I'm just gonna… rewrite everything. I tried doing it before, and quickly lost my muse. I think it's because I tried to make an actual plan for this story! Ha! I'm going back to my original methods, and I'm just gonna wing this whole thing. It's been four fucking years since I started this story, and a lot has changed for me. I have a dog. My brother's a damn lawyer. We have a motherfucking Wonder Woman movie, and it doesn't suck. Did you know that when I first wrote my profile for this site, I mentioned how amazing it would be to work on a Wonder Woman movie? I REMEMBER.
Anyway. I'm going to rewrite this. All of it. Probably. Feel free to shame me in the comments, it's been a while!
Chapter 1 - Yinsen
Toni Stark woke up with fire in her lungs. Her eyes flew open, and with gasping breaths, she scrambled to stop it, get it out, make it go away—
She grabbed hold of something thin and plastic, and yanked––cried out as a rubbery tube slid out her nasal cavity—nasogastric intubation, why the fuck do I remember that now?—and then she breathed more easily, even though there was still a fire in her chest.
Humvees, sand, Rhodey—fuck, she didn't know what happened. She looked up, and she didn't know where she was. Fuck, fuck, fuck.
Calm down. Get up. Breathe, damn it.
Toni managed to breathe a little more. Only a little, though. Her rib cage was covered in gauze?
Her name, on a missile meant for her.
Right. Toni remembered that part. She pushed past it, to the present, and her eyes found a ceiling, a dimly-lit, rocky surface. Then—a man, with smudged glasses and sad, sad eyes.
And she knew something was wrong. The ache in her chest was wrong. "What did you do?" she whispered, her throat still raw, because he was guilty, she could see it in his gaze.
The old man frowned as he drew closer. Toni didn't trust him enough to tear her eyes from him, but she moved her hands down, trying to feel out the injury on her chest.
Wires, clamps, the edge of steel—none of that belonged on her, in her, and Toni was so horrified that she looked away from the stranger to stare down at her body. Her chest burned and screamed and throbbed in time with her unsteady heart.
"What did—what did you do to me?" Toni rasped. "Am I dead?"
No. It looked like something worse than death. She tore at the gauze, to see the magnet in full. The cables that attached it, and her, to a car battery.
The man's hands came down on her wrists, stilling her. She caught his eyes again. "Perhaps you should be, Antonia Stark." He answered her softly, with a wry smile, "But you are not, for now."
They met at a technical conference in Berlin, apparently. Dr. Ho Yinsen. She remembers making a joking about his name and not much else. Yinsen gives her another placid smile when she stutters through an apology, and Toni feels irrationally angry with him. Is it so bad for her to want to make up with the one person she can, before those fucking terrorists kill her?
"Oh, come on, Antonia," Yinsen rolls his eyes. "You think whatever you say to me now will make a difference? You're smarter than that." He's almost admonishing.
Toni eats a spoonful of canned beans spitefully. "I'm trying my best here."
"Are you?" Yinsen chuckles darkly. "The best you've done, Toni Stark, is what landed both of us here in the first place."
She blinks at the wisp of a man before her, bewildered. No, angry. Furious. "What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" Toni demands, rising to her feet just as the doors screech open.
Yinsen stands beside her, pushing her back from the men entering the cave. He hisses at her to do as I do, and Toni steps back, because the men are holding her guns.
A missile with her name on it.
Toni feels like screaming. Yinsen translates for the ring leader. "He says 'Welcome, Toni Stark, the most famous mass murderer in the history of America.' He is honored."
Yinsen shows her a picture of another missile, the Jericho.
Like an idiot, she refuses to make it.
Toni had never felt this horrible before. Never. She'd stopped hacking up water a while ago, but the hands, she could still feel their hands grabbing her, pressing her head beneath the surface—
She shivered, holding her battery to her chest with one hand. She had a pencil in her other hand, posed to write out a list of supplies. They already had so many of her weapons, and they still wanted the fucking Jericho. Why not just steal that too? How did they get her shipment, anyway?
It didn't matter right now.
"I'm sure they're looking for you, Stark. But they'll never find you in these mountains."
Fuck off, Toni wanted to snarl, but she didn't have the energy.
"You asked me earlier, when I said your best work is what brought us here. Well, that is your legacy, Stark." Yinsen crouched next to her. "Your life's work, in the hands of those murderers."
Toni didn't let herself flinch. She wrote down a list.
Yinsen read it, and laughed. "Clever. Is this how you will go out? Is this the last act of defiance of the great Toni Stark?"
He tossed the list into the fire. "Even they aren't that foolish, Stark. You can do better."
Better? Better? "And why should I do anything at all? They're going to kill me, kill you, either way!" That's why her first list was full of organophosphates and incendiaries. "I'll be dead in a week anyway."
Yinsen shrugged. Toni hated how little she understood him.
"Well, then this is a very important week for you, isn't it?"
They wouldn't believe her if she asked for anything containing organophosphates. She also ruled out many other chemicals and incendiaries for being too conspicuous. Not to mention, she'd prefer to get out of this fucking cave alive.
That left her with a lot of metal parts and software. And propulsion. Huh.
When she was eight, Toni dreamed about being a super soldier. She would never be like Captain Rogers, so instead she designed a robot, and then a super suit, that could get the job done. Sheet metal, software, and propulsion.
All she needed was a power source.
"If you included me in the planning process, this would go a lot faster."
Toni hums as she pulls apart an unarmed missile. She reaches for the precision tools, and detaches 0.15 grams of palladium from its core.
They won't let her make nerve gas, but it looks like she'll be poisoning herself anyway.
"We need at least 1.6 grams of this, so why don't you break down the other eleven?" Toni suggests with a smirk.
"Careful," Toni can't help but murmur, watching Yinsen. "We only get one shot at this."
Yinsen smirks. "Relax. I have steady hands. Why do you think you're still alive?"
He turns his head to glance at her, and Toni hisses out another warning. He chuckles, but the palladium doesn't spill.
"This'll all be for nothing if you give me a heart attack, Doctor."
Yinsen, the bastard, only scoffs at her joke.
The miniaturized arc reactor emits an icy blue light, and Toni feels the smallest thought of hope rise in her. "Three gigajoules per second," she says quietly, answering Yinsen before he speaks.
"That could run your heart for fifty lifetimes."
For the first time, Yinsen sounds impressed with her. It stirs a long-forgotten sense of pride in Toni that she can't quite place.
"Yeah," she agrees. "Or something big for fifteen minutes."
A month later, and Toni was lying in a heap in the desert, encased in scrap metal. Burning, gasping, screaming in her head because her lungs couldn't handle doing it out loud. Her chest was on fire. Everything ached. Yinsen was dead.
She had figured out why it pleased her so much to impress Yinsen. She could see him so clearly, her face reflected in his scratched-up glasses as he demanded, "Is this you legacy, Stark?"
This is our legacy, Natasha
Toni hissed out her anger in between clenched and bloodied teeth. Howard stood over her, kicking aside projects scattered on marble floors. Yinsen laid still in the sand.
This isn't what Starks do, Natasha. Get up!
Her own words, Howard's, and Yinsen's blurred into one scream of necessity. Toni lifted herself out of the sand—burning, scratching, grainy sand—and stood on her own two feet.