"All right Potter, are you sure that Stark can handle this kind of pressure?" Fury asked, as he stood on the deck of the Heli-carrier, even as both of them prepared to board the helicopter in front of them which was about to fly them to Tony Stark's penthouse in Stark Towers.
"I have researched Tony Stark, director," Harry continued, "and I will say this, for your benefit; Tony Stark is, for the lack of a better word, complicated. During his early days of success, Stark was a man who only cared about fame and wealth. He had no sense of responsibility or humility, always rubbing his success on the face of everyone he met. This all changed when he was captured by the terrorists in Afghanistan. After building the first Iron Man armor and escaping captivity, it would seem that Stark has finally realized the kind of person he really is, and decided to engage in a life of heroism to atone for his past mistakes. Plagued by many vices, Stark is prone to womanizing, pride and most surprisingly, alcoholism. This lifetime of troubles has caused him to develop a cynical view of the world. Despite this, Stark is devoted to truly make the world a better place. That is a lot more than I can say, for other persons with similar backgrounds and resources. You knew his father, I believe. Trust me when I say this, the apple did not fall far from the tree," he concluded, while Fury became silent, even as he pondered the words.
"Do you really think that taking the Tesseract into Stark Towers, in the open like this, is a wise decision?" Fury asked, even as he glanced at the young genius in front of him. "Stark does not really possess the means to withstand the sustained assault that A.I.M. can inflict, if they truly decide to go for it, and I am still not sure that it is a viable location," he continued, while Harry just smiled.
"A little faith goes a long way, director, trust me when I say this, Stark's home is more secure than the White House itself," he replied, while Fury just grunted.
As they neared the roof of the building, the chopper landed on the helipad, and Fury got out to greet Barton and Romanov, who were on the roof to receive him. He grunted and turned back, only to witness Phil Coulson stepping out of the chopper, instead of Potter.
"What the hell …," Barton began, only to be stopped by Coulson, as he motioned them all to get inside, even as Fury grunted and walked inside, followed by the three of them, with two of the said three looking at the third, with a degree of apprehension.
"Potter, what the hell is going on? What is all this?" Fury growled, only to see Coulson tap a button on his wristwatch, and immediately, his visage morphed to reveal Dr. Harry James Potter standing next to him.
"Nothing to worry about director, this is a small gadget I created, I call it the image inducer, it can take a holographic scan of any person, and super-impose it upon my body, and even modulate my vocal chords to mimic the voice of the said person. A way to stay incognito, if you must know," he added casually as he walked ahead, leaving three very disturbed people behind.
"I said it then, and I am saying it now, that is one scary kid," Barton muttered, while Natasha narrowed her eyes. Fury grunted, "Barton ... don't … just don't speak at all."
As they entered the lift, Natasha turned to Harry, "What was the reason for that small charade upstairs?"
"Oh," Harry replied with a shrug, "that was for the benefit of the A.I.M. agents, who were monitoring our arrival," he concluded, while Fury jerked him back, "What?" he whispered in anger, even as he looked at Barton and Romanov, who had the grace to look flustered.
"Surely director, you didn't think that A.I.M. would just admit defeat simply because I wiped out their bugs from your systems did you? Their network is far more capable than you can imagine. They have positioned teams of observers who are shadowing your own people, and their own networks of satellites are focused right on this building. They have kept this building under surveillance the moment Jane and Uncle Eric walked into this building," he concluded with a careless shrug of his shoulders.
"And you couldn't warn me of that? You made me bring the Tesseract out in the open knowing that they can see it? What use is hiding it here, if you broadcast it to our enemies like this?" Fury snarled, even as he grabbed Harry's collar, and yanked him towards himself.
"Hunh….," Harry sighed, as he calmly removed Fury's hand from his collar even as he absently dusted it out. "Like I told you director, a little faith goes a long way. Remember, if it were not for me, you would not even be aware of them in the first place, so I think a little respect would not be out of order here, hmmm?" he asked, even as Fury growled, and at that very moment, the lift opened up, to reveal Tony Stark, Jane Foster & Eric Selvig standing at the entrance, and looking at them.
Tony's Face radiated a child-like curiosity, while Jane and Eric on the other hand, did not wait, and rushed forward to greet them. Jane executed a perfect flying glomp and hugged Harry so hard, that he felt his bones creak. Eric clapped him on the shoulder, while Harry smiled for the first time, in many years.
