T.N.T.

August 30, 2018:

The Avengers +1 go to a visit to the Alps to a lovely ski resort! And blow it up.

Ski Resort in the Alps

Characters

NPCs: So Many Hydra Agents

Mentions: Constantine

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Hydra.

The name of that old foe boils the blood of some Avengers. Puts ice in the veins of others. No one really /likes/ them. They aren't really a likeable bunch. Unless you are into their specific brand of world domination.

On one of Stark's personally modified jets, streaking along at speeds that even missiles and speedsters would be hard pressed to keep up, the little team Stark put together for this outing is gathered in…actually pretty comfortable conditions. I mean this is how he gets around, its got style and comfort. Holoscreens at every chair. The chairs swivel and are padded. Climate controlled of course. Even with the top of the line soundproofing though the scream of the engines is audible but not quite defining.

And of course. Full weapons rack and tactical planning holotable.

He is like John Hammond. He spares no expense.

Stark /is/ suited up, even if his faceplate is up as he waves a hand over the holotable to bring up a picture of a beautiful modern style ski resort. Massive glass windows. Pristine slopes dotted with picturesque ski lifts. It's a beautiful sight really. It should be packed…but it is 'closed for remodeling'.

It has been like that for months.

The glowing image on the table rotates so people can see before expanding outward to give a better view of the mountain.

"So," A beatpause. "Told SHIELD and they should be keeping the locals back. So we won't have to worry about that too much. I'm reading entrences to an underground complex here…here…and…here." And three positions light up on the mountain side. Two large on the flanks of the mountain and one right under the resort itself.

"I'm guessing one of these is going to be for air support. I can deal with that. Who else wants what?"

*

"I shall stay in the air, sir!" The surgery sweet voice of SIRIN kicks in before dropping to its more murderous tone. "And turn anything that tries to scratch my paint into scrap."

Stark? Entirely unbothered by his bipolar AI. "You do that."

*

Caitlin Fairchild was ready to go. A slingpack of a few essentials is over her shoulder; some odds and ends in her gearbelt and the small boxes strapped to her thigh. Wearing her green leotard and heavy combat boots and gloves, she'd volunteered to ride shotgun as a backup co-pilot. SIRIN (who Caitlin is getting more and more familiar with) is perfectly capable of navigating, of course, so really it becomes an exercise in learning the ropes with the world's biggest safety net.

She touches some silvered metal near her left eye; it looks almost cybernetic, and she checks a readout before nodding at Tony. "I can take the AA position," she says, confidently. "I doubt they could shoot me down if they wanted to. A little flak isn't going to give me any trouble. Thanks for the ride, SIRIN!" she tells the AI, patting the hull.

Yes, Caitlin anthropomorphizes things a little. She touches her minimalist headset. "SIRIN, switching to autonomous mode," she mutters, and she heads to the side-hatch, prepared to open it once ready. "Just get me nearby and give me the green light; might as well hit them with some extra speed on my side," she tells Tony, sounding more confident than she feels.

*

GUEST CHARACTER UNLOCKED: RACHEL SUMMERS, THE MARVEL GIRL

She actually introduced herself as Rachel, so maybe she prefers that. You may have seen her on the internet and/or television, doing hero things in the UK while on fire. Someone has to watch the other side of the pond.

Fortunately there's no fire right now, though she seems to have retained her general superheroic aesthetic of spiky bodysuits. She stands near the holo-table with her arms crossed, watching Iron Man outline the iron plan. The chairs are too weirdly plush for her current state of mind.

"I'll go where you need me since I'm the unknown here," says Rachel, successfully resisting the urge to say 'x-factor' instead. She lifts her gaze to look across the table at Stark. "You know what I can handle. You want a psi-link, or are your communicators enough?"

It may look like Rachel is silent because she's waiting for an answer, but really she's having a cringe flashback about Agent Carter having zero idea how to not spew internal monologue over a telepathic connection. It gets awkward sometimes outside of mutant-heavy teams.

*

"Would you believe this is not their first exclusive ski lodge secret base?" Bucky Barnes, formerly (currently? it's complicated) THE WINTER SOLDIER, ruminates. "Hydra really likes to roll in comfort when they can."

There is a grim, brief silence. "Not that I saw much of that."

Fully kitted out for a mission he's told can finally 'not be subtle at all,' James Barnes is doing a last check on a new toy, a McMillan Tac-50 which he just had to have after reading that it's set three of the five records for longest recorded confirmed sniper kills. The weapon is taller than some women are, and it's probably guaranteed he won't actually get to use it that much — though if anyone could find a way to fire .50 BMG from the hip it would be the Winter Soldier — but a man can hope. A man can dream.

A man, after closing the bolt, sighs and puts the weapon back in the magical Stuff app on his phone. Bless Zatanna Zatara.

He slants a sharp weather eye at the briefing holo-display when Tony pulls it up. "I can go in the underground route," he says. "Hydra builds pretty on top, but underneath they're typically utilitarian. Similar designs between most of their bases. Helps keep some sense of standardization in the group when most people probably don't even know who their compatriots really are."

He does tense up when Rachel talks about a psi-link. "I'll pass on that if it's not necessary," he says, trying to Keep It Casual.

*

Billy Kaplan by no means comes from a poor home. His parents do very well for themselves and his family has always lived comfortably, in a house, that they own, in New York City. In Manhattan.

This is still the nicest plane ride he has ever been on, ever, by margins so wide even he with his obsessively nerdy brain couldn't begin to calculate them.

And this is even factoring in the fact that they are potentially flying towards certain death.

One day, Billy Kaplan needs to have a long and beleaguered talk about living in excess and the kind of standards it sets with one of his greatest heroes — and believe him, he will. For now, though —

"Oh wow, are those the latest model of StarkTech holoprojectors??"

— he's a bit too busy nerding out. Whoops.

All this is to say Wiccan, dressed in that flowingly-cosmic costume, is currently settled in the back of the jet, fiddling with the holoscreen at his chair — lovingly and excruciatingly accurately recreating the Battle of the Pelennor Fields in miniature as they make their way into the heart of enemy territory. He knows he could probably do something like this himself without holograms, and probably so lifelike he'd have an existential complex over it, but that's not really the point. This is a convenient distraction. A way to help him focus before the big leagues. Before HYDRA. There's a very real and present danger here, but also something about being part of an Avengers mission to face their greatest enemies that makes a tiny part of him excited. The rest of him? Incredibly nervous. Because he's thinking of all the ways this can go wrong. That he can screw it up.

And so, the holograms.

… Plus, holoprojectors are just cool. Shut up.

It's only when Tony starts to speak that Billy finally looks up from his hard work and realizes he's just created a sprawling, miniaturized battlefield from the world's nerdiest piece of literature in front of all his peers and idols and also Bucky, the coolest guy on Earth. Seriously! Rachel Summers is on Wikipedia! Not even the Superhero Wiki, the actual Wikipedia! Slowly, Billy swallows. He rubs the back of his head.

And he very quickly tables (not deletes, he's not going to commit SACRILEGE) his intensive work in progress to focus on Tony's own presentation.

His jaw sets. He steels himself. As best he can, anyway.

"I — I can handle whatever you need, Tony," he offers, trying his very best to sound confident, and not uncertain.

I can do this, is his mantra. In practicing his powers, he's found if you say a thing enough times… eventually, it just becomes true.

*

Caitlin Fairchild says, "https://goo.gl/Kjx2AV"

*

Nathaniel has been quiet most of the trip, seated in the middle of the plane and wearing his armor. He has quite a bit to catch-up to do. On this Killian person and his company, and whatever SHIELD allows him to know about Hydra's revent operation on Central Europe.

Nice plane, Tony. Why aren't they using the Avenger One? Okay, it has no weaponry. But still. Avengers do not kill. That is his personal mantra. Killing comes too easy to him.

