Tony Stark's Topnotch Guide To Getting A Man

Tony Stark's desperate search for a man— a very specific one— finally culminates in an unexpected confrontation when he's not the only one coming to this party.

Outside a cafe


Slight static quality grazes over the elicit image in places but it's not enough to diminish the giddy little pleasure of the man sitting at the keyboard. Nestled into the outside seating of the quaintly hipster setting, he leans over the window of his secret camera's playback while three more search for connections in windows behind that one. An eye spares a second— just a second, man, cause look at that unaware babe— to greedily check on the browser tucked in a small square of computer screen. It shows the latest forum posts: feeble attempts to inflate egos by taking credit for this or that security breech. They don't even know. He's done something even bigger, even more shocking; fingers rock in a want to tell them but he lets his eyes drift back to the illegal peep show. The money telling him to shut up about the job paid for these specially modified cameras so he's not about to go on and piss on that.

Pissing, however, is not entirely out of the question when his eyes nearly pop out of his head to see that his precious screen of peeping has vanished into an accusative black bar. A second and then CUT IT OUT in bold white font fills the window. With subsequent pops, the processes in his back-up windows scroll with endless errors and then blip out. The forum dies. His hyper-advanced, triple-modified, and hacker-protected computer dies.

As the mousy young man bolts backwards in his chair, slapping the side of his laptop, a patron from the back of the cafe scoots out of his own chair and calmly walks out of the cafe with a small, straight out of the plastic, tablet tucked in his hand. Later, the hacker'll find a line of source code in the program that crashed him linking back to his employer— to Sterns— but, for now, he has a lot of rebuilding to do. And that's enough to bring a wry thought to the corner of Bruce's lips before the moroseness of the business at hand brings him back.

With a quick spot of the security camera on the building up ahead, Bruce adjusts the rim of his stolen Culver University baseball cap as held in place by the grey hoodie ill-fitted to him but serviceable. At the last second, he chooses to duck into a connecting side-street instead— quieter than the others; in fact, empty right now.

Keenly aware that he's on the proverbial clock, Tony has abandoned subtlety in favor of speed. He's wearing the Mark VI and cruising at a semi-reasonable distance above the city's rooftops. All the while, every piece of scanning equipment he even thinks he owns is tuned for signs of Banner. It's the facial recognition algorithm that narrows things from a general area to a distinct pinpoint.

With no time to waste, he cuts his thrusters, deploys flaps, and drops down to street level. There's a metallic WHIRRing sound as the Mark VI platform's armor scales retract and the face plate slides back, allowing Tony to step out of his prosthetic.

Under his suit, he's wearing… his suit. Ridiculously costly, yet somehow still not wrinkled by being crammed inside the armor. "Hi," he says. "Tony Stark. I'm your biggest fan."

A hand juts out of the hoodie pocket; he's significantly under-dressed in comparison, Dr. Banner, and to the sudden presentation of Tony in the alley, he spooks like a cornered animal. A couple steps back and then he shoots a look over his shoulder, weighing an alley entrance beginning to see flashes of civilians who followed the trail of Ironman in the sky. "Stark," gets muttered skeptically. Under the brow of his beat-up college hat, there's somber, troubled, eyes watching Tony— and everywhere behind him, "Okay." A soft nod. "And how many of your friends?"

"I don't really have any friends," Tony admits casually. "Pepper mostly puts up with me. Happy works for me. JARVIS only sticks around because he's programmed to. Nah, just me."

He takes a step closer, then another. Head tilted to the side, he gives Bruce a long, appraising look. "I'd love to go through the motions. Flirt. Get to know each other over drinks. Unfortunately, Fury's people have you in their crosshairs, so we need to skip the courtship and head straight to my place."

A soft little nod from his quarry is tight, contained; thinking. "So, I'm just going to…" Bruce winds a hand out, indicating Tony with a curve of his fingers as his lips turn down in a grim mockery of consideration, "Go with you then? Just like that." A nod, a nod. He licks his lips. A couple of civilians across the street crane their necks with idle curiosity. "And if I say no?"

"Well, you'd be stupid. You don't seem like an idiot to me, though." Tony seems pretty confident. His eyebrows raise slightly and his appraising stare grows even more direct. "SHIELD wants to bury you in a deep, dark hole forever," he continues. "That's what Fury's into. Can he pull it off? Who knows. Stick around and find out if you want, but I wouldn't recommend it. Lotta innocent people around here."

Over Tony's shoulder, a signal blinks on in the disengaged suit's heads-up display, a light blips, urgent but silent.

"You're right," levels the quietly controlled tone of Bruce, mild-mannered but for the prickling suggestion of sour: unamused and unmoved. "A lot of innocent people," and guilt, if the tightening of his jaw's any indication. He takes a couple of steps backwards, holding up the palm of his hand. "So I'm going to leave now. And I'm going to ask, for their sakes, that you don't follow me." Another sidle backwards, as the air above them begins to thrum with the sensation of something powerful churning it.

"Feel that? I'm thinking that's a SHIELD helicopter. I know they aren't here for me. They know better." Supremely unconcerned, Tony strides back over to the Mark VI and steps into it. The suit clenches and forms around his body, each plate snapping neatly back into place.

The armor's vocalizer turns his voice to something artificial and somehow even more heavily laden with swagger. "I don't know if you can outrun a chopper, but I can. So. Should we both wait and see what Fury's toy soldiers have to say, or do you wanna get outta here?"

