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Hero I am Not

By Blue Boxes and Vampire Fangs

Action

Chapter 1

I sat in my chair, listening to the montage of Tony's Starks life:

How he was such a hero to us all.

How he was a genius mastermind.

How he was such a great son following in his father's footsteps.

Funny how they never mention being a father as one of his greatest achievements.


Not that Tony is father of the year or anything, far from it. But still, it would be nice to mention in his greatest achievements. But I guess in order for this to make sense I should probably introduce myself. I'm Clara Scarlett Stark (but please call me Scarlett) the person that Tony Stark is a father to. Not saying that I hate my dad, no I love him and wouldn't trade him for the world, but the fact they leave off how great of a father he is, isn't a coincidence.

Rhodey, my godfather and my father's best friend, was dressed in his formal uniform as he walked up to present an award to my father.

It was an honor, really, something that many people hope to achieve in life.

Unfortunately it wasn't something my father hoped for, which would explain the empty chair to my left.

I don't know why I was this shocked about it, honestly, maybe it was because Dad agreed to accept it if Rhodey was the one to present it to him.

But I had a speech prepared, I always did.

I wouldn't be Scarlett Stark if I wasn't prepared to step up when my father wasn't there.

"As liaison to Stark Industries," Rhodey began looking around the room for my father. "I've had the unique privilege of serving with a real patriot."

Wow Rhodey, looks like I wasn't the only one who prepared a speech, I thought to myself. Maybe Rhodey actually thought he was going to come, too.

"He is my friend and he has been my mentor, ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor to present this years Apogee Award to Mr. Tony Stark." Rhodey finished.

Applause sounded as everyone looked around for my absent father, Obadiah looked at me and I nodded my head and stood up.

I hated these events, having to dress up and speak in front of people, all eyes on you.

Yes, I know, Tony Stark's daughter hates being the center of attention; the irony isn't lost on me. But as I made my way up to the stage in my silver heels, totally aware that everyone could see my entire back with the dark blue dress I was wearing, it came to me that maybe it really isn't a shock; I was only in the limelight when my father chose not to be.

I smiled at Rhodey as I gave him a hug and took the award. I turned to face the crowd, smiling and taking a deep breath.

"Well, I'm not Tony Stark," I say. The crowd laughs and chuckles. "But lucky for you guys, you get the better looking one."

The entire audience laughs at that one, I can even hear Uncle Rhodey chuckle behind me.

"I know that my father is deeply honored to be presented this very prestigious award. The best thing about my dad could also be considered the worst in that he is always working, always striving to give you guys something better. So from both of the Starks, I just want to say thank you." I step back from the podium holding the award and look back at Rhodey who is giving me a reassuring smile. He escorts me off the stage and as soon as we are behind the stage he turns to me.

"Where is he?" he asked me.

I shrug my shoulders, "My guess is the casino," I tell him.

Rhodey takes a deep breath. "Let's go find him," he said.

I nod and the two of us head over to the casino floor.

"Hold it," a security guard calls us. "She can't be here, she is underage."

I have to give it to the guy; he has balls, and he is incredibly stupid, but not a coward.

However, I was tired, in heels and just had to deal with a room full of people. Tonight was not the night to actually do your job.

I raised an eyebrow at the guard while Rhodey looked at him. "She's with me," he tells the man.

The guard nods and the two of us go out onto the floor looking for my dad.

"Where do you think he is?" Rhodey asks me.

"Look for the biggest crowd," I reply.

We find him, in the middle of a huge crowd, with Happy, his bodyguard, next to him.

I could feel my temper rising at seeing how he just blew off, yet again, another responsibility.

"You are unbelievable." Rhodey says as we walk up behind my dad and some girl.

"They rope you in, too?" My dad asked.

"I wasn't roped into anything. They told me if I presented you with an award that you would be deeply honored." Rhodey said.

"And I am, I am deeply honored, so when are we going to do this thing?" My dad asked.

"Here you go," I said handing him the award. My dad looks at me, probably the first time he noticed I was there, and looks down at the award.

"I'm sorry," he said.

I rolled my eyes as he passes off the award to the girl.

