An Ironclad Future

June 29, 2018:

Obadiah Stane tells Steve Rogers of a grand idea.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Stark Tower.

While many know this to be Tony’s castle, and him to be the King, a few others know there is a seneschal to the madness that surrounds him in one Obadiah Stane. Once Howard Stark’s closest confidant and brother in ideology if not blood, he took over operations after Howard passed, while Tony took the limelight. Together they armed America in much the same way Howard and Obi did before Tony came of age.

But things change.

Here in Obadiah’s once-office, a command center of sorts with personnel that might seem familiar in operation if not uniform. There’s an operation center like this in the Triskelion, only larger. A bustle of activity, it serves as a barrier between any visitor and the pacing Obadiah, who occupies a glass-encased office in the back. Holographic displays show the work that Obi does now: Tracking stolen Stark weapons from ages past, along with new threats from illegal technology traffickers, threats that sometimes get passed to SHIELD or the Avengers when Obi’s small team of individuals can’t get the work done with local authorities.

I might bring to mind the sharp dichotomy of those who can take action in the field, and a man like Obi, who has always had to take a back seat. It also shows how much he’s embraced Tony’s vision, of making technology to better humanity instead of destroy it. And that, he hopes, will have made his invitation to Steve Rogers worth a reply.

‘Come by Stark Tower sometime next week. Need your advice, need a face to face.’

Left open for Steve to work it into his busy schedule, Obadiah would clear his at a moment’s notice, just for a chance to speak to Steve face to face, a man he’s met in passing, when people are blowing up charity galas, or when someone’s grilling him in a courtroom, but never for a long conversation. The moment he sees Steve enter his little command center, he’ll wave him over towards that glass around his office, a simple and stripped down affair that is now more function than fancy.


Steve moves slowly toward the Stark Tower, a building marred with war and war profiteering, innovation and the regrets that result from it, and struggles and sins that he can almost feel as he walks through the door, his hand struggling to stay at place. It opens for him automatically, though his hand struggles to stay at his place as instinctually, he wants to move in with a slight tug and an intentional effort. But instead, he seems guided in by staff, technology, or combinations of the two.

When he enters the room, Steve Rogers isn’t dressed in his civilian clothes nor the garb of Captain America. Instead, he has on his dress uniform, clearly having come in from a funeral: SHIELD agent, important historic American, superhero, or just merely one of the few souls he knew from WWII, it’s unclear. The important thing, though, is that he has arrived and seems willing to talk.

Slowly, Rogers moves through the area, but he seems a little more focused than he usually would be in such an environment. While he gives a cursory glance here and there to the various signs of side project and priorities, there is a lack of fear or childlike wonder. But it isn’t his first time in Stark Tower, even if his meetings with the famous (or infamous) Obadiah Stane have been brief. So with a calm stride and an extended hand, Captain America offer his greetings.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Stane, you wished to speak?”

When Steve enters the office proper, Obadiah takes those brief moments between stalled stride and extended hand to take stock of the man's demeanor. His manner of dress, the way he seems to let his surroundings roll off his back, it isn't lost on Obi. He can tell when something heavy lays at just about anyone's feet. Of course, the dress uniform stands out most, and after giving a firm handshake and a wave of his hand to a nearby chair, he moves back behind his desk.

"I hope I'm not imposing on your time, Captain Rogers. Honestly, bothering Tony's friends this way is about the last thing I want to do but sometimes a thing can't wait." There's a pause then, just as Obi is in the middle of pouring them a couple of drinks. Normally he'd ask, but given Steve's current manner of dress, he thought he might simply put that scotch in front of him and let him decide if he needs it.

"Was it someone you were close to?"

At the very least he seems to understand Steve's demeanor, moving to sit across from him, behind his desk, his own drink held close. He lets the question linger, but so too does the purpose of the meeting, a gambit meant to extract from Steve how hard, or not, the funeral was on him.

