Chapter 1: Arrival
“Sir, surely you could ask someone else?”
Agent Phillip Coulson was beyond exhausted. Between insufficient intel, poor communication with local authorities and two of his best operatives lying in the I.C.U., it was safe to say that he was having a bad day. Now he was pacing the small observation room in the S.H.I.E.L.D. training facility, watching a sixteen-year-old girl take on a trainer three times her size.
"I wasn't asking." Nick Fury replied flatly. He kept his focus ahead as he handed Coulson a thick file with the girl's picture on it. Coulson accepted it begrudgingly and flipped it open. He quickly skimmed through the first few paragraphs, mostly preliminary medical records, a fake birth certificate, and notes on her possible parentage that he dismissed. The rest of the file seemed to be incident reports, ranging from old police reports to the most recent surveillance memos, and there were a lot of them.
“All this for her?” It was more of a rhetorical question, but Fury gave him a pointed look anyway. “I mean, it just seems … she’s so young.”
“Never judge a book by its cover Coulson,” Fury sighed as he returned his attention to the window, “I learned that one the hard way.”
If Coulson saw the way Fury's hand reflexively went to his left eye before he corrected it to lean against the bulletproof glass, he didn't say anything. He instead focused his attention on the girl, who was now flanked by two new trainers. She was holding her own, but he knew both of them personally and had the scar tissue to prove it. They watched her for a while in silence, long enough for the girl to bust Brenner’s lip and receive a swift gut kick as payback.
“Thoughts?” Fury prompted after a few minutes.
"Kowalski and Brenner are holding back," Coulson replied coolly, as he witnessed the girl fall to the mats again, "they know what she can do."
“And you would do what exactly?” Fury asked without taking his gaze from the glass.
"If she can replicate what happened in Jackson?" He mused as she got back up with renewed energy and socked Kowalski in the jaw. "I'd want to see what her limits are, Sir."
“And that’s why it had to be you,” Fury hummed in agreement before pressing a button on the left of the glass. “You think like me.”
A metallic scraping sound was the only indication that the button worked. Coulson began to wonder if he'd imagined it before a volley of thin projectiles rocketed towards the three figures. The two trainers were quick to pivot out of the way, but the girl just threw her arms up to block her face. Coulson was sure they would skewer the girl until a solid wall of steel emerged from the floor in front of her. The projectiles bounced harmlessly off of the solid wall, each landing with a dull thud onto the mats.
The girl was fine, well unharmed may have been a better word. Her breathing was becoming erratic as the wall slowly lowered and melded seamlessly back into place. Now that he'd seen her in action, the other trainers' restraint made more sense. Coulson couldn't help but grin as he watched Kowalski take a reflexive step back into Brenner, who had gone dangerously pale.
“Well…” Fury sighed as he turned and made his way to the door, “I’d say that’s a start.”
Coulson was left alone with his thoughts as he returned his attention to the glass. The trainers had left the room, and the girl had gone to her knees on the mats. If it had been anyone else, they would’ve walked away right then. But Phillip J. Coulson wasn’t just anyone. So, he squared his shoulders and pressed another button on the wall panel. A small portion of the wall to his right opened, revealing the training room floor. He walked over to the girl in silence, partially out of caution but also curious to see how she would react. When she didn’t look up, he bent at the knees until they were eye level.
"What's your name, kid?" He asked evenly.
“You’ve got my file, should be in there somewhere.” She replied in a lilting southern accent; it carried a sharp bite that Coulson couldn't help but admire given her current circumstances.
"True, but I prefer the human approach when it comes to my people." She balked at his statement and finally raised her head to meet his searching gaze.
"I sent two of your 'People' to the hospital," She replied shakily, as she slowly stood to her full height, "and now that I've passed your tests you think that makes us pals? They've sent you in here to give me the company sales pitch. Well whatever you and your friends upstairs are sellin, I ain’t buyin it.”
He copied her movement slowly and took a moment to analyze her up close. He could see why some had dismissed her as just another angry teenager. She was all of five feet tall with an athletic build, shoulder-length sandy blonde hair and a heart-shaped face complete with a sprinkling of freckles on her cheeks. But Coulson saw something he liked in her pale green eyes, the same fire he'd seen in his own eyes when he was her age.
"My name is Phillip Coulson, and I am an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.," He said as he smiled and held out his hand, "and I'm not selling anything. I’ve come with a onetime offer.”
“Sure Phil,” She sighed as she took a step back to size him up, “some guy shows up at your door in a pressed suit? Whether its religion or a vacuum, he’s sellin somethin. So, I've passed all your tests. They sent you in here to talk, so let's cut the bullshit and get serious. I'm not joining the army, and I'm not submitting to government testing. And if you try to force me? Let's say it won't go your way. I'll bust out of here before you can call security."
“Then why haven’t you?” He prodded as he let his hand fall back to his side. She stared blankly at him before quirking an eyebrow.
“Why haven’t you escaped yet?” He repeated as he cracked open her file, he could see her flinch in his peripheral. “You’ve run from five foster homes, two shelters, and escaped police custody countless times. So, what’s stopping you now?”
"Maybe I was just biding my time." She suggested with a small shrug. "Or maybe I'm just waiting to see how far this goes before ya’ll decide I’m not worth it.”
"Well you've more than proved your worth, and that's before you factor in your unique abilities." She scoffed at the compliment and looked away.
“So, if I’m worth your time, maybe I could at least hear you out. But like I said, I’m not committing to anything until I see the fine print. So, what’s your offer?”
“I'm offering you a choice. Join my team and have a say in who you become, or go back to the Police and let the system keep telling you who they think you are." With that, he offered his hand again.
She studied him for a few beats, most likely trying to read his intentions. He couldn't blame her for being overly cautious. After being ripped out of her hellish reality and drug through every mental and physical test S.H.I.E.L.D. could think of, he would be a little paranoid too. She must have found what she was searching for in his eyes because she sighed and shook her head.
“Soren ... Sorenthia Jean Smith,” She said softly as their hands met, "at least that's what's on my authentic, not forged birth certificate."
"Nice to meet you, Soren. Welcome to the family." And for the first time since they had brought her in, she smiled.
Six Years Later
In the time she had known him, Soren had never seen Coulson so much as flinch when around important people. Not when meeting foreign dignitaries, not when being dressed down by Director Fury, not even that time they had to shadow Tony Stark for a week. So, she was finding it very difficult to hide her massive grin as she watched her mentor fumble over his words like a teenager with a crush.
"May I say again how honored I was to meet you, Sir, uh … Captain." Coulson professed as he and another man exited the small aircraft that had just touched down on the Helicarrier.
The other man wasn't in a uniform, his brown leather jacket and plaid shirt made for an unusual sight compared to the uniformed soldiers running around. He was at least a foot taller than Coulson and broader too, with thick blonde hair and a surprisingly young face for a ninety-year-old. But the way he carried himself, broad shoulders squared at attention, screamed military man.
“Oh sorry, manners. Captain America, this is Agent Smith.” Coulson said gesturing towards Soren and the now approaching Natasha. “And that will be Agent Romanoff. They’re some of the best operatives S.H.I.E.L.D. has seen in a while.”
“Thanks for talkin me up, Sir," Soren replied with a smirk as she put out her hand, "And it's nice to meet you in person, Captain Rogers. Well, officially, that is."
He took her offered hand and shook it lightly, his icy blue gaze flicking between her and Natasha before he focused on her again. They reminded her of a husky, bright and full of untapped energy but also very sad. He looked like he wanted to say something, but his thoughts were interrupted by Natasha's arrival.
"Agent Romanoff, Captain Rogers," Coulson said reverently.
"Ma'am." The Captain nodded, and Soren could feel Natasha rolling her eyes as she sidled up next to the other woman.
"Hi," she replied coolly before focusing on Coulson, "they need you on the bridge. They're starting the face trace."
He seemed a bit deflated at the interruption, but he just nodded and headed to the elevator. Soren watched him go with an odd sense of foreboding brewing in her gut. She almost went after him when Natasha nudged her with her boot. That was one of their many small cues to hang back. Something was making her nervous.
"It was quite the buzz around here, finding you in the ice." Natasha started as the trio made their way across the Helicarrier. "I thought Coulson was going to swoon."
"Play nice, Nat." Soren replied with a smirk as she pulled ahead of them and began walking backward, "At least he hasn't asked you to sign his Captain America trading cards, has he?"
“Trading cards?” The Captain repeated in disbelief.
"They're vintage; he's very proud." Natasha continued as her eyes locked onto their other special guest. An older man with a head full of dark curls and a worried expression was inspecting one of the planes ahead of them.
“Doctor Banner.” The Captain called out, surprising the man as he approached with an outstretched hand.
"Oh yeah, hi." Bruce replied sheepishly as he accepted the handshake, "They told me you'd be coming."
