Balancing His Ledger

I own nothing from the world of the Avengers and receive no compensation other than reviews. Warning- a little bit of cussing


Chapter 8 – Mission Accomplished

When Clint regained consciousness, he listened to see if anyone was in the vicinity. Upon hearing no other person breathing, he opened his eyes. His head ached and the itchy feeling he had told him that dried blood was present on the right side of his head. The wound had been bad enough that the blood had dripped down his chin. He was in a plain room with one small slit of a window near the roof. There was no way he could escape that way. The handcuffs holding him to the chair would soon be gone. These people weren't that smart. His legs were still free. But he waited to see what would happen next. He didn't have long to wonder.

The door finally creaked open with the group's leader preceded by two members of the goon squad. One stayed by the door while the other came to a stop behind Clint

"Who sent you!" demanded the leader.

Clint didn't say a word. He did not say a single thing during the entire time that he was beaten, punched, and pummeled. When it became obvious to the leader that this man would be harder to break than originally thought, he called off his man.

His head swimming and his ribs hurting, Clint stared not at his captors but at the wall. He allowed no expression to cross his face. When they stopped, Clint relaxed a bit, but bitter experience told him that it wouldn't end here. There were other means of torture that wouldn't damage him as much but would be very painful. If he was still around. Which he did not plan to be.

Clint felt his thoughts dragging as through cotton. These people were idiots. Didn't they recognize the SHIELD emblem he bore on his shoulder? Considering how often SHIELD went after such terrorists, these guys must be colossal idiots. Well, he wasn't going to clue them in. He was fluent in numerous languages, but Natasha said he still had a slight accent. She'd worked with him to smooth it out, but they hadn't been completely successful in Urdu. Silence was his best option. He dropped his chin onto his chest to ease a kink in his neck. That was when he noticed that the SHIELD badge was missing. Huh. Now the anger of the men in front of him was clearer. He still wouldn't talk, but his assessment of their smarts had to be changed. They might not be as stupid as they seemed.

The goon by the door called out into the hallway. Very quickly, a short man came in with a video camera which he set up in front of Clint.

"We are going to broadcast a message demanding that your government step forward in the murder of these innocent civilians," postured the leader.

In Urdu, the leader demanded that the country responsible for the heinous assassination of guests within his country acknowledge their crime. He went on and on and Clint tuned him out. Same old rhetoric. It was time to act. He and Natasha had discussed such a situation. Carefully, so that they should not realize what he was doing, Clint began to send a message. He blinked.

If Natasha saw the video at all, Clint was certain she'd figure it out. He trusted his partner implicitly.

Finally, the group left. He waited and watched the beam of sunlight move across the room counting down the hours. Dusk turned into deep night before he was ready to move. During that time, someone had come into his cell about every two hours. Once he was certain of the pattern, Clint acted. He raised his foot up onto the knee so that the sole of his boot was close to his left hand. Using his fingernails, he slowly pried out a piece of metal that looked like a boot nail but wasn't. He palmed the strip of metal and waited for the next guard visit. Once he was alone again, Clint set to work picking the handcuff locks. Soon he was free.

He ghosted over to the door and dropping carefully to his belly, looked underneath. Voices echoed in the distance but none sounded near. He pried out another strip of metal from his boot and quickly picked the more complicated lock in the door. Standing free, he had only one thing on his mind. Find the bombs.

0-0-0

The F35 Lightning II hovered in place as the pilot determined the best landing site. He ignored the argument that was taking place in the compartment behind him. It had been going on for a while.

"Look. Fury is not here. How is he going to know if I put on the suit or not? Come on, Romanoff, this is your partner we're here to save."

Sitting on the box that held Stark's suit, Natasha waited for the histrionics to end. "First of all, this is an extraction, not a rescue. Second. SHIELD has satellite. I guarantee that Fury has one tasked above us. The heat signature of your suit is unique. Do you really want the Avengers to be disbanded?" With all the skills as a spy at her advantage, Natasha knew that Tony needed the Avengers like he'd never needed anything else. He'd found something beyond himself and for once, he seemed invigorated by being part of the team.

Tony threw his hands into the air and turned away. He didn't have the same faith in Clint's abilities that Natasha exhibited. The man was beaten and chained. No matter that he himself had once been in a similar situation, and he'd escaped. That escape had taken a long time. "So what do we do?" he exclaimed, frustrated.

"We wait," she said and leaned back against the bulkhead checking her Widow's Bite bracelets and waiting for darkness to fall. Just because Tony couldn't put on the suit didn't mean that she and Steve would stay in the jet. Bruce would stay to help keep Tony in check; she felt he didn't want to get near the situation if he didn't have to.

