CNN Evening News
And finally tonight, the small Oceanic kingdom of Tonga is embarking on the colossal cleanup following a skirmish involving the Avengers and an alien race from an unknown origin.
Images and videos have gone viral of buildings on the main island of Tongatapu being destroyed as the worlds’ foremost superheroes battled the alien army. Led by their illustrious leader, Captain America, the skirmish lasted a mere four hours before billions of dollars worth of damage was caused.
And whilst there were few human casualties, the destruction of heritage-listed limestone, a core trading and tourist asset for the small Oceanic nation, has the country’s Prime Minister, ʻAkilisi Pōhiva, deeply concerned.
Fury shut off the TV as the Prime Minister stood beside the rubble of what had been the country’s parliament, ready to address the cameras.
“The destruction of heritage-listed limestone? The decimation of the native flying fox? Three of the four churches destroyed? Would you like me to list the tally of your ‘successful mission’ or can I stop and start to kick your asses?”
Steve Rogers, Captain America, seethed as Colonel Nicholas J. Fury stalked the meeting room; his ‘holier-than-thou’ bullshit attitude seeping off of his cheap leather coat, clearly stolen from The Matrix.
Who the hell did Fury think he was? Had he been there? No. Had he seen those ugly aliens setting fire to the small villages, a nation running for its life? No. Fury was sat in his cushy office playing Scrabble while the Avengers did all the hard work.
“With all due respect, Colonel,” Steve said in as level a tone as he could muster through a sea of red, “the toll would have been a lot higher if we had not intervened.”
Fury stopped in his tracks and Steve immediately knew that he had struck a nerve. “With all due respect, Captain, Tonga would still have a parliament and cute flying bats if it weren’t for your sorry asses.”
Steve clenched and unclenched his hands, imagining the fist giving Fury a piece of his mind.
“The damage you have all caused that poor island is going to be an absolute PR nightmare…” Fury could see that the team sitting around him, the cause of the entire mess he now had to fix were not listening to a damn word he was saying.
Sat beside Steve, Bucky Barnes was flicking through a fitness magazine, his eyebrows occasionally rising at something he found particularly interesting. The same Bucky who had managed to take out an entire ecosystem of Rhizophora samoensis mangroves by himself. Opposite him, Sam Wilson, the sole destroyer of the only supermarket on the island with a rocket, licked his fingers of the yellow icing from the cupcake he had devoured moments before.
And then there was Steve Rogers, their fearless leader, watching Fury with a “don’t try me son” look embellished over his face.
“When I save your sorry asses from the PR nightmare you have managed to create in a mere four hours, you can thank me,” Fury said smugly, dropping the thick file onto the table. “In two days, the New York Times will be sending one of their young gun reporters to stay here. They will be writing a pro-Avengers, holier-than-thou Avengers, American fucking-pie Avengers, blog about their stay here with you over the next two months. They are going to be the sole reason the world will not hate you and people will forget about the cute little bats you destroyed like the dinosaurs.”
This got their attention. Hands scrambled and fought to grab your file, Steve pulling the file into his vision. He flicked through the pages, his eyes drawn to your headshot.
“You might remember her article bringing down Kyle Tucker, the asshat who was overcharging African-American customers for his loan services. Nearly broke a multi-billion dollar industry with one article.”
“Then why is she writing about us?” Bucky asked, his guard immediately drawn up. “Unless of course, she’s going to take us down?”
“She’s the writer the Times recommended and nothing will be published without it going through myself, legal and the great Captain America. I suggest you leave the business side of things to the professionals Sergeant Barnes,” was all Fury could say because, in fact, he didn’t know why your editor had selected you. “It is your responsibility, Captain, to ensure our guest is comfortable and safe. She should be free to come and go from the compound, with your discretion of course.”
Steve nodded, his eyes fixated on your headshot. His fingers longed to caress the photo. Whilst your pose is professional and staged, the laugh lines dancing from your eyes are endearing. You looked kind and gentle.
He couldn’t ignore the flutter in his chest as your eyes met his.
Editor-in-chief, Michael Post, carded his hands as he closely watched you read over the file, your frustration evident, skin-crawling as his heated eyes roamed your body. He had no shame.
“You’re taking me off the Clarkson story to write an “unbiased” blog on the Avengers?” Your voice shook in exasperation and rage. “This isn’t fair, Michael.” You knew you were being punished for turning down his advances at last year’s Christmas party. The prick had waited an entire eight months to extract his retribution.
“I’m sorry, but this is above me. You’re the best person for this story.”
“This isn’t even related to my department…”
“Of course, the Times will give you a rental to get upstate,” Michael carried on, obviously, the discussion about your feelings in the matter had ceased. “The board has decided to cover your rent while you’re away and ensure it’s safe.”
“Won’t I get to come home on the weekends? And what if I refuse?”
