It's 2018, here's your flying car

January 31, 2018:

Sally Stojespal finally finishes an assignment Tony Stark has had her tasked to for nearly a year, and the engineer finds potential in her discovery.

Stark Industries

Rising high into the skyline with the name of it's Lord and Master for all to see, the Stark Industries Tower is the most visible component of the Stark Industries complex centered in Midtown Manhattan. Manufacturing, office space, power generation and even some inventory is housed in the tower and its associated subelevels. It also contains guest housing and, at the top, the penthouse suite that is the domain of the Main Man himself, at least, when he's not at his Malibu home.

Characters

NPCs: SIRIN

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Stark Industries. Still Stark, and now that the blizzard has lifted and the Arc reactor at its heart restarted, Industrious once more. It's still cold, of course, but the revived city has made its assault on the snow with gusto and the roads are once more clear, there's warmth, and the city is for the most part safe. There's even blue sky and sunshine, even if it's just barely above freezing out.

The last week, since the attack of the Joker's henchmen - and the Joker himself, ultimately - Sally Stojespal had been buried hard at work. She'd been part of the SHIELD contingent defending the building, and protecting the reactor deep in its core. And, before Stark had returned, trying to find out what had happened to it and how to get it back online.

It's kind of like giving the blueprint of a nuclear reactor to a child. They might even figure out that the lines on the paper mean things, but certainly not what they were looking at. Atop that, as much as it had been tweaked over the years by Tony, modified and improved and connected to the city, it's become an organic thing far different from its original schematics. A more superstitious Sokovian might have suspected it of growing bit by bit, rather than merely being constructed at whim.

That sort of thing never happens, anyway.

But there had been something in those documents, something that Sally had plenty of time to study, that had called to her. A nugget of information, a calculation, gestating into a theory. Growing bit by bit, as it were. It was bad enough that it'd sunken into her brain and left her working on Stark Hours - SIRIN's chiding aside, she's slipped into some of Tony's worse habits. But the engineer in her is awakening to a new possiblity, and it's blinding enough that it's even distracted her from Kometa.

The brave little Lotus, half bashed in, windows splintered, and engine silent rests in a specialty repair area, much of the interior gutted (and burned, dear god the smell) almost forgotten. Almost. If Stark is rebuilding Dummy, if there's more to a machine's soul than just its parts…then she needs to rebuild him as well.

But right now? Right now there's a virtual explosion of words from Sally's lab, followed by the quick slapping of soft shoes against the stone floors of the building; brown locks loose and unbound by the usual hairband. "SIRIN! I need to see Mr. Stark, immediately!" In her arms? Bundles of papers, all handwritten and covered in a mix of Ukrainian and English and mathematics, as well as a few odd bits of material. "I know he is not to be woken up but this … this is urgent! Really!"

Oh Mister Stark isn't asleep!" SIRIN's voice is chipper as always. The glitch in the system creates that shift in tone. "He just tells people that so Pepper doesn't yell at him." Then back to the happy tone. "Miss Potts is frightening!"

The elevator opens though and Sally /is/ shown up to one of the higher floors where Stark himself stands in the middle of a lab. A massive sensor array of some kind on a table in front of him and the scattered parts of some kind of weapon on a work bench around him. At least one would assume its a weapon, the casing looks vagely gun shaped.

"She is hardly frightening, SIRIN." It's a gentle admonishment, but Sally hasn't really found Pepper Potts all that scary. A bit intimidating maybe, but they'd managed to bond over tea. The relieved mind, exhausted a bit and slightly giddy, wonders idly how to program 'tea' for an AI - and whether they can taste. Probably. They can be taught to hear and see, after all…but Sally shakes her head before brushing her hair back as best she can.

And then she can't help but laugh as the elevator takes her up. "I suppose he has not slept since the power came back on. Or before that. Yes?" It is Stark after all; she wonders sometimes if he ever sleeps. Then again, after 48 hours of caffeine and hard work and study, maybe there's something to his methodology after all. The papers and materials in her arms certainly argue for that.

