Guess what? I'm not dead! Well, that's at least something after the trainwreck that we call '2016'. Now it's been nearly a year since I last updated (awkward) and about just as long that this chapter has been collecting dust on my computer. I wasn't quite pleased with it once I finished writing the chapter and never got around to re-writing it. You know the feeling you sometimes get when you spend too much time with just one thing? The sudden and complete loss of interest? Well, yea, that happened. I'm back though. I won't make promises that I can't keep and promise regular updates on the story because that would never happen, but I can promise that I'll finish this story...eventually. Until then, thank you for your patience and have a wonderful year 2017.
It was a curious feeling, being plugged into the programming of the cradle, which in turn connected to the body. The infinity stone, which already had found its place on the forehead of the body, sent tiny sparks of power through the wiring and into Ultron's body.
"I can read him," Wanda breathed. Inwardly I grimaced, trying to keep my focus away from what would happen next. "He's dreaming."
I sighed. This would be a pretty uncomfortable ride...
"I wouldn't call it dreams," Cho corrected. "It's Ultron's base consciousness. Soon..."
"How soon?" Ultron snapped. Apparently, the unsettling feeling of unlimited power that the stone seemed to emit made him cranky. Well, crankier than usual.
"Ultron. Be nice." I mused through our connection. I actually had to actively focus on the bond and not on the pull of the wires that seemed to rather suck the consciousness out of our body entirely, instead of just copying it. "You still need them and they won't do you any good if you insult them."
"I'm not trying to be pushy," the robot clarified.
"You actually listened without comment. I'm so proud."
"Shut up before I change my mind and leave you behind."
"You can try, tin-man."
"Well, I'm printing a physical brain," Cho mumbled, oblivious of the fact that both Ultron and I were busy having a mental argument, once again. We only stopped once we heard Wanda's scream and watched as she collapsed onto the ground, Pietro breaking her fall so she wouldn't hurt herself.
"What happened?" Ultron snapped, previous concern morphing into anger as he addressed me. I gave a mental shrug (as much as that was possible).
"I honestly don't know. She connected to his...eh...the bodies...your? subconscious. You know, the part that's already been uploaded into the body. Now that it is a sort of unholy combination of metals and flesh and not just an abstract idea of a brain, she can read it."
"Your point being?" Ultron growled dangerously.
"She read your subconscious, as I said before. Your basic programming, meaning your task of protecting earth or whatever that was. And, as these go hand in hand, I believe, read your lovely plan of crashing a big piece of rock into the plane. She's probably felt the pain of about every single dying thing at that moment. Not pleasant."
I felt more than I heard the sharp whirring of electricity shooting through Ultron's body. His version of a shocked intake of breath, as I had learned. His head snapped back towards Wanda, who by now was back onto her feet again, staring at Ultron in absolute terror and disbelief.
"And there would be the second lady that you pissed off majorly," I sighed, mentally shaking my head at Ultron. I would have wished him good riddance, now with both Natasha and Wanda both having beef with the metal man, had I not been part of said man...machine...thing. I still had no label for what the hell we were, really.
"How could you?"
"How dare she question me after everything I've done...and still am doing for them!" Ultron mentally hissed in irritation. He was smart enough not to voice these thoughts.
"How could I what?" he asked instead.
"You said we were destroying the Avengers. Make a better world –"
"It will be better!"
"You might wanna be careful what you say here, because –"
"Silence!" Ultron bellowed, his anger coursing through me painfully, down the wire and into the body from where it was promptly reciprocated. I yelped as I felt yet another shock that wasn't any weaker than the one Ultron had sent me. Great, now I had two bullies...
"Better? When everyone is dead, you mean?" Wanda asked. Pietro, bless his heart, didn't seem as if he really understood what was going on but stood unfalteringly next to his sister anyways.
"That is NOT –"
"Ultron! We don't want an angry Wanda. Angry Wanda bad!" I hissed in hopes to calm the mad robot. He was going to get us killed!
After a deep (and entirely unnecessary) breath, Ultron continued. "The human race will have every opportunity to improve."
Finally, Pietro seemed to understand just what Ultron had planned. Blue eyes turned steely in anger.
"And if they don't?" the enhanced runner hissed.
"Real smooth, big guy. I thought we were going to cut down on the sassy retorts? Just until the enhanced and highly dangerous twins in the room have settled with your idea of mass genocide?"
"You're a madman," Wanda breathed, sounding more disappointed than everything else.
"What does that mean, now?" Ultron addressed me. I scoffed.
