If I Only Had a Heart

November 06, 2015:

Seeking some repairs - and answers - Dum-Dum Dugan heads with a fellow agent, Rain, to Howard Stark's residence to look into the glitches Dugan has been suffering, and meets another old friend…

T.H.I.N.K. Labs

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. Security is nearly invisible, but ever-present. There's no keypads. Everything is biometrically sealed. The building uses highly sophisticated facial recognition to determine who is authorised to be in the building.

The labs themselves are split over several floors. For the most part, the labs are separated by discipline, though there are several shared spaces for scientists who prefer to work in a cross-pollinating way. The rooftop sports a helicopter pad, hangars and a small lab space. There is a street-accessible lab that is part multidisciplinary lab, part garage. There's a heavily reinforced sub-basement that houses a firing range, munitions testing area and more…volatile scientific experiments. The one thing ever lab has is common is that it's equipped with some of the best gear money can by - and several pieces that money can't buy at all.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

A crisp afternoon breeze.

The high-pitched whine of engines.

From out of the sky the S.H.I.E.L.D. quinjet descends toward the rooftop landing pad of T.H.I.N.K. Labs with the grace of an actual bird in flight. Having already received clearance, the pilot expertly touches the vessel down, and turns back to look at his passengers — a pair of agents:

Timothy "Dum-Dum" Dugan.

Winter "Rain" Moontree.

The pilot gives a thumbs up, and opens the rear door which descends to the rooftop surface, letting in the chill breeze. Dugan, showing signs of damage to his right thigh and left side, fiddles with a bowler hat in his hands — grunting in displeasure at a bullet hole that seems to go straight through it.

He looks at Agent Rain.

"Looks like we're here, kiddoh. Funny…" and he peers out the hatch before stepping outside. "Place feels familiar." The man glances back at Rain and puts his ruined hat on his head. "Who's the expert? He meetin' us up here? Or inside?"

Rain is loathe to go by her real name. Winter Silverwolf Moontree is one of the dorkiest names ever, in her opinion. She is wearing a nice business suit. Captain is staying behind because he is hard at work being pet by junior shield agents. Spoiled rotten, really. The witch is shy, and she smiles politely at the pilot.

"Seems so," Rain looks around. "Um. Sorry about your hat," there's a sympathetic look. "Want me to fix it?" The witch offers helpfully. "And he should be. If not, I can let us inside. I help here sometimes. Might as well put my degree to use, yeah?" A wry smile. She's slowly warming up to the other agent. But she seems like the sort to grab a math textbook and vanish under the fridge when startled.

SHIELD quinjets might be cleared to land on THINK's heilpad, but that doesn't meant hey can waltz right in. Hidden weaponry has already trained itself on the aircraft, just in case it's a compromised aircraft.

It isn't paranoia when people really are out to steal from you and destroy you.

The quinjet's appearance also triggered a personal notification that's sent right to Howard. The door to the stairwell opens up, revealing a man who looks exactly like Howard Stark in his early 30s. He's flanked by two guards who hold their weapons, but don't raise them. He approaches the two of them, not quite placing the bowler-hatted man. "When SHIELD makes housecalls, it can't be good news. What's the story?"

"…Fix my hat?" Dugan is saying to Rain, his expression just that little bit too hopeful — complete with the rising inflection and pitiable expression one might expect of a child asking to have his pet kitten resurrected.

He removes the hat, and tosses it to the other agent, looking somewhat dubious but at least willing to give anything a go. Kid's a genius after all, isn't she? "I'm told ya can fix more'n hats, eh Rain?" The big man flashes the girl a bright grin and —

— stops dead in his tracks.

He stares at the man approaching them, the one flanked by the two guards.

Dugan's eyes widen and his grin slowly turns into an open-mouthed look of shock — not horror, just shock. Nevertheless, the veteran appears to have seen a ghost. He takes a step toward the scientist/visionary/playboy, then another.

"Hell is this…?" he murmurs. "Stark? Stark?!" Dugan quickens his pace, and — heedless of the guards — spreads his arms as though preparing to wrap his old friend in a bear-hug.

