Author's Note: Here it is, the last part. Hope you enjoyed it and thanks for reading!
Iron Man: Kindergarten Adventures
Part 3: Finale
The classroom buzzed with excitement and no one wanted to sit in their chairs. Temugin was very confused; what exactly was going on? He hadn't seen so much excitement since Zhang announced a one-percent raise. Was the president in town, or was it Pizza Day?
Reluctantly, he nudged Happy in the ribs with his elbow and whispered, "What's going on?"
The bigger boy didn't seem offended at the nudge. "You're dumb, Tammy Jean." Happy pulled the squirming Mongolian boy closer and said in a stage whisper, "The Hulk is on the loose."
Everyone at Tony's quad heard what Happy said. Tony twisted in his seat and addressed Temugin. "The Hulk is just a...um...story. He's not real."
"You think Mothman is real," Rhodey reminded him.
"Mothman is real. The FBI has a file on him. SHIELD too." And if the FBI and SHIELD thought the mythical monster real enough to rate a file, that was all the evidence Pepper needed. She rubbed her chin with her knuckles in an unconscious mimicry of her mother's thoughtful pose. "We gotta prepare for the worst, guys," she told her classmates solemnly.
Winnie looked at all her friends and then said, "Maybe we should tell Temugin the whole story about Mothman." She sounded as serious as a certain CEO.
"I'll do it!" Tony was quick to volunteer. When his classmates huddled around him, he began the tale in the spookiest, deepest voice he could manage.
"Mothman is from West Virginia. He's from a town cursed by angry, dead Indian people."
"Okay. Those guys. Anyway, they cursed the town way way back when, like when our parents were kids. And Mothman is the son of a person and a moth."
"That's not even possible," Temugin said skeptically and was shushed by Winnie and Pepper into silence. He crossed his arms and tried not to look scared. This story was stupid. Not scary. Not scary at all.
"Then a long time ago, some people were driving home and they saw Mothman. He followed them all the way home and landed on their roof. They didn't sleep all night. People all over town saw Mothman. And then..."
Tony looked around and saw his audience was hanging on his every word and smiled evilly. "And then, right before Christmas, this bridge collapsed and killed a bunch of people. Two of 'em...were never found. Ever."
Alarmed, Temugin leaned in closer. He should make his driver avoided bridges and such things for awhile so she wouldn't get killed. The girls looked spooked. Happy stared, wide-eyed at the boy inventor. Rhodey looked skeptical.
"It's probably a big bird, like a crane. They've got big wings."
"No, Mothman is real!"
"Real stupid," Temugin scoffed, trying to look tough. "That's the worst scary story ever, Stark." Temugin returned to his seat, shaken, but determined not to show it. Happy latched onto him like a security blanket, much to the last Khan's dismay.
Tony still looked serious. "We gotta prepare ourselves, guys, just in case it is Mothman and not The Hulk." For some reason, a giant green man seemed a lot less scary than a six foot moth to the tiny genius. "I'll make Mothman traps and give you all one. Remember, Mothman is afraid of fire."
"I bet my mommy has a blowtorch," Pepper volunteered. "I wonder if she'd let me have a taser?"
"That's quite enough." Miss Trish looked at the class sternly. "There's no Hulk and certainly no Mothman. This probably all a mistake, or someone's idea of a prank. Now come on, it's time for Music class.
The students were remarkably subdued for most of the day. Even at recess they stood around in little groups and discussed what they would do if Mothman or The Hulk attacked their house.
Pepper was prepared with a strategy drawn in chalk on the sidewalk. Winnie clutched at Rhodey's arm but managed to make suggestions. Tony drew blueprints in the dirt for his Mothman traps while the future Mandarin fought off an especially clingy Happy Hogan.
"Let go of me!"
"But...but what if Mothman gets me?"
"Moths don't like daylight, you big dumb yak! And the way you're holding on to me, he'd eat us both!"
Happy whimpered and turned to Pepper for comfort. She hugged him and cooed as if he were a newborn. The red head glared at her newest friend and told him; "If you make Happy cry again, I'll arrest you for harassment, meanie face!"
