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ACTIVATED. LEVEL 3 LIVE AMMUNITION DRILL
“Huh--” he said out loud. Niko tapped at the numbers on his phone. 1-2-3-4-5-6
OVERRIDE FAILED. ENTER OVERRIDE CODE.
“6-5-4-3-2-1”
OVERRIDE FAILED. DEPLOYING DRONE in 3-2-1
“Uh-oh.”

The tone took Thorson by surprise, “What's 'uh-oh’ Niko? What's going on?”

“Not sure, but whatever it is…” A silver robot landed in front of them. As if on cue the robot landed on the field, locked onto the three targets. “Asking for a friend. Are you bulletproof?” He asked Erik.

Erik thought back quickly as if some memory might have the answer. “Uhhh I mean...maybe? I haven't been shot at ever I think.” The robots earlier had only been using lasers and blasts so that might be the extent of his durability. Shit he knew he should have tested this all out more.

“Not the time to find out! Hold this!” Niko scooped up Gwen and tossed the spiderling to Thorson, nanoseconds later he had one hand on the younger man’s back the other behind his neck. Taking a deep breath, he had a little slower start than usual, but managed to speed past the lumbering armor as it fired at them, zig-zagging to avoid the bullets. “Get to the compound, get inside, try to override the live fire codes talk to Helen, tell her I didn’t order a blue plate special,”Niko ordered. “If you can’t -- “ he rolled his eyes. “Then wake Sam. Last resort only. Foster Thorson, make sure she gets there. I’ll keep it busy. Oh, and don’t worry, it’ll pass- breathe through your nose. You’re less likely to throw up.” Another blink later he was back on the field, just as the bot was taking flight, whistling through his teeth to get its attention. “Come on…” he said, under his breath as he bounced on his toes. “Follow me. Let’s go.” As the lumbering bot took aim his way again, Niko smiled and breathed a quick sigh of relief. He’d just have to dodge attacks. “Dodging is easy.” He told himself. “Piece of cake.”

Taking a quick second to breathe in to his nose and steady the world, Erik looked down to the girl now in his arms, “You heard Niko, we need to get you to the kill switch for the robot. Do you know where you need to go?” He had to get his head straight, get Gwen to safety and to the bots, get to Niko and help out, try not to get absolutely wrecked by the same robot model that nearly killed him earlier. He realized he was still holding her though and set her down gently as he could.

On her own two feet again, Gwen held up a finger to silently indicate to Erik she needed a moment. While she tried to take Nikos advice to breath through her nose. It didn’t work. Her stomach rolled and the girl lifted her mask to vomit. It was one thing to be kited but Gwen wasn’t used to yet being in the front seat of the speedsters gut wrenching speed.

“I’m okay!” She insisted taking a breath between dry heaving. “We need a computer. Like a REAL computer …” Gwen said wiping her mouth as she straightened. “Why the hell did the bot come out.” The girl wondered. Well if she was going to find an answer it would have to be in the computer. She padded ahead to find the computer center.

Staying a step ahead of the robot wasn’t the hardest part. Keeping its attention on him and off his teammates was a little more of the challenge. He’d have to go slow enough to keep the focus, with meant it was easy to lose his. Plus he had to keep changing up his patterns, because it was starting to anticipate his movements, meaning he’d have to alternate his speed.

Thorson carefully navigated around Gwen's mess and kept pace with her, “Well it came out the first time we tried breaking in, maybe the way it was shutdown didn't go right and it rebooted to its previous state? Obviously it's not my thing but it did kinda just fizzle out the last time it was used…” his face went to one of concern, “are you sure you're alright? I can get you to a computer if you need help.”

“Hey not all of us can be blessed with a iron tummy that can resist the sudden stop and go of an insane speedster!” Gwen remarked tartly. “The fact is we are kind of squatting here, nothing set so i’m sure this is going to be the first of many colorful incidents and …” Gwen went to open the door and found it locked. It wasn’t a standard door either, it was one of those metal door that could take an RPG to the face kind of doors. If doors had a face. “ … the door is locked of course its locked.”

“Can you get it open?” Erik asked worriedly, “Niko’s out there with a - I don’t know what and we don’t have time for this.” He looked over the door curiously, looking for something that might get them in faster.

