Title: It Seems To Be Powered By Some Sort of Electricity

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Rating: T

Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not.

Summary: Everyone probably should have started the duck-and-cover process the moment Kaylee started exclaimin' over the hydraulics in Tony's suit. 1900 words.

Spoilers: Post-BDM for Firefly; AU for the end of The Avengers (2012).

Notes: For blienky27, for Day 10 in Wishlist 2012; the prompt was the summary. So for once, I resorted to the 'basic' portal maneuver for a crossover... *cough* Title is also (approximately) TM Joss Whedon, not me. Mandarin notes at the end.

Tony had no idea where the hell he'd ended up, but as long as he was there, he was determined to spend his time productively.

Well- technically he did know where he'd ended up, in terms of the place having a known name. Serenity: a kitschy little name for a kitschy little spaceship. It just didn't happen to exist anywhere in the universe he was familiar with.

...Yet, anyway. Maybe someday? He was pretty much hoping that wasn't the case, though.

For one thing, the tech was a mishmash of fantastically advanced gimmickry with nuts and bolts industria; for another, they referred to the planet of his birth as Earth That Was. Even if the Chitauri in New York had won the day, Tony seriously doubted he'd been unconscious long enough for whole history books' worth of time to have passed in the interim. Even Captain Disapproving hadn't been under that long, and Tony didn't have any fancy serum related excuse to explain it.

Not that he had any proof of, well, anything. He had no idea what had actually happened after he'd let the bomb fly free; he'd sort of faded out after it hit the giant base ship, and the suit had powered down at roughly the same time under the unexpected stresses of vacuum exposure. His and JARVIS' best guess was that Natasha had already started closing the portal from the other side to limit the fallout from the bomb's explosion, and his armored body had somehow been caught in the flux when it shuttered. Tony figured it had essentially dumped him on a random plane between the origin point of the fleet and his homeworld, shaking him out at whatever resonance point it hit first.

Fortunately for his future chances of reuniting with Pepper, that resonance point had turned out to be the radion accelerator core of this 'Firefly', rather than, say, a quasar trillions of miles from the nearest breathable O2. It wasn't exactly the same as the energy put out by his arc reactor, of course; but all that mattered was that it was closer than anything else along the multidimensional track of the wormhole. And even more fortunately- he'd stuttered into being inside the ship rather than in its wake, all limbs present and accounted for if maybe a little tangled up in wiring. That had been a wake-up jolt he'd never forget.

But if he had to be stranded somewhere, twiddling his thumbs while he waited for Pepper to bully Point Break and his dad into fixing that Rainbow Bridge of theirs or whatever, Tony supposed there were worse places he could be.

"Think this is the last one," a muffled voice issued from under the clumsy little hovertruck the natives referred to as a mule. It had some ingenious features he was so going to test on Dum-E as soon as he got back, but largely, it had been designed by someone with the technical and aesthetic talent of the aforementioned beast.

He bent to inspect the new tech attached to the underside of the vehicle, then grinned down into the grease-smudged face of the ship's mechanic. "Looking good."

"You sure it's gonna work?" she said, a little self-consciously, as she tightened the final bolt. "I mean, you sure it don't need that fancy mineral like what you got in yours?"

"Well, yours may not be fancy; but you have to remember, I had access to more or less unlimited funds, an army of robots, and a homemade collider. This design may be clunkier, but it'll be more than sufficient for what you need. And trust me; if there's any chance I'll end up riding in this thing? I'm much too self-involved to trust my life to any shoddy old piece of scrapwork."

She gave him another dubious look at the backhanded compliment, but finally cracked a smile, putting down her wrench and swiping the back of her hand over her face. "Well, I suppose I can't argue with that. But your reactor is so shuài, and this ain't even half so elegant!"

Tony chuckled. "Kaylee, I promise you, if the time ever comes to lean on that new button and turn your mule into a flying tank? Elegance, or the lack thereof, is going to be the last thing on your mind."

"True, that," the ship's mercenary snorted, shuffling closer to inspect the new fixture. "Back on Lilac, the only damn thing on my mind was making sure I didn't get et. Got a harpoon through my leg for my troubles. If we'd had somethin' like this, then..." He hovered thick, callused fingers over the button, a speculative expression on his face.

Several things happened in the next moment, only one of which Tony had been prepared for. Underneath the mule, Kaylee reached up to finally plug the finished emitter into the hovercraft's live systems. Tony's thoughts briefly stuttered over the mention of being eaten; he'd only heard of human bad guys in the strange future he'd found himself in, and as many of those as he'd faced since his rebirth as Iron Man he had yet to run into any cannibals. Booted feet clattered down the nearest stairs as someone else came to join the party. And Jayne dropped his fingers that last, curious inch.

"Wait, don't...!" Tony blurted as his brain unfroze, automatically leaping back out of range.

The button gave a click, followed by a flare of light and noise as the arc reactor inspired lo-fi power plant mounted beneath the craft powered up, followed by a blinding, spine-tingling shock as what felt like the world's biggest bug zapper knocked Jayne- and their unsuspecting visitor, too, whose sole crime had been approaching at the wrong moment- on ballistic trajectories away from the mule.

