NEW CHAPTER ONE!
Fury stood over a monitor that, for the last three years, had been keeping tabs on a freak storm that had appeared over the Mediterranean Sea.
For three days it moved across the planet, leaving behind a trail of destruction modern society had never seen before. The destruction was barely comparable to storms like that of Katrina and Sandy, this storm was something else, something new. It was a storm that put fear into every single man woman and child who had the misfortune of knowing about it.
For three days the winds tore through buildings, rains fell in what felt like tropical downpours. From Greece to Antarctica the storm ended lives. It turned deserts into shallow seas and made canyons through bed rock. In that time the world was reshaped, maps ruined, and country's fell.
In that moment the world changed faster than it had ever done before. Tragedy became commonplace, alongside heart ache. The death of millions gave wealth to the wealthy and took more than just money from the poor.
But thankfully, after those three days of almost Armageddon, the storm settled down over the arctic, leaving behind its legacy of death.
But even there, away from civilization, away from the masses, it still killed. More than four dozen scientists had been trapped in their various research stations on the unclaimed continent, and all of the men and women had presumably died there, frozen to death in the extreme cold.
Trapped in the giant storm, they died one by one, isolated and without hope. Some tried to make it out before the storm hit, boarding a small fleet of ships, but even then few ever made it out from under those dark clouds.
Some of those scientists had been at the forefront of weather research; Nobel Prize winners, and mega geniuses working side by side to try and find a solution to global warming. They were humanity's best hope at surviving an environmental apocalypse, the brightest minds the world had ever seen and now... they were all dead.
Along with them was Fury's good friend and last living relative, Peter Lipins. Peter was the one to raise the man after his parents and sister were killed. He was the one to give the SHIELD agent the strong sense of justice that led him to where he was today. With his death, Fury broke. To have everyone you love taken away from you was something few could handle, even if you were used to it.
As Fury stood over that monitor looking at the dammed storm that took his uncle and killed so many, he couldn't help but feel thoughts of revenge worm their way into his head.
For too long their deaths had gone unpunished. The threat the storm held was forgotten in wake of events like the attack on New York. Left alone in some unused land the storm waited. But he knew soon it would move again. Like before, it would kill. Even if he had only speculation, Fury knew that something out there was controlling it, and whatever it was, it wouldn't survive.
Sitting around the massive meeting room table, the Avengers and the senior-most members of SHIELD waited for the last members to arrive. The only ones still missing were the playboy philanthropist and owner of stark industry's Anthony Howard Stark, and the operations director himself, Nickolas Fury.
Looking out the window, Bruce Banner couldn't stop a sigh from escaping his normally calm and collected exterior as he waited. The last year had been hard on everyone. So many friends from inside and outside the agency had died or been permanently injured in conflicts. Because of this, many countries, like the United States, held SHIELD responsible, and as a result the international agency had lost many of its resources and important backers, like the U.S.
In the last year SHIELD had gone from over one hundred thousand field and tech workers, to a skeleton crew of less than ten thousand. This in turn left the remaining members neck-deep in conflict with little or no help.
To only add to the problems that faced the agency, this lack of man power only served to increase the work load every member had to take on. As a result, some of the Avengers had even left, or had been killed in action.
The most notable of them had been Steve Rogers, who had left along with the United States backing months ago, and was now retired. It had been a depressing few years and they had been hard on the now fifty years old.
Bruce now had the stereotypical salt and pepper gray hair of a professor, just one of the many changes that had been brought about by the stress. From where he sat, the doctor could see most of London spread out below the skyscraper he now sat in. Big Ben and other well-known buildings could all be seen from his seat of over a hundred stories above the ground.
Great Britain was great and all, but it just couldn't compare to the U.S. Even with its, massive changes, America was still his home, and he missed home.
Like always when he thought of the U.S., his mind couldn't help but drift into thoughts of leaving SHIELD behind and getting back to his research. He had been contacted several times over the last year by the president himself, asking for him to come back and work for the government.
