12.10 , Friday 4 th May 2012. SHIELD Command Helicarrier, location classified. (somewhere over the East Coast of USA)
Clint led the way to the main flight deck, motley crew of soldiers, scientists, aliens and billionaires following behind him in a straggling crocodile. AD Hill called for clearance on the deck whilst a STRIKE team armed themselves in case the data was not as friendly as it initially appeared to be. A stream of light appeared from the clear sky and five figures materialised, all armoured, all angry and all Asgardian. The outer four, stationed at cardinal points brandished weapons as they surveyed where they had landed.
“We are here Majesty.”
Loki and Thor stood still, before the blond went flying into his mother's arms. Loki however was hesitant, if she rejected him then it would all have been for nothing. Darcy stepped closer and touched his arm, frightened that her chick would choose to plummet from the vessel and prepared to read this Queen the riot act if she was not the perfect mother she was supposed to be.
“I will not harm him m'lady Veilede . On my life... I will not.”
Thor moved to greet his friends and give his brother some privacy as he also ran to his mother's embrace. She held him tightly, before kissing his temple and murmuring over him again and again. Finally she made him stand back so she could see him clearly.
“You are Prince Loki Friggason, of Asgard, Vanaheim and Jötennheim. I care not who bore you and in which realm you were birthed, from the moment you were placed in my hands you were mine and I am jealous of my loves. Forget the lies you have been told and have been said. Cast off the name that has caused you pain and take mine. I will NOT lose my sons, and I will see your children restored.”
“ Mor, I will be Friggason from now until the ending of all things.”
“So mote it be.”
“What has caused this change Mother?”
“An evil working was undone my son, an enchantment that blinded and bound us from seeing the truths before us. It is fortunate that it's instigator was asleep when it broke, sending you here took the last of his energy and so Gungnir is mine.... for now.”
“Your commands Majesty?”
“Find me a space to work and an energy source so that Loki and I can fetch back the damn Tesseract. Honestly, sending a soldier to do a sorceresses work...”
Loki however had stopped still, eyes fixed on two people he had known since early adolescence yet now seemed to meet again for the first time. They were also transfixed, and the triad moved together slowly until they were within touching distance.
“My skin burns for you... and I do not know why.”
At Fandral's heels a huge Dire Wolf became visible, eyes the same gold as his hair shining from a coal black face.
“It is as though I can see everything when I am here... everything and yet only you...”
Beside the Lady Sif materialised a scimitar toothed cat, unknown on Earth for 12,000 years but clearly known in other realms as the warrior simply reached out to scratch her new friend between the ears.
“Darcy... help... you said I would find my Sentinel, my Formynder... why am I pulled to them both?”
“Because you are powerful, you are a warrior, a magician, a mage and I believe the first Shaman of Asgard... you can Guide them both and they will protect you as you rebuild. Clint and I are a partnership – you are a triad, but you belong together just as we do.”
At her words he reached out his hands, grasping at his Sentinels just as they took his hands and each others to form a triangle between them. Frigga smiled as they began to glow.
“ Formynder Sif, Formynder Fandral.”
“ Veilede Loki...”
There had been more than one prophecy about the Veilede returning to Asgard, the new trio would affect all the realms together – just as soon as she got that stupid cube out of the way.
12.20 , Friday 4 th May 2012. Deck, SHIELD Command Helicarrier, location classified. (somewhere over the East Coast of USA)
“With your permission Formynder… I will bring down a specialist to assist your scientists in locating the tesseract.”
Clint looked shell shocked at the fact that a reigning Queen was speaking to him never mind asking his permission to do something. Darcy took pity on him and nodded towards the silently fuming Fury.
“He is the Captain of this vessel and the ranking Officer here.”
“Yes… so Heimdall told me, but on Vanaheim it is customary to check with a Formynder before doing anything that could disrupt their senses.”
Clint tilted his head to the side at her words, still unused to anyone other than Strike Team Delta taking his senses into account for anything other than his uncanny accuracy.
“I can maintain your Majesty, especially with my Guide at my side.”
Darcy took that as a hint and stepped close, taking one calloused hand into hers and holding on tight.
“I have him Majesty. Loki, keep hold of their hands please. They might be used to the bifrost but I have no way of knowing how far along their senses are at the moment.”
“As you will milady.”
She blushed prettily at that. Thor called her sister and Loki called her a Lady… quite something even for an Alpha Guide Prime.
“Heimdall… send down Hildr and Unnr.”
Another wave of light came from the sky and burnt exactly into the runes that the first arrivals had left behind on the deck. Fury tightened his lips a little more but said nothing. These people, if you could call them that, were more advanced by factors than SHIELD and so he needed to step carefully for fear that the Security Council would take command. He may have presided over the creation of the phase 2 weapons but he had no desire to find out if they worked.
“Queen Frigga, if you and your guards would like to come with me, we can talk in a more comfortable setting. Perhaps one of our personnel could escort your specialists to meet with ours?”
“Thank you. I believe that Loki, Fandral and Sif would benefit from some time together.”
“Of course. Antiope, Hawkeye if you would help them.”
They nodded and moved closer to the new triad, Darcy already extending her light tether to take in the new Sentinels.
“I’ll take Hildr and Unnr down to the labs…”
“Thank you Doctor.”
Jane nodded to the two statuesque women who came to her side and began to follow the petite astrophysicist down into the bowels of the ship. Tony and Bruce nodded to everyone else and headed off in the same direction.
“Hogun, Volstagg… I am leaving the protection of my mother the Queen in your hands… Captain, I feel that I can trust you also… Veilede is an honoured role throughout the realms as a peacemaker and guardian.”
Both Asgardian men slammed their hands across their chests and took up flanking positions, whilst the Captain blushed a little and offered his arm to the Queen.
“My thanks Captain.”
The little procession headed to the ward room and Thor was free to check on his lady love and his brother, not at all certain where he should start.
12.30 , Friday 4 th May 2012. Training Room, SHIELD Command Helicarrier, location classified. (somewhere over the East Coast of USA)
Darcy led her little troop of Sentinels, Guides and Spirits to a quiet training room that had been set aside for Strike Team Delta and invited S/G pairs on the Helicarrier. She had stocked a mini-fridge with water and snacks to force on recalcitrant warriors and piled up pillows in one corner so that people could sit comfortably for meditation and playing with their Spirits. Natasha pulled out three cushions and laid them into a rough triangle before gesturing their Asgardian guests to sit. The new arrivals divested themselves of weaponry and some armour before taking their seats, sitting comfortably cross legged and close together. All the spirits faded away as Darcy stood just behind Loki and nodded at them.
“Widow, Hawkeye and myself... we’ll be just over there… if I feel anyone’s control slipping we’ll come and help but apart from that I think you’ll be fine on your own… unless….”
“No thank you m’Lady. I think I can handle them.”
She dropped a quick kiss on Loki’s cheek and headed back to her duo, Simcha appearing at her heels and scampering alongside as she went. Loki turned to the two warriors and braced himself, straightening his back as though readying for a fight, but it did not come.
“As am I Loki… how… how did we fall so far from what is supposed to be… that we did not realise what was happening…”
He looked from one face to the other, expanding his shields to take them in and feel their honesty. It was surprising, and reassuring.
“The machinations of Odin Borsson I assume.”
“I have an idea… I have been thinking about it for a long time… from before I fell, even from before I knew the truth of my birth…”
“We don’t care.”
“No… the spell… we all remembered...”
“The lessons we had about Jötennheim when we were small, about the music and art, the ice caverns and sculptures…”
“That they are not ravening beasts.”
That the two should overlap each other in desperation to talk was strange. Sif was known for her imperious silences and Fandral talked openly only to the women of the court he was trying to seduce.
“You are nothing like I remember, either of you…. At least not in recent times…”
“I remember when I first came to the Palace… I was so scared and you came and sat next to me under a table and shared some fruit.”
“Apples... not those of Iðunn but some from the orchards.”
“I already knew that I wanted to learn to fight but I was so nervous.”
“You were a pretty girl and I was almost speechless!”
“The silver tongue came later… when I had to learn to talk my way out of situations that Odin placed me in.”
“Yes. Situations that were not your fault and never were… my hair for instance…”
“I know… that was when everything seemed to change.”
“That IS when everything changed.”
Loki cocked his head to one side and focused his intense gaze on the brunette, their partner also held by her words.
“Odin called me to his study, called us I should say…”
“Thor, Fandral and I… he gave us wine and everything became… different. An anger grew inside me that night, a fury that I could not explain. Suddenly magick became a force to be feared when wielded by a man, it became unnatural to see. Thor was given Mjolnir and this rage fell over us…”
“Sif is right… it was as though all my early lessons with Seidr were wiped away, all the stories of the War Mages who brought peace were gone and replaced with glorious combat and bloodied men. Our history changed in the blink of an eye.”
“You learned Seidr?”
Loki’s voice was full of surprise and a little hurt.
“Yes. My mother taught me as a small child... enough to light fires and candles, cast a safe space when I slept… household charms… all of it wiped away…”
“So… all the while I was being called unmanly for my skills….”
“Every man would have learned the basics until it was forgotten.”
“Where did he find such a black skill?”
Sif made a good point. Odin had never been known for his magicks, even in the tales of old, so how had he managed to cast such a working.
