It was around 3 in the morning when a sudden explosion awoke Leah; for a moment she thought it was an earthquake due to the shaking of the Tower until a second explosion was heard.
Bruce ran into her room and nervously told her –We are under attack, communications are down. I can´t reach the others.-
Leah paled at his words, but there was no time for panicking so she asked –What should we do?-
-I hate doing this, but I´ll have to leave you alone. Jarvis told me the intruders had breached the southwest corner of level 90 before communications broke down. I have to stop them before they reach the inferior levels. You´ll have to take Eerika from the nursery and hide just in case.-
Leah swung herself out of her bed even before Bruce had ended his sentence, her legs wobbled under her weight.
-Easy Leah, take it slow.-Bruce hurried at her side. –You´ve just given birth the day before yesterday.-
-We don´t have time to worry about that right now Bruce, you said it yourself. I´ll be all right, I just moved too fast.-Leah told him as she regained her balance. – Where are my clothes?-
-I´m afraid that in your room, I wasn´t planning on discharging you until tomorrow.-Bruce confessed.
-I guess this will have to do then.-Leah said with a scowl as she wrapped the hospital bathrobe around her medical gown.- I´ll be all right Bruce.-She reassured him.
-All right, should I find anyone I´ll send them to you.-Bruce told her as he looked directly into her eyes, he wished he could make sure she would be safe.
-I know Bruce.-Leah nodded her head in agreement.
As soon as Bruce ran out of her room she started walking to the nursery as fast as she could, fortunately she could feel her steps becoming steadier which was a great relief.
Eerika was sound asleep in her cradle, the nursery was sound-proof which seemed silly at the time Tony mentioned it but proved to be an incredible good idea under the circumstances. It might be the best place to hide, even if Eerika cried no one would be able to hear her from the outside; that thought bothered her at first until Tony reassured her that Jarvis would alert Bruce every time Eerika made a sound.
As she attentively watched her surroundings she found a blind spot where she would be able to hide from any unwanted looks.
“-What now?-“She asked herself mentally. “-Plan B? Running would sound like a good plan B if I were alone, but how to take Eerika safely with me? I can´t carry with me her cradle, but what about a baby carrier? Tony said he had equipped the nursery with everything we might need. Now, where´s everything?-“ Leah quickly started to rummage across the cabinets and drawers until she found everything she thought she might need, fortunately seemed like Tony had bought the entire babies department.
The rest of the residents of the Tower have had a very similar awakening as Leah did, with the advantage of recognizing the sound of an explosion which allowed them to get in touch with Jarvis before the communications went down. They all assumed Bruce would stay with Leah and quickly changed into their uniforms and directed themselves to the source of the invasion with the exception of Tony who went to his lab to restore communications, they were fighting blindly without them.
After Eerika had been borne they had stopped taking shifts to watch Loki, therefore he found himself alone and trapped with no idea of what was going on outside. For the next couple of minutes he tried to break the glass window of his cell, but it just remained unscratched mocking his efforts. Trying to remove his shackles was useless, only Thor could open them, the magical runes on the shackles were very similar to Mjolnir´s giving control over them to the commander of the lighting and the storm.
He crumpled in despair, he wasn´t able to protect them, he had only been a father for two days and he was already letting his daughter down.
The second Tony arrived to his lab he called for Jarvis, as no answer came he started typing furiously as he tried to figure out what happened.
-Dammit! I should´ve known!-He finally growled. –A virus! Stealing the blueprints wasn´t the only thing they did that day.-
He continued typing as fast a she could in order to regain control of the system, suddenly he smiled as he yelled –Gotcha!- After pressing the enter key he called for Jarvis again, this time there was an answer.
-Yes Sir.-The A.I. responded.
-What´s our status?-Tony asked impatiently.
-Communications are still down, someone is jamming our frequency, and army of doombots commanded by Dr. Doom are currently inside the Tower, they have taken level 85 to 90, the Hulk is fighting them off in the exterior breach, the rest of the team is also engaged in battle in the invaded levels.-Jarvis informed.
-What? Bruce turned into Hulk? Where´s Leah? No, forget that I don’t want them to locate her in case there´s still a bug in our system. First things first, we need to restore communications. What if we rebooted our systems? – Tony asked Jarvis.
-The rebooting of our systems has 54% probability of regaining control of the communications.-The A.I. reported.
-All right, but what if I rewrite our main systems first?-Tony asked again.
-The probability would increase to 90%- Jarvis answered.
