Shuri banged a hand down on her phone. "Shut up," she ordered groggily. "It's too early."
She buried her face in her pillows again, burrowing into the covers and letting her mind drift into sleep.
Bzzzzz. Bzzzzz. Bzzzzz.
Shuri groaned, rolled over, and felt around her nightstand for her phone. If it's Peter, I'm going to kill him.
It was Pepper. Shuri sat up. Pepper wouldn't call in the middle of the night unless something was wrong. She pressed the 'Answer' button and held it to her ear.
"Shuri!" Pepper's voice was frantic. "You need to come to New York City right now! I don't know what to do! There's a weird white portal thing in the living room and I'm scared to go near it in case I get sucked into an alternate dimension and all the Avengers are missing and I've called Tony eleven times and he won't answer and your brother is missing too and how fast can you hop a jet and get out here because I need some HELP!"
Shuri jumped out of bed and promptly tripped over a suitcase. "Owww!" She gave the suitcase a kick, realized that she needed it, and threw it on the bed.
"Shuri?" Pepper sounded concerned. "Are you OK?"
"Yes," Shuri answered. "I fell."
She started flinging clothes into the suitcase. "I can be there in three hours," she told Pepper. "Can you hold out till then?"
Pepper drew in her breath and let it out slowly. "Yeah, I'll call Jane. She's in town on business right now. But hurry!"
Shuri stared at her phone. T'Challa missing?
Her gut twisted. She hoped he wasn't hurt. She didn't know what she'd do without her brother.
Shuri shoved more clothes in her suitcase, taking a moment to twist her bead bracelet onto her wrist, just in case. She hoped she had stuffed in at least one complete outfit. Outfit! Shuri stared down at her nightgown. No way in heck she was walking into Avengers Tower in that.
She got up, found a short tunic dress and leggings, and slipped into the bathroom to change.Worry tickled the back of her mind. Is T'Challa all right?
Shuri quickly brushed her teeth and made sure her hair looked decent. She pushed various pieces of technology into her suitcase. Hey, I might need....synthetic lava...in New York City. She left that one out.
Jane grabbed her phone before it vibrated itself off the table. She picked it up and held it to her ear. "Hello, this is Jane Foster."
"Jane?" She recognized the voice of Pepper Potts. She sounded upset.
"Pepper? Are you OK?"
"Uh, not totally," Pepper replied. "There's a swirling white portal in the living room. And all the Avengers are missing."
"All of the Avengers? Even Thor and Captain America?"
"Yeah, they're just gone! Natasha, Sam, even Rhodey...and Tony."
Jane heard the worry in her friend's tone. "What exactly happened, and when?" she asked.
Pepper exhaled slowly. "I came to the Tower at about seven to talk some Stark Industries stuff over with Tony. We didn't get done till about nine, and he suggested that I just stay over. At about twelve, I heard a crash, and the whole building shook. And all of the Avengers were gone, and there was a glowy, white portal thing in the middle of the living room!" She sighed. "It ate my favorite shoes."
Jane did her best to process all this information. "Was there any sign of a struggle? A fight? Anything at all?"
"No," Pepper said. "It was like aliens abducted them or something. Like the ones from two years ago. Oh, yeah, that's another thing. Thor brought his brother over, the one who tried to invade New York City, and now he's missing, too!"
Jane raised her eyebrows. "Really? So...how come you're not missing?"
"I don't know!" Pepper sounded close to tears. "This portal thing is sending out sparks, and I called Shuri, but she can't get here for three hours, and I told Happy to go back to the mansion, and- and I'm here by myself, and I'm getting really scared!"
Jane stood up and went to the counter, grabbing her car keys. "Should I come over?"
"Oh, no, you don't have to do that!" Pepper said quickly. She sucked in a shaky breath. "Yeah."
"OK, give me twenty minutes," Jane said. She shifted the phone to her other shoulder. "Oh, and Darcy's here too. Girl's night. Can she tag along?"
"Sure," Pepper replied. "Hurry, Jane." She hung up.
Jane stared at the phone, trying to make sense of the whole thing.
"What happened?" Darcy asked, yawning.
"We gotta go to Avengers Tower," Jane said.
Darcy's eyes widened. "Really? Cool!"
"Not quite as cool as you think," Pepper replied. She quickly filled Darcy in.
"Whoa, so all the Avengers are just...poof...gone? Like in Star Trek? They got beamed up?" Darcy seemed a bit over-excited about the world's most powerful team vanishing. She followed Jane out of the hotel room, sliding into the passenger seat of Jane's car.
"Pepper doesn't know," Jane said. "But we need to get over there before she freaks out any more." She put the keys in the ignition and buckled her seatbelt.
