Title: The Invisible Collar
Summary: Dark AU post-Civil War
Pairing: Tony Stark/Peter Parker
Disclaimer All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
It had never been meant to be like this. To let the government create its own little super powered puppet soldiers. Oh it started simple enough; inject some nanobots in a select group of super-villains to make them fight for the government's side. Simple idea right? Get them to fight the good fight instead of just keeping them locked up in high tech cages that did nothing but cost the taxpayers millions of dollars.
All with complete control for the government people in charge. Simple, efficient, perfect weapons of mass destruction in human sized packages. The only problem was that even with the nanobots, the super villains in question were -- surprise surprise -- still bad guys. Oh, you could wrap them in all the good PR you want, put their pictures on hamburger ads and make toys out of their images, but at the end of the day they'd still go for the kill and ignore the safety of innocent people around them.
They weren't retired of course – the government wasn't that wasteful – so they were pulled quietly out of sight. Black ops, undercover actions, anything that'd let them do what they did best while the public went ooh and aah over the next new craze, forgetting all about the Thunderbolts. The public, as an institution, had a very short memory and an endless appetite for the new.
But the government still needed its new heroes and no matter how successful the Initiative sounded on paper, in reality, most of them were a bunch of newbies and nobodies with little or no actual experience in true-to-life combat situations. Most of them were eager enough, but time and time again, when sent after some of the anti-regs, or the big time menaces, they came up short.
Something needed to be done.
Luke Cage was the first to be captured, then Jessica Jones and Iron Fist in their attempt to free him. Wolverine and Spider-Woman went underground after Doctor Strange disappeared. Neither side knew if he did it on purpose or if one of his enemies had managed to get to him while he was distracted.
He could have gotten away, if he hadn't been fighting his best to
give Ronin and Echo a chance to get away with Mary Jane. He gave up
his freedom for his friends.
Tony wasn't even sure if he should admire that, he probably did.
Peter was the last to be injected with the nanobots. He'd thought they were the neutralizer tech, the one used to depower superhumans. Three weeks earlier it would have been. But now the government needed new weapons, weapons it could actually use in public. Tony had flinched when he'd seen Luke after his first injection with the nanotech.
Cage was a proud man, proud enough to hate what was done to him and resent every single person involved in making him a tool to be used at the government's will. Tony had tried to tell him this was a second chance for him, that if he just accepted his orders, accepted the Initiative and what it meant, then the nanotech could be removed and he could be an Avenger again. Cage hadn't even bothered answering him.
At Gyrich's suggestion they'd sent Rand to San Francisco to add to the team there, while Cage was sent to Chicago. Miss Jones was released, she'd been retired and out for years, her only real crime was her support of her husband. She was injected with nanobots, just in case, but otherwise left untouched. Or so they told him. She went straight back to Strange's house and left with her and Cage's daughter half an hour later. The tracers said she was somewhere in Newark. Tony hoped she wasn't trying anything to free her husband.
Tony had tried to get Peter for his own team, but Gyrich refused. He said that Spider-Man was too big an asset to keep him for the Avengers. Stark didn't even try to ask what that was supposed to mean. He found out four weeks later when a report came out online of Spider-Man sightings in Iraq.
Tony nearly flew right over there at the sight of the figure tearing off one of the insurgent's heads. Peter a murderer… it had to be destroying him. To Gyrich and his people, none of that mattered, none of Peter's scruples or morals. All they cared about was that he was a perfect soldier for them to use.
He would have left to get him out, if it hadn't been for the Hulk showing up. By the time the war was done, dozens of heroes were dead and they'd stood there over the corpse of Bruce Banner, wondering if any of it was worth it anymore.
That was the final blow really, to everything. Tony had to fight to stay in control, to not let people like Gyrich take over and turn every single superhero in the States into a nano-tech operated weapon. And by that time Peter had disappeared again anyway. Tony put everyone in SHIELD on the look out for him, but with everything that was happening; he couldn't make him a priority, no matter how much he wanted to.
It killed him; it killed him that Steve was dead and could no longer hear him say that he'd been right all along, that he had picked the wrong side. Just… if he hadn't done what he did, things might be even worse, wouldn't they? He hadn't had any other choice, had he?
It was two years later that Gyrich died, just a silly thing, one of their new Thunderbolts went rogue and killed him in his escape. Why had anyone ever even thought they could control someone like the Purple Man? The guy practically lived for manipulating others. In the end they lost the entire team as they killed one another on the Purple Man's orders.
Tony didn't say it out loud, but to tell you the truth, it was the best thing to happen in years. He also didn't bother to show anyone the remote used to take out the Purple Man's implants for at least ten minutes. Nor did anyone ever see the distinctly colored corpse before it was destroyed with a repulsor burst.
It was only two weeks later that he received his new transfer. Two weeks before he could open the bay doors and see the small looking man standing in the middle of the hall, surrounded by ten guards. He seemed thin, vulnerable, hair cut short enough that you could still see certain incisions on the right side of the head.
But Peter wasn't home no more.