- Canon Divergent
The invitation to ‘talk’ to the director of SHIELD didn’t come as a surprise. That Tony was basically escorted to the East Coast office by a SHIELD escort was. Tony couldn’t help the smirk that settled across his face as he exited the Rolls. He nodded to Happy as he did so. “Keep the engine warm.” he said. “This shouldn’t take long.”
“Yes, sir,” Happy replied quietly.
He walked in with an air of power and confidence that he had created over the years. Most of the time it was a false front, but today he knew what he was doing. He’d spent the last few days learning everything he could about SHIELD and what it had to do with his family. He had not been pleased at all.
Unlike most federal buildings which tended to be nondescript and utilitarian, the SHIELD base was a big stylistic three sided structure of concrete and glass. On the inside, it looked like a scene out of a scifi novel. Men and women tending computer terminals or carrying files and data pads and squads of heavily armed soldiers marching by. These people had a hell of a lot of power, too much in Tony’s opinion.
He walked with his escort to the main elevator and they road up to the top floor. The stylized eagle that was the SHIELD logo was everywhere. On the walls, on shoulder patches, even in the tile floor designs. It was supposed to be inspiring, but it was just oppressive.
Tony entered the an office and was greeted by a tall black man in all black clothes wearing an eye patch and a shoulder holstered pistol. To his left a woman in black business attire stood with a data pad in her hand. Her hair was bright red as were her lips.
“That will be all,” the man said. The woman headed for a side door, her hips swaying suggestively. Tony’s eyes followed the movement, but caught himself, annoyed by the obvious tactic.
“So you’re the head honcho?” Tony asked. “Director Fury, is it?”
“I am,” Fury replied. “You’re a hard man to get a hold of.”
“Yes, actually,” Tony said. “I have a multi million dollar business that I am trying to save from itself. So I’ve been a little busy.”
“So I’ve been reading,” Fury said point to a newspaper that was opened the the business section. “But that isn’t my main concern.”
“Oh?” Tony quirked an eyebrow up.
“My concern, Iron Man,” Fury said. “Is what you’re planning to do now that you’re a public figure.”
“You mean, besides continue to find and destroy the weapons my company sold illegally?” Tony asked.
“Besides that,” Fury replied deadpan.
“Well, for starters,” Tony began, reaching into his jacket to pull out a folded set of papers. He paused when he saw Fury’s hand slide toward was was probably a weapon under the edge of the desk. With a smirk he continued the motion and dropped the papers onto Fury’s desk. “Consider yourself served.”
“Excuse me?” Fury demanded picking up the legal document.
“I’m suing SHIELD,” Tony said with a light and airy tone. “All properties that legally belonged to Howard Stark, founder and one time director of SHIELD, that are still in this organization’s possession are to be turned over to me in the next thirty days.”
“Even if we had anything that belonged to Howard Stark,” Fury said slowly. “What makes you think we’d have any intention of ever giving them to you?”
“Aside from the fact that I’m his son?” Tony asked. “I would think you would rather give me something that is rightfully mine rather than have me rifle through all of your files one by one until I know for certain you’re not hiding things from me.”
“You don’t get to dictate what is and isn’t classified, Mr. Stark,” Fury said.
“Maybe not, but unless you’ve forgotten,” Tony began slowly. “I have Top Secret clearances and have had them for most of my adult life. I’m actually pretty sure my clearances are higher than most of the people in this building.”
“I seriously doubt that,” Fury said with a smirk. “Your adventures as a vigilante and your choice to stop making weapons have given many in the intelligence community pause. You might not find you have as many friends as you think you do.”
“Until such time as the State Department decides to revoke my clearances, you can’t tell me what I can and can’t see,” Tony said. He placed a sheet of paper on the desk next to the legal document. The code on it showed his level of security clearance. As he did so, he slid his hand down the edge of the desk and planted a tiny bug under the lip. “Now are you going to cooperate or do I see you in court?” He leaned over the desk and into Fury’s personal space for a moment before stepping back.
“You don’t know what your asking for, Stark,” Fury warned.
“Maybe,” Tony said tightly. “But I know you and your band of super spies have been keeping shit from me my entire life. You especially know things about me that no one else other than my father and Peggy Carter knew.”
Fury stiffened, his expression going cold.
“Yeah,” Tony said, as though talking to himself. “I thought that was you. It’s been years, even if you look like a pirate now.”
“You think you know something, Stark?” Fury asked.
“I don’t think,” Tony replied. “I know.”
“Maybe you should think again,” Fury replied. His good eye flitted to the side, looking directly toward a decorative book case. It lasted for only a moment, but it was enough.
Tony stared at him for a long moment, a sudden understanding that this room was not secure. In spite of all the precautions, Fury didn’t want Tony saying aloud what they both knew. A wave of cold ran up and down Tony’s spine.
“You have thirty days, Director Fury,” Tony said. “I’d appreciate it if I didn’t have to drag this into open court, but that is entirely up to you.”
“I’ll take it under advisement,” Fury replied. “Security will escort you out. I wouldn’t want you to get lost along the way.”
