The Jerry Springer Show

November 25, 2014:

Howard comes by Stark Tower to speak with Tony. Stark drama ensues

Stark Tower

Rising high into the skyline with the name of it's Lord and Master for all to see, the Stark Industries Tower is the most visible component of the Stark Industries complex centered in Midtown Manhattan. Manufacturing, office space, power generation and even some inventory is housed in the tower and its associated subelevels. It also contains guest housing and, at the top, the penthouse suite that is the domain of the Main Man himself, at least, when he's not at his Malibu home.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Just another day at Stark Industries. The birds are singing a song of revolutionary technological design in the musical notes produced by a high definition big screen teleprompt holographic display of Howard Stark: One of his older interviews during the very first Stark Expo, in fact. People mill about as is normal for New York City, but with the definitive purpose of a high profile industrial powerhouse not terribly unlike most fortune five hundred companies.

It just so happens that there is a tour today, a group of high school science wiz kids are being led through a guided examination of Stark Industries R&D department. Ahead of them is a holographic representation of Tony Stark who is as interactive as the real thing! He even answers individualized questions from a set of very specific criteria predesigned to take into account the Billionaires particular sense of humor and expected, media public, mannerisms.

While up in the penthouse workshop Tony is busy putting the finishing touches on one of his latest designs now out of fabrication. It looks like little more than a precise measured sphere suspended by some unseen force in mid-air. All around the device is a containment field comprised entirely of transparent, but highly volitile, particles. Tony walks slowly around it rubbing at his chin, "Calculate for a point two five percent power drop and compare it to our last data analysis."

JARVIS, ever vigilante, chims in quietly, "As before, sir, the field continues to sustain itself at zero zero one percent."

It's hard for Howard to know if he should be keeping his head down or sticking to private elevators. It's also harder for him to find his way around than he anticipated. Stark Industries has changed, even in layout, since his day. He watches the hustle and bustle from the top of a stairwell, and behind a pair of aviator sunglasses. For a brief moment, he's fooled by the Tony hologram, but it doesn't take long for him to realize that his son has more important things to do than lead a school group around. If he could have developed that tech for his public appearances back in the day…well, it would have saved him a lot of time and trouble.

Eventually, he stops stalling and makes his way towards an elevator. He hits the button for the penthouse, realizing that he may very well be blocked before the doors open on Tony's suite.

"Sir." JARVIS interrupts Tony's musings about this latest project when biometric scans of the building's occupants comes up with one with a very unique parameter. Having produced a protocol specifically for body life doubles when Hydra tried to infultrate the company, Tony has JARVIS always scanning those who come in, especially anyone trying to get into secure locations of the building: The top of that list being the penthouse.

With the busy day it took the AI a few extra minutes to lock down the signal, but the minute Howard isolates himself in the elevator. "Your father is here."

Tony's immersion into his work is immediately broken and he turns sharply to look at one of the view screens that dot his workshop. Two in particular give clear view of anyone coming to his suite, one of them has a face full of a younger Stark. Whatever expression he may have had is gone, hidden behind layers of stone like callousness as he climbs the steps towards his penthouse to put on something a little more presentable than an AC/DC t-shirt and a pair of sweat pants. "Let him up." He tells JARVIS who immediately releases the elevator to climb to the very highest of Stark Tower, all-be-it at a clipped pace to give Tony time to change.

Howard may not have had building-wide AIs in his day, but he did have a well-trained staff who knew when to stall and who to let in to his inner sanctum. This is no different, just more…automated. As he waits, as the elevator climbs slowly, he decides to take a stab at conversation. "JARVIS. Do you know who you're named after?" He could be left with resounding silence, but he's seen employees of Stark Industries talk to him via their mobile devices. Certainly the elevator has a presence.

"Of course, Sir." JARVIS begins, speaking from all corners of the elevator as if he is the building itself. Those who are so inclined might actually feel the AI watching them, no matter where they are in Stark Industries. It could be considered quite uncomfortable. "I have full access to all of Stark Industries database, including family records." It is as straightforward an answer as the AI is ever likely to give.

