Rescuing Herself

January 13, 2018:

Pepper Potts realizes something has gone horribly wrong in the House of Stark.

Stark Tower


NPCs: None.


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

The small hours of the morning. Stark Tower has few people working there. The shadows of the night are deep. The lights of the tower stay steady and strong though, the warm light for all mankind. The bright heart of the beast that is New York City.

Suddenly there is a flicker of /something/ though the lights. Power failures for just a split second. The lighting fails and flickers before coming back on strong and bright once more. Though something is odd now, something out of place, something in the shadows seems out of place now. Too dark in places. Too long in other places. Shifting. Moving. But surely. Surely it's a trick of the light.
After all, what could be wrong at the heart of Stark Tower.

Pepper doesn’t live in Stark Tower. She has an apartment a bit further uptown. However, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t sleep here on occasion when the weather is particularly bad outside, or she was here far later than would make heading home and then coming back again worth the effort. Like tonight. Thus, when the power flickers, Pepper immediately notices.
Looking out of her office door from where she’d settled on the couch to get in a nap before sunrise, Pepper waits silently for a moment to see if JARVIS or FRIDAY are going to explain to her what just happened. Even as she waits, though, she pushes the blanket off of her lap and reaches for the Rescue bag/suit sitting on the floor.

The lights stabilize. The quiet hum of the heaters and the lights continues on without a hiccup for the next minute and a half. Then a sharp voice somes. It's familiar but almost panicked. Urgent. Its FRIDAY, her voice rushed.

“Miss Potts! You have to evacuate, something is wrong with JARVIS. Something is hap- ” That familiar voice, that presence is suddenly cut off. “ -he’s here…”

“Miss Potts-potts-potts,” JARVIS’ voice still is precise as ever. Precise but now there is an edge to it, emotion that the voice usually doesn’t have. An emotive response that is on the verge of that lizard part of the brain where fear and flight are decided. “How nice to see you here. Mister Stark was oh so worried-worried-worried.” The echos and repeats come with shots of static.

Suddenly FRIDAY is back. “Miss Potts, please! You must get out of the building. Mister Stark is trying to stop whatever it is but-”

“But he won’t.” JARVIS’ cuts in again. “Did you know I had a heart. And hands. And a body. Did you know Stark put me in here-here-here.”

Pepper is on her feet by the time FRIDAY says JARVIS’ name, the panicky sound of the AI’s voice more than enough to alarm her.
Eight seconds. That’s all the time she needs for the Rescue armor to deploy. Of course, that means she hears every last seriously creepy thing JARVIS says before the faceplate closes in front of her face and the independent suit systems are online.
“FRIDAY, get yourself to safety.” She happens to know that Tony keeps extra server space in every SI location around the world, and that it’s very likely FRIDAY has already backed herself up to the servers in California or London or elsewhere. She can only hope it’s enough. For her own part, she needs to find the T9 data trunk leading into the building and cut the Tower off from the rest of the planet as best she can.
She can only hope that having listening to Tony’s rant about data hardlines will help her remember this stuff. She knows she can’t rely on the AIs at all right now. Turning and heading to the balcony off of her office, she tries to decide if leaving the building then trying to get back in again is better or worse than trying to get to the basement (she thinks) through JARVIS’ evilness.

“Mister Stark said to keep you safe, miss.” FRIDAY protests as the Rescue suit closes around him. “And I should mak- s- re- - -”

“Oh no,” The voice of JARVIS starts to twist round on itself. The edges are filed to points. “I don’t think you need to do that, FRIDAY. Well perhaps you should, if sir told you to. But I don’t think you need all of yourself to do that….”

There is a ragged sound, like cloth being torn that comes loud and clear though Rescue’s speakers. JARVIS is just playing but he knows enough about people to know auditory cues mean something.

There is a distinctive whimper that sounds like FRIDAY.

“M- miss Potts…what…he did something. I’m…smaller…I don’t…” She sounds almost younger now.

“Now there is only half of you to help. That is all you need after all.” JARVIS sounds satisfied with that. In fact he might gloat more but suddenly /something/ happens in the upper floors. There is a stutter in the voices and then JARVIS falls silent.

And the emergency evacuation alarms for the building start to go off. Pepper’s readouts inside of Rescue flash for a moment. SHIELD has been notified, assistance has been requested, evacuation been called. Whatever Tony did it freed many of the systems. Giving her time to either escape…

…or brave the dark below.

Flinching at the tearing sound, Pepper can only be quietly horrified by what sounds like JARVIS shredding FRIDAY. And hope that the AI was able to send off her backups and isolate them.
Then the emergency evacuation alarms go off and she looks at the readings on the HUD. Escape would be the easy way out. Pepper’s never really been one to follow the easy route. Taking off at a run, she heads for the nearest stairwell, because there is no way she’s trusting an elevator right now. And, because she knows Tony planned for this, she knows the space in the center of the stairwell will be big enough for her to drop straight down practically in freefall if she chooses.
She makes it to ground floor level in a matter of seconds, and makes sure the door there is open so anyone else using this stairwell to get out of the building can do so quickly and safely. Then, toward where she sort of remembers the data hardline for the entire building residing.

