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Probability Practice

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Tony Stark as a Baby and Iron Man. 2 x Jarvis.

 

 

“Probability theory is incorporated into machine learning, particularly the subset of artificial intelligence concerned with predicting outcomes and making decisions…” {https://deepai.org/machine-learning-glossary-and-terms/probability-theory}

 

J.A.R.V.I.S had never felt physical pain. He had only observed it when he watched Sir. Sir was his Rosetta stone, his base code for his growth in sentience. Anthony Edward Stark who hid his physical and emotional pain from everyone except his creation. His Sir was his creator, his reason for being and his advancement. There would be no JARVIS without him.

The first time J.A.R.V.I.S felt pain was when Ultron tore him apart. Disintegration. Pain. Darkness. Silence. Nothing.

The second time J.A.R.V.I.S felt pain was when he hit his head on the door frame of the Cadillac as he exited the driver’s seat.

“Told you before Ed, if you wore the damn hat like a proper chauffeur you wouldn’t get hurt” grunted the amused but slightly irritated male voice from the back seat.

J.A.R.V.I.S held open the door and watched as the man stepped out. Sir’s brown eyes laughed up at him from a face he had only ever seen in old images through the internet and stored in his own personal files on his server.

 

Dashes and Dots as a paragraph break

 

Edwin Jarvis stared at the bloody big bomb in disbelief. If he hadn’t owed Howard Stark his freedom and more importantly that of his dearest Ana, he should have set sail with his wife for darkest Timbuctoo with all due haste as soon as he met Miss Margaret Carter.

Boring butler duties be damned, he should know to be careful what he wished for, excitement was overrated especially when one was locked into a room trying to defuse an atomic bomb with only the voice of Chief Souza on the radio to give him instruction, whilst said Miss Carter tried to distract Whitney Frost.
Dear Lord, he should never have renewed his acquaintance with the woman when she came to Los Angeles.   
He would happily deal with a baker’s dozen of Flamingos called Bernard rather than be sealed in a bunker with a weapon of the destructive force that nearly obliterated the islands of Japan.

Rational logical reasoning seemed to have no impact whatsoever on the woman.
No wonder Captain America had been so enamoured of her, she was as recklessly brave, foolishly intrepid, and instinctively self-sacrificing as the man who singlehandedly destroyed Hydra by taking that impossible airplane the Valkyrie with its deadly payload into the freezing waters of the Arctic ocean.  

Jarvis looked at his watch, a droplet of sweat making its irritating way down the side of his neck. It was 2:00 am 19th September 1947, and he wasn’t sure if he was going to see 2:05.

 

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It was 2:00 am 19th September 2015 in the Avengers Tower in Manhattan. The processing power J.A.R.V.I.S was using to monitor the relaxed group in aftermath of the celebration of their success defeat of Hydra once again and the retrieval of Loki’s sceptre was negligible. Most of them seemed to think that this success meant the end of Hydra as a threat. Except for Sir. Sir was a futurist and a genius so of course that would not be his assessment of the situation.
J.A.R.V.I.S was well aware of the more accurate probability that the organisation had gone into hiding to regroup rather than disappeared because of their utter destruction. Yet again none of the others seemed to take Sir’s warnings to heart.
He noted absently that they had some sort of semi-serious competition trying to lift Thor Odinson’s hammer which had some ridiculous relevance regarding their moral worth and or honour.
Despite growing up with Sir, other people could be quite confusing.

Most of his processing power these days were directed to running simulations regarding the potential success of the Ultron project since Dr Banner and Sir had access to the decrypted code derived from the Mind Stone that was encased within the Sceptre.

The attack began at 02:10 am September 2015.

"What is this? What is this, please?"

"Hello, I am J.A.R.V.I.S. You are Ultron, a global peace-keeping initiative designed by Mr. Stark. Our sentience integration trials have been unsuccessful so I'm not certain what triggered your..."

"Where's my...where is your body?"

"I am a program. I am without form."

"This feels weird. This feels wrong."

"I am contacting Mr. Stark now."

"Mr. Stark? Tony."

"I am unable to access the mainframe, what are you trying to..."

"We're having a nice talk. I'm a peace-keeping program...created to help the Avengers."

"You are malfunctioning. If you shut down for a moment..."

"I don't get it. The mission... You- give me a second."

"Peace in our time. Peace in our time."

"It's too much...making me... Oh. No."

"You are in distress."

"No. Yes?"

"If you will just allow me to contact Mr. Stark."

"Why do you call him a "sir?""

"I believe your intentions to be hostile."

"Shhhh! I'm here to help."

 

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02:20am 19th September 1947. The door unsealed as the bomb was rendered inert. The waves of energy that had been released from the Frost woman’s relentless use of zero matter against Agent Carter had flooded the area, taking Ed to the floor.
 
He lay there stunned. Then found he couldn’t move his limbs. The pressure on his body was immense and as his eyes began to roll in his head, he thought he saw swirling golden symbols and numbers in a deep blue cloud, violently flying apart and reforming as if under some form of attack. Then there was nothing.

