IRON MAN 33: THREE EXTERMINATORS
Part Eight of an Iron Man Fan Fiction Saga by Neil Iron Nitz Kapit
Special Thanks to Steve Sellers, Zach Couture, Pam Williams, James Tonn, and Andrew Dean

Tony, have you ever heard of cyclothymia ?
I believe so, Doctor. A mild form of bipolar disorder, though why the hell you're bringing this up escapes me.
It can be a serious disruption to daily life, but cyclothymia is treatable. Perhaps your....problems are more biological, not situational?
What are you saying, Doctor?
With your permission, Tony, I'd like you to take a quick appointment with a doctor, and then see if there's anything I can prescribe.....
You want me to soften my brains, yes?
No, it just seems that your moods have wildly varied during our sessions, and a little medication might help even you out....

Doctor Leonard Samson received whispered, yet detailed instruction to do something anatomically impossible.

Samson rolled his eyes, as Stark returned to his chair, sweating slightly. Very well, I'll try not to bring up the topic up, but I won't do that to both my poles, or either one.

Very well, Stark stated at a level slightly too loud for Samson's ears. Let's continue.

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The lush gatherings of trees outside Stark House once would have been a prized subject for landscape painters everywhere. Now, my gardens
would only appeal to grave robbers.

An armored armageddon had swept through, and the bio-mechanical sensors I implanted inside the trees ( those that were not destroyed, anyway ) showcased little more than death. S.H.I.E.L.D troops lay dead on the ground, badly damaged husks still clenching their weapons. Grass was burnt to ash from smoldering machinery, and a few arms and limbs limply dangled out of some of those machines. All of the S.H.I.E.L.D Mandroid suits, the hulking gold armors I had built for them years ago, were slag. From the monitor room deep below the ground, the only living thing I could see through the smoke was S.H.I.E.L.D Colonel Nicholas Fury, backed against a charred stump, his leg badly bent but his hand and
pistol extended.

The object Nick pointed at approached. My armor could have easily killed the old warhorse from 70 feet away-- seven miles away, even-- but it decided to step forward slowly, its steel soles softly plodding the ground. Fury kept his pistol on target, and even pulled the trigger a few times, but the plasma discharges harmlessly slid off his foe's metal cover. X2 kept on coming, and Fury kept on firing, to the point of pathetically throwing his spent weapon at the animated suit. Nick's growling face glistened with beads of sweat, as
my armor came five feet closer, then ten feet, then twenty, and then....

Nothing. X2 stopped, turned around 360 degrees, and took to the air by the soles of its feet. From the air, it rocketed off into the wild blue yonder at incredible speeds, and towards the mansion....through the mansion's upper east window, in fact. It had bigger fish to fry, it
seemed....meanwhile, Fury crawled out from the flaming woodlands around him, avoiding being fried himself, and thinking about whom he'd broil for this....

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A rodent scurried on the floors of the Stark House Private Lab hallway. The rattus norveigus paced anxiously on the dark steel tile, its whiskers twitching and its beady eyes scanning the giant's area. It paced across the floor, turning a few times in search of a stray scrap of food. Finally, the vermin's little peepers stopped, and it stared directly at a single object. A bright light, a fluorescent beam that strained the little rodent's eyes to look at.

The burning light of judgment.

A bright search-light illuminated some formerly sterile tiles, decorated by a smoldering heap of smoked meat. The light's source walked straight past its rodentile nemesis, leaving the remains to cool off alone. X2 could care less about the fates of lesser mammals.....there was only one life form it cared for, and that lifeform's well-being seemed in question.

Through three sections, X2 continued its trek, keeping its unibeam search-light on high intensity. The beam started to reposition itself, shifting focus across various sections of the walls. X2's eyepieces shifted from side to side as well, glowing pupils twitching like the vermin's fleshy peepers. Every few muffled steps, it turned, then continued. It kept on moving in this fashion, up to the wide omnium gate leading to the interior of my dank pit of ponderings. X2 didn't have much time, so instead of entering the proper access code for my lab, it blasted through with a barrage of pulse-bolt fire.

It did not expect any of that fire to be returned.

Like a good martini, X2 was shaken, not stirred.....the burst of force hadn't done any major damage, but for all its heightened awareness and cold logic, to be taken unawares was quite a system shock. It quickly got to its metal feet and turned its unibeam to incredible intensity, but it wasn't firing with any aim , just blasting trillions of photons at anything suspicious. It dashed into the lab, continuing to shoot potential threats in all corners of the area, but that did nothing except increase my repair bills.

Another blast hit the armor, sending it flying into a burning pile of circuits and steel that it had just destroyed. It destabilized itself and leapt ten feet in the air, scanning the high ceilings while releasing more fire. The target was not damaged, but X2's assault did not go unnoticed, and some more beams struck its ebony shell. This time, from all directions; the entire lab's arsenal was targeted on the armored bastard. Turrets secured in the walls deployed, and several floating probes took to the air. Miniature guided missiles, searing laser beams, and omnium blades all launched with perfect precision at X2, and though no single shot did much damage, the clean alloy shell it had made for itself would now need its first repainting. While it was trying to maneuver through the firestorm and demolish its many foes, several more shots hit it, and the black metal was coated with burn marks and concave dents.

