Chapter Forty-Nine

A Hard Day's Night

Tony landed outside the factory several minutes later, amid the confusion and bustle of responders from the police, fire department, bomb squad, and paramedics. A cop immediately came his way, pushing through the confusion.

"Mr. Stark, a series of blasts has destabilized the building. However, there are a group of people on the roof who are holding a woman identified as your CEO, Pepper Potts, hostage. They're demanding either some unknown jewel, or for your daughter to trade herself for Ms. Potts."

Anger just made him colder. "Bastards hit my penthouse ten minutes ago. They must have planned this, though I don't know why they think I'd trade one for the other." He surveyed the building, worried about the imminent collapse JARVIS calculated.

The cop made a series of quick notes. "Is there a chance the hostage negotiators could stall for time with this jewel they want?"

"Sure. Tell 'em Superman's bringing it from Krypton, one exists just as much as the other does. I'm going to get Pepper back." Activating his thrusters, he gained enough altitude to scan the roof.

"Sir, a message from Agent Barton." JARVIS reported as the A.I. looked for heat signatures. "Thor is out of action, but Miss Kagome killed the intruder. 'Dusted' is the word he used."

"Damn, she can even outlast Thor in a fight? Blondie's 0 for 2." Catching sight of a moving shadow where one shouldn't be, he thought of the helicarrier's camouflage and blasted after it, pulling a snatch and grab.

Several blows hit his mask, but his opponent learned quickly how futile that was. Tony winced at the shriek of metal as five huge rents scored the chestpiece, titanium shredding as easily as paper. He began aiming punches where he estimated a head was until he felt the body go limp. Its camouflage faded and Tony stared down at something that looked remarkably like Bast, the cat goddess of Egypt. What the hell am I going to do with a goddamn mythological creature?

Landing on the roof, he called out to the other people stationed up here. "I've knocked out your little cat monster thing. Send Pepper out, unharmed, and you can have your pet pussy back. Otherwise the press is going to have a field day with illegal genetic experiments running about."

A teenager walked into view, black and white hair shaved into a narrow strip running down his skull and caught into a horsetail. He had black kanji tattooed in rows down the left side of his face, and a single red one on the right, just above the lip like a beauty mark.

"Go ahead, and we'll tell the world about the Shikon no Tama and the miko bitch's power. Think she'll have an easy life once people learn what a freak she is?"

"Anyone tell you how easy it is to read you, Primer Boy? But, hey, that's what happens when you fall asleep on the newspaper and drool."

Ink-face cracked his knuckles, and attacked.