"Nick, what are you doing here?" Tony asked, even as he glared at the director of S.H.I.E.L.D.
"Didn't I tell you that I have no interest in joining your super-secret boy band?" he continued, while Fury ignored him, and walked ahead without deigning to give him a reply.
"Well, that was rude," Tony muttered, even as he turned to Natasha, "Pardon me, but I distinctly remember firing you as my secretary, and revoking your access to my building. So, what are you still doing here?"
"Stark, you have been asking me that question, twice a day, since I moved in here with Dr. Foster and Dr. Selvig. If I have not answered that question for the last two hundred times, what makes you think that I will now?"
"Because of my good looks and amazing personality?" Tony asked with a pout, while Natasha just smiled and walked ahead.
"So, Barton my man," Tony turned to Clint and looked at him, "Care to tell me what this is all about?"
"You know I can't, Tony, and as much as I like you, this is way over my head," Clint retorted, while Tony's face registered a bit of annoyance.
"Nope, don't answer. After all, it is not like I am running a super secret safe house for S.H.I.E.L.D., where said employees of that organization just imposed themselves on my life, without as much as a by your leave, not to mention that I get a bunch of freeloaders, who take their orders from General Charisma over there," he retorted as he pointed to Fury, "nope, I don't mind a bit at all."
"Well, seeing that the doc is here of all people, I think you might be getting your answers today," Barton replied even as he looked at Harry, and Tony finally gazed at the new addition in the building.
"The doc? … Come on Barton, give me something here," Tony pouted, as Barton shrugged.
"That is Dr. Harry James Potter, the director will fill you in on the rest, I guess," Barton replied, while Tony looked on calculatingly at his new guest.
"So, what exactly is he a doctor of?" Tony asked after a minute's consideration.
"Whatever science you can think of, he has a doctorate in it," Barton shrugged casually, even as he moved forward.
"You are joking, right?" Tony asked, clearly taken aback, only to receive a blank stare from Barton, who just smirked and moved ahead.
"Okay, color me interested," Tony whispered as he moved ahead.
Meanwhile, Fury had separated Harry from his family, "Dr. Potter, can we get on with the task at hand please? You will have time to socialize later," he admonished, while Harry nodded.
Meanwhile, Tony came forward, and introduced himself, "Well hello there, I believe we haven't met yet, I am Tony Stark," he smiled, as he held out his hand.
"Harry James Potter, it is nice to meet you, Mr. Stark," Harry nodded, even as he looked at the man.
"So, you are Jane's brother, huh? What exactly is it that you specialize in?" he asked, even as Harry shrugged.
"Hard to say, Mr. Stark, I stopped counting after I received my twentieth doctorate," he replied glibly, and turned to face Fury, leaving a gob-smacked Tony Stark behind him. The look on Tony's face nearly made Fury's day. Nearly.
"So …" Fury asked Harry, who looked at him and nodded.
"I have already conducted a scan of the building and it shows up as secure in my scans and Mr. Stark's A.I. 'Jarvis' shows no sign of being breached. We are secure for now. You can bring it out," he replied quietly. Fury nodded and opened his briefcase to reveal the Tesseract.
Tony's eyes became wide, but before he could even react, Natasha closed his mouth by putting her hand over his lower jaw, "You will get your answers, but be silent for now."
After overcoming the shock of being so crudely silenced, Tony nodded, instinctively realizing that something major was going on.
Harry quietly picked up the cube with his right hand, and as everybody watched, he waved his left hand in empty air, and instantly, a ripping sound appeared, even as what could only be described as a tear in empty space appeared in front of everyone, showing a black vastness within. Harry threw the Tesseract inside the tear, with a careless shrug, and waved his hand once more, even as the tear closed, while everyone watched in pure, unflattering disbelief.
"Whoa …," Barton freaked, "he just cut a hole in nothing and threw it inside …," only to be interrupted by Tony, who looked at Harry seriously for the first time.
"Actually, from what I can infer on the first glance, he appears to have just severed the quantum entanglement of space-time's fabric at a nano-atomic level and formed a super-dimensional …but what you said was more colorful" he added as an after-thought, while looking at the boy with a calculating look in his eyes.
