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Generated: Jan 11, 2019 2:48 AM
Post last updated: Jan 11, 2019 2:48 AM
mmm whatcha say
we don't want to wait a year to see how Marvel fixes this
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The ash all dissolved on the wind, but his fingers still feel gritty and sticky. It might be in his head. Or it might be blood. He does have a lot of injuries that are only technically not fatal. 

There's a ship, but it's now on the other side of the planet. If it wasn't crushed by falling debris. He also hasn't the faintest idea how to fly it but that, on the whole, feels like the least of his problems. 

 

Tony Stark stands up and starts walking across the ruins of Titan. He is muttering uncharitable things about dead wizards. Some of them are even justified.

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A person in an oddly familiar style of armor pops into existence with a sprinkle of pink light and enough momentum to roll down a flight of crumbling stairs.

"Fuck," she says, then, more alarmedly, "Fuck!"

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He stops. The ragged half-armor he's wearing starts to coalesce around one arm. 

 

"Well, you weren't on the agenda. And I actually read the agenda this time."

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"- hello, sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt your... wander through the... here," she says, sitting up. "Don't, uh, let me stop you - are you okay?"

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"Oh, have you not heard the news yet."

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"I'm from way too far away to be getting the bulletins. Er, hang on -" She doesn't appear to do anything except look momentarily thoughtful. "- sorry, I can check exactly how far away I'm from while you tell me whatever it is you want me to know, go ahead -"

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"It, ah, won't actually matter how far away you were. Big purple fellow, goes by Thanos, has been collecting infinity stones. He's on a tear to reduce overpopulation. He, uh, got the last one. Ten minutes ago, give or take - computer - eleven minutes ago.

Then he killed half of everyone, everywhere. Now, we're not planning to let that stand or anything, but - yeah, that's how today has been going so far."

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"Okay, that's - I'm from an alternate universe, and it requires several instances of alternate universe travel to get from here to where I'm from, but that is still very bad, that's - that's gonna take a while to fix." She starts rummaging around on her person. "You don't happen to have a pen, I assume."

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"I do not have a pen. My computer can take notes, if we need to be writing things down. ...are you Asgardian."

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"Culturally. I do need to put things to physical medium, yes, and I have paper but not a pen - can your computer take dictation from me okay?"

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"Yep, it's got you. Asgard's gone. Like, not just the half-and-half thing that hit everyone, they got blown up before that. And Thanos intercepted the refugees on the way to Earth. And if there were any survivors of that I don't know if he left them out of the half-and-half thing. He did not strike me as a particularly conscientious maniac."

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"...this is going to be such a horror to fix, is this how Swift feels all the time - no, I assume he feels worse - okay, dictating now. Letter to Cam code raglan cardboard marionette, I found some kind of variant Edda, half of the entire world's population has reportedly been murdered just now, no one step connections to the map, find me ASAP, love Loki."

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"Is there anyone else you wanna address that to in case he was in the unlucky half."

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"- sure, to be safe. Carbon copy Attn Vanda Nossëo, carbon copy Ambaróna VIP channel code spork feather, carbon copy Sibyl code bear twig jump. By 'everywhere' do you mean 'places you could theoretically get by traveling through space'."

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"No idea. There was a fellow here who could probably have answered that for you, but he was in the other half. And wouldn't have mentioned it unless it changed our plans. Though he didn't mention you, and that wouldn't have taken very long - 'grab the stray Asgardian' or 'don't' -"

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"I might need more context, I am I think not from here. I am pretty sure my Asgard spins on. Incidentally when I asked if you were okay I was originally intending to lead into an offer of healing magic?"

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"This technically won't kill me but that sounds lovely."

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She pops over rather than walk the intervening steps and gives him a noseboop.

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He straightens up. "Lovely. But now you've got to testify when we get home that I did not sit out the fight. There are people who I'd hate to have think that, and some of them might even be alive.

We had the time stone, and a wizard. Wizard checked for futures where we won. He was at it a while. Looked through fourteen million where we lost, found something. Where we still lost but if everything lines up right we can undo it."

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"Time stone liked the wizard?"

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"You know, I'm not clear at all on how the shiny rocks work. Do they have opinions about people? If they like Thanos I question their taste."

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"They're not qualified judges of character. I can't guarantee the ones here are like mine, of course."

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"Well, maybe the time stone made him sit through fourteen million bad ends because if you're a space rock then that's hilarious, or maybe it was being as helpful as it could. Thanos has it now."

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"It's really inconvenient that teleporting requires me to know what the place I'm going to looks like."

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"We're going to Midgard! How well do you need to know it?"

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"Uh, seeing a picture does the trick. Are you from Midgard?"

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"Yep. We call it Earth, but, you know, everyone who called it Midgard is dead, makes me a bit more accommodating. It wouldn't surprise me if Quill kept postcards in his spaceship but I don't have pictures on me."

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"...My Midgard isn't an Earth, Earths are a different thing. Also the people from my Midgard have soul animals and I don't see one on you and you haven't commented on my not having one although that might just mean you're very cosmopolitan."

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"Soul animals."

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"Yeah, like -" She illusions a fox into existence at her feet; it tilts its head. "This," says the fox.

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"I am pretty sure we don't have soul animals. Before I heard there was a maniac running around with a soul stone I would have said we didn't have souls. He's cute, though. Do souls do anything?"

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"They have various cultural features but don't confer powers." She dismisses the fox. "Anyway, I've been to Midgard, and I've been to Earth, so if this is some blend of the two maybe I can land on it some way or another - what year is it by Earth's calendar?"

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"2018."

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"What is up with that approximate time band - uh, anyway, I can probably land in space around it and then jump down based on the visual? I could come back and get you if you're not good to survive a moment in space?"

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His armor starts flowing around his chest again, and then up his neck. "I should be fine if I'm not going to need to maneuver. 2018 a recurring theme in apocalypses?"

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"Not 2018 in particular but we've never found an Earth earlier than 1812 or later than 2160. Say when."

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"Assuming you can't do 'an hour ago', now's good."

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"My time stone tolerates me but I don't want to try it with a strange one till I've at least verbally addressed the space stone." She takes his hand and boops them into space above Scandinavia on the second try, then down into a green patch of forest from there. "Uh, I can try for a better vantage point, I don't know how wireless you are while battle-damaged but this seems very high tech for a 2018 Earth -" She waves at his suit.

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"F.R.I.D.A.Y. is Pepper alive?"

"No, sir. I'm sorry."

"Is Nick Fury alive."

"No, sir. I'm -"

"Rhodey?"

"Three hours ago he left for Wakanda with Steve Rogers, Vision, and Wanda Maximoff. I have no information on the outcome of the confrontation there beyond what can be inferred from -"

"Right. Okay. Fantastic. Send me another suit."

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"If you don't have nonreductionist souls we can resurrect people. Like, your local time travel option is better for the mass casualties, we aren't that efficient at resurrecting people, but if we can't swing that we can get anybody who's a particularly important first-pass target."

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" - well. That'd be - that'd be good. Excellent, even. Makes me feel bad about how this next conversation is going to be really awkward - you said your name was Loki, right?"

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"Yes. Is there one of me here? That would be kind of weird, instances of me usually don't match my circumstances - there's an Earth version that's common but I'm a one-off."

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"There's a Loki. Or, well, fifty-fifty there's a Loki. He's a dude. He is not wildly popular on this planet because he tried to conquer it."

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"I come in dude... and planetary conquest, but usually more popularly. He look like this?" She pops up an illusion of Cam, just the head, no wings. As an afterthought one of Cor. "Or this, there's ethnic variance. I don't know what the male version of Miranda or Aly's ethnic clusters would look like."

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"Nah he looks more like you than either of those people do. The planetary conquest might've been popular if he'd succeeded at it, he had the mind stone and a little army of merry slaves."

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"- take some more dictation please computer. Same address and CCs, that part's important. Update: Variant Edda has someone name of Loki looks like me but not Cam or Kib might or might not be an alt or just a namesake might be the Bell version of Midnight, check if he's alive, check if he's us, if both escalate more than you already escalated, I don't care what Sibyl's doing." She takes a deep breath.

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Blink. "That's worse news than the omnicide?"

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"We can fix omnicide, it's a staggering logistical problem and it will take a really long time but even if you do have nonreductionist souls I'm working on the generic of resurrection. If you have a me and he's evil he's gonna escape."

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"Okay. It looks like my care package is still a couple of minutes out, so maybe you can explain the 'if you have a me' thing. We have a Loki. Son of Odin, except he's adopted, Thor's brother, he does the cute illusions too - what else are you having your friends check?"

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"Uh, so, there are people who look like me." She illustrates with a group photo. She fills it in with the people who are her and do not look like her. "And there's people who don't look like us but are us. This one," Kib lights up, "is a reincarnation, used to look like this," ghost Aly appears beside him. "We're called Bells, it's a pun in English, are you hearing English I can't actually tell - we all have the syllable 'Bell' in our birth names - you don't happen to know your Loki's birth name do you -"

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"I don't know his birth name. Thor might."

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"Boy Thor, that's weirder than boy me... unless they're just different people of the same names, which, stranger things have happened. Anyway, Cam," Cam lights up in the illusion, "can conjure arbitrary material objects including in a way that means this power can act as a search function and most importantly he can do it from any number of steps away on the map of the multiverse as long as he knows about the existence of the world he's searching to quantify over it - did that make sense? -"

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"I was just assuming you had a Heimdall who liked looking rather than listening but sure, okay. So he can check whether our Loki is dead -"

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"Heimdall doesn't work even one step away on the map. Yes, Cam can check if he's dead and he can also check if he's a Bell because being a member of a template turns out to be a conjurable parameter. - what's your name, your software calls you 'sir' -"

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"Tony Stark. I doubt you have me. You'd have heard of me."

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"Well, pleased to meet you, wish it were better circumstances, who knows maybe you're five years old in a preindustrial civ somewhere, when things are settled down we can check as a courtesy if you like."

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"I hope not, I have no idea what I'd do with a five-year-old. Make sure no one murdered his parents, maybe." Something on rockets comes arcing out of the sky towards them. 

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"Friendly?" she asks of the rocket thing.

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"Yeah, that's our care package. Should have -" its thrusters cut out abruptly, dumping a package at their feet - "nanites to patch my suit with and a big book of flashcards for you if you pinky-swear you're not gonna conquer the planet right this minute."

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"Asgardians aren't the ones who swear binding oaths but I promise I do not want your planet and definitely don't want it on that schedule."

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"Great! You are my favorite Loki." He picks something out of the care package and appears to just push it directly into his chest. "You'd be my favorite Loki even if you wanted to conquer the planet, I can use 'hot chick' as a tiebreaker, but you're my favorite Loki without the need to resort to any tiebreakers." He picks something else out of the care package. It's a tablet. "Next stop right outside Wakanda, I think, unless you've thought of something we should do first."

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"I don't think I've heard of Wakanda, is that a city, I don't think I've read a list of all the cities -" She takes the tablet.

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"Country. They might not let us in but we can stand at the border and yell and maybe someone will pass it on. F.R.I.D.A.Y., show us somewhere near the border -"

The tablet shows some empty African savanna.

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"I did read a list of all the - you know I can teleport, right, do they have antimagic or is this just one of those 'knock politely' things -"

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"I doubt they have anti-teleporters but I don't doubt they'd shoot at us. Besides, yeah, it's rude."

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"Okay then." She touches his arm and they pop. "Illusions do audio if yelling normally doesn't work."

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The border outside Wakanda is littered with dead bodies. Not human ones. Some of them are charred and some of them are smoking slightly and some of them have gaping wounds. 

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" - if there's still fighting then I think I'll risk being rude, can you pop me in without going yourself -"

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"No, sorry, this spell was developed under emergency conditions and it's hacky."

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"How are you in a fight, from 'it's a better idea to have you there anyway' to 'I will spend all my time keeping you safe and still might fail and then your buddies will be sad' -"

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She pulls Lævateinn off her belt and glaives it. "I'm good even without the magic, how much did you say you knew about Asgardians - maybe yours are different - anyway I don't have a non-reductionist soul, they can get me right back, though then you'll have to wait for us to find your world. If something gets through my being indestructible, but an infinity stone might, haven't tested that."

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"If Thanos is there we should bounce straight back out. Back to Titan, maybe, to minimize collateral damage if he does follow us. If Thanos isn't there then still be careful, you're plan A for getting off this planet."

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"What's he look like?"

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"Big. Purple. Too much chin."

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"Gotcha. Pity I leave my Tesseract home, maybe it'd work here - where to?"

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He points past the bodies at some tranquil forested area totally devoid of bodies. "There."

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Pop.

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("Introduce yourself as, I don't know, Susan," he advises at the last minute.)

 

The fighting is over. There are a lot of dead bodies. There are some hovercraft from which medical people are checking which are dead bodies. There are craters in the ground. There is the distinctive scarring of a whole lot of lightning.

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"Was local Thor maybe here?" she asks, not moving her lips, baffling the sound. "I'm not letting sound escape, you can answer even if you wouldn't want to be overheard."

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"That sure does look like Thor. Strange didn't think he'd be among the dust bunnies, but Strange didn't see you at all so I don't have high expectations. How often can you do the healing trick -"

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"Often as I want but has to be touch range."

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The suit has jet thrusters, suddenly; he zips over to the nearest medical hovercraft. "Hey! This is my friend Susan, she has magic touch-range healing, can you make her useful and do you happen to know if any of the Avengers are here."

      "They were fighting over by the river. I think they may still be there. Can she do anything about the people who are -"

"Not yet but we are absolutely working on that, highly motivated, definitely have a plan. Just people who got conventionally stabbed, because it looks like there are a bunch of those."

