To Infinity and Beyond

Summary:
February 21, 2015: While Clint Barton and others work furiously to keep Bobbi Morse alive in the Triskelion, Maria Hill leads an expedition to find a long lost sample of a special formula that can save her life.

Triskelion Med Lab and Arnsberg Wald, Germany

See Log


Characters

NPCs

  • Doctors and Lab Techs

Mood Music:
None


NOW…

Somewhere in the Triskelion, Leopold Fitz and Lance Hunter are racing against the clock working with a team of chemistry geeks to recreate the super soldier serum from Bobbi's notes.

The critical care unit of the Triskelion's Med Lab is quiet except for the sounds of the machines, so many machines. Whooshing, beeping, ticking, clicking, dripping machines, all of which are connected to Bobbi Morse by a variety of tubes, needles, sensors, and electrodes. The monitors displaying the information glow various shades of green and blue in the dimly lit area. The data on the screens isn't encouraging. The woman lying in the bed is dying. One of the formerly green lights goes red and a small alarm goes off.

She's in shadow. It's very cold and dark. But ahead of her she can see a meadow. It's full of wildflowers and it stretches as far as she can see in every direction. She can see a gentle wind rustling through the grasses, and hear birdsong in the air. There is a small figure there, everything slightly fuzzy around the edges, as if touched by sunglow, and all she can discern is pale blonde hair and a white dress of some light material. "Hello?" Bobbi calls, shivering in the dimness, feeling the desire to step into that warmth and sunlight.

THEN…

The HYDRA research facility has been abandoned since shortly after World War II. It was raided by the SSR and evacuated, then cleaned out months later by the Nazi organization to protect its secrets. Its location has been stuck in an SSR file in the SHIELD vaults since, with occasional notes tacked onto it. One of these notes, the important one, is that the facility wasn't entirely cleaned out. Allegedly there was an underground vault beneath it, which couldn't be accessed after the raid, because the only two people with the knowledge of how to open it were killed in the operation. With technology not up to the level to get into it, it was filed away and forgotten, until now.

The facility is in what is now the Arnsberg Wald, a Nature Park, north of the town of Meschede in the Ruhr valley of Germany. Deep within the park is the Hohler Stein cave, or Hollow Stone. It was excavated, allegedly by a professor and a geologist, from 1928 to 1934, but according to the SSR, it was done by HYDRA to build a research facility beneath it.

SHIELD now has renewed interest, because according to the notes in the SSR file, there is a vial of the Infinity Formula in the secret vault, and it may be the last, best hope to save Bobbi Morse's life.

The Quinjet has landed, cloaked by darkness, in the unlit park and discharged the team of operatives intent on cracking the vault. The night was their cover as they made their way to the cave in the empty preserve, having closed at dusk. They are not here with permission of the German government, who is fully unaware of what lies beneath the tourist attraction. According to the map, the secret entrance to the underground facility is at the rear of the cavern, accessed via a concealed hatch in the floor, hidden beneath a fake stalagmite. Since no one is permitted to touch the rock formations, it is a perfect concealment.

*

It's through the miracles of modern science that a team such as this one can enter another country undetected and operate out of sight, then blow up something important. Hill's gotten the usual measures into place, including a couple of potential 'get out of jail free' cards if their operation happens to draw undesired attention.

Of course, having told Barton that this facility was 'already under their control' miiight have been stretching the truth just a hair. More than anything, she needed the archer to not worry about what they had to do out here. Besides, the vault's still sealed and SHIELD has the ability to breach it. It's practically under their control, already!

With very little time to make all of the necessary preparations she's also decided to call in some outside help, as unlikely as it may be for this situation. Expert scientists and geneticists aren't the easiest to come by on short notice, let alone ones who are built a little ..tougher. Thus, Doctor McCoy had been contacted, cleared, and picked up along the way.

Naturally, she does mention to the rest of her team prior to this pick-up that they're running on a need-to-know basis. Put his knowledge to use but don't give him any more information than necessary.

"Don't stray too far, comm reception might be spotty down here," she tells the rest of the team. "We're looking for some manner of hidden entrance. Cap, you're on point. McCoy, you know anything about caves? I'm assuming one of these things is not like the other, should be right around here."

*

Captain America disembarks the quinjet quickly knowing that timing is of the essence. He descends the ramp and takes just a moment to appreciate the warmness of the air compared to what New York has been like over the past few weeks. He looks up at those still in the jet, eager to get going as soon as possible.

