Chapter Thirty-Eight

Escape from Aakar Part II

Fornax Galaxy

Tayo System

Moon Aakar

Things went smoothly, almost too smoothly, so Tony was twitchy and waited for the other shoe to drop. For something to go wrong, the way things always seemed to go wrong. Loki was incredibly good at the whole deceive and infiltrate gig and it definitely wasn't just because of the shapeshifting. When he changed he changed a lot, the look in his eyes, his gestures, the way he spoke all shifted along with his appearance. Juyu could be like him too if she took time to perfect the skill of deception, because shifting her shape was not enough. Tony knew that was the reason Loki made her the sentinel/back-up instead of taking her along. It worked out very well so far.

Tony listened as Loki, Drongo and Bee successfully made their way into the depths of the base towards the children, but it didn't actually make him relax. Tony hated to be the one to wait, but he knew how important it was to secure their escape route, and it's not like anyone had enough firepower to hold the transporter against any possible attack. It had to be Tony or Loki, because they couldn't trust Drongo that much just yet, it would've made them both uneasy to leave him here alone. So Tony listened and waited. He hated it.

The Imperial was tied up and silenced again. He was now sitting in a corner where Tony could keep an eye on him. They agreed with Loki that they would hand over any possible hostages to the Shadow People, it was only fair. It was Tony of course who wanted to keep the body count to a minimum and he was pretty damn pleased with himself when Loki shrugged and agreed. He killed two out of six, which meant that about 66.67% survived, pretty awesome when it came to Loki. It also cemented his belief that Loki did not enjoy killing, he merely had no qualms about killing those who stood in his way or attacked him. It wasn't much, it was still a moral slippery slope, but it was a big difference, huge difference. It was the difference between ruthless and downright evil. He knew Loki was not "evil", but it was still great to see some evidence once in a while.

Then he noticed some sort of guard approaching the transporter. He disconnected his mic from the network to not disturb the others, but he still listened in. His helmet shifted into place as he headed outside, it was important to hide his face. He also switched one of his gauntlets to electric mode. He noticed a while back that the crystals were perfectly capable of storing electricity when he was experimenting on them. It turned the normal "energy bullets" – as he tended to call filled up cylinders – less lethal. Energy blasts burnt and were pretty damn deadly, literally capable of taking chunks out of people, burning flesh and bone so viciously that it left a giant smoking hole in the body. Filling the cylinders with electricity on the other hand made for a pretty damn impressive stun shot. He couldn't use electric crystals to power his suit, they drained too quickly, but storing one or two in his gauntlets gave him an extra non-lethal weapon. He was pretty sure he could modify or rebuild some of the energy guns to include a stun mode in them, but right now he only had his repulsors compatible to the electric crystals. He was still a tad uneasy about working on weapons again, and the guns were only one project on the long line of things he planned to do. But at least he was thinking about making non-lethal weapons. That had to count for something.

The guard was already standing by the door by the time Tony got here.

'Spacecraft number?' he asked right away.

'CEN-54RU,' Tony answered.

'Cargo?'

'I'm not authorized to say,' Tony replied.

'Aakar Security is authorized to know,' the guard answered.

'Captain Eman is not on board, until he returns I have to follow his orders. He's the only one who can decide who's authorized.'

The guard looked at him for a moment.

'Any objections to the mandatory routine check-up?' he asked then. Oh well, he was the one who insisted. Tony shrugged and stepped to the side.

'None at all,' he said. The guard walked in and Tony followed. He waited until they turned two corners before releasing a bolt of electricity. The shock locked up the Imperial guard's muscles and he shook before he dropped like a puppet whose strings have been cut. He twitched a little after he hit the floor, but he was breathing and all.

'Okay, stun mode works,' Tony remarked then grabbed the guard and swung him over his shoulder to tie and lock him up with the others. He hoped this was the last guard he had to deal with before Loki and the others came back.

x-x-x

So he had four unconscious guards locked up by the time he heard that Loki reached wherever the kids were kept. He was pretty damn pleased to hear that. He caught some of what the Imperial on the other side of the line said about training, but he didn't pay attention, because four other guards were approaching the transporter. All of them at once this time.

'You have got to be fucking kidding me,' he grumbled. He only just tied up the last one not five minutes ago. Maybe the disappearing guards were getting suspicious, but it was not like he could allow them to search the transporter and find their Imperial hostages. These guards looked different, their armours looked sturdier and they had bigger weapons. Awesome. At least he still had a few stun shots left, once those run out he was going to start punching them in the face.

