"You know, my math isn’t up to your level, Tony, but I at least know that nine is more than six.”
The day was breaking through the hills and shining its rays down on a pristine complex that had broken ground only a few days ago. Walls of bright white, the sight of a familiar logo boldly emblazoned on the side and even a retractable helipad on the roof where just underneath a state of the art jet no doubt waited for a chance to be used. Though miles away from any populated area, for their safety as much as security, the complex in question was a familiar sight - only for most they were used to seeing it on the other side of the continent.
The Avengers had been busy, expanding to the west coast with a shiny new facility for training and living with the bill footed by none other than Tony Stark himself. Whether the idea was his or Steve Rogers’s, both household names and both very concerned with the lack of coast to coast coverage, was irrelevant. They both agreed that in light of recent events and with a number of young, misguided, untrained or otherwise unknown youths with both the abilities and the lack of sense to use them appropriately that a team should be formed. Westchester had their school for gifted youths, and though this was hardly a formal school the principle was similar. So many people wanted to be heroes, and those who thought they could be the next Captain America wouldn’t stick around waiting for an invitation.
And yet, that’s exactly what happened.
Steve and Tony, with their commitments, tapped Carol Danvers to be the mentor of this west coast branch of the Avengers - which Carol agreed to with some hesitation and before Tony let slip that her charges were more than just inexperienced. They were basically children.
Today marked the day that the selected few would be arriving and Carol had managed to catch the fact that her dossiers were a bit heavier than normal. She didn’t want to play the blame game but rules existed for a reason and one of her rules was that the team, given the young ages, couldn’t be the size of an actual classroom. The three Avengers were in the situation room, instead of a holo projection of a globe, there were nine files on screen with Carol standing at the head of the table, her hands palm-flat on the surface and her stance selling her short temperament where her otherwise normal voice was selling her annoyance.
"It’s bad enough that you weren’t totally honest with me at the start, and maybe I’ll even come to enjoy the west coast, but I said six and I meant six. Do you not see the problem here?”
“Well, actually, Care Bear. It’s closer to, uh, ten. Just paperwork hangups and such, you’re military. You know how it is. If we’re lucky, it should be settled by the time we close the meeting. But hey, who’s counting?” Across the table, Tony Stark winked at his friend and cracked a smile. “It’s not my fault that so many viable people applied. I didn’t even know some of these people existed, but we can’t just tell them no, we kinda need the extra help.” He didn’t understand why he was being attacked; he built her a whole building, completely up to her specs. He’d even let her pick the interior colors.
And now he was being yelled at because they’d gotten so many people who seemed like they’d be a good fit for the team. Some of them even came with personal recommendations from their Avengers team members. “Look, if you tilt your head… to just… the right angle. That nine becomes a six.” Tony explained, demonstrating for Carol’s sake before a hand was on his shoulder.
“Tony. Just don’t.” Steve Roger’s voice filled the room, as calm and as confident as ever. Tony shrugged his shoulders and leaned back in his chair, while Steve took the floor. “Carol. Why don’t you just pick out who we discuss first? That is the point of this meeting, right?”
Ten? Tony was fortunate that he was out of reach because Carol could have easily punched him for that; it wouldn’t have been fair, he wasn’t in his suit, but the intent was there. Somewhere behind her gaze. It was easy for him to be glib. He didn’t have to actually spend time with ten teenagers. More to the point, he called her Care Bear. He only did that when he knew her mood was turning south.
Fortunately the other Captain in the room knew when to intervene. Good to know the army taught him one useful skill.
"I guess we’ll start here.” Carol tapped a name on the tabletop monitor and a dossier read-up displayed in front of the trio. The picture was of a brown haired girl with violet eyes, which swapped between a photo of the same girl in a black jumpsuit. "I’m surprised Westchester didn’t swoop in, but I guess their jet only has so much fuel. Carol took a moment to re-read through the information gathered; it was good to have friends in high places sometimes. "I looked into her family but turns out the Pride weren’t big on book keeping. I guess none of her friends wanted to keep the team going, though losing someone can be hard for team composition. Of everyone, I think she might take to the team dynamic the best. Plus,”
Carol turned her attention to Steve for a moment, a wry smirk preceding her statement. "She might punch harder than you, Army.”
