"Who are you?" Edenson demanded.
The figure turned around, "Director Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D., and I'm here on business." The man stated.
He eyed the Professor's stance and noted the magenta light emitting from behind her. She appeared calm but well on guard, just as he expected. It showed that her powers came to her effortlessly. Her eyes watched him closely; he had dark skin, wore a high collar black leather trench coat, and had an eyepatch over his left eye. To a normal person, he would appear quite intimidating. Neither of them faltered under the intense gaze of the other.
"After some heavy deliberating, my people and I have decided it might do us some good if you were to join our cause."
"S.H.I.E.L.D.?" her defensive stance remained as she became hesitant. "I've heard of you people a long time ago. What do you want with me?"
"I want you to save the world. A powerful man has come here looking for some trouble, and I think you might be able to help us with that."
Edenson relaxed. The magenta glow of her hands dissipated, and she approached her counter, no longer taken by the Director's presence. She set down her case and now empty coffee, "I believe you have the wrong person. I am no super-powered hero. You're looking in the wrong places for your... church group. Stark Tower is a mile uptown. Visit him or Mr Rogers. They seem to be doing quite well for themselves these days."
Director Fury chuckled to himself, "That fancy red glow of yours says otherwise. And, they'll sign on… soon enough. I'm sure of it," he claimed, ominously. He moved around, away from the ledgers and closer to Edenson. "You're a very hard woman to find… but I know you're who I think you are. You may not be a Hero now, Professor..." He stepped around the counter and stood in front of Edenson handing her his card. "... but you sure can change that."
She turned to him. "How did you find me?"
"Years of searching. Just know it was a surprise to find you were a Professor of Philosophy and also owned this shop." Director Fury looked around, taking in the dusty antique surrounding. "Quite on the nose if you ask me, didn't think someone like you would hide in plain sight. But don't worry, no one else knows who you are but me and my people."
Edenson looked down at the business card she held in her hands. Director Nickolas J. Fury. Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. She flipped the card over in her hand and it was blank.
"Here's the debriefing folder on what we know so far on the threat…" He reached inside his worn black leather trench coat and pulled out a thick enclosed envelope, setting it on the counter. "This is some heavy stuff I have in here. If you choose to join, we'll have more for you to get in on."
"Who's this 'very powerful man'?" she asked, eyeing the package. She looked back at Fury. "I don't play well with powerful men."
"Oh, I know, and that's why I want you on the team. His name is Loki, he's not from around here…"
"I know of him. Not by your stories. Your stories of the Norse Gods are…. questionable at best." She fiddled with the business card in her hands.
"Anything we need to know about him?"
"From what I've heard…. He's one tricky bastard, and I think you may know how incredible that must be coming from me."
Director Fury hummed in response. "Duly noted." He pointed to the card, "Contact me if you decide to lend a helping hand, Professor…. Doctor?" he questioned what to refer to her as. "I hope we're right about you, and what history has accused you of are just… works of fiction."
She looked down at the card again. "Yeah, about that… the back of the—" but when she looked back up, the Director was gone. "—blank." Edenson scoffed and threw the card onto the counter; it slid, spinning in place. She walked to the other side of the counter and pulled out one of her ledgers for the shoppe, turning on a lamp in the process.
Some time had passed where she stood reading through her documents, trying to determine how well her business was performing this quarter. Every now and again, she would glance over at the folder Director Fury had left her. With each look, her curiosity grew.
His name is Loki.
Here's the debriefing folder on what we know so far about the threat.
You may not be a Hero now, Professor… but you can sure change that.
The Director's distinct voice rattled in her head. She fought the temptation to look into the files, but willpower was never one of her strong suits. With a frustrated huff, she snatched the envelope, reading 'S.H.I.E.L.D. LEVEL 7 CLEARANCE', and unpackaged the file. The first thing she saw was a photograph of a large cube glowing an ethereal blue.
"The Tesseract." A voice said.
The Professor's head shot up and before her, on the other side of the counter, stood another man. An old gentleman in a blue suit, who had a receding hairline, and a bulbous broken nose.
Edenson's fingertips sparkled with their magenta hue again. "Who the hell are you?"
"Not as welcoming as you were to the last man who stepped foot in your… personalized time machine…" the strange man said as he looked around and gently ran a finger on an ancient relic that sat on a shelf-a glass enclosed box ornamented with frill golden metals, inside held a mummified head of one of the first Christain Saints, his body lost to time. "The name is Mobius M. Mobius, just as the last, I am here on business, but… mine is of a greater importance."
"How do you know someone else was here? How many of you people are spying on me?" she demanded.
"Not spying, Miss Edenson. Observing," he corrected as he rubbed his thumb and index together to rid his fingertips of any dust he had picked up. "You see," he began pacing, "somewhere down the line, in some reality, you… how do I say this?" He stopped and looked at her directly. "You fucked up. I am sure you are familiar with Vlad Tepes the Impaler?"
