Author Topic: First Mission  (Read 642 times)

Lucas Foster

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First Mission
« on: May 29, 2018, 03:02:51 PM »
The time was now. All the plans had been laid, equipment given out. The Avengers had split up at 7pm New York time to take various methods of transportation to their disparate destinations across the world, to take command of the highly trained strike teams that A.E.G.I.S. had assembled for them. Some stayed in America, most went to Europe, and one team - the "new" Avengers under the guidance of Natasha Romanoff - found themselves in the Gobi Desert in China, and thoroughly annoyed that despite its reputation as a desert, it was only just pushing positive temperatures. Natasha had gone over the plan with the younger team in the quinjet as they'd traveled, and had introduced them to the China team as Avengers on probation. The quartet were going to soften up the underground facility - one of the five main bases - they had been brought to with their unique abilities, then allow the ground team to go in and sweep the base. Once that was done, they would make absolutely certain that no one would ever be able to use this base again.

All commands had been given silently, using a signal language Fliss and the others were going to have to learn sooner rather than later, even if Zach was providing a translation in the silence of their minds. Natasha crouched with them among the dunes as night fell, everyone waiting for Steve to give the command to attack. It was dawn in America, or close to it; twelve hours on the other side of the world, night was closing in here.

"You're sure you know what to do?" Natasha breathed to the young group crouched with her.

The boys nodded, almost in unison. They'd been over the plan at least half a dozen times on the way there in the quinjet, with Nat going over every possible scenario, so they wouldn't be surprised if things didn't go entirely as planned. Still, each of them was understandably nervous, as well as eager to prove their own worth.

Fliss nodded with them, her face pale in the rising moonlight, one hand wrapped in Lucas' grasp. Natasha eyed each of them, noting the nerves and hoping, for their sake, that this went off without a hitch. Over the comms, linked in to the Hub, they heard the teams start to sound off.

"France, all in ... Seychelles, ready ... Poland, ready ... Wyoming, boring as always ..."

Nat nodded, touching her finger to her comm unit to add her own voice. "Gobi, good to go."

Lucas' stomach was in knots, not because of fear so much as just a sense of nerves. Little did he know that strung out across the world, the other Avengers and their teams were just as nervous. Nerves weren't something that went away, no matter how many missions were under your belt, and this particular offensive was particularly critical as it had the potential for setting Hydra back decades, if not longer. If they succeeded in taking out the labs and bases, Hydra would stop being a threat quite possibly for the rest of their lifetimes. Like his teammates, Lucas knew how important this was, and that was why he found his stomach in knots.

"Scotland, ready ... Utah, good to go ... Highlands, ready ...", sounded more familiar voices across the comms, before Steve cut in, "Copy that. Sicily, ready. On my mark, in three ... two ... one ... GO!"


Nat nodded to the young team, rising to sprint across the sand toward the entrance to the bunker they were attacking. Fliss scrambled to her feet to run with her, the four of them needing to be a little closer than they were right now to work their magic. Other agents converged on them, taking up defensive positions around the four Avengers as they came to a halt.

The junior members of the team took up their positions, just as they'd planned, wasting no time in doing what they'd come here to do. With Zach in the lead, he reached out with his mind to connect each of them to the others, well practiced by now, even after only a few days, in drawing out their abilities and melding them to the others. Each of their abilities was connected to the four elements, but it was Zach who held mastery over Earth, and as such, it was up to him to start them off. At first, it was just a slight tremor, hardly noticeable, but slowly, that tremor built upon itself until the Earth shook with such force, one could not only feel it, but hear it, as though the ground might explode right beneath their feet. He drew on his teammates to help him direct that power toward the base, cracks appearing in the ground, causing the power inside the base to flicker before the secondary generators kicked in.

Now it was Fliss and Lucas' turn. They didn't want flames or wind - the goal was to heat the air inside the base to uncomfortable levels; uncomfortable enough to sap the energy of those inside, make them struggle to stand. Fliss wrapped her hand around Lucas', focusing on following the tendrils of his connection to the Air into the base itself, heating the air as he made it flow.

It wasn't as easy as they'd practiced, but this was real, not just for fun; this was work. It took effort, but together, Fliss and Lucas made it work. While Zach was making the Earth shake, and Fliss and Lucas were heating the air that flowed into the base, Matt with his mastery of Water, focused on increasing the flow of water inside the pipes. He borrowed on Lucas' ability with Air to freeze the water inside the pipes, expanding them until they burst, causing even more chaos inside the base.

Johnny had said he was worried about them losing control; if anything was a test of the control they had over elements that could so easily turn against them and become wildly destructive, it was this. Fliss was sweating, visibly tiring under the strain of keeping the fire from erupting as it wanted to, barely aware of shots being fired at them from the entrance to the bunker as Hydra became aware of the enemy on their doorstep. The agents around them fired back, raising energy shields to keep the worst of the attack off the young team working to disable the majority of the base itself.

If anyone had told them it would be this hard, Matt might not have believed them. It had seemed so easy back in Rhy'Din, but now that they were there, amidst all the chaos, with shots being fired, he understood why Rufus had worked them so hard. It was the shots being fired that was disrupting his focus, one bullet coming a little too close for comfort as it whizzed past his ear, only realizing a second later that his brother had diverted his power for the single second that it had taken to slow those bullets and push them harmlessly aside.

"Thanks, bro," Matt breathed, exhaling a sigh of relief.

