April 2014 By the time Matt reached the great lobby, it was clear the great ships above were going to hit the building; no matter what the people in it did the Triskelion’s fate was already sealed. A lot of the people around sounded like they’d realized that and were just fleeing, deciding to worry about who around them were friends and who around them were foes when there was nothing else about to kill them. But too many hadn’t; there were people fighting everywhere. If he was to get out, he’d have to battle his way across the room.
And then, not far from him, he heard one heartbeat he’d never fail to recognize, and he zeroed in until he could hear her moving, her limbs moving through the air as she punched one man and got another in the groin, her ponytail swishing about her, even her breathing too fast; she’d been fighting too long. “Karen!” he called, just loud enough for her to hear, he hoped.
“Matt.” She murmured it under her breath, for his ears only. “I’ve got two. There’s a third somewhere in this crowd; don’t know if he’ll try to get back over here.”
Then a rough voice, too near her, “Who you think you’re talking to, bitch?” They both had their hands on her; he heard her foot land on one of theirs and a grunt of pain, bodies moving. He couldn’t get a complete read; there were too many people in the way. He started shoving them aside, uncaring as to whether they were S.H.I.E.L.D. or Hydra. He couldn’t really know anyway. Not in this chaos and everyone’s hearts going crazy and too many agents being able to control their responses. There was only one person here he knew he’d always be able to read and he was determine to trust, and they were getting out of here together or not at all.
She was trying to make her way to him, too, and he heard a satisfying thud near her; she’d knocked out one of her opponents. But the other chuckled darkly, and said, “Oh, honey, too late, see, Trucky’s got the gun!”
There were a lot of guns in the lobby. Some of them were firing, which at least meant they probably weren’t Trucky’s. But when Matt listened, he noticed one gun was being cocked and wielded by someone coming directly at Karen and her remaining opponent. Jumping over a pair of people tussling on the floor, he threw himself directly at the man.
Trucky hadn’t seen him coming, but he was quick. Matt failed to get his hands on the gun; it instead went flying into the air. He heard the scramble of feet and was left confident Karen would be the one to catch it; the other guy’s attempts to keep a hold on her weren’t going to succeed; he was too overconfident.
She was also going to shoot to kill for sure. He’d hoped to get out of the Triskelion without killing anyone. Now, he spared as much mental energy as he dared to pray for forgiveness for what they were going to have to do to survive the next hour.
He had barely heard her small hands close in on the gun when the first shot rung out, and Trucky was dead. But there wasn’t time to think about that; a moment later their last remaining foe had grabbed her wrist and she was struggling to keep hold of her weapon. Matt tried to get to her, but suddenly there were a knot of people between them, all fighting each other. And then behind him, he heard someone murmur, “Matt Murdock,” in a malicious tone, and he turned around in time to respond to the oncoming blow with one of this own, but he could offer Karen no more help.
The man was about his height, maybe a little bulkier. No injuries besides bruises and some possibly strained muscles, but he was fatigued, more than Matt was. He was able to duck just a little faster, get punches to the man’s back before he could both realize and respond. Before he could recover, Matt had punched his legs out, hard enough he heard a bone crack, and he could feel the devil rising, appetite whetted, and he aimed a kick to the small of the man’s back, loving his cry of pain.
But a moment later someone had grabbed his arm. Female, tall, very strong, her fingers especially. Meanwhile the man above him wasn’t done yet, and before Matt could shake her off, the two of them together were both holding him down, and he heard the woman pull out a knife. The man chuckled. Matt’s legs flailed.
Karen was there. He realized it a second before something metal heavy and creaky hit the man and sent him barreling into the woman. Then the only person above him was Karen, dropping the too-heavy object right on top of both of their foes. She was wounded in the side, but it wasn’t bleeding too much. “Come on!” she yelled as she pulled Matt to his feet.
The lobby was emptier now, but the ships were very close. “We need a quicker way out of this building or it won’t be Hydra who kills us,” he whispered to her. “If you’ve got your rope on you, I think we should to go for the office windows.” Near them was an open door, leading to a currently empty office with an open window; he could feel the air of it right on him. He listened to her bones, and then said, “You still don’t have anything broken, I think.”