She stayed quiet.
"I know you do. To keep things quick, The Impaler won and has obtained the means for universal domination even across timelines."
"That's impossible. He's dead," Edenson insisted.
"To you, yes, but to Earth-832 he is not."
"I'm sorry… What organization did you say you were from again?"
"The Time Variance Authority, or the TVA for short."
"And that is?"
"An infinitely vast bureaucracy that governs a significant number of realities in the ever-growing multiverse. It has dedicated itself to keeping tabs on every reality that exists for millennia."
"Oh, riiight. Of course," she groaned facetiously.
"You may think this of no concern to you now, Miss Edenson, but I can assure you this is no small matter. Many worlds beyond your understanding are at risk," the man claimed. He then waved his arm at his side, and between him and Edenson, appeared holographic screens-five panels, large and transparent-showcasing the kinds of atrocities he spoke of.
There was one recording in particular that caught the professor's attention. On the screen was The Impaler and herself. She recognized the architecture and the surrounding devastation, but it did not show the event that haunted her for as long as she had remembered it.
"What is that?" She grew angry with an overwhelming fit of emotion, magenta sparked from her fingertips in a fiery fury.
"Earth-832, Miss Edenson," the man stated.
The recording was six seconds of footage that replayed like a broken record. The cracking of heavy blazing fires and wailing screams were just ambient noise - exactly how she remembered it, but what was different was the circumstance. Laid broken-back, in architectural ruins, was herself. Through her core was a large wooden stake, splintering inside of her. Her blood had become a hardened black crust, suggesting she had laid there for some time. At her side knelt a familiar man, pale and dressed in black. He leaned over into her ear to whisper something, kissed her forehead gently and as he pulled back to look at her, he ripped off her head.
Edenson's hands trembled slightly and flinched each time she heard the ripping of her own head from her body as if it was the only noise in the recording, everything else fell to a drowning mute. "Turn it off," she breathed.
"Miss Edenson, I'm sure you now realise the gravity of the situation I have presented before you—"
"I said, turn it off!" Her eyes emitted the same magenta glow of her hands. The building rattled at the sound of her voice - deep and demented. Her hands were tense and magenta balls of energy curled in her open palms. She fazed through the counter and stepped towards the man who caused her pain to re-surge.
The man was not bothered as to what was happening. "Miss Edenson, I do not intimidate easily, nor do I at all. I have no intention of leaving here without your compliance."
"I do not know what it is you showed me, but I do know what occurred on the tape is false. I killed him, not the other way around. If what you want with me involves him, then I want no part in it. I do not want to see that man ever again."
"Then it is not only your death, but all of reality beyond realities."
Edenson was provoked by this. At her side, she clenched her right hand, the ball of energy surrounding itself around her hand as some split off to enclose itself around the man's neck, and in doing so caused him to suddenly gasp for air.
Through hard sharp breaths, the man struggled to speak. "M-Miss Edenson… Please reconsider… You're… You're the only one who can contain him."
She relaxed her hand and the man bent over, gasping for air. "If I was able to contain him, Mr. Mobius… He wouldn't be dead… nor trying to conquer realms beyond time as you claim."
Mr Mobius, with one hand on his knee and the other on his throat, slowly stood back up straight and adjusted his tie. He cleared his throat. "Yes, but you are also the only one who can kill him…"
"Say, if I were to help you… what would you need me to do?"
He cautiously stepped towards the counter with SHIELD's files and tapped on the open page which showed the Tesseract. "First, I need you to join this SHIELD organization. It will get you the intel and accessories you need. Back at ATV, we received an alert showing an anomaly here that's soon to occur. A man by the name of Loki has stolen the tesseract—"
"Loki? I already know he's an issue. Are you one of Director Fury's goons here to trick me into joining your super secret squad of holy amens?" she scoffed.
"No. Loki has already stolen the Tesseract as we speak, but when and if you succeed in assisting S.H.I.E.L.D. take him down, there will come a time where Loki is to steal it again. Then that's when we come in." He picked up the page and shook it for emphasis. "This cube is a doorway to anywhere in space. Loki isn't meant to obtain this again for quite some time. It's not meant to happen so soon, but it did. We need you to—"
"Keep Loki from stealing it a second time? I don't see how that involves Vlad."
"No…" Mr Mobius said irritably, "I need you to insure it does happen, and I need you to be there, with him, when it does. Then the rest will play out when we see you again for phase two."
Edenson gently traced her neck with her fingertips, "Very well... I'll help you."
"Good." Mr Mobius said simply.
When she went to look up at him, he was gone.
She looked at the tesseract on the piece of paper and then at the business card Director Nick Fury had left her. She slowly picked it up and examined the card, wondering how she would contact him.