Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: Iron Man (MCU)
Rating: K+ / FRC
Characters: Tony Stark, Tony’s bots (DUM-E and U). Mentioned: Obadiah Stane
Summary: Tony dug the hole – or, blasted it – but he didn’t mean to fall into it. Stuck at the bottom with no way out and suffering from what could well be a broken leg, Tony’s left at the mercy of the cruel mistress Fate – and two bots that are far from equipped to help him out of this mess.
Complete. Part of “Genius, AI & Bots” series.
Written for: My card on Trope Bingo’s Round 2 (square: “against all odds”)
Warnings: Mild injuries and language.
Disclaimer: Iron Man and Marvel Cinematic Universe, including characters and everything else, belong to Marvel, Marvel Studios, Jon Favreau and Paramount Pictures. In short: I own nothing; this is pure fiction created to entertain likeminded fans for no profit whatsoever.
Beta: Mythra (mythras_fire)
Feedback: Welcomed with bot-like flailing.
About Pitfall: Bots to the rescue!
Also, Tony isn’t good with work safety, as we all know; that is why things like this happen.
Story and status: Below you see the writing process of the story. If there is no text after the title, then it is finished and checked. Possible updates shall be marked after the title.
Written for Trope Bingo’s Round 2 (square: “against all odds”).
Tony had never worked on a construction site per se, but when building his own house for the first time… The thing was, Tony didn’t want anyone to screw it up, so he was far more involved than he otherwise might have been – especially when it came to designing and building his workshop area in what would be the bottom floor.
He had spent the morning blasting holes in the rock, to prep the workshop’s foundations, and there was rubble everywhere. Normally he might have tasked his bots, Dummy and You, to sweep out the mess, but the uneven terrain was hard for them to travel over and Tony would have been spending more time getting them unstuck than working, so he had stationed the bots on a smooth patch of ground, out of harm’s way.
In the heat of the sun, Tony decided it was time for a break. He started looking for the water bottle he had left somewhere, picking a path in the labyrinth of building materials, tools, piles of rubble and other supplies. No water bottle, though.
Supposing that he would stumble upon it eventually, Tony began walking towards the blue shipping container serving as an on-site office to find another bottle and sit in the shade for a bit. His eyes strayed to the horizon for a moment, the ocean spreading out, glimmering under the sunlight, and he couldn’t wait to go surfing here.
Lifting his eyes from the ground was his first mistake. Another one was not minding his surroundings and or his exact location within the construction area, and Tony realized his error the moment his foot slipped from solid ground to emptiness. It was too late to recover his balance, and it felt like slow motion animation as he fell down, scraped his left shoulder against the hard wall and landed at the bottom of one of the larger holes he had blown open just this morning.
He hit the bottom hard and felt hot pain explode in his left leg an instant later. He thought he heard something crunch or snap. “Shit,” he hissed, moving to take a look, but the motion hurt like hell and he froze, just slumping there for a minute, catching his breath as pain radiated back and forth in his injured limb. Eventually he looked up, musing that the hole looked much deeper from down here.
Pressing his teeth together, he slowly moved himself to an upright position. Since he was only wearing an old band t-shirt, his left shoulder and upper arm had been scrubbed bloody during the fall, making him cringe. He couldn’t put any weight on his left leg, and moving it hurt enough to make his eyes water. He envisioned a broken bone and knew it would be smart to take a look at the injury, but he didn’t want to move his pant leg or touch the injured limb for fear of making it hurt even more – as if leaving it alone would make it better.
He reached up with his right hand, but didn’t even come close to reaching the top of the pit. Perhaps with two working legs and a really good jump he might have caught the edge and struggled up somehow, but right now he was stuck – without water or a way to call for help.
Tony slid back down to the bottom of the hole, telling himself he was just taking a moment to get his bearings. He was not freaking out or overcome with despair. Someone would come look for him, eventually. Maybe. Probably. Definitely. Someone would notice his absence, and just because Tony had been obsessing about the construction project, having little patience or attention for anything else…
Obie, at least, would pester him about something eventually, and when Tony didn’t respond he would come looking for answers in person.
