Chapter 3: I am Iron Man

"There's been some speculation that I have been involved in recent events regarding global instability. And while I may have given a technological edge to the man in question-"

"I'm sorry, Mr. Stark," a reporter interrupted. "But do you honestly believe that was just a bodyguard in a suit you created. That conveniently showed up in some of the most desolate-"

"Ok, it's one thing to question the official story, but it's another thing to infer that I am a superhero."

"I never said you were a superhero."

"Of course not. I'm just not the hero type, clearly. With all the mistakes I've made publicly and privately-"

"Just stick to the cards, man," a third man whispered into the first man's ear.

"Right. The truth is…" the man paused for a moment, before dropping the cards and saying something that would change his life forever. "I am Iron Man."

The crowd erupted in questions before the video paused.

"I am Iron Man," A TV host repeated from the clip. "Those three words took the world by storm as famed billionaire, Tony Stark, announced himself as the famed armor-clad hero. For the first time, a public superhero announces his identity to the world. But, there are still so many questions Mr. Stark has left unanswered. Why become a hero? What's with the suit? What will he do next? Well, hopefully we'll get those answers tonight. Please allow me to welcome our very special guest, Tony Stark!"

As the audience erupted with applause, Tony walked out from behind the stage making peace signs with his hands and the Black Sabbath song, Iron Man, played in the studio. Tony then took a seat in a chair across from the host.

"Mr. Stark, thank you for joining us," the host greeted, shaking his hand.

"My pleasure. And please, call me Tony."

"Alright , I'm sure that you've probably been asked this by the many reporters covering your famous announcement, but-"

"I can't tell you how I go to the bathroom in the suit. It's a trade secret."

The crowd erupted into laughter, one mirrored by the host and Stark himself. After it died down, the host cleared his throat.

"Very funny. But in all seriousness, why did you decide to announce your identity to the public? I mean, isn't it against the superhero rule book to reveal your secret identity?"

"Well I've never been one to play by the to answer your question, I did it for three reasons. One, I didn't feel comfortable living half of my life as a lie. Two, I've always been big in the public eye before, wearing a high-tech suit of armor isn't gonna change that."

"And three?"

"I like the attention."

One more, the audience laughed at his joke, the host laughing as well.

"I think we're all aware of that fact Mr. Stark. You wouldn't be on this show if you weren't." He then leaned forward, a serious expression on his face. "Now, here's a question I know has been burning in the minds of everybody since your announcement. Why become Iron Man? What made you decide to stop being the genius, millionaire, playboy, philanthropist, and start being Iron Man?"

"To become a genius 'billionaire' playboy philanthropist." Tony answered. "As for why to become a hero, well, let me take you back about eight months ago. I was living it up back then. Parties, yachts, women, a lot of those came up. Basically, my two concerns back then were having fun and making things that blow up."

Eight Months Ago, Afghanistan

"Someone once asked, is it better to be feared, or respected." Tony said to a large group of soldiers. "I say… is it too much to ask for both?"

A row of soldiers stood in front of Stark, all of them looking at him with deadpan stares devoid of any amusement. Amongst the group, near the back, Lieutenant Colonel James Rhodes, more commonly known as Rhodey, face palmed audibly at Tony's attempt at humor.

"Wrong crowd Tony..." he muttered.

"People like to say the best weapon is the one you never have to fire," Tony continued undeterred. "I respectfully disagree. I prefer the weapon you only have to fire once. That's how my father did it, that's how America does it, and it's worked out pretty damn well so far."

As he continued talking, a large missile got into position ready to fire.

"This is that weapon," Tony resumed. "Utilizing the latest in Stark Industries repulsor technology, let loose one of these, and your terrorist buddies won't have the guts to climb out of their spider hole."

As if on cue, the missile launched into the air, arching towards the cliffs off in the distance. As it approached its target, several smaller missiles sprang out from the side and rocketed towards the same location. Tony couldn't help but smirk at the prospect.

"Gentlemen, for your consideration, I proudly present…." he spread his arms wide. "The Jericho."

There was a series of explosions, the cliffs erupting in a cloud of dust and dirt. The shock wave traveled across the desert, ruffling a few coats and blowing off a few hats as it blew through the presentation.

"So, shall we start the bidding at say… 20 million apiece." Tony offered.

"It was a living back then," Tony continued. "And I've been told I was quite good at it."

"And yet you gave it all up," the host spoke up again. "Though if memory serves, it was for a good reason."

