I Can't Believe It's Not Loki

September 23, 2017:

Rocket, Groot, and Atli set in motion a plan to ambush FOUL LOKI and make him pay for all his crimes - past, present, and even future.

Stony Point, NYC

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Thor, Starprince

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

It has been a long journey indeed. One layered in comradery, victory, and pancakes. Mostly though, just pancakes. Each and every time they have vanquished some foe, piles of batter disappeared from local IHOP's, evaporated in in a whirlwind of syrup and glory. And here, now, they stand on the edge of another taste. Atli, for her part, can almost taste the maple in the air. Also, she can taste butter. But not really butter. It's Land O' Lakes spreadable butter substitute. A lot of it. Why? Well, because it's windy up here, at Stony Point, just shy of where the Hudson narrows running north, and far north of NYC. Also because Atli stole an entire truck load of the stuff, as it was essential to this ritual. The observatory tower is normally filled with all sorts of tourists, but being that it's three in the morning, they have the place to themselves, situated in rocky hillside just south of a great parking lot.

Here, Atli made final preparations with her stalwart allies. The Groot the Great, Rancorous Rocket, and Terrible Toothgnasher.

"Ah, yes. The ritual had called for the likeness to be made of the lard of a thousand wild boars. I am sure that in this Land made of Lakes they must have taken the stores of at least that many! No, No, Groot! The horns must have the correct curvature! Something similar to the rotund rearof your local serpent Goddess. Minaj..something?"

With a loud thump she tosses aside the book that contains this ritual for summoning Loki. Yes, actually Loki this time. Not Loh-Key or Low-Khey. She's certain of it! Perhaps. As they finish up constructing this statue made of fake butter, wood, she finishes carving the likeness of Loki's face with a dagger, certain she's memorized the words, certain she doesn't need that useless book and all it's warnings anymore.

"Rocket, Groot, remember, once we pull him here the statue will be left wherever he was - but not forever. We will bind him to our location only as long as the statue lasts, and his rear parts are already begin to dribble away. We must subdue him before the becomes just another puddle of lost hopes and dreams."

With that she steps back, proud of her work, but frowning at the Butter-Loki that stares back at her. With a flourish she draws her sword, and slowly it extends to become a spear. "Say the words my friends, prepare yourselves for glorious battle, and I will recite the incantation!"

There have been many an occasion when Rocket has come to ask himself just why they even go through all this. It might be because of the celebratory pancakes. It might be because they have nothing better to do, aside from build potentially terrible WMDs in Phil Coulson's basement. It might even be because he just feels a little sorry for this Asgardian, driven by nothing save to get to the bottom of this Loki business. And now she has, literally, with just a few buckets of butter.

Rocket hadn't really been all that much help during the sculpting. When Atli had proclaimed what they were to do, he took one look at the substitute butter stock, then back at Atli and the perhaps ever indulgent Groot, glared at the goat because it was probably the only one aside from him who had made any sense, and then went to take a nap in the cab of the truck with a wave of his hand and a, "Just lemmee know when you're done playin' in the fat."

His ear twitches at Atli's exclamation, but she's probably made many such during the time in which she and Groot had been working on their creation. Stretching, the small Guardian yawns and sits up, scratching himself not so surreptitiously before sticking his head out the window to see what all the mess they've managed to make by now. He blinks, gaping a bit.

"Well, flark."

They actually went and did it.

Personally, Groot is looking forward to another round of endless pancakes. He enjoyed spending time in good company and Atli was now considered among the number of relations he had met and kept during his stay on Terra. While they were all good, it was just nice to have someone who can eat their weight (or maybe more than that) in pancakes. So this, along with their past outings, is just another fun early morning at what some 'sensible' people may call 'crack o'clock.'

But as of this moment, the tree has butter substitute all over his great tree hands, trying his best to curve the material to Atli's liking. And try as he may, he can feel the stuff smushing out of place every time he repeats the gesture.

"I am Groot," he says with a tinge of frustration aimed at the sculpture's incooperative nature, finally cheating his way around it somehow after a few more attempts. There may be an excess of butter-like blobs lumped under the horn to make it stand proudly; he figures as long as it's doing its job, it'll be fine.

Stepping back as Atli goes off into another heroic spiel, Groot blinks, tilting his head slightly at the overall…thing. Well, it's not /too/ bad. Rocket sounds somewhat impressed, at least — or maybe he's confusing it with dumbfoundedness. But no matter. He gets distracted, taking a few seconds to glance down at his margarine-covered hands. It only takes a few more seconds to pass before he tentatively lifts them up to his face, opening his mouth so that he can lick it of of them.

It does not take long for anticipation to brim, for the light in Atli's blue eyes to flare with the fire of the coming battle. Glee highlights her cheekbones as she raises her spear to the sky, and thunderheads begin to gather. "Still the air and right the roil! Hum the tune and bring blight to boil! I have no fear, for I am friend to a tree, I summon thee, FOUL LOKi…NO TOOTHGNASHER! YOU MUST NOT EAT FROM THE BOOK!!!"