Tony, by comparison, has tossed on something at least a 'little' more presentable. A pair of blue jeans, sandles, and a much nicer AC/DC t-shirt. He's also fixed himself a glass of scotch from the crystal decanter on the kitchen counter that seperates him from the main room while affording a clear view of the double doors that lead into the elevator.

Howard doesn't comment on the AI's answer. He just grins a little and waits for the door to open. Someone found him a suit and tie, though it's much more modern a cut than he ever wore in life. Then again, he was always a man who dressed for the times. When the doors slide open, he removes the sunglasses and tucks them into his jacket pocket. He steps off the elevator, but doesn't move any further in. "Hello, Tony."

"Howard." Tony says to the younger man who he cannot yet bring himself to call father, despite all the clear indications being there that it is not some elaborate trick. In one hand he's holding a glass, two ice cubes, very expensive scotch and in the other he's fiddling with his phone. The holographic display produced by the device is quickly shut down once he finishes some random calculations and he motions to the proverbial who's who of liquors positioned near one of the bigger bay windows overlooking NYC. "Drinks are there."

Howard hesitates a moment and gives Tony a once-over. He won't look a gift horse - or a potential peace offering - in the mouth. He walks towards the bar and examines the selection. All excellent, naturally. He'd expect nothing less. He runs his fingers over the bottles until he finds the Lagavulin 16. It's an old favourite of his - and not terribly expensive. Well, not by billionaire standards. He bypasses some of the three and four hundred dollar plus bottles for the Lagavulin, which costs somewhere around $120. He pours himself a finger, then turns back to Tony. "I take it Ms. Potts filled you in on her little jailbreak?"

Tony watches this activity with equal measures of curiosity and scientific interest. Gauging what he can remember of his father against this man's reactions to the bottles, that Lagavulin 16 was put there specifically from memory rather than what he could find in actual records. Like Tony, Howard always drank the 'expensive stuff' when people were watching, but had their favorites at home.

This has the inventor sighing quietly and taking a long drink of his own liquor and looking back over to one of the windows. 'Alright, that's just one test Tony. He'll fail eventually', but there was a nagging feeling that he might well not.

"Generally, yes. I didn't ask details." Even if he wanted to see Maria Hill's expression when she told her they were taking Howard away… the subject itself is a sore sitting point with Tony, just yet.

Like many people who came through the war, Howard learned the value of things, and learned that expensive wasn't always better. Oh, he could be extravagant with the best of them, but usually that was strategic. It was a show of power, a show of wealth. Hovercars, nice suits and beautiful women brought in investors. In private though, he had simpler tastes. A solid scotch. A reliable car. A nice piece of beef.

"I left with her because if I didn't, it's possible SHIELD would have never let me go." Howard takes a moment to inhale the scotch before he takes a sip. He pauses to let it roll around his mouth. Tastebuds aren't /exactly/ the same as they once were, but not that far off. "If you're not all right with me being here," he points with the hand that holds the scotch. The other rests in his pocket, "I'll ask Ms. Potts to make other arrangements."

Tony watches, far more quiet and observant than any tabloid would ever give him credit for. Then, completely despite himself and without really thinking about it, he assume a position that is almost identical to that of his father. One hand in the pocket of his jeans, the other holding his scotch up near his nose. His particular poison is Jamison. Something about their barrels has always hit him in all the right notes.

"Jury is still out." Tony finally says after adjusting his stance the moment he realizes exactly how like the other man he was standing. Taking, insteed, a pacing walk around the edge of the counter, "I had dictated you couldn't come to the building, but clearly you had other intentions in mind… Then again, I'm sure nobody told you. So here you are." Pointing, sipping, pacing a few steps. "And I assume you have questions. I would."