I tune out the arguing. It was something about how Uncle Rhodey doesn't blow and men's dice, I think, and didn't get back into the conversation until I see them start to leave.

I grab the award from bimbo number 3 and head after them. "Here," I said handing him the award again. "If you can't be bothered to sit and listen to everyone talk about you the least you could do is carry the damn award to the car."

My dad doesn't say anything; he just takes it from me.

We finally make it out to the parking lot where we say our goodbyes to Rhodey.

My dad makes his usual promises that he doesn't intend to keep about being on time tomorrow before looking at me.

"You're coming, right?" he asks.

"Please tell me you're joking," I said.

"No, Tony, she's not going." Rhodey agreed.

"Why not?" My dad asks.

"I have better things to do than spend a day in an active military space," I argue.

"Please, you're going to spend the day locked up in your study working on the arc reactor tech that's never going to take off," my dad says. "You're coming."

That's what you think, my brain sneers at him.

I guess this also requires further information.

My father after realizing that the arc reactor wasn't going to do anything or get any smaller was just going to put it into the corner. But I asked him for it, I could see the potential in the project. It didn't take much arguing, and after a giant and very public press conference my dad handed me the reins on it. I now have all of the information and tests on my private server at home along with all of the rights to any profits or possible technology that comes with the reactor.

Because this was my baby, this was what I had put my heart and soul into for the past three years. Finally, Stark Industries was going to be something more than a weapons factory. We were going into prototype testing phase for a smaller, more portable reactor on Monday. I had figured out how to harness that power into a smaller size and now we were testing to see if I was right; something that I was torn between telling my dad and keeping from him until I put the finished product in front of him.

"Mr. Stark," a voice came as my dad and I headed toward the car "Mr. Stark!" It came again.

Dad freezes while I turn around to see a reporter coming our way.

"Is she hot?" My dad asked Happy.

I snort, "More like desperate."

Dad just rolls his eyes at me and looks at Happy for an answer. Happy discreetly nods and I groan; looks like I was going to have to find a different way home tonight.

"Christine Everhart, Vanity Fair Magazine, can I have a word?" she asked.

"Hi," my dad says, turning to face her, as he drags me along side of him. "Okay go."

"You've been called the da Vinci of our time, what do you say to that?" she asked

"Absolutely ridiculous, Scarlett is the one that paints not me." He replied.

I felt my heart freeze in my chest, no, oh god please no, the insecure teenager I had buried deep inside of me starts yelling. I see the blonde's eyes shoot toward me as she assesses my outfit and hair.

"And what do you say to your other nickname? The Merchant of Death?" she asks.

"That's not bad," my dad replied.

"Let me guess, Berkley?" My dad asks.

"Brown, actually," Christine replies.

"Well, Ms. Brown, it's an imperfect world, but it's the only one we've got. I guarantee you, the day weapons are no longer needed to keep the peace, I'll make bricks and beams for baby hospitals," my dad quipped.

"You rehearse that much?" she asked.

"Every night in front of the mirror," he said smiling at her.

"I can see that," she said.

"I'd like to show you first-hand." My dad says.

Call it what you want but when my dad starts hitting on girls in front of me; it's gross.

Not that this hasn't happened before, and it's not like I hold some deep hope that he will get back together with my mom, because I don't want that. That bitch can rot in Hell for all I care. To be perfectly honest, I'm rooting for Pepper and my dad to get together. But this woman, this reporter, has to be about twenty-four, that is only seven years older than me, and this certainly wasn't the youngest he has ever hit on.

"All I want is a serious answer." I hear the blonde say and it brings me back to the present.

"Alright, my old man had a philosophy; ''Peace means having a bigger stick than the other guy.''" My dad says.

"That's a great line coming from the guy selling the sticks," Christine replied.

"My father helped defeat the Nazis. He worked on the Manhattan Project. A lot of people, including your professors at Brown, would call that being a hero." My dad fires right back.

"And a lot of people would also call that war profiteering." Christine quipped.

"Tell me, do you plan to report on the millions Stark Industries have saved by advancing medical technology or kept from starvation with our intelli-crops?" I finally speak up, enough is enough. I had been working hard on these projects and this wasn't right, we were about so much more than weapons.

