First Steps

I waited patiently until Pepper Potts and her escort of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents entered the Stark facility, biding my time in the shadow cast by the buildings on the other side of the compound. I could try and sneak in after them, but it would be far easier to just wait for Stane to provide a distraction and then simply walk in, no sneaking required.


And that is my queue. Thanks Stane, I owe you one. Well, not really since a: you're an evil, terrorist funding, bastard and b: you'll be dead by the time I get what I came here for.

As the building is lit up by bright flashes and the stacatto blasts of gunfire, I simply walk inside and make my way deeper into the complex where Stane is walking around in the twisted love child of the Iron Man armor and a tank, squashing S.H.I.E.L.D. agents left and right.

The ridiculously high turnover rate of agents (not to mention them being a shell for the most evil human organization in history) had kept me from entering the spy agency in order to get my grubby hands on all of their fancy toys in my quest for godhood.

Because when you find yourself in a fictional universe with gods and monsters and aliens, you could either try and become buddies with the heroes (in the case of females this required you to be both ridiculously pretty as well as emotionally connected to at least one of them or in the case of men, you were ridiculously badass with about every superheroine salivating over your body) or you could realize that magic was real and decide to supplex reality in being your little bitch.

Within the first ten minutes of being born in this world I decided on the latter.

And the first step in my Twelve Step Program (more like Twenty Steps but who was keeping count anyway) involved salvaging whatever I could from Stane's reverse engineering of Tony Stark's masterpiece.

Of course his true masterpiece, the Arc Reactor, was out of my reach until I was powerful enough to rip it out of his chest with my bare hands, but in the meantime I could at least try and take his armor for myself. Or just wait until Whiplash manages to make an Arc Reactor on his own. Better make that Twenty-one Steps then.

During my musings Stane had been ever so kind to keep the spotlight on him, allowing me to enter the hangar where he first activated the Iron Monger unchallenged, with the exception of the odd dead agent I had to watch out not to trip over.

That'd just be embarrassing.

Once in the hangar I immediately began tearing every single blueprint off the walls and tables leaving nothing behind, stuffing it all in my oversized duffelbag. I could sort this all out in the safety of my apartment without a spy agency and one of the smartest and dangerous men in the world breathing down my neck.

Despite the fact that I knew nobody was in a position to stop me from stealing the plans to the most advanced armor in the world, on the account of nobody knowing I was here or even existed for that matter, too focused as they were on the metallic slugfest between Stane and Tony judging by the familiar whine of repulsor blasts, I still felt sweat pouring down my neck, soaking my shirt, making it cling to my chest in the most uncomfortable way.

I felt like I was in the most dangerous fight of my life despite the fact that all I was doing was walking around stuffing paper in a duffelbag. After what felt like hours of running around with my heart trying its best to hammer its way to freedom straight through my ribcage I had finally managed to rip the last blueprint (a giant poster with what at a glance seemed to be the overall outline of the Iron Man/Monger armor on it) off the wall, trying my best to ignore the smoking hole in the metal right next to me. I knew that I had to hurry up now as I could hear the fight getting closer again, which meant an increase of threat against my continued good health, either by massive explosions or overeager spies who might be Nazi's in disguise.

As I made my way to the exit of the building I had the biggest scare of my life when from the roof of the building came a crash that shook the entire structure. Worse than that however was the sound of someone shouting orders ahead from me, with what seemed like a dozen footsteps running towards me in an orderly yet hurried fashion.

Looks like S.H.I.E.L.D. reinforcements have (unfortunately) arrived on the scene.

As panic tried (and somewhat succeeded) to rear it's head I threw myself and my duffelbag into one of the sidehalls in the mazelike interior surrounding the hangar like area where Stane first activated his monstrosity. Throwing myself to the ground, I was briefly thankful for my decision to wear a generic suit which, combined with the poor (or rather, non-existant) lightning allowed me to pass as one of the nameless grunts already littering the hallway.

Within the first ten steps of my Twenty-one Step Plan, no human would be able to harm me anymore. A few steps later and I could at the very least survive a fight with Thor, who managed tank a blast from a neutron star and live to tell about it. By the end of my plan I would be effectively omnipotent.

