Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Summary: The rouge Avengers are pardoned under the influence of King T’Challa and it is up to Tony to ‘welcome’ them back. But as he and his new team are at the private airport, an unexpected fight breaks loose and the fate of the whole universe is changed when a wizard places himself as Tony Stark’s protector.
Tony yelps when the red thing that had barreled into him suddenly starts dragging him away, further from the commotion that he can’t see due to said red thing and away from his friends. He tries not to panic but it’s very hard. The only thing stopping him from activating his suit was the fact that the red cloth was not smothering him and seemed to be relatively gentle as it took him out of harm’s way.
“Spider-man, go after Tony!” He heard Rhody order but it was then that the red cloth thing stopped dragging him away and instead unwound from around him and stood in front of him like a wall. When he finally got a good look at it, he saw that it was a deep red cape/cloak thingamabob without a set of shoulders to rest on, just ... floating there in front of him as if for protection. Tony found it sad that magically floating clothing no longer surprised or shocked him and instead he craned his neck to see around it.
The sight that met his eyes was even more bizarre and actually a bit surprising.
There were two oddly dressed men standing right in the middle ground of where there had been a gap between the two superhero teams, facing off as though in some western movie. Or, more appropriately, in some Chinese martial arts movie, what with the poses they had half taken up. Half casual, half ready to spring into action at the slightest hint of hostile movement. One man was dressed in some strange green robes, weird boots and had a weird short staff in his hand, skin almost as dark as Rhody’s or Sam’s with a hood over his head. There was a distinctively malicious, hostile, almost crazed air around him and Tony was willing to bet he was some sort of bad guy, which, in turn, would make the other guy the good guy. He hoped, at least. The last thing he needs right now is two bad guys facing off in his private airport and wrecking a dozen or so jets. Pepper will have his head if they have to replace her favorite plane that offers massages during business flights, a Jacuzzi and an actual bed and work desk.
He’d rather go through New York, Sokovia and Siberia all at once than face her wrath after that.
When he looked at the other guy, Tony was struck with a strange feeling of deja vu. The man looked somewhat familiar, like he’d seen his face before, although he couldn’t remember from where. He was dressed in similarly styled robes like the other man, only his were blue and looked better cared for. A perfectionist, Tony’s brain suggested. That or a obsessive-compulsive person, at least to some degree. He was pale skinned with dark hair except for a few slicked-back strands that were practically silver and he had a goatee that was almost a perfect replica of Tony’s own. Definitely a perfectionist, then. Tony should know. He trims his own goatee himself just to make sure it’s just right. The blue man wears no hood or weird boots, although he does look like he had just stepped out of some hippie Budist shrine or something.
Tony finds his eyes drawn to the strange necklace he wears, though. He can’t make out the details of it but something calls to him when he sees it and he can’t understand why. He’s never seen anything remotely resembling it in his life before and yet he finds himself thinking ′ It’s important’. It looked sort of like an eye made of some strange almost gold-colored material.
For some reason, he thinks the red cloak is with this guy.
The tension is so thick in the air that you could cut it with Cap’s shield - if it had still been in that form, that is. No one made a move, no one uttered a sound but no one relaxed, either. Tony soon found Spider-man assisting him to his feet with the cloak doing some faceless gesture like it was looking over its shoulder at them suspiciously. Well, at Peter to be precise. The teenage was pressed close to Tony, tense, unsure of what to do and seeking guidance, not comfort, from his hero and mentor. Rhody had his weapons fired up, aiming at the rouges his shoulder cannon while one repulsor each was reserved for the two strangers, just as baffled as to what to do as Peter was. Vision was tense, looking ready to blast them with the Mind Stone in his forehead at any minute. The rouges were all in much the same state, Natasha pointing her guns at the blue man with Clint pointing two nocked arrows at the green one. Helpless without the red wings Tony had called back, Wilson had to rely on guns, just like Barns, who looked half way into Winter Soldier mode, confirming Tony’s fears that he shouldn’t have been let out of whatever stasis they had placed him in. Scott had a hand on the belt of his suit, unsure as to what to do just yet while Wanda and Steve had moved as if the cover each other’s and T’Challa’s back, but the King didn’t seem nearly as interested in returning the favor as they were.
