The room remained unnaturally quiet as images of destruction and suffering played in a constant loop behind me, Fandral looked pale and Sif shifted on her feet. Loki looked at me and I wanted to be very far away from the West Coast, but part of me knew I had to be here.
"This is my fault, if I hadn't brought us here..." I said and I looked up at every one.
"We have to evacuate." Tony said quickly and I looked at him and laughed sardonically.
"Get real Tony, we are talking about millions of people, the freeways will be overwhelmed in hours, mass panic will set in. We could have minutes before this guy decides to rupture the fault, a complete evacuation will take days, and cause a refugee crisis that America has never seen before. Think Hurricane Katrina on a biblical scale." I said and looked at everyone.
"We still have to try, to save a few people if we can." Natasha said and looked at me and I groaned.
"Where do you suggest we start?" She said and I looked at everyone and let out a long breath.
"No," I said firmly. "I am not playing god here, and trying to make me choose is beyond wrong,"
I looked at the map and felt sick to my stomach as I thought about the wholesale death that was coming, and then back at my math on the window.
"This is so wrong, so fucking wrong!" I screamed and used a pulse of energy to shatter the window in frustration. I dropped to my knees and screamed and planted both of my hands on the cold tile floor as I thought and accepted that I was going to have to choose who lived and who died. I stared into the tile under my hands and looked for answers, but I couldn't find any.
"The coast lines, start with them." I choked out, my mind knowing the truth, it was still so many people and evacuation would be still a problem.
Natasha pulled out a cell phone and started dialing while everyone started talking at once, discussing the logistics of the mass exodus. Planning how to save lives and who would be sacrificed in a madman's sick chess game. I looked up at the videos repeating on loop, and thought about all the people who had died in the Japanese Quake. How many lives lost that could have been saved if only someone had the power to stop it from happening, someone who could control the Plate Tectonics that occurred naturally. My eyes went wide and I looked down at my hands, lifting them off the tile and looked at my cupped palms, the voices becoming an annoying din behind me and eventually silence.
I pressed my palms down to the ground and concentrated, placing my whole body close to the tile and listened. I felt a low hum under my fingers that spread up my wrists and looked down at my fingers as the hum grew, but it was not strong enough. I stood up and carefully moved around the broken glass, bolting out the door and through the house toward the pond, out into the rain and my bare feet connected with cold, wet grass.
I felt like I was stepping on nails from the cold rain and I ran across the yard, five sets of heavy shoes following me as I bolted forward. I skidded in the mud near the pond and fell, banging my hip on the ground and crying out, immediately focusing my mind on the Earth under my body and the low hum was stronger. I pushed up to my knees and dug my fingers into the soft soil and I focused again, tuning every part of my body into the ground.
The hum became a powerful melody in my ears, with drums that beat with the sound of my heart. Far away, someone called my name as the grass grew up around my arms. tendrils of vine wrapped around my waist, and I was pulled forward into the Earth until my arms were buried up to my elbows. The progression of life and extinction was whispered in my ears, ancient cities rose and fell and I watched birth and death play out over epochs as my knees sank into the mud my feet covered as I was pulled slowly downward. I allowed it to happen, and I kept focusing, the planet sharing all her secrets with me.
I focused my mind and found the point under the ocean where the fault line built pressure and I gave it the tiniest of pushes to guide it, my arms shaking with the effort, I felt a tiny nudge as rain fell down on me from above. The voices in the background faded into nothing, and I was alone with Cascadia. I saw the kinetic energy building and it was a multitude of colors as I floated under the ocean. The immense pressure of the energy was great, and it threatened to swallow me whole. I felt like it could tear me limb from limb, but it could be controlled.
If I did it properly, I could save millions. If I did it improperly, I could destroy innocent lives that never deserved to be in the way of a monster who wanted me dead.