Or… get himself shot.

Rain work(s) here, but she might not fault Howard. An owlish blink. And a wave, with a smile for the odd fellow. She accepts the hat. "Yes, I am a healer." She offers. Rain settles quiet a moment, looking zen and at peace. The witch takes a moment, but as if by magic, the hole is mended. She shakes her head, blinking off a mental fog. "And yes, I work hard." Beam. "I do soldering, too."

She will hand the hat back after Dugan's reaction to Howard. The violet eyed witch smiles. "Old friends?"

There's a lot of whirring and clicking as the sophisticated turret guns follow the big man as he makes his way towards Howard. Their menacing clicks and whirrs get louder, until he calls out, "Stand down!" just in time to get crushed by Howling Commando. "Dugan," whuff. "…I should have guessed that they'd wake you up. They wouldn't tell me where they were storing you."

The former Strongman — very well, not-so-former — lifts Stark off his feet just briefly, then takes a step back so he can clap the other man on both shoulders at once, grinning from ear to ear like a big kid.

"Stark," he says. "I can't believe it. I can't… wow. This is swell, jus' swell." The moustached Howler turns back to look at Rain, his face alight with so much joy he may as well be shining. AND he gets his hat back. His beloved hat. It is with almost reverence — both for his bowler, and for the woman who just magically repaired it — that he accepts it back, and place it upon his head.

Dum-Dum Dugan… is complete.

If… slightly damaged.

"'Pparently I went a bit nuts on a mission 24 hours ago," he explains, tapping his right temple with a big meaty finger. "Reckon ya can fix m… hang on. How did ya manage to end up here? You look even younger than I last saw ya." Dugan turns to Rain, jerking a thumb at Stark.

"Don’t he look younger? How come I don't look younger?"

As both a friend of Howard and a member of SHIELD, Peggy Carter doubly has reason to be here. She was visiting her friend at THINK when the alarms went off that there was an unscheduled plane arriving using SHIELD call signs. While she allows Howard to go up to the roof first, he must have known that she would follow him. The woman looks quite like she did in 1948, though she has certainly modernized with the time. She wears a prim pencil skirt and collared shirt. Her hair is still curled by pin curls - some things just don't change.

From the doorway, she watches the exchange and stares at Dum Dum Dugan approaching her friend with wide, surprised eyes. That can't be Dugan, can it? No, it must be a trick of the light. Her eyes drift to Rain, as if trying to figure out if she's causing this illusion. "Howard, what is this?" Her tone is unamused.

Rain smiles at Dugan, quietly amused. She seems happy for the man. "…" The witch blinks owlishly. "He's not the age he looks?" She seems baffled. "I don't normally ask people how old they are. It's a good way to get defenestrated," She holds her hands up. "I think you look just fine." And then there's a beam to Peggy. A polite smile and wave. "Not me! Not it. No illusions today. I had to protect at least the donuts for us, yes?" It seems that's a joke. The witch has a sense of humor about what she does.

"Hi all of you. I'm glad this is so happy." Smile. She really is.

"It's uh, it's a very long, slightly…classified story. Hello, Rain," says Howard. He straightens his tie after Dum-Dum sets him back on his feet. Annnnd then, there's Peggy. He has the good sense to look slightly sheepish. He runs a finger through his hair, which, by luck or design, ends up artfully tousled. "Peg, uh. Again, long story. Slightly…classified. But let's go inside, shall we? It's freezing out here."

At the sight of Peggy Carter, Dum-Dum's eyes well up with tears.

It would seem the big man has a heart of gold somewhere in there — or at least the LMD equivalent of a heart of gold, if such a thing were possible. Dum-Dum glances back at Rain and then at Carter, puts his hands on his hips and lets out a loud, boisterous:

"Ha-HA!"

At the multiverse.

He goes to take a step toward Carter, only to have his right leg spasm and a wince of pain crosses his face. It must have been agony for him to show it — at all — and the man's demeanour sours for an instant.

