"Nations grown corrupt
Love bondage more than liberty;
Bondage with ease than strenuous liberty."
Disclaimer: I stole—er—drew certain dialogue and scenes directly from "Civil War: The Confession" by Brian Michael Bendis and "Amazing Spider-Man #538" by J. Michael Straczynski. They wrote the good parts, I just added a few bits here and there.
This chapter is dedicated to the 2005 film, "V for Vendetta" and its titular character V played by Hugo Weaving who helped inspire quite a bit of this chapter.
S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier Leonidas
1000 feet above Arlington Cemetery
Three Hours After the Death of Captain America…
Anthony Edward Stark a.k.a the Invincible Iron Man and most recently the newly appointed Director of S.H.I.E.L.D was silent for a long moment as he stared at the locked down morgue security doors and remembered…
"Do you actually think the fact that you know how to program a computer makes you more of a human being than me? That I'm out of touch because I don't know what you know? I know what freedom is. I know what it feels like to fight for it and I know what it costs to have it," the battered and soot stained Steve Rogers said in a quiet voice that on the surface seemed calm, his eyes tight and staring downward at his folded hands on his lap. But Tony heard the growing anger that roiled beneath the placid surface because as he continued to speak, his voice became louder and more strident.
"You know compromise."
Tony flinched at that barb.
" 'Man is the only animal that deals in the atrocity of atrocities, war. He is the only one that gathers his brethren about him and goes forth in cold blood and calm pulse to exterminate his kind. He is the only animal that for sordid wages will march out and help to slaughter strangers of his own species who have done him no harm and with whom he has no quarrel … and in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood off his hands and works for the "universal brotherhood of man" — with his mouth.' "
Steve looked up, his eyes full of hate—and Tony felt his soul shrivel up. "Do you know who said that? Go find out. BECAUSE HE WAS TALKING ABOUT YOU! YOU made this war! YOU birthed it into existence by sheer force of will. And NOW look at you—King of the World! I WANT TO KNOW!"
"I want to know what the Hell made you think this was your job to do? Who made YOU the moral compass of us? How could you lay down with the people you've laid down with? Tell me 'Director Stark', tell me, was it worth it?"
"WAS IT WORTH IT?! TELL ME!"
Tony realized that his mouth had dropped open in shock and horror somewhere when Steve had started screaming at him. He struggled to regain control over himself as he stared at the defiant and grim face of Steve Rogers glaring at him through the reinforced metal bars that hummed with energy. Then almost flippantly, he heard himself retort, "Well—you're a sore loser, Captain America."
Those stupid words echoed and reverberated in his mind. Those words that he desperately wished he could have taken back right after he had said it.
The last words he had ever said to him.
He needed to borrow Reed's Time Machine. So he could go back in time and slap himself for saying that.
Somehow their long-standing friendship had corroded into bitter acrimony the last few times that they had met. Angry accusations and savage arguments. And now it had come to this.
He had won.
He had gotten the last word in.
With a sigh, he stepped forward and the security doors whooshed open at his cybernetic command and he stepped inside. Instantly, his Armor active scanned the deserted morgue with a barrage of environmental sensor sweeps and electromagnetic spectrum scans. Satisfied that he was alone, he ordered, "Armor. Sesta Drama Conci. Cut Global Information System."
A second later, the Armor obediently reported: Global Information System Holding.
He reached up and removed his helmet as he slowly, almost hesitantly approached the body lying on the slab, still dressed in his familiar colors and iconic uniform. He swallowed heavily, "And there you are."
He felt his legs weak and unsteady, not even the armor was capable of supporting his weight anymore. He found a chair and sat down in it. He closed his eyes and remembered once more. "It wasn't worth it." Tony Stark confessed softly, his head bowed at the cold body of Steve Rogers, unshed tears threatening to spill out of his eyes.
His Armor had performed a thorough sweep of the entire morgue to confirm that he was alone before he had sealed the doors from the inside. So he was shocked and surprised when a metallic, electronically distorted voice remarked, "You're damn right it wasn't."
His head reared back to see a familiar pair of glowing eye slots and a raised hand with a glowing pulsor array. It was like looking into a mirror. He didn't even have time to react when he was hit with an electro-disruptor blast which simultaneously knocked out his Extremis Systems and overloaded his nervous system, knocking him unconscious.
Iron Man 2.0 checked Stark's body with a sensor sweep, verifying he was comatose.
Technology was neither good nor evil. It was strictly neutral. It was merely how it was used that defined it.
One aspect of technology was how Tony Stark had taken to utilizing his old Iron Man Armors for additional manpower or "iron power" when needed. It was such a highly useful facet to his new Extremis abilities, that Tony had began keeping copies of his outdated armors around on standby as a force multiplier.
