Unwelcome Revelations

September 05, 2018:

Jane Foster and Bucky Barnes head to Stark Tower to see what they can do for a friend and to yell at him for being himself.

Stark Tower

Characters

NPCs: JARVIS, Ivo, SMOLFURY, Jau-suum, Dummy

Mentions: Zatanna Zatara, John Constantine

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Stark Tower has as always seen better days. Its been nearly a full twenty four hours since the twin tragic moments of two heroes being laid low in the pursuit of justice happened…

…well one hero and Tony Stark at least.

ANYWAY! He's of course been set up in the finest Stark Tower can offer. The medical systems there some of the best on the face of the planet. Which is why they could save Jessica Jones, but why Tony is still in a coma is a more complicated question.

It always is with Tony.

However his room is secure, security from SI bots and SHIELD forces is on high alert. The room itself is large, and decorated with…well at one point Pepper likely had very expensive and tasteful decorations up on the walls. Now those are all gone of course and replaced with pictures of Tony himself. Some from magizines, some from his adventures, some just plain cool Iron Man artwork.

The bed itself is advanced enough that he doesn't need to be hooked up to anything. No IV systems or wires hanging from the man. He looks…well…practicly normally asleep. With the only the faint and occasional twitching of an eyelid betraying anything odd.

Of course that isn't the only artwork in the room.

Stark's face is at the moment decorated. A shaky drawn smiliey face out of lipstick is drawn on one cheek(Signed with a D. Because Dummy signs his arts) and 'Rejected' is written backwards in sharpie on his forehead. With a few little sharpie tears to go with it.

At the foot of his bed is a small…well…shrine? That is the only real way to explain it. Golden trinkets surround a Incan style statue of what looks to be Iron Man, triumphantly standing atop a pyramid, commanding the sun across the sky.

Also made of solid gold of course.

Incan script decorates the base of the statue.

…look. His insect people were worried about him.

*

Bucky and Jane's phones would have of course blown up when the Tower was hit, but afterwards JARVIS would have sent a message that 'Mister Stark is stable, but…well…if Miss Foster could come as soon as she can? He may have done something reckless.'

…its fine. JARVIS is sure its fine.

*

Within a short span of time, three people in Bucky and Jane's lives were laid low.

Messages from Owen Mercer told the story of a group already forming to get onto the missing Matt Murdock's trail. A hard choice was therefore made, between Bucky and Jane, to split up; Jane to Stark Tower, to see about this 'reckless thing' Tony had done… and Bucky elsewhere, following the few leads Mercer and the others had been able to dig up so far on where Matt or Fisk might be.

There was talk Fisk was out at sea. The Winter Soldier can easily go a lot of places, but remote yachts out in the open ocean without any prior preparation were not one of them. Nonetheless, he is still out there now, learning whatever he can about where exactly they might have gone. And Jane?

*

No different than most nights, Jane Foster spends this one working.

It's been consuming her every waking moment: how in the good God hell did those assholes get their hands on her code?!

The code she thought she deleted — scoured every last bit of it and burnt from this world. Code so dangerous, made of dark magic and an even darker impulse, that it has no place — no belonging — in this world. Code made of her own hands —

Motherbird, they called her. Fatherwolf. Her mistakes are not yet fixed, and it's only bound to get worse.

There's little Jane has to work with, other than what was gleaned by the Avengers and Titans — as well as her own data, gleaned quantum signatures wrought from her "children", as she tries desperately to dig into the foundational scripts to guide these nanites. Difficult, when she refuses to use magic the way she used to —

More difficult, when the migraine comes back. They seem to dog her since, months ago, that foray up into space — and Jane breaks work to swallow down a couple pills.

And even more difficult —

— when everything goes to Hell. Bucky's phone gets hit by texts: Jessica is shot, stable in Stark Tower. Matt is missing.

It always comes in threes, and JARVIS tops it off: Tony is stable.

"Stable from WHAT?!" is Jane's breathless retort.

