A/N: This one is on the short side. Apologies, but I'm going to London in 16 days! (I'm excited, can you tell?) If any of you have been to London/Oxford, or indeed live there, I welcome your suggestions, especially on places to eat (Food is extremely important to me). Anyway, I also rewrote the beginning of this chapter about a dozen times, and that's not an exaggeration, but I wanted to set things up for the sequel I'm planning. :-) Lastly, RDJ IS COMING BACK! Enjoy.
Grandma Lewis was busy "laying provisions for the siege" because, apparently, her eldest son saying there was some kind of temporary emergency was tantamount to a Red Dawn-style invasion. Clark knew something serious was happening. If his father's unusually solemn expression after his conversation with Darcy weren't enough, the weird, oddly colored cloud formations in the distance certainly were.
He stared out the window toward the street while his grandmother yammered at her neighbor about disaster preparedness. He blinked as a slate gray Nissan Cube screeched to a halt in front of the house. Instincts honed from a lifetime of pulling pranks with his uncle Max taught him to duck down to where he could just look out over the edge. He nearly fell off the window seat when he saw Ms. Carol Danvers, the hot physics teacher from his high school, jump out of the car and jog toward the house. He was further surprised when he saw Mr. Wilson, a young firefighter from his dad's station calling after her to stop just a few steps short of the porch.
Clark was extremely grateful he had an older sister because it had made him a veteran eves dropper. Darcy always had the best conversations, although before he perfected his technique she would have outrageously salacious conversations just so she could catch him unawares with his mouth hanging open. He got better though, and when he'd overheard her talking to Jane about Agent Coulson, he decided to file name away. He was either a genuine secret agent, or just another victim of his sister's gift for hyperbole.
"Dani, it's okay!" Mr. Wilson said to Ms. Danvers. "Coulson says the Lewis girl is fine."
Clark was moving before his brain caught up with his body. He yanked open the door and called out, "What the hell happened to my sister?"
Mr. Wilson and Ms. Danvers turned and blinked at him with slightly open mouths. "Um, Clark, we—"
"Don't even think about bullshitting me," he warned.
"Well, Clark, it's a little complicated…" Ms. Danvers began hesitantly.
"More complicated than you screwing my uncle in the middle of the day while I was three doors down the hall?" Clark asked flatly.
Ms. Danvers mouth hung open as Mr. Wilson's eyes widened. "Are you telling me Max hit that?" he asked.
"I am standing right here," she reminded them.
"You know what? Love my uncle, but I don't really care about his conquests right now. What happened to my sister?"
Mr. Wilson took a deep breath and said, "Clark, look, all you need to know right now is that your sister is fine."
"Then why were you running to get me and my grandmother?"
Mr. Wilson opened his mouth as if he wanted to answer, but no words came out. Ms. Danvers, whose attention was clearly focused on the odd cloud formations in the distance, pulled on his arm and said, "Sam, I've gotta get closer to those things."
"Really, Dani? That's all that matters to you right now?"
"Sam, whatever that is could matter to everyone."
Sam sighed in frustration and looked back at Clark. "Your sister got shot."
Clark was too stunned to immediately respond. "W-w-what?" was all he could manage.
"Grab your stuff and tell your grandma I'm taking you to the firehouse. We'll explain on the way."
"Yes, Dani, we will."
Panic was already starting to spread through the streets. Fortunately, James was on a motorcycle and had reflexes quick enough to avoid getting smashed. He didn't know where he was going for the first five minutes. And then the mass panic gave him an idea. There was a lack of organization in this evacuation (or whatever it was) and there were few things in the world more organized than an organized crime syndicate.
He drove right to where they'd escaped the Russian Mob earlier that morning and the first heavy at the door tried to stop him. James slammed the larger man's head against the wall and took his gun. He attributed his ease at getting through the building to the fact that he'd kneecapped the heir apparent and everyone was more than a little wary of him. He got to a room where the men were playing poker or enjoying a free lap dance and suddenly he had twenty handguns pointed at him.
James couldn't help but smile. "You all know who I am. You really think this is a good idea?"
"There's a pretty damned big price on your head now, зимой солдата," one of the more medium-sized enforcers informed him. "How did you possibly think you would get out of here alive?"
James smirked, fired up at a light fixture which resulted in a ricochet and in the resulting chaos, James got behind the medium-sized enforcer and got his left arm around his neck and put the gun up to his temple. "This is how I thought I'd get out of here alive," he stated.
"What do you want?" the enforcer rasped.
"Any of you see anything weird on the subway this morning?"
James could tell from their suspicious and hesitant reactions that many of them had. "There's about to be a whole hell of a lot more weird raining down from the sky any moment now. And all those people you extort and terrorize are gonna get hurt and killed."
"What do you expect us to do about it?" one of the younger men in the room asked.
