Kevin’s computer set-up was like a geek command centre come to life. He had three monitors taking up most of his desk, with one of those funny bendy keyboards that lit up and had way more keys than were even necessary. Darcy wasn’t even sure what some of them were for.
Any other time, she might have indulged her curiosity and played around a bit, but there wasn’t time. They’d only been out of New Mexico for about forty minutes, but a lot could get done in forty minutes. She wasted no time in pulling up the browser and pulling up Tumblr, but when it came time to enter her login information, she found herself stalling. She’d hacked New York’s DMV just a few weeks before, but signing into her own Tumblr account made her head swim. What if SHIELD traced her? She didn’t want to get Kevin and Tina into trouble for helping her.
“How many proxies are you behind?” she asked as her fingers hovered just above the keys.
“Chained VPNs,” Kevin said. “You’re fine. Trust me.”
Darcy nodded, and stalled a few moments more before finally logging in. Or, at least, attempting to. Instead, she got kicked out for an incorrect password. Darcy tried to tell herself that it was just Kevin’s weird-ass keyboard, and that she’d mistyped, so she tried again. And again, she got an incorrect password error. Starting to panic anew, Darcy typed in her blog’s URL, taking great care to make sure every letter was correct. She even double-checked when she was done typing, but when she hit enter, Tumblr spat a 404 error at her.
“Fuck!” Darcy hissed, pushing herself away from the desk. She knew this was going to happen. SHIELD found her posts, and now there was no way in hell they’d believe she was an unwilling victim. If only she’d had her phone, she’d at least still have the photos. But SHIELD had that as well, along with everything she possessed.
“Fuck, fuck, shit, no,” Darcy said as she buried her face in her hands. “Goddamnit!”
She clenched her jaw tightly to keep herself from completely freaking out, but it didn’t feel like it was going to work. Either she had to completely disappear forever, or SHIELD were going to make her disappear forever. It was the worst choice ever, and Darcy hated Coulson and Sitwell and Loki and Clint, and everyone else involved for forcing her to make this choice. She didn’t want to disappear. She wanted to finish her degree and move from her crummy internship to an even crummier one, because it would actually help her career. Now she didn’t even have any career prospects. It was kind of hard to hold down any kind of job when you have to leave the country forever.
“Fuck, this is not happening,” Darcy said, ignoring the burning in her face and the wetness in her eyes.
Kevin pulled up another chair and sat down next to her. At first, Darcy thought he was going offer her comfort in his big, manly man arms, but he just took the keyboard and mouse instead.
“You said SHIELD had him?” he asked.
Darcy nodded, and then shook her head. “SHIELD arrested him, but apparently they gave him to something called SWORD.”
“I’ve never heard of that one,” Kevin said as he pulled up the command console and dragged it to one of the other monitors. “SHIELD, I know. If there’s something shifty going on, chances are SHIELD has a hand in it.”
Darcy snorted bitterly. “Yeah, that gas station fire that was barely a blip on anyone’s radar? That was an alien weapon exploding. It took out half the town.”
Kevin gave her a sideways glance before starting to look up what he could about SWORD. He couldn’t find anything on the internet, but that wasn’t saying much. There were plenty of shadow organisations within the government, and an internet presence would sort of defeat the purpose. He maximised the command console to take up the entire monitor and started typing like he knew exactly what he was doing. It had taken Darcy an hour just to figure out how to get into the right database to forge an identity for Thor. She’d thought that was pretty good, but Kevin was making her look like a complete amateur.
“What are you doing?” she asked. She could tell he was breaking into something, but she couldn’t tell what.
“If SHIELD gave your friend to this SWORD, they probably have a linked database somewhere, and I might be able to get in from there. I wanna see what these bastards are up to.” He typed away like a mad typing thing, pausing only to bring up another command console window. He started working in that one, making Darcy feel like a total noob.