“Sorry I left my break in tools in my other suit.” The spiderling said with sarcasm in her tone. Gwen rolled up her proverbial sleeve and charged at the door. She was still not used to using her spider strength to it maximum potential so the result was less than stellar as she bounced off the door denting it slightly.

Going quickly to her side Erik carefully looked over her arm, “Are you alright? That looked pretty bad.” Her quick head turn and spin away from him indicated that she didn’t require any medical attention and once again he was being overly fussy. He looked up to the dent in the door and then began making his way away from it down the hallway, “Alright….stand back. I don’t actually know if this is going to work.”

‘Alright, calm, focus, just like the football dummies only harder probably since this isn’t going to move.’ Erik exhaled one last preparatory breathe as he briefly took up a sprinters position and ran hard for the door, throwing his shoulder directly into the the gap. A solid thud rang through the hallway as a person sized hole appeared in the door. From the other side, Erik’s voice called out, “Okay it worked.” He poked his head back out from the hole, “You good out here?”

“Is the door okay?” Gwen teased as she walked over to the computer. “You could have spared my shoulder and just open with that!” She said with a tsk. He was the son of the god of freakin thunder who was CLEAR in the heavyweight class to her featherweight class. Gwen went to work on the computer.

Erik tried to think of a reason as Gwen walked past, but could only lower his head in defeat and let out a soft “sorry”. Looking around the room he was clearly out of his element again though, he wasn’t much for computers and servers, but he leaned to look over Gwen’s shoulder to see her progress. “I uhh, think I’d better get out to Niko then...assuming you’re all setup here.”

“Go have at it … don't break anything and watch out, that thing is no joke.” Gwen warned.

“You gotta be joking!” Niko hollered at the bot, who'd yet to even fire. He worried if he blurred too fast, he ran the risk of it disengaging and going after the teens. If he blurred too slow, the words “swiss cheese” came to mind, reminding him that he was starving and had no time for a snack. “Come ON!” He growled, this time ducking down and around from behind the bot. As he rolled to his feet, across the field, he caught a glimpse of Foster Thorson’s mace. It did a pretty good job tearing through bots with Foster the other day, Niko was willing to bet it’d rip through anything. “All right, big guy, you want to dance? -- I’m talking to a robot.” He took off full steam for the mace. Blinking out of sight, he blurred down the side of the field, powersliding to a stop. Turning back, he wiped his feet three times, like a bull, before zipping back towards Thorson’s weapon. The plan was to pick it up full speed, using his momentum to toss it forward into the giant robot. Who needs passwords and computers? The world slowed down as he ran, dropping his arm down to scoop up the mace by the handle, At this speed, the momentum should do some pretty decent damage, he told himself. The minute his hand hit the handle, he felt the plan fall apart.

The world came back into focus, normal speed and there was an excruciating pain radiating from his shoulder. Worse than that, he was flat on his back, the wind knocked from his lungs. As he tried to refocus and get up, the bot lumbered towards him.

“Shit! Shit shit shit.” He coughed. “Well, I’ve had a good run. 23 years? That’s -- I’m good.” He tried one more time to get back up, as the bot, now meters away, raised its arm to fire. He regretted not saying sorry to his cousin.

As Erik stopped briefly at the edge of the field, time seemed to slow as the bot took aim. Without a word he dropped into a full sprint, ‘no,no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no!’ was all he could think as he extended his arms as if they might envelop the huge mass. In a nice reversal from the day before, he managed to catch the bot by surprise and tackle it briefly into the air, carrying it toward the treeline. “Raaaaagh!” was the only thing that managed to leave his mouth as he forced the metal man into the ground.

Without a second thought he began wildly laying hits into the armor. His arms flew side to side, at first glancing, then catching dents, and in one last hit he managed to take a small piece out of the chestpiece before the next wild shot was intercepted. Suddenly brought back from his rage, Erik remembered all too well could happen next, “Shit”

The forearm of the bot extended raising its weapon. The heavy mace next to Niko began to shake, and with a final cough, he rolled back to his feet. His right shoulder hung a bit awkwardly, causing him to hug it tightly with his left. But at least he still had his speed. With a running start, he baseball slid on his left side into the legs of the bot, the force of his momentum pushing it to the side. Like a tree in the forest, it lumbered and toppled to the side momentarily, hopefully long enough to get Foster Thorson to a safe distance. "Go wake up Sam.”

