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Acquiring a Frame of Reference

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Thor held up his wrist at Darcy's hissed reminder, displaying the colored plastic bracelet the gatekeeper had given him to the guardians at the doors of the vast hall, and nodded to those watchful men and women as he passed through into the crowded space beyond.

He had a difficult time deciding where first to turn his attention once inside; there was much to see within the expansive, square-walled area. The number of people packed inside, their sheer energy level and enthusiasm, the passion in the susurrus of their voices as they thronged the various booths and flocked toward stages or food providers or chatted with one another-- he was reminded of nothing so much as the throne room of Asgard on a day of celebration. The architecture was much plainer, of course, and the technology only a pale shadow of Asgard's might, but the people lifting their voices in tribute to that which they honored-- that was strangely familiar.

But unlike the throne room of Asgard, the attendees were consumers of culture, not martial subjects; and the objects of their adulation much more personal in scale-- generally speaking-- than the kings and gods they'd worshiped when last the realms were in such close contact. Thor had yet to experience much in the way of Earth's visual entertainment-- the various 'movie nights' the Avengers and his other acquired companions had tried to establish had often been interrupted by activities ranging from the disastrous to the mundane-- but he'd seen enough to recognize the garb of many of the people at this 'convention', and marvel at the sheer variety represented.

"Pretty crazy, huh?" Darcy spoke again, breaking into his distraction with a nudge to his armored sleeve. "Don't worry, we'll have plenty of time to look around. I think I want to start with the Weta Workshop booth, though, if we can find it; Ian was here yesterday, and he told me they actually brought a Dark Elf this time to go with all the usual Orcs and stone dwarves and things."

"Have you not seen enough of them for one lifetime?" Thor asked, bemused. There were certain cultural references which the Allspeak had difficulty translating, but he did not need to understand what a 'weta' was to grasp the gist of Darcy's intent.

"Well, yeah, but I wanna see how close they got to the real thing. And maybe text a selfie to Jane; I bet it'll totally make her spit out her coffee."

There was a wry curl at the corner of her mouth that implied she had some other purpose in mind as well; it was even likely that it had something to do with her insistence on his presence at her side rather than the aforementioned Ian, or one of the 'jackbooted thugs' of SHIELD. But with Lady Jane and Erik Selvig currently elsewhere on scientific purposes and the Avengers scattered about their own individual pursuits for a time, he had little else to do-- and regardless of what next occurred, it was certain to at least be entertaining.

"Very well, then; lead the way," he agreed, inclining his head and sweeping an arm before him in acknowledgement.

The courtly gesture earned him a pleased chuckle; however, it also caught the attention of one of the other attendees flocking around them. "Wow, great costume. Amazing attention to detail!" a stranger exclaimed-- and Thor tensed at the alarming sight of Loki in full armor.

But the resemblance lessened after a surprised blink, and he relaxed, loosening his grip on Mjölnir. The gate guardians had symbolically secured his hammer with something Darcy had told him was called a 'zip-tie', but that would not have provided any serious resistance had the intruder turned out to be Loki in truth. But that was not necessary; he had not somehow managed to miss a threat of that magnitude. The young woman inside the armor looked nothing like his sibling, even in the female form Loki at times adopted, and her voice was dissimilar as well. In addition, the armor itself, while finely crafted for a product of Earth, was clearly not of Asgardian make, nor sturdy enough to serve its intended purpose; it was a false mask, nothing more.

...And she clearly assumed his was, as well. "Ah, thank you? You as well," he hastily replied.

"Do you think I could get a selfie?" the young woman continued, smiling excitedly and gesturing with one of the mobile devices Midgardians were so fond of. "I'm hoping to collect all the Avengers while I'm here, and you're the best Thor I've seen by far!"

Her enthusiasm was surprisingly infectious, now that the initial startlement was past; he'd seen images before of people dressed in the Avengers' likenesses or reproducing their actions on the news programs and other media his friends monitored, but this was his first experience of such in person. Across the Nine Realms he was respected as the son of the Allfather, and on Earth he was generally ether praised for his own actions or reviled as the brother of the madman who had tried to conquer them; this type of affectionate appropriation was almost entirely new to him.

"Indeed, madam, I should hope so, as I am the original," Thor said with a teasing grin, amused at the thought that she would probably not believe him.

"And you even have the voice down! Nice!" She laughed, then turned and thrust her device toward Darcy with a pleading expression. "Would you mind?"

Darcy rolled her eyes, but accepted it, and waved a hand in Thor's direction to gesture him closer to the false Loki. "Sure, why not. As long as he's okay with it, and you let me text myself a copy...?"

By way of reply, he assumed a stern, heroic pose next to the woman, gripping Mjölnir's haft in dramatic fashion; then Darcy lifted the device toward him-- and concluded the first of many, many like encounters to follow.

By the time they reached the surprisingly lifelike statue of the Dark Elf, he had posed with two false Iron Men, three Black Widows, one Hawkeye, two Captains, two representations of Dr. Banner's alter ego-- and at least five imitations of himself, in varying degrees of resemblance. He had also encountered something called a 'bobble-head' that depicted him in squared-off miniature form, along with Loki, the other Avengers, and also Sif and the Warriors Three; he had passed walls hung with art depicting himself and his companions in poses even an actual Asgardian would find difficult to manage; and he had also discovered a large screen displaying video imagery clearly cut and reassembled from interviews he had given and battles in which he had participated, set to music he had oft heard issuing from Stark's lab.

The spectacle made Thor miss his family all over again; what mischief would Loki have made in such a place? How would his mother's mouth have curved, to see Midgardian craft once again dedicated in service to her sons, albeit in such bewilderingly whimsical fashion?

...What did Heimdall think, to look upon it now? Thor glanced up toward the ceiling, bemused; no wonder the guardian had so little minded looking upon the Earth for him after the Bifrost had been broken, if he had scenes of such diversity and notoriety to fill his gaze with every day. Did he enjoy such sights as much as Thor did? Or did he, like Odin, turn his nose up at the evidence of humanity's promise?

"Hey, you all right there, big guy?" Darcy nudged him again as they left the statues behind. "I was kinda hoping you'd get a kick out of all this, and I thought you were? But if it's upsetting you to see your brother's face everywhere--"

"No; no, I am grateful for the opportunity," Thor shook his head. What matter what Asgard thought? He'd made his choice, and did not regret it. "I was merely thinking about Asgardian culture; how little it has changed since my childhood, compared to the rush of advancement here on Midgard."

"Got nothing like this back home, huh?"

"In organized form? No; our population is smaller, our modes of entertainment very different. The only times I have worn a disguise as someone not myself were...." He let his voice trail off as he wondered if tales of that sort had showed up in Selvig's books. If so, the man had said nothing to him-- but in retrospect, Loki had had a point about the recklessness of his youthful plans.

"You can't stop there," Darcy prompted him, interest visibly piqued.

"Well, there was the time I had to dress as a bride to retrieve Mjölnir from a thieving ogre...." he began.

Darcy's eyes lit up, and she fumbled for her own mobile device. "Wait, wait, start over. Bride? I am so recording this story and posting it on Facebook!" she enthused.

Midgardians. Thor laughed, mood lightened, and began the story again.