THE INVINCIBLE I.R.O.N. MAN

Chapter 6: machines of war

The breaks squealed on Anne Possible's stationwagon as it came to a stop outside Ron's palatial estate. She ran as hard as she could through the front door and called out for him. Not hearing anything, she made a cursory glance around the area and proceeded down to his basement workshop "Ron!" She called out, seeing him on the floor still in his gold-and-red armor minus the helmet. "Ron! What have you done?"

"I don't feel so good, Mrs. Dr. P…" Ron moaned as she struggled to roll him over with the heavy armor on.

"Ronald?!" Anne cried out, glancing over the scene. "Hold on!" She said as she looked around his workshop in a panic, and her eyes lit up as she spied a crowbar. "Hang in there, Ron. I have to get you out of that suit…"

"Wait! Don't!" Ron shook his head, "Armor system emergency removal protocol activate," He said clearly, and the armor unhooked itself. "This… is one of my more expensive suits…"

Anne blinked before dropping the crowbar and beginning to remove the metallic plates. "You're this Iron Man that's all over the news?" Anne asked, removing the chest plate, and carefully lifting him from the armor. "And what the hell is this?" She asked, motioning to the Arc Reactor embedded in his chest.

"I'm not a cardiologist…" Anne shook her head, "I need to get you to the hospital," she said as she helped him onto the table.

"No hospitals…" Ron grabbed her hand, "Please, Mrs. Dr. P… mom… you're the only one I can trust…"

"I don't like this… but ok…" Anne bit her lower lip, and started placing EKG nods on his chest.

"Rufus, tell her what she needs to know…" Ron groaned as Anne helped him to a medical table, about which she made a mental note to ask why he had one here in the first place.

"Yes, sir," Rufus replied and told the details of Ron's recent experiences as Anne began performing tests on him.

Ron watched curiously as Anne's eyes narrowed at certain points in Rufus' retelling, and he wasn't sure it was from what she heard or the results of the medical tests.

"Let me get this straight: you had severe trauma to your heart, made and installed an advanced pacemaker in a cave, by some miracle, didn't get an infection; and decided to take power away from said pacemaker to power a battle suit in order play space-age knight in shining armor?" She asked slowly. Ron responded with a nod. "Are you stupid?"

"It sounded like a good idea at the time…" Ron grimaced as he tried to sit up, only to be shoved back down. Before he could react again, he felt a sharp sting to his cheek. "Did you just slap me?" Anne answered by slapping him again.

"You just had a HEART ATTACK, Ronald!" Anne scolded, glaring hard at the younger man.

"Just a mild one …" Ron coughed lightly.

"This isn't a permanent fix, Ronald," Anne shook her head as tears formed in the corner of her eyes. "You could get a few years out of this, but if you keep pushing it like this… Ron, that armor is going to kill you…"

"You're starting to sound like Kim," Ron rolled his eyes.

"Well, maybe you should listen to her," Anne placed her hands on her hips. "How do you think she'll feel if you kill yourself playing hero?"

"She's got Derek…" he shrugged, "if you're gonna die, might as well make it mean something."

"Derek's not going to be permanent. We both know that," Anne said, shoving a nitro pill in his mouth. "No different than Josh or Erik. She'll get her head on straight and be back with you. It just makes me angry she keeps doing this, and you keep taking her back."

"She's not coming back this time…" Ron said, forcing himself to sit up. "Derek might still be salvageable… if I can convince him to get his act together."

"You think he's one of the ones leaking your tech out, too, don't you…" Anne narrowed her eyes as he struggled to his feet. "What do you think you're doing? You should be resting… YOU SHOULD BE GOING TO THE HOSPITAL!"

"No, too much to do," He said, stumbling to a locker and pulling out a suit. "I've gotta get this sitch under control before I have another one of those."

"Ron, if you don't start taking it easy, you're going to die…" Anne said as he dressed himself and began dragging himself toward the door.

He glanced back at her, and placed a hand over the Arc Reactor. "Not much can stop that now…" he said as he left the lab.

