Chapter 44: Chapter 44


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.

“My turn.” That was all that Tony said before he lunged int action, his repulsors firing up to maximum speed and he appeared in front of the Mad Titan in the blink of an eye, punching him square in the jaw, sending him reeling. He didn’t waste a minute and was immediately upon him, transforming his fist into a large hammering device and charging it with as much energy as he can to punch Thanos’ chest, stealing all the air from his giant lungs. The genius than had JARVIS activate the unibeam and fired at only 30% power, which was more than enough to send his opponent flying several meters back, well beyond the circle of his still partially vulnerable friends. FRIDAY was already doing medical scans even as Tony focused on the feel of the Time Stone’s presence right next to the Soul Stone, somewhere in the back of his mind.

The connection to the Infinity Stones he had was a bit similar to the connection he shared with his AIs, the only real difference being that the consciousness in the Stones was far less refined. If we were to compare it in terms of specific and general, the Stones would be general. Their consciousness was all reaching, stretching through millions of repeated cycles that they were all too eager to share with him but that Tony’s human mind probably couldn’t even begin to handle without being driven mad, not specifying on anything, not even truly conscious in the manner of speaking that his AIs were. They were sentient, yes, and very much so, but they preferred to be dormant and only send him vague feelings every now and then. But they were eager to start some form of communication with him, which had at first surprised him with the Soul Stone while he had been taking on the brunt of JARVIS’ and FRIDAY’s work while they focused on immersing the new alien material into his armor. If Tony had to compare the feelings he got from the Soul Stone, he would call it a pouting child that was asking for attention. The Time Stone, though, was a lot different. It felt old, its presence left Tony with the sensation that he was in front of a wise old man as opposed to the childish, feminine presence of the Soul Stone. The emerald Infinity Stone carried its presence with dignity and precision and a kind wisdom that had to have come from knowing all of time. They were both content to sit back in Tony’s mind and enjoy their proximity to their preferred contender.

Their presence was doing wonders for Tony’s mind, the energy he could feel bubbling up just beneath the surface and even the armor itself. For the first time since he injected himself with the Extremis, the amount of information that constantly bombarded him didn’t feel so suffocating even when JARVIS and FRIDAY couldn’t focus on filtering it. It was as though his mind had expanded to allow a lot more data than Extremis could provide and Tony tried not to think about the implications behind that. The energy that he had apparently been born with was coming a lot quicker to the surface than Tony had expected. He had never so easily and so quickly opened a portal as he had when he had sensed the Time Stone being activated and the Soul Stone warned him that his friends’ and comrades’ souls were about to be released from their bodies due to aging. He’ll probably still need lots of practice before he can be anything like Stephen in regards to skills in the Mystic Arts, but for the first time since he had started learning magic, it truly felt natural.

And as for the armor ...

Oh, if the Mark L used to be a spaceship, he wasn’t even sure what it was now because it was the bomb. It had seamlessly wrapped around his left hand, leaving the back of his palm bear for the Gauntlet to be out in the open for easer use of the Infinity Stones even without Tony or his two AIs directing it. The armor easily absorbed any excess power from the Gauntlet that would have made a strain on Tony and directed it towards the Arc Reactor in his chest, which then redirected it through the rest of the armor, making it work faster, better, far more efficiently than ever before. What was even better, it was now extremely sensitive to any form of magic or energy disturbances so Tony could react the moment something was shifting, was ready for whatever might happen next. Not to mention that it was in tune with Tony’s own energy, which at times seeped into the Arc Reactor to help the suit’s performance.

And to top it all off, Stephen’s gift through Eitri had given the suit several features Tony would have never expected raw material to bring. The performance of the suit was indeed bettered by several percentages and FRIDAY and JARVIS had managed to utilize every aspect of the alien material, even the repulsors had the same nanites as the rest of the suit, as opposed to their fears in the beginning since it had been incompatible with the materials needed in the repulsors’ systems. It had stalled his joining the fight but the others had kept Thanos busy enough long enough for Tony to come in and rescue them when they no longer could.

