Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: Iron Man (MCU)
Timeline: After “Iron Man 2”
Genre: General, thriller
Rating: T / FRT
Characters: J.A.R.V.I.S., Tony Stark (Iron Man), Tony’s bots (DUM-E and U). Also: James “Rhodey” Rhodes (War Machine)
Summary: Tony’s going to blame the entire episode on faulty residual Hammer tech he hadn’t yet managed to scrub from War Machine’s system. That’s most definitely the story he, the bots, and J.A.R.V.I.S. are sticking to.
Complete. Part of “Genius, AI & Bots” series.
Warnings: Language, canonical violence.
Disclaimer: Iron Man and Marvel Cinematic Universe, including characters and everything else, belong to Marvel, Marvel Studios, Jon Favreau and Paramount Pictures. In short: I own nothing; this is pure fiction created to entertain likeminded fans for no profit whatsoever.
Beta: Mythra (mythras-fire)
Story and status: Below you see the writing process of the story. If there is no text after the title, then it is finished and checked. Possible updates shall be marked after the title.
All he had wanted was a quiet night in. Not too much to ask, right? A drink or two and a movie on the big screen in the living room – or a couple hours of gaming online, showing cocky youngsters their place.
After all, if he wanted a challenge, he would play against J.A.R.V.I.S.
He should have known not to expect things to go according to plan, seeing as his life seemed more adept at falling into chaos on most days. Best not to make plans in the first place…
“Sir, a fire has broken out in the workshop,” J.A.R.V.I.S. announced.
Tony frowned. He had just finished taking a bath after working all day down in the shop, and last he checked, nothing had been on fire. “How is that possible?” he asked. “Did the bots set something on fire?”
“That sounds awfully vague,” Tony commented.
“Understandably,” J.A.R.V.I.S. agreed – without elaborating, which was quite suspicious.
“Anything else you’d like to tell me?” Tony prodded.
“Let’s just say the new targeting system perceived the bots as a threat. I would rather not activate the sprinkler system while the fire is still manageable, but the bots have not been successful at putting it out.”
“No casualties, though?” Tony asked as he headed for the stairs, still clad in a bathrobe.
“None,” the AI confirmed.
Tony skipped every other step on the way down. A fire was a fire and he didn’t want any more unwanted target practice for his armor. He had no idea what the bots could have done to activate the weapons systems, but putting out the fire was a priority.
When he got to the workshop, there was smoke in the air but not to the degree he had feared. He couldn’t see any actual flames invading the space, but if that had been the case, J.A.R.V.I.S. would have turned on the sprinklers or other preventative measures – like isolating the area and sucking the air out. Tony was particularly proud of that function; a lot easier to clean up than several inches of water on the floor.
It turned out there was a gaping, spark-spitting hole in one of the walls. Some of the circuitry and wall materials must have caught fire, and it was a bit tricky for the bots to contain with their fire extinguishers.
“Cut the power,” Tony ordered.
“I would have to disconnect the main power line,” the AI reported.
“Just do it – after saving any ongoing projects I may have left open.”
“Saving and preparing for a forced power down.”
Tony waited a moment, then went to look for equipment to put out the last pockets of fire. The lights flickered while he was still gearing up, and he searched the nearby tabletops to find a flashlight in case all the lights went off completely; at this hour, the large windows offered little illumination from the night sky outside.
One of the bots poked their arm up suddenly, startling him. “Are you hiding?” Tony asked, a little amused.
The bot’s arm drooped slightly and a soft bleep followed almost guiltily.
“Where’s the other coward?” he questioned.
An almost identical bleep came from behind the row of cars on the other side of the room, so soft Tony almost missed it. He didn’t see the bot, and the lights went out a few seconds later, leaving them in the ghastly gloom of the emergency lights. The silence was deafening at first, but a soft glow emanating from the damaged section of the wall reminded Tony that he needed to put out the fire before it ate its way into any more hardware and building structures.