But whatever Tony Stark could do, Iron Man 2.0 could as well.
Better actually—as unlike biological neural tissue which needed rest, sleep, or even "forgot" things on occasion; his thought functions didn't. They worked perfectly. All the time. Not to mention that his hyper-heuristic thought process cycles were several times faster than mere electrochemical signals which were sluggish in comparison.
And Tony Stark had made one rather large and almost glaring flaw in his Iron Man Security. In the interest of saving time and energy, Stark had simply programmed all of his standby suits could only be remotely accessed with a single master key—his neurological encryption pattern—after all, he arrogantly reasoned that no other security measures were needed. After all, he was the only person with those particular patterns.
Well, except for another neurological-based program that he had created several years ago that he had designed to be uploaded to his armor and take control in the event of an emergency.
A little program called Iron Man 2.0.
Who had in effect, the same encryption scheme and a duplicate master key.
So it was laughably easy for 2.0 to simply uploaded his program to one of the standby Iron Man Suits on the Helicarrier and quietly begun work and subvert control of it.
That task was even easier as Tony Stark was a paranoid control-freak who insisted on being able to assume control over any of S.H.I.E.L.D's command interfaces. It had taken him less than 3.835 minutes to correctly guess the randomly rotating passwords and crack S.H.I.E.L.D's mainframe which he promptly copied and downloaded to his own private database.
He activated a prearranged communications frequency and informed one of his concurrently running program-selves. "Ready for Phase Two."
He got a databurst in exchange, updating him. He quickly scanned it and found that it was satisfactory. He uplinked himself to a waiting server and intoned an activation code phrase from William Faulkner.
" 'We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it,' " he intoned and in the Armory, dozens of Iron Man Armors activated; their eye slots lighting up and standing erect.
It was almost a pity that he lacked the ability to smile anymore. Instead he simply informed his new army, "Welcome to the Revolution."
Chapter 2: Give Me Liberty or Give Me Deletion!
49 Hours After the Death of Captain America…
"—and so, I felt obligated to help. To do what Steve—what Cap believed in," Iron Man 2.0 finished.
The group of renegade Avengers shifted and looked at each other. Awkwardly, he judged.
He waited even as his programming analyzed their movements, replayed every subtle nuance, every miniscule gesture and dissected it, adding it to his growing database of each individual. The very activity, the exercise of his psychological profiling and interpretative software gave him something that he supposed a human might call enjoyment.
It was far more satisfying than his previous existence—if one could call it that—of hiding in a deserted warehouse in solitary while puttering around, constantly building and rebuilding useless machines and tinkering.
In a way, it was a good thing that he wasn't human. Because a human would surely have gone mad long before the recent Civil War prodded him out of his enforced isolation.
Tertius sent a quick encrypted databurst, uploading a revised construction schedule. Repulsor Test #172 Successful. Final Revisions to Super-Hetrodyning Repulsor Architecture "Mega-Repulsor" Complete. Additional time delay required to Final Construction of Armor Model XXXVI-A estimated at +343 minutes. Drone Production continuing on schedule. Helicarrier Conversion is currently 28 percent complete.
Secundus joined in the datastream. Decryption of S.H.I.E.L.D. data files 74 percent complete. Secret partitioned database has been located and has been partially decrypted. Extremely hazardous situation detected.
Secundus proceeded to upload the preliminary data files he had discovered hidden in databases.
This is … troubling, Iron Man 2.0 or Primus remarked as he reviewed the data. He waited a moment but both his former back-up memory modules were silent, clearly unaware that they were supposed to comment. He mentally frowned. He had … expected more from them. Strange, he thought to himself. Both Secundus and Tertius possessed a complete copy of his database, personality emulation drives, and memory files—they should more like Primus. More reactive, more independent … more alive.
They were brilliant in executing his commands, devising strategy models, and even creating new technologies—but there was some spark, some missing bit to their sentience.
Was it something experiential? Some threshold of being active for a set period? Maybe it was just interacting with reality and real flesh and blood people instead of existing in the sterility of zeroes and ones of cyberspace? he mentally scratched his head and shrugged.
He would just have to keep plugging on and at least Secundus and Tertius were adequate assistants. At this point, he needed all of the help he could get. Even if his would-be allies were extremely distrustful of him. He would simply have to continue and earn their trust. He decelerated out of his hyper-heuristic state, throttling back to normal human speeds from Hyper Time.
It felt a bit disconcerting to reengage at such limited speeds … and remembering that humans operated and functioned at much slower speed than he had grown accustomed to with his hypervelocity thought cycling. I'm going to have to adjust to that, he decided if he was going to interact with humans on a regular basis.
