Warnings: bad grammar and multiple mistakes
Disclaimer: most of the characters are not mine, but all the mistakes are.
Steve found it amusing how his very presence had such a stabilizing effect on the crew morale. With as little as some words of reassuring and a slap on the back the young terrified seaman turned into the acting captain of USS Monterey fully capable of handling the emergency situation without supervision or direction from anyone else.
Being a living legend had its upsides after all.
As the joined team of technicians from both ships made its way to the machine bay, the problem became more and more obvious. Steve strained his ears to the limit, but there was no usual hum of the engine, no low and steady growl of the machinery- instead there was screech and irregular bursts of rumble, as if the ship was an elderly suffering from onslaught of inveterate cough. It apparently was contagious too, since the men around him were sneezing and coughing with increasing regularity and Steve himself found it extremely hard to breathe.
The corridors were so full of smoke, that it felt like Steve was not inhaling the milky white air, but drinking it, burning his throat and lungs in the process.
The group stopped at the open hangar door and peered into the compartment to assess the damage before going in.
The impact must have been of enormous power, as the meteorite had crushed through the deck and three lower levels before it hit the engine room. A part of the ceiling right above the engine compartment collapsed, leaving a huge opening decorated with intricate pattern of torn wires, severed cables and smoldering metal.
The engine itself was lucky to suffer only surface damage and was merely on emergency shutdown, but the rotation wheels that put the propulsion vanes of the ship’s into the motion were completely blocked by the main culprit- a huge fragment of the meteorite that didn’t burn out or disintegrate during the crash. It was stuck right in the middle of the mechanism, ceasing all the motion and causing the engine to overheat from the friction.
The Monterey firefighter teams had scattered around the bay and put all their efforts into preventing further damage, mostly by flushing the meteorite with the fire extinguishers to cool down its surface. Apparently, the tactics paid off since the cosmic rock did not melt its way through the engine into the ocean below. However, the foam produced huge amounts of chemical induced fog that caused terrible itch in the throat and irritation in the eyes.
Steve turned to the mechanics from USS Victoria, tears streaming down his face,
“I’ll help here; see what you can do with the ventilation.”
The group nodded and took off to the adjacent bay to check what was wrong with the cooling compound, leaving Steve to deal with the meteorite.
The rock looked heavy, but its weight was not the problem- it was still extremely hot since each time the extinguisher foam fell on its surface it boiled and evaporated in the matter of seconds.
That was unfortunate.
Serum provided Steve with superhuman healing ability, but burning his hands to the bone would render him useless for the rest of the exercise.
Finally, he noticed the heavy-duty maintenance gloves discarded by one of the crewmembers. They were covered in molten and frozen metal mixed with rubber and plastic- nasty brew that made them rock-solid and unusable for regular repair, but provided extra isolation from the heat.
“Just what I needed,” Steve smiled to himself and reached out for the gear.
“Anything from the US Space command?”
“Still giving us the silent treatment.” Jay shot the Captain a questioning look.
“Sir, have you upset them lately?”
“No, but I’m about to.”
The Captain rolled Jay’s chair to the side, forcing the other man to grip firmly to the table to stay in the reaching distance from the panel, and grabbed a spare set of headphones.
“USAF Patterson, come in, this is USS Victoria, how copy?”
After the third call, someone finally had a decency to respond, and the heated exchange that followed made Loki tilt his head to hide a smirk forming on his lips.
The prince shone away from anything that lacked refinement or was so tastelessly indecent, at least unless he was extremely anxious or angry, but Captain Iceman’s loquacity made it sound like music.
A good distraction from the taunting revelation he had several minutes ago.
The mere thought of what had transpired melted Loki’s insides with rage for being scorned.
He might lack Thor’s might or his flamboyant character, he might prefer the solitude of the library to loud bragging in the company of drunken friends, but in no way his difference makes him lesser then any of the Aesir.
