War Stories

OOC Date: December 19, 2013
IC Date: December 19, 2013
Characters: Black Widow & Bruce Banner


Banner's Lab, Nuclear "Bannerville" Springs
The laboratory is huge. It is also several meters below the ground — placing a great deal of solid rock between the house above, and the lab below. Vaguely rectangular in shape, the walls are of a bluish, reflective metal with lightpanels fixed into the ceiling. On each side of the lab is a different desk, table or console — and the center is occupied by a large table, complete with holographic projector.

A series of polished steps lead up to a blank wall, accessible by a panel and keypad — and there is a retractable center partition capable of dividing the lab into two distinct parts. The near side (to the stairs) is devoted mainly to the study of science, while the far side is furnished with a double bed, walk-in wardrobe, study area and ensuite. There are words hovering in 3D in a wall, reading: Hulk smashes - Banner builds.

~~~

Banner himself is leaning against the holo-table, staring intently at a projection of the Wastelands — specifically, the soil and mineral content under the surface. The image continually winks out and distorts, providing very little by way of helpful details, and Bruce's fingers tap vigorously on the console, trying to enhance the image.

"Sensors must have been damaged during transport. Whoever pulled me here certainly wasn't gentle about it. More work. Typical. Second day here and so far I've trashed a transport, dug a lake — ish — and erected some street-art outside. Productive, Banner. Very productive…"

Having changed into her uniform, and replaced her comlink in her gauntlets, Natasha has set out to find Banner again. There is still that nagging thought in the back of her mind to if he went through the romance with her in the darker part of her history; when she was called traitor by everyone else.

It worries her.

Soft steps lead her down into the laboratory, used to stepping silent unless she purposefully wants to announce her presence. Though noticing how quiet she's been perhaps a little belated, the silken Russian accent arises from behind him at the base of the stairs:

"I hope this isn't a bad time, Bruce?"

"Agent Romanoff," Bruce replies without looking around, his tone formal, distant.

Then he snorts.

Rubbing at his eyes with a forefinger and thumb, he turns about — dressed in a nondescript suit with an open-neck shirt — and smiles wryly at the assassin. "Nat," he corrects himself with a degree of familiarity. "Welcome to my… secret lair. It's okay — come on in."

He leans back against the table, and the image behind him winks out. "So. My handler, huh? Is this 'briefing' official, or…?"

There is a small thinning of her lips as he uses her 'formal' name, though when it changes, her expression softens, just a touch.

Steps, though slightly more audiable now, sound as she moves further into the room, moving to stand a few feet before him. "Yup, looks like you are stuck with me again." There is a familiar tug, that little smile, there, and gone.

"I wouldn't say official. An old friend updating an old friend and welcoming you into a… very strange circumstance."

"That explanation sounds like something worthy of a toast," Banner replies with a muted, careful smile. "Pity I don't have any champagne. There's a six-pack in the fridge under that console near you." He puts his hands to either side of him, drumming against the edge of the holo-table while he leans his torso forward, and watches Natasha through upward-gazing eyes.

He spreads his hands then, tilting his head back, and puts his fingertips together. "We could probably take the better part of a week going over comparisons of my reality and yours — former realities at least — but I think you're not really here just for that." He laughs sardonically, shaking his head and glancing off to the side.

"Is he your Fury?" he asks suddenly.

"I don't generally drink on duty." Natasha relents to the notion of alcohol. Then again, she does every once in a while. But that usually has something to do with her job.

"He isn't, but he is still Director Fury."

A pause after a few moments, and she just has to ask: "Do you remember China?"

China was the period that she was branded a traitor and on everyone's wanted list. It was a very difficult time for her, though it led to an interesting, though brief, time between them. Before she was subsequently captured and had to be rescued… hospitalized after due to injuries.

Being an assassin is a rough life.

Banner laughs.

"Yeah…" he says of Nick Fury with a smirk. "Yeah, I can see that." The rueful chuckle lasts for a few seconds longer, then slowly fades away. Banner pinches the bridge of his nose again, blinking, and returns his gaze toward Natasha's face.

"China…" he repeats in a murmur. Then, cryptically, he shakes his head. "You're asking me if I remember 'us'." It isn't phrased as a question. He mouth-shrugs and nods, as his expression turns sympathetic. "Well, not 'us', us — you and your version of me. Me and my version of you." He gazes upward for a moment, and looses another breath.

"One for one," he murmurs. "Agent Barton? Hawkeye?" he then asks.

Well, at least they have that shared. Their time in the Avengers, likely.

"He shares much of the same history I do, with some differences."

Natasha squares her shoulders a little, diving into some of her history in her mind that she would have rather forgotten. Crossing her arms against her chest, she carefully schools her expression.

"What do you want to know about the current situation?"

"Who pulled us here, how, and what for."

Bruce doesn't skip a beat in answering the question. A smirk curls at the corner of his mouth. "I'm more isolated than usual here," he explains. "Plenty of time to think."

He shrugs.

