Dream World, outside Tony's house
"It's…complicated," Steve said as he and Sam exchanged a look.
"Well uncomplicate it. I was at work and got a flash of memories I don't remember having of my coworker and then I went home and remembered a conversation with my wife I never had. And you know what? I have a feeling you two know what's going on. So you guys wanna start explaining?" Clint demanded.
"The short version is we think we're in some sort of shared hallucination," Sam said and Clint looked at him like he had suggested Clint take up water polo.
"That's crazy," Clint told him.
"Clint," Steve said and Clint looked over at him. "What's the last thing you remember before yesterday? I need you to think."
Clint sighed but started to think. Suddenly, images came back to him: screaming in pain as The Dominators activated their device, firing arrows at Sam, being taken by that yellow beam.
"Clint?" Steve asked as he saw the look on Clint's face.
"We've been abducted by aliens," Clint said in disbelief. "God, did those words just come out of my mouth?"
"Was anyone else with us?" Sam asked.
"Natasha," Clint said after a moment of thought. "Okay, if this is all some sort of illusion, how do we get out of here?"
"The giant skyscraper with the A logo," Sam said and Steve looked over at him. "Maybe the reason it feels so weird is because that's our ticket home."
"Wherever the hell 'here' is," Clint muttered.
Barry was in the cortex, going over the computer when Joe walked up behind him.
"Can I help you Joe?" Barry asked when Joe didn't say anything.
"I'm…concerned. Iris told me you two had it out," Joe began.
"And her version will be unbiased, I'm sure," Barry said dryly.
"She said you were only concerned with finding your new friends," Joe said and Barry shrugged.
"Well, that part's true. She wanted me to forget about saving them, to focus on The Dominators, and I just can't do that Joe," Barry told him and Joe was silent for several moments.
"Barry, I've just been so relieved to have you back…but the truth is, some of your decisions lately…they worry me," Joe said and Barry finally turned around to face his father. "You ended things with Iris, which I understand. You dismantled your prison, which I am more than okay with. But you released that psychopath and handed her over to that…madman."
"Oliver's not a madman Joe," Barry snapped.
"He's killed people," Joe pointed out.
"Only when necessary," Barry snapped.
"Barry, he's a serial killer!" Joe snapped.
"Did you research any of The Hood's activities? Because I did," Barry told him and continued without waiting for a response. "Oliver always gave the people he was going after a chance to right their wrongs. And if they did, he didn't bother going after them after the warning. In seven months, Oliver killed less than fifty people, excluding Malcolm Merlyn. Hardly sounds like a serial killer, does it?"
"What happened to you on that other earth Bar?" Joe asked as he stared at his son in concern.
"I grew up," Barry said bluntly. "I learned that the world is not black and white. It's full of grey. Joe, Iris and Wally get a lot of good things from you, so do I, but one of your less appealing qualities is that you think like a cop: Something is either right or wrong and you won't change your mind about it. I'm not Oliver Joe, but I'm also not you. I love and respect you, but I have to do things my own way. I have to be my own man."
"This ship is everything," Cisco said in awe as Ray led him down the hall.
"I'll show you around. You know, later, when we're not being invaded by aliens," Ray told him as they reached the cockpit, where a Caucasian man with dark hair and a dark skinned woman with dark hair were waiting.
"Hey Ray," The man said and Ray nodded.
"Cisco, this is Nate Heywood and Amaya Jiwe. Guys, this is Cisco Ramon of Star Labs," Ray introduced.
"Nice to meet you," Nate said as he held out his hand, which Cisco shook.
"You to. We need to find The Avengers," Cisco said as he pulled out the piece of Dominator tech from the ship Barry had gotten. "Do you have anything that can read the data from this?"
"I think we've got something," Nate nodded.
Dream world, Tony's house
Steve and Clint reentered Tony's house and split up, looking for Natasha. Clint made his way through the crowd of people, looking for his best friend. He found her, laughing with some woman he vaguely recognized as Peggy Carter.
"Nat, I need to talk to you," Clint said as he walked up to the two women.
"I'm sorry, who are you?" Natasha asked as she looked at him, a nagging voice in the back of her mind that sounded a lot like Steve telling her to listen to him.
"This is Detective Barton, he's the one who was at the bar last night," Peggy explained to her.
"Yes, and I really need to talk to you for a moment," Clint said urgently.
With a shrug at Peggy, Natasha followed Clint a little away to a more private area of the party.
"Can I help you Detective?" Natasha asked.
"Nat, it's me. It's Clint," Clint tried to reach her.
"Okay," Natasha said confused and Clint sighed.
