30 April 2009
Interlude – Tony Stark
Death was raining down from the skies, just outside Tony Stark’s living room window.
He’d only been living in the family mansion in New York for a couple of weeks during the permit phase for his new tower. Just his luck he’d come back from Malibu in time for the Apocalypse to happen!
He could hear the flying doodads outside his window, their shouts of “EXTERMINATE” rattling the panes as they shot past. Tony turned away, knowing what he had to do.
“You’re going out there, aren’t you?”
He glanced over at Pepper, her face far too pale against the brightness of her hair. He wanted to put on the false face of bravado that he saved for the public, but with her…no, he couldn’t it. She deserved to know what he was about to do.
After all, he was Iron Man.
But this wasn’t about going against assholes who were using the weapons his company had once made. No, this was an alien threat that he really had no fucking clue about.
Still, he had to try.
So, he put on his best smile. “I’m a big damn hero…it’s what I do.”
Pepper rolled her eyes. “It’s nice to know your sense of humility is still working in the face of ultimate destruction.”
Tony reached out and gently grasped her by the upper arms. “You know I have to do this.”
She was quite possibly the strongest woman he’d ever known. Tony wasn’t good enough for her, really. “You just want to get out of the planning committee meeting this afternoon.”
“Damnit, you caught me.” He smirked. Then he called out, “JARVIS, is the Mark II ready?”
“Indeed it is, Sir,” the artificial intelligence answered, “however, you have an incoming call from SHIELD…it’s Agent Coulson.”
Tony snorted. “Tell him I’m busy saving the world.”
“He says he’s aware of your tendency to grandstand,” JARVIS answered, his voice sounding vaguely amused, “but he also says it’s urgent he speak with you before you ‘do something the world is going to regret’.”
“Talk to him,” Pepper urged. “He might have information you don’t.”
As much as he didn’t want to admit it, Pepper had a point. Maybe SHIELD knew what these garbage can-shaped aliens were, and how to stop them.
“Alright J, put him through.”
“Hey, Agent!” Tony greeted the SHIELD man jovially, as if the world wasn’t ending outside his panoramic windows. “How’s your day going?”
The thing was, Tony actually liked Agent Coulson, not that he’d ever say so. He’d helped Pepper out with that shit with Obie, and he knew she was genuinely fond of the man. From what he’d heard, Pepper had lunch with the agent whenever their schedules allowed it.
“Very well so far,” came the dry delivery over JARVIS’ internal communications systems. “Although I have a bit of a situation you might want to be aware of.”
“Oh, you mean the alien invasion going on outside?” Tony snarked back. “No, that wasn’t at all obvious.”
“Mister Stark, I need to ask you not to go out and face them.”
Outrage thrummed through every fibre of Tony Stark’s body. “You can’t be fucking serious!” he shouted. “The city’s going to be destroyed – “
“You don’t know what you’re going up against – “
“Do you?” he challenged.
“While SHIELD’s never faced them before, we do have certain sources that have, and they’ve passed along all the information they have. If you go out to face the Daleks, you’ll be dead before you get more than one shot off.”
Daleks. So, that was what the alien menace was called. Actually, the name was a bit of a let-down. Tony had expected something magnificent…maybe like the Floating Trash-Cans of Death or something equally megalomaniacal.
Tony was suddenly shaken by the agent’s assurance that he would, indeed, fail, and he fell back into his natural sarcasm to cover his nerves. “Ah, Agent…I didn’t know you cared!”
“I wouldn’t want Ms Potts to be upset.”
That had him barking a single laugh. “It’s good to know where I rate with you, Coulson.”
Tony didn’t dare look out the window now. His imagination was telling him it was bad, and he itched to get out there and protect innocent lives. Yet, he thought he knew Agent Coulson, and could trust him to give him the truth about what was going on…well, as much as he could trust anyone working for a shadowy government agency. “Well, if you won’t let me get out there and kick some ass, what do you suggest?” It really was against his nature to wait, but even he had just enough common sense to make sure he had all the facts.
He really wanted to do some attacking, though. Too many innocent lives were going to be lost if he had to sit back and watch from the sidelines. His very skin itched with helplessness.
Pepper must have sensed it, because she came to stand next to him, and grasped his hand. It felt grounding, and he held it right back.
“I know you don’t do weapons anymore,” Coulson said, “but we could really use something that will be of use against the Daleks. I’m going to send you the information we have, can you see what you can come up with?”
See, and this was why he secretly respected Coulson. Unlike his boss, Fury, Agent Coulson asked. “Send it on,” he said. “I’ll see what I can do.”
“Thank you, Mr Stark.” There was actual relief in Coulson’s voice. Tony was shocked that the usually unflappable agent was showing his emotions. Things had to be really in the shitter for him to let himself go like that.
It made everything that much more serious.
“I have the information incoming from Agent Coulson,” JARVIS reported.
“Put it up on my console, J.” The desk at the other side of the room lit up, and from where Tony was standing he could make out the scrolling on the monitor. “Agent, I’ll keep you informed.”
A sudden thump against the window had Tony nearly jumping out of his skin, and he spun around in a panic, putting himself between whatever the hell it was and Pepper, arm outstretched even though he didn’t have the armour on…yet. He sagged in relief when it was simply a tree branch hitting the glass. His heart was hammering a mile a minute, hard against the casing of the arc reactor.
“Thank you. Let us know if you come up with anything.”
“Hey, you know me…team player, and all.” He couldn’t resist the dig, and it had more to do with covering his own anxiousness than wanting to needle the SHIELD agent.
Coulson apparently wasn’t going to dignify that with a response, because they all knew if there was something Tony wasn’t, it was a team player. “Good luck, Mr Stark.”
“Who needs luck when you have good looks, charm, and brains?”
That also didn’t get a response…unless being hung up on counted.
Curious despite what was Armageddon outside the house, Tony went over to his desk and began to access the files that Coulson had sent over.
What he saw had his mouth dropping open in shock. Pepper, looking over his shoulder, gasped.
“J, I need to know where this came from.”
“I shall see if I am able to back trace the file, sir,” JARVIS answered, “however, whoever encrypted this information was quite proficient.”
Which was JARVIS-speak for genius-level brilliant and on par with anything Tony himself might have come up with.
“Do what you can,” he said.
“Are you sure you want to find them?” Pepper whispered.
No, but he wasn’t about to admit to that. This was scary shit, but it wasn’t about to stop Tony from discovering just who these mysterious SHIELD contacts were.
But he had to come up with something to defeat these Daleks first. JARVIS could handle the back trace at the moment, while Tony got to work.