Sir, several signals approaching. In the suit, the light blip solidifies, finding the incoming patter of multiple helicopters.

Foot sliding back on the pavement as the noise begins to invade on the quiet pedestrian street, Bruce makes good on it — get outta here — by turning tail and booking it back out on the main sidewalk. Dodging pedestrians, random architecture, is something of an Olympic sport for the scientific fugitive. He barrels by, hoodie flying off so that he's just the wild bob of a baseball cap in the startled crowd.

From further down the street, having been trying to quietly approach the alley, two suited men break rank and pursue.

"Great," Tony mutters. "This should be good."

He activates his thrusters and stabilizers, taking off after Bruce at what he considers hovering speed. "Hey," he says casually when he pulls up alongside. "Light a fire under it, kid." Brief pause as he banks left to avoid an old woman. "There's two of them already on the ground and they're gaining on you. Helicopters are closing in fast, too." Another bank, this time for a streetlight. "Yep. Helicopters. Plural."

Sparing a look over his shoulder while breaking around a cafe dining set— little silver plastic table shaking— Bruce clocks the two men weaving through the pre-disturbed crowd as people ignorantly gawk. With a sudden skid of steps, Bruce hooks right, disappearing, with a bang of his arm against the door, into the lobby of a small neighborhood office building of seven floors.

Tony lets out a sigh as he touches down and follows Bruce into the building. "You're making this worse," he calls out. Each step he takes makes a solid THUNK against the floor. He's not exactly inconspicuous. "Now it's not about you anymore. You're putting these people in danger."

Yeah, because that won't alarm anyone. He sighs again and spares a moment to shove any nearby furniture in front of the door before he takes off after the stubborn scientist. The improvised barricade won't hold for long, but it may buy him a few precious seconds.

A swirl of startled people, in their fitted business attire, swarm about the economy-sized lobby, pulled from their daily activities to stare at Ironman's barricade, at him passing. Running— the baseball cap— have vanished into the press. Civilians look back at him from every angle of the glass and marble interior: a welcome desk, floor plan plastered to one wall, elevators; on his right, a giant curling staircase up to the first floor overlooking this one.

Bamm. Choruses of surprised voices fill the space as the door rattles with the weight of someone throwing into it hard.

Sir, Banner's signature is between the second and third floors and rising.

"Keep a lock on him. Now that the casual observer thinks we've created a hostage situation, we might as well see this one through." As quickly as he's able, Tony follows the signal toward its source. While he's at it, he starts scanning and pinpointing every portion of the building that could be used as an emergency exit. Unfortunately, the distraction causes him to ricochet off a stairwell and partially collapse it, blocking the path.

Grunting unhappily, he retreats to the elevator and thumbs the 'UP' button. When it arrives, he boards and hits the button for the third floor. In the background, a mellow, elevator-friendly version of 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' fades out and 'Back in Black' fades in.

Tony frowns, which is somehow visible even through his faceplate, then shakes his head and waits for the doors to open again.

Ding, ding.

Metal parts, revealing a young man in a checkered shirt, hands full of portfolios, as he rocks away to the sounds of his iPhone. Looking up as the elevator arrives, his jaw slowly begins to plummet. A bud slips out of one ear.

"…. blinded me with science, and failed me in biology!" wails a tinny voice.

My lock says he is in the elevator right beside you.

"In that case…" Tony steps out of his elevator and swings around to press the 'UP' button on the adjacent lift. "Let's see if we can catch him."

It's not until he's waiting for the 'ding' that he realizes he's probably disturbed the bowels of a local salaryman. "Long day at the office, right?" he says, shrugging metal shoulders. "See you around."

Eyes bulging wide, the disturbed PA continues to stare as his own elevator closes its doors in front of his face, without him in it.

Ding ding chimes the one Tony has summoned; the signal in his heads-up display whirls its recognition: straight ahead

When the doors open, it's to the sight of a crumpled grey hoodie on the floor next to a just out-of-the-box tablet, radiating the signature Jarvis highlights.

"Damn. JARVIS, find me something. Anything. Fury's goons are kicking down the door." Frustrated, Tony picks up the hoodie and clenches it in his fist, then drops it back on the elevator's floor.

While the AI does what he can, Tony turns back toward the startled employee. "Hey, kid. You see a guy come through here looking nervous as hell? Might've been wearing a baseball cap."

Minus the baseball cap, the description well fits the young man Tony stares down, his knuckles white-hot against the portfolios. "Nnnnnnnnnnn-n-n-no. Umm." A swallow and he regains a modicum of composure. "Nobody else has been up here."

SHIELD helicopters have spotted a baseball cap of this description moving north on the street. They are in pursuit.

"Thanks," Tony says, both to JARVIS and the kid. Without further ado, he takes off toward the nearest window at a run. A leap, a shattering crash, then he activates his thrusters and heads for a nearby rooftop that gives him a good vantage point. "Keep him in your crosshairs," he says, activating all his scanning equipment again. "We're not doing any good chasing him down and scaring the hell out of people. We'll find him when he runs out of gas."

Rat-tat-tating of helicopter blades terrorizes the air above the quaint few blocks of the city, peeling left in hot pursuit. The two suited SHIELD agents on the ground weave closer, cutting through the distance.

Sir. In the far corner of his display, Jarvis lights up a square of their view then amplifies it. Far, far, to the right— opposite SHIELD's pursuit— there's the tiniest glimpse of Dr. Banner, hatless and hoodieless, as he ducks into an unmanned building construction site.

