And The Building Shakes

July 02, 2016:

During a Friday afternoon catchup, Stark Towers shake … Tony is doing more testing.

Stark Towers - New York

Characters

NPCs: Friday, JARVIS

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Pepper's office, Friday afternoon. Most of the tower's occupants have already departed for the day, so things are winding down toward peaceful quiet. The flatscreen TV on the wall is softly playing music, and there's a freshly made pot of tea on the small conference table. Seated at the sofa and armchairs in front of the TV, Pepper and Brinley are catching up, having not had a chance to talk for a couple of weeks.

"It was one of the creepiest things I've ever heard, Brinley. This voice interrupting JARVIS. Tony has the thing locked in an isolated server in the basement now, and I'm still a little paranoid." Pepper is sitting her her back against one of the sofa's armrests, her shoes on the floor and her feet tucked under her legs.


Curled at the other end of the couch is a small brunette, sipping from a mug of tea that she holds. For the first time, in a very long time that Pepper might remember, Brins' not injured but she does look a little tired.

"I can imagine it was, Pepper." the woman, dressed in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt with the words "I'm an account manager because freakin' miracle work isn't an official job title" on it. "I'm sorry I haven't been around more. Things have been so busy. We managed to avert Operation Extinction with little to no collateral damage but that's not the end of it I fear."


"No, no. I know you're crazy busy." Yes, Pepper Potts is calling someone ELSE busy. "So the people who were trying to do that Operation Extinction are still out there, huh. Is there anything I can do from this side to help? " She's pretty sure the answer to that is 'no', but she offers anyway. "Sometimes I feel kind of … isolated up here in my ivory tower while everyone else is out there risking life and limb to keep innocent people safe."


"Just having someone to speak to helps, Pepper." Brin smiles and looks over the rim of her mug. Perhaps it's why the two women are good friends - they both know what it means to be busy and have Responsibilities (with a capital R). Of course, Brins responsibilities don't come anywhere near Peppers.

"Well. Purifiers and Reavers are still around. Given the way they're set up, individual cells, they're impossible to take down in one hit. What you've been doing, helping hit their funding, has been a big help." Letting her dark eyes rest of the redhead "we all fight in our own way. Speaking of funding though, we got another break there. Seems something called the Hellfire Club is being used to launder money for someone known as Hellstrike, who's hooked up with Purifiers somehow. From what I understand, the Hellfire Club is an elite, members only, organisation and … most people don't know who the members are."


While Pepper may be shaken by the ominous intrusion of the AI shard that Stark (or more accurately, JARVIS and FRIDAY) contained, the aforementioned genius engineer is way more worried about what the rogue AI from the future may be getting up to where its non-localized form is -not- contained. It's an inevitability he may have neglected to mention explicitly to Pepper or Simmons; but it's obvious, right? The peaceful evening tea in Stark Tower is disrupted for a moment: First by a distant rumble. "Alright Jarvis. Keep the scanners steady. Power up the decoy on the roof. Barrels one and two coming at it."

"Of course sir— scanning drones are receiving full spectrum of requested data, camera feeds smooth at maximum resolution." Then, the windows begin to shake, a gradually building vibrato that crests as a crimson-and-chrome armored figure mounting an assortment of missile and drone launchers blasts on blue-red repulsor bursts straight up the side of the skyscraper, firing two blasts from the wide-mouthed contraption mounted over his left arm.

A pair of similarly repulsor-powered recon drones frame and film the entire ascent, their attention drawn to the launched projectiles as said metallic spheres shift into something more aerodynamic and race faster still as their own power kicks on, homing inexorably upwards. The whole show disappears from view moments before a brief power fluctuation flickers through the upper floors of the tower, though nothing goes out or overloads— and then a momentary shudder, as if from a distant impact; not even enough to rattle the tea, promise!


