There are times when having a hammer-wielding Norse god on your side is not necessarily an advantage, such as when fighting in the tight confines of an AIM underground base.
Tony winced as the clang of metal against stone echoed loudly down the dark, concrete tunnel. The reverberations shook the ground beneath his feet and caused cracks to appear across the ceiling.
“Readings indicate the structural integrity of the base has been reduced to 79 percent,” said Jarvis' voice in his ear.
“You want to tone it down a bit, Hammer Time,” Tony called out.
Thor glanced back, a wide grin on his face, hammer spinning in his hand. “Would you rather I let the soldiers get away?” He let the hammer go and it shot down the tunnel knocking down half a dozen of AIM's soldiers-for-hire on its way.
Letting the soldiers get away was the last thing Tony wanted. He'd been pissed as hell to learn that AIM hadn't burnt to ash with Aldrich Killian. After much digging, he'd found numerous factions and installations across the globe including this one in Peru. Now, it seemed they were plotting something big, and Tony had no intention of leaving until he found what the hell that was.
Another wave of soldiers came at them firing laser rifles. Tony did his best to avoid the blasts. So far their weapons didn't seem to do much more than singe the paint off his armour and cause minor electrical surges but he didn't want to take the chance of them hitting something vital. Grabbing the end of one of the rifles, he slammed its owner against the wall, and then swung the rifle around to knock over two of his pals. They seemed capable of taking quite a pounding and he made a mental note to check out their body armour if he got the chance.
Thunder sounded as Thor pounded his hammer against the floor knocking over more of the soldiers as he caused the tunnel to shake once more.
“Structural integrity at 72 percent,” Jarvis informed him.
Tony, who'd only escaped being knocked over too thanks to a quick fire of his repulsors, winced a second time and wondered why he'd let himself be teamed with the Asgardian. It had been Steve's idea of course. Tony and Thor were supposed to be the distraction, making as much noise and fuss as they could while Widow, Hawkeye, and the Captain snuck in the back way and did the real work ie. downloaded all of AIM's files before they had a chance to delete them.
Bruce had been left to wait in the Quinjet as they'd thought the Hulk's method of fighting wouldn't be quite so conducive in this sort of environment. Truthfully though, Thor wasn't much better.
“Could you at least stick to hitting the people and not the building?” Tony said with exasperation. “I really don't feel like becoming an iron pancake.”
“Of course, if that would make you more comfortable,” Thor replied amicably, stowing his hammer for a moment and instead using his elbow to knock a nearby guard unconscious. “Perhaps if I had a bit more help...”
“Are you suggesting I'm not pulling my weight?” Tony said in astonishment. He dodged a laser blast and fired a repulsor back down the tunnel where several more guards were trying to sneak up on them.
Thor shrugged but said nothing, the grin still wide on his face.
Tony scowled beneath his helmet. “Fine. I'll give you a little help, you giant puffed up Fabio wannabe,” he grumbled.
Firing up the repulsors in his boots, he flew down the tunnel taking out everyone and everything in his way. The tunnel ended in a set of metal doors which he plowed right through entering a large room where several more guards were gathered, their rifles already aimed in his direction.
“Sorry to keep you waiting,” he declared as he made his customary three point landing in the middle of the room, “but there was this pretentious Norse god in my way.”
Palms out, arms outstretched, he spun around firing his repulsors in a circle clearing the room in a matter of seconds. The bodies made dull thuds as they hit the floor. Straightening up, he brushed some imaginary dust off his hands.
“Not carrying my weight, my ass,” he said.
“Not bad,” Thor said as he caught up.
Tony flipped open the mask of his helmet and glared at him. “Not bad? Seriously? What do you...”
“Forgive me, Anthony,” Thor interrupted though it was clear he hadn't actually been listening. His gaze was intent on their surroundings. “But something about this seems amiss.”
Stowing his annoyance, Tony looked around. He'd only glanced at it before not really taking it in, but now that he did he realized he was in some sort of workshop, a bit like one of his, except his were more advanced and a lot cooler. There were several workbenches with tools, various bits of machinery, a large computer monitor connected to numerous servers, and a second set of doors presumably leading further into the base. A fairly typical mechanical laboratory. It took a couple seconds for Tony to realize what Thor was talking about. The workshop itself wasn't wrong. It's exactly the sort of thing he'd expect to find in an AIM base. The problem was where the workshop was located, in other words exactly where it wasn't supposed to be.
