The Avengers 2: Dimensional Fallout
By Link-Reborn and qWanderer
Chapter 1: Unfamiliar agencies
Loki was lucky, he told himself. His punishment was light, somewhat lighter than the heroes of Earth probably had in mind when they'd sent him back to Asgard. There was no pain, no indignity. It was simply a cell, white and wide and silent. Loki was bored out of his mind.
However, his attentions were captured by a sudden lapse in the molecular structure of the air around him. Twisting tendrils grew rapidly down from the ceiling, reaching and stretching for the floor. They were made of nothing yet everything at once. The cosmos, with all its intricacy, gleamed within its comprise, pulsing like living veins. It would seem the ceiling had been eaten away by it, making the stars stare down like many eyes. And out of the oblivion tumbled a thrashing figure. He snatched at the root system of the universe, making it writhe. Violently he crashed to the ground and somersaulted into the glass wall, nearly cracking his skull in the process. He cringed in a ball, clasping his head as if to keep it intact. Then as if it hadn't been there at all, the strange root system was gone, leaving Loki to stare at the odd and crumpled newcomer.
The god of mischief blinked, his mind engaging at last and spinning out on several paths, analyzing what had just taken place before him, and though he knew there were other questions that by some standards should have proved more urgent, he could not help but ask, "What are you, and why does Yggdrasil bend for you?"
"Yudrasl what?" The man looked up, wincing. His vibrant green eyes looked Loki up and down, then darted around the cell. "Cantus?" He leaped up. "-The hell?!" He caught himself with the wall as his balance caved. Panting he clawed to one end of the cell, nearly fell, turned and went to the other. "CANTUS!" He slammed his fist angrily against the glass.
"There is no one else here," Loki told him. "No one but the guards, and they will think you only one of my little tricks. They are very concerned that I not escape. And Yggdrasil, the world tree, bends around you. I wonder why." Loki hid his initial excitement, hoping to pass it off as surprise, and returned to his usual cool, assessing demeanor.
The man rounded on him. "And who are you supposed to be?" his eyes accused him.
Loki raised his eyebrows. "You appear in my cell, and you know not who you visit? This is an interesting turn of events." He smiled. "And if I tell you of my name and my situation here, what information will you give me in return?"
"Shall I pick a name for you then?" The man rolled his eyes in exasperation. He turned to look out the glass. He backed up at kicked at it. It did nothing but make him hold back a wince. He drew a breath, held it, and let it go, controlled. He looked at Loki, eyes narrowing. "Yggdrasil? Norse mythological tree of life." He leaned against the wall. "The only reason that would be your conclusion would be if...." He cocked his head. "...One of your tricks...wait...." A confused look crossed his face, then he looked around the cell. "I've lost my mind." he concluded, giving Loki a bemused look.
"I think that quite possible," said Loki. "On the other hand, if you are human - are you human? - you may have heard of me."
He sighed, "Oh great...trapped in the cell with...what's his face- God of ...mischief? Yeah, whatever." He turned to look out of the cell. "This is not my day," he hissed.
The god chuckled. "Yes, I am Loki," he said. "Welcome to Asgard. May it prove more congenial to you than it has to me."
The man pinched the bridge of his nose. "This is weird." He turned to Loki. "But fascinating." he suddenly smiled, eyes sparking. "It's all real! I never knew creations of human design would actually form on a physical plane!" He tucked an ankle behind the other as he leaned, smiling with thought. "Fascinating." he repeated.
"I have very little idea what you're talking about," Loki said, sitting back against the wall again. "But I take it that you are human. From Earth, then? Is this manipulation of the structure of the universe one of their new technological wonders?"
The man was smiling like a gambler with all the cards. His confusion and disarray had all but disappeared. "Yes, of course you have no idea what I'm talking about...really, it's beyond you, and yes I'm from earth, and no I'm not human...just partly." He shrugged a shoulder like it was a common attribute. "So, locked up? What for?" he questioned, crossing his arms as if eager for a story.