About 24 hours ago, Captain America had Domino in his clutches. But she got away. Though he hasn't really shown it on the ride over, this particular case has begun to truly get under his skin. He feels awful for Bobbi and is hellbent on helping find something that can help her before it is too late.

Cap heads out into the forest slightly, looking for any sign of the cave. He's wearing his dark blue uniform with silver trim to better conceal himself in the darkness.

*

Agent Melinda May knows exactly why she was tapped to be the pilot for this mission: there wasn't anyone else available on such short notice. Doesn't mean she's happy about it. The entire situation STINKS, but she's at the very least glad to be able to do SOMETHING to try and help Morse and by extension, Hunter.

With the Quinjet landed and the engines powered down, May is more than content to just sit here like a taxi driver and wait for the others to return. After all, she wasn't included in the planning sessions, she wasn't told that this mission even existed, and that's par for the course with SHIELD. Need to know, after all. If any of her skills beyond piloting are needed, they'll have to be requested.

*

Beast was rather surprised when he was asked to help out, but he seems more than happy to help SHIELD out. After all, he hopes that they would reciprocate if the need ever came up. So, dressed in his black and gold uniform of the X-Men, he also brought some of his own medical and research supplies — surely SHIELD has their own, but he doesn't quite know what they're up against yet…aside from now being in a German forest.

He looks to Hill, apparently now used to being called by his given name around any SHIELD agent; so much for that secret. At least he's no longer Lizard-Beast from the Negative Zone. It was good timing for that to finally wear off. "Caves? Well, what sort of thing would you like to know about them? Are you certain that this is a cave or would it be some sort of hidden tunnel?" Because, if it's a cave, they should probably be heading towards rock formations. Nostrils flare and he lifts his head up as if sniffing the air as if that will help. "We should also probably look out for pit traps…I'd put them out here if I was hiding something."

*

NOW…

Clint's engrossed, and there really isn't any better place for him to be to read these notes than in Bobbi's room. Maybe it's to draw some sort of knowledge from the still form on the bed; that if she's there, he can ask a question and somehow in some way, she'll be able to respond?

He's looking for miracles in the form of her annoyance with his ignorance.

And it's not happening.

Still, it doesn't keep him from talking out loud as he does read. Mind, it's not the stuff on the tablet before him, but rather, it's more conversational. Clint's heard that even in medically induced comas, patients -can- hear, even if it's tone of voice only.

He's here. That's the only message that he wants to convey.

*

Doctors and nurses rush past Clint Barton where he sits vigil over his ex-wife, studying her research papers. A young attending takes him by the arm and escorts him into a corner, to keep him from getting underfoot.

"We have asystole!" shouts a doctor. "Get the crash cart!" He begins chest compressions. "Push one milligram of epinephrine!" The room is controlled chaos as everyone has a part to play in keeping Bobbi from dying before the serum arrives.

*

The moment all hell breaks lose in the room, Clint's pushing backwards, aided by the hand on the arm to help him get into a corner. He knows what is going on. She's dying and there isn't a thing he can do but stare. He's not religious, not by any means, and he can't find it in himself to start now. It's never helped.

"Bobbi." Talking he can do. "C'mon Bobbi. Don't do this to me. Not now." Medical decisions are easy right now. She's not on DNR. Never. Ever. "Come back. Fight it."

*

There is a tightening in her chest, a pressure that ebbs and flows, as she steps into the long sweet grasses of the meadow. The small figure turns and runs over to her, handing her a daisy. It takes her a moment to look over the girl, perhaps six years of age, and recognize who it is she's looking at. She sees her own nose, her own mouth, but the child's eyes are Clint's. The little girl is theirs. "Wh-who are you?" Bobbi asks, wide-eyed.

"You know who I am. I've been waiting for you. But you're early. And you didn't name me, because you didn't know if I was a boy or a girl," the child explains.

"Then you're Frankie. I wanted to name you Francis because it could work for a boy or a girl, but we just couldn't talk to each other after…" Bobbi trails off.

THEN…

The cave is found easily, as it's a tourist attraction in the park area. Amusing that so many people move through it on a regular basis, and none of them are aware of what lies underneath.

*

"I was more concerned about what we might be looking for inside of the cave," Hill explains as they find their designated hole in the ground. They did have some info on this facility. Heck, back before SHIELD was an official acronym they had been here and cleaned this place out. The cave's definitely the easy part. 'A hidden entrance' isn't quite so simple. They didn't have exact GPS coordinates to work off of back then.

