Category Archives: Ask a Silly Question…

The Rescue of My Stupid Pet Betta Fish

Image result for red betta fish

Normally I keep all my private and personal affairs just that: private and personal.  But something very bizarre occurred the other day, and I have got to know if I am the only pet owner on the planet who has ever had this happen!

Almost two years ago I purchased a red betta fish.  I named him Clifford after the character in the children’s TV show, Clifford the Big Red Dog.  He was a great little pet, and I initially kept him outside.  Eventually, though, he became an indoor fish, and I really enjoyed his company.

Unfortunately, I gave him too much TLC; that is, I overfed him.  He died, so I bought a replacement after a while, another red betta.  I called him Red because it was simple and easy, and it would not make me feel like I was replacing my last pet in every detail.

I had Red for two to four weeks before he decided he wanted a better view of the room and jumped out of the tank to expire on my carpet.  If I had been present when this happened, I would have saved him, but I was out most of the day that he decided to take the leap and croak on the floor.  When I got back I thought I had an enormous bug on my carpet, until I turned on the light and saw it was actually my dried-up pet fish.

After a week or two, I decided to give owning a Siamese fighting fish another chance.  I purchased another red betta.  Feeling that this fish might not last any longer than my previous ones, I gave him the tongue-in-cheek name Crimson Typhoon.  For those of you who have not seen Pacific Rim, Crimson Typhoon is the name of the Chinese Jaeger which dies within five minutes of entering a battle onscreen.  I figured that if this little guy was going to croak as fast as the others, he ought to be aptly named.

But I have had Typhoon for nearly a year, and so far he had been doing fine.  That is, he was doing fine until yesterday morning.

At some point in the early morning or late that night, I heard a noise.  Not one to go poking around after things that go bump in the night, I tried to place the sound and decided at last that what I had heard was an annoying songbird which has been hanging around the window screens for most of the month.  When I got up later on, the first thing I did was go to check on and then feed my fish.

But my fish was not swimming around the tank.  My first thought was a French word, followed by the notion that he had died and was at the bottom of the tank somewhere.  Then I got closer and saw him stuck between the lip of the glass tank and a cone I had had made to keep him from committing suicide in the same way that Red had.

More French words followed this discovery, and I began trying to figure out how I would get him loose so I could bury him.  As I began trying to shift the cone, that stupid fish moved!

Once he flapped against the plastic, I recognized the sound I had heard in the night and nearly cursed my own stupidity for not knowing it sooner.  I desperately freed him from his confinement and, catching him as he flopped about on the table, dropped him back inside the tank.  As I did, I knocked over the cone which had been erected to keep him safe, though he had managed to find a way to thwart my protective measures.

I was furious and I let him have it, shouting at him and calling him a stupid fish.  The poor little guy was so traumatized from his night out of water that he had clamped fins, and for a while, I thought I had pulled them off in trying to free him.  His tail had already lost some of its feathery parts, and I was horrified at the idea that he would be a cripple for the rest of his likely to be short future.  Luckily, he moved both his side fins after a time and I realized they were still attached.

Not trusting him to stay in his tank, which I had been planning to clean that day anyway, I pulled him out and put him in a container until the tank could be cleaned and new security measures put in place.  All day I berated him for scaring me half to death, though I also thanked God he had not died in the middle of the night.  I do not know how long he has left in this cruel world, though, and that is why I have written this post.

Readers, I cannot be the only betta owner on the planet who has had this sort of thing occur.  I just cannot be the only one.  It is not possible.

The tank I keep Typhoon has the approximate volume of a milk jug.  It is made of glass and it does not include any sort of filtration system.  It is open to the air, which I why I have put a lid on it after this pet rescue.  The lid is of a thin plastic with lots of holes punched in it so that Typhoon can breathe.  (Bettas need to have filtrated or open air tanks, since they do not take all of their oxygen straight from the water.)  Because his tank is near a window, I bought a Tetra submersible heater for him.  It is supposed to heat two to fifteen gallon tanks and it seems to work just fine.

I also have a moss ball in the tank to supply extra oxygen for him as well.  I was hoping it would serve as a fish bed, too, but Typhoon usually ignored it as such until recently.  There is gravel in the bottom, covered by decorative glass pebbles.  I am going to feed him a green pea soon, as research I did said this was healthy for bettas and helped keep them regular.

Please let me know I am not the only owner of a Siamese fighting fish who had to rescue it from a near suicide attempt!!!!

The Mithril Guardian

(bowing)

At your service!

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P.S.  My moss ball has a tendency to float after I squeeze it out when cleaning the tank and put it back in the water.  Has this occurred with anyone else?

Captain America: Civil War, Trailer 1

 

The first trailer for Captain America: Civil War is out, readers! I have been thinking about this trailer a fair bit, obviously. This is not a prognostications post, like the ones I wrote for Age of Ultron. It is more of a free flowing speculation post.

I have to say that this Civil War trailer is very good, with lots of high-powered action. But it is also a painful thing to watch. I literally had to swallow tears watching it the first few times. Occasionally, it still leaves me depressed and upset.

For those out there who crassly sneer about this, reminding me unnecessarily that this movie is dark and going places the other Marvel films “feared to tread,” I have a reminder for you. It is not good to revel in another’s pain. We are too often tempted with that, sadly. I see no reason to cheer on the war of wills between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark.

As I have said before, I am firmly on Captain America’s side in this war. Tony has a rather lousy moral record; he has been known to socialize with weapons dealers like Ulysses Klaue, as well as being a debaucher and a self-centered jerk with an ego the size of the moon. He is not someone to support on matters of such importance.

In contrast, Cap has never faltered. His moral compass has never wavered, and despite the chatter on the Internet, I do not believe he ever will, even in Civil War. The Russos have actually supported my gut feeling, since they have stated the obvious: Cap’s sense of morality is part of his superpower. If it was just his super soldier serum which made him so interesting, he would hardly be more beloved than any other Marvel hero. And we all know that he is the most beloved of Marvel’s characters. Even Spider-Man falls just shy of the affection most Marvel fans have for Cap. Spidey is just easier to market than Cap is these days.

One of the most important things revealed in this Civil War trailer is that Cap does not want this war. Having never read the comics, I cannot vouch for those, but he does not want a civil war in this film.

What makes me so sure he does not want a Civil War? A little line which made it into the trailer. “I’m sorry, Tony,” Cap says. “You know I wouldn’t do this if there was another way. But he’s my friend.”

Cap does not say with these lines that he is throwing away his new friendships for his old one with Bucky. He is choosing both. He sacrificed his life to save the world at the end of WW II, and he will live with that sacrifice for the rest of his life. But Bucky’s life was stolen from him. And, in Civil War, people are trying to take his life away from him again. As his friend, Cap will not stand for that. He will not let Bucky’s life be stolen from him a second time, especially for a crime he did not commit.

Tony’s response to Cap’s statement, however, is absolutely horrifying. “So was I.”

Was. Was! Cap did not say, “You were my friend, Tony.” He said, “I wouldn’t be doing this if there was another way.” He is not rejecting Tony’s friendship; he is not discarding him or the Avengers for Bucky. He is trying to protect them all, as well as give his childhood friend a chance at making a new life for himself in relative safety.

But Tony does not see it that way. He is discarding Cap, along with his desire and attempts to keep them all together and free, rejecting his friendship. His three word line immediately made my throat constrict and my heart sink. Of all the mistakes Tony has ever made in the films, this has to be the utter worst. Cap understands that friendship and freedom trumps everything. Tony does not, and it is going to cost him.

From what we can see in this trailer, it appears that Bucky is framed for a murder, and thus he is being hunted down. This, along with some international incident following a battle involving the Avengers, will be what kicks off Civil War.

Well, I think it is possible that the international incident and Bucky’s supposed crime happen at nearly the same time. It appears that Civil War could open in medio res, or in the middle of things. Avengers: Age of Ultron did the same thing. If Civil War opens in the African market we have seen clips and set photos of, then the international incident may take place in Wakanda.

If that is the case, then “Bucky’s” target could well be Wakandan King T’Chaka, father of soon-to-be Black Panther T’Challa. T’Challa is said to “be in the beginning phases of taking on the Black Panther mantle” in Civil War. The title of Black Panther is passed down through the Wakandan royal line. Every ruler of Wakanda, as I understand things, has worn the title of Black Panther. The role of the Black Panther is similar to the role Cap played in WW II: protect the nation from outside aggressors.

Why?

Wakanda, from what I know of it, is a postage-stamp sized fictional African country in the Marvel Universe. It is highly advanced, more so than any first world country, because it is built smack-dab on top of the biggest – and possibly the only – deposit of vibranium on Earth. The Wakandans’ understanding of vibranium is what makes them such a technologically advanced nation.

It is also why they are xenophobic in their contact with the outside world. As we know, vibranium is the strongest metal on Earth (equaled in the comics only by adamantium, which is heavier and more easily acquired). In fact, for most of Marvel history, the world had no idea Wakanda existed until around WW II. Knowing how dangerous vibranium is, the last thing the Wakandans wanted was the metal falling into the wrong hands. They take it very personally when someone steals even a sliver of the metal. How Klaue made it out of Wakanda with as much vibranium as he had in Ultron borders on the magical; he should not have been able to get that much vibranium out of the country. No wonder they branded him “Thief” in such an unpleasant manner.

There is also a mystical element to the Black Panther mantle. Becoming the Black Panther, after having received the title properly, means that the person using the title gains all the strength, agility, speed, and senses of a real panther. T’Challa’s ability to keep up with – and apparently outpace – Cap and Bucky is probably related to this.

Also, T’Challa’s suit in the film should be made almost entirely out of vibranium. I do not know if it is an entirely vibranium suit in the comics, but it would make sense if it was. It is the strongest metal on Earth in the films; it is only reasonable that the Wakandans would use it to make a suit for the person charged with protecting their country and its deposit of vibranium.

In the comics and cartoons, T’Challa’s suit has claws built into the gloves. These claws are made of vibranium and are able to scratch through anything, just like Wolverine’s adamantium-coated claws. Vibranium and adamantium are two of the Earth metals that can harm the Hulk in the form of blades. T’Challa also has a series of vibranium daggers hidden in his suit in some cartoons. He may not have these in the film, but it is possible that he might have a set of vibranium daggers in Civil War.

If Bucky is blamed for T’Chaka’s assassination (or attempted assassination), then it would make sense for T’Challa to join up with Tony in Civil War. He wants justice, or revenge, for his father’s death. This means we will very likely see T’Challa facing off against Cap, and since vibranium is the only thing that can harm itself, it is possible that Cap’s shield will have some scratches put in it during the movie. However, since T’Challa is prince of the nation which owns all the vibranium on Earth, he can repair it once everything is sorted out at the end of Civil War.

I do not know exactly why Natasha has sided with Tony Stark in Civil War. I know she was on the pro-Registration side in the comics, but her motivations there are also a total mystery to me. Especially since she was apparently a non-combatant in the comic book war (how did that happen?).

The Russos have said that Natasha is trying to keep the Avengers from being disbanded. This makes sense, considering the fact that, if the Avengers were disbanded, she would have nowhere to go. Being an Avenger grants her a certain amount of immunity. At the end of Winter Soldier, she faced down the D.C. bureaucrats and told them how many buns make a dozen. They did not like that, and they have the power and ammo to bury her well below six feet under. So not only does being an Avenger give her purpose, it protects her from powerful people who see only her dark past and would gladly lock her up to die in the “Pit of Despair,” if you will. So siding with Tony would seem to her, perhaps, to be the best way to save the Avengers and herself. Self-preservation could very well be her motive for joining Team Iron.

