AN: Here's the end... or is it? I am planning to write a sequel to this one and my other one, but I haven't started writing yet. Don't know when it will come out, but hopefully in a week or two I'll get enough written to start publishing it. Thanks to all those who have followed, favorited, and reviewed this story.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything other than the plot of this story. The characters belong to Marvel. Actually, the sniper's call-sign came from another FF author, Aggie2011, who made that Phil Coulson's call-sign. Her stories are some of the best on this site; definitely check them out if you like Hawkeye.
Updated to fix the sniper rifle's name from "dragonov" to "Dragunov", add the disclaimer, change the description of the Avengers' backup helicopter, and add Moon Knight's helicopter.
As Thor and Vision alighted on the penthouse landing pad, they barely noted the second quinjet parked on the extendable landing pad several floors below them alongside the Avengers' own quinjet and a small Huey helicopter with interchangeable weaponry and rescue pods. They had to take a closer look at the strange white helicopter sitting next to the other vehicles before entering the tower. However, when they walked into the penthouse and greeted the assembled group, they received a huge shock. Seventeen people were sitting around the fireplace: All the members of the Avengers Initiative (except the ever-reclusive Doctor Strange), a showered and changed Pepper Potts, Agent Hill, and—
"So this is the android that Director Fury was telling me about!" the last man laughed, rising from his wheelchair and walking over to meet the two new arrivals. "He doesn't look a thing like me!"
Thor's booming voice reverberated through the room as he happily bellowed, "So the brave son of Coul lives!"
"Of course I live, 'Donald,'" Agent Coulson said, raising his eyebrow. "Didn't think you could get rid of me that easily, did you?"
"I have to say, Phil," Tony butted in, "I would have thought that getting stabbed through the chest with an alien scepter would be pretty permanent."
"Oh, it is," Phil grimaced, unbuttoning the top four buttons of his shirt to reveal a long, nasty scar. "This thing is going to be here forever to remind me of your brother, Thor."
"I deeply apologize for my brother's actions, my brave friend," Thor said apologetically. "I hope that his actions have not irreparably damaged your opinion of my people."
"On the contrary, I admire your people more because you were so willing to fight for us against your own brother. I am honored to fight alongside you," Phil said with a smile. "Now Stark, you still haven't answered my question: This green-and-gold thing is supposed to look like me?"
"Not right now I'm not," Vision responded with a smirk, activating his disguise function. "But how about now?"
Phil Coulson stared at his android doppelganger as the suit settled into place, complete with his new Captain America tie (paid for after the battle with Mr. Stark's credit card), hiding his android nature. The gauntlets retracted, revealing human-looking hands. The facial covering fell down to cover the android's dark red face, and Phil was looking at his own identical twin (apart from the tie) standing in front of him. He reached out his right hand; the android reached out his left. He cocked his head to the left; his android cocked his head to the right. Phil opened his mouth to speak; the android did the same. "Nice tie," he complimented. Turning to Tony, he said, "He's definitely realistic enough. Now what can he do?"
A hidden panel retracted above the fireplace, revealing a flat screen TV. JARVIS cued up the tower's training floor video footage from two weeks ago when Clint and Vision had sparred for the first time. Phil concentrated on the two fighters carefully, commenting on Vision's fighting style. "You know, I actually would have gone for a different choke hold at the end there to immobilize his legs, but that did the trick."
"It's the same thing you did in your last sparring match with him before the New Mexico assignment," Vision argued.
"True," the other acknowledged. "So what else have you got?"
The screen went blank for a moment as JARVIS recalled the security footage from the previous week when the assault team had attacked the lobby. Nineteen pairs of eyes followed the dozen gunmen as they entered the lobby and began firing into the ceiling. A split screen showed a second camera angle of Vision leaping from the Bruce's lab floor out the window. The android performed a midair transformation as he plummeted alongside the tower. Phil grinned in appreciation as he watched that particular move.