Fury looked livid. "Potter, you have ten seconds to explain."
"Director, hiding it here was just a ruse, and a smokescreen to throw A.I.M. off our trail. As formidable as Mr. Stark's defenses are, even they would not have held out against a determined assault from them. Frankly speaking, there is not a physical location in existence in this planet, which is safe from their assault. Therefore, I had to devise a metaphysical location to safeguard it," he concluded, while Fury just stared blankly at him.
"But, where exactly is it?" Fury asked, even as Jane looked at her brother with wonder in her eyes.
"You did it, you actually managed to create a personalized pocket of space-time, on a quantum level," she replied with wonder, while Harry nodded.
"Harry," Selvig began to speak, with his eyes wide open in shock, "Harry, what you just did literally destroys the existing concepts of Astro-physics in existence," he concluded, while the boy just shrugged.
"Dr. Potter…," Fury growled in impatience, "explain now."
"Director, what I just did," Harry started to explain, "was to create a vacuum in space. By literally folding space over itself, one can create a miniaturized black hole, with infinite storage capacity that can be accessed only if one follows the specific combination used to create that particular three-dimensional place. It exists, but no one can see it, no one can access it, and there is no technology on earth that can detect it. Imagine it as a vault, that you can access from anywhere in the world, no matter where you go. It is a place that is not bound by any geographical limitations, because space is infinite, and exists everywhere, and unless you use the key, it will stay locked, for good."
Fury was just lost for words, and stared at the boy with his eyes wide, and jaws hanging open, and he was not the only one.
Harry took a small remote out of his pocket and threw it at Fury, who caught it absently. "That remote is the only thing that can access the space pocket. I have the other one. A.I.M. can access any building in the world, if they want to, but this is beyond even their reach, even they cannot rip a hole in space and search the entirety of the universe without knowing where to look," he added, while everyone just stared at the young man, lost for words.
"So, sis, how about giving me a tour of the place?" he turned around and asked Jane, who was literally bursting at the seams with unbridled curiosity, who nodded and dragged him away, followed by Eric Selvig.
After a moment's silence, Fury took a deep breath and spoke, "All right Barton, I admit it, that is one scary kid."
Two hours later, all of them gathered in the dining room, by which time, Fury had briefed Tony on what was going on, meaning that he had been pestered by Stark non-stop, until he caved in, and informed him on a need-to-know basis, as to what was going on. He also made a mental note to have his people update their security, to prevent Stark from hacking S.H.I.E.L.D.'s servers as he knew he would, in order to know more than he was allowed to.
"So, Mr. Potter, where exactly were you hiding all these years?" Tony asked, with a fascinating gaze eyed upon the young man in front of him.
"Oh, just here and there, Mr. Stark, just here and there," Harry replied casually, as he picked up a glass of wine.
"You know, it is hard to believe that there exists someone as smart as me, but I guess even I can be proved wrong at times, so, why don't you just ditch S.H.I.E.L.D., and come work over for STARK Tech. Seriously, the top ten floors of this building, all R&D, it is like Disney land for scientists, you know …," he spoke with a smile, while Harry shook his head.
"Stark," Fury growled with a warning laced in his tone, even as Harry laughed, and laughed hard.
"Sorry, Mr. Stark, but actually, I prefer to work on my pace, besides, there is not a being in existence, who can keep pace with my work and my thought processes, and well …. I prefer to work on my own terms," Harry replied contritely, while Stark pouted.
"Hey now Junior, no need to get snippy, besides I will let you know that I can handle whatever you can cook up. I am ranked as the 4th most intelligent being on the planet for a reason," he smirked, even as Harry shook his head.
"I know, Mr. Stark, I was the one who put together that list, and evaluated all participants, and decided where they would be ranked, after all," Harry replied glibly even as he picked up a piece of toast without bothering to look at Tony in the first place.
Barton had the camera, Fury noted. There were going to be pictures, framed pictures, and he was going to circulate a copy to all the employees of S.H.I.E.L.D., Fury decided then and there as he looked at the look on Tony Stark's face.
"What … what …," Tony spluttered, only for Eric Selvig to take pity on him.
"Give it up Tony, Harry is for all intents and purposes, the most intelligent human being in the planet's history for a reason you know," he smiled softly, while Tony glared.
