Chapter 34: Chapter 34
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.
Vision felt tired. He had never felt this tired before, or at least he thinks he hadn’t.
Perhaps in those first few days after the Civil War, when he held vigil over the prone form of his creator (father) in a bland, white hospital room with instruments and heavy breathing being the only thing to fill in the silence that had never felt as oppressive as when Tony Stark was not awake to fill it with noise. When he had to watch the recently recovered enough to roll around in a wheelchair Colonel Rhodes would come in with Ms Potts and Mr Hogan and he’d have to step aside to let them see their friend, so unnaturally still and silent, so small without his overwhelming personality to fill in the room.
Or perhaps it had been after Tony woke up and Vision was forced to watch the man run himself into the ground when he saw how much work he had to do. The braces for the Colonel were the first things to go. They got updated twenty times in the first week Tony Stark was up and about. Then Vision had eagerly helped Tony and FRIDAY melt the Vibranium shield Howard Stark had made, remodeling most of it into Tony’s new sternum. Vision wasn’t sure what Tony did with the remaining twelve grams of the stuff but it was gone a few days later, just when the sternum and Tony himself were ready for the operation. The Arc Reactor looked like a whole brand new design and something in Vision’s mind kept pondering about it but he didn’t dare ask.
Or maybe he had felt this tired when Tony was no longer around the Compound every day, taking care of the relief efforts, renegotiating the Accords, making deals with the UN and debating returning to Stark Tower instead of living in the Avengers Compound. Vision hadn’t known what to do then. All he knew was put into question and the only grounding force he had was Tony Stark and the mechanical family he had made for himself. They should have been Vision’s family, but Vision had always been too ... enchanted by Wanda and her powers, so similar to his, to bother much with Tony. The urge was always there, but Tony had been unable to be around him at first due to his voice and what had been a side effect of his birth and that had hurt. Then all of that had happened, the aptly named Civil War, and Vision was reminded he was technically still just a child and that he should be allowed to cling to his parent. JARVIS, Ultron, Dr Cho or Dr Banner never quite felt like that but Mr Stark always had. Maybe it had been that part of him that had held JARVIS’ code that always suggested as much - a sobering thought that had often kept him from finding out the true answer behind such a question - but Vision had never before wanted to view it as such as the weeks following the Civil War. He had been contemplating going out into the world, to try and find his place in it, but Tony had seemingly anticipated that and had drawn him into his business as well, to ground him, like Vision had needed.
Vision wasn’t sure if he had been this tired when the news of the pardons reached them and he had to deal with both his own anxiety at having to face Wanda again as well as the stress the return was causing Tony. Or if it was during that first meeting when Doctor Strange first entered their lives, when the one grounding point that made Vision feel solid and real and tangible was suddenly taken away to unknown places.
He definitely knew that returning JARVIS to their creator hadn’t left him tired.
But the situation before him now? It was exhausting. The Accords didn’t want to let the rouges have free reign over their actions, even though VERONICA had delivered Tony’s last message and instructions to them. Vision wanted to just do as his creator had said and get to Wakanda, to Shuri, who is the only one besides Tony who can remove the Mind Stone from his forehead without needing to put him under - to shut him down, as Captain Rogers so carelessly stated - for the procedure. Dr Banner was unaware that the Mind Stone was no more than an ordinary power source by now, that Vision had an inactive Arc Reactor built into him by Tony’s nanobots that will start working should he ever lose the Mind Stone. The man meant well, but he wasn’t really helping the situation.
“We gotta assume they’re coming back, right?” Rhodes asked as they all sat in for a meeting at the Avengers Compound. The man, now being the SIC of the Avengers, looked as haunted as Ms Potts, Mr Hogan, Mrs Parker or Harley, all of them as worried sick as Vision himself at what might have happened to Tony. The only thing keeping them all from freaking out or having a nervous breakdown was the fact that Tony Stark always seemed to defy death, always seemed to do the impossible, to come back.
It wasn’t enough to let them calm down, though.
“And they can clearly find us,” Carol threw in, running a hand through her blond hair. “That’s gonna be a pain to deal with. If we can’t hide, we can’t protect the stone.”
“Let’s not forget that the shielding had an unexpected failing.” Richards groused, still disbelieving that all of their hard work had been seemingly for naught. “It still won’t work. It’s as if something is blocking the signal or something. JOCASTA informed me that VERONICA was trying to get to the bottom of it, but something is clearly wrong here.”