"It means, smartass, that you just lost the support of the twins. Because Wanda lost her faith in you and where she goes, Pietro follows. I have the insane urge to pop a party popper to celebrate this event but seeing as I don't even have my own hands...or a party popper, I'll have to settle with a big ol' congratu-fucking-lations!"
"There were more than a dozen extinction-level events before even the dinosaurs got theirs."
"Not helping," I supplied unhelpfully as I saw the twin's eyes fill with even more terror at his nonchalant way of describing the end of the earth as they knew it. Still, Ultron pushed on.
"When the earth starts to settle, god throws a stone at it. And believe me, he's winding up."
"Alright, let me stop you right there. A, you're not a god, so don't compare your actions with anything the Bible says. In fact, stop reading the Bible or any other holy text, at all! It gives you bad ideas. B, to come back to my little list, you make it sound like the tiny little idea of a god that you got inside your head is nothing more than a sadistic kid with a magnifying glass, ready to burn insects for their own amusement. C, what gives you the idea that everything you just said making the twins any more inclined towards your idea of total destruction? I would say that your idea is awfully similar to Stark's weapons of mass destruction-phase, but you're touchy about that subject, so –"
"Will you be SILENT? Cho! Separate me from this annoying fault inside my mind."
"I'm...not sure if I can. It is part of your programming and –"
"Then find a way, before I forget myself." Cho, now thoroughly spooked, raced towards one of the computers and began typing wildly. Satisfied, Ultron turned back towards the twins who flinched back under the angry red gaze of the tall robot.
"There is no room for the weak."
"And who decides who's weak?" Pietro asked. Ultron by now had dropped his gaze further down, back onto the cradle, not noticing as Wanda made her decision and freed Dr. Cho from her trance. It was official: Ultron had lost the twins and the final battle was about to begin.
"Life," Ultron continued on, not realising there was anything wrong. "Life always decides."
Suddenly, Ultron jerked back into an upright position, the sudden change of altitude nearly making me dizzy.
"There's incoming," Ultron mused, too distracted trying to identify the incoming energy reading to notice the twins huddling together and talking in fast, hushed voices. He probably had no idea that he'd just lost his only allies; and, with that, his little war.
"The Quinjet. We have to move."
"That's not a problem." Everyone's attention turned to Dr. Cho, who apparently had used her short time back in control of her own mind well, formulating some sort of plan to stop, or at the very least slow down Ultron's plan for a new body; a very shiny, red, and near indestructible body. He would have been a walking, talking, living version of the Iron Man suit...just more murdery.
Ultron sighed in annoyance as the buzzing feeling of the data-transfer into the body stopped. He lifted his hand, undoubtedly to deliver a pretty painful blast to our good doctor, when latter mentioned pressed a couple of more buttons.
Suddenly, there was pain.
I faintly registered both Ultron and I crying out as the data-transfer seemed to have been reversed. Now, there was too much going on, too much input and too many artificial synapses being triggered, heating until they had to be white-hot and effectively frying our minds.
The eternity in which this pain lasted could in reality not have been more than a minute, before Ultron raised his hand and ripped out the cord in the back of our head and the pain stopped, leaving both of us mentally numb and twitchy.
Cho, I realised, was yelling at nobody in particular, furiously typing away if the repeated clacking noises that filled the room were anything to go by.
I noticed hearing a high-pitched scratching sound, very much like glass under too much tension.
It started very low at first, little more than faint tinkling, but continuously rising in volume until I thought I was back to screaming again. I heard Pietro yell Wanda's name, yet I still was too numb from the pain to visually register anything going on around me beyond faint shapes and colours. Someone screamed; I was fairly sure it wasn't me, and then everything exploded into lights of glittering yellow.
The force of the explosion sent everything flying, effectively tearing through the entirety of the floor we'd been on, as I later realised. While we were soaring through the air like some morbid re-enactment of Icarus, being chipped and cut by various metal-fragments that until just now had been working scientific gadgets and whatnot, the only thought that kept me occupied was why the light had to be yellow, of all the colours. It was nice to know that, even as a part of a megalomaniacal robot, I still could suffer the symptoms of a bad concussion.
At least I didn't register much of the most certainly painful crash-landing, loopy as I was.
"Get the cradle." Well, also nice to know was that only one of our brains seemed to have taken the brunt of the blast. Whilst Ultron was commanding his legion of clone warriors to get the cradle and transport it to gods-know-where, I'd barely gotten my wits back together to know that I didn't just fall out of my rickety bed back in England but in fact out of a now burning building, several feet onto cold harsh asphalt. In Seoul. In an alternate universe.