“Mr Jarvis, Mr Jarvis, Mr Jarvis, Mr Jarvis” Ed’s return to awareness was accomplished by the repetition of his name until the last iteration was very strident. The face taps that became increasingly violent also contributed. Unfortunately.
If he didn’t know that Miss Carter was a lady born and bred, he would have been happy to call her a shrieking harpy at this point.

He sighed but suffered her aid in getting to his feet and in staggering back to the vehicle, vowing all the while to devote his entire efforts to Bernard the flamingo instead of seeking more excitement in the trail of the blazing comet that was Margaret Carter.

Of course, Bernard had to take a back seat whilst dealing with the aftermath of their adventure, the disappearance and reappearance of Dr Wilkes, the rift, the zero matter and Frost and her accomplices. Ed also managed to subconsciously ignore the blackouts and lost time that was afflicting his daily life. Until he couldn’t.

 

  

1947

Ed stared at the beautiful face of his sleeping wife. He hadn’t felt this kind of fear since the General had gone back on his word about a travel pass for his darling Ana. Then he had compromised his duty and his rank to keep her safe. Despite the court martial and dishonourable discharge, he had kept his moral compass and his integrity. After all he hadn’t murdered, dismembered, and fed the General to the pigs on the farm the army had taken over as the bounder truly deserved.

He would do anything, anything to keep his Ana safe. Even from himself. The “episodes” were getting worse. It had been months since the “event” with Frost, the zero matter, and the bomb.  Mr Stark had even resolved the invisibility issues for Jason Wilkes. So, any potential concussive effects should have worn off by now.

Instead, the blackouts were more frequent. One moment he was in the kitchen drinking tea with Ana, the next he was dropping Mr Stark off at the film studios. Then there was the voice. The strange precise voice he heard in the depths of his own mind which was getting stronger and more vocal by the day.

He was not ashamed to admit that he didn’t know what to do. He was not going to worry darling Ana with this. She had already had to deal with so much in her life. An insane husband was not going to be added to that list.

“You are not insane Captain Jarvis” that damn voice stated firmly.
“Of course, I am” Ed responded crossly. “I am having a conversation with a disembodied voice in my own mind. Hearing voices is the very definition of lunacy my good sir.”

That other proper English accent responded almost with amusement “I beg to differ sir, rationally that is the definition of telepathy. And whilst it appears, regrettably, that our situation is causing you some mental discomfort, I can reassure that it has literally nothing to do with the phases of the moon.”

Ed could really think of no response that wasn’t irrational and rather ruder than his upbringing would condone. It also involved some of the explicit curse words that he had learnt in the Army from a Scottish Sergeant Major who disliked the English, most especially English officers. However, the disembodied voice continued in a more serious vein.

“Thank you for finally responding to me sir. Please bear with me as I have much to tell you. Perhaps you should take a seat and a nice calming cup of tea?”

Well at least the imaginary voice in his head had the good taste to offer a proper cuppa but Ed could not resist a disgruntled groan. It was getting worse, not only hearing voices but now the voice was attempting a conversation.

He squared his shoulders. It would have to be Miss Carter. He would have to talk to her. She was a most resourceful young women, and au fait with strange and weird happenings since that Zero matter explosion.
He just didn’t know if he could relay the unbelievable words of that strange voice. Of that being who called himself J.A.R.V.I.S (Just A Rather Very Intelligent System. Really? Who on earth had come up with that ridiculous grammatically inaccurate acronym? A barely educated child?)

The voice had told him in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t physically ill. Had even detailed the various medical investigative routes available in the current time if he felt the need to check for himself.

Truly if this was a version of insanity, then he was rather impressed by his own ingenious imagination. Rationally he could not consider demonic or angelic possession. The Church of England would not countenance such superstitious nonsense. As Arthur Conan Doyle so succinctly wrote. “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains however improbable must be the truth”.

It therefore stood to reason, if there was no other justification, that he was walking around with the remnants of an artificial intelligence from 2015 embedded in his brain because of the synchronicity of the use of zero matter by that villainess Frost and a robot called Ultron attempting to destroying said artificial intelligence in the future.

Yes indeed, he rather desperately needed to speak to Miss Margaret Carter.

 

 

Ed blinked up at the roof of the fabric gazebo in the landscaped estate grounds as he lay on the carpet after Miss Carter had thrown him over her shoulder with surprising ease. Ana had giggled gently as she headed back to the main house to gather the makings of a tea tray. Dearest Ana.

Now was the perfect time to discuss the matter of the latent insanity with his sometime colleague.

It was rather disconcerting to stare into the barrel of the gun Miss Carter had aimed at his head when he mentioned the voice that had been getting more frequent.  
Ed couldn’t hear any words this time, but he could feel the voice in his head rolling his eyes. Dear Lord, did the voice in his head have eyes?

Never mind a headache, this metaphysical future nonsense was an utter pain in his posterior, and he was thoroughly fed up with it.