Finally he pulls off his helmet and looks at the rest of the crew. Rachel he knows some. Billy he definitely know, but he is not sure the other way around is true, damn reality warpers mucking up with the timeline. They should leave that to professional time travelers or something. "What is the goal, Mr. Stark. This Extremis technology is… ah, the kind of thing that should not exist. Not yet."

*

Rachel glances over to the Winter Soldier, furrowing her brow as he definitely Keeps It Casual.

"Oh, yeah," she says. "You probably have some…"

She gestures at the side of her head.

"Things." Her tone softens as she looks back to the table. "Same."

*

It's just the altitude, Jane keeps telling herself.

There's little other way to quantify the constant, low-level throb in her head, like some invisible pressure pushing at the backs of her eyes.

Just the altitude. Or the speed they're travelling. Or the fact they're on route to kick another hornets' nest — teeming with a mess her own hands personally programmed. Programmed, survived her, manifested its own raison d'etre, and began taking innocent hosts. Or the fact it's Hydra's blood money funding all this, and it can't just be a coincidence — never is, with them.

What comes as a surprise is the spot of blood that wets her black sleeve, which Jane quickly figures out is coming from her — a surprise, if fortunately mild, nosebleed. She quickly smears it away, annoyed, trying to shake off the rest of her low-level migraine.

At Bucky's side, she cuts far less an impressive sight — on the 'abjectly tiny' side, dressed in efficient, Tac Lite gear not so heavy enough to impede someone her size.

"We need to wipe it out," is all Jane says, her voice on the brittle side, dry and ashen. "Partially, their tech — it comes from me. When I wasn't myself. It's meant to be perpetually self-replicating, and —" she grimaces, "imbued with a magic that allows it to write to organic hosts. It was a dark magic. And they've developed it."
She similarly looks a little uneasy at talk of 'psi-links'. Expression alone is Jane's answer on that matter.

*

There is a smirk on Tony's face at Rachel's offer. "Though I like the way you handle things, Firebird. I'm gonna go with comlinks. The last telepath that put me in a psi-link…" Stark pauses a second. "…well I had to buy her a case of /really/ good wine to apologize for the migraine that caused." He taps the side of his head. "I can't really turn it off."

He nods though for a second. "Alright…" A pause. "…Buck, Big Red, Frodo…" This last was to Billy because Tony can't ever use actual names. "…in though the house. Big Red.." A glance up at Caitlin. "You wanna knock?" A smirk at that.

"I fly cover. Firebird might be best you go in the underground with the rest. You might have the best way to map the tunnels if they are a maze and we don't know what's down there till we get in. I always love that."

He steps away from the table though, towards the back of the plane as SIRIN slows down.

And they aren't in Avenger one because Tony's plane has seat warmers. And its /cold/ out at altitude.

Combat speeds reached, combat speeds that are considerably higher than most other things. "Oh its just advanced nano-tech really. They technically had it before now, can't blame Jane. They just twisted what they got their hands on even worse. As for what to do? I'm thinking break it, take it, lock it up. Then Jane and I can come up with an antigen to it."

A smirk as the faceplate closes. "But right now? We blow the hell out of Hydra." A pause. "God I love the simple things."

And he hits the ramp open, which /might/ ruin the stealth. Which might explain why there is a missile lock suddenly.

"See you all on the ground!" Stark calls cheerfully as he steps off into space.

*

"On it, boss," Caitlin agrees. She flashes a smile at the folks who are looking nervous, and moves up behind Tony. She grips the back of his armor with one hand and watches intently as the launch doors open. A few strands of red hair are whipped around by the howling winds, but the tight combat braid at the base of her neck keeps it mostly in check.

When Tony steps off, Caitlin pulls in tight for a few seconds so she's not throwing off his trim. Eying the distances, angles… she lets go at the right moment, and her flight becomes a ballistic arc. Caitlin keeps herself arrowed forward, arms to her side, and drops towards the ground with frightening velocity and no parachute! At the last possible second, she rotates in the air and spears her legs down in front of her, with a "WOOHOO!" that can be heard a fair distance away.

Followed immediately by crashing THROUGH the defilade barriers, and the AA gun AND the concrete floor beneath it, AND the girders holding up the entire platform. There's an explosion of dust, crashing of sound and thunder, and a lot of screams and panic.

"I'm in!" Caitlin says, coughing through a cloud of debris. She dusts herself off and taps her headset, waiting for SIRIN to come back online with a map of the facility.

*

And with that. The hornets nest is well and truly kicked.

The concealed AA gun is shattered ruble. The guards manning it having escaped just at the right time. However other weapon ports begin to open in the side of the mountain. Missile and tracer fire begins to reach up for the nimble little plane. On the ground figures can be seen, dressed in black armor and carrying various weapons as they converge on Caitlin's entry point, hidden in the dust that she kicked up.

They are likely not too much of a threat to her, but it /is/ Hydra. They are tricky.

SIRIN though swoops in low, at least giving others a chance to join her. Even as, true to Tony's guess, one of the larger openings in the mountain disgorges fighters painted in the familiar Hydra scheme.

At least they are /sort/ of low enough to get to the ground easily. At least easier. For poeple that can't fly. Or levitate. Or have armor. Or rocket flats. Or can reality warp…

…wow there are a lot of ways to get down from here.

*

When Billy looks up, it will be to find Bucky, Coolest Guy on Earth, staring square at him and his faithful reproduction of the Battle of Pelennor Fields.

"Tolkien?" he asks. "I read The Hobbit when it first came out. Hadn't known he ever wrote more until pretty recently. I gotta set aside time to read it."

And then he turns away again, focus back on the mission. On Rachel picking up his cue that psi-links might not really be his thing. "Yeah… I got some Things," he says, laconic as ever. "Heard you did too." To James, this seems to qualify as a full conversation.

Especially since he notices movement at his periphery. He glances over in time to catch Jane wiping blood, a frown crossing his features. He doesn't say it aloud, knowing Jane won't appreciate it, but his brows tilt in a familiar 'you good?' sort of way. The look covers both that drip of blood, and also her guilt regarding her part in Extremis — as much as he might remind them both it isn't truly their fault.

His head lifts as Tony launches into gameplan mode. Rolling his left shoulder with a whir of metal, Bucky nods once in curt acknowledgement, as the ramp slides open. And — there goes Caitlin.

Bucky shades his eyes, watching. "Back in the day you needed a B-17 for that," he says, appreciative, before he gives Jane a peck on the cheek, locks his arm around her waist, backs up about ten feet, and says, "I learned this from Steve."

That's about when he does a running Stupid Steve Rogers Jump straight out of the hatch, as the jet swoops in low.

*

'Just nano-tech, they had it before'. No. Who has nano-tech this advance at this point of the twenty first century? Dr. Doom? Probably. But Doom wouldn't sell it. Stark? Nathaniel directs as suspicious glance to the armored man as he vanishes. Lexcorp? Now, that is something to consider and fear. But his main suspect is… "AIM, Killian is AIM." He slams the helmet back in place. "It fits the pattern. But he is selling it, perhaps gone rogue?" Or AIM has gone corporate. Another terrifying (bad) idea.

Lots of noise from the ground, and there goes an indestructible redhead to do a mess. This could have been done stealthier. But maybe efficiency is not as good as expedience. It should be wiped out. Indeed.

"I am going to scramble their communications," he offers. "Those fighters are too slow for this transport, but they might be a problem for the assault on the ground, so I will try to neutralize them." Uh, do they have a plan anyway. "I am sending tactical to the computers, use it as you will." Because his armor has the best sensors. And he… just likes a plan. Well, several plans. He is quick coming up with those.

*

It's about as in-depth a conversation on this topic as Rachel wants to have right now.

"I'm sure I've handled worse," Rachel replies to Tony, eyes half-lidded in challenge. A little bit of repartee helps her pretend not to notice the coughing blood or Bucky's concern over it. Being too obvious about noticing too many things around people unused to psychics is a good way to sow distrust.