"It's probably hidden in plain sight, been looked at thousands of times without anyone else noticing. If it's designed to blend in then it's probably made out of some other material. Hollow. Maybe a sonic ring will pinpoint it? Atmospheric pressure analysis? Bouncing a superball around..?"

Heck, maybe Beast could sniff out the anomaly. She doesn't really know.

It's not going to stop her from searching, though! She's quick to abandon the tourist path, opting to try and follow any shifting of the air as she searches around.

*

Cap's brisk walk into the cave takes only a few moments. "He's right," Captain America says about looking out for pits. "The Nazis were ruthless in the booby traps they set up. Especially as the war began to go towards the Allies." He can still remember getting stabbed near the knee in a bunker underneath an airfield shortly before his fateful throwdown with Skull.

Once inside the cave, Steve pulls a small light over from his belt and illuminates their surroundings. His blue eyes scan the interior for any traps, and for the fake rock formation in question.

*

Well, they did ask him about the cave. Beast glances at the two before following them into the cave and peering around. His eyes squint a bit at the light source but golden eyes do glance about and his nostrils flare a few more times. He then takes a look at some of the stalagtites and stalagmites before he moves to one and seems to look it over. No doubt whomever set this up didn't expect anyone with better-than-human olfactory senses to come poking around.

"This isn't stone," is offered before he taps at it and then tries to give it a good shove.

There's a muted grinding sound and the stalagmite moves out of the way to reveal a hatch. Since this is stealthy and all, he merely raises an eyebrow and steps aside for the others to enter first.

*

All of the Quinjet's external lights have been turned off to keep the plane from being noticed, but May keeps the jet's communications array fired up to listen to comm chatter. "Signal's down to twenty percent. Rogers, can you find a place to set the comm relay?"

*

Moving the stalagmite reveals a metal hatch beneath it. It has a spinning valve handle like the hatch on a submarine, and once opened, it hisses with the release of air, stale air. Beneath it is a ladder, leading down into a modern, for World War II that is, facility. It's bunker-like, stone walls and floor, with large metal tables and tons of shelves and cabinetry, now holding only fragments of missing and broken equipment. They left anything they could replace, that wouldn't give the opposition an advantage, and there isn't a whole lot of value in 70 year old lab equipment.

This isn't what they're looking for, but somewhere, in this cavernous room, is a passage of some sort that leads beneath them, into the secret vault. There are archways leading into various storage niches all around the circular room, and the tattered remnants of HYDRA and SS banners hanging against the walls. Mostly empty cabinets are set against the walls, and mostly empty crates are scattered in the niches, just dusty straw and broken bits and pieces of evacuated items left inside them.

*

In all honesty, Hill wouldn't have expected there to be any pit traps remaining. The place had been cleaned out a couple of times in years past, hadn't it? And..tourism! But, now that they are off of the beaten path… The matter is given more consideration. It is possible. It shouldn't be written off.

Just another reason to have Cap on point. Having Beast around is some extra insurance, just in case someone might happen to fall along the way. Oh, and he manages to find the hidden entrance.

"Nice find," she calls back while hurrying over, a flashlight of her own in hand. "We've only got a rough understanding of what's down there. Keep your senses tuned, there might be something nasty in the air waiting for us."

Once she makes it down into the bunker she's quick to bring up a hazy blue hologram of a map from an arm-mounted projector, based off of very old and somewhat crude diagrams from previous explorers, to get some idea of where they are and where they might need to go.

In addition to this is one of Fitz's own DWARF drones, pulled from a belt then released out into the wild to scan ahead for them. It doesn't take long before she's pointing out a cabinet tucked along a wall. "Got a positive here."

*

"Sure, May," Captain America says as he pulls something from his belt and depresses a green button. The black device lights up in blue, showing 2 bars, then 3, then 4 as it warms up. The equipment takes the communication from the team and beams it in a more high powered way towards the Quinjet.

With that done, Steve begins to look into the room to find anything that might be out of sorts or anything that would might have something hidden behind it, below it, or around it. He takes a peak behind one desk in question, being sure to check for booby traps before yanking it out of place.

Once Hill finds something, Cap is surprised at his internal irritation. Nothing is done by humans anymore—everything is done by a handheld device of some sort. Communication, investigation, transactions. Everything. He still goes over towards her, but stops on the way. There's a wooden cabinet there that looks fishy. So Steve pushes his shield through it at high speeds. "Well, this looks interesting."

*

The DWARF drone's data reveals a void behind the indicated cabinet, which is bolted to the wall. The wooden back is easily busted out to reveal a metal door behind it, with a combination lock consisting of three dials. Ominously, there are tubes above the door, which do not disclose what they might contain, or what they might unleash, should the wrong combination be entered into the door.

