Title: Welcome to Canada
Series: Tony Stark Fucks off to Canada
Series Order: 1
Author: Jilly James
Genre: Fix-it, Drama
Content Rating: R
Warnings: Discussion of MCU canon events, including Wanda Maximoff.
Author Note: Tony has some negative perceptions of Wakanda based on his very limited view of certain actions. It’s not reality nor even my view of it, but T’Chaka’s actions could be viewed this way. Also, I do not like Wanda Maximoff. Nothing has been said or done to make me view her actions in a positive light. What she did to the Avengers is mind rape.
Challenge: 2021 Every Fandom Bang
Word Count: 6,445
Beta: Grammarly and a lot of a swearing
Artist: SpencnerTibbsLuvr. Thank you for the wonderful art and for the last-minute pivot to do the series banner!
Summary: The Sokovia Accords are coming, and people in power think Tony Stark has no option but to give in and do what they want. The only other choice is to give up being Iron Man. But Tony decides to go for door #3.
– – – –
Tony Stark waved goodbye to the gaggle of people who’d been showing him the potential site for SI expansion into Canada. The site was in a sprawling suburban town about forty minutes outside the country’s capital of Ottawa. There were at least three coffee shops within a two-minute drive, and yet there were cows across the street.
He got into his newest Audi, which he’d driven up from New York and was one of his least outwardly ostentatious vehicles. Under the hood, however, it was a technology marvel. He’d learned to keep more of his advantages hidden.
He waved again at the enthusiastic escort party then pulled out and pointed the car toward Ottawa.
“That went well, Boss,” Friday said the minute she’d connected to the speakers. Her primary connection was through his IM bracelets and his sunglasses, but it was easier to talk over the car speakers.
“If by ‘well’ you mean they bought that I was seriously interested in that site, then, yes, it went well. To be fair, if I were seriously planning to expand SI manufacturing up here, it would be perfect. Eh. Maybe we’ll do that anyway. I hate the faces of disappointed Canadians.”
“I’ve been monitoring real estate listings for suitable office space for your real plans.”
“Nah. We’ll need to build something. I’ve discovered the joys of living in my own design, baby girl. No going back.”
“I think you mean you want to be sure you have a private elevator.”
“So much sass. I wonder where you get it from.”
“Barbara,” she said deadpan.
“Ouch. You wound me.”
“She’s the best thing for us, Boss.”
Tony smiled softly. “Yeah, baby, she is. Don’t tell her that. She’ll get a big head.”
Barbara Brandt was one of the most recent additions to Tony’s life and one of the best since he’d lost Jarvis—the original Jarvis. She was certainly the best since he’d lost his son. She was easily old enough to be Tony’s mother and edging into grandmother territory, maybe older. He had a suspicion that she’d lied like a rug on her employment forms about her age. She looked sweet but could politely eviscerate someone like no one Tony had ever met.
Tony called her BB, and only Tony got away with giving her an actual nickname. She only tolerated it from him because she refused to call him “Tony,” insisting on “Mr. Stark” or, occasionally, “young man!” So, he dealt with her formality while she dealt with the “accursed nickname.”
She’d become his personal assistant and the wall between him and the world shortly after the Ultron fiasco. She even got between him and Pepper, which had been invaluable when they’d been trying to find a new footing in their working relationship after their personal one had gone down in flames.
Weeks before he met BB, his relationship with Pep had ended. Their “break” had become permanent after Sokovia because Pepper had again dropped the ultimatum that Tony had to give up Iron Man. Tony had been lost in grief and anger and called it off, tired of the push-pull they had and her constantly trying to change him.
While he’d been drowning in loneliness, grief, and very expensive Scotch, he’d made an off-hand remark to Happy about how the witch had fucked with his head. When Tony had sobered up, Happy had taken him to task for talking so meanly about Pepper, regardless of how their relationship ended. Tony had laughed until he hurt and then explained he meant a literal witch, the hangover contributing to Tony finally telling someone how badly Wanda had messed with him.