A moment after Bucky and Jane are out of the plane, Rachel comes after them. She descends feet-first, giving herself a telekinetic push to catch up and make herself a nice, obvious target ahead of the rest. Her hair flows upward around her in the rushing air, giving a fanciful impression of dancing flame that goes to show the universe isn't all that clever.

The AA emplacements are gone, but person-portable weaponsfire remains. It's nothing to ignore, either, between the missiles and heavy-caliber guns. Rachel's answer is to extend her hand downward at the base. There is a strange pressure in the air, like a warmth.

Missiles turn aside, losing speed and spontaneously disassembling themselves into component parts. Tracer rounds meet some invisible field along with their numerous non-tracer cohort, disappearing into traces of dust that floats away on the wind. Rachel doesn't try catching them all because she doesn't need to. Only the ones that might threaten the people doing sick plane-jumping stunts.

Rachel slows her descent as she nears the ground. She wants to land about the time Bucky and Jane do so that she can follow their lead while providing cover.

*

Bucky. Read The Hobbit. And says he wants to read more. He's talking to him about Tolkien.

Billy Kaplan, for a solid ten seconds, just looks utterly dumbstruck like the a dumb kid being complimented by a schoolyard crush.

"-uh" no that's not a reply Billy use your words "Y-you can borrow my collection if you want!"

Oh no did his voice crack there what is he in puberty again?? That was bad enough the first time.

Still. It might be the happiest moment of his life.

… Buck, Big Red, Frodo…

Which is obviously why Tony Stark ruins it.

"I am -not- Frodo," insists Billy with an unhappy frown.

Five solid seconds pass as the young Avenger festers on this label and tries very hard to think of at least one salient counterargument that is actually true. His nose wrinkles in consternation.

"… I'm not that short."

Exactly one and a half seconds pass.

"Am I-?"

And so, the seed of worrisome doubt planted in the mind of a young man whose powers revolve around how strongly he believes in something, Billy Kaplan prepares to launch for the mission.

It's probably fine.

The brilliant scarlet of his cloak falling around him like a waterfall of fabric as he stands, Wiccan sucks in a deep breath; gloved fingers fidget nervously in the midst of his steadying exhale as he looks over those gathered, some familiar faces, but many ones he has never seen before (personally, at least; one doesn't become a superhero nerd of Billy's caliber and /not/ know of most of the relevant players). His gaze falls, briefly, on Jane as she wipes away at something small, bright, red, and wet.

Concern filters through expressive features before he looks away once again and loses himself in his own thoughts.

"… Okay," he murmurs, as Caitlin makes her incredibly awesome opening, and the plane starts to lower. "I can get us in there, but I need everyone to stay-"

And out jumps Bucky into freefall with Jane in tow.

"-close."

A second passes.

Billy would sigh. Really. But…

"-R-right! Elsewhere elsewhere elsewhere elsewhere"

ohmygodthatwasthecoolestthingheeversaw

*

"Excuse me, coming through!"

And there goes Kate Bishop, leaping off right after Bucky. She seems to be a little bit in a hurry, and really, when the hell did she get there?

She's part of the younger side of the Avengers gang, so of course she would be. Considering her reactions every time the Winter Soldier is part of the same operation she is, however, chances are she practically barreled over Billy Kaplan just so she could watch Dat Ass while descending in freefall, several ridiculous feet in the air.

But fortunately, or unfortunately, for some, she did not forget her parachute, so she will live to oggle another day.

*

Caitlin lifts a girder and pushes it aside, bringing down a bit more of the overhanging AA emplacement. "Looks like I'm in the top subbasement," she tells Stark, her eye out of focused and trained on her implanted HUD. "I'll hold here until the perimeter is secured, then—" There's a ripsaw of bullets being fired, and a few high-energy plasma discharges. "Yeouchers!" Caitlin squeaks, ducking for cover reflexively. The bullets sting a little, but those plasma bursts are downright /painful/, even for the well-nigh invulnerable supernerd.

She digs in her slingpack for a heavy-barreled pistol that looks entirely too high-tech to be from the local sporting good shop. She checks the chargepack, then leans around her cover and cracks off a few plasma rounds at the emplacement. "I've got six hostiles with ranged weapons defending the hallways," she calls into her headset. "Anyone around who can give me some fire support, there'll be cookies in it for you!"

She goes for cover, then leans around and cracks off a few more shots without any perceptible recoil in the hand cannon.

*

+MEET: Tommy Shepherd has arrived via +meet.

*

Somewhere, a part of Jane gentles to overhearing talk of Tolkien. Even in that nervous too-calm before battle, her inner nerd can appreciate it.

Not that she has the stomach to make remarks of her own, too far racked and distracted between the nascent headache, and her own, constant-drip of guilt. Tony says it's just nano-tech, a technology Jane shouldn't blame herself for —

And she slips Stark a bit of a look, somewhere between 'don't dismiss my guilting' and 'don't disregard my work, which is awful, but it's my work'. Professional pride (or arrogance, when it comes to Jane) knows few boundaries.

In the interim, she rubs away the nosebleed as innocuously as she can, not one to draw attention to herself. Not that it still does, and Jane catches Bucky's glance. She answers with a half-smile, not so much good-humoured, and more assuring — all is well, and she's good to go.

She can feel Billy's glance. Jane tries her best to pretend it didn't happen; he looks like a kid, and she's not going to have /kids/ getting worried. Dear god.

Not that she has more time to waste on private embarrassment, when the hatch opens, and Caitlin is the first to hurtle through — and go straight down. Jane's eyebrows pop up. Dayum.

And Bucky's arm steals her waist, and Jane has a moment's notice to turn her head to — hear about learning things from Steve Rogers. She pales bone-white. She knows what this means.

The nice thing about reckless freefall, you don't even get the breath to scream.

When they land, she's a little wind-blown, but still feisty enough to land a half-hearted punch on Bucky's closest shoulder. However, Jane's spirits seem better now than moments ago, picked up out of whatever dark place she'd been — as she pulls a small object from a pocket, and opens it to a — small, archaic data stick. Why ancient architecture?

Jane doesn't want it getting into Tony's systems — not even by accident. Not again. "I have some of my code. Not the replicating parts, per se, but I piggybacked it onto a script I wrote — it'll find and entangle with same particles on the quantum scale. So, tracert us towards anyone who might be using them. I just need magic to execute it all."

Her eyes turn. "Your name's Wiccan. I mean — magic, right?"

*

Against any normal threat the defenses Hydra has up would have been sufficient. Of course the Avengers and Friends are /not/ a normal threat.

Tracer fire and missiles seem to melt away around the falling figures as Rachel's powers come into play. The fingers of tracer fire melt away as the falling Avengers get closer to the ground and small arms come into play, pattering the snow and ice around them as they Hydra agents attempt to pin them down so they can work heavier weapons into play.

The pristine land around the building becomes a killing field, but the debris kicked up by Caitlin's landing at least helps the Avengers look for better positions, closer to the massive hole in the complex that Caitlin made.

The hallway down is indeed covered by a half dozen foes, three with the heavier energy weapons. These three combine their fire, to try to melt that rubble that the redhead hides behind.

Of course to do that they must expose at least a bit of themselves. It is a risk. But I mean really. Who could make shots down a corridor, though a debris cloud, though a doorway choked in rubble?

Billy at least appears on the ground closer to the action, but behind some cover. A trio of armed figures look slightly surprised to find him there though, and sub machine guns are snapped towards him. "Surrender! Or face the might of Hydra!" Too bad they just yelled to give away their position.

Rachel can feel the pressure of dozens of minds in the complex now. Panic reigns for the moment, but professionalism is kicking in. And fanatisicm. Both powerful motivators. What might worry her are four minds that have a familiar and slightly disturbing hum of hundreds of sentiances in them. Three of them are deeper below, but getting closer.

