Playing the Space Card

Summary:
December 18, 2014: Carol Danvers comes by Stark Industries, and runs into Sam and Howard.

Stark Industries

Rising high into the skyline with the name of it's Lord and Master for all to see, the Stark Industries Tower is the most visible component of the Stark Industries complex centered in Midtown Manhattan. Manufacturing, office space, power generation and even some inventory is housed in the tower and its associated subelevels. It also contains guest housing and, at the top, the penthouse suite that is the domain of the Main Man himself, at least, when he's not at his Malibu home.


Characters

NPCs

  • Technicians

Mood Music:


It's been a fast-paced work day at Stark Industries — not that the bleeding-edge tech giant really sees any other kind. In a break from medical duties, Sam has been spending the day airborne, testing out a few experimental refinements to the thruster system used in the Exo-suit and the Iron Man. He's not even sure what version number he's on, but he knows that this one is going to need a little more time in alpha.

He peels his goggles off and steps out of the wind tunnel as it slows enough for the door locks to disengage, then makes a face at the nearest technician. "This new booster is fine while I'm accelerating, but at cruising speeds it's… I dunno. Pitchy? I keep having to correct for the thrust orientation. Nearly banged my head open on the ceiling a couple of times."


Howard Stark has been a little…Howard Hughes lately. None of the more extreme behavior, thankfully, but he has been something of a shut-in. Something about ongoing arrangements regarding who exactly they're going to tell the world he is. As is stands, he has ID with high clearance, though the last name is a little…smeared, perhaps on purpose. Steck? Could be Stark. In any case, the colour of the badge means not very many people question him.

He'd still be in his lab if it weren't for the fact that he's come up against a bit of a sticky problem. It's the kind of problem that a good meander usually cures. And the best place to do said strolling is through the halls of R&D. Windtunnels are certainly an interesting feature. He steps up behind the technician just as Sam starts addressing him. "Sounds like a power output modulation problem," he offers, completely unbidden by anyone.


Sometimes, it's good to be the boss. The Daily Planet is looking to do a follow-up on Clark Kent's piece on Tony Stark, and Carol pulled a few strings to get the behind the scene tour. And then, in typical fashion, she slipped her tour guide in favor of doing some exploring on her own, which is how she managed to show up outside the wind tunnel, grinning as Sam steps out. "Little small for my taste," she calls over.


"It's Tony's, not mine," Sam answers, smirking over at Carol. "Back in the Exo program we had a wind tunnel way bigger than this, but apparently New York has 'zoning laws,' whatever those are." He points at Howard, then looks back at the tech. "That thing he said? Fix that thing he said. We fly these things fast and low, sometimes. Be real embarrassing for the thrust to get flaky on us at a time like that."

More techs are already popping the catches on his test harness, and after a second, he's free to approach the newcomers. "Hey, Carol. Haven't seen you since Russia. And Howard! Glad to see you're up and about."


"Been up to my eyeballs in a few projects. Finding my legs, as it were," says Howard. He takes a moment to lean over the shoulder of the tech, "Point zero two five…maybe six should correct it. And try tweaking the gain on the windspeed sensors. That might be the core of your problem. The thrusters might be overcompensating if the sensor is too sensitive." The tech doesn't look like she wants to actually believe him, but with a few glances between them both the technicians make note of Howard's advice.

He slides his hands into the pockets of his trousers and nods to Carol, "Hello." He's eyeing her badge, trying to see what he can glean from the ID.


Just a visitor, per the badge. But Carol holds herself like military, and doesn't seem the least bit concerned about getting caught in unauthorized space. "Should've seen the one at NASA," she grins to Sam, nodding politely to Howard as he comes over. "What're you trying to update it for? City flying?"


Sam puts up his hands in surrender. "Oh, playing the space card, huh? I see how it is." He glances over his shoulder at the adjustments being made to his suit, then shrugs. "Tony's the compulsive innovator, not me. I think the old wings are fine, but apparently these thrusters will give us more range for less fuel and work better in extreme heat." He laughs, then raises an eyebrow. "Some of us still have to worry about stuff like that."

Wilson catches Howard's glance at Danvers, and hastens to explain, "She's a friend, not a coworker. But she's used to this sort of thing." He gestures to encompass the whole laboratory. "Air Force, NASA, the works. Also runs a newspaper, so you should probably say 'off the record' every couple sentences or so."


Howard quirks a brow and stands a little straighter when Sam runs down Carol's list of qualifications. "Well. Conducting a little industrial espionage, are we?" He says that with dry, droll humour and a charming little smile. "Maybe I should refrain from debugging in mixed company."


"Planes are my first love," Carol laughs, holding a hand over her heart. "And Stark makes some of the best. Can't blame a girl for trying to get a look at the good stuff. I wasn't expecting to run into Sam here, though. I don't think I realized you'd signed on for the contractor gig."