Christine turned to look at me, a glint in her eyes I was familiar with, it was the look that every woman had when they want to sleep with my dad, that I am a threat to that.

"Scarlett Stark," Christine said. "I was hoping to have a word with you, as well."

"Well, you just had eleven," I say.

Christine smirks, "No, I am impressed. It takes real courage to wear last season's style out tonight."

I feel the blood rush to my face as her snide remark hits exactly where she wanted it, in my insecure teenager feelings.

"You ever lose an hour of sleep your whole life?" Christine says turning back to my dad.

My dad smiles at her and I know they're going to hook up tonight. I slide out of my dad's grasp and turn away to leave them for the night.

"Scar," I hear Happy call out to me. "Where are you going?" he asks.

"Home," I say pulling out my cell phone. "I'll be ok Happy, I promise."

Happy gives me a skeptical glance but nods anyway, he knows I am perfectly able at finding my own way home, (I had been doing it for years now) and turned back to the car at hearing my dad call for him.

My phone rings and on the other end of the line is the voice of my second favorite person.

"Hey, sweetie, how did it go?" Pepper Potts asks me.

"He didn't show up again," I tell her. "Then Uncle Rhodey and I find him in the casino and on our way out we meet Christine Ever-something from Vanity Fair."

"Ah," Pepper says. "So it's a good thing I sent your car to Vegas?"

My heart soars. "It's a very good thing," I tell her, a smile on my face.

"Turn around, sweetie," Pepper tells me.

I do as she says and sure enough, there is my car.

"Pepper, you are a godsend," I say walking over to my baby, a sixty-seven black Chevy Impala. The feelings of gratefulness and love rush through me at how Pepper has always been there for me, taking care of me ever since I was little; it meant the world to me the fact that she did these things for me. She didn't have to, but she always did.

"There are sweats in the passenger seat," Pepper says. "Call me when you get home."

I hang up the phone and slide into the driver's seat. I stop and think about where I could go: back home to where my dad would be hooking up with what's-her-face, or I could road trip to Peter's. Peter was my best friend, and his aunt May and uncle Ben had taken me as one of their own just like they had Peter. When uncle Ben died I spent almost a full month with them. And now that I think about it, I don't think my dad knows that I did.

I take a deep breath and know just because I wanted to go to visit Peter I couldn't, I had to be home so I could go to that stupid presentation tomorrow.

The drive back to my house was uneventful, I didn't play music or stop; I just drove. Let my thoughts play over everything that was going to happen on Monday with us finally going into the prototype phase. I wanted everything to go off without a hitch and fly smoothly. I wanted to prove to my dad that I was capable of doing this; capable of deserving the legacy that is Stark Industries. I was going to be eighteen in four months and become a CEO with my dad.

When I finally get home I collapse in my huge comfy bed (because hey, what girl doesn't want a fluffy bed all to herself?). Max, my Old English sheepdog that I had had since I was six comes in and snuggles next to me. A kiss goodnight from him and soon I let sleep take me before I have to wake up early.


The screech of the alarm clock has to be the worst sound in the entire world, I'm sure of it. I hit the button to turn it off and groan as I escape the cocoon of my warm blankets to the cold hardwood floor of my room. Max whining at the fact I was leaving but he soon goes back to sleep.

"Lucky," I mumble to my dog watching in envy.

I start my day the same way I have started every day since I can remember:

Twenty minutes of yoga.

Fifteen-minute shower.

While I wait for my hair to dry I sketch or paint, the corner of my room was filling up fast of my old paintings that I had either finished or was currently working on. It was my little oasis, with the sun from my floor to ceiling windows shining in, and the great ocean view I could relax and get lost in the world I was creating.

After JARVIS reminds me that I actually have to go do stuff for they day, I get dressed and spend ten minutes checking my schedule for the day so I know what's going on. Dad hates the fact that I do this, I could have a P.A., he says, like Pepper is for him; and while I know for 100% that my dad couldn't function without Pepper, I don't enjoy the thought of being that dependent on another person.

Today, I pull my hair up in a bun, throw on some shorts with a black tank top and a red flannel shirt.

Grabbing my messenger bag with my work stuff in it and my duffle with clothes for the weapons showing, doubling back for Pepper's gift that is sitting on my desk (but I chalk that up to lack of sleep), I finally make my way downstairs to the kitchen.

