The laboratory was nearly empty, only very few of the team-maybe three or four-remained while the rest of the staff went along to evacuate. There were guards surrounding the area, making sure that nothing was particularly unsafe or unusual. They all shifted their heads to the entrance as Nick Fury and John Smith walked toward the team, unsure about what to do with the unknown person merrily trailing their director's footsteps. One of the men approached Smith with his gun in hand and blocked the way with his arm.
"I'm sorry, sir," he dared. "I'm afraid this is a highly restricted area-"
"Don't worry," Fury raised his hand. "He's with me."
"John Smith," the man introduced himself happily, flipping out his old leather wallet again to show the guard. "N.A.S.A., I was called here to see what was going on… didn't exactly authorise a phase test, y'see. Making sure you lot aren't causing a ruckus and endangering lives and all that."
He flipped his wallet back into the pocket of his trench coat and smiled while the guard let him through. As the two men entered the main area of the lab, Fury called out to an older man with white hair and a stout build as he adjusted a few knobs on a large machine.
"Talk to me, Doctor!" he requested, and noted how Smith paused to put on a pair of glasses.
"Director!" the older man hobbled down from the platform he was working on to greet Fury.
"Is there anything we know for certain?" the director asked, turning to meet him as the man nodded.
"The Tesseract is misbehaving," he declared, almost sarcastically. One of his teammates pointed a metal probe into the machine they were working on, and a tiny electrical surge caused his hand to snap back. He grunted, and it caught John Smith's attention.
"Is that supposed to be funny?" Fury threatened, his patience for jokers wrung well and dry.
The older man shook his head, and it was then that Fury realised he was being totally serious. "Oh, it's not funny at all. The Tesseract is not only active, she 's… behaving."
"'Active'-?" John Smith echoed, but Fury cut him off.
"How soon can we pull the plug?" he asked, not wanting to deal with much more of this.
"You can't," Smith interjected again. The director and the scientist both turned to him, and he pointed to the machine while adjusting his glasses. "That thing-the Tesseract. You're holding it in a compact muon solenoid coil chamber, making sure she keeps stable… but, she's one one feeding the facility power. It released the surge-Q.E.D. that cube is the source of the power right now…" he trailed off, looking at the older man. "There is no plug, is there, doctor?"
"N… no, there isn't," he sighed, turning around to lead Fury and Smith towards the machine. "He's right… she's the energy source. We turn off the power, she turns it back on."
"She is also not of this planet, is she?" Smith raised his eyebrows towards Fury, his hands snuggling in the pockets of his trench coat. "Alien tech, very very advanced for the early 2000s... Where did you get this kind of power?"
"I thought N.A.S.A. knew about all this?" the scientist crossed his arms, his eyes moving suspiciously between the foreigner and the director. Smith sniffed a bit, blinking stupidly.
"Uhhh… yeah, sorry, new guy," he chuckled nervously, scratching behind his head.
"Well then," the scientist glared at Smith unusually as they reached the machine, his gaze shifting to Fury. "All I know is that if she reaches peek level..."
"We prepared for this, doctor," Fury said, looking at Smith for a moment before turning back to the older man. "Harnessing energy from space."
"But it doesn't look like you have the harness, Director," Smith shook his head, his eyes on the scientist as he stood in front of a computer by the machine.
"He's right," he sighed. "My calculations are far from complete. She's throwing off interference radiation… nothing harmful. Low levels of gamma radiation."
"That can be harmful," Fury said, his gaze growing oddly intense, as if he were trying to remind the scientist of a memory he did not posses. His thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a high frequency warble resounded in the air. It was not loud, but it also was not silent… and it was coming from the foreigner.
"What the hell are you doing, Smith?!" Fury bellowed, hand reaching for his gun. The security around them did not hesitate to point and aim at the mystery thing. The man was holding an unusual object in his hand, a small, cylindrical, blunt tool of some sort with metal and buttons all over it. It was emitting the noise, accompanied by a soft blue light at the very end of it.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, no guns, please! It's just a quick scan," Smith shrugged, smiling. He put his hand down and waved the tool around to the security. "Totally harmless device, don't worry. Just double-checking for anything particularly dangerous in the radiation-like the doctor said- see?" He wiggled it in front of Fury's eye, and glanced down at the gun that the director was lightly grasping. "It's not a weapon, I don't carry anything like that."
Fury's eye twitched, and he held back a sigh of frustration. He lifted a hand, and the soldiers who were ready to strike stood down and continued their original stance. He turned to the scientist, beyond done with this man and his odd tools. "Where's Agent Barton?"
"The Hawk?" the older man sighed, making a slightly sour face as he gestured behind him with his thumb. "Up in his nest as usual..."
Fury regarded Smith with an exasperated look, to which the foreigner answered by simply smiling. "Go on ahead, I'll be good!" he rocked back and forth on his sneakered feet. "I'll just have a nice little chat with doctor… uh…"
"Selvig," the older man replied, looking at him with the same tired expression on the director's face. Smith's eyes widened.
"Ah, riiiiight," he nodded. "Selvig, lead scientist for this project, wonderful." He smiled again, turning away. "Don't mind me, director, Dr. Selvig and I will have a lovely little chat."
Selvig took this opportunity to sigh at Fury, with a look of both confusion and exhaustion. The man replied with a shake of his head before turning away to look for Agent Barton. The scientist turned back to Smith, who was beaming from ear to ear.
"So," the foreigner began, rubbing his hands together excitedly. "Where is the Tesseract?"