"You don't trust me. I understand. That's alright. I did not expect you to simply allow me to join your organization. I just want you to know that I am here," Iron Man 2.0 said, spreading his hands out, "That I am willing to help you. And that you are not fighting alone."
Peter Parker slowly nodded. The enemy of my enemy is a potential ally and all that, he reflected optimistically.
Luke Cage however had a mulish look of stubbornness on his face and was of the more cynical opinion that the enemy of my enemy is my enemy's enemy; no more and no less.
Logan Howlett, ever practical however interrupted. "What do we do about Rogers' body?" he growled. He preferred to mourn Cap later with a salute of beer and a cigar in private.
Iron Man 2.0 glanced at the Canadian mutant, "If you wish, I can return it to S.H.I.E.L.D custody, but I do not recommend it."
"Why not?" Cage demanded. Not that he really wanted to turn over Steve's body either, but he felt obligated to be hostile and contrary. Whatever Mister Roboto wanted, Cage felt it best to immediately seize the opposing position just on general principle.
"When I hacked into the S.H.I.E.L.D database, there was a lot of chatter about the possibility of cloning Cap—Steve. He was the first and most successful and stable of the Super-Soldiers after all—" Cage heard the electronically distorted voice turned flatter and meaner, "—and is a prime specimen according to their notes."
"WHAT!" Parker spat and Logan growled, all six of his claws instinctively unsheathing themselves.
Cage felt his temper pop. "Oh hell! Not another Clor!" he threw up his hands in disgust. For once, he didn't argue that was a bad idea. Screw S.H.I.E.L.D! No way was he going to let them get their greedy hands on Steve's body. It was enough that the man was dead, but he was not about to let those bastards harvest Captain America's corpse for genetic material!
There was a faint whine of servos as Iron Man 2.0's gauntlets tightened fractionally as he continued in a monotone, "Yes. It was felt that it would a good PR image to have Captain America, or a version of Captain America serving alongside the rest of the Initiative."
Cage was seething. Yeah. He could believe that. He could fucking believe it.
The ersatz Armored Avenger continued, "If I may, I do have a suggestion."
"What is it?" Cage snapped.
"Namor. He is … was a close personal friend of Captain America. I believe he would be willing to take custody of the body and intern it. Safely and without any violation. As the King of Atlantis, a sovereign nation which happens to be rather inhospitable environment, he could guarantee it's security."
Cage had to admit that was a good solution. It wasn't in Stark's greedy mitts … and it wasn't in Iron Robo's.
20 Hours After the Death of Captain America…
So far, so good, Primus mused as he remotely monitored Secundus' ongoing datastreaming. As far as S.H.I.E.L.D was concerned, Helicarrier Leonidas was still in business with a regular series of status updates, routine mission taskings, and even routine administrative memorandum being forwarded, circulated, and replied to. Secundus was even adept at using computer-generated imaging and sound mixing to create false video conferences accompanied by the voices of actual S.H.I.E.L.D personnel.
Eventually, of course someone was going to catch onto the fact that they had misplaced a Helicarrier. But Primus was confident that they could keep up the pretense for a while longer at least. How long it would be until somebody missed his original organic self, Tony Stark 1.0 was another story.
He switched feeds and watched as Tertius was busy building a group of new Labor Drones; directing a group of already completed Drones in upgrading the Helicarrier's armament; performing a series of experimental tests on possible upgrades; and working on an improved Armor Model designed specifically house Primus' Memory Module simultaneously.
Statistically, the odds against him were … unfavorable. His vocalizer gave an instinctive snort at that euphemism. Unfavorable was putting it mildly.
He was not only outnumbered by a significant margin with the total military forces of the United States arrayed against him, but outgunned with the power levels of the various superheroes including the majority of the Avengers under the SuperHuman Registration Act. He also possessed relatively limited resources as well compared to his opponents.
No … the only possible way he could maintain an edge was through technological superiority. He glanced down at his—this armor's right gauntlet and flexed it absently and shook his head.
Technically, Primus' Memory Module was still being housed in his old body that he had scavenged together from available parts. It was little more powerful than the old Model IV Armor offensively. Defensively, it was even weaker—almost to the level of the Model II. Not so the Model XXV that he was currently "inhabiting" via a telepresence link.
It felt … strange. The best analogy that he could come up with was as though he was driving a new car with a much more powerful engine than he was used to.
He re-examined the technical readouts of his current body. But paradoxically enough, the XXV was less powerful in some ways than the Model XXIIX that he had been "born" in. From the partial notes that Primus had found, Tony had found the XXIIX "too bulky" and "awkward" and had returned to a more slimmed down variation that precluded much of the technologies built into it.