"You must be the famous Pepper Potts," I heard Christine talk to Pepper.

"Indeed I am." Pepper replied.

I drop my bags in the kitchen and make my way into my dad's bedroom.

"After all these years, Tony still has you picking up the dry-cleaning," Christine said clearly looking down at Pepper.

My blood boiled at the nerve of that harlot, how dare she talk to Pepper that way!

"I do anything and everything that Mr. Stark requires. Including, occasionally, taking out the trash," Pepper said with a smile on her face. "Will that be all?"

"I think she's done here," I say, announcing my presence.

Christine obviously seeing that the two of us are on my home turf now grabs her clothes from Pepper and bows out gracefully.

"Pepper," I say watching Christine leave. "You're awesome."

"Thanks, sweetie," Pepper said walking over to me. "How was your trip home? Did you get enough sleep?"

"It was fine, and no," I huffed thinking about how I didn't really want to this.

"You don't have to go," she told me.

I sighed. "The father has commanded I be there; besides, with you spending your birthday with your friends there wouldn't be much for me to do."

"Scarlett Stark." Pepper scolded me.

I glanced up at her in surprise. Pepper has had a big hand in raising me and I have honestly viewed her as my mother for as long as I could remember. I was just too afraid to actually call her that out loud.

"Yeah?" I ask her.

"Do not think for a second that spending the day with you would be terrible, do you honestly think that I wouldn't be happy to hang with you?" Pepper asks.

I bite my lip; this really didn't go how I planned it go. "You see enough of me as it is," I say, "I just thought you would want a break."

Pepper pulls me into a bone crushing hug. "Scar, I love you, and seeing you everyday is a blessing. You know I think of you as my own daughter."

I didn't, to be perfectly honest. And no, this isn't a cry out for help; oh poor-rich-girl, nobody loves her. It was Pepper's job to take care of my dad's stuff and I just thought I fell into that category. I wrap my arms around her and smile into shoulder. "Thanks Pep." I whisper.

She lets go of me. "Well if you're still going, are you ready to go?"

I nodded. "Just have one last thing to do."

Pepper looked confused at that comment, I smiled and pulled out a small package.

"Happy Birthday, Pepper" I say.

Pepper looks down at the box and opens it.

"This is too much," she breathed seeing the diamond necklace.

"It's not enough," I say. "Plus I have it on good authority that it matches the gift Dad got you."

Pepper looked up at me and I winked, "I got to go, try and get him there soon," I say.

Pepper hugs me. "Thanks," she says. "And please be careful, I have warned your father about taking you over there but he wasn't listening, so watch out for yourself.

"I always do, Pep" I replied. I smiled and walked out of the room, picking my bags up I head out.


One thing that is for sure, us Starks love our vehicles and the same goes for me. I backed my baby out and headed to the airport where our plane was waiting.

I pull on to the tarmac and see Rhodey there.

"He really is going to make you come?" Rhodey asks.

"Yep." I reply popping the p.

"You really shouldn't come," Rhodey says.

"I really don't want to come," I agree. "But the father has commanded it."

I walk onto the plane and plop down on the couch pulling out my journal and start to work on my information for the arc reactor.

"You still working on that thing?" Rhodey asks.

I look up at him and then looked around the airplane. "Can you keep a secret?" I asked my godfather.

Rhodey smiled and crossed his heart.

"We are going into phase three on Monday," I said smiling at him.

"Phase three?" Rhodey asks.

I nod. "I figured out how to shrink it down, so we are going to see how tiny I can make it and still see if it can generate the same amount of power."

"Well I'll be damned," Rhodey says giving me a hug. "Does your dad know?"

I shook my head, "No," I say softly. "I can't decide if I should tell him."

"That's okay," Rhodey says. "Imagine the look on his face when you put it on his desk."

I smile. "That's the plan and I'm so excited. We are so close to finally harnessing this power. Can you imagine how much good that will come from this?" I asked breathlessly.

Rhodey smiles, "You know I think the only time I can get you to actually be open and have a true conversation is when you talk about that damn reactor."

I give him a sad smile, "I'm passionate about this."