“Those shields were never supposed to fail.” Susan Storm commented, the Invisible Woman’s head buried in the readings VERONICA had sent from the orbit. “Everything works. Nothing is broken or damaged and yet, for some reason, the transmitters can’t send out a signal to reactivate the shield. We’re wide open for an attack.”
“That’s unlike Tony.” Barton,whom Vision was still uneasy around since he had been there that night when Wanda had sent him through several floors of the Compound just before the fight at Leipzig, said, crossing his arms. The archer was standing with the New Avengers, not even looking at his old team. He and Lang had made their choice and they stood by it. “It doesn’t make any sense. Stark tech never fails. And Tony would never risk it with something this important.”
“Maybe it’s those new calibrations they’d made for stopping light-speed travelers from breaking through the shields?” Ant Man suggested but even he sounded like he doubted the very idea.
“Unlikely.” Hope was to one to add to the conversation this time. “I’ve seen the work on those satellites. I’m no genius engineer but even I could tell, short of a nuclear nova explosion, those shields could hold up against anything. They can stand against an Infinity Stone. This should not have happened.”
“It doesn’t matter.” Vision grit his teeth when Steve Rogers said that. “The shields were a failure but technology was never going to win us this war. Soldier were. Like always.”
Bruce let out a bitter chuckle. “Those shields would have prevented a war before it could start, Rogers.”
“Whenever someone tried to stop a war before it began, innocent people died.” Maybe it was the way he said it or the words themselves, but, for some reason, Barton’s and Rhodes’ faces became hard as stone. Vision took that as his cue to remind them that someone here did have some sort of plan and that they were on the clock.
“No. Innocent people die when soldiers go and mess with their general’s plans, Captain.” He looked Rogers in the eyes to convey to the man what he was talking about. The Mind Stone whispered to him, whispered to him suspicions he could only half make out. It didn’t bother to elaborate, too busy whispering about something else - the coming of Thanos - and demanding someone else. He couldn’t focus on it all and he didn’t want to believe that someone would be so stupid as to ... do that just to prove to themsellf that they are right. “But that doesn’t matter right now.”
“Vision’s right.” Banner interjected before the blond man could protest or say anything else. “Thanos has the biggest army in the universe, even with the chunk Tony blew up during the Battle of New York. And he is not gonna stop until he gets ... ” He trails off and looks towards the red android. “Vision’s Stone.”
“Well then, we have to protect it.” Black Widow said so casually that Vision briefly wondered if she even understood the numbers they were working with. This is not a game. This is real. There are no do overs.
“No, we have to destroy it.” They all looked up, baffled, at Rogers. The New Avengers - save Barton and Lang, who hadn’t been there for that discussion - looked incredulous, as they knew what destroying a single Infinity Stone might lead to. Doctor Strange had been very clear on the fact that that might bring about a greater disbalance to the universe than whatever Thanos might do with all six. Not to mention just how fruitless of an endeavor it was. As long as the other Stones existed, especially the Time Stone, whatever lone Stone was destroyed could be brought back. “I’ve been thinking.”
“Oh god.” Vision tried not to laugh at Logan’s long suffering sigh and eye roll. Barton didn’t bother. Neither did Jessica or Logan’s daughter, Laura. Or Johnny Storm. Or Magneto. Yes, it was a very big meeting. Vision figured only King T’Challa, Princess Shuri, all of the Inhumans and some of the X-Men, the Young Avengers and Wong were not present for the meeting. Wong had to protect the Sanctum. Some of the X-Men had to stay behind at the school with the kids. The Young Avengers were to stay with the non super heroes in the practically indestructible bunker beneath the Compound. The Inhumans were having some of their own trouble that the Black Bolt’s associates were not able to disclose to anyone but Anthony Stark. Shuri and T’Challa were in Wakanda, preparing for Vision’s arrival. Everyone else was present and nearly everyone rolled their eyes at Rogers’ last sentence, making their stances clear.
He ignored them. “After all those meetings with Tony and Strange, I think I understood it right that the Infinity Stones can be ... influenced or canceled out by an energy source similar to the energy they create?”
“Tony’s and Selvig’s hypothesis, yes,” Richards confirmed warily, not sure where the supersoldier was going with this.
“So if a similar energy interacts with an Infinity Stone, it can affect it?”
“It’s a dumbed down version of the greatest breakthrough where the study of the Infinity Stones is concerned, but yes, that’s what happens.” Susan replied this time, looking up from the information she’d been going through. “It’s why every satellite in our network for the shield has an Arc Reactor. It emits an energy signature almost identical to an Infinity Stone and can, indeed, cancel out or influence an Infinity Stone’s power. It’s what we’re relying on to actually stop the wormholes from appearing right over our heads. Or at least we were until the shields suddenly malfunctioned.”