But Toothgnasher does, the goat blinking his strange eyes and lifting his head, his mouth filled with pages from the ancient tome as he chomp, chomp, chomps away. Atli has little time to ruminate on the goat's misbehaving, for lightning strikes in two places: Once where the Butter Statue is, sending Atli flying backwards to skid along rock. Again, wherever Loki is, transposing butter and Godly flesh to deliver their quarry from wherever he may be!

Atli will struggle to her feet, staggering sidelong as the smoke and ozone begins to clear away, one hand finding Toothgnasher, who also rises, pages still in his mouth. Which Atli swipes at, pulling and tugging until she rips them free.

"Woe goat! These are not for your gullet!! They have important words on them, some of which I can understand! You must no…"

Then, she remembers that she DID just complete a ritual, slowly turning her head to the spot where the statue once was with anticipation that spans the vastness of time. She remembers Loki striking the blow that ended her Grandfather. She remembers Loki tricking her into this oddly populated version of Midgard!

A STORY FOR YONDER HEROES

This is a tale told in media res. The specific details aren't important right now, and you shouldn't really worry about them until later. All you really need to know right now is this:

Beneath cloud blotted skies sat FOUL LOKI, amidst a great gaggle of things he would call friends in the same way one might call a cactus dull. They were discussing things, the details of which are not quite pertinent today, when there came a great crackle in the heavens.

"Oh good, right on time," said FOUL LOKI. His smile was as sad as a crocodile's.

"Farewell, my friends! We'll have to continue this lovely conversation another time!"

And the friends of FOUL LOKI did spring upon him in a most friendly if aggressive way seconds too late before a peel of thunder swept him off sight unseen to another adventure—!

TO A TALE YET UNTOLD

"Well, this isn't much of a friendly greeting, is it?"

The question comes seconds before Atli of a Lost Asgard (and even more lost Midgard) turns her head to behold the sight of the man who had so bedeviled her in a time yet unscripted. And there, currently standing in the midst of that summoning circle, he is. Black boots planted securely in melted puddles of lard, dressed in the green, black and gold armor of Asgard — horns fabulously and heroically curled at his forehead in all their gilded glory.

FOUL LOKI arrives, casually brushing ash from his armored shoulder with an expression best described as 'drab.'

"And you ought rightly know, I'm not much of a fan of lightning, so I feel we're already off to quite a bad start, my new friends… hm?"

Vibrant green eyes lift. They catch sight of Atli. And with the tilt of his head Loki, God of Mischief and sometimes dabbling in Evil, smiles his most friendly smile. As happy as a crocodile's.

"Hello to you and your manservants," which they clearly are, "miss. I must say.

"You have a very familiar goat."

Whenever Atli launches into one of her… What are they? Speeches? Spiels? Soliloquys? Ravings of a madwoman? Rocket always feels like he should be snacking on something. Maybe a bowl of popcorn or a turkey leg. Even when she breaks off from whatever incantation she'd meant to say, it's hard to tell that yelling at the goat isn't part of the whole thing.

Rocket leans out the window of the truck, looking, in spite of himself, in almost eager anticipation between the god of lard and the goat languidly munching upon the book. Lightning slices down, and he flinches away from the brightness before glancing back once it fades.

"-where the hell did the butter go?!"

It's…not exactly a greeting, but it's the first thing out of the littlest Guardian's mouth as he braces himself against the door, leaning nearly halfway out as he stares. Okay, so maybe he hadn't really expected this whole ritual to work. Now he's shooting Loki an almost accusatory look as though questioning why he cared to show up in such an idiotic manner.

Give him a minute, the details finally sink in- the colorscheme, the curved horns of the headpiece. Rocket opens his mouth. Closes it again as he strokes his fuzzy jaw thoughtfully, squinting.

Off-tangent: the butter substitute isn't all bad! It tastes just like the real thing.

It also smells like the real thing, fragrant and rich and maybe burning moments after Loki is magically summoned to where Atli once stood near. Groot gasps, both in shock and amazement because the ritual worked and because his crazy Asgardian friend struggles to get back onto her feet. Before he can go help Atli up, she's already a step ahead, allowing him to let his attention fall back onto the one they call Loki.

He's with Rocket, however. Where /did/ all of that butter go.

"I am Groot!" he then replies a little more gruffly than intended, wondering why they get to be called the manservants when they're awesome all on their own.

How dare. HOW DARE!!!

Already Loki speaks to her with his twisted words, clearly meant to cast another spell on her mind, and she would not have it! Not now, not when they are so close! Her head shakes, her eyes squint

There is a cry most primal. Two in fact, but only one is in a language that is intelligible. Atli shouts, her spear pointed forward, her posture not unlike that of Thor before he says something about bringing Loki to justice, about not being tricked by his foul magic again, you know. Right before her grandfather might make one of his very unwise charges. Proving she is far more like Thor the Younger (also known as Thor the Fool, and to Atli as Thor the Yet to be Gelded), she cries out with something even far less eloquent, but certainly full of purpose.

