A. I. (Alternate Interests)
Xander parked where the gate guards had told him to park, getting out and lifting the heavy case out of the back seat. The guard nodded and followed him inside. He smiled at the receptionist. "Hi, I need to talk to Mr. Stark about something they made that I found a few of." He put the case on the counter. "I know he doesn't want these sort of things to be left in a seaside cave by my former town."
She grimaced. "Let me see who we talk to about that, sir. Is it mechanical?"
"No, it's a bomb. Thankfully disarmed."
"That's a great thing," she agreed. She glanced at the guard following the guy but he nodded he had it covered so she relaxed again.
He smiled. "I tried to call but got the run around." He shrugged. "Do I want to leave this within thirty miles of a biker gang's hideout? Not really." She called the head office, who called Mr. Stark himself. Xander smiled and nodded when the guy came off the elevator scowling. "I didn't think you wanted this interesting Stark International piece of old explosive in a cave. Or the others. I tried to call first, Mr. Stark."
He opened the case, frowning. "This isn't ours." Xander reached in and flipped down the 'document' flap, letting him take them out. "That's made by my father." He looked at him. "Where was it?"
Xander drew a map on some paper the receptionist handed him. He put it on top of the weapon. "There's a huge cave complex. Most of it's his stuff but a few things had your name on the documents. I'm not sure it if was a storage area or what. I know it's thirty miles from a biker gang and I found it by hiding from the bastards." He grinned slightly. "I may like weapons but I don't need those."
"Who are you?"
"Alexander Harris. I'm one of the trainers for the New Watchers Council. My car broke down near it while I was going back for a remembrance in Sunnydale."
"Okay," he said. "I can be there later tonight."
"That's cool. I have it blocked off right now so the gang can't get into it." He smiled. "I'm heading back there. Can't protect the earth if grubby bikers blow it up." He nodded at the guard. "Thank you. You were very pleasant." He left, going back to the cave and the nagging being in there who had demanded he find his son to help him fix the things that had been screwed up.
Stark closed the case with a scowl, walking off to take it to his lab. He looked that guy up before doing anything but disarming the weapon totally.
Xander looked out at the noises, getting up with his MRE main dish. He looked out, eating a bite, nodding inside. "It's in here. I moved half of it to the back cave area so it wasn't in the open and didn't look tempting if someone found it while I was gone." He led him inside. "There's three caves, they all have some. This main area just has paperwork from what I glanced at to see who it belonged to. Cave one and two," he said with a point of his plastic fork. "Were already stuffed that way. I moved the weapons to cave three. Much to the nagging of the being in cave one."
Xander ate a bite and pointed. "There's some sort of artificial intelligence in there on a really old computer." He ate another bite. Stark went that way first. Xander sat down to guard things for now. Stark would need some time.
Tony walked in and flipped on his flashlight. "The light switch is to your right," a male voice said.
Tony blinked. "That can't be," he muttered, finding the light switch. The ancient computer, probably about twenty-five years old, booted up and the screen went from a tiny picture to a bigger one. Tony blinked, licking his lip. "How did he build you? Artificial intelligence wasn't his thing."
"That damn scientist that we got from HYDRA, son," he said. "He really did try to call you first. I asked him to."
"Not like the girls could use this during the next demonic battle," Xander called. "They can't do more than point and shoot higher weapons. And your dad's a nagging asshole."
"Yes, he was," Tony Stark said, staring at his father. "So you're...."
"Downloaded about six months before HYDRA had me killed? Yes. Did your mother survive? I'm not connected to any outside sources."
"Hold on, HYDRA did that?"
"Yes." He stared at his son. "This was originally my backup storage site in case things got ruined at the company's storage site." Tony nodded. "Thankfully the only people who've been in here are a plant demon and Xander hiding from the demonic biker gang down the hill in town. I thought it'd be safe, and it has been. That's why he put me out here when I refused to help him or join him."
Xander leaned in. "There had been protections on the doorway that went down as soon as I got near them. I'm not sure *why* but they did." He shrugged. "I'm not HYDRA and he gave me one hell of a history lesson while I guarded things." He held up something. "The MRE came with skittles if you want them."
"No, I'm good," Tony Stark said. "Um... maybe. The other weapons?" Xander led him to them. "Fuck," he said, looking around the first storage area. "All weapons?"
"Couldn't tell you conclusively. These were already in here. The two I looked in were. The other one definitely was as far as I could tell." He looked at him. "I tried to call. He asked me to."
Tony nodded. "It's a good thing he had these protected."
"How would your father have done magic to protect it?"
Tony winced. "Shit," he muttered. Xander handed over the skittles. Tony took them to open and eat while looking things over. "Anything we should know?"
"I'm not getting too close to the computer in there in case my gift for getting possessed kicks in. I'm not sure if it works on computer based lifeforms." Stark looked at him then cracked, starting to laugh. Xander grinned. "You do what you gotta do, Mr. Stark. I've got another week before I'm due back to being nagged by the slayers." He left him to gather his mind and worry about things.
Tony Stark called Pepper. It's what he did when his mind wouldn't shut up. "Pepper. Yeah, the guy was right. There's a huge warehouse full of stuff my father put in here. Including my father's mind as an AI on a really ancient computer. I need a truck at least. And Rhodey would help. Please?" He opened a new case and groaned. "Fuck, Dad's more extreme drunken tinkering stuff. That's a miniature A-Bomb." She said something. "No, turned off. Please? Thanks. Yeah, I'm there. JARVIS copied the map if he needs it or I left it...probably in the car. Um, just soon? Thank you." He hung up and went back to the first cave. He stared at his father. "How would HYDRA, who you said you and Captain America destroyed, have done this?"
"We were wrong and the US wanted scientists to be the bigger bad thing again," he said, sounding tired. "So we gave Nazi scientists labs." Tony grimaced. "Some of us protested them being in the open but we weren't listened to. We were told it was a reaction to fighting them during the war," he said, sounding bland. "I really miss brandy right now."
Tony nodded. "We can have you moved, Dad."
"Thanks, son." He smiled. "Maybe you can use some of those to stop HYDRA. Before it takes everyone down."
Xander leaned in. "Don't set off visions. What have I said about that?"
Xander snorted but looked at Tony. "HYDRA, also known as a few senators, some congress members, some people in each and every single agency, including half of SHIELD, are still active. I just had a vision about them trying to open a gateway with a mini power source on a staff thing."
"Yeah, gold staff thing."
Stark shuddered. "Loki's staff?"
"How would I know? We didn't fight Loki. The slayers and I that got there for the battle fought the demon looking aliens."
"Point." He nodded. "I can talk to Cap, Dad."
"You found him?" His whole face lit up and the display got brighter too. "Is he okay?"
"Yeah, he's mostly okay. Bit upset right now. Um.... kid....."
Xander grinned. "I'm guarding it until you get the weapons and your dad somewhere else, Mr. Stark. Part of protecting everyone means that I don't let these sort of things into any hands but good hands. And I don't trust the military after meeting some of them." He shrugged. "You're the hands they're supposed to be in and I have to fly out by next Wednesday."
"I can have it moved by then. I have a friend I trust who is Air Force."
"Haven't run into any of them. Well, that one guy in Africa but he was doing the right thing in the wrong way but otherwise he wasn't one of the ones we had problems with probably."
"Good to know. Can I...."
"Yeah. The bikers are acting up but they won't come up here. I did use one thing to make sure of it. The nice beam lit their clubhouse on fire from the cliffs up top. Speaking of, that's how we get power." He left them to talk.
"I like that boy," Howard said. "He's got a blunt, terrible duty and personality but he's a good kid. The sort I'd want on the Commandos next team."
"The military hates me," Xander called. "Kick one special project around with your friends and they hate you forever."
"Sure, I get that," Tony said. His phone rang. "Rhodey, Tony. Yeah, a bit flustered. Xander Harris, from the New Watchers Council, found a storehouse of Dad's old weapons and designs. And his AI. Yeah, that's where I am. I could use a truck. Or three. And a large backup drive to clone his AI." He walked outside, looking around. "There's a biker gang meeting down the hill so be careful. Thanks, man." He hung up and took a few deep breaths. Finding his father's ...spirit for lack of a better word, alive was freaking him out. This is not what he expected from hearing his father had a hidden storage area.
He looked his phone and called a number. "Fury, Stark. We need to talk in person sometime after tomorrow. I just found a cache of Dad's stuff. Including stuff on HYDRA. He said you've got a bunch of them." He hung up. He took another deep breath and went back to the weapons. Most were weapons but there were a few other things hiding among them. He went out to look at the papers stored in boxes. Xander pointed so he started there. "Non-weapons?"
"Blue boxes. Red dots on them mean they looked like office type paperwork. They had been sorted randomly but I sorted by type of dot. The ones without are in that corner," he said with a point. Stark looked at him. "I've been trying to get hold of you now for a week. It was that or get nagged for doing what I have to do to protect people." He shrugged. "I get plenty of that from the slayers."
"I guess girls would." He checked each type of box, making a mental list of how to get things out of here in what order.
"The red boxes are proof that HYDRA has been around all this time," Howard called. "No marks were personal papers I never got around to sorting and destroying. Things like tax returns."
"Thanks, Dad." He heard jet boots and walked out. "Not the truck I needed."
"Pepper's bringing a U-Haul up." He put up the face shield. "You sounded freaked out."
"I found Dad's AI. They downloaded his brain."
"That's a good reason," Rhodey said, walking in there. He paused. "We have a do not engage order on you, Mr. Harris."
"I ran from the demonic biker gang when my car broke down." He shrugged but grinned. "I tried to call him first."
"I'm only guarding until I have to go home. Being in a cave full of weapons and a nagging AI is a lot better than being in a house full of nagging slayers."