Now though? Now all I was capable of was lying down, covered in sweat while trying to get some measure of control over my harsh breathing, playing dead in the hope a bunch of S.H.I.E.L.D. goons wouldn't find me.

Perhaps not the grandest start to galactic domination but I had to begin somewhere.

I desperately held my breath as I heard a squad of agents barrel down the hallway I had been walking in only moments before, praying to whatever deity that was on my side (given how many there are in this world, sheer probability dictated that at least one should be. Right?) that the agents were distracted enough by the lightshow on the roof to not check their dead.

My silent terror sky-rocketed when I heard a commanding voice call out in a soft whisper, as the multitude of footsteps slowed down to a halt.

"Fan out, keep your heads on a swivel."

'No, don't fan out! Don't fan out! Keep going straight ahead, there's a bad guy with power armor there, that means instant death for you guys, shouldn't you be running face first into that!?' I screamed internally, trying to keep as still as possible.

I could only lie there, paralyzed by fear as I heard soft footsteps creeping ever closer to where my sweat soaked body was lying face down on the harsh ground.

Any second now, he would see that I was still alive. Any second now I would be captured by an organization which was run by the most evil bastards on earth. Any second now my life would be over before it even had a chance to really take off. Any second now-

"We got incoming! Everybody move, move, move!"

My quiet sigh of relief went unheard in the middle of the pandemonium that resulted after yet another explosion rattled the building. Feeling more than seeing that the superpowered brawl between Stane and Tony was coming to an end, I waited till I heard the last of the footsteps run deeper into the complex before I made a mad dash towards my overstuffed duffelbag.

I hurriedly made my way to the exit, not wanting to see Stane (and by extension this building and therefore me) go up in flames.

Running away was surprisingly galling but the sheer terror that consumed me when I was nearly discovered quickly beat my sense of pride into submission, leaving it a snivelling wreck before taking the wheel of my motor functions, telling me nothing was more important than getting the fuck outta here.

I was supremely grateful for its sense of initiative when not moments after I had left through the back entrance (the front was surrounded by a small army of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents) the entire building seemed to explode, a wave of heat and pressure slamming me to the ground.

Chancing a quick look over my shoulder, I saw that it was only the main hall, where the giant Reactor stood, that had been obliterated.

Not to mention the bits of Obadiah Stane that were most likely raining down everywhere.

Scrambling to my feet, ignoring my scuffed hands and ripped pants, I hurried my ass out of there to where my car was parked a few blocks away. A modest Honda civic it probably wouldn't draw any attention as I made my way to the middle class neighborhood I lived in.

It was nearly 3 AM when I had finally managed to come home, shrug off my dirtied clothes and dropped onto my bed, completely exhausted.

Stealing blueprints to advanced weaponry from underneath the nose of the greatest spy agency in the world as well as the inventor of said weaponry was surprisingly tiring.

Resolving to look at my loot first thing in the morning I switched off the lights and immediately I was dead to the world.

Stark is a genius. Let me rephrase that: Stark is a fucking genius. I mean, I knew he was, everybody both here and in my old world knew he was. But to actually look at his work, botched by Stane as it was, actually drove home just how much smarter the Merchant of Death was than me.

If it wasn't for Stane having to dumb most of it down for himself and the scientists on his payroll I probably wouldn't even know what I was looking at. As it stood, while I had a decent understanding of how the armor worked (operating under its own weight without crushing the wearer, or how inertia dampeners allowed Tony to be punched through a wall with only a bruise to show for it, that kinda thing) the Arc Reactor was completely beyond me.

I sorta got the theory behind it, but I had absolutely no clue how to go and actually build the damn thing, especially small enough for it to be carried.

Sorry Ivan, but it seems I'm gonna have to take your stuff.

Filing the armor away for now (and I do mean file. With all the supernerds in this universe there's no way in hell I'm digitizing any of this. For now the plans go behind a false plank underneath my sink) I start trawling through the internet trying to get my hands on as many news outlets as possible and visiting every forum there is. With my meta knowledge separating hoax from truth is a walk in the park and I'm hoping that somewhere among the rumors and speculations I can find clues for my master plan of Galactic Domination.