Collecting the proper equipment to put out the fire, as well as the flashlight, Tony headed towards the problem area – then realized that while his robe had big pockets for tools, the fluffy material most likely wasn’t the best option for fire-control.
Knowing he didn’t have the time to go fetch a proper outfit, he grunted and unloaded the tools onto a nearby surface, then untied the belt and slid out of the bathrobe, tossing it a safe distance aside before approaching the fire. Cutting the power had clearly helped, and Tony aimed a small hand-held precision extinguisher at the hole in the wall, spraying the area to cool it down and suffocate the pockets of fire. He emptied the tank, twisting the nozzle around to spread the fire deterrent, then set it down on the table to peer into the hole. He couldn’t detect any more glowing, but the smoke made him retreat with a cough, eyes watering.
Pulling away, Tony took a step back and turned around, waiting for a helpful robotic arm to show up at his side with whatever tool they deigned suitable for the occasion. However, neither of the bots could be seen in the gloom of the room – meaning they were still hiding.
“Did you even try to put out the fire?” Tony asked out loud and coughed again.
Neither bot responded – nor did J.A.R.V.I.S. Either the forced shut down gave the AI more trouble than Tony had predicted, or there was some kind of guilty conspiracy going on.
“J, I need you to scan the wall for hot spots that would suggest smoldering,” Tony instructed, fairly certain the AI could hear him even when he wasn’t visibly operational.
There was no reply, and in order to scan the wall they would need to power up again.
As he waited, Tony idly scratched his crotch – once again aware that he was standing naked in the middle of his smoky workshop. He had kind of forgotten about that while working to make sure the fire was extinguished, especially since there hadn’t been too many sparks flying after the power was shut down.
A mechanical sound originated from the opposite side of the room. It wasn’t the power coming back on, though, nor one of the bots: the soft whirs were coming from a suit of armor, and Tony looked in that direction, wondering if J.A.R.V.I.S. had powered up Mark VI in lieu of the AI’s usual mode of operations.
The bots let out sounds that could have easily been translated as panicked yelps, and the one hiding behind the table took off so fast he knocked over a chair and a tray full of microchips perched on the edge of a nearby table.
“Hey!” Tony called out, annoyed – then heard the telltale thump of a footfall from the armor and turned his eyes towards the origin of the sound.
The eyes and chest-piece glowed red, which meant it wasn’t Mark VI.
“J, why is War Machine operational?” Tony asked – then recalled the comment about a weapons system being activated, which kind of made sense, seeing as he had been working on Rhodey’s suit before coming up, not his own.
The armor stepped forward from the shadows, menacing in its slow approach. Tony could just make out the holster of the minigun on its right shoulder, the large weapon absent due to Tony’s work to re-modify the suit after Hammer’s downgrades. No one in their right mind would call them ‘upgrades’, no matter how fond Rhodey was of some of the weapons he had made Tony promise to keep integrated into the suit.
Just because the star of the show was absent, it didn’t mean the armor couldn’t blow another hole in the wall – or Tony, if its UI had somehow gone screwy.
As he stared at it, the armor halted, clearly taking in Tony’s presence. Normal procedure would be to scan the target and determine its potential threat level – if any – and Tony wondered whether his naked appearance triggered anything more than a small indecency flag. He certainly hoped not, because he was very much underdressed to take on a suit of armor.
The armor seemed to decide he was not a threat, its head slowly turning in the direction to which the bot had disappeared. The other one seemed to take this as his chance to move as well, and Tony heard the robot moving behind the row of cars. War Machine detected it as well, turning towards the sound, one of the shoulder panels shifting.
“Oh no you don’t!” Tony snapped and set forward as fast as he could, bare feet tapping the floor as he ran over and threw one arm around the suit, hand landing in the middle of the faceplate in hopes of distracting the armor.
It worked, the armor beginning to rotate towards him, a one-track mind without a pilot inside.
