Chapter One: And So It Begins
As Steve walked briskly to Tony’s lab he kept thinking about the comatose bodies of people popping up all over the east coast. He had just finished watching the most recent news reports on the subject and the latest information was disconcerting. He had been keeping track of those various news reports that talk about these particular cases. The number of cases had increased by the dozens in such a short amount of time. It had been about two and a half weeks since the first case sprang up and already fifty two more cases had been reported. The media is starting to talk about a possible epidemic. Each case that pops up makes Steve more and more nervous.
Being a legendary super soldier has its perks as if you didn’t know. In His profound military and martial arts training, experience in extreme battle conditions and on the brutal front lines, Steve has developed the innate ability to perceive the dangerous nefarious intentions of men of the villainous nature. In short he gets a hunch when bad people are doing bad things. And in the altered cliché phrasing of a web slinging ally “His baddie sense is tingling.” Steve firmly believes that someone is behind the unexplainable cases; someone with heinous intentions. Thus his brisk walk to Tony’s lab where he knows the genius is hiding in which Steve hopes of finding a good set of ears to voice his concerns to.
It wasn’t until quite recently that Steve was even able trust the others with his innermost thoughts and concerns. Let alone to the snarky Tony Stark. But that had changed radically on a mission about ten months back. Captain America and Iron Man had gotten trapped in a collapsed subway tunnel. With one severely injured and the other waxing and waning out of consciousness they had nothing better to do than to quarrel with each other only to find that the reasons why they clashed and fought so much were all based on false assumptions and terrible first impressions. With a bit of heart to heart bonding, that can only happen being trapped in close proximity to each other for over five hours; they came upon an understanding and perhaps even the start of a profound budding relationship.
After a fairly epic and daring rescue that involved a god, a man with breath taking anger management issues, and a couple of master assassins, Captain America and Iron Man got out of the tunnel relatively in one piece which eventually led to a magnificent phase of stunning, wholesome team bonding. Most important though was Steve and Tony’s relationship.
When they got along and cooperated with each other the team as a whole functioned on a higher more efficient level. Missions became a breeze. Or at least as much as a breeze as evil super villains can be. Which eventually lead to Tony actually trusting the team with something incredibly important to him, his true self. Well at least a little bit of it anyway. (No one was ready for full on all natural Tony Stark.) They were a family of sorts now, even going as far to live together in the Avengers Tower.
Over the past few months, surprisingly and yet not so surprisingly, Steve became the person Tony started to trust most, at times even more than Pepper and that’s saying something. After the Subway tunnel collapse, they had started to spend copious amounts of time together. Usually Steve would be in Tony’s lab when he was working on upgrades to the suit or just threatening to donate Dumm-E to some sort of educational establishment if he continued to break things. At times they would talk about a random assortment subjects or if Tony was focused on a certain piece of equipment, Steve would just sit nearby and draw. Just being near each other was at times enough.
Tony’s trust in Steve had to, in a since, increase drastically because of one drunken night. Tony and Pepper had mutually ended their relationship on that particular day through business and friendship reasons. Though mutual and for the best the situation was still overwhelming enough for Tony to get completely and utterly wasted. Steve had ended up stumbling upon the totally plastered billionaire in that condition.
As the Super Soldier ushered the babbling drunken man to his room, the crazy genius started to utter some of his most profound secrets that not even Rhodey or Pepper knew. Needless to say he had to completely trust Steve to keep his secrets safe. Somehow, though, he found that it really wasn’t all that difficult to do so.
So back to the point, where was I? Ah, yes...
Shortly enough Steve was opening the door to Tony’s work shop. As soon as he did, a blasting wave of AC\DC music impacted his eardrums with an intense force. Too anxious to care Steve pressed on.
Discussing his concerns with Tony will perhaps shed some light on the situation. He hopes that Tony’s opinion on the matter will possibly help alleviate his anxiety. If his gut feeling is right, then at the very least they should prepare for the likelihood that a terrible mission will be underway.
“JARVIS! Music!” Steve shouted over the incredibly loud guitar chords of Tony’s Music.
JARVIS muted the music as Steve entered in to the shop further to find Tony hunched over one of his work tables tinkering with some piece of tech. The loss of music threw Tony into an obvious annoyance.
“Nope, bad move. Don’t mess with my music...” Tony said irritatedly as he looked up at the intruder of his sanctuary.
“This had better be good Cap. I was in the zone.” Tony stated flashing Steve with an obnoxious grin.
Steve sighed; Tony’s in one of those moods. Then the genius snapped his fingers as if in an epiphany; a seemingly brilliant idea crossing his mind.
