Promotions, Projects, and People

December 08, 2017:

Obadiah Stane summons Sally Stojespal for a meeting, and brings her onboard with his new plan to find and protect new metahumans as well as show the world they're not scary.

Obadiah Stane's office, Stark Industries


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Tony Stark, Phil Coulson, Sloane Albright


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

She'd known who he was of course, at the gala. Obadiah Stane, Tony Stark's right hand man - some say Howard Stark's own as well. When the bombs had exploded, Rusalka Stojespal had done everything she could to keep the old man alive, before finally being pulled away when the paramedics arrived an impossibly infinite few minutes later. She'd had her own injuries, of course, though nothing quite as severe as his, and when she'd finally been released…there had been nothing.

No word. Even discreet inquiries about Stane's condition to Pepper had been brushed aside, and Rusalka had worried. To lose a battle after giving so much was something new to her, and not something she'd wanted to contemplate.

Fortunately, somehow, things had settled - and a message from Stane had summoned her to his side of the Stark Industries building. At least he was alive, she'd been relieved to know. So it was not a long trip to the man's offices, one nervous with what she'd find for his condition. And what it is the man wants to discuss.

A soft knock at the door, announced - she assumes - by the omnipresent AI that helps run the building. "JARVIS, please let Mr. Stane know that I am here? Thank you." And she'll wait outside for him, dressed in her typical dark suit and low heels - SHIELD attire, in a way, just with a fashionable flair. The nerves tend to tighten down, as well; just what is it he wanted to speak with her about?

JARVIS doesn't answer, and the door will open automatically, allowing Sally to see the whole of the office, one that has a certain weight of history to it. Sure, Obi had done business in many different buildings all over the world, but here and now was his most important work.

"Just a minute, drying my hair."

Of which, Obadiah Stane has exactly none. Unless he means his beard. Sally will have time to explore the room if she wants, or even the hologram on his desk, the old man stepping out from the small side room with a towel over his head. Furiously he rubs his scalp dry and then pulls the second towel from around his neck, drying his hands next before he tosses them aside and back towards his bathroom. The only explanation is that he was shaving his head to that perfect shine.

"There's the intern! Come on in, you want a water or something else? I have a full bar around here somewhere. Least I can do for dragging you up to see me on short notice." His jacket is laying across the back of his chair, and somehow, without it, he seems far less imposing.

The office is, a little surprisingly to the Sokovian girl, remarkably familiar. There's plenty of details that are 'wrong' but Stane's choice of decor and the gravitas it brings with it trigger old memories. Good ones. Rusalka slips in quietly, looking around and taking it all in.

"Yes sir!" It gives her a minute to really look it over - the dark wood everywhere, the sculpture, the books, the furniture. The approval in her Sokovian voice is strong. "Baba would feel very much at home here," she finally adds with a smile. Approval, and a little nostalgia. "It is very much like her office in the castle. Alth-"

She was going to comment on the lack of floating holograms in the Stojespal barony before realizing just what it was that was floating there, and the recognition gets a gasp. "Ah, w-water, please yes. Thank you sir." Sally will still be staring at the thing, not getting that much closer to its slowly rotating form. A strange mixed expression on her face, one of frightened recognition as well as analytical concentration.

The Opportunist. So Stane is studying it too, then, just like the others. She manages to break her fixation after he finally arrives,and nods. "Then I ask, you are well correct? Your chest?" One hand reaches up to gesture to where she'd last seen six inches of scarlet-covered industrial tempered glass sticking out of him like an retail store's empty merchandise-hanger at christmastime.

"Oh, that. Yeah, well. Know thy enemy and all that. Though I suppose he's not really my enemy. You can see the clear design parentage. Back when Tony got started as Iron Man, he wasn't thinking about the future. About who might be watching, and how they might take something from him that could haunt him forever. Whoever controls this thing has taken his shield and made it into a sword."

Obi says it all while he's fixing up a glass of water, disappearing around the corner again. There, the sound of a freezer opening and ice dropping into a short glass, and then he opens a bottle of water. Before long, it'll be set in front of Sally, where Obi gestures that she take a seat.

"As for me, well I'm right as rain. No thanks to my security teams, and every bit of thanks to you. Well, you and Tony's private medical facility." His smile is thin but genuine, and when he sits in his own chair he waves aside the hologram so it can disappear into the abyss it came from. "I needed to see the young lady that put herself between me and certain death, and say thank you, properly. To your face."

He leans in then, his expression lined with no small mount of confusion. "Tell me.. just what is it that Tony has you doing these days? He doesn't exactly keep good records. I understand you're with SHIELD but…"

He trails off there, hoping Sally can fill in the gaps.

