Chapter Two: Concussion
Peter sat in silence on a couch in the old Avengers tower, which had become more of a glorified office building since Tony had relocated the team. Most of the logistics, operation planning, and legal matters were handled there, but at 11:30 at night, the tower was empty. The only noise in the room that had once been the common room for all the Avengers was the rain hitting the windows.
Tony had gone to change out of the Iron Man suit while they waited for Peter's aunt to get to the tower. "Well, this is probably our last night together, Karen." Peter sighed, sliding down in his seat and fighting back the tears. An overwhelming feeling of guilt for snapping at Aunt May and the anxiety of losing his suit again, mixed with being sleep deprived and frustrated, proved more than the teen could handle.
"Why, Peter? What's wrong?" She sounded genuinely concerned. Which made him wonder how intelligent was Karen's AI? DID she care? The whole sentient AI concept was still a little abstract to him.
"Because I'm an idiot!" He exclaimed. The lump in his throat seemed to grow. "I just get so overwhelmed, like every little thing puts me on edge, and I freaked on Aunt May; now Mr. Stark and Aunt May are probably gonna take my suit away, again." Part of him wished he'd never gotten his powers, and it seemed with everyone good thing that came from them, ten more things went wrong.
"It's sensory overload, Peter," Karen stated as if it should have been obvious. "Your senses, at least by my calculation, are 25 times stronger than the average humans. Your mind is overloaded by all the input from your environment, causing your sleeplessness and irritability." Again, Peter was amazed by how caring and sympathetic Karen was to his problems. "As well as not burning off enough energy your body produces aggravates the issue." Karen paused. "It's not your fault, Peter," Karen assured him, her tone slightly sweeter than usual.
"Well, is there anything I can do about it?" Peter perked up. But before Karen could say another word, the door opened, and Tony came into the dimly lit room, followed closely by his Aunt May, who looked very nervous.
"I'm not sure I'll ever get used to seeing you in that suit." Aunt May sighed, but it fell on deaf ears; Peter jumped from his seat and practically ran to Aunt May and wrapped his arms around her.
"I'm sorry, Aunt May." He apologized, his face buried into her shoulder. "I didn't mean to freak on you," He released her and pulled the mask off his head, his brown eyes meeting hers. Taking a deep breath, he stepped back and took a minute to collect his thoughts. "I was talking to Karen, and she said it's something called sensory overload-"
"Karen?" Tony looked over his shoulder at Peter.
"Oh, th-the AI lady, in my suit." Peter stuttered nervously, holding out his mask.
Tony turned on his heel to face Peter and Aunt May. "You named the multi-million dollar AI I designed specifically for you, Karen?" Tony tried not to laugh. Peter coming up with a name for it was both funny and adorable.
"Um," His eyes flicked back and forth from Tony to May. "Uh, yeah. I named her Karen. Can I finish?" Tony nodded and waved his hand. "Anyway, she said it's sensory overload, and because my senses are too strong, it's overwhelming my mind and making it hard for me to sleep and making me irritable and-" The young hero caught himself rambling, something he knew he was prone to doing. "I'm sorry." Peter's voice cracked slightly, looking down at the stone flooring beneath his feet. "Please don't take my suit, Mr. Stark."
Tony and Aunt May looked at each other, and May sighed, relenting to Tony. "We're not gonna take your suit, Pete." Peter's eyes came up to Tony's, a small smile playing across his lips. "But," Tony approached Peter and placed his hands on his thin but muscular arms. "You have to keep your grades up, and you have to have dinner with Aunt May at least three nights a week." Peter laughed slightly, his heart rate slowed, and the lump in his throat began to disappear.
Peter nodded, his eyes meeting Tony's. "I think I can manage that." Peter smiled, and Tony released the light grip on Peter's arms.
"Besides," Tony took the mask from Peter's hand. "We wouldn't wanna separate you and Karen, now would we?" Tony laughed as Peter playfully pushed him away.