"Nah, there's more than just that: who else is here (that we know), and… is there any way back? Actually I've got the gist of some that: it looks like most if not all the Avengers are here — from one time or another — and if we're pulled for a war, I'd say a tidy handful of our typical enemies are here too. 'Dark' versions of us, even — now that's a horrible thought: imagine an 'evil' Nick Fury, I mean…"

He trails off.

"You were saying…"

"Alpha and Omega, are what the entities are called. Beyond that, I'm not entirely sure -what- they are. They pull people to be their Champions to fight in their war. To what end? I'm not sure. People come and go as They please. People can disappear as easily as they appear. The only way to leave is to die or not be useful anymore."

Quiet steps cross to the holographic table in the middle, turning with a grace to rest her hip against the edge, considering his questions.

"Hawkeye, Sue Richards, Director Fury, Thor.. Lady Sif, the Queen of Sanctuary. She knew me, but I didn't know her."

She pauses, looking ceiling-ward as she thinks.

"I've met a few others, but I am still building files for them in our database."

A pause, her lips tilting at the corner, her voice absolutely dripping with playful sin as she looks to him: "Could you imagine a worse version of me?"

Banner half-smiles.

"A better question would be, 'could they?'", he counters — speaking of two entities. "So… 'Alpha' and 'Omega', huh?" He sighs. "A pair of Chess-playing superbeings each with a god-complex — great." He shifts his weight against the table to better look at Natasha.

"No," he says in answer to her question. "I imagine you as you are — someone who can still surprise me, in any reality." He chuckles. "What happens next?" he ventures a second or so later.

Natasha remains leaning as she is, arms crossed against her chest loosely, giving him the perfect view of an alluring profile.

"Pretty much." She concedes as far as the god complex being. "None of us seem too happy with the fact that we are pawns in some one else's game."

At his next question, her lips tug in that ghost of a smile as her green eyes tilt over to the man. "Now that you and Stark are here, we are hoping you can get us home."

Her shoulders raise in a helpless shrug. "But we are having to deal with surviving, in the mean time. We need supplies, materials, resources… Gathering as much intel as we can. There are beings here that we haven't encountered before."

Almost in afterthought, she turns, shifting her hip to rest against the table as she fully faces him. "There is one you probably should avoid, or at least not approach without help. There is a green haired, clown-faced madman that currently has possession of Thor's hammer. He has… been causing quite a bit of chaos in Crossroads. If you noticed the heavy cloud cover in the distance over the city, that is his doing."

Banner listens.

Then he pushes off the table and turns about to frown dubiously at Natasha. "That's what happened to him? He lost his hammer to…a madman? Please tell me the 'green' isn't 'gamma-related'; that would be… just too horrible."

He stops.

He grins.

"You know… I picked up Mjolnir once — well, Hulk did. Even flew with it…" his grin fades, and he shakes his head. "Sort of. Alright. We're in the dark — no resources, no Hub, no back-up, no intel…this must be doing Fury's head in! What's that Stark said once? 'Can't do the equation until I have all of the variables' — what do you say to some 'old-fashioned' spying? Call it 'sight-seeing'. We're looking for supplies to, so — 'sight-seeing' and 'dinner', then."

His expression turns serious after that.

"I'll — we'll — come up with something. I promise."

"Not gamma related. He's just… a madman." Not much of a reassurance, but at least some.

Hopefully.

"Are you asking me out on a date, Dr. Banner?" There is a mirth in her green eyes, playful… so glad to have her old friend back.

She pushes off of the table, straightening, letting her arms fall. "It is a ways to Crossroads. You don't want to do that by foot if you want decent time." Yes, she did after he threw her.

Still very bruised and sore, by the way, thank you for asking.

"I can call a small transport for us." Though at his more serious notion, she only nods. There really isn't much else she can say to that.

He winces.

"I get it, I know," he remarks with a sheepish smile. "Never living it down — fair trade, I suppose." He steps away from the table and snags a jacket before walking to the foot of the stairs leading up out of his lab. "It's a 'date' if that helps you agree to it," he jibes lightly. "If you think you're up for it — wait, you walked here?"

He turns and starts up the stairs.

"Never mind; I don't want to know. Coming?"

She didn't quite walk, but she doesn't feel the need to explain it.

Natasha moves to follow, lifting her wrist up close to her mouth as she speaks: "This is Agent Romanoff, requesting transport for two on my location."

"Roger, Agent Romanoff. Transport incoming on Bannerville, location."

"Where would you like to start? There is a decent restaurant and club that just arrived, ran by a man Remy LeBeau. I am currently holding a cover there, however. He knows nothing about SHIELD."

Basically, the standard 'keep them in the dark until Fury says otherwise'. Observe and report.

"Or a Saloon that was half blown up by the madman. Their imitation root beer is horrible."

"The Club," Banner replies from half way up the stairs, pausing for Natasha to catch up. "The Hulk has had enough playtime already in the last two days — a madman's saloon is just asking for trouble."

He grins.

"Besides, how often does 'Bruce Banner' ever get to play 'spy'? Do I need a hat and trenchcoat? C'mon, you can tell me about your cover on the way. No SHIELD business. Sounds good."

He starts climbing again.

"Remember 'Agent Hill'? She pushed me out of a plane once…"

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