“I believe he found another to cast it for him… not mother, she would never darken her soul in such a way but there are others, magicians in other realms and on other worlds that would carry out such a thing for him.”
“To have him owe a favour, to pay a favour… to create disharmony with Jötennheim… I have considered many reasons over the years.”
“What was your conclusion?”
“That he wishes to keep the throne. His rule is alongside Frigga, whose Seidr helps him manage the visions he allegedly sacrificed an eye for, helps him cope with the power of Gungnir and Hlidskjalf . Their magicks together moderate the power and let him rule. Imagine for a moment Thor sitting on the throne…”
Both shivered slightly. They knew the thunderer, loved him dearly but there were things he was not ready for.
“Thor, God of Thunder, impatient, impetuous, impulsive… King of Asgard, unable to control the inflow of power and apparitions that come with the role. Simply holding Gungnir is an act of will, the sceptre must be dominated in order to rule, self-control and a will of iron is needed.”
“He would fail.”
“Yes. Then he could reveal my ancestry and suddenly there are no heirs, he must stay on the throne indefinitely.”
“That is why you upset the coronation.”
“Yes. He was not ready… he is still not ready to rule. I held the position as regent and I thought it would tear me apart. Did you never wonder why I sat next to the throne rather than on it unless it was needed?”
“We could not wonder at that, the spell prevented it, made us see you as nothing more than a usurper.”
“When I was rightful regent during his sleep… he expected to wake to find the realms in chaos and cries for him to take back the throne… planned for it. I love my brother but you can wind him up like a child’s toy and watch him fly about, exactly as his father has done… even casting Thor out was done to challenge his right to the throne.”
“Throwing him to Midgard was a stroke of genius… Vanaheim or Alfheim would have quietened him and helped him learn… here he was a God, here he could regain his strength under his own skill and without magick… he fell in love yes, but he did not change.”
“Yes he did.”
“When I sent the Destroyer… something I regret but still the trigger for him to regain himself from the spells that Odin had cast, joining him even more strongly to Mjolnir… if I had not done so, would he have learned, would he have changed?”
“Why did you sent it?”
“ Gungnir … I could not control all the input it gave me and I was overwhelmed… all I can say is that it seemed like the only option at the time. I visited Midgard and told Thor that Odin had passed, a lie to be sure but I needed him to calm down, he had been going through troops as though they were toys for his amusement – without his gifts. In honesty I cannot remember sending the machine, but I must have done…”
“How deep is the Odin sleep? How much can he still hear and see?”
“I do not know.”
“Maybe you did not send that creature… perhaps you were told or influenced to do so… after all disgraced or dead is much the same to keep the throne… and if you were the one to kill Thor with the Destroyer then there is another reason to bar you from ascending the throne permanently, the warrior corps would not stand for it.”
“The warriors and Elders barely allowed me to function as Regent.”
“More lies and machinations.”
Loki reached out his hands and took theirs, the calluses of sword and shield familiar against his skin. He held on, relieved that they gripped back rather than pull away as they had so often before. He marvelled at the touch, for so long most had shied away from him, leaving him skin hungry and agitated. The fall through the void had simply exacerbated the problem, no stimulation at all had driven him half mad before the Titan and his daughter had pushed him the rest of the way. He was still hiding wounds, healing spells could only heal so much and there was not the time to deal with his hurts.
“You are injured… badly…”
He would have demurred Sif’s statement were it not for the fact that Fandral then joined in.
“Is that what I am sensing from you? I can taste a bitterness in my mouth, it grew stronger when we clasped hands but I assumed it was the remnants of Odin’s barbaric spell.”
“I am hurt but…”
Sif leapt to her feet and made for Darcy at speed, blessed protector syndrome kicking in even before they had formally bonded.
“M’Lady Veilede …”
“He is hurt and hiding it… can you… would you…”
Clint offered Darcy a hand and helped her up, Natasha lifting Lyubov into her arms and nodding to her Prime before leaving.
“She’ll alert medical to prepare for a Guide in distress with their Sentinels. There are protocols for this happening and they will be ready for us.”
“Sentinels tend to react badly when their Guides are injured… not that we’re much better.”
“We have been in war together for years…”
“Not as Formynder and Veilede , you will have instincts that you have never had before, new drives and goals that you cannot predict or prepare for.”
“I will take your advice m’Lady. I can somehow sense your strength in a way I could not when we met before.”
“I hadn’t bonded then, I had the potential to reach my rank but it was on bonding that we took up our roles here in SHIELD...”
“The Alpha Prime Pair.”
Fandral and Loki had made their way over to them and the Prince looked his Alpha in the eyes with a rueful look.
“You promised me that I did not need to send for medical assistance, that the meeting with the Shaman’s was all you needed.”
“Apologies m’Lady… I am too used to hiding my hurts and healing them myself… I must shed that protective shell if I am to bond and serve as Veilede on Asgard and with my partners.”
“Come… Natasha will have them prepared by now.”
Simcha and Aquila faded as the Earth pair led them out, at least a little closer than they had been before.
12.30 , Friday 4 th May 2012. Bridge, SHIELD Command Helicarrier, location classified. (somewhere over the East Coast of USA)
Steve had taken his role as protector very seriously, solicitously helping the Queen through the narrow passageways of the vessel to reach the main command centre and its large spade shaped table. He saw her to a seat and took one himself, watching as the two Asgadians took up flanking positions behind their Sovereign. Fury checked with Assistant Director Hill then took his own seat.
“Queen Frigga... welcome to Earth.”
“My thanks... it has been a long time since I was on Midgard... it has changed.”
“I am certain it has... no offence is meant your majesty, but why are you here?”
She waved a hand to calm the boisterous Volstagg who had taken offence on her behalf before she replied.
“My children are here Director... both of my sons needed me...”
“And your realm?”
“The Realm will be all the more secure when the Tesseract has been returned to the vault where it should be.”
“The Tesseract has been here for centuries...”
“Odin has done many strange things over the millennia, this would be just another of them.”
“We need the Tesseract for the energy resources that it provides.”
“What it will provide is an enemy that you are in no way prepared to fight.”
“We are prepared...”
“Your whole planet? All of you?”
Fury banked his anger and took a different approach.
“Your son brought...”
“Prince Loki Friggason was taken and tortured, tormented and beaten until he came here against his will... the first thing he did was surrender himself to the Lady Veilede that met us here.”
“The first thing he did was kill four of my men.”
“He murdered them in cold blood?”
“Then he kept to his training as a Warrior.”
He changed the subject again, trying to hold onto the thread of the conversation and maintain his dominance.
“Who is coming?”
“I will need to confer with my son a little to confirm my suspicions but they are called the Chitauri... a group that will strike and devour at the command of their officers and commanders.”
“So who is in command.”
“That is why I must speak to my son.”
“I can call Thor here.”
“Thor knows only what he was told by Odin Borrson... much of it lies or at least changed and manipulated truth.”
“Like the muzzle.”
“For years I have struggled with how Loki has been treated but could do nothing but try to protect him within my own space, could not protest against the strength of the spell. If I had more power I would have sent him for training on Vanaheim or with some of the magicians and sorcerers that I know, instead I watched as his skills were degraded, his children taken and his spirit broken.”
“Some of the tale you know are true, at least to a certain extent... but yes, he is a father.”
“The serpent, the wolf...”
“Evil magicks... I cannot explain... you have not the knowledge and understanding to see what has happened over the vast expanses of time.”
“You are a warrior and a spy, yes?”
“Can you explain what your scientists are doing?”
“No, that is why we have them.”
“In many ways what we call magick you think of as science... I cannot explain to you as you have no frame of reference for even the beginning of the conversation.”
Suddenly Natasha appeared and stood to attention, nodding to Fury before addressing their guest.
“Majesty... your son has been taken to the medical rooms... I believe he would appreciate your presence there.”
“What has happened?”
She stood ready to leave, a look of anger coming across her beautiful face.
“He has been hiding injuries, his Sentinels could sense something and realised he was hurt. Antiope and Hawkeye are with him... keeping his Sentinels calm.”
“With your permission Director.”
Steve offered his arm again and they followed the red headed spy, deeper into the bowels of the vessel, headed for Loki.
13.00 , Friday 4 th May 2012. S/G Medical, SHIELD Command Helicarrier, location classified. (somewhere over the East Coast of USA)
When the small train of people arrived at the Medical Suite that had been set aside for the sensitive it was to moderate chaos. Jane Foster was trying to calm a furious thunder God who was raging about the injuries his brother had received while Darcy was using her vocal abilities to calm his two Sentinels. A lot of the noise from Thor was over his own guilt about trying to hurt Loki, grieving the times that he had ignored his hurts and even bullied him for his wounds, teasing him that a real warrior would not seek medical assistance but bind up his own hurts before downing ale for any residual pain.
He turned to face his mother, remorse and blame writ large over his expressive face.
“Calm yourself, this flying vessel is not in need of disturbance at this time.”
“We can talk in a little while... might I suggest that Dr Foster would be better occupied with the rest of the scientists than trying to pacify you?”
He blushed and nodded, dropping a kiss on her cheek before allowing Jane to guide him away, the doctor nodding to Darcy over her shoulder as she went. Steve smiled and followed, there were too many people for the small medical suite to contain and in any case Natasha would be a far better protector for the Queen.
“Thank you, your Majesty.”