Temugin dropped his eyes but refused to completely back down. "Happy isn't a person, Happy is a dwarf. And you're not a police person."
"So? I can make a citizen's arrest!"
"Guys!" Winnie decided to play peacemaker. "Don't fight. This isn't about being mean. This is about fighting giant monsters. We have to take this seriously."
"Winnie's right." Rhodey wasn't sure about the giant monster, but being mean was always bad.
Tony frowned and stood up, wiping the dirt off his hands. He still wasn't sure about the tensile strength of the mechanism versus a flying opponent, but this would do for now.
"We should bait them with honey and mothballs and attach a really really good flashlight, like the one police carry. Then after we catch Mothman, we'll be famous and save everybody!"
"Yeah!" Pepper high-fived him and Temugin decided to go along with it since she was. "So...how do we hold him until we can call 911?"
"Well, the trap will come with a net expelled by pressurized air..."
Tony ran into his father's office, ignoring Winnie's daddy and breathlessly put his plans for a Mothman trap on his dad's desk. "Dad! Dad! Mothman is coming! We gotta stop him! Warn everybody!"
Howard Stark put down the system specs he was studying and smiled lovingly at his son. "What's this about Mothman? Isn't that just a West Virginia legend?"
The tiny inventor shook his head. "No! He's real and he's been spotted in New York!"
The older Stark raised a questioning brow. "Has he now?"
Tony fidgeted under his father's gaze. "Well...him or The Hulk. But that's not the point!" He rushed on, trying to convince his father. "We gotta be prepared for the worst! So...can I make some Mothman traps? Please?"
Howard was far from convinced his city was in danger from a six foot moth/human hybrid but he wanted to see what his son's ingenuity could come up with. "Tell you what. I have a box of spare parts in my recreational lab. After dinner, you and I will go down there and we'll see what you come up with. All right?"
"Thanks, Dad! Don't forget to carry matches with you! Mothman is afraid of fire. But don't play with them! Bye!" Tony gave his father a warm hug, waved to Winnie's daddy and left to change for dinner.
Obadiah Stane shook his head. "Howard, you indulge that boy too much."
Howard chuckled and made a note to find some matches to keep in his pocket. "Take my word for it, Obadiah. One day, this company's success will come from 'that boy' and what his mind can invent."
Stane knew better than to argue with his employer and only friend. His mouth quirked up slightly in the best smile he could manage. "Yes, you may be right. Whitney tells me the two of them get along very well at school. I'm glad to hear she has friends."
Howard smiled indulgently at the tinge of fatherly affection in the other man's voice. "She's growing up to be a smart and lovely young lady."
"Yes, well, I'm hardly unbiased."
"No parent is."
"And Mothman is coming! He's gonna bite us and turn us all into Moth People!"
"Or The Hulk," Pepper shrugged. One giant monster was just as good as the other.
Virgil Potts was understandably skeptical. "And...what exactly do you think a five year old is going to do against a monster?"
"Not just me. My classmates too."
"Ah. A whole gang of five year olds. I feel so much better."
Pepper stamped her little foot with frustration. How could someone as smart as her daddy be so dumb sometimes?
"Daddy! This is serious!"
Virgil tried to keep his expression sober but ruined it by laughing. Pepper sighed and stomped off to her room.
The little red head fumed. Daddy laughed at her! And she was just trying to protect him! Well, it was up to her to save the day.
Smirking, she opened her box of emergency supplies. There were the matches her parents kept in case of power failure. Next was a can of hairspray her mother would never miss, because they were buy one get one free. There was also a grappling hook with a zip line, a taser, and a small medical kit. Safety first, mommy would say.
Pepper smiled and pulled out the special gift Tony had given everyone; walkie-talkies, just like his. She pushed the button and whispered; "Agent Pepper to Project Mothman. Operation: Ask Daddy has failed. Operation: Beat Up Mothman is now under way. Over and out."
Rhodey didn't dare ask his mother and father, who was preparing to leave for Germany in the morning, to help him plan for a Mothman countermeasure operation. Tony was crazy and this time he'd pulled in Pepper, who was just as crazy, Winnie, who was too nice to be involved...and maybe that Temugin person. Happy was right out; he couldn't keep a secret and was nice but not smart. Besides, he'd probably cry if he got hurt or if the Chinese boy said something mean again.
