Releasing His Demons
Tony was scared beyond belief. His mind just wouldn't center on anything except the fact he was alone and he had no idea what was happening. The door opened and a man in a nice suit entered. He looked up him and was still.
"So, Tony, any chance you know who I am?" the blonde man said, kneeling in front of him. "I mean, I seriously doubt you'd know me even if you had all your marbles, but I guess its worth a shot."
Tony shook his head, staring at him with wide eyes. He had no idea who the guy was. "I…w-wanna go home…" he said quietly. "I want…I want B-brucie and Stevie…please…"
The blonde headed man ran a hand over his short hair. "Okay, see here's the problem, I need you, the real you, not this fucked up shell that thinks he's a child. I need you to solve a problem for me, and I need it done now. If you can't do it, I'm going to kill you. So you see my problem?"
"I don't understand," Tony said, staring at him. "Why…why am I here?"
Another man stepped in behind him and the man in the suit looked up. "Doctor, you see the problem?"
The doctor sighed, rubbing a hand through gray hair. "Hm, yes," he said with a slight German accent. "Seems some therapy is in order, yes?" he said with a smile. "How far can I take it, Mr. Killian?"
Killian stood and turned to him. "As far as you need. I need his mind, though. Fix him."
The doctor turned to Tony as Killian left the small cell and moved forward. "Tony, tell me, what do you remember? Do you remember me?"
Tony looked at the older man and felt a shiver go down his spine. This was wrong. "I..I don't remember anything…I woke up and Daddies there. That all."
"Daddies?" the doctor asked, sitting beside Tony's curled up form. "Was that Steve and Bruce?"
Tony nodded. "Um hum, they…they take care of m-me… I wanna go back…please…" he said, tears starting to fall.
"I'm afraid I can't do that Tony. You have a job to do, and I have to make sure you do it. So we're going to spend a lot of time together until your head is back to normal. And you will be in a pain, I can assure you. A lot of pain, before I'm done," he said, grinning and Tony wanted to do anything but be there.
Malldrew reached out and grabbed his arm and Tony tried to push him off but for an old guy, Malldrew had a grip. Why did he feel…familiar? He managed to get him off the bed, but Tony was stubborn and using his weight against him. Malldrew dropped him, sending him sprawling and leaned out, calling a couple of the others to help him. Tony struggled as two other men picked him up easily off the floor and he was moved to another room and strapped to some sort of table. He turned one arm over and injected something into a vein near the top.
"Now, the problem with you is you suffered a nasty little concussion, thanks to our dear friend Mr. Contrail, the stupid idiot. He gave your brain a little cognitive realignment and it jogged loose the last round of nanites I injected into you a few years ago that were meant to remain dormant, and they malfunctioned. Why no one can follow orders, I'll never know. He'll be dealt with soon, so don't worry, my dear boy," he said and Tony watched with his eyes as he moved around. His head had been strapped down onto the table and some sort of rubber mouthpiece put in his mouth.
"And you see, erasing memories, blanking a person's mind, that's so terribly easy, but we don't want to do that with you. We want you to remember everything, in vivid detail, but there's a problem with that, you see, because this little device is going to make you remember things I would rather you not remember." He sighed and shook his head. "Goodness, what a mess those things made you," he said. "That's what I get for using faulty technology. These nanites though, they'll fix it. And they'll erase all those nasty memories of me, too. We can't really have you remember how many times I've seen you."
He patted his cheek and smiled. "The mouthpiece will keep you from breaking your teeth or biting off your tongue. Not that that can happen, but you know."
He turned to a woman. "Hand me the drill," he said to her. He came back around and began wiping something on Tony's temple. "Now, what we're doing here is applying direct currents to the brain itself, so we'll be drilling an opening into either side of your head," he said, moving to use the alcohol pads on the other side and marking it with something. "There we are. Then, this complex computer program, hopefully, injects these nanites along with the wire as it threads it down through your brain; into your beautiful brain. Isn't that lovely?" he said with an almost manic grin. "And you won't be able to move because I've given you a paralytic, however, I have to have you awake. Unfortunately, that means you'll still feel everything. Sorry about that, my boy."
