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Fateful Choices

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Chapter Seven
The Compound Attack

Sam had seen everything. Stark had failed to check in within minutes of calling to Sam he was checking around his perimeter section. They all knew this Thanos was going to attack the Compound. Stark’s radio silence was worrying.

He shouldn’t leave his own post, he knew that. It would open the Compound to outside forces and if anyone got through it would be Sam’s fault. But he couldn’t ignore Stark’s radio silence.

Stark was stationed not too far from his own outpost. In fact, their perimeters overlapped. Extracting a small RedWing from his backpack, Sam set it to alert him to any hostile movement and to send a signal to JARVIS within the Compound if anything out of the ordinary was detected.

Moving swiftly, Sam climbed up onto the roof of the building next to him, jumping across onto the next level and slowly started to make his way around the side, hanging on precariously as he rounded the building. His right hand hung onto the pipes above him as he peered around the corner.

“Oh shit…”

Ahead of him, on the ground, he could see Stark being held invisibly down and he was surrounded by Thanos and two of his minions. Thanos was leaning over him, pushing something into Stark’s chest which Sam did not like at all.

He tapped his earpiece. “Steve, come in.”

There was no answer. No sound, nothing.

Damn, their communications had been jammed. Even if Tony had managed to get a signal out, no one would know. If their earpieces were jammed then RedWing would be as well. Sam bit his lip as he watched Tony get robotically to his feet.

From his position, he could see a device that resembled an Arc Reactor sat within Stark’s chest but it had more of a spacey-shape glow to it and Stark’s eyes were shining blue.

Sam didn’t wait around, he turned and ran away. Reaching one of the side-door exits from the Compound, he palmed his ID across the identification scanner, pulling the door open as he was allowed admittance, closing the door behind him. He didn’t have long. He had to find the others.

“STEVE! Nat! Rhodey!” Sam called out, running up and down corridors, peeking into rooms and offices looking for anyone who could help him raise the alarm. It was late but not too late for people to still be up. They did sleep in patterns so at least some of the team would be ready for any attack. They couldn’t have the whole team tired at the end of the day, only to find Thanos made his move and caught them off guard.

“Wilson?” Clint appeared, rubbing his eyes, peering out from a smaller common area, with his right hand clutching his bow. “Your yells woke me up.”

Sam didn’t even acknowledge Clint had been sleeping. “Purple guy is right outside!”

That caught his attention. “What? The alarms?”

“Jammed!” reported Sam as he continued running down the corridor. “We have to assemble!”

“Wait, wasn’t Stark on patrol too?” Clint hurriedly followed, now wide awake.

“He was.” Sam didn’t elaborate further.

They both ran down the corridor, round to the right, up the stairs to the third floor and out into the main common room area where, thankfully, they found everyone including the Guardians.

Steve was on his feet, noticing the concerned looks on their faces. “Sam? Clint?”

“Thanos,” breathed Sam, “he’s here.”

Everyone moved at once.

“The alarms –”

“How long?”

“Where’s Tony?” That last one came from Pepper.

“Tony checked in. He didn’t check back out,” verified Sam. “I was uneasy. I investigated. We do not have long. Thanos is outside right now and I expect he’ll –”

There was a loud explosion and the floor rumbled, dropping almost everyone to the floor. Sam caught himself on the back of the chair. They were out of time.

“Sirs, the wall on the left side of the building, close to the hanger is compromised!” JARVIS reported. “Four lifeforms are detected. One of them is Mr Stark.”

“JARVIS, why is Tony with them?” pressed Pepper, climbing to her feet supporting by Nat.

“He appears to be aiding them,” replied the AI.

Steve cast his gaze back to Sam. “What happened?”

Before Sam could answer, Gamora interjected:

“Thanos did,” she said quietly. “The Arc Reactor, right?”

Sam nodded. “He swapped it out I think. As soon as he put it in, Tony lost all sense of self. His eyes were shining blue!”

Gamora hissed under her breath. “Damn it.”

