Sketchier than Craigslist

May 13, 2018:

Pepper and Clint meet to discuss a mission and end up discussing a room for rent.

Stark Industries

Pepper's posh office in Stark Industries Tower.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

NOT THAT LONG AGO:
A muffled voice whispers loudly into Pepper Potts' voicemail system: "Gingersnap. This is Grape Ape. Operation 'Check out that thing' is ready to go. Preliminary rendezvous?"

There's a pause and the voice continues. "Pepper, I hope to God that you followed that, because I don't think I even remembered what codenames I just made up."

NOW:
Clint Barton whistles as he reads a magazine in the Stark Industries lobby. His eyebrows raise while he peruses the contents of 'Interdimensional Geographic,' his toe tapping against the leg of the coffee table in front of him.

The receptionist nearby stares at the tapping foot but says nothing.

"She /is/ in today, isn't she?" Clint asks the receptionist, who nods.

"Of course, sir. I've notified her of your arrival."

Gingersnap? Grape Ape? Really? Pepper can only sigh in amusement at the voicemail. She wraps up the conference call she's in just as the receptionist calls up to say there's a … person in the lobby waiting for her. And good timing. It's about lunchtime anyway.

"FRIDAY, please have Becca send our visitor up. And please let the kitchen know to send up lunch for two."

"At once, Miss Potts."

In the lobby, the receptionist looks at the computer at her desk, then with ill-concealed relief directs Clint to the elevators. Just as the elevator doors close, the faintly Irish-sounding female AI speaks up for the archer.

"Grape Ape, Gingersnap acknowledges your missive and is ready to begin planning. What would you like to drink with your lunch, sir?"

Shrugging as he leans back against the elevator, Clint scratches the back of his neck. "Honestly, now all I can think of is grape soda and gingersnap cookies. Also, do you have any, like, Muzak of the Grape Ape theme song?"

He clears his throat. "I've … /really/ got to think up better code names for stuff. But I have a habit of thinking with my gut. And by gut I mean stomach."

Clint stops and grimaces. "I bet Tony and Pepper don't talk this randomly to you, do they?" More quietly, he adds, "… Maybe they just save that for the toaster."

When he reaches the correct floor, Clint inhales deeply and tries to smoothe out his shirt. "Hey, Pepper. Hey, Pepper! Hey! Pepper! Heyyyy, Pepper," he practices as the doors open.

It takes about a second, but then the Grape Ape theme song does indeed begin playing in the elevator.

"Miss Potts does not usually, but Sir… well, he converses more with Dummy and Butterfingers and You in such a manner."

Pepper appears from around the open doorway of her office and waves hello when she sees Clint. Likely, the shime that the elevator makes announced his arrival… or one of the AIs did. She disappears again, but coming from her office is the soft but unmistakable sound of ice cubes being poured into a container.

"Come on in, Clint," she calls out.

"Heyyy …" Clint begins enthusiastically, but his voice calms a bit as Pepper disappears back into her office. "Pepper …?" he asks, his hands in his pockets, head craning out to peek around the doorway.

"Been looking into that bit of sightseeing we talked about. I was going to really sink my teeth into it, but I had the feeling that, ah, you'd want to talk about that first. You know - lest I screw up something by accident." Clint shrugs and offers a sheepish grin. "Not that I do /that/ very often … but I couldn't do that to /you/ of all people."

Inside her office, Pepper is standing at her tea credenza, having just finished cramming a glass pitcher full of ice cubes. "Actually, I'm glad that you stopped by. I might have a few things to make checking things out easier, or at least a little faster."

A small timer goes off next to her and she hefts a clearly full teapot, pouring its contents over the pitcher of ice. Voila, iced tea. "Since this is all pretty much not kosher, I've been taking precautions to make sure nothing traces back to any of us. There's a USB memory stick there on the table for you."

Unable to suppress a laugh, Clint slaps a hand over his mouth and blinks several times. He coughs and approaches the table. "Didn't you all basically decide this was /not/ a really useful way to go? Did I absorb Tony's super-genius? Am I in a computer simulation right now?"

Clint points at the USB. "How do I know that this is formatted for the right operating system? Is it a virus? Is it an AI?" He pauses. "Is this a new Iron Man suit?! Please tell me I'm not going to be expected to fire that thing at a computer. You know that all USBs go in upside-down at first, right?"

He pauses again and folds his arms across his chest. "Sorry. I'm sorry. That was a lot of questions. Why don't I let you get me up to speed?" Clint smiles. "How are you doing, Pepper?"

Pepper chuckles softly as Clint tosses out all the questions at once. And then she answers them all in the order they were uttered.

"I'm hedging my bets in case legal channels are just too slow, and there are other people involved now as well. If you absorbed Tony's super-genius, I am NOT working for you. One eccentric super-genius is my hard limit. If you're in a computer simulation right now, then so am I. That would suck." She leaves the pitcher of tea to settle and keep melting ice and pads barefoot over to the sofa in the opposite corner of her office. What? She's on her lunch break. "It's formatted with the same OS as JARVIS and FRIDAY, so can adapt to whatever it's connected to. It's not a virus, though I was tempted. And no, it's not an AI. But it is programmed to pull as much data as possible about those suppression collars from whatever system it's plugged into."

She settles on the sofa, tucking her feet up under her legs as if she were at home. "It's not a suit. If you REALLY want one, though, the best I can offer you likely wouldn't match your normal ensemble." She only chuckles at the upside down comment. "So, you have uncannily good aim, but you can't plug in a USB on the first try? How does that work?" Then she's smiling, clearly only joking. "I'm as busy as always. How have you been?"