"I guess it would be," Rhodey agreed. He followed Tony into the caves, ending in the one where Howard was. "Evening, Mr. Stark."
"Do I know you?"
"I'm Colonel James Rhodes, sir. Your son's best friend. I was there before you died."
"Oh, okay. That's nice. At least Tony can trust you."
"Yes, he can." He looked around. "How much memory do you need to clone yourself? We can't move you while you're powered."
"Probably a few terrabytes. They did it on low memory. The HYDRA bastard has a lot more tape drives than I do."
"Where?" Rhodey asked.
"My old base, kid."
"I'll ... Yeah, someone will know," Tony decided. "I've called Nick Fury, Dad. We'll talk." He heard a truck and saw the kid head out with something. Then someone yelped and two others screamed but drove off. Xander came back in holding his arm. "You good?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. They're boring. They know not to come near me and sending them to 'make sure I'm okay' is going to get Buffy kicked in sparring." He sat down, using his shirt to clot the injury. "That's why I turned my phone off." He turned it on and called. "I'm doing something important. If you *ever* send your ex Finn after me again and I'm not dying, I'm going to kill him next time. You have a better day and I'll be back on time unless it's an emergency." He hung up and turned off his phone again. Then he sighed and started to hum while cleaning his knife with his t-shirt.
Rhodey walked out, staring at him. "Finn was just here?"
"Yup. Finn and his wife." He looked up. "They said Buffy sent them because she was worried I had went off the grid. She usually can't reach me for months on end but apparently me camping is a bad thing."
Rhodey grimaced. "They could react to that."
"The Federal Appeals court ruled that they were to stay away from me unless I was dying," he said, staring at him. "Then he warned them he didn't like them being in Homeland Security and they should be in jail." He smiled a tiny bit. "They weren't pleased and the higher court wouldn't listen."
"Does it go back to the Council?"
"Good. The girls don't need that hell too. I saw some of the files by accident."
Xander nodded. "The general sneering that somehow the team had taken down their special ops project hadn't. When he did, he almost apologized but still hated demons."
"I can see that point." He went into the AI cave again. "Miss Potts is coming with a U-Haul."
"Sure. I can listen for her. Will I have to duck the one-eyed dick sucker?"
"Yup," Tony said. "Just in case so he can debrief you."
"You might want to make sure he knows not to send someone else."
"Good point." He called him back, getting Hill. "We found a cache of Dad's stuff, including an AI that has information on HYDRA still being around, Agent Hill. Make sure he comes out himself. I know Fury's not HYDRA, or you."
Xander held out a hand, taking the phone. "Hill, Harris. Send only the one-eyed dick sucker out here to handle this. Because I found the president has a brother who's HYDRA. Exactly. Thanks. Who? No! And not near the girls either. I know *we* aren't infested. I know you are. Fury and only Fury or else I go to the press first thing in the morning." He hung up and tossed the phone back. "Sometimes it helps being the biggest target so they leave the slayers alone."
Rhodey smiled. "I guess it would."
Xander's phone turned itself on and rang. "What?" he answered. "No, the car broke down so I'm camping and happened into weapons so I'm guarding them until the proper people *I* trust can get them from this charming cave. Willow, I'm pretty sure I can trust Tony Stark to pull his own stuff out of this cave. Okay? No, because she sent Riley. You can beat and nag her about it. Thanks." He hung up and turned it back off. "Nagging witches. Yay," he muttered. He looked at Stark. "She thinks you should be female so you could be next to the goddess. That's why we don't let her drink anymore." Stark walked off groaning and shaking his head. Xander grinned at Rhodey.
"You think she can?"
"I think she has in the past. Being a girl was weird."
Rhodey nodded, walking off again to help Tony. His mind was already being warped. Howard was giggling.
Nick Fury stomped into Stark's office the next day, running into Pepper, who looked exhausted. "He called?" he demanded. "And why is he working with the bastard from the Council?"
"We're just back and in the lab, Director. Leave your agent here." She walked off, staring at the agent still following them. "No."
"Stay," Fury said.
"In the car, I don't want anyone ...contaminated in the building in case they cause a problem."
"He's not demonic, Potts."
"I don't care and not what I meant." She pushed the button on the elevator panel, taking them to the lab. Howard was appreciating updated computers and his new storage room in the corner of the spare lab. Tony had other things sorted out and Xander was helping Rhodey move a few more boxes to where Tony was sorting things. "Tony."
"Fury." He held up a file he had pulled out. "Zola made himself an AI. HYDRA's still around." He pointed at Howard's face on the monitor. "Harris found him and told me."
Xander grinned. "You've got so many little snakes....." He moved another box then went 'ah-ha'. "I know this box. It's the 'I sold myself' list." Tony came over to get into the files, pulling them out.
Nick Fury looked at the monitor. "Howard," he said. "How?" At least he was good at not showing how horrified he was at the moment.
"Zola. He took my old office to do it to himself too. He gave me this charming new life about six months before I died by what Xander looked up for me."
Fury looked at Xander. "Can't you keep your strange to yourself?"
"Nope." He grinned. "I would've called my usual contact when you guys are being the boil on the Council's ass but you have her somewhere in the middle of the bad part of Europe at the moment."
"You know Romanoff," Tony said.
Xander smiled and nodded. "He sent her to sex me up to figure out why all the bad guys love me. Of course, I'd been told about her so we chatted instead. I answered all her questions and was a perfect gentlemen but offered if she wanted to come back for some other reason." He pulled out a file, smiling and handing it over. "Those who made demonic deals in Congress as of a few decades ago?"
"Helpful," Tony agreed, looking through it. "Plenty are still there."
Fury huffed. He looked at Howard again. "You sure about HYDRA?"
"Yes. If they find out we know they'll self-destruct everything." He stared at him. "I warned them about Zola."
"I heard." He rubbed his forehead. "No wonder I was to come alone." Xander and Tony both looked up.
"In the entry with the guards," Pepper said. Xander nodded, going back to the searching. Stark was grimacing. "He tried to follow anyway."
Fury called him. "Go wait in the car. It'll be hours." He hung up. Then he called someone else. "We've got issues. You're endangered."
"Tell my ex I said hi," Xander said dryly. "I've had three poker contacts praise his current team."
Fury groaned. "I hate you."
Xander blew a kiss. "We love you too, Nick Fury. You just make our lives so *full* of things." He smiled. "And the next time you let the agents summoning a demon do it on your pretty little helicarrier, we're going to let them keep going. You guys made your own bad things that time." He went back to work. Stark and Pepper were both staring at him. He grinned up at them, adjusting the eye patch. "They wanted to be new age Satanists, all there for themselves instead of for everyone else. They have pathetic research skills since they called on a higher lord of hell to guide them. Two possessed agents and an injured slayer later......" Stark moaned. "The last I heard all five of the agents were in jail at least."
"They're staying there too," Fury complained, walking off. "Yes, come in. Today. Drop it and come in."
"Take over the hub or whatever you call that place where all your intel goes through," Xander said in a sing-song way. "And make sure they can't get to the weapons."
Fury repeated that and sent Hill a coded message. Then he looked at Howard again. "Want to go help the slayers?"
Xander started to laugh. "I can't see him surviving Buffy very long but Andrew would probably be happy to have another guy there all the time to talk to, especially one who likes things like robots. We'd have to keep replacing his screen when the girls broke it though." He walked off giggling.
Stark looked at him. "We need to tell Steve."
"He's on a mission right now."
"We still need to tell Steve. They'll want to go after him," Stark said. "You call him or I will."
"Or I'll call her," Xander called from the garage doorway. "Duck!" They ducked and the blast of warm water didn't do more than fly around their heads but didn't get anything wet. "I'm not here to kill you. Calm the fuck down! I'm here about stuff for the girls. Stark makes pretty things." The demon huffed but faded again. "Sorry, I freaked out the demon you have in the fountain. He'll calm down again." He looked at Pepper when she stomped over. He pointed. "Hey," he called. "She wanted to see if she had to retile the fountain to match you." It faded back into view, giving her a shy smile and a blushing side look. "They're really harmless, Miss Potts."
"That's good. As long as it's harmless and it's not hurting the fountain any, it's welcome to stay there." The demon blew some foam her way as it smiled and faded out again. "Any others?"
"Two half demons on the gate but they're protector types so guards are a good job for them. One I noticed inside but he was wearing a lab coat of some kind. Not sure why he's here but if it's his choice he's probably not going to harm anyone. His people are fairly advanced. They have a huge intelligence network we've touched bases with sometimes. They're the only people that actually think I'm not some tag along little warrior wannabe. Even told the slayers that once but Buffy never listens." He shrugged but smiled. "The wacky that is the main slayer house. Maybe I'll just skip there and go back to my rounds in Africa." He walked off yawning.
"You can rest, kid," Fury said. "I'm sure you can curl up in a corner." Xander shot him a dirty look. "We need you at your best. Take a nap. I can guard for now."
"Fine. Let me curl up on the old couch over here."
"It might have bugs," Tony said.
"Stark, I just spent three years in Africa," he said with a smile. "Bugs are a lot nicer than snakes."
"Good point. Snakes would be worse to sleep on than anything that crawled in here."
"It was cold enough to kill them when we got in," Rhodey said. Xander nodded, laying down and drifting off to rest, but not fully sleep. Here was too insecure to sleep.
Fury shook his head. "We hate working with him," he said quietly. "He's good enough but he's sassy and he doesn't follow orders."
"That's probably because your orders aren't what he's concerned about," Rhodey told him bluntly. "I don't take outside orders in the middle of things that are going to harm what I'm there for either. And yes, I saw when the slayers had a 'if you want it so much, here you do it' week." He shot him a smug look. "How did that work for you?"
