The dangers of cigarettes and Spam

May 07, 2016:

Lux and Captain America get to know each other a little bit better. And they fight.


NPCs: None.



Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Audrey is in some ways an infrequent visitor to the base where the Avengers operate. Where she goes when she isn't here, she doesn't really talk about. Then again, there's a lot she doesn't talk about. But despite the way she holds herself always at least a little bit apart, she does show up at irregular intervals, and when she does, she makes an effort to be a part of the team.

Today, that means she's training. It's clear from the way she moves that it's something she does regularly - elsewhere, no doubt - every movement solid and steady. And in sweatpants and a tank top rather than her usual concealing layers, it's easy to see that she's in much better shape than she ought to be if she's living on the streets.

There's a light grating sound as the old door, with wood warped from the freezing and thawing, freezing and thawing, and freezing and thawing of forty years, does its best to open. Perhaps that's where some of Ford Bennett's money should go, but so far Steve Rogers has been apprehensive to spend any of it.

Speaking of Rogers, it's he who enters through the door. The sunlight from outside lights up his hair in a brilliant shade of white, but he quickly walks into shadow with a duffel bag slung over his shoulder. He wears some track pants and a t-shirt.

"Didn't think there'd be anyone here," he says as he sees Lux is using the space. He'd hoped to work the bag a bit so there's still plenty of room for him. He comes here not only for the workout but also when it's time to think. A lot of lines are in a lot of fires at the moment. Perhaps he should feel lucky he made it back from Wakanda in one piece. But for some reason, he just can't. In the end they failed, on a few different levels.

To say nothing of Baron Zemo. Progress in finding the terrorist has come up completely empty.

"You were almost right." Audrey may not have super strength, but she's had plenty of training in her life, from many of the best. And she's been working up a sweat, battering at the bag herself. "Not sure where any of the others are right now, but I thought I'd stop in and see if anyone wanted to have a go." She steps back from the bag, rubbing absently at her knuckles as she looks him over. "You look…tired."

"Yeah," Steve says as he leans down to lift the bag before he reaches up to hang it on the hook. His eyes stay there for a moment as he responds almost under his breath, but loud enough for her to hear. "It's a metaphor."

He looks first, over his shoulder and then turns and takes a few paces towards her. "Have a go?" he says, with a sly grin coming across his face and an eyebrow raising slightly. "My mom always told me never to hit women." Nevertheless, he does walk onto the mat.

"That's because your mom was a decent person. Who was probably born in the 1800s," Audrey points out, a faint smile flickering across her features. Wait a minute. Did Audrey just make a joke? With no other witnesses around. No one will ever believe it.

But as soon as Steve steps onto the mat, her posture has shifted, angling her body and shifting her weight to the balls of her feet. "You went through basic before you had the serum, right? They give you more training after, or was it on the job by then?"

"You know, I'm so old I don't really remember," Steve says, his grin growing. "I did, I went through basic beforehand. At the time we knew the program had the go ahead. In those days there wasn't a lot of time for training after that. Men were dying." Despite Audrey's shift in posture, Steve doesn't seem to be making any similar movements. He just sort of stands there. Perhaps he's baiting her, perhaps he isn't.

"Think they've added a few things," Audrey notes with another flicker of a smile, still watching him. She's always watching, watching everyone, but here on the mats it's clear why. She watches him the same way here as she watches people on the street. Expecting an attack.

Her smile fades, though, at another thought. "I mean. Aside from the recruiting kids, and the smart bombs, and the rest of the war is hell stuff." Rather than dwell on that, though, she moves quickly, darting in close with a jab at his ribs.

"They have and it's be—" Steve is cut off as Audrey moves in for a strike. He's superhumanly quick and as her first comes aimed at his side his hand comes down hard upon the top of it, using her rotator cuff to arc the strike down and away from them both.

"Been interesting to see what they've done from a military perspective. MREs have come a long way, for one. And they no longer pack every soldier's bag with a pack of Lucky Strikes."

"Yeah," Audrey agrees, not even pausing as her first strike is pushed aside. "They found out smoking's bad for you. The lighters got big, though." Another strike from her other hand, a knee, and she's already trying to duck around him for another strike. It's a different style from what he learned. And though she doesn't know it, it's not entirely standard military training either. Close quarters combat, krav maga. Every part of it, though, is brutal.

Cap imagines the first strike is a dummy and dodges while waiting for the second. As the knee comes, he blocks it with his palm. It's the third strike he's not ready for, figuring she'd work into it. And as it comes in, Audrey will strike him pretty well. But even as she does she'll notices that where she hits is extremely dense muscle and that it has little effect other than to knock him backwards.

"They say Spam is bad for you too," he says idly. "I really hope not."

"Yeah, the sodium interacts poorly with super-soldier serum. True story, stuff'll give you a heart attack." In a real fight, Audrey would escalate. Or else she'd disappear. Those are her usual paths. But shooting Steve during practice is really bad form, and disappearing would sort of defeat the purpose of sparring practice. Winning, it seems, isn't her main goal.

Solid muscle just isn't the best target. Joints, on the other hand, have a little more leeway. The next flurry of strikes goes for knees and elbows, still controlled.