"66, 67, 68-" Georges Batroc, the infamous pirate and mercenary, did push-ups in his cell. He'd been sentenced to 15 years in a maximum-security federal prison located on the coast of California. And after his sentence was served, he'd be sent back to France to stand trial there as well.
Batroc was resigned to the fact he would be in prison until he died. All of his contacts on the outside had been killed or captured by S.H.I.E.L.D. But, with nothing to do but work out and sleep for 23 hours a day, the already superb athlete had gotten even stronger while incarcerated.
The mercenary was yanked from his concentration by three loud bangs on his cell door. "Batroc?" The voice yelled as the slot on the steel door opened. With another push off the ground, he was on his feet.
"What?" He looked out at the guard, whom he'd never seen before. "You new?" The man chuckled, quickly passing Batroc a note before he spoke.
"The transfer you put in for came through; please back up to the door and put your hands through so I can cuff you." Georges Batroc did as he was told; he wasn't sure what this was about, but he was intrigued enough not to ask questions. The prison was oddly quiet as he was escorted through the halls and towards the exterior of the prison, which was located on a small island in the middle of a harbor. They made their way to the water's edge in silence.
"You are going to kill me now, yes?" Batroc questioned. It seemed only logical, given how many people he'd crossed over the years.
The man laughed and undid the cuffs on Batroc's wrists. "The opposite, actually. Someone with a LOT of money wants your services." He paused, putting the cuffs back on his hip. "You can swim, I assume?" Batroc nodded. "Good, now there's a car waiting in the dock's parking lot across the way." The man pointed across the dark water. Only lights reflecting off the water would light his way. "Now read the note I gave you. I was told there are special instructions for once you're across." The former soldier did as he was told and unfolded the note.
"No witnesses. Kill him." Batroc smirked. Spinning quickly, he kicked the man's legs out from under him, quickly brought his forearm down on his throat, and pressed down. The man squirmed and fought under Batroc but simply outmatched by the powerful, well-trained mercenary. Batroc enjoyed the look of panic and fear in his eyes and the thrill of holding him down and silently choking the life from him.
It took just 15 seconds for the man to lose consciousness and another 30 seconds to make sure he wouldn't be getting back up. Batroc took the liberty of looting the man's pockets for money and anything that might identify him before tossing him into the ocean and then jumping in himself.
The ocean's currents were against him across the water, but eventually, he made it to the dock. There was a black SUV with two suited men outside of it waiting for him. Now his attention was piqued. To have the power to break him out of federal prison and the confidence to have a pick-up waiting less than a mile away meant his anonymous liberator had a great deal of power and money.
"Mr. Batroc." One of the suited men spoke quickly, opening the door to SUV for him. There was an envelope on the seat waiting for him, containing a fake state ID, the name Bernard Martin, with a matching passport from France and a fake visa.
"We're heading to Hammer industries now, Mr. Batroc." One of the suited men finally spoke. "Mr. Hammer is quite excited to meet you."
It took Natasha 9 hours to reach Afghanistan, even at the Quinjet's top speed of 850 miles per hour. But she'd made it, and part of her was hoping this would take her mind off her son for a few days. Natasha was in the pilot's seat even though the jet was on autopilot as it flew over the mountainous terrain. The sun coming up over the horizon was quite beautiful. She might say it was peaceful if she didn't know what waited for her in the forests below.
Her mission seemed pretty straightforward; a group of Taliban fighters had shot down a Black Hawk helicopter and managed to capture one of the pilots, Major Dominique Jones. She was to find where they were and turn on the homing beacon she carried, and then a team of Navy SEALs would extract the pilot and wipe the remaining hostiles out. "This is Agent Romanoff, I'll be on the ground in 10 minutes; how copy?" Natasha hated working with the military. So many codes and rules and many crossed wires that had gotten her shot at by people on her side more than once.