Howard exhales and drops his shoulders. "No, I didn't know that." He runs fingers back through his hair. "Did she show you the paperwork, at least? Son, I'm not here to take anything away from you. That Potts is a smart cookie. And I don't blame you for not wanting to deal with the day-to-day running of the company." He pauses a beat, then, "It's a pain in the ass, isn't it?"

As for questions. "The internet filled in a lot of holes."

Tony doesn't so much take pleasure in the reaction as note it and rubs a thumb nail against one of the creases in his forehead absently. "She is." He agrees. It's true that Tony probably couldn't even find his shoes in the morning if it weren't for Pepper, but that hardly seems an appropriate fact to point out to the man who created the company.

"Did it now?" He cannot help smirking and swirling his drink thoughtfully. His eyes cast down on the ice clanking against one another in the glass, "I bet it left out a few things." Like Howard, Tony has a very public image and a very private one. He's become almost supernatural at keeping the two lives very separate.

For whatever reason he picks the company to address last, "It was a pain, yes. Pepper is better suited for administration work than I am." Even though he did turn the business into what it is today, he did it on the merit of his brilliance rather than his accumen in the board room. "This let's me focus on what's important." Pointing to the stairs that lead down into his workshop.

Howard looks from Tony to the stairs and then back. His eyebrows arch up towards his hairline, furrowing his brow. "I find it interesting that everyone…" a pointed look towards Tony, sidelong but purposeful, "…assumes I would have kept on manufacturing weapons. I'm sure the shareholders would have wanted me to. I'm sure they wanted /you/ to. But everyone seems to forget the fact that we had a war, then a cold war while I was in charge." He lets Tony lead the way, if they are in fact relocating.

"You should have said something." Tony doesn't sound bitter anymore, he's had time to mill it over since the last time the pair of them spoke. Some of the venom, even now, he'd say was warranted, but then there were things said he regrets as well. "We could have led it away from weapons organically. I just sort of push the all stop button and shifted us in another direction. Nearly crippled the company and almost got locked out off the board." The glass is completely drained, but never fear as he's already headed to the counter to refill it. "But they didn't see what I saw."

Nobody has, with the possible exception of Pepper. "Stark Industries had become a company with absolutely no accountability for anything that we did. And I'm not freeing myself from blame, I'm just admitting that I wasn't paying any attention to what the other hand was doing." Standing, staring out the window with his fresh glass. "Stark weapons used in the hands of people for which we'd built them to defend against." He shakes his head and takes another drink. The other rubs at the center of his chest lightly, unconsciously.

But Howard has seen war. On the ground. When he was the age he looks like now. And it wasn't exactly all glory and heroism like the newsreels made it look. "I'm sorry you were told you were destroying my legacy, Tony. I wouldn't have wanted the legacy of a warmonger. You have to know that. I built flying cars and strove for clean energy, for christ's sake. The weapons were used to protect first against the Nazis, then against the Russians and nuclear annihilation. I wouldn't have wanted to arm terrorists and crooked governments or support the militarization of our government. To believe that, you'd have to let the shareholders paint the picture for you. And wilfully ignore parts of my life."

He flares his nostrils a bit, then calms himself by swallowing a mouth of the scotch. "I'm not perfect," he murmurs. "I made a hell of a lot of mistakes. Many of them with you." He doesn't quite go so far as saying he's sorry. He knows that would ring hollow and be too little, too late.

Tony glances up from his glass and cranes his head a little with one brow perked just a bit. "I knew better." He finally says, probably the first time he's given his father more than passing lip service. "Whatever you were, I never thought you intended for us to be warmongers." The second glass is drained in record fashion and he's already moving for a third.

"They only saw profit margins. I knew that too." Filling his glass from the crystal decanter and sucking bits of liquor from the tips of his fingers, "They didn't think Stark Industries could do anything but weapons, which we had been for years… to limited success." Several projects are brought up with a snap of his fingers against the cellphone screen laying on the counter top. With a flip of his wrist, Tony sends the images over to his father. "They told me that most of this stuff wasn't applicable in the private market." Pointing to the holographic screens he's throwing across the room like physical documents.

