SHIELD Helicarrier, nighttime…
SHIELD agents explain to Tony they’ve got tsunamis hitting the Marianas, satellites burning up on forced reentries, seismic activity in the Saudi oil fields and more! They can’t believe this is Stark’s idea of peacekeeping?! The attacking Iron Man suits are models of a battlefield version, a submariner, a stealth fighter and a tunneling unit. Tony mentions that model’s got a shielded Antarctic vibranium helm and uses a hybrid repulsor-unibeam unit to facilitate subterranean rescues. The agent doesn’t really buy that. He asks if another model really is a Hulkbuster unit.
Tony defends he wanted to cover every possible contingency. His design objective was a satellite team, all operating under one direct mind: his. The agent asks Tony if his design model happen to include any fail-safes. Tony confirms: they have three levels, actually. But... they’re all disabled! Tony knows he blew it. And he will face judgment for that. But right now, these units are running wild and people are dying. So, the way he sees it, SHIELD has two choices: they can arrest him, or hold that off until he can help the others and take these things out. He asks Nick Fury, who’s sitting in the back of the room, what it’s going to be?
Meanwhile, at Saudi Arabia, the berri oil fields...
A field has just exploded and the Fantastic Four are busy playing clean-up crew. The Thing pulls some heavy broken apparatuses out of the way, so Sue can use her force field to protect the employees. Sue asks Ben to hold up a support unit until Johnny sets up a controlled blowout. The Torch, all flamed up, warns his teammates to get out the way, as the whole ground under this complex is giving away! Reed thinks they’ll have a bigger problem than that if this thing breaches the water table and starts pumping oil into the Gulf!
On that moment, one of the Iron Man suits arrives, and drills a hole into the ground! Reed panics and immediately contacts Namor about the situation.
The Pacific Ocean, 93 miles East of Guam...
Namor is under attack by the female-looking submariner unit, which strikes him from behind. Namor, badly injured, can’t even respond to Reed’s call, and the unit drags him deeper into the ocean. Luckily for Namor, Iron Man arrives just in time and destroys the suit. He helps Namor up, who claims he could have easily done that. Tony laughs about it, and drags Namor back up.
Fury contacts Stark, and reports that one of the suits is tearing things up out at the Kostroma nuclear plant, 400 clicks northeast of Moscow. He wants to know what the suit is made of. Stark mentions the suit is made out of Stark-Chobham armor. That’s an experimental composite of carbon nanotube reinforced ceramics, skinned with adamantium. Fury gets the point and thinks Tony is deliberately trying to piss him off. Tony jokes he’s working on it.
Back at Saoudi Arabia...
The Fantastic Four do their best to keep a Hulkbuster unit above ground. Reed explains that, if this thing punches through the water table, it will turn the Gulf into one big tiki-torch! Ben gets the idea and hits the machine, but another suit, the drilling unit, spins its arms around real fast and throws the FF off of him. Reed thinks the suit is preparing to go subterranean, but Ben won’t allow that. Ben gets back up and keeps hitting the suit real hard until it’s down. Ben jokes the suit sure was heavy and starts dragging it into a safe spot.
However, the armor’s boot activates itself, and drills the suit and Ben into the ground! Sue worries, but Johnny already sees Iron Man arriving, who quickly flies after Ben into the hole. Tony lifts himself, Ben and the suit back up. From his glove he fires a laser at the armor, partly destroying it, and also rips off the armor’s legs. Tony tells Ben to let go of the armor, which he does, mentioning that destroying the rest of the armor is going to be a problem.
Tony flies the suit into outer space, where he gets distracted by the magnificence that is the view of our planet. The suit takes advantage of that and hits Tony in the back. Tony quickly recovers and manages to hit the armor, which goes into stealth mode. Tony realizes that, between the suit’s active camo and radar-absorbing skin, it’s like fighting a ghost. Now, he’s got to wait for the suit to make a move, then he can triangulate between the source of its beam and track its trajectory and velocity. Tony’s scanner indicates that the suit will reveal itself again in 7 minutes, but he can’t wait this long. Tony shouts at the suit to do something, as he doesn’t have all day. The suit listens to him and fires at Tony, who dodges it and continues to fight and smack the suit apart.
Tony contacts Reed on Earth, asking if he can borrow Johnny for a second. Tony flies the suit back towards Earth, and warns Johnny they’re only going to have one shot at this. Johnny understands that at, full flame powers, he flies through the armor, partly destroying it. The suit falls into the hole from before and Tony flies after it, when he is contacted by Cap.
At Times Square...
