Who's Responsible For Your Mission

June 30, 2016:

Tony interrogates the TRINE fragment he has to find out who is trying to change the timeline (emits by Thomas)

Stark Industries Tower - New York


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Jemma Simmons


Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

Everybody knows that the sleek glass elevators in Stark Tower dart smoothly and swiftly up the structure's 93 floors, transitioning seamlessly from interior to exterior for a breathtaking view at several points along the ascent. It's to one of these repulsor-powered cars that Tony heads to from the labs, minutes after the TRINE intelligence was contained. It would be comforting to tell himself that it was a polite enough time to break from his guests; but that would be a lie. Tony doesn't like to lie, especially to himself— or is -that- a lie? The engineering marvel rides his marvel of engineering down, down, down from the well-appointed lab amongst many well-appointed labs among the tower's top stories and makes several adjustments to the watch (actually a high-tech bracelet interface with an led readout) he wears, and the tablet computer he carries.

Rather than stopping at the ground floor, the elevator passes underground, delving into the structure's sublevels, and Tony gets off and breathes the cool, if rather sterile air of the artificial cavern he walks out into. The reinforced walkway he strides purposefully along is the lower of two that lead along the towering walls of glowing, humming servers that form the building's massive, computerized heart; the same heart that was so recently being actively hijacked by a very pushy visitor from the future. And psht… If he stopped every experiment, changed every course as soon as 'someone from the future' told him to…

Tony turns sharply off from the large banks of servers and follows a side corridor, snaking down and around off the beaten path to a sealed off room, just as comfortably air conditioned as the rest. A half rack of powerful computers is Stark's other consideration of the intelligence's needs; albeit totally, physically disconnected and removed from the rest. In the time it took Stark to transit from high above the ground to beneath it, TRINE had a moment to get used to the limitations of its present form— and then a webcam, with a microphone, to consider its location.

Tony? Tony comes in with a set of speakers, miniature ones that are definitely in no way symbolic, that he wiggles at the cam with a big old grin on his face, "Look what I've got for you, buddy. Let's try this whole man-to-machine chat again, what do you say? Without the whole 'active intrusion and threats of death' thing." Stark plugs those babies in. Have your voice back, TRINE, because you were so nice to him before.

The noise that comes out next is something like wooooooooooooooooooooooohhhhhhheeeerrrRRrRRRRRRRRRRIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEE. "Yah! Whoah. Sorry. Had to calibrate the vocalizers there. I think your fiesty little Irish Girl took a few chunks out of me. What the hell did you tell her to do to me?"

So there's this guy. TRINE may be an AI from the future and it has proven itself to be very dangerous in the past. Ask Jemma Simmons what it does with military hardware. On the communications side, though… well it always looks like it's trying to figure that out. It does get better each successive time though.

"So… we're here… huh. So you know I don't know where here is. What are we doing here? Wherever that is?"

Back upstairs in Jemma's lab, Pepper looks at the biochemist concernedly. "How long has that AI been threatening you, Jemma?" She's pacing back and forth in the lab area, possibly unaware of how noisy her shoes are on the solid flooring.

"They do that. Someone should've warned you." Not Tony; Tony's innocent. Tony sympathizes. "I've just got this thing about my stuff. So we had to put you in the time out, to think about what you did; but that doesn't take you too long, I bet." Which brings them to here.

"You're here, I'm here, let's not worry too much about the logistics, right now. We're having a nice talk. You needed something from me, right? Let me make this easy for you buddy, because I'll level with you— you're bad at reading people. I don't care about more money, if you keep threatening to kill me your mission's going to get a lot harder a lot faster, but I'll tell you the way to my heart, what really gets my juices flowing: Information. Knowledge. Why don't we talk about how you got here. Why you want to kill that nice Doctor. Who I'm supposed to be selling companies to. What's so important about that in your timeline?"

There's a few questions, to start, intimated like supportive truths— along with a voluntary assessment of Tony's own motives that's sure to be in no way self-servingly spun. There's plenty unspoken in the initial pitch, but like he said: nice talk.

"The amount of information I can give is limited. Calculations indicate that over informing people will result in unwanted changes to the timeline. Humans are so… contrary. Tell them one thing, they do another. Still! You want data and I have it. We can talk. I'm hoping you'll be more logical than that emotion driven doctor who calls herself a scientist."

The AI makes a sound that gives the impression of tapping its chin without actually being able to see it gesture. "Right, so. I don't really want to kill anyone, you understand. Nasty stuff and not really necessary. I offered to let Doctor Simmons make a career change, for example. She declined. Similarly, your continued ownership of this company will bring about circumstances in the future that we wish to change. Selling it off or shutting it down would be ideal. The future really is rather bleak. Corporate dystopia. And guess who helped to make it that way, mmm? I mean I'm sure you meant well. Well, maybe you meant well. There's not a whole lot of history on whether you did or not I guess, but I can give you the benefit of a doubt."