*

Beast follows the others as they enter the vault area and he glances around…still not entirely sure what he's supposed to be looking for aside from something 'weird'. "How many of these places are there, do you think? The historical significance is pretty fascinating when you think what might be down in these, even if they were cleared out after D-Day." When the cabinet is destroyed and reveals the metal door, he sighs, looks at it, and then at the vials up top. Padding over, he gestures for someone to come with him, "It's old enough that I might be able to hear the mechanism. Just…try to keep it quiet otherwise…" and he moves to press a slightly pointed, tufted ear to the metal.

He's going to try to have to get over destruction of history.

*

NOW…

The crash cart is wheeled in and the doctor currently doing compressions shouts, "Charge to 200!" A nurse applies gel to the paddles of the defibrillator as another opens Bobbi's gown over her chest.

"It's all right. Everything is all right," the little girl says quietly, "Frankie is nice. I like it." She sits cross-legged in the grass and begins to weave wildflowers into a crown. "Are you done there?" she asks Bobbi curiously. "Because you can come with me if you are. But you don't have to. Not yet."

Bobbi looks back over her shoulder at the dark and the cold of the shadows. It's so much nicer here in the sunshine with the beautiful little girl she lost. But back there is Hunter, and Clint, and Maria, and May, and so many friends. And so many things undone. "I don't know, Frankie. How do I decide?" She looks back at her daughter, so sweet and calm and pure, never touched by the horrors of the world her mother fights for.

There is a sound, not words really, but a tone, a pitch, something she recognizes deep in her soul. A voice she knows. She hesitates again.

*

"Bobbi," Clint whispers now. He doesn't want to get in everyone's way, but he can't simply stand in the corner either. "C'mon. I'll be really mad if you do this to me. I can't lose you, even if you hate me."

The tablet is forgotten and he inches around those working on her, and he doesn't want to touch her. (Not while the defibrillator is going off, anyway!) He puts a hand on the side of her head, his thumb on her cheek. She's still warm to the touch, "This is where I make stupid deals with you and hope you don't remember them, right?"

*

THEN…

The combination lock's dials are slowly clicked into place. The numbers? 1-48-8. 1488 is Nazi numerology. 14 representing the 14 words from Nazi propaganda, "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children" and the letter corresponding to the number 8 in the alphabet, H. HH. Heil Hitler.

Beyond the metal door is a stone staircase, leading down, down, down for a long ways. At the bottom is another door, not secured, strangely enough.

*

Tech does have its uses. In this instance, Maria's interested in getting things done as quickly and efficiently as possible. It's a small team on what could almost be seen as a fool's errand, she'll take every edge she can get.

"Enough for a bunch of them to have been lost or forgotten about," she answers Beast. "Time capsules into a whole different reality." She might be able to appreciate it better if she didn't have more important matters on the clock.

Upon seeing the locked hatch, she's wishing that she had even more edges for the team to work with.

"Alright..this doesn't look pleasant," she deadpans while catching the returning drone out of the air. "No one mentioned the tubes before." Which means entry by force is probably out of the question. There's got to be a way through, they didn't come all the way out here to lose!

"Somehow I doubt they left the combination written in a bathroom stall." With only the one scientist present she doesn't know what else to do but to look back to Beast, about to ask if he has any ideas before he holds an ear up to the front of the vault door.

To say she's feeling a little nervous right now would be an understatement. While Beast works at the lock she passes a concerned look back to Rogers, as if asking 'how bad will it be?' if the contents of those tubes gets dumped out into the room. While she does know her history, Steve's actually lived through it.

Then he actually gets it open. "I owe you a drink," she tells the mutant. "Let's keep moving, just watch your step."

*

"They put explosives on everything," Captain America says helpfully. "So, look out for those." Steve grabs his shield, holding it out in front of him and the others in the event that someone accidentally trips something. He moves slowly, padding his boots down lightly upon the stone as he makes his way down gingerly.

*

"Would they still be volatile over seventy years later?" Hank asks. He knows what was often used in the explosives, but unless they were landmines, would they have just rotted? He follows the others down, sniffing at the air and looking about, "I really wish I had a camera for some of this…" is murmured as they're unearthing more history. "Just what are we looking for again?" is asked. If he was debriefed, maybe he needs a reminder? Maybe he was never actually told?

