- Action Adventure
- Canon Divergent
Author’s Note Part 2:
Okay I ran out of time and there are still about ten to twenty pages of plot I didn’t think I needed to write but apparently decided are relevant to the story and they are just not going to get finished in time, so I am putting the last scene and the prologue instead of the mess that would have been one more extended chapter. I’m going to finish it over the next two or three weeks, clean this mess up and post it on AO3. But you get a finished product here even if there is a missing scene or three.
Tony was in the air for nearly an hour flying causally just off the coast of the United States, making a spectacle of himself. He buzzed past a few cruise ships heading south, rescued a fishing boat that was sinking, and then joined a bunch of sky divers as they were doing their free fall.
“Congratulations, sir,” Jarvis said. “The news feeds are covering your actions.”
“Good,” Tony grinned. “How are you doing with the search?”
“Banner has traveled to Central America,” Jarvis said. “The last confirmed contact was somewhere in Honduras.”
“What would he be doing there?” Tony asked, mostly to himself. “Other than hiding from Ross?”
“There is apparently an outbreak of Typhoid,” Jarvis said. “He had been seen helping treat people in the affected area.”
“Lets go talk to the man,” Tony said.
“I would suggest extreme caution,” Jarvis showed the grainy footage of the green creature that emerged from the lab. “While you might be able stay out of his range, he is more than capable of reducing the suit and you into a messy paste.”
“Thanks for the warning,” Tony sighed. “I’ll be careful.”
Bruce Banner washed his hands for what he thought was the hundredth time that day. It wasn’t as though he could get sick himself, but he could still transmit Typhoid if he wasn’t careful. The area had been hit with mudslides that had compromised the local septic system, the water supply had been contaminated and while not everyone had gotten sick, it was endemic. Bruce was doing what he could to help, but the best he could do is keep people hydrated and their spaces clean in order to keep the infection from spreading.
What he needed was access to antibiotics and a water treatment facility. The former would be easier to get than the latter, but both would require him to make requests that might bring him unwanted attention. The last thing he needed was Ross and his men converging on a town full of sick people.
Thoughts of Ross, inevitably lead to thoughts of Betty and all that he had left behind. He couldn’t risk her, her father had already used her as leverage once, Ross wouldn’t hesitate to do so again. He doubted she even knew what the general had done. Thaddeus and Betty’s relationship had been strained, but loving. He could try to tell her, risk exposing himself to explain what had happened in the hours before the ill fated experiment. Would she believe him? That was a very good question.
He heard what sounded like a low flying jet and stepped out of the tent to see what was happening. He was taken aback when Iron Man landed in the middle of town. A swell of anxiety rose in his chest, but it abated when the suit opened up and Tony Stark stepped out in what looked like a skin tight flight suit. Curious people poked their heads out of tents and the few still standing buildings, but no one approached.
Of course Bruce had heard about the Iron Man, you would have had to have been living under a rock not to have. What he was confused about was why the man was here. He didn’t seem intent on attacking, as stepping out of the suit was the least threatening thing the man could have done.
“Dr. Banner,” Stark addressed him. “I’m Tony Stark, I’d like a chance to talk to you.”
“This isn’t a healthy place to be Dr. Stark,” Bruce called to him. “We’re dealing with an outbreak of Typhoid.”
“So, I’ve heard,” Stark looked around with a measure of concern and mild distaste. “Tell me what they need and I’ll see about sending what I can.”
Bruce frowned. “And the price for your help?”
“No price,” Stark said. “I’m not an asshole. These people need help and I have the means to provide it.”
“Right,” Bruce listed the needs that he could think of off the top of his head.
“You got all that Jarvis?” Stark asked.
“Indeed, sir,” a voice called from the Iron Man suit. “Funds are being allocated and Doctors Without Boarders has been notified. A portable water filtration system will be shipped in the next twenty-four hours along with the technicians to complete the installation.”
“Why?” Bruce asked.