He heard her turn her head towards the window. “If there were just a few people fewer between us and it…”
Matt tried to take stock. He was thinking it was nine heartbeats when he heard another firearm cock and pulled himself and Karen down in just a nick of time. “Maybe we should crawl?” he suggested. There was the sound of another body hitting the floor right after too loud a crack, as the number of heartbeats went down to eight.
Another figure reached them as they rose. They both kicked simultaneously and sent him flying into the eight people between them and the window. “Run for it!” Matt barked at Karen, dropping her hand, and thankfully she didn’t argue, but started to run.
Quick whispers between their assailant and five of the people he had collided into, three male and two female, clarified for Matt who was S.H.I.E.L.D. and who was Hydra. The darkest parts of him took him off with a feeling of giddiness as he leapt onto them.
They hadn’t anticipated it at all. Before any of them could land a single blow he’d already taken one of the women down with a kick to the head, gotten his other boot into the ribs of one of the men, and even gotten hold of someone’s shoulder and yanked, causing them to yell in pain. The man he hadn’t hit had a metal baton of some sort; it made contact with Matt’s jaw, knocking him back and possibly knocking some teeth loose, and then the woman he hadn’t hit nearly got him with a much longer one. The other four recovered too fast; their previous opponents were lost in the sea of people still battling, and all six surrounded him. Matt grinned.
He managed to take two of them down before they really started fighting their hardest. “What they hell are you?” He heard one voice demand. His answer was to grab the man’s neck and squeeze; he let go before he more than bruised him, but he staggered back, and promptly just hit by a pair of people engaged in another fight. With three left it became easier. He hit so hard his arms nearly swung off, breaking a few more bones, feeling that more than the blows that went to his own. At some point he realized there was blood on his face, but he could worry about it later; hopefully he was bad enough a sight for it to have an effect on these people. He managed to get kicks in on their shins; their pain was good enough to drink.
Things became a blur, even a wild searing pain in his chest that might have been a rib breaking was only a brief burst as Matt let the devil flow through him, claim the blood it craved, until he was down to only one opponent, the woman he hadn’t knocked out, and they were both staggering a little. But then he heard something metal careen through the air, at the wrong angle for him to make a grab at it, and now it was one of Hydra who had caught a gun thrown at her. Even though her first bullet went only to where he had been the moment before, the second grazed his arm, and she would have killed with the third, he was sure, if her pulling the trigger hadn’t suddenly caused more than a click. It was an ammunition gun that had probably been fired a good deal already that day; she might be out of bullets. With a growl of frustration she launched herself at him.
Karen’s fist met her face as she grabbed Matt’s good arm and pulled at him. “Enough of this, come on!” She gave one last kick to their opponent’s ankle to keep her out before she’d gotten the door shut; it wouldn’t hold forever, but it would hold long enough.
Matt pulled himself back to humanity as he staggered in her wake. “Remember who you are,” Phil Coulson had said to him, when he’d been eighteen and first coming to grips with the devil within him. Poor Phil Coulson, dead nearly two years now, and for the first time Matt was glad of that, that he’d been spared having to experience this day. “We’ve all of us got a dark streak in us, and you’ve got more anger than usually, understandably, but we don’t have to let that define us.” He let his late mentor’s words guide his breathing, and he could feel himself calming slightly before the force of the air on his face told him they’d reached the window. Karen’s rope was in place, though it was blowing about a bit more than they would’ve liked.
“Pavement right below us is clear,” she told him, leaning out of it. “There are police cars, though; impossible to tell who the people in them will be affiliated with…relatively few of them; even if they’re all Hydra, our chances will still be better….especially with those things…we’re not going to be all the way down before they hit; we’ll have to be both fast and ready to brace ourselves.”
“I can track those things; I’ll give you warning,” said Matt, as she climbed out the window and began her descent, him following.
The Triskelion wasn’t exactly the most ideal building to rappel down; the walls were smooth and slippery and provided almost no traction. It could be worse, though; Matt was pretty sure no one at the moment was trying to shoot at them, as they made their way down, hand, under hand, under hand, under hand.
It was a precious few minutes, and they got maybe about halfway down, when Matt heard what he’d known would come and yelled, “Brace for impact!” Not that it mattered much; there was nothing to hold onto but the rope at the first of the great carriers slammed into the building.
