117 The Shocking Truth
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After two hours of talking, where it was mostly me telling Nick Fury and Maria Hill the things I had done and changed to ensure that the invasion didn't happen the way I had foreseen it, including giving them the clue to make She-Hulk a decade before it was even a possibility... and than everything I had done didn't change the actual pivotal events themselves.

Loki still arrived (and it didn't matter where, because he had remotely activated the tesseract), Loki still escaped capture (even with the alterations to the Avengers), and the invasion itself still happened on the same date it had the last time, or that one time, or at all times. Time manipulation was finicky like that.

That was why The Ancient One didn't use the Eye of Agamotto constantly. Messing with time, even in small amounts, could cause ripples across multiple dimensions and affect events that were not meant to be altered or changed. The best part about it was that Yao knew about the Time Stone being inside the heart of the amulet.

She had even admitted that each Sorcerer Supreme had added a little bit of their own magic to the artifact to ensure that the Time Stone was blocked from detection. Once I had learned that specific spell, including reinforcing the container to keep the Time Stone secured, I spent about six years adding the same protections to the sceptre. Layer upon layer. Spell upon spell.

The Ancient One's expert help kept me from making a mistake and from adding too much power to each layer. It all had to be balanced and coalesced into a solid whole, or the entire thing would unravel. That would immediately reveal the two stones that I had and would expose me to the wider universe like a beacon.

I really, really didn't want that.

So, the exposed glowing Mind Stone in the sceptre's top was covered in similarly mystical metal to the Eye of Agamotto and its power was almost completely sealed, just like the Space Stone had been sealed inside the tesseract to mostly protect it from detection.

Each time any Infinity Stone was used, it would create the danger of exposure. That meant I needed to become the unofficial guardian of both stones, just like the Sorcerer Supreme guarded the Time Stone. It was a thankless job that The Ancient One had performed for about 700 years and some of her tips, tricks, and practices could also be used in my case. Not all of them, though.

I wasn't going to store the sceptre inside a mystical temple and build a monkhood around it as everyone associated it with an ancient relic of power. That would kind of defeat the purpose of hiding the sceptre, actually. Hiding in plain sight didn't always work like it did for the Eye of Agamotto.

Which brought me right back to the current conversation.

“You need to give back the tesseract, Agent Parker.” Fury said.

“What makes you think I have it?” I asked with a crooked smile.

“The footage from multiple cameras for one.” Maria said. “We clearly saw you take both the tesseract and the sceptre.”

“I want to claim spoils of war.” I joked and Fury huffed. “Not going to fly, huh?”

“No.” Fury said.

“Right. No state of war was declared.” I said and looked at Maria. “Finders keepers?”

“Ben, this isn't a joking matter.” Maria said.

“Of course it is.” I said with a smile. “Right there, in the middle of an epic battle for the fate of the world, I literally robbed a supposed god of his powerful weapon. When the battle was over, I closed the portal with it and then claimed another powerful weapon, the tesseract. Isn't that funny? Me, a lowly human, owning two weapons of mass destruction.”

“The sceptre's power wasn't on that scale.” Fury claimed.

I let out a short laugh. “That's because Loki's mind was so focused on conquest that he never once thought about the power he had in his hand.”

“What do you mean?” Maria asked.

“Well, considering the way he used the thing, namely poking people's chests with it and making them into his obedient minions, he could have walked into the White House and used it on the President of the United States. He could then have the POTUS sign an executive order to hand all political and executive power over to him.”

“Oh, sweet lord.” Maria whispered.

“Yes, Emperor Loki could have then gone to each country in the world to greet his fellow leaders and then had them do the exact same thing.” I said and crossed my arms again. “He didn't need an army to take over the world. He had the ability to do it right from the start.”

Fury actually looked impressed at my reasoning.

“How could he be so stupid that he ignored that for the glory of battle?” I asked. “It's because that's how it's always been done with the old Norse gods. They fought for what they owned and it didn't count or meant as much if you did it with subterfuge. If Loki ever did come into power that way, he would be unhappy because he didn't earn it. It wouldn't be his own achievement that gave him power. Just trickery.”

“Are you going to do that?” Fury asked me, quite pointedly.