"I get it, I mean, he could be like me, if he works here you know, all world – famous, and …," he began, only to be interrupted by Harry.
"Please, Stark, I could be like you?" Harry scoffed, with a smidgen of annoyance in his tone, "You … Old School you? Newtonian, Archimedean 'Oooh! ARC Reactor! You?' You are a brilliant engineer, Mr. Stark, but all you do is build forward from what already exists, from what you already know. A true visionary on the other hand, studies the unknown and builds the backward. It's a new field and a legitimate one. I believe that the novelist Charles Yu even termed it as 'Applied Science Fiction ...' Oh, I am sorry, am I intimidating you?" he paused even as he looked at Tony, who was now looking at him in a new light.
"You? Please …," Tony scoffed. "Excuse me for a minute," he muttered even as he went towards the restroom.
Once he was gone, everyone at the table laughed, while Jane glared at her brother. "Harry, stop being mean to the man, he is keeping me safe, you know. The least you could do is be grateful," she admonished, while Harry had the grace to look sheepish.
Inside the restroom, Tony gazed at his face in the mirror, and sighed, "You are still rich," he muttered as he looked at his face, and walked out.
All of them watched as both Tony approached Harry, with baited breath and a terse silence.
There was silence.
"Sup." Harry said.
The silence continued.
"Yo." Tony replied.
"You okay now?"
"Pretty good. You?"
"Okay." Harry said.
"Cool?" Tony said. "Cool."
The silence was broken.
"Please stop with the casual greetings! It's embarrassing to even hear people of your stature say them." Jane screamed, while the two of them smirked. Fury suddenly had a sinking feeling hit his stomach.
"Well, that was fun," Harry spoke, while Tony nodded, "Agreed, we must do it again, some other time," even as they shook hands, with smiles on their faces.
"If you two nerds are done, we have serious things to discuss here," Fury pointed out crossly.
"Agreed, Mr. Stark, it appears that you are about to have a very bad week," Harry pointed out matter-of-factly, even as everybody tensed and whirled around to look at him in shock.
"A.I.M. is making a move on you, I assume in order to force me to reveal myself, they believe that I will be forced to come to your aid in that instance. Clearly they have underestimated you very badly, if they think you need my assistance for something as trivial as this ... mediocre plan that they have cooked up," Harry replied, while everybody looked at him in surprise.
"Look, I appreciate you guys bringing me in the loop and all, but I seriously think you are over-estimating these guys," Tony who had been brought up to speed on the matter replied, while Harry shook his head at the naiveté Stark was displaying.
"You should take them more seriously, Mr. Stark, you have no idea of what you are up against," Harry replied, even as Tony cut in.
"Look, just call me Tony, all right, Mr. Stark makes me feel like I am my old man, and you just said their plan was mediocre, why the hell are you warning me about them then?" he spoke with a tinge of annoyance in his voice.
"Fine, call me Harry then, and I apologize, when I meant mediocre, I meant it specifically from my point of view, but for others, well it is rather dangerous, I suppose" Harry replied wanly, even as Fury snorted at the humility shown by the boy.
"Tony, as we speak A.I.M. has mobilized their agents in the US government to move against you. Senator Stern, who is the chairman of the defense appropriation committee, and also an agent under A.I.M.'s payroll, will be constituting a congressional hearing against you, in order to force you to hand over the Iron Man armor to the army."
"Please, as if they could, the Army, the NSA, the CIA, the DIA, and every other intelligence agency in the country, as well as the world has been trying to hack my servers to find out the specs about the suit," Tony scoffed, "besides that, I have other measures to safeguard the suit, that no one knows about," he admitted, while Harry nodded.
"I agree, however, I believe you are not aware of the extent that they will go to, in order to get their hands on your suit. You see, your suit, is one of the only weapon systems in existence, that can actually go toe-to-toe with the weapons that A.I.M. has at its disposal, and that is something they will not allow. The time for half-hearted measures is now over. They now know that we are aware of their existence. Their next step is to preemptively destroy any and all resources that we can gather to counter them, and you are on the top of the list. If what I have learned from their files is correct, this is their third attempt against you and your family."
"Wait, what …" Fury spoke out in shock, while Tony gazed at him with his eyes narrowed.