“On second thought I’m glad you’re here. I may or may not have broken the coffee pot down here about 3 hours ago, so I need you to get me some coffee. Some glorious liquid heaven, yeah?” Tony looked at Steve in anticipation all the while still smirking.
Steve looked at Tony incredulously. He folded his arms across his chest clearly not amused with Tony’s demand. Steve then proceeded to stare at Tony with a look that screamed ‘Shut the fuck up! I am here for a far more important reason than to get you coffee!’ Of course our fine Captain would not say that out loud, however that look is usually sufficient enough. This time is no different. It took Tony only 2.5 seconds to get the point. This, by the way, is a decent improvement. The genius is getting better and better at recognizing his team mates ‘faces’. It only took misinterpretating one of Natasha’s bitch faces to become very skilled at the art of perceiving them. But that’s a story for another time.
Tony put his tinkering tools down and gave Steve his semi undivided attention.
“OK, Cap, what’s up? Don’t tell me we have a mission from shield. I’m still recovering from the last mission we had. Remember, a wayward missile blasted a dent in an unfortunate place on my armor. I nearly lost my di-“
“No Tony!” Steve groaned out.
Tony had already gone on and on for days about that incident and how the bruise around his left testicle was never going to go away. The Captain did not need him to start that up again.
“No, at least not yet.” Steve scratched the back of his head thinking of the best way to introduce the subject.
“Have you been paying attention to the news as of late? Adverse cases have been popping up for the past two weeks, they’re very troubling.” Steve finally stated looking a bit perturbed.
The Captain’s concern bled through his usual stoic leader face. Tony noticed the look and transitioned into serious mode.
“Yeah, I am assuming you are talking about the exponential increase of unexplained coma cases?” Tony confirmed recalling the upsetting news that had in fact caught his attention.
Steve nodded solemnly in comprehension. If Tony’s keeping track of the cases then something really is wrong.
Tony got up from the work table and motioned Steve to follow. He walked to his main computer and pointed out the various stats that were shown on the screen.
“I have JARVIS keeping me updated on the cases. Since I think around the eighth reported case I’ve been keeping track. Only now is the media making the connection to pretty much all of the recent coma cases on the east coast. People dropping in Main then Georgia, Florida and Virginia. All with the same symptoms.” He said as he pulled up news reports and patient confidential information (leave it to Tony to illegally have confidential patient information).
Steve looked at the screen in fascination and horror. Tony continued.
“There have been thirty-eight in the past two days alone, the doctors are perplexed. What the news doesn’t say is that most of the people that succumbed to this mysterious ailment were perfectly healthy; the doctors cannot explain why these seemingly robust people are dropping into comas left and right. Also brain activity is absolutely normal as if these people are fully awake and functioning.” Tony stated as he skimmed through the patient information.
He was about to continue until he looked up and saw the look on Steve’s face. The Captain looked like he was about to throw up. Steve always took these kinds of things really seriously; as if each unfortunate victim or casualty was his own personal failure.
He started to become more apprehensive. If he’s reading the patient reports right then there is absolutely nothing physically or even psychologically wrong with these people. Even the specialists are vexed. There is something terribly fishy going on and the good Captain is dreading the eventual confrontation of the fiend that has the power to do this to people.
“I don’t like this Tony. What could possibly cause something like this? Is it a new super virus? Is it unregistered technology? Could it be the works of an alien or mutant or or…”
“Steve!” Tony shouted out to stop the near hyperventilating soldier.
He readjusted himself to directly face The Captain. Steve was on the verge of a panic attack and Tony could only guess why. Waking up in the 21st century was overwhelming enough but to learn about the horrors of modern pathogens and the complex innovative technology would be enough to scare the shit out of anyone waking up 70 year away from their time. Then to top it all off there’s the progressive mutated humans and advanced races of aliens from distant galaxies, so I say the ‘out of time’ Super soldier is allowed a panic attack every so often.
“Steve listen.” Tony spoke a bit louder and enunciated his syllables.
He snapped his fingers and made sure he had Steve’s undivided attention.
“Ok, you with me now?”
“Ok, good. Listen ok. It is definitely not a piece of technology doing this. I know. Ok.” Tony stated reassuringly while maintaining eye contact.
“I know how technology works; it would have left traceable physical evidence. And as for a super virus, it may be, however highly unlikely.” Tony construed.
The fact of the matter is a super virus would also leave physical evidence. There is no physical evidence of any kind that could be found in the patients that pointed to either of those possibilities. Not to mention the sporadic randomness of the cases.
Hearing Tony’s viewpoint on the issue was helping Steve to calm down tremendously. Tony pulled up other schematics on the computer.
“Listen, I’ve had JARVIS running a background check on all of the ‘victims’. He is searching for whatever could possibly link any of these people together. So far we have zilch.” The genius looked up expectantly at the Captain in anticipation of a calm reply.