Gwen in the meantime was making on with the hacking. “The boys get all the action and i’m relegated to the screen .... oh hello!” The spiderling said with a spreading grin and she type in commands and reset the override code. “Well … it’s only fair you guys. Seriously you DID leave me alone with the computer that controls that thing ... “ She snickered. “ … Insert evil laughter.” She said clicking enter. See she couldn’t change the override code in such a short time but she was able to add herself into the system and give her self admin privileges. She could only assume the piss poor protection of this computer was due to age and the belief a door could protect it? Maybe? The point was she was now privileged with vocal commands!

The Scarlet Spider ran off. “I’m COMING to the RESCUE guys!” She hollered running at top speed back onto the field.

“But what about you?” Erik could tell that Niko hadn’t been in the best spot on his own, and wasn’t about to abandon him to get blasted. “I can help!”

Niko smiled, nodding towards the compound. “I’m fast, Kvedjveso. He won’t hit me. Go.”

Gwen came bounding on the field; the boys couldn’t tell, but she was grinning ear to ear under her mask. She leaped over Niko and Erik and launched herself at the bot. The bot was poised to shoot the little spider when she said “Stop.”

The armor paused, stopping dead. “Authorization ‘Coolest Avenger’ Accepted.”

“Yea … that’s all me. I stopped it with my brains.” Gwen said smugly rocking on her heels. “Who saved you two. Yea … I did.”

“This is that whole overconfidence thing we discussed in the beginning. But good work, Ghost Spider Girl. You too Foster Thorson.”

“Yeah...sure…” Erik’s shoulders relaxed as the threat seemingly ended, “So that’s it then? He began making his way back toward his mace.

“Yeah, that’s it. That was one hell of a tackle. You were awesome. You --” he thought about complimenting Gwen’s work, but reconsidered. “Were…” He made a so so motion with his hand. “And watch that thing - cripes how much does it weigh?”

“Hmmm... Dunno … I only got to GLANCE at the specs … And I found out that she’s still out there! I had NO idea Veronica was still in orbit and there was this huge list of addons and parts for instant repairs!” Gwen gushed looking over the armor like it was a puppy.

“I meant the mace,” Niko clarified.

“Oh,” Gwen said with a sheepish tone.

Erik knelt down and lifted it effortlessly, blue runes on the back briefly illuminating his face, “It’s not really heavy I think,” he said, looking over the message once more, “You just have to be the right person I guess...or maybe you just have to have Thor DNA in you...I dunno, but...I dunno.”

“What, too heavy for our fast and fearless leader?” Gwen teased. “Maybe the mace LIKES Erik more than you.” She pointed out as a possibility.

“Yeah yeah.” Niko groused, holding his injured arm. “The mace is a dick.”

“It’s name is Thunderstrike.” Erik corrected as he rejoined the group

“You named it? I mean, that’s cool. Strike fear into hearts.” Niko replied.

“Can we name the armors too?” Gwen asked cheerfully.

“Kvedjesa, you can name whatever you’d like.”

“That’s..just it’s name, I dunno it just kinda is Thunderstrike.” He gave the mace a quick toss into his other hand and tested it’s weight again, “It’s like...I don’t know it’s hard to explain…”

“Seriously, you both did great. You- out of nowhere with the takedown, and you with the brain power. Great stuff.”

“Awesome! I’m starved. Let's pitch names over a pizza or something?” Gwen suggested walking back, the armor following her. She paused and looked back up at the armor. “Stay.” She commanded.

“Invalid command.” It replied mechanically.

“Return?”

“Invalid command.”

“Sleep?”

“Invalid command.”

Gwen hung her head. “I need an instruction manual for this thing!”

“You work on that. Coolest Avenger. I’ll clean up.”

Near killed two Avengers. Night’s still young. Leadership.

((Special thanks to Winters and Turk who wrote this with me AGES ago!))

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