He woke with a start to complete darkness. And complete darkness? Totally panic inducing for reasons he couldn't fathom. Thankfully it only lasted a few seconds before a pale blue light started to shine. It appeared to be coming from his chest, though the effect was subdued by the long-sleeved black shirt he was wearing.
Taking a moment to breathe in relief at the light source, he looked around, trying to take in what little he could with the pale light. At first, the darkness was absolute, but slowly the shadows gave way to a large open room with a wooden desk in the corner. There was a meticulously made bed next to it that he couldn't help but want to mess up, but those were the only two things in the room. That, and an unseen light source that he couldn't find, because there was no way he should be able to see all of that from just the light in his chest.
"Empty, huh?" he said, starting at the sound of his own voice. Was that what he sounded like? He tried to think about what he knew, which.... Wow. Really not much.
Come to think of it, he didn't even know his name. He couldn't get over the feeling that this was an improvement.
Shaking his head, he stood up slowly and walked over to the desk. The drawers were just as empty as the room, but the wood smell was comforting. Reassuring. He couldn't place it, though he felt like he should be able to. Oak? Cedar? Maple? It was annoying, but he couldn't remember what they all smelled like in comparison to this desk. For now though, he let the smell soothe some of the panic and annoyance.
He looked over at the bed, but it looked just as blank as the desk and without the smell of whatever kind of wood this was.
Ignoring the chair, he sat down next to the desk and ran his hands along the grain of the wood. It was good quality, very well made, though he couldn't tell how he knew that. And along the grain on the bottom was a hidden catch.
Surprised, he ducked under the desk to get a better look. He found the catch easily enough now that he was looking, and opened it carefully. As he slid the panel down, he was startled to see a face staring back at him. He jumped back, bumping his head against the desk.
Cursing, he looked back at the sliding panel. "Hello," he said cautiously. "Look, I know you're there and I wouldn't want to meet me either, but if you're going to - Oh." He caught sight of the man again. Except this time the man's lips were moving exactly in time with his words. He peered at himself. "Okay, so I'm pretty hot. Good to know. Thanks, mirror. That's enlightening."
He traced the goatee along his jaw line, taking in his tired brown eyes and dark hair in the pale blue light. Definitely hot. He was quite sure he'd go to bed with a face like that. Or would, if he didn't feel slightly queasy looking at himself.
"Guess I don't like myself that much. I'm learning so much about me," he groused. "And I'm sarcastic too." At that he perked up a little. "Maybe I'm not a complete loser."
Staring at his own face was disquieting though, and in the blue light coming from his chest, it was easy to imagine his face falling into the shadows and turning more sinister. Ignoring it, he lifted up his shirt to see the light more clearly.
He stared at the metal circle in his chest, then looked at it through the mirror. It was beautiful. He traced a finger around the edge of it, pressing in and noting the pressure it placed on his chest. The light dimmed under his fingers, but it didn't go out. There was a catch along the bottom that he knew would only respond to his bio-signature and maybe a couple other people? He didn't know for sure, but that felt right. He pressed the button, surprised to find that the circle came out. The light was still just as bright when he took it out of his chest... which was suddenly hurting a lot more than it should. With a gasp, he shoved the machine back in and slid the catch to cover the mirror as fear washed over him.
"Not... not doing that again. Definitely not. I... Okay, it keeps me alive. Good to know," he babbled as he leaned against the comfort of the solid wood. He stayed under the desk for a while, classifying what little he knew about himself in an attempt to calm down.
One: Pleasant voice, one that he liked listening to, so he supposed he was a bit full of himself. Two: He was a handsome S.O.B., but he didn't like the look of himself, so hey, full of himself with issues. Three: Sarcastic, which was his one redeeming feature so far. That probably said something about himself that he really didn't want to think about too closely. Four A: He had a big, invasive machine in his chest that kept away the pain, possibly keeping him alive. Four B: He was terrified of taking it out.
"At least I'm getting to know myself," he said as his heartbeat slowed to an acceptable rate. Then he frowned. " I don't want to get to know myself. Huh. Another thing to file under Issues. Actually, make that a new bullet. Five: He doesn't like himself."
He could go check out the bed, he supposed. But he was surprisingly comfortable here, surrounded by the smell of wood (whatever kind it was) and hidden by the desk. So he stayed, curled up on the ground as he rested his head against the wood. Six: He was cowardly enough to hide under a desk rather than try to discover more about himself. Yeah, he really didn't care what that said about him.