"Wake up Nat, none of this is real. We've been abducted by aliens and put in some simulation and yes I know how crazy that sounds. Just think Natasha, please," Clint pleaded and Natasha's mind was suddenly flooded with memories.
Her time in the Red Room, shooting target practice.
Being wheeled down the hall for her procedure.
Being recruited by Clint.
"My god," Natasha said putting a hand to her head as the truth crashed down around her.
Steve was looking for Natasha when he ran into Tony.
"Hey, Sam find what he was looking for?" Tony asked and Steve nodded tersely.
"Yeah," Steve said before looking Tony in the eye. "Tony…I know we don't always see eye to eye, but I hope you know…I've always respected you. I know you just try to do what you think is right, which is all any of us can do."
"You okay Cap?" Tony asked a little concerned and Steve flashed a tight smile.
"Yeah. I'll see you around Tony," Steve said before walking off.
Steve quickly found Clint and Natasha and made his way over.
"Nat, we need to go," Steve told her.
"She's not coming," Clint said tiredly and Steve started. "She knows and she's not coming."
"Why would you want to?" Natasha demanded.
"None of this is real Nat," Clint told her.
"It's real enough," Natasha said defensively.
Steve stared at Natasha with understanding. Now that Bucky had told him of her pregnancy, he understood why Natasha would not want to believe this wasn't real. But he knew she would not want this information divulged.
"Clint, could you give us a moment?" Steve asked. "Go wait outside with Sam."
Clint shot one last look at Natasha before nodding and walking off, disappearing into the crowd.
"We can't stay here Nat," Steve told her gently.
"Why not? What is waiting for us out there? We're outlaws on our own earth, The Avengers are broken up. Why should we go when we made all our sacrifices for nothing?" Natasha said her voice filled with a surprising amount of emotion and vulnerability.
"Because we have responsibilities. We didn't make the sacrifices we made to get a reward or for glory. I understand Nat, Bucky told me," Steve said and Natasha's hands unconsciously dropped to her stomach. "I know how much it hurts, but it's not real. I want this to, I want Peggy, I want Bucky, but they're not real. Seeing all this, it's shown me that my job isn't done. The price of freedom is high, but it's a price I'm willing to pay. If you aren't, so be it. But I think you are. I'm begging you, as both an Avenger and a friend, to come with me."
Outside, Sam and Clint looked up as it began to storm. It was beginning to rain as Steve and Natasha made their way outside, Natasha's perfect mask back in place, no sign of the emotion and vulnerability that were previously on her face.
"Good to see you Nat," Clint said and she only gave a tense nod.
"So, we head to Avengers Tower, and we get out of here?" Natasha asked.
"That's the plan. And we need to do it fast; The Dominators would have built in safeguards. Probably manifestations of our memories," Steve told them.
Suddenly, Natasha reached out and caught a knife, stopping it inches from Steve's face. She lowered it to her side as they lined up, seeing the four emerging figures. A second Natasha, dressed in a black jumpsuit, whirled two knives. Bucky, dressed in the uniform he had fought Steve in during the fall of Shield and his hair as long as it had been then, stared impassively. A man dressed in a US Air Force uniform eyed Sam blankly. And finally, Loki, dressed as he had been during the battle of New York, scepter and all, smirked at a steaming Clint.
"Like that?" Natasha asked and Steve nodded.
"What do we do Cap?" Sam asked and Steve narrowed his eyes.
"We fight," Steve said simply.
The two sides rushed each other and then it was on. Natasha rushed her clone, striking a knife at her but her clone brought up her knives in an X formation, blocking her. Meanwhile, Steve ducked Bucky's robotic arm and tackled his body, pushing him back. The man in the Air Force uniform fired off shots at Sam, who struggled to dodge.
"Come on Sam, you did nothing as I got shot out of the sky! The least you can do is let me kill you!" The man shouted.
Clint ducked, barely managing to dodge Loki's strike with his scepter as Bucky pulled out a knife. Bucky tried to stab Steve but Steve grabbed his wrist, managing to hold it back. Steve elbowed Bucky in the face with his free arm and kneed him in the lower abdomen. Bucky stumbled back and Steve managed to throw him over his shoulder and slam Bucky onto the ground.
Clint dodged another strike by Loki before kicking him in the abdomen and punching Loki in the chin. Loki stumbled back, clearly affected and Clint smirked.
"You look like Loki, but you're not him. You don't have the bastard's strength. And I'm betting you're a hell of a lot more vulnerable," Clint said before rushing forward.
Sam sent a kick to Riley's abdomen and Riley dropped one of his guns. Sam picked it up and the two opened fire on one another. As Steve and Bucky continued to trade blows, the Natashas wrestled each other to the ground. They jumped up and Natasha kicked her clone in the abdomen and as she went down, Natasha pulled out her knife and stabbed her clone in the chest. She yanked it out and saw Steve still trading blows with Bucky.
