The Power Behind the Tony

May 07, 2018:

The Maximoff twins, looking for Tony Stark at Stark Tower, are instead routed to Pepper Potts, who provides them unexpected aid on the matter of Trask's collars.

Stark Tower, NYC


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Tony Stark, Emma Frost

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

It has been some time since that tense meeting the Twins had with Tony Stark and Emma Frost on the matter of the collars. Not a long time, by most metrics… but to Pietro Maximoff, an eternity. Literally two days after they dropped off the collars, Pietro started to make noise about returning to bother Tony about whether there was any progress on the matter. Wanda had to remind him that it had only been two days and not two years, to which he subsided in sullen acquiescence.

Two days later, he started up again. Rinse and repeat.

Cut to now, when Wanda finally gave in to her brother's restlessness. This time, the Twins have enough politeness not to invade straight up into the heart of the Tower, or to Tony's top-floor apartments. Instead, they arrive at the front desk, like normal people — albeit glamoured via the Scarlet Witch's hexes to change their appearances. They are wanted terrorists, after all.

"We have an appointment with Mr. Stark," Pietro told the receptionist brusquely, and as he spoke, Wanda made his words reality. The receptionist nodded, magically finding that there was in fact a three o'clock blocked off with Mr. Stark in her system, and asked the two to wait while she called it up.

Of course, one place where this would not be made true is in the mind of Pepper Potts, who would shortly be notified that a pair of individuals are here for their three o'clock with Mr. Stark. An appointment that does not exist, as far as she knows.

Pepper takes the call, likely routed to her by FRIDAY because Tony's in one of his 'do not disturb' tinkering jags, and when she hears that there's someone here to speak with Tony, she's able to pull up his schedule on her computer in just a moment with the AI's assistance, though she clearly remembers having cleared his schedule when she found him still awake and tinkering this morning.

"Tony's… not available for his three o'clock, Becca. Send them to my office." She'll speak with them herself, whoever they are, and if they're sheisters trying to sneak in and somehow hoodwinking the front desk, she'll have her shoulderbag close at hand (not to mention the JARVIS-controlled security features Tony insisted on installing) to convince them of the folly of their choices. Quickly clearing her desk of any sensitive paperwork and locking her computer, she calls out to the room in general, "FRIDAY, meeting mode, please, and give me an idea what Tony's guests look like."

The TV in the sitting area to one side of the office starts softly playing music (Loreena McKennitt), and she crosses to the tea credenza in the front right corner of her office to see if the water boiler and samovar are both running and ready to serve tea. Just in case.

Those images sent up look of a well-bred but unremarkable couple — maybe married, maybe siblings — both young, good-looking, and dressed well in clothes tailored to their bodies. Maybe the heirs and managers of some hedge fund, or resident new money, come to try to barter some sort of investment deal with the newer Stark Tech.

The woman in particular of the pair is a dolled-up little thing, wearing her sunglasses indoors, a wide-brimmed hat, and a spring dress — the colour fiercely, vibrantly red. Arms hooked both around one of the man's, her chin nestled near his shoulder, and on her lips one step short of some Cheshire Cat's smile, she approves of the receptionist signalling them along.

If not to meet with Tony Stark himself, but the acting manager of his entire corporate empire.

Wanda slips a glance to Pietro, curious. On the elevator ride up, she slips her hand into his.

Eventually, they arive at Ms. Pott's office door, the woman of the pair already stealing her sunglasses from her eyes and smiling brightly. "So this is the Pepper Potts," she announces brightly, a smile hooking her mouth, her voice dusted with a faraway, European accent. "The sole reason this building is as tall as it is. Finally a pleasure to meet you."

When told they'll be routed to Ms. Pepper Potts instead, Pietro's brows lift, but he doesn't complain. With his sister in tow, he accepts the usher to the elevator in question, and lets Wanda hook her arms around his as they wait to reach the correct floor. "Hmmm," Pietro muses, of this development, when his sister turns inquisitive eyes up on him. "This might actually be more productive than talking to Stark."

