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New Fan-fiction: TAKING A.I.M. - Show us your world through the view of your word.

namfleOct. 30th, 2012 02:27 am New Fan-fiction: TAKING A.I.M.

Here we go, a rare piece of fan-fiction from me. This takes place in the Marvel Studios movie universe, after the events in "Marvel's The Avengers" and before "Iron Man 3". If you haven't seen the Avengers movie, you might be lost in some places, but there aren't any great spoilers in this, that I can immediately think of.

I originally wrote this to play with the "Science Bro's" relationship that Tony Stark/Iron Man and Bruce Banner/The Hulk had formed, but the story puffed up and blew itself out into a larger scope and proportion. Besides those two characters, Agent Natasha Romanoff (the Black Widow) has a prominent role, and her boss Director Nick Fury makes his presence known.

This story is in no way any sort of prediction of what Marvel Studios will be doing in the future, nor is it meant to be a suggestion of the sort. This is simply a fun little thing that crawled into my head and demanded release, so here it is. If you have enjoyed the Marvel Studios movies, or if you enjoy comic books and shows derived from them, then I hope you give this a read and can enjoy it.

And now, I present to you...



TAKING A.I.M.
by V Peter Collins


From the outside, it appeared as an ordinary ranch loosely contained by a wooden fence that encircled the many-acre plot. A grain silo, two-story barn, and a rustic farm house dotted the east portion of the plot. Horses grazed on grass. Dragonflies buzzed through the air. Birds sang noisily from the scattered trees. A spring wind tickled the greenery and played musical tag with the chimes hanging at the front door of the house.

A low rumble caused the horses to look up from their grazing and the birds to silence themselves. The grain silo suddenly exploded apart. A large green mass erupted through the cloud of grain, dirt, and metal. The horses bolted, the birds took flight, even the wind grew still. The green mass landed, shaking the earth. It was a man of inhuman size, wearing a scowl that could frighten the gods. He spun to face what was left of the silo and roared. The remaining structures shook as if with fear. Men in heavy armor with large, flat-topped helmets, and oddly shaped rifles, surged from the house. They fired their guns at the bellowing green man, hitting him with sky-blue bolts of energy. He turned to them, unhurt, and growled.

* * *


Thirty-thousand feet into the air, a fellow of a more natural complexion strode through sterile, artificially lit walls. Although he moved with purpose, his mind was still spinning up to speed. He was headed for the cafeteria, where he would procure a much needed caffeinated beverage.

As his uniform boots carried him along, he would frequently pass a subordinate wearing the same dark blue uniform and eagle emblem as he. They each would nod toward him with respect, some using his rank as a greeting. He made sure to respond in kind each time. Usually he could even remember the agent’s name.

He entered the small cafeteria and spied with his one good eye a new trainee exiting with a steaming mug in each hand. He could smell the coffee in her hands and his mouth watered. His heart fell when he reached the coffee dispenser; one of its tell-tales was blinking red. It was out of coffee and needed a refill.

If he had been awake longer, if it had been later in the day, hell, if he even had just one more hour of sleep, he might have had the energy to feel frustrated. As it were, he had not yet filled his tanks of damns to give. With a sigh of resignation, he set to refilling the machine from the supplies stored nearby. He would have his coffee in five minutes. As long as the world wasn’t threatened in that time, he would be all right.

Two minutes later, his standard issue communicator chirped.

“Director Fury, you’re needed on the bridge,” he heard. The voice of Maria Hill, his executive officer, was unmistakable. She knew not to call him for anything frivolous. In fact, the only time he was ever called was when something dire was happening, or surely would. Even that sort of thing was tolerable by virtue of its infrequency. But when those types of events occur less than eight hours apart…

He eyeballed the coffee maker. It wasn’t ready yet.

This time he did swear as he double-timed it out of the cafeteria.

“Fury to Hill,” he responded, frowning. “On my way.”

* * *


It wasn’t that the Board of Directors was compromised of boring old men. In fact, the members of the Stark Enterprises Director’s Board were lively orators who knew how to sell their points well. And it wasn’t the fact that Tony wasn’t interested in what they had to say; contrary to popular belief, Mr. Stark had a deeply vested interest in the goings-on of the company his father had built, especially in lieu of the Stain fiasco.

No, Anthony Stark was bored out of his gourd because he had finished reading his digital copy of the Board’s report ten minutes into the start of the meeting, when all of the pleasantries and hem-hawing was over. Everyone else in attendance sat upright and alert, while Tony was lounging back in a comfortable conference chair, stocking feet propped up on the table – diagonally – and arms folded akimbo behind his head. His view of the ceiling was impeccable.

An alert flashed on his custom P.D.A., which lay near his feet on the conference table. He had been keeping an eye on it just as he had one ear open to the presenters, those people that managed the minutia of his company. He sprang forward suddenly, startling Pepper Potts sitting to his right (and away from his feet), and interrupting the head of his Medical Research department.

“I’m sorry. Please. Go on,” he said to her, giving her just a moment’s attention before scooping up his P.D.A. It held a notice from J.A.R.V.I.S., Tony’s subservient artificial intelligence. It had intercepted a communiqué from S.H.I.E.L.D. that warranted Stark’s attention. He hit the blue-tooth earpiece he wore, signaling JARVIS to deliver the message in full.

“Sir,” began the British voice in Tony’s left ear as the presenter continued her report, “there has been a Banner incident. Agent Romanoff has been dispatched.”

With swift, deft movements of his fingers, Tony sent the notes he had written on the report to Pepper’s own P.D.A., then stood.

“Ladies and gentlemen, you’re all awesome. Something’s just popped up, but Ms. Potts here will give you the juice while I’m gone.”

