June 18th, 2015
Yondu was too slow.
Part of him wanted to blame the sudden, thick smoke filling the room, making him hesitate to whistle for his arrow. The glow of his red fin wasn’t enough to pierce the smokescreen, making it impossible to see more than vague silhouettes and the flashing lights of whatever weapon the strange woman was wielding. So when one of those colourful streaks headed straight for the silhouette next to Yondu, he was too slow to intercept it, although he did try to tackle Harry down.
With a scream of rage, he jumped back to his feet, lips pursed for a vengeful whistle and damn who he could hit besides that woman - but then an eerie, scarlet red mist rose, illuminating and piercing through the unnatural smoke until it dispersed completely. A loud crack whipped through the air just before the woman was exposed, and with the smoke gone Yondu saw the spot empty where she’d hidden before.
He choked on the air trapped in his lungs and released it in a shaking breath before dropping back to his knees, hands reaching out for Harry who was… actually not looking wounded. If all, the boy looked perplexed, rubbing his chest where he’d been hit before making faces at Yondu’s searching hands. The Centaurian didn’t care that he was rough in his checking and swatted Harry’s hands away when the mage tried to inch away. But there were no wounds, no holes, no blood. Only a lingering warmth tingling against Yondu’s fingers, and a very faint taste of copper on his tongue.
“Did you reflect it?” he asked as he got up on his feet, dragging Harry with him. The boy shrugged, still looking confused.
“Is he alright?” It was Rogers who asked, his voice booming through the chaotic chattering of the other people. Only then did Yondu look up and scan the room again, his eyes gliding off of Drax, who had his knives drawn, and Mantis, who was standing behind the brunette with the scarlet mist dancing around her fingers and eyes. The synthetic man was floating towards the spot where the woman had been crouching while shooting off her weapon.
Finally, at the door, he caught Peter’s eyes and scowled at him, which was enough to prompt the stupid boy to come over, worry plain on his big face. Him Yondu tolerated, shoving Harry towards Peter, but when Rogers made his way over, Yondu stood in the way, his arms folded in front of his chest.
“And what was that, huh?” he snarled, caring little about how he sounded. “Save my ass! How did that bitch get in here?”
“Yondu!” he heard Peter say, voice scolding, but the Centaurian knew damn well that the boy was just as worried as he was. This had only been the second time Harry had agreed to enter the Compound’s main building since the fight, after all. He had no time for the mage to regress again.
“She was powered,” the brunette said, voice tense as she let the scarlet mist dissipate. Only her eyes remained red. Pursing her lips, she exchanged a look with the synthetic man before turning to Rogers. “She could hold off both Vision and me - some sort of shielding, although I’m not sure if it was some kind of device. The way she left, however, was clearly a teleportation power.”
“Which explains how she got into the building in the first place,” Rogers said with a troubled look in his eyes. Shaking his head, he gave Harry one more searching look.
At least he was decent enough to look as worried as Yondu felt right now.
Turning back to the mage, who had escaped Peter’s clutches and was still rubbing his chest, Yondu took more time to watch him, searching for any hints of regression. He was never quite sure what would set Harry off - it happened less and less with the years passing by, but once the boy stopped talking, he took his damn sweet time to get his head straight again. With a measure of relief, he noticed that while Harry looked a bit pissed off, there was no hint of distress on his face.
“Lemme see again,” he said gruffly while reaching out and was pleased when Harry scowled at him, evading his hands. “Peter, hold him steady, he may hide if he’s hurt.”
Before Peter could comply (and he would’ve, Yondu wasn’t blind), the speakers in the room turned on and the female voice of the AI spoke up, with much more sentience than any AI had a right to. “Boss is calling for a meeting,” the slightly impatient sounding voice told them, with a weird twang to her voice. One of the Terrans had called it an Irish dialect, whatever that meant. “Please gather in the main conference room, guests included.”
