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Every Purpose Under Heaven - part 3 of 5

Disclaimers and information are on the Master Post.

~~~~~ 

The next morning, Nathan and Audrey ran the gauntlet of knowing smirks and teasing comments from Tony and Duke. Nathan glared and flushed and shifted uncomfortably, while Audrey simply shook her head and smiled her smile that gave nothing away. After they cleaned up from the breakfast Duke had made, they headed back to Haven, with Duke leading the way - even though they headed straight to the police station.

 

They walked in with Tony, bantering like nothing had happened. The entire room froze for a moment then burst into chaos. Laverne burst into tears when she saw Audrey, then into even harder tears when she saw Nathan. After furiously hugging both of them, she turned to Duke.

 

"I knew you couldn't have hurt them!" she said, wiping her eyes and shaking her finger at him. "I knew there was something going on we just didn't know about!"

 

Duke smiled his crocodile smile that turned genuine as Laverne sternly stared him down.

 

"I'm glad you had faith in me," he said softly. He glanced at Nathan from the corner of his eye. "Unlike other people who shall remain nameless."

 

Nathan rolled his eyes.

 

As the hubbub subsided, Nathan looked over at Duke, Audrey and Tony and said, "Come on. We have mysteries to solve."

 

~~~~~

 

As Duke, Nathan and Audrey brainstormed ways to track down her kidnappers, Tony prowled around the office Nathan and Audrey still shared more often than not. He carefully looked at everything posted on the wall, and idly glanced through the files on the desks.

 

"Those are active files," Audrey warned.

 

Tony glanced at her, then shrugged with a smirk, and continued his restless prowling. He paused at a large map of Maine and idly tried to pinpoint where, exactly, he was, and how far he'd been thrown from Dr. Doom's stronghold.

 

He suddenly frowned and leaned closer, staring intently.

 

"What map is this?" Tony demanded loudly, causing Nathan to stop in mid-word.

 

Nathan glanced at the map.

 

"It's a map of Maine," he said.

 

"No. No, it's not."

 

Nathan, Duke and Audrey frowned and crowded around Tony, peering closely at the map.

 

"Yeah," Duke said slowly, "yeah, it is."

 

Tony shook his head.

 

"This...makes no sense," he muttered.

 

"What?" Audrey asked.

 

"This is not the map of Maine!"

 

Nathan frowned and said with forced patience, "Yes. It is. Printed this year."

 

"Haven is here?" Tony demanded, pounding a finger against the map.

 

Nathan and Audrey watched him warily, dropping their hands to their sides, their fingers hanging close to their guns.

 

Nathan nodded.

 

"And that's Derry?"

 

"Yes," Nathan replied.

 

Tony closed his eyes and swayed. "Jesus." He stood still for a long moment, then slowly leaned forward, pressing his forehead against the wall.

 

"Jesus," he whispered again. "Shit. Fuck!"

 

Nathan put a careful hand on his shoulder.

 

"What is it?" he asked softly.

 

"This isn't my Maine," Tony groaned. "There's nothing in this part of my Maine."

 

"I - I'm not sure what that means," Nathan said.

 

"It means I'm in a different universe."

