Time Waits for No Man
Part 1 – Time Waits for No Man
"No. I cannot expect you to believe it. Take it as a lie-or a prophecy. Say I dreamed it in the workshop. Consider I have been speculating upon the destinies of our race until I have hatched this fiction. Treat my assertion of its truth as a mere stroke of art to enhance its interest. And taking it as a story, what do you think of it?"― HG Wells, Time Machine
He was insane.
There was really no other way to describe him. He was loud, in your face, and he didn't hold back anything. And at the same time he was courageous, patient, and generous to a fault –or so Steve Rogers was coming to realize. Most of all, though, Steve was beginning to realize he couldn't get the amazing Anthony Stark off his mind. It was a dangerous pastime, he thought as he deflected yet another attack.
"What's going on down there, Spangles? Not on your game today?" a gentle voice teased over the com link. Others might not have known it from his tone, but the super soldier could tell Tony was worried.
"Sorry," he grunted, firing off his shield at another group of the electronic menaces.
Above the melee, keeping an eye out and blasting anything that looked remotely threatening to the man in blue spandex, Iron Man did his best to push aside his concern. The Captain seemed out of it today, like he was having trouble focusing. The sooner they ended this fight, the better off they were going to be.
"Sir, there is a scrambled transmission coming through. I believe you had better listen."
Tony dodged out of the way as another robot blasted at him. "Put it through, JARVIS."
"-Only have one chance at thi-" Tony could faintly hear a male voice through the static. "Hold off as long as-"
Tony frowned, his quick mind connecting the dots. The robots below were a distraction; something bigger was going down. "JARVIS, triangulate the source of the signal." He took off as the AI brought up the location on his screen.
"Where is Stark going?" Clint yelled as he fired off another arrow. The exploding head detonated on impact; he'd have to thank Tony for the new design.
"Not sure," Natasha said, dodging out of the way of the Hulk as he roared laugher, swinging by with what had once been a machine in each hand.
Steve, hearing the other two, looked up in time to see the gold and red blur take off. Where was he going? Steve was worried. "Stark, what's going on?"
There was a pause before the man responded, "Something's off, Cap. Headed to check it out."
Moving quickly, Iron Man blasted through the side of the warehouse, hearing the Cap's voice in his head chastising him for going in blind. He scanned the room as he stepped inside; the place was crammed with equipment. Tony blinked in surprise. "What the hell is going on here?" he mumbled.
A wild-looking man in a lab coat furiously worked the controls as a slender, sinister man glared angrily at Iron Man. Something was off about the second man, but Tony had no time to place it.
What really caught Tony's attention was the small sliver of blue sparking and throbbing at the heart of the machine – a part of the tesseract. "Oh, this is so not good…" Tony muttered to himself.
Just then the sinister man stepped backwards into the machine. "You can't stop this, Iron Man," he yelled fervently, nodding towards the man in the lab coat.
Tony only hesitated a moment. "What am I not going to stop?" he asked, voice tinny and echoing in the suit. The machine was booting up now, whirring to life, growing louder. The man in the suit grew more worried by the moment. "JARVIS, send my position to the others," he muttered.
The man laughed wildly as he spat out, "I'm going to kill him, Iron Man, before he even knows what he will become."
Tony stepped forward, finally realizing what was off about the unknown man; he was wearing the same old-fashioned clothes Steve was so fond of. There was no way… his mind rebelled at the idea that had begun to form.
"Say good-bye to Captain America," the man spat as the blue pulsed, humming and alive, and a rift seemed to appear in the air. Grinning maniacally, the man stepped through.
Tony didn't think, didn't even stop to consider. He dived in after the man, his mind focused on one thing – he had to save Steve.
In the warehouse the rift closed. Shaking, the man in the lab coat stood by as the blue light flared then contracted before disappearing completely. The colossal machine slowly shut down, leaving him alone in the deafening silence.
"Tony!" A man in a torn and dirty red, white, and blue uniform rushed through the hole in the side of the warehouse. Shield in hand, he stumbled to a halt and stared at the equipment. There was a lone figure standing the room and no sign of Iron Man. In an instant the Captain was across the room, angrily grabbing the terrified scientist by the front of his shirt and lifting him clear off his feet.
"Where is Iron Man?" Captain America demanded, eyes hard.
"Please, no… please don't hurt me!" The scientist held his hands up in surrender, "I'll tell you everything!" Frightened he began to babble rapidly.
Steve didn't twitch as, between whimpers and pleas for mercy, the unknown man spilled his guts.
Captain America understood none of it. It was science-speak and he needed a translator. "Widow, is Banner back yet? I need him here now," he growled over the communication line, in no mood to be polite.
Outside, Natasha blinked. Steve sounded angry… beyond angry, even. "Yes, he'll be there in a minute." She glanced at Banner as he dusted himself off and shrugged into a shirt, "Steve sounds pissed. I wonder what Tony did now."
