Characters: Tony (Gen)
Summary: After Afghanistan, it wasn't just Stark Industries' identity that began changing.
Author's Notes: For 5_prompts ("all or nothing") and writers_choice ("redemption").
He wasn't crazy. Tony knew that, if no-one else did. He'd turned away from the weapons that had built his family fortune, so he could focus on solutions instead—world-changing answers, for God's sake, that were more than just having the biggest gun. No matter what anyone else thought, it was the sanest choice he'd ever made.
It wasn't the most profitable decision, certainly, but he'd amassed enough profit to last ten lifetimes across multiple continents. The shareholders could panic (he understood that—they wanted maximal return, not the blue-chip yield of a company with a conscience), but things would eventually settle out. There'd be a fair amount of stock market churn, but he'd be left with investors who believed in Stark Industries' new direction, and they'd be part of new breakthroughs in medicine and science.
He had thought getting buyoff from Research and Development would be easier. The stronger scientific focus was right up their alley, and who paid their salaries anyway? There were no "rocket" clauses in the company policy, neither for nor against. R & D built what Tony told them to or whatever the company had contractually agreed to fulfill. End of story.
But maybe the shift away from weapons had happened too fast, because they still weren't coming up with a lot of new ideas. It seemed instead as if Stark Industries' scientists were caught in a creative dry spell. A month after the announcement, Tony was pretty much winging it on his own, and no matter what people said, he was still only one man and he did occasionally need sleep. What's more, he found himself fixated on a single project that offered little in the way of noble results: reinventing and rebuilding the suit he and Yinsen had created to escape their Afghan captors.
Tony had been thinking of cancer cures and super-vaccines when he'd called that press conference, but the truth was that he'd flown in that suit and defeated a small army with it, and the thrill had gone way beyond what sports cars or limousines or personal jets could give him. It was pretty damn hard not to think about doing it all over again.
So while days and nights passed by unmeasured, Tony refined the suit's mechanics and base materials. He recalibrated and redrew it down to the most minor components, and cranked equations through hundreds of test-scenarios and variations in load and torque.
He wanted more control. That was what it amounted to. More control over the suit and how it behaved, more control over its weapons systems and flight capabilities.
More control of his own damn life.
He'd thought he had all that before. It was strange how money could give you that illusion, as if being able to have what you wanted just by snapping your fingers meant you were any more in command of things than a man whose drinking landed him in the gutter every night instead of in a chauffeur-driven limousine that helped to hide the consequences of his willful mistakes.
Before being imprisoned in that cave, Tony hadn't really questioned much about his life. All of those weeks in the cave changed him.
He found out that American soldiers were being killed with the weapons he'd built to protect them. Never mind that he'd always cared more about the price and couldn't pretend his aims were noble—those were his weapons, and they were off-limits to the enemy.
But more than any hardship or revelation, Yinsen changed him, that quiet and amazing man who had so little and knew so much.
Together, they had built that suit out of cannibalized scraps, driven by desperation and impossible hope. Only Tony had survived the escape, which made Yinsen's sacrifice all the more haunting and painful because Tony hadn't seen it coming—hadn't realized that it was practically inevitable. Yinsen had given him a gift he could never begin to repay.
Maybe that was why Tony was still caught up in remaking the suit, endlessly tinkering with it and perfecting it, even though he couldn't justify his obsession beyond the lure of solving his most exciting puzzle yet.
He flew in his new creation—working out the mechanics and finesse— several times before he realized why the suit was so important.
Before, if anyone had asked him, he'd have said that superheroes were confined to the pages of comic book fantasies, nothing more. But once he came up with the idea of using the suit to accomplish those kinds of feats (no magic powers, just science), he couldn't forget it even if he'd wanted to.
Watching the news one night, he saw a story too familiar to ignore—villagers being terrorized by soldiers who used their power to take anything they wanted, no matter the cost.
With all that he'd taken from the world, all the disregard he'd shown, this was a chance to make things right—not in years or far-off decades, but within the span of the next few minutes.
Tony took a breath, and steeled himself for something new. Maybe now he could finally give something back—whether it was justice, order, or some measure of strength—to all of those people like Yinsen who had nothing left
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