Where physical strength lacks, the knowledge prevails, and where short temper troubles, the patience is victorious.
Wise words from a long dead king – a feeble consolation Loki repeated to himself after every lost fight with Thor or his friends since he was a child.
And yet. The mind kept whispering that Loki was truly his brother’s equal, no matter how different, but the heart kept bleeding from the merciless words the ears heard.
Was it because Thor had spoken the truth? Or was it because it was Thor who had spoken?
Loki noticed Thor glaring at him sulkily and turned away, averting his eyes, deliberately ignoring the older prince.
Oh, how pleasant would it be to slam a fist into Thor’s face, letting him feel a share of pain that was surging inside Loki, eating his heart, poisoning his mind, if only for a brief moment. But it would gain him little profit- Loki was well aware he was no match for his brother in a fight. It would only grant Thor another proof of Loki’s inadequacy.
Thor frowned and leaned in, whispering words into Loki’s ear angrily,
“Do you still wish to side with the folk that treats its fellow soldiers in such disrespectful manner?”
Loki shrugged indifferently and moved away,
“Oh, why? He means no harm. Besides, I find this interaction extremely entertaining.”
He was telling the truth.
The dialog between the Captain and the person on the other side of the phone did not reveal much since Loki was unfamiliar with most of the technical terms Iceman used. However, he was well acquainted with the rest of the Captain’s vocabulary, which mostly consisted of profanities. All of them were either morally or physically impossible, but that was not the most amusing part- the depth of Captain’s knowledge on the matter was.
Such obscene eloquence was uncommon among the folk of Aesir- in fact, Loki could recall only a single pleasure of encountering such a broad lexicon in his whole life- when he was a child and happened to pass by the Blacksmiths workshop late at night.
He spent the rest of that evening in the library, looking up unknown words in the dictionaries. It earned him a day of confinement to his quarters when the library keeper found out what the young prince had been up to. Loki later executed his revenge on the old geezer by turning his clothes transparent during the breakfast in the great hall. It tripled the length of Loki’s punishment, but the moral satisfaction was worth it.
Iceman motioned to his First Officer, “Change red zone ETA to 5 minutes and wake the birds up. They are to return to the base and provide cover fire for the coast.”
The First Officer stared back at his Captain, “Sir?”
Iceman waved him off, “they are of no use for us here, and the base needs airborne surveillance to direct missiles.”
Jay stared at Iceman in confusion, “Don’t they have satellites and radars and all the fancy army and air force stuff?”
“Not anymore. The rock shower had decommissioned most of the military satellites in the region.”
Jay’s eyebrows disappeared in the hairline, “All of them? Even the secret CIA ones?”
First Officer intervened, “but you’ve just moved the ETA time, so they must have some eyes in the sky then?”
“Well, technically, they have one satellite still functioning properly, but”- Iceman looked over the men on the bridge, “You aren’t gona believe this,” he made a dramatic pause to emphasize what he was about to deliver –“it belongs to the Russian Military.”
Jay looked at the Captain, then at the first Officer, then back at the Captain.
“And Russians just let us take the control of their satellite out of the generosity of their hearts? Were they drunk or something?”
Iceman shook the finger at his seaman, “No to both questions. They didn’t release their satellite to us per se; they are simply feeding us coordinates of the biggest targets.”
A collective eye roll and groan filled the air, followed by picturesque exclamations of disbelief and irritation.
Loki suddenly realized why Midgard gave him such a strange feeling of hidden meaning, what the planet reminded him of- not Asgard, and not any other realm- but the whole Ygdrassil itself. Huge living being with its parts separated by vast amounts of space, with races dwelling on it, so different and yet so alike- fighting most of the time but in face of a major disaster joining forces and yet harboring ill feelings and thinking themselves superior of others.
How otiose Allfather’s peace undertakings must have been if there is no unity even between one realm’s kin? But if diplomacy fails, what else could bring all the people together?
