A/N: The moderators at FF seems to really cracking down on things and even my Random Stories file was threatened to being automatically deleted because I think some of my stories came from different genres or something. They restored it, but I've decided to separate the various stories ideas into their proper slots, just in case.
Disclaimer: All of these characters belong to Marvel Comics, not me. This story is dedicated to Adam Warren for his awesome story arc "Hypervelocity" which also introduced Iron Man 2.0 who I thought was too damn cool to be killed off. I'm just borrowing it to play around with.
"Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide." —Napoleon Bonaparte
Chapter 1: Taking a Stand
48 Hours After the Death of Captain America…
The Amazing Spider-Man, now better known simply as Peter Parker ever since Tony Stark had the genius idea of him publically revealing his identity on national TV, reached the end of his arc from his webline and alighted lightly on a rooftop.
He paused a moment, to check his surroundings visually. After Stark had developed his "spidey-sense scrambler", he had taken a few extra safety precautions in his patrol routine; such as doubling-back ever so often and even checking for a tail.
Satisfied that it was all clear, he turned back to resume web-slinging when he caught a glimpse of a new billboard of Iron Man proudly proclaiming 'Register Now!'
Oh for a rotten tomato, he thought to himself, glaring hatefully at the image of the Armored Avenger.
Unseen, a targeting crosshairs locked onto Spider-Man's back.
LOW-LIGHT AMP / INFRARED VISUAL SPEC. MODE ENGAGED
RANGE: 305 METERS
TARGET CURRENTLY MOTIONLESS
IDENTIFICATION SCAN COMPLETE
PARKER, PETER BENJAMIN. A.K.A. SPIDER-MAN. CROSS-REFERENCE AVENGERS FILE #42133-A1/S. ID VERIFIED.
Spider-Man raised his arm and with a familiar TWAP, sent a stream of webbing arcing out to latch onto a concrete buttress. With years of experience, he gave a sharp tug to verify his webline's solidity and was off again, moving through the air, twisting and contorting his flexible body around. A shift of his center of gravity caused him to change his direction slightly.
He let go of his webline and quickly sent another one spinning out to adhere itself to another building and he swung himself into a fast and tight curving arc around a building cornice.
Then he heard it.
Peter's head snapped around at the familiar whine of repulsor thrusters. They were the signature weapon and also propulsion system for one superhero. Iron Man.
He came in, low and fast like a shining bullet. He trimmed his elevation and chopped his speed down to come about level with Peter. Glowing eye slots locked onto him. "Good evening Mister Park—"
With a roar, Peter tugged hard on the line with both wrists, causing his entire body to shift abruptly in speed and direction. His entire body jackknifed in midair, his legs whipping out to smash into the Armored Avenger's torso and sending him crashing downward.
"—ERK!" Iron Man slammed into a concrete chimney, cutting off the rest of his greeting. Peter cursed. It felt like he had sprained both ankles and his feet were throbbing from the impact. It had been like kicking concrete. Only concrete shattered more readily than the flexible metal armor he had just slammed into. There was a reason why Tony Stark was often referred to as "The Invincible Iron Man" and it wasn't just media hyperbole.
He landed on the rooftop with a grimace. But if he was going down, he was going down swinging. The Iron Bastard was already getting up, brushing off brick fragments and chips from his armor almost like a fastidious man would pluck stray lint off his suit. Now if only he could remember his rehearsed speech of where Tony could stick it… but the screaming pain in his legs was distracting him.
"As I was saying before you … interrupted me," the Golden Avenger began and was cut off when Peter shot a double-barrel blast of webbing to envelop his head. It might slow the bastard down a bit, he thought as he launched his next assault. A blow to the kidneys followed by a shot to the torso. Shellhead didn't even twitch. A punch towards the solar plexus was abruptly caught and he was held immobile even as the strands of webbing over the helmet ignited and began to melt.
"I am not your enemy Mister Parker!" Iron Man snapped.
"Yeah right!" Peter spat as he struggled to break the hold but the Armored Avenger was just too strong. I really didn't want to try kicking that armored shell again but it's either hobble away or be chucked into the Negative Zone on my own two feet...
