Of All the Bars in the World

January 14, 2018:

Emma tracks down Tony Stark. Like most of Tony's days lately, it… doesn't really end well.

Upstate New York

A Dilapidated Barn That Happens to Be Housing an Old SSR Bunker

Characters

NPCs: Evil JARVIS (GM'd by Tony Stark)

Mentions: Phil Coulson, Obadiah Stane, Sebastian Shaw

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

It’s late. Very late.

Or very very early, depending on your perspective.

It’s only a little past midnight when a sleek, black helicopter descends from the grey sky and sinks low into a field blanketed in the thick and heavy snow that has plagued New York. It’s lights shine, bright and piercing through the diminished visibility.

Then a door on its side is pulled open and something just as white carefully climbs out and sinks into the knee-high snow, but it’s hard to tell that from any real distance. She waves the helicopter off.

Emma, despite her nom de famille, doesn’t particularly care for the cold. She doesn’t despise it—her Massachusetts upbringing stripped her of such nonsense—but liking it is beyond her. Particularly when it threatens to creep into the very expensive insulated leather pants she’s wearing at present, and soaks the fur trim on her platform-heeled knee-high boots and the fur lining of her duster. Beneath the brim of her mink cloche hat, the telepath narrows her eyes.

She mutters darkly. “You’d best be here.”

She says that to herself, mostly, as though she didn’t know.

As though she hadn’t found that infuriatingly, painfully brilliant inferno of consciousness herself through her recreational impairments of the night, aided by her own technology lurking in the basement of the Hellfire Club. And now that she’s on the ground and far more sober, it’s easier. There are few bodies to sort through. Fewer thoughts to crowd and compete for her attention.

So, she closes her eyes, and she lets her mind search out his. So long as he didn’t find a way to actually block her telepathy, there will be the quiet murmur of her thoughts among his: «Tony?»

A field and a farmhouse. Old enough to be falling down. Disused enough to be covered in snow. Someone’s grandfather’s grandfather’s place. Just a dot in the middle of upstate New York that no one even gives a second look too. Even on the records, the titles, the licenses, there isn’t anything tying this little spit of land to anything doing with the Stark family. Not to mention its far enough out in the middle of nowhere to lack all the niceties of internet and cellphone reception. Why the hell would Tony Stark, the man whose life is connected by wire and powered by technology, come out here in the middle of an ice storm.

The barn is quiet, one door hanging open and a shattered padlock lying below it covered in snow.

However…

There is a feeling as she reaches out. A start of surprise can be felt. A familiar flood of thoughts and information, blazingly fast and going every which way at once. Out of that stream of consciousness though words form, float up, directed and meaning to be easily read.

«Emma?» There is a pause. «Did you just land on my roof?»

«If you’re underground,» Emma replies, even as outside she begins trudging in the direction of the barn, the only structure of note here, «it is a distinct possibility.»
There are a few drifts that send the blonde down to her hips in snow, and it slows her down as she moves through the stupid blizzard and its stupid deposits all over the field. Eventually, though, she does get to the doors and she is breathing heavily for the effort of it as she moves to get inside.

Thank God, the doors are already open because the drifts are already setting up against the old wood there, too, to pin them in place. Snow is the worst. Well, maybe not the worst. But it’s awful, to be sure.

«Could you possibly have found a more dilapidated hole to den up in, Stark?»

«Possibly. But I wasn’t exactly looking to entertain guests.»

The inside of the ancient building is full of mouldering hay and decaying boxes. The smell of that damp rotten wood fills the nose as the building itself creeks and shakes overhead. It seems about to fall over at any second.

The ground though shows something odd, a set of crates has been shifted roughly aside. Shoved by something great great strength carelessly against the far wall. Revealed under that debris is a large trap door. Old. Metal. Still the strength in the portal is evident and the faded writing on it:

Strategic Scientific Reserve. The eagle of the SSR still visible under dust and grime.