"Steve!" Natasha shouted as she threw it.
Steve looked up and caught it. Steve then whirled around, stabbing Bucky in the abdomen. Bucky coughed up blood before Steve yanked it out. Bucky fell back and Steve looked over to see Sam on the ground, Riley aiming his pistol at him. Steve threw the knife and it hit Riley's hand. Riley dropped the gun and it landed near Sam's hand. Sam picked it up and fired, getting Riley in the chest. Riley stumbled back as Sam stood up, firing again. Riley fell back, dead, as Sam looked over at Clint still exchanging blows with Loki. Sam tossed Clint the pistol and he caught it. Clint fired and got Loki in the abdomen. Loki stumbled back, dropping his scepter, which Clint caught.
"That was for me. But this," Clint said as he then stabbed Loki through the heart with the scepter. "This is for Phil."
Clint yanked the scepter out of Loki and Loki fell back. Clint tossed the scepter to the ground and suddenly, all the bodies were gone.
Steve looked back at Tony's house to see Peggy emerge from it. With a sigh, Steve looked at his teammates.
"You guys go. I'll catch up," Steve assured them.
With understanding looks, the three of them ran off as Steve approached Peggy.
"Steve, what's going on?" She asked concerned.
"I'm sorry, I have to go now," Steve told.
"No, you can't go! No!" Peggy suddenly shouted as she grabbed him by his jacket.
"I have to," Steve said gently as he gently pried her hands off his jacket. "You told me once I was meant for more than this. You were right, but I don't think either of us expected what I was meant for to take me so far away from you. The truth of the matter is…we were just never meant to be. We were together for…moments. It was just never the right moment. Goodbye Peggy."
Steve then let her go and took off. Hearing her call after him, he paused, looking back at her one more time before he ran after the others.
Dream world, Avengers Tower
"Okay. So now what?" Clint asked as the foursome walked into the main lobby.
"Well, I don't think that's supposed to be here," Sam noted as he pointed at a green portal, similar to a breach. "Hopefully that's the way out of here."
"And if it's not?" Natasha demanded.
"We click our heels together and say 'there's no place like home'," Clint said sarcastically and Natasha shot him a look.
"Only one way to know for sure," Steve stopped the arguing.
Sam, Natasha and Clint entered the portal and Steve was about to follow when he heard a voice behind him.
Steve turned around and saw six holograms staring at him. His throat tightened as he saw six people who, in one way or another, he had lost.
"You were meant for more than this you know," Peggy told him.
"Compromise where you can and where you can't, don't," Sharon said.
"I'm with you until the end of the line pal," Bucky said.
"Like the old man said, together," Tony said.
"Looks like you're giving the orders now Captain," Fury said.
"Not a perfect soldier, but a good man," Erskine said.
Steve lingered for only a moment more before, with a heavy heart, he turned and walked into the green portal.
Steve woke up in a pod that was opened. He got out and saw the others getting out of theirs.
"You guys okay?" Steve asked.
"I will be once I find a Dominator to kill," Clint growled with Natasha looking like she agreed.
"Uh, guys," Sam called over from the window. "I think you should see this."
"Okay, this makes no sense," Cisco said as he, Nate, Ray, and Amaya stared at what they had gotten.
"It just looks random," Nate said.
"Maybe Gideon could help," Amaya suggested.
"Gideon, could you translate this?" Ray asked.
"Certainly, Mr. Palmer," Gideon said and was silent for a moment. "It most closely resembles Gematria, the numerology of the Torah. It's the numerical equivalent of letters, words, and phrases."
"But can you read it?" Cisco asked.
"-3.127 latitude, -23.7987 longitude." Gideon translated.
"But that doesn't make sense…unless…oh frak," Cisco paled.
The Avengers stared to into the cold vacuum of space from the small window.
"Shit," Clint said what they were all thinking.
"We need to remain calm. We don't have our weapons, so we can't fight our way out. We need to find a way out of here, so let's move as quietly as we can without detection," Steve ordered.
The four of them exited the room and rounded a corner. They took cover as two Dominators passed, one of them speaking. Steve noticed Clint and Natasha glaring at them hatefully but decided now was not the time. They walked out once The Dominators had passed and rounded a corner and to run smack dab into a horde of Dominators.
"Find our way out you said," Clint said sarcastically as The Dominators noticed them.
Seeing a weapon on the wall that looked like a blaster, Natasha grabbed it. Desperately hoping it worked like a gun, she pulled what looked like a trigger and an orange beam shot out of it. It hit The Dominators and they all stumbled back, obviously in pain.
