What The Hell Is Luggage

June 06, 2016:

SHIELD and Zee are surveying sectors in Steel City. Pepper Potts and Jim arrive with some tech that might help (emits by Aspect)

Steel City

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

The cordon around Steel City is complete by this point. A ring of National Guard soldiers and emergency personnal in place six miles out from the edges of the city. The roads are all blocked and there are regular if very cautious high altitude flyovers to keep an eye on any sign of life, any potential cry for help.

So far. Nothing.

To say that the US Government is out of its depth on this one would be an understatement. No one - no one that anyone's talked to at any rate - has any idea what caused the place to die nor what the pernicious environmental hazard that killed 11 first responders the night of the blast is. The only agency that's been able to go inside with any safety thus far has been SHIELD and their reports haven't been made available as yet.

Aside from SHIELD - whose help is being actively solicited - a number of private companies with expertise in either relevant equipment or flat out strange things have been asked to consult in various capacities, so despite the fact that no rescue operations are possible, the cordon is still very busy with the activities of people who are trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

Near one of the command posts - the one nearest to Gotham, and thus also to New York, Agent Gorman of SHIELD is sipping coffee (he's done 14 hours so far) and watching the camera feeds and map updates playing across the various screens in the military surplus tent that makes up the nerve center of this part of the cordon. If he looks tired… it's because he is.


Disasters of this sort are very much within the purview of the Maria Stark Foundation. This time, there are no rescue efforts to facilitate, so instead, Pepper has brought along equipment and tools to help make the watch for survivors, activity, just information a bit more efficient. After all, getting to employ the high tech corporation's server farms, wireless tech, and maybe even some serious brain power should help. Right?

Standing outside the trailer from an 18-wheeler that's been outfitted for this exact purpose, Pepper is preparing to go speak with a SHIELD representative about pooling their efforts.


'Equipment' can be an exceptionally 'loose' term when dealing with the Maria Stark Foundation and Stark Industries. Though it is a bit cramped, part of the 'equipment and 'brain power' is sitting in a shielded room, isolated from the other obvious equipment which is clearly of the technical sort. Jim Reha is sitting in the small compartment, an earbud resting over a hearing membrane as he watches a wi-fi feed from outside the truck, waiting for word from Pepper to either move in, let Corv take the helm for a bit, or start the crunching of numbers.

« Comm's set, standin' by for further instructions, Pepper. »


Zee's still recovering from yesterdays excitement. She's at least caught some sleep and magical batteries have revived. Whether they've revived enough, is a very good question, but she does appear beside Agent Gorman. "Section 25 has no survivors. More Tengu than I can poke a stick at and a dozen hobgoblins have settled there." she murmurs. Hopefully he doesn't spill that coffee in shock.

The young mage looks tired and her eyes a very black/blue - dark, so much darker than normal. Seeing Pepper make her way over, she raises her hand in greeting. "Hello Pepper." She's not realised what the truck is for - even as a child of the millenium, Zee doesn't have as much use for technology as some of peers.


"You know…" The mustachio'd agent regards Zatanna. "Before today I'd only really heard that name applied to some nutjob riding around on a jet glider. Never thought I'd be sitting here watching a horrifying real life game of 'Descent'. Maybe you should take a b-"

Gorman cuts off as Pepper comes into the command center. "Miss Potts. Nice to see you. I'm Agent Gorman of SHIELD." He's surprised to see her but not that surprised. Stark Indsutries was one of the companies that the government reached out to. The only question is which hat she's wearing today. CEO? Stark Foundation CEO? Point of Contact for Iron Man? He has no doubt she'll tell him soon.

"I take it that's your truck out there? What can I do for you? Oh, you've met Miss Zatara, right?"


Pepper Potts smiles a hello to Zatanna then steps over to offer Gorman a handshake. "Agent Gorman, hello. I'm here on behalf of the Maria Stark Foundation. The truck out there is a mobile visual reconnaissance and uplink system developed for emergency situations like this. Did you want to review the systems available, or just get started deploying the monitoring drones? I did also bring one of our top visual analysts with us today. He's waiting back at the truck." She pauses then. "Zee, you look tired. I have some tea back at the trailer if you'd like a cup." Hint, Jim: the teakettle installed in the trailer's tiny included food and beverage space has a tea kettle. Maybe just reach over and turn it on?


