Free to be Mad

May 01, 2015:

Hank Pym drops by THINK and discusses moving over with Howard Stark.

The Hellenic Institute of New Knowledge (THINK)

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

THINK's lobby is more or less complete, though there's signs that the building is still under renovation. The whole thing has a sort of retro-futuristic flare, with a lot of chrome and subtle lighting, but also mid-century furnishings. Somehow it all works together without looking tacky or like something that belongs in Tomorrowland.

A young woman is seated behind the curved reception desk. She works the holographic display while switching between several different conversations, some of which are not in English. She looks more like the majordomo of an alien space station than a receptionist.

*

A blond man in a beat-up leather jacket walks in slowly through the front doors, his brow slightly furrowed. For a moment he hesitates, but then he picks up his pace and strides toward the reception area.

"Excuse me," he says, clearing his throat. "Henry Pym to see Howard Stark. Should be the 3 o'clock."

*

A holographic display floats over into Hank's field of view. The words 'One Moment, please," are projected in front of him. The woman at the desk finishes a conversation in Cantonese, then flashes a polite, if slightly forced smile. "Three PM. Yes, Doctor Pym."
She types something in to the computer, then purses her lips. "Mister Stark is running a little behind. Please head to the elevator. I'll send you to the penthouse. He'll meet you there."
Naturally. When is a Stark ever prompt?

*

"The penthouse, you say," Pym replies. "Well, I suppose things are, at least, looking up. I, uh, don't suppose everyone who works here gets their own penthouse, do they?"

A split second later, he shakes his head. "Never mind. Just a joke. Elevators over that way?"

Pym makes his way to the nearest elevator and, then, Stark's floor. While waiting in the elevator, he softly whistles and snaps his fingers absently.

*

The receptionist looks at Hank and then says, "Sir, what you're proposing wouldn't be possible without dimensional folding. Do you know how much that would cost?" It's hard to tell if she's being serious. Really hard.
The elevator is biometrically encoded, but it opens on its own when Hank approaches. The inside of the elevator is a bit like you might imagine riding in the guts of an iPod might look like. It noiselessly raises to the top floor.
The entire floor is open plan. Somehow it's been structurally reinforced to require no load-bearing walls in the middle of the space. One side of the floor is all windows, while the back wall is a matte, industrial black. Presumably there are facilities in there that are light-sensitive, or for Eyes Only. The space, other than that, is mostly empty, with crates and half-finished construction nearly everywhere. There is, however, an impressive spiral staircase that evokes the double helix that leads to an upper level. Said upper level is sealed off by a glass door. There's a rather lovely view of the city, and a bar that looks like it's in the process of being stocked.

*

Upon stepping out of the elevator, Pym takes a moment to look around. "Hm," he notes audibly. "I suppose it's big enough. Although if they /were/ to seriously consider dimensional folding, they could cut down the cost by…"

He trails off as he looks out toward the staircase, of all elements. "Intriguing configuration. I'd almost chuckle if it didn't seem like something worth pursuing later." Pym begins slowly stepping around its base, studying it for—some reason?

*

It's that moment, when Hank is examining the stairs that Howard Stark chooses to make his entrance. The door opens with a soft psssh sound. He's carrying a tablet and looks distracted. He looks like a man from another era, what with the bracers, tie, neatly combed hair and pinstripe slacks. It works for him, though.
"Doctor, uh…" he has to check his tablet. "Doctor Pym. I'm sorry, my associate was supposed to be here to meet you."

*

Breaking from his thoughts, Hank Pym turns around to acknowledge the other man. "Ah!" he says. "Mr. Stark. Ah, my apologies. Not to worry on your associate's absence. I was just navigating a thought experiment. You know, the staircase patterns suggest a potential means of quarterary data storage and encryption. Fascinating stuff."

His eyes widen a bit and he extends a hand. "Forgive me, my manners. Thank you for the meeting. I know your time is valuable."

*

Howard gives Hank a curious look. But he's fairly used to working with eccentric scientists. Hell, he is one. He just tends to know when not to babble incoherently at people. "And here I was thinking you were just admiring the chrome," he drawls, then shakes the other man's hand. "What can I do for you, Doctor Pym?"

*

"Right," Pym replies, pursing his lips. "I've got some big ideas that I thought you might be able to help with. Big ideas about miniaturization, robotics, and, uh, entomology. While I've had some support from van Dyne Industries in my endeavors, the Stark name tends to attract the best applied scientists in the nation, if not the world. Having that kind of potential for collaboration would be incredible."

"Plus," he adds with a slight tilt of his head, "there's some … genetics work that I think I could innovate, with the right resources. Stark resources, again." He holds his hands out, palms up, almost in a shrug. "But I'll confess that this may not be the most enticing sale. I know the NSF and NIH never could quite envision the impact of my project ideas as clearly as I could."