*

Melinda May checks the connection to the relay. Signal's up to seventy eight percent. Not perfect but it'll have to do. She's never been the sort to chit chat over the comm lines, so she just continues to listen for now.

*

NOW…

"Charged!" a nurse calls as she hands the paddles to the doctor. Another is injecting epinephrine into Bobbi's body with a syringe. She finishes and steps back. "Clear!" the doctor shouts. The paddles are applied and with a zapping LURCH, Bobbi's back arches up from the electric shock. The man looks to the monitor. "Increase to 300!" he calls.

PAIN. It lances through her like lightning from a clear blue sky. Every nerve is on fire, her back arches, she's in her own body for a moment. The sterile medicinal smells hit her, then there is the memory of a familiar touch, a warm connection to her cheek, indiscernible words, that must have been there just seconds ago. The blackness comes again, and the warmth of the meadow returns.

The tone of the recognizable voice alters. It becomes angry, bargaining.

"He's there, you know," Frankie says softly, her deft little child fingers weaving and twining the stems of the pretty pastel blooms together. "He'll always be there, no matter how sad or mad you make him."

"I know," Bobbi admits. "He's my person. We may not belong together as husband and wife, but he'll always be my person, and I'll always try to be his." She grimaces. "He won't be able to take this, will he?" she asks the child.

"He's strong. He might. Or he might not. She might help him through it. She might not." Such logic from a little girl is odd.

"And Hunter? What about him?" Bobbi asks.

"What do you think?"

That leaves Mockingbird grimacing. Lance doesn't have Clint's control. Or anyone to help him through this. But this place is so nice. There's no hurt, no sorrow, no loss. For her.

"Part of me wants to stay," she whispers.

*

It's killing him to see Bobbi like this. The seconds seem like forever to him as her life hangs in the balance. There is no way he's going to tell them to stop, even when a nurse looks to Clint the moment the paddles are put away and testing for vitals begins anew. He returns the glance with his own determined (if not a little in denial) expression.

"Bobbi," the anger is draining and it leaves concern. A tone of voice very much like their last heart to heart when he said those fateful words, 'I'm sorry'. "I didn't want to lose you then. I can't lose you now. I can be selfish and tell you that I'll kick myself forever for not getting to you just seconds before." Just a matter of seconds. Heartbeats. "Not that it'll matter. You'll yell at me and tell me that 'not everything' is about me. But yeah. This is about you. You can't do this."

*

THEN…

The reason behind a lack of a lock on this door becomes clear immediately upon opening it. It leads into a wide open space, with nothing in it except for a large metal box in the center, clearly the vault, that looks like it is comprised of some crazy clockwork mechanism. There are nine alphabet dials, four on one side, five on the other, beneath each of which is a button, and nine corresponding keyholes under those. Nearby is a bar from which hangs a plethora of skeleton keys. They seem to be divided into groups of 24 each, with dots and dashes engraved on them.

Also, there are small niches in the walls, from which now stream something strange. They look like giant metal spiders, each four feet tall and driven by some sort of clockwork mechanism. They have clearly been dormant for the last 70+ years since the raid, but were apparently placed in "defense" mode when the raid began and someone who didn't know the proper settings or keys clearly triggered them into "exterminate" mode. The skeletons wearing shredded labcoats lying about on the floor tell that story.

On each mechanical spider's body is mounted a mini gun, and a flamethrower on the opposite side of the spinning central mass, and each leg tip is spiked like a bayonette. Eight of the things are now engaged in locking targets on the intruders. No wonder HYDRA never came back.

*

"We aren't entirely sure," Hill almost hesitantly admits to Beast's inquiry. While it isn't entirely truthful, it's not far off. "It's one of those 'we'll know it when we see it' things." One of which she's still trying to determine how they're going to dodge the inevitable questions of 'what is it for' and 'what does it do?' It's the risk portion of their reward.

When the next door opens, the open room beyond is greeted by a softly spoken "Good lord." Which is to say, 'I think we've just found it.' The skeletons on the floor are a bit troublesome, and a few more steps into the cavernous room tells her that her worries are not without reason.

"You're fucking -kidding- me," Hill mutters while automatically drawing a laser pistol from her hip. The first mechanism which comes in her direction is going to get blasted for its troubles, tech this old probably won't hold up to modern-age energy weapons.

Her attention is scattered, however. There's the numerous nasty little metal creatures now scuttling about..and there's what amounts to a giant lockbox up ahead. It doesn't take her long to figure out the patterns, then figure out what the code itself is. Seriously..? Morse code when they're down here to save Agent Morse? If this isn't divine intervention then -nothing- is.