Calm blue eyes take on the scotch. A beat or two passes, careful consideration given before the man finally looks up, realizing in hindsight that the question merited a response.

“No, but he was a good man that deserved my full respects just the same.”

The demeanor is thoughtful and slightly sorrowful, but the man doesn’t seem burdened. After all, Steve’s dealt with a lot of death over the years and his natural resiliency was one of the reasons why he was chosen for the Super Soldier Program. However, a strong will doesn’t negate the importance of mourning the lost nor giving their passing the respect of at least some consideration. It’s odd how much Steve can communicate without speaking, but yet the message seems to carry with the compassion in his eyes yet the strength of his almost regal stature, even in this simple meeting of great men.

“Not imposing, merely just making the most of my time. I’m sorry if the attire is troubling, but as you said, some things can’t wait and I’ve learned it is often best to meet as soon as possible.” A glance is given toward the room. “Though if I could have a glass or bottle of water that would be great,” he admits with a sheepish grin.

In the lines that deepen the gaze of Obadiah Stane is someone who knows well the feeling of loss. Not like Steve of course. Few people can claim that. His is tired and weary of years creeping on, old friends passing thanks to a life style that was never meant for longevity, or perhaps their pasts finally catch up to them. There's a slow, grave nod, and at his request, Obadiah reaches into his little desk compartment to produce a chilled bottle of water.

"It doesn't trouble me, Captain Rogers. I'm just a little hesitant to discuss one lost friend while you're mourning another."

There's a pause after he takes a drink from his glass, ruminating on the weight of his coming words, and then his eyes lift to meet Steve with a forlorn gravity. "I wanted to talk to you about Howard Stark. You knew him before I did. You may have seen him at his very best. I've asked you here because he once told me of a dream, one I think I can make happen now."

There's a slight motion from one of his hands, and a small hologram appears on his desk, one of Pietro in a rare moment of inaction, and Wanda looking to the sky, as if drawing from some unknown muse. The Maximoffs look as dangerous as they do young. "Ever since the gala, I've been getting phone call after phone call. Politicians, political action groups, even just old friends, wondering what we're going to do about this 'mutant problem'. They expect me to rant and rave, I think. They usually hang up on me when I tell them it's a human problem."

It drives a clear line in the sand for Obadiah Stane, but also one that requires explanation. "Howard told me he once knew a man who could solve all of our problems. That if we could break off just a little bit of him and spread it around, some small measure of his courage and compassion, we'd all be able to look at our neighbors like they were our brothers and sisters. You're that man, and I think if we work together, we can do something that will make the world safer, and stop our society from eating itself alive with hatred of a people culminated by a fear stoked by a few misguided individuals."


A brow of concern lifts from the water that Steve takes, taking in the man carefully as he talks about a lost friend. A few tense seconds pass until the name of Howard is brought up. It’s a tragic mix of sadness and relief. The sad and premature death of Howard lingering and mingling with the odd relief that it is a death of one long since passed instead of an ally of Rogers still living.

As Obadiah explains himself, Steve listens quietly, the only sound the opening of his bottle of water and the soft gulping of water. Half of it is consumed swiftly, the walking Public Service Announcement clearly living up to his own advice on appropriate hydration. Around the drinking of the water, Steve’s gaze remains solely and respectfully on the speaking in front of him. That is until the holograph appears.

Wrinkles of thought appear once more in Steve’s forehead as he looks toward the duo. Careful eyes scan them as the conclusions are made by the successful business man. “I don’t know I have the solution to all of this. I just want to listen, to understand, and encourage an intelligent and respectful way forward for all parties involved. Tensions are running high and I fear the best way forward will require many delicate touches and intentional moves to get around the attempts to inspire fear and hate from extremists on both sides.”

A beat pauses. While Stane has attempted to mix the mutant issue with the relationship between Howard and Steve, the odd and disjointed comment that follows seems to seek to break the two, as if doing all he could to ensure that the fallen friend and vision maker was separated from the world he worked so hard to perfect.

