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).
Bruce stared intently at the slowly rotating holographic image of a mecha. It flickered every now and then, the power output not as balanced as what the machine required but as long as it maintained the image, Bruce was going to keep it there. Compiled data sat on screens around him, on printed and handwritten notes on the desk and none of it took him to that comfortable zone where he knew he was in control.
Far from it.
“Anything new?” Fury asked, walking in.
Benjamin Pollack raised his head in alarm at his sudden appearance and the other Avengers present directed their attention at the man. Rhodey, Pepper and Happy were still at the Stark Tower, although they should be on their way back by now. Thor and his Asgardian allies had volunteered to protected them should something to wrong and Erik Selvig had tagged along to take some readings from the Manhattan area.
“Nothing definitive,” Bruce replied to Fury’s question. “I’ve been working on profiling the mecha and might have noticed a few things we’ve been ignoring or dismissing previously. Of course we’ve gained more information during the latest confrontations and know more about them than we used to.”
“They’re machines,” Clint shot from the side, brow furrowed as he was working on adjusting his bow. “They don’t have a character to profile.”
“That’s not entirely true,” Bruce pointed out and gained the archer’s undivided attention. Before, we’ve gathered that they are resilient, we’ve only begun to skirt their limitations and they are incredible adaptable to most attacks we design against them. What we haven’t really bothered to observe before is that they are sentient. It’s not just incredible programming but they’re actually learning and cleverly use the knowledge they’ve gained.”
“So basically they have a mind of their own?” Steve clarified.
“Yes,” Bruce nodded. “With the possibility of advanced mechanics from another world…”
“We haven’t actually gotten a look at their mechanics yet,” Benjamin argued. “Could be they’re not that advanced at all, but we can’t pierce through the surface to be sure about that.”
“Entirely possible,” Bruce admitted, looking at the holograph again. “However, I think that between their own sentient minds, they also have a hive mind of sorts; one reason we haven’t recovered even a single piece of them is because they protect each other and take away their injured. Seeing as we’re at a disadvantage as long as we don’t understand them, that is incredibly ingenious.”
“So they have each other’s backs. Nice,” Clint grunted, disappointed. “Is there anything in there we can exploit?”
Before Bruce could give him good news, because there really wasn’t any, the door opened and Pepper led in a group of people who looked like they had just gone through a battlefield. Happy and Rhodey flanked her, followed by Sif who looked like she may have actually belonged to medical.
“What happened?” Fury asked.
“A mecha attacked them,” Rhodey volunteered to explain. “Dr. Selvig’s dead and Loki was apparently taken. Thor’s gravely injured as were his Asgardian friends.” He glanced at Sif to imply he included her in that list despite her standing there.
The warrior lady nodded. “We were unprepared to meet the giant machine, and could not protect Erik Selvig.”
A hush took over the room, then a roar rose from the hallway and Thor burst in, half-dressed, blood all over his chest and side, his hair wild. “We must go after Loki!”
“Hold on,” Steve rose and went over to him, steadying the wounded man. “What happened?”
Thor’s eyes sought the room wildly then rested on the mecha’s holographic image. “There was something else,” he pointed at it. “A smaller one. It stabbed me then ran like a coward, taking my brother with it.”
“Thor, you must calm down,” Sif insisted. “You were almost crushed beneath the mecha, you must return to the healers.”
“A small one? What do you mean?” Bruce asked before anyone could try to take Thor anywhere.
“Human sized, tiny compared to the monstrous machine it emerged from,” Thor described, trying to wrench himself free but both Steve and Sif were holding tightly onto him. “We must go after them. Erik Selvig is dead and they have my brother.”
“We brought back the body,” Rhodey said quietly.
“Did you find what you were looking for at the Tower?” Natasha asked, voice unaffected by all of this but that didn’t mean she didn’t feel saddened at the loss or perplexed by the discovery of a new type of mecha.
“No,” Rhodey replied.
“We found something else,” Pepper cut him off before he could say anything else, or before anyone else could speak.
“Something else?” Bruce frowned.
“We’re not even sure what it was,” Rhodey turned to talk to Pepper.
“You saw it – you heard him!” Pepper insisted then turned back to the room at large. “We heard J.A.R.V.I.S.”
A different kind of silence filled the room.
“Who’s J.A.R.V.I.S.?” Benjamin asked.
“Is that strange?” Clint frowned. “You were at Tony’s workshop, right?”
“J.A.R.V.I.S. shut down just weeks after Tony died,” Happy spoke up. “He hasn’t been active since then, in any shape or form. Also, the entire Tower was without power but something in that room had to be working in order for us to see and hear what we did.”
“What did he say?” Bruce asked, amazed that no one else had done it by now.
“He said that a data transfer was completed,” Rhodey recalled.
“Could it be a burst from when he was still around? A late discharge of energy?” Natasha guessed.
“J.A.R.V.I.S. was the most intelligent AI on the planet,” Pepper replied. “If he shut himself down, he would remain shut down. If he powered back up again…” She seemed thoughtful, hopeful almost. Happy stepped closer to her and placed an arm around her in silent support.
“Whatever it means,” Rhodey went on, “we didn’t find an arc reactor lying around. Hearing the voice – whatever it was – got me thinking, though; there is one place we might find an arc reactor for War Machine. Malibu.”