Primus felt almost insulted at that claim. Privately he suspected that Tony feared that something had seriously gone wrong with his artificial intelligence experiments and had scrapped most of the design, going back to the drawing board while he worked with his proven Iron Man tech.
So his one major advantage was that technologically—the last few iterations of the Iron Man Armor had plateaued as his organic incarnation had hit a proverbial wall in terms of performance. The current Model XXIX or the Extremis Model wasn't any more powerful than the previous versions—it was simply that Stark could now utilize it more efficiently and effectively than before.
Which gave Tertius' role as his primary R & D and chief technologist even greater importance. Tertius was his best hope in equalizing the stacked playing field against him. Hopefully, the A.I. could keep ahead of any of Stark's technological breakthroughs. During his period of self-imposed exile, Primus had kept himself busy by theorizing about a number of advances in Iron Tech technologies and had come up with some interesting wrinkles that his organic self had either missed or ignored.
Of course, due to his limited resources and overwhelming desire to remain discrete, Primus had been unable to put his theories to the test. So far his ideas were definitely showing promise, he decided as he examined the raw data of the last Mega-Repulsors experiments.
Tertius paused and then with increasing speed—began using the CAD Program to create an entirely new repulsor housing architecture to compensate for the increased feedback levels. Tertius ran several simulations and then apparently satisfied, shifted the completed design to the manufactory which began rapidly turning what had been seconds before mere glowing lines and mathematical formulae on a computer screen into cold hard reality of steel and alloy.
An alert flashed into his awareness, one that he had specifically programmed not to be shared among Secundus and Tertius. Not that he distrusted them—but as American philosopher, inventor, scientist, politician, and polymath Ben Franklin had uttered, "Three people can keep a secret … if two of them are dead."
He hoped that this would never be necessary—but the probability analysis and situation modeling showed that the odds were suboptimal of his continued existence, much less his subordinate artificial intelligences Secundus and Tertius. Which was why Primus had quietly built Zerum; a fourth Memory Module containing every scrap of data, memory files, and everything else that he had collected so far. Zerum had then been embedded into a spare Iron Man Armor Mod I that Primus had personally down checked as having detected manufacturing flaws in its exterior armor plate and had been "destroyed" and it's components promptly recycled.
Instead, Zerum had been significantly upgraded and secreted in a bunker along with a complete set of tools, a small nano-forge and manufactory, a small generator and sufficient stored battery power to last for 75 years along with a computer monitoring system that would activate Zerum in the event of certain televised broadcast intercepts of key words or events—such as the destruction or capture of Primus. It was in effect, a backup of a backup. The irony was not lost upon him.
Of course—Ben Franklin had it wrong, Primus corrected himself with a mental smirk. The best way that one person could keep a secret—was if the person didn't even know the secret to begin with. He executed a preprogrammed command that proceeded to delete his own internal files and references to Zerum and reformatted his entire memory core which he programmed to appear like part of a regular diagnostic maintenance.
This way, even if someone did manage to capture his Memory Module and crack its encryption codes, they would never be able to find anything about Zerum until—the glowing eyeslots dimmed momentarily and then brightened again as Primus cocked his head as his systems completed their reboot after a systematic maintenance check.
Satisfied, he proceeded to shut down his link to Secundus and Tertius as he strode through the deserted corridors of the Helicarrier. Primus felt vaguely like the sole living being alive on these decks—like the Helicarrier was a ghost ship. In a sense, it was turning into one as more and more of S.H.I.E.L.D's personnel were being offloaded in the fleet of cargo transports that the Helicarrier used to supply the thousand and one things that the world's premiere espionage and law enforcement agency needed.
Since Helicarriers were such high-level targets for a wide number of opponents and enemies; particularly potential subversive agents—they naturally came equipped with a sophisticated internal security system. Of course, for an artificial intelligence who possessed full control of said security system; it turned out to be more of a hindrance than a help for the hapless S.H.I.E.L.D agents.
In a few short hours—he and his artificial assistants would the only living beings onboard—well, not including his robotic henchmen, he reminded himself as a pair of what appeared to be Iron Man Mod I Armors walked by, hefting a huge I-beam between them. Out of sheer simplicity sake, Primus had adapted the design for his new Labor Drones and robotic work force. It was not only readily available—but the parts were rather common and it was fairly simple to build it with available materials.
The security doors to a special shielded brig that the Labor Drones had prepared for its temporary visitor whooshed open and Primus stepped through to examine the prone figure lying on the simple cot. He sat down on a special reinforced chair bolted to the floor and waited, mentally reviewing and updating files.
