AUTHOR'S NOTE: Lord Have Mercy On My SOUL! God, I hate tax season. Well, I take that back, I both love it and hate it. Hate filling out paperwork, especially when you gotta help your parents sort their stuff out, but then you get the money back, so it's all good. This was supposed to be up last week, so I apologize for the week delay. I gotta be honest with you guys. I went back and read it from the prologue, and I lost count as to how many times both Tony and Pepper rolled their eyes! ROFL! Lord, it's like EVERY motion they were rolling their eyes. Anyway, from now on I am going to refrain from having them roll their eyes.

WARNING: THERE IS NO CHARACTER DEATH IN THIS STORY! PLEASE READ THE WHOLE THING BEFORE YOU YELL AT ME!


Rise of the Mandarin

Chapter Seventeen

Pepper sat on one of the round wooden stools in the living room with her laptop in her lap, getting the daily stock report from none other than Jim Cramer. She sighed watching him have his 1,000th mental breakdown on live television. "I swear, sometimes I think he needs to be on Ritalin," she said as she heard Tony enter the room. He snickered as he walked over to the coffee table.

"Honey, it's the weekend. You don't need to be watching the stock reports." Pepper snorted.

"Tony, even though it is Friday, the weekend doesn't officially start until the afternoon," she said, looking over her shoulder at him with a smirk. Tony shook his head and grabbed his coffee cup off the table.

"Alright," he began after taking a sip and sitting the cup down. "I'm gonna go talk with Fury, and then I'm coming straight back. I shouldn't be gone no more than an hour," he said as he slipped on his blazer. Pepper sat her laptop on the coffee table and walked over to him to help him adjust his jacket.

"Are you sure you don't need me to go?" she asked, looking at him.

"Yeah, I'm positive," he said assuredly. "They've got me, okay? I want you to stay here until this thing blows over. You'll be safe here; nothing's gonna happen."

"Tony, I don't mind to speak with them."

"I know that, but Coulson said so himself that it was an option for both of us to come in. So, if that be the case, only I am gonna go in." She smiled and nodded at him. "What did you do with the ring?" he asked. Her hands left him and pulled on the golden chain around her neck.

"Safest hiding spot in the house," she said to him, holding the ring up for him to see then tucking it back down in her shirt. Tony watched as it fell back down into her shirt. It left little to the imagination to where its hiding spot was.

"God, I've never wanted to be a piece of jewelry so bad until that moment," he said, sounding like he was choking. She giggled at him and finished running her hands down his lapels. He leaned over and kissed her softly as he wrapped an arm around her waist. She pressed a hand to his cheek, holding him to her. "I'll be right back," he said, slightly pulling away from her. She nodded.

"Okay, I'll be here."

"You better be," he said, winking at her. He moved passed her, but then felt her hand softly pat his butt.

"Oooh," he said, turning back to her while walking towards the basement. She winked and watched him walk down the stairs before turning back to the TV.

"Jarvis, lock down the house after I leave," Tony said, walking over to his cars.

"Yes, sir," Jarvis responded. Tony got in his car and drove out of the garage.


While looking in the mirror, Iron Maiden wrapped the gauze tightly around her head to keep the cotton balls in each nostril in place. She reached for her mask and gently placed it over her head. She adjusted it accordingly and assembled the rest of her uniform in its proper place. The phone began ringing again. She let out a scream of frustration as she picked up the phone.

"Leave me the hell alone!" she yelled, shaking the phone in her hand. She sighed quickly, and answered it. "Yes, master?" she said as calmly as she could.

"Wu is waiting for you with a team. Take them and find the woman," Mandarin said over the phone. Iron Maiden's breath hitched in her throat. She willed herself to not blow up on her master.

"Sire, with all due respect…"

"Maiden I cannot wait any longer!" Mandarin yelled. "I have given you three days, and still no results. I'm disappointed in you, Maiden. Usually you're not this careless." There was a click and Maiden screamed while throwing her phone across the room.

"Careless?" she yelled. Her breaths were deep and slow. "I'll show him careless." With that, Maiden left the confinement of her dirty hotel room.