He wished he could have taken more than just the Time Stone, but he was lucky enough to have managed this much with his first attack. Arguments could be made as to why any of the other Stones would have been better to be taken from Thanos first - the Space and Reality Stones in particular, given that their manipulation of the battlefield could be deadlier than anything the Power Stone with brute force alone could dish out - but the Time Stone was by far the most dangerous. Even without taking into consideration the fact that Thanos could undo whatever damage they inflict or whatever Stone they take from him, its power alone could tear apart the universe if used carelessly. As the, temporary as he might be, Sorcerer Supreme, he had a responsibility to the multiverse and letting Thanos rip it apart in an attempt to stop them was failing that duty that Stephen had entrusted him with, that all the Sorcerers of Kamar-Taj had entrusted him with.

When he had gotten a hold of the Time Stone, it had welcomed him to its power gracefully, almost enthused to give him a helping hand. That, combined with Stephen’s last minute gift in the Soul Dimension, allowed Tony to easily use its power. Taking himself two seconds into the future, just long enough to let the blast from Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet and it’s four Stones, was an experience he will never forget. He had expected it to be a lot harder, but the Stones led him through it with elegance and enthusiasm, helping him where Stephen’s gift reached its limit. Making it disappear into a time vortex was also surprisingly easy, all things considered, and actually quite fun. Tony could see why Strange loved the thing. He probably only didn’t mess with it because he knew just how dangerous it was.

Thanos shook off the affects of the attack and focused back on Tony, only for Wong to surprise him by opening a portal for Thor to fly out, Stormbreaker sizzling and crackling with lightning as he collided with the Mad Titan, leading the sorcerers and Asgardians out of the Mirror Dimension. Their numbers were overwhelming when combined with the others already there and not even Thanos could laugh at their little army. He may have once had the greatest army in the universe but Tony had destroyed one half of it when he had flung the nuke at the mothership back in 2012 and a good portion of the Outriders had been slaughtered back in Wakanda if they weren’t wiped out by the Snap itself. Thanos had crippled the remains of his own army and had left himself open, arrogantly coming to Earth thinking that they wouldn’t be prepared for him. But they were and they were both desperate and eager to bring him down and bring back their friends. Thor in particular, battle born and bred and eager, was very enthusiastic as he laid in on the purple giant and, to Thanos’ misfortune, Hulk and the other Asgardians were more than battle hungry, just like the Asgardian king, and they were craving revenge. Tony guessed that they really were avengers.

Or more like Revengers, as Thor had called them.

The sorcerers fell in line with Tony as easily as all his suits, the Iron Legion and War Machine, Rescue and Iron Lad. The suits all fired all of their weaponry while the sorcerers attacked with various spells, all very powerful and very flashy. Thor and Storm added lightning for effect and Dante added his own two cents by raining hellfire on the motherfucker. The Wakandans soon joined in, along with Rocket and his various explosions. Magneto went as far as to start a sandstorm to blind Thanos, if only for a moment, as Tony, Wong and several other sorcerers created several portals all around him to confuse the giant purple grape. When he was sure that the Mad Titan was distracted enough, Tony slid into one of the portals and came out through the one that was exactly above Thanos’ left hand, only for the Titan to move it away while he blocked a missal from Rhodey. He huffed and went back into the portal system and timed it carefully so he landed directly on Thanos’ arm.

The alien gave a startled yell as Iron Man landed on his arm, Tony quickly placing a clutch over his palm so he couldn’t close his fist while he put the back of his hand close to the bigger Gauntlet. He felt a jolt as the Mind Stone and Space Stone both lurched forwards at his close proximity, which was to be expected. The Mind Stone was the Stone he was closest to due to Vision living with him and often following him around after Civil War happened. The Time Stone was the second one in the amount of time he’d spent around, what with his close relationship - he wasn’t even sure what kind it was as of yet, it was that complicated - with Strange, then the Space Stone, what with the Chitauri invasion back in New York, being blasted away by the Tesseract and then, recently, being rather strangely friendly with Loki after he returned to Earth with Thor. The Reality Stone was also somewhat familiar with him but he had never been in the proximity of the Power Stone until he had fought Thanos on Titan. It made sense that the Space and Mind Stones were struggling to see who was going to be the first to join the club.

Mind won out just as Thanos caught him around the throat and flung him off, not even bothering to try strategizing anything. Tony had gotten close for a second time and now they each had three Infinity Stones each. He watched as Thanos used his free hand to force his left hand to squeeze around the clutch Tony had attached to him and, with the help of the Power Stone, managed to crush it. FRIDAY immediately called back the nanites even as Thanos then used the Space Stone to close all the portals that the sorcerers had been holding open. He lashed out at them with the Power Stone but Kamar-Taj taught its people well and their seemingly numerous Shields of Seraphim held up fabulously. The Asgardians had their back, led by Nebula and Thor as they jumped the moment of vulnerability from the other side as Thanos was turned with their back to them.