"Wait!" Darcy yelped. She leapt from her seat and dashed into the building, coming back a few minutes later.
"What's that?" Jane asked curiously, noticing something shiny in Darcy's hand.
Darcy opened her fist to reveal her taser. "Just in case any Klingons show up."
Pepper stared at the phone in her hand. Please hurry, Jane.
She curled up on one of the bar stools, nervously watching the slowly spinning portal in the middle of the living room. It had begun throwing out sparks about ten minutes ago, although nothing had caught fire.
Snap. Crackle. Pop.
"Shut up!" Pepper told the portal. "You sound like a bowl of Rice Krispies." Frustration was slowly replacing her fear.
The portal grumpily tossed a couple sparks onto the rug, but it quieted down.
"JARVIS?" Pepper asked the ceiling. The AI was silent. Pepper sighed, pulling her feet up onto the stool. Not even JARVIS? What happened? She wanted to know why the portal was in the living room of Avengers Tower, and how to get it out. She wanted Jane or Darcy to come over. She wanted JARVIS to come back online. She wanted...she wanted...
I want Tony.
She would never have admitted it to the cocky billionaire, but she felt safer when he was around. His Iron Man alter-ego annoyed her sometimes, but it also protected her. Despite his many faults, Tony would go the ends of the earth and beyond for her, and she knew it.
So where are you?
A knock sounded at the door. Pepper leaped up, racing over to it and throwing it open.
Jane Foster stood there, Darcy craning her neck to look over the scientist's shoulder. Jane had a briefcase of who-knew-what in one hand and a smile on her face.
"Hey, Pepper. Any updates?"
"It's sparking a little, but nothing's on fire," Pepper replied. "Come on in." Jane's calm, easy demeanor relieved Pepper immediately.
Darcy pushed past Jane, looking around in awe. "I'm actually in Avengers Tower!" she squealed. "This is awesome!"
Loud sizzling suddenly broke out. Darcy yelped and jumped away from the portal.
"W-what's going on?" she asked, her voice quivering slightly.
Jane set her briefcase down on the bar and opened it. "Trying to figure that out, Darcy," she said. "Boy, I wish Erik were here."
A crackling voice made all three women jump. "Hello, Miss Potts."
"JARVIS!" Pepper exclaimed happily. "You're back!"
"My systems are now fully functional."
"That's a relief."
"I see Miss Lewis and Miss Foster are with you."
"Yes, they're trying to help me figure out what the heck happened here. Do you have a recording or something?"
"I am afraid that my systems do not show any recordings past two hours ago. My recording feature has somehow been stopped for that period of time."
Pepper slumped against the counter. "Rats. That means we've got no way to figure out who might have done this and how."
"Pardon me, Miss Potts," JARVIS interrupted, "but someone is at the door."
"Shuri!" Jane and Pepper said together.
"Who's Shuri?" Darcy asked.
"Princess of Wakanda," Jane replied as Pepper answered the door.
Darcy blinked. "Wait, what?"
"Hi, Jane!" Shuri's heavily accented voice rang out. The young princess wrapped Jane in a hug.
"You said three hours, Shuri," Pepper teased. "It's only been an hour and forty-five minutes."
Shuri shrugged. "So, I nearly halved the time. Just proves how good my technology is. The jet flew itself."
Darcy's mouth fell open.
"Who is this?" Shuri asked, smiling at her.
"Oh, this is Darcy," Jane said, leading the girl toward Shuri. "She's my...friend? Assistant? Intern? All three?"
Shuri laughed and gave Darcy a hug. "Nice to meet you, Darcy," she said.
"Uh, you too, Princess Shuri," Darcy answered uncertainly.
"Just Shuri is fine," Shuri told her, flashing her teeth in a wide grin. "I'm not into the whole "princess" thing. I leave that to T'Challa."
She dropped her suitcase down next to the door. "So, weird portal thi- holy cow." The princess stared at the swirling, snapping white portal, muttering something in another language.
"Yeah," Pepper said. "Apparently it can throw sparks and suck small objects into it, because my Converse All-Stars are in some other dimension now."
Shuri frowned. "I can try to work something out, but I'm better with technology than weird, magic...whatever that is."
"That's why I'm here," Jane explained. "I'll figure out what I can about this thing- if it even is magical."
JARVIS crackled to life above them. "Miss Potts, my reading mechanisms were damaged during whatever event caused the portal you all have been discussing. However, my systems have repaired somewhat, and I am reading that Mr. Stark is on the fifth floor, in the lounge."
Pepper jumped up. "Tony's OK?" She made a beeline for the door, the others trailing after her.