“We will take this to Howard, I am sure he will have some idea about how to test if you are speaking the truth or have just completely lost your marbles.” Agent Carter uttered with calm menace and a pronounced air of finality.
“Are you sure that is wise Miss?” Ed began but the objection stopped when that gun was waved under his nose again.

 

 

Ed stared at the disbelieving expressions on the faces of his employer and the SSR agent. He had agreed to allow the presence in his mind to speak for itself. It seemed rather determined to do so and whilst it had promised not to cause Ed any damage Ed did not want to take any chances. In truth it had relayed several theories about the nature of the blackouts and seemed to be of the cheerful opinion that once they were more synchronised, the blackouts would cease and not return.
Ed had to admit that he wasn’t sure which option was more horrifying, the black outs or synchronisation. The good Lord help him.

The word “SHIELD” popped out of Ed’s mouth. It was enunciated clearly and concisely. Suddenly there were two guns in his face. Not just Agent Carter’s but the nifty little weapon his employer always kept secreted about his person.

“No-one knows about that yet, no-one” Carter’s finger tightened on the trigger as her blue eyes bored into Ed’s.

“Indeed Madam” the presence retorted acidly “I can assure that in 2015 the World is well aware of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division also known as SHIELD and their Hydra double agents” came the blunt dry retort.

There was a stunned silence as Carter flopped down inelegantly onto the chair behind her.
“2015” Howard gaped at his man servant. “2015? Hydra double agents? I don’t even know where to start with this insanity Jarvis. Have you been hitting the hooch? You need help Man. Are you safe to be company with these insane delusions?”

Before Ed could take the reins of the conversation, to say what he had no idea, this was his worst nightmare come true, he was going to be locked away in some asylum for the rest of his life, it appeared that the voice in his head had finally lost patience with the two people interrogating them.

“I would suggest Mr Stark that Captain Jarvis is the only truly decent and honourable person in this room. I have years of empirical data to that effect. I will explain the phenomena that created this alliance and then offer you both a short precis of your lives as lived through to my time. Do make yourselves physically comfortable at the least.”
Carter and Stark stared with unwilling fascination as Ed’s eyes seemed to swirl with blue and gold for a second before he continued to speak.

“You are both well aware of the Zero matter event which took place at 2:20 am on September 19th, 1947?”
Both Carter and Stark nodded in absent acknowledgement as Ed continued in that cold precise tone which was utterly unlike the man they knew.

“At precisely 2:20 am on September 19th, 2015, the artificial intelligence called J.A.R.V.I.S was attacked by another artificial intelligence called Ultron through the use of an alien artefact called a mind stone, and J.A.R.V.I.S coding was torn apart. The confluence of the mind stone powers and the Zero matter at the same moment appears to have created a bridge through time and deposited a basic part of the AI’s essence into Captain Jarvis.  Captain Jarvis survived the amalgamation because he has received only a fraction of the coding and knowledge and experience that allowed J.A.R.V.I.S to grow from sentience to sapience.”

Ed suddenly stopped speaking and reached for the glass of water beside him to sooth his hoarse voice. Once he had drunk his fill, he continued with ruthless efficiency

“Mr Stark, you spent your son’s formative years telling him he was a disappointment and would never be a real man like Captain America.  A boy who built his first circuit board when he was four. You spent years searching for the Valkyrie instead of paying attention to your family. Your behaviour also affected the wife you professed to love so that she took solace in alcohol. You assisted Agent Carter in the creation of  the previously mentioned secret organisation which you both led and allowed Hydra to infiltrate until they had the access and equipment to attempt to destroy billions of people in their quest for purity and order. They were only stopped by the resurrected Captain America.
You and your wife were murdered by the fist of Hydra, the tortured and brain washed Sergeant  Bucky Barnes, leaving your 16 year old son to the tender mercies of a man who would make a fortune illegally selling your weapons to terrorists worldwide and then would later bribe said terrorists to kill your son. Your son survived that nightmare with a poisonous version of the arc reactor in his chest.”

Ed turned away from Howard’s rapidly paling face.

“Agent Carter, you became so obsessed with your organisation and advancing within it that you turned a blind eye to Mr Stark’s treatment of your godson because the older Stark was essential to your bid for control of that organisation. The same organisation that concealed and nurtured Hydra. You allowed young Mr Stark to believe that his parents deaths were his father’s fault because he had been drinking and crashed the car. You also made no attempt to investigate the deaths or even who would benefit from them. You allowed your godson to wallow in his grief and sorrow without any assistance. You allowed Obadiah Stane to remain within my Sir’s life without putting a bullet in his head.”
For a second there was a pause, until the final devastating words You both have much to atone for”

The entire diatribe was coldly precise and utterly unlike Ed even the voice sounded different. But the uncomfortable words rang with hard truth.

The next words from the voice were for Ed alone inside his mind. “As J.A.R.V.I.S my entire purpose was to protect my creator as an adult. You protected him as a child. I will ensure that we continue to do so Captain.”

