Nerdathon 1: The Nerdening

October 13, 2018:

Barbara meets up with Peter at Stark Tower, to talk about Tony's condition and provide the young intern with the most beautiful thing of all: nerd distractions, in the form of a vigilante operating system. (BACKDATED to prior to Stark Tower getting dragonified)

A Lab in Stark Tower

It's a lab.

In Stark Tower.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Tony Stark, Black Canary

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Barbara Gordon is not exactly a frequent flyer in Stark Tower. It isn't that she isn't friends with Tony — though, let's be honest, does Tony actually have friends? — but more than she has friends that know Tony. With Jessica Jones laid up inside the hospital suites in the tower, she had a good excuse to come visit — and didn't even have to lie about it. Finding Peter Parker inside, though? That was a bit more subterfuge-ish.

Once she had finished up with Jess, she shouldered back up her backpack and reslung her motorcycle helmet on its hook off the pack, and sought out Parker, asking around for where in the tower she would find the fellow member of the nerdy vigilante club.

She walks down a hallway that is supposed to take her where to find Peter, nodding vaguely to people she passes as to not seem too suspicious. When she gets to the door, she knocks at it politely. "Hey, Peter," she calls. "It's Babs."

Tony might have one friend.

It might be himself.

But that might also be a matter of spirited debate.

Still, he does have people who care about him. Probably more than they'd like to admit. One of those people might, in fact, be a certain young (barely scraping by) college student from Queens and resident recipient of the Stark Internship Program (which is not a made up program, shush), Peter Parker. It had been difficult, learning what happened. He went over all the ways he could have done something, or should have been there, and even though most of the scenarios were simply statistical impossibility, it didn't make him feel any less awful.

The inherent chaos of the world does not exactly relieve Peter Parker.

And so, Peter has spent a good chunk of his free time away from his web-slinging escapades at Stark Tower. However phony or not his program might be, it's legitimate enough that he's able to move around freely here — and so Peter has largely spent his time here as Peter Parker, rather than Spider-Man, toiling away with work or just generally trying to help contribute where he can. Currently, though?

Currently, Peter finds himself holed up in one of the labs on the upper level, one that he has, fortunately, largely been able to keep to himself. This means, within the embrace of solitude, he's allowed to get as comfortable as he likes — which also means he's currently seated on the ceiling, fiddling with some upside-down holographic schematics that look like some form of technical data for a particular variety of nanomachine. There's a few other files there too that he pours through as he chews on his lower lip and twists his brows into a knot — one distinctly looks like a suit —

— but when he hears that knock, hears that voice, the young vigilante blinks. It's Babs, says the voice.

"Uh," Peter begins, with all due eloquence, "One sec! Just gotta — put my face on!"

And with a practiced hand, Peter Parker banishes those holograms away with a well-timed swipe and detaches from the ceiling, landing on his feet with a silent flip. Straightening out his hair, checking himself for anything out of place, he takes in a deep, steadying breath, turns hazel eyes towards the entrance, and makes his way over.

And with the soft hiss of the lab door sliding open, Peter Parker greets Barbara Gordon with an apologetic smile and a t-shirt that reads

'I MAY BE' with the chemical symbols for Nitrogen, Erbium and Dysprosium beneath,

"Hey. Sorry," he says, "it's kiiinda a mess."

He does not, however, apologize for the shirt.

Barbara waits, arms crossed lazily at her chest. She is even half-leaning against the wall beside the doors, and only pushes back upright when they kiss open to reveal…

"Peter." Barbara's smile breaks warm and soft for the fellow nerd, and then her eyes drop to his shirt. She snorts slightly. "I'm sorry, your shirt has a tragic mistake," she says as she steps inside. "It should say: 'BUT IT'S MY STANDARD STATE.'" Ah, chemistry nerd jokes.

She steps inside, taking a look around his so-called mess. "So, this is what it looks like when a college kid moves into a billionaire's lab."

Her hands tuck loosely into the pockets of her motocross jacket. She glances behind her to check the door, and only when closed, does she feel comfortable enough to talk a bit less casually.

"How's Tony?"

It should say: 'BUT IT'S MY STANDARD STATE.'

Peter Parker pauses. He lifts a finger into the air, as if to dispute this claim. His lips twist towards a rightward purse, hazel eyes shifting skywards. There's stark (not a pun) silence for all of three seconds.

And then he just awkwardly rubs the back of his neck in defeat.

"… Yeah okay that's a sound principle," concedes Peter with all due ruefulness, ducking his head as he lets Barbara inside. "I guess that's just my equilibrium."