"Keep those damn things busy!" she calls out while rushing forward to tackle the array of keys. She knows this. She's -got- this.

*

"What -is- this place?" Beast asks, but he really doesn't expect an answer once the spider-things start to attack. He didn't exactly sign up for this and he doesn't tend to have guns on him to shoot metal spiders. This…is going to be interesting. "Do we need that box?" is asked before he dodges one spider attack and throws a kick at another one.

"Will someone tell me what the blazes is going on?" He didn't realize he was to play Indiana Jones on this mission.

Without guns, it might not be as easy to take these things out, but he'll try to keep them busy as best as he can.

*

"You know," Steve says as he smashes one of the little monsters into a thousand pieces. "You really don't need to swear so much in the middle of these missions, Hill. Not only is it distracting, it's not very professional. Moreover, it's sort of unbecoming."

With that, Steve pivots on the ball of his feet and delivers a massive backhand smash to another one of the spiders.

*

Melinda May frowns faintly when she hears cursing, questions, and the sounds of weapons fire and things getting smashed. She doesn't immediately scramble to help, though, as the call for help hasn't gone out. She also doesn't pester for an update, knowing firsthand how annoying it is to be hounded for a sitrep every few minutes.

*

NOW…

"Charged!" the call repeats. The doctor takes the paddles again as the personnel step back from the gurney. The paddles are applied and once more Bobbi's body arches upward from the shock. This time, there is a soft, responding, beep…beep…from the cardio monitor. "We have sinus rhythm. She's back," the doctor says, sounding tired. This has clearly not been the first arrest since she was brought in.

"But the rest of you wants to go back. They need you. They all need you," Frankie murmurs. There is no sadness, anger, or malice in her tone. She stands up and places the crown of flowers on her mother's brow. "And you need them. You love them."

"I love you too, you know," Bobbi whispers, tears prickling at her eyes as a bit of her heart lurches at the thought of leaving her child.

"But I'll be here when you're ready, so you don't have to worry about me. It's not your time yet, Barbara Morse. It may not be for a long, long while, but I will wait for you, I promise." Frankie vows.

"Thank you, baby," Bobbi whispers. She leans down to press her lips to the little girl's brow.

Pain lances through her again and she is in her body once more, every nerve firing like bee stings all over her as the electric jolt shocks her heart back into behaving. Then it is darkness again. There is no meadow this time, no little blonde girl giving her flowers, it's just cold, and black, and lonely. But the sounds still come to her, and it's those she holds on to, like a thread of hope when all else is lost.

*

THEN…

As Hill works the dials, it becomes clear to her what the likely mechanism of the lock is. Two words spelled out on the alphabet dials, one four letters long, one five letters long. A button beneath each to lock them into place, and a key with the corresponding morse code for each letter to be inserted and turned in the keyholes beneath.

The first dial is spun to "H", the button is slapped and turns amber, and the key marked o o o o is inserted and turned with a click. The button above it turns green.

"A". The second letter is locked in as a mechanical spider leaps at Hank and gets a beastly foot in the face for his effort. It flies across the room, and smashes into the wall, looking discombobulated.

"I". The third letter is locked in as Captain America destroys one, then a second spider. Legs and metal bits fly in all directions as the creatures are shattered by the man's blows.

"L". The fourth letter is locked in as May listens in on the fight.

*

"This is all new to us as well Beast, I would have brought more guns if I thought we'd need 'em!"

Work out this letter here, and the next-Oh, of -course-…

"Your concern for my methods of conduct is noted, Rogers!" Hill calls back while turning to blast at another mechanical creature getting a bit too close to her business. "Besides, you'd be a little irked if you had to key this in, too!"

The first word's in, green across the board.

"H". Letter five is locked in and green.

"Y". Green. Done. It's..crazy. It's cliche. It's so stupidly obvious to her now. It almost pains her to have to key it in. What she doesn't understand is how this could have been the code. It's been lying dormant down here for how long, now? The phrase couldn't have been in use for long by the time this room was constructed. What's used as a common greeting among them now used to be a well guarded secret.

"D". Green. Done.

"R". (This is just ridiculous.)

"A".

*

"What was that?" Cap says to Hill. Just after she was speaking he smashed one of those spider things up into the wall and apparently didn't hear her. Or, he's trolling her. It's not clear which. Meanwhile, Steve let's go of the shield and it begins to bounce off spiders and walls in a maze-trail before coming right back to his hand.