Pepper Potts goes still when Brinley mentions the Hellfire Club. Clearly the name is not foreign to her. She's about to mention something when she frowns faintly and tilts her head as if listening to something. "Do you hear that?" Standing and setting her teacup aside, she pads over to the windows and puts one hand on the seriously reinforced glass. "The windows are vib—


Her words are cut off by a yelp of surprise as the red and chrome figure blasts up past her window, and the startle leaves her on her butt on the floor. Thank goodness for good carpeting.

"JARVIS? What's going on?" She sounds concerned and on the edge of scared.


Seeing Pepper still, Brin looks over, a curious expression on her face. An expression that changes very quickly as the vibrations are sensed. "I … do…" she says as she sits forward, placing her mug on the coffee table. "What the hell…" the figure bursts past the window, causing her to slop tea everywhere. So much for not rattling tea!

"Pepper … wha what was that?" But the CEO is already asking JARVIS, so the brunette looks out the window and up, trying to see. Not that she can see much from inside the building!


"Nothing to be concerned about, Ms. Potts." JARVIS sounds sympathetic to Pepper's plight. He knows what she puts up with. "Mr. Stark is working on a weapon to contain the potential TRINE infestation, and felt a preliminary test of its full field performance could not be delayed." It's not the first superheroic flyby in New York today— at least Iron Man owns the building? "Och. I would 'ave put a stop tae that nonsense outright if'n I had known, lass." Pepper's new shadow offers, equally sympathetic, but notably more annoyed. Or at least that's the general impression.

In the aftermath of that test-firing (and test-impacting), peace reigns once more over the soaring form of Stark Tower; at least until the next weapons test or occurrance of unquantifiable radiation or malevolent invader. Never a dull moment. Some levels above, automated systems de-armor Tony and categorize the modules in use back into the armory.


Pepper Potts stands again and hurries to help Brin clean up the spilled tea. "Thank you JARVIS. Though, wouldn't a simple warning have been possible? Brin, I'll have cleaning services bring in a shampooer tomorrow, don't worry about it." Friday… she's still getting used to the other AI. And she can't help but wonder why the AI has that brogue, and what causes it to be more or less pronounced at different times. "No, Friday, it's okay. Just some notification would have been appreciated."

Oh, wait. Brinley hasn't heard Friday before, has she?


Brin returns to start mopping up the tea, casting wide eye glances at the ceiling "Um, Pepper … who's Friday?" Isn't it telling that she doesn't bat an eyelid about field testing? Then again, she does work with X-Red and various team members do like to do their own thing.

"Sorry about the tea…" Even though Pepper told her not to worry about, she's still blotting up liquid on the floor. "I'm sure it won't stain but your office might smell like tea until it's cleaned.


"Absolutely, Ms. Potts." JARVIS confirms, matter-of-factly. Fat lot of it good it does either of them, now. FRIDAY's problem with consisting voice work has a similarly simple explanation: she's programmed to be soundly O'Irish. It's different from the real thing, see. "I do apologize, an—" FRIDAY cuts into the comms, "Sure you dinnae need me tae express yer displeasure t' the Boss, Miss Potts?" Friday seems surprisingly eager to do this considering Stark still, in theory, has override control over her ability to badger him. Or maybe it's just part of an elaborate scheme to keep complainants sated, sure that Tony will get a piece of their minds.


"Maybe just a little reminder that concerned parties do appreciate being notified of tests before they occur?" She then stands back. "I'm sorry, it slipped my mind. Brinley, this is Friday, another of Tony's assisstant AIs like JARVIS. Friday, Brinley Myers is a friend of mine, here visiting and taking a much needed break from her day job." She takes Brinley's teacup to rinse out and refill from the teapot on the table. "And Brin, stop and think about what you just said about my office smelling like tea." She's standing in front of that credenza that contains easily thirty different varieties of looseleaf tea.


"Uh…" Brins eyes widen even more as Friday, ever so helpfully, offers to 'express Peppers displeasure'. "Nice to meet you, Friday." Of course, Friday will likely have Brins online profile up in a flash - X-Red being public ensures that it's members are well known. Although, out them all, Brin tends to avoid the spotlight.