“Howard was a good man. I’m sure you understand more than most he did more for his country and the world than most would give credit, which is hard to believe considering how much credit he gave himself.”

A half-hearted smirk is given as Rogers looks toward his water as the still naïve man recalls conversations and heroism now separated by almost a century. Steve catches himself swiftly as he looks toward Stane, his professional demeanor now back on course.

“But back on the issue of mutant rights, I take it you’re planning something to help with the situation.”

To spend time in the company of America's greatest soldier is not something most people will ever get to do, and Obadiah does not rush the conversation as Steve speaks, listening to each word with a certain kind of reverence. Still, it is different from the starry eyed fan. Obadiah has given much, has taken much, and has come full circle. Now he seeks nobler ends, after a lifetime of making everything just business.

"Something to help with a lot of situations." He squashes The Twins with one hand, and when he lifts it again, a globe rises with a slow cascade of powered events with labels, and how they were responded too. "You see, the world has a problem Captain Rogers. It throws square pegs at round holes every day. A man with the ability to generate and manipulate fire crops up in New York City, trying to rob a bank. Looks like a teleporter and a strong-woman responded. It took them two hours and six buildings to take him out, and when they were done the five alarm fire consumed another four buildings. Square peg. Round hole. Imagine if a water controller or ice controller had been there, along with a support team who knows the terrain and area, and a commander who had the experience to coordinate them all. Now imagine if one of them were a mutant, and everyone knew that."

Another hologram rises up, Steve Rogers next to Merrow and Iceman, with Spider-Man and Agent 13 in the background. "Imagine if this group took out the pyromaniac in a fraction of the time, and could stop the additional fallout before it began. Seeing Steve Rogers work alongside mutants and other powered individuals would send a strong message to the rest of the country. Might help calm things down, while making the world a little safer."

It doesn't explain the how, but Obadiah is certain it lays out his vision, letting Steve digest the idea, a way to fish for a preliminary reaction.


There is a long pause as the illustration is displayed and the explanation given. The idea is weighed and considered with a decided pensive expression, the WWII vet’s arms folding as he considers the beginning of an idea unfurled. While thoughtful, there is little to give rise to any reaction good or bad to things given so far, perhaps Captain America purposefully keeping any true emotional response to himself until all the cards are on the table.

“It looks like you’re talking about active mobilization,” Rogers begins. “If you’re thinking about intentionally having a superhero team with mutants and non-mutants working together, I think there is a definite benefit to that. The key, like a lot of things, is intention and execution.” There is a short pause. It seems that Steve is parsing his own unsaid conclusions, but he appears either slow to share them or intentionally going down a different road. “I’d be happy to work with any mutant or any superhero that is willing to hold to the ideals that made our nation great, but I’m sure you know that already. In fact, I was hoping to talk with Xavier’s students and follows, see what they had to say on all of this. I’ve already talked to some mutants about these things, but you can’t just talk to one member of a subgroup and claim to know their plight in its entirety.”

"Active mobilization on a grand scale. We'll start with the United States first. It took me awhile but I have the votes in the Senate and House committees on Powered Affairs to get preliminary authorization for the Civil Power Corps. We'll be asking SHIELD to provide support infrastructure, while my team here takes the lead on recruitment and organization activities for the first six months. But this all hinges on the right kind of messaging. Outreach to established groups and showing good faith to whole communities is important. I don't want anyone thinking this is another kind of registration with some sugar coating, and too that end, the whole thing will be run by an advisory council."

Obadiah's brows lift, and as the hologram changes again, it's clear he's intent on creating a global team in the future - every superhero who will join, paired with the resources to get them to the right incident at the right time, based on their abilities and experience. "You've be the key to that, Captain Rogers. I'd need you on that council, with override power, policy control, all of it. I need the world to know that when it comes to the moral center of this enterprise, we're not just offering platitudes and promises. I'd also like a member of the X-Men on that council, as well as someone the Inhumans might look up to."