Loki rolled his eyes. "Beyond me. You really have no concept. As for what I did to earn myself a sentence here... I used a device which was in the humans' possession, but which they barely understood, to open a portal across dimensions and bring a conquering force to bear on their planet." He smirked. "They thought it merely an energy source, but that is merely a by-product of its true uses, like the heat that a horse produces when it is ridden fast and hard."
The intruder raised his eyebrows. "Busy man...." Then his brows creased. "You sound like my father...." He trailed off, a flash of emotions crossing his face for an instant before he settled with disdain. "Let me guess, you want to shape the world - no, the universe - the way you think it should be: challenge the Gods and make it more than it is...."
Loki laughed outright at this. "Oh no, not at all. The gods are I and my idiotic foster brother and that damnable impostor of my father. A few years ago, I wanted nothing more than to protect Asgard, to prove myself a loyal son. That I could rule a world as I had been trained to do. And then I learned that it was never Odin's intent that I take that place. But he made me what I am. I am a god, a king of gods. A king with no throne."
The man eyed Loki. "So then what do you want?" he asked, intrigued.
"Oh, no, I think that is quite enough of my tale. Whereas I have yet to learn your name, or even what, other than 'partly' human, you are."
"Fair enough." He nodded. "The name's Maltzar and... my father... is a god and a murderer. I was born and raised in Hell and kept under his boot until recently." He listed it off in a rush. "And since you are going to ask, and quite frankly there is so little to talk about in this box - what you saw there was not Yggdrasil. It was The Orcis - similar, yes - but far bigger and much more powerful."
"A god," Loki said contemplatively. "But not of any world among the Nine. And I think that your Hell is something separate from our Helheim." He narrowed his eyes. "I knew there was much outside the Realms, but if what you say is true, then there is another world tree, connecting many more realms. Interesting, since what I have seen of the space not touched by Yggdrasil has been, on the whole, empty, barren, dark in a way that blackest night cannot compare to."
Maltzar breathed a laugh through his nose. "That's where the imagination of your author ends. This is just one version of the universe - one version out of billions." He drew a breath. "In short, what I'm realizing even now is that the worlds created by the minds on earth actually manifest." He laughed. "You're a fictional character. Of course I won't go so far as to say I'm not - but in my plane of existence - you're just a mortal's creation."
Loki drew breath in through his teeth as he glared at the interloper in his cell. "I would not so insult a god of Asgard, if I were you," he said, low and dangerous. "I may not have the power to leave this cell, but while you are within it, you would do well not to anger me."
Maltzar shrugged, masking the shiver up his spine. "I was always taught to speak the truth." He smirked. He turned his back on him, taunting him with his casual air and indifference. He ran his hand along the cell wall and pressed his ear to it. He listened calmly a moment and moved to another section and repeated the action.
Loki's eyes widened marginally, then he looked thoughtfully at the half-mortal. "I'm beginning to suspect that you were right the first time," he said pityingly. "You have gone mad."
"Shut up! I'm trying to hear!" Maltzar snapped, knocking on the glass. He then laughed. "HA! Only a matter of time!" He turned to Loki. "Now about that device you spoke of - the one that can penetrate into dimensions. Do the humans still have it?"
Loki shook his head. "It is here, on Asgard, but heavily guarded. You clearly have access to power, however mad you may be, but I still doubt your ability to obtain it." He narrowed his eyes thoughtfully. "What would you do with it, if you had it?"
"Get the hell back to the real world, before all hell breaks loose... literally," he added. "It's worth a shot, in any case - better than hanging around here." He examined the glass thoughtfully.
Loki blinked, watching the man with fascination. "But if you can access your world tree, your... Orcis... what need have you for the Tesseract?"
"I can't; the only reason I just did was because Cantus was with me. She has ten times my power - maybe even more. And the Orcis likes her - not me. I have to use any loophole I can to get its attention at this point," he hissed. He tapped the glass once with his finger and closed his eyes, listening deeply.
"I see," said Loki. "Then, if you do not, how do you intend to leave this cell?"
"That's what I'm calculating right now." Maltzar pressed his ear to the wall again. "All right." He stepped back. "If I free you, will you help me attain the Tesseract?" He turned to Loki, very seriously, eying him closely as if to see into his soul. Which he couldn't, but might as well seem like it.
