"Excuse me," JARVIS's cool mechanical voice echoed through the room.
Steve Rogers started, stopped mid-punch and had to grab the punching bag before it could swing forward and hit him. He was still unused to the building's AI. He hadn't gotten used to a voice that came from everywhere and nowhere at the same time and could pop up without warning.
"Er, yes?" He never knew quite where to look when speaking to JARVIS. It felt rude to have a conversation without looking the speaker in the eyes. But seeing as the AI didn't have any, he wasn't sure what the protocol should be.
"Your presence is required in the Family room."
The 'Family' room was what Tony had jokingly named the room that had become their default planning room for any group house decision, large or small. Generally they didn't discuss anything really serious there, no world saving discussions went on in that room. Stark had a bigger one with a meeting table, lots of monitors and terminals for that. The Family room was a large oval, and had one big curved screen that made up most of one wall. The floor had built in padded stadium couches along the opposite wall, interspersed with small side tables. It made for easy lounging and was too comfortable to deal with big problems.
Tony also kept dragging them all there whenever he wanted to show off something new and shiny. Which could be anything from new coffee machines or some techy thing, or worse something asinine like when he'd programmed JARVIS with a complete movie catalog of every Oscar winner since the inception of the awards and wanted to plan out their first group "movie night."
Steve thought a moment about ignoring the summons. Tony had been threatening a marathon of the old Captain America serials and he wasn't in the mood to bow out of that gracefully.
But, presence is required...not requested. Something potentially serious could be going down. "Okay." He grabbed a towel and threw it around his neck. "Um, which way is it from here again?"
"I'll show you, sir." JARVIS slid open the door to Steve's workout room and a panel lit up down by the elevator. "Fortieth floor, the elevator will open into the room."
Living together was still new to all of them. The new Avengers Tower, formerly Stark Tower, had only completed construction about a month ago. No small feat considering a large chunk of Manhattan was under reconstruction at the same time, making supplies and workers at a premium. But a lot could be done when you had unlimited funds and could say "cost is no object" and mean it. And Tony Stark really did mean it when he said it, and Pepper Potts was polite and clever enough to repeat it in a way that made people feel honored stand in line to help. Having the backing of SHIELD to help grease over any legal technicalities helped too. They all tried to ignore that SHIELD's interest was most likely in keeping the Avengers where they could see them, most of them anyway.
Thor had yet to return from Asgard, and no one was quite sure if he could return. Steve just hoped if they ever got into enough trouble that they needed the self-proclaimed demi-god he'd be able to make his way back.
The elevator doors opened, and Steve frowned. They weren't anywhere near the right floor yet.
"O-oh." An equally startled Bruce Banner hesitated on the threshold to the elevator. He looked at the tiny, enclosed room. He quirked an eyebrow and asked, "Do you want me to wait for the next one?"
Steve appreciated the thought, but he thought it unlikely that the mild doctor was going to spontaneously transform between this floor and their destination. "No. Not at all," he said and waved him in.
"Thanks," Bruce gave a little nod of appreciation. He fiddled with his sleeves, rolled up to the elbows, a sure sign he'd been working in the lab Tony had put in his quarters. "So, uh," he said diffidently as the doors slid shut. "He..he called you too?"
Steve nodded. "Do you think it's something serious?"
"Mr. Stark requests we hurry." JARVIS announced before Bruce could reply. The elevator abruptly accelerated up at a dizzying speed. Both men were thrown against the side of the elevator, and it took all of his strength to keep Steve fully upright. Bruce went down to his knees.
"Banner!" Steve yelled. "You alright?"
"Y-yeah," Bruce said, his voice choked and his currently human body compressed against the floor. "I think."
"You think!" Steve started calculating escape plans to get the doctor out before something regrettable happened. "JAR-"
The elevator slowed, and the doors opened. Unfortunately, it didn't slow enough to prevent the two men from flying up and out from the sudden stop. Steve flew right into one of the couch backs, and Bruce fell into him. They went down in a sprawl.
Tony Stark turned and looked over his should impatiently. "Hurry up! You're going to miss it!"
"Stark!" Steve barked, levering himself up. "What were you thinking! Do you have any idea-"
"M-miss what?" Bruce asked, picking himself up and peering worriedly at the screen. It was flashing what looked like a cellphone recording of the New York skyline. "Is it Loki?" He pulled out his glasses and started down an aisle, apparently unperturbed by Stark's method of getting them there.
"Are those webs?"
Steve bit back his anger, and glanced at the woman who'd spoken. Natasha Romanov had her "game" face on, cool and calculating as she stared fixedly at the screen.
"It would go along with his apparent theme," Barton replied, lounging on a couch in the top row. His eyes didn't leave the screen.
"Which can I just say," Pepper said craning around Tony to look at the man above her, "Ew? Spiders? Really?"
Romanov cast her a glance, and raised an eyebrow.
"Sorry." Pepper pulled an apologetic face and quickly faced the screen again.
"What?" Steve asked and then bit back a gasp as a figure flashed between buildings on some kind of rope webbing.
