HIDDEN FROM LIGHT SHE THRIVES. A CITY UNKNOWN TO THE WORLD
HOUSES AN ECLECTIC COLLECTION OF MEN AND WOMEN OUTCAST
FROM SOCIETY. BUT THAT WHICH IS HIDDEN IS HIDDEN FOR A REASON AND
UNLOCKING THE CITY’S SECRETS WILL PROVE TO BE MORE DANGEROUS
THAN EVEN HAWKEYE AND MOCKINGBIRD COULD PREPARE FOR. THEY
WILL NEED TO STAND TOGETHER AND PULL OUT EVERY TRICK TO SURVIVE…
CIVIL UNREST, WAR ON THE WATER, AND AN ANCIENT POWER AWAIT THEM IN…
| UPDATED: 6/18/13|
New chapter is up!
A mysterious woman desperately runs for her life with only one thing on her mind...the Avengers.
Clint and Bobbi's vacation is cut short for a visit to Gibraltar.
The Rock of Gibraltar contains a maze of tunnels and a surprise even two Avengers might not be ready for.
Clint and Bobbi meet Thomas Garrote and the city he calls home.
›› Chapter Four ›› Local Flavor
Absinthe is one hell of a drink.
|›› PROLOGUE ›› THE ESCAPE|
Pain, bright and sharp, exploded in Luciana’s knee. Her surprised cry echoed in the darkness as she rolled onto her side, clutching her leg. Dirt and torn fabric of her jeans stuck to the blood welling from the fresh scrape on her knee. For a few precious seconds, it was all she was aware of until fear cut through the pain and reminded her of the urgency of the situation. She scrambled to her feet, snatched up the forgotten metal plate from the ground as she took off at a run.
The rubber soles of black ankle boots pounded the rocky floor, threatening to roll her ankle and send her crashing down with every step. Luciana scolded herself for wearing two inch heels when she knew there would be a chance this would happen. That she would get caught trying to sneak out. Carlos warned her that it would happen, that Thomas would figure out what she was up to, and once he found out there was no going back. He told her that she should forget what she had done and leave Thomas be.
But Carlos knew the same as she did that Thomas was too ambitious not to use his new found power. And when he did, it wouldn’t be to knock over a sweet shop for a handful of Euros. Thomas would aim as high as he thought he would get away with, and the rest of the city would get dragged along with him.
Something had to be done.
Luciana’s feet skidded to a stop in front of a craggy wall with a thin vertical crack cut into it. Without hesitation, she flattened her body and wiggled into the crack, the rough surface scratching and scraping her skin as she hurried to the other side. She paused a second and took a deep breath, regaining her composure. In the distance, she heard the tell tale clap of footsteps running to catch up. Wolf was gaining on her.
Luciana pushed onward, eager to put more distance between her and Wolf, though her pace wasn’t what it was. Her energy was falling fast. She thudded across a short plank and kicked it down the hole it was covering, hoping it would buy her a little time. Minute after minute passed as she continued to jog in the dark. The hard edges of the metal plate dug into hand as she gripped it tighter to keep it from slipping from her sweaty grasp. She could swear she heard Wolf’s footsteps closing in on her. How long would it be before he caught up? More importantly what would he do; Wolf had a well known vicious streak.
In the end, all it took was one step and push.
A dazzling light blinded Luciana and spread warmth across her body. She tried to keep her legs moving, but her left foot sunk into something soft and the heel of her boot snapped as her momentum threw her off balance. Her ankle twisted as her side slammed into the ground, filling her nose with the scent of earth and flora. Luciana felt herself tumble down a steep incline, branches snapping and bending as she went, until it leveled off with rough asphalt.
For a moment, Luciana didn’t move. She felt sick and disoriented as brightly colored spots swam across her eyes. Sitting up gingerly, she felt a wave of nausea hit her, but her vision had cleared enough to make out a crowd of white buildings rise from the depression on the other side of the road. So close.
A row of numbers glinted in the sunlight behind her and Luciana crawled over to grab the metal plate from the grass. She could do this. Putting her weight on her right leg, she shakily stood up and felt the expected pain shoot through her body. She limped to the other side of the road, teeth digging into her bottom lip to hold back a cry, and looked down at the obstacle before her. The slope down to the city was sharper than the last one. There was no way she could do it standing. Luciana awkwardly dropped to her rear and, gripping the plate tight, pushed herself over the edge.