“I appreciate the sentiment,” Tony replied. He turned to leave, pulling a pair of shades out of his pocket. He swaggered out the door and sauntered his way out of the Triskelion, seemingly ignoring the way some of the people he passed stared at him.
He left the building and smiled when he saw Happy standing in front of the Rolls right where he had left him. “Happy,” he greeted.
“Boss,” Happy replied with a nod. “Everything alright?” His dark sunglasses hiding his concern as he opened the back door.
“Just peachy,” Tony replied sliding into the car with ease. He waited until Happy had them out of the SHIELD compound and a mile away before he spoke. “Take the next left, Happy.” He leaned forward in his seat and handed Happy a piece of paper with an address written on it.
“Where are we going?” Happy asked, doing as he was told.
“We’re going to see an old friend,” Tony said, tapping his phone. “Jarvis, are you in?”
“I am indeed, sir,” Jarvis replied. “This system is older than the SI systems, but the software has far more security walls and subroutines than I have dealt with before.”
“Take your time, buddy,” Tony said. “Make sure you can get out undetected before you try and push through anything that looks suspicious.”
“Of course, sir,” Jarvis replied, sounding rather affronted that Tony would think he would be reckless.
Tony paused outside the private room for a long moment. This was not something he had done in a few years and he had felt a lot of guilt and misplaced anger about it. But he needed answers and this might be the last time he had the opportunity to visit. He took a deep breath and opened the door. Margret ‘Peggy’ Carter lay in the hospital bed, looking all the world like she was asleep. They years had been kind to her outwardly, but her mind had slowly been stolen by Alzheimer’s.
The nursing home was very expensive and took care of a lot of high profile patients that were nearing the end of their lives. Tony had made the offer to her family to take care of all of her expenses, and they had taken him up on it gratefully.
He entered the room and sat next to the bed, placing his hand on top of hers to encourage her to wake up. He nearly held his breath as her eyes fluttered open and she looked around in confusion.
“Hey Aunt Peggy,” Tony said. “How are you feeling today?”
“Tony?” she asked, eyes becoming more focused. “Goodness what is that thing you’re growing on your face?”
Tony couldn’t help the grin. It was the same thing she asked every time. “Do you like it? I’m going for the Errol Flynn look.”
“Ridiculous boy,” Peggy said with a great deal of affection. “Always trying to stand out in the crowd, even when you’re already the brightest star in the sky.”
“You know me so well,” Tony replied, the grin sliding off his face.
“What brings you to me, looking so serious?” Peggy asked.
“I need to ask you something,” Tony said quietly.
“You can ask me anything, Darling,” Peggy replied.
“I was kidnapped when I was nine years old,” Tony said. “I was hurt, and Dad did something to me to make me better.”
Peggy stopped smiling, her lips flattening into a grim line, but she said nothing.
“I know what was done,” Tony said. “I want to know is, why no one ever bothered to tell me.”
“We intended to tell you as soon as you started exhibiting signs of abilities,” Peggy said. “When you didn’t show any signs of enhancement after you hit puberty it became clear that the serum had run its course. You were healthy and strong, but nothing like Steve had been. We didn’t see any reason to tell you.”
“I see,” Tony sighed. “But you told Nick Fury.”
“Someone needed to know,” Peggy replied. “Someone had to look after you. No matter how much Howard loved you, he could never forget what was lost. He couldn’t see that what was most important was what was right in front of him.”
“You had no right to keep this from me,” Tony said.
“You were a child,” Peggy said defensively. “We were trying to protect you.”
“From what?” Tony demanded. “Kidnappers? I rescued myself half the time. From abuse? Don’t make me laugh.
She fell into a fit of coughing, closing her eyes as if the effort had exhausted her. She slowly opened her eyes again and looked at Tony, blinking confusedly. “Howard, what am I doing in the hospital? Did you cock up another mission?”
Tony squeezed his eyes shut to keep the tears at bay. “No, Peggy,” Tony said. “You took a tumble, but you’ll be find in a few days. Striking fear into the bad guys in no time.”
“You always were such a terrible liar,” Peggy said. Her eyes sharpened. “I know you won’t listen to me, but you need to stop obsessing about finding Steve. He’s gone and nothing is going to bring him back.”
“You know I can’t do that,” Tony replied to her, knowing it is what his father often said about a subject he was stubborn about.
“I’ve moved on,” Peggy said. “I have made a life with Daniel, he’s a good man. You need to find someone to settle down with, to make a life with to create a legacy that isn’t forever tied to the War and the things and people we lost.”
Tony doesn’t say anything to that. He doesn’t know what his father said in this conversation, but he doubted it was complementary. He didn’t know why his father finally married his mother, he does know that it wasn’t a loveless marriage, but it also wast an endlessly passionate partnership.
He often wondered if he would ever find someone that would be willing to partner with him. He thought about that moment with Pepper at the party, knowing it would have been a terrible mistake to take their relationship farther like that. “Maybe someday,” he said quietly.
“Don’t wait too long,” she said gently. “You’re not getting any younger.”
