THE INDESTRUCTIBLE IRON MAN
arc 1: furnace
issue 1.1.1 - vengeance from the grave
That’s all that remains of the city around him.
He walks around the corpses of hooded mothers cradling the corpses of their children. He walks around young soldiers who died for the mirage of a country they once believed in.
Vietnamese rebels. Haitian protest leaders. Revolutionaries. Slaves.
The faces are all different but they all have the same end.
Being the fuel to his father’s furnace.
A cry like a foghorn splits his ears and he looks to a canyon of crumbling buildings to his left. A colossal hulk of steel and iron eclipses the horizon. Its chest is cracked open, rivulets of metal magma spewing out of it. Its mouth is a churning furnace, grinding and chewing. Its hide is bristling with missile pods, artillery cannons, armaments, the enemy of life. It devours and devours, growing and growing until it's bulk blots out the sun. Its eyes turn towards him. Before he can run away, its maw opens, pulsating with violent red energy that bubbles at the surface. vomits out a baleful light that swallows him with the truth. “ ONE WORLD, UNDER IRON.”
The blanket flies off as Tony rolls off the bed in a stupor. He hugs himself, yearning for the warmth of the RT unit in his chest to warm the cold sweat off his skin. Still shivering, he looks up at the digital clock sitting on the bedrest.
4 hours of sleep.
From a statistical perspective, it was a measurable improvement
Frequent trips to DIY and home improvement stores were an unfortunate part of being on the run.
His cart was loaded with every bit of scrap, solder, wiring, batteries he could get his hands on. The first few months shopping in DIY stores felt as though he was a Renaissance artist being forced into finger painting. There was no way he could acquire high quality grade fabricators or machining equipment from a civilian store and accessing Stark Industries high-tech RnD workshops were out of the question without proper clearance procedures. It’d been a year and he could still feel the phantom pain from having to disassemble smoke detectors to salvage enough americium for his first RT unit. Working on a portable nuclear reactor in a minivan with only tin foil for radiation protection wasn’t something that appealed to him.
Besides, it was better for the world to believe he was dead than sacrifice a little subterfuge for comfort. He wasn’t sure who to trust at this point.
As he strolled towards the electronics, tossing a can of WD-40 in his ever-growing cart, Tony could overhear the argument of a child and her father in the background. He slightly turned his head sideways and pulled on his hood to hide his face. The girl’s head was adorned with brown cornrows and her dark-skinned cheeks were puffed out in anger. The father ran a hand through his coarse short-cut brown hair and shook his head.
“ No, you can’t have the hammer, Riri.”
“ But, daddy, I wanna play with the hammer!,” Riri pouted, stamping her feet on the ground in frustration. “ I need it to build my magic tree house.”
“ C’mon, Riri,” Her father crouched down, scratching his chin in deep thought, before snapping his fingers in enthusiasm. He stuck out his hand to Riri. “ How about I teach you how to use the hammer and we can build that tree house together.”
Riri’s eyes were narrowed, looking at her suspiciously before slowly gripping his hand, hers comically undersized in comparison to his.
“ Okay but I get to decide on the paint job.”
Tony watched from afar with bitter longing as the father then hoisted Riri onto his back. Riri, patted his father’s head like a drum and proceeded to point in front of her as if to direct her. He tapped his fingers on the handle of his shopping cart mindlessly and decided to move on. If he stared at them all day, the father might notice and call security on a certain coded billionaire hobo who looked to be in charge of a child trafficking ring.
As he walked to the checkout counters, he ignored the strange looks everyone gave him as he lined up with his shopping cart, the massive weight just enough for their design specifications to handle. He gave a cheeky smile of apology at the employee manning the checkout who looked as though he wanted to give a world weary sigh at the dilemmas of 24/7 grocery jobs. Maybe, Stane would have more success if he hired every disgruntled individual
“ Home renovations?,” The employee questioned, voice clearly disgruntled. He scanned each and every barcode with the speed of a man who burnt through all of his years of youth looking for job promotions.
“ More like a personal project,” Tony replied back curtly.