The cloak and dagger and sneakiness should be second nature to the man trapped in the ancient birdly computer by this point, but it took another examination of the trailer to see the small kitchenette — thankfully on HIS side of the partition, past a 'clean room' that required very specific access codes to enter.

« I've started a mellow chai, that's good, right? »

He watches the preparation warily, making sure the thing doesn't explode or anything crazy like that. That's with one eye. With his hands and the other eye he sets up a small service table for an unknown number of guests, while replaying the limited footage he's gotten thus far in an effort to try and get a better 'feel' for the situation.

« By the time you get here it should be up. Corv'd be better at it, though? »


Zee smirks at Agent Gorman and wrinkles her nose a little "And you know, I never associate that name with the jet glider. I promise you though, that's not all we're going to find in there." She knows they've barely scratched the surface and with only magic users and a handful of SHIELD agents able to do the surveying, it's going to take a while.

Well, maybe. Raising an eyebrow as Pepper explains a slight look of relief comes over the young mage. "Drones … would be helpful, I'm sure." Peppers offer of tea nearly has her staggering "If you don't need for any for the next fifteen minutes or so, Agent Gorman?" She eyes the coffee the man is drinking "Why don't you join us, in fact?"


"Yeah, drones would be helpful. Microdrones usually need people close, people we can't send in. The big ones don't do so hot at peering in windows." Gorman glances around. Nothing big is happening here right now.

"Sure, I'd love to take a look. Shall we?"

The agent leads the way. It's not like the truck is hiding or anything like that. He does look vaguely curious when he peers inside and sees the 'visual analyst' though. "Your man, I'm assuming? So what kind of optics rig are we going to be working with here?" Also Tea. Tea would be good even if Gorman's more of a beer and whiskey guy. Not at work, though.


Perfectly content to let Agent Gorman lead the way back to the trailer, Pepper gives Jim the red alert that they're having two guests. "So, Zee, it's been a while. And you know I have to ask. What is going on with your eyes?" Of course, that's when they arrive at the trailer. "We have drones with limited AIs in them, and the same optics that are used in the current generation of StarkPhones. The drones can either record for a set amount of time then return, or send real-time feeds depending on the parameters we select. Their operational range is… ten miles, I think? Jim, do you remember the specs on the bumblebees?"


With the advance warning and the quick math of not having the space while all birdly in these cramped quarters - wings do take up a bit of space, after all - the avianoid entity squeezes himself back down to a far more normal form, even as four tea settings are carefully slid into place with an artfully fluid motion. Corvinus tugs on his tie slightly as the change levels out, then smooths out his suitcoat.

"Miss Potts, Miss Zatara, Agent Gorman. Welcome."

He then pauses as Pepper tosses a request for specifications at him. Of course, ask me the question NOW after the partner who WORKS with the stuff is… ah… we have this.

"The most recent iteration has a ten mile air to surface radar, flight speed of six hours before requiring momentary recharging, and possesses an on-board simple processing unit to filter data findings, with broad-spectrum data-gathering arrays. Much more would be proprietary information, Pepper, is it safe to proceed?"


As they enter the trailer, Zee smiles at CorvJimus, she's not been caught up on the fun and games that he's been experiencing. "Corvinus, it's nice to see you again." Man, is she in for a surprise.

Shrugging out of the leather and kevlar jacket she's wearing, hanging the jacket over her arm, Pepper will see the scar with the lines radiating out, still glowing dully. "Uh, my eyes? Oh… a side effect of getting my magic back." she's going to try and wave that off a little.

"We're five miles from the city limits, the city is how many miles wide, Agent Gorman? There's only a few of us that can get close to it without some form of protection. And after what I've seen magic do to you, Corvinus, you shouldn't be anywhere near it." She's referring, of course, to the magical healing done all those months ago and how she had to unravel the knot that had formed. "Can you beef the range up a bit?"


Agent Gorman watches Corv become Jim. Or rather Jim become Corv. Both, really. It's complicated and he doesn't even begin to understand it, wouldn't even if he'd been briefed which he hasn't. He may need some tea… soon.

"Ten miles at it's widest maybe fifteen, I believe, and rather more than that long." The man turns to look at Jim and Pepper consideringly. "We have a few problems here. As Zatanna just said, only a few people can go into the city at this point. Otherwise it's all unmanned missions which is hampering our search for survivors. We need to understand the nature of the contamination so we can shield against it." 'Magic' is not something he can put on his reports. It still sort of breaks his mind that SHIELD has a whole division dedicated to it. He prefers to consider that there may be something that science and ingenuity can do to help this… he may be in for some disappointments.

