FIC: Darker Reign (17/?)
“Hi honey,” Stark beamed at the enchanting brunette whaling the hell outta the gym’s heavy bag, her movements a perpetual blur. “I understand you’re the one I have to thank you for my consciousness.”
“Don’t,” the sweat-slicked beauty grunted, “bother.”
“Oh come on,” Stark’s beam remained fixed. “There must be something I can do to thank you for me being upright, like getting horizontal in my yacht or convertible.”
“Yeah,” the girl didn’t look away from her swinging heavy bag, “help us kick Osborn’s ass. That’s all the thanks me AND MY boy-friend need.” The beauty spun to face him. “And dude, I thought your super-hero name was Iron Man not Sex Pest?”
Stark threw his hands up. Clearly the babe’s super-hero name was Ice Maiden. “I’ll go work on my new suit.”
Utopia, San Francisco
Thor’s blue cape fluttered in the coastal winds as he came to a landing on the dock of the former oil rig. Nodding first towards Cyclops and then the media specifically invited by the mutant leader, he strode into the cameras’ flashing lights and waited for his piercing blue gaze to subdue them into silence before beginning. “Your television screens have depicted a being that resembled me fighting against Scott Summers and his people. Do not think that means I or the Asgardian people support any sort of conflict against the mutants. In fact the opposite is true.” He paused before continuing. “The creature that fought against the mutants was not a mortal or god, but a horrid freak of science that has no ties to the Asgardian people, but whose very behaviour is abhorrent to the chivalrous ideals of my people. We utterly condemn Osborn’s crusade against the mutants and know this Scott Summers,” he turned to the mutant, “we consider you friend and you need only ask for us to rush to your aid.”
“I have your next mission.”
Faith raised an eyebrow as Fury strode into the briefing room. “I like how we’re automatically enlisted into Fury’s little army,” Faith muttered out of the corner of her mouth to Xander.
Fury eyeballed Faith before Xander could reply. “You want out Slayer, just say the word, but don’t expect my organisation to hide you.”
“Hey,” Faith raised her palms in supplication, “I don’t have a problem doin’ your work for you, but you suck at motivation.”
“I’m a general, girl, not a baby-sitter,” Fury glanced at the rest of the room, his audience including Xan, Riley, Finn, and the heroes they’d managed to rescue from 42. “According to intel I’ve recently received, HYDRA has set up a base in South America with the assistance of Norman Osborn, Venezuela to be exact. I want that base burning to the ground.”
“Question?” Faith threw up her hand.
Faith concealed a grin, she could practically hear the world war II legend’s teeth grinding away to stubs. However much she wound the old coot up, she did have a serious point to make. “HYDRA are a bunch of sobs, sure. But surely our main target is Osborn?”
“He is,” Fury nodded. “But the head of HYDRA, Baron Von Strucker, is currently an ally of Osbron’s, as you know yourself from that phone tape you made.” Faith conceded the point with a nod. “We destroy this facility, we make Osborn look weak for his allies, and if he looks weak to them, they’re going to be less motivated to back his future plays.”
Faith thought about that for a second before nodding. “Makes sense.”
“So glad you approve,” Fury deadpanned before turning to the monitor at the front of the room and putting up a picture of the facility that looked like an oil refinery, something Fury confirmed with his next few words. “Oscorp used this facility in Venezuela to process oil from its three plants in the country until a few years ago when the last of the wells bottomed out. Since then it’s largely been lying idle until just a month ago when Osborn discreetly transferred it into Von Strucker’s hands. We hit them hard, and we achieve two very favourable objectives. Firstly, we wipe outta Hydra cell before they’re ready to strike and secondly, we drive a chasm between Osborn and one of his inner circle.”
Xander peered through his one-handed telescope, lips pursed. HYDRA’s Venezuela base was a hell of a depressing place even if you didn’t know its true purpose. A rusting, fume-belching oil refinery was an eyesore in a busy city, but in an otherwise picturesque valley, covered in greenery and brightly-coloured flowers, it was a crime against nature.
“The place has a mesh-wire, ten foot high fence with barbed wire on top, guards patrolling the perimeter, and security cameras on top,” Faith commented, “just like Fury said. He’s nothing if not competent.”