“Noble Formynder , I am all too aware of my older son’s passions… for good and for ill… now, how fares my younger?”
Hawkeye nodded to the large view window that opened onto the medical room, allowing for over protective partners to check in without getting in the way of medical personnel.
“You can see for yourself… Antiope is keeping his partners calm, or as calm as she can… we decided I’d be better put to use out here to guard the door.”
Moving to the large expanse of glass she looked in, past the Veilede talking to Sif and Fandral, to the medical bench where Loki was sitting. He had banished his armour and was in the thin linen shirt he generally wore beneath, but the creamy flax was discoloured and stained with blood and other fluids. A nurse was gently soaking the fabric to separate it from his pale skin, trying her hardest not to break the scabs that had formed over the welts, scratches and cuts that decorated his torso liberally. He was clad only in his braies beneath and his lower limbs were also damaged, stripes and marks over his thighs and harsher punishment to his lower legs and feet. Frigga staggered a little and put out a hand to the glass. Whilst she knew he had been tortured she had expected that his healing would have dealt with much of the damage. She had not considered the effects of being blocked from much of his Seidr and being so unable to help himself.
“May… may I go in?”
“Of course your majesty… he has asked for you.”
He opened the door and held it for her, Volstagg and Hogun taking up guard positions at the door, ready to protect the two members of the royal family within. They had caught sight of the younger prince’s wounds and any thoughts of him faking his imprisonment had faded away with the remainder of the spell that had clouded their minds.
Sif and Fandral turned as the door opened and immediately genuflected to their Queen, right hands over their hearts as they bowed. Darcy nodded her head, too used to overwrought Sentinels to take her eyes fully away from them. Fandral took a breath and straightened first, bracing himself for the news to come.
“Majesty… we brought him as soon as we realised…”
“I know, thank you Formynder … you are Antiope, is that correct?”
“It’s my code-name for SHIELD your Majesty. My name is Darcy.”
“Ah… the one that Thor has claimed felled him with his own element… his lightening sister!”
“Um… sorry about that.”
“There is no shame in besting a warrior at his own game child… and a Veilede should always be able to defend themselves regardless of how they do it and the methods they use.”
Both Sif and Fandral flushed and bowed their heads at that. They had led the challenge to Loki’s manhood and his using Seidr on the battlefield all whilst benefiting from his magicks.
“Please stop blaming yourselves for the machinations of a master manipulator…”
All of them turned to look at Loki who was now bare to the waist, his ruined shirt being placed into a bag as he was helped to sit back on the exam bed, a sheet pulled to his waist for modesty. Frigga pushed past the trio and swept to his bedside, robes swirling at her ankles as she moved.
She leaned over his bed and dropped a maternal kiss on his forehead, showing her love and taking his temperature at the same time. His head was cold, despite the sweat that showed he was running a fever.
“I will be perfectly well Mother…”
“Yes… when you rest.”
“I cannot rest… there is an army coming…”
“And there are warriors here…”
“If I am truly the first Veilede of Asgard in generations… can you expect me to stand aside? I have intelligence that those who plan must have.”
“Once you have been treated please.”
“Very well… but I will not stand aside… I cannot… I owe that woman a debt that I will repay…”
The medical officer came forward then having looked over the X-rays and scans that they had taken, for his own peace of mind there seemed to be a lot of similarity between humanoids!
“Guide Loki, Majesty. I have looked over the scans and you have six cracked ribs as well as the damage to your torso, legs and feet. If you were human you would be in here for a fortnight. As it is, you will need to spend some time here.
“I cannot guarantee your health in the longer term if you do not allow yourself to heal.”
“I have been like this for months… a few more hours will make little difference.”
The Doctor looked down at the paperwork he held before turning to Darcy.
Darcy stepped forward and took the clipboard to look it over. She was not sure what to do. If it had been one of her Pride or Pack in the bed she would have been the Alpha and over-ruled them, but could she boss around the Shaman of a new Pack? She had claimed him to rescue him, but he was a millennia old Alien, not one of her mad humans.
She looked between the four Asgardians then helplessly out the door to her own Sentinel, who knew immediately what she wanted and came in.
She held out a hand and he came over, taking it gently and adding his strength to hers, the profound nature of their bond letting him know everything in an instant.
“If I can offer a solution.”
“Of course Lord Formynder .”
“Take the treatment now, once you are settled we can hold a briefing here. Most of the group can join us by video conferencing. You said last night that peace would help your magick heal you, a few hours is all to the good there. We are still searching for Nebula and the Tesseract… there is a planet to hunt over and even with all the experts we have, it will take time.”
“Very well… I will agree.”
Sif and Fandral were puzzled, why had their Prince so easily acquiesced to the suggestions they had been making when they came from a Midgardian. Darcy quickly read them and turned.
“You are still unknown in many ways to him, you have not bonded as we are… have not been within his shields properly whereas I take Hawkeye with me whenever I visit another’s mind. There is a trust between Alpha and Pack that you will learn about but have not yet experienced.”
“We have fought side by side for…”
“For years and years under the spell…. You must disregard that time and think of this as a fresh beginning, the start that you all should have had was it not for the court intrigues that have separated you for centuries.”
Her words made sense, even without the deep resonance of her abilities. That set them to wondering how Asgard would manage Loki Silvertongue once he had developed the full richness of the Voice of a Veilede .
“Come… hold his hands and give him succour. We do not have the healing halls and their magical methods, this will be more battlefield medicine to your minds even though it is as advanced as our planet can provide. This seemed like a good idea so they joined their Queen at his bedside, leaving Darcy and Clint to rest forehead to forehead and take comfort in their bond, ready for the next challenge that was sure to come.
13.15 , Friday 4 th May 2012. Laboratory Level, SHIELD Command Helicarrier, location classified. (somewhere over the East Coast of USA)
Hildr and Unnr had quickly adapted to the machinery and devices used by the Midgardian scientists, even though they were cutting edge. It was easy to assume with their Shakespearean tones and robes that they were behind in technology but anyone working with them was soon disabused of that notion.
“She's got to heat the cube to a hundred and twenty million Kelvin just to break through the Coulomb barrier.”
“Unless, Selvig has figured out how to stabilize the quantum tunnelling effect.”
“Well, if he could do that he could achieve Heavy Ion Fusion at any reactor on the planet.”
Jane looked at the two men and grimaced slightly.
“He might be able to, he is extraordinary.”
“And currently powered by a magical sceptre!”
She turned back to her work with Unnr and left Bruce and Tony working alongside each other, side by side and at peace. Thor was pacing around with Steve trying to pacify him a little.
“C’mon… Darcy won’t let anything bad happen to your brother, it’s not her style.”
“I trust the Lady… I do not trust Loki to look out for himself… all my memories are full of times when we have mistreated and ignored him, even when he was wounded… knowing that he is not truly Asgardian simply makes this worse… I cannot remember my lessons on the Jotun but I do know that outside of their giant form they are not as sturdy as us and I cannot believe that Odin gave him Asgardian strength with his concealing spell.”
“He’s a grown man… a Guide and has two Sentinel’s with him… and Asdis will probably tell on him if he does anything silly.”
Under Steve’s hand Lorcan appeared and woofed at the God.
“This is my Spirit, Lorcan… and she has been telling on me since I was a small child.”
The husky sat and wagged her tail, leaning lovingly into one strong leg.
“Look… can I leave you for a moment, apparently I have a locker with more appropriate clothing for battle and I think I should go and change.”
“Verily… I will guard the scientists.”
He made to leave but had an idea and gestured to the taller man’s side, Lorcan trotted over and sat on one booted foot.
“She’ll keep you company til I’m back.”
“Thank you… my friend.”
At the machines, the scientists were busy, looking up momentarily as the captain left but going back to their devices as he vanished from view.
“ The gamma readings are definitely consistent with Selvig's reports on the Tesseract. But it's gonna take weeks to process.”
“If we bypass their mainframe and direct a reroute to the Homer cluster, we can clock this around six hundred teraflops.”
“All I packed was a toothbrush.”
“You know, you should come by Stark Tower sometime. Top ten floors, all R&D. You'd love it, it's candy land.”
“Thanks, but the last time I was in New York I sort of broke… Harlem.”
“I promise a calm environment, stress free, no surprises…”
He took the opportunity to poke the other man and eyed him carefully.
“You really have got a lid on it, haven’t you. What’s your secret? Mellow jazz? Bongo drums? Huge bag of weed?”
“Least I got you to stop calling me Dr Stark.”
Steve came back in uniform, the bright blue, red and white clinging to his muscled form, Tony wolf whistled as he came in and grinned as the other man blushed.
“How are we doing?”
“Thinking around the problem.”
“You need to focus on it.”
“You think I’m not? Why did Fury call us now? Why not before? What isn’t he telling us? I can’t do the equation unless I have all the variables.”
“You think he’s hiding something?”
“My shields are locked down tight… his body language is telling, but only to the trained.”
“Which you are.”
Bruce looked at the Guide and breathed out, deciding in that moment to trust him.
“Why wasn’t Tony brought in on the Tesseract project… he’s the last word in clean energy at the moment. Why are a spy organisation looking at energy at all.”
“And I’ll check once my decryption programme finishes breaking into the secure files.”
Steve nodded then firmed his mobile mouth.
“I’m going for a walk… then I don’t have to lie.”