"Pepper," Clint says, "I've been as well as I ever have." He pulls up his shirt a bit to show the bandages on his side. "I'm just such a popular guy, the world can't get enough."

Clint grins and gestures to the USB again. "I guess you all are post-USB here, aren't you? If there's one immutable truth, it's that USB drives go in upside-down on the first try. No matter what." He snaps his fingers. "Wait! That super-genius is coming back. What if we invented a USB drive that could go in correctly upside-down? Pepper, we should /do/ this … !"

The archer begins pacing for about two seconds. "Wait, that would involve paperwork." He groans and sighs. "Okay. Back on target. Do I have to, like, get this thing into a specific computer? Also, isn't there already a tried-and-true method that the FBI uses by just leaving loaded USBs in parking garages?"

"Also," Clint adds, "you're not on the market for an apartment, are you? I've got this place for rent that /was/ haunted briefly. But it's better now. Promise."

Pepper chuckles at Clint's super-genius moment. She doesn't tell him that it's already been done and then some. Let him enjoy his moment of brilliance. "Well, most USBs don't look antiquated and mundane while still holding a full suite of spy-level software and three terabytes of storage space. And I think any computer hardline connected in the main Trask corporate headquarters would work just fine."

Clint's offer of an apartment has her blink in momentary surprise but then get an equally momentary shrewd look. "I just might. Where abouts is it, and what condition is it in other than having been haunted?"

The elevator chimes. Their lunch is arriving.

"I suppose you're right," Clint replies, rubbing his chin. "So now it's just up to me. Unless, of course, you actually have redundancies planned into all this, in which case … that's probably the smart move to take."

As lunch arrives, Clint arches his back, wincing slightly as he does. "Oh, it's in a terrible part of town. Lots of Russian mobsters all about. But the other tenants are … well, could be much worse. But you'd at least have other people around."

Clint furrows his brow in thought. "Of course, you'd also have to rely on me as the super. I'm not sure if that's a selling point or not."

Pepper gets up again and moves to the small conference table in front of the credenza as an SI security guard brings in a rolling tray and leaves again promptly. "I hope this is okay. I didn't really give the kitchen much advance notice that you'd be here." Of course, the kitchen staff are likely used to weird last minute requests. There's probably very little they'd not be able to handle.

"Well, I don't have any redundancies for acquiring the data, but I do have other, shall we say, ideas in play for how to put a crimp in the production of those horrid things. Oh, and I'm not sure I'd use the apartment myself, but I can think of someone that would, at least temporarily. Will I need to fill out a lease agreement?" She's not worried about the rent, and she can likely even help Clint find handyman services to get any needed repairs done around the building.

"Though, I do have to ask, when did you become the super of an apartment building?"
"Ahhhh," Clint says, pursing his lips and waving off the question. "Things happen. You know. Mind your business one day, give a bag of cash to unsavory types another. Keeps people in their homes."

He allows himself a smile. "Best worst mistake ever. No lease needed, though! Mostly because I don't have any of those kinds of forms written out." Clint leans forward just a bit. "Pepper … I'm a terrible landlord! I'm /so much/ better at fitting USB drives into computers!"

Clint begins plucking bits of food from the tray, stuffing them into his mouth. "Bif if reeby goob!"

Claiming some of the food for herself, Pepper is simply amused by Clint's admiration of the meal. "Well, if there's anything I can do to help you in and around that building, just let me know. I happen to know a few decent plumber and electrician types I could call if anything breaks beyond your ability to fix." Again, she doesn't ask about rent. After all, she can just look up the current going rate for a flat in that part of town and then make sure to give Clint at least that much. Easy peasy.

"Hm. This is particularly good today." She then remembers and pours tea for Clint and for herself. "Also, if you decide that being a super is not for you, I can help you find a property management company to take over the mundane duties for you."

"Well," Clint says, a thin cloud of food particles escaping his mouth, "jud wemember ib wub haumbeb. Haumbeb," he repeats, trying to enunciate while chowing down.

After a long moment of actually chewing, Clint takes a deep breath. "Whew. Sorry. But yeah, I welcome any help that doesn't involve me Youtube-ing and Wikihow-ing electrical repairs that I end up having to call in people for anyway. For you, we can probably even redo the carpet, too!"

He brushes his hands off on one another. "The wi-fi's not great in the building, but I /think/ it's because everyone is just leeching off my place. What can you do," he says in a resigned tone, and then he grins again. "It's honestly kind of adorable."

Okay, despite Clint's table manners, the admission about the building's wifi makes Pepper laugh softly. "I'm sure that wouldn't be a problem for me, but I can always do something about that as well if needed. I'll have FRIDAY email you a list of repair services that have already been vetted for this building."

And she mentally makes a note to try and contact the twins, to offer them a reliable and safe place to stay. She's not sure they'd actually need it, but she got the feeling they aren't used to having anything they could call their own.

She's all about changing that. Especially since they're prime targets of those collars Trask has been manufacturing.

"10-4, good buddy," Clint says between bites. "You bring whatever resources to the table you feel comfy with. And in the meantime …" He holds up the USB, looks at it, and brushes some bread crumbs off of it. "I'll take care of you-know-what with this-right-here."

He nearly bites into the USB, but at the last moment remembers and bites the finger food that was in his other hand. "Close one!" Clint says, trying to keep himself from choking. "Believe it or not, Pepper, I'm much better with USBs than with most food, too. Ask my washing machine …"

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