Steve refused to release the captive as he stood waiting for Doctor Banner to come make some sense out the mess. He didn't have long to wait; the others hurried in moments later.
Bruce paused to stare in shock at the large mechanical contraption.
"Banner, Tony is missing… I need to know what happened."
Nodding absently, Bruce joined the pair.
"Tell him," Steve growled. The scientist, who had looked relieved to see the others arrive, began to snivel once more, still firmly in the grasp of Captain America.
Bruce said nothing as the man spoke; he simply listened, eyes getting wider by the second.
Impatient, the super soldier was growing more worried and frustrated by the minute. Where was Tony? "What's going on? Where's Iron Man?" he growled.
Bruce lay a soothing hand on his arm, "Steve… calm down, we need him alive. The situation is… it's complicated."
Finally releasing the man, Captain America stepped back, tugging his cowl off to run an agitated hand through sweaty hair. "Can someone just tell me what's going on? Where is Tony?" he pleaded. Clint and Natasha gathered nearby to listen.
"If Doctor Broker here is telling the truth…" he gripped Steve's arm steadily. "Steve, he's telling me he was hired to build this machine in order for a man to travel back in time."
There was utter silence.
Everyone stared in shock at the dark haired, disheveled Doctor Banner. "The purpose, to send them back to 1943, was to kill you before you become Captain America."
Blue eyes blinked, uncomprehending. "Back in time to… to…" Steve was having a hard time wrapping his mind around the words.
"To kill you, yes, but that's not the worst part," Banner turned as he spoke, growling at the horrified doctor, who looked like he might make a break for it. The Black Widow grabbed his collar effortlessly.
"He said Iron Man followed him through."
It felt like someone had ripped his insides out and dunked them in ice water. He wanted to scream in agony, but his vocal cords weren't cooperating. It was all bright colours and rushing wind.
Tony had no idea if it had been hours or minutes, but suddenly all was dark and he was falling. It was night, blacker than he could ever remember.
"JARVIS?" he wheezed. His helmet was eerily silent. Cursing, Tony tried to power up his thrusters, feeling panic rise when nothing happened. "That's not good," he mumbled to himself. He was falling faster now as the ground rushed up far too quickly.
"Come on…" he pleaded as he reached down to pull the failsafe on his leg and the thrusters finally ignited. Grunting with effort, he managed to maneuver enough to soften his crash with the side of a warehouse. In a blazing arch of glory, he burst though several walls until he hit a concrete pillar with a solid thunk.
His suit flickered briefly before shutting down completely. Panting and exhausted, he leaned his head back against the column with a small metallic clink. Shutting his dark eyes, he tried to center his wildly spinning thoughts.
"This isn't happening. This isn't real," Tony repeated as he whacked his head against the pillar a few times. "I did not go through a weird rift in the air again. There was no crazy tesseract machine… and I definitely did not go back in time."
This was all some sort of horrible dream – he was having a nightmare and he'd awake in his bed, in Avengers Tower, in the year 2013.
He heard noises then, the sounds of rumbling trucks and booted feet running.
His rational, if still somewhat disbelieving, mind analyzed the situation in a flash. If this wasn't a dream and he had somehow been catapulted into the 1940s, there was no way they were going to understand a man wearing the most advanced armor of the 21st century.
He had to hide it fast.
He hurriedly glanced around. The place was pitch black save for the blue glow of his chest, but he could see a hole in the wooden floor. As the trucks rumbled closer, he moved to the farthest corner of the room and began pulling release levers, stashing the distinctive gold and red armor as fast as he could.
Legs and arms free now, he could hear voices. Just as he removed the chest piece and hid the last of it away, flashlights began to sweep the inside of the building. Quickly zipping his hoodie up, he managed to conceal the glow of his arc reactor just as they spotted him. Tony raised his hands in what he thought was a non-threatening manner and took a few steps towards them, mainly to draw attention away from the hidden suit.
"Stay where you are!" a man bellowed, blinding him with a flashlight.
Tony froze. "Hey, guys…" He wracked his brain – what the hell could he say?
The click of guns followed; this was so not good.
"Fraser, Johnston, subdue him." Two men rushed forward to grab his arms, roughly twisting them behind his back.
Finally Tony was able to get a good look at who he was dealing with. He had thought it was perhaps the cops, but going by the uniform he was dealing with the military. The two young men holding him looked very nervous. Tony eyed them, deciding he could easily subdue them; that, however, would make his rather precarious situation even worse. They forced him to his knees as more men approached, weapons at the ready.
"Look, fellas, I'm really not a threat," he tried again, putting on the old winning Tony Stark smile.
Tony barely had time to register the butt of a gun speeding towards him before the world abruptly faded to black.