You know, I really feel like an evil laugh would be appropriate there but the walls of my apartment are thin and I can do without any noise complaints.

Ah well, I'll just do them later once I have a proper lair.

Suddenly a news article grabbed my attention with all the subtlety of Thor trying to put IKEA furniture together using Mjolnir.

'Soda factory in Rio shut down due to massive structural damage , witnesses claim to have heard gunfire and have even claimed to have seen a monster. Neither the authorities nor the executives of the company were available for comment."

I smirked as I read the short article, skimming over the fact that some employees had apparently been injured in what was being presented as a work related accident.

I knew better.

"Hello Bruce." I said softly with a grin that would make many a sailor break out in cold sweat and mutter something about needing a bigger boat.

Unfortunately I couldn't act on this yet as it was part of Step 3. For now I would need to focus on Step 2. After well over two hours of caffeine supported digging through the most untrustworthy and speculative parts of the internet I finally found what I was looking for.

An apparently leaked memo that hinted at Stark Industries planning some sort of big event. Ideas were thrown around about what this could be, one more ridiculous than the last (one presented the idea that Tony would unveil a sex oriented line of Iron Man… paraphernalia) but I knew what it really would be.

Time to put on my nice suit, I was going to the Stark Expo.

As a compromise, this time I laughed inside my head. So what if that makes me crazy? Everybody else already is.


It's amazing the places you can get into with just a safety vest and an expression that says that you know what you're doing. I quickly realized that my salvage idea that I used in Step 1 might not work here due to it being far more in the open and with thousands of people present. Infiltrating Hammer Industries was also out of the question since I simply wasn't good enough for it and I seem to remember that Black Widow already was doing that.

Hijacking control over the drones was a no-go since not only was Ivan a way better programmer than me, he did everything in Russian which I could speak well enough to either order a vodka or get my teeth kicked in.

Certainly not well enough to try and out hack a genius.

So, instead of scavenging stuff after the fact, I decided to come in way in advance. I helped setting up the stages, laying down the wiring, everything you could think of, I tried to do. While I was hired for construction, which meant that thankfully I got payed for all my time there (even Galactic Overlords need to eat) I used my vest, id-badge and sheer confidence to get to areas where I technically wasn't allowed to go.

Such as the unloading area where Hammer's drones would arrive before they'd be placed on the platform where they would be revealed on stage. Underneath my bulky work clothes I was wearing a bare bones version of the Iron Man armor, made from the material I had managed to pilfer during my time setting up the Expo.

You wouldn't believe the amount of raw material that went in to making all of the stands, visitor areas, walkways, hell, even parkings required tonnes of stuff to make.

And with my almighty safety vest, I had access to all of it. Of course I had to be careful about what and how much I took, so I was limited to small amounts of steel and power tools (not to mention the size of the boot of my Honda) which was why I applied months in advance.

During my time working here I had stolen enough material and tools to make at least the skeleton of the power armor. It was basically just a frame on my torso and limbs hidden from view by my uniform. It offered me no protection but it did give me superstrengh.

As I walked into the loading area with my toolbox in hand I was stopped by an armed guard stepping in my way. As I tried to keep my breath even I was immensely relieved to see that while the guy was alert he wasn't suspicious of me or wary, his hands resting loosely on top of his gun.

"This is a restricted area sir, I'm going to need to see some id."

"Oh, yeah sure. Here you go." I replied, trying to keep any tremors out of my voice as I reached into the back pocket of my overalls with my bulky gloves, fishing out the card and presenting it to the security guard.

The card said two things: the first was that I did indeed work for the Stark Expo.

The second thing it said was that I wasn't actually allowed in this part of the Expo.

Thankfully, given where I had just pulled the card from made the guard somewhat disinclined to look all that closely at my badge. Not taking any chances I tried to reassure the man with the submachine gun in his hands.

"I'm just here to fix the wiring. Lights are acting up."

Right on cue the lamps in the ceiling sputtered in pitiful protest before dimming slightly. As they should, given the fact that I had sabotaged the wiring not 5 minutes ago.