"Second, we need to find survivors if any. We're not doing well on that front. So far all we've found are… salt statues of people. Zatanna tells me that rather than being some kind of replica… those were the people of Steel City and if so the death toll is in the tens of thousands at least. Finally, we need to understand what happened, whether an accident, an attack or something else and make what provisions we can to prevent it from happening again as well as bring any relevant people to justice."

Now the Agent is mostly looking at Ji-Corv. "THink you can help with any of that?"


"I know we planned for that. We have… repeaters, I think they're called." Pepper steps to one of the side consoles and taps in a few commands, and then an image is displayed. It looks like, well, a box. With antennae and a little landing pad on the top of them presumably to recharge the drones remotely. "I do know that these repeaters have an effective range from this operations base of up to twenty miles, and the larger drones have subroutines to deploy them in optimal locations, usually on rooftops to maximize their signal distances." She looks at the others, especially Corvinus. "But I'm getting ahead here. Please, have some tea." She takes one of the cups that Jim had already set out and offers it to Zee.


The business-suited fellow pours tea for the entire gathering quietly, measuiring his words as individuals specks of sand on a jeweler's scale.

"Miss Zatara, one should be aware that the partner is a far more adaptive and capable individual with the resources he has available to him than even this one was with… a significant amount of experience." Was that a grudging level of respect? Has the avianoid in human flesh gained a sense of… *gasp* humility?

"This one is reasonably confident in the prowess and capabilities of the partner and as such he may provide the necessary 'on-site' 'human' element one may require. We are both eager to assist in any matters that would restore defenders and people of this world to their proper states, as all sentients upon this world are necessary. We can remain here and do the tedious method of examination of remote information if desired, or if one is wishing to put a bit of risk to the partner, this one is certain he will jump at it most eagerly, as he has been largely desk-bound of late, including utilizing means of a most socially unacceptable measure to occupy part of his mind."

((No, loyal readers, he's not talking about porn. See 'MMO Cease and Desist' for further details…))

"Does one require the partner now?"

The fellow sips at his tea as he contemplates the situation.

"A 'human' element in search and rescue is finding the holes that an autonomous programme may not. This one would call it, for lack of a better term… 'intuition'?"


Giving Agent Gorman another smirk, Zee takes the tea from Pepper "The nature of the contamination is magic, Agent Gorman. It is woven into the very land itself. Whoever bought down that spell was good and very powerful and much like the Deadzone, we're going to have to work out how to uncouple it." She's not going to offer to write the mans reports.

Squinting as Jim starts talking like Corvinus, Zee considers what he says. "Do you think, Jim, uh Corvinus … uh… that the partner would be able to operate in that? I've some charms I made for SHIELD agents that give short term protection from the magical radiation. I would happily lend one to you if you think it would work."

Glancing up at the repeaters on the screen, Zee nods to Pepper "That's better, I think. There's also the sewers too. First trip in, the group I was with found four children who had been living there. Seems the magic radiation hasn't permeated there. Anything we can do to monitor those?"


For that Gorman has to look at Pepper and Jim. Can their drones fit into the sewer system? Otherwise, no. They're blind there.

"Listen I just want to help the people who are still in there and clean up this mess… though I have to be honest. This is a big one. If people think we've been attacked, they'll want blood." And without a ready target, that could easily get pretty ugly. It doesn't help that the situation is being analyzed by dozens, hundreds of non mages who are bound to come up with conclusions that… may be erronious. That's part of why Gorman is glad Pepper and Jim are here. Miss Potts has a reputation for employing… unusuals who can get the job done.

"As for needing him now, that's sort of up to you. Miss Potts, depending on your equipment I'd like to work out a regular schedule for surveilance and reconnisance. Twenty four hour coverage would be ideal but I know it may not be practical. Those repeaters sound promising though. If we can establish eyes in the city we can get more done… there's… been resistance to that though."


Pepper Potts considers their question about the sewer system. "Well, they're certainly small enough, and they're weather resistant. But," Pepper offers Agent Gorman a cup of tea. If he refuses it, she'll drink it herself. "their range will rather limited down there because they'll have to be set for autonomous mode, and their battery spans will be more limited. Especially if there's only one way in or out of the sewer system."