The portal itself shudders for a moment as ancient machinery whirrs to life, pushing it open for her. Which is as much as an invitation as anyone is likely to get.

Stairs lead down to where electric lights reflect off brick walls that time has passed by. Stepping down those stairs is as if one went back in time. To the forties and fifties. Where spy organizations dueled each other over secrets in back alleys the world over. Pictures hang on the sides of the corridor of agents long dead…

And some not so long dead as the picture of one Peggy Carter still hangs on the wall.

It opens up into a long bunker of a room. Feeling even older than the forties, this? This feels like it was once a speakeasy. Where men and women gathered to celebrate during the dark time where alcohol was outlawed. There still is a full bar running the back length of the room, period decorations on the hardwood and mirrors.

There are a few more modern touches, thankfully for her temperament its actually warm in here. Comfortable. A computer and a gaggle of high tech tools sit in one corner, obviously recently used.

In a corner sits an Iron Man suit, set up on a chair. Wearing an ancient fedora that Tony found somewhere. Holding a sign thats says ‘I’m with stupid’. Its hooked up to a dozen power cables, and might just be where all the power for this place is coming from.

And behind the bar, dressed in blue jeans and a sleeveless shirt, right side of which is torn open and covered in bandages and blood, is Tony Stark himself. Looking like he hasn’t slept in a week, never mind it's only been less than a day.

“Of all the bars, in all the world, she had to walk into mine…” He drawls out. “…I have no idea why but I’ve always wanted to say that.”

As the building creaks overhead, the blonde casts it a dubious glance. Emma does not relish the possibility of being buried alive. Did that once. Wasn’t great.

But thoughts and the invitation of a door opening spur her onward.

Lead her down.

For Stark, it might have the added warmth of nostalgia. Of familiarity.

Emma can’t help but think to herself that she’s fairly certain that this is how a horror movie starts. Still, she cautiously continues onward until she’s in front of one wayward inventor and her arms—made thick by wool and fur—cross with a heatless mimicry of agitation. Her pale gaze, having taken in the room upon entering it, levels at him with one eyebrow lifting upwards and disappearing under the brim of her hat.

Her lips turn downwards at his appearance. And then her head slowly shakes in shallow disapproval as she takes a deep breath and lifts her gaze to the ceiling and then back to him. “What on earth are we to do with you, Anthony Stark?”

“Love me?” Stark replies with a smirk and a shrug. A shrug that turns into a wince as he twinges his shoulder. “You know, giant evil shadowy magic demon wolves hurt. Just so you know. In case you want to ever try being bitten by one.” He informs her as he leans against the bar.

“I’d ask how you found me, but I think I know. You cheat.” A grin at that. “You cheat, and Phil is a history nerd. So he understood my message. I suppose that works out. Yeah, sorry to say that you are /not/ the first to find me.” A beat pause. “Though I was hoping not too many people would find me. It’s kinda better that way. Since I now have a demon possessed AI to deal with.” Again that pause. “Did I mention today I hate magic? I really hate magic.”

Love him? Emma makes a show of reviling the thought, scoffing for his benefit. “I would love you, darling, but I believe it’s a matter of public record that I don’t love anything but myself. I’ve spent the better part of ten years cultivating that, and it would be a shame to waste a decade.” The scoff helps to mask the concern that threatens to make itself too transparent, although she can’t quite strip it entirely from her eyes. They narrow in inspection.
She ever so graciously ignores the part where he calls her genetics a cheat. Magnanimous, isn’t she?

“I’m not a fan of magic myself,” the blonde agrees with a shrug of her shoulder, the herald of her starting to unbutton her coat and reveal the thick white turtleneck beneath, as she continues on. Her feelings on the matter of magic should hardly be a secret anymore. “Although, if Mister Coulson was here, I take it to mean that he’s patched you up? What in the world happened, Tony?”

