Sunday Roast at the Stark Symposium

Summary:
January 4, 2015: There were surprises a plenty at the Stark Symposium.

Stark Tower
1776 Broadway

Rising high into the skyline with the name of its Lord and Master for all to see, the Stark Industries Tower is the most visible component of the Stark Industries complex centred in Midtown Manhattan. Manufacturing, office space, power generation and even some inventory is housed in the tower and its associated sublevels. 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


Mood Music:


"Are you quite certain that this is Earl Grey? I could swear that it was Darjeeling," comes a non-descript American voice as he tastes the tea that was handed to him by one of the waiters. He raises his right eyebrow, just a touch, still not convinced despite the muted protestations. But he'll let it drop. It's not what he asked for, but it will do.

After all, the man, whose nametag reads, 'hello, my name is Dr. Hank Pym' just gave a 45-minute speech on the future of the space program, and he needs to calm his nerves. Public speaking is certainly not his forte. He can do the math, but he doesn't do too well with crowds. All those eyes on him, it made him a bit nervous and it shows.

There are other scientists of course, giving speeches on a wide variety of subjects, all generously hosted by the great Tony Stark, and obviously, the media are out in force to cover the event. Later, he would have to answer questions in the press conference part of the event, and he was dreading that. He did have a habit of forgetting that most people can't tell a self-sealing stem bolt from a flux capacitor.


In a pheromone/alcohol/mind-control-induced haze, Carol decided that if she was going to be a newspaper editor, then she had the right to choose some interesting things to cover, and to go and attend some of the ones she actually cares about herself. So when her appointment calendar dinged this morning to let her know she was expected to be here, she was a little bit fuzzy on how that happened. All the same, she got dressed, flew in - fuzzy-brain Carol didn't really think about train or plane tickets - and is now stepping out of Pym's speech herself.


Pepper Potts may not know a self-sealing stem bolt from ten-penny nail, but she CAN identify a flux capacitor from twenty paces. And, she can differentiate Darjeeling from Earl Grey by smell. Heck, she can tell if an Earl Grey is decaf or not by the smell. Having overheard Dr. Pym's complaint about the tea, she pulls one of the Stark Tower security aside — a petite brunette with the name tag 'Rebecca' — and speaks with her quietly for a moment before approaching the nervous scientist.

"Dr. Pym, good morning." Pepper greets the scientist with a sincerely friendly tone, offering him her hand to shake. She's dressed in her usual sharp business attire, though she's traded out her usual high heels for equally professional looking knee boots in deference to the wintry weather.


It would be easy to assume that Hank Pym would be like a kid in a candy store at an event such as this, but you would be wrong. It's not often that he gets to spend time with his peers, his intellectual equals, and there's a reason for that. Most of them are longwinded, self-important, blowhards. And he's just always been a little too down to earth for their tastes. Even among the intellectual giants, he stands out as something else. But every once in a while he will hear something that really catches his eye, or in this case, ear.

Except that he's also trying to walk and carry a cup of tea, so when he abruptly turns, he will find that he was too close to the pheromone/alcohol/mind-controlled woman and bump into her, "oh, I'm so sorry," and hopefully, he won't have spilt his tea on the woman.

And that's when Pepper intervenes, "Oh, Miss…" and he reads her nametag, not a piece of adhesive paper like his own, but a proper nametag. "Potts, I'm dreadfully sorry, but I'll be with you in a minute." He's spilt some of the tea on himself, and is looking for a way to clean his clothes. He'll probably have to change it. While patting himself down, he'll ask, "did you enjoy the lecture?"


"Whoops, eyes open, Doc," Carol says lightly as Pam turns toward her, holding out her hands to keep the scientist from running into her. Somehow, she seems to escape the spill, but she offers out a handkerchief for Pym. "Sorry about that. Rough couple of days. Miss Potts," she nods politely to the other woman. "Good to see you here. Nice conference," she adds, looking around. "Good to hear people pressing to keep the space program going."


Pepper Potts winces in sympathy with both Carol and Dr. Pym as her greeting causes him to spill his tea. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you. Are you both all right?" She reaches into a pocket and brandishes her phone like a walkie-talkie.

"Jarvis, please ask Becca to bring a thermos as well, and inform catering we've got a small spill in front of lecture hall two."

"At once, Miss Potts," comes a cultured-sounding British voice from her phone. Pepper slips said phone back into a pocket again, and she reaches to take the tea cup out of Dr. Pym's hand to prevent any further spillage. "I'm afraid I didn't get to hear the lecture. Someone has to keep everything going smoothly out here." Yeah, this is Darjeeling all right. She's definitely going to have to speak with catering. Misrepresenting tea is a BIG no-no in her book.


Hank gives Carol a nervous chuckle and his cheeks redden in embarrassment as Carol manages to prevent him bumping into her, but he still manages to spill the tea on his shirt. "Sorry about that Miss Danvers," he says, reading her nametag. Great, a reporter too. Will this end up in the paper? The dithering doctor or some such?

"Yes, I'm all right Miss Potts, though I can't say the same for my shirt. If you two will excuse me, I'll see if I can clean this up," and he'll place his tea on a nearby table and head towards the bathroom, where he can use his toolbot to get another white shirt, and change.

He'll return a few minutes later, looking not only clean, but freshly ironed. In fact, it's almost suspicious in how well he cleaned up the stain. He did dampen the shirt a little with water, so he can claim that he wasn't able to dry it entirely on the air vent. "Once again, I'm sorry about that ladies."


"All good here," Carol assures Pepper with a wry smile. "Safe and sound from the evils of tea spills. Colonel Danvers, actually," she calls after Hank as he makes his escape, crossing her arms loosely over her chest as she looks back to Pepper. "I saw some cameras in there, though," she observes. "Streaming to TED, or something like that?" she guesses.


Pepper Potts smiles and nods to Dr. Pym, letting him escape as she's met more than a few science-types whose social skills are … underdeveloped. She then offers her hand to Carol to shake. "It is TED, actually. Thank you. And good to meet you, Colonel."