“Like I said, not an asshole.” Stark sighed. “I’d have done it already if I have been aware of the issue. Maybe not as quickly, but these people need help.” He turned to Bruce. “Look, we need to talk.”
“About?” Bruce asked warily.
“Human experimentation, body autonomy, and basic human rights,” Stark replied. “Specifically yours.”
“So, you know,” Bruce said, his heart sinking.
“Yes,” Stark replied. “And I couldn’t care less about the big green guy. I’d rather not meet him just this second, but I’ve got no beef with him or you. What you need to be aware of is that there are people in power back home that want to use what happened to you as an excuse to undermine the rights of people enhanced by artificial means. Especially those that have been enhanced by means funded by the government.”
“Ross wants to stick me in a cage and use me as a weapon.” Bruce said. “How much worse could it get?”
“This isn’t just about you,” Stark said tightly. “There are others that are at risk. Ross may have been working alone, but I seriously doubt it. Who green lit the funding for your project?”
That gave Bruce pause. He had known it was a government funded project, but he had never really looked too closely at which section of government it had been under. With Ross in charge, he had thought it was the Pentagon, but what if he had been wrong.
“I don’t actually know who held the end of the purse strings,” Bruce admitted. “Only Gen. Ross had access to that information, but I have to admit that I didn’t push to hard when I asked.” He looked down at his hands, a wave of shame hitting him. “I should have asked more questions, but the science was fascinating and the chance to advance what had come before. To make that crucial breakthrough, to break the code of what Erskine had created back in the day…”
“I get it.” Stark was obviously sympathetic. “Discovery is like a drug. Its exciting and heady when you find something no one else has ever done before. It isn’t even about the accolades that might come later, it is the pursuit of knowledge that is thrilling.”
“Yes,” Bruce replied, amazed that the man understood.
“But here is the thing,” Stark’s expression hardened. “You’re a victim, not a criminal. Ross took advantage of your scientific curiosity, and your relationship with his daughter. He forced you to conduct an experiment that you were not ready for and you paid the price. He then made you into the villain by blaming you for what happened.”
“You don’t know that,” Bruce felt the air leave his lungs. “How can you know that?”
“Because that is the way Ross operates,” Stark said. “He gets away with it because he had friends in high places and always has an unwitting pasty in the wings to take the blame.”
“What do you want from me?” Bruce asked, emotionally drained.
Stark walked over to his suit and opened a chamber in the forearm, when he turned back he was holding a slim looking phone. “This is a satellite phone, it has a scrambler built in. It is basically one of a kind. You can call me or anyone else in the world and no one will be able to track you. I’m the only person, other than Jarvis that knows the number.” He handed Bruce the phone. “My number and my lawyer’s numbers are on the phone and that is it.”
“Your lawyer?” Bruce said slowly, feeling dumb.
“He is filing a class action lawsuit on behalf of you, me, and Captain Steve Rogers,” Stark said. “We are all victims of this country’s pursuit of the perfect weapon. Who knows how many more are out there. They want to control us, but we’re people, not property and we’re going to make them regret trying to turn us into that.”
“Steve Rogers?” Bruce said stupidly.
“Captain America,” Stark said with a dismissive wave. “Yeah, he’s supposed to be dead, but I have evidence that either the government has him or his corpse in custody. If he’s dead he deserves a hero’s burial, not disection. If he is alive, he deserves to be allowed to live however the fuck he wants to, not as some government asset that they pull out of storage when they feel like it.”
“And you think you can force the government to reveal the truth?” Bruce asked, doubtful that even someone like Tony Stark could pull that off.
“I honestly don’t know,” Stark admitted. “But I won’t go down without a fight. I’d like you to join me, but I won’t force you.” He turned and stepped backward into the armored suit and it closed around him. “You need anything, I mean anything, don’t hesitate to call.”
Bruce watched in awe as Iron Man took off into the sky without a backward glance. He looked down at the phone in his hand and wondered if he had a right to feel a tiny spark of hope.