"Copy that, Agent Romanoff. Be advised that the ETA for extract is 30 minutes." The man responded over the headset. Natasha rolled her eyes.
Natasha threw her head back against the headrest. "Copy that." She pulled off the headset and threw it into her seat, annoyed. "30 minutes to extract." Natasha cursed herself for believing the 5-minute nonsense she'd been promised. "Might as well just carry her off the damn mountain myself." The Russian assassin that would always be part of her wished they would just roll through and bomb the mountain to hell and be done with it. A feeling of guilt hit her; the woman she was sent to rescue had done nothing to deserve to be condemned to death, and countless civilians could be killed in a bombing of that magnitude. Part of her wondered if she would ever truly shed the heartlessness instilled in her in the Red Room.
Shaking herself free from the thoughts, she grabbed the UMP .45 and parachute from their place in one of the empty seats and opened the hatch. As she thought of Cap, jumping out of the Quinjet and into the ocean hundreds of feet below without a parachute, a smile crept across her lips. That was their last real mission together, and she missed it, more so than she realized until now, as she leaped from the aircraft.
Once on the ground, Natasha began her descent down the mountain, cursing herself for not dressing warmer. The intelligence she was given was shaky at best, which made her very nervous, a feeling she was far from accustomed to.
Bang! Bang! Two shots rang out from no more than a hundred feet down the mountain, directly in front of her. Pulling the submachine gun tighter into her shoulder, she slowly crept towards two voices speaking Pashto, a language she didn't speak.
Natasha was silent in her approach, though she didn't exactly need to be; the two men were shooting blindly at a village well out of the range of their Ak-47s. Snap. Natasha fired one shot from her silenced weapon into the back of one of the men's head. The other spun around quickly but wasn't fast enough. She fired three shots, 2 to the chest and one to the head. The Snap! of her gun echoed through the quiet of the forest. Natasha paused, not moving from her concealment, waiting for anyone that may have heard it to come looking.
"I'm on the right track," Natasha remarked, stepping over the lifeless bodies and continuing her mission.
Finally, after hiking down the mountain for 2 hours, she reached a ridge overlooking a clearing and a mouth of a cave directly below her. She counted at least 20 hostiles outside the cave and surely more inside the cave as well. "What a pain." Natasha worked her way down to the clearing, wishing this was just a kill mission. She'd be done by now.
Allowing her training to take over, she easily slipped past most of the men outside. They had no reason to think someone would sneak into their camp. Natasha reached the opening to the cave system and took a deep breath. With one more glance around to make sure no one was aware of her presence, she pulled a small explosive from the pouch on her belt. It was no bigger than a D battery but had the explosive power of a pound of C4. The spy tossed it quickly into the center of the camp.
The cave system was dark, and only small lights hooked to a generator on the outside of the cave lit her way. It seemed never-ending, and there were countless twists and turns, and it broke off into different passages. "This place is a God damn maze," Natasha whispered, following the main passage further into the mountain.
"You will tell us!" A man's voice yelled from deeper in the cave, followed by the Smack! of skin hitting skin.
Natasha sped up to a light jog, knowing that it had to be her captured pilot. Peering around a corner and into an opening in the cave system, there the pilot was. "Speak!" One of the 3 men demanded from the woman lying on her side, a smile spreading across her bloodied face, the two men dragged her off the cave floor. "You will tell us, woman!" Again he yelled through his broken English.
"Man," Major Dominique Jones chuckled slightly, spitting a mouthful of blood onto the man's boots. "It's gonna take a hell of a lot more than a beating for me to tell you anything." Natasha tried not to smile. Her defiance in the face of torture and death was admirable. She visibly angered the man, and he pulled the pistol off his hip, pointing it at the Major.
"Last chance." With a smirk, she leaned into the gun.
"You might as well kill me and get it over with 'cause I'm not telling you shit." The man growled and lifted the gun as he cocked it. Taking her opportunity, Natasha opened fire with deadly accuracy. The three men all hit the ground with a thud, and the snap of her weapon reverberated off the cave walls.