Pepper was at first surprised then angry at being handed the proverbial baton unexpectedly. Tony stepped into his shoes and made for the door. As he passed the threshold, leaving the Board in a state of bewilderment, Pepper raced to catch up with him. She grabbed him by the shoulders just outside the door.

“Tony, what the hell?” and she was off to the races.

“Pep, you can handle the rest…”

“You’re not even going to hear the rest of the …”

“…I sent you my notes…”

“…meeting. And what if I have my own notes? Tony, You can’t just…”

“If your notes are better than mine, then run with them…”

She stopped and studied him. He gazed into her eyes, for the millionth time, for the first time. His heart, as always, skipped a beat.

“You’re getting into trouble again,” she surmised, frowning and scowling at the same time.

“It’s Bruce. I have to.” She took his hands. He kissed her lightly on the lips. She returned the gesture.

“Come back to me,” she whispered.

He pulled away, but not very far. She had a vice grip on his hands.

“Pep…!” She pursed her lips and tightened her grip, crushing his knuckles. Tony’s eyes popped and his mouth opened end in an expression of pain. “I can’t come back if you don’t let me leave!” He yanked his hands free, stole another kiss, then sprinted to the Stark Tower elevator. Pepper glared at him until the elevator door closed. Her expression softened into concern. She took a moment to collect herself before stepping back into the conference room.

Tony took in the view of south Manhattan from his perch in his private lounge in Stark Tower. He stood, arms outstretched, as the machinery in the room assembled his Iron Man suit onto his body.

“JARVIS,” he called to open air. “Launch the H.B. suit. And tell Lord Fury I’m on my way.”

* * *


What had been an innocent looking ranch just minutes ago had become a cratered battlefield. The horses had fled, jumping clean over the fences, and many of the trees had been felled; one jutted upside down from the roof of the barn. The men in black armor were firing at the enraged and rampaging Hulk. From high up in a SHIELD quinjet, Agent Romanoff spied the action through high-powered binoculars.

“Ma’am,” called the pilot. “All ships are in position.”

“Deploy,” she ordered into her communicator. She quickly pulled on the hood to her tight-fitting jumpsuit, checked the fit of her goggles, and leaped from the bay door into open air. Arms tight at her side, legs closed and toes pointed, she fell like a meteor.

“Do not engage Banner,” she ordered. “Subdue all remaining targets.” All around her, SHIELD agents fell. They collectively formed a deadly rain as their transports circled away from the scene.

After a few seconds of falling, she drew two guns from their holsters at her thighs. The goggles she wore over her eyes not only offered protection against the wind but magnified the scene on the ground. She felled four of the armored men nearest the green giant with well placed shots. None of her accompanying agents had even drawn their weapons.

The attention of the armored men became split, much to their detriment. As the SHIELD rain fell, the green Hulk leaped, stomped and smashed through their numbers. They scattered, breaking the concentration of their rifle fire.

Five thousand feet above the ground, the SHIELD agents around Romanoff opened their arms and legs, engaging the membranes of their wing suits. They glided gracefully to the ground and began to systematically whittle the enemy numbers down.

A thousand feet above the ground and Natasha engaged her own wing suit. She landed heavily on an enemy trouper, knocking him flat and unconscious. She tugged her hood off from the back of her head, and peeled herself free from the wing suit in barely a second, revealing her custom black SHIELD uniform and it’s many pockets and compartments.

The Hulk leaped directly over her and landed on the house, demolishing it completely. She flashed back to those terrifying moments on the Hellicarrier just months prior when she had seen the quirky but almost likable Dr. Bruce Banner lose control and turn into a beast so strong, so savage, that not even the Norse God of thunder could halt it’s rampage. The Hulk’s head emerged from the wreckage of the building, and their eyes met. Her blood chilled and her heart seized. There was a hint of recognition in its eyes. Romanoff felt her mouth go dry. Her right hand twitched reflexively toward her gun despite her knowing a firearm would only make it madder.

It grunted then, still looking at her, then turned around in search of something. It leaped again a brief moment later and assaulted another armored assailant. Natasha let loose a breath she did not know she had been holding.

* * *


A large, ground-rocking BOOM drew all attention away from the fighting, briefly. A red and gold figure blazed into view in the blue sky. It arced downward, slowing. Its arms came up as it fell. Two pale repulsor blasts shot from its hands, dropping two more armored fellows. With a casualness that belied the chaotic nature of the rest of the scene, Iron Man came to an easy landing a few yards away from Agent Romanoff, then strode the rest of the way to her, lifting his faceplate to reveal his smug expression..

“You weren’t invited,” she said, her brow furrowed.

“I can’t resist a good party. I will never apologize for that.” One corner of his mouth wrinkled in a smirk. She nodded toward the now bellowing Hulk.

“Calm him down,” she said, and took off at a trot towards the crater that had been the grain silo. Tony snapped his faceplate closed with a quick jerk of his head.

“I wasn’t invited,” he sent to Natasha via the SHIELD radio frequency, “but I sure was expected.” She offered him a knowing look over her shoulder, then vaulted over the craters edge and disappeared. “Where are you going?”

“Agent Sitwell is still in there somewhere,” replied her disembodied voice, echoing within his helmet.

“Yeah, well, uh, call if you need back-up.”

“As if.” And the line went dead.

* * *


All around Tony, blue bolts and hot bullets were flying. Since none were aimed at him, he simply walked to where his friend was crushing a strange looking gun into powder, having just taken it from a very frightened soldier with the oddly shaped helmet. The soldier turned and ran. Tony shot down another armored fellow taking aim at the green Giant. The Hulk turned his attention toward the approaching figure in red and gold.

“Hey, Big Guy,” greeted Iron Man. “’Sup?”

The giant roared in response and took a menacing step towards Tony.

“Whoa, hey! Bruce! Buddy! It’s me!” He flipped up his faceplate again.