"They didn't realize that it was just a step in a different direction." The last project is a redesign of Howard's arc reactor. The one down in the basement. It's about the size of a baseball.

"That by perfecting little parts of a total picture I could create something bigger than any missile and more useful than any amount of ammunition." Pointing, "That is the culmination of everything you ever worked on and I ever perfected." He's not bragging, this is just a fact. He's not rubbing it in, just pointing that fact out. He's not sure why he's feeling like sharing this with his father… why he wants to tell him the whole story about what happened to him.

All he knows is that he does.

It doesn't take Howard long to get the hang of using the holographic interface. He's soon paging through the documents. "These are mine. I couldn't solve the power distribution problem." He points to a piece of the schematic. The computer age would have helped with that, along a healthy dose of Tony's brilliance. "Of course they couldn't see the application. Small-minded. They didn't see the value in repulsors. Too limited, they said." He scoffs. "Too impractical. Nice for drumming up investors, but no practical application." He harumphs. "Glad you made something of it." There's something approaching pride in his voice, though he's always been very poor at outwardly expressing that particular emotion.

When the arc reactor schematics appear, he gives them close attention. He checks to see where the problems he encounters have been fixed. And then he murmurs a word that is almost too quiet for Tony to hear. "Outstanding."

It's funny really. Tony has waited so long to hear his father speaks those words he hardly even realized he was holding his breath. Or that he had show him the schematics in hopes of garnering it, when in truth he really doesn't know if that's the case now. Honestly, he just wants to share with someone who can see the forest for the trees. It's been a long time since he was in the room with someone who inspired him.

For all his fathers faults, he had always inspired him.

That being said, Tony drains his third drink and sets the glass down on the counter and turns to regard Howard fully, perhaps for the first time since the man exited the elevators. "Thanks." Pressing his lips together in a fine line, "Dad."

Howard lets the moment sit for a time as he explores the schematics in greater detail. He's figured out how to annotate, and he is already noting tiny spots that could improve efficiency. He can't really help himself. "Doesn't mean I approve of the metal suits," he drawls. But there's a note of humour in that. "Now. What else do you want to show off? I'm sure you've got a million projects."

Tony cannot help smirking at his father redirecting things to the suit, "Don't pretend like you're not impressed." He says flatly, almost jokingly, about the Iron Man suit. "Or that you don't want to see one." One. There's absolutely no telling how many versions the suit has actually gone through. The only person who knows for sure is Tony and JARVIS.

Even Pepper doesn't know for certain.

Other projects? Tony's smirk grows a bit wider, "I just finished the first prototype ona gravity well generator." Motioning with a point towards his workshop. "JARVIS, is the field still sustained?"

From every corner, and yet still centralized, JARVIS replies, "Of course, sir. Point zero zero one percent as before."

Howard is a master at not tipping his hand. He makes a soft 'mhmm' sound as he pretends to be completely engrossed in the schematics. It's perhaps a little too much like what used to happen when Tony was a child and tried to show his father his latest high efficiency electric engine that he created as a science fair project in sixth grade. He skims over the suit and goes straight to gravity wells. Because, gravity wells. "An /artificial/ well? And you're experimenting with this in the middle of New York?" Oh, here comes a touch of disapproval.

Tony considers his father, some of those old feelings welling back up after over three decades of being repressed when he hears the disapproval in his tone. "Yeah, I also built and powered a particle accelerator in New York and everything turned out alright." Matter of factly as his arms cross over his chest, "I assure you my safety protocol is better than most science facilities and JARVIS is there to keep appropriate readings on all outflow calculations. If something went wrong, it would be shut down before anything happened…"

Howard is holding back a comment he would have once made. The power dynamic is different now, and he recognizes they've struck a fragile peace. He drops a hand from the floating schematic and nods once. "Certainly ambitious."

