Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

March 08, 2019:

After the attack on Stark Tower by the Sentinels, Tony fires up his collider to see if it actually works. Pepper walks in unexpectedly due to system failures. The collider loses power and thus loses integrity and opens a rift in time and space like a black hole. Pepper Potts is gone.

Stark Tower

Characters

NPCs: JARVIS

Mentions:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

"You're absolutely sure the reactor grid can sustain the necessary power to activate the EMPs in the event of a core meltdown?" Tony spells it out for JARVIS, he wants the AI to be absolutely certain about the ramifications if he, for whatever reason, suddenly starts telling what he ''wants'' to hear rather than what he needs to hear. Obviously this is against the AIs core programming.

"Sir, I have tested the effective upper output of the reactor for the last two days. In the even the collider becomes unstable, there will be plenty of power to shower it with electromagnetic to render it innert. I understand fully the dangers, my question, sir, is do you?"

Tony stands with a black Sabbath t-shirt on, the glow of his chest bound reactor giving off an eerie blue through the fabric. "Ofcourse I do." There is no way that is absolutely true since most of this is only working theory at best and gross hypothesis at worst. There's no way to TEST it without turning it on and there was no way he'd turn it on without cause.

"We've cleared the top twelve floors?" Tony asks again for the ninth time.

"Yes sir. The construction crews have been released early and security are instructed to patrol no further than the twentieth floor. It is only you and I up here." That, too, is not entirely true. Several cameras were destroyed in the attack on Stark Tower. Someone, anyone really, could be looking at the construction already in progress to their office and the suite being constructed for them on the twenty seventh floor, for instance.

*

That person is in fact, Pepper who is in her office with its one interior side having been blown away is now under construction with great swaths of plastic to delineate where the safe zone ands and where the gaping hole begins where someone could plummet to their death. For safety reasons of course she is far enough away from that side of the room and is dealing with minute chilly air flow while she gathers the rest of the stuff she needs for her work in the Bronx.

"Perfect. I am excited to see this finished! I know I even have someone going to send over an ice sculpture. Quite satisfied with the response."

She takes up her massive stack of things, including that tablet that powers her life. She may work for Tony but Tony has certainly made her life easier by giving her the tools to do so. Dressed in a deep charcoal wool skirt the deep hunter green blouse hangs open a few buttons as a gold necklace with a drop pearl sways. Matching green suede pumps are there as well and her red hair is twisted up away from her face and pinned. She looks…focused and refined for a rather important meeting - the art gallery event tonight to help raise awareness and funds for the Orphanage. The even she had been perfecting for a month.

Out of her office and up the stairs she goes heading for the Penthouse to make sure everything is set to go for his day so she can get across town. The door opens to the Penthouse….

*

Tony lowers his goggles so that the intense light that will be produced by the device is something he can only speculate on, but he has no interest in burning out his retina testing the waters on that speculation. While he has the utmost faith in JARVIS and has delineated a great deal of the process unto the AI, that doesn't mean he's not doing his own legwork in these calculations.

Tapping up a few figures on one of the massive screens to his right, he brings up the containment grid housing the Collider. "Power readings?" He asks of JARVIS.

"Holding steady at ninety nine point nine nine percent."

Those are good numbers, Tony admits with a hand sliding across the days worth of stubble on his jaw. "Alright, here goes nothing." With a spread finger keystroke, the process is started. The sound of it is loud enough that it practically vibrates the floor and ceiling above. Even if it's not heard, it almost certainly can be felt vibrating in the tiles as the collider builds up speed spinning a separated atom down to its parts and then forcing them in a collision course as their different molecular weights change the trajectory of their path.

"We still good, JARVIS?"

"No sir, we are not good. We are turning on a hydron-collider in the middle of New York City, but as far as power levels on the containment field is concerned.. levels are still within the safe green zone."

