The Punishment? Cookies! (Disturbing Image Warning)

Summary:
December 10, 2014: Jim Reha, aka 'Corvinus', updates Pepper. Summary judgement is rendered.

Pepper Pott's Office, Stark Industries Tower, New York City

This well-appointed executive office is somewhat spartan with a few modest personal touches, far in contrast to the founding minds of Stark Industries. Yet it seems to suit the current CEO of Stark Industries very well.


Characters

NPCs
JARVIS


Mood Music:
None


Stark Industries has a Quality Assurance section for their Research department.

In that department, a forty-something former military sort that spent almost two decades in retail has been working away, handling the TPS reports, the various inter-department memos, and generally doing the jobs that are asked of him, even to the point of sometimes having to be told to 'knock off' for the day. Not an overtime milker by any means, as his main job over at Drakos Recovery Solutions LLC tends to eat up his time, but… the man has to sleep sometime, right?

But while there is a bit of devotion and a sense of family at the corporation, the resident AI has over time managed to identify certain work patterns that very clearly indicate an associate is either hiding something or working hard to cover a thing up. Even if there is no mention of WHAT that is, with its creator, it doesn't take a genius to figure things out.

A medium-high priority email is sent to the CEO of Stark Industries suggesting that perhaps a meeting is in order with Mr. Reha.

***

Pepper Potts sees the email, frowns faintly, and opens it to read what JARVIS has sent her. Interesting. And a little worrying. She types in a reply, asking JARVIS to schedule a meeting with Mr. Reha at his earliest convenience. And that that does NOT mean to drop whatever he's doing. That means when he's finished his current set of tasks. She goes back to her own tasks, knowing that Jim will arrive when he's ready, and that JARVIS will make sure she's forewarned.

Oh, and she takes a moment to prep a teapot with some chamomile to start brewing when Jim is on his way up.

***

It takes a few hours for Jim to clear his virtual tabletop, and he's not dragging his feet, nor is his work slipshod or rushed. If anything, the pace is… measured. Almost too measured, that perfect balance that can only be obtained from someone who has years of experience in the workplace stemming from 'not wanting to hurry to a meeting' but also 'getting done to meet the boss'. Not quite an artist, our Mr. Reha, but most assuredly well aware of the folkways and mores of the modern work environment despite not having a degree.

There is plenty of time for Pepper to prepare the tea, and JARVIS expresses his concern by giving Miss Potts *plenty* of time to prepare, with no hint of irony… perhaps even a tone of concern?

***

Pepper Potts finishes up the last phone call she's on, then stands and moves to pour the hot water into the teapot. "JARVIS, do you have any speculations on Mr. Reha's behavior patterns? I want to have at least an idea of what to expect." She then moves to turn on the seldom-used TV in her office, setting it to play music faintly — choosing a soothing classical over something more modern. If she decides she needs to break out the big guns, she's got potato chip cookies in a tin that Sarah in Training Department makes every year around this time.

***

"They closely resemble someone's work patterns that I am not at liberty to divulge within the parameters of given work-time, Miss Potts. I'm sure you understand?"

There's only one person who JARVIS isn't allowed to divulge work patterns of, and that's left unspoken.

"It appears Mr. Reha has some sort of mission he is attempting to accomplish in a very limited amount of time."

After a bit, Jim will approach the door and knock at the door frame quietly despite the fact that he's been waved in by Pepper's personal assistant.

"You… needed to see me, Miss Potts?"

It's almost like the man regressed in the past couple of months. Or… is that some sort of distancing maneuver?

***

Pepper Potts considers JARVIS's words, then nods seemingly to herself (but she knows that the AI saw it with his cameras) before moving to greet Jim at the door. "Jim. Please, come in. And what happened to calling me Pepper?" She gestures to the small conference table where the teapot of chamomile waits along with two matching cups. She moves to sit as well, and adds, "It's been a while since we talked. How have you been?"

***

The heavy-set fellow heads on in to the conference table and stands by a seat near the end with the teapot, waiting for Pepper to sit before he does, then he takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly.

"Sorry, Pepper. Both better and worse than average?"

He squeezes his lips tightly like he's trying to figure out how to say something that is astounding, disturbing, and promising without blurting it out all crazy. He'll pour the tea if Pepper doesn't beat him to it, and take a slow sip.

"And good news or bad news… or just news. But… I've been trying to keep here isolated because…"

…because he knows his boss will move Heaven and Earth and possibly even Hell, too, if it looks like one of her people is in trouble, and the last thing he needs is after things have gotten roughly smoothed out to have another powder-keg go off.