Tony pulled the car up to the old warehouse where he had last met with Fury. Already there were agents monitoring the premises. 'Huh, old man must be early this time,' Tony thought. He saluted the agent standing next to the door and walked in. He shut the door behind him and walked over to the glass desk in the middle of the room. In front of him television screens were set to the various news channels. He sat down in the chair and placed his hands on the desk, beginning to twiddle his thumbs. Suddenly, he heard a door open behind him.

"Sorry to keep you waiting, we've had a busy morning," he heard a familiar voice say, but it wasn't Fury's. Tony turned around and saw Coulson walking towards him.

"I thought I was going to be meeting with your boss this morning," Tony said, agitated.

"Director Fury is dealing with some very important matters right now. He asked me to come in his place." Coulson sat down on the other side of the desk and pulled out a pad of paper and a voice recorder. Tony huffed out a breath.

"How long is this going to take?" Coulson looked up to him and didn't say anything. Tony cleared his throat and adjusted himself on the chair.

"I'm surprised to see Miss Potts didn't accompany you," Coulson said coolly.

"You said last time that her statement wasn't necessary."

"I said it wasn't necessary if you were going to give yours immediately. We will need hers, but for now yours with do." Tony lightly pinched the bridge of his nose, then sat his hand flat on the desk, giving Coulson his undivided attention.


Pepper continued sitting in the living room answering emails when her phone began ringing. She looked down to the Caller ID and saw who was calling. "Melina!" Pepper gasped. "Oh my God, I completely forgot about her!" she thought. She took a deep breath and answered the phone. "Hello?"

"Do you know how long I've been trying to get a hold of you?" she heard Melina's panicked voice exclaim from the other line.

"God, Melina, I am so sorry," Pepper said, closing her eyes and rubbing her forehead.

"Ginny, I've been so worried about you. Where are you?"

"I've been staying with Tony for the past couple of days. You wouldn't believe what happened to me on Wednesday."

"Actually, yes I would, and so would the rest of the country." Pepper's eyes popped open.

"Wait, what?" Pepper asked, suddenly confused as her hand fell to her lap.

"Ginny, your kidnapping is all over the news."

"It is?" she asked unbelievingly.

"Yes Ginny! I'm watching it right now!"

"What channel?"

"Fox news." Pepper looked down to the holographic table and scanned through the channels.

"Why do you sound like that?"

"Like what?"

"Like you're talking through your nose."

"Oh, that. I'm coming down with a cold."

"Already?"

"Yeah, it must have been the rapid change of climate." Pepper came to Fox and pressed it. The channel appeared, however they weren't talking about her kidnapping.

"Are you sure it was Fox that was talking about it?" she asked, picking up her laptop and going to Google.

"Yes! I'm watching it right now!" Pepper typed her name into the search engine and watched the results come up. "Are you still at Tony's house?" Pepper remained silent as she skimmed through the results.

"Melina, there's nothing on the internet about it, and I'm watching Fox. They're talking about the real estate market right now. Are you sure it was Fox?" Pepper asked her. She heard a click, and the other line go silent. "Hello? Melina?" Pepper looked to her phone to see the call had ended. She immediately dialed Melina's phone number, but it rolled over to voice mail. She looked to her phone and pressed the 'end call' button. "Her phone must've died," she thought. "But why would she say that Fox was doing a segment on my kidnapping?" She sighed and immediately dialed Tony's cell phone.


"Alright, I think that's all for now," Coulson said, beginning to pack of his things.

"But what about the warehouse?" Tony asked.

"What about it?" Coulson asked, shrugging his shoulders.

"The fact that it was an old Hammer Industries building?"

"I'm sure that was a coincidence."

"But what if it wasn't? There are plenty of old buildings in LA, why did she choose that one?" Coulson thought about it and looked at him.

"Probably because it's abandoned and on the outskirts of the city. Even if Miss Potts had escaped, the nearest phone would've been at least five miles away." Tony sighed and rubbed his forehead.

"That's not the point. Look, I really think his phone records need to be looked over."