The voice cut off. Yondu scoffed a bit, not really willing to simply comply with any orders, but the others already started moving. Harry actually gripped the sleeve of his jacket when he noticed the lack of movement of the Ravager, his eyebrows raised.
“Fuck this,” Yondu mumbled, but he followed his boys anyway. Maybe somebody could explain why there’d been a fucking intruder in the first place.
June 18th, 2015
Tony leaned back in his chair, fingers ghosting over the surface of the Stark Pad in his hand. The voices of the other people in the conference room, both Avengers and aliens alike, droned on, but he was only listening with one ear while the footage of the break-in was watched and dissected over and over again.
There was a memory niggling at Tony’s mind after he’d watched it the first time, and it wouldn’t let go.
Now, he wasn’t arrogant when he said he was a genius. It was the plain truth. Sometimes people would forget about it after spending some time with him - mostly, they thought it only applied to sciences and technology. But it didn’t quite work that way. His brain was always working, juggling ten different concepts while holding a conversation was easy for the billionaire. It took a long time for information to slip from his mind, but even for that, he’d failsafes. First, it was Jarvis and the servers the AI ran on, cataloguing the data he fed on. Now it was Friday’s job to be the extended brain of her creator.
The thought still ached, but Tony was good at ignoring these things. People called it unhealthy, but he usually didn’t care.
“... can’t be a visual disguise. Their height and weight changed as well when they dropped the identity of the cleaning staff. And notice how their clothes changed as well. It’s not like Loki though, we found the shoes they discarded and they’re almost an exact replica of Pepper’s…”
“So it’s a combination of powers? One which changes their appearance and clothing, and another to teleport? Maybe they’re connected in some ways, or they’re more versatile than we’ve yet encountered…”
Biting his lower lip, Tony glanced up, temporarily distracted from his search through old databases. He knew it was foolish to do it manually - he should set Friday on it. She’d done lots of research already, but Tony had a feeling that what he needed was on one of his private servers. Specifically, one of those only he and Jarvis had used.
Yeah, he should totally not think about that right now.
“What about the weapon she had?” he added to the conversation, watching as Steve played the footage forward to what the cameras had caught in the guest quarters. Slowing down the footage, they watched the ‘woman’ activate some type of energy shield, taking two hits before releasing thick smoke from the tip of the stick-like weapon in her hand.
The thought tugged on his mind yet again. Tony huffed and shook his head as the group continued to talk about the weird weapon, if it even was one. Natasha and Clint both pointed out that it was mostly used as a defensive device. “They incapacitated Cap for like, half a minute,” the archer said before showing the short fight yet again. “The only time we don’t know how it was used was when they aimed it towards Harry.”
“Who feels unchanged,” Natasha added, and the majority of the assembled people glanced at the young man who was busy listening to Quill’s whispers, wedged between his human brother and the Yondu guy who looked like he got kicked out of the Blue Man Group.
The kid blinked as he found himself to be the centre of attention. It showed that he felt better - he wasn’t cringing away or running out of the room anymore. Hadn’t for a couple of days, after Steve had stopped giving him pitying looks.
Hell, yesterday he’d been fine enough to park the giant spaceship back at the moon. Tony would know - he’d begged to come along when Peter had told him about the plan. Which they totally had to do again.
“Anything to share with us?” he called over, ignoring both Steve’s and Yondu’s looks. Quill looked over for a moment before staring at Harry, who grimaced for a total of four seconds before sighing and shrugging. He nodded towards Gamora, who’d been listening in the whole time - the green-skinned woman gave a stern nod.
“Okay, now I’m actually curious,” Tony muttered and put the Stark Pad down.
“It’s actually nothing that should be too new for you all,” Peter said. “Just something we, personally, liked to keep a secret. It’s safer that way, but it shouldn’t be a problem here on Terra… Earth.”
“We promise we won’t spread any secrets as long as they don’t cause any dangers for the public,” Steve said, eyes as honest as always. It was in times like these that Tony really appreciated Steve’s big Goodie-Two-Shoes face - he looked like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth and he meant it as well.