“Metal Man! Puny Banner’s friend!”

“…Yes,” Tony hesitated, suddenly unsure of his grip on what was happening. “I’m also your friend. Remember? I fell? You caught me?” He, of course, was referring to the moments when he had lost consciousness right after delivering a nuclear missile into the heart of an alien mother-ship, ending a reality-shattering invasion. He couldn’t actually remember the moments himself, but he had read the reports of the other impromptu teammates.

“Metal Man… Hulk’s friend?” And for the first time since the attack had begun, the Hulk’s expression changed.

“Now and forever, Big Guy.”

“Smash with Hulk!” and the green giant ran into a gathering of armored fellows, even as SHIELD agents were beginning to round them up. Everyone scattered at the sight of the inbound Hulk. Iron Man shook his head. He took to the air and began repulsor-blasting anyone that had escaped the onslaught.

“Stark smash,” he said to no one in particular. And because no one was listening, he giggled.

* * *


The grain silo had actually been the front for a freight elevator that connected the surface to a high-tech facility deep underground. There had been an elevator shaft and a series of connecting metal catwalks that wound down around the shaft, built perhaps for maintenance, perhaps to serve as a scaffolding for the construction of something bigger. Agent Romanoff could see how it might have all looked like in her mind. With her eyes, however, all she could see was the path of wreckage wrought by the Hulk. Titanium and steel torn and bent like toilet tissue and cardboard. Truck-sized sparks of electricity from shredded wiring that would have fried an ordinary person in a single moment. It was terrifying to think that much power lay buried beneath the skin of a brilliant man.

Natasha made her way deftly down the wreckage, traveling down five stories in a matter of moments with flawless agility and precision. At the first available floor, she dived passed what remained of the elevators shaft doors into a roll, and came up with both guns drawn. Stillness and silence greeted her. No, not complete silence; there was sparking of electricity both near and far, the hum of flicking fluorescent lights, the sounds of warfare above her, and…

Voices. Men, from what she could tell. Below her.

She turned about, ran to the edge of the shaft and leaped, holstered her weapons, and took hold of the elevator cables.

“Have gloves, will travel,” she thought as she slid downward.

Three stories further, she found what had to be the Hulk’s entry point into the shaft. Where every floor above had a door, here was just a hole larger than any human would need to pass through. She gathered her feet onto the cables and leaped toward the floor; the cables held firmly enough, and she completed the landing with another tuck and roll, again coming up with weapons drawn. There was no one in sight, still, but the voices were definitely coming from this floor.

The hall in which she crouched was a disaster area. One of apparently three lights worked, and intermittently at that. There were shadows-aplenty, but the ambient light coming from elsewhere on the floor gave let her see clearly enough. Keeping to the larger shadows, she crept closer to the voices, which seemed to be coming from around a corner.

“Agent Romanoff,” she heard whispered from a shadow to her left. Crouching, she spun on the balls of her feet and aimed both guns into the unseeable space. “I.D. Sierra thirteen,” gave back the shadow immediately, a touch of fear in its voice. Natasha lowered her weapons.

“Sitwell?” she called, also in a whisper. She lifted her head slightly; the voices were still agitated but no movement was indicated, and nothing could be seen moving their way. She scooted over to join the suited agent. Sitwell was well hidden in the shadow of a pair of overturned desks. He moved to make room for her, exposing himself to the dim lighting. He had a service weapon in one hand, and one leg outstretched.

“Can you move?” she asked, spying his obvious injury; there was a bloody tear on his pants leg.

“Yeah, it’s just a flesh wound,” he answered. She looked at him with deep disapproval, her expression not completely lost in the darkness. “No, I mean it.” He tugged back his pants leg; the wound on his calf, just above the sock line, was obvious and ugly, but also superficial.

“What happened here?”

“The Director sent Dr. Banner and myself here to investigate a blip on both our gamma and alien tech radar.”

“Fury already debriefed me. I’m still waiting to hear what happened,” she replied with annoyance in her tone. Sitwell gulped audibly.

“I found this place, hidden in the grain silo. And then Dr. Banner and I were expertly abducted. For about five minutes.”

“Expertly?” And now it was disbelief in her voice. Sitwell was a great agent, but he was no Phil Coulson.

“They came out of the grain. I had a bag on my head before I could draw my gun.”

“They didn’t tranq Dr. Banner?” Natasha chewed her bottom lip as she fit the pieces together in her head.

“I don’t think they knew who he was,” Sitwell replied.

They both quieted themselves and hunkered into the darkness; the voices had suddenly closed in, and were now accompanied by a strange sound, like servos and electrical humming. Just as suddenly, the voices and odd sound began to Doppler away.

“How much did you see?” asked Romanoff.

“They have a lab. Big, intricate. And they have a system geared towards gamma detection. It went haywire when they walked Dr. Banner near it. That’s about when all hell broke loose.”

As she listened, the special SHIELD agent studied her immediate surroundings. There was a logo on the wall in the hallway leading away. A word or a slogan, she couldn’t quite tell from her angle. “Mechanics,” it appeared to read, in part. A red alert went off in her mind; the memory of a file she had read of underground groups trying to recreate Stark’s Arc Reactor technology and the suit of advanced armor that it powered rose to the fore of her consciousness. One of the names on the list screamed like a claxon to her soul.

“Sitwell,” she said with new urgency, “Get topside. Stark is there, as well as a full incursion team.”

“What about you?”

“Time to do my job.” And she was gone, with hardly a sound, lost in the wreckage in the hallway ahead. Sitwell shook his head in disbelief, gathered himself, and quickly made his way to the elevator shaft, keeping to the shadows.