The two men were just staring at each other, as if any sort of movement might somehow bright about the end of this ... whatever this was. Tense moments ticked by and Stark wondered just what the hell was going on and if he should interfere - since no one seemed to be keen on doing anything at all - when, finally, the blue dressed man spoke.
“It doesn’t have to be like this, Mordo.” He told the other man in a deep, smooth, pleasant voice, his tone speaking of a well masked desperation of a man trying to appeal to a dear person. “If you don’t wish to return to the Order, at least just walk away. Don’t do this. Don’t punish the Ancient One by turning into him.”
"He was a student, just like anyone else was.” The green dressed man, Mordo, said with a calm sort of sneer. “There could be dozens of those like him, all over the world. All those whom she had taught could become just as corrupted without their training complete.”
“With each one that you seal the powers of, there is a new person left for dead until someone finds them and helps them.” That drew Tony’s attention, as it did everyone else’s, to the still unnamed man. “You have killed three people already by extracting their powers. How many more will have to fall to the same fate until you are satisfied, Mordo? How many more!?” There are a few twitches at the sudden raised tone but thankfully still no battle or gunfire.
“Until there are none left but the ones who use their powers for the right reasons, Stephen.” Mordo replies with an almost deranged, peaceful looking smile. “This power we gave them was not meant to be used for selfish purposes. It was meant for protecting the multiverse. And every person who uses it for anything else will be relieved of their power.”
“The Ancient One gave them all a choice.” The blue stranger, Stephen, replied between grit teeth.
“A foolish choice.” Mordo says immediately. “There are too many who use this power on this world, Stephen. Those who use it for the right reasons will be stronger once there are not so many draining the reserves of energy for selfish reasons. And everything will once again be in balance.”
“That’s not up for you to decide,” the other answered heatedly. “Stop this foolishness now, or I will be forced to stop you.”
Mordo snorted, grip tightening on the staff like thing he was holding. “You might have become a Master of the Mystic Arts and the Sorcerer Supreme extremely young, but I had a hand in your training. I know what you can do and what to expect.” Parts of the staff glowed and suddenly, the thing grew longer. “You are no match for me, Stephen. Just let me do my job. It’s your fault that the balance has been disturbed by playing around with the Eye of Agamotto. You should just step aside and let me clean up your mess.”
“You know I can’t do that.” The so called Sorcerer Supreme says, a mixture of sadness and determination. “Your target is a civilian in every sense of the word. He’s unarmed and means you no harm. If you do this, if you attack him, you will be breaking numerous rules, the first coming to mind our oath to protect Earth and its people and the rule about keeping to the shadows.”
“I think that the time for that has long since come to pass, Stephen. Now please,” the staff suddenly becomes almost fluid in movement, like a whip in the dark skinned man’s hand. It’s glowing with some orangish light, as if through seams, as it grows and snaps just like a whip when Mordo threateningly demonstrates it, almost in challenge. “Move out of the way.”
“I’m afraid you will have to go through me first.” With that, Mordo lunges for an attack that Stephen repels with two glowing golden energy shields that come seemingly out of nowhere, appearing in front of each fist. Mordo attacks again and is this time met by an energy whip the same glowing gold color as the shields, crackling with energy as the two weapons collide, wrapping around each other. When Mord goes to tug at it, Stephen releases it and lets the other man stumble backwards while he makes some strange hand movements and a freaking portal opens right then and there, some purplish lighting striking out of at and at the green dressed man, who repels the blast with a big energy shield he makes out of thin air with a few hand gestures himself. The lightning bounces off of the shield loudly, Tony realizing too late that it was heading for him, the cloak and Peter but a golden energy wraps around it and directs it back at Mordo again. Another portal opens and the dangerous lightning is gone.
Mordo retaliates by slamming into the ground with some of the strange energy glowing like bracelets around his wrist and forearm, causing something a lot like an earthquake, knocking most of the Avengers down to the ground, but not Stephen, who sends a wave of his own energy back, knocking Mordo a few more steps back. Stephen makes a few more hand gestures and there’s again the sound of glass cracking as something shimmering is directed at Mordo, who only jumps and starts hoping on air as his boots start glowing. He shortens his pole so it’s the length of a sword and meets Stephen’s newly formed energy saber head on, orange and gold sparks flying where the two weapons meet.