"….GET HIM!!!"

I know you were all worried about that famous family prose being lost to the ages, but Atli's got it covered! Mad delight fills her eyes and she means to set into a charge, but her eyes go wide. Her breath is stolen away, as very suddenly she is shoulder-checked to the side and meant to slip on buttery leavings by a very large goat.

"BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA-AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!" comes Toothgnasher's terrible scream, hoofs kicking off of stone as energy builds around his muscled shoulders, spanning all the colors of the rainbow. This is no ordinary charge. This is the fire that spans between worlds, building around the goat in preparation in glorious battle, for Toothgnasher knows his enemy when he sees it! Light spills out from the goat's backside as power not unlike the Bifrost propels it forward, his head bowed with murderous intent, horns glistening, still, from a buttery sidequest in the back of the stolen butter-truck.

It leaves Atli staring in mild awe, for in her time, you see, the beasts were not so powerful as Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder Prime. None had shown such glory in all her years, creatures meant only to ferry them from dead world to dead world, so that they might skip rocks amidst the forgotten ruins of lost civilizations. And sometimes find a new recipe for mead.

-where the hell did the butter go?!

"Now isn't that an excellent question?"

And Loki, God of Smiles That Only Mean Bad Things Ahead, smiles.

"It's actually a very interesting story. I don't think you or your fellow servant will understand, but I get the sinking feeling your redheaded mistress will. Have you ever heard of-"

….GET HIM!!!

"Sigh."

And so Loki does literally sigh, because that battle cry is so familiar in a thick-headedly, blood-curdlingly aggressive kind of way, inelegant to a point that only a master of bluntness and simplicity could be. It speaks to a singular genealogy that just makes green eyes roll heavensward in weary defeat. A goat bears down on him. A very familiar goat.

"Why do I even bother-"

SPLOOSH

Yes. SPLOOSH. SPLOOSH is the sound the goat produces when it makes contact with the trickster's body. Not a crack, or a whud, or a metallic clang of horns against armor. Sploosh. Because the second it hits him, there's a telltale green crackle of energy in the air…

…and his entire body discorporates into messy globs of butter substitute, splattering a blinding path across poor Toothgnasher's face while the lack of resistance to his goatly tackle may very well send him rocketing off somewhere decisively inconvenient.

"Now… where was I?"

The voice comes from behind. And there, sitting on a tree, -not- bound to any sort of circle, sits Loki, hands comfortably settled in his lap as he peers down at the trio.

"Oh, right. 'Where the hell did the butter go?!' Well…"

THE TALE OF WHERE THE HELL THE BUTTER WENT

And so we revisit our tale. Recall how we said some details were less than pertinent? Well, now they are:

Beneath burning, cloud blotted skies sat FOUL LOKI, amidst a great gaggle of things he would call friends in the same way one might call a cactus dull. They burned with the fury of a thousand suns, a fact just reinforced by their witty repertoire of verbiage:

"BURN HIM"

"ALL WILL BURN"

"WHEN SURTUR COMES CREATION WILL BE ALIGHT IN A THOUSAND THOUSAND FLAMES"

"WHY IS HE NOT BURNED YET"

"You are all very difficult to negotiate with sometimes. I hope you're aware of that. You'll never get what you want that way. Might I suggest a dictionary?"

"BURN"

They were discussing things, the details of which are not quite pertinent today, when there came a great crackle in the heavens.

"Oh good, right on time," said FOUL LOKI. His smile was as sad as a crocodile's.

"Farewell, my friends! We'll have to continue this lovely conversation another time!"

And the Fire Demon friends of FOUL LOKI did spring upon him in a most friendly if aggressive way seconds too late before a peel of thunder swept him off sight unseen to another adventure —

— leaving only a FOUL BUTTER LOKI in his place in the burning lands of Muspelheim.

"BURN! BURN HIM!"

The fire demons, of course, failed to notice, so gleeful was their conflagration.

BACK TO WHERE THINGS BURN LESS READILY

"So, I wonder, how long does yonder 'butter substitute' last in the heat of a thousand burning stars? Their words, mind you, not mine."

A hand waves, most dismissively.

"Well, something to look up later in the vast tome of Google, perhaps. Now, I -was- going to thank you for liberating me from a most trying situation… but it seems you have other ideas in mind." Black brows lift upwards, gaze flitting from Rocket, to Groot, and finally, to Atli. Full of silent criticism. One can practically hear the 'tsk, tsk' that goes unvoiced.

"Now why is that, I wonder?"

Rocket attempts once again to say something pertinent, or even impertinent, because that's always easier, but now he's got not one Asgardian but two (so to speak), to have to try talking over. At least Loki isn't nearly so flowery with his words.

"-buh?" he says instead at Atli's call to arms, because thinking about it, he's kind of lost track as to why in the galaxy they were even trying to find the guy. To be fair, they'd had plenty of tangents to go off of, and a great load of pancakes betwix them all.

