Who: Mobius, Tony What: Mobius took a wrong turn at Albuquerque and blows Tony's mind with wibbly wobbly timey wimey info. When: Today Notes/Warnings: Spoilers for Loki s1.
In a somewhat ironic twist, Mobius previously hadn’t given much thought to how time worked - or rather, he hadn’t thought much about his own perceptions of time. The way it was like a river in how it flowed - it kept going and going, it didn’t cease, no matter who or what tried to stand in its way. What was different was that memory was the current - it could change. It could be lost, it could carry a person far away from the original point of origin.
That was about where he was - well beyond where he started, murky memories of just the TVA and only the TVA. Their mission. Their goal. The more involved he got with Loki and Sylvie’s exploits the more he shifted away from that and realized he had these gaping holes in his memory - along with a big black hole, one he felt like he was prodding with a sharp stick, begging it to burst open. He worried that everything would burst - and subsequently worried that it wouldn't, and he'd just have to keep grasping.
He wondered if there was a long lost jet ski in there.
When he left Ravonna’s office after their scuffle he was both crestfallen and hopeful - the former because she was the Gaslighter to end all Gaslighters, blaming him for his ‘betrayal,’ and the latter because he wanted her to find free will. He still cared, damn him. Maybe he was just an idiot (highly possible, actually, and - )
Then after the door shut behind him, he looked around and discovered he wasn’t in the TVA at all. The TemPad was in his hand, the screen gone dark as a dank dungeon and what in the world -
“Uh?” Mobius ventured, standing there in his suit and tie (all of it a bit rumpled by now, along with gray hair also looking disheveled), while people surged around him - he was in a lobby, sleek and modern, the scent of roasted coffee beans tickling his nose; the trajectory of his gaze followed that, right to a sign marked Starbucks, and in confusion he glanced down at the TemPad once more. “Fine time to short out, you’re really gonna do this to me now?”
It had been a long day, or week. Or year. Tony wasn't sure which anymore. Time flew like time often does, and it was all a blur of too much spiked coffee and building projects, chatting with government contacts, suit upgrades as he thought of new tech, and being reminded of when it was his weekend with Morgan. In short, it was less of a blur and more like a smear. Plus he was hungover. Fun times.
He was back to wearing the same outfits that Pepper used to give him grief about, back in his Malibu days. Sunglasses covering bleary eyes. High end jeans that had seen better days, and pristine sneakers. A vintage concert tee - so faded that Ozzy's name could barely be deciphered - was wrinkled under a designer jacket. In short, he half ass bothered to look presentable when going downstairs for a bucket of coffee. He could have sent someone to get it, but he'd been in the apartment/lab/workshop for weeks now, and he was feeling a little bit too Howard Hughes. Time to get out before he started wearing Kleenex boxes on his feet.
He sidled up to wait in line for a coffee, he found himself standing next to looked as tired and frustrated as he was. Brown suit. No one wore brown suits anymore. If he was here, he wasn't some washed up high school teacher. Must be one of the guys from legal or H.R.
His head dipped down and he looked at the object in the man's hands, sunglasses slipping down his nose a little while he quirked an eyebrow.
"If smartphones existed in the eighties, that's exactly what they'd look like." He smirked and could at least be sympathetic to someone that needed a charge. "There's a charging station up here by the counter. What floor are you on? Human resources? I haven't seen you before."
He didn't introduce himself since he owned the building. If the guy worked here, he had to know who owned the building. Duh.
This building was just - so not what Mobius used to. He was used to something a lot more (literally) dark and brutal, with simple desks and a cafeteria that was entirely soulless. Where lazy TVA security used their batons to ‘disintegrate’ (it was actually pruning, actually shunting garbage off to a hellscape) their empty trays and leftover food because they were too lazy to walk to the trash cans.
So the fact that there was fresh coffee within reach and a guy wearing a band t-shirt talking to him, well, that was a little disorienting.