* * *


Agent Romanoff flitted down the hallway, quieter and swifter than a mouse, sure to keep within the shadows even as she approached the steadier light ahead. She paused just a brief moment to confirm her suspicion by reading the full logo, now just above her head. She made no utterance but swore vehemently in two languages within the echoes of her own mind.

The voices ahead were trailing, but she was beginning to make out individual words, sentences, and inflections.

“…supposed to have known? I thought Banner was thinner,” said one man, an obvious subordinate.

“If you had studied the case files…” The second voice trailed out of range of comprehension, but his German accent was unmistakable. She quietly crept forward, to the end of the hall where it came to a T-intersection, the place where the voices had suddenly risen in volume. Keeping low to the ground, she held her red mane of hair with one hand and peered slowly, slyly, around the corner.

To the right, the direction the two men had come from, there was less but still familiar wreckage; a room with a wall smashed out was visible, held within was some sort of medical laboratory, possibly an infirmary of some sort. It was no simple doctor’s office, however; even destroyed, the equipment she could see was clearly more advanced than anything that didn’t come out of Stark Enterprises.

She peered to the left. The backs of the two men were clear and receding. They were walking behind something that took up nearly the entire width of the relatively pristine hall. It seemed to be the source of the unusual sound she was hearing. It was also floating above the ground. She listened to the sound carefully. There was, at it’s core, a high pitched whine that was familiar. From where? Even as her mind formed the question, it supplied the answer. Repulsor technology, developed and distributed by Stark Enterprises years ago as the destructive heart of the Jericho missile. This new threat had apparently reversed engineered it and repurposed the tech, in not too dissimilar a way to how Tony himself was using it now.

It turned then, to face the two men. She found the sight of the thing utterly revolting, and ducked back behind the wall before she could be seen. She stealthily made he way back to the elevator shaft and hit her comms, being sure to keep her voice low and her attention behind her.

“Stark,” she called in a whisper. She leaped onto the elevator cables once more and began hauling herself up.

“Why, Agent Romanoff, what a pleasant surprise it is to hear your voice.”

“Can it, Tony! This just got serious. Clear the area, take Banner with you if you can.”

“I have to say, I had once entertained the notion of hearing you breathe hard, I just hadn’t imagined it quite this way.”

The voices below her were suddenly closer. She quickened her pace, hauling up with her arms and holding her place with her legs. She could hear the sound of the debris field being moved about, by something very, very strong.

“I am not designed for janitor work!” screeched a third, unfamiliar voice, clearly indignant.

“Tony, get the hell out now!” whisper/yelled Romanoff. Adrenaline gave her strength, and she increased her pace again.

Suddenly the voices were echoing around the elevator shaft. There was no place for Natasha to go, nothing to hide behind. She swore once more in her mind.

“Female!” screeched the third new voice, the word rebounding around the shaft like an echoing taunt. “FEMALE!!”

Agent Romanoff spared herself one short glance down, three stories, to see the faces of two ordinary men and the horrifyingly misshapen appearance of something that simply should not be. She had been made. The repulsor whine from the third…thing increased in pitch and volume as it entered the shaft and began to rise after her. She thought about shooting it, but decided climbing would be better. She redoubled her effort and climbed for her life.

* * *


Peace had finally returned to the ranch. The SHIELD incursion team had collected the remaining members of the mystery opposition, and Iron Man, faceplate up, was attending a pale man in ripped pants, laying peacefully on the grass. Beside him stood Agent Sitwell, favoring his good leg.

“Lucky guy,” Tony said. “I only sleep like that after a bender.” Gingerly, he picked up the still but breathing body of Dr. Bruce Banner.

“Clear the area!” came Agent Romanoff’s commanding voice. She vaulted over the edge of the silo crater and bolted towards the open field. Tony found this curious. She was by far the most fearless woman he’d ever met. Running scared just didn’t suit her.

Wreckage exploded from the crater, and suddenly Stark understood all.

“What the f…” he started, his eyed wide with disbelief.

“FEMALE!!!” screeched the thing before him. It was as wide as a truck, nearly as tall as two men, and the entire front of it was a giant, ugly, human head. Around the scarred flesh of the hideous face was machinery and what Tony’s sensors decried to be weapons ports. It sported a pair of robotic arms from somewhere above where it’s ears should have been. The arms would have been about normal sized for a man, but appeared disproportionately small on the creature. Beneath it jutted a pair of similarly sized legs, appearing to be utterly useless.

What Tony’s sensors told him about the thing drove out the horror from his mind and replaced it with real, heart-felt anger. He was looking at a design that was extraordinarily similar to his own Iron Man suit, save that it was a terrible, nightmarish mockery. He was picking up Palladium discharge, trace amounts, telling him that the thing was powered by a knock-off of his old miniaturized arc reactor. Someone had stolen his design – again – and had made a monster with it.

The semi-robotic creature was chasing after Agent Romanoff, and despite her Olympic speed, was gaining. Tony’s initial move was to blast the thing, but he held a fragile friend in his arms, and did not want to draw attention to himself just then. The SHIELD agents around him, however, had no such worries, and laid down cover fire. The thing juked and weaved, finally taking refuge behind the barn as Natasha sprinted to a spot behind a tree.

“Widow to H.Q.” Tony heard her call over the comms. “Code Alpha Romeo. Request a suppression team immediately, we are taking fire.” Being careful not to jostle Dr. Banner, Tony flew to Romanoff’s position, keeping one eye on the barn, watching the SHIELD agents attempting to surround it.

“Do you have any idea what that thing is?” Tony asked her.

“I know exactly what it is,” she replied as she checked the ammunition in her weapons.

“How!? You were gone for like two seconds!” The thing screeched in rage from behind the barn. “And those things are probably useless against it. You better call your boys off before…”

“Get Banner out of here,” she ordered him, looking him straight in his gold face. “We’ll handle this.” And with that, she sprinted toward the barn. Tony looked down at his charge, cradled in his arms.