 

~~~~~

"All right," Audrey said briskly, sitting across the table from Tony, a pad of paper in front of her and a pen in her hand. "Start at the beginning."

 

Tony smirked, but there wasn't any real humor behind it.

 

"In the beginning, I was a gleam in my daddy's eye."

 

Audrey shook her head as she suppressed a smile.

 

"Okay - what's the last thing you remember before waking up in the cabin?"

 

Tony sighed. "I was fighting against a squadron of Hammerdrones - humanoid flying robots, built by Justin Hammer. Well - actually built by Ivan Vanko, but under Hammer's...well, Hammer provided the money."

 

Audrey stared at him with wide, blank eyes.

 

"It's a long story," Tony said. "Look, I was fighting the Hammerdrones, and leading them towards the other Avengers, who were waiting outside Dr. Doom's stronghold."

 

Audrey couldn't stop her snicker. "Dr. Doom. Really."

 

"Really." He frowned, his dark eyes seeing the last few moments of the battle. "They were following me, as planned, when Jarvis told me there was an anomaly manifesting in my vicinity. By the time I understood what he was telling me, it was too late. The next thing I knew, Nathan and Duke were telling me they'd never heard of me."

 

Audrey frowned. "If it wasn't for that - thing in your chest -"

 

"The arc reactor."

 

"The arc reactor," Audrey amended, "I would think you were simply delusional. But that arc reactor is compelling evidence you're telling the truth. And the fact that Nathan can feel you."

 

She thoughtfully drummed her fingers on the table.

 

"You said you checked the newspapers in Derry?" she asked.

 

Tony nodded. "The ones published that day, as well the online version, and then those papers on microfiche at the Derry Public Library. I went back a hundred years in all the major papers I could find - and...nothing. Nothing about my father - nothing about me."

 

"What do you want us to do?" Audrey asked.

 

Tony sighed. "There's not a whole lot you can do - unless there's someone with a Trouble that can send people between universes."

 

Audrey gave him a glimmer of a smile.

 

"There may be," she acknowledged. "Or...perhaps you're a figment of a Troubled person's imagination."

 

"So - what? You mean a Troubled person has - I don't know - created me from the ether, with memories and arc reactor and all?"

 

"Stranger things have happened," Audrey said drily.

 

Tony shot her a cynically skeptical look.

 

"Look," she said, leaning forward and staring earnestly at him, "I've seen things in this town that boggle the mind, and which have no real explanation. A woman who can control the weather. A man whose sweat is toxic. A young girl who turned Haven into a snow globe! The idea that a Troubled person could create an entire person with a full set of memories isn't really that much of a stretch."

 

"Maybe," he acknowledged reluctantly, "except I know something you don't."

 

Audrey sat back with a slight smile. "And what would that be?"

 

Tony leaned forward and now it was his turn to stare intently at her, his eyes almost boring through her skull.

 

"I know Pepper, and what she means to me. If I know nothing else, I know her. I can't believe - I refuse to believe - that that truth is somehow imaginary. That it came from some Troubled person's mind or something."

 

Audrey considered his words then sighed. "I'm not sure if I hope you're right - or if I hope you're wrong."

 

Tony leaned back, his face grim with grief and frustration.

 

"I'm not sure either," he muttered.

 

They sat in silence for a long moment, then Audrey shook her head and leaned back in her chair.

 

"What do you want us to do? What can we do to help you?"

 

Tony slowly shook his head. "I'm not sure. Except try to see if I - that is, another Tony Stark - exists here in this world."

 

Audrey frowned. "And what would that prove?"

 

He shrugged. "Maybe that I'm delusional. Maybe that I really am in a different universe. Maybe both."

 

Audrey shrugged and leaned forward again, picking up her pen.

 

"Well, I can't see how it could hurt anything," she said. "Give me the particulars - full name, parents, date and location of birth."

 

Tony told her, then leaned back and watched her busily making notes.

 

Audrey said, "You know, even if we don't find your - your - double -"

 

"Doppelganger," Tony provided.

 

"Right. That doesn't necessarily prove you're not from another universe."

 

Tony nodded. "I know. It may only mean I was never born in this one. But if you can at least find my parents, or Pepper, then that would at least tell me something."

 

"Like what?"

 

"How far I am from home."

 

~~~~~

When Nathan and Duke returned from interrogating one of the known ringleaders of the late Reverend Driscoll's fanatical, anti-Troubled followers - the only people in Haven with motives both to harm Audrey and to force Duke to embrace his legacy - they found Audrey playing along with Tony's half-hearted teasing.

 

"These Troubles don't sound so bad," Tony was saying as they walked into the room.

 

"No?" Audrey snorted. "You try dealing with things coming to life because somebody read them from a book!"

 

Tony sniffed. "I work with a man who turns into an uncontrollable green giant when he gets angry."

 

"We had a kid who set things on fire with his mind when he got angry," Audrey replied. She raised an eyebrow in question at Nathan and Duke; they shook their heads slightly.

 

"I work with a Norse god," Tony said smugly, watching the interplay with interest.

 

"We had a woman whose moods controlled the weather," Nathan shrugged, his hands tucked up under his arms. "Seems close enough to me."

 

Tony frowned. "I work with two highly trained assassins."

 

"Well," Nathan hesitated, his eyes shifting to Duke.