"The kid told them to take it easy on us, we weren't female and Hill wasn't one of them." He snorted, going back to Howard. "Did you know about them?"
"I heard rumors of the old group. Xander told me what happened." He stared at him. "I like the kid. He's got spunk. He would've made a fine Commando."
"Clearly since he doesn't listen to me," Fury said dryly.
Howard's AI smiled. "Why would he? SHIELD has nothing to do with the paranormal, Nick."
"Point, maybe." They got back to work. They heard the kid's phone ring and him sigh but answer it.
"What? No, I'm here at Stark resting, Natasha. Ah, is that why Willow found you. Tell her to go pet a cat she didn't make this time. No, I happened into a storage cave of weapons and HYDRA information."
"Don't tell her that," Fury ordered.
"You don't pay my ass," Xander shot back. "Whine, mother fucker, as you told me once." He shot a glare then smirked. "And I look better in my eyepatch than you do." Pepper burst out laughing but shook her head as she went to make coffee. "No, Natasha, I'm okay. I found a whole bunch of stuff Howard Stark created, plus his artificial intelligence. Yes, HYDRA. The same HYDRA. The same HYDRA that's infesting your little overseeing authority by the way. No clue but Howard's mental math said probably about half of SHIELD. No one's put new records into that storage area in years." He yawned. "No, I had to come get him since he didn't answer phone requests. Then again, that figures. Stark's busy thinking up the end of the universe."
He winced and rubbed his forehead. "Hold on." He squeezed his eyes shut, letting the vision come. He sighed and groaned when it stopped. "Stark, don't make any more AI's. They'll take out humanity." He put the phone back against his ear. "Sorry, vision. Captain, I am. Here, hold on. Stark, Rogers." He held up his phone. Tony jogged over to get it and walked off telling him what they had found. Xander got up. "Miss Potts, paper and a pen maybe?" he asked quietly. She let him have some and he wrote the vision down, letting her take it so he could go rest again. "I hate visions and it's clear that Jonathan ascended after the First Evil bullshit to become a higher power since I get geek visions." He closed his eyes and let himself drift off again, almost pouting in his sleep.
Fury shook his head. "We hate visions but they seem to be right most of the time, unless he steps in to warp them." Stark took it from him to look over and groaned but went over to Howard's AI so he could put the phone on speaker so they could talk. Steve wasn't sounding like a happy Avenger at the moment but they could handle that too.
Somewhere in Eastern Europe, Steve Rogers hung up after talking to a man who was virtual instead of dead and wanted to throw his phone. He wasn't usually the fit throwing sort but right now, it seemed like a great idea. He looked at Natasha. "We need to go to Stark as soon as we're done."
"We're done after this raid."
"Good. Make sure we hit the airport immediately." She nodded. "By ourselves." She smiled a tiny smirk and nodded again. "Do you know this Harris guy?"
"Yes, I do. I was sent to see what was going on with him and he figured out why I was there fairly fast since I wasn't like the arms dealers that usually courted him." She smirked more brightly. "We had a charming four hour talk in the restaurant but he was very mannerly, for him, and quite pleasant to eat with. Not my type but pleasant."
"Huh. He dates arms dealers?"
"They like him." She shrugged. "It seems to happen sometimes."
"Oh. That's...charming I guess. Is he an agent?"
"Trainer for the slayers."
"Oh!" He blinked a few times. "I read about them recently." She nodded. "Huh. So maybe it comes in handy too."
"He said it had a few times but he was also grieving for a lost fiancee."
"That's sad. Before the wedding?"
"Longer story." She walked off telling him that. It was the best story to get to know Xander.
Colonel Rhodes quit leaning against the side of the car, nodding at the two people getting off the private plane. "Stark sent me, Captain. I'm Colonel Rhodes, I wear the other suit."
"Nice to meet you, Colonel. Is Stark all right?"
"Having a slight problem wrapping his mind around his father being a fairly nagging AI over Xander's diet at the moment. Apparently when he couldn't drink virtual liquor he turned to nagging. He's also trying to drive one of Harris' coworkers out of the building from her nagging. I feel really sorry for the kid." He got them into the car with their bags and drove them back to the lab building. He drove into the garage and looked. "What happened?" he asked Potts as he got out.
"Willow had a huge, bad reaction to the water fountain demon for some reason. Xander kindly put down the garage door before it went to war and went out to deal with them. Stark and Fury moved half of everything to a better protected small lab, including Howard." She smiled. "Steve, Natasha." She shook their hands. "He's upstairs." They pushed a few trolleys of boxes to the elevator and went up there. Stark came out to get them and pointed, shaking his head with a sigh. They could hear Howard nagging Xander in the corner and Fury was looking smug.
"Listen, old guy. I do what I have to do and I'm sorry you don't like it. But hey, now you have your son you can unscrew your relationship with, because I read a biography on him once for english class and you were about as good as my drunken parents were. So a second chance and maybe this time you'll do it better." He stared at Howard's image. "Beyond that, not my daddy and you're not the dangerous sort that likes my ass so sorry!" He smirked and waved. "Have fun." He walked off shaking his head. "Let me go hide from all the nagging bitches," he called to Stark. "Before your dad and Willow join up." He paused, smiling at Natasha. "Hi. I'm going to hide in Marakesh if you wanted to have dinner again. I could use talking to people who didn't nag and had sense. Or else I'll probably go call on Barry to see if he'd like breakfast. He's local." He walked around them. "Have fun, Captain. He needs a valium."
Natasha shook her head, looking at Nick Fury. "You know better than to set him off."
Fury shrugged. "What's he going to do? Go find another arms dealer to date?"
"The last time you pissed him off after a battle he found weapons for the next apocalypse battle while they babied his injuries." Fury snorted. "And nicely turned over the two things he won at poker that were too big for slayers. Including that neutron bomb."
"If he does it this time, he can turn it in again. He was getting in the way anyway. This isn't really his deal and like he said earlier, HYDRA has no interest in the Council. They can't use the slayers for any purpose beyond hoping they keep winning."
Steve shook his head. "I can't say anything about it. I just met the guy. Howard?" Fury pointed so he walked that way. "It is you."
"It is. They're going to pull their end game soon because they'll hear somehow that I got found." He stared at him. "Blocking Zola's minions so far isn't all that hard now that I can connect to the outside world but they're going to destroy some of what's been built."
"I can help stop them again."
"You're going to have to rip down a lot of stuff, Steve. Including SHIELD." Nick Fury winced. "Half of them at least. People in other agencies. People in government." He shook his head. "No one's going to come out unbruised."
"Or we could let Harris note that he found it," Tony said, coming over. "That would sidestep ours. We can arrange for it when SHIELD is totally locked down and no one has access to anything." He stared at Fury. "The weapons? Can we do that?"
"We can and I've already quietly started that, Stark."
"Thank you. I don't really want to face down the weapons you stole from me for that Phase two." He looked at Natasha. "Any word on Barton or Banner?"
"Clint's in New York with his new dog." She smiled. "It's a loving thing he rescued from the Russian Mob in his neighborhood." Tony moaned, shaking his head. "They had a few words but they'll handle things. I have no idea on Banner."
"JARVIS, find me Brucie and have him call ASAP," Tony ordered. "And let her call Barton to clue him in so they can't ambush him too."
"HYDRA has little use for myself or Barton," she said. "We're not going to be turned and taking us out is very difficult."
"So was taking me out," Howard said. "They have snipers who can also build bombs. I looked over the file on my supposed car wreck. No one noticed the ripping up of the engine from the bomb."
"Obadiah didn't want anyone to investigate it," Tony said. "Then again, I caught him with his panties down selling arms to terrorists. That was right after he had me kidnaped to get me out of the picture." He looked at Fury. "So are they part of Ten Rings?"
"No. Not that we can tell."
"Good. I'm glad that episode is done with." He looked at Natasha. She waved her phone. "Blocked?"
"No. He's in the shower. The dog answered it." She listened, smiling when she heard Clint's voice. "Barton, answer your own phone." He clearly heard and picked it up. She walked off talking to him. "Harris, yes that one," she said at his spluttering. "Found evidence of HYDRA within SHIELD. He also found Howard Stark as an AI." She listened to him swearing at his pants. "Being dressed would be a good idea. On the west coast at Stark. Where else would we be?" She smiled. "I'll meet you there. Bring the dog. They could use some stress relief." She hung up. "He's on his way and he knows where Banner is."
"Good," Tony said. His phone rang. "Bruce." He smiled as he answered. "Come home now. No, nothing like that. Well, we found out SHIELD's infested with bad guys and my father's an AI. Yes, I'm serious."
"Zola's in my old office, Nick," Howard said.
"I've got two agents I trust going to fix that."
"You sure you can trust them?" Fury nodded. "Absolutely sure?"
"Yes. Hill is my right hand and I trust her with my life. The other one I trained."
Stark looked at him. "I wouldn't trust anyone, even Hill." He went back to filling him in. Bruce said he'd be careful and hung up. "He'll be careful and hide better. Of all of us, he's the best at blending into the jungle cultures."
Natasha nodded. "He does do an excellent job and them hunting him probably wouldn't get them anything good. Knocking him out as a human tends to change him."
"I heard," he said, looking at her. "Did you tell him to bring his dog?"
"Yes." She smiled. "Dogs are very handy and the thing is loyal to his owner. That means he's protective."
"Good point. I guess I can put up with a dog." He shrugged and went back to sorting things. "Someone go get the rest of the papers." She and Fury went to do that while he finished sorting. All the weapons plans had already been put into a vault only he had the combination of. The personal information from Howard's files was in there as well. The weapons plans were mixed in so you couldn't get any of them without searching each box. That left the older HYDRA information. He came to another list of agents who were compromised. It was twelve years old. "Dad, when did they put these in there?"