"Major Jones?" The widow called as she activated the beacon built into her gauntlet and rushed to the woman's side. "Are you injured?" Natasha asked, cutting the ropes that bound her hands.
The Major nodded. "I broke a few ribs in the crash, and they broke my nose, but other than that," She paused, rubbing her hands together. "I'm fine." Natasha nodded and helped the battered but not broken officer to her feet.
Natasha knew the woman was downplaying her injuries but left it alone. "My name is Natasha Romanoff. I've been sent here to rescue you." Natasha explained quickly, eager to get Major Jones out of the cave.
She laughed. "I know who you are. I think everyone knows who you are." She grimaced internally. It's hard to be a spy if you're one of the most recognized people on the planet, and knowing all her dirty secrets were out there wasn't the most pleasant of thoughts for her. She'd preferred it when her past was shrouded in darkness, only Clint, SHIELD, and the dead knew about what she'd done.
Shaking it off as a compliment, she returned to the task at hand. "Let's get you home." Natasha handed her the pistol she carried and began reloading her own weapon. Two men came into the open room. Everyone gasped slightly. Both groups were caught off guard by the other. Natasha reacted quickly and shoved Major Jones behind the cover of another generator before diving away from the gunfire and scrambling behind a pile of rocks.
Bullets hit the rock and ricocheted in every direction until they ran out of ammo and retreated behind the cave wall. "What's our play, Romanoff?" The woman she was sent to rescue called from the other side of the cave.
Natasha pulled the detonator for the bomb she'd planted outside the cave and pressed it. The explosions shock wave rumbled down the cave with a cloud of dust. Most of the lights flickered out, leaving most of the cave completely dark. "There is no play; we wait for extract." Natasha silently hoped that most of the men had been killed or disoriented by the explosion. Natasha popped her head up over the rock and immediately drew fire from 3 more men that had come down the cave.
This wasn't the plan, and usually, when plans went sideways, Natasha could just use her skills to shoot and fight her way out, but that wasn't an option having Major Jones injured as bad as she was.
Major Jones popped quickly from behind her and returned fire, killing one man just before he could shoot back. "RPG!" Major Jones yelled suddenly as one of the men came around the corner and took aim at the rock pile Natasha was using as cover. Jones fired 2 shots and hit him with both, knocking him backward and causing him to fire the RPG. The rocket flew into the cave's ceiling and detonated upon impact a few feet in front of Natasha.
The cave above her head crumbled from the explosion, and pounds of rocks fell onto Natasha. Instinctively she released the weapon and covered her head with her arms just as the debris landed on her, knocking her out almost instantly.
"Am I dead?" Natasha thought, her eyes opening to find herself in the old Avengers tower's common area. A sudden feeling of disappointment hit her. Being killed by rocks seemed rather anticlimactic compared to how she'd lived.
"No, you're not dead." A distorted voice said from the window. The figure was shrouded in darkness, and it was speaking Russian.
"Then where are we?" Natasha asked, switching languages easily enough as she looked around. Obviously she wasn't back at the Avengers tower. "And who are you?" Natasha felt sick and cold. Her head was killing her, and being disoriented was more annoying than anything else.
"You never came to find me." The distorted voice ignored her questions, and that grabbed her attention.
Standing from the ground sent the room spinning, but Natasha didn't care. "Who are you?" The figure turned towards her, but she couldn't see its face.
"You know who I am." Her heart was pounding out of her chest. "Now tell me, why did you never come find me?!" The faceless figure demanded angrily, the already distorted voice became even more distorted as it walked towards her. Natasha instinctively retreated, her uneasy feet finally gave out and she plummeted into another room.
It took her clouded mind a minute to adjust and figure out where she was, but it took the air out of her when she did.