"I can make no guarantees," Loki said, trying for believability under the scrutiny of the piercing green eyes so similar to his. "I know not the extent of your power, and if I feel that I am in danger, I will run. But I will do what I can, in exchange for my freedom."
"Right, well, let's see if this works anyway." Maltzar turned his back on him. He closed his eyes and bowed his head. His breath relaxed into an even rhythm and his hands open toward the wall. "Don't say a word - no matter how absurd you may find this," he snapped over his shoulder. After a drawn breath, his voice pierced the air, strong and clear:
In tarnished glass I pine for what is rightfully mine.
The world lies in a conquered ruin; let me weave the broken thread contrusting something we all dread.
Peace be with you; my fight is not your battle, though it may rattle your insignificant life.
Stop me and I'll give you nothing but strife.
Loki looked at him from under skeptically raised eyebrows, waiting, and his opinion of Maltzar's state of mind seemed unlikely to change.
As Maltzar sang, his body contorted like his whole being was channeling something beyond his ability. Yet it was almost dancelike - the struggle to remain conscious. The glass began to ring, weaving notes to join his melody. The whole cell began to pulse with the rhythm.
As soon as the cell, proof as it was against enchantment, illusion and every other useful type of magic that Loki knew, began to vibrate, he barely managed to keep his mouth from falling open.
Maltzar's voice glided like a knife through flesh, biting and sly. The glass began to warp and snake, turning into clear tendrils. Rearing like serpents, one coiled itself around Maltzar's arm, another his leg. They began snaking towards Loki.
Loki weighed his options as he watched the glass slither towards him. Whatever was happening was beyond his ken, and so, he supposed, he must trust Maltzar on the subject. As uncomfortable as that made him. But the only instruction he'd been given was not to talk, so he stayed where he was as the glass shapes approached, and instead reached out with his magic to see if he could sense whatever it was that was allowing this to happen. And what he found was that the molecular structure had shifted. It was neither moved by magic nor entirely science. It was pure vibration. The glass twisted around Maltzar. He cringed in its grasp before it threw him to the ground outside of the cell. Loki watched on, with no small amount of trepidation, but also with the thought that if he did not get out of this cell, he would go mad, and this glass-come-to-life could not possibly do him as much harm as the Hulk had. The glass tendrils coiled around his limbs and quite rapidly dragged him out of the cell and tossed him next to Maltzar. The half-mortal was gasping and tense all over. He winced, struggling to breathe.
Loki stood up, cracking his joints and looking down at Maltzar. "Whatever gods you may be a product of, they don't seem to be as sturdy as the Aesir," he commented calmly. "I could heal you, if you wish."
"Damn fucking!!!" Maltzar cursed forcing himself onto his knees. Blood suddenly gushed out of his nose. "Always takes a little piece of me every time." He tried wiping it away but only transferred it to other places. "It's because I'm in the wrong fucking plane." He sniffed though the blood was everywhere. He looked up at Loki, panting. "I'd appreciate it."
Loki reached out, stretching his sphere, his life energy, to meet Maltzar's, to reinforce, to reorder, and - since this was Loki - to learn what he could. Since he had hardly had use for his magic while in confinement, he had energy to spare, and he did it without tapping into Yggdrasil, a method he had learned from his daughter that did not require the concentration of the greater magics. He would save that for later.
For now it relieved Maltzar of the bleeding and his breathing evened. It took him a moment but he was on his feet. Again he tried to wipe the blood away. He was a few inches taller than Loki. About 6' 6".
"Yeah, maybe I seem weak. But by all rights I shouldn't even have powers!" he grumbled, trying to clean up.
Loki inclined his head agreeably, indicating the cell behind them. "Your powers do have their uses, I must admit," he said. "It had never occurred to me to use physical forces in quite that way. Now, quickly, before I am missed. How do you plan on getting into the Vault and relieving my would-be father of the Tesseract?"
Maltzar breathed. "Lead me to it," he said. "It's time to use your tricks... Loki." He cocked an eyebrow with a charming smirk. "Leave the rest to me."