He would be lying if he said he wasn't tempted by the offer, with everything that had been going on in the last year just within the agency its self- with the discovery of the wide-spread corruption. The president's offer looked better and better with every day that passed.
Banner's thoughts were interrupted when the large oak doors at the far end of the room were thrown open without warning, and in walked Director Fury himself, with a dejected looking Stark fallowing close behind.
Without slowing his stride, Nick Fury spoke with a low and commanding voice while he crossed the room, not even bothering to wait for Tony to take his seat.
"Three years ago, minutes before the attack on New York, weather sensors around the world detected a massive storm forming over the Mediterranean; larger than the super storm Sandy and hurricane Katrina put together, along with class seven winds, massive earthquakes lit up sensors all over Greece.
"Ten thousand people died in the first hour alone, and bodies are still being found. The latest casualty count is in the millions, and with recent events being what they are, this has been the first time we have truly been able to study the storm, and we found some anomalies."
Even if Fury hadn't've been everyone's boss, there was just something about the man that demanded attention. It was the same intangible "thing" that made him one of the most intimidating people on the planet.
Because of this, all across the room men and women in black suits listened with rapt attention. They had all seen the news coverage on the storm, and many of them had lost someone, most had even been caught up in parts of the storm.
"The storm seemed to have been made out of an energy similar to that found in the interdimensional gate used by the Asgardians."
Not being able to keep quiet with this important revelation, Bruce interrupted the Director with a polite raise of his hand, "If this storm did all that you and the news reports say, then why haven't we been working on this sooner? Even if the recent events took away some of SHIELDs resources, you have dozens of government agencies from around the world that could help."
"For your information Banner," Fury replied with some animosity in his voice, something that shocked the kind doctor, "Recent failures by SHIELD have, in the international community, brought up the question of whether or not world powers like the United States should support the agency, and for now, most of them have withdrawn support. That includes sharing of research.
"In other words, we do not have the man power or the connections."
"What about privet agencies and companies, someone has to have looked into the storm?" Banner fired back without hesitation.
"Yes, most if not all groups worth any notice have looked in to the storm, several have even attempted to penetrate the outermost fringes of the storm with their newly developed tech… With varying results.
"The last count of sunken research ships was in the double digits. It's gotten so bad that the UN put a restriction on any travel in the area, but we are lucky enough to have Stark industries backing and they have been at the forfront of research on the matter.
"Now, if that will be all, I would like to get through the rest of the debriefing without any more interruptions."
The explanation sent Bruce back into his seat not having anything to say, the way Fury was speaking just then was almost condescending and sarcastic. In his personal dealings with Fury in the past, Fury had always given him respect, always listening to the doctor and his thoughts on subjects, even if they didn't fall under his expertise.
What made things even stranger, was that even though was the biggest name in radiation research, something the storm showed signs of, he had not been brought in on the matter and, for the most part, had been kept in the dark. Hell, he didn't even know that there was radiation in the storm.
Ignoring the look of surprise everyone in the room sent him at his dismissal of the doctor, Fury continued in an irritated voice, "It settled over Antarctica, where it destroyed all of the research outposts on the continent. But it, as we all know, stabilized there.
"The cause of the stabilization is still unknown, like most things concerning the storm, but it has been to the point where we would not have to worry about it. The storm wouldn't and hasn't gotten any bigger, and it looks as if it will not move. Currently the storm covers the entire continent. What has brought the attention of SHIELD back on the matter though, is disturbing."
Fury paused long enough to pull out a thick stack of papers, which he then tossed on the table. The, what could have been a novel, slammed into the table, making a loud slapping noise that brought some of the more easily distracted people back towards the subject.
"A recent study by a collection of well-known universities and their government counterparts, has shown substantial evidence that the storm is lowering global temperatures. While this may be good news for global warming, the evidence shows that this will continue at an exponential rate over the next few years.
"As of six hours ago, the storm has brought worldwide temperatures down to what they were just after the last ice age, and if we don't do something now, we will find ourselves in a new one."