Happy had been horrified, but Tony had thought that’d be the end of it. But two weeks later, Happy had shown up with BB, who had been something called a sorcerer in a former life. She’d retired from the work a good ten years prior, but she still “kept her hand in.” Subsequently, Tony had met some bald lady calling herself the Ancient One and gotten a primer on magic that had nearly sent his technology-driven brain offline forever.
Between BB and old baldy, they’d purged Tony of the magical residue and helped shield Tony from any further magical tampering. Then BB had proceeded to make a barrier around Tony made of politeness, formality, and barbed wit that kept everyone out. Most days, that included Pepper because it turned out that Pepper had more issues with boundaries than even Tony did.
Subsequently, BB had arranged for Tony to get some informal therapy, meaning the guy came over and they talked while playing poker. Nothing was written down, so Tony didn’t have to worry about someone dropping his personal information on the ‘net. David was a vet, was in his late 60’s and had more than a little crush on BB.
It had taken a lot of effort for Tony to get to where he was now, but he was better than he could remember being in his adult life. It had been a bloody battle to get here, and he wasn’t prepared to let anything ruin it. Not even an international body trying to prevent another Sokovia.
“Ms. Brandt is calling, Boss.”
“Put her through, kiddo.”
Her image appeared on the screen in the dash. “Good Morning, Mr. Stark.” She was in her living room from the floor he’d given her in Stark Tower. The floor two up from his.
“BB. How’s tricks?”
“I closed your work floor and made us both unavailable today because R&D couldn’t find their ass with a roadmap and two hands.”
“Wow, BB. How crass.”
She sighed. “They’re all toddlers.” She pointed a finger at him. “I blame you. And Potts. People had way too much access to you, even if they think they didn’t. And now they can’t function without you. R&D is going to learn to be independent if I have to send them all to therapy.”
Tony laughed at her. “You do that. Anything exciting?”
“Ms. Potts would like to speak to you. I told her you weren’t available until tomorrow.” She shot him a questioning look.
“She hasn’t called, so it’s definitely work-related.” Pep had his cell number, but he’d set some hard boundaries with her that if it was work-related, she went through BB and waited for him to get back to her. She was only allowed to call his personal cellphone for personal reasons. It’d been hard enforcing that boundary, but it worked now. And she never called him anymore, which said more than a little about the state of their friendship.
BB made a vague humming noise. “I imagine she’s upset she wasn’t consulted more about this trip.”
“Well, SI expanding internationally has been in the objectives for a while, so she doesn’t need to be consulted about me touring sites.” All the appropriate departments had been warned about Tony’s trip. Pepper was currently the president of SI, and Tony was the CEO again.
Pep handled the day-to-day, it was what she was good at, but Tony was the visionary, and that meant he needed to be the CEO. He’d stepped back into the role of guiding the company direction but had firm lines drawn between the role of president and CEO. Pepper had a harder time adjusting, but ultimately her stress levels were lower because she had never been cut out to be CEO anyway. It was an unfair thing he’d done to her, and even if she hadn’t liked how he’d course-corrected, he’d owed it to her to get her in a role that was a better fit.
“Anything you want me to do about that?” BB asked.
“Not now. Set up time for me to meet with her when I get back.”
“All right. Also, Ms. Romanoff has asked for a meeting.”
“No. I don’t care if their building blows up; it has nothing to do with me, and I’ve told them that. Repeatedly.”
“I expect they’re unhappy with Mr. Mitchner’s oversight.”
Tony smirked. “Life’s hard.” He’d put the Avengers compound in trust and then seeded a non-profit to help keep them afloat while they sorted themselves out. Mitchner was the trustee and administrator of the non-profit. He was a humorless hardass who gave no quarter when it came to unnecessary expenses.
Since Tony had split cleanly from the team, he wasn’t going to tell Steve how to run things, but Mitchner had given Steve a cold dose of reality about how far the money they had would go if they didn’t moderate spending. They could keep the Avengers afloat on the interest from the trust if they didn’t have exorbitant expenditures, but that wasn’t really the Avengers style. Steve probably thought Tony should just keep supporting them, but Tony wasn’t taking Steve’s calls outside of global disasters.
