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Behind the mask

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All around Aria was chaos. People were sprinting down the streets of Manhattan while alien-like monsters where firing at them. Tears were running free down her eyes as she was next to her little brother. There was blood everywhere on his little skinny chest and she was trying to find where the wound was. Her hands became bloody, then her arms when, in her panic, she could not find the hemorrhage of the six years old boy.

‘’Jake… Jake wake up!’’ she said, her voice shaky, seeing that the boy had now his eyes closed.

Something exploded next to her and her body was thrown meters away. She screamed, letting out all she had concealed during the last hour of this total mess that had become New York City.

One of the alien approached her, and she saw an opportunity. It was an absolutely dumb idea, but her instinct and clearly not her mind was behind it. It was too bold and excessively violent for the fourteen years old that she was. She stood up, looked at the monster’s unhuman eyes and put two fingers to the side of her forehead.

‘’Shoot yourself,’’ she said, quietly, with a stone face.

There was a shot. The creature was dead.

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7 years later

Since 6 months, everything was better than it has ever been for Aria. In May, she had finished her PhD in neuroscience and, finally, she was doing something with her life, something with more meaning than binge studying since she was in age to go to school. She has always been one of those kind of weird kids obsessed with grades. Now she was 21, amongst the youngest people on earth to get a doctorate degree, and working in the Avengers compound’s lab with Dr. Bruce Banner doing nothing less but discovering the secrets of the human brain, as he himself said when he asked her to work with him.

«Discovering the secrets of the human brains… » that looked kind of silly said like that for Aria, but that was actually what she said when friends asked what she was doing for a living.

It was her fifth month at the lab with Dr. Banner and, every day, she could not help but examine all of surroundings as if she had not seen them the day before. Everything was white, but still kind of warm, if that is even possible. Pieces of the most expensive technologies in the world were spread all around the fifty-meter square lab. Bruce was a nicer man than all of the lab partners she ever had. Sweet, gentle and comforting, he came to be a kind of big bro figure to her. She felt at home there.

As she entered the lab, she saw her friend Bruce greeting her with a smile.

‘’Hey, good morning Aria.’’

‘’Good morning Bruce! What are we up to today?’’ she said, enthusiastic.

Bruce seemed a little nervous this morning. He even seemed agitated and had shifty eyes. Why is he acting so weird?

‘’Well, as we have finished our last article, I suggest you a new project. But you can refuse. Know that you can always refuse. I know a study like that can be scary an I don’t want to put pressure on you as I offered you this job and-‘’

‘’Calm down, what are you talking about? Just explain to me!’’

Bruce was not like this usually. He normally seemed confident about what he was doing and now it was… the complete opposite.

‘’It is about, Vision… and your powers… ‘’he said, hesitant looking at Aria’s reaction.

Aria hated having those so-called powers. For her, they were just another thing that made her different from every other being on the planet. And a weapon. A deadly and extremely dangerous weapon that should be used under no circumstances… if she did not want shit like two years ago to happen again… Mind reading and mind control seem harmless but Bruce has no idea. Aria did not even know that Bruce knew of her abilities. She wanted that part of her life to be free from all this. SHIELD probably learned it at some point and told him. Those people know everything. I hope he did not hired me just so I could be his science experiment, oh god…

‘’No,’’ she said

She got to her computer and sat on the chair in front of it in a futile way to escape Bruce. He got to her and put a hand on her shoulder.

‘’What ? Just no ? You do not want any explanation? Don’t you wanna realize how your gifts could save lives?’’

He was suddenly putting way more pressure Aria could not help but laugh.

‘’How do you even know about me and my abilities?’’ I asked curious and still angry.

‘’SHIELD has-‘’

‘’Ok, do not go further I KNEW IT, freaking SHIELD…’’

A third voice, a voice Aria had heard a few times already for having work with it, entered the conversation:

‘’I am sure you would like to know more about it Aria,’’ he said calmly, contrasting with the conversation Bruce and I were having.

‘’Oh well, go ahead then, explain how you would like to open my skull to see what is inside and then expose it over a wall,’’ she said, hoping that they would understand that, at this point, she was sarcastic.

None of them laughed or smiled. They looked at her then gave each other a glance.

‘’Listen closely. We simply want to-‘’

Boom.

A man had literally fell from the ceiling. All looks where suddenly on this strange man lying down from nowhere with dark long hair and some kind of weird leathery coat, if it is a coat.  He groaned and then slowly tried stood up.

‘’Run. Both of you,’’ said Bruce. His face looked like he suddenly realized something.

Whoever this man was, Bruce obviously feared him. Bruce was pale and became all shaky in a matter of seconds.

The man suddenly talked, his voice smooth and velvety, with a hint of a British accent.

‘’Oh no…’’ he said with a chuckle. ‘’Nobody is going away right now…’’

He rose his head and first looked at Bruce. As Bruce was becoming green, in a swift movement, the stranger put his palm on his forehead and the almost Hulked Bruce fell unconscious.

What.

The man then looked at Aria, but quickly turned to Vision. Aria took a few steps behind, relieved not to get the same fate as Bruce but still wanting to help in case of need.

A blue blade materialized in the man’s hand. Vision tried to hit him, but with some other magic power, he kept him paralyzed in the middle of his movement.

‘’Now we will get to business hmm?‘’ the mad man said while approaching his dagger of Vision forehead.

The mind stone. He wants the mind stone. Bruce often talked to Aria about the Avengers and she knew that that glowing rock in Vision’s head had somehow its importance. It will kill him. I have to stop him. It was two years ago that Aria had last used her abilities. Now was the time.

She put the two fingers at her forehead and pronounced a few words.

‘’Stop and go back to where you are from,’’ she simply said to the man, who was dressed in green and black leather.

To her surprise, he did not get the usual hypnotized eyes her victims usually got from her mind control. He simply turned his head to see her and spoke.

‘’Trying to mind control me, mortal?’’ he said, then evilly laughed.

Aria had somehow distract him with her futile attempt, because Vision got out of his paralysis, hit the man, and flew through the doors lab while the man was still recovering.

My time to go too.

Aria ran to the exit, but the tall man grabbed her from behind with his blade at her neck and his other arm around her chest.

‘’Mind controller are not frequent these days, he said whispering in her ear, his voice dark. Why don’t you come with me hmm? A mind controller, an Avenger at my service, wouldn’t it be nice?’’

Aria, in panic, could not talk. She never learned self-defense or anything like that. She just struggled inefficiently while he seemed to have fun.

‘’Oh dear, I did not know avengers were that easy to kidnap, I would have done it earlier.’’

He thinks I am an avenger. Fuck.

She felt her head hitting something and everything came black.