"Live free or die in a nutritional cage, I always say." Pause. "Okay, I've never actually said that."

Finally, Steve reacts in earnest. As the first strike comes for his knee, where it would otherwise connect, the knee and Steve himself are gone. Instead, he is airborne, bringing a roundhouse kick down towards the back of the neck in hopes of using her own momentum to throw her upon the floor.

There it is. When the kick comes, Audrey doesn't seem surprised. Nor does she react like she would to an attack from someone at the baseline human level. He jumps, and she's already hitting the mat, rolling forward to move out of the way and sweeping a leg low where she expects him to land.

The leg is swept but Steve dives into a somersault. He does a roll and a half upon the mat to give himself some distance before rising to his feet. "What about you, Lux? Out of all of our teammates, I probably know you the least. I kind of get the feeling you like it that way."

"I don't think I've ever actually eaten spam," Audrey offers as she pushes up. "I like art. A lot. Just wasn't really an elective in the program." Before she went in close. Now, she braces herself before taking a run at him, launching herself with a leap for his shoulders to try to bring him down with the momentum.

"You like art?" Steve says, tilting his head. "I like art. I mean, for a time I was an artis—" Steve doesn't move out of the way in time. She hits him with a lot of force, but his powerful legs sort of hold them both in place, standing their awkwardly as he grunts and tries to keep his balance. "I ….didn't…say I was…good."

With no give from Steve, Audrey doesn't stay there for long, twisting herself in a failed attempted to pull him down only to land behind him with a bark of laughter. "Yeah," she says, still watching as she considers her strategy. "I'm pretty good at it. When I've got the time, which is pretty much never. Perfect pitch, too. Although they were able to come up with a use for that. Helps remember tones if someone's putting in a number somewhere."

"How did you come to be who you are?" Steve asks as there's a slight lull in the fight. "Of course, it's not something you need to share if you don't want to."

"Depends on who I am." Audrey straightens, wiping the back of her hand across her brow. "I didn't know what my dad really did for most of my life. They told me it was like the program that made you. Dad was training the next generation of Captain America. Except when I was thirteen, one of the trainees got out, and went looking for Dad's family to make him pay for what had happened to him. He found me and mom, and my powers manifested. I blinded him and hid the two of us. When the unit got there and found out what happened, I went into the program."

"Question gets harder and harder to answer all the time," Steve says, obviously speaking to something different. "As does asking it."

"Did you find who did this to your family?" he asks, straightening up and raising an eyebrow.

"The unit found him. I didn't hear for a long time." Audrey's smile fades, demeanor more serious as some of that wariness slips away. "Problem with training kids for black ops and spy stuff. They start to put things together. By the time I was seventeen, I was starting to see it. My unit ran like military school, more or less. More powers. More combat training. More live experience. But mine wasn't the only one. Someone told me once they call them weapon plus programs. Not everyone chose to be there." Judging by her tone, that's an understatement.

"Dad thinks he's doing what he needs to. Training people. Putting their talents to use. Keeping them from using them for crime, or terrorism, or another country's agenda. He's wrong about how he's doing it, but that's not what he or the people he works with think." She steps back, half-pacing. "They all figured I'd formally enlist when I turned eighteen. So they let their guard down. And that's when I ran."

Steve folds his arms over his chest and looks past Audrey for a moment as the story she's telling him sinks in. "It's still active today…" he adds quietly. "How many were there?"

Audrey shakes her head. "I don't know," she answers honestly. "I know Dad traveled a lot. And I know they had a large enough sample size to give us a lot of classes on different types of powers, their sources, how they work, how to beat them. I know my unit was experimental. They weren't having success with adults. Too much willpower, too set in their ways. Too aware of what they could do. The idea was that kids…could be trained."

"Who does he work for?" Steve asks, trying to follow the money in his head to figure out what their purpose is. Big Company? Foreign service? Some sort of terrorist? "Do you ever get the desire to go back? Free the others?"

For a moment, at Steve's question, Audrey hesitates. As stoic as she usually is, there's a flicker of regret in her features for just a moment. "U.S. Army, Cap," she says quietly. "He's a Colonel. And yeah, sometimes. Ran into a couple of them when I was doing a mission with SHIELD not long ago. Trying to track down what we can."

The news takes him back a little bit, a little bit in shock. Maybe deep down he knew that, but he wasn't conscious of it until she makes it plain for him. "I…."

"You are not responsible for it," Audrey interjects quietly. "The army tried for years before they got you. They kept trying after, with varying levels of success. The X-gene, the increase in mutants? That's just been fodder for them. Powers they don't have to create. They just pop up on their own." A beat. "Or under the right sort of stress."

"Yeah," Steve says, but he's not really there. "I have a couple of calls to make. If you are still here when I get back, maybe we could pick up where we left off."

Audrey eyes him for a long moment, silently calling his bluff, but she doesn't speak on it. Instead, she just nods, stepping back. "Sure," she agrees. "My fists were getting tired anyhow." Another faint flicker of a smile, and she heads for the bench and her water bottle.

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