"Oh yes. You really get a better understanding of life when you're blown away by a missile with your own name on it."

"Sorry Rhodey, this is the Fun-vee. The humdrum-vee's back there." Tony joked, closing the door of his jeep before Rhodey could get in.

Rhodey sighed, having grown used to Tony's childish antics after years of being his military liaison and friend.

"Be careful man." he said before heading off to the designated Humvee.

After a while, the Humvee carrying Tony was still trucking down the trail. Just then, some explosion caused the Humvee to swerve to a stop. One by one, the soldiers inside got out to take out the mysterious enemies. Though one by one, they all got shot down. Panicking, Tony got out of the Humvee and ducked behind some rocks. He got out a specialized phone he had and tried dialing to call for help. Before he could get a call out, a missile landed on the ground next to him. Tony looked at the missile and went wide eyed when he saw it had the Stark Industries logo on the side.

"Oh shi-"

The missile blew, sending him flying back a few feet before landing hard on his back. His entire body was screaming in pain as several blood stains began to form on his shirt. The last thing he saw before blacking out was a few blurry shapes surrounding him.

"Yeah, certainly not a fun day," Tony remarked.

"Blown up by your own missile. Talk about irony."

"You're telling me. The only thing that makes it worse is that the missile left a cluster of shrapnel inside my chest."

There were many sympathetic hisses of pain, and even the host winced.

"If that's true, shouldn't you be dead?"

"By all accounts, yes. But I was worth more alive than dead, so my captors helped me… sort of."

"Sort of?"

"Let's just say I was hooked up with something a lot less fancy than the little circle of light I got right now."

Tony snapped awake. He looked around to see what looked like the inside of a cave. He looked down at his chest to see several wires coming out of it. He pulled away some of the bandages near them to reveal some kind of metal contraption attached to his chest.

"What the hell?" Tony let out.

"I apologize for the crude mechanics," a voice apologized in a thick, middle eastern accent. "But it was the best I could do with the equipment at hand."

Tony turned to see a man in a vest and tie tending to a stew.

"Who are you?" Tony asked. "What did you do to me?"

"My name is Yinsen," the man answered. "And I just saved your life."

Yinsen then held up a small jar of metal shrapnel.

"These… these were in your chest." Yinsen explained. "I removed as much as I could, but there's still a lot left, working its way into your heart. That thing in your chest is an electromagnet hooked up to a car battery. It's the only thing keeping you alive right now."

At that moment, the door to the room began to shudder, the sound of metal on metal grating at their ears as a few locks were opened, allowing several armed men to come inside. Tony went wide eyed at the sight of the weapons.

"Those… those are my guns," Tony realized. "How did they get my guns?"

"Be quiet," Yinsen whispered.

"You," one of the men said, pointing at Stark. "The master wants to see you."

"Master?" Tony questioned. "Who-"

Tony was cut off as he was grabbed by two men, dragging him out of the room.

"Doesn't sound like you were in the finest care," the host surmised.

"Not in the slightest," Tony confirmed. "You see I was in the care of a powerful and, in my opinion, testy, terrorist organization called the Ten Rings. And I had the honor of meeting their boss. An insane radicalist known as, the Mandarin.

Being led in by several of the armed soldiers, Tony was brought into another part of the cave. This part housed a wooden throne, and on it was a man wearing silver and gold armor with a helmet that had an armored face covering his own, and ten glowing blue rings on his fingers. Tony was thrown to his knees before this man, still clutching the car battery powering his magnet.

"So, this is the great Tony Stark," the man surmised. "Welcome."

Tony looked up at the man in both fear and confusion.

"Who are you?" Tony asked.

"You may call me, the Mandarin." he introduced, rising from his throne. "And I am in need of your services."

"And I need to know where you got a hold of Stark Industries technology. Last time I checked, we don't sell to Terrorists."

"We have our means. But with all these wonderful tools at my disposal, there is still one that eludes me. The one that would grant me the power to dispatch any who would stand in my way… your precious Jericho missile."

Tony paused for a moment before looking up to him.

"No."

The Mandarin paused, then struck his hand out, unleashing a blast of energy from his rings, knocking him back.

"What…" Tony let out, picking himself up. "What the hell?!"

"It must be jarring for you, Stark," Mandarin mused, walking towards him. "Being the one without power in the room. To feel weak. Helpless. This should give you a clue as to what's in store for you. Agree to build my missile, and you will go free and unharmed. Resist me, and I will kill you."

