Get the Digits

August 02, 2018:

Rachel takes Stark up on his offer to come by the tower and discuss the ongoing Trask/Purifiers problem. Rachel has a few burning questions of her own.

Stark Tower

You know what it looks like.

Characters

NPCs: JARVIS, Dummy

Mentions: Emma Frost, Kitty Pryde

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Stark Tower is always a hive of activity. Sometimes its worse than others. Sometimes its better. On this day. On this hour it's…well about middling really. A few people in the massive lobby. A few drones hovering about on various tasks. Just busy enough for an X-man to slip into the building without raising too much of a fuss.

True to his word security seems to wave her by without a problem, directing her up towards the higher levels of the Tower while calling ahead to inform 'Lord Stark' as Thor calls him that he has visitors.

The elevator ride is smooth and nearly noiseless. Tony's technology at work even in the most mundane of things in his own tower. The brilliant light for all mankind as someone once put it.

"Miss Summers," A refined voice seems to speak from everywhere. The english tones smooth and measured. "Mister Stark is in the ballistics lab. Three doors down on the right. Oh! And welcome to Stark Tower. If there is anything I can do just ask." A pause. "Ah, apologies. I am JARVIS."

The corridor ahead of her has doors leading off left and right at intervals. Glassed in portions showing the interior of high-tech lab spaces. Mostly because Stark likes showing off.

In the third one down Stark himself is indeed set up sitting at a table facing the door, peering intently at what looks like a steel bracelet as he makes microscopic adjustments to…something in its internals.


To jump out of linear time for a moment: Rachel never calls Tony 'Lord Stark.' Ever.

Back to the present. Rachel shows up at Stark Tower for her meeting like she's unimpressed with everything. Maybe she actually isn't impressed. Wouldn't that just be terrible? She shows up to the place by bus of all things, walking from the stop to the lobby. No one seems to acknowledge or even notice her — not a single glance — until she reaches the front desk.

This is unusual because she's dressed mildly flashy: a bodycon dress in a red-and-white houndstooth pattern, cut to mid-thigh with a bateau neckline, which she's dressed down with a pair of black hightops and a silver-studded leather jacket with an obnoxiously large and pleasantly stylized firebird patch sewn across the back.

But, front desk. Security notices her then, now that she's standing right there.

"Rachel Summers, here for Tony Stark," she says in near-monotone.

The elevator ride is about as thrilling to her as everything else. She glances up when the voice starts in.

"Thanks," she says. She believes in addressing mysterious elevator voices as equals until given evidence otherwise.

Rachel follows the directions. Tony's sense of dramatic architectural presentation does get her to glance back and forth as she proceeds past the labs. She stops when she sees one that actually has him in it.

Rachel stops by the window. She knocks, twice, and then stuffs her hand back into her jacket pocket.


The view is impressive enough. Esoteric tech lies strewn about in some order only its creator knows. Half finished projects lie on benches until Tony gets back around to them. He seems to be working on a half dozen things at once. From what looks like rocket boots to some kind of sensor array to…a hand lathe and a set of stone chisels? Stark has many interests. Which is…about normal.

Stark glances up at the knock, the inventor's movements sharp as always. Though the glass he can see just who it is. "JARVIS," He calls easily and the door slides open, hissing on near-silent mechanisms back into the thick walls. Yes, it almost sounds like something from Star Trek.

He's a fan of the classics.

Waving her in the inventor smirks slightly. "Subtle outfit." A beatpause. "I approve." He drawls out as he reaches out to collect the thing he was looking on and snap it onto his wrist as he tests the fit.

"Welcome to my toyshop. I don't suppose you can do the laser eyes thing?" A beatpause again. "Eh nevermind. The cleanup would take days."


When the door opens, Rachel comes around the corner and enters Stark's… well, this may not qualify as the inner sanctum, but maybe an inner sanctum. All Rachel knows is that she feels like him meeting her here is some kind of power play. Selling an image. Maybe.

Maybe Rachel is just predisposed to read too far into things.

"Thanks, I'm a subtle person," she says, looking at the various trappings of the lab rather than at Stark. At least she's not touching anything. "I put away the fire wings and everything."

Rachel finally looks up and meets Stark's gaze with her own.

"Do you want me to do laser eyes, or are you going to say something that makes me do laser eyes?"


"It's me, so I'm gonna guess yes."