Tony's eyes were wide and he couldn't move his head as the doctor pressed against his skull with the drill and he would have screamed but he couldn't even move. His world was spinning out of control as he felt him finish the first side and move to the other. He felt the blood trickling down his face and wanted it to stop, whatever it was to stop. He moved back and dropped a device over his head that sent two probes shooting into the openings he'd drilled in his skull. He screamed against the gag as something began working its way into his brain. While of course, he couldn't feel the actual wire, he felt an intense burning sensation working through him. It was like his very blood was on fire. After a while his body seized from some sort of shock.
"There, now, first treatment, done," came the doctor's voice but it sounded hollow and far away. The thing over his head moved up and he was moving into a wheelchair. "Take him and lay him down on the cot. I won't need him until tomorrow."
The world spun sickly as he was dumped into the cot and something tossed over him. He didn't realize he was sobbing until he was already doing it. The memory was vivid as though he were living it. Whatever they'd done, worked, perhaps too well.
Malldrew watched through the window as Tony began to thrash, the nanites beginning their painful work to uncover memories that had been suppressed. He knew it would take four treatments. The first injection was the nanites that were supposed to reawaken the memories that the first nanites had suppressed. The second round of nanites were supposed to go in a fix the first set of flawed nanites, which would resupress all memories of Malldrew in Tony's memory. The third group of nanites was the most important, though, they were the ones that would carry the latent xtremis coding. The final group of nanites would either repair the damage the first three rounds of nanites left behind, or they would kill him. They also would leave behind the coding that Malldrew would be able to activate remotely.
Young Tony tasted blood for the first time at six. Most kids his age probably would have fallen off the money bars, or their bike, or some such nonsense, as Howard Stark called it. Tony, though, had made a huge mistake tonight, and had walked in while his father was arguing with a man in a dark suit. The man had seen Tony and approached him, despite Howard yelling at him to come back, to stay away from Tony. When his hand touched Tony's cheek, his face had heated up immediately and he woke up when he was slapped hard by Howard some time later.
He was now sitting in his room nursing a split lip courtesy of his own father. He wanted nothing more but to make Howard happy, to make him see him as something worthy, and maybe, just maybe show he cared. That wasn't Howard, though, not in the least. And tonight, the mistake was simple, he interrupted when he was talking to a man with long dark hair that Howard was arguing with. He didn't remember the look on his father's face, didn't remember the complete fear that ran through Howard's eyes.
Tony's mom was overseas, again. She spent a lot of time traveling, and Tony was beginning to think it was just to stay away from his father. At six, his skills were amazing to most, but not good enough to his father. There was a knock and the door opened to reveal Jarvis, their butler, coming in with a tray of milk and cookies, and a small first aid kit. Tony looked up at him with teary eyes and Jarvis didn't speak as he cleaned his face and sat in the chair beside the bed while Tony ate the snack he'd brought him. As usual, after these things, Jarvis didn't talk, and Tony didn't either. Though this was the first time Howard had made Tony bleed, it wasn't the first time he'd hit him. Howard tended to lash out before he thought, though, and more often than not it was he who sent Jarvis to check on him.
Jarvis left quietly and Tony turned over and went to sleep. He just wanted to be loved by his father, was that so much to ask?
Several more incidents happened after that. There were more times when Howard would lash out, and Jarvis would come by, but nothing serious. Afterward, Tony swore that someone was in his room sometimes, but there was no one there. The strange man appeared a couple more times, and each time, Howard had been so angry with Tony afterward. He didn't understand. Once he showed up as Tony was leaving school, and tried to give him a lollipop, which he'd refused.
That night, he woke up when he felt someone touch his shoulder. He blinked and realized his father was sitting on his bed beside him. He heard the door open again.
"Sir, are you coming down for a drink?" came Jarvis from the door.
"Yeah, I'm coming," he said with a sigh, and patted Tony's shoulder.
When he was gone, Tony sat up; he grabbed a stuffed bear he rarely held and stared at the darkened doorway. He didn't know what to think, and he couldn't imagine who he could ask. After that, he slept with the bear clutched tightly to his chest.
