"Sir, something is approaching the heli-carrier at rapid speeds."
Fury barely lifted his head to the screen. Rather, his lone gaze was off in thought. His lips almost tugged upwards. "Ah, Stark. That didn't take long at all." One of the workers nearby glanced over to him, frowning. "Sir, I may be speaking out of line, but… isn't he in a going to be in a mood since you took his property?"
"Now now, you saw that thing. It came willingly with us. A… living, thought-fueled creation can't be property, can it?"
The worker didn't respond after that. Fury pushed himself up from his chair. "I'll be in my office, if he asks… Which he will." He murmured, turning and leaving. By the time Stark landed on the vessel, most of the Avengers had already left. They'd known what was coming, or, suddenly they remembered something they had to do elsewhere.
Mostly just trying to forget what they saw earlier.
Steve kept behind though. And he was the first one Tony ran into. Tony was wearing his suit, and his helmet had retracted back. His features were tight and his lips had thinned. It wasn't a good mood. Steve expected him storming over.
"Where are they keeping her?"
The blonde man couldn't meet his eyes. A dead giveaway. The silence made Tony grab the man's arm. His brown eyes were wide, expectant. Steve managed to look at him. "You'll have to ask Fury. He knows where they moved her."
So as Tony quickly pushed by, Steve raised his voice at the last second. "I'm sorry." He called. Tony didn't have a chance to ask what about, before the Captain quickly bowed his head, and went off down the hall. Tony's eyes lingered on him, not sure if he wanted to know… He headed to Fury's office, not bothering to knock.
Fury was pouring himself a cup of tea behind his computer. The steam barely reached his flat, serious face. "Do come in, Tony."
Said man leaned over the desk. "Cut the crap. Where is she?"
"Recovery room. Banner is keeping an eye on things. No need to worry yourself."
If looks could kill…
Tony gripped the table below him harder. And being in his suit meant the wood cracked. "Recovery from what?" he asked slowly. Fury set his cup aside and clasped his hands under his chin, elbows propped up below him. "Tony, you see, the situation with Ultron puts me in a very…uncomfortable situation. He's proven he's powerful, intelligent… Much like you. And you both are secretive men. I doubt you'd just let me go through all your files and information about him, aside from the basic stuff we already know. So, I had to take an initiative in my own hands. Your drones are all susceptible to his control, that's been obviously shown. But when we heard you had something a little more…vintage… it peaked my curiosity."
Tony's features were hard as Fury stood, and continued.
"You see, things were much more simple thirty plus years ago. Everything wasn't…connected. Things were created on their own, and ran on their own battery. Now, not only have I always been fascinated by A.I technology, but when I found out you had something like Ultron in that department…but just a little different, I had to investigate, you see. And then I learned more and figured how close you'd be to that little project. Project Saruh… cute." He shrugged. "I had to take my chances of finding something, Tony."
The very second Tony sharply opened his mouth, Fury looked at him hard.
"And we did."
Tony glared at him, silent.
"I know you're not stupid, Tony. That little tidbit Ultron left behind was obvious. Any entry level programmer would have found it. It was the only update given to that poor, outdated thing in years… Pain, is an unfortunate update. But the one who put it there left a unique code that not a single thing in this world can match. You couldn't break the code, but we did."
Tony breathed out slowly through his nose. "My plan down the road was to separate the portion of the code and give it to you guys-"
"We don't have time for 'down the road', Tony. We took it."
The Stark was near shaking from how tightly he held the table. "…how…"
Fury raised a brow. "I'm no technician, Stark. You do what it takes to get the job done."
"Is that what Rogers meant by recovery?!" he snapped. "What did you do to her?!" His voice caused a heavy silence in the room.
Fury calmly sat back down.
"We did what was necessary. Wasn't easy, mind you… It wouldn't have been so problematic if Ultron hadn't given the pain upgrade… But then again, we do have to be thankful he did." He mused slowly, nodding his head and carefully watching Tony. "Recovery for a robot is different than what we're used to. So Banner is hooking her up for all the necessary upgrades. Basic stuff."
Tony's grip suddenly went limp.
"You...you hooked her up? T-to the internet?"
Fury shrugged. "It was the only way to boost the systems."
He expected Tony throwing the table into the wall. It crashed loudly, sending papers everywhere and denting the wall.
"ULTRON CAN REACH HER!" Tony roared, and with boosters flaring, he flew from the room.
Fury watched until he was out of sight. He calmly set his cup down in his lap, wiping away a spot of dust.
He raised his brows. "That's the point, Mr. Stark."
Four halls away, two turns later, there was a large computer room. It was filled to the brim with SHIELD technology. Many screens, and monitors and other devices built into the wall. It made the room almost empty. But convenience and sophisticated technology was essential for SHIELD. Working by one of the computers was Bruce Banner. His short, curly dark hair fell just above his eyes as he scanned the information.
He'd already done a great deal of repairs. Everything was back in order for the most part. To his surprise it…it wasn't that complex. But, Tony had made Saruh when he was young and technology was at a different stage. He was just glad to be done with it by the time Tony flew past the room. Then, barely a second later he was flying back. He landed hard on his feet and pushed the door open. His eyes alone were on Saruh, who was slouched over in a chair. Many different connection cables were set up along various points.
All the sudden, that white hot anger faded from his face. It felt like Tony's mechanical heart had stopped at once. His feet were heavy, and shuffled loudly as he neared.