At least Stark is honest in that. There is a smirk there as he shrugs. He knows himself well enough for that. "I mean really if most of the people I know had eye lasers I'd be a crisp by now. I seem to get under peoples skin, now idea why that is. You have a clue, Firebird?"

…its the jacket she picked. So now she has a nickname.

The comment about the fire wings kinda cinched it.

"But I wanted to test out a new shielding tech." He replies with a shrug. "Might need to to punch a god so…testing is in order." A pause again before he flashes her a grin. "Come on in though, have a seat anywhere. Pepper's not here, and she's the polite one. I'm the asshole. So you're gonna have to ask if you want anything like snacks."

At this point a little robit on treads rolls out from the back of the lab. It looks entirely out of place. Just an old robotic arm on a set of treads. No hoverjets. No sleek casing. No fancy colors. But the little guy raises his single arm to awkwardly wave in greeting to Rachel.

"Dummy, there you are. Aren't you supposed to be helping Butterfingers?"

Stark smirks towards the robot before looking back towards Rachel. "So! You had some things you wanted to chat about and I wanted to pick your brain about Trask and his goons right? What can do for, or too you then?"

No. He really doesn't have an off button.

…though sufficiently powerful telepaths can fix that.


Sufficiently powerful telepaths can do a lot of things. The problem is doing them without morality, and Rachel is one such psychic burdened with that curse.

Rachel lets Tony ramble on through topics, providing color commentary in the form of facial expressions. Him calling her firebird gets raised eyebrows and a tilt of her head in a silent 'oh, really?'

Tony is at least saved by the necessity of finding a seat and the appearance of another cute robot. Things like punching a god don't seem to register much bewilderment in her, but she does wave back at Dummy while favoring the dopey armbot with a smile.

Rachel finds a suitable horizontal surface to claim in the form of a worktable. She hops up — it's actually a short float if Tony is perceptive — and sits down, crossing her legs at the ankle.

"To me, huh," she says. She shakes her head, but it seems more like a gesture of clearing her thoughts than saying no. It's also probably saying no, but there's an implicative step there.

"Let's work on the list," she says, raising a hand to count off her fingers.

"First off, it's Phoenix. Second, I'm good on snacks. Third, lean harder on the dopey robots, they make you more sympathetic."

Rachel opens her hands to show empty palms, then drops them back to the edge of the table she's sitting on.

"I have a few questions. You want to go first, or am I up?"


"Isn't there like multiple Phoenixes? Phoenixi? Phoenix People? I don't know what you would call them plural. But sure, I'll go with Phoenix." Tony continues to ramble, not even phased by the shake of the head. Instead there is only that smirk of his, sharp and easy. "What can I say, I'm a sucker for women that could cause my brain to leak out my ears. Literally."

But then he's spinning around, snagging a bag of dried strawberries that Dummy pulls out of a desk drawer in a practiced motion before he pops two into his mouth before he leans against the workbench across from her.

As he comes out from behind the table its obvious he dresses down for working at home. Gone are that bespoke suit of his he wore to the mansion. Replaced with a Black Sabboth t-shirt and dark denim jeans. The gleaming circle of the ARC reactor easily seen though the dark fabric as he watches her for a moment. Sharp eyes note the floating and there is a flash of amusement in his eyes.

At least he isn't the only one that uses his gifts for completely mundane things.

"Dummy is a great wingman. First AI that I ever put together."

Dummy's arm sags slightly. Looking embarrassed. If an arm could blush.

"You show me yours first, and maybe I can get a good idea of how Trask works afterwords. So. Hit me."


Rachel begins to open her mouth to respond to the Phoenix confusion, but she's barely parted her lips when Tony starts talking about the kind of women he's into. She narrows her eyes, shuts her mouth, and watches Tony pirouette. Spinning, at least.

He comes out around the table. Rachel, whose gaze has until now been fixed on his face, briefly drops her attention to take in his choice of clothing. Her wandering eyes eventually return to Tony's own. She doesn't seem to care if he's caught her looking.

"I'll pull my punches, I promise," she says. Rachel leans forward, her center of balance precarious on that table edge. Not precarious enough for her to have difficulty, though.

"Are you in the Hellfire Club, or do you just happen to be the guy fucking Emma Frost?"

Pulled punches.


"That's pulled punches?" Stark asks with a raised eyebrow. "I mean. I guess it's a different scale around the mansion when you have people like Tin Man that can punch though buildings but. Usually those are called personal questions."