"Get them out of here. Get them to Staten Island, Upstate, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, anywhere the subway doesn't go. If you hurt a single person; kneecaps are going to be the least of your worries. Understand?"
"Um, okay," the young guy replied.
"I mean now!" James yelled as they all jumped to grab their jackets and run out the door. James let go of the enforcer in his arm and pointed his gun at the man's face. "I need your car. Now."
"You must go."
"Mikhail, no. I will not leave you!" Ekaterina yelled at her tiny, bespectacled husband.
"Ekaterina, take our daughter, and go!" the man demanded from his wheelchair. "If I die today, it will be no great tragedy."
"I'm gonna have to disagree with that," James said, bursting into the room.
"Who the hell are you?" Mikhail asked maneuvering his chair away from the intruder.
James chuckled slightly. "You don't really want to know."
"He's one of the guys that helped me out last night, Poppa," Natalia explained.
"Did my sister send you?" Ekaterina asked him.
"Yes," James lied. "There's a car downstairs. Ekaterina, grab the essentials. Talia, you're going to get the chair when I pick up your father."
Ekaterina nodded her assent before racing down the narrow stairs. James leaned toward Mikhail and said, "This isn't going to be big on dignity."
"It never is, говнюк," Mikhail replied as he wrapped his arms around James' neck.
James laughed in spite of the insult as he carefully carried the older man down the dark, narrow stairs.
"Kat's sister is dead," Mikhail said quietly.
"No, she isn't," James informed him. "She's alive and kicking. And she can kick really hard."
Mikhail regarded him briefly with a raised eyebrow. "Can't be nearly as bad as Kat kicking in her sleep. It's murder on the back," he said, his voice dripping in sarcasm.
James laughed and in some fantastical part of his mind, he imagined that he wouldn't have minded Mikhail as a brother-in-law.
"So…my sister is way more awesome than I thought she was?"
"Yeah, according to everything I've heard," Sam replied facing Clark from the front seat of Carol Danvers' Nissan Cube. "My friend Clint really seemed to like her."
"Your friend Clint really seems to like anything with larger-than-average breasts," Carol said pointedly.
"Don't listen to her. She's just mad because she shut him down and he immediately moved on."
Carol rolled her eyes as Clark chuckled from the backseat. "So, this Coulson guy just asked you to look out for us…as a favor?"
"Yeah, your sister probably thinks he's an asshole, but he's really kind of a marshmallow," Sam told him.
"Well, how does he even know you two? I'm guessing you're not actually a high school teacher and a grad-student/fireman."
"I was an officer in the Air Force working on a joint project with this Army special unit. The CO was…not the greatest person in the world. Coulson got me out of it, and I owed him one," Carol explained.
Clark raised an eyebrow. "That's an appropriately vague answer. What about you, Mr. Wilson?"
"You can call me Sam at this point, kid."
"Okay, Sam, what kind of favor did you owe this Coulson guy?"
Sam shifted uncomfortably in his seat and looked straight out the windshield. "I used to be in Coulson's unit at SHIELD. Technically, I'm still an agent, I'm just on medical leave."
"Medical leave?" Clark asked dubiously. "Dude, you got a commendation for carrying a forty-year-old man out of high-rise fire downtown. What kind of medical leave could you possibly be on?"
Carol's eyebrows shot up. "Are you kidding right now, Sam? You've told this kid stuff you shouldn't even know, and you're hedging on this?"
"This has nothing to do with his sister, okay?"
"He's put his life in your hands, I think he probably deserves to know."
"There was an incident while transporting some alien tech, and Sam wound up with some special abilities," she explained quickly.
"What kind of special abilities?" Clark asked. "Punchy ones? Splodey ones? Mind control-y ones?"
"He thinks they're lame, so he doesn't like to talk about it or do anything useful with them," Carol continued.
"Well, it couldn't be any worse than some of the abilities they had on Heroes," Clark pointed out.
"Hey! I liked that show," Carol protested.
"You know what you are, Dani?"
"Sam, if you want to call me a bitch, just do it already and put us out of our misery."
"Um, how long have you two known each other?" Clark asked.
"Since Basic," Sam replied.
"About twelve years," Carol clarified.
"Well, that kind of explains the whole interracial sibling thing you've got going on. I bet Sam is the only person that gets to call you Dani, isn't he?"
Sam groaned, but Carol nodded with a slight smile.
"Back on point, though," Clark said, "whatever your ability is, Sam, it can't be any worse than the tattoo lady from that last season of Heroes."
Sam sighed deeply and shook his head. "The docs at SHIELD think that the incident just awakened something that was latent in my DNA," he began. "I've always liked birds. My grandma always kept them and I grew up in Harlem, which isn't exactly a natural habitat, and I just got fascinated with them."
