›› 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 ****-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
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.
›› CHAPTER TWO ›› DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE
“I have to hand it to you, Clint. When you think of insane ideas you go as big as the best of them,” Bobbi said, skeptically eyeing the enormous rock ahead of them.
“Comes with being an ex-criminal,” Clint replied, angling his head to look under a small thorny bush. Not far outside the courtyard, they had found an access way that opened up to a steep incline that led to the base of the rock. They were hoping to find clues that the tattooed woman had passed through the area and the direction she came from. So far, they had searched for half an hour and hadn’t found so much as a hair.
“I just hope you have a prisoner sniffing arrowhead in your pocket, there’s over a 150 caves in the rock.”
Clint frowned. “That’s…a lot of caves.”
Bobbi knelt by the roadside and scanned the coarse stretch of land that sharply rose up to the base of the rock. If there had once been foot prints stamped into the earth they were gone now, eroded by weather or animals. A few scraps of trash littered the area; an old McDonalds wrapper caught in the arms of a bush, a crushed empty pack of cigarettes a few feet from the pavement, and an empty plastic bottle half covered in dirt. She took a closer look at each, but there was nothing interesting, just random trash from people too careless to clean up after themselves. Bobbi clicked her tongue as she shifted her weight off her knees and took a second look at the area.
“Well, look what ol’ Hawkeye found.”
She raised her eyes to where he stood several yards away, halfway up the slope. “What is it?”
Clint turned his head toward her. “An arrow.”
Trash quickly forgotten, Bobbi hurried up to him, mindful of the difficult terrain, and looked at the ground for the arrow. She didn’t see anything. There was nothing but dirt and overgrown shrubs. “What exactly am I looking at?”
“Look at the shrub,” he said pointing to one, “the limbs are broken.”
“Congratulations, you found a broken stick. How does that help us?”
“It isn’t just one of them, it’s a whole line of shrubs. All broken in the same direction, all recently. Someone had to do it,” Clint pointed past the shrubs toward the rock, “and it looks like they came from that direction.”
“Were you moonlighting as a bounty hunter while you were committing crimes from your volcano hideout?”
“Hey, I was obsessed with the Wild West as a kid. Ya pick a few things up reading about Indians and trackers.”
Clint led the way up the hill, following the line of broken shrubs. There wasn’t many, three by Bobbi’s count, though enough to get them up to the base of the rock before disappearing in favor of a barren patch of land, dried out and sickly from a stretch of hot weather. The scorched dirt crumbled under her weight, sinking her boot several inches into the earth. Bobbi lifted her foot out of the hole.
“What now, Kemosabe,” she asked, shielding her eyes with her hand.
Clint didn’t answer immediately, his head turning from left to right and finally up at the rising wall of limestone. “She had to come from somewhere.”
Bobbi slowly walked the area, the occasional dislodged rock tumbling down the hill behind her. After a few minutes, she paused, looking around for their next clue. It wasn’t where she expected. Maybe a foot and a half away from a thin crack in the limestone wall was a hole not unlike the one her own foot had just created. Bobbi charged ahead for a closer look as she called back, “I think I found something.”
As she got closer she saw that the hole, while slightly misshapen compared to hers, was definitely made by a human foot. She was certain of it. Her eyes went to the thin crack in the wall, just wide enough for a person to fit through. It was pitch black beyond the threshold, impossible to see what lay inside without a light. Bobbi gave Clint a sideways glance as he clambered up beside her and looked from the crack to the hole.
“So, about that prisoner sniffing arrowhead…”
“Left em in my other belt, afraid it’s gotta be the old fashioned way.”
Clint twisted his body to pull open the drawstring of the tent pole bag and walked his fingers over the arrow fletchings until finding the one he wanted. With a quick yank, he freed it from the bag then did an impressive twirl with his fingers to point the arrowhead upward. It looked fairly normal, as far as Clint’s trick arrowheads went, with its small cylinder shape and dull gray color. Bobbi thought the top looked coarser than usual, but Clint slashed it across the face of the wall before she got a better look. A brilliant red flame erupted from the tip.
Bobbi watched the flare arrow sizzle. “Old fashioned, huh?”
Clint responded with one of his charming smiles and a tip of his head before stepping past her into the cave, the blazing flare arrow held in front of him to light the way. She followed behind him. Soft red light filled the narrow passage, conforming to every jagged nook and crevice in the walls and ceiling. It was much colder inside the dark cavern than outside in the hot sun and Bobbi resisted shivering as a cold spike danced up her spine. She rubbed her hands together as they walked deeper in the cave.
Their pace was slow and cautious, the low ceiling and suffocating silence felt like an invisible hand hovering above, slowly squeezing the further they moved away from the entrance. Away from the warm light of day. “Watch your step, we don’t know how stable this place is,” Bobbi said to break the dead quiet. “I don’t want to get my hands bloody digging your body out of a pile of rocks.”
“I’ll try to bleed in the other direction for you.”
“Always the gentlemen.”
“I gotta live up to the Avenger’s code.”
While morbid, the banter eased the tension, the invisible hand slightly loosened its grip.
“There’s a fork up ahead,” Clint pointed out. “I think we’re gettin’ somewhere.”
Moments later, they found themselves standing between two pathways, one veering to the left and the other the right. Clint pointed the flare arrow down both paths, but the light only extended a few feet down each tunnel. Not nearly far enough to see where they led. Bobbi squinted at the darkness, which did nothing to help her sight.
“What’s your favorite direction,” asked Clint, turning to point the flare arrow at her face. Bobbi winced, holding up a hand to shield her eyes from too-bright light, and snatched the arrow from his hand.
For several minutes, they walked onward, deeper into the heart of the rock. Moisture hung heavy in the air and the ground grew rough and slick. This wasn’t a path that saw many travelers. Even with a slow pace and Taekwondo enhanced balance, her feet slid off the limestone, slippery with condensation. Knee high boots with a wide, rigid sole was the only thing that kept her ankle from rolling, but couldn’t eliminate the risk of falling. Occasionally, Bobbi reached out with her free hand to use the wall for support.
At once, Bobbi stopped in her tracks. The red flare light followed the rocky floor as it plunged at a steep descent before fading to blackness. She couldn’t see what lay at the bottom or how far it went. It was traversable, dangerous, but traversable.
“Wait a minute before following me,” she instructed.
Keeping her stance wide and right hand fixed to the wall, Bobbi cautiously took her first steps down the slope. It felt as precarious as it looked. The slick rock made worse by the unforgiving angle. Just standing stationary was a challenge. She planted her foot for another step when it slipped forward. Dropping the flare arrow, Bobbi reached out for the wall, but felt it scratch her palm as she fell backwards, hitting the ground hard. Gravity pulled her skidding down the slope. Rocks tore into her hands and back. Acting on instinct, Bobbi braced her feet against the walls. Her body screeched to a halt, momentum slamming into her knees and groin, sparking pain.
Below, the flare arrow rolled to the bottom of the slope. The limestone ceiling converged on the floor like dripping wax. Dead end.