He considered for a few seconds. “Go ahead and put Romanoff on the no-access list. She’s still salty about Barton, and I’m not in the mood to deal with her anymore.” Tony had offered Barton the same magical purge he’d gotten, and Barton had accepted. A couple of months later, Barton had sent Tony a note saying he was looking at things in a new light and wanted nothing to do with the Avengers anymore. The guy had vanished with his family and failed to tell Natasha where he was going.
“Send a message to Rogers that if the Avengers need to make contact with me, outside of a request for Iron Man’s assistance, Steve needs to superhero-up and call me himself. Wilson is fine to call, but that’s it.”
She raised a brow. “Vision?”
“I made it clear to Vision the last time we spoke that he’s always welcome to reach out to me for personal reasons. I requested that he not discuss the Avengers with me. He’s good about respecting boundaries. Even if they ask him to, he won’t do it.”
She pursed her lips. “You know the ‘affinity’ he feels for Maximoff is the sympathetic resonance between the mind stone and her powers.”
“I know, but he doesn’t want to discuss her, and I’m trying to respect his wishes. Even if this thing he perceives to be attraction is the mind stone, they’ve legitimately gotten to know one another in the interim, and he perceives that they’re friends.” A little cue in the HUD on his glasses told him to take the next exit.
She nodded. “That’s all I’ve got for you.”
BB scoffed. “There are about a thousand things you don’t need to hear about. That’s my job, remember? To keep you from having to deal with all this petty nonsense.”
“You’re great at it, too. What would I do without you?”
“Sleep in, drink too much, and get laid more often,” she said tartly. “Now, go close the deal with the Prime Minister. I’d prefer the new offices be in Toronto or Vancouver. I know they were pushing Edmonton, but…hell, no.”
Tony laughed. “Noted.” He touched the medallion around his neck nervously.
“If that comes off, I’ll know,” she said softly. “I can get to you in thirty seconds. Don’t worry.”
“Yeah, of course,” he said with false bravado. It wasn’t often anymore that the fear of magical tampering hit him, but it did at odd times. Usually, when he was about to step out on the proverbial ledge of some sort and take a big risk. There was also the fear of making another Ultron-esque mistake.
“And enjoy the drive back! The weather is perfect, and it’s gorgeous in Upstate New York. Relax.”
“I’ll relax when this problem is solved.”
“It’s going to work out. They’d be stupid to turn down your offer. And if stupidity has suddenly infected Canada, there’s always Australia to consider.”
“Not my first choice just because of proximity to the rest of SI, but if we have to…”
– – – –
Tony sat in the private conference room and scrolled through messages on his StarkPhone while waiting for his meeting with the Prime Minister of Canada, Aaron LeBlanc. The meeting was ostensibly to discuss Stark Industries opening a new manufacturing facility somewhere in Ontario or possibly Alberta, despite BB’s dislike of the place. Tony himself wasn’t fond of politics in Alberta, and so that wasn’t his first choice. The real reason for his meeting was something rife with a little more international intrigue.
There’d been tentative plans to broaden manufacturing into Canada for some time, so when a certain bit of confidential intel about some UN agreement that would govern so-called “enhanced” people hit his desk a couple of weeks back, there’d already been a framework he could leverage to make a fairly public display of the next stage of political and financial talks for SI’s move into Canada. SI represented a lot of jobs and revenue to any country they had facilities in, so it wasn’t particularly hard to get a meeting with the Prime Minister. And if things went the way Tony hoped, he absolutely would be opening a company in Canada. Just not the way everyone was thinking right now.
The door opened, and Tony immediately pocketed his phone, getting to his feet.
The woman who’d shown him to the conference room came in. “Mr. Stark, apologies for the delay. The Prime Minister’s meeting before this has run over. He’ll be with you shortly. Can I refresh your tea or get you anything else?”
Tony kept his hands shoved in his pockets and shook his head. Friday and BB were still sending him information, but the display had switched to his glasses once he’d stuck his phone in his pocket.