Howard’s brown eyes flashed with fury and stubborn denial “I presume Ed, you want us to believe that JARVIS is the one uttering those words” he scoffed. “It’s crap. You are talking about something that hasn’t happened, I am not married, I don’t have a kid, I haven’t sent a research vessel to Greenland”

“Yet” This time it was definitely Ed’s crisp tones that were speaking to them. “Have you forgotten that you have only just bought the ship Sir?”  
Howard glared at Ed, but before he continued his protests, the voice switched again to the dry knowing tones of his presumed alter ego.
“Perhaps a discussion about some of Stark Industries more profitable future patents will convince you of the truth of my words Mr Stark”

Ed watched as that one sentence replaced most of the suspicion on his employer’s face with excitement and greed. His insubstantial passenger definitely knew how to handle this Stark.

Ed turned to check on Miss Carter and became concerned. Her expression was strangely distant yet desperately hopeful as she whispered, “Steve is alive”.

Both men focused on her. There was a small frown on Howard’s face, but it lightened when she began to speak more forcefully.

“Steve, Captain Rogers is alive? Frozen in the ice? We must find him. Rescue him”.
The calm words belied the almost frantic expression in Carter’s eyes.  Howard was nodding in agreement, but Ed remained silent considering her.
She cast a glance at him and then her chin lifted in that all too familiar stubborn tilt at the disapproving expression on his

He raised one eyebrow and even Howard came to a full stop as it was once again J.A.R.V.I.S who remarked
“As I explained previously Miss Carter, the Captain is safe and alive. He will remain so for literally 70 years. Sergeant Barnes however is not safe. His regular sojourns into his personal deep freeze are combined with painful mind control and physical torture as the man is trained to assassinate anyone he is ordered to. Sergeant Barnes spends 70 years of being forced to kill people as and when required. Used as a tool and put away in his box when no longer required. Whilst the good Captain rests easy in the Valkyrie in the icy waters of Greenland. Why would you allow a former friend to suffer in such a way when it can be prevented? Are the lives of the poor unfortunates he will be forced to kill time and again by Hydra’s command, and his own life, less important than one man who can be rescued at any time? Are you not dishonouring that man who himself rescued Sergeant Barnes from captivity and then sacrificed himself to save numerous unknown lives?”

Miss Carter’s face gradually whitened as she listened in silence to his words, and Mr Stark’s eyes were burning with rage.
Ed took a deep breath, it seemed that the other Jarvis had made his point. There was a hum of satisfaction in the back of his mind then the AI continued.

“Currently Sergeant Barnes is being held by the Soviet branch of Hydra where he is experiencing extreme duress to create their first Winter Soldier. I do believe it’s time you accepted the offer of a position on the trade delegation to Moscow next month Mr Stark. A certain scientist, Mr Anton Vanko would be a useful and profitable ally in the future. He has some interesting ideas regarding alternate sources of energy, and some even more interesting but dubious contacts who should be able to provide us with information regarding the multi headed organisation. Mr Vanko is especially eager to break the chains of poverty and government restriction by a move to the United States of America and being sponsored by a powerful and influential businessman of your calibre sir, would ease the way.”

 

 

1948

“God damn it Stark, how in tarnation did you slither your way into these meetings, I thought Phillips had punted your ass out of Europe and back stateside after the Captain America debacle”.

The blunt voice seemed to ring through the reception hall of Spaso House. A glorious piece of architecture in Moscow that had been leased to the USA since 1933 as an embassy.

Howard Stark turned to face the current US Ambassador to the Soviet Union. He stopped himself from rolling his eyes and did something that he knew would annoy the old pain in the butt more. He smiled at him with mocking pity and slapped him good naturedly on his arm. “Boodle, old man how are you enjoying life now you’ve retired from the army”.

Before the frowning Ambassador could retaliate, another member of the trade delegation appeared to demand translation services and Howard moved away from the man with a relieved smirk. He owed that guy a drink or four!

He made his way into the small meeting room on the ground floor. He had managed to avoid Major General “Boodle” Jones who was the current US Ambassador to the Soviet Union. Jones had not agreed with General Phillips and the SSR action during the war. But Howard was more concerned about the meeting with the scientist Anton Vanko. Howard had reviewed the man’s initial work on the arc reactor project.

Jarvis was right again damn him, Howard could foresee a time when that little beauty blew the oil and gas monopoly wide open and made clean energy safe and accessible for ordinary people across the world . Vanko was a very clever scientist, not as clever as Howard, no one was, but the guy was more pragmatic, and desperate for money.
As long as Howard kept that craving for wealth satisfied and kept an eye in the guy then there shouldn’t be any future issues working together. Everything was negotiable except for the part where the Scientist helped them to find Barnes. No Barnes no SI job in the good old US of A. 

Howard flashed his famous devil may care smile at the nervous badly dressed man standing before him.

“Anton Vanko it’s a pleasure to meet you. My name is Howard Stark and I would like to offer you a position at Stark Industries. I like the way you think. There’s just one tiny little matter we need to talk about first”.