Stark munches on another strawberry as he watches her. His posture relaxed but his eyes sharp as diamonds.

"So just so you know, half the elite in New York is in the Hellfire Club. Its one of those old money secrets. Though I'm gonna guess it has some deeper meaning and multiple layers and is much worse than the gentleman's club of means it looks like on the surface."

There is a thoughtful pause though as he watches her a moment. "Why does it matter though?"

A quirk of an eyebrow. "I'm the one helping you with these collars. Not her."


Rachel puts on an obviously faux smile and shrugs her shoulders with a weathergirl's perkiness. She drops the act a second later, returning to her languid attentiveness. The two watch each other for a silent moment.

"You are," says Rachel. "I appreciate that you want to help. I really mean that."

If this is a tense moment on her end, her tone doesn't hint at that at all. But who might have a better poker face than an experienced telepath? Rachel leans back so she isn't leaning forward in dramatic poise anymore.

"But I need to know and I'm not going to go prying into your head. The Hellfire Club isn't that simple. You probably know rich people better than I do. There's always something more exclusive. Another set of closed doors. Keep the riffraff out of the master's chambers."

Rachel pauses for a moment, but not enough to signal that she's done talking. She shakes her head and gestures dismissively with her hand.

"If you say that's all they are to you, fine. We're good. As long as you mean it."


"Oh I figured that out when someone from there decided to try to hack one of my servers and then post the info for sale. On a semi-private server." Stark says with a shake of his head. "I mean really. You think idiocy is limited to one side of the good/evil line but no. Idiots are universal." A shake of his head at that before he looks towards Rachel a moment, thoughtful.

"Now I wouldn't want it passed around, but…the reason I'm still in there? Is mostly so I can try to keep tabs on what they are doing. It is a nice little heads up from the really obvious ones." A smirk at that. "Take that information for what you like but…"

He shrugs slightly.

"But no. I'm not part of the inner circle or whatever goes on there. I don't want to be. I bet they have stupid code names and cult-style meetings. I get enough of that with the Avengers and the League."

From everything she can tell. ON the plane of his thoughts and on the more obvious body language from Stark he's telling the complete truth. "I do appreciate that you don't go rummaging around in my thoughts though. I mean there are some out there I don't really want to get out into publication."


Rachel seems to buy his explanation. She inclines her head briefly to acquiesce the point before Tony starts talking telepath business.

"Hey, this is only the first time you've invited me up to your room," says Rachel. She finally — finally — gives him a smile that seems genuine, though it's a small and sly thing. "I don't do things like that without a little romance first."

Rachel slides forward to hop down from the table. She walks toward Dummy, leaning down once she's close enough to that she can give him a closer look.

"Avengers and the League, though. I'm not sure I could take two teams at once. I like my teams more on the personal side. The X-Men having fifty people pushing drama in every direction is headache enough."


"Noted," Stark replies with a flash of a grin. "Next time we'll start with dinner." His smiles are often and quick little things. There and gone again. It's hard to say with him if they are honest, or meaningful, or just meant to hide something.

He watches her cross the room as he tosses down the bag of snacks. Turning to follow as he chuckles slightly. "Well the League is a new thing. Not sure if I got invited because I can build starships, or because they wanted some 'mortal' there to marvel at."

Dismissive of his own talents as always but there is a slight smile as she examines Dummy. This one is longer. Warmer. Just a touch more genuine as he looks at the little bot.

The work is…rough. It isn't nearly as polished as anything else in the tower. Rivets can be seen. Hammer strokes obvious on metal casings. A scruff mark from an errant twist of a bolt. The blue-steel has character that some of the more polished designs lack.

…well…the ones apart from Stark's personal suits.

Dummy has heart worked into his casing. Warmth and caring went into the rough casing, forged by hand. Even though the casing is marked by scars from an EMP blast at near point-blank range. The little arm-on-wheels seems to bob up and down as Rachel comes over to look. Trying at first to shake her hand. Because that is what you do. Then just awkwardly hanging there as she peers at him. The 'hand' whirring as it 'looks' towards her, then back at Stark, then back at her.

"No pickpocketing, I know how you are." Stark says with a smirk at the little bot as he takes a deep breath.