"I know and I'm proud of you, Scar."

I give him a grateful smile and then the conversation falls into silence.

Not uncomfortable silence, it was never that way with Uncle Rhodey and me.

Our pilot comes in about forty-five minutes after I arrived.

"Nothing like the present, eh Cory?" I ask him.

"Not when I know I'm flying your daddy," Cory says.

I smile at him; Cory has been our pilot for almost eight years now. Happy, Uncle Rhodey, and Pepper had always been apart of my small little family, and with his charming nature and the ability to always bring me a postcard from where he flew my dad, Cory became another member very quickly.

"Come on, kid" Cory says, "Let's finish that lesson."

"You're learning to fly?" Rhodey asks me in surprise.

I nod grinning like a kid at Christmas. It was something I had always wanted to learn and after years of begging when I got my drivers license Cory started to teach me how to fly.

"You coming, kid, or not?" Cory asks me.

I smile and run to the cockpit and take my seat.

After an hour Cory decided I was good for the day so I headed back to the main part of the plain.

Rhodey was still standing outside of the plane when I make my way back.

"Still standing?" I tease him as I make my way over to him.

Rhodey just raises an eyebrow and goes back to standing in front of the plane.

"You know you have at least a solid forty five minutes before he shows up, right?" I ask him looking at my watch.

"Alright, fine," Rhodey says turning towards me. "Let's talk about you."

"Or you could just go back to standing in front of the plane," I say backing up into the main part of the plane.

"Why are you so against talking about yourself?" Rhodey asks me as he follows me in.

I take a deep breath, knowing I'm not going to be able to get out of this conversation. "I don't know," I confess.

Rhodey sits down next to me and puts an arm around me, "You looked beautiful last night, like your mom," he says.

I stiffen.

"What's wrong?" Rhodey asks, feeling me tense up.

"Do you think that's why he doesn't—" I began to ask.

"Doesn't what?"

"Never mind," I say getting up from the couch and head over to the table where my journal is.

"No, answer the question," Rhodey says, again leaning forward his hands on his knees.

"It's nothing." I say opening up to a new page.

"Clara Scarlett Stark!" Rhodey says, "You do not get to avoid this conversation."

I smile at him.

"What are you smiling at?" he asks me.

"I don't know," I answer. "It's just something about hearing my full name."

And just like that the conversation takes a different turn.

Because Rhodey knew as did everyone else that you only heard your full name when you were in trouble.

And trouble wasn't something I was in very much.

Not because I didn't do things that warranted being grounded or a least losing your phone.

But the whole discipline thing wasn't something that was very big in the Stark household.

Rhodey doesn't press me for anything else and I don't say anything, worrying that any word might get him started back on the conversation. And I think deep down Rhodey knew the question I was asking.

I had heard it before: you look like her.

Sometimes it was from the press, sometimes it was from Obadiah, and sometimes, very rarely when I had to help my dad into bed when he was too drunk to do it himself, he said it, too.

I look like my mom.

I guess I look like my dad, too, if you look real hard. Our eyes are the same shape and we have the same wit and knack for science, but everything else is my mom's.

Or so they tell me. I have never seen a picture of her. Not that they aren't available for me to see but, I just don't want to see how I look like the person who left their child and the father without a second thought and never looked back.

I am seventeen years old; I know three different languages, besides English. I have a doctorate in Nuclear Chemistry and have worked in my father's company for over three years. I draw when I want to escape and I love heights.

I am also terrified that the reason my father doesn't really take an interest in me is because I am a walking talking reminder of the woman who left him;

The woman who, according to Pepper, broke his heart.

So I think Rhodey knew the end of my question, does my dad ignore me because I remind him of her?

I think the answer is yes, to be honest I have always thought the answer was yes; to the point that when I was fourteen I tried to dye my hair blonde. Well, Peter and I tried to dye my hair blonde. It took hours to convince him to help, only to end with him ratting me out to Pepper the first chance he got.

I smile as I sketch the reactor some more; the memories of Peter freaking out blocking out the slightly depressing thoughts of whether my dad can or cannot stand to look at me.