Thor sat in the window of the Asgardian palace, eyeing where the rainbow bridge ended. The world was at peace, but at a price. His hand balanced on the handle of his weapon, the Thunder Hammer. Though he had recently visited earth, Jane had not been there. She had been taken to safety, which he was glad of. And who was he to complain? He had to be strong for Asgard. He rose and was about to resume his duties when a guard interrupted his path.
"My Lord." He bowed briskly.
"What troubles you?" Thor eyed him, wondering what possibly could be going amiss.
"It's Loki! He's gone!"
Red hot iron filled his veins. "That is not possible," he growled.
"The cell, my lord. It is empty!"
"Alert all of Asgard at once!" Thor ordered sending the guard running. "And inform my father! He shall not escape, not this time!" he roared, as he turned to begin his hunt.
Loki stalked silently through the corridors of the palace, keeping both himself and Maltzar invisible. It would hide them from the guards, although Loki knew that once the Allfather turned his eye upon the search, he would have little trouble finding them. The almost taboo nature of the art of Seidr did not apply to Odin, and the king, the only being on Asgard who could challenge him in the art of magic, would see through his illusions every time, if he knew when and where to look.
"Can you perform that same trick on two yards' thickness of stone and metal," he asked in the barest whisper, "or must we enter through the doors?"
"Can't say it will do the same thing- but my powers apply to any material of any thickness," Maltzar whispered back.
"Good," Loki answered. "Because the faster we are away, the better." He chose the left turning at the branch, and after a minute or two or so on that path, he gestured at a wall that was, like anything else in the palace, golden and smooth.
Maltzar quickly pressed his ear to it. Closing his eyes he began to softly chant. Silent splits suddenly spread from his palms. The layers of metal began to peel away and curl in rings around Maltzar's body. The hard material crept over his muscles like moss growing on a tree. It formed an kind of armour, molded tight to his form and gleaming with the mixture of metals. And with great effort Maltzar wrenched himself from the wall, creating a rugged whole. The shell over Maltzar's form calmed into a sharp exoskeleton. He wiped more blood from his nose. He glanced at himself and smiled. "Wicked!" he whispered gleefully.
Loki took only a moment to look at the layers of metal and stone curiously before he slipped through the resulting hole and approached the pedestal upon which the Tesseract in its cylindrical case stood. There were wards, of course, some specifically against him and his magic.
Maltzar squeezed in after him - the new armor making it difficult if not clumsy. He did his best to be quiet about it, at least. "That's it, eh?" he breathed.
"Yes," Loki whispered in answer. "And if I so much as touch it, the Allfather will know, and he will stop us."
"Will this all-whats-it sense me?" Maltzar asked.
"I really have no idea," Loki answered with raised eyebrows. "Shall we find out?"
Maltzar shrugged fearlessly. "Might as well." He stepped forward.
"Stop!" boomed a familiar voice. Thor was in the doorway, alone and fuming. "We were merciful with you, Loki. But you go too far!"
Loki rolled his eyes, sighing. He turned to Maltzar, saying, "I must leave now. I wish you luck." He reached out to the energy of Yggdrasil, and vanished, leaving Maltzar to work out the damnable Tesseract on his own.
Thor launched his hammer at Maltzar. He dodged and lunged for the Tesseract. Thor was upon him in seconds. Maltzar elbowed him in the face and seized the canister. He used it as a club to keep Thor at bay. Leaping to his feet, Maltzar backed away. Thor snatched up his hammer, ready to throw. Maltzar held up the canister as if for protection, twisting the handles in his tense grasp. Something activated. Maltzar gasped as a cold burning sensation dissolved his body into energy. Moments later the ground hit him like a wall. He lay there on his back - looking at a storm filled sky, too stunned to even breathe. The Tesseract purred and crackled, held tight to his chest like it was his life line.
Slowly he sat up. Trees... people... he was in a park - a big park. He was attracting a lot of attention, even a bit of panic. He quickly got up. Did he make it back? No, he needed to get back to the Orcis. Under the gaze of frightened people, Maltzar chose a direction and ran. Best to find somewhere to hide and fiddle with this Tesseract in private.