Peter sat in the back of the bumpy shuttle speeding along the highway among five other tired, international students and the chipper study abroad agent, watching T'Challa flirt with a blonde bombshell as he left the pickup loop. He wished he would be a third as cool as the king was, at some point. Maybe some of it came with the title? "Alright, alright," the agent said, using his phone's flashlight to read a list of names from a clipboard. "Sorry to keep you awake, but I have to make sure you're all here." His thick, Scottish accent was enough to rouse most of the group. "Oxford's not very close to London, wouldn't want anyone taking that hour-long ride without a charming boy from Edinburgh to show them the way," he chuckled, hearing a disappointing silence. He cleared his throat. "Priyabarta?"
"Here," an Indian man said, falling asleep again.
"Hello," he received in response.
"Sleeping," Akol said, garnering a weak laugh among the group.
He received no response this time.
Peter felt a head slowly fall onto his shoulder. He turned to it, shaking the shoulder of the slim South Korean woman with long, wavy brown hair and fair skin awake. "Oh!" she exclaimed, sitting straight up in her middle seat and glancing over at Peter who avoided eye contact as well. "Sorry!"
"No worries," the agent said, thinking she was talking to him. "Peter?"
"Here," Peter said, sounding the least tired out of all of them.
The agent chuckled. "You're the only guy here who isn't treating this dropoff like the drunk ferry."
"I could only get a later flight in the afternoon," Peter said, "I guess with the time difference, four in the morning isn't four in the morning."
"I mean, it still is," Hana said with a yawn, opening her bright, intelligent brown eyes, "it's just that most of us had two flights- where are you from?"
"Queens, New York," Peter said, smiling with pride of his home. "You?"
"Seoul," she said, "what other small talk is there- what's your major? I'm mech-E."
"Bio-E," he said, hearing her yawn. "Sorry, do I bore you?" he said with a chuckle.
"Yeah, you do," Hana said nonchalantly, leaning her head back and closing her eyes. "See you in class I guess-" She jutted forward, throwing her arms out to stop her head from hitting the seat in front of her. "Ige Mwoya!" she exclaimed.
"Peter, this is your stop," the guide said, stopping in front of a brown apartment building with a slanted roof and revolving door. Every apartment had its own balcony, unlike his back home. " The bus station is ten minutes away, it should take you about fifty minutes to get from your host family's flat to campus."
Peter shuffled over Hana and another student, hopping out of the bus with the student guide who helped pull his bags from the back. "Thanks, I'm really excited to get started."
"That's the spirit," the guide said, punching his arm. "Commencement and the campus tour will begin at eleven in the Thorn building."
"I'll be there," Peter said, closing the back and shaking the guide's hand as he returned to the shuttle.
"Cheers," the guide said, closing the shuttle and leaving Peter alone in front of the revolving door.
Peter yawned and pulled out his phone as he approached the thick glass door, although revolving it was stuck in place with a keypad on the wall next to it. He scrolled through text messages, stopping on the name "Lena" and entering the four number code in the keypad. It beeped green and revolving door started turning again. "Interesting," he said, walking into the lobby. It was pretty decent, with a welcome and security desk along one wall, a couple decorative plants and trees in the corner, a coffee machine and station in between the two elevators toward the back, and finally a few portraits on the wall of monarchs and other nobles. He walked into one of the elevators, taking it up to the sixth floor. He stepped into the center of a hall, seeing four closed doors spaced out along the wall, two doors on either side. He checked his phone again, walking up to the door labeled "604" and giving it a knock.
No answer. He checked his phone again, making sure he was at the right place.
"Maybe she's sleeping," he said, wincing as he hit the call button. The phone rang a couple times before anyone picked up.
"Hello?" a woman's English accent said over the phone. "Peter?"
"Hi, Miss Oxton?" Peter said, hearing the sound of a bus honking in the background. "Sorry if I woke you, but I'm here."
There was an awkward silence for a moment. "Bollocks," he heard her say under her breath, "I'll be there soon!" she assured him cheerily. "I'm about to turn the corner into the lot, so just sit tight, cheers!"
She hung up on him, leaving him alone once again. He walked over to the window, seeing the clouds over a castle that looked tiny from his distance. "Help!" an old man cried out from below.