0-0-0

Natasha figured that she and Steve had reached the place where Clint had scouted out the compound. That was her opinion since Clint had left no sign he'd been there; it was just the best spot around. She could see the charred wrecks on the road. Soldiers circled trying to salvage whatever they could. It must have been a huge fireball. Not for the first time did Natasha wonder how Clint had been captured. The chaos of the event should have given him some cover.

0-0-0

It had taken a while but Clint had finally found the cache of ordinance on the third floor. The room was overflowing with the tools needed by an insurgency. There were electronics and explosives of many different kinds. Artillery shells, boxes of batteries for detonators, plastic explosives, manuals for a wide variety of military ordinance from several different countries, rockets, grenades, dynamite in boxes sweating out nitro, magnifying glasses and solder guns for finer work. There was a lot of shit that would blow them all to kingdom come. And Clint would help them find the way.

He'd acquired a knife searching the building; its former owner couldn't complain about its loss. His body was stashed under a table out of sight. Using the blade as a screwdriver, Clint removed the blasting caps from one of the bigger bombs and looked inside. No nuclear material in them yet. That had been his biggest concern. If they were that ready to go, his setting them off could cause widespread damage to many innocent lives.

Looking around him he realized that he could not deactivate them all. He did not have that much time; he'd be caught again. He'd hadn't heard any alarms indicating that they'd discovered he'd escaped but that window was closing rapidly. He had to take care of what was here, make sure it was unusable, and then get out. Evac would come with the dawn.

Grabbing some C4 out of a box, he placed blocks around various bombs and supplies. He plugged in blasting caps and connected them all with some det cords. Giving himself 10 minutes, Clint set the timer, turned, and ran.

The first two people he encountered didn't have time to yell. The side of one hand crushed the man's windpipe while his arm snaked around the other's chin to snap his neck. He kept moving down the corridor and counted down the seconds in his head.

0-0-0

Natasha and Steve were about 200 yards from the compound when a figure stepped away from a brush in the ravine they were in.

"SHIELD?" the figure asked hoarsely ignoring Natasha's arm pointed in his direction.

Lowering her arm slightly, she cocked her head to one side and asked softly, "What do you mean?"

Without speaking, a hand offered her something small. She wasn't able to see what it was but grasping it, she realized it was some stiff fabric. Her fingers moved across it and determined it was the SHIELD eagle. Her eyes narrowed as she asked, "Where did you get this?"

"A fallen man…" was all he got out before her hand grasped his throat.

"How!" she demanded.

"When the cars blew up, we acted at once. We set off our own bombs. They hold our children hostage. They took them when they took over our houses. They… Our bombs did not work." he broke off on the verge of tears. "Your man, he must have been too close to the blast. I found him unconscious, lying there. I could not carry him. I am sorry."

Natasha almost struck Steve when he laid a hand on her shoulder. He had seen what she had not. He had seen that the man was using a crutch. That one leg was twisted so badly he couldn't put any weight on it. Natasha had been too focused on the badge. She drew in a deep breath and released it slowly. The red in her vision backed off and the adrenaline spread out throughout her body. She had control.

"Where did they take him?" she ground out from between her teeth.

Deeply afraid, the man pointed at the tallest building they could see. He looked at Steve who seemed to be more sympathetic and handed over Clint's bow.

Steve touched his shoulder in passing and nodded his head acknowledging the apology. Having been weak, he understood more than anyone the regret of not being able to do anything.

Steve boosted Natasha into the air and leaped up after her. Crouched on the wall, he jumped to the ground below and held out his arms to Natasha. She made her leap just as a huge gout of flame erupted towards the heavens from the largest building. The wash of heat pushed them back and they crouched behind a truck parked against the wall. No one could have survived that blast. And that was where Clint had been. Natasha blamed the acrid smoke for the tears in her eyes.

0-0-0

Reaching the second floor landing, Clint heard shouts echoing up the stairwell. He looked over the edge and jerked back before he was spotted. Too many for the shape he was in. He could take them but not in the next 3 minutes 17 seconds.

Opening the door from the stairwell, Clint eased into the hallway and listened. Voiced indicated that there were people on this floor but their tone told him they were unaware of his escape. Yet. Moving quickly, he ghosted down the hallway stopping briefly to be sure no one was in each room that he passed. He needed to get out!

At last he spotted something he could use. The desk had two banners on the wall above it. He entered and pushed the door slightly to and ripped them off the wall. Tying the 2 corners together, he now had a makeshift rope to ease the 20-foot drop. He secured one end to the desk's leg, looked outside to see that this side of the building was clear for the moment, and tossed the rest of the rope out the window.