Ding opens the elevator and she practically rushes into the room. "Mr. Stark! I -" And promptly skids to a halt, taking in the exceptional technology surrounding everything. What is all this…? It's enough to silence her, the sensor equipment things she'd never seen before. So what does she do?

Stand there silent and shocked like an altarboy who had just rushed into the bishop's private quarters as he was communing with God.

"Close you're mouth before I start throwing wallnuts in there," Stark's greetings are always something to be desired. The inventor never is the best with people and feelings after all. He hardly looks up at first, delicately connecting something in the core of the weapon as he peers towards it. Crystal and nanotech merging to compleate the process as if by magic, curcitry building itself almost before her eyes before he breathes a long sigh and sets it back on the bench.

"There. Now I won't blow either of us up or turn us into snowmen." A beatpause. "Is that sexist? Snowomen? Snowpeople? Eh whatever."

A glance up towards her as he peers at her piles of papers. "I'm going to guess you figured something out."

Said mouth snaps right shut, even as she blinks a little - well, she hadn't quite expected such a comment, though he's right. And in the right too, she'd practically burst in on him working on something like this. Maybe she could blame SIRIN a little, but the AI isn't capable of judging things it's not told about. And if he'd ordered it quiet, she realizes, then her bursting in was the first warning he'd had.

The sudden silence also lets her watch, from a distance, the crystalline structure merge with the circuitry he'd been working on. It's like a fine waltz of tiny machinery, almost entrancing in its delicacy - and yet not at all a toy for children. That last bit is confirmed when he gives that big sigh and comments on not blowing anyone up. Rusalka Stojespal believes in not blowing herself up.

Sally leaves the papers in her hands, although still extends a proper curtsey even if he can't see it. "I am extremely sorry, Mr. Stark. Please forgive my rudeness, I shall not act in such a way again." She'll be in trouble, probably, but…whatever he demands, she can take it. And then there's a crinkle at the side of her mouth at his question. "I would not worry so. You Americans, sometimes so careful with needless things. Absolutely snowmen is fine."

And then his second question comes, and she nods - a little more vigorously, before taking a long deep breath. "Yes sir. I…when I was assisting SHIELD, trying to secure the reactor and assess it. I had to go over some of the older blueprints, to make sure nothing catastrophic would happen…or that nothing had been stolen." Certainly a fair consideration, considering…whatever the Joker had intended.

She's still holding the papers, because he hasn't said to set them down yet, though there's also some bits of plastic-looking material as well as metal. "I was going over the power configurations…sir, with what you suggested for Christmas? To not think of things in typical terms of thrust and power, and your reminder?" There's a bit more smile on her face, as it's hard for the girl - still only nineteen - to keep it in. At least she's not bobbing on her toes, the noble comportment managing to prevent that if nothing else.

"I realized that there was a secondary field effect to the Arc reactor, one that you'd tapped into of course for repulsors. But…I did some experimentation, and…and a very large amount of calculations." And then, a student giving her thesis to her teacher, she straightens up a bit and manages to calm down slightly. The Sokovian accent thickens slightly as she tries to focus on getting the right words, rather than getting the words right. "A badassium mesh at precisely ninety degrees planar opposition, with a spacing of three-halves the frequency of the energy applied to it via a graphene superconducting substrate and kept at the right operating temperature, will generate a repellent field merely by applying the ambient energy from an arc reactor."

She looks around a moment, taking in the room, but stays focused. "I tried to stop thinking of it as an engine, a thruster. Instead…it generates a dynamic field, like…like current through a wire generating magnetism. And this repulsor field, unlike, ah…" She nods to where he keeps - kept - the Iron Man suits and their repulsor engines and armaments. "Will adhere itself to the badassium-graphene matrix and provide a tangible, physical force that…repels. It floats, very stably. Or pushes things away like a force-wall, if it is not aligned against gravity."

"So a repulsor field instead of a beam or a thruster." Stark replies as he leans back in his chair. "You would require way less power to give it forward motion if it was next-to weightless and didnn't have the friction of tires to overcome." A thoughtful look on his face as he sorts though her plans, his own eyes flicking from plan to plan as she gushes about them."

