What story would be complete without a surprise epilogue?
Disclaimer: The Avengers are not mine, but Marvel/Disney's. Any operations medical or military may have been written using research and some artistic license. If there are inaccuracies, no offense is intended.
Amazon River region, South America, One month later...
"Tell me why we're doing this again?" Oyuki grumbled over the comm.
Agent Jasper Sitwell rolled his eyes. "Because SHIELD signs the paycheck that pays for your 'Busty Babes dot com' membership?"
"Making the approach to Checkpoint Three, Warbucks. All clear so far," Chavez's calm voice reported.
"Copy that, Mike One." Sitwell reached for the half-eaten protein bar, checking the security feed from the Quinjet computer. So far, the plane had been undiscovered. He refreshed the satellite view on the terminal in front of him, as he monitored the facility his team had broken into.
"Now remember, Mike Two," Reagan's voice added, "I set the program to load once you plug it in. The server we're lookin' for is on row two, rack three. All you gotta do is plug in the drive."
Reagan wasn't with the team in the field due to the injuries sustained during the Rockhurst mission; he'd only been cleared for light duty, but that didn't mean he couldn't support them from the Ops Center back at , the technician was waiting for them to provide access to the facility's data server.
"How's it looking, Mike Six?" he asked, checking in on his new team member. The young sniper should have been nervous, as it was his first mission with Strike Team Mike, but so far, Princese seemed calmer than usual.
"I think I've got ants in my pants, sir," the sniper reported. "Other than that,no signs of patrols returning. We're clear."
"Mike Four, reporting all clear at Checkpoint Two."
"Mike Five, reporting two contacts approaching from the southern corridor. Back up a mite, Mike Two - he's almost on top of ya."
"Backing up now. Call out when it's clear."
So far, the mission had gone off without a hitch. The facility, which had been reported as an AIM bio-research laboratory, had been surprisingly devoid of yellow suits and biological experiments. The Amazon was home to many yet to be discovered species of flora and fauna, and they hoped the think tank hadn't been playing around with too many of them.
"You're clear, Mike Two, but step on it. I think he just went to takeapiss," Ted reported.
"Mike Two, moving in."
"Warbucks, we've got movement at Checkpoint Three. I can't see outside the window - the angle's shit," Chavez commented sourly.
"Bringing up satellite tracking now," Sitwell replied, focusing on the screen. He frowned in dismay. "We've got three trucks that just showed up, boys. Mike Six, do you have a visual?"
"We've got a couple guys in mixed camo, sir - they look like mercs. And...Teletubbies. Lots of Teletubbies, boss - we may be compromised."
Teletubbies? "You need to stop hanging around Hawkeye, Mike Six. He's corrupting your vocabulary. Mike One, pick up the pace as best you can."
Looking towards the pilot, he rapped on the backrest. "Get the jet prepped. We may need to make a quick exit."
"Yes sir," the pilot acknowledged, reaching for several controls.
Sitwell glanced back to the screen, watching the red blotches gather outside of the building, moving towards the back of the vehicles that had arrived.
Chavez cursed silently, watching the new quartet of guards make their way towards his position. Oyuki exited the server room, nodding to him as the door closed quietly. They moved further down the hall, heading for Checkpoint Four.
As one of the patrols approached, they ducked into a side corridor. Pulling out the stolen keycard, the team leader swiped the card and opened the door. They eased the door shut, hearing the lock engage with a clunk.
"Warbucks, we've located the secondary objective," Oyuki whispered. "Definitely a lab."
Chavez looked around, spotting an assortment of test equipment, a bench full of monitors and computers, along with a large, metal examination table. "Shit. We've got chemicals, sir. Sample containers, some sort of dissection table...it's not like Rockhurst, but they're working on something bad, here."
"Does it look to be mechanical or biological?"
"Not sure yet, sir - we're checking for samples," Chavez reported. He reached for one of the containers, reading the label. "They've got Chitauri blood and tissue samples, along with some bio-tech. We can't leave this here, sir."