"Well, you live in a giant highschool. Full of metas. That is like a hot-bed of drama if I've ever heard of it. So I guess that is the cost of living there. Drama tax." A beatpause. "So. Trask. And the Purifiers. Any other groups I should be looking into for this kinda stuff or is that gonna be a long list?"


Even when she tries not to pry, Rachel often gets enough hints of surface emotions and thoughts to put together what's sincere and what isn't. Then again, Tony's mind moves fast enough that it's like trying to look at a disco ball.

"Starships are useful," she murmurs in passing as Tony mentions them. She glances back at him to wrinkle her nose in distaste when he makes the mortal comment, but she's almost certainly directing it at the League's attitude in this scenario.

Rachel holds out her hand, hesitating at first to see if Dummy shrinks away. When he seems more interested in being confused, she decides to run her fingers across his EMP scars.

Rachel closes her eyes briefly. Sometimes she gets feelings about the past. Sometimes she sees it.

But they're fleeting, and they're also not what she's here for. Rachel stands up, shoving her hands in her jacket pockets again as she turns to Tony.

"I don't know how feasible it is, but I want to hunt down Trask. The collars may not be much of a weapon, but…"

Rachel glances away, then rolls her eyes before returning her attention to Stark.

"Okay. My deal is that I'm from the future. It's not a great future. A lot of people are dead, all the surviving metas have collars. I'm sure someone will pick up Trask's work if we stop him, but if he's a fanatic I want to stop him from working with the military tech industry ever again. Maybe we discredit him. I don't know."


Masks. Most of those quick quips and fast smiles function as masks. Something is under there, something under that stream of consciousness and flashing thoughts. It isn't hateful or malicious but many of those smiles are there to mask it. Many of them are to live up to the image of 'Tony Stark'.

It's a pain to do sometimes.

The one for Dummy though? That one is sincere. As is the intent to actually help the X-men. There is something more behind it but the gesture is entirely sincere.

The touch of the robot does get something.

A brief flash. A feeling of helplessness. As if something else is in control. Tony Stark fighting a black shadowy wolf. Dummy's claw at Stark's throat. A pained 'I'm sorry, buddy' in Tony's voice and a flash of light.

Then reality asserts itself.

And Dummy is 'looking' at her with some curiosity.

Stark has no idea of course, leaning his hip against the work desk as he pays more attention to her words. Though there is a roll of his eyes. "Christ, how many people just show up from this reality from different times? I swear you all should start a club. There's dozens." He says with a touch of exasperation in his voice. "Is this the same one Nate is from? Or a different horrible dystopian future of all the metas being in collars?" A pause. "Or the one Nathaniel is from." A longer pause. "Or…oh my god how many horrible dystopian futures are there?"

He takes a long moment to just think about this. "Yeah, don't want to know. Anyway, discrediting him and the tech is going to be the best way to a permanent solution. Because otherwise like you said just someone else will take up the torch. I'm already slowing him down on the outside, chipping away at his infrastructure and all that strategic shit that I think is way less fun than burning down his house but happens to be way more legal."

A smirk at that.

"We need to find proof that he's doing things like experimenting on people and mutants. In the US. That should at least bring a case against him."


Rachel sees a lot of things every day. The problem with psychometry is that it greatly increases the amount of memories to sort through. If you're not careful with what you let in, you might end up with more borrowed memories than your own.

These memories, though — she wanted them. She doesn't have the context, but they're helping her put together a picture of the man called Tony Stark, and the different masks he wears.

Her next smile is humorless. It doesn't show in the eyes. "If it makes you feel better, I dimension hopped before it was popular."

Rachel tilts her head up to look at the ceiling. She closes her eyes and exhales, staying silent for a long moment. She cycles through a few thoughts.

"Alright. There's got to be some dirt under his fingernails." Rachel levels her gaze at Tony again. "You've been running the data. Where do we go? Do we hunt down those overclocked soldiers first and see if there's a link?"

The redhead reaches up to run her hand through one side of her hair. "I've got too many powers and too much free time. Tell me what to do and I'll take care of it."


"Strangely it does," Stark replies with a smirk towards her. "I'll just call you the first then. And all the others can fight about who is number two." A pause. "No one ever wants to be number two."