He nods to Stark.

"Good idea. C'mon. But don' gimme any o' that 'classified' baloney. I need some answers…" and as he heads to the doorway, limping heavily, he gives Peg a grin. "Here's lookin' at you, hah!"

Dugan trips.

"Dang! I should be repairin' — I mean, healin'."

There's quite a long silence as Peggy takes this all in. "So, you knew?" Peggy's eyes slide from Dum Dum to Howard, narrowing just slightly as she takes this all in. She's a smart and observant woman, she can tell that this is not something Howard exactly expected at the moment. Her suspicions and ill-at-ease become a bit harder to maintain in the face of Rain's happiness. "Good evening," she nods at the witch, gathering that her name is Rain from the way others have been speaking. She'll introduce herself in just a bit.

"Yes, it's rather like cats and dogs, I would say. It might be best to talk inside. There seems to be quite a bit to discuss." At Dum-Dum's leg spasming, Peggy can't help put reach an arm forward to try and catch him. He looks like her old war buddy even if she's not quite sure of him just yet and old habits die hard. It certainly sounds like him. "Repairing?" That's certainly a hint if she's ever heard one.

Rain is quiet for a moment. She grins at Dum-Dum. She looks sympathetic, wincing as Duncan winces. She is quiet for a moment. "I see," She offers quietly. If Rain knows about LMDs, she says nothing. Such is the power of reading auras. But she's full of secrets, like a bag of cats.

She smiles politely at Peggy. "Miss-?" She inclines her head. "Salutations. I am Rain. It's nice to see you." She settles quiet, letting the reunion go on. "It's nice to be here, too. Captain would have come but he apparently was busy with tummy rubs."

Once inside, it's a short elevator ride down to the lab. The helipad itself is connected off Howard's office space. All the gear they'll be needing is on the lab level. It's an open space with what looks like the prototype of a quinjet taking up most of the room. Some of it is made up of real parts, others have holographic parts projected in. Howard leads the party through the tail section, the holographic image disrupting only briefly with their passage.

If Dum-Dum needs it, he'll put his LMD strength to good use to help the bowler-hatted man towards the exam bed. "Let me guess. No one with any real LMD knowledge at SHIELD has had a proper look at you." He sighs. "They should have called me as soon as they rebooted you. No one knows your systems like I do." Which should answer Peggy's query. "They wouldn't tell me where he was, Peg. Which I thought meant they didn't plan on activating him, or couldn't. I didn't want you going on a crusade." And really, she shouldn't be surprised that he was keeping secrets from her. It's sort of his thing.

Dugan is grateful for the help. He gives Carter a tight smile despite the pain he obviously feels, but remains quiet until the quartet (plus guards) reach Stark's lab. Giving Rain a little grin, he nods in Carter's direction.

"Agent Rain — Agent Carter. Toughest gal I know." Then, somewhat sheepishly as he settles down on the examination table, he tells Carter: "Well, ya are, really Peg. Never did come up with a — " he winces again, lying back on the bed. " — nickname for ya. Don't think I ever forgot."

At the mention of 'being activated' the big man scowls and lets out a breath between tightly held lips. "I ain' no robot, Chuckles," he tells Stark. "I'm me. Least… hell, I dunno." Dugan goes silent for a while.

"Yeah," he finally answers Stark's question. "Only one person in SHIELD who knows… LMDs. Well, a little. Maybe. Not really."

"Agent Carter," Peggy introduces herself. They're both SHIELD, therefore that should be at least enough of an introduction to start. "Pleasure to meet you." A head tilts just slightly at the name. "Captain?" She raises a single eyebrow. "I will hope that is a dog?"

As they make their way to the lab, the cautious time displaced woman just gives Howard a bit of a glare. Maybe she did know that he was hiding things from her, but that doesn't mean she will forgive him for it. That seems to be the nature of their friendship. "Yes, I'm sure," she replies, her tone showing just how much she believes that. At the mention of being the toughest gal he knows, the brunette merely smirks at him. "You old softy," she replies softly. It seems she's moved from disbelieving that it is him to something much more complex.

