Loki Laufeyson smiled to himself as he watched the small boat slowly chugging its way outwards from the Bay of Manila. It had been a busy few weeks indeed, and his work was far from done; he would continue to watch Barton - the man who was currently calling himself Aaron Cross, if indeed at this point he remembered his true name at all - but the god could at least now allow himself a little time in which to breathe and review his current success.

As far as Loki was concerned, the majority of his scheme had gone entirely to plan. Yes, it saddened him that he had lost several of his wolves to the drone plane's explosives, but had he not sent the pack to keep watch over Barton, the man would surely have perished long before he had even reached that run-down little shack. And the wolves had not died in vain; in fact, were it not for Barton having managed to wrestle one of them and force his tracker down its throat, then the entire plan could have been ruined before it had barely even begun. How fortuitous, then, that the animals had been close enough to aid the mortal. The Trickster would honour their loss in his own way.

Pamela Landy's information would see the light of day; he would see to that. What better way to weaken a superpower than by causing its citizens to doubt the decisions made by their very own government? Once the details of Treadstone and Blackbriar were made public, America would be left reeling from the revelations of the atrocities committed by those who were supposed to protect her. It would create the most perfect of fertile ground upon which to scatter the seeds of distrust and paranoia, and to water them with carefully-chosen lies and half-truths; dissent would soon follow, and after that, further collapse would be inevitable. Once the doors had been left open, it would be a simple task for the Trickster to usher in chaos.

Loki had had to reach out a helping hand here and there, however. He'd learned his lesson after the first attempt to give aid; the man he had placed within the cabin in Alaska had placed Barton on edge from the moment he had first appeared. Having noticed that the marksman was highly suspicious, Loki had then faked the agent's 'death', his further assistance having been far more clever and subtle in its execution. The corpulent Australian working in the factory in Manila, the child who would have kept Shearing's hiding place within her house a secret, the boy who had discovered Barton and Shearing by the harbour… all of them had been him, subtly situated in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. It had certainly been no coincidence that they had all been garbed in green...

"Colonel Byer?" The sound of Ingram's voice suddenly sliced its way into the god's thoughts; so focused had he been upon the task at hand that Loki had momentarily forgotten he had adopted the name as part of his alternate form. "Sir?"

"Hmm?"

"Sir… what should we do now? He's off the grid, sir. Cross is off the grid…"

Oh, humans and their petty need for tying up all of their loose ends as soon as they possibly could! Why could they not learn patience? Loki sighed, forcing his mind back to the present – back to the small, cramped command room in which his physical form currently stood as Colonel Byer – and managed to adopt his most stern and formal look, one which he knew would convey stern disappointment and a barely-contained fury despite his inner triumph.

All he needed was enough time for Landy to deliver that information. All he needed was enough time for Barton to distance himself, and hopefully have enough sense to keep his head down until the situation had blown over – or at least until he felt his country needed him again which, if Loki had his way, he soon would. Loki-Byer allowed himself the hint of a smile, emanating a smug self-assurance which was very, very genuine.

"What do we do now? We wait."

And then the world would burn.


AUTHOR'S NOTES: Just a quick ficlet that jumped in my head the second Edward Norton popped onto the screen, and I had to get out of my system, because I could not stop imagining him as being played by Tom Hiddleston. Yes, I am Avengers-obsessed, and I couldn't pass up the chance to imagine the film as yet another of the Trickster's schemes. Apologies if any of the details and/or terminology are incorrect; please let me know if anything needs to be corrected, and I'll see what I can do! ^_^