A tap here and there as he absorbs the information. "You'll have to figure out a way to keep a low-energy current though the mesh without burning out any of the systems. And how the bleed the ARC reactor power off to make sure there isn't an overload." He points out. "Mesh over the bottom of whatever you're driving then…have you calculated how much you would need to overcome the weight of a vehicle?"

"In the end, precisely yes." She nods, her accent diminishing as she thinks through things. "Far less focused, but it follows the shape of the badassium mesh - as long as it maintains the 3/2 spacing. It's as if…I am only guessing, but it is as if the repulsor field is coiling around each molecule, and requires an opening to make that loop possible. Any other spacing, and…nothing happens. The torus is disrupted and the energy simply flows without generating the field." It might be why noone's found it before…

There's also a vigorous nod given about the idea for friction. "Yes. Simple, reliable aerodynamics come into play at that point; it would still need to take advantage of such things but…as long as there was a power supply, it would float. There would be no need for wheels." Which is, she realizes as she says it, possibly the strangest thing that an aspiring race driver could even consider. But racing isn't just about speed or winning, but about technology development.

And she's spent the last year on the literal bleeding edge of that development, now with the first sign of born fruit.

His concern about burning the system out bears a lot of merit. "Yes, that is a consideration. An arc reactor, even detuned to an early model, is…well." He knows. Huge power - and it scales well, the tiny fist-shaped module in the old Iron Man suits capable of significant things. "I made some rough estimates, I think the system would take between four and six percent of the constant output of a reactor. Instead of a power-spike situation like repulsors, you see." Ways to bleed things off…well. There's certainly options there. Repulsor boosters, weapons, plenty of other things. "If there were a way to get an Arc reactor's power in a regulatable battery, perhaps…"

She tucks the plastic and metal sheets under one arm, along with a sizeable amount of the paperwork, before flipping a few pages. Handwritten calculations, though not all of them worked out that way - some things just had to be verified, and some things simply couldn't be completely done without some assistance. Half of the pile of notes is more of a mathematical log of everything she'd smashed into her brain, while the other half is the actual smashing.

"Here. Ah, perhaps…the graphene is fortunately fairly light, but the badassium is dense. It is perhaps ten percent of the vehicle's weight, perhaps 180 kilograms for a sportscar roughly - though, it is more based on area coverage," she adds, rejuggling everything in her hands. "A smaller area can still support a vehicle, but there are instabilities; I think it would be best if the matrix were applied, ah, bumper-to-bumper as it were. But…"

She glances around, thinking back to the visit of a certain phasing troublemaker recently. "If it were incorporated in walls, the repulsive force would…there is no opening in it, as long as the matrix integrity is maintained and power supplied. A forcefield to wrap around a vault. If the, ah…what was the name, Banana Man? I apologize, I have not slept in days. If he returned, then…it would be a nasty surprise."

Not to suggest she daydreamed, momentarily, of introducing the Joker to this new force-wall-projector. Of course not; she's too proud to admit that.

"You can put all that down right?" Stark asks as he watches her talk and attempt not to drop everything all at once. Gesturing to a side table he moves over, a few hand-gestures summoning his holoscreens once again before he flicks images up onto them.

"Figure in a secondary motive system, just in case the float-mesh fails or is damaged." He suggests as he starts to flick down calculations at a speed that is truly stunning.

"Its possible to create a battery for ARC reactor energy. I have a few ideas on how, but the problem comes on if it gets overloaded. It tends to explode. Too much energy in one thing." He adds with a smirk. "But its still possible. If you can figure out a successful way to regulate the flow it could last a very long time too before it needs to be refuled. Which would be nice…you thought about altitude?" He asks as he looks back towards the young european girl that has somehow decided that swearing her life to his is a good idea.

Younng people make all kinds of bad decisions. He should know.

"The force-wall is damnn intresting though. A repulsor /wall/ is an elegant solution. I don't think they would be able to phase though it, and it defintally would stop a more conventional speedster."