-Ok, let´s do this tehn.-Tony said with a smirk as he kept typing, after ten minutes he ordered the A.I.-Reboot all our systems now.-
-Right away Sir.-Jarvis agreed.
All the lights in the Tower went out, emergency red lights could be seen all over the place. The change in the light took everyone by surprise, Leah gently pulled Eerika out of her cradle and held her carefully against her chest as she hid in the blind spot she discovered minutes before, she had a small backpack at her feet with everything she could pack in it. “-If only I had any weapons on me, or at least my uniform.-She sighed in a low voice.
Out of the sudden an explosion on that level made her jump to her feet, followed by a second and third explosion that collapsed one of the exterior walls from the nursery as a crack opened across the floor; Leah took some steps back to avoid falling into it until a voice made her stop.
-So you are the trickster lover.-Dr. Doom acknowledged. – I must admit he has a fine taste in women.-
Leah turned to face him, her heart was beating fast, she couldn´t allow him to know just how scared she was so she answered in her calmest voice –And you are Dr. Doom, I read your file.-
-I´m flattered, and did you find it interesting?-He asked out of curiosity.
-Interesting is not a word I would use to describe it.-Leah told him dryly.
-And how would you describe it?-Doom asked her again eager for her reaction.
-As interesting.-Leah told him.
Doom laughed at her answer –I should´ve known Loki didn´t choose you by your looks alone. You´re a smart one, I like that.-
Something in the way he said it made Leah shiver.
– I think we can get pass pleasantries. To what do we owe the honor of your visit? Are you here to free Loki?-Leah asked him while at the same time she eyed her surroundings.
-I´m still thinking about it, I can´t decide if he´s still a good ally, he seems to act rather foolishly when it comes to you. He´d never let himself being caught before, I assumed it was all part of his plan to snatch you out of here, but he hadn’t made his move yet, maybe he was waiting for his child to be born but I very much doubt he will give me a straight answer. Rescuing all of you should indebt him in my favor, but will he grant my wish? Probably not, he seems too attached to his little family.-Doom explained Leah.
Leah was afraid to ask but she knew she had to. – What do you want?-
-Power, an apprentice; a very skilled one I can shape to my needs.-Doom volunteered.
“-He wants Eerika-” Leah thought with fear.
-Yes, I want your child. I can sense great power in him.-Doom said reading her expression, Leah protectively pulled Eerika closer to her.-But that doesn´t mean you have to part form him.-
Leah quizzically looked at him –What do you mean?-
-I have no time to raise a child, and what better way to ensure his loyalty than keeping his mother close to me.-Doom revealed.
-Her.-Leah interrupted him.
-So, she´s a girl. That might work even better than I thought.-Doom almost purred.
-You wouldn´t! – Leah exclaimed with disgust.
-Of course not, she´s too young for me, though if I had an heir she might make an excellent match. On the other hand your genes seem to have excellent compatibility with magic.-Doom said as he walked closer to Leah who retrieved back until she felt the fissure beneath her heels; she gasped surprised as she looked behind her, the backpack was dangling on the edge of the crevasse only a couple of centimeters from her feet. She could partially see the levels beneath, it wasn´t a big rift, if she jumped she could reach the other side without a problem even if she didn´t had any superpowers, but then what? She couldn´t outrun Doom. When she turned her head upfront she froze; Doom´s face was only a few centimeters form hers, she could even feel his breath over her skin. Even if Doom´s face remained emotionless due to his mask she could see he was enjoying toying with her, his eyes looked at her as a hunter looks his prey.
Out of nowhere she felt his cold metal hand touching her cheek, she closed her eyes in disgust as she tried in vain to turn her head away from his caress.
-You know you are trapped.-He mocked her.-None of the Avengers will come for you, my doombots will see to that. Make no mistake I´m not foolishly in love with you, you are only the means to an end. I will take both of you with me to Latveria and you will give me an heir whether you like it or not. This is the only opportunity you will have to do it willingly and so earn my favor. I might even consider freeing Loki if you want.-
-Let him and Eerika go and I will leave with you.-Leah told him decided to sacrifice herself if she had to, there was still a slim chance of being rescued before … she couldn´t even bring herself to thought about it.-
-I thought I made myself clear, this isn´t a negotiation.-Doom scolded her as he slid his hand down uncovering her right shoulder from the hospital bath-robe.
Leah looked up at him trembling in anger, a couple of tears strolled down her cheeks, as she steadied herself she told Doom –I assume you want an answer.-
-Yes, I do.-Doom dryly told her.
-Never!-Leah yelled at him as she took a step back knocking with her the small backpack as she let herself fall through the crack.