Just about the time that Dr. Pym returns with a surprisingly fresh shirt, Becca appears at Pepper's elbow with a tray bearing a teapot, two teacups, a thermos, and the heavenly aura of Bergamot. "Oh, thank you, Becca." She accepts the tray and holds it confidently in one hand while uncapping the thermos to start filling it with what is clearly Earl Grey tea.


Dr. Pym apologises once more, "sorry about earlier," and uses her correct title of, "Colonel Danvers." That just doesn't sound right to him, but he's a pacifist. Military titles just rub him the wrong way. But the tea is accepted with alacrity. "Oh, that smells right," he says, though this time he's a bit more careful with his thermos.

"So, Miss Potts, will Mr. Stark be giving a lecture today?" Tony can come across as a know-it-all, but the man knows almost as much as he thinks he knows, so the interest is genuine.


Carol Danvers takes Pepper's hand in a firm grip, smile flashing. "I used to run security at NASA," she chuckles, looking around. "These guys have not gotten more self-aware in the intervening years. Please, nothing to apologize for, Dr. Pym," she waves a hand when the scientist returns.

The conference on the future of space and technology is going on at Stark Towers, and the latest round of presentations is just letting out, spilling crowds of scientists, military, and other interested parties into the hall, along with press.


"He's slated to give a speech toward the end of the day, Dr. Pym." And he's better be there, or Pepper will have some SERIOUS words for him. Her phone chirps once in her pocket and she wordlessly offers to fill a teacup for Carol. "In the meantime, it's noon, and lunch is being provided in the banquet hall downstairs. Unless you'd rather venture out for something, or want to keep looking at the various displays."


Howard's been at the conference for awhile. He hasn't been glad-handing or asking questions. Instead, he's just been lurking about, like a ghost from the past - which in many ways, he rather is. The suit he's chosen could really serve to be a bit less conspicuous, but it's not really in the Stark nature to blend in with the crowd. It's a modern suit, but cut in a vintage style with vintage material. If anyone bothers to look at some of the pictures on the lobby wall, they might very well give him a double-take as he passes. He's not crossed Pepper's path yet, either by chance or design. He's currently looking at a tablet, perusing the schedule for the rest of the conference. He's only about ten feet from the current cluster of scientists plus one CEO.


"Oh, that should be interesting," Dr. Pym remarks, having no idea that there's a better than good chance that Mr. Stark won't even bother to show up to his own Scientific Symposium. He's like that. Must be nice to live that kind of life. Death for breakfast, Swedish supermodels for lunch, and a sensible dinner in Paris.

Then he remembers what Carol said, and asks, "security at NASA. I imagine you came in after that whole Thad Roberts ordeal? I hear they're planning on turning it into a movie. I wonder if they'll keep the title, Sex on the Moon I believe."

"And I could eat," he says cheerfully. Scientists are all the same. They love the free food. Even the ones like Dr. Pym, who have more than generous research grants.


"Just before, actually," Carol replies to Hank with a rueful smile. "Mine was the whole Cape Canaveral research station explosion. On the grand scheme of security failures, though, the Roberts thing made me feel a hell of a lot better about my tenure," she says lightly. That, and the superpowers she got out of the explosion, but that's another story. "Oh, thanks Miss Potts, but I'm more of a coffee girl," she declines the tea. "Food, on the other hand. I'm all about the food."


Physics! And sundry other sciences! Bobby was a bit surprised to get an invite to the symposium but he's not one to turn down a chance to indulge his incredibly nerdy side. Besides, it's for work. Thermodynamics may seem like a rather static field but the fact of the matter is people do exciting things with energy exchange all the time. He's not too far from where Pepper and Doctor Pym and Miss Danvers are. Of course, he only actually knows one of those people and 'knows' might be stretching it a bit. He's met Pepper a few times for business related things but he's a researcher, not a corporate head, so it's usually just when Berto isn't available. Still, he gives the red head a friendly wave as he puts a few light items on his plate.


Pepper Potts directs Carol and Dr. Pym toward the banquet hall to get started with lunch, smiles and waves hello to the young man she remembers as working for DaCosta, then notices Howard nearby. She excuses herself politely and steps over to see how the young-looking man is doing. "Howard. Good to see you not hiding in your lab."


"I wasn't hiding, Ms. Potts. I was working." Howard drawls wryly. "Besides, how could I miss this? Lots of influential scientists here. Lots of media, too." She should know that tone by now. Not just because of the similarities to Tony, but because she's been around him enough. He's up to something. "This session just after lunch. The Stark session. Would you mind if I introduced it?"


"The book wasn't all that I had hoped it would be, but I did love the idea of the low speed getaway. It just tickled me to think of a guy with all those stolen goods, driving 15 kph." He laughs, remembering Ben Mezrich's book about it. Also, it's far nicer than talking about the Cape Canaveral research station explosion. "But that other issue, very sad," he sighs in remembrance.

But there is food to be had, and he follows Pepper's directions, noting the other people in the crowd. Some he knows, many he does not. With Pepper heading off towards Howard, he'll get in the queue behind Mr. Drake, placing a few things on his plate. Hi choices are very healthy ones. Maybe someone's put him on a diet. He doesn't look too happy as he takes the celery, yet take it he does.


Yeah, no, Carol's not picking up any celery. The editor from the Daily Planet is all about some of that potato salad, and a few pieces of fried chicken. As a member of the media, her ears perk just a bit when Howard starts talking to Pepper, though she keeps that to herself for the moment. "Less sad, more massive clusterfuck," she says cheerfully to Pym. "Turned out all right, though. The space program thing wasn't really for me. Lot of institutionalized bias there."


Bobby chuckles at the conversation behind him. "True of a lot of government operations, I've found." He notes over his shoulder. Celery is good. Also carrots. Also these small club sandwiches that are cut into fourths. "True of a lot of corporate ones too, I suppose." Though he's been lucky to work for a very effective, very idealistic boss. "Bobby Drake, DCI Cryolabs." He says by way of introduction.


