An Old Kind of Trust

January 31, 2017:

Obadiah calls Tony and Peggy to his office to talk about corporate espionage.

Stark Industries

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Stark Tower.

A power center like few others, it has an independence to it that some might find intimidating. With Tony Stark having collectively thumbed his nose at governments around the world, intent on keeping his technology for himself, it was bastion of superiority. But also, a place of science. Giving. And one of vigilance.

Obadiah, like Tony, had come to see the light - this technology could not be allowed to spread around the world, and here in Stark Tower and in other offices around the world he ran an organization hellbent on curtailing the proliferation of conventional and powered arms. It was a surprising turn for a man who was known to be hard as cold forged steel, and twice and unforgiving.

The meeting he'd set had a dual purpose - both Tony and Peggy had to hear what he had to say - and so he waited at the three o'clock hour, his jacket slung over the back of his chair and his cigar filling the room with the scent of old world, curated Cuban tobacco.

The office itself is spacious, but not by request - it's just one floor down from the floors Tony has made all his own, for ease of access, and that means it's wide and sprawling, with a recessed living area in the center and monitors galore to help filter in world news.

What isn't old world is the music that's playing when the elevator doors open. Is that.. The Weeknd's 'Party Monster'?

WTF

There's a little tick in Obadiah's knee to, as he listens to the very new music, but as soon as he hears the elevator doors chime and open he reaches down to press a button to turn it off, turning around to pull his cigar from his mouth and offer a smile that would seem uncharacteristic for those who do not know him well.

But among those still alive on this world, including his own children, Tony and Peggy qualify as some of the most familiar with Obadiah Stane.

—-

When meeting a man like Obadiah Stane and a woman like Peggy Carter most people would be worried. Most people would dress for it. Most people would know exactly what what they are going to say. Most people would have their ducks all in a row.

…most people are not Tony Stark…

When the elevator dings and the brilliant inventor of the Iron Man suit(who did it all in a CAVE with SCRAPS) steps out, he's…well dressed down would be a kind way to put it. T-shirt with some kind of chibi-death emblazonded on the front of it over long sleeve shirt. His arc reactor perfectly framing the desgin in a halo of light. Jeans that have seen better days…and very fluffy house shoes that look like some kind of dragon.

They light up.

Because at heart Tony Stark is five and this is his house.

"Yo!" He calls cheerfully, his voice that sharp staccato of rapid fire sylibles it usually is. His mind already moving on to the next thought as he strolls into the office. He seems to have brought a pitcher of something cradled in one arm.

Maybe he forgot he was carrying it around.

—-

Perhaps fortunately - or unfortunately for Obadiah - Peggy actually does not know Obadiah Stane personally. She has read quite a bit about him in her research about both the later life of Howard Stark and attempting to know more of Tony Stark. So, what she knows of Obadiah is mostly just his reputation: which is stellar. A good businessman, a good father figure to the abandoned Tony. Everything that Peggy has read has made her interested to meet the man who helped helm Stark Industries before Tony came of age.

And, so it is that she enters Obadiah's offices with a curious look on her face: she doesn't recognize the music. The Peggy that Obadiah may think he was meeting with is quite a bit younger than the more venerable version. She is - in fact - younger than Tony and glances about the room with interest and with the clear eyes of a woman used to hidden doors and fake personalities.

Peggy Carter is about to knock when she follows behind the lit up slippered Tony. There's a bit of a raised eyebrow at his meeting attire - one clearly not entirely on board with it. Then, she smooths her clothes that do not need smoothing and nods a head at both Tony and Obadiah. "Tony. Mr. Stane."

—-

"Ah well. Caught me." He means both the music, and the cigar that he gestures with, reaching over to quench it in an ashtray on his more business-oriented desk before he steps past it and into the little 'living' area. "You'll have to excuse me, one of Tony's new secretaries is always playing the most interesting music and, well. Look, not every part of me has to go the way of the dinosaur. Tony! Glad to see you're wearing those slippers I bought you."

It was the least he could do, after Tony bought him some /amazing/ pajamas. That he never wears. Of course, he's almost brushing Tony aside to welcome their /real/ guest, who seems to have snuck in behind him.