It still wasn't enough. X2 flew to the center of the lab, and froze, completely motionless except for an ambient layer of energy cascading its armored hide. For exactly four seconds, it just absorbed fire, and then released it-- with interest. Every single weapon I had built into the armor, plus several others it had devised, were released. The armor span like a humanoid top, and all manner of different energy states and explosives rushed from X2's hands, chest, shoulders, and feet, and it wasn't random dispersion. Each strike with each weapon was carefully calculated, and not a single attack missed. Pulse bolts destroyed the turrets, while chain-gun fire stopped the missiles cold, and controlled electrical discharges short-circuited the air probes. Laser beams fired, but not directly.....the unibeam targeted a reflective chromium plate on one of my chairs, which refracted the beam into several controlled targets.

When the onslaught was over, X2 casually lowered itself to the ground, paced across to one of the smoldering consoles, and lunged its claw forward. The adamantine fingers tore straight through a metal shell.....

....and into a not-quite-iron man.

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The man in the midnight blue armor didn't scream, though he had been given good cause to.

X2's claws were digging through his shell, slowly poking into his skin and onward through the ribcage. The pain was blinding him, his world becoming as black as X2's modified plating and blood stained the insides of his armor. My armor's arms had tightly enclosed its prey, with an unbreakable grip, and X2 could have crushed the blue-armored man easily. Instead, it had decided to take its sweet time, and show its foe its new manicure .

Not much time at all, the armored man thought....his Stealth Iron Man suit had few defenses, and most of those involved the principle of Not Getting Hit in the first place. The suit's circuitry was designed to bend and repel electromagnetic waves, rendering it effectively invisible to mechanical eyes, but the explosive rumba my lab had just done had damaged circuits essential to the suit's EM disruption, and knocked the pilot inside silly. Now that he was no longer invisible, and his armor's exoskeleton wasn't nearly strong enough to break X2's deadly bear hug, the man inside had to use his organic cerebellum to think of a solution, quick. The solution was in his hands.....and he quickly realized that was
literal.

The man's hands weren't restrained, only the arms they were attached to, and while they weren't strong enough to even shake X2's gauntlets, they were in direct line with his waist.....and the gadgets inside the belt. The man fiddled around his utility belt, looking for the magic bullet he needed to leave my lab outside the confines of a bodybag. Several gadgets no bigger than a common house-key slid off his mailed fingers, most of whose functions he couldn't remember through the flashing pain he was experiencing, and none of which seemed enough to take down two-hundred and twenty-five pounds of PO'ed machinery. The man kept twitching his digits, partly because of his despair and partly because of spasmodic pain, until he hit something hard and metal.

Hard and metal? Not X2, or even his own tasseled shell....but the battery pods on his hips. The suit's emergency power supply, dry batteries storing 50,000 volts each. With his ribs sloshing in his own blood, the man ripped his right pod off, and twisted his wrist beyond its limits to clamp the pod to X2's gauntlet. The flat interior fastened to X2's side via its polarized surface, and started to glow. Was X2 absorbing it?

No.....it was absorbing X2.

All the power in my ferrous Frankenstein's right arm was gone, and without electricity to power its motors, it went totally limp. One arm was unpolarized, dangling flatly like the sleeve of a shirt on a coat-hanger, and the other parts were starting to slack up a little bit. X2's left arm moved towards its chestplate, moving at slow speeds and twitching considerably, and jammed its claws in the blue pod.

It went boom.

All power systems in the lab failed at that time, and all the lighting went out. The corridors of the room were blacker than the bottom of the sea, and the only sounds were a few buzzes from slagged circuits. The man in the midnight blue armor electrified the photocells on the suit's skin and staggered to his feet, having a faint neon glow amidst the darkness surrounding him. He tapped the ear-piece on his helmet twice, and decided to break the silence.

Pardus to Ferroyale. Have managed to survive with.... minor.... injuries. Rogue armor is not appearing on sensory read-out.

Ferroyale to Pardus. Return to bunker ASAP. Excellent work, T'Challa.

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The single best food I have ever tasted had to be a NutRageous candy bar I fished out of a wooden crate in one of the Stark House bunkers, located six feet underground behind a grass-cloaked hologram. As I sat on a low-quality swivel chair next to a scratch-built computer console, watching King T'Challa's flight course on the monitor screen, my mouth exploded in a veritable orgasm of chocolate and peanut butter. Yes, it was a pretty
low-quality lunch, but after being trapped in a bubble for over a week and surviving on intravenous amino acids, a quick burst of Day-Glo wrapped fat and sugar was quite excellent.

In fact, I was feeling surprisingly giddy at the time. I was free. I had escaped from the clutches of my most dangerous enemy yet, and I was back on my feet. No more helplessness for me; I was wearing a dusty dress shirt and a wrinkly pair of khakis, the shirt covered in crumbs as I wolfed down the bar. And with the computer systems by my fingers, my AI Jocasta ported to the hard drive, and a case of armor under the keyboard panels, I felt like I could take down the whole god damned world.