That could be hours or even days from now, though; it wasn’t unlike Tony to just disappear for short periods of time, with a project or an underwear model – or both.
He tilted back his head and looked again at the top of the pit, the edge of rock mocking him. He let out a roar of hopelessness that may have faded into a rather pitiful whimper; he could scream his lungs raw and it wouldn’t help. No one was around to hear him.
Story of his life…
A faint beep interrupted his dark thoughts and Tony looked up, hearing something move. “Hello?” he called out, and many torturously long seconds later a couple rocks fell over the edge of the pit, soon followed by a slim shadow. Tony blinked up against the sun and realized Dummy had somehow made his way over.
“Hey,” Tony called up to the bot. “I need you to bring me my phone, okay? My phone. It’s…” He tried to remember where he had put it. He had taken it from the car, dismissed a message from Obie, put it down… “It’s on the table by the office – the shipping container. The blue container.”
The bot cocked its clawed hand, beeped again and pulled away. Tony prayed Dummy had understood the directions because sometimes the bots still acted really buggy, and they were new to this environment. The house would be their new home, so Tony had wanted to start bringing them over to the construction site early on so that they would be familiar with every aspect of the place. That didn’t mean Dummy couldn’t get lost, or potentially fall off the cliff and into the ocean.
Dismissing those thoughts, Tony waited as patiently as he could. He wondered if he should have asked the bot to bring him water, too. His phone was more important, though, so that he could call for help. After that he would have plenty of time to wait for the bots to find him something to drink.
As minutes passed, Tony grew a bit nervous. What was taking Dummy so long? Was there trouble? Wasn’t his phone where he had thought it would be? Had the bot fallen asleep – or run out of energy? Tony tried to recall the last time he recharged their batteries, and by his estimation there should be no fear of them running out of juice now. He had heard no weird sounds either, which would suggest Dummy falling off the cliff or getting stuck again.
He glanced down at his injured leg and sat up a little, then reached down to pull up his pant leg. Every little bit of accidental pressure hurt, though, and he had nothing to tend his injury with, no matter what it was. It was more than a sprained ankle, that much he could tell; there was no blood, as far as he could see, so if the bone was fractured it hadn’t pushed through the skin, which was probably a good thing.
Tony’s hands trembled as he looked up again, willing Dummy’s familiar form to reappear. A hot, desperate eternity seemed to pass before he heard a faint shuffling noise which then began to grow louder and louder. His ears fought to recognize the sound, to imagine what was happening at ground level, but all he came up with were various vague guesses.
Finally Dummy leaned over the side once again, something in the grip of his claws. The sun had moved while the bot had been gone, now shining almost directly down into the pit, and Tony squinted to see what Dummy was holding – then suddenly realized that whatever it was, it was falling.
Tony’s hand shot out to intercept the falling item, but it was too late. The hard object bounced off his extended fingers and fell hard against the rock bottom of the pit, smashed into pieces and landing amidst the sharp rubble. It took Tony a few seconds to admit that he was staring at the wreckage of his phone, the screen utterly smashed, the cover broken, components spread out over a small area.
With a furious snarl, Tony looked up at the bot. “What the hell, Dummy?! Why would you just drop it like that? Now I don’t have any way of getting out of this mess!”
The bot beeped and moved back and forth as if agitated.
“Stop moving,” Tony snapped at it, furious. “You’ll come too close to the edge and fall on top of me. Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad, though, because now I’m going to die of dehydration down here, you mechanical moron. I swear to God if I get out of here, I’m going to demolish you and melt the parts to plug this damn hole!”
Dummy let out a sharp whistle and rolled out of sight.
Angry as he was, not to mention tired, in pain, and extremely thirsty, Tony lamented his outburst instantly. Dummy’s presence on the edge of the hole had been soothing, and now that he was completely alone again, with no tools to try and fix the broken phone, he would have rather had the bot hanging around than keep squinting up at the sun until his eyes watered.