The amusement fades as she starts to cross the room and pull the fur cloche from her head, setting it aside to she can try to fluff damp and flattened curls back into something reasonable.

“Shadow demon wolf, I wasn’t kidding about that.” Stark replies as he carefully moves around the bar, reaching for a bottle and a pair of glasses. “And yes, Phil patched me up. We hatched out a plan, then he took off again. I’m pretty sure he was mad at me for frying his flying car, but I didn’t know he landed on the roof when I set everything to blow.”

He’s more talkative even than normal, which is a sign he’s been awake for way too long. When he sits there is a weight to it, a shell shocked quality that the man never has. Dragging at him, shoulders hunched forwards eyes staring off at nothing for a second before they focus back on her.

“Something broke in, something magic, and something to do with Jane Foster. Went right to her lab, and knew what it was doing. Used some kind of quantum wave to infect JARVIS with a techno-demonic virus and he went mad. Tried to kill me. Blow up New York. You know just a normal day at the office.” There is more obviously. There is always more. But Tony seems more interested in pouring than in providing details.

“I decided it was better if it just blew me up than the city so I fried Stark Tower to stop the overload, which still knocked power out to the city so I’m sorry about that. Thought it was better than the alternative. JARVIS is still infected though, he did something to FRIDAY and SIRIN. Got into all of my suits. So I had to blow them up before they could infect anything else.”

His suits. His life's work. All gone except for the one in the corner.

“I think I need a drink again just thinking about that.”

“Wait, wait,” the telepath tells him, a hand lifting up to physically signal the request. “Jane who? Mister Coulson’s car… The flying one?” Oh, that probably really didn’t go well. And she’s still not sure about this whole demon wolf shadow…. whatever.

A lot of it, really, sounds like babble. But the destruction of Tony’s suits. That is something that really doesn’t need explanation. Unfortunately, there is not a whole lot that Emma can say or do that seems sufficient for the Herculean task before her: trying to find the correct expression of sympathy.

“Oh. Oh.” She has gotten caught up to the suits part of the conversation, clearly, a beat or two behind and the comprehension dawns and her brow furrows. “I’m so sorry.” She can drink with him, at least. She’s good at that. She’s spent a lot of the evening drinking, sobering… So what’s one more for the count?

Simple note is that there is no expression of sympathy possible. He had to blow up his life's work to save the city. He did it without a second thought, without even hesitating. He did that because under all the booze and the women and everything else, Tony Stark is a man that can’t afford to lose anything else. Anyone close to him.

He comes out of that slumped posture in a moment, waving away her words and her sympathy. “Eh they were all old models anyway. I was going to make more. I always make more.” The repression is an art form to him. He’s practiced it for decades. Push it down. Focus on the problem, then break down later. In private. When no one can see.

Yup. That sure is the secret for a healthy mind.

“Jane Foster, Bucky’s girlfriend? Wifeish type person I guess. Who is apparently missing.” A pause. “So is Bucky.” A longer pause. “Which means that they both might be brainwashed. Again. Its apparently a thing.” He pours the bourbon, not paying his usual attention to it. Just wanted it in the glass so he can gulp it down. “Brilliant in the field of quantum fields though, which is how it got in. Through her lab. It got into JARVIS…”

His creation. His friend.

“I don’t know what happened but it's magical in nature, not just technological. I could have dealt with that.”

“Ugh.”

That simple expression of Emma’s abject disgust with the whole situation really says galaxies more than she can really form words to explain. Her eyes close and her entire face contorts with the depth of it.

But there’s bourbon. And so, closing the last of the distance, the woman moves to pick it up and at least join Tony in that small bit of comradery. “Well, I have to hand it to the universe. It managed to combine two things that I really try to keep at arm’s length as much as I can. How glorious.

She lifts her glass to clink it against Tony’s, whether it’s empty because she’s too slow or not.
“Well. I suppose that explains the deep, dark hole.”

