- I am Iron Man... What now?
- -- Tony Stark
Appearing in "Ghost in the Machine"
- Russia (Mentioned)
- Funtime, Inc. Facility (Mentioned)
Synopsis for "Ghost in the Machine"
Deep in his subconscious, Tony Stark is confused about the term "Iron Man". Dr. Strange explains to him what and who he is, that he is experiencing an illusion contained in the last bit of himself in his mind. He tells Stark to focus and repeatedly say, "I am Iron Man." This causes the light on Stark's chest to explode with energy. This leaves Stark with doubts whether what he is experiencing is real or not. Strange tells him that whatever happens in his mind will be as real as he believes it to be. If he dies in his mind, then he'll die for real. He's believing himself to be stuck in here, and Strange wishes to figure out why Tony is putting himself through that.
In the basement shelter, Pepper Potts and Maria Hill have a heart-to-heart talk. Pepper misses her repulsor rig already. They conversation breaks off as they reveal to one another that both of them slept with Stark.
Back in Stark's mind, Strange has a cup of tea while trying to find out what is preventing Stark from regaining consciousness. Stark describes to him how events keep replaying to him until he does them right, then he gets a little further to the next event. Apparently, in Stark's world, the robotic sentries have taken everyone to "the Bureaucrat", who forces everyone to dig, killing those who wont. Strange tells him that this is all in his mind, in the chaos from his profound brain trauma. Strange believes he'll need to beat the Bureaucrat in order to move on. Tony asks Strange how a man can be afraid of something inside his own head?
Meanwhile, Ghost tells Madame Masque that Stark has been moved. He suggests aborting the mission, to which Masque refuses to. Ghost retorts that he still has the Ghost phone to enable him to get to where she is now and kill her. In response, Masque hangs up. Ghost then comes upon a weather shelter, which he enters. He first spooks Pepper in the bathroom. Rhodey returns with the Rescue suit scraps, he is cranky but kneels by Tony's side, touching his forehead and calling for him to come back. Ghost shoots Rhodey in the side.
Back in Stark's mind, they exit the shack, to see nothing but whiteness around. Then suddenly, a Titanomech bears down upon them. Strange encourages Stark to fight back. The response is a powerful uni-beam erupting from Stark's chest, which tears the machine to shreds and pieces. He accepts that he's Iron Man now, but is unsure of what to do.
Things are grim in Broxton, Oklahoma as the Ghost moves in for the kill -- and the only thing between him and Tony Stark is a shell-shocked Maria Hill and a half-conscious Pepper Potts, fresh out of surgery. And deep in the recesses of Tony's mind, Dr. Strange and Stark get down and dirty with the tyrant king running the show and laying waste to Tony's consciousness. Where are they? What's happening? And why can't Tony remember the Iron Man?
- "The Bureaucrat" most likely refers to how Tony frequently struggles with bureaucracy when trying to get anything done, as both Tony Stark and Iron Man, making bureaucracy one of his greatest enemies. In Iron Man #208, he even groups them with madmen and tyrants as the sort of people he hopes humanity can one day leave behind.
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