In that moment, the faces of the soldiers that had died to protect him flashed before his eyes. At least half a dozen innocent men and women who had given their lives to protect him, only to die because of his weapons. Now, he was staring at the man who was behind it all. He may have supplied the weapons, but the Mandarin had pulled the trigger. And he would do it again, with or without the Jericho missile.

"What do you say?" Mandarin asked.

"In the end, I agreed to help him," Tony admitted, with no small amount of shame in his voice.

There were many horrified gasps, and even the host seemed speechless. Tony just continued with his story, completely lost in it.

"I knew that if I didn't agree to help, he'd just find someone else to do it. Someone who wasn't brave enough, or stupid enough, to do something else. Mandarin provided me with a lab, and all the tools I could ask for. Of course, my first order of business was a more… permanent solution to my shrapnel problem."

After an unknown time of work, Tony had finished his little personal project. A small circle emanating blue light. Yinsen looked at this in confusion.

"That doesn't look like a Jericho missile," Yinsen said.

"That's because it's not," Tony answered "It's a miniaturized arc reactor. Got a big one powering my facility at home."

"How much power is it generating?" Yinsen asked.

"If my math is right, which it is, three gigajoules per that'll be enough?"

"That can power an entire city for fifty lifetimes..." Yinsen gasped.

"Yeah, or something big for fifteen minutes," Tony replied, showing him some plans.

Yinsen looked at the pieces of paper and they revealed a metal suit of armor. His eyes widened.

"Stark… This is… not the Jericho missile..."

"No… it's something else."

"And that 'something else' became my first Iron Man suit." Tony continued. "It took quite some time to put together. I mean, I was in a cave with a box of scraps after all."

"So, you built the first Iron Man suit to escape from the Mandarin?"

"That's right. But some things didn't go exactly to plan."

As Tony finished putting on the final pieces of the suit, Yinsen typed away on a laptop, powering it up.

"Are you sure this plan of yours will work, Stark?" he questioned for probably the hundredth time since they began the plan.

"Positive." Tony confirmed. "Remember, wait about ten minutes before following me out."

As they continued working, the sound of men fast approaching echoed throughout the cave. Yinsen looked up, realizing what was at stake.

"We need more time," he realized.

With that, Yinsen picked up a nearby machine gun he'd cobbled together for such an occasion and ran out.

"Yinsen!" Tony called. "Yinsen what are you doing?! Stick to the plan!"

As Yinsen sprinted out of the room, Tony glared at the computer, furious at how long the progress was taking.

"Come on… come on."

Finally, the progress bar was fully filled, and all the lights in the room dimmed. There was the sound of heavy, moving machinery, then the men began to file in. They looked around in the dark room for Tony. Suddenly, a blue light turned on. The guards turned to see the giant metal men standing before him. One swipe with his arm knocked one of the guards aside. The others tried opening fire at him, but Tony knocked them aside as well on his way out.

As he continued through the cavern, several other guards fired at the metal man. All their weapons proved to be useless. Tony then set a missile on his wrist and fired it at the terrorists, taking them out. As he continued walking out of the cave, he came across Yinsen lying on the ground, clutching his stomach. Blood was pouring from several bullet wounds in his abdomen.

"Yinsen!" Tony let out walking over to him. "Yinsen hold on."

"It's alright Stark…" Yinsen replied, his breath weak.

"Come on, I'm gonna get you out of here."

"It's alright… you go..."

Tony just stood there, feeling completely useless regarding his friend's condition.

"Just promise me one thing… don't waste… don't waste your life…"

With that, Yinsen breathed his last breath and closed his eyes… for good. Enraged by this, Tony continued walking out of the cave, where he was greeted by several more terrorists, with Mandarin standing in front of them.

"An impressive effort Mr. Stark," Mandarin taunted. "But it ends here. Kill him!"

On order, all the terrorists present unleashed all their ammunition on Tony. However, not a single bullet was able to pierce the suit's metal exterior. All their clips had emptied out at that point, leaving Tony still standing.

"Nice try," Tony replied. "My turn."