 

Duke raised an eyebrow and said, "Well, I'm supposed to be an assassin - but I've never been trained for it."

 

Tony stared unblinkingly at him, his face carefully blank.

 

Duke glanced at the open office door and lowered his voice. "I apparently kill not just the person, but also their Trouble in every generation thereafter."

 

Tony slowly shook his head and heaved a long-suffering sigh, "I thought for sure I had you beat with the Norse god."

 

"Hey, guys."

 

They turned and looked at the giant, shaggy blonde man standing in the doorway to the office.

 

Tony's eyes widened. "Then again," he said slowly, "you apparently have that covered, too."

 

Nathan and Audrey smirked, while Duke laughed and said, "Nah, that's just Dwight. He helped carry you out of the woods."

 

Dwight turned his gimlet stare on Duke.

 

Duke gulped. "By 'helped' I of course meant he carried you the whole way."

 

Tony stared at Dwight.

 

Dwight stared impassively back.

 

"You carried my naked ass all the way to that cabin?" Tony finally asked.

 

Dwight nodded.

 

"Well. Thank you. You didn't take any pictures of that, did you?" he asked Nathan and Duke. "I'm just sayin' - Pepper would probably love to get her hands on a picture like that, if only to keep me in line - and the tabloids would have a field day. If I could get the pictures to either of them." He shook his head.

 

"Are you somebody famous?" Dwight asked.

 

"It's a long story," Nathan assured him.

 

"Troubled?"

 

"Definitely by the situation," Tony quipped.

 

Dwight didn't even bother to look at him, just continued to steadily watch Nathan.

 

Nathan shoved his hands in the pockets of his jeans and shrugged slightly.

 

"We're...not really sure."

 

Dwight shook his head. "Why am I not surprised?" he sighed.

 

Audrey laughed. "What can we do for you, Dwight?"

 

Dwight glanced at Nathan again. "I have some people you need to talk to."

 

~~~~~

 

The tiny newspaper office was crowded with Vince and Dave Teagues facing the others with vaguely guilty looks on their faces. They were semi-surrounded by Nathan, Duke and Audrey, while Dwight had somehow managed to fade into the background. It was an impressive feat for such a large man. Tony stayed in the background, too, although it wasn't something he was used to doing. He found his own willingness to hang back almost as interesting as the Teagues themselves.

 

Everything about Dave gave the impression of thinness, from his nose and mouth to the grey fringe of hair surrounding his bald head. He was shorter than Tony, and with his glasses and sweater vests and pens in his shirt pocket, he almost seemed mouse-like. His brother, Vince, in contrast, was larger than life, almost as tall as Dwight and bulkier. His wild curly hair was still mostly black, and his eyes were brown, with an almost permanent look of bewildered innocence.

 

They were, Tony thought, quite determined to appear harmless and innocuous, and he was fascinated as much by their similarities as by their differences. He settled in to watch.

 

"Dwight said you had something to tell us," Audrey said briskly.

 

Dave's look of shame deepened. "I'm sorry, Audrey. Nathan. Duke. I'm the one who took Audrey."

 

The other three froze and stared in wide-eyed disbelief.

 

"It wasn't you, Dave," Audrey protested.

 

"Not personally," Dave acknowledged, "but I arranged it."

 

"For God's sake - why?" Nathan asked, his sense of betrayal ringing through his quiet words.

 

"Because I had to know! I had to test the two of you - you and Duke. I didn't wanted you two to kill each other - but I needed to know if, given the opportunity and - and proof, you would turn on each other because of Audrey - like the Wuornoses and Crockers have done throughout Haven's history.

 

"I hired one of the Troubled to kidnap Audrey and plant Duke's necklace at the scene. He kept her asleep and safe until I could see what the two of you would do. When we heard you'd both gone out to the forest, and only Duke came back - well. I was never so relieved as when Dwight finally told us you were safe and hiding out in the hopes that Duke would be contacted by the kidnapper - who you assumed to be a member of the Rev's congregation."

 

"This was a dangerously stupid stunt," Nathan snapped. "My God - I could have killed Duke! I would have killed him if I'd truly thought he was so stupid as to leave evidence behind!"

 

Duke grinned. "That's the nicest thing you've ever said about me," he said.

 

Nathan shot him a glare and returned his attention back to the Teagues.

 

Vince nodded. "That's what I told him - but by then it was too late. Audrey was gone, you were missing, and Duke wasn't talking. And that was when Dave finally had mercy on me and told me what he'd done. I begged Dwight to find out what he could about what had happened in the forest."

 

Audrey, Duke and Nathan stared in disbelief at the Teagues brothers.

 

"Next time, just talk to us," Duke growled.

 

"We had to be sure," Dave said. He glanced at Vince, who was watching him with an unreadable expression. "I had to be sure. We want things to be different this time. We want the Troubles to be banished, and never come back. His elderly face hardened. "We'll do whatever it takes."

 