"The last time anyone showed up it was about thirteen years ago, son. Why?"
"Twelve year old list of agents."
"They had a fire at their storage facility so moved some of it to my cave to keep it safe."
"That figures." Fury came in. He switched the box with the list. "Anyone still employed?" He carried that box off to go through it in a corner. Natasha put the trolley of boxes near him. "Thank you." Fury growled. "I take it someone's still employed?"
"And with Hill. Damn it." He called her. "He's compromised." He hung up to call another number. "Maria's heading to New Jersey. Your co-trainee is one of them. He's with her. Yes, there. Thank you." He hung up, looking at the gathered people. "We have a problem we have not told you about."
Natasha snorted. "I've seen May's new team and heard her mission from your own files. I'm not pleased and I doubt he'll deteriorate that way."
Fury swallowed. "How long have you known?"
"Months." She smirked, looking evil. "He knows we know. Clint and I are the best for good reason." She tipped her head and smirked that same tiny, evil smirk she gave Stark. "He knows all he has to do is ask. May, however, is going to die by my hand." Fury shivered. "And Ward is a weak agent. He is nowhere near the agent that Clint was when Coulson took him in."
Tony's head popped up. "Agent's alive?"
She nodded. "Fury used experimental things on him. Basically tortured him back to life." Stark glared at Fury. "He is mostly healthy but wondering things. Also, they have a pet hacker Coulson picked up to turn into an agent. We'll see where she lands on the scale when someone else has taken over since he detailed Ward to do so. We will handle Ward for you, Director." She strolled off, calling Barton. He was probably closest.
"Yeah, I'd run before Pepper hears that Phil's alive," Stark said with an evil smirk of his own. "You don't want to see her with her softball bat."
Fury stomped off to call him again.
Clint casually shot the guy that Hill was grappling with, smiling at her. "Hey, Hill."
"Who sent you?" she demanded.
"Natasha. You know I'm only loyal to her and Coulson."
"Good point. Um...."
"Yeah, we know." He smirked. "I'm going to kick your ass for that later by the way. What're we doing?"
"Okay. Power interrupts?"
"He's got backup power generators."
Clint looked around. "Where?" She pointed. "Let me go break some stuff. C'mon, Lucky." He and the dog walked off.
"You brought your dog?"
"Yup, I love my dog. He's almost as nice to me as Natasha is but he doesn't bite."
She sighed, calling in that she had met up with Barton and her helper was down. She flinched at the explosions behind her and then under her feet. She looked up at the sound of a jet. "Barton, move," she called, running for the woods.
Clint looked down from his tree. "Like I wasn't already out of the way," he snorted, looking at his dog. Who seemed to shrug. He fired another explosive arrow and took out the last open power supply source. The jet fired on the building, destroying the upper portion but any SHIELD facility was at least half underground. Once the jet was gone, he hopped down, bringing his dog with him, and went to cut the other power sources. He heard laughing but oh well. Small explosive from his arrow and boom went the generators' gas supply. The laughing turned to screams as Clint climbed back out. The dog met him and they walked off together. "C'mon, Hill. I've got an untraceable ride. You can have the back."
"Sure," she agreed. She got her bag from the hidden SHIELD SUV and went with him. The dog got the front bench seat of the older car and she stretched out in the back to rest. "Tell me when you want me to take the wheel."
"I can do that." He drove off, heading toward the west. It was safer if he drove. Less chance of being picked up by some agent in another agency.
Xander looked up from the nap he had taken in the interrogation room, shrugging at the detective. "Why did you decide I had done it when they had me drugged?"
"We weren't sure what was going on, Mr. Harris, but a few people are very worried about what you do."
"I work with the slayers."
The detective winced. "You do?"
"Yes I do. The fact that a past date drugged me and my present date to take him out doesn't make me happy and I'm going to be dealing with her later."
"We can arrest her."
"You'd have to send her home again. She's got immunity."
"Oh." He sat down across from him, noticing the cuffs had been opened. "How did you do that?"
Xander grinned. "I'm a man of many talents. And I've run into some of the dirtiest cops this side of Mexico while I was training in Africa. They get really pissed off when you take out the thing that's paying them a living wage." The detective sighed. Xander smiled. "Exactly. So why am I still here since I was drugged when she tried to kill him?"
"Did kill him. He died in surgery."
Xander sighed. "His daughter's going to beat me to kicking her ass. Damn." The detective grimaced. "His daughter's really good at a lot of things. She's young, but she's evil when she wants to be."
"One of the slayers?"
"I met him when I was seeing someone else and I needed to buy something for a battle. He was pleasant and nice when we were seeing each other."
The detective stared at him. "Has anyone ever mentioned you shouldn't be able to do that?"
"Yes. They're usually faintly amused." He smiled. "Unless they're slayers, then they nag."
"They said you retired."
"Yeah, they try that now and then. Which means I get to kick them out of their house and take back their armory." He smiled. "I could use it anyway." The detective shuddered, moving away from him. "So, am I in trouble for being drugged?"
"No, Mr. Harris. You can collect your things outside."
"Killer, thanks, man." He got up and walked out, signing for his bag of stuff. "I'm missing two knives," he said, patting himself down. "One knife. You guys didn't get one of mine." The property clerk found it and handed it over. "Thanks. That was demon blood if they were wondering. It stained the metal somehow." He tucked his weapons back into their usual spots and walked out, around the huffy Willow and Buffy. "You'd think you'd be less bitchy because someone took out the ex I was having dinner with, but since you're acting that way I'm sure I can take back all the stuff I gave to you guys. Have a great life."
"Giles said," Buffy started.
Xander turned to look at her. "Yawn." She glared. He stared at her over the edge of his sunglasses. "Do remind him that my name's on the house's deed. He had me buy it for him. His name is listed as a secondary name because that's how the realtor said it had to be done. So yeah, I can kick you all out and he'd have to take me to court. I can also take back the full armory outside the crossbows and swords he already had." She glared, starting to tap a foot. "Other people do important things and I'm allowed to have dinner with my ex. Even if another one took out that one for some reason. Tell Destiny I'll get the one who took out her dad for her. She doesn't have to go kill her." Buffy whined. "Basically." He smirked then at Willow. "You, butt out of my sex life. I don't butt into yours. I'd like the same courtesy."
"You date evil things!"
"That's why you had the crush on me for years, Willow." Willow started to squeak and make angry noises. She tried to throw a spell at her but Xander threw something from his pocket on her and she shrieked. "No magic, dear. You know trying to take out a human will call the coven here to deal with you." He smiled. "Not that you shouldn't go back. Today. I heard about Andrew's date."
"What about Andrew's date?" Buffy demanded, looking at Willow. "She was really nice. Kind of geeky but nice."
"She was until Willow gave her address to a vampire," Xander said casually. He walked back toward them. "Beyond that, we've got problems brewing in the US," he said quietly, staring at Buffy. "You need to evac *everyone* in the US to England. Today."
He smiled. "That little weapons cache I stumbled into? It's got leads back to a lot of evil, including some turned agents and politicians. Worse than the 'I sold myself to a demon' sort that plague us." She winced and called Giles. No answer. He handed her his phone. "I had a chaos mage make sure no one could interfere with it, including Willow since she's tried to interrupt me talking to my trainees."
"I did not!"
"You did and it nearly got Hala dead," he shot back. She flinched, shaking her head. "Great job, Willow. Has Ethan Rayne come to talk to you about Janus yet?" She huffed and disappeared. Xander held up his emergency transport key. She had her own so they went back there. Willow was ranting at Giles. He leaned in. "I'll talk with Destiny in a moment but HYDRA's still around and infesting the US government. Including agents and politicians. You need to clear everyone in the US today."
"I can do that," he said. "You're on the house's deed?" Xander got it out to show it to him. "Why did you do that?"
"The realtor said it had to be done that way. I wasn't your real estate agent to be buying things for you and even an assistant would have to be on the paperwork. I could fill out the deed transfer papers and do that but it does tend to protect things. Like the agents that came after your money that once." He smiled. "Also, fire me and watch me take back everything in the armory." He walked off. "Destiny?" he called. She came down the stairs, staring at him. "I'll get Gretchen. Leave her to me."
"She said she didn't need the competition taking her spot with the snake headed things. She sent me a letter of condolence." She ran up to get it and came back down with it.
"Hmm. She's HYDRA too. Your dad would've loved to have beaten her to death for that because he's not a Nazi." He looked at her. "I'll get her. All you girls go pack. The US is going to have fits in the next few days."
"Knowledge. I found so many dirty agents to the same source. They don't like us but we're a source of strength the good agents could hide behind." She nodded, going up to tell the others to pack for a long field mission. Buffy came jogging up to go over what was going on and agreed. They got the whole house packed and Buffy dragged Willow with them so she could visit the coven. Xander waved as they left. "Have fun, be safe. Giles, take the important stuff with you."
"I have. Be safe here, Xander."
He grinned. "What's the worst that could happen? The US seizes up and has a civil war?" Giles shuddered as they got the coven to move them and the specially, magically, packed things. Xander went to check the house, turning off Andrew's batch of cookies he had left for him since they were done. The food was nicely stuff he could use. The rest was leftovers he could eat on for the next week. So that was good. He turned up the shields on the house and went to watch some tv. It was almost as good as camping in a cave with nagging AI's.
Two days later, Tony Stark woke up to an alarm. Someone was trying to raid the compound and lab. He got up and headed for his weapons. Not demons at least but agents. They could hold them off and figure out what was going on. He came out, Iron Man glove on his hand. "What do you think you're doing?" he demanded to the agent he let wake up from the sedative gas that a breach released automatically.