Again, Loki’s contemplations were harshly disrupted when a meteorite hit the windshield on full speed, bursting into small burning pieces and slowly rolling down the glass like a weird firework.
The glass intended to withstand direct artillery strike did not crack but the sudden impact made Jay jump up and away from the chair.
Where the first rock stroke more soon followed, and in the matter of seconds the ship’s exterior was under constant hail of the stone fireflies.
The ship’s alarm went off and the crew assumed their battle positions. Agent Coulson glanced melancholically in the direction of USS Monterey then turned around and gently guided both Aesir princes into the most protected part of the bridge- the inner corner.
Loki didn’t protest much as his attention was riveted by the situation at hand.
“Sir, the birds are asking permission to take off?”
“Abort, it’s too late.”
The hail intensified, and Loki could now not only hear the constant battering sound, but actually feel the ship shake from time to time when the hull suffered big impacts. The sky outside grew almost pitch black, and the biggest meteorites now left trails of bright fire making their way into the ocean.
When the huge rock hit the waves right in front of the ship’s nose, sending a shower of splashes across the deck, Iceman turned to Jay and smirked, “Light them up.”
Jay grinned like a loon and turned on the commlink, “Open fire.”
The piece of the meteorite was heavier then Steve had anticipated, but joined intellectual and physical effort of the seamen resulted in constructing a slide under it and over the side of the rotation mechanism. Steve, now equipped with gloves, positioned himself on the side of the rock and started pushing. At first, it did not move even one bit, as if glued to the surface and Steve honestly deplored Loki was not around to give him a hand, but after several futile efforts, it finally shifted enough to be pushed onto the sliding construction and rolled over the bridge and dropped on the floor.
Steve got a split of the second to duck and roll away from the rotary mechanism, as it burst into sparkles when the block was gone.
When the fiery cascade ended and the engine started slowly to pick up rotation speed, Steve got up from the safe comfort of the floor and turned on the radio.
“Engine is back online, what’s the status of cooling system?”
There was a moment of static in the radio, than a very irritated voice of chief mechanic replied, “Main line FUBARed, we’re trying to clean up the reserve airway but there’s too much shit inside.”
Steve looked around the engine bay- the mechanism was working perfectly, but the excessive heat started to accumulate, he could already feel it in small droplets of sweat forming on his forehead.
“But we need something …”
“Oh, genius, what do you want me to do, chew a new one through the wall?”
A sarcastic remark drew Steve’s attention to the opening in the ceiling. It was too high up for a person to get through, but close enough to relieve the cooling assembly should the pipe be parted from the system and lifted vertically.
The Cap motioned the crew to help him get the pipe up, cutting off the steam flow before lifting it, and asked one seaman to stay at the door, making sure there was at least one ventilation exit, otherwise they were in danger of getting cooked alive.
It wasn’t that hard to get one side of the line up into the opening, letting the steam flow outside of the bay and dissipate into the ship’s corridors on the upper level, but there was nothing the men could secure it in the position with.
Only there was.
Steve smiled as the idea formed in his head, and waved to the crew.
The space rock was still smolderingly hot, but its’ almost perfect round shape made it easy to roll by giving hard but short pushes.
Finally, the meteorite was positioned exactly under the ventilation pipe so that the tube could stand still and rest its upper end in the hole in the ceiling without shifting.
He took a moment to appreciate the monument to human ingenuity, when a wave smashed into the hull and rocked the ship, making Steve stumble.
“Wow, that was a close one.”
“And a big one too...I thought we had 10 more minutes?”
“Might’ve been wrong…C’mon, let’s get to the bridge, see what’s going on.”
Steve ordered the crew towards the exit, checking the stability of the construction and tightening the closure, when another blast, loud and heavy sounded off through the chorus of salvoes and the wave followed, rocking the ship so hard it sent Steve and his men flying through the bay.