That does not mean she is not conflicted during Civil War. She and Cap are good friends, and where Tony appears to believe that Cap is abandoning them all for his old war buddy, Natasha does not seem to share that sentiment. After all, she has been in Steve’s shoes. Her best friend was mind-controlled into helping Loki invade Earth. She would have gone through Hell to get Hawkeye back. Can she expect any less from Cap, who has proven that not only will he go through Hell to get Bucky back, but he will let Bucky beat him nearly to death as well?

As an added dilemma, Hawkeye sides with Cap in the upcoming war. The why is easy to guess: he worked for SHIELD only as long as his family was kept out of their files, and he has stayed with the Avengers in order to keep his wife and children safe. Someday he will have to let someone else have his job – one of his sons, or a stranger. But until that day he will fight to protect his family and the world they live in. Registering with the U.N. means that they will want to know everything about him. And it is hard to believe that the U.N. would not put his family in a database somewhere once they learned about them.

Clint does not want that. He will stand up to those in authority when they begin abusing their power, and these fictional Sokovian Accords are a blatant abuse of power. If the government can tell the Avengers who to target and who not to target, then they will end up with the same situation they faced in Midtown Manhattan in The Avengers. The World Security Council, likely a committee from the U.N., was quite willing to wipe out NYC with a nuclear warhead in The Avengers. Now that the latest weapons are people with super powers or “specific skill sets,” they are trying to make them the new “nuclear deterrents” completely at their command.

Except the Avengers are people, not weapons or tools. And people do not like being enslaved, under any circumstances.

Remember when I said that Clint had issues with authority in the comics? Well, it looks like he is about to take a very great issue with the government in Civil War. He has already proven he will break with his orders when he believes those orders are wrong. That is why Natasha is even alive, let alone an Avenger. And if he accepted SHIELD’s offer of a job only on condition that Fury erase his family from digital and analog existence, then Fury either wanted him in SHIELD very badly, or Clint is one hell of a negotiator. And by that, I mean he told Fury, “If you want me in SHIELD, then you had better make sure no one finds my family. Because if they do and something bad happens to them as a result, I will not only hunt down and kill those who hurt my family, but you, too.”

We do not get to see much of Hawkeye in this Civil War trailer, but I did notice two things about him in the brief scenes where he appears. One, when Cap and his team are apparently staring down Team Iron, Clint does not look happy. Neither does Cap, interestingly. Normally they each wear the expressions of men ready to wade into the fight fists swinging. This time, Cap and Clint both seem thoroughly sick at the idea that they will be going up against their friends and fellow Avengers. They do not want to, but their friends are not going to give them a choice.

Second, in one of the scenes following Team Cap charging into battle, two people can be seen running across what might be an airport tarmac. Since one of those people is holding a bow, it is safe to assume that person is Hawkeye. The second person is, on closer inspection, shown to be the Scarlet Witch.

This raises some interesting points. We know that Clint and Wanda established an understanding in Age of Ultron, but we also know her older brother died saving Clint’s life in the same movie. It is possible that Clint now feels responsible for Wanda, that he believes he should stay close to her and take care of her, since her older brother died to save him and is no longer present to see to her welfare. He might feel like he owes Pietro this and will therefore try to keep an eye on Wanda in Civil War.

Where this will lead, I can hardly guess. It has been suggested that Wanda may go a bit berserk in this movie. Elizabeth Olsen, the actress who portrays her, has dubbed Wanda a “wild card” and says the Scarlet Witch is “conflicted.” She says Wanda feels like she is connected to the Avengers, but at the same time, they are not her family. She certainly has a rapport of some sort with the World’s Greatest Marksman, and a bond with Captain America. And she has been an Avenger long enough now to get to know Falcon, War Machine, Vision, and Black Widow fairly well.

But they are not her family. In that respect, she is adrift in the world. Pietro was her anchor to reality, as she was his anchor to calm and reason. Despite the nobility of his sacrifice, she will feel Pietro’s loss keenly, and therefore may be inclined to leave the team. Also, Olsen hinted that the Scarlet Witch’s powers have grown since Age of Ultron. In the comics, this was one of the factors which led to her loss of sanity. Even with her brother alive, she ripped reality apart and rebuilt it. She also killed Hawkeye in this event. Twice.

All this could spell danger for Hawkeye in the upcoming film. Hopefully, Wanda will not roll off the deep end in Civil War and hurt him. Olsen’s statements, however, hint at some mental unsteadiness for the Scarlet Witch, and this opens some rather worrisome doors in my mind.

We also see in this trailer that Falcon is still “doing what [Cap] does, just slower.” In the trailer he says to Cap, “I just want to be sure we consider all our options. ‘Cause people who shoot at you usually wind up shooting at me, too.”

I think what Sam is really saying here is this: “Look, I am with you all the way. But are you sure there isn’t another way out of this mess? Because when things go bad, you won’t be the only one getting shot at. You’ve got me (and the others) watching your back. We’re going to get shot at, too, and we’re going up against the other Avengers at the same time. The Law of Averages says someone will get hurt or killed. You can’t make this decision based on sentiment and emotion. Have you really thought this through?”

Of course, Cap has. And barring a miraculous light bulb exploding into brilliance over Tony’s genius head, he has no other option but to go up against Iron Man. Sam and the others know that. If they choose to follow him, then they will all be in the same boat.

And, short of some unexpected betrayal in Cap’s ranks, this proves that Team Cap is made up of people just like Steve Rogers. Sam and the others on Team Cap all value friendship and freedom uber alles, or over all. They will follow Cap through Hell if that is where the battle takes them, because they are his friends. It will not be just because the U.N. wants to run their missions. It will be because they value Cap’s friendship, and friendship is based on loyalty, which means that you stay faithful to your friend no matter what. “And say my glory was I had such friends.” – William Butler Yeats

Then there is Bucky. Bucky is certainly an appealing, sympathetic character. And he is in an interesting – and precarious – position in Civil War. As a former HYDRA operative, Bucky naturally has an enormous amount of intel on the organization. In the hands of the U. S. government and the Avengers, this information could bring the plague-like organization down.

HYDRA has to know this. They also have to realize that the government, or the sensible people in it, would want Bucky captured and alive in order to gain all the information he has on HYDRA. There is no way, under normal circumstances, that U.S. military leaders would want Bucky dead. He is too valuable as an informant on HYDRA, even in his current beleaguered state.

Hence, it appears that HYDRA has assassinated someone in Civil War and pinned the murder on Bucky. They thereby instigate an international manhunt for him so that he will be brought in dead and useless to their enemies. It would be great if they could get him back and make him their tool again, but they might have already tried that and found him less than docile. Crossbones is said to taunt Cap with the fact that Bucky remembers him in a different trailer. To me, this suggests HYDRA has tried to get Bucky back and failed.

So that leaves them with only one option: eliminate him.

Sebastian Stan has been asked what Bucky will be like in Civil War, and he has said his relationship to HYDRA is a complicated one. That Bucky sort of owes them for saving his life. Not really, I think, since they simply saved him in order to turn him into a weapon. They stole from him, and while that certainly does not make them like his second family, it does mean they have a relationship.

This, of course, raises the question of what type of relationship. I do not believe it is a happy or a familial relationship. Bucky has turned his back on HYDRA and on being a weapon. However, even with his mind control and brainwashing broken, old habits die hard. He is not going to forget the skills HYDRA taught him. He simply cannot. They are built into his muscle memory; if he is fiercely attacked, even by run-of-the-mill thugs, his muscles will react automatically because of his training and years of experience as an expert assassin.

This also means that, like Wolverine, his instinctive reaction in a pitched battle will be to go for the jugular. As long as he keeps his emotions in check and maintains some rational control of himself in combat, Bucky should be able to keep his attacks from ending in the death(s) of his opponent(s). He can rationally choose not to follow through on a blow, making it a knock out or an injuring hit rather than a killing strike.

But he is not yet emotionally and mentally stable enough, it appears, to keep complete control of his instincts in such a conflict. If he is incensed to the point that his emotions and instincts override his rational thinking, anyone attacking him is courting death, the same way they would be if they sent Wolverine over a mental cliff.

This theory is given some credibility in the scene where Bucky goes to rip out Tony’s arc reactor. It does not matter that the arc reactor no longer supports Tony’s heart, it still supports his suit. And if it gets fried while being yanked out, it could short out the suit in such a way that Tony is badly injured or even killed. This could be what happens to Rhodey, though it is hard to tell from the trailer whether he is alive, dead, or injured and unconscious. (Someone suggested War Machine’s arc reactor was ripped out mid-air, because he is seen lying in a crater in the ground. It may be that the Scarlet Witch, Falcon, or even Vision is responsible for Rhodey’s apparent crash in that scene.)

There are probably several ways to take out Tony’s suit with Bucky’s particular skills and assets, while at the same time not hurting Tony. But Bucky’s immediate act is to go for the most vital place in Tony’s armor. His first instinct is for the jugular.

And thanks to HYDRA, he will be battling this instinct for the rest of his life. Just like Wolverine, his instincts can be tempered and controlled. However, due to his conditioning, he will remain highly unsociable and appear cold to others. He has experienced too much pain for mild annoyances like broken toasters and stubbed toes to set him off, but at the same time, he has also had much good ripped out of his hands.

And so his attitude in pleasant surroundings or events will remain gruff, distant, and always guarded. Past experience with HYDRA has driven home to him the fact that happiness is fleeting and fragile. It only takes one evil person to kill many, and he will always be on the lookout for evil, even if it does not show up. He knows it exists. He has seen it many times and he will therefore remain vigilant and ready for it to strike, something most civilians do not consider.

Thanks to HYDRA, Bucky knows safety is an illusion at worst, a veneer at best. It can be ripped away in seconds by a bullet or a knife. He is a target for both. He can be happy, but he will always guard that emotion carefully, so that if the world goes to hell in a hand basket, he will be ready for it.

This is the legacy of HYDRA’s manipulating him: in some respect, they will always own part of him. And there is absolutely nothing he or his friends/allies will ever be able to do about it.

All this leads to one point: Bucky will have to die in Civil War. Now since Sebastian Stan has a nine picture deal with Marvel, I do not think his death in Civil War would be real. It would probably be faked, so that he could go underground and try to make a life for himself. Doing this would get HYDRA and the government off his back – for a space, at least – and give him time to try and do something good with his life.

It would be interesting if he was “assassinated” in place of Cap, who in the comics was “killed” at the end of the Civil War story arc. (His “death” in the comics even made the actual six o’clock news.) He could wear Steve’s uniform and be “killed” in his place in Captain America: Civil War.

Who would “kill” him is open to debate; Hawkeye and Black Widow both have the skills to make sure the shot appeared real. Bucky could certainly pull off a convincing death scene after that. But Crossbones or Baron Zemo could be the ones who plan to assassinate Cap – though what they would gain by making a martyr out of him, I have no idea. This would mean the Avengers would have to somehow ensure the HYDRA bullet did not actually hit its mark, but make it appear that it did. I am sure they could all work something like this out, if the writers decided to go with this plot. It is how they saved Fury, after all.

Speaking of our villains, we have not seen Baron Zemo in any of the trailers so far. Since he is playing the HYDRA heavy, we all know where Crossbones will be in the movie: he is the muscle-bound goon and the public face for HYDRA’s foot soldiers.