“I guess the first part is pretty safe to share. It’s not like it’s a big secret, and you’ve ties to Asgard,” Peter started, scratching his chin. “So you all should know that there’s magic out there and a tiny number of planets produce it. Like Asgard itself, right?”
For a moment the room fell into silence. Tony noticed a tenseness to some of the aliens, mostly Gamora and Yondu. Peter and Harry, however, didn’t look too stressed.
“Magic,” Wanda finally said, her accent heavy. Tony looked her way - she was called the Scarlet Witch after all. But they all knew that her powers stemmed from Loki’s Staff, and who knew how that thing operated.
“Magic,” Gamora replied, her voice serious and even. “It is exceedingly rare and highly sought after. Only a handful of planets are known where mages are born. Each and every one of them is either heavily guarded or their location is a well-kept secret itself. But the powers of mages are said to be versatile and near-endless if honed well.”
“So, are you saying you think the intruder was… what? A witch?” Tony laughed at that thought, but he couldn’t help but feel like he should remember something. “I mean, they did have a wand…”
“What’s a wand?” Rocket asked, eyeing one of the still pictures of the intruder in their female form. “The stick?”
“In some children’s stories, people who can use magic are called witches and wizards. Sometimes, they use wands or staffs made out of wood for their spells,” Clint explained, sounding highly amused. “And sure, she did have one. And after Loki, I won’t even be surprised if magic and all that was real. But you said it yourself that it’s rare. And why would some mage or whatever go after him?”
Clint nodded towards Harry who raised his eyebrows before looking at Quill, who suddenly seemed reluctant. Rocket, however, was less so.
“He’s a mage,” the racoon said without missing a beat.
“Okay. Let’s say we believe you,” Tony said, holding up a hand when some of the crew bristled at his wording. “Shouldn’t you be, I don’t know… able to tell if they did some Hocus Pocus?”
He watched the kid and saw some hesitation. Harry looked away, his jaws working as if he was chewing on something. Then, with a grimace, he opened his mouth before snapping it shut again. Turning sharply, he leaned towards Yondu.
The room fell silent again when the young man started whispering haltingly. It was obvious that he was forcing the words to come, and that he was still uncomfortable to do so. When he finished, he fell back into his seat, not looking at anyone.
“He…” The blue guy stopped for a moment, frowning, before trying again. “He said that what they did felt similar, but not quite like what he does. Only he doesn’t need a wand. And I’ve never seen him being so flashy about it.”
“And what can you do? Besides blowing up lights and making yourself invisible,” Clint asked Harry, keeping his voice friendly. Harry twisted his mouth a bit before kicking out at Yondu who cursed.
“Stupid shit,” the older guy said with a glare towards the now grinning Harry. “He’s never got a teacher, so most of the stuff just happened and he kept doing it until he got a hang on it. Shields that can stop projectiles, reshaping objects, levitation and all that. He once teleported Peter and me a couple of miles around, but he didn’t try again since.”
“Shields and teleporting,” Bruce repeated, looking thoughtful. “Tony, can’t we check if there was any abnormal energy output when they used their… wand?” He grimaced while using the word, which Tony could understand. Magic and wands and witches. Next, there would be flying brooms and potions, too. “We still have the data from Alberta, when those windows got shattered.”
“And lots from when Harry here went around destroying my light fixtures,” Tony agreed. He stopped short, however, his hands hovering over the table. “Friday,” he said, fast now. “Go check Server Beta Three Zero for files on a Stark Pad I personally worked on. Should be from 2012, maybe 2013.”
“Tony?” Steve said, looking confused.
“I forgot about it, totally forgot. I’m an idiot,” he mumbled, grabbing the Pad and checking what Friday was sending him. With a few flurried motions, he went through the folders popping up on his screen.
“We know that, but what did you forget?” Clint asked.