"Good man," Tony murmurs. A few blasts from his thrusters takes him over the construction site in question. His eye-slits flash in several different colors as he experimentally cycles through infrared and ultraviolet filters before he switches back to the visible spectrum. "Keep him on our radar. Trying to force Banner would be counterproductive. We can't tangle directly with SHIELD. For now, all we can do is watch, wait, and hope for the best."

On the ground the two suited SHIELD agents resume tactical formation omega — one in lead and one behind, covering. As usual the ground crew had flipped a coin to determine who got lead. No one ever wanted lead. The fellow in the front, Agent Donovan, speaks into the comm, "Ground crew is in pursuit. We have the cap in sight — " His voice flattens some " — ma'am should we engage?" His throat clears, but manages evenness despite this being the rookie's first engagement with the Hulk. Not that the SHIELD agent has even bothered grabbing a weapon yet. He's not completely sure how to engage a pseudo-monster that has proven indestructible. " — I don't think we can actually do anything — you all watched the footage, right? It's in the file — " Skeptically, the agent grasps the firearm that had previously rested at his belt.

Behind him, Agent Dugan smirks just a little broader. "The copter's where it needs to be son," a little more seasoned, the elder agent's smile broadens, "Just resume the position." The agent's tone reflects confidence that is perhaps a little too sure. "We'll bring this one in." There's a pause. "Ma'am, permission to engage" it's not quite a question, but not a statement either.

Up in the chopper, the pilot, clad in headphones, and sunglasses doesn't seem impressed. "Everyone saw the footage," the woman's voice deadpans. The brunette's lips purse with mild irritation, "Engagement is appealing to more than your itchy trigger fingers, boys." Behind her sunglasses, Agent Hiss squints, "Finesse." The signal on her copter flashes — a UFO. But not too Unknown. "We've got company. Red suit. Little gold. Too flashy. I'll try to head him off. Resuming radio silence. Bring in the Hulk. Engage." She turns off the comm. Her screen flashes and beeps with an incoming message, warranting a single brow raise as she scans the encrypted material. The copilot, an unassuming agent next to the trim woman, casts the pilot a skeptical look. A wry eyebrow is raised at the copilot, as Hiss shrugs, sarcaustically, "We're hours out. It's not like they're going to get any deader. Besides, it could present the perfect opportunity." She smiles and flicks the comm back on, "Back up required for potential engagement. Strike team Alpha — move out."

With that, she flies towards Ironman taking the chopper towards the building where the Ironman is perched.

"No reason to make enemies, ma'am. Doesn't Director Fury have an understanding with Stark?" the co-pilot suggests.

"His understanding is with a man who may or may not be dead right now," Hiss soothes. "Besides, I'm not engaging, I'm just making sure he knows I've got eyes on him." Smile.

On the ground, Donovan has moved forward, firearm in hand as he inches forward. "She was kidding about the gun thing, right?" he asks his comrade… who seems to have disappeared. "Geez. I guess I'm playing this one by the book," he murmurs to himself rather than anyone else as he rounds the corner after the ballcap. He sees the figure in the ballcap and orders, "Freeze!" Pause. "Or… I'll have to shoot." Because that's how SHIELD rolls. Come peacefully or suffer consequences. That's how every other take had gone down…

The ballcap's brim spins to face the agent. He gets a flash of wrinkles, nubs of white hair beneath the cap, aviator sunglasses. Being on the lam's bedraggled Dr. Banner— but unless it's aged him 30 years and grown him a fine grey mustache, the older gentleman that Agent Donovan squares off against is not the target. Still, he throws up his hands, urging, "I swear I just found it!"

Far above, Jarvis intones, There is a SHIELD helicopter approaching our location. And, by proxy, the current vacationing spot of their gave-them-the-slip quarry.

Tony narrows his eyes at the approaching helicopter, though nobody can actually see him do it. "Jarvis, get me some tunes."

A few seconds later, ever set of speakers within a block of his location starts blaring 'Bon Jovi - You Give Love A Bad Name.'

Tony nods approving, then turns to face the chopper and raises both arms. Every weapon system on the Mark VI lights up and pops into its ready position. "Back off," he says, he voice amplified enough that it can be heard on the ground, in the air, even inside the building. "This one's mine."

The rookie lowers his weapon and takes a step back, "Uh… sorry sir. My… " he glances around for his partner-in-crime, who is nowhere to be seen, "…mistake." Ironman's words do actually have the young rookie stepping back a single step. Donovan clears his throat, "I've lost the package. Repeat, I have lost the package. I have no visual of the package — " The curly haired, blue-eyed young man takes a few steps backwards and scans the area, his eyes flitting from one face to the next. "I do not have a visual. Repeat: I do not have a visual."

Donvan slips back into the crowd when his link picks up another blip. The young agent's eyes narrow as he focuses on what's going through the comm. Only to be yanking it out moments later. The sharp sound of static causes all of his senses to go on edge as he realizes he's now truly alone. Without orders, the rookie glances up and then attempts to fall back into the crowd.

Up in the helicopter, the copilot turns to Hiss, "It might be wise to give this one up if we don't have the package in sight — "

Hiss tugs on her sunglasses, sliding them off her pert nose before casting her comrade an icy stare. She pushes a button to communicate with the man on the roof, "Mister Stark," not Ironman, never Ironman, "You are interfering in," her eyebrows draw together, "an official SHIELD investigation," she clears her throat. "Right now I have the authority to use force to apprehend the package." Pause. "I'm kindly requesting you do not obligate me to do so." She smiles, pushes another button, ensuring her own voice is no longer magnified, "Or, you know, do."

