His greatest creation

After the thing with Hammer at the Stark Expo was over, when everyone was thoroughly debriefed and Tony was finally home he found that he still was too wired to sleep. And too wired to actually work on something constructively.

He still went down to the workshop and started tinkering. Tinkering gave his hands something to do and cleared his mind to focus on other things. Right now he really needed to think. Howard's line on the old Stark Expo reel of 'You are my greatest creation' had made Tony uneasy. Especially now that he had time to think about it.

Howard Stark was a man that strove for perfection in everything. Most of Tony's issues with his father stemmed from the fact that there was an underlying current of 'You Are Not Good Enough' and 'You Should Be The Best At Everything'. While not clumsy and always reasonably fit (even in his hard drinking days) Tony had no real talent for sport. Since he always was small for his age and usually a few grades ahead of his age group physical education hadn't been exactly fun. Luckily for him no one tried to bully the son of a man who had more money than god.

And then, after Tony's first kidnapping when he was nine, they found the heart defect. It wasn't actually a heart defect. Some of the nerve fibres leading to the heart were there twice and badly isolated, leading to misfiring electric signals and various interesting heart rhythms. Over the years Tony had progressed from various heart medications to blood thinners to a pace maker at the age of seventeen. Tony never quite understood how his father managed to blame him for that one.

Howard's line on the reel coupled with the man's odd fixation on physical perfection gave Tony the sinking feeling that he hadn't come about the usual way. Finding a way to build the perfect son in a lab was totally something Howard would have done. After all, one couldn't leave the creation of the heir to once legacy totally up to chance!

Everything Tony knew about Project Rebirth, which was more than he actually should, made him wonder if Howard dosed him with some form of the super soldier serum when he was little. Or still in utero, Howard was unethical like that sometimes.

Given Howard's fixation on Captain America Tony was rather sure that if his father had actually created him in a lab Project Rebirth played into it somehow.

Now that he was properly thinking about it, Howard had always treated him like one of his prototypes that didn't quite turn out like he had envisioned.

So Tony set JARVIS to finding every last spec data his father had left behind and went to bed. If there was anything to find, he would find it.

And, boy, did he ever!

A few days later JARVIS presented him with everything he had found.

The reality of what Howard had done was even crazier than anything Tony had imagined. He had expected in vitro fertilization years before the first case was published coupled with drug treatments. Instead he found full blown genetical engineering decades before it was a gleam in some biologists eye.

Howard had started out with mice. First cloning, then adding adding the nucleus of one ovum to the shell of another ovum and making it germinate by injecting sperm, essentially creating an offspring with three parents. Howard published none of his results. He had an image to maintain and answering questions about what had brought on this avenue of research could have lead to embarrassment. No matter how many childless couples could have been helped by his results. Selfish bastard.

The culmination of the whole series of experiments was combining the information of two sperm cells into a proper nucleus.

Tony had a bad feeling about where this was going.

Once Howard had managed what he wanted to do in mice and rats he worked himself up to primates via various other species. And once he was successful there he started working on his actual goal.

Apparently he told his wife that he had been exposed to various chemicals and toxins through his work and didn't have a sperm count high enough to impregnate her through sex. So he needed to harvest some ova and fertilize them in a petri dish. He would implant the embryo later.

Tony wondered if his mother had found out about that lie someday. She had never really recovered from her post partum depression. Maybe finding out that the child she bore wasn't actually hers, that her husband had used her as a handy incubator for his latest science project, had been what finally pushed her into alcoholism when he was five?

Tony finished reading the files and confirmed the suspicions that had formed as he read along. Project Rebirth had gathered all kinds of samples from Captain America. Among them sperm. And Howard had taken some of the samples.

Of course he had used that and his own sperm to make Tony.

Tony was terribly arrogant. He was self aware enough to know that. He was also self aware enough that he wasn't perfect. No one was. At least not in reality.

Howard's idea had been to create the perfect son. His genius and Captain America's body and senses.

Too bad for Tony that he didn't quite turn out that way.

His father had constantly measured his own intellect and Captain America's physical prowess.

Failure was the only option.