Before Steve can weigh in, Obadiah closes his pitch by lifting his hands, as if to stave off the first salvo of what might be criticism. "And look, I know this is ambitious and it's going to draw criticism. People will wonder where the money will come from, and what it might mean for their kids who have gifts, or how we might be doing outreach to make sure those with abilities don't have to be afraid anymore. Other established groups may not want the oversight, and that's a fair concern, but I can guarantee you that if you come on board, that alone will speak volumes about what we're trying to do. I'm not asking for an answer now, mostly I just want to get your thoughts, give you this information - " Here he slides a thumb drive across to Steve. "and let you think on it awhile. And maybe, if you do go speak to the X-Men, you can make it a test run of what it would be like to build those bridges. Because if we can get them on board with this whole thing and sanction them on the side of good, then I think we can start swaying the American public."

There is a long pause. Obi speaks of grand visions, a world filled with superheroes working in perfect harmony for a better world; a group working hand in hand with a monitored organization to ensure that they do their best and put the best foot forward. Obadiah is right in his prediction, and an opened mouth to offer concerns is temporarily held back at the request of his host.

The thumb drive is rested in the hand of Captain America, who slides his fingers around it slowly. It’s clear that Rogers has his doubts, but even so, his voice and beliefs seem moderate considering the situation. “I’ll try and talk with the X-Men, see what they have to say on the matter,” Steve finally admits after what seems like an eternity of thought. “If what you are saying is true and there is mutant support by those that understand mutant rights fully and completely, then I’ll be willing to entertain it if there are the checks and balances that you claim. As you know, being beholden to a government as a superhero group has its own blessings and banes, as a government, as noble intentioned as it may be, can still falter in its duties for a variety of reasons. And I know one must often make mistakes to learn from them, but I don’t want our noble failures to cost more than we planned on.”

"I promise you, Captain Rogers. Just having you hear me out has been the highlight of a lifetime. The whole reason I wanted to put this past you first is because if you said no, if there was no way this would work, that would probably just be the end of it. After all, if we go forward with this, we're certainly not going to be beholden to any government. Not really."

Despite what he said about securing government funding, he drops that little bombshell here and now so Steve can ruminate on it a little more, taking a long drink from his glass before offering one of those ever so fatherly smiles. "We'll be beholden to you. Having Steve Rogers say yes or no to the way we do things, I think, is a pretty great way to go about moral operations. Don't worry about the world agreeing, I'll take care of that part. You just think it over."

This almost seems like a command, Obi extending a finger from around his glass, pointing at Steve as if giving him some amount of homework, the slow forward tilt of his head, to give him 'the look'. All part of his closing pitch. "Tell you what, you want an ice cream for the road? I hear you like to eat and Pepper doesn't know I have a little freezer right here in the cabinet. The Rocky Road is something else."

That's right. Homework. Think it over. Want some ice cream, Steve?

It is an odd thing, most people would be honored by the idea of having so much trust and faith that they would seek to place an entire organization in his hands, even if it was just part of it, causes him to frown. It’s one thing to lead a group into war. It’s another to make policy on it. “I’ll think it over,” the First Avenger concedes. “But as I said, a lot hinges on how /others/ take this, not just myself.”

A glance is given toward the fridge. It’s clear there is a momentary temptation, one much stronger than the offer of booze. But this too is refused. “The only rocky road I’ll be taking part of is the one for a better America.” The fact that he said that with a straight face and meant it would likely be enduring to some, troubling to others. Either way, perhaps that shows why he’s still Captain America despite the jump through time. “I’m sure we’ll be talking soon, Mr. Stane. Until then, take care.” With a small smile, Rogers slowly moves to leave unless stopped in anyway by his host.

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