"We're going to use force?" the copilot asks skeptically as he casts his superior a sidelong stare. "We're cleared for that?"

"We're cleared to engage the Hulk if we are so obligated. If Stark wants him, I feel obligated. Besides, command hasn't responded — " she shrugs.

"I like the idea of a woman trying to force me." Tony replies. "Nothing between us but air and opportunity." He's now speaking directly to the occupants of the helicopter. He triggers his stabilizers and drifts closer, until he's near enough that he can see the faces of the pilot and copilot.

"And I'm not interfering with your investigation. I'm ending it," he explains. Flexing a metal gauntlet brings an extra-bright flash from a repulsor unit, but no discharge. "So. Bet you twenty bucks I can knock you out of the sky and still catch your bird before it hits the ground. What do you say?"

Leona's eyes narrow and her lips quirk into a tight all-too-polite smile that she'd perfected in another lifetime. Which is when the whirring starts. It's a familiar noise, and doesn't even warrant checking, or movement. She can feel her copilot's eyes on her, causing her features tighten a little more as does her grip, further steading her chopper, and ensuring it's not impacted by the much larger vehicle taking shape above them.

The sky above the chopper warps some as lines in the clouds begin to form. The reflection of the sky begins to move, exposing itself to be far more sinister than blue skys. Screen-mirrors line the bottom of the helicarrier, causing it to camoflauge with the background. The large vehicle begins to descend some, casting a large shadow over the city.

The copilot's eyes widen as the large vehicle displays itself, "What the — "

"Level 13," she states abruptly. "It's classified." Pause. "But it's all ours."

"We have that to bring in the Hulk?!" incredulously he asks. "Fury would never approve that! Not here in the middle of everything — people could — "

"We have that for a number of reasons. Our green friend is just one of them," she states blandly. "And our orders don't come from Fury. Level thirteen is a beautiful thing, my friend." She smiles tightly before her fingers fall to the voice amplifier again, "Mister Stark, stand down." Second warning.

The rookie curses quietly under his breath as the monstrosity casts a shadow on the blocks below. "What's the point in being part of a super secret agency that exposes itself?!" he actually asks over hte comm. "It's like giving up all of our secrets and being like, 'hey world, we're here!'" His throat clears as he begins, quite literally, tugging on the shoulders of strangers with dark hair. It's a wild goose chase, but Donovan is taking the hit.

The arrival of the helicarrier… Well, that's something. Something big. Too big to blow up and drop on the city. That's a problem to stick a pin in for later. "Brought your Papa? Fine by me. Daddy Tony has tricks of his own. J, let's have a new track." Tony hangs in midair and claps his hands importantly.

Obligingly, the music switches over to 'MC Hammer - U Can't Touch This'.

Tony lets out a loud, ungentlemanly WHOOP while he banks in a wide circle around the helicopter. Dazzling flashes light up the sky as he pops a set of flares, both to confuse heat sensors and distract unfriendly eyes. Scrambling signals are set up to divert radar locks and disrupt point-defense systems designed for projectiles of his size. "I can do this all day," he taunts. "I'm not gonna shoot you first, but you let rounds loose and I'll put you down so fast it'll get your rotors in a bunch."

"So… that's it then, right? We're not supposed to shoot him first…" the copilot states.

"Oh, we're not going to shoot him until he shoots us," Hiss soothes. She prods the helicopter forward and down, away from Stark. The helicarrier has resources to deal with him. Instead, she takes her vehicle downward. The rat-ta-tat-tat of gunfire towards the ground draws a sharper smile of satisfaction.

"Do you want to be courtmartialed?!" the copilot asks as he attempts to take the con.

In one fluid motion Hiss grasps the firearm at her side, and without looking, puts a bullet in her copilot. "I have no intention of being anything, Agent Ross." She finally turns her head for a moment and scowls, "I hate blood splatter on my windows…"

Overturned dirt explodes in the wake of the high velocity rounds impacting from the helicopter's spiral of shots. Piles of waiting wood boards catch flack and splinter. Construction torn apart in layers leading up to the concrete and exposed metal barring of the main building. The chains from pulleys ping and shudder under the assault; it feels as though Hiss means to leave no support stone unturned.

Until, one flips; on the far opposite side of the expansive work zone, the darting figure of Bruce Banner breaks out into a valley of sand mounds and deserted bulldozers and excavators. He must've made good progress while the two air raids clashed in the sky, now scarce yards from a concealing exit. Sand scatters beneath his footsteps, a slip and slide, but there's no choice— the cleared area expands in every direction— he pushes off of the corner of a scarred yellow bulldozer and runs.

"What the hell? No! Cut the music!" Tony waves his hand and playtime abruptly comes to an end. First and foremost, he angles his suit to intercept the gunfire. He lets out a series of grunts and curses as high-caliber rounds bounce off his chestplate, Nicks and dents are rapidly starting to accumulate.

"SHIELD Pilot!" he calls out on all radio frequencies. "Punch out. I'm grounding that chopper. Jarvis, get me a comprehensive lock. Time to shoot some skeet."