“Buddy, you picked the worst time for a nap.” He took to the air again and flew south.

The barn shook and fell. The ugly creature smashed through it, bellowing. SHIELD agents opened fire on it, but as Stark had predicted, the high-caliber slugs had no effect.

“I AM MODOK!” the thing bellowed with righteous indignance. “I AM DESIGNED ONLY FOR KILLING!” and it opened fire upon the swarm of Agents around it, pale blue blasts shooting from dozens of ports around its chassis. Romanoff took cover quickly, but a half dozen of her fellows were not as fast. Those that were struck fell over without even a scream, half of their total body mass suddenly vaporized. “I DO NOT HIDE! YOU CANNOT STOP ME!” Despite the size of its head and mouth, its voice had the pitch of a small dog, and was just as annoying.

“Take cover,” Romanoff ordered. The agents immediately complied and dove for cover within the wreckage of the barn and house. A moment later, the MODOK creature ceased its deadly assault. Romanoff flung two disks at it then ducked behind some wreckage. The disks attached themselves to the creature magnetically then discharged an incredible amount of high-amperage electricity. It screamed, and Natasha genuinely thought it was in pain. Her ultra-taser attack only slowed it, though.

“I bet Hawk’s got an anti-Big Face arrow just for this,” she grumbled. Her special set of skills pertained to the art and science of information gathering. Fighting super-cyborgs bent on slaughter had never even been a consideration for her job description. But such was the life of a SHIELD agent.

While it was recovering from her taser attack, she tossed a flash-bomb right at its nose, then charged, covering her eyes. MODOK bellowed at the explosion, then reeled as Natasha landed on it, gun in hand. She got off six fast shots, the muzzle of her gun pressed directly against the bridge of the thing’s nose. It simply swatted her off with an arm. She tumbled into the wreckage of the barn, smarting from the hit but was otherwise unhurt. Rather than rise for another attack, she closed her eyes and played dead. It hovered over to her, its immense features twisted in anger. Natasha heard its weapons power up.

She sprang out of the way just as MODOK fired on her position. She popped off two shots as she ran for cover, hoping to at least distract it. It didn’t work. MODOK pivoted like a turret, tracking her perfectly. She heard its weapons cycle up again, slid, and leaped backwards, narrowly avoiding her death as it atomized the debris she had been running through.

“KEEP STILL! THE KILLING WILL BE EASIER FOR YOU THAT WAY!” and it brought its weapons to bear on her again. Romanoff was genuinely frustrated; she understood that she was facing an unholy amalgamation of bio-manipulation via gamma radiation, and knock-offs of Stark-tech. If she had known that before she had arrived, she would have come prepared. Her frustration stemmed from knowing what it was she fought and not having the proper tools to take it down.

She fired another shot as she ran, this one aimed for one of its ‘gun’ ports, hoping to damage it. She deftly evaded another barrage, confirming that its gun ports were not a weakness.

“YOUR WEAPONS CANNOT HURT MODOK!” it bellowed. The Agent sneered; she wanted to kick it square in the testicles more than she had ever wanted to do that to anyone in her life.

Two repulsor blasts rocked it, and it screamed.

“Maybe mine can,” came Tony Stark’s amplified voice from the above. He let loose another pair of blasts as he strafed by. He turned around for another run. Natasha scurried for a hiding spot and hit her comms.

“Stark, the biologics have been gamma-irradiated, and it’s using repulsor technology.”

“Then let’s hope LARRYDOK and CURLYDOC don’t show up.” With a subtle movement of his jaw, the suit cut the line. “JARVIS, frequency analysis of MODOK’s weaponry,” he ordered. The creature responded to Stark’s attack with a volley of its own, but the attack was reckless and undisciplined, to Tony’s mind. The Iron Man evaded the return fire, but just barely. “Oh, and where the hell is the H.B.?”

“Sir,” responded JARVIS, “Enemy repulsor frequency is .02 megahurtz below the output of your Mark I chest piece.” Tony knew exactly what to do with that information. Dodging another round of MODOK blasts, he circled away from it, drawing it further and further from Agent Romanoff. As he did, he adjusted the frequency output of his own repulsor blasts.

“… and the H.B.?”

Another sonic boom filled air, drawing everyone’s attention skyward once more. A second red and gold streak crossed the sky and dived toward the ranch.

“It should arrive momentarily, sir,” replied a wry-sounding JARVIS in Tony’s ear. He hit his comms and spoke directly to Agent Romanoff.

“This is going to get really uglier really fast. You might want to get all your SHIELD playdates off the grounds,” he advised. Above, the diving streak closed. Its immense bulk could now be discerned.

Tony hit MODOK with a light blast to get its attention. He pivoted his body to hide the fact that he was powering up another shot with his other hand.

“YOU ARE INSIGNIFICANT! I HAVE BEEN DESIGNED TO KILL YOU ESPECIALLY!” it screamed back. Above, Tony’s H.B. drew closer. Near the ground, MODOK prepared to unleash another barrage. Stark whipped his hand around and timed his blast to strike one coming off MODOK. The change in frequencies forced the MODOK’s blast back in on itself; one of its gun-ports exploded with a tremendous noise, a great shower of sparks, and a mist of dark liquid. MODOK’s voice climbed an octave as it screamed in terrific pain.

Natasha took that as the nebulous cue Stark had mentioned. She burst from her hiding place and raced west, toward the nearest fence, commanding her troops on the ground to evacuate. There was a large thudding sound behind her. She spun about; Iron Man had crashed to the earth, his suit smoking and damaged. She skidded to a halt, torn between her own safety and the well being of a comrade.