With that, Tony activated specialized flamethrowers attached to his arms and attacked the terrorists, burning several of them and destroying many of the weapons. Tony continued unleashing the streams of fire on the camp, reducing many more of the stolen weapons to ashes. In the heat of the explosion, Mandarin walked through the flames, undaunted as he approached Stark. He fired a missile from his other wrist, only for Mandarin to raise his hand and clench his fist, encasing the missile in an energy field which he then used to fling the missile back at Stark. It exploded, knocking him to the ground as Mandarin began to approach. Tony pressed a few more buttons on his suit, activating special rockets on his boots. He then began flying upward and towards freedom. Unfortunately, after a few seconds of flight, the jets died out, causing Tony to crash into the sand.

"Needless to say, there were still some bugs to iron out," Tony admitted.

"I'll bet," the host agreed. "Though if I remember things right, you were rescued not long afterwards.

"I was. Rhodey had a few choice words about the fun-vee when he found me in the desert, but I was glad to see him."

He's the one who brought you back to the US, correct?"

"Right. And when I got back, I had my own little bombshell to drop."

Inside the Stark Industries main office building, Tony walked into a room filled with reporters, ready to make a statement on what had happened.

"Thank you all for coming." Tony greeted. "I suppose you're all wondering why I called you here. Well for one thing to tell you I'm alive."

The reporters chuckled a bit at that.

"And to share a bit of what happened over there." he continued. "I was… I don't even…" Tony struggled to find the right words. A situation he never truly found himself in before. "I saw brave American men and women killed…by the very weapons that I had created to defend and protect them. I saw what my technology could be used for in the wrong hands. I realized… that I had become part of a system that was comfortable with zero accountability… in short, I had my eyes opened. I realized that I have so much more to offer this world than making things that blow up. Which is why, effective immediately, I am shutting down the weapons manufacturing division of Stark Industries."

That announcement caused an uproar among the reporters, wanting answers to Tony's sudden change of direction. However, before he could attempt to begin to answer them, Pepper Potts, his personal secretary, quickly came and ushered him off the stage, away from the reporters.

"Needless to say, Pepper was not happy with me that day."

"Or your stockholders I assume," the host surmised.

"They all assumed I had PTSD. But I had something other than stock figures in mind."

"What do you mean?"

"I couldn't get those faces out of my head. The soldiers I got killed, Yinsen, and I couldn't stop thinking that had I not sent Rhodey away, he would have been amongst them. I also knew that there were more weapons out there, more terrorists using Stark Weapons to hurt innocent people, and I needed to stop them. And I had a pretty good idea how."

"The suit."

"I spent weeks tinkering with the design, making it more streamline. More functional. Though there was some… trial and error along the way.

"Alright, propulsion test number one." Tony stated as he was being filmed. "Starting power levels at ten percent. Ready in three. Two. One."

Tony pressed the button to activate the jets, and immediately shot himself into the ceiling before crashing back down to the ground. DUM-E, one of Stark's drones, activated his fire extinguisher trying to put out the nonexistent fire. Tony just groaned in response.

"But after a lot of work, I had finally perfected it. And I was ready for round 2 with the Mandarin."

The Mandarin had led an assault on Gulmira, expanding his control of the region. His men were spread throughout the village clearing people out of their homes and shooting several more.

"Clear those houses!" He ordered. "Leave no one behind!"

The men kept grabbing civilians and loaded them onto several trucks ready to pull out. One man was being loaded onto a separate truck from his family, his wife and young son screaming in protest. The man managed to break free, attempting to run back to his family, but was struck down by the butt of one of the guns. The Mandarin noticed this and sneered.

"Kill this wretch! Make an example out of him!"

One of the men nodded and aimed his rifle at him. Before he could take the shot, some loud jet-like sound rang out in the sky. Everybody looked up to see some kind of fast moving object racing towards them. The object landed right in front of the terrorists with a thud, revealing a man in a red and yellow suit of armor.

"Seems my last bout with you guys didn't stick," The suited man remarked. "Maybe it will this time."

Mandarin raised an eyebrow at this remark, then went wide eyed realizing who this was.

"Stark?" Mandarin realized.

"Hi."

Tony fired a repulsor blast at him, knocking him into a wall. The other terrorists then began firing at Tony, but he just punched one of the guards aside. He then fired one repulsor blast after another at the terrorists taking them out. He turned to take out some more but saw that those terrorists were holding several of the villagers hostage. Tony slowly lowered his arm, turning the repulsor off. Then, a hatch on the back of the suit opened, sending out four projectiles, ones that locked onto the terrorists. They struck, killing them instantly while keeping the hostages unharmed. As the terrorists fell to the ground, the villagers ran towards their loved ones, the boy from before embracing his father. Tony looked on at this before turning to see the Mandarin starting to get up and looking royally ticked off.