"Tony, before you closed down the weapons unit of Stark industries, A.I.M. was very interested in gaining control over Stark industries for themselves. It embodied everything they desired. A place rife with people full of genius, pioneering intellect, with the resources looked-for to put that intellect to use. In fact, you were not even their first target. Their first target was of course … your father."
Tony rocked back to his chair, eyes wide open, even as he stared at the young man who had casually dropped that bombshell. Fury of all people took a deep breath, even as various events over different timelines fell into place like a jigsaw puzzle in his mind.
"However, they were aware that Howard Stark would never agree to collaborate with them, and therefore, they approached a senior executive within Stark industries, who was very receptive to their offers. A man, avaricious and totally ruthless, and wanted nothing less than everything Howard Stark possessed. He wished to eclipse everything Mr. Stark had done, but to do that, he first needed to be the man in charge. So, they entered into a mutually beneficial arrangement. A.I.M. arranged the accident that caused the death of Howard and Maria Stark, and in return, that executive who was the best friend of Howard Stark, ironically, was catapulted into taking over the helm of Stark Industries, at least until you came of age to take over the reins of the business. I am of course, talking about Obadiah Stane."
Tony hissed and clenched his fists, while everybody at the table lowered their heads. Fury's eyes were bloodshot, even as he remembered his old friend.
"And you procured all this information, from this A.I.M. directly?" Tony asked with a terse tone, while Harry nodded.
"I don't mean to brag, but I am a rather capable hacker," he admitted, while Romanov scoffed, "yeah, right."
"As I was saying Tony, when you took over the reins of the company, they decided to let you be, once your genius in designing weapons became apparent. However, as time passed, it apparently became clear to Stane, that just like your father, you too would never join A.I.M. Therefore, he decided to do away with you, and therefore arranged to have a terrorist group, which worked for A.I.M. assassinate you, when you were in Afghanistan. He provided them with the details of your itinerary, and the rest as you say, is history, as you well know what happened next yourself."
"So ... A.I.M., huh?" Tony groused, and after a few moments, he looked at Fury, "is there by any chance, a spot still open on that ridiculous super secret boy-band of yours? Maybe, I will see what I can do to improve them, seeing how incapable you are and all that," he mentioned diffidently, while a thin smile formed on Fury's lips.
"The Roster is full, but I guess I can clear out a space for you," he mentioned off-handedly, even as Tony smiled wanly.
Harry interrupted the rare bonding moment, "Tell me Tony, do you by chance, enjoy humiliating people who believe themselves to be powerful and untouchable?"
"Do kids like candy?" Tony asked in return, at which Harry smiled.
"Then come on, we have a lot to prepare for, and I think our friend Senator Sterns will appreciate it, and not in a good sense, that is," he smirked, even as Fury almost felt a sliver of pity for the poor senator. Almost.
US Senate Hearing, convened by the Defense Appropriation Committee,
The Capitol building was chock-full as every major news network in existence in the country and the world, had jostled in, when the news that Tony 'Iron Man' Stark had been subpoenaed to appear in front of the Congress to depose on allegations of weapons laws infringement.
The chairman of the said hearing, Senator Stern however, was not in a happy mood. He repeatedly banged the gavel in his hand on his desk, even as he spoke out, "Mr. Stark, if you are done, can we please get back to the matter at hand?"
Tony, who had been flirting with Pepper on live national television turned back, "Yes dear … oh, the hearing! Right … sure … go on ahead."
"Do you or do you not possess a specialized weapon?"
"No … I do not … well, that would actually depend on what weapon you are talking about?"
"I am talking about the Iron Man weapon,"
"I would not describe it as a weapon, senator,"
"Then, what would you describe it as?"
"It is an advanced prosthesis, which also doubles as a bullet-proof bodysuit, made of Iron of course."
"I am well aware that it is in fact a weapon, Mr. Stark, and you can dispense with these theatrics," Stern replied crossly, while Tony sighed.
"Mr. Senator, my father designed half the equipment that is used by the United States Military. I designed the other remaining half. Believe me when I say this, and there is not a person in the world that will say otherwise, I have more knowledge about weapons than you will ever have in ten lifetimes. So, when I say that it is not a weapon, you can goddamn well take it to the bank," he replied, even as Stern turned an ugly shade of puce, while an awkward silence descended upon the chamber.