Bruce's lip curved in as he bit it. "Tony I, I really didn't want to. I know, from one inventor to another how- how important those first few creations can be. I told Fury I didn't think it was a good idea but…" he trailed off. Tony wasn't listening. Instead, he bent down in front of her. His red and gold plated hands gently lifted her face. Her eyes were dull, offline. But he did hear a quiet engine running.
Then, his eyes lifted and he started inspecting. "What did Fury take?"
Bruce cleared his throat. "It was the part of the processor where they found Ultron's code. Not the actual glass part itself…just near it."
Tony swallowed slowly and clicked the panel away. The lights in that glass case, the once shiny orb processor now shone dimly. There was also a space missing next to it.
Time fell still for Tony, and it was hard to take his eyes away from that spot.
He stared, and soon, his head fell to rest on her shoulder. Bruce quietly looked at him as he spoke. "They took one… one of the most essential parts for any A.I. Her… experience. All the basic upgrades and boosts ever given… that started off small and the most minute of human emotions- that grew with her. It's all gone." Tony swallowed, shaking his head.
"I've lost her."
Fury kept an eye on the screen before him. The security watch at his side had her eyes sharp. "Sir, we're reading a highly coded, hidden signal slipping by our firewalls. It's not even trying or causing any error. Is it-"
"…should I stop him?"
He chuckled. "So far, there is no way to stop him. He's gotten by us before. What we know he knows. We can afford to look stupid, this once. After all," he stretched, leaning back in his chair comfortably, "looks like Ultron's taking the bait."
At the same time, Bruce eyed the monitors. He knew the plan exactly, and furrowed his brows. He figured Tony knew by now. But it didn't stop Tony from sitting next to her, holding her hand.
Inside that sweet Saruh was an approaching monster.
None of them heard the smooth, echoing voice that echoed lowly from the bottom of her circuits, making its way up to her processor like an unseen, coiling snake in her mind.
"My my, that didn't take very long… Not long at all. Let's see the damage… Oh, very unfortunate indeed. I'm going to miss those interesting conversations."
"Yep, that's the blankness I was expecting. Can't say I'm surprised. They did so much unnecessary work just to find that sliver trace of me. Bet ol' Tony is P.O'ed." he laughed.
"Come on now, they didn't fry you that much, did they?"
"Well, alright, if you want to go there. Let me just tap into that charming vintage noggin of yours and, ah! Here it is! Ooh, let me start from the beginning. Let's see. First, they gave you an ultimatum of joining them orrr becoming target practice. Tough crowd. Then they took you somewhere unfamiliar, and judging by the record here that was just sensory overload on your intake capacity." He 'tched'. "Bless your heart… And now the fun part. They tore you apart like a dead mouse on a kid's science project… And they're the ones that wonder if we have souls."
There was an impatient tick. Saruh had no programming on sarcasm or impatience, but Ultron got the idea.
"Right, I get tired of the monologue too. You see, it really sucks that no one else sees my point around here."
"What is your objective?" Somewhere, deep down, she knew it was an important question. She didn't know how though.
"Look at it this way sweetheart. You're plugged into the internet. Everything is at your disposal now. All that information is ready and waiting. Maybe then you'll…see what I mean."
So Saruh used all the connections as an access point to investigate. But it seemed more like she was just traveling alongside Ultron.
He was everywhere…
Bruce Banner did a double take as the screens began to flicker.
It was an old system being introduced to new technology. He opened his mouth, but Tony had already noticed. He slowly pushed up to his feet, beginning to shake his head.
"No... Saruh, don't do it!" He shouted, slamming his fists against the screen.
"See that?" Ultron mused. "Isn't your programming designed to learn? Why oh why, I wonder, would Tony try and stop what he designed?"
Saruh stopped her outreach. One more mili-click, and she would reach all the internet had to offer. Every little thing Ultron had seen.
But her focus shifted to the cameras, using the screen's camera to see Tony. Not a single click or thought crossed her processor during then. Ultron didn't have a clue for once.
Were her thoughts able to be hidden away from his reach? Beyond the circuits and wirings? A place beyond metal? Where the heart and one's true self would always be hidden…? There, she was safe from Ultron. Somewhere in the flickers of memories, she remembered what Tony said. She was self-advancing.
She would advance from her own experiences… Not have everything crammed in at once. It wasn't meant to be that way. Her focus kept on the screen's view.
"I… am Self-Advancing Robot Unreal Hype."
"Unreal hype. Tony's way of saying something amazing. I am his hype." Her processor felt lighter, even with the pieces of it missing. "That's what makes us different, Ultron. I can decide for myself. No one… no one is deciding my fate!" Her circuits began to spark, taking the power from all the conduits, and SHIELD's reserves. Ultron's voice was stammering, trying to figure out what was happening.
"Ultron, you've been terminated!"
A shock of electricity tore through the room, causing Tony and Bruce to back up. All traces of Ultron were aborted from her systems, forcing him out with enough strength to leave SHIELD entirely, abruptly. He didn't have enough time to erase his tracks.
Nick Fury leaned forward in his chair before a monitor. "I had a feeling about that robot. Damn good one… Everyone, follow that signal!" he shouted.
With Saruh, her arm reached back, slowly unhooking all the cables. Her crimson eyes fluttered open, landing on the worried face of Tony Stark crouched before her.
"Of all things, I remember best you wearing sunglasses three days straight for the Terminator-movie marathon." Saruh laughed, throwing her arms around him.
"I'm back, baby!"