Xander smirked at his girl-friend even as he wiped away the sweat streaming down his forehead. “He’ll be so gratified by your praise.”
Faith was saved from answering when Riley and Graham ghosted out of the jungle’s shadows. “We’ve got the last of the jamming devices set up,” Riley whispered.
Xander nodded. Stage one of Fury’s plan was the setting up of jamming devices around the base. Once they’d sneaked to the outskirts of the of the jungle, they were to turn the jamming equipment on, charge the fence, get over and take down the guards in the minute the jamming was working, then move away from the fence before the interference cleared. According to Fury there was a permanent problem with atmospherics in the region so the jamming shouldn’t raise any eyebrows as long as they weren’t caught before the jamming devices fused. Then, once the guards were down, they’d steal inside, make their way to the generator and fuel tanks, set a ton of explosives, then high-tail it out before things blew. It was just a shame Cloak & Dagger were away on another mission, otherwise things would be a lot simpler.
“Let’s get into position,” Xander muttered before dropping on his belly and crawling through the wet grass. After an eternity he was at the high grass’ verge, just feet from the fence and its oblivious guards, his companions positioned around him.
“Moon Knight’s team in position.”
“Secret Warriors’ team in position.”
“Slayers’ team in position. Execute.” Xander leapt up the moment he’d finished his whisper, the specially-enhanced suit Fury had given him carrying him from his laid position over the fence to land in a crouch, his foot streaking out to heel kick the nearest guard in the throat, the man folding and crashing to the ground while his companions likewise dealt with the rest of the HYDRA guards.
Xander glanced at his touchpad displaying the oil refinery’s map. “We need to head this way,” he decided before hurrying into the nearest shadows, the sound of the refinery’s machinery throbbing and shuddering in his ears.
Seconds later they were stalking down a shadowy corridor, the stench of oil thick in the air, and then they came to a corner, Xander crouched and used a mirror to peer around the corner. “There’s three HYDRA goons about twenty-five metres down the corridor,” Xander tersely reported before looking towards their team’s heavy hitter, “you ready Faith?”
Faith winked. “You know it.” Faith set off from a crouch, bursting around the corner like she’d been shot from a cannon, in amongst the trio before they even knew she was there. The first she caught with an elbow to the chest while leg-sweeping him from his feet. She sidestepped the second’s down-swinging baton, grabbed his arm at the wrist and reversed his swing so it crashed into his forehead with enough force to crack his riot helmet, his head snapping back as he dropped like a stone. The third came at Faith from her right, forcing her to duck beneath a baton-swing at her head, then step outside her opponent’s attack and punch him hard in the crotch. The man moaned and doubled up, Faith’s elbow smashing into the back of his neck, dropping him facedown. Faith turned towards the others and beckoned for them to join her. “These red-shirts don’t get any better.”
“My girl-friend with the Trekkie references. I’m so turned on right now.” Xander beamed proudly then sobered. “Let’s finish this job.”
“Director Fury, may we talk?”
Fury looked away from the reports on the destroyed South American facility and raised an eyebrow as he recognised the cooler than ice voice of the Wakandan monarch. After quickly checking the encryption was in place on their control centre, he replied. “Always King T’Challa.”
“I’ve been keeping track of all payments okayed by HAMMER, specifically either Osborn or his right hand, Victoria Hand,” the African king replied. “I’ve tracked the shipment of tell-tale technologies in addition to personnel transfers of AI and robotics experts to the same facility.”
“And what does this facility do?” Fury queried, his brow deepening. Another problem to consider, another ball to juggle.
“Given the equipment shipped there and the type of personnel transferred, I believe it is a factory building SENTINELs.”
“Goddamn it.” Fury grimaced. That was pretty much worse scenario. “Okay, give me the address, and send me all the information you have.”
“I assume you heard Thor’s press conference today?” Victoria Hand queried as she strode into his office.
“Yes,” Osborn’s tone remained steady, but inwardly his stomach twisted and his veins burnt hotter than molten at the thought of the Norse god. That bastard had just made his shit-list, and one day he would be dealt with it. “I saw it.”
“Do you have a response planned?” Victoria queried. “Given our recent setbacks I wouldn’t advise a physical response.”