'We're coming Stark,' he heard Loki say then and he connected back to reply.

'Just in time,' he said. 'It looks like I'm going to have quite a situation over here very soon.'

He heard that Loki cursed, but his mind was already running with ideas about what to do with the guards. If the others were on their way back then an outright fight was not so bad. He didn't know how many children they were bringing, but there had to be more than one or two and it sounded like they were running, so things were bound to turn explosive soon. There was no time left to be careful, he had to secure the transporter before the others got back. He had a feeling that the trick he used four times (on those dumbasses) won't work with these guards, especially not since they looked like they were some sort of elite guards. So he switched his repulsors back to normal mode and made sure that the transporter was ready for take-off before he headed towards the entrance.

Moments before he turned the last corner to get outside the sound of fighting started coming through the communication link, the sound of a lot of people fighting. Dammit.

'Beast on the loose,' Loki commented calmly. It was a suitably fitting name for Bee, and apparently they were still keeping to the "no real name rule". It also meant that their tiny Skrull was in bloodbath mode.

'You better keep an eye on her,' Juyu warned.

'Just hurry back,' Tony said. Then somewhere outside an alarm started blaring. 'Fuck!'

He darted out from the transporter and fired with his repulsors right away, not giving a chance for the guards to open fire with their own weapons. The docking area was not too high, but there was enough space for Tony to jump up and hover in the air. It also looked like the weapons the guards carried were not guns after all, but some sort of close-range melee weapons, which was very good. He had the element of surprise on his side, so the four went down easily enough, but the alarms were still blaring so he expected more to show up. Unless they were all busy trying to stop the others, that was a likely possibility.

'Commander,' sounded Drongo's voice. 'In case of an attack they can shut down the docks, you have to make sure that the transporter is not locked in.'

Yeah, he should've thought of that. 'On it,' he said. He knew already that there were individual panels by each docking station he saw that their access code was entered to it after they landed. After he got down next to the interface it didn't take long to see that it was unresponsive.

'Central lockdown,' he announced.

'We're getting close, can you fix it?' Loki asked. His breath was quick and there were slight glitches in his voice. He was fighting.

'I tested one prototype today, no reason not to test another one,' he answered. Having only a limited amount of time and the constant possibility of being attacked any moment were not exactly the most ideal circumstances to test how well he could hack with his DNI enhanced brain. At least he functioned very well under pressure. He tried to tune out the sound of fighting coming from the earpiece to focus. He set up the mental image of an hourglass to activate this function of the DNI, because reasons, it was fitting. He felt it the moment he was out of the comfortable safety of his suit's inner system. The technology here was crude and not nearly as advanced as the one on the ship. It was sharp and too bright and a little bit like having to walk through a sand storm. Definitely uncomfortable, but he was in, he knew he was in, he knew he entered a different system. It felt strange. It was hard to navigate, because it was so different from the IronMage's system or his Hub. But he would have to make do.

He didn't need to open all docks, only their own. He didn't know how hard it was going to be, but he knew how computer programs worked, it didn't matter what type they were, some basic rules always applied. He did have to search for a little while. Then there it was, the transporter, he knew the ID, he knew the access code, so he definitely found the right one. Releasing it from the lockdown was like opening a lock, not even a complicated lock. The technology here was seriously substandard even compared to Earth. Then he thought about possible pursuers and had the mental image of battle ships on their trail and started breaking the locks on the other docking stations. Hell, he started doing damage in everything he could find. He knew how viruses worked and how some little error could do a lot of damage. He sure as hell didn't want anyone to leave these docks for at least a couple of hours, hopefully more. He felt like a bull in a china stop the way he trashed the system on his way out.

He drew back the moment he was done and he could immediately feel the start of a headache. He hoped this was going to be more pleasant once he perfected the technology, he shouldn't have to use tech that was still in beta-testing phase, but needs must. He barely shook the slight dizziness off when he felt someone was standing behind him and he spun around, repulsors charging up right away.

Only to find himself face-to-face with Loki. The god stayed motionless for a moment.

'You didn't hear me?' he asked.

Tony let out a breath and made the faceplate of his helmet open while he lowered his arm. 'Sorry, hacking,' he explained. 'Where are the others?' he asked and Loki gestured with his head behind himself. It looked like Drongo was barricading a gate with the help of some similarly grey, but smaller and less bulky other Shadows.