One of them though is dangerously close to where Caitlin takes cover.

Up above Nathaniel and Rachel can both see a good dozen figures pouring from the building towards the breach now. In the lead is someone obviously in charge, larger, barking orders and sending out squads. Though his weapons are holstered as he starts to march towards Caitlin's position.
He even takes one of her plasma blasts in the shoulder. It should have put him down. But instead? He is just seems to pick up speed.

*

Caitlin gets off a few more rounds, putting enough heat downrange to at least make the shooters cautious about their presence. She's a pretty decent shot, actually. Then the big guy starts walking up, shrugging off blaster fire, and Caitlin's eyes widen.

"Crabapples," she breathes into her communicator. "Uh… I got a heavy here. Maybe meta, /definitely/ armored."

She discreetly drops her slingbag behind cover and pretends like she's cowering back there with badly aimed fire. Caitlin keeps that up until the last possible second, gauging his approach, and then wheels around the heavy girder she was hiding behind and faces him head-on. No time for pleasantries, either; she takes two fast steps forward, sets her feet, and throws a textbook right cross at the armored sternum with enough force to crack a sheet of concrete.

*

The thing about being a career soldier is you learn very early on to trust your squad implicitly. Hence the way Bucky doesn't even look back before he takes that dive — he knows the capabilities of the people he's with, and he knows that fire won't be a problem.

Nobody, apparently, can guard him from Kate's lascivious eyes, however. Thankfully he doesn't notice.

He's busy sticking their landing, which he does with only one or two bracing steps — three, once Jane hits him while he's off-balance. He slants her an arch look. "You enjoyed it," he says, gratified to see she's perked up a little bit, before he pulls his weapon back out and takes the lay of the land. Caitlin's report comes through across the communicators; he sees her engage with the heavy, who he doesn't have a clear shot on himself.

"On it," he responds, hiking up his weapon. The Tac-50's something you normally handle prone with a bipod and a whole other person to help you; Bucky Barnes makes it work with his left arm — steadier than any bipod — and a hefty dose of strength. He eyeballs a shot or two at the six men down the hall, aiming for lethal shots, giving cover fire.

Surrender or face the might of Hydra!

He doesn't like that word. Jane can feel Bucky go taut beside her. His weapon swings around, eyes narrowed, and he fires straight for one of the men menacing Billy.

*

Nathaniel stays on the air, keeping the fighters busy. Shooting them down would be easy. Shooting them down without killing the pilots, not so easy. Impacts at supersonic speeds are deadly, at least for airplanes without forcefields.

"I'll take the three on the left," he sends by the comms. First one comes guns blazing, high enough an ECM pulse can't do much damage to anyone else. That is one disabled… oh no. The ejection system is not mechanical. It is electronic. Bad design.

Iron Guard dives, following the now spinning aircraft. With two others shooting at him behind. And they are going to hit jet #1 because Hydra is aaaall about friendly fire. It forces Nathaniel to protect the airplane with a forcefield while he physically rips the cockpit off. "I just met this Hydra people and I am already starting to dislike them," he comments to no one in particular.

At least he got into physical contact with the airplane computers.

Which means he can access the other planes onboard systems.

Which means six seconds later the ejection system activates simultaneously on the planes that Iron Man has not shot down yet. "On the other hand, extremely bad engineering and firmware design here."

*

Billy Kaplan shimmers with blue light just as a certain member of his team nearly bowls him over in pursuit of the booty.

"Kate you need to be more careful-"

-bwip-

And thus the leaping Hawkeye the Second is saved a long-winded lecture by a teleportation cast completing. Really though, it probably would have been a bit half-hearted.

He was right there with her.

Whisked away in a cerulean flash, Wiccan appears on the battlefield not seconds later in spooling threads of primal power. His eyes are still glowing blue by the time he assesses the area in front of him. He's behind cover. That's good. He's not dead. That's also good. Bucky and Jane are alive. Similarly, good. Where's Kate-?

A concerned stare changes to a puzzled one as he hears Jane Foster speaking up behind him; glowing blue eyes turn to her, fading towards brown within the span of blinking lids. She has a plan to fix this. She just needs magic.

Your name's Wiccan. I mean — magic, right?

As is often the case, Wiccan hesitates.

"I-"

'It's complicated.'

'Most people think it is but I don't have any formal training and frankly don't know what I am and that frightens me every day.'

'Sometimes I have nightmares about being the Scarlet Witch now, is that magical?'

'I didn't come up with the name Wiccan, don't judge me.'

"… well-"

Surrender! Or face the might of Hydra!

"Submachine guns are submarine sandwiches!"

And with this proclamation, reality twists and churns, seeking to disassemble the weapons of anyone in Wiccan's path into subs.

Not even good ones. Like. Mayo and olives.

Nazis don't deserve good sandwiches.

"-I'm close enough," Billy finally decides. He sounds confident. Confident enough. He even only slightly winces at the sound of Bucky's gun firing off so close to him! "I can help. Just tell me what to do."

*

EARLIER

You ever feel like you're forgetting something? That nagging sensation, just on the very cusp of becoming an actual thought? Like an itch you can't scratch, a hairsbreadth out of reach.

In a nice apartment in NYC, the residence of the Kaplan family - who were very nice about taking in their son's orphaned friend from the wrong side of the tracks (with a little stopover as prisoner of a project designed to weaponise young metahumans) even though this was like something out of a 90s sitcom premise. Also, even though this friend of their son has eerily similar features to said son for reasons nobody has been able to adequately explain - one Thomas Shepherd is in his borrowed room, asleep. The room looks like there was a fight recently, but honestly anywhere Tommy is for longer than a few hours ends up looking like that. There are five pizza boxes on the foot of the bed, they are all empty.

"Thomas, dear," calls Mrs. Kaplan. "Didn't you and Billy have 'a thing' today with that nice Mr. Stark?"

Sleep gives way to bleary wakefulness gives way to full consciousness at a speed few instruments in the world could measure and most people would envy if they saw it happen.

"Crap!" the white-haired speedster exclaims. "I shouldn't have stayed up so late watching uhhhh educational videos!"

Mrs. Kaplan smiles the indulgent smile of a woman who is immune to being bullshitted.

NOW

Several spy satellites for various agencies both governmental and illicit suffer the computational equivalent of a stroke as something crosses the globe at speeds even few superscience vehicles can safely manage inside at atmosphere - and does it at way too low of an altitude for it to be any of those vehicles.

It stops, briefly, when it gets to the European continent, for some reason.

But then it's moving again. Erratically, turning in ways that would tear apart anything beholden to anything even resembling conventional physics: Homing in, as it happens, on something in particular, but having to avoid things in the way, because, you know, ground level.

Far sooner than anybody should really be able to do this, let's be honest, someone joins the insertion party of the Avengers, a streak in silver and green that, as far as anyone can tell, just appeared out of thin air.

Also as he slows down to 'don't accidentally liquefy anyone by brushing up against them' speeds, it becomes apparent that he's… Singing? Yeah, instead of using his comms earbud like he should be, he's listening to music. And singing along with it.

"Your sugar o/~ Yes please o/~ Won't you come and put it down on meee? o/~"

He's very bad, the falsetto doesn't suit him.

On the bright side, in addition to being annoying, he's also zipping around to visit high-speed harm on bad guys. Just acting like he was there all the time and didn't oversleep and miss the flight out.

*

Rachel never quite lands. She remains floating just above the ground, her gaze sweeping the field as smaller weaponsfire comes into play. Her outstretched hand continues to mean an impenetrable barrier of failure for all manner of nasty things aimed in the direction of her current teammates.

Though everyone passed on the psi-link — seriously, when do they find the time to yell banter into their communicators in a fight? — she still keeps her astral presence extended outward to keep aware of those present. Rachel has two primary ways of mapping places: using her telepathy to sense a combination of feelings, psychometric history, and astral movements, and also using her telekinesis to feel out the shape and position of things. While Jane talks strategy with Wiccan, Rachel has time to do both.

