Summary: Taylor Hebert always triggered because of the bullying of classmates and a former friend. Here, instead of triggering, a cosmic entity gifts her with the memories of a man as talented as he was tormented. One who accomplished amazing things in his life. Now Taylor has the opportunity to use that knowledge to save her world. First, she'll need to save her own sanity.
Disclaimer: Marvel owns Iron Man and Wildbow owns Worm. I merely borrow them for fun.
AN: Ffnet doesn't really allow surprise crossovers so I will just go ahead and state that this is a cross between Worm and Iron Man. Meant as a one shot, I might continue it there's enough interest.
Chapter One—Recollections of Yesterday
~~~Memories of Iron~~~
Taylor stared at the stained mess that used to be her chemistry homework. Now it was just so much garbage, no teacher being willing to accept work that looked like it had been painted with several different kinds of juice and cola.
It was all part of the terrible trio's latest and thus far, most effective way of breaking one Taylor Hebert. Their regular bullying hadn't worked, even the theft of her mother's flute hadn't broken her. But this latest method was coming closer and closer. Ever since school had begun in the fall of her sophomore year, Emma, Sophia, and Madison had been determined to make Taylor fail and force her to repeat an entire year. It would, as Sophia had gloatingly told her, show that they had been right about her the entire time.
Now Taylor desperately blinked back tears as she realized she would be getting another zero, Mr Fleming being notoriously lacking in understanding for late work. She wouldn't finish the fall with a passing grade, and would need all spring to bring it back up. If they let her.
Taylor racked her brain for a solution, but couldn't see one. As long as the school demanded proof that she couldn't get, there was no way they would intervene in her situation or transfer her ahead of the the two hundred people on the waiting list to Arcadia High.
Well, there was still the Algebra test tomorrow to help raise her grade in that class. If she could scrape up a B while sitting in a wet or dirty seat, she would have a C minus, high enough to pass.
Riding the bus home, Taylor chewed her nails as she consider her situation, and whether to tell her dad. But she didn't want to burden him. Plus, he wouldn't be home for hours, which should give her enough time for her weakness in wanting to share her troubles to pass.
Her dad worked most days until at least six pm, in an increasingly futile attempt to hold the shrinking remnants of the Dockworker's Association together. Ever since the shipping into the bay had shrunk to close to a standstill over a decade ago, the men and women who worked the docks had been squeezed more and more. It was a situation that hadn't been helped by militant workers who had managed to sink cargo ships in the main channel, making Brockton Bay completely impassible to deep draft ships.
Taylor got off at her house, staring at the various attempts by their neighbors to decorate for Christmas. No one had gone overboard, then again, no one could afford to. With the economy the way it was, money was just too tight, a problem that Taylor and her dad shared, evidenced by the single strand of Christmas lights that would be blinking in solitude tonight.
Daniel Hebert's job didn't pay that well, a situation that saw more and more bills marked Past Due. However, he was doing the best that he could. Still, Taylor knew not to expect much for Christmas. She might get a few new clothes, but that was the extent of Santa's largess this year.
She settled in for some studying until her dad came home.
~~~Memories of Iron~~~
Taylor felt hands yanking at her backpack and tried futilely to grab it even as she spun around to face her tormentor. Sophia Hess' mock smile met her frown.
"Well, well, what do we have here?"
Madison Clements snarked, "She's like a bug. Can't get rid of her."
Then Taylor heard the dulcet tones of her former best friend, Emma Barnes, "More like a roach. Always trying to hide, aren't you, Taylor?"
Taylor spun back around, leaving her pack to its fate, to face her chiefest tormentor. At Emma's mocking smile, she could feel her will falter and the words she imagined saying died on her tongue.
Emma made a face of mock concern. "What's wrong, Taylor? Raid getting to you?"
"I'm not a bug!" Taylor didn't know where that had come from, but the words seem to burst out of her. She was punished for her small show of defiance by a hard shove to her back as Emma danced out of the way of her falling body.
Landing painfully on her knees, Taylor tried to scramble to her feet, only to feel a foot shove her on her bottom. This time, she hit face first on her front, her nose striking the hard floor hard enough to make her eyes water. She turned over as quickly as she could to see Sophia standing over her. Taylor had known it would be her as she was the person who most quickly escalated to physical violence whenever they bullied her.