"A part of a bigger whole." Tony states, lips pressing together thoughtfully. "Something I've been toying with for years.." Shaking his head he turns back to his glass and reaches out to refill it from the decanter. "Things are different than they were, dad. I know the internet probably says I don't take anything seriously, but I take it more serious than most… probably anyone else. I have to. And I don't leave anything to chance, no matter how haphazard it might seem."

"I understand the difference between public image and private realities, son." All too well. Howard sets his unfinished glass of whiskey down on a nearby surface. "Which leads me to ask. I'm in your custody. What am I to do?" It's a slightly gruff, prideful statement. In a lot of ways, his situation has robbed him of a lot of power, even as it bestowed him with super strength.

Tony finishes pouring his glass and drops another pair of ice cubes into the amber liquor, "I'm sure we can find a project that tickles your fancy? I understand you have a new identity." Turning to glance over his shoulder, "I took the liberty of adding them to JARVIS' database. After you leave I'll clear you for higher security level. It'll get you in and out of R&D and give you access to a bank account…" One of Tony's, actually, "I have a Malibu home with a workshop, as well. If you'd rather we put you on retainer. Either way, for security purposes, I'll have JARVIS keep an eye on you." Just because they've cracked ground doesn't mean Tony's ready to turn the returned Stark loose.

"That sound fair to you?"

"I don't blame you for keeping an eye on me. In fact, I prefer it." Howard lets that statement stand for a moment. He walks over to the window and looks out at the cityscape. "I accounted for every variable I can imagine. But that doesn't mean I'm stable. I'm a prototype, Tony. You know what that means."

He exhales slowly and rubs his chin. "How would you feel if you woke up tomorrow and you had a new identity? That everything you'd worked to build was no longer connected to you? I'm not too proud to admit that's a blow to the ole' ego." There's a brief pause, and then he mutters, "Steck."

Tony had, in fact, given almost everything to Pepper. Of course he still ''owned'' the company, in so many words, but she could just as easily black bar him if she so desired. That, however, was his own doing. A decision HE made, not one that was thrust upon him. "I guess I can see how that might be… horrible." Which gives him a right devilish idea, one that is clear in the reflection of his face in the window Howard now stares out of. "I… have an idea." Grinning, he drains the rest of his glass and sets it back on the counter, "How would you fancy a new identity? One I created for you? You'd get to be a Stark…" The devil is in the son's grin.

Howard turns and tilts his chin at Tony. He squints. He knows that look. He's had that look himself. Usually before either one of them makes something explode or unlocks one of the mysteries of the universe. "Please don't tell me you're thinking of casting me as your long-lost brother."

Tony laughs quietly and shakes his head, "You look… what, like twenty five, twenty six?" Pointing at the man's reflection, "I think that a long lost brother would be on record somewhere, but… If you've read the internet…" Licking his lips and leaning back against the counter, "It isn't inconceivable that I might have a son."

Howard blinks. Blinks again. Then he wheels to face Tony. "First of all, I modeled myself to be in my early thirties." Not his fault he's something of a babyface. "Second…" He's at a loss. /Howard Stark/ is at a loss for words. "…you can't be serious. A shrink would have a field day." He places a hand across his forehead.

"I'm perfectly serious." Tony states with a laugh, "And the best part is, everyone would believe it." Pointing towards the window, "They all think I'm a horrible sinful slut, as is. Turning up with a kid? Please… that would make their day. Then, you don't have to walk around with a name like Steck. Who the hell came up with that anyways? I bet it was SHIELD, those guys are about the worst spy organization I've ever seen."

"I'd take that personally, but I helped build the science part of SHIELD." And that seems to be doing mostly okay from Howard's perspective. He rubs his hands together in a slow, pensive motion. "This plan requires me to /act/. And lie. And believe it or not, I'm a piss-poor liar." When you have as much power as he used to, there's no need to lie. /Secrets/, yes. Public image, yes. But not outright lies like 'I'm actually my son's son.'