He didn't know how long he sat under the desk, hiding from the rest of the world. It may have been half an hour, or it may have been half a day. He was contemplating taking out the machine again and swallowing down his fear to study it properly. He wanted to see how deep the hole in his chest went and if he could figure out how it worked or understand what it did. Maybe then he would know why it was in his chest.
Just before he could brace himself to pull it out again, a green light caught his attention. "I know you are here," a sultry voice said. "Show yourself, mortal."
Seven: He had women with odd accents looking for him. He poked his head out from under the desk to see a woman with long blond hair and a green fire flickering in her hand. She wore a green bustier and a short skirt, with green and black boots that went to her thigh. He quickly amended number Seven: He had sexy women obsessed with green who spoke with odd accents looking for him. "Just hiding under a desk," he said by way of greeting. "Like hiding under the bed, but more spacious. More hidden catches too. Plus, it smells nice. What can I do for you, sweet pea?"
"You can start by coming out to greet your Goddess," the woman commanded. He bristled at the command, but stood up, stretching his legs and arms. They should have felt cramped and sore from curling up under the desk for so long. At least, he'd assumed they would. He didn't hurt anywhere though, and he mentally debated if that was worth becoming number Eight. More testing required.
"So, you're my goddess," he said, taking time to appreciate her curves. "I could get behind that. Literally." Eight: He likes to flirt. "'I grant I never saw a goddess go' and all that, but you apparently do tread on the ground. Or something like that."
"Anthony Edward Stark, you mortals never change," she said.
He disliked the name as soon as he heard it. So great were his feelings toward the name, that it took him a moment to realize she was addressing him. Nine: He was named Anthony Stark. Revision to Five B: He hated the name too. Subfiled under Issues.
"So that's my name?" he asked for lack of a better response. "Know anything else about me, Honey Bee?"
"I know a great many things about you," the goddess purred. She walked over to him, her hips swaying as she pressed up against him and traced his jaw. "Would you like me to tell you?"
Revision to point Eight: He likes to flirt. A lot. Probably a lot more than just flirting too. "Actually, I'd rather talk about you. Are you the Calypso to my Odysseus? Cause I don't mind being your captive for a while." He didn't stop to think where he was getting those names from, because, hello, that was a nice chest she was pressing against him.
"Business before pleasure, mortal," the woman said.
Anthony sighed and-No, wait. That was a terrible name and he hated it. He definitely wasn't going to use it. Just no-He sighed and pushed away from her. "Right. So what epic quest do you have for me? That's how these things go, right? Dragons to slay, monsters to vanquish, sex at the end..."
The woman smiled, caressing his cheek in a familiar manner that set him on edge. He couldn't put his finger on what it was exactly, but something about her was off. "You are one of my most devout followers," the woman said as she stepped back and placed a hand on her hip. It drew his attention to her hips, which was quite a nice view, edgy-feeling or not. "I am here to honor you with a quest. If you succeed, I'll let you serve me personally. It is a high honor for a Midgardian such as you."
"Oh, goody. Can't wait," he said, keeping the sarcasm out of his voice at the last second in favor of curiosity. "And what does this quest entail?"
"There is another god, the Thunderer. We were lovers once, but he scorned me and turned to a darker path." In the woman's hands, she held aloft a green cloud that reshaped to a picture of a broad-shouldered man with a beard. Not that he was envious of the beard, because his own Van Dyke was much cooler, but he approved of the facial hair. The cape was a bit much though. Unfortunately, he only noticed that after five seconds of staring at some fantastic biceps. Damn.
"He has since fallen in with a wicked crowd that wishes to subjugate all of Midgard," she continued. "You must defeat him and kill his allies. Once he is defeated, I can clear his mind of the evil influence that has taken hold of him and return him to the gentle lover he was."
That probably meant thank-you sex was off the table for him. Ah, well. The woman apparently wasn't finished with her exposition though. "His allies are-"
He reached out, sending the picture spiraling out of control as it faded to mist. He didn't feel anything as his hand passed through it. There was no heat or moisture from the cloud. Huh.
The goddess was furious though. Oops.
"You would do well to-" she snapped.
"Sorry, but I don't think so," he said. He smiled, the expression sitting oddly on his face as though it were practiced. Ten: His smiles weren't very genuine. "You're going to have to find someone else to tell your sob story to, which, by the way, sounds completely bogus. You might want to work on motive more."