"Word is you can find the cube," Cap said, keeping it strictly business.
“Is that the only word on me?” Bruce asked in an exasperated tone.
“The only word I care about.” Bruce seemed taken aback for a moment before smiling grimly and turning towards a group of training soldiers.
“Must be strange for you,” He tried as he nodded to the soldiers, “all this.”
"Well, this is actually kind of familiar," Steve replied wistfully before a voice came over the P.A. system calling for the crew to lock it down.
"Gentlemen, you might want to step inside in a minute," Natasha said as she turned on her heel and made for the nearest elevator.
“It’s gonna get a little hard to breathe," Soren added when the men began looking around confused. Suddenly, the ground beneath them began to shake.
“Is this a submarine?” Steve asked as the Helicarrier began to whir to life beneath them. He seemed in awe of the prospect. Bruce, however, was another story.
“Really? They want me in a submerged pressurized metal container?” He lamented as they both slowly approached the edge. As the propulsion jets roared to life, the carrier began its slow ascent. “No, no. This is much worse.” When it seemed like the good Doctor was contemplating a swim, Soren stepped in and placed a reassuring hand on his arm.
"Let's get you inside, Doc."
Chapter 2: Chasing Shadows
Soren followed the others to the bridge, smiling to herself as the Captain openly marveled at the advanced tech around him. The Doctor, on the other hand, had been making a conscious effort to note every exit since coming aboard. Nervous didn't begin to describe the man, as he stood behind one of the many chairs at the war table.
“Let’s vanish.” Director Fury ordered from the command deck, bringing her to attention. She loved this part, hell everyone did. The very idea that you could hide something as big as the Helicarrier in plain sight was exhilarating.
Once they were fully cloaked, Soren found Coulson talking in hushed tones with Agent Sitwell. Soren never cared for him much; he reminded her of the weasel from a cartoon she’d seen as a kid. But Coulson seemed to trust him, and that was good enough for her. They were heading the face trace, importing every alias that Clint and the other agents had ever used and even a few they hadn't.
Natasha had made a beeline for the nearest computer and bent down to examine it. The screen showed an image of Clint Barton; they still hadn't found him yet. The surrounding monitors held the faces of the others; Dr. Erik Selvig, Loki, and a hand full of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents she didn't recognize. Loki had somehow controlled them, at least that's what Fury's report claimed.
Natasha had wanted to be sent after them immediately, but they used some form of magic and vanished with the Tesseract. Soren knew the connection the two assassins shared was unusual, but whenever she asked the answer had always been the same. They were just friends, but just friends don't look at each other the way they do.
"We're sweeping every wirelessly accessible camera on the planet," Coulson said suddenly, "Cellphones, laptops. If it's connected to a satellite, it's eyes and ears for us."
Soren's eyes fell on the Captain, who looked confused, and a bit horrified at Coulson's statement. She moved instinctually closer to the good Captain, Natasha seemed to think Banner was the only variable in this equation. Soren knew differently.
The first thing the Captain had done after they thawed him out was run. After Fury had calmed him down, he fell back into his old routine as much as could be expected. He found an apartment in Brooklyn, joined his old gym, even took the subway to a little cafe by the station a few times. The Captain was doing his best to seem ok, but he wasn't. And if his issues weren’t handled delicately, it could be as dangerous as letting out the Hulk.
"It's still not going to find them in time," Natasha commented from her crouched position. Her flat tone pulled Soren's attention to the screen again. The progress bar under Clint's face proved her point. They hadn't even scanned a third of the planet yet.
"You have to narrow your field," Banner said as he began taking off his jacket, "How many spectrometers do you have?"
"How many are there?" Fury asked with a pinch of sarcasm, Banner took it in stride and calmly began rolling up his sleeves.
"Call every lab you know, tell them to put the spectrometers on the roof and calibrate them for gamma rays. I'll rough out a tracking algorithm, basic cluster recognition. At least it could rule out a few places."
"Was any of that English?" Soren asked quietly.
"Thank God," The Captain chuckled behind her, "I thought I'd had a stroke for a minute there."
Soren laughed as Coulson just shook his head. The Doctor shrugged sheepishly and draped his jacket over his arm.
"Do you have somewhere I can work?" Fury nodded before turning to look between Soren and Natasha.
"Agent Romanoff," He began while still giving Soren a once over. There's no way he had heard her, right? "Can you show Doctor Banner to his laboratory please?"
As the two of them headed off, the Captain sidled up to Soren. "I think I got you into trouble."
"Darlin, I AM trouble." She half-whispered as she watched Fury make his way over to Agent Hill. "But honestly, Captain, we do try and have some fun around here now and then."
"Ok, Steve. As long as you call me Soren. Not Agent Smith, and definitely not Ma'am."
"Alright, Soren. So where are you from anyway?" He asked abruptly. She must have made a face because he was quick to add, "I mean if that's not classified or something."
"No, it's not a secret. Most people just don't bother to ask. I'm from Mississippi."
"See I would've guessed Georgia," He said with a sad smile. She had read his file, studied the man for weeks. She knew that look, He was back there, in the war. And she would have to bring him back, somehow.
"Come on, I'll show you to your quarters." She announced as she slung her arm around his and began walking them toward the elevator. "And on the way, I can tell you about the time my friend and I broke Mr. Wheeler's fence and tried to 'rescue' his cows."
A few hours later, Soren wandered back onto the bridge to find Coulson talking with Steve. The Captain had grown on her after their talk. She hadn't shared much more of her own story, but Steve more than made up for it with his own. Most she already knew from history class, or more official records she read from S.H.I.E.L.D. But he talked a lot about things that weren't in the reports. The good times, the not so good times, and the things that made it hard to sleep at night.
"I mean ... if it's not too much trouble." She heard Coulson say as she cleared her throat to make her presence known. She could see Steve's unease at being the center of attention. Part of her felt for him and wanted to rescue him, the other part was much stronger and thought it was hilarious.
"No, no, it’s fine." Steve blurted as he gave her the most convincing puppy dog eyes she'd ever seen.
"It's a vintage set, took me a couple years to collect them all." When Steve just nodded, Coulson continued, "Near mint, slight foxing on the edges but..."
"We got a hit, seventy-seven percent match." Agent Sitwell interrupted, much to Steve's relief.
"Location?" Coulson asked, now back in work mode.
"Stuttgart, Germany. Twenty-eight Konigtrasse." Sitwell read aloud, adjusting his glasses nervously, "He's not exactly hiding."
"Captain, you're up." Fury announced as agents jumped into action all around them. "Smith, you and Romanoff are going with him. He may need backup."
"Yes, Sir," Soren answered, the look he gave her said it all. She was to accompany them as support only, no showing off. She nodded in understanding and headed for the hangar.
Natasha was already there, of course, prepping the Quinjet for take-off. Soren slumped into the co-pilot's chair and began punching in the coordinates. Natasha stayed silent until the prep crew had left, leaving them to wait for Steve.
"So, what's eating you?"
"Fury grounded me," Soren replied as she stared out of the cockpit.
"What did you do this time, Ren?" Natasha prodded playfully.
"Nothin... at least not that I can recall." Natasha scoffed and adjusted her seat. After a bit of silence, she sighed and turned to look across to her fellow agent.
"He's overly cautious, understandably with everything that's going on." Natasha began, almost willing Soren to look at her, "And you know as well as I do that your abilities can escalate matters sometimes."
Soren hated when Natasha agreed with Fury, and she hated it even more when they were right. When she heard Steve board behind her, she turned to make sure the loading area was clear. And man, was she happy she'd turned around first.
Steve was a sight, brandishing his shield in one hand and his signature helmet in the other. He looked like he'd just walked out of a comic book, ready to fight Nazis and whoever else came after him. But she had to admit; his muscular frame filled out his Red, White, and Blue suit nicely. She turned back just in time to catch Natasha's reaction as well, and her wicked grin nearly sent Soren rolling. This was going to be an exciting flight.
They arrived in Germany shortly after nightfall. Steve insisted on going in alone, while the others would be his eyes in the sky. So that's where Soren found herself, slumped in her chair as they hovered over a particularly lavish building across from the Gala. The Quinjet sported similar cloaking tech as the Helicarrier, so the threat of being seen was practically impossible. Natasha was scanning the area for more hostiles, so far it was just Loki. Suddenly, people began pouring out of the building. Natasha brought the battle systems online as Soren hailed Steve over the coms.
"This guy is really putting on a show." Two explosions fired off in quick succession before Steve's voice came crackling over her earpiece.
"I'm almost there. What's his position?" Soren pressed a button, and the window in front of her zoomed in on the scene unfolding before them.
"He's standing in front of the crowd. Well one of him is, looks like he's cloned himself."
"What?" Steve yelled over the comms, "He can do that?"
