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Title: Homeward Bound:  The Adventures of the USS Avenger in the Delta Quadrant
Author: [livejournal.com profile] alphaflyer
A Gift For: [livejournal.com profile] celeste9
Rating:  Teen
Warnings: None (some off-screen death and movie-level cataclysms
Prompt used: I really, really love team fic, so please feel free to include any other characters you like. I enjoy clever AUs where the characters still remain recognizable in different circumstances... And here was the ringer, the thing that made me jump at Celeste's prompt: Star Trek fusion with Clint and Natasha in Starfleet. How could I resist...
Summary: Sent to track the rebel ship Black Widow and to try and persuade her captain and certain of her crew members to work with Starfleet in defeating the Chitauri invaders, the USS Avenger under Captain S. Rogers finds itself displaced to the other side of the galaxy.
Author Notes: This prompt was a no-brainer for me, since I already had my cast of AU characters all lined up thanks to a request I picked up during last year's December Talking Meme. Plus, my first two years in fandom I wrote exclusively for Star Trek: Voyager, so... :-)

Of course, though, I would pick a topic that begs to be a $#%&ing epic, in a summer when RL is kicking me in the teeth with, among other things, a transatlantic move.  Needless to say, the epic did not happen.  But I think I got enough of the story together to give my giftee a sense of where it is headed (with a bit of interim closure) -- and there's a promise that there will be more to come!! (Right after I get my MarvelBang under some kind of control...)

I hope my Giftee will forgive me that this isn't complete.  Me, I'm just happy that I managed to slide in under the wire...



1.

“Sir.  I must advise you that sending the USS Avenger to the Molotov Belt to pursue a single rebel ship is a risk we can ill afford. The Chitauri have inflicted enormous losses on Starfleet in the last three months; sending our most advanced asset into the Badlands, beyond the reach of sub-space communications, is highly illogical.”

Commander M’Hill’s voice is flat but urgent, as she delivers her rhetorical deathblow.

“Not to mention that this mission is inconsistent with the Federation Council’s decision to rally the Fleet in the Kacaba system.”

The Vulcan fixes her gaze on Fleet Admiral Nicholas Fury, one eyebrow raised, in a manner that for a human would be dangerously close to insubordination.  Fury heaves a sigh.

“I now that the Council has made a decision,” he snarls.  “But putting all your eggs into one galactic basket is a stupid-ass decision, so I’ve elected to ignore it.  The USS Avenger initiative is precisely what we need.  That ship I’m sending Rogers to go after?  It has some very special people on it.  People who may just help us find the answer to our Chitauri problem.”

“But, sir.” 

Vulcans are nothing, if not persistent. 

“Captain Romanoff has been traced to at least seventeen attacks on Federation interests in the last six months, with operations so precise and deadly, that certain circles have started calling her ship the Black Widow – a small arachnid from Sector 001 known for its comparative lethality.  I may point out that her record is hardly a recommendation for any future cooperation with Starfleet.  And her crew …”

Fury suppresses a sigh.  It’s ironic -- he may have lost one of his eyes to a malfunctioning warp core, but somehow seems to be the only person with vision in the whole of the Federation.

“Romanoff is a brilliant tactician,” he says, with as much patience as he can muster. “Her engineer, Tony Stark, is the brain behind the weapons that allowed her to do as much damage as they have.  Remember Jericho Prime?”

M’Hill’s crystal blue eyes fix on the Admiral’s single one.  True to her heritage and training, she is capable of reciting logical arguments against any given proposition until entropy sets in, but is equally willing to listen to rational counter-argument.  Logic does not lie, and she will chart the course of her thoughts without encumbrance of ego or personal conviction.

Fury ploughs on.

“And that other guy, Banner.  He hooked up with Romanoff’s crew after the incident on Harlem V.  His work with gamma rays has enormous promise for coming battles.  And if the Black Widow puts up too much of a fight, the Rogers’ orders are to go for the kill.  She’ll only have one chance.”

M’Hill looks almost convinced, but appears compelled to raise another problem. 

“That is all well and good, sir.  I would remind you, however, that in light of his recent transporter accident Captain Rogers can hardly be considered an appropriate choice to lead a crew.  His body mass increased by fifty-eight point nine seven percent.  Starfleet Medical has no idea where the extra cells came from, or whether they are stable.  For all we know, he could be a Changeling, working for the Chitauri.”

Fury has an answer ready.

“Major Coulson has examined Rogers thoroughly, and is confident that he is the same man who went into that transporter.  Besides, I’m not interested in hypothetical problems.  I got enough real ones to deal with.”

M’Hill makes one last-ditch effort, but Fury can see in her face that she is ready to concede defeat.