“Bobbi,” Clint called out. She turned her head to see him leaning down from the top of the slope gripping an outstretched arrow. “Can you reach it?”
Bobbi hesitantly pried her left hand from the wall, waited a second to ensure she wouldn’t fall, and reached up. Fingers closed around carbon shaft behind the fletchings. “I got it.”
She felt herself getting pulled up and her feet found the floor, backpedaling along the way. As she neared the top, Clint reached out to grab her free hand by the wrist and brought her up to safety with a strong tug. The rocky ground felt a hell of a lot better under her feet than the slope. Bobbi breathed out and rubbed her groin muscle, still stinging from the momentum jolt.
“No offense, but I’m really glad that happened to you insteada me,” said Clint, watching her.
“Believe it or not, me too,” she replied and straightened up. She still felt sore, but it would pass. “How many more flare arrows do you have left?”
“Three arrowheads. Only one is attached, the other two are in my belt pouch in the backpack.”
Bobbi nodded, grateful that he carried spares. “So, we try the right this time.”
Clint ignited a second flare arrow against the wall and they retraced their steps back to the intersection, choosing the unexplored path. The ground was far more even there, which made it easier on sore legs. They had only explored the new path for little more than four minutes when it thinned sharply to a crack barely wide for a man to squeeze through. About a foot by Bobbi’s eyes.
“That’s gonna be a tight squeeze,” Clint said, unshouldering the bulky backpack.
“Good thing you did your sit-ups this morning.”
“I know how you like the show.”
“Especially because there’s no cover charge.”
“I do appreciate the tips though,” he teased and positioned his body at the entrance of the crack, the red glow of the flare fading as his right hand led the way. “It’s not too far to go.”
“How far is not far?”
Bobbi watched as half of Clint’s body shuffled through the crack. “A couple yards. Gimme a minute to get through it before you try with the bag.”
Darkness crept in around her. The glow of the flare was increasingly obscured by walls of rock as Clint moved deeper through the cracked limestone. She cast a quick glance behind her at the black curtain inching closer. Bobbi didn’t harbor any particular phobias, though there were a number of things she preferred to avoid. Like being blind in the middle of a cave. Her mind went to the last flare arrowhead still inside the backpack. She wouldn’t let herself use it. It was their last resort should something happen to the second flare.
“I’m through,” Clint’s voice came from the other side of the crack, interrupting her thoughts. “Be careful when ya hit the end, I think I’m a few inches thinner.”
“Give me some light and keep it above my head so I don’t get blinded.”
Clint did as she instructed, putting his 6’3” height to good use holding the flare arrow as high and far as he could reach. Bobbi, with backpack firmly in her right hand, maneuvered through the mouth of the crack, limestone scraping over her back and front. Clint wasn’t exaggerating, it was tight. Hard rock dug into body. There wasn’t enough space for her chest to expand for a deep breath of air, forcing Bobbi into taking short, shallow breathes. She was grateful for the compression of a sports bra to flatten her chest, if only slightly, to give a few extra millimeters of space between her and the wall.
“I think I can grab the bag if you reach out,” Clint said, switching the flare to his right hand.
Bobbi extended her arm to reach his, but his fingers just grazed the canvas of the backpack. She shuffled a little closer and watched his hand grope the bag until he got a hold of one of the straps. “You have it? I’d like to avoid the adventure of trying to pick it off the ground.”
“Yeah, I got it,” he affirmed and she let go. His arm dipped slightly with the full weight of the backpack, but, thankfully, didn’t drop it.
Once the pack was safely out of the crack, Bobbi followed after it, grimacing as what little room she had closed in on her. But then, she was through and back into open space, free to breathe and stretch. It was only a few seconds before she spotted the next obstacle, and the first sign of humans; a 2x8 wooden beam laid over a wide chasm that separated them from the next area.
“Did you do that?”
“Didn’t touch anything.” Clint slung the backpack over his shoulder and flashed an excited grin as he stepped onto the beam. “Let’s see what’s over there.”
Bobbi looked beyond Clint to the other side of the beam where a flat open area awaited them when they stepped off wood onto rock. Half a dozen yards in the distance she could just see the flare light glint off a coarse wall and the edge of a ledge above. “We should get ready,” Bobbi proposed as she stepped off the beam. “Someone could be around here, that plank didn’t just grow from the ground.”
“Remind me, who was the one that said we’d never find anything in all these hundreds of caves?”
“Shut up, Clint.”
Clint laughed and dropped the backpack to the ground before wandering toward the far wall. “It’s no beer fest, but ya gotta admit, there’s worse ways to spend a vacation,” he said as he craned his neck to try to look over the ledge, but it was several feet above him.
“I wouldn’t exactly call this a vacation, but it is fun. Like being in an Indiana Jones movie.” Bobbi crouched down and unzipped the bag. “Bring the light over here so I can see what I’m looking at.”
“Yeah, inna minute.”
She looked up to see Clint jump up to grab the ledge, flare arrow tucked between his fingers. “What are you doing?”
“I wanna see wh-“
There was a flash of a boot followed by a sickening smack. Clint’s head jerked backwards and his body fell, back slamming against the cold limestone. The flare arrow bounced and rolled several feet away. Bobbi sprang to her feet as a slim figure darted toward her from the shadows. One soulless round eye, shimmering in the red light, stared her down as a baton swung at her head. Bobbi threw up her arm to protect herself, pain cut across her forearm, but the baton stopped short of her head. She raised her knee and shot her leg forward like piston, boot driving into his soft stomach. The man stumbled back, clutching his stomach, leaving himself vulnerable to the fist Bobbi threw at his chin. Knuckles connected with bone sending him staggering backwards to get away from her.
With her enemy momentarily stunned, Bobbi risked a glance to check on Clint. He was wiping blood from his mouth as he got back to see feet, staring down a tall, thickly built man. The same single blank eye as the other attacker sat above his nose. Thermal goggles.
“Nice glasses, but there’s already a Cyclops,” Clint quipped and stepped forward, driving his fist into the large man’s ribs.
The large man didn’t flinch. His long arms reached out, grappling Clint by the back of the neck and pulling him into a knee strike to the chest, knocking a grunt from his lungs. Clint was just as quick to respond, grabbing the man’s waist and tackling him into the wall. A loud thud echoed around them. The heavy impact broke both their holds on each other. Clint reared back for a punch when a sharp pain broke across Bobbi’s lower back.
“B****,” a Spanish accented voice snarled from behind. The baton struck again at the same spot, searing pain into her muscles. She grit her teeth, body tensing, as she held back a yelp. “No scream for your boy toy? He won’t like your pretty little face when I’m done.”
Spinning on the ball of her foot, Bobbi torqued her upper body and followed through with a spinning backfist. Her back ached with the motion, but the satisfying impact of her fist across her attacker’s face briefly stunned him. The momentum carried her into a fighting stance. No longer vulnerable, she threw a quick jab.
“I’ll remind myself to care when you can hit hard enough to leave a bruise,” Bobbi fired back.
Metal struck her right arm, inches above the elbow, in retaliation. The backhanded slash flowed swiftly into an overhead slash to her left collarbone. She winched at the shot of pain surge through her arms.