“You’ve improved,” Mordo says with effort as they push against each other. “To be expected. You always showed an obvious talent for the Mystic Arts. With the former Sorcerer Supreme gone and you being her last and most gifted student, the Masters must have been running over themselves to teach you everything they know so they can saddle you with her hypocritical title.” They parried each other a few times, easily reading each other’s movements, as though they were old sparring partners. Which, judging by Mordo’s words, they might as well have been, at one point in time. “Why else would they have let you take the Eye of Agamotto?”
“Because they knew it was no longer safe in Kamar-Taj with you loose and set on revenge.” Stephen replied easily, pushing Mordo back with a wave of raw energy that was felt even where Tony and Peter were behind the cloak. “Because they knew I was the only one who could properly protect it since only I know how to use it.”
“So you’ve read the Ancient One’s private collection? Unsurprising. Wong must be kissing your feet like the rest of them.” Mordo taunted, recovering from the blast and hoping up into the air with his boots.
“You really don’t know Wong very well if you think like that.” The blue dressed ... whatever he was said in return as he gestured towards the cloak something that might have been a ‘stay put’ order or something, because the floating cloak seemed to be indecisive of its position of guarding Tony and Peter and going to the other man’s aid. It still hesitated before returning fully to guarding Tony and Peter, but the silent communication had drawn Mordo’s attention to Spider-man and Iron Man and he turned his eyes to them. The cloak suddenly snatched them both up and carried them away with impressive speed and strength before some sort of flaming orange energy ball could hit them. They found themselves pressed to the wall of the control tower, staring in horror at the small crater left in the wake of the destructive energy.
Mordo was dodging a much bigger version of the attack in the air from Stephen just a second later. Vision and Rhody had, thankfully, scrambled away in time not to be hit by whatever that attack was and were now somehow behind the blue dressed man as he disappeared in a portal and reappeared in front of the cloak and two brunets. “What do you even want from him?! He’s not a partitioner or a student of the Mystic Arts!”
“Because he’s been touched by three Stones already, Stephen!” The dark skinned man snapped, lashing out with some huge ... energy attack that Stephen had to reflect with that same cracking glass sound following a murky wave of ... something that at least effectively stopped the attack. The barrier or whatever it was, it wasn’t in the least affected by the attack, not even a whips of energy making it past the shimmering thing, much to Mordo’s frustration. “No single mortal is meant to be touched by so many! And now you brought another one into the equation! The rest will resonate and call to him! The balance of the universe is at stake and yet you choose to be blind to it!”
“The balance is just fine,” the so called Sorcerer Supreme shot back as he conjured another ... something that sent Mordo flying. Tony didn’t know, but it was impressive and it had singed the green dressed man’s orbs and knocked over his hood, for the first time showing his whole bald head.
“Then you are a fool if you can’t feel the power in him.” The black man snarled and sent another attack at them, which Stephen seemingly effortlessly deflected. As soon as the attack was dealt with, Stephen made a few hand gestures, moving his arms around as well until he grew a dozen more pair of arms, much to Tony’s and Peter’s gawking shock, before a dozen other Stephen’s sprung from him on either side, just as solid and just as real, distracting Mordo enough for Stephen to turn around and open a portal right behind Tony, hidden from view by the cloak for anyone but Stephen, Tony and Peter.
“Mr Stark, please step through.”
“What!? You’ve got to be kidding me! I’m not going through a random, damn portal!” Tony was absolutely not. He still had hideous nightmares from New York. It haunted his dreams each night for five or so years now, almost six. Tony was not about to just step through some god damned portal on some stranger’s insistence! “No way!”
“You have my word that I mean you no harm.” Stephen reassured in a soothing voice. “I am here to protect you.”
“I can protect myself,” Stark barked angrily, more than a little offended by the implication that he couldn’t take care of himself.
“Not against this,” was all the man said before he stepped forward and pushed Tony through without another word. Tony found himself himself yelping as he fell through, experiencing much the same dizzying, disorienting sensation as when he’d passed through the portal made by the Tesseract, if only a lot gentler and shorter, almost comfortable, almost to the point that Tony didn’t have the time to panic at all. And when he was through, he didn’t find himself in the empty, soundless vastness of space, but rather lying on a comfortable bed that nearly matched his own in softness. And it was definitely not silent since he could clearly hear a feminine scream somewhere left to his current position and he jerked up, a repulsor already forming around his hand as he pointed it at-
A terrified, shocked woman in doctor scrubs and a black coat?