Half the senior personnel in the military present at the hearing shuffled awkwardly, refusing to look at Tony, while the other senators were looking embarrassed.
"Be that as it may, Mr. Stark, my job is to ensure that the Iron Man weapon system is handed over to the people of the United States," Stern responded, with as much dignity as he could muster.
"Well," Tony paused for effect as he spoke clearly, "You can forget it," even as everybody in the chamber gasped.
"That suit is part of me. It is my life support system, asking me to part with it would be asking me to commit suicide as my doctors clearly state that the systems within the suit are what are keeping me alive after that assassination attempt against me in Afghanistan, and the last time I checked, the government is not empowered to ask its own citizens to commit suicide," he spoke clearly while Stern was clearly taken aback, as he had not expected this line of defense as whispers and murmurs inundated the room.
"Mr. Stark, I agree with you that I am no expert …" Stern interjected hastily, seeing that the mood in the chamber was turning against him, only to be interrupted by Tony.
"On committing suicide, of course not, seeing that you are still here," he quipped back, as half the chamber descended into gales of laughter.
"Like you said, Mr. Stark, I am no expert in weapons, however, we do have someone who is here, and is an expert on weapons. I would like to call upon Mr. Justin Hammer, the CEO of Hammer Industries, the primary weapons contractor of the Department of Defense."
Tony seized the initiative with absolute ruthlessness, "Let the record show, that I observe Mr. Hammer appearing in the room, and I would like to ask the committee if they have an actual expert on hand."
'Oohs' and 'Aahs', as well as various murmurs filled the chamber even as Senator Stern looked at Tony with a glare that would have turned him to ashes on the spot if it had the power to do so.
"All I meant, Senator," Tony continued, "is that if you want an expert's opinion, you can do a lot better than to listen to a person who received a C minus on his engineering course, but hey, I can understand that with my retirement from weapons manufacturing, your options are limited, but still …," he just left it hanging, even as he destroyed any shred of credibility Hammer had hoped to elicit, even before the man could speak.
"Of course, Anthony, I am no expert, you are the wonder-boy," Hammer spoke out with a careless tone as he pointed to Tony himself, even as he made his way to the podium.
"Of course, we all know, who the real expert was … your dad, Howard Stark," he added with a flourish as Tony jerked up in his seat. Hammer continued, "He was a man who was like a father to us all in the armaments industry, the pioneer of the military-industrial age. But we all know he was no saint, Tony. He was a lion, a man who took no prisoners. Now, we all know, why we are here," Justin paused, even as he looked askance at the audience.
"In the last six months, Tony Stark has developed a sword with untold and unparalleled possibilities. Yet he claims that it is a shield, a bandage to heal his wounds. Clearly, he is now inventing bandages that can cut through tanks like a knife cuts through butter," he scoffed for dramatic effect, before continuing, "he asks us instead to trust him, as we cower behind it. I wish I could be comforted, Anthony, I really do; now that the Iron Man is here, let us just leave my door unlocked and go out wherever I want. But this is not Switzerland, Tony, this is the real world, and there are many threats out there, and you cannot be there at all the places at the same time or foresee all such threats. And yet you refuse to provide the same protection that you now possess thanks to this suit of yours, to the rest of the people of this country, which is what I believe this hearing should focus on. Thank you, God bless Iron Man, God bless America," he finished with a flourish, and walked back to his seat, along with a smidgen of light applause.
"That is well said, Mr. Hammer," Stern politely applauded, while Tony sneered in haughty derision.
"Now, the committee would like to call upon Lt. Col. James Rhodes of the US Air force, who has put together a report on the Iron Man Weapon systems for the committee's perusal," Stern spoke out, even as the doors of the chamber opened, and James Rhodes walked in.
"Rhodey?" Tony muttered in surprise and walked towards his friend instantly.
"Hey pal, I didn't know you were going to be here?" Tony muttered quietly, even as Rhodey looked at him and spoke in a curt tone.
"I am here now, deal with it, let us get it done; if my sources are correct, this hearing is not going to end it the way he wants it to," Rhodey whispered, while Tony retorted, "I know, I was the one who arranged for that little surprise."
Rhodey gave a measuring look to Tony, and walked forward to his seat.