"I think you have me mistaken for someone else," Iron Man said as he suddenly released his grip and took several steps back, raising his hands up, palms out in a classic surrender pose. "First, I assure you that I am not going to attack you or arrest you or your companions. Second, I think you will want to see what I have."
Peter sneered. "And what's that?" he demanded.
One hour and fifteen minutes later…
"This is a trap. Has to be," Luke Cage proclaimed with his arms folded across his chest and his chin thrust out belligerently.
"Then why show us Cap's body?" Peter demanded, irritated that Cage just kept repeating the same damn thing over and over again.
"Make us confirm that Cap is really dead and gone so we won't resist anymore," opinioned Logan.
"And why claim not to be Stark?" was Peter's rejoinder.
Logan gave a shoulder roll and admitted, "That one's a puzzler, bub."
Cage grunted. "We got Strange backing us up with his mojo, so let's take a look see at this trap they got waiting for us."
"I chose the spot for this meet and this guy agreed to it. I don't think even Stark could put together a good trap this fast," Peter countered as they arrived.
Several minutes later, Logan reported. "Place is deserted. No explosives, chemicals, or gunpowder. Nobody else around too; it's just Tall, Dark, and Armored."
Strange's astral form appeared and confirmed that there was no one else nearby or traps or hidden apparatuses.
Cage scratched his chin, his eyes narrowed and eyed his companions and then gave a shrug of his own. "I got nuthin'."
"So it could be genuine," Peter argued.
Cage eyed Parker warily. Out of all of them, Parker was the most desperate. He needed to see; with his own eyes that Cap was dead before he would believe it. Reluctantly, Cage nodded. "OK, but keep your eyes peeled and be ready for anything," he ordered. He really wished Danny was here. This has gotta be a trap, he thought to himself darkly.
If it wasn't Iron Man, then this look-alike could have easily passed for Stark, snapped his head around as Cage, Logan, and Parker approached in a defensive formation and gestured towards a bodybag laying on the ground. "He's in there," he said and then stepped back several feet.
The trio quickly surrounded the bodybag and unzipped it. Logan frowned and then reluctantly nodded. "It's him."
The ghostly form of Strange appeared and made a few gestures which caused the body to glow momentarily. He nodded solemnly.
Despite everything, all of the news reports and statements and images, that single statement still hit Cage like a hammer blow. It was even worse for Parker who staggered and dropped to his knees. "No…" he whispered.
There was a scrape of metal and all of them glared at the metal clad figure. He reached behind him and produced a familiar shield. "I believe Steve would have wanted you to have this," Iron Man said and carefully laid Captain America's iconic shield on the ground before them before stepping back.
Cage gave Logan a glance who shook his head before he reached down and picked up the piece of history and tucked it under his arm. "Why?" he demanded.
"As a gesture of good faith on my part."
"You really expect us to believe you're not Stark under there?" Logan demanded.
"Will this do?" and suddenly armored panels flipped open and retracted and the trio found themselves staring at the innards of an empty Iron Man suit.
Logan looked at his companions in surprise. "There's nobody in the flamin' thing! Whose controlling it?"
The panels resealed themselves. "No one. Or rather, I am. The armor is me and I am the armor," the empty armor explained, tapping it's chest with a finger.
"It all started a few years ago when Tony Stark decided to create an emergency back-up should he ever to be injured or rendered unconscious in his armor. An emergency artificial intelligence program based on his own brain patterns and memories would be uploaded which could serve temporarily as Iron Man.
"And when Stark was injured in an A.I.M attack, I took over for him. An Iron Man 2.0, if you will."
"Good Christ! Are you telling me that Stark went ahead and build a goddamn 21st Century Frankenstein?" Cage roared. He couldn't believe that Stark was that stupid—no, wait, he could believe Stark was that dumb.
"Frankenstein was the name of the scientist, not the monster," both Parker and Iron Man 2.0 corrected Cage. Cage was torn at which one to glare at more while Logan and Strange just rolled their eyes.
"So then why aren't you working with Stark?" Peter asked slowly.