'Can we take off?' Loki asked.

'Yeah, get everyone inside,' Tony nodded.

'Get into the transporter! All of you!' Loki yelled.

'That's a lot of kids,' Tony remarked as the (relatively) smaller kids all started running and dashing into the vehicle.

'Don't underestimate them,' Loki said. He was a little out of breath and his braid was messy, he had blood on his clothes and his blades, but he seemed energetic and there was a pleased sort of smile playing on his lips. He was impressed, Tony could tell.

'Get back to the control room,' Loki said then. 'We need to keep the gates closed as long as possible.'

'Got it,' Tony said and didn't waste any time racing back into the transporter. He had to dodge a few kids while running, but they easily got out of his way.

'I'm ready to go, just give me the word,' he said.

'Is everyone inside?' Drongo asked then.

'Only you're left,' Loki answered. 'You have to make a run for it.'

Tony heard a large crash and he assumed that Drongo let go of the gate and started running to the transporter. Tony was wrung tight, ready to go the second he could.

'Now!' Loki yelled and Tony closed up everything and was moving out of the dock a second later.

'Sentinel, is the orbit clear?' he asked.

'Nothing else took off from Aakar so far,' Juyu answered.

'Well, the docks are still locked up,' he said with a pleased smile. 'Come closer to us and keep your eyes open,' Tony instructed. 'Is everyone okay?'

'We are,' Loki answered. 'Head towards the meeting place, we'll be in the control room in a minute.'

'Already on course,' Tony answered. It would only take a few minutes to get far enough from the moon to speed up.

'Why are there more Imperials here than before?' Loki asked suddenly and Tony had to chuckle.

'They were sniffing. I did what I had to do. I hope you find my hostage-taking skills attractive.'

'Very,' Loki said, now standing in the same room.

'I sent the younglings to the back,' Drongo announced as he entered the room. Little Bee trailed behind him. She was even bloodier than Loki, not surprising. The fact that she was trailing Drongo instead of Loki was slightly strange though. 'Told them to hold onto something and wait.'

'Good, it shouldn't take too long to get to the landing point,' Tony told him. 'I hope that tribe is still there.'

'Most definitely,' Drongo answered.

x-x-x

'Um, Commander,' they heard Juyu's voice as they approached Sakaar. 'Someone's getting closer.'

'How many?' Loki asked before Tony could get a word out.

'Just one,' Juyu replied and as soon as the words were out of her mouth Tony saw that whoever it was, they tried to make contact.

'Are we gonna take the call?' he asked. The transporter didn't really have good scanners, so he knew nothing of the spacecraft. 'How big is it Sentinel?'

'Smaller than the Drake,' she replied.

'Huh.' Tony was surprised.

'Accept the call,' Drongo said. Loki nodded and Tony opened up the channel.

'Yes?'

'Speak who you are,' said the stern female voice on the other end.

'Caiera?' Drongo asked in apparent surprised.

'Drongo?' asked the woman in return. 'I should've known it was you.'

'How did you get here so fast?' Drongo asked.

'I have ears in all places,' she answered. 'We thought you dead.'

'I almost was,' he answered.

'What happened… is a great loss,' she spoke then.

'There were many great losses, not just my tribe.'

'I know,' Caiera said.

'If you knew, how can it be-'

'Let us talk about this once we land,' she interrupted. 'Are you heading to the Cold Valley Tribe?'

'Yes.'

'I'll let them know and I'll meet you there,' she said. 'I'll keep the orbit clear,' with that the channel closed.

'It's leaving,' Juyu reported.

'Who was that?' Tony asked.

'A friend,' Drongo said. 'A very good friend.'

'Trustworthy?' Loki asked.

'She is an Oldstrong,' Drongo said. 'She would want the children safe.'

'Not an answer,' Tony said.

'I trust her,' Drongo said. 'We won't be walking into a trap.'

'That's going to have to be enough for now,' Tony decided. He raised a questioning eyebrow at Loki. The god gave a nod after a few moments.

x-x-x

The fact that they didn't run into anyone seemed to prove that the chick they talked with said the truth about keeping the space clear. Said chick was seven feet tall with more muscle on her frame than Tony could ever hope to gain. She also had the sort of aura around her that made Tony want to call her "Ma'am". The fact that she could probably break Tony in half with a hand tied behind her back may had something to do with that. He didn't feel this kind of unease around Drongo, the guy radiated calm, Caiera not so much.

