Disclaimer: Unfortunately, Iron Man: Armored Adventures isn't mine. Not even Tony (or Gene! D:), belong to me. The rights ultimately belong to Marvel, so there. :D Don't try to sue me, got that? I'm not making even a single cent off this story.
A/N: This idea randomly popped into my brain, and I wasn't about to let it slip away. And since I've only seen up to the episode "Hide and Seek", hence the AU. Basically, none of the other episodes after that one happened in this storyline, okay? Anyway, here's the prologue, ready to be read and reviewed! :D Plus, for those of you who are impatiently waiting for more one shots based on the actual episodes, more of them will be posted shortly. So don't give up hope, okay? :)
Summary: AU Tony's life is turned upside down when the man he hates most discovers his identity. Obadiah executes his revenge, then hands the teen over to none other than A.I.M. Two years later, Tony resurfaces. But something's really not right…
Prologue: Happy Birthday
"I can't believe this is happening!" Pepper squealed excitedly, clapping both hands together and doing in a little jig in place. She ignored the looks that Tony and Rhodey were giving her, brushing a strand of red hair out of her eyes. "I mean, how can high school graduation be next week? It seems like just yesterday that we were trudging through the halls of Tomorrow Academy, and now we're almost free!" She paused for breath, grinning widely at the two teens walking beside her.
"It doesn't feel like yesterday to me," Rhodey muttered, rolling his eyes.
"Of course not, Mr. Serious. You never have fun, so everything feels way longer to you," Pepper teased, sticking out her tongue. "So, who's for ice cream? I say we should stop by the Frosted Spoon and each get a cone to celebrate the weekend and our coming freedom!"
Rhodey turned to look over at Tony, who was walking beside him. The teen genius had so far been silent, ever since they had exited the school. He was walking slowly, both hands stuffed in his jeans pockets, and his eyes focused on the ground. "Tony? You doing okay?" he asked worriedly.
"Yeah," he mumbled back absently, lifting his gaze. "Tomorrow's my birthday." He said this casually, ignoring the shocked looks that spread across both his friends' faces.
"What?" Pepper exclaimed, completely outraged. "Why didn't you ever tell me?"
"Tony, man, I'm sorry," Rhodey enunciated, dark eyes round. "I completely forgot, with all the stuff that's been going on lately…"
"It's okay, Rhodey," Tony answered him good-naturedly, waving a hand. "Your dad having back surgery is enough to make anyone forget someone else's birthday. Really, I understand."
"Oh God, I don't have any presents for you!" Pepper cried, crazily running both hands through her short hair. The motion made it to stick up wildly from her skull. Mentally, she raced over all possible ideas of what she could rush out and buy before tomorrow. What the heck do you buy a guy who can invent anything he ever needs or wants? she thought frantically.
"Really, guys. I don't want anything," Tony assured them, a small smile curving his lips. "That wasn't what I was thinking about, honestly."
"Then what is it?" Rhodey asked, trying to wipe the guilty expression from his face. He couldn't believe that he had actually forgotten Tony's birthday. Now he felt like a real jerk, especially after what Tony had done for his last birthday. Since his dog Isabelle had been hit by a car just two weeks before the big day, Tony had built him a mechanical dog, created to look and act just like Isabelle had, except for the fact that it was a robot.
"Tomorrow I get to take over Stark International," Tony stated quietly, trying to keep his face from revealing the excitement brewing inside him. This was what he had been waiting for, for such a long time. And now the supreme goal was almost within his grasp, just hours away. He planned to turn up at the tower at dawn, demanding that everyone immediately leave. Except for Trisha, the receptionist who had worked for his father. She was the only one who going to be allowed to stay. "I even get to fire Stane. Happy birthday to me."
"That's awesome!" Pepper gasped, momentarily forgetting the dilemma of what to buy him for his birthday.
