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Cleave and Cement

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Previously on Agents of SHIELD

May looked out the windscreen, lights casting shadows around her.

"Are we there yet?" Skye crouched to her right, one hand braced on her seatback.

May fought the smile. "Don't make me turn this bus around."

Skye looked up, the towers of Manhattan cliffs on either side. "I'm just wondering how you're going to park."

The touring bus rolled down 42nd street.

"I have some ideas." The male voice came over their intercom. "Please merge right and turn at Lexington. Skye, would you select new side panels?"

"Who are you?" May did merge and turn. Their goal was Avengers Tower but they weren't going to be able to parallel park.

"Agent May," a woman's voice came on, "this is Darcy Lewis. Coulson will introduce you, but let JARVIS get your bus berthed first. He'll direct your team to the Tower, too."

May grinned and asked, "Control, guide me in."

"My pleasure." The voice directed her towards a parking garage with the necessary overhead clearance, presumably raising the grill as she approached.

May stepped onto the pavement and the team started disembarking. She was the only one with her bag, she noticed. Lights brightened. "Follow me." She strode the path, wary. Skye followed to one side, Fitz and Hartley next, Tripp and Mack behind. She begrudged Hunter bailing, not that they weren't perfectly capable without him.

She looked at the open elevator.

"Please. The food is en route." Again the voice Darcy Lewis had named JARVIS, now coming from the elevator speakers.

Mack spoke. "Time to see the man behind the curtain."

She and the team got into the elevator. The door closed on them.


Phil Coulson stood in the common room, wondering why JARVIS had called him there. Before he could voice the question the elevator opened.

"AC!" Skye bounded out of the elevator and hugged him.

Phil hugged her back, looking over at the rest. He noted that Isabelle Hartley was short a left arm, amputated above the elbow. Alphonso Mackenzie was not Jemma. "Where's Simmons?" he directed the query to May.

"She's taking some time."

Phil could understand that. "Fitz, you're looking better." He'd have to, he'd been unconscious the last time. May was flashing him a warning look. He detached Skye to properly greet the rest of the team.

The elevator opened again, this time offering a food bot and Clint. "We meet again." Clint tapped a hand on May's arm, bumped knuckles with Tripp. "Rest of the Avengers will be incoming."

"Thor?" May asked.

Skye looked at him too.

"You'll have to settle for Midgardian heroes today, I fear." He flexed, and looked at Phil.

In short order Natasha, Steve, Sam and Bruce arrived. Phil noticed Fitz holding back from Banner, which struck him odd; it wasn't like biochemistry was outside his keen if more Simmons' speciality.

They were tucked into the food when Darcy appeared. She filled a plate and proceeded to question May and Skye. It didn't sound too foreboding; trust was double-edged, as he was certain the three women could find trouble and handle it besides.

Tripp had gravitated to Sam and was peppering him with questions about D.C. Natural enough considering he and Simmons had been in the Triskelion when Hydra showed their hand as Insight almost went live.

Hartley had moved to Mackenzie's right side, questioning Steve as she ate.

Phil stood and headed for the outside deck.

May followed him. "We found an 084." Melinda sighed. "We found the 084."

Phil turned. The 084 classification dated to the SSR. After the war, securing all the artifacts Schmidt had pillaged had been a priority. "What was it?"

"It turns people into stone. That's how Hartley lost her arm, Hunter had to field amputate."

That, it wasn't the most disturbing thing, but Phil pursed his lips. "So it doesn't happen all at once." That alternative hardly bore considering.

May continued. "It's fast. We think we know how to find the city."

"Oh." The city a long dead alien wanted to reach so badly it had driven people mad.

"Fitz believes he can find the city."

The way she said it, May wasn't convinced.

Phil asked, "What's wrong?"

She answered, "I'm going to focus on what's right, that Simmons and Fitz survived. UHF."

Phil chuckled. Fury might rib him on his love for spy craft artifacts, but he'd heard their scientists.