"When I agreed to hold open auditions for members, this is not what I meant," Steve said through gritted teeth.
"C'mon, Cap, don't be a spoilsport," Tony said. "Look at her! We'll be rolling in merchandising opportunities from the Toddlers & Tiaras crowd alone. She's spunky! She's adorable!"
"She's a child, Tony!"
Together the Avengers regarded Applicant #139, Yotsuba Koiwai, whose head was just visible above the table in the audition room. She waved her plastic raygun in a friendly manner.
"I must concur with Captain Rogers, Tony Stark," Thor said, looking grave. "Surely a maiden of such young and tender years would prove a hindrance rather than help on the battlefield."
Natasha frowned. "I started firearms training when I was five."
"Thank you, Natasha, for reminding us all why you are the scary Avenger," Tony said. "I'm just saying, don't knock the PR goldmine from kid mascots. A few photo ops here, some international goodwill trips there--"
"Yeah, we should definitely take her for photo ops the next time we tangle with those alien slavers," Bruce said. "The ones that put their enemies' heads on spikes?"
Tony sighed. "Sometimes I feel you have a lot of rage that you express inappropriately, Dr. Banner. Has anyone ever told you that?"
"I'll take it under advisement, thanks."
By now the Avengers grew aware that Yotsuba's raygun-waving had morphed into the frantic arm-waggle of someone with a pressing question. "You rang?" Tony said.
But Yotsuba ignored him, turning with shocked eyes to Steve instead. "Hi. What's your name? I'm Yotsuba. Is that guy a robot?"
"A robot? Me? Is that what kids think? I spent $40 million on the newest Iron Man toyline, why do kids always think I'm a robot?"
"No, he's not a robot," Steve said, "he's Tony, and I'm Steve. It's nice to meet you, Yotsuba." Steve liked little kids, especially little kids who thought Iron Man was a robot. "What's that you're holding there, Yotsuba?"
"It's my robot-squashing gun!"
"Well too bad, kid, we are fresh out of robots to squash. All gone. Finito. Too bad, so sad." But Tony's voice wavered as Yotsuba's eyes welled in disappointment. "Hey, kid, don't be like--we have ninjas, all right? Does your raygun work on ninjas?"
"Close enough. Look up there!"
'Up there' was Clint Barton, scowling down from his revealed perch on an overhead beam. Yotsuba immediately leveled her raygun on him and began making pew-pew noises. "Die, robot ninja!" she said.
"She's got a good stance," Natasha said approvingly. "She could prove useful to an extent, maybe five to ten extra minutes of combat. I could train her myself."
And that piece of commentary was terrifying enough that Tony pulled the plug on his little recruiting joke. "Okay, sweetheart, very nice, that's enough for today, thanks. Time for you to head home now."
Steve leaned forward. "He's right, honey. Are your parents here? Do you know where you live?"
Yotsuba holstered her raygun at last. "We live on the left!"
"The left? What?"
The beams supporting Clint and most of the ceiling promptly collapsed.