“Then that sort of energy might be able to destroy an Infinity Stone as well, right?” That gave everyone pause, considering the suggestion, before they all turned to look at either Banner or Richards. Neither scientist looked comfortable under the attention. “Bruce, did I guess it right?”
“Look at you, man,” Wilson commented, patting Rogers on the shoulder with an impressed smile. “You’re a real rocket scientist. I bet not even Stark thought that up.”
“Actually,” Reed interrupted their little preening moment or whatever it was. “Tony was well aware of this fact. The possibility of destroying an Infinity Stone, that is.”
“It’s just that Strange was nice enough to inform us of how dangerous and useless such a pursuit is.” Rhodey finished, regarding the supersoldier with a look of disdain. “The only Stone in our possession that we can destroy now is the Mind Stone, and only Wanda can do it. But it’s fruitless. Even if we destroy the Stone, if Thanos gets his hands on the Time Stone, than he can easily reverse time itself and bring it back.”
“Tony’s smart enough. He’ll manage to convince Strange to destroy the Time Stone.”
“The sorcerers of Kamar-Taj,” Iron Fist, Danny Rand, spoke up, his voice deadly serious and not at all the friendly tone he usually uses. “Swore an oath. To protect the Time Stone with their lives. Tony respects that and he won’t try to force or trick Stephen into doing it.”
“Not to mention that, while all the other Stones can be destroyed, Time can’t.” At the look he was getting, Vision wanted to bang his head on the nearest hard surface. “Think of it like this, Captain Rogers. The only reason Ms Maximoff can destroy the Mind Stone is because her power originates from it. Her power’s energy signature is close enough to the Mind Stone’s, so she could potentially destroy it. The sorcerer’s of Kamar-Taj would also be able to destroy any of the Infinity Stones; Power, Mind, Space, Reality, even Soul. Because they have spells that cover all of those fields and they would only need to find a way to integrate said spells with the Arc Reactor’s energy. Which, as Tony and Doctor Strange have experimented once, is actually pretty easy. But time magic is nonexistent without the Eye of Agamotto, which houses the Time Stone itself. There is no such thing that can make the Time Stone implode in on itself.”
“Not to mention that that could cause a ripple through the time-space continuum.” Richards, again, interjected. “We’re better off not thinking about destroying forces as old as the universe itself, if not older.”
“That doesn’t change the fact that it’s our best option.” Captain America still insisted. “If not in stopping Thanos, than at least at slowing him down enough to find a better solution. Can’t the wizards transfer it to some other dimension or something?”
“That would have been a viable solution had Thanos not gotten his hands on the Space Stone.” Bruce pointed out and Wanda snorted.
“That’s what we get for trusting Stark to take care of an Infinity Stone. He probably told Loki to hand it over on purpose. Snake bastards stick together, after all.”
“Oh, I dare you to say that to Thor’s face.” Bruce growled, his eyes turning green.
“Or Stephen’s.” At the confused looks everyone gave Carol, she flashed them a predatory grin. “He’ll feed you to that demon Dormammu for ever badmouthing Tony like that. I’ll be sure to get the popcorn while I watch.”
“I’m not afraid of that would be magician.” Wanda hissed but before the two enhanced women could get into a ‘cat fight’, Vision believed was the term, Rogers interjected again.
“Stop. We have to stop fighting at some point. We’re all Avengers now. Earth just lost her best defender and will need us to protect her.” He looked to Vision again, looking apologetic. “Eliminating the Stone is the only way to be certain Thanos can’t get to it, even if for a while.”
“That’s too high a price,” Wanda immediately protested and that would have once warmed Vision’s ... ‘heart’, he guessed. But Doctor Strange had hypothesized that destroying the Mind Stone might rob Wanda of her powers and now Vision couldn’t help but wonder if she, on some instinctual level, knew that and was trying to save her powers.
“Only you can pay it. Thanos threatens half of the universe. One life can’t stand in the way of defeating him. It should,” the blond looked almost pained as he said it and Scarlet Witch was looking at him with disgust and betrayal. “But it can’t.”
“Maybe it doesn’t have to.” Bruce speaks up again, looking elated. “Vision, your mind is made up of a complex construct of overlays. JARVIS, Ultron, me, Tony, the Mind Stone. All of them mixed together. All of them learning from one another.”
“You’re saying Vision isn’t just the Stone?” A hopeful Wanda asks but Vision snorts - that’s a first - before Bruce can continue.
