other than when destroying our power supplies and being on a rampage.”
Agent Blake gave her an annoyed look but before he could comment, Agent Sitwell raised his hand. “Why would they do that?” he seemed to agree. “They have paralyzed us on many fronts, but they’ve left our best communication and observation channels untouched.”
“You think someone hasn’t looked into that?” Agent Blake frowned. “Maybe we’ve just kept them busy.” He didn’t seem to believe it himself, though, and Claire kept looking at the images for a bit longer until another agent approached her.
“Ms. Wise, there’s a call for you.”
“From whom?” she asked in surprise.
“Benjamin Pollack from R&D.”
“Don’t take too long,” Agent Blake told her and turned back to his screens.
She went over to an empty chair at the side of the room, finding the correct button to connect the call. “Benny!”
“Hey, Claire,” Benny’s familiar voice greeted her. “Are you okay?”
“Yes,” she replied earnestly. “I was just thinking about you.”
“Yeah,” she grinned. “You’re safe?”
“Safe as I can be. Look, I can’t talk for long –”
“– but I wanted to hear your voice, and, uh, you know… make sure everything’s going well.”
He sounded so tired that Claire wanted to tell him to go to bed, but while the world was being torn to pieces there was no time to rest. “How are the Avengers doing? Have you seen them?” she asked instead, trying to make him think of something positive.
“They’re fighting. They refuse to think it’s a losing battle but so many people are… gone… Dr. Banner came down to our labs yesterday, to try work out some things, but they needed him back on the field before he got any real work started.”
While Banner’s identity as the Hulk may have been a secret before, this war had blown it wide open inside S.H.I.E.L.D. Everyone knew the man was their most valuable ally – in either form. He was the only one so far to make a dent in one of those robots and his brain might eventually find a solution to all their problems.
Problem was, Banner could only be in one place at a time, and that was either fighting beside the Avengers or in a lab spinning theories and conducting tests.
“I need to go,” Benny said suddenly. “There’s… so much I need to do, but not before I tell you I love you.”
Claire smiled although Benny couldn’t see it. “I love you, too.”
In their current situation such simple words shouldn’t have made her feel better, but they did. Perhaps the harsh reality simply hadn’t hit her yet, and she would be happily living in blissful ignorance until it did.
to be continued…