Michael smirked. “Then the paper will be sad to see you go. However, if you do comply, on the completion of your assignment, you will get the opportunity to have an exclusive interview with Alejandro Gonzalez.”
“I’m sorry, did you say Alejandro Gonzalez?” Michael nodded and you had to bite down the urge to squeal like a little girl. Whilst business journalism was your passion, sustainability was fast becoming a dominant topic in your department, and Alejandro Gonzalez was the young, hot, up and coming ‘it’ man in the field. This could be a major break in your career.
“You do understand that everything you publish will be checked with a fine-tooth comb by their legal department?” You nod, your head still swirling at the prospect of getting to interview your idol. “Well then, congratulations. See you in two months.”
Leaving his office felt like a weight lifting off your shoulders. Michael had not been subtle about his interest in you. And whilst you found him attractive, you were a professional and having a relationship with your editor-in-chief was a sure way to get yourself fired and tarnish your reputation. But, he found it very hard to take no for an answer.
Back at your desk, you quickly opened WhatsApp and invite your friends out that night to break the news to them. Since moving to New York for college, your group of friends had become your family. The relationship you had with your family was frayed at best, but New York had opened up your world to new possibilities and friendships.
You spent the afternoon researching what you could on the Avengers and their troubled history. You familiarised yourself with the original Sokovia Accords composed in 2016 and drew up a rough comparison table with the newly ratified Avengers Accords. You could not help but reignite irked feelings over the highly biased legal documents.
Michael knew he was punishing you by sending you to stay with and write a bullshit blog on the superheroes when you had vocally criticised the newly-published documents. Of course, when 200-something countries ratified the documents, you had been frank over your feelings for its contents.
Regardless, you had to put your simmering feelings aside and fulfill the assignment given to you. Going toe-to-toe with a man like Captain America would not look good on your resume, although you knew a lot of your colleagues shared your concern over the new Accords and its lack of accountability.
A few hours of research saw you with enough material to paint a pretty picture with, the guilt biting at you. You compiled a packing list though it brewed the anxiety picking at your skin.
The thought of staying with them, living under the watchful eye of the world’s most famous A.I. set you on edge. Your every move monitored and documented, every word you wrote passed through a line of lawyers. They may as well have written the damn blog themselves and just put your name on it.
The familiar feeling of suffocation and ascendency began to cloud over as the afternoon drawled on.
It wasn’t until your third cocktail and announcing the assignment that you finally felt somewhat relaxed. The gin was helping tremendously.
Your best friend, Alice, was particularly jealous. “That Sam Wilson is an absolute snack. Girl, I am going to need you to take all the photos of him shirtless for me.”
You laughed and sipped the last of your drink. “I will not be counted as a source for your porn material.”
As your friends teased you, joked about chains, Bucky and a bed, you couldn’t help but fight the residual gnawing anxiety sitting in the pit of your stomach. You hadn’t studied hard and worked your arse off to play puppet for an international spy agency. You believed and had fought for the ideals of freedom of the press. Your grandmother, a pioneer for women in journalism, would turn in her grave if she knew you were going to play word whore for Captain America’s ego.
And the more you stewed over your situation, you couldn’t help but loathe your would-be colleagues. Perhaps it was time to call it a night, the alcohol clearly adding fuel to your burning fire.
You bid your friends adieu, with the promise of drag-queen karaoke on your return, and slowly made your way back to your apartment.
As you sat on your bed preparing for a long weekend of packing and errands, your mind raced with dread and the overwhelming guilt from betraying your principles.
The vibration of your phone drew your thoughts from the profound black pit and your hand reached for your phone.
You found yourself sitting against the frantic bed head, your knees were drawn up against your chest and staring at an email from Steve Rogers.
I hope this email finds you in good spirits.
On behalf of the Avengers, I would like to formally welcome you to our new facilities in upstate New York. We are honored to have someone of your calibre and talent report on our organization.
I personally look forward to meeting you on Monday. I hope you have a safe journey.
Please do not hesitate to contact me directly if you have any concerns or questions.
Captain Steve Rogers
You rolled your eyes and scoffed. Jesus, he sounded old and full of himself. The email warranted a response but you decide drunk emailing Captain America was probably not the best idea.
Steve closed his email and leaned back into his leather, ergonomic chair. He was pleased with the wording of his email, and he privately hoped you would be impressed.
His eyes fell to your headshot, his smile growing. You were beautiful and smart. You would be an asset to the Avengers.
Giving in to the temptation that had taunted him since this morning’s meeting, he opened your Instagram account and clicked “follow”. He was instantly drawn to the snapshot into your life.
Dinner with your friends at a quintessential New York restaurant, drinks at bars, breweries. Sunflowers. You loved sunflowers. Farmer’s markets. Hikes. Holidays in the Hamptons. Journeys on the subway.
He could spend hours looking at your photography. You were talented.
Yes, perhaps bringing you to the Avengers was going to be a good thing.