There's a nod given to his words, the aphorism especially true in this case. Heels click on the floor as she makes her way to it, trying to remember what details she could from the gala and compared it to this reconstruction. "Yes. And..once a measure is developed, it will spread, until its countermeasure is found. Swords begat armor, begat heavier armor…begat guns. Cannon. Horses. Logistics. Mechanization. Aviation." She shakes her head.

"I apologize, my mother - she is an officer, and has a history degree as well. I have absorbed some things, I suppose." She can't help but smirk in apology before looking back to the hologram. There's a small forwn, before mumbling in Ukrainian a faint prase to God that the machine is dead.

It's impressively detailed, that's for sure. Certainly much more than she'd been allowed to see; SHIELD's files on the Opportunist are deeply classified outside of one or two blurry photos. Not that it's that much of a surprise, considering the brain trust present - Sally suspects it wouldn't be hard for Stane, Banner, and Stark to take a single good look at Quill's Milano and reverse engineer it without even stepping aboard.

She'll give them a week.

The bottle of water is accepted gracefully, as is the chair. Legs crossed, she nods and smiles. "Absolutely that is good to hear. I suppose…no, there is nothing like that." Sally can't help blushing a little, being put on the spot like that. "I only did what I could, just…trying to remember training. And…" She swallows, remembering the horrible vision. That it wasn't Obi, but her mother.

"I will not say 'it was nothing,' I think, but sir you are most welcome. I believe you would have done the same…so no thanks are required. But they are appreciated," she adds, taking a drink of water.

Blink. "Mr. Stark? I…am somewhat of an apprentice. I'd signed up for the company's vocational program, the 'Techno Summer' for college students. Mr. Stark chose me, and after summer I spoke with him about continuing. I've learned so much in such a short time, things and fields that would take forever in a regular college. At least, the applied side; I still attend theory classes." She smiles, looking at the water before taking another sip.

A rueful tone colors her accented english. "Agent Coulson would be quite annoyed with me if I abandoned my degree completely, but I could not stop what I do here. And I swore an oath upon my family and myself that I would serve as such." A little dramatic, but she comes from a mindset where one's word is still thicker than tank armor.

"My time with SHIELD is…primarily technical," she adds, fishing out her badge - the bright white 'ENGINEER' across the identity card makes that clear. "I am no agent, but…but I wanted to take what I was learning, what I could do, what I could make and…make the world better. Not for greatness, but for good."

"Ohhhh. Well look at that." Obadiah is not a man who asks for much by way of permission in this office, reaching across his desk to take her badge from her and pull it close, once again dropping back to his chair. His head tilts back just so, thinking on everything she's told him, on her gracious acceptance of his thanks, of her applying like anyone else for one of Tony's side projects and impressing enough to stay on.

"Says it right there. Engineer." His smile draws tight, even as it seems to grow, and he very promptly drops her badge into the trash can on his side of the desk. "Won't be needing that anymore."

There's a heavier sound as leather hits the table, a wallet opened up to reveal a metal badge and accompanying credentials. Here he slides it across, letting Sally see her own face next to the words 'Agent', and with coloring at the bottom that will tell her she now has SHIELD clearance level 4.

"Agent Coulson and I had a little talk about the merits of bravery, about sacrifice, and fortitude under duress. We both agreed that spending so much time babysitting Tony counts for all of those things. Oh, and of course, there was the gala and holding this old man together while you very well should have left me for dead and gotten your other friend to safety." He means the fish friend. He won't call her that here, though.

"You've more than earned it, Agent Stojespal. And with it we'll get you a field office here. Some place you can work on whatever comes down the line from SHIELD."

In fairness, it IS his office. Obi's will commands, and those invited to such are given notice that it is so. Which is why she doesn't comment at all when he takes her badge, ostensibly to take a closer look at the thing. When it ends up getting dropped in the trash however, she sits up a little more and widens her eyes in surprise and questioning.


The sound of leather on the table, the appearance of a new badge. Her face, with a new identity and a promotion. There's a long few heartbeats that are dead quiet, as is her breath, while she listens to the man. Slowly she reaches to the badge, to orient it a bit better, and look over just what it says. And then his words hit a knife-edge in her soul, and Sally looks back up at him, deep blue eyes worried. Questioning.

"I…I could have done nothing else, but. I cannot lie and say that…that I did nothig but that. There was a moment, I am not sure, but…it was as you were not there. Someone else was…and I was so terrified that I panicked, and…tried to flee. So much fear, but…it passed. I have…"

The sound of knives in the street, of flesh rended and blood spilled. The smell of iron and water.

"I have felt like that once only in my life. This time…I thought it was my mother, lying where you were. After you touched my face, and said a name, it…everything transformed. It was so real, and I wanted to flee. To hide, to scream, but then it passed and it was you, Mr. Stane." She shakes her head, only knowing the personal effects of Scarlet Witch's widespread hex.