But he did hear Pepper's...er...Agent Pepper's "transmission" and sighed. That girl was going to get in trouble and drag everyone in with her.
The true heir to the Mandarin's legacy had trouble getting to sleep that night. He kept imagining a bridge falling on his kind and caring driver or brave Pepper getting bitten and then turning into a Moth Girl. He didn't want anything to happen to Tony either. None of the possible scenarios were very hopeful.
He finally dozed off and fell into nightmares. Horrible images of his driver's crushed body while he sat helpless but safe in the back seat. His pretty red haired friend's eyes replaced with that of an insect's and growing wings before his terrified gaze. Tony and Miss Trish burning as Mothman set their school on fire...
Temugin screamed in his sleep, sweaty and panting,his heart pounding so hard he felt it in his dry throat.
His bedroom door squeaked open and fearing the worst, he put the covers over his head and pretended to be asleep.
"Is something troubling you, xiao bi?"
The voice was female, not harsh, guttural, and male. The figure was swathed in purple so for moment he could not discern its identity.
"Niang?" he asked, confused.
The person chuckled, the small electric lantern in her hand flaring to life. He was surprised to see the face of his faithful driver. She looked very different out of her usual black uniform. Her expression was soft and kind.
His driver approached his bed. "May I sit, shao zhu?"
He nodded and sat up and she sat beside him. "You seem troubled, young master. May I-"
The woman's soothing words were cut off as her young charge began to cry silently. Her body seemed to move of its own accord and she pulled him into her lap, embracing him as she did so.
"I...I had a bad dream. Mothman hurt my friends. I couldn't save them! Just like...just like..."
She held him closer. "Xiao bi, I knew your mother." Temugin looked up at the woman in surprise. She continued; "I was but a young girl when I was called to serve Lady Sarantuyaa, who was then the Last Khan. She was as kind as she was wise and I was proud to call her my lady and my friend. The day you were born was the happiest in both our lives. Now that she is...gone, I have remained among the Tong only for your sake, my lord. Now, you must be strong, as befits your noble blood. Know this; you are not alone. I will guide you where I can and protect you with my last."
Temugin found himself returning the embrace, reluctant to leave the warm circle of his driver's arms. She smelled of citrus flowers, soap, and ginger. The boy felt the tension leave his body as she hummed an ancient Mongolian lullaby and eased him back into a sleeping position.
She rose to leave and was stopped by his small, strong hand. "May I know your name?"
The woman smiled and daringly kissed her young charge on the forehead. "In Chinese, I am called Hinquei. But my Mongolian name, my true name," she winked at him conspiratorially, "is Oyuun. I trust you will keep that a secret between us, xiao bi."
He nodded solemnly. "I give you my word as the one true Mandarin, Hinquei, I will not reveal your true name to anyone."
Hinquei, or Oyuun, took him at his word and tucked the bedclothes around him. "Rest well, my lord. I am here if you require me."
Reassured, Temugin slept again, peaceful this time. After carefully checking the hall for prying eyes, Hinquei closed the door behind her and returned to her own bed next door.
As it turned out, the female retainer could have hiked up her nightgown and danced the can-can, for all the Tong would have noticed. They were preoccupied with a very unusual crisis. The search lights that scoured the city for The Hulk or Mothman had attracted the latter's attention right to the roof of Xin Zhang's shop. The moth/human hybrid had mistaken the winged dragon on the roof of the shop for a female of its species and was trying to...court the statue.
"What is the creature doing now?"
Xin Zhang felt a migraine coming on. It began as a small annoyance that grew into a spear through the base of his skull. He had a full agenda with his "creative accounting" and monitoring Maggia movement, he did not need some strange monster or a lunatic in a moth suit attacking his legitimate business front.
"It is...attempting to mate with the dragon statue, Mandarin."
