Svadilfari Ruins Everything (Espeially Loki and Amora)
Doom had been quite thorough with the information he had gleamed from Shield when he attacked them. Information on all the agents that Loki had taken control of, the evaluations and treatments of them since the event, their life before. Everything available on them Doom had gathered and it was Raven's job to decide how to use it.
"I can't possibly memorize all this," Raven sighed.
"You don't have to," Loki replied. They were both in Doom's lab, the scientist mostly ignoring them as he delved into his work and Loki standing behind her chair where she looked at Shield files on the computer. "Learn only what you need, but read all that you can. Afterwards, you can decide what may or may not be the best approach. I know you've had some experience with subterfuge."
"I don't have much experience with Shield agents," Raven said.
"You aren't going into this as Lockley," Loki told her. "If you do anything at all. You are other, outside of this. Too much professionalism would put them on edge, that's why I'm not going to attempt this. Romanov was able to tell that I was a liar, but not the lie. You are a deceiver by trade, my Raven, but you have enough inexperience to still be sincere."
"Inexperience," She echoed with a frown.
Loki laughed. "Does it bother you, little one?" He asked her with a wicked grin.
Raven silently pouted as she poured over more information. Loki was patient and still behind her and she had the feeling that he could wait her out if she ever did throw a tantrum, so she decided not to even try. "Are you really going to let me decide how to go about this?"
"Well I do expect you to tell me of your plan," Loki replied. "And once you have decided upon a plan, perhaps after you have executed it, I shall see you off to meet your Professor Xavier. Unless you wish to go alone."
"You can drop me off nearby, but I don't think you should meet, yet. He reads minds, you know."
"His loss if he reads the things that reside in my mind," Loki said. "And he will only see the truth of my conviction."
"I do not want an unknown knowing of me," Victor interjected.
"If it becomes a problem, we can deal with it," Loki said. "Not before."
"We have a lot of problems just now." Victor argued.
"And we will have more still until The Mad Titan is taken down. Such is the nature of war and conflict."
"Oh!" Raven spoke up. "I think I have an idea."
"Great. Let's hear it."
Before the 'Loki incident,' as it was called, Melinda had had a very high security clearance in Shield. She had nothing now. She was watched where ever she went inside Shield facilities, no longer allowed on field assignments, and she had virtually no access. Trying to investigate "Skye" on her own was a no go and she doubted her fellow five were much better.
Grant was correct in his assumption that she knew them all already. She had told them all that she didn't remember anything, she was certain that the others had done the same, but that was a lie. She remembered everything. Loki hadn't been the monster she wanted him to be, that she pretended him to be, but that didn't mean she wasn't holding a grudge. A grudge against Loki, Shield, the world, she was angry and wasn't very picky who she was directing that anger at.
She wasn't so angry that she wanted to sell out Shield, though.
She considered asking Romanov for a favor, but that girl was too sharp. She'd follow the questions to the wrong conclusion and nothing would get done that way. If this "Skye" was out to hurt Shield, no one would be able to stop it from that point, and if she wanted to help, she could possible be shut down too soon. She'd leave that resource for Barton to utilize, if he dared.
Both Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons were barely out of academy, they couldn't be used as useful sources of information. They were likely to have low clearance and untested skills, useful to an alien new to the planet, not as useful for anything else. Grant Ward had no such skill to utilize. There was nothing he could do that she couldn't and so there was nothing that he could do for her.
"Damnit!" She swore, hitting the table. She hated no knowing. More than that she hated indecision. She didn't know what this Skye woman wanted and worse, she wasn't sure what she wanted to do about it.
"Melinda?" Coulson questioned. He was in the hall paused mid step, obviously on his way elsewhere when she caught his attention. "Hey," He said as he approached. "You okay?"
"Yeah, just," Melinda took a breath. "Just a little stressed."
"I know a lot has been going on lately, but if you need to talk, to someone who isn't paid to report to Fury, let me know," Coulson told her, laying a hand on her shoulder for a moment. "Don't be a stranger, May."
She let out a breath. "You should remember your own advice," She told him with a small smile.
Bruce Banner was exhausted. He was working off of too little sleep, too few ideas, and with far too much stress. Both he and Tony had been doing everything that they could think of to stabilize Extremis, but it had all come to naught so far. It had taken them weeks just to be able to recreate the serum, let along change it, and Pepper was running out of time. It took frequent re-administrations to keep her barely hanging on, and despite popular opinion, Tony Stark did not have infinite resources.