The nerdery will never end.

That so-called mess is, in fact, a bit of a mess — there's all sorts of papers (who even uses those anymore) and empty energy drink cans strewn about here and there, scribbled notes and it looks like there's a change of clothes strewn about haphazardly here and there like Peter was practically living out of this lab. And he might well be, all considered. Still…

"I mean, it could be worse?" he hazards a guess. A second passes by. His look is a truly daunted one. "I hope?"

It all gives way, however, to a friendly and sincere sort of smile from the young man seconds later; he looks tired, but in these moments, it's a bit harder to notice with how much he wears his heart on his sleeve. Case in point: how that smile fades just a bit when Barbara asks about Tony. Dark eyebrows furrow inward gently toward their center as Peter crosses his arms over his chest, chewing mildly at his cheek as he tries to decide how best to answer.

"He's… I mean, considering what happened, he's okay. You know? He could have… it could have been so much worse. He got lucky. And stupid. Stupid lucky. That's so Tony, it just… ugh." He heaves a sigh at this, pushing a hand through his messy mane of hair. "And he injected himself with something like… completely untested. I've been trying to figure out what it's doing to him, what it might do to him, and I still don't really know. But… he's alive, at least, right?"

"Now, you're just being a nerd."

Barbara finds some corner of countertop space where she can actually lean, but only after dropping off her backpack and helmet on the floor. She starts to unzip her jacket, revealing the lean yellow tank-top underneath — an unseasonal choice, but it combos well with her purple jacket and just gives hits of that alter ego that goes swinging around the roofs of Gotham.

She looks up toward Peter when the silence builds behind her question, and when he gets to it, her own frown tightens a bit at what Parker gives her — the detective in her wants to ask questions, a lot of them. The friend in her just steps forward a bit to give Peter a gentle chuck to his shoulder with her knuckles — a soft punch that carries no real weight behind it.

"He'll be okay. Maybe he's having a really nice vacation in his own head…" But then she frowns once more, one hand rubbing her opposite arm as she looks between Peter and the rest of the lab. "All his vitals seem to be okay? No weird readings or anything like that?"

Not that Barbara went to medical school; she's a self-educated computer nerd and library sciences nerd; she can rule the internet and also direct you to books about the Economical Impact of the Second Crusade. But she can at least use her bookishness to ask somewhat helpful questions.

"You need a distraction?"

"Ouch," Peter says with a perfectly placed wince,

"My pride."

It's times like this that Peter feels compelled to recheck everything he's been working on, times like this that he gets lost in thought — and it shows with painful clarity in those all-too-expressive features of his as his words trail off and all he's left with for a few, budding moments are possibilities.

But with the prodding push of knuckles up against solid shoulder, Peter Parker finds himself anchored back into the real world. He lurches just slightly to his right with the blink of dawning awareness — and then moments later, the freelance photographer is serving up a grateful smile that manages to reach those tired eyes.

That he teasingly rubs at his shoulder like Barbara's punch had actual force behind it, well, that's just him being a nerd again.

"Yeah. You're right. I know. I know. And his vitals are strong, he's hanging in there. Everything seems fine, but it's… the stuff we're talking about… I dunno. It's just — I guess — Mister Stark is really good at being a headache even when he's not conscious." Maybe even moreso. Peter considers this with a thoughtful frown. "It's gotta be a gift. Right? Like — like a total superpower. 'Billionaire, plus also induces localized headaches in anyone associated with him.'"

A second of silence passes by, wherein Peter's expression gentles, just a bit. Maybe he's having a really nice vacation in his own head.

"… I hope he is. He deserves one."

"Don't — err — don't tell him I said that." He'd never let Peter live it down.

His gaze turns down back to his notes for a moment in which he spends scratching his cheek in thought. But when that question comes, hazel eyes shutter with a blink. He looks back towards Barbara. Need a distraction?

"Please god yes."

The smile from Peter warms her own a touch, and she nods in silent understanding. Then she settles back into a lean on the lab table, tipping her head to one side with a sideways fall of red forelocks. "So — he's a headache conscious and unconscious. At least he's consistent."

Then she starts to laugh at the awkward pauses from the younger man, and she nods dutifully. "Secrets kept amongst friends." She draws her fingers across her lips like she's zipping them closed, and then turns an invisible key to lock them tight.

Please god yes, Parker says to her question so she grabs for her backpack. "Good."