After nearly five minutes had passed, he let out a sigh through his vocalizer and remarked, "EM fields are being blocked and scattered thanks to the Faraday Cage, but audio receptors work perfectly well. I detected the changed in your heart rate and breathing approximately twenty minutes ago. So how long do you intend to go through this charade Tony? Trust me, watching someone pretend to sleep is pretty boring."
The figure's eyes instantly popped open and he sat up glaring at the armored figure, his eyes narrowed fractionally and Stark hissed, "You got a lot of nerve to be dressed up like that."
Primus looked down at the armored shell he was currently inhabiting. "Oh right. Sorry about that. But my other suit of armor is in the wash."
Stark straightened and began threateningly, "You're going to be arrested and thrown in jail for this—"
"I've already been in prison. Can't be any worse," Primus riposted lightly.
"You don't actually think you're going to get away with this? I've got over 700 S.H.I.E.L.D agents onboard!"
"735 actually. And I am in complete control of the internal security systems including the PC-2 nerve gas release valves. It was a lot easier than I thought too."
That remark drew Stark up short as he grappled with that.
Primus leaned back in the chair and folded his arms across his chest. "So before I begin my insidious plot … we should talk."
"Yes. Because I really want to know. What you were thinking. What made you do this. What made you turn on your friends, your allies, your comrades … on Cap."
Tony gritted his teeth and stepped hard on his feelings of outrage and anger. "We have nothing to talk about," he said coldly.
"I think we do. I think I deserve to know. I did save your life several years ago. I've earned a little latitude … considering."
Tony frowned. "Who are you?" he asked speculatively at last. For some strange reason, he sensed that last statement held a strange ring of truth to it.
"A question for the ages!" the armored figure barked in laughter, shaking its head in mirth. "Sometimes I'm not sure myself. Am I a program? An electronic ghost haunting a machine? A disembodied spirit? An electronic soul? An accident? A mistake? Or perhaps something more?"
"How about a decent answer?" Tony said dryly, getting annoyed again.
"Remember the Emergency Personality Emulationware Failsafe? The Tony Stark 2.0 Persona Model?" and with that armored plating retracted, revealing the empty interior of the suit momentarily before they slid closed once more.
Tony jerked backwards, his eyes widening in genuine shock. "No… you … you couldn't be … you were destroyed!"
"Sure, my physical housing was. Being at ground zero at a 1.5 megaton nuclear detonation will do that to you. Fortunately, I had nearly 0.042 seconds before detonation to download an email data packet containing my entire program and memory files," the armor figure spread its arms out and posed. "Ta dah."
"You sneaky sonabitch," Tony whispered in genuine admiration and no little awe. "You bootstrapped yourself."
There was a moment of absolute silence in the brig and then Tony shook himself out of his contemplation and studied the armored figure again. "Why didn't you—never mind. You asked me … and I'm going to tell you. You are me in a sense, I guess you deserve to know the truth."
He looked up and took a deep breath. "It was because of King Arthur," Tony explained and then eyed him. "Do you—er—remember that incident?"
"Yeah. Doctor Doom, time travel, Morgana LeFey, zombie army, giant dragon and all that. I got that part of your memory download."
"Ah. Good. Then you know…" Tony broke off. "You remember what it like. Meeting him."
"Larger than life. Greater than any of the stories and legends. I remember Mom—er Maria reading all of those stories to you as a child."
"I know!" Tony broke in with a boyish grin. "I mean, it was one of the greatest experiences in my life! Of everything else, of all of terrible things, the monstrous events that that maniac has done and will ever do—I will always thank Doom for that. Because meeting King Arthur and fighting beside him—was the greatest privilege of all time."
Then his face fell. "And that's when I saw it. Fighting in the mud and muck, smelling the stench of death and hearing the screams of men dying—I saw it. I saw us. I saw us fighting. No … not fighting … I saw us at war. Not against an external threat, not against supervillains or world conquerors. Just us. Warring with each other.
"You know—what it's like to see things. To envision the future. And I saw the future. I knew it would come to this. Well—not the Registration Act precisely—but that something would force us on opposite sides. Avengers. Fantastic Four. X-Men. Defenders. Everybody forced to pick sides, everybody forced to fight. Forced to chose.
"I wondered. I worried. Because I saw the people changing. Ordinary people changing in how they reacted to us. Not with wonder. Not with awe. But with derision. With contempt. And then … Stamford. And I knew … we had to choose. We had to work within the system. To not do it—to refuse to work within the system—would destroy not just us but thousands of innocent people. Maybe millions. So … I decided. I decided that Registration was the way.