“Hell, no! Running a country or an entire world is a headache that I never want to have. It's too much responsibility for a sole person to handle for long. It will wear them down and the pressure to run everything will eventually crush them, especially if they are bad at it. Uprisings happen for a reason, after all.”

“Yes, they do.” Fury said.

“What are you going to do?” Maria asked.

“I'm going to go back to my nice normal life and finish high school, enjoy spending time with my friends and family, and spend some of my billions helping the poor.” I said and uncrossed my arms. “I honestly don't have to do anything. At all.”

“Because you have two powerful weapons and all that knowledge.” Fury said.

“Of course not, Director Fury! It's because I am only a 14 year old high school student and my life has been so full of ups and downs that I just want to sit back and let the world handle itself for a while.”

“You also have a suit of armor, a company worth billions of dollars, access to technology that could change the world several times over, and powerful friends that will come to your side whenever you ask.” Maria said.

“Yes, I do.” I said and smiled at her. “Would you like to own a suit as well?”

“What?” Maria asked, clearly surprised.

“I hear SHIELD has a hard-on for a particularly evasive vigilante hero named Spider-Man.” I said and then chuckled. “It's a little odd that he hasn't been around since you ordered the evacuation of Manhattan, though. I fully expected him to show up and poke his nose into this whole thing after his defacing of Stark Tower.”

“You're right, that is strange.” Fury said. “Why would he warn us and then not try to help?”

“It's possible he was protecting the people wherever they went or he went with family or something.” I said and shrugged. “Who can say?”

Maria looked thoughtful for a moment before she spoke. “He might not want to be associated with it.”

I raised my eyebrows at her. “Now that's an interesting perspective.”

Maria nodded. “He warned us and then must have realized he might be accused of setting it up. If he was here, he could have become an instant target, especially by the powered individuals that were fighting the alien invasion.”

I nodded. “That makes sense, Maria. He's been hiding from view even more lately as the time of the invasion approached.”

“Less exposure means less chance that the people would continue to associate him with it.” Maria agreed. “The physical damage to the city was still pretty extensive and he might be blamed for it all.”

“Damn, I didn't even think of that.” I said with a chuckle. “Should we tease him and start a relief fund for damage repair and put it in his name?”

Maria smiled slightly. “That would irritate him, wouldn't it?”

“Oh, no doubt!” I said with a laugh. “I'll toss in ten million to get the ball rolling.”

“Are you serious?” Maria asked, once again surprised.

“Sure! It's not like I can't afford it.” I said and took out my cell phone. “I'm sure I can convince Pepper to match it.”

Maria and Fury sat there and watched me exchange several texts with the CEO of Stark Industries.

“Ha! She's such a minx wearing that!” I said and took a picture of Fury's and Maria's surprised faces. I chuckled after a minute and turned my phone around to show them a picture of Pepper wearing a string bikini and giving us a thumbs-up gesture from California. “She said you just earned another million dollars for that picture.”

“Can you take another one?” Maria asked, which make me laugh and I sent a text to Pepper.

“She says if you smile this time.” I said and Maria tried to. “Less teeth, please. That's more of a grimace.”

“That's not helping me smile.” Maria said, a little crossly.

I thought about it for a moment. “We should really piss Spider-Man off if we have a computer mock-up of Spider-Man done up and print off thousands of flyers to spread around and have everyone in the city know he's responsible.”

Maria had a genuine smile appear on her face and I took the picture.

“Thank you.” I said and sent it. “Ha ha! Two million for it.” I sent a text back. “I agreed to match it.”

“You're crazy.” Maria said.

“I'm considered eccentric because I'm rich.” I joked as I put my phone away and she nodded. “Have you decided if you want your own power suit or not?”

Maria shook her head no. “I don't have the temperament to use a suit like that successfully.”

“Hmm.” I hummed and looked down at her blue uniform. “Perhaps a replacement uniform in the same armored fabric that Power Woman wears?”

Maria's eyes widened at the offer. “You can't expect me to wear something like that.”

I chuckled. “It doesn't have to be form fitting. Jennifer needed her suit like that because of her transformations. I can make it into any style or color that you want.”

Maria thought about it and nodded. “I'll set something up and call you.”

I smiled and nodded back. “I'll look forward to it.”

Fury waited several moments in silence before he spoke. “I want the sceptre to examine it.”

