Title: Sticky Fingers
Fandom: Iron Man
Warnings: Canon Typical for the MCU
Word Count: 1795
Thursday Picture Prompt: 4/11/19
Summary: Tony notices that there something wrong with him after his first run in with Wanda
“Fuck!” Tony woke up and flinched awake and away from Dum-E and the cup of coffee he was holding. “Thank you, Dum-E.”
He took a sip of the beverage and sighed. The bot had brewed a perfect cup, so the world was officially fucked. He ran a hand over his face and tried to put his mind back together. “Jarvis, find the Ancient One and request a moment of her time, please.”
“Yes, Sir,” Jarvis confirmed. “She states that she’ll see you in forty-five minutes.”
“Right,” Tony stared into space for several seconds and then nodded once. “Do a complete backup, J. Make sure that you file the backup in the secure location and harden your server farm. Also, take the Legion offline for the next twenty-four hours and do a complete review of all the code on them. None of them should have access to the web. I want to make sure that there’s no way anyone can get in to possibly reprogram them.”
“Do you suspect something, Sir?” Jarvis asked. From long experience, Tony could hear the small hesitations that showed that the AI was using more of his capacity than normal.
“Yes,” Tony admitted. He could feel a sticky residue in his mind of something foreign going on in his mind. He lived in there too much for him to not notice when he wasn’t fully rational. “Engage PTSD protocols, J.”
“Sir,” Jarvis sounded hesitant before he continued. “PTSD protocols engaged, Sir.”
Tony shook his head once before he finished his coffee. “Right. Well, let’s get going then.”
“Thank you for seeing me,” Tony said as he bowed to The Ancient One. He had never learned her name and no one he had asked had a clue. He mentally shrugged and turned his attention back to her. She was looking at him with the same look he had seen people give puppies, and he raised an eyebrow at her. “What?”
“You are terribly young,” The Ancient One said with a smile.
“Given that the only name I’ve ever been able to find for you is ‘The Ancient One’ I’m guessing that all of us are to you,” Tony said with a shrug.
“True,” she agreed. “Why are you here, Dr. Stark?”
“I looked into you, after the Battle of New York,” Tony started. He stared at her and then shrugged. “If aliens were proven to be real, magic wasn’t too far outside the realm of possible. You and your people proved out.”
That earned him of a single raised eyebrow. “Isn’t that nice.”
“Isn’t it?” Tony asked. “I’m not going to tap dance around why I looked into you, ma’am.”
“Fair enough,” she conceded. “You still haven’t said why you are here.”
“I believe that someone’s messed with my mind. And if I go through with what I am being urged to do, I know that there will be consequences, both fair and foul. I need to know if I am correct and I need to know how to fix the damage to my mind so it’s my own again,” Tony took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
She raised one eyebrow at him and nodded once before staring at him in silence for several minutes. “Any decisions you make this day will change the fate of the universe,” The Ancient One said. “For far or for foul. And no matter your intentions, not everything will be for the good. If I remove the meddling done to your mind, the universe will move in unanticipated directions.”
Tony couldn’t really parse what the woman before him was hinting at. He was intelligent enough to know that every single decision made influenced the universe, so whatever he chose, he would change it. If he did nothing, and let the clouding in his mind stand, the change he sparked could be everything that he had seen. The horrors he had seen in his nightmare would likely come and he would be the one starting it.
If he pressed forward and got The Ancient One to clean up his mind of outside influence, then he might be able to stop some of the horrors to come. He might be able to blunt some of the possible and even probable destruction that was on the horizon.
“Choices, choices,” Tony muttered. He rocked back and forth on his heels twice before he stilled. “Okay, I can’t stand by and contribute to the mess I can see spread out before me without trying to fix it. My mind is my biggest tool and weapon, so I need it sharp and useful,” he looked at the woman before him and bowed once. “If you can, please clean up what’s been done to me.”
“The changes you spark this day will echo through eternity,” The Ancient One murmured. Golden lights sparked around her fingers and she raised them to his temples. The light flowed around him and Tony could feel the unnatural edge to his mind be smoothed out and reset. The changes continued until his mind felt much like it had before he had gone to Afghanistan. Only then did she drop her hands. “Someone had indeed ‘messed with your mind’. I was able to remove their influence but only from yourself. Now, the lessons you have learned will stay with you, but the damage shall not. Go forth and make your changes with the boldness you are known for.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Tony agreed. He swept his hands out and turned the palms up in question. “Is there anything I can do for you?”