"Stay focused," Zach scolded in his head, silencing him.

"Bunch up," Nat ordered them, taking one of the shield generators from another agent to set herself in front of the little group and activate it. She was not used to being a defensive agent, but she would never forgive herself if any of the kids got hurt on her watch.

They did as Nat instructed, all the while struggling to maintain focus for a little while longer. If they kept on like they were, it wouldn't be long before the entire base collapsed in on itself.
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Lucas Foster

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Re: First Mission
« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2018, 03:03:29 PM »
Luckily for them, Nat knew what she was waiting for, and she found it as the reinforcements from inside the bunker staggered out into the much colder air of the desert.

"All right, quit it," she ordered the young group. "All units, enter and sweep. No quarter."

And the hail of bullets grew louder, mostly from their side this time, as A.E.G.I.S. advanced to take full control of the base and sweep it clean.

The foursome staggered backwards, dropping their hands, and struggling to catch their breath. They were all dripping with sweat, despite the cold, clearly exhausted, at least for the moment. Their part was mostly done for now - or at least, so they thought.

"You okay?" Lucas was heard asking Fliss, visibly flinching at the sound of shots being fire.

"My head ..." Fliss sank down onto one knee as her head throbbed. Lucas wasn't the only one flinching away from the sound of the bullets, though they were less and less of a threat as A.E.G.I.S. fought their way into the building. "You? Are you guys okay?"

"Yeah, fine!" Lucas shouted to make himself heard above the chaos, dropping down to a knee beside her, his hands moving to cup her face between his hands to search her face.

"Luc!" he heard Zach's voice inside his head. "You have the ability to take her pain away."

Lucas furrowed his brows at what he was hearing in his head. Was he the only one hearing it? Why didn't Zach talk out loud?

"Hey! I think I got grazed!" Matt declared, his fingers coming away from his cheek smeared with blood.

Nat reached into the pouches on her belt, pulling out a combination antiseptic pad and bandage. She tossed it to Matt. "Slap that on your cheek and stay behind the shield," she told him, glancing briefly toward Lucas and Fliss. "Is she okay?"

"I don't know," Lucas said, frowning in concern, but keeping his focus on Fliss. "How do I ..." he murmured, unsure what Zach was talking about, but then Zach was inside his head again, telling him what to do, leading him, encouraging him. All it took was a little focus, just as he had before. Lucas reached for her hands, re-establishing their connection, searching her mind for the source of her pain.

The problem was that Fliss had a bad habit of holding her breath when she was concentrating hard on something. The buildup of blood in her skull had burst a couple of capillaries, resulting in the headache that was even now pounding through her head, making it difficult to recover.

"I-I think ..." Lucas stammered, focusing his concentration on Fliss and the source of her pain. With Zach's help, he was able to narrow in on the broken capillaries and slowly mend them, through sheer force of will.

It was a weird sensation, to have the pain almost literally leech itself out of your own body as someone you trusted healed the minor injury that was causing the problem. Fliss blinked, her vision finally beginning to clear enough to look at Lucas in astonishment. "How did you do that?"

Lucas met her gaze, looking as astonished as she was. "I'm not sure," he replied, uncertainly. "Zach ..." he started, about to explain when the sound of something exploding nearby had him ducking his head and drawing Fliss protectively close, a wing going up to shield them, though it was more a reflex than anything else and hardly necessary.

Nat loosed a resounding curse in Russian - which didn't disguise the fact that she was cursing - and staggered back under the force of the explosion against the shield she was holding. "Pull back," she told the young group. "They're throwing grenades at the greatest threat."

"How can we be a threat when we're cowering behind a shield?" Matt pointed out, pressing the bandage to his cheek, which was throbbing a little, but wasn't anything he couldn't handle.

Lucas drew Fliss back, under Nat's protection, while Zach and Matt followed, scuttling awkwardly backwards while staying behind the shield as best they could.

"Should we blast them again?" Matt asked.

"Not while our people are in there," Nat told him. She drew them to a halt once she judged they were out of range, getting onto the comms to contact the teams inside the base. "Secure the entry-way, attacks still incoming on the Avengers." Relaxing a little at the swift response, she looked over to Matt with a wry smile. "You're enhanced, and everyone here knows it," she explained to him. "They'll have got a good look at you from the surveillance out here before the attack started. Enhanced individuals are always the greatest threat. And you're not cowering - you're performing a tactical retreat and conserving your energy for the next phase of your involvement."

"The next phase?" Matt echoed over the commotion.

"Destroying the base," Zach interjected, reminding the youngest of the team of their plan.

"Oh, yeah ... Right. And just how are we doing that again?" Matt asked, showing he was not quite as prepared as the other three, but what he lacked in preparation, he more than made up for in enthusiasm.

"Fliss and Lucas are going to firestorm the base while Zach sinks it further into the ground, and you, hailstorm, enclose the whole thing in a water shield to keep it from getting out of control," Nat reminded him, half an ear on the progress inside the base. "They've cleared two of the seven levels. This might take a while."

"Hailstorm. Right. Got it," Matt replied, touching the bandage on his cheek. "Do you think I'll scar? It would be cool to have a scar."

Zach shook his head, realizing this was just Matt's personality and way of dealing with his anxiety.

"I can rub sand in it if you really want a scar," Nat offered with a grin. It was probably just as well Johnny, Steve, and Tony were in various other bases around the world right now; she doubted they'd approve of her offering to do that.