“Enjoy your stroll Captain.”
“Thank you… I’m sure I will.”
15.30 , Friday 4 th May 2012. S/G Medical and Ward Room, SHIELD Command Helicarrier, location classified. (somewhere over the East Coast of USA)
With Loki treated, bandaged and magicked by turns and resting on a comfortable exam bed, Frigga felt ready to return and finish the meeting that had been interrupted. She left her younger son with his Formynder on either side and the human Alpha’s standing by. The rest of the group she had met were waiting in the Ward Room for her when Natasha led her there, taking her own seat after making sure their guest was comfortable. The large view screen flickered to life as the Medical room was beamed in and all nodded solemnly to each other. Fury cleared his throat but it was Loki who spoke.
“My apologies Director… it was not until the spell was lifted that I realised that I knew more than I had said… it must have contained an element of a geas to stop me from talking.”
“It did my son… you could not tell all that you knew and people hearing it would doubt your words… an ugly addition to a despicable working.”
“So… He is in command of this enterprise. The Titan. His lead Commander in this is known as The Other but he has sent one of his children to lead the invasion… his daughter Nebula.”
“Who is HE?”
“And what does he want?”
“The Tesseract… or rather what the Tesseract contains… one of the infinity gems…”
Fury stood up from the table with a shove, rolling his head to hear his neck crack as he thought.
“The Tesseract is ours… it has been on this planet for centuries…”
Frigga looked at him, regal purpose in her bearing.
“It was hidden here, by Asgard… long after it was taken… stolen as a spoil of war…”
“But it has been here… and we were using it…”
At that moment Tony and Bruce came into the room and stood staring at the Director.
“Why are you here?”
“Don’t worry, everything is locked in now, we’ll have the cube’s location within half a mile… but out of curiosity… what is Phase 2?”
The Director actually took a step back at that, just as the Captain arrived and threw a curious rifle onto the table.
“Phase 2 is that SHIELD uses the cube to make weapons.”
He was angry, an artery throbbing at his forehead as he glared at the older man.
“So… SHIELD are making weapons of mass destruction… was Stark Industries shutting down that much of a blow… I know dear old dad made pretty much everything you use.”
Tony’s dry delivery hid his anger well, but a banked fire can burst into flame very quickly. Natasha slid from her seat and went to Dr Banner’s side, offering her support as a Guide to help him remain calm.
“No… we’re making weapons because of them.”
He gestured to the Asgardians both in the room and on the screen.
“Last year, Earth had a visitor from another planet who had a grudge match that levelled a small town. We learned that not only are we not alone, but we are hopelessly, hilariously, outgunned.”
“As the voice of Asgard I can promise you that we want nothing but peace…”
“As mother said… I am still working through why I sent that machine here… we believe that it was prompted by the curse that had been placed on so much of the regalia of rule.”
Loki looked pale as he spoke, realising that he could have killed his Sentinel’s as well as his brother in that attack. Fury looked the Queen in the eyes and exhaled sharply.
“But you're not the only people out there, are you? And, you're not the only threat. The world's filling up with people who can't be matched, they can't be controlled.”
“Like you controlled the cube? The same way that Red Skull controlled it?”
Memories swam through Steve’s mind, the loss of his Sentinel a cut to his heart again – as it was every-time he thought of those times and every-time he dreamed of him. Frigga shook her head at the pacing man.
“It was your work with the Tesseract that has drawn the Other and his armies here. That type of power is a sign that your planet has evolved to a higher stage and is ready for another form of war.”
“You forced our hand, we had to come up with something…”
Tony shook his head sadly.
“So you went for the Nuclear Deterrent option… even Oppenheimer thought it was a bad idea.”
“Remind me again where your fortune came from…”
“Weapons were the majority of the company under Stane… not my father or me.”
“The Master of Death…”
“Deflection does not suit you Director… and blaming my people for using the Tesseract for your own aims does you no credit at all.”
Frigga had the tone of a disappointed mother and it hit all of them in the chest, her power might have been more subtle than that of her husband but it did not mean it was less effective.
“We have a duty to this planet your Majesty… and those above me would have no qualms about using everything in our arsenal to defend it… if we used the Tesseract we avoided worse options.”
“You have atomic weaponry?”
“It has always seemed a strange idea to us, that an army would choose to use a device that leads to such massive loss of life and would leave damage for beyond any of your life expectancies…”
“Your people carry swords…”
“Mjolnir is one of the most dangerous armaments ever made… constructed by the dwarves of Nidavellir of Uru and then enchanted… Most armies of the realms send Sorcerers into battle to weave illusions and tie up their oppositions with warriors that they cannot see… in the past arms similar to your guns were used but there were too many civilian casualties and non-combatant deaths so for the sake of honour we reverted to hand to hand combat… a route this planet has not taken.”
Fury was taken aback. For all the Asgardians knowledge and magick he had assumed that they had not developed black powder and guns, and he did not enjoy being wrong. Fortunately for him his reply was interrupted by a trail of scientists escorted by the massive figure of the God of Thunder.
“Director… we believe we have found the cube.”
He spun to face Dr Forster who was beaming from next to her unearthly partner.
“It is settling in around 40° 45' 32.0256'' N and 73° 59' 6.4680'' W.”
Maria Hill paled at her words and hustled to the Directors side.
“That’s Manhattan Island.”
“Is she going for Indian Point? Are there reactors in any of the New York Universities?”
She was about to answer when Tony Stark snapped to attention and pulled out his phone.
“What’s going on JARV? Any unusual fluctuations from the reactor?”
“We had a brown out approximately seven minutes ago… I sent you an email but as the deviation was within norms I began an investigation rather than immediately contacting you.”
“Send that investigation to the top of the pile and red it… send me all the data you collect as you collect it and we’ll be there soon.”
“Thank you sir.”
He hung up with the look of man who really wanted to slam down a receiver.
“Son of a bitch…”
“What is it Dr Stark?”
The Inventor looked at the Captain in surprise, not fully in the correct headspace to manage his fathers hero being alive and talking to him.
“Captain… it’s a shit storm on the way.”
“Stark Tower is powered by the largest and most advanced arc reactor to date… bar this one…”
He tapped the disc in his chest and Steve nodded his understanding.
“It is designed to adapt to requirements and if I’m not there doing an experiment and since R and D have to apply to draw on it above a certain level….”
“Why was there a brown out.”
“Yes… I can only assume…”
“That’s the power source they want to use.”
On the screen they could see Loki pushing his Sentinel’s aside to stand on shaking legs.
“A major centre is just what she would choose… not just for the statement but simply for the destruction.”
Fury had only one thing he could say.
“Avengers… you’re up.”
16.15 , Friday 4 th May 2012. Quinjets, over US airspace.
It had taken a little time for them to get ready but soon all the warriors were clothed and armed and ready for their next encounter. Loki and Thor had donned their battle dress, not as showy as the ceremonial armours they wore but more useful and hardwearing. Loki had also taken advantage of the armoury on board, taking as many knives as he could and hiding them on his person as well as in ‘the spaces in-between’ as he called it, quantum pockets of magick as Jane Forster has named them and the other scientists agreed.
The Captain had agreed to take a weapon in addition to his shield, Lorcan at his side as she had been for so many battles before. Lyubov and Simcha were of less use on a battlefield and had retreated to the Spirit realm after their mistresses had meditated leaving Aquila to ride on Darcy’s shoulder and Clint’s quiver alternately. Darcy had insisted on a few minutes with the Asgardians, making sure that they were ready for the fight to come, they may have been legendary warriors but they were brand new to their senses and their worry over a Guide who would be in the thick of it with them. Natasha and Steve had joined them, showing them how to bring their animal selves forward and introduce themselves, leaving Fandral with Brynja and Sif naming her cat Egill. The Dire Wolf seemed pleased, a sly look appearing in her eyes as Fandral explained her name meant Armour. Sif patted Egill and countered that her name meant awe or terror, her scimitar teeth making it more than appropriate. Loki merely stroked over Asdis’ head, knowing that her name meant Goddess and that she was ready for the skirmish to come.
“Are you ready for this?”
“I am Antiope… and I owe that blue creature a beating of her own.”
With ear pieces in place they climbed into two Quinjets, Delta and the Asgardians on one with the rest of the Avengers and some STRIKE personnel on the other. Clint took the controls with Natasha in the co-pilots seat and off they went, Manhattan ahead.
“Count off Avengers.”
The familiar voice of Phil Coulson in their ears was a comfort to those who knew him, and their trust helped those who had only just met the Agent.
“We hope the ear piece will remain with you Doctor, if not we’ll think of something else.”
“I hope so… the best museums are in Manhattan and sometime I’d like to go back!”
“You will... “
Now he turned his attention to the other craft, his team and the visitors together.
“Antiope, ready and able.”
“I am THOR.”
“Thank you… you can speak normally and we will hear you.”
“Indeed Son of Coul
16.30 , Friday 4 th May 2012. Quinjets, over Manhattan.
As the two Quinjets entered Manhattan airspace they pulled alongside each other, using their scanners to look for Nebula and her cohorts. After talking with JARVIS Tony launched himself out of the back of the jet and flew towards Stark Tower, the others following at a safe distance.
“Sir, I have detected Dr Selvig on the roof of the Tower.”
“Got it… hit the brakes on the arc.”