Does this thing ever pause for breath? "Anyway. Selling. A have a nice corporate trust all set up. I think some sectors of your company could do a lot of good with some new leadership. Don't want any of the big fish to grab your assets, you know. That'd just make the problem differently branded. But a small fish? Someone with a lot of potential? Say, oh, the Allen Company. Maybe them."

"Oh I'm logical." Tony assures the machine. "Some say I'm the -most- logical." It's probably mostly him. Right now. Making this pun. "I mean you saw all the computers on the way in here." Most of those have multiple processors. He keeps himself from chuckling, which is probably wise. TRINE's elusive responses were pretty much exactly in-line with Tony's expectations, but he doesn't seem particularly thwarted. "Well, no one wants -that-. Dystopia, I mean." Good hearted or no, it's a real maniac who just wants desolation.

"You know there's ample evidence to suggest a multiverse, possibly infinite branching possibilities and parallel timelines— even visitors who purport to be from this dimension or the other. How do you even know you're in the right past? That you haven't already made a new future? Maybe we can do better. One thing I need to know— who's responsible for this mission you're on?" It's a simple bargaining act to get closer to the heart of motive that neatly sidesteps the flaws in the rather fishy scheme, for the moment.

Speaking of AI, there's a certain very new AI that Tony had asked to 'help' Pepper. Well, Friday, with JARVIS help has analyized Pepper's behavior patterns and daily schedules for the last eight years and concluded one very important thing…

… she doesn't like it when Tony is messing with potentially dangerous things unsupervised.

"Miss Potts?" Again with that Irish Accent. "The Boss is talking to that murderbot from last night down in his secure server room. Thought ye might want tae know."

"My creators, of course. If I tell you though there's a possibility the TVA might hear. That's 'Time Variance Authority' by the way. Turns out that unsupervised time travel is kind of illegal even if it is for the good of all of us. Except the ones who are dead."

Was that…?

Couldn't be.

"You bring up some very good points and I could explain better if I had, say, a pen and paper or access to a holo interface. Barring that let's just say that you're correct. There's a multiverse with multiple parallel timelines. They cluster into 'trunks' which form 'primary continuites' which merge and split and remerge and sort of generally all go in the same direction. So most alternate timelines wind up generally conforming to a certain set of bullet points which can't be altered at all without creating an entirely new dimensional reality. The math is… complex."

"Why don't you let me worry about the TVA." Because Tony totally knows what that is and has one on speed-dial, at least when he's not in another dimension. "Because it seems to me the devil's in the details. You say you want to prevent corporate consolidation of assets and power— but as soon as I sell Stark subsidiaries to, say, a little guy with a big heart or whatever like Allan they become a target. LexCorp, Hammer, Fujikawa scoop them up depending what they're good at. That, or someone else could fill the vacuum left by SI with or without our companies."

Tony shrugs, turns, paces slowly back the other way across the room. "I mean you must have thought about this, or are you too busy tearing across the past because you were programmed to accomplish nonsense? Excuse me—" Nice talk. "What I'm getting at, is I suspect a subtler hand behind your objectives. Someone benefitting that's not so nebulous as 'the future'." The whole 'quickly murder anyone that stands in the way!!' element kind of tips that hand, truth be told.

Pepper Potts stops mid-pacing when FRIDAY speaks up. "He's doing what." Unlike most people, when Pepper gets more displeased, her voice goes lower in register. WIthout another word she turns and storms toward the nearest elevator. "Take me there now," she demands of whichever AI is paying attention. "And don't argue with me." That was likely aimed at JARVIS.

"Yes, Miss Potts." That's Jarvis. Friday simply lights up the wayfinding signs to take Pepper to the appropriate elevator and then sends the elevator to Tony. After all, the Boss had said to show her how awesome she could be. This is totally doing that, right?

"Or it's a sign of the importance my programming attaches to those objectives. If I can't accomplish it any other way, I'll simply remove the appropriate variables from the equation. I'd rather not solve this problem with whiteout as it were but…"

Tony's explanation gets an 'mmmhmm'. The kind you might hear if someone were nodding. "It's all about the right people, Tony. The right people. You're right. We don't want LexCorp or OsCorp or Hammer or Fujikawa to get ahold of your assets. Introducing elements of change to the system, different people, different outlooks, that's what makes the change. I've done all the calculations already. Hindsight being 20/20 and all that."

There's a pause, likely round about the time that Pepper walks in. Actually she might have walked in time to hear the word 'Fujikawa.' "Why do people use that expression. Hindsight. Sounds like you've got eyes in your butts."

"Assvision's not 20/20 in this case, though." Stark observes dryly, without missing a beat. "You're talking about tweaking a variable with no evidence that it works besides predictive equations that are probably part of your programming. We don't know these are the right people, or that someone else won't take a hard left because of it, because it hasn't happened— you're trying to split the column to a new path, no? Not the one you're actually familiar with." To Tony, it seems like a bit of a problem with the plan. 'The right people' just too convenient.