Over the last year or so, Bruce had come to really care about both Tony and Pepper. They were both fun and considerate people, even if Tony could sometimes get a little carried away. Pepper was one of the few people to treat him normally, not even Tony did that. He treated him like a friend, constantly provoked him, and tried to spoil him with science and equipment, but none of that was normal. Even if it was normal for Tony, which he had quickly understood was the truth.
This situation with Extremis and Pepper had them all tied up in knots. Tony was doing everything he could to both get every needed material and keep it quiet from Shield. He was running himself more ragged than Bruce, spending every possible moment in the lab trying to pull something out of nothing. He and Pepper had had to drag him out the lab and force him to sleep and eat every couple days.
Pepper herself was starting to fray at the edges, as well. She tried to stay on top of Stark Industries, but was too worried about endangering others to go into the office. Someone was constantly dropping off paper work and she could be found glued to a laptop more often than not, throwing herself into whatever work she could to keep her mind off less pleasant things. It was really starting to eat away at her. She was looking less and less put together, worry clear on her face even as she tried to put on a brave front. He was worried that she wasn't sleeping enough and she'd taken to pacing when she was alone. He'd caught her at it a few times and she tried to wave off his concern, but he wasn't having it.
Bruce did his best to track the changes to her body. She had an extremely high metabolism, but was becoming too nervous to eat as much as she should. Her lack of sleep was making her jumpy, putting her more on edge, and Bruce was worried that would make it worse.
He let out a deep and weary sigh as he headed to the lab. He needed to pull Tony up for air. He wouldn't be able to do much good if he kept burning himself out. He slowed as he approached, immediately recognizing that something was off. Tony had a habit of blasting whatever he was listening to and the unrelenting noise was distinctly missing as he approached the lab. Instead, he heard a soft sound that he almost thought was birdsong, but he couldn't imagine why Tony would be listening to that. He really wasn't the type.
He also heard talking and Bruce decided to listen a bit longer, not wanting to break Tony's thought process if he was on a roll. He assumed that he was talking to Jarvis, but quickly found himself questioning that assumption.
"Can't you just take a look at it!" Tony growled in frustration. He slammed his hands down on his work table as he glared at the small bird perched across the room. The bird-- a magpie, Jarvis had told him-- had a tinting of green to it's wings, having come from the green box. It hadn't last time, but nothing was ever exactly the same when he opened those boxes.
This time he'd had the bright idea to open them all at once, resulting in three birds hanging out in his work space. The one from the blue box, with similarly tinted feathers, had done nothing but sing since it's release. He wasn't quite sure what that meant, seeing as it was from the box of Loki's lies. The red one seemed to spout contradictory nonsense at either himself or the green magpie and he got the feeling a that most of it was quoting things told to Loki.
The green magpie gave him a look, how the bird could be so expressive was a mystery to Tony, as he replied. "I am his magic, not his mind."
"Can't you use your magic to heal her, then?" Tony insisted.
"Enough of your tricks!" The red bird said. "You are no scholar."
"Hey!" Tony turned to the red bird. "No one asked you! Why don't you just go back into your box if you aren't going to be helpful."
"No one needs or wants you here, Trickster."
"That's not what I said," Tony argued.
"Liar! Liar! Liar!" The red bird flew above Tony's head as he spoke, perching elsewhere in the room.
"Ungrateful," The green magpie said.
"No, I'm not."
"Am I to fix all your problems?" It questioned. "I'm sentient, but I'm not actually Loki."
"Foolish mortal," The blue bird paused it's song to speak for the first time.
Tony stared at it incredulously. "Are you ganging up on me now?"
"We are of one person, mortal," The green one said. It began to pick at it's feathers, ignoring the man.
Just then the door to his lab opened and Bruce walked in. The magpies went quiet, but they were outside of the other man's immediate sight. "Tony?" He questioned. "Were you talking to yourself?"
"What? No?" Tony objected, looking around to the find the birds and catching the sight of the blue one fleeing back into it's box. When he didn't see the othrs, he assumed they had done the same thing. "Maybe," He sighed. "Might as well have been."
