Unlikely Singularities – Chapter 64


They’re Manly Tights: Only One Man Would Dare Give Me the Raspberry

January 14, 2017

There is…” Vision’s voice trailed off, for at least the third time since the hostiles in Atlanta had been subdued, and Tony was this close to making fun of him. Or running a diagnostic. Or both. Both and checking local surveillance cameras, just to be on the safe side. And giving Natasha a heads up. If there was something out of place, she would be the first to see it. Tony was man enough to admit that she was more observant than him. Man enough to admit it to himself. There was not enough therapy on Earth to make him admit it to her. No way. No how.

Steve’s voice cut over the comms, “You see something, Vision?”

Half the wall was taken up by an area map showing each team member’s location. The other half was various files and searches, real-time satellite imagery, a recipe for apple yogurt smoothies, schematics for a new Iron Man helmet design, team health stats, an electronic dartboard of Ross’ face, and readouts of the Georgia National Guard emergency radio channel. Tony lifted his feet up on the conference table, congratulating himself on the foresight to set up a separate area for mission ops. If he had been in his workshop he would have been distracted during the dull moments. There had been at least three or four five minutes breaks during the hours long mission where no one was being shot at. He definitely would have wandered away if there had been anything else to do in the room.

That was progress. Step One: recognize your weaknesses and triggers. Step Two: minimize the potential.

Tony popped another dried banana chip into his mouth and crunched down. His fingers flew over the keyboard propped on his legs, searching for anything that could have caught Vision’s interest.

Hey Friday,” he called out around a mouthful. He couldn’t decide if he should thank Lewis for turning him on to the banana chips – or fuck with her credit score. The damn things were amazing – but they were super loud and tended to get stuck in his teeth. “Pull up the real-time stats for Vision and compare them to our last baseline.”

Yes, Boss.”

I do not believe so,” Vision was answering Steve. “Captain, I have the distinct and rather disconcerting feeling that someone is watching me.”

That’s just Witch,” Wilson joked. Their indicator lights were close enough together that Tony had to give the bird-man credit for teasing her. That took balls. Then Wilson yelped. “Sweet Lord, woman. Was that really necessary?”

Yes.” Wanda sounded almost as cool as Natasha. Tony wasn’t sure how he felt about that. One Widow was tolerable, even useful. Two would be…just no. “I have several civilians approaching my position, Captain,” she continued calmly. “They do not appear to be armed, but they are nearing the quarantined area.”

Iron Man, anything on your end?” Steve grunted into his comm as if he had taken a hit.

Tony crunched a banana chip into his comm, just to be irritating. “Nada, Cap. There is some debris five blocks east of you and a report that someone may be missing. Local enforcement could use some aerial support.”

Falcon, you are on recon.” There was another grunt, then Steve ordered Wanda, “Give them a verbal warning, Witch, defenses only. I am closest to your position if they don’t take a hint.”

Her voice was firmly professional. “Gentlemen. Miss. This area is off limits. Please…”

Tony tuned Wanda out. He really needed visuals aside from Falcon’s stupid goggles and the Quinjet. Hacking into local security cams was easy – sure. But it just didn’t give the theatrical presence he was looking for. If he couldn’t be physically in the mix (And he agreed he couldn’t, Pepper, absolutely, one hundred percent on board with semi-retirement. Okay. Like ninety-two percent on board.), then he needed to feel like he was right there. Technicolor and surround sound. 4K, ultra-HD, in-your face virtual reality. He made a mental note to start a field trial with the contacts he had been designing. Lewis wore glasses. He could probably con her into trying them out again. Tony recalled how well that had gone the first time. Maybe Parker could stop by after school, he decided.

Boss, Vision is operating within normal parameters on all metrics. There is a three-point-oh-six percent increase in sensory input over the most recent mission.”