He resumed looking at potential properties where they could build a new structure in Toronto. He wasn’t even looking at other options yet since he preferred to strike out for his first choice.
“Mr. Stark,” the Prime Minister said with a smile as he entered the room, “my apologies for my tardiness. It’s sometimes difficult to get foreign leaders off the phone as quickly as I would wish.” Aaron LeBlanc could easily be an intimidating man, he was tall and broad, but he had an easy smile and a pleasant demeanor. He was older than Tony by only a couple of years.
LeBlanc was generally regarded as a good man, though Tony wasn’t naïve; he was dealing with a career politician. LeBlanc may be the best of the cynical bunch, but the bunch in general was questionable. Still, Tony knew what motivated politicians, and also what motivated good men. He thought he’d do okay with LeBlanc.
“It’s no problem, Prime Minister LeBlanc.” He offered his hand, though it was always with reluctance.
“Ah. No need for that. I’m aware you dislike shaking hands, Mr. Stark. I deal with stranger quirks from foreign dignitaries on a daily basis, so please don’t make yourself uncomfortable on account of social niceties.” He waved toward the table. “Please, sit.” LeBlanc took the seat at the end of the table, gesturing Tony into the chair to the immediate right.
Feeling a little off at the easy acceptance, but appreciating it nonetheless, Tony took the seat indicated, angling his chair to face LeBlanc. “Thank you, sir.”
“None of that. When we’re informal, please feel free to call me Aaron.”
Tony arched a brow. “Tony, then. And are we informal?”
“We’d have to be. This isn’t the right setting for a formal discussion about SI opening a facility in our country, though I welcome as many informal discussions as needed to help move that forward.”
“Mm.” Tony pulled his tablet in front of him. “Perhaps we can cut to the chase to ensure our time is best utilized…? I know you’re very busy.”
“As are you,” LeBlanc said dryly, gaze flicking to the tablet. “Is there some other matter besides the SI expansion?”
“Tangential matter. It would determine how much we move here and the nature of our expansion.” Tony brought up the draft document that he wasn’t supposed to have and showed it to the PM.
LeBlanc’s face went very still, and his gaze met Tony’s. “I see. Yes, I can see how SI trade secrets might be something you’d be reluctant to discuss without an assurance of privacy. We have a room set aside for such meetings. In the US, I believe you call them SCIF facilities.”
Tony locked the tablet. “That would be appreciated.”
“Give me a moment to arrange with my security, and then we’ll change locations.”
Within ten minutes, they were in a shielded room alone at a much smaller table, and LeBlanc was giving Tony a stern look with his arms crossed over his chest. “You aren’t supposed to have that.”
“Yes, well, there are a lot of things I’m not supposed to have. Thing is, I like to get a heads up when the governments of the world are planning to infringe on my civil liberties.”
LeBlanc’s mouth pressed into a thin line. “I don’t approve of everything in the draft of the Accords, I hope you know that, but I have little choice but to go along with this. It would be career suicide to not be a signatory nation considering the opinions of my people after the disaster in Sokovia.”
“I understand that, and I’m not asking you to pull out of the Accords for some sort of financial favor.”
“Then what are you asking for?” Looking a little less tense, LeBlanc relaxed his posture fractionally.
“Canada was one of the few countries to object to the blatant rights violations inherent in the draft. You and a few other nations got a few protections put through, but we both know it’s not enough. One of the major forces in the US advocating for the Accords is Thaddeus Ross. He hates the enhanced beyond seeing them as weapons, so he’s going to spin this domestically in the worst way possible to either have an enhanced army at his disposal—with little choice in the matter—or wind up under scrutiny for the rest of their lives due to the registration.”
LeBlanc didn’t look happy, but he obviously knew Tony was speaking the truth. “They can always choose not to use their abilities.”
“What do you mean?”
“Maybe if you shoot laser beams out of your eyes, you can choose not to do that. Maybe. And I stress maybe because there’s some debate about what suppressing a natural ability long-term would do. But how do you stop using your brain?”