"Help, someone!" Peter curiously opened the window and looked over the side, seeing three, lanky men in black hoods pushing around an older gentleman in a suit by the trashcans next to the parking lot.
"Just give it, bruv," one of the muggers said, "or I'll have to gut you like a fish, don't make me do that to you, geezer."
Peter sighed, setting his bags down and crouching on the windowsill. He put up his hood and calmly jumped, landing six stories later on the asphalt without a sound. He quietly crept behind the three muggers, pinching the hood of the closest man and whipping him with amazing strength into the trash cans. "Hey guys, sorry I'm late- I can still fit you into my four o'clock 'beat up a bunch of scrubs' timeslot, how's your schedule looking?"
"Oi! Who the fuck are you, mate?" one mugger said, brandishing a knife. "Let us go about our business and you won't stain that white shirt you're wearing."
Peter continued slowly walking forward, opening his hands. "You'd think that if I wanted you to know who I am, I wouldn't be wearing the hood."
"Don't get cheeky with me, bruv," the other mugger said, pulling out a switchblade. "I'll fuck you up, I'm from Liverpool!"
"Oh really?" Peter said, dodging a slash and punching him in the chest. The switchblade dropped and the man joined his friend, rattling the cans like steel drums. "I'm from New York," he said, catching a knife thrust from the last thug and twisting his arm to throw him over his shoulder. "Next time, just stay in, it's too early to be roaming around," he said, helping the well-dressed old man with a shoe print on his chest, "order a pizza, maybe watch some Netflix-" He flinched with the bright headlights that cast him in the lights head on.
"Hey! Leave Cromwell alone, you pleb!" Lena's voice shouted from the car. The front door opened and closed, giving Peter just enough time to duck a punch.
"Wait! Miss Oxton!" Peter said, backpedaling before another strike from the light flew his way. "It's me, Peter!"
The fists stopped flying and Lena stepped forward. She was a short, spunky British woman with short, brown hair that spiked unintentionally on the top of her head and ended in one long bang that swept to one side next to her eye. Her bright, green eyes stared at him quizzically and she folded her arms. "You got down here pretty fast for someone who sounded like they were inside the building."
"I was in the lobby after I hung up, I figured it would look weird if you came back and some stranger was sitting by your door," Peter said, "I heard him calling out for help."
She looked at the three young men sprawled out on the ground unconscious. "Well you certainly responded just in time," she said. She smiled warmly at him, extending her hand. "And call me Lena." Peter met it in a firm handshake. "Do you usually crush the hands of the people you meet?"
"I see the following hospital visit as a chance to bond," he said, following her back inside after she parked her car. They went up the elevator, allowing him to see more of her in the light. She was light-skinned with faint freckles on her cheekbones and across the bridge of her nose, thin eyebrows, pouty lips, and an athletic figure in blue jeans, brown snow boots, and a brown leather and sheepskin air force jacket with a thick, white collar of short and curly wool.
The elevator opened and Peter grabbed his stuff again, closing the window while Lena put her keys in the door. "Sorry for not being here," she said, opening the door, "I was picking up a friend from the airport and she spent ages flirting with this guy- albeit cute it was very inconsiderate." She yawned. "How long was the flight?"
"About six, seven hours," Peter said with a yawn, "see, you're making me do it."
"Well good," Lena said with a chuckle, letting him into her roomy but cluttered apartment. "You're my first host child, the least I can do is make sure you're sleeping every night." They stepped right into the living room with a hardwood floor fit with a flat screen up on the wall and a curling brown leather sofa by the window and balcony. On the other side of the wall was the kitchen, it was cozy, not too small but smaller than average, with boxes of cereal left out on the counter. A small, round table sat by the kitchen window with a white tablecloth and three wooden chairs with cushions on them, but what caught Peter's eye in the room was the presence of multiple mysterious artifacts hung up on the wall.
"You're an archaeologist?" Peter asked, following her past the living room and into a short hallway.
"I'm a semester away from getting my PhD," she said, "until then, I'm a 'compensated adventurer.'"
"Got it," Peter laughed, walking past the sizable bathroom with white tiles and a square tub to the two bedrooms across from each other.
