“You’re like Indiana Jones,” Clint snorted. He tapped Steve’s hat, making the brim bounce just the slightest. Steve swatted Clint’s hand away.
“Oh my god,” Clint said. He turned to Natasha with a horrified look on his face. “Please tell me he’s joking.”
“He’s joking,” Natasha said, making Clint splutter.
“Are you sure?” Clint went on. Steve huffed, hitting the back of Clint’s head lightly. Not everyone was a film buff like Clint was. What did it matter that Steve didn’t know the film? In fact, he bet the movie Clint was referring to was actually a few hundred years old. Clint enjoyed the really old classics.
“This is practical,” Steve said firmly, fingering his belt. It really was though Steve had to confess he really enjoyed the look as well. The aesthetics was something Steve could get behind, and it really was comfortable.
“Steve,” Clint said as seriously as he could. “You’re dressed like someone from ancient history.”
“And it’s practical,” Steve said. He gestured at Clint’s cargo pants and combat boots. “It’s as good as yours.”
“Are you two really debating your fashion choices when we’re about to go down this tunnel?” Natasha asked. She passed Steve the harness. He immediately slid his legs into it, locking the straps into place automatically.
“Yes,” Clint said, wavering between looking at her and keeping his eye on Steve. “Tell me you don’t think this is a travesty.”
“Big words,” Natasha said. She slapped a communicator against Steve’s chest. “Take this before you forget it.”
Steve’s ears burned. “That was one time!”
“Just go find us that statue.” Natasha gave him a thumb’s up. “And you’re lucky your jacket isn’t in the way of the rope.”
She pointed, and Steve readied himself in front of the tunnel. The world had come a long way when it came to exploring. There were even little hover crafts that could send you down a tunnel like this without any trouble. Unfortunately, Steve and his team were poor as dirt. They were just going to have to do this the old fashion way without any fancy machinery. Steve only hoped the communicator Natasha gave him would work below. It didn’t always, and that was problematic in itself too.
He took a deep breath. “Ready.”
“Belay on,” Clint called out.
“Climbing down,” Steve said, and they slowly lowered him down, his foot against the side of the tunnel. It quickly became dark, and he had to flick on his flashlight. Still, it was easy going down—fast even. He gave the all clear on the communicator before unclipping himself from the rope.
“Good,” Natasha said with approval. “No signs of Zemo here.”
“Good,” Steve said. “Let me know if you hear anything though.”
Normally, they would all come, but there had been rumors that Zemo was in the area. The man wasn’t an archaeologist, but he delighted in stealing the treasures that other honest archaeologist found. Lately, Zemo had been targeting their team. Considering it was so hard for Steve to even make an expedition, it would suck to lose what they did find. Therefore, they could only take preventive measures and that mean Natasha and Clint were stuck doing look out.
“Will do,” Natasha said.
“It’s not our first rodeo,” Clint added.
“Just saying,” Steve said. He pressed a hand to the wall, studying it in appreciation. The tunnel wasn’t a tunnel at all. “I think this is actually an elevator.”
“Is it?” Clint asked.
“Yeah,” Steve said. He tapped the tiny shield on the strap of his bag. It was actually a miniature camera, but Clint thought it would be funny if it looked like Captain America’s shield. The shield beeped, and he could hear the device’s whirring as it scanned in the panel embedded into the wall.
“Looks like it’s from the 2000 era,” Natasha speculated.
“Possibly,” Steve said. He turned away from it. The floor beneath his feet wasn’t even dirt. Steve crouched down, swiping a finger against it. “Marble. Whoever lived here then was probably rich.”
“Or a rich corporation,” Natasha reminded. “Maybe a bank. Considering how long the elevator shaft is it’s probably a tower. Not a skyscraper though. I don’t think that could be buried below.”
“It’s a shame we don’t have the schematics of the building,” Clint lamented.
“It’s probably lost somewhere in cyberspace,” Steve agreed. It would have been easier if they had a map, but there were just so much data from the past that was probably lost. The people back then tried their best to store them, catalogue them, but it was a difficult task. There were too much data and not enough people preserving them. Steve couldn’t count how many times he travelled broken links to broken links during his research days in college.
Steve stood up, rolling his shoulders. He looked around. The elevator had led him to a wide open room, almost like a reception area. He could only imagine what it must have looked like in its heyday. Gleaming gun metal steel, Steve thought. Glass, thick and shiny.
“What do you think?” Steve asked. “Is it likely to collapse on me?”
The little camera did its trick, scanning and sending data back to his team.
“It is actually quite structurally sound,” Natasha said. “Whoever built this place didn’t skimp.”
“Oh, oh!” Clint said loudly. “Stop there.”
Steve froze in his step. “What is it?”
“There. On your right hand side. You see those words there?”
Steve did see the words. In fact, his eyes nearly popped out of his face.
“Oh god,” Steve said. “Is that really?”
“Stark Industries,” Natasha confirmed.