Pepper seems to consider for a moment. "Corvinus, what about the Luggage?" That is clearly a code name.


"Magic is a technology that has not been defined by conventional engineering means yet. There are sentients that can utilize it as simply as one might use a vehicle or a weapon. When related on such terms, it is much easier to parse. Miss Zatara, this one at least would appreciate such a safeguard, if not the partner. He may react poorly."

Several millenia of experience can't be wrong, can it?

"This one is very confusing to one that is still young on the paths of development. We should be able to retask some of the smaller drones to work in a subterranean environment. This one does NOT recommend utilizing our services for greater than sixteen hours save the most dire of circumstances. We can… like most sentients… start to become erratic without a proper rest cycle. This one would also require an IFF transponder so that one's partner does not get — local colloquialism — 'aced' by one's security patrols."

"This one is not qualified to assess the capability of the Luggage. The partner was the one that was the Quality Assurance. It may hold promise for what one seeks."

Did the ancient entity just punt the bombshell to his non-present partner? Being human must be a truly bad influence!


"Your human form will need it." Zee's given up trying to work out why Jim sounds like Corvinus as she hands over a small coloured stone pendant. "To activate this, speak the word 'noitcetorP' and it will give you one and a half hours of radiation shielding. After that, put out in the sun for four hours and it will recharge." It's the best she could do on the short notice.

"When you get the coverage worked out, it should make things a little easier. I want to map the 'hot spots' out and I'm going to have to spend time investigating what happened." Another glance to Gorman, with a slight shake of her head "Wait till the shock wears off. I give three more days - we'll have the howls for blood soon enough."

"Uh Pepper? What's the Luggage?"


Gorman takes the tea and watches the interplay between Pepper and JimVinus. He noticed the shift in speech pattern. He could hardly fail to do so, it's pretty jarring. Interesting. Damn odd but 'damn odd' seems to describe so much SHIELD gets into these days. Because, you know, WAND.

"I'll have a SHIELD liason officer assigned to your… truck, Miss Potts. If you have need of us for anything just let us know."

There's a pause. "What does a 'luggage' do?" It's an almost morbid curiosity on his part now.


Pepper Potts can ony smile amusedly as both Zee and Gorman are curious and Corvinus totally threw Jim under the bus. "Maybe we should speak with Jim for a bit, Corvinus." She then looks at the other two. "The Luggage is my nickname for the larger, longer-range ground-based drones. They're about the size of small carry-on suitcases, and they have several articuated legs to help them maneuver on all kinds of terrain. Also AI-based. Have you met Dummy, Zee?"


The fellow takes the pendant and puts it on carefully, making sure it rests on his shirt. "This one was not adversely impacted when the partner had a similar device provided by John. The principles involved should be largely the same, though this one is reasonably confident that one's methods of acquisition were much more ethical and respectful than his." There's a bit of a smile and a nod. "We will have to work fast, then."

Gorman gets a sympathetic glance. "This one appreciates the consideration on our behalf, but if one's personnel are strapped to their limits, we may be better served by utilizing internal resources for security?"

The fellow glances at the space in the room, then to the 'clean room'.

"That transition will require some space. Please forgive one, the partner will be back momentarily. Be kind. He doesn't possess one's superior intellect."

Arrogance?

He heads over to the 'clean room and shrugs himself to a much more winged form, cracking his neck and slumping a bit.

I really don't like showing this off, Corv, what are you DOING to us for Chrissakes?

He re-enters with great caution, taking pains to not wallop anyone with a wing or knock over the tea. He does give the impression of being really cramped, though, even with that care.

"Mister Gorman, Miss Zee, Pepper. Yeah. what the heck was this last lingering message about satchels?"

There's a bare second of pause.

"Oh, THE Luggage. Yeah, that cleared Beta last week, but we haven't had a good field test opportunity."


Zee finally gets a sip of that tea and sighs in delight, relaxing a little as she does. She's needed this break, it seems. "Dummy? I don't think so, Pepper." she frowns a little as she thinks on that. Anything else she was going to say, is forestalled as CorvJimus or is it JimCorvus moves into the Clean Room and the Buddha Bird returns, speaking like Jim. "Uh, hi, Jim?"