Plus, it doesn't look like Mighty Goat is doing a very good job, no matter how impressive its charge may have been.

It's of some surprise that Loki had actually thought to answer his perhaps inadvertantly rhetorical question as to where the butter had gone. About a quarter way through, Rocket's ceased to listen, instead nodding at Groot before he pulls up his plasma rifle from within the truck, resting it only briefly against the doorframe as he extends it with a satisfying click.

"-because you called us flarkin' manservants, goathead."

He squeezes the trigger, the shot expelled only pushing him back just slightly as he braces a foot against the seat, firing towards Loki, tree and all.

If only Groot knew of the results of such a trick Loki pulled on them. And on those single-minded fire demons. Because they are indirectly involved in this summoning, after all.

He's impressed either way, but there's just something about this Foul Loki he can't put his twiggy finger on. The wording holds less importance than their meaning, but Atli's reaction to the horned one's presence also confuses him to a certain extent. Hey, he's talking, so they're supposed to be attacking? It sounds like a Starlord tactic.

Not that there's anything wrong with Quill's tactics. In fact, this is a very good excuse to use it to its fullest potential.

After turning to see where Loki removed himself from the intial goat charge, Groot quickly meets Rocket's gaze, his mouth pressing into a firm line as he nods in turn. With a grunt, his arms lengthen, extending past his stump feet in gnarled shapes so that he can start flinging them in Loki's general direction once Rocket's done blasting the tree to smithereens.

Welp.

Toothgnasher certainly didn't expect to find a SPLOOSH, and most absolutely thought he'd hear a CRACK. Everything on this world made a positively glorious THUMP at the very least! Light bends behind the goat, with the power unspent, he sets off like a starship set to warp 20.

Right through the observation tower that so many tourists love to visit during regular operating hours!

There is a loud crack as the building is all but obliterated, and further still as Toothgnasher rides the leyline of power from the summoning spell as the pages of the book still caught in it's teeth latch on and pull it along.

THEY'LL NEVER BELIEVE IT'S NOT (JUST) BUTTER.

At least until Toothgnasher arrives, powering into fire demons with a great FA-TOOM!!!

There stands the goat, rising from the crater, covered in a sheen of glorious Loki-Butter like war paint, eyes glistening with a soulless black that seems to consume all flame.

"HE HAS CHANGED SHAPE AND IS YET UNBURN-!" The poor demon never finishes, the space goat powering into him and his friends, mostly because like Loki, they have horns, and only one creature is allowed to have horns in these parts!

BACK ON THE WORLD WHERE ATLI HAS OTHER IDEAS IN MIND. MAYBE.

"Because I…"

Rocket speaks of man servants and the rest of her words, surely articulate and illuminating, are drowned in the hailfire of hot plasma.

"…and I, Atli, Daughter of Woden, Grandaughter of King Thor the All-Father, command your surrender! No longer will this world suffer the wrath of your were-bilgesnipes, and I.. I would…" Atli almost chokes up here, before leaping into the air with frustrated fury, past plasma, past whipping tree-limbs and what is left of the tree, intent on taking out the anger of her last memories from a time undone, meaning to do to Loki what she had done to her Grandfather, to spear him and throw him from some place very high up, despite her words about surrender.

It may all make much more sense, now, knowing her name, and seeing her flaming red hair flap in the wind behind her as she descends for her deathblow!

"Ah. Chambermaid, then. A thousand apologies, I'm the last person to cast aspersions on how people self-identify and my goodness is that a frightening-looking thing for such a tiny-looking creature."

CHOOM CHOOM CHOOM goes the plasma rifle, incinerating bark into so much burning wreckage as it chews that tree to cinders. Truly a horrible sight for flora everywhere. Loki is barely a second fast enough to leap away, feet touching the air as if it were a stairway to hop backwards along, leaving little, puddling footprints of emerald in his wake.

Plasma nipping at his heels and scorching gold, the horned Asgardian gleans the burgeoning presence of billowing plantlife from the corner of his eye. His right hand snaps aside, pinky and index finger curled into his palm, and the surrounding trees bend to his will like they were made of putty, blossoming and spreading branches and trunks until they form a barrier with which to let Groot's mighty fists smash against. Wood splinters, and down drops Loki, hitting earth with a laborious sigh as he brushes his jacket.

"I get the distinct impression you are all out of place. I've had a little bit of that myself, of late. Ah! Maybe we could all bond over our respective situations instead of resorting to-"

SHUNK

"-violence."

Loki looks down, staring at the spear imbedded in his chest. A frown creases his lips.

"Again. Sigh."

And what amounted to 'Loki' suddenly bursts into coiled ribbons of arcane magic like someone had just opened a can of snakes, the bands of magical might looking to bind Atli with sudden speed and impossible tensile strength that could probably give the likes of Thor a run for his money, for, like, five seconds. For Atli, it may yet be a little longer. At the very least, long enough for him to speak.