All of the Avengers, and some of the more hardened agents, looked paler than normal. They knew that a lot of people would die, probably most of the people not living around the equator. On top of the freezing temperatures, there was a real probability of starvation, with most of the farmable land being covered in the snow and ice that came with an ice age.
"We have recently come into some new technology that will help us to penetrate the storm and keep agents alive for a prolonged period of time, three hours at the most.
"Our plan is to set up a base underground in the eye of the storm, where the winds and the temperatures are much more survivable. For this, we need a group of agents to be the first ones in the storm to start the equipment that will bore out the tunnels used for the base."
Three hours to build a base. That was all. Everyone who thought about joining the mission now had second thoughts. Almost as if he had sensed their unease, Fury continued.
"Because of the danger of this mission, I will not force any of you to do this, but we do need one of you to lead them. With tensions as they are in the international community, having a high ranking member lead the mission could help improve opinions on the agency."
Most of the agents in the room looked more apprehensive than usual. At this point, it was easy to see people like Tony trying to come up with an excuse to get out of this situation, the most likely reasoning behind it was that he didn't like the cold and did everything he could to avoid it.
The others, like , didn't have the sort of leadership experience required, and immediately took themselves out of the running. But before any of them could speak their thoughts, and more importantly excuses, a voice spoke out from the back of the room.
"Why not?" spoke the bored Russian, Natasha Romanova, getting to her feet. Agent Romanova was one of the most dangerous people on the planet, dressed in U.S. Marine issued pants and a form fitting black shirt, the twenty-five year old could kill with a brutality and grace that should have only been seen in movies. Being by far the youngest of the Avengers, Natasha was never one to mess around with.
She routinely took pot shots at Tony whenever he showed up in his iron man suit when it was not needed, in fact most of his suits had missing paint on the metal that Tony believed protected what were his greatest assets, one being his helmet and the other being...
Well, a little below the belt.
With a nod towards the red-head Fury continued, "With that decided, Stark will come along to monitor his equipment that we will be using. Everyone else is free to go about your business."
Without a backward glance, the red-head walked out the door to prepare for her latest mission, a mission that could turn out to be her last.
Forty thousand feet above Antarctica, the quinjet shook violently, jostling several of the agents around the sparse interior. After a few seconds the turbulence- caused by the sudden up thrusts in air currents, settled down enough for the agents to continue their last minute preparations for their mission.
Across the modified interior of the state of the art jet, men and women went over their packs one last time with quiet efficiency. Accompanying the sounds of the fast moving winds that shook the aircraft, was the quiet and meshed breathing of trained agents.
Each agent had their own ritual before a mission, weather it was rubbing a lucky coin or a favorite book, each person in the cargo hold was doing their best to take their mind off of the mission ahead.
Among them was Natasha Romanova. Sitting at the back of the plane, the young mission leader stared off into space. She wasn't lost in thought, the twenty something year old was in her pre-mission mode, it was an almost state of meditation where she didn't keep the thoughts that flared up every few seconds, but just let them pass, all the while keeping track of her surroundings.
In this state, the renowned spy could sit for hours catching every detail, while only seconds seemed to pass. It was her greatest weapon, it was the Black Widow's supper power, but it was ruined by the violent tossing and turning of the air craft. With every big jerk, her concentration was shattered, leaving her more irritated with every second that passed.
With Natasha's glare steadily getting worse by the second, the lead engineer got to his feet to outline the mission one last time in her stead. It was safe to say that the super spy didn't like public speaking, and had done as much as ambush the poor man in the hanger and demand that he do the pre-mission run through for her. The poor man was probably going to have nightmares.
"Good evening gentlemen, and lady," spoke the tall African American man with a slight Southern accent, his voice clear as day over the headphones everyone was wearing. "We are five minutes away from our drop point, so I'll get right to it. If this mission isn't a success, you will all die, plain and simple.