Dirt and grass flew by her as Luciana skidded down the slope at top speed. The back of her legs burned and pebbles bounced up to hit her chest, but she reached the bottom safely. She could see people now, milling around store shops and eating dinner beneath umbrella tables. Desperation propelled her forward. Not even a bad leg could stop her from making it now.
“Help! Someone get help,” Luciana cried, knocking over a stand of postcards as she stumbled into the street. “I need the Avengers!”
People looked up from their meals and conversations to watch her. Some murmured amongst each other, others looked around nervously. Why wasn’t anyone doing anything? Why weren’t they whipping out their cell phones to call for help?
“The Avengers!” Luciana spun around in disbelief, looking into one confused face after another. Why didn’t anyone understand? “I need the – Ah!”
A burning sensation surged through Luciana’s body like ghost passed through her. Briefly, she thought of Carlos’s warning, then it all went black.
|›› CHAPTER ONE ›› ONE FOR THE ROAD|
|›› CHAPTER ONE ›› ONE FOR THE ROAD|
The vivid gold of the pale ale glistened under the late evening summer sun. A calloused hand rested at the base of the pint glass, idly turning it in his palm to try to buy time before having to make his decision. He didn’t look at her. His glassy eyes were cast down at the cheery red and white checkered tablecloth spread out between them. For a moment, it looked like he would face-plant on the table, but he straightened his shoulders and rolled his head back. He blew out a breath of air, but didn’t move to lift the glass.
“Are you going to drink that or wait for it to evaporate?”
The man answered Bobbi with a glare. “I was gettin’ to it. Don’t rush me,” he said with a slight slur.
Bobbi motioned with her hand to continue. After a beat, the man raised the glass to his pursed lips and mimed drinking. She watched in silence, letting her stare coerce him into parting his lips to accept the beer. He drank slowly until all was gone then slammed down the glass with a shaky smile. Bobbi resisted snorting at the false bravado; Clint didn’t.
The man’s eyes slid to Clint standing behind her left shoulder as the smile fell from his face. “Don’t see you drinkin’, blondie.”
“You’ve got me,” Clint said, holding up his hands, feigning resignation. “I’m just too intimidated by that razor sharp wit.”
Failing to resist the smile that tugged at her lips, Bobbi cleared her throat and, with only the slightest amusement, she said, “You two done?”
“Yeah, I’m done,” the man replied and pushed his empty glass forward. “It’s to you.”
There was no hesitation as Bobbi grabbed her own full pint glass and swallowed it down, barely tasting the unusual spices. A small voice in her head scolded her for chugging when she was already well past tipsy while an even louder voice cringed at the waste of good beer, but it was the smart move to do. The man was on the ropes and a casual show of dominance would put him on the edge. Bobbi finished without breaking stride and returned her glass to the table.
“And now it’s to you.”
Clint’s hand clasped onto her shoulder and she knew he was grinning.
In contrast, the man looked ready to pass out. Somehow, he found the strength to lift the refilled glass and slowly sip it. He didn’t last long. Less than half an inch was drained before he set the glass down with a pained expression. A collective cheer went up from the small crowd gathered around them. Hands smacked her, none-too-softly, on the back and reached across the table for money. Bobbi scooped up the crumpled pile of bills on the table that were her winnings. Two young men’s loud boasting soon became the new focus and Clint and Bobbi wormed away through the small crowd gathered around the checkered table. The loud crowing and laughing left behind them as they strolled amongst the less dense crowd that populated the long strip of land filled with white stage tents, beer booths, and food kiosks.
It was the International Berlin Beer Festival’s famous Beer Mile, and Bobbi was happy to say it lived up to the name. Hundreds of different flavors and styles of beers from all over the world collected together in one place. Beers she never knew existed. It was amazing being able to walk along the mile tasting them, surrounded in a festive atmosphere of friends and fun. There was no better place to spend a week, and that included other beer fests Bobbi had visited in the past. None had been so vast with so much beer diversity. Three and a half days had already past, but she felt like they’d barely just arrived. They had already started to think about next year.
“You killed that,” Clint said, looking down with a big grin. “How do ya feel?”
“Like I have a stomach full of beer.”
“At least it’s something you’re used to me,” he teased. “Ya sure showed that guy. Serves em right for all that shit-talking he was doing.”