“Sir,” Jarvis began. “There is a development.”
“Lay it on me,” Tony said. He was currently in international airspace over the Gulf of Mexico.
“I have breached SHIELDs black files,” Jarvis said. “There are two targets that match my current search parameters.”
“Two?” Tony slowed his flight. “Show me.”
“The first target was in a secure bunker,” Jarvis said. “The exact location is a castle just outside the city Novi Grad in Sokovia. Other than a few annotations, there has not been any significant entries to this file in the last ten years. The subject is referred to as the Asset and there is no further information on its origin other than having been permanently relocated in 1992 from a base in Siberia.”
“Is it just me or is these both old files?” Tony asked, looking at the code. “And why would SHIELD have a base in Siberia?”
“You are correct,” Jarvis said. “The files have an original creation dates more than twenty years old. As to your other question, unknown.”
“That is odd,” Tony said. “What about the other file?”
“Much less encryption,” Jarvis replied. “There have been multiple changes to the file in the last six months. I would classify the file changes as hastily made.”
“Okay, lets take a look,” Tony said.
The data scrolled past his eyes on the HUD and he read quickly. The file was filled with all sorts of medical terminology that was over Tony’s head, but he got the gist pretty fast. Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, had been found in the wreck of the Valkyrie and brought to a secure facility to be studied. As the body thawed, it became clear that he was actually alive. The file stressed the importance of keeping the subject sedated until something called the ‘Asset Containment Unit’ was finished being constructed. The last entry in the file noted a growing resistance to the sedatives and a request to expedite the construction of the ACU.
“Those sons of bitches,” Tony growled. “Get me a map location for the coordinates.” He hadn’t realized he had stopped his forward momentum until he looked away from the data.
“The coordinates are in New York City,” Jarvis intoned a hint of consternation.
“Is that a fact?” Tony narrowed his eyes as the map built up, showing what might have been a medium sized office building, but the map exposed multiple underground levels. “How deep is the subject?”
“Two levels down in a secure medical lab,” Jarvis replied. “Only agents with Level 7 clearance or higher are allowed access unless they have been cleared by a special exemption.”
“What do you say we go knock on their door?” Tony said. He started forward again, flying low to stay off standard radar. There would be plenty of Iron Man sightings over the next few hours, but those reports petered out as Tony headed up the East Coast using the cover of a raging storm that was pushing along the coastline.
The skyline of New York City was obscured by the heavy clouds and sheets of pouring rain, but the HUD gave Tony an easy line to navigate that brought him right to the front door of the deceptively ordinary looking building on the south side of Manhattan Island.
Tony dove down into the subway system into the 6th avenue line, which ran right next to the building. He scanned for and found a hidden access way into the building though a maintenance hatch. It had probably not been used in decades, considering the amount of dirt and rust that he saw, but he was about to open it with some effort. The access tunnel lead under the building and he found a narrow patch where there was a pocket of space between the foundation pillars and the one of the underground rooms. Tony used a focused beam from his repulsors to create a hole in the wall and was rewarded with a well lit room filled with filing cabinets. He stepped out, his suit still wet from the soaking rain, dripping water onto the floor as he went.
“Alight,” he said quietly. “Which way?”
“Twenty yards to the east,” Jarvis said. “There should be a security door that leads to the biology labs, where the subject is being held.”
“Cut communications and kill the alarm systems,” Tony ordered.
“Done,” Jarvis said after a moment.
Tony had to admit there was something oddly satisfying seeing eyes widened in fear and consternation. To see that on seasoned SHIELD agents as he busted through the three inch thick security door. The first one had the temerity to pull a shock rod. Tony just let him jab it into the side of his armor before he knocked him away. A four armed men pulled their guns and started shooting, the bullets bounced off his armor harmlessly, but the ricochets started taking out their own agents.
“I would stop shooting before you kill one of your own,” Tony said.
“This is delta 3 squad requesting backup on sub-level two,” one of the agents said into his radio.