*

….The Penthouse door closes behind her just as the collider is started and she goes still, feeling the strange change as the vibrations rise up through her heels into her legs and leaves her stricken. The building can not be coming down! Momentary panic passes and she forgets the coffee she was going to make before she met Happy downstairs for the drive over. Now? Now she moves with her arm full towards those bunker stairs. Glass and debris has been cleaned up and so the walk down is a matter of carefully placing steps at her quick rate so as not to fall.

The protective glass is gone and so Pepper steps in as she sees what is on. Slowly she steps forward not far behind Tony and far to the side, in his peripheral if not for his goggles. She blinks, her lips parting as a bit of anger begins to well up because why the hell is he turning this on? He promised!

*

Tony is unaware, at least that she's entered the penthouse, as his focus is… well.. focused. He's staring at the machine starting to operate with a growing feeling of apprehension and second thoughts. Obviously, at this stage, turning it off would be more dangerous than letting it build up and slowly shut back down, but the thought is occured to him.

This was a mistake.

Even as all the board reads green that the safety protocols are all still operating at capacity without huge system drains. "Sir." JARVIS makes the word sound like he's clearing his throat. "Ms. Potts has just entered the Bunker."

Well that's probably not good.. Tony glances back with his goggles in place and hastily yanks them off his face, "This isn't what it looks like…" It literally is.

*

The tightened angle of her features ticks a bit as her jaw sets and he speaks to her. Slowly Pepper turns her head towards him as she stares a moment in silence at him. "I have entered the bunker…thank you JARVIS." She gives a shake of her head and takes a step closer hand outstretched with a point towards the active collider. "You promised..only in grave instances would you use this. Why are you using it?"

Eerily she is CALM. Beyond calm she is collected. She hugs the files, tablet and assorted items close to her chest as she tilts her head and raises a single red brow. She doesn't know what else to say before her head turns and she glances at the collider with apparent apprehension.

*

"We got attacked… here.." Tony motions around at the destruction wrought by the Sentinels only two nights previous and the state of the Tower afterwards. "I'm not turning it on to open a hole in space or anything, Pepper." Honestly, he's not sure what he's doing with it or why, opening his mouth as if he is about to explain, then shutting it with a snap to hide behind a hand rubbing at his jaw.

He too turns to regard the collider as the spin accelation reaches an appex and settles into a constant speed that lightens the vibrations in the room. "I was right, though. The safety grid is holding." Which may be a bit premature to tell her. Almost like telling her is preventing him from turning it off as he'd decided to do. Motioning for her to come over to where he's standing so she can both get a better look at the data being fed into the computer. "See this? This is decades worth of molecular theory data broken down in seconds…"

Why isn't he turning it off.

*

Why? Because he's Tony Stark and pushing the edges of right and wrong is what he does purely for science and his inability to keep his curiosity in check.

Pepper steps over towards him as the collider settles into it's full spin and things seem to normalize to a light degree. The vibrations have lessened and for Pepper that is important. Heels click on the floor as draws towards his work station and sets her items down on the edge of it as she leans over to get a look. It really all means nothing to her if she was to be honest but she never ignores him when he wants to show her something he finds important.

She glances back at the collider and stands partially in his view of it so she can stand at the edge of the station. "Decades, you mean you are discovering new theory?"

*

That isn't entirely true anymore than it's entirely false.

Tony has a reason for this, but it's complicated to explain, even if his constant glancing at her and flickering frown shows across a troubled face. "Yes.. also no." He motions at the computer with a wiggling point, "Some of this is been answered for years, some of it is.. heck, I don't even know what some of this IS.." But that's why they build these things isn't it?

Still, he's gone to great lengths with the protection around the collider; the safety switches and EM emitters. The safety glass and collapsing turbine room. He's quite ready to destroy this creation if it acts out in a way he's not completely comfortable with.

"Alright, I think that's enough for today." He tells her with a wide grin that belays earlier hesitancies to speak as he reaches forward to start keying in the deactivation codes. Just as he's about to brush the last keystrokes, however, the lights flicker.

