04.0 Avengers Assemble

Stark stood gazing out the window at the head of a long conference table in the most secure room in the Avengers headquarters. Already at the table were Clint “Hawkeye” Barton the archer, Steve “Captain America” Rogers, and Natasha “Black Widow” Romanov. Hawkeye was lounging back in his chair, balancing his water glass with the tip of his finger on the smooth surface of the table. Natasha sat with arms crossed, impatiently tapping her toe. Steve was pouring over a tablet.

“How do I go back again to what I was just looking at?” Steve asked, waving his hands about in exasperation.

“You touch the bottom, right corner of the frame,” Hawkeye said with the patience of a good father of small children.

“I’m sorry, Barton, for my impatience,” Steve said wearily, “it’s still taking me a while to catch up to all these technological advancements.”

Hawkeye said nothing and simply nodded his acknowledgement.

“It’s a quarter past already!” Natasha burst out all of the sudden. “It’s just like them to be late!” and she rolled her eyes.

“Well,” Hawkeye responded, “it’s not like either of them are too pleased to be summoned, I am sure.”

At that moment, the door slid open and Nick Fury of S.H.E.I.L.D. entered followed by Bruce Banner and Thor.

“Excellent!” cried Stark, turning around abruptly. “Grab a seat, gentlemen, and we will begin.”

Stark got right to the point. “We have learned of a new potential threat, and we need to decide on a strategy.” He then recounted to them the message that Captain Gracholm had given and the research Jarvis had produced.

“As I see it, the threat – if she is real – is that we do not know where this creature is – she could be anywhere – and we do not know what she wants. Historically, she has been troublesome.”

“Indeed!” cried Thor. “Calypso proved to be a very great adversary to my father when he fought on behalf of your forbearers.”

“So, to ensure our identities to each other, we learn security challenges and passwords,” suggested Banner.

“That’s a good idea,” said Fury, “that is a common tactic in cyber security.”

“Except,” Natasha said hesitantly, “a mind can be read – truth drugs. ”

“Passwords can be hacked,” Hawkeye added.

“Well,” said Stark, “aside from DNA tests – which may not even work depending on how powerful her ‘magic’ – how are we to know if we have encountered this woman posing as one of us?”

They were all silent for a moment.

Finally, Thor said, “What we need is someone who is skilled in the art of ‘magic’ detection. I have some proficiency in it – my brother was skilled in illusion magic and I learned to recognize when he was employing it – but my skills are meager at best.”

“Well,” said Natasha, “that is better than nothing.”

Steve, who had said nothing during the discussion, but continued to frown over the tablet, finally looked up and said, “I think I may have the answer. Stark, can you do that magic thing where you put what’s on this screen up there on that screen?” he said, pointing at the screen on the wall behind Stark. They all chuckled, and Stark obliged.

“Lucinda Gonzalez,” Steve said, pointing at the profile on the screen. In a database record were stats listed, including name, age, language, country of origin, etc.

“She is one of our promising recruits at the Avengers Academy. She is from Venezuela in South America. Her father is Spanish and her mother is a native. Her ability is what she refers to as ‘discernment of spirits’ and comes from her experience among the native people of the Amazon. She was discovered recently and is here now for an assessment.”

“Excellent!” said Natasha, and the others were also optimistic.

“Can we interview her now?” asked Fury.

Steve then called down to the student formations bay and inquired about Lucinda. In moments, they were all walking together to the bay, some more hopeful than others.

They filed into the formations bay behind Steve and the officer on duty. The recruits inside who noticed them immediately rose and stood at attention. Thor was one of the last to enter, and as he was about to set foot in the room, he hesitated. Emanating from the room was a sound he had not heard in a very long time. A harp was being played, and the song was an ancient Asgardian melody of a voyager longing for the hallowed halls of home. When Thor entered, he saw that the music came from a large, peculiar, flat instrument, as large as a small man. Seated before it on a bench, a woman was operating it by deftly touching a row of white and black keys. The woman was clearly tall, and had long, wavy black hair that cascaded down her back. Her agile hands passed over the keys with skill and the music had such depth of feeling that Thor was motionless with emotion. For a moment he was transfixed, enveloped in memories of war campaigns from many years past.

The officer on duty was explaining to Fury how the Academy had found that creative expression proved a great aid, perhaps even an enhancement, to the powers of the recruits. Having a piano available was just one of the methods used.

The team gathered about behind the woman at the piano, and all were moved by the sound such that no one spoke or even thought of interrupting her.

When the last notes of the song faded, the officer cleared his throat and addressed her. “Lucinda, I would like to introduce you to some important persons.”

The woman turned gracefully, and exclaimed with a slight blush, “Indeed!” She was full of wonder at the assortment of impressive people that were gathered about. “I am Lucinda Gonzalez,” and she bowed and waved her hand graciously. She was tall, slender, and attired in a dark brown coat/dress with a high collar that clasped down the front, but opened again below the waist, with dark leather boots and trousers underneath. Forrest green braid trimmed the dress, and gold buttons shone on the cuffs and shoulder epaulets. Her face had strong features, dark eyes, and her dark hair contrasted sharply with her pale skin. Clasped around her neck was a most unusual red nautilus pendant.

The officer introduced each of the Avengers team, and she bowed to each in turn.

“A word with you, in private, Miss,” said Steve.

“Certainly, Captain,” and she looked about at all the serious faces.