"Well if we're going off Norse mythology, which we are, Loki is the God of Mischief... So maybe they are illusions?" Soren suggested in an upbeat tone.
"Great," Steve replied as he finally made his appearance at the side of the Banquet Hall. Loki was distracted for the moment; he seemed to be giving a speech of some sort. After a few moments, she noticed that the crowd had all kneeled, all save one older man.
"Cap, hurry," Natasha warned. Before Soren could ask why Loki had pointed his scepter at the man and fired some sort of blue energy at him. But instead of hitting the man, it bounced back and caught Loki in the stomach. Steve was now standing in front of the older man, his shield smoking as he made his way forward.
"You know, the last time I was in Germany and saw a man standing above everyone else, we ended up disagreeing," Steve’s voice rang out in the night.
"The Soldier," Loki spat as he used his staff to stand again, "A man out of time."
"I'm not the one who's out of time." Steve shot back as Natasha maneuvered the Quinjet into view. Soren had already begun flipping switches, switching off the cloaking and lowering the main gun.
"Loki, drop the weapon and stand down." Natasha's demanded over the Quinjet's speakers. He just smiled and sent another blast of energy straight for them. Natasha pulled hard on the controls, the attack barely missed the right wing and shooting off into the night.
The next few moments were a blur as Loki, and the Captain squared off. Soren and Natasha could do nothing but watch as the two men exchanged blow after blow. Every time it seemed Steve had the upper hand, Loki would come back with renewed strength and overpower him. Soren tried to track Loki with the guns, but Steve was always too close.
"This guy's all over the place," Natasha mumbled before an AC/DC song began blasting over the Quinjet speakers. A cocky and familiar voice came over the comms, much to the annoyance of Natasha.
"Agent Romanoff, did you miss me?" Natasha rolled her eyes as she returned her attention to the men in front of them, who were looking around confused. The scanner barely had time to register their unexpected guest before Loki was blasted backward by a repulsor beam. Tony Stark, in his infamous Iron Man suit, landed somewhat gracefully in front of Loki’s prone form.
"Make a move, Reindeer Games," Stark barked, leveling both repulsors at Loki’s chest. As Steve slowly moved to back Stark up, Loki slowly raised his hands and surrendered. "Good move."
"Mr. Stark." Steve greeted him, still a little out of breath.
The ride back was tense, to say the least. Loki sat on one side of the jet, exuding an air of indifference as he watched them all with hooded eyes. Steve had been pacing the length of the cabin since they came aboard, muttering under his breath and driving most of them crazy. And Stark, He hadn't stopped talking since he showed up. Luckily, Fury had called in for an update, effectively captured the two men's attention.
"Has he said anything?" Fury asked over the comms. Natasha looked over her shoulder before answering.
"Not a word." She murmured into her headset. Soren fidgeted in her seat, trying not to stare at the man who caused so much destruction.
"Just get him here. We're low on time." Fury ordered before signing off.
"I don't like it," Steve said after a few moments. Stark turned to him and gave him a bored look.
"What? Rock of Ages giving up so easily?"
"I don't remember it ever being that easy. This guy packs a wallop."
"Still you are pretty spry for an old fellow. What's your thing? Pilates?"
"It'd like calisthenics. You might have missed a couple of things, you know, doing time as a Capsicle." Steve stiffens a bit at that, and Soren can't help herself.
"I have to agree with the Captain on this one Stark." She began, straightening up in her chair and turning to the two men. "The guy could've blasted you outta the sky. Why didn't he?"
"I'm sorry, who are you again?" Stark snapped before really taking in her appearance. She could see the gears in his big head whirring to life, and she suddenly wished she'd stayed quiet. "Son of a bitch. Romanoff, since when does Fury let the Kid out on missions? Did Phil sign your permission slip?"
"Yuck it up, Stark." She spat, turning to hide her blush, "You know this doesn't feel right."
"Cap, did you know how young she was before letting her come out past her curfew?" Stark continued, ignoring her completely. She had to restrain herself from shooting the Billionaire. Ever since she'd met the man, he'd done his damnedest to get under her skin.
"Fury didn't tell me he was calling you in," Steve interjected, mercifully changing the subject.
"Yeah, there's a lot of things Fury doesn't tell you." Stark countered just as a bolt of lightning nearly hit the jet, causing it to shake violently.
"Talk about some rough turbulence," Soren commented as she checked the engine status.
"Where's it coming from?" Natasha asked quietly. As Soren looked back over her shoulder, she noticed Loki flinch at the next crack of thunder. Steve seemed to notice too as he turned his anger on him instead.
"What's the matter? Afraid of a little lightning?"
"I'm not overly fond of what follows," Loki replied quietly.
Another lightning strike, much stronger than the last, connected with the Quinjet causing the instruments to go haywire. Natasha starts barking out instructions just as something slams into the jet. Steve quickly grabbed his shield, while Stark simply put his helmet back on and opened the loading ramp. Before he could head outside, something flew out of the darkness and slammed him into the floor. The object returned the way it came, landing in the hands of a large, blonde man. Thor, Soren realized as he grabbed Loki by the neck and hauled him out into the storm.
"Now there's this guy," Stark grumbled as he slowly got back up.
"Another Asgardian?" Natasha yelled over the wind.
"That was Thor, Loki's brother!" Soren yelled back, sighing in relief as the navigation system, and comms slowly came back online.
"Think the guy's a friendly?" Steve asked, almost hopeful.
"It doesn't matter. If he frees Loki or kills him, the Tesseract's lost." Stark interrupted as he headed after Thor.
"Stark, we need a plan of attack!" Steve insisted.
"I have a plan. Attack." Stark quipped back as he rockets out of the jet.
"That man has a death wish," Soren mumbled as Steve starts pulling on a parachute.
"I'd sit this one out, Cap," Natasha warned, as Soren starts unbuckling her seatbelt.
"I don't see how I can." He replied, tightening the straps as he walked towards the ramp.
"Neither can I," Soren announced, making eye contact with Natasha before grabbing a parachute of her own, "I'm comin too, and if you know what's good for you, you won't argue."
To his credit, he didn't, he simply nodded and stepped off the ramp. Natasha, on the other hand, let out an exasperated sigh. "Ren, no. Fury will have my ass if I let you go out there,"
"Don't Ren me, Nat." Soren replied roughly, as she stepped towards the exit, "Besides, the big guy may recognize me and calm down."
"The last time you saw each other, you almost died," Natasha argued, a hint of actual concern in her tone.
"Yeah, but I learned a new trick thanks to that experience, And I'm just itchin to try it out."
Chapter 3: Flying Monkeys
Soren landed about twenty yards from Steve, and together they made their way towards the sound of fighting. When they crested a ridge, they saw Stark and Thor beating the shit out of each other. Soren scanned the area for Loki and found him on a small outcropping not far from their position. He hadn't tried to escape, and that unnerved her more than anything.
"So listen, I've met Thor before. Briefly, but he's a good guy. Stubborn as a mule and a bit full of himself but who isn't around here." Soren started as they made their way closer to the noise, "My point is, he can be talked down. Loki, on the other hand, doesn't seem like he's workin with a full toolset. If you can get those two to stop fighting, I'll keep an eye on Loki. Make sure he doesn't pull a disappearing act."
"And what makes you so sure you could stop him if he tried?" Steve inquired innocently. She tried not to be too insulted.
"I have a few tricks up my sleeve." She replied as she broke off and headed towards Loki. He seemed engrossed in the fight unfolding before him, but she wasn't that naive. So she made sure to make some noise as she slowly approached the trickster.
"Quite the view we have up here, wouldn't you agree, Agent Smith?" Loki asked as he turned lazily in her direction. She saw no point in getting her ass handed to her by the god, so she simply plopped down beside him and took in the view.
"They're going to kill each other," She commented quietly, wincing as Thor slammed Stark through a tree.
"We could only hope, my dear." He replied with a smile in his voice. She looked at him then, studying his features. He seemed the bookish type, pale, thin, with a smile that betrayed sadness. When she didn't speak, he cocked his head and tried again. "Don't you want to know how I knew your name?"
"You have a fellow agent of mine under your control. I would assume he told you." She said as calmly as she could, feeling the anger build inside of her at the thought of Clint.
"You assume correctly," He purred, leaning closer to her, "He did tell me the most interesting things about you."
"I'm sure he did, and some of them may even be true." He chuckled at that, leaning even closer as the fight below drug on.
"You often lie to your allies?"
"Comes with the job really. I'm sure you can relate to that, being the God of Mischief and all ... Did you actually turn yourself into a mare and birth a foal with six legs?" Loki stared at her with a horrified expression.
"What? Why would I? Who said I..."
"Just checking to see which legends are correct," She chuckled as she leaned towards him this time. "So, why haven't you tried to escape yet?"