Stern, once again looking pompous and smug, looked at Tony even as he began to speak, "I have here the report compiled by Colonel Rhodes. Colonel, for the committee's benefit, would you please read out paragraph four, from page fifty-seven, please?"
"Sir, are you requesting me to read a specific selected portion of the report?"
"Yes sir, I am."
"It was my understanding that I was going to be testifying in a more comprehensive manner, in detail," he began, only to be interrupted by Stern.
"I understand, but a lot of things have changed today,"
"You do understand senator, that reading a single paragraph out of context will not reflect upon the true substance of the report,"
"Please read as ordered colonel, thank you,"
"Very well. 'As it does not operate within the jurisdiction of any branch of the government without a proper chain of command, Iron Man presents a potential threat to the nation and its interests. I did however go on to summarize the potential benefits of Iron Man, and noted that its benefits outweigh any liabilities that may occur, and it would be beneficial to request the co-operation of …," Rhodey was interrupted at that juncture by Stern, who looked very smug indeed.
"That is enough for now, colonel," he motioned for Rhodey to stop, only for Tony to interject.
"Well, I am not too thrilled, but I will consider joining the government, if they offer me the position of the Secretary of Defense. I am partial to it," he smirked, as everybody laughed.
"Colonel Rhodes," Stern interjected harshly, "I would now like you to go ahead and show some of the imagery compiled by the DOD which is associated with your report, now please," he pointed out, while Rhodey objected.
"Sir, I believe it is somewhat premature to display those images to the general public at this time,"
"Colonel, I understand your concerns, but if you could display those images for us, we would be very grateful,"
Rhodey sighed, and pointed towards a large plasma screen at the corner of the room, as everybody in the chambers turned to look at it.
The screen came alive, and various satellite photographs were displayed, in which hectic activity was visible showing multiple images of what looked to be robots taken from a long distance.
"Intelligence suggests," Rhodey continued, "that the devices seen in these pictures are attempts by various countries to replicate Mr. Stark's Iron Man suit. This has been corroborated by our allies, and NATO, as well as the intelligence agencies of the United States. We also have intelligence from the ground in those locations that those suits are at the moment, operational."
"Hmm… imagine that," Tony replied, as everybody turned to look at him, "Well, now please allow me to present some evidence of my own," he spoke, even as he pointed his smart phone at the screen. Immediately, the screen went blank, and the logo of Stark industries appeared on the screen.
"I have commandeered the screen for now, please watch," Tony spoke out, while Stern feebly tried to stop him.
A video clip appeared, where in a very shoddily designed bi-pedal robot attempted to move forward, and immediately collapsed on its own, accidentally discharging its weapons, and killing everybody in the surrounding area.
"I believe that is North Korea, and as you can see, as is usual, our intelligence agencies are once again, wrong," Tony spoke out with a grin adorning his face, while one of the senators grimaced, and slapped his forehead in exasperation.
Then, the screen moved on to another clip. It showed a desert; where in another robot much similar to Tony's suit in appearance was on-screen.
"That's Iran. No momentous danger from what I can see, and if you can look at the end, you will see Justin Hammer supervising the test. Hmm, I wonder what he is doing in Iran."
Instantly, there was an uproar as everybody looked on at the screen in shock, as Hammer's voice could be clearly heard, shouting instructions in the video.
"Somebody turn that off," Stern spoke hurriedly but was ignored, as everybody's eyes were riveted on the screen.
"Now, turn left," Hammer spoke in the video, even as the person in the suit, turned around, rather violently, emitting a pained scream in the process as rivulets of blood poured out through the mid-section of the robot. "Oh, shit," Hammer screamed and jumped back, even as the robot collapsed.
"As you can see, no grave threat over there," Tony remarked flippantly, even as Hammer hurriedly ran over to the screen, and manually disconnected it by removing by the wires. Stern could be seen trying to hide his face in his palms in exasperation, at seeing the cluster-fuck his hearing had devolved into.
"Wow," Tony spoke out, "Yeah, I would say that most countries are nearly 10 to 20 years away from designing anything remotely comparable to my suit. Hammer industries on the other hand, possibly a century away …," he spoke out clearly, even as Hammer hastily interjected, "I would like to point out that that test pilot survived,"
"I think we are done with the point Mr. Stark is making," Stern spoke hastily and stood up to dismiss the hearing, when another voice, a female one at that, interjected. "But we are not."