She led him into a cluttered room with a loft bed with a sleek metal desk under it with a desktop computer with "StarkTech" on the side of it. There was a window at the footboard and a small closet on the other side, but it would be more than enough room for what he needed. "This is your room, sorry for the mess," she chuckled, picking up a bright pink tee shirt and tossing it out, "ex and I had a spat before she up and left- I won that argument. Just put any of her stuff in the way in the closet and don't worry, sheets are clean."
"It's no problem, thank you for the room," Peter said, "I hope you and her come to an understanding."
"Me too," she said with a slight scowl, "I hope you're okay with the loft, loo's down the hall, I left some Hobnobs for you if you wanted a snack after the flight."
"Oh, I think I'm going to go right to bed," Peter said, putting his bag and suitcase down. "I have an early day tomorrow."
"It is tomorrow," Lena said.
"Well to me it feels like yesterday," Peter said.
"Time zones, clever," Lena chuckled, "well, don't forget to go to the bank before you leave tomorrow, you'll want to exchange your dollars to quid."
Lena rolled her eyes. "Sorry, you American, it's pound sterling."
Peter laughed. "I've been here for two hours, I'll pick it up."
Lena smirked, giving him the thumb up. "Stick with me, you'll be a certified bloke in no time." Her watch glowed yellow and grey, her demeanor doing a 180 to collected and serious as she read the device. She smiled at him once more. "I have to run, but I'll be back soon." She darted out of the room, slamming the front door shut and lock. "Don't light anything on fire, yeah?"
"I'll only burn my own things," Peter assured her, watching her vanish again and hearing the front door slam shut. He looked at the digital clock on the desk, reading four o'clock AM on the dot. It was a strange time to run out on an errand. He hoped everything would be alright. His content, tired smile was slapped away with the realization that shook him awake. "How did she get back inside?"
T'Challa looked at his beads, tapping one and displaying a holographic clock reading "11:02 AM." He stepped out of the black SUV, crunching some of the snow on the asphalt with a white dress shoe. His entire outfit was shining white, save a bright red pocket handkerchief. He looked up at the tall research facility, the walls made out of tinted glass and steel rods in between each pane. He waited at the front doors situated under an overhang held up by white steel pillars. There were no door handles, simply a keycard access port. "Tony," he said into his beads, pulling up his hologram, "I'm here."
Tony checked his watch. "You're late."
T'Challa smirked. "You would have forgotten I was here."
"That's besides the point," Tony said, turning away from the king. "One sec."
Two red eyes opened just behind the glass and a seven foot tall sentry made of glimmering gray and black steel opened the doors. "Your Highness," an older, English gentleman's voice said kindly.
"Good morning, Jarvis," T'Challa said, walking into a calm, open lobby with no welcome desk, only other robots like Jarvis floating around on rockets to the sound of Frank Sinatra softly singing "Fly Me to the Moon" over the speakers. They walked to the back wall, instead of elevators there were soft mesh pads that employees in suits and lab coats backed into and disappeared, completely enveloped by the mesh.
"Master Tony has requested I bring you to him myself," Jarvis said. His chestplate, legs, and helmet all split in half, electronics unfolding and flattening to make room.
T'Challa chuckled. "He thinks he can show off," he said, stepping into Jarvis and wearing him like a snug suit of armor, "to me?" A blue camera feed appeared in front of his face and he stepped forward, staring straight up into level upon level of research and business. He pressed down with his feet and felt the burst of rocket fuel propel him upward. He kept climbing, gathering the attention of a few visiting businessmen walking down a corridor toward their next meeting. He reached the top floor, hopping over the railing and landing in front of a sliding steel door.
"You know him," Jarvis said exhaustedly, "personally, I believe he's still getting over what happened in New York a year and a half ago. The newfound publicity has him acting like a 16 year old with his first car."
"I love it when my friends talk behind my back," Tony's voice said inside the suit.
"You know we only jest," T'Challa said warmly, feeling the suit latch from him and fold off, allowing him to easily step out of the boots.
"I don't, sir," Jarvis said, reforming his humanoid shape and taking off. The sliding door opened, revealing a wide, open floor in the center of the room where two muscle bound men wearing white fired hundreds of gatling rounds at a wide, thin, and flat slab of a greyish blue metal that did not dent in the slightest. One of them was a tall, fair skinned man with very short, straight blonde hair, brown eyes, and a soldier's physique. The man next to him was short and fair-skinned, hairy with spiky black hair that faded into a mullet. He had sharp, brown eyes and a thick jawline stuck in a grimace that, combined with his muscular build, he was one man one did not talk to. The taller man stopped firing for a moment, pulling off multiple health and force monitoring systems to greet the guest.