Wonderful. No doubt some helicopter full of nosy journalists were filming this attack and his store would end up on the cover of every tabloid. He would be a laughingstock among all his legal business partners and the Tong would see his failure to protect his assets. The Maggia would no doubt see this as a sign he was losing his touch. He would not be surprised if they had sent the beast.
"Drive the creature away! Kill it if you can but for now, get it off my roof!"
"As you wish, Lord Mandarin."
The Tong captain bowed and disappeared. Zhang was sure that would be the last of it until the strange creature crashed into the large glass window of his shop.
He froze, gazing as if enraptured by the hideously fascinating creature. It was taller and broader than himself, the alien features a twisted reflection of human visage. He backed away slowly, the foreign emotion of fear stealing over him.
The beast ignored him and instead began feeding upon an incredibly valuable Sung Dynasty tapestry.
Fear became annoyance and the stiff-necked old man brought his rusty fighting skills into play. He grabbed the nearest object, a heavy metal broom and twirling it, began to attack the winged intruder.
To his consternation and fury, the creature paid no notice of his attacks and continued to feed. Annoyed, he aimed for one of its eyes and was pleased to see the moth being wince in pain.
However, he forgot to keep the broom handle between himself and his opponent and was bitten by the beasts sharp fangs. He fell to the ground in surprise and the beast left its food and stood over him menacingly.
The usurper was fortunate that his personal guard were loyal, if slow and stupid. They surrounded him in an instant and began throwing their metal stars at the monster and succeeded in driving it out of the shop. One of the younger men dutifully cleaned and bandaged his wound. Zhang showed his gratitude by berating the Tong for being slow and incompetent.
Five minutes later he was informed they had succeeded in driving the creature away before the authorities noticed it was there.
With a tired groan, Zhang heaved himself to his feet and wearily made his way to his own narrow bed. He was getting too old for such nonsense.
Xin Zhang made it a point of avoiding his stepson at breakfast. The boy's youth was a constant reminder of his rapid decline towards death, which made him irascible and difficult to see at the dining table.
So Temugin was understandably surprised when he saw his guardian awaiting him, glaring at the rice porridge and deep-fried crullers as if they'd wronged him.
Fortunately the boy saw his stepfather before the old man noticed his presence and bowed accordingly. He pointedly ignored the bandage on the man's arm. "Good morning, stepfather."
Zhang noticed the boy and grunted a greeting. He indicated the setting across from him and Temugin began to eat, quickly and silently, to avoid a lecture.
The boy cautiously wiped his mouth and answered, "Yes, stepfather?"
The man's beetle black eyes focused on the child. "Did you hear anything...strange last night?"
Temugin shook his head. "No, Stepfather."
If the crime lord was pleased or disappointed he gave no sign. "There was...a strange beast on the roof of the shop last night. It had the wings of an insect yet walked upright like a man."
The boy's eyes widened despite himself and his stepfather could not help but notice. He jabbed an accusing finger in the child's direction. "You know of this?"
Temugin nodded politely. "It was a topic of conversation in my class yesterday, Stepfather. The creature is half human and half moth. He does not fear death, nor pain. Only fire and water."
The boy's head was not as filled with sawdust as he thought. He may yet shape the child into a halfway acceptable heir. "Knowing one's enemy's weaknesses is important. Remember that. Also, there is broken glass in the shop. Try to avoid it as you leave."
So preoccupied with this new intelligence, he did not see the boy's angry expression. "I shall, Stepfather."
"And then my daddy laughed at me! Laughed! Mothman is on the loose right now! He could raising an army of Moth People as we speak! We can't sit around and do nothing!"
Winnie's pretty face was gloomy. "My daddy wouldn't even listen." She pitched her voice low and gruff. "I am not sending you to school to come home with these flights of fancy, young lady."
Pepper smiled at the fair imitation of Obadiah Stane. "You're really good at imitating people, Winnie."
The little blonde brightened at the compliment. "You think so?"
The red head nodded. "You could act or something."
The two girls were busy mapping out Winnie's Hollywood career when Temugin rushed up to their quad and thrust his small body between them.
Pepper was surprised. "Tiny Gene?" He didn't usually seek out company so abruptly.