Eventually, Bucky and Jane decide it's best to split up — at least for now. His skills are best served looking for Matt. Hers are answering JARVIS's need. He directs her off to Stark Tower — go straight there and stay — promising to meet her there after. She begs him to stay safe.

When Jane arrives, she's dressed like it took her all of five minutes — jeans and wrinkled t-shirt and a hoodie — carting her laptop bag with, and lingering to stare, open-mouthed, at the absolute destruction that carved out most of the main floor. It looks like bombs went off.

Somewhere on the elevator up, her mind moves. She should visit Jessica's bedside — she will, but not right now, nothing she can do; she's not a physician. She's an engineer. She's absolutely helpless right now to do anything, but maybe she can think to do something. And Matt —

She tried to direct Fisk's hatred and violence on herself. Things just never seem to work out the way you plan.

"JARVIS," explains Jane, breathless, as she strides out of the elevator, "tell me everything —"

She gets her first look at Tony. His face is drawn on, decorated, and Jane can't help it; she lets out a shaky laugh, which roughens and falls apart as the tears streak down her face. "Oh god."

There's one upside to a coma, Tony. You are saved from seeing Jane Foster cry.

*

And JARVIS does.

Quietly, in as concise terms as possible, the AI fills her in on just what happened. The X-men finding a sample of this nanotech. The strike against FuturePharm. The framejob the owners set against him. Then the whirlwind of a fight as the Brotherhood arrived.

He glosses over the details of the fight, perhaps knowing that she doesn't need to hear them. Though he mentioned the tearing of the ARC reactor. The race to fix him. Rachel Summers using her own powers to keep his heart beating just a few moments longer as the shrapnel there worked its way deeper.

The elation everyone felt when the jury-rigged reactor worked, and the surprise when they realized the physical damage might still be too much for Stark's battered body to handle.

But then he hesitates, the AI pauses as she begins to weep.

"…but that brings us here." The AI adds after a moment. "And…what Mister Stark did to save himself." A pause. She's not going to be happy with this…

"He had been studying the sample the X-men received, and developed a kind of antigen to it. Something that would remove the corrupt parts of the nanotech and return it to what it was ment to me, which was a kind of healing agent. He had slated to send you the data today but…"

A pause.

"…well he injected himself with it. And it did save him!" JARVIS hurries on, just so Jane doesn't kill him at this point. "But with no nano-infection to fight it is difficult to regulate it…and…I've been doing my best…but your help would be much appreciated."

As for her own studies…well it seems just the barest hint of her code was used. It has been tweeked as more of a hivemind for the nanomachines, to keep them all focused on their task. Diluted and neutered from its original form by straight forward means, cutting bits of it up and stapling what they thought were controls on. Controls that sufficent application of demonic energy can it seems break. Break and allow that original strain of the virus to take control again, just this time it works on organic hosts.

It would require quite a bit of demonic energy for this to happen…or for too many of the Extremis agents to be in the same place at the same time.

*

Quickly, Jane smears away her tears. Crying never helped anything.

She's not even sure where it came from — she's usually ice under pressure, someone who can compartmentalize her entire world and stow it away for the days she needs to be clear-headed — but something about Tony, pale and prone on that bed, empty of his usual energy —

He trusted in her ability far more than anyone else did. Trusted in her, even after her cruel work undid so much of his — nearly took apart his life's labours in one foul night. And someone did this to him. Pulled the analogue of his heart from his chest.

As JARVIS speaks, Jane is a flurry of motion. She starts to work, because if she stops now, she's just going to start thinking of everyone hurt or missing all over again, and if she starts to cry again — she might not have it in her to stop.

Instead, she opens up her laptop and lets it interface back with JARVIS's servers, shouldering out of her hoodie, pushing her dark hair behind her ears. Ever the multitasker, she listens as she sets up —

"—He did what?" Jane blurts back. "Did I mishear you? Are you saying Tony shot himself up with an experimental, untested, un-trialed, antigen-analogue derivative of my demonic code?" A beat. "SERIOUSLY?"

