Title: The Pantheon Fic. I'll have to come up with something else if I write in this 'verse again.
Rating: Eh... G, PG. Be warned, there are links to TVTropes, dread eater of time. Many links. I went a little crazy, apparently.
Disclaimer: ... If I listed the real owners of all these characters, this would be a huge block of text.
Feedback: Please do. I'm trying to practice third person without italics abuse, and I love con. crit.
Notes: The Pantheon is a TVTropes thing started when tropers started wondering "What would things be like if the world were run entirely on tropes? Who would be the Gods and Goddesses?"
As a troper myself, I was intrigued. Someone had put Captain America into the Houses of Defense, Justice, and Law, and they'd made him the God of Justice. But they hadn't fleshed the entry out at all. I had to fiddle with it more than a little. Iron Man was also in the House of Technology, similarly non fleshed out, so I fixed that. ... Good grief, did I fix that. He's also in the House of Craft now. Then I had to keep padding things, working in that growing tradition of interconnecting the various people we've stolen to be in the Tropes Pantheon. I have to say that it's been a lot of fun. ...So I wrote a fic explaining something that I'd referenced several times. It turned out to have a slashy flavor if you squint, so I might as well post it to cap_ironman . It makes no attempt to fit into anyone's canon and is sort of multicrossovery, but the focus is mostly on Steve and Tony. This first part is more to set the scene and has only a little to do with Tony. Don't worry, that will change.
I'll stick a few more links when it feels like I need them, but I'm going to ease up now.
The House of Technology looked, from the outside, like nothing more than a sheer-sided boxy beige mountain sticking out of the surface of the Pantheon. In theory, it was only open for certain people, and would be nothing more than an odd mountain to anyone else. In reality, very few gods or spirits weren’t let in. Nearly everyone had a use for tech.
Even from outside, Captain
Part of the mountainside shimmered as he approached. Having been through this before, Cap lowered his head and strode through. There was a crackle and a scanning sensation as he passed what had looked like solid rock.
It was fairly dark in the anteroom, gray metal walls, floor, and an incredibly high ceiling lit with buttons and blank monitors and what Cap had been told were “Tron lines”. He saw a few telescreens that had been set up by Big Brother, and subsequently had been defaced. Like all the Houses, this was bigger on the inside. The shared spaces of this one were scaled for humanoids ten times his size, which tended to make navigation more difficult. No one was here at the entrance to try and cover trouble up or lead him to it. That was not a good thing.
Echoing through the dead-end chamber he’d come out into, Cap heard the unmistakable sounds of armor hitting armor with damage to both, of metal stressed beyond its limits. Shouting, too.
Tony could take care of himself, he knew. He could absorb an incredible amount of damage on a daily basis, and not all of it was to his armor. Here, a god in the Pantheon, he was yet more resilient. That didn’t stop Cap from breaking into a dead run, boots pounding a corrugated deck that hummed subliminally.
He’d put out a call before coming here – as the unofficial head of the House of Defense, Captain America could use the alert to get into contact with almost any god closely affiliated with it. Of the ones that he knew wouldn’t be killed fighting against a powerful mechanical life form, most of them had gone to a higher-priority call that had gone up just after this one. Kefka again. Superman wasn’t among them, but he wasn’t answering either. Possibly playing more tricks on his followers –
Something like a woman’s face in green lines appeared and disappeared in several monitors in succession, but SHODAN didn’t even bother to taunt him. That was another bad sign. The Goddess of Malignant Computer Systems lived, or maybe operated, for the chance to scare visitors.
The central room, he remembered, wasn’t set up for human-sized gods. The flooring was slickly smooth and cut with an intricate, abstract pattern of trenches three feet deep and three feet wide. There were sections bridging them, but that meant threading a painfully long and convoluted route. The room was some kind of many-faceted dodecahedron shape nearly a mile across with a skylight in the vaulted ceiling.
He was there in time to see the God of Betrayal wrench Tony’s discharging arm off and beat him with it, raining shrapnel in all directions. Repulsors flared and died as Tony’s mech staggered backwards.