I tried to stand up, but I was stuck in the mud, buried and I turned my face to look up at the gray sky that I now faced in my melding with the planet. I tried to scream, but the soil filled my mouth and hands pulled my partially submerged body up and I took in a fresh breath of air. My body shook and I laughed as the rain continued to fall onto my face. I pulled my legs up and out of the Earth, my hips freed and I clawed myself up and pushed the arms away as I walked into the pond and let myself fall into the water. Thor yanked me up and I stood shivering from my baptism, in the waist deep water and looked at everyone around me. The mud falling off of my arms and I screamed to the sky.
"The ground swallowed you." Thor said, and I nodded at him as I slogged deeper into the water, and sank below the surface to clean myself off. I rose back up and my clothes hung off of me dripping. I slogged back to the lawn, and a blanket was wrapped around me as I shivered in the grass.
"Are you mad?" Loki said and grabbed my shoulders, shaking me and I laughed.
"I saw it all, I saw everything. I can stop the quake." I said to him and dropped the blanket as the rain continued to soak me.
"I reached into the ground and found it, I found where the fault is stuck. I can stop it and save everyone." I said and he looked at me, I wiped the water out of my eyes and sighed, my heart pounding in my ears as he stood there looking at me.
"You could die." He said and I looked at him.
"Not if I do this right, not if I manage this carefully. I can do it, believe me." I said and he pulled me close to him and guided me back to the house.
I didn't speak as Loki and Sif guided me back into the house, but I began shivering from the cold. They walked me through the door and everyone looked at me, Clint crossing his arms as my teeth began to chatter and I dripped on the floor.
"Long story." I said and wrapped the blanket around me as I stripped off my wet clothes, being careful to make sure I was completely covered as I walked back into the lab where I planted myself in a chair and began typing again at the computers. My mind raced at a million miles an hour and I pulled up all the information I needed as I worked. I printed off several sheets and then sent a map of the world, including all fault lines and volcanoes, to the large banner printer in the corner. Clint walked in as the map finished printing and I spread it out on the table. Loki ghosted in and watched me work as Tony walked in and began studying the ceiling again embarrassment.
"No!" Tony said and we all looked at him, "No erotic science in my lab, find some clothes."
Clint unzipped his hoodie and found me a pair of shorts while I put the hoodie on and let it fall around my thighs. Being short as hell had several benefits, one of which, all men's shirts in extra large looked like a short dress on me. I pulled the blanket off and threw it aside as Clint handed me the shorts, and I pulled them on and tied my hair back and grabbed different colored highlighters from one of the work stations.
I watched numbers and graphs pop up on the computer screen across from me and began working with the highlighters, marking the map and Loki stood over me as I glanced up and marked off another fault line in China.
"What are you doing?" Loki asked as I marked another fault, moving down one of my lists as I compared census reports to the map and other factors I had going in my brain.
"When I was in the yard, I moved the fault." I said and glanced up at everyone, then pointed at the spike on the once again silent seismograph.. "Right now I am coming up with two different plans to bounce off you guys."
"Are you going to let us in on these plans?" Tony asked, and I glanced back at the computer screen as I thought, chewing my lower lip.
"Right now I need a good picture of the Geology of the planet, I need a visual aid. I'm marking everything by color, Volcanoes in Pink, Fault lines near heavily populated areas in blue, and faults near lesser populated areas in yellow." I said and picked up a purple marker and scribbled over parts of Wyoming.
"What was the meaning of that?" Loki asked me and I glanced up at him and grinned.
"That is a Supervolcano, Yellowstone National Park is a giant volcano spread out over hundreds of miles. If I bump that, we will have a massive disaster that may start an extinction level event." I said and Tony groaned.
"Did you have to tell Loki that bit of information?" He said, and Clint eyed me as Natasha walked into the lab.
"Your clothes should be clean and dry in about an hour, what are you working on?" She asked and Tony rolled his eyes.
"I have an idea." I said and continued marking everything I could.
"She just told Loki how to create a massive disaster." Tony said and I glared at him and tapped my bare foot.
"Technically, he is helping to prevent a massive disaster, cut him some slack." I said and returned to marking the map quickly.
"Just tell me you are not going to do anything that will risk your well being." Loki said as I glanced up at him and Tony looked at him a bit freaked out.