Selvig said nothing, cocking his head forward, directing Smith to turn around. In the middle of the machine, glowing a brilliant fluctuating blue, was the powerful little cube held together by the machine's massive outer metal body. It was then that the look on the foreigner's face turned to astonishment, then disbelief, and then to excitement. "Oh, what a beautiful, beautiful cube that is!" he trotted up to the Tesseract, which was now turning unusually brighter than it had been before. "Unlimited energy for all mankind, stored in that tiny little cube, it's just brilliant!"
He reached his hand out to touch it when another member of the scientific team stopped him. "Mr. Smith, you might want to use these…" he held out a long, thin rod, as well as protective goggles and plastic gloves; however, just as he was putting on the equipment, a female scientist called out from behind a monitor. "Doctor, it's spiking again!"
"Again?" Selvig ran over to where the machine's main computer and began to type away at his calculations, clearly both frustrated and confused. Smith ran over, looking at the screen.
"Doctor, tell me," he began. "Has anyone done any tampering with the equipment lately? What exactly does she do besides provide a power source?"
"The cube does a lot of things, Smith, I'm surprised you never learned this at N.A.S.A.," Selvig was clearly too weary to be wary… and much too desperate for help with this problem to deny a possible solution, even from a new guy. "But she's also a doorway to the universe…" he gave out a tired chuckle. "She has… infinite possibility."
There was a pause, and the foreigner looked horrified for a second. He slowly removed his glasses and turned to see Fury walking towards them with another man, Agent Barton. He was shorter than the director, with a lean but muscular build, and eyes that looked deep and distant. "Director…!" Smith jogged over, just reaching earshot of their conversation.
"… No one's come or gone," the agent said, his eyes locked on the Tesseract. "The oven is clean. No contacts, no I.M.s, no one's been misbehaving under my watch…"
"And Dr. Selvig says that no one's tampered with his program either," Smith jumped in, his smile long faded and replaced with cautious apprehension. "So, if there's anything odd, it isn't coming from your end."
"Our end, Smith?" Fury turned to him, Barton stayed completely unfazed.
"He's right," the agent nodded, causing the director to swing his head back in mild confusion. "You said that the cube is a door to the other end of space, right?"
Smith's expression was now deeply lined with worry, and this did not cause Fury to feel smug or better about their situation. In fact, the foreigner-who, only earlier, casually named the machine holding the Tesseract without a second pause-was now causing the directer more anxiety than any other person in the facility.
"Yes…" Smith said, looking between the cube and Fury. "See, you have a doorway, and the key to it. You can lock it, and look at that door all you want… but there's a whole universe on the other side of that door. And it's knocking…" His gaze locked on Fury's eye, which was now just realising what the foreigner was saying. "Director, doors open from both sides, and whoever it is that's knocking is coming in, with or without a key…"
Suddenly, there was a sound like thunder as the flaring rings around the Tesseract expanded and fluctuated like the beat of a drum. It was then that a new sound was heard, like a groaning… a wheezing, as if someone took a old key and ran it up and down the strings of a gutted piano. The room turned to see a box begin to materialise in the area where the computers were running. It was tall, and blue, with a light that glowed at the very top of it.
"What the hell is that?!" Barton rose an eyebrow, as Smith moved cautiously towards it.
"Don-Don't worry," he said nervously. "That's mine… it's just attracted to the energy coming from the rift that's about to open-!"
Without a moment to lose, all the gunmen began firing shots; however, despite their bullets, the box stood firm, and the POLICE sign at the top of it was now as clear and solid as the ground it stood on. Smith turned to Fury, giving a sigh.
"Director," he said. "Could you please ask your men to stop shooting my box?"
"Your box?" Fury and Barton asked simultaneously.
"Yes, my box!" the foreigner insisted. "I don't have time to explain. The universe is about to come for tea, and your men are focusing on the wrong thing."
The director gave the man a deep glare, his hand resting neatly on the gun strapped to his side. "I expect answers later, Smith," his voice shook as powerfully as the thundering that continued to echo throughout the base; but, before Fury could give the order, a beam shot out from the machine holding the Tesseract. It was icy blue, and looked like a flat bridge made of streaming frost and data. Smith grabbed the director and Agent Barton, pulling them back from the wind that was recoiling from the blast. The beam shot out towards a platform, where wires and equipment were a little less dangerous to destroy, and began to tear open a hole in mid-air. A vortex, then opening up to what looked like a portal.
Fury turned back to see a terribly nervous look on Smith's face. The foreigner, in return, leaned in closely.
"I don't suppose you know who's coming to visit, director?" he whispered.
"I wouldn't have a clue," he replied, his voice slowly growing nervous.
Smith sniffed a little, his eyes still fixed on the portal that was opening; darker than the blackness of space, and decorated by a billion glimmering stars. "… please be an Ood…" the foreigner wheezed to himself through gritted teeth.
"A what?" Fury turned, only to be knocked a little off balance as a gust of blue energy clouds flushed through the room like a tsunami's ripple, momentarily blinding everyone with wonderful light. The excess energy accumulated into a cloud and rested itself at the top of the facility's vacuum chamber ceiling.
For a moment, there was silence. Everyone took a moment to regain their composure, and Smith locked his eyes on what-or, rather, who-had appeared on the platform in the aftermath of the rift opening.
A heavy breathing began to fill the void of sound.
"So," Smith smiled, putting his hand on Fury's shoulder. "Who made friends in Asgard?"
I hope you all enjoy this chapter, I know some of you are excited to see Loki finally come in. Sadly, I have to say that I will not be-or, rather, I am not planning on-updating this until after the holiday season, around January.