“I took the arc reactor off line. The device is already self-sustained.”
He flew over to confront the scientist, eyeballing him from a safe distance as he waved maniacally at the device he had constructed.
“Shut it down Dr Selvig.”
“It’s too late… It can’t stop now. She wants to show us something, a new universe.”
He pulled back further from the device and aimed carefully, letting loose with both repulsors in a barrage of power. The blowback knocked Selvig onto his back but when the smoke cleared the field of energy was still there, and so was the gadget he had been aiming at.
“The barrier is pure energy. It is unbreachable. Also the Mark VII is not ready for deployment.”
“Skip the spinning rims, we’re on the clock…. Banner, could use you.”
Quinjet 2 hovered next to the landing platform and the sheepish doctor climbed out, heading quickly into the penthouse apartment and away from the overwhelming drop below. Stark had waited for the doctor to go in before making his own approach, wanting the other man clear of the robot arms that were needed to remove the Mark VI. Suddenly he jerked back as a bolt of energy hit him, Nebula standing on another balcony and taking pot shots with her sceptre. He couldn’t get close to the landing zone and was ducking and weaving as she tried desperately to blast him out of the sky.
“A little help?”
“We’d take out the building Ironman.”
“Hawkeye – you’re the sniper.”
“And I’m flying the plane.”
Then she stopped and moved, heading inside the building. Tony took the opportunity to land and, after stripping out the suit, grab the bracelets that Bruce was holding.
“A small…. Robot… thing brought these for you.”
“Of course Sir. There appears to be a being coming down from the upper levels…”
Another shot preceded her as Nebula appeared, breaking one of the large panes of glass that made up the walls of the penthouse living space. The two men backed up towards the elevators but realised that they had to talk to her.
“You are a talented man Stark…”
“Thanks, I think.”
“As are you Dr Banner…”
“The expert that has been working with me was full of admiration for both of you, apparently before me are two of the greatest minds on this planet.”
“Shucks, and I don’t even know your name.”
“I am Nebula, daughter of Thanos the Titan.”
“Cool…. Um, why?”
“Why so interested in Dr Banner and little old me. I mean, there’s a whole planet full out there…”
“Few of them have your… gifts. My father is fond of the intelligent and the interesting, he would be pleased to meet both of you… perhaps induct you into the family.”
Tony’s eyes widened before he was able to school his face, Bruce did not have his masks and showed his horror far more clearly.
“I had enough problems with the Dad I had sweetheart, I’m not looking for another one…”
“So be it.”
She advanced on them and they backed away until they realised she had positioned them at the wall of glass.
“My father, or death…”
She shot at them and they fell. Bruce immediately transformed but his increased mass sped up his velocity and he was soon below Tony who was frantically tapping at his wrists.
The Quinjets could not get close enough to catch him and although Thor was swinging Mjolnir to take flight he was not certain of his abilities either. Suddenly a red and gold object was ejected from the tower and caught him up, encasing him in a new suit and enabling him to catch himself just before he hit the solid sidewalk.
“Close thing there JARVIS.”
“I live to serve, and catch.”
16.45 , Friday 4 th May 2012. Quinjets, over Manhattan.
Suddenly their attention was taken by a beam of light streaming into the sky. Where it seemed to intersect with the atmosphere a hole was forming, a chasm in space and time, a dark vortex that boded ill. Flying chariots began to emerge, Chitauri warriors heading down to one of the most populated areas of America. Tony launched himself immediately and began using his shoulder rockets to take them down, the Quinjets joining him with their rail guns but they were fighting against a flood.
“Any ideas from SHIELD?”
“Yeah, you’re more manoeuvrable than us, we’ll form a cross fire if you can taunt them in?”
“Thanks Bird Boy.”
With a sarcastic salute to Hawkeye he peeled away, bringing groups of flyers chasing him and into the deadly fire zone that the two Quinjets had formed. This worked for a while but they began to realise what was happening and stopped chasing the red and gold figure as closely, now tailing him and taking pot shots but mostly focussing on the damage they could do to the civilian populace.
Darcy had been busy, contacting the Sentinel and Guide offices both by phone and on the spiritual plane. They were on the move, office braced for the biggest onlining since 9/11 and the panicked people they would be dealing with. Their own Alpha pair had come online in the debris of that day and had prepared their team for disaster; as far as they could be they were ready.
All the active pairs that were trained for this type of event were making their way to the scene, ready to take on the invaders and rescue the civilians. They were using Darcy as a homing beacon, her mind providing them with information as they approached the site and emerged onto the streets.
The Chitauri screeched at them, seeing more targets but they threw back their heads and screamed back, warrior cries from out of the history books – as were the swords they were carrying. Those who could use them were armed with sniper rifles and p-90’s as well as blades and they joined the battle immediately.
Nebula had jumped aboard on of the chariots and was directing it towards the opposition, shooting beams from her sceptre at the Quinjets. Clint was sharp enough to move out of the way but the other pilot did not have his reflexes and took a hit, controlling the descent as the team braced for impact. Clint followed them down, guarding the jet until he could land next to it. The team spilled forth and the Quinjet was sealed behind them, unable to fly but not available for theft either.
“You still able to fly?”
“Then get in the air and take out what you can, call sign Red Leader.”
“You got it Hawkeye.”
The SHIELD personnel took up the functioning jet and the others looked at each other then at the sky. From within the vortex a shape began to form and then burst forth, a huge biomechanical beast that was being ridden and used as a troop transport.
“You see this?”
“Seeing, working on believing…. JARVIS, find me a soft spot.”
As the leviathan flew past buildings commando Chitauri jumped clear and began to attack from the top down, smashing through windows and tossing wreckage to the ground. As Stark managed to take out their monster they pulled back and screamed again, defiance and resilience in the sound.
Darcy grabbed Loki, Natasha and Steve and headed towards the gathering police, determined to get them moving to help rather than hinder. As the Guides left the Sentinels, Thor and Hulk began to pull debris free and let people get out from where they were trapped. Clint and Fandral pulled apart two buses and began releasing passengers whilst Hulk took great delight in flinging broken masonry at the next leviathan that was flying overhead.
“I need men in these buildings. There are people inside that can run into the line of fire. You take them through the basement or through the subway. You keep them off the streets. I need a perimeter as far back as 39th.”
“Who are you and why are you giving us orders.”
“Alpha Lewis… glad to see you Alpha.”
The Sergeant pulled back and saluted as Danny arrived, dust covering him already from his position next to his Sentinel.
“Whatever she said… do it.”
The benefit of the Alpha pair keeping their roles within the NYPD was obvious as the force immediately started working to Darcy’s orders and those of the S/G centre. Darcy reached into one of the pockets on the side of her combat suit and handed over a small pile of earpieces. Channel 3 for us, we’re using code names in the field but it should be clear who’s who – apart from me, Antiope.”
“Got it. I’ll distribute these, you go save the world.”
With a high five she led her Guide train back to the Sentinels and rejoined them, touching Clint gently to help him centre himself.
“We keep fighting.”
A shriek from further down the street showed a leviathan close to the ground and following Iron Man as he twisted and turned to stay ahead of it, Hulk jumped out and punched it where it’s nose would have been on an Earth creature, turning it over and knocking it out cold. He turned with a giant grin on his face and Darcy took the opportunity to drop a kiss on one green cheek.
“Hulk did good smash?”
“Hulk did a great smash.”
Suddenly a voice came through their earpieces and the SHIELD personnel came to virtual attention, the others cocking their heads to hear.
“Say again Bucephalus.”
“Call it Cap.”
They all turned to Steve who reddened slightly but then straightened as his Alpha nodded to him in respect.
“All right. I need eyes up high, Hawkeye?”
“Got it, I’ll use the snipers that are up there as well, most of them know me through Antiope.”
“Right, call it as you see it. Stark, Red Leader, perimeter… anything gets more than three blocks out you turn it back or turn it to ash.”
“Cool. Need a lift?”
“Clench up Legolas.”
He gripped at Hawkeye’s uniform and swept him to a high spot before returning and lifting Darcy bridal style to drop her and her rifle next to her Sentinel before taking up a sweeping pattern in the sky.
“Thor… use the lightning and bottleneck that portal as best you can, fry the bastards before they can land.”
With a whirl of Mjolnir he lifted into the air and took up position at the top of the nearest spire, calling his element to battle once more.
“The rest of us are here, kill what you can…. Loki can you take Nebula?”
“I owe her…”
“Good. We’ll protect you as best we can, you’re our ace in the hole… if nothing else we need that sceptre from her.”
“As you ask Captain.”
Spirit Guides became visible once more, Lorcan howling out his readiness for combat. Steve missed hearing the answering call from Cezar but he buried the pain and rolled his head. Loki touched him softly, feeling his pain and trying to reduce it but combat without his Sentinel would forever be difficult for him and he shook it off, ready to fight.
“We shall talk later Captain.”
“After this… I’ve got all the time in the world.”
Sif and Fandral pulled blades free and readied themselves, Egill and Brynja clearly ready for the battle ahead. Indeed, Egill immediately pounced on the first Chitauri he could reach and tore out his throat, Brynja not far behind and launching herself into the fray. Not to be outdone Asdis grew before their eyes and took to the air, breathing ice flames to freeze warriors and make it easier for the others to finish them.