People keep asking where Zemo is. I think the answer is rather obvious; he is the man behind the curtain. We know from The Winter Soldier that HYDRA did not simply infiltrate SHIELD. They wormed their way into the U.S. government. Senator Stern was a HYDRA man. And just because the World Security Council threw wine in Pierce’s face does not mean that the U.N. has the same spine. In fact, that scene was the first hint that anyone on the WSC even had a spine.

Zemo and HYDRA could very well be the force behind the U.N.’s Sokovian Accords. Cui bono – who benefits from a civil war between the heroes? Cap and Tony are not going to get much out of this war, which like all such conflicts, is anything but civil. The answer is as plain as day: in an Avengers’ Civil War, only their enemies benefit. And HYDRA is the main enemy for the Avengers in these films. They have the most to gain by registering the heroes and binding them in red tape.

It has also been revealed that Thunderbolt Ross will be the U.S. Secretary of State in Civil War. The Russos have said he has gone from hating the Hulk to hating all super-powered people in general. That is not a great leap of logic, really; Bruce and the Hulk were untouchable as long as they stayed with the Avengers. Bruce and “the other guy” helped save the world. Who could hunt down a hero like that without suffering a huge amount of political and popular backlash?

I would guess that Ross has it in for the Avengers in part because they shielded the Hulk and Bruce for so long. Though Bruce is once again on the lam, if he were to go back to the Avengers, he would still be “safe” at first base in popular opinion. So Ross’ interest in taking the Avengers down and putting them under the government’s thumb may be a tactical strike: take out the Avengers, and there is no safe haven for Bruce. Popular opinion, fickle as it is, cannot protect him if he has no base and friends to put a roof over his head and food in his mouth.

There is also the slim possibility that, in his hatred for the Hulk and now the Avengers, Ross has made the proverbial deal with the devil. He could now be a HYDRA man, too. In the “mainstream” comics and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoon series, Red Skull briefly hid in the U.S. government as the Secretary of State Dell Rusk (Red Skull mixed up). If Ross is Secretary of State in Civil War, then it is quite a nod to these stories and could be a great hint at his role in the film. Ross may be doing the political heavy lifting for Zemo in the U.S. government, nipping at Tony’s heels and hemming the team in on all sides politically so Zemo and HYDRA can strike the finishing blow.

There is one last thing to say about this trailer. As with Age of Ultron, fans are trying to raffle off certain Avengers for death in Civil War. Whedon sideswiped everyone with Quicksilver’s noble sacrifice in Ultron, but it is getting increasingly hard to suggest which Avenger could die in Civil War. The four “main” Avengers in the film – Iron Man, Cap, Black Widow, and Hawkeye – all have contracts which bind them to several future Marvel movies. None of them could convincingly be killed off, unless Marvel wanted to play the “mostly dead” or resurrection cards on their film audiences. They would have to play those cards very believably; Coulson is so far the only character Marvel has seen fit to resurrect, and fans reacted by saying, “Well we knew he wasn’t dead!”

That leaves the other characters in a bit of a pickle, right? Maybe not. Tom Holland, our new Spider-Man, is contracted for three films beside Civil War. Anthony Mackie fought hard to get into the franchise; he will not be giving up his role as Falcon anytime soon. Elizabeth Olsen has no idea whether she will be in future films or not, though she has hinted that Wanda survives Civil War. People are suggesting that Vision will be in the next Guardians of the Galaxy movie, and I find it hard to believe that the writers would kill him off so soon.

I have no idea how expendable Rhodey is. That clip of him with his arc reactor ripped out does not inspire confidence in his survival. But it could be a trick of editing; he might survive after all. Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man has a sequel in the pipes, so he is not going to die. And T’Challa has a solo movie coming out in 2017.

Hawkeye’s family could certainly be killed in the movie, however. There is a precedent for this in Marvel’s Ultimate comics, in which Natasha Romanoff murdered his family in cold blood. It does not seem likely that she will be responsible in the movies if this were to occur, though as with all things, we cannot rule anything out until we see the film. Even if she is not the perpetrator, that does not protect Clint’s family. Of course, maybe Sharon Carter will be the one to die.

Although, someone did slow down the trailer at the part where Bucky goes to rip out Tony’s arc reactor and they read his lips to try and find out what he was shouting. Now, the fan who did this would not say what he thought Bucky was shouting, but he felt it confirmed Steve Rogers’ death. We all know Steve’s coming back in the Infinity War films, so it is possible that Cap’s death in Civil War is a set up. A set up Bucky and Tony might be in on. But we will not know what exactly is up until we see the film May 1, 2016.

So raffling off particular characters for death is rather foolish, in my opinion. It does not prevent me from wondering about who may die. I just cannot see any way to safely guess who the unlucky superhero might be.

Well, readers, time to go. These are my thoughts and speculations about Captain America: Civil War. More may be revealed in the forthcoming trailers, and Marvel may yet tip its hand. That is unlikely, but it is possible. So until the next trailer comes out…

Excelsior!

The Mithril Guardian

Marvel Fan Fiction: An Avengers’ Snow Day

I have been contemplating writing fan fiction for a long time, readers.  Until recently, I was reluctant to put any sort of creative writing up on my blog.  But masterleiaofasgard’s first foray into fan fiction inspired me to try my hand at it.  The result is this story about the Avengers, which takes place a little while before Christmas.

Set in the MCU – or Marvel Cinematic Universe – it takes place before Avengers: Age of Ultron.  For this reason, the Maximoff twins and Vision are not in the story.  There are also a few winks and nods in my story to masterleia’s first fan fiction piece, which you can find and read here: https://superherofactsandtrivia.wordpress.com/2015/11/14/yes-my-first-fan-fic/.

If you enjoy my story and would like to copy it to your computer for yourself, then I would ask that you request permission of me first.  Masterleiaofasgard gets first dibs on it, if she wants it, since it was her story that got this ball rolling in the first place. 😉

Enjoy, readers – and Merry Christmas!

The Mithril Guardian

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An Avengers’ Snow Day

by The Mithril Guardian

Disclaimer: I do not own these characters.

Natasha Romanoff poured herself a cup of coffee. “So, what are your plans for Christmas, Steve?” she asked.

Steve Rogers leaned back in his chair, tossing the latest issue of the Daily Bugle onto the table as he moved. “I’m not sure,” he admitted. “Maybe some research.”

She raised an eyebrow at him. When Steve said “research,” he was referring to his hunt for his old friend, Bucky Barnes, otherwise known as the Winter Soldier, once one of the deadliest assassins of all time.

Natasha suppressed a shudder. The man was aptly named; the only person she had ever seen that cold and unfeeling had been herself. And even she had had some fears when she worked for the KGB, some insecurities.

The Winter Soldier had none of that.

Still, he had saved Steve’s life. Maybe there was something of his old self buried under those years of HYDRA programming after all. She knew that Steve certainly believed there was. Even while working for the Avengers, he made as much time as he could to search for Barnes. Sam had been helping him, running down leads or talking to sources when Steve was engaged elsewhere.

Lately, they had been very busy elsewhere. HYDRA was more active than ever. The Avengers had tackled five different bases in the last two weeks, all within days of each other. Today was one of their first real chances to relax and get some down time.

Steve shrugged. “We’ll see.”

“Did I hear someone say Christmas?” Tony Stark asked as he entered the room.

Natasha hid a wry smile. Tony had been holed up in the lab with Bruce for the past few hours, working on some project the two had dubbed “Veronica.” It figured that he would show up right in the middle of what she had been hoping would be a private, productive conversation with Steve. “Because I am throwing a Christmas party in a couple of days, Pepper will be here, and you’re all – naturally – invited.”

“I won’t mind coming.” Steve looked at her. “What about you, Nat?”

“It’s free food. Who could turn that down?” she asked, sipping her coffee. She would have to pay a visit to her nephew and niece before the party, or after it. Clint would help her work something out. “Where’s Bruce?”

“Still in the lab,” Tony replied. He grabbed a mug and headed for the coffee maker. Natasha moved a little so that he could get to the machine. She took another sip as he went on, pouring his coffee. “He wants to double check some of Veronica’s systems.” Tony looked around. “Where are Barton and Thor?”

“Landing pad.” Natasha took another sip. “They were having some kind of a discussion – ”

She stopped when she saw Steve and Tony share a look. “I’ll go check on them,” Steve said, standing up. As he left the room, Natasha gave Tony one of her most irritated frowns.

He ignored it, as usual. “He’s not stupid, you know,” she said, “Clint’s not going to get Thor angry just for the heck of it.”

“He’s Barton. He can get someone angry just by looking at them,” Tony retorted.

Natasha shook her head, rolling her eyes. “Have you invited Jane Foster to the party?”

“No, because she invited Thor to her latest research lab for Christmas.” Tony glowered as he drank his coffee. “He’s skipping the event. Think Clint will stay?”

Natasha shrugged. The answer was no, Clint was going home to his wife and children for Christmas. But she was the only Avenger who knew about his family. He had agreed to work for SHIELD only as long as Fury kept his family out of the agency’s files and never told anyone that they existed. Laura and the kids had subsequently been erased from reality – digitally and on paper – and no one, not even Hill or Coulson, had ever known that Clint was not a bachelor.

Clint and Natasha had both been grateful for that after HYDRA was revealed to be within SHIELD’s ranks. Clint had had three assassin teams chasing him down while Natasha and Cap were working to stop Project Insight. “It’s extremely flattering that they decided you were so threatening they needed to send three teams to kill you,” she had teased him.

“You’re the only one who would think three teams, composed of fifteen assassins each, hunting you for a week, was a compliment,” he had shot back, holding an ice pack to his twisted knee. One of the HYDRA assassins had managed to throw him before Clint had taken him down. Natasha and Steve had arrived just as he put an arrow through the last standing assassin. “What kept you?” he had asked as they had approached, rolling onto his back with a tired huff.

Natasha hated to think of what would have happened if Clint’s family had been on SHIELD’s files. Some agents who hadn’t taken Clint’s precautions had lost their families in HYDRA’s uprising.

She knew Clint disliked keeping his family a secret from everyone on the team; but at the same time, telling them was a risk. Steve could keep that kind of a secret – Natasha knew that risking lives, especially the lives of children, was one of the last things he would do. Bruce could probably keep from mentioning them, too.

Thor… Well, if he were to know, he would do his best not to let the secret out. But Thor could not be guaranteed to keep a secret. He tried, but Earth wasn’t his home. He had given away a couple of other secrets when asking questions meant to clarify something he didn’t understand, to Tony’s and Natasha’s embarrassment. Tony made himself feel better about the no-longer secret drawer full of his kiddie toys – thanks to Thor – by picking on Natasha’s craving for yogurt with pistachios, which Thor had also accidentally revealed.

A bout in the training room two weeks later had made Tony shut up about her culinary preference.

Of them all, Tony was the worst at keeping secrets. Unless they were his secrets – like his secret drawer full of childhood mementos, or the fact that his first arc reactor design had been killing him. The only reason any of the Avengers knew about Veronica (whatever it was) was because Bruce had told them about it. It was supposed to be some kind of a countermeasure if he should lose control of the Hulk. So far, though, they still didn’t know whether Veronica was a program or a cage.

“So,” Natasha asked. “What’s Veronica?”

“Ah, ah, ah!” Tony said from behind his mug. He finished his coffee and set the mug on the counter. “All will be revealed at the Christmas Party, grasshopper! Don’t get your stingers in a knot, Natasha!”