“Jesus! Jesus fucking Christ!” The unknown woman swore, a hand over her heart, as though she feared it might just jump out of her chest and run off. Not that Tony blamed her. He felt much the same way. “I’m going to kill Stephen one of these days! I told him to stop doing that!” Then she looked at who had appeared in the bed and her eyes went wide as saucers. “Tony Stark?”
“Uh, yeah?” Tony answered uneasily, slowly lowering his hand. She was obviously no threat to him and she knew that strange Stephen guy who claimed he wanted to protect him for some strange reason.
“I’m going to kill him! He knows I’m staying here today and he goes and kidnaps Tony Stark! I don’t want to go to prison because of his magic cult club! I’m not in on it!” The woman was pacing back and forth, working herself into an agitated state that had Tony worrying for her blood pressure like he used to for Pepper when he did something that set her off. She still got like this sometimes and it hurt him knowing only he can get her in that state. They may no longer be a couple, but there was over a decade of solid friendship between them and Tony and Pepper both refused to ruin that with anything. Their break up was already old news by now, especially since they always appeared to be friendly. There was nothing to make a scandal, no fights, no arguments, no slights or trying to destroy each other’s career. She was still his CEO and he was still the owner, head of R&D and the face of the company. They worked. This woman, right now, though, reminded Tony of Pepper after she found out just what the hell happened in Siberia and why he was suddenly reinstalling the Arc Reactor in his chest. She couldn’t return to worrying about him as a lover, because she was sure her heart will fail her one day, but she could always rage as a best friend.
He wondered if this was something similar. He wasn’t the best people person, but he thought it was something similar.
“Um, it’s okay, Miss ... ”
“Palmer. Doctor Christine Palmer.” The woman, Christine, answered with a sigh, running a hand over her tired eyes. “I just wanted to rest. He said I could come to the flat whenever but I guess he decided to drop a bomb on me. No offense, Doctor Stark.”
“None taken,” he replied easily, although he was intrigued. Rarely anyone called him Doctor, despite the many diplomas in various fields he had. He’d actually added a few more since the last social elite party that he’d been to. He’s an engineer, probably the best in the world, as his many inventions might suggest, but he would never had been able to make any of the things he’s been making over the years without doing some adequate study in each of the fields in any way connected to his current project. Thus the diplomas kind of piled up and Tony stopped counting them when they reached double digits. Pepper counts them, as they’re good for publicity and all that crap. That still doesn’t mean other people call him Doctor, mostly because people assume that only medical doctors deserved the title. He’d gotten so used to simply being ‘Mr Stark’ that he forgot most of the time that respectable, non-jealous fellow scientists some times referred to him as ′Dr Stark’. “I take it you know the strange wizard guy?”
For some reason, Palmer snorts in amusement and rolls her eyes in a long-suffering but fond way. Tony, for a moment, wonders if they’d ever met and been somewhat friends in the past, because that is usually the reaction people had when dealing with him for extended period of time. “Yeah, you could say that. Sorry if he kidnapped you. I’ll have a conversation with him about proper manners. Again. Not sure it will stick, though. He’s kind of an ass.”
“A man after my own heart.” He jokes as he sits and then gets up, grateful for having ended up in the bed instead of on the hard floor. No need to jar his still healing wounds. Rodgers had done a number on him and although it’s been months, some of his injuries were still healing. Like his goddamn broken beyond repair chest cavity. He wasn’t sure even Extremis could heal it, should he decide to risk further exposure to it. “Don’t worry about it, he didn’t do anything that might require a lawsuit. Yet. He kind of stayed behind. Gotta see what sort of property damage he might have caused with his ... wizard-y stuff.”
“Oh god,” was all the woman could say before yelping as, suddenly, Tony stood in front of her in the full Iron Man armor, seemingly out of no where. “Oh my god. You’re not a sorcerer too, right?”
“Only a tech wiz,” he replies playfully before giving her a wave as he opened the big windows. “Nice to meet you, Doc. Ever need anything, just call and say you know me and the wizard. Just so I know who’s looking for me, ’kay?” She nodded, dumbstruck as he left a card on the bed. “Ciao.”
And with that, Iron Man flew away, leaving a flabbergasted Christine Palmer behind, wondering if that was that Stephen guy’s girlfriend and just what the hell was actually going on.