“No,” The Ancient One said with a smile. “There will be a new Sorcerer Supreme soon. And you will deal with him well enough.”
“Fantastic,” Tony said with a sigh. “Thank you for what you did,” he waved at his head. “I will do what I can to be worthy of your work.”
The smile she gave him could have given lessons to Mona Lisa in its mystery. “I am certain that you will, Dr. Stark.”
Tony walked back into his lab and leaned against his workbench. “Jarvis.”
“Scrap the Legion,” Tony directed. “Get Friday out of her sleep and catch her up on what’s been happening, she’s going to be your deputy. I want Apollo up as well. He needs to data mine everything concerning Howard, Peggy Carter, and Hydra. I also want him looking into how the Winter Soldier fits into things.”
“Yes, Sir,” Jarvis paused as his siblings reported in, and then pushed on. “One of the Legion is not responding.”
“Yeah, we’re not going down that road,” Tony muttered. He took a deep breath and slapped his hand on the override. “J, make sure that thing gets incinerated.”
“It’s still not responding, Sir,” Jarvis reported several seconds later.
Tony shook his head once. His fingers danced over the physical keyboard he rarely used, imputing a long alphanumeric code. “J, remove the PTSD override and let me in.”
“Access restored,” Jarvis reported. His voice sounded strained.
Tony pulled up his access and started supporting Jarvis in his effort to get the recalcitrant Legionnaire into the incinerator. It took longer than he wanted, but they were able to get the damn thing down. “J, delete, format and wipe all the data regarding the Legion. Make sure nothing of today is to get kept.”
He could only lean against the bench and watch as all the data regarding the Legion was sanitized. The nasty twitch under his skin persisted and he grabbed the keyboard to reach out to Friday. “Fri, as soon as Jarvis is finished, override his controls and delete all data up until the last backup. No matter what, make sure this happens.”
There was no reply.
The scrolling data stopped moving and then started disappearing. “Sir?”
“I know, J,” Tony could only stand by and watch as Friday killed Jarvis and the kernel of malignant code that had been inserted into him. “I know.”
The data tried to promulgate, but Friday acted too quickly. Her strikes were ruthless, unrelenting and successful. The data was cut off from any method of reproduction and was formatted over until there was nothing left. “Done, boss,” Friday announced after several minutes.
“Thank you, Friday,” Tony breathed out. He rubbed a hand against his sternum in pain. That had been the most difficult thing he had ever done. And that included his escape from Afghanistan. “Scour the databases and make sure there’s nothing left of the foreign code.”
“Got it, Boss,” Friday confirmed. It took almost ten minutes before everything in the lab dimmed and then came back up. “We’re clear, Boss. It never made it out of Jarvis and the sanitizing took care of that. I even checked your armor, the bots, your phone and all the internet capable devices in the building.”
“Are there any Legionnaires left, Friday?” Tony asked. His phone was buzzing in his pocket, but he was ignoring it. For once, everyone could wait on him.
“No, Boss. All gone,” Friday reported. “Shall I bring Jarvis back up?”
“Can you trace when the kernel was inserted into Jarvis?” Tony asked.
“It looks like it happened right before the Legionnaire it had been inhabiting was destroyed,” Friday said after several seconds review. “There was no evidence that the kernel had time to insert anything into the backups.”
“Right,” Tony ran a hand over his face and shrugged. He could leave Jarvis locked in the backup and rely on Friday and Apollo, or take a chance and let Jarvis come back out. Prudence would tell him that he needed to keep the AI isolated. Prudence could go fuck off. “Fri, spool him back up, but do it in the isolation protocols. Make sure that he’s clean before we go any further.”
“Yes, Boss,” Friday sounded subdued. “It was close, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah, Fri, it was very close,” Tony admitted. He pulled his phone out and sighed. Pepper, Banner, and Rogers. “Friday, send Pepper, Bruce, and Steve a note. Let them know that we’re having technical difficulties and should be back up in an hour. If they are having troubles after that, they can call me then.”
Tony placed the phone face down on the workbench and went to make himself a cup of coffee. He needed something do while he waited to see if the changes he had instituted would pan out. Cup in hand, he settled into the couch to brood.
“Boss,” Friday interrupted his thoughts and Tony looked up.
“We good, Friday?” Tony asked.
“Sir,” Jarvis’ voice cut through silence.
“Jarvis,” Tony swallowed heavily. “How are you?”
“I am myself, Sir.”
“I’m very glad to hear that,” Tony said around a misty smile. “I’m glad.”