Suddenly, the two screens merged as the android's thrusters kicked in and sent him flying through the window. He careened into two soldiers as another five fell under a barrage of shoulder-mounted missiles. The information desk exploded in a shower of debris as Vision killed three more enemies who had taken refuge behind it with a wrist-mounted missile. The screen split once again as Hawkeye and Black Widow emerged from the elevator. Hawkeye already had two arrows nocked, which he released the instant the elevator doors opened. Each arrow found its mark in the left eye socket of one of the two remaining gunmen. The recording paused.
"Very impressive," Coulson said, nodding appreciatively. "You've got some good moves there, twin. I especially like the clothesline move."
"That's nothing; you should see my sun fire blast."
"Remember that gun you like so much in New Mexico, Phil?" Clint asked. "The one you tried using on Loki? He's got that in his forehead."
"I'm jealous!" Phil laughed.
"You want to lie down on the operating table in my workshop? Because I could definitely whip something up for you if you are interested!" Tony offered, smirking.
Turning back toward the television screen and away from the banter, Clint suddenly spotted a glint on one of the screens. "Hang on. JARVIS, can you zoom in on the rooftop three blocks down and two buildings in on screen two?"
"What do you see?" Steve asked, suddenly intent and businesslike as usual, staring at the spot in question.
"I'm not sure, but it looked like the scope of a Dragunov sniper rifle. You can tell by the reflective angle," Clint responded, still studying the spot on the screen in front of him. "JARVIS, can you bring up the security feed from this afternoon? Say, about a block away from the store along our route from the tower?"
The television screen split into two views, the left showing the footage from the assault the week before and the right showing security footage along the team's route that day. "That's it… there," Clint said as the rooftop in question came into sight.
Everyone could see clearly that the sunlight was reflecting off of a tiny glass object on the roof in question on each screen. JARVIS zoomed in further and clarified the pixilated image, and they could just make out a vague outline lying on each roof with a sniper rifle pointed toward the tower and the department store respectively.
"I noticed the reflection today on the drive over there, but didn't think to stop and check it out," Clint said angrily.
Natasha dismissed his self-reproach. "We had far more important things on our minds at the time. No one else would have even noticed it, let alone been able to identify it."
Marc Spector added, "Considering how hard those Mark-I Hover-Vees are to fly, even noticing that glint was a stroke of luck, Barton."
Tony put his hand up to silence everyone around him. With his hand he stroked his chin, thought, and said, "So both the assault team last week and the assault team this week had a sniper…"
"And in both cases the sniper used a Dragunov sniper rifle and showed a preference for a vantage point over 200 meters from the target on top of a roof 4 stories above the ground, with a right-handed 30-degree angle toward the target," Clint supplied. "If you look at the gilly suit the sniper is wearing, in both cases he used exactly the same material and almost the same pattern, with minor variations for the specific perch. If I had to guess, I would say that it was the same sniper both times."
"So let me get this straight," Agent Hill spoke up for the first time that evening. "The Avengers have been indirectly attacked twice now about a week apart, and it was most likely done by the same group each time? Why are we only putting it together now?"
"Not the same group, but the same sniper," Phil said. "No one from the first assault team escaped except the sniper; same thing today. No one had any reason to suspect the first team had outside assistance during that assault; my lookalike did too good a job on them for the sniper to react quickly enough to have any effect on the outcome."
"But the coincidence is too great for it to mean anything other than that whoever was behind the first attack was also behind the second. He probably sent the sniper to keep an eye on things with both attempts," Rhodes responded seriously.
"So now only one question remains," Steve said authoritatively, with a meaningful glance at all those gathered around the room.
"'Who tried to kidnap me?'" Pepper supplied nervously.
The sniper activated his communicator two klicks from the department store. Thumbing the appropriate frequency, he made his report. "The Avengers responded far more quickly than we expected they would. We thought that cutting off wireless communication would delay the Avengers' response, but it actually may have somehow alerted them to the attack. It was approximately five minutes into the attack when the flying Humvee arrived on the scene, but they already had someone there in the store protecting the target before we arrived. The assault team never even got eyes on her."
"Don't worry about it," a man responded on the other end. "Each of these so-called failures has really brought us closer to success. We now know far more about Anthony's defenses than we did before. With this new information, the next assault is bound to succeed. Next time it will work."
"Yes, sir. Overwatch out."