“Sweetie, do you want to take a shower?” Tina asked from across the room. Darcy looked over to see her holding a towel and some clean clothes. Now that the offer had been given, Darcy realised she was still rather damp and cold.
“Yes, please. Thank you,” she said. She stalled just a moment, looking back at what Kevin was doing, before she got up to follow after Tina. She wondered if the offered clothes were Tina’s, and if they were, how big they were going to be on her.
Then she realised she didn’t care. Clean clothes were clean clothes, and she’d take whatever she could get. Tina showed her where the bathroom was, and even explained how the shower worked, for which Darcy was grateful, because she’d have never in a million years figured out on her own that she was supposed to pull down part of the bath faucet to make the shower go.
As soon as she was left alone, Darcy turned on the taps. Mostly so nobody could hear her in case she started to cry again. She kept telling herself she was not going to be that person, and that nothing was ever solved by crying in the shower, but the weight of everything pressing down on her made her just want to curl up into a ball and scream. But she really wasn’t going to do that, no matter how much she wanted to.
She stood in the middle of the bathroom in her damp pyjamas with her face buried in her hands, willing herself to just keep it together. She wasn’t going to be that person. She wasn’t going to cry in a stranger’s shower. She was going to get clean, get dressed, and then go figure out what the hell she was supposed to do next. The only thing that kept her from just standing in place for the next ten minutes was that the shower was already running. She wasn’t going to waste a stranger’s water either, so she quickly undressed and stepped under the spray. The water wasn’t even very hot, but it felt like it was boiling against her skin. Darcy hadn’t realised how cold she was until she started getting warm. She’d never really understood what people meant when they said something was a dry heat, or a dry cold, until being bamfed from New Mexico to Oregon. In New Mexico, the cold was more of a biting chill. But with the addition of rain, she felt like she’d been thrown into an ice bath. Even her bones felt cold.
She didn’t do anything for a long time, and just stood under the hot water instead. Slowly, the burning sensation in her toes subsided, and she felt brave enough to turn up the heat a little more. She stopped shivering, and just stood there, staring at the white tiles on the wall.
In the end, she never even bothered washing up properly. Once the hot water started to run out (which she almost felt bad about, but not quite), she turned off the water and forced herself back out to dry and get dressed. The jeans Tina had given her were kind of long, but more or less fit her round the waist, suggesting they probably belonged to Kevin. Same with the t-shirt. She wasn’t so sure about the hoodie, because all good hoodies are way too big, and if they fit, they’re too small. She dressed quickly to avoid the chill that was already starting to settle in the air, and gathered up her nasty wet pyjamas before wandering out of the bathroom. On her way back out to the living room, she stopped at the bedroom where they’d put Loki. It looked like he’d been undressed, but it was kind of hard to tell with the big duvet he’d been covered up with. Darcy was almost tempted to walk in and make sure he was still breathing, but she couldn’t quite bring herself to cross the threshold. She kept telling herself that she didn’t care, even though a very large part of her kept pointing out that she clearly did.
She ignored both parts and finally left, making her way back out to the living room.
“Where’s your friend?” she asked. She wasn’t sure what to do with her pyjamas, so she just held onto them.
“She’s picking some stuff up for us. Stuff for your friend.” Kevin was still at his hacker command centre, apparently getting some actual hacking done. He had his browser back up on one of his monitors, with the command console scrolling merrily away on another one.
“Wow, are you in?” Darcy asked as she walked closer. Looking over his shoulder, she could see he was in some sort of database, but he wasn’t clicking on anything as he scrolled through the three-mile-long page. “That was fast.”
“I’m not sure what I’m looking for, or where I’ll find it, so I’m just syphoning off as much as I can.” He pointed over to the command console, which seemed to be documenting file transfers.
“You’re way better at this than I am,” Darcy said, impressed. She watched the command console tick away faster than she could read it. “What have you got so far?”
Kevin shrugged. “Let’s start taking a look.”