"You know, I am still coming to terms that you bumped uglies with her. Stop going all Twilight Zone on me, do something evil." Tony said and I handed Loki the purple marker I had just finished with and he threw it at Tony while rolling his eyes. I looked down at the map and then looked at my calculations on the board and remembered my results from the broken window.
"Technically, he is not the one who invaded my privacy by running an unauthorized background check on me." I said and turned to grab a pencil off another desk, and began scribbling equations on the back of one of my printouts, I scratched my head in thought and Tony looked over my shoulder as I wrote quickly.
"You can do this without a calculator?" Tony asked and I nodded.
"I can do it in my head, but experience teaches me that everyone needs proof." I quipped and I looked at his shocked face. Loki smiled down at me as I stepped back and took in a deep breath, and thought for a minute as I juggled the markers in my hands.
"What is this other purple mark here over this island?" Clint asked and I glanced around the room.
"Cumbre Vieja." I said and sighed. "That is another geologic disaster waiting to happen, I am going to avoid it completely." I said and Tony raised an eyebrow at me in question.
"Google it, I don't have time to explain it right now." I sighed out and continued to look at the map as I compared it to my calculations.
"Fifty-eight, round it up to sixty to be cautious." I said and grabbed a black marker to start picking fault lines.
"Are you going to let the rest of us in on your little plan here?" Clint asked and I tossed the pen into the air, finishing my work.
"An Earthquake is essentially a violent release of stored kinetic energy from a ruptured fault line. I came up with two choices as to how I can save everyone while becoming the ultimate hippie, by stopping this massive release of energy." I said and looked at everyone as they looked down at my map.
"What are your choices?" Loki said and I leaned back against the table behind me.
"Basic laws of energy," I said and sighed. "Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be redirected or transformed into a new form of energy."
I rubbed my face and Tony's mouth fell open in shock as he looked at me.
"You are talking about the Noether Theorem." Tony said and I nodded while giving him a thumbs up.
"No matter what happens, the amount of energy stored in Cascadia right now will have to either be transferred somewhere else, or transformed into a different form of energy. Namely Chemical Energy, but even I have a problem there. I just incidentally create another problem from the original problem." I said and Loki watched me with deep interest as I talked.
"You are, one day going to make the smartest baby ever." Tony said and I blushed and grinned at his joke.
"Just don't make it with him, never with him." Tony added and I rolled my eyes at his joke as Loki glared at him annoyed.
"Can we all get back on track and discuss my reproductive rights later?" I said and everyone nodded at me unison.
"Why will you have a secondary problem?" Loki asked and I sighed and looked around.
"If I create Chemical Energy from the Kinetic Energy, I have the problem of what to do with it. And there is going to be a shit ton of it, to be completely blunt." I sighed and rubbed my eyes, hoping no one would ask me what I planned to do with the secondary form of energy, because I had no freaking idea there.
"How much energy?" Natasha asked and I did the mental math as everyone looked at me.
"Like enough to level California." I said and everyone, Loki included looked down in concern. Thor walked into the lab and looked at the four of us, pausing before continuing over to the table.
"We will aid in evacuations of the mortals from the coast." He said and I giggled silently as Loki sighed.
"It may not be necessary Thor," Loki said. "Continue Little Mouse, what are the two options you have thought of?"
"Option one is riskier that option two. Both works, and there will be minimal damage to anything." I sighed and thought about how to present them both. "Option one is super risky. as in, if I pass out from the strain, Cascadia could rupture uncontrolled and still cause a massive amount of damage and people could die."
I opened my hands and everyone looked at me wide eyed as I stood up and put my hands on the map.
"I trigger a series of smaller earthquakes in Cascadia from the source of the energy build up. Small quakes over several hours could help the fault line along, and return the normal balance to it." I looked up at everyone and they regarded me quietly, and I widened my eyes as I pressed my lips together.
"That sounds dangerous and possible, what is the other option?" Natasha asked and I looked at her.