Temugin focused on the one person he knew would believe him without question. "Mothman is real," he informed the red haired girl.
Predictably, her face lit up as if he'd given her the moon and she hugged him tightly. "I knew you'd believe me!" She stopped and looked up at him. "Why?"
Temugin glanced back at Happy and then lowered his voice. "It attacked our shop." The girls grew excited and he shushed them. "We can't talk here. Recess. We have to plan stuff. Bring Tony and Rhodey. But not Happy."
Winnie agreed. "He'd just get hurt."
The Chinese boy accepted her explanation why the big boy was being excluded. It was better than saying he just didn't like Happy. Everyone knew that by now. Except Happy.
"And that's what happened. Mothman attacked our shop, ate half a rug, and left."
Temugin finished his story for his wide-eyed audience. Rhodey looked skeptical and overprotective, as always. Winnie and Pepper seemed to believe every word he said. Tony frowned thoughtfully. Temugin had no idea what the other boy was thinking but hoped the tiny genius was on his side.
"I have the Mothman traps ready." Tony was trying to sound calm and grown up like his daddy, but inside he was kinda scared. Sure, Mothman was fun to talk about from the safety of the playground but hunting a giant moth person was dangerous. Theory versus practice, his daddy would have said.
"We should meet somewhere after dark. After our mommies and daddies think we're asleep!" Pepper Potts, future agent of SHIELD (in her own mind at least) was too excited to be scared. "We'll lay some traps by those big, big searchlights in Time Square. Then, when Mothman takes the bait, we'll taser him and tie him up!"
Winnie was excited. She worried about being caught but wasn't afraid, not really. Tony was her first and one of her best friends. He wouldn't let anything bad happen to her. Neither would Rhodey. He worried a lot but he was nice. Besides, should couldn't back out, not with Pepper going. She liked the red head and wanted the boys to respect her for being brave just like Pepper. Winnie wanted to be strong, like Pepper. She might wear a lot of pink, but she wasn't a sissy girl. So there.
This was all wrong. This whole idea was stupid. Not only would they not catch Mothman, they were gonna get hurt. They were gonna get caught, thrown in jail, and worse, grounded. His mom and dad would probably be disappointed, which was worse than a spanking or no cartoons. West Point would never accept him now. When he was in prison for the rest of his life, he hoped Tony would be sorry for what his best friend had done to him.
Still...he couldn't let Tony go without him. He might get hurt. Or Whitney and Pepper. Or...Temugin. He didn't really like the Chinese boy but he didn't want him hurt either. They only had his word that Mothman attacked his house but he didn't seem to be lying. So Rhodey would go along with Operation: Beat Up Mothman. He didn't have to like it.
Tony struck his best 'leader pose'. "Okay, Pepper, since you're so good at talking, you'll be in charge of coordinating communication. Rhodey, you're our backup. Winnie, since you're fast, you're our scout. Um..."
He broke off as most of his friends were staring in confusion at his big words. Temugin seemed to know exactly what he meant.
"I can cover transportation," the future Mandarin volunteered. He knew Hinquei would be more than happy to help if he ordered..asked her.
"Great. So it's settled."
"Yeah! Mothman's going down!" Pepper cheered and began running back towards class. "Go, Team Mothman!"
Rhodey shook his head sadly. They were doomed.
At exactly zero-eight-hundred, military time, future agent Pepper Potts repelled herself out of her second story window. It was kinda scary but she couldn't let the team down, right? Besides, SHIELD agents couldn't be scared of heights.
She was entirely clad in black with a matching stocking cap covering her bright hair. She slung her schoolbag over her shoulder and reached in the outside pocket for the walkie-talkie Tony gave her.
"Agent Potts to Agent Khan. Come in, Agent Khan. Over."
"Gene! That's not the way you do it!" Pepper hissed into the device. "Do it right!"
She could hear him sigh over the channel. "Fine. Agent Khan reporting. Over."
"Agent Khan, what's your ETA? Over."
"If you mean when we'll be here to pick you up, five more minutes. Make sure you're waiting on the road behind you house so no one sees us. My stepfather is away for the night but we still can't get caught. Over."