“J.A.R.V.I.S., shut it down,” Tony ordered as he backed off, almost getting his right foot stepped on by the armor. It would mean broken bones and weeks in a cast while the injury healed, and he was smart enough to try keep it from happening.
There was no response, the power still gone. The auxiliary power should have enabled J.A.R.V.I.S. to operate even when the main power was still down, however, so Tony didn’t know what the hold-up was.
“Power down,” he informed the armor, just in case it might follow the order. Tony had a feeling he was being scanned and assessed again – then dismissed as a non-threatening civilian.
Behind the cars, the bot moved again.
“Stay put!” Tony ordered both the bot and the armor – which both screeched to a halt. “This is stupid,” he declared. “That means it has to be more Hammer tech,” he decided. “Buggy OS is just what could be expected from him.” He patted the armor on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, I’ll have that sorted out in a few days.”
The armor, clearly, didn’t see that as a consolation. Instead, it reached out and clamped a metallic set of fingers around Tony’s wrist just as he was pulling his hand away, clearly taking the pat as a hostile move on its person.
Tony grimaced at the bone-grinding strength. “Let go,” he ordered.
The suit didn’t let go, which was worrisome, and Tony began to debate his options. There were no tools within his reach, and his bare fingers would be of little to no use against the armor.
“Let go,” Tony repeated, slow and sharp, staring at the face plate and the glowing red eyes.
Still the suit didn’t let go.
Tony exhaled sharply. “Okay, new plan: open up. I want to get inside.” Technically the suit was fitted for Rhodey now, but Tony could fit in there and was confident he could reboot both the operating system and user interface from the inside, which in turn would end this very odd episode.
There was no response, however, and Tony’s hand was really starting to ache above and below where the armor was holding him, whereas the area itself was rapidly turning numb.
In mounting frustration, Tony tried to pry the armor’s fingers off – then punched its faceplate when that didn’t yield results. “Okay, you tin can,” Tony started, pointing a smarting finger at the armor – he would have to remember that punching metal rarely yielded the results he wanted, either. “You’re going to let me go, scoot back to your corner and power down before I –”
He didn’t get to verbalize the actual threat before the armor began to raise its other arm, clearly intent on hitting him. Tony’s words stuttered to a halt while he tried to lean away, knowing that with one of his arms trapped he wasn’t going to get away in time. Depending on how buggy the OS was, the suit might actually kill him, and wasn’t that a cheerful thought. This wasn’t a scenario Tony had planned for in abundance, seeing as his suits didn’t usually move around on their own, and he experienced a brief moment of animal fear, cornered and awaiting his doom to befall him.
A crash from behind them drew the armor’s attention for half a second, its arm still poised to strike. It turned slightly towards the sound to see its origin, and for one terrified second Tony imagined one of the bots trying to come to his aid – then continued onto another horrible nightmare of the armor tearing said bot apart or blowing it to pieces.
It wasn’t a bot, however: Mark VI was suddenly there, thudding to the floor from its brief flight across the room, and Tony saw it grabbing onto the raised arm, locking it in place – then reaching around with the other arm to seize War Machine’s head and twisting it right off its mechanical shoulders.
“Fuck!” Tony yelled, reflexively cringing. He could see sparks, a few of them landing on his naked skin. Metal bits and wiring were torn off as the helmet went flying across the room.
The War Machine armor seized up, clearly confused as to what was happening, and its hold on Tony’s arm truly threatened to break the limb in two. He cried out in pain, trying once again to remove the mechanical hold.
Mark VI reached out, seizing the arm by the wrist and squeezing. Tony could hear the surface plating screeching for a few seconds before it gave out, and Mark VI continued to press until War Machine’s wrist was rendered a mangled mess of metal, leaking fluids all over Tony’s feet. The fingers finally released their hold, however, having lost connection to the operating system, and he stumbled back with a sigh of relief, cradling his aching hand to his chest.