"We had an estimated three hours of battery life on each of our suits, which if we hurry should be enough to finish the basic building that will serve as our forward operation command post. With the winds as they are, as soon as we leave the plane, that's it, there's no turning back.
"No plane in existence will be able to pick us up until the storm either brakes apart, or we finish the tunnels that will lead out to the pacific."
The man looked each person in the eye, making sure that they understood, before getting the nod from Natasha to continue.
"You have all been briefed on your individual missions and what you need to do once we're down there, just remember we need everyone to make it. If not, we are all dead. Now, as for the landing, the winds down there are too strong for anything less than a meter to land in, but thanks to the wonderful people working at Stark Industries, we found a way around this problem."
Moving over to the hull of the plane, he smacked his hand hard on a metal cylinder, one of the many that stretched from floor to ceiling, "This right here is one of the drop pods we will be using tonight.
"One ton of shock absorbing titanium and carbon pistons, all wrapped up in a space age polymer that can take on any impact we can throw at it. It's rather simple really, you get in lock the door and well... drop forty- thousand feet to the ground. While you're dropping, hundreds of small air compressors and control explosions will direct you to the landing spot, but if you should be pushed into one of the faster traveling jets of air, you're dead anyway.
"To stop that from happening, we have sent in sensors and tracked the most dangerous currents and plotted a route to avoid them, the automated system will direct all the steering that's needed, all you have to do is hold on tight and enjoy the ride.
"Once there on the ground, the three hours you have to build and insulate SHIELD's newest base need to be spent wisely, we have no margin for error. If one person screws up, then we all freeze to death. Any questions?!" He yelled, increasing his volume to match that of the noise from outside.
But before anyone could answer, and without warning, another huge up thrust sent the quinjet spinning out of control. Agents who had unstrapped themselves to be able to get into their individual pods went flying around the interior, smashing into each other with enough force to break bone, and strip flesh.
Natasha wasn't spared, catching an elbow in the nose, which made her eyes water so she was unable to see what was to happen next. She flew across the cockpit, bouncing off several other members of the team, before slamming face-first into one of the closed drop pods. She was lucky not to have cracked her skull open with the speed she had been traveling at, although she did end up cutting open her forehead, which only blinded her further.
With another violent movement, an agent was sent tumbling into her, before disappearing into the mess that was the docking bay, no one in the air craft could tell what was going on, and with the speed some of them where traveling, someone was bound to be seriously hurt or even killed if things went on.
Even as she thought this, the red-headed spy felt her body go weightless as the plane suddenly plunged downwards. For several seconds, everyone just floated in the zero gravity of free fall, and then the constantly changing winds slammed forcefully on the bottom of the aircraft, sending everyone slamming back into the floor with the force of a car crash.
But it didn't stop for a full thirty seconds; men, women, and equipment were sent colliding together in the mosh pit that was the cargo hold. With every impact, Natasha felt less and less. Even as she fought to keep her eyes open, she was sent sliding across the floor before fetching up against an open drop pod.
Though her pain filled haze she reached out blindly, whether it was by blind luck or divine intervention her hand caught hold of one of the two handles that where on either side of the opening on the first try.
As the plane went into another weightless dive, Natasha blindly pulled herself up into her pod before strapping herself in, to prevent any more injuries. Even when she was in so much pain, her self-preservation won out. As soon as the last buckle snapped into place the automatic door slammed closed, and she was off, plummeting to the ground without any means of surviving, and only half concious.
I didn't remember much of the ride down, the only thing that I did remember clearly was the landing. It was loud and violent, and then… there was nothing. For the first few seconds, or even minutes, I couldn't tell, I fought my own body, trying to stay awake, but eventually the black haze that had threatened its way into my sight slowly receded, pushed back by will power and just plain stubbornness.
Everything was silent for a few seconds, as I looked around the interior of what, at that moment, felt like my coffin. There was nothing, just smooth brushed metal and the red glow of the emergency light. That is until the explosive bolts on the door went off, sending the pod door flying across the crater caused by my landing.