--I.R.O.N.--

Derek Stane swiped his card through a security reader at an off-the-books lab at Stoppable International's main headquarters and moved with purpose toward his own specially chosen scientists. "How goes the reverse engineering, Doctor?" Derek asked the scientist examining the damaged remains of the I.R.O.N. Man armor, Mark I.

"The weapons systems are easily rebuilt, and the armor-plating is ingenious. Did you know..." the man cut himself off at the impatient stare of his employer. "We're having trouble figuring out the system's power supply…" the scientist said awkwardly.

"It's powered by an Arc Reactor..." Derek frowned.

"Yes, but we've yet to create one similar to Mr. Stoppable's. We managed to condense an Arc Reactor to the size of a large backpack, but the cost-to-output ratio just isn't efficient enough to power a suit like the original," the scientist replied.

"Ron Stoppable and Wade Load built this thing in a cave… WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS!" Derek roared, jabbing his finger at the Mark I. "And their power source was the size of a GODDAMN BASEBALL! Now, I don't care how you do it; I don't care much it costs or how long it takes. Figure this problem out, or the unemployment line isn't the only thing you'll be staring down."

"I do have a suggestion, Sir," the lead scientist said sheepishly, "it might be dangerous, but it would answer the power supply problem."

"I'm listening," Derek nodded.

The scientist walked to his work table and brought back a small, metal case. "I hope you don't mind, but I took this from your private collection… I might suggest combining the prototype technology from the Mark I with this technology."

"The Centurion Project?" Derek said as he looked at the bracelet in the case.

"Its nanomachines are self-powered and rapid-replicating," The scientist said, "Combine this with the unique repulsor technology…"

"That could work," Derek nodded, "Do it."

"But, sir, the Centurion Project has left psychological damage on all the test pilots…" the scientist shook his head.

"I said do it. I want it ASAP. I want it active yesterday," Derek nodded, "But first I have to cover my ass."

--I.R.O.N.--

Derek smiled when he saw Ron seated at his desk. "Ron, what can I do for you, my friend?" he asked with a smile. "Can I get you a drink? You ok, mate? You look a little pale…"

Ron forced a smile, "No, I'm fine… just had a lot on my chest lately…"

"They say confession is good for stuff like that," Derek said, sitting down at his desk. "Got something you need to get off it?"

"Actually, I do," Ron set forward, "Derek, tell me the truth… not for me, for Kim. Are you selling my designs and tech under the table to the black market?"

"You think… I'm the mole?" Derek asked with a laugh.

Ron just stared as Derek stood to his feet. "Ron-Man, I'd be the worst possible suspect!"

"Why do you say that?" Ron asked with a quirked eyebrow.

"Conflict of interests for you," Derek explained, turning toward the window. "Even if I was, there's no way you could bring me accountable for it. You own the company, you can modify the books to look however you want, and I'm sleeping with the woman you love."

"Excuse me?" Ron asked, taken by surprise.

"I can't believe you'd use this as an excuse to get to me, because I stole Kim from you," Derek turned back to lean across the desk toward him. "Are you that bitter that Kim wanted to be with the better lover?"

"Number one, I don't agree with the way you're talking about KP," Ron held up a finger, "And number two, you question my abilities as a lover of women. That, sir, is crossing the line." Before Derek could respond, Ron's fist collided with his jaw.

Derek responded with a punch square between the eyes. Once Ron's daze cleared, he tackled Derek across the desk, sending his computer monitor flying.

"What the hell and damnation is going on in here?!" Monique's shrill voice rang through the office.

"He through the first punch!" Derek cried out as Monique jerked Ron back by the collar.

"I don't care who started it, children!" Monique snapped, "I'm finishing it! You, fix your computer," She pointed to Derek, "And you, get your ass home and in bed, so you can rest." She turned to Ron and shoved him toward the door. "I did not sign on for this crap and being BOTH of your MAMAS is NOT in my pay grade!"

"Here's a final thought, Big D," Ron said from the door. "How do you know she hasn't come back to my bed while you're busy selling my stuff to terrorists? Think on that!"