“That is acceptable logic under the circumstances.  But for the record, given the helm to Lieutenant Barton is a most questionable decision.  In four years with Starfleet, he has been before three courts martial for insubordination and is currently on probation for the last offence.  The USS Hydra has an excellent pilot, Lieutenant Rumlow.  I am certain that Captain Garrett would be happy to second him to the Avenger, if you were to ask.”

Fury waves her off, and glares at her with his remaining eye.

“If I wanted the Avenger to be piloted by a flying monkey, I’d find a circus. I’ve seen Barton land a disabled shuttlecraft on a city street on Newton Prime, without a scratch to the civilian population.  If anyone can fly a ship into the Badlands and bring her back out in one piece, it’s Barton.”

He plays his trump card.

“Plus, the man can shoot the ocular implant out of a Borg drone at fifteen parsecs.”

M’Hill considers.

“If you say so, sir.  It remains to be seen, though, whether Captain Rogers can convince Romanoff and her crew to re-join the Federation, even against what they too should consider a common enemy.“

Fury turns to the console, hoping his back sends a message that the discussion is over, and flicks a switch.  M’Hill relaxes into at-ease position as a blond, blue-eyed man in command red, four pips on his collar, appears on the screen.  He looks straight at the screen and squares his shoulders.

“Admiral Fury?” Captain Rogers says with a polite-but-curt nod. “Has Starfleet sanctioned the mission then?  You sending us out into the Belt to track the Black Widow?”

Fury bares his teeth in a grin, and skirts the question.   (No need to sweat the small stuff.)

“You have your orders, Captain Rogers.  Proceed.”

“Understood.  Rogers out.”

Of course, no one could have expected the displacement wave.


2.

“Captain, if my calculations are correct, we are on the other side of the galaxy.”

Given the state of the bridge and the casualty reports that come pouring in from all around the ship following the impact of the displacement wave, there is an entirely inappropriate underlay of excitement in Lt Foster’s voice.  (Scientists.

“Now why doesn’t that sound like a good thing?” Ensign Lewis mutters to herself as she is wiping a smear of blood off the corner of her mouth. 

Rogers watches her as she looks for reassurance to Barton, who is crawling back onto his seat at the helm, and being rewarded with a lop-sided grin. The two have been tight ever since an incident on Deep Space Nine, in which Lewis had almost fallen into the clutches of a Ferengi human trafficker; Barton’s intervention had saved the day, but  subsequent run-in with the station’s security chief had nearly cost him his probation. 

Rogers still isn’t sure whether that particulat friendship is something to be encouraged or feared, but for now it seems to be useful; Lewis turns to focus on her console.

Bottom line, though, the young ensign is not wrong.  The Captain looks around the bridge, where instruments are still smoking, and bodies lie scattered amid sheets of peeling metal and other debris.

“Damage report?” he snaps. 

He looks over to Sitwell’s empty chair; a few short minutes ago, a piece of the Potts’ ops console had come at the First Officer like a giant fly swatter.  Rogers swallows hard.  Sitwell had always been a bit of a jerk and a stickler for protocol, but no one deserves this … 

Rogers takes quick inventory of his bridge officers, and runs down the chain of command and who is left standing.  He arrives at Lt Potts, the Ops officer.  Potts knows every last part of the ship’s operating systems and will make a fine Executive Officer some day, but … not quite yet. 

Damn.

“Hull breach on deck seven.  Structural integrity at thirty-five percent and falling,” Potts reports now, clinging to what remains of her console.  There’s a streak of blood running down her face, unhindered and ignored.  “Engineering reports heavy losses, including the Chief and his two deputies.”

Damn.

True to Foster’s announcement, the forward view screen shows a set of unfamiliar stars.  And in the middle is an unmarked Federation-origin ship, in worse shape than the Avenger, hanging wounded in space a few thousand kilometers ahead to the port side. 

“Magnify.  Mr. Barton, approach on impulse.”

“Aye Cap’n, haven’t got anything else right now anyway,” comes the grim acknowledgment from the pilot.

Stress lines are evident along the ship’s hull, signs of imminent structural failure.  Nonetheless, the Black Widow starts to come about, placing itself into a position to fire at the Avenger from a pair of sad-looking gun turrets.

Damn.

“Enemy vessel is charging phaser banks,” Lewis reports.

“Shields up!” Rogers says wearily.  Fury may have given him orders to take the rebels alive, but it looks like Romanoff thinks the Federation is responsible for the current mess and refuses to go down without a fight.  And he can’t risk any of the rest of his crew, not when the ship is so close to falling apart.

“Diverting energy to weapons array,” Potts intones.  “We don’t have much to give, Captain, not without sacrificing hull stabilization.  And I still haven’t been able to rouse anyone in Engineering.”

Damn.

“Lieutenant Barton – fire as soon as you’ve got something in the pipe.”

