He Without Sin

Introduction Of Doom

There were a lot of villains on Midgard. This was something that Loki discovered right away. He had no idea how long he had been gone (time didn't tell very well inside a cell) and he had no way to check, really. It wasn't as if he'd had a need to inquire after the Midgardian date when he staged his attack. It could have been months or years for all he knew. (But it was not likely years, even though it sometimes felt like it had been forever.) He wondered if it had always been that way, if Midgard had had such a growing populous of power before his attack (the All-father must have seen something to set Loki against them) or if he had just opened the pathways of discontent.

He did not think that it would be too hard to hide here. Even if it had been, though, he had little choice. He had started something and he was determined to see it through. There were not many messes created in the All-father's name that he could undo, not many messes that he could clean, but this was a stain that could not be left alone. Thanos would come. He would come for Loki. He would come for the Tesseract. He would come to Midgard and the mortals needed to be ready, little though they could do.

And Loki had time on his side. Thanos had no quick way to travel, he had time. Just like his first trip to Midgard he learned what he could and now he had much more time to be thorough. He watched the heroes and their villains, he learned to operate in their world, and he planned. It would take longer for the All-father to be able to send anyone for him, but eventually someone would come. (Thor would come, his mind whispered, but he smothered that thought of equal hope and dread, unable to deal with the consequences of them.) So that was two separate forces that he had to contend with at least. Three, if he got involved with the Midgardians, which he had to do, in some fashion, he just wasn't sure how.

Loki had been on Midgard a month before Amora had turned to him. "Loki, what are we doing here?"

Four, his mind automatically added. Four problems to deal with, that he did not know when they would manifest or how burdensome they would truly be. But he still had time. He only had time and Loki would have to change that.

Loki didn't usually like to be too straight forward, but he didn't have the time or inclination to be sneaky with Amora at the moment. They had been friends once, before Thor and her banishment came between them, and he had often times thought they could be so again given the chance. Now was not the chance. Now was a ticking time bomb he half waited to explode, but not-friends did not have to mean enemies. Not yet, at least. "Amora, what are you willing to do for me?"

Her green eyes were expressionless for a moment as she stared into his, before she replied. "What is this about, Loki?"

"Answer my question, Amora."

"What would you ask of me?" She asked instead and he could see the rise of suspicion in her eyes. It was a look he was used to seeing. He would always see that look, he was sure, he'd committed too many wrongs to hope to ever escape from it.

"There is no leverage to be earned here, Amora. You will either aid me or you will not. I am not going to play games with you this time."

"Everything is a game," Amora replied, practically spitting the words at him. "Isn't that what you always told me?"

"Yes," He answered. "But that does not mean that I have to play."

Amora studied him a while longer, her expression softening into one of confusion. "You are changed, Loki."

At that, Loki left out a bitter laugh. "No, I am not," He said, his chuckles turning dark. "I have lost something, but I am not changed." And that was the saddest truth of all. He had defied the All-father, but he was the same boy that had willingly done all that was asked of him. The same boy that wanted affection and approval desperately. It was only the thinnest thread of hopelessness that kept him from just giving in to Odin and hoping it wasn't too late. It was tiredness that kept him from trying to be sly now. He needed to save his strength for that later. He was certain that he would need it. He held Amora's gaze, his eyes asking plainly what he would not aloud. 'Are you my ally or aren't you?' For once, this was not a game of lies. For all that lay between them, lies was not most common here. (Neither was truth, but Loki had to base his relationships on what he could expect to be wrong, not what was ever right.)

She repeated her question, softer this time. "What would you ask of me?" It was not an answer of 'anything,' but it was a concession of a lot. And she wasn't asking questions yet, either. She wasn't pushing him. It was more than he could hope for from most.

Loki's first opportunity arrived in the form of a coincidence. There was an attack near a place that he and Amora were having a meal as he tried to tell the bare necessities of the plan he wanted to work towards. He decided not to tell her about Thanos, because if the All-father got to her, she would think it more helpful than burdensome to try and entreat his aid and Loki knew that Odin would not change whatever plan he had for dealing with the Mad titan, a plan that mostly involved the sacrifice of Midgard, and it would only end up with Amora earning more debt to her name. So he was vague when he spoke of the coming force, he neglected entirely to mention the Tesseract (no need to tempt betrayal, after all), and he told of his desire to enlist the aid of Midgard's heroes.

It was as they were contemplating the best way to gain aid (or manipulate for it, should the need arise or the task prove more efficient) when the wall beside them exploded and a mechanical creature crashed through and landed near to them.