Blinking at Pepper and looking at the credenza, the small brunette laughs "Well, yes. But you know … brewed tea in the carpet… Does that mean Tony might be joining us soon?"


FRIDAY quietly looked Brin up around the time their meeting started. She's here to look out for Pepper, after all, and one can't rely on JARVIS' take on people. "An' likewise I'm sure, Miss Myers." It's a fair bet the momentary politesse doesn't delay notifying Tony of the disruptive nature of his latest experiment. Hey— the 'days since an unintended explosion' sign didn't have to get reset, and that's always a win.

JARVIS pipes in to answer the implicit question, "Mr. Stark is currently analyzing the data gathered during the drone strike. Would you like him paged?"


Pepper Potts brings Brin's cup back to her. "When did he sleep in a bed last, JARVIS? And when did he last eat something that requires chewing?" Does it say something that she phrases those questions the way she did? "If either of those can be answered with a single digit number, then no, don't bother him. If either is a 'yes', tell him that I'm livid and he needs to be down here faster than you can calculate the likelihood of Dummy spilling another smoothie this week."


"Are you new, Friday?" Brins meant to be good with people and she's interacted with JARVIS enough. To her the AI is another person and deserves the associated respect and politeness.

Taking the mug from Pepper, the small X-Red gives Pepper another curious smile. She might phrase questions carefully - maybe not the question about sle—- oh, wait, yes she does. "You know Pepper, since moving back to Nicks place and out of the HQ, I find myself asking those sorts of questions a lot less."


JARVIS takes just a moment to consider Pepper's query, "Either could be answered with a single digit number depending on the vastness of the relative units." He gently informs her, before more helpfully addressing the implicit question once more, "Mr. Stark is approaching fatigue levels that will impact his performance, and has been drinking those smoothees you hate. I'll do what I can to tear him away." Tattled on, just like that. It's far from the first time Pepper's asked these questions, though; and JARVIS knows what becomes of over-evasion.

Friday waits her turn, this time, possibly because JARVIS is quietly making her. "Been in development a goodly while, Miss Myers. Pinned in on a wee card, tae be loaded only for testing— but aye, new to bein' allowed to do my damn job, ma'am."


Pepper Potts can't help but smile a bit at Friday's candor. "Thank you, JARVIS. If you can get him to agree, tell him I'll order in dinner." she returns to her spot on the sofa now that things are settling down. "How do you feel about hamburgers, Brin?"


"Well welcome, Friday." Brin clearly likes this new AI "And hello to you to, JARVIS. Thank you for help with that financial analysis. I'm sure you're aware that it's had a good impact."

"Hamburgers sound divine, Pepper. Would you mind order a couple more? I can take them home to Nick for dinner." Not that either of them can't cook but after long days, it can be a chore.


"Most welcome, Ms. Myers— I'm glad my work was appreciated." JARVIS really is a tireless civil servant, the heart and soul of the company. Aside from Pepper, perhaps. While he pursues the daunting task of breaking Tony Stark away from a priority project, Friday continues to make herself useful as the friends converse.

"Usual burger place, ma'am?" How many new assistants go over your itinerary for the past eight years in their first day on the job? "Jus' let me know what ya both prefer."


Pepper smiles again at Friday's words. This new AI is starting to give JARVIS a run for his money. Though, she suspects that the two of them have already hashed out their AI version of a pecking order so that neither is stepping on the other's proverbial toes. "The usual place is fine, Friday. And please, call me Pepper." That's the one thing she never managed to impress upon JARVIS.

"Of course you can order for Mr. Gleason, Brinley. Or, you know he's welcome to join us here when he's off work." She'll understand, though, if the EMT/business owner would rather go straight home to rest. His job makes hers seem tame.


"I'll let him know, but I'm fairly sure he's on late shift tonight." Brin acknowledges, settling back on the couch and curling her legs under her. "Seems you have another helper, Pepper." The small brunette does indeed wonder how the two AI's will get along.