"Look," comes the voice behind Rocket and Groot now, and there crouches Loki, dabbing his finger into a puddle of I Can Definitely Believe It's Not Butter, pressing it testingly to his tongue. "Uck," he makes a face, shaking his hand. "It's like eating cancer. Anyway. I'm actually all too happy to assist you in your endeavors, of course. Despite what you may have heard, I'm on the mend now," cue laugh track, "and eager to repair my wicked ways. Midgard! It's a life-changing experience. -Unfortunately-, I haven't heard of any were-Bilgesnipes, and certainly haven't been involved in any. New leaf, etcetera, and more than that… it's a little too on the nose, isn't it? A man transforms into a bilgesnipe? Does no one have any taste for subtlety, these days?"

A weary sigh. The shake of a head.

"But if you would like to persecute me for something I've not done," green eyes slide, pointedly, towards Atli. Considerate. Contemplative. Granddaughter, is it. "… or something I've, perhaps, -yet- to do," he just lets -that- linger in the air like a possibility, "I suppose I can't stop you. But I wonder. Do you think your grandfather - we'll circle back to that later - would approve of such a thing? This kind of false justice?" His hands spread, helplessly.

"I beseech thee, and so on: What Would Thor Do?"

Certainly not hit him with a hammer, that's absolutely and totally clear.

The blasts only cease once it becomes clear Groot's closing into the space, although even then, it doesn't seem like Rocket's all too concerned about hitting his friend. …that's probably because he's shot Groot himself, plenty of times. Hey, it was for good reasons!

That Loki's so dodgey only irritates the not!raccoon, and being called a chambermaid really doesn't help either. As he switches off with Groot in the attack, Rocket swings up onto the roof of the truck, trying to keep track of where Loki moves. He takes aim where the Trickster lands, although he doesn't fire, perhaps amazingly enough.

That might be on the account that Atli's just run him through with a spear, and just as Toothgnasher's preemptive attack, obviously does nothing by way of damage. Idly he has to wonder just where the goat went, but it's a passing thought, quickly dismissed.

Rocket scowls, shouldering his rifle with disturbing ease. "Yeah, I think he would. He seems all sorts of unfair. It's his fault we're stuck here on Terra, on parole," he snorts.

SMASH. SMASH goes the tree alien walloping balled fists against even more trees— hey, wait a minute. Those trees aren't supposed to bend like that! He's very sure they're far from mimicking any alien vegetation he's seen, anyway. What's more concerning is how easily Loki has shaped their original form into one gigantic barrier, causing tree-on-tree violence.

"—I am Groot?" comes the perplexed realization delayed by the one-track task Groot has had in mind, dialing his attack back when he sees it's no good.

His arms shift, retracting into a more normal length for his height as he blinks, eyes searching until they fall upon the spot where the man now tastes the not-butter. No other attack is thrown out, either — he's just curious as to how Atli's spear sticks out of the guy. Morbidly curious. Except that curiosity really has no place during this time and scenario.

Speaking of time, Groot manages to think about the points Loki makes, canting his big head to one side to show he's doing so. "…I am Groot," he also adds, agreeing with his raccoon friend about Thor's involvement with their so-called parole.

When the Girl of Thunder impacts, she tastes victory in the form of phantom pancakes on her tongue. Drink would be had, all of it. Every bit. Rocket might even finally get to see her dance naked. But every happy thought evaporates in much the same way Loki does, a scream of frustration choked away as bonds of arcane energy wrap her up and send her tumbling, the form of a ball collapsing into anchored bonds.

There is strain in her expression, but so too is their proof of her lineage. Magic tears. Bonds begin to break, and all the while Loki continues to speak.

Suddenly, finally, she goes still, a burning, resigned glare cast in the direction of her Great Uncle. Could it be that he's making sense? That his talk of justice has brought her mind, so fueled with all the usual Asgardian furor, to heel?

'I beseech thee, and so on: What Would Thor Do?'

Atli remembers what Thor would do, as her friends spit fire and pummel at a God made of Lies. She remembers a time when Space Whales beached themselves upon moons at the harrowing sight of him coming, that whole colonies of Lashunta became spontaneously gravid when he passed by, that black holes exploded into new stars in his wake, Black Uru arm clutching Mjolnir as it cut through space and time on the way to deliver a blow to the jaw of the Devourer of Worlds. Her pupils dilate, and she remembers the sky turning to fire as Gor thought to destroy them all.

And all the while her hair stands up a bit, as electricity fills the air.

It happens all at once, and her expression does not change one bit. Magic snaps as her arm rises, lightning striking her first to blast away those bonds, and then every place that is not Rocket or Groot, hot enough that they will feel it's kiss as the blinding lights flash all around them in a thunderous blast of sonic and electric energy, rippling the flesh of her face as she pours her heart and soul into her spear, channeling energy up and then back down again in the rapid-fire cascade of lightning strikes that try to seek out Loki where he is… and even where he is not.