“Dr Banner, I am well aware of that. My creator has already ensured that I can remove the Mind Stone and JARVIS both from myself without the rest of that construct falling apart. If any of you had just listened, I could have told you that and we could have been on our way to Wakanda by now, where Princess Shuri awaits.” At the looks he was getting, he shakes his head. He can do no more. He still couldn’t believe those aliens had a weapon that can affect his body even when he was phasing. “I guess that’s just the destiny of us Starks. No one ever bothers to listen until it is too late.”
“What do you mean?” Banner asks, intrigued, as always, by Tony’s ideas and solutions.
“You’re not a Stark.” Wanda rebuffed and Vision wondered if he should just roll his eyes like normal humans always do. JARVIS had many times had that urge, even without having actual eyes.
“Yes, I am. I even have a birth certificate that says so. And Tony, with the assistance of Doctor Strange and the Time Stone, managed to speed up time until such a point where removing either the Mind Stone or JARVIS won’t result in something happening to my personality core. He had built a device that can sever the Stone from all two trillion plus neurons and he gave,” he took a shuddering breath. This was only the second time he had ever been injured so please give him a break. “The schematics to Princess Shuri. She already had something that can similarly do the job so I think she just made some ... modifications. They both got too excited about it at that point and started speaking Wakandan-”
“Tony knows Wakandan?” Came the shocked reaction from the rouges, Barton and Lang. The New Avengers, Defenders, mutants and the Fantastic Four were more like ” So that’s that strange language he’s been talking in!”
Vision shrugged. “He started learning when he first worked with King T’Chaka and then continued as much as he could on his own. Princess Shuri took it upon herself to linguistically and grammatically fully educate him in the language after she declared herself Tony’s first female protégé. She, Harley and Peter were more often than not fighting for his attention when she was here. She still manages, even over holochats.”
Vision didn’t even bother answering Rogers, instead turning to Carol, since she was the leader now, in the absence of Iron Man. “Tony has left me with instructions to go to Wakanda, both because Shuri can remove the Mind Stone and because their shields can hold out against anything Thanos might throw at us. King T’Challa already knows that, should it come to this, he will be leading the fight. Wakanda is ready. We need to go there as soon as possible.”
The blond woman nodded, understanding the severity of the situation. “We trust Tony. He knows what he’s doing. He’s been preparing for this longer than we know of the threat. So, who’s staying here?”
“Lang and I are looking after the Compound.” Barton was the first to answer, Ant Man nodding his agreement. “That Chinese guy is staying in that sacred haunted house thing.”
“The Sanctum,” Bruce muttered but was ignored.
“We’ll keep an eye on New York,” Daredevil reassured, his team nodding. “We can hold the fort at Stark Tower.”
“We’ll keep the Tower,” Reed interrupted. “You keep the streets clean. We don’t need civilians running around when there might be an alien invasion coming. Besides, I’ll need Tony’s computers to try and get to the bottom of this. That failure shouldn’t have happened. The shields held. And they weren’t attacked, either. It was as though it were never there. Tony would want me to figure it out and possibly find a way to fix it.” The Defenders nodded at that, knowing they would be of little help in that regard.
“We’ll keep in contact.” Rhodes assured and Vision watched with a sense of dread as the mutants informed them that they had to return to the school. He couldn’t believe that it took them less then an hour to undo everything Tony had worked towards for months. They were breaking apart. Not like the original Avengers had, but they were all going their own ways, doing their own thing. It felt like Tony’s hard work was being torn at the seams and they didn’t care two shits that they were ruining it.
Still, he knew they had to cover several locations at once. It was the reason why Tony had insisted on several teams instead of just one. They were needed in more places than one and they can’t afford to leave any of those places unprotected. This was where Tony’s brilliance really shone through. He had planned for such a situation and they were now prepared for it because he had been ready for it. Vision will have proper protection while New York still stayed relatively safe should the aliens decide to return there of all places. And the Sanctum, which had to be protected, will be.
That didn’t change the fact that Vision wished his creator was still on Earth. It didn’t change the fact that Earth was left without its best defender. And it definitely didn’t change the fact that he, Colonel Rhodes, Major Danvers and Dr Banner were all extremely uncomfortable to be sitting in the same Quinjet as the Winter Soldier, the Black Widow, the Scarlet Witch, Falcon and Captain America. It didn’t change the fact that Dum-E, U, Butterfingers, JOCASTA, SARAH, VERONICA and he himself have lost three siblings and their creator to an unknown fate in space.
Vision just hoped Tony, Doctor Strange and Peter will return home.