Read The Avengers Assemble Online

Authors: Thomas Macri

Tags: #Marvel Junior Novel (eBook)

The Avengers Assemble (6 page)

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

WHILE THOR WAS
journeying to retrieve Mjolnir, Jane, Erik, and Darcy, were returning to the lab. But when they arrived, they were thrown by the scene there—Coulson and a number of other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents had identified the lab as a wellspring of data pertaining to the event, and they were removing all of its contents.

“What is going on here?” Jane said, as she rushed in.

“Ms. Foster, I'm Agent Coulson with S.H.I.E.L.D.”

“Is that supposed to
mean
something to me? You can't do this!”

“Jane,” Erik said, pulling her aside. “Jane, this is a lot more serious than you realize. Let it go.”

“Let it go? This is my
life
.”

“We're investigating a security threat,” Agent Coulson explained. “We need to appropriate your records and all your atmospheric data.”

“By ‘appropriate' do you mean ‘steal'?”

Jane walked over to a S.H.I.E.L.D. van, into which the agents were loading all of her equipment. Agent Coulson followed close behind her.

“Here,” he said, handing her a check. “This should more than compensate you for your trouble.”

“I can't just
buy
replacements! I made most of this equipment myself!” Jane pleaded.

“Then I'm sure you can do it again,” Coulson retorted.

“And I'm sure I can sue you for violating my constitutional rights!”

“I'm sorry, Ms. Foster, but we're the good guys.”

“So are
we
,” Jane said passionately. “I'm on the verge of understanding something extraordinary, and everything I know about this phenomenon is either in this lab or in this book in my hand, and you can't just take it away.…”

Before Jane could complete her thought, another S.H.I.E.L.D. agent stepped up from behind and grabbed the journal from her hand.

“Hey!” Jane protested.

With that, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents brushed Jane aside and locked her research in their van.

“Thank you for your cooperation,” said Agent Coulson. Then he jumped in the van and drove off.

“Who are these people?” Jane asked as the van pulled away.

“I knew this scientist—a pioneer in gamma radiation. S.H.I.E.L.D. showed up and—well—he wasn't heard from again.”

Jane looked stunned for a moment, then defiantly declared, “They're not going to do that to us. I'm going to get everything back.”

“Come on, please,” Erik said. “Let me contact one of my colleagues. He's had some dealings with these people before. I'll e-mail him, and maybe he can help.…”

“They took
your
laptop, too,” Darcy reminded him.

Jane had other, more practical solutions. She was going to find Thor, and they'd travel to the site together. He would help her retrieve her data. And, if he really was who he said he was and not some crazy lunatic, she'd help him get back what he was looking for.

She drove around the town until she found him—which wasn't too difficult given his height and heft.

“Still need a lift?” she asked him.

Thor hopped in without hesitation.

By the time they arrived at the site, night had fallen. Jane pulled up to a dark area at the rim of the crater, and she and Thor jumped out of the truck and looked down at the scene. S.H.I.E.L.D. had built an incredibly elaborate structure within the crater's pit. It was brightly lit, with high-tech tubing creating passageways to and from the center, which was sectioned off in a huge glass-walled cube.

“That's no satellite crash,” Jane observed. “They would have hauled the wreckage away. They wouldn't have built a city around it.”

“You're going to need this,” Thor said, wrapping a jacket around Jane.

“Huh? Wait, why?”

Thor smiled broadly and laughed.

“Stay here,” he said. “Once I have Mjolnir, I will return the items they stole from you.”

“Look what's down there. You think you're just going to walk in, grab our stuff, and walk out?”

“No. I'm going to fly out.”

And with that, Thor headed toward the encampment.

As he approached Mjolnir, clouds rolled in and lightning flashed all over the area, interfering with S.H.I.E.L.D.'s equipment. Thor took advantage of this, and sneaked past some guards, easily taking out those that he could not get by. Slipping in and out of shadows, Thor made his way toward his hammer. The lightning and thunder intensified. Soon, rain poured down on the site, muddying the desert sands and pounding on everyone from Thor to Jane, who finally understood why Thor had given her the coat.

Thor soon arrived near Mjolnir, which was heavily guarded. S.H.I.E.L.D. had its top agents keeping watch over the hammer, including its ace archer, Clint Barton, whose aim was so accurate he'd earned the codename Hawkeye. Clint was trained on Thor and waiting for orders to shoot, but Coulson—who was calling the shots—asked him to hold off. He wanted to see if Thor could lift the hammer.

Thor looked down at his old friend, Mjolnir. He smiled and reached down in triumph. He and his hammer were reunited. He would now reclaim it and then get Jane's data back. He reached down and gripped Mjolnir by the handle, enjoying the comfort of its familiar grip.

But when he moved to raise it, the hammer would not relent. It proved immovable. Thor looked up at the heavens and howled up at Odin, the Bifrost, and all of Asgard. He dropped to his knees in defeat. Agent Barton dropped his bow, and S.H.I.E.L.D. agents moved in to detain the god of thunder.