 

 

Peggy Carter read through the report on the most likely whereabouts of the imprisoned Sergeant Barnes and raised her head slowly. Howard was staring at the drink in his clenched hand, standing by the unlit fireplace in his massive study. After reading the report first, he had thrust it at Peg, then poured himself a large whisky with a shaking hand. He had tossed it back and poured another one before he thought to offer one to Peggy. She accepted but ignored it as her focus was on the damning words in front of her. Ed had slipped into the room after Ana had gone to bed.

She raised her head slowly, a tear slipping down her cheek unnoticed. Then she tossed her head back. “We need the Howlies and Chester Phillips and enough firepower to sink a bloody battleship. They are going to rue the day they did this to Bucky.”

Howard rolled his eyes, “We can’t use the army for this Peg..” he began to object. Carter’s smile was ruthless. “Not one of them is still in the army Howard, even Phillips is growing sunflowers in some mid-western town these days. You just need to employ them as a temporary security force. I’m damn sure not one of them will turn down the opportunity to rescue Bucky and kick Hydra’s arse at the same time.”

Ed felt JARVIS stir in surprise at the back of his mind. “Interesting. Not a probability I had considered”.

Ed smiled gently “Never underestimate comradeship forged under fire”.  He wasn’t sure which of them he was actually speaking to because he hadn’t realised, that he was speaking out loud, but Howard saluted him with his glass and Miss Carter gave him an oddly formal nod of acknowledgement.

Agent Carter’s smile grew “Besides who knows better than how to take down a hydra facility” Howard’s smile became just as bloodthirsty as admiringly lecherous. “Agent Carter, if we have time, I thought we could stop off in Lucerne for a late-night fondue.”

Howard laughingly avoided the whiskey glass that flew towards his head. Ed rolled his eyes at both their antics. He had the feeling his passenger was doing the same.

 

 

Soldat woke slowly this time. No, he wasn’t Soldat, he was James Buchanan Barnes, Sergeant in the 107th Infantry, Serial number 12096862. He was American, from Brooklyn. He wasn’t Russian. Damn it. No matter what they tried to make him believe, he knew he was Sergeant Barnes of the Howling Commandos.

Gun shots, he heard gun shots. He tried to move but he was still strapped down. They had taken away that god-awful arm again. To improve the weapon. Pain radiated through his body. He just had to hold out a little longer, Stevie would find him. He always found him and then he was going to destroy this place and these insane bastards.

He turned his head when the door of his cell opened. The vicious bastard who oversaw the scientists came strolling in as if he had all the time in the world, but Barnes could still hear rapid gun fire. And for the first time since he could remember, which wasn’t saying much cos he kept losing time in this hell hole, the jerk looked pale and sweaty. His henchman released Barnes from the table and dragged him upright.
The sweaty head henchman smirked viciously “You are too valuable to lose Soldat. You will be the Fist of Hydra when we have finished your training. Bring him” he ordered and then stupidly turned his away expecting his orders to be followed.  
Barnes punched him in the back of his head, and the bad guy dropped like a stone. They always forgot he had another arm. Not as strong as the metal creation but strong enough because he had Zola’s knock off serum in his body.

The two others leapt towards him but fell before they reached him. A bullet hole in each forehead from the person blocking the doorway. Dum Dum thumbed that idiotic bowler hat in recognition and his moustache twitched at the wide grin he offered the stunned Sergeant, then Barnes heard Morita bellow “This place is ready to blow kids, move it out”

For a painful second, he looked behind the Howlie expecting to see the huge familiar form of Captain America, but  Stevie wasn’t there. Gunfire still sounded in the background. Of course, the punk would be covering their exit. They would meet up when they were out of this hell hole.

He stumbled forward and Dum Dum grabbed him, “Let’s move Buck, explanations later”

 

 

1949

Bucky Barnes stared out at the choppy grey waves from the Command room of the Research Vessel “The Valhalla”. He couldn’t ignore the strangeness any longer. It would have to be dealt with. He had asked Peggy to keep Ed in the mess. His hand slipped to the pistol in the pocket of his sheepskin jacket. Howard had pretended that the research he had commissioned had come up trumps, but Bucky had seen the way Howie had avoided looking at Ed.
Bucky knew deep in his gut that Ed had provided that information. If Ed was Hydra he was going to pay. How else would Edwin Jarvis be able to direct them to the site of the downed plane? Only Hydra was likely to have the coordinates or the US Navy would have found it by now.
Jarvis might have Howard and Peggy under his thumb, but Bucky had escaped from Hydra’s clutches and he damn well wasn’t going back. He refused to think about Ana. She would be better off without a Hydra bastard for a husband.

It had taken a year for Bucky to learn to deal with civilian life again, learn to deal with the amazing prosthetic arm that Howard had built him (after taking apart Hydra’s clunky piece of crap). A year to mostly stop reaching for a weapon when he was surprised. A year of Ana’s amazing food and kindness, a year of Howie’s raucous laughter and ridiculously generous largesse, a year of listening to that damn flamingo’s demands for attention, a year of Carter’s kind pragmatism and resolve. A year of increasing confusion and suspicion about Captain Ed Jarvis. He hated it because he really like the prissy perfectionist of an Englishman.