"Are you stupid?" Monique asked once she got him into the elevator.

"You're the second beautiful woman to ask me that this morning," Ron noted.

"What was that all about, Ron?" Monique asked, shaking her head.

"I almost, ALMOST got a confession out of him," Ron held up a finger.

"Was that before or after you decided to play Steel Toe and Pain King?" Monique crossed her arms and scowled. "He wouldn't come out and say he's selling your tech, so you decided to beat it out of him? Did you get advice from Drakken and Shego for this move, or did you come up with this all by your lonesome?"

"I just gotta keep the heat up…" Ron nodded.

"And you'll get a restraining order from your own CEO, whom you named by the way," Monique explained, "And could possibly get the rest of the board to out you for psychological instability."

"Can they do that?" Ron asked after a moment.

"Yes, they can," Monique scowled.

"Oh… I didn't think of that…" Ron then smiled. "I'll have to come back in the armor, then."

"Ron, no."

"He'll never know it's me."

"No."

"I'll just hang him outside the window like Batman till he squeals…"

"NO!"

--I.R.O.N.--

Meanwhile, in another warehouse in the Stoppable Enterprises complex, Kim wondered casually into the small lab. "Working on a new suit for Ron?" Kim asked, causing Wade to jump.

"Kim!" Wade yelped turning to his old friend. "Don't sneak up on me like that!" He said, holding up a welding torch. "Especially when I'm armed…"

Kim tilted her head, examining his handy work. "Interesting… but isn't Ron's choice of armor red and gold?" Kim placed a finger across her chin. "And last I checked, Ron doesn't like guns."

"Ron doesn't like a lot of things," Wade mentioned, "Doesn't mean I can't slip in some reinforcements to my little war machine here to back him up, huh?"

"Point," Kim nodded, "I am worried he might be pushing himself too much… can that pacemaker really hold up to his using that armor?"

"Technically, it should…" Wade said awkwardly, lifting a dark chrome gauntlet and sliding his hand into it. "Barring he doesn't draw too much power away from his personal life-support."

"Ron calls his armor I.R.O.N. Man," Kim said, picking up the dark chrome and silver helmet. "What are you going to call this one?"

"I haven't thought of anything just yet," Wade replied, "Hopefully, I'll never have to put it on."

Kim started to respond when her GJ Communicator beeped. "Wouldn't let you keep the old ringtone?" Wade asked with a smile and laughed when Kim rolled her eyes.

"This is Possible," Kim answered. "Yes, ma'am, I'm in route." She shut off the com and turned to Wade. "I gotta go, Wade, duty calls."

"Ok… be safe…" Wade gave her a quick hug before she ran out of the lab. He then turned to his incomplete armor. "Won't be long till I'll be able to help when they need me…"

--I.R.O.N.--

Monique walked into Ron's home and narrowed her eyes when she saw his bed empty. "Ronald…" She growled when she turned to the couch and found it also empty. She sat groceries she picked up for her sick friend and stomped toward the stairs. "Ron, what are you doing?" She asked finally found him by his computer set up.

"Kim's on her way to the Go City National Museum," Ron said as he keyed away at the controls.

"How do you know that?" Monique crossed her arms.

"I bugged her Global Justice com when she wasn't looking," Ron responded, standing up. "I am Iron Man." He said loudly, activating his armory.

"Dr. Possible said you needed bed rest!" Monique growled as the armor pieces snapped together around him.

"Relax, Mon, I feel tons better," Ron said as the robotic arms retracted into the floor and ceiling. "I'll take a nap on the flight to Go City, and I'll take a full night when I get back."

The repulsors lifted him into the air as his gold faceplate snapped into place. "Be home soon!" Iron Man said before launching up the tunnel to the surface.

--I.R.O.N.--

"Put your weapon down and no one has to get hurt," Kim ordered as she watched the villainess closely.