As Cap had expected, Tony had set aside his armor and built a towering Humongous Mecha in his signature red and gold. As if a military-grade armored battlesuit capable of tackling tanks and fighter jets head-on wasn’t enough, he’d decided to try something he’d barely dabbled in before, and Cap knew it had barely been tested, Tony never took enough time to find the limits of what these things could do.
And now he was losing. Cap didn’t know Starscream well enough to tell if the Transformer had picked up any fresh damage, but the Iron Mecha was all smashed up, moving sluggishly, barely keeping its feet. It was late enough in the fight that they weren’t even trading taunts.
The air wasn’t moving much in here – a little interference from some vents, easily compensated for – the Transformer was currently in a form with digigrade feet, that was probably his weakest point. Angles were good. Cap was several hundred feet away, but he was an Intermediate God, he could reach that far, easily. He moved to the best possible position, gripped his shield, eyes flicking, rocked back on his heels, twisted, and threw it, hard enough that he could feel echoes of his mortal body protesting.
The shield soared, blurring, arcing sharply to the right. Starscream shoved the Iron Mecha in the chest with a contemptuous two-handed gesture. The shield collided with one of the walls, striking sparks, and bounced at a sharp angle. The Iron Mecha reeled, remaining arm stretching out, and then toppled with a horrible sound in an impact that made the House tremble. The trenches in the floor shrank and gaped again. The shield ricocheted off a point high up in another wall and kept flying. Starscream took a ponderously deliberate step, then another, and raised his foot over the head of Tony’s unmoving mech, pausing for effect or to snarl something.
The shield hit the standing mecha in the thin ankle-joint currently bearing all of Starscream’s weight. It was too far for Cap to tell if his shield had glanced off that ankle or sheared through part of it, but it was to good effect. The God of Betrayal screeched something in that irritatingly shrill voice and came down. On his other foot. Which had been held over the Iron Mecha’s head.
It crumpled in on itself with a splutter of electricity. Cap felt a sickening lurch, and for a moment seemed to pull away from himself. The part of him that was always calm and coolly analytical seemed to step in. Think about it. Last time he built one of these things, the head was knocked clear off, and when I mentioned it later he said, very certainly, that the head was a vulnerable point no matter what he did with it. He built his cockpit somewhere else.
There was a quick way to check, and as the head of Defense, he could do this – ask who is that, and the alert would tell him. He did that now. The God of Personalized Mechanical Suits. Intermediate Deity. Entered into the Houses of Craft and Technology. Would you like clarification? It wouldn’t show him that if the god in question had died, would it? No, of course not.
And he didn't see any of the gods of Death. Never mind that he generally couldn't see them unless he was dying or they had something to tell them. They weren't here.
True or not, Cap started breathing again with a little jolt. Across the huge room, his shield rebounded against another wall and grazed Starscream’s back as the Greater God was coming back upright. At any moment now he would be noticed; this was no time to fall into shock or go into a rage.
There was an incredible crash as an enormous white mecha that looked like a bird with a cannon in its beak broke through the ceiling, raining transparent shards in all directions. As it fired an incandescent beam at Starscream, Cap saw his shield bury itself deep into the flooring. He’d hoped that it would have kept ricocheting, or returned to his hand, but the best laid plans of men and gods...
The bird mecha transformed into a big-shouldered humanoid holding that same cannon. What did the record say – ah, this was the God of Stoicism, a mecha pilot and Lesser God. Japanese. Not someone Cap knew; he’d never come by the House of Defense or gotten into enough trouble to stand out before.
On paper, a Greater God could almost always defeat a Lesser God, but in reality levels of rank and influence didn’t matter too much during an actual fight. The mecha pilot was more than holding his own; they’d gotten into a grappling match and the mecha was forcing Starscream back, a step at a time. Cap could focus on getting to Tony.
The grappling had gone back to a combination sword and fist fight by the time Cap could pick his way over to the ruins of Tony’s mech. It was worse than he’d thought. The Iron Mecha looked unsalvageable. But while the chest was dented terribly, and long strips of its outside had been torn away, it hadn’t caved in on itself. That was where the cockpit was. He hoped. Cap stared intently at the mecha’s torso.
Who is that? There was a moment – Accessing. God of Personalized Mechanical Suits. Intermediate God. Entered into the House of Technology and the House of Craft. Would you like clarification?