      "We could make use of assistance."

"Great. Susan will help you out, then, and I am sorry about our being here without permission, and I am sorry about. Well. The world, and -"

 

The suit jet-thrusters off towards the river.

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("I was gonna say Isabella," she mentions, teleporting over to the people who can find her stabbed patients.) "I can heal fast but can't identify still-alive fast -"

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The doctor standing at the ship holds out her hand, palm upturned, and produces a hologram of the surrounding area with people marked for triage. "We assigned categories in the absence of magical healing but the dead are identified."

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"Perfect, thanks." She memorizes it in a second's skim, then pops from person to person, starting with those in the nearest-term danger in the triage system.

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There are people standing in the trees; his heat sensors, which pick them up first, can't tell him who they are, but a few seconds later they're in view and he can. 

 

He moves perhaps a little faster than there's any call for. "Rhodey!"

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"Tony. You made it."

      "So did you. I was about to complain I was batting much worse than fifty-fifty on this dead friends thing."

"Pepper's -"

      "Pepper's dead, Dr. Strange is dead, the spiderkid is dead, a bunch of people you didn't meet - Thanos's daughter is alive and will help us out - you guys look like you did a little better -"

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"We failed."

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"Well, yeah, but you were screwed, right? Strange had the magic time rock, he took a look, looked through fourteen million before he found one where we win. It was hopeless, we were outgunned."

       "I nearly killed him," said Thor.

"Strange says nah you didn't."

      "I drove my axe through his body and he snapped his fingers with his dying breath - had I only -"

"You'd have thought of that sometimes, right?"

     Thor blinks wearily at him.

"If you were stabbing a dude a hundred times, you think once you'd think maybe to go for the MacGuffin?"

     "Tony," says Natasha. 

"I'm not rubbing it in I'm making a point - that wouldn't have worked either, couldn't have worked, because Strange looked and we never ever win and that means it's never really close."

 

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"You said he envisioned one world where we won."

      

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  "Yeah. He did. But now there's a complication - uh, I'll start with the plan and then I'll add the complication, how's that. There are some heroes we didn't know about; we go and we round them up. Successfully contacting them is going to be complicated, but technically complicated, in a way that apparently I and some Wakandan woman I've never heard of can get through if we try hard and believe in ourselves. The mold for the Infinity Gauntlet apparently still exists; while we're inventing something that can call the backup someone needs to make us an Infinity Gauntlet of our own. 

And then, twenty-six days from now, there's a nuclear war on a planet called Lemistra, because of the instability caused by all this genocide going around lately - there are gonna be a lot of those, we're waiting for Lemistra because that'll be enough time to have rounded up our new friends and not enough time for him to stop resting on his laurels and repair his gauntlet. Lemistra goes up in flames, billions of people die, they give themselves a nuclear winter and the survivors hang out slowly starving.

Nebula goes to her daddy, asks if he'll consider undoing that since, you know, it's terrible for the balance. Thanos should not know that this is happening left and right, he's gotta think it's a weird one-off in an otherwise successful campaign to bring about peace and happiness everywhere. Apparently he will show. We ambush him. One of the heroes we didn't know about, called Carol Danvers, has an affinity for the Power Stone. There's apparently a way for her to peel it off Thanos if we can overwhelm him in the fight. It's not gonna go the same as last time because we picked the location, we don't need the planet to survive the mess intact, and we have a month to assemble enough guns. 

We assemble our own gauntlet, find someone who can wield it to undo everything. This will probably be deadly, but you know, hell of a way to go."

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"And the complication?"

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"Where's your brother?"

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"He is dead. ...I think this time he will remain so."

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"Oh boy. Uh. Condolences. So on Titan I ran into this teleporting Asgardian. Teleporting girl Asgardian. With healing powers. She goes by Loki."

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"That is - impossible -"

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"I don't think she is your brother Mark IV - she seems - smarter? Less unhinged? But. She sure exists. She's healing Wakandans right now, I thought I'd get you all caught up so you could decide, uh, how you feel about alternate-universe sisters."

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"My experience of sisters has not, so far, been encouraging."

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"Yeah, about that, are you sure you're not the adopted one? Whole family of violent psychopaths with ambitions of world domination, and then you're - you know, blonde, and well-meaning -"

 

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"My mother was blonde. And well-meaning."

       "Sorry," says Rhodey, "how is Loki's renewed status as ambiguously dead a complication in the plan you outlined?"

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"Well, she's got friends who she told to come and get her, and who can resurrect people, so long as we don't have immortal souls - apparently that varies by planet, which is not how I would have expected it to vary if I'd been told it varied at all - and her friends have a lot of firepower so if they turn up then things probably go well. Or on the other hand, she's buddy-buddy with the Tesseract from her Asgard and thinks she could maybe get Thanos's space rock to defect, if we do the plan as stated but with her instead of Danvers.

Or we can ignore her and stick to the plan, Strange thought it'd work. Though he wasn't super confident in that. Actually he sounded downright pessimistic though I'm not sure that had anything to do with our actual odds."

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"Who exactly is Dr. Strange," says Steve, "and how did he know all this?"

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"Yeah, I thought that was pretty bullshit too. So apparently there are guardians of the mystic arts hanging out in sanctums, one of which was in New York. I don't know if they all have sentient cloaks or if that was just Strange. Never said hello because - well, he hasn't got a good excuse for not making me aware that there was another target for alien attacks in New York, but I guess he does have a good excuse for not telling you, since you were a fugitive. Really looking the part, by the way."

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"I'm told I pull off the beard. Go on."

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"He had the time stone. Wore it on a necklace. When we got to Titan he sat down and looked through millions and millions of futures, and then he gave Thanos the time stone and said that this was the only winning move he saw."

       "He gave Thanos the -"

"Yeah." He feels uncomfortable disclosing that there was bargaining for his life involved. He should - he should maybe get over that. "Asked him to spare me, gave him the rock. I thought maybe one of the hits he took had knocked him off his rocker but apparently you need me. So now you have me. Hi."

 

Rhodey hugs him. They can't actually feel each other through the armor, but it's still nice.

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"Are we that confident in how these stones even work, or is this obviated by... extra Loki?" says Steve. "You're sure she's just healing Wakandans? They let you guys in so she could do that?"

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"We teleported in. We thought there might still be fighting going on. I know she hasn't run off to engage in ritual combat for the throne, I'm tracking her tablet, but I haven't got details."

  

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"Perhaps I should go meet my new sister."

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"Just, you know, don't die. You're a plan element."

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"Loki was never my equal in combat. - Hela, on the other hand, made mashed potatoes of the both of us."

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"That's super reassuring. Go make friends, I apparently need a Wakandan for this plan and so I want to avoid grievously offending them all."

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Thor takes off flying.

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" - since when can he do that? And why'd he trade the hammer out for -"

      People shrug, tiredly.

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Thor seeks out Loki.

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Bopping around bopping people, Lævateinn back on her belt harmlessly.

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He lands. "Hello."

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"Oh! You're probably boy Thor! How do you... fly without a... maybe Asgardians here are different."

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"The circumstances required me to forge a better weapon, and to channel my powers more effectively even without it. Also my last sister broke my hammer."

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"You have a sister? Oh, uh, it's not conventional to borrow alts' siblings quite like that, some of my alts have twins and I don't consider them extra sisters." She pops to two more people to heal them and that's the last of it besides walking wounded. "I'm not even sure your Loki is a me and not just some strange thing, my boyfriend'll look into it but might take a while to get here."

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"Stark explained. How did you get here?"

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"So, my time's very valuable for all kindsa reasons - spell development and handling the Tesseract and stuff - but I've done a lot of literally minimal break time spell development in the last recently, had to save a planet from an evil god, it was a thing, it sucked, and now I cordon off a fair amount of not-doing-high-stakes-things time. I go to chocolate tastings, or I spar with my sister, or I read books, or I hang out with my friends who sing a lot without simultaneously doing politics and worldsaving and listen to them sing... or I go to a planet somebody's turned up with a really awesome field of giant mushrooms, and my precog's either falling down on the job or thought this was worth it and couldn't have me arrive better-informed, because apparently some of the mushrooms if you brush up against them fling you a few hops away on the map of worlds-you-can-get-to-from-other-worlds."

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"The bifrost has been destroyed but I can travel as though by Bifrost with my new weapon."

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"Snazzy! Yeah, what, uh, happened, to your Asgard?"

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"A great many things went terribly wrong at once. The first was that, long ago, my father Odin had another child, his daughter Hela; she terrorized the realms with him. When he came to regret this approach to galactic diplomacy, she didn't. He, unable to destroy her, sealed her away for as long as he would live. The second was that Loki impersonated my father, erased his memories, and left him in a nursing home on Earth. The third was that this occurred just as it had come to my attention that the Infinity Stones were, improbably, turning up across the Nine Realms in event after event, after ages during which they lay dormant. I went out seeking them. Loki ruled Asgard in my father's stead. And when I returned and discovered the impersonation, my father was on the brink of death, and we had no opportunity to prepare for my sister's attack.

She drew her power from Asgard itself and was indestructible for as long as it endured. And so in the end it was necessary to destroy Asgard to destroy her. The refugees fled towards Earth. Thanos met us on the way."

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"...okay, I think that is all just different in my Asgard, Frigg's certainly had chances to tell me if - or is this a half-sister, my lines of communication with Odin are not good, she could totally be hiding a half... sibling... from me and my Thor."

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"I do not know who Hela's mother was."

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"Okay, might have one, I'll check, thanks for the tipoff. This seems like a variant in a lot of ways, though, my Midgard's not an Earth and most Earths aren't Midgards, the genderswapped family's a thing we've seen before but might or might not be affecting stuff, my opposite number here sounds like an evil nutcase, etcetera."

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"My Loki had many shortcomings, but he also fell into Thanos's hands for quite some time and I think he might have avoided the worst of his errors if not for that. I can't guess at the rest. You wield your Tesseract?"

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"Yes. I poked it when I was little, it taught me a sorcerous alphabet, I worked on magic myself from there without further access to it, it later decided I was boring and kicked me into a neighboring universe, I invented the teleport spell I use now to get out of that universe and grab it to save the planet I'd been on from an evil god, it lets me use it all the time now. It's grouchy because we've discovered universes it can't reach; it only works within one hop."

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"Do we know if the reach of Thanos's stones is similarly limited?"

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"No idea, haven't met this set. It's likeliest, lots of things can't operate outside their neighborhoods, but it's not guaranteed, there are also portable things or things that stretch from wherever they happen to be. In point of fact the knowledge that there exist other universes in this sense should definitely not make it to Thanos in case that matters; there's precedent."

Permalink Eye

"Understood. Can you tell me anything about your Thor that you would expect to be persistent across worlds, and not public knowledge -"

Permalink Eye

"Uh, most of what I know about her isn't exactly intimate secrets and alts vary in what things are consistent between them. I can tell you about her but I don't have a password like that, sorry."

Permalink Eye

He nods. "We have a great deal of planning to do. I would like to trust you. At least as far as I would trust a total stranger. Anything you can think of would be helpful."

Permalink Eye

"That's fair. She looks like this," illusion, complete with Mjolnir. "I was clumsy as a child and she used to make fun of me while trying all kinds of things to make me less so; I pretended it was the dance lessons when I solved it with magic. She's the best fighter on the planet barring Odin using her various cheats. Her best friends are Fandral, Hogun, and Volstagg. - I don't actually consider us particularly distant sisters but she's not really verbally intimate, I wish I had more concrete facts to list, hm - she picked up Mjolnir on an impulse to take it to fight a giant bear - maybe this will work better in video, how about that -" She plays an illusion of Thor sparring with the Three all in a laughing pile of limbs and weapons.

Permalink Eye

He watches. He looks a little sad. 

 

"Did the Man of Iron tell you his plan?"

Permalink Eye

"The one from the Time Stone fellow? No."

Permalink Eye

"I think you should join us and we can figure out any adjustments your abilities enable."

Permalink Eye

"Sounds good. Bear in mind that my organization may find this world at any time and pop in to help, but we should probably operate conservatively on the assumption that they won't do that within the span of time this operation takes."

Permalink Eye

"I think we would be delighted to be so interrupted."

Permalink Eye

"Of course. Where am I joining you to?"

Permalink Eye

Thor lifts his axe and Bifrosts them on over. 

His companions are, apparently, two more men in metal exoskeletons like Stark's and a man and a woman in only light armor. And a raccoon. The raccoon would fit as someone's spirit animal except for how these Midgardians don't have those.

Permalink Eye

" - don't know where to start on finding Danvers," he's saying, "but maybe Fury took notes. And wasn't responsible enough about security."

Permalink Eye

The raccoon is also wearing clothes and carrying guns. "Hello, introduce me and catch me up please?"

Permalink Eye

"Hi, slightly-more-vetted Loki! This is my buddy Rhodey, we met at M.I.T., he was Stark Industries' liaison to the military until I guess yesterday when he got some really stupid orders. This is Cap - do you not go by Cap anymore -"

Permalink Eye

"Cap is fine," says Cap.

Permalink Eye

"This is Cap! Captain America, symbol of justice, freedom, and the American way, wanted for terrorism and massive property damage and so on. That's Bruce Banner, he spends most of his time getting PhDs and some of it turning into an enormous green rage monster, that's Natasha, I have no idea what her job description is at the moment. I never met the raccoon in my life."

Permalink Eye

"Rocket," says the raccoon. "Charmed, I'm not at all sure."

"It's nice to meet you all," says Loki. "Your opsec is terrible, you didn't check if I'd passed my vetting by kidnapping your Thor and replacing him with an illusion at all."