He picked at the pieces of the phone for a bit, wondering if he could rig it to make a call, but the fall had been long and the impact with the bottom of the pit hard. He vowed to make himself a better phone if he survived this.
His injured leg throbbed from time to time as if to remind him that sitting down here without water wasn’t his only problem. However, it was the heat that would probably get to him first, and Tony craned his neck to look up again, wondering if asking Dummy to bring him water would work better than the delivery of his phone.
“Dummy!” he called up, as loudly as he could. The bots didn’t have selective hearing, usually, but they got into weird moods every now and then. After Tony had threatened Dummy, the bot might be disinclined to come back. It didn’t help that the bot’s attitude was more or less directly copied from Tony over the years, and Tony knew just how long he – and the bots – could sulk about something.
“Dummy! You!” he called out again. “I need you guys.” He really did, more than ever.
There was no reply, and Tony wondered if he deserved being left down here. Probably. He wanted to be mad at the bots, that they weren’t advanced enough to help him, but whose fault was that? His.
Tony shifted a little to ease the growing ache in his lower back and buttocks, but the small movement hurt his leg – which made any further movement seem less attractive. He itched to take a look at his injured foot, but while unable to do anything about it, what would he benefit from the information of knowing how bad it possibly was?
At ground level, something crashed, like a pile of metal being scattered. Tony looked up but knew it was helpless: he could not see anything even if he stood up.
“Dummy!” he called out again. “I’m sorry, okay? I should have caught the phone. I should have looked where I was going and not fallen down here.” The admission made him feel like crap, to be honest. “I could really use your help,” he called out, in case the bot was in a mood to help him.
Metal scratched against metal above, and it sounded like someone was trying to wade through a pile of rubble. There were more sounds like collisions, faint bangs, and then something being dragged or pushed steadily along the ground. The sound grew louder, which meant whatever was making it was drawing nearer, and Tony wondered what, exactly, was happening.
Whatever it was, it got closer and closer until Tony saw something appear over the side of the hole. Something… flat and long, reaching further and further over the top, tipping down a little, suddenly, then straightening again as if someone had pushed down at the object’s other end. It was a metal plank, far as Tony could see, about six inches wide. He couldn’t identify which pile of supplies it was from. However, it settled across the pit, stilling, and then one of the bots rolled to the edge, peering down at him. Tony was fairly certain it was You.
“I need water,” Tony told the bot immediately. “A bottle. You know what a bottle is. Plastic, round, slightly cylinder-like with transparent liquid inside.” There were various bottles around the premises, and not all of them contained water. Tony guessed he would just have to take what the bots found and tell them to search again in case they ended up bringing him the wrong stuff.
The bot disappeared, leaving Tony wondering if it had understood, then the shuffling, dragging sound returned. A short while later another plank appeared, pushed across the top of the pit next to the first one, and Tony wondered if the bots had decided to cover the hole and leave him there.
While he knew there was some tough love between them occasionally, the bots’ primary protocols would prevent them from knowingly hurting Tony. That didn’t exactly boost Tony’s confidence concerning this situation, and he struggled to his feet, jaws clenched against the pain that increased in his left leg. However, as he should have known, he couldn’t reach the planks just as he hadn’t been able to reach the top of the hole, and he tried to see any way out of his predicament.
One bot arm suddenly appeared over the remaining empty space.
“I don’t know what you’re planning with that, but it’s not going to work,” Tony told the bot. “Go find water,” he ordered, because that would buy him time. If the bots had something to do – a mission to fulfill – they wouldn’t have time to continue with… whatever the planks were for.
The bot beeped – it was definitely You – and then small stones and sand began to fall into the pit from another edge of the pit. Tony looked around, seeing a shadow move, then saw one of Dummy’s wheels right on the edge of the drop. The bot was clearly trying to get around the hole to its other side, but the path was probably too narrow for him to pass.
“Watch it!” Tony called up. The sheer mass of the bot would crush him if it fell.