Clint slid down the rope and dropped the remaining seven feet to the ground before rolling to his feet. He had 25 seconds left. Not caring if he was spotted, Clint raced towards a pickup parked against another building. He slid under in and covered the back of his neck and head with his hands.

06. 05. 04. 03. 02. 01. 00. He was impressed. It was a huge firebomb. The heat hit him in a wave and his ears that he'd tried to protect with his arms were ringing. Rolling out the other side, Clint stood and took out a C4 brick he'd kept. Attaching it to the truck's gas cap, he set the timer and eased away. Men with guns milled around not knowing what to do. Whoever was in charge had not shown up yet. Maybe they'd been killed. It didn't matter.

Hugging the wall, Clint kept moving away from the destruction towards the main gate. As he neared the entrance, his secondary charge went off and drew the attention of those standing around. That left the gate protected by only three men. Using the noise as cover, Clint was able to get within a few feet before they spotted him. The first man turned directly into his fist. That man's nose broke with a very satisfying crunch. Clint followed him down to the ground and punched him into unconsciousness. A side kick to another's elbow knocked the gun away from Clint giving him a chance to grab the gun and yank it out of his hands. He followed up with the butt of the rifle on the backswing. Striking the man in the temple, his second opponent dropped. One left. Holding the gun in his right, Clint started the uppercut from down deep and put all his pent up frustration into the blow. The third's head snapped back and he dropped bonelessly to the ground leaving the way clear for Clint to leave.

Across the way, it was Steve who spotted Clint moving towards the gate. Grabbing Natasha's shoulder, he pointed out to her what she'd missed. It would be better if they got outside the wall to help Clint from there. Steve once again boosted Natasha up and over and followed her closely. On the ground they moved using the surrounding bushes for cover heading towards the road and the gate. They would back up their teammate from there.

Knowing there were probably sentries, Clint ran out the gate and moved in a zigzag pattern down the road. Spurts of dust rose around him. Someone was actually paying attention to what was outside the walls. Bad for him. Clint focused all his concentration on getting out of range. He'd have to move fast to make it to the evac point before they sent trucks after him.

He swerved to one side as a figure outlined by the sunrise rose up in front of him. Natasha raised a weapon in each hand and fired back at those shooting. Her hair was a nimbus of light that he couldn't take the time to appreciate. Cries of pain behind him let him know she was not missing her shots. He felt safer already.

As he reached Natasha, Steve Rogers stood as well and handed Clint his bow. He had no arrow and with a cracked rib, he wouldn't have been able to draw it anyways, but he appreciated the gesture.

A secondary explosion rocked the ground beneath them. Clint had no idea what had caused that. He guessed that there had been more ordinance in a bunker or basement and that the heat had finally set it off. Those people had bigger problems than him to deal with now.

"You got my message," stated Clint.

"Yes, it worked," said Natasha. Her fingers were itching to check Clint for hidden injuries but she held back. Bruce would do that once they got back to the jet. God knew Clint wouldn't tell her about how he was feeling until the mission was completely over. As the three jog-trotted across the desert, she assessed him anyways. Respiration was a bit off but not seriously. His balance was good and there were no broken limbs, but that was all she could tell.

"We left Stark and Bruce with the quinjet a few miles away," said Steve.

Clint's eyebrows rose. Stark stayed put? Was he tied up or knocked out? He looked at Natasha out of the corner of his eye and saw her confirmation. Wow. That must be a first. Stark following orders for that was what they must have been. In perfect synch, the three Avengers finally reached the jet and climbed aboard.

Having been forewarned by the pilot of their approach, Bruce and Tony were waiting. Bruce had found bottles of water, which he handed over to Steve and Natasha. "I want to check you out first before you drink anything." The doctor pulled the younger man off to the side and ran a diagnostic tool around his torso. Assured that Clint had no organ punctures, he handed him his water. Coming up from behind, Natasha asked, "So, what's the damage?"

"Mild dehydration, a cracked rib, a concussion, lacerations and contusions."

"I'm right here doc." Clint was a little miffed at being ignored.

In the front section, Steve and Tony were going over the satellite imagery that the pilot had downloaded. Like a child, Tony kept replaying the explosions. Shaking his head, Steve asked the pilot if they were cleared to head home. At his affirmative, Steve headed back to check on the team.

Little did they know that their journey home would be delayed.


I hope you liked this chapter. I didn't want to leave you waiting to see what had happened. It will be a bit before the next update. Not only am I a teacher, I sponsor the yearbook and UIL. This year has been horribly packed for me. What is going to happen next is in my head; I've worked out the plot. I just need to type. Thank you so much for you patience!