Chapter 11: It's Good To Be Bad

Natasha P.O.V.

She was huddled in a corner of the penthouse, hugging her legs, and crying. Ivan had left, and she was alone. But she was never alone. Her ledger was always with her, dripping over her and drowning her in red.

The walls were running with red, and Natasha was covered with it. Red from her, red from Clint, red, red, red. Pain was red, too, and she was awash with it. Every movement sent a spike of agony up her spine, and she was sluggish and slow; bad things to be for a spy. She knew that Ivan would come back any minute now, and restart his "training". She also knew she wouldn't survive a second round.

There was nothing to do. Steve was dead, Clint was dead, she was dead.

She was so lost in her thoughts that it took a second to identify that noises were coming from outside the tower, clangs and screams and gunshots. Dragging herself up to her feet, using the wall to support her weight, leaving a smear of red on the red, she walked to the window, wiping away the blood from it and grimacing from the sticky texture. When she had first arrived, the city had been empty; no movement, no wind, no noise, no light. Now, it was much the same, except with a bloodred sky. Nothing was happening that would make those noises. Frowning, she looked out across the desolate city she had sworn to protect, and wiped the blood running down the window away again.

Loki P.O.V.

It was good to be out of his cell. Granted, it was only for so long, but he would take what he could get. The only downside to being out of prison, was that any skills had become rusty when unused for so long. As it was with his fighting abilities.

It had been relatively easy to transport the mortals and himself, as well as his oaf of a not-brother, to Midgard without the scrutiny of outside forces. His magic, after lying dormant for so long, was eager to burn any excess, and they had arrived unharmed in the tower he had used in his takeover attempt. After that, they had left unnecessary equipment, and brought their weapons. Then, he had transported them to Latveria, within a mile of Doom's castle. It had been easy to get the Avengers to hold off the bulk of the army outside, while he had entered the castle unhindered.

Now, Loki was wrapped in shadows, sneaking around the fortress. It was a dismal place, full of mold and mildew, and a persistent stench of rot. It was also deserted, and he had little chance of being discovered, if not for the small, blinking lights on the ceiling that recorded images and showed them to watchers. He could lift the invisibility spell and conserve magical energy, but it was better to err on the side of caution.

His plan was to find the information centers in the castle, then interface the systems with his magic to gain every scrap of data stored there, and find Agent Romanoff. From there, he would reconvene with the group outside, and they would gain the antidote from Doom. Simple and effective, but much could go wrong.

But all was going well, until a cook entered his corridor from a kitchen, turned, and ran right into him. The concealing spell, not made for body contact, dissolved on impact. Upon seeing him, she screamed and made to press a button on a device on her wrist. Loki cursed, and slit the woman's throat, but not before she pressed it. Immediately, the room filled with red lights and blaring noises. Surely not a good sign.

"Damn." Loki growled, and started running.

His customary battle armor materialized around him as he sprinted, even the cursed helmet. Trapdoors were opening in the brick in the walls, floor, and ceiling, and depositing Doombots ready to attack. Rolling over the back of one, he stabbed another in the throat, then used the body still on his dagger to slam into a third. His twin daggers became glints of light as he twirled, parried, and hacked his way through the copies. A burst of lightening interrupted his dance, and he staggered back, hearing a slight ringing noise and tasting metal.

"You think that little spark will harm me? Try having the god of thunder as your brother!" He snarled at the offending copy, and twisted its neck with a wave of his hand.

It was glorious, the heat of battle. It had been far too long that he had not felt the rush of adrenalin in his veins, and the chaos of death and blood singing in his heart. This was his element, and he was in the thick of it. It filled the air around him in a familiar deadly aura, and he relished it. When he realized he was smiling madly, his grin widened even more. Oh, it was good to be back. The power he held over life and death was intoxicating, and he was drunk on it. It filled him like a strong brew and glowed within him powerfully. This, this, was living. The stoppage of life, the victory of death; this was true power.

But, little by little, as humiliating as it was, there was too many for even a god to handle, and he was tiring rapidly. His magic was not, however. So when he was backed up against a wall with copies advancing on all sides, he bared his teeth in a savage smile and raised his hand palm-out. A wave of hellish fire unleashed from his hand, and enveloped the oncoming Doombots, incinerating them and anything else in the hallway. Breathing hard, Loki sagged a little, before inhaling deeply and standing up. But something felt wrong.