"Oh, sure, I've been working here for ages," Sam answers. "Normally I do medical stuff — they've got a whole growing department for it. Both in-house treatment and development of new technologies. Very cool stuff. But I mean" — again, he glances back at the technicians, then turns back to Carol with a shrug — "can't blame 'em for liking my whole skill set." He pauses, then narrows his eyes and adds, "Off the record!"


"I used to be a pilot, myself," says Howard. He scratches his temple. It's almost physically painful for him to refrain from introducing himself. Normally he'd kill for the chance to talk to another aerospace expert about the stuff Stark has in development. But waxing poetic about his past would be…well, a security breach. And raise a lot of questions. To a newspaperwoman. Bad call. So he's keeping his scientific enthusiasm and his ego on a short leash. It's causing a few tics. "Speaking of," he says to Sam in an offhanded way that reeks of trying to be /too/ casual. "Stop by my lab sometime. I have something in the works that you might be interested in."


"I'm not tossing anyone out in the cold, Sam," Carol shakes her head with a smirk. "Honestly, I'm thinking about getting out of the newspaper business. It was something to do while I was recovering from…things. Got my feet back under me, put some money in the bank, kept me in a day job. But honestly? Babysitting reporters about deadlines and writing about the things other people do gets real boring, real fast." Howard's comment gets a curious look, though she doesn't exactly press. Yet.


Falcon laughs and tells Carol, "I know — I was just kidding. I didn't regret trusting you before. Giving up the Daily Planet, though? That's a big step." He glances over at Howard, his curiosity piqued by the oh-so-casual remark, then decides to press on Carol's behalf. "I'm cool with her seeing what you're working on. If she says she won't put it in print, she won't. I can vouch for that."


"Ah, I'm afraid I can't do that," says Howard. He rocks on his heels. "There's some things I'm working on that are off the books. And not ready for anyone to see who might actually understand what I'm doing. No offense, Sam." He nods towards the paratrooper. "Besides, you're on the payroll." He clucks his tongue. "And I've never met a journalist who is entirely willing to go off the record if the story is big enough." He glances towards the door, then back to both of them. "I should mosey, actually. I've got a few tests running." What man his age says 'mosey' in a way that sounds unironic? The moustache doesn't look like it's trying to be ironic either. Someone should really coach him on how to act before they let him talk to people who don't know his true identity.


"Also, people refer to me as a journalist," Carol adds to Sam, pointing a thumb at Howard. "All the things I've done in my life, journalist is definitely not the one I want to define me." She turns a crooked smile on Howard, shaking her head. "I used to run security at NASA. It's cool, I understand where you're coming from."


Sam shrugs at Carol. "I tried," he says with a smile before turning back to Howard. "But I guess if you want to play your cards closer to your chest, I trust you there." It's partially a statement of confidence in Howard, but also a reminder that the time-lost scientist's old man speak is probably not the best bet in mixed company. "I'll drop by whenever I can."

He refocuses on Carol, crossing his arms and giving her an inquisitive look. "So you're done being a journalist? Gonna pick up one of the old titles or find some new field to conquer?"


"If you get a chance," says Howard to Sam. He's already backing up, "…ask Tony about his latest scheme. And try to talk him out of it?" It's fruitless and he knows it, but he can attempt a tag-team. He lifts a hand to Carol. "Nice to meet you." He pops out, then pops back in to address the techs. "Remember: point zero two-five." And then he's gone.


"Probably picking up an old one," Carol answers once Howard's gone. "Though maybe I'll give it a new name, go back to the same old game. Looks like the world's looking for heroes again. I'm not sure if I'm in for this SHIELD thing. But I'm about done pretending to be normal."


"Aw, way to make a normal guy feel inadequate," Sam says, wearing a lopsided grin. He cocks his head to the side and exits the lab, beckoning Carol into areas where she'll be able to discuss this topic in relative secrecy and anonymity. "All I've got to offer are the wings and a few band-aids." He shrugs and laughs. "Still, I definitely see the appeal. I've been trying to help out where I can."


"Ha!" Carol barks a laugh. "Bullshit. I've been normal. It takes a hell of a lot more guts to do it when you can't take a hit from a nuke than it does once you can." She follows next to him, hands in her pockets as she shrugs. "Russia, other things lately. It's given me another taste of the bigger things I can do."


Grinning, but then growing more serious as Carol does, Sam nods along with her explanation. "I know what you mean. Not that I miss the sandbox." A shadow crosses his features. "God, do I ever not miss that. But sometimes I feel like there are people trying to turn this town into a war zone just like it, and working with Stark and SHIELD and Trent — it's like in a small way, I'm holding that darkness back." He shrugs, then flashes a self-deprecating smile. "Man, that sounded a lot less cheesy in my head."