"Why would I do that? I'd miss out on all the fun."
"Of course," She mused as she slipped her hand closer to his, "How stupid of me."
The sudden stillness of the fight below was her only warning before a powerful gust of wind blew them both backward. Soren used the distraction to grab Loki by the arm. Before he could react, she sent an electric shock pulsing through his body, strong enough to kill ten men. However, Loki was no ordinary man and simply fell unconscious. She made sure to cuff him again before looking back to see that the fight was over.
"What the hell is going on over here?" Stark bellowed as he hovered above them. Thor and Steve were below him, also looking at her with differing levels of confusion.
"Calm down Stark. I was just entertaining our guest while you neanderthals played whose hammer is bigger." She scoffed as she brushed the dirt off of her suit. "I believe it's time to go, gentlemen."
They all watched her go in confusion, only Steve seemed to be able to compose himself enough to grab Loki and begin hauling him back to the Quinjet. She tried not to look too smug as she returned to her seat, beaten and bloody men in tow.
They had rendezvoused with the Helicarrier early that morning. And after the lengthy debriefing, in which Fury berated them all for acting like children, Soren had hoped to finally get some rest. Instead, she was tasked with escorting the annoying Billionaire around. Which was why she found herself pacing an empty hallway, sighing impatiently as she waited for Stark to get cleaned up. Her frustration mounting, she pounded on the door for the third time.
"Five more minutes." He answered in a singsong voice.
Soren ran her hands through her shoulder-length, blonde hair and tried not to scream. She wanted news on Clint, she desperately needed a shower, and she wanted to wring Tony Stark's stupid neck; not necessarily in that order. When she saw Coulson round the corner, she nearly wept with relief.
"Please tell me you're here to relieve me," She began as he made his way over to her, "If I have to listen to his voice much longer, I might shoot him."
"I'm here to escort both of you to the bridge," He replied, giving her a stern look as he folded his arms, "and to find out what really happened last night."
"Exactly what I told Hill." She answered, meeting his eyes with a glare of her own.
"You were meant to go as support only, Soren." He started, going into full dad mode, "Loki is…."
"Loki is sitting in that glorified fishbowl thanks to me. Those idiots would've let him slip away because they were too busy talking with their fists."
"That's not the point, and you know it."
"I'm not sure what the point is in hiding anymore, Coulson. I can take care of myself."
Coulson's face softened, and he was about to continue when they heard the click of the door handle. Stark walked out in a dark brown suit and slacks, glancing between the two before a wide grin spread across his smug face. Soren's hand itched to slap it off of him.
"Am I interrupting a family spat?" He asked, voice dripping in sarcasm.
"Let's just go." Soren spat as she began walking towards the bridge.
The two men followed at a distance, talking amongst themselves in hushed tones. When she made it to the bridge, the others were already in deep conversation. She quietly slipped into a seat next to Natasha, throwing a wink at Thor who simply stared at her.
"Iridium," Banner said as she settled into her seat, "What did they need the Iridium for?"
"It's a stabilizing agent," Stark called from the door before whispering something to Coulson. Soren didn't meet his eyes as her Mentor made his way back to his standard post.
"Means the portal won't collapse on itself like it did at S.H.I.E.L.D." Stark continued, patting Thor on the arm as he made his way over to the command deck. "No hard feelings, Point Break. You've got a mean swing."
Soren had already heard all this on the way here and strategically decided to ignore Stark's antics until new information could be gleaned. She instead turned her attention to Natasha, who seemed equally bored.
"Heard anything?" She asked quietly. Natasha just shook her head slowly, glancing reflexively to one of the screens across the way.
"Does Loki need any particular kind of power source?" Steve asked, drawing Soren's attention back to the task at hand.
"He's got to heat the cube to a hundred twenty million Kelvin just to break through the Coulomb barrier." Banner offered as Soren and Steve shared a confused look.
"Unless Selvig has figured out how to stabilize the quantum tunneling effect." Stark countered, seemingly interested in the Doctor's presence.
"Well if he could do that he could achieve Heavy Ion Fusion at any reactor on the planet." Banner replied, looking equally as excited.
"Finally, someone who speaks English." Tony sighed as he made his way around the table.
"Is that what just happened?" Steve asked, causing Soren to snicker under her breath.
"It seems that there's two of them now," Soren commented as the two geniuses shake hands.
"Doctor Banner is only here to track the cube." Fury's voice boomed across the bridge, "I was hoping you might join him.
"Let's start with that stick of his. It may be magical, but it works an awful lot like a HYDRA weapon." Steve interjected. Fury stiffened at the mention of the old Nazi group, but simply straightened his overcoat and continued.
"I don't know about that, but it is powered by the cube. And I'd like to know how Loki used it to turn two of the sharpest men I know into his personal flying monkeys."
"Monkeys?" Thor asked, brows furrowed in deep confusion, "I do not understand."
"I do!" Steve piped up excitedly, going a bit pink at the silence that followed his outburst. "I understood that reference." Stark rolled his eyes behind him as Soren shot Steve an encouraging smile.
Pretty soon, they all went their separate ways. Stark and Banner had gone straight to the lab, Steve left to take a shower, and Natasha said she needed to clear her head. Which Soren knew meant she was going to punch something, repeatedly. That left her on the bridge with Thor, who was still rooted in the same spot she'd found him in.
"So, you seem slightly distracted." She began as he turned to face her.
"I remember you, Lady Soren."
"Just Soren is fine, you worried about something other than Loki?"
"If Loki has Erik, I worry about Jane's safety."
"Oh we took care of that," Soren said as she motioned for Coulson to come over, "You remember Agent Coulson. He can debrief you on Doctor Foster's current status."
"Of course, greetings Son of Cole." Thor boomed as he clapped Coulson on the back. Soren shot him an apologetic smile as she headed for her quarters for a much-needed nap.
"I said, do you copy?" Natasha's voice crackled over her earpiece as Soren sat up awkwardly. It seemed she'd slept longer than she thought.
"I'm here, where's the damned fire?" She asked as she tried to shake the cobwebs from her head.
"Loki means to unleash the Hulk." That got her attention as she hastily began redressing, she would kill to know who put so many zippers and straps on her uniform.
"Where is Banner now?" Soren asked as she pulled on a boot.
"In the lab, keep him there I'm on my way. Grab Thor too."
"Copy that." Soren signed off as she jogged down the hall to Thor's temporary quarters and pounded her fist on the door. The god appeared in seconds, only half-clothed from the waist down. If she hadn't been in such a hurry, she would've appreciated the view.
"Dude, put on a shirt will ya!" She yelled, trying to hide her blush, "We need to get to the lab now." Thor didn't bother shutting the door as he pulled his armor back on.
"What has happened? Did they find the Tesseract?"
"Not exactly, but we did find out why Loki let us capture him."
"My brother, always a hidden motive. What is he after?"
"It's a bit hard to explain, I'll tell you on the way. Let's go!"
They moved quickly to the elevator, Soren punched the button a few times, willing the machine to move faster. On the excruciatingly slow ride, she explained Doctor Banner's unique situation. To his credit, Thor took the whole thing in stride. Even asking some questions about Banner's condition.
When the elevator finally stopped, they quickly made their way to the lab. Natasha met them at the door, breathing heavily as they slipped into the room. They shared a look and fanned out casually, well as casual as Thor could be as he planted himself in the center of the room. Natasha sidled up to Banner on one side, while Soren positioned herself near the other exit.
The room was tense as the discussion they had interrupted escalated. Insults were thrown, and accusations flew around the room. Soren tried to focus on one conversation at a time, looking for the primary source of the fighting. Steve and Tony were chest to chest, Fury was motioning to a screen that Banner was holding, and then Thor started insulting Stark. Even Natasha began getting defensive.
But Soren couldn't focus on any of it for long, as an almost crippling hum started overpowering her senses. The back of her head began to ache as the noise grew louder until it was all she could hear. Her eyes searched the room frantically for the source until they landed on the scepter, which was currently behind Doctor Banner.
As soon as he touched it, the sound stopped, and Soren fell to her knees. She could feel bile rising in her throat, and she shook violently as Steve helped her to her feet. He quickly moved her behind him, shielding her from an unknown threat.
"Doctor Banner," Steve said calmly, drawing Soren's attention forward, "Put down the scepter."
The Doctor balked for a moment before looking down in disbelief. He opened his mouth a few times, obviously dumbfounded, before a beeping from the back of the room drew their attention.
"Sorry kids," Banner mumbled as he placed the scepter down and headed for the computer, "You don't get to see my little party trick after all."
"Has it located the Tesseract?" Thor demanded before the room erupted into more arguing. It was only a few seconds, but between the constant bickering and her fear of what had just happened to her, she snapped.