One benefit of having an endless 9-5 job was that he’d shuffled through plenty of files, plenty of timelines; he’d pushed plenty of paper. Had access to everything this guy in the faded Oz (couple of letters washed off, it seemed) shirt had done up to a certain point and knew exactly who he was. “I don’t work here,” he shared, glancing down at the dead TemPad again. “And somehow I don’t think your charging station will work on this bad boy, Mr. Stark. But if you could tell me how I got here you’d be way ahead of me because this is not even close to the TVA - wait, did they actually do it? Did they do the woo-woo thing and enchant the cloud?”
Or were they all dead? Was this another Pruneatory?
“I need to see Loki,” he added, just taking a shot in the dark. He had to hope that this was one timeline where Thanos hadn’t crushed his neck like a banana. Outlook was good, however, since there was always a Loki around. They turned up like bad pennies.
Something that couldn't be charged up in the Tower? And what the hell was TVA an acronym for?
Tony's chin tucked down into his throat, the goatee already starting to blend into the hair growing along his jawline. He needed a tidy up stat. Sometime next month maybe. Right now, he was too busy letting the sunglasses sliiiiide down his nose even more, big brown eyes blinking over the top of them.
"TVA sounds like an airline and you are way off the mark here. You probably wanna hit up LaGuardia. But, no, wait a minute. Back up. You need to see Loki? No one ever says that. Unless it's Thor. Pretty sure he likes the abuse."
The line moved forward but Tony stayed put, that gaze laser focused in a way that would make most people squirm. It was as if he found a new puzzle to be dismantled and figured out, before piecing it back together again. He didn't want to leave the guy hanging though. He didn't look unhinged. He didn't look angry. He looked like a school principal in search of a truant student.
"Loki's not here right now. Some stuff went down that, miraculously, he didn't cause. C'mon, let's scooch and talk. I'll buy you a venti double shot, whatever. Because we both look like we need it."
He took one step forward and shook his head, like he was rattling thoughts and questions around inside of his skull. It was like those lottery balls. Everything in there could be an important number, but you never knew which one was going to drop first.
A ball dropped and Tony's mouth inevitably opened to let unfiltered words fall out.
"Ok, first. You probably know me from interviews or whatever, but I've got zero clue about you. Going to take a wild guess. You're one of the new arrivals." He held up one hand like he was waving. "Hi. Welcome to the new universe." The hand dropped back down again. "Who are you?"
Scooch and talk - plus a venti double shot. That seemed like it’d be a lot of coffee, so Mobius was on board. He needed some good coffee - a cup of TVA cafeteria joe tasted like crayons dipped in hot water. Just another way to torture the variants that had been brainwashed into being dutiful agents in a bureaucracy outside of space and time.
“New arrivals? Yeah, sure - I think.” Mobius slipped the TemPad into the pocket of his suit jacket because it wasn’t going to work right now anyway - and since he was here, he needed to figure out what the hell was even going on. But there was confirmation that Loki was also here (not here-here, but alive) so that was something.
He could feel himself begin to breathe a little easier. Because damnit, that trickster asshole meant something to him. Was surprisingly a better friend than Ravonna, who had all but jammed a baton into his gut and sent him to the Void to die.
“Agent Mobius, of the TVA - Time Variance Authority,” he tacked on there. “Or formerly of the TVA, I should say. There was a whole situation, I vowed to burn the organization to the ground, and so forth. I know you in the same way I know everyone - because I’ve studied your file and followed your activity on what used to be known as the sacred timeline.” And Stark was alive which was - something. How did this little pocket dimension even exist? Who allowed it?
Tony looked like he was parsing some information and his brain came up with several blanks. Sacred timeline. Files. Time variance? Authority. It felt like the lotto machine in his head exploded and all of the balls went rolling all over the place. Maybe what they did with the Infinity Stones messed something up. Tony opened his mouth, and there was no sound. Even the Starbucks employees were looking at him strangely until he shook his head hard enough, his brain rebooted and remembered words.
"Time Variance Authority," he parroted, keeping his voice down to a rushed whisper. "I only have like eight thousand and eleven things to ask. First, are you gonna get on us for the time heist? Second, you don't look anything like Time Cop. Totally shitty movie Rhodey dragged me to when I was tanked. Time Cop did the splits on his kitchen counter while wearing tighty whities. I almost passed out laughing. If you know my file, you probably know that already don't you? Wait. You burned it down? So you're a BAD time cop?"