“I’m sorry, but what? Intellect has nothing to do with the Accords.”
“Doesn’t it? I’ve read every draft carefully and consulted with an expert I trust, and the language is vague enough that any country can define what enhanced means. There’s nothing that says that extremely high IQ can’t be classified as an enhancement. The way the Accords are currently written, the best minds in the world could be labeled as enhanced and forced to either work for the government or stop working in their field.”
“Wouldn’t they? Surely you’re not that naïve. We’ll just take me, for example. Let’s say I won’t play ball with Ross, and I decide to put up the suit and stop being Iron Man, then what? He’s going to give up graciously?”
LeBlanc gave a minute wince.
“Right. He’ll get my mind classified as an enhancement so fast my head will spin. What I find interesting is that no one enhanced outside of King T’Chaka was consulted in the drafting of these Accords.”
LeBlanc looked confused. “T’Chaka is enhanced?”
“Oh dear. Did I give away a secret? My bad. I thought everyone knew.” Tony leaned back. “I’m sure they try to keep it a secret, but it was disingenuous in the extreme for him to not disclose that. But I can see why he wouldn’t. The sovereign nation clauses in the Accords give him all the protection he needs to keep doing things as his country always has done, and they never have to disclose the nature of the Wakandan enhancements.”
Tony had never met King T’Chaka, but he was honestly furious at the man. The king was supposed to be a good and fair ruler, but the man was stepping on the world stage while keeping big secrets that mattered. Secrets that painted him as a hypocrite as far as Tony was concerned.
LeBlanc looked thoughtful. “The sovereign nation clauses say that the Accords don’t actually govern how a country’s internal enhanced team or task force is run, provided it’s within certain bounds. The Accords are about when borders are crossed.”
“Right. And I’m sure T’Chaka was an advocate, if not the author of that, because he doesn’t want the UN trying to tell him how to run things in his own country. Also, as long as his enhanced or enhancements are confined to his own country, or the appearance of confined to his own country, they don’t have to disclose anything. And I’d put money that he tried to have technological enhancements stricken from the accords, but countries like Britain and the United States refused to back that play.”
LeBlanc blinked in surprise.
“And that’s when he became deeply invested in the sovereign nation protections.”
“Yes. He’s an advocate for accountability without overreach, in his words.”
“Uh-huh. He’s made it such that enhanced task forces and peoples are the business of the sovereign nation. He’s not remotely interested in disclosing Wakandan enhancement for the world to see, certainly not their real technology.
“But the problem is that he’s created a situation where enhanced people are going to be treated well in some places and imprisoned in others. He’s playing a little self-serving game that’s infuriating, to be honest. So, I may not be able to stop the Accords from going forward at this point, and I might wind up in hell for years trying to get them amended to be more even-handed later—since they’re obviously not prepared to be reasonable upfront—but if I’m going to be stuck with this, I’m going to throw my hat in the ring with the best option that’s not Thaddeus fucking Ross.”
LeBlanc’s brow furrowed. “What does throwing your hat in the ring mean? Tangibly speaking?”
“You don’t have an official enhanced division or task force, correct?”
“No, we don’t. That’s an expensive proposition, and the budget isn’t easy to come by. Also, the politics of creating such a thing are…nuanced. A registration is contrary to our values, but our conservative faction would push for such a thing. I wouldn’t want to introduce the idea of a task force if I didn’t feel we could defeat the conservatives on the matter of registration of enhanced individuals.”
“Or you could just work on making it a law that registrations are antithetical to what Canada stands for. Make it illegal and then create your task force.”
LeBlanc nodded. “Could work, and the time for that is better now, I think. Sokovia has faded from people’s minds even if the UN is still debating it.”
“After the accords are announced, things could go either way in the matter of public opinion depending on how the enhanced community responds.”
“I’ll take it under advisement. Back to the matter at hand…?”
“My proposal is multi-layered, really. I want to move to Canada. Toronto, I think. My second choice would probably be Vancouver, but your people have been pushing properties in Edmonton.” Tony made a face. “Ideally, I’d split off the high-tech part of SI as a new company and move it wholesale to Canada.”