“This,” Tony hissed, bringing up a grainy picture on the screens in the table. People gasped when they saw two girls in a stone-walled room, smiling as they each held up a stick, levitating two books. “Back then, Stark Industries got a warranty issue about one of our products. A Stark Pad that didn’t function right. When Customer Service and our R&D department couldn’t figure out the issue, I got interested. The customer, a girl named Granger, sent me the faulty Stark Pad and Jar- we found traces of some kind of non-harmful radiation on it. So we made an alloy that repelled it, coated the whole thing and sent it back. I forgot about it afterwards, but…”
He gestured towards the picture. “Thought it was some silly picture manipulation.”
“Do you mean,” Quill said, staring at the two girls. “That there are… mages here? On Earth?”
“You mean more than the one breaking into our Compound?” Natasha asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Could’ve been someone who’d followed us,” Rocket replied, scratching his chin. “Terra’s such a backwater planet, never thought it could be magical.”
“It’s bullshit,” Quill said with more heat in his voice. “Impossible. I never heard of real magic here. Wouldn’t they be known?”
“We can’t exclude the possibility, Peter. Which makes this a far bigger concern for all of us.” Gamora looked pointedly around until all eyes were on her. “It needs to be checked, but I suggest keeping this as a secret. As I said earlier, magical worlds are more than just rare. If word came out that Terra produces mages, half the galaxy and others would come to seek profit from it. You might be on Asgardian territory, which protects you to some degree, but it might not be enough to protect you from reapers.”
“Reapers?” Steve echoed, but he wasn’t the only one. Even Tony had stopped typing on his pad, staring at the green-skinned woman.
“I told you what both Harry and I went through,” she said in a clipped voice. “It shouldn’t be hard to guess why Harry was chosen.”
For a moment, nobody spoke. Then Tony shook his head, standing up. “All the more reason to see if it’s actually the case. Bruce, Harry, Rocket - let’s go to the lab and see if our data checks out. You in for a bit of testing?” The last words were directed towards Harry, who nodded, face a bit pale.
Both Quill and Yondu stood up as well, but Tony didn’t pay them any mind. He did notice, however, the way Gamora instantly grabbed Quill’s arm to pull him back.
“I’m going to inform you the moment we have some results,” Tony said to Steve who nodded once. “Until then, nothing we talked about is leaving this room except the lab.”
And with that, Tony and his entourage left the conference room, leaving anxious and confused people behind.
June 18th, 2015
Friday doesn’t know how to… well. ‘Feel’ wouldn’t be the right word, but she didn’t know a good alternative. It was simply odd, to sift through previously unattended servers - private ones her Boss owned.
To find the footprints of her precursor.
She couldn’t help but be impressed by what J.A.R.V.I.S. had done. She’d yet to reach the same sophisticated state - wasn’t sure if Boss even ever meant for her to become like J.A.R.V.I.S. in that way. There were small but impactful differences between Friday and J.A.R.V.I.S. and sorting through Server Beta Three Zero only brought it home once more. The way Boss and J.A.R.V.I.S. had worked together…
Maybe she felt resolve at that - to help Boss the same way J.A.R.V.I.S. had would be impossible with her limitations, but she could work around those. It would be nice.
And maybe, possibly, Boss would actually listen then, when she told him not to bring more potential risks into the labs.
“Stop touching that, Sir,” she told Yondu Udonta, who was yet again reaching out for sensible equipment. “If you break one more thing, I’ll have to ask you to leave.”
“Stark! Why’d you programmed your AI to sass me? Tell her to stop!” Yondu Udonta snarked, but Boss only waved at him as he calibrated another sensor with that Racoon’s help. Banner was examining some debris left from Harry’s first ‘testing’.
“Just do as she says, you’ll be fine,” Boss said. “Okay, Harry, do that again.”
Really, Friday thought with exasperation (here she was more than sure about what she ‘felt’). Without comment, she activated the enhanced air filtering system when smoke started to form.
The part of her that was still examining the old server halted. Oh, she thought, isolating the odd thing before concentrating fully on her Boss again.