Cap startles. Black Widow kicks Thor in the shin.

Permalink Eye

"Your illusions don't do heat signatures."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, interesting - you're right, they don't, they do affect people with infrared vision these days but yeah, I retract my complaint."

Permalink Eye

"So the plan we were going with before you dropped into our lives was to find some hidden heroes, make a gauntlet of our own, set up an ambush for Thanos on one of the planets he doomed and try to lure the Power Stone out of its bearing. An advantage of this plan is that Strange foresaw it working; anything else we go with doesn't have that going for it. Disadvantage is that it takes a month, Strange wasn't all that sure of it, and it involves the gauntlet ending up with a random stranger whose only qualification is that her name is Carol. So probably she won't conquer the universe with it or anything, I can't really imagine a galactic empress Carol."

Permalink Eye

"It'd sound imposing after a while if she did it anyway."

Permalink Eye

"Would Strange not have warned you if -"

 

Permalink Eye

"Not if he thought I wouldn't do it, or would have trouble getting all of you to do it, if I was scared of our future space empress."

Permalink Eye

"Anyway, does this plan have enough juke tolerance that I could try approaching the space stone before the point at which Carol is introduced? In theory it shouldn't care where I am and I can and should try monologuing at it a bit now, in practice it probably won't take notice unless I seem to be within its current bearer's scope of interest or liable to pick it up imminently."

Permalink Eye

"Hmm. If Thanos captures you and finds out about other universes he might snap them up too. If something weird happens then maybe he's not trusting enough to go do famine relief on Lemistra. The plan is not super juke-tolerant, it was fourteen million to one, though I don't know how much of that was picking out Lemistra in particular, me in particular - all these particulars - what do you get if you go near the stone?"

Permalink Eye

"When I talked to mine it jumped into my hand of its own accord. But it knew me and had interfered with me twice before; this is its alt and maybe not a very good facsimile considering my own, and isn't familiar with me, except perhaps through my... not very good facsimile."

Permalink Eye

"First time I met our Loki he threw me out my kitchen window. I fell sixty stories. Luckily it's a seventieth-story kitchen. Okay, so we're not likely to get 'jumping into your hand', but - signs of friendliness? Things that might help you conclude you can peel it off him in a fight?"

Permalink Eye

"So the thing with the stones, or at least the Edda stones, is that while they are people, they prefer to pretend very aggressively in almost all situations to be inanimate objects. I don't expect it to glitter encouragingly at me. If you pick up a stone and it wanted its personal space, you and possibly the planet you're standing on are in trouble. If you pick up a stone and it approximately tolerates you, you can use it a little, maybe it hurts like crazy to hold onto while you're doing that. If it loves you, it's like my Tesseract and me. I think that the stones can't reasonably universally love Thanos - they have different enough tastes, not good taste but varied, and he doesn't seem to have had quite that insane level of fine control based on my limited evidence... Anyway, if you don't pick up a stone, you probably don't find out how much it likes you. My case was extremely anomalous and I don't know if this Space Stone will appreciate me the same way, let alone on short acquaintance. But it's not out of the question that it might if I tried; the question is, what does it cost to try."

Permalink Eye

"We probably only get one shot at the ambush. The other pieces of the plan look a little less fragile - though it wouldn't surprise me if there's only enough metal to attempt to reforge the gauntlet once, or something like that -"

Permalink Eye

Loki nods. "Anyone who, uh, decides they believe my frankly incredible story about belonging to an interdimensional organization that can do nearly anything except get here promptly, and I wouldn't blame anyone for not being such a someone, can relax a little. The wizard doesn't seem to have had advance knowledge of me and mine, incidentally supporting the hypothesis that these stones are also adjacency-limited, so the fault tolerance of this plan isn't predicated on something like you all having souls and being unresurrectable, or something annoying like that. With enough coordination, even if confronting Thanos is impossible, we can move all of the relevant planets far enough away that Thanos can't find them, put them somewhere nice, and get started on the logistics and vetting processes for magic powers that bring everybody back, and the only lasting inconvenience is that people have to adjust to different local laws of faster than light travel and stuff like that."

Permalink Eye

"It's good to have a backup plan better than 'attend a lot of funerals, try to prevent the collapse of civilization.'"

Permalink Eye

"I think we can do better than 'move a lot of planets' but it's a reasonable floor and we've had to do it once, a few stars were rigged to be eaten by spiders, long story."

Permalink Eye

"I don't even know how many people there are in the universe.  - Earth doesn't have FTL. Possibly I should've been working on that. Coulda made some friends, run into those Guardians in peacetime or something."

 

Permalink Eye

"I don't know how much of the universe matches but more people looking to get infinity stones before Thanos did would have been good."

Permalink Eye

He was even forewarned. He was forewarned and he nearly destroyed the Earth for Thanos and then alienated half the people who could fight him and successfully recruited exactly one ally. Who was a sophomore in high school. 

 

"Okay, let's try to read Nick Fury's diary and then go from there."

Permalink Eye

"Who's Nick Fury?"

Permalink Eye

"He ran S.H.I.E.L.D., back when that was a thing. He worked with us on saving the world, which has come up surprisingly often this decade. Strange says Fury knows how to reach the people we need. But, regrettably, Fury's a dustbunny, so hopefully he wrote it down."

Permalink Eye

"Mkay. Say, anyone have a pen -"

"A pen?" says Cap.

"My boyfriend can conjure arbitrary material objects including letters I write here, but I have to do it in physical medium, if I write in illusion it's not a material object."

"I've got a pen," says the raccoon, digging around in his pockets. "No, that's somebody's thumb. Thought I had a pen."

"I can keep dictating to Tony's computer, that's fine, I want to send a longer letter earliest convenience though."

Permalink Eye

"I expect that Wakanda would be happy to provide you with your own transcription-capable computer."

Permalink Eye

"That would be great. I really have no excuse for leaving my computer behind while tromping through the apparently dimensional teleportation capable mushrooms but I have learned my lesson."

Permalink Eye

"Are we welcome in Wakanda, we kind of just dropped in -"

      "I don't know who's in charge," says Natasha, "but it'd surprise me if evicting us was their top priority."

"T'Challa's dead?"

      "Yep."

"Any guesses on the engineer I am supposed to meet."

      "I suspect you want Princess Shuri."

"Then let's head in, get Loki her computer, meet the princess, figure out where we're looking for Fury's stuff."

Permalink Eye

Loki follows along with the people who know what direction they're going.

Permalink Eye

Wakanda is in something of a state of chaos, sirens blaring; there are people leaning against buildings and sobbing. Empty levitating trains zip by. 

Permalink Eye

She doesn't have anything for these people on hand. Hurry up, peal.

Permalink Eye

They speak to some people. They get into an elevator. It elevators them through an elaborate underground complex at least two hundred times the size of the aboveground city. 

 

"Princess Shuri is occupied," someone tells them when they get out of the elevator. "You will have to wait."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, we figured. When she's got a moment let her know there's a way to undo it, we're working on it, we need her."

        "I will convey that."

 

And someone gets Loki a room and her own computer. Or a pen, if she'd prefer that.

Permalink Eye

Computer's better. Allspeak works on typing. She writes up the long version.

Permalink Eye

And at some point the busy Princess can be apprised of the plan. 

         "What do we know about this Danvers woman?"

"Nothing. I don't love it but we're running with what we've got. If we get a sign that the stones are on our side even without her then we can move faster, but without something really convincing in that direction I think we've got no choice but to stick to the plan."

        "What do we know about the engineering problem?"

"Also nothing. I was expecting that part to make more sense once we've grabbed Fury's stuff and looked into it a little. Natasha's trying to figure out where to look right now. ....I saw the dampeners on the train. What's the top speed vibranium can handle?"

      "Is this related to -"

"This is not related to the engineering problem I needed to be alive for, but since there's going to be a Thanos fight take two I'm thinking how to make it go better than take one."

Permalink Eye

When she has finished her letter Loki attempts long distance monologuing at the local space stone, introducing herself, describing her history with its alts and the concept of alts, apologizing for the existence of space it cannot reach, demonstrating the teleport, asking if it would like to defect.

She is not surprised that it doesn't appear in her hand.

She is surprised that, with the tiniest crackle suggesting that in some fraction of possible ways it is here while in all others it is not, it addresses her, in the same not a voice as her own:

Do something interesting.

She amends her letter and departs her room to look for someone to report to on this.

Permalink Eye

Engineers are huddled over a holographic projection arguing excitedly.

"I don't even know what they're working on," says Natasha, "we haven't got Fury's hardware yet. You need anything?"

Permalink Eye

"I need to be heavily involved on - stylistic approach, and probably more than that," she says. "I didn't get the rock by talking to it from where I was standing, but it did talk to me, which I wasn't expecting, and it wants me to do something interesting. The bad news is the last time a space stone wanted me to do something interesting I spent the next several subjective decades managing a war with an evil god, the good news is it bothered acknowledging me at all."

Permalink Eye

" - okay. So its sensibilities for interestingness are -"

Permalink Eye

"...not as bad as they could be? I have seen worse aesthetics. Running entire universes. The first thing I should actually try is see if there are any Ardas adjacent to here, I checked for worlds I've visited before in case the map loops around somewhere I've been to here, and I can't check for alts-wherever-they-may-be with my version of teleportation, but I didn't check for a new Arda and I can because they have lots of the same locations, and the multiverse is infested with them. An Arda's usefulness and potential immediate-term interestingness depend a whole lot on when it is, we find them all over the timeline, they're on rails till someone visits, but I might be able to harvest help of some caliber or other."

Permalink Eye

 "Yes, that sounds useful. We're in the rounding-up-allies stage, the more allies the better."

Permalink Eye

"Mmhm -" She checks for Tol Eressëas, space and flat versions. Safely Technically Not Valinor so she won't bother the Valar in her landing (she's not Elspeth and can't just assume she'll be forgiven for showing up on Taniquetil), safely Technically Not Endorë so she won't find that it's been geographically fucked by a war with an evil god and too different to teleport to.

Permalink Eye

Space Tol Eressëa goes. 

Permalink Eye

She pops back. "Good news, you have an Arda neighbor! They're a Space Arda, too, they'll have spaceships. Now I have to figure out what year it is and whether anyone I know is alive."

Permalink Eye

Natasha looks like this happens every day, or at least enough days she's stopped having any expectations about whether it will. "Do you need anything to accomplish that?"

Permalink Eye

"I do not, but it might take me a while to find out - I should make sure now if it's, uh, cinematically poised to have any main events I could avert happen, but if it's in between things it can wait a few days if that would be more convenient for any reason."

Permalink Eye

"Thor's helping them teleport around picking up hardware, so I don't think we urgently need you here for anything."

Permalink Eye

"Okay, cool. I will go try to get you some help." She scoops up her computer, notes that the place has an Arda neighbor but obviously that's not going to help them find her since they've already tried finding Ardas from everywhere they've mapped, and goes back to the Tol Eressëa and turns into a bird and looks for an Elf to ask what year it is.

Permalink Eye

There are some Elves at the shore of a big, lazy river. They're naked (they are of course not Elf-naked) and eating flower petals.

Permalink Eye

They'll probably think she's a Maia and even if they don't they're Elves what are they gonna do, stab her? She lands on a treetrunk nearby and says by illusion, "Excuse me, what year is it?"

Permalink Eye

The Elves look at each other uncertainly, then at her. “1530,” one of them offers after a moment, as if they don’t think about this very often and expect Valar to even less often.”

Permalink Eye

"Thank you." She flies away a bit and starts trying candidate places on Endorë. It'll be different from the other Space Arda, this is much later - she's not sure how a lot of it would play out in space, but some of the landscape may still be there. She doesn't manage and winds up aiming for well above an Endorë ocean so she can aim visually for land. She does this invisibly; no point alarming Melkor.

Permalink Eye

From here she can see that Endorë's continents are not green and its water is not blue and there are giant, low-hanging clouds of ash. That's probably why the teleport failed.

Permalink Eye

Yikes.

She pops around and around, assessing, looking for signs of civilization.

Permalink Eye

There are fortresses. There are some airfields. 

Permalink Eye

Any of the fortresses helpfully eight-pointed?

Permalink Eye

These fortresses make even fewer concessions to Elven sensibilities than the one of Maitimo's she looked at. But some of the airfields do have a familiar eight-pointed star.

Permalink Eye

Close enough. She looks for Elves to ask directions of there.

Permalink Eye

There are Elves staffing their airfield.

Permalink Eye

An illusion walks up to one of them. "Excuse me."

Permalink Eye

The Elf has a gun. Their hand goes to their gun. "This is a secure area. Please step back."

Permalink Eye

The illusion takes a step back. "This is really important, can you just escalate me as high as you're authorized to escalate me to or do you have to try shooting me first?"

Permalink Eye

"I am sure they're observing. More steps, please."

Permalink Eye

"I'm not actually here." It goes see-through. "Short version I'm a visitor from another world, I can teleport, I'd like to know where to find one of your people who's in osanwë distance of Curufin, so I can speak weird languages with him eavesdropping, till I can talk to someone important."

Permalink Eye

She looks torn, briefly. Then - "if you teleport with me three miles from here you'll be out of a secure area and we will remain in range for any communications that should reach our leadership to do so."

Permalink Eye

"Sure, is any direction equally good?"

Permalink Eye

"Any direction removes us from the secure area."

Permalink Eye

"If this lands you in a pond, that's your own fault," she says, and she teleports them both three miles north.

Permalink Eye

It doesn't land them in a pond, just some bombed-out ground. The Elf holsters her gun and crosses her arms.