"Peggy Carter, as I live and breath. It's going to take some getting used to, but I'm sure glad you're here. The world is filling up with places where you just can't find that old feeling of trust anymore, and /you/ can always be trusted." He'll lead with a handshake, and side-squint at Tony's… drink? Pitcher? What is he up to?! He'll lead her down towards the couch and chairs seated around the coffee table in the entertaining area.

"Can I get you a drink? Looks like Tony's ahead of the curve. I sure /hope/ that's something Pepper won't object to."

—-

"You know me," Tony replies as he looks for a place to set the pitcher down. "Always prepared! And don't worry, its just iced tea. I'm designing a new brewer in my spare time. Did you know if you use a tiny bit of that element I developed for the arc reactor in it, it increases the effectiveness of caffine in the tea by a hundred and fifty percent? Something like that." Stark rattles on as he looks between the two as he settles the thing down on that coffee table.

"And these are awesome slippers." He adds with a grin. "I think I'm gonna upgrade the lights." He adds after a moment before looking back towards Peggy with a flash of a grin. "And its great to see you again, Peg." A pause. "You don't mind if I call you Peg do you? I mean I used to call…you know…" A pause. "I'm making this awkward arn't I? Can we start over?"

—-

"We're not late are we?" Peggy's upraised eyebrow is a counterpoint to the 'caught me' statement. It's something she's genuinely curious about. Peggy Carter is notoriously punctual. Tony Stark? Well, she's heard rumors about that. "I've heard quite a few jokes about dinosaurs." Especially after her jump to the future. Most of them have to do with her knowing or working with them.

Peggy gives Obadiah an almost surprised smile at his praise. "I have—well, I have heard quite a bit about you, Mr. Stane. Read a bit more. I am afraid I am a bit at a disadvantage here. I take it you may have known me when I was a bit older?" More of Howard's age, that is. "I must say, it's a bit disconcerting to be told that a founding member of SHIELD holds an old feeling of trust." There's a bit of a smirk there. She has heard quite a bit about how SHIELD is considered in this time.

However, she allows herself to be led to the couch and chairs. Settling down in a chair easily, she gives Tony a smile. It's a bit warmer, as she has actually met the man before this. "Peg is quite alright. It's what—" It's what Howard called her. Realizing that may be a bit of a sore subject, she pauses and redirects. "It's what I am used to friends calling me. Whatever makes you feel more comfortable, Tony."

—-

"Not late at all. I'm the one always losing track of time. This new watch Tony made for me tells me all the time how off track I am, but what can I say. Old dog, new tricks and all that. I do my best."

As Tony begins his quick-talking meander down a path paved with The Awkward, Obadiah withholds his wince, instead replacing it with a two-leveled smile that pushes up his cheeks just so. He seems more than touched when Peggy turns what could be an awkward moment into something almost touching, and though he sits perched on one end of the couch, hands clasped together, he still looks taken aback when Peggy mentions The Other Peggy.

In fact, he looks almost speechless, stricken. It's clear that his relationship with the Other Peggy means very much to him, that she may have been a mentor to him in the same way that Howard ultimately was. He wants to tell her how Other Peggy held him up, an iron clad friend who helped him take on the roll of custodian when Tony suddenly found himself without a father, and he suddenly found himself without a best friend.

His smile softens, and he doesn't mention any of it for what it might do to Tony. After all, Obadiah only lost a friend. Tony lost much more. He seems to gather himself, looking to the table, and then he reaches out to hit a hidden control that brings up a holographic display in the center.

"Old trust is what we need right now. I've come across something… something I wanted both of you to see at the same time. Something I couldn't go to SHIELD with, because quite honestly, I'm not sure the SHIELD you built with the grit and spirit only a patriot can have is still in existence."

The holographic display fans out. Dossiers. Files on Stark Industries employees. Each of them deceased, one of them a month ago. The other three, in the last week.

—-

"Peg it is then!" Knowing Tony Stark, he would have totally called her Peg anyway. Its just how he rolls, but its better if she's ok with it too. Since he actually likes her, even if…well…look its complicated! And confusing. And he should just move on to the business at hand.

So he does. Plopping himself into the chair to reach for a glass and start to pour. "Its blueberry." He adds after the tea before he looks up with curiousity twoards just why Obi brought them here.