Something was nagging at the back of his mind, but for the life of him, he couldn't tease it out into the light, where he could see it, and examine it, and learn its mechanics. This bothered him, and uneasiness rested inside him while he reached the center of information.

The room was of medium size, and filled with the machines called computers. Of course, being an alien from a society with technological disadvantages, he had no idea of how to work them. Fortunately, he had magic to ease his ignorance.

Placing a hand on one of the screens, he called it up to his fingertips. His magic whispered and slithered like smoke into the machine, and Loki could see everything in the computer. It appeared as a grid of lines connecting pieces of information with others. The lines appeared random, but he knew it to be a facsimile of the human brain, from how mundane and arbitrary the connections were. Ignoring the cat videos and much of the Internet altogether, he sifted through the mountains of information with the processing speed of … well, a computer. He just hoped that Doom had been stupid enough to record prisoner dwellings and maps. And he was. Drawing up a map of the castle, he identified the prisoner cells and how to get there from the room he was currently in. This done, he had a destination, and hopefully, a viable way out without depleting his magic further.

Loki left the room as quietly as he had come in, and frowned again. Now, the niggling thought was two, and it worried him. He had to account for everything in this plan, and those two things could be important.

The silence unnerved him; a castle this large would have some type of background noise, as it could not only be populated by Doom and his copies.

Silence. Yes, of course.

Why was it so silent? The copies he had defeated couldn't be the only ones in the castle; Doom was too paranoid and egotistical to send them out willy-nilly. So why wasn't he being attacked? Not that he wanted to be, of course, but the thought was worrying.

Unless, of course, Doom wasn't there.

But where would he be? He had been in the castle before they started the attack, Loki had made sure of it, but now Doom and the bulk of his copies were nowhere to be found.

The hairs on the back of Loki's neck rose as a possibility presented itself to him. What if, Doom, knowing they would attack, let them fight a distraction, and waited until the attack was in full swing, before taking Agent Romanoff and escaping? That would explain the lack of Doombots, people, and Doom himself.

"Damn." He said again, not liking when he was outsmarted by a mortal, of all things.

Mustering his magic, he teleported to the prison block to make sure that he was correct in his assumptions. He was. So, teleporting again, he found himself in the midst of a sizeable group of Doombots, who turned in unison to stare at him. He sighed once, before moving to throw them away with a burst of magical telekinesis. Seeking out the Captain, he found him almost five hundred paces away, and ghosted up to him.

"Captain."

The man yelled and wheeled around, shield at the ready. Upon seeing Loki smirking devilishly, he loosened his stance and rolled his eyes. "What?" The poor man sounded peeved.

"I came to warn you that neither Doom nor Agent Romanoff were in the castle. They are somewhere out here, I believe, if they have not fled already."

The Captain sighed, waving a hand in the general direction of the Doombots. "Great. Now we're looking for a needle in a haystack made of needles."

Loki flashed a smile. "Not quite. The magical signature of a robot is very different from that of a flesh-and-blood magical user. If I can sense him, I can lead to you him, and your lady." He made sure to stress the 'your' just to poke at the captain.

"Okay. You do that then. I'll let the rest of the team know to retreat and fall in." He put a hand to his ear, and started firing off instructions.

Loki didn't pay attention; he was too busy sending out tendrils of magic to find Doom. His magic wormed and weaved through the surroundings. He was everywhere that his magic touched. He was an ant digging into the ground, a tree filled with slow-moving life, a breeze filtering through the leaves, a piece of a Doombot's machinery. He felt the sweat beading on the Captain's forehead, and each breath that rasped out between his teeth. Extending his senses further, he was beset by a flood of emotion so forceful it formed words shouted in his psyche.

RAGE HATE PAIN RESENTMENT

I AM A GOD

MALEVOLENCE EVIL

HATE RAGE ANGER

DESTROY EVERYTHING

I AM WHAT YOU MADE ME

MAKE THE WORLD BURN

THEY WILL PAY

The sheer ferocity of the emotions pelted and overwhelmed him. Frantically grappling to separate his magic and mind from the painful ripping of insanity, he knew that if he did not, he would, at the very least, die, or be unable to return to his body, and thus leave it in a catatonic state bereft of a mind. His magic had wound itself into the spell, and it was very difficult to untangle them. Almost there. The tendrils of insanity clutched at his fragilely fractured mind, and made it almost impossible to tear himself away. Done. He feverishly threw himself away from the stinging clutches of the mind, and back into his body. He stood in shock for a second to make sure that it had worked, then assured himself that of course it worked,after all, he was the one to cast the spell. In his astral trip, the other Avengers had come to stand around him, and he had not heard them, which was irritating. Apparently, it had taken him some time to untangle himself.