Permalink Eye

"I speak Quenya but never learned Thindarin and will be turning my translator off for the language demo, if you need to talk to me and Quenya's too illegal wave your arm or something," Loki says, and she starts declaiming Asgardian poetry, then switches to Jotuntongue, which she has been learning the long way.

Permalink Eye

The Elf watches her for a while. Eventually waves her arm.

Permalink Eye

"Yes?" says Loki, switching back to Allspeak.

Permalink Eye

"What do you want exactly?"

Permalink Eye

"In the short term a galaxy a ways away needs some help, in the medium term I can solve all your problems but depending on some stuff I might do it faster if the thing with the other galaxy shakes out well."

Permalink Eye

"Can you expand on that."

Permalink Eye

"The details are sensitive intel and you are a rando I am talking to because I found you near an eight pointed star."

Permalink Eye

"I could get you a Dwarf phone. And then you can talk to Lord Curufin if you want him particularly."

Permalink Eye

"Maedhros would be fine too although come to think of it I don't know how available he is here and now, Curufin's just the one who can do the language thing."

Permalink Eye

"I am sure Lord Maedhros would be delighted to speak with you," she says. "Our people are looking for a Dwarf phone for you now."

Permalink Eye

"I have not used a Dwarf phone before. What's up with them?"

Permalink Eye

"They can be used by people who do not have the communications system common to Elves."

Permalink Eye

"Makes sense."

Permalink Eye

"All right, they purchased one. Someone will fly it out to us."

Permalink Eye

"Mkay." She has her computer handy; she updates the letter to Cam.

Permalink Eye

Eventually a little drone flies them a funny little headset thing. The Elf retrieves it and hands it to Loki.

Permalink Eye

"Thank you." She pops it on and sound-baffles herself so Rando Elf doesn't hear.

Permalink Eye

Rando Elf is heading back in. 

"Hello," says another Elf on the Dwarf phone. "Who's speaking, please?"

Permalink Eye

"Larya, is that you? Hi! My name is Loki."

Permalink Eye

" - hello. I don't think I know a Loki."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, you and I have never met. Where do you want me to start?"

Permalink Eye

"What do you want, how can you help us, you do realize how much you're unnerving people, don't you -"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, I'd be doing this differently if I had all my resources at the moment but I don't and can't finely predict when I'll get them. So. One of the resources I currently don't have is a magic rock from another universe - be very careful with the 'other universe' fact, if Melkor finds out about it he can probably learn to dimension hop and Sauron might be able to do it on his own too. Universes can be next to each other or not next to each other. Most ways of getting from one universe to another only work between universes that are adjacent. I had an accident which flung me at least two steps away from where I was, which means it will take a while for my people to find me but they could at any time. Follow me so far?"

Permalink Eye

" - yes."

Permalink Eye

"So, I was flung into one of this universe's neighbors. They are currently having a problem with a maniac who acquired a full set of six magic rocks and used them to murder half of the population of the universe, some trillions of people. A precognitively vetted plan to make that not have happened with timefuckery probably is in progress and might want reinforcements, so I decided to see if a world I had previous experience with and knew how to find friendlies in might be adjacent. There's lots of Ardas. Does that put some of my behavior into better context -"

Permalink Eye

"I think I'm following. Does our universe have trillions of people?"

Permalink Eye

"No. Well, uh, it has however many people are on servers at the moment, I guess that could be trillions, and Ardas vary, but we have never encountered an Arda that came with aliens running around that you wouldn't know about at this point in time."

Permalink Eye

"That's good, at least. What affects the wait time until you can help us?"

Permalink Eye

"We're waiting on two things, whichever comes first will let me kill Melkor. One of them is one of the set of rocks the maniac has. My universe has a similar set of magic rocks - sometimes things are similar world to world on a smaller scale than 'the entire place is an Arda' - and I can use my instance of one of them to kill Melkors within one step of my home world, no problem. Ability to use infinity stones, that being this kind of magic rock, depends on the rocks liking you - an infinity stone is an inanimate object in sort of the same way Huan is a dog, if that makes sense - and this one doesn't know me yet but I convinced it to talk to me and it told me to do something interesting. If it decides I'm interesting enough, and I'm hoping 'go to an Arda' is interesting because the first time I went to an Arda it was because mine sent me there, I should be able to use it like the one at home and I currently expect it to have a similar scope of power.

"Second thing is my various alternate universe versions and various Ardasfull of Elves and so on, who collectively form a multiversal organization. I have an alt who can portably destroy Melkors; he'll have to come here, so it waits till they've found a path from the known map to this world, but after that he can bang it out in a few hours."

Permalink Eye

"All right. Can we assist with either of those?"

Permalink Eye

"Second thing not at all unless something more time sensitive than I expect is in progress here right now and I should tell them they need to throw more resources at finding me ASAP. First thing potentially, I can put you into contact with my native guides in the universe with the maniac and you can talk sending some help. A regular Elf isn't much versus the heavy-hitters in play there but Huan could be if he's handy, I don't actually know how good their FTL is and a lightleaper might beat it - uh, if you, still have any, I don't actually... know... maybe you don't... anyway, that kind of thing."

Permalink Eye

"It would not surprise me if Huan was interested in fighting some other evil being. ...there is one lightleaper. We were relying on it for evacuating some survivors if that became necessary, but if you can teleport other people then perhaps we'd no longer be so reliant on it."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, I can teleport people. Unfortunately I don't already know a good habitable planet to expect to exist nearby, so I can't just pick up all your civilians and drop them somewhere, although if you've got one scouted and can show me a picture..."

Permalink Eye

"We're not ready to tell you where all the civilians are but we'll keep in mind that that's an option."

Permalink Eye

"Sure thing."

Permalink Eye

"You can take a copy of Lord Maedhros to your allies in the next dimension over, if you care to, and we'll discuss the situation and get a sense of how it makes sense to involve Huan."

Permalink Eye

"Copy of - uh-huh. That makes sense."

Permalink Eye

" - I am somewhat confused about what you're familiar with about our world and what you aren't."

Permalink Eye

"Uh, most Ardas take place on low tech flat planets with more powerful, worse-at-science Valar, Valinor being one continent and Endorë being some other continents across an ocean, the equivalent of lightleapers being literal boats, music being magic, and Elves having immaterial souls instead of chips. We have seen a Space Arda before but only one and it was encountered and derailed from the normal timeline shortly post-Alqualondë, so I know roughly how your story goes and I know what substrate it goes on but not exactly how the last few hundred years' of events translated onto that substrate."

Permalink Eye

"Huh. ...how does Angband work in the magical setting, does Melkor just, um, stab people?"

Permalink Eye

"Not hardly. Your Angband is worse because of the copying and because copies can be run faster than Flat Arda Melkor can fuck with actual literal time, but he can still do hallucinations and prevent suicide and so on, he just has to do it one thread at a time while the body's alive."

Permalink Eye

"Huh. All right. Do the locals of this neighboring civilization have computers with approximately the capabilities of ours, so they can run him -"

Permalink Eye

"They have some fancy stuff but I didn't investigate deeply and don't know his system requirements. I brought a computer along and don't mind if you look at it but it's just a random computer someone gave me to write letters on because I need to commit information to physical substrate to transmit it back home, it might not be state of the art."

Permalink Eye

"Lord Maedhros says you can try it and if it doesn't work come back for one of ours."

Permalink Eye

"Mm-hm. Uh, Maedhroses are always on the more functional end of the Angband escapee bellcurve, but that's in magic Ardas where the bellcurve exists instead of consisting entirely of 'we rolled them all back, they're not salvageable' - how do you, uh -"

Permalink Eye

"Ah, I wasn't there but they just went in and edited all the numbers that were very very far outside normal tolerances and deleted a lot of things. It took a few tries. He's all right."

Permalink Eye

 

"Okay."

Permalink Eye

"I think we got very lucky." The drone that delivered her her Dwarf phone comes zipping back with a computer storage device of some kind.

Permalink Eye

"How is he installed, is that simple enough that I should memorize it, or should I hand him to techies from the next universe over and see what they make of it because it's dependent on the hardware?"

Permalink Eye

"That's all configured to do the work for you, it just needs more computing power than fits on a little drone."

Permalink Eye

"Okay, I'm sure someone can... whip up an appropriate cable or something. Thank you. Anything else before I bring it home?"

Permalink Eye

"Let me send you coordinates for where to land when you come back. We want to minimize the chances of attracting enemy attention."

Permalink Eye

"Very sensible. I need an image, I can't target my spell by coordinates, I apologize, it's hacked together under emergency conditions and fixing it isn't high priority for lots of reasons."

Permalink Eye

"All right. I will send you another drone with a picture."

Permalink Eye

"Thanks."

Permalink Eye

That one follows a few minutes after the first.

Permalink Eye

Loki looks at the picture. "Wonderful. Thank you, Larya, I'm sorry for scaring everyone."

Permalink Eye

"Kill Melkor, I'm sure they'll get over it."

Permalink Eye

"That's what I figured. See you around."

She pops back to Wakanda with Maedhros tucked under her arm.

Permalink Eye

Tony is sitting with Natasha this time, sorting through a big pile of hardware. "Loki! Found your friends?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes. This one is an upload. He needs more processor than was portable, can you hook him up to something? He's supposedly able to figure it out from there."

Permalink Eye

"Thought your friends were Elves."

Permalink Eye

"This is the cyborg variety of Elf."

Permalink Eye

"If it doesn't bring presents from Santa I don't think it really counts as an Elf. Last time I ran a baby computer program hoping it'd be a good guy it wasn't. Shuri, do you know -"

Permalink Eye

"I can set up hardware that's isolated but if we're accumulating allies we're likely to at some point give it more resources, we shouldn't do that at all if we think it's dangerous."

Permalink Eye

"I am reasonably sure this isn't the evil kind, and if he was the evil kind it wouldn't be in an existential threat way. He's not actually here to help directly, though, you don't really have to network him, he's here because he knows all his people and can tell you about what reinforcements they can offer."

Permalink Eye

"They don't have anyone who comes with a robot body?"

Permalink Eye

"I'm assuming he's been solely software for a few hundred years now."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. We can set up the Elf. I hear you're trying to convince the space rock that you're awesome?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes."

Permalink Eye

"What kinda stuff does the space rock think is awesome?"

Permalink Eye

"Well, last time it sent me to an Elf world and I was stuck there having a war with their evil god till I invented a teleportation spell but that took a really long time and I'm hoping that having already invented the spell gets me some points and I can just be myself for a few weeks for the rest of it."

Permalink Eye

"Still don't feel like I know what thing might happen that has the stone over here going 'that was awesome'."

Permalink Eye

"I'm not going to do anything reckless or stupid; if this stone likes those things this isn't gonna work out anyway. But I don't know exactly what about my previous adventures interested my Tesseract so I can't tell you precisely how I mean to woo it, I'm just going to be myself slightly more emphatically than I might if my stylistic tells weren't likely to help in and of themselves."

Permalink Eye

"All right, works for me. So Fury's stuff is all encrypted, but encryption works on some assumptions about how fast computers can cross their zeros and dot their ones, and it turns out Earth is in the galactic boondocks doing all our computing on a Windows box from the nineties. If we borrow some fancy stuff from our spacefaring neighbors then Fury's stuff will soon be unencrypted. That does not take a genius, let alone two geniuses, so the mystery engineering problem that is the reason I'm alive is still a mystery, but it seems to be step one."

Permalink Eye

"Okay, you want to ask locals or see if Elves can do it?"

Permalink Eye

"I guess the Elves have the advantage that they're not all having a Very Bad Day today."

Permalink Eye

"They've been having a very bad day for three hundred years, this one's still mid-war-with-evil-god, but they'll require slightly less explanation to run errands now that I've already introduced the situation. If you can wake up Maedhros he'll be able to tell me who to go to."

Permalink Eye

"Working on it. How does he want to interface with us, does he want a screen -"

Permalink Eye

"I don't know, a screen's a reasonable bet."

Permalink Eye

She hums to herself and alters things on her holographic viewscreens.

Permalink Eye

Loki updates her letter again.

Permalink Eye

And eventually Shuri says, "all right, one Elf, no internet access -"

Permalink Eye

"He gonna speak English?"

Permalink Eye

"No, but Elves are really really good at languages, especially his family, and I can translate - or, hm - where's Thor -"

Permalink Eye

"Out looking for Asgardian survivors of this afternoon."

Permalink Eye

"Any chance you have a picture of where he'd be doing that? Maybe somebody brought an Allspeak wand."

Permalink Eye

"Don't think so, sorry."

Permalink Eye

"Well, I can translate while he soaks up English."

Permalink Eye

And then they have an Elf. "...hello," he says in Quenya, taking in the rather spectacular Wakandan laboratory and the armored man and Loki and Shuri.

Permalink Eye

"Hi Maedhros! Were you listening in while I talked to Larya? Welcome to an Earth, this is Tony Stark, that's Shuri."

Permalink Eye

"Yes, and to the language demonstration. This place is very pretty. I'm impressed with the designer."

Permalink Eye

"I didn't know you'd want the language demo but would've invited you expressly if I'd suspected. How's crypto doing this year in space Arda, I know it's never come up in Valinor but maybe you've had to invent it smart quick for war reasons and got it good?"

Permalink Eye

"- I'm reluctant to answer that. Why is it relevant?"

Permalink Eye

"Need to decrypt a thing. We can ask someone else if it's too sensitive."

Permalink Eye

"I think we'd be happy to attempt to decrypt a thing unless it's bizarrely similar to the Enemy's messaging protocols."

Permalink Eye

"That would be very surprising. Where should I drop it off, can you do pictures?"

Permalink Eye

His face is replaced with an image of a bombed-out field.

Permalink Eye

"Is that your planet? Bit of a fixer-upper."