"Sounds serious," He adds with a little bit of a smirk. Obadiah /usually/ sounded serious. So he didn't quite know what to expect. It wasn't buisness related though, Pepper would be here for that. And it wasn't invention related, Peggy wouldn't be here for that. So it does have his curiousity up…

But the information spreads out in its holographic glory he pauses and that smirk slips off his face. Eyes narrow as he takes in the four dossiers. "…I wasn't told…" Four people. His people. Well Pepper's people but still his.

—-

As Obadiah moves through the different emotions of what she is saying and what it might mean for Tony, Peggy is not exactly looking at him. However, she knows how to watch someone out of the corner of her eye. His range of emotion seem to pass Peggy's test. If she had a test. In fact, his own surprise at her mention the other Peggy is met with surprise of her own. Generally she knows people like to know why she looks so young. There is a quickly thrown apology look before her attention is on Tony again.

"Blueberry?" She is not quite sure what that means. There's a curious look at Tony. There are so many strange acronyms that remind her of Howard, but there is something else there that is unquantifiable. She assumes that is Maria's influence and hopefully steadying hand.

"SHIELD is SHIELD," she tells Obadiah in a rugged sort of loyalty. "It's where I work now. They certainly have grit." However, then, she looks at the holographic display with even more creased eyebrows.

"How did they die?" That's not stated on the report. While her question may be dispassionate, her tone speaks of sympathy.

—-

"No one told you, Tony, because they didn't /know/. The first one, Kelly Anders, looked like a suicide. The other three weren't found right away. Not until today, in fact." Obadiah leans back as the extrapolated view comes into place, and then presses a button on a little pen-like device to switch it over to a video feed. He looks to Peggy then, giving Tony the space to come to grips with this. Because he knows Tony. He knows he'll blame himself to some extent.

"I've been watching Ms. Anders since Tony had his mark two arc reactor stolen and used to power the suit that attacked Stark Industries."

That night was the night that Obadiah found Tony, after men in black stunned him and ripped it right out of his chest, leaving him for dead. If not for Obadiah quickly retrieving the Mark One chest piece at Tony's urging, he'd have been a dead man.

"When we found that suit empty, we knew it was a drone. But what was it doing? What was it after? I'd always thought it was to destroy any facilities that might have continued production on technology to power the Iron Man project. But now I'm convinced more than ever it was sent to destroy our mainframe, and the backup beneath. Which it nearly did."

The video shows the woman repeatedly going in and out of a specific coffee house on different days. Days and weeks and months of footage. Maybe a year's worth or more. Obadiah leans forward again, and looks between them both, concern drawing deep lines across his forehead. "She was using a dead drop at the coffee shop. Under a seat at a table. I didn't catch it until almost two months into the footage. I had thought she was a dead end. Then I had the other end of the drop followed."

The video shifts, a very non-descript fellow in his mid-thirties takes the small package and leaves. The next clip shows him entering the Triskelion at an employee garage entrance.

"I'm not naive, Agent Carter. I know the FBI, the CIA, NSA, and certainly SHIELD want to keep an eye on all the powerful players in the world. Checks and balances. We can all live with that, to some extent. This, is a little more concerning." The final image on the hologram is that of hand drawn arc-reactor specs. Upgrades, closer to what Tony uses now, along with several pieces of armor specs. Outmoded by now, Tony is always upgrading. But this person was stealing. Not from Stark Industries. But from Tony himself.

"I had a single package intercepted. The drops stopped afterwards, and a week ago Ms. Anders apparently kills herself. The other three all had communications equipment and bug out boxes in their homes. All of them apparent suicides." He leaves the full measure of his conclusion hanging. He'll let them all come to their own first.

—-

Tony Stark is full of energy. He always was, even before he put a reactor in his chest. Thats only made the problem worse. Or better depending on who you ask. No time is that more apparent than when he's stressed. He shoots to his feet, unable to remain still as he starts to pace. Eyes drink in the wealth of information infront of him.

This is his fault. Not just because of his designs, but because of his failure to police things correctly. He always knew that people would come for his designs, but he was sure he could lock them down appropriately. No country was within two decades of a suit of armor like his but this.

"SHIELD was stealing? Of course they were. Sounds like something Fury would do?" His eyes snap towards Peggy. "No offence ment to present company." Then back to the papers. "You're sure?" This towards Obi. "Of course you're sure else you wouldn't have brought it up."