Bobbi shrugged, pausing in front of a booth to look over a bottle of Hite Stout, a beer from Korea. “He won’t remember any of it. His buddies shaving half his head after he passes out isn’t a bad consolation prize, though.”
“Neither is the two hundred bucks he coughed up. What you gonna spend it on?”
“I don’t know, I haven’t thought about it.”
“I got a couple ideas,” he said, flashing a quick grin.
Bobbi paid the attendant and stuffed two bottles of Hite Stout into the backpack they had brought for carrying around the beer they had intended to save for later or bring back to the States. They continued walking down the Beer Mile. “I don’t think even you could eat two hundred dollars worth of chili.”
“Not a bad idea, but I was thinkin’ in another direction. You said there’s a lotta lakes around here, how about renting a jet ski?”
“Alcohol and jet skis; winning combination you have there, sport,” she said, looking over at him from the corner of her eye. “Go for a boat instead, you won’t get whiplash when you pass the nude beach.”
Clint’s eyebrows shot up. “There’s nude beaches here?”
“Wannsee Lake, or at least parts of it. When I was here as a SHIELD agent, I only ever visited the inner city, but I heard it’s a pretty nice place.”
“How many times have you been here?”
“For SHIELD, three times,” Bobbi replied. None of the missions have been particularly exciting; picking up intelligence another agent had dead dropped, convincing a hotel manager into giving her the security tape of the main lobby, and a one month gig as a waitress in a Russian restaurant that didn’t turn up anything other than a renewed hatred for waitressing.
“So, should I expect to open my eyes in the middle of the night to find an old pal of yours standing over us with a knife?”
“No more than usual.”
“That’s good, I don’t like being interrupted.”
Bobbi laughed. “Cheeky bastard.”
Snagging her hip, Clint pulled Bobbi into a small alley off the main road where they were hidden from the milling crowds. Leaning toward her, but not quite touching, he looked down at her, smile turning cocky. “You’re attracted to cheeky bastards.”
“And look where that’s gotten me,” she replied, her hand coming up to rest on his chest.
When they kissed it was slow and easy, more affectionate than lustful. Bobbi tasted lingering beer flavor on his lips. The muffled ring from her front pocket meant that it would, unfortunately, be short lived. Clint pulled back to let her answer the phone.
“See what I mean about being interrupted,” he grumbled.
“It’s Cap,” she read off the caller ID and his body visibly tensed much like she felt herself respond. Cap wouldn’t call in the middle of a vacation just to have a chat, something bad happened. Bobbi hit the receive button, hoping they wouldn’t have to break out black clothes any time soon. “What’s up?”
“I’m sorry to have to interrupt your week off, Mockingbird, but we’ve got our hands full with AIM and I’m afraid there’s no other option. There’s been an…incident in Gibraltar, a woman’s in the hospital, and the faster someone gets there-“
“-the less tampering of the scene,” Bobbi finished. The knot in her stomach untied. Though she was never happy to hear news of anyone getting hurt, she was nonetheless relieved it wasn’t anyone she knew. She mouthed ‘they’re fine’ to Clint as she grabbed his arm to lead him deeper into the alley, further away from onlookers. Noting no windows over head, she hit the speaker button, though at a low enough volume that their conversation wouldn’t carry. “What’s the story?”
“At approximately 1:15 yesterday afternoon a woman had appeared running around the streets of Gibraltar, hysterical and screaming for help, screaming for the Avengers. Then, she abruptly fainted and has been unconscious ever since. The doctors can’t find a cause for it, she just won’t wake up.”
“Thirty hours is one long nap,” Clint murmured, frowning.
“What do we know about the woman?”
“Nothing. No identification on her persons, no missing persons report fitting her description, fingerprints turned up nothing in Interpol and no witnesses can recall seeing her before. No one knows where she came from, other then she was running in a general northward direction. The only thing we have to go on is the hull identification plate she was found with.”
“That’s like the license plate for boats. Why hasn’t anyone looked up the boat and tracked down the owner,” Clint asked.
“They have. The plate belongs to a chartered yacht called Scarlet Marque and it went missing a month ago in the Mediterranean Sea after setting out from Alexandria for Dover. It was thought they had hit some rough sea and sank before getting off a distress call. No wreckage was ever found. The man that chartered it, an independently wealthy English journalist named Marcus Grant, was said to be the only passenger. None of the crew were women, either.”