Tony had to withstand MODOK’s barrage to get his disruptive shot in. He knew it was going to hurt, he knew it was going to rip up his suit, he just hadn’t accurately guessed how much of both was going to happen. Circuits were cut, power was lost, and the suit became dead weight. He felt every ounce of the jarring impact.

“Tony! Are you all right?” he heard distantly from the special Agent. He could also hear the pathetic cries of pain from the MODOK creature. Despite the ludicrousness of its appearance and the inexperience shown in its attack, what it had said had about killing Tony Stark now seemed painfully true. Stark was feeling the pressure; he had no idea how long it would take MODOK to recover, and his Iron Man systems were taking awfully long to reboot. Grunting from the strain, he muscled the now encumbering suit onto his hands and knees, then upright, and finally onto his feet. Walking was out of the question at the moment, however, for he was out of breath.

Agent Romanoff’s beautiful face appeared in the narrow field of vision allowed by his helmet’s eye-slits.

“You have maybe another minute,” she warned, keeping an eye on MODOK. It was rolling on the ground, gurgling in pain, thrashing its arms and legs uselessly. “What do you have planned?”

“Foam,” replied Tony simply. Behind him, the H.B. landed, causing a small tremor and impact crater. It looked like an Iron Man suit that had taken steroids and had gone ballistic in the weight room. It stood nearly ten feet tall and seemed to have the mass of a tank.

The Iron Man suit’s back-up systems finally kicked in. As the operating system rebooted, Tony could feel the crushing weight of the thing lift as power returned to the joints. He took a step back, towards the H.B., and spread his arms.

“JARVIS, make it happen,” he ordered. Natasha watched in awe as the larger suit unraveled itself. Tony took another step backward, into the vacant space where the front of the H.B. suit had just been; the H.B. closed itself up again, completely engulfing the original Iron Man. The whole transformation took less than three seconds.

“NO!” MODOK had righted itself while Stark and Romanoff were distracted. Smoke wafted up from the damaged it received, and it was oozing an oily black discharge from the “wound” in its shell, but the expression on its monstrous face was angrier than it had ever been. “YOU ARE TO DIE NOW!!” Its weapons cycled up audibly.

Natasha flicked another taser disk at MODOK. The disk struck the oil, which ignited when the taser went off. MODOK screamed with panic and shot wild. Tony followed up by running to his left, one arm outstretched; a stream of yellowish liquid drenched the creature. The secondary effect kicked in; the liquid was expanding into solid foam at a blistering speed until, just moment’s later, MODOK was fully encased.

“Phase two,” commanded Stark, switching arms. A purple liquid hosed the mass down even as the original foam was still bubbling up and out. The lavender liquid also began to foam up, but at a much faster rate. MODOK was screaming in protest; in a moment, the foam had covered its mouth, stifling it.

Now having run a complete circle around his target, Stark slid to a halt, digging deep trenches through the grass and dirt. Natasha took up position behind him, the safest place she could think to be at the moment.

“Phase three,” ordered Tony. Pulling his arms back, a power blast began to build in the suit’s chest piece. “You got a gas mask, Agent Romanoff?” She replied by pulling a small contraption from a compartment on her uniform and put it on her face.

“I’m good!” With her assurance, Tony let loose a burst of light and energy from his chest piece that pulsed and cycled through the entire spectrum of colors in the blink of an eye. The purple foam began to shrivel, while a purple cloud rose from the mass, encasing it.

MODOK continued to struggle; even contained, it rocked and shimmied. The purple foam was nearly depleted now, but the purple gas that it had become had grown quite thick, obscuring MODOK almost completely from view.

There was a loud crack. A piece of the yellow foam was punched free, and MODOK’s vocal assault returned.

“YOU CANNOT STOP MODOK! YOU WILL BE KILLED BY…” There was another crack and another piece of yellow foam was sent flying. MODOK had freed one arm and the opposing leg. It stepped forward, trying to escape its bonds. Stark and Romanoff could see its face now, through the cloud and the cracks in the green foam. It appeared sleepy, and its movements were sluggish. “I AM DESIGNED FOR… designed for…”

It broke apart the rest of the yellow foam that held it in place, then staggered forward. It tried to hover but wobbled instead. Iron Man sprang forward, arm cocked, and walloped it with a massive hay-maker punch. MODOK fell once more, unconscious.

The Agent and the Genius marveled at their felled enemy for a moment. Tony’s faceplace slid up and he looked to the woman beside him.

“Thanks for the assist,” he said. She look up into his face and almost cracked a smile.

“No problem. It was the least I could do. And… you look even more ridiculous now than you did before,” she answered.

“It’s the head, isn’t it!” His helmet was still normal sized, but the rest of his armored body appeared laughably large in comparison.

“It absolutely is the head,” she agreed.

“You see? Thank you! Pepper always laughs, but she never tells me why. I need to know these things!”

“Where’s Dr. Banner?” the Agent asked, concerned.

“Oh, he’s fine,” Stark answered. Without warning, he scooped the Agent up and took the air, drawing a surprised yelp from her.

* * *


The Iron Man H.B. suit didn’t go far, landing just a few yards from the northern border of the ranch. As Tony brought himself and Natasha down for a gentle landing, they were greeted by Agent Sitwell, standing beneath an apple tree (and munching on an apple), and Dr. Bruce Banner, who was nestled in the crook of a thick branch a dozen or so feet up, a pair of SHIELD binoculars in his hand. He dropped the binoculars into Sitwell’s waiting hands, then clumsily but swiftly climbed out of the tree. He was shirtless, and his pants hung in tatters from his hips. He was also barefoot, but he seemed not to notice.

“Wow,” said Dr. Banner. He strode to the H.B. suit, wiping dirt and tree bark from his hands. “You look like a comic book character from the 90’s,” he quipped. Again, Natasha almost smiled. Sitwell joined them, rumpled, bruised and limping but not seeming to notice any of it.