When they came back to senses, the alarm turned on.
“Hands brace for impact, hands brace for impact...”
Steve only had time to look up when a huge meteorite times bigger than the last one hit the ship, tearing through the hull, crushing the walls by its sheer force, melting metal and incinerating everything it met on its way. In mere seconds the part of the stern was gone, baring the insides of the ship and igniting some of the ammunition, inflicting further damage on the burning boat.
Steve couldn’t know that, it was too far from his sight, but he knew it was bad as the floor hilted, sending him sliding into the wall along with his fellow crew members.
Steve tried to get up, grasping for air, but another explosion shook the ship and the meteorite near the engine shifted from under the pipe, making the whole construction collapse and bury the Captain under it.
The storm was eerie treat for the eyes of a witness. The world had fallen into total darkness, black clouds merging with the black ocean in one, enveloping everything, swallowing up all light but the fire from the falling rocks and the alleys of bullets ripping the air.
Loki would have thought this occurrence was wrath of Midgardian gods, if only he was not one of them.
As the hellish hail intensified, the tension on the bridge grew.
Finally, Thor snapped.
“A mighty army frightened by the falling rocks like a group of fearful maidens! Is that how you will protect your realm in the hour of danger?”
Iceman motioned Jay to carry on the tasks and turned to Thor, “And how do you know that I’m afraid?”
Thor bared his teeth for a split of a second then stepped closer towards the Captain.
“Your eyes are full of fear, I can see it even in the darkness.”
Loki’s eyebrows met the hair line, since when exactly his oaf of a brother acquired talent in deduction?
Iceman mirrored Thor’s movements and advanced so that two men now were standing face to face.
“It is not fear, it is anger. If it were fear, my pupils would be blown a little bit more. Remember next time to pay attention to details.”
Thor growled, “Desert your mentor tone, human, for that you showed clearly that you are unfit for command. You should abandon your place at once and submit to those who have a true knowledge how to lead their people.”
“And that someone would be?”
Loki rolled his eyes, suppressing a groan. Of course, the whole situation was less then comfortable, and it was far from pleasant to watch the humans- even on the other ships- getting hurt or killed by the fire or impacts, but there was truly nothing either Thor or Loki could do.
Yes, Loki could resort to magic- but to what end? He certainly couldn’t raise a shield large enough to cover all three vessels, nor could he fight off the meteorites for that there were too many of them.
And Thor himself would be rendered useless- he could summon the lightning, he could call upon Mjolnirs power and crush plenty of the meteorites- but where one rock was turned to dust, ten more would follow.
The best way to assist humans was to refrain from interfering and let them do their job.
Aesir or Midgardian, military is military always- the troops are trained and bred to fight and to die for their cause, excessive sentiment would only do them harm.
But Thor was never known for calm temper, even now- he allowed his heart to rule over his head. Yes, his intentions were dictated by compassion- but that didn’t make his deeds any less harmful.
Iceman gave Thor a long calculating look.
“Correct me if I’m wrong, you want me to relinquish the post of the commander of active military group in favor of an alien entity without any bonds to us on basis of his – and solely his- opinion that my actions are unsatisfactory, without taking into account legal rules and procedures?”
Thor smiled triumphally, “That would be appreciated.”
Iceman tilted his head, “Should I take it as official declaration of war then?”
Loki choked on his breath.
Compassion, anger, fury or not, the last thing he needed is a conflict with the Midgard. Even if the disaster was Thor’s doing, Loki too would be held accountable, and the failure he had no part in was far from useful for his ultimate goal.
The prince unstuck himself from the corner and stepped in to interfere, but his mediation wasn’t needed.
Apparently, Thor came to realize what his behavior would cost the realm- both realms, actually- Loki could see the titanic struggle between the temper and the common sense going on his brother’s face.
The latter seemed to get the upper hand, and Thor growled through the clenched teeth,
Loki breathed out.