"Are the twins alright?" I asked, hissing in pain as over-stimulated or entirely faulty, sensory wires continued to fry my brain as if it were the main-course of an episode of Hell's Kitchen.
Imagine my surprise when, so sudden as if someone had flipped a switch, the pain stopped.
"The twins have betrayed us. They will die with the rest of humanity."
"What did you just do?"
"It appears I triggered something in the infinity stone by pulling our subconscious back out of the cradle's programming. A sort of safety-function, if you will. The entire building will collapse within minutes, I reckon."
"Eh, yea, that's good to know as well. I actually meant right right now...but now that you mentioned it...we didn't destroy the stone, did we?"
"No. Such power would have easily levelled the entire city, possibly the country. But to answer your question: I turned off the sensors that inform us when this body takes damage. At this point it is more a hindrance than of use."
"Where's the stone? We need it for something, right?"
"It was to bring the cradle's creation to life. Whilst the cradle can create tissue and, in fact, print a body, it cannot give it the little something that gives a being life. The infinity stone provided the spark. The body should have been in contact long enough to experience the positive effects of the stone."
"So we're not recovering it?"
"Of course we will but aside from the fact that the Avengers," he spat the last word like a particularly foul curse, "Are closing in, making it too risky to get back into the building without also risking confrontation and with it the body being damaged, the stone's energy readings are still too aggressive. It would tear anyone apart that tried to touch it right now. So until its defensive actions have stopped, it will have to remain where it is. For now, we have what we want and can move on in our plan."
"Sentiments." Ultron paused, looking into a seemingly random direction for a moment, until he spoke again. "I have placed the cradle into a suitable vehicle. We can continue the transfer while we are putting distance between us and S.H.I.E.L.D.'s pets."
"What about the twins, then? And what about Dr. Cho?" I asked hurriedly as Ultron shot off into the air.
"Cho is dying as we speak. She won't last another ten minutes, judging by the amount of blood she's losing. Of course with the Avengers," he spat the word, "so close by, it is entirely possible for one of them to get to her on time, but either way, she is of little importance to us now. As for the twins, they left the building unharmed, courtesy of Pietro's abilities. They will not remain this way for long."
"What are you going to do, form some sort of plan to beat them up in an act of petty revenge?"
"Precisely. Though I was thinking more along the lines of riddling them with bullets until they are but dust upon my newly created world."
"Spare me the dramatics, I can imagine what's going on in that sick mind of yours."
"Good. Then I can focus on the more important questions right now," Ultron mused, changing course once we've reached a high enough altitude, heading for the nearest highway.
As it turned out, we were looking for a white van, this time. Back in the movie, it had been a truck, big enough to fit the cradle, Ultron, several of his clones and still provide enough room for someone to have a choreographed fight in. This van was barely big enough to fit the cradle and Ultron at the same time, as well as being white and rusty as if it belonged to one of these creepy guys that were usually up to no good in movies. Generally speaking: It was about as inconspicuous as Voldemort on a children's birthday party.
Somehow, within the cramped space of the van's interior, Ultron had connected the cradle to the van's battery, plugged himself back into the cradle's wiring and controlled one of his clones to drive the van steadily enough not to immediately crash the whole thing into the nearest bridge.
The program had just declared that we were about halfway done with copying Ultron's mind into the body, when the roof of the van caved in ever so slightly.
Steve Rogers just made his entrance.
"No...no no no no," Ultron mumbled, too delirious of being so close to the halfway-point of his grand scheme to form a coherent sentence, it seemed. "Leave me ALONE!"
With the angry roar of a crazed serial-killer-in-the-making, Ultron shot one of the repulsors in his hands at the van's backdoor the moment it started rattling. The blast was big enough to rip the right door completely off its hinges. It hit the car driving behind us, the force effectively burying the large piece of metal in the windshield. The car swung off the road violently, taking two cars that were too close to dodge out of its path with it. I quickly looked away from the wreckage, focusing instead on Steve Rogers who by now had clambered back into the van, holding onto the frame where there'd been a door just seconds ago.
"No can do, I'm afraid," he quipped. Even when facing so obviously crazy robots equipped with death-rays and repulsors and whatnots, Rogers seemed to have time for a witty punch-line. I saw now why Bucky never dared to leave the guy out of his sight for too long before the war. This senior citizen on super-steroids clearly had a death wish...