"Congratulations, Tony," Rhodey said softly, proud of what his friend had accomplished after putting his mind to it. He had kept his grades at solid A's without even trying, just as Howard Stark had requested in his holographic will, and now he was finally going to gain control of the family company.
"Thanks." Tony paused, thinking. "Oh, and the offer still stands. You can both come to work for me if you want, once I get everything sorted out at the company."
Pepper snorted. "Sure. Right. As if! I'm going to work for S.H.I.E.L.D., remember? They have–"
"Jet packs," Tony finished. "Yeah, yeah. I know, Pepper. You've been going on and on about it ever since I first met you."
"Well it's true! I bet that Stark International doesn't have jet packs," Pepper said smugly, crossing her arms over her chest as they kept walking down the sidewalk.
"Not yet," Tony replied, smirking. "That might change after I get control of the company."
Rhodey playfully punched a fist against his friend's shoulder. "Not that you're looking forward to it or anything."
"I won't lie. I am looking forward to it." Tony grinned. "Firing Stane is going to be the birthday present to myself. This day has been coming for a long time."
Pepper looked serious for one of the very first times in her whole life. "But what if Stane doesn't want to be fired? He might, you know, try to pull something."
Tony shook his head triumphantly. "It was in Dad's will. Stane has no choice but to hand over the company to me tomorrow morning. He has to do it."
"Pepper could be right, Tony," Rhodey added. "What if he–"
"Don't freak, Rhodey. Like I said, there's nothing Stane can do."
Rhodey shrugged. "Okay, Tony. If you say so..."
The teenage mastermind nodded. "And I do. Everything's going to go just fine tomorrow, trust me."
Obadiah Stane reclined in the leather chair before his desk, a heavy scowl coating his features. Not that it would be his desk for long. This wouldn't even be his office after tomorrow. Thanks to the Stark brat, he was going to lose everything. If only there was some way to stop him from taking control of Stark International…
Grabbing the glass that had been resting innocently on the edge of the desk, he downed several swallows then dropped it carelessly back onto the solid surface. It toppled onto its side and a few drops of golden liquid splashed against the polished wood. He didn't bother wiping it up. It was going to be Stark's desk by morning, so who cared if some of the paint flaked off?
"Mr. Stane?" A voice suddenly echoed from behind him. Obadiah sat up straight in the chair, spinning around to stare behind him. A man wearing an expensive suit and yellow tie stood at the glass wall, staring down over the city with both hands clasped behind him. "I'm told you have a little…problem."
"Who are you?" Stane barked, one hand hovering over the intercom system on one side of his desk as he readied to page security.
"Mr. Stane, I work for a company called A.I.M." The man turned around, straightening his tie and smoothing back his hair. He smiled a cold and menacing smile. "And my sources tell me that you're in a sad state of affairs, with Tony Stark planning to take over your livelihood first thing tomorrow."
"That's none of your business. And I don't care who you work for!" Stane bellowed, slamming one fist against the desk.
The man went on as if he hadn't even been interrupted. "But I think you will. Because I happen to be known as the Controller, thanks to a few little devices that Stark himself helped me invent. And if you help me capture Iron Man, I will help you get rid of Stark once and for all."
Obadiah snorted. "What do you want with Iron Man? Hundreds of others like you have tried to capture him, and none of them have succeeded yet. I should know; I've tried it myself a few times. Besides, what has this got to do with Stark?"
"Let me tell you a little secret." The Controller leaned forward towards Stane, a cool and collected expression still painted across his face. He spoke in a stage whisper, punctuating each word with a small yet dramatic pause. "I…know…who…Iron…Man…is."
"I don't care if you know who Spider-Man is," Obadiah ground out. "All I want is to get rid of Stark without revealing myself as the person behind it."
The Controller strolled around to the other side of the desk, hands still clasped behind him. "You see, that's why I came to you, Mr. Stane. Because Iron Man and Tony Stark are closely related to one another, as I have discovered with some very clever tricks."
"What do you mean?" Stane feigned indifference, leaning back into his chair once more and studying his fingernails.