Tony took one step back. Not a big step like leaping away from danger, but a single weirded out half step. It wasn't like the guy's device was working right now. Which might be a good thing.
"So that's why you want tall, dark, and horny. I mean, perfect guy if you're going to burn stuff down. Draco Malfoy probably knows a shit ton of spells for that."
"Mister Stark?" the girl at the register asked, expectantly. There was polite grumbling behind them from employees that needed a coffee fix, stat.
"Huh? Oh, right," Tony said, stepping up. "I need a Venti iced skinny hazelnut macchiato, with sugar–free syrup, extra shot, light ice, no whip. And whatever Agent Mobius wants. Put it all on my expense account." He looked at Mobius. "I've got to hear more of this story before I give you Draco's digits."
There was a lot going on here - combined with the way Stark was looking at him like a game of cat’s cradle to be unraveled, from the tighty whities (what?), to the tall, dark, and horny Loki reference. What a great nickname. Mobius only wished he had thought of that first.
“Yeah, I’ll have one of those too. Thank you,” he said to the barista just to make it easy - then again, there didn’t seem to be anything easy about that order. And to be fair, he had no idea what else he would want anyway. Making his own choices wasn’t something he’d gotten to do for the past - however long. “So about your questions - “
Where to start? Maybe at the idea of him being a bad guy, because that was laughable. He didn’t have many bad bones in his body - he went at Ravonna with a baton and she disarmed him in three seconds. Combat wasn’t his forte. “The TVA operated outside of space and time - their whole business is maintaining one specific timeline. They monitored its existence and made sure it stayed the course - if it didn’t, if there was even one little deviation, they sent their agents in to take care of that. We called those deviations variants. Until recently, I didn’t know the extent of what the pruning entailed but basically picture annihilating entire families and existences - humans, plant life, animals, anything that breathed - and shunting them off to a literal void at the end of time to be fodder for a cloud monster.”
So hopefully Tony could see why burning it to the ground was an option, but oh, if it wasn’t entirely clear not to worry - Mobius would continue to elaborate. “They didn’t get rid of every variant though,” he added. “Some of us - they needed us to work at TVA headquarters. I’ve been an agent for...far too long. I don’t even remember. I had an old life that I don’t recall either.” It had been tempting to ask Sylvie to enchant him to bring back what was lost - but he hadn’t. Everything had gone crazy and his lost life had to wait awhile yet.
“Loki - became a friend. He was trying to stop the TVA from doing what they do.”
While they waited for their drinks to be made, Tony listened to everything Mobius said, blinking profusely, tucking away info for later. What Mobius was saying had terrifying implications. He knew the Morgan that lived in this universe had a counterpart in the other universe. Darcy and Peter too. Heck, anyone here. He couldn't imagine someone 'pruning' them without him trying to blow them up too. Fine. Maybe Zemo. Prime prune candidate.
"All right, so TVA bad," Tony said slowly, parsing this information out. He could hazard a guess here and there, but there was one big question nagging at him. "Your Loki must be the one that got away when I borked the time heist. But here's the thing. Hold up...coffee's done."
He plucked his drink up from the counter after they were put down, plopping a straw into it and taking a super-fast, fortifying sip.
"Alternate timelines theoretically branch off for any number of reasons," he continued. "You sneeze the wrong way. Whatever. You said everything in that branch is pruned and sent to this void place. How the hell were we not getting munched on by a cloud monster before now?"
“That I don’t know,” Mobius admitted, also taking the drink - which looked good, kind of this nice taupe shade and probably way too sweet (but you know what, he needed sweet). He plunked his own straw in there though his first sip was less severe than Tony’s was - it was tentative, because he wanted to just try it first.