“She coulda been a stowaway or a girlfriend he decided to bring along at the last minute,” Clint offered.
“It’s definitely a possibility.”
Bobbi wasn’t convinced. “But it doesn’t explain what she’s stricken with.”
“No, it doesn’t, and that’s why I called you,” Cap replied. “I know there’s not a whole lot of evidence to justify the Avengers getting involved, but the situation doesn’t sit right with me. Something is going on here.”
“Don’t worry, Cap, we got this.”
“Thanks, Clint. I’ll have the arrangements made and the complete report sent to your hotel.”
The call ended and Bobbi stared down at the phone, brows knit together, turning over the information in her head. She agreed with Cap, something wasn’t quite right with the mystery woman and the Scarlet Marque. She just wished it didn’t have to happen now. Sighing, Bobbi slipped the phone back into her pocket and glanced down the alley toward the lights and sounds of the festival in full swing.
Clint’s face wore a rueful smile. “Time to cram three days of drinking into one night.”
“I still don’t know how you can eat that stuff.”
“Easily,” Bobbi replied as she cut into a large black disc on her plate and popped it in her mouth, “it’s delicious”
Clint cringed watching her chew. “I kinda doubt that. It’s pig’s blood.”
“Yum,” he deadpanned. Bobbi shook her head at him, looking all too amused as she finished up her breakfast. Black pudding was a longstanding disagreement between them. Bobbi, having grown up eating it every Sunday morning, loved it. Clint didn’t think it should qualify as food. He pushed aside his plate with the remains of his scrambled eggs and leaned forward, folding his arms on the table. His eyes fell to the hospital report laid out next to Bobbi’s plate. “Figure any of that out yet?”
“No,” she sighed. “I’m not a doctor, but I don’t see anything in the reports that would explain what’s wrong with her. Only a couple scrapes and bruises. It’s just as Cap said.”
“So, it’s down to us snooping around town for clues.”
“Pretty much. The only thing that sticks out is nurses mentioning a strong smell of licorice in her room.”
Clint’s brows drew together. “What’s that mean?”
Bobbi shrugged. “No idea. Could be a coincidence, people aren’t known to sweat candy.”
Reaching across the table, Clint snagged three photographs from under the file. The first was a headshot of a woman with light olive skin and dark brown hair, stringy from not being combed, resting on a shockingly white hospital pillow. She only must’ve been a few years older than him. Still so very young. The other pictures were close-ups of her arms which were painted with elaborate sleeve tattoos. Thick vines wrapped around her flesh, partially covering a skull on her right tricep and a nude lovers embrace on her left bicep, with the occasional punch of color from a vibrant pink cherry blossom. Due Corpi, Una Sola Anima was written in graceful cursive writing inside the vine that twisted over the lovers. Clint didn’t have much of an artistic eye, but the high quality and beauty of the design was obvious.
“Nice tats,” Clint said, setting down the pictures. The police report stated they had already checked with local tattoo parlors and none of them claimed the work, or recognized the woman.
“Hold onto the photos, they could be useful,” Bobbi said and chased down the last of the black pudding with a gulp of coffee. Her eyes went to the cold eggs on his plate. “You finished?”
With breakfast eaten, they quickly packed the backpack, now without beer, with Clint’s fold-up bow and quiver, should he need it. His arrows, at a massive 30 inches, had to be hidden inside a long black bag intended for tent poles and latched to the side of the pack. Bobbi had also hid her battlestaves in the backpack. They had decided before leaving Germany to keep a low profile since they had no idea what they were dealing with, if there was anything at all. Bobbi had also thought it would be easier to investigate without the stares and whispers toward two Avengers roaming around town. Their costumes were in the backpack if they hit onto something, minus their boots which they wore beneath baggy pants.
No more than five minutes later they were out the door and on there way to Calpe Road where the tattooed woman had fell unconscious. The sun was bright and hot on their faces and tourists had already crowded the streets on what was a beautiful late Thursday morning. They opted to walk as it wasn’t too far away from their hotel on Main Street and the narrow street design made it the practical option. The area where the tattooed woman fell, as it turned out, was more of a courtyard lined with light grays bricks up to the sidewalk that ran along large white stone buildings set-up as store shops. Bright colorful umbrellas of red, blue, white, and yellow speckled the courtyard above tables, contrasting the dull gray of the bricks. Numerous trees poked up through the sidewalk and were positioned throughout the area in plant boxes. A slightly darker shade of brick ran through the middle of the courtyard, lampposts on either side, marking it as the road.