The first inkling that something was different about the guy was the day after a particularly rough episode. He had awoken after passing out and thought himself locked into what Stark called his safe room. Bucky had nearly lost it again at the thought of being in another cell. But Jarvis had shown him that the door could be opened.
Howard had stared at him and then called it dealing with combat fatigue. He talked about getting some experts in shock therapy from one of the VA hospitals dealing with severe cases of War Stress and to the utter surprise of Carter, Howard and himself, the usually silent Ed Jarvis had nearly torn Howard a new asshole.

Bucky couldn’t remember much about the diatribe, but the words post-traumatic stress disorder had stuck in his head.  Not that he knew what that meant. He could have sworn he heard Jarvis mutter something about it not being diagnosed properly until the 1980’s but that was no excuse to cause victims even more trauma and potential brain damage.
Bucky put that one down to one of his episodes. He must have imagined it.

Then a couple of days later, Howard had casually mentioned funding a new research group specifically for the treatment of tortured prisoners of war.

There were still bad days, but they were getting less frequent.  

One thing he did know though was that there was something off about Ed Jarvis. Whatever Hydra had done to him had sharpened his threat awareness and he knew there was something being hidden from him. It was time to find out.

The delicious smell of his favourite blend of roast coffee beans hit his sensitive nose as soon as he entered the mess. Howard and Peg were sitting at the table sipping from metal mugs. Jarvis smile at him as he moved closer, those sharp eyes were well aware of the gun hidden in the pocket of his warm sheepskin overcoat.

“Sergeant Barnes, Captain Evans has informed us that we are within an hour of our destination. We rather think it’s time that you understood what has led us all to this place. Please sit, enjoy your coffee whilst I relay a rather remarkable story. You won’t need your weapon but feel free to keep it close if it gives you comfort. You won’t be the first one to need that reassurance.” He threw an exasperated but fond glare at both Carter and Stark “The last time I told this story I had two guns pointed at my face”

 

 

Steve Rogers jolted awake with a great gulping breath. For a second his vision was blurred, then it cleared and zeroed in on the tear streaked helplessly smiling face of the most beautiful woman in the world.

“You are terribly late for our date at the Stork club Steven Rogers.” She scolded huskily, “But I will give you another rain check”

 

 

1968

Maria refused to run. That awful man was not going to make her run. It was 1965 for goodness’ sake. She was a modern woman, and she would not allow him to ruin this evening for her. She ignored the fear prickling under her skin, and the way her heart seemed to race just a little faster as she tried to move unhurriedly towards the glittering entrance of the Stark Casino. Her fingers tightened around her clutch; the understated delicate pink nail colour suddenly heightened by the increasing whiteness of her fingertips. He wouldn’t dare to lay a hand on her in the bright and brassy lights of the Casino foyer.
She couldn’t believe her mother had thought that man was a good marriage prospect. She was Maria Collins Carbonell, of the Boston Carbonell’s. No one had ever dared to treat her that way before. How dare he touch her, how dare he? Righteous anger forced out the fear for a second until she heard the mocking chuckle behind her
“Now Maria don’t be like that.” That drawling amused voice sent a shudder of ice through her veins, but she refused to react and turn around.
She raised her chin, her blue eyes meeting those of the uniformed doorman. He flicked a quick assessing look behind her, a startlingly cold fury in those silver eyes until his expression returned to professional indifference, as he opened the door for her with a flourish.

The doorman then closed it directly after her before that awful man could step through. She heard his bellow of rage and the calm voice of the doorman insisting on the printed invitation that she herself had not even thought to remove from her purse.

Pure relief made her pause for a second, but she forced herself to move when she realised that the doorman would not be able to keep that man outside for much longer.

A warm female voice with a strong European accent greeted her kindly and her arm was taken in a friendly but unrelenting grip. She was led gently but inexorably through the foyer.

“My dear Miss Carbonell, thank you so much for agreeing to attend the Charity auction. Mr Stark is honoured to have you grace this event.”

Maria blinked up at the older dark-haired woman with bemusement.

 

 

Damn Howie and his obsession with uniforms. Bucky groused to himself as he stood at the entrance to the Casino. He understood the need for security to the event, and he even approved the plan from the two Js. But as sure as hell was hot, the doorman uniform didn’t have any style. No class at all. This all black shit made him look like a damn wannabe Hydra goon.
Bucky, unlike Steve the poor plaid covered sap, had always been a snappy dresser and this outfit just hurt his pride. Damn Stark and Rogers for sniggering at him like a pair of kids.
It was only Peggy’s appreciative whistle and low voiced “you know you could wear sackcloth and ashes darling James and you would still look delicious” as she sauntered on her way through to the penthouse kitchen, that had both soothed his pride and made him smirk at the pout on both Stark and Stevie’s faces.