"Several dozen Hydra in the facility," she says, thankfully remembering to raise her free hand to speak into her communicator. "Four of them are, uh, let's say enhanced. Three inside, one… one coming for you, tall girl!"

(SORRY SHE ONLY REMEMBERED BIG RED)

But it's already happening by the time she says it all. Rachel holds position for a few tense moments longer, waiting to see if she can follow the Winter Soldier's lead. When he bunkers down to fend off Jane and Wiccan's position, Rachel weighs her options. The weights shift a little bit more when the Wiccan kid turns guns into sandwiches. The blue text tastes weird in her head.

"I'm moving up. I'll try to take pressure off."

Rachel pushes off, swooping forward over the field. Her no-projectiles-allowed field travels with her, creating a weird rolling tide of dissolving bullets. At one point, she passes a few Hydra too closely and takes a moment to gesture their way, causing their ammo feeds to pop out, followed by their guns deciding to just go all bendy and wrap around their wrists. They are sadly no longer bendy afterward. It sucks.

The hangar bay door is her target. Her eyes burn red as she nears. Feeling nothing that makes her actively feel threatened, Rachel pauses before the shut entrance and gestures sharply, attempting to pull it all down.

*

In her black-and-violet outfit, considering the time of day, Kate Bishop would be tremendously difficult to see - but it's readily apparent that she's keeping an eye on her charge/Avengers Protege, Billy Kaplan, because the moment HYDRA folks give away their positions with an opening line that tends to preface some of the most absurd villainous monologues known to man, there's already an arrowhead flying in that direction. But before it lands on anyone or anything, it explodes, sending a spray of something bubblegum-pink and taffy-like right in the proud HYDRA agent's face, if not just to cement his jaw shut from any other false declarations he could make, like maybe how Benedict Cumberbatch is a poor excuse for a Sherlock Holmes, or how Taco Tuesday is a tasty corn shell full of lies.

She's just not in the mood today, okay?!

This arrowhead is then swiftly followed up with another arrowhead that lands on the ground, and the moment it hits, arcs of electricity just lance out of it, to savagely zot at the agent with the bubblegum face, and whoever is unfortunate enough to stand within an arm's length of him.

And she's moving forward while doing so, black hair and scarf swinging in the wind, aviators reflecting ambient light, already moving to attack the next set of bodies she finds. Hawkeye II is the bastion of efficiency, and her fond and deep willingness to kick ass is just one of the reasons why Tony Stark loves (to put more work on) her.

*

Bucky's aside dispells a little bit of shadow off Jane's face. Her brief smile is like a sunrise.

"Maybe," she answers him, perhaps all she'll concede to admit, with a flash of wry humour that is there-and-gone-again.

Especially when —

Surrender! Or face the might of Hydra!

"Tracert unnecessary," Jane concludes, sotto voce. "That's fine." She can adapt.

She can feel, if just through presence alone, the way Bucky locks up — the only way a man could, tortured by them for so many years. She even feels in herself a silent flip of her stomach, like an acute-remembered nausea, something she works through. She froze last time, dealing with this. Jane can't do it again.

Keeping half-an-eye on Barnes — his mental state is a wildcard when Hydra is in the picture — Jane overhears the shared sitreps over the comm. Nathaniel taking down their communications, Caitlin needing cover, Rachel providing the numbers —

"The last set we encountered — they were similar, enhanced… burning hot identically, but possessed," Jane speaks quickly. "They were innocent people infected by the nanites. Try to — remember that. When you engage." As if things weren't simple before.

She exhales. "Someone we know was able to at least negate the infection with a significant output of magic — enough it nearly hurt her." Guilt wracks Jane's voice. "If it comes down to it, we might need something similar."

*

Good news Kate.

There are plenty of bodies.

…though not near as many as there were a moment ago.

The biggest problem of course is facing Caitlin. The man takes the blow that can powder concrete. She can feel bone shatter under that fist. The armor dents, the man sails backwards a good ten feet to slam against rubble…

And then he stands back up, shakes his head a moment as if to clear it, and smirks. "My turn," He growls in accented English before he leaps forwards, every bit as fast as trained martial artist. Faster than anyone his size has a right to be, as the fist he's swinging for Caitlin? That is now glowing white hot.

Stark's voice crackles over the coms.

"Enhanced guy on Cait! Unless you're fire proof don't get hit! That can melt my suits!"

The fire from down the hallway? Well that trickles off as the Winter Soldier does what he does best. Blood paints the concrete. As two of the plasma gunners end up on the wrong end of a .50 Cal.

…don't think too badly of him. They /do/ have a history.

The trio facing Billy has an even worse day though. One sneers and raises his weapon to spray fire at Billy and when he squeezes the trigger…

…he pops the pit out of an olive.

"What the…" A glance up. "…wizard on the field! I hate wizards more than I hate Tac—"

And that is when Bucky's third round meets his friends midsection. His partner spins to the ground as the suprized look is wiped away by a burst of pink bubblegum. As the man drops his sandwich to tear at the stuff on his face the taser arrow hits…and down the remaining two go.

Smoking.

And then. Suddenly speedster.

The squad on the slopes was trying to get a flank position on Bucky, Jane, and Kate. Now suddenly they are all lying face down in the snow in various forms of broken. One of them twitch slightly.

"Please, just stop murdering that song!"

Meanwhile the battle in the air is going poorly for Hydra. As Nate's three targets crash explosively into the ground as their suprised pilots float down in frigid temptures to be welcomed by SHIELD, Stark takes the more fun approach. He just lands on the zipping planes and rips the pilots out bodily. It is much more satisficing to him.

This means Hydra looses air power, so they need to launch more. Sadly for them this doesn't seem to go the way they want either. As the hanger's outside guards stare in shock as their guns wrap around their own wrists and ankles to leave them wriggling in the snow the inner guards start to prep the next wave for launch…

Which is when Rachel rips the hanger door right off. She gets the hanger door, part of the launching system, and about a quarter of a plane they were prepping, the stunned pilot /very/ glad she didn't rip a few more feet down.

…of course /then/ comes the gunfire for her.

*

"The Purifiers that the X-men found were volunteers too, Jane!" Stark calls out over the coms as he rips one more screaming pilot from his cockpit. "Could be the same here, if they have the stuff under control…"

The only fighting Caitlin defiantly looks under control. No Motherbird or Fatherwolf. Yet at least.

"If we can disrupt their cohesion that might be the best way to take the things out, light worked last time didn't it?" A beatpause. "Urgh, I never thought I'd say we need English McBritishWizard. Bet he could have helped."

*

Caitlin's eyes go wide at that flaming, white-hot fist flying at her face. A couple years ago, she might have rabbited. A year ago, she would have just gotten creamed by a few thousand degrees of heat. Bad burns, maybe scars. She's tough enough to shrug off even Bucky's big gun, but this? This would hurt.

So she braces for the hit, then— sidesteps. It's a bobbing little duck that takes her under the swinging fist, and she neatly kicks the meta's lead foot behind his other ankle. A stumble for someone who is walking, but for someone moving that fast, it's a flying pratfall unless someone stabilizes you.

Which Catlin does, by grabbing the back of his belt and the back of his neck plating. She continues his horizontal momentum with two BIG, twirling steps, and like an Amazon throwing the hammer at the games, she grunts and hurls the meta like the biggest frisbee in the world at the stack of his allies still peppering her with bullets and plasma rounds.

*

Rachel flicks her fingertips downward as if she were washing them of something distasteful. The huge chunks of hangar that she just tore off groan and shudder as they settled into the snowy ground. There is a moment of cold tension as the floating woman and the contingent of fanatical gunmen stare each other down.