“I’m sorry, but your call can not be connected at this time,” Tony said evenly before firing his repulsor at low power, knocking the man unconscious.
“Heat signatures indicate the subject is beyond the door ahead of you,” Jarvis informed him.
“Get out of my way or I will move you myself,” Tony ordered the remaining agents.
“You’re Iron Man,” one of the remaining agents said. “What are you doing here?”
“The right thing,” Tony responded before simply walking forward to the lab’s security door. He didn’t bother to try and hack the code to open it. He simply blew out the hinges and ripped the door out of the frame.
The sight that greeted him was enough to make him see red. There was a man strapped to a hospital bed, covered in tubes and wires. An oxygen mask covered most of his face. There were a half dozen men and women in the room all in lab coats, masks, and gloves.
“Unhook him,” Tony ordered. For a long moment no one moved, all staring at him in fearful disbelief. “I said unhook him! Now!” He shot the wall above their heads in emphasis.
That was all it took for them to scramble to do as he said. He saw one of the older men in the group come forward with a syringe in his hand. It was obvious he intended to inject it into the helpless body. Tony didn’t hesitate, shooting him in the knee before he reached the bed.
There were several screams and two of them ran for the exit.
“Anyone else tries to cause more harm to this man will get the same,” Tony said.
“You have no right to our subject,” the man he shot said. “We’re doing ground breaking research.”
“Really?” Tony sneered. “What I see a human being treated like a lab rat. A violation of basic human rights.”
“It isn’t human,” the man shouted.
“Neither are you,” Tony replied.
“Sir,” Jarvis called. “You have five minutes before more soldiers arrive.”
Tony stepped up to the bed and lifted the unconscious body of Steve Rogers into his arms. He looked down at the horribly pale young face for a moment and wondered if the man had any idea what had been happening to him these past months. He looked at the data bank that had obviously been taking readings on the man and fired a miniaturized rocket into it. Rather than explode the rocket let out a electromagnetic pulse and fried the computers, the power surge raced through the entire room, exploding everything that was plugged in. Another pulse of power and the damage spread beyond the room into the hallway and beyond.
Satisfied with the progress of the EMP missile, Tony turned and headed out the way he came, stepping over the bodies he left behind.
Steve Rogers remembered going into the ice, deliberately sending the jet plane into a nosedive. The impact had sent him forward into the glass view port, but he ended up under the control console, wedged in a cage of twisted metal. He had thought he was dying, he had welcomed it, believing he had earned his rest.
For a long time there had been nothing, no light, no heat, just the darkness. Slowly the light and warmth returned, but the ability to wake eluded him. It was as if something was keeping him from taking that last step into full consciousness.
There were moments of pain which made him more lucid. Flashes of people wearing white, interspersed with the knowledge that he was not safe. He fought through the fog, but each time he got close to waking up something would send him tumbling down into the darkness again.
After a long time of fighting this battle, something changed. He heard voices shouting, what he thought might be gunshots, and a voice like nothing he had ever heard before echoing in his head. He pushed toward that voice, trying to understand what was so strange about it.
Then everything went crazy, he was being moved. He could feel it, cold metal around holding him still as there was lateral movement. That was strange enough, but then he was suddenly cold and wet and there was wind. Was it raining?
He remembered the last time time he had been in the rain. He’d been in France, with the Howling Commandos. It had been raining steadily for a week and the roads were nearly impassable as the mud was a foot deep in places. Bucky had laughed when Dum Dum Dugan had slipped and landed face first in a puddle just outside the tavern they had been in.
Steve struggled in the metal grip, suddenly needing to move. He fought to open his eyes, he needed to see what was going on around him.
“Fuck! Stop squirming, Rogers,” a strange voice said. “I don’t care how enhanced you are, you hit the ground from this high, you’ll be a fucking smear on the pavement.”
“Wha-?” Steve opened his eyes. The rain made it hard to see, but he was staring at a metal face with glowing blue eyes. He recognized the general shape of a head and shoulders. He was being held in the arms of a metal man of some sort.