"That sounds painful," Matt replied with a scowl.

Meanwhile, Lucas was still worried about Fliss and still trying to figure out how he'd taken her pain away. "Are you okay now? Is the pain gone?" he asked, touching her cheek.
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Lucas Foster

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Re: First Mission
« Reply #2 on: May 29, 2018, 03:05:14 PM »
The firestarter was obviously wearied by the work they'd done so far, but she was no longer in pain. "Yeah, I ... I'm good," she promised Lucas affectionately. "Honestly, it doesn't hurt anymore. I'm just tired."

"Nat said it's gonna be a while before they need us again. Maybe you should rest," Lucas suggested, pulling her close so that she could rest her head against his shoulder.

Zach watched, touched by the way the couple cared for each other and finding himself missing someone he'd come to hold dear.

"We should be good here for now," Nat agreed. "You should all get a little rest." She didn't particularly want them thinking about what the trained agents were doing in that base.

Fliss nodded wearily, leaning against Lucas without needing to think about it. "It's too soon to find out how it's going everywhere else, isn't it?" she asked quietly.

This was, perhaps, the first time the Avengers had split up to this degree - each of them leading a team against a different base. Johnny had been put in charge of the Utah strike, and Lucas had a feeling Fliss was more concerned about that one than any of the others. It was a little weird not having Johnny there with them, with Fliss, but they had no choice but to trust to the plan. Lucas glanced at Nat, though he was pretty sure of her answer before she replied.

"Give it another hour," Nat suggested. "They'll start checking in once the clean up gets started in each location, and this is a major location we're dealing with here. Your dad's gonna be checking in before we do, I'm pretty sure."

"Will there be any survivors?" Matt asked, starting to get a real sense of what they were doing here. Zach exchanged a knowing glance with Nat, but let her handle the question.

Nat caught Zach's eye, glad at least one of them understood what was actually happening. Shifting a little to comfortably meet Matt's gaze, she gave him the honest answer she'd give anyone, regardless of their age or experience. "Here? No," she said calmly. "This is war, and war is ruthless. Hydra will rebuild if we leave even a single brick still standing, and they'll be back next year, ten years from now. We want them down for at least fifty years, so this is how we do it."

"But ..." Matt hesitated a moment before continuing. He'd been unable or unwilling to imagine all the death and destruction before, but now that they were here, with everything happening around them, it was almost all too real. "What if they have prisoners? What if there are kids in there, like-like Alex and Maria? What then? We can't just let them be killed."

"If there are kids in there, the teams will get them out," Nat told him, certain that there weren't. She wasn't going to touch the prisoners question unless he pressed hard - there was precedent for giving prisoners a quick death rather than risk them being planted in a hurry by the enemy. "Matt ... this is war," she told him a little more gently. "War isn't pretty, and it isn't fair. But these deaths today mean far less people will die in the future. It's a hard call, which is why you are not the ones making it."

"Are you sure?" Matt asked, needing further confirmation that if there were innocents - especially young people - somewhere inside the facility the teams would get them out.

"There's a way to be sure," Zach interjected again, though he had a feeling Nat wouldn't like it.

"Guys, the decision has been made," Nat told them firmly. "The orders were given. You obey the orders, or you don't get involved. Yes, there will be casualties, and yes, some of them will be innocent. That's the way it goes."

Lucas exchanged glances with Fliss. He had an idea he knew what Zach was suggesting, and he also knew it would take a little time. "How much time do we have?" he asked, glancing to Nat.

Fliss was a little less aware of what was going on here, but she'd promised her father she wouldn't take any risks. They'd all promised to obey orders.

Nat's expression was not particularly encouraging. "Tell me what you're planning on doing," she said flatly.

"Search the base with my mind," Zach explained bluntly. The only possible problem was if he did find anyone worthy of rescue, he'd have to let someone know in time to rescue them, and he had to make sure he didn't drain himself to the point where he couldn't complete the mission. They needed his connection in order to completely destroy the base. Without it, they'd have to order an airstrike, and there might not be time for that. "Just a few minutes," he argued. "That's all I ask."

Stern and disappointed that they had failed to disclose this ability before finding themselves in direct action, Nat nodded. "You have five minutes."

Zach hadn't thought it necessary to divulge his every ability to the letter, or perhaps he'd been a little wary of doing so. Whatever his reasons, for now, they were his own. Given the go ahead by Nat, he wasted no time, closing his eyes and shifting his mind to the interior of the base, while the others looked on.

Fliss could feel a certain amount of shame welling up as Natasha watched them. No, she hadn't known Zach could do this, or that Matt would question the whole purpose of the mission too late for that questioning to be anything but an annoyance. But she felt responsible for the fact that Nat was disappointed with them, perhaps even angry with them, for not asking these questions, divulging this information, at the briefing stage.

No one knew Zach's reasons for not divulging everything about his abilities, and Matt had been so caught up in the excitement about being involved, he hadn't really thought much about the consequences until now. Their youth was definitely showing, but in the end, maybe it was better this way, at least for their consciences. "Is that what they mean by collateral damage?" Matt asked, looking far more subdued now than he had a few minutes ago.

"It's part of it, yeah," Nat answered quietly. "Acceptable losses. We were given this base because its destruction presents no risk to a population center. Those bases are a nightmare when it comes to minimising collateral damage."