Loki and Amora moved toward the thing curiously, Amora lifting her hand as the green ting of her magic surrounded both her hand and the struggling mechanical creature as Loki kneeled beside it. "There's magic about it. Very Crude," He commented.

"Don't we know this one? The one with the mechanical beast was... Doom, yes?" Amora wondered as she looked down at the thing.

"Yes, you are right."

"What did he proclaim to want?"

"I do not know," Loki sighed. "What do any of them want? Attention and prestige and importance?"

"You are one to talk, Loki."

He let his lips curve into a bitter smile that she wasn't able to see. "I was a prince, Amora. I already had importance and prestige, aplenty."

"Hmm, yes. Funny that, two out of three, huh?"

Loki frowned, biting his tongue from making a biting comment or saying something that might give him away. Loki may still be desperate and raw after longing for Odin's affection, but he wasn't going to attempt to find it from Amora. (Or anyone else, if he had a say about it, which he indeed did.) Amora was with him for now, but he didn't expect it last. Loki was only as good as whatever he could offer someone (which was why Odin never loved him, he could not offer anything to the All-father that he did not already have or that he was not already himself; it was why they both valued Thor so much more than either valued Loki) and while he was a prince of Asgard, he had much to barter with, but he had nothing on Midgard. More importantly, he had nothing that Amora would want and thus could not rely on her too deeply.

"Curious, what have we here?"

Loki and Amora both turned to the man, or creature, they could not be certain, that stood in the hole that had been blasted. Covered completely in cloak and amour, the man took a few steps toward them and Loki rose to stand as he and Amora returned his appraising look. And they could feel the appraisal, despite not being able to see the man's face.

"Ah, you must be the creator of this," Loki gestured. "Clever thing it is, mixing technology with magic."

"Yes, it is," He replied. "And who are you to so appraise my creations?"

"I am Amora. This is Loki. We are of Asgard. And yourself?"

"You may call me Doom."

"Doom," Amora repeated. Her face showed pure skepticism.

"Victor Von Doom," The man amended.

"Ah, Victor," Loki replied, nodding. "We are mages, both. We are well versed in magic, less so in Midgardian technology, but we were not under the impression that anyone had the skill to begin merging them this way."

"No one else does," Victor replied assuredly.

"Could you answer something for us?" Amora ventured. "Loki and I were just wondering what it was that you were after. We had heard of you, of course, but your goal eludes us."

Victor didn't answer that. Instead, he took a few steps closer to them. "I'm much more interested in what your goals are. The last time we were permitted visitors to our planet, they were much more destructive and less interested in talk. At least, as far as I'm aware." The subtle shifting of his head told them that he was appraising them again.

"We are not all the same," Amora answered. "there are nine realms and infinite amounts of space, after all."

"Indeed there are," Victor responded with intrigue. Clearly he was interested in what he could learn from them, but they both knew enough to be wary. They also knew enough not to obviously glance at each other to convey their wariness or question their next action. One had to act certain in the presence of potential enemies (allies).

"Perhaps once you are done with..." Loki made a vague hand movement gesturing toward whatever calamity was happening outside their circle of conversation. They had very dutifully ignored the panic that had exploded around them when the imitation of Doom crashed into their establishment and likewise paid little attention to the sounds of chaos that they could hear outside. Loki already had a calamity to contend with, he didn't have time to clean up messes that Midgard should have it's own warriors to deal with. "We could have time for further discussion? I'm quiet interested in how you accomplished this, amongst other things."

"Yes, I believe I have quiet an interest in you, as well." Victor replied. "Would you mind releasing my bot?" Amora lowered her hand, the magic receding, and the creature rose and went to Victor's side. With an uninterested glance outside, Victor added, "I believe we have time to speak now. I am done here." He began walking away with the air of someone that expected others to follow. Loki smiled as he and Amora did just that. If nothing else, Midgardians amused him with their self assuredness, justified or not.

The two hung back a bit as they followed the man and Loki said lowly to Amora, where he was certain only her Asgardian hearing would allow her to pick up the words. "World domination or general destruction. No one with more specific plans just walk away from them so distractedly."

"Unless there is a better plan," Amora replied.

"Yes, that is why I said world domination," Loki replied. "There can always be a better plan for that."

"Or no good plan."

"Semantics," Loki said. "If there is not a good plan, there is always a better one."

Amora rolled her eyes at him, but smiled. If nothing else, Loki would enjoy this chance to spend time with Amora. Perhaps after whatever fallout came from her betraying him to the All-father, they could begin their friendship again.

Victor Von Doom turned out to be a very intriguing mortal.