He's going to survive this. SO SHE CAN KILL HIM!

"Tony?!" she bemoans of his unconscious, comatose body. "For real?"

Jane exhales. "All right. I need that data now. I need to see into the source code. It interfaces with organic processes, so I need to know how it's interacting with him on the cellular level. You don't APPLY computational algorithms to genetic material! Not unless you're trying to manufacture yourself into some — self-replicating Cronenberg tumour thing. What are his vitals?"

*

"Ah yes, Miss Foster. That is exactly what he did." JARVIS heaves a long electronic sigh. "I /did/ try to point out to him that it was experimental and untested but…Mister Stark can be very well…"

Jane can almost hear the vague gesture the AI want to make.

"Himself." He pauses. "If it makes you feel better, he did manage to turn the demonic energy to a positive energy source." Which of course means Tony has been messing with magic. Just pokin' at it. Like he do.

More good news.

Stark himself doesn't react at all. However as Jane's question, the wall next to his bed slides away to reveal a small room, banks of computers, vital monitor systems, mollecular level microscopes and all the data on the new antigen and its source code all at her fingertips.

"I had anticipated the request." JARVIS says idlily before pausing. "Ah, forgive me for asking. But would you mind if Mister Stark had a few visitors. They have promised to be very quiet, in deference to Mister Stark."

*

And Tony Stark has officially been messing with magic. Messing with magic, despite everything that happened to him.

Messing with magic, despite Jane Foster, herself, being as loud and vivid and OBVIOUS an example, RIGHT UNDER HIS NOSE, why people shouldn't touch magic.

Messing with magic, despite everything he knows can, could, and probably will, happen to him.

Jane feels a second migraine coming on. She squeezes her eyes shut and clamps two fingers over the bridge of her nose. "No," she answers JARVIS feebly, "no, that doesn't make me feel better."

She's going to kill him. Or she's going to drag him, kicking and screaming, to John Constantine, and HE will kill him. Maybe they'll take turns. Bucky and Zee can take score.

Eventually, Jane just ventilates all her FURY in just one whoooooosh of a deep, deep exhale. "Fine. All right. He trusted my work, so I'll trust his. Time to see what I can do with it."

A gesture of her hands fans out her terminal into a handy holo-array, and Jane motions the images to follow her after — as the wall opens to a small, private Tony-space, filled with his workus interruptus. A huge help. "Thank you, JARVIS," she says gustily, and means it.

Her steps have her cross — almost trip on that little shrine. Jane tilts her head, looking down, noticing it for the first time. In a moment of disonnect, she stares a beat too long, expression twisting up. That's — weird.

And JARVIS mentions friends. Jane's already in the room, decompiling Tony's data, ready to be lost in the current of it. Socialization isn't one of her strong points when she's in Work Jane Mode.

She glances. "They?" she asks. Is it the X-People? Those kid Avengers? SHIELD? "As long as they're quiet."

*

IT WAS DANI'S IDEA!!

…that would be the first thing Tony would say if he was. You know. Awake.

But he isn't so he just lies there.

It is likely for the best.

The information now at her fingertips it seems the theories he was working on seem sound. Extraction and transmutation of the energy. Reprocessing the nanites into something that might actually heal is…well it is hard to follow. The intricate reconfiguring of tech that shouldn't even exist on the planet yet is something Stark is best at. Blending the alien and the common into something that hopefully won't kill him.

…but something that is changing him.

Jane can see it as JARVIS opens the data to her. The nanites are repairing damage but they are also…imporving things. Changing things. Sometimes at rates too fast to be all together helpful.

