Two years had passed since Tony was taken and they were no closer to finding him. His kidnapping took the background once the videos stopped appearing. Most of the task force had been slowly assigned to other missions as the weeks passed. FRIDAY spent most of the processing power looking for signs of her creator but she was too young and Tony would know how to avoid notice. Of course, Tony’s name was still mentioned but it mostly involved and endless game of ‘do you think the brainwashed genius caused this week’s tragedy?’
Whether he did or not, no one was able to prove it. Both Coulson and Fury had paid Pepper a visit after the last video and promised not to stop until Tony was no longer with HYDRA. Pepper knew that they were more likely to retrieve his body than risk a HYDRA Tony Stark. It didn’t matter, she only needed a location. Pepper had acquired friends of her own in the two years since. Peter had shown up two days after the second video with a team of enhanced people willing to rescue Tony. They could beat a SHIELD plane to the location and were ready to move at the drop of a hat.
One that called himself Baron Mordo (she didn’t think that was his actual name), was a sorcerer and could open portals across the globe, Deadpool (she didn’t trust him one bit) had also volunteered and was apparently immortal. The most surprising one was Hope VanDyne from Pym Industries. Daredevil had agreed to help once Peter explained the situation as well as a man called Luke Cage who was bulletproof.
They were all set to go, the worst part was the wait. Pepper had hoped that they could retrieve Tony and hide him before SHIELD or anyone else got to him. Rhodey had called the top experts of any field related to what Tony could have been subjected to and the group was brainstorming possible treatments.
Two months ago, President Elis had died. His plane had crashed in a farm. They were still investigating the cause and what had kept the President from being evacuated. The plane had simply stopped working, the explosion was enough to destroy the buildings in the farm.
Eight months prior, the French President had a heart attack and the German Chancellor had been involved in a car crash that had killed twenty eight people. Today the British Parliament building blew up during session. There were no survivors.
The world was descending into chaos. And not the chaos that could be easily fixed. Rhodey had left pearlier that week to advise the Air Force in some classified mission and Vision, poor Vision, spent most of his time in Tony’s lab working with FRIDAY. Pepper reminded herself that the android didn’t require sleep or food as she sat in front of the tv with a pile of paperwork. She wished there were something she could do for him, she had tried but seeing him only served as a reminder that Tony was missing and she suspected he felt the same way about her.
Stark Industries was stable after one year where it’s stocks imitated a rollercoaster. The Avengers had formally disbanded. Vision refused to do anything that didn’t involve Tony’s rescue, Rhodey was unable to walk and To- yes, there wasn’t a point of keeping the initiative going.
She could hear the fireworks but had no intention to celebrate. There was no reason to celebrate. Pepper nearly dropped her glass when Parliament coverage cut off to an old picture of Tony. “FRYDAY, is Vision seeing this?” The reporter announced that a new video had been posted followed by warnings to the viewers. “They are not going to show the whole thing” She murmured.
“I have acquired the original, would you like to see it?” FRIDAY asked already pulling up the video. “Yes please, and let Rhodey know if he hasn’t already.”
It started with Tony struggling against his restrains. The people around him were completely covered as usual. For a second Pepper felt hope, if he was still fighting there was a chance to get her Tony back. “Please forgive his agitation, he just woke up and hasn’t been prepped yet.” Tony began to trash harder looking at something behind the camera. “Now, now, Soldier. This is your reward. You’ve done a commendable job and I’m a man of my word. Compliance will be rewarded.”
“Your enemies will be my enemies, so choose one” The camera moved to show the reason why Tony was frantic. Eight people tied to chairs. “These are the families of Ant-man” He motioned to the little girl sitting between a couple. “Falcon” An elderly lady sat calmly in her chair. “And Hawkeye” He moved behind the three children and their mother. “I must apologize, the Widow and the Witch don’t have anyone they care about”
Pepper watched in horror as the people cried and tried to escape their restrains. “Chose one Soldier” Tony forced his eyes shut. “Come now, we don’t have the whole day” Tony continued to face away from the other prisoners. “Shall I chose for you? Oh, look we have a volunteer” The camera changed to show the elderly black woman struggling to move her chair forward. She didn’t cry, she didn’t try to escape, just stared at the man in charge. “She is volunteering, the least you can do is look at her” Two men moved to force Tony to face the woman while the machine lowered over his face keeping him trapped. “Any last words?” One of the men removed her gag.
Tony continued to struggle in the chair. “I don’t blame you, Tony. This isn’t your fault. Stark listen!” Tony opened his eyes. “This isn’t your fault!”
“Gentlemen” The leader waved his hand towards the prisoners. Tony lurched forward screaming as the sound of multiple shots were fired. “You didn’t think I was going to let these many people walk out of here, did you?” The camera changed to show the bodies of the seven, four of them children, shot in the head. “That’s a security risk, Soldier. Drop Mrs. Wilson off somewhere nice won’t you.” Two of the armed soldiers moved forward. They covered her head, untied her from the chair and led her away. “The rest of you, get rid of the bodies” the leader moved back towards Tony. He had stopped struggling and simply stared at the bodies being moved with tears running down his face. “Wipe him, we have work to do.” He said moving out of the shot only to come back again.
“Oh, and happy birthday, Captain America. I hope you are enjoying your stay in Wakanda. I’m told the palace is a sight to behold.”
The video ended and the TV turned back to the news. Three hours later, Mrs. Wilson was found unconscious near the Eiffel tower.