Pepper had to take me to the salon. I had chunks of brown hair that we had missed; they managed to get my hair back to its chestnut brown mostly but there were a few blonde highlights in it. I think I might do it again, maybe a more honey blonde then platinum, but it might look good. I'll ask Pepper when I get back.

Three hours later than the time we were supposed to leave, my father strutted in.

Saying something about how we were now waiting on Rhodey instead of him.

"Ah, Scarlett," my dad said seeing me as he sat across from me. "Whatcha working on?"

"The arc reactor," I said, "Just drawing a new sketch."

Please, my inner teenage self begged him, please ask to see it. Just show some interest.

"Let me see," my dad said grabbing my journal from me.

My heart stops and I hold my breath, my eyes widen in fright as I make eye contact with Rhodey, who was equally shocked.

"Hmm," was all he said as he read over my information. "Not bad," he finished tossing it back to me.

Pride was the first thing that went through me. Yes, he just glanced at it but with a first glance he didn't find any huge mistake that warranted him to correct me on it.

I picked up my journal and looked at the page he was talking about, it was my testing page had the dimensions that I thought would be the smallest size and still work circled and a design I had sketched.

"Did you find a ride home?" my dad asked me. "Last night."

I looked up at my dad and realized I had two options in front of me:

Option one, I tell him the truth; yes, Pepper knew that you were going to find some chick to hook up with and had my car sent out so I could drive from Las Vegas back to California all by myself.

Or option two; I gave him the usual angst teenager answer.

Option one made him feel guilty, option two just made him feel like any other dad with a teenager.

Looks like we are going with option two.

"Clearly," I snapped. "I'm here aren't I?"

I look back down at my journal before I can see how my reaction played with him. What can I say, I'll help avoid any guilt when it comes to how he raised me, because honestly, he did the best he could, and I had a good childhood. But seeing how my words affected him, nope, not at all. I will run away faster than the roadrunner.

Hero I am not.

My dad didn't answer me, and that's fine; there wasn't really anything he could say to my snarky teenage retort.

One of the airplane bimbos my dad insisted we keep on the payroll came over to us asking if we needed anything.

My dad ordered a drink for himself, one for Rhodey, then asked if I wanted one.

I shook my head, grabbed my bags and headed to one of the bedrooms on the plane.

Turns out if you've seen your father drunk once, you've seen it a thousand times.


I open up my journal and decided to write.

Most scientists and inventors use their journals to write down information or sketch a product.

And then there are the people who use journals for their intended purpose; a place to write down any thoughts, dreams, hopes, and fears.

I used mine for both, my fears and my ideas all jumbled together in this beautiful leather bound journal Pepper had been supplying them once a year for my birthday since I was twelve. And in my room behind a replica of Van Goh's starry night there is a safe that contains the other four that have been filled out.

I finished writing the conversation that had just happened with my dad and my thought process between the two answers I could have given him. I yawned as I felt the lack of sleep from the night before began to take a toll on me.

I curled up on top of the bed and let sleep take me.


I was fifteen turning sixteen in a few weeks, my dad was off somewhere on a business trip and had taken Pepper along, so I was alone when I got the phone call from my best friend, Peter.

"What's up?" I asked, bouncing around the kitchen as I listened to the music that was playing through the house.

"Does your dad still do business with Oscorp?" Peter asked me.

I stopped and thought about it, Norman Oswald and my dad were working on a big project, which is how Peter and I had met actually. From the age of six I was in New York hanging with an actual kid my own age until I was thirteen and something big happened between them; I didn't know what but we moved away and now we were stuck only getting to seeing each other on summer breaks and phone calls.

"No, not anymore. Is there a reason?" I asked him.

"They have an intern program that I want to get into but I missed the deadline." He explained.

"Doesn't really sound like you, Parker," I teased, "But let me see what I can do."

"Thanks, Red," he said.

"I'll call you back," I said.

I managed to steal an internship spot for Peter and after teasing him that the girl who he had a massive crush on was going to be in charge of him.

After that I called him everyday to hear about his internship.

And then the phone call came.

It was from Aunt May, Uncle Ben had died. She said that she felt that I had the right know because I was family.

Forty-five minutes later I was on our plane and headed toward New York. Aunt May and Uncle Ben were like my adoptive parents; Peter was practically my brother and my family needed me.