Pepper Potts nods slightly to Howard. "How about this: I'm about to head up to check on Tony. If he's not ready to head down here in time, I'll let you know and you can take his spot. I'm sure you can fill a hour with robotics talk on the fly, right?" She's completely unaware of Carol's eavesdropping. "And JARVIS can help you with visual aids as you need them." She glances over at the buffet. Lunch will have to wait.

"You've seen the old reels. Give me a stage, and I'll have them eating out of the palm of my hand," drawls Howard. "Would you like me to make a plate for you? Although, if you don't have someone who can do that for you, you really should look into it. Assistants are invaluable." He glances over his shoulder towards the buffet and the gathered scientists. Behind him and to the left is an old photograph of him standing by one of Stark's airplanes. The two figures look uncannily similar.


The asparagus looks good. It has the scent of fresh garlic, looks to have been cooked in butter, and even has these tiny little flakes of bacon. Yeah, that's a vegetable, just not a healthy one anymore, so he takes a few of those. "Well, that would be one way to describe it." Her comment does seem to lighten the mood. He pauses to look at some cucumber sandwiches, and takes a few.

"Maybe you should have considered the private aerospace sector?" Space isn't as inaccessible as it once was, and yet, his life really hasn't changed much. He even designed a jetpack and a flying car, but legal was worried about the possible lawsuits of introducing designs as revolutionary as that.

Hank offers his hand, "Hank Pym, van Dyne Industries," and he knows the feeling of working for a boss who's more of a friend than an employer. Then he thinks for a moment, and asks Bobby a pertinent scientific question about some work he did last year.

And then he notices Howard Stark and he does a double take. That's Howard Stark. The man should be almost a hundred and yet he looks as old as Hank. "Fascinating," he intones, and wonders, cloning, temporal anomaly, rejuvenation, alternate dimensions, cosmetic surgery on a double.

Hmm, that is highly unusual, and being here, under these circumstances, the staff would probably know if there were anything wrong. Well, if there's no emergency, but still, it does warrant further scrutiny. And all the while he's holding up the line as he thinks to himself.


"Carol Danvers, Daily Planet," Carol introduces herself to Bobby with a nod. "Nice to meet you. I did private sector stuff," she adds to Hank, "But I went in a different direction, with publishing. I miss the challenge, though." When Pym stops, she turns to see what he's looking at, brow arching. She wanted to be a pilot from the time she was a little girl. Air Force. She's tested Stark Industry planes before. She's an aeronautics dork. "Is that a Howard Stark impersonator?" she asks. "Because that is…eery."


Pepper Potts shakes her head no to Howard. "I won't have time to eat it. I'm off to go check on Tony. Hopefully I'll be back in time to snag something before they close the kitchen." She glances toward where Hank is standing like he's just seen Christopher Lloyd walk by in full Doc Brown regalia, then smiles at Howard. "You should go introduce yourself. Get started interacting with the rest of the world." And then she hurries off to try and drag Tony out of his workshop.


"Nice to meet you Miss Danvers." Missus Drake raised a polite boy. Though they don't talk much anymore. Long story, that. "Er… woah." Bobby suddenly realizes who it is who got in line behind him.. Or at least, who it looks like. Words fail him just at this particular moment. Because who hasn't heard of Howard Stark?


"You should take care of yourself. Don't make the same mistakes I did." Howard touches Pepper gently on the shoulder, then withdraws to add himself to the line for the buffet. He's aware that eyes are starting to turn his way. He'll pretend like he hasn't noticed, at least for now. And ooh, look, foccacia. He starts to make himself a plate.


"From security to publishing," Hank remarks, "that is a bit of an unconventional leap. But whatever works, right?" And when she mentions Howard Stark, he nods, "perhaps the best impersonator that I've ever seen. He's the spitting image of the man." Trying to make light of it, he says, "who knows, maybe Tony reanimated his corpse. Zombies are all the rage now, right?" Then he adds, a little uncertain, "that's what the Twilight series is about, isn't it?"

When Howard gets into the queue, Hank will turn, "oh, I don't believe I've had the pleasure Mr. Stark." He'll extend a hand in greeting, offer a warm smile, and introduce himself as, "my name is Doctor Henry Pym of van Dyne Industries. This is Colonel Carol Danvers of the Daily Bugle, and that is Robert Drake of da Costa International."


"Close, but no," Carol replies to Hank, amused. "Besides, the love triangle's the key in any of the young adult stuff these days. What's a girl to do if she doesn't have to pick between a couple of guys who are both extremely creepy, right? Although the percentage of creepy guys pretending to be nice is fairly real-world accurate." Whoops, out loud voice. She clears her throat looking back to Howard as Hank hands out introductions. "That is a great suit."


Bobby wouldn't know about creepy guys pretending to be nice. He's kind of lucky that way. He also offers his hand out with a smile. "Nice to meet you Mister Stark. You're, uh, looking pretty spry." For a hundred odd year old man. Whew. The ice nerd hopes he ages that well. "Is, uh, everything alright with Miss Potts?"


Reanimation is not a bad theory, except Howard Stark was in his late 60s when he died. And really, biological manipulation isn't Tony's thing. "Doctor Pym. Colonel Danvers. Nice to see you again. And thank you. I know it doesn't quite live up to Tony's band t-shirts, but I do try." Dry as a desert, that tone. He turns to Bobby and offers his hand as well. "Oh, oh yes. She's just off to try and wrangle the main attraction. We'll see if he consents to being poked out of his den." Doot doot doot. Just ignore the fact that he should be dead and have a normal conversation with these nice people. It's more fun that way.


Carol might as well be speaking a different language. Hank didn't really get any of that. He'd do some research into the Twilight series, but then he'd know about Twilight, and would have to erase that from his memory. Maybe he could invent a memory loss serum. There's probably a way to chemically treat memory engrams. He could even deliver it in an aerosolised formula, though the research and development on that would be dangerous.

After shaking Howard's hand, Hank will place his hand in his pocket, careful to only touch the top of his hand against the pocket. Inside, he has his toolbot, which he'll use to try and save a sample of what he assumes to be Howard's DNA. Of course, he won't be able to view those results until he's back at his lab, but he hopes he got enough of a sample to use. For now, he'll take Howard at face value. He was talking with Pepper. He's here at Stark Tower. If they aren't alarmed, he shouldn't be. He's just… curious.