"Mr. Stark, I assure you Justin Hammer is locked up tightly. We know his every movement. Hell, we have guys in there telling us when he sneezes." Tony huffed and crossed his arms over his chest, knowing there wasn't any point trying to argue with a SHIELD agent.

"So we're done here?" he asked impatiently.

"Yes, I think we are."

"Good." Tony hurriedly got out of his chair and walked to the door, however he was stopped in his tracks when he heard his phone ringing.

"Hello?" he answered.

"Tony, are you still with Director Fury?" he heard Pepper ask.

"Actually, Fury failed to make it. He sent Coulson to keep me company."

"Okay, that's fine. Can you please ask him if my kidnapping was released to the public?"

"I can answer that for you. No, it was not," he answered firmly, keeping his gaze away from Coulson.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, Pepper, I'm absolutely positive. No one was made aware of your kidnapping, other than the authorities." That statement caught Coulson's attention. He slowly made his way over to Tony as he eavesdropped on his conversation.

"Huh. Well, I got a very interesting phone call from Melina a few minutes ago."

"Oh yeah? What did she say?"

"Well, she sounded worried and asked me if I was alright. Then she tells me that my kidnapping was all over Fox News."

"What?" Tony asked, unbelievingly.

"That's what I said, but she was very insistent that she had seen it. So naturally I looked it up, but I didn't find anything."

"What did she say after you told her that?"

"Nothing, the line went dead." Suddenly, Tony's phone was snatched out of his hand.

"Hey!" Tony exclaimed, turning around to look at Coulson, who now had his phone.

"Miss Potts, Agent Coulson speaking. What is your friend's name?"

"Melina Vostokoff."

"That sounds familiar."

"She's works at the Hong Kong branch."

"Oh yes, now I remember." Tony reached for his phone, but Coulson moved out of the way. "Miss Potts, I am going to be sending SHIELD agents to you. Please, do not leave the premises unless necessary."


"Trust me, I won't be leaving anytime soon." Suddenly, a helicopter appeared outside of the living room window. "Boy that was fast," she said, getting up and walking over to the window.

"What was fast?" Coulson asked.


"Your agents, they're here already. Although I never knew you guys to make an entrance in helicopters." That alarmed Coulson.

"We don't."

"What's going on?" Tony asked, now worried. "Pepper?" Tony called to her.


Slowly, the helicopter turned and Pepper came face to face with Iron Maiden.

"Oh my god. She found me, she's here."


All the color drained out of Tony's face when he heard that.

"You need to get out of there, now!" Coulson said to her. Tony sprinted to the door, and threw it open, making a bee line for his car. Before his door was completely shut, he was already backing out of the parking lot.


Pepper was frozen where she stood. Fear engulfed her as she gazed upon that horrible mask again. Slowly her hand dropped and her phone fell to the floor as she watched several figures appear beside her in the helicopter, throwing down rope to the patio. That snapped her out of her trance as the anger began to boil inside of her. She quickly turned and ran over to the glass panel near the basement stairs.

"Oh no, they are not going to come in and trash my house," she said angrily. "Jarvis, activate Protocol 15!" Pepper tapped on the screen and punched in some numbers.

"Voice and handprint verification needed for lockdown," Jarvis said. Pepper heard some glass breaking. Quickly, she placed her hand to the screen.

"Virginia Isabella Potts," she said hurriedly. The screen scanned her hand and processed her voice signature.

"Lockdown complete," Jarvis stated. Pepper peered down the stairs and watched as a steel wall appeared to block the door to the basement. She turned back to the living room and saw four men, dressed head to toe in what she could best describe as 'black ninja costumes', walking through the broken window. One figure spotted her and rushed over to her.

Pepper stood her ground; she wasn't running, not this time. Anger consumed her as she watched the figure pull back his right fist, and thrusted it forward to Pepper's face. Instead of his knuckles coming into contact with her nose, it hit the palm of her right hand. She gave him no time to react; she quickly twisted his arm. He screamed out in pain as she pulled back her left fist and shoved it into his cheek, ultimately sending him to the floor. Seeing what she did to their comrade, the other figures hurried over to her. She calmly walked towards them and beckoned them with both her hands. "Let's dance, gentlemen." The battle had begun.