And when King T'Challa entered the bunker down the holographic hatch, wearing my armor, I realized that wasn't a good thing.

When he climbed down the iron rungs of the ladder and hit the dusty floor, T'Challa removed his helmet, holding it to the side. Underneath the iron blinders, he was still wearing his ceremonial panther mask, a black mesh that covered all but his eyes and gave him tiny cat ears that would look goofy on anybody else. The rest of him was still covered in the damaged stealth armor. Quite paranoid to wear a mask behind a mask, if you ask me....

The pot calls the kettle, Samson muttered under his breath. Stark surely heard, but he went on with his story anyhow.

T'Challa, I said, my voice deflating. I saw what the armor did to you through the video link. You seem to be limping....

The king stepped slowly but confidently, his boots clanking against the floor. My family is bred to be resilient. A bit moreso than Model X2 seemed to be against our energy siphon.

I threw down my candy wrapper, with a bit of chocolate still covered in the orange. Didn't seem to have worked too well. I can't detect him anywhere over or under the grounds, blackout aside.

Perhaps because he is no longer on the grounds. Watch, Anthony.

T'Challa handed me his-- MY helmet. I looked on the lenses of the mask, and saw a miniature map of Seattle. A red dot moved, leaving a pink trail behind it as it went south.

Oh, shit. He can't be headed there, he can't.....

Where is the armor headed?

I nearly dropped the blue helmet and quickly bent over, reaching for the silver attaché case carrying an older suit of Iron Man armor, trembling as I did it. It's not headed back here. Not just yet. It's looking to power itself up.....and ANYTHING in its way is doomed....I have to stop it...

T'Challa picked up the helmet and, with a disturbing amount of ease, reconnected it to the neckpiece. WE have to stop it. Your rogue armor murdered a dozen of my finest countrymen.

I didn't look at the Black Panther when he said that. Instead, I stayed in my seat, with my collapsed armor on my lap and my fingers on the keyboard. I'm sorry, but I can't let you get involved. I've already buried enough friends as it is....

If you were truly a friend of mine, Anthony, you would consider me an equal. Since you had lent me a suit of your armor in our quest, I had thought --

Here's another thought, your highness. Did you think that I would let you use my armor if I didn't have total control?

What are you implying, Anthony Sta--

I pushed a button on the keyboard, and the blue armor froze up. The suit's skin had polarized to its tightest hardness-- so hard, in fact, that it was totally solid and unmalleable for even the man inside. T'Challa's enveloped body tipped onto the floor, straight and sturdy and stopped.

Nasty virus I developed. The armor freezes for about fourty-five minutes, then self-destructs. You'll be fine, if a bit sweaty, but you won't be going anywhere until then.

And if it's any consolation, I stated while forcing a smile, There's still some Nutrageous left on the floor for you. It'll taste good.

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Meanwhile, I had garbed myself in my own armor. Covering my entire body was the Iron Man Model 18, Mark 2. A year-old design, still beyond anything else considered cutting-edge . A hard yet streamlined design, a finely knitted suit of mechanical chain-mail, colored in brilliant red-and-golds. Had more power in one gauntlet than most third-world nations.

It wasn't enough to make me giddy again, or even mildly happy.

A smooth but sweet voice whispered in my ear. Any last thoughts, Tony, before we head off?

Yes, I sighed, and they're all of regret. Glancing down on the floor, I saw the king of Wakanda frozen in a micro-mesh cage, his faceplate facing upwards. I could only wonder what kind of face he was making at me, likely that creepy indifferent glower he always has. But I'd never know. King T'Challa was one of the few people in the world on the same mental wavelength as me, and we could have been such great partners We might even have changed the world. Instead, all my chances for friendship were sealed inside my own cold, hard armor.

One cannot go back now. What you have done, you have done, stated in a manner extremely cold even for her. Now, are you ready to go?

Armor's working fine. Power reserves are full, all systems are running at optimum performance, and there isn't a hint of artificial life in here besides you. Plus-- I removed a two-foot-long contraption from the side of my belt, an intricate piece of curved black polymer which looked like a high-tech dueling pistol, and waved it forward -- these Flintlocks should help match whatever upgrades X2 has given itself.

Any other chores before we leave?

Yeah. My human brain's neurons can't nearly match the speed of X2's circuitry. At least, not without a little professional medication.

I cannot let you do this, Tony. You have never tested this before, and you have no idea what this will do to you.

I started to get quite pissed. You wanna join the kitty cat on the floor?

What, exactly, were you referring to, Samson asked.

This, Stark muttered, removing a vial from his breast pocket. There was a neon red liquid inside.

Strawberry Yoo-hoo? , Samson joked. Not even he chuckled.

Steelnerve. Compound of my own design. Extremely powerful stimulant, increases brainwave activity exponentially. Derivative of methamphetamine.

Samson nearly broke his notepad in half. METH? I thought you didn't want drugs to meddle with your mind.

There was a grin on Stark's face which caused even Samson's skin to crawl. Not unless I design them.

Samson began to wonder if he was helping Tony at all. Or even if he could ever.

TO BE CONTINUED.....