A wolfish sneer turned up the corners of his mouth. “Then you won’t mind when I shatter your bones.”
“Gladly, poppet,” he replied with malevolent glee.
Bobbi snapped off a quick kick, striking his ribs, as his empty fist shot forward clipping her cheek. They both stepped back and surveyed each other, searching for an opening. Light glinted off the baton as it twirled in his hand. She landed another kick on his thigh. He didn’t respond immediately. After a beat, the metal flashed as he jerked his arm up to attack. Too slow. His empty fist struck her face. The baton followed after, slamming down on her collarbone. Pain exploded from her collarbone and spread to the rest of her shoulder.
“Ah, f--,” Bobbi cursed through gritted teeth. She quickly turned to a side stance, pointing her right shoulder toward her attacker, as to protect the left from further abuse.
Her attacker’s laughter died in his throat as Bobbi spun on her front foot, turning her back to him, and lashed out with a spinning hook kick, the heel of her foot hammering the side of his head. The force knocked him over, falling against the forgotten backpack. Bobbi lunged as it skidded toward the chasm.
“Dammit,” she muttered, watching the pack disappear over the edge. “Clint, we have a problem.”
Clint absorbed a hard punch to his ribs. “Little busy here,” he grunted.
Bobbi cringed as another fist connected to Clint’s blood covered chin. He stumbled back, closer to the wall behind him. The large man charged after him, launching a fight ending punch aimed for Clint’s face. A howl of pain echoed through the cavern. The attacker clutched his injured hand as Clint stood up from his crouch, having dodged the blow. Unconcerned by the close call, Clint casually spat blood at the ground then rocked the other man with a stiff uppercut. He swayed on his feet until Clint finished him off with a follow-up haymaker that sent him sprawling on the ground.
Clint looked over to her, wiping blood from his lip. “What were you sayin’?”
Bobbi opened her mouth to speak when the large man dove toward the flare and thoughts of the backpack evaporated. It was out of his hand in an instant and flying toward the same chasm that consumed their backpack. A crimson wave rolled across the craggy walls then disappeared down the chasm with the flare, leaving Bobbi surrounded by darkness. Now blind, she strained her ears for the rustling of clothes and footsteps. She heard movement in front of her where Clint had stood. There was a grunt soon followed by a body hitting the ground. For a moment, she heard nothing, but her own steady breathing.
Quietly, footsteps moved toward her from the front. Bobbi readied herself for the attack, not about to surrender quietly, even when blind. She jabbed at the blackness, but felt only air. She did it again, hoping to at least keep the person at bay. Intense pain assaulted the back of her knee. Her leg gave out and her body slammed against the ground. The attacker pounced, like a predator on wounded prey, flailing at her body with the baton.
“Aint talking so tough now,” growled the familiar voice.
Sacrificing her arms, Bobbi tried to protect herself from the blows that rained down. Every inch of her body felt like it was angrily throbbing with pain. Then, abruptly, she heard someone grab the baton in mid-strike.
“No,” a new voice said with authority. “Garotte wants them alive.”
›› CHAPTER THREE ›› WATER'S END
@Hawkeye - Personally, I' m a fan of taking as long as needed to make sure it's right -- I'm sure everyone's happy to wait until you've got it to a place you like. :) RE: Censoring, I haven't made any filter changes, but my understanding is that all the ATVI forums share the same filtering, so that's mostly likely from another section. You guys really aren't foul-mouthed, especially by forum standards. ;)
So, as I said before, it was another awesome chapter, Hawk. I especially liked all the bickering between Clint and Bobbi. You did a great job with all of that, unsurprisingly, like the part about the sit-ups. And some of the descriptions were awesome, too. Even the description of the McDonalds wrappers and trash at the beginning was way more interesting than a paragraph like that has any right to be, because of the way you wrote it. I thought it was a good example of how I could improve my descriptions in my own writing, actually.
The fight scene was cool, too. Rather than just being a straighforward fight, there was the twist of the darkness in the cave to deal with. Not to mention that Clint couldn't just pull out his bow and shoot both the dudes with arrows, either.
The only thing I would say I didn't like is that there were a couple points where you say that someone said something "with malevolent glee" or "with authority" or things like that. Not that it's "wrong" to do that or anything, obviously, but I always prefer it when a writer shows what gives the person's voice authority or what shows his malevolent glee. Describing the sound of their voice or associating an action or facial expression with it usually works better, in my opinion. You did those things a lot of times, but it just stuck out to me when you didn't.
Anyways, definitely another awesome chapter, Hawk. Looking forward to the next one!
@Newslad - I'm pretty foul-mouthed, just not on the forum, haha. Thanks for the comments!
@Rogue - Thanks for review!
I hope ya meant bantering since they weren't really fighting, haha. I'm glad you enjoyed the descriptions and the trash so much.
I put a lot of work and research into the fight scene so it's awesome ya liked it! I really like playing with Bobbi as a Taekwondo expert and then having Clint over there slugging it out like he's inna bar brawl. Two very different approaches and that's without either of them using their weapons. There's still gonna be some archery fun later on though!
Normally, I'd agree, but the two examples you brought up are vocal descriptions, which you can't really "show" since you can't see sound and facial expressions aren't always relative or descriptive enough (and in the second example Bobbi can't see his face). There's still actions and other descriptions to support it, with Bobbi's attacker smiling and laughing and the big guy stopping him from beating Bobbi to death is pretty authoritive in itself. The dialogue matches too, with Bobbi's opponent trash talking and mockingly calling her Poppet (its not a word ya hear much in the states, but it's an endearing term like baby) and the big guy telling him to stop. If anything I might argue I didn't need to add the "with authority" since I think that's implied, though I would still keep malevolent glee since that isn't as clear. But you're welcome to disagree, that's just how I see it.
Thanks again for the review!
I generally use bickering and bantering pretty interchangeably, since they have pretty similar meanings. Besides, there was a bit of an argumentative vibe to it at some points (not in a way that shows they were angry or anything, but just their way of talking to each other), anyways.
Yeah, I thought their different way of fighting in that scene were real cool and fit both of them perfectly. I wonder if you'll get to archery stuff before I get to archery stuff in my writing, since I could use some tips on the archery parts...
Just because you can't see sound doesn't mean that you can't describe how something sounds, though. Someone can have a deep voice, or a raspy voice, for example (not really examples that go with this chapter, but I'm tired, so whatever...). The main thing is that I thought they both seemed kinda unnecessary, since just the dialogue pretty much got the point across without needing to be told anything extra. Like you said, it was pretty clear the dude at the end was in charge of them. And with the way the guy was taunting Bobbi, I didn't really need you to tell me about the malevolent glee, since that was already apparent, based off what he said. Maybe I'm just super smart, so I didn't need the description! haha
Hey, awesome chapter man! Took you a little while but it was well worth the wait to finally see it all glued together. There’s a whole lot of stuff to love here for a Clint and Bobbi fan, I’m not sure which points I wanna hit on first. The fun smartass banter between them, mysterious cave exploration, and surprisingly, the first full-fledged combat scene I’ve seen you write haha.