“If you don’t at least give me a hint, I might tangle them in you,” she retorted in a tone of mock injury. Tony was being his usual annoying self, she could see. Veronica was something he desperately wanted to keep under wraps, and he had either convinced Bruce to keep his mouth shut about the project or coerced him into silence. Natasha would not put either tactic past him.

“All right, one hint,” he said. “It’s red.”

That’s helpful,” she sniffed.

“Exactly.”

Suddenly, a loud crash sounded from the direction of the landing pad. Natasha shot Tony a look, meeting his own worried glance as she did. Then they were both running in the direction the sound had come from.

Natasha heard the laughter first. Or at least, upon hearing it, she was the first to slow down. Tony kept running. So when a snowball flew through the broken window and hit him in the chest, he went flying back toward her.

Dropping to the floor, Natasha rolled forward and came up on one knee as Tony crash landed behind her. She heard him gasp as he hit the floor, grunted, and then rolled over.

Out on the landing pad, which was covered with snow, Steve and Clint were both in battle positions, each with a snowball in one hand. Clint was dressed warmly – he was even wearing gloves – while Steve was still in his short sleeved shirt and jeans. Clint’s clothes were dusted with snow but Steve’s were soaking wet.

Some distance ahead and facing them was Thor, his hammer raised. Steve and Clint were looking over their shoulders and into the Tower. All three men were staring past Natasha into the room behind her, where Tony was getting to his feet, wearing the expressions of naughty children who had just been caught pilfering cookies from the cookie jar. Actually, she thought, Steve just looked surprised. Clint and Thor both had faces that said uh-oh.

Clint spoke first, pointing at Thor with his free hand. “It was his fault!”

“You threw the ball of snow!” the Asgardian retorted.

“You’re the one who broke the window! And sent the next snowball through it!”

“This game was your idea!”

“Yeah – “

Natasha heard the distinctive sound of repulsors powering up somewhere behind her and threw herself to the floor, ignoring the bits of broken glass that lay under her. At the same time, Steve dropped his snowball and leapt over to push Clint out of the line of fire. He fell into the snow with a yelp, Steve jumping past him, as Tony’s repulsor blasts took Thor in the chest and sent him flying to land in the snow halfway down the landing pad.

Iron Man flew out onto the landing pad. He descended, leaned over, and picked up some snow, packing it into a ball. “Why don’t you guys invite me to these parties?” he asked testily.

Thor stood up and wiped some snow out of his beard. He grinned the smile Natasha had privately dubbed his battle smirk, which he only put on when he was getting ready to enjoy a coming fight. Then he let Mjolnir’s handle drop from his hand, so he could swing it by its unbreakable thong. Tony threw his snowball at him, but Thor hit it with the hammer and sent it flying back to the armored Avenger, post haste.

The self-described genius, playboy, billionaire, philanthropist obliterated the snowball with a single repulsor blast. But Thor’s next snowball, drummed up by his hammer, caught Tony in the helmet.

“Consider yourself cordially invited to our battle of snow!” Thor shouted.

Tony shook his head, clearing most of the snowball residue from his mask. Then he took off and flew at Thor, who sent a number of other snowballs at his teammate from the hammer wind-milling in his hand.

Now that she wasn’t dodging snowballs and irked Avengers, Natasha could see that the snow on the landing pad, which had been as clean and unmarred as new paper this morning, was a slushy mess. Thor, Steve, and Clint’s antics had clearly ranged over the half of the landing pad closest to the Tower. Understandably, the snow on the overhang of the landing pad was relatively untouched. Since Steve and Clint couldn’t fly, it made sense that they would keep the Tower to their back and not court fate by going too close to the edge.

“You okay?” Steve asked. Natasha looked up to see him watching her, concern in his expression. Clint hauled himself out of the snow and began dusting his coat off with his free right hand. He still had a snowball in his left.

“Fine,” she said, sitting up cautiously. “What started all this?”

Steve looked at Clint, who shot them a glance that was just too innocent. “I asked Thor what they do in Asgard this time of year, and that led to him asking what we do for fun here on Earth in the winter.”

“And you suggested a snowball fight?”

“Well, I knew he wouldn’t be interested in snowmen or snow angels,” Clint replied somewhat defensively. “And I don’t think we could get him on a ski slope without risking an avalanche. All I said was ‘fight,’ and he asked what I meant. It was all perfectly calm until Cap showed up.”

“Ha,” Steve replied. “Thor was getting fed up with Clint hitting him all the time and dodging every third snowball thrown at him.”

“Hey, he can kill someone with one of those things, at the velocity he throws ‘em!” the archer retorted.

“So I got in on the action,” Steve went on, unperturbed. “And one of our snowballs ended up through the window.” He gestured to the now-empty window frame. “I told Tony it was a bad idea to have so many windows in this place.”

“It was already built by then,” Clint said. His eyes went to Tony and Thor. Tony was taking a lot of hits, but he occasionally managed to catch one of Thor’s snowballs and throw it back at him. “Shell Head’s getting the worst of it, Cap.”

“He shouldn’t have shot Thor. Reminds him too much of that fight they had in the woods when we were bringing Loki back to the Helicarrier.”

“One of the few things I wish I had been able to see during those three mind-controlled days,” the archer growled. “Anyway, do you think we should even things up a little?”

Natasha fully expected Steve to say no. To her surprise, though, Steve cocked his head and asked, “Who do you want?”

“Stark,” Clint said at once. “Thor’s mad at me, remember?”

“And having Tony angry at you is better?”

“Well, at the worst, he’ll have me sing Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” Her teammates had only recently discovered that Clint could sing. Tony liked to push him into games where he was forced to do whatever anyone asked him, and Tony’s particular joy was tormenting Clint by having him sing any number of songs. Some Clint liked (though he never told Tony which ones those were), others he hated. “Thor might sit on me – or throw me out a window as a way of getting some exercise. He won’t do that to you.”

“All right.” Steve bent down, scooped up a handful of snow, and packed it into a ball. “One, two – “

“Three!” Clint let his snowball fly as he spoke. It hit Tony in the side of his helmet as Steve’s snowball, a few seconds behind the archer’s, splattered on Thor’s shoulder.

Both turned toward Clint and Steve, who were already packing new snowballs together as they ran in separate directions.

Natasha watched the two snowball teams start an all-out snowball war, her mouth hanging open. Earth’s mightiest heroes, they were called, and here they were acting like schoolboys!

She closed her mouth and shook her head. She couldn’t pretend to understand that. Her childhood, such as it was, didn’t include snowball fights, snowmen, or snow angels. She had done all of those things since she had become Cooper and Lila’s “aunt,” but doing them with other adults… Something about it made her feel self-conscious. She despised that feeling.

“It looks like they’re having fun.”

Natasha turned when she heard Bruce, surprised. He met her gaze and smiled a little. “I’d join them, but I think they’d just get scared.” He held his hand out to her. “Need some help?”

She didn’t. She could get up on her own. But for some reason she took his proffered hand and let him help her up. “You wouldn’t turn green?” she asked, dusting glass powder from her clothes.

He shrugged. “Maybe if I fell over the side, or if someone did something mean, like sit on me –” He flashed another smile at the reference to Clint’s last statement. “But I think I could handle a little snowball fight.”

He looked back out at the landing pad. Natasha followed his gaze and was just in time to see Clint pull Tony out of the sky by his boots. Whatever dignity Iron Man had left went out the window as he somersaulted in midair and landed on his head in a pile of snow. Clint grinned at his handiwork, then had to duck as a snowball Steve had thrown at Thor was deflected over his head. He kicked the Prince of Thunder’s legs out from under him and Steve seized the opportunity to shove snow onto the Thunderer’s chest. “They work together better than Thor and Tony do.”

“Yeah.”

“No, not just in this snowball fight,” Bruce said. He paused as they watched Tony pull himself out of the snow pile, grab Clint by the shoulders, and throw him into a different drift of the white stuff. “And not just Steve and Clint. I mean, Thor and Steve work together better in a battle than Tony and Thor do. Clint can work with any of us – I think.”

Natasha guessed he was referring to the battles where he turned into the Hulk. She could remember a few instances when Clint had worked with the Hulk, but sometimes Bruce’s memories of his time as Big Green were sketchy, so he wouldn’t remember everything he and the others did in a battle very well. “But Steve’s the only one who doesn’t seem to have trouble working with Tony.”

“Well, Stark’s a bit of a showboat,” Natasha explained. “He’s hard to work with because you’re never quite sure just what he’s going to do or say. Steve’s adaptable – more so than I once gave him credit for,” she admitted, “so whatever Tony does, he can roll with it. But there are times Stark does or says something that distracts the rest of us. It makes him hard to work with.”

Clint got his revenge on Tony by flinging snowballs at his helmet. One covered the facemask’s eyes and forced Tony to land. Clint used the moment it took Tony to clean the snow off his mask to run toward him, then fell into a sliding-skid, stopping behind him. He threw a snowball to Steve, who grabbed it and threw it at Tony.

Before the billionaire could react, the snowball hit him in the chest – and with Clint on his hands and knees behind him, Tony didn’t have a prayer of staying upright. He tumbled over Clint and landed on the floor with a loud clunk Natasha and Bruce could hear clearly from inside. “How did you know about the snowball fight?” Natasha asked.

“J.A.R.V.I.S. told me about it,” Bruce answered.

“He didn’t tell us.”

“The window broke before he could. Or so he said. Personally,” Bruce smiled at her again. “I think he was hoping you and Tony would get in on the fight.”

“Moi?” Natasha asked, faux haughtily. “Join in that?” Thor was whirling Mjolnir again, peppering Tony, Clint, and Steve with snowballs. Most of the snowballs, though, were aimed at Tony.

Bruce shrugged, still smiling. “So what’s Veronica?”

“Tony wants it to be a surprise. I can’t tell you.”

“Is it a cage?” For some reason, Natasha was really hoping it wasn’t. The idea of Bruce being locked up in a cage, even when he was the Hulk – once the image would have given her comfort. Now, it just frightened her.

“A cage would be kind of useless in the middle of a city, wouldn’t it?” he asked. His smile softened. “No, Natasha, it’s not a cage. But I really can’t tell you what it is just yet. I don’t want you to have to fake surprise when Tony unveils it.”

“I can fake surprise really well,” she told him.

“I know. But I’d rather you didn’t have to.”

Tony fired his repulsors again, but this time Thor leapt over the twin blasts and pointed Mjolnir at the billionaire genius. A huge glop of snow, conjured out of thin air by the weather warping hammer, landed on Iron Man’s head. He fell to the landing pad, completely covered in snow except for his boots. “Ding-dong, the Witch is dead!” Clint began to sing, raising his voice to imitate a Munchkin’s. Even Steve doubled over with laughter at the jibe.

“He just avenged himself on Tony,” Bruce chuckled. Natasha giggled. Tony had begun calling Clint ‘Katniss’ every now and again. Some bright spark on the Internet had started the trend and Tony, naturally, had picked up on it and begun using it on Clint. In response, Clint had given Tony the nickname ‘Shell Head,’ also gleaned from the Internet somewhere. Natasha wasn’t sure who got more of a kick out of which taunt.

Tony struggled out of the pile, growling and gasping. Thor dropped the hammer and hauled him the rest of the way out, then threw him back into the snow. “Yield!”

“Nope!” Tony replied, throwing snow at his face. Thor blocked most of the snow, but that left him open to Tony’s lunge. The armored Avenger caught the Prince of Asgard around the waist and knocked him to the landing pad. Steve and Clint discretely retreated to make more snowballs as Thor, taking two handfuls of snow, clapped both hands and their contents to the sides of Tony’s helmet. “Tony says it’s red.”