He keeps hold of her hand as they arrive in the office of Ms. Potts, allowing her to make the greetings as well in a rare instance of brother deferring to sister. He is a clear contrast to her, with all her china-doll dresses, dainty femininity, and bright smiles. Tall at her side, he is sharp and abrupt as a knife, his clothing cut in austere lines. They would not be out of place as some young new-money couple come to do deals with the fabled Stark Industries…

…except for the fact they drop the glamour, for Pepper's benefit, on entrance, exposing the faces of today's top mutant terrorists. The ones who crashed the Stark Expo so many months ago, in fact.

Wanda makes small talk. Pietro, as usual, has no time. "A pleasure," is all he allows. "We have some business with Stark. But if he his indisposed, I imagine you speak with his voice."

Standing and smoothing her skirt when the elevator dings, Pepper is standing and waiting for the pair when they step into her office. She smiles and starts toward them to offer a handshake, but the abrupt change in appearance causes her to hesitate in surprise. To her credit, though, she follows through with the gesture, and doesn't pull the offered handshake back.

"Good afternoon. I'm sorry that Tony isn't available to speak with you directly." Wait. How did Tony put it? Something about a pair of people wreaking havoc on his behalf? REALLY, Tony? "Please, have a seat," she offers while gesturing to the small round table set in front of her tea credenza. "May I offer you a drink?"

Her eyes flick up toward the ceiling briefly, specifically toward one of the AI sensor arrays set there, then to the young pair in her office.

And, just like that, two mutant terrorists become guests in Ms. Potts' office.

Wanda glances down at the proffered hand, but does not immediately move to take it. Instead, she does something else far more peculiar: she glances up at her taller brother, head tilted, blue eyes searching. As if she were silently asking him for permission, or at least executive decision, whether or not she will touch another.

"Come now, brother," Wanda says instead, with a bit of a laugh at Pietro's last, blunt remark. "I think Ms. Potts has her own voice, and we may even find it far more becoming than the sort of nonsense we get from Stark."

At request of a drink, her eyes run Pepper's office — before a rare surprise opens up Wanda's face. She steps forward, delighted, taken by sight of the samovar. "I haven't seen one of these in years. You Americans, with your automatic, digital — everything. I would love tea." She glances back to her brother, eager. "Tea, yes?"

Removing her fancy hat, she does not sit, herself, until guided there by Pietro's hand. In many ways, Wanda submits to his physical presence, like an old routine that is long given permanence. "Excuse me for not introducing ourselves immediately, Miss Potts. We are the Maximoffs. My brother is Pietro, and I am Wanda. Has Stark spoken of us, any? Fondly, I hope?"

Pepper offers that handshake. It doesn't escape Pietro that she doesn't walk it back, once she realizes who they are. It seems to mollify him slightly, enough that when Wanda looks up at him for his decision on the matter, he inclines his head slightly. Permitted.

He accepts a handshake himself afterwards, though all of his sister's playful friendliness finds no mirror in him. The brother is a curt thing to contrast her, his sharp eyes taking in the room and their host with blunt appraisal. At the least, he is not outright rude; it probably helps that Pepper keeps herself armored in courtesies. She offers them tea, even, a prospect which thrills Wanda.

"Tea," sighs Pietro, who from the look of him didn't really want tea, but is wholly incapable of denying his sister something she so earnestly desires. "Yes, I suppose."

He escorts his sister to her seat, as is rote for them, though he doesn't sit immediately himself. "I doubt Stark's spoken fondly of us at all," he says, as Wanda introduces them. "He seems to prefer to pay himself compliments, perhaps just to hear the sound of his own voice. That in mind…"

His gaze turns to Pepper. "I do have hopes, Ms. Potts, that your own voice — as my sister put it — is indeed more becoming to our ears. There is much that Stark Industries could do about these collars, that does not rely on the research efforts of a single man."

Pepper doesn't seem at all perturbed by Wanda not accepting the handshake — she's encountered other people who have an aversion to physical contact — and she can't help but quip at Pietro's words with an attempt at humor while he accepts the handshake. "Well, I could try, but I'm not sure I can vocally manage a baritone without some kind of autotuning trickery."

When Wanda notices and mentions the samovar, Pepper actually seems to relax a bit. The samovar itself appears to be solid copper, a rarity to be sure. "Yes, a friend told me about those, and it's wonderful." She moves to start fixing some tea from the Samovar.