Banner saw Fury shift his stance, considering this. “We’ve received intel from California ever since you left there. It’s been completely controlled by the Chitauri since their first attack.” He turned towards a nearest screen and brought up an image. “However, if you’re determined to go there, this is something I want to know more about.” In the picture a space ship hovered over the ocean, near the coast. It was large and slightly different in design from the other Chitauri ships they had seen.
“I saw that the day you pulled me out,” Rhodey frowned. “It was parked at that same spot. What is it?”
“We don’t know, but images suggest mecha activity on that area is higher than anywhere else,” Fury said.
“Why haven’t we heard of this before?” Steve asked.
“Because I wasn’t going to send you to a mecha hotspot when we had no idea how to fight them,” Fury snapped.
“We don’t know how to fight them now,” Clint observed, studying the image.
“It could be a repair ship,” Benjamin suggested.
“True,” Bruce agreed. “If the mecha are keeping it safe, it’s important somehow. They’re safeguarding the area to keep their nest safe, should you want to call it that.”
“We should take a closer look at it,” Clint agreed.
“What about Loki?” Thor thundered. He looked ready to collapse and was leaning heavily on Steve.
“If the Chitauri have him, he could be anywhere,” Fury retorted. “We can’t help him.”
Thor growled, stepping forward towards the Director, almost collapsing. Sif and Steve held him from falling and eventually dragged him out of the room. Thor was still protesting and swearing vengeance.
“So, we’re going to Malibu,” Bruce finally sighed. “Do we know if Tony’s home is still standing?”
“We haven’t gotten images from that area since we lost California,” Fury told him.
“What?” Rhodey exclaimed. “You just showed us a picture of the ship.”
“That place is a gray zone, centered around Malibu area. Our satellites get nothing but static there and that picture of the ship is one of the rare ones we’ve gathered from the area,” Fury explained.
“They’re hiding something,” Natasha commented needlessly. “There’s something they don’t want us to see.”
“Might be just the ship; the gray area covers that as well. Or maybe it’s something else,” Fury observed. “I trust you’ll bring me answers as to why our satellites can’t see what’s in there.”
“Either they’re throwing interference at us,” Benjamin mused, “or our satellites have been compromised from day one.”
Bruce didn’t want to say it, but he suspected it might be the latter. It would explain how the Chitauri attacked the Helicarriers in the end, at the moment of their own choosing. It would explain a lot of things indeed.
Sif and the Warriors Three were all mending. Earth’s healing practices were different from Asgardian methods but they helped.
No remedies eased the ache in Thor’s chest and he looked once again at Jane, curled up in a chair by his bed, and Darcy who was doing to same in hers. They had already heard of Erik Selvig’s fate when they arrived and they had both cried. Thor had shed tears as well, thinking of how unworthy an ending it had been to such a man.
Anger bubbled inside him, at his own weakness and arrogance. He had presumed to defeat the enemy and left his friends vulnerable. A price had been paid and he would carry it with him always.
Thor’s thoughts turned to Loki. His brother had been alive when the small mecha took him, dragging him away. To the Chitauri, no doubt, and to an end Loki had feared ever since his defeat. Thor had wanted to keep him safe while allowing his brother to redeem himself, yet now both chances were lost if he couldn’t find him in time.
“Hey,” Steve’s voice called from the door and Thor watched Captain and Bruce step in. “Feeling better?” their leader went on, voice low to not disturb the resting women.
Thor nodded. “Is there a plan?”
“We are going to Malibu,” Steve replied. “It’s a long way and we must proceed with caution. We don’t know what awaits us but many mecha had been detected in the area. That’s something everyone agrees on, regardless of the source of information.”
Thor nodded again. “I will join you, of course,” he promised then thought back to his most recent meeting. “I do not fully understand how the mecha function, but it seemed as if the small one may have controlled the giant – and my brother was dropped at the small one’s feet like a prize or an offering.”
Bruce looked thoughtful. “That’s… interesting. I wish we had more data, but perhaps there is, after all, another consciousness at work, controlling the mecha. Or perhaps the two are both sentient and simply communicate with each other.” He reached for his glasses and observed them intently. “We may find out more if we get to Malibu.”
“We will,” Steve reassured him then looked at Thor. “Rest. We need to prepare and I need you with us, Thor.”
“You will have me,” Thor promised.
The two men left and Jane stirred a moment later, belatedly. “Was someone here?” she mused.
“Captain and Banner,” Thor replied, smiling at her sadly.
“What did they want?” Darcy asked, awake as well. Both of them had gained strange sleeping habits while traveling to them. Jane had said sleeping on the road had been dangerous and Thor felt regret whenever he thought they had been left alone like that, to fend for themselves. They had survived, however, every bit as clever and strong as he knew they could be.
“We are going to Malibu, to seek for answers and perhaps find a new power source for War Machine,” Thor recalled.
Jane nodded. “I’ll come with you.”
Thor thought to deny her, but after almost losing her and having lost Erik Selvig… “I will keep you safe,” he promised. She smiled at him.
Darcy bit her lip, looking uncertain and almost ashamed. “You don’t have to come,” Jane told her. “We understand if you would rather stay here.”
“I don’t want to look like a coward,” Darcy bit out, a look of conflict on her face.
“No one will think you a coward, and someone needs to remain here and keep the fight going,” Jane reassured her. Thor couldn’t have felt prouder of her.
Darcy smiled weakly and nodded. “Just promise to come back.”
“I promise,” Thor said – and he did. No power in the world would take Jane from her, and they had lost too many good people in this war already. It was time to find the means to end it.
to be continued…