*

Beast ducks as the shield comes whizzing his way and grabs one of the spiders and tosses it into another one. "I don't usually fire guns. I'm much more of a pacifist," is said as he leaps towards another spider and lands on its back, as if to ride it like a rodeo bull.

*

Melinda May continues to listen, figuring by the sounds that one way or another Rogers and the others will be returning soon. So, she gets the Quinjet prepped for a rapid engine fire-up so they can leave in a hurry the moment it's time to go.

*

NOW…

"She's stabilized again. Agent Barton, something in her is fighting to live. Keep talking to her, because she needs to know she isn't alone," the doctor advises. "I don't think her body can take another arrest like that. So whatever miracle is en route, it better get here soon."

As if in eerie forecast of the direness of the situation, the crash cart is left parked in the room, even as the medical personnel file out, leaving Clint alone with the fragile form of his dying ex-wife.

*

THEN…

With the slap of a button and the turning of a key, there is a resounding KACHUNK! sound indicating the locking bars of the vault door have disengaged. With the correct sequence input, HAIL HYDRA, the remaining mechanical spiders stop their assault, return to their niches, and power down. All two of them.

The vault door swings open with a puff of stale air from 1945. Inside the box are several containers with who knows what in them, but also a spherical device, which is maintaining the temperature and air-tightness of the vial inside of it. It bears a very notable symbol, ? The infinity symbol.

*

"I said 'get stuffed,' Rogers!" Hill snaps back while spinning about to kick one of the spiders with a solid *THUNK.* "OW! Those guys make it look so easy…"

Then..there it is. Not only the off switch to those blasted little spider critters but, from all appearances, the very item they had come down here for. And -more.- More..which should -really- be brought back with them for a myriad of reasons, but..would have to wait for now. They aren't prepared for that kind of extraction.

NOW…

Clint is bedside, holding the hand of a prone Bobbi, fingers entwined. He's got the tablet on the bedside table, but he hasn't looked at it too much in the interim. He should, but he's distracted. He's looking, hoping for a hint that maybe all this isn't actually happening and that she'll be fine. Wake up. And by next week, they'll be jetting around the world somewhere, at each other's throats or ignoring each other once again.

No. Such. Luck.

*

One very long flight back gives Maria some time to consider what to do about McCoy and what they have to do next. Sure, they're not at liberty to say what any of this is about. But, keeping him in the dark is a good way to tarnish their working relationship. She has to be honest with herself, the guy's proven himself useful on this trip.

It won't be until they're all the way back in the medical wing (which she walks with a slight limp) that she's even going to try to approach the subject. If..he doesn't handle her explanation well then at least there's security details close at hand. Who knows what the big blue guy does when he doesn't agree with their ethics?

"What we've uncovered back there is what will save her life," she explains. From a distance, so the med techs can work.

The part which she doesn't explain is that it's far from a guaranteed result.

*

Steve watches the interaction between Bobbi and Clint while quietly saying a prayer from the corner of the room. He looks over to Hill as she speaks, and then to McCoy. They're both a well received distraction.

*

"Who's life and why is this the only thing that will save her life? How do you know? How do you know that it hasn't deteriorated in the last seventy years?" Hank has a bunch of question to ask and doesn't really seem to be holding back. He's going to need a much more in-depth discussion about this before he's putting an unknown anything into someone's body.

Of all the mutants, he has firsthand experience with that.

*

A lab tech rushes in with another vial and hands it towards Maria. "The serum, we made it exactly to the specifications in the notes!" he announces.

*

Clint catches sound, then presences. Steve's presence behind him gets his attention first, and he actually leaves Bobbi's side to talk quietly with the man. His voice is lower, undoubtedly because he fully believes Bobbi can hear them. "Steve," he begins, "I didn't get a chance. If you were me, and you know what you know… would you still go through with it?" He respects the guy as well as likes him. And there is only one other that would know the trials and tribulations of a life set forth with an injection of serum.

The rest of the conversations, the DepDir's and Beast's.. Clint looks back, finding the tech quickly. "In the notes…?" Notes found, probably. "Were they right, though?"

*

Fortunately (perhaps,) it isn't McCoy who needs to administer the injection. Maria wouldn't have asked him to get involved with something like this, the weight of such a decision could break a person if their little science project here turns out to be a failure. When she folds her arms together over her chest it really is acting as a defensive posture, motioning with an upward nod toward the bed Morse is occupying not too far away from where they stand. "One of ours. It's a long and very complex story, one which I'm not at liberty to say."

Yeah..she has to pull -that- card on Hank.