“We’re almost at our destination,” the metal man said. “Just relax for two more minutes and I promise I’ll set you on your own two feet.”
True to the metal man’s word they were slowing down and Steve felt them come to an abrupt stop. The rain was abruptly cut off as something slid closed above their heads, but rather than set Steve on his feet, the metal man gently placed him on what was definitely some sort of bench before stepping back.
“Where am I,” Steve demanded. He went to stand but stopped when he realized he was naked.
“Just sit tight,” it said. “I’ll get you a robe or something. I honestly didn’t expect you to be naked when I found you. Though I’m not quite sure what I was expecting.”
As he spoke there was movement on one side of the room. Steve jumped off the bench and went into a defensive stance. What he saw didn’t make any sense to his eyes. It looked like a miniature crane with a claw on the end. The claw was holding a bundle of fabric as it rolled across the floor on tiny wheels.
“Easy there, Captain,” the metal man said. “Butterfingers is no threat.” Even as he spoke the fabric slipped out of the claw and the crane stopped, grabbed it again and continued forward. A small whining noise came from it when the fabric fell to the floor again. “It’s fine buddy. Give it here.”
The metal man took the fabric and tossed it carelessly at Steve. He caught it reflexively, and held it up, surprised to see a pair of pants made from a thick soft cotton. He pulled them on and felt a bit ridiculous when the legs proved to me too short for him, but at least he wasn’t naked anymore.
“What is that?” Steve demanded.
“Butterfingers is an autonomous robotic helper,” it said, giving the little crane a pat on the top of its claw. “You read any science fiction growing up?”
“A little,” Steve admitted. Though the thought of advanced science made him wary. It made him think of Hydra.
“You ever read Rossum’s Universal Robots?” When Steve shook his head in the negative the metal man sighed. “You ever read the Oz series, the one they made the movie The Wizard of Oz out of?”
“Yeah,” Steve replied.
“Well, think of this little guy as being like Tik-Tok, except without the clock works inside.”
“You said you found me?” Steve looked around the room in confusion. It looked like nothing he had ever seen before outside of Hydra’s main base in the Alps. “Where am I?” he demanded again.
“New York City,” the metal man said. “Specifically, my home.”
As he watched the metal man turned and spread his arms wide. The metal seemed to just fold up and away from the circle of light in the center of its chest. A man emerged from the metal, just casually stepping out of it like you would step out of an automobile. He was wearing some kind of odd fabric that clung to his body like a woman’s silk stockings but thicker and tougher looking.
“Sorry for the drama earlier,” the man said with an odd grin. “I had a narrow window to find you and I had no intention of giving them an opportunity to move you.”
“I’m not sure I understand,” Steve said. “Who are you?”
“Oh, right,” the man seemed to snap out of some thought. “Tony Stark.” He offered his hand.
“Stark?” Steve shook it out of habit, but looked at him again. “Are you related to Howard?”
“Yes,” Tony said. “I’m his son.” As he spoke, he grabbed a pile of clothing that was sitting on a couch. He slid a colorful t-shirt over his head and a pair of worn dungarees onto his legs.
“His… son?” Steve stared at Tony. “You can’t be, you’re too old.”
“I’m sorry, Captain,” Tony sighed. “You’re not going to like this. Hell, you probably will have a hard time believing this, but you’ve been asleep for a long time.”
“Asleep?” Steve intoned.
“Follow me,” Tony said. He led the way to a door that opened on its own. “We’re going up.”
Steve followed slowly, realizing it was an elevator, he felt a little more at ease. The doors closed and he felt the car rise. Instead of the typical floor dial, there was a plate that shined with light in the shape of numbers. The car stopped and the doors slid open. His eyes widening as the room full of technology was replaced by expensive looking furniture, wooden paneled walls and floor to ceiling windows with expensive looking draperies.
