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Abandoned by Heaven

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Tony Stark would pride himself on precision and accuracy even in the barren deserts of southern Nevada at the heart of the Mojave, nearing the infamous Death Valley which coincided with the location that was flashing up on his HUD. Bright vermilion hooplets on the intricate GPS mapping system would show him the whereabouts of the Captain that he was searching for. Luckily there were numerous tracking devices in Steve’s costume (some unbeknownst to the soldier himself) but every single installation was for Steve’s own protection and proved more than handy in situations such as a kidnapping. Tony would sometimes internally thank his own genius for prompting him to bypass minor verbal contracts agreed upon, but when it came down to the line it was all for the greater good. How else would the Captain agree to have multiple tracking devices embedded throughout his costume, some devices as small as a sewing needle or thumb tack? Freedom is what he had preached for so long and for Tony to be watching his every move was invasive to say the least. It wasn’t as if Tony watched every one of Steve’s moves (he was just curious sometimes) but more often it was used for situations where they were both at risk such as the current one.

“Death Valley, it had to be a location named so ominously.” He lamented to his computer systems as his black and golden armour shimmered in the scorching beams of sunlight that parried off the metallic surface, casting offshoots of light even as he flew with such rapidity that not even a grain of sand beneath him was shaken.

Tony’s dark blue sapphire orbs fixated on the temperature gauge rapidly soaring higher and higher until they reached 50 degrees Celsius. Even with his cooling systems in tact as well as the velocity he was flying at he could still feel minor wisps of heat breach the occasional spot of reveal. This wasn’t his space suit, it wasn’t built for temperatures beyond that of the normal Earth atmosphere, but luckily the wind that was created whilst flying helped cool down the metal; praise physics.

He had to scour each dune with exceptional detail in an attempt to find what he was looking for which after an hour of searching, he’d managed to find hidden as expected. Nothing was out of the ordinary unless they were dealing with Doom. Tony rolled his eyes; Doom chose to stamp his name on everything with his rather garish, yet medieval, choice of décor expressing itself in whatever structure he would build. That included his hideouts, which made them obvious to find. This, on the other hand, was like a searching for a needle in a haystack. All Tony knew was that it was Zola who had his hands on Steve after intercepting him on the soldier’s return back to base.

Tony’s systems locked on to the large circle of metal that it detected and he pointed his boosters downward, holding out his hands to land perfectly on the dimming lights under his feet until they completely faded. This caused the sand beneath him to partially subside with the flusters of air that projected from the landing style. The winds also helped reveal something that was otherwise hidden by the sand, and eventually it all became crystal clear – there it was, a giant silver disk that was his door to finding his friend.

“Oh come on, who would put a manhole in the desert?” Tony groaned, crouching down to remove the plate. Lo and behold, this also unlocked a passage to the undercover lab that Steve had likely been held in. Without a second of thought he jumped into it, sliding down the chute and resisting the urge to shout ‘weeeeeeeee’, after all, that would defeat the point of a surprise attack. The situation was serious but that didn’t prevent him from having a little fun with it all at Zola’s expense.

***

Steve was chained up to the wall. His head hung, and his uniform was torn and tattered after his capture. It took more than just strength to capture Cap, it involved courage and a well-conceived plan. He didn’t put either past Zola – quite frankly, he couldn’t, as Zola was one of his most worthy adversaries. He had been gone for hours and in that time was poked and prodded by a number of needles.

“I thought you would be content with the invention of your own dimension… Trying to bring those things here… We’ve taken them down once…” Steve continued to splutter after hours of shouting the same thing, so much so that his voice rang with a hoarse undertone.

“That was a long time ago. Unfortunately…it was unsustainable.” Zola paced his lab in one of the newer models of his body. He remembered events extremely well, including the invention of his ‘son’ using Steve’s blood to create a child with super soldier abilities. That was soon used against him, and brought upon him his own downfall. There was a victorious spring in his step as his absurdly large eyes from the projection screen in his modified body’s chest darted from test tube to test tube. “There are much more…efficient ways of bringing down mankind with my creations, Steve Rogers.”

Steve snarled and tugged at the chains until they made a loud rattle. He wasn’t strong enough to outright break the chains from the wall he was tethered to. Every ounce of strength was drained from him after the countless lumbar injections that were being stabbed into him from the wall that was just behind him. Given Zola, that wasn’t just a simple wall – it contained large amounts of sedatives that were being injected directly into his spinal cord…and thus rendering him largely incapable of fighting back.