"SHIELD pilot," Hiss murmurs back to her now-dead copilot. "If only he knew the half of it… " Her eyes tick upwards and then back to Banner. The helicarrier is more than doing its job as two fighter jets lock onto the Ironman. "Have at 'em boys," she deadpans. "Donovan, Dugan, get into position on the ground, Banner is on the farthest Western corner of the site."

The chopper moves in pursuit, issuing fire in front of the would-be Hulk in an effort to reign him in like cattle. "Come on," she urges quietly.

The fighters, meanwhile have begun their assault on the metal Ironman. Gun fire emits from the first jet with a similar rat-a-tat-tat that had emitted from the helicopter. The second fighter shoots an air-to-air missile towards the Ironman.

Evidently SHIELD pilot is doing something sanctioned by someone.

On the ground Donovan yells back into the comm as he runs towards Banner, "Are you crazy!? Someone is going to be killed!!" He takes his own little firearm and begins shooting at the chopper in the air. Not an effective weapon against the large metallic beast, and a surefire way to get himself killed, but Donovan won't stand for such things! He believes in valor!

The gunfire from the ground is met with a simple roll of Hiss's eyes. "I consider this a direct violation of my order, Agent Donovan — "

Dugan, meanwhile has begun to make his way to where Banner is being herded. Someone on the ground has to collect the man. Fortunately, because he'd broken off earlier, convinced that Banner would've lost the hat (he read the file! Geniuses give the slip by hiding in crowds!), he's not too far off. While Leona attempts to keep the target towards the work area, he attempts to corner it from the work-site side. "Hey buddy — " he calls, weapon drawn. He doesn't dare take his eyes off the scientist, but manages, "She's a crazy bitch," the woman in the chopper, "but if you come peacefully, she will actually stop — "

Rounding a sand mound to the sight of Dugan's gun causes Bruce to skid to a sideways step, driving himself behind a chunk of tall machinery with a thud of his shoulder, back meeting yellow paint. Breathe, breathe. Mere seconds, ticked by with the chug of the helicopter blades, till the 'crazy bitch' pulls around in range again, but Bruce, fingers clutched against the metal, uses his caught breath to shout back, "You should really get her to stop now— before one of you gets hurt." Not a threaded inkling of chance in his voice for the possibility of Banner's own harm; at least, not physical. Glancing around the corner of the machinery, he clocks Dugan's location then throws a glance to the opposite side noticing, with a cautious flattening of his eyebrows, the other more distant agent's aim skyward.

Tony lets out a low growl as he's pounded by shells from another aircraft machine gun. That hurts, and he's finally forced to take evasive action. He's not fast enough to avoid the Sidewinder, though. The air-to-air missile plows into his faceplate, sending him spinning end over end.

When he rights himself, there's a nasty scorch mark across his mask. Inside the suit, his HUD glitches and fluctuates wildly before settling back into place. Not a lot of hits like that left in him. "Can't say I didn't warn you people," Tony says. He targets each of the unfriendly aircraft and riffs off several missiles of his own. They're much smaller, but no less potent.

The first of Ironman's missiles squarely hits the first fighter jet — the most inexperienced of the pilots. The jet tailspins upon the impact, and seems to lose control over the horizon. Some blocks away, civilians are running away from the imminent impact of an unexpected aircraft.

The second missile clips the wing of the second jet, causing it to smoke. With some urgency, the jet rounds the building on which Ironman had previously been perched to make another attack.

The third missile is evaded by the helicopter (most experienced or perhaps most lucky?) pilot. Hiss's jaw tightens as she reigns another shower of bullets to herd in Banner again.

Donovan's gun clicks again, still aimed at the helicopter, only no bullets come out — he's emptied his entire clip on the helicopter to no avail. Donovan takes a slide back and reaches into his jacket pocket to find his radio. A glance is given to the helicopter and then the civilians around the worksite. His fingers reach into his ear and extra his commlink which is then left on the ground. He staggers backwards once, and clicks the radio to the emergency station.

The stopped fire from the ground does draw Hiss's attention, and then she sees the radio. Her face draws into a scowl. "Dugan, you need to put Donovan down. He's in direct violation of my orders." Her lips draw upwards into a snarl. "Damned rookies — " she murmurs.

Donovan continues with his actions: "Emergency crews are required at the 1600 block south of the park — police and ambulatory services are needed as soon as possible as are fire crew. Aircraft is down. Repeat aircraft is down. Form a 20 block radius around the area. Repeat, a 20 block radius around the area. Evacuate. Evacuate." The frequency is changed, this one higher pitched, and evidently encrypted, "Meyday, meyday! All frequencies. All frequencies. Passcode Niner Niner Echo Alpha Niner. Agent Hiss appears to be experiencing a psychotic break from reality. Backup required — someone answer!"

"I'm on it," Dugan replies, backing away from Banner to turn his firearm on the SHIELD's sole defector. "Deal with Banner," he mutters back into the comm, prompting another reign of gunfire between the agent and the package. Agent Dugan turns around and aims to fill the gap between himself and Donovan.

Tony is monitoring local radio chatter. Naturally. The discordant orders and responses from the various members of the SHIELD team have him confused, to say the least. "The last thing I want is to drop aircraft on a populated area," he mutters. "But you started it."

The patent Stark Modular Missile Launcher pops up from the back of the suit's right wrist and Tony locks in on the offending chopper. He almost looks sorry. Then again, this is a much, much larger warhead. After his moment of hesitation, he looses the weapon, then spins in midair to fire a repulsor beam at the crippled jet. "Don't feel bad," he consoles the SHIELD personnel. "I have an unfair advantage. Namely, I'm winning."