“Have you ever been punched by him? Because he hits pretty hard —” Tony’s tirade was cut short again by the raised hand of the voice of reason. Tony shook his head, but let Steve have the floor. Love him or hate him, it was hard to tell him no. Usually, it was better to just let him speak.
“I spoke with Scott. He said he doesn’t exactly want someone related to the Pride involved with them, at least not right this second. Personally, I think she’s a very good option for our team. She already has team experience, and that’s one step further than the rest of them. She’s a little young though… Luckily, Carol is gonna be there to make sure the others take her seriously.” Steve started his statement looking at Tony, but by the end of it his attentions were focused on Carol once more. This, shortly, would prove to be a mistake.
“J.A.R.V.I.S.? Change Molly Hayes’s file. Her callsign should be ‘Princess Powerful.’” Tony piped up again, ignoring his two comrades for a moment as he looked at the file in front of him.
“Absolutely do not do that.”
"So. Hayes is in. Moving on.” Another push of a button and Molly Hayes was added to the accepted bin and in her place was the dossier of a black haired girl with a purple costume and a quiver of arrows on her back. "Barton knows this isn’t a fraternity, right? Just because she has the name doesn’t mean she gets in.” That was a statement she had to make to someone else she knew with a legacy name just itching to be put on a team with the pedigree of the Avengers. It still applied to Kate Bishop.
"I’m not trying to discount Clint’s recommendation but there’s a reason ‘brash’ is in red and triplicate. The ‘A’ on the building doesn’t stand for arrogant. Give me a reason why she stays.”
“Right, uhm… have you seen her costume, Carol? Because that seems like a good enough reason to me.” Tony spoke up again, with a statement that was something only he would say. Of course Tony was going to hit on the recruits, why wouldn’t he? ‘Billionaire playboy’ was on his resume.
"This is why you’re going back to New York. When you do, say hi to Pepper for me.” Carol all but rolled her eyes as she turned to Steve for his insight, which was sure to at least be pertinent to the matter at hand.
“Well… Hawkeye’s recommendation shouldn’t be dismissed that easily. Clint is one of the best soldiers I’ve ever met, and he’s almost definitely in the top ten as far as characters go. If he’s willing to stick his neck out for her, then there’s obviously something there. If she can keep up with Clint, she can keep up with us. If she’s half the person Clint is, then it’d be a mistake to discard her just because she’s brash. It’s ultimately up to you, Carol, but we’ve all seen the tapes. She’s capable. Maybe she’s earned a bit of overconfidence.” Steve’s statement closed, and the dead air was filled with Tony clicking his tongue, speaking again.
“Also, she has Barton’s dog. We can’t just leave her on the streets.”
"Chewie’s not gonna like that.” Carol sighed after Steve’s response; when he was right, he was right. She’d seen the footage and Carol’s first thought was that vigilante’s rarely get the chance to put their abilities to use for good causes. Kate was one of the fortunate ones, as far as vigilantism went. Carol could handle with arrogance - hell she was friends with Tony Stark (but would never tell him that. To his face) - it was when arrogance became belief that teams weren’t necessary that complications arose.
"Fine. Bishop’s in. But Lucky better be house trained.” With a few simple keystrokes, the roster grew to two and in place of Kate were two dossiers, one of a black and red clad male and one of a girl in white and black, both with a clear spider motif. "I think every borough in New York has a Spider, it’s only fair that this coast gets a Spider too. Ours has a kill count, though we’ll keep that to just the one.”
“Right. Well, we know how Spiders are, right? I don’t see any reason to deny them. I’ve met quite a few Spiders… I think something in the gene makes them inherently good.” Tony shrugged his shoulders and leaned forward to dismiss his file, before he was again stopped by a hand on his shoulder from Steve, and he glanced over at him. “What now, Cap?”