"All that exposition was to tell you that he can communicate with birds."
"Dani, you really are being a bitch right now."
"What do you talk to birds about? Bees?" Clark asked.
Sam chuckled and shook his head. "They don't really 'talk' because they don't have a consciousness in the way we understand it. It's really communication rather than just merely speaking. Basically, I can sort of guide them, and they can show me what they're seeing."
Clark shrugged. "Actually, I can see how that could be kind of cool."
"He's leaving out the best part, though."
"Dani," Sam groaned.
"Oh please. We all joined the Air Force for the same reason; we want to fly, and Sam can."
"No shit! Really?" Clark exclaimed.
"Not-not very well," Sam admitted reluctantly.
"You should practice more," Carol admonished.
"Can you imagine the panic if people around here looked up and saw a black guy flying around?"
"Dude, it's New Mexico," Clark pointed out. "We have deserts, and the lizards aren't really known for their racism, unless you're a coyote."
Sam guffawed as Carol pulled off the road and onto the rough terrain. Clark held onto the seat as the Cube was obviously not designed for this sort of thing. Sam's grip was firmly on one of the grab bars as he said, "Dani, please tell me we're almost there."
"We are. I can see the eye."
"There's no rain or anything. Isn't that weird?" Clark asked.
"It's not that kind of storm," Carol assured him as they came to a stop.
She quickly jumped out and grabbed some equipment from the back of the car. Sam looked back at Clark and said, "Dani's really a scientist at heart. She just joined the military to pay for college. You're staying in the car. And this isn't one of those times where you get out and accidentally save the day. You stay in the fucking car."
"I get it, Sam," Clark replied, tightening his seatbelt. "I'll be right here."
The young man watched in the eerie silence as Carol shouted what she thought were terribly interesting facts and Sam slowly drew his gun. Clark wondered idly what he'd gotten himself into. Then, with mild horror, he realized his sister had fallen into something that was likely even more stupid and life threatening. He also wondered if her boyfriend-person-thing was some sort of blond Superman because he was totally built for it. He didn't have time to really think about anything else as Carol's screams pierced the air and some…thing emerged from the clouds. Clark heard gunshots and then a bright flash before gravity stopped and then there was nothing but black.
So much noise. Darcy was surrounded by it. Coulson was barking orders at SHIELD agents in the subway tunnels. Pepper was coordinating the cops and the Air Force. Happy was doing the heavy lifting as Jane and Eric were busily trying to build a wormhole generator with a single power cell, while the Tesseract laughed and crackled with energy. In the comms, Darcy could hear Steve issuing orders, Hawkeye calling out patterns, and Tony and Peter trying to outdo one another with pithy one-liners. It was a stupid competition to take up in the middle of an alien invasion, but Darcy honestly couldn't have expected any more.
"And you're sure you can't divert the Tesseract's energy?" Coulson asked in Eric and Jane's general direction.
"No, she's created some sort of protective energy barrier. Nothing can get through," Eric said as a pair of wires sparked beneath his fingers.
"And how are you planning to shut it down?" Pepper asked.
"One problem at a time!" Jane replied testily.
Darcy bit her lip and looked away from the stacks of Bruce's messy scrawl in front of her. On one of the news screens, she saw an image of Harry Osborne chucking some furniture off his father's yacht to make room for more people to get on board. She smiled and thought Peter had better taste in friends than it at first appeared.
"Rhodey and the Air Force are holding the perimeter, but they are not going to last forever," Pepper announced to Coulson. "Where the hell is SHIELD?"
"We've cleared the subway," Coulson replied to no one in particular. "Captain, you can start evacuation through the subway. You can tell the police to do the same."
"That is not what I meant and you know it," she told him before relaying his message to the police commissioner.
"I believe Director Fury is working on Plan F," Coulson said, just loud enough to be heard.
"Oh, that is just so awesome," Darcy muttered. "I don't get this, Betty, I really don't."
"Stop thinking about the science and think about what the mythology says," Betty suggested. "These guys are reflections of our human mythology. What does the edda say about the Staff of Burin?"
Darcy opened her mouth to reply, but a rumbling and a roar was all that filled her ears as the floor shook. And then the floor stilled and the air was full of silence. Darcy's eyes lighted upon a screen that told her the horrible truth, and her breath hitched in her chest.
"30 Rock is gone," Hawkeye told them, breaking the silence. "It was Loki; just Loki."
"If he can do that, what the hell does he need the army for?" Tony asked in between ongoing laser blasts.
"Spiderman? Spiderman, come in. Spiderman, do you copy?" Steve asked, becoming more and more frenzied. "Peter, come in!"
"What-what's going on?" Darcy asked.
"He was in the building," Hawkeye said solemnly.
"I'll find him," Natasha said, stoically.
Darcy covered her face with both hands to hide her tears.