The inventor flashes her a smile, bright and amused with himself. "And now that I'm done with my juvenile humor…" The smile fades as he looks towards her, his thoughts whirling into more stable circles as he sets himself to problem solve for her question. "…we need a server. Some kind of physical server. And we need to get in and out without anyone knowing. If I can put a trace system, something that'll upload information every so often from his secure systems without anyone knowing…that would be the best way to figure out just where these overclocked guys are coming from." A pause. "And that's a good name for them, totally using it."

He reaches up into the air as a holographic screen simply appears, typing on thin air as he lets his mind work though the problems.

"I have some people working on the Overclocked guys, but if we can find a server it'll make things a lot faster. He's gotta have some dirt on his secure systems. And hopefully a trail on where he got the Overclocked from." A glance towards her. "You think you and yours can run down a few sites that might be good candidates to sneak into?"

He taps the screen a moment.

"Look for a site, and run down any of these guys from the Purifiers. I mean you X-men…isn't that sexist?" A pause to shake himself out of a possible tangent. "…didn't you all get a prisoner? I have no clue what information you got from him but he might can point you to a second site."

A beatpause.

"One that maybe shouldn't blow up?"


"It wasn't juvenile until you made it clear," Rachel deadpans.

Rachel shifts the weight in her stance as she listens to Stark's plan of action. She isn't taking notes, but she looks attentive enough. She knows when to nod at the right moment, which is a vital skill in conversations like this.

She gestures haplessly with her free hand when Tony steals her name. It's not that big a loss. Dimensional nonsense helps you develop a good sense for flippantly naming things.

"Hey, no Brotherhood, no explosion," says Rachel. She hesitates as her internal monologue on the veracity of that claim plays out in full cynicism. She soldiers on: "Making this a stealth thing should mean the team will be a manageable size. Kitty and I can sneak in just about anywhere. If you send something to upload over to the mansion, we can do the rest."

Rachel reaches up to pull on the lapels of her jacket, tugging it into place. She takes a few unhurried steps toward the exit to show that she's getting ready to leave, even if the conversation isn't exactly over.

"I'll ask about where they're at on figuring out another site. I'm not sure if you thought I was being sarcastic earlier, but I mean it: thanks for helping out. I don't want to be the harbinger of doom or anything," or an albatross around anyone's neck, "but I feel certain that letting all of this happen is a step down a very wrong road."


"Sure it was, you're just nice enough not to point it out till then." Stark replies with a laugh as he waves his hand to dismiss the hologram. There is an amused look at the 'No Brotherhood, No Explosion' comment. Like this time he's the telepath that knows exactly what she's thinking.

But she soldiers on and he nods easily. "I'll send something over. Maybe come visit again. I mean I'm pretty sure I almost got Tin Man to fling me out a window last time, I should try to go for broke next."

The comment though draws a shrug of acceptance from Stark. "Then we don't let it happen." It sounds so simple, but there is some kind of conviction there. "Since I kinda like this world. As a great man once said. All my stuff is here."

The Tick was totally a great man.

"I mean it isn't gonna be easy. Might take some serious research. Research best conducted over dinner sometime at least I'm thinking." He adds with a raised eyebrow. "Serious research of course."

Yes. Totally serious.


"I'm putting 'masochistic tendencies' down in your bio," Rachel interjects on the subject of tin men and windows.

Rachel keeps walking toward the door, though before she gets there she turns around to complete the last few steps backward so she can keep her gaze on Tony. Against all odds — against all the manic tangent-leaping and grade-school jokes — Rachel is leaving with a lopsided grin that seems actually genuine.

"Dinner with me, you mean?" Rachel raises a hand to cover her heart in mock shock. "I don't know what to say, except that I think this is one of those branching paths where you end up pissing off either me or Frost."

Rachel turns around to exit through the wooshy Star Trek door, waving her hand over her shoulder as she goes.

"I'll leave my number at the front desk if you have any more serious research thoughts, Stark."

Woosh. Tony at least has some time for a visual last word as Rachel passes the window on the way back to the elevator, side eying him all the while.


She leaves.

Tony just smirks at that side-eye she gives though the window.

He even waves at her as she goes, leaning slightly to watch her stroll away.

"…JARVIS. I think she likes me."

"Yes…sir." JARVIS sounds unsure.

"…and set up a meeting with Emma. I might as well tell her this happened. Mostly because if she finds out from anyone else she'll kill me."

"That is…prudent, sir." A beatpause from the AI. "Are you sure you're feeling alright?"

Stark smirks again. "Always. Now…lets get working on that space armor."

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