"Affirmative. Grab what you can, but don't linger - they're moving equipment, and they may come to your location. Take any data, and destroy the samples."
Reagan cleared his throat. "I've got a remote uplink. Read off the label on the network drop and make sure the computer's turned on, and I'll take care of the rest, Mike One."
"Make it quick," Sitwell ordered. "The blueprints report there's a service door at the back of the lab you're in, gentlemen - I suggest you take it. There's a pretty strong heat signature headed your way. It leads to an empty storage warehouse with a rear exit. You can slip out the back while Mike Four and Five slip out the usual way."
"Copy that. You got eyes on him, Mike Six?"
"Looks like one of the mercs, Mike One. He's armed with some kind of a light, maybe a torch."
"System's on, Boss - we just gotta blow the place," Oyuki commented, slapping Chavez lightly on the shoulder and pointing towards the rear door.
Chavez nodded, looking over at one of the benches. Seeing a satchel with enough space to contain the samples, he started filling its pockets with vials while Oyuki moved from table to table, placing explosives. One charge was added next to the stack of Chitauri samples, ensuring that they would be vaporized.
One item in particular caught his eye - another cluster of vials. Reading the label, Chavez swore and tucked it into a side pouch for safe-keeping before turning to signal to his teammate. "Sir, I've got a set of DNA samples. One of them looks like it's from Captain Rogers, another is from Dr. Banner, and there are a couple others. They've got SHIELD logos on them, sir. We've got several other unidentified compounds."
"Shit. Bring them if you can - try not to touch them. We'll need a forensic sweep to figure out who's been handling them."
"Roger that, Warbucks."
"We're good," Oyuki reported quietly. "Charges are set to go up in five minutes."
The agents moved towards the exit, glancing behind them and seeing a bright glow approaching. Thankfully, the door opened, allowing them to make a quick escape. Slipping into what looked like a storage warehouse, they closed the door and headed towards the nearest exit leading to the outside.
A loud clang sounded, followed by the sound of muffled words.
"Warbucks, I thought you said the warehouse was empty?" Chavez whispered hastily as they dodged a trio of AIM personnel, clad in bright yellow. "We've got personnel in between us and the exit."
"It was. What do you mean it's occupied? There're no heat signatures on the satellite view."
"You're using infra-red, Boss," Reagan advised. "They may have some sort of thermal shielding in place."
"Are there any signs of temperature related experiments, or any equipment that might be generating more heat than usual?" Sitwell asked, a low hum from the Quinjet filling the background.
"Nothing visible, sir," Chavez replied softly. "Damn it - they're too alert, and the back half of the warehouse is wide open. No way we're making it across the room without being seen, Warbucks."
"One distraction coming up, sir," Princese chimed in.
"Mike Six, do not proceed - you're going to give away your vantage point," Sitwell ordered, his voice carrying an edgy tone.
"The samples are more important, sir. I'll hold 'em off as long as I can."
The handler sighed. "What's your plan, Mike Six?"
Princese checked his climbing rope, yanking quickly to check its anchoring. Barton had constantly warned him to protect his escape route. A vantage point is useless if you can't get away from it if the shit hits the fan.
Satisfied that the rope would hold his weight, he returned to the rocky outcropping. Reaching down into his equipment bag, he pulled out a flash suppressor and began screwing it onto the end of the barrel of his rifle. While it would interfere with his aim slightly, the lower amount of muzzle flash would buy him some time before they located his vantage point. Luckily, R&D had managed to improve the standard flash suppressors, giving it some noise suppression as well.
The sniper took a deep breath, centering himself as he looked through the scope. He reached for another clip, checking it for the red tape he had applied during mission prep. "I'm watching them offload some combustibles from the truck. Switching to incendiary rounds."
"Wait - you're not attempting a Hornet's Nest, are you?" Sitwell's voice began to grow slightly frantic. "Do not proceed with Hornet's Nest, Mike Six - we'll find another way."