She unzips it, tugging out her laptop and two smartphones. All three objects are set down on a clean surface. She opens the laptop, booting it up. "I need a little help… might be slightly outside your wheelhouse, but… you're a Stark Intern, so I'm guessing that you're becoming an all-purpose nerd."

She taps on her little icon on the login screen, and taps in her password to reveal a close-up picture of a doofy-looking Barbara, all smiles with a giant Siamese cat shoving its face into hers.

"Black Canary has tapped me to make a street-level operating system for smartphones that provides layered security… basically, if she drops her phone, she doesn't want anyone to be able to track it back to her real identity. I thought maybe we could take it a step further and make an actual vigilante operating system for smartphones."

Secrets kept amongst friends, says Barbara, and upon the unseen padlocking of her lips, Peter Parker heaves a sigh of open relief, good-natured amusement sparking in his eyes.

"You are a total lifesaver. The nerd alliance stays strong." These sorts of pacts are ineffably vital, after all.

But something — anything — to keep Peter away from his thoughts on recent projects, let alone Tony's condition, are a welcome relief to the intern-slash-photographer-slash-JJJ's-punching-bag. As Barbara goes for her equipment, Peter stuffs hands into the pockets of his jeans and makes his way closer by a few steps, brows hefting upwards with intent curiosity. "Yeah, well, Mister Stark has me doing like a billion things at once," or really he's inflicting them all on himself but shhh, "so my power in the ways of the Nerd Force have only been growing. I mean — I think I might be the Chosen One." Peter mulls this over for a second.

"… maybe I should check my midichlorian count…"

Even he feels a bit bad about that reference. Kind of.

"Just, uh, just promise me you'll find some high ground and do what has to be done if I ever go full Anakin." Or maybe he just has no remorse whatsoever.

Regardless, when Barbara reveals her project, Peter's first response is:

"Super cute cat, super goofy owner."

… after that, though, he concentrates on what else she has to say, a single brow lifting upwards just so. "Wow. Black Canary?" he wonders, before taking a look back at those smartphones lined up before him.

"Wow. That sounds, like, ridiculously cool," he notes, first and foremost. "So like, an OS tailored to vigilante needs? I've got some experiencing with programming, especially since, uh, my other boss decided to pressgang me into kinda sorta redoing the Daily Bugle website from the ground up." And also god only knows how many other overhauls their system desperately needed.

"I think I can help with this. I can help with this. I totally want to help with this. I'm in." He looks Barbara's way, flashing her a bright smile. "First, again, this is ridiculously cool. Second — what've you got so far?"

"You're not a Jedi." This is delivered without even missing a beat.

Then she casts him a quirked smile at his compliment of both cat and its owner. "Yeah, he is. Super adorable, but the most dog-like cat I've ever owned."

She rambles this all off as she finishes booting everything up. She turns the computer toward him, showing him what she has so far — a little mock-up of a smartphone screen and the code to coincide with it.

"Yeah… I was thinking about calling it the vOS — Vigilante Operating System." Barbara shrugs a shoulder a bit, and then flashes Peter a warm smile at his appreciation, particularly at that classic excitement that bubbles around her friend at the mere idea of it.

"Alright, so… this is what I got so far…" She taps her computer, and some of the code starts to run. "Canary wanted security measures, so I started there first… anyone tries to hack it, it snaps a photo with the front camera, and sends it and its GPS location to some kind of back-up system… maybe an alternate contact, like email… or you could set it up to send to an ally? So, like… your phone goes missing, it sends the snap and location to me, or to Red Robin."

She crosses her arms at her chest, resting the side of her hip against the counter. "I was thinking that the phone should wipe itself, but then you lose everything."

You're not a Jedi.

Peter Parker's shoulders sag, in utter defeat.

"You didn't even hesitate before trampling all my dreams, huh."

It is a truly tragic day.

Thankfully, he seems to be on track for a swift recovery, if the way he bounces back with a lopsided sort of smile in answer to Babs' own is any indication. "He's totally bucking the mainstream," decides Peter mildly, with a simple, firm nod of his head. "Good for him." With that, though, his attention turns back to the computer, hazel eyes squinting just a bit as that code runs through. Curiosity is alight in his stare as he tucks his hands into his pockets, head cocking just slightly to the left.

"That's a good name," he notes, first and foremost, chewing on the inside of his cheek as he considers the code he's presented with an analytical eye. "Okay, so like… huh. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. That's a good idea. Like… get yourself some potential back up, literally. I like it."