Being a fly on the wall to hear one of their disagreements might be an amusing prospect.

Considering Pepper for a long moment, the mutant is silent "Do you know something of the Hellfire Club, Pepper?"


Pepper Potts nods to Brinley, then spends a moment listing out her and Tony's order preferences. Tony's is, of course, rather involved but Pepper rattles it off as easily as her own order. She then looks at Brinley to tell Friday what she'd like as well. "You'll tell Mr. Gleason hello for me, then? And maybe sometime when he gets a moment."

After a moment, she adds a bit more quietly, "JARVIS, were you able to convince Tony to take a break and join us for dinner?"


"Of course, Pepper. I'll ask him to drop by as well." Brins well aware the air ambulances that Rescue has were, in a large part, thanks to Stark. Adding her own preferences to the order for Friday, the brunette falls silent again, contemplating her tea.


FRIDAY takes it all down— or in— without missing a beat, "Calling that in for ya, Pepper" The rather unique digital assistant responds once both ladies have voiced their preferences for this, that, -and- the other burger and an appropriate allotment of sides.

JARVIS pipes back in when bidden as if he's been there the whole time, "I'm afraid Mr. Stark insists a few more adjustments have to be made while they are fresh in his mind, Ms. Potts. He does instruct me to inform you that he will eat and take a break at such time as food has arrived, however." Jarvis seems to consider this a remarkable victory, it's not hard to imagine his digitized chest puffing just a bit; he's not wrong.


Pepper Potts nods at JARVIS' reply. She's not in the least bit surprised. "Thank you both. And JARVIS, please do let me know if Tony doesn't take that break, and I'll go have a chat with him." That's probably more than enough of a threat. For now. Settling into the sofa, she lets Brinley ruminate in silence for a bit before asking, "Are you thinking about that Operation Extermination still?"


"Extinction. And sort of." The small brunette looks up. "The Hellfire Club connection is a concern. From we understand there's a lot of money there. It's a concern thinking that might be arrayed against mutant kind."

Taking a sip from her mug, the small woman shakes her head "Remember the photo's that you saw, a few months back of me?" The ones that showed Brin had someone following her and taking them. And the one of her holding a team mate in her lap, in the middle of an operation gone horribly wrong … "It seems that the team mate we thought was dead isn't. He's been following me, wearing a Purifier uniform… but he's for help, sort of."


Pepper Potts raises her eyebrows at that. "That's … I'm not sure what to make of that." And then something occurs to her. "Oh, and you asked what I know about Hellfire Club. I've heard the name before because I think Tony might have a membership there. Either that or he was offered a membership. It's been more than a year and I haven't heard anything about it since, so I can't remember right offhand."


"Really?" Brin shakes her head "That's interesting. I have some other acquaintances that are members too. Funny, isn't it? How you can never have heard of something and then all of a sudden … " The small brunette lets out a sigh "We're not sure what to make it of it. Don't know whether the club or any members are directly involved, or whether it's just being used as a front."

For a moment she considers Pepper "If he is, do you think he might be willing to talk to me about what we're seeing?"


Pepper Potts considers before nodding with a shrug. "Probably. Depending on the time of day and his mood. Right now for example. You likely won't get a chance to talk to him until at least this time tomorrow. But once you do, I suspect he'll gladly help you out however he can."


"I'll let you guide that, Pepper. If he would like to talk about it, that would be good." If not, well Brins got a couple of avenues to follow. "Now tell me about what else has been going on. I know you're not just stuck up here in your ivory tower." the small mutant has certainly seen some of the scrapes the redheaded CEO can get into.

Soon, their burgers should arrive and they can eat whilst they catch up.


Pepper Potts catches Brinley up on recent events, including oddly protective ganders, planter-hurling robots, and … well, everyday life with Dummy. When the food arrives, they're notified that Tony's order was taken directly up to him, and that the extra orders for Nick are being kept warm for when Brinley is ready to leave.

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