Giving a glance towards the ceiling before glancing at my card again, the guard looked at me again before giving a shallow nod.

"On your way then."

Dipping my head in thanks I made sure to walk away in an unhurried tempo without making it obvious I was trying to do so. I needn't have bothered as the guard deemed me completely uninteresting, turning away from me and watching the open end of the loading bay where the trucks with the Hammer drones would enter.

Making my way towards an adjacent room on the other side of the hangar (this one without a guard thankfully) I sat down at one of the many terminals that were scattered all over the backstage area, due to the amount of robotics, pyrotechnics and whatever other -technics you could imagine being used in the Expo which required massive amounts of data.

I had no clue what the terminal I was sitting at was supposed to do, my briefcase with tools and important looking manuals (one was for the blender I had at home as it had stopped working for some reason) opened beside me but I knew one thing for sure: it wasn't for fixing the lights.

After about ten minutes of me looking busy (while actually trying to figure out why my stupid blender apparently couldn't conquer the might of the ordinary banana) I saw the guard who looked extremely bored after his eight hour shift of just standing around, perk up slightly.

As the sound of heavy engines met me I understood why: the drones have arrived.

I kept "working" at my terminal (honestly it was a banana, a toothless grandma could chew it, so what the hell blender?) as the heavy crates containing the drones were offloaded and unpacked. I waited until the hustle and bustle of the entire process was winding down before I heard a hesitant knock on the door frame.

The guard from before gave an uncomfortable look at my toolbox with its foreboding manuals promising ultimate boredom and at me, kneeling in front of the terminal with my arms up to my elbows in its guts (I had given up on the mystery of the only blender known to man who was apparently allergic to bananas and out of pettiness had decided I might as well try and figure out what this terminal was actually supposed to do).

"You alright there?"

Giving a non committal shrug I turned back to the inner workings of the machine in front of me (mostly to try and hide the heart attack he had given me) as I replied, making sure to line my voice with annoyance.

"Sure, sure. Some idiot tried cutting corners in laying down the wiring so instead of a sequential relay I'm now dealing with a parallel circuit so's now I gotta go and run diagnostic's on every goddamn breaker, which is gonna take more time than actually laying the wiring right in the first place!"

The guard gave a confused blink at my torrent of inane techno-babble (as intended) before evidently deciding it was not his problem.

"Right, guess that sucks huh? Look, the shipment has been unloaded but the crew that are supposed to take the lot to the stage area haven't arrived yet but my shift technically ended about 35 minutes ago and I ain't getting paid overtime. You mind keeping an eye on things till they or the next guard shift turns up?"

While the overworked guard was clearly surprised (and angered) by the tardiness of the next shift, I on the other hand felt only satisfaction. Then again, I had the advantage over the guard in knowing why the next shift was so late: because I arranged it to be so.

I might not be willing to try and hack a criminal unstable genius like Ivan Vanko, but Jennifer from Administration?

Bring. It. On.

One sleepless night spent hacking the work schedule for this week using keycodes and passwords swiped from meeting rooms where I had technically no access to (thank you invincible safety vest!) and I had given myself a half hour window between this guard's shift and the arrival of the drones and the start of the next shift. More than enough with the superstrengh granted by my armor and with my tools in my toolbox.

"Yeah, sure not a problem. Something happens, I'll just give a yell or something." I said, trying to sound as uninterested as possible, giving a nonchalant wave with one of my grease stained gloves as I turned back towards the mass of wires and circuity in front of me.

The guard was clearly uncomfortable with leaving some electrician watching over a shipment of advanced military grade weaponry, but he turned out to be even more uncomfortable with working for more than nine hours straight by now (courtesy of yours truly again).

"Right. Good luck with the… thing." He muttered, before being waved off as I just turned my back on him.

I waited until the door on the far side of the hangar clicked closed, before I bolted towards where the drones were packed in neat rows. I had at maximum a half hour before the next shift was supposed to show up, but I still remembered the near miss at the showdown between Stane and Stark. At any moment someone could show up and massively screw up my plans.

Sure, my power armor would allow me to at least get out of here alive, but I'd be on so many radars it wasn't even funny anymore.