The promise of a proper office, more than just a side work lab, plus…so much more? It brings a shocked smile to Sally's face. "I would be extremely grateful to you. And Mr. Stark as well of course…and Agent Coulson." Rusalka stands, giving a nod and a proper curtsey of respect, before her eyes harden and she stares at the badge - then at him.

"And I swear once more upon the unyielding honor of the Stojespal family to you, Mr. Stane, that I will make all you have trusted me with…that it will not be in vain," she concludes. Not the best oath…but it was a bit of a hip-shot after all.

"Well, I'm certain everyone there experienced much the same. A vision of the unreal, layered in the worst parts of memories past. Something meant to defeat us. But something that did not. Your devotion is not as common as you think. Don't be humble. You'll have your whole life for that."

A hand reaches out, pressing to the desk, and then he lifts it, showing a list of names, scrolling and scrolling, hero aliases one and all. Oh, and those who think of themselves as villains, marked in red.

"I'm sure you've seen the news, Agent Stojespal. This whirlwind of mutant registration nonsense, all under the guise of protecting people. That's how it always begins, of course. But how do you combat that? Stand in front of those with fear in there eyes, maybe talk to them about equality? Issue some statement about their morality, when all they care about is how much it's going to hurt them, when we're inevitably wrong." His brows lift, and he stands, reaching out to drag names around, pairing up heroes and villains. Odd pairings. Some have never met. Others know each other very well.

"This is how we can save the world, Agent Stojespal. This is how we can take action that those who only know fear can see as a viable alternative to scapegoating. Bring the heroes of the world together. You don't ask your bishop to try and corner a rook. Why ask technopath to try to combat the terror of a villain like that Spider-Man fellow who attacked a police officer so recently?

He pushes the hologram sidelong, so he can see his guest. "The important thing is this - good people on this side of the equation making sure there's no avenue for abuse. That no one can use this little program to hunt anyone down, or order them into something they don't want to do. If we move forward, I'm going to need more of those good people. People like you."

Obi mentions the hallucination was widespread, and she stares - it's the first time she'd even heard that suggested. Something SHIELD, or the news, is playing tight to their chest with, and there's a moment of annoyance at the secrecy. That moment lasts long enough to realize that said secret getting out…could be disastrous. The rest of his words get a nod; even while humble is low on the word-count for her mental awareness there's still a dignity she was born with.

"Yes, I have. Agent Albright's statement, among other things." Ahem. Well, at least her comments on the Barnes case didn't get nearly as far as they could have. She frowns, instead, looking close at this list of name. A couple she recognizes, Albright's name of tem of ofrse. The presence of it on the good side of the quation gets a smile.

She'll look back up to see his gaze, nodding absently at the spider-an comment and instead thinking of what he'd said about equality. "Yes. I…assume you know the history of Sokovia and Ukraine, at least…the basics?" One does not accumulate a library like this without at least some awareness of the world. "Registration, protection…seclusion, and finally annihilation.

"And not just…the Last War. Before it as well. For a very long time, things like that have gone on…" Sally takes a thought and composes herself. Then looks up and meets his eyes finally, determination surging through the girl.

"Mr. Stane, Sloane…Agent Albright, she is my best friend. When she went missing some months ago, absolutely I was torn up searching for her. Finally she returned, but…different. Only here, though." She pinches her arm. "Only here. She was still my best friend, and is so today. I would not be alive, would not be here without her. I would shed my heart's own blood before turning her away, because…because that is how I was raised to be. People are people. And Ms. Albright…is one of mine. If anyone were to be part of this…she must be."

Sally thinks back to the nightmare of the Terrigen mists, and nods. Whatever sort of must include those who are being responded against.

Stane listens along as Sally describes her country and it's history, and his silence shows that he knows enough. The mention of Sloane brings a lift of his brows. "She's on the list for a reason." His expression shows an earnest honesty that does not occur very often in his meetings. There are to many layers, and the slow tilt of his head, half a nod as it were, is an affirmative. "The idea is to bring as many heroes into the fold as we can. Keep them on call, ready to respond. Not all at once, of course, but when some Fire Demon turns up in Times Square, I want a young woman who can command water to put out it's flames. Bringing this kind of response to the forefront, assuring people that we have a plan to deal with not only real threats but those that are only phantoms in their minds will address this whole question of mutant registration once and for all. There's no reason to catalog mutantkind if you can detect a mutant power via satellite and send the appropriate countermeasure to investigate. And think about how many kids are out there right now, like your friend, not knowing that they too will change."

He pinches his own arm when he says the word change, mimicking her action. "We should be there for them when it happens. Help make sure no one gets hurt, give them good role models so we don't add to this red list here, a list that will shrink when it realizes the entire world is aligned against them."