Tony was relieved to see that Steve had his leader face back on.
“So likely an alien or a mutant is behind these cases?” Steve said slowly as if tasting each word.
He’s running the idea over in his mind. At least mutants and aliens are tangible things with faces that he can shove his fist into, unlike a super pathogen or some sort of machinery that he knew absolutely nothing about.
Tony nodded slowly, ideas, probabilities and possible solutions quickly forming in his own brain.
“Given the information that you have compiled, Tony, I have no doubts now that SHIELD will intervene at some point soon. Which means we should prepare for the inevitable.”
The Captain declared becoming somewhat excited, his brilliant tactile brain already formulating startlingly amazing strategies.
“Ok here’s what we can do: You contact Thor with your, uh, ‘space phone’, he and Asgard has abundant knowledge of other alien races. If there is an alien behind all of this then the Asgardians would likely know. We should also get Dr. Banner in on this, you need to send him the information that you have gathered and have him look at the patient files and see if the ‘specialist’ missed something as well as get his general opinion on the situation.” Tony perked up at the Captains commanding tone.
“Aye, Aye Captain! Now there’s the Capsicle we all know and love.” The billionaire smirked and turned back to his computer.
To Steve’s utter annoyance Tony still calls him that infernal nick name. “I’ll get right on that. JARVIS?”
“Sir?” The AI’s voice resounded from seemingly everywhere.
“Where is Dr. Banner right now?” Tony said while initiating the start up program for his ‘space phone’ as the Captain called it.
“Dr. Banner is on floor eight sub level three, sir.” JARVIS replied.
“Ok, inform him about the situation and send him all of the case files and other information I have gathered. Have him get back to me a.s.a.p.”
“Already underway, sir.”
“That’s why I love you JARVIS. Keep me posted.” Tony smiled and turned his attention back to Steve.
“Ok what’s next oh fearless leader…” His smile turning into a sly smirk.
“Just so you know I will never let you live this down, Cap. You were so tripping out. You my friend lost your cool.” At his final declaration Tony started to chuckle which only served to piss off our dear Captain.
Steve started to give Tony ‘the look’ again. The billionaire with every intention of getting under the Soldiers skin started to obnoxiously full on laugh out loud.
Glaring Steve started to shout. “Do you honestly think this is a game, some sort of joke? People are in danger and you’re laughing!” Tony started to laugh even harder at Steve’s reaction.
Despite the overwhelming urge to punch Tony in his exceedingly insufferable smug face, the good Captain willed himself to calm down. He had to remind himself that the bad jokes and crude humor were Tony’s way of coping with incredibly serious situations.
It took months of epic shouting matches, intense stand offs, inappropriate pranks and in Tony’s case a well deserved punch in the face for Steve to realize that the crazy genius just functions that way. Thinking back on Tony’s swollen purple face after that particular punch made the Captain calm down immensely and go back into leader mode.
“Are you done?” Steve sighed.
One needed the patients of a saint to deal with Tony at times. How on earth was Pepper ever able to do it for so many years? No one may ever know. Tony’s laughs started to die down some.
“Yeah I’m good.” Tony chuckled out as he let out a few more snickers.
Steve eyed him exasperatedly; it’s time to get back down to business.
“Now we need to contact Thor. How long will it be before your ‘space phone’ is up and running?” Tony perked at the mention of his ‘space phone’. He’s overly proud and exceedingly fond of that particular invention.
“The ‘Trans Cosmic Tele Communication Device’ will be fully operational within four hours, and we will be talking to Asgardians that are millions of light years away.” Tony said almost giddily.
The device is partially powered by and directly connected to the Tesseract that is located on Asgard. Tony figured out how to sync Earthen technology with the grand ancient technology of the gods.
Mystifyingly he did it without blowing something up. It was a surprise to everyone, and perhaps a disappointment to others. Although Eric Selvig and the Asgardians did help him significantly. Still there is no denying that Tony’s genius is responsible for the miraculous capability to communicate through galactic matter and light years of distance.
Steve looked on as Tony’s head started to noticeably inflate. Due to the considerable expansion of his head new ideas, formulas and schematics started popping up in his mind. The crazy genius then started to wander off to execute some of these innovative ideas.
As Tony walked off to do god knows what, Steve was running all of the collective information is his head. Even though he feels better knowing he has a slight grip on the situation, the whole thing is still scary as hell. The Captain started to think in terms of odds, how likely it would be for them to win.
Just when he was going to go ask Tony his opinion of the odds, Steve heard a reverberating CRASH resonate though out the shop. The good Captain, concerned for the genius’s wellbeing, darted toward Tony’s general direction he wander off in only to hear him start to shout.