"The good of the many outweighs the good of the few," Matt murmured his understanding. It was a hard lesson to swallow, but at least, he seemed to be understanding it and hopefully, accepting it.

"Except in very specific circumstances, yes," Nat agreed. "You learn to live with it, and you make sure you can minimize those losses as much as possible. Which is why," she added, glancing at Zach, "you should have told at least me about this before now."
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Lucas Foster

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Re: First Mission
« Reply #3 on: May 29, 2018, 03:05:40 PM »
But Zach was too far gone in a trance-like state to hear Nat or respond to her.

"Maybe he didn't think about it until now," Matt rose to defend his friend and teammate.

"At this stage in a mission, it is almost always too late to change a plan," Nat said sternly. "Plans stay flexible to a certain extent. But if we had known about this before the attack began, we could have had this done in a calmer environment and sent teams in with specific directives. Orders get confused in conflict."

"Sorry, ma'am," Matt said, visibly contrite, though he wasn't sure if he'd done anything wrong.

Before Nat could respond, Zach was blinking, his expression changing to indicate his mind was his own again. He shook his head slowly at Nat, presumably to indicate he'd found no one worth saving.

She nodded in answer. "This is all going to come out in the debriefing," she warned them. "Keeping secrets like this from the people trusting you with their lives does not go down well."

"I understand," Zach replied, not appearing too worried about it. He had started as an outsider, and the worst that could happen was that he'd remain an outsider. He'd take full blame for not being entirely honest with them. After all, his teammates had no way of knowing everything he was capable of. The least he could do was protect them.

"Any idea how long until they're done in there?" Nat asked him, letting it go for now. She had no doubt that Steve would have a few things to say about this oversight.

"Couple more floors to clear, and they'll be done," Zach informed her, not saying much more. He wasn't the most talkative of people on a good day, and this wasn't a good day.

"There's no one in there worth saving?" Matt asked, needing confirmation.

"Not that I could find," Zach replied, avoiding Nat's gaze, knowing she was pissed at him right now.

"Not too long, then." But Nat had nothing else to say, rattled and put off-balance by unexpected revelations in the midst of contact with the enemy. She settled back to watching the bunker's entry way, listening to the comm chatter in silence.

"That's good then," Matt said quietly to himself, relieved to know only "bad guys" would get hurt. It never occurred to him that Zach might be lying to him or that he didn't really know. He'd seen enough movies and read enough comic books to know the bad guys weren't worth saving anyway.

Lucas could almost feel the tension between Nat and Zach, but there wasn't much that could be done about it now.

Fliss sighed softly, raising her head from Lucas' shoulder. This was a mess, somehow. It felt awkward and uncomfortable, and she felt responsible for that, remembering promises she'd made to her father and mother about obeying orders and not pushing her luck. It was a shame they hadn't thought to extract those promises from Matt and Zach, really, but then, why would they? Either way, it was a long wait in the cold desert night, listening to the rumble of fighting beneath them.

"It's gonna be okay," Lucas whispered to Fliss, as he held her close. He had to believe that. At least, Zach hadn't found anyone worth rescuing. It seemed important to Nat that they didn't deviate from the plan. He wondered if all missions went this way or if they had contingency plans, just in case things changed.

To be fair to both sides, this was their first mission. They hadn't personally experienced Hydra's long-term cruelties or seen the worst of what the organisation had done. They hadn't spent years fighting. They didn't have the sense of needing this to be over that Nat held in her heart. Neither side was wrong exactly, but this was why communication was key before a mission began.

Zach had turned quiet, but apparently, his mind wasn't completely turned inwards. "They'd finished," he announced, just before the call came in to Nat's comm telling her the same thing.

Nat nodded once again, answering the call on comms with an order to evacuate the base. "You guys ready for this?" she asked them, pulling herself up onto her feet.

Fliss sighed again; she didn't feel strong enough to do this right now, but she knew she had to. So she, too, nodded. "We can do it."

They were all feeling drained, but they knew they had to finish what they'd started. People were counting on them. The world was counting on them. Lucas pulled Fliss up with him as he moved to his feet.

"Let's finish this," he said, both to himself and his teammates.

They moved cautiously back toward the base as A.E.G.I.S. agents began to emerge. Not everyone had made it unscathed - multiple agents were limping, or carrying wounds; a few were being brought out on stretchers. But no deaths on their side, at least not in direct conflict. That was good. Nat was busy counting out the bodies as they emerged, a perplexed look on her face as she came up with more than had gone in. An expression that did not last too long - suddenly, one of the black-clad figures tossed a small device toward the group of enhanced, and Nat just reacted. In a move that would have made Steve simultaneously proud and horrified, she yelled for them all to get back and threw herself into a ball over the flashing device, expecting the explosion with more annoyance than courage.

It all happened too fast for anyone to react - anyone except Zach. Without even thinking twice, he threw out his arms, palms forward, the air visibly shimmering as he threw a force field of sorts between Nat and the device, causing the force field to take the brunt of the explosion.

Fliss had no idea what was happening. She heard Nat yell, saw her throw herself on the ground, saw Zach throw out his hands, and saw Nat's curled shape bounce slightly where she was curled, as though she'd been gently picked up and dropped again. "What the ...?"