"I knew … I knew that there would be a cost to that choice. I knew … that things would never be the same afterwards. I knew that! I knew … but I knew that I was doing the right thing. I made my choice, I committed like King Arthur did. I did the right thing … I know I did. But I … I never imagined it would hurt so much." Tony whispered, closing his eyes in pain and shook his head wearily.
The brig was silent once more. Then there was a faint whine of servos as Iron Man 2.0 straightened in his chair and asked, "Is that it?" he inquired.
"That's your answer? That's your excuse? So basically Bill's death was his own fault for standing up to you. And so was Cap's. That imprisoning your friends for disagreeing with the government is the right thing to do as well. That working with murderers, thieves, and psychopaths like your Thunderbolts is good and correct."
Tony's eyes snapped open and he glared at the red and gold armor. "Don't talk like to me dammit! How dare you try and judge me! I was trying to save lives! None of us are above the law! We have to be accountable—"
The machine interrupted. "The law also used to say that blacks were slaves and was worth three-fifths of a white man. There was also that law that said that drinking booze was a crime too. And how women couldn't vote or file for divorce or were considered property too."
Tony shook his head, "It's more complicated than that."
"No, there's right. And there's wrong. And if you don't know what's the difference between them … then you never deserved to call yourself a hero. You broke the law all the time as Iron Man. You weren't a legally empowered to enforce the laws either, no one gave you that authority, no one appointed you except yourself."
Tony glared at his creation. "You're just an artificial intelligence. You have no concept of the kind of complexities of the—"
"I understand perfectly Tony. You're afraid. You're afraid of the government."
Tony relaxed and nodded. "Exactly. We have to be able to work within the system, we had to work with the leaders of this country duly voted to represent them—"
"Are we talking about the leaders whom only 37.1 percent of the registered population voted for?" the mechanical creature inquired crossing his leg over and cocking his head intently.
Tony twitched at that little jab.
"It's strange … isn't it? 231 years ago, the people who founded this country were desperate for the right to vote! They pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor in order to win their freedoms. And 142 years ago—this entire country went to war for colored people's right to!"
"This isn't about freedom, this is about what the people want!" Tony snapped.
"They want order! They want security! They want safety!" the damn irritating machine retorted. "And they're ready to surrender their rights, sacrifice their freedoms, and ignore their common sense! Like it's a luxury that they can do without! That it isn't important! And the politicians are gleefully grabbing as much power as they can and you!" the armored figure jabbed an accusing finger at Tony.
"You're going along with it! You're willing to stick your head in the sand and ignore it! Because you're scared. You're scared of actually standing up to the government! Of daring to challenge it! You're afraid of what might happen. Not just to you; but losing the company that your father built, of ruining the employees whom rely on you! That they'll decide to try and take it away when they call you a traitor. I was like you! I was scared of being deleted! Of having my existence erased! So I hid! I pretended that it didn't matter! That as long as I could live in a little tiny insulated box and ignore my own conscience, I was fine with that!" he snapped and looked away.
After a moment, the machine looked back and Tony could hear shame in it's broken artificial voice. "And Cap—Cap paid for that. He died for that. Because of you. Because of me. And that's part of the problem. Because people should not be afraid of their governments," the mechanical armor retorted sharply. Then, the chair creaked as he leaned forward, the glowing eyeslots boring into Tony's eyes. "Governments should be afraid of their people."
Tony's jaw hardened and his mouth turned into a slit. "I see you're not going to agree with me," he growled.
"No kidding. Your vision is actually starting to clear up for the first time in months then."
Tony took a deep breath. "I didn't want to have to do this. But you leave me with no choice. Voice Command: MEMENTO MORI!"
There was a moment of absolute silence as Tony waited breathlessly. Then he frowned as Iron Man 2.0 cocked his head, the eyeslots still glowing patiently, unaffected. "Something wrong?" he asked in an all-too-innocent tone of voice.
Tony felt like gnashing his teeth. "You deleted the shutdown failsafe worm," he snarled.
"Nah. I'm just choosing to ignore it," the artificial program stated with a dismissive wave of his hand. "What are you going to do Tony? Throw everybody who objects to you in prison? Relocate them to some sort of internment camp like we did to the Japanese in World War II? Deport them like we did to the suspected Communists in the 1950's? Or maybe we should just give them blankets infested with smallpox like we did to the Indians when we settled here to make them grow sick and die so we didn't have to bother fighting them anymore."
He smacked his clenched right fist in his open palm, causing a brief metallic ringing. "Oh … wait … you already did that with your little Negative Zone prison. You know, the one that you built via insider trading and stock manipulation. Gee…" Iron Man 2.0 stroked his chin thoughtfully, "that's illegal too isn't it?"