No. No, that was good. The alert didn’t access the Defense Records for dead gods. He hoped. He’d never actually checked.
The Iron Mecha was radiating heat like a furnace but barely sparking or smoldering, and there was no glow in the unibeam emitter, that triangular piece in the center of its chest, which meant no power, which in turn meant that Cap’s override codes were useless. The shield had embedded into the floor a good ways from here – not far from where the white mecha was firing its beam cannon, in fact. Cap wasn’t going to be able to retrieve it and use it to cut open the wreckage, not soon enough anyway. He’d have to do this the hard way.
Climbing up on the still-hot twisted metal, Cap found the seams of the hatch in the Iron Mecha’s chest, a little lower than the big unibeam emitter. That was a good bit of thinking, really – organic humanoids might go for the gut, but mechanical lifeforms rarely thought of it, not having vulnerable organs there. The metal here wasn’t quite as uneven and pounded as higher up – it was dented, yes, but not as badly.
Cap gripped the seam across from the joint with both gloved hands, felt the heat of it instantly, and pulled, bracing against the Iron Mecha’s chest. He arched his back and heaved hard enough until his eyesight blurred and darkened, and the echoes of his mortal body forced him to stop. The hatch had moved, very slightly. Just enough to assure him that he wasn’t pulling the side with the hinge or anything. It had, of course, sealed up again the moment his fingers were free. This thing was not intended to be opened from the outside.
Damn. He didn’t like doing this. It always seemed vaguely unnecessary to him; after the Prince of Stories had finished talking it over, Cap had accepted the position and everything it entailed, true, but in a lot of ways being the God of Justice wasn’t all that different from being Captain
Besides acclimating once again to a new place, new people with new expectations for him, new rules of law and reality, and the weirdly soothing subliminal babble and tastes of apple that he picked up from his followers, he didn’t normally feel that different. But he was the God of Justice, and that did mean that he could do a few new things.
Very deliberately Cap set his feet apart, boots planted solidly against the metal, and worked his gloved fingers back into the seam, reaching over the hatch. He gritted his teeth against the heat and started to pull. It wasn’t fair, that Tony could survive that only to be trapped in his mecha. No, fair wasn’t the word. It was not right. He had to be put in a cell and judged for his involvement in this mess, and tried for it. He wasn’t dead now, but that condition wouldn’t last! He couldn’t just escape the consequences like that. This wasn’t right!
The hatch moved. Reluctantly, groaning, hinge fighting him the entire way, and it was as heavy and thick as the door on a space capsule, but it moved. Inch by inch, Cap heaved it wide, until at last it lurched up and open, still heavy but swinging free. Still holding it, he stepped back so he could rest the thing on the metal where he’d been standing. The hatch’s inner surface was encrusted with buttons, screens, interfaces.
Inside, Tony was limp and battered in the cramped, egg-shaped cockpit. Cap leaned in and pressed two fingers against that damp throat, more out of habit than anything. There was a pulse, just as he’d thought, and it wasn’t very strong, but it was steady. He’d been right.
To his surprise, Cap found himself to be out of breath. That hardly ever happened here. Well, back on Earth moving this hatch would probably have put his back out and pulled all kinds of muscles. This was the Pantheon, and he was an Intermediate God.
…Yep, this was the Pantheon, Tony was another Intermediate God, and if he’d died it would just be an inconvenience which would only last until Virtuous could be talked around. Even if she took a dislike to Tony, he could function without a body. Probably he would just inhabit one of the armors, and eventually someone would stage another successful coup on the Main House and one of the Overdeities there would hit the Reset Button, and everything would be back. Not a lot of things were permanent in the Pantheon. Old habits died hard, he supposed.
Tony’s unconscious body wasn’t strapped down, but the cockpit was so closely fitted to him that straps or belts wouldn’t have made any difference. Working slowly, Cap eased him out, inch by inch. Tony was clammy with sweat, his tightly-molded undersuit soaked with it. The worrying pallor of his skin made his goatee and still-red lips almost seem to hover above his face.