You let out another sound, moved a bit – just when one of Dummy’s wheels slipped and fell in. The bot let out a shriek, tried to back up, and You moved closer to it, reaching out and managing to hoist Dummy up so that the other robot was able to move past the difficult spot.
Tony let out a sigh of relief and tried to understand what they were doing.
You returned to its original spot by the two metal planks, then inched forward a little. The planks creaked beneath the weight – then more so as Dummy reached the other side and rolled far more boldly on top of them.
Tony backed against the wall behind him, although in the narrow space that wouldn’t keep him from getting crushed. “Guys, not a good idea,” he told them.
Dummy clearly argued, rolling a few more inches forward, then stopped. You replied with another chirp, moving more carefully, then stilled as well. Both bots looked down – then reached down.
Tony listened to the planks complain beneath the strain, then directed his attention to the bots. Dummy snapped his claws almost impatiently, as if trying to grab onto something, and Tony had a sudden epiphany.
He quickly pocketed the remnants of his phone, then stepped within the reach of the bots, lifted his arms, and felt two mechanical hands close around his forearms. The bots had been designed for labor, among other things, but lifting his weight from the pit gave them some trouble, and for a few seconds everything stilled and Tony envisioned falling back in again. His fingers tightened, trying to find a good grip in case the bots decided to let go, but the claws never loosened. Dummy made a sound that almost sounded like a steadying breath, and Tony found himself hoisted onto the plank, which shivered and slowly bent under his additional weight.
Tony groaned as his knees hit the metal, but he knew they had to get off it before they all fell into the pit. “You, let go,” he ordered and the bot did. “Dummy, back to solid ground,” he added, and Dummy started backing off the planks, still holding onto Tony’s arm. The planks shifted beneath them, and Tony inched to the left on his knees, praying that they would make it, and finally Dummy’s wheels were on solid earth and pulled Tony along the rest of the way.
The planks shifted and one of them half-fell into the pit.
Tony lay on the ground, gasping for air, happy to just stay there for a bit, but he had to lift his head eventually and make sure You had also made it. The other bot was safely on the other side of the hole, looking at them, and Tony smiled.
“You can let go now,” he told Dummy, who promptly dropped his arm. Tony grimaced at the twinge it caused, but he was finally out of the pit, in spite of all the odds being against his rescue. “Good boy,” he murmured to Dummy. The bot answered with a series of sounds then shifted a little and began looking for a way to the other side of the hole.
Tony forced himself to sit up, noticing that the bots must have searched for a path to reach him for a long time, and even then they had clearly moved some things around. He still wasn’t sure where they had gotten the planks, but he guessed he would figure it out once construction really started.
“Dummy,” Tony called out to the bot before it got too far, “come give me a hand.”
The bot returned to his side, waiting for further instructions, and Tony reached out, using Dummy’s sturdy body to lift himself upright. With Tony’s guidance and occasional moving things out of their way, they found a path around the pit that didn’t take them close enough to the edge to fall back in. You met them half-way, clearing the path from the other side once it was clear where Tony intended to bring them around, and after that it was relatively easy to get back to the office in the shipping container, crack open two bottles of water, and even locate some painkillers that would help him drive to the hospital.
“You two stay here, guard the property,” Tony informed the bots as he slid into his car, trying not to jostle his injured leg but failing at it anyway. At least it wasn’t a long drive to Stark Industries HQ, where he could get help.
Dummy and You let out confident sounds.
“Don’t fall in, either,” Tony pointed at the pit.
He was fairly certain the bots rolled their eyes at him, then watched his car keenly as Tony backed out of the yard and into the driveway, heading out towards Pacific Coast Highway. Normally Tony would have worried about leaving the bots alone like this, but after their resourcefulness in rescuing him, Tony was confident they would be okay until he got his leg checked out.
Tony was back to work the day after, left foot in a cast.
He didn’t fall into any more pits – mostly because the bots kept them covered up if Tony wasn’t working directly in one of them. Even when he was working in a hole on purpose, the bots kept hovering on the edge with a small emergency ladder they had built of several parts found at the construction site while Tony was in the hospital.
It was a good ladder.