"Shut up! All of you just shut up!" She screamed, causing the room to fall silent again. Every eye in the room landed on her, finally noticing her unstable condition. Steve, being the closest, moved to help her sit down. His was the last face she saw before an explosion rocked the Helicarrier.
Chapter 4: Make It Count
Soren carefully sat up, shaking her head as she struggled to take in the chaos around her. Comms were fading in and out, she only caught bits, and pieces of the orders Fury and Hill were throwing around. It wasn't until someone grabbed her by the arm and hauled her to her feet, that everything snapped back into focus.
"Soren, are you hurt?" Coulson breathed as his eyes scanned her for visible injuries. When he found none, his shoulders relaxed slightly, "You have to help secure the bridge. Keep us in the air."
He helped her to one of the sturdier railings, but she grabbed his sleeve before he could leave. When he turned back to her, he wore a gentle smile. Every memory of the past six years flew by in a blur of emotion. When she tried to give voice to her feelings, it was barely a whisper.
"I know you can do this, Soren. Stay safe out there." He urged as he gently removed her hand. She looked on in silence as he disappeared down a flight of stairs.
Soren took a few calming breaths before squaring her shoulders and scanning the area for her superiors. Fury was calmly giving orders to Agent Hill, who in turn pointed to two agents as she moved towards the exit. Before she could get very far, the distinct sound of metal ratling to the floor caught her attention.
"Grenade!" Soren screamed just as it went off. If the bridge had been confused before, it was utter chaos now. Soldiers in S.H.I.E.L.D. gear appeared in the doorway, assault rifles trained on the room. Soren and Fury each took a side and fought the men back. The last one was advancing fast but was expertly dispatched by Hill, who was now bleeding from a head wound.
"Nice of you to join us, Agent Smith." Fury quips as reports start pouring in.
"Sir, the Hulk and Thor are in shuttle levels 2, 3, and 4." Agent Sitwell says as the other Agents take defensive positions.
"The Hulk?" Soren asks in horror as she fires her sidearm into the hallway.
"Sir, the Hulk will tear this place apart!" Hill yells over the gunfight. Fury just sighs before firing a few shots of his own.
"Get his attention." He orders as he reloads his pistol, hesitating only a second before firing at the catwalk above. Soren immediately moves her attention to the new threat and spots Barton taking cover.
"Sir, we can't just…" She begins before an arrow flies past her head, "Ok, maybe we can."
More men filed into the room, immediately opening fire on anyone too close. Soren can only watch as her fellow agents are gunned down in front of her. She popped out of cover and took down two more before another of Barton's arrows whizzed past, only this one hits the mark. An explosion rocks the bridge before new alarms start blaring around them. Suddenly, the Helicarrier begins to tilt to one side, and fast.
"Sir, we've lost all power to Engine 1," Sitwell reports as they all try and regain their footing.
"Agent Smith, I think it's high time we took off your training wheels," Fury says calmly before relaying Barton's position to Natasha.
"Sir?" Soren asks weakly, staring at him until he turns with a tight smile. "I'm not sure I can…"
"You have to. Otherwise, we all go for a swim." He states in a very straightforward manner as he presses a button on his control panel. A sudden jolt to the back of her head sends a flood of power to her system. Her eyes fall shut as all of her muscles tense at the pressure. They snap open again when Fury calls her name again.
"I've never heard you say that you can't do something Soren. Don't make today any different."
They stared at each other for a moment before she nodded and walked over to the viewing platform. The Helicarrier was losing altitude at an alarming rate. From her vantage point, she watched as two planes collided with one another, causing an explosion. She had to look past all of it, though. Instead, she focused on the horizon.
Lifting her hand to the glass, she let her mind go blank. She imagined the Helicarrier was a leaf, falling gently to the ground; then a sudden wind lifting it into the air again. Fury stood nearby in silence, alternating between watching the monitors and observing the girl in front of him.
He watched as her hair began to shift as if blown by a sudden breeze, and then the numbers that had been falling rapidly slowed to a stop. They slowly began rising, and soon, the sudden tilt gradually righted itself. Once he had confirmation that Stark was successful, he slowly approached Soren.
"You did good, Agent Smith." He commented quietly, not failing to notice the odd discoloration on the back of her neck. When she didn't answer, he moved to stand in front of her. Her eyes were glazed over, and a small trickle of blood was under her nose. He placed his hand on her shoulder, lowering her to the ground gently. When she finally blinked and focused on him again, he sighed in relief.
"Agent Hill, make sure Agent Smith is seen to. I'm headed to the detention level."
"Of course, Sir." She answered as a medical team rushed onto the bridge.
Fury, Hill, and Coulson had been the only people to know about Soren's abilities at first. Natasha and Clint found out eventually, but neither of them knew about the dampener implanted in her skull. A precaution that Fury deemed necessary for Soren to be accepted into S.H.I.E.L.D. in the first place.
Hill made sure to examine Soren herself. The two women didn't speak as Hill worked to spread a cooling gel over Soren's implant, both choosing comfortable silence over empty conversation. After a few minutes, Soren waved her off, and she went to see about the others. It was in this moment of calm that Fury's voice broke through the silence, ripping through them all like shrapnel.
"Agent Coulson is down."
"It just had to be you, didn't it?"
Soren stood in the dark belly of the Helicarrier, glaring at the blood-stained wall where her former mentor had been found. She had been here for a while now going over the events of the day. How had everything gone so wrong? Why didn't he wait for backup? She was so lost in thought that she didn't hear Steve's approach.
"I'm sorry for your loss," He offered solemnly, reaching out to place his large hand on her shoulder. "Agent Coulson seemed like a good man."
Her first reaction was to shrug it off, to yell and scream and curse him for not being there for someone who idolized him above anyone else. Instead, she took a shaky breath and turned to thank him. When she saw genuine sorrow in his eyes, she nearly broke down right there.
"Stupid… he was stupid to try and take Loki on by himself." She could feel the hot tears threatening to spill over her lashes as she returned her attention to the massive hole in the wall. "At least he got a shot off, probably pissed the psycho off to get caught off guard like that."
"It looks like he had a solid plan." Steve began as he tilted the tablet in his hand to let her take a look. "He was trying to distract him and get to the containment controls."
"Ok, so let Thor out and then what? Fall back?" Soren asked in a huff, as she took in Coulson's determined glare on the screen. "He would've stayed, made sure the job was done right. He is…was that stubborn. It was his best and most annoying quality."
"Sounds like he had a good heart," Steve commented softly, "like he wasn't about to let someone else die without doing something. He sounds like a true hero."
She turned to him now, finally letting the tears slide down her face. She stared into the eyes of a man she barely knew and found so much of herself in their icy depths. His small nod of understanding was all it took for her to crumble into his chest. He held her for a while as she let the grief overwhelm her. After a few moments, the tears stopped, and she felt composed enough to let go.
"Thanks, Cap… Steve." She corrected herself at the last moment, and the small smile she received told her he appreciated the gesture. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to snap like that. I just…"
"It's alright," He replied solemnly, "I'm not gonna lie to you Soren. Losing someone … it never gets easier. But I promise that one day, it won't hurt as much." She considered asking how long that would take, but the look in his eyes told her he didn't know either.
He squeezed her shoulder again before dropping his hand back to his belt. They stood in comfortable silence for a few minutes before Steve suggested they meet with the others. She took another calming breath before nodding in agreement. With one last pained look at the grisly scene, she wordlessly led the way.
"Wonder which one made this mess." Steve pondered aloud as they slowly made their way back through the wreckage of what was once the main living quarters. Beams hung from the ceiling, exposed wires popped and sizzled angrily as they picked their way to the elevator.
Soren honestly didn't care anymore. She needed a shower, she needed about a month of rest. But looking into the shell-shocked eyes of the other Agents, people who would've usually never seen this level of carnage, she knew she had to keep going. For the ones that were left and the ones that didn't make it. For Coulson and everyone else that believed in her only to be met with disappointment. So she squared her shoulders and finally found her voice.
"How do we make this… How do we make it count?"
"We stop Loki," He breathed as they stepped around two agents that were slowly carrying a third on a stretcher, "whatever it takes."
"I was hoping for a more concrete plan, but that will do for now." She said with a smirk, as they came to a stop before the main bridge doors.
His amused glare was almost enough to lift her mood until Stark came barreling through the doors, nearly knocking her over. He looked like he was about to snap at Steve but stopped short when he saw her face. She'd never seen the man shaken by anything, but she watched curiously as he practically paled in front of her.
"Hey, Kid I … I'm so sorry." He mumbled and was off again in the direction they had come from.
"I'll talk to him." Steve threw over his shoulder as he turned and headed after Stark. Soren just stood there and watched his retreating back until he was out of sight.
