The Car of Tomorrow

June 13, 2015:

Betsy comes to check out Howard's cars.

THINK

Characters

NPCs: Doctor Maxwell Rosen, FRIDAY, Rebecca

Mentions:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

THINK has started to live up to its promise as a home of scientific innovation. The labs are being populated with bright scientists every day. Sometimes there's an odd explosion, sure - but that's really par for the course. Omelette. Eggs. Etc.
The lobby is a flurry of activity - which is potentially strange for a Saturday. Rebecca, the woman seated at the desk and dressed in retro-futuristic clothing (including a scoop neck shirt with LEDs build in and silver earrings that touch her shoulders) is having an animated conversation in what sounds like Hindi, while simultaneously manipulating various tasks on a projection display.

*

Betsy looks askance at the flurry of activity today, though she doesn't let it deter her. She sweeps into the room with a regal bearing, head high and hands resting comfortably in her pockets. Her outfit, progressive and retro, is all spring colors of orchid and lilac that complements her dark purple hair, worn up in a loose ponytail.

Betsy stops at the desk, looking at the woman at the desk with a steadily inscrutable gaze until she acknowledges the leggy mutant, who balances her weight over one leg. "Betsy Braddock to see Howard Stark," she announces coolly. "He should be expecting me."

*

"Yes, Ms. Braddock," says Rebecca. Despite the fact that someone is still chattering in one of her ears, she seems to be giving the other woman her full attention. "Please enter the elevator. It will take you to his floor."
There are no buttons for the elevator. There is a thumb print scanner, but she doesn't have to touch it in order for the door to open. Inside, the elevator itself resembles what an iPod's innards might - all reflective and faintly glowing.
"Hold the elevator!" calls a man's voice. A hand sticks in ahead of him, then in slides a very tall and lanky man with silvering black hair and horn-rimmed glasses. "Hello hello. Sorry. The elevators here look so very fancy, but they're not the most efficient things in the world. Howard does like to make an impression." He gives her the once-over, then smiles again. "Doctor Maxwell Rosen. Hi there."

*

Betsy sweeps towards the elevator without so much as a 'thank you', with a leggy step that perhaps draws more attention that is warranted. Being dressed like a bouquet of flowers doesn't help. She moves to the elevator, searching for the button when Rosen interrupts her.

"Doctor Rosen," she says, calmly, not perturbed his his sudden interjection. Her hands stay loosely tucked in her jacket pockets. "Are you going to see Howard as well?" she inquires, tilting one purple-hued eyebrow up at him curiously.

*

"Well, I was going to, but I didn't realize he had an appointment," says Rosen. "I don't think he'd forgive me if I interrupted. And I want to stay on his good side. First day on the job and all." He mocks straightening his tie, enough he's not wearing one.
He clears his throat, then taps on the elevator wall. "Uh, hello? FRIDAY, is it? Are you installed in here?"
There's a bit of a pause, then an Irish woman's voice chimes in. "Yes, Doctor Rosen. Although I'm not fully integrated as of yet. I can't be everywhere at once. Not until Mister Stark upgrades my processors. He's promised me they're on the way."
"Delightful," murmurs Rosen.

*

"Mmm." It's the noise Betsy makes when the dictates of etiquette demand a response, and she can't think of anything intelligent to say. So she just stands there looking cooly uninterested. She looks at the walls and ceiling, trying to locate the sound of the voice, both eyebrows tilting a bit.

"If you're operational, computer," she says in her cultured British tonals, "please transport me to Howard Stark." She looks sidelong at Rosen with unusual amethyst eyes. "My visit is strictly social, Doctor Rosen," she informs the man. "If you have legitimate business with Howard, I can wait."

*

"I'm afraid Ms. Braddock has been assigned a higher priority level than you for today, Doctor Rosen." FRIDAY hesitates, then almost sounds embarrassed. "I'm not supposed to say it like that, but Mister Stark has yet to give me alternate language parameters." A pause. "Kindly step off the elevator and wait for the next."
Rosen just smiles serenely and raises his eyebrows. "Fair enough!" He salutes the air, then steps forward. "A pleasure to meet you, Ms. Braddock." And then the lanky scientist steps off the elevator. Once he does, it starts to descend towards the garage level.

*

"Doctor."

And with a woosh, the elevator takes off, taking Betsy to the garage. She couldn't be cooler if she was popping gum, waiting patiently for the lift to reach the appropriate level of the facility.

The doors slide open and Betsy steps out, rubbernecking a little at the sights presented to her. "Oh my," she murmurs, stopping three paces into the bay to stare.