“I know,” Osborn nodded stiffly. Much as he was loathe to admit it, losing the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme and failing to close down Utopia left him vulnerable. And then there was the added hassle of Stark’s body being snatched by Fury’s rebels. As tempting as the thought was, now was not the time to strike, now was the time to consolidate power. “I’m looking into recruiting some more mutants into my X-Men, show to the world that there’s more mutants joining our cause. It’s not as if Summers and his ilk haven’t made plenty of enemies.”
“I’ve been looking through the files, examining who we have in 42 and our other prisons,” Osborn glanced at and began reading out the list he’d generated, “Fatale, Black Tom Cassidy, Toad, Archlight, Blockbuster, Scalphunter, Quill, Burner, Malice, Blackwing, Wildside, and Nekra.”
“I’m unfamiliar with some of those names, but some of them have less than savoury reputations,” Hand commented, nose wrinkling thoughtfully. “They’ll be potentially hard sells to the press.”
“And that’s why I employ you,” Osborn nodded. “Propaganda control.”
“Speaking of control, how do you intend to control the mutants? Giving them their freedom in exchange for agreeing to work for you is all very well,” Hand commented. “But how do you intend to keep them to their promises once they’re released?”
“The same way I keep the Thunderbolts under control, nanites,” Osborn replied.
“And Thor?” Hand queried.
Osborn grimaced at the mention of the Norse-sized pain in his butt. “Oh he’ll get his, it’s just a matter of time.”
“Osborn!” Osborn’s mood dipped still further as his office door crashed open and Baron Von Strucker strode in. “We need to talk!”
Osborn glanced at Victoria and motioned for her to leave before looking towards his unwelcome guest. “I understand you’ve suffered a setback, but you need to moderate your tone to me.”
“Moderate my tone?” Von Strucker preened himself, his eyes gleaming with venomous malignancy. “Don’t be fooled, you’re not talking to one of your juniors or stooges now. We of the cabal are your equals and I demand-.”
“Demand?” Osborn shook his head. “Don’t think you can demand anything of me! You might have an inflated opinion of your usefulness, but you were never an ally or an equal, just a tool, and not a particularly useful one!”
“You dare!” the aging Nazi turned ashen grey as he pointed his Satan’s Claw and fired an electric burst at Osborn.
Osborn cursed as he threw himself to the ground, Von Strucker’s blast incinerating the chair he’d been sat on. “Bob!” he rolled away from a second blast. “I need you now!”
The entire skyscraper shuddered as the Sentry exploded through the office floor, landing between Osborn and his attacker. A blast hit Sentry s broad chest with little or no effect and then the blond superman’s hand was around the aging Nazi’s neck, a squeeze later, and his head popped clean off his shoulders, showering the previously pristine office in blood, the meta human dropped the still convulsing corpse onto the floor before turning towards him.
Osborn stared up at his rescuer and nodded weakly, as always unnerved by the Sentry’s displays of effortless power. “Thank you, Bob.”
Xander and Faith looked up at the knock at the door of their shared quarters. “Who is it?” Xander asked as the pair of them hurriedly re-arranged their clothes.
“We need to talk.”
Xander and Faith exchanged glances at Fury’s gruff growl. “Come in.”
“Hey,” the door swung open and the World War II legend strode in. “I’ve been running a simulation, and it seems that judging by a number of factors – articulation, looks, availability, and the fact you’re already in trouble, you,” Fury looked towards Faith, “are the best person to present our program exposing Osborn’s corruption.”
“Wait now,” Faith’s nose wrinkled, her eyes widening in disbelief, “you’re tellin’ me you wanna me to play Barbara Walters? I’m used to guys askin’ me to role-play, but this one’s a lil weird even for me.”
“Hey no Faith,” shook his head, solitary eye filled with excitement, “you’d be like Susan Ivanova in Season 4 of Babylon 5, the voice of resistance!”
Faith shook her head as she looked towards her boyfriend. “Is she a hot brunette with great cans?”
“No, well yes, actually,” Xander predictably flushed, “but I meant you’re the voice of the resistance.”
“Every day,” Faith sighed and slapped her forehead, “you find new ways to embarrass me.”
Xander beamed. “It’s a skill.”