He was going to be fine. He was going to be just fine. Cap cradled his unconscious ally and stood, the wreckage of the Iron Mecha ticking beneath his boots as it shed heat. Tony had been fever-hot in that cockpit, and in the open air he was cooling fast and moving a little – not waking up, but starting to curl up rather than hanging limp and lifeless.
“You idiot,” Cap told him quietly, cradling Tony close against his scalemail so that he wouldn’t cool too quickly. Tony was rank with fear-sweat, and a check of his eyes revealed that he was probably a little concussed. He was going to have a terrible headache and a hot bath, in that order, very soon.
Cap started to take stock of the situation. There were still a pair of Humongous Mecha locked into a grappling hold, but they weren’t the same pair. Cap was pretty sure that one of them was Optimus in some form – the color scheme always gave it away – but the gray one? Who is that?
Accessing. God of Megalomania. Demigod. Entered into the House of Emotion. Would you like clarification? Not someone he’d had much contact with. No, thank you. He thought it sounded familiar, but he tended to leave Humongous Mecha to others. Optimus could handle this. Cap came down off of the wreckage and started off for the edges of the room.
He could see a few more human-sized gods and visitors standing against the walls, watching the contest He must have missed seeing them earlier. Some were doubtless the Gamers, powerful in Pantheonic virtual space, somewhere between visitors and Quasideities out here in the “real” Pantheon. The deities entered into this House were mostly Gamers, Builders, or mechanicals.
Cap caught the eyehole of someone not on the sidelines who had helped the House of Defense before, and the God of Machines jogged heavily over, spiky plates of armor jarring loudly with every step. “Captain, I haven’t seen you in ages,” he said, his voice hollow and as high as an adolescent’s.
“Alphonse. Things have been busy with the 501st – but that’s not a good excuse. Sorry.” Damn it, he was really starting to let things slip! Come to think of it, he’d missed the last meeting with Clark and Diana and Optimus and the others in “bridge club”. He’d have to get one of them alone and find out what he’d missed. “Can you tell me what’s happened since the God of Stoicism showed up? I missed something.”
“He’s down. I was just starting towards him – over there.” There was another wreckage, this one in white with mostly blue highlights. Who is that? Accessing. God of Stoicism. Lesser God. Entered into the House of Emotion. Would you like clarification?
“He’s not dead yet.” Perilously close to the combatants, though. Within two hundred yards. Optimus seemed to be trying to wrest the fight into clearer space – he was good at remembering that – but the God of Megalomania wasn’t cooperating. “Come with me. We can get him out, and you can fill me in on the way.”
Would you like clarification? Cap pressed his lips together as he looked for a good place to hide Tony. Some day, the alert would learn or be reprogrammed into knowing that he preferred talking to delving into records for every detail. No, thank you.
“You shouldn’t leave him, Captain,” the God of Machines protested. “Not now. I stopped the Angry Video Game Nerd from hitting Neo with a lightgun, and The Guy was fighting Yahtzee. They’re all just about ready to break. Mister Stark won’t be safe. He's made some enemies. Here,” and Alphonse removed his head and bent, exposing the hollow, gaping nothing inside his armor, “I can carry him and leave my arms free.”
Cap blinked. So it was true.
Well, stranger things had happened. And it did explain why Tony always called this god The Living Armor. “Okay. How smoothly can you run? I don’t want him getting rattled around.” Tony wasn’t all that small, but the Armor was absolutely huge – it would have been too big for Cap himself - and didn’t look padded. The suggestion did make sense otherwise.
Alphonse put his head back on, an eerie glow coming back to his eyeholes. He whipped off the apron-like thing around his waist and folded it sloppily into a long rectangle. Wordlessly Cap held Tony out, and the apron was wrapped around his head and neck, leaving part of his face bare. This wouldn’t kill him. He might get bruised, but nothing that Doctor Black Jack wouldn’t be able to fix.
“Okay.” Alphonse took his head off again, kneeling to bring the opening close. His voice came from somewhere inside the chestplate, maybe that strange little sigil in red. Cap slid Tony’s unconscious body in through that opening, reflecting that he probably wouldn’t be able to do this if Tony was awake. The Living Armor made Tony Stark very uneasy, and Cap had never learned why. The helmet went back on, and you’d never know that there was someone else inside. “Let’s go.”