Probably, no one is getting out of this without being a little burninated, but that's okay. That's fine, right? Rocket burninates Groot all the time! Atli is sure they'll be fine, smoke trailing from her as she leaps towards the spot where she last saw Loki, intent on tackling him, if he still stands, to the ground.

"I suppose we have more in common than I thought! Thor means well," says the God of Lies, "but he periodically needs to… how do the mortals put it? 'Check his privilege'?"

And here, Loki Laufeyson taps his chin as he comes to a stand, turning his gaze towards the dark early morning skies above.

"But unjust punishment is often the way of the gods, isn't it? While they're allowed to have their own swaths of space to store all their wonders in, locked away from the rest of the universe. Why, if you could see the kinds of treasures they horde in Omnipotence City-"

But, he's forced to leave that as a dangling possibility for his newfound friends to feast their imaginations upon when he hears a crackle of lightning in the distance. The air around him starts to ionize. His lips purse.

"… Unfortunately, I think your friend takes a little more after your parole officer than my side of the family. Maybe that's why she has yet to correct me about your stations"Cra-KOOM

Lightning splinters throuh the air faster than the thunderclap that chases at its tail. He knows that crackling embrace. It's never fun.

So, perhaps unsurprisingly, it's still not particularly fun when a bolt of it lances into his torso with a powerful jolt of smoking voltage that screams its angry path through his nerves. He doesn't try to maneuver out of the way, or trick his way out of things. He just takes it. And it hurts. So very much.

Just as much as he does not try to maneuver his still-smoking body out of the way of Atli's angry charge until she hits him with the superdense impact of a shoulder to the earth. He goes toppling over with a gasp of air purged from his lunges, looking in that moment every bit the victim of the redhead's furious rampage.

"… oof," he wheezes out, elegantly, "you certainly have inherited his dense bone structure, at least. Perhaps most especially in the cranial area." Smoke billowing off of him in dying, dwindling wisps, Loki does not try to defend himself. In fact, as much as he has the entire encounter, he seems to avoid confrontation, this time very literally holding his hands up like someone in surrender.

"Like I said, I've no intention of stopping you. But, you won't stop your bilgesnipe problem — all you'll really be doing is hurting the best chance of solving it. Or at the very least bringing your goat back! But maybe you're not actually interested in all that. Perhaps this was all just clever pretense? Either way, I certainly won't stop you. Smite away!" Smite the unarmed man in cold blood in defiance of that strict Asgardian code of honor, goes unsaid, but implied. It doesn't help that he's still smiling.

-Apologetically-.

"An' all cuz we partied a little too hard on Asgard," Rocket continues, shrugging. "I mean. There must be a zillion statues of his dad around, what's one less? -accidental collateral, I might add." He's not even sure if anyone's listening, and he might be glad Quill's not around to fill in particulars. It's about the closest Rocket will admit to being partially responsible for whatever reason they ended up on Terra. -oh yeah, and rule of thumb, never try to outdrink an Asgardian.

"-wait, wait, wait- go back, did you say treas-oh sh—"

There's suddenly lightning. Everywhere. It may not touch him nor Groot directly, but it's still way too close for comfort, more so because he's on top of a mass of metal and therefore presents even more of a target than he might usually. He can feel the tingle of electricity crackling through the air, setting his fur standing on end. He's not particularly fluffy but now he looks just a bit more plush. His tail's another matter, puffed and curling tightly against him as he forcefully compacts his rifle, hugging it close.

"ATLI! ATLI WHAT THE FLARK- JUST—" He doesn't finish, cringing as the redheaded Asgardian slams herself into Loki, lightning and all. "Groot!" he shouts at his friend, a single word that can deliver an order just as clearly as the three-word phrase the tree-being tends to use in general, but Rocket's pretty sure the intent is clear. Get a hold of Atli before she accidentally kills us all. That's their job, not her's.

"And you-" he points at Loki as he hops down from the truck. "-sure ain't helping with the smiles so quit it. Aw, look'it this," he grumbles, trying to smooth down the fur on his arms, pulling back his clawed fingers as sparks snap them. He can't even walk two feet without getting shocked. Slinging his rifle onto his back, he looks around at them all, and then at the surrounding area. Then he points over at whatever's left of the observation tower in the near distance.

"For the record I'd like to point out that I was not responsible for that one."

Again Atli draws together all of her godlike power to foist it upon Loki, again Groot is both impressed and a little worried about the range she's going for. Thunder and lightning — very, /very/ frightening if one isn't used to a bunch of lightning bolts striking the earth at once. It's like an explosion, a miniature light show that doesn't pass the final inspection due to the deadly overuse of special effects.

That aside, Groot knows a diss when he hears it. And although he can 'ooh' about it, he should actually be focusing on the fact he and Rocket are now in the middle of a literal ring of fire— fire which spreads and blocks the view of the distant and heavily damaged observation tower, bright against the darkened sky; fire which licks and laps up the grass, follows the cracks among tree roots and their bark, leaving branches and trunks engulfed in flame; fire that snaps and singes the heels of those with or without shoes despite the distance, heat radiating from all sides.

