Tony was—he was, he was doing something, wasn’t he? Yes, he must have, or he wouldn’t have been...here? Where was here? Why wouldn’t he know something that simple? It was absurd, right? It would be as ridiculous as him not knowing his own name, right ?
Yes, yes it was. Easy as pie, right? He was Tony and he was, he was —
And he was being erased.
The thought rang like a bell in his mind before the horrible static – oh god, make it stop, make it stop – took over again, crashed through him and ripped apart the trains of thought he tried to muster, numbers and calculations and hypotheses reduced to shrapnel that dug and dug and dug until nothing was left in their wake, his greatest weapon turned against him as he fought desperately against whatever was doing this to him.
(who are you? whoareyouwhoareyouwhoareyou)
(i know but i can’t remember. why can’t i? why is this happening? i don’t understand)
(JARVIS? FRIDAY? where are you?)
If he had a minute, a second , he could, he could do something, make it all better, wipe the slate clean and start all over again and—
Crimson red and vivid red and hot rod red and splattered red and redredred
He goes under.
Tony Stark is scraps, Tony Stark is in pieces, Tony Stark is dying and Extremis screams and screams and screams for its host that cannot do so anymore.
It howls in the only way it knows how, in zeroes and ones, in jagged code that burns arc reactor blue, sharp and uneven, slamming down firewalls rooted in misfiring synapses and 6-dimensional folds, spreading and spreading pain that it cannot conceptualize; and yet, and yet.
ITHURTS, it burns across computer screens, across cellphones and billboards and TVs, ITHURTSSTOPITWHYWHYWHYHELPMEHELPME
Tony Stark is not Extremis but Extremis is Tony Stark, rebuilt him better and faster and stronger, continually adapts to his needs and desires, stretching the concept of Tony Stark as far as it can, because Tony will always think he’s wrong, will always try to correct it, and so, Extremis will always answer.
Extremis tells the body that it’s wrong, and the body rejects itself.
Tony Stark tells himself that he is wrong, and Tony Stark rejects himself.
There is a reason why, out of everyone that ever tried – and failed – to complete it, only Tony could. It’s all in the head – belief, if you want to call it that way – and there is one thing that he will always believe in : that Tony Stark may be right, but Tony will always be wrong.
Extremis is part of him, is woven through his every cell and rearranges them just as easily as he rearranges the world in his mind. Tony’s body is not flesh and blood, it is gold-titanium alloy and energy and the future. It is the blueprint of himself that he keeps deep, deep down; that he tweaks with every situation he encounters, every needs and desires that he (the world) needs met. And it is Extremis that breathes life into this body.
So, if Tony’s brain and bones and muscles and self are pushed inexorably toward non-existence, then it will shore them up long enough for him to save himself.
Moving past the glowing stitches digging into its host, it stretches further and further, pushes “pain” and JARVIS’ gold-bright worry and FRIDAY’s copper-fear aside, ignores budding JOCASTA’s sea-green dreams and builds . Threads itself through every system it touches – ignores the spikes of code screaming of helplessness and fear and other things it will never understand – links them together in a giant neural network, reroutes power from the Tower and the power grid and every arc reactor in Tony’s workshop. It breathes life into them, accesses records and tests and experiments and forcefully syncs with it, Tony’s brainwaves a sputtering metronome counting down toward annihilation.
(if Ultron was an imprint dug deep into the Scepter, then Tony is an imprint upon the world)