Which is why he's still inn a coma. It seems to be induced by the nanites themselves, to prevent the subject from feeling pain. They are repairing the damage to the ARC reactor. To his heart. Improving muscle and bone…

"It is…difficult to regulate them." JARVIS' voice cuts into the little room. "I do my best but I don't have Mister Stark's finesse or your knowledge of the code base. All I can do is keep them from…going a bit out of control. You Miss Foster, I was hoping you could…find a way to keep them on task? That might be the best way to wake Mister Stark up."

There are footsteps near the door to the main room just then. And a muffled and very dramatic sniffle.

"IT IS TRUE! THEY HAVE LAID HIM LOW!" Wails a voice from the door. THen the sound of metal hands being claped over a mouth. "Oh. Oh I'm supposed to be quiet." Comes the 'whisper' of someone trying not to sob. "How could whoever have done this to the great and mighty hero god of Tamoanchan?!"

A second voice, gruff and…also tiny and almost piping cuts in. "Oh by the Feelers of the great Ant. Ivo he's not a god and you know it!" There is the sound of something tapping that gold statue. "…damn. They must believe it though. Is this Teckli's work? Man. This is worth a fortune…"

Should Jane look outside of the little workplace? She would find two very odd figures. One seems to be a five foot tall suit of animated armor, stylistically and color wise emulating Stark. The helmet is open though, and the strange beetle like face there, trying to hold back tears, is defiantly not human.

Perched on the head of the Stark statue is a second figure, maybe a foot tall. His grasshopper like armor /festooned/ with various weapons. All of them awkwardly peace-bonded. The tiny figure is also awkwardly trying to light a full size cigar. It isn't going well for him.

*

"The hero what of what?"

This heralds the sound of one Bucky Barnes returning from his fruitless search for Matt Murdock.

He steps into the room, looking haggard and exhausted and like he might have considered stealing a helicopter to go combing the sea for any sign of Fisk's yacht… but was stopped by the mental image of Matt's sad face at the idea of the Winter Soldier publicly committing a bunch more crimes after Murdock worked so hard to keep him out of jail. The smell of the sea comes off him; he's been out there a while. Fresh enough from the harbors that he might have dripped a bit on Jessica's sheets, when he stopped briefly to check on her before coming to Tony's room.

Beyond the strange figures, Jane will see Bucky, looking as puzzled as she must be, at the insects and the shrine and…

"…Who wrote on his face?"

*

"Ah that would be Spider-man," JARVIS says helpfully. Then the AI stops to exclaim excitedly. "OH! Yes speaking of happier news! He mentioned that Jane was…well you know! Dummy fetch the gift basket!"

JARVIS. Poor JARVIS. Just making everything more confusing.

*

Jane will never indict the innocent and well-meaning Danielle Moonstar.

(Demon bear heralds stick together.)

For now, she pulls up a seat and, head-first, immerses herself into the last few weeks of Tony Stark's world.

It's a hell of a world, at that. There may be a handful of people in this known world who can keep up with a mind like his — brilliant as it is eccentric, compounding human theory out of extraterrestrial logic — and Jane's own considerable mind has to turn a few circles to keep up with his monumental skips in logic.

He doesn't do cribnotes.

It staggers her. If she had more time — and isn't that her problem? never enough time — Jane would immerse herself with this rare, beautiful little world. Her pioneer steps into fusing technology and magic — Tony's advanced it. Advanced where she stopped, frozen in fear and guilt, stayed by Constantine's warning words, lingering by the memory of James's horrified looks on the wounds on her arms —

With no such ties to bind him, and with that scientific impetus she used to have but seems to have lost in the past many months — Jane looks on with an equal mix of wonder and envy. Oh, Tony, she thinks. What have you done?

It's beautiful.

And it's — advancing him. Her eyes move, memorizing the readout of his last vitals. The data seems to suggest someone crossing the boundary of human potential. Like —

JARVIS's gentle words break through her thoughts. Jane's quick mind runs its wheels. "It has to be difficult. We have cyclin proteins to switch on or sleep our cells. The nanites have nothing. I think I can code a subroutine. Make them listen to chemical signal. They'll synchronize to his cellular process. I need —"

Jane frowns. "Is there any data on the original super soldier serum? This is acting — I don't know. Similar. It might give me a schematic to —"

And then, there are Friends.