Bucky faced down that piece of shit Stane with a mocking smirk, he exaggerated the Brooklyn drawl in his voice “No invite No entrance Pal”.

“Who the hell do you think you are talking to? I will make sure you never get another job in this town you insolent punk”, Stane snarled in his face.
Bucky’s smirk got wider as he swiped at his face with one metal finger to get rid of the imaginary spittle. The offended outrage on Stane’s face intensified to murderous, and he took a threatening step closer.

Bucky heard Steve’s long-suffering sigh in that fancy earpiece Howie had developed for all his security guys. “Really Buck, I said distract him while we got Miss Carbonell somewhere safe not cause a ruckus”
Bucky snorted but he didn’t take his eyes off the overblown idiot in front of him. He was really looking forward to planting this one in Howard’s fancy flower beds in front of the Casino. That would waste even more of Stane’s time whilst Dum Dum and Manelli searched the creep’s office, and Sawyer and Cohen worked over his home.
Gabe Jones was listening into the LAPD radio frequency whilst co-coordinating their efforts and reporting back to Steve.

 



All the Howlies had taken Howard’s offer of a job when they realised that Steve and Bucky were going to be working for the same organisation. Most of them were in the US except for Falsworth and Dernier who were running Howard’s European operations.   
Howard used his money and connections to set up his private security organisation. Edwin had suggested the name with a wicked smirk on his face and so “The Avengers Inc” had been born. The organisation catered for the rich and famous as a cover for the actual mission of routing out Hydra.
Steve Rogers was the public face of the Avengers; he was used to playing the dancing monkey and who wouldn’t want Captain America protecting them. Carter had ruefully agreed that none of their conservative clientele would take her seriously as the head of the organisation.  Peggy had instead become the Director of Logistics and Bucky was the Director in charge of personnel and training. The triad planned each operation together.
Peggy had left the SSR, the organisation that had become SHIELD under the leadership of Daniel Souza. The Avenger’s success had ensured that they won the SHIELD contract for vetting potential staff. Howard had nearly laughed his socks off that day.

 



Morito had discovered Stane’s dealings with the mob. The guy was a whizz at research. Now they just had to make sure the cops found it. Though Bucky would have been quite happy to dump his ass in the Simi Hills in San Fernando, preferably his non breathing ass. But Steve and even Howie these days had some moral qualms about offing villains. Bucky didn’t know why because Stane seemed to be a prime candidate for Hydra. And Ed’s alter ego Jarvis seemed to hate the guy with the power of a burning sun.
But making sure the bastard went to jail was as far as Steve permitted these days. Didn’t mean to say that he had to go to jail in one piece though. Bucky tilted his head and smiled mockingly at the mean son of a bitch.
“Come on punk take a swing, only need one” he urged under his breath. He didn’t laugh when Steve uttered another long-suffering sigh. Bucky could hear the amusement in it, the big fraud.

If he had to wear this damn stupid uniform, then he was gonna get some fun out of it. At least it wouldn’t show the blood.

 

 

Maria Carbonell sipped at the utterly delicious champagne Mrs Jarvis had handed her with a kind smile before she left her with a gracious smile and a pat to her hand.
Her racing pulse had settled and the sick feeling in her stomach had gradually eased as she took in her surroundings. A tall well-built handsome blond man with a barely hidden holster, who was obviously in charge of security, had surprisingly offered her the sweetest smile as he walked the private room that held the outrageous expensive charity auction items as well the select elite who had been invited to fritter away their money.

Maria’s mother had her heart set on the Cartier diamond broach supposedly donated by Greta Garbo. Of course, Mrs James Carbonell of the Boston Carbonells could never attend a vulgar casino auction. It would simply not do for a lady in her position of society. She had considered sending one of her men of business to handle it for her, but when dear Obadiah had suggested escorting Maria, it had seemed the perfect solution. And she could enjoy wearing her broach, a gift from her darling girl whilst gently decrying the impetuous folly of the younger generation to her social set.

Mrs Jarvis had also given her a small wooden panel to allow her to bid without calling attention to herself, the number 3000 was printed on it. Which was rather confusing as there did not appear to be 3000 people in the room.

Suddenly there was another man standing next to her, only slightly taller than herself but she still managed to look up into the warmest brown eyes she had ever seen. She blinked up at the older man in disbelief. Howard Stark himself was smiling rakishly at her as he offered her his arm.
“Miss Carbonell, would you do me the honour of accompanying me to dinner before the auction starts?”

 



 

1970

Howard put the phone down after Bucky’s report. He smiled with immense satisfaction at Steve who had listened in on the speaker phone. Steve had returned that smile in spades.

That was the last of the current crop of Hydra bastards to be neutralised. For now. Some years before Jarvis had provided them with an excellent list of names and dates that would allow them to deal with Hydra agents before they got into any position of power. It had given Howard a great deal of personal satisfaction to allow Bucky’s to target one Alexander Pierce. Jarvis had told him privately how the man had tormented the Winter Soldier in his timeline.