"If he doesn't deign to give a lecture today, what will you be speaking about?" The others may not be as invested, but this is in Hank's wheelhouse, so he's got a professional interested.


"Yeah, fancy meeting you here," Carol says slowly to Howard, giving him another look. "The wind tunnel, right? Hell of an employment plan, there. Work on the science in the lab, come out and be a mascot for the parties?" Subtle is not Carol's wheelhouse.


Bobby laughs. "Well if the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, I imagine you're something of a people person." Which might be a partial answer to Carol's question. "I'm glad someone can do that. I don't enjoy speaking myself."

Hank's question gets a nod. There's a lot of interesting topics on the docket and Bobby's quite curious about what someone with Howard's obvious and extensive background would be talking about. The recently graduated physicist feels… a bit out of his depth with three such experienced people, to be sure.


"A mascot?" Howard's eyebrows arch very high as he gives Carol a look. "I assure you, Colonel, that is not my function. Be patient though. Everything will be explained." He glances sidelong to Hank and grins. "Well. I'll follow the program, of "Well. I'll follow the program, of course." Something about the way he says that suggests that he will Not Be Following the Program. He grins at Bobby. It's a warm, showman's smile. "I am indeed, Mister Drake. Though I will have to defy that for just a moment. Excuse me, folks." And with that, he breaks off and disappears into the crowd, presumably to prepare for his little talk.


Pepper Potts returns far sooner than she'd anticipated, though she also looks far less pleased that would bode well. At the same time, though, she can't really complain too loudly. Tony is sleeping. She's not about to wake him from what looks like his first decent rest in at least three or four days, and she just hopes that Howard can ad lib a presentation as well as he claims he can.


Women like Carol can sometimes get away with calling a nonagenarian like Howard Stark a 'mascot', which is probably why she said it. But Hank looks visibly distraught at the remark, worrying how Mr. Stark will take it, or the actor, or whatever he is. Sure, he has no idea why the man looks young, but in this setting, it's still probably a bad move.

He turns to Bobby, and gives him a reassuring pat on the shoulder, "oh, I hate it too, but you get used to it, and better at it. It takes guts to stand in front of a crowd of people and you're young, you'll do fine. And if it doesn't work out, no embarrassment is the end of the world. Trust me, I know that first hand, second hand, third hand…"

But alas, Howard has a lecture to give, but Pepper returns, so at least Stark Industries still has representation in their little conversation. "Welcome back, how was Tony?"


"Yeah, there's something going on there," Carol murmurs as Howard heads out for his presentation. She's considered the possibilities that explain who and what he is, and most of them don't involve that fellow actually being Howard Stark. Which means this is going to be interesting.


"You mean aside from the fact that Howard Stark was sixty years old when he died?" Bobby murmurs, holding up his smart phone? Google's amazing and the fact that Howard 'LMD' Stark is sort of the same man isn't yet public knowledge. For Bobby's part the place he goes immediately is that he might in fact be a Stark Tech creation. Maybe one of Tony's. Though that seems a bit… macabre…

Hanks comfort gets a bit of a wry grin. "Thanks. I'll remember that when I have to present… if it ever happens. You have to figure out something important first, generally. Oh! Hello Miss Potts."


Pepper Potts offers a brief smile to Hank and Carol and Bobby, and accepts a plate that a caterer offers to her. "Hello again. Tony's not going to make it to his presentation." She doesn't explain why, because as nice as these people are, they don't really need to know. She quickly selects a few things from the buffet to about halfway fill her plate, and accepts a glass of water as well.


Hank lives in a world where people can grow, shrink, fly, fire energy blasts, and all sorts of things. He's open to some very unconventional possibilities. He's a scientist and goes with what he knows. "Undeniably, though I don't believe there is anything malicious at work." Pepper may not know, but even unspoken, Carol, Hank, and Bobby have been wondering what's going on with a man who should be close to a hundred, but looks 30. Oh, and there is the fact that he's supposed to be dead.

Appropriate or not, Hank decides to try some humour, especially in light of what Bobby said, and asks, "so, where'd you dig him up anyway?" The tone is polite, even jovial, but the query behind it is obvious, and hopefully he's not too blatant about it.


"Right, aside from that," Carol smirks to Bobby. It's not that she hasn't seen strange things. Carol's been outside of the solar system, outside of the galaxy. She's seen stranger things than LMD's. "Looks like we're going to get a patented Stark performance one way or another, Miss Potts."


Bobby… well fine Bobby's seen stranger things also but his world is largely one of laboratories and experiments and mutants and not one of people returning from the dead, be they ever so technological about their Lazarus act. Still, he doesn't press for an explanation. No one's flipping out so it's possible there's no need to worry. "Should we grab some seats?"


Pepper Potts starts in on her food, because it's almost guaranteed that she'll get interrupted before she gets to finish eating. At Hank's attempted joke of a question, she replies completely seriously (and honestly, too, though they might realize that part), "New Jersey." And she nods to Carol. "The presentation slot did say 'Mr. Stark'." Well, technically, it said 'Tony Stark' on the flyers, but semantics. Bobby gets a nod from her as well as, "You can take your plates with you if you want."


Hank takes his plate towards his seat, ready to hear the lecture. It may not be Tony Stark, but Howard is no less interesting… in more ways than one. "Hey, there's a bank of empty seats near the front," he suggests, wondering if the rest of his group will follow him. Evidentially, most of the people present were a little disappointed when Tony Stark didn't show.


"Never boring here, is it?" Carol chuckles to Pepper, following the others toward the seats for the presentation. Once she's settled in, she gets to work on that plate of delicious, catered food. It's not that she doesn't understand the science - she gets some of it, at least - so much as she's more interested in what it all means than in most of the esoteric scientifics of it.


Bobby finds himself… er… actually at the same table as Carol. Which hadn't been intentional. He'd left his jacket to hold a seat before he went to get his food. Well, at least he hasn't said anything too awkward yet - supposed to be dead presenters notwithstanding. "I get the feeling that's often the case around here." He murmurs.