"I think you need some sleep Tony. This is taking a toll on you--"
"I'm not crazy," Tony interrupted.
"I didn't say you were," Bruce replied. "You're just tired."
Tony didn't really like that response, but just sighed. He closed down what he was working on and decided to go ahead and leave the lab. He did need sleep, after all. As he passed by Bruce, he muttered quietly, "Don't ever listen to birds, Bruce. They are the most unhelpful creatures on the planet."
Bruce responded with a bemused smile as he lead Tony out of the lab. His friend could really the sleep.
Grant Ward was the first Agent to try and contact Skye. Mostly it was out of curiosity. There was very little hesitation once the decision was made. If nothing else, he needed to gather Intel of what this girl wanted, why she knew so much about Shield, about them. About the Loki incident.
To be honest, he already had formed a suspicion. He had read the myths after the invasion. Loki was a known shapeshifter after all and that girl was practically singing his praise.
It was only a theory, but he would figure out if he was right. He was a Shield agent after all.
He waited until he was certain he was not being watched. Off of shield's premises and out of sight of any tails they had set up. They hadn't seen anything of Loki, but once Thor showed up to say he was back, everyone involved in the Loki incident became under heavy scrutiny once more. Well, except Hawkeye. Lucky bastard was an Avenger and Stark was apparently letting him stay at that Tower an awful lot. That saved him from some of the hell, but he wasn't at the Tower all the time.
"It's me," He answered, just to see how she would react. He was a spy after all. Little things caused people to give themselves away the most.
"Unfortunately, I don't actually know you all by voice after just one meeting. Though I can assume this isn't Fitz. He doesn't have this confidence."
"Well, what the hell kind of spy are you that you don't even know that?"
"I'm not a spy," Skye said.
"Bullshit," Ward said. "There is no way you would know all that without being a spy for somebody."
"Ever consider that I'm just good with computers?"
Ward contemplated that possibility even as he gave his answer. "So why were you looking into Shield in the first place?"
"Just because you work in the shadows doesn't mean that no one can see you," She said. "A lot of things are happening now that could make somebody curious. Things get covered and countered too quickly, powerful things go missing without a trace. It had to go somewhere and I wanted to know where. After reading up about Shield, though, I don't know if I think that they're the best place."
"Well I agree with you there," Ward muttered. Louder, he asked, "What do you want from me?"
"I want your opinion."
"What?" That threw him off. He was expecting her to ask for a lot of things-- information, theft, trying to get him to turn-- he wasn't expecting her to want his opinion.
"Half of my argument that Shield is unworthy is based on their treatment of you agents," Skye explained. "I can't believe that they don't abuse the power they have when they so thoroughly abuse their agents. But you're the one with first hand knowledge, not me. All I've got is what I've read. You know what they do with the things they find, with their agents, with their power. Do you think they abuse it? Do you think they deserve it?"
That was probably the easiest question for him to answer. "No."
"So what do you want to do about it, Agent Ward?"
That caught his attention quickly. "I thought you didn't know us by voice?" He questioned.
"I don't," Skye said. "But Hawkeye would not have answered that way no matter what he thought. He's not just an agent, he's an Avenger. He's in too deep."
"So why bother contacting him at all?"
"Because he's in too deep. The Avengers are a motley crew. Good for saving the world, but not good for saving people. Another agent is on the team and at least half of them are people Shield would have (or already has) taken into custody if they weren't actively saving the world. If he was gonna say when, it would not be to them. Couldn't be really."
Ward was silent for a moment. "You're dangerous," He told her.
"As are you, agent."
"So what do you want?"
"Right now, I want to know what you want. I want you opinion. How much good or bad is Shield doing? You don't have to tell me why you think so, but I want to know what you think."
Ward debated for a moment. There was really no reason why he should. At the same time, though, there wasn't much useful he could do being under such heavy scrutiny. So after a moment, he decided to talk. He knew Shield and this person was definitely not Shield. Giving a few opinions would be of no harm.
It was only another week before Tony decided to return to the Tower. He'd been trying to get Fury to allow him to study Extremis since Shield collected the samples and the man was finally beginning to come around to the idea. Likely, whatever team Fury had researching it couldn't come up with anything.