“Hmm?” Bruce asked.

“Veronica.”

“Ha. Yes, it is.” Steve and Clint began pelting their teammates, still struggling on the landing pad, with snowballs. “Think we should call the kids in?”

“Nah,” she said. “They’ll come in when they’re ready. Or when they’re cold enough.”

They watched as Thor summoned his hammer. Once it was in his hand a snowstorm, localized to the landing pad, erupted. Steve and Clint both cried out in surprise. “Okay, okay!” they heard Clint shout. “Uncle! Uncle! We give up!”

The miniature blizzard stopped. Steve and Clint were both covered with a fine layer of frost and snow while Tony, who had been at the epicenter of the small storm, was almost completely encrusted in ice. Thor had shoved him off him at some point and was now standing beside the prone Stark frosticle. “Do you yield now?

There was a muffled answer; the ice had shorted out Tony’s armor.

Natasha burst into giggles as Bruce smiled widely. Thor leaned down and broke the ice covering the lever that would open Tony’s flaps. He pulled the lever and the flaps opened. A minute later, the armor rebooted and Tony tottered to his feet. He pulled his helmet off, coughing and gasping. “Best two out of three?”

“If you’re ready for another bout,” Thor said, tossing and catching his hammer.

Tony nodded, then shook his head. “Hey, Nat, is there any coffee in there?” Clint called.

“There is!” she answered.

“Great!” he called as he jogged up to the broken window. He stepped in and began shrugging off his jacket. “’Cause I could use something warm to drink.”

“Come on, then, you big baby!” She took his wrist and began leading him toward the kitchen. You’d think that, since you were raised in Iowa, you would have a higher tolerance for the cold, she teased him mentally. In truth he did. That he should claim to be cold implied Thor’s localized snowstorm was colder than it had appeared.

Her suspicion was confirmed when Steve joined them in the kitchen, accepting the cup of Joe she handed him without a word. But then, maybe being in the snow had reminded him of his seventy year suspension in the ice in Greenland. “J.A.R.V.I.S., when can we get that window fixed?” she asked.

I am already working on it, Miss Romanoff,” the AI responded calmly. Tony clunked into the room, still in his armor, Bruce beside him. Thor was following them, brushing snow off his cloak.

A wicked notion entered Natasha’s mind. “J.A.R.V.I.S.,” she looked at the ceiling. “Did you get any of that on film?” Tony looked up at her, utterly aghast.

The AI generally managed to maintain his butler-style professionalism with the Avengers, though he had demonstrated a sarcastic side a number of times. This time, Natasha detected a definite note of smugness in his response. “There are a large number of cameras that look out onto the landing pad, Miss Romanoff.

“Hmm.” Clint was watching her, his eyes lighting mischievously. Steve was looking into his coffee, but there was a definite upturn to the corners of his mouth as he drank. Bruce was grinning, too. Thor was the only one who seemed a little puzzled. He still wasn’t that at home with the Internet.

“J.A.R.V.I.S., don’t you dare!” Tony barked. He was pulling off his armor piece by piece. Natasha heard her phone ding and began fishing it out of her pocket. “If you put that on Youtube –“

I wouldn’t dream of it, sir,” J.A.R.V.I.S. responded very, very innocently as Natasha looked at her email.

She smiled as she worked on her phone. “But I would,” she said, turning the phone around. The boys were treated to a brief clip of their snowball fight, now free for viewing on the Youtube channel Tony maintained for the Avengers.

Tony spluttered with rage as the others burst out laughing. “Relax, Tony,” Steve managed through his chuckles. “It’s not exactly a bad image.”

“Yeah, it proves we’re human,” Clint agreed. He took another pull of his coffee, then set the mug on the counter. “Which reminds me, I have some stuff to take care of over Christmas. Need to check up on some old SHIELD contacts, make sure they’re still – “ He searched for a word that would express things gently, then shrugged and gave up. “You know, on our side.”

“Need any help with that?” Natasha asked immediately. Clint probably did want to see if any of their friends from SHIELD were still alive, but most of what he would be doing was spending Christmas with Laura and the kids. This was his way of letting her know what his plans were for getting home. And as it was, she could think of a few people she wanted to check on from SHIELD, too: her old friends Melinda May and Bobbi Morse, not to mention that kid, Tripp…

Clint shot her a furtive glance. “I may have to call you in,” he admitted slowly. “But I wouldn’t want to drag you away from the party.”

Natasha waved a hand airily. “So call me after. It’s no big deal.” Only Cooper and Lila would think it was a very big deal when she arrived on Christmas morning, specially delivered by Santa Claus. At least, last Christmas Lila had still believed in old St. Nick. Natasha wondered if that had changed yet.

Tony moaned. “Are you staying for Christmas?” he asked Bruce.

“Where would I go?” the other asked, spreading his hands. “It sounds like it’ll be a great party. And Natasha can always tell Clint about Veronica after she gets the details at the party.”

“Yeah, yeah, okay,” Tony muttered.

“Oh, Bruce, I just remembered,” Clint sat up suddenly and began rummaging around in his jacket, which he had dropped in the chair beside him. “Since I won’t be staying, I thought I’d give you your Christmas gift early.” He pulled a package about the size of his hand from his jacket and tossed it to Bruce.

Bruce caught it and looked at it. “It has your name on it.”

“Yeah, I ordered it. It’s for you. Open it up.”

Bruce tore off the paper wrapping on the box and looked at it. “A survival kit?” he asked.

“In case you somehow get separated from us when we’re out on a job,” Clint explained. He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a small container, which he held up for Bruce to see. “Never go anywhere without one myself. I didn’t know what else you could use,” he admitted sheepishly.

“No, this is good,” Bruce took the rest of the wrapping off. “Comes with most of the stuff I’d need, too. Wait, it’s got bug spray? And a bandana?”

“If you ever find yourself in the middle of Afghanistan, that bandana will be a life saver,” Clint said immediately. He went on as he returned his own survival kit to his pocket. “And the bugs in Thailand are enough to kill you just by irritation. Seriously, I thought I was going to lose my mind when I went sloshing through the jungle out there. That spray should kill most anything – it even works on palmetto bugs.”

Natasha shuddered. “I didn’t think they could make anything strong enough to kill those overgrown roaches.”

“I thought I’d test it out, see how effective it was,” Clint explained. “I don’t know if it will work on tarantulas or scorpions, but it kills palmetto bugs. If it can do that, then it’s pretty damn potent stuff.”

“Oh, that reminds me!” Natasha ducked below the counter and came back up with a bottle of wine. “This is for you, Steve,” she handed it to him. “Made in Brooklyn, 1918.”

“Three years before the Prohibition Era,” he said, hefting the bottle. “Thanks, Nat. Anyone want a drink?”

“Perhaps later on,” Thor broke in. “Since I am not going to be able to attend your party and you are all giving gifts, I realize that it might now be a good time to give you mine.”

“Gold statues celebrating our greatness?” Tony asked hopefully as he stepped out of his armored boots, which promptly fell over due to ice build-up. Natasha sighed and Steve rubbed his eyes tiredly.

“A trip to Asgard?” Bruce asked excitedly. Clint groaned.

Thor chuckled. “No, not that, my friends. Come!” He gestured back the way they had come. “To the landing pad! We will need some room for this!”

Please tell me we’re not going to Asgard,” Clint said, getting out of his chair. Steve left Natasha’s gift on the counter and got out of his own chair. They all followed Thor down the hall back to the landing pad, Clint pulling on his jacket as they went. “No offense, but I’m still not sure Loki’s dead, and I’d rather not run into him on his home turf.”

“We will be going to Asgard only briefly,” Thor explained.

Natasha thought he sounded very patient and understanding. Clint had been suspicious of the circumstances surrounding Loki’s death, and Natasha had to admit that, since Thor had not brought his body back to Asgard for a funeral, she was inclined to agree with the archer. Never believe someone was dead unless you could confirm the dead body in front of you was theirs – that was what they believed. Clint had spent most of his adult life in SHIELD, and Natasha had been raised to be a spy. They both knew how easy it was for humans to fake their deaths. For a master of magic like Loki, feigning death would probably have been a walk in the park.

Despite the fact that Thor did not share Clint’s or her concerns, he had kept his anger in check. Maybe he figured it was better to leave them with their own suspicions than to start a feud with them. Or maybe he just thought it was better to humor them. Natasha could not decide which it was.

Thor continued, “But our true destination is Alfheim. I think you will enjoy it.” He smiled at Clint over his shoulder. Natasha guessed he had chosen Alfheim with Clint in mind. Wonder why? She thought. “The portion of Alfheim we will be visiting has mild winters. You may not need that coat where we are going, but should it prove otherwise, they can furnish warmer attire.”

“So what’s in Alfheim that we can’t live without seeing?” Tony asked.

“The Festival of Lights,” Thor said. “It is – well,” he stopped as he pushed open the door and stepped out on the landing pad. “If I were to describe it to you, we would not need to go. And it is something better seen than told!”

They walked out onto the landing pad and Thor got them bunched together as closely as possible. “Heimdall!” he shouted, looking up at the sky. “Open the Bifrost!”

The Rainbow Bridge, as it was known in Norse mythology, struck the landing pad briefly. Then it vanished, leaving an Asgardian symbol imprinted on the metal beneath it. It would be a few hours before the team returned, flushed with excitement (and a little Alfheim ale), ready to continue handing out gifts.

But for now, J.A.R.V.I.S. would keep Avengers’ Tower warm and safe until they returned. Just to amuse himself while they were gone, J.A.R.V.I.S. began flashing the words “Merry Christmas!” on the roll across under the giant A on the Tower’s face. Then he started playing music throughout the Tower. It was music performed by his favorite Christmas artist, Manheim Steamroller. With Tony on another world, he could not complain about the music and J.A.R.V.I.S. could have a little time to himself.

THE END

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Captain America: Civil War – Whose Side Are You On?

May 6, 2016 is a day we Marvel fans here in the states are eagerly awaiting.  That day Captain America: Civil War will hit theaters and the Captain America film franchise will (apparently) come to a close (yeah, sure).

Once again those fans who cannot leave well enough alone (namely me!) are eagerly reading over every rumor, poring over every leaked photo, trying to guess what is in the pipes for our favorite heroes.  Who will win, who will die, what can we expect in future films – it is all on the table.

And fans are already eagerly choosing which side they will take in the upcoming film.  With that in mind, readers, I have a question for you – whose side are you on?  Vote in the poll below and tell the world who you support!

Chosen your side?  Great!  Now for the next question, readers.  Why have you chosen this side?  To answer, just vote in the poll below, or leave a comment.  Either way works.

Thanks for voting, readers!  And, just in case you are curious, I’m behind Captain America all the way.  He always makes the right choice, fights for freedom, defends the weak, and stands up for the truth.  There is no way that I could not side with him!

Excelsior!

The Mithril Guardian

Book Review: Simon the Coldheart by Georgette Heyer

SimonTheColdheart.jpg

 

Here we are again, readers, looking at another Georgette Heyer novel! The same friend who gave me The Talisman Ring also handed me one of Heyer’s earliest works, Simon the Coldheart. Where many of Heyer’s other novels occur in the 1800s (or thereabout), Simon the Coldheart is set all the way back in the 1400s!

That is correct – the 1400s! It is a time of knights, archers, foot soldiers, lords, ladies, wars, empires, and – of course – love!

