Serious Business

Paralyzed. Physically helpless. Completely unprotected from the kinds of threats he’s used to, a bedridden Tony Stark designed the Telepresence Armor as a defensive measure when he rejoined the living in issue 290: Iron Man’s 30th Anniversary.

Based on the Model XIV line and its remote controlled counterpart (the XV series), the Telepresence Armor, or Neuromimetic Telepresence Unit (NTU-150) to be exact, Model XVI, Mark I-A/B, utilized Stark Enterprises’ Telepresence technology, enabling the suit to be operated under full virtual control. You see, the Telepresence Armor is not a wearable suit of armor, but a devastating machine controlled by the mental commands of the user via subspace. This armor provided the paralyzed Stark with the visual, aural, and tactile senses of normal experience. It’s all machine with no one inside, which is good, because big holes could be blown in it and it could still function with brute force.

Building on Stark’s past work in encephalo-circuit design, this suit works on the same principles that allow the brain to transmit commands to the central nervous system. To go along with his life-saving artificial nervous system, Stark had a neural port implanted at the base of his skull, just beneath his right ear. Using this port, he could jack into SE computers and the NTU-150, while using a remote headset. (Although the port wasn’t designed for jacking into the Net, it held up.) From there, the NTU-150 uses a subspace transmitter to relay signals to the armor. Wearing the headset allowed what Stark thinks to be done by the armor. Likewise, visual, aural, and to some extent, tactile information collected by the armor is sent back along the same path—the armor transmitting sensory details back to the user.

Telepresence was a vast improvement over the encephalo-remote system. This was state of the art. The subspace link eliminated the transmission lag time associated with his previous remote armor. The neuromimetic system provided a much more realistic feeling, making it feel like he was actually there. This was accomplished by the system’s Tactile Simulation Subprocessor, which translated various suit operations back to the user as "physical" feedback. Unfortunately, this upgrade was a double-edged sword. The same system insured that massive damage, or destruction of the armor, would result in fatal neural feedback blowing out Stark’s brain like a cheap fuse box. Information exchange was instantaneous across the subspace antenna array.

In addition, the Telepresence Armor heightened all of Stark’s senses beyond normal human perception, presenting the full range of the electromagnetic spectrum and major volumes of computer-processed data. External stimuli were also interpreted by the armor through his body. Like the feedback, this was necessary for control but also had a downside. (For example, when hit by flames, the armor connection translated this to his body and his hypothalamus interpreted the feedback and raised his body temperature to fever levels.)

Brought to life by the alchemy that transforms imagination into tooled iron and printed silicon, the suit was fabricated in SE’s automated facilities. To build the suit, Tony utilized a neural-interface, a teleoperator’s rig, jacked into his Computer Aided Design and Manufacture system (CADAM). This allowed him to access his automated design and manufacturing facilities. (Stark later built the aforementioned smaller headset to operate the armor. Through the same headset, Tony could control his LMDs and then switch to controlling the armor.)

Visually, the NTU-150 marked the return to the red and gold color scheme (after the War Machine look) while being larger and a bit more muscular looking than the smoother Model XIV Oversize Red and Gold. At the same time, it also had a much more fearsome grimace/stance than previous armors, a cue it borrowed from the War Machine armor.

The armor mesh itself was made from carbon composites, synthetics, and seven un-cataloged custom alloys and filled with solid-state cybernetic systems. The mix is so tough, it withstood Ultimo stepping on it (although it was literally torn to pieces by Ultimo later—this caused a severe shock by way of feedback to Tony’s cerebral cortex, sending him into a coma. When the public saw the armor and its mechanical insides shredded, it caused people to believe Iron Man was a robot.). The armor was wrapped with a poly-carbon refractory coating, which deflects energy weapons. (This armor was dissolved by Technovore, who ate it—actually stripping the NTU-150 down to the endoskeleton in just two seconds.)

Click here to read about the NTU Prototype.

The NTU-150 did not start with a mechanical skeleton to mimic the human body. At first, movement was controlled by a Structural Integrity Field Dampening System that wrapped around the armor’s outer shell. The SIFDS allowed for a greater range of movement while allowing the entire internal space to be used for the armor’s more vital components. Control was assisted by internal stabilizers. (The structural integrity fields that helped move the armor could also be expanded to encompass foes, forming magnetic fields around them.)

At an undetermined point, perhaps after unsatisfactory combat performance, Stark added an endoskeleton that ran throughout the suit controlled by armatures (musculature drivers and a hydraulic tension system), which provided movement and strength. The SIFDS remained installed and continued to aid in movement.

