“Uh, J.A.R.V.I.S., this is not the Stark Expo,” Tony Stark said as he gazed out over the purple landscape. In the distance, sharp-tipped mountains stretched along the horizon, while the foliage on all the nearby trees formed the letter X. The green, hazy sky above the mountains blended into a thick, starry night. Three blazing lights, each nearly the size of the moon, were spread out across the heavens. “Definitely not Kansas, either,” he mused.
“Confirmed, sir,” J.A.R.V.I.S. replied, “this is not Kansas.”
“Let me guess,” Tony said as he zoomed in on the nearest tree. “We’re on Planet X?”
“An astute observation as always, sir.”
Tony clicked his lips as he read through the scan results that J.A.R.V.I.S. projected onto his heads-up display. Not a few moments before he’d been quipping with Pepper and jumped out of a cargo plane. As he plummeted towards the ground, there had been a strange flash of light. Of course, there had been plenty of fireworks going off all around him, so Tony just assumed it was one of the dozen spotlights scanning the sky for his arrival. Now he was standing on this strange, alien landscape with no idea how he got there. “Whoa, whoa, whoa,” he said as he stopped the display. “What do you mean there’s no oxygen?”
“Sir, atmospheric scans confirm the air is made up primarily of helium and nitrogen. Oxygen content is likely less than 15%.”
“How’s our oxygen supply looking?” Tony had designed his suit to work on Earth where there was more than enough air, but he’d included a small bladder just in case he had to go underwater or high altitudes. He hadn’t bothered to check it for months.
“Not good, sir. Estimate 54 minutes of usable air remaining. As I have suggested before, if you intended to visit other planets you should have improved the exo-systems.”
“Thanks for the reminder and the lecture.”
“My pleasure, sir.”
“54 minutes to figure out how we got here and convince E.T. to send us home. Okay, let’s do a quick gravity check.” He engaged the foot thrusters and soared into the air. He could tell the normal air resistance his armor experienced on Earth wasn’t going to be a problem here in the lighter air. Gravity seemed to be close enough to 1g. He tested a repulsor blast on the nearest tree. The X evaporated into a V in an instant. “Well that worked well.” He straightened up and flew towards the mountains, scanners at maximum to identify any kind of structure nearby.
“Sir, I’ve detected an odd energy reading several miles to the northwest of your current position,” J.A.R.V.I.S. reported. “It is an energy signature I’ve never seen before. Of course, we are on an alien planet, so I have no way of telling whether it exists naturally in this environment or not.”
“Better than nothing.” Tony noted the map on his display and adjusted his flight to head in that direction.
“Tony Stark,” a voice sounded through his helmet speakers. The voice was deep, cold, definitely male and definitely not J.A.R.V.I.S.
“J.A.R.V.I.S., who’s speaking?”
“I cannot identify the source of the communication, sir.”
“Tony Stark, you who are are also known as Iron Man,” the voice continued.
“I’m sorry, Tony isn’t here right now. He’s stranded on an alien planet. Please leave your name and current location and explain how you can talk to me at the sound of the beep. BEEP.”
“What a strange creature you are,” the voice replied. “You are less than an hour from your doom and yet you make jokes?”
“Well, like my dad always said, life’s too short not to smile. Now, who the hell are you?”
“You are the Earth’s greatest defender.”
“True.” Of course, I’m not on Earth anymore, Tony thought.
“If I am to conquer your world, I must understand how to defeat you and others like you. Therefore, I have brought you here to fight for my amusement and to facilitate my analysis of your species and its defenses.”
“Yeah, thanks, but I’m already booked for the rest of the day. If you send me back to Earth right now, I’ll be sure to get you in for a meeting as soon as Pepper can fit you in. Then we can talk all about your desire to conquer the Earth or whatever.”
“Sir, we are closing in on the energy signature,” J.A.R.V.I.S. interrupted. Tony confirmed it was beneath them and started heading down.
“Now then, let’s see who you are …” Tony’s jaw dropped open as the terrain came into focus. “You have got to be kidding me,” he gasped.
“Therefore,” the voice continued, “I have selected various warriors from your past to do battle with you. They will try to destroy you. We shall see if you survive.”
Tony tucked his legs up underneath him so he could slow down and hover above the ground. His arms went stiff as he used his hand repulsors to control his descent. A moment later, he floated mid-air above a massive robot that stood at least twenty feet tall.
The robot was colored red and blue, and its chest resembled the front of a semi-truck. The robot’s head looked up and locked its gaze with Tony as it raised its right arm. As he expected, Tony gazed down the wide maw of a massive rifle that was easily the same size as any of his sports cars.
“I have selected as your first foe …” the voice said.
“I am Optimus Prime,” the robot interrupted. “One shall stand. One shall fall.”