“I’m not getting any older either,” he said, his hand drifting to the arc reactor nestled in his chest. He won’t be getting any real answers from Peggy this trip, if he was able to get her to admit anything at all in her moments of lucidness.
He spent another hour with her, letting her control the conversation as she drifted between the present and the past. When he finally left, he spoke to the staff about her needs and made sure the they knew he would be back in a when he could. It pained him to see her reduced to this shell of a person. She was the last person from his childhood that was still alive. He didn’t know what he would do when he lost her.
The treadmill was at a moderately fast pace, a jog that anyone that was considered to be ‘in shape’ could handle for half an hour or so. The man currently running was covered by a thin sheen of sweat as he kept up the pace. A mask over his face monitored his breathing while the sensors attached to his chest took readings of his heart rate and blood pressure. His breath was steady as he kept moving, his eyes were focused on the heads up display that showed him a virtual jogging path through some unknown wooded area. It was calming, almost meditative, even as he put his body through a stress test that should have had most people begging to stop.
A short but loud beep alerted the jogger that he could stop running. He slowed his pace gradually, not wanting to risk cramping. Once he had slowed to a walk he turned off the treadmill and removed the mask from his face.
“Jarvis, end HUD display,” Tony Stark said after a long moment.
“Yes, sir,” Jarvis replied. “May I say sir that your exercise routine has been fascinating to watch.”
“So what are the results?” Tony asked.
“Your stamina has actually increased by twenty-five percent since instituting your new exercise regiment,” Jarvis said. “Your current endurance puts you well above the best cross-country runners in the world.”
“No super speed,” Tony said lightly. “I’m just able to keep going and going. So… super stamina? Add to that heightened strength and increased bone density. There might be some perks to that.”
“Indeed sir,” Jarvis said. “There is one other item of note in the analysis.”
“And that is?” Tony asked.
“You are not aging at the standard rate,” Jarvis said.
“Excuse me?” Tony paused on his way to the kitchen area.
“When comparing photographs from your time at MIT to now, there is little change in your appearance other than facial hair choices since your twenty-fifth year. That is the estimated time that the average human finishes the growth stage known as puberty.” Jarvis showed a line a pictures. “It is possible that due to your being injected with the serum at such a young age, you are no longer subject to the normal aging process. There is unfortunately no data on the long term effects of the serum on a human body as the only two known subjects; Captain Steve Rogers and Johann Von Schmitt perished together.”
“I’m going to have to think on that for a while,” Tony said seriously, continuing to the refrigerator. “I’m not sure how to react.”
He grabbed his chelation drink and downed it in a few swallows before reaching for the protein shake sitting next to it. He had to make himself drink the green sludge before he ate anything else, or he would have to force himself to deal with the gunk later. “What are the results of the latest element test?”
“I am sorry, sir. This element is not compatible,” Jarvis said. “This makes eighty-five element combinations that have proven unsuitable. They are either toxic to the human body or can not be used as a power source for the reactor.”
“Damn it,” Tony sighed. He grabbed the lancet and stabbed his finger, allowing a tiny drop of blood to well up before pressing it against the tester.
“Palladium toxicity levels have risen to twenty-eight percent,” Jarvis said. “However, there is evidence that it is the continued use of the Iron Man suits that is accelerating the process. I would advise you to limit the use of the suits for the time being.”
“Right,” Tony sighed. “That is only an option if people stop acting like assholes. I’ve already curtailed public appearances, but there is still work that needs to be done.”
“There is always the intravenous chelation therapy,” Jarvis suggested. “And dialysis.”
“No,” Tony said. “I’m not having a doctor find out about this.”
“Sir,” Jarvis sounded aggrieved. “It is only a matter of time before the palladium builds up to a fatal level.”
“I know,” Tony sighed again. “I’ll just make the most of the time I’ve got left.”
“Sir…” Jarvis trailed off. “It would be unfortunate if you were unable to continue. Especially after learning that you could in fact outlive most humans under normal circumstances.”
Tony smiled sadly. Jarvis had learned the meaning of death, the permanence of it at least. He had taken the time early on in his AI’s existence to instill the notion of things, people, dying. It wasn’t a fun concept to think about, but Tony knew from personal experience that there was nothing permanent in the world. The bots would never be able to understand if, one day, Tony never came home.
It had been bad enough when he had been kidnapped for three months. Jarvis’ protocols had been designed to deal with long absences, but Dum-E and U had needed a great deal of reassurance and maintenance when he came home. With the real possibility of a painful lingering death in his future, Tony was making sure that Jarvis would be able to care for the bots for as long as they existed. He had even built a third bot, Butterfingers during the process of making Jarvis and the bots more able to integrate and communicate with each other.
He hadn’t meant to, not really, but in the process of testing and refining, he found himself in the middle of a building haze. By the time he had come out of it, he had lost some eighteen hours and there was a new bot standing in a charging station. He was a little confused about why the robotic claw didn’t seem to be able to grip properly, as Butterfingers kept dropping everything, but he would figure it out later.
end part 17