As usual though awesome job writing Clint and Bobbi! Their dialogue and banter is always half the fun and you always deliver. Ya wrote a ton of great lines and banter from quips about sit ups to Bobbi’s trademark smack talk against her enemy. Also love how well you’re able to showcase their relationship and how well they complement each other. Bobbi’s by the books while Clint’s way of thinking is more outside of the box which explains how they wound up searching the rock in the first place haha. But Clint’s imagination showed him an “arrow” and a pattern while Bobbi just saw a few broken twigs. It’s been pointed out plenty of times before but it’s just further proof of why they make such a good couple haha. They both bring something different to the table and work well off each other.
And of course you know I’m gonna love the Indiana Jones adventure vibes you spread throughout the story, which Bobbi even pointed out herself. It’s a lotta fun seeing Clint and Bobbi going into Tomb Raider mode and I like the cool use of Clint’s specialty arrowheads. I always thought using a flare would be really fun haha. I liked your use of descriptions too, they weren’t too heavy on the creepiness of exploring a cold dark cave since Clint and Bobbi would enjoy it more than fear it but there’s still the eeriness of being in a pitch black and claustrophobic environment which you pointed out in one part where Bobbi was slightly tempted to use the last flare so she wouldn’t have to sit in darkness while Clint was busy squeezing through the wall.
Great job on the fight scene too! Poor Clint got sucker kicked but they were both able to hold their own so long as they could see. The descriptions and actions were nice and direct without getting too wordy and gave it the more intense and frantic feel. Nice work on distinguishing Clint and Bobbi’s fighting styles too. You gave a little foreshadowing to Bobbi’s style earlier with her “taekwondo enhanced balance.” She’s gonna have more of a flashier fighting style with kicks and spins while Clint’s just a headbutt and knuckle brawler haha. So great job on detailing combat and fight moves, I know you spent a while on it. Can’t wait to see what you have in store for the next actions bits.
But anyway, great chapter man. Hopefully it won’t take quite as long before the next chapter is done but I know you’re juggling a bunch of different stories and ideas haha.
(And this is brian from the old forum in case anyone is wondering, old profiles are acting funky I guess)
Hey Brian! Haven’t seen you around here for a while. Welcome back! At first I was thinking – hey look Hawk has gained a new fan (with a very detailed review!) but then you said it was you and it all made sense.
News Lad should be able to help you sort out the issues with your old account if you PM him (or he may have already read your post and could be working on it already, ‘cuz he’s quick like that )
Who the hell is that Mockeye jerk? I don't know any Mockeyes.
Haha, thanks for the review, man! I'm glad you liked all the smartass lines and bantering, it aint Clint and Bobbi without it. I didn't set out to make the chapter about their relationship, but it's awesome that it still comes through and their different approaches.
Its hard to resist the allure of Indiana Jones (At least pre-Crystal Skrull) and you know how I love Tomb raider, aint a surprise those influences came through in writing the cave exploration. I'm glad that it had a balance of creepiness (it is a dark unknown cave, afterall) with the fun of living out Indy/TR fantasies and Clint and Bobbi in general enjoy adventuring. And yeah, I really loved the opportunity to use one of Clint's trick arrows. A flashlight just aint as much fun, haha.
Thanks for the praise on the action scene and that you could see the different fighting styles at work! I wanted to walk the line of Clint and Bobbi showing that they are superior fighters (they are Avengers) while hindering them a little with the darkness, surpise factor, and one of the attackers being armed and making the attackers be credible threats that can hold their own.
Thanks again for the review!
@Rogue - Archery is pretty straight forward so there aren't too many tips I can think of. Mainly, its pulling the string (using back muscles) and aim and fire.
I'm a fanfic writer myself, I even had the biggest fanfic (in content, not necessarily the best ) on herohq before it went schizoid early in the year, so if you'd like some advice, here's what little I can give to you, ha ha. If you're doing it on an already established property like a comic book or video game series or even a crossover of different franchises like Marvel vs DC, Marvel vs Capcom, Mortal Kombat vs DC, etc, over the years, I'd suggest looking up and researching the characters you want to use. (It doesn't have to be thorough, but just enough). Get a feel for their personality, how they act, what their powers/skills/abilities are, etc.
Add your own spin on them however you want, just make sure you remain true to them, that they don't act out of character. God knows thats the way most people have been complaining about their favorites over the years. Especially if you're a Hawkeye fan! lol Hope that helps, other than that, just try the best you can and don't get discouraged if you mess up, nobody's perfect.
Well, first off, thanks very much for the compliment!
As far as general writing advice goes, before you write anything it helps to come up with an outline of the story you wanna tell. it doesn't have to be too in-depth but a summary of events so you know where you're going so you don't write yourself into a corner or have to stop to figure out what you're doing each chapter. You can just go out and write it.
The other pitfall of a lot of begninning writers is to "undertell" where they don't take time to develop the scenes. You don't wanna just say Clint and Bobbi walked into a cold dark cave, but rather describe the experience. The chill that runs up Bobbi's spine, the claustrophobic blackness bearing down on them, the craggy walls and uneven ground. You don't have to detail everything down to their underwear, but you want enough to put the reader into the scene. There's a a phrase you hear a lot in writing, "Show, don't tell". Don't tell us Bobbi is cold, show us by having her rub her arms and feel the chill go up her spine.
Those are just two very basic tips of writing. I'm not sure of your writing level, but they're things every writer should know so hopefully that's helpful.
It's probably the only fan fiction he's read then, Hawk! haha, just kidding.
But I think Hawk pretty much hit the nail right on the head there. Those are pretty much the two most important things that a lot of new writers don't know. I didn't know 'em a couple years ago when I started writing, but my writing's definitely been improving a lot since I started to do those two things.
Hey, I'll take it, haha.
By the way, it hit me that I haven't remade a new Words and Junk thread with all my other fan fictions so I'll be trying to do that the next few days. I had the layout saved on my computer which is sweet though I gotta figure out the color scheme for it since that didn't get saved. But I finally remembered, haha, and I'll work ta get the other stories back up. I've got a new short story I'm working on too.
@Jad- Haha, hey Jad, how have you been? I'm fine with using a new account though. Looks like they got rid of all the achievement and ranking stuff anyways, not that it was a big deal.
@Hawk- Psh, you'd be lucky to know anyone with a name as cool and sexy as Mockeye
Ah come on, Crystal Skull is a classic! But yeah, I imagine the Indy/Tomb Raider vibes will only get stronger as the story moves forward. Or I should know since I know a bit of the outline haha.
But no problem man, you know I can't keep my mouth shut when Hawk and Mock awesomeness is waved in my face haha.
@MadajBlob- You have excellent taste in writing
@Rogue - It's a short story about what Bobbi does when she can't sleep, which is restoring this rust bucket car and this sorta bond she forms with it.
@Brian - You got that backwards. I'm the cool and sexy one, you're the lucky one, haha.