"...touch that," Tony finished, blinking rapidly and trying not to gag on the sudden prickle of ozone choking his sinuses as he staggered over to check on the nearest fallen body. It tasted like the time Thor had hit him with a blast from Mjöllnir during their first exchange of pleasantries, only this time not filtered through the suit's oxygen scrubbers. "Kaylee? Miz Frye, tell me you're still in one piece. You're the only decent mechanic I've met since I got here, I'd hate to have to break in a new one."

"I'm the only mechanic you met since you got here," a faint, breathy voice replied, much to his relief. He couldn't see her beyond the shimmering arc of the energy shield and the bulk of the hovercraft itself, and he couldn't hear whether the hover engines were still engaged; the clearance between the bottom of the engine housings and the floor would not have been enough to save her if the lift effect shut down. "But it's like an inch in front of my nose. Jayne? You can shut it off now, okay?"

"...wŏ de mā," someone else replied, a groan that seemed to come up through the floor. But not from Jayne; Tony had just steeled himself to touch the man, and while there was luckily a reassuring pulse under his fingers, the merc himself definitely wasn't conscious.

"...hé tā de fēngkuáng de wàisheng dōu." Vague scraping sounds accompanied the cursing as it continued, and then a wild-eyed figure staggered to his feet on the other side of the craft from Tony. It looked like Captain Reynolds, every last hair on his head standing on end. "What in the gorram hell was that?" Mal finished, then reached out to brace himself against something solid- veering away from the shiny shield to catch at the stair rail at the last moment.

"Whoa, there, Cap," Tony said, leaving Jayne to steer the captain to a seat on a stack of crates bound in cargo netting. "Just a slight malfunction, nothing to worry about. You just sit there and..."

"What in the tiān xiăodé?" another voice chimed in from the direction of the airlock by the infirmary, probably alerted by the noise, and Tony winced. Yeah, that was the last thing he needed: the frantic boyfriend. "Captain? Jayne? Kaylee?"

"Calm down there, Doogie; she's fine! Just a little... out of reach at the moment," Tony assured Simon as he hurried over, visibly torn between trying to approach the mule and checking on his two very visible patients.

"A little?" Kaylee objected, her voice still tight with alarm. "Tony, please tell me Jayne was in the mule when he did that."

"'Fraid not, little tiāncái," he told her, automatically reaching for the Mandarin term. It was ridiculous, how much he'd expanded his vocabulary of insults and endearments in the language since his arrival, nevermind some truly creative backwoodsisms; if it wasn't for the fact that he was stranded there, he'd count the visit valuable on that count alone.

"Āiyā," she swore. "Then how the guĭ are we gonna turn it off?"

"Gimme a minute, JARVIS, and an antenna. And remind me to build a remote control later, yeah?" He'd left the suit in the spare shuttle; it would be a simple matter to hook it into the shuttle's comms and let JARVIS do his thing. Even with only the suit's limited memory and the power of the armor's back up reactor to work form, he had no doubt the AI would be able to crack it.

"...said some damn fool thing like this was gonna happen, didn't I?" Mal grumbled as Simon checked him over. "Probably shoulda started the duck and cover process the minute Kaylee started exclaimin' over the hydraulics in that damn suit."

"Wasn't hydraulics, Cap," Kaylee said, her voice strengthening as she corrected him. "Told you, it was that shiny light in the middle. Hadn't never seen a power source like that. Beats anything the Alliance has all to pieces!"

"Yeah, well, it ain't the Alliance that just got beat, Kaylee-girl."

"...ruttin' hell," Jayne groaned, finally stirring. "Who's beatin' what?"

Tony snorted, calling back as he ran up the stairs. "You started the testing phase a little early. Surprise. It works!"

"Ow, don't make me laugh," the merc wheezed, slowly sitting up.

Kaylee's people weren't anything like the friends Tony'd left behind- and yet, he was reminded of them at every turn. Rhodey, and Pep, and even his new team. Banner would get along with the Companion like a house afire- or at least one gently heated- and he'd have dearly loved to see the others' reactions to the rest of Mal's crew. Zoe was Rogers' kind of woman, from what he remembered of Aunt Peggy, and a dance-off between Natasha and Mal's telepathic ninja pilot would probably be next best thing to a religious experience for Barton.

It sucked that rescue was going to have to come from their end; even if he could access tech from the government that seemed to rule this section of space by HYDRA values, he wouldn't be able to rebuild the Tesseract. But Rhodey hadn't given up last time; and he trusted Pepper wouldn't now.

In the meantime, he was keeping himself plenty busy. Next up: rescuing a fabulous talent from the results of their own enthusiasm. And who could that possibly remind him of?

Tony smiled wryly to himself as he ducked into the shuttle. If only he had Dum-E around to vent an extinguisher on the mayhem, the picture would be almost complete.


shuài - handsome
wŏ de mā ... hé tā de fēngkuáng de wàisheng dōu - Holy mother of God and all her wacky nephews
tiān xiăodé - name of all that's sacred
tiāncái - genius
Āiyā - Damn
guĭ - hell