"We're running out of time, sir." Princese located a nice, juicy target: a large tank full of Propane. "Mike One, get ready to boogey."
"What the fuck is a Hornet's Nest?" Oyuki asked frantically.
Chavez banged his head lightly against the large crate he was hiding behind. "Probably one of the most stupidly effective maneuvers they've ever come up with. Someone causes a distraction, usually big and loud, and when everyone's running around trying to figure out where it came from, the rest of the team finishes the mission. We used a variant of it on the Helicarrier, remember?"
"Oh yeah. But how is that stupidly effective?"
"Because it works best with one person acting as bait. The enemy's attention gets focused on them," Chavez replied. "It works, most of the time, but it doesn't usually end well for the bait."
Oyuki made a sour face. "Shit. We can't let him just -"
His words were cut off as a loud explosion rocked the facility. An alarm blared, while the men in the yellow suits began to run towards the lab and outer doors. A frantic voice began barking orders over the radio.
"How long do we have left on the charges?" Chavez asked, looking at his teammate.
"Too long, but we can fix that," Oyuki replied, holding out a detonator. Once several of the men had entered the lab, he pressed the override trigger, ducking low. Another boom sounded from behind them as the lab blew. Debris rained down, clattering on the cement floor.
Seeing their path was clear, the agents bolted for the exit. They had almost made it to the door when bright glow grew on the wall. They ducked out of reflex as a large bolt of fire surged past them, landing with a fwoosh.
"Where the hell do you think you're going?" a gravelly voice asked, almost playfully. "Simon says stay!"
"Warbucks, we've got a hostile," Chavez reported, looking back to spot their attacker. "Looks like one of the mercs, like Six said. He, uh, he's not holding a torch, sir - he just tossed a damn fireball at us!"
"Damn - proceed with caution."
Chavez passed the bag holding their purloined items over to his teammate. "Get these to the evac point. I'll stall him."
"God damn it," his friend snarled. "I'm not leaving you with that - oh shit!"
They ducked again as the now glowing man tossed another burning plasma ball at them. His eyes were glowing like molten lava. Bright red and orange veins criss-crossed his neck, reaching upwards along his neck and face, and running along his hands. An aura of flame surrounded his hands as he gathered another fireball.
"Shit - it's just like that Rockhurst zombie," Oyuki muttered crossly. "You know... the one that lit himself on fire? I told you I wanted the BFG, Warbucks, but no-o-o..."
"Shut up and go, Carl!" Chavez snarled. "I got ya covered!"
Having fired several shots at the large chemical containers, causing an explosion that Barton would be proud of, Princese quickly slung the rifle over his shoulder and scooped up the remaining gear into his bag. It was time to move on to the next vantage point. With a quick leap, he grabbed hold of the rope that he had strung earlier between two trees, slipping down into a lower thicket.
Running through the tree line for a short time, he made his way to the second vantage point. Pulling his rifle off of his shoulder, he set the bipod stand on a rocky outcropping, peeking through the scope. He frowned as he watched his team leader charge the flaming man through the large warehouse window.
Oyuki had exited the building, turning towards the trees as a pair of guards pointed and shouted. Aiming quickly, he adjusted for the flash suppressor and fired. One of the men went down, causing his partner to stop and look around frantically. Another squeeze of the trigger, and the second man fell.
The Twins joined up with Oyuki, most likely escorting him to the waiting Quinjet. "Sir, Mike Two is clear. Mike Four and Mike Five accompanying him."
"Do you have eyes on Mike One?"
"I'm a little busy," Chavez grunted, his voice sounding pained. "Shit - this guy regenerates!"
"Get out of there," Sitwell ordered. "Mike Two is clear, One. Get your ass back to the evac point. We're not equipped to handle this guy."
Princese looked around frantically, trying to remember Barton's lessons. Another piece of advice stood out as he watched several groups of men split off from the main group, some heading into the building while others began heading in the direction of his former position. Take a second and look around you. There's always a solution if you look hard enough.