Simon the Coldheart begins on the road to the Lord of Montlice’s castle. A youth of fourteen (whose height and shoulder width make one think him to be older than he actually is), walks up to the gate of the Lord of Montlice’s castle. With nothing but a quarterstaff and his own great strength, the youth gets past the guards and into the castle.

When guards in the castle block him from meeting Fulk, the aforementioned Lord of Montlice, the youth knocks one of them down as easily as you please.   Happening upon this battle is Fulk’s son, Alan, a full year younger than the youth. Alan halts the guards and asks the other boy his name. The youth answers, “Simon,” and asks to be led to the lord of the castle.

Alan pauses, looking the other boy over for a long minute. Then he agrees and takes Simon in to see his father. After some interesting words pass between the two, Fulk accepts Simon as his page, learning the boy is the illegitimate son of his rival, Sir Geoffrey of Malvallet. This makes Fulk’s day, believe me – he has the illicit son of his rival for his page, and what is more, the boy chose to squire under Fulk because it would be harder to earn a place in his castle than in his own father’s entourage! Ho, ho, ho, wait until Malvallet finds out about this!

So Simon acts as Fulk’s page, moves up in rank to squire, then to captain of the castle guard, and then becomes lord of his own barony just down the road from Fulk’s estate. In between these grand events he meets his half-brother (named Geoffrey, after their father), becomes a knight, and fights under King Henry IV. But the sparks start flying when he follows Henry V to France for the Hundred Years War. Here, Simon is to lay siege to the town of Belremy, which is ruled by the Lady Margaret…

Ah, ah, ah, I am not going to say anything else about the story! Well, maybe one or two other things. Heyer’s historical accuracy appears, as always, impeccable. She renders the time and place perfectly (from what I can tell). Her characterization of all her important characters is beautiful, especially in the case of Simon. Dare I say it, but I think Simon towers over even stoic, fun, Sir Tristram Shield of The Talisman Ring!

There is just one character who does not start out particularly believable, and that is Lady Margaret. Oh, she becomes believable soon enough, but when she first enters the story there seems to be no reasonable explanation for her behavior. Although my friend and I both think that Margaret behaves as she does for the same reason that Maureen O’Hara’s character in The Quiet Man demands John Wayne’s character fight her brother, the rocky entrance of Lady Margaret into the narrative must be acknowledged.

As an interesting side note, Georgette Heyer did not allow Simon the Coldheart to be republished during her lifetime. She published it once, decided it was not good enough, and then ensured it could not be published again in her lifetime. Her son had it republished after her death, claiming that his mother was her own worst critic and that, in this one instance, he thinks her judgment was in error.

I cannot say that I disagree with him, since I loved Simon the Coldheart! If you can find a copy of it, readers, I highly recommend it to thee. Twill make good reading and twill pass the while enjoyably!

Au revoir!

The Mithril Guardian

Vote for Your Favorite ZOID!

Zoids Chaotic Century

Here we go again, readers! Today’s poll concerns the Zoids I have occasionally posted about here on my blog. Most of these “mechanical combat units” (and non-combat units) are from my favorite zoids series: Zoids Chaotic Century. However, there are zoids in this poll from other zoids TV series as well; I may prefer Chaotic Century over all the other series in terms of plot and characterization, but I like a lot of different zoids across all four series!

As stated in my previous poll posts, this poll will only be open for about a month, give or take a few days. If you like zoids as much as I do, then feel free to vote, readers!

See you on the battlefield!

The Mithril Guardian

Shield Liger Missile Launch

Vote for Your Favorite Avenger NOW!

Assemble!

WAHOOO!!!! Avengers: Age of Ultron is finally here!!!!! And, while the new blockbuster may not be as much fun as its predecessor, it is great to have it out there. FINALLY we know what happens next!! Anyone want to theorize about Captain America: Civil War now? (Hint: I think it’s possible that Hawkeye’s family is going to die, and Cap might be on the chopping block, too – though I would bet that would not be permanent. Evans is supposed to start shooting the two-part Infinity War film a few weeks after wrapping up and promoting Civil War. He can’t be in Infinity War if he’s dead!)

In honor of Age of Ultron’s release (and at the behest of a friend who loves the Avengers’ films) I have compiled a poll of Avengers you guys can vote for. The list is hardly complete; there have been hordes, multitudes, and fire-teams of Avengers members over the years! That does not look like it will be changing anytime soon, but that means I have probably left a good number of people out (some because I forgot them, others because I did not like them and felt they were not “worthy” to be Avengers).

So I am sorry if you find this poll to be a paltry list of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. If you know of a hero or heroine whom I have left out, go ahead and tell me about them (though be advised that, if I know about them but do not like them, they are unlikely to make the poll).

I have done my best in writing this poll, and even voted for my two favorite Avengers! As with the poll of Autobots, this poll for your favorite Avengers is only going to be open for about a month, tops. If you find this post a month after its publication date, odds are good it will be closed.

But what am I jabbering on about here? You came here to vote for your favorite Avenger – so go on ahead and vote!

“Avengers Assemble!”

The Mithril Guardian

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Vote for Your Favorite Autobot Today!

The Original Optimus Prime

The Original Optimus Prime

Hello, readers! Today, at the request of a friend, I have decided to put up another poll. In this poll you get to vote for your favorite Autobot (sorry, Decepticon fans, but I tend to dislike those clowns with the purple insignias).

Now not all the Autobots who were ever written about, appeared in a show, or the like, made it into this poll. That is too tall an order for me to fill! But I put down as many as I could remember (and I can remember a great many), including several Female Autobots. (If you read “Odd Girls Out,” then you know I wish we could see more of the original Autobot ladies on the newer series’ battlefields!) This poll will be open for up to a month, possibly a little more, and then I am shutting it down. Previously, I left my polls open for a week only, but when those posts began receiving more looks long after a week had passed, I decided that I would leave any new polls open for a longer period of time.

However, I WILL NOT LEAVE THESE POLLS OPEN CONSTANTLY!!! They will only be open for a month, more or less. Then they are closed down until I decide if/when to reopen them.

So, readers, make hay while the sun shines and vote for your favorite Autobot with all conceivable speed! “Autobots, roll out!”

Later,

The Mithril Guardian

Transformers Prime

Prognostications for Avengers: Age of Ultron, Part 4

Whew – was it just me, or did that last Age of Ultron trailer, which came out during the final college football game of the year, skate on the edge of being extremely depressing?

The trailer has very little to add to the speculation we impatient fans have been tossing around for, like, years. For the most part, it is a big exercise in frustration – although it does succeed in giving some of us an adrenaline rush!

I have to admit that this Age of Ultron trailer has largely left me speechless. I am not sure what I can say about it or the movie it hypes. But I have been thinking about it, and the film, a fair bit, and I do a have a few theories to put out there. So, once again, if you are a dedicated fan who wants to know what happens in Age of Ultron only when you see it in theaters (and, later, on DVD), then read no further. If you are one of those fans crawling up the walls trying to guess what is in the pipes for our favorite heroes, here are my theories for where things might go.

Speculation #1: The Avengers in this trailer all seem to be quite willing to tear each other apart. Or, at least, Thor, Tony, and Bruce are.   So far Cap, Widow, and Hawkeye are the only Avengers we have not seen mixing it up with their teammates. However, a glimpse of the middle of Age of Ultron previewed at an event sometime last year hints that Tony and Cap are not feeling too chummy with each other during Age of Ultron.

This trailer shows us old footage of Thor lifting Tony up by the throat, but adds the little tidbit that, before this happened, Thor was chastising Tony for meddling where no man should. While I cannot say that picking Tony up by the jugular was a good way to emphasize his point, the thing is that Thor nailed this one. If I were a member of the Avengers – even if I was only their janitor – and I heard that Tony was building or rebooting an AI to take over the Avengers’ job, I would have told him, “This is a very, VERY bad idea!” (Not that he would have listened to me, of course. Since when has anyone been able to tell the great Tony Stark what he should and should not do?)

The trailer, however, has A LOT of new footage of Tony and the Hulk bashing each other to pieces in the middle of a city. Some people – including me – think that the Scarlet Witch might be the cause of this battle. The reason I feel this way is because, near the end of the new sequence where Tony is battling the Hulk in his Hulkbuster suit, Big Green turns to the screen and we see that one of his eyes is swollen and kind of red. This indicates one of two things. One, Tony hit him in the eye really, really hard. Two, Wanda hexed the Hulk to go on a rampage.

Either theory could be true. But right now, we cannot say for sure. What might be said for sure is that Widow and Hawkeye appear to be the only Avengers who are not angry at a particular teammate. This may be a presumptuous conclusion, but so far they do not seem inclined to start a fight with anyone on their team as Thor, Tony, and Bruce Banner/Hulk do.

Speculation #2: Widow is most certainly getting more screen time in this trailer, and it seems she will be getting a fair amount of limelight in the upcoming film. The new trailer shows pictures of her walking into what must be a fight, carrying some very heavy artillery (for her, at least, it is heavy artillery), as well as a sequence that shows her getting thrust onto an operating table when she was younger. It would seem that we will definitely get to travel with her down memory lane for a glimpse of her dark history, a past that may be darker than even she recalls.

We also get a look at her evolving friendship with Bruce and the Hulk in this new trailer. It appears that, while she and Bruce may have started out on the wrong foot in Calcutta, they have smoothed things over by now. Judging by the fact that she is standing so close to Bruce when Ultron crashes the Avengers’ party, it looks to me like she might have become his unofficial battle partner/handler.

That does not mean they are romantically engaged. It is a possibility, of course, but something about that idea just does not add up for me. Bruce and Widow were never anything more than friends in the comics (as far as I know). Also, Betty Ross, Bruce’s first girlfriend, is still a part of the MCU to the best of my knowledge. I do not think it would be all that healthy if Bruce started to date Widow while his old girlfriend was still out there waiting for him. But I am not in charge of Marvel Studios, so what do I know?

Regardless, Widow’s friendship with Bruce and the Hulk has apparently strengthened to the point that she can calm him down. It remains to be seen whether or not she is the one who ends the Hulk/Hulkbuster battle in the city or not, but I would say the odds are pretty good that she might be the reason the Hulk cools off.

Plus, it is cute to hear her say in the trailer, “Oh, boy.” Yeah, no kidding, Widow! Everybody duck, Big Green’s coming through!

Speculation #3: Andy Serkis gets a brief, though more detailed appearance in this trailer than he did in the previous ones. When I first saw him in the earlier trailers, I could not even name him. I saw him and I thought, “Is that Strucker? No, it can’t be – this guy doesn’t look anything like him. But he looks awfully familiar. Who is he?”

Now, for you Serkis fans out there, I am sorry if this offends you. You will just have to keep in mind that I have not seen Andy Serkis playing anyone but Gollum before, and that when he has been interviewed on television, he has appeared entirely different from the character we see in the new Age of Ultron trailer. So I apologize to everybody (including Mr. Serkis) for not recognizing him immediately. If anything, his makeup artist is to be applauded for making him so unrecognizable that he can hide in an Age of Ultron trailer and a few peons will not know him.

So, now that I know this is Andy Serkis dressed up as the vibranium-obsessed Ulysses Klaw, I can at least tell where he is in it.

Speculation #4: Another scene in the new trailer that has sent the Internet into a tizzy shows an African woman in a cave taking off her coat. The scene has me totally baffled. At first, I was not even sure that the person in the shot was a woman. My first thought was, “Is that a young Black Panther? No way, it’s a woman – wait, is it?”