The explosive bolts where so powerful that the door was not only sent across the crater, but it even bounced off the ice once before disappearing into the white of the storm. For a second I was impressed, if not slightly entertained, but then reality set in.
The cold hit me, taking away my breath and leaving a trail of frost crystals rapidly forming on the walls of the pod. The speed at which this happened scared me enough that I was snapped out of my trance.
If the air in the pod could visibly freeze that fast, then I didn't want to wait for it to make its way to the harness and trap me in there. Hurriedly, but with as much dignity as possible (not much I'll admit it) I got out of my harness before it could freeze, and stumbled my way out into the storm.
"If I didn't hate the cold before this, then I'm definitly going to hate it after." I muttered to myself before moving off. 'The power of positive thinking.' Going off of my other positive thoughts of things like the beach and chocolate cake and Tony Stark falling down a well, I moved off blindly into the worst storm anyone has ever been in.
If I was going to survive, I needed to find shelter from the wind and the cold, something I didn't heave back at the pod, and I only had three hours to do so.
Now there's one thing you need to know about white-outs, you can't see anything. Normal white-outs kill people every year, people get turned around in the snow and the next thing you know they're found in the spring, half frozen and quite dead.
Those are normal storms, but this wasn't. The snow was thicker, the wind at ground level was as fast as any hurricane, and the further up you went the faster it got.
If you could see past the literal tons of snow flying through the air, you could have seen hundred foot tall drifts being built up and then torn down in seconds, miniature mountains of snow moved almost as if they were alive. It was this realization that stopped me from hunkering down and making a ice cave, I didn't have the desire to be buried alive, no thank you, so I moved on.
The wind was so strong that I couldn't even stand up straight, and had to almost crawl across the ice, and even then I would have been blown away it I hadn't have had the ice axes that where left in the pod. Along with the wind there was the cold. As everyone who was supposed to be on the mission was told, the air was colder than anything the world had seen in a very long time.
It was so cold that Stark had to make a special respirator that heated up the air so it wouldn't freeze my lungs in a single breath. Everything I was wearing was meant to combat the cold. Every single inch of my body was covered in thick cloths that where heated by a small series of thermocouple that ran down the spine of the inner jumpsuit.
For what felt like hours, I continued on, moving painfully slow through this comicon of an ecosystem (nothing but white). But as the time passed I could feel it; I could feel myself dying slowly. My vision tunneled until I could only see my feet, and even through the thick clothes that were made for this weather, I could still feel the heat slowly leaving my body.
Parts of my hands and feet had gone numb, and I had to focus just so I wouldn't fall over. I was beyond cold and far past shivering. Even as I kept moving, I knew things where bad. I had all of the signs of hypothermia, and if I didn't find shelter soon, things would only go downhill.
Moving forward, I started to feel numb towards the whole situation, it was almost as if I was seeing everything through someone else's eyes. At one point, I even tripped, and for a full five minutes sat there giggling about this small accident. It took all of my mental will power, but I pushed on, further and further I walked, little did I know that the three hours had long since passed and it was just my will that was keeping me alive.
Suddenly things changed, I felt myself falling down a steep incline, the air around me getting slowly darker as I fell further, in my cold induced haze, I recognized the feel of my back scraping against a rough wall of ice as I slid down.
After what felt like forever, my frozen brain worked up enough heat to make me realize what had happened. I had fallen into a crevasse, one of the most deadly hazards out in this icy wasteland. It was a giant crack in the ice that have been known to stretch for miles down.
It was a certain death sentence for one by themselves like I was. But I was lucky, instead of falling hundreds of feet straight down and dying on impact or getting stuck half way down as the crack thinned, I was going to die at the bottom stuck and alone.
After all my years of living in the most dangerous places on the planet, killing high-ranking officials -and so many others- fighting threats to not only the United States, but also the world. I would die. It would all end just because of one stupid crack in the ground. It was almost funny. Smiling faintly, I closed my eyes for what would be the last time, after so many years of fighting if felt nice to let go.
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