How do you get rid of fire? Put it out with water. When there's no water, try dirt or ice. Wait a minute...
The sniper focused his scope on the warehouse, reading the labels quickly on some of the tanks lined up against the far wall. Spotting the one he had hoped to find, he smirked.
The fight was not going well. First, he had emptied his M4 and sidearm into the guy, who just smiled and literally spat out the bullets, walking up to the team leader amidst a stream of bullets until he had melted the weapons with a touch. Next, Chavez's combat knife had melted when he had sunk it into the man's neck after a rather brutal exchange of blows. He was now down to his slightly singed fists, his wits, and a fucking crowbar scavenged from a nearby crate.
"Mike One, move him to the east wall, next to the large blue crates," Princese said, his voice sounding confident.
Chavez ducked another fiery swing, bringing up the crowbar he had picked up and sweeping it across the man's outstretched hands. The force of the blow knocked the fireball he had been preparing aside, landing on the concrete with a hiss. "What the hell are you thinking, man - there's chemical tanks on that wall!"
"I just need him within about five feet, One - please, just trust me!"
This kid was going to get him killed. As he continued to try to fight his way towards one of the doors, his way was again blocked by burning debris. A whip of fire shot out, wrapping around his ankle and beginning to burn its way through his combat boot. It dragged him closer to the burning man.
"I told you, hombre - I'm not done playing with you yet! Get back here and fight like a man!"
As the human firebrand reached down, Chavez rolled, trying to keep the man from touching him. He had already been burned slightly from earlier blows during their fight, and the crates, which had been smoldering from earlier contact with his attacker's fiery arsenal, began to burst into flames. The team leader swore; deciding to take a chance, he tumbled forward in a roll, and straightened slightly.
With a bellow of pain and rage, he swung again with the crowbar, swinging forward several times and striking the man with the metal. It began to glow amber as the iron heated, forcing Chavez to drop it. Not skipping a beat, he charged the man, aiming for the midsection where the fire seemed to burn the least.
Their momentum took them into the chemical tanks lined up neatly along the wall, precisely where Princese had indicated. The burning man hit the metal cylinder, letting out an oof. Chavez backed up, holding his arms up in a ready stance as he heard the sound of breaking glass.
As his enemy grinned at him menacingly, there was a metallic plink, followed by a hiss. Blue-white fog surrounded the smoldering man, who finally began to frown. Taking step after step forward, the man seemed to stumble as a white frost covered him. Soon, he froze in mid-step, a grimace on his face as ice covered his body.
Another crack sounded, followed by another plink as a second bullet hit the man in the head, shattering it. More fractures appeared, and finally, the rest of the man literally fell to pieces. Chavez breathed a sigh of relief.
"Target eliminated, Warbucks," Princese reported.
"Nice work," Sitwell commented, the pride evident in his voice. "Mike One, Mike Six - evac now."
Both agents acknowledged. Chavez began running, stumbling slightly on his burned ankle. Gritting his teeth, he made his way towards the evac point. Stopping to pick up a rifle from a downed guard, he stumbled again, falling with a grunt of pain.
A trio of gunmen began to give chase. Another crack filled the air, and the man in the lead fell to the ground, tumbling from the momentum. A second man fell seconds later as the third shouted orders into a radio.
"Get your ass moving, Mike One!"
"Copy that." Gritting his teeth again, Chavez picked himself up again and ran for the Quinjet. "Get away from that vantage point, Six - you got a shitload of bad guys headed in your direction."
"I'm aware of that, sir."
As Chavez reached the Quinjet, he reached out for Oyuki's outstretched hand, barely making it as another round of gunfire hit the outer hull of the plane. His teammate pulled him up the ramp and to safety. Both of the Twins gave him a quick once-over before giving him a thumbs up.
The ramp began to lift. Sitwell frowned, and looked back at the pilot. "What the hell are you doing? We've still got a man out there!"
"We can't stay here, sir - the landing zone's compromised," the pilot called, pulling back on the yoke to lift the plane. "I'm getting us the hell out of here before we get shot down."