~~~~~

 

Audrey sat at the desk, her head in her hands. Nathan stood next to her, his hands tucked under his arms, his shoulders hunched. Duke paced, a fierce scowl on his face.

 

"I can't believe they would risk my life like that!" Duke blurted.

 

"You, I can believe," Nathan retorted. "I can't believe they'd risk Audrey's life like that!"

 

"Oh, that's nice," Duke said, "and after all your kind words at the Teagues'! I'm hurt, Nathan. Hurt!"

 

Tony chuckled. "I can't believe you guys fell for their act."

 

Tony found himself the focus of three puzzled stares.

 

"Act?" Nathan asked.

 

"There's more to all of this than what they've told you," Tony said casually. "That's obvious. The question is: what are they still hiding from you?"

 

Duke snorted. "Oh, you are new to Haven, aren't you?"

 

Tony raised an eyebrow.

 

"Everybody's hiding something in this town," Nathan sighed. "Everybody has a secret."

 

Audrey slapped her hands on the desk and stood. "Well, as fun as this is, boys, we're not getting anything done sitting here. Let's go."

 

"Where?" Nathan asked.

 

"The Gull, where else? I don't know about anybody else, but I could use a drink."

 

~~~~~

Tony sipped his scotch, his dark eyes staring blankly at the ocean. Behind him the Grey Gull was still quiet, and he could hear Duke inside, the clink of glass as he stocked the bar, the sound of his voice as he talked to his waitresses and Nathan, Audrey and Dwight.

 

The scenery in front of Tony was beautiful, and peaceful, balm for any troubled - he winced - disturbed soul.

 

Except his.

 

And not just because this scenery wasn't actually part of his world. He heard Audrey's voice as she quietly talked to her three boys, telling them about looking for Tony's doppelganger, and those of his parents and Pepper. Duke sounded skeptical, which amused Tony. How much harder was it to believe in multiple universes than in paranormal Troubles that came back to plague a town every thirty or so years?

 

He sipped his scotch as he told himself again that he was in a different universe. One where he was unknown.

 

Tony considered the possibilities. He could start over with a clean slate. This world had never known him as The Merchant of Death. Here he could simply be Tony Stark, a genius known for his ability to build rather than his talent for designing weapons of imaginative destruction.

 

He would no longer be tied to his father's legacy; he would no longer stand in his father's shadow while also overshadowing his father's genius with his own.

 

He no longer had to be Iron Man.

 

There was a certain appeal to anonymity, to starting over, to a clean slate.

 

The appeal lasted for all of 3.5 seconds.

 

None of it was worth anything without Pepper. He had to find a way to get back to her.

 

He stared out over the ocean view and took another sip of his scotch.

 

He glanced to his right as Audrey joined him, leaning on the railing beside him.

 

The silence was somber, yet companionable.

 

"I know what it's like," Audrey said quietly. "Being alone."

 

Tony's expression didn't change.

 

"Do you," he said.

 

"There's a lot we haven't had a chance to tell you. About the Troubles. About me." She hesitated, staring silently across the water before she slowly continued. "I don't know who - or what - I am. But I'm intimately connected to the Troubles. I appear when they appear, with different memories and a different personality every time. But I'm always immune, and I always help the Troubled, and I apparently always cause trouble between the Wuornoses and the Crockers. If you find someone else like me, please. Let me know."

 

Tony's lips twitched into a half-smile. The silence once more stretched between them.

 

Audrey finally straightened and said, "If you do have a doppelganger here, we'll find him. Or Nathan will."

 

Tony finally gave her an unexpectedly sweet and genuine smile. "Do you realize your voice goes all breathy when you say Nathan's name?"

 

"I do," Audrey acknowledged. "I'm thinking about trying to control that."

 

"Why? It's rather charming."

 

"Because...things here in Haven are speeding up, and I don't want to hurt him."

 

"Him? Or you?"

 

Audrey's smile vanished as she stared sightlessly over the ocean.

 

"I won't remember him when the Troubles return again - which they will, if we can't figure out a way to stop them for good. My heart might break, but I won't know it by the time I return. He will. He'll remember forever."

 

"And yet, you spent the night with him last night."

 

Audrey nodded, her large, dark blue eyes suddenly bright with tears.

 

"And you'll spend the night with him again tonight. And every night hereafter, if you can."

 

She nodded again, even though Tony wasn't really asking a question.

 

"If you really don't want to hurt him -"

 

"I'm...scared," she whispered, "and confused. And the only things I know for sure are..." she blinked tears away and glanced behind her towards the bar where they could hear Duke's light, teasing voice, Dwight's rumbling replies and Nathan's occasional, slow-voiced contributions to the conversation.

 

"The only things you know for sure are...?" Tony prompted gently.

 

"I...really do love him," Audrey whispered, her eyes wide and riveted on the door. "And I...don't have the strength - or the desire - to tell him to stay away, even though it's for his own good."

 

Tony half-smiled at her. "Now that, I also understand." He raised his glass in a toast. "We're very much alike, you and I."

 

Audrey half-smiled in response. "And Nathan can feel both of us."

 

Tony nodded, his eyes suddenly thoughtful. "So he can," he murmured, and drained his glass.

 