"Run!" Steve barked ad they didn't need to be told twice.
The group made their way through the ship until they found themselves in what was obviously a hanger bay filled with smaller drone ships.
"You think one of us can fly one of these things?" Clint inquired.
"I'm hoping one of us can," Steve told him.
The four got into the nearest ship and took their seats.
"So, anyone know how to work this?" Sam asked hopefully.
"Yeah, because Shield had a 'how to pilot an alien space ship' course at the academy," Clint said sarcastically.
Seeing what looked like a hand activation pad in front of her, Natasha shrugged and put her hand on it. Immediately, the ship came alive and the controls came up to the laps.
"You're welcome," Natasha said smugly to the stunned males.
The ship left and flew out the larger ship. However, they didn't get far when various other ships started popping out of the larger craft.
"Okay, we need to figure out how to fly this thing, fast!" Sam said alarmed.
"I don't know what's the controls and what isn't!" Clint said as the ship rocked.
"Well boys, it's been nice knowing you," Natasha said as three of the ships formed a triangle and a red triangle of energy formed.
Suddenly, the Waveridder flew in and broke up the formation of the ships. The time ship flew over to their ship and beamed them up before vanishing in a blink.
"Thank god you guys are okay," Cisco said as he met them in the doors.
"Thanks to you guys," Steve said gratefully.
"I kind of expected them to take their clothes," Ray admitted, eying their suits.
"And what, put us in prison uniforms?" Clint asked sarcastically.
"When you say it like that, it sounds pretty stupid," Ray said as they entered the cockpit, where Nata and Amaya were waiting.
"Hey, glad you're okay. I'm Nate Heywood," Nate held his hand out to Steve, who shook it.
"Steve Rogers," Steve introduced himself.
"You didn't by chance make me another bow, did you?" Clint asked Cisco who shook his head.
"Sorry," Cisco apologized.
"He doesn't need to. The Waveridder can replicate old weapons," Ray said and Clint smirked.
"Good. Thanks for the save," Clint said.
"No problem," Nate said quickly.
"Except for our other problems," Clint muttered and they turned to him.
"Something on your mind Clint?" Sam asked.
"When we got out of that hallucination, I looked at the tech these ETs were using to keep us in. The tech, it's similar in design to a project Tahiti, something Fury was cooking up to modify people's memories," Clint explained.
"And that means what?" Amaya asked confused but Natasha understood.
"The hallucination was to keep our minds occupied while The Dominations scanned our minds," Natasha supplied.
"Maybe they didn't take us randomly. Maybe they chose us because we couldn't fight back," Clint suspected.
"Because none of you are Metas," Cisco realized and Clint nodded.
"Well that leaves the question of what were they looking for," Steve mused.
"Klic-clac-to-nick-lava-shack-too," Natasha said and they all looked at her.
"What?" Sam asked confused.
"When we were hiding and those Dominators passed us, one of them said that," Natasha explained.
"Which means what?" Sam asked and Natasha shrugged.
"Gideon?" Ray called out and Gideon's head appeared, startling the Avengers.
"Translating. The phase loosely translates to 'we are nearing completion of the weapon'," Gideon explained.
"What weapon is that?" Steve asked.
"I'm afraid I have no idea, but I've been tracking The Dominator mothership you escaped from, and it appears to be on a direct course for earth," Gideon said and they all exchanged uneasy looks.
"The Dominators are approaching their endgame. We need to head back to earth, it's time to end this," Steve ordered.
Those that call Oliver a serial killer don't seem to look at the facts other than he killed people. A serial killer would have killed every opportunity given; they would have left no survivors. A mere week before The Undertaking, seven months after he returned, Quentin Lance tells Roy and Thea that The Hood killed less than fifty people. I find that people who call Oliver a serial killer are usually people who don't like him or people who just can't handle it when heroes kill.
If Natasha seems out of character, remember, she's not as emotionless as she appears. And, Steve and Clint are two people that she lets her guard down around.
For the villains, looking back at Invasion, each villain seems to be representative of a unresolved issue of one of the heroes.
Steve blames himself for Bucky becoming The Winter Solider. Riley is, in case anyone forgot, Sam's partner from the Air Force who was shot down in front of him during a routine mission. Basically, he was Sam's Bucky. Do I even need to explain Loki for Clint?
Natasha I definitely need to explain, because her opponent was probably confusing. I had a hard time with Natasha's opponent, because we don't know a whole lot about her past. But then I realized the biggest issue of her past is her time in The Red Room and KGB. Natasha's opponent is Natasha before she met Clint, back when she was an assassin for the KGB.
Did anyone else think it was a weird that The Dominators undressed everyone and put them in prison uniforms they just happen to have lying around?