I wake up to my father shaking me. I was shocked; I could count the number of times on one hand that my father woken me up.

"What happened?" I ask concerned that something extremely wrong had to have been going on for him to wake me.

I would have bet the car keys to my baby that I saw something flash through my dad's eyes. But it was gone before I could guess what it was.

"Nothing," he said, his voice soft and surprisingly sober. "We are about to land I just wanted to let you know."

"Oh," I said, running my hand through my hair. "Okay, thank you."

He left after that.

I pulled the covers back and stood up to stretch. Something was off; I felt it. I looked around the room and saw that my journal was now closed and bound sitting next to my bed and that I was tucked into the covers instead of on top of them like I had fallen asleep on.

I filed it in my head to think about later, right now I had to put on the clothes and become THE Scarlett Stark.

I hated her. Hated the things she stood for. Hated the topics that she had to be interested in. hated that the only reason anyone gave a damn about her was because of her last name. But I did the job and I didn't complain about it (out loud that is) because that was my responsibility as a Stark. And I didn't want to disappoint my dad.

I was dressed in my black, high waisted shorts with a white sheer tank tucked into it, and back ankle boots. I slipped on a pair of sunglasses and was ready to go.

I stepped out of the plane and walked down the steps with my father, the two of us together, a united front.

If they only knew.

"General," Tony said.

"Welcome, Mr. Stark, Miss Stark. We look forward to your weapons presentation," the general greeted us.

I stood to the side as my father walked in front of the crowd.

"Is it better to be feared or respected? I say, is it too much to ask for both? With that in mind, I humbly present the crown jewel of Stark Industries Freedom Line. It's the first missile system to incorporate our proprietary Repulsor technology. They say the best weapon is one you never have to fire. I respectfully disagree. I prefer the weapon you only have to fire once. That's how dad did it. That's how America does it. And it's worked out pretty well so far." He started. "Find an excuse to let one of these off the chain, and I personally guarantee you the bad guys won't even want to come out of their caves. For your consideration, the Jericho."

I slipped my sunglasses back on and took a step back, I've seen what happens when the Jericho lands, and let's just say I'm going to have to spend hours getting all of the dust out of my hair.

The Jericho landed, dust went everywhere and everyone wanted one. Another job well done.

To celebrate my father walked over to one of his chill boxes and poured himself a drink.

"I'll be throwing one of these in with every purchase of 500 million or more. To peace!" My father said taking a drink and pulling out his phone to video call Obi.

"Hey, Obi," my dad called.

"How did it go?" Obi asked us.

"Looks like its going to be an early Christmas," my dad replied.

I leaned in so Obi could see me. "It was good, Obi; huge explosion, the whole nine yards."

Obi chuckled and then him and my dad started talking about pj's and I slipped away, trying to get the image of Obi in silk pajamas out of my head.

Rhodey walked over to me. "What are you thinking about?" he asked noticing that I haven't really said anything since we've landed.

"I'm ready to get out of here," I confessed.

"You're really that freaked out?" Rhodey asked surprised.

"I have a bad feeling," I said shrugging my shoulders trying to play off how ready I was to be back on the plane and back home.

"Well, you can ride back with me," Rhodey said.

I smiled at him and nodded my thanks and slid into the Humvee.

"I'll go try and get your dad," Rhodey said.

"Good luck!" I called to him. I turn around to face the people in the front.

Lets just say it was an uncomfortable silence; the driver was staring forward and not looking back at me, which was the almost exact opposite of the guy in the passenger seat, all I could see was his bright blue eyes in the rearview window staring at me but that's not what I was the most concerned about, his uniform was different.

The threading on the pants was a different stitching, nothing big, but for someone who was a paranoid as me in this situation, it was enough.

I start to panic. I was alone and there was no one to protect me and this soldier's uniform was made of the wrong material.

I slid to the side of the door, pressed up against it, his eyes followed me.

I slowly reached into my pocket and got out my cell phone, pretending to check the time. I put my cell back in my pocket, which was conveniently right next to the door.

I looked out the window and counted slowly to three.

Right as I was about to open the door Rhodey came in.

"No luck," Rhodey said. "He wants to ride in the 'Fun-vee'."