They held on through that first crash, Matt’s universe narrowing down to the burn of the rope beneath his hands and the pounding of Karen’s heart below, fast as a quinjet but staying where in the air it was. But it was barely a second before the second hit, then the third. In the third crash he heard what he had been dreading-the sound of steel in the wrong place in the Triskelion’s structural support being hit. “Fast as you can!” he called, though he didn’t even know if she could hear him over the ear-splitting din. He could still hear her heart, though, her breathing almost regimented, the whole thing descending inch by inch…
But he himself had barely gotten a few more meters downward before he heard the roar and rush of the wall collapsing above them, a moment before the rope became a loose, unmoored thing in his hands. Matt had only time enough to think, Lord, into Your hands I commend my spirit, please have mercy also on her before the ground came rushing up to them.
He crashed down to the pavement on his hip; the pain of it instantly blazed up his back and down his leg; it was agony from neck to toes. But it wasn’t life-threatening, and he heard Karen clamber to her feet, albeit with multiple noises of pain and murmurs in her bones that bespoke of them being damaged; they’d gotten down far enough to survive the fall.
He should not stand up, his body told him. He forced himself to anyway. He wasn’t sure he could walk, but he knew he might have to run. The pain was bad enough it was impossible to hide; it was all he could do to keep himself from doing worse than a low groan as they were approached by two cops. “Who are you?” he demanded, forcing his eyes open so they could see he was blind; he could get away with more that way. “What are you doing here?”
“Police,” said one of the two men. “Here to see what the ruckus is about.” Steady heartbeats from both of them. “Don’t suppose you know, sir, m’am?”
They knew, yes. Captain America had explained it to them and to everyone else who hadn’t been Hydra. But how on Earth to explain to these two men, to whom Hydra was just a minor name in a history book, when his ability to think was limited by excruciating pain and the still present shock of the organization they’d dedicated their lives to literally being destroyed around them?
Before either he or Karen could get together an answer, he heard, a little ways away, the sound of a gun being cocked.
“Down!” he yelled, and grabbed one of the two cops and had them both down on the ground before he could react, just before the first shot was fired. Karen too had jumped down and pushed the other cop with her. “What the hell is Coombs doing?” he heard that cop ask.
“He’s probably a Hydra agent!” Karen yelled in answer. “Of course they’ve got moles among the cops! You’d better return fire, sirs, I don’t know if he’ll be satisfied just killing the two of us!”
But one of Coombs fellow officers had decided to stop him; Matt heard the sound of him grabbing him and the wrestling match that ensued.
But then he heard, further away, a voice talking into a communicator. “Hurry up, the agents are coming out of the building and we’re not going to be able to shut them all up. At least get the Connellys crossed off.”
“THE CONNELLYS!” In his panic Matt yelled it. “I just heard him say it-the one with the phone!”
“They’re going after your family?!” Karen cried, horrified. “But you father’s retired!”
“What?!” The cops got to their feet, yanking Matt and Karen up with them. They were safe for the moment, he heard yells as the man on the phone was also identified, and then more sounds of fighting, and Coombs was now subdued and was being handcuffed. “What’s going on? What the hell is Hydra?”
“People who are trying to murder my family! Please, you need to get someone to 1205 Kenyon Street Northwest! NOW!”
“Wait a minute.” The other cop. “By Hydra, you don’t mean…”
“The Nazi organization, yes.” Karen. “Not as destroyed as we thought, I’m afraid. Please sir, they really will kill his family. Us, too, if they can.”
A few seconds silence; Matt thought they might just convince them. Then the sound of multiple motorcycles coming up the road, slowing down to pull up to them, and even before he heard anything from the riders besides their heartbeats, he somehow just knew they were bad news. His three sighted companions seemed to agree too; he recognized that apprehensive inhale of Karen’s, and one of the cops muttered to the other, “Don’t like the look of those at all.”
Sure enough, a moment later guns were drawn, from all of them; a shootout would almost certainly have casualties on both sides. Matt took stock of the men as best he could, gauging them as they stepped off their bikes, then jerked his head towards Karen. Thankfully she understood the message, leaning in to whisper to the cop nearer to her, “If they want to take us alive, we’d appreciate it if you handed us over.”