Bruce turned his attention to Romanoff. “Agent,” he greeted with a slight nod. “Coming to my rescue?”

“Something like that,” she returned, glancing quickly at Sitwell. Banner nodded, his gaze lowering and hands wringing absent-mindedly.

“You called it, by the way,” interjected Tony, saving his friend from his awkward moment. Banner smiled lightly, his attention back on Stark. Tony’s faceplate slid back.

“Yeah? The Liliaceae Hosta extract and the foam worked?”

“Not only that, …remember we talked about that Thorium Borate derivative…”

“… to retard the gamma effects, in case there wasn’t enough extract ingested. How’d you deliver it, though?”

Sitwell and Romanoff stood together, trying to comprehend what the two scientists were talking about. Natasha was mostly following, but Sitwell was feeling lost.

“As a vapor, from a secondary foam compound…”

“… activated by a fluctuated frequency luminescent and x-ray burst.” Banner clapped and laughed gleefully. “That’s brilliant!”

“Oh, stop. It was your idea.”

“Half of it, yeah, and I hadn’t figured out a post-transformation delivery system. That was all you.”

“Tony,” cut in Natasha, “How did you know you were going to fight that MODOK thing?”

“’MODOK’?” Banner laughed again. “Is that what it called itself?”

“You saw the Face of Fugg?” asked Tony.

“Oh yeah, we did,” Sitwell chimed in, shaking his head. “Right when everything hit the fan.”

Banner turned to Natasha, and the humor suddenly evacuated from his expression. “Tony’s new suit wasn’t for MODOK. It’s for… you know… the other guy.” There was a hint of shame in his delivery, and everyone understood that he was referring to his green alter-ego.

A roar of engines broke up the pity party. A triad of SHIELD quinjets had flown by overhead, coming in low for a landing in the middle of the ranch.

“That’s us,” Agent Romanoff said with a nod to Sitwell. She turned and made for the ranch. “Tony, the Director is going to want a word with you,” she said over her shoulder. Sitwell limped after her, and Banner made up the last car in their train.

“Bruce, need a lift somewhere?” offered Stark. Banner shrugged apologetically as he continued to walk.

“My stuff’s on the Carrier,” he explained.

“Then let’s grab dinner when you’re done.”

“With you and Ms. Potts?”

“I promise, you will not be a third wheel. She likes having you around, I think.” Tony followed the receding party. Bruce smirked over his shoulder, then nodded.

“I keep you out of trouble,” he said. The Iron Man H.B. suit shrugged, a comical sight that made Banner chuckle. “You got it, Tony. Thanks.”

“Great. I’ll see you after I pay One-Eyed Nicky a visit.” He snapped his faceplate down with a sharp nod then blasted into the sky with a wave. Bruce returned the wave as he continued to follow his SHIELD escorts to his lift.

* * *


With a steaming mug of brew in hand and an eye on his monitors, Director Fury stood on the bridge of the HelliCarrier as his subordinates buzzed about their work below and around him. As he took a sip, Agent Romanoff strode onto the bridge from the rear.

“Good morning, Agent,” greeted Fury without turning to see her. He finished scanning a monitor he had been studying before facing her. She took that, rightfully, as her cue to give her report.

“It was Advanced Idea Mechanics, sir,” she began, diving right in.

Fury was genuinely surprised. “That nickel-and-dime bunch of trade school drop-outs?” Natasha continued.

“Run by von Strucker. They’re fusing bootleg Stark-tech, Dr. Banner’s research on gamma radiation, and what seems to be weaponry reversed engineer from the extra-terrestrial devices left from the attack in New York.”

Fury’s ever present scowl deepened, and his brow furrowed. “Put together a team. I want that facility scrubbed and stripped of every microbe and every scrap of information you can gather.”

“Yes, sir.” She turned on her heel and strode quickly toward the exit.

“Natasha,” Fury called out, his tone softer. She stopped and turned.

“Sir?”

“Are you ok?”

“I’m good, sir. MODOK only bruised my pride.” He nodded his approval. She nodded back, just a hint of a smile on her face, then continued on out.

“Hill,” called Fury to his second in command. She was at her post, on the ground level, to the right of his command post.

“Sir,” she answered, leaving her station to join him.

“We need a first response team for the next hot-spot we find. They caught us with our pants down, and we got lucky.”

“Agreed. I don’t like relying on luck.” She thought a moment before continuing. “Do you want agents only, or should I include consultants?” She was surreptitiously referring to Iron Man. However, there were a few others on Fury’s list that would be perfect for the job.

“Give me recommendations for a team with and without consultants. I’m going to give Captain Rogers the lead on that, though.”

“Understood, sir. I’ll keep that I mind.”

Without a word, Agent Hill returned to her station and got to work. Fury took a deep breath and looked out the open viewport before him, seeing the ocean miles beneath the carrier, the clouds they were flying through, and the distant masses of land filled with the people he had sworn to keep safe. He could not help the feeling of dread. He didn’t like relying on luck any more than his X.O. did, and felt unsettled by the fact that the paradigm of his world was shifting in a new, unknown direction. There was simply no way of knowing what was to come next over the horizon. The only proper response, then was to be ready for anything.

* * *

* * *

* * *


Thank you for reading. As always, questions and comments are welcomed and encouraged.

6 comments - Leave a commentPrevious Entry Share Next Entry

Comments:

From:clarionj
Date:November 4th, 2012 03:13 am (UTC)
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How in the world did you think of all this? I haven't seen any of the marvel comics movies, etc., so I understand that you're taking some things from those worlds. But even so, I "marvel" at people who can do this. All the gadgets and science, which have to be done believably, have to require some research, right? Or do you know all these possibilities from seeing so many sci-fi/adventure movies, etc.?