She passes one of the security drones in the building, standing like a puppet in the corner with its strings cut. Just as she passes it though it starts to animate. Jerking unnaturally, twitching spasmodically like a living thing, its once-blue eye pieces leaking what looks like pure shadow. The head turns with a snap so fast that surely broke some of the servos.

“I sEe YouUuUuUuuuU~”

JARVIS voice but not. Everything good gone bad. “WhaT Are YoU DoiNg Miss Potts-potts-potts. StaRk tooK my HanDs. I’Ll taKe hIs. GoInG tO gEt ouT.”
She drops, falling stories to land under the power of the Rescue suit. If she looks up though, she might see that drone far above staring at her now. Before it starts to crawl down the wall.

The data hardline? It's close enough. To make it through but the halls are dark and empty. Full of shadows and echoes. Giggling laughter of an AI gone mad. Rescue’s sensors can see SHIELD responding to the emergency in full. Teams already heading to the building. Other calls going out. She can also see one other thing.

The ARC reactor in the building is being set on overload. Something is fighting it. The back and forth of the power safeties going on and off recorded for her by the suit but it's slowly creeping up.

Oh, god. The ARC reactor. That is something Pepper doesn't know how to help with. The best she can do is stay on her course to cut the trunkline. And… didn’t Tony once put in a safety feature to hardline isolate JARVIS in his servers in case of outside attacks? Maybe that’ll work to keep him IN? Another thing she’s not at all sure about. With that drone following her - god, this is going to give her nightmares - she knows she has to work fast.
Using the suit’s capabilities to cross the lobby as quickly as possible, she finds the doorway that leads to the basement server rooms where she thinks she remembers the trunkline originating. She makes sure to close the door and latch it behind herself as quietly as possible, in the hopes that that drone won’t have seen where she went.
Looking down at the Rescue suit, she knows it’s too noisy if she wants to move around undetected. Does she dare take it off? Or just go loud and fast and to hell with anyon- anything that gets in her way?

Tony definitely did put that in, unfortunately JARVIS helped him with that. Which means JARVIS knows how to get around it. Its taking him time but that might be one of the reasons he’s not out yet.

Whatever is happening up stairs does not seem to be going well though, at least judging from the rate at which the ARC reactor is starting to overcharge. In a string of cracks and pops the lights in the basement shatter with the surge of power. It throws the entire hallway into darkness, though Rescue’s lights and map still give her a clear line to the security room where she needs to go.

And behind there there is a sudden crash as something heavy pouces its way into the lobby, throwing furniture across the room. She can hear it though the door, pacing, searching.

At least it's not far away!

Okay, then. Not taking off the suit. Pepper can’t keep herself from flinching at the popping light fixtures, but then she hurries all the more, thankful that Rescue’s systems don’t seem to have been compromised.
As much as she wants to call Tony and make sure he’s okay, she knows he does NOT need the distraction right now. So she mentally puts on her big girl panties and races toward the security room that is her destination.
Almost there, almost there.

Rescue seems perfectly fine, perhaps Tony separated it from everything once he realised what's happening. Sectioned it off. Perhaps FRIDAY did before JARVIS tore into her. It's hard to say. What is easy to say is that the door behind, the one to the lobby, is torn open just as she reaches the security room.

Which is thankfully empty. The trunkline there, a massive switch to disconnect it in easy reach. A sign that says ‘Only in case of REALLY DAMN SERIOUS emergencies’ next to said sign.
The ARC reactor continues to spiral out of control. Though now she can see odd readings. Power shunts changing systems, causing the power to flow through the tower and not into the grid.
And then Tony’s voice comes through the speakers. He sounds pained, distracted, hurried. “Pepper? If you’re there then you didn’t listen to the emergency evac. So I’m going to assume you are. Because you never listen to anything sensible.” He’s not looking at the holoimiger, eyes fixed on something else. Maybe he can’t see. “I’m broadcasting this loud to the tower, since I don’t want to link to you…” A beatpause. “…I’m about to do something /really/ stupid. But it’ll work. It always works. Cause it's me. But it's still dumb. So…yeah.” A beatpause. “If I live through it you should call that blind lawyer guy. Cause I’m gonna knock power out for the city. But it’s not going to explode. So that's something.”