It's also the same fire that can threaten to burn down The Giving Tree at any given time.

If he's not careful, that is. He can still avoid the sparks and embers flying off of those flames if he just, you know, moves.

"I am Groot!" is all he gets to exclaim once he catches up to the present again, stepping back, stepping forward with another confirming grunt of "Groot" in Rocket's direction so he can grab Atli. Like, actually stop her from doing any more damage to the area. Or bring anything down on them, for that matter. He reaches over in an attempt to scoop her up and hold her under an arm, making sure to keep his branch-like arms locked into place so that there's no other incident. And as the raccoon Guardian speaks a few last words to Loki, Groot just frowns. Just a frown, in general, for everything that has gone down so far.

"I am Groot."

That may have been for everyone. But that pales in comparison to the glowing embers successfully floating onto one of his broad, wooden shoulders.

Maybe they should go.

VICTORY!

Vict-…

OH NO. Her goat!

It all comes rushing back, as the devastation she has wrought shows as clearly on her friends faces and the grounds around them as anything FOUL LOKI might have brought upon them. Rocket gives his order, and Groot has her, spear dropping as she's hoisted. It is a momentary situation, her arms flexing, her scream splitting the air as surely as wood creaks as she breaks free with a wriggling thrash. Worse than holding onto a flailing cat, it is! The secret was all that butter on her, it made her so slippery! It is not enough to say that she is simply strong. She is fast, too, and she has her spear again when she looms over the monster she brought low. Her spear stays aloft, poised for a final strike. But it stops. Hesitates. So much of Thor is there, twice removed, in her face, of the brother who would not give up on Loki. Perhaps that is the vein that tugs at her now, or maybe the restraint of her friends, or maybe she just misses her goat.

In reality it is the frustration of being wholly alone. Certainly she has her friends, but they cannot know the anguish of her lost home, of her lost sisters, and her Grandfather, who taught her everything she knew. Or even the absence of this world's Thor, embroiled in some catastrophe very far away. She misses the other Gods that brought civilization back to Asgard, Yidari, Sumos, Hulriana, Decimux, Personia. Gods that had a radiance of soul that was like no other, and though this creature in front of her wears the face of a would be enemy, it was not until the end that she knew him as such. King Thor had always spoke of his brother as a long lost cause, a failure on his part.

Could she then, perhaps succeed where King Thor failed? Was this her purpose, in this far flung past?

Her spear shakes, and she looks up to Rocket, and over at Groot, until finally she slams that blade down. Right into the ground next to Loki's head.

Her hands grab the front of his glorious, smoking clothing and she hauls him halfway up, so she can look into his eyes.

"They are my friends, not my servants, though it is of no surprise to me that such things blend in your vile mind! You would know their names, and respect them! Rocket, Lord of War and Explosions! Groot, Scion of Yggdrasil. From this moment you will treat them with respect! SWEAR IT! Swear past lies I would know on your tongue! Swear past vile intent I would see in your eyes! Tell me you mean no harm to this Midgard for my spear will judge you if you lie!"

Her words crack, emotion overwhelming as some small fraction of home, the fraction she does not want, becomes her only hope to a link to her past. Just then the downpour begins, rain most torrential smoldering fires away and even dousing puffed up fur."Promise me you are not the creature that killed my grandfather, that you would help me find home again, to stop this other creature that has your face, and bring end to the magic of the Were-Bilgesnipe menace that Midgard does not deserve to suffer! " A brief pause. "AND ONLY THEN WILL YOU HAVE PANCAKES!"

You're not helping with the smiles, says Rocket.

"You'd be surprised," says the God of Mischief, "how often they do."

But, at that moment, all there is left to do is wait. Maybe within that very moment Atli would have struck him down if not for Groot; but if the adoptive son of Asgard is concerned about it, he hardly looks it. He looks… resigned, perhaps? As if his fate was truly in Atli's hands.

Whether it is or not, body language and expression weave a compelling tale all their own.

But she is bound by vines and sentient plantlife, only to break free. And as that spear is hefted, and pointed, Loki Odinson (on occasion) looks up with that vivid green stare, unflinching at the sight of his would-be niece preparing to strike him down. Preparing.

In some tellings, no doubt the story ends here. The blade plunges, a God of Lies is killed, and everyone dances upon his/her/its grave. And surely they did celebrate all the way to the halls of creation! While Loki did sadly strike a celestial rock in Hel where he would rot fore'er more.

… But the tale told today does not end with a blade to the throat.

It ends with Loki's profile, reflected in the pristine surface of a spear blade pierced into the earth not an inch from him…

And all the consequences that will spiral out therein.

So, the Frost Giant-turned-God is hoisted into the air, and still he provides no resistance — just an expression of surprise (legitimate or not, it looks quite nice), as Atli goes upon her screed. Green eyes roll Rocket and Groot's way.