They fire first. Rachel thrusts her hands forward. A telekinetic wall begins pushing slowly into the base, visible only by the ricochets splattering off of it. It moves far enough ahead that the plane they were prepping begins to slide backward. It only stops when the gap is fully plugged.

Now they have a chance to stare at each other again. Rachel drops her arms to her side, surveying the gathered mass of Hydra's… probably shouldn't call them finest.

A shadow comes over her face. Her hound marks glow like flame, unnaturally isolated in the shadow.

"You're bothering me."

A dull thud ripples from the TK wall deeper in. The hangar's defenders all share a very unique experience: something in their brains switching on, resulting in them switching off. They drop in sudden fits of persistent narcolepsy.

"Tall girl, you alright?" says Rachel, remembering to turn off her scary voice. She floats further inward toward the base, hunting for a grim prize.

"There's still more on the field, but I hit the hangar bay. Might be safe to move up. I'm going to try tracking down the other three — if I can pull out the nanomachines, will that stop it? If it's a deeper genetic thing, it'll have to wait until I can concentrate — or you'll have to go plan magic."

In Excalibur, plan B and plan magic are interchangeable.

*

"Air is clear," says Nathaniel through the comsys. "But they are transmitting an IR laser pulse. They must have a satellite up there. I will find and take out the transmitter," he offers, flying towards the other side of the mountain. "I will be back in ten minutes." Which might be the rest of the fight, but he doesn't want Hydra communicating to other 'heads' either the Extremis procedure or how exactly are the Avengers (and friends) taking them out.

*

Caitlin Fairchild says, "I don't think Tony's heard the word, Rae"

*

He can feel eyes on him. He knows it's Kate, even without looking. On one hand, it's nice to have someone looking out for him. On the other, there's still that small part of him, chomping at the bit. It's hard to reconcile the two.

Fortunately, right now, all Billy really feels is momentarily pleased he's managed to subdue at least three of those enemies in their way. Unfortunately, it's also a feeling that lasts exactly as long as it takes for one of them to take a gutshot and topples over, bleeding profusely. This can't be the first time he's seen someone get shot. He knows it isn't, in fact. But somehow, seeing it like that, so close, with /nothing/ to allow his attention to be stolen—

Brown eyes widen as he watches the man fall. He was probably a horrible person. He probably deserves it.

Billy Kaplan is still, briefly, wordless, until he hears Jane's voice behind him.

"-A-ah, yeah," he manages, after a moment, throwing his attention back into the mission. The mission is what matters. More people will be hurt if he doesn't focus. "I think I can do that. Negate the infection." Do you think, or do you know? the little voice inside his head demands. Make up your mind. Already, he can hear other people making more decisive plans. Already, he can see Tommy — finally — blitzing through the field without thought or hesitation.

What's his excuse?

"… I can do it. I'll remove the infection. Just… cover me, I need to get to them first."

And with a blitz of lighting lancing from his fingertips in streaks of ionizing air, Wiccan tries to press further in, steadfastly not looking at the pooling blood of men shot down around him.

"Speed, were you late because of your educational videos again??"

Distractions, admittedly, help.

*

"I'm ok, for now, uh, Small Red! Thanks for the heads up!" Doh. Codenames /are/ important, and Caitlin didn't ever actually ask Rachel what hers was!

Caitlin speaks without stopping the fight and breaks into a forward sprint the second she hurls the big meta. She's never one to pass up a chance to get some momentum. Caitlin can't fly, but she can run faster than a lot of cars. Put 350+lbs of indestructible ginger behind that, and it's a one-woman battering ram. She smashes through the temporary defilade and the door behind the guards while the big meta is still recovering from his flying lesson.

"I've breached the sublevel access— dealing with a biggun here, but you can move in via the lower levels!" she announces over the team radio net. She doesn't play nice, either, or wait for the flame-fisted metahuman to get his bearings. Caitlin launches herself at him with a flying elbow at the base of the spine, and once she's straddling his back she starts raining boulder-breaking punches at the back of his head until the armor quits— or he does.

*

Rachel's voice is on the commlink again.

"Don't take this as too mean but never call me small red again."

*

"She is totally Spikey Red."

Tony is helping.

*

"OKAY DOCTOR GOATEE!"

Rachel is not helped.

*

Guns turning into sandwiches when Billy looks at them is novel. So is the sight of Rachel, gliding along, bullets dissolving into dust in her wake.

Briefly, the Soldier contemplates his own suite of abilities, and how they were grafted onto him, and all the pain and blood shed for it.

He hears, too, the exchange between Tony and Jane on how many of the enhanced Purifiers might be voluntary or involuntary But there's a reason he's shooting to kill on all present, regardless —

He knows, when it was him, he wished someone had just killed him too.

Fortunately he doesn't pause long, because he's too well-trained not to pull the trigger when he's needed to pull the trigger.

He is tellingly silent even as Jane hurriedly issues her instructions and takes charge of Billy to help her negate this infection, here. But he'll need to get closer —

"Go on, then," Bucky says, shouldering forward. "I'll tail you and cover."

And he will do just that, so long as Billy and Jane need for them to do what they need to do. Except for one moment of distraction —

"Shepherd!!" Barnes barks. "I know you slept through again!!"

*

Speed, were you late because of your educational videos again?

Kate's expression flattens immediately at hearing it through the comm as she continues forward. "…do you mean educational videos or -educational videos-." Stressed in such a way that it's probably implicative that whatever the videos are, it's probably not all that educational in the way other people think they are. Still, with a group of HYDRA agents down for the count, she's still moving, the bow she wields retracting into a staff as she makes like a black and violet streak towards the four guys in cover. She fires off a smoke pellet in that direction.

And when the screen starts to rise, she taps a button on her aviators to switch it to its motion sensor mode.

The first agent gets the blunt end of her staff right in the adam's apple, her foot sliding in between his and kicking out his ankle. As he goes down, she's already striking at the other right between the legs, before twisting, hooking the length of her staff behind one knee and flipping him onto the ground. Her leg lashes out, to kick him right in the face, her dominant arm already swinging the staff around and letting go, sending it spinning towards the body the furthest away from her in an attempt to clock him on the head with it, though by the time it hits its mark, she's already sprinting in that direction and leaps, driving both knees into his chest and bear her entire weight upon him.

She isn't sure how legitimate of a Muay Thai move it is, but if it's good enough for Tony Jaa, it's good enough for her.

*

"HEY WICCAN HOW ABOUT SHUT UP!" is Speed's immediate response, the words half fuzzing into one another in his haste. Which, really, tells a keen observer of humanity like Kate everything she needs to know, doesn't it?

On the bright side, he stopped singing. Even Maroon 5 didn't deserve that.

The Hydra goons who ran afoul of the speedster in silver and green are, at the very least, alive, though some of them are really going to wish they weren't, especially since it doesn't seem like Hydra has a very good rehabilitation program outside of turning you into an angry fire monster. That is something Speed remembers pretty well, after burning his hand throwing one of those dudes down a stairwell.

The rest of it, well.

"Hey, I made it, that's good enough, right?" the white-haired youth protests when Barnes gets his sergeant on. "It was a perfectly orchestrated nick of time rescue! And…" He pauses, consideringly. Behind the orange lenses of his goggles, his green eyes narrow.

"…Where'd all these redheads come from? Did someone give Stark a genie?!"

With matters proceeding deeper, though, Speed rushes in to support his teammates (mostly Kate) and make sure that Billy and Kate (mostly Kate) are able to… Do whatever, honestly he didn't even pay attention to the briefings he didn't sleep through. He tried, honestly, but they were very slow and he got very bored.

"Hey, Kate! Kate Bishop!" he says, just, like, appearing as she does badass takedowns of some very bad dudes like twice her size. The fact that they're in the middle of a very dangerous, literal life-or-death situation doesn't seem to faze him: It never does. "When I was cutting through what's that place by France I stopped and got some chocolate, I put it in my ba—" he looks down, and notices that he's not wearing his bookbag anymore. Probably lost it somewhere along the way, or forgot it back in Belgium.

