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Hey, all! Sorry about the severe delay in getting this out. Thanks so much for the reviews, and here's the new one.
Bellaria's fleeing form sent another flash of rage spiraling through JJ. She rushed to her feet, trying to shake off the daze of having Nigel's body thrown on her. But before she could run after her nemesis, a blast of electric blue light soared directly in front of her. A sudden realization dawned on her about where it came from, and her head whirled around to find Stark standing with his arm outstretched toward her.
"Stark!" she cried. "What are you doing?"
But he didn't respond. Instead, he fired again, but she was given more warning when she saw the light building from the palm of his glove. She ducked out of the way. Bellaria had her hold on him, and there was no telling how long it would stick with him.
Frightful, JJ ducked behind a corner, breathing heavily. Sweat poured down the back of her neck, and she squinted down the dimly lit hallway. Behind her, she heard the sound of Stark's iron suit clanking slowly down the hall. She covered her mouth to muffle the sound of her frantic breathing. Bellaria she could handle in a fistfight, but there was no way she could go up against Tony Stark while he was dressed in the Iron Man suit.
He halted. JJ forced her breathing to calm, even as she could not stop the racing of her heart. After a few seconds of complete silence, she slid along the wall to get further away, ducking under a pipe to get further away from the possessed Stark. She turned another corner, hoping to backtrack around to the stairwell to escape. She needed to find a way to block Stark in until Bellaria's hold slipped away from him. There were still no sounds of him following her, causing JJ to speed up.
At a fork in the hallway, JJ peeked around the corner to the right. It was silent, nothing but the flickering of an overhead light giving any hint something might be off. Taking a deep breath, she turned to look to the left.
All the breath abandoned her lungs as a force slammed into her chest and knocked her backwards. Her body hit the wall at the end of the right fork of the hall. Pain ripped through her shoulder. Wave after wave of agony swept over her whole body at the wound in her shoulder reopening. She let out a cry and looked up to see Stark striding toward her. His motions were mechanic, evidencing the telepathic hold over him.
"Stark," she wheezed. He didn't stop. She used her arms to push herself upward, but her limbs were still weak and shaking. "Stark, it's me! Fight her. This isn't you. You don't want to kill me." Stark was silent as he stopped to stand above her. She looked up at him as he lifted his foot and put it on her chest. She felt powerless against the strength of just the leg of his iron suit.
Looking directly into the eyes of his suit, she hoped her gaze would pierce right through to the real Tony Stark and not Bellaria's puppet. "Tony, I know you can hear me," she said. "I know you're in there, and I know you don't want to do this. You won't hurt me." The pressure on her chest caused her eyes to run and those tears squeezed from the corners of them. "Please. You know me. You talked to Henry, my son. You saved my life!" She shook her head, it being the only thing she could move. "You're in there. Don't let her make you a murderer."
Those words stopped Stark in his tracks. It was as if the spell was broken. The mask of Ironman opened to reveal the face of Tony Stark. His eyes went wide, and instantly he removed his foot from her chest. He fell to his knees and lifted her into his arms.
Bellaria must have gotten far enough away that she lost her grip on him.
"Your stitches!" he said. He looked into her eyes, an apology that he couldn't verbalize shining back at her.
JJ shook her head. "I know," she said, accepting his apology. "We've got to talk to the others, though. We've got to find the others." She swallowed hard. "I know what Bellaria is going to do before she connects the Orb and the Key."
"Hill, did any of the jets take off?" Natasha asked, stepping over the body of a dead enali. All around her, agents regained their breath while checking the pulses of any who had fallen in the course of the battle. The attack had ceased, every enali dead or escaped. Bellaria must have called off the attack…or she was dead.
Natasha had serious doubts about the latter, but right now she needed to know what had become of the Key and if Dr. Reid had made it out with it.
Maria Hill wiped a splash of blood from her face, shaking her head. "No idea," she said, stumbling over the wing of one of the creatures' bodies towards a computer. "Why do you need to know?"
"Just look up the footage," Natasha snapped. "I need to know if any jets have left and if they have who took it."
Without looking up, Agent Hill typed furiously in an effort to find footage from just the past half hour. Her typing slowed and she bit her lip. "Shit," she said. "There's only one gone…Bellaria took it right before the enali ended the attack."
Growling in frustration, Natasha bolted from the room and out the door Dr. Reid would be. She ran past her fellow SHIELD agents in a blur. She didn't make it very far; Reid had come back toward the main deck. He hadn't gotten back into the room, having been stopped by an enali. He had killed it, but there was a slight gash on his back from the claw of an enali. Cursing in Russian, Natasha knelt beside the fallen Reid and placed her hand on his head.
"Doctor," she said, trying to revive him. "Dr. Reid, wake up."
Her gut sank. She knew it was only a matter of time before Bellaria connected the Key to the Orb. With one of SHIELD's jets the telepath could reach Washington DC in a matter of hours.
Reid mumbled something incoherent, but he raised his head up. His blurry eyes met hers. "She…she got it," he mumbled. "She got the Key. I was almost at the jets, but she found me and forced me to give it to her." Shaking his head with shame, he looked down. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Agent Romanoff."
"Enough apologies," Natasha said, assisting him to his feet. She looked at his shocked frame and gave him a shake. "You were under her control, so it wasn't your fault. She got away with the Key on one of the jets. She's probably disabled the tracking on it, but we know she's headed to Washington." She offered him her shoulder. "You're coming with me."
Leaning on her for support, Reid allowed Natasha to help him limp back to the main deck. She could feel the weight of his disappointment. The coming storm would call for Reid to be at complete attention. As they trudged along, she said, "We need you at your best, Dr. Reid. Can you be that for this?"
He was quiet for a moment as the door to the main deck hissed open. "I can tell you that I'm not distracted enough by having my mind hijacked that I'm going to be incapable of helping with the hunt for Bellaria," he said. "Is that what you're wondering?"
"Yes," Natasha said, helping him to sit at the round table. "That's exactly what I'm wondering." She looked around for the rest of their allies. They began to trickle in, each of them looking weary in their own way. When Captain America approached, Natasha crossed her arms over her chest.
"What is it?" he asked, rubbing his neck.
"It's the Key," she said. "Bellaria escaped with it, as well as a jet. She'll be in DC in a few hours. I'll have Agent Hill look into it, but it's likely the tracking was disabled and we won't be able to track her to her exact location."
Before Cap could respond in anyway, Agent Jareau and Stark approached. Jareau clutched her shoulder, trickles of blood seeping between her fingers as she held it. "I might be able to help with that," she said through gritted teeth.
"How?" Cap arched a brow. Natasha went to stand beside him, studying Jareau closely. Something personal was going on, that much was obvious.
"Before she ran off from us and possessed Stark, Bellaria told us she was going to take everything I hold dear," Jareau said with an anxious demeanor. "She's going to go after my son."