"The last one you attempted was quite enough for a long while. Agent Carter is fine by me." Simple, to the point and indelibly part of her character.

Rain follows along quietly. She doesn't comment on LMDs. "I see," She offers softly. Rain isn't familiar with the people, or what's going on. She smiles back to Dugan. "Ah," A nod as Dugan introduces people. She lowers her head politely. She inclines her head. "Pleased to meet you."

"Captain is my cat. He talks. He helps scout and things." Intelligent, talking cat. Oh dear. A wry smile as they banter. "Let me know if I can be of use," She offers.

"No shame in being a robot, my friend. You're in good company," Howard says that in a distracted manner as he moves around and starts activating equipment. "FRIDAY, patch into the old Jersey lab, please. Upload specs on the uh…" he looks over at Dum-Dum, quirks a brow, ponders a moment, then, "…Mark 7 Dugan."

"Working on it, Mister Stark," says a slightly harried Irish woman's voice from the speakers installed overhead. "Those files are in poor condition. It's going to take me a few minutes to rebuild the data."

"Take your time. I've got some patchwork to do. Ugh. They didn't even upgrade your bioskin? You should complain to your union rep." He pulls over a magnifier to get a closer look at Dum-Dum's, er, damage. "What happened? What do you remember?"

He glances to Peggy. He's not blushing, but he does look rather like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar. "The Commandos were some of the earliest test subjects for the LMD program. I figured out a way to save their minds before the LMD bodies themselves were fully operational. The LMDs went into hibernation while I worked out the kinks. The program was small, top-secret. I chose test subjects that I trusted and who trusted me. But I knew I had to let SHIELD in on the game to some extent, in case, well," he shrugs, "…in case something happened to me. Which did, by the way," this to Dum-Dum. "Car accident. Late 80s. My death activated a failsafe in an LMD prototype," he motions to himself. "By the way," he says as he takes another look at the damage. "Peggy's flesh and blood. Time travel. Sliiightly more complicated. Also my fault."

"Is everything your fault, Stark?" Dugan asks with just a hint of belligerence in his voice… but that might be aimed at himself, or the multiverse in general, rather than at the man fixing him at this present moment.

He snorts.

Peering down his body — past Howard — Dugan gives Rain and Carter an apologetic mouth-shrug. "I don' remember much," he tells Stark whilst looking at the two women to ensure they are a part of the conversation. "I… guess I 'woke up' back in the 80s — ya shoulda seen what folks were wearin' then… scary, jus'… anyway. I remember thinkin' I was /human/ then… some serum the eggheads cooked up made me live long." The man scowls again while Howard works.

"That was a bleedin' lie, turns out. Where was I…? Oh. There were missions — lots — until one went pear-shaped an' then… nothin'. Nothin' until I 'woke up' again a few days ago. I was assigned to Agent May's unit; we went after an 0-8-4 — pretty standard stuff — until I started talkin' gobbledegook, or so they tell me."

The moustached fellow lifts his head so he can look more directly at Carter. "I actually thought I was back in 1948 — remember that? Hell, long story short — I went nuts, they shut me down, and I woke up in another body. This body." And his head sinks back to the pillow behind him.

"I'm a machine, well — a floating, thinking thing inside a machine… an' I don't even work proper. I got shot twice and it shoulda healed. Swell." Dugan looks between the two women again. "Sorry, Dorothy," he says to both of them. "If I only had a heart…"

As Howard goes about the multiple different arrangements that it takes to ensure that Dum-Dum will be put back together again like Humpty, Peggy crosses her arms and watches the others with a slight frown on her face. This is sounding rather similar to things in the past. What she can't help is a quirk of smile pointed at Rain at her explanation. "A cat! I see. I like cats. You did say you were a healer, did you not?" She glances at Howard imperiously, "Howard?" It's the same voice she uses when ordering him to do other things when they first started at SHIELD.