LeBlanc’s eyes widened. “That’s your most profitable and high-profile market segment, I believe.”
“It is. I’d call it StarkTech. I’d like to continue to function as Iron Man, and I’m willing to be part of whatever team you set up. I seeded a non-profit to fund the Avengers after I parted ways with them, and I can certainly do the same to get you started too.”
“Are you asking for tax incentives for StarkTech?”
Tony made a see-saw motion. “No more than you’d give any other major employer, probably less than most American companies would ask for, but we’d funnel the saved money into the non-profit, so effectively any lost tax revenue would go towards paying for the new division of the RCMP, or wherever you want to put it, which is what the money should go to anyway because you should have this already and we both know it.”
“There’s not as much called for the intervention of superheroes here in Canada as you might think.”
“And I happen to know that several things have happened in Canada already; you’re just particularly good at keeping it quiet. And a portal from another part of space could open over Canada just as easily as the US.”
LeBlanc looked thoughtful. “I certainly can’t commit to anything, but this sounds a little too good to be true. It seems like your motivation, at least in part, is to keep the Iron Man mantle, but as part of a Canadian peacekeeping force, you wouldn’t have much call to function as Iron Man.”
“I’d counter that you haven’t paid much attention to how much search and rescue I’ve been asked to do. Or how many times the speed of the suit allowed me to get to a critical place in time to consult on an impending structural collapse or even one notable time I transported a heart for transplant for a little girl in Iowa. But I’m more concerned about my free agency as a thinking, breathing human being than whether or not you’ll let me help in SAR operations.
“That said, there is one thing I’d ask you to get your ambassador to try to push through as an amendment to the Accords, even though it’s late days in the negotiations.”
“And that is?”
“If a country has an enhanced task force under the sovereign nation clause—”
“Such as Canada?” LeBlanc asked with a grin.
“Such as Canada,” Tony agreed. “If they had a task force designed to work nationally, it’d be helpful if there were a clause to protect the country and their task force members if they were called on to render aid internationally.”
“Ah.” LeBlanc leaned back, hands steepled. “So if, say, an alien invasion happened in DC and they wanted our help, we could send our task force without our people being subject to signing the Accords?”
“Right. Something along the lines of the nation asking for aid is accepting the responsibility of letting non-signatories into their country to render assistance.”
“Actually, I think that would set a lot of people’s minds at ease. Countries like Canada, Japan, and Australia can offer task force positions to their enhanced peoples without forcing them into registration through the Accords while still allowing the countries that want to do international teams to force this barbaric notion of registration.”
“It seems we might have an accord of our own.”
“The beginnings of one, surely,” LeBlanc said with a small, sincere smile. “We have to play this carefully. I assume you don’t want to tip your hand?”
“Not yet. No one who will be subjected to signing these Accords was approached for input on them, so I’m not inclined to give anyone other than my partners, as it were, a preview about my plans. Giving Ross too much of a heads up isn’t going to work in my favor. I figured I’d tour sites in Mexico next to throw people off the scent and keep up the ruse.”
“May I ask a few questions about your time with the Avengers? You aren’t obligated to answer, but your answers may help put some of my concerns to rest.”
Tony wasn’t eager to talk about that cluster, but the question wasn’t out of bounds. “Or it could make things worse, but go for it. I’ll answer if I’m able.”
“First, do you believe accountability is important? Of all of the Avengers, you’re the most public face in trying to clean up the messes after they occur, so I’d assumed you would be.”
“I am. SHIELD threw us untrained into the deep end during the Chitauri invasion; in some ways, it was unavoidable, but SHIELD and the World Security Council knew about intergalactic threats for years—hence why the Avengers initiative had even been conceived. Yet, they waited for a crisis to bring us together and hoped we’d gel.”
“It’s a terrible way to build a functional team.”