But I hadn't put on the armor for a fight, as counter-intuitive as it felt to every teenager in the universe, but for something more… utalitarian.

The drones were massive solid metal forms, protected from tampering by strong plates and internal software. An obstacle easily overcome by me ripping away the plating at the neck of one of the Navy-model drones. I knew Ivan had trackers in the drones, but I also seemed to remember that taking out their heads cut off his remote control. Now obviously I couldn't simply rip off the head entirely, that was rather likely to be noticed. But tear out the online connector?

Now that I can do.

Slipping a signal jammer inside the body of the drone for good measure, I slap the plating back roughly into place using some of the more sophisticated tools in my arsenal (fine, I'll confess, I used duct tape) before making my way around the other models, each time only disabling a single drone in each batch as too many would draw too much attention.

Surprisingly, despite me expecting to be found out at any moment I actually managed to finish with ten minutes to spare. I quickly gathered all of my stuff, triple checking to see if I left any clues behind that could lead back to me, but thankfully not finding any.

I wasn't worried about the cameras that covered the hangar since I knew they didn't actually have any power.

I should know, I installed them myself.

Seeing nothing more I could do to cover my tracks I swiftly made my way towards the main stage area, my pass and mighty safety vest easily granting me access to the backstage area where in a couple of hours Justin Hammer would make a fool of himself, courtesy of Whiplash.

And now, all I had to do was wait.

I calmly sipped my soda (no beer for now as I wanted to be completely sober for what came next) as Hammer's world went up in flames.

Quite literally, as one Air Force drone bombed the stage next to the one he had been standing on.

Despite the general mayham and pandemonium I was perfectly calm. Unlike everybody else here, I knew that Tony Stark had managed to get his head out of his ass, massively improve his Arc Reactor and was now on his way to punch Ivan into next week.

And sure enough a gold and red blur arrived and started shooting the drones out of the sky with well-placed repulsor blasts. Taking that as my cue, I walked towards the back of the stage which was deserted as all the employees had deemed the explosions too close for comfort and decided to take off towards safer pastures.

I took control of the lifts that had raised the drones on platforms onto the stage behind Hammer during his speech and ordered them down again. When Ivan started his attack, almost all of the drones took off and started raining down death and destruction upon the audience of the Expo. A few of the drones however had remained unresponsive on the platform.

They were my drones now.

Using my superstrengh I knocked down a portion of the temporary wall behind the main stage, which opened up to a large parking lot filled with company cars and trucks.

My car, with a trailer attached to it as was nearly every vehicle there, was right in front of the hole I had just punched through the wall (there is something inherently satisfying about having a punching match with an architectural element and coming out on top. This might just be my new favorite hobby).

Wasting no time since the dogfight over the Expo seemed to increase in intensity, I hurried back to the platforms with my unresponsive drones on them, throwing one over my shoulders. Each one weighed around half a tonne, but with my armor on I could take it (though it gave a distressed whine when I lifted the Army model with its oversized turret).

Throwing it onto the trailer I quickly covered the heap of robots with with some tarp, got in my car and drove away from the Expo, where in all likelihood Stark and Rodey were fighting off Whiplash.

I was greatly tempted to stick around to try and get my hands on Ivan's Arc Reactor but once again S.H.I.E.L.D. was on the scene and I didn't want to push my luck just yet.

It was the same reason why I didn't go to Hammer's base to go for Ivan's blueprints since the Black Widow was currently there. At the moment I vastly outclassed her in the strength department, but I was sorely lacking in defensive options, while she was both faster and more skilled than me, which meant there was a chance she could disable me.

No, I'll have to be content and take my drones to my storage unit, rip them apart and put them together for my own armor.

No matter, there were other steps down the line which would allow me to have another chance at obtaining the Arc Reactor for myself, I just had to be patient a little longer.

Step 3 was close to commencing and with the treasure trove of robotics in my trailer I'll be ready.

I'm coming for you Bruce.

Or rather, I'm coming for your blood.

Fun Fact: Loki's first appearance in the Marvel Universe predates that of his brother Thor's first appearance by 13 years.