As she's looking directly at him, she notices the blushing, but gives no quarter. He should blush and be ashamed for having kept this from her. "So, now the chickens have - as they say - come home to roost." Knowing, as she does, the way Howard works, she doesn't approach the table to keep out of the way. But, she still watches Dum-Dum as things start to take shape. "I remember it as if it were only a few months ago," she tells him wryly. As, to her, it was. "Went nuts?" Apparently he needs to explain himself a bit more.

Rain is listening for her part. She smiles, at the apology. She furrows her eyebrows. "Um." She rubs the back of her head. "If it helps, anyone can have a soul or heart. We strengthen and acquire them through living and experiencing life with others," The witch explains. "Even if arising from a mechanical origin, your feelings are no less yours. Or so my research has gone." She shrugs.

"Still can't believe my aunt got an android drunk," She muses. And then a beam and a smile at Peggy. She nods. "Captain has a badge and wears a coat. He loves being spoiled. I am a healer," She remarks. "But I sometimes help with magic tech." She is an engineer, even if magic powers got dropped on her. "Captain will be happy to meet you, I think." Beam. "I like working around here." And then she goes quiet to listen.

"Everything's my fault, Dugan. Of course, that also means I get to take credit for everything that goes right. It's not a bad deal," Howard drawls. He focuses an instrument over the injured leg. It projects a peeled back look at Dum-Dum's underlying systems. "Typical SHIELD. Whoever went through your systems was obviously brilliant, but they didn't have all the info. They messed with things they shouldn't have and tried to repair things that weren't actually malfunctioning. Sort of like taking a genius from the thirties and asking them to work on a microprocessor." Which is damning with faint praise whoever that particular SHIELD agent was. "They have my number. Why the hell didn't they get in touch with me. I mean, I built you."

"I've reconstructed approximately 95 percent of the data, Mister Stark. The other five percent is currently damaged. You'll need to write a retrieval algorithm to extrapolate the rest of the data. Mine aren't quite up to snuff, I'm afraid," says FRIDAY.

"That's all right. Ninety five is an excellent number. Up on the screen, please." If anyone was expecting the data to enlighten them, they'll be sorely disappointed. It's a mass of complicated schematics and reams of calculations, some of which is scanned from handwritten notes. Peggy and Dum-Dum will no doubt notice the old SSR letterhead on some of the calculations. To say the LMD project has been a lifetime of work is something of an understatement. They'll also recognize Work Mode Howard (TM) when they see it. It's what he does when he's working on a problem. He can still carry out a conversation, but most of his mental energy is focused elsewhere.

"Your bots aren't talking to each other between your cortex and your motor control. Or…well, some of them are, but some aren't cooperating. The hive isn't synced. It's not surprising. That's the fundamental problem that kept me stalled for ten years. Now…" he drops on to a rolling stool and jacks it up so he's more or less eye-to-eye with the bowler-hatted man. "I can fix up this body, but if you get downloaded again, you're going to need upgrading again. Or…" and he sidelong looks at Peggy and at Rain, "…SHIELD gives me access to all your dupes and I upgrade the lot. Or I upgrade a handful and then build you a new one from scratch."

After listening to Stark talk about a whole bunch of things that go over Dugan's head (literally as well, considering the holo-display above his body on the table), the LMD of Dum-Dum Dugan lifts his head to look at Rain.

"That cat sounds like someone I know, Sunshine," he remarks with a smirk.

He holds the expression only for a second and then glances over at Carter. The smile fails. "Yeah… Everything in that mission went…I dunno. I thought it was 1948 — honest. There was the bomb — remember that? — and HYDRA, plus that explosion that put me on top of ya…"

Dum-Dum sighs and his eyes fall closed as he lowers his head to the pillow again; he remains silent for a number of seconds, each ticking by in a ponderous — almost reluctant — manner. "Mission was a bust. My fault. I can't risk that happening again. I thought it was just the one LMD body, but when this one didn't repair when those Reavers shot me…"

Dugan turns his head to the side to look at Stark.