He extends his hand across the desk, the gravity of his plan heavy in his eyes. "Can I count on you, Sally, to help me save the world?"

She listens closely, nodding. Lists like this were knowledge of your own capabilities, and that which you faced. A racing driver knows their car. A good racing driver knows their track. A great racing driver knows the other drivers. Their skills, their weaknesses, where to pass and where to tail.

Sally nods slowly, before leaning forward slightly to extend her own hand to take his. It's a little more callused and battered than might be expected for a noble-born college girl, but blame that on the hands-on engineering…and the half-built Ferrari race car in a storage room at the school. Her grip is strong, though demured properly.

"Not just to save it. To make it better, sir." Idealist. Then again, without them one achieves nothing. Letting go and settling back, Sally glances around the office again for a moment. She doesn't see anything obvious, but is curious."May I ask of you a personal question, sir, that night? The gala?"

The old businessman's grip is likewise rough, though one might imagine it's just from time. Time and doing business in places that don't always have boardrooms to talk in. The Soviet Block was not a place for men who could only wear suits and wield pens. When he pulls his hand back, that question about a question comes, and though his expression is guarded at first, he does not seem to take offense at the idea.

Reaching back for his jacket, he pulls it on in a singular motion, walking around the desk to encourage Sally to rise and follow him towards the door. "Well you've had my blood on your hands, can't imagine how I could say no. What's on your mind?"

Somewhere behind Obadiah footage plays of Spider-Man webbing a police officer. The underlying text? 'Accident or Assault or an Officer?'

Oh that one isn't going away for awhile.

There's a soft laugh at the joke. "Yes sir. I…when I was, bozhe moy - my god this sounds strange. When I was ah, trying to keep you alive, you said…someone's name, I think. Wendy? And said something else to them, as well."

Sally's eyebrows furrow a little as she tries to remember. "The explosion was so loud, I could hear…almost nothing clearly. Like listening to a conversation underwater." She shakes her head. "I thought…that you wanted me to tell someone something, but. I could not understand what it was."

It might very well have been his final request on this earth. That she'd have been left unable to fulfill it rankles a little, and demands the apology. And perhaps…the second go-round. "This person, I think Wendy, did you…they are well, and there is nothing left?" Left unsaid from a critical moment.

"I never got to say things to my father when he…died, so." Knives flash in a remembered street. "I did not want you to, ah…share that same fate."

There is a moment of conflict there in the deep, dark psyche of this man who can wear two faces. As with all things, the game of evaluation, of playing one's soul on a sleeve can bring dividends. But like in chess, the game is rarely on the board. He must decide what Sally can no.

His gaze drops, and clearly it weighs on him, finally slipping his hands into his pockets. "Whitney. She is well, yes. As far as our goodbyes, well. There's only so much one person can do in an equation that has two parts. As for the rest, honestly. I can't remember much after I asked my JARVIS client to kill command my electronics."

Perhaps that's what the word was, a password?

"It was all instinct. I must have thought it was a kidnapping attempt. Something I've.. well. Corporate security training. Something they drill into you when you handle sensitive material. But things are easily replaced. That part didn't matter."

Silence hangs in the air as he considers her words, and how maybe he hadn't do enough to make things right with Whitney.

"Well. I hope that helps answer your question. But do yourself a favor, don't spend to much time worrying about me. You worry about Tony. He's doing far more dangerous things, and almost certainly in more irresponsible ways than I might. Keep an eye on him for me."

In the end he deflect, more than a little, and clearly the truth behind Whitney is not something he wants to discuss in full.

Whitney. Ah. "I understand, then. I am glad it was…nothing bad." Kill his electronics…? And then the explanation comes further, and she can't help but giggle a little. "I ah…was recently treated to a rather inhospitable boat ride by way of the same kind of people. I understand."

How fortunate she'd been kidnapped herself and can find a mutual connection there…or so she thinks. At the very least, it's an 'understanding' that will do for now. "It does, sir. I did not mean to pry, simply…ah, I dislike leaving unfinished questions."

Engineer mindset.

And then she gives a cynical laugh to his comments about Stark. "Absolutely I will do so. Both eyes. He can be…a handful or three, I suppose, and certainly needs others looking out for him. And…" She shrugs a little - Obi's probably already heard the story of Stark's fancy jet plane project and how it turned out over Sokovia.

"I owe him much for protecting my home and my people. To look out for him and defend him from himself? Consider it done." She can sense the finality of the man's words, though, and the subtle traces of their meeting coming to an end.

Sally stands, gathering her new badge nodding gently before speaking. "I thank you again for the promotion, sir. I will do all that I can to be worthy. For a better future, yes? And…if there were nothing else…" She'll leave him to his office, of course, and hit the road.

If she's going to be watching over Tony full time, she's going to need that box-set of each Supernanny season.

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