He straightens a bit, rubbing the back of his neck as he runs through her current idea. Turning around, he settles himself back against the countertop, hand once more finding its way to his pocket as he speaks. "Um. Well, maybe like — these vigilante types, they know the kind of information they have, and what they can afford to lose and what they can't, right? And the stuff they just… can't afford to have in anyone's hands. Like, just, no one's, ever. Maybe put the wiping in there as something optional they can set themselves? Another layer of protection. If there's something on there they just can't let anyone get their hands on, y'know…"

He gestures with an errant flick of his wrist.

"… better safe than sorry, right?"

"My job as your friend is to keep you down to earth and sensible. Becoming the Chosen One is not sensible. Besides… sounds like a crap job in the long run… your wife dies, your kids both try to kill you, and you end up a ghost. I bet that's totally not what you want for yourself."

Then she looks back over her computer as they get back to it, and she nods thoughtfully. "Snap a picture with the front facing camera, send it with the S.O.S., and then people will know you who has your phone, too. Could be helpful info, I think."

The suggestions from Parker has her frowning thoughtfully, chin tucked into her hand and her eyes narrowed. "Yeah… I know just what you mean." Her voice is a bit tight, thoughtful. "I mean, not everyone is like Tony Stark… flying around, people knowing everything about you. He's got enough security in this place to keep everyone safe… I'm pretty sure it's armageddon-proof." Her shoulders sag a bit. "Not everyone has that."

Then she cuts a glance to Parker and nods. "Better safe… always better safe."

She taps out a few keys, adding some info on a notepad for later coding. "What else? I mean, if we wanted to make this totally geared toward vigilantes, there's gotta be other features that make sense. Integrated voice-changing for phone calls to law enforcement or media contacts?"

"But," Peter insists, because this is deeply important, "I'd get to hang out with, like, Yoda and Liam Neeson. That's not super terrible." He considers for a second, brows furrowing inward.

"… but then I'd have to talk about sand a lot or something. Yeah, okay. Nevermind. Thanks for having my back."

It's important to have friends, in situations like these.

She talks about Tony, though, and the tower's security; the frown that settles on Peter's lips is a subdued one as he turns his gaze towards the exit — in the direction he knows Tony was on the day the Brotherhood came for him. Armageddon proof.

"Yeah. Mostly," he murmurs, before shaking off those lingering thoughts with the warmth of an awkward smile.

"Err. Right, other options." His brows scrunch up, thought overtaking him. "Voice changing's probably a good one. Maybe… I don't know. If you want this OS to be like, the center of vigilante resources on the go, might be good to have some user-friendly ease of access stuff coded into it. Maybe like some sort of GPS for reported crimes in progress, or a way to network vigilantes together through their phones? I dunno. They can't all be total loners, right?"

Hazel eyes slide back Barbara's way. His shoulders lift, in a small, hapless gesture. "It's hard to say just what people like them'd need or not, but maybe just… any kinda quality of life would help. I'll, y'know — keep thinking. Maybe being able to personalize the OS for the city they operate in, or…"

"Always here to crush your unrealistic dreams with logic and love, Peter." Barbara tips a lopsided smile to him before she stretches her shoulders slightly. She's too focused on her computer to actually catch that look from Peter — the worrying one toward where Tony had been.

Then she glances back toward Peter as he offers up his suggestions: GPS location, networking — the loners comment has her laughing.

"I don't know… I hear that Batman guy is really a total loner despite what the media reports on all the other Bats running around Gotham."

She smiles ruefully, and then makes a few notes. "Personalizing for the city is a good idea… maybe people can opt in or something to being part of a greater network. Then you could message Black Canary without actually knowing who Black Canary is as long as she's opted in or something."

She rubs at her cheek. "Maybe we start with that and then see… what the feedback is. I don't even know how to circulate an idea like this… I'm not Steve Jobs. I'm not exactly going to be standing on a black stage with a Madonna microphone pitching this to some expo."

"It's, like, a whole family of loners, right? Just prowling on their own, or something. Having family Thanksgivings on their own. Celebrating the new year with other bats on their own."

He could go on, but, well. He just laughs instead, rubbing at the back of his neck. The extensive quipping, that's for when he's behind a mask.

"You know, I've never really been to Gotham that long, and both times ended… really, really poorly. I've barely even been out of New York. Is it really as bad as they say?" Because, well — as poorly as his ended, Peter would absolutely believe it. In fact, he's certain of it.

"I heard there's some kind of villain there that's themed around like… kites, or something."

Probably almost as bad as the Big Wheel.