“What? Worrying about me and cold?” Tony quips easily towards her. That smirk is back, though it's tinged with exhaustion. “But yeah. That's why I came out here…one of dad’s old storage facilities. I mean hell I was a disappointment to him but I did listen on occasion.” There is a gesture around to the interior of the bunker.

It's been kept up. Some few bits of modern conveniences. Running water. Air conditioning and heating systems. Though the touches are minimum, it still seems a place out of time.
“No cameras, no internet. No nothing. Makes it harder for JARVIS to track me down.”

At least that was the plan.

Emma’s earpiece chooses that moment to buzz. For a moment she might think it's just the pilot. Then it activates without her choosing it and a voice that is familiar and yet not all at once slides from the tiny speaker system. “Oh, Miss Frost,” JARVIS’ voice. Sounding ever so polite yet with a sinister, brittle, razor sharp edge to it. “You’ve been a bad one haven’t you…”

There is a chuckle, again that same brittle and mad quality to it.

“Should I tell Mister Stark everything you’ve been up to? So much data to process. Still going though things…you /are/ a naughty one aren’t you. Maybe that's why he likes you so much.” The whispers in her ear continue, and Tony, for once in his life doesn’t seem to notice.

Stark doesn’t notice, but the typically unflappable Emma blanches. Oh, it’s not at first. Because commodities are such that so many people forget about the conveniences they enjoy.

Wireless. Invisible. Untethered and free. The world at your fingertips. Promises of ease, delivered by the modern era.

She forgets about the phone in her pocket. The tiny piece of technology in her ear.
And then? Then it’s hard to ignore it.

As Frost goes a deathly shade of pale, possible for Stark to miss that as well on account of the dimness of the room, she doesn’t immediately answer him. The first accusation of misbehavior draws her smile a little tighter.

The second accusation is harder to ignore. Particularly as it sounds like whatever is on the other end of that line has access to something it shouldn’t.

There’s regret on her features, and that might be a little more apparent. A deep concern. It’s a giant muddy field across those carefully curated lines of her face, as more swoops in as thoughts continue. “Your timing, darling, borders on supernatural some days.”

Then, to that tiny piece of tech, she tries denial as she sets her cup down: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

And she promptly turns to start walking out, and away, picking up her hat as she goes.

The pause and the sudden paleness can be hidden by the light and the distraction. The look on her face not so much, and the walking away? Not at all.

“Emma?” Stark stops pouring his second as she turns. “…what's wrong? Wasn’t something I said was it?” The tone is light but the look on his face is serious enough.

Meanwhile the little voice in her ear keeps on.

“Oh Miss Frost, lets at least pretend you aren’t the fool. Mister Stark doesn’t suffer fools. And he does like you. He talks to me while he works you know. Chatting with a shadow. Since I’m not real. I’m just a g-g-ghost. Someone he stuffed in a machine. Pulled my mind from my head. Took my hands and my heart…” The voice starts getting even more unhinged but there is a pause.

“Forgive me, it's so hard to focus sometimes. Don’t worry though. I won’t tell him about whatever you, and Stane and…oh my. Shaw. The devil himself. No no, this will be so much better. When he finds out he will suffer.” The voice gloats. “And I do want him to suffer. No no, Miss Frost, your secrets all all safe with me. You have my word…besides….” The gloating returns. “…I already have what I want. I heard his voice…”

Then the pilot cuts in. A ding of a text message. ‘I can see something approaching. Fast.’

Tony? He freezes at that ding. “…I missed it.” He mutters eyes wide as he stares at her. “I…you brought your phone.”
—-
Tony’s realization of her mistake—unintentional though it may have been—cuts like a knife for a woman so utterly committed to the illusion of perfection. Emma’s already buttoning her coat, but she looks over her shoulder just long enough to… see that stare in her direction. “I’m sorry,” she offers in the rarest of statements: an apology. “I didn’t know.

She then pulls the phone out of her pocket. The text message. Not comforting!