~~~~~

To Tony's relief, he discovered he didn't have much time to brood. In fact, he didn't have any.

 

The day after his stunning realization that he wasn't in his version of Maine, and the revelation that Dave Teagues had orchestrated Audrey's kidnapping, a new Trouble erupted - literally - and left everyone scrambling to find the source of the Trouble and from there, a solution. Adding to the tension were the Rev's followers who were just as determined to find the Troubled person, and take care of him or her, in their own way.

 

The eruptions consisted of vast electro-magnetic pulses that destroyed electronics, although no one really understood what was happening for several days. The Trouble progressed to also shorting out the power lines, and the resulting house fires left everyone scrambling. When his arc reactor began to be affected, Tony realized he needed to do something, if only for his own survival. With Audrey and Nathan occupied elsewhere, Tony went to Duke and offered his help.

 

"Well, superhero, you don't have that suit of armor you keep talking about. How are you gonna help us with this?" Duke's sarcasm was withering, fueled by frustration and fear.

 

Tony looked at Duke, impassively wide-eyed.

 

"Well," he said finally, "I am still a genius. And I need a workshop."

 

~~~~~

Duke and Tony stood outside the garage. From behind the tightly closed doors, they could faintly hear the sounds of metal clanging on metal and on occasion, the muffled tones of a man's voice.

 

"This is probably a pretty bad idea," Duke murmured.

 

Tony said, "Let me get this straight. This guy fixes broken appliances, cars, heavy equipment, and whatever he fixes comes alive."

 

"Well, the things have minds of their own," Duke clarified. "Not sure if they're alive, exactly. And they're dangerous - they killed a couple of people."

 

Tony stared impassively then blinked and rubbed his hands together. "Perfect," he said.

 

"Perfect?" Duke asked carefully.

 

"They can't be any worse than Dummy," Tony said and strode towards the garage.

 

Duke hesitated, then called, "Wait - Dummy?" as he hurried after Tony.

 

~~~~~

No one ever asked Tony to tell them what - exactly - happened in that garage. They only knew that, in the midst of the bizarre electrical surges and electro-magnetic pulses, all the machines Lewis had fixed once more came to life and converged on the garage.

 

All Nathan, Duke and Audrey knew for sure was that Tony barged into the garage ahead of Duke and barricaded himself in with Lewis, leaving Duke pounding uselessly on the door. When Tony emerged three hours later, he'd built a Faraday suit for himself, and two for Nathan and Audrey which he gave to Duke before he darted back into the dim depths of the garage.