Nat herself was slower to rise to her feet, turning to look at Zach with a curious frown. "How did you do that?"
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Lucas Foster

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Re: First Mission
« Reply #4 on: May 29, 2018, 03:06:04 PM »
"Never mind that now. We have bigger problems," Zach replied, turning to scan the group of agents who'd emerged from the base, relieved to find the guilty party had already been caught and was being physically detained. "Is everyone out?" he asked, to no one in particular. Everyone who was on their side anyway.

"With him detained, the count's right," Nat said, sliding away from her moment of almost mortality with apparently enviable ease. "Light it up, guys." She turned to the detained attacker, scowling as she gave orders for his detention.

Matt's eyes were wide, as he took this all in, not only amazed at what Zach had just done, but at the fact that Nat wasn't going to have the guy executed right then and there. But there wasn't much time to think about it right now - maybe later. "Let's finish this," he said, moving to join his enhanced teammates. This time, they didn't join hands, though Zach was quick to link their minds so that they could share abilities.

This time, they didn't need quite so much finite control, but holding the firestorm in place fell entirely on Matt's shoulders. He had to keep that water-fueled field dome in place, or they could set off a firestorm that would decimate not only their allies, but also half the Gobi Desert.

All of them were exhausted, and yet, somehow, they found the strength and the courage to set the place ablaze. It was Fliss' Fire that did most of the work, fed by Luc's Air, and held in place by Matt's Water. Meanwhile, Zach made the ground shake again, so that the ground cracked open, the whole fiery mess disappearing into the ground, like a sinking ship.

And while they were busy, Nat did have the prisoner executed. Quietly, without fuss, but she had orders to take no prisoners. He had nothing to tell them without extensive interrogation; he'd performed a direct attack on the kids under her protection. He was lucky it was a clean shot to the head. As the base sank away, the sand pouring back over it until there was no sign of anything having been constructed there at all, Fliss let out an explosive breath, buoyed up by the unexpected cheer from the units of A.E.G.I.S. agents watching with interest.

The four of them seemed to sag with mingled relief and exhaustion once the former Hydra base sank beneath the sand, turning slowly at the unexpected sound of cheering from the A.E.G.I.S. agents around them. "Is it over?" Matt asked, almost as if he could hardly believe it.

"What about the others?" Lucas broke in. What about Fliss' father and her uncles?

Nat's comm crackled with life, a familiar voice coming through loud and clear. "All clear in Sicily. All teams report."

Nat smiled faintly, relieved to hear Steve's voice crackling on the comm. "All clear in Gobi, no casualties," she reported in. "Headed back to the Hub."

Then she waited. It seemed to take an age for everyone to report in, especially for Fliss, but finally, the roll of locations began to check in. Alyona and Nikolai had major cleanup to supervise, it seemed; Reed Richards had inadvertently pinned himself underneath a large rock following the emptying of the location he'd been working on with Sue; Sam was still in the process of drawing Banner out of the Hulk. Finally, one of the voices Fliss was hoping for made itself known.

"Wyoming all clear, Iron Legion cleaning up."

Lucas felt a flood of relief, his legs buckling under him as he sank to the ground. He looked around at the wounded, seeing the medics going to work and feeling a little guilty that he wasn't helping. After all, he was in training to be a medic himself, and Zach had just shown him he had more ability there than he'd realized, but he was too tired to move.

"I should go help," he murmured, mostly to himself, though he wasn't sure he had the strength. Both brothers glanced at Fliss, worriedly waiting to hear from her father. Each and every team checked in, but still no Johnny.

Fliss' hand slipped gently over Lucas' shoulder, half-comforting him, half-comforting herself as she gripped harder with each minute that passed without a check in from her father. "Come on, Dad," she murmured, trying not to panic. The last thing any of them needed was for her to start going to flame because Johnny had mucked up somehow.

Five minutes passed, though it seemed like forever, before the comm crackled again. "Storm here. Utah safe and secure. A few injuries, but no casualties. On our way home. Say hi to my Baby Girl for me!"

Fliss laughed, sheer relief bubbling out at the sound of Johnny's enthusiastic check in. He was so embarrassing, but gods, it was good to know he was safe.

Nat grinned with the girl, gesturing to the little group. "C'mon, guys, let's get you back to New York," she said. "All aboard the jet."

"Matt Foster, you and the Junior Avengers have just defeated Hydra. What are you gonna do next?" Matt said, pretending to hold a microphone in front of his face. "I'm going to Disneyland!" he said, punching a triumphant hand at the sky with a loud whoop. He really wasn't, but it was something he'd seen in dozens of Super Bowl commercials going back years. "Is there a Disneyland on Rhy'Din?" he asked, looking to Nat.

Natasha blinked. "Uh ... I don't actually know," she admitted, leading the way back to where she had left the cloaked quinjet.

Fliss grinned as she helped Lucas back onto his feet, letting him lean on her as they fell into step with the others. "There's the Wonderplex, Matt," she pointed out. "And Hatton Point is kind of a theme park."

"Okay, then we're going there," Matt replied, mirroring her grin.

Lucas stumbled to his feet, with Fliss' help, leaning just a little against Fliss as they started toward the quinjet. "I don't know where you get all that energy," he scolded his brother with a faint chuckle.

As for Zach, he fell into step beside Nat. "I guess I owe you an explanation," he said.

"And I owe you a thank you," Nat answered just as quietly. "You saved my life, and I appreciate it. But save the explanation for the debrief when we get back. Otherwise you'll just have to say it all over again for everyone else, and even I know that is deeply aggravating."