What is still working on this damn ship?  Environmental controls?

Luckily, the displacement wave has taken an even more serious toll on the rebels’ weapons array than had been visible on the screen; its phaser banks cough up what amounts to a particle spit ball.  The shot barely rattles the Avenger’s hull. 

“With all due respect, sir, I think blowing them up is a dumb idea,” Barton opines from the conn, his hand poised over the instrument bank.  “They’re obviously not in a position to do us any real harm.  And if we’re where Foster says we are, this is the only other human crew in the Quadrant.  We may need each other.”

Rogers thinks about this for a second.   A good commander never insists on a given tactical choice, if a better one is suggested, especially if it aligns with original orders.  (Barton’s delivery could use some work, though.) 

Plus, they can’t really afford the energy drain resulting from deploying their own phasers.

“You may be right, Lieutenant.  Potts, open hailing channels,” he says with a sigh.  “Assuming they still wok.”

As it turns out, the rebel ship is about to lose structural integrity altogether.  Moreover, the misfire of the weapons array appears to have triggered a cascading failure of its systems; Rogers gives the order for transporters to lock on the crew’s bio signs.

Three minutes and eleven seconds later, all twenty-two of the Romanoff’s surviving crewmembers are crowded into the transporter room onboard the USS Avenger, weapons drawn – even as their ship is floating in pieces in space. 

Steve has the corridors sealed off, puts Lewis on standby to direct a little oxygen deprivation if necessary, and wastes no time to invite the Black Widow into his ready room to negotiate the terms of … their mutual cooperation.

“Look,” he starts, but she waves him off imperiously.

Natasha Romanoff reminds him of another Captain he’d seen once at the Academy, another small, fierce redhead with the air of command and an attitude that brooked no contradiction.  Maybe Romanoff had even taken classes from the other woman? 

Her records indicate that she had graduated with honours from one of the outworld campuses of Starfleet Academy, on Moscoba IV, before throwing in her lot with the rebel alliance.  She is certainly bearing herself like a Starfleet officer now.

“I owe you a debt, Captain,” Romanoff says.  “Regardless of what happened, or why you were chasing us.  I assume you were sent by Starfleet to take us out?  You could have let my crew die out there, and yet you didn’t.  Thank you.”

Steve considers this for a moment, and decides to give credit where it’s due.

“You’re right -- my orders were to destroy your ship, if I couldn’t take you alive.  And your firing on us made that the preferred choice, frankly.  So strictly speaking, whatever debt you owe, you owe to Lieutenant Barton.”

Steve takes a deep breath. 

“Barton thought that we might need you and your crew, out here in the Delta Quadrant.”

He stops for a moment, and gives her a measuring look.

“Which of course begs the question:  What the hell were you thinking, firing on us, when we’re both stranded on the other side of the galaxy, and probably the only humans within 65,000 light years?”

Romanoff has the decency to look mildly abashed.

“Reflex.  We hadn’t done those calculations yet.  Too busy keeping the ship in one piece.  For what good that ended up doing us.”

“And now you have?”  Steve leans back in his chair, hands folded behind his head.  “Made the calculations, I mean?”

She doesn’t dignify his obvious attempt at scoring a point with a response.  Instead, she says with a smile that is positively charming, “You’re right.  We do need each other out here.  I have some assets you need.  I gather your Engineering team was hit hard.”

Damn.  The woman is no fool; what’s worse, she seems to be picking up intel from the airwaves, and is no stranger to negotiating an advatageous deal.

An hour later, Steve makes the announcement over ship-wide comms to the crews of both ships.

“Captain Romanoff and I have come to an agreement. Circumstances have put us together, on the far side of the galaxy, sixty-five thousand light years from home.  Unknown dangers await us – things beyond the experience of any person in the Alpha Quadrant.  Our only chance to find our way home, to our lives and our loved ones, lies in working together.”

He takes a deep breath, and tries to give Romanoff a determined smile, but her cool, green eyes seem to be fixed on back of the ship’s pilot’s head.  Steve clears his throat, and she remembers her role and nods.

“And so we, Captain Rogers and I, have decided to form one crew on the USS Avenger.  Since the ship belongs to Starfleet, we will be a Starfleet crew, with everyone serving as equals.  He will continue to serve as her Captain.”

Steve picks up the thread again, in a show of command unity that he hopes will presage success to come. 

Commander Romanoff will be our Executive Officer and my second-in-command.”

The Captain of the newly-formed crew looks around the still-smouldering bridge, at the expectant faces, including that of his pilot.  Barton’s eyes go wide as he gets his first glimpse of his future XO, and his tongue darts across his lips for the briefest of moments.

Damn.

“Mr. Barton,” Steve says crisply, “set a course.  For home.”
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