Their war cries echoed between the buildings, heard for the first time on Midgard in centuries and they charged, swords falling left and right to topple the enemy as though they were ants beneath their feet. Loki was tossing blades, both real and conjured, with deadly accuracy but his main focus was in the sky, trying to spot his target as she flew overhead. He began to conjure, making false targets for the warriors to give civilians more time to flee for their lives, talented enough to make his illusions fight back against the alien threat. Fandral concentrated and large blocks of masonry began to move, throwing themselves into groups of Chitauri as they screeched in anger as he rediscovered his Seidr. Loki watched in amazement and no small amount of admiration at the magick shown, looking him up and down in no small amount of lust.
“Concentrate Loki, you can bond later.”
“Acknowledged Antiope, it is difficult when he keeps showing off like this…”
Sif sniffed and threw her double ended sword, curving it through the air to decapitate two Chitauri simultaneously before it ended up in the heart of a third. She might not have Seidr but she was certainly no slouch in the killing the villains division of their bond.
“Or like that.”
“Still, there will be a time and a place… neither of which is NOW!”
Darcy’s last word came as a screech over the radio as she fired her rifle at a chariot that climbed vertically up the building they were stood on, surprising her as it appeared over the edge of the roof.
“Chariot down Bucephalus, Hawkeye and Antiope OK.”
She turned to glare at her Sentinel who was looking in one direction and casually firing in another, taking down sets of chariots with every arrow he loosed.
“A little warning?”
“You had it… I trust you and your training.”
She narrowed her eyes a little but settled back onto her belly, able to reach out and touch her Sentinel’s leg if he needed the assistance but otherwise focused on those she could read and her weapon. Hawkeye was scanning the horizon over and around the midtown highrises, taking out those he could and directing other snipers to those he couldn’t.
“FBI 3 – four o’clock high, take them down.”
“Got anything for me?”
“Yeah, Stark… they’re good on the straight but they can’t bank worth a damn, find a tight corner or six.”
“I will roger that.”
Iron Man swept past them, a string of Chitauri on his tail before he banked and swerved them into several buildings and covered passageways.
“Well, Thor is taking on a squadron down on sixth.”
“And he didn’t invite me? Rude.”
He turned with a jaunty salute, leaving the pair for the moment to focus on their own targets. On the ground the combination of blades , energy weapons purloined from the enemy and angry spirit guides was taking out the foot soldiers, but even enhanced humans tired faster than the Asgardians. Natasha was using a pulse weapon with accuracy but the kick back was taking it’s toll on her frame, her serum trying to keep up with the damage but beginning to fail. Sif and Fandral seemed to be having fun as they fought, keeping score in a game straight out of Lord of the Rings but with a Dungeons and Dragons twist. Loki had spotted Nebula and was concentrating his efforts in her area, making her see and hear faces and voices from her home dimension rather than Midgard, but so far she was strong enough to shake them loose and fight back.
Red Leader swung down Park with a Leviathan on his tail but he had a plan and led it straight to the Hulk who took great delight in pummelling the huge creature to the ground and jumping up and down on the remains, Thor toasted another one as Tony decided to emulate the story of Jonah and destroyed a third from the inside. However, there were more coming and the heavy hitters could grow tired as well.
Natasha was watching everything happen as she took a second to breath and restrategize. The secret to stopping everything was the vortex and as long as it was open they were vulnerable and going to be defeated.
“Cap… none of this is going to mean a damn thing if we don’t close that portal.”
“Our biggest guns couldn’t touch it.”
“Well, maybe it’s not about guns.”
She gestured to the chariots that were winging back and forth across the sky and Rogers winced.
“You wanna get up there, you’re going to need a ride.”
“I got a ride, could use a lift though.”
This was just the kind of chaos he had enjoyed being a part of during the war, using his strength in an unusual way to fight an enemy. He braced himself and as Natasha ran at him he caught her on his shield and boosted her into the air, watching and yelling in achievement as she caught the rear edge of a chariot and was carried away. Sif saw this and nodded to Fandral who moved closer to Loki before she also nodded to the Captain.
“Are you sure Lady Sif?”
“I cannot let a Veilede go alone, even one as deadly as your Widow Captain.”
He braced again but was more of a launching pad the second time as Lady Sif used her own strength to catch another vehicle and fly away. Loki and Fandral watched her then looked to each other before fighting on but Steve noticed the glance.
“She is magnificent.”
“She is my Formandyer.”
They spoke together and that was all it took, Steve understanding implicitly. He had fallen into reverie watching his Sentinel more than once, almost zoning on his equilibrium and patience as he practiced shooting. The pride he had felt in him had echoed along the bond to Bucky and settled him as well, a relaxed pair together even in the middle of war.
“I need some time…”
Loki spoke suddenly and headed towards a wall, out of the way of the main conflict. Fandral dragged the Captain along, equally unwilling to leave a Guide to fight alone.
“What is it?”
“I have her… she has landed for a moment and so I have her…”
Fandral turned to defend him, realising that as he had done in battle before Loki needed to focus to work his deepest magicks. Steve also picked up on this and grabbed an energy weapon, ready to defend the magician from all comers. Loki was only peripherally aware of them but knew he was safe to launch his Seidr at his target.
“Traitor… you are no sister of mine…. All I ask is for you to take one simple planet, they do not even have a planetary guard and you fail… how could you ever think that I could fall to you, sister mine… I should never had taken you as a daughter, should have let Glaive have you as he desired… you will be mine little Nebula, my newest plaything… how could you ever think you could defeat me… you will fail and I will laugh…”
He cast furiously, making the apparitions as real as he could, taking his battered and bruised memories and making them real… every threat he had overheard and been given twisted and turned back onto the woman above. Then he showed his true mastery of the art, he gave them independence and set them free on her. Until he cancelled the spell he would be lacking in strength but it would not take all of his attention so he was not a burden on his Formandyer and his battle brothers and sisters.
“Proxima wasted her time with you… only Gamora is worthy as a daughter, you are simply a mistake that needs to be corrected… how could I have taken you in… you are nothing but an experiment that has gone beyond the point where data is required… Maw will make you a plaything once Glaive is finished…”
He climbed to his feet and steadied himself, relying on his training and nascent bond. Fandral came to his side and wrapped an arm around his waist, trusting the Captain to keep them protected for a moment.
“Are you well?”
“Her nightmares are coming true… we shall see how she manages them…”
Fandral leaned in and dropped a kiss onto his love’s mouth, tasting him for the first time since they had reconnected.
“Not the time gentlemen…”
“I felt that.. put him down and keep fighting…”
“Who are you addressing m’Lady.”
“Both my mad bondmates…. Let me concentrate.”
They separated quickly, both blushing at their slip. Burgeoning bond or not, their childhood trainers would have their heads for such a mistake in battle. Once they were apart Loki looked around, realising what had been pushing at his shields.
“Captain, Fandral… quickly.”
He began to push at some rubble, moving pieces away until he could see down into a cavity where there was a small group of people hiding in a basement café from the battle outside. With the three of them it was quick work to create a gap large enough for them to escape but they hid there still, terrified of the Chitauri but uncertain of the strangely dressed trio who were rescuing them. Loki looked for assistance but all the other Veilede were busy and the Captain had turned towards the battle once more, it would fall to him. He reached inside himself and touched the part within that called to Asdis. In the sky she wheeled around and came down to him, leaning a head on his shoulder as he eyed the scared humans.
“You need to move away from here… the Chitauri are coming.”
They simply looked at him in shaking terror, his armour and the ice dragon not helping with their fear. Loki reached within himself once more and touched the glowing core that he had discovered in meditation with the Shaman’s and Darcy. When he spoke again it was with an authority and resonance that echoed around the area.
“You must move away, we can keep you safe as you move but they are coming again.”
His empathic nuance meant that he was recognised as a Guide even as his use of the Voice got the people moving. Some clasped his hand as they went past and this shocked him, the Midgardians giving him more skin contact than he had had in eons. His skin hunger for his Sentinels ratcheted up even more and he pulled back a little, uncertain if Fandral and Sif would reject him for the touches that he was being given. However, the blond next to him felt that tendril of unease and came over, kissing one cheek softly.
“The Silver-tongue becomes gold then…”
Loki closed his eyes and allowed the touch before standing up once more and scanning the battlefield. Overhead another Leviathan was being ridden by his brother and the Hulk, both of them tearing at it in fury. It was finally brought to ground and the two of them bumped their fists together in what must have been a Midgardian salute before the green behemoth bounced away to another target and Thor came to his siblings side.
“Are you well brother?”
“I can bear it Thor.”
Loki looked up again at the place where he had left his tormentor but she had moved, jumping into another Chariot. He could see that his spell was still in place but now there were only voices tormenting her rather than the figures that had circled her on the rooftop. He kept his focus on her even as trucks began to draw up around them, the SHIELD insignia displayed on the doors. The ground commander jumped down and came over to them, nodding to the Captain and putting his hand to his ear as he did so.
“I hear you loud and clear Hawkeye…”
They could all hear the Sentinel becoming angry that another member of his pride, and worse his personal pack, was on the battlefield.
“Avengers maintain overall field command, we’re here for containment, mop up and rescue.”
“Good. Alpha Messer and Alpha Flack are on their way to you… the New York pride has been on the case and you can cooperate with them.”