"Fair enough," Zach replied. "Still friends?" he asked with the hint of a smile on his face. They had never really been friends, more like allies or maybe colleagues, but there was no reason they couldn't be friends.
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Lucas Foster

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Re: First Mission
« Reply #5 on: May 29, 2018, 03:06:20 PM »
"It takes more than pissing me off in a tense situation to make me an enemy, kid," she assured him warmly, pausing as the ramp of the jet lowered ahead of them. "If it didn't, I'd have way more enemies than any hope of friends."

"I could use a few friends," Zach said, with a smile, visibly relaxing at her reassurance. He knew he'd have to face the music once they got back to A.E.G.I.S. HQ, but he'd worry about that later.

"Hey! Agent Romanoff!" Matt called as he sprinted to catch up with Natasha and Zach. "You wanna go with us to Wonderplex to celebrate? Fliss says it's pretty awesome!"

Nat laughed, shaking her head at his boundless energy. His brother and very nearly sister-in-law were visibly wilting, but Matt seemed, if anything, more energetic now than he had been before the mission. "Guess that depends on when you go," she told him. "I have a date."

"Oh, a date!" Matt smirked, nudging Nat's arm a little too familiarly. "Who's the lucky guy?" he asked, with a teasing gleam in his eyes. He might have risked flirting with her, if it wasn't for the fact that he had a "date" back home, too.

"Oh, he's lucky all right," Nat countered, ushering him up the ramp. She wasn't going to tell a sixteen year old about her love life, no matter how hard he pushed, turning to look back toward Fliss and Lucas. "C'mon, you two, it's freezing out here!"

"Come on, you can tell us. We won't tell, and we're gonna find out sooner or later anyway!" Matt urged for no other reason than that he was nosy and a little too hyperactive, as he backed his way up the ramp. When he finally crashed, he was going to crash hard.

"Kiddo, I haven't even told my best friend about this yet, so don't hold your breath," Nat suggested with easy aplomb, falling into step behind Lucas and Fliss to get up into the jet. "Set the seats to bed-mode," she told them as the ramp closed up behind her. "You're gonna need the sleep."

"You mean, I'm not your best friend?" Matt quipped. "I'm hurt," he said, with a hand to his heart, as if he was in pain, though that smirk was still on his face.

"How is it he still has so much energy when I feel like I could sleep for a month?" Luc asked, as he and Fliss stumbled into the jet.

"He's your brother," Fliss pointed out with a weary smile. "Hey Nat, is there some way I can talk to my Dad?"

Natasha looked up from where she was shooing Matt toward a seat. "Sure," she told the girl, tossing her a comm link. "Contact your Dad, tell him to change his comm to channel nine, and turn the dial until you're on channel nine as well. As private as I can give you there."

"Thanks for reminding me," Lucas said with a smirk, as he took his brother by the shoulders and physically led him toward a seat away from Fliss and Nat, despite his brother's protests. Zach followed, turning quiet again now that the others had joined them.

Catching the comm link, Fliss threw Nat a grateful smile, letting Lucas leave her side to take control of his brother. She nudged Zach gently. "We'll be back home soon," she reminded her friend. "Dani'll be pleased to see you."

Zach smiled at the mention of Dani. "I'll be glad to see her, too," he said, his expression warming at the thought of seeing her again. Though it wasn't really official, the pair had become almost inseparable these days.

"And the Boy Wonder gets to drive Cas up the wall instead of us," Fliss added in amusement. "Hey ... how did you know Lucas could do that ... whatever he did to stop my headache?"

Zach chuckled a little at her comment regarding Matt, before shrugging at her question, as if it was nothing. "Just a feeling," he replied, though it had clearly been more than that. His gaze darted momentarily to Lucas, who was busy trying to handle his hyperactive younger brother. "He doesn't really like using his abilities this way. He'd rather be helping people. Healing them."

"You really think he'll be able to make more of it than a headache cure?" she asked hopefully. She knew Lucas wasn't comfortable giving out destruction, any more than she was. "Is it something he can do without you in his head?"

"It depends," he replied, honestly enough. "He has some innate ability. With training and practice, anything is possible." He paused a moment, as if he was unsure just how much to tell her. He had a way of keeping a lot of things to himself, and for good reason, but there were some things they deserved to know. "You know, he has Rhy'Din blood," he reminded her with another shrug. "It's kind of a wild card." Of course, the same could be said for Fliss.

Fliss couldn't help smiling at that thought. "I think you should tell him about it," she suggested to Zach. "It's something he'd want to have. He doesn't talk about it much, but I don't think he's ever going to be happy about the wings. Having something else besides them, something he can use to help people, would mean the world to him."

"There are plenty of ways for him to help people. He just has to figure out how," Zach replied. It wasn't his place to decide Lucas' fate, but he could give him a small nudge in the right direction. "Same goes for you," he said, smiling.

She chuckled lightly. "I know how I'm gonna help people," she assured him, then sighed. "It just means I'm gonna be in school for another couple of years, that's all."

"What about this? Don't want to be a 'Junior Avenger'?" he asked, using air quotes the way he'd seen others use them.

"I'd rather be a "part-time" Avenger," she told him, air quotes and all. "I don't like hurting people, and as much as this was a good thing, I don't want it to be my whole life. I know what I want to do with my life, and it involves helping people who have survived these sorts of things."

"Sounds like a worthy endeavor," he said with an encouraging smile. "But right now, you should call your father. It will make you both feel better," he told her, daring to touch her arm, reassuringly.