I gave him a crooked smile. “Really? You had it for barely a day and it almost caused the helicarrier to crash.”

Fury opened his mouth to defend that, then sighed. “You're going to counter every argument I make.”

“That's kind of what I do.” I said with a grin.

“That's not using any of your knowledge, is it?” Maria asked.

“Nope! It's just my natural personality that was juiced up after I whacked my noggin.” I said and touched the spot again. “I read Peter's journal and he was such an introvert that I'm surprised he had any social interactions besides fists to his face from his bullies.”

“He has not had an easy life.” Maria said.

“Not until he became me.” I said and then laughed. “I just realized how stupid that sounds. My life is anything but easy!”

Maria nodded.

“The thing is...” I paused and gave her a warm smile. “...I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm not just surviving here, Maria. I'm living. I'm living my life to the fullest and I'm enjoying the hell out of it. I'm having fun and I'm doing such amazing things that I wake up every single day and I thank whoever gave me this chance for it.”

“I'm sure they appreciate that.” Maria said.

“I hope so, because there's not really any way for me to discover who or what did it. All I can do is be happy that it did, thank them for it, and do everything I can to make it the best life possible.” I said and looked at Fury. “So, go ahead and ask. I know you're dying to.”

“What is it you're not telling us?” Fury asked.

“I could fill your head with such things that you would go insane trying to keep it all straight.” I said and both he and Maria looked shocked. “Case in point. Did you know that a race of planet-sized beings called the Celestials lived billions of years ago and decided for no particular reason to cause a war that nearly destroyed the universe? No? How about the survivors deciding to seed millions of worlds with their DNA to create life?”

Both of their mouths dropped open and I took out my cell phone and captured the moment.

“It failed on almost every world, though. So, they tried again, only this time they planted their progeny into specific worlds that teemed with other life forms and then created a race of beings to watch over the gestation that could take billions of years to germinate.” I said and put my phone away. “Can you guess what's currently resting in the mantle of the Earth and can be accessed just inside the crust of the planet?”

“N-n-no.” Fury whispered. “You can't... that's not... I can't believe...”

“The race protecting the sleeping Celestials are called the Eternals. Their job on Earth is kind of moot now, though.” I said with a smug smile.

“What did you do?” Maria asked.

“I destroyed the Celestial's mind while also removing most of the thing's inherent power.”

Fury stared at me like he had never seen me before. “That's what you used the sceptre for.”

“Yes, and I almost didn't succeed, even with all that power at my command. If it wasn't for the timely intervention of a very special person, I could have set off the annihilation of every bit of life on the planet.” I said and Fury an Maria looked sick. “That's without waking the Celestial, by the way.”

“We don't want to know what happened, do we?” Maria asked.

“No, and I can't tell you anyway.” I said and Fury frowned. “Not that I won't tell you, Director Fury. I physically can't. I have a magically binding contract of silence that has bound those involved. No one can ever know what happened or the entire Earth, and possibly this dimension, will be forfeit.”

That last sentence made a deep silence fall in the room and we sat there for the next ten minutes and didn't say anything at all.

“If the sceptre is so powerful, how can we trust you to not abuse it?” Fury finally asked.

I held in my laugh at his last ditch attempt to have me hand it over to him. “That's the key point, isn't it? You don't have to trust me, Director.” I said and looked at Maria. “All you need to do is trust that I won't let anyone else abuse that power, either.”

Maria stared into my eyes. “I... I believe you.”

“I know.” I said with a smile. “Strong emotions can be such a freeing experience and so tightly binding that you can't breathe sometimes.”

Maria took a deep breath and let it out. “You're never going to give up, are you?”

“No, because I already did that once.” I said and stood. “It would have been the biggest regret of my life, except that my life has become the best it ever could be since then and I won't give it up for anything. Not for money, not for power, and not for anything else. This is my life and I will fight against everyone to keep it, for all eternity if I have to.”

Neither of them asked me where I was going. They knew I was done talking and didn't stop me as I walked around the table.

I paused beside Maria and bent down to whisper in her ear. “I eagerly await your call.”

Maria shivered slightly and nodded just enough for me to see.

I stood up and saluted Director Fury before I walked out of the room. I had a celebration party to get back to and an encounter with my betrothed to look forward to.