*

It has the smell that all garages do - damp, cool, with motor oil and gasoline hanging in the air. But that's where the comparison with other garages end. It looks more like a car showroom, with vehicles up on pedestals or jacks, others draped in drop cloths or simply parked. The floor itself is softly blue and glowing. The overhead lights are designed to make every bit of chrome sparkle and shine. Bobby Darin's voice echoes off the walls, backed by a brass section and a steady thump of drums.
There's a clank of metal tools, followed by idle humming. As Betsy approaches, a chiming sound overrides the music. Howard walks around the back of a 1948 Cadillac in deep forest green. "Ms. Braddock. Hi there. Sorry, I would have come up to meet you but I lost track of time." He's wearing slacks, a white shirt and suspenders, but he's removed his tie and he's pushed his sleeves up to his elbows. The shirt and his arms are speckled with grease.

*

Betsy doesn't immediately respond to Howard, looking at his face with an empty expression, then turns her eyes down to the car. She paces a half-circle around it, one hand slipping from her coat to drag idle fingertips over the glossy waxed paint.

"This is the '62 series, isn't it?" she says, peering in the window. Finding the door unlocked, she opens the driver's side and looks at the dash, leaning forward to stick her head and shoulders into the cab. "It looks completely vintage. Even the original chrome on your readouts is still shiny." She reaches in and brushes a finger over the stylish metal display. "Is this one you restored or one Anthony kept in storage?" she says, turning to look at him through the front window.

*

Howard smiles warmly. "One of mine from storage. Tony has his own collection. He co-opted a few, but he and I have different tastes in cars. He's more of a hot rod man. He doesn't have much of a taste for the classics." He wipes the grease off his hands with a rag. "Probably reminds him too much of his old man."

*

"Anthony has terrible taste," Betsy says. She props one knee on the driver's seat and leans in to examine the dash, then carefully backs out, turning back to face Howard. "The difference between a good engineer and a successful one is artistry. The real proof isn't how well something works, but by how much consumers like it- the fastest car in the world is useless to someone who needs something safe to take to the grocer's."

*

"My son has a taste all his own," says Howard with a grin. "There's a certain streak of impracticality in our family. The difference is, I use the impractical gadgets to court investors. I rarely tried to bring them to market if there wasn't a strong business case to be made. Hence why the hovercar never went into mass production."

*

"I'm not saying innovation should be stifled," Betsy assures Howard, tucking her hands back into her windbreaker. She rests her weight over one foot, cocking her hip to the side. "My roommate works for you- Leiko? She'll invent things to solve a problem no-one actually has. She's a strong believer in finding a solution then looking for a problem that fits it."

She turns and walks towards another car nearby, her knee-high orchid-pink boots clicking softly but echoing with each step she takes.

"How many do you have here?" she asks, panning her eyes across the bay .

*

Howard chuckles. "And that's exactly why she's here. I've thought that way, myself. The difference was, in my day, there were plenty of problems that needed addressing. World war, the threat of nuclear war. I've got vaults full of gadgets that were just my imagination running wild. A few of those actually turned into something worthwhile. But for the most part, my inventions were always working to solve an immediate problem." He rests his hands in his pockets and looks around. "A half dozen or so are cars I've modified either recently in the past. Another five are all-original classics that Tony saved as part of my old collection, including that one." He nods towards the Cadillac. "Another three that I'm tinkering with."

*

Betsy smiles, briefly, the expression turned inwards. "You remind me a bit of my father," she says, looking at the sleek lines on a classic MG touring car. She touches it, something atavistic at work in her eyes. "He had quite a collection, though, of course, more European oriented, from the 50s and 60s. I knew every one of them by name and manufacture date," she confesses to Howard. "He's the one who taught me how to maintain vehicles. Not quite becoming of an aristocrat, I suppose, but I was happy to be doing something with Daddy." She drops her hand away. "After he passed, I put the autos into storage. It was a long time before I could look at them again."

*

"My collection was a lot bigger at one point. Big enough to start my own museum. That was actually an instruction I left in my paperwork," Howard scratches the side of his nose. "I guess Tony never got around to it. Most of them ended up being sold about fifteen years ago. I'm relieved he kept this one, though."
He walks over to a black cloth-covered vehicle, then tugs it back to reveal the bright red hovercar of legend. It's been waxed and polished recently - or just kept in impeccable shape.

*

Betsy doesn't squeak. That would be inappropriate for a woman of her poise and social graces. It is, however, possible she is speaking in chirrups.