Standing near the center of the courtyard next to one of the black steel lampposts, Clint surveyed the area. “Big place. Lots of people around too, I can see why she’d wander here.”
“It’s a smart place to go if you want attention,” Bobbi agreed. “Decent crowd here even at an off traffic hour like right now. These tables will be full when the lunch rush hits.”
Clint found his gaze roam up toward the rocky ridge that loomed over the buildings to the east. His eyes narrowed. “They said she came from the south.”
“Yeah, the road is a dead end, though. She could’ve potentially come from anywhere.”
“Potentially,” he murmured. Clint nodded to the rocky ridge. “That’s the Rock of Gibraltar, right? What else is over there?”
“Not a whole lot; some cave tourist attractions, a beach area and a few scattered buildings. The docks are on the west and southern side of the peninsula, by the heart of the city. If there was wreckage on the coast it would’ve been found by now, though.”
An amused smile had crept onto Clint’s face as Bobbi rattled off facts as easily as if she lived on Gibraltar. He wasn’t the least surprised. “Lemme guess, you’ve been here before too, huh?”
“Only once, passing through to Tangier.” She added as way of explanation, “I checked out some maps after you fell asleep on the plane last night.”
“Is there any place you haven’t been?”
Bobbi paused. “Cleveland.”
“That’s too bad, it’s a lot more exciting than you’d think,” Clint said and started off toward the southern entrance of the courtyard. He had a hunch about where the tattoo woman had come from. “I don’t think she came from the docks, there woulda been a dozen other places to get attention closer than this place. There ain’t anything special here.”
“I was thinking that too,” she said, walking alongside him. “Boats can sink fast, maybe the Marque sank off the east coast somewhere before anyone would’ve had a chance to spot.”
“How long does your hair stay wet?”
Bobbi’s face pinched with confusion. “What?”
“How long does it take to dry? Like two or three hours, right?”
“I guess. Where are you going with this,” Bobbi asked.
Clint stopped walking and turned to face her. “If she had come from a sinking ship, she woulda been wet. This place is tiny, like a mile wide, it wouldn’t take long to get from the shore to here. It can definitely be done inna couple hours, fast enough that she’d arrive here wet, but the report says nothing about it. She would’ve had to come from somewhere on land.”
Bobbi made a breathless laugh as she gave a slight nod. “Clever,” she said, clearly impressed. “She could’ve avoided getting wet if she got into a life raft, but I think we should look into what you said. We could be dealing with a hostage situation. It wouldn’t hurt to check around the houses around the rock. Isolated as they are it’d be the best place to hole up.”
“I wasn’t thinking around the rock,” Clint said and grinned. “I was thinking in it.”
|›› CHAPTER TWO ›› DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE|
Now, that the thread's here, I'm just gonna annoy you more about finishing the next chapter, you know...
Haha, being annoyed might not be a bad idea. It could finally get my ass in gear. Though with the Flyers season over and the Phillies playing like crap that might be all the incentive I need to spend more time writing and less time on sports.
Now you know what it's like to be a Minnesota sports fan... Except for the constant arguing over a new Vikings stadium.
Nah, if I was a Minnesota the Flyers wouldn't have made it to the playoffs. You guys have it pretty rough with your sports teams.
Ouch... That's actually true, though. None of our teams made the playoffs this last year. It's weird, since just a few years ago, all four of our teams were playoff teams at the same time. I think the T'Wolves are finally gonna make the playoffs next year in the NBA, though. They were really good until the last month or so, when everyone on the team got hurt at the same time. The Wild might have a chance, if they can get some goal-scoring in the offseason. But the Vikings and Twins are lost causes for a couple years, I'd say.
I'm sure Minnesota's time will come. Philly teams don't win many championships either, but the Phillies won the World Series a few years back. Your guys gotta catch a break at some point.
But anyway, haha, the thread is back in business now! I think it might even look better than the old one and I wrote up previews! Now for me to get some new chapters done.
So, you said the new chapter's coming soon... How soon is soon...?!?!?!?!?!? haha