Gunfire erupts at Bruce's feet as the helicopter's rounds veer in but he feels the off-target spray; he felt herded before and it's no different now. With a tightly controlled breath, he risks maintaining his spot— kind of. One foot plants on the carrier's steps, boosting him up to, with a crank of the door, lean into the operating cabin. Nothing like what occurs in the sky above but with a mangle of wires, a yanking of particular controls, the sturdy work crane rumbles into action. The boom, jib fully extended, veers steadily towards the forward escape path of the looming, missile-threatened, helicopter.

Dropping from the cabin, ahead of him now shadowed by the lattice framework of the crane's mast, Bruce comes away with the two-way radio transceiver he'd ripped from the dashboard at the last second. Another tightly pumped breath, but there's no time to rethink. Maybe the other guy's a monster, his actions unstoppable, but Bruce— he has to live with his own. With a firm twist, he clears the side of the operating crane and lobs the radio as hard as he can at the moving Agent Dugan. Then, sand jumps as he takes off after the projectile's arc. He's visible in flickers between the crane's criss-cross metal bars, barreling straight for Dugan.

In his already-wounded plane, the fighter jet pilot attempts evasive manuevers to avoid the oncoming repulsor beam. First he zigs right and then zags left, but ultimately, the beam, and Tony's attention guarantee this one is going down. The jet spins, leaving a trail of deep smoke in the expanse of the sky. The helicarrier itself now, opens fire on the Ironman.

The radio yields no reply back to Donovan's distress call. And so he tries again, turning the dial to a less encrypted channel, and this time more directly than the first, "This is SHIELD Agent Asher Donovan. Strike Team Beta is in deep — over our heads deep. Agent Hiss has lost it. Repeat: The Viper has lost it." He doesn't even notice Dugan approaching from behind. "Agent Ross appears to be dead. Strike Team Alpha seems to be working under Hiss's command. MAYDAY. Calling all SHIELD units. Please. Someone. Anyone. Resp — " the sound of a bullet richocets off a piece of shrapnel mere feet from the rookie, causing him to spin around.

It's fortunate for Donovan that Banner had thought to assault the more experienced agent with the radio. If it hadn't, the more novice of the crew would have a bullet to the brain. The radio had managed to mess up the shot as it met Dugan in the shoulder. Bruce's tackle, however, isn't quite as effective, thanks to the radio-projectile warning.

In a tangle of spraying sand and limbs, Bruce grapples to Dugan, an arm meant to launch the agent over his back now a less useful guard; he sacrificed the full potential of his wrestling move but that's nothing, nevermind. Before they're even quite settled, he whips his head up to order the man on the radio to, "Get out of here!"

The rookie's eyes widen at Bruce's instructions. There's no question his own life is in danger, and he doesn't dare consider otherwise, but the civilians. His ambivalence washes over his expression before he's grasping the radio again, "Repeat — on all channels — something is — " a squealing noise reverbs back through the radio, prompting the Asher to drop the handheld machine and begin sprinting back towards the building. Someone has to pull that fire alarm.

The helicopter rounds once, and moments later, Hiss is descending to the ground in a birdman suit. She'd rigged it to land (e.g. crash) several blocks away thanks to some rigging.

The sounds of sirens indicate that emergency services are finally on their way.

Meanwhile, the moment Tony downs the rogue chopper, it's big brother starts raining fire and brimstone. "Holy shit!" he shouts. "Deploy countermeasures! All of them!"

Flares and chaff canisters pop all around Tony as he attempts to divert infrared and radar locks. Then, rather than flying away from the helicarrier, he loops around and heads into the hail of missile and bullets.

He weaves in and out of danger like a madman, occasionally taking out an incoming rocket with a well-placed repulsor burst. He doesn't emerge unscathed, though. By the time he escapes the carrier's firing solution, he's taken an anti-aircraft shell to the shoulder that has badly damaged several armor plates and disabled one of his own missile pods.

"Oh yeah? Two can play at that game." While he taunts, Tony identifies and locks on to the helicarrier's many, many weapon systems. Then, methodically, he starts raking the hull with high-intensity repulsor beams in an attempt to blunt the big aircraft's fangs.

Sir, maintaining this energy expenditure for any further length of time could prove detrimental.

Sirens. The sound of relief to every normal human being radiates warningly down Bruce as he kicks himself away from Dugan in a spray of sand from both struggling men. The last thing he needs is emergency services: more attention, including whatever SHIELD does to 'smooth this over'. This was stupid, Banner. Really stupid, and you knew it going into it. Pity party later, self, he decides, delivering a hard elbow to Dugan's gut that doubles the agent over. Trying to figure out which way to go in his preciously bought seconds requires a hand up against his forehead.

The helicopter veering past on its landing course churns the air and loose dirt and materials of the zone, whipping up a dangerously charged tornado by which fly the leftover sparks of the missile-heavy battle above. Were they crazy up there?!

Even as he thinks it, a spare rocket spirals out of control after glancing off Ironman's armor and plummets into the infrastructure of the under-construction building. Metal shrieks as a fireball bursts from the interior, its heat close enough to cause an earthquake shudder through Hiss' intended drop from the chopper. Cranes sway unhappily as debris shoots, planting with razor-jolts into the ground near the closest exit. Bullets spatter around Tony's wild veering, not able to get a mark on the much faster suit and therefore laying down unrelenting cover fire that begins to strain towards those on the ground.