Oh, yeah, who would wanna watch Ark of the Covenent or The Last Crusade when you can watch old Indy and Shai LaBouf in Crystal Skull. (we need a new sarcastic smiley, doesn't work so well)
›› CHAPTER THREE ›› WATER'S END
The coppery taste of blood was strong in Clint’s mouth. His lip throbbed and was still seeping blood which dribbled down his chin and made the cloth sack stick to his face. That which didn’t fuse to his skin had pooled in his mouth and mixed with saliva in an unpleasant cocktail that trickled down his throat. What he wouldn’t give to spit.
They had been pushed and prodded along, masked by hoods and wrists bound behind their backs by plastic handcuffs, for a good ten minutes by Clint’s estimation. He had tried to keep track of the twists and turns of their trek, but these bastards weren’t dumb. He was pushed into walls and spun around to make it hard to keep his bearings. If they had to make their escape back through these caves he wouldn’t have a clue which way to go.
At least they found what the tattooed woman had been running from.
A hard shove at Clint’s back made him stumble. Behind him the raspy voice of Bobbi’s opponent taunted, “Why you walking so slow? I took my boot out of your ass five minutes ago.”
“Keep your sick fantasies to yourself, pal.”
Clint knew he was going to pay for that before the last words left his tongue. On cue, a fist hammered his lower back sending a fresh wave of pain through the sore muscles. He gritted his teeth and held back a groan, determined not to let the little punk have that victory.
“I think you’re the sick freak here, talking **** to get me to keep hitting you. Have you told the girlie yet that’s how you get off?”
“Who do you think introduced him to it in the first place,” Bobbi chimed in with a sarcastic reply.
“Massive f*in weirdos.”
“If we’re offending your fragile sensibilities, how ‘bout taking off the cuffs,” Clint asked.
“Hell no, who knows what disgusting thing you’d try to do to me. Yo-“
“Enough,” the assertive voice cut across the air like a whip. “We’re almost there.”
“You heard him, move it,” the raspy voice snapped without the usual mockery after being chastised by his partner.
This time Clint held his tongue and just as the second voice said the ground beneath his feet became an even flat surface with hollow metallic thuds following each step. The air had changed too. No longer was there a cold oppression, it felt warmer and dryer. It even smelled different, like the faint saltiness of the sea. They had definitely left the confines of the dark winding tunnels, he was certain of it, even without his eyes.
Clint felt himself pushed around another couple more turns before the creak of a door announced the arrival at their destination. A harsh final shove sent him colliding into Bobbi’s back as they stumbled through the door way. Their captors followed and closed the door with a heavy clang. The thought of resistance jumped to the front of Clint’s mind, maybe he could catch them off-guard, but a strong hand latched onto the back of his neck and steered him through the room. Abruptly, the sack was yanked off and the flood of light brought bright colored blotches flashing before his eyes. He heard Bobbi mumbled a curse under her breath. As he blinked his eyes to clear his vision a second door slammed shut behind him. Trapped. At least Bobbi’s blurry outline was with him.
“Watch them while I inform Garotte,” the assertive voice ordered.
Smugness emanated from every word as the raspy one answered, “Not a problem.”
“Don’t start anything, Wolf,” he sternly replied. “Watch only.”
“Stop being a b*tch. Anyone stupid enough to stick their nose in places it doesn’t belong deserves a beating.”
Clint’s vision cleared enough to see the large man take a menacing step toward the raspy one, Wolf, and lean forward “Any hint of abuse and I’ll do the same to you.”
Wolf looked away. “Whatever, go run off and find your master.”
The large man studied Wolf for a moment, then glanced at Clint and Bobbi behind the cell door, and stalked out of the room without another word. Now without the darkness of the cave or the harshness of bright light restricting his vision, Clint could see what he was dealing with. Wolf, as the large man had called him, was a kid, barely old enough to buy a beer. He was short, an inch or two shorter than Bobbi, and slim in fitted all-black clothes from boot to neck with long sleeves over tan skin to better hide in the darkness of the cave. A light goatee adorned a small chin below a long sloping nose and close, deep set eyes with thick angled brows. The most eye-catching part of his appearance was the faux hawk that sat atop his head that progressed from natural brown roots at the base to fiery orange blazed tips. The thermal goggles hung loose around his neck.
“I don’t think your friend likes you very much,” Clint said out loud what he had been thinking.
“You must not like your face very much,” Wolf retorted, striking his baton against the steel bars that separated them by mere inches.
“Careful with that, I’d hate for it to slip. Your buddy doesn’t seem like the forgiving type.”
“Neither am I. I’m looking forward to beating your skull in.”
Clint gave a thin smile. “You do that.”
Wolf sneered back and struck the cell door a second time before he turned away to settle down in a simple black office chair behind a scuffed oak desk. Determined not to give Clint anymore attention, he busied himself by playing with an iPod pulled from a pants pocket.
Clint let him be, shifting his attention to Bobbi, who sat on the edge of one of two lumpy cots arranged against opposite sides of the cell. Her face was pinched in concentration as her shoulders wiggled, trying to slip her handcuffed hands under her legs to have her hands in front of her.
Clint spat blood on the floor as he watched her. “Got any picks?”
“No, but we shouldn’t need them,” Bobbi answered. Her eyes focused on his mouth. “How’s your lip? It looks like a blood bag exploded on your chin.”
He shrugged one shoulder. “It’s been better.”
“When I get these cuffs off I’ll see if there’s anything I can do.”
Just as she finished the sentence, Bobbi managed to get her hands in front of her. The handcuffs she wore were black riot cuffs, similar to zip ties with a thin plastic cable that fed through a block and ratcheted tight around the wearer’s wrist. They usually had to be cut off with scissors, but a pin could also be used to lift the tab that prevented the cable from being pulled out of the block. They could be broken with force too, but it would require expending energy to do so and wasn’t as subtle. Wolf would catch them before they could break free and Clint doubted he’d take their escape attempt well.
Bobbi, it seemed, had something else in mind.
“Why are ya taking off your boot laces,” he asked, watching her pale hands pull the lace out of the little loops.
“They should be able to saw through the plastic cuffs using friction.”
Eyeing the simple white boot lace, Clint couldn’t help feeling a little skeptical. The plastic wasn’t thick, but he couldn’t see how a lace could saw through it. “And ya done this before?”
“Once,” she said, threading one end of the lace into the cuff before adding, “during a SHIELD exercise. I never tried it in the field.”
“What can I do?’
“Grab an end in each hand and saw it back and forth as fast as you can. It shouldn’t take more than a minute before you feel the plastic break.”
With his hands still cuffed behind his back, he was forced to turn around and let Bobbi put the lace in his hands to saw the plastic blind. At least it allowed him to keep an eye on Wolf, who seemed oblivious to their scheming. It wasn’t easy doing the rapid tugging with his wrists tightly bound and only Bobbi’s command of “faster” to guide him, but as she said it took less than a minute before the plastic cuff gave out. She took the lace from his hands and he felt the soft fibers slid over his skin as she snaked it through his cuffs.