"No, it requires you to be aloof and distant and not answer questions." Tony points out, "I'll do all the lying." He's really very good at it, actually. Rather, he's good at making the tabloids look ridiculous by having the print things that make no sense, it's like a game really. "But if you're not interested in being the heir apparent to the Stark fortune, I won't press you…" It's hard to tell if he's enjo- no, it's easy to tell, he's enjoying this.

A lot.

Howard sighs and rolls his eyes dramatically. It actually isn't a look he's given Tony in a long while. He might have been six the last time, in fact. It's him trying not to be amused by something ridiculous. "I'm in hell, aren't I? I'm actually /dead/. And my punishment is to be my son's son." He tosses a hand up towards the ceiling. "Why can't we just say that I'm myself who fell through some kind of…time and dimensional rift? Those things happen!" He's read the news.

"Yeah, I've met Captain America." Tony says with a shrug, "But honestly, isn't this more fun? We're Stark's for christ's sake, how is this not a good idea?" Motioning around his apartment, hell at the entire world for all anyone could say different. It is entirely possible that Tony might be a 'little' drunk, to be fair. Still, he seems absolutely serious. "Or… if you want to be dull… we can say you were pulled out of some time-space rift created by my gravity well, but then everyone is going to wonder why I haven't handed the company back over to you. You want to talk about publicity? You're going to be in front of a camera every day answering intimate questions about exactly how the device works… Seriously, my idea." Waving his hands, "Way better."

Howard stares at Tony for a long moment. You little shit. That's the body language. And he can be read like a book. He lifts a finger and shakes it. "Do you know who we're going to tell this idea to before anything happens?" Eyebrows up, /up/. "Potts." We'll see what Ms. Voice of Reason has to say about your shenanigans, young man.

Well, there goes that.

"Yeah, you know what? She's going to agree that my idea is excellent." She's probably not. "She'll agree whole heartedly." That is highly unlikely. "Let's go tell her right now." This is a very bad idea.

Howard locks his eyes on Tony. Squints. "You know, I think you should write her up a report, outlining how this /excellent/ plan is going to benefit Stark Industries and /your/ public image. Not to mention the sudden drain on your resources from the massive amount of head shrinking we'd both need." Oh for fuck's sake, Anthony.

"Head shrinking?" Tony stares flatly at his father, "Because you're pretending to be my son? Dad, seriously, let me introduce you to something." Tony cants his head, "JARVIS, Jerry Springer if you please." One of the holographic display windows starts showing Jerry's fine programming, at which, Tony points with his hand partially wrapped around a glass. "If trailer park trash can get away with THIS, we can totally pull off a reverse father-son act."

Here comes the eyeroll again, and the pressing of fingers against eyeballs. If he could get migraines, there'd be an ice pick behind his eyes right now. "Admit it. You like the idea because it would be poetic justice. You want to punish your traumatized nanobot-powered old man."

"I'm not saying that I wouldn't enjoy it…" Tony admits with a shrug, "But if you're wanting to stay ''you'', this is about as close as you're likely to get." Motioning to Springer with a finger extending out from his glass and a grin spreading across his mouth, "He's in love with her sister, who use to be his fraternity brother…" Shaking his head, "God I miss the ninties."

"God I missed the nineties," Howard can't help but echo, copying Tony's inflection. He wags a finger. "You tell your hare-brained scheme to Potts." Ms. Potts seems too formal, and Pepper, too familiar. "Convince /her/." Because he has to admit, the idea (while terrible) is better than being a Sterk.

"She'll buy it." Tony assures his father with a half grin, wrapping his arms across his chest after another drink of scotch. "I have a mind for these things. Just when you think that she'll be against my hare-brained schemes, she remembers that there's a beautiful brilliance to them." Plus, she owes him one and he's not above reminding her. Not that he needs to point that out to Howard.

This is how it will likely go for the rest of the night. Tony will get… absurdly… drunk and laugh his ass off at Jerry Springer until he's struck sober by some idea and rush down to the lab to capitalize on it. That or he'll pass out.

It's hard to tell with him, these days.

At least, this time, things seem amiable? It's fair that scotch smoothed things over, though.

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