Speed fic. Never a good idea, especially when your brain is spitting out something utterly surreal. An hour from start to finish it took me and it probably shows, but it did allow me to get rid of a title I'd been carting around in my head for a couple of weeks ...
Written for inkvoices
, based on her prompt "Steampunk AU". Well, given that the title comes from a telegram read out by an officer in "Parade's End," it has a WW1 vibe to it. But that's on the outer edge of the steampunk era, right??Air Raids Permitting
“Sir, the air raid has started. And the Captain …”
“Not now, Jarvis, I’m busy.” Sir Anthony Stark held the two glasses against the light. The amber liquid reflected the light beautifully as he swirled each in turn. “Yes, the one on the left, definitely.”
He turned to his guest.
“See, Doctor Banner, it’s all in the way the light refracts off the molecules. In the Ardbeg there is just the slightest deviation into the ochre spectrum, compared to the Glenfiddich. And it’s that peculiar deviation …”
“Sir, Captain Rogers is quite insistent. He requires your authorization to deploy the Iron Man. Sir.”
The sound of a zeppelin engine fractured the night, accompanied by the ack-ack-ack of the unit’s Thompson guns and an ominous rumble. The rumble ended in a percussive shockwave that caused the tent walls to flutter for a moment, followed by the muffled sound of an explosion.
“I said, not now, Jarvis. I am conducting an important science experiment with our guest, and failure to conclude it properly would make him very angry. And believe me, you do not
want to see Dr. Banner angry.”
“I can wait,” the Doctor said, with a sideways glance at Sir Anthony’s batman. “Air raids are … important too. Aren’t they?”
Sir Anthony sighed heavily.
is more important than being able to identify the correct single malt on sight. Your life, or more precisely, your happiness might depend on it some day.”
Another explosion shook the ground and the tent flap few open. A tall figure covered in mud stood at the entrance, breathing heavily.
“General,” the Captain pressed out, gulping for air. “The Iron Man?”
The Doctor cast a questioning glance at his host, who gave a deprecating shrug and a little eyeroll.
“It’s what we call our big artillery piece. Sort of like a gun. It takes a while to get warmed up, but once it does …”
He turned to the Captain. “Fine. Power it up. Don’t forget to arm the repulsors this time. And in the meantime, tell that sniper of yours to earn his pay. Now, Doctor Banner, as for the Balvenie, you will see …”
Captain Rogers saluted sharply and stood still for a few seconds, catching his breath, before heading back to the outer trenches at a crisp trot.
The zeppelins had multiplied in the night; the lights of the single Thor biplane that Headquarters had allotted them illuminated the whale-shaped hulls at irregular intervals. The pilot was obviously looking for appropriate target points, but having to keep the rickety contraption in the air seemed to command most of his attention. At best, he served as a distraction to the enemy bombers that were increasingly finding their target.
Rogers reached the end of the trench – closest to the enemy dugouts -- where the sniper’s nest was located.
“Sergeant Barton,” he bellowed. “General’s orders. Fire at will!”
Barton spat a curse that caused his companion to turn her head.
“Vat?” she asked, her Russian accent occasionally made stronger by the adrenaline coursing through both their veins. Barton liked it. In fact, he liked it a lot.
“Seems like our fearless leadership has decided, first of all, that we may shoot at the ships that are kicking our butts and second, that the thing to use against an aerial attack is … a bow and arrow.”
“Well, that is what we’ll use then.”
The redheaded corporal nodded decisively. Women were still rare in the army, rarer still at the front, and never got promoted to officer status no matter their merit. This one had proven her mettle more than any of the men Barton had ever worked with; they had become quite a team over the last few months, ever since Budapest. She could have won the war weeks ago, yet here she was, a non-commissioned officer in the trenches.
“I don’t see how,” he said. “I mean, I’m good, but …”
“What are zeppelins made of?” Romanoff asked him. “Skin around gas, right?”
“Pretty much. Or so Lieutenant Coulson says.”
“So – what do you know about gas?”It burns.
Romanoff smiled and started to take off her uniform jacket, cutting the fabric into thin strips. Barton felt his lips go dry at the sight of her …Focus, Barton.
She dowsed the strips in the oil they used to keep the guns running in the mud and the rain, and nanded the strips to him, to wrap around his arrowheads in a manner that would not throw off his aim. That done, she lit a torch and held it high. Barton had to work very hard indeed to ignore the extent to which she resembled a more attractive version of the Statue of Liberty.
He nocked an arrow, touched the tip to the torch and let fly.
“Try and hit the ones that are over the enemy trenches,” she reminded him rather unnecessarily. Two birds, one stone had always been his specialty; it was truly amazing how well they understood one another.
Again and again, they repeated the process; one by one, the air ships went down in balls of fire. By the time the Iron Man was ready to deploy, none were left.
Barton turned to Romanoff, who had begun to shiver in the cool night.
“So who needs the big guns?” he said as he gallantly (if somewhat regretfully) hung his own jacket over her bare shoulders, and watched her close the buttons over the swell of her breasts. “You want to get a drink or something to celebrate?”
She reached up to caress his cheek with her oil-smudged hand.
“I could use a drink,” she purred. “And maybe
a gun. Air raids permitting.”