"Tony Stark…" The Controller paused once again for to increase the drama of his statement, "is Iron Man. Iron Man is Tony Stark. They're one and the same, Mr. Stane."
Obadiah went very still, eyes widening in shock. "That's not true," he said in a dangerous voice.
"Oh, but it is. It's very true. All you have to do is loan me technology from the Stark vault, and I will take Iron Man down for you. Then all you'll have to do is take off the helmet and see for yourself."
Obadiah's eyes narrowed. "What's in this for you?"
"Well, after you're done having your fun with Stark, I want you to hand him over to my company. We'll take good care of him, believe me." The Controller smiled sinisterly.
"How do I know you're telling the truth about any of this?" Obadiah demanded suspiciously. "How do I know that you're not lying about Iron Man?"
"Why, you don't, Mr. Stane." The Controller turned to face him again, gaze locking firmly on the other man's. "So, what's it going to be? You only have a few minutes to decide, as my patience is waning. Besides, after tomorrow morning, it will be much too late."
Obadiah frowned for several seconds, thinking over the possibility of never having to deal with the Stark brat ever again. It was almost too good to be true. He smoothed the frown away, then reached under the desk and pulled something from where it had been taped there. He held up a long key, passing it to the Controller. The other man studied it with muted interest.
"This," Obadiah enunciated slowly, "is for the vault on the eighth floor. "There are a few things in there that I think will be useful to you."
The Controller nodded, features displaying considerable smugness. "You've made the right decision, Mr. Stane."
"Bring Stark to me tonight," Obadiah said firmly. "Alive."
"Oh, he'll be alive. That's how my company specifically requested him. We'll be seeing you soon, Mr. Stane." The man walked calmly to the door, opened it, and vanished into the hallway.
Obadiah let a hard smile twist his lips. His dream was coming true. Soon he would be rid of Stark, and this company would be is his possession forever. And there was nothing that anyone could do about it. Touching the intercom, he paged the night secretary at the front desk. "Barbara. Bring up a bottle of wine. Right away."
"Yes, sir. Right away, sir," Barbara replied respectively.
Obadiah folded his hands in front of him, heaving a deep sigh of relief. Once tonight was over, he would be a much happier man. If what the Controller said was actually true, then when this night ended, both Iron Man and Tony Stark would be out of his hair for good.
Tony groaned groggily, rolling over onto his back. He blinked the sleep from his eyes, then sat up and turned off the alarm that was radiating from his portable headset. Pressing it into one ear, he yawned and stared over at the glowing digits of his alarm clock. One in the morning. Stretching, he turned his attention to the report that was going out over the police scanner chip he had installed. Something about a man some kind of indestructible armor destroying downtown New York. Perfect. Sounded like a fun way to start the day.
Climbing out of bed, Tony grabbed a t-shirt at random and pulled it down over the gleaming disk implanted in his chest. Then he hurried over to the door and out into the hall. Jogging silently three doors down, he peered into Rhodey's bedroom. All that was visible of his friend was a tuft of black hair poking out from one end of the bed.
"Hey, Rhodey," he hissed, trying to get his attention without waking Mr. and Mrs. Rhodes. "There's something going on downtown. I'm going to go check it out, okay?"
"Go home, Pepper…" Rhodey mumbled incoherently, rolling over to face the wall and throwing one arm across his face.
Rolling his eyes, Tony turned and headed down the stairs, making sure to avoid the creaky step near the bottom. After a whole year of practice at sneaking out to fight crime as Iron Man, he was getting pretty good at it. He'd only been caught about three times by Rhodey's parents, and had always managed to convince them that he didn't need to be grounded. Well, except for that one time.
Heading across the living room and into the garage, he pulled one of the bicycles down from the metal rack and slung his leg over one side. He needed to get over to the armory and suit up as quickly as possible, before he missed out on all the action. Opening the side door that led out of the garage, he pedaled down the street.
