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The Tower of Yesterday

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[A/N: This is another great prompt! I’ve also just read Iron Man Noir, so…]

I.

Steve picked his way through the site camp that had already been set up on the rocky scree just before lake Nigardsbrevatnet, ignoring the SHIELD agents and scientists who pushed past or offered tentative greetings. Tents in gray and khaki canvas formed neat envelopes over crates and packs; Steve circled over tangled coils of thick cables and sidestepped four men hurrying past with a heavy metal case hunching their shoulders between them. It was bitingly cold even in what passed as summer in Norway, and the pale sun in the ice blue sky above him did little for warmth.

In a perimeter around the camp, SHIELD personnel in the latest StarkTech-commissioned MHS Armors stood silently, scanning for threats, the storm gray visors and matte black titanium steel gleaming sleekly in the afternoon sun. Steve looked quickly away from them, having never been comfortable with the MHS series after seeing how brutally effective the SmartTEK embeds were in the Afghanistan war, instead craning his neck until he saw what he was searching for.

Fury was standing by the receded arm of Nigardsbreen, beside a rectangular tunnel that had been bored into the ice. Miners and engineers worked furiously in a losing battle to shore up the melting ice safely with struts and temporary scaffolds, and Steve frowned disapprovingly at Fury.

“Isn’t this a World Heritage area?”

“Happily, no.” Fury scowled at the tunnel, his arms folded over his thick jacket, but offered no further conversation.

Standing beside him, and looking remarkably out of place, was a man suited in tweed, complete with neatly knotted tie and wire-rim spectacles perched on a hawkish nose. Feathery white hair, ceding to gray, fought a rearguard retreat over the proud dome of his scalp to his reddened ears. Catching Steve’s unabashedly curious stare, the man nodded at him with an air of solemn, paternal dignity.

“Captain America, I presume. Good afternoon.” An American, then.

“This is Robert Jarvis,” Fury explained.

“The trustee and appointor of the Stark Trust?”

“Very good, Captain,” Fury said dryly, his eyebrows arching briefly over the black patch on his left eye.

Steve glared briefly at him. “I’m not entirely ignorant, Fury. And I didn’t realize that SHIELD took corporate funding. Aren’t you already flush from this year’s UN re-budgeting?”

“Jarvis has a…. personal interest in this matter, shall we say. Certainly StarkTech is making life easier for our scientists and engineers on Project Iron. As it usually does.” Fury added, ignoring the jibe, and jerking his head towards the silent, dark Armors stationed around the camp.

“So what did you call me here for? It’s been hush the whole trip,” Steve demanded, jetlagged and irritable, “And I shouldn’t have left America so close to the Portland incident. Which,” Steve couldn’t help adding, with an edge to his tone, “Was caused by rogue StarkTech, as I’m sure you’re aware, Director. The second incident in three months-”

“I thought you would have a personal interest in this as well, given your file.” Fury cut in sharply, looking reproachful, as though he’d summoned Steve out into the middle of nowhere in Norway as a personal favor and Steve was being ungrateful about it all. “You’re a collector of ‘Marvels’, aren’t you?”

“And so?” Despite himself, Steve now felt curious. “You found one of the relics? Is that why Jarvis is here?”

“I think we’ve found better.” Fury smirked, irritatingly smug. “If you’re a collector, Captain, then you must know how the comics ended. God knows that those bloody terrible movies last summer ensured that most of the world with access to a cinema are in the know.”

“I liked the movies,” Steve muttered, before realization dawned. “You mean you’ve found Skald’s spear?”

“Summer’s been hotter here than it ever has. The Nigardsbreen has receded further than it usually does. Some fishermen saw something in the ice.”

“Then let’s take a look!”

“Patience, Captain. We’ve been cutting into the ice since yesterday afternoon. We’ll be able to remove what we want any time now… Captain! ” Fury snapped, as Steve ignored him, striding towards the tunnel. The closest Armor shifted, the helm lifting up to glance at SHIELD’s Director, and then settled back into place at some sign behind Steve’s back.

It was even colder inside the ice, and Steve tugged his jacket more tightly over his shoulders, his breath puffing into clouds.

The tunnel had opened into what appeared to be a hollowed-out chamber when Steve realized that frost was beginning to form in a pale crust over his gloves and jacket. The engineer taking readings from the ice beside him kept smoothing his palm over his tablet, clearing off the frost; another held up his palm into the air, slowly curling his fingers as the ice crept down his fingers.

The round chamber had a neat rectangular pillar cut into the centre, and what - who - was within it stunned Steve into utter, astonished silence.

He flinched violently when Fury clapped a hand roughly on his shoulder. “And when you think you’ve seen everything there is to see.”

Within the ice was the man who shared his name with the world’s biggest technology conglomerate, adventurer, entrepreneur, inventor, engineer, hero. The man whose adventures had first put Steve’s feet on the path to what he was now. Anthony Stark was curled in the ice, his eyes squeezed shut, nearly fetal, his right fist clenched tight over a seemingly simple iron three-pronged spear.

“When did you dig here?”

“About two in the morning.” Fury brushed frost off his watch. “Then I called you. Since then, we’ve been working as fast as we can.”

“I guess,” Steve swallowed thickly, blinking hard. “I guess we finally have something to bury.”

Jarvis sniffed beside him, as though in disagreement, but Fury was the one who spoke, curtly. “He’s alive.”

Steve gaped at him. “That’s not possible.”

“Science doesn’t tend to apply to Norse artifacts. Look closely.”

Skeptically, Steve turned his attention back to Stark’s body, and then he noticed it. Impossibly slowly, almost imperceptibly, Stark breathed in, then out.

-slowly tbc. Yes, before you ask, Fury and Jarvis are descendants of their Noir versions, which should add some hilarity.-