"Yes sir!" Though, she's not quite sure just where to put it. The obvious 'find a spare table corner' comes to mind, but in Stark's lab that could be the terminus for an interociter. Left vacant, only because things left there would likely be vaporized… Sally eventually settles for a spare chair, resting her paperwork and the other bits in what she hopes is out of the way. And gambling on the chance that Stark doesn't have a murder on for that chair and was planning to use it as a target.

Secondary motive system? "Yes, that should be workable…though, it might interfere with mesh coverage, unless wheels or whatever option might be retractable." She's got half a plan forming in mind already, even as he types - just mental notes at first, but a visual of how it might settle comes to mind. Her natural talent is with aerodynamics, after all. "May I watch, sir?" She's still standing way out of the way, but trying to see just what it is he's going over, and seeing where his calculations pick up from hers and rocket off into the conceptual stratosphere.

Or orbit. Stark's impressive like that.

His smirk is matched with hers. The problem of the Arc system…energy density. The holy grail of power systems, and Stark had achieved it, though it was arguably a little on the delicate side to use. "I suppose it would be safer if it were not, ah…not as touchy as trying to keep a spinning plate on a stick while the room were on fire." She'd overheard the phrase in the lunch room. It stuck.

Altitude? "I am not sure. I did not have any extra badassium to test, just what you had given me in the past for Jessica's gauntlets. I have been doing most of the math from memory and notes on its properties. At a minimum…the system supports its own weight at approximately twelve centimeters, though it becomes exponentially stronger the closer it gets. I think. The math suggests…even if it were a dump truck, the most compression for the force wall, away from the matrix, is about three centimeters. Any higher loads did not seem to move it."

But she knows what he's asking, and is just baselining her report. "As far as controllable height…again, it becomes an exponential relationship, but in a good way; a three percent increase in power generates about thirty percent more altitude, while three percent more seems to generate a hundred and thirty. At a guess…I believe it would be stable, using a small reactor, to at least a thousand meters. Not quite a light plane, but…like most civilian helicopters, at least. That would require much of the system's output."

Young people make bad decisions. Sometimes they make good ones. In this case, The Honorable Miss Rusalka Stojespal considers, she'd made a good one.

There's a nod to his comments on speedsters. "It certainly would be something new, at least. And if he can be caught. And…" There's a bit of a pause as she considers. "I thought, perhaps, that if you built a new armor, that such a system might be able to provide extra protection, as long as the mesh follows…like, a proper force-shield, at least. I understand you were present when, the ah."

She reaches up and touches the little pouch around her neck, the superstitious Sokovian entirely present. Then again considering what the malevolent beast had done to him, she's got good reason to be cautious. "When the Demon Honey-Eater had been defeated. I…must apologize for not being at your side that day. I did not realize you had departed…" She did swear an oath to his service, after all. "I promised Mr. Stane that I would watch over you as best as I can and I failed him as well. I am sorry, Mr. Stark."

"One thing you have to realize with me is that I just…do things." Stark replies with a smirk. "Get used to it. Besides it sucked, there was so much magic and I had to break most of my last 2 suits. At least I got a version of JARVIS back." He is filling in details. thinking. Planning.

"I've worked out a solid-energy matrix system for a defense. This idea might help the power ratio to even out a bit. Maybe not over the whole armor but make it an actual shield…"

He half muttering to himself now, caluclations flying across the screen again. He hasn't said it, but he obviously doesn't mind her watching. Else he would have kicked her right out at this point.

"Keep it's usual height a bit closer to the ground. If the mesh gets ripped out that high up it won't go well." He points out before he pauses, those amused eyes slide towards her as his mouth quirks up in a smirk.

"And judging from what is down in the repair pool, you seem to like trashing cars."

Yes he had caught that.

"So I have thus learned," Sally adds with a grimace. "Agent Coulson did not mention that, but I suppose I should have suspected, at least. I suppose this will be my next lesson, 'to get used to it?'" She adds a raised eyebrow and a grin at the last comment, turning it into a joke - and the obvious reply to the challenge.