“What does that mean?” asked Pepper, fear reflected on her face.

Gamora sighed. “I was afraid this would happen. It means Tony is under Thanos’ complete control with no free will. He will be used as a weapon against us.”

Steve cursed. “Then we need to take the Arc Reactor out.”

Gamora shook her head. “Thanos will have destroyed the original. We take it out, we kill Tony.”

Steve sighed. “Damn it. Then we do our best to make sure we disable him. We’re not letting Tony remain a prisoner inside his own mind.”

Gamora stepped forward. “I don’t think you understand. Tony has lost his free-will. Even if we disable him, he’ll get straight back up because he will have specific orders. Knocking him out will not free him from control either because it is directly fused into his chest cavity. We can’t kill him but…”

“Tony always had spares,” piped up Rhodey. “Pepper, do you think? The house in Malibu?”

“I’m thinking the same,” she answered. “His workshop is still there. I never sold anything. I kept it ready for him…” Pepper went silent. Everyone knew what she had been about to say.

“I’ll go,” said Rhodey. “I know you may need me here but we need another Arc Reactor if we want to save Tony. I’ll be faster with War Machine.” He was already running for the door. “And since we’ve been chatting, they’re probably on their way to us right now so we better start fighting back otherwise we will not have a home to return to!”

Steve nodded. “Everyone, we come at them from different angles. Priority is to disable –”

“Kill,” interrupted Gamora. “We cannot disable Thanos. We have to go for the killing blow. He is the one being in the universe you do not try to give justice to. Too many authorities have already tried in the universe and where has it got them? Annihilation.”

“Fine. We split up into groups of five apart from the Guardians who remain together as a party of six,” directed Steve. “Nat, Sam, Bucky and Thor are with me. Clint, Valkyrie, Bruce, Pepper and Strange in the last group.” He cast his eyes around. “I presume you will fight without me having to ask if you will or not?”

No one raised a question and Steve nodded. “We come at them from three different directions. If we can get the Gauntlet from Thanos…” He didn’t need to continue, everyone knew what was at stake.

“I’ll focus on trying to distract Tony,” said Gamora. “Separating him from Thanos is key to our success. It will be easier to exchange the Arc Reactors once Rhodey returns if the two are nowhere near one another.”

“Agreed.” Steve motioned for his group to join him.

“Aside from Tony, they haven’t bought reinforcements,” clarified Sam. “We do outnumber them.” He adjusted his flight pack on his back, ensuring the straps were tight enough to hold his weight.

“Good. We need some luck tonight,” muttered Steve as he left the common room at a run.

The others followed before splitting at an intersection to go their separate ways.

- - - - -

Rhodey made it to Malibu in record time. JARVIS had already lowered all security as he approached, allowing Rhodey to fly into the house in his armour and down to Tony’s workshop.

Pepper hadn’t touched it since Tony’s loss. She hadn’t even moved any of the cars or any of the work Tony had been working on. Pepper personally spring-cleaned the place every month, a chore Happy had helped with, and when he was able to, Rhodey as well, all three of the reminiscing about happier times when Tony was still with them.

The old Iron Man suits still stood within their designated places, powered down but charged to full power every so often in-case they were needed.

Rhodey moved towards a locker at the far end of the workshop, deactivating his suit so he could step out of it. He really needed an upgraded suit. Seeing the suits Tony wore now was something else. He had perfected his suits in captivity but that didn’t matter at the moment. What did was ensuring his friend survived.

Inputting the security code for the locker, it swung open and Rhodey reached inside for one of the Arc Reactors Tony had stored there. He hesitated, then reached in for a second, encasing them both into a pouch at his waist before closing the hatch and running back to his suit where he could re-join the others at the Compound.

- - - - -

Gamora ran behind Quill. They were heading towards the hanger where Thanos seemed to be staying. They were not advancing forward which surprised her but also it unnerved her because it showed Thanos had a plan and they were walking right into it. Quill remained in contact with Steve and Valkyrie who were leading the other two groups.