Before he could respond, one of the men, likely their leader, said, “We got no argument with you, officers. We just want the blind man and the blonde. You should know, the blind man ain’t what he seems. He’s got superpowers. You try to take him with you, you’ll end up with a dead man or two. And the blonde, she ain’t no innocent flower. She used to work for the Goldsmith, up in Vermont. S.H.I.E.L.D. took her in because she looked young and pretty and pathetic, but she’s got the blood of at least five people on her hands, and possibly that of her own brother.” Matt reminded himself to corral his rage at that last accusation. He couldn’t afford it right now. “You really going to get yourselves all killed for that?”
“You shouldn’t, sir,” said Karen in her most earnest voice. “All those guns and I don’t think they’ll stop at killing us if we don’t go quietly.” And she actually pulled away, wrestling out of the grip of a cop who had not been prepared for any trouble from her. Matt didn’t move to join her yet; from the angle she was walking at, he was pretty sure she’d seen the bike at the end that still had its keys in the ignition. She moved fast enough, she’d probably only have to fight half the gang. That she could handle, even injured.
“Well, ain’t that noble.” The leader of the group stepped forward and grabbed her roughly, both wrists in one grip. Her grunt of pain wasn’t feigned. Matt’s fists clenched, even though it made his arm and back feel even worse. She had it, he reminded himself. “Hey, why are you trying to get away now, you bitch?” She wasn’t, of course, she was just getting them to swerve to the side as they returned to his men. “Get her buddy,” he ordered one of his men. Matt leaned forward and made a show of looking passive.
The two of them turned on their captors at the same moment, starting with a stomp and a punch, and Matt continued to hit even as he body screamed in protest, and it really was a good thing he had only one foe plus a pair of cops to dodge. Karen meanwhile was slicing the air, hands and feet all finding new targets with each passing second. Half a minute later, with unconscious or groaning bodies all around her, she was climbing onto the right motorcycle. One more man tried to stop her; she toppled him with a simple move of her leg. She drove it towards Matt, and though for a moment when he commanded his body to move he feared the part of it that felt like it was covered in embers would refuse, it went up into the air, and he easily vaulted onto the seat behind her.
The cops yelled their protest, and two of the gang members got shots off, but they were wild, panicky ones that missed by a mile, and then they were turned and he could tell they’d gotten around a corner. It was surreal for the normally crowded DC streets to be empty, but current events had gone on long enough for them to be, save for the occasional police car. “This traffic holds for enough blocks and we can get to your family in ten,” she said to him, as behind them the rumble of the Triskelion started getting louder, but they’d be more than far enough away when the building finally collapsed completely.
They were flying down the pavement by 11th Street, scattering pedestrians whom Karen swerved like mad to avoid hitting, when it finally did, far away enough it was almost another noise, even if it was one loud enough the entire National Capital Region probably heard it. But the smell carried on the wind; the final crash was still happening when the stink of it reached Matt’s nose, complete with the same carpet and cleaning product, just in case he might have denied it to himself. A noise choked itself in Karen’s throat. “Don’t look back, Karen,” he whispered to her. “Don’t look back.”
A final turn right, and Karen yelled, “Shit, there’s a car in front of the house!” confirming what Matt’s ears had already told him. But he could hear the voices in it, even before Karen said, “I think there are two guys in there; can you figure out what they’re doing?”
Matt tuned into their words, and, “They just got here. Come on!” He took a quick listen into the house, too. None of his foster siblings were there, at least, but not only were both his foster parents, but so were Mariah’s kids. God, just the thought…
Karen took the speed of the bike to what Matt was sure was the fastest it could go, but they were still too far away; two Hydra agents were out of the car and running to the door, and Matt heard the whir and whoosh of a grenade being thrown a moment before it exploded. The screams of the children filled his ears first, followed by his mom’s, “Geoff! Geoff!” and her husband’s, “Get the children and get them out of here, Mandy! There are only two of them; I can hold them off!”
At least he didn’t go straight out to them, a moment after they entered the house, Matt heard him call to them, “Yoo hoo! Hydra! Over here!” There were angry yells from the two men, and then the welcome rush of air and friction as Karen finally reached the house, slamming the motorbike into the car hard enough to dent the trunk a bit. Neither even waited for it to come to a complete stop before they were off it and running up the walk. Matt could hear his mother talking to the children, getting them to come with her, the four of them stumbling down towards the back door. His dad was clearly headed for the safe with his gun in it, but it was too far away; they’d have too much time to fire shots at him.