But I'm also curious--did you say you wrote this while commuting? I might be remembering wrong. I like that you were spurred to write it based on the relationship. I did find that interesting, how the Hulk was able to recognize something in Iron Man. Would that be developed more if the story went on? Fury is implying that more is to come. At one point, because so much is happening and the visuals are detailed, active, and clear, I was imagining an actual comic, with drawn scenes and brief narratives with dialogue.

I've only read it once to get the feel of it, so I don't have any detailed comments. What are your plans for it?
From:namfle
Date:November 4th, 2012 04:43 am (UTC)
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Heheh. I grew up on science fiction and fantasy. Writing sci-fi is my bread and butter.

That said:
Everything involving technology is lifted directly from the movies, such as the way Stark gets in his Iron Man suits. Even at the end, when Tony and Bruce are bantering about how Iron Man took down MODOK, the things they reference are things that have been seen in the Marvel movies (as in the extract, seen in "The Incredible Hulk", and the foam, which has appeared in a number of venues). Even the frequency-inversion trick Iron Man uses to actually hurt MODOK was inspired by something very specific in "Iron Man 2". The only thing I made up out of the blue was the X-ray/multi-illuminescent burst that Iron Man uses to convert the purple foam to gas. I did that because I wanted the H.B. suit to have a unibeam (a shot from the chest piece) that went against expectations. Lastly, Thorium Borate is a chemical compound they're using to clean up nuclear waste out of water in Japan. The "derivative" mentioned here is pure bullshit, but grounded in real science.
Everything Natasha Romanoff did was straight out of her film appearances, from her minimal expressionism to her equipment. Check that - the magnifying goggles and flying squirrel suit were additions. I love squirrel suits so they have been appearing in a lot of my writing lately, but they just make sense for SHIELD agents, to my mind.
The H.B. is a staple of Marvel comics. I just re-imagined how it would come about for this. (originally, either Tony builds a suit of his own onus to combat the Hulk, or someone commissions him to. Here, he does it as a favor for a friend).
Lastly, MODOK is an actual character in Marvel comics, and he looks pretty much exactly how I described him. also, Advanced Idea Mechanics is a group in existence in Marvel comics. Both MODOK and A.I.M. are pretty much super-ridiculous, and would need some serious, serious overhauls in order to be acceptable by a larger audience. Having him created out of gamma-irradiation research and Iron Man-type Stark Tech was a way to him into what's already been seen in the movies.

Yes, I wrote a bunch of this while commuting last Friday. The idea just struck me so hard that I simply could not ignore it. I wrote the first 1/3 or so, up until the scene between Iron Man and Romanoff before she jumps into the silo crater. I then spent the rest of the weekend (and a bunch of my Sandy time off) writing and/or researching (mostly researching).
Hulk recognizing Iron Man (and Natasha, if you caught that) is pulled from both "The Incredible Hulk" and "The Avengers". I have a strong idea of what I would do if I were to write the next Banner/Hulk installment. As for the Stark/Banner relationship, it sparked a huge interest in fandom, and was something I found interesting in "The Avengers".
Fury's implication is deeply inspired by "The Avengers." To say any more would be to spoil it.
I'm glad you could see the visuals so clearly. I was hoping to get the movie-feeling across, but I'll take comic-book panels in your mind. :)

I have no 'plan' for it. I would like to get it into the general Marvel movie fandom, and maybe get some feedback on it. As a pipe-dream, I would love for someone involved in either the comics or movies to read it and want to offer me a job behind it. But, you know. Pipe-dream.


Thanks for taking the time to read, and I'm glad you enjoyed it!

-elf-
From:clarionj
Date:November 5th, 2012 07:24 pm (UTC)
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Ooh, yes ... if you could do stories like this and get them on a fan blog, someone might take notice. These things aren't entirely pipe-dreams. I mean, if you did more and more fans started reading them, more hits would show up, and who knows. Fan-fiction writers have made it big, right? :)

I liked hearing how you gathered all this. You really do know these movies! When I watch sci-fi, while I like the concepts, my mind resists the technological. I've never been good at science. And yet, when there is a science base which makes everything plausible, I do find I'm more involved, believing the world. I felt that here. It's necessary; it builds the world so I trust it as real. And it HAS to be great fun to do this. Are you involved in any Marvel fan blogs?

(P.S. I just got my novel mailed off today; I always pass the post office, forgetting to go in. So it should arrive this week; it's slow, dark, and brooding compared to what you're used to! Just to prepare you. :) )
From:namfle
Date:November 5th, 2012 10:18 pm (UTC)
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I have been involved with a few fandom forums and the like, but i have always been driven away by the aggressively vocal minority who spoil, for me, with far too much superficial 'fan wank' to let me enjoy the experience. As such, I try to avoid large gatherings on the internet that have too tight/small a focus. Some days I miss it, some days I don't.

The trick to good sci-fi is, as you say, having it's rules be a) comprehensible and b) consistent.

And YAY BOOK. And what do you mean, compared to what I'm used to? Do you mean from you, or in what I read?

-elf-
From:(Anonymous)
Date:December 25th, 2012 12:22 am (UTC)
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Greeting sir. Thank you for the invite to read your quite imagineable work. I enjoyed the characters you came with. The blending you did with the known characters and your mind blowing ones is amazingly refreshing. You put in a new flavor into the known characters that matches with the boldness of your made up ones. I would be interested to see what else you can come with. The story line was magnetic. Keep up this good work. I do want to see (ahem...read) more.

Sorry to respond so late in commenting.
From:namfle
Date:January 4th, 2013 06:14 am (UTC)
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I hadn't planned on writing more. There might be, after more of the movies come out. I'm glad you enjoyed this, though, and I'm pleased that you want to read more of it.

-elf-