 

To their surprise, the cages actually worked to keep their cell phones working, and when they finally identified and confronted the Troubled person responsible for the electro-magnetic pulses, the cages protected them from the worst of his Trouble until he got it under control.

 

By the time Nathan and Audrey returned to Lewis' garage, the machines were once more silent and still, and stories of thin screams that sounded like the humming of wires were being whispered about throughout Haven.

 

When Tony finally emerged, he brought Lewis with him. Lewis shook Tony's hand, and walked away from the garage and Haven without looking back.

 

Nathan, Duke and Audrey didn't have much time to ask Tony questions, and he didn't have much time to answer them. Another Trouble was making itself felt, and the Rev's followers were already on the person's trail.

 

~~~~~

 

The next two weeks passed in a thankful blur for Tony. He was in the garage - his workshop - day after day, and at the Grey Gull every night. Audrey had basically given him her place above the Gull, since she was, for all intents and purposes, living with Nathan.

 

To everyone's surprise, Tony found he had a purpose in Haven. He discovered he was immune to the Troubles, like Audrey, and he could sometimes help her when no one else could. He also devised mechanical devices that those who struggled against the Troubles could use to protect themselves, even if only for a short time.

 

In some ways, Tony told them over scotch and beer in the comforting noise of the Grey Gull, it was like being back in Afghanistan and staring out over a vast array of the weapons he'd designed, and realizing he needed to come up with the most brilliant idea of his life. While the stakes and living conditions were vastly different, each Trouble presented a similar challenge.

 

Tony found he was, for the most part, enjoying himself. He could, he thought, make a good life for himself here, in this town, in this universe.

 

But none of it meant anything without Pepper.

 

~~~~~

Three weeks after finding Tony Stark naked in the woods, Nathan answered his cell phone, and listened silently.

 

"Can you e-mail me what you've found?" he finally said, and Audrey raised her eyes from the file she was studying to watch him closely.

 

Nathan met her eyes as he added, "Thanks, Joe. Another one I owe you."

 

He disconnected the call and said, "Joe's found a Tony Stark who meets all the details our Tony Stark gave us. Place, date, time of birth. Parents, grandparents. All of it."

 

Audrey blew out her breath in a long drawn out sigh.

 

"So...it's possible he really is from a different universe."

 

Nathan shoved his hands into his pockets and shrugged.

 

"Maybe," he agreed. "We'll know more once Joe sends us the files he pulled together. Including pictures."

 

"Pictures?"

 

"This world's Tony Stark has been arrested a few times. Joe's sending me copies of the mug shots and rap sheets."

 

~~~~~

 

That evening, Nathan carefully placed a manila envelope on the bar in front of Tony.

 

Both Duke and Tony raised dark eyebrows in question.

 

"This universe's Tony Stark," Nathan said quietly.

 

Tony's eyes flicked to the envelope then back to Nathan. He raised his scotch and took a sip.

 

"What did you find?" he asked, with a thread of tension twisting through the light tone.

 

"Howard Stark was a failed inventor. Nothing he tried ever seemed to work, although everyone agreed he was brilliant. Most people blamed it on his alcoholism although there were one or two rumors that his best inventions were stolen by his Russian partner

 

"To - Stark, by all accounts, was a child prodigy. He finished high school at fourteen and went on to MIT, but washed out before he graduated. He was already drinking heavily, like his father before him. Then his parents were killed in a car accident when he was seventeen and left him destitute. He turned to petty theft to support himself and was an alcoholic and drug addict by the time he was twenty-one. He worked odd jobs, including one as a maintenance worker for the largest defense contractor in the country, Hammer Industries -"

 

Nathan paused at Tony's strangled snort, then continued.

 

"He worked there for about two years before he was fired for calling Justin Hammer - and I quote - 'an incompetent asshole putting our people in unacceptable danger by building defective equipment dreamed up by mental fleas who have the temerity to call themselves engineers'."

 

"That's sounds like me," Tony smirked.

 

Duke grinned and clinked glasses with him.

 

"Losing that job - such as it was - sent Stark into an even steeper downward slide. He ended up on the streets, and eventually spent three stretches in prison for drug possession."

 

Tony swallowed, his dark eyes focused on the glass in his hands.

 

"Is he dead?" he finally asked.

 

"No," Nathan said. "During his last stint in jail, he got caught in the middle of a three-day prison riot. One guard, taken hostage by the rioters, ended up dead at the end of it all, but Stark apparently tried to save the guard's life. Stark also managed to take down the three ringleaders and negotiate a peaceful surrender for the rest of the prisoners. Even though he didn't ask for it, he was given an early release because of his actions."

 

Tony stared wide-eyed at Nathan. "What was the name of the guard?" he asked softly.

 

"Yinsen -"

 

"I'm not surprised," Tony interrupted. He closed his eyes and smiled a pained smile. "Where's Stark now?"

 

"He managed to get clean - and stay clean. He lives and volunteers at a half-way house in New York. The organization that owns the place provides support for the homeless, current and recovering addicts, and troubled youth."

 

Tony swallowed with difficulty.

 

"Saving the world," he managed, his voice tight.

 

Audrey gently pressed her shoulder against Tony's and said, "Yes. Just like you."

 

Tony smiled, but there was no humor in it. "Did you find a Virginia Potts in his life?"

 

"Only on the periphery," Nathan replied. "She's Justin Hammer's personal assistant, but she arrived long after Stark was gone. As far as we can tell, they've never met."

 

Tony sneered again at Hammer's name, then his expression softened.

 

"Is she happy?" he asked softly.

 

"Apparently she's miserable. She's also working in New York, at Hammer's head office."

 

Tony thoughtfully sipped his drink.

 

"What are you going to do now?" Duke asked.

 

"Go to New York," Tony shrugged, and drained his glass.

 