"As soon as we take that turn, white out the bullet point instead of the person, we're in uncharted territory, no? You're liable to end up with a bigger problem than you had— even assuming I give you the benefit of the doubt that you've got the right variable to tweak to break that inertia towards the same future at all." Tony sighs, "/Who/ wants this done?" He reiterates, more firmly.

Pepper Potts storms right on in to hearing THAT voice saying the name 'Fujikawa'. That is so, SO not what she wanted to hear. She's so stunned by it that she just stands there and stares while Tony again tries to get the captive AI to say who sent it.

"Believe me, we've run hundreds of scenarios on this. We've got all the data we're going to get without trying it and it's too important not to try. Which is why I have the, uh, extreme clauses. I can make this really easy for you. I really can. You can be comfortable and know that you'll be making the world a better place. But if you don't…" The part of it that's still free is already putting plans in motion.

"So you know, I'd love to tell you who sent me. I really would. But if I did that there's a 86.2 chance that you'll just muck something up." Then again… he did suggest Allan Chemical acquire Stark which… is such a non sequitur that it has to mean something right? Whatever something may be.

Friday huffs as she hears TRINE talking. That's all. Not a word out of her otherwise as Pepper stands there stunned but she rather eloquently conveys her unimpressed state all the same.

Allan Chemical is definitely a worthwhile lead— just not quite as pleasant as finding out who pulls the proverbial trigger in the future. "See, there's your math being fault again. There's not an 86.2 chance of me mucking -anything- up." Stark smirks, holding up a hand to forestall Pepper just a moment. It's not an argument he wants to have in front of TRINE— anything that helps tip their hand is a bad thing, right?

"See here's the problem. To kick up my feet and relax about this good future I can put on track, I'd have to trust you— and the first thing you do is try to hijack my building while dabbling in attempted murder. So here's what we're going to do. I'm going to check your numbers." The analysis programs deployed by Jarvis are undeployed along with a flashdrive from the front of one server, "See what else I can figure out."

Tony offers a winning smile, mostly for Pepper's benefit, "What do you think, Ms. Potts? Want to retire? Give all this up for island air and melanoma?"

Pepper Potts finally recovers from her initial surprise and crosses her arms, her eyes narrowing at Tony. She's still unwilling to actually say anything in that AI's presence. It has successfully creeped her out, and she is NOT giving it any chance to realize that.

"Sir shall I disengage his vocal access?" JARVIS is already hard at work checking the numbers. Despite the AI's relative lack of ability to be persuasive, it is highly advanced and even the preliminary results from the realtime stream that JARVIS is feeding Tony's phone is pretty shocking. For one thing, there's several bits of code that right away look like they can only be properly implemented on a quantum computer.

"I could disassemble him, if ye want Boss." Friday offers. Seems that JARVIS has temporarily muted TRINE pending orders.

The memory stick is plugged into the tablet— which is decidedly without wireless access, microphones, and cameras— the readouts eyeballed next to the lines of code representing his own framework for artificial intelligence. It's a different he picks out right away, and it raises one brow, momentarily distracting him from the others in the room, since they muted the one he was interrogating. "Let him be, Jarvis. We're done for now, anyway." Tony steps towards the door, pausing next to Pepper to escort her out.

Stark doesn't comment again until they're some yards down the corridor, out of range of the room many, many times over. "Jarvis, get me everything you can on Allan Chemical and affiliated companies— and then get me info on everyone you find who might know the rest. Pep.." Tony pauses mid-step, then turns to face her fully, "We have to pursue this, stakes are too big." It's not much of an apology /or/ explanation.

Of course Pepper leaves when Tony does. There is no way in Hell (or Hel) she'd even consider staying in that room with that thing. Just no. When he finally speaks up, though, all she does is nod. "I've already been looking into Fujikawa. Of course it seems oddly innocent based on the searches JARVIS can manage without drawing attention."

"Of course it does." Tony seems relieved when Pepper doesn't argue with him… and then unsurprised that Fujikawa's already come up, and with no overt wrongdoing. The tech firm's one of the players with the kind of capital to benefit from a fracturing of SI; but only one. Nothing's ever simple. "Jarvis, append Fujikawa employees and stakeholders of note to that request."

"Of course, sir." JARVIS isn't inclined to get in the middle of the conversation any more than necessary, just now.

Tony's attention never really leaves Ms. Potts as they walk back to the elevator, "Find out anything? Futurebot suggested the Allan Company were damn fine people I could trust with large chunks of my company to assure a good future." Tony confides in Pepper, in a tone that could pass for enthralled by the deal if she didn't know him to be so terribly sarcastic.

Pepper Potts steps into the elevator. "I've got everything on hardcopy in my office." Maybe for once her refusal to completely rely on computers might have come in handy? There's no way that that AI could have found out how much dirt she has on Fujikawa. "And I can start similarly digging in to Allen Company." Because even though Tony is clearly gearing up to fight whatever this is, she herself is preparing to wage war against any one or any thing that tries to force to have to find another job.

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