"He actually said that?" I asked Rhodey relaxing slightly since now there was someone who actually knew something about self-defense with me.

Rhodey nodded his head to the driver and our Humvee took off.

I don't know how much time passed as we headed back to base; five, ten minutes maybe, but all I know is that while Rhodey and the driver relaxed, the passenger in the front seat remained tense and alert the entire time.

So naturally, I wasn't relaxed either.

"You alright, Scar?" Rhodey asked me sensing how tense I was.

I spared a glance at the passenger in the front seat; the bright blued eyed man who had his eyes trained on the rearview mirror.

I opened my mouth to answer when I heard it: the whine of a missile. Not just any missile, but one of Stark Industries'. I had heard the sound enough times during our test phases; it was faint and most people didn't hear it.

But I wasn't the only person who heard it.

I didn't have time to register what that meant because the Humvee in front of us blew up.

The driver swerved the vehicle trying to avoid the debris.

I flew into the side of the car as the driver whipped the car to the side.

"Rhodey," I said to him.

Rhodey turned to me.

"Those are ours," I whispered to him.

He nodded his understanding and opened my door. "Let's go," he said ushering me out.

I fell to the ground and I heard gunshots going off.

I didn't see where the passenger guy had run off too. In fact, I couldn't really see or think at all.

"Stay here," Rhodey said to me, hiding me behind some rocks.

"Find my dad," I beg him.

Rhodey didn't say anything but just left me there.

I leaned against the rock and tried to breathe, to calm down, and to do anything really but I couldn't.

Our Humvee exploded, and the shock blasted me forward.

I hit the sand face first and my back was on fire. I slowly pushed up to my knees, ignoring the pain that was coursing through my body; knowing that I needed to get somewhere safe before I passed out.

Blinking back the tears in my eyes, I tried to stand up.

I looked around for anybody I recognized, but I didn't see anyone.

I reached towards my back and felt wetness; I brought my hand back up for me to see.

It was covered in blood.

At that point I knew two things:

One, reaching my hand back to see the blood I knew was there was a completely stupid thing to do.

And two, I was going to pass out; whether it was from blood loss or the hyperventilating that I was starting to do was a different question, but I needed to get somewhere so I wasn't out in the open when it happened.

I started to walk, well okay, hobbled…..

Okay, a zombie would have beaten me in a race.

And then I saw him again; the guy from the Humvee.

"Hey," he said running towards me.

I move away quickly trying to put as much distance between him and me as I could, until I tripped and fell backwards.

And landed flat on my back.

Because I'm a freaking genius.

I nearly blacked out from the pain.

"Scarlett," he said leaning over me.

"No," I whimpered still trying to get away from him.

"Easy," he said reaching a hand out to my shoulder. "I'm with Colonel Rhodes."

"You're not," I whispered my vision blurry and my voice started to break. "You're uniforms' different."

He didn't say anything, but kept looking over me and I was terrified; something I had never felt before. This man was clearly lying me. Was he going to kidnap me? Was I that important to be kidnapped and not become some casualty? Still, silence from the man while he was still leaning over me and I took the opportunity to knee him in the groin. He flinched but it gave me enough time to grab a rock and hit him in the side of the head.

He groaned and fell to the side as I scrambled up to my feet and ran, the feeling in my legs was going and I didn't know where I was running to, but I had to find somewhere safe; so that Rhodey could find me.

I managed to find a small cave thingy, so I squeezed into it and tried to hide.

"Scarlett," I heard his voice again. "I know you're in here."

I put a hand to my mouth as I tried to muffle my breathing, black spots appearing in my vision.

I pressed myself up against the wall as much as I could. My knees give out and I hit the ground with a cry.

He heard me, he had to have.

He didn't have a light however so the four seconds that it took for him to make is way over to me, I was almost gone.

The last thought that went through my mind as I saw his blue eyes was that I was never going to see my dad again.

And then blackness.


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Leah Brown: This was an amazing read! I was hooked from the very first chapter, holding my breadth to see what would happen next. The characters are rich and vibrant, and the world Danielle has created is fascinating. If you love YA, you MUST read this book. Such a smart, brilliant debut novel. I loved it!

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