*

"You…do realize that we aren't Stark Industries, right, Doctor Pym? The company belongs to my son and is managed by Pepper Potts. They are primary investors here, but we're not affiliated in any formal sense." He crosses the room towards the bar. As he picks up a bottle of eighteen year old Glenfiddich, he motions with it towards the other man by way of an offer.
"You may not be wrong about us attracting the top talent. But you might be overestimating our resources. They aren't as limitless as they would be if we were under the Stark Industries umbrella. Then again, this project would not be happening under the Stark umbrella because they have shareholders to answer to."

*

Hank Pym nods in response. "I didn't say anything about Stark Industries. Your lack of formal association with the company is precisely why I'm here. I'm looking for a financier who's not primarily or solely interested in profit." Pym shakes his head quickly at the offer of a drink and raises one hand, index finger pointed up. "I'm not implying your son is. But those shareholders you mentioned—they would be. And why wouldn't they be? It's why they own stock."

He stands silent for a moment, eyes looking about as if searching for the right phrase.

"Mr. Stark, I'm interested in changing the world. I have the feelingthe hopethat you are, too. And that's why I'm here."

*

Howard takes a moment to pour a rather generous finger of scotch into the crystal glass. He turns and regards the other man while leaning on the bar. He pauses a moment, sips the scotch, then regards Hank. "You know my reputation," it isn't a question. Anyone involved in the scientific community can't avoid his reputation, or his legacy. It loomed large for decades before his supposed death. "I built Stark Industries from the ground up starting when I was fourteen years old."
He pauses again, sips and looks out the window, then back to the other man. "The world has changed a lot in the time I was…uh, asleep," an awkward way to put it, but mostly true. "In my not-entirely-unbiased opinion, this is a world that needs changing."

*

Hank Pym puts his hands on his hips and smiles thinly. "Well, then, Mr. Stark, what do I have to do to convince you that I'm worth supporting?" He looks out toward the city. "I don't want to be a pest, but significant change is best effected through action, and I'm looking to act."

*

"What do you want from THINK? What kind of facilities and support are you after?" Howard drums his fingers against his glass. "We allocate facilities based on three things. One, track record. Two, potential for your current project to become marketable. I am a pragmatist. I believe technology should change the world, but I also believe that technology and innovation should have a practical application. Which means going to market. Whether that's going to market with a huge profit or not is not something that concerns me at my age." Which is strange to hear him say considering he looks no older than his early 30s. "The third is just based on my opinion, because frankly, I'm the boss."

*

Pym sighs softly and frowns. "What I wantwhat I needis a space to explore the potential for my work. First and foremost, my work with miniaturization and enlargement. I've been making strides in size manipulation that could revolutionize transportation or even population density. But it's still potentially volatile." He clasps his hands behind his back and relaxes his stance somewhat. "Beyond that, I'd like the resources to iterate my tests with artificial life. Could this be /marketable/? Potentially. But I don't know yet. I kind of don't care. But it could lead to untold economic and political revolutions. Again, I don't know which exactly. If you're uninterested, OK. Let me know, and I'm out the door. I'm a man eager for funding, but I'm not going to kiss your feet to get it."

*

"My boots have been kissed by thousands of lips in my lifetime, Doctor Pym. Once or twice, quite literally," Howard wobbles his head back and forth as he recalls that (rather awkward) memory. "There was a time when I would have made you jump through hoops to even have this much of my time. But THINK, is in a sense, my retirement project."
He pauses for a minute. "I'm familiar with your work." Which could mean…he googled Hank when he saw the name on his appointment schedule. "It's unconventional, but it shows promise." He regards the other man a moment, then lifts his chin. "Tell you what. Go through the application process. Give me a wish list of everything you want. Then give me a list of the bare minimum you'd need to get started. I'll have my people cost it out and we'll go from there."

*

"I'll have both provided to your people within the hour." Pym inclines his head slightly and inhales deeply. "I do appreciate the chance you're offering, and I hope not to disappoint. But I hope THINK doesn't end up THInc., if you follow. We have enough companies trying to get rich off of innovations that could be far more helpful than they are. But I'm taking up too much of your time now, I'm sure."

*

"I'm not going to lie - I'm a businessman. I always have an eye on making some kind of a profit. If only so that the profit can be continually reinvested into THINK to allow it to grow and to serve more scientists. It's not altruistic to operate at a loss - it's foolish. The only science I engage in simply for science's sake is my own personal pet projects. Even then, there's usually an outcome I'm after."
Howard offers his hand out again to Hank. "By the same token, this world needs innovative minds. I want this to be a place where those minds can flourish, explore and invent without continually looking at the bottom line. Once you're in, you're free to operate how you like without me breathing down your neck, crowing about profitability. As long as you're producing measurable results of some kind, I will be happy. You do the science. Me and my people will worry about turning a profit."

*

Hank Pym nods and smiles wider. "Now that I won't argue with," he replies, accepting the handshake. "Results I can definitely provide. With any luck, many of my experiments will be running themselves soon. Thank you for the opportunity, Mr. Stark. I look forward to working with you and your people." With that, he turns and heads back toward the elevator.

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