"Well I'll be damned, some of us thought you'd never come out of Wakanda," he said with a grin, heartily shaking the king's hand.
"Good to see you too, Clint," T'Challa said.
"I'm glad you did come out, eventually," the other trial tester said, his stern face showing a respect for the king that was returned with a similar gaze. "Never got to thank you for defending the mansion during-" He turned his glance to the tall, curvy and slim Indian woman in a lab coat, walking toward them in a huff. "-you know."
"Of course, Logan," he said, "but feel no need. I was just doing my duty."
"Hello, can I help you?" she said with an impatient cordialness and a light accent, standing in his bubble and looking up at the royal. She had long, straight black hair tied up in a bun, bright hazel eyes, pronounced cheekbones, and the attitude and demeanor of a CEO just in her stance. "This is a closed laboratory, and we do not allow tours to anyone unless we plan on presenting our projects to a very limited list of people."
"I was invited here by Tony," he said kindly, "I'm Luke Charles."
She looked him up and down. "You act like that explains why I should let you in."
"That vibranium-infused hard-light concave reflector Clint and Logan 2000 dollars in ammunition on was created by three people," he said.
"Yes, me, Tony Stark, and a Wakandan physicist."
T'Challa smiled. "Then if you would allow me, Miss Satya Vaswani," he said, "I would like to see the progress of our projects."
Satya tried to hide her blush with a laugh. "I'm so sorry, I didn't recognize you! Come with me."
"The last time we spoke was over the phone, no worries," he said, feeling his beads vibrate. "Tony?"
His hologram showed up, this time his glasses were a bit crooked. "Sorry, I was just unconscious, please tell me Jarvis let you in?"
"That he did."
"Great, great, come upstairs."'
"I'm excited to see what you've done."
"It's cooler in person, just come up."
Tony hung up, allowing the king to feast his eyes upon the scientific juggernaut Stark Industries presented here. "You've seen, and built, what I discovered five minutes ago, the latest innovation in safety soon to be in the hands of every city developer everywhere, but this is only on the first floor."
"We have already received that much interest?" T'Challa said, pleasantly surprised.
"As the CEO of Vishkar Corporation, I have to thank the Avengers for that," she said, "could you imagine a room, a building, of which the likes of an angry frost giant from outer space could not destroy? It would be like living in a room full of Avengers, and no one would know."
"I guess we have our job cut out for us," he chuckled.
"The first level is our ballistic testing site," she said, taking him up a set of stairs to set of laboratory doors. "Here, we test our alloy's radioactive properties and its impact on the environment, with Doctor Banner and Doctor Zhou agreeing to study it." They walked into another lab room, except each station was fit with a six foot tall, cylindrical metal chamber. A tall, averagely lean man with neat, brown hair, tan skin, and brown hair stood hunched over a glowing green piece of the alloy seen downstairs next to a short, curvy Chinese woman with brown eyes and medium-length brown hair in a bun held by a red hair pin. She pushed her thick rimmed glasses up to her face, continuing her diligent work with the metal while both of them were under layers of clear anti-radiation suits, while Doctor Banner gave a knowing smile to T'Challa.
T'Challa's expression hardened. He and Banner held their mutual stare for a moment, with Banner's eyes flickering green. The king nodded and followed her up another flight, this time the smell of burnt metal greeting them as soon as they approached a set of heavy, gray double doors. "This is lead… do we need to wear any protective gear?"
"Actually, anything radioactive is occuring downstairs, and every staircase has a built in radiation shield. The doors are for ballistics."
Satya swiped her keycard and the doors opened with a wide rush of cold air into a engineer's dreamland workshop that was forty feet high on its own.
"Tony, Luke is here!" Satya called up. T'Challa looked toward the ceiling, seeing a well-dressed man of average height scaling the side of the workshop wall in steel boots and gloves that radiated a bright light from the palms and heels. "How are the hard-light grafters working?"