"I have met a lot of dummies, but not the one you have in mind, I think…"

"Your name is Jim?" Gorman looks from Pepper to Zee to the winged man. "Your name is Jim and you're a…" He doesn't finish. Instead he sips more tea.

"Well we're glad to have you onboard anyway. If you think your luggage can help, I'm onboard. I'll get you the clearances."


Pepper Potts wags a hand at Gorman dismissively, as if expecting him to just keep up. "There's concern that there might be survivors in the sewer system, Jim. I can't think of a better field test. Also, we're probably going to need the repeaters for the bumblebees. Would you be willing to help with deploying those?"


"Yeah, Zee. It's complicated. Cheshire shenanigans. No, no idea on a fix yet. Bigger fish to fry."

He's almost terse in the quick recital, almost like he's done it a half-dozen times and is almost bored so much by it he's gotten it narrowed down to a nearly Stark-esque sort of short-hand.

"Dummy provides support for Stark Industries. He's done numerous things of import in the past, despite being more limited than a Commodore Sixty-Four on the Internet."

Any tech geeks in the crowd tonight?

He gives Gorman a pained glance. "Yes. Jim. Term would be Archaeopean for the form. No, don't look it up in your databases, you will not find it. No offense, you don't have that kind of clearance and we don't have the time to get you 'read in', fair? We'll go with 'independent operative contracted by the Maria Stark Foundation' for 'humanitarian assistance'. That should neatly and succinctly cover the bases you wish to cover, and we can move forward with the examination for survivors. No, I'm not normally this talkative but I'm trying to get this all ripped out before the uncomfortable questions start, fair?"

"And yes, let's make this happen."


Zee just sort of stares as JimVinus rolls out the sales pitch. OK, it's not a sales pitch, but that's kind of what it sounds it - a bit. "Alright, so that's Dummy, but what's Luggage? And how will it help with the sewers?" After working with Ryden, Zee might be used to having to keep things coming back on point. "You know, I'll just wait till you roll it out and take look then."

Poor Gorman gets a cheeky grin from the young woman - one that says … welcome to my world … "It helps if you try to understand it all, Agent Gorman. Just go with the flow and it will all work out." Yeah, Zee's really glad she's not doing the paperwork.


Gorman takes one more sip of his tea. He's confident that this crowd is not going to cause trouble. Hell they might even just manage to solve a few problems. Best thing to do then…

"I'll let you get to it then and go talk to General Carson. Glad to have you Jim. Pepper. Zatanna I suggest you take a nap at some point."

And with that the Tom Selleck shoe in is gone.


Pepper Potts smiles and nods to Gorman as he leaves. "Thank you, Agent Gorman." To Jim, she offers, "We probably still have some time before the clearances come back, but if you want to take that time to get a few Lugs ready to go, I won't hold it against you. Thank you for the tea, by the way. Excellent choice." She then levels that all-seeing stare at Zee. "What was that about taking a nap, Zee?"


"How many do we want to put into the field? With the field test complement we've got three we can bring up to speed, I'd suggest a rotation of three, maybe add a small charging station on them so they could act as a forward supply for the bees if needed?"

With all that brainpower just sitting there waiting to be used Jim's already considered two dozen iterations of the Luggage design, discarding them all for a lack of available resources.

"Miss Zatara, don't make me go all Samuel L. on you. It wouldn't be polite and you'd probably be insulted, right?"


"Sounds good, Jim. A rotation of three to begin with." Zee eyes Gorman as he mentions that she should nap. She's going to follow him out and go back to work.

"I will, Pepper. Soon. I promise." the raven haired mage knows better than to push too hard, but right now, there's a few things she's juggling.

"Samuel L, Jim?" the mageling gives the man a quizzical look. She really doesn't get the reference. "Anyway, duty calls… I'll check in again, soon." and she follows the SHIELD agent out.


"I think a rotation of three is ideal, Jim." Based on the way Pepper chuckles, she got the Samuel L. reference. But, as Zee managed to escape without getting browbeaten into resting, Pepper will let it be. For now.


"Welp, I've got a lot of work to do before I crash out, and I'm pretty sure you've got some things going, too. Not chasing you away, Pepper, but this won't get done standing around talking — I'm no Mister Stark — but I'll have the first two done before racking out, and the third one ready four hours after I wake up. I'll add an additional pinhole camera to them, just in case. Specs can handle a lot more than that, I just like having more insurance for seeing things? At any rate, have a great… is it morning now? Morning."

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