Hammer hurried to the compartment where the tech heads were working on the suit. The old saying said one could attract more flies with honey than with vinegar. He’d tried the vinegar, and while looking at Stark’s bruised-up face was incredibly satisfying, it didn’t catch the flies. Once he got rid of all of Amar’s people, Hammer could take his time and do what he wanted. But he had to placate his benefactors first.
He knew from the beginning they weren’t quite upstanding Americans. But terrorists? That was just Stark trying to play his ‘moral high ground’ card.
Amar was looking for weapons to fuel a revolution. So what? George Washington led a huge revolution with an illegal army funded by foreigners and nobody looked down on him. He was a bona fide hero of epic proportions! He was bigger than Tony Stark would ever be. Why couldn’t Amar go back to whatever backwards country he came from and fight for his pet cause, too? Insurgents and rebels killed each other every day and no one really cared, least of all, people who sold weapons.
However, it was their tendency to take killing rather casually that spurred Hammer to set aside his own agenda until he could fulfill his obligation. Above all, he wanted Amar’s goons to take their prize and leave.
Consequently, he had decided to set aside the vinegar and try honey for catching flies. He didn’t really believe Potts had suffered a miscarriage from that kick (and if she did, it was her own damned fault for provoking it), but she was a woman, and as such, more fragile than a man. It was no big deal to untie her for a bit. Removing her from the room with Stark had been a stroke of genius, which Hammer only realized after the fact. Stark had let his imagination run completely wild in her absence, probably imagining she’d been beat-up, raped, maimed, and/or killed. Roughing up Stark himself had just made him stubborn, but letting him think they might hurt her had completely eroded his resolve and now he’d given up the password to the armor.
Hammer burst through the door and found three assault rifles pointed at him. He was still trying to come up with a humorous way to deflect their blunder when they realized he was alone and lowered their weapons.
“Larry, Moe, and Curly,” he announced loudly.
The goons all looked at him like he was insane.
The suitcase, however, made mechanical whirring noises and started to morph right before their eyes. Two of the goons jumped back in alarm. Just like in Monaco, the suit presented the front of a metal boot.
“See? I told you I’d get you in. Call your helicopter to come and get you.” If there was another small sub out there, they could easily hit it from the air. Practically anyone could buy a Russian APR-3E aerial anti-sub torpedo. War Machine, if indeed he was even here, would be neutralized long before he made it to the surface. But most likely, Stark made up the entire cockamamie story, just trying to scare him.
One of the goons tried to insert his foot in the armor boot. A robotic voice that sounded like HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey issued out of the suit: “What are you doing, Dave?”
“I am no called Dave,” the techie said in heavily accented English.
“What are you doing, Dave?” the robot voice asked again.
The guy looked up at Hammer as if he would know what to do next. Hammer waved a ‘keep going’ gesture. The goon frowned and then spoke to the boot in a stilted and overly-loud voice. “I am putting on armor. Make suit for me.”
“I’m sorry, Dave, but this does not seem to be your foot. Did your foot shrink, Dave?”
“Why this thing call me Dave?” the guy muttered under his breath.
Hammer cleared his throat and spoke with exaggerated authority. “It’s probably programmed only to respond to ‘Dave’. You should go along with it.” That had to be a joke of Stark’s. Too bad the whole ruse was wasted on these uncultured grunts.
“My foot no shrink. Make armor, stupid machine.”
“I am foolproof and incapable of error, Dave. This is not your foot. Please insert the correct foot for armoring sequence.”
One of the other techies said something in another language. Hammer had never asked whether it was Arabic, Hindi, or Pashto. Hell, it could be Ancient Egyptian for all he knew. But evidently they decided to try another foot in the boot because the first guy removed his and the second guy slipped his foot in.
“What are you doing now, Dave?”
“Right foot. Make armor,” the first guy ordered forcefully. Evidently, the second goon couldn’t speak English.
“I’m sorry, Dave, but this is not your normal foot either. Have you been in an accident?”
“Yes, an accident. New foot. Make armor now.”
“But which of you is the real Dave?”
Goon 1 pulled Goon 2 out of the boot. “I am real Dave.” He shoved Goon 2 away and thrust his own foot back in the boot. “Old foot injured. This is new foot. Make armor.”
Hammer fully expected to have to go get Stark’s shoe before anything would work, but he was wrong. Metal scales formed up Goon 1’s leg and down the other one, then up his trunk to the armpits where it abruptly stopped.
“Why you stop, dumb machine?”
A red electronic eye rose on a telescoping stem, like a retractable antenna, from where the armor stopped, up to the tech’s eye level. Why Stark would ever build something so creepy into his armor was beyond Hammer’s comprehension. There hadn’t been anything like this in the War Machine.
“I’m sorry, Dave, but you do not seem yourself today. Perhaps you would feel better after a nap.”
“Nap? What is this nap?”
“A period of rest, Dave. You knew this word yesterday, which confirms you are not yourself today. Did you injure your head in the accident?”
“No, you stupid junk. Make armor. Now.” Goon 1 made a fist and banged on the red metal covering his side.
“No need to get testy, Dave. May I suggest leaving off the helmet, since your head is injured?”
“No. Full armor. Helmet and everything. Now.”
“All right, Dave. As you wish.”
In seconds, the eye retracted and the entire suit of armor formed up over the goon. For a second, he just stood there. Hammer admired the sleek design; this was obviously more advanced than the War Machine. But more than Stark’s work, Hammer swelled with pride over obtaining both it and the password. He, Hammer, made this moment possible.
Then a muffled shout, barely audible, emanated from inside the suit. “Turn on lights! I cannot see!”
“The lights are on, Dave. Were your eyes injured in the accident, too?” The HAL-ish voice wasn’t lying. The eye slit lights were indeed on. It looked exactly the same as it had in Monaco, and like the other suit looked at the Expo. It looked just like Iron Man.
The goon started walking, but his movements were stiff, like the Tin Man from Wizard of Oz before he got fully oiled. He ran into a table and flailed his arms around, knocking over equipment.
“Get me out of this!” came faintly from inside the suit, but the tone made clear he was yelling.
The other two goons came to help, but pulling on the helmet did nothing. They tried screwdrivers next, inserting them at various joints and trying to exploit them with leverage, without success.
“Dave? Your friends are trying to hurt you. Should I neutralize your friends, Dave?”
The goon inside the suit screamed a muffled “No!” but it was even fainter than his previous words.
“I can’t hear you very well, Dave. Were your vocal cords also damaged in the accident? I really think you should rest, Dave.” And without further ado, the suit stiffened in an ‘attention’ pose and fell straight backwards. The metal suit crashed loudly, sending vibrations out over the metal floor.
Hammer bit his lips to keep from laughing. He was glad this wasn’t his problem. He got the suit and he got the password that opened it up. He delivered it to Amar’s people in working order. He never promised to update Stark’s crazy software or hold the hands of the idiot test pilots while they figured out how to use it. That was their problem, not his.
“Call Amar. Tell him to come get you and the suit,” he ordered. The two remaining tech goons didn’t respond. They looked quite absorbed in trying to ascertain whether the guy in the armor was conscious, or perhaps, alive. They weren’t getting very far. But as they were both yelling at their downed companion in a foreign language, Hammer decided not to repeat himself. He could come back later and make sure the English-speaker got the message. He turned and left.
He felt on top of the world for about three steps down the corridor. Then something niggled away at his feelings of triumph. Too easy. He was forgetting something. What was it? Sean Connery’s voice popped into his head and whispered, One ping only.
Hammer nodded absently. Yeah, I think I better call Stark’s bluff.