"Anthony, would you care to tell the class why Captain America's shield was able to damage the armor plating on the German tank in this photo?"
Tony jumped, and looked back up at Mr. Randolph, hurriedly covering the drawings in his notebook with one arm. Mr. Randolph never called on you unless you raised your hand, which meant he knew Tony hadn't been paying attention. He wanted to know something... something about Captain America's shield. "It was a vibranium-steel alloy," Tony said, hoping that answered the question.
"It's nice to see that someone is actually listening. Yes, it was an experimental vibranium-steel alloy, much harder than steel..."
Tony tuned the sounds of the lecture out again, staring instead at the black-and-white photograph of Captain America in action emblazoned across the white projector screen. He was in profile, some old military photographer having caught him halfway through the act of throwing his shield into a Tiger tank.
"So, he wasn't a mutie?" Geoffrey Shaw was an idiot, and sitting behind him in every single class could make even math class torture, let alone history.
"We don't use that kind of language in this classroom, Geoffrey. No, his abilities were the result of a secret government project."
Didn't anybody else bother to actually read the textbook? Tony rolled his eyes, added an extra line of rivets to his experimental robot prototype design (maybe Mr. Randolph would think he was taking notes?), and returned his gaze to the projector screen.
There was a new picture up now, an old propaganda poster with a color painting of Cap, all blond hair and square jaw and eyes exactly the same blue as his costume. The artist had probably used the same color paint. The perspective on the shield was wrong, though--it looked like a flat disk, instead of a convex one. Funny, that the guy had gotten that wrong when he'd done such a good job on the face and the costume. The (blue) leather costume was awesome; it outlined all of the muscles on his arms, and the white star in the middle of his chest just emphasized how broad it was.
"He must have been really cool," Tony observed.
"Get real," Geoffrey sneered. "He was a propaganda stunt. And that costume is the lamest thing ever. Those wings look totally retarded."
"You're just jealous because you know you'd never be buff enough to wear it," the boy behind Tony offered.
"Yeah," Tony said, bouyed by the support. "You would look stupid in blue leather."
"Who let the kindergartner in here, anyway?" Geoffrey asked rhetorically (not that he'd know what the word rhetorically meant, since he'd flunked Mr. Collins' last three vocabulary tests). "What are you drawing, runt?" He reached back and tugged Tony's notebook out from under his arm. "A robot that shoots fire. Damn, you really are a freak, aren't you?"
Tony snatched his drawing back, and contemplated adding Geoffrey into it, as the robot's target. He'd just started to doodle Geoffrey's dumb curly hair when the boy behind him leaned forward again.
"What does it use for accelerant?"
"Huh?" Tony blinked at him. New kid, just arrived this week, and Tony didn't know his name yet. Why was nameless new boy still talking to him?
"The robot. What does it use for accelerant?"
"Pressurized gasoline. But when I really build it, I'll find something better."
The other boy smiled at him, flashing perfectly white teeth bracketed by two rows of braces (bottom and top, with orange rubber bands). "Cool. Do you have a partner for next week's science project yet?"
"No," Tony admitted. "Nobody wants to work with the 'kindergarten baby.'" Eleven wasn't all that much younger than fourteen, but everybody except the teacher seemed to think he was some kind of wussy little kid. Well, that, or a freak who needed to have his notebooks stolen and his robots smashed (and what was wrong with electrifying them to keep people from touching them, anyway? The assistant principle still hadn't explained that to his satisfaction).
"Well, I don't have a partner, and nobody wants to work with the new kid, either. I'm Tiberius Stone." Tiberius was still smiling, and in the light from the window, his white-blond hair sort of glowed, just like the painting of Cap.
"Anthony Stark, I know. Everybody knows. You skipped about six grades or something."
"Only three," Tony corrected. "Tiberius. Did your parents hate you, or something?"
"Tiberius was a roman emperor. He ruled half the world."
"I always liked Julius Caesar better," Tony told him (shut up, don't disagree with him; he'll get annoyed!). "He actually did things." He smiled, so Tiberius would know he wasn't serious.
"Caesar." Tiberius's braces-flashing grin spread wider. "I like the sound of that. I guess that would make you Mark Antony, then?"
Tony shrugged. "If you want. Do you think the robot should have rocket boots? And a forcefield?"
"How's the forcefield going to work?"
"I don't know, but it would be cool." Tony turned his pencil around and began erasing the lines he'd drawn around the robot to represent a forcefield. Maybe you could make one with electricity? Or magnets? Not everything would be repulsed by magnetic fields. It would need all sorts of computer circuits in it, too, and magnets might mess those up.
"Anthony, Tiberius, is there something you'd like to share with the rest of the class?"
Busted. Tony turned back to the front of the clasroom, trying to look wide-eyed and innocent. He looked at the painting of Cap, still up on the projector screen, avoiding Mr. Randolph's eyes so he wouldn't have to talk straight to him. "No."
"Sorry, Mr. Randolph," Tiberius said. "Anthony and I were talking about Wakandan vibranium. It's really very interesting, you know."
"Well, can you save your discussion for later, please?" Voice disaproving, in that way that always reminded Tony of his dad.
Tony nodded agreement, and dropped his eyes to his notebook again. He could feel the back of his neck going red as everyone in the classroom stared at him. "It absorbs kinetic force," he mumbled.
"I'm serious about the science project," Tiberius whispered, quiet enough that Mr. Randolph wouldn't hear.
Tony grinned, and started a new drawing. Nobody had ever actually wanted to be his partner on a project before, let alone somebody who knew that there were two different kinds of vibranium. "Okay," he whispered back. "Sure thing."