Pepper Potts offers Carol a smile. "One certainly learns to roll with the punches, that's for sure." And yes, Bobby totally has the gist of it. Never a dull moment. And that's even before the LMD company founder, the assassin-bot PA, the personal bodyguard who can be killed but won't stay dead, and the Quality Assurance employee who just happens to also be a Buddha Bird. Oh, and last but by no means least, Tony himself. Pepper will never have to worry about her job becoming boring. "I'd love to sit with you, but I'm pretty sure there will be fires to put out the moment Howard sets foot on that stage."


The auditorium is filling up, despite the fact that word has gotten around that Tony is not going to be presenting. That may have something to do with the fact that a Mr. Stark is still on the bill, and more than a few people have seen Howard moving around. The presentation doesn't look like it's going to start right on time, because what kind of showman would he be if he didn't keep the people waiting? He takes a moment to straighten his tie, check his hair, then he steps up onto the stage and takes his place behind the microphone.

"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name… believe it or not, is Howard Stark." There is a series of gasps and murmurs that echo through the crowd. People turn to their neighbours and talk. He holds up a hand. "Now, I know you were expecting my son, Tony. But I hope I prove to be just as interesting." He smiles a rather playful little smile. "You're no doubt asking yourself, how is this possible? Howard Stark is dead. Believe me, I was surprised, too. Now, I can't get into the specifics of how I came to be this way quite yet, but I assure you that I am the Howard Stark who founded this company."

There's a brief pause as Howard lets the gathered people get the notes of surprise out to each other. Then he takes a deep breath and begins again. "My identity has been independently verified by several sources. I have no doubt that many of you will still be suspicious and will refuse to believe I am who I say I am. To that I say, good for you."

He leans with his hands braced against the podium, his voice rich and confident. "As a scientist, I believe we should always question what we are told. Unfortunately, I can't offer you any hard proof, other than to say that Tony would not allow me under this roof, and Ms. Potts would not allow me on this stage if they had any doubts about my identity." There's that showman's smile again. He looks towards Pepper as he speaks and gives her a wink.

"It was not my intention to reveal myself to you today, but in light of the subject of this lecture, I felt the opportunity was too good to pass up. You see, I am here to talk to you today about the state of Stark Industries' robotics division. It's fitting, in that I owe my current existence to that very form of technology. Though my mind and my consciousness is human - and," he chuckles, "…an Asgardian told me I even have a soul. Imagine my relief." He straightens his tie. "Take that, Daily Planet reporters, 1972." After that little aside, he adds, "But my body is robotic."


"Well, that makes a little more sense." Carol leans back in her chair, one brow rising at the explanation. Terrible editor that she is, she's not leaping forward, or demanding an exclusive interview, or any of that. Instead, she's listening. Because this? This is interesting. "Mechanically awkward, but interesting. Ooof, there are people I'd prefer couldn't keep living as robots."


Bobby's eyes widen. Okay. So he called the robot thing but the actual Howard Stark? With a soul? That… er… what?! "I… that's… um." He looks around. The room is buzzing like a beehive and then looks over to Carol and Hank. "Robotic Immortality… yeah that sounds like something that could go all kinds of wrong…"


Pepper Potts has moved away from their table by now, or Pepper would reassure Carol and Bobby that the tech that has brought Howard Stark to where he is at this moment will NOT be repeat. Instead, she's in the back of the room, half-eaten plate of food still in hand, and bluetooth earpiece lighting up ALREADY. Yes, she's prepared for the PR nightmare that Howard's 'coming out' was going to generate, but… wow.


While he might not be ready to accept it all, Hank sees enough truth in what Howard says that he will carefully study the sample he took once he gets back to his lab. It should prove to be very illuminating. But for now, he sits with Carol and Bobby, enjoying his food and the presentation from the elder Stark.

He keeps quiet as is appropriate for such things, but he does have several questions, most are not really appropriate for this venue. But he does say to Bobby, "oh, it's probably not all that difficult. I could recreate a human body at this point. It would just be a matter of transferring the memory engrams, the skills, everything that makes us truly human, or… ahem, soul if you will."


The longer Howard goes between saying anything, the louder the din gets in the room. He chuckles and motions to the screen. "Well, folks. Do you want to hear this presentation, or do you want to go on Twitter and talk about my announcement? And yes, I know what Twitter is." He holds up a hand. "I've been awake long enough that I'm getting myself caught up. If you do want me to go on, I warn you that the rest of the presentation isn't going to answer any of those burning questions about me. However…with Ms. Potts permission," he motions to her at the back of the room, "I could turn this into an impromptu press conference?"


Carol leans back, taking another bite of the fried chicken as she watches the chaos. "Sci-fi comes to life," she says, amused. "Yeah, it's a cool concept. Except you know where it gets used. The rich live longer. They already hold on to their wealth by passing it down through families. Now you're going to have people jumping into new bodies."


"Or it gets put to military applications." Bobby doesn't say that with the same venom many scientists do. He knows enough to know that military technologies are good. They keep soldiers safe, and keep bad people at bay in the right hands. Buuuuuut the people who are going to be interested in this kind of thing? They're going to want immortal shock troops and undying assassins. He knows the type. He's fought them before.


WHAT? Pepper's head pops up at Howard's voice saying 'press conference' and she looks toward the stage wide-eyed at that, already shaking her head no. Dear god, no. SI's PR department has been bracing for the oncoming storm, and this would completely derail them. Please, Howard, don't turn this into a press conference.


"Science isn't the exclusive domain of the wealthy, or the military. Science is supposed to be for the benefit of everyone." Hank actually seems quite serious about that. It's like Carol and Bobby were cutting straight to his heart. He has worked for most of his life to help people, and they're snidely remarking that it might be used for the one percent and the military-industrial complex. Valid concerns to be sure, but it still stings.

He'd give Pepper some help, if he could, but his attention has been caught by the people at his table and he seems like the other people, talking amongst themselves wondering what's going on.


