Bella had never moved so fast in her life as she did in the suit.
Once a safe distance from the building, over the ocean, she told JARVIS to stop and hover.
She almost panicked at the realization she was hovering just below the clouds who knew how many feet above the Pacific Ocean.
This… is… amazing.
She knew she should get out of there – get as far away from Tony's house as possible. But she couldn't resist turning a row of flips in midair. She'd done simulations, but the simulation was nowhere near as incredible as this.
Eventually, though, she directed herself toward land. It was just like the simulation. A lot of people below her looked up and pointed. That was not keeping a low profile.
She flew until she was near Stark Industries, then landed on a rooftop. People might just assume that Tony was testing new armor. S.H.I.E.L.D. would know, but she didn't care. She just needed a minute to stop and think about everything that had happened.
She was not expecting their first appearance to be an arrow fired over the wall. She jumped up, but a head and shoulders were already emerging.
"Hi," said a familiar archer. "We didn't get introduced before. I'm Agent Clint Barton."
"Bella Stark," she replied, eyeing him warily. Where was everyone else? She didn't believe for a second he was alone.
He seemed to read her mind. "I suppose you wouldn't believe me if I said I was alone, would you? No one's going to attack unless you attack me first."
"What do you want, Agent Barton? I am not working with the Ten Rings or anyone else, in case that's what your people think. It's not so much that I have a problem telling your people what they want to know, it's what they'll do when they find out."
"What do you think they'll do?" he asked.
"I'm not sure." She wasn't sure, but she had a pretty good guess. Either lock her in a jail cell, have her become a test subject, or put her to work. None of which really appealed to her.
"Nice suit," said Agent Barton.
"Tony thought I might need it. He was right, too." It was starting to get stiflingly hot. She pulled up the visor. A few curls came free and blew in the breeze. "Agent Barton. Have you ever done anything you regret?"
He nodded. "Hasn't everyone?"
"How about many things? So many of them? So many things you did, knowing it was wrong, but having nothing else you could do?" And then tell people who would hold it against her for the rest of her life? This was her chance to start over, to forget about everything she'd done before Afghanistan. To maybe find a way to begin to make it right. And no one was going to take that away from her. She doubted that S.H.I.E.L.D., upon finding out about her skills, would leave her alone about them. They'd want her to work for them. And then she'd be pulled back into that life again.
He looked at her for a moment, expression blank. Then he nodded, slowly. "How old are you, again?"
Bella had to think hard about it for a minute. "Fifteen."
"What did you do?"
"It's… complicated. Tony's the only person in the world, that I know of, at least, who knows even part of it." And she hadn't really told him everything she'd done. She'd just given him the major details. He hadn't pressed for details, and she hadn't yet offered them.
"If you want us to leave you alone – you do, right? If you want us to leave you alone, you have to give us a reason to."
Bella put down the visor of her helmet. "I can't tell you about it."
"Can't or won't?"
She considered a moment. She couldn't imagine telling the whole story to anyone aside from Tony, who knew only the basics. She hadn't told him all the things she'd done in the years before she met him. "I'm not sure," she replied after a moment of consideration and stood up. She almost wanted to just tell them and have all this over with. But her talents weren't up for hire any more.
Something slammed into the ground next to her feet.
"Hey!" yelled Agent Barton. "I thought I said not to fire unless –"
Bella took off. They kept firing at her.
Something slammed into her suit. She yelled.
The next thing she was aware of, she was lying on her back in a pile of rubble. Had she gone through a building?
"Are you alright, Miss Stark?" It was Agent Barton, his bow clutched in one hand.
"It's not us," he said. "I don't know who it is, but –"
"Miss Stark, it seems to be a suit of armor similar to your own that is firing on you," interrupted the voice inside her suit.
She dodged another shot.
"Get out of here!" said Agent Barton.
"Mr. Stark has equipped the suit with the same capability for weapons as his own, however, he has not armed it, aside from repulsors, which would be important to flight and are also non-lethal," said JARVIS. "Taking Agent Barton's advice would be wise."
Something grey came charging at them through the hole in the wall. Bella raised a hand and fired her repulsor, dodging to the side at the same time.
"Get out of here!" yelled Agent Barton, then started yelling orders into his earpiece and firing off arrows, which exploded on the grey armor.
Something slammed into Bella, sending her flying backwards. Everything went black.
Bella woke up to darkness and the feeling of someone trying to pry her visor off. She tried to lift an arm to pull it off, but her arms refused to move.
"JARVIS?" she asked. "JARVIS?"
No answer. The inside of the mask was stiflingly hot. Could air get in if the systems were off?
The visor popped up.
Agent Barton's bruised face was above hers, staring down.
"What's going on?" asked Bella.
"The man who attacked Tony in Monaco? He's dead."
"That's what I thought. But he's alive, and he just pulled out your arc reactor. You don't need it to live, do you? The way Stark does?"
He relaxed slightly. "Okay, good. One less thing to worry about."
How could Vanko be alive? His cell had exploded. He was dead.
"What are you doing here?" asked Bella.
"I don't know. He knocked me out and I woke up here."
Without the arc reactor providing energy, the suit was heavy. So heavy she couldn't move. She was trapped inside. Were Tony's suits this heavy?
Bella considered asking if he knew what Vanko wanted, then decided not to. She had a pretty good idea.
"We're getting out of here," said Bella. "I need a new arc reactor, then we can break out."
"What, are you going to build one? Even you could move and you knew how, there's nothing for you to do it with, unless you're Macgyver."
Who on Earth is Macgyver? Agent Barton was right, of course. Even though she knew how, she couldn't move. "I might not need a reactor. If I can just get moving, even for a little while... We're getting out of here. Vanko was after me. It's my fault that we're in this."
"Well, unless you know how to –"
He was cut off by the door swinging open. Bella had seen many pictures of the man in the doorway, had even seen him on television, but had never seen him in person.
"Hello, Stark," said Ivan Vanko. "We're going to call to your father."
Thank you once again for all your lovely, lovely reviews and advice. Here are answers to the questions I have received.
No, Bella is not from the Red Room. She's from a program run by a bunch of people who wanted to get rich and decided that creating little girls with the mental capacity to create weapons and selling them off to the highest bidders was a good way.
I haven't decided on a name. I considered Iron Girl (as really the only idea I could come up with), but it doesn't seem particularly creative because there are probably many other people using it.