Because of the increased load, the Telepresence Armor had an internal power supply two orders of magnitude greater than the Mark XIV. Energy was provided by an internal fusion reactor. The suit had a thermocouple to convert heat to energy. It also had an auxiliary power backup. (The Telepresence Armor could absorb and then discharge electricity as well.)

Tony used a Heads-Up Display (HUD) to interface with the machine. The computer system featured a diagnostic mode that could monitor the neural interface, cortical feedback, and motor functions. The suit also had a combat computer with evasive-action plotter.

Special connectivity probes could be ejected from fingers on the right hand. These allowed IM to connect with outside computer systems. The IM software was capable of hacking in and mapping a foreign system’s architecture and to gain control. Of course the downside of this was that it is Stark who was plugged into these other networks directly—something he wasn’t configured for, so it was very dangerous. Also, the system computer connected wirelessly with outside computers. The Telepresence Unit was packed with redundant and auxiliary systems and backups. For example, the NTU-150 had a separate dedicated navigation computer.

Being remote-controlled, the NTU-150 had a vigorous autopilot supported by advanced navigational microprocessors and the aforementioned dedicated navigational computer, which controlled the armor (complete with hazard-avoidance systems). Using a subroutine, Stark could deploy the armor at 30,000 feet and keep it circling via autopilot. It could then be summoned for action. (A stealth shield prevented it from being detected.) See below for more on this security feature.

Click here to see detailed diagrams of the NTU-150.

A broad sensor array included a broad-spectrum sensor scan, advanced optics, and a tracking system. Additionally, the armor was designed to act like a big antenna. Tony could receive any broadcasts/transmissions in its range.

While various self-destruct devices had become a standard feature of the Iron Man armors by this time, Tony Stark understood that a remote unit was slightly more vulnerable and, therefore, needed a few extra security measures.

The key security feature was that the Telepresence Armor only responded to Tony Stark’s unique neural patterns and codes. Needless to say, these resided in the armor’s permanent memory files and could only be altered by Stark himself. Security lockout and immediate shutdown would frustrate anyone who attempted to hijack the armor. A persistent attempt to over-ride the NTU-150’s security systems activated a thermal package within the unit, frying the operating system and instrumentation beyond repair or recovery.

The second security measure was a connection failsafe. If at any time Stark were to lose control or become unconscious, even if only temporarily, the connection was severed and the suit would go into standby mode. The NTU-150’s autopilot would kick in and find the nearest secure place to land. The unit would then shutdown and wait for the controller to come back online.

The NTU-150 Telepresence Armor could also operate in space. Like other armors, it depended on a solid rocket booster attachment to launch into space. Using this, the NTU-150 could achieve Low Earth Orbit as well as High Earth Orbit. The SRB had an Orbital Maneuvering System (this saved the fuel and energy of the armor itself). With no one inside of it, the suit took 15 Gs with no problem.

For space use, Tony took out the heavy-duty weapons to make room for maneuvering propellant and deflector systems (i.e., shields), which are not a standard feature of Iron Man’s armors. The shields protected the armor from space debris and weapons fire. In fact, they even allowed IM to withstand solar flares.

In #293, the armor, Mark I-A was trashed by battle droids and repaired. It was then destroyed by Ultimo. In #296, Stark began using a second identical suit, the Mark I-B. This one was pretty dinged up by Technovore in IM 294-95. Finally, seeing that Technovore was becoming a world-ending threat, Stark activated his self-destruct mechanism, which intentionally overloaded the fusion reactor, destroying the NTU-150 in deep space.

Other features: The armor had a special case that snapped onto the back of the suit for carrying things (like spare armor suits/parts). Gauntlets also featured APUs (auxiliary power units—small turbines), their thrust used to blow objects about. The suit had limited underwater functionality as well.

Special feature on this suit: Back compartments contained semi-autonomous flying drones. Each drone had a holographic projection system so sophisticated it could create radar-reflecting fields capable of fooling even the most advanced tracking systems. They even appeared real to opposing ultrasound imaging systems. And with an array of weapons controlled by automated combat computers, the drones could almost fight without Iron Man.

Armaments: The NTU-150 had both integrated (built-in) weapons and swappable systems (loaded depending on the mission); many were stored in internal compartments. Known weapons: machine guns; blasters; repulsors (in shoulder, wrist, and back packs, very reminiscent of War Machine); pulsor beams; laser cannons; uni-beam (including spotlight); mini-missile launchers; coherent beam weapon; cutting laser; computer-interfaced probes; high-tension grappling line; flamethrower; TASER; flame-retardant foam nozzles; X-ray projectors; and tear gas jets.

This page is copyright 2001, 2002, 2008 Tim Rassbach.

Iron Man and all associated characters are the property of Marvel Comics.

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