"An impressive feat of engineering, Stark," Mandarin admitted. "If I had known you were capable of such fine work I would've treated you better."

"Right," Tony dismissed, walking over to him. "I believe that. About as much as I believe in Santa Claus."

Tony then jetted forward, slamming Mandarin against a wall.

"Do you think it will be that easy?" Mandarin replied. "You've seen what I'm capable of."

"And I'm not afraid of you."

"You should be."

Mandarin placed his hands on Tony's chestplate, a surge of energy engulfing his hands so he could shove Tony away. He skidded across the ground, his screen going fuzzy for a second. The Mandarin walked towards him, energy bellowing from the rings on his hands.

"No matter how advanced your suits are, you are still nothing compared to the power I wield."

Tony fired a repulsor blast at him, but Mandarin clenched a fist, forming an energy shield that absorbed it. He then sent out an electrical field at Tony, causing his systems to overload. He cried out in pain as Mandarin sped forward, grabbing Tony by the throat and slamming him to the ground. Tony then fired another repulsor, blasting Mandarin back before jetting away and getting to his feet. The Mandarin fired an energy blast at Tony, prompting him to raise his own shields to block it, his mind racing to find a counter to the Mandarin's power.

"JARVIS, what the hell am I looking at?"

"Unknown energy signature."

"Jeez, you're a load of help! Any suggestions?"

"Best counter suggestion would be an expulsion of power from the chestplate, though this could cause a drain on-"

"Do it!"

Tony then lowered the shield and fired out a shot of energy from his chest plate. The blast collided with the Mandarin, launching him into a building, causing the building to crumble on top of him.

"That was for Yinsen."

With that, Tony activated his boot jets and flew off.

"And that was basically the beginning," Tony continued. "After a while, word of my exploits reached the states, coined the name 'Iron Man' for me. Which isn't really that accurate considering the suits made of a gold-titanium alloy, though gold-titanium alloy man isn't nearly as catchy."

The room filled with laughter, a welcome relief after such a tense story.

"After a while, rumors circulated that I was somehow involved in this." Tony resumed. "So, I held a press conference meaning to clarify these rumors and… well we all know how that turned out."

"Indeed we do, Tony," the host agreed. "Now I have one more question for you. The Iron Man rumors aren't the only ones circulating around. Is it true what they're saying about you and your secretary, Miss Pepper Potts?"

"That all depends on what they're saying."

"They're saying you and Miss Potts have a... Personal relationship. One that goes beyond a working relationship, if you know what I'm saying."

"I see… Well that's news to me. I'd find it hard to believe Pepper would get in a personal relationship with me without my knowledge."

Once more, laughter filled the room.

"Alright. Well, that's all the time we have for tonight. Thank you, Mr. Stark, for talking with us tonight. I think we were all grateful to learn more about Iron Man, and Tony Stark."

"My pleasure." Tony replied, standing up and walking out.

Outside the studio, Tony walked over to a car where his driver, Happy Hogan, was waiting. He opened the back passenger door, allowing him to get inside where Pepper was waiting.

"Well that went well," she noted.

"You almost sound surprised," Tony remarked.

"Well, at least you didn't go too far off script this time."

"You're not really upset I outed myself, are you?"

"Upset? No. You're always gonna do things your way. Even if it's ill advised. Especially if it's ill advised."

"And that question about us being involved. You don't think it was too invasive, do you?"

"I…" Pepper cleared her throat a little before continuing. "Don't think it was invasive at all. Hardly relevant in fact."

"Right. I mean if I did have a girlfriend, she'd constantly be worried I was going to get myself killed and yet so proud of the man I had become. She'd be so conflicted, which would make her even crazier for-"

Suddenly Pepper's hand went against his mouth, forcing him to stop talking.

"I know this sounds physically impossible for you… but shut up."

Tony just shrugged as Pepper leaned in, kissing him on the lips. Tony returned the gesture in kind as they drove off.

Not too much changed with this one, I'll admit. Major changes include updating my version of the Mandarin (a combination of Wenwu from Shang-Chi and Armored Adventures), and while Tony and Pepper danced around the idea of being together in my original, here they already are. They just haven't made their relationship public yet.

In the meantime, stay tuned for more.

Iron Man

Voice Actor: Robert Downey Jr (naturally)

Appearance: MCU (again, naturally)