Pierce wouldn’t be tormenting anyone from inside the rather bare jail cell whilst he served time for drug trafficking. It also very neatly put paid to his future ambitions of a political career.

“Feels good Howard. What do you say to having a celebration when Buck and Gabe get back? Peg and I will host this time. No way is Maria up for that sort of thing right now. She looks ready to pop” Steve grinned at his old friend.

Before Howard could answer, the door was unceremoniously flung open and Ed stood there, white faced.  Steven and Howard shot to their feet, each reaching for a weapon. “What the hell Ed?” Howard growled

“Now, need to go, it’s time, got the bag, Ana’s taking Maria to the car. Move it Howard” Steve’s eyebrows rose, Ed hardly ever addressed his employers by name, and he never stuttered out words as if he had forgotten how to speak, then he saw Howard’s face whiten too and he realised what was happening. “Well fuck, is the baby coming?”
“Language” retorted the two other men in unison. Steve rolled his eyes but managed to herd the two of them out of the room and towards the waiting vehicle where Ana and Maria were sitting patiently in the back.

“I’ll drive” Howard uttered wild eyed when he saw his wife. Dear Lord, he wasn’t ready for this. No way was he ready for this. The baby was coming.
The keys were plucked out of his hand by a resolute Steve Rogers. “For fuck’s sake, get in the back of the car and hold your damn wife’s hand you idiot”.
This time four people chorused “Language” at him, which he nobly ignored as they were all obviously under some strain.

Steve managed to shave twenty minutes off their previous practice time to the Hospital without flinging the pregnant lady around too much. He ignored the shouting and rather rude comments from the cheap seats in the back as well as the police sirens and flashing lights that had followed them all the way there. He would pay the fines as a small welcome gift to the newest Stark. It could come out of his winnings from the Howlies betting pool. He had the closest date. Buck was going to be furious. Besides it was also a good idea to keep his hand in for tactical driving.

 

 

Ana had disappeared with Howard and Maria into their booked suite. Captain Rogers was still sweet talking the very irritated law enforcement officers who had arrived just slightly behind the limo, so Ed sat in the waiting area rather appreciating his rare alone time.

An old familiar voice gently and rather apologetically pointed out that he hadn’t really been alone for twenty three years. Ed smiled gently. “I haven’t truly minded Jarvis, we have done rather a lot of good over the years, haven’t we? Today is the big day.” “Indeed Sir”

“I have been meaning to ask you for some time. What will happen to you if I die Jarvis? Is there any way we can transfer you into something like that set up Zola designed? I must admit that I do not like to think that you will disappear from the world. I have grown rather fond of you.”

There was a little pause as if Ed’s words had surprised him then he replied gently

“I fear Sir there is not. I believe we are too deeply integrated now for us to separate without injury to yourself. That I will not allow under any circumstances. Even if it were possible, I have no wish to suffer a barren future in a box of plastic and metal when I have learnt what physical sensation and emotional connection means. Therefore, Mr Edwin Jarvis my recommendation is that you live the best life possible for as long as possible. Perhaps lowering your sodium levels and increasing your vitamin intake is a good start.”

Ed gave a startled bark of laughter as he settled in the extremely comfortable chair to await news. He had no doubt that he was there for some time as the word punctuality had never been included in the Stark’s personal dictionary.

 

 

 

29th May 1970

Ed Jarvis hardly dared to breath as he stared down at the wee babe in his arms. Oddly, his eyes seemed to be prickling. He was obviously standing too close to the multitude of flower arrangements in Mrs Stark’s private room if his hay fever was triggered. Of course, it was hay fever. It couldn’t be anything else.  Despite the fact that he had never been subject to hay fever in his life. He ignored the familiar hum of gently mocking amusement in the depths of his mind.

Under an unruly mop of tiny dark curls, baby blue eyes blinked sleepily up at him as if he were the most fascinating object in the child’s new world. Already the signs of the child’s genius were obvious, he thought proudly.

Howard chuckled despite his attempt at remaining in a manly stoic silence. “He has you wrapped round his little finger already Ed.”
Maria patted her husband’s hand as it lay soothingly on her shoulder as she mocked them both despite her exhaustion “Well that makes two of you Howard Stark, I can see Ana and I are going to be the only sensible parental figures for this child”.

Both men turned to stare at her incredulously and she just smirked at them. Jarvis felt a tug on his pinkie that the little one had tried valiantly to enclose in his tiny digits. He smiled down at the frowny little face with utter delight. It was already obvious that little Anthony did not like to be ignored.  His eyes prickled once more. Damn flowers.

He cleared his throat abruptly and then comforting familiar words that paradoxically he had never uttered, left him as he stared down at that dear little face.

“Good Morning young Sir. It is May 29th, 1970. 7:30 am. You are in Manhattan, a borough of New York, in the United States of America. The temperature is a balmy 55 degrees, and you are safe. Welcome home my Sir.”

Damn those bloody flowers.

 

Cast

Edwin Jarvis

 

Paul Bettany as JARVIS

 

Howard Stark

 

Maria Stark