"I use my body as a conductor for the stress on the fault and send the built up energy to sixty fault lines around the planet, triggering 3.0 or less magnitude earthquakes, no damage other than a few people loose a bit of sleep when something falls off their shelves in the middle of the night. I give Cascadia a little push afterwards, and it goes back into its Slow Slip Event. Everyone lives, and I come out with one hell of a caffeine rush, like I can't sleep for a week caffeine rush. In which point, I am going to need a Playstation, and a Netflix account to keep myself entertained." I said and everyone nodded at me, Loki smiled at me approvingly.
"Have you already planned which faults?" Tony asked and I pointed at the map, everyone bowing their heads over it and looking at my work.
"Sixty, with eight as a backup plan. Nothing near heavily populated centers, and nothing that could trigger a secondary event." I said and crossed my arms proudly, Thor squinted down at the map and tapped the marked lines, counting them out.
"And you are sure you can do this?" Clint asked and I nodded and smiled.
"I can, it will be tricky too." I said and shrugged. "I am not one hundred percent looking forward to becoming a human semi conductor, but it is probably the only option we have to save millions of lives."
Loki smiled at me from across the table, and Tony looked down at the map as everyone thought carefully, jerking his head back in surprise as he realized I was right.
"Smartest baby ever." Tony said and I laughed, Loki smirked at me from across the table and I blushed at him.
"Are you with child?" Thor asked and I rolled my eyes, groaning.
"No Thor," I said and he looked a bit relieved. "Weird compliment from Tony, you missed that one by a mile."
"I pity Asgard when you take the throne." Loki said and glanced up at Thor from the map. Thor glared back at Loki angrily and I sighed.
"You two really need to knock this shit off and make an effort to get along." I said pointing at them both and Tony laughed at the ceiling.
"Seriously, we need everyone in on this. If that guy is there, he is going to do everything he can to try and stop me, even kill me. I don't really want anything to go wrong because I am going to be fighting for my life while restarting the fault. I really don't need to be distracetd." I said and crossed my arms, looking at the two men as my stomach rumbled at me, protesting my not eating since this morning. Everyone looked at me, and I looked around the room.
"I say Option Two, if this is a democracy," Clint said and everyone muttered their agreement to me.
"What if something goes wrong with the plan?" Tony asked and I sighed, and looked at him as I leaned back against the table behind me again.
"Lets just hope nothing goes wrong." I said and looked at everyone and smiled sadly.
"When should we leave?" Clint asked me and I looked at the group, my eyes glancing up at the silent live feed of the Cascadia Seismograph, and I looked back down and bit my lower lip as I thought.
"There is not telling when that fault could rupture, or when our friend will get bored and rupture it himself. How fast can we get to Astoria Oregon?" I asked, pointing to the coastal city on the map.
"An hour at the most," Natasha said and she began making another call on her cell phone.
"We will need the beaches cleared. It may be fall, but we will have some tourists, day trippers, or even locals out for a walk. We can't have them getting in the way, someone will get hurt or killed if we have to fight the big bad." I said and Thor crossed his arms over his massive chest.
"The warriors and I will manage the task of moving of people away from danger." He said and I nodded and looked at everyone as I glanced around. I fought the urge to roll my eyes at Thor's statement.
"What about you?" Clint asked and I looked at everyone else and frowned in thought.
"Wanna play bodyguards? I will be most vulnerable when I am actually doing what I have to, he will try to take his shot then." I said and was met with nods.
"If we fail?" Loki asked, and I looked at him.
"You won't." I said and looked around at everyone. "Shouldn't we be moving like we have a purpose?"
"Someone just got bossy." Tony said as he walked toward the door.
Loki looked down at the map and tried to hide his annoyance at the men in the room, their constant stares at her legs, and the glances at her body was becoming irritating. But she worked so fast in her own world, she did not notice how they looked at her. She stood back from the group as her bare feet crossed as she leaned against the table behind her, she looked around at all the men around her and sighed Realizing that she had very few clothes on and she crossed her arms over her chest in self consciousness, she blushed and her eyes widened, swallowing hard.