It's all of a millisecond, but in that milisecond the power feeding the collider shifts enough to send a proton careening towards a neutron at such speed that when they collide it sets off a cascading beep of warning lights and klaxon alarms. "No." He says with a great deal of concern leaching into that single word.

"Sirrrr--" JARVIS' voice begins to crackle and then dies out as the every light in the bunker, every electronic on the reactor grid in the Tower, goes out at once.

Including the safety precautions.

*

Pepper listens. That is what she does even if she knows even less about it than Tony. The look of blessed relief on her face when he says it is time to shut it down shows and she smiles for a moment - giving him a grateful look. "Good. I mean you did a great job in constructing it Tony it just..let us not chance fate right?" Because they do that a lot.

Her gaze lifts to the lights and then back to the collider as the power flickers and she tenses. But it is just a flicker right? No. Dead wrong.

JARVIS is gone and then the power is gone and she goes still. "Tony?!" The sheer unsteady nature of her voice breaks through everything as it lilts up with a faint amount of panic clipping the edges.

*

The problem is that without power to stabilize the spin or keep the magnets cooled, there's no way to force the elements being seperated to stay on track. With the kind of speed at which the device was hurtling protons, neutrons, and electrons, it's like creating a high powered cutting laser that slices right through the protective bracket like a railgun tearing open anything its path like a heated knife through butter.

This includes the entire back wall of the Bunker, this includes time, space, and reality: Which have only ever been theorized.

What is left behind is not unlike a black hole as an atom literally collapses on itself as it suddenly snaps back together when the various parts match speeds without safety precautions in place to do so in a controlled manner. Tony was prepared for this.. he's wearing magboots that operate off his own reactor and snap into place instantly upon a critical failure… Pepper on the other hand.

Tony reaches out suddenly and grabs hold of her waist, pulling her against his stationary form, "HOLD ON!" It's quiet until he screams, then it's as if all sound is being sucked away and is as if he's speaking from some great distance rather than a few inches.

Any visible light is also pulled towards a small rip in space with quantifiable amounts of pulling pressure. There is is literally no way, none at all, that'll hell be able to hold onto her AND try to close the breach.

*

As the back wall is just gone and with it bringing hole throw time and space Pepper just stares. She has no idea what is about to unfold but the sheer power of the collider is noted. When he grabs her like that she is caught off-guard and her arms lift a bit late to wrap around his shoulders. She feels the sudden pull and the way his voice seems tinny and far away causes her blood to chill. Her arms right around him and she holds on as instructed, ducking her head a bit as she can feel that yank on her form that has her legs scraping against the ground and then suddenly she is perpendicular to the ground.

"Tony, turn it off.." she begs of him even as one green suede pump goes careening off her foot, hitting a support for the collider and spiraling into the tear. The second is off not long after. Those beautiful pearl tipped pins are pulled free of her hair and soon a wave of red is released as the carefully sculpted hair whips behind her away from her face.

Just another day at Stark Tower.

*

"I have to let you go for a second.." Tony warns her, reaching up to unhook one of his gravity bracelets to hook around her wrist. It wont hold forever, but it'll give him some time to try and get the machine turned off… or destroyed… he's not sure what yet. His voice still has that pulled away sound to it, but he's trying his very best to appear calm when he's feeling anything, but.

The lights flicker back on and… that's when things really get weird. From about midway across the bunker all the way to the machine, light is literally being pulled like water through a funnel towards the center. Tony, meanwhile, is crunching towards the computer, but the pull isn't loosening up. "five seconds…" He shouts across a distance of fifty yards in two feet. "Hold oh just five more seconds."

Can she though?

*

"Okay.." Pepper replies, the weird distance of her voice even registering to her ear. Her head turns to glance down at the bracelet as it clicks into place and then grabs at the metal desk for the computer. She has to let him go and as other equipment begins to creak and slide she can barely turn her head to see. Once she does she can not turn it back and she strains to try to see him as she grabs at her wrist with her other hand to try to ease the strain on her appendage. The blouse pulls at her form and a few more pearl tipped pins fall free of her hair. Pepper grits her teeth and grasps to try to keep her wrist from breaking.