"It's… amazing," she says softly, inhaling to steady her nerves. She steps towards it and timidly lifts a hand, glancing at Howard for permission, then runs her fingertips across the fender. She walks a slow circle about the vehicle, staring in wide-eyed awe at the legendary vehicle. "I was five when Daddy showed me a video of the unveiling at the Expo," she tells Howard, a bit shyly. "I wanted to know why all cars didn't fly, right then and there. I suppose there's still a part of me that wonders why we use tires when repulsors are so readily available."

*

Howard has a more subtle ego than his son in many ways, especially as he's far older than he looks. War and Cold War, multiple mid-life crises, a family, multiple Senate hearings, the rise of SHIELD…all of it has tempered him. Still, he can't quite help but puff up at Betsy's reaction to his car. "I'd apologize for the dancing girls in that reel, but." He shrugs.
He walks around to the side of the car and opens the door for her. The interior is just as impressive as the exterior. It's unlike anything else in its day, though clearly inspired by it. For one, there's multiple readouts that wouldn't be needed on a conventional car, as well as a series of controls. "I wish I could take you out for a spin, but it's not exactly road-legal. I'd have to truck it out to a test track."

*

Betsy moves to the door he so chivalrously holds open for her, pausing and resting a hand on top of the panel. She looks down at Howard, a dangerous, wild smile flicking across her face and giving her amethyst eyes a glowing quality.

"Why, Mister Stark," she fairly purrs. "I wouldn't dream of prevailing upon your good courtesy. I know you'd never do anything to sully your sterling reputation as a follower of rules and…. regulation." She looks him up and down, one eyebrow ticking suggestively, and seats herself rather primly on the bench seat, hands in her lap.

*

"Miss Braddock," says Howard with a wry and playful smile. "Twenty years ago, you would have me eating out of the palm of your hand. I may not look like an old man, but I've got a lot of miles in me, much like her," he nods towards the car. "Besides, people drive like shit in this city."

*

"I don't know what you're implying, Mister Stark," Betsy says, flicking an imaginary speck of dust off her lilac-pink leggings. "I wouldn't dream of prevailing upon you. You've been a terribly generous host- I'm quite honored to have privilege of sitting in this magnificent carriage." She turns her head to Howard, a small smile curling up the edge of her mouth in a suggestion of the joy she is experiencing. "It's not every day a girl meets a legend."

*

Howard wags a finger at her. "Oh, you're very good. Very good." He sounds like he means that. "If you use that line on Tony, he'd build you your own fleet of flying cars." He lifts a shoulder. "So would I, if I was actually the age I look."

*

"Mister Stark," Betsy says in a tone of vague reprimand. "You're the second gentleman I've met this week who made assumptions about relativity in age in my regard. I'm not sure if it's the conceit of your era or something in your chromosomes. I can give you assurances that I am far from some starry-eyed child," she informs him, a bit crisply.

"That said, I am very aware that Anthony Stark has a weakness for handsome women, so I think I can be excused from at least /trying/ that line on his father," she says, giving her manicure a brief examination.

*

"And I'm a long way from the man-child I spent my life as until I hit my fiftieth birthday and had a rude awakening." Howard's brows raise. "…one that included a lot of drugs and an orgy." A shrug. "Hey, it was the sixties."
He reaches over past her and keys in a sequence. He flicks a few switches. The whole car starts to hum to life. The repulsors glow and power up. Then, with a charming smile, he pulls a lever. The whole car slowly lifts a good foot in the air and drifts slightly to the left.

*

"EeEEeeeE!" Betsy immediately claps a hand over her full lips, looking horrified, and touches her fingertips to her clavicle. "Ahem. Excuse me," she murmurs, composing her features into their usual Asian inscrutability. She looks out the window as if nothing particularly interesting were happening, though she can't stop her left foot from jittering with excitement as Howard starts moving the car around.

*

Howard was planning on just showing her how the car hovers and nothing else. But he's a sucker for the wonder in peoples' faces when they see his creations. It's really what drove him to create everything he did that wasn't a weapon to protect the country. "Here, scoot over."
He slides into the driver's seat, then throws a lever. The indicators pin and the car raises another few feet in the air. Then he shifts forward and they fly down off the pedestal the car was sitting on.
"FRIDAY," he says into the StarkWatch on his wrist. "Open the garage doors."
FRIDAY chimes rather than verbally acknowledging, and the garage door opens up. He revs the engine, then glances at Betsy. "Just once around the block." And then he floors it. The repulsors hum into life and they lurch forward. After a few initial bumps, the ride becomes impossibly smooth.

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