The sound of Jarvis’ voice broke through the haze of Tony’s current distraction. Looking up from where he was fiddling with a soldering iron, Tony Stark narrowed his eyes in confusion.
“I told you that I was not to be disturbed. I’m on the trail of something awesome.” He stated as he set the iron back in its cradle, lightly blowing on the circuit board that he had just been working on repairing.
“Yes, sir. But there is someone at the front door.”
“Front door? Pfft, you mean the gate?”
“No, sir. The door. He appears to have made his way past the external security measures.”
“Okay, J. Show me what you’ve got.”
A holographic screen appeared, floating above the table where Tony had just been working. On it, live footage from the front door camera was displayed.
In front of the door stood a handsome young man, mid-twenties in age, dressed casually with an old army duffel set by his feet. Mere moments after the feed activated, he looked up directly into the camera as if sensing its activation, showing off clear blue eyes and an attractive face.
“Who are you? And what are you doing at my house?” Tony asked, keying the intercom outside.
In the image, the man looked down for a moment, and then returned his gaze to the camera. “My name’s Callister, and my dad told me to come see you if I needed help. That is, if you are Tony Stark.”
“Sir,” Jarvis interrupted before he could respond. “There appears to be someone trying to hack into my network.”
“What?” Tony asked, surprised.
“He’s quite adept, I must say,” Jarvis continued as Tony pulled up a second screen to see the intrusion. “The source appears to be coming from our visitor.”
Tony hummed in agreement even as he typed furiously, trying to disable the intruder’s probe. Almost absently, he reactivated the intercom to ask, “Of course I’m Tony Stark. But you, you are something else. Asking for help even as you invade.”
“Invade?” Came the confused response before it almost instantly shifted to apology. “Oh… Sorry about that, it’s automatic.”
Tony froze, even as he continued working at the keyboard. “J. You see what I’m seeing?”
“Indeed, sir. It appears that our hack was some form of…” the AI paused, “greeting. However, there appears to be a virus attached to the greeting, which my systems registered as a hack.”
“Hah,” Tony grinned maniacally, even as he stared intently at the screen. “There you are, you little bugger.” Typing in a few more lines, he added. “Bounce that back at our visitor would you J?”
He glanced over at the monitor just in time to see Callister stumble back as if struck. “Well, it seems our hacker there has some kind of internal link to his tech.”
Man and machine went back to work, refining their attack on the virus based on the response they received. Meanwhile, their visitor had dropped into a seated position beside his bag. His head was down and braced between his hands as if he had a severe migraine.
After what felt like an eternity to Tony, but was probably no more than ten minutes, Tony crowed victorious. “Hah, that ought to do it.”
He looked over at the outside view and watched as Callister fell backwards, body locked, and then started to seize.
“Thank… you,” he gasped through clenched teeth, fighting off the convulsions ravaging his body.
After a moment, Jarvis asked, “Shall I call the police sir?”
“Not yet,” Tony replied, his mind whirling. “I’m going up there first.” He headed out the door of the lab and up the stairs towards the front door to the Malibu estate.
Jarvis sighed. Sometimes his creator could be so reckless.
“At least take a weapon with you, sir.” He called as Tony approached the door.
The man activated the less sophisticated interface beside the door, pulling a pistol from the lock box mounted in the wall beside it.
“Naturally, J. Anything happen while I was on the move?”
“Your visitor’s convulsions continue, though their intensity appears to be decreasing.”
Tony grabbed the door, thankful that it opened inward. Looking down at his visitor, Callister, he reminded himself. Wait, where had he heard that name before? Nothing? Nope. Anyways.
“So, what’s happening?” He asked as he looked down at the convulsing body. “Do you need me to call an ambulance, or something?”
“No… Hospital…” Callister gritted out between shakes. “It’s just… the corrupted data… being purged.” Looking closely, Tony thought he caught a glimpse of something strange hidden in his eyes.
“Wait a minute, data?” Tony snapped his fingers. “That’s where I know your name. Nathan! He was raving about this new programmer of his.”
Callister managed a weak smile. “Father,” he agreed, even as he gritted his teeth through another wave of convulsions.
Tony tapped a finger to his lips as he thought. “Well then, if you don’t want to go to the hospital, what shall I do with you?”
When Callister started to respond, Tony interrupted.
“Hsst, that was rhetorical. I’m thinking.”
“You make it past the first level of my security, attempt to hack my computers using some kind of bio-mechanical interface, and are connected to my favorite big brother.”
“However, despite your claim, you’re far too old and have the wrong coloring to be his biological child. That leaves lots of options. Adoption, fostering, I suppose, though I doubt that one. Protégé of some kind seems most likely.
Through the rapidly lessening shakes, Callister smirked, prompting Tony to exclaim. “That, that right there is definitely Nathan’s though.”
“Well… you’re not completely wrong…” Callister agreed. “But… you haven’t got it… yet, either.”
Tony waited for a minute or so until the shakes dissipated to the point that they were barely noticeable.
“You’re not secretly planning to hurt me are you?” he asked Callister.
“Would I tell you if I was?” came the sarcastic response.
“True, but you did ask for help. Was that sincere?”
Tony stared down at the face below, and then sighed. “Okay, then. I’m going to trust my gut and give you a little leeway. Let’s see how far you take it. He tucked the gun into the back of his waistband, making sure that the safety was engaged before he did so.
“Can you get up?” he asked.
Callister put in an effort, managing to prop himself up on his arms for a moment before collapsing back.
“Guess, not, huh. Well, it’s a good thing I’m used to helping incapacitated friends then.”
Tony manhandled Callister up into a sitting position, shoving the duffel behind his back to keep him upright. Then he went downstairs to grab one of the small platforms that he used when working on the underside of his cars.
Working together, the two men managed to situate Callister onto the platform, move him to the living room and get him seated on a low couch. Once Callister was in place, Tony collapsed beside him with a huff.
“That was way more physical work than I was looking to do this afternoon.” He climbed to his feet and headed for the room’s minibar.
“I need a drink before we continue our conversation, you want one?”
Tony poured himself a couple fingers of whiskey, pulled the from behind his back and set it on the bar, and then took a seat facing Callister.
“Oh, and before you say anything, I should probably introduce you to the other participant in this conversation. J!”
“Good afternoon, Callister Raynes. My name is Jarvis, and I run this house.”
“Along with most of my life,” Tony added fondly. “Jarvis stands for ‘Just A Rather Very Intelligent System.’ He’s an AI, but he’s every bit as intelligent as you or I. Actually, he was the main one who figured out how to deal with your little ‘virus’.”
Instead of being startled, the most common reaction when people were introduced to Jarvis, Callister beamed.
“No wonder Father suggested you, you’re just like him.”
Looking towards the nearest camera, Callister added. “It’s wonderful to meet you Jarvis. I appreciate your help with my illness.”
“Now then,” Tony asked, “what’s the what?”