48 Hours Earlier (Give or take)…
He flipped through the lens settings, deciding that the 600x was sufficient and activated the microwielder. Sparks flew as he hand wielded the seam.
Normally, such delicate and exacting work would require artificial aid to accomplish as no human being could possibly hold their hand that still and steady. But he was no ordinary human being; in fact, he was not a human at all.
He was tinkering. It helped distract him, from focusing on the events happening in the world.
It used to be simple.
Good. Evil. Heroes. Villains. Right. Wrong. Black and White.
It used to be easy.
To know what you stood for.
To know what you were fighting for.
Not anymore. Not since the Civil War began.
And now the War was over. And he wasn't sure if the wrong side had won.
And Cap had lost.
No, Cap hadn't lost. He had surrendered. He had backed down because that was what the People had wanted. They said that Freedom wasn't important. That what was Right and Just wasn't what they needed. What everything that their forefathers had done; everything that they had risked their fortunes, their lives, and their sacred honor was garbage.
No, they wanted Security and Safety. And that meant that everything that America had stood for; Everything that Cap was supposed to represent … was Dead. There was no point fighting for a lost cause.
He finished wielding and flipped the lenses setting back to their defaults. "Atmospheric Static Pressure Test," he ordered the computers and waited as they ran their tests. There was a ping as it finished and the results scrolled on the screen.
He put the wielder down and reached up to his head and took a good hold of it. There was a dull thunk and a squeal as he lifted the head module clear off his body.
He was well aware that he looked like a modern-day, high-tech Headless Horseman, complete with a macabre dismembered head tucked in his hands.
Abruptly, an impulse caused hold up his head module up and proclaim, "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gore rims at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one now, to mock your own grinning?"
He waited a beat for a response, perhaps some tittering applause and got none. One advantage to be an artificial intelligence was that he had complete and total recall of everything his biological self had experienced. Even the Eighth Grade Literature Class he had attended 23 years ago. His biological predecessor had found that only a few girls responded to Shakespeare to be honest. Red hot Ferraris on the other hand had them parting their thighs like bees on honey.
He carefully set his head down and picked up the replacement head module and carefully slotted it into place. There was a faint thunk as it locked into place. He tilted his head to the left and then to the right and then left again. Not bad, he decided.
PRIMARY SYSTEM CHECK.
MAIN POWER OK.
PERSONALITY DRIVES OK.
STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY OK.
GYROSCOPIC BALANCERS OK.
PRIMARY SYSTEMS CHECK COMPLETE.
Iron Man 2.0 let out a brief sigh from his vocalizer. Odd how some habits and personality quirks derived from his organic incarnation continued to persist even though he was a purely artificial intelligence.
He was an accident. Designed as an emergency measure to be used when Tony Stark was incapacitated in combat; a bootstrapped version of his personality would be uploaded to take control of the armor. Stark had envisioned it would be mainly for short periods; if he was knocked unconscious, then the program would kick in until he woke up again.
Tony certainly never intended his kludged-together hacked bits of his neurological patterns and his downloaded memories to operate for as long as Iron Man 2.0 had. He never believed his creation would evolve or that 2.0 would realize that Tony's first instinctive response would be to shut 2.0 down. Tony had enough bad experiences with AI's ranging from the Life Model Decoys, VOR/TEX, and the Sentient Armor to trust another one.
So 2.0 went underground. It wasn't hard. Everyone believed he had been destroyed in that nuclear explosion debacle.
Good preplanning had ensured that he had taken the time to repair one autonomous drone after his fight for his own personal use. He had merely intended to use it beyond remotely access data independently but as it turned out, 2.0 had enough time to download his entire program and memory into an email packet to the drone just a second before the nuke had detonated.
And so he had remained "dead". It was easier this way. He picked up the wielder and considered building a quadruple back-up memory module to his second and third back-up modules.
It wasn't as though he had a lot of other things to do or demands on his time. He couldn't even operate as Iron Man as his organic counterpart would surely notice the appearance of another Iron Man and even if he wanted to reinvent some sort of alternate identity, Stark might and quite possibly detect the use of his signature StarkTech.