-You will regret this you little bitch, I´m going to kill Loki just to make you suffer but before that I will make him watch as I have my way with you.-Doom roared in anger, he couldn´t risk firing into the cleft to widen it enough to allow himself to get through, he might kill his price, and he was now bent on getting them both alive.
Leah could hear him shouting at her as she fell, the rift was barely enough for them to go through, she shielded Eerika with her own body from the debris that surrounded them, after falling a couple of levels she felt again the floor beneath her feet, sprang by fear she started running as fast as she could. Eerika was crying but she couldn´t stop. “-How did he found me?-“ Was the question in her mind; after all they had relocated the medical ward once they knew the blueprints had been stolen. She didn´t even had her comlink on her and communications were death, so how? An idea hit her, thermal imaging, but Tony had told her that he had built the Tower with a defense mechanism against an outsider locating them that way, but they weren´t dealing with just anyone, it was Doom, if someone could bypass Tony´s security measures it was him.
How to hide? She struggled to remember everything Clint and Natasha had taught her about it, hot, cold, hot that´s it the sauna rooms in the gym level, they didn´t even needed to get inside for the heat in the sauna rooms to hide their thermal print, just close enough. She had to hide Eerika there while she found a way to get to the shooting ring undetected, her uniform and weapons were there; if she met Doom again she would need them. She was halfway there when the lights went up, a familiar voice could be heard all over the Tower. –Everyone get your comlinks on.-It was Tony, he had restored communications and encrypted their channel to avoid Doom overhearing them.
They were all glad to hear his voice with the exception of Hulk who was too busy smashing doombots.
-Tony, status?- Steve asked first.
-Hulk is in the exterior perimeter, Thor is in the level beneath yours as Clint, Natasha is around the corner from you, I´m in the lab and Leah is on the run.-Tony reported.
-What do you mean on the run? She is alone?-Thor asked worryingly.
-I´m afraid so, there was an explosion a couple of minutes earlier in the medical ward, it seems she was able to escape with Eerika.-Tony answered.
-How did they found her?-Natasha asked next.
-That´s what I´m trying to figure out, this was planned carefully to separate her from us. What are you doing Leah? This is not the time to go to the sauna.-
-Said that again, where is she?-Clint asked anxiously.
-At the gym level, near the sauna rooms, but there´s no weapons there nor somewhere to hide, so what’s she doing there?-Tony inquired.
-The heat from the sauna rooms.- Both Clint and Natasha answered at the same time.
-She´s trying to hide from thermal imaging.-Clint added.
-But that´s not possible, the Tower defenses should.-Tony started to retort.
-How else can you explain that they found her in this maze of yours? – Natasha cut him off.
-Um, good point. – Tony reasoned.
Meanwhile in the gym Leah had stopped to take care of Eerika, she changed her, feed her and currently was trying to get her to sleep as she hurriedly looked for a place to hide her. An empty dirty clothes basket seemed like a good cradle for starters, as she placed her sleeping child inside it she said in a low tone. – I know you are no Moses, but this will have to do. Sleep tight my love, mommy will be back before you know it.-
Next she started to check herself for wounds, she was covered with bruises and cuts from her fall; even if the hospital bath-robe was shredded to pieces none of them were of concern except for a large gash on her right forearm which she bandaged quickly. Making sure Eerika was comfortable she bit her lips, if Doom caught her before she got to the shooting ring she had no means to defend herself, but she wouldn´t be able to defend Eerika neither, she had to go.
-Now where are you going? And why are you wrapped in a towel head to toes?-Tony asked mostly to himself.
-Possibly to the shooting ring.-Clint volunteered with a hinge of pride. –Her uniform and bow are there. And she´s doing what we taught her, hiding her thermal signature, a blanket would’ve been better but a towel will do –
-I think you are right.-Tony added.-Doom is awfully close to her, I think I should welcome our visitor.-
-Give him our regards.-Steve told him with irony.
-Did Steve just made a joke?-Tony said raising his eyebrows.
-I think he did.-Natasha agreed.
-Shut up and suit up Tony!-Steve told him irritated.
-Yes, sir.-Tony jokingly answered.
-I´m going, I´m going!-Tony answered as the automats in the lab suited him.
While Leah changed into her uniform she couldn´t help to remember Doom´s cold touch over her skin, as the shiver travelled through her spine she remembered Doom´s last words.
-Loki!-She gasped. – God dammit! He´s a sitting duck in his cell, if Doom gets his hands on him … she didn´t even wanted to think about it.