That’s not a red flag or anything,” Tony said aloud. He double checked the numbers anyway. Once the heat-seeking tank thing had been dealt with – it had a subterranean drill, who even came up with those things? It wasn’t really useful…unless a quick getaway…but the urban infrastructure would taking down the rest of the overpowered gang members had been easy – if not quick. Midnight had come and gone and the team would probably be in Atlanta into the early morning hours helping the National Guard to make certain all the Chautari weapons were secured and put into SHIELD’s undead hands. There wasn’t much for Tony to do except offer the occasional street directions and pull up traffic and ATM cameras. Being base support kind of sucked.

Widow. Movement at your four. Seventy meters.”

And listening to Mr. Ice Ice Baby made him want to stab out his own eardrums. Tony got it. The guy was on the team. The team needed a sniper and Clint needed to retire. He got it, okay? But that didn’t mean he liked it. He hated it.

Copy, Soldier…Captain, these civilians may be-”

Widow taking fire,” the Murderer stated flatly. The even, measured repeat of his rifle assured that he was providing backup.

-said to stay – Captain, they are not civilians!” There was a masculine scream and a Sokovian curse, and then Wanda came back on line. “I am holding them back for the moment, but I cannot remain defensive for long without one of their bullets getting through.”

On my way.”

Tony watched the map, little colored dots representing each team member. Steve’s blue pinpoint was sliding across the screen – he had to be running at least thirty-five miles an hour. Things moved quickly after that. Natalie and the Soviet Bishop remained pinned down – not taking any damage, but unable to break away with civilians constantly in the line of fire. Steve and Wanda dealt with armed locals – doing their best to intimidate them into turning away, and trying not to cause any permanent damage. Vision and Wilson were on rescue duty, and each time they were ready to give support to one of the other teams, they received another request for assistance to search for people reported as missing or trapped.

It was nearly five in the morning by the time things calmed down. Between Steve and Wanda they had almost twenty individuals trussed up and ready for the local police to pick up. The former Soviet Bloc needed paramedics more than a paddy wagon, with shoulder and leg gunshot wounds abounding. The entire team had minor injuries. Wilson sounded exhausted after hours of flying, and even Vision was frank about his desire to return home.

I believe we are finished here, Captain. The National Guard has completed a sweep of the last sector and declared it secure.”

Sounds good, Vision. Soldier and Widow, head back to the Quinjet and get it ready to go. Falcon…” His voice faded off for nearly a minute.

Cap?” Wilson was already on his way to meet with Natasha, but he paused when Steve didn’t answer.

Yeah. Sorry. Uh, Falcon, stand down. Witch, you and Vision check in with the Atlanta PD. I’ll…I’ll…finish up with the…” There was another long pause, and Tony sat up, looking for Steve on his hijacked cameras. The health readouts from his suit didn’t look too bad. His heart rate was a little slower than Tony expected – but then, he had the serum and had never had his chest cracked open, so…

Witch.” The One-Armed Wonder didn’t say anything else, but Wanda still answered.

One of the groups that assaulted our position was using tranquilizer darts. He didn’t block them all. I’ll stay with him.” Her dot on the map moved closer to Steve’s.

“’m fine,” Steve mumbled. “Just tired. Let’s finish up.”

Tony could hear the tension from most of the team. Steve didn’t get tired. Certainly not from a twelve hour mission that hadn’t even required any rocket launchers or flipping of vehicles. He had to wonder how many times Mr. Bald Eagle had been hit. There was nothing he could do about it from New York, except try to smooth the way so everyone could get back sooner. He sent a notice to Vision to check Steve over for injuries when he got to the Quinjet and then directed Friday to connect him to the HQ for the National Guard.

Don’t worry about it guys. I got this. Go ahead and bug out.” If being Tony Stark had any privileges, high on the list was the ability to ignore requests for photos, publicity, or hobnobbing with the Avengers. He’d probably end up doing a few voice interviews on the team’s behalf, but he’d be able to hold the favor over Steve’s head for ages. Or so he told himself.

Thank god,” Wilson groaned as his locator reached the Quinjet and he landed. “Goodbye, Hotlanta.”

Tony and the Walking Can Opener groaned in sync. It was disturbing.