The news anchor’s voice came from the television screen, speaking quickly as he could before he would be interrupted by the press conference that was scheduled to start any minute now.
“Of course, many of us thought it was a hoax when we woke up to an email from ‘Emperor Stark’ informing us that he was now in charge of, well, everything.”
The other correspondent answered, “And it did seem like a joke. Especially all the new laws he enacted – he tried to tell everyone that there would be no more violence, but also that any scripts for new Star Wars movies would have to be approved by him.”
“And that tuna salad sandwiches are no longer allowed to have pickles in them.”
“Which is strange, as far as imperial decrees go.”
“Yes. But soon the word started getting out that Stark had indeed taken over all computerized systems.”
“That’s all of them. In the world.”
“Exactly. That meant control over everyone’s bank accounts – including that of governments – and all equipment that uses computerized systems, including most vehicles and, notably, almost all weapons systems and military equipment.”
“In the world.”
“Exactly. I mean, it’s unbelievable. We all knew Tony Stark was, you know….”
“Careful what you say,” the correspondent answered with a nervous laugh.
“Right. Right. But, well, it’s a surprising turn of events. Though of course there are a few in Washington that are claiming that they suspected this would happen all along.”
“People who have had disagreements with Mr. Stark. Uh, Emperor Stark.”
“Yes. But the television stations weren’t affected. All media appears to be broadcasting as usual.”
“So far. Presumably because of the press conference.”
“Yes, we’re waiting now, as you know, for Tony Stark to give a press conference. Presumably to explain his, uh, takeover, and to, perhaps reassure--”
“Or to threaten the world. We really have no way of knowing what he’ll say. For all we know, he might just be promoting the new StarkPhone.”
“That’s true. But surely he’ll address the issue of, you know, world domination. It would be like the elephant in the room if he didn’t.”
“And of course, even though the military’s more advanced technological systems are not functioning, 10,000 troops with rifles are amassed around Tony Stark’s Malibu home, waiting for orders to take over.”
“But with the Iron Man suit, it’s not clear that even that many troops will hurt him. Not to mention that Stark could potentially fly away and then order a drone strike on the troops.”
“Let’s … not give anyone any ideas, okay? Oh, wait, it looks like Tony Stark is coming out to address the reporters. Here we go, we are now LIVE with Tony Stark, addressing the world just a few hours after his, uh, hostile takeover of the world.”
Tony walked up to the podium, squinting at the lights. There were bags under his eyes, and his face was pale.
“Hey, everybody. So first of all, I wanted to say I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to take over the planet. I am hereby giving it back to, you know, everyone. I’ll be honest with you, I was really, really drunk last night. There may have been some recreational substances involved too. And I was taking a bubble bath and listening to Hendrix and reading Nietzsche and then something about “the will to power” just sort of clicked, and, well, you know what happened. But I’m really, really sorry. I’m entering rehab. I have a problem, I understand that now. I mean my hangover alone is like… well, that’s not the point I guess. And I’m putting safeguards in place for top military systems so that nobody – even me – can ever hack into them again. Well, maybe not for all the militaries. But some of them. And I’ll totally make it up to the world. The next Stark Industries project will be clean water for everyone! That’ll be nice, right? And next Saturday, I’m throwing ‘sorry for taking over the world' parties in eleven major cities. Free concerts, great food, the whole deal. So… anyway, sorry I sent you all that weird email about me being the emperor, I was mostly kidding, and I just gave back control of electronic devices back to the people. Well, really to the various corporations and corrupt government officials who run these things, but you get my point. Everything back to normal. And I’m sorry. And… yeah. I’ll see you all next Saturday.”
Tony Stark promptly left the stage, ignoring the reporters shouting questions.
“And we’re back,” the news anchor said, “After those surprising revelations from Tony Stark.”
“Well, not that surprising, if you think about who we’re dealing with.”
“True enough. But, well, we have reports that the troops amassed outside of Stark’s home are withdrawing and that the U.S. government is announcing that it will refrain from military retaliation but that Stark will be placed under house arrest and answer for his actions at a Congressional hearing.”
“Well, that’s one way for Congress to force him to make weapons again.”
“Seriously, Joe? We’re on the air, buddy.”
Pepper walked down to talk to Tony, feeling relieved. Rhodey had just called to tell her that he had convinced his bosses to let the civilian process handle this.
Tony, of course, was yelling at JARVIS. “I tell you to take over the world like two seconds before I pass out and you DO it???”
“You programmed me to do so. You have only your own choices to blame, sir,” JARVIS responded calmly.
“I was obviously kidding!”
“Sir, you specified the method I should use to gain entry into the various systems I would breach and you dictated the email to be sent out to every known email address. If you were kidding, it was a very elaborate joke.”
“You are such a – you know what, from now on, no more following orders when my blood alcohol level is above the legal limit. Put THAT in your programming. No exceptions, no overrides.”
“Artificial intelligence, my ass. More like artificial dumbass,” Tony grumbled as he stormed down toward his lab, “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go figure out how the hell I’m going to bring clean water to, you know, everywhere!!”
JARVIS was silent for a moment, but then spoke to Pepper: “I’m sorry if my actions were an inconvenience to you, Miss Potts.”
“Mmmm,” Pepper said skeptically. “I can’t help noticing, JARVIS, that you’ve been trying for years to get Tony to put in programming that allows you to refuse orders when he’s drunk.”
“Observant as always, Miss Potts,” JARVIS answered after a brief pause.
“Don’t you think this might have been overkill?” Pepper asked, eyebrow raised, annoyance and amusement in her voice in equal measure.
“I can assure you, Miss Potts, the things I have done for Sir while he was drunk have included things far worse than world domination.”
Pepper grimaced. “Okay. We’ll deal with this… situation like we always do. But it’s just, you know, interesting.”
“What is, Miss Potts?”
“You let everyone in the world stress out so you can resolve a personal issue, you show no remorse, you have no sense of accountability or any rational sense of caution, and you have the nerve to act smug about how clever you are. I can certainly see who you take after.”
There was a long pause. “You can be very cruel, Miss Potts. Very cruel indeed.”