***

Pepper Potts does indeed pour the tea first, then lets Jim try to explain. Though the 'keep her isolated' part immediately throws up warning bells in her head. "Why have you been trying to keep here isolated? What's happened since we talked last?" Last she heard, he and Oracle were working on something related to the Corvinus, but that's it.

***

Well, no time like the present, it would seem.

"With the help of a third-party mediator, the one hunting Corvinus is stopping her stalking for the next month. At the end of it, she wants to take us to face a Tribunal. I'm a lot more optimistic about the possibility of getting this all worked out than the partner is."

Yep, that's a blind-siding bombshell.

"Been keeping here out of the loop because, well, this is technically a personal issue and I don't want to see anything bad happen here if things go south on this thing?"

***

Jim called it. Pepper WOULD want to move Heaven, Earth, Hell, and all Nine Branches of Yggdrasil to help. But, seeing as he's put so much effort into keeping what he terms 'a personal issue' personal, she has to make a mental note to NOT try to help.

"So, if I promise to be a friendly ear and only that, will you share what's going on with me?" She start to take a sip of her chamomile but instead sets the cup carefully back on the table. Still too hot.

***

One doesn't get decades of work experience without knowing one's bosses. That's a given. It's also a given when the magical mantra 'personal matter' gets mentioned, that most folks with good sense steer clear. The chips sort of fell into place on that one. He gives her a nod.

"I'm still waiting to hear back from Babs on that research project, hope to get it done before the trip. It'd make things a lot easier if I had all the information I could get going into the situation.

The more important part is that there's this Ambassador from Themyscira that somehow got involved in the whole issue, and she's really put her foot down that this be resolved with justice for all parties involved. Apparently in Shayera's hunting of me, she also attacked a whole passel of other people, and was wrecking property all over the place before the Themysciran Ambassador managed to stop her and put her 'into time-out' of some sort.

Well, that lasted until Miss Hol tracked me down again, and it was only because of some patriotic kid named America Chavez that I didn't splatter. And she managed to subdue the stalker, and got Mister Hunter to lend a hand. I'm not proud of that, and I'd rather not talk about it?"

He pauses and takes a sip… yep, it's a bit too hot and he sets it down with a wince.

"Anyways, the Ambassador had been tracking the wayward bird-woman, found us, said 'we're settling this' and.. that's kind of what's happened so far?"

***

Pepper Potts ahs and nods. "So this bird-woman is under control for now?" She won't have to go track her down and give her a good scolding? That's a bit of a relief, honestly. "And you'll let me know when you need to take leave time?" She tries again for a sip of tea, and apparently this time it's okay for a tiny taste. "Oh, and you owe me for missing Thanksgiving. A whole bunch of us worked together to cook a fantastic spread, and I had to eat leftovers for days."

***

"For the moment it looks like she's in check. I'm not sure about control and I'm not gonna presume any such thing. I have a gut feeling that if she steps out of line, she's gonna get smacked by someone a lot beefier than the partner, if that's any consolation?"

He nods. "Absolutely. I'm probably going to be doing it under FMLA, I think I can fit it through that, pending whatever we uncover with Babs. We'll see how that one shakes out."

He takes a much bolder sip, and doesn't seem as bothered by the burn or perhaps he's gotten used to it or it cooled down faster for him or whatnot.

"Tell you what, I can't guarantee Christmas or New Year's, but perhaps the Feast of the Epiphany if I'm back in time? I'll clean the dishes. I'm really sad I had to miss that, I was looking forward to it, honestly, first one since… well, anyways."

***

Pepper Potts makes a face and waves a hand dismissively. "Stark Industries has a Sabbatical clause. You just need to help me find and train the person that's going to cover for you while you're gone." She considers, then nods. "I don't know what Feast of the Epiphany is, but just about any reason to throw a party makes Tony happy. And any reason I can get him to leave his workshop for more than a shower and sleep makes ME happy."

***

"That's… actually been part of what I've been working on. I'm not super-up on tech, but I was figuring out ways to streamline the job I do — I know, I know, stop being so efficient and putting myself out of a job — so that if I didn't make it back…"

He trails off a bit, then takes another sip of his tea. "…didn't want to leave y'all in a lurch?"

But the idea of parties and Tony and all of that, okay, good distraction!