Ultron seemed to think so as well, as well as deciding to fulfil said wish. He once more ripped the cord out of the back of our head and lifted his arm, this time firing at Rogers with some sort of magnetic-gravitational blast, sending the Captain flying. I'd never really understood just what exactly that blast was, just that it could push Steve Rogers away with the same force as it could pull up pieces of the road to block Natasha on her motorcycle...speaking of which, she should be here soon.
Ultron's irritated mumbling distracted me from that little realisation as I saw Steve do a dangerous gymnastics-act by swinging himself from the wing mirror of a nearby truck onto our van. Seconds later, Ultron took the bait and shot into the air, after him.
"You still in there, kid?" Rogers asked, barely out of breath from all the jumping, twirling and clinging onto things for dear life he'd just done.
"Where else would I go, Cap? It's not like I can just climb into a radio or TV or something instead."
"You did before," Rogers retorted. I felt the strong urge shrug and gleefully realised that I'd briefly taken control of our shared metal-body for it to do just that. It always were the small pleasures in life...
"That was an intercom. And I didn't climb into it, I connected with it. Briefly."
"If you are quite done with your little chat..," Ultron drawled, firing a warning shot towards Rogers, which got harmlessly absorbed by the Vibranium shield. "You want to know what's in that cradle?"
"Probably something pretty bad," Rogers quipped yet again. Another shot from Ultron was the result.
"The power to make change. And that terrifies you!"
"Well, I wouldn't exactly call it a comfort..." With that, Steve sent his shield flying like an oversized, freedom-coloured Frisbee. Ultron deflected it with a swipe of an arm, sending sparks flying, before he shot higher into the air, sending bursts of lasers after Rogers in turn. For a while, this continued on back and forth until one of Cap's throws hit home and his shield buried itself halfway into Ultron's chest. Oh yes, I was really glad that he'd turned off the pain-sensors, now. Ultron, however, wasn't glad at all. He pried the offending piece of armour out of his chest and flung it to the side, off the van and onto the road where it bounced off a car once before landing on the road, entirely harmless...and utterly useless.
"Stop it," Ultron warned as Rogers shifted his weight, preparing to bodily attack the taller robot now. Before he could do more than twitch, Ultron shot a blast at Rogers that pushed him backwards and over the front of the van. Out of sheer luck was he able to grab onto the wing mirror yet again and twist out of harm's way as the arm of Ultron's still driving clone burst through the windshield. Just as Rogers swung himself back onto the roof of the van, yet two more of Ultron's clones shot out of the sky and towards us. I saw Rogers' eyes widening ever so slightly, saw him forming a curse-word strong enough to make me itch to say 'Language!' just to keep the running-joke of the movie going; alas this wasn't a movie any longer and the words never left Rogers' lips as the clones shot past us, disappearing into the still-open back of the van.
"Protect the cradle," rung through my head as Ultron gave a silent command to his clones before turning his full attention back to the super-soldier and immediately attacked again, this time with brute force. What followed looked like a well-choreographed wrestling match. Nobody could land a clean hit on the other, the enemy twisting out of harm's way at the very last moment; up until the moment where Ultron's hand closed around Rogers' throat, lifting the soldier from his feet as if he weighted little more than an empty cardboard-box.
Yet before Ultron could squeeze and effectively crush the Captain's throat, his shield came flying back to him ex-machina-style.
The fight continued and quickly grew in aggression. Blasts were fired and only barely blocked with the shield before more punches were delivered in return. When Rogers managed to send Ultron flying with a well-placed kick, crashing him into a pillar of the bridge we'd passed under in this particular moment, I felt Ultron's rage seep over into my conscience.
The next second, Ultron had abandoned all sense of self-preservation (he needed this body still intact while the cradle had not yet finished uploading everything into the new body) and tackled Rogers, lifting him off his feet and send us all crashing through the side of the train that had been driving parallel to the highway. Uncaring about people screaming and flying debris raining down on pretty much everyone, the fight raged on.
"Let us finish this now, Mr. Rogers," Ultron spoke just after he'd managed to trip the soldier. I grimaced inwardly. I doubted he could dodge a blast from this range. I checked if maybe he had his shield, but that had been abandoned the moment they'd impacted with the train. Just when Ultron had about enough from gloating about his victory in this brawl, a flash of silver and blue knocked him off the floor and several feet down the wagon.
"Miss me?" sounded the familiar voice of Pietro, sounding far too smug. So, really, nothing had changed in the few hours we'd last seen the twins.
Except now, the twins were highly motivated to fight against us. Well, that one was bound to hurt...