He was about to tell J.A.R.V.I.S. to shut down the other suit when Mark VI stepped around War Machine, appeared to size it up – then punched into its chest and pried free the arc reactor, effectively powering down the armor. It collapsed to the floor, the neck area still spitting an occasional spark, and Tony took a step away to keep himself from getting burned.
Mark VI turned towards him, and for a second Tony was afraid there was a virus in the system.
“Are you alright, sir?” J.A.R.V.I.S.’s voice asked instead, the armor’s head cocking a few millimeters to the side.
Tony managed a nod, still cradling his hand.
“You should get some ice for that,” the AI said, gesturing towards the injured limb. “Also, you should probably get dressed.”
“Okay,” Tony said numbly, blinking.
“I shall begin powering up the systems and evaluating the wall damage to make sure there are no pockets of fire hiding in the structures.”
“Thanks,” Tony said – then sat his ass down on the floor, hard enough to hurt his tailbone. “I think I need a moment to digest…” His eyes fell on the fallen armor.
“Shall I plug in War Machine Mark I to run full diagnostics?” J.A.R.V.I.S. asked.
“Is it safe?” Tony asked, his eyes searching and locating the fallen helmet. There was still some circuitry that was faintly glowing inside it, but growing dimmer by the second.
Mark VI didn’t shift, exactly, but there was another one of those awkward, semi-guilty silences. “You were preparing the operating system for a reprogramming earlier.”
“But we didn’t start on that,” Tony recalled.
“Not actively, no. However, some of the functions were altered due to previous physical modifications at Hammer Industries, and it would appear that that led to some conflicting results within the OS.”
“Yeah, like homicide,” Tony muttered, knowing he had hours and hours of work ahead of him to make sure none of this would happen ever again.
“More like annoyance,” J.A.R.V.I.S. corrected.
Tony looked up at his own armor. “What?”
“The bots may have been… teasing the armor. They must have thought it was powered down, but there were a few functions running for diagnostic purposes. I should have had time to prevent it, but the armor dislodged the cable and I was unable to reconnect wirelessly.”
Tony’s eyes narrowed. “Teasing.”
“Yes, sir.” J.A.R.V.I.S. sounded very contrite.
“Dummy! You!” Tony called out. Well, more like barked.
He could hear the bots scurrying away, running into objects. As the power began to return, the lights flashing back on, Tony could see the bots converging at the far end of the room, exchanging frantic bleeps.
“Guys,” Tony started again. “Come here.”
The bots must have realized he could see them and turned their arms towards him. Tony stared them down, and slowly the two troublemakers rolled over to him, hanging their arms in submission.
“I have no idea how you made this happen,” Tony started sternly. “Or why,” he added.
“Hammer tech,” J.A.R.V.I.S. supplied. “You have such a low opinion of it, and they know the War Machine armor still has plenty within it.”
Tony opened his mouth to ask how that was relevant, then stopped to think about it for a second. By the time he had concluded it was quite relevant indeed, he wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry; this was all his doing. The bots had simply been emulating him, and it had accidentally led to a very different outcome than they had expected.
“Crap,” Tony muttered.
“Quite so,” J.A.R.V.I.S. gracefully agreed.
Tony looked at the bots. “No more poking fun at inferior tech.”
The bots let out a bleep in unison.
“Especially if said inferior tech is armed,” Tony added.
Another set of bleeps confirmed that.
“Okay,” Tony said and took a deep breath. “Damage control. J, put the armor on a table somewhere. Bots, in case you couldn’t guess, you’re on clean-up duty.”
“You should really put some ice on that arm, sir,” J.A.R.V.I.S. spoke up – this time through the workshop’s sound system as it was coming fully online. “And perhaps some clothing?”
“Don’t get all haughty on me,” Tony shot back. “You were in charge and allowed Rhodey’s armor to go ballistic.”