“We could try to get the Gauntlet off him,” said Mantis.

“Yeah and how do you propose to do that when he’s got two of his Children and Stark?” responded Quill.

“Whatever you do, just keep them distracted so I can get to Tony!” said Gamora. “He’s the most important piece here.” She was worried; concerned this was going to go wrong for them all. They didn’t really have a plan. They were just going to act and hope for the best. There were too many variables for them to counteract to plan efficiently anyway.

Gamora unsheathed her sword. She was after Tony but if she could get a strike on Thanos…

“We’re going to attack from the right! Be prepared, Guardians!” hissed Quill. “The door is coming up! The others are nearly at their positions too!”

Gamora couldn’t help but feel worried.

They stopped outside the hanger and Gamora kept her hand hovered over the entrance panel. “Everyone ready?” she whispered.

“I’m ready for my vengeance,” replied Drax, holding his two swords in his hands. “Thanos will die today.”

Gamora shook her head.

“Steve’s in position too,” replied Quill. “Valkyrie and her team as well.”

“Rocket, you better not stay back,” said Gamora, noticing the Racoon was behind Drax which was unusual for him.

Quill threw him a look. “Admit it, you’re terrified!”

“I’m not!”

“Sure…” muttered Quill.

Rocket was about to snipe back.

“Don’t! This isn’t the time for petty struggles,” growled Gamora, looking back towards Quill, waiting for the signal. He minutely inclined his head. “We’re going in, in ten.”

The count began and Gamora leaned forward, ready to run forward as soon as she activated the door panel.

“ONE!” she yelled, pressed the door release and ran inside, running straight for Tony who was already in the midst of fighting Steve.

Their timing may have been slightly off as both groups were already knee-deep in battle.

Thanos was concentrating upon Thor and Valkyrie who were both attacking him simultaneously, as was the Hulk, whilst Doctor Strange was using his portals to teleport Bucky around, all vying for hits upon the Titan.

Nat, Sam, Clint and Pepper were fighting off the remaining two children of Thanos, Corvas Glaive and Cull Obsidian.

Drax, Groot and Rocket went to join the battle with the Children whilst Mantis, Quill and Gamora moved towards Tony. Though their groups had split up, the aim was to retreat within their groups in different directions so they could lure each one away from the other. Each person had a target to concentrate on.

Tony’s armour encased his body but not his face and they could clearly see his eyes were shining blue, the possessive colour of the Mind Stone. She saw the Arc Reactor shining in his chest, humming with energy.

“Tony! Stop this! Fight it!”

He looked up at her, tilting his head to the side. “Why should I, when my goal in life has been to kill all of you?” His voice was monotone with no emotion whatsoever within it.

“But we do not want to kill you,” replied Gamora, keeping her swords at her side. “We want to save you.”

Steve stepped back towards them. “He’s too encased in his control. I’ve tried this. He doesn’t care.”

“But he’s not attacking now, is he?” noted Gamora, her eyes focused upon Tony. She was not paying attention to the other battles around her. She didn’t need to. She trusted the others to do their jobs well and keep Thanos away from her and Tony.

Tony stood there, his face twitching ever so slightly.

Steve gasped. “Is he fighting it?”

“I think he’s trying to,” marvelled Gamora. “I knew he was strong… But it’s plugged into his chest… It should be impossible…”

“I think it would be a good idea to not stand around talking when we could have our chance to get him out of here,” interrupted Quill quickly. “Whatever is happening, he is losing the battle!”

Tony’s arm came up and a large blaster formed around his arm. “How quaint, you believe me saveable. I’m not.” His face turned nasty. “You will all die, apart from you, Gamora. Your father wishes to speak to you.”

“He won’t be speaking to me,” she promised.

“Oh, he will be.” Tony fired at them and Gamora and Steve leapt to the side and Quill activated his jet boots and flew upwards.

But Mantis had worked her way around behind Tony and leapt at him, grabbing the side of his head with her hands. “SLEEP!” she yelled, her antennae shining bright as she attempted to soothe his mind.