~~~~~



Part Two          Part Four

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Quotes

"All right," said Susan. "I'm not stupid. You're saying humans need...fantasies to make life bearable."

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

"Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little --"

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

"So we can believe the big ones?"

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

-- Susan and Death in Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

---------------------

"And no practical definition of freedom would be complete without the freedom to take the consequences. Indeed, it is the freedom upon which all the others are based."

-- Lord Vetinari in Going Postal by Terry Pratchett

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They thought the Library was a dangerous place because of all the magical books, which was true enough, but what made it really one of the most dangerous places there could ever be was the simple fact that it was a library.

-- Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

---------------------

As a wizard, it was something that Ponder had only before encountered in acorns: a tiny soundless voice which said, yes, I am but a small, green, simple object - but I dream about forests.

-- Interesting Times by Terry Pratchett

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In the 24th century, there will be no hunger. There will be no greed. And every child will know how to read.

-- Gene Roddenberry, as repeated by Jonathan Frakes in the documentary How William Shatner Changed the World

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We've got two lives, one we're given and the other one we make
And the world won't stop, and actions speak louder
Listen to your heart, and what your heart might say
Everything we got, we got the hard way.

-- Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Hard Way from the album Come On, Come On

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Cause when they own the information, oh
They can bend it all they want.

-- John Mayer, Waiting on the World to Change from the album Continuum

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Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says, "I'll try again tomorrow."

-- Mary Anne Radmacher, as seen in Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Tales to Inspire

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I never loved the soldier
Until there was a war.
Or thought about tomorrow
'til my baby hit the floor.
I only talk to God
When somebody's about to die.
I never cherished freedom
Freedom never cries.

-- Five for Fighting, Freedom Never Cries from the album Two Lights

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It may sound absurd: but don't be naive
Even heroes have the right to bleed
I may be disturbed: but won't you concede
Even heroes have the right to dream

-- Five for Fighting, Superman (It's Not Easy) from the album American Town

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Had a dream last night took a time travellin' ride
Back to my childhood where those monsters reside
They snack on innocence and dine on self-esteem
But I like to be in touch with what makes me scream
Vampires, mummies and the Holy Ghost
These are the things that terrify me the most.
No alien, psychopath or MTV host
Scares me like vampires,mummies and the Holy Ghost.

-- Jimmy Buffett, Vampires, Mummies and the Holy Ghost from the album Fruitcakes

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"I want to believe that... the dead are not lost to us. That they speak to us... as part of something greater than us - greater than any alien force. And if you and I are powerless now, I want to believe that if we listen, to what's speaking, it can give us the power to save ourselves."

-- Fox Mulder, The X-Files from the episode The Truth, pt. 2
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