Tony ran onto the ceiling and aimed his palms down, shooting soft beams of light that acted as a cushion as he fell from the air. He landed on his feet and took off the gloves, smiling at his friends and associate. "Stand back," he said with a cool, cocky voice, whipping around and projecting a light shield around them. Turrets sprouted from the white walls and let out a torrent of automatic fire, none of which dented the shield. "Meet Disaster-Blaster," Tony said.
"We're not calling it that," Satya said with a chuckle of disbelief.
"Vishkar's alternating concave-convex photon layering combined with Wakanda's standard vibranium anti-collapse blocking in Stark Industry's propulsion cannons have created the ultimate insurance against disasters, natural and supernatural, worldwide- cover your ears."
T'Challa and Satya did so quickly, as an RPG that flew through the wall did nothing against the shield except make a large boom. Tony let the shield drop and turned around, opening his arms.
"Impressive, right? The three of us should do this more often."
"Well, it's not every day a self-proclaimed god and his army come down from the sky and the Hulk treats New York like a sandbox," Satya said, "I just wish we could have thought about it a year before rather than a year after it happened."
"And tomorrow marks the day," Tony said, his cocky grin turning into one more of hope, "so let's put all our energy into perfecting what we do here, at this rate we can get these into every disaster response team worldwide in a matter of weeks. Sooner or later, everyone will be an Iron Man in their own right."
"So then I can be Iron Woman?" she said with a smirk.
T'Challa chuckled. "That sounds like a conversation for a later time."
"Agreed, and the radiation testing was a nice touch," Satya said, "but I didn't expect even you two to have contact with Doctor Banner on such a short notice, he hasn't been seen for months."
Tony folded his arms, tapping his sides. "Neither has Doctor Zhou."
By the look in her eyes, T'Challa could sense there was more than meets the eye for her, and presumably the scientist working with Doctor Banner. "You said you had a couple more projects you wanted to test out."
"Well, yes," she said, eyeing Tony one more time before turning to T'Challa, "but it seems like Tony spoiled them already."
"That's not true," Tony said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a long pen. "Remember this?"
T'Challa laughed, taking it into his hand. "The Turf-Pen! I thought you said you weren't going forward with this- you two reconsidered?"
"After our last draft," Satya said, "we took your suggestion of putting the vibranium salts in hard-light packets. It did not change the growth of plants in drought-affected communities after all."
"No one can farm vibranium after that," Tony said, "why don't we go out back, try it out?"
"I'll be in the courtyard," Satya said.
"Don't you need a coat?" T'Challa asked.
She knocked on her arm, watching the hard-light ripple under her knuckles.
"Now you're just showing off," Tony said, making her laugh as she walked away. The men stopped chuckling and looked at each other with the same grave expression.
"She's onto you," T'Challa whispered.
"Tell me about it," Tony said quietly, walking over to a rack with other prototypes of the hard-light rocket boots. "Ever since I came out as Iron Man she's thought everyone in my friend circle is some kind of superhero."
T'Challa thought about that for a moment. "Aren't they?"
"What are we hush-hush about, just tell me."
"Bruce is here," T'Challa said under his breath, walking toward the exit. "Then Natasha is too."
"Keep your voice down, she's probably waiting around the corner," he whispered, "everyone's here."
T'Challa's eyes widened. "Everyone?"
"Meet me right after your press conference, I sent the location to you and the kid."
"What is going on? If it's about Akande, there's no reason to drag the team into this."
"Are you two coming?" Satya asked from just outside the doors.
"I'll tell you there," Tony said, walking toward the door, "but it's a decision I believe everyone needs to vote upon."
"Tony," T'Challa said out loud, stopping Tony just as his door was on the handle. "What are you doing?"
Tony looked back. "I promised I'd never let Earth feel as helpless as it was that day," he said, "and I need you to help me. It's why you, all of us, are here."
WHAT IS TONY HIDING FROM T'CHALLA? WAS PETER'S MIND PLAYING TRICKS ON HIM? PAIRING SUGGESTIONS/HOPES? QUESTIONS? COMMENTS? REVIEW/PM!
NEW AVENGERS THAT APPEARED: HULK, WOLVERINE, HAWKEYE
NEW OVERWATCH MEMBERS THAT APPEARED: TRACER, SYMMETRA, MEI