“What? No! Get –” Tony’s eyes rolled back and he fell to the floor, Mantis managing to keep her hands on his head.

Quill landed on his feet. “That was… surprisingly easy.”

Even Gamora felt uneasy. They hadn’t expected it to work as well as it had. “Come on; let’s get him out of here! Keep him asleep, Mantis!”

Though it was difficult, Steve managed to lift Tony into his arms so Mantis was still keeping him asleep. The last thing they needed was Tony to wake whilst he was encased within his armour and under Thanos’ control.

Gamora followed them out of the hanger, dread pooling in her gut. Something was wrong, very wrong here.

“Are you okay?” Quill noticed, seeing the uneasy expression on her face.

She shook her head. “No. This isn’t right… This is a trap, I’m sure of it.”

“Gamora…” Quill started but had to leap away as a huge explosion rocked the corridor.

Steve tripped, lost his grip on Tony and dropped him and Mantis went flying.

Before Gamora could even regain her feet, Tony was upon her, fully awake and his hands clutched around her throat. She tried to kick but failed due to the armour he wore pressing her down, forcing her to struggle to breathe. Steve grabbed Tony from behind but Tony only held tighter, choking Gamora further.

Tony’s eyes were blazed blue and his face a contour of emotions. He’d been robotic before but fighting seemed to bring out his emotions, despite the mind control.

“Tony! Stop it!” Steve was yelling, scrabbling to grab Tony away from Gamora.

She couldn’t breathe. He wasn’t aiming to kill her, just render her unconscious. And he was succeeding.

“Knock him out!” Quill shouted.

“Mantis is out of it!” replied Steve, shouting back.

“Fine! I’m gonna shoot him!” responded Quill.

She heard the click of a blaster being levelled, knew Quill was aiming for Tony’s head.

“NO! DON’T!” Steve moved from trying to wrestle Tony off her. There was a bang and Quill cursed.

“Why’d you do that for?”

Before Steve could even muster a response, before Gamora became aware that the grip on her throat had loosened lightly, there was a purple surge of power which knocked them clean off their feet, including dislodging Tony from his death-grip on her neck.

Coughing and breathing in air, Gamora hoisted herself up only to find a thick, purple hand grasping her by the right shoulder.


Gamora swallowed. She tried to wrench herself free but the grip only tightened. She was still finding it difficult to get in enough air. Tony’s strangulation of her throat had taken a lot out of her, enough that fighting against Thanos would be too difficult.

“You and I need to have a little chat,” said Thanos. “First, I have to finish up here. There are some loose ends I need to take care off. Don’t you worry, your friends will survive. I only kill when it is necessary and no one needs to die here today.”

“What have you done?” she whispered.

“I could kill everyone here with a single hit. I chose to disable them all, knock them unconscious. We’ll be long gone before they return to the land of the living.” Thanos pulled Gamora with him leaving her team-mates behind.

“Let me go! I have nothing to say to you!” she hissed angrily, trying to wrench her arm free from his grip.

Thanos chuckled. “You have plenty to say to me. It all depends on you on what happens next.”

He didn’t elaborate but he’d obviously seen through her. He knew she had lied to him about the soul stone but she couldn’t give up the location. Nothing would make her do it.

Pulling her back into the main corridor, she saw the rest of the Avengers scattered around the room, all knocked out cold, apart from Pepper who was being held by Cull Obsidian in a tight grip.

“I made sure to keep those I wanted awake.”

Gamora didn’t like how Pepper was the only one left conscious. What was the Titan planning?

“I know you intend to take Stark back from my control. I know he has old backups stored away. Don’t forget I broke into his mind and saw what he was before he decimated my army. Even if he manages to break through the condition of the Arc Reactor, I will still be able to control him. She is his weakness. To save her, he will do anything. But he’s defied me far too many times now for me to leave her alone.” Thanos expression was cool and calculated.