He's a bundle of energy, a gathering of raw nerves. His pace snaps this way and that. "JARVIS," he suddenly snaps out. "Lock down the old servers with the special designs. Change the cyper on them, transfer them to new drives and then pull the old ones and get them ready for me to look at." If they were siphoning information from his own drives he'd find out.

"This doesn't make any sense though, if they erased everyone involved then it would mean they were comprimised. Right?" A pause. "I mean I have no idea how spythings work I just watch stuff in movies. But it wouldn't make sence to get rid of an information pipeline, the other three at least don't make sense."

He hates things that don't make sense.

—-

"This wasn't SHIELD." Peggy tells Tony firmly. "They certainly wouldn't kill someone involved with corporate espionage: they would have them disavowed. Especially if this involves the son of one of its creators." While she may be a bit removed from the present day SHIELD, this is something she still cannot exactly allow stand.

"You may have footage of one point to another, but can I assume you have eyes on this package the entire way from coffee shop to Triskelion?" This is something she is sure she cannot condone in her mind: the idea that SHIELD is killing Stark Employees to cover something like this up.

As Tony stands, Peggy does as well. It's hard to not when in the face of his own manic energy. Her head snaps toward Tony as he asks for JARVIS, not realizing that is what he named his help system. The decidedly British, but not Edwin Jarvis voice jars her and she gives a strange look toward the man she might call nephew. Pushing forward, she attempts to keep things business. "SHIELD is a spy agency. They would know people were watching. Or, they would erase all knowledge of it should they have been caught." She hates that she thinks like this at times, but she has to. A shake of her head, a loathing that she is revealing this to Obadiah Stane, a man she may know by reputation but not in actuality. This is what happens when she works with the Starks: emotional compromise. This is why she was labeled a traitor by the SSR for a few days back in 1946. The Starks.

"You said there were others. What do you have on their deaths?"

—-

The worry on Obadiah's face is unmistakable as Tony rises, and when he starts speaking to JARVIS, he rises to, one hand going immediately to his shoulder to steady him. "It's already taken care of. You put me in charge of this, remember? So you could do the great things. So you could do the /hard/ things, and build a suit of armor around the world."

Those last words ring out against the backdrop of faces stacked side by side in hologram form. Faces that smiled when their pictures were taken for their Stark Industries IDs.

Faces that would never smile again.

For a long moment, Obadiah doesn't answer Agent Carter, and she can see the very reason is a reflection of her own disposition: Tony's emotion compromises him.

"It's not your fault. And I don't believe SHIELD did this." He looks to Carter then, and there's no mistaking the conviction in those words. He /means/ it. "But maybe someone inside SHIELD is pulling on strings they shouldn't. It looks more like the work of an individual, and every one of these employees looks like they were compromised. The bug out box, the equipment, it feels like a smokescreen. Anders always looked too nervous." He takes a step back from Tony finally, and holds up a finger, as if he just remembered that she had asked about full video, and the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the others. It's here that he reaches into his breast pocket to offer a small flash drive to Agent Carter.

"Like I said Miss Carter. An old kind of trust. I don't know who might be watching if I walk this into the Triskelion. As invested as I am in keeping this technology out of the wrong hands, something tells me sending my best men in through the front door to conduct a series of aggressive interviews wouldn't be met with a handshake. I'm not spy. I can see between some of these lines. But /this/, this is your wheelhouse. And SHIELD is your family.. as much, maybe more than, Tony and I a-" He pauses, as if forgetting himself, and assuming she takes the drive his hands will find his pockets with a little, terse smile.

It was so easy to slip into familiarity. But this woman didn't know Obadiah, even if he seemed to know her. "We need your help. At first glance, it looks like SHIELD is spying on Tony because they're afraid of him. At second glance, I'd venture to say someone inside compromised some of our people, and have been doing so since well before Tony ever fought his way out of that God forsaken cave.

—-

Tony catches that look from Peggy. An offhanded shrug, a twitch of a smile. "I figured he wouldn't mind." Jarvis was…very much like a father for him. Just like Obadiah was, and it was a blow when the elderly buttler passed on. He had to find some way to honor him, and this seemed….appropriate.