"Like hell you are," the senior agent snarled. "We set up a secondary evac point - get there, now!"
"But sir -"
"That's an order, agent!" Sitwell ordered, glaring at the pilot. "Unless you want to spend the rest of your career running simulator training missions and milk runs, I would suggest you turn the fuck around!"
The pilot gulped as he looked back to see the baleful glares of the rest of Strike Team Mike. He turned back to the controls, shaking his head. The jet shifted in mid-air; Sitwell nodded in affirmation as he watched their flight patch change.
Princese cursed his decision to ever think about military or espionage service as he ducked another stream of gunfire. Landing in a crouch, he darted for a nearby clump of brush, ducking under a giant root. Dirt flew up into the air on either side as he ran, internally thanking whoever put a gun in the hands of people with such shitty aim.
He was starting to suspect that maybe this hadn't been such a good idea after all.
The sniper watched as the Quinjet rose gracefully over the trees. Damn - they were going to leave him behind after all. Tears gathered at the corner of his eyes as he dove behind a tree. "God damn it!"
He held his hands over his head, sheltering it from the splinters torn from the tree as the men shot at him. So much for all the talk of teamwork. It was to be expected, after all - he had attacked one of SHIELD's best agents. There was no way he was going to get away without paying a price. At least Chavez and Sitwell had been sneaky about it. After all, this way, he got to die in the line of duty.
"Hey! New guy!"
Princese looked up, his eyes widening in surprise. One of the Twins was hanging upside down from a rope which hung from the Quinjet, the line wrapped somehow around his leg like something out of a circus performance that he had seen when he was a boy. The rail gun mounted underneath the Quinjet began swiveling in their direction, targeting his attackers.
The man beckoned at him urgently as the jet's weapon opened fire. "Get moving!"
Ducking under the steady stream of cover fire, he darted forward. With a leap, he felt the Twin grab onto his forearms in a surprisingly tight grip. They began to move upwards; taking hold of the rope, Princese wrapped it around his wrist to allow the Twin to swing himself upright. They continued to rise, pulled up by something.
The Twin reached up once he had made it to the ramp, and clambered up into the jet's cargo area. He whooped in victory, and reached down to help Princese up, holding on to a strap. The sniper was finally lifted to the edge, and his eyes widened at the sight that greeted him.
Chavez, Oyuki and the other Twin were pulling the rope hand over hand, their faces tight with the strain. He crawled up onto the ramp, which began to close once he had managed to reach the hold. The rest of the team fell to the deck in relief, calling out cheers and giving each other high-fives.
Sitwell looked back at him from his place in the gunner's seat. "Are you injured, agent?"
Princese shook his head weakly.
"What, pal - you think we were gonna leave you behind?" Oyuki asked, his voice raised over the hum of the engine as they sped towards the Helicarrier. His face fell at Princese's blank look in return. "You did, didn't you? Well, think again, little buddy - that's not how we roll."
Chavez smiled at him warmly. "Thanks for the save back there."
Princese sighed in relief. They looked at him with expressions of friendship, warmth, and most of all, something he had sorely missed: trust. Reaching up, he clasped the other man's hand in a gesture of camaraderie.
Maybe Barton was right after all - maybe he could find a place here after all.
"You, kid, are too much like Hawkeye for your own good," Sitwell groused, rolling his eyes. "I don't need any more gray hairs!"
Princese looked at the other man's shiny, bald head in confusion.
"So, just what was so important that we nearly got ourselves turned into Minions-flambé?" Oyuki asked.
Chavez dug into the satchel he had sent with Oyuki, pulling out a vial and handing it to Sitwell.
Sitwell looked at it in confusion. "This looks like a DNA sample."
"That's not all," Chavez corrected. "Check the date. And look at who signed it."
Their handler frowned, looking at the label and back at the team leader. "You're shitting me."
Chavez shook his head. "No way, sir. Dr. Charles Walker - the doc that disappeared from Rockhurst. Looks like he's at it again."