Oh. Oh, wow alright, yeah - a good decision. Mobius wasn’t privy to whatever kind of magic this was, but he was a fan of the hazelnut maccachino-latte-yaya type of thing right now. “Loki and Sylvie - she’s a variant of Loki, there are actually a lot of Loki variants, sorry to break your brain - were about to get past the cloud monster and confront whatever it was guarding. Maybe they know more, but I ended up here.”
That was why he needed to see Loki. Or Sylvie - but he wasn’t sure if she was around too. Mobius had no idea that there was some clown called He Who Remains pulling the puppet strings for what he deemed as a necessary evil - all he knew was that he likely had a lot to catch up on as well.
“And now that I am here - any suggestions about what happens next?”
"Hard pass. I don't even want to think about multiple Lokis," Tony admitted, making a face like he tasted something sour. He hadn't heard about anyone named Sylvie, either. Hopefully it stayed that way.
They might not be as safe as they thought they were. He wasn't sure what happened when people disappeared, if they were pruned or if they went back. For people like himself and Nat, there was nothing to go back to. Their time in that timeline was over. And it didn't seem like a good sign if a TVA agent wasn't sure how he got here. That meant something was still going on in the background.
Tony took a longer, slower sip of blessed anti-hangover elixir, looking thoughtful. He swallowed it down like he wanted it to chase away the last vestiges of mental cobwebs. He needed to get back to the lab and make notes. And maybe put a generous splash of Frangelico in his coffee.
"I've got your back. We've been going through this for a few years. We'll get you set up. Apartment, phone, computer, expense account and log in. Loki's on the network and I don't need to be around for a reunion with your bud. But I do want to know what's going on. If you get any info out of him, just...let me know.
"Oh. You should talk to Strange too," he suggested. "He's been trying to monitor what's going on in this universe. You probably know who he is from files, don't you?"
A few years? Mobius was downright astonished at that because - how? The TVA would have intervened. They would have known - and yet they hadn’t. It was hard to make the argument that this was ‘supposed’ to happen as well - because clearly none of this was a part of the sacred timeline; it was a whole other type of branch, one that had been allowed to flourish and grow strong instead of being pruned right at the onset.
Something was going on. It smelled fishy - and Mobius was a former agent for this shady organization but he was no idiot. He’d get to the bottom of it.
“After I find out what happens, you’ll be the second person to know,” he promised - since Mobius also wanted to know. He had so many questions, so many thoughts and observations - and not all of them were good. “Oh, right - Doctor Strange. I probably won’t tell him that one of the admin guys uses time stones as paperweights.”
Sluuuuurp, there went more of the coffee. What a tasty beverage. “Thanks for the intro though, Mr. Stark. Glad I got a chance to meet you.”
"Really wondering if all my dirty deeds done dirt cheap are in my files," Tony admitted to Mobius. "Residential elevators are this way. I'm heading back up anyway, and we can talk while getting you set up."
He nodded off in that direction, looking back at Mobius to see if he was following. He usually was able to get a good read off others, and Mobius really didn't strike him as a bad guy. Given recent events though, he was on edge.
"I probably seem like some antsy edgelord or something. It's been a helluva..." Few years, is what he wanted to say, but he settled on, "...weekend. Anyway, what kind of power supply do you use for your device?"
Better to know now, so he could help this guy get back to his slash and burn after talking to Loki. If he said something outlandishly powerful, it would be a problem. A problem to be solved that is. Tony liked tackling that stuff anyway.
Unfortunately, the answer was going to be something outlandishly powerful. Or close enough.
“Timedoors - those are what we open with the TemPad - use up a lot of power,” Mobius shared, walking alongside Tony - definitely following him to wherever the residential elevators were, and presumably up. The idea of getting settled sounded nice, admittedly - he could use a shower and a rest, a chance to try to get his head on straight before he ended up contacting Loki. “The battery life for that baby leaves a lot to be desired - so as for powering it back up again, uh. Think maybe the power of an entire train - the very last escape route before civilization crumbles. That sort of thing.”
So a lot of wattage and more than a few dashes of hope, basically. For such a powerful device too, capable of taking its users anywhere in time and space, it was also a surprisingly delicate device - could break into a smoke-and-spark spewing mess if dropped too hard. The text was chunky and the screen resolution wasn’t great either - but honestly, his biggest worry was charging the damn thing.