It might have been okay, if he hadn't been abducted a year later outside the school. He'd never been as scared in his life as the men tied him up and gagged him, leaving him on the floor on a dirty mattress. It was at an old abandoned warehouse, and he wasn't even sure how long they'd driven to get there. At eleven now, he was still small for his age, and one the men kept looking at him strangely. He overheard him arguing with one of the others about something. The leader, apparently, went to pick up the ransom, though, on the third day, leaving the second one who kept looking at Tony with the weird look alone with him.
Tony had stared as he came into the room where he was laying on the old mattress. It wasn't a hugely organized operation, and he had his doubts that his father was actually taking ransom to the pick-up, more likely they were going to bust the guy and make him tell them where Tony was. Tony had felt his heart beat out of his chest, though when he'd dropped down to his knees beside him and started touching him. He screamed and suddenly there was a loud bang and he looked up to see the same guy, the man in the suit, kneeling down and pulling Tony to sit up.
"Hi Tony," he said. "I'm Dr. Malldrew, and I'm going to help you," he said, and Tony watched as he injected something into his arm and he blacked out.
. Tony woke weeks later, in a hospital nearby, with no memory of what had happened. They'd arrested the other kidnapper, and he had told them where to look, but Tony had been gone. He was found several days later in a different building.
The rest of the memories had a similar theme, all involving the strange Dr. Malldrew. Another incident where he was kidnapped and
"Why aren't we any closer to finding them?" Steve asked, pacing in front of Fury's desk. "It's been five days already, and we've heard nothing."
"Steve, I know you're impatient, but we're working as fast as we can," Fury said, rubbing his head. The man was worse than a panicking wife.
Bruce came in and sat down, shaking his head. "Nothing on the components the injection they gave me. All easily bought. The only thing that has given me any clue is the chemical used to melt the glass. It's not on the market, and made by one company, Advanced Idea Mechanics."
"So whoever it was works for them or something?" Steve asked, nearly knocking his chair over when he stood.
Bruce shook his head. "Possibly, or it was stolen from their place. I've arranged a meeting with the CEO, a man named Aldrich Killian, this afternoon."
Fury nodded. "Take Widow with you," he said. "And you, calm the fuck down," he said to Steve.
Steve sighed. "I'm just worried."
"I know, Steve, I know. You got a bit attached to him while you had to play daddy," he said with a sigh. "We're doing everything we can. As far as we know, he could be out of the country by now."
Steve nodded and headed back to the Tower to wait for Bruce to return from his visit with this Aldrich guy. Bruce, meanwhile headed out to speak with him, stopping to pick up Natasha from one of the SHIELD choppers along the way. He got in easy enough, and it seemed to be a tech company to rival Stark Industries. That alone was enough to raise Bruce's suspicions. They had good reason to want Tony out of the way.
They were taken to a nice office and sat down by a nice secretary. Natasha had come in the guise of Bruce's attaché. A few minutes later a blonde man in a suit came in and sat down.
"Dr. Banner!" he said with a smile that Natasha spotted as fake. "What can I do for such an esteemed visitor?"
"I'm investigating a break in at Stark Tower, and the only lead I have is something that comes from your R&D department," Bruce said, handing over a file.
"Well, indeed it does. A high potency glass solvent. I've haven't even seen this out of testing…I'm not sure how it could have gotten out…" he said, punching in a number on the phone. "Send up Carl from R&D please," he said into it and smiled. "Well, one way to find out if we have any missing," he said with a nod.
"Carl," Killian said with a smile as a reedy thin man with thick horn rimmed glasses came in looking nervous.
"Sir?" he asked.
"Are we missing, oh about seven grams of Compound TR-75, perchance?" he said, looking at the folder Bruce had handed him.
The man looked shocked. "Um, yes sir, at inventory this morning, we are down 8.5 grams of TR-75. I've just launched the investigation into trying to figure out what happened, I'm sure its just been shelved elsewhere…"
"Or it could have been used to break into Stark Tower almost a week ago," Killian said, arching a brow at him.
Carl gaped like a fish. "I…I don't know sir, we inventory weekly, and I just…"
Killian smiled. "Carl, find out what happened to it. Immediately, or you're fired."