Inside a private conference room, Stark took over leading the interview. Everyone gathered around the table, some sitting and others preferring to stand or pace. Stark sat at the head of the table and Lucinda was seated at the other end.

Stark began by saying, “Miss Gonzalez, we have a critical mission, and we need to know the extent of your powers of what you call ‘discernment of spirits’ and exactly what that means.”

She nodded attentively.

He continued, “What have they told you about the people in this room?”

“Only that you are a team that defends our world against aliens?” and she said it with a little hesitation, realizing how strange that sounded.

“Sort of,” Stark answered, and then continued, “and, what do you know about each of these people?”

She looked about at the faces and said, “I am afraid I am not familiar with many of you, I am sorry! I know you, Captain, are commander of this Academy. And Mister Banner there is the one they call ‘The Hulk’,” she said with a smile, “we have heard of you in Venezuela!” Banner smiled weakly.

“Excellent!” cried Stark, rubbing his hands together. Lucinda seemed surprised at this reaction.

“In that case, can you identify for us which of the people here possess skills in ‘magic’ or draw upon ‘magical’ powers, if you will?”

“What do you mean by ‘magical’, Mister Stark?”

Here Stark struggled for words, “anything science cannot currently explain, or talents that seem to be supernatural.”

“I think I understand,” Lucinda said, and began looking intently at the faces of the individuals gathered about the table.

“Take your time, if necessary,” said Stark, sitting back in his chair. All eyes were on the young woman with the dark hair.

“Well,” she said hesitantly, after some moments, “that man there, Thor, I believe you said his name was, carries an item with peculiar energies.” The team looked at each other, but none of them showed any reaction except shifting in their seats. “And Mister Hulk draws on some sort of rage magic for his powers.” After a pause, and looking askance at Steve, she said, “Captain, you have drunk from the fountains of youth, evaded death, and possess remarkable healing magic.” The team was glancing at one another with growing satisfaction. “And, lastly, Mister Stark, you, yourself, use magic. You may not think of it that way, but you have wielded the power of technology to great achievements,” she said with a confident smile. “As for the rest of you, I sense you are simply very skilled in natural talents.”

“Wonderful!” Stark exclaimed, and Hawkeye and Fury clapped for Lucinda. Natasha nodded and smiled her approval. Steve nodded with satisfaction. Thor, standing in the back, only smirked.

“Welcome to the team, Miss Gonzalez,” Stark said. He then explained the threat that had arisen and why her powers were so vital.

“Indeed, Mister Stark! I am familiar with the goddess of the sea. She is well known among the Caribbean Islands.”

After a bit of discussion of what was known of Calypso, Stark announced, “So now we have eliminated one problem – identifying Calypso in whatever form she appears. Now, we must prepare a strategy for when she attacks.”

“Attacks?” Natasha said. “We don’t even know if she is going to attack. We have no idea what she might want.”

“A mysterious, historically-dangerous sea creature has arisen,” Stark responded sharply, “it only makes sense to arm ourselves and be ready when she strikes.”

“Of course, Stark,” said Steve sarcastically, “because the only response you can find is one that involves more weapons sales for Stark Enterprises.”

Before Stark could speak, Fury interjected, “It would be wise to arm ourselves, Captain. Hope for the best, plan for the worst, they say.”

“And what is the best we can hope for?” Natasha asked.

“A truce,” Banner spoke up. “Perhaps we can find her and negotiate with her before there is any bloodshed.”

“Thor,” Fury said, “your father fought this Calypso. What are your thoughts?”

Thor looked up and considered for a moment. “Calypso is cunning.” Striding forward to the edge of the table, he continued, “If she has made herself known, she is likely displeased and plotting to strike. Her powers are limited to the sea, however. She has no power on land, but she can command the waves and currents and storms upon the sea. Therefore, our ships and coastal towns are at greatest risk and should be fortified. If you intend to treat with her, I suggest you do it soon and go as a group. You will need someone who can deflect enchantments, for she can bewitch even the strongest and most immune.”

“I will go,” said Natasha. “I withstood your brother, Loki’s, mind tricks, did I not?”

“I will join you,” said Hawkeye, “but only if Lucinda comes along too. She can tell us if an enchantment is being used against us.”

“I agree,” said Steve. “Lucinda, will you go?”

“Certainly, Captain.”

“Well, then,” Steve said, “Thor, will you accompany Lucinda, Hawkeye, and Black Widow and guard them in their search?”

“Indeed, Captain, if that is where I will be most useful. Though, I prefer action to speeches.”

“Understood,” Steve replied. “The rest of us,” he said, looking at Stark and Fury and Banner, “will remain behind to fortify our positions.”

The frown on Stark’s face indicated that he was not completely pleased with the arrangement, but since they were not preventing him from his military preparations, he could not complain.

As they rose to depart, Stark, after a slight hesitation, announced to those gathered, “Stark Enterprises is unveiling the latest front-lines amphibious hover craft at the Defense Technology Convention in Las Vegas tonight. Our negotiation delegation may find this particularly interesting. You would all be welcome as my guests.”

Natasha and Hawkeye looked at each other, and then at Thor. Thor shrugged and said he thought it worth considering. So the group reluctantly agreed. Fury and Banner excused themselves, but Steve indicated that he would drop by out of curiosity. Lucinda just listened and glanced from face to face, making no comment.

As they strode out, Natasha leaned over to Hawkeye and said sarcastically in a low voice, “Do you ever get the feeling that Stark creates both the disease and the cure?”