Once he was gone, she was left alone with her thoughts. And it didn't take long for her to realize that was a bad idea. She considered going up to the bridge, but the idea of facing Fury wasn't exactly exciting. Her next thought was to see how Clint was doing, but then Natasha hadn't left his side since they found him. It wasn't until Stark had flown by her again that she realized she hadn't moved at all in the past five minutes.
"Hey kid, uh, we think we know where he's headed." He blurted as he moved past her towards the elevator. On instinct, she grabbed his arm and hauled him back to her, perhaps too roughly if his face was any indication.
"You found him? Where?" When Stark just gave her a concerned look, she glared and asked again. "I'm going. Where is he, Stark?"
"New York, where else?" He stated as he dramatically plucked her hand off his arm. He entered the elevator with her close on his heels, and when he didn't continue, she gave him a nudge with her elbow.
"He wants a show, a spectacle." He continued with a half-smirk as he punched the button for the hangar. "And I just happen to have the biggest one around."
"What's the game plan?"
"Well, we aren't at full strength. Uncle Sam is grabbing Mr. and Mrs. Smith, but that's not enough." Stark replied as they descended into the depths of the Helicarrier, "We need Thor and the big guy."
"I can find Thor, as for Banner… I don't know if that's a good idea."
"The best ones are always kind of crazy, right?" He asked with a laugh, then he turned to her suddenly as he registered what she said. "And how exactly do you plan on finding Thor?"
"I slapped a tracker on him after the little scuffle you guys had." She replied with a quirked brow. When he gave her a look, she held up her hands. "I didn't LoJack everybody, just the guy with a history of running off with our prisoners."
"Well, isn't that a relief." He breathed as the doors slid open again, he made a beeline for a big metal container with the Stark Industries logo on the side. "Welp, I found my ride. What's your plan, Kid? Looks like all the working planes are taken."
Soren just grinned and headed for the nearest exit. She would never get tired of seeing the look of sheer panic on people's faces when she jumped out of moving vehicles. And Tony Stark's face right now was priceless. He was half hanging from the door before she changed her trajectory and caught up to the Helicarrier again. When she just smiled at him, he shook his head like an exhausted parent.
"I'll meet you in New York, Stark."
Chapter 5: Welcome to New York
Soren glided effortlessly over the water, glancing down every few minutes to confirm Thor's location. She had been relieved to see that his glass cage hadn't crashed into the ocean, but had found purchase on a small island. He hadn't moved since she activated the tracker, however, which did nothing to calm her nerves. Just as she made landfall, a powerful lightning storm appeared a few miles inland.
"Well shit," She huffed, keeping a safe distance from the storm. When it was over, she was grateful to see a heavily armored Thor zoom past her. He stopped just short of the water's edge, cocking his head before gliding back in her direction.
"Lady Soren!" He called out to her as he sailed across the beach, landing heavily and stirring up a cloud of sand, "How fairs the battle?"
"Loki got away, but we know where he's headed." She replied stiffly. Thor nodded, his brow furrowing slightly at her tone.
"And what of Coulson?" When she just shook her head, he cursed under his breath. "I must put an end to this."
"Yeah well, we have to get you to New York first," She sighed, punching the coordinates for Stark Tower into her G.P.S. When Thor didn't respond, she turned to see him staring at the horizon.
"When we were children, Loki was always a bit mischievous, but he was never this … cruel." He shook his head, not meeting Soren's eyes as he walked past her. "I was a fool. I saw his melancholy in Asgard, but I turned a blind eye to it. I was so focused on the glory of conquest, I failed to see how my Father's favoritism was slowly driving Loki away."
"Thor, I know he's your brother, but he has done horrible things. Not just here but to you and your people as well. He's not the same boy you grew up with." At that, he turned to her finally, his jaw tightening as he stared down at her.
"Am I supposed to just lie down and accept that he is irredeemable? To allow you and the others to exact justice without mercy?"
"He didn't show any mercy when he killed Coulson!"She spat at him. Instead of firing back though, he simply stared at her for a moment before dropping his head and sighing tiredly.
"I am truly sorry, Soren. But I will not abandon my brother." Thor replied, kicking up sand as he began to pace the beach again. "I suspect Loki is being manipulated, similarly to your friend Barton."
"So what if he is? He wasn't mind-controlled when he tried to take over Asgard!"
"Try to understand!" He yelled before coming to a sudden stop in front of her. She could feel the storm raging within him calm as he took a ragged breath. His voice was much softer when he continued. "Loki is my family, even if he does not wish it to be so. My love for him runs deeper than my own blood. I cannot lose him, not again."
"I .. I suppose it's possible," Soren admitted hesitantly, recognizing the pained look in Thor's eyes, "He did seem less focused after I zapped him. Maybe when the staff reactivated, it triggered some sort of ingrained hypnosis."
"The staff? What do you mean?"
"While y'all were arguing in the lab, the staff was emitting a high-pitched squeal. It gave me an instant migraine. You didn't hear it?"
When Thor just shook his head, Soren's hand instinctively went to the small scar at the base of her skull. It was about two inches long and usually unnoticeable. Now, as she gently ran her fingers over it, she could feel several fracture-like lines that had sprouted around it. When she realized that Thor was staring at her, she dropped her hand and lifted into the air again.
"Either way, it's definitely somethin to think about. If one of us could knock him out again, it may end the war before it begins."
"It seems we have a plan of attack, we should return to the others," He agreed as he began spinning his hammer, "And Soren, leave Loki to me."
"Welcome to New York… or what's left of it anyway," Soren announced solemnly. She and Thor hovered over the Brooklyn Bridge, assessing the bleak scene before them.
The city was a warzone. Explosions went off every few minutes as the Alien invaders zoomed around on what appeared to be chariots. People were pouring out of buildings only to be mercilessly shot down by the ground troops. The N.Y.P.D. was doing its best to get a handle on the situation. But no one could've prepared for the hell that literally fell out of the sky.
"I'll find the others; you should get to the portal. Loki is probably guarding it." She ordered as she zeroed in on Stark's suit zooming by. Thor nodded and rocketed towards the writhing hole in the sky.
"Stark, you miss me?" She called over the comms.
A small chuckle was her only warning before he was barreling towards her with half a dozen Chitauri on his tail. "Good of you to join us, Kid. Duck!"
Soren dove down as the group flew past her towards the bridge, watching in amazement as Stark effortlessly zigzagged out of their reach. She could see he was leading them to the river and decided to have a little fun of her own. She took a deep breath, and stretched out her hand, willing the water towards her. Stark's trajectory wobbled a bit, as the wall of water crashed over the group, sending the invaders careening into the dark depths below.
"How… what just happened?" He asked, now dripping wet as he hovered over the river.
"I thought you needed to cool off." She quipped, crossing her arms in triumph. She could feel him rolling his eyes behind his helmet.
"So, it seems you aren't a one-trick pony after all. Any more fantastical abilities I need to know about?" He asked sarcastically, "And where was all this when I was getting my ass handed to me by a demigod?"
Before she could reply, another explosion pulled their attention back to the real threat. Stark wasted no more time and shot off into the city, Soren following close behind. He was uncharacteristically silent until the Tower came into view.
"You find Fabio?" He asked right before a bolt of lightning struck the upper floor, "Nevermind. Find out how it's going up there while I lose these assholes."
She nodded as he took off, attracting even more soldiers while she made her way to the roof. Thor and Loki were locked in combat, neither seeming to give an inch. Soren took the opportunity to go even higher and scoped out the machine that held the Tesseract. She hesitated a moment before raising her hand towards the device. Before she could do anything, Stark's snarky voice came in over the comms.
"Don't try it, Kid. My guns just bounced off the thing. Don't want you blowing up my nice building."
"Thanks for spoiling my fun, Gramps."
"Your welcome. Now I suppose it would be too much to ask for an off switch or something."
"What about Selvig? He's up here, maybe he knows somethin." She commented as she prodded his limp form with her boot. "Scratch that, he's out cold."
The sound of the Quinjet pulled her attention back to the fight below. She stared on in horror as Loki fired an energy blast that connected with one of the jet's turbines. It limped along for a few seconds before catching fire and dropping into a tailspin.
She reacted on instinct, hurtling herself towards the now falling aircraft. Letting her mind go blank again, she helped guide the machine safely to the ground. Steve was the first to make it out, and he just stared at her in shock. Natasha and Clint weren't far behind, walking past her calmly as they assessed the carnage around them.
"Since when can you do that?" Steve demanded abruptly, causing Natasha to immediately move between the two. "I mean… how?"
"It's okay Nat," Soren said, slowly moving towards him. She couldn't help feeling a bit hurt when he took an unconscious step back. "Steve, I know this is weird, but I swear I'll answer all the questions I can when we get out of this mess."
"What else you got up your sleeve?" He inquired calmly, making a conscious effort to look her in the eye. "I can't strategize if I don't know what we're all capable of."