“Heero was fighting well,” Alphonse explained as they alternately leaped over contracting trenches and pounded down walkways. “He had Starscream – what’s the phrase? On the ropes?”
“That’s right. You’ve been watching the wrestler gods, haven’t you?”
“Yes, Captain. Last time CATS was in here he set us up with the signal, since they belonged to him. Or something… I couldn’t really understand him. I like Hulk Hogan.” They stopped – here was a rather deeper, wider trench, shivering like a living thing. Alphonse knelt and scratched something intricate into the flooring, then put a hand on it. Light flared, and by the time it faded a new bridge had formed. They continued. “Primus doesn’t like it when I do this, Captain. Anyway, Heero was winning, but then Megatron showed up –“
“The God of Megalomania? In gray, with the huge gun?” Looming up like a landmark, Optimus made a really good right cross, and the fight started moving in a new direction.
“Yeah, that’s him. He really doesn’t like humans, Captain. Starscream got away and it looked like Heero had been killed, and then Optimus flew in. They talked a little, and now they’re fighting.”
“Do you know why he wasn’t here before? I don’t think they needed him for Kefka.”
“The Stalemate’s really close by right now. Maybe he had trouble with the Imperial Missile Boat.”
Cap glanced up at the broken skylight. Neither the Death Star nor Unicron was visible above, but he did see the ship zip through that patch of sky, too high for him to hear its engines screaming. There wasn’t much you could do about that. The King Hell God Emperor Starfigher of Death couldn’t be outflown any more than Batman could be outprepared by anyone except Doom or kindly old Fred Rogers(no relation) could be outfought.
The God of Stoicism’s white mecha wasn’t just dented, it was shattered.
Alphonse did more of that – some kind of magic, Cap had to assume – to vaporize more of the cockpit, letting Cap slide down and get to the pilot.
He checked the Lesser God’s pulse, careful around the bruises, already swelling and turning interesting colors. Heero’s limbs had a bit of gangly adolescent to them, and his brown hair looked like it had been styled into rebellious disarray. That might have been the crash, of course. By the way his eyes were screwed shut and how he held his limbs, Cap guessed that he was faking unconsciousness, maybe to save face. He didn’t resist being picked up.
Cap slung the God of Stoicism up into a fireman’s carry across his shoulders, leaving one arm free. There was weight to him, but he wasn’t all that heavy. “He doesn’t look over sixteen.”
“Heero’s fifteen,” Alphonse said as he gave Cap a hand up and out. As Cap’s boots cleared the trench, it shuddered and contracted violently, crushing the half cockpit like a soda can. Whatever was moving the floor must have been programmed not to smash living beings. “Or he was. He’s been here longer than I have, but time’s different here.”
“Fifteen,” Cap muttered to himself disapprovingly. He kept finding these teenaged or younger gods here who had already become veterans in wars of their own. Toph and that gang of friends from her world. Ma-Ti, who always seemed a little shellshocked. Sometimes the Sarrasri girl. Probably Alphonse, with that high, boyish voice. (Need to fill out this list.) The most “normal” young god he’d seen was Adam Young, and he was the anti-Haruhi, warping reality to fit his games!
Oh, true, he himself hadn’t been that much older when he went to war, and Bucky had only been a few years younger. And his world was crowded with people who had been forced out of childhood too early. Sometimes it was necessary, he wasn’t going to argue against that. But still, there was always something inside him that hated seeing kids who were professional fighters.
“Neither one is winning,” Alphonse offered, and with a start Cap realized that he’d been staring blankly at the mecha fight, frowning. Both of them were far enough away now that they looked human-sized. “Captain, if you need it, I can fit Heero next to Mister Stark. It’ll be tight, but neither of them are huge, and I don’t get tired.”
The teenager lying facedown across his shoulders definitely stiffened defensively, hearing that. Either he was taking it entirely the wrong way or he just didn’t want to be stuffed into the Living Armor with Tony. Cap had to suppress a smile as he said, “You don’t need to do that. Not just now. I need to do something first, then we’ll head back towards the edges and make plans from there.”