My next thought was, “What does this have to do with Age of Ultron anyway?” And that thought has not left my mind. The scene is a throwaway in my opinion, and it ruins the flow of the trailer, leaving this viewer with more questions than answers. Some people think the mystery woman might be part of the Black Panther’s all-woman bodyguard corps. For now, that is the only answer to the riddle, though my question still stands: What is this scene even doing in a film that shows the Avengers battling an intelligent AI called Ultron, since it appears totally unrelated to all the previous trailers’ contents?!?!? Only viewing the film will tell….rats…

Speculation #5: Near the end of the trailer, we see a shot of Thor getting lit up by lightning. Some theorize that, since the scenery around Thor is Asgardian, this might be the part of the film where he runs back to Asgard after Wanda has shown him a vision of what is to come. Some have even suggested that, since his hammer is not visible in this scene and it appears that he is not generating the lightning but is, instead, being hit with it, Thor’s powers are being taken from him. Again.

I am not sure I buy that theory. It is a possibility, to be sure, and we are still not certain that the Avengers will not be scattered hither and yon across the Marvel Universe by the end of Age of Ultron. But I think this scene is more likely a shot of Wanda messing with Thor’s mind. How else could she scare him back to Asgard in the first place but by bedeviling him with visions of his home being torn apart? But we cannot be certain what is going on in this scene until we see the movie. Sorry, guys.

Speculation #6: There is one thing that has bothered me since I found that clip showing Tony and Cap chopping wood. It is not the scene itself but its setting: The Avengers have clearly been whipped at this point in the film and are taking a breather somewhere in Middle or Suburban America. The problem I have with this scene is the house itself: Who owns it?

I have a few theories. The first is that the Avengers have shown up on some suburbanite family’s doorstep, beaten and bloody, and asked for asylum. This idea, however, has a big flaw in it. After all, if the Avengers have just had their fannies handed to them on a platter by Ultron at this point in the movie, what couple in their right minds would let the Avengers bunk down and hide in their house, possibly bringing a hoard of human-hating robots down on theirs and their children’s heads? It is possible that they might shelter the Avengers despite the risk, but I think most parents’ immediate reactions would be, “Not on your life!”

The second idea I had is that a member of the Avengers set up the house as a refuge, in case something happened and the team had to go underground. The problem with this is that I cannot see Tony selecting a house in a small-town neighborhood as a team hideout. It is inconspicuous, quiet, and simple – the exact opposite of Marvel’s cinematic Tony Stark.

Likewise, Bruce has not had a place all his own since he became the Hulk. He was on the run until Tony invited him to Stark/Avengers’ Tower to play in the lab with him. While Bruce’s fortunes may have improved because of that, I still do not see him having a house, even as a worst-case scenario hideout for the team. Cap and Widow are both more comfortable in the city; the chances of either of them having a house as a refuge for the team that is in the middle of a small town are slim to nil.

If they have to, Cap and Widow will fade away into the lesser known areas of a city or another such place. Houses in the suburbs are not things they automatically call to mind when they decide to disappear. And Thor stays wherever anyone lets him stay here on Earth; his real home is Asgard, so there is no way he has the house. I am not even sure he thinks in terms of Plan A and Plan B to Z and beyond, like the other Avengers would.

That leaves us with the one Avenger we know next to nothing about: Hawkeye. If the house behind Tony and Cap does in fact belong to him, then that could mean four different things:

One: If Marvel’s Ultimate comic book line – which the company started to get Hollywood’s attention – is as strong an influence on the MCU as I think it may be, this might be the house Hawkeye’s family lived in. In the Ultimate comics, Hawkeye was married and had three young children; he worked for S.H.I.E.L.D. and was partnered with Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent senior to him. Just after the Ultimates – this comic line’s alternate Avengers – were formed, Hawkeye’s wife and children were brutally murdered. The deaths of his family left Hawkeye suicidal and easily angered; his attitude only got worse when Widow was revealed to be the murderer of his family. He later killed her when she was in the hospital recovering from injuries sustained after she had betrayed the Ultimates.

While it seems Widow is not going to be traveling down that road in the MCU (the audience loves her too much for the writers to do that, I think/hope) this does not mean Whedon could not have found a way to retell this incident in Age of Ultron. After all, in The Avengers, we can account for Hawkeye’s whereabouts while he was under Loki’s command only twice before he arrived on the Helicarrier, where Widow snapped Loki’s control over him: the time where he learned Selvig needed iridium and the theft of said metal from Stuttgart, Germany. Besides those two incidents and the Helicarrier, we have no idea where Hawkeye was or what he was doing for the majority of the film.

And we all remember Loki threatened to have Hawkeye kill Widow “in every way he knows [she fears]” during The Avengers. I do not think Loki would be above having Hawkeye lead him to his family’s house so that he could kill his family while Hawkeye stood by and watched. Knowing that worm, we could also surmise Loki would think it was a lot of fun to just stand back and have Hawkeye murder his family himself, as Lorelei had a man shoot his own wife on her orders in the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Also, a photo has been posted on marvel.com that shows Tony, Thor, and Cap all standing on the porch of what appears to be the same house where Cap and Tony went out to chop wood. Their expressions each border on horrified. They could be listening to anyone, but there is an outside chance they are listening to Hawkeye tell his gruesome story.

This is one theory I really hope does not pan out, readers. I am not sure Disney would let such a story into one of their movies, but Whedon could very well have written this whole scenario into Age of Ultron. I hope he did not, but the thing is that it is a possibility I have been considering for some time now, and it deserves a mention.

Two: The other theory is that this is Hawkeye’s house, but his family is still alive and using the place. I do not know how likely this theory is – Hawkeye only had a family in the Ultimate comic line; other alternate versions of the character occasionally have him married to his “mainstream” ex-wife Mockingbird, and occasionally he has a son named Francis. (Hawkeye’s full name is Clinton Francis Barton, so that’s where his son gets his name.) Some versions of the character have a daughter instead, but I will not go into those; they are too confusing and ugly.

If this theory is the true one – and I have to say I like it better than my first idea – then it would explain why there are so many people on the porch behind Cap and Tony while the two are out chopping wood.

Three: Another option with regard to the house possibly belonging to Hawkeye is that it might be his childhood home. This would tie in with the original comics pretty well; “mainstream” Hawkeye grew up in rural/suburban Iowa. His father was not the greatest, being prone to drinking and abusive to Hawkeye, his mother, and his older brother. If the house is Hawkeye’s childhood home, then that explains how he would own it and why he would bring the Avengers there. Why on earth would he go back to such a place except in the worst of circumstances? If the team just got kicked in the teeth, there would be no better place to hide them then in the very home Hawkeye tried to forget.

Four: The house may be Hawkeye’s childhood home, but he may not be the one who owns it. Remember that brother I mentioned a moment ago? I do not know if Charles Bernard “Barney” Barton was ever in the Ultimate comics, but he is a feature of Marvel’s “mainstream” comics. In the “mainstream” comics, he and Hawkeye had a falling out years ago, then seemingly reconciled just before Barney was killed.

However, Barney survived the incident and was kept on ice by the very same villain who was supposed to have killed him. Ten or twenty years ago, the writers for the “mainstream” comics brought Barney back, this time as a direct antagonist for Hawkeye, though the two have again seemingly buried the hatchet. (Yeah, sure. I still do not buy the easy solution to that feud. Marvel enjoys complicated reconciliations too much these days to let things go that quietly.)

If Whedon decided to play around with this story instead of the Ultimate comics’ story (not likely, but possible) then it could be that Barney lives in the house with his own family. Whedon might have written it so that Barney is the one with a family and Hawkeye is not; he could easily have written the story so that the two brothers do not see eye-to-eye, while leaving Barney still willing to take the Avengers in for a short period of time.

Of course, all these theories could be completely and totally wrong. In that case, I can honestly say that I think I would be largely relieved; some of these theories are things I would be happy to have not come true, readers.

Speculation #7: Two other possible explanations as to who owns the house where Cap and Tony go out to chop wood are these: the house is a former S.H.I.E.L.D. safe house Fury tells the team about, or Maria Hill purchased the place on the off-chance that the Avengers might someday need an inconspicuous hidey-hole to assemble where they could lick their wounds in peace.

Either of these theories seems more plausible than the ones I detailed above. We have no idea what Fury shows up to tell the Avengers; it could very well be that he wants to give them a list of S.H.I.E.L.D. safe places to hide, as he did in the “mainstream” comics’ Civil War story arc (which will be, apparently, the premise for 2016’s Captain America: Civil War).

Maria Hill may work for Tony now, but there is no way in heck that she would abandon her S.H.I.E.L.D. training. I think she would probably rather stop breathing than being a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, at heart if not in fact. It would make perfect sense to her to buy a place where the Avengers could lay low until they were ready to enter the public eye again.

A third option in this direction is that the house belongs to Erik Selvig. This seems unlikely, but it is possible, I think. Still, we cannot know anything for sure until we see the movie later this year.

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Wow…. That was some serious speculating, readers. Some of it probably counts more as mere hype and questions rather than conjecture, but this Age of Ultron trailer did not have enough new material for me to write a lot about. I had better sign off now, before my fingers fall off with exhaustion.

Later,

The Mithril Guardian

Prognostications for Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, Part 3

Wow, the rumors just keep coming, readers! They are flying so hard and fast I can barely keep up with ‘em.

Nevertheless, I thought I would venture some of my own theories on Marvel’s upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron. As you may have noticed, like Marvel’s master archer, I have very little problem offering my opinion on something. I see no reason to stop now.

If you are a sensible Marvel fan and you do not want to hear any speculation about Age of Ultron, stop reading here. If you are finding this extended wait for The Avengers’ sequel as trying as I am, then read on!

  1. Loki and Heimdall will make an appearance in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Idris Elba let this little fun fact slip out in an interview at some point not too long ago, sending the rumor mill into Warp Factor 5. Whedon promised to give him at least a slight scolding for the “slip,” if slip it was. Most speculators say that Wanda Maximoff will show Thor a future Asgard that gives us a glimpse of Heimdall and Loki. A clip from the middle of Age of Ultron supports the theory that whatever she shows him, Wanda genuinely scares Thor.

While I do not doubt Heimdall may show up in Thor’s vision, I am somewhat skeptical that Loki will. After all, as much trouble as Thor has had with his kid brother, we know of one Avenger who is still angry with the Prince of Lies since the events of The Avengers. In my second “Prognostications” post, I theorized that Hawkeye may be immune to Wanda’s manipulations, and I still think that is a possibility. It is certainly something I would have wanted to explore, if I had had a hand in writing Age of Ultron.

All the same, what if Wanda does beguile Hawkeye with a vision, not of his future but of his past? What if Loki’s cameo appearance is a memory Wanda forces Hawkeye to relive at some point in the movie? She could, of course, just as easily use Loki only to torment Thor, but we cannot forget who the Trickster harmed most on his last trip to Midgard. Naturally, we will not know anything for sure until May 1, 2015.

  1. Someone is going to die.

The amount of gossip going around the Internet about the possible death of an Avenger is so thick, readers, you could use it to butter toast. We have some mighty murderous Marvel fans out there, by all appearances. I cannot understand why so many people seem to be begging for an Avenger’s death. I would prefer it if they all survived, as you are well aware by now. Fiction is showcasing enough death and despair, thank you very much. How about some optimism and positivity, people?