All eyes turned to the doors of the chamber, and many people emitted a gasp of surprise at seeing the newcomers. Tony recognized Natasha, wearing a prim and proper suit, being followed by nearly a dozen FBI agents, wearing their trademarked FBI jackets, with the agency's logo embalzoned upon it.
"Madam, this is a restricted area, I would like to know who you are, and what is your purpose here?"Stern interjected immediately, while the eyes of all the media people swung over to Natasha.
"Senator Stern, I am senior agent Natasha Romanov, from Homeland Security," she introduced herself, even as a surprised Stern looked at her, and asked, "And your purpose here is?"
Natasha turned to her right, as the agent next to her, opened the briefcase he was carrying, and handed out a document.
"Senator Stern," Natasha spoke clearly as she held out the document, so that everybody could witness it, "I have in my possession, a warrant signed by the President of the United States, authorizing the arrest of Mr. Justin Hammer, on charges of treason against the state. You will find the signatures of all the judges of the supreme court on this document, along with that of the Attorney-General as well."
"What?" Hammer screamed as he stood up in shock, as the media people exploded in frenzy as dozens of questions were hurled at Natasha in a nano-second.
"You cannot be serious," Stern spoke, with absolute shock lacing his tones, even as Natasha shrugged.
"I am sorry sir, we have irrefutable evidence that Hammer industries has been illegally selling weapons to various terrorist organizations, and we have reason to believe that at the behest of said terrorist organizations, Mr. Hammer has sold defective weaponry to our armed forces as well. As we speak, the Secretary of Defense is ordering an immediate ban on usage of all weaponry manufactured by Hammer industries currently under use by our armed forces, until the veracity of these allegations can be ascertained," she concluded, as majority of the people in the room looked too stunned to react.
"Book him," Natasha ordered the man next to her, who immediately went to Hammer, who looked shell-shocked, and read him his rights, even as he slapped a pair of handcuffs on him.
"Ms. Romanov, you can't just barge into a congressional hearing, regardless of..." Senator Stern began, only to be interrupted by Natasha, who gave a cold smile.
"Oh, don't worry senator; you will be accompanying Mr. Hammer as well."
"What?" Stern spluttered, as his eyes widened in shock, as a deadly silence engulfed the chamber.
"I have in my possession, another warrant, for your arrest. The charges being, improper use of authority, bribery, corruption, and aiding and abetting a known traitor to the state. Ever since you have assumed charge over the Defense Appropriation Committee, Hammer industries has been unduly favored, wherein, you have awarded virtually all defense contracts to Hammer industries, ignoring due process, while not giving the proper consideration due to the other defense industries competing for those contracts. We also have evidence of you receiving multiple money transfers into your hidden offshore accounts, immediately after the signing of each defense contract that you awarded to Hammer Industries. As we speak, the IRS is now raiding your office, and residence, while your offshore accounts are being frozen, for investigative purposes," she finished matter-of-factly, as Stern collapsed into his seat, even as his fellow senators distanced themselves from him as the FBI agents approached the bench, and read the beleaguered senator his rights, and slammed a pair of handcuffs upon him as well.
Then, she turned to Tony and spoke formally, "Mr. Stark, you are of course ... free to go. Considering what has happened today, it is all too certain that Mr. Stern will be attending one of these hearings himself, as an accused, under impeachment proceedings," she gave a curt bow, and walked out followed by her people, who led Justin Hammer and Senator Stern out of the building, followed by every single media person in the building.
Tony gave a whistle even as he smiled, and slid his phone into his pocket, while Rhodey looked at him in astonishment.
"Told you I had it covered!"
COMING UP IN NEXT CHAPTERS:
"We bring you this breaking news. Tony Stark's Malibu mansion has just come under assault from what we assume to be a group of unknown terrorists, and Mr. Stark's current situation is unknown, I repeat unknown."
"Director Fury, we have multiple bogeys incoming fast, and they have missile – lock on the carrier, sir!"
P.S. If you are wondering, how Harry came to know of A.I.M.'s plans so easily, it will be revealed in the next chapter; which as you can see by the preview is going to go very badly for the good guys.