"He's actually never mentioned you two directly, only in veiled offhand comments. But, I can guess what you're here about."

Nodding at the mention of the collars, Pietro's just confirmed her guess. "I've already come up with a few ideas that might at least slow them down in the interim, though some of them I'd need … outside assistance to set into motion."

And on that silent nod from the brother, the sister finally extends her dainty hand to take Pepper's. Her grip is a bit on the fragile side, along with the rest of her, and sparingly brief.

Brief for a reason, and it is because Wanda Maximoff is a witch: a touch on Pepper Potts's hand can glean her some detail back, a handy gift (and sometimes curse) of a psychometric. A brush of memory, or a tangle of feelings. Sometimes, even a direct glimpse into the soul. What Pepper has to show her, in that handshake, remains to be seen, but Wanda is listening.

She sits, after that, as Pietro hands her down. Wanda tilts him up an affectionate look, appreciative of him allowing her to have tea. Samovars are common among the Eastern territories of Transia, part and parcel of Russia's nearby bleed-over, but in America? Electric kettles everywhere.

That, alone, has Wanda already liking Pepper. Well — as much as a mutant extremist can like a human, perhaps.

—Of course, which may be tipping farther in their favour as Pepper suggests having ideas. Wanda looks up again at Pietro, her head tilting.

"So you are of the opinion the collars need to be destroyed?" she asks. Then, continues: "Splendid."

Though Pietro cast his share of aspersions on the idea of Tony talking about them, he seems even more offended by the fact that — as Pepper explains — Stark hasn't mentioned them directly at all. Too much for his ego to take, it seems. He frowns decidedly at that, an expression that lingers even through Pepper's attempted quip and her subsequent statement that she can guess what thy are here about.

For the best Wanda travels around so inseparably with her brother. Sourpuss Pietro is clearly not amazing company even at the best of times, leaving it up to Wanda to make the niceties.

Not even the comforting familiarity of the samovar can put him fully at ease, it seems. As restless as he's rumored to be, already impatient with this transaction and all its pleasantries, he doesn't take his own seat up until Pepper suggests she may have some ideas on how to slow Trask down in their manufacture of the collars.

That, he finally seems to deem significant enough to accord his full, rapid-fire attention to a human. He exchanges a look with his sister, and sits beside her. Splendid, Wanda says. "What sort of outside assistance?" Pietro presses, blunt as ever. "For the sake of putting a stop to the production of these collars, we'd lend whatever aid would be required."

Completely unaware of Wanda's ability, she shakes the sister's hand without hesitation. The glimpses and impressions from her mind are heavily esoteric, a mix of business jargon, seemingly random odd trivia, a seething anger aimed at the Trask corporation and anyone willing to use those horrific collars, and an echo of the song playing quietly from the TV across the room, as if Pepper were mentally filling in the portions of the tune that are too quiet for her to actually hear.

"I am of the opinion that the collars need to completely removed from existence along with any possibility of them ever being made again." Her tone actually becomes a bit sharp as she says this, though it's clearly not aimed at the twins themselves.

Bringing two cups of tea for the twins — the cups are hand-formed ceramic and completely mismatched — she moves to also get a spoon and a small jar from the mini-fridge. Blackberry jam, the label says. Then, finally, she also takes a seat at the table, a third teacup in her hands.

"I'm already started looking into way to block Trask from acquiring the parts need to build those collars, but most of the pieces are as common as coins. It's the truly unique pieces I've started to track now. Once I know who builds those pieces and where, I can see about stopping their production. Either by legally changing something about the manufacturer that would render them unable or unwilling to continue producing the unique parts, or by using less than legal methods to render any items manufactured useless to the Trask corporation. It's the latter I would need help with."

She takes a sip of her tea — no jam added — and continues. "The legal recourse would take time, and I'm worried that time is something we already lack."

The trace read from Pepper Potts, to Wanda Maximoff, is interesting — to say the least. The witch does not betray her hand — only Pietro, really, knows the breadth of her ability — though interest flickers across the lenses of her eyes. They are coloured blue, matching the same as her twin's — reminiscent the blue of Magneto's cold, steely eyes — but for a moment, they bleed red. Red, then back again, blue.