MIDGARD

Unbeknownst to Heimdall, the sentry who guarded the Bifrost,
Loki traveled to Midgard, where his brother was banished. Loki
had learned that he was adopted, but decided not to share that
information until the time was right. Instead, the adopoted
brother of the Mighty Thor would speak to his sibling, who was
in captivity on Midgard.

Their father—Odin—was dead, Loki told Thor, lying.
Thor's banishment, the threat of a new war—these things were
too much for him to bear. Odin had perished from the loss and
disappointment, and the burden of the Asgardian throne had
now fallen to Loki.

Thor, stunned and stricken with grief, asked if he could
return home, and Loki spun more lies.

The truce with Jotunheim was conditional upon Thor's
exile, Loki told his brother. Frigga, Thor's mother, had for-
bidden her son's return, Loki said, completing his deceitful tale.

With that, Loki bade his brother good-bye with a word of
condolence.

Thor, with a heavy heart, said that he was the one who
was sorry. He thanked his brother for coming to him to deliver
the message, and, with a final farewell, the vision of Loki
was gone.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

FROM THE OUTSIDE,
it looked like an abandoned factory tucked away amid vacant lots beneath a Los Angeles freeway. Two town cars and an unbelievably slick sports car were parked in the shadows, well hidden from any wandering eyes that might find their way to the space. Long-defunct railroad tracks surrounded it, and puddles of oil marred the cracked concrete.

Inside sat one of the world's richest and smartest men. He was seated at a table, facing an empty chair and surrounded by fantastically high-tech screens. One was lit up with the S.H.I.E.L.D. insignia. Another kept track of current news events with a constant feed of international newscasts. Still another showed stock quotes, weather reports from around the world, and hotspots of what could only be classified as strange activity.

After a few minutes of perusing the various dis-plays, Tony grew bored and turned his attention to the desk. On it was a small stack of printed files. Curious, Tony grabbed the top one and checked out the cover, which read:
AVENGERS INITIATIVE: PRELIMINARY REPORT

Intrigued, Tony opened it up to take a look.

But before he could digest any information, a powerful hand swept down and grabbed the folder from him. Tony looked up into the familiar face of Colonel Nick Fury. Although Tony repeatedly said he didn't want any part of the Avengers Initiative, there was something about it that interested him, so he kept coming back.

“I don't think I want you looking at that,” Fury said as he sat down at the table. “I'm not sure it pertains to you anymore.”

Colonel Fury held up a similar file. “Now
this
on the other hand, is Agent Romanoff's assessment of
you
. Read it.”

He tossed the file to Tony, who opened it and began to read.

“Aaaaaaaaah…‘
Personality overview: Mister Stark displays
compulsive behavior
.'…In my own defense, that
was
last week.”

Colonel Fury shot Tony a warning glance.

“‘
Prone to self-destructive tendencies
…' I mean, please. And aren't we all?”

The colonel kept Tony locked under his stern gaze.

“‘
Textbook…narcissism'
? …Agreed.”

Despite the fact that Fury's expression had not changed at all, his anger was becoming more and more palpable.

“Okay, here it is…‘
Recruitment Assessment for Avenger
Initiative—Iron Man: Yes.'

Tony flung the file back at Fury, gloating.

“I've got to think about it.”

“Read on,” Fury replied flatly.

Tony again picked up the file. “‘
Tony Stark: Not
…
Not
?…
Recommended
'?”

Colonel Fury leaned back in his chair and raised an eyebrow at Tony.

“That doesn't make any sense,” Tony protested. “How can you approve
me
, but not approve me? I've got a new ticker; I'm trying to do right by Pepper; I'm in a stable-ish relationship…”

“Which leads us to believe that at this juncture we'd only like to use you as a consultant,” Fury explained.

Tony looked a little bit bummed. He nodded, then stood up and extended his hand to Fury. Fury took it, and as they shook Tony smiled and said to him, “You can't afford me.”

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

AGENT COULSON WAS
hard at work dealing with the situation in New Mexico. He had spent the previous night interrogating the powerful man who had broken into the complex where the hammer that had fallen to Earth was being held. Coulson had pressed him on where he came from and how it was that he found himself in a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility. The man was clearly highly trained, and Coulson wanted to know where he received that training. Pakistan? Chechnya? Afghanistan?

The man remained silent. Coulson was going to find out who this mercenary was and what he wanted. He spent the whole night trying, though, and had gotten nothing.

Now, he'd received a call that someone had arrived with information.

* * *

“His name's Donald Blake?” Coulson asked skeptically, as he met Dr. Selvig at the heavily armed entrance to the site.


Dr
. Donald Blake,” Selvig replied.

“You have dangerous coworkers, Dr. Selvig.”

“He was destroyed when he found out you'd taken all of our research. That was years of his life. Gone. I can understand how a man might go off like that. The big face of an organization like yours coming in with jack-booted thugs…Well, that's how he put it anyway.”

“That still doesn't explain how he managed to tear through our security.”

“Steroids!” Erik lied, but he said it as if it were the most obvious explanation in the world.