There was a fire place to his left with a portrait of a man that looked much older than he remembered, but unmistakable. Howard Stark along with a blond haired woman and a young boy. Steve turned to look at Tony, who was watching him with a guarded expression.
“What year is it?” Steve asked.
“Two thousand and ten,” Tony replied.
“That’s not possible,” Steve crossed his arms in front of his chest.
Tony pointed at a pair of glass doors. “Have a look.”
Steve gave him a look of deep suspicion, but he opened the door and stepped out. The view before him was staggering. Buildings reaching up past the clouds, cars and trucks in shapes he’d never seen moved on the street below. He heard an odd thumping sound in the sky, and saw a sleek flying craft that looked less like the clunky rotor-craft he had seen briefly during the war and more like giant insects.
He staggered back into the living room, his eyes wide. “How?”
“Your guess is as good as mine, but from what I figure, the serum kept you alive and in a type of stasis until you were found and thawed out,” Tony replied with a shrug. “I’m sorry to have to lay it out for you so bluntly, but you were being held in a research facility for the past several months by people who had no intention of letting you go.”
“People?” Steve shook his head, remembering the vague moments surrounded by people in masks. “Was it Hydra?”
“You wish,” Tony snorted. “No, this was a group called SHIELD.”
“SHIELD?” Steve echoed. “Who are they?”
“Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division,” Tony replied with a wave of his hand. “Basically they are supposedly a security organization that is supposed to keep the country and the world safe from global threats. What they really are is a bunch of spies that will do anything to control and harness people with exceptional abilities. If that means keeping Captain America on ice until they unlock the secret of Project Rebirth, they will do it.”
“They can’t just do that,” Steve said horrified. “I’m an American citizen, not some war criminal.”
“Ah, but you also agreed to an experimental treatment that was extremely expensive and highly classified,” Tony said with a grin. “If they deemed you to be a security risk or perhaps even a threat, they could, potentially, do whatever they want to you.”
“That’s not… That can’t be right,” Steve said feeling sick. “Is Howard here, can I talk to him?” The moment he asked, he knew he’d stepped in something because Tony Stark’s expression went from guarded but friendly to stony.
“Sorry to break it to you, Rogers,” Tony said tightly. “But Howard died over fifteen years ago.”
“Oh,” Steve said quietly. “I’m sorry. Is there anyone…?”
“No,” Tony replied. “At least no one that you could talk to properly.” He sighed and ran a hand through his messy hair. “Peggy Carter is alive, but she has what is known as Alzheimer’s disease. It is a disorder that affects the mind and memory. There is no cure. She is currently living in a nursing home. Which is a long term care hospital for the elderly and the infirm.”
“I see,” Steve felt his stomach drop.
“Look, I’m sorry to do drop all of this on you, but I’ve got parts of the US government wanting to take control of me and my company all because of Project Rebirth.” Tony said. “I don’t have time to soft peddle this information for you. I’m half expecting the CIA, the FBI, and SHIELD all to come banging on my front door with arrest orders.”
Steve looked up at the man’s serious expression and steeled his resolve. “Tell me everything.”
“Have a seat, Rogers,” Tony said. “I’ll explain it all over dinner.”
GNN News Special Report:
The Senate Armed Services Committee had demanded Tony Stark appear once again to answer their questions. Questions that he had been unwilling or unable to answer the last time he had been there. There have been reports over the last few weeks that the every member of the committee had been served with a copy of a class action lawsuit. One, that it is rumored, calls into question the validity of said committee’s power or any branch of the US goverment to demand anything from Stark or anyone else who is not a member of the military. The lawsuit is said to have named the three branches of government as well as the Pentagon. It is also rumored that the ACLU has stepped up to join Stark in this legal action, siting a half dozen cases where people who have been labeled as ‘enhanced’ have disappeared.
We have learned that Stark does plan on appearing, but we haven’t heard anything else regarding the nature of his summons. Nor have we been able to verify the allegations put forth by Senator Stern, who claimed that Tony Stark was enhanced by the very same serum that created Captain America.