Permalink Eye

"It would be convenient for you to learn English if you can do that expediently but I'm reluctant to translate that," Loki tells Maedhros.

Permalink Eye

He brings his face back. "I do have very easily hurt feelings."

Permalink Eye

"A regular delicate flower, yes. He says 'is that your planet? Bit of a fixer-upper.' This is not an example of an Earth diplomat, if you were wondering."

Permalink Eye

"Oh good, one always gets more done when they're the only diplomat in the room. How do I say 'the trees grew back fairly quickly during the first century of bombing runs, but then the Enemy inferred that we might find that reassuring or encouraging, and switched to using some kind of complex defoliant"?"

Permalink Eye

"I don't actually speak much English, and my translation solution won't let me produce something that sounds like it for you because you don't either. Tony, he wants to know how to say -" She repeats the sentence.

Permalink Eye

He repeats it. "That's super charming, do you have soil samples -"

Permalink Eye

"He says 'that's super charming, do you have soil samples'. I did not think to bring any, if you want some I can get them but it seems like a project for later. Maedhros, when I go to this location will someone... scurry up to me and accept tasks, or... what?"

Permalink Eye

"They'll be monitoring it, you can leave instructions and come back later. They find you nervewracking to be around since it'd be so easy for you to have them tortured for eternity."

Permalink Eye

"Well, I'm working on that. It's a safe place to leave a thing, bearing in mind that the Enemy definitely mustn't find out that there are other worlds such as by intercepting the thing to be decrypted?"

Permalink Eye

"It's as safe as anywhere in Endorë is."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. So if you guys have the diary handy gimme something to write a letter about it in Quenya on and I'll deliver it."

Permalink Eye

"I'll make a copy, that way we can also take it elsewhere if this isn't getting results fast enough. It self-destructs after three failed attempts but that shouldn't be a problem as long as they copy it a couple million times before trying anything."

Permalink Eye

"I'll make sure to specify."

Permalink Eye

"It's pretty standard, I'm sure they'd think of it." She hands Loki a hard drive.

Permalink Eye

Loki doesn't need to commit this one to strictly physical medium; she jots out an illusion letter in Quenya on the hard drive itself in little letters. She drops it in the field and comes right back.

Permalink Eye

"Do you know people in charge of countries or planets back in your universe, are they gonna mostly be the same people?"

Permalink Eye

"A few ambassadors, and they might, but they might know my local whatever the fuck he is."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah, they might. Also pretty busy running around keeping their societies from collapsing. I figure we should use the firepower of more than two planets for this, but I don't know who we'd talk to about getting anyone else on board, and we can't leak it."

 

He isn't running around keeping his society from collapsing. He could. He'd be pretty useful in New York right now, clearing the streets of abandoned cars and putting out fires and, well, boosting morale.

But it doesn't matter. It's never going to have happened anyway.

And it would suck. 

"What does Elf on the shelf need to get up to speed with English?"

Permalink Eye

She looks at the Elf on the shelf. "Can I basically model you as a regular you on this one or does being uploaded help? Would being fed an electronic dictionary help?"

Permalink Eye

"On this hardware I don't have significantly more attentional capacity than I had when I had a body. I could make a great deal of use of an English-Quenya dictionary."

Permalink Eye

"We have those but I didn't bring them with me, this was an unplanned excursion, but I'm sure they have all-English dictionaries, all-English text corpuses..."

Permalink Eye

"I will see what I can do with those. Thank you."

Permalink Eye

"My pleasure. Shuri, you're our hostess, what have you got in the form of English for him, dictionary and corpus and so on, so nobody has to stand around correcting his grammar for quite that long -"

Permalink Eye

"I can give him books for English-language learners?"

Permalink Eye

"...if they're starting-language-neutral somehow, sure, load him up." She translates the suggestion for Maedhros.

Permalink Eye

He finds it unobjectionable. And spends about ten seconds thinking it over, before saying hesitantly in English, "what a human language."

Permalink Eye

"Okay, that's cool. How does one get in on the brain-on-a-computer, if they happened to be interested?"

Permalink Eye

"Elves are computers. Humans aren't."

Permalink Eye

"Not yet we aren't."

Permalink Eye

"Feel free to work on it but the chips were designed by an omniscient creator deity and nobody's gotten them working on anybody who doesn't develop them in utero yet. There's lots of nice upgrades available on wetware, you just have to use more magic."

Permalink Eye

"You made it sound like all the other Earths were missing both me and Wakanda, though. So - who does that even leave to work on it?"

Permalink Eye

"I dunno, whoever invented the chiplocked computer? Different kind of chip. I think it was a demon. I wish I had mine, those are great."

Permalink Eye

"Demons?"

Permalink Eye

"Demons are a species with principally cosmetic relation to the religious concept of the same name. One of me is a demon, and also my boyfriend because we're narcissistic like that, and he's the one who's been conjuring my letters; demons can create arbitrary material objects. This has the obvious infosec problems, so a demon invented a little brain implant that can encode information with the way your brain works while you brain-computer-interface the information onto your device, and to let you access the encoded information checks that your brain continues to work that way many times a second. The information is never recorded unencoded, the encryption is breakable only by you operating your brain as the chip is trained to understand it. Demon-proof crypto."

Permalink Eye

"Clever!"

Permalink Eye

"So is the 'running out of finite resources' thing just completely false in your universe."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, yes, absolutely. There exist finite resources? Like, 'one wish per person' and 'we don't have that many subtle artists and can't overprioritize them in the Materia evacuation but we're trying to see if we can convince any of them to donate gametes to Amentans' and 'if too many precogs are doing things at the same time they bump into each other and don't work any more' and stuff. But space and matter, those we have."

Permalink Eye

"If you'd showed up an hour earlier maybe you could have taken Barney out for coffee and a lecture about demons."

Permalink Eye

"Barney?"

Permalink Eye

"Big, purple, mistakenly proportioned."

Permalink Eye

"I'll make Cam explain later. I'll bear it in mind if we wind up in a situation where that makes sense."

Permalink Eye

"What is the plan."

Permalink Eye

"We beg him to come do famine relief and then ambush him."

Permalink Eye

"I don't like that plan."

Permalink Eye

"Well, we won't bring you."

Permalink Eye

"If it fails the prospects for future famine relief are not encouraging."

Permalink Eye

"Loki says her extradimensional buddies can take him, so there's no long-term where we're stuck here with Thanos. And - if it'd been ten percent maybe it'd be unclear whether we should risk making things worse. Fifty, not so much, how much worse can things get?"

Permalink Eye

"Much worse."

Permalink Eye

"Please excuse him, he's been tortured by an evil god for entirely too many subjective centuries."

Permalink Eye

"Honestly I think we could do with more doom and gloom around here."

Permalink Eye

"Anyway, my buddies can definitely take Melkor, taking Melkors is standard operating procedure. Thanos is actually more than a speed bump with all six stones, stones are a big deal even with a few hundred universes cased for goodies."

Permalink Eye

"Well, we'll get a peek at Nick Fury's diary and see what he's got."

Permalink Eye

"Yup. Maedhros, when do you think I should go check if they've managed anything?"

Permalink Eye

"I don't know anything about the complexity of the task but likely not for a few hours, at least."

Permalink Eye

"Okay, I can be a few hours patient."

Permalink Eye

Engineers get back to work on whatever they were working on before retrieval of Nick Fury's diary. The conversation is whispered and fast-paced but seems to involve vibranium nanites.

Permalink Eye

Loki sends another update letter. Asks Maedhros if they have anywhere that would benefit from healing magic nowish.

Permalink Eye

"Not that I know of, not more than people here -"

Permalink Eye

"There is an endless supply of people here you could tap but not if it's gonna keep you up at night, plan's undoing all this."

Permalink Eye

"Yes, that's why I asked about ones in Arda, which is likely to continue to progress forward in time, so if Sauron's been doing cute things with prion diseases I'd like to know, but if it's quiet now that's fine."

Permalink Eye

"It's been quiet for the last several decades."

Permalink Eye

"How long has this war been going on?"

Permalink Eye

"Three hundred years."

Permalink Eye

"How many universes are there?"

Permalink Eye

"Tons, and we keep finding Ardas. We do look for them specifically, but they're very repetitive."

Permalink Eye

"Earth's aren't repetitive?"

Permalink Eye

"Earths are all different! There's the one with demons and stuff attached to it, there's the one with vampires, there's the one with wizards, there's the one with magical girls, there's the one where everyone is kinky and there's mages and psions, there's the one where everyone can turn into animals since they met aliens who knew how to do that, there's the one which founded a galactic federation with a ton of aliens, and there's this one. Earths just love having different magic systems or equivalents and being relentlessly similar anyway."

Permalink Eye

"Do they have all the same people?"

Permalink Eye

"Some of them, not all. And sometimes people show up in different places and times. For instance, if I'm born on an Earth I'm usually a white American, but we found one of me who's black and was born in 1789 England. She's the wizard one."

Permalink Eye

"This refers to - skin color?"

Permalink Eye

"Yeah it's kind of a thing."

Permalink Eye

"How do Elves decide what faces to take?"

Permalink Eye

"Oh, ah, I was not a computer to start with, I had a body. This portrait resembles it. It met with some bad luck."

Permalink Eye

"If you want a robot body after we save the universe I could see what I can do. They have some things going for them, like hands."

Permalink Eye

"Since you wanted more downer in your life I'm like ninety percent sure that he's going to insist on instead ceasing to exist once that's a thing that can actually happen and only casually forks himself now because the Enemy still has all the copies he wants."

Permalink Eye

"You know, I actually think I'm oversupplied on the gloom. Doom, still useful because it can let us think of new things to protect against."

Permalink Eye

"Sure thing."

Permalink Eye

Thor returns about an hour later. "There were Asgardian survivors," he announces.

Permalink Eye

"Oh, awesome. Do they need a place to stay -"

Permalink Eye

"I put them up at a motel in Tempe, Arizona. It was the first place I thought of that was not very chaotic at present."

Permalink Eye

"Put them up at - how many -"

Permalink Eye

"Sixteen."

Permalink Eye

"Right. Okay."

Permalink Eye

"Are they okay, do you want me to heal them?"

Permalink Eye

"None of them were grievously injured. They were encouraged at the thought that we would be erasing this timeline entirely."

Permalink Eye

She nods. "It occurs to me that I should ask you if there's a good reason not to go to Jotunheim looking for help?"

Permalink Eye

"To Jotunheim? Why would you - ah, I don't especially recommend that. Loki tried to blow it up."

Permalink Eye

"...of course he did, I'm glad I asked first. Was your Odin's original plan also to inculcate a frost giant royal baby with Asgardian values and interests and then attempt to emplace him upon their throne, detecting no room for flaw in this sequence of projected events including the parenting part?"

Permalink Eye

"Loki objected to the plan before I think it was spelled out in all its detail, but approximately. Did you stage a coup when you learned?"

Permalink Eye

"No! I grabbed one of him," she aims a thumb at Maedhros, "after his honeymoon and had him diplomacize for me!"

Permalink Eye

"How non-catastrophic." He squints at the computer. "Hello. I am Thor."

Permalink Eye

"Maedhros. I'm here to see if my people can be of assistance in this war."

Permalink Eye

"Well, stabbing him hasn't gotten us anywhere."

Permalink Eye

"They have a magic dog. And a ship that can go anywhere in the universe in five days, I don't know if that improves usefully on local FTL options because I don't know if yours are like mine or if we'll need to go anywhere outside the galaxy without me chaperoning."

Permalink Eye

"I can harness the power of the bifrost."

Permalink Eye

"Would've been super useful to have you before we lost Strange. We could have explored plans that involved flying by another galaxy to grab someone."

Permalink Eye

"...your bifrost must be different from mine."

Permalink Eye

"I forged a weapon more powerful than Mjolnir in order to fight Thanos."

Permalink Eye

"My bifrost is, like, a spell installation, like a stationary Allspeak wand or so- oh hey did your refugees bring any wands, they'd be super handy if we need to bring in anyone who doesn't have time to learn the langauge."

Permalink Eye

"They may have. A few artifacts of Asgard were aboard the escape pod that made it out."

Permalink Eye

"Can I borrow one to bop people on the head with?"

Permalink Eye

"Of course."

Permalink Eye

"F.R.I.D.A.Y. you wanna just show Loki pictures off Google Streetview whenever she wants to go somewhere -"

     "Certainly, sir."

Permalink Eye

"Are they going to recognize me and object, do I need an introduction," Loki says to Thor.

Permalink Eye

"If you're going to introduce yourself as Loki I should go with you."

Permalink Eye

"I can say Beldri if that's better. Do you know your Loki's birth name -"

Permalink Eye

"I didn't know of any name other than Loki."

Permalink Eye

"Rats, would have been good to know."

Permalink Eye

"I am sorry. We should step outside so I don't disturb the instruments in the laboratory."

Permalink Eye

"You don't want to me to look at a street view image of Tempe, Arizona?"

Permalink Eye

"That works also!"

Permalink Eye

Loki looks at a street view image of Tempe, Arizona, and then they are there.

Permalink Eye

It doesn't look very postapocalyptic; that's why he picked it. There are a lot of cars on the shoulder of the road and a nearby storefront window is smashed but otherwise it could be a city not in the middle of a mass disaster.

 

The Asgardians are sitting on the balcony of their hotel, staring out at the city. Some of them rise for Thor.

Permalink Eye

"Hello!" she calls. "I have healing magic and want to borrow an Allspeak wand, in that order."

Permalink Eye

She can tap some people and get an Allspeak wand. Someone asks who she is. Thor says "a visitor from a parallel universe."