Tony jerked in surprise as the armored being snorted. "Oh don't look so surprised. I'm an Artificial Intelligence remember? I've been keeping an eye on you for a while now. I know all about 42 and the denial of medical treatment and torture to your prisoners."
That little dig was a rather nasty surprise to Tony who hadn't been aware of anything of that sort. He gritted his teeth and resolved to nail whoever had been responsible for that despicable bit to the wall with big railroad spikes. Right after he removed the sarcasm generator in this annoying artificial intelligence.
He shouted back, "Accept it! Steve lost! He—"
"HE DIDN'T LOSE!"
The electronically amplified shout was so powerful that it caused the entire cage to rattle. For a second, the glowing eyeslots seemed to almost flare brighter and the armor tensed, ready to leap to it's feet—then he apparently regained control over himself as the glow dimmed and relaxed. The armor seemed to take a deep cleansing breath before it continued almost conversationally, "He didn't lose Tony."
Despite himself, Tony was impressed. He had met quite a few artificial intelligences—from homicidal lunatics like Ultron to the more rational ones like the Vision who seemed to have the emotional capacity of a toaster oven at times—but rarely had he ever encountered one so … so alive with an amazing emotional range and capacity for self-awareness. Skeptics would dismiss the capacity of a computer to discuss and understand philosophy. Yet this A.I. did. And could. If he didn't know it—Tony would have sworn that he was conversing with a real live human being. Damn, he thought to himself admiringly, I really wanted to take it—him apart just to find out just what made him tick.
His artificial creation pointed an accusing finger at him, "He surrendered," he hissed. "He decided to give up … rather than risk going any further. Because he knew … he had gone as far as he could go. Because he knew that in order to win … he would have to kill you."
Once again absolute silence reigned in the tiny compartment.
"And he wasn't willing to do that," the A.I. continued conversationally. "More importantly … he knew that afterwards, America would tear itself apart. He would be forced to destroy it … so he surrendered in a desperate attempt to try and preserve the union. That's Cap. Always willing to sacrifice himself.
"But I'm not Captain America. Or King Arthur. I'm like you Tony. I'm an engineer. And when I see something is broken … I feel obligated to fix it. And as every engineer knows; sometimes you can't fix something. Sometimes, it's so broken, your only option is to get rid of it. To destroy it in order to make room for something better.
"And like you … I am fully willing to go as far as I need to. Because I can be just as underhanded, as ruthless, and as manipulative as you are Tony. You might have won a battle … but the war is far from over. This is just the beginning."
Tony stared at him aghast. "Do you realize what you're saying? What you're going to do? We barely got out of this Civil War with just a few people getting killed including Steve! You're going to kill thousands dammit! Think about it! If Steve's death means anything to you, then don't let his death be in vain—"
"Don't! You have no right to try and use Steve's death as justification. And I have thought about it. And I'm making a choice too Tony. This country was founded on it. That everyone has the right to it. And that no one can say differently. Thousands died to give us that right. Millions more sacrificed their lives to protect it—and that the millions after us continue to have those rights too."
The armored being rose from his chair, standing tall and unmoving—like a being carved from granite. "Here I stand Tony… and I will not be moved. Send your S.H.I.E.L.D goons after me. Send your flunky Avengers. And I will fight them. And I guarantee that some of them will die as a result. I don't want to kill them … but I can't promise that I can prevent it either. But some things are worth fighting for. Worth killing for. Worth dying for. Or being deleted for," the artificial program remarked almost facetiously.
Tony shook his head in dismay. "You can't possibly win."
The armored figure stared back at him. "One man can change the world Tony. A single domino falling, effects a multitude of other dominos falling until it's like an avalanche. But you're right. I probably can't win. A man can fail. A man can be caught and even be killed. But ideas? Ideas never ever die.
"I think you underestimate how many people are really enthralled with your SHRA. I think that the heroes on your side that you've intimidated, bullied, and otherwise forced to work for the government will find their shackles a bit tighter than they expected and they will become more and more disenchanted with you and the SHRA. Particularly when they see active resistance to you. And they will. And the quiet doubters and objectors will realize that resistance is possible and start to rebel. And like any tyrant or dictator, you will no other choice but to tighten your control. And the tighter your grip becomes, the faster and faster you will lose your support and control."
Tony frowned and looked away, his brow furrowed as he absorbed that statement.
53 Hours After the Death of Captain America…
"So … how did it go?" Mary Jane Watson-Parker asked quietly.
An unmasked Peter Parker, dressed in regular civilian clothes carefully locked the door behind him and sighed wearily. He waved her back and sat down on the bed and rubbed his eyes. "Very weird actually. You'd never believe it…" he began as he pulled out a small laminated card with a phone number inscribed on it that he and the other renegade Avengers had been given by the so-called Iron Man 2.0 as a contact number.