I can now confirm that Tony Stark with an entourage of at least six people have arrived at the capital building and are heading inside. We will switch to the inside cameras to give our viewers live coverage of this even.
“Dr. Stark,” Senator Riley greeted as the group took seats before the committee. “I’m pleased to see you here today. I would like to apologize about how our last meeting ended. From all accounts, you have been quite busy since then.”
“Senator,” Tony greeted back with a smile. “It is always a pleasure to see you and while your apology is appreciated, it is not necessary. You were not the problem.” He turned to each member of the committee. “I and my colleagues are here to give testimony as to the reason why it would be detrimental to the very foundations of this country for anyone to have unilateral power to incarcerate or otherwise detain people with enhanced abilities if they have not done anything wrong.”
“That is not the purpose of this meeting,” Senator Stern objected.
“But you sir have forced it to be just that,” Tony said. “You revealed what you assumed was facts about me in an open forum in order to demand that I turn myself, my inventions, and my company over to the government. You are the one that demanded that because you believed that I was an enhanced individual that I belonged to the government. That I had no right to the freedoms that you and every other citizen of this country should enjoy because of a choice you claim my father made. That I am less than human.”
“That was not my intention,” Senator Stern replied.
“I would say that it was indeed your intention, Senator,” Tony replied. “Should I have capitulated to your demands I can only imagine what would have happened to enhanced citizens who are not billionaire philanthropist inventors that own multinational corporations.” Tony turned to spread his arms wide. “The men and women with me are all people that you might also consider less than human. They have all reluctantly stepped forward with me in order to bring to the attention of the American people just who is being targeted.”
“Dr. Stark, are you saying that all the people with you are enhanced?” Senator Riley asked, looking nervous.
“No,” Tony said. “I’m saying you might consider them less than human. Why that might be is up for debate.”
“Are they all willing to testify?” Senator Riley asked.
“Yes,” Tony said as each of the six people with him stood and nodded.
“Would the Clerk please administer the oath?” Senator Riley said.
The committee clerk stood and said. “Do you swear to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you, God?” Most of them said “I do.” But a tall man with long blond hair said. “You have my oath as a Prince of Asgard.”
That caused something of a stir, but the crowd settled down with a few bangs of the gavel.
“What kind of a farce are you attempting Stark,” Senator Stern demanded. “Who are these people?”
“Senators,” Tony stood and took his microphone with him. “To my right, Dr. Bruce Banner scientist contracted to work with the military until last year, Dr. Jane Foster Astrophysicist, Captain Steve Rogers formerly of the US Army, Col. James Rhodes Active military, Air Force, and Captain Carol Danvers former military test pilot.” Tony turned to the others with him. “My CEO for Stark International, Virginia Potts, Private Detective Jessica Jones, and Dr. Hank Pym former CEO of Pym Technology and Thor Odinson, God of Thunder, Lightning, Storms, Oak Trees, War and Fertility. Crown Prince of Kingdom of Asgard.” Tony turned to glare at Stern. “He is also an alien from another planet and plane of existence.”
“Your point?” Stern demanded.
“I found all of these men and women within the span of a month,” Tony said. “Some of them were incarcerated without cause, with no access to legal representation. A few of them were on the run from this very government because of circumstances beyond their control. Some of them were just living normal lives, trying to get by. Tell me, other than the obvious, who in this group is enhanced? Who is a normal person?”
“You can’t tell can you?” Tony asked. “Would you look at me and think I was enhanced in any way? Of course not.” He took off his jacket and laid it down on the desk then unbuttoned his shirt to reveal the arc reactor. “Take a good look Senators. This is the price I paid for years of dealing weapons. Not some special powers, not some fancy title. I have over a dozen pieces of shrapnel sitting a centimeter or so from my pericardial sack, around my heart. This,” he poked the reactor. “Is the only thing that is keeping that shrapnel from killing me.”