"All I want is that one little ring from the display," the odd woman replied, her whip crackling in the air. "Give me the ring, and no one has to get hurt…"

"You want a ring," Kim made sure the diamond of her engagement ring was facing out, "I'll give you one! FORCE WORKS! ATTACK!!" Kim called out jumping at Whiplash, hitting her square in the jaw, diamond first.

"Why you… if you knew how much I had to put into looking like this!" Whiplash growled, touching her bleeding cheek. She yelled as she lashed out at Kim, wrapping her wrist up in her whip. Kim smirked for only a moment before Whiplash activated the tazer built into the handle of the whip.

Kim cried out in pain as the voltage ran through her arm.

"Hang on, Possi-SCHNIKIES!!" Drakken cried out when he grabbed the whip to try to help her, only to receive the same voltage.

"Dr. D!" Shego ducked and dodged the villain's other whip, while trying to get to the pair. "When someone is being zapped by something, YOU DON'T GRAB IT WITH YOUR BARE HANDS!!"

"This is a lot easier than I expected," Whiplash smiled.

"Excuse me, Miss?"

"Huh? Oh, crap…" was all Whiplash could get out before she got a chest full of repulsor ray.

She struggled back to her feet before narrowing her eyes at the hero. "Tell me, Shellhead, how insulated is that armor?"

Whiplash then cracked her whip, wrapping it around Iron Man's waist, and turned on the voltage, full blast. The armored Avenger cried out, and he felt the now-familiar tightness forming in his chest along with the wave of dizziness and nausea.

"No!" Kim called out, jumping onto Whiplash's back and putting her into a chokehold.

"GET OFF ME!" Whiplash thrashed around, finally letting the armored hero go, who instantly dropped to one knee, with one of his hands going to his chest.

The two women fell into the display as they fought one another. Shego and Drakken moved in to help their partner as Iron Man struggled back to his feet.

"Rufus… status report," Ron breathed as he struggled to stay on his feet.

'Arc Reactor at fifty percent capacity, blood pressure highly elevated, strongly suggest transferring all power to life support systems,'

"Negative, not in a fight…" Ron shook his head before starting back toward the villain.

Iron Man fired off his boot repulsors as Whiplash fell out of the display. "Goodnight, Princess," Iron Man stated before slamming his fist into the villain. Whiplash yelped as she flew through the wall.

"Good knock," Kim commented, before going after her. "Where'd she go?"

"Slippery little witch…" Shego grunted, seeing only the impression in the far wall where she hit.

"Well, we saved the exhibit… kinda…" Drakken stated looking around the devastated area. "Dr. Director is gonna yell, isn't she?"

"Well, at least everything was just broken instead of stolen…" Shego shrugged, not knowing Whiplash escaped with a single, ancient ring.

"Thanks for the help again… Iron Man," Kim smiled at the armored hero. "Iron Man?" She asked, but he didn't respond and instead simply turned and robotically walked toward the exit.

Kim frowned in worry when he took flight and flew back toward Middleton.

--I.R.O.N.--

Monique set at the desk as Ron returned in the suit. "Have fun playing hero, Hero?" Monique asked as he walked toward the armory. Any smugness left her when the armor was removed and Ron collapsed on the floor.

"RON!" Monique yelped as she ran to his side. "Ron, are you ok?"

"Just pushed myself a little too hard today…" He gasped, "That bed rest is looking really good right about now…"

"Stubborn fool…" Monique growled as she helped him up the stairs.

Once he was on the bed, she made sure he was comfortable. "You sure you don't want me to take you to a hospital?"

"I just need to rest a while… good night's sleep should help…" he said, ignoring Monique's worried frown.

"Ron, maybe you should leave that armor alone, at least for a while…" Monique said, grabbing his hand.

"Sure thing, KP… just call if you need help… I got ya back…" He said, as he drifted off.

Monique sighed, as she tucked him in. "Goodnight, Babyboy," She said, kissing him on his clammy forehead. She turned to leave, pausing to see a video-tape shaped envelope on Ron's entertainment center. "How'd that get there?" She shrugged it off and went to the living room to call and report in to Dr Possible.

To Be Continued…