"You're an enemy of the US government."
"No I'm not. I'm an enemy of stupid but I know exactly why they're doing this. I found someone's panties down to quote someone else. Sorry, I can't let you do this and everything's already out of here. It's all protected from the snakes at HYDRA." The agent's eyes went wide. He smirked. "Neat trick by the way." He zapped him and walked off. The compound was empty. Everything had been moved the day before. Only he was still over here and he had a helicopter waiting. Natasha had paused to get Barton, his dog, and Hill to Coulson's team but she was already gone too. Let's see them self destruct without anyone in the way.
Clint walked onto the plane that had to land to refuel, his dog walking with him. Hill was behind him. He hauled off and punched Coulson. "That's for making me find out on my own, sir."
Phil touched his lip with a fingertip then stared at him. "If you were really mad you would've shot me."
"Yeah, but I'm mellow right now. The US is presently going to hell thanks to HYDRA." He smirked and shot Ward then May in the arm. "I don't trust double agents, even if they're only double to Fury. Or HYDRA goons." He looked at the three others and smiled, waving the hand with the gun. "Hi. He's my handler. I'm possessive and I like the two geeks. Skye, some day you'll prove to us what sort of agent you'll be. Not like agents trust all that hard usually." He looked at Coulson. "So, let's go. Even the Council evacuated. Harris was the guy who found the AI of Howard Stark and all the HYDRA stuff."
"HYDRA?" the two geeks said in unison. Clint smiled and nodded. "Oh, crud," they said together then looked at each other before looking at Hill.
"The science lab and the academy are both locked down," Hill said calmly. "So are all the other facilities rated below a level 8 clearance. Director Fury's had a little over a week to make plans." They nodded. "Settle in, we're going to England to rendevous."
Coulson felt the cold nose against his arm and looked down. "Hi, who're you?"
"That's Lucky. He's a great friend. I rescued him." He walked him off. "Let's pee while we refuel, Lucky. Then I'll go fly the plane." Lucky ran off to water and crap on some bushes then followed his human back inside to oversee the refueling. "It'll be okay, Skye. As long as you don't turn on us, we'll leave you alone."
"I need to hack some stuff," she said, looking at Ward's body. Then at him. "Why him?"
"He was HYDRA," Hill said. "We can't allow any of them around us. Agent May was in league with Fury over Agent Coulson's revival. Agent Barton was a bit upset with her over that."
"I wasn't allowed to tell him," Coulson said.
"Yay," Clint called back. He looked over as a familiar redhead settled in next to him. "Thought you were in France."
"I was but a contact needed removed immediately so I had to come remove her and her child for their own safety." He nodded. She logged into her console and looked it over. "Why is the refueling truck taking so long?" He shrugged. She went to check. The people manning it were dead, and not by their hand. She shot the agents coming out to bother them. "Interesting ploy. Not very effective though." She got grazed and killed that one harder. "Pity, I liked this jumpsuit. It's well broken in." She got the refueling restarted and made sure they were fully ready to hit a northern airport to jump across the atlantic ocean. Then she went back inside once it was done. The ramp came up behind her. She nodded at the two geeks. "Fitz, Simmons. First aid kit?" Simmons came over to bandage the graze. "Thank you. We're going overseas."
"That's fine with us," Fitz said. "Better that than this right now."
She smiled slightly. "Definitely. Even the slayers left. Though they did try the house and Harris called in a debt to eat the ones holding him who were HYDRA." She walked off, going back to the cockpit. She slugged Coulson herself on the way past. "I was not amused."
"I know, Natasha. If I could have...." She stared at him. He smiled, touching the newly reopened split lip. "You know how he is."
"Yes. The more obscure he is about things, the more illegal or unsavory it is." She went upstairs, settling in to help Clint fly the plane. "Where?"
"Nova Scotia. Then we'll refuel, do the atlantic, and hit London." She nodded. He started take off procedures and taxied the plane out to the runway. The agents had gotten the control tower since they didn't respond. He called that in on his cellphone before they took off. He looked back when Coulson joined them. "Stark called Jane Foster a few days back and warned her that the whole team was coming her way for safety reasons. To meet them at a certain monument at a certain time to get briefed and they'd keep her and her interns safe. Banner's already there. He landed last night."
"Good to know. You're sure Ward was HYDRA?"
"Yup," Clint said. "Hill and I ran into a few who tried to stop us so we asked politely." Coulson nodded. "The guy said that one was going to take out the Cavalry so she couldn't do her thing."
"That's Ward then." He sighed. "Where are we heading?"
"England." He looked back. "Harris found it."
"That figures. Xander can do that."
Natasha looked at him. "He found they had made an AI out of Howard Stark's brain before they killed him." He stared at her. "Harris had to get in touch with Stark and Xander said Howard nagged him like the slayers do."
Coulson shook his head. "Then I'll expect Stark to be this side of hair pulling." She nodded. "Are all the vulnerable evacuated?"
"Three are not but were warned and they could handle their own needs," she said. "I had to come back to move Misty and her mother."
He nodded, going back to talk to Hill now that she had calmed down with the dog watching her. He sat down on the couch. Lucky looked at him and barked. "You're a good boy and your human is up those stairs," he said with a point. Lucky seemed to salute him. "You're really weird but a good friend for Clint, Lucky." He reached out slowly and the dog let him pet him. "Good boy. Get to know the others please. Don't bite Skye." He went to sniff the other humans. The injured one growled but he growled back so she backed down. He had bigger teeth and Hill had disarmed her. She didn't want Barton to kill her for hurting his dog. The other three petted him and he was happy with them.
Coulson looked at Hill. "I don't know, Phil. I know that we were core rotted with HYDRA," she said quietly. "Only four senior handlers weren't involved. Sitwell was HYDRA." He glared. She nodded. "Garret was with me when I found out he turned but Barton showed up in time to get him for me."
"How did they do this?"
"We let Nazi scientists have positions over here after the war. Howard and others complained but they were told it was post-war feelings and to get over it." He sighed, shaking his head. "Zola had an AI of himself at the original SHIELD office. That's how he knew how to do Howard's." She drank a sip of her coffee. "You know that jutted jaw that Rogers has when he starts to get stubborn?" Phil gave her a pointed look. "He went past that after a day of seeing Howard's AI. He's gotten to the point of willing to come back to crash a plane into this version of HYDRA." He smiled a tiny grin. "He's not alone either."
"I didn't figure he was. Who has he been working with?"
"Natasha. Fury's sent them with a team a number of times."
"Great. It's good they can work together." She nodded, finishing the coffee. "Go nap on my office couch, Maria." She smiled and went to do that. He went down to the lab where the other three were. With the dog. "Anything?"
"HYDRA's all over the place," Skye said. "I've warned some of the Rising Tide about them so they could scatter. They've been releasing information to the press all day apparently. One of them found Howard's AI. He put out who he knew was, including implicating the president's family. His wife was found to be HYDRA earlier but he has so far not come out as more than horrified and worried for his kids. Who are in a safe location in Europe." Coulson nodded, crossing his arms over his chest. "All the SHIELD buildings are under total lockdown. No access to anything. Computers are restricted from contacting outside. The phones are all monitored. The Triseklion is in huge trouble. They found a thing going on there with the new helicarriers being built and shut it down. There's generals heaving fits on tv," she finished, looking at him.
"We figured it would. How many other agencies are compromised?"
"All of them," Fitz said, slumping as he looked up. "Not as much as SHIELD but they all have multiple sleeper cells within them. The Secret Service is having a tizzy since the Council people rescued the presidential and vice presidential kids just in case until the agents are checked. No one knows where the slayers are. The only one in known sight is Harris."
"He does that in purpose," Coulson agreed. "He's also got contacts to protect himself."
"One of the heads of the World Security Council was outed earlier," Skye said, pulling that up. "Demons turned him in after raiding a bank vault he had possession of with what the demon described as a torture team for a hostage. Said hostage was taken to England and given to Harris directly by what the demon said. He said he pitied that one greatly."
"Interesting. Any idea on who that was?"
"No," she said. "No information we can find even if we could hack in." She pulled up something. "We did look at the inventory of special objects when Fitz suggested it. I think they're in R&D too, Coulson." She pointed at one entry. Scepter of Loki, at off-site research facility in Germany. His face tightened. "We don't know what's going on."
"HYDRA always wanted the elemental cube. They had possession of it once. Captain America tossed it off a plane after getting rid of the Red Skull." He rubbed over an eyebrow. "Thankfully that's on Asgard."
"Is the staff part of it?" Fitz asked.
"No idea. I know it's got a glowing jewel in it like the cube. The Tesseract was under study when it opened a doorway to let Loki through. Erik Selvig was the head scientist on that project and now he's with Jane Foster in England the last I heard."
"So they're probably huddled up with UK agents?" Skye guessed.
"England had agents inside the old Council. I'm fairly certain they can trust them. The Council holds no known benefit for HYDRA outside being a wall others can hide behind," Simmons said. Coulson nodded at that. "I know one of the people there and I've written her an email. She said she could only say they were safe. They had refugees hiding from the bad things, and that anyone who needed something should find Xander. He's in the open to handle anything that comes up."
"Which is reasonable. Harris has a great bullshit meter I bet," Skye said.
Coulson smiled. "Quite. Harris is like a low pressure force of nature. By the time you realize he's run you over, it's already done with the storm of adjustment's gone." They all smiled. "He also had training service in Africa and lower Central America. He has some contacts from those who have dated him and probably in some African governments. If they didn't make sure the girls were still girlish, he could probably take most of the slayers and have them hidden within a few areas in Africa or Central America."
