AC/DC was blasting through the speakers while holograms
floated around me and Dummy chased Butterfingers around the lab.
Normally, this would be heaven on earth for me. Because normally my dad and I would be down here working on suits, cars, and fully intent on blowing stuff up.
Now? Now, I was the sole occupant of the lab, and instead of displaying blueprints, the holograms were maps, red dots showing suspected locations of Zygone hideouts.
I was holding a StarkPad, looking at pictures – no matter how gruesome – of the attacks, trying to recognize the necklace around the beasts’ necks.
I’d been at it for hours, and still nothing.
I sighed and spun myself in the chair with my foot as I started yet another international image scan for the snake.
Why had the necklaces just started showing up? We’d been fighting Zygones for the better part of the week, and the necklaces just started showing up yesterday, or the day before.
Was it someone’s calling card?
Better question: whose?
The StarkPad beeped and vibrated, drawing me out of my thoughts as I looked down at the screen.
Scan 100% complete.
Well, that was new.
I sit up a little straighter as I began to access the results, trying not to get my hopes up because it could just be something completely irrelevant and unhelpful.
Native American Art
The second category caught my eye. Norse mythology was something I had first-hand experience with.
I clicked on the link to see images similar to the one I was looking at pop up, most paintings or drawings. Some were more complex, differently designed, but the idea was the same: a snake looped around in a circle, biting its own tail.
I clicked on one of the images and sent it to an empty nearby hologram.
“Jarvis, what do you know about this?”
“According to various web sources, snakes are, in Norse mythology, normally symbols of Loki.”
I sucked in a sharp breath.
“When you say symbols, do you mean like Thor’s hammer, or like something priests wear?”
“Generally both, ma’am.”
“Right,” I said as I pulled a few images onto waiting holograms. “Call the team down, will you? Tell them I’ve got a break.”
I settled back and studied the pictures and waited the inevitable chaos that was to come, if I was right.
The lab doors hissing open caused me to look up.
“Taylor, what’s up? You said you found something?” Steve asked as he walked towards my desk, the rest of the team trailing behind.
“Ah, yes. Thor, come here for a moment.”
“What do you require, milady?” Thor boomed as he walked around my desk.
“Just come here.” I pull one of the holograms over. “What does this mean to you?”
I watch as Thor’s usually cheery face pales and he frowns slightly.
“This hold meaning to me, but it cannot be…” he murmurs like really doesn’t want to believe what he’s seeing.
I don’t blame him.
I put a hand on his shoulder as I reply. “I think it is.”
Thor just glances at me with incredibly old eyes, ones I don’t see all that often.
“Uh, guys, care to share with the class?”
I exhale deeply as I guide a mass of holograms towards the rest of the team, then turn and face them.
“I’ve been looking at the Zygone necklaces, trying to extend on what Bruce found with the snake.”
“And so I did some searching of databases for any related images or topics, and you’re not going to believe what I found.”
I pull up the information Jarvis has sent me about Loki and turn to watch my teammates’ faces and the information sinks in.
Steve looks slightly like Thor, incredibly old but with more fury burning in his eyes.
Bruce’s eyes flash pure, glowing green as he takes off his glasses and rubs his hands on his temples.
Natasha’s eyes and spine harden as she keeps her eyes on Clint; her eyes dark and wary, watching for his reaction.
She has good reason to.
Because Clint is staring at the screen with his eyes pure, raging, dark fire, one of his hands subconsciously gripping his bow so tight the veins in his hand pop.
“So…yeah. Reindeer Games is back.”
“Is he the Master?” I’m not surprised Natasha spoke up first, she’s probably the only one who can speak without making feral noises right now.
“Given that his calling card is acting as a dog tag for the Zygone beasts, I’d say yes, probably. Not to mention that the beasts have scales, and if Loki himself isn’t a snake, then his symbol sure is.”
“What do we do?”
“The answer to that is above my pay grade. Cap?”
Steve finally tears his gaze away from the monitors and blinks at me in surprise.
“Oh…right. Um, okay.” He takes a deep breath. “First off, stay away from his scepter.” he glances at Clint. “Secondly, he probably has Tony. Taylor, try doing a scan for places Loki has been known to frequent.”
“Jarvis, you heard the man.”
A new set of points appear on one of the maps, these green instead of red.
“Look for overlapping places.”
“Okay, overlapping places coming right up…”
I mutter as I type a few commands into the computer.
Three spots remain.
“List the spots, J.”
“Well, I can’t pronounce anything but Moscow and Paris. Apparently Loki likes cold places that nobody can pronounce.”
“Well,” Natasha laughs humorlessly, “Russia does like its mind controllers.”
I wince slightly as I turn back to Steve.
“Can you get these back to S.H.I.E.L.D.? See if they can get recon on any odd behavior in the area? Like scan security cameras for people with unnaturally blue eyes, horned psychos, stuff like that? And, uh, while you’re at it, can you dismiss the team? Your job, not mine.” I finish awkwardly.
Steve nods and, without a word, turns back to the team and makes shooing motions with one hand, the other griping the folders like he was afraid they would vanish.
Well, I thought, you never know with Loki involved.
The rest of the team slowly files out behind him, each going to deal with the demons brought on by this new discovery.
Save for Clint.
Clint is still standing there, eyes dark with vengeance and staring at the monitors while I stare at him.
He notices me doing so and almost startles, blinking at me before getting up and walking out, bow still clenched in his hand.
“Hey hawk?” I call out softly as he reaches the door.
“Yeah?” He pauses but doesn’t turn around.
“It’s gonna be ok.”
He nods once, sharply, before making it the rest of the way out the door.
Once I’m alone once more, I groan and collapse back into my chair.
Now if I could only convince myself of the same thing…
Three hours later, the team is still dispersed around the tower, Steve was still at S.H.I.E.L.D., and I was staring at Loki.
A picture of Loki, to be exact, on his S.H.I.E.L.D.
The description under his picture caught my eye.
Norse god of Mischief. Has homicidal, maniacal tendencies. Possesses a scepter that runs off Tesseract energy and is capable of mind control, administered by touching the scepter to the target’s heart. Exercise extreme caution.
Loki, my brain surmised, homicidal maniac god with a mid-controlling scepter. He’s the one who has my dad.
That’s just peachy.
My mind is thankfully lifted off that train of pessimistic thought by my phone buzzing and lighting with Steve’s face.
“Hello to you too. We looked closer at each location, and the only suspicious activity we could find is in Moscow. An old abandoned fortress called the Kremlin is under repair.”
“That’s not that unusual, Steve.”
“It wouldn’t be, if it weren’t for the fact that no government knows of the repairs and the guards’ eyes are bright blue.”
“Avengers assemble. Pack warm, I’ll call the team.”
I hang up and dig out my bow case and suit pack. Ten minutes later Jarvis informs me the team is on the roof and so is our ride.
I take the elevator up to the roof, where the sun is just setting on my teammates as they stand in full gear by a roaring jet.
“Let’s go to Russia.” I say as soon as I’m in earshot. “We have an Iron Man to save.”