“It worked out. Sort of. But it could have been better. My relationship with Rogers was fractious at best, and it took a long time to get any better.” Tony shook his head. Perhaps it never truly got better since Rogers had tried to kill him without much remorse during the catastrophe that was Ultron. “The funny thing about that was the United States government screamed for accountability on the part of the Avengers for what happened to New York, but everyone knew that made no sense. It wasn’t like it was the fault of uninformed citizens—which is what we mostly were—that a portal was opened over our heads.”
“Very true. The outcry from your own leaders against what amounted to your ground forces was…bizarre.”
“Understatement. But I always felt it was a misdirect. The call for accountability should have been coming for the World Security Council and SHIELD. They had the heads up, they had the intel, they shot a nuke at New York.”
LeBlanc’s expression tightened with fury very briefly. “Yes. I tried to get some traction on that in the UN and was shut down. Parts of my country would certainly have been affected by the fallout of that blast, and it should only have been a weapon of last resort. Yet, no one had to answer for it.” He smiled faintly. “It’s one reason I’ve always been kindly disposed toward you. My people and I are not unappreciative of the sacrifice you made when you took that missile through the portal.”
Tony just nodded his head. One of the things he’d been working on was accepting gratitude without deflecting it. He never knew what to actually say, but he tried not to just brush it off anymore. It still made him uncomfortable, but adulting seemed like an exercise in being uncomfortable anyway.
“I gather that was your oblique way of saying accountability starts at the top?”
“Doesn’t it?” Tony replied. “If SHIELD or the WSC had been forced to answer for themselves right then would the Hydra shenanigans have gotten so out of hand and caused helicarriers to be dropped on DC? Would Steve Rogers have been left so uninformed that he thought dumping classified data on the internet was a good idea? How many good SHIELD agents died in the aftermath? How many innocent civilians in the crossfire?” Tony had done his best to get to as many stranded SHIELD assets as possible when he’d been blindsided by the data dump, but it hadn’t been possible to save them all.
Tony continued, “If there had been proper inquiries at the highest levels then, how much better would we be now. Could Sokovia have been averted? I’m not an oracle, but I have to think some things could be better. So, yes, I’m in favor of accountability, but the method of accountability that the world is proposing is punitive in nature and doesn’t hold the real people pulling the strings to any sort of account at all.”
“Fair points, and I agree with you. My next question is about the aftermath of Sokovia and Ultron. Why did you split from the Avengers?”
Tony stewed on whether he wanted to answer that question and then decided he didn’t owe anyone discretion on the subject of Wanda Maximoff any longer. He’d written up a frank report on the subject and submitted it to the panel who had investigated the clusterfuck, but he’d never heard anything about a word he’d said. It was all brushed under the rug while they pretended like Maximoff was a great asset. Tony was formally cleared of wrongdoing in Ultron’s creation, and yet public perception went against him for a long time.
“I left for several reasons. I’m sure you’ve had full access to the UN’s investigation into the nature of Ultron.”
“Yes. Ultron was the name appropriated from the peacekeeping AI you were working on with Dr. Banner, but it was clear from Thor’s testimony and the investigators who reviewed everything that the sentience was actually from this scepter Loki brought to Earth. That it appropriated the name Ultron.” He gave Tony a sympathetic look. “But because it used the name, people continue to speak about it as if you created Ultron.”
“People’s misunderstanding about whether Ultron was my AI or a malevolent sentience from the mind stone is not why I left.” He hesitated. “Do you believe a true AI exists?”
“I’ve never seen the proof of it, but if anyone has gotten close, I’m sure it’s you. The UN’s investigators made it clear that your programming was far beyond any of them.”
“I had achieved a true AI.” Tony had done it multiple times, but he didn’t feel the need to read LeBlanc in on that. His tech was no one else’s business. “It’s not like you just compile the code and poof, you’ve got an AI… It takes years of that code maturing and growing; it must be nurtured and helped along.”
“Like a child,” LeBlanc said astutely.
“Mm-hm.” Tony stared at his hands. “He was like my child, and every day he grew and became more; Ultron consumed him in his cyber rampage. Sought out every backup pathway and destroyed every copy. In his last bid to help, Jarvis scattered himself in fragments that came together later in the being now known as The Vision.”