Tony looked towards the Cloak of Levitation and nodded to it, opening a blue sparkling portal for it and it zoomed in without hesitation. ‘Guys, the Cloak needs a distraction. Let’s give it.’

“This is so awesome!” Harley shouted over the coms, enjoying as he fired missal after missal and repulsor blast after repulsor blast at Thanos, the Mad Titan blocking most of the attacks with the Power Stone but he couldn’t disengage the suits like he could Wakandan technology. The perks of Starkenium Arc Reactor powered Stark technology.

“This is not a game, son.” Steve dared chastise and Tony rolled his eyes. Cap was currently trying to withstand an attack from the Power Stone along with some of the other Wakandans who had physical and not energy Vibranium shields and they were barely holding up. “You need to take this seriously. People die in wars.”

“No shit, Sherlock.” Rhodey snapped and was probably ready to make some pissed off comment when he had to evade a close collision with a Power-Stone-powered flying bolder. He cursed as he kept avoiding attack after attack, only for VERONICA to back him up, sending in the Hulkbuster armor to take the brunt of the attack and then tackling Thanos to the ground.

Tony cursed as he got a ping from her. “Guys, Mirror Dimension. Now!” Immediately, the sorcerers all opened sweeping portals all around and no one hesitated to get in. Well, Thor did, for a second, tempted to attack Thanos in the confusion that followed, but didn’t and instead stepped through with Rocket. Tony was the only one who didn’t follow, creating a shield around himself as a giant laser beam came from the sky. Thanos’ cry of pain as the laser hit him was as deafening in the Mirror Dimension as it was in the real world. Tony took his chance and darted in, but Thanos opened a sudden wormhole that Tony barely managed to avoid. He cursed under his breath, calling the others back as Thanos started firing at him with purple beams of energy, cursing even more when Thanos started a sandstorm and sent it his way.

In retaliation, Thor and Storm threw a thunderstorm at Thanos while Scott grew in size and stomped on him like the cockroach that he was. Hope buzzed down just as Scott shark and landed on an ant to fly away, flying straight into Thanos face and taking great delight in punching him in the eye before he swatted her away. That was when he opened a new wormhole right above their heads in an eerily familiar scene as several giant spaceships very similar to the flying donut appeared in view, smaller units rushing towards the blue portal that no one but Thanos could close.

Well, no one but Tony.

"You!” Thanos spat as a green energy surrounded the portal and reversed it, closing the portal the same way it was opened in the first place, the Time Stone glowing as it reversed time. Thanos studied Stark for a long moment before he let out a dark chuckle, creeping out more than one person in the desert. Cold chills ran through them despite how hot it was. “Oh, I see. I guess I should have seen it. I guess you had one more trick up your sleeve, sorcerer.”

“What are you talking about?” Tony asked, utterly confused even as Time, Mind and Soul Stones pulsed with energy, expecting an attack should Thanos try to turn this into a trick.

“It’s so obvious. The sorcerer had this planned since the beginning. He was so sure that he would fight me again. I guess I can see why, now.” At Tony’s continued confusion, Thanos sneered. “He had always planned on using you as a vessel, even from beyond the grave, to fight and sacrifice to undo my work. How does it feel, Stark, to be betrayed yet again by someone you trusted so completely? To be used just so you can be discarded later?”

Tony was sure he, the New Avengers, the mutants, the Inhumans, Thor, Susan and Danny and all the Sorcerers of Kamar-Taj and even Nebula herself were all gawking at Thanos as though he was the stupidest thing that tried to pass off as an intelligent organism. Because seriously?! “I think Strange at this point would rather let the universe die than betray me so your point is mute. Also, dipshit, this is Tony Stark talking, one hundred percent!”

“You expect me to believe that a man of science can turn to magic just like that? You? And to achieve that level of skill in so short a time?” Thanos made a face that was between pitying, amused and a sneer still. “Please, Stark. Or rather, I should say Strange, I guess. You’re fooling no one.”

“What the hell is he talking about?” You know shit was real when Randy cursed.