Permalink Eye

She doesn't tell anyone otherwise. She thanks them for the wand and takes herself and Thor back to Wakanda. "Okay, who has a compelling reason to be able to operate in arbitrary linguistic environments and doesn't care that I have no way to verify that this one is like the kind I know how to use?" she asks, brandishing it.

Permalink Eye

"Sounds useful. Thor, you didn't tell us you had magic language powers!"

Permalink Eye

"I talk."

Permalink Eye

"You didn't just... think that people on his planet spoke English, did you?" asks Loki, bapping Tony on the head with the wand.

Permalink Eye

"Aren't you fifteen hundred years old? That's enough time to learn a lot of languages the long way."

Permalink Eye

"I guess, but it won't get you idiomatically fluent without practice with native speakers. There you go. I'd usually give you the user's manual but I don't have any on hand, ask me if you have a glitch, it sometimes has glitches, once I had all gendered words swapped coming and going for months in a language family before I noticed."

Permalink Eye

"You can ship that as a feature. Once the world's not ending I bet some people'd be all over it."

Permalink Eye

"Once things have settled down the user's manual will also tell you how to recreationally twiddle the vocabulary."

Permalink Eye

"How do I start speaking Latin, I want to start speaking Latin."

Permalink Eye

"It's a utility spell, not a recreational linguistics spell. You can write Latin if you attempt to write for an audience that reads Latin; speaking is just how you've always spoken but people'll hear what they need to hear."

Permalink Eye

"If I address a message to F.R.I.D.A.Y. and tell her to give it to Julius Caesar?"

Permalink Eye

"Might work, I haven't attempted the use case."

Permalink Eye

"F.R.I.D.A.Y., save this message until you've got a number for Caesar, the original, not the pizza place, and then tell him 'you may have been the emperor of Rome, but did you have a microwave?'"

Permalink Eye

Bystanders without Allspeak will hear Latin.

Permalink Eye

"Oh, that's nice, you could recover dead languages that way. If you know anyone who spoke them."

Permalink Eye

"That's all the historical figures I know, except Cap, and he speaks English."

Permalink Eye

"The Earth with the demons has a functioning afterlife, you can dig up whoever you like out of there even if nobody else has resurrected any of them yet."

Permalink Eye

"It sounds like they may not have Wakandans?"

Permalink Eye

"They might not have a Wakanda, you'd have to be pretty resolutely hidey to exist in some of these Earths without having made it onto the list of Earth countries, but it'll have emperors of Rome."

Permalink Eye

"The truth of Wakanda is very carefully hidden, but even before recent events it was known to the outside world that there is a Wakanda. They just presumed it poor, savage, and not worth stealing from."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah that's not the way to keep my folks out, they'd have turned up with an aid package and an invitation to join Vanda Nossëo."

Permalink Eye

"I think colonizers often arrive with aid and invitations."

Permalink Eye

"I will let you hash that out with Vanda Nossëo later, I am not the welcome wagon."

Permalink Eye

"Mmmhmm." She dismisses a hologram to empty some counter space for another one that's doing something more interesting.

Permalink Eye

"What went wrong with that one -"

Permalink Eye

"It's not very surprising. At that scale any difference in conductivity is going to affect the range of temperatures this can function under, and vibranium has three orders of magnitude less conductivity than the alloy you were using. I didn't know what would go wrong but it would have been astonishing if nothing had."

Permalink Eye

"I've tried a buncha different alloys and that never happened. Run it again slower."

Permalink Eye

They seem like they're having fun. "Is there anything I should catch you up on," she asks Maedhros.

Permalink Eye

"I think I have a clear picture of most things," he says in Quenya rather than English, "except why that man is wearing armor."

Permalink Eye

She turns off Allspeak to answer him in Quenya too. "Recently in a fight. I guess it's comfy and general utility enough to not bother taking off right away."

Permalink Eye

"Is his comparative advantage really in shooting-at-things?"

Permalink Eye

"I'm not sure! I'm assuming he invented the armor and maybe it's that much of a good thing to have on the field and that much of a learning curve if you don't know the specs intimately? Odd fielding decisions could have been called for trying to stop Mr. Murder Trillions."

Permalink Eye

"Does your universe of origin have Mr. Murder Trillions?"

Permalink Eye

"It does not. I think we might be earlier and we have an at least slightly different composition of planets."

Permalink Eye

"I realize you expect you can stop Melkor but you do realize that if you couldn't, Mr. Murder Trillions wouldn't be wrong -"

Permalink Eye

"Yes he would, he only killed half the population and he did it to prevent resource overrun."

Permalink Eye

" - why is it better for resources to take twice as long to run out?"

Permalink Eye

"I don't know! When we have taken all his rocks, you may ask him if you like."

Permalink Eye

"It does sound to me like the rock-taking is something Huan would be delighted to take part in, if you think he'd be useful."

Permalink Eye

"I thought so! He might be, we don't know everyone we're fielding yet because we have to decrypt the diary to find out, better to have him and not need him."

Permalink Eye

"Is there a way for me to learn about the people you do know you'll have -"

Permalink Eye

"I just got here myself. Uh, one of them is an alt of my sister, Thor, who is also named Thor, and they seem similarish?"

Permalink Eye

"How similar are alts -"

Permalink Eye

"Yous are really good at identifying alts, few minutes of conversation'll do it. That's how we first discovered that alts don't all look alike. It's a personality, basic mindset, kind of thing, but templates vary in how much their circumstances vary and in how much their circumstances affect them. I have not met Thor alts before this one and this one has had a really rough week so he's in a state I haven't seen my sister in before right now."

Permalink Eye

"Stark reminds me of some people but I don't think in quite that way."

Permalink Eye

"I do not think he's related to you in another world. Your family is very consistent. If your dad has kids at all he has all seven of you and you don't have different faces so far except for the genderswap Arda and as necessary for species. You're also always in some sort of privileged minority, usually 'royalty' once 'wizards', except arguably Matirin, who is a centaur alien and may conceivably not have had any leg up besides natural talent in ascending military ranks."

Permalink Eye

" - I understand if you are too busy, but if you are not, do tell me more. That sounds like an interesting collection of people."

Permalink Eye

"I'm not busy right now at all, my brand of R&D can't pay off in this time frame. Usually you'd get an intro packet with a billion people's names in it but I don't have one on me. I can give you the executive summary." She starts in on the map and main players in the multiverse.

Permalink Eye

He is less convincing than Loki's Maedhros about finding this kind of thing fun and fascinating, but he does ask lots of questions and get all the cool stories.

Permalink Eye

Poor Maitimos.

When she's done she goes to check on decryption progress.

Permalink Eye

They're done with about half the pile of hardware and she's welcome to take it back; they're working on the rest.

Permalink Eye

"Thanks!" Back she jumps. "Here's the first half."

Permalink Eye

"Awesome." They both reach for it. 

Permalink Eye

She tips it slightly in Shuri's direction; Shuri lives here and knows the local stuff.

Permalink Eye

Shuri grins at her and then sets to processing the contents of Fury's records.

Permalink Eye

She shrugs a little at Tony, sits back down.

Permalink Eye

They read and mutter quietly to each other for a while. Several hours. Then "Okay, now we know some more about future empress Carol - not how to contact her, but I'm getting the picture of why we might want to -"

Permalink Eye

"What's up with her, then?"

Permalink Eye

"There's a lot here. Uh, Earth was the site of a proxy war between bad blue aliens and green shapeshifter aliens. In the 90s. I'd say I'm not sure how I missed this but actually I was pretty drunk for the 90s. Danvers was in the U.S. Air Force, took a hit that should have killed her, instead - there are references to 'the alien source of Danvers' and I have no idea what they mean by that -  anyway, survived, now she's absurdly powerful, manages to convince both bad blue aliens and green shapeshifter aliens that Earth is not to be fucked with..."

Permalink Eye

"Okay, sounds good. Why's she hiding?"

Permalink Eye

"She can travel through space - okay, you know what, that's nowhere near a sufficient explanation by itself, I can travel through space but I still don't go off running missions on other planets because of the speed of light - I am not clear on what her method of transit was but here she's running missions on other planets. One of them goes wrong. Runs into some kinda nasty alien precog that... has whatever interaction with you is going to cause you to cause the most destruction from there forwards..."

Permalink Eye

"You know what would be unbearably cute would be if that alien precog thinks rolling back a timeline is super destructive."

Permalink Eye

" - yeah. Yeah, that'd sure be interesting. Anyway she's quarantined."

Permalink Eye

"I guess that's responsible of her. And you'll need to do some kind of thing to unquarantine her but we're still working on that part."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah it's not clear yet, might be in one of the files we don't have yet, but apparently it's within our abilities and I don't have instructions on how to explain things to her once she's unquarantined so I guess we can assume that's not too path-dependent and then we have quite a lot of firepower. She can apparently soak up, and then deliver, the power of a star."

Permalink Eye

"If she wants a ride to one I can do that."

Permalink Eye

"All right. Between you and Stargirl and prep time - and maybe magic dogs, can the magic dog handle star levels of energy being thrown around -"

Permalink Eye

"He will be irritated with me but it won't be a problem for him."

Permalink Eye

"Wicked sunburn?"

Permalink Eye

"It might take him centuries to restore his body to its desired state, and he dislikes other states, but it's a little better than that sounds because I think he'll also find this outrageously satisfying and it's likely to advance the conclusion of our war."

Permalink Eye

"What takes centuries?"

Permalink Eye

"Maiar formulate their bodies from the atom up, by manual attention."

Permalink Eye

"Well, if they need cellular assembly tools they can let us know."

Permalink Eye

"...that's good, I'll tell them."

Permalink Eye

"The rest of us might have to sit out, we can't tank a star."

Permalink Eye

"I can! It was necessary for the forging of Stormbreaker."

Permalink Eye

"I can too, although not because Asgardians can and not just since in my world they usually can't, my enchantment to look like one has two flaws and one is glitching in heat, I have a separate thing."

Permalink Eye

"Just Nat and Cap and I, then - or are you going to tell me you're actually half-star, Nat, this seems like that kind of day."

       "I'm staying well back," Natasha says. "Are there people who are half-star?"

"Nothing about it in Fury's diary but at this point I'd put money on it anyway."

Permalink Eye

"And Thor and Huan and Carol and I go do things, mkay."

Permalink Eye

"I can hella help arrange an ambush I just shouldn't be there when it springs unless vibranium has a bunch of properties you neglected to mention, Shuri -"

Permalink Eye

"Well, I haven't had access to any stars to do testing on but I don't like our odds of building something that can keep a person alive, not on that timescale -"

Permalink Eye

"Same. If we have time left over after fetching our starlet we can just spend it arranging for Lemistra to be a bad place to land."

Permalink Eye

"Is there anything specifically useful for me to be doing in the meantime or should I go try yelling at Doriath and probably fail at borrowing Lúthien, or see if I can smooth over Jotunheim, or some other low percentage option? Luthien is a half Maia, the magic dog is a Maia."

Permalink Eye

"I don't think there's much to be gained by smoothing over Jotunheim when all this will be rolled back. Operations in neighboring universes seem better, since they won't be erased and are less likely to leak to Thanos."

Permalink Eye

"Okay. Operation yell at a forcefield is on, anyone wanna preempt, going once going twice..."

Permalink Eye

"Why yell at a forcefield?"

Permalink Eye

"Doriath is a noninterventionist post-scarcity force-fielded nation of which Lúthien is a princess. You might like her."

Permalink Eye

"All right, I'll come, at least until we get more information on finding Danvers."

Permalink Eye

"Maedhros, does Space Lúthien have chip-independent osanwë?"

Permalink Eye

"I have no reason to think so."

Permalink Eye

Loki bops Shuri with the Allspeak wand.

Permalink Eye

"All right!"

Permalink Eye

And Loki puts them outside the forcefield.

Permalink Eye

One bit of Endorë looks a lot like another bit of Endorë. It's all a bombed-out wreck.

Permalink Eye

"Excuse me!" Loki calls into the forcefield. "I'd like to talk to Lúthien! This is Princess Shuri, I'm Princess Loki!"

Permalink Eye

There is not, immediately, any reaction. Shuri is looking around Endorë with some dismay.

Permalink Eye

"They might take a while to send someone to chat, Elves are slow about things," Loki says. "I'm reasonably sure they will have heard but I'm not positive, if there's no reaction in fifteen minutes I'll try illusion sound on the inside. I don't want to teleport in, they hate that."

Permalink Eye

"We do too. It's pretty worrying."

Permalink Eye

"One time I showed up uninvited in a protected kingdom a lot like this one except without a force field per se, and it's a good thing I had the sense to be invisible and throw my voice when I tried to talk because they shot at me a lot and had really good aim."

Permalink Eye

"What were you expecting?"

Permalink Eye

"I thought maybe they'd ask me what the heck I was doing there first!"

Permalink Eye

"We might do that. Depending how scary the situation was at the moment."

Permalink Eye

"Admittedly being invisible and unshootable and able to fly would not make me less scary but at the time I was less powerful and if they'd shot me I could've died, so."

Permalink Eye

"I was discussing with my mother whether I should make my claim to the throne of Wakanda. But I could die, and I really, really don't care to."

Permalink Eye

"- claiming the throne is itself fatal or you'd just be at risk for assassinations?"

Permalink Eye

"People can challenge you. It's stupid. I watched my brother do two challenges and - no."

Permalink Eye

"These are fights to the death? Why?"

Permalink Eye

"They don't have to be but they're allowed to be. I ...suppose it disproportionately discourages kings who will be wildly unpopular. But I'm really reaching, there."

Permalink Eye

"How did you wind up with this stupid tradition?"