“I meant no offence, it just pains me to watch your people die.”
“And your concern is very much appreciated, prince, but I would prefer you not interfering. You are welcome to express your censorious remarks when we are back at the base, right now just let us do our job.”
And keep your opinion to yourself.
The last phrase was left unsaid but everyone grasped the meaning.
Loki would applaud his dear brother on making the right choice for once, but even more applaud Iceman for giving Thor a slap on the face. Too bad it didn’t happen often.
The very moment Loki felt the tension ease from his sore muscles, the biggest ball of flame hit USS Monterey and ripped the ship open, like a savage beast, tearing the metal flesh and baring the insides.
The prince watched in silent horror as several minor explosions rocked the mutilated body of the ship and it slowly began to sink.
Iceman shouted the order into the commlink, but all Loki could think of was Steve.
Steve groaned in pain, crushed under the weight of the pipe and opened his eyes, only to see the lights flicker and die out. The reserve generator should have kicked in immediately, but nothing happened, and the bay fell into total darkness.
Steve crawled from under the pipe and tried to feel his way around, looking for the rest of the men.
It was extremely hard thing to do, since the floor was covered with debris and splinters and, as if that wasn’t enough, it was slowly but steadily tilting to one side.
As Steve’s palm found one of the crew members and the captain checked his vital signs, the intercom went back online, with single message, repeated over and over,
“All hands abandon ship, all hands abandon ship…”
Steve didn’t have to be a sailor to understand the ship was sinking, the only question left was how much time did they have left?
Suddenly a dim beam of light appeared in the hallway, and someone called Steve’s name- it was the Victoria crew coming to the rescue.
He called out the team and helped them gather the crew members scattered across the bay. All of them were injured, but all of them were still alive.
As the men prepared to carry the wounded out, Steve heard a screech of metal and felt more than perceived with his eyes, that a single massive door guarding the entrance to the bay slowly started to close.
One of the men still conscious cursed aloud- the sea water must have hit the electronics bay and corrupted the wires, sending glitches all over the ship’s systems- and forcing the emergency shut down protocol to begin.
That meant they had seconds before the hydraulic system would shut the door closed to protect the engine from the water, immuring all the men inside the bay with no way out.
Steve rushed to the door and struggled, forcing the metal to slow down, allowing the other men to escape. There still was time, but as Steve freed himself from the burden and tried to get out, the ship shuddered and tilted more, sending Steve flying back into the pitch black engine room.
He jumped to his feet, forgetting about injuries and excruciating pain they caused, but it was too late- the team struggled to keep the opening but their strength was of no match to his. The door shut close, leaving Steve alone in the total darkness, inside the sinking ship and near the overheating engine.
He heard valiant efforts of his men to re-open the door and override the protocol, as the shouts and knocks echoed from outside, but there was nothing they could do- so he crawled to the door and morzed them to get out.
The shouts intensified, and Steve morzed them two more times to get out of the ship before it was too late.
Then he slid off the door tiredly, and sank to the floor, catching his breath.
The heat started to accumulate immediately, Steve’s skin was already burning and he closed his eyes as the sweat streamed down his face.
It was all about to end soon, the question was how- would the engine explode first or the ship sink to her demise?
Steve smiled to himself, collecting his thoughts and remembering the words of a prayer- he wasn’t asking for salvation- no, he was just getting ready to meet his God…
A sudden movement in the air made his nerves tingle- it was strange indeed- a gust of ice-cold wind in the overheated room.
But there was nothing or no one there, and Steve let it go as an image, birthed by his baking mind.
Oh, the irony, Steve thought. And here I am, yet again about to die in the ocean.
Though this time the death would be certain.
Perhaps, that’s how it should have ended 70 years ago, perhaps…that is my destiny.
I’m not afraid, I’m ready, though...
The only thing I regret is that I had no chance to say good bye to Phil and Loki.
But, they will have to forgive me for that.