"Maybe I should look for some more clothes." She said and Thor glanced at her his eyes looking at her legs for a moment too long before he turned his head away politely. Tony stared at her openly and she blushed again as he winked.
Loki managed to suppress a growl, but glared at the men for looking at her in such a low manner.
"Come on girl, I think your clothes are clean and dry. If not, I am sure I can find you something." Natasha said and the two of them walked out of the lab together.
"Smartest and most beautiful babies ever, can I please have that hoodie Clint?" Stark said and Loki glared openly at him, Clint mouthed the word "No."
"Calm down, I did not offer to be the father Reindeer Games."
"She is more than her appearance." Loki said and picked up the map. "Would you mind not being lecherous?"
Loki studied her calculations and noted how her handwriting scrawled out in neat, graceful swirls showing a mind that was organized and precise, he looked back down at the map smoothing it over the table again.
"You know, this plan is brilliant." Stark said, ignoring Loki's statement and fidgeting with a ball in his hands. "Is she really only twenty?"
Loki looked up at Thor who came over to look down at the map and put his fingertips on the paper and frowned as he looked.
"What are these mountains circled in pink?" Thor asked and tapped one with his index and middle finger.
"Volcanoes, looks like she is avoiding fault lines near them to prevent accidentally triggering an eruption." Stark said and looked down at the map, lifting it and looking at her calculations.
"Clever." Thor said. "Her strategy is well thought out."
"Beyond clever, are you really guys really sure she is only twenty?" Stark asked Loki and he nodded at him. "God her brain is brilliant, she did this all in her head."
"Brilliant or not, she pulls this off, she will save millions of lives." Clint said and Tony turned around to look at both Thor and Loki.
"And is she looses control, she can accidentally kill thousands." Stark said. "Taking her back off Earth will put my mind at ease until she gets a handle on her abilities. And it will give us time to figure out what she is exactly, I am not convinced she is entirely human."
Loki felt his anger rise inside him at the statement uttered by Stark, he clenched a fist and tried not to think about what her reaction to her failure causing so much death would be. Self defense in battle was one matter, but being the accidental cause of wholesale slaughter could be devastating to her, she could never be told in that case, she would never mentally survive anything so awful to her fragile mind, he feared she would seek her own demise if it should happen.
Loki looked at everyone in the room, studying each man as they stood about. Clint staring at the screen with the device used to measure plate movements. A clever device created to study and someday protect lives, but an awful and terrible one now.
"She is stronger than you all believe her to be, does it truly matter what her race is?" Loki said and looked back at the map. "Perhaps we should have faith in her, and put aside pettiness."
"God today just got weirder." Stark said and looked at him, turning to Natasha as she returned. She glanced around the room and saw all the men standing around and sighed.
"We found her some clothes boys. She is getting dressed, I am going to go warm up the jet." She said and turned to leave.
"Twenty minutes." She said over he shoulder as she walked, and Stark sighed.
"I guess we suit up then," Stark said. "Thor, does the Viking Raid Party out there get airsick by chance?"
Thor crossed his arms and looked at Stark annoyed, Loki knew that he was angry his warriors were just insulted and chuckled to himself.
"I really don't know what we are going to be shooting." Clint said as he started walking out the door. "You cant really punch or make a target out of an earthquake."
I watched the coastline disappear under the jet through the windshield as we flew toward Astoria, I stood over Natasha's shoulder scanning the horizon with my mind as the Asgardians in the back shuffled about and got ready to do their part. I hit the back of her seat in frustration as I tried harder to reach out with my mind into the Earth, and received too much interference in return.
"I can't feel anything up here." I said finally and sighed. "There is too much interference from the engines around me."
Tony dug into a bin and walked up behind me in his suit with the visor up, handing me a harness, I slipped it onto my shoulders and Clint moved Sif to get a bundle of rope from another compartment.