The mounted TV in the corner of the stall flickered to WHIH news and Tony reflexively looked down at his feet the moment he saw what was on there. There was a picture of his face, one he took for Times Magazine back in 2017 when he first took over the reigns of CEO of Stark Industries. There was a cocksure, arrogant smile on it that only hinted at an unstable egomaniac. It was like looking at a man from another planet.
“ Today marks a year since the mysterious death of former Stark Industries billionaire CEO, Tony Stark. Often noted for his eccentric idiosyncrasies and public controversies, a burnt coastal mansion on Malibu remains a memorial to his unmistakable legacy on America’s tech industry. The investigation into Stark’s death has now been closed by the FBI and the CIA, who have reported that a simple gas accident was the cause of the house fire. However, many, including Tony Stark’s former acquaintance, Colonel James Rhodes, disagree with the CIA’s conclusion.”
The television screen switched to a live interview of his friend and Tony cringed. Shame filled his chest as he saw how disheveled his friend was. His spotless military uniform was unkempt and his beard was untrimmed. His eyes were bloodshot and his calm voice that had been a rock of confidence during hsi most troubled times had wilted just so lightly since Tony’s disappearance.
“ He was my damn friend. I won’t rest until his killer or killers have been brought to justice under a U.S court. It’s plain and simple.”
“ In the middle of Obadiah Stane’s eulogy to Stark, the CEO of Stark Industries was violently attacked by a water bottle thrown by protestors in the crowd claiming to be a part of the radical activist group “ Rising Tide”. The protestors then started flinging spent bullet shells on stage, claiming that Stark Industries has failed to send financial remunerations to families allegedly impacted by their weapons in various overseas conflicts. Their demands include the immediate cessation of U.S government relations with Stark Industries and the formation of an independent commission to investigate Stark Industries for crimes against humanity.”
“ The Starks are mongers of iron. The money they make is lined with the blood of refugees and orphans. We will not rest until the iron is rust!,” The leader, cloaked in a red bandana, held his fist up and the rest followed in a sequential rhythm, mimicking the motion of a wave.
“ RUST! RUST! RUST!”
“ In the midst of all this, Stark Industries remains embroiled in a series of guerilla attacks from the mysterious armored terrorist known as the Iron Man. In a following statement, Stark Industry public representatives denounce the claims as false and ensure the public Stark Industries has a rigorous internal affairs process to mitigate corruption - “
The television cut off just before Tony could laugh. Internal affairs? That was a joke. Stark Industries had no internal affairs. His father was the sole dictator of the entire company and it was by his hand to declare the company corrupt or not. Internal affairs and anti-corruption regulations would slow down ‘the gears of innovation’ as he would call it. And what did I do about it?
His amusement quickly faded. He paid for his goods in an orderly fashion and pushed the heavy shopping cart out of the entrance. The van was located in a distant corner of the parking lot. It was rust-laden, the paint chipped off. Mold and dust blackened the windows. Looking over his shoulder to make sure no one was looking, he pressed a button on the car key and the back of the van slowly folded open. He’d converted the inside into a makeshift workshop. A bench was mounted on the side and the Model 1 was placed on a makeshift stand, standing ready for deployment at a notice. Numerous tool cabinets had been welded together in a grotesque monstrosity that only a mind like his could navigate. Closing the backdoor, he separated and stored the goods into their respective sections whilst peeking over his shoulder for any signs of suspicious activity outside. Tailgaters, mysterious men in trenchcoats, oddly large groups of people. After the house fire, he couldn’t become complacent again.
Once done, he clapped his hands and the holo-frame projector whirred to life. Crafting it out of a cinema projector and a bluetooth speaker was an experiment in agony and it sure didn’t measure up to his old one at home but it was functional.
“ Show the nearest route to Stark Nevada Cloud Facility,” Tony said. The blue light morphed into a topographical map of Texas, constantly shrinking in scale until he saw a spherical domed facility. A bush of chain link fences and concrete walls surrounded it. It was by far the most guarded data server bank in Stark Industries and for good reason.
It was where they were keeping JARVIS.