She gives a shudder at the mention of magic. But before she can ask, he mentions the building's original AI. "Then, JARVIS is safe? May the whole world thank God for that." Though…she's not sure what condition he's in, since SIRIN has temporarily taken over as Stark's Number One Voice In His head. "And magic…I worked alongside Ms. Zatarra, when we rescued JARVIS. Agent Coulson retrieved him, I believe…or at least, a core block matrix module, it appeared. I had not heard any news since."

And of course, then the Hulk had arrived. That did not go well. It rarely does.

Gingerly, so not to disturb the curiously beautiful crystalline circuitry he'd been working on, she comes closer and watches the calculations. Not all of them are easy to see, as fast as he goes, but there's a few things she notices from familiarity. Nodding, she can't help mumble. "Magic is…a strange thing to see. Yes, precisely - sorry." A certain sequence that had bedeviled her for a while; the answer is so obvious afterward. Math is like that.

There's a soft laugh at his mention of not-going-well. "I suppose not. I believe the term is 'deconstructive lithobraking' according to NASA…" Well, not an inaccurate term, when your vehicle's components are scattered to the four winds by the earth bringing it to a stop. "I will remember that. Perhaps…a limiter system, no more than a couple stories, to meet parking garages. Specialty controls above that." People do have helicopter pads atop buildings, after all; there's a rather large one giving the swoosh of Stark Industries' superstructure some…well, swoosh.

And then her voice catches in a speechless moment. "W-th-I…" Ahem. Swallow! "I do not trash cars. That…that was a very bad night. After the Jester's men attacked, he himself followed suit. Sometimes I am not sure I lived." Stark has Hydra, demons, ghosts, mutant terrorists, and plenty of others out gunning for him. Sally just has one, but he's a particularly terrifying sort. "I wish I knew what he wanted, but…I understand that is a particularly difficult question to answer, yes?"

She still frowns. "I will have it repaired and out of the way soon. I promise, I just need to wait on a few things. It will not happen again." The last is said less in an apology, and more in a curious determined conviction. It won't happen again because she refuses the Joker that permission. A bold boast, perhaps. But that kind of quietly determined arrogance is definitely a family trait, not the least of which is connected to the title on the name.

"He's not back," Stark replies with a frown as he glances towards a wall. Presumeably towards a different lab. One where a box sits in stasis, fitted with quantum field bubbles and dozens of other precautions. "I recovered a fragment, but his core functions are still…corrupt. I'm going to need a wizard to fix him. Litterally a wizard. I can do the code…and I figured out how to remove the corruption from the suits, but its too deep in the AI matrix right now to try it with that. And bruteforcing JARVIS could break something."

Which he doesn't want.

He draws a deep breath for a moment. "Parachute." He finally says twoards her before realising that might not be the best expliantion there. "Use a power bleed system so if the mess is damaged it'll at least slow the fall instead of doing nothinng but be dead weight. That'll help mitiagte the vulnerability."

A smirk then before he shakes his head. "And no, I'm pretty sure no one knows what Joker wants. Least of all Joker. I'll keep an eye out for him if he's still around town though."

A quirk of the eyebrow though at the last and he sighs. "Alright, what are you planning? I mean. I'm the one with most of the bad ideas around here, I gotta make sure we arn't goinng over quota."

A hand raises - then pauses, and falls away. She knows Stark's been alone most of his adult life, the simple knowledge of Howard and Maria's accident in 1991 public awareness. It's just…a completely different thing, for her. She's known personal loss like his, but there was always more, there was always such a large family to absorb and support. She's never been alone like he has. Even if she weren't a child, it'd be something too difficult to understand. What JARVIS must mean to him…

"I am sorry for that, Mr. Stark. I will pray, at least. That much I can do, even if…" Even if it doesn't accomplish anything. The truth is, she likes the AI as well, and misses that british voice.

Better topics. Or at least, a topic switch that feels for an instant like careening into a wall. His suggestion of a parachute gets a nod…then a momentary grin. "And a small, one-use emergency repulsor. Something that would absorb the energy being lost in a field matrix disruption, and just before impact fires a blast. Like NASA's landing system for Mars." The combination parachute-and-rockets certainly worked, though of course it did, with her teacher's name on half the technology behind it.

