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Why Men Will Never Conquer the World

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“When you think about it, Loki's plan was flawed from the beginning,” May said. Anyone else would have needed a lot more liquor in them to touch that subject in a room full of people who'd lived and fought through it, but Melinda May was the Cavalry, and she didn't fear much except herself. She could hold her own against Romanoff and Hill, and even a post-extremis Pepper Potts didn't intimidate her.

“Flawed?” Maria asked, going for a refill as she tried to decide how to navigate this minefield. It could go any of a number of ways, and Potts probably wanted the subject changed, but if May and Romanoff could handle it, anyone could.

“Explain,” Romanoff ordered, her own drink untouched.

“He was a man,” May answered with a slight smile. Few years back, that smile would have been wider than her face and she'd have been rolling with laughter at her own joke, but that was May before Bahrain.

Potts choked on her wine, though.

“I like it,” Romanoff agreed. “More information though because you know none of those boys will believe it.”

“Babies,” May snorted, sitting down with the bottle she'd claimed from Stark's stash. “In addition to thinking with the wrong part of their anatomy a good ninety percent of the time, even gods, apparently, they all seem to have the same giant flaw in their plan.”

“Loki had an army of aliens he thought we couldn't hope to fight.”

“Loki was expecting to win by brute force alone,” May said, shaking her head in disgust. “It's a poor strategy.”

“Effective at times. In the end, it was a numbers game that won the Civil War,” Maria said, not mentioning that May had used plenty of force in Bahrain. “Grant had more men, so he could afford more losses.”

“It helped that the south lacked production facilities and had an agricultural based economy instead of an industrial one,” Pepper said, apparently feeling bold enough to join the conversation.

“Yes, but we work for S.H.I.E.L.D. We're spies. What is the one thing a spy knows best?”

“The same thing every woman knows,” Romanoff said with a smile. “That the real power is always behind the scenes. Which you know, Pepper, since you ran Stark's company in all but name for years and you know, Maria, because you've been Fury's second for almost as long.”

“Exactly,” May said. “The way to conquer the world is not by trying to be the dictator that claims it all for himself—”

“It's by being the woman who manipulated the dictator into doing all the work for her and stands ready to step in when he is inevitably assassinated,” Maria finished with a smile of her own.

“Well, then,” Pepper said, lifting her glass. “Here's to world domination.”