Back to the matter at hand, the inventor sighs. He doesn't want to fight about this, but he knows that Fury is entirely capeable of doing just that. "Fury's secrets have secrets, but alright. Lets assume its not SHIELD. Then its either something who is using SHILED to do its dirty work, or someone that wants me to think its SHIELD. Neither of those things are really fun to think about."

He never stops moving, even when he stops pacing. Always a twitch of a finger, his foot bouncing slightly in place. Never sitting directly still.

"The question is, why do this /now/. If they had an information pipline going they just killed the golden goose. Unless they found a better way to get what they wanted. Not really what I'm liking to think about either."

—-

"If you think Fury's secrets have secrets, why would you believe them so easily caught out? That man has contingencies for his contingencies. If that is the case, there is no way someone catches this on tape without his knowledge." Peggy narrows her eyes and then glances at Obadiah, mimicking Tony's own onus. "No offense." And no offense to the people who died for this secret. It is clear that she believes there is something here worth exploring, but she is not convinced it is SHIELD that is behind it.

"Yes, I know it is not my fault. Nor is it Tony's." Peggy's voice is prim, exact in that manner. While she has a hand in SHIELD, she - at least out loud - seems to have no fear about its actions and how she may be responsible for them. Nor, does she believe that Tony has any hand in this dreadful business. "If someone is after Tony's proprietary scientific research, it seems to me as if they are attempting to frame SHIELD." It's an easy target, after all.

Her eyes glance to Tony - it's clear the man does not trust Fury. Does that mean he does not trust her by proxy? However, as if by either drive or muscle memory, the drive is taken into her palm and grasped. It's hard for Peggy to say no to more information, more intel that may help her and her loved ones when it comes down to it. That has been her best asset: spy, intel gatherer.

She looks to Tony, putting a hand out as if to stop the pacing, calm him slightly. "That is one question," she nods. "The other is what were these other Stark Employees in charge of? Why would they also go missing? If Kelly Anders was the first, they did not get what they were after. Who were these other employees? What might they know that she did not?"

—-

When Obadiah watches Peggy join in the consolation he steps away, as if in thought, his own pace a slow and circular thing. Ever the chess player, he seems to be contemplating the options. "Nothing essential. But all had access, and some had a hand in designing infrastructure for Stark Tower. I don't know the spy business, but I didn't find any unauthorized entries to essential systems. Nothing in any of our secure servers. No physical access by anyone who wasn't authorized. And it's the drawings themselves.."

His fingers snap as Peggy asks the right question, and he moves back over to the hologram, shifting through personal information with his little pen-pointer. "That's what I missed on the first pass through. Each had experience in drafting technical documents. Which isn't odd, we employee a lot of engineers who've done that kind of work." Obadiah looks so disappointed in himself, and then crosses his arms. "Cameras. They were doing it old school, to cut the trail in half. Someone was looking over Tony's shoulder." He points his little pen-pointer at Tony before he finally has a seat and picks up a glass of Tony's blueberry tea. "You're going to have to look for access there. I'd start with the sensors JARVIS uses. You're the only one who looks at his logs, otherwise a security team might have seen it. Which covers some of our end of this mystery. If I had to guess, the other three were doing the same thing. Bits and pieces.. but it's only a guess. The other end, honestly, I just don't know. I'm inclined to agree with Peggy."

It's the first time he's called her that, and he pauses at taking a drink when he does, finally sucking a bit of the hyper-caffeinated liquid over his lip. "It doesn't feel right. To sloppy to be SHIELD, but almost to sloppy to be an effective frame, am I right?" Obadiah looks to Peggy then, as if to bounce that question off of her - to get her honest opinion. What do all of these facts fit?

Multiple leaks.

Multiple compromised individuals.

A thread leading back to SHEILD.

A 'blast the earth' clean up.

"Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. Maybe I should let you work it first." This, to Peggy, before glancing to Tony. Hoping for his blessing. He couldn't go right to SHIELD for obvious reasons. But they can trust Peggy, right?

—-

Peggy's touch seems to settle him down slightly. Ever so slightly at least. Enough for him to take a deep breath and glance between the pair of them. Again that twitch of a smile. "I suppose I deserved that." He adds this time towards Peggy before he nods once.