"I'll get ya that clearance, Stark. I don't know how many 'back-ups' they have of me back at H.Q., but right now… they're all a liability. I'm a liability. Can't have that. WON'T have that."

He looks at Rain.

"Clearance. Can we do that when we get back?"

Rain is quiet. She smiles faintly as Dugan lifts his head to look at her. She ohs? "Really?" She asks quietly. "As for clearance, I imagine so. I'm fairly low on the rungs as part of WAND," She waves a hand. "But if nothing else, I may be able to assist with repairs. To a point. Magic isn't a cure all, but I am an engineer. Or at least vouch for Mr. Stark," Rain muses.

She is watching, intensely curious. She is intelligent and scientifically minded. "I wouldn't beat yourself up. A lot of this sounds out of your hands. I think most of us are just happy to have you here and yourself."

"And don't you go having an existential crisis. Trust me, those're a pain in the ass. I should make up a twelve-step program for getting over the fact that you're a human consciousness in a robot body. Sit still." Howard rolls over to a control panel and inputs a series of quick calculations. "FRIDAY, what's the gain?"

"Seventy nine percent. Energy levels unstable at six point three o o."

"Let's fix that, shall we?" He cracks his knuckles like a concert pianist preparing for a sonata. And then he's working with reams of complex data. He's even modelling equipment and parts on the fly that get sent to a nearby 3D printer. "Now, you're going to feel some tingling. I've got to light up some nerve endings on a few bots that don't usually project sensory data. All perfectly normal."

"Tingling?" Dugan asks aloud. "What t — oh. That's nothin'. Look, I don' care, Chuckles, so long as I can do my job an' shoot bad g — ooookay, that's weird." The man tries hard not to squirm upon the examination table and only partially succeeds. At the very least, his facial expression changes every half-second or so, featuring a variety of emotions and half-emotions.

"Hah! Ahhh… Hey, I don't think that part's supposed ta feel like — aha! Woah." Trying not to laugh, Dum-Dum arches his back just a bit and grits his teeth. "Do yer worst, Fritz — ya'll get nothin' outta me — ow!"

Dugan glances between Carter and Rain with an expression that says, 'Help?'

Peggy gives Dugan a big of a sad smile. "No, I don't remember the explosion." With a sigh, she shrugs her shoulders. "I'm—I came from a time before that. There's another Peggy out there that was there, though." Though, what she has seen, that Peggy may not yet remember it, either. But, that's for different, sadder reasons.

As Howard goes to work and Rain watches from the sidelines, Peggy stands in Rain's camp. While she watches with curiosity and intent at what is happening, she glances over at the woman and smiles. "Have you worked with Dugan before, then?" The Agent leans back against a counter and watches the proceedings like the former head of SHIELD she is and just gives Dugan a bit of a smirk.

"You know this is good for you," she tells Dugan in an almost scolding manner. "Let Howard fix you."

Poor Dugan! "I'd help but I'd have to dim the things he's testing and I bet he throws shoes at a super sonic speed. It brings back traumatic memories of dodgeball in highschool." Poor Rain. She probably was the kid who got stuck in lockers for having a nudist pagan family and being nerdy. She was doomed from the beginning. "It is unfortunate that the neurons and circuits linked to control are /also/ linked to pain. Nature is just whacky that way and in emulating her designs, well." A helpless shrug.

"Sorry…" She really is. But she fears the wrath of Howard. She's seen enough Terminator to know what happens when you rile up robopeople. "But I owe you one." So there. She looks to Peggy and headshakes. "I just met him. But I'm glad I get to meet you guys." She is shy. It's a wonder Rain hasn't up and bolted.

"Oh, quit your whining. Forty years and you still can't sit still without bellyaching and smart-assing." Though those words might seem harsh, Howard says it with a smile in his voice and fondness that's hard to mask. "Don't make me pull out the restraints." And then he's entering Howardland. Howardland has a lot of complicated calculations, algorithms, physics and maybe even some string theory thrown in there for good measure.

END TRANSMISSION

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License