Bored, he had considered building an interstellar craft and maybe travelling into outer space; perhaps even terraforming Mars or another planet. But S.W.O.R.D performed deep space telemetry scans on a regular basis and there was a better than 78 percent chance that his departure of the planet would be detected and a 56 percent that it would be intercepted. He would be an extremely and incredibly valuable asset to S.W.O.R.D which wouldn't feel any qualms about appropriating 2.0 and classifying him as government property.
He had even considered travelling to an alternate reality. Surely some dismal timeline required the assistance of an Iron Man, even an artificial one. But even if 2.0 was up on the mathematics or mechanics of the process, he had no idea how to accomplish that with A.R.M.O.R monitoring for interdimensional incursions. There was a 92 percent chance that his efforts would be detected and an 87 percent chance that even if he escaped capture, his presence would be definitely be reported to Tony Stark.
There were definite disadvantages when you're an illegal personality construct trying to remain anonymous and under the radar. It was getting to the point where 2.0 was wondering if he shouldn't just approach S.W.O.R.D or A.R.M.O.R openly and seeing how they would react just for fun.
Currently, he had an 82 percent chance based on psychological profiling that Director Brand would immediately co-opt him while Director Little Sky had a dismal 47 probability that he would immediately turn him over to Stark for immediate deactivation. However, his co-opting by Brand meant that he would be reduced to engineering advisor and technical analysis rather than what he would had preferred. Not to mention that the instant he became a liability or showed any sign of disobedience, Brand would undoubtedly turn him over to Stark.
Perhaps… the wall of television sets that he had cobbled together to work suddenly flashed to life as one of his automatic triggering programs activated themselves.
CAPTAIN AMERICA DEAD!
Iron Man 2.0 barely was aware of a gasp from his vocalizer as he staggered. No. No, it couldn't be.
Cap couldn't die. He involuntarily crushed the wielder in his hand as a multitude of reporters on each channel were all practically rushing to be the first one to report the Sentinel of Liberty's impending demise.
He immediately tapped a satellite frequency and began uploading data from the police and federal agencies bands.
Shots fired from rooftop. A sniper? Sam Wilson a.k.a. Falcon in pursuit of suspect. Captain America being loaded an ambulance and en route to emergency room. Then … Steve Rogers declared dead on arrival.
It was true. It wasn't faked or a sting or some sort of covert operation. Cap … Cap was really dead.
An electronic scream of static howled from his audio vocalizers and he seized the workbench. Metal shrieked as he tore it from it's mountings and threw it across the empty warehouse.
Coward. You're a damn coward. An empty collection of electronics and circuitry and metal.
He screamed again and his metal fist crashed down on the floor with the force of a thousand sledgehammers, shattering concrete and creating a large crater.
It used to be simple.
Good. Evil. Heroes. Villains. Right. Wrong. Black and White.
It used to be easy.
To know what you stood for.
To know what you were fighting for.
And Steve Rogers had died because of it.
And suddenly it was damn clear that nothing had really changed. It really was simple. He wondered if that was how Steve had done it. Because he knew.
That it was all so very simple. Right and Wrong. Black and White. Heroes and Villains.
All you had to know was what you stood for. And what you had to fight for. When you knew what you were willing to lay down your life for, when you knew what you were willing to risk everything for. It was damn simple.
Logan drawled, "So, you've been hiding out all this time and you've finally decided to come out of the closet and broke into S.H.I.E.L.D's Hellicarrier and stole Captain America's body and shield as your opening act."
Iron Man 2.0 cocked his head and said, "Sort of."
He figured they might freak out when he told them that he hadn't so much as stole Cap's body and shield, but rather the entire Hellicarrier…
A/N: This used to be a series of hastily jotted down notes and ideas that I had done shortly following Marvel Comics' Civil War and I was reeling from Tony Stark becoming an $$hole and Steve Rogers dying. I had also read Adam Warren's "Hypervelocity" series and I thought the Iron Man 2.0 was just too cool not to bring back and as a counter to Tony Stark. I stumbled across these old notes while I was reassembling some of my computer files that I had lost in my computer crash.
The "Alas, poor Yorick!" quote is from Shakespeare's "Hamlet".
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