He managed a warm sort of grin at Tony, however. Something meant to be reassuring, because it was just in his nature to be kind. In most instances. “Been a helluva long time for me too, so I get it. And I’ll neither confirm nor deny all your dirty deeds are in your file.” A good chunk of them. The ones that mattered in a significant way to the sacred timeline, anyway. Not like Mobius had a list of who he banged throughout his life.
That was a load off. Not that he was shy about it, there were still gifs of that sex tape around. It was just that he didn't exactly want it on full blast or anything.
As they rode up to the residential floor, Tony took out his phone, a handheld that was mostly tech glass. After registering his biorhythms, the glass darkened. It quickly lit up with multicolored app icons and glowing blue text.
"Last doom train outta Grand Central. Punching holds in space-time. Got it. We'll try the big boy arc reactor. But if it doesn't jumpstart, I'll get a plan b ready to go." He was tapping out notes on his phone, not looking up as he said, "Friday? Agent Mobius needs a room and the welcome-to-the-universe party pack."
"On it, boss," an overhead voice responded, female with an Irish lilt. A brief scan moved through the elevator before Friday spoke again. "Biolock registry complete. Floor thirty-seven, room thirteen is yours, Agent."
"You need anything," Tony said, looking up as he paused tippy-tapping, "Friday is your gal. You probably need some time to veg and order a pizza. Let's schedule the battery thing after I run some stress tests. After you meet up with Loki. Sound good?"
“You can just - call me Mobius,” he decided, speaking out loud to the...disembodied Irish-accented voice; it was a timbre that definitely had a bit of a brogue and conjured plenty images of greenery, like in the countryside. And he supposed he meant the Agent thing for Tony too, and presumably everyone else in this new universe. Because he was no longer affiliated with the TVA - he’d turned his back on them after he found out his whole life was a lie, and to say that he needed a hug was an understatement.
It was fine though. He’d just curl up in bed, grip a pillow, and hold on tight. Maybe shed a couple of tears, finally.
“Pizza sounds like the best news I’ve heard all week,” he added, and already his stomach was snarling at the thought - probably trying to eat itself. The iced coffee in his cup had been rapidly consumed during the trip up in the elevator, and the caffeine was beginning to vaguely buzz within his veins. “I don’t have a full schedule at all, so - battery thing can be whenever. I’ll be here.” In room thirteen, floor thirty-seven.
New adventures awaited him. He supposed he’d need to find other things to do too - like a job that wasn’t hurting anyone, maybe start with that. “Thanks again - for everything.”
"I miss when the first name was Agent," Tony quipped, finishing his To-Do list and looking over at Mobius again. He tucked the phone away in a pocket. "Hey, it's no prob. We're used to visitors."
"A lot of visitors," Friday chimed in. "And other things. Like Pokemon. And Godzilla sized monsters."
"Oh I remember that. Oh god. Remember mega-gator?" Tony rolled his eyes. "That really sucked. Except Sharknado! That I liked."
"You would," replied Friday, as dry as a desert.
Of course, for Tony, the constant in and out had left its mark. For someone that always wanted to be attached, it was a kick in the teeth every time someone like Steve or Pepper left and came back and left again. Which was probably for the best, since he did bad with long term attachments. Unless it was his kids, then he did ok at being the eccentric dad type.
The elevator doors opened on floor thirty-seven and Tony leaned out a little to point the way.
"Take a left here at the commons area, down that hallway, and it'll be on the right. Got a nice riverview. Whenever you're recharged, we'll start getting your battery recharged. I'm on the top floor. Workshop and apartment. Friday can buzz you in. Whatever you need, she can help you with. Just ask."
There was one thing Tony liked, and it was tinkering and hypotheticals. As much as he wanted to talk to Mobius - who was surprisingly mellow to talk to - he was raring to get upstairs and face dive into some computations.
Besides, the guy looked like he needed a rest. If he dealt with multiple Lokis, then he surely earned it.