Ten minutes later, Tony was inside the Iron Man armor, flying above the city at sonic speed. Just ahead, he could see orange-red flashes of light as various things went up in flames, presumably thanks to the work of whoever it was that he was heading to fight. He could only wonder exactly what he was about to be battling. For all he knew, it could be a resurrected Crimson Dynamo again. He'd fought that thing four times so far, and it just kept coming back.
His headset suddenly crackled to life, and the armor's mechanical voice questioned cheerily, "Do you wish to speak to User Code 002, aka James 'Rhodey' Rhodes, who requests access to your comm. system?"
"Sure, why not," Tony agreed casually. He waited until the resounding beep, then said, "Hey, Rhodey. Did you finally crawl out of bed?"
"I'm at the armory," Rhodey replied, not sounding too happy. "How'd you get suited up so fast? By the time that my automatic alarm system went off and I got down there, you were gone."
"I'm kind of amazed at it myself. Must be since today's my birthday. Rush of adrenaline and all that," Tony suggested.
"I've already called Pepper. She should be here any minute."
"Why'd you go and do that for? She probably wants her beauty sleep or something."
"Remember how she reacted when we didn't call her last time? She was pretty ticked about missing out on the museum break-in."
"Only because the thugs had jet packs. She would probably join them if it weren't for S.H.I.E.L.D.," Tony cracked.
"You're probably right." Rhodey paused for a few seconds. "I just hacked the security cameras around the area where this guy is tearing everything up. It's pretty bad, Tony."
"Any casualties?" he asked stiffly, kicking his speed up just a notch. The last time he'd faced someone who wasn't just an ordinary criminal, which had been about three or four weeks ago, three people had died. Because of him not getting there soon enough, they had lost their lives. He still felt completely guilt-stricken about it.
"Not yet, that I can tell. I'll send the image to the armor." As Rhodey said this, a staticy image popped up inside the visor of Tony's helmet. It was of a figure wearing a tight black suit that appeared to be created from regular cloth when observed at a distance. But the bullets fired from the guns of the police surrounding the figure said differently, bouncing from the supposed 'cloth' with ease.
Tony felt like he had been punched in the gut, and inhaled deeply. "Great. Wonderful. Perfect, even," he uttered flatly.
"What is it, Tony?"
"That's something from the vault. I remember my dad working on it, when I was about twelve," Tony sighed. "It's indestructible, or so he said. And it definitely does lots of other things, too. But he didn't tell me anything about how to stop it, its weaknesses."
"Oh," Rhodey said. "That's…not good. How do you plan to stop this guy?" He cleverly didn't mention anything else about the vault. This was the very day that Tony was set to take control of it, and Stane was sending out more of his father's inventions into the streets. Not good.
"By hitting it really, really hard." Tony cut his boot jets at that very second, then dropped to the ground at the speed of a bullet that had just been fired from a gun. He bent over when his iron boots slammed into the concrete, causing it to splinter dramatically around him. Though pained slightly from the rough contact, he managed to remain standing, slowly straightening to look the threat head-on.
The figure in black, which had been pummeling several policemen, turned to stare, an SUV held in one hand. Even though the mysterious person's entire face was covered in black fabric, Tony imagined that whoever was under the slim armor was smirking triumphantly. The figure carelessly dropped the vehicle, then raised the freed hand towards him. There was a sudden burst of static in Tony's ear, and he cried out, dropping to his knees.
Rhodey's dark eyes widened in shock when he heard the burst of static, and heard his friend cry out. He jumped to his feet inside the controller wheel, staring at the small screen. The horrifying words, 'Comm. Access Destroyed' flashed across the screen in big letters.
Something was very wrong.
Rhodey dropped back into his seat and allowed his fingers to fly across the keyboard. He tried every access code he knew, and then some, but nothing happened. Whatever had gone wrong, it had completely severed all links and openings into the Iron Man armor. He had absolutely no way of telling what was going on with Tony.