"JARVIS!"

"Sir?" The crip accented voice isn't quite what Peggy would remember but its close. "We're gonna need to run a diognostic on you buddy, looks like we might have some voyers looking in on all of us."

"Oh my," The synthetic voice sounds very affronted. "That is terribily rude. I shall get right on that, sir."

"None of this really makes sense, and I really hate things not making sense." Which means he's going to slam into this problem repeatedly until it does make sense. "Someone could be out there with a new suit? A different drone you're saying?" He'll have to go over old designs. Work on just what the hell he can do to counter them. He hates having his own tech used against him.

…brings back bad memories.

—-

Old school. That is, basically, where Peggy lives. While she has been integrating herself into the more modern technology, her strength tends to be her ability to think in ways that people don't tend to do anymore. It's something that easily pings across Peggy's thoughts, something she knows she can do.

At Obadiah's information, she nods. "So, the information was from inside the company." She doesn't understand the reference of the call coming inside of the house to make that joke.

"So, what we are looking for is something that all of these women might have worked on, but that has security clearance." It seems clear why she both she and Ton were brought in to investigate. "I am sure this is a ridiculous question, but should we not talk to the authorities? This is certainly illegal." As the woman as a part of a government agency, she has to suggest this course of action.

Obadiah calling her by her by something other than Agent Carter or her last name is met with a quick look: surprise, perhaps confusion a she feels as if she doesn't know him that well. However, she is also used to other people knowing her better than she does by now. The surprise is also overtaking by Tony's yell to JARVIS. It is still a very odd sensation to hear a voice she expects to be the Jarvis she knows and - instead - find an entirely different British accent. It may be similiar, but that only makes it only the more jarring for the SHIELD Agent. There are too many things colliding for her. "Yes. Well. Perhaps…" she pauses, then, spits out the name, "MisThat isJARVIS. If he can look into the delinquencies. I will see what I can find on the side of SHIELD."

—-

For the longest moment, Obadiah looks at Tony in his distress and his sudden call to JARVIS. What can he say or do there? That's Tony's wheelhouse. His playground. He'll find the truth, somehow.

The way Obadiah moves in front of Peggy is that of a man torn, and when his hands come up, to close over the one that holds that flash drive, he gives her a squeeze that denotes more familiarity than they have.

"I keep looking at you and see the face of my friend, years removed. The face of a mentor, who told me the value of protecting a country, a cause, especially after I lost my very best friend in the world. You taught me something else too. Something that, maybe you have not yet come to learn yourself."

His brows lift, and one of those hands goes to Peggy's shoulder. "Keep it close, until you know. The police? They wouldn't know where to start. The FBI? CIA? They'd want to use this as a reason to tear Tony down. Take his suits. Stop.. all of this. Hell, maybe that's the whole idea. I don't /know/. But I know you, Margaret. I know you'll follow this to the end of the Earth, for those who lost their lives already and those who still might. And once you find something, we can act on it together."

He looks like a man who has no one left to turn to. This isn't Tony's forte. This isn't his wheelhouse.

They need /her/.

—-

Peggy holds the drive in her hand and close to her chest as she first looks at Tony and then at Obadiah. Howard trusted him, Howard trusted him enough to make him a trustee to his company, the guardian of his son. Peggy has had strange judgement when it comes to her family and Howard counts as that. So, she takes the drive and secrets it away.

The man torn, the man who dislikes telling this to Peggy - that is something that she would expect of a man Howard Stark Trusted. She will all think about all this later when not under the proverbial gun: not that she thinks that Tony or Obadiah are attempting to put her ill at ease.

"I will," she tells Obadiah. There will be far many more tests she runs on this drive. While she may trust Obadiah, she does not trust the technology he has already said may be compromised.

The words that he tells her are met with a hard to read expression. It's determination, pain and also confusion at his words. The calling her Margaret, though, speaks of the knowledge of her life outside of this meeting is jarring enough as it is. It alludes to a world outside of SHIELD, of something personal. A world she - as a woman outside of time - does not understand at all. It's jarring and the woman looks at Obadiah with surprise and also, for only a flash, dislike. That is not a name she allowed him to call her.

Then, after that, she says a true and firm statement. It's simple: "I will. And when we find out more, we will act."

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