Where was his shield? Cap turned in a little circle, scanning the room. He could only call it back to him when it was in flight or had been broken by a malicious Overdeity, and in the latter case it would re-form as it came. But he could always tell where it was, and right now it was…
… Two and a half feet under the surface, and not far from where Optimus and Megatron were still at it. One of them must have stepped on it at some point and driven it deep into the metal. Well, that was annoying. He would have to come back when this was resolved and pull it out. Maybe he’d borrow an acetylene torch.
The fight was once again heading in their direction. No doubt there was arguing going on with those two, banter, dramatic reversals in just who had the upper hand, but from down here it just seemed like they were scrapping back and forth. “Let’s move.”
Halfway back to the wall, something happened. The floor shook like an earthquake as the trenches set into it snapped closed, tight enough that each was barely a hairline fracture. Heero forgot his unconsciousness long enough to grab reflexively at Cap’s belt as both Cap and Alphonse fought to stay upright.
The floor started to rise in places, like the inside of the House was a gigantic escalator. The noise was incredible, grinding and clicking and sliding sounds loud enough to startle. A spire in the center climbed until it almost passed through the broken skylight, and other spires followed, making a block that widened steadily as more and more flooring rose. The few feet of floor that Cap and Alphonse were standing on shuddered, then lurched, then moved smoothly in a straight line towards the closest wall, just barely outracing the sections that were rising.
They were going at a good running pace, fast enough that the tassle on Alphonse’s helmet waved like a banner and Heero held tightly with both hands and his knees. Around them the floor had become a steep slope towards the wall, but their moving square platform stayed level. Cap saw his shield slide up in a briefly-gaping trench like a quarter being rejected by a pinball machine and grabbed it gratefully. He hated being without his shield.
Looked like he'd need to spend a few hours with a curved needle and some rawhide thread on it. Oh, true, he could just have the straps replaced, and easily, but they weren't ruined yet, just scuffed and a little torn. He'd hate to just throw them away when they could still be salvaged. ...Mending them would take time, though, and he might not be able to spare that much. His staff would do it for him, and happily, but it would be nice if he could do it for himself.
Alphonse was saying something, not quite loud enough over the shifting of the floor. Cap stepped closer, shouting “What?”
“I said it’s Primus!” The Living Armor pointed.
The flooring had risen up into something about the size of a high-rise building. Then things had started to get complicated. Some of it had pushed in, other parts had pulled out, corners and sides had rounded, and all together it wasn’t nearly as blocky now. Almost organic, really, although still made of the same metal. In fact, it looked almost like –
A glow came to the two deepest cavities, and Cap saw. It didn’t just look like a face, it was a face. The features moved with glacial slowness into something like a frown. Not directed his way, no, angled to the side, roughly a three-quarters profile. He saw now that Optimus and the God of Megalomania were before it on another square patch that seemed to be staying put. Neither of them, standing level with the face’s chin, would have quite reached the lower lip.
“He must be furious! I’ve only seen him manifest like this once!” Alphonse shouted, maybe a little too loudly. The sound hadn’t stopped, but it didn’t have the same intensity as before. There was a significant lurch as their platform reached the end of the slope, not far from the wall. With a bit of irritation, Cap firmly took Heero's arm, the one hanging down Cap's front, and moved it to his belt. The Lesser God went completely limp and an interesting shade of scarlet. Kids these days. Well, if he wanted to pretend to be unconscious, that was his choice.
Who is that? Cap knew, but he had to ask. Accessing… God of Mechanical Lifeforms. Greater God, possibly Overdeity. Entered into the House of Technology and the Main House. Would you like clarification?
No, I’m good. He’d been told, back on that first whirlwind tour just after accepting his position, that Primus was the House of Technology and the foundation of the Pantheon itself. He hadn’t really believed it until the Qabandi crisis. The God of Mechanical Lifeforms was big. Normally he held to a policy of noninterference, letting Optimus act for him. Odd that he'd break that policy. Maybe he just didn't like fighting in the House.
This was odd, but Cap had other priorities. "Let's take these two to the House of Life and Death. Then I'll have to try and sort some of this out."
"You can probably take Tony out now. Actually, give him to me. Take Heero."