"And then sleep," she agreed with a smile. "Thanks, Zach." She squeezed his hand on her arm for a moment, moving to claim one of the now laid out beds and activate her comm link.

"Anytime," Zach replied, moving past her to take a seat himself, leaving her to make her call in relative privacy, considering the small space. She may not have known, but he envied her that connection with her father, as well as the rest of her family.
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Lucas Foster

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Re: First Mission
« Reply #6 on: May 29, 2018, 03:06:41 PM »
Fliss paused to lean over and kiss Lucas' cheek, feeling Natasha power up the jet to begin their journey home. She was tired and achy, but she knew she wouldn't be able to settle until she'd spoken to her father. Lifting the comm to her lips, she spoke quietly into it. "Dad? Uh ... Johnny? Um ... channel nine, please?"

There was a momentary pause and then a familiar voice was heard on the other side of the connection. "Fliss? Are you okay? Nat didn't say much. Just that there were no casualties," Johnny said, sounding more than a little worried.

Switching over to the other channel, Fliss could feel herself relaxing a little more as she heard Johnny's voice. "No, Dad, I'm good. We had a few casualties, but none of our team came away with anything worse than a headache. What about you, are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. You know me," he said, with a half-hearted chuckle. "I just ..." There was an audible sigh. "I just wanna go home," he admitted quietly and honestly. She'd likely know home wasn't A.E.G.I.S. HQ or even New York, where he'd grown up. Not anymore. Home wasn't even a place so much as it was wherever his family was, whether that was on Earth or Rhy'Din.

She smiled, lying down on her side as she spoke into the comm. "I get that," she assured her father. "But we did good, right? Nothing went wrong, not really. I just ..." She broke off, biting her lip, knowing that the others could hear her if they decided to listen in but needing her dad to reassure her a little. "I know I didn't kill anyone, but there were a lot of people in that base. And now there are a lot of families who won't ever know what happened to them. I don't ... I don't know how to process that."

There was a moment of silence as Johnny contemplated Fliss' confession. He was her father; he was supposed to have the answers, but some things were just too difficult to understand and impossible to explain away. He thought Steve might be better able to explain, but she wasn't asking Steve; she was asking him. "This is what happens in war, Fliss. Not everyone who works for Hydra is evil, but they are working for an evil organization, whether they know it or not. What do you think would have happened if we hadn't gone to war with Germany in World War II? Not everyone who fought against us was evil. Some of them were just doing what they were told to do. They're as much victims, as anyone else. It's the same thing with Hydra. Some of the people who were killed today were bad people, some of them were just doing their job. They and their families are as much victims of Hydra as anyone else. But sometimes you have to make choices, and those choices aren't always easy ones. I can't give you any easy answers, baby, but I can tell you that the world is a better place - a safer place - without Hydra."

"Nat said something about being grateful we weren't the ones who made the choice," Fliss admitted quietly. "I guess I didn't really understand what I signed up for, not really. It didn't seem real until we were right there and ... and no one was coming out of that base who didn't walk in with us." She sighed, rubbing her forehead. "I think I'm gonna need to talk to Demi about this."

They weren't the ones who pulled the proverbial trigger either, but she might not find it very comforting to realize that. "Fliss, those people in that base ... they knew what they were doing, and they chose to be there. Whether they were actively hurting people or not, they enabled others to be hurt. You know what Hydra is capable of. You've seen it with your own eyes. This wasn't about vengeance, Fliss. It was about justice and about keeping the world safe. Do you understand?"

"No, I do get it, Dad," she promised. "It's just gonna take some time to get it sorted in my head, I think. Is - do you still struggle with it? Is this something I would get used to if I did it a lot?"

There was a short pause again as he considered his answer. "You know, your Uncle Steve could probably answer that better than me, but ... I don't think you should ever get used to it, or you become like them, like the people who work for Hydra. There's nothing wrong with having a conscience, Fliss. Just try not to let it eat you up inside."

"I'll try." Her smile was audible as she sighed. "Thanks, Dad. I just needed to talk to you a little. We'll be back in New York in a few hours."

Was that it? Was that all she wanted to ask him? He couldn't believe that was it, not if she wanted to talk to a shrink - er, Demi - about it. When he'd asked if she was okay, it wasn't just her physical well-being he'd been asking about. He also knew if she wasn't ready to talk about it, pushing her would only make it worse. "We'll talk when you get back, okay?"

"Yeah. Yeah, okay. Try not to punch Uncle Tony until I'm back - I promised Aunt Lucy I'd record it on my phone if it happened." Fliss' smile relaxed a little more as she shared this.

"He's actually been worried about you," Johnny admitted, though he didn't entirely explain why. He'd been wondering if he'd made the right decision in allowing Fliss and her friends join the team, but now he wasn't so sure, and it was only in part because of Tony.

"I know," she assured him. "But he was being an ass about it." Not that Tony really needed an excuse to be difficult.

"Yeah, well, ass or not, he cares about you," Johnny argued. Was he really defending Tony Stark? "Fliss, I just need to know something ..." he said, pausing a moment before asking, "Do you wish you hadn't gone?"

It took a moment for her to answer that. "No," she said finally. "I needed to be a part of this, and I've learned a lot from it. It's complicated - do I wish so many people didn't have to die? Sure, I do, and I'm gonna feel a little guilty about that for a long time. But not coming? I would regret that more."