Tony didn't really care what the reason was for Fury's change of heart, as long as he got the chance to study the samples. He was literally at a dead end at this point and working on those samples was all that he could think of. If he studied what was different between the mutant version and the normal Extremis samples, he would be able to figure out the key to stabilizing the serum.
Part of him wanted to convince Bruce to stay behind with Pepper, not wanting her to be alone, but he also didn't want to keep him from the other Avengers. Slowly but surely they had begun to get along and Tony really didn't want to get in the way of that.
Of course, nothing could ever go that smoothly. They were barely back in the tower an hour before they were called in for an emergency.
He was slightly surprised, but very pleased, to find that Hawkeye was hanging out in the with Thor. Neither Steve nor Natasha were there, but that was to be expected. Steve loved that apartment of his, for whatever reason, and Natasha seemed to live at Shield.
He really wasn't in the mood for whatever distraction this was.
"What are we up against?" Tony questioned Fury. The others were also listening intently.
"Thor's friend is causing a mess in central park," Fury said derisively.
"Svadilfari has returned?" Thor said with slight confusion.
"Doing what?" Hawkeye asked.
"Fighting some giant, axe wielding freak. Just get out there!" Fury demanded.
Tony really wasn't in the mood for whatever this was.
There was tension in the room. It was a subtle tension as Loki lounged, very much in Victor's way, on his work table beside where Victor worked. Mostly beside. The Trickster's leg was subtly pushing the bot Victor was working on further and further off of the table and the man was this close shoving the god in turn.
The god wasn't usually this... clingy. Or this bothersome, unless he was hanging around in one of his animal forms. Typically, the god was quite helpful or at least interested in what Victor was doing when he was was in the lab. Victor was not particularly interested in what the Trickster's problem was, but he was getting annoyed.
"It is too quiet," Loki said.
It wasn't, actually. The sound of clashing metal echoed through the lab, filling the silence that was between them. Victor didn't bother to reply to the obviously incorrect statement. If the god had something to say, he would say it, but Victor was not interested enough to coax it out of him.
"Usually Amora's harpy shriek's would have destroyed any silence by now." Loki's gaze was focused on the computer screen where Victor had the signals of all the tracking bracelets up. Amora's was absent, since she was off world. Raven was off visiting her mutant allies, but the signal was still there. Victor would not have allowed her to disappeared without it.
The mutant was usually as notable a presence as the missing goddess. Where Amora was all complaints and snark and boasting, Mystique was the sound of action. She was always doing something and the sound usually echoed throughout. More than anyone else in the castle, the mutant had the most normal and noisy of pursuits. Whether it was television, or music, or whatever else that she did --Victor didn't always pay attention to what the girl got up to-- she kept the place more lively. Neither Victor nor Loki had made much effort to break the natural lingering silence. Victor had been spending most of his time working and Loki usually buried himself in books.
"You're worrying?" Victor questioned.
"You're not?" Loki replied.
Victor didn't respond to that and Loki didn't speak again.
Because Loki's eyes were practically fixed to the screen, he was the first to notice when Amora's tracking signal reappeared on the screen. He sat up. "Amora has returned," He said immediately, then frowned as he actually took notice of the readings. "But she is not here."
"Where is she?" Victor questioned.
"No," Loki answered. He stood. "I'm going to see what she's up to."
There wasn't much chance to argue before Loki teleported off.
There was already a commotion happening when Loki arrived at Amora's location, but Loki couldn't pay much attention to it. Screams surrounded him, people quickly evacuating the area, but his eyes were only for the person hovering before him. She was strung up by her wrist from a tree, hair tangled and clothes torn, bloody and beaten and barely able to open her eyes as she looked at him.
"Loki..." Amora's voice was barely a rasp. Her body trembled with the pain of it.
"Amora," Loki whispered as he reached out for her, but he was stopped. His breath caught in his throat as a hand grabbed tightly at his wrist.
"Found you again, little prince," Svadilfari whispered. "You even came to me this time." Svadilfari yanked on his wrist to pull him closer, forcibly turning him around and grabbing hold of Loki's other wrist. "Run this time and I finish what I started on her."
Loki tried to suppress the shiver of fear that ran through his body. He needed to get away. He needed to get Amora away. But for a second his mind was completely blank with fear. Then he remembered to struggle. "Release me!"
"Not on your life, my prince," Svadilfari said as he leaned closer. Loki shivered and closed his eyes, trying to pull away. "I've missed you."