At this point, Speed says a very bad word.

*

Caitlin is in the middle of trying to turn a flame-fisted meta into a pulp, and goes swinging for a complex arm bar to try and break his arm when he grabs for her. They struggle— Caitlin's bare legs flexing mightily as she hooks his elbow with her knee to keep his hands away, and her fingers dent his arm as she starts making a sincere effort to dislocate his arms.

Then someone swears, and she winces.

"Language!" she scolds over the comm net. She grunts. "Golly, people /swearing/ all the time…"

*

The men in the hanger just simply drop. All of them. Like puppets with cut strings are Rachel simply turns them off. The sound of mass snores echo though the hangerby. Someone accidently drives a munitions loader into a wall, but beyond that there isn't really any other noises.

Two of those strange mental signatures are now…fleeing. Deeper into the complex, into the mountain. However one of them? A stocky woman with short red hair is stepping onto the hanger deck to face her. The woman cracks her knuckles and smirks slightly.

"Alright, lets see what you can do. Fire bitch."

And with that she charges towards Rachel. Equal in speed at least to Logan or Beast as she bounds across the hanger deck, fingers curled like claws and glowing white hot.

Stark /is/ at least swooping over towards the hanger now. "If you can rip that stuff out of her, I think I can at least neutralize it, even if it is genetic after the fact the nanos have to give it a boost, and she won't have any psi defense after that!"

A beatpause from Stark.

"Also!" He says helpfully. "This beard is a work of /art/." A second pause. "And by -educational videos- I think she means porn!"

…so very helpful.

The men holding the building's front were doing ok. Up until they couldn't see. And then, worse for them, they recieved the brunt of a agents very impressive combat skills. Mental note for Kate. Bones /do/ snap just like in the movies when hit that way! It could be both disturbing and satisfying.

The gunfire is turning more and more sporadic now as Bucky cleans up the stragglers. The ones that aren't evacuating are not having the best of days. Espicially as Caitling freezbees their own secret weapon into them. There is a /lot/ of screaming at this point as white-hot man collides with mortal men. It just doesn't end well.

The enhanced though starts to get back up, slightly dazed by that spin and throw, and close enough that Billy and Jane could make the run…

Espicially with Bucky's counter fire.

…and the fact that Speed has left a field of groaning Hydra agents in his wake.

*

Silence meets Tony's clarification, at least for a beat, as Jane tries to stomach it all. Volunteers. Innocents. Which is more Hydra's strong suit?

Her eyes take a too-long, lingering glimpse of James Barnes, while he lines up one of his shots. Her stomach twists.

"It's not always volunteers with Hydra," she answers, voice a little too strained. But, perhaps fortunately, she doesn't say anything more after that.

She does wince internally, hearing Tony wish for John Constantine of all people. Not because Jane thinks John ill-suited — he'd be helpful, certainly — but, rather, imagining the look he'd give her to know her own hand in this. Involuntary, magic-imbued hand. It's not a good thought.

"It's fine," she says instead, affecting breeziness, "We have Wiccan. He says he can do it." Thinks he can. Good enough for Jane Foster! "That means he'll do it. I know you can, all right?"

Perhaps, two years ago, Jane would not be so blase; she is now, intuiting a line of doubt in Billy that's so damn familiar it aches, so she throws him her data drive to catch, trusting its retrieval, freeing both her hands to pull a rifle off her back. It's a simple thing, small, bolt action. Definitely the Soldier's choosing.

Bucky gives them direction and a promise to cover; Jane slants him back a fond look. And with a way forward cleared by the powerhouses that are Caitlin and Rachel — she can glimpse their doings with no small bit of envy, if she had that hammer back in her hand, she could — ugh, her head hurts to contemplate it more —

"Hey!" Jane suddenly snaps up, because what better way is there to try to attract some Extremis? Between shots of her own, she calls: "Your parents are here, and you've been bad kids! Bad — demon-imbued computationally-proofed subroutine kids!"

*

Did someone give Stark a genie?!

"I hope not," comes Kate's dry, deadpanned response. "He's already a god in another dimension. Giant golden statue and scores of worshippers and everything. The last thing he needs is a genie!"

With the pile of broken bones left whimpering underneath her, she extricates herself from the mess, dusting off her scarf busily when Speed suddenly appears near her. Relcaiming her staff and shaking it out into a bow again - a piece of innovation she'd have to thank Uncle Clint for - her blue eyes fall on her fellow Avenger when he calls out her name. "….what place? Wait, Angelina's?" Her expression visibly brightens; businesslike she may be most days, the young woman's roots are deeply entrenched in Manhattan High Society, which means that anything sweet and Parisian is bound to cause a reaction. "Oh, Tommy, that's actually really swee—…"

But he has no bag.

He swears, and even worse, the archer actually looks disappointed.

But there's no time to dwell on that when Jane is instructing Billy how to fix things, and so she'll do her best to clear a path and make sure nobody gets in the way.

*

"Two of them are moving deeper into the facility. One's coming up."

Rachel lands as she moves deeper into the hangar, picking her way through the slumbering bodies and wrecked equipment. She tracks her target with her gaze, looking through walls at someone she can't see. With a thought, she sends out an initial astral thrust — nothing. Not even a glance. Distance and unfamiliarty are to account, but something about the process creates a troublesome psi-shield.

Rachel exhales, flexing her hands open and closed. She concentrates her telekinetic attention around herself. If she's going to try this, on something small, numerous, and unfamiliar, she can't spread her attention around maintaining a dozen psychic fronts at once.

"Alright. Let's see what you can do, fire bitch."

"Lucky you, the fire's asleep right now," says Rachel. She tenses —

— but the other woman is fast. A brief, animal panic jolts through Rachel's system. It's been awhile since someone has charged at her like this, at this speed with that loping gait. Nightmares of Wolverine plague her for a moment that she doesn't have. When she regains herself, all she can do is lean into her shields.

From the outside, Rachel and the burning-clawed woman come tumbling out into the snow, with Rachel on the losing end. They go sprawling into bloodied ice, Rachel going down first. Steam briefly hides them both, punctuated by searing arcs of the woman's claws as she tries again and again to rip something loose from the Marvel Girl. If it weren't that there was no blood splattering out from these grand, violent gestures, it would be a horrific sight.

The steam swirls and then pushes out hard, a split-second prelude to an enormous plume of ice blasting upward. A crater is left behind by the displaced snow, which comes falling down in great ragged chunks to reveal Rachel and the burning woman locked in a struggle mid-air. The two fall together, Rachel jinking her trajectory with telekinetic pushes, the burning woman lunging forward impossibly with nothing to push off of, her steadily-heating body leaving ripples in the air where she passes.

Rachel shoves her hands forward, a weird rippling effect rushing forward from her and blasting over the burning woman, who shrieks hideously but still comes through the other side with murderous intent despite blood streaming from her face and ears. Rachel swings her arm up to catch the first incoming claw with a TK shield, but the woman manages to get a leg lock and leverage her other hand for a stab. It's only Rachel's subconscious survival instinct that invisibly shoves the other woman's hand into the side of her ribs instead of the center. The woman seizes hold, burning flesh, squeezing. Rachel feels something inside her pop. A sick feeling radiates upward from her stomach to the top of her skull.

She needs to — they're about to hit —

Rachel whirls them both around at the last moment, the woman striking the ground first. There's no snow to catch them this time. Rachel feels the burning hand lose grip of her. She can feel the shock in the other woman. Momentary. Enough. She brings her free hand up, her face shaded in shadow and flame. A raptor's talon sparks into being around her curled fingers.

Rachel stabs downward into the woman's chest, psychic claws sliding without conflict or injury into the woman's body. Once more, Rachel pulls.

*

HEY WICCAN HOW ABOUT SHUT UP!