The mortal took the gods to his home in a country called Latveria where he was the ruling authority, to a castle that he made his home. It was strong and sturdy enough to appeal to Loki's warrior side, very defendable against attack, and lavish enough to appeal to both his and Amora's sense of finery. (Loki was a prince after all and he was used to certain comforts. Just because he could go without them did not meant that he wanted to. Amora was simply spoiled and greedy, though she took exception to this comment when Loki made it.)

The mortal was a scientist, an inventor, and a witch all in one. They spoke in turns of magic and technology, teaching and learning in small doses, wariness on both ends. Loki spent more time with the man than Amora. He wanted an eye kept on the Avengers, lest they find themselves in trouble they were unable to get out of, and Amora took up the identity of a mortal woman and a residence someplace near one of the Avengers. When Loki inquired after her identity though, she refused to tell him, insisting he figure it out for himself if he wanted to know so badly. It was only a bit of teasing, but Loki added to the list of things that would become a problem later.

Victor extended his home to the both of them and Loki stayed in residence often, though he did take up several other residences, in case the occasion should call. One could never be too careful and it always paid to have an exit plan in place.

The three of them did this tentative dance around each other for a month before Amora and Loki decided to tentatively inform Victor of their plans. It was during a shared meal, something that they did often in the castle, if only to be certain of each other's location every so often. They all felt uneasy not knowing where the others were if they in-residence. After a shared look with Amora, Loki began, deciding not to play too much with words. "When we first met, you inquired after our goals. Do you still wish to know them?"

"It has crossed my mind, on occasion," Victor replied. Loki very much admired the smoothness of Victor's lies. They were all hyperbole, over stating or under, and so casual as to be difficult to catch in normal situations, which these were not. The lies themselves and the delivery were flawless, really, it was only the situation that gave him away. No man with otherworldly beings as guest in his home is without curiosity or filled easily with trust. And neither Amora nor Loki forgot that this man held the occupation of villain.

Loki smiled, sharp and manic, filled with a glee that his tentative allies on Asgard always found alarming, but Victor seemed almost to expect. (Perhaps he expected Loki to be a villain and was disinclined to trust him if he acted otherwise.) A telling expression that meant the lie did not go unnoticed, but would be unannounced. "There is something that approaches your realm with destructive intent," Loki informed him. "We are here to try and eliminate it when he arrives."

"And why is it of concern to you?" Victor inquired.

"Yours is but the first stop in a long list of intended destruction," Loki explained. "I wish to eliminate this threat before it can gain momentum and move on to places I want to protect."

"This force is not one to be trifled with easily," Amora added. "It is for that reason that we wish to gain the aid of Midgard's heroes, but that task is easier said than done."

"Oh," Victor questioned. "It would seem a simple enough task. Theses 'heroes' are always eager to fight in the name of defense."

"Yes, well, there are problems with delivering knowledge of the threat," Loki said simply.

Amora added, "Loki is not one for full disclosure and people tend to ask many questions and get suspicious with too few answers."

"And my word does not carry much credibility here."

Victor's eyes flashed with that piece of information, but he said nothing on the matter. That was the dangerous thing about Victor, he took note of everything and tucked it carefully away. Loki always had an affinity for liars and tricksters. Part of him wanted to take this man as an apprentice, but the wiser part of him held back, easily recognizing how wrong things could go if this man gained too much of Loki's trust. He had an agenda, after all, his own plans that he was hoping the two of them would further and it would be unwise to give too much too fast. Loki suspected Victor Von Doom was not above crossing his allies if it gained him an advantage.

"It sounds as if you are in quite a bind," Victor said noncommittally.

"Midgard is in a bind," Loki replied.

"Which means that you are in a bind, as well," Amora added.

Victor hummed in response, but did not agree and the two let the topic drop there. Having Victor's aid would be his first victory, but he had time. He could play the long game.

Another month passed before anything more was mentioned about Loki or Amora's plight. The two gods had made a decent study of the heroes and villains that plagued this realm and learned more than sufficient use and manipulation of it's technology. Amora spent long hours complaining about how backwards and useless Midgard's technology was and Victor drank in every word, straining the useless comments to get a better idea of what technology in the rest of the nine realms was like, and Loki enjoyed seeing the light in the man's eyes as he realized the possibilities. It was a look he'd only ever seen in other mages, learning to break the boundaries with their magic. It was a look he used to share with Amora, when their friendship was still strong and growing. It made a matching glee rise in him and a matching wariness. Clever minds were both enthralling and dangerous, after all.