“You think I’m stupid? I can see exactly what you’re doing,” Wolf spoke up as he left his seat and sauntered toward the cell, the baton clenched in hand. “Pretty pointless since you’re not getting out of that cell.”
“I don’t know, we’re pretty resourceful. Got the cuffs off, didn’t we?”
“Do yourself a favor,” Wolf said and leaned toward the bars, “stay in there.”
Clint smirked, feeling the cuff snap off his wrist, and stepped forward. “Try to make me, Lassie”
For once, Wolf didn’t answer. He simply chuckled and stared back with a toothy grin. Out of the corner of his eye, Clint caught a glimpse of metal, but his reflexes failed him. The baton shot forward, passing between the cell bars, and punched him in the groin. Pain raged through his body to make Clint crumble to his knees. He ached horribly and a wave of nausea flooded his senses as he knelt on the cold tile floor. A black soled boot stepped on his fingers splayed open on the ground knowing that Clint couldn’t stand let alone fight back.
But Bobbi could.
She had crossed the small cell in an instant. Her fist lunged through the bars and caught Wolf off-guard, sending him stumbling backwards. Stunned, Wolf coughed and clutched his chest where she struck him.
“F***”, he gasped between coughs. “God damn amazon.”
“I haven’t been called that since grade school, the guy that said it was about your height too.”
“You won’t be laughing when you see what’s left of your boyfriend,” he snarled.
“All I’ve seen is you throwing cheap shots. Afraid of a real fight,” she asked coolly, her anger held firmly in check behind a neutral mask. A spark of hate hid in her eyes, glowing dimly, as she stared him down. Still knelt on the ground, Clint was mostly forgotten and he was glad to be ignored, the pain still too intense to stand.
Wolf’s face hardened, his own anger threatening to bubble over. “I’m not afraid of anything, especially not some amazon b*tch high on Women’s Lib.”
“Then open the cell and let’s settle this – one on one.”
“You’ll be regretting that challenge in about two minutes, poppet.”
“But unlike all the other women you’ve said that to I’ll be walking away satisfied,” she quipped.
Unable to think up a snappy retort, Wolf banged his baton on the bars in front of her face and grumbled more threats as he dove into his pockets for the key. “You’re in for the beating of your life. They’ll need a picture to stitch what’s left of your face back together.”
“Wolf, that’s hardly the way to speak to our guests.”
Clint’s head jerked to the direction of the new voice. A tall, brawny man stood in the doorway of their little prison with a deep frown cutting his feature as he looked upon the impending fight. He knew in an instant that it must be the “Garotte” Wolf’s partner had referred to; the authority in which he carried himself was undeniable. The lines carving his face and salt and pepper stubble on his square jaw indicated he was closer to fifty than thirty, the elder to Wolf and his partner, but the fitness in which he kept his body and alertness in his dark green eyes made him still appear youthful. His jet black hair formed a slight widow’s peak atop his forehead and trailed down into a short ponytail resting on his broad shoulders. A small scar cut across the corner of his eyebrow, giving him the look of a rugged Pierce Brosnan.
“Screw that noise, they’ve done nothing, but start sh*t,” Wolf argued, pointing at the two of them. “We found them wh-“
“Rask already told me everything,” Garotte interrupted, holding up a silencing hand, as he stepped forward. “You can leave now, Wolf, you won’t be needed.”
For a second, Wolf looked ready to argue the blunt dismissal , but thought better of it and slapped the cell key into Garotte’s hand as he stormed away. Garotte’s smile was apologetic as he approached them.
“My apologies for Wolf and any undue treatment you may have suffered. I had hoped partnering him with Rask would dampen his immaturity, but at that age…,” Garotte trailed off and shook his head. “Allow me to make up for it with a meal. I’ve already taken the liberty of having my cook prepare something as we speak. I’m assuming you’re here because of Luciana?”
Clint forced himself to stand up. “Depends on who Lucy is.”
“Young thirty-three year old woman, tattoo sleeves on both arms,” he replied, motioning the length of his bicep. “She caused a bit of a stir several days ago, but we can discuss this further over lunch.”
Garotte unlocked the cell door, seemingly unthreatened by either Clint or Bobbi, and swung it open to invite them out. Bobbi exchanged a brief glance with Clint then stepped through the arch. Clint hobbled behind her, glaring at Garotte as he past him. After getting blindsided with a kick to the mouth and a punch to the balls, he wasn’t in a hurry to trust any of Wolf’s not-so-little friends.
“This cook of yours better be makin’ something besides bugs and cave mushrooms,” Clint grumbled.
“The only mushrooms you’ll find will be served on top of a steak,” he replied, and his face took on what Clint thought was a haughty expression. “You do eat meat?”
Clint glared back. “Yeah, I eat meat.”
“Then you will have no problems with the food we serve,” Garotte answered, smiling confidentially. He opened the door. “If you’ll follow me.”
What Clint saw outside the prison door was not what he had expected. This wasn’t a couple of shacks sitting by the mouth of a cave – it was a full blown city.
Nestled in a high ceiled cove was a collection of buildings, one as tall as four stories, constructed of concrete and deep red in color with a simple, slightly chunky design. A highway of metal catwalks connected the buildings together as well as providing steps up and down to the different stories. Between two buildings he caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a dock on the edge of the water. To Clint’s eye, it was all well maintained. No rust on the catwalks or chipped walls. It wasn’t a temporary hideout for a couple of kidnappers, they lived here.
“What the hell is this place?”
“We like to call it Water’s End and it’s been my home longer than you’ve been alive,” Garotte answered as he led them up a set of stairs to the second story. The prison had been on ground, slightly separate from the rest of the buildings. “It’s a small community of fishermen that prefer a more secluded life.”
“I never knew you needed thermal goggles to fish,” Bobbi piped in.
“Our seclusion forces us to be wholly dependent on ourselves, so it’s only practical to be prepared for any number of situations. We have electricity through hydropower and thermal goggles are just one option we could use should a generator malfunction.”
“But why in the cave,” she pressed, “Flashlights cramp your self-dependant style?”
“I’ll explain everything over lunch. I understand you’re suspicions, especially after the rough welcome, but I have nothing to hide.”
“Somehow, I doubt that,” Clint replied.
Garotte stopped at the foot of another staircase leading to the third level, his hand resting on the railing, and turned to face them. He kept his face blank, though Clint could see he was losing his patience. “For all your questions, you’ve told me nothing about yourselves. Why a couple of dodgy Yanks have taken an interest in a woman whose worst possible crime would be disturbing the peace? Don’t mistake my silence as me being thick, I’m letting you off because of Wolf’s behavior, but I won’t be pushed around.”
Bobbi tilted her head. “Fair enough. Let’s go to your lunch.”
He nodded and lead the way up the stairs to a non-descript arched wooden door just beyond the landing. Pulling on a heavy brass ring, the door swung open revealing a sparsely decorated room with a long dining table big enough for twenty people with chairs lined up on either side. Like the buildings, it was of simple design with fat legs supporting a thick three inch table top made of dark cherry wood. In a rare show of intricacy, a map of the Mediterranean Sea was carved in the middle. Mounted lamps set on rich red walls gave light to the otherwise windowless space and filled it with warmth. A small white projector sat on a table in between two of the lights.