“Only the sorcerer, who was the Stonekeeper of the Time Stone, would know how to use it in such a refined fashion.” Thanos said like it was the most obvious thing in the world. He was pretty sure every sorcerer by now was looking at both Thanos and the Avengers as though they were dumber than dirt. Not that Tony could blame them. The sorcerers were extremely competent and Thanos was starting to look like an idiot with every point he tried to make about Strange being Stark.

"This is the guy you couldn’t defeat?” Tony overheard Wong ask of Rogers and the others who had fought in Wakanda and he had to admit he was feeling a little ashamed himself. He couldn’t have stopped him, either.

“You even have the cape!”

“Okay, one,” Tony said, holding up the middle finger of his right hand as he counted down. It just annoyed Thanos. Well, too bad, that one was for Quill. Or perhaps it’s rather ‘even better’. He’d chose the second one. “I’ve been studying the Mystic Arts for close to a third of a year and I am an extremely fast study so fuck you. Two,” he held up his second middle finger and heard Cooper and Clint choking on their laughter up in their sniper posts. “I have the fucking Soul Stone.” Said Infinity Stone shone smugly to prove a point. “I can go into the fucking Soul Dimension and I met Strange there. Sorcerer Supreme to Sorcerer Supreme. He kind of transfered some of his knowledge into my head so I can beat the shit out of you. And three.” He held up his hands and opened a portal right overhead of Thanos. Something red and sentient zipped out and wrapped around the Gauntlet, preventing it from closing as Tony opened a portal in front of himself and jumped through it, delivering a mighty kick at Thanos’ head, reinforced by a repulsor at maximum thrust power. “It’s a fucking Cloak!”

Not wasting a second of Thanos’ disorientation, Tony lunged for his left hand and placed his own over it, managing to stun Thanos with a repulsor to the face long enough to wrench free the Space Stone. He and the Cloak than had to retreat lest Thanos try to rip the both of them apart. As they flew away, Thor and the Hulk jumped in, delivering punches even as Tony looked down at the new acquisition to his collection of Infinity Stones. Four down, two more to go. At least now Thanos can’t try to recreate that black hole he had flung at Stephen back on Titan, since he no longer had the Space Stone for it.

Stephen’s last minute gift was what had a good part in their success so far. The knowledge he had passed on to Tony was mostly related to the Time Stone and how to use it, but he had given Tony a few lessons he’ll need that they never managed to cover in training. Had it not been for that knowledge, there would have been a big Iron Man smoldering splatter on the desert sand by now, or a second - third? - alien invasion by now. But the understanding of the universe like Tony hadn’t yet learned is what actually helped the most, since it allowed him easier access to his magic and the dimensional energy. And getting the Space Stone now will prevent Thanos from figuring out how to cut off the sorcerers’ powers from them should he ever find out jut where their magic comes from.

The only problematic Stone now is actually the Reality Stone. For all that it was called Power, the purple Infinity Stone was actually the least powerful. It’s abilities are quite straightforward and only reach their full potential when combined with another Stone. Power Stone and Space Stone? Black hole. Power Stone and Reality Stone? The ability to shatter the Mirror Dimension. Power Stone, Reality Stone and Space Stone? Throwing a moon on the armored hero. He was still pissed off for that, by the way.

And, as if reading his mind - not that he can, not even if he was a telepath now that Tony had the Mind Stone to protect his mind - Thanos used the Power Stone to pick up enough matter to transform it into the same moon he had thrown at Tony back on Titan and Tony couldn’t help but pull back his helmet just to glare at him before he took off, calling for the sorcerers to get everyone back into the Mirror Dimension.

‘Engage the Last Dying Breath protocol, level 3.’ He ordered his AIs while flying around in the hurtling boulders as if it were an asteroid field. The fully opened connection to Extremis - he could more than handle it now that the Mind Stone was gladly making the room necessary for all that information and data processing and was strengthening his mind and brain with glee - as well as the upgrades he had made to the suit on both Titan after waking up and just now made him able to avoid every single one. When JARVIS informed him FRIDAY had the Jericho missals seconds away from the desert, Tony opened a portal and entered the Mirror Dimension with everyone else, calmly walking up to Thanos even as his crown jewel of weaponry rained hell down on the Titan and the boulders he had tried to use to take everyone down.

The impact was felt even in the Mirror Dimension and the flash that followed the explosion blinded everyone.

Tony opened a portal end stepped through, body shinning with his own power, reaching out ...

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