“Come on. They’re individuals, they aren’t just ‘Spiders.’ We should analyze both their profiles together, it’s not fair to them if we don’t give them both an equal chance. Even if Spiders have a good track record… who knows? Let’s look for the finer details, that’s why we’re here.” Steve was very much the voice of reason in this group, making sure that they treated everyone fairly.
"Are you sure about that, Steve? Look at the facts. They’re both from New York, their abilities are similar, they’ve been in costume for similar lengths of time. Though I admit, Miles’ invisibility could come in handy and Sarah’s strength ceiling is impressive. They’re both kids in a bit over their head but they aren’t giving me immediate red flags. Who knows, they might work well with a team. God knows Parker did.” Carol ultimately had final say and didn’t feel the need to discuss the Spiders further. They might both have been able to do whatever a spider could, but they were unique enough to where Carol didn’t feel like having both was overkill.
With the Spiders added to the pile, they were replaced by a leather jacket wearing male with flames where his hair should be. "Is anyone else noticing a trend? Need I remind you that this isn’t some kind of hostel for troubled youths. We’re the Avengers. I don’t want the lawn to be ruined by someone doing burnouts over the grass. I’m not convinced he’s exactly a team player, but I can’t know for sure because this is the first I’ve even heard of the guy. Some experience would’ve been nice, but all I know about this guy is that he’s a momma’s boy.”
“Well, he’s a local hand. The idea is he can tell the other kids where to get pizza, you know? Or something like that. To be honest, I’m not sure how he made it through the screen process… why don’t we just go ahead and…” Tony reached out to toss the application in the trash, but he was again stopped by the sound of Steve Rogers clearing his throat. Tony glanced over at the Captain and shook his head. “Jesus, you’re a buzzkill tonight. I thought Carol was bad enough when I wanted to hit on the hotter Hawkeye. How are you gonna defend the kid who sold his soul to the devil for a shitty Civic?”
“I’m not sure I can sell you on his decision making. I can’t. No one could. How can you convince the good guys that making a deal like that with the ultimate bad guy is good decision making? It can’t be done. But you know what? Maybe I can defend his sense of… I don’t know, morality. Listen, he came to us. He’s new to his powers. He probably wants help, guidance. We can give that to him. Tell me, would you rather him stand with us once he learns to use his powers, or would you rather be on the other side, jaded and angry because the only people who could help him threw him out because he made a bad call?”
"There’s the Army in you again. Much like them, you’ll take anybody with two feet.” Carol sighed, something she figured would be common place in the days to come, and put Diego’s file in the middle, next to the four that had been slotted into a different section. "I guess this is what the probation period is for. I’m putting him through, but with eyes on him. Call me paranoid, but I don’t like to dance with devils.”
The next dossier was a red haired woman with a very green outfit and though it didn’t come, Carol’s sigh was basically implied. "Look, I get that spandex and tights can be form fitting but we’re not saving the world by looking pretty. I’m starting to see why Xavier’s had a dress code. The bad thing is I can’t see anything else to complain about. She’s not exactly prolific but that’s good for us. Hopefully we don’t wind up answering a call in the desert.” There was a pause before Carol looked towards the billionaire in the room.
"I suppose you’re fine with the costume?”
“What? Of course not. It’s impractical at best. It doesn’t provide any defense at all. She’s gonna be exposed, like a nerve. ...I’m just kidding, of course I dig it. It is impractical, but visually? Woof.” Tony shrugged his shoulders, before he kept talking. “Your tower is in San Francisco, you’re gonna be hard pressed to find desert without going south for a few hours… You should be safe.”
Carol placed Penny in the list with Molly, the Spiders, and Hawkeye and didn’t bring up the next dossier right away. "For the record, that’s six.” The next dossier was a dark haired boy from Portland and his new best friend - a helmet. "Here’s someone I have high hopes for, and if the Nova Corps deemed him acceptable enough then who am I to judge. He seems like a good kid, maybe in over his head, but so was I - and that was before I even knew what the hell a Kree was. I’m going to keep an eye on him, keep his head from exploding. And then there were two.”