"We will open the the hatch, you stand in the entrance and see if that helps you." Tony said as Clint secured the rope along the roof of the jet, sliding one end through a caribiner between my shoulder blades, and feeding the end back along the roof again. Tying it off and I nodded at them nervously. Loki looked at me worried, and I tugged the rope to show him I should be fine if I slipped.
"We are passing over the mouth of the Columbia River, you better do something fast!" Natasha yelled back to us as Clint opened the ramp in the back and I carefully walked down it toward open air. Focusing myself and still not able to pick up anything, the wind whipped around me and rain splattered against my face as I carefully put my hand out. I motioned to Clint for more slack and Thor stood behind me to relay any messages back over the howling wind. I carefully put my toes over the edge and I looked down into the churning, gray water of the Pacific Ocean as it blew past. I put my hand out onto the side of the jet and allowed myself to lean my body over and focused again.
I could feel the waves and hear their song in my ears, a melody achingly beautiful as the ebb and flow of the tide pushed toward the land. I could feel the marine life as I hung over the space, and I could see their fear at the sensed stress below them. I stretched myself down under the waves and felt the Tectonic Plates and felt their stress like a pressure building in my temples, and I turned to shout back to Natasha.
"Slow down, we are close!" I shouted back and Thor relayed the message to Natasha. I held my arms up and let myself lean forward more, and could see the beginnings of the straining energy below me in the form of a aurora around the jet. Shimmering colors of light appeared in my vision, and turned from gold to green, to a deep purple as we moved closer to the stress point. I let myself watch the colors and slipped down to the plate boundaries, seeing the place under the water where terrible forces worked tirelessly to create and destroy. I closed my eyes and tried to redirect the energy, but in the jet I was too high, and I had to be in the sand itself.
Engines strained suddenly as I held my arms up and the jet jerked to the side violently. My balance lost, I fell out of the rear of the jet for six feet and came to a sudden stop that I swear dislocated several parts of my spine, but felt someone pulling me back as the jet spun out of control over me.
I screamed as my body was thrown and swung out in a dizzying spin as the jet threatened to crash into the waves, I reached up and grabbed the rope as I looked over and saw the exact point the stress was built up. I looked out over the ocean, and I could see the energy flowing over the water like fire, mingling with the waves that crashed below me on the shore. The pressure was horrible as I sensed it, two masses straining and pushing against each other. It felt like the inside of my head was being crushed in it and I cried out in pain as I tried to pull myself up into the jet.
The Jet jolted again above me, and a caribiner above me gave up the fight and snapped. I fell toward the ocean and screamed as I came to another stop like a puppet on the end of a string but I did not stop there. The harness loop between my shoulders tore free, and I continued my free fall toward the ocean, jumping inches from the surface and appeared in a heap on the sandy beach.
I landed face down in the sand and groaned as I sat up and spit the grit out of my mouth, and coughed in surprise.
Me heap big immortal.
I wiped my face on my hands quickly and looked up at the black eyed man as the jet careened dangerously close to the ocean. I rolled away from him and scrambled to my feet, using my power to urge the turbines in the jet to start again and sighed in relief as Natasha got control over the craft and landed it safely in the sand.
"I could feel this was all you." I said and looked at the man. Backing down the beach as he approached me and he stopped and tilted his head, emotionless as he looked on.
"Only a freaking idiot would threaten millions while I was still alive, so what do you want?" I asked him and shrugged out of the shoulder harness and clenched my fists as I looked into his soulless eyes. I threw the harness aside and pulled the new rapid release knife out of my back pocket and opened it with a flick of my wrist.
"You power," He said and I laughed at him. "And your soul."
I laughed harder and he cocked his head to the side slightly, gauging my reaction. The jet landed and everyone in was running toward us and he ignored the shouts and cries from behind him as everyone spread out along the beach. Tony streaked over our heads, and I held the knife tighter in my hand. I grinned at him and planted my feet in a combat ready stance, one foot slightly offset from the other and I watched him straighten his head and put a hand behind his back.
"Lets dance." I said and put one of my hands behind my back, forming a ball of energy and grinned at him as we began to circle each other.
He moved impossibly fast.