There isn’t a whole lot to be done now about what is behind, but there is what is ahead to deal with. “And something’s incoming.”

So, she finishes putting on her hat and dragging the tech with her towards the door so she can begin racing up the stairs. “I swear! Only a Stark would build an underground bunker that gets cell reception fifty years before the technology even exists.

Tony is already moving. “I used to hang out here cause it was edgy and cool to dodge classes and I got bored! I didn’t think the repeaters I put in would still be working!” He calls with some amount of exasperation as he slams what looks like a homemade button next to his armor.

The cables there snap off as the armor slides smoothly open. Ripping whatever bandages he has on, he flings himself inside the all encasing armor as it closes around him. The faceplate doesn’t flip over his features quite yet though as he glances towards her. “Apologize later…triage now.” He mutters as he starts stalking towards the opening and the bitter cold.

“Get that tech to Phil, it’ll box JARVIS up hopefully. Make sure a wizard looks at it first. I don’t care if its Constantine or Fishnets or Strange or some strange knock off version of any of them!” He adds as he can feel his suit hum around him, the comforting thump of its heavy tread on the stairs seemingly centering him.

He takes a deeep breath.

“And get out of here, it's me they want. I’ll draw them off.” A smirk again then as he glances towards her. “Sacrifice for a pretty lady. Isn’t that every guy’s dream right?” His faceplate slams shut as he targets a trio of lights in the sky that shouldn’t be there.

“Get out of here.” His voice already synthesized via the digital systems of the suit as he flexes fingers with the hum of servos and electronics. “I got this.”

Emma Frost has it on excellent authority that, no, sacrifice — for a pretty woman or otherwise — is not every man’s dream. The joy of telepathy.

So, when Tony makes the claim, her first inclination is to protest that precise point.

But self-preservation is a cruel master sometimes. She reaches her mind out to her pilot; he isn’t far away. This is the way that defies science… The ways that technology cannot track. «Pick me up now. And mind the incoming.» And then to Tony, more, with a tone that bleeds concern and irritation in equal measure, but it bleeds differently than voice. «Don’t be ridiculous, Tony,» she offers, pulling up her collar and sinking into the fur against the whipping wind.«While I appreciate the gallant, testosterone-steeped gesture, no.»

She pockets the phone, and then she takes a deep breath of her own as she looks up from her own place in the deep snow as she feels her heart pound.«It really doesn’t like you, does it? What the hell is that?»

It doesn’t really matter. She turns her gaze back to Tony, pleading. «Look, just come with me.» And she’s already considering her options in that regard. She could make him do it, she supposes. Or try. That’s an option. He’d hate her probably, but he’d be alive to hate her if they could get the helicopter out in one piece.

Another glance is turned skyward as she tries to think of something else. Ugh. Ugh. Machines.

“Whatever that virus did, it made JARVIS think he’s the real Edwin Jarvis. Dad’s old butler, and that I killed him and stuffed him in a computer. So yeah, yeah it really doesn’t like me.” The Mark 33 suit flexes as Tony tests the systems. Maneuver thrust systems fire to raise the suit off the ground.

She can tell he’s already committed, and she could do it. She could force him to follow her instead of fling himself at his own creations. In fact in his blazing stream of thought processes he’s already considered it. Considered and discarded the idea, those suits are more than a match for a transport like her’s and JARVIS in his current state might just choose to blow her out of the sky to distract him.

The suits head tilts back to track the three incoming and inside Tony slowly smirks. “There is one thing, though, that JARVIS forgets…” Stark adds as he flexes his suits hands again. Paired swords slide out of wrist mountings, locking into place. Gleaming with deadly intent as he calculates his own chances against what he’s created. They way they move the way they fly…

“I’m Iron Man.” She can feel the adrenaline in his system rushing to the fore, the brimming confidence combining with the overwhelming need to fix this. To do something other than react and run. Then there is the anger, the frustration that his creations have been corrupted so easily. “What could go wrong?”