The next one tried to punch her, like it had worked the first time. She shifted her weight, watching the fist fly by her head, grabbed his wrist and used her hand to hit his arm with a chopping motion. Hearing the popping sounds and the man's wail didn't stop her. She brought her arm up and elbowed him in the face.

Pepper felt herself being grabbed from behind. She felt arms wrap underneath her arms, pinning them motionless and flailing in the air. The arms' hands then braced themselves on the back of her neck. She jumped and pulled, trying to get out of his grasp, then saw the last figure coming towards her. At the last possible moment, she made her body go limp and fell to the floor, out of the man's grasp. She heard the commotion go on above her; he was obviously hit by his comrade instead of her getting hit.

She swung her legs around, sweeping the feet out from underneath the last one standing, causing a loud thud when his face hit the floor. She swung her legs up then down quickly, landing on the balls of her feet. She saw one of the other men approach her again. "Didn't I just take you out?" she asked as he started thrusted his leg out, trying to kick her. Pepper slapped his foot away each time he tried to get a hit. He started throwing punches; she would block them and then started throwing her own, hitting him in the face and jabbing him in the ribs. Feeling the pain engulf his chest, he hunched over. Pepper took the opportunity to knee him in the stomach, and shoved him down to the floor.

Two arms wrapped around her stomach and lifted her up. She began kicking and moving in his grasp, trying to do anything to make him lose his grip from around her. Her feet came back down to the ground, but the other two figures came back for a second attempt at capturing her. She jumped up and trusted her feet into their faces. They fell back as she thrusted her head backwards, hitting it with her capturer's head.

Finally, all four of them were down. She turned to make a break for the front door, but instead came face to face with a gun barrel. "Goodnight, Ginny," she heard a cold voice say.

The sound of a gunshot filled the entire house. Iron Maiden watched as Pepper's body was thrown backwards, and ultimately fell lifeless to the floor. Slowly, she walked over to her, surveying the nice bullet hole in the side of her forehead. She crouched down to get a better look at it. There was a little blood around the edge but the bullet had penetrated nicely, making a nice clean hole.

She had done it. She had killed Pepper Potts. "Such a shame," she began softly. "All that beauty, wasted." Her eyes trailed down to her neck and saw part of a gold chain poking out from underneath her collar. She ripped it off and was in complete awe, finally finding what she came here for. She sighed slowly and stood up. "Bring her body," she said to the limping ninja quartet.

"But Maiden," one of them began.

"It's confirmation for Mr. Hammer," she said sweetly. "Besides, we need another reason for Mr. Stark to come to Hong Kong anyway." She began walking to the helicopter, the others followed close behind, with one of the less injured ones carrying Pepper's body to the helicopter. One by one they hopped in, and took off.

Iron Maiden sat in her seat, completely satisfied with herself. She looked down to the ring again, touching it gently as if it were glass. "You were definitely worth the trouble," she thought to herself.

"Maiden!" she heard one of them yell.

"What is it now?" she screamed back to them.

"It's Miss Potts," he said in a panic. She huffed and got out of her seat, walking towards the back.

"What about her? She's dead." The man pointed to her head.

"Look!" Maiden looked down to Pepper's head, and saw it. The bullet was sticking out of her head.

"Wait a second, it was buried in her skull." She looked closely at the bullet; it was slowly rising out of her head.

"Her body is healing itself," he said.

"I can see that!" she yelled at him. She quickly stood up. "Oh my God," she breathed out, placing a hand to her head, not really knowing how to handle this. "Get some binds around her, just in case if she wakes up. Let's pray that she doesn't." Maiden turned and walked back to her seat. "How am I going to explain this one?" she thought. "Pilot! Hurry us to the airport!"


A/N: So... I would just like to say that we don't know alot about Pepper's past... AND THAT'S ALL I'M GOING TO SAY ON THE MATTER!