“Dumm-E! What the hell?! I installed highly advanced sensors and cams in you specifically so you wouldn’t do this! I swear to God one more time and you getting donated to that dance studio on 5th!”
Steve arrived to see the horrible disaster the poor clumsy robot made of Tony’s main work station. It bowed its robotic arm in shame as its fuming creator continued to scold it.
“And another thing, what were you doing carrying that crap anyway?” As Tony was about to go on yet another livid rant Steve decided to intervene.
“Tony…” He said in a slight reprimanding tone.
The creator of clumsy machines stopped just as his mouth was about to formulate a particularly nasty curse. He waved Dumm-E away and gave his partial attention to the Captain once more.
“Was up Cap?” Tony said as he was assessing the disaster of his work station.
“What is the likelihood of us fixing this? …Coming out on top?” Steve asked uncertain about so many things.
Tony considered him for a moment. The Captain is an extraordinary man that generally cares about the well being of, well, everyone.
The inventor found during the time they spent together that Steve is in every sense a ‘Good Man’. Through the tragic events and unbelievable experiences that led Captain America to this time, Tony was lucky enough to find the ‘man’ underneath the legend. He discovered that despite being born in 1918 and being the most mature and responsible of all of them Steve was by far the youngest, technically he was only 30. To carry so much on his shoulders at such a young age is such a profound burden. At times it is hard for the genius to even fathom the horrors Steve must face daily. Thus his constant awful wit towards the Good Captain.
Before Tony could answer Steve’s question JARVIS interrupted.
“Sir, Dr. Banner has finished his analysis of the cases and is now approaching the lab.”
Tony looked at Steve, anticipating perhaps more insight on the cases. Steve eagerly awaited Bruce's arrival also in hopes of receiving new information.
Behind them Dumm-E started to clean off the work station. Bruce entered the shop hastily and called out.
“Back here Bruce!” Tony shouted back.
Bruce weaved through the machines and found Steve and Tony at the main work station that appeared to be in a poor state of disarray.
“Dr. Banner.” Steve nodded to the good doctor and Bruce nodded back.
“So what do you think?” Tony asked.
“Well you are right Tony. Something very weird is happening here. From the current visuals, vitals and specs JARVIS supplied me…” Bruce eyed Tony knowing the genius came by the information through very illegal means.
He continued,”All of this, (gesturing to the printed information in his hands) should not be physically possible. From what I can tell this thing is definitely not a virus. I’m assuming it does not have a technical origin either.” He stated. A slight questioning tone directed at Tony.
“Nope, definitely not a piece of tech.” Tony said in absolution.
Bruce nodded and continued, “These people have normal brain activity, there is no feasible reason they should be in this condition. Since you sent me the information, one more case has popped up in the same exact condition as the others and is currently located at Mercy’s General Hospital in Hoppsville, New Jersey.”
“What!?” Tony and Steve howled in unison.
At hearing that there had been yet another case just in the last hour, the billionaire sprang to the nearest computer and pulled up the stats. Steve followed close behind him. The computer showed that there had indeed been another case which now makes 54. Bruce approached at the back of them.
“You want my professional opinion? I say this is the work of an alien or mutant. In which case, contacting Thor is our best bet with an alien foe. If this is the effect of a mutant then we should consider contacting Professor Charles Xavier and Dr. Hank McCoy. If there is anyone out there who knows anything about the abilities of mutants then they would be your best bet.” At the doctor’s admission, Tony and Steve looked at each other. Their thoughts were on the same wavelength.
“You’re likely right Dr. Banner. That is what Tony and I were thinking.” Steve replied admittedly.
He was thinking about the extent of the abilities of their foe. To be able to put people in those types of comas, did it take extreme effort or was it as simple as breathing? There was no way to know for sure until more information surfaced or until they met the thing face to face. At the very least they are getting closer to figuring out what ever this is.
Probably, the thing about this that is the most frightening is the fact that this is not looking like usual bad guy behavior. Where is the demand? Where’s the order for the obscene amount of money, or control over the world? This soon to be mission is already a headache underway. Tony, with his head ever so slightly still inflated quickly added the part about his ‘space phone’.
“Yep, the contacting Thor part of the plan is already in motion. I had already initiated the start up program for the ‘Trans Cosmic Tele Communication Device’ about 40 or so minutes ago, so in a few short hours we should be in contact with Asgard. In the mean time how do you think we should get in touch with Professor Iron Sides?”
Bruce smirked and Steve looked at Tony confusedly obviously missing yet another reference.
Just as they were about to brainstorm a solution JARVIS chimed in with a phone call they were all anticipating and dreading since the beginning.
“Sir, Director Fury is on the line.” They all looked at each other and thought the same thing. ‘Oh no. Here we go.’