Zola had gotten much smarter since their last encounter and even more merciless. The last time they’d met in his own dimension, Zola had managed to surgically plant himself into Steve’s body, using a large gaping hole in his chest – but that, as Zola had said, was long ago.

“Always taking the easy way out.” Steve snarled in return, grimacing at the feeling of the fluid being pumped through his spine once again as it had been periodically.

Zola let out a mechanical sounding laugh. “This was far from easy… To engineer a virus that is even capable of taking you down. You and your team have gotten in my way far too often…” Zola’s hands reached for another chemical, pouring it into a small container of blue liquid which instantly flowered into a vivid fluorescent purple.

Steve coughed as his vision became blurry yet again, but his body was still desperately trying to fight against the sedation, opening his bloodshot eyes to glare at the evil genius in front of him. “You’re not taking me down with a virus, or with another clone.”

“You underestimate my capabilities. If one of my plans is foiled, Captain, I will always find an alternative that supersedes the one prior.”

Steve breathed heavily and continued to pull at the chains. Zola’s words were becoming hazy as more chemicals were pumped through his system. His head began to hang before he snapped out of it, and he tried to look up, only to sink once more. For a moment, he could’ve sworn he noticed a flash of gold, though that could’ve just been wishful thinking on his part. The amount of times Tony had saved him and he had saved Tony, it had only become natural to develop an unintentional co-dependency on his partner to an extent where he would hope with all of his heart that he would be the one breaking through the doors at that very moment.

His mind wondered and his eyes shut as he fell into a deep sleep dreaming of his rescue. In truth, Steve hated being in situations of helplessness. What he did like was the glowing pride he would feel the moment one of his friends had come to help him, especially if it were Tony. Years of that unspoken connection and years of that bond between them had just earned Tony a special place in his heart…perhaps it could be considered that Steve placed him on a pedestal, even after the war between them. He knew it was all worth it in the end, because no one could take the place Tony had in his heart.

His sleep was broken by a loud noise. The second he looked up, he spotted a few of Zola’s monsters attacking a golden and black metallic figure that he could barely make out given how dark the lab already was, but it was the light rose shimmer from the centre of the figures chest that confirmed that it was indeed Tony who had come to his rescue yet again.

“You’re late…” Steve murmurs in a groggy tone.

“Sorry Cap, had to catch some rays.” Tony replies. By this point, Tony is already starting to fire his smart mini-missiles that jut out from a register just over his shoulder, unfolding neatly from their compact hideout after his systems have already locked onto Zola, though fighting the ‘man’ isn’t that easy with the hoard of monstrosities that surge toward Tony out of the tubes that once contained them. Dark demonic creatures that haven’t even got properly formed limbs throw themselves at Tony, trying to take him down while Zola rushes over to the computers.

Steve smiles to Tony’s retort but feels the wall he’s chained to start to vibrate. “Tony..!” He let out a cry of warning.

“I’m on it Cap! Just let me handle these—“ He threw a solid punch at one of the things, “—ugly bastards first.”

“Watch that potty mouth…” Steve wanted to sound more stern but the more he was speaking the more helpless he sounded, and he hated that, internally blaming the dip in his tone on the sedatives that were being flushed through his entire body.

The pang of metal was all Steve could hear for a while, it were as though he could feel himself slipping again but was quickly jolted back to full awareness the moment that Tony threw one of the creatures to the wall with immense strength, making a loud crash as it swooped through some of the equipment that was set up. It was as though Tony had to fight his way through all of these deformed creatures to try and get to Zola who was busy running from machine to machine to trigger chemical releases.

“One quick fire this ought to do it.” Tony mumbled quickly, powering up his reactor before sliding his shoulders back, sticking out his chest and firing a unibeam straight from the bright light in his chest, shooting it straight through the monsters that hurled themselves his way.

Steve tugged and tugged at the restraints trying to at least bend them, but they weren’t bending, they weren’t even cracking. After years of attempting to capture Steve the evil genius clearly knew how exactly to contain him.

Tony decided he’d need to push forward before more of these things came at him since he’d cleared a path but didn’t know how long exactly that would last, so he raised his legs off the ground, placing pull power in his thrusters and just used himself as a human battering ram. “Thank you Juggernaut!” He yelled as he pushed through the oncoming hoard and right to Zola.

Zola’s eyes darted from screen to screen before he smacked one of the biggest buttons on the control panel and the plate that Steve was on began to shake and light up behind him. Tony was gaining far too much momentum, too much to turn around before he thwarted himself into Zola who had just managed to push the button as he was knocked back.