Still, as attention turns back towards the program, Peter stands back up straight once more. He stretches, crossing his arms over his chest as he peers at the code strings.

"I think… yeah. I think that's a good idea. Keep it simple to start. We've got a good foundation, right? So just, like, start with that, and then we can build off of feedback, or… whatever. How would that even work? Maybe some way to send in commentary or… … ugh. Thinking of how to iterate for vigilantes is confusing."

Not that he doesn't have ideas on how to circulate this sort of thing. But. That's another matter entirely.

"Uh. Hm. Well — Black Canary came to you with this, right? You can get her to spread the word, maybe?" he suggests. Then hesitates. "And I can… try to get ahold of Spider-Man, maybe. Possibly. I dunno if it'll work, but, there's always…" Mister Stark, he begins to say, and then halts himself. He smiles; tiredly, but smiles nonetheless.

"… it's a good start, right? We can figure out from there."

"A Colony of Loners." That seems to amuse Barbara, and she cuts a smiling look to Peter before she looks back at her work. The themed villains has her chuckling ruefully, and she sighs out a breath. "Could be worse… I'm not sure how… but that's been my go-to lately… could be worse."

Peter's talk of Gotham has her smiling a bit softer now, and she shrugs a shoulder a bit. "Gotham isn't so bad…" Which is just another way of saying it's really bad, but Babs is always looking for the bright side — like that Monty Python song.

"I think we got a great foundation… now I gotta code it up, package it, and get it to Canary." She nods with Peter's suggestion of how to get it out, tucking a bit of hair behind her ear. "Well, if you can get it to Spider-Man, then Canary can spread it through Gotham and he can spread it through New York City, and that's two of the Tri-Cities."

She gives Peter's forearm a little squeeze before she shuts her laptop. "He'll wake up, Peter…" The words are said softly. "He will. And then he will make you feel like your worrying was all for nothing." She hesitates, adding gently. "Make sure you do some self-care, too, OK? I bet May is worrying about you worrying about Mr. Stark."

Could be worse.

"Yeah, okay. That's… that's a pretty good mantra."

One he tries to keep in mind, too. It's hard, sometimes.

Like when you find yourself stuck fighting the Big Wheel.

Which is why, as Babs offers that trailing assessment of Gotham, Peter blinks once, hesitates for exactly one second, and then breaks into a grin, offering a simple, "Could be worse?"

Because sometimes callbacks are just irresistible, no matter how soon.

He lapses into thought not seconds later; antsy movement condenses itself into the way he taps his right forefinger against his left bicep in irregular patterns as he mulls over any wide number of things ostensibly related to Barbara's operating system. And most of it is, really. Some of it, however, falls back inevitably, unavoidably, to Stark and his situation. But this? This might be just what he needs. Something to help keep him busy. Something to help. Beyond just what the costume can do.

And he's still lost in that thought when he feels the warmth of fingers squeezing on that anxiously active forearm. Peter stirs from his reverie with a few fluttering blinks, hazel eyes turning in Babs' direction as she offers her reassurances. It takes a few seconds before her words catch up to him — but his smile, though sheepish, is no less grateful as it makes its understated way up the corners of his lips. "I… yeah. Yeah, you're… I know you're right. He'll probably have a dumb joke right on hand or something. Like some really old reference, or something. And then I'll feel like a total idiot." He laughs, rubbing the back of his neck. But as those last words come, he pauses once more. Peter turns, facing Barbara, before ultimately looking aside, scratching the side of that mussy brown hair.

"Yeah, okay. I guess I look like I'm overdue like, ten naps or something, huh? I'll… I'll make sure I'm careful. I swear." He even crosses his heart. He hesitates for a second. And then, offers:

"Thanks, Babs. For the distraction and… y'know, for this. If you need anything…" He gestures, in a sort of 'call me' way.

"… okay?"

The simple and grinning offering from Parker has Barbara relaxing into another one of her light, lopsided smiles. She nods ruefully. Yeah. Could be worse.

When Parker finally breaks out of his reverie, and offers his thanks in return. Her smile redoubles and she gives him a little shove at the side of his shoulder before she goes back to loading up her laptop back into her backpack. "You're not an idiot… I mean, you are, but only in very select categories."

Then she slings up her backpack and grabs up her helmet, and gives Parker a quick nod, replicating the gesture. "You got it. You do the same, OK? I'll send you the OS once it's ready."

She starts for the door, feeling a bit more confident and grounded. Projects do that, and she has a project that doesn't involve insane murderers.

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