Carl nodded and skittered away out the door. "Now, Dr. Banner, can I give you a call when I figure this out?"
Bruce nodded. "Of course, of course, I'd appreciate it, here's my private lab number. I'll answer anytime."
Natasha nodded, shaking his hand next, only her purpose was more subversive. She attached an almost invisible track chip to his wrist when her hand lingered and she gave him an eye flutter of interest. "Thanks so much, Mr. Killian," she said softly. He smiled back and she left with Bruce, making sure to give a little backward glance to him.
When they got to the car she sighed. "Men are so easy," she muttered, rolling her eyes with a grin at Bruce.
"I'm glad of that. So you think he'll go to Tony right away if we're right?" he asked.
She nodded. "Oh yeah, he knows we're onto his company. He'll have to make sure he's covered all his tracks well enough. That tracker is the newest Stark's come up with. Nothing can pick it up and it's practically impervious to damage. He won't even notice the thing. Most likely, he'll wash it off in the shower tomorrow morning and only then because the adhesive is only good for twelve hours. Before then, it won't come off."
Tony gasped as he came awake but he was strapped into the table again. "No, not again," he whined and looked up to see the doctor over him again.
"Hello, Tony, so what memory did we jog yesterday?" he asked, smirking. Tony's brow knitted and he felt his lip quiver.
"You, you were there, always you…" he said gasping for breath.
"Good, now today, we make those things disappear," he said, smiling again.
He put the headpiece down and watched as Tony's eyes rolled up when the system began pouring the nanites into him. Of course, Dr. Malldrew thought it was amazing because his nanites were working this time, actually working. When he was done, memories repeated before his eyes, but not the ones with the doctor, no, he couldn't see him. Instead, his mind was filling in the blanks in terrible, horrible ways.
The third day dawned and Tony couldn't even think of fighting them as they strapped him into the machine again, spending the rest of the day with the world spinning sickeningly around him.
The fourth day, the last treatment was given. Malldrew smiled as he watched over him. It was the last time and he would either live or die. Tony was wracked with intense pain. Finally, sleep claimed him and he couldn't do anything but relive the nightmares over and over again. He couldn't think; couldn't speak. Nothing.
The fifth day, Killian was to return for the results. Malldrew had him strapped into the machine again, but he wasn't doing anything to him, he was done with the procedure already. He sighed. He might have burned out his mind after all. Oh well, he thought, the data was excellent. He looked over the scans and was pleased. Time to enact the rest of his plan, which might kill him, or might not. Either way, the experiments were a success. He tapped into the controls and Tony's body arched and keened as blood began to trickle from his ears and the corners of his mouth and eyes. Malldrew smiled, turning and walking out, smirking.
"Hail Hydra," he said softly to the camera above his head and left.
Bruce, Natasha, Steve and Clint followed Killian's signature to an empty lot in the middle of New York. According to the tracer, they were standing on top of him. Natasha looked around and shook her head. "He's under us."
Bruce took off his glasses and handed them to Steve just as his muscles started to ripple and bust through his shirt. Less than ten minutes later, a skinny Bruce was putting them back on in the middle of a tunnel that led to a stairwell that was under the lot. Steve led the way with Bruce backing him up and Natasha and Clint watching the rear. So far, the place was empty, and that surprised them all. Finally they came to a source of light up ahead.
Steve jogged forward and opened a door onto a room that looked like some sort of surgery or medical room and saw Killian standing beside a medical bed of some sort that Tony had been strapped into, and he was obviously freaking out. He looked up, both hands in his hair and shook his head.
"I…what…they're gone…all of them…and…and…" he stammered.
Bruce ran around and ran up beside the bed Tony was on. He was still in the pajamas he'd been in when he was taken, and was dirty and his face was drawn badly. He looked like he hadn't been given food or anything the entire time he was gone. "What the hell did you do to him?" Bruce said, looking up.
Killian shook his head. "It was a memory enhancer, that's all, it was non-invasive, it was just…just…it wasn't this! I needed him to solve something, for Xtremis…I needed his brain…and I asked the doctor…"
Bruce peeled open one eye and stepped back. "What the hell," he muttered.