"Okay. See you when you get here, Tiny Gene. Agent Potts over and out."
"We're gonna get caught."
"We're not gonna get caught! Relax!"
"Someone will see us!"
"We're in a limo. Lots of limos in New York."
"My tummy hurts."
Temugin dug into the mini-refrigerator and pulled out a ginger ale for Winnie. She smiled gratefully.
Rhodey sighed and rested his elbows on the mini War Machine armor on his lap. Tony had used some sort of anti-gravity tech to make it light. His best friend was a genius, but he had no sense. That was his job.
"Master Khan, we have arrived." Hinquei slowed the gray limo to a stop near the curb in front of Times Square. Everybody but Rhodey piled out of the limo and gathered their supplies on the sidewalk. Passersby looked over at them curiously but no one approached the strange group. Rhodey ducked down in the backseat and changed into his War Machine armor while Temugin and Tony stood guard. Pepper and Winnie were helping each other strap on their gear. Finally, Rhodey clunked his way to the sidewalk, ready for action.
Tony frowned as he looked over the tiny group. "We're too conspicuous. We need to hurry up and get to the roof of Herald Square."
"I have a way." Everyone turned and looked at Hinquei, surprised that the woman spoke. She smiled slightly. "Master Khan. I have hidden the limousine. Let us make our way to the back of the building. We can find a way to the roof from there."
The kindergarteners followed the driver to the back of the building and looked up at the rusty fire escape with some trepidation.
"We're not climbing that." Rhodey said doubtfully.
"Of course not," Tony told him. "It's dangerous. We'll go up on this!" Tony took a silver disc the size of a Frisbee out of his pocket. He pressed a button and it expanded to a disc eight feet across. Handles four feet high shot out of the middle and the tiny genius motioned for everyone to grab one. His friends and the lone adult hurried to snatch the handles and the strange disc rose with them all.
"How is this safer than the stairs?" Rhodey asked as they ascended.
"It's a prototype!"
Pepper shrieked and held on tightly to Temugin, who pretended not to like it. Winnie held on tighter and tried to look brave. Tony seemed amazed at his own ingenuity.
The disc landed gently on the roof near the spotlights. Everyone cautiously departed and made their way near the huge lights illuminating the night sky. Tony pulled a gadget from his pocket.
"This is a power booster. It'll make the lights a dozen times more bright than they are now. That'll bring Mothman here!"
Rhodey's eyebrows furrowed. "And then we can capture him?"
Tony shrugged. "I guess."
Mini Winnie took it upon herself to deliver a reassuring speech while Tony activated his device. "C'mon, guys! We can do this! I mean...no one's smarter than Tony, tougher than Rhodey, or braver than Pepper. Plus, we have Tiny Gene, who knows martial arts, and his driver lady, who's probably a ninja in disguise!"
"Yeah!" Pepper pumped her fist in the air, infected by the blonde's enthusiasm.
"Lin Kuei, actually," Hinquei said to no one in particular. Temugin smirked to himself.
"We can do it! We can beat Mothman! He's gonna-"
Winnie was interrupted as the very creature they had been so confident of defeating landed on the roof, entranced by the light. "He's gonna get us!" She finished nervously.
Tony was near panic. "The traps aren't ready yet!"
"Well, we'll have to do it without them!"
"No time, Stark!" Temugin looked over at Hinquei, then Rhodes and nodded. With Winnie scared, Tony being a dork and Pepper trying to shield them both, it was up to the three of them to fight the monster.
And this was why, dear readers, that a plan, a backup plan and a backup for one's backup is so crucial; be it building an empire, being a genius, or fighting urban legends.
Mothman noticed he wasn't alone and enraged, tried to attack the small group. The would-be fighters scattered, Hinquei attempting to pull her struggling charge behind her. Rhodey managed to shoot some of his rubber rockets off but it only angered the creature further. Pepper stood in front while Tony and Winnie tried to get the Mothman traps ready. The monster stepped on two, causing Tony to cheer until Mothman ripped through the binding like cobwebs. That caused everyone to run around in circles, ducking under spiral air ducts and cooling units; objects much too small for their foe to crawl under. Hinquei tried to distract the beast with her throwing stars but its exoskeleton proved too tough for them to penetrate.