She glances to Pietro, amused. Care of their telepathic bond, what she scrys, he receives, and she whispers through his thoughts: Curious. I do think I prefer her to the Stark.

Seated in the chair, and seeming in constant, preternatural sense of her brother's mood and bearing (unimpressed at Tony Stark, well enough) — could be one of those ephemeral gifts of all twins, or simply the Scarlet Witch's sight — she keeps his hand held in hers, her thumb running his knuckles in a wordless soothe.

With her other hand, she graciously accepts the tea. Wanda's smile is twenty-something years of practised charm, though there is a touch of something genuine that warms her eyes. "You are too kind," she tells Pepper.

Pietro, attuned for business and business alone, wants to know more of Ms. Potts' ideas, and when told, Wanda listens, taking only time to add jam to her tea. She loves sugar.

Her gaze flickers up. "Ah, yes," she says. "The civilities and legalities of humans. We often forget those. Well. As your kind persistently forces us to act beyond their limits — it's not often we are given opportunity to abide within their boundaries."

But Wanda's face is gentling with approval. She likes it. She does not say so, but instead, "What you do think, brother?"

I am of the opinion that the collars need to be completely removed from existence, along with any possibility of them ever being made again.

The declaration puts the first smile on Pietro's face since he walked into the room. It is a brief expression, and cold, but it weighs heavily with approval for the sentiment — and it makes him look a little less relentlessly like his father, who almost never smiles at all. She certainly cuts to the heart of the matter more quickly, he whispers back mentally to his sister. Without the tiresome boasting and theatrics of Stark. Of course Pietro would approve of someone cutting straight to the chase. Life is less painful when he doesn't have to wait through eons of someone's irrelevant conversation.

He accepts tea with much more good grace. It seems one just has to agree with Pietro Maximoff — or give him what he wants — in order to put him in a good mood. He drinks first — he always does — before allowing his sister to do so, listening as he does to Pepper's elucidation of her plans with regard to the collars. What does he think?

"I think that time is," he says shortly, "something we ran out of a long time ago. This is a good start. The more quickly we can move on this, the better."

Wanda, as if sensing his impatience, runs her thumb along his knuckles. He gentles marginally. "Extralegal methods are our speciality," he declares. "You need only earmark what we should target, and how. It will be done. We can of course be discreet in our activities," he adds, almost as an afterthought. "Contrary to popular belief, we're well aware there are both times for loud and brazen stances, and times for subtlety."

Watching Wanda opt for the jam, she thinks for a second and remembers the pastries leftover from her lunch. She stands for a moment to get them out the minifridge as well and sets them on the table along with some napkins. Just in case. The pastries are palm-sized squares baked with divots of fruit on their centers, including one with cream cheese and fruit both.

"If we legally remove Trask's ability to acquire the unit parts needed, there's no way for the leaders in that company to legally place the blame on anyone. Though from what I've gathered, blame may be placed anyway." Pepper then considers Pietro's words for a moment. "I agree. Hence why my more clandestine thoughts could be of interest. The exact components that are most unique and crucial are still being determined by Tony and his computer systems, but once we know them, I suspect that there are ways to, how can I put this delicately? To make the new items being made turn out to be defective so they won't do what Trask designed them to do."

She again sips her tea. "I've seen this play out before in other places. If a manufacturing company is unable to correctly produce the items as requested, Trask will have to seek out another company to do their manufacturing, spend the time confirming that their processes correctly produce the items, and then start making them again. That takes time. A lot of time. Possibly in the realm of years, and if Tony's given that much time, he might be able to figure out a way to ultimately render those things completely useless."

As always, Wanda waits for Pietro to drink first of anything they consume that he does not personally prepare.

In good company or not, the Maximoffs survived long off their paranoia — and much of their paranoia is greatly warranted. Wanda is, as always, patient; Pietro's constitution makes any sort of poisons or unwanted additives meaningless to him.

On the other hand, Wanda… is much more fallible.

