The first message he receives is static, and Tony doesn't even realize it's a message at all until much later.
He's testing thrusters, spiraling up into the atmosphere when they fail—just for a moment—and he falls like a lead weight with a burst of static so loud he thinks his ears could bleed. “Shit!”
It only lasts six point two seconds, hardly enough time to yell, and then his hands fire up again and he evens out. His eyes roll across his screens, watching the suit's levels without any answer as to what just happened. “Jarvis, what the hell was that?”
“Scans indicate a incoming signal disrupted the thruster paths causing an electrical surge...”
- - -
The second message is gibberish. Or at least he thinks it is. Tony is in his workroom—not working, not really, but running through projects. He flicks through files with only half his attention and drops them into folders. This one is fun, that one is boring, another makes him wonder how many drinks he had when he thought of it. There's a glass of melting ice and brandy to his right and a pile of forgotten paperwork next to the garbage.
Then there’s a pop, like the sound of wires sizzling or a radio turning on and then, “...that's the worst. Let's name him ...” It's a guy’s voice. It's a bit hushed, choked—and very real.
And it comes from Dummy, the robotic arm that can't seem to stop spraying him with its built-in fire-extinguisher and shouldn't have a voice.
Tony swings around and eyes the machine. Dummy’s fingers open and close under the scrutiny as the seconds tick by. Quiet. Quiet. Quiet.
“I hear you.” The voice, this time, is female—high and cracking. Like a reaching gasp. It comes from the right of Dummy. He swings to catch which machine is offending this time--but there's nothing there. Lights blink on idling systems. An internal fan whirls quietly.
“I love you so much.”
Behind him, the male voice again.
“I love you—”
The explosion is a defining silence. Tony doesn’t know what the crack pop of all his systems at once meant until later. It’s not until later that Tony hears a hiss and the machine he was using to display his work docket starts smoking. A fire alarm screams and he’s covered with compressed carbon dioxide.
- - -
The Æsir have a word for black holes. They call them lófi, meaning the hollow of the hand. It's a hole in the universe that curls like water cupped between fingers. Everything swirls towards the middle until it fills up and spills over.
When Loki falls from the Bifrost like thread through a needle--hitting space and missing worlds. The roots of Yggdrasil comb through his skin and drag him through the stars. When he falls, he falls inward and he surrenders.
Space is cold and brittle against his skin and neither the roots nor branches of the Tree come to cradle him as he descends. The hotcold roots tear the air from his lungs leaving them burning. He chokes. Wonders momentarily dizzy with adrenalin of struggle and the give-take of loss: who am I now?
The world moves in cycles. As he floats, spins, falls, he watches the universes and hours move together like gears--hooked and fashioned in steel. They click in the silence of the hot white stars and move together, overlapping. The past being the future and the future being the past.
Sometimes, Loki snags. The roots slow him, drag into his bones and leave him to hang. Then he thinks of history lessons and the Ginnungagap from before the world began. He hangs, delirious, in the dawning void between the icy Niflheim and burning Muspelheim. His bones stretch, his blood boils and freezes in turns, and he relinquishes himself to the yawning void between the worlds that no longer exists.
Sometimes, he clings to the edge of Ragnarok and the end of everything it brings with it. The beginning and ending are one and the same and he knows:
Ragnarok has happened. Ragnarok will happen again. Ragnarok is happening now.
Ragnarok is always happening.
Loki lands bruised, his back crushed flat against metal flooring. He stares up at gleaming silver stairs and feels the vibration of a large body wading through space. It is metal and mechanics and ungraceful Midgard technology all grown up. He has no idea how he landed there or why, but soon enough there's a Midgardian woman at his side. She is plain. She is nothing. Loki cannot remember her face even as he stares at it but her warm hands burn cold against his skin. He can’t hear her voice.
- - -
There are others there, too. They cluster around doorways, visit loved ones, bring supplies. Beings he's never seen before. How he went from space to inside a metal hull—Loki doesn't know and doesn't care.
- - -
For a week, he walks as a ghost. It’s months later, or days. He has trouble pinpointing time passing when he believes himself to be dreaming of mortals transversing the sky. Ma're, the woman who brought him to the medical station and made him sit, stay, asserts he has head trauma. He should just wait. Take it easy. Wear this shirt. Eat this food.
Loki doesn't think it's head trauma.