Howard inhales and drums his fingers against the podium. "I'm getting a very vehement headshake from Ms. Potts. So how about this… let me take questions from the scientists and not the reporters. And if you think I don't know the difference, then you /really/ must doubt my identity." He's doing his best to turn on the charm. "Let me first say that the technology that led to my situation is not repeatable. And if it was, for obvious reasons of ethics, we would never publish or do anything with that information. It was an accident how I came to be in this situation, and not a matter of design. As much as it bruises my ego to say it, I don't think I could ever do it again. Simply put, it should not have worked. I've been over the data a hundred times. It was a fluke." He straightens up and looks out at the crowd. "Now. Are there any scientific questions?"


"Supposed to and what happens aren't always the same thing," Carol points out, grimacing. "Women are supposed to have an equal spot in the armed forces. The government's supposed to be interested in the well-being of the people. We're supposed to be honest about the things that happen in the world. Those things? They don't always happen. I'm not saying they shouldn't," she adds quickly, holding out a hand toward Hank. "You're right, they should. But life's not that simple."


Bobby nods. "Science is good, but science has to be paid for. Most don't have the resoruces of a Stark or a Wayne behind them. And the people who pay for it want a return on investment." The ice nerd shrugs. "Which isn't bad. You pay for something you shouldn't be expected to just give it away for free, but that also means that science has an agenda. And the agenda is set by the guy with the checkbook."


A scientist could get used to this. What Howard just proposed was the best of both worlds. He gets to hear a scientific lecture, and gets to ask questions, without any reporters bringing the discussion down to a layman's level. A man rises in the crowd, and begins by introducing herself as Dr. Selma Yao, stating that she is an employee of Queen Consolidated, and asks a question about neural pathway degredation. Then comes a question from Dr. Alan Davies of the Taylor Foundation. And finally, Hank gets to speak, rising, "I am Doctor Henry Pym of van Dyne Industries, and I would like to know how you solved the Powell-Stanz theory of Desterilised Degradation?"


Pepper Potts can only sigh and close her eyes briefly at Howard's compromise. It's better than nothing, and will at least keep the scientists in the audience happy. She turns her attention back to the bluetooth in her ear, letting one of the catering staff abscond with her unfinished plate of food. She's rubbing at her forehead with one hand, a gesture Tony at least would recognize as one indicating an impending headache.
And Howard Stark, for all his showmanship, his easy smiles and his charm, proves himself to be the genius that built Stark Industries. He answers each of the technical questions with ease, not bothering to dumb anything down. He speaks on molecular theory, nanorobotics and advanced engineering principles in the same easy way he'd order a Manhattan.


When it comes to Hank's question, he lets out a low whistle. "You've nailed it, sir. You've nailed it. The truth is, that's the one I couldn't lick. Somehow a combination of factors, circumstances, electrical impulses and precise amperage, and even ambient radiation present at either the lab or the crash site, all coalesced to solve that problem for me. I have even theorized that the traumatic nature of my death somehow placed my neural patterns into a thoroughly receptive state. And that is precisely why this exercise would be nearly impossible to replicate. It was only some combination of variables that prevented the degradation of neural impulses as they were transmitted via wireless. And…" he wobbles his head back and forth. "Even then, the transmission was not without its degradation. The last 40 years of my life are far less clear to me as the first 40. Now, I have no idea why this is the case. But you can bet I'm trying to find out. Powell and Stanz can rest easy in their graves knowing that their theory has not been repeatedly disproven."


Speaking of ordering a Manhattan… While everyone is properly distracted by the scientific questions, Carol slips a flask out of her pocket, taking a sip. Blah blah blah science. Blah blah blah robots.


Bobby looks over to Carol and Pepper. Yes he's a scientist. Yes he's actually very good at what he does. No, he doesn't have the slightest clue what's being talked about at the moment. Hank and Howard are on a level way, way, waaaaay above his. "Er, does anyone know what language they're speaking now?" He half chuckles as he eats.


It may not have been the answer he was looking for, it may not have been an answer Bobby could understand, Hank was right there with Howard. He could follow along. And he wondered, would it be inappropriate to ask if he could give Howard a physical? Probably, but maybe in time he could examine the guy. Oh, that'd be an easy conversation. Maybe he could talk to Pepper. She seems pretty reasonable. At least she might be able to help him rephrase the question. And did Carol just sip from a flask? A bit early for that.

In any event, he'll listen as more questions are asked, some about the physiological, is he a clone, can this procedure be used for the disabled, such as those with a spinal cord injury. A whole host of questions, but none that truly interest Hank. He already has those. He wants to know what he can learn.


So what, Tony was asleep. Tony sleeps a lot because he works so hard and keeps such amazingly precise hours dedicated to the betterment of mankind. JARVIS, being helpful, announces that Tony had a scheduled speech to give at the Stark Symposium, which he neither cared about nor intended to attend. At first, he just rolled over and groaned and went right on back to sleep because screw that.

Who wants to talk to a bunch of stuffy shirt scientists who don't know their asshole from their electromagnetic spectrum.

That is, until JARVIS, again rather helpfully, turns on the teleprompters which now have a Howard standing up there being all science-y.

That does it. That right there. Tony is up and getting dressed in seconds, then rushing down to the meeting area (WHEREEVER IT IS I DONT CARE I'M IRON MAN) and crashes the party.

"This is why I never come to these things." Tony says, walking up behind Howard, eyeing Pepper. "So anyways, yeah. I guess it's too late to lie and say this is my illegitimate son… No, he won't be taking back over the company, no he is not for sale. At least not this year, a fully functional model will be available online for next Christmas season."


Pepper Potts blinks as Tony rather abruptly appears on stage behind Howard, then yes, her hand comes up and her forehead smacks against her palm. Oh, Tony… And then she has to deal with the fresh round of media frenzy, as cell phone cameras start flashing everywhere and social media sites are bombarded. All she can really do is look toward the stage and give Tony her 'loudest' glare. You just ruined her entire week. Hope you're happy.


Howard continues answering questions amicably with scientists. He strikes up a rapport, tossing questions back and engaging them as best he can. He is humble inasmuch he admits when he doesn't know the answer, but he's also quick to note that he's done something no one else has done before, and he did it in the mid-80s.