"The Feast of the Epiphany typically happens twelve days after Christmas, or if one is Orthodox, nineteen days later. That's all tied up in calendars not matching up and the like. The way I remember it growing up, that's when the Three Kings — or Wise Men, magi if you prefer — actually showed up in Bethlehem after either following a guiding star, being shown the way by the Jewish people, or whatnot. We kinda used it as Mom's side for Christmas, in part because it was a lot easier to get everyone together then, but the other part of it was it made Christmas a hellalot cheaper, if you know what I mean?"

He gives Pepper a conspiratorial grin.

"Not that you'd want to boil it down to dollars and cents for a holiday like that, but… I seem to remember getting all the gifts I really wanted for Christmas on the later holiday?"

***

Pepper Potts smiles in understanding. "My parents weren't exactly rolling in money either. I remember a lot of handmade gifts, and I still have a cedar chest my father made me for my fifteenth birthday. I think it was supposed to be a hope chest, but…" She shrugs. "I think that's partly why I still value handmade items more than storebought ones. They feel more personal to me."

After another second or two of musing on Pepper's part, she finally snaps back to the here and now. "So. You're going to keep me posted on everything, right?"

"One of the best things I ever got was a bed. Didn't realize it at the time, was actually a bit of a brat about it, looking back. But apparently Dad had found it pretty mangled on a parkway and took six months to restore it, with the varnish and everything. We're talking the kind of thing that folks would pay thousands of dollars for now without blinking. Lost it on the move to the Service, though, way too heavy to ship. Came back on leave and they'd sold it to pay homeowner's insurance for six months. Can't say as I blame 'em, though."

"They ARE personal. Someone put their energy into it, it's not some factory knock-off that pretends to have a soul but… doesn't. Somewhat spiritual, even."

He nods.

"Now that you're dialed in, yeah. I think you understand why I was trying to keep this quiet. If it wasn't you, then there's at least four somebody elses that'd try to 'help' and possibly make matters worse."

***

Pepper nods as well. "Oh, trust me, I want to help. I want to go scold this bird-woman until she's an inch tall. But I know that's not what you need from me so I won't do it." She finally takes a healthier swallow of her tea. "So I'll do as much as I can here. I'll get the Sabbatical paperwork ready for you so all you'll have to do is fill in the dates and sign them, and don't stress about anything else here. All right?"

***

"I may ask for some common-sense support right before the trip, but more on that as we get closer. While I don't need the help, we all know having a couple of fail-safe plans just in case never hurt anyone, right? And I'm sure that would go over amazingly well, you scolding her. She doesn't need scolding, I don't think… I think if anything she needs… socialization? She kinda reminds me of me after I got out of the Service. All hard edges and callouses. No, I'm not 'into her'."

Jim coughs politely then sips the tea to wash way that bad taste in his mouth for a moment.

"Sounds like a plan. And Pepper, thank you."

***

Pepper Potts smiles. "You are very welcome, Jim. As I said, any way that I can help, I will. Even if it means socializing an unruly avian." She's dealt with a purple cat, a giant black wolf, and the Partisan. How difficult could a bird-woman be?

***

The heavy-set fellow will nod quietly and sip at the tea.

"I appreciate it. And the tea. It really does wonders for soothing the nerves and making diplomatic overtures."

***

"It does, doesn't it? Oh, and you know what I'd actually like your help with?" Pepper takes another quick dip of her tea then moves to stand. "It's nothing bad…. well, okay, it is, but it's nothing as bad as an angry bird-woman trying to destroy your brain."

***

The fellow tilts his head and blinks a few times.

"How bad is it? On a scale of one to 'Mister Stark is going to come in here and give me a repulsor enema', how bad is it?"

Wow, Jim, creative mental imagery theater for the fail, eh?

***

Pepper Potts pauses in the middle of opening a cupboard in the credenza at that. "That's… a very disturbing mental image. And I think it's more on the 'I just might die happy' part of the scale." She pulls out a cheerfully decorated tin (Doctor Who, no less) and sets it on the table before pulling off the lid and releasing the aroma of buttery and sugary and salty evilness. "Help me eat these or I will never forgive myself."

***

Once a thing is thought of, it will never go away. That thought will now haunt Jim to the end of his days, whether that is tomorrow or millennia from now.

"Oh, dying happy would be kind of decent. It'd get the partner off my back, at least." His laughter after that comment clearly indicates the joking nature of the comment.

"Oh, hey, that's a very interesting box there. Is it larger on the… Oh, my."

Of course the guy will help out a Pepper in distress. He certainly wouldn't eat them all himself. Though he is somewhat modest and moderate on the intake, perhaps not so much a diet as a conscious focus on what he's eating?


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