“Don’t! Please!” Gamora could guess what her father was planning with Pepper, what he’d force Tony to do.

“Don’t tell him anything!” shouted Pepper. “I don’t care what this monster does to me!” She was still trying to pull away from the grip of her captor.

Thanos moved forwards, nodding his head towards Cull, who promptly released Pepper. “Really?”

She staggered but kept her balance, raising her arm. Her armour shined and her helmet remained off, the blaster pointing straight at Thanos.

Gamora couldn’t move as something was holding her down and she knew it was Thanos using the Stones; he wanted her to witness this.

“Shooting me will achieve nothing.”

Pepper fired.

The blaster shot didn’t graze the hard skin of the Titan.

“Nothing can harm me. I am far too powerful for insignificant mortal weapons now.”

Pepper was breathing in heavily. Still free from her captor’s grip, she cast her eyes around, searching for anything that could help her.

“Pepper,” said Gamora quietly, “don’t fight him.” It was the only advice she could give her. Thanos intended to take Pepper otherwise he would have left by now. And if Pepper continued to fight, Thanos would hurt her more just to disable her.

“Oh, daughter, her fighting me isn’t going to change her fate.” The stones in the Gauntlet glowed and then Tony was flying in, using his boot thrusters. His helmet was still off, his eyes still glowing blue. Thanos must have woken him up as he’d remained unconscious before.

He landed in front of Pepper, raising a Gauntlet at her, powering it up n front of her.

Pepper stiffened. “Tony?”

Thanos moved back towards Gamora, stifling her view. He motioned to Cull Obsidian and Corvus Glaive who both moved to his side. “Take her back to Sanctuary II. I will return shortly.”

“What? No!” Gamora tried to make a run for it but Cull grabbed her, crushing her against his body before she was enveloped in blue light and felt her body moving up. Sagging in her captor's grip, Gamora could do nothing for either Tony or Pepper.

She could only concentrate on ensuring Thanos did not acquire the Soul Stone.

- - - - -

Pepper could see Tony’s shining, blue eyes stare blankly at her as he levelled a gauntlet at her face. She’d been fighting with Nat, Sam and Clint against the two Children of Thanos when a dark purple wave of light hit them all throughout the room which had immediately disabled everyone, save for herself and the aliens she had been attempting to fight.

Thanos moved slowly towards her, his eyes focused upon her face. “Pepper… Potts.”

She didn’t like it when he said her name. Fear trickled up her spine. Attempting to put on a brave voice wouldn’t be easy. “What’s it to you?” She could attempt to shoot him, try to rid the universe of this disease but it would be foolhardy. She could think about it but the execution wouldn’t be successful.

The alien chuckled. “Bravery. I admire it. I can see why Stark loves you.” He stomped forward ever closer. “The very mention of your name, even a single thought gave him the strength to carry on fighting. He was a chore to break but in the end, when he did, he proved to be a worthy follower, until he met you again and he found the resistance to fight back.”

Pepper gritted her teeth. She was scared but she wouldn’t show it. “Kill me then.”

The Titan reached forward and brushed a hand through her hair.

She jerked away, not liking the feelings associated with the Titan’s hand in her hair.

“I won’t kill you,” stated Thanos. He moved back. “But he will.” His head inclined towards Tony.

Pepper’s breath caught in her throat. No…

“Stark. Kill her.”

The order was clear and Tony stepped forward, the Gauntlet continuing to level at Pepper’s head. His face showed no emotion, his eyes still shining blue.

“Tony…” she whispered desperately. “Don’t. Please, don’t.”

Thanos smirked. “He is completely under my control. He lacks the cognitive ability to think, to feel any emotion at all.”

Pepper’s breath caught in her throat. The light in Tony’s Gauntlet hands was starting to shine. This would be the last thing she would see. Tony was an immovable force. He had no control and when – if – he learned he had killed her… She swallowed. It would break him.

Her lips parted. “Tony… I never stopped loving you.”

She closed her eyes and waited for her life to end.

To be continued...