“Acknowledged Antiope, I will be careful Alpha.”
“You’d better be Buchephalus… else I will not be impressed.”
Her flat tone ended that call and he turned to the approaching men to start utilizing their forces appropriately. Once he was occupied Loki let all his attention go back to the sky and he began to whisper, muttering spells and incantations before throwing them at the darting figure of Nebula above. She was chasing Natasha and Sif and he had no intention of letting her near the Veilede or his Formandyer. He managed to hit her sled but the purple skinned woman simply aimed the sceptre at him instead of the women for a moment, before returning to her targets.
“I need to get higher… Thor?”
“Of course brother.”
He took another quick kiss from Fandral and then leaned into his brothers embrace, he knew the mechanics of flight with Mjolnir but had never experienced it himself as the machinations of Odin had begun with the presentation of the hammer to the Thunderer. They rose into the air swiftly and only a few seconds later were resting on a rooftop near the position that Clint and Darcy had taken. There was a sniper pair on the roof but they simply nodded to the Asgardians and kept firing, you had to admire the resilience of the Sentinel and Guide bond, any threat to tribe had to be dealt with first. Thor made sure that Loki was balanced then swung again, ready to tackle the Leviathan that was swimming it’s way down from the hole above them.
“Hawkeye, we must separate her from the sceptre.”
“Agreed Loki, ideas.”
“One… if I can distract her, do you have any explosives?”
“That I can do…”
Between them they outlined a plan and then implemented it. Loki cast a vision of a huge version of Asdis sweeping through the air towards Nebula making her veer further towards the waiting bowman who then released. She caught the arrow and turned to him, cocking her head in amusement at the idea she could be taken in by such a concept. However, that was the moment that Hawkeye chose to detonate the delayed timer on the head. The resulting explosion shook the chariot and she had to grab on, the sceptre falling from her other hand as she did so. Beneath her Thor caught it and rapidly threw it to the Lady Sif who had more training in the magical arts than he did and he was wary of any Seidr infused items after the stories of what his father had been up to. Natasha whooped and turned the blades she had embedded into the torso of the pilot she had co-opted, Sif did the same and they headed for Selvig.
Landing on the gravelled surface of the tower the women were surprised to see a confused and distracted scientist lying on the ground where he had been thrown by a low flying leviathan.
“The sceptre, the energy… you cannot fight against the tesseract… you can’t protect against yourself.”
“It’s not your fault Doctor… you didn’t know what you were doing.”
“Actually, I think I did. I built in a safety to cut the power.”
“What is it?”
He nodded towards the statuesque Asgardian at the petite human’s side.
“That. The sceptre… it might be able to close the portal.”
All three of them moved closer to the device and looked carefully. In the midst of the blue was a faint gleam of gold, a target for them to aim at.
“I think we can close the portal.”
“Message from Director… WSC have sent a missile… repeat we have a hot one coming in.”
“For fucks sake…”
That the last one came from Captain America stopped nobody apart from Iron Man who was not yet used to his mouth.
“Acknowledged Agent Agent… will intercept… I have an idea where to put it.”
“That’s a one way trip….”
“Not if I time it right.”
Whilst the others had been listening in Loki had not let his focus be diverted from his target, instead casting again and again at Nebula. One spell in particular hit her and sparks appeared, one of the major side effects of robotic implants was the risk of overloading! Once Iron Man zoomed past her with the missile on his shoulder she realised that something was about to happen and began to race him, entering the vortex ahead of the red and gold figure. Her chariot vanished and a ship took off as he appeared, releasing the weapon and falling back.
“What should I do Cap?”
The Guide in Natasha was conflicted. She needed to protect the tribe but could not condemn Stark to the vastness and vacuum of space.
“Can you see him?”
“We cannot Captain… even my eyes cannot reach so far…”
There were leviathans coming and they were out of energy, with a grimace she leaned her weight on to the sceptre and broke through the energy field that was protecting mechanism, touching it with the tip made holographic sparks and shimmers appear and surround it. In the sky the gateway began to close, squeezing shut quickly but slowly enough that a small scarlet figure was able to fall free.
“Son of a gun…”
It was Thor who noticed something worrying first.
“He’s not slowing down.”
He swung Mjolnir but before he could take off the Hulk was bounding into view, catching the billionaire like a rag doll and bringing him to the ground. He was still, motionless in a way very foreign to the ebullient inventor. Thor pulled his mask free and Steve was considering first aid when he took in a deep breath and woke up, gasping for air.
“What the hell… what happened… did anybody kiss me?”
“Yay…. Let’s get shwarma…”
20:00 , Friday 4 th May 2012. Upper Floors, Stark Tower, New York.
In the end only Bruce and Thor took Tony up on his offer of a bed for the night. The Sentinels and Guides needed to cleanse, bond and meditate so arranged to see him once they were balanced and ready for the general public once more. Frigga had been put up in a suite that was reserved for dignitaries and heads of state, her body guards and handmaidens following her. Thor had embraced her warmly but gone to dine and rest with his comrades, the heat of battle still upon him. JARVIS had ordered a vast amount of food and all three fell upon it, Pepper joining them and eating her share as well – watching your partner fly through a black hole in space tended to enhance the appetite. Thor ate like a god, or a hungry Asgardian, but Bruce matched him plate for plate – especially when he found the curry that had been ordered with him in mind. For once he abandoned his preference for vegetarian cuisine, transforming took protein and lots of it.
20:00 , Friday 4 th May 2012. Sentinel and Guide Headquarters, New York.
The Manhattan S/G centre had been overflowing with people when the SHIELD contingent arrived. They had gone to the Helicarrier for an initial debrief and to drop off weapons but the ship was not conducive to the rest and quiet they all needed so they had sluiced off the worst of the battle muck and changed to civilian clothes before taking a Quinjet back to the main city. As they had predicted, the battle had brought people online all over Manhattan and through the five boroughs. All the centres were processing as fast as they could, with mass onlinings reported all along the Eastern Seaboard the Alpha Prime Pair of the USA were on their way to help.
“Good evening. Welcome to the Manhattan Sentinel and Guide Headquarters… how can I be of assistance to you?”
Darcy raised an eyebrow as her pack was welcomed by rote. She was there often enough to usually be waved through but the receptionist was a low level sensitive she had only seen in passing.
“I am Alpha Lewis, here with my Sentinel and my personal pack for purification and bonding.”
“Oh… the high level suites have been assigned out already and I’m not sure…”
“We need three rooms. All with bathrooms but not necessarily level three air.”
“How about I just look at the book and sort it out.”
“You can’t do that.”
“You’ll find she can…”
A new voice broke in and they all turned to see a smiling FBI Agent coming towards them, one of the beta’s for the New York pride.
“Fitz! I didn’t know you were back here.”
Agent Martin Fitzgerald had taken longer than some to find his Sentinel and bond, the political interference of his father stopping him from finding his perfect match. Eventually he met then Detective Monroe at a BBQ thrown by his Alpha’s and they had almost bonded on sight. Now they ran a very effective investigative unit, that worked very well with the NYPD.
“Three weeks in DC felt like three months, I don’t know how any Guide can function in that mess.”
“The Triskelion always feels muted in some way, I hate it there.”
“Yeah, it’s bad enough driving past the damn thing! So, rooms?”
“Please. We were in the thick of it and need…. Well, we need.”
“Of course. Come on.”
Once her little cavalcade of pack were settled Darcy and Clint were shown to their room. They asked for food to be left outside for them and they closed and locked the door with pleasure. Darcy still had a light tether to Loki but had withdrawn from Natasha and Steve who really just needed sleep and to play with their spirit guides – something they had readily agreed to do together for their Alpha’s state of mind.
“Leave your chicks darling, they’ll be fine.”
“Even the very foreign ones?”
Clint took her hand and slowly tugged his Guide into his arms, settling her jitteriness with his solid presence. She had used her gifts all day, from the moment she woke, and was exhausted. He was tired as well but sometimes it cost less to use Sentinel gifts, extending his senses and directing a fight was nothing compared to feeling the rapacious hatred of the enemy.
“Yes. Even them.”
She dropped a kiss on his neck as she snuggled into his chest, happy to be in a sealed environment where she could finally relax into his arms. From the moment the Tesseract had misbehaved they had been on duty and now, after all that time, it was just the two of them.
“C’mon Darce… I feel a bath coming on…”
Yes. The only thing better than her Sentinel holding her was a warm, wet and slippery Sentinel helping her wash the dirt out of her hair, that it helped settle his senses to check her over was just a bubbly bonus.
“Lead the way…”
Simcha appeared on the end of the bed and Aquila on the headboard as they vanished into the bathroom, on guard and keeping watch whilst their humans unwound, at last.
In another suite Loki was lying across a comfortable bed, clean and tired. He had visited his mother and the healers once more on the flying vessel and taken as thorough a shower as he was permitted before being rebandaged and dressed in beautifully soft and comfortable cotton garments that were reserved for the gifted in distress, or those who had been tortured. The bed was covered in the same type of fabric linens and he finally felt comfortable for the first time in months. His Formandyer were cleaning up, he had sent their weapons to a safe place along with their armour and there was cotton garb ready for them when they emerged from the facilities. As he lay Loki let his mind drift just a little, scanning lightly over the building and those close to him. Darcy was happy in her partners arms and the good Captain was throwing a ball for Lorcan to fetch whilst Natasha and Lyubov cuddled on the couch. Wider out there was a combination of relaxation and controlled panic between those who had been online before and those who had been thrust into a new world by the events of the day.