"Well met, and all that," he asides to them, pleasantly as can be, in the midst of her proud rant. Desperate rant. But proud.

And as the rain falls, Loki the Trickster lifts a hand, and rests it reassuringly on Atli's shoulder, all the weight in the world set upon that limb.

"Atli, Lady of Thunder," he begins solemnly, "I do solemnly swear that I am not the one who killed your grandfather, that I mean only the best for Midgard, that I would love nothing more for you to be back home, that all your pesky Bilgesnipe problems will be dealt with, and most of all, I assure you deeply —

"— you know nothing of pancakes until you have tried ones cooked with the finest of cured pork."

And with that, as the rain falls and mats black hair upon his features, Loki will clap his hands together, his smile delightfully bright.

"Well then! I dare say we have achieved the start of a meaningful friendship here! Come, let's bring your poor Toothgnasher back before he literally dies of heartburn, and then I will introduce you to the mortal joy known as the bacon pancake, and you may tell me all about what brought you hear and your problems. It will be a bonding experience! Perhaps there will even be hugs in the end!"

And all the consequences that will spiral out therein.

"I'm with you, Groot," Rocket is about to agree, but his friend is splintering and Atli's making a final lunge for Loki with her spear. Oh, does she look determined. Oh, does he know that look, and he knows that he can't do anything to stop her. She's shrugged off Groot like balsa wood, she'd probably brush off a few plasma slugs like the oil blobs in a lava lamp. It kind of surprises Rocket that he's even considering trying to stop her, but then after all this, taking down the wrong Loki wouldn't fix things, or make things better. …ugh, is he starting to nurture some kind of conscience? Blech.

Even despite the heat of the flames hungrily licking at the grass near his feet, Rocket starts towards the two Asgardians, hands thrown out towards them. He meets Atli's eyes with his own, furry brow furrowed. He watches her look to Groot, and then he cringes as with a mighty swing of her arm, she brings the spear down. There's no disgusting sound of a skull bursting or that thick, wet sound you get like when someone stabs a watermelon with a tentspike. The little Guardian breathes out a quiet sigh in what might be relief.

The red-haired warrior's words are resounding. Atli's always spoken without guile, and these words are as much an outpouring of her heart as the downpour that suddenly dumps from the skies above. Rocket sputters, grumbling as he wipes a now soaked arm across an equally soaked brow. Well, that's one way to get his fur to flatten. Now he just looks like a half-drowned cat.

"Charmed," he spits, shaking himself out, to no real avail. Squinting past the rain and the rivulets of water trickling across his vision, he looks at the two crazy Asgardians, because there clearly is no other type.

"Oh, yay! We're all friends now, whoop-dee-flarkin'-doo! Yes, let's get the goat and get out of this flood from the skies, and um, far away from this place before we get blamed for property damage, huh? Maybe we'll find somewhere to make a campfire and sing that 'kumbayah' song Jess mentioned." The sarcasm drips as abundantly as the water dropping from his tail.

The flame that started to burn on Groot's shoulder smolders, a thin trail of smoke rising and dissipating among the unending sheets of water droplets falling on him and the others. Refreshed, he still stands in the same pose, almost as if he's holding on to an invisible version of the Asgardian, butter and water mixing, dripping off of his bark-covered person and down into an oil slick forming among the puddles beneath his feet. Doesn't matter if his arm feels like it's going to fall off because the strongwoman breaks free of his grasp, it just happens. Fortunately for him, his arm doesn't do that…yet.

He feels like he should intervene again, but there he is, watching a version of family drama play out, something very similar to some of the dramas he's seen on Netflix. It still gets him, holding him captive even as he and Rocket are properly introduced late into the game, equally touched that Atli calls them friends first and foremost. All he can do is nod, his lower jaw slightly gaping the way it does whenever the good parts come and go.

Also, Loki has him at 'cured pork.' 'Bacon pancake.' That's enough to pique Groot's curiosity over such a combination.

But back to what Rocket says. "I am Groot." He definitely doesn't want this on his permanent record, not with Coulson in charge of them. And they do need to get the goat back. Well, hopefully they'll figure that all out as soon as possible because he's hungry. All this talk about food. Terrible.

If nothing else, Rocket's ever present sarcasm is enough to diffuse this bomb, even if he's usually arming bombs. With a sullen, almost resigned look that mirror's Loki's would be final moments, she snatches up her spear which has become a short sword again, and places it at her back. The rain does not stop, because the surrounding forest needs it. You had better believe Coulson will be up here tomorrow eyeballing all of this. Time to scram.

"First the goat. Then, the spoils."

She has no other words for Loki here. They will come later, over syrup drunk like wine, and then perhaps over actual wine and worse. No one can really know if this will be better or worse for Loki. One thing is for certain now, however. Bacon pancakes will certainly prevent her from changing her mind, a gambit played well by the God of Lies to secure his place among the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Or something like it.

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