"Okay, we'll talk when you get back. Love you, baby girl. Get some sleep," Johnny told her, at least somewhat relieved. Hopefully, Tony was wrong, and the young people's involvement in the mission wouldn't change them for the worse.

"Love you, Dad. Don't forget to call Mom and pass it on." Fliss sighed, rolling onto her back. Now she'd spoken to her father, she could feel the weariness taking hold, her eyes automatically seeking Lucas as she yawned. How long had it been since they'd slept apart?

"I won't. See you soon, okay?" he said, hearing the weariness in her voice and hoping she could get some sleep without feeling guilty.

"See you soon, Daddy. Um ... over and out?" The military jargon was going to take a while to get used to, but she had a feeling she wouldn't need it again for a long time. Maybe even never, though that was unlikely.
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Lucas Foster

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Re: First Mission
« Reply #7 on: May 29, 2018, 03:07:00 PM »
"Over and out," Johnny echoed, the amusement and relief audible in his voice. The line went dead then, and Fliss was left with her thoughts.

Dropping her hand to her stomach, she looked around the quinjet. Nat had disappeared into the cockpit, and would likely stay there until they landed. Fliss had no idea how the woman did it - she couldn't have had more than about seven hours' sleep in the last seventy-two, and yet it was obvious she was going to stay awake until after the debriefing was over. Fliss felt tired enough to sleep for a week, and she was well-rested.

Matt was finally quiet, collapsing with exhaustion as soon as his head had hit the proverbial pillow. Lucas was exhausted, too, but struggling to stay awake long enough to make sure Fliss was okay. He couldn't help having overheard her side of the conversation with her father and found himself sharing some of her feelings. It seemed Zach had disappeared into the cockpit, either to keep Nat company or to avoid eavesdropping on Fliss' conversation or both.

"You okay?" Lucas asked, once Fliss was finished talking to her father.

She rolled over to face him, reaching out to tangle her fingers with his. "I will be, once we're home," she told him softly. "I just want to go home, go back to being just us again. Find that ring I'm sure you've got hidden somewhere in the apartment." She flashed him a teasing grin that didn't last, purely because she was tired. "Are you okay?"

He nodded his head, awkwardly since he was still lying down. "I am if you are," he said, linking his fingers with hers, comforted by her touch. He frowned a little, lowering his voice so no one could hear him but her. "I don't know if I ever want to do that again," he confessed quietly.

"I know," she whispered back, more troubled about it than she had admitted to Johnny. "I mean ... I'm glad we helped, but ... I don't want to do this again unless there is absolutely no choice. Think Matt will ever forgive me?" She wasn't worried about Zach - if Zach wanted to continue, he could, without needing them linked to him to do what needed to be done. Matt, on the other hand, might not be so pleased with the idea of stopping before they'd really started.

Lucas would have glanced over at his brother, if he didn't have to crane his neck to do it. "No, I think he'll understand," he said, or at least, he'd hoped he would. The truth was, though his brother was a little cocky, he had a good heart, and Lucas refused to believe he wouldn't stay that way.

"You know ..." Fliss inched a little closer, rubbing her thumb over his. "Zach says that healing thing you did is all you. You could learn how to control it."

"What?" Lucas said, brows arching upwards. "What do you mean it's all me? How can he know that?" he asked, though that much seemed obvious. If the guy could create a telepathic connection between them, he supposed he could see into his mind ... or something.

Fliss shrugged one shoulder. "It's one of his many skills?" she suggested, though she had no idea really. "That's not the point, though. The point is ... you've got this ability that helps people. That's pretty amazing."

"I don't even know what I did back there, Fliss," Lucas whispered back. "I don't know how to use it," he argued. Even if he did have some kind of healing ability, how was he supposed to master it?

"Yet," she reminded him, leaning over to touch her lips softly to his. "It's a thought worth coming back to, Luc, that's all. Doesn't need you to make a decision right here and now."

He frowned, a little confused by this unexpected development, but not in a bad way. "You don't think it was all him?" he asked, once she'd finished kissing him.

Fliss smiled gently. "What reason does he have to lie about that?" she pointed out. "He could just as easily have said it could only happen with his mind linked to yours, and he didn't. So yeah, I think it is you. Rhy'Din blood has its quirks."

"I guess," Lucas reluctantly agreed, still looking a little confused. It wasn't that he wouldn't welcome the ability to heal people so much as the shock he felt at realizing it might be possible.

"Maybe you should talk to him about it a bit, find out what he means and what he thinks you can do," Fliss suggested in a quiet voice. "Later. After we sleep."

"I will," he promised, leaning close to kiss her again, with a brush of fingers to her cheek. "Get some rest. We'll be home soon," he whispered, brushing her cheek with his lips this time before settling back on his own cot, his fingers still tangled with hers.

Nestling her cheek against the flat pillow, her hand still wrapped in his as her arm stretched over the small gap between them, Fliss sighed as she nodded, easing down to sleep. It had been a long day, her time zones were messed up, and all she really wanted was to go home. Not long now.

Try as he might to stay awake long enough to make sure Fliss was asleep, as soon as her eyes drifted closed, so, too, did his, too heavy to remain open and too exhausted to fight against sleep any longer. With any luck, by the time they awoke, they'd be back in New York, and then, they could go about the business of sorting out what they'd done in China and where they were going from here. Hydra was not a problem any longer. And that could only be a good thing.
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