Sipping her tea, and pleased with its steep and sweetness, and indulges. Her expression lights moreso at the introduction of pastries — ambrosia, when it comes to the Scarlet Witch — but, per usual, she does not take anything without Pietro's approval. The brother keeps quite a constant control on the sister. And sister seems more than fine with it.

Eyes on her brother, watching his face as she thinks, Wanda purses her lips after a sip of tea. "We need more than delays when it comes to those — things," she tells Pepper, distate in her voice to even mention those collars. "We need them removed, and with no opportunity or desire for humans to even want to manufacture them again. But… we know delays can be necessary. Helpful to allow us to try other means. Trask won his technology off his deals with Genosha's ex-Magistrates. War criminals. He came into this illegally, and he will resort to more illegalities if he must."

Her jaw tightens. "Or he will see the laws changed. You humans so enjoy doing that. Interpreting your laws, again and again, to what best suits you."

But, in the end, Wanda mollifies. "Still, it is a clever plan. We have a way to turn such a device defective. Or many devices defective." She doesn't explain how. Instead, she looks to Pietro, in her eyes both approval and deference for his decision to proceed.

"As legal as you may make it," Pietro predicts, "they will fight back anyway. There are many to stand to gain from placing collars on mutantkind, and they won't take kindly to any resistance."

But then pastries come out, and Pietro seems to forget his lofty words. He eyes them. The tea has checked out — he tasted and felt nothing untoward about it — so after a moment he steals a few pastries, tries one, and gives another to Wanda. His behavior, in these moments, stands at odds with his and his sister's put-together, sharp appearance: calling to mind more a pair of orphan waifs than a young hedge fund couple. Old habits die hard, and Pietro spent much of his early life filching and hoarding food where he could, to feed his sister.

The distraction doesn't last long, however. They have come a long way since those days shivering in the back alleys of Europe's great cities, and there are greater matters at hand now. Wanda speaks to them, though in the end her eyes turn back to him. They always do. He meets them with a glance, a slight inclination of his head.

"Once you know them," Pietro agrees, his attention turning back to Pepper, "we are more than prepared with a means to introduce a mass defect into any identified components. As a delaying tactic, it will suit… but as my sister says, the end goal must be to stop them so completely."

Rising and putting aside his empty cup, he makes to hand his sister up as well. "But your willingness to do this much is appreciated," he says. "We will be in touch. Stark is well aware how to contact us… but we should not linger long here." They are still, after all, wanted terrorists.

Pepper is again very careful to not react in any way to the young man's unusual response to the pastries, though she does make a mental note to make sure there's food on hand any time she visits with them.

"I agree. This is only a temporary stop-gap measure. I am already planning on working with other contacts to get those things recognized as the torture devices they are, and banned not just in the US, but the entire planet." If only she knew of a way to erase any and all knowledge of the things from everyone, then they'd truly cease to exist. But, that's truly Matrix-level science fiction.

As Pietro moves for them to take their leave, she stands as well. "Thank you for trusting me to speak about this. And I'll be sure to work with Tony to get in contact with you if I need to."

"Allow me to clean after ourselves," suggests Wanda Maximoff, with her soft-spoken diplomacy. She finishes her own tea.

And then, her fingers light at their tips with burning red light. Stark Tower's AI sensors may pick up on the anomaly, may not: it is not specifically magic she uses, though there are trace similarities. It is as if reality, itself, eschers itself into infinite permuting possibilities, all held within that blood-red swirling of energy among her hand.

Her fingers crook and curl, then snap in a small wink of scarlet. It is a small hex, but one that has the twins' two teacups cleaned and returned where Pepper keeps them, as if they were never used today at all. The Maximoffs are also in the habit of leaving little physical evidence of themselves as possible.

Wanda, for her part, likes things neat.

She looks on affectionately as Pietro goes for the pastries, and her smile hikes wider when she is offered one. Taking his hand, she allows her brother to pull her to stand free from her chair. She replaces her hat over her dark hair.

Settling a hand at the crook of her brother's arm, Wanda waits graciously as Pepper speaks — and the furor in the woman's voice touches something in her, makes her blue eyes soften. "Very few humans impress me, Ms. Potts," she says. "But you do. No wonder Stark's business is so in order. It's been a pleasure to meet you."

And with that, she leaves it to Pietro to see them out.

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