Steve moved and had Killian pinned to the wall. "What did you do to him?"
"I don't know!" Kilian said.
Natasha shook her head and started pulling up the files. After a minute she muttered something in Russian under her breath. "Steve, look at this," she said, rolling back the footage of the doctor leaving.
"They were hydra. You had Hydra working for you?" Natasha said, turning toward Killian.
He shook his head. "Hydra?" he asked. "I don't know about Hydra. But everyone is gone, all the doctors, nurses, everyone that was here, this facility was fully staffed…"
Bruce looked up. "I need to get him to the helicarrier, I can't tell what they did to him. He's had something…I…I don't even begin to know what…"
Bruce fiddled with the controls and got the table to release the clamps holding him in place and Steve moved forward and picked him up before he could slide off the table. Natasha copied off the files and as soon as she did they heard a bonging sound. Everyone looked up.
"Auto-destruct system initiated. Evacuate facility. Hydra thanks you. T-minus five minutes."
"Oh no," Steve muttered, taking off at a run back the way they'd come. Everyone else started running, Killian following the others as the countdown continued in the background. Finally they managed to get the area and they scrambled up out of the hole just as the entire place collapsed in on itself. Luckily, the exit was away from it far enough that they avoided the worst.
Steve sighed, looking down at Tony's unconscious form. Blood was crusted around his nose, under his ears and around his eyes. His lips were chapped and bloody and he hoped that they hadn't been too late. He ran to the SUV and loaded Tony into the seat and hopped on his bike. Natasha jumped on behind him and Bruce got in the SUV beside Clint.
Killian looked at them. "What about me?"
"You're lucky we don't have room for you," Natasha said as Steve took off toward the closest landing area where SHIELD could pick them up.
Less than fifteen minutes later, Bruce had Tony hooked up to every machine imaginable. He was running every test he could to try and understand exactly what they'd done. A few minutes later he joined the others to view the footage. They started at the beginning, when Tony was brought in, and then they stopped when this Dr. Malldrew seemed to be talking to the camera. Steve pulled it up on the large screen.
"Good day, Avengers," came the slightly German accented voice of Dr. Malldrew. "I am certain you have found your missing Avenger and gotten the information from my computer databanks, which by the way, I'm sure you noticed destroyed the facility. I thought you should know that this plot is much thicker than you'd like to believe. In the end, Killian was a puppet, and Hyrdra got what it wanted, the perfect test subject."
Steve frowned and looked at the others. "You see, your Tony Stark is unique, very unique actually, and that sort of mind…it doesn't come along but once in a hundred or so years. Twice if you count his father. Foolish, we were, when we had Howard Stark killed. He would have been more useful to us as a test subject. As far as your Tony Stark, by this point, he's possibly dead, dying or repairing. Any one of those three is possible at five days outset of the experiments I've run begun to run him. I'm sure you want all the details, but where would the fun in that be? I'll tell you this, his mind is beautiful. His blood has also been infused with some very specific nanites. Those are what will either kill him or help him repair.
"And do tell Mr. Contrail that he screwed up a perfectly simple mission. Good luck!"
The video feed continued and they watched as Malldrew began the testing and even Natasha had to look away now and then. What was going through his mind, they couldn't see, but they knew it was terrible and traumatic. At the end, when he spoke Hail Hydra into the screen, they sat staring. Everyone looked to Bruce for an update.
"I…I can't do anything but wait. I detect the nanites, and I'm running them through everything I've got, but without Tony, I don't know. That's not my area of expertise. Tony could pull it apart in ten minutes, I imagine," Bruce said, putting his head in his hands. "I don't think he's had anything except maybe some water, not nearly enough at that, the entire time they've had him. He's malnourished and whatever he did, he actually drilled into his skull for it. There's traces of damage to the brain tissue, but it is almost microscopic. I don't know what to expect when he wakes up."
Steve groaned. "So we're nowhere and we don't know what he was doing except running experiments for Hydra? And apparently Contrail is Hydra. Why would this doctor say that?"
Bruce nodded. "That's all we've got. My guess is Hydra wasn't happy at the chance of losing Stark for the experiments they wanted done."