Permalink Eye

"We've had it since we politically unified three thousand years ago."

Permalink Eye

"Some kind of unification compromise, nobody just gets a clear dynasty over the others if someone else wants to make a bid?"

Permalink Eye

"Yep. Every tribe can put someone forward if they'd like."

Permalink Eye

"And in three thousand years nobody's snugged this up with political marriages all 'round?"

Permalink Eye

"Relations between the tribes have gotten better but not linearly, and the past year was very ugly for us - there was a coup, and a countercoup, different tribes picked different sides -"

Permalink Eye

"Yikes. When we've rolled this back are you reasonably stable now?"

Permalink Eye

"If you get the King back I expect we'll be fine. He was in the process of patching things up and doing well at it."

Permalink Eye

"Thanos got him, or you need him rezzed separately?"

Permalink Eye

"Thanos."

Permalink Eye

"Okay, well, here's hoping." She coughs. "Excuse me," she calls forcefieldward, "I'd really like to talk to Lúthien or a representative, but if you take much longer to get here I'll assume the forcefield is soundproof and try talking from inside! I wouldn't want to alarm you unnecessarily!"

Permalink Eye

"We did not invite you here," says the forcefield reproachfully.

Permalink Eye

"Yes, I know you didn't, but if you'd known I existed I'm sure you would have. Can you tell Lúthien that Princesses Loki and Shuri would like to talk to her please?"

Permalink Eye

"We don't know who you are or what brings you here."

Permalink Eye

"I'm Princess Loki! I am here on an errand which is about the outside world and therefore probably totally uninteresting to you but I bet Lúthien would find the story fascinating if nothing else!"

Permalink Eye

"Then I will record it for her."

Permalink Eye

"The details are sensitive. I don't think you've even told her we're here. If she wants us to go away, we will."

Permalink Eye

There's a long silence.

Permalink Eye

"If she's legitimately in the middle of something and you can't tell her yet let me know because otherwise I'm not gonna wait around," Loki calls.

Permalink Eye

"She's, uh, thinking."

Permalink Eye

"Cool, thanks!"

Permalink Eye

"Are they always like this?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes, it's annoying. Lúthien's nice though."

Permalink Eye

"And capable of handling star battles?"

Permalink Eye

"I don't actually know how useful she'll be because I'm more used to the other kind but it's worth asking as long as nothing urgent is about."

Permalink Eye

"Seems reasonable."

Permalink Eye

"Plus I bet she'll be very excited about princess visitors once she's done deciding whether we're - oh, uh - Excuse me, would it help if we swore we don't work for the Enemy, because we can do that!"

Permalink Eye

"Go ahead."

Permalink Eye

"I don't know who these people consider their enemy."

Permalink Eye

"Evil god. He likes torture a whole fuck of a lot. I swear that I do not and have never worked for the Enemy!"

Permalink Eye

"I swear that I do not and have never worked for anyone involved in torture, though we cooperated with the CIA once to arrest an arms dealer and I let their agent fly one of my remotely piloted airships!"

Permalink Eye

"You could say 'Melkor', that's his name. Or 'Morgoth' or 'Gorthaur' or 'Moringotto'. Lotta names."

Permalink Eye

"I am pretty sure the CIA agent's name was Everett!"

Permalink Eye

"The exact words matter - oh, well, they don't, because you're a human - she's a human," Loki apologizes to the forcefield. "But if you weren't a human, if you were one of Melkor's agents disguised as one, then you would literally not be able to say 'I swear I don't and have never worked for Melkor', see?"

Permalink Eye

"I swear I don't and have never worked for Melkor," Shuri says agreeably. 

There's a pause. 

Permalink Eye

There is a princess. 

 

"What's the CIA?"

Permalink Eye

"It is an American organization that tortures people."

Permalink Eye

"What is an American?"

Permalink Eye

"A person who lives in America, which is a country in my world."

Permalink Eye

Loki giggles softly.

Permalink Eye

"Why did you let him fly your remotely piloted airships?"

Permalink Eye

"It's a long story. He did a good job, though. I do not know if he personally tortured anybody, I just felt like it would be incomplete to say I didn't work with any torturers without mentioning it."

Permalink Eye

"I don't work with any torturers."

Permalink Eye

"Oh good."

Permalink Eye

"You are both noninheriting princesses of isolationist force-field-surrounded nations! Isn't that a fun coincidence?"

Permalink Eye

"Where are you from?"

Permalink Eye

"My homeland is called Wakanda."

Permalink Eye

"This is Doriath. You're not allowed to come in because my mother will worry."

Permalink Eye

"Her mom is the deity parent, the other one is an Elf," Loki supplies.

Permalink Eye

"You are the first Elf I have met who isn't a computer."

Permalink Eye

"Elves aren't computers."

Permalink Eye

"Loki's friend is. A gloomy computer."

Permalink Eye

"We're running a swiped Angband upload for intel. He's sane as they go, his people rummaged."

Permalink Eye

"That doesn't sound terribly healthy for anyone involved."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, it's really not, but he can worry about that when the war's over."

Permalink Eye

"That'll be the day."

Permalink Eye

"There's actually a prospect on the horizon - alternate universe has some superweapons. The bad news is, a bad guy has them right now."

Permalink Eye

"Oh?"

Permalink Eye

"There's a set of six. He collected them all and then decided that the thing to do with them was kill half the population - this is far away, which is why you won't have noticed any effect here. We're working on a plan to get them away from him, and could use them against Melkor likelier than not if we managed it."

Permalink Eye

"Huh. That sounds like a better plan than anyone else has had."

Permalink Eye

"I think it'll work!"

Permalink Eye

"That'd be something. Then my mother probably wouldn't worry about letting people visit."

Permalink Eye

"Maybe! Do you wanna help?"

Permalink Eye

"Um. How would I do that? I can't do the forcefield thing, that's just my mom."

Permalink Eye

"I'm operating on fairly thin information but - do you by any chance have some sort of ability or thing of some kind that would let you put Ainur to sleep?"

Permalink Eye

"...where are you getting your information?"

Permalink Eye

"I have met versions of you from other universes but the universes are different. The plots are the same, though, so although here singing isn't magic, you probably have something that would work. I don't know if it might have different dev time though, maybe you don't have it yet."

Permalink Eye

"Doesn't work on Ainur yet."

Permalink Eye

"Well, our bad guy is very strong but he's not an Ainu, it still might help. Do you need to do it personally or could we borrow it?"

Permalink Eye

"It's like the forcefields, it's actually - the thing I get when I try the thing my mother does to get the forcefields. I don't see how you could borrow it."

Permalink Eye

"Well, then it might require an expedition, and it could be dangerous, but I thought it was worth asking."

Permalink Eye

 

 

"What kind of dangerous?"

Permalink Eye

"Bad guy still has his set of six superweapons. And we're pretty sure they could kill Melkor."

Permalink Eye

 

 

 

 

" - in a way I'm  - harder to kill than Mom or Melkor. Since - I don't know what it'd mean to kill them but they'd be gone, if you did."

Permalink Eye

"Yeah. He probably wouldn't be expecting that; the superweapons might be good enough but that doesn't mean he is. I'm not sure your soul would send backups while you were away, but assuming it's a chip, I could bring it back for you."

Permalink Eye

"Do - do you need me -"

Permalink Eye

"No. The basics of the plan were outlined by a precog who didn't know you existed. But you could be an edge, and it might be that you'd let us do it faster."

Permalink Eye

 

 

She stands there looking very torn for a while. "You're both going?"

Permalink Eye

"Shuri's a tech type, she's doing prep work at home, not showing up to the fight, but she's helping. I'm going."

Permalink Eye

Permalink Eye

"We're not going immediately, there's an ambush to set up. If you want some time to think I can come back."

Permalink Eye

"Maybe that's a good idea."

Permalink Eye

"Is here good?"

Permalink Eye

Nod.

Permalink Eye

"Sorry to startle you and yours like this."

Permalink Eye

"Do win the war, that'd be good."

Permalink Eye

"If this doesn't pan out my other solution could potentially turn out to take months longer, I'm going to make this run good if I can."

Permalink Eye

"Very sure of yourself."

Permalink Eye

"I am called Loki Godslayer."

Permalink Eye

"Gods are good. Mostly."

Permalink Eye

"Yes, I stick to slaying bad ones."

Permalink Eye

She glances uncertainly at Shuri. 

Permalink Eye

"How does your mom's forcefield work?"

Permalink Eye

"Her innate powers as a Maia."

Permalink Eye

"Range limit? Energy requirements? How much force can it handle -"

Permalink Eye

"Morgoth could perhaps break it if he tried directly for long enough. No one else could even dream of it."

Permalink Eye

"The magical equivalent is this really annoying effect that makes you change direction if you're heading too directly for the place and gives you a headache if you try to look at it."

Permalink Eye

"I feel like that would eventually get documented. We put a lot of work into staying uninteresting."

Permalink Eye

"It would have been really easy to miss, I'd have just flown around it, except that I was specifically trying to go there."

Permalink Eye

"Mmmhmmm."

Permalink Eye

"Why do you hide?"

Permalink Eye

"We have a very valuable resource. People would have gone to war with us for it."

Permalink Eye

"With Doriath I believe it's more a policy of 'this force field is only so big and we're just gonna concentrate on who's in it and not stress about who isn't, maybe unless they're related' - oh hey is Galadriel here now or did she leave -"

Permalink Eye

"She's here. Our safety is valuable, and would be at risk if we let people in."

Permalink Eye

"Yes, I understand. I take some issue with the policy but I understand it; she can't protect everyone and had to draw the line somewhere. When I was on the first Arda I ever encountered I spent years living in Doriath because I needed a safe place to do research, it has its advantages."

Permalink Eye

"Yes. And it's the only place left with plants and trees."

Permalink Eye

"What is everyone eating, then?"

Permalink Eye

"Dwarves grow food underground with a lot of electricity. I think the Noldor copied them. Most people are dead."

Permalink Eye

"I know, but not everyone, so they have to be eating something and I doubt Doriath exports. I'm sorry I'm not treating this with quite appropriate gravity, it's just - I've seen a whole lot of stuff."

Permalink Eye

"I think they copy the Dwarves and grow proteins in nutrient baths."

Permalink Eye

Nod.

Permalink Eye

"Even if all the godkilling doesn't work out I get the sense evacuating you would be straightforward for some of the people hopping around Wakanda lately."

Permalink Eye

"To Valinor?"

Permalink Eye

"What's Valinor?"

Permalink Eye

"It's the place that's not at war."

Permalink Eye

"I bet someone could manage that."

Permalink Eye

"I could drop you off there if you'd like, actually, but it would be really bad if the Enemy knew I was hopping around, especially if he got the idea that there were other universes, and I can't guarantee no minor Maiar of Valinor are talking to any that report to him. Speaking of Maiar, Lúthien, can you do the instantaneous communication thing?"

Permalink Eye

"With my mom but it's hard and I don't have it with anyone else."

Permalink Eye

"Damn, I wanted to try another likely friendly Maia, see if he wanted to help out, but going through your mom's probably not wise. And I can't ask him in person because I don't know where he is."

Permalink Eye

Shrug. "It sounds like a good cause. Maybe the Valar would help you."

Permalink Eye

"It's well thought of but I do not think it is likely and also entering Valinor could be dangerous for uninvited non-Elves."

Permalink Eye

"I don't think so, not if you had a good reason like a prospect of ending the war safely."

Permalink Eye

"I also think they'll take longer to decide what to do than the situation will take to resolve itself one way or another."

Permalink Eye

"They might do that."

Permalink Eye

"And they might do something that makes things worse, if they did act quickly; they are not at their best when trying to act quickly. I'd like a chance to ask Olórin but I'm not going to try the Valar."

Permalink Eye

"Okay." Sigh.

Permalink Eye

"But I thought I'd try you, since a couple of times yous from other Ardas have done cool stuff. One of you who goes by the disambiguating nickname Joy helped save a planet."

Permalink Eye

"How'd she do that."

Permalink Eye

"It had a magical ecology that was being managed evilly as an energy source and ran on emotions. She had a magic song for happiness - this was one where songs were magic - and it was an infinite energy hack."

Permalink Eye

"That's pretty cool."

Permalink Eye

"It was! Now she co-rules an empire."

Permalink Eye

"Which one?"

Permalink Eye

"A new one, it's called Mîr."

Permalink Eye

 

"Huh."

Permalink Eye

"Once my people find me Joy might visit if you'd like that."

Permalink Eye

"That'd be really nice."

Permalink Eye

"I'll bear in mind to tell her once I can."

Permalink Eye

"You should maybe go, everyone's nervous. I'm glad you came, though."

Permalink Eye

"Sorry for scaring people. I'll swing by when it's almost go time, thanks for hearing me out."

Permalink Eye

She nods.

Permalink Eye

And Loki puts herself and Shuri back in Wakanda.

Permalink Eye

"How's princess number three?"

Permalink Eye

"Slightly reluctant to run off to die. Super pretty."

Permalink Eye

"I was assuming that was a job requirement, between the two of you."

Permalink Eye

"Shut up. Did we get the rest of the files -"

Permalink Eye

"I think that's waiting on Loki too."

Permalink Eye

"I'll go see if they're ready." Pop.

Permalink Eye

They're ready. 

Permalink Eye

She brings the second half back.

Permalink Eye

Something is beeping in Shuri's lab and she's frowning at some of her holographic overlays. "Loki, any chance that planet is radioactive?"

Permalink Eye

"- yep that sounds plausible, here, I got you -" She boops Shuri.

Permalink Eye

"Thanks. Are Elves - okay with that, or -"

Permalink Eye

"It's distracting but Elves can repair our cells. Those of us that have cells. The whole planet is not like that, and the humans live in places that aren't."