"I can't imagine Buffy being in a dirty environment," Simmons said. "Whenever they show her on tv she's fashionably clad and perfectly coifed."
"She's had her events of slime and mud," Coulson said. "All the slayers have. But yes, she used to be the fashionable cheerleader sort." They all shook their heads. "I don't think she'd have a lot of trouble adapting unless it was a low water area so she couldn't bathe as often."
"I don't really like being those places myself," Simmons said. She looked at the blinking screen on the virtual display. Skye was tapping on it and answering the message to her tumblr. "Anything good?"
"One of the other hackers checking in. Alexander Pierce was just dragged off in chains. There was press coverage. He looked right at the camera and said 'hail, HYDRA'. She thinks it'll activate other sleeper cells," she said as she typed. "The other hackers we know are all holding government servers shut so no one can get into them right now." She looked up at Coulson. "That way no one can erase or fudge anything."
"It's not a bad idea but they'll probably complain a lot."
"I would have put it on the internet," Natasha said from the doorway. Lucky bounded over to bark at her until she petted him. "Good afternoon, Lucky." She looked at Coulson. "We've been ordered to land by the Secret Service. I have said that we are not HYDRA. We are all cleared agents of SHIELD."
"Do we know them?"
"It's the vice-director."
"Do it," he said, following her. The dog came with them to the cockpit. "This is Agent Phil Coulson of SHIELD. Why are we being ordered to land?" he asked when he Clint handed over the microphone.
"Agent Coulson, we believe you have an agent on board who is compromised," the voice said.
"Agent Ward is no longer among the living."
"That's good. Where are you heading?"
"To safety with the two Avengers on board."
"Agreed. You are cleared to land at the airport filed in your flight plan to refuel and head over. MI-5 is aware you are coming and is not going to fuss. You're not the only one apparently."
"Thank you. Call me privately if you need anything."
"I can do so, Agent Coulson. Can your hacker release things?"
"No," Natasha said, taking it. "It was ordered to keep things from disappearing. Have the UK agents gotten in touch with any other SHIELD Europe offices?"
"No clue. I can check."
"Suggest it to the ones around Harris please. Plane out." She hung up and looked at him. He nodded and patted her on the shoulder, sitting down to talk to them while petting the dog.
Xander looked up from having lunch when an agent in an uptight suit stopped beside him. "I'm being a good boy."
"Why should SHIELD Europe be talking to foreign agents?"
"Because things in R&D at SHIELD have been taken by the HYDRA agents. I'm told Loki's Scepter is one," he said quietly.
"Oh, dear Lord," he muttered.
Xander, having heard that from Giles, knew how far up the 'oh fuck' scale that was. "The slayer over near there has contacts who said that same lab has test subjects." The agent stared at him. He stared back as he took a bite of sandwich and chewed. The agent grimaced but nodded, going to pass that on. They knew which slayers were where. The UK paid attention to such things after they had learned about the Council. Xander was listening to some old biddies in the corner complaining about what was going on in the US and about how England should revoke their independence to fix all that. It was amusing but he was sure someone might try.
He smiled at the bouncy young woman who walked in. He whistled at her, earning a scowl but she did a double take and came over to talk to him. "Miss Lewis. How are things?"
"What is going on?" She sat down then went to order lunch then came back with it. "Can we help any?"
"Right now, you and Jane are helping. Sometimes, being a home base and an external point of contact is the help that's needed. That's why I'm doing the things I'm doing."
She nodded. "It's freaking us out."
"Stark can do that to nearly anyone by twisting their minds up in science." He ate a bite and smiled as he chewed. "It'll be okay."
"Are you sure?"
"I am. The US will still be standing and there'll be a lot of job openings soon so maybe some unemployment will be eased." She smiled but dug into her lunch, moaning at the flavor. "It is good. Nearly as good as you'd get in Morocco."
"A few times. I was the one training slayers in Africa." One of the old biddies glared at him. He glared back. "Not like they wouldn't die quickly without the training so they could protect their own people at home."
"At home?" she demanded.
"The new Council doesn't take girls from their families unless someone like CPS steps in to take them from their families. We train them at home these days. They may come for some final years of training if they want to patrol but mostly it's home based and we give them what they need to have a slightly normal life for as long as they can. The oldest slayer has been doing it now for eleven years this fall." She shuddered. "A number of the girls have gotten married, had families, or have careers and families. We support the girls like it's a huge military sorority these days."
The guy in the back shouted. "Oh, please," Xander called back in that language. "I saved your damn village twice in a year." The guy looked out then smiled and came out to hug Xander before going back there. "Some of us did a whole lot of training. Including of other militaries and villages." The old biddy huffed. "Sorry but we're all field people now. We go for the practical, not the fanciful. Outside the unicorn one of the witches pulled." The old biddy whined but they finished up and left. Xander shrugged, digging back into his lunch.
"Unicorns are real?" Darcy asked.
Xander smiled and nodded. "They pulled her from another realm. She's with one of the younger coven witches to be fussed over."
"Can Jane look at that stuff? It might help her research."
"All she has to do is ask Giles."
"I'll let her know. Are dragons real?"
"Yup, and Asgard has a few." Darcy grinned and they finished eating. By the end of the meal, Bruce Banner walked in. "Try the pork, Dr. Banner. It's excellently moist."
"Thank you, Mr. Harris." He ordered some for himself and something for Tony too. He looked at him. "Unicorns?"
"No, unicorn. We found the little witchling and her mother nearly beat her to death for pulling mystical creatures over here. That's why she's taken a vow of chastity so she can take care of her unicorn." Bruce nodded then sighed and shook his head. "Her pulling was warping something ritual Willow was doing to keep the hellmouths closed tighter so we had to call over there."
"I don't need to know," Banner decided. "Have you heard anything new?"
"Your handler's coming over. He should be here tonight with your teammates."
"Oh, okay. Anything else?"
"We pointed out some things had been stolen from R&D to be taken to HYDRA bases. They're looking into it."
"A hacker I know from college has said that they're working together to keep all the government's computers tied down right now so nothing can be accessed, erased, or dumped," Darcy said.
"That's probably a good thing but someone will get mad."
"They'll get mad tomorrow, when they think they've arrested everyone. I'd suggest the Rising Tide has lists they can put out and probably have been. They're a bit savvy about political messes."
"Hopefully. If not, maybe we can talk to them. Thanks, kids." He paid for the lunches and left.
Xander grinned at Darcy. "Want to go to the movies with me?"
"I'm probably not the sort of girl you date, Mr. Harris."
"I don't mind sweet and nice but you're not dangerous enough to be mine. I meant in a non-date way. I don't have time to date right now and if I'm with someone then others will try harder not to attack either of us. A few of my ex's were messed up in all that. I've gotten the one that nearly got me arrested in LA. His daughter thanked me for it." He grinned. "The MI-5 people were not happy that she had such ties. I went with making her so miserable she committed suicide instead of outright killing her for it. She had drugged me and my date then killed him and left me there." Darcy shook her head but was smiling. "He was a nice guy, got me plenty of weapons for the slayers." She smiled more brightly. "The newest horror movie is playing. I'll treat since I have money."
"Sure," she decided. She sent Jane a text message and finished her lunch so they could go watch a movie. It was good until they came out to find a few demons being butts to officers. Then Xander huffed, pulled a sword, and asked them what they were doing. The demons sneered but the two slayers who were patrolling London showed up before they got done posturing so it was a short fight. Xander didn't even get that messy.
"Didn't Buffy tell you to quit fighting the demons because of your eye?" one of the slayers demanded.
Xander stared at her. "Shut up before I behead you next, slut." She huffed off. He looked at the other slayer. "I'll try to get you a different patrol partner since her STI clearly went to her brain again."
"Thanks, Xander. Most of us girls appreciate you helping us. It means we get less messy." She hugged him then smiled. "Hi, I'm Candida."
"Darcy Lewis. I'm Jane Foster's intern and assistant."
"Jane is Thor's girlfriend and the lady who'd like to rebuild the rainbow bridge," Xander told her.
"Oh! Has she talked to Canada about her thingy?"
"I hadn't thought of her but I suggested Jane go talk to Giles about the unicorn incident. That's not a bad idea." He sent that to Buffy and to replace the slut with a slayer with sense. "Thanks, Candida. Have a good afternoon."
"You too, Xander." She bounded off with a wave to the officers. Xander hid his sword and did the same, walking off with Darcy.
"Slayers are bouncy," Darcy said.
"That one lives on Nerds."
"That'd make me bouncy too," she agreed, smiling at him. He grinned back. "You sure it'll be okay?"
"I'm fairly certain it'll be okay. Messy for a bit but okay. And hey, the demon owing politicians can step up and try to prove their worth because we released a list of them earlier on purpose. That way they can take them out at the same time." She punched him on the arm and he grinned back. "What? It may help. They keep annoying us to no end." He took her back to the shared apartment, Darcy letting them in. "I return your intern in one amused piece, Lady Jane." She looked up, staring at him. "Two things. The rest of the Avengers will be in tonight. Except Thor. Willow is considering that we might need him and how to summon him. Then again, she thinks summoning Loki to take over the US might stop all the shit too, and do it cleaner."
Jane shook her head with a sigh. "She's ... well, she has *mentors* for a reason at times. Secondly. You might ask Mr. Giles about how we got a unicorn from another realm one night thanks to a tiny witch with ideas and you also might mention that you heard the Slayer Canada had opened a portal by accident to one of the other nine realms last year." She stared at him. He wrote down a phone number. "That's his home phone and he's there right now, or should be. He may be hiding in the library from one of the girls. Tell him I told you to call if you want to ask him about those. We take reports on how it happened but not scientific data."