Towards Banner.

Bruce throws up his hands to stop from the veil of sand as collateral destroys the ground a yard in front of him and, in the pause, Dugan revives.

A warning light appears at the lower left corner of Tony's display. It's Banner, JARVIS' voice explains.

"We gave Banner his own alarm?" Tony pauses his assault for a moment. "Hmm. Good idea."

Unfortunately, he now has issues to contend with both on the ground and in the air. While he considers his options, he lands on the surface of the helicarrier and grabs an unmanned cannon near the base. A quick heave tears it free from its moorings, then he throws it like a javelin at a pair of missile pods. "God, I'm good at this," he congratulates himself.

And he's off again, damaged thrusters sputtering and brake flaps whining as he heads for street level. "Banner? Banner!" he shouts. "When we get out of this, I'm making you help me fix the suit."

Say what you will about Agent Hiss, the woman is fast and determined. Not an ideal combination for a foe. She sprints towards the rookie, her gun in tow. The round of ammunition pops loudly, drawing attention as the commander shoots her own man. Another round is fed towards the rookie. And another. And another. But she's running as she chases after him, meaning her shots aren't particularly accurate — more like cover than actual shooting.

One hits him squarely in the back, causing the Donovan's entire body to launch forward, collapsing underneath the force against his bullet proof vest. He groans loudly, not having remotely managed to move out of the way.

Dugan, meanwhile has trained his gun on the illustrious Bruce Banner. Without second thought, considering only his mark, his goals, and his future, he opens fire only to hear yelling over the commlink — Hiss is not happy, "DO NOT — DO NO — " but it's too late, the first bullets loudly erupt from the weapon with the explosions befitting such a weapon.

The helicarrier takes the cannon, emitting a puff of smoke and flames as it hits. The helicarrier waivers, rocking on its axis, and sending its occupants on an uneven pass. Another cannon is shot towards Ironman in turn, another ranged weapon designed to knock Tony off his path.

It happens as Tony flies, lit-up display painfully clear that the suit will not reach Banner in time even without Jarvis' indication.

As the cannon fire careens through the dust-throttled air after him, a distant warning to the light array that is the essence of automatic gunfire on his screen in front of him.

Hand still raised near his forehead to fend off the crashing of nearby debris, Banner twists perfectly in time on his toe to catch the first flare of rifle bullets in the chest, ripping him straight off his feet and into a leftover metal awning with an anti-climactic bang and blinding spray of construction sand.

Faster than a speeding bullet? Not today. Tony is taking fire from behind and his suit doesn't have much left to give. He banks sharply to the right, ducks behind a building, and breaks his line of sight with the helicarrier. When his feet hit the pavement, it's just in time to see Bruce taking fire of his own. Too far away to help, all Tony can do is wince and look away.

Systems whirl against the settling sand so that at first it appears like a glitch; Dugan's firing seems excessive in the breezy quiet of creaking construction. Then beep— and THUMP. The ground shudders underneath Ironman's feet, paving cracking in growing spiderwebs out from the center mass where Bruce Banner disappeared. Rrrrippppp— fabric and muscle tear with matching ease; a clang is the sudden bending of a metal support beam collapsing half into itself at a collision lower down. Slam and the ground breaks again with the ferocity of a force of nature.

This time, even the dust quivers and separates in the force's wake and glimpses appear. Circled, enhanced, lit up on Tony's display: flashes of enormous green muscle, torn, unrecognizable cloth falling away as, within the cloud, the impossibly large mass grows even more large. BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP sounds Jarvis' pre-set gamma detector alongside the new phenomenon of a scanner set for the errant scientist: one reeling in chaotic red numbers off the charts in weight and life-signs.

A rapid, unstoppable heartbeat.

BOOM. A head swings out of the settling atmosphere, fierce, green, and molded out of inhumanly wide muscles attached to that powerful neck. A short, sneering nose and deeply grooved eyebrows cut in rage make sunken slits out of the eyes that round on Dugan. Thin, colored, lips spread to an animalistic show of teeth.

Then the teeth part and the Hulk looses an angry roar.

Dugan presses the trigger on pure instinct. Training fractured under the weight of what he's looking at, his body abandons common sense for panic and automatic gunfire. What were dangerous explosions before seem like thrown pencils against the new bulk of the monster but it releases a second mouthy noise of irritation and gaits two thunderous steps forward almost like a gorilla, pounding thick knuckles on the cracking ground as bullets spring helplessly off his chest and hunched shoulders.

With one fluid duck, the Hulk butts the top of his head straight into the agent. Dugan is vaulted backwards, straight across the flat zone of the construction prep center and into the safety fencing put to separate it from every day civilization. He isn't gone five feet on that journey before the creature's seemingly lost interest, switched focus. The harrowing whizz of the cannon fire arrowing in on the hidden Ironman catches his jerk of attention and with a great bound, the green thing scales the half-tumbled construction and jumps into the air to meet the white-striped guided missile. What looks more like a half-hearted swipe of annoyance clocks the missile like it's no more than a ping-pong ball. It veers off-course, too busted to explode but still an arrow-shaped rock, and lands with just an explosion of concrete, in front of Hiss' feet, effectively blocking her from her downed rookie target.

A second later and BOOM, the Hulk has landed behind her, his sneer personal and measuring.