"Does this happen a lot?" The doctor whispered to Thor.

The oaf presumed to know Loki and the workings of his most secret magic and explain it to others. "Yes. Often, he will do this to find out where enemies have hid, and travel to slay them before they even know that he is near. It is a very useful skill, and one that he does not use lightly as it –"

"As it opens my mind to the full might of Yggdrasil and leaves it open to attack." He interrupted, rising to his feet, a little stiffly, not that he noticed.

"Brother, you are unharmed. Have you found the location of Doom?" Thor looked relieved, the idiot.

"I found something, but I am unsure as to whether it is Doom or not. The mind was … unstable at best, and utter madness at worst. The things that mind is willing to do … I cannot fathom." The last part was an utter lie, but he shuddered convincingly enough. The mortals need not know how similar the mind was to his own.

"So, basically, his brain is like a bag of cats." Barton snickered and elbowed Banner, who reluctantly smiled sheepishly.

"Well, this bag of cats is our best hope. Where do we have to go?" Rogers asked, ignoring the childishness of his companions.

Doom P.O.V.

Victor Von Doom grinned in delight. His plan had gone according to plan. The Avengers had came and gone, and he had snuck out right under their noses! Really, they were stupid not to have suspected anything, but how could they? His plan was beyond the grasp of their inferior minds!

The only thing he didn't know was who tripped the alarms in his castle. All of the Avengers, at least the ones that were left, had been accounted for.

But it didn't matter. He was far away from his castle, with the remains of his army and with his little spider. She was unconscious, and still trapped in her mind. It was gratifying to see the infamous Black Widow so … vulnerable.

He rubbed the cold metal of his mask with a gloved hand, feeling the disfigured scars burning a little with the metal replacing parts of his skin. They always hurt, sometimes more than others, and there was no cure. It was a constant reminder of what he had lost, and what he had gained. Really, he had gotten the better end of the mutation, he thought.

Natalya whimpered, and his attention was brought back to her. She was a beautiful woman, and his eyes traced the curve of her pale cheek, and the dull redness of her hair. Currently, her eyes were moving under her eyelids, and sweat was beading on her forehead. Beautiful. He stroked her cheek with one gloved hand, and enjoyed her automatic flinch. He would see her break.

Her head moved to face the ceiling, and her profile reminded Doom of another woman, laying in just the same way. Sue. Abruptly, he withdrew his hand, feeling the familiar anger burn. Any regret he may have felt for harming her was dispelled from his mind. She had made her choice, and he had made his. Just because she was another pretty face, that didn't mean anything. She was nothing. But, nevertheless, Richards would pay for taking her away.

The world was just ripe for the taking, and he would be the one to tame it. He would have unimaginable power at his fingertips, and he would make the world burn, because he wanted it to know that he was its master. He would show that he and he alone was worthy to subjugate the world, not that uppity Asgardian who attacked Manhattan. And he would show Sue just what she passed up by choosing Reed. And he would show the world that it would only truly be safe with him as its leader.

Shaking it up a little! I thought I would try to make Doom a little more redeemable and relatable, but I kinda veered from that. Oops.

And, YES, some Loki-badassery! Yes, that is the same cook that Natasha ran into. Yes, Loki did refer to Thor as his brother and didn't say anything when Thor called him the same (if you didn't find them, re-read!). Yes, Loki did avoid cat videos, and the say "willy-nilly". I honestly love my mind sometimes!

Since I can't keep a secret, and I like all of my favers/followers, I'll give you guys a little spoiler for the upcoming chapter. IF YOU DON'T WANT SPOILERS DON'T READ THE NEXT TWO SENTENCES!

What if the second niggling thought that Loki had was about the Jotuns? And where did they go?

Think about it, review with your theories, and check in next time to see if you got it right! Bye, guys! Oh, and does anyone have any thoughts on why Loki doesn't like his helmet?

~Dreamer