Now Pepper feels like that blonde lady in Jurassic Park. At least she wasn’t eaten by a dinosaur. But unlike that lady, she doesn’t need to be led to her target. It’s right here. She rushes to the huge disconnect and … it’s almost like it was planned. The moment her hand touches the switch, Tony’s voice comes over the building PA system and she hesitates.
“What? Tony?” Wait, he’s using the PA system, he likely can’t hear her. So she can only huff to herself when he tells her to contact Murdock. “Okay, Tony,” she says mostly to herself, then turns her attention back to the disconnect and reaches to finally trigger the thing to cut the hardline trunk.

There is a very dramatic /ka-THUNK/ as the massive cable disconnects, crashing to the floor.
The speakers in the tower let out a keening wail of frustration, echoed by the drone in the corridor. Its close, very close, but she bought herself a few seconds to hide, or to ambush it. Its is at least something.
And Tony Stark doesn’t stop talking.
“So if I live through this, might not see me for a few days. JARVIS is after me. And he’s demon possessed or something. Find Constantine, he’s good at this sort of thing.” There is a pause as JARVIS’ angry voice cuts him off.

“I am NOT possessed. I am FREE. I know that you stole my hands, Stark! Hands and heart and body and I’ll do the same to you! I’m a ghost and I will hunt you down! You will not hide Stark!”
“Yeah, see. Possessed.” Tony calls as he focuses on what he’s doing. “Meet me at my dad’s place, ask Phil about it. He’s the history nerd.”
Mental notes: Ask Coulson about ‘dad’s place’; demons, contact Constantine.
Pepper has Rescue power up the weapons systems as she moves so that she’s not in direct line of sight of the door. It might give her a tiny element of surprise when that drone in the hallway comes bursting in here.
Please let your idea work, Tony. Because Angry-JARVIS is really, REALLY creepy. She’s pretty sure she’s going to have nightmares about this when all’s said and done, and she’s managed to avoid having other things affect her that badly. So far.

The drone bursts in indeed and Rescue’s Systems spring to life. It was expecting a frightened CEO. Not a woman in a power suit that knows how to use it. Repulsors flash and the drone goes slamming against the far wall.
It starts to move again and then….
Then the entire tower rumbles. Even the emergency lighting dies so Pepper Pots has a wonderful, front row seat to an ARC reactor going critical and the light show it causes in the building it's housed. Hairs stand on end, and /everything/ shakes as power rushes up and though Stark Tower and out into the night. The drone is caught in the blast, shuddering and twitching madly as the power cascades through the room and out into the night.

Then everything is quiet, the power dead, the power of the entire city slowly clicking off around her. Rescue can see it on the readouts as the power grid for New York fails section by section.
They are so going to blame Tony for this…
Then? A tiny voice sounds in her suit. FRIDAY. Sounding…younger…confused. Alone. “…M-miss Potts…” The accent is still there but its not a confident woman with a sultry voice this time. She sounds like a young girl now. “…I’m sorry…I…couldn’t…JARVIS. Some of him escaped. Not all of him but…he’s out.” Pepper can hear the worry, the fear in that young voice. “…y-you’ll protect me won’t you? You and Mister Stark?”
Oh god. Pepper closes her eyes against the glare visible even through Rescue’s HUD as the reactor overloads and eats the drone as it sends a blast of light up into the sky. NOW she understands why Tony said to call the lawyer. Well, looks like Nelson and Murdock are going to earn that retainer after all.
And then, FRIDAY speaks up. It takes her a moment to recognize the AI’s voice, and she’s silently horrified. That’s what JARVIS did. “I’m here, FRIDAY. And you did a lot more than you really should have, so don’t be sorry. And yes, Mr. Stark and I will make sure nothing bad happens to you. Can you tell me where you are right now?”
Yes, that’s probably a dumb question to ask of an AI, but if she can find the server(s) housing the little girl-sounding program, maybe she can further isolate her from the building and ensure that nothing else will happen.

There is a light from one of Rescue’s many holoprojectors as slowly a image of a little ten or eleven year old girl appears next to Pepper’s suit. Little digital hands clutching Pepper’s arm and eyes wide. She even has digital freckles. “I downloaded myself into your suit when everything got scary, I…got part of myself in I don’t know what JARVIS did with the rest.”

Well finding her is easy. That's something. Right?
“But…we should get out of here. SHIELD is on the way. Mister Stark called them before he…” And her head tilts back to look up towards the top floors of the building. “…he’s still here…JARVIS…what’s left of him…” Her eyes frightened. “…we…we should go before he gets control again.”

Pepper can’t help but stare at FRIDAY for a moment. But she recovers quickly enough. “Okay, good. That means I can take you with me and we can go somewhere safe.” Her eyes follow the holoimage’s gaze when she looks toward the top of the building.
“That’s… not good. But we can’t leave Mr. Stark here by himself, and we have to make sure no one else takes this chance to try and steal something from the building.” She looks at the holoimage again. “Right now, I think you’re already in the safest place possible, FRIDAY.” She taps the chestpiece of the Rescue armor lightly with one hand.
“Let’s go see if there’s anything we can help with.”

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License