"Well. That's… weird." Tony tap-tap-taps his visor, as if expecting to find that this is all some sort of glitch. No such luck, though. So he raises his hands and takes a few steps closer, moving closer to Hiss as a result.

"Crazy pilots, giant helicopters, and now this. Christ on crutches," he mutters, giving his head a shake as he takes all this in. Gamely, he takes another few steps, bringing himself into close proximity of whatever the hell is going on. "Banner? Is that you? Nice work with the—" he pauses to sock one fist into the other palm. "I owe you one. But, uh. You're sort of… big and green. Y'know?"

Caged in like the snake she is, Viper backs up uselessly against the rock. Her eyes reflect pure malice, anger, and, for the first time in a long time, fear. "ABORT," she calls into her commlink. Calculatingly the brunette lunges forward to slide beneath the Hulk. Her Olympic level of agility, speed, and flexibility enables her to move quickly, but whether she's quick enough is anyone's guess. The gun at her hip is drawn and she rapid fires as she moves, trying to utilize her slippery skills to move along the expanse.

Agent Donovan is effectively protected and shielded from his assailants, prompting him to speedily retreat towards the street. He needs to report back to SHIELD. Someone needs to know something is very wrong with the state of Beta team. Very wrong indeed.

The Hulk roars with repeated frustration as Hiss vanishes; it's by chance— and sheer size— that his first lunging step backwards nearly takes off her arm. If she hadn't fired, she might've gone completely unnoticed, by the trail of useless bullets brings Hulk swinging around. Only to find himself confronted with the sight of a bewildered Ironman.

Teeth clenched, he sneers, seemingly unmoved by any words. A stray flashing glimpse of Hiss passes by his glaring gaze and, just like that, he swats the back of his gigantic hand towards Tony to get the pesky red-gold insect out of his way. He has a puny Viper to charge towards.

Viper slides underneath Hulk, breaking into a sprint as she uses her agility to avoid the behemoth. She spins in a tight circle, her gait nearly meeting Hulk's arm as he bats towards Ironman. She needs to get out of there. Run. Don't walk. Run.

Tony certainly wasn't expecting an enormous, vividly green hand heading his direction at high speed. He shifts his weight to dodge, but he's a fraction too late. Even being clipped is enough to send him flying end over end. He ricochets off a streetlight, rebounds, and crashes through a storefront's plate glass window.

Screams of varying volumes and intensities can be heard from inside, then he emerges from a pile of rubble and broken glass. He shakes himself off and hauls himself back to his feet. "Ooooh," he groans. "That's the way you want it? Fine by me."

The suit's chestpiece starts to glow and emit a low, bone-rattling hum. Tony spreads his feet and bends his knees just in time to absorb the enormous amount of force generated by the unibeam. By the time it's done charging, the chest-mounted emitter is glowing so brightly that it's difficult to look at. When the beam is fired, it's intense enough that the recoil pushes him back several inches.

Energy draining out of the Ironman suit reaches critical levels, leaving it beaten and exposed, but capable of firing a highly volatile beam. Charging after Viper, the Hulk that was Bruce Banner never gave Tony a second look. He's reached the woman SHIELD agent, boxing her in with a deafening roar, when the unibeam hits. The blast rips the Hulk down the gravel, leaving a gaping spacious void in front of Viper.

Pulled off one giant foot and then, eventually, the other, the Hulk flies the last few feet uncontrolled into the long-suffering construction. Cables release with uncoordinated *snaps* and support beams crack in two just as easily. Dust whips up and is allowed to settle as the great green beast, this time, takes several seconds to recover.

He bounds to his feet in a couple of paces, hair and face scorched, to stare down the line of fire at Tony's minutely-functioning suit. As the Hulk stares, tiny instants before rage might set in, the eyes seem to soften. Almost imperceptibly, the beast appears to have— a thought. The phenomenon wanes.

But, when he launches now, the Hulk leaps away from the fight; with superhuman effort, he's a mile away— now further. Gone. The building battleground gives a last, defeated, groan and then every inch of it starts to topple over in a metallic chorus.

The void is taken and Viper sprints into the space. Her arms pump hard at her sides and her voice yells into her comlink. "Get us out of here! Bring in special ops! Repeat: bring in special ops!!! Get an airvac now. We'll get Banner another day! Repeat: another day!"

But even those words are ate by the ongoing mayhem breaking around the scene. Sirens of police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks blare noisily across the distance. Authorities are coming. Whether they can do anything is anyone's guess.

This is a rare, serious moment for Tony. His suit's faceplate, now dented and scorched, is torn free from its damaged hinges. He gasps in a breath of air and glances down at his chest piece. It winks once, twice, then goes dark. A quick diagnostic reveals that it's damaged beyond repair, at least until he can return to his workshop.

"Damn. JARVIS, you keep a lock on Banner. Whatever it takes. Shut down life support, it's not working anyway. And send me the Dauntless. It's the only thing we've got that can stand up to this kind of punishment."

The billionaire superhero hits an emergency release near his suit's hip, popping open every joint that's still intact. It's not easy, but he manages to squeeze out of the armor, close it up, and activate an alarm, which is one of the few systems that's still fully operational. Then he pulls a charred and smoking power core from the well in the center of his chest and shoots a glance in Viper's direction. He spares a moment for her, but only long enough to wag a finger reproachfully. "You're way out of your pay grade, kid. Next time, stay the hell out of my way."

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