Anyway, several theories have been advanced to explain Whedon’s nerve-wracking “Death, death, and death” statement. People are raffling off the Avengers they think should die – with most putting Hawkeye at the top of the list, never mind the fact that Renner has said he survives Age of Ultron. (As you may have surmised, Hawkeye is one of my favorite Marvel characters, so I am getting a little annoyed with everyone who is nominating him for death. BACK OFF ALREADY, YOU BLOODTHIRSY PIRAHNAS!!!)

Others suggest that Ultron will wipe out an entire fictional Eastern European country (which he apparently did in the comics of years’ past), thus fulfilling the “death” quota these fans seem to be hoping for. Still others theorize that Whedon’s hint “Death will play a part” in Age of Ultron refers to “Mistress Death” – the female form of Death itself. Thanos has been trying to court her for years and, so far as I know, he has still come up empty on that front.

These are all possible answers to Whedon’s “death” hints. My own theory on what Whedon meant when he said that “Death will play a part” in Age of Ultron is that Ultron is afraid to die.

Think about it a moment. Ultron is artificial; he is a machine. He has no humanity – whatever humanity Tony tried to give him, it did not translate properly. He is unnatural in the same way Doctor Frankenstein’s monster is inhuman. Frankenstein’s monster knew he was not human; he did not come into the world as a human being, with his own soul, his own personality. He was a desperate man’s cooked-up lab experiment. (Boy, is Tony’s statement that Cap is a “laboratory experiment” going to come back to bite him hard.) What will happen to Ultron if he is destroyed?

He will cease to exist. Period. That is a terrifying thought, is it not? And for something unnatural like Ultron, it would probably scare him straight out of his circuits if he thought about it too much. The Avengers – they are not afraid to die. Not even Black Widow or the Maximoff twins are afraid of death. Do they want to die? Heck no. But if the price of preserving another’s life – or the life of the whole human race – is their death, then they will sacrifice their lives to protect others.

Ultron is not going to do that. His own survival will be his number one goal in the film. He is not going to sacrifice himself to preserve anyone else’s life – if he were willing to do that, then he would not have turned on the Avengers in the first place. He is too egocentric and self-centered to think of anyone but himself. In contrast, the Avengers are selfless. Even Tony will allow himself to be killed if it means saving lives. He was willing to fight to the death against the Chitauri in the first film. Why wouldn’t he still be ready to die in defense of others in Age of Ultron?

And yes, I know he might just get that chance. We will see what happens.

  1. Vision will join the team.

This is practically a given. The only thing to guess at is how Vision will join the team. If I had to make a suggestion, I would surmise that it will be the Avengers’ willingness to fight an apparently hopeless battle, their readiness to sacrifice themselves for each other or for others, which will be the factor that convinces him to abandon Ultron.

I could be wrong, of course. If Vision is based on JARVIS, and JARVIS is based on the personality of Tony’s father’s butler – Edwin Jarvis – then maybe Tony will be able to talk him into turning on Ultron. We will have to wait and see.

  1. Black Widow’s dark past will be showcased in the film.

This has been known almost since day one. My only thought on this is that Wanda may be the one forcing Natasha to relive her dark history. I would not be surprised if, at some point early in the film (or in the middle of it), the Black Widow and the Scarlet Witch went toe-to-toe. The two are fighting women. Pitting them against each other – that is a catfight screaming to be written. I doubt it would be a fair fight but, oh, readers, it would be a fight!

The rest of what I have to say relates to jumbled scenes from the trailer(s) which caught my attention:

Scene #1: Pietro is at one point seen racing through a train car in slow motion. If you pause the video while watching it on a big screen, you will notice that Cap is sitting in the train car, and that Pietro is pushing someone – or something – out the door of the car. Either that, or he is throwing whoever or whatever it is out a hole someone has punched in the side of the train.

It is impossible to tell what part of the film this scene comes from. It could be early on, when the twins are initially enemies of the Avengers. Or it could be after they have decided to join the team. I suspect the latter because, from my perspective, it appears that Quicksilver has just zoomed through the train car to save Cap’s life. I think what he is throwing off the train is an Ultroid (a droid under Ultron’s control). I could be wrong, of course, but this is what I think is going on in this scene.

Scene #2: The ballet lesson seen near the end of the trailers looks to be a flashback. It might not be, but if it is, I suspect it is related to Natasha. In the “mainstream” Marvel Comics, it was revealed that Natasha received extensive memory alterations from the Red Room operators during her time in service to the U.S.S.R. One of the false memories they gave her was that she had been trained to be a ballerina. This was a lie; she was only ever taught the arts of assassination and espionage – though she is graceful and poised enough that she could be a ballerina, if she so desired. So this scene could be a memory she recalls – or is forced to recall – at some point in the film.

Scene #3: At one point in the trailers for Age of Ultron, we see a scene depicting cargo ships beached on what appears to be a sea floor. It looks like the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea, or the Caspian Sea to me, but it could easily be the floor of any one of the earth’s oceans.

What does this scene mean? Anything is possible, but check out the following video and transcript before you read my theory.

 

Stark: Thor didn’t say where he was going for answers?

Rogers: Sometimes my teammates don’t tell me things. I was kind of hoping Thor would be the exception.

Stark: Yeah, give him time. We don’t know what the Maximoff kid showed him.
(This would be a reference to Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch, who is able to reveal the future, look into the past, and reveal alternate realities.)

Rogers: I don’t know what she showed you. I just know it made you do something stupid. (Shakes his head.) “Earth’s mightiest heroes …” They pulled us apart like cotton candy.

Stark: Seems like you walked away all right.

Rogers: (Straightening.) That a problem?

Stark: I don’t trust a guy without a dark side. Call me old-fashioned.

Rogers: Well, let’s just say you haven’t seen it yet.

Stark: Banner and I were doing research …

Rogers: That would affect the team.

Stark: That would end the team. Isn’t that why we fight, so we can end the fight, so we get to go home?

Rogers: (pulls a log apart barehanded before speaking) Every time someone tries to win a war before it starts, innocent people die. Every time. – Courtesy of several moviepilot.com articles.

 

What if the scene with the grounded cargo ships is part of whatever vision Wanda uses to antagonize Tony? Perhaps she shows him a world where he loses his company, or a world destroyed by the Avengers? This last theory would explain why Tony built the Hulkbuster armor, and why he and Banner were doing research that would “end the team.” The Avengers are so powerful that plenty of people are afraid they will go nuts and destroy the world. Wouldn’t Tony come up with plans to stop and destroy his fellow Avengers if they ever “lost it”?

This is certainly a story angle Whedon could – and may be inclined to – play around with. It would also tie in to the future Captain America: Civil War film planned for 2016. But once again, this is all pure conjecture. We will know nothing until May 2015.

Scene #4: The 1940’s clip showing Cap and Peggy Carter walking into a ballroom is thought by many to be a flashback. It may be, but it might also be a scenario Wanda tries to use against Cap. After all, he “still owes his girl a dance,” does he not?

Elizabeth Olsen has reported that Wanda can see into the future, the past, and alternate universes/realities. What if this scene of Cap and Peggy in a ballroom is a vision of an alternate future, where Cap did not end up on ice for seventy years but still saved the world and got to marry Peggy in the bargain? This theory would explain, to me, why Cap was able to “walk away all right” from whatever it is Wanda shows him.

We know Wanda can do many things, but if in the Cinematic Marvel Universe she can alter time, that has not been stated. Since she cannot send Cap back to do things differently, he would doubtless recognize that the vision she showed him of Peggy and himself dancing was nothing more than smoke and mirrors. He would accept that the vision might have been but he would know it was not real and could never be real. He would simply recognize it and go on. If this is what happens, then Wanda does not show Cap his “dark side,” she merely tries to paralyze him with regret.

Not gonna work, honey.  Not gonna work at all.

Scene #5: Now, about Cap’s “dark side.” I will admit that this whole scene has irritated me – Cap does NOT have a dark side! He is perfect, just like Galahad and Aragorn before him.

But Cap does have a temper. As someone I know explained to me, Banner has stated that he is “always angry.” Who says Cap is not skating on the edge of being “always angry”? Every battle the Avengers fight, they are fighting against someone or something that is pure evil. Would not a totally good person be furious at the atrocities committed by someone or something totally evil? We have seen Cap lose his temper with the Red Skull, Arnim Zola (in computer form), Loki, and, to a lesser extent, with Black Widow, Nick Fury, and the Winter Soldier.

But Tony has never seen Cap in a rage. What if the “dark side” Tony has not “seen yet” is a truly enraged Captain America?

I don’t know about you, readers, but I would be more afraid of an irate Captain America than I would be of an angry Hulk, no matter how incensed Big Green became!

Scene #6: Initially it was reported that, when Ultron makes his first, primitive entrance in robot form during the Avengers’ party, everyone in the room was “weaponless.” Well, anyone with a cork eye knew Thor had his hammer on him; otherwise the team could not attempt to lift it, as depicted in the trailer previewed at the San Diego Comic Con.

However, the newer trailer showed a brief scene where Maria Hill is cocking a gun she has brought with her to the party. It is gratifying to know that she is not so brainless as to attend an Avengers’ shindig without a weapon. Since she came to the party prepared, I suspect that Hawkeye and Natasha also have weapons stashed on their persons. What they will be armed with I cannot say, but anyone who makes enemies on a regular basis should never go anywhere unarmed.

I would guess Hawkeye also has a gun on him, as well as at least one knife. If you read my post “Hawk’s Strike,” then you know that Hawkeye can use practically anything he can get his hands on as a weapon. Watching him fight a bunch of Ultroids without his bow and arrows should be fun. And I would be willing to bet that he will not miss one Ultroid in this fight, or any of the following ones, as he managed not to shoot Maria Hill in The Avengers. (See “Hawk’s Strike” for more on that.)

Natasha’s hand-to-hand combat tactics may not be very effective against Stark-built Ultroids. If she has not got a gun on her, she will probably have at least a knife within easy reach. She had one in New York; I do not see why she would not be wearing one to the party. Like her old SHIELD partner, she would also be able to use nearby objects as weapons. Perhaps she would do it with less speed, but you get the idea.

Cap may also have brought a weapon to the party. If he did not, though, I do not see him having much of a problem battling the Ultroids. He ripped a log apart without trouble in the above clip – who says he cannot decapitate an Ultroid barehanded?

For Rhodey and Tony, things are going to be a little squeakier. Rhodey has not got his armor within reach, and he cannot summon it. Tony can summon his armor, but Ultron could easily block or override his signal, leaving him unarmored in the face of the onrushing Ultroids. Since Rhodey’s a zoomie (zoomie is the generic nickname given to a member of the U.S Air Force) he may have thought to take a gun with him to the party. But he just as easily could have left it home, thinking nothing bad would happen at Avengers’ Tower.

Claudia Kim’s character – whoever she is – looks as though she is going to be a weak spot for the team. Unless Kim’s unnamed character has some hidden talents no one is yet aware of, the Avengers are going to have to protect her throughout this first battle.

And while Banner could certainly Hulk-out and clean Ultron’s clock, something tells me he does not want to wreck Avengers’ Tower.  This might be the one battle in the entire movie which he sits out – as the Hulk, at least.  He could always use a fork to fight with, if push came to shove.

Maybe.  We will have to wait and see.

Well, there you have it, readers. These are some of my new theories for Age of Ultron. Whether they are right or wrong we cannot yet know, but it has been fun to share them with you. If you have your own ideas on what may happen in the film, feel free to mention them to me in a comment below. This is one conversation I could carry on until the cows come home!

Until next time!

The Mithril Guardian