Sophia's eyes widened as Taylor felt hot liquid running down her chin. She cluelessly wiped at it, only to see her hand covered in crimson. Sophia had given her a nosebleed. And she only had five minutes before her Algebra test started. Taylor scrambled to her feet. She looked over at Madison, who was holding her now open backpack. At least she wasn't carrying anything that could be dumped over her books and notebooks.
Dodging around Sophia, Taylor made to grab her backpack from Madison. When it appeared that she was going to try to hold on to it, a quick gesture with a bloody hand made her relinquish it with a muttered, "Ewww." Taylor quickly scuttled away, trying to reach the restroom to clean up.
Luckily, Taylor made it to class just as the last bell rang. She was given an odd look by her Algebra teacher, Mrs Reese, and wondered if she'd gotten all of the blood. The she dismissed the thought and focused on her test.
It turned out to be far easier than Taylor had imagined, and she finished her test early. Walking up to Mrs Reese's desk to turn it in, Taylor was surprised by the angry look she received. An even bigger surprise was the way Mrs Reese started in immediately grading her test. She never graded tests in class, too busy making sure people weren't cheating to have time.
Taylor sat back down at her desk, a sinking feeling in her stomach. She didn't understand what was going on. Why was Mrs Reese angry because she was doing well for a change? Taylor was far from stupid, after all, and her low grades resulted more from not turning in assignments than because she didn't understand the material.
She wasn't kept in the dark long. "Taylor, can you come up here and bring your backpack, please?"
It was the please that scared Taylor the worse. Teachers were only this polite when they were about to crush you. The rest of the time, they usually didn't bother. It seemed as if they used courtesy as a wall to stand behind while delivering bad news so as to distance themselves.
Wordlessly, she rose and walked to her teacher's desk. Mrs Reese gestured for Taylor to put her backpack on her desk. When she did so, the teacher began to search it. Taylor stood there in shock as her privacy was violated just like that. She could feel stomach acid trying to make its way up her esophagus to burn her throat and mouth. Somehow, Taylor kept it in.
Taylor kept it in even as Mrs Reese opened a purple folder that didn't look familiar to her. She kept it in even as the folder was opened and something was laid out on the desk in front of her. Something that looked suspiciously like the test she'd just taken.
Taylor kept it in until Mrs Reese said, "Well, this is a clear case of cheating. I'm sorry, Taylor, but I'm going to have to give you a zero for the test. You'll also need to see Principal Blackwell. This is most likely going to result in a suspension. What you thinking, stealing the test, and cheating like this?"
That was when Taylor lost it and hot bile splattered all over the desk in front of her even as sounds of disgust and laughter peppered the air. All she could think as she vomited was that this was just another way for them to hurt her. And this time, they had finally succeeded. In spades.
~~~Memories of Iron~~~
Danny Hebert stared at his daughter as she explained what had happened that day. How she had been suspected of cheating. How a test with all of the answers had been found in her backpack. How it had likely been planted on her when her backpack was taken from her by the bullies who were tormenting her. Only out of her sight for a minute, it was long enough for them to plant the test. A test that was enough to get his daughter suspended from class at a time when she would miss the rest of her midterms and fail the entire fall semester and likely the entire year.
Danny had known things were bad at school, but until now, Taylor had hid just how bad. To find out it was Emma Barnes, who used to be her best friend, leading the bullies made him sick. Danny wished Taylor had trusted him enough to tell him about what was going on before this. He'd never regretted the distance that had grown between the two of them more than he did now.
Not that it was too late. Danny would deal with this. He'd find a way to make things right. Even if he had to shout at every single adult at her school. He would be there for Taylor. They would regain the closeness they'd once had.
A quiet voice broke his reverie. "Dad, what I am going to do?"
Danny stared down at his daughter's face. She was still at that awkward phase where she was thin enough to called skinny, her full growth not having come in. She was all long legs and elbows, knobby knees and bony shoulders. Her wide mouth and big eyes dominated a thin face that some people might foolishly call plain. Still, there was a quiet grace to her as she sat in the chair opposite him that made promises of tomorrow. Her mother, who had been beautiful when Danny had first met her, looked just the same as Taylor did in old pictures they had from when she was a teen.
One day his daughter would be beautiful as well. She was lucky she had only inherited her future height and eye color from him. Daniel Hebert would never be called handsome, being a tall, stringbean of a fellow, but that had never mattered to him. He'd had too many other things going for him for so long. A career he could believe in. A beautiful wife and wonderful daughter, both of whom he adored.
