In Thor’s experience, most airlocks smelled like space—a distinct mix of hot metal, seared meat, and ozone. This one was different. Pausing, he sniffed the air.
“What’s wrong?” Horangi asked.
Thor frowned. “What is that foul stench?”
“The clientele,” Zia quipped.
They continued on, the echo of their footfalls filling the tight space. Zia took the lead, with Thor at their side. Horangi and Skarra followed close behind. The Frost Giants, Nott and Dagr, crouched low as they brought up the rear; Thor could practically feel their scowls against his back.
The hatch ahead of them hissed open at their approach and they entered a dim corridor. Pulsing music throbbed somewhere in the distance, and a sickly haze hung thick in the air. Rather than polished, sterile metal, the decrepit interior was scarred and blackened. Bloodstains—some old and others recent—had dried on the walls. Patches of mold spread black tendrils across the ceiling. Sticky puddles dotted the floor.
“Why have the rest of your crew remained behind?” Thor asked Zia. “It has been my experience that after a great battle all sailors desire shore leave.”
“But is this not a drinking establishment?”
Zia looked at him. “This isn’t some cantina or a casino. This is Morg’s—the dankest, darkest dive bar in the galaxy. My crew want nothing to do with this hole.”
“And how can you be sure we’ll find Thor’s brother here?” Horangi asked.
“Because this is the place where the most brutal, conniving scum in the universe come to relax,” Zia said. “It’s savage and chaotic and the only law is the bouncers. It’s a place where brain-eating Symbiotes and the Brood come to party. If it’s wrong and vile and despicable, it can be found here. If you’re at Morg’s, you’re either in trouble . . . or you’re going to be.”
“Loki will be here,” Thor said.
“Really? It doesn’t sound like his kind of place,” Horangi countered. “I thought your brother was more polished? More . . . debonair?”
Nott and Dagr snorted with laughter.
“Loki thinks himself so,” Nott sneered. “But the runt cannot escape his true heritage.”
Ignoring them, Thor said, “This sounds like the sort of place that offers Loki opportunities for the worst sort of mischief. And there are many in the universe who would very much like to find my brother. Though Morg’s might be rough, Loki can blend in here. Be incognito.”
The Frost Giants laughed harder.
“What’s so funny?” Zia asked.
Dagr pointed at Thor. “He said his brother can’t control when he goes to the bathroom.”
“You mean incontinent.” Thor smiled. “But both are Midgardian words, so perhaps that explains your confusion.”
The Frost Giants glared at him, and then turned away. Thor’s grin grew broader.
Rolling her eyes, Skarra pushed past him.
“And where do you think you’re going?” Zia reached out and gently grabbed Skarra’s elbow.
“To the bar?”
“Not on my watch.”
“Well, first of all, you’re too young. Secondly . . . did you not hear a word I just said? This is no place to go traipsing off by yourself.”
Horangi nodded in agreement.
“Your captain is right, young Skarra.” Thor said. “It would be best if I went in after my brother alone. If all of us go together, Loki will feel ambushed. And I dare say he will not be pleased to see a pair of Frost Giants.”
Dagr scowled. “The feeling is mutual, little prince.”
Thor’s eyes narrowed. He gripped Mjolnir tightly and took a single step toward the giant before Zia intervened, sliding deftly between them.
“I have no intention of going any further, and my crew members stay with me.” They turned to Horangi. “How about you?”
“I’ll stay. Thor’s right. This place stinks. The sooner we collect Loki and leave, the happier I’ll be.”
“One other thing . . .” Zia nodded toward Thor’s hammer. “Are you planning on using that?”
“I am the god of thunder. Mjolnir is as much a part of me as my arm or my eyes.”
“Well, if things go bad in there, before you go summoning lightning or smashing through the bulkheads, you might want to remember that this is a space station, and not everyone here is a god . . . including us.”
“Verily. Even a novice tactician would know...