And naturally, since someone else has the stage, that's Tony's cue. He looks back and towards his son. "Well. You missed the big announcement, son. I was just telling these fine people all about the advances that brought me here today." As far as the other smartass comment, he simply wrinkles his nose. "There was actually a valid point in all of that. I have reaffirmed that I gave up my claim to Stark Industries at the moment of death for my physical body. My estate remains with my son," he motions to Tony, "…and control of the company remains with Pepper Potts. There's no need to go selling stock. There is no power struggle within Stark Industries."


Carol leans back toward Pepper, holding out the flask. "I'm guessing you could use a little bit of this," she offers as she watches the father-son drama unfold on stage. Carol doesn't exactly have the best relationship with her family, either.


'There is no power struggle within Stark Industries'. Even if Bobby believes that, and he does, he can't help but groan internally and shoot Pepper an 'I'm so, so sorry' look. Will the press eat that up in exactly the wrong way? Well, Carol would be the best person to ask but his guess is yes. Yes they will.


Hank would sympathise with Pepper, if only he knew how much pain she was in. It can't be easy having two Starks to worry about. But at least it's not likely to get a third, unless of course Tony found his grandfather in Jersey along with Howard. Stranger things have happened.

The event isn't quite as much fun for Hank at this point. He preferred the science. Now they're talking about stocks and assets, and that is so far out of his comfort zone that he can barely follow along. He whispers to the table, "why would anyone want to sell stock in Stark Industries to know that there are two geniuses with the company?" It seems a legitimate question to him.

A better question might be will Pepper dare take a sip as Carol offered? None of the cameras are pointed at her. Would one sip hurt?


Glares? Tony is so unconcerned about glares right now. There is a media spectacle to make. A mockery of everything that is good and descent about this Symposium must be thrashed about in the mud beneath his thousand dollar shoe.

Grinding it in with the effortless efficiency of a super computer doing simple math.

"There were several good points in there, point of fact." Said from his position, one part to the side of his father, "Like the part where I said you were property. That's an important distinction… see, he's a machine." Motioning with one hand waving up and down in a exhibitory gesture to the man beside him, "Also…"

Motioning out to Pepper, "and the only thing the two of us are going to agree on." Still motioning at Pepper, "Pepper Potts ladies and gentlemen." Just in case she DOES take a sip, gotta get attention back on her.


Pepper Potts never had any intention of accepting that flask from Carol, but when Tony turns all the attention on her very abruptly, all she really has time to do is square her shoulders and call back to Tony, "Thank you, now, how about the three of us go have a talk in private?" That's Pepper code for get off that damned stage before I drag you off by the scruff of your neck.


"Property," says Howard acidly. "Well. That may be technically true at the current point in time, that will not hold for very long." He's speaking through gritted teeth. "My sentience has been independently verified. And there is precedence for granting rights to artificial life forms." And with that statement, any possibility of presenting a united front dissolves. "Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention. I give the stage back to my son. He has a whole…" he checks his watch, "…ten minutes left to take you through the latest advancements in Stark's robotics division. I'm sure you'll give him your full attention." And with that, he turns and strides off the stage, not once looking back at Tony or out at the crowd.


Oh, things just got real. Carol arches a brow as Tony pulls out the property line, whistling low. All right, well, she does have to try to be a responsible editor. When Pepper declines, she tucks the flask away again, pulling out her phone to send a text back to the office.


"Pepper…" Bobby says quietly. "I think that one of your Foundation funded charities is due for an inspection pretty soon." Yeah. Bobby knows that Pepper's going to be cleaning up fallout here like a Russian Radiologist at Chernobyl. But he just offered her an excuse to go somewhere quiet: The Nest, for a little while if she ever needs to get away and finds the time to do so.


Hank is stunned into silence. It takes him a moment to wrap his mind around all that's gone on. He almost misses the rest of Tony's lecture, or the start of it, however it goes, if there is a lecture anyway. All he'll say at the table is, "wow." Someone with a vocabulary such as his being stunned into a single word. Now that's impressive.


Does Tony even feel remorse?

When his father stalks off stage, Tony cants his head to watch him go, "Robo dad, everybody." Motioning with one out stretched hand. Then he drops it down on the sides of the podium. "I'll take a few questions I guess. You know, forestall having to deal with that stare." Chin jutting out towards Pepper, "By ten minutes if pops is right.. and he is, computer brain and all." Pointing at someone, "You, question, go."


Wow. Now that's a word for what just happened. Pepper sighs visibly as Howard seethes off of the stage, unsure of whether she should go after him or stay here and make sure Tony didn't get any further off the reservation. Bobby's suggestion earns him a glance and an attempt at a smile, but that's pretty much it. Looks like she's going to stay here to try and mitigate any further Tony-induced damage.


There's certainly a story here. Carol's not much for the tawdry stuff, but she's got a job to do. "Good luck with that, Miss Potts," she says sympathetically, then starts to make her way out of the conference, texting as she goes.


Bobby sighs and rises. This is about to get messy, but he slides his card on over to where Pepper can get it later. Just in case. Carol won't want to talk to him he's pretty sure, so it's out of this circus and back to the labs… well… maybe a quick stop over at his flat first.


Dr. Pym is far too polite to try and get involved in this kind of a circus. He'll politely make small talk with Carol, Bobby, and anyone else who happened to be at the table. Eventually, he'll excuse himself and slip off to analyze the sample he took from Howard. Though some of his questions have already been answered.


Seems nobody's really interested in robotics anymore.

Not that Tony really wanted to answer any questions about it anyways. He gives the staring group a few seconds to try and formulate a question, but when none comes forward, he nods once and turns on his heels. Headed, now, for whatever chewing out he's about to receive. Once he's outside the room, however, his expression darkens just a hair.

This is probably going to get messy…er.


Howard Stark is not in the wings of the stage. In fact, he's not anywhere near the conference at all. If Tony asks JARVIS, he'll discover that Howard is in his lab.

The door to Howard's lab is locked, but this is Tony's playground, and JARVIS is his creation. He did not take pains to secure it. Not doing that in the face of Tony, is a bit like taping a 'KEEP OUT' sign to a door.