Carol holds up two fingers a short distance apart. "Just a little bit," she chuckles. "The sentiment counts, though. And for what it's worth, I agree with you. It makes a difference. We make a difference." She lets out a long breath, looking around idly. "You've got a neat place to play around here, though."


Sam has led Carol into his own office, which isn't anything spectacular, but is at least on a corner of the building. His own Falcon suit, looking significantly more hard-used than the prototype he was using earlier, is mounted on one interior wall, wings extended. Below it is a workbench littered with tools and blueprints he can use for tune-ups and general maintenance. The rest of the space is dedicated to medicine: both practical, in a massive stock of triage and surgical supplies, and theoretical, in a holographic anatomical display and piles of Stark-sponsored research.

"You can say that again," he agrees with Carol, grinning as he sees the office through fresh eyes. "It's no Triskelion, which I don't count as a bad thing."


"Less oversight is nice." Carol steps closer to get a good look at the suit, curious. "You know, the way I figure it, I got out of the Air Force for a reason. It's a good place. An important place. But it wasn't what I wanted it to be, either. It might be time to find the place that is."


The suit's primary housing is basically a jetpack and a flight harness with extensive storage. The expansive metal wings comprise innumerable metal slats, making them flexible but durable and endlessly configurable. The google headset has an inbuilt communicator and HUD.

Sam leans back against his desk and watches Carol from behind, giving her time to look over the Falcon equipment. "Yeah, I agree. And so far, I haven't found that place. I have found people, though. Yourself included." He smiles at her. "I'll go anywhere and work for anybody, so long as it's with the right people." He pauses, then concludes: "Even Russia."


"Well, at least there's alcohol in Russia," Carol points out, looking over her shoulder with a smirk. "That's a point in its favor. Man. This thing is cool. If I couldn't fly on my own, I would totally be walking out of here with one of these," she says wistfully.


"So far, I'm the only guy they've found who can fly it," Sam says with a touch of real pride. "There's something about it that most other people — even great pilots — just can't quite get." He pauses, then laughs and adds, "Not that I'd be dumb enough to bet against you. Probably a good thing for my ego that you can just fly, even if I am crazy jealous."


"I'd be tempted to try, but I'd feel pretty bad if I busted it," Carol admits. "Also, I'm not sure I wouldn't end up cheating without meaning to, you know? At least I know in a plane, I'm not cheating it. I do that, and it's all me. All skill. Not…something weird that happened to me, that made me a little something other than just who I used to be."


Sam shifts to the side and cocks one eyebrow at Carol. "You feel weird about your superpowers because you don't feel like you've earned them? You can't be serious, Carol." He starts ticking off points on his fingers. "Air Force. NASA. CIA. Daily Planet. You don't just fall into those jobs because of luck, you know. Superpowers don't always go to people who can say they deserve them, but sometimes? Yeah."


"Yeah, but those are things I did," Carol points out, turning away from the suit to pace a few steps. "And what's what you did if you're not looking to the next step? Except these days, the next step, the next thing to prove myself against? A little more complicated. The superpowers are cool, but they do take some of the adrenaline rush out of things."


"I guess that's my point," Sam says, crossing his arms and smirking. "You've done more already than most people do in their entire lives. At some point, you were gonna have to get superpowers, or you'd straight up run out of new things to achieve. And don't tell me you don't get an adrenaline rush flying to the moon, or whatever. I know that's not true."


"Well. Some," Carol admits with a reluctant smile. "Still. Can't blame a girl for looking for a challenge. Trust me, you'd be in the same boat. Maybe less so, since you've got the whole medicine thing to keep your mind sharp. That's a little bit less my skill set." Says the newspaper editor and published author.


"Yeah, and my non-bulletproof buddies keep me pretty busy on that front," Sam concedes, rolling his eyes. "Some of them, I swear: no self-preservation instinct at all. If I had my way, I wouldn't let Jericho leave his house without a full suit of Kevlar. But trust me, that's not the kind of challenge you want in your life." He shakes his head. "I don't blame you for looking for something, though. If I hear about anyone looking to get some tanks beat up, I'll be sure to give them your number."


"See, that's true friendship." Which is right about when Carol's assigned tour guide shows up, looking both frustrated at losing her charge, and relieved to have found her. "Miss Danvers, there you are," the woman sighs. "If you wouldn't mind, this really isn't open to the public."


"Whoops. Busted," Sam says with a grin. "Next time, Carol, drop me a line before you come by. I'll get you backstage passes." He smirks at her as he thinks to add, "Unless you just like the challenge, of course."


Carol points toward the window with a waggle of her brows, though she doesn't actually voice the threat, following it up with a wink. "Take care, Wilson," she says, raising a hand to wave before she turns to follow the tour guide out.


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