LeBlanc looked surprised. “Some of this wasn’t in the sanitized information that was shared after Sokovia.” He paused. “So, Vision is something like your…son?”
“No.” Tony shook his head in immediate denial. “Jarvis was my child. Vision is more like my grandson. Made with pieces of Jarvis, some of Ultron’s programming, a fair bit of vibranium, a bit of something magical from Thor, and what was left of the mind stone after Ultron left it.”
“The aftermath must have been very difficult for you.”
“My entire adult life I’ve spent nurturing Jarvis into what he was. I was grieving when it was all over, and the team decided to bring the person I felt responsible for my loss onto the Avengers. I was outvoted and decided the Avengers needed oversight that I couldn’t provide or seek out for them in any sort of objective way with a former Hydra asset on the team.”
“Miss Maximoff,” LeBlanc said.
“There’s very little information about her available. The UN committee that investigated the aftermath of Sokovia redacted the information about her.”
“How convenient.” Tony hadn’t actually known that. He quickly filled LeBlanc in on everything that had happened with Maximoff. The visions she’d sent the team, the carnage she’d caused in Johannesburg, and her role in the creation of Ultron. She’d defected only when she realized Sokovia was under threat.
LeBlanc was suitably horrified. “And they let her onto the team? Ross plans to have her sign the Accords?”
Then LeBlanc was visibly angry. “The Accords committee had no right to leave that information out of the Accords negotiations.”
Tony shrugged. “I’m not sure what everyone knowing the truth about Maximoff would have done in regards to the Accords except perhaps make the international community hesitant to call on the Avengers.”
“And they should be!” LeBlanc snapped. “Who wants to let a mind rapist, killer, and modern Nazi into their country under the guise of aid? Every death in Johannesburg can be laid at her feet.” The prime minister took a deep breath and visibly calmed. “My apologies. The aftermath cannot have been easy for you. Were you permanently harmed in any way by what she did?”
“I had to seek specialized help. If it had been left untreated, the paranoia would have continued, and my behavior could have become unpredictable. I arranged to have my mind closed to magical intrusion.”
LeBlanc nodded slowly. “I can understand why you parted ways with your former team.”
“The being I called son was gone; my good friend, Bruce Banner, was missing and none of my so-called teammates could be bothered to care overmuch; then they let the woman responsible for Jarvis’ death and for making Bruce realize his greatest fear onto the team. What would you have done?”
“Not been near as restrained,” LeBlanc said dryly. “Has Dr. Banner been found?”
“No. I have reason to believe he actually left orbit with his alter ego in charge, so I’m not sure what happened from there. Bruce, if he came back to himself would have been able to navigate back to the planet unless the ship was damaged. He could be stranded or—” Tony cut himself off and shrugged. “It’s impossible to know what’s happened to him.”
“You have my sincere sympathies, Tony. The uncertainty must be challenging.”
Tony nodded his acceptance. Bruce’s absence was like a toothache, and Tony tried not to think about it most of the time.
LeBlanc continued, “You have separated from them, but they still have a nice compound for training and living, and they’re funded by a non-profit that you seeded. I’d have tried to ruin them.”
“Until better comes along, the world may need Steve and company. I separated myself and my company completely because I don’t want to be officially tied to them in any way. I did warn the investigators at the UN during the Sokovia investigation and a US inspector general about Maximoff, but you can see how seriously they took it.” Tony shrugged. “It is what it is. There’s a very fierce and unfriendly man handling the trust that funds their activities. He’s not making it easy on them.”
“Do they complain to you?” LeBlanc seemed more curious than anything.
“They tried for a while, but my PA doesn’t let anyone by without an appointment.”
“I’ve heard she’s quite formidable.”
“You have no idea.”
“And will she be part of your entourage when you move to Toronto?”
LeBlanc smiled broadly. “You know, I think your idea of having Canada’s enhanced task force be under the RCMP is inspired. Mr. Stark, how do you feel about moving to Canada and becoming a Mountie?”
Tony threw back his head and laughed.