J.A.R.V.I.S. didn’t apologize, but he hoisted the mangled armor via Mark VI and took it over to a free workstation.
Tony flexed his right arm and grimaced at the pain, then slowly got to his feet. He felt like taking a shower, or another bath, but he needed to make sure everything was okay down here first.
You came up to him, clutching his abandoned bathrobe in its claw. Tony accepted it and pulled it on, then went to get a pack of ice from the freezer.
He passed Dummy on the way there; the bot had grabbed a broom, and instead of simply picking up the helmet – which was possibly too large for the claw to begin with – the bot was sweeping the helmet across the floor, obviously taking great pleasure in it.
“Kids,” Tony huffed and intervened, picking up the helmet and carrying it to the table where J.A.R.V.I.S. had set down the rest of the armor.
- - -
Rhodey looked around the workshop. He could smell a faint odor of smoke in the air, but that was fairly normal when Tony had been working. The bots were absent, strangely so, but Tony must have just put them to work somewhere else.
His eyes swept over Tony’s Hall of Armor, then noticed that one of the display cases was broken. It looked like the armor inside had made a violent exit, and Tony hadn’t gotten around to repairing the damage. It was the latest model, Mark VI – the armor innocently standing inside the broken case as if nothing had happened.
“Alright,” Tony said briskly as he walked by Rhodey. He clapped his hands together, then winced as if it hurt. It took him a few seconds to force the smile back onto his face. “I’m not quite done with the modifications, but it’s coming along nicely,” he told Rhodey.
“Can I see it?” Rhodey asked.
Tony hesitated. “It’s still in the works.”
Rhodey raised an eyebrow. “Look, if you’re busy, I’m sure I can get someone else –”
“No,” Tony objected, a bit too fast and way too loud. “I’ve got it. I just need a little more time.”
“Okay,” Rhodey agreed. His superiors were eager to get him back on duty as War Machine, but all of them wanted to make sure the armor was fully operational when they did it, to avoid any other scandals like the one with Hammer droids. Plus, Tony was always advancing his own suits so Rhodey was hoping for some upgrades. “I can still see it, right?” he asked, curious to see Tony’s progress.
“Well, if you insist, but really, there isn’t much to see,” Tony shrugged, clearly hiding something.
“It’s my armor,” Rhodey reminded him. He didn’t want to press the subject too much, seeing as Tony could revoke his access to the armor if provoked, but this was the deal they had for now. People had been leery of allowing Tony to modify the suit, but again, they wanted to make sure Hammer’s fingerprints were gone the next time War Machine was deployed. Just in case.
Tony didn’t like it, Rhodey could tell, which was a little odd, but the man led him to a corner of the workshop where War Machine was hoisted up the ceiling.
For a moment Rhodey just blinked at it. “I thought the work would be a bit more… superficial.” For one thing, it looked like someone had pried the power source out with brute force. The helmet was also perched precariously on top of the armor, clearly not completely attached to the rest of the body, and the left arm was totally mangled at the wrist.
“Upgrades,” was all Tony said, keeping a very neutral face. The way he didn’t immediately go forth to explain exactly how he was making Rhodey’s suit better was suspicious. It was in Tony’s nature to lord his successes over Hammer’s failures, but he wasn’t taking credit this time.
“Any complications?” Rhodey asked, still eyeing the damage. After all, it didn’t look like a controlled work process.
“Nope,” Tony said with a pop of his lips, balancing on the soles of his feet. He was obviously lying.
“None,” J.A.R.V.I.S. agreed.
“Just get it done, okay?” Rhodey begged, not wanting to dig too deep. “And remember, there are things I want you to keep even after you’re done.”
“They’re on the list,” Tony reassured him and began to actively shoo him away from the armor. “How about dinner?”
Rhodey agreed, throwing one last look at the armor and wondering just what the hell had happened to it, yet knew it was sometimes best not to know when it came to Tony’s shenanigans.