This isn't Jane Foster's first rodeo with non-human aliens. Asgardians, Raccoonoids, talking trees, frost giants… and now?

"H- hello," she says, a little stilted, because she's unused to be looking down at someone(s) shorter than her, for the first time in her life. "You two are — friends of Tony? I'm Jane. He's absolutely not a god, I promise. That's weird and wrong. And — James!"

His appearance is met with Jane's look of absolute relief — he's here. He's safe. Her eyes search. "Did you find —"

Wait. "Gift — basket —?"

*

"Oh thank goodness, I was hoping you could make sense of some of this, Miss Foster." JARVIS says softly, relief evident in his voice as Jane starts to work. The twin interruptions get his attention however even as Jane works. And JARVIS burbles on happily at her question. "Yes yes, he mentioned that Mister Barnes may could use one. I took some time putting it together, I have never been particularly good at it but I hope I am not being too forward, I must say I am happy for you both."

…they may kill Peter Parker for this.

Ivo though, the one in the armor speaks up. "Smergnal! You always make fun of me! Why must you always make fun of me! I know he isn't /really/ a god but he saved our people! We might as well give him some honor over it!" A pause as the beetle like creatures blinks, toddling over slightly towards Jane. His armor clomping as he moves. "Oh forgive us, we are…oh no no we are but admirers of the great Kinich Ahau!" He gestures towards Stark in the bed there. "I…I know he isn't a god miss, though…to my people he…he saved them all…and now…now…"

Ivo looks back at Stark a moment, then breaks down weeping.

On Jane's sleeve.

His tears are green. Just in case anyone wants to know.

"Oh my god Ivo don't call me that! I keep telling you I am SMOLFURY! WARRIOR OF THE MULTIVERSE!" The tiny figure perched on the statue says. "And I make fun of you because you're a nerd! NERD." A pause and the tiny fellow looks back towards Bucky. "Anyway, this guy came in with some other guy with a poncy accent and some chick with fishnets and they stabbed a heart of a god or something and freed Tamoachan from the Obsidian Butterfly. So he didn't even save them." Smolfury glowers at Ivo. "…but he is the only one that stuck around and made sure they were ok…" A longer pause. "…we're kinda exile types so you know. We don't get back there much. Besides they are like totally backward. They don't even have streaming video or anything!"

*

Is there any data on the original super soldier serum?

It is perhaps fortunate that a walking example of something very close to the original super soldier serum… does not enter the room in time to hear Jane ask that question. Unfortunately, what Bucky DOES walk into the room in time to hear is this:

//Spider-Man mentioned that Jane was — you know — //

"No," Bucky says, a little more flatly than he usually does with the perennially-polite AI, "I don't know." His narrowed eyes distrust the very phrase 'gift basket.' What has the Spider-Kid been saying? "What exactly are you happy for us about, JARVIS?"

At this juncture, fortunately, the two insect-people start chattering. Sometimes Bucky just marvels at the fact that he can now think things like 'the two insect-people start talking' as if it were a normal occurrence. He's come a long way since 1930s Brooklyn.

Poncy Brit and fishnets girl? Bucky slants a 'sounds like people we know' look at Jane. "Well, Tony does have a habit of looking after people," he says dryly to Ivo and SMOLFURY, "but I will reiterate he's definitely not a god." Perish the thought.

His gaze flicks back up to Jane as she asks if he found Matt. The brief humor he had found from the novel distraction of the bug-people evaporates, and — his features tense — Bucky shakes his head a brief no.

*

Perhaps definitely for the best Bucky doesn't hear — Jane isn't sure she even had enough time, at least right now, to adequately explain her intentions. Even less does she want to ask him to provide her the closest facsimile of good data —

Never again will he be used that way.