Sadly, his career was starting to fail. Worse, his wife had been gone for almost two years, and his daughter was hurting and miserable. Staring into the too serious eyes of the person he loved the most in the world, Danny struggled to find words of reassurance. Finally, he found what he was looking for and said, "Don't worry, sweetheart. Tomorrow, I'm going down to your school and I'm going to fix things. I promise."
From the mournful look in her eyes, his daughter didn't appear particularly convinced. She sat there, arms wrapped around her body as if to keep herself from flying into pieces. Not once during the long explanations that had just taken place had Taylor cried even once. Nor had she smiled. Where had gone the young girl who would tear up when someone got hurt in a movie? Who laughed at the drop of a hat? What had she suffered that had toughened her up this much? In so many ways, his little girl had changed the last year and a half, and sometimes Danny didn't recognize the person she had become.
Danny moved forward and pulled Taylor into a hug. Her arms were awkward for a moment as if struggling to get loose, then they were wrapped around his waist. Taylor buried her face into his chest and held him tight. But she never shed a tear and to Daniel Hebert, that was the greatest injury his daughter had suffered.
~~~Memories of Iron~~~
Taylor trudged up the steps towards her room. It had been bittersweet explaining things to her father. Bitter because of the sheer magnitude of the trouble she was in. Sweet because he believed her. Utterly and without equivocation, her dad believed that she was innocent of cheating.
It was the only positive thing that Taylor could draw from this situation. She had been hiding the abuse from her dad for so long that lying had become second nature. They had steadily been losing that closeness they used to have. It had began when her mom died two years ago, and had slowly gotten worse. Sometimes, Taylor felt like they were becoming strangers.
Then something like this happened, and it was as if no time had passed. Her dad was there for her. He believed in her. And he was ready to take on all comers and defend her to the best of his ability. Of course, the only problem lay in the last four words of that statement.
Taylor wasn't sure what her dad could do really. If she failed, she would get held back a grade. College would be more difficult, with no chance at an academic scholarship. Her life, while not ruined, would be made that much harder. And her former friend would be justified in every thing she'd ever said about Taylor being stupid and worthless.
Taylor laid her head down on her pillow and wished for better tomorrows. Please, God, she prayed, let my life get better. Give me the strength to fix things.
~~~Memories of Iron~~~
It was a sincere prayer, and in the grand scheme of things, just one of millions made daily. But sometimes, prayers are heard. If not by a benevolent God, then sometimes by usually indifferent beings who weren't much lower.
In a higher plane, a being of untold power turned three faces towards the group of realities that contained Taylor Hebert's world and boundless others. All three faces wore a contemplative frown at the terrible fate that would one day befall all the worlds of those realities because of the endless hunger and greed of terrible beings that chance had unleashed on that part of the multiverse.
Ordinarily, He would not interfere. Yet, Equity was necessary in this, as in all things. A call for aid had been made. If not to Him, it still had been made and reverberated throughout all realities. Plus, Vengeance could be sated through action. Still, it was Necessity that ultimately made the decision. Some things needed saving and some threats had to be stopped. For the good of all existence.
Still, how to proceed? There were many solutions, but most broke the Accord. No person, world, or reality was worth risking the existence of All. Then He saw the solution, as He must.
A broken hero laying dying on a burning world. In another reality he had saved the world and been hailed the greatest hero of his age. In this one, he had failed, the forces arrayed against him overwhelming him and so the world perished in flames. Unable to come up with a solution in time, he, too, would soon die, even as enlightenment came to him. It would just never be realized.
So He plucked the memories and intellect of this man, this failure, and encapsulated it into a ball of psychic energy and tossed it out into the cosmos, confident it would find its home. Soon, a fifteen year old girl would waken to nightmares of a burning world. She would discover skills and abilities that she had never imagined existing. She would battle endless demons, most of them within herself, as her new memories fought a war for dominance.
However, she would have a chance, however small, to save her world and all of the others that were threatened with destruction. It wasn't a great chance, the probability of success being less than one in ten. But any chance, even this one, was better than none. And it would give her all of the things of which she'd always dreamed of.
In a cluster of realities far away, on an insignificant speck of a world, a young girl woke up screaming, her eyes traumatized by memories not her own. Memories of pain, blood, and death. Memories of Iron.
~~~Memories of Iron~~~