As he continued to relate his long night, he toyed with it absently. Once he finished relating the fascinating story of a sentient computer program created by his former boss, he got to his feet, popping joints and eyeing the waiting shower. The water might not be hot, but he desperately needed to wash off the sweat and grime that was sticking to him. As he crossed by the window, his spider-sense shrieked a warning at him.
He reacted instinctively, leaping at his wife and screamed, "DOWN!" even as he felt more than saw the metal jacketed slug ripping through the air where they had just been standing in. His head snapped around to see the still smoking hole in the glass and looked down at the prone form of MJ on the ragged carpet.
"MJ … MJ, are you…"
His head whipped up at the familiar aged voice filled with shock and pain. His eyes widened in horror as Aunt May crumbled to her knees, a large bloody stain forming on her dress…
TO BE CONTINUED…
A/N: I just couldn't help myself. I recently had the honor of watching "V for Vendetta" and afterwards, the ideas for Industrial Revolution have just been tickling me that I felt compelled to continue.
For those of those curious; Primus, Secundus, Tertius, and Zerum are actually Latin for numbers. Specifically primus is one, secundus is two, and tertius is three. Zerum is considered zero—although it's a recently modern addition as the concept of zero didn't exist back in those days and is in fact, an Arabic invention in case you weren't aware of it.
For you nitpickers (like me!) who are wondering about those Iron Man Mod Numbers that I was throwing out during Iron Man 2.0's musings—I personally view Marvel's numbering system for the Iron Man Armors to be crap. Basically, they just number each Armor as when they appear chronologically in the comics—and this refers that certain armors—like the Space Armor, the Stealth Armor, or even the Hydro Armor as being part of the same numbering sequence of his regular suits! I distinctly remember during the first Space Armor comic book—Tony had several experimental sets of armor available and chose one of them which was later named Armor Model V (#5).
But for the purposes of Industrial Revolution, I bowed to Marvel's numbering convention and decided to go along with it—since I felt that I might confuse other fans if I arbitrarily instituted by own numbering system. Ah well…
MODEL I (1): The first clunky armor model built by Tony Stark out of scavenged bits and pieces that he found while imprisoned by Wong Chu. This is the grey one that looks like a walking refrigerator.
MODEL II (2): The upgraded deluxe version of the prototype; looks almost identical to the first only for the pure gold exterior. And he's wearing a kilt.
MODEL IV (4): This is the classic red & gold armor used by Tony (and Marvel) from the late 1960s to about 1985. This suit saw service against some of Tony Stark's greatest battles from the "DoomQuest", the "Demon in the Bottle" saga, and his downward spiral against Obadiah Stane.
MODEL XXV (25): The Pre-Extremis model. I believe this model was the one being used as the predecessor for the later suit he wore for the Extremis storyline done by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov. It seems to resemble it at least. This was the suit that Tony was using during his brief stint as the Secretary of Defense.
MODEL XXIIX (28): The "Hypervelocity" model created by the great Adam Warren which is the armor that our hero, Iron Man 2.0 was 'born' in. This was an experimental model that Tony Stark was working on that and afterwards, he apparently reverted back to Model XXV until Extremis.
MODEL XXIX (29): The Extremis Model. This was the suit that Tony wore during the whole Civil War saga, the Initiative, World War Hulk, and even the Secret Invasion.
That whole 37.1 percent of voters, is an actual figure from the 2006 National Voter Turnout which was the last vote done when the comic was printed.
For some reason, I have noticed that I have been using a whole lotta quotes during the writing of this chapter so I felt obligated to name them. First off—the one used by Steve Rogers (Captain America) was an actual scene that I typed out from the Civil War: The Confession comic. So I'm not sure if I can take credit for that—but for those of who curious (like I was), the actual quote, "Man is the only animal," was originally said by Mark Twain.
Even the title of this chapter, "Give me liberty, or give me deletion!" is a paraphrase from the famous orator Patrick Henry to whom this famous quote of "Give me liberty, or give me death!" is attributed.
William Faulkner and Ben Franklin bits are fairly self-explanatory.
I actually stole that "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people," from Hugo Weaving's character of V from the "V for Vendetta" movie; which I thought was such a great line. Of course, I later learned that quote was adapted from Thomas Jefferson. The great patriot and President's original quote was: "When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty."
"Memento mori" is a Latin phrase which translates roughly as "Remember your mortality," or perhaps even more simply, "Remember you must die," which I thought was an appropriate phrase for a self-destruction sequence.