Clint wiped his lip with the back of his hand and sat down where someone had left three glasses of cold water by the carved map. Bobbi took the chair left of him and Garotte sat on the other side of the table. “So, ya wanna start with small talk or the woman that’s lying comatose in a hospital bed?”
Garotte frowned as he brought the glass to his mouth and took a healthy swallow. “That would be Luciana,” Garotte answered and set down the water. His face appeared troubled. “She is one of us. Sweet girl, very artistic. She designed the tattoos on her arms. Unfortunately, she has bad taste in men.”
“Who’s the boyfriend,” Bobbi asked, straight to the point.
“Carlos Renato. He’s a very good fisherman, but has drug issues, opium specifically, and she fell into it as well.”
“And you think that’s why she freaked out?”
He steadily looked back at her. “You tell me.”
“What would you say if I told you the doctors didn’t find any traces of drugs in her system,” Bobbi replied in turn.
Garotte remained stone faced, but before he could answer the groan of the door hinges announced the arrival of their food. Clint watched as a lanky man with a buzzcut and goatee enter the room carrying three glistening silver plates filled with mashed potatoes and brown meat that Clint couldn’t place. Garotte dismissed their server after the plates were delivered to the table and he left with a curt nod, not saying a word. Bobbi, he noticed, didn’t take her eyes off Garotte.
“What is this stuff,” Clint asked as he speared the foreign meat with a fork. It looked a bit…flabby to be anything he had eaten before. It definitely wasn’t beef.
Garrote waited until he swallowed a piece of his own meat before answering, “That would be pan fried lamb kidney.”
Clint’s dropped his fork, his throat feeling tight as he eyed the kidney on his plate. “I’ll pass.”
Garotte smiled, appearing amused. “Don’t tell me you’re afraid of a little lamb?”
“I can’t say I have a taste for the parts of animals they grind up for dog food.”
“Your partner disagrees,” he said, his eyes flickering to Bobbi.
Clint’s stomach squirmed as he watched a piece of kidney disappear into her mouth. “I have a strong stomach.”
“Is that a requirement for SHIELD,” he asked, smile widening.
Bobbi appeared unfazed at his assumption as she dug into the mashed potatoes. “It’s a requirement for a lot of things.”
“You’re a tough bird,” Garotte replied and leaned back in the chair, his face appearing both impressed and mildly annoyed. “I answered your questions. Am I at least allowed to know your names?
With Wolf and now Garotte hovering over them, there hadn’t been a chance to discuss whether it was in their best interest to fess up to being Avengers before they were recognized or their lost backpack discovered, but Garotte had made no bones that he was eyeing them up. Clint didn’t think he was used to having secrets kept from him, though he wasn’t about to lower himself by asking them. With subtle cues, ranging from the kidney lunch to his brusque interruption of Wolf, Garotte was letting it be known he was the alpha dog and everyone had to line up behind him. It made Clint want to keep his identity secret if for no other reason than to spite him.
“Don’t get ahead of yourself, chief. If you and Luciana are so chummy why haven’t ya ID’d her to the cops yet?”
“I have other responsibilities. Summer is when we fish for bluefin tuna and we have quotas to fill. I was planning on sending Rask to check on her, but you came here saving him the trip. I can show you the contracts if necessary.”
“We’ll let ya know,” Clint replied, though he had intention to ask for them. He had no idea what a fishing contract looked like or how to spot a fake, though wasn’t about to let Garotte know that. He switched to a different subject, saying., “But that still don’t explain the goon squad in the cave.”
“Renato hasn’t taken well to what happened to Luciana. He went missing this morning after a night of drinking. Wolf and Rask went to check the cave to see if he might’ve wandered there in an attempt to walk to Gibraltar to see her. The thermal goggles were used because they’re more effective in the cave, where it can be easy to miss someone.”
“Do they always kick strangers in the face as way of greeting,” Bobbi asked, raising an eyebrow.
“That was poor judgment and I’ll make sure that won’t happen again.” Mid-sentence his eyes turned toward the door and Clint followed his gaze, noticing a sliver of natural light cutting into a shadow on the floor. Someone was eavesdropping. “We’re done here, Will.”
Their eavesdropper hesitated. Slowly, the door opened on well-oiled hinges and a slim figure shuffled into view – a teenaged girl. She looked barely old enough to drive, her face soft and round, a little baby fat in her cheeks she had yet to lose, as she was caught between a girl and a woman. There was an obvious resemblance to Garotte, her short, shaggy hair the same pitch black color as his and their short noses and thin lips nearly identical, though she carried another’s traits as well. The girl’s irises were deep brown to his green, her mouth smaller, and eyebrows thinner and more feminine. Right now, it was those brown eyes that studied Clint and Bobbi before self-consciously darting to the wall as she crossed her arms over her chest, appearing mulish.
“What are you doing here, Sid,” Garotte’s voice snapped.
She continued to stare at the wall, avoiding his glare. “Rask said he got in a fight with some strangers in the Blackburrow tunnel. I came to see.”
Garotte’s jaw clenched to show his displeasure. “He’s not supposed to tell you that.” He turned back toward Clint and Bobbi, his voice softening as he addressed them, “Sorry for the interruption, this is my daughter Sidney. Sid, this is…” Garotte trailed off, looking at them expectantly for an answer.
And when put like that Clint didn’t have a choice. He would happily give Garotte grief for the alpha dog act, but Sidney was just a kid that was afraid to look at him. Ignoring Garotte, he gave Sidney an easy smile and told her, “You can call me Clint.”
Bobbi looked a bit more hesitant, but added, “Bobbi.”
“Hey,” Sidney replied, risking a quick glance at them. “Look, don’t blame Rask. I made him tell me.”
“How could a sixteen year old girl make a bloke the size of Rask do anything,” Garotte replied, eyebrows raised
Sidney shuffled her feet and didn’t answer. Feeling sympathetic toward the kid, Clint was ready to butt in and save her from the embarrassment of being scolded in front strangers, but was beaten to the punch.
“I hate to break up this heartwarming family moment, but we’d like to check out Luciana’s living space to make sure she hadn’t come into contact with any dangerous materials that could’ve caused her condition.”
“I can take you,” Sidney hastily suggested before her father had a chance to reply.
For a moment, it appeared as though Garotte was prepared to argue, his forehead creased with frown lines, but he remained quiet for a beat. Finally, he blew out a sigh and told her, “All right, but we’ll be having a talk about Rask later.” His face smoothed as he directed his attention on Clint and Bobbi once more. “You’re free to look around Water’s End, though enter the workshop at your own risk as we have a bit of heavy machinery there. Sid can show you to a guest quarters where you can wash up and use the toilet. If that lip of yours needs mending the doctor is two floors below us.”
“I’ll be fine,” Clint said as he stood up, the untouched meat sitting cold on the plate before him. “Ready when you are, kid.”
Bobbi took a final sip of water and moved to join them. “Thanks for the lunch.”