Winnie reached into her pocket and pulled out an LED light up ball. She had nearly forgotten about it. Pushing the switch, she, Pepper, and Tony began playing a spirited game of Keep Away that drew Mothman's attention.
The children's game seemed to distract the target and their quick speed and changing positions kept the creature on focusing on any one child. In the meantime, Temugin and the loyal Hinquei were preparing metal cables attached to concrete blocks to hold the monster. All was going well until Tony's mistimed
throw sailed over Winnie's head and the toy bounced down the fire escape.
"Great going, stupid head."
"It was an accident!"
Disappointed that the game had ended, or hungry, the mute menace swarmed Tony and Winnie. The boy tried his best to shield his female friend from Mothman's fury but it took the intervention of the Lilliputian War Machine to drive it back. Angry at being thwarted, Mothman threw Rhodey to the ground.
Tony and Winnie stared in shock before rushing over and helping the armored child to his feet. Pepper seemed frozen in place until outrage on her friend's behalf took over.
"You hurt Rhodey, you...you no-brained, booger face!" she screamed. Scrambling into her backpack, she pulled out a lighter and a can of hairspray. "This is for Rhodey!"
As expected, the impromptu flamethrower alighted the monster's face and quickly spread to its wings. It batted at it's face while Temugin rushed forward and pulled the lighter out of Pepper's hand before she could set herself on fire. All but forgotten in the excitement, Hinquei swung the cable/concrete combination over her head and threw it like a bola at the inflamed beast. Defeated, Mothman fell to the ground and Winnie and Tony used some rags to beat out the flames.
"Let's leave!" Tony told his friends and they scrambled onto his anti-gravity disc after leaving an attached note on Mothman and calling 911.
Later in the limo, Temugin looked over at Pepper with a look of wonder. When everyone else was running around like scared chickens (not him of course), she found a way to defeat Mothman once and for all. She was the bravest girl he'd ever met ever. He wondered if she would marry him.
Winnie was strangely silent on the way home and suddenly began to cry. Rhodey gave her a hug and when she didn't pull away, rubbed her back like he'd seen his daddy do when his mommy had a really hard case.
"What's wrong?" He finally asked.
She looked at him sadly. "I feel sorry for Mothman."
Tony nodded thoughtfully. "Me too."
"You're nuts!" Temugin told them. "That thing tried to kill us! Why feel bad?"
"I think it was lonely," Winnie told him. "That's why it tried to marry that dragon statue. It's the only one in the world and no one loves Mothman."
Everyone was quiet for the rest of the ride. Hinquei glanced in the rear view mirror and allowed herself a small smile. Her young master had certainly cast his lot with very strange children. She hoped it would not prove to be a mistake.
The recovery of Mothman and proof of his existence made national headlines. No clues remained to identify who had captured him. Hinquei was very thorough. None of their parents or guardians had noticed the children's absence that night, much to the kindergarteners' relief.
Howard Stark was driving his son to school as part of their "man bonding time". He smiled at his son in the rear view mirror as the car came to a halt in front of the school.
"Just a minute, son." Tony stopped struggling with the seat when he heard his father's voice. "Yes, Daddy?"
Howard's eyes were serious as he regarded his son. "Tony, I know you snuck out of bed the other night."
A million excuses swam through the younger Stark's head but all he could say was, "How did you know?"
His daddy raised a brow. "You think I wasn't five once?" He grinned at his son's shocked face. "Look, son, I'm not angry and I won't tell your mom. Clearly, you have a new project that you don't want to show me yet. Just make sure you don't invent on school nights. Can you do that for me, Tony?"
The boy nodded solemnly and his dad smiled. "Have a good day at school, son."
Tony smiled in relief and came around to the driver's side for a hug. "Bye, Daddy!" he called over his shoulder as he ran towards his friends.
They were waiting for him. Rhodey, Pepper, and Winnie smiled warmly at him. Even the usually cold Temugin looked more friendly than usual.
He smiled back at them. What was going to happen today?
Tony couldn't wait to find out.