"I can do that. Thank you, Mr. Harris. Was Darcy okay?"
"Yeah. We had lunch, went to a movie. She watched me deal with a few demons who wanted to own some officers with two slayers. Watched me verbally smack one for being a slutty dickhead." Jane smiled. "She's fine. I'll let you know if I see a hair of Asgardian buttcake. Because most of them are. I've ran into some warriors who got displaced down here on purpose and they're huge dicks." He bowed and left.
Jane looked at Darcy. "You went on a date?"
"No, we went to hang out protectively together in public so people could find us if they needed to. He even bought the movie tickets."
"That was sweet of him." She shook her head. "We need to call him." She grabbed the house phone to call Mr. Giles to talk about that matter. "This Dr. Jane Foster. Mr. Harris said to talk to Mr. Giles about a few magical incidences that are related to my field of the Einstein-Ronsen bridge." She listened to the confused slayer.
Darcy took the phone. "Dear, she's trying to recall Thor from Asgard for nookie and Xander said to talk to Mr. Giles about a unicorn and what a slayer named Canada did." The slayer said 'oh, that stuff' and yelled for Giles until he showed up to take the phone. She handed it back and walked off to start dinner so Jane would eat after the talk. It wasn't a long one but Jane clearly made a date for lunch with him upcountry in two days.
Clint landed the plane and looked at Natasha, who nodded. They went back and found everyone locking the plane down for a small stay. Including emptying the fridge. They walked back to the loading bay, Natasha taking the keys for the SUV there.
Skye pointed. "What about his car?"
"Only Coulson drives Lola unless you're taking him to an ER," Clint said with a grin for her. "It's his baby. We don't touch his baby." He opened the back door for the dog, who settled into the storage area with the boxes of stuff. Skye, Fitz, and Simmons got into the SUV with them and Natasha backed them down the ramp. May and Coulson needed to talk. She drove her to the hotel they had planned to meet Stark at. The plane's landing ramp closed once Hill was out and it was towed into a storage hanger, which already had agents on guard. Coulson waved at one, getting a smile and a wave back. So it'd be safe. These guys knew Coulson from before.
They got to the hotel and found Stark waiting on them. He got into the SUV, making Skye sit back with the dog. "Let's go toward Birmingham," Stark said with a point. He handed Natasha a marked map. She smiled and drove off. Phil followed, putting the hood up on his convertible. It was getting a bit chilly. "Skye, have they released the list of names?"
"Yes. We also got another list released from the Council of people who pimped themselves for power. I guess they figured it was a good time."
"It is," Clint agreed, glancing back at them. He looked at Stark. "Steve okay?"
"He's really mad. I have the feeling he wants to go destroy things himself. Harris put Jane Foster on with his boss to talk about how magic works for cross-realm trips. They're meeting soon at his estate."
"He has an estate?"
"Yes, he does. He's from old money apparently. A lot of the older families in the old Council were. He has horses."
"I'm sure the girls around him like that."
"There was a problem earlier and the two in London handled it with Harris, while Foster's assistant Lewis watched, but then one of them snarked at Harris so Harris called her a slut with diseases rotting her brain." Clint burst out laughing. "Yeah, they're keeping them being girls. We have heard Harris warned he was going somewhere to check on someone tomorrow so he won't be in touch then. Not sure why."
"Who knows with him," Natasha said. "He could be rescuing one of the slayers. He could be rescuing an artifact from someone involved."
"Is he trained for that?" Simmons asked.
"No," Natasha said. "But he did learn how. He's very hyper and he's very loud when he has to do something of the sort. He tends to rely on contacts to help him do such things. He has done it a few times though."
Stark nodded. "That's good to know. What if he's injured?"
"The slayers will nag more," Natasha said. "They always do."
Stark grimaced. "He needs more guys around him. The Council could use more field people anyway."
"They won't hire anyone who might be tempted to be a spy for someone," Natasha said. "That's reasonable but it does limit the pool of people who can handle things since they have a strong bias against the military."
"Why?" Stark asked. "I found a sealed file."
"That's all I found. It was sanitized. However, the court case had all those sealed files within it. They are locked up, but what was able to be found electronically was ...disturbing. Very something Steve would have stopped in the old days." She yawned then cleared it up. She checked the map. Only a few more miles.
"Want me to drive?"
"I'm well rested. I napped for the last two hours," she said. "Thank you though." He nodded, relaxing. "These are Fitz and Simmons, an R&D team. Skye is the hacker Coulson brought in who had been Rising Tide. With Coulson is Agent May, who was reporting to Fury directly about his health."
"I winged her and I left Ward's body where the guards who'll be nosy in a bit can find him," Clint said. "We left Hill there to explain his body to the guards before she disappears. He had been a level seven agent who was HYDRA."
Stark nodded. "We've seen the partial list. Steve's strike team was on it." Natasha stiffened and glanced back at him. "Rumlow was a section leader."
"Fuck," she said quietly in Russian. Clint reached over to rub her arm. "The whole team?"
"As far as Steve could tell."
"Are they alive?"
"Arrested. If he finds them outside, I doubt it'll be that long before he fixes it."
"He will have help," she said in English. "Thank you for that warning."
"Welcome. One of the senior agents Coulson trained with was turned too."
"Got him to save Hill. I'm sure she disappeared to wherever Fury is."
"He's in Paris," Stark said. "Very romantic if she wants to join him and work off their mutual stress. The new AI twitted him so much he walked out looking like he took a full bus up the ass."
Clint grinned. "I love it when he gets that look due to mission reports." Natasha swatted him. Natasha got pointed at a driveway and took it to the nice house. They all got out, nodding at Phil and May when they parked and got out. They walked inside and Steve came jogging down the stairs to meet them. "Hey, Captain."
"Clint, Natasha." He stared at her. "Did he tell you?" She nodded. "If I find them, I'll make sure they pay for it."
"You'll have help."
He smiled. "Thanks." He looked at them then at Tony. "We're holding a meeting in Tony's sitting room. Agent Coulson." He nodded back. "Should I ask how?"
"It involves weird stuff from aliens, torture, and Fury screwing with his brain so he thought he had been in Tahiti," Skye said.
"That sounds like Fury," Natasha sighed. "We'll talk on that later. Stark, rooms?"
"Fitz and I have shared a room before without incident, Mr. Stark," Simmons said with a smile for her lab partner. "I've fallen asleep on his arm a number of times without incident."
"Great. Skye, couch. Coulson, room with the single bed. Barton and Romanoff can take the room with the queen and argue." They all nodded and found the rooms then the Avengers, plus Coulson, went to the meeting in Tony's sitting room. "Bruce." He smiled and nodded, staring at Coulson. "Alien stuff plus torture and mind screwing."
"That figures," Banner decided. "Are you okay, Agent Coulson?"
"I'm at about ninety percent of where I was but I'm all right," he said. "I've been handling field agent duties with my present response team." He sat down in a chair. "I had no idea what had happened until the memory overlay started to unravel."
"Which is why Agent May has a hole in her arm," Clint quipped with a grin. He sat on the foot of the bed. Natasha perched next to him. "How are we handling things?" he asked quietly, losing the happy exterior.
"Right now, we're back together as a team. We're looking at the agents around us," Steve said.
"I'm only loyal to Natasha and Coulson," Clint said, staring at him. "I trust them with everything and anything."
"I like that honesty," Steve agreed. "You've been in multiple battles together and I get that. I felt the same way about the Commandos and the rest of the military." Clint grinned. "Natasha?"
"I feel much the same," she agreed. "I trust people to act mostly in ways that they've trained to react. I've watched how Stark does things and know what to expect of him usually. Not always, but usually," she said with a nod toward him. He smirked back. "I know how Dr. Banner reacts to some stimuli and situations so I'm prepared to help him with those."
"Thanks. You didn't get much time to study me."
"I had nearly two months to study Stark," she said. "Working for Pepper was one of the strangest jobs because it wasn't just company things and it wasn't social obligations that were the weird part."
"Not my fault Vanko did that," Stark complained.
"That wasn't the weirdest thing either," she said. "Did you ever resolve the demon in your lab problem?"
"Is he a problem? Harris mentioned him."
"I have no idea," she admitted. "I could not talk to him. He did a wonderful job of avoiding me."
"Harris said his people had a better intelligence net than the CIA," Stark said with a shrug. She smiled at that tidbit. "I'll call him in so we can ask." She nodded. "I don't want someone watching me to make sure I don't blow up the earth. I don't need it."
"You usually do not," she agreed. "Thankfully. Otherwise I might still be a PA for Miss Potts. Is she all right?"
"She is in Japan at the local office there. Highly protected. Happy's with her." They all nodded. "She said she talked to the head of security and the two industrial spies we had got canned immediately instead of being floated bad information and he told friends in the government so they could lock down anything that HYDRA might have compromised."
"Good," she agreed. "Are we going to need to respond as a team?"
"PR?" Steve guessed.
"Possibly," Stark agreed. "I'm leaving that up to Pepper. She'll tell us if she needs us to make a statement or to show up. She's got friends in other places to help with that." Everyone nodded. "I'm hoping we don't have a battle during that." He snapped his fingers. "We made contact with Jane Foster. She's all right and in science land but handling things. Darcy is being her 'I'm in the open, talk to me if you want Jane' shield. The same way Harris is for the Council."
"Harris earlier told Darcy to tell Jane to talk to Mr. Giles about some cross-realm stuff," Bruce said. "Apparently a young witch with the coven decided she wanted to pull a unicorn to this realm."
Clint looked up then at Natasha, who shook her head. "No, I don't want to know," he decided. "If it helps her recreate the rainbow bridge so she gets more Thor time, I'm good with that." Stark grinned at him. "Magic is really weird."