“Grab something, anything,” Karen murmured as she barreled through the smoking remains of the front door in front of them. He heard a familiar jangle; the wind chimes had managed to survive. He grabbed them. He heard Karen grab the umbrella his mom always kept by the door. Of course she did; she liked umbrellas. Not an ideal situation, bringing them to a gunfight, but they’d won days with larger odds.
It also helped when he heard the back door slam; the five of them were now alone in the house.
It would do his dad good to hear so, too, so he called, “They’re safe!” while he wound the chimes up, before hurling them with all his might through the open door to the living room. They hit their target, hard enough Matt though he heard a bone crack, and one of the two men collapsed. The other fired his gun at Matt’s dad, but he had ducked behind the coffee table and the bullet landed in the couch instead. He and Karen both ran into the living room and a moment later she had landed her first blow with the umbrella. Matt leapt on the man from behind and grabbed his wrist, trying to force the gun from his grip.
He was big and too strong; wildly the two of them tottered about, the gun firing twice more into the ceiling. Karen whacked him in the front with the umbrella, but it didn’t take him down. On the other side of the room, he heard the safe being unlocked, of ammunition being hastily loaded.
Then he heard footsteps outside, and not those of those who had fled the house; there were new ones. “Karen, get outside!” he yelled. “The rest of the family’s fled out the back, and they’re not safe out there!”
“So you do have supersenses,” sneered his opponent. “S.H.I.E.L.D. kept you hidden from the world, didn’t they?”
“Stop all this,” ordered his father, gun now pointed at them. “Get your friends and get out, and I’ll let you live.” Matt paused.
Then the man took advantage, got his arm down and fired.
Matt knew it was fatal before the bullet had even exited his father’s body.
The rage he’d tried to beat down crashed through his brain, and Matt let the devil out.
The man was strong, but the devil was stronger. Within a minute he had him down, at least two bones in his arm broken, and was hitting him for all he was worth, spurred on by his cries of pain. He was just about unconscious when the second man stirred; Matt abandoned him and set in on that man, hitting and hitting until he pulled his arm a little too far, and the pain, masked by adrenaline from about the time they’d turned onto Kenyon Street, came back bad enough he felt dizzy, the world around him spun, and for several minutes he just knelt there, hunched over a pair of bloodied Hydra agents whose hearts nonetheless still beat, and another body from which no heartbeat came; he wasn’t even sure when it had stopped.
He was vaguely aware of the voices coming from the backyard, Karen speaking into the phone calmly; she’d probably called 911. He heard Mariah’s oldest, Juliana, ask nervously, “Is he dead, maimeo?” Obviously she’d dealt with the third Hydra agent, and he could hear six heartbeats out there.
“No, dear, he’s not dead,” said his mother. “He’s just unconscious.” Oh dear God, when she walked back in here and found out…
When he tried to get to his feet he found he couldn’t. The adrenaline was wearing off, and the pain was overwhelming. Matt wasn’t sure it was more physical pain or sheer grief that came out of his in the form of loud, heaving sobs that wracked his body further, breaking like he was dying, because he couldn’t stand this, he couldn’t…
It’s your fault, a little voice whispered to him. Again. They had no reason to go after a retired agent, unless he had something unusual. And he had you for a foster son, still close with him. It must have been because of that. You were a silly kid who wanted to join S.H.I.E.L.D. and you came into this family so you could and you got another father to kill.
He shifted over the unconscious Hydra agent, and shuffled the rest of the way across the room; even that was excruciating, but he needed to get to him, even though he knew already; besides the lack of heartbeat, the lack of heat coming from his body also screamed the fact at him.
For the second time in his life, Matt Murdock knelt before the body of his murdered father.
Once again he placed his hands on a familiar face, clear of blood this time, but equally cold. He remembered when he’d first done this, had gone through each of his new family when he’d been introduced to them, the chuckle that had come from the man. “Dad…daddy…” he stammered. “Please forgive me, oh please, daddy…”
They found him there, Karen and his mother and Mariah’s children; he heard a soul-shattering cry from the second, and Juliana, voice and body both trembling, say, “All powerful and merciful God, we commend to you my grandfather, you servant. In your mercy and love…”