After engaging Dr. Coulson some more, Dr. Selvig was allowed in to collect the detainee.

“Donnie, Donnie, Donnie, there you are. Gonna be all right. I'm taking you home now!”

Thor and Erik walked silently from the camp. As they departed, Thor managed to swipe Jane's notebook from an agent, completely unnoticed.

It seemed they were free and clear.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

THE FOLLOWING
morning, Thor received a visit from four heavily armored friends who erased any lingering doubt in Erik's, Jane's, and Darcy's minds that Thor truly was from Asgard. Thor's closest companions, Lady Sif and the Warriors Three—Hogun, Volstagg, and Fandral—had arrived via the Bifrost. Their spectacular Asgardian battle armor attracted the notice of everyone in the town, including a duo of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents that Coulson had sent to shadow Thor and Selvig after he let Thor go.

Thor embraced his longtime companions, overjoyed to see their familiar, brave faces.

“Oh, my friends!” he shouted. “This is good! This is good! My friends, I have never been happier to see anyone. But you should not have come.”

“We have come to take you home,” Fandral said.

“You know I can't go home. My father is dead because of me and I must remain in exile.”

Lady Sif shook her head. “Thor, your father still lives.”

Thor looked stunned.

Before anyone else could respond, a funnel formed in the otherwise-cloudless desert sky, and with it a whipping sandstorm that shook cars and cut anything in its path appeared as if from nowhere—just as Thor had when he first arrived on Earth.

“Was somebody else coming?” Darcy asked, not sure what to make of any of this.

As if on cue, the dust lifted and revealed a huge, otherworldly, humanlike figure covered in metal. It was the Destroyer.

“Is that one of Stark's?” Agent Sitwell asked Coulson.

“I don't know, that guy never tells me anything,” Coulson replied.

Coulson stepped up to the twenty-foot being, held up a megaphone to it, and announced, “Hello. You are using unregistered weapons technology. Identify yourself.”

In response, the Destroyer revealed its face—a fiery furnace—and began to shoot energy from it, vaporizing anything it came into contact with.

“Jane, you have to leave,” Thor said.

“What are you going to do?” Jane asked.

“I'm staying here,” Thor replied.

“Thor's going to fight with us!” Volstagg pronounced.

“My friends, I am just a man. I'll only be in the way, and at worst get one of you killed. But I can help get these people to safety.”

“Well, if you're staying, then so am I,” Jane said.

Thor helped Jane clear the town, loading people into trucks, helping people find their way in the chaos. And while Thor, Jane, Erik, and Darcy did their part, the four Asgardians faced the Destroyer, which they knew the jealous and bitter Loki had sent to Midgard to vanquish his brother.

But one after another, the Asgardians found it impossible to fend off the Destroyer. While Thor's friends—mortal and immortal—took cover, Thor knew what he must do. As Odin's son, as a prince of Asgard, he must combat the Destroyer.

He spoke to Loki from across the Realms.

“Brother, whatever I have done to wrong you, whatever I have done to lead you to do this, I am truly sorry. But these people are innocent. Taking their lives will gain you nothing.”

He stepped up to the Destroyer, whose entire body was blazing beneath its armor.

“So take mine,” Thor said, “and end this.”

With that, the Destroyer closed its faceplate and turned to walk away. Thor was smiling, comforted that his words had reached his brother. But as it was leaving, the Destroyer backhanded Thor and sent him flying hundreds of yards across the dusty town.

“No!” Jane yelled, running over to him.

Thor heaved, bloody and beaten, not able to withstand the blow without his powers.

“It's over,” he said to Jane. “You're safe.”

Thor closed his eyes. A mighty hero had fallen. His stunned friends looked on as the Destroyer walked off into the horizon.

At that very moment, fifty miles away, Mjolnir began to rattle, shake, and finally break free from its stone encasement. It shot across the desert and landed right in the hand of Thor. Lightning struck, sending a blast of sand and smoke into the desert sky. When the dust cleared, Thor stood, outfitted in his armor and cape. He had proven himself worthy of Mjolnir by his selfless deeds and actions.

Thor twirled Mjolnir victoriously over his head, whipping up a twister that sucked up the Destroyer. Thor battled it in the heart of the storm, easily defeating the being and sending it crashing to the ground before making his own triumphant return.

Now he needed to journey over the Bifrost and return to Asgard to confront his brother. But before he could move to do so, Agent Coulson approached him.

“Excuse me, Donald?” he said. “I don't think you've been completely honest with us.”

“You and I fight for the same cause—the protection of this world,” Thor said. “From this day forward, you can count me as your ally. If you return the items you have taken from Jane.”

“Stolen,” Jane clarified.

“Borrowed,” Coulson protested. “Of course you can have your equipment back. You're going to need it to continue your research.”

Jane beamed.

Heimdall opened the Bifrost.

“I must return to Asgard,” Thor said to Jane. “But I give you my word, I will return for you.”

And with that, Thor and his Asgardian companions were sucked into a prismatic portal and away from Earth.

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