So, I know I didn't wait 6 months to post a review for you, but I hope that's okay with you, Hawk! haha
Anyway, the whole confrontation with Wolf was pretty funny and you could definitely tell Wolf was an immature... I'm looking for a word that wouldn't get censored by the swear filter but can't find one to describe him, haha. He has it all: cruelty, cowardice, sexism. Just the kind of person to basically work security for Water's End, since he won't have any qualms about getting into fights with people to keep them out (and maybe in, too?). I gotta admit I would've liked to see Bobbi beat him up, but it wouldn't have fit in the story really since it'd mess up Garotte's entrance.
Speaking of Garotte, I think you did a really good job with him. He had this whole aura of authority that he clearly works hard to maintain, and it really annoys Clint. They had a fun little cat and mouse game trying to keep secrets and get info from each other. Of course, all it takes for Clint to finally give his name is for a teenage girl to ask, though that's kinda what I'd expect from Clint. He's not gonna be as wary of a kid as Bobbi is.
This might just be me overthinking things, but it seems strange that they'd talk about how much they fish and end up eating lamb kidney. I kinda got the impression that people aren't supposed to leave Water's End, so I'm not sure how they'd even go about getting lamb. Though if they have fishing contracts and quotas to fill, maybe they do associate with the outside world a bit more. I kinda figured it was some kinda secret city that no one was supposed to know about, so that threw me off a little bit. This is less of a flaw in the writing and more of just something I'm hoping to find out more about in the next chapter. It's looking like we'll get to see more of Water's End in the next chapter, so I'm kinda hoping to see a bit more of how its run and just how isolated it is from the outside world.
So, definitely another cool chapter, and I'm looking forward to seeing what's next for Clint and Bobbi in the Land of Mysterious Fishermen!
I can't say I'm not disappointed, but I'll get over it.
Haha, I was trying to write Wolf as the type of person you would hate to stumble onto while playing online multiplayer. The annoying guy that does nothing but talk crap and tries to act like some kinda big shot. It ended up being harder than I expected since I'm not remotely a trash talker, haha. I wanted to avoid the typical sexual threats though, even if that's something that some trash talkers do far too much, just cause I don't want it to be all about sex. There's other ways to target a woman with insults aside from sexual threats, like Wolf condescendingly calling her poppet and referring her to as an amazon (the later of which Bobbi would probably take as a compliment, amazons being known as warriors and all, haha). The banter ended up being quite a bit of fun and it won't be the last you see of Wolf giving Bobbi a hard time.
Poor Clint really hasn't been having a good day, haha. The lunch scene was fun with the little game being played, as ya said, but also the different strategies at play. Clint is on the reckless side, Garotte is a lot of alpha dog posturing, and Bobbi is very focused and playing her cards close to her chest. She specifically doesn't bring up the license plate Luciana was found with, only bringing up information that she knows Garotte knows so they don't scare him off. A lot of Bobbi's point of view of Garotte and why she gave the answers she did will be brought up in the next scene, which I originally had planned for this chapter but pushed it back for the next chapter.
They do have contacts outside the city, but I don't wanna give too much away. It won't be addressed in the next chapter, which is mostly about Clint and Bobbi looking around the city
Thanks for the review, Rogue! Much more is to come.
Well, I definitely wouldn't wanna play online with him! haha, though I'd compare him more to an annoying basketball player that talks trash, but that's just my background as someone who plays tons of basketball. Yeah, I'm definitely glad you didn't go that way with the threats, since that would've been a whole different and disturbing character instead of the simple jerk that Wolf is here.
You must really not like Clint, if you're writing so many bad things happening to him! haha, yeah, they all had very different approaches to it which definitely fit their characters. Or, at least I know they fit Clint and Bobbi, and Garotte's fit what little we knew about him at this point. He's in charge of the place, and he wants everyone to know it. But, it'll definitely be nice to see more of Bobbi's thoughts on stuff, since this chapter was all from Clint's perspective here.
Cool, I thought something had to be going on with the fishing and all that, though it seemed weird because I initially thought of it as some kinda hidden city that no one knew about at all. Sounds like someone knows, at least...
Hey man, I’m here with a late review! I just know you’ve been on pins and needles waiting for it.
Another great chapter though! You had a lot of new characters to handle in this one with Garotte, Sid, Wolf, and Rask but you did a great job introducing them and setting up some of their roles. You might actually have done a little too thorough of a job displaying Wolf’s nastiness and I think Clint’s crotch would agree haha. It’s a given in your writing but I really loved all the banter between the characters and Bobbi had some great lines towards Wolf and I thought it was especially funny to see that he didn’t have the wits to match her haha. It’s too bad Garotte had to interrupt the beating Bobbi was about to give him.
But speaking of Garotte, you did a really good job introducing him and you right away let the reader know he’s a very alpha male type of leader. You throw in little hints showing how much he’s trying to control the situation and it was really fun to see Clint and Bobbi push back and not let him have complete control. The back and forth dialogue and tension between them was really well done. Garotte seems straightforward so far but you still get the feeling that something’s fishy about him and Water’s End. Well, something fishy besides the fish.
I thought you wrote Sid’s introduction really well too and it helped break the tension at the dinner table. Her shyness and timidness was a foil to Clint’s standoff-ish attitude which I thought was a little funny haha. I also thought she helped knock down Garotte’s toughness a couple pegs too. You don’t imagine him being the type to have this really awkward teenage daughter and you kind of see his attitude slightly change after she arrived.
Oh and one last thing I wanted to touch on was Bobbi's awesome handcuff breaking skills haha. I really liked that scene and how it shows Bobbi's recourcefulness and knowledge of spy tricks. And you did a great job describing what she was doing with the shoelace and how it all worked. That just seems like something that's a pain in a butt to describe with words haha.
But anyways, can’t wait for the next chapter and for Clint and Bobbi to explore more of Water's End!
Thanks for the giant review, man! Now I can finally get some restful sleep, haha.
Haha, Clint will not have been feeling great after that little encounter. Bobbi will just have to kiss it and make it better. The banter is a lot of fun, though I always try not to over do it too much and give everyone their own little style. Wolf's style might be good for trash talking video games, but he's gonna be outta luck against a couple of experts.
Yeah, Garotte is none too happy about dealing with Clint and Bobbi fighting against his authority, though he also respects it. At least, the way that's Bobbi going about it. Clint's a bit too hotheaded for Garotte's liking.
A lot more of Sid's personality will shine through in the next chapter and she'll be a lot less timid since she'll be out from Garotte's scowl for a bit. They definitely have the whole awkward Dad-teen daughter relationship.
I'm glad ya liked that! I did quite a bit of research on the different ways to break handcuffs (I'm sure I'm on some watch lists now if I wasn't already, haha) and I thought the shoelace technique fit what I wanted the best. It's subtle enough that Wolf might not notice it at first, fast, and a lot more efficient than just trying to rely on pure muscle to break the plastic. It's also pretty simple in that ya don't need anything special to do it, just a shoelace, something that they could easily have on them.
Thanks again for the review, man!