But, thankfully, JARVIS produces her the pertinent research — old reproductions of the work helmed by Stark Sr. Her eyes travel holo after holo, trying to map the rote math — how they integrated the serum into type after type of differentiated cell —

Then Jane's sleeve is stolen by a weeping insectoid alien. He's crying green into her.

She just looks extremely awkward. Equally cringing is her stilted patting of the — armored alien's… armor. The story makes her lips thin for a beat. Fishnets. Poncy. She has an idea what happened. "It'll be fine. All right? I just need to work, and Tony will be back with us." She hopes. "He already seemed to save himself."

She hopes.

Her eyes look a beat too long at the grand narrative declaration of SMOLFURY, blinking, before slowly turning over and up onto Bucky — as if to plead: can you tank this please?

"Either way — no one is mourning yet. And you should put out that cigar. It's like twice your size and seriously not good for you."

Exhaling out through her nose, Jane sobers a moment through her lecturing, eyes back on Bucky — hearing his silent, wordless answer to her question. No Matt. She feels her stomach twist.

She pacifies that feeling of helplessness by getting back to her terminal, and after a beat, beginning work on her script.

"We're not talking about gift baskets," Jane also says, trying to nip that topic in the bud, because she has a sinking feeling and and even longer memory — beware, Spider-Lord. "James, Tony injected himself with something. He solved the nanite problem, and it's — in him." Her code assembles as she speaks. "He's — it looks like he's becoming augmented."

*

All that data. All that information on the old serum, its a wonder Howard didn't replicate it himself right?

But it'll help. It'll all to her wealth of information. It'll take time, but perhaps with work and luck and several sleepless nights. Her and an AI can stabilize the nanites. As long as nothing else happens. I mean though. What else could happen right? There surely has been enough.

Ivo sniffles and pulls his head up blinking. "Oh! Oh pardon me miss I've ruined your shirt and everything." A pause. "You…you think you can save him? If you do I will ask my cousin to declare you to be Pachamama! Goddess of the earth and healer of the world!" He sounds so greatful. So happy as he steps away. "But…if that is the case we should be leave! We shouldn't be bothering you! We will let you work, yes! Yes!"

"Oh my god, NERD! They aren't gods! Stop giving them titles!" SMOLFURY looks exasperated. "And you lady! I'll smoke when I—OOPH!"

Ivo just picks the smaller of the bugs up and starts to carry him towards the door. "We wish you well and speed in your work! And changradulations for whatever the Great Voice is congradulating you about!"

"Its an AI you idiot! You know this already!"

SMOLFURY living up to his name as Ivo carries him out until there is a cry from down the hallway. "Jau-suum! We are ready to leave!"

The vorp sound of a portal opening can be heard. Then a booming voice echos down the corridor.

"I AM JAU-SUUM! MIGHTIEST OF THE SARK CLAN! MY ENEMIES QUAKE BEFORE ME BUT I STILL SHOW THEM NO MER—"

"OH MY GOD!" SMOLFURY 'shouts'. "WE JUST CALLED YOU TO GET HOME!"

"Man Smols," Jau-suum's voice is more normal now. "Chill. I was just trying to cheer up Ivo. He's having a moment. Come on Ivo, lets find someone to blow up. That always makes you feel better."

A vorp again as said portal closes.

Which is about when Dummy trundles in, gift basket dangling from his claw. Half full of gun care equipment and various weapon modifications, the other half full of esoteric technological equipment. Combined it costs possibly a small fortune.

"Oh…well…if you don't want a gift basket I can take it back…" Dummy starts to look dejected as JARVIS makes the offer. They worked so hard on it too!

Though JARVIS' voice does sober a moment before he sighs. "Yes, that seems to be the case. It wasn't Mister Starks entire intention…" A pause. "…at least I don't think it was." A longer pause. "…he was talking about how much more effective full neural control of a suit would be. But I'm sure he did this just to save himself!" A pause. "At least ninety percent sure."

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