"I think that answers your question, Hawkeye, right?" Thankfully, Tony does what he does best and just makes it even more explicit.

Sorry, Thomas Shepherd. You are hereby sacrificed on the altar of William Kaplan's burning need for a distraction.

Distractions help. But even moreso, reassurances. It's no small thing, to hear those words from Jane. I know you can do it. Brown eyes flicker in a blink as Billy pauses to look back at the older woman. Self-doubt may plague him, his expression writ large as one who constantly questions himself —

But that vote of confidence, at least, draws a smile on his lips.

"… All right."

That data drive flies through the air, only to be caught by the swipe of a nebula-studded palm. Wiccan holds on tight to that simple, innocuous stick as he makes his way past in a dead run, cloak whipping wildly behind him as he cuts through cut down ranks of HYDRA operatives —

— until the blistering heat that scathes at his skin helps him realize he's reached his targets.

Heels squeal across the metal floor beneath him as Wiccan comes to a stop before that recovering Extremis-addled agent. And instantly, he seizes up. He remembers these things, from that seemingly abandoned waystation. What they could do. And they're powered by magic. Real, actual magic. Created by some kind of scientific genius the likes of which he could never even begin to compare to. How can he — how could he ever

I know you can do it.

The words echo in his thoughts. He closes his eyes. Tries to focus on them, like an anchor. People here depend on him. Trust him. He's a hero now.

He can't let them down.

When he opens his eyes, they are glowing with searing intensity.

"I can do this."

It's not magic. Not really. But it's close enough. Cheat codes to the universe ply metaphysical code, turn quantum particles entangling; to take what Jane has made, and put it into practice. To take that remarkable thing in such a simple data stick…

… and infuse it through the strands of arcane, eldritch code that twines and operates that white-hot engine of destruction and strip it down bare.

He can do this. He can do this. He can do this.

He simply has to ignore the little voice at the back of his head telling him he only hopes he can as he focuses on those quantum blueprints to burn down every bit of foul nano machines in that system to their base.

*

Caitlin hits the elite again while he's dazedly inspecting the battlefield and the remains of his allies, laid low by Bucky's rifle. She hits him again. Hard— behind the knees. Enough to knock him over. Once again, she flings herself on the man before he can get leverage. One leg hooks an elbow and with her knee, she pins that white-hot fist to the ground. Her other leg snakes around his waist to hold him in place.

And with her hands, she grabs his wrist and elbow, turns them into a Z shape, and pops his arm out of the socket with a grunt of modest effort. A moment later, she twists him back the other way, and dislocates his collarbone on the opposite side.

It's hard to punch with cracked scapula and collarbones.

"Stay down," she orders him with a wag of her finger, and rolls to her feet. She beckons Jane and Bucky to move up, eying the carnage Rachel's doing a short distance away in the hanger area. "You two OK?" she inquires of her allies, checking to make sure no one's hurt. The ginger sports a few bruises and a split lip, but looks more or less intact for the moment.

*

This is, without hyperbole, the worst thing that's ever happened.

No, not the super nazis armed with healing nanites powered by the computer code of the damned. The terrible one-two punch of being excoriated over his perfectly normal viewing habits and then the clear disappointment from Best Hawkeye when it turns out that he lost the chocolate he'd specifically gone to buy her on the way over because he has poor impulse control and no real sense of his own limitations, especially when it comes to winning over a rich genius girl - those are the worst thing that have ever happened.

Briefly, momentarily, the speedster sags. He works up what would be, if you played it out in slow enough motion that it really parsed for people who lived at a normal rate, an epic sulk because oh man like he's going to remember where he left his bookbag exactly. Also oh man his bookbag. He carried things in that!

There's no pockets on his super suit! That thing is like painted on!

But like with most things, Speed gets over it quickly. He rises up to a standing posture, his head bobbing in a short series of quick nods. "Okay," he says. "Okay. No, it's fine. Wiccan you better magic these guys real good!"

Because otherwise, Speed is going to vent his frustrations on a bunch of super nazis.

Actually, he's gonna do that anyway.

*

Caitlin is on the man before he can even stand back up. But even as she starts to bend him in ways that he shouldn't be bent she feels her skin blister and burn. His hands aren't the only thing he can heat up. Still, snapping his shoulder and his arm /should/ keep him down.

…if he didn't have a healing ability nearly on par with some of the best mutants in the world.

Bones knit and the man raises, about to throw himself back at Caitlin's back and…

The enhanced figure aiming for Fairchild seems to jolt for just a second before it turns towards Jane. His eyes go gray for a moment. Not quite the black of a full possession but…not good whatever it is.

And then he smiles…

But the next moment, before another step can be taken towards Jane, Billy is there.

And he /can/ do this.

Jane's device hums to power, eldrich strands fuse with mortal code to tear into the corrupted nanomachines inside the Hydra agent. The agents body goes rigid and his mouth opens in a wordless scream as he freezes there. The destruction of the nano-machines almost as painful as the process that gave him his powers apparently. He falls to his knees, eyes flickering between gray and normal as the powers war against each other and Billy concentrates upon it. Then the twitching stops and the agent collapses face-down in the snow, a trickle of blood coming from his ear and his nose.

A straggler pops up to aim at the young Avenger and an arrow finds him. More begin to aim in on the fact that he is doing /something/ to their best weapons as the remaining agents focus fire…

…and every time they pop up, rifle or arrow put them back down…

And one time when one popped up /very/ close to Billy, the sudden /blur/ of motion and the poor agent just disappears.

Who knows what Tommy did with him. Dude is had a bad day.

Rachel is having a slightly more difficult time, especially when some of the more moral and brave guards see this and move out to start to spray fire at her back, but a rush of repulsor thrusters and a sudden /thwipthwipthwip/ of micromunitions ends that in more sleeping figures in the snow. They might get frostbite. Stark doesn't really care.

Her fight with the redhead is vicious but when she hooks that psychic claw into her and /pulls/ the woman in her grasp /screams/. One burning hand again comes up to try to claw the X-man…but there is little power behind it suddenly. It isn't white hot anymore. A viscus black liquid though begins to rise up though her skin, oily and ugly it pools on the enhanced chest. Difficult to dislodge, driven by its programing to enhance, heal, upgrade.

It strives to return to the body even as Rachel forces more and more of it out and the woman begins to loose her powers. Not /all/ of them, but the nanites defiantly enhance them.

Thick and nasty, the liquid behind to pool in the stone next to the woman…and move. Surge this way and that as if searching for a new host…

A sudden thump of Stark landing nearby. "Hold it just a second longer!" He calls out as he raises the hands of the Iron Man suit and blasts the puddle…

With light. Concentrated, high powered beams of bright light. There might even be a touch of ruin work on the powerful lanterns on the backs of the suits hands. But whatever it is, it seems to work. At least the liquid looses cohesion just as it had started to home in on Rachel herself.

Stard pauses a moment, looking round at the carnage. His suit battered by munitions, blood, goo, and debris littering the area around the once pristine setting.

He takes a deep breath.

"…does this mean I'm going to owe you another dinner?" A smirk that can be heard on his face if not scene. Then as he raises his amplified voice.

"Any Hydra agents that don't surrender I'm going to let Speed do what he wants to you and he's had a bad day! You don't want that!"

Or he'll just let Bucky shoot them. I mean six of one half dozen of the other for him.

But between the threat of a Speedster, and the defeat of their weapons…it seems the agents have no heart to continue it. The thump of weapons being thrown down is audible.

*

Rachel sits up from where she is straddling the once-burning woman. Without the psi-shield, she can hold her in place all day. The redhead favors a hand over the burn wound on her left side. Not touching, but close. She's pretty sure she broke a rib and wants to keep it in place the all-natural way: mind powers.

"Maybe brunch this time," says Rachel, shutting her eyes. She can still see the nano-goo squirming in her mind's eye. "I want to wear pajamas and get day drunk."

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