Darcy sat down in the other chair and watched as Kevin navigated through the files he was stealing from top secret government organisations. A lot of them were files the operating system had no idea how to open, but Kevin didn’t seem too worried about those ones. He clicked through folder after folder, scrolling through various reports and databases as he came to them.
“Hey, that one,” Darcy said, as Kevin opened one and then closed it out almost immediately.
Kevin opened it again and maximised the window. It was about Culver, and the Jolly Green Giant’s rampage on the campus. Not exactly relevant to their search, but relevant to Darcy’s interests. There were details there that no news outlet had covered. Details which made it seem like the army was at fault, and not the thing that was rampaging.
“Well, that’s fucking typical,” Kevin muttered as he read the report.
Darcy snorted as he closed out the window and started clicking through to other ones. After about twenty minutes of clicking files and checking their contents, and casting the occasional nervous glance over to the command console, Kevin found something about New Mexico. The report more or less went how Darcy remembered the whole thing going, but there were some gaps here and there. Like the part about Jane hitting Thor with her car. Twice.
“That’s him!” Darcy said, pointing excitedly at the monitor. “That’s Loki’s brother. He fell out of the fucking sky, and we almost ran him over.”
Kevin copied the file to another folder and started hunting around the same area he’d found that one. It took only a few tries to find the report detailing Loki’s arrival to Earth. All of it was news to Darcy, since no-one would talk about it when it happened. She had been right, though. That funny white van was an unmarked ambulance. SHIELD apparently thought it was Thor, and were surprised to find someone else entirely. Apparently when he woke up, Loki freaked out and broke some guy’s face, and someone else’s arm, before they finally tranqed him.
Considering the damage Thor had done to the hospital, Darcy wasn’t really surprised that Loki would have reacted the same way. If she’d woken up on a strange planet, with people wanting to poke her with needles, she’d probably try to break a few faces to get away as well.
There were some photographs embedded in the report, but nothing about them suggested any sort of foul play had gone on by that point. He even had all of his hair, it looked like.
“Alien,” Kevin said aloud. He copied that file to the other folder and started looking around again. The next one he found was a medical report from the same day as the one detailing Loki’s escape attempt. Darcy wasn’t sure what most of it meant, but Kevin started taking notes off it before copying it as well.
The next one he found proved his theory. It was the SWORD report, and either they shared a database with SHIELD, or SHIELD had taken the report for themselves. It was the one Darcy was afraid of finding. She already knew what was going to be in it, but she couldn’t quite bring herself to look away. The pictures embedded were even worse than the ones she’d taken when she found him, and even though she’d seen it herself, she still couldn’t believe he’d already healed from all that.
“That’s how he was when I found him,” Darcy said quietly. “I don’t know how he escaped, but I found him walking down the side of the highway.”
It occurred to her that maybe he’d done the same thing that brought them to Oregon. He’d probably just bamfed himself away without caring where he went, as long as it was away from SWORD.
“Jesus Christ,” Kevin muttered. He copied those files over as well, and then stopped the transfer in the command console. For a second, it looked like he was about to wipe everything off his hard-drive, but he closed out the window instead.
“I’m gonna put this stuff out there. You were right; it needs to be seen,” he said.
Darcy nodded. “Yeah. That’s what I was trying to do, but I didn’t really think it all the way through. And now I’m here.” She tried not to roll her eyes, and failed. “I’m pretty much fucked forever, aren’t I?”
Kevin looked over at her, taking a long time to say anything. “Maybe. You guys can lay low here until he gets back on his feet, and then we can go from there.”
Darcy nodded again, feeling incredibly numb all over. Nothing felt real. This wasn’t supposed to happen to someone like her. She hadn’t done anything wrong. She was just trying to help someone, and now… And now this.
“Kay,” she said. “Thanks.”
She wasn’t sure what she should do next, so she just sat in silence while Kevin started working at something else.
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