Been There, Blown That Up

Summary: After Loki's defeat and his fall from the portal, Tony starts preaching about a murderous purple titan out to get them in the depths of space.

Wait. What?

On the other side of the universe, Nebula loses her cool approximately two seconds after laying eyes on Thanos and finds herself on a wild chase through the galaxy. Now, where exactly was that pathetic piece of rock Terra again?

Chapter 2

In all fairness, Nebula had tried.

She'd woken up alone and disoriented, taking in the hated sight of her quarters on one of their old battle cruisers. Her flawless memory – the result of having her brain ripped out of her skull in favor of a computer – told her that it was the one that had been destroyed in their war against Noerus.

If it could even be called a war. The miserable creatures had been wiped out within days, crushed by the hundreds by Nebula herself.

"Show me the date and our coordinates," she growled, and numbers were projected from her own body's recordings. She felt a spark of annoyance as she realized that she had spoken out loud despite not needing to. Idiot humans and their annoying habits. Some must have rubbed off.

Nebula turned her attention to the data and paused. She was further back than she had anticipated, too far for comfort. Grimly, she sifted through her mind's backlog in search of details.

She had been right about their vessel, one of Thanos' biggest war ships – but that was not the issue. No, what put her nerves on edge, what made her mind run cold and calculating, was that Nebula was on it. She tried telling herself that this was a good thing – it meant that Thanos had not yet acquired more than one of the infinity stones, and, missing their power, had to rely on old fashioned warfare to realize his goal – but it was almost impossible when it made the joints of her artificial body parts ache, when it made her thoughts recoil.

How could she be expected to stay calm when she was so close to him?

Nebula was interrupted by a message popping up in her line of sight.

Meet us on the bridge. Your next assignment awaits.

It did not mention its sender, and it did not need to. The hatred burning in Nebula's gut in a never dimming fire spoke for itself.

Nebula wasn't stupid. She'd been taught in warfare and strategy by a master of the art, and she had the entire way to the bridge to think of ways to utilize her current predicament to the fullest. As reluctant about their plan as she'd been – wielding the power over time itself, using one of the least predictable of the infinity stones; only Stark could have come up with something ridiculously risky as this – she could not deny the possibilities it had opened up for them.

She was given the chance to play her role as the loyal, broken puppet she had been Before. She could operate under Thanos' trust, could unravel his power from within, hit him where it hurt the most and sabotage his plans before he could even think of them completely.

In the end, Nebula lasted roughly two seconds. To be exact, she lasted until she laid eyes on Thanos for the first time and felt something inside of her snap.

"Daughter," her miserable excuse of a father started. "Your sister is set to return shortly. Take Proxima and–"

The rest of his sentence was lost as Nebula's fist collided with his face. "DIE, VERMIN!"

The entire bridge watched in mute horror as their lord – their father – was thrown off of his seat by the attack of one of his own children. By one of their own.

Thanos did not fault them for their inaction. He himself was too stunned to react.


Thanos caught the second punch and pushed Nebula back. He touched his cheek and found a cut where Nebula's cybernetic limb had sliced it.

"Stop," he said, raising his hand as several of his children rushed at Nebula to subdue her. "Return to your duties and leave her to me."

They followed his orders with hesitant reluctance, but Thanos did not take his eyes off of Nebula. His daughter trembled with barely contained emotion, and Thanos had to admit that he was intrigued. Betrayal did not come from nothing, and before he defeated her, he wanted to know why.

"Talk to me, daughter," he said and had to dodge another attack as she charged at him with a battlecry.

"You will hear nothing but my chant of victory as my blade breaches your thorax and pierces your heart slowly and agonisingly!"

"Not even to tell me why my own daughter wishes to kill me?" Thanos frowned as he fended off Nebula's next attack. He had not taught her that maneuver.

It wasn't only her fighting moves that threw him off. Her entire body language, the very way she moved was off, was different from what it had been only hours prior. Gone was the cold rigidness of metal and machinery, gone the unnatural stillness that made one wonder where Nebula ended and the machine started.

His daughter was many things: she was fierce and calculating, raised to be ruthless and competent, much like Gamora was. But she had never been unpredictable. She didn't take initiative or unnecessary risks. And while her temper had always been her weakness, it had never surpassed her loyalty.

Thanos was not above admitting that she had caught him off guard – the blood dripping from his cheek was proof of that. And that was not a feeling he was used to, especially not coming from his own children.

"As if you don't know what you have done!" Nebula yelled, once again letting anger override her cunning and efficiency.

It made Thanos pause. He recognized the emotion flickering through Nebula's eyes, had seen it dozens of times during as many of their training sessions. "This is about Gamora," he guessed, and watched as Nebula froze.

"No," she hissed, ice weighing heavy in her voice. "This was never about her. This is about you, mutilating my body for your own, sick purposes!"

Thanos frowned in equal puzzlement and displeasure. Nebula could not be more wrong. "That is not what I have done."

"Oh yeah?" Nebula hissed and detached her arm just an inch, proving that it was artificial. "Then what do you call this?"

"An enhancement," Thanos said truthfully. "Designed to make you your sister's equal. I've seen your frustration each and every time she has bested you in combat, and I know your strive to be stronger better than anyone. All I have done is given you the tools to reach your full potential." He paused, then added, "As a father should."