Reese was added to the mix and the penultimate dossier replaced him. A tall, bulky brute of a figure with specs on his picture rather than the most recent vitals. "Well, if nothing else we might have A.I.M. knocking at our door. I’ll admit, I’m still a bit iffy about...him? I guess it’s him. Tony, you’re the A.I. expert here, what do you think?”
“I’ve already met him. Lazlo is in, trust me. He’s got a lot of room for growth. Right now? He’s a bit… eh, distant. But he’s a kid, and he’ll grow and learn here, interacting with people that are his ‘age.’ It’s either us, S.H.I.E.L.D., or A.I.M… and I’d much rather it be us. Maria might be monitoring a bit, but for the most part? I’ve turned S.H.I.E.L.D. off of him, but A.I.M. might still be annoying. Nothing you can’t handle. Don’t forget Carol. if you need to step in? Step in.” Tony was maybe a little defensive over this one. It was on his suggestion that Lazlo was even in their list, but he had a good feeling about the guy. And usually… Tony’s good feelings were on point.
There was that one time with Ultron, but they tended not to talk about that.
“I have to agree. Whatever you want to call it: raising, teaching, training… We’re building the future of the Avengers, and the future of Earth’s mightiest heroes. We should let in anyone who has potential.”
"Alright, then he’s in. Guess it wouldn’t be the Avengers without someone mechanical….armored suit...synthoid...some intern in the tech lab. And mighty number nine…” The final dossier Carol had was now displayed. The familiar attire of a certain guardian of Wakanda, though the person behind it was not the one they were all familiar with. "First of all I’m glad Wakanda doesn’t blame us for T’Challa’s virus, and second I consider this a rather massive olive branch. We’ve had a good relationship with T’Challa so with any luck, T’Zarri will benefit from his time here. I just hope he realizes that we’re about twenty hours away from Wakanda and his lineage doesn’t impress me.”
Carol saw no reason not to accept him. It was good for the continued cooperation of the Avengers and Wakanda. What they didn’t tell the citizens about heroism is that sometimes international politics played a key role. Fortunately if Golden Jaguar was half as good as his uncle, he’d do alright.
"So, is that everyone or did you want to spring more on me? Maybe if I squint an ‘8’ will look like a crudely drawn 5 and 7.”
“When the paperwork for the last applicant goes through, you’ll be the first one to know, Care Bear. I’ll send Rhodey your love. I gotta go back to work. Only one of us can spend time with the kids. I’m happy to report it’s the cute one.” Tony was already standing up and ready to rock and roll. He had business to get back to.
“Thank you, Major Danvers. They really couldn’t ask for a better mentor than you.” Steve stood up and walked across the table and held his hand out to Carol. “I know this isn’t the most fun assignment we’ve ever asked you to take on, but it means the world you took it.”
“And with only minimal complaining!”
"We’re not...Rhodes and I...it was..” Carol knew there was no good way down the street she was on and the last thing she wanted was for Tony to use that against her. He had a tendency to gloat often. Whatever was going on between her and the Lieutenant colonel was their business - and with the distance it wasn’t as if anything was going on presently anyway. "You do that, Tony.” It wasn’t like her to even get flustered, mild though it was. She wouldn’t let it happen in front of the kids.
"You know Captain Rogers, I could technically pull rank and get myself out of this assignment.” Carol did so relish the chance to mention the technicalities of their collective military ranks - not that it mattered much when the world was at risk. She accepted the handshake with a firm grip and a sincere smile. "But if we want something done right, we don’t send the Army.”
The half-serious moment between the two military ones didn’t last very long, as Tony Stark was quick to step over to the group and push himself inbetween them. He put an arm around each shoulder, and grinned. “Parental group selfie! We just adopted nine kids guys. Hopefully they give us something to be proud of.” Then, he quickly backed away from the pair, as he simultaneously pulled his sunglasses off of his shirt, and put them on his face. “That picture is going on the Instagram page. Do we even have one? We’re going to.”