"You dare turn down my offer?" she asked, fury coursing through her body as her hands tightened to fists. "I am your Goddess, Amora the Enchantress. You will obey my commands!"
"Yeah, that doesn't sound like me. Does that sound like me?" He paused for a moment, considering. Eleven: Does not follow orders. "Nope, sorry. Commands and I don't mix. And you are definitely hot, but I don't think you're a goddess. At least not mine. Twelve: No major faith. Well, that's interesting."
"You will regret scorning my help, mortal!"
"Really? 'Cause I'm not regretting it right now," he said, adding low self-preservation instincts as Thirteen. Pissing her off was probably not the brightest thing he's ever done. "Okay, the lack of sex I'll be getting is a downer, I regret that. But turning you down? Not so much."
She visibly reigned in her temper, her body language sliding back into seductive. She touched the arc reactor and he jumped back at the shock, glaring at her. "What did you do?"
"We'll see how you feel after you've been through this place. Find me again on the other side of the Shadows before the end of two days. If you do not, your life will be forfeit."
"You really don't like not getting-" The green cloud returned, quickly forming a ring over her head and moving down. She disappeared as the ring went down. "-your way. Probably better ways I could have started my existence with than pissing off a goddess. I hate magic. Oh, Fourteen!"
Two days. He touched the reactor to make sure it was safe, then glanced at the door 'the Enchantress' had come through. He hadn't seen it earlier, but he'd also been far more focused on the desk. He touched the doorknob and felt a chill run down his spine. Pulling his hand back as if he'd been shocked, he half expected it to come alive and start talking to him. "Do doorknobs talk? Or was it door knockers?" he muttered, backing away from the door.
"Two options then," he said. "Explore, or fall back on number Six." Two days to get there, that's what Amora said. On the other side of the Shadows... "Yeah, hiding under the desk still sounds good."
The bed also looked comforting, but the desk had more room to hide. Hiding from himself, the world, Amora... He was hardly going to die just sitting here, right?
He went through the drawers again, surprised this time to find a few wires, a pocket watch, a cell phone with a full battery but no signal or contacts, a screwdriver, a sleek tablet with nothing more than a grey background, and a few odds and ends that he could conceivably pull apart and make something out of. He gathered all of his findings together and sat under the desk. Using the light from his chest, he started to take them apart, though he wasn't entirely sure why. His hands moved as if they had a life of their own, rearranging the battery and pieces to a configuration that looked right. A taser. Had he been threatened by one in the past? It felt like it, but for some reason the machine in his hands felt comforting, even if a bit of sorrow tinted the feeling. Absently, he noted, "Fifteen: Working with electronics is soothing."
He half expected someone to come and find him under the desk, though he couldn't have said whom. Not goddess-girl, but someone warm. Someone he trusted.
He laughed at that thought, because Sixteen: He didn't trust anyone. Especially not himself.
While he was expecting someone to show up, he wasn't expecting that a man would come crashing through the wall closely followed by a giant serpent with four heads. Really, you'd have to be psychic to predict - Wait. He really didn't have time to ramble in his head when there was an angry giant serpent with legs running around.
He looked down at the pile of parts in his hands and concluded that it wasn't ready yet. A sharp cry from the man told him that he didn't have time to finish it. He grabbed the main section of the taser, leaving the batteries. Then he poked his head out to see a red, white, and blue rounded blur cutting through one of the long necks on the serpent. A few seconds later, two heads replaced it. Hydra, his mind supplied, though he couldn't have said how he knew that when he hadn't even known his own name. Fucking Hydra.
No fire to cauterize the necks, but hopefully an electric charge would kill the whole thing. But no time to strip the batteries...
It took him less than three seconds to consider the alternative power source before coming to the conclusion that number Four was over ruled by lucky number Thirteen's low self-preservation. He took out the metal object in his chest and connected it to the device he'd made. Ignoring the pain, he ran forward as a loud clatter rang through the room. The overgrown lizard was focused on the man slumping against the wall, so all he had to do was get close enough to the creature's heart.
In retrospect, he really should have paid more attention to the tail. A casual sweep of it knocked him flat on the ground. The pounding in his chest was growing increasingly more erratic as he tried to sit up. It hurt.
He didn't think he could get up again, but he had to... So much for getting close to its heart. Giving that plan up, he ignored the pain in his chest and waited for the tail to brush by him again. Then he connected the power source from his chest to the mini-taser he'd built and touched it to the Hydra's tail.
The last thing he heard before he was knocked out against the wall was its screams.