Captain America contacts Tony, as they need him over at Times Square. Another Hulkbuster suit is wrecking havoc in the main streets, and lots of innocent people are in danger. Not even the combined strengths of Spider-Man, Wolverine, Luke Cage, She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel are enough to take it down. Iron Man, whose armor is getting smashed in by the giant armor, fakes that he can’t come on the phone right now. Cap tells Tony to quit screwing around.
Tony keeps fighting the big suit, and wonders how that joke went about the African swallow carrying a coconut. Cap reminds Stark this isn’t a good time to be joking. Tony doesn’t see why not. So far, he’s destroyed two of five drones that cost him the better part of his personal fortune to build. He’s trying to maintain altitude while lifting 68.7 metric tons of pure dumb rage and, when he’s done with that, he’ll get to go to prison for the rest of his life, all because of some punk who’s daddy didn’t love him. If he weren’t laughing, he would be crying.
Iron Man lifts the Hulkbuster suit up in the air again.
Fury warns Stark that the argo suit is about to destroy some cooling towers. Stark reports he’ll be on his way. Tony quickly flies over to the scene, and jokingly says today, he’ll explain the devastating effects of Antarctic vibranium on adamantium! The argo suit turns around and spots his enemy. Stark throws the big suit on the argo suit, and an explosion takes place, which destroys both suits!
Downtown, the Avengers are busy dealing with their suit, and Wolverine doesn’t think it will go down. The suit grabs Logan and pushes his face down the ground! Logan, unable to get up, panics when he sees... the suit grabbing a car! “No way,” Logan freaks out. The robot slams the big car down on Wolverine!
Iron Man, flying across the sea, reports to Cap he’s less than three minutes out from their position. He asks how they are holding up. Cap remains silent, and so do the other Avengers. Tony is speechless. As he reaches the city, he sees nothing but black smoke coming from it, and panics. Iron Man lands in the city, where he finds an angry Spider-Woman, who glares at him. Tony asks what happened to Luke, who’s lying next to her. Jessica explains that Luke’s out cold, and that Wolverine is down as well. Tony asks about Cap. Jessica tells Stark to simply follow the carnage.
Tony searches around the city, and finds Cap lying half-dead on the ground. Tony wants to tend to his fallen friend, but gets hit hard by the suit, and slams against a wall! Iron Man gets up and tries to fight the suit, but it seems to be anticipating Tony’s every move. “Of course,” Tony realizes. It’s doing just that because the suit is being controlled by his subconscious. It’s like shadow-boxing. That means he can’t win... but neither can the suit! The suit again slams Tony against a building. He gets up and decides to take off his helmet. Tony jokes around again, but stops when he sees that the suit has grabbed Captain America, and is crushing his head!
Stark thinks there’s only one way to end this nightmare. A 10,000-volt backfire will charge will stop his heart. And, when he’s dead, so will the suit be destroyed. Iron Man gives himself such a shock, and falls down! The suit shuts down and collapses, and releases Captain America from his holding grip.
Tisch Hospital, one day later...
Fury and Kooling looking at him from through a window. The only thing Kooling can’t believe is that a guy as narcissistic as Tony would kill himself in order to save someone else. Fury has to admit Tony didn’t leave behind a lot of loose ends. There’s not a single living eyewitness who hasn’t signed a classified information nondisclosure agreement with the N.S.A. Kooling wonders about the girl in Bulgaria.
A while ago...
The punk girl, Plemina, is being interrogated by government agents, who angrily demand that she talks and tells them who did this. The poor girl confesses it was the American... Iron Man. Some time after that, a doctor gave her an injection with a needle, which killed Plemina.
Fury tells Kooling that Plemina died because of taking an overdose an hour ago. Kooling quietly stares at Fury like he doesn’t believe him. Fury doesn’t look at him. Nick changes the subject by saying he finds it amazing that, thirty-seven minutes before medics were able to jump-start Stark’s pulse, he’s alive again. Fury thinks if it weren’t for the extremis, Stark would be sucking his meals through a straw and blinking his alphabet.
In his room, Tony lies in bed, with his legs in a cast. He’s talking to Sal and Maya. Sal explains to Tony that the sending unit in Tony’s head was destroyed by the same shot that killed the kid. Without it, the implant was rendered completely inert. Maya adds that with the extremis-enhanced autoimmune system attacking the matrices, the whole works should be broken-down and metabolized within a few weeks.
Tony doesn’t respond, and quietly looks down. Sal tells Tony not to go there. He knows none of this was his fault. Not legally. Not ethically. Not morally. Tony said it himself: the armor is like a gun. It was Yinsen’s son that aimed it and pulled the trigger. Tony agrees with what Sal said, but he knows he isn’t the only gun lying around. He speeches that whether they go bad or they’re co-opted like he was, the result is the same... an unacceptable loss of innocent lives. Every hero is a potential gun... and the last time Tony checked, guns required registration!