"It is," Stark agreed. Bruce nodded to back him up. "There's some in the scientific community who deny the very existence even when it's happened to them." He cracked his neck and sighed. "Now what?"
"I think we need to show that we're together and not for HYDRA," Steve said.
"Call Pepper," Stark said. "I leave that up to her. She understands that stuff better than I do." Steve nodded. "If so, I'll stand with you for that press conference."
"Thanks, Tony. Are you all right? I mean with Howard and all?"
"I have a huge headache over that. Frankly, I'm ready to donate him to the Smithsonian."
Steve grinned. "I figured it might be upsetting."
"A lot. Thankfully we did rescue his former mainframes and they're presently in storage at MIT. He's talked to a teacher over there to restart him so he can at least pass on some knowledge and learn new things. Which is fine. He can stay at MIT. He'll do good teaching there. If I ever spawn I'll send my kids there. Maybe."
Natasha smirked at him. "It could be worse. He could be a ghost floating around haunting you."
"He'd like that." He smiled though. "I think we all know what parent issues are like."
"Putting on spandex does usually include some sort of trauma," Clint quipped. "Can we lock Howard and Willow Rosenburg from the Council in a room together?"
"I'm not sure who would warp and destroy who," Stark said, considering that.
"She was considering pulling Loki to end the strife," Natasha said. "Said it might be less messy."
"I think there's a hell no being heard somewhere," Stark quipped.
"Hell no," Steve agreed then sighed. "Doesn't she have morals?"
"This is the perfect time for some overlord sort to try to take over," Clint admitted. "Tactically, the US government is at a weak and recovering point. It's not that hard to find a charismatic leader to gather behind. Before I'd pick Loki I'd pick Harris."
"He's too young to be president," Stark said. "Or I might join you. We can handle a campaign."
"He'd kill us," Natasha said. "For even hearing that idea. Beyond that, his contact network of arms dealers, assassins, and commandos would be looked at oddly by most people. Though they would probably go all mushy when they courted him." She looked at Clint. "That's how I got the missile system I turned in. One gave it to him and I found out so I told him I was making Xander turn it over. It was too large for a slayer to need to use. He agreed and said it was too large to sell outside of groups he didn't want to support. That's why he had given it as a gift." She smiled. "He then gave him a ruby necklace, shaped like a sword and shield, and took him on a boat ride in Venice to get him away from a few demons who wanted to kill him for stopping their cousin's plans. It was very romantic."
"The canals in Venice stink," Clint said.
"He took him out into the ocean."
"That's sweet. What did that one do?"
"He sold arms and weapons designs to groups in Europe who did not want to take over the world." Clint raised an eyebrow, staring at her. "Hiens."
"Fuck," Clint said, but he was smiling. She nodded. "I wondered what had made him soft and squishy."
"People, he doesn't do it to everyone," Coulson said.
Stark looked at him. "I heard what he called you." Coulson scowled at him. Stark grinned back. "Is he sweet?"
"We had to pretend to get into an event that was selling people. I had to rescue a few agents. He was rescuing the sister of a slayer. And yes, he was very nice during the pretend dating. Even if he did consider a bar brawl a fun event."
Natasha nodded. "When I was sent to question him, he made me almost instantly and told me where I had gone wrong because I wasn't the sort to usually approach him."
"I think you are," Coulson said.
"I was not one of the fangirls that come up to him. I used charm and tact around him. I had no interest in how many weapons he was carrying, especially not the pretty dagger he had in the open. So we chatted about his former dates over dinner and a few glasses of wine. I did teach him more about wine. He definitely grew up lower class." Clint looked at her. "Nearly as bad as yours, yes." He grimaced. "He's much like a son you raised that came between you and Steve." Steve smiled but shook his head.
"Wow," Clint said. "Weird thought. Which one of us carried him?"
"I don't need to know," Steve said.
"You probably," Coulson said. "You're the one who nearly tripped into the machine that had a fertility beam."
"Thanks for destroying that for me, Nat."
"You're very welcome. I'd hate to see your children acting like your dog." Clint grinned at her for that.
They all looked up at the sound of fizzling, like something was burning air. "That was magic," Stark said. He got up to go look, finding an older, tired looking witch in the entryway. "Yes, ma'am? Did you miss your target?"
"Mr. Stark?" He nodded. She handed over a thick envelope. "All the slayer dreams and the two visions of hell coming that your team needs to fix."
"You're most welcome. We've been up all day with the girls having nightmares." She rubbed something on her throat and left.
He went back upstairs. "Visions." He let Steve see the slayer dreams while he looked at the visions. "Harris had this when someone said the magic words that tripped it." He let the others see them, going over the slayer dreams. "Sure, I won't try to spare us work. Why would I name something Ultron?" He grimaced. "Boring name." He passed those on.
Steve shook his head. "Please don't, Tony."
"Thanks." He passed on the last few he had.
"Are your original AI and the new one getting along?" Natasha asked as she read.
"No," Tony said. "I've forbidden JARVIS to do more than talk to him about things. JARVIS suggested a nice online porn place when Dad was moping about all the changes in life. That way he could go back to his old methods of relieving his angst." Steve burst out laughing. "Sometimes he's a bit sassy. I don't want one to corrupt the other."
"I can't imagine Howard doing pornography," Steve said, smiling at him.
"Nah, he had bimbos," Tony said dryly. "That was all the porn he needed."
"Pot," Natasha started.
"Yeah, I know. In trying to avoid it, I became a more wild version of him. I'm better now. Pepper helped."
"It's good," Natasha said, staring at him. "It's much nicer to be around you as well." Tony scowled but oh well.
Steve cleared his throat. "I'm not going to say a word. I don't know you that well, Tony. It's not my place." Tony glared at him. "It's not. That's your life and you live it how you see fit."
"Thanks for the permission," he said blandly. He looked at Coulson. "Got anything to put in?"
"You have more style than your father had class."
"Thank you." He almost smiled at him. "Now what?"
"Let me talk to Pepper," Steve said, finding his phone to call her. "Pepper, is it too late to talk?" He smiled. "I think we need to say something. That would be great. Can you? Even better. Thank you, Pepper." He hung up. "She was planning on something the day after tomorrow, in the afternoon. Basically being caught out at lunch and making a statement." Stark nodded. "So I guess I have to wear a regular suit?"
"Might help," Tony agreed. "London is more uptight than New York is. I'd offer to share something with you but you're a lot bigger than I am."
"I have a suit."
"Good." He looked at the others. Bruce shook his head. "I understand, Bruce. Bring you back lunch?"
"Please if you can. Will they try to do anything like lock your accounts to act against you?"
"They tried that. We sued them and the judge agreed there was no cause. It lasted all of three hours so I lived off my accounts off shore."
"That's a good idea," Clint agreed. Natasha nodded. He looked at her. She shrugged. "You want to go to lunch with them?"
"I can do that. You guard the geeks?"
"I can do that," he agreed.
"Should we talk about the charming men you got the dog from?" she asked.
"No, I've handled them and I doubt the bro mafia guys are over here."
"Perhaps another version," she said. "Though probably less stupid." He nodded. Everyone was staring at them. "They're not well educated former soviet businessmen."
They all heard the fizzle and looked toward the hallway at the 'fuck, fuck, fuck' coming up the stairs. Xander knocked then leaned in. "Stark, we found a hugely complicated, slightly bad thing that you'll have to handle for everyone for the moment. HYDRA had people they were experimenting on and some have freezer burn. A few friends found them starting to wake one up, an assassin, and took him to a local hospital here. A contact in MI-5 wanted to know if we could identify him in the records. He's got bionic parts and all we've seen says his mind is toasted from them."
"I can be there tomorrow, Xander, where? And how did you get past the wards?"
"I'm amazingly letting a demonic contact help me do that." He handed over the file. "They didn't take a picture of his face for identification but they did of the bionic arm."
He flipped it open to look. "Damn."
"Yeah. They're real worried and I'm not sure why. Not like they'll tell me. We know they have others they're experimenting on. A slayer local to that base said so. Thanks. I'll be out of touch tomorrow." He disappeared. The door got shut by Steve.
Stark let Bruce look at it. He winced at the heavy scarring and the huge plate anchoring it. "That's bad," he agreed. "How old is it?"
"I don't know but I doubt it was soviet tech with the mark on his arm." Natasha casually snatched it to look at, frowning. "Know him?"
"Vaguely. I remember sparring with him." She looked at Coulson.
"You didn't get all the memories back from the Red Room," he said quietly. "Was he there?" She nodded. "Do you remember if he was an assassin?"
"I remember there was something oddly feral about him and they made him disappear for weeks on end." She handed it back. "That's not the original arm I remember but it was one of ours or theirs."
"Was he Red Room, HYDRA, or Soviet?" Steve asked.
"I do not know. At some levels it's impossible to tell. They probably shared scientists at one time or another." Clint rubbed her arm and she let him, but gave him a look. He smiled. "I'm fine."
"I know. Still, the old memories are hard with the way they pressed down on them." She nodded. "Do we think they did the same thing to him?"
"With the way Xander described his mind? Probably," Coulson agreed, taking the folder. "That's a lot of scarring. Tortured probably." He handed it back to Stark. "Let me know when they find out? Maybe we can dig up something on him to help them."
"I can do that. Will they charge him if he was brainwashed?" Stark asked.
"I don't know," Coulson said. "The US probably would try." Stark nodded. "We'll have to see who he was originally. If he was Russian originally they might not. If he was someone they stole, who knows."
"Okay, I'll call once I'm done." He closed the file and put it aside. It had an address label on the front for the hospital. The meeting broke up and everyone went to find a bed.
A. I. (Alternate Interests)