"I'm an Elementalist," She asserted.
When he nodded for her to continue, she held out her hand and slowly made a fist. He watched her curiously, eyes widening as a solid boulder formed in front of her. She waited for two beats and then flung her arm towards a passing Chitauri soldier. The rock followed her command and flew forward, flattening the creature against a nearby wall.
"Well, that's … impressive. So Air, Water, Earth, Fire? You can manipulate them all?"
"Yep and Loki can attest to my control over Electricity." She answered with a smirk. Clint, who had been observing the enemy's movements, came back around the corner looking very determined.
"They aren't slowing down." He reported, looking less than pleased. "If we don't end this soon, the city will be overrun.
"We need to get back up there," Steve said glancing back at the portal, motioning for the others to follow him.
They hadn't made it far before a guttural moan from above stopped them in their tracks. As they looked on in confusion, a massive whale-like creature came rolling out of the portal. It slowly made its way down the street, dispensing a horde of soldiers along the way.
"Oh come on, how is that fair?" Soren whined as the four took cover behind an abandoned taxi.
"They've got civilians trapped in those buildings," Clint shouted before a squad of chariots raced past them.
They opened fire on the street below, destroying anyone in their path. Loki was leading the charge, laughing maniacally as he sent blue bolts of energy flying.
"They're fish in a barrel down there," Steve commented as he surveyed the oncoming threats. He turned to Natasha, who was already firing at the soldiers.
"We got this. Go!" She replied hastily, before popping up and firing again.
"You think you can hold them off?" Steve directed to the others.
"Captain," Clint began as he adjusted his quiver, "It would be my genuine pleasure."
With that, He turned and fired an arrow at the nearest soldier. It unsurprisingly hit its mark, exploding and sending smaller projectiles hurtling towards its allies. Soren just gave him a small smile as two balls of fire appeared in her hands.
"We're good, Steve, just make sure the cops keep those civies back." She assured with a wink before moving in to back up Clint.
The three Agents made quick work of the Chitauri on the bridge. They had soon moved on to evacuating civilians still in the area. Clint was busy unloading a whole bus full of kids. Soren hovered close by, scorching anything that got too close, as he forced the door open. The kids poured out, heading towards Natasha who guided them to a subway entrance.
"Guys, we've got more incoming," Soren warned as more soldiers descended on the bridge. The three moved quickly to find more defensible positions. Natasha fired several shots past Soren as she ducked behind an overturned vehicle.
"Just like Budapest all over again!" She yelled in Clint's direction. He seemed genuinely pleased at the memory but was almost immediately distracted by an oncoming soldier.
"You and I remember Budapest very differently." He quipped back, firing three shots in quick succession.
"Could you two please get your shit together?" Soren complained as she slammed two Chitauri into each other, their limp bodies falling to the ground. "I'm tired of your vague flirting, just kiss and be done with it."
Before either Agent could react, they were bombarded again by soldiers. Clint jabbed an arrow through the throat of one and then used the same arrow to shoot another. Natasha's ammo had been spent, but ever the opportunist, she acquired a Chitauri staff and used their own technology against them. Soren had been circling the bridge, lighting up anything that got too close and throwing up walls to confuse their movements.
Suddenly, Steve's shield whizzed past, taking out a group of soldiers who had snuck up on Clint. The man himself was not far behind, jumping into the fray with gusto. Before another group could advance on them, lightning rained down from the sky, frying them all where they stood. Thor landed a moment later, leaning heavily on one side.
"What's the story upstairs?" Steve asked as the group pulled in tighter.
"The power surrounding the cube is impenetrable," Thor replied solemnly.
"Thor is right," Stark chimed in over the comms, "We gotta deal with these guys."
"How do we do this?" Natasha asked, looking slightly defeated.
"As a team!" Steve affirmed enthusiastically.
"I have unfinished business with Loki." Thor declared. Behind him, Clint was repurposing some spent arrows.
"Yeah? Get in line." He mumbled.
"Save it!" Steve ordered as more of the soldiers past overhead.
Soren flew higher, trying to get a bead on Loki's position. The argument below her was soon drowned out by the roar of a motorcycle engine. Bruce Banner, caked in dirt and grime, parked the bike and slowly walked towards the team. She greeted him with a smile before catching sight of the Leviathan careening towards them.
Banner approached the beast calmly, and in one swift movement, he transformed into the Hulk, smashing the creature in the face. Its momentum carried it further, tipping its body forward until Stark launched a rocket into its side. The force of the explosion redirected the behemoth's course, sending chunks of flesh and metal plating flying in all directions. When it finally fell still, the angered cries of the invaders echoed across the city.
"I think we've got their attention," Soren commented, hovering closer to Stark as he scanned the area. The victory was short-lived as two more Leviathans came through the portal. Steve immediately began doling out orders. She and Stark were asked to keep the fighting as contained as possible from the air.
"Wishing you'd stayed on the Helicarrier?" Stark asked over the comms as they began their patrol of the perimeter.
"Not one bit," She replied with a wicked grin, blasting a nearby soldier off of a nearby building, "Now let's kick some Alien ass!"
The battle raged on for what felt like hours. Soren split her time between keeping the invaders from roaming too far from the Tower and keeping an eye on her teammates. When an unusually large squad of chariots banked towards Steve and Natasha, she flipped around and began lobbing fireballs at their flank.
Suddenly, a blast of blue energy slammed her in the chest, sending her flying into a nearby building. She used her abilities to soften the landing, but it wasn't enough to stop her from careening through the walls, startling the cowering civilians inside. Panicked screaming roused her in time to see the Hulk barrel through the office, slamming into the mouth of the Leviathan. Her comms crackled before several voices called her name in various levels of panic.
"Guys calm down. I'm tougher than I look." She replied before shaking herself and jumping back into the fight. She scanned the surrounding block before locking onto her target.
"Thor, we're runnin out of time. We gotta do somethin about your brother."
"Loki is of Asgard, it will take a great deal of force to defeat him." Thor replied with a grunt, "And he will be wary of your lightening, so I would not try that parlor trick again."
The guttural roar of the Hulk snagged her attention. He was carving a path down the street, slamming his massive fists into the cars around him. An idea was starting to form in her head. She approached him cautiously, making an effort to take out as many soldiers as she could. Once they were close enough, she stepped in front of him.
"Hey, big guy. I've got an idea, but I need your help," She began, keeping her hands in plain view so she wouldn't startle him. When he merely grunted at her, she continued, "If I can get him to stand still, you think you can take out Loki?"
It was odd, looking into his green eyes and seeing remnants of the mild-mannered Doctor trapped within. He seemed to understand, even looking at the Tower and back to her, seemingly picking the perfect spot. She turned and picked up a nearby car, just high enough to get her point across. He grunted again, this time in a positive way, a menacing smile plastered on his face.
"Guys, if we can take out Loki, they'll be less organized." She announced over the comms. "I've got an idea, not a great one but we're runnin out of time."
"Just tell us what you need," Steve answered, sounding a bit out of breath. A group of chariots zoomed past, chasing what looked to be Natasha with a chariot of her own. Loki was in the lead, aiming his scepter at her.
"We need to get Loki to the tower, I got a feelin we're gonna need that magic stick of his," Soren called out, cringing as Natasha scraped the side of a building.
"Well, he's obviously occupied. It would be nice if I could get some assistance. Hawkeye, a little help." Natasha answered, angling her chariot towards the Tower.
"I got him," Clint confirmed before Loki's chariot exploded, sending the god flying onto the Tower's balcony.
"Nice shot Barton," Soren said, glancing in the archer's direction. He wore a massive grin as he tipped an invisible hat to her. She lifted the Hulk up a few hundred feet before launching him towards the Tower. She waited until he reemerged before venturing there herself. She found Loki lying in a crater, wheezing and looking utterly dejected.
"Well, that was a bit dramatic," Natasha called from behind her, she was holding Loki's scepter and looking particularly unimpressed.
"What can I say," Soren said with a grin, "I like to make an impression."
Natasha just snorted and made her way to the elevator. "I'm going to go save the world, make sure he doesn't go anywhere."
Soren shifted her attention to Loki, who hadn't moved from his crater. She approached him slowly, hovering a bit just in case he was playing possum. When he didn't react, she floated down to him and assessed his injuries.
His face was already bruising, and there was blood trickling from his mouth. His pale face was serene, lacking his usual scowl. His chest rose and fell gently as she brushed some debris off of his face. He looked so young, and sad somehow, even in his unconscious state.
She could see it now, how Thor could want so desperately to save him. No matter what Loki had done, he would always be his kid brother. And she knew all too well, that kind of love never went away. Soren wondered what he had been like before trying to overthrow Asgard. Before someone convinced him that he didn't have a say in who he became. After a few minutes, she felt his eyes on her.