There is activity inside the lab. There's movement. There's experiments being dismantled and research being loaded on to flash drives. It doesn't take a genius to figure out what he's doing.


There's Pepper tryimg to get Tony to stop and think about all of this rationally. Meaning that she's been trailing along after Tony trying to tak sense into him since he stepped off of that symposium stage. God, what a mess.


There's Tony not listening, walking down the halls towards the labs set aside for his father with both hands shoved into the pockets of his slacks and an almost, almost, whimsical grin on his face as he listens to Pepper try to turn him away from his course of action. "Pepper, I get it."

Stopping in the hallway to turn and face her fully, "I'm going to ask you a very important question, when was the last time I did something and I didn't have a reason?" He asks, head tilting just a little.

"Besides, the only people who got hurt in that meeting was the media… and who ''cares'' what they print. Do you know how many STDs I have if we listen to those jack asses?" That said.

He turns and starts towards the lab once more. "So either trust me or stay here, but ''stop'' trying to talk me out of this. You're wasting your breath."


Howard continues his motions inside the lab. He types something into the computer, downloads files, then thrusts the jump drive into his pocket. He stands in front of a large prototype, pondering what to do with it. He's not having enough of a tantrum to smash anything, but nor does he want to leave it.


Pepper Potts stops and blinks at Tony. "All right. But I wish you'd at least tell me your reason." She sounds, though, like she's net expecting him to do so right this moment.


At the labs, Tony stops and stares in through the windows at his father putting all his belongings in a box.. then shakes his head and laughs a little. "Jeez.. deja vue." Glancing back over his shoulder at Pepper, then up at the ceiling with his brow furrowing a little when he tests the door and finds it bolted. "JARVIS…"

"Yes sir?" The AI asks expectantly.

"Nevermind." Tony says and instead of having the doors unlocked, which would have been simple enough, he wraps his knuckles against the glass and talks over his shoulder at Pepper. "Like twenty two years ago, I was the one standing in my room packing my things. Dad had dismissed my science fair project idea as a 'disappointment'." Probably not a 'humorous' moment by most peoples standards, but then again Starks are a different sort.


"JARVIS, open the damned door," mutters Howard as he continues to glare at his unfinished project. Before he even sees who it is, he mutters, "I'm sure you have some wonderfully convoluted PR reason for humiliating me. I'm not interested in hearing it."


Pepper Potts decides that maybe it's best if she did say outside of that lab. Howard sounds (understandably) very angry.


The doors open and Tony slips through to lean up against one of the tables, both hands bent across the edge and his face stretched out into a sardonic sort of frown, "No, not a PR reason. A realistic one."

Tony glances around the lab, specifically at some of the projects being packed away, "Nothing I said out there isn't true, dad." It's like he's visually expressing the but, rather than speaking it out loud, "So we're going to change that."

Two fingers flick towards the door encouraging Pepper to step in, "Pepper, draw up some papers releasing Howard Stark as property of Stark Industries and you sign it. I'm going to go on ''public'' record as being absolutely against the idea out of concerns for a potential security risk… which in turn is going to draw a lot of attention away from the improvements I'm making at my Project Alpha location."

Glancing between them, "And focus media attention 'here' on Stark Industries proper. Also, it's going to put you and me…" Flicking his fingers between him and his father, "In a very unique position to present a divided front towards one very precise and similiar goal." Tony smirks a little, "You told me once: Son, I'm not a good lier. And I said to you: Dad, don't worry, I'll do it for you."

Shrugging a shoulder, "Plus, the look on your face when I called you property was pretty humorous, I'm not gonna lie… but I think that pretty much makes us even… Sort of."


Howard sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose. "I don't give a damn about your games, Tony. I signed over my rights to this company and I stepped back for a reason. I'm not playing this game. Consider me retired." He steps in front of his son and tilts his chin. He sets his jaw. Then he flares his nostrils and sets his shoulder. "You want a PR piece? Here it is. A man trying to rebuild his public image, his brand. Here's a man who fears that people will look at him and not believe he is who he says he is. They won't believe he's even human." He breaks away from looking at Tony and raps his hand on the workbench. "I avoided dealing with that scenario for months. If you hadn't noticed, which I wouldn't be surprised if you hadn't, I've barely left this lab. I finally get up the courage to tell people who I am - with no support from you by the way, and you tell the whole world that I'm property." His voice has become oddly calm, oddly still. "This isn't about strategy, son. This is about self-worth and me regaining my humanity. And you shit all over it with your stupid schemes."


Pepper Potts finally steps inside when Tony beckons her in, and she steps to the closest computer terminal to start typing up the requested documents. Or more accurately, to have JARVIS pull up the appropriate forms so she can start filling in the blanks. Her typing pauses at Howard's reply, as she's not sure whether or not she should continue.


"Dad." Tony stops, shaking his head. "This is bigger than all of that." Said with a sigh, pinching at the bridge of his nose, "I'm an asshole, I realize that. I could have done that differently, but… I am who I am. It doesn't change the fact that my designs are bigger than sim-…" He stops and shakes his head, "No."

And pushes off the table, "No, you're right." Tony walks out from the lab with his hands back in his pockets. "Pepper, draw up the papers. Sorry I made you look like a jack ass pops. I was trying to do something bigger than us when you needed it to be about you." It's a genuine apology at least, stopping in the door to lean in against the frame and stare at Howard. "Seeya around, dad."


Without realizing it, Howard echoes the nose pinch move a moment later, then flattens his palm against his forehead. He murmurs towards Tony as he leaves, "I know a public persona is important, even necessary. But there is a time and a place to be genuine." Some of the anger has deflated from his voice, but he's not trying to stop Tony from leaving. He leans against the workbench, and for a moment, he looks his actual age. There's no gray in his hair, but he looks hunched and tired.


Pepper Potts looks from one Stark to the other, clearly torn. But, ultimately, she does as Tony asked and gets the forms all filled out and ready for Howard to sign. Then, at a loss for what else she can do, she slips out of the lab and goes up to her office to hide in the washroom there.


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