"TONY!" She winces as the curves of her hand press against the edge of the mag bracelet as the rest of her is pulled towards that rip, straining against the one anchoring point and threatening to do some damage

The mag bracelet slides along the side of the vest to the back edge and she lets out a startled scream as it loses some purchase and she dangles from one point of contact. She tries to reach forward, pulling her elbow back so that she can get her hand on the desk edge. Her fingers slip, fail and then she feels her wrist start to strain in the bracelet. The magnetic charge starts to slip and that tony point of contact breaks from the strain - but thankfully does not break her wrist.

"TONY!!" Pepper has no purchase, nothing to hold onto as she careens backwards.

*

Except Tony's hand now around her wrist with a painfully tight grip. At some point, one of the Iron Man armors gauntlets wrapped itself around both of his hands and his biceps strain against the force of keeping her from tumbling into the open tear. His face scrunches, pouring every ounce of strength into that one action now that he's initiated the shut down… just a few seconds.

Just a few seconds and it'll close that tear and everything will be, relatively, okay. There will be screaming and he'll likely never make up for this in her eyes, but she'll be fine and that will be enough.

Two seconds. HOLD ON TONY.. His fingers, even in the gauntlet, strain to keep hold of her wrist, the other in a death grip of a support beam literally cemented into the ceiling and floor. He's got her, he can do this. He's Iron Man.

''Because that's what I do, Nightcrawler.. I help people''

One second. There's a croak in his voice as his bicep nearly tears from the pressure, holding onto her fingers with the very tip of his own. Always staring at her, shouting something that can't be heard because the force of the closing rip is too great for even sound to escape without being pulled into the void.

''If anything ever happened to you because of me…''

Tony's grip fails and he lets go with his other hand to reach out for her wrist and misses by millimeters.

*

Sheer terror shows on her face before he grabs for her. She stops careening, remains once more held aloft in the air by the grip of one of his suits now around his hand. Her green eyes stare at him - at this moment not in anger but in fear. She tries to reach her other hand forward, straining against that pull as she winces. Seconds away from touch him, just an inch more as her arm burns trying to move against the heavy pull.

As the rip starts to close her voice is lost, no sound at all as her other hand brushes the armored hand as those fingers of the one he holds finally break free. She tries to flail for him but only air. Her mouth opens and she calls his name but her voice is lost - silence - just the mouthing of it.

She spins back, hits part of the collider with her shoulder before she tumbles out of control and into the rip not moments before it seals.

Pepper Potts is gone, her tablet clattering to the floor where it got hung up against a support beam. It's screen flickers but stays on.

On the screen is the schedule for Tony - cleared out next week with BELIZE written in on the same days where Pepper's own schedule says BELIZE. Magic was worked…Tony had a week off to share with her. He did.

*

She's gone.

Tony stares at the point of empty space where Pepper had disappeared with wide eyed shock and unabated horror because… she's gone. He's still leaning over the table upon which he braced himself in his attempt to grab Pepper. He's still got his hand outstretched until the weight of it like that drops it down to the table with a clank.

"Sir…. I cannot detect Ms. Potts biometric anywhere. I have accessed Stark Technologies Satellites to try a low orbit scan of the surrounding state.." The AI can't feel, but it certainly sounds sympathetic. Somehow.

Tony slides down off the table and turns so that his head is braced back against it. There he spies the tablet and pulls it up to read whatever it was she was working on just before he… just before.. And immediately realizes what a horrible mistake he's made.

Red rimmed eyes, hard set jaw, and a long swallow precedes his pulling the tablet to his chest and falling sideways into a fetal position around it.

"She's gone…." It's a cry more than words. Even the arc reactor can't keep Tony's heart from breaking.

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