“I can’t believe it,” Steve said. “I thought nearly everything of theirs was destroyed in the sweep.”
“I know,” Clint said. “Hey—do you think those rumors of him building a suit was true? I mean, we don’t have any evidence of it, but just imagine!”
“I don’t know, Clint,” Steve said, “but we’re certainly going to find out.”
“Don’t get your hopes too up,” Natasha said. “This just might be one of his many company building. If he really did have a suit, it wouldn’t be located here.”
“Still, it’s something to think about,” Clint argued. “Come on. Go on, Steve.”
There were many hallways, and Steve didn’t know where to go. He settled for a random one. As he travelled down the hall, everything felt rather eerie. Although the building was sound, there was evidence of how time had worn away at it. Pieces of steel jutted out here and there randomly, including stray bits of wires. He was lucky they were inert.
There was a crackle, and Steve nearly jumped.
“I don’t think the signal is going to hold that long,” Natasha said. “The deeper you go—we’re just going to lose you.”
“Okay,” Steve said. “Then, checkpoint here.”
“Three hours,” Natasha said.
“Got it,” and Steve moved. If he only had three hours, he had better find what he can and get out. To his amazement, Steve found something fantastic several hallways and two server rooms later. The room glowed in green, the green computer chips of the past, and on one section stood a figurine. It was gold, maybe five to six inches in height. It was beautifully preserved from what Steve could tell, every detail of it clearly cut. The gold figurine was a model of the Iron Man suit that supposedly existed. It was probably just something for fun, but Steve thought it was just as important as the USB he found in a drawer in the other room. He grabbed it…
The room shook and rumbled, sending dust flying. There was a hidden button beneath the figurine, and—Steve thought this kind of thing didn’t happen anymore. The 21st century was full of cameras and lasers. He braced himself for a booby trap, but when the dust cleared, there was an open path on the floor, leading downward. Steve didn’t hesitate, descending downward as he stowed the figurine away.
Downstairs in this separate chamber was something entirely different. The walls glowed with electric blue, and in front of him was a rectangle shaped box with a wall of Iron Man suits behind it. The suits really did exist, and Steve had just hit the jackpot. He almost tripped in his hurry to examine the suits behind the glass, obviously on display. They were beautiful, all gleaming red and gold. Steve’s finger itched to draw them. He wasn’t sure how he was going to haul them out of here though. This really belonged in a museum.
Steve took out his cell, snapping pictures. He didn’t know if Clint and Natasha could still see what he saw, but he needed the picture anyway. As he stepped back a little to get a shot of the middle, Steve bumped into the large rectangular box behind him. There was a warning beep, and Steve scrambled aside as he felt it open.
“Ugh,” a voice mumbled. “Jarv, what time is it?”
There was man inside the box, rubbing his eyes.
“Uh,” Steve said, uncertain whether to scream or to fight. The man was exceedingly handsome with a goatee. The man’s eyes opened fully, mouth frowning when he didn’t get an answer.
“You’re not Jarvis,” the man said, and somewhere Steve wanted to kick himself in the head. Because he knew that face. Knew that voice from a long ago high school history class.
“Yes,” Tony said. “And you are?”
“Uh,” Steve said. Because nothing prepared him for the possibly that Tony Stark was alive and not dead!
“Uh is a very bad name for such a good looking person like yourself,” Tony said. “I mean—“ he waved at Steve’s get up, “I don’t really go for the Indiana Jones stuff, but I can rock it. You do look good like that. Bet you get all the women and men swooning.”
“You’re—you’re alive,” Steve blurted out. Tony arched his eyebrow at him, amused. “I am. I didn’t think I was dead.”
“No,” Steve said, voice strangled. He didn’t know how he was supposed to explain to someone from history that they were in the future. “You—“
Tony blinked, finally taking in his surroundings. He looked down at the box where he was sitting and swore.
“Fuck. This is real? I’m not dreaming?”
He swung his legs over the side of his box, which Steve was pretty certain was some kind of cyro-freezer thingy.
“J, are you there? J?”
Steve swallowed. “I don’t think he’s alive, Mr. Stark.”
He said it as gently as he could. As far as anyone knew, the legendary AI who led to all the AIs in this world disappeared a year after his creator did.
“Nonsense,” Tony said. “J’s immortal.”
“In a way,” and Steve nearly brained himself to realized it came from his shield-camera. “Welcome to the future, Sir.”
Tony looked at him, entirely smug. “There we go. He probably piggy-backed into your line. How far into the future are we?”
“Quite a long way, Sir. I’m glad to see you are alive.”
“Well, I didn’t expect that to work.” Tony smiled cheekily at Steve. “So, Uh. Care to show me around?”
“Steve,” Steve said. “My name’s Steve Rogers.”
“Not Indiana Jones?” Tony asked.
“Well, ready to sweep me out of here before this place falls apart like in the movies?”
Zemo entered the chamber at that exact moment. Steve looked at Tony to Zemo and his men.