"I think he's ripping off you a bit there, Spangles." Tony didn't glance at Steve as he hurried to stand with the others. "Red, blue and tight pants."
"Tight everything," Pepper commented when the wiggling camera refocused on the figure that was somehow clinging, upside down, to a brick wall in a strange crouch.
"Is he hostile?" Steve went into Captain America mode. He hadn't been active in this time for very long, but in general people dressed up in funny costumes had neverbeen a good sign in any time.
"Don't know yet," Romanov stated.
"Doesn't seem to be," Barton chimed in. "You missed him taking down some bank robbers. Swooped in and wrapped them up tight in that web stuff."
"A friendly?" Steve asked.
"Don't know yet," Romanov repeated.
"Are they biological?" Bruce asked as the figure turned his hand in a funny gesture and shot out another web strand.
The question remained unanswered, though Steve doubted anyone had an answer for the doctor, when the news announcer began to speak.
"This is startling footage of the cities newest costumed superhero, the self proclaimed "Spider-man." A serious looking woman said as the screen shrunk down to a square behind her. "Reports are coming in from all over the city as this newest vigilante to hit the streets. Is this a-"
"Sir," JARVIS said, sounding faintly aggrieved. "I have reporters from several sources asking for a comment on "the Spider-man." They wish to know if he is another Stark creation."
"No, of course not." Stark scoffed. "Does that look like something I'd create?"
"It is awfully flashy." Steve commented, pulse slowing down as he realized there was no immediate threat from the spindly figure that was once again whipping around on screen.
Stark frowned and cast him a dirty look, but answered JARVIS. "Tell them no comment."
"Of course, sir."
"Does SHIELD have a hand in this?" Steve asked, glancing up at Barton and over to Romanov.
"Not that we know of," Barton shrugged and Romanov nodded in agreement.
"It's, um, a bit more...overt," Bruce suggested, "than Fury's normal style."
"What are you talking about?" Tony waved his hands to encompass the room. "WE'RE his normal style." He flailed a hand dramatically at the screen. "And don't you see? There's a new guy in town! And he's stealing our turf! Stealing our press!"
"Stealing our press?" Steve repeated. "That's your big concern?"
"Hey, I invested a lot of time and effort into this venture, we should at least get top billing in the news." Stark grumped. "Look, reduced to co-star." He gestured to the crawl at the bottom of the screen that quietly announced the official completion of the Avengers Tower and the gala Tony had planned to celebrate it planned for a week from today. Steve had only agreed to appear when Stark had pointed out it was also a fundraiser for the rest of the beleaguered Manhattan. "So not my style."
Steve resisted rolling his eyes, electing instead to ignore him and address the others. "So what is your read on the situation?" He asked, focusing first on Dr. Banner.
"I... I don't know," he frowned at the screen, he picked up a remote and pressed a few buttons. Popups filled a portion of the screen, all news reports of the Spider-man. "This is the first I've heard of this."
"It's been going on for about a week now." Romanov commented. "Isolated incidents, seemingly unconnected. Mostly petty crime, muggers, car thieves, burglars. He's not bringing down any big fish."
"Seems to be working alone," Barton said. "Localized to the city." He shook his head as he watched shaking cell cam footage of the new 'hero' grapple with a couple of thugs that had been threatening and old lady. "No combat training. He's all over the place."
"Strong," Bruce said as the wiry figure picked up one of the thugs and lifted him above his head."
"That kind of strength isn't natural," Steve said through thinning lips.
"Question is," Tony said, "is he a self-made man like Brucey-boy and I," he paused to clap Banner hard on the shoulder. "Or did he have help like you?"
"I think we need to find out," Steve said.
"Should I suit up?" Stark bounced on his heels, looking eager. "Bring the little jerk in?"
"We don't even know where to find him," Steve said with no little exasperation. "And we don't know if he's a hostile. We certainly don't have any reason to kidnap him."
"We aren't SHIELD," Bruce said, looking serious and a little too calm as he fiddled with his glasses. "We shouldn't just grab people be-because they're different."
Tony looked properly chastised. "I didn't mean it like that, you know I didn't-"
"I do think we should find out more about him," Steve interrupted. Stark and Banner would have to work this out later. "So we can make an informed plan of action." He glanced at Banner, "Even if the plan is to do nothing." Bruce nodded and put his glasses back on, turning back to the screen.
"We need intel." Steve looked to the two spies in the room. "Find out what his play is."
"On it," Romanov spun on her heel. "He seems to come out at night, I'll map the areas he's most likely to show up." She glanced at Barton as she passed. "You'll like this, he tends to travel by rooftop."
"You seem awfully informed," Stark called after her. "Looking for a new mate?"
"I'm assuming we're keeping Fury out of this?" Barton asked, heaving himself up to follow her and ignoring Stark.
"As much as we're able," Steve nodded staring at the screen. "I don't want to throw an ally to the wolves accidentally."
As much as they all worked for SHIELD, none trusted the organization to do the right thing without prompting.