He's always knew, of course, that science would eventually push humans beyond their moon—but the last he saw they seemed to be little further than banging together rocks and sticks and dirt. Loki has never dreamed that space he has never seen would be mortals’ new frontier.
He has never dreamed of the beings they keep company with now—hundreds of years after his fall began. When he passes people he leaves little more than a shadow. He listens for two hearts standing next to the rigging, looks for the pale green skin and scales of another serving pasta, and smells sulfur in the gym.
It's a human's dream and reality. These fleeting vermin have excelled beyond reason. The metal rail in the engine room is cool under his fingers as he crosses the landing. The metal hums, mortals swarm here and there. He sees only base reason for it all. They remind him of ants--and he could reach out and crush them.
One at a time he could drag the air from their lungs, destroying his brother's little pets.
Instead he walks and realizes he's alone.
Weeks later, Loki is a number in a red uniform. He moves unchecked. He blends in and speaks to no one. Even in the loud of the mess hall he revels in (hating) the absolute silence. Human conversation is not the same, it holds no meaning, and so the silence tugs on him almost as much as the fall.
Here, in this strange place, there is no calling home. Thor is not waiting to grab him up, wielding Mjölnir and his ignorant forced-fondness for mortals. There is no one to see him succeed.
Or fail (because he has to fail because he is a monster. A monster. The thing hiding under children's beds. When he shuts his eyes too hard he can see blue skin and hears his brother’s childish voice: When I am king, I'll hunt the monsters down and slay them all!)
His brother is not here. This is not his brother’s Midgard. This is not his father’s space.
He learns the latter too late. He learns it because there is no peace here.
- - -
Loki throws his voice home six months after he stops falling. It is a phone call dialed collect to a payphone--something imprecise and unreliable. The first time he successfully connects his brother’s Midgard and his own nothing goes through. If anyone answers he doesn’t hear it.
Loki is not, at first, sure who he has called at all—it is not a precise magic. It requires the right time and a lot of luck that interference doesn't jumble the signal or send the wrong voices. He uses an escape pod as his base and ties his magic to the com system. Loki believes the pod will never be used. They are safe. It is quiet, save for the hundreds of mortal voices.
He is there when the ship is rocked by explosions. He is there as he listens to the crew scream. He is there when a pregnant woman is wheeled in--gasping and arguing into the com system he has rigged.
A system which has just turned on--indicating another connection.
It is this way that Loki sends the wrong voices. As he stands next to an alien woman helping a midgardian give birth in a small escape ship his spell activates and sends their final conversation over the airways and through time to the ears of someone he does not know.
Loki chokes and bites his tongue to bleeding. He stills himself, an iron husk like the ship they are leaving to be torn to pieces.
Loki is Loki liesmith and Loki truthkeeper. These are his truths to keep.
- - -
When Loki arrives on Midgard, it is nothing like he remembers. He finds an apartment and dresses it as a home made of crisp metal lines with green accents. He speaks his way into jobs and watches spaceships be birthed from red dirt and mortal hands. He watches the widow from the spaceship make speeches, her perfectly coffered hair pinned and mouth full of sorrows that will only grow worse. He thinks: you, too, are a liesmith, Winona.
He has power here, but it is not absolute. Loki could crush them and he knows it—feels it in his bones that burn with resentment and lingering loathing.
But what does it matter, he has found, if you're a God who is better than everyone—if everyone is so much dust and no one is there to see you rise up? The lie is: he is not lonely. The reality is: there is no place to strive to be better than someone if that someone does not exist.
The third time he connects to the other Midgard, twenty years have passed in a blink of an eye. It's the way of things. Twenty years on one world, two weeks on another. Twenty years is no time at all—and forever.
And Loki wants to talk to someone.
When it connects to his monitor he tries talking. “I know you can hear me.”
There is silence.
“If this is a—human you are not insane.” The curl of his voice could be guised in kindness but it sounds more grasping than that. Loki is patient with plans and schemes but he has no scheme yet. “Answer me.” Just a growing need—wide and wanting like the mouth of Fenrir. “You can hear me and you should be able to answer. So, answer me.”
There is no picture. There is no tangible evidence except for the fact that Loki is sure—so very sure that he has connected, once more, to a world connected to the one he is staying on and that certainty is enough to raise up old wants in the form of a voice that feels as though its been torn from his throat. “ANSWER ME.”
The voice that answers him is petulant, but clear, and Loki feels as though all his pent up hopeangerfear has been released in a rush. “Alright. That's it. Who the hell is this?”