"Come to gawk at the fallen god? To see me broken before the might of your friends?" He spat weakly.
"Nope, just here to keep you company 'til they close the portal."
"Oh, I remember well what your company feels like." She sighed and stood, dusting off her suit.
"Loki, I'm not gonna lie. I'm not your biggest fan right now. But I promised your brother I would help you. So, how do you feel now?"
"How am I feeling?" He growled, attempting to sit up and failing, "I was bludgeoned by an ogre, how should I feel?"
"I was more concerned with your mind actually, you Asgardians are pretty sturdy."
"My mind?" He asked as his brow furrowed, "Why would you…"
His eyes clouded slightly, as he turned towards the battle still raging outside. The screams of civilians echoed across the city. As he took it all in, she could've sworn she saw tears forming in his eyes. When he looked back at her, his mouth was in a tight line.
"Loki, it's very likely that this," Soren began gently, gesturing towards the balcony, "wasn't your fault. Barton said you took orders from someone, is it possible you were being controlled like he was?"
"I… I don't." He was shaking now, eyes roaming around the room, searching for something she couldn't see. "I never saw him, he was…powerful."
"It's okay, Loki," Soren whispered as she laid a hand on his shoulder. He jerked away from her touch as if it burned him.
"I have caused you great pain, so do not pretend to care for me human," He faltered for a moment, studying her with ice-cold eyes. "Perhaps I have misspoken, you are as much a human as I am."
"What are you…?" Before she could finish her question, Natasha's voice came in over the comms.
"I can close it! Can anybody read me? I can shut the portal down."
"It seems like your allies are more formidable than I gave them credit for." Loki commented from his relaxed position on the floor, "What will they say, I wonder. When they find out what you truly are."
Whatever else was happening outside, Soren didn't hear it. She was focused on the god's words as he shakily stood up from his crater. He didn't advance as she assumed he would, he merely stumbled towards the bar.
"Oh, I'm sure a few of them would try to sympathize. After all, they cannot call themselves fully human anymore either. But what about your real friends, the Widow, the Hawk? And what would your mentor have thought? To know how utterly wrong he was about you."
His words bore into her, carving out her worst fears and bringing them to light. Every nightmare of her friends' deaths at her own hands. Every horrid memory of her life before S.H.I.E.L.D. found her. The image of Coulson, slumped against the wall, blood still pooling on the floor.
And that was her snapping point. Before Loki could react, she had flung him against the wall. Just as he made contact, electricity sparked from her fingertips, hitting the god square in the chest. Her head began to pound viciously, and blood trickled from her ear. All signs she was pushing her powers too far, but she didn't care.
"Soren… Stark is… Come in…" Natasha's voice tried to push through the static in Soren's mind. She knew she needed to stop. That Loki wasn't worth losing everything and everyone she cared about. But it was too late, she was losing control.
"You see?" Loki mocked as he writhed against her power, "Even now, you fear what you are. Do it, you pathetic creature. Kill me, end my rain of terror."
Something in his voice made her hesitate, the strain of it caused her to focus on more than her rage. Loki, the god of mischief, the reason for her pain, was practically begging her to kill him. He was accepting his fate. In fact, he was welcoming it. It was enough to tear her from her haze. She slowly lowered her hands, letting the god drop to the ground.
"What are you doing?" He demanded as he crawled towards her, "I have done nothing but cause you suffering. You should have my head on a pike. Kill me and be done with it."
"No." It was all she could muster, as she bent at the knees before the fallen god. His cold eyes found hers, wordlessly conveying the urgency of his request. He grabbed her shoulder, pulling her to one knee.
"Please…" It was barely a whisper, but it broke her heart.
She gently pulled him into her chest, cradling him like a child. He raged against her at first, trying with what strength he had left to enrage her again. But it was not long before he fell still, and Soren felt hot tears falling onto her neck. She rubbed circles on his back as his breathing became erratic. He cursed her, he cursed Asgard and his Father. He wished to have never been born. By the time he was done, he was muttering the same thing over and over again.
"Monster, I'm a monster." Soren couldn't help the tears that slid down her cheeks at his words.
"I can't change what happened to you Loki. And I won't pretend to know how you feel. But I have figured out one thing, you never meant for it to go this far. And if my short life has taught me anything, it's that everyone deserves redemption. But you have to want it. More than power, more than revenge. You have to want to be better, not only for yourself but for those who love you." As if on cue, Thor's voice broke over the comms, causing Loki to flinch.
"Soren, how is Loki? Is he… was it as we feared?" Loki scowled up at her, seemingly daring her to say anything more than was necessary.
"He's alive Thor, a little banged up but alive." Soren chuckled as she adjusted her earpiece, hailing her teammates, and getting status reports on everyone. When she heard Stark went through the portal and survived, she actually laughed.
"I figured Tony was too stubborn to die." She threw out, receiving several reprimands from her team. All the while, she could hear Stark chuckling in the background.
"Thanks a lot, Kid. Wait until I tell Santa how cruel you've been to me." Stark threatened.
"Damn, there goes my shot at gettin that Barbie Dreamhouse."
"As if you played with dolls, Agent Asskicker." He laughed weakly before adding, "You still got eyes on Prancer?"
"Yeah, he's … I've got him." She replied quietly, as Loki extracted himself from her embrace.
He didn't move far, bristling slightly as Thor arrived on the scene. The god of Thunder glanced between the two of them on the ground, before cautiously approaching his brother. Loki flinched again, as Thor laid a gentle hand on the smaller god's shoulder.
"Loki, are you… I am glad to see you well," Thor said as Loki stared at him in shock.
"Do you… will I ever be able to mend this?" Loki asked cautiously, motioning between himself and Thor. His brother smiled and embraced him, his hearty laugh echoing throughout the building.
"Ah, Brother! I knew you were still in there." Soren could hear Loki whimpering as his brother's muscles constricted around him.
"Yes, of course, I'm here you big oaf. Now stop crushing me and get us out of here." Thor immediately let go of him and took a step back, chuckling sheepishly.
"I think you two are forgettin somethin," Soren said, gesturing outside where the other Avengers were gathering.
"Surely they will see that it was not Loki but the scepter that caused this," Thor assured, stepping between his brother and his newfound friends.
"We'll see. It's going to take some fast talkin to get them to hear us out."
"Us?" The brothers asked in unison.
"Yeah," She replied, glancing at Loki who stared at her with a mixture of awe and confusion, "Us Aliens have to stick up for each other."
Thor looked between her and Loki, who just sighed and smiled at her. Between Soren, Thor, and surprisingly Clint, the rest of the Avengers conceded that Loki was more the victim than the villain. In the end, only Stark seemed to disagree with sending Loki and the Tesseract back to Asgard. The others agreeing that it would be safer than in the hands of the government and Loki being literally worlds away was a bonus.
But the general public, not to mention most of the world's governments, needed a villain. They needed someone to blame and Loki, well he did play the role well. So when cuffs and a muzzle were presented to him, he merely barked out a laugh before giving himself over to Steve and being led from the Tower.
Over the next few days, everyone had begun to sort out their next move.
Tony offered them all a room in the new and improved Avengers Tower. They all made excuses as to why they couldn't, but Tony was, if anything, annoyingly persistent. By the end of the conversation, Clint was describing the exact shade of purple that should be chosen for his bedspread before Natasha shut him up. Everyone hooted and cheered as she dipped him right there and planted one on him.
Steve was headed to Brooklyn for some must needed rest. Of course Stark joked that another seventy-year nap would be a bit excessive. Soren made Steve promise to reach out to her when he felt alone. Even going as far as getting him a cellphone and not allowing him to leave until he knew how to use it.
Clint and Natasha called in their vacation time and booked a solid month in Fiji. Soren knew they'd end up tangled up in taking down a smuggling ring or some other nonsense, but they seemed genuinely excited to just relax for a while. Besides, they had a few years of pent up sexual tension to work out.
Bruce was skeptical about his new living arrangements at first. But when Tony started describing all the tech he was planning for the new Tower, Bruce began animatedly throwing out his own ideas. He was still rattling off overly complicated additions as Tony loaded him into his convertible.
As for Thor, he would return to Earth once the Bifrost was repaired. He promised to keep a close eye on his brother, who scoffed at the idea of needing a babysitter. But Soren could see through him now, and the small smile on his lips was proof enough for her. Loki would behave himself, for now, if only to mend his relationship with his brother.
Thor had also promised to assist Soren in identifying her Alien origins. Discreetly, of course, taking a small sample of her blood back to Asgard with him. She didn't tell the others what Loki had revealed to her, and she wasn't quite sure she wanted to know herself. But she did know one thing, as she watched the Avengers go their separate ways. This was only the beginning of her story. And she was excited to see what came next.