Permalink Eye

"Wow."

Permalink Eye

"The other time somebody found a Space Arda it was much earlier and he made a trip to Dwarves to suggest how about they not invent nuclear weapons on account of it seemed like the Enemy was trying to keep a level-looking playing field to prevent the Valar from deciding to intervene and would just match anything invented."

Permalink Eye

"Wow, that's not fair!"

Permalink Eye

"Evil god! And in my Arda we didn't know this was a thing, it's much less obvious when it's all magic and deities running around doing magical deity things and not resolutely balanced technological output, so I just taught them enough physics to make a nuke and we nuked his fortress and he was like, har har, now I'm multiple walking giant fallout clouds. We did kill the orcs that way, that was something - kind of have to kill orcs till you have anything else to do with them."

Permalink Eye

Permalink Eye

"Sounds like shredding that particular jerk is going to be lots of fun for everyone involved."

Permalink Eye

"It's very satisfying."

Permalink Eye

"F.R.I.D.A.Y. you seeing anything interesting in these new notes -"

       "Not yet, sir."

"Interrupt us."

       "Of course, sir - ah. I think I have found something of interest."

Permalink Eye

"Keep us in suspense, why don't you."

Permalink Eye

          "Danvers is in a containment bunker in Montana. It's known as The Black Hole, and it's an elaborate information-quarantine-and-containment setup. They send her food, books, and Nintendo games. The bunker is designed to hold her if she decides to break out -"

"That's - doable?" Tony interrupts.

          "Danvers at her full power would be impossible to contain by any means available to the human race, but she needs to consume a star to ascend to that level of power. The bunker can be safely opened from the outside through the cooperation of Fury and eight of the onsite personnel, each of whom are in possession of partial instructions. There was some redundancy built into this retrieval system, but -"

"Lemme guess, not enough?"

Permalink Eye

"They keep all eight onsite? Do they need them all to send her food, books, and Nintendo games?"

Permalink Eye

"They maintained round-the-clock security at the facility so that S.H.I.E.L.D. would quickly learn of any attempt for anyone to break in or out."

Permalink Eye

"I suppose. The fact that it took Thanos to kill enough employees to render the locks unbypassable does not speak to the robustness of the system, but we're a little past making design suggestions..."

Permalink Eye

"Ah huh. It is, to be fair, hard to run a secret organization with a very high bus number."

Permalink Eye

"Bus number?"

Permalink Eye

"The bus number for a project is the number of people who have to get hit by a bus before you're fucked. So, if there's anyone with critical information they haven't shared, your bus number is one. If they've told one person, then it's two. If you have eight guards and -" he scrolls - "six backups, and you can afford to lose seven of them plus Fury but not eight of them plus Fury..."

Permalink Eye

"How many did we lose?"

Permalink Eye

"Ten."

Permalink Eye

"That's unlikely -"

Permalink Eye

"Like fifteen percent."

Permalink Eye

"Fifteen point one." 

 

 

Permalink Eye

"Which is a lot more like fifteen than most numbers are. Anyway, so you two hypothetically need to genius your way through a lot of locks... but I can teleport; Friday, will that do the trick?"

Permalink Eye

"There are no records here of any defense measures that could not be circumvented by a teleporter who knew the location."

Permalink Eye

"Have we got a picture or will I need to - are there surviving gatekeepers, do we know - I can also go by direction and distance, just might take me a little longer."

Permalink Eye

"There are five surviving gatekeepers. There are no pictures of the interior of the facilities. I can get you pictures of the approximate location from satellite imagery, one second."

 

The screen contains Montana. Montana is peaceful and quiet. 

Permalink Eye

"All right. Am I soloing this one, jumping there and then trying various amounts of down?"

Permalink Eye

"Do you want backup?"

Permalink Eye

"I want credibility; if I can get that while teleporting unauthorized into a secure facility alone somehow..."

Permalink Eye

"I mean, they'll know who I am, can't guess whether they're fans."

Permalink Eye

"If they think they know who I am that's plausibly worse. I'll go alone and come back for you if it seems like that'll help, how about."

Permalink Eye

"Sounds good."

Permalink Eye

So Loki pops into Montana and tries going various numbers of feet down.

Permalink Eye

And eventually she pops into (well, a few feet off the floor of) a silent underground bunker.

 

Alarms go off as soon as her feet touch the floor.

Permalink Eye

Those are annoying. She masks the noise. "Excuse me!" she calls. "Is there some sort of receptionist?"

Permalink Eye

There's no answer for a minute, and then several armed people open a door to one side of her and immediately step back behind it for cover. 

Permalink Eye

"Hello! I'm friendly."

Permalink Eye

"Put your hands on your head."

Permalink Eye

"I'm not that friendly."

Permalink Eye

"Last warning."

Permalink Eye

She has been wandering away from where it looks like she is for a few seconds now. "I understand you're just doing your jobs, but trillions of people have recently died, did you hear?"

Permalink Eye

They roll a grenade in.

Permalink Eye

"There's just no talking to you," she says, and she dismisses the illusion they're trying to grenade and moves on into another room looking for where Carol may be.

Permalink Eye

The grenade is tear gas, if she stays long enough to learn that. The facility lights go out a few seconds later.

Permalink Eye

That could hypothetically be mildly useful if she decides to light her way, although she does still have Elf-quality vision and infrared's enough to be getting on with mostly.

Permalink Eye

Unsurprisingly it seems like going through doors won't land her in the containment cell. Probably the containment cell does not have doors.

Permalink Eye

Yes, she's hoping for a suggestive wall.

Permalink Eye

Lots of walls. None of them obviously reinforced against terrifying amounts of power or anything.

Permalink Eye

Floorplan? Opening mechanism?

Permalink Eye

There are floorplans on the walls of some rooms! She doesn't even need illusion light to see them, they're lit. They direct her on how to exit in the case of an emergency. There are stairwells, apparently. Every floorplan is incomplete, showing only the nearest safe exist from that room, but if she bounces around a lot she could maybe put them together. 

Permalink Eye

Sure, she'll do that.

Permalink Eye

While she's doing that someone turns on the fire sprinklers. Also, if she doesn't still have the alarms baffled, they're trying to talk to her.

 

Aaaand the facility is shaped sort of like a horseshoe. Maybe around a lot of dirt but maybe not.

Permalink Eye

Alas, she has not considered the possibility that the alarms might switch to providing information. She pieces together the horseshoe and tries the middle.

Permalink Eye

It goes.

Permalink Eye

Carol Danvers lives in what must have been a nice apartment before becoming occupied by a superhuman in solitary confinement who can dance, and express various non-dancing emotions, like no one's watching (because the escape of information could be a catastrophe by unclear causal mechanism). She's very surprised to see Loki.

"Hey. Someone just murdered half the universe and a precog says we need you to fix it."

...Danvers manages a bewildered nod.

Loki jumps them to Wakanda.

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" - well, hello."

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"Do not drip on my lab," says Shuri, reaching around for a towel and throwing it at Loki.

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"Sorry." She towels off and teleports the puddle away.

Carol is out of practice with talking to people and looks around, not saying anything.

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"Hi, Empress! Did Loki catch you up on everything or is there more of that to be done."

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"We didn't converse much," Loki says.

"The Kirby games went really downhill after Epic Yarn," blurts Carol.

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"Did they just leave you alone in there?

Wow.

Well, this just gets more and more fun to explain the more times I have to do it, so here goes. There are these magic rocks. They look kind of like the plastic gemstones in plastic necklaces someone flings off a plastic float at Mardi Gras, except they make you omnipotent. There's this big purple fellow with too much chin, collected them all, killed trillions of people. We have a plan to stop him. It needs you. It involves enormous amounts of horrifying destruction, so it's actually great how that's a known side effect of you."

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"Why didn't - you get me before he did that?" Carol asks.

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"Ran out of time. The guy with the plan figured out that we needed you about twenty minutes before he pulled it off, and we were on another planet."

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"But she -" Carol gestures at Loki.

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"Also didn't arrive until after, or I bet we could have prevented it from happening at all."

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"Oh. Uh, I'm not at my best right now."

"It might take a while to check for any given star if someone needs it for something... Thor, nobody needs Asgard's sun anymore, right?"

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"I suppose not."

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"Plan A gives us another twenty days anyway. We might want to move it up if we can. Since that's a whole lot of people getting a month of their lives erased even if it was a pretty shit month. But if you feel like you need some downtime, a hamburger, recommendations for better video games, you've got it."

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"I never want to see another video game again," says Carol. "Uh. Unless it's the reasonable thing to do all things considered to send me back afterward for everyone's safety, I mean. Then I want more video games."

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"Mmmkay, I like her, she can be empress of the universe if she wants."

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"Seems like the Infinity Stones could go toe to toe with the, uh, whatever you encountered."

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"Yeah, I bet we get Strange back and hand him his green glowy and he can get you not-a-hazard-to-everything in no time."

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"It doesn't seem reasonable to be sure of this."

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"We can be pretty darn confident, though, that the thing that Carol ran into didn't see me or anybody else from more than one step away coming, and unless Carol is naturally predisposed to going mad and killing things -"

"No!"

"- then it's probably not a very fault-tolerant precognition. If nothing else it should be completely safe for her to live a normal life in another universe. With people in it."

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"Oh, yeah, there are apparently a bunch of universes. Loki's from one of the other ones. Hers seems to be going a little bit better these days."

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"My universe is great."

"Uh-huh," says Carol. "- was there going to be a hamburger -"

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"Shuri does Wakanda do hamburgers or do we need to make an emergency run back to the States."

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"We had to stop having cows twenty years ago, as they were overgrazing our fairly limited surface area."

      "Aww man -"

"Luckily by then we had figured out how to produce delicious reproductions without requiring any animals."

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"Just so you know you are a dick for not sharing that."

 

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"And you are a dick for slavery."

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"Hey now, I didn't do slavery. Arms dealing, yes, I will cop to being a dick for arms dealing, but I did not do slavery."

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"And I did not as a toddler set Wakandan policy."

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"You can import Elf vat meat tech later," says Loki.

"Can I have a delicious reproduction," says Carol. "They send me a lot of pasta, I'm really tired of pasta and they switched brands last year and the new kind wasn't good."

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"I will order it delivered right away."

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"Thanks," says Carol.

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"Of course!"

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Tony fills in Carol on the details of the plan, including Lemistra being the target and the various people who are powerful enough to be safely in the vicinity and potentially helpful.

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"Okay... and I'm not there to destroy things, I'm there because the - power stone - will like me?"

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"Well, you should be loaded up on sun juice and going toe to toe with Thanos is not going to be great for anyone around but the point isn't destroying things, the point is that we need some magic rocks to defect in order to win this thing. And, yeah, power stone likes you."

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"Okay..."

"Do we know," Loki asks, "who's supposed to wield Time to fixer-upper the place? I might be able to do it, I can use mine, but the finesse we want might be beyond me and your wizard, who might also be able to do it, didn't see me coming, so..."

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"There were several people could do it. They don't survive doing it, I don't think, so if we could improve on that it'd be great, but I don't think finesse is the limiting factor necessarily."

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"Maybe if we wanted to do something neat like let people who get rolled back keep their memories if they'd want to."

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"That sounds like a multi-stone job to me. Admittedly I knew nothing about these stupid rocks until yesterday, but I think I'm getting some kinda feel for them and that sounds like time would go 'outside our jurisdiction, kid, sorry'."

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"My best information suggests that I can't hold Mind or Soul, unfortunately. I can do Reality, but it's not likely it'd let me do something that sophisticated and on the edges of its competency, it doesn't give me fine control and it bites me while I'm holding it."

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"Are we assuming that if someone grabs the gauntlet and heroically undoes everything and explodes in the doing then Loki's extradimensional buddies would be magically unable to get them back, or should that work no matter how many Infinity Stones take issue with it."

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"Depends which stones and how much issue. Might be able to rez them only out of neighborhood."

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"That still sounds pretty like 'not being dead', so our worst-case scenario here doesn't suck that much, at least."

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"How confident are you that the people of this universe don't have nonreductionist souls, is that kind of thing typically apparent -"

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"It is often known to the locals. Tends to come with an afterlife. I can't be positive but this world is like a variant Edda and some but not most people in Edda have them."

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"The kings and queens of Wakanda can speak to their ancestors upon ascension to the throne. None of them have, to my knowledge, asked their ancestors to prove it by revealing verifiable information not known to them."

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"It could just be you, potentially. In Hazel only wizards have souls and non-magic people are just standard issue humans."

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"The reversal of the snap should still work to get them back, right?"

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"It should, yes."

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"In that case it is all right if only Wakandans have souls."

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Someone brings a hamburger for Carol Danvers.

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Carol Danvers has no table manners.

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This is understandable. 

 

Tony Stark gets a call. 

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"Oh no," he says, "someone broke into a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. facility and kidnapped a powerful and dangerous enhanced individual? I'll - look, I will head over right now and get you guys caught up because there's some stuff to get you caught up on. - no, I didn't do it. I've been priding myself on being the only Avenger who isn't wanted for multiple felonies. Where do I meet you to catch up."

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"'m sorry," mumbles Carol into her hamburger.

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"Don't actually think this one's on you, Empress. Loki do you wanna give me a lift to D.C. -"

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"What's it look like?"

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F.R.I.D.A.Y. can provide a picture.

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"Oh that one. I've seen the pointy tower before. I thought it was called Washington, like the state except across the country." And they're there.

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"Thanks," he says, and zips off.

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She goes back to Wakanda.

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Shuri has also gotten herself a hamburger. "Do you want one?"

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"Sure! Thanks."