"NO!" Nebula lashed out again, threw kicks and blades and punches, wielding none of the precision and beauty Thanos knew her capable of. When before, Thanos could have foreseen each and every of her attacks – could have traced them back to his own training sessions, to his own fighting prowess – now he found himself fending of a variety of unorthodox, puzzling moves.

"This is not what a father is! You've corrupted me! You've tortured me! You've turned me into your puppet, into your weapon! AND FOR THAT YOU WILL PAY!"

It saddened Thanos to hear her words. While Gamora was the closest he had to a real daughter, he had thought that Nebula was one of his most loyal. Her assault did not cease, and Thanos decided that enough was enough.

Nebula grunted as she hit the ground with his strike.

"You cannot beat me, daughter." He was not saying it to taunt her, but because it was true. It did not matter where Nebula had picked up her new style, because it could not compete with Thanos' own. Few could.

Nebula, behind her fury and bloodlust, knew it as well. She growled, and for a moment Thanos thought that she would try again regardless. Then she paused. "... You're right."

Something in her tone made the rest of his crew tense in anticipation.

"I cannot beat you. Not alone."

Her arm shot forward and Thanos braced himself for a blow that would not come. Her throwing knife sunk into the control station, aimed perfectly to knock them off of their course, shake the bridge and sound off alarm bells in a disorienting array of noise and flashing lights.

The issue took seconds to correct, and seconds was all Nebula needed to disappear into the ventilation shafts.

Thanos had taught her well.

"Find her," Thanos said and settled back in his seat.

He held no hope to regain the loyalty of a daughter who had tried to kill him, but he would not let her flee. He would get answers out of here, and if she forced him to get them out of her himself? So be it.

Nebula was by far not the first of his children to refuse his gift, and she would not be the last. He found no joy in her rejection, nor did he weep.

He knew that all he could do was offer. He could not force acceptance, nor demand gratitude. And Thanos had resigned himself a long time ago that few saw his gift for what it was.

A few minutes, a few dozen corpses and three minor explosions later found Nebula sitting in a crappy transporter vessel that was little more than a glorified escape pod. It was only then, having barely escaped with her life, that Nebula realized what a huge target she had just painted on herself. It was perhaps, maybe, possible that all of this had been one giant mistake.

Nebula cleaned the gore of several of Thanos' high ranked officers – including a member of his precious Black Order – off of her blade and could not bring herself to feel even an ounce of regret.

The monitor of her escape vessel displayed an attempt to contact her, and Nebula cursed. She thought she'd brought enough distance between them, but apparently not.

She was about to direct full power to the engines when a painfully familiar voice made her freeze in her tracks.

"Nebula, what is going on?!"

She looked up to meet Gamora's gaze, deep with confusion and anger. That was right: Going by the date, Nebula was not the only one still under their father's thumb. Although considering that Gamora was scheduled to defect to the Guardians shortly, there was no way she was not already sprouting revenge fantasies against him.

In contrast to Nebula, she had the temperament to hide it from Thanos until it was her time to strike.

"What's going on?" Gamora repeated. "Thanos sent me to capture you. I don't know what you did, but–"

"There's no time," Nebula blurted out. If Gamora's loyalty was already crumbling, but her cover was yet intact… She couldn't believe her luck.

Nebula'd been given a chance here, and she would not waste it with sentimentality. "Listen. I want the same thing as you do," although it had taken her far too long to realize, "but Thanos can't know."

The ping of her sensors told her that Thanos' fleet was nearing. She had only seconds to let Gamora know what to do.

"You have to chase me like Before. Pretend like nothing has changed. Understand?"


"THERE'S NO TIME!" Nebula yelled, and activated the engine of her vessel.

Her sister would be far more valuable as a spy. She had always been better at keeping her temper in check, and she would be more successful in keeping up the facade. After all, Nebula had already screwed it up for herself.

Having a spy so close to Thanos would prove invaluable in their fight against him. And now that Gamora knew that they were on one side, they would be able to share the joy of murdering their adoptive father in all the ways he would come to fear.

Later, Nebula would take a moment to pause and wonder whether there could have been better ways to phrase her message to Gamora. Logically, Nebula knew that the Gamora from the past was missing a lot of context, and in the heat of the moment Nebula had not considering talking to her any other way than she would have Before.

In the end, Nebula shrugged the whole thing off and didn't think about it for longer. Gamora was smart. She would figure it out.

On another, considerably less crappy spaceship, Gamora allowed herself exactly two heartbeats of stunned silence. Like nothing had changed? Chase her like before? What did that even mean?!

In the end, Gamora shrugged off her pseudo-sister's words. All those modifications must have finally gotten to her, screwed with her head and pushed her over the edge. In all honesty, it had been only a matter of time until she lost it.

That, or it was another of Thanos' elaborate training sessions. The more Gamora thought about it, the more sense it made. He wanted to test her reaction, her skills, like he had done so many times before.

In either case, Gamora would not fail. She powered up the engines to follow Nebula's trail, taking on the chase. She had an assignment to complete.

A/N: And here's what's happening on Nebula's end! My betas, as always, are the wonderful To Mockingbird and PyrothTenka!

If you liked this story, I've put up two other Marvel stories featuring Loki, and Tony and Stephen respectively!

Please leave a review, and I'll see you next time!