There were other Grey Sakaarans standing behind her, some taller than Drongo, some smaller, some of them thin and wiry, some big and bulky, all with the same metallic grey skin and dark eyes. Bee was openly staring at them all and Juyu also stood with her arms crossed, keeping her cool. Loki was the least impressed, but he was Loki. Tony decided that unless there was need for it, he was going to keep his distance from the giant lady. Drongo and Caiera talked with one another a little further away for a while, then they walked back to the Drake. Time was surely running out, Tony was definitely eager to leave.

'The tribe will take good care of the children,' she said.

'There are some Imperial hostages inside the transporter too,' Loki said.

'I will handle them,' Caiera said and her eyes lingered on all of them for a few moments.

'Did you know where the younglings were?' Drongo asked.

'Yes.'

'Then why did you not act sooner?'

'We had plans. Not as reckless as yours was, but we would have freed them.'

'Time cannot be always wasted on long plans,' Drongo said.

'You and I disagree on a great many things, but do not think I am not grateful,' she said. 'Believe me, the Red King will not forget this blow quickly.'

'And do you have further plans?'

'You know I do.'

'I can help.'

'No, the King thinks you dead, his men reported you dead, it's better if he thinks it's true. You have to go and stay safe.'

'I will not hide while my people suffer.'

'Drongo… you need to go, there is nothing more for you to do here. Return to your journeys, find us more allies, that's what you can do. That is what will ensure our future.' Her eyes slid back to Tony, Loki and the girls.

'We are grateful for your help,' she said. 'But you must also leave at once, because I won't be able to guarantee your safety.'

'Believe me, we're off as soon as possible,' Tony replied.

'Good,' she nodded then turned back to Drongo. 'You can leave with the tribe.'

'No,' the man shook his head. 'If I must go I will follow a new path. I have a debt to repay for the help I received.' He gestured in the general direction of Tony and Loki.

Caiera frowned for a moment then asked, 'Where exactly are you going?'

'Silver Galaxy,' Loki told her. Tony was a bit surprised by the honest answer, but it was vague enough to be safe.

'That is very good. It is neither too far, nor too close,' she said. 'We do need more allies there. Go and repay your debt, do what you always do, and stay in the Silver Galaxy,' she told Drongo. 'Once the King is dead you can come home.'

'I trust you, that you will protect our people,' Drongo said.

'I will, I swear,' she nodded. 'Go now. Wander far and wander long.'

Drongo smiled and stepped forward embracing her tightly. 'But never forget to wander home,' he said in return.

'Take care, Drongo.'

'We'll meet again,' the man said stepping back. Tony was pretty sure that this was their cue to finally leave. The children and the transporter were with the tribe, Drongo had his conversation and indeed Caiera already turned her back and walked away.

'She sounded so sure that the King would die,' Loki remarked.

'Oh, if she said so, he will,' Drongo said.

'Why?' Juyu asked.

'Because she's King's bodyguard,' the giant answered. Loki actually snorted, and yeah, that sounded like a solid death sentence somewhere in the future.

'So, you're coming with us big man?' Tony asked.

'If you'll have me Commander,' he answered. 'I did say that I would be in your debt if you helped me and the younglings, and I intend to keep my word.'

'Loki?'

'Yes, he can stay,' the god answered.

'Girls?' Tony asked.

'Oh, we get a vote now?' Juyu asked.

'Just a little one,' Tony told her. Juyu shrugged, Bee nodded.

'We should go,' Loki said as he headed inside the Drake.

'Yeah, welcome and all that,' Tony said. Drongo just nodded in that entirely serene way of his. It was probably a good idea to have someone less chaotic and explosive around. He also kind of knew what Loki saw in the guy. Bee also really did seem to like him. Things were bound to get interesting on the ship and Tony was sort of looking forward to it, which was definitely a new feeling.

x-x-x

Author's Notes: If you want to know more about things like when I will post and how much you have to wait, you can follow my tumblr where I always post info like that. My username is the same: scyllaya

Caiera the Oldstrong Trivia: She is a pretty damn badass awesome Marvel character. Worth checking her out on Marvel Wiki. FYI, she's the future wife of Hulk/Bruce (in the comic verse). I did change a lot about her here though.