"Hey, Rhodey! How's it going with Tony?" Pepper called eagerly, skipping into the room and over to the control wheel. "Kinda early to be summoned over here, huh? It's, like, barely even morning. I've never been up this early before, with it being so dark out and stuff. So, any jet packs, or are the criminals completely lame this time aroun–" She abruptly broke off when she noticed the position that Rhodey was in, head in his hands. He didn't even move when she hesitantly touched his arm. "Rhodey?" she whispered in a quiet voice, biting down hard on her lower lip. "Is something…wrong?"
"All communications with armor have been cut. And Tony said right before it went dead that his dad created the suit he was about to face. Something about it being indestructible. He doesn't even know anything about it beside that." Rhodey didn't look up, still gazing depressedly at the floor.
Pepper's lips formed a startled O. "What are you saying?" she gasped out.
Rhodey finally lifted his head, staring at her with dull eyes. "He could be dead, Pepper. Whoever destroyed the comm. connection has to be extremely powerful. He could have already…" His voice trailed off, and he made no efforts to say anything else.
Pepper's features tightened into a dark scowl. "No," she ground out through gritted teeth, showing no sign of her usual personality. Now she was grim and hard, trying to keep herself from breaking down and crying at the thought of Tony being dead. "He's not dead. He's not dead, Rhodey. You're wrong."
Rhodey gravely shook his head. "We can't know, Pepper. There's no way to–"
Pepper turned away and raced towards the door, where she had entered just moments before. Pausing, she looked over her shoulder at Rhodey. "Are you coming or not?" she demanded.
"Where exactly are we going?" Rhodey asked wearily.
"Duh! To rescue Tony!" She vanished through the opening, and Rhodey quickly followed, after grabbing a small remote from the control wheel.
Tony stumbled heavily to his feet, trying to pretend that he was completely unaffected by whatever this guy had just done to him. "Rhodey? Rhodey, can you hear me?" he asked urgently into the comm. system of his helmet. He was disappointed to only hear a faint static in his ears, and no sign that Rhodey was ever going to answer him.
"Having a little trouble with your systems?" The figure in black sauntered forward towards him, calling out in a loud and rasping voice.
"I don't know what your game is," Tony answered him, just a tone deeper than his normal voice, "but I'm going to stop you before you hurt any other innocent people."
"These people are hardly innocent." The figure was getting closer, still calmly walking towards him. "And don't you recognize me? I'm the Controller."
Tony's jaw dropped inside his helmet. "But…you died in the explosion…"
"Ah, well. Looks can be deceiving." He was merely feet away now, close enough that he could speak in his normal voice. "Can't they, Tony Stark?"
The teen genius now felt like he had received a punch to the gut, and was very glad that the Controller couldn't see his facial expression. If that was who this really was, anyway. "I…I don't know what you're talking about," he stammered quickly.
"A little too quick to respond, aren't we?" The Controller loudly clicked his tongue, shaking his head back and forth as though reprimanding Iron Man. "You're not very good at lying, you know."
Tony's gritted his teeth together and raised both hands. He fired a quick blast from his repulsors that should have flattened anyone unlucky enough to get in the way of the twin beams. Instead, the blue energy beams bounced harmlessly off the Controller's deceivingly simple suit and rocketed up into the atmosphere. "How is that even possible?" he whispered incredulously.
"I'd advice that you stopped struggling now. It would be in your best interests to come along without protesting."
Tony lunged for the Controller, not exactly what he was going to do once he actually reached the criminal. He was shocked when the full weight of the Iron Man armor suddenly struck him, gravity beams giving out. He collapsed to the ground with a loud crash, the heavy iron crushing the breath from his lungs. He gasped and choked, then managed to lift his head enough to see the Controller as he calmly approached. His vision screen was dark, and he was forced to squint in order to see properly.