Tony frowned. “I thought all the R&D stuff was at the other end of the base. Did we take a wrong turn somewhere?”
“I do not believe so,” Thor replied.
Just like that their whole plan was out the window. He and Thor were supposed to be in the operation centre of the base, creating destruction and mayhem, while Cap and the spy twins broke into the labs and gathered info. But if they were here...
He switched on the link to the rest of the team. “Um, Cap. You know that intel we got on the base's layout...”
“It's bogus,” Steve replied sounding rather out of breath. “Yeah, we figured that out.”
The sound of laser fire came over the comlink.
“Having a bit of trouble?” Tony asked.
It was Natasha who answered. “So far we've encountered a lot of hostiles and no labs or databanks,” she said, her voice punctuated by several thuds and grunts.
“It's almost like they don't want us stealing all their secrets,” put in Clint. The distinct twang of his bow could be heard in the background.
“Please tell me you've got something,” said Steve.
“You're in luck, Cap,” Tony said gazing at the servers that took over almost an entire wall of the room. “We have got something. I don't know what sort of something but it's definitely something.”
“Check it out,” the Captain replied, “but be careful. This may be a trap.”
“It usually is,” Tony said before turning off the comlink once more.
He headed straight for the monitor taking off his gauntlets and tossing them on a nearby workbench.
“I shall guard the door,” said Thor taking up position by the entrance.
Tony gave him an absent wave in acknowledgement already busy tapping the screen as he began shifting through data. AIM had definitely been up to something big here. It would take him a while to decrypt all the data but from what he could access, there seemed to be a whole lot of specialized machinery being shipped into the base. Knowing Jarvis could get the needed info faster than he could, he stuck one of his own personally designed receivers onto the servers allowing the A.I. to connect to the system.
“Get me everything they've got, Jarvis.”
More data flowed over the computer screen.
“There's something about the stuff they had shipped here,” he muttered, half to Jarivs, half to himself. “Something familiar.” The components floated through his brain arranging and rearranging themselves in different configurations.
“In what way?” Thor asked from the doorway startling Tony who'd almost forgotten he was there. “What are they attempting to build?”
“I'm not sure, but whatever it is it certainly isn't a sewing machine.”
“Sir, there seems to be a problem,” Jarvis interrupted.
Tony sighed. “Don't say that, J. You know I hate it when you say that.”
“The computer appears to have detected my hack and is activating some sort of defence mechanism. I believe it is going to...”
Blue arcs of electricity suddenly shot over the servers making Tony jump back as things sparked and smoked. In an instant, the monitor was dead and the entire server bank fried.
“Crap,” Tony exclaimed. “Please tell me you got something before it blew.”
“I'm afraid all I was able to retrieve was the low level information you already examined,” Jarvis replied, a trace of regret in his tone.
“Now what?” said Thor.
“Now...” Tony began gazing about
Suddenly he wished he hadn't been so eager to take down everyone in the room. He could have used one of them to tell him what the hell was going on. Surprisingly, there seemed to be no scientists among them. They must have been evacuated the moment Tony and Thor made their dramatic entrance. They'd probably be continuing their work at a new base within the week.
His eyes lit upon the unopened doors at the other end of the room. The doors were large and looked like they'd been reinforced. Tony was willing to bet half his fortune that whatever AIM was working on was on the other side.
“Now we see what's behind door number two,” he said taking a step towards them.
A tremor shook the room.
Closing his eyes, Tony sighed and shook his head. “What did I say about the hammer?” he said in exasperation.
“That wasn't me,” said Thor looking around in confusion.
“Structural integrity down to 57 percent,” Jarvis announced.
The room shook again.
“What the hell?” Tony exclaimed.
“Thor, Iron Man,” came Steve's voice over the coms. “Looks like AIM's about to cut their losses and bury this place along with everything and everyone in it. Get what you can and get out.”
“Understood,” Thor replied.
Tony scowled. “Damn it. All that fucking work and nothing to show for it.”
“Maybe it was a trap,” Thor suggested. “The information we found might have been a ruse to get us here.”