Then Svadilfari was forcibly thrown away from him, almost pulling Loki with him, but the god was able to wrench himself free at the last moment. Skurge was standing there, looking much worse off for wear, axe still out stretched from the attack. The sight somewhat snapped Loki out of his fear induced stupor. It was obvious that Skurge had been fighting-- and losing-- a battle with Svadilfari for a quiet a long time. He was bruised and bloody, but not so bad as Amora. He was stronger than her, had more endurance. He wondered whether Svadilfari had gotten to her before she even reached Skurge or if they had just fought together and lost.
He'd barely paid attention to their fighting when he arrived, too caught up in the sight of Amora, but now he couldn't afford the distraction. Skurge gave him a cursory look before turning back to Svadilfari and Loki back to Amora.
"No!" A blast of dark red energy blasted him away, but he recovered quickly and returned fire. Svadilfari dodged Skurge's axe. The man was fatigued, slow, he'd obviously been fighting too long and it was only a matter of time before their fight was over.
Svadilfari decided to speed up that process. He transformed into his equine form and headbutted Skurge, then trod over him as he raced toward Loki. Loki teleported out of his path, but he couldn't leave. He needed to get to Amora.
He was surprised to find that he wasn't alone anymore when he looked up. The Avengers were arriving, likely drawn by the commotion of Svadilfari and Skurge's scuffle. The moment of distraction was all that Svadilfari needed. He plowed into Loki, then slammed down on both his arms to push and pin him to the ground. Loki screamed as the full weight of the equine body fell on him, crushing his arms and causing agony to rip through him. Svadilfari leaned down over Loki and nuzzled against his cheek and neck, causing him to tremble. "I love that look in your eyes," Svadilfari said. "Beautiful."
Loki tried to summon his magic, but Svadilfari reared up and crushed his legs, too. "No fighting, little prince." Loki closed his eyes, trying to contain the pain.
Then a hammer slammed into the body above him and drove it away.
"Brother!" Thor yelled as he leaned over Loki, reaching out gently to cradle his brother's head. Loki only took one look at Thor before he broke entirely. The pain, the memories, being in his brother's presence, all of it overwhelmed him and wept heavily.
"Thor..." Amora's voice rasped. She was a ways away. Loki had been knocked away from her and the executioner was struggling, badly, to rise. Her gaze was hazily focused on him, clearly fighting for consciousness, but she was able to lock eyes with him nonetheless. The broken look in The Enchantress' eyes only further fueled is rage.
Thor turned the full brunt of his anger on Svadilfari. "What did you think you were doing?" Thor yelled.
Svadilfari was back to his normal form once more, meeting Thor's gaze easily, not in the least bothered by the gods rage. "We wanted to capture him, didn't we?" He gestured to them both. "Now they are both captured."
"This isn't how we do things!" Captain America said fiercely as he stomped up to Svadilfari. "We don't maim people!"
"He will heal," Svadilfari shrugged. "How did you expect to capture him if he was not incapacitated?"
"This wasn't right." Steve snapped back.
"It was effective." Svadilfari shrugged again.
It was clear the anger was boiling in Steve, but a sound from Amora made him turn away. He didn't know whether the sound had been pain or attempt to talk, but he turned his full attention to her and getting her down from the tree she was suspended from.
"Jesus," Tony swore as he got a closer look at Loki's crushed arms. The bones looked shattered and he could swore he saw some peeking out through the flesh.
"I have this situation handled now," Thor said, looking at the Vanir with blazing, angry eyes. His expression clearly said it all. 'Leave. Now.'
Still, Svadilfari took a moment to look at Loki, to wait until the god opened his eyes and his gaze could be caught, saying, "Until next time, Little Prince." Only then did the mage take his leave.
Something like recognition lit in Natasha's eyes as she watched the exchange and the resulting shiver from Loki that followed as he tried to curl in on himself despite broken limb. She didn't comment on it, though. Instead all she said was, "Shield medical's on it's way."
"Nay, we shall depart to the Tower," Thor said. There were a few objections, some more hesitant than others, but Thor cut them all off by turning to Tony. "Do you still have my brother's things with you?"
Tony swallowed as he pulled his gaze away from Loki. "Y-yeah..."
"Good. Then we depart. And I shall hear nothing more of it."