"Mr. Stane is very eager to see you, Tony." The Controller bent over and effortlessly pulled off the red tracking chip that Tony had attached to the side of his head, dropping it to the concrete. "Can't have anyone tracking you, now can we? Oh. And I meant to say," he paused for dramatic effect, "happy birthday."
He raised his hand once more, and Tony felt a splitting pain in his skull. He cried out in pain, everything swaying dizzily before his eyes, then everything slipped away into darkness.
"Is that scanner thing of yours doing anything, you know, scanny yet?" Pepper demanded breathlessly, stopping and resting both hands on her knees as she gasped for air. She and Rhodey had run all the way from the abandoned airport to downtown, in only about ten minutes. The latter had been following the signal on some remote control, trying to track a signal that a chip implanted in Tony's armor was supposedly emitting. Pepper wasn't really sure what he was talking about, but she had followed his lead. She was really good at following leads.
"This must be wrong," Rhodey muttered to himself, slapping the scanner against his leg as he tried to catch his breath again. "There's no way that it can be right…"
"What? What can't be right?" Pepper popped up behind Rhodey unexpectedly, peering over his shoulder at the tiny screen. She blinked with wonder at the flashing dots and icons on the screen. "Oooh, pretty. What does all that stuff mean?"
"It means," Rhodey smacked the scanner another time for good measure, "that Tony and the armor should be right about where we're standing. And they're obviously not."
"Do you think that maybe Tony's chip thingie could have fallen out or something?" Pepper suggested.
"No." Rhodey rolled his eyes heavenward. "That's not possible. I helped Tony weld it on there myself. The only way that it could come off would be if Superman himself showed up and pulled it–" He broke off when he saw that Pepper wasn't even listening. She was kneeling on the concrete, staring at something with a shocked expression. "Pepper? Pepper, are you okay?"
"D…does this mean that Superman dropped by?" she asked him in a quivering voice, holding something up in a shaking hand. It was Tony's tracking chip, the one that had been welded firmly and unbreakably onto his Iron Man armor.
Rhodey's legs gave out, and he weakly dropped to the ground beside Pepper. He could only stare blankly at the red tracking device that Pepper held in one hand. Tony, where are you? he thought numbly.
Tony huddled in a tattered heap on the cold basement floor, deep below Stark Tower. He struggled to breathe through the cracked rib that was trying its best to stab him through his already damaged heart. He also tried to ignore the blood leaking from numerous cuts above his eyes, painfully blinding him. The bruises and burns all over his body were aching and throbbing, so he had plenty of other things to focus on.
Obadiah loomed up in his vision, holding the sonic-powered whip in one manicured hand. Casually examining his fingernails, a cold smile came to his face. "You know, I almost didn't believe the Controller when he told me that you were Iron Man a couple hours ago," he admitted, voice echoing throughout the empty basement. "I couldn't believe that someone like you could become someone like Iron Man." He shook his head, seeming almost to regret the way he had been torturing Tony for several hours now.
Tony didn't answer, staring at a stain on the floor only inches away from his crumpled form. It looked suspiciously like blood, and he highly suspected that it was his own.
"But if you think this is bad, you're wrong. I'm sure that A.I.M. and the Controller have much worse plans for you, Tony," Obadiah announced cheerlessly. He raised the whip, then stopped before he could lash it against Tony's skin once more. "Oh, and one more thing. I hope you've have a happy birthday." He leaned closer and spoke in an exaggerated stage whisper. "And I just want you to know that I'll take good care of your father's company."
"You won't get away with this," Tony mumbled through chattering teeth. He suspected that being clad only in a thin pair of jeans in a freezing basement was finally starting to get to him.
"Oh, but I will." Obadiah lifted the weapon, flicking it back on with a small button on the metal handle. It flared to life with an explosion of cruel sparks. "I hope that you enjoyed your presents." He brought the whip down again against Tony's bare skin, and the teen once more lost consciousness.
Please review! You know you want to see what happens next! ;)
Please review! You know you want to see what happens next! ;)