Loki began to spend time in Victor's lab, watching as he tinkered and experimented. At first, Loki wondered why he was being allowed to watch the man work, but when the subtle inquiries began about his physiology, Loki understood all too well. Victor would have to be watched, the man was much too curious and too clever. Loki distracted him with his own inquiries of Victor's projects, the bots in particular. Victor liked to gloat and that Loki could follow ramblings and add input about the magical working only helped.

"Victor, do tell me," Loki began out the blue during one of these sessions. "Do you intend to help when the time comes?"

The mortal did not answer for a long time and Loki didn't push, just watched as he leaned over one of his mechanical creations. It was nearly an hour later when Victor answered, "Yes."

Loki nodded, though the man still wasn't looking at him. "Even if you have to work with the heroes?"

"Yes," Victor answered without so lengthy a pause this time. "Though if I have to work with Reed Richards, I will kill him if given the opportunity."

"Hmm, I suppose I best not ask you work with him, in the case of a crucial moment where we need allies to not be killed off," Loki replied coolly. "Does this also mean that if I place the means of power in your hands, you will refrain from using it until after the coming threat."

Another long moment of silence followed before Victor replied, "Yes. I have seen you and the woman spar. With your strength and magic, any threat to you is something I would not have to contend with if I can send heroes out to fight it for me."

Loki chuckled at this. He enjoyed the company of this mortal vastly, even if he couldn't trust him over much. "Then will you help me with something and place your malicious intent off to the side a bit?"

Victor paused, putting down is instruments. "I'm listening."

Loki walked up to his side. "These heroes need to be tested. They need to be trained and they need to be strong. Fighting so infrequently won't have them where I need them to be. They need to be pushed."

"You want me to push them?"

"I want you to push each other," Loki amended. "Your creations are wondrous, Victor, but they could be better. Midgard's heroes are decent, but they are inexperienced. The more data you have to test against them, the more you can perfect your creatures; and the better adversaries they will have to fight against, the more they will have to push themselves to be stronger. Your creations are not mortal, they will have to rise above their abilities to fight against them, especially if you are able to configure your magic more strongly."

"I see why they call you Silvertongue, in the myths," Victor replied, looking away.

"Just because it is flattery does not make it untrue."

"No, but coming from a Liesmith, it very well could be."

"I do not lie, Victor. There are easier ways to get others to do as I wish if I am being insincere. Taunting, manipulating, those are faster methods. And there is better flattery if I need not bother with truth."

Victor did not reply, then he turned to face Loki fully. "I looked into you, Liesmith. You led a failed invasion."

"Yes," Loki replied without hesitation.


Loki paused only a moment before speaking the half truth. "It was a test of Midgard's strength."

"You do not plan to tell me the rest?" Victor was looking at him closely. Loki looked away.

"I will only say that my motivations then are not my motivations now, but I wish not to discuss it. Will you aid me or not, Victor?"

"Yes." He answered. "It is not everyday that one gets to work with a god."

Loki peered tentatively at the mortal, wondering if there was a trick to be had here. Finding none, he smiled. "Good. I want you to focus on the Avengers. They have proven themselves of worth to me once, I'd like them to do it again."

"This is what it's like to have the attention of a god," Victor said musingly. "It is always trials and misfortune, whether you are favored or despised."

"Ah, but the fall comes much faster and harder if you are the enemy of a god," Loki replied. "Worry not, I watch over those that I favor."

"And do you favor myself?" Victor asked. "Or do you favor the Avengers?"

"Have you ever known a god to answer that question?" Loki smiled. "There is truly only one way to find out, you know."

"And how is that?"

"Simple. You pray, and if your prayer is answered, then you are favored by the god that you inquired to."

"But gods do not answer every prayer."

"Yes, the dilemma of the divine," Loki laughed. "Do you plan to help me Victor?"

A reluctant smile seemed to tug onto the mortal's lips. "Yes."

"But do know, Victor, that I will not have any of the Avengers killed. No matter what grudges you may harbor or gain, they are to live, you understand." Loki set a very serious glare against the man, promising the worst of pains if he were not heeded. Divine retribution and righteous fury, and Victor understood what it meant to be favored by a god by the strength of that look alone. Regardless of the reason, the trickster had promised protection to the heroes, and he intended to heed that promise.

"And what if I am menaced by them?" He asked, simple to change the topic from the fierce look on the gods face.

Loki's face smooth out into a smile as he sighed. "Oh, Victor, do you think me so fickle? I do not forget those that aid me."

Victor suddenly felt the enormous weight of having a god in is home, working with (for) such a being, and realized how dangerous this was. But Victor Von Doom had always thought himself a god among men, anyway. It was about time he had proper company.

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