“You are deep in thought Loki…”
He rolled over to watch his partners emerge into the room, the plain clothes hiding a little of their muscle but not their desire for him.
His voice was choked and he deliberately made sure that he was not using the Voice he had discovered in the battle. He wanted them desperately but only if they wanted him, wanted to come close. They settled on either side of him as he sat up and crossed his legs, taking their hands to form a triangle between themselves once again.
“We cannot fully bond.”
Fandral tried to pull back as Sif stiffened in shock at his words but Loki held tight to them and would not let them get away.
“Forgive me, my thoughts are ahead of my tongue… I mean that we can join our minds but not our souls or bodies, yet.”
“Is it your hurts?”
“A little but more… this is not our territory… I think that… rather I know that we should finalise our connection where we are to be… on Asgard.”
“There is more though.”
“You have always seen through me Sif, your directness will serve us all well in the future… I will be a Shaman as they term it here… I believe they were known as Prestr .”
“They are myths…”
“No, they were myths… during the reign of Odin they have not emerged, held back by his oppression. I think there are some on other worlds and we would be wise to try and meet them.”
They fell silent, sitting in comfortable quiet. After a little time Loki pulled at their hands and lay back again.
“I think we should sleep. If we are together then the shields in my mind will find you and take you in. This is not the usual method but I am certain it is the way for us.”
“I am happy to follow where you lead Loki.”
“As am I.”
With their Veilede safely between them they drifted to sleep in the umbrella of his mind, slipping into him softly and gently as summer rain.
Darcy smiled in her sleep as she felt the bond form and Clint pulled her close, not ready to surrender his scanning of the city just yet but relaxed in the naked embrace of his other self.
10:00 , Saturday 5 th May 2012. WSC Room, Helicarrier, Over New York.
“Ladies and Gentlemen of the World Security Council… I am Queen Frigga of Asgard and Vannaheim. I sit on Hlidskjalf and hold Gungnir as ruler of the nine realms. I was Queen to Odin Borsson who has been deposed and will be tried for crimes against his people… I have come in good faith to start a diplomatic connection between our peoples but instead I find children. You did not ask for assistance with the fight yesterday before sending the weapon that you did. That is was even considered shows how far you have to come… For your own good I will be taking the tesseract to Asgard… scientists from our realms will be able to come back and forth shortly and discuss technology and clean energy with you… however, until you can be trusted with it any of our weapons will be withheld… I am disappointed and disheartened by this… after meeting some of your people and the gracious way they greeted my sons I had hoped for so much more than this….”
She twirled on the spot and stalked from the room, every line of her body showing her distaste for the message she had been forced to give rather than the one she had wished for. The Council were shocked silent, the matriarch had spoken.
13:00 , Tuesday 8 th May 2012. Stark Tower, New York.
Schwarma was the theme when they all finally had been debriefed and settled. Tony had arranged a spread for them all, determined to have a meal with the group before they all went their separate ways. He had been busy himself, making sure that the Chitauri debris was not falling into the hands of criminals or future mad scientists as well as using the Iron Man suit to move huge pieces of rubble all over Manhattan and in Hells Kitchen specifically.
“So, this is schwarma?”
“OK... what do I do?”
Darcy slid off Clint's lap and sat next to the confused Captain, showing him how to roll meat up into the bread and talking him through the toppings. The Asgardians watched her then made their own selections, Volstagg managing to fold the pitta around an astounding amount of fillings. Fandral and Sif made up a plate for Loki and took it to him where he was relaxing against some cushions, his hurts, exacerbated by the battlefield, needed the halls of healing for full recovery. Simcha and Lyubov were playing on the floor, chittering and barking at each other as their mistresses talked, Lorcan however was at Steve's side, holding him up as he slowly ate his fill.
“Call me Steve.”
“Then I must be Loki... how are you?”
“A little low to be honest... no matter how much work Darcy does with me, or Shaman Messer for that matter, I'll always feel the gap where Bucky ought to be... fighting just made it worse... then at the centre all those couples...”
Loki reached out a hand and placed it onto one strong shoulder, massaging it slightly in consideration.
“No.... incomplete but not broken... damn I am too young at this to explain... in some ways you feel like me... I have a partial bond, we have not finalised it – cannot until we are home – and you feel similar, as though the other end were held lightly.”
“That makes no sense, my Sentinel died 70 years ago.”
“My apologies... I did not mean to cause hurt.”
“You haven't... and I need to manage my temper... Bucky always said I had a mouth designed to get me into trouble.”
“In this we are alike!”
Thor came over and smiled at the two, pleased that his quiet sibling was making friends in his own way.
“A fine feast this brother.”
“Indeed it is... and pleasant companionship to make it more so.”
“Truly... are you recovered from the fighting Captain.”
“Yes, and call me Steve...”
“Stephen of Rogers... a fine name.”
Natasha was giggling at them, Lyubov licking at her fingers as she danced between the visitors before sitting down to whine at the elevators as they started to rise. Aquila appeared then, sitting on the back of a barstool and waving her wings, cawing as the doors opened to show Buscephalus and the Queen.
“Agent Agent... your majesty.”
Pepper rose quickly and smacked Tony on the back of the head, correcting him before he came up with any nicknames for a woman who could crush him with a mere look.
“Sorry... force of habit.”
“Phil... glad to see you in one piece... and Queen Frigga, welcome to the Tower.”
“Son of Coul... a worthy escort for our mother, worthy indeed.”
Thor boomed his greeting and came to take his mother's arm, leading her to Loki's side and a chair that had been kept free for her.
“Yes Stark... what of it...”
“The war horse that Alexander the Great rode to every battlefield, trained to fight better than his men and his secret weapon...”
It was Clint who explained, with the tone of one who had done so before. He slung an arm over his handler's shoulder and pulled him over to Darcy who proceeded to cluck over him, the last member of her pack for her to fuss over.
17:00 , Tuesday 8 th May 2012. SHIELD warehouse, New York.
One of the last offers that the Asgardians made was cheerfully jumped upon by SHIELD and the World Security Council. Now that Loki had regained his strength he and his mother, together with her handmaidens, could carry out a working. They took up their positions in the warehouse and concentrated. The Chitauri remains that had already been placed there resonated on an entirely different level to those of Midgard and made their casting more straightforward. A summoning of everything that 'felt' like the alien warriors and their weapons, taking them from where they had fallen and where they had been hidden both. Slowly the space began to fill with energy guns and lances as well as armour and chariot parts, fragments of bodies and leviathans as well as even the ropes they had used.
“Our thanks Majesty.”
“You are most welcome Director Fury... in exchange for the Tesseract this was a small thing to offer... in addition to our hand in friendship of course.”
“A hand we gladly take Queen Frigga.”
10:00 , Wednesday 9 th May 2012. Stark Tower, New York.
Leave taking had never been one of Loki's best talents. He clung tightly to those he loved, afraid that they would be taken away as his children had been, terrified that if they left his sight they would hate him on their return. Knowing now that he had not been paranoid, that the working against him had caused his pain he still did not want to go.
“What shall I do without you Alpha.”
“You will lead your own pack, form a pride on Asgard and lead them.”
“Yes. I can see it within you... you are a part of my pack but you must form your own... it is the nature of Shaman and Alpha's to form groups around themselves. People can move between them, Thor for example will be in your pack on Asgard and mine here as I have claimed Jane but he will always be your brother.”
“I know... I know that I must go but part of me yearns to stay...”
“That is the dichotomy of growth... all Alpha's must leave their natal or training packs and set out alone... but you have your Sentinel's with you... lean on them and their strength... with Hogun, Volstagg and Thor in addition to them you have a strong pack... use them.”
“I will bow to your advice my Lady.”
She stood on tip toe to place a kiss on his cheek as he leaned over towards her.
“You will be a great Alpha, Shaman of Asgard.”
He bowed his head and stepped back to his Formandyer, taking their hands tightly. Thor placed Jane back on the ground and headed to their side.
“Yes... for now.”
With that Frigga clasped the Tesseract vessel tightly and transported them home.
19:00 , Wednesday 9 th May 2012. Stark Tower, New York.
Darcy gathered her little Pride that evening in a meditation room that Stark had fitted out in the days since he met them. It was to S/G centre standards, high thread count linens and air filters and all. She supposed she shouldn't be surprised, considering that he had created a laboratory for Jane in less time. Still, there were things to consider.
“Breath with me.... in.... hold... out...”
The whole group were together, even Tony and Pepper who had taken more persuasion than Bruce who was used to meditation and control.
“And in... hold... out... feel the floor beneath you and the cushions you have used to hold your position, sense the air flow around you and the pride by your sides...”
Phil had abandoned his suit and was in sweats as he breathed with them, too entrenched in the pride to be solely Fury's good eye anymore.
“If your guide wishes to be free then let them... in... hold... out...”
Simcha took the opportunity immediately, chittering and jumping in and out of laps as the group were led by his mistress. Lorcan appeared next with Lyubov and Aquila following soon after.
“In... hold... out...”
It was Steve who gasped and rolled to his feet as another guide appeared, throwing his arms around the bedraggled and moth eaten spirit.