"Between both systems, and racing quality crash survival…I believe even a serious impact might be survivable, at moderately high speed." Perhaps a para-glider system, for a little control for the pilot? Maybe. Depends on the aerodynamics and control surfaces…no. Sally shakes her head, brushing away the onslaught of thoughts.

"Mayhem, I suppose. Or me. At least, it felt like it; at one point he'd managed to get one of his goons atop Kometa before I could get free. Perhaps he thought, if his troops couldn't get him in, I could…" She shrugs, then stands up and folds her arms across her chest. "Then again he kept spouting romantic poetry at the time, so." And there's a sniff so regal even Queen Elizabeth would clap politely for.

Blink blink. "Me? Planning?" A soft smirk. "Well…I was eventually going to ask if I could fabricate some new body panels, a tougher material…and something for the windows as well. And." Shrug. "Perhaps a visit to Gotham, and simply ask the man. And tell him no, whatever foolish suggestion he has." Is she serious? …Probably. It seems the stone spine required to simply walk into Mordor is also perhaps another Stojespal family trait.

"Thanks," The thanks is real but it just hangs there a moment before…whelp its gone again. That was a feel. Cherish it but don't expect it. Because it will soon be gone. Washed away in the whirlwind that is Tony Stark.

"That'll work." A smirk. "Call it the bunny hop." Oh yeah. He is riding that joke all the way down to the ground. For better or worse. "But it'll work on keeping you in onne piece showld someone decide you really didn't need to be in the air. Trust me I had to figure things like that out. Its a pain in the ass."

So many contengency plans.

He pauses though as she speaks of going into Gotham and raises an eyebrow. "Huh. Well be careful with that. Gotham criminals give a whole new level to the descriptor 'crazy' and I just spent the last two weeks dealing with a demon posessed AI. Don't make me have to chase him down in Gotham, or I'll make you listen to Batman's lecture."

The what?! A derisive snort at the joke, and Sally shakes her head before pulling her bangs back again. "You may try to make me regret that day, but it will be a long time before that might occur." Challenge accepted, your joke is ready as you need it. Besides, in the end…it's not that inaccurate.

"I can imagine. And…yes, I suppose I have much to consider. Too many things can go wrong." So, you cover for everything you can think of, and hope that the universe isn't feeling particularly vindictive. In the end, though…you go. It's what you do. "I think a parachute system will be simple enough to install, as well…mm. Then…"

She looks back at the holographics, taking in the mathematics for a moment. Biting her lip softly, she swallows. "Will it work? Or did I miss something, again?"

Sally can't help smirk at his threat. "I have already had…that pleasure. Once was enough, I suppose. Moderation is important, after all; I suppose I will be good." She still frowns, though. "I would like to know, at least…what he wanted. At the time. Even if he's forgotten. I dislike things left unfinished. But I will inform you and not simply take off after him; just…please do not do the same. Mr. Stane would not approve, neither would Ms. Potts."

Smirk. "Besides, Agent Coulson might suggest the same for your punishment." The only question is whether that would be worse than supernanny…probably.

And then she glances around the room again, taking in that particular circuit. "May I ask, sir, just…what that is? What you were working on…you mentioned snowmen?" Eyebrow tilt.

"In theory it'll work." Tony replies after a moment. "But I don't deal in theory, I deal in application. So…scale model it." He adds towards her. "Then you can see it in application. Talk to Bruce if you want theory." A beatpause. "He's back by the way. And apparently Hulk likes puppies. So keep that in mind for the future."

He pauses, giving no promise one way or the other towards his taking it easy. Instead there is a smirk…

And then she asks about his latest invention. And there comes a smirk. "Oh yeah. I'm putting together a cold ray. Or a bomb. Or both I haven't decided yet. Dropping the tempture of an area sufficently creates ice, slows down vibration in the air, slows down molucules, in general slows down everything. So…well here…" And he waves her over. "…I'll show ya."

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