“Or maybe,” Tony said eyeing the door again, “they're trying to bury this place because they know we're close to finding out what they're up to.”
This time the shaking almost knocked the two of them off their feet. Dust rained down from the ceiling and tools toppled off the workbenches onto the floor.
“Structural integrity at 35 percent. Sir, I do believe it would be prudent at this juncture to make a prompt exit.”
“Not yet,” Tony replied. “I want to see where this door leads.”
“That information will be of little use to you if you become trapped with it,” the A.I. continued.
More shaking occurred accompanied by several thunderous booms.
“Structural integrity at...”
“Will you quit that?” Tony snapped. “I'm not leaving here until I find out what AIM's up to and that's final. I'm not letting these wannabe techno-anarchists get away with...”
“Killing you, sir?”
Sometimes Tony wished he hadn't programmed Jarvis with quite so much sarcastic wit. Not that he actually recalled programming Jarvis to be sarcastic. The damn AI must have picked it up from somewhere.
Thor lifted his shoulder in an elegant shrug. “These are your enemies not mine. The choice is yours.”
“Well, then...” Tony knew exactly what to do. He had no intention of letting AIM get away with whatever the hell they were trying to get away with. The ghost of Aldrich Killian had haunted him enough.
He reached for the door handle.
Or at least, he tried to reach for the door handle. His muscles contracted as he attempted to move his arm, but instead of moving, his arm was jarred painfully as the armour refused to move with him.
He stared down at the uncooperative limb hanging by his side. “Uh, Jarvis...” he began but before he could say more the repulsors fired beneath his feet.
“Hey!” he cried as he found himself turning around and flying out of the room and back down the hallway through which they'd come. He tried speaking again but only got as far as “Wha...” before a large boom sounded from behind him.
A shock wave blew through the corridor pushing him forward and bringing with it a giant cloud of dust.
Suddenly, Tony no longer cared that he'd lost control of the armour. All he wanted was to get out of there. Fortunately, that seemed to be exactly where the armour was taking him.
He flew, or rather was flown, through the underground base back through the maze of corridors they'd fought in only minutes before. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Thor flying along beside him hammer outstretched as they tried to out race the inevitable collapse. Debris was falling everywhere as the base came apart around them. Heart pounding, Tony had to resist the urge to close his eyes as the armour wove between the falling objects. The base's power soon went taking the lights with it leaving only the light from of Tony's armour to guide them.
The moment of chaos and darkness seemed to last forever.
And then finally they were out shooting up into brightness and blue sky.
They came down in an empty field a hundred feet or so from the base. Tony's control over the armour returned when he landed and he fell forward on his hands and knees.
“Are you alright, my friend?” Thor asked placing a hand on his shoulder.
Tony nodded for once unable to speak as he breathed in deep lungfuls of air waiting for his heartbeat to slow down to a more normal rhythm.
“Stark! Thor!” came the concerned cry of Steve over their coms.
“We are safe,” Thor reassured him. “Though I'm afraid we were unable to accomplish our mission.”
“Never mind,” the Captain said with an audible sigh. “The whole thing was probably a trap to begin with. Meet us back at the Quinjet.”
“We will be there,” Thor replied.
The Asgardian held out a hand and Tony accepted it glad to find his legs didn't wobble too much as he was pulled to his feet.
“That was a wise decision you made,” Thor told him. “If we had remained a moment longer, we would have surely been buried. You have good instincts.”
“Huh? Um, yeah. Right,” Tony said distractedly. He was gazing back in the direction of the base where a dark cloud of smoke and dust hung in the air.
Thor slapped him on the back making Tony very grateful to still be wearing armour and therefore not sent back down to his knees. “Come,” Thor said. “Let us reunite with our brothers and sister in arms.” He swung his hammer and was soon flying off in the direction of the Quinjet.
Tony stayed a moment longer still staring at the smoke.
“Jarvis...” he began.
“My apologies, sir,” Jarvis said though the A.I.'s tone was not especially apologetic. “I sensed the collapse was imminent and my priority protocols engaged. It was necessary to remove you from the building immediately to ensure your safety.”
“Just...” Tony said taking a shaky breath. “Just never do that again.”
A distant boom could be heard as more of the base gave way.
“And Jarvis,” he added.