The Red room. It was cold and dark and covered in a layer of dust. Natasha spotted a crib against the wall. It was her son; it HAD to be. Natasha ignored her instincts, telling her it was some sort of trap, and ran to the crib but found it empty. "Where the dreamy Volga flows. There's a lonely Russian rose," A to familiar voice sang out, causing her to pause
Turning slowly, she found the Winter Soldier, her baby in his arms, his eyes fixed on her. "Give me my son," Natasha demanded, her voice shaking. The man that had been the source of her nightmares for years didn't respond, repeating the old Russian lullaby. "Give him to me!" She screamed, charging him on impulse. The Winter Soldier's left arm shot out and seized her by the neck and lifted her from the ground, the rest of the room fading away when he did so.
"You don't deserve him." He tightened his grip. Natasha let out a growl and swung her legs up, pulling the metal arm off her neck simultaneously as she pulled him into a triangle choke. "Agent Romanoff!" He choked out, but it was someone else's voice.
Her eyes snapped open, and the already pounding headache intensified as the real world came crashing back. "You're chokin' me!" A voice squeaked out from between her legs. Two blue eyes looked at her in shock as she had managed to pull one of the SEALs into a chokehold purely on reflex.
"Shit, sorry." She released the man and tried to scramble backward but found it difficult to move. The falling rocks had broken a few ribs and fractured her left wrist, and the room was spinning ever so slightly. Natasha
"Jeez," The man coughed with a laugh. "You gotta take me out to dinner BEFORE you choke me out." The small group of men laughed, but Natasha was in a haze. The emotions of loss, anger, and regret that she'd been trying to suppress flooded her mind.
"Agent?" A concerned voice finally grabbed her attention. One of the SEALs crouched down next to her. "Can you walk?" Natasha nodded, leaning on her right arm and pushing herself up quickly, eager to get off the mountain. A Black Hawk helicopter was circling outside the cave, waiting for the small group, something she was grateful for.
An Army medic waiting on the helicopter went to work bandaging her left wrist and cleaning the blood running down her face as best he could. The young soldier wasn't any older than 19, and it made her think of the boy she'd left behind. She wondered what kind of man her son was growing up to be. Reclining in her seat and allowing her eyes to close, she mentally made up her mind; she would find her son, even if it took the rest of her life and even if he rejected her. Natasha needed to see him again.
It was late when May got home from Tony Stark's tower, where Peter would be staying for the night with Tony to make a few repairs to Peter's suit as well helping Peter with some homework. May didn't hate Tony, and she knew Peter needed a man in his life to look up to but couldn't it have been anyone else? Tony was famous for being a womanizer and had spent millions of dollars making her nephew a superhero suit.
May picked up a picture of her and Peter on Coney Island right after her husband passed away. "What am I gonna do with you?" Saying she was out of her depth was an understatement. She found raising an average child difficult, but Peter had acquired powers she couldn't comprehend and had Ben's instincts to lookout for everyone else first. Something that had cost him his life.
A sudden headache hit May, causing her to drop the picture in her hands and rub her temples. She'd dealt with migraines for a little over a year, but nothing like this. Her knees and hands trembled, and her vision blurred as she stumbled backward and tripped on the edge of the couch, hitting her head on the coffee table. "Peter..." She called out into the darkness of the apartment. She was alone, and her grasp on consciousness began slipping. "Peter!" She called out one last time before finally, everything went dark.
Author's Note: Hey everybody! So that's chapter 2. I meant to mention Peter struggling with sensory overload which is actually the first thing I thought of when he said his senses had been dialed to 11 in Civil War. I also wanted to say thank you to everyone who has followed and Favorited so far because I never expected this kind of response to this story. And it honestly made writing a little wracking because I don't want to disappoint you guys. Oh and I want to kind of explore artificial intelligence in this story so expect Karen and Friday to appear quite often. Please review if you have time, Im curious about how you guys feel about longer chapters because this was going to be longer but I didn't want to make it too long so let me know what you think. Ill update asap!