Then one of the techs hands her the vial, one which she's suddenly being very careful with. Both because dropping it would be -very- bad and because she's in the immediate company of someone very strong and very fast whom may not agree with her on the matter.

Here she turns to look at Hank directly. "What I -can- say is that we've had our best med techs doing everything they can for her and that this decision isn't being made lightly. I don't know what you may have heard about us, Doctor, but I'm not in the habit of using my Agents as guinea pigs. Their lives are paramount to me, enough that I would drop everything to go halfway across the world to dig up the bones of the past if I thought for one -second- that it might save them."

Barton's concern is shared in Hill, though when he glances in her direction she holds the vial up slightly in a silent offering. 'Here it is. Make the call.'

*

Beast doesn't seem entirely convinced as he isn't being given an answer, "What's wrong with her? And what are you putting into her? I understand that you can't divulge everything, but you brought me on this mission and while I don't want to see anyone harmed…or worse…" he glances over to the bed, "I think I have a right to know what you're planning to do to her." Another look to Captain America, "I know what has been done previously…" but he also knows that the formula was lost after it was given to Rogers. That's history. "Do you know what side effects there might be if you do this?"

*

Cap looks over at Clint, "Do you really have any choice?" His eyebrow raises at McCoy, "By side effects, do you mean one worse than death?" Steve folds his arms over his chest—it's clear he supports the idea.

*

The tech nods to Clint. "Right in as far as we know the only part of Dr. Calvin's serum that wasn't working properly was causing the rapid aging," he replies. "It also helps that we were able to use actual physical samples from…" he trails off, realizing Hank is there. "…the original subject. With the other formula blended in, it should fix that issue. In theory." In theory. It's all theory.

*

'Any choice…' It's probably not the answer Clint's looking for, but it's an answer after a fashion. And there really isn't time to discuss and debate the metaphysical aspects of it all. Hill has the vial in her fingers and the labtech is assuring him that they fully believe they have all the issues worked out. Mostly. In theory. They think.

Clint nods and walks back to Bobbi's bedside. Taking her hand again, he leans over to whisper in her ear. He lingers there for a long couple of seconds before he kisses her forehead and straightens slowly. Looking at the gathered, he looks solemn. Serious. Sober. He's read enough. Seen enough. Experienced enough with partners to have a good understanding of what should result from this. On the positive side, it's a life sentence. She'll be quicker, stronger. On the con side, it's a life sentence. Literally. A deep breath is taken, followed by a wince (he'd forgotten he's not in the best of health!) before he nods.

"Do it."

*

Here..are some questions which Hill can answer. Some of them she doesn't have to because they're already answered for them by proxy, dipping her head once toward the tech. Captain America's success story is no mystery. "She had spent a lot of time researching the program, trying to recreate the serum. Like we just heard, in its current state it causes accelerated aging. Otherwise it should be good to go. What we needed was something to counteract the aging, and we do have a very good idea of what it will do."

It's already been used on one of their own. It's a secret which is known by very few. One which she won't be sharing. Probably ever.

"What we aren't one hundred percent on is how the two will interact," she admits with a weary sigh. "Whether we'll get proper symbiosis or not is where the risk comes into the picture. But, it's her own research which led us all down this path. If she thought it would do the trick then I'm certain she would take the chance."

With the confirmation given Hill sets her jaw, draws in a deep breath, then steps forward to pass the proverbial baton to the SHIELD Doctor that had been fighting to keep Mockingbird stable.

*

Beast's sharp teeth show in a sort of snarl and he growls, "I do not condone this." But this isn't his lab. This isn't his serum. And this isn't his decision. "While I appreciate that you're trying to save this woman's life, if this works, this can lead you down a terrible, terrible road." He then turns as if to leave before he pauses, "The next time you ask me to help, I expect to be fully debriefed. I'm not one of your soldiers."

He really hopes that this works. For their sake. But he also hopes they destroy what's left. For everyone else's sake.

*

The doctor takes the syringe from Hill, and he moves to Bobbi's bedside. He injects the concoction into the central line that has been feeding her nutrients the last several days. "Now we wait," he notes. He glances at the monitors and a brow archers. "Pulse ox, heart rate, and respiratory rate are already stabilizing." He blinks and taps the side of the monitor, just to be sure it's reading correctly. "Neuro is improving too. These are all good signs."

The better sign is the slight squeeze her hand gives to Clint's. There for just a moment, but not his imagination. Acknowledgement of his presence? And answer to whatever he whispered? It's a sign of life, and that is the important thing.


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