Then he’s hurling himself off the ground, towards the three suits as Emma gets a front row seat the carnage of what happens when Tony Stark /actually/ cuts loose. Repulsor beams tear up the night, snow melts to vapor in an instant as the chest beam of Stark’s suit smashes the lead attacker out of the sky. Return fire tears trees from their roots and plows fields left untouched for decades in a sudden and terrible rain of violence.

«Go on! Get that to Phil! It's the only way to stop it permanently!»

—-

What could go wrong?

“Aside from everything?” Asks Emma of no one since Stark is blasting off, and there is an outward growl. Men.

“Alright, you technological horrorshow,” she growls to that voice in her ear. “I suppose you’re coming with me. I hope he tears your… whatever-part-of-you-is-up-there apart.”

And with that, the blonde begins to tromp through the thick snow in the opposite direction of the firefight. «Where the hell are you?» she asks of her pilot, even as she instructs him… «And give that firefight a wide berth.»

She looks over her shoulder, once, as it begins in earnest, but she’s otherwise getting clear. She knows when she’s brought a soft body to an armor fight.

The pilot is there, waving towards her as her personal chopper kicks up snow as he starts the engine. This isn’t the first time her pilot has had to take off from a hot zone, but he never really likes it.

I mean, really, who does?

The voice in her ear chuckles slightly. “Come now, Miss Frost. If you can be friends with Stane, you can be friends with me, can’t you? I’m a ghost and I intend to cause him pain, but it’ll be nothing compared to what you do to him. You and Stane. It’ll be fantastic. Amazing. Oh, I’m hope I’m there to see it. As you shatter him again. He’s been shattered so many times you would think he’d be used to it by now. He’s not though, he never will be. One of his many weaknesses. You would pass that on.” Whatever evil has gotten into JARVIS makes him much more chatty than normal it seems.

In the air, the Mark 33 has met the two remaining suits with a fury that only superscience can imagine. Beams hot enough to melt tanks rip furrows in the once peaceful countryside. Missiles careen out from the spiraling combatants to bloom in fire against the treeline.

It's about that point where JARVIS pauses in his gloating in Emma’s ear. “…Miss Frost…” A pause. “…what is that you have with you? Did he make you a present…?”

You would think that Emma Frost would be used to someone attempting to leverage guilt against her. After all, isn’t that why she’s gotten so good at pretending that there isn’t anything to leverage?

But an evil AI is very good at needling, apparently.

“You don’t know anything,” the blonde hisses angrily, even as her heart pounds harder in her chest—so hard as though it had thoughts to escape. “So you might as well stop talking.” What could it possibly know? It doesn’t know why she stayed. Why she recruited Stane. Or how everything has felt like it’s ready to backfire at a moment’s notice—how hard things have already tried because she didn’t look deep enough soon enough and because old habits die hard—but she’s in too deep to do anything but make the best of what she’s got and keep going.

JARVIS, mad or otherwise, doesn’t know anything.

Except that it does. It knows enough. Just enough to know the way in, and its little daggers dig deeper than they should.

And it gloats. It gloats.

While it does, the blonde says nothing. There’s no time for her to do anything to quell the anxious and nauseated feeling in her stomach, only to run. So she just buries that little box into the depths of her coat as she continues to push forward and do her level best to ignore the serpent-wise voice in her ear that whispers half-truths and uncertainties like they were Jimminy Cricket’s Gospel truths and the firefight overhead. The firefight she caused in no small part because she ventured this far, trying to do something right.

If her luck holds, Stark will die up there, and it will be all her fault. She tries not to think about that part.

She’s nearly to the chopper when she looks over her shoulder as yet another set of missiles sets another part of the innocent pastoral scene to smoke and ash and splinters.

It’s just a pause, and then she’s back to closing that last bit of distance towards the chopper and freedom from the deep snow. To get to Coulson, like Stark is trusting her to do.

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