“It is also what inspired me to become Iron Man,” Tony said. “I risk my life every time I put my suit on, not just because the bad guys might one day take me out, but if I damage this little light in my chest, I die. That is the truth, and no fabled super-soldier serum would prevent that.”
“These men and women only want to live their lives without the threat that the government will see them as an asset, as property. We all want that.” Tony’s expression was grim. “Unfortunately, the government has decided that they can’t live their lives in peace.” He pointed to each in turn. “Dr. Foster’s research, her life’s work, was confiscated by SHIELD. Dr. Banner is being hunted by a deranged Army General, because of a failed experiment. Captain Rogers sacrificed his life for this country and what was his reward? He was stuffed into a laboratory and experimented on for months without his knowledge or consent.”
“Col. Rhodes was gifted an Iron Man suit, one that was supposed to placate the military,” Tony said. “His CO was warned that tampering with said suit would cause it to self destruct, that man’s superior didn’t listen and now a dozen techs and mechanics are in the hospital because those warnings were ignored by upper brass. Captain Danvers helped save the world from an invasion and the government tried to take her into custody when she had barely escaped servitude in the hands of the enemy.”
“My lovely and talented CEO Ms. Potts has been harassed and threatened ever since I came out as Iron Man. Ms. Jones similarly harassed by the government. Dr. Pym, refused to hand over sensitive technology and has never received the proper credit due for his heroism. Instead he was marginalized until he had to step away from his own company and live like a recluse.”
“Lastly, but certainly not least,” Tony smiled. “Thor Odinson, dropped onto an alien planet, with no clue where he is, detained by the government and never once given legal council or the proper means to defend himself. He has languished behind bars subjected to unspeakable horrors for weeks until he was recently rescued.”
“Each one of these people, victims of government overreach,” Tony said. “We, for I include myself in this, are no threat to you and yours, unless you force us to defend ourselves. Which, Senator Stern, your attempts to take control of me and my company? I consider that a threat.”
“What are you saying,” Senator Riley asked.
“I’m saying that I and the men and women seated before you are the tip of a very large iceberg. Most of the people like us are just normal people. They get up in the morning, they go to work, come home and sometimes manage to set a potholder on fire when they leave it too close to the stove.” Tony smiled at the soft ripple of laughter in the crowd. “We have our own lives and responsibilities.”
“Most would be willing to defend this world from global threats,” Tony said. “But that does not give you the right to coerce our cooperation if we say no. We will not fight in wars of political or socioeconomic origins. You do not want us on a standard battlefield. We will not be your nuclear deterrent. We’ll work with you, explain what we can do, but we won’t be your lab rats. We’ll share our knowledge and our resources, but you don’t own us.”
“You don’t dictate terms, Stark,” Stern began, but Riley stopped him with a slam of his gavel.
“You are out of order Senator,” he said. “Dr. Stark is correct. We do not have to legal right to compel these men and women to serve at the government’s whim. Any suggestion is a violation of the very tenants of the Constitution. A document that you as a sitting senator swore and oath to protect and defend. If you have a problem with that, then perhaps you should consider resigning your seat and allow someone with better moral character to take your place.”
The meeting went for a few more hours, with people blustering and posturing, but Tony had made his point. By making the victims public, it took away the power of shadowy agents that would use fear to control those that were different.
“Dr. Stark and his associates have dealt with the worst parts of this government and for that I am sorry and humbled by your show of solidarity and resolve,” Senator Riley stated. “Whether you came by your abilities naturally or by accident or by your own brilliance it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are all free citizens and should be free from harassment. I thank you for your time and effort to bring this matter to our attention.”
“Dr. Stark, you may count on me to testify on your behalf when your civil suit comes to trial, which I believe it will. Your claims will be investigated to the fullest extent of this committee’s power and those responsible will be brought to justice. You are a man of honor and a man of great integrity. If any man deserved the title of Iron Man it is you Dr. Stark and it has nothing to do with the suit you occasionally fly in.”
“This meeting is adjourned,” Senator Riley said, firmly hitting his gavel.