Jump-Stark

Summary:
January 08, 2015: Stark Tower is about to become a warzone as two different forces invade. (Language, violence)

Stark Tower

It's got his name right on it and everything!


Characters

NPCs

  • Happy Hogan, various spoofed baddies.

Mood Music:
None


Far below the penthouse suite where Evelyn and Tony are, unmarked cars have begun pulling up on the pavement outside of the building by the front door. Five of them gather, blocking the entrance completely under the cover of darkness. Far up above, beyond earshot of those nearby, a carrier plane repurposed for what's about to happen. It approaches slowly from the East, the low hum of the engines not sounding unlike a helicopter. All seems normal for now. Meanwhile, deep in the Stark tower, men in form fitting forest green suits prepare a charge on the main circuit conduit for the reactor that provides power for the Stark Industries building. Despite the cameras and security littered throughout the tower, they have managed to infiltrate the deepest recesses of the Tower's infrastructure. Something big is about to happen.

Evelyn and Tony are in the penthouse suite, as they were last left, locked intimately together on a chair. Just as it was getting good! All at once, everything in the tower goes dark. Lights turn off, the teleprompter in the background deactivates. Security deactivates. JARVIS deactivates. Everything goes dark. A slight tremor shivers its way up the building's structure, as if an explosive was just detonated at the very bottom of the building.

The lights flick on outside, the unmarked cars by the entrance flashing red and blue. Police cars? The hum far off to the East ominously grows louder.

*

Howard is down one floor, in his own lab. He's been working on a project that involves nanites for a very particular purpose. There's an injection arm that hangs at the ready. All lights on the system indicate green. He takes a deep breath, rolls up his sleeve and prepares to activate it.

Just then, all the power goes out. The only light that illuminates his lab is the skyline beyond the window. "JARVIS? JARVIS, respond." When he AI doesn't respond, he knows something's up. But what to do? He rolls down his sleeve and heads towards his door. It's locked and requires a manual override. Without much effort, he locates the access panel and starts digging around in the door's guts.

*

Tony glances around slowly when he can nolonger 'feel' the power generated by the massive Arc Reactor dozens of stories below the street level. "I know it's cliche…" Said, rubbing a hand along Evelyn's side, "But this has never happened to me before."

Take that.

Out comes his phone, but for the purposes of their need, the gang attacking the industry have also dropped the cell service with a micro EMP burst that fried any attempt at establishing an outbound signal.

Then the trimmers start and Tony gets very very serious. "We have to get to the labs… now."

*

Days have come and gone since Domino had discovered Evelyn down at the Gotham harbor, yet their conversation still lingers in the back of the albino's thoughts. Ev had refused to help. Now she might well become an obstacle. The plan carries through as intended. Dom's spent weeks working out surveillance, gathering what intel she could, organizing her resources, calling in favors… It all comes down to this. Tonight. The infiltration of a lifetime.

The plane over head..that's peculiar. But it's not going to get in the way of her plans. Her trick for getting inside is to test Stark Industries' security in ways it was probably never designed for, all starting with a 40mm grenade launcher she hacked onto the bottom of a stolen SRD Whump Gun. From the crane on a nearby rooftop she takes aim and takes the shot, the *Toomp!* easily missed.

Seconds later there's a soft thud against a window, like a pigeon had just flown into it. A clay-like substance covers a two foot diameter patch. In the next second the putty, grenade body, and a two foot section of the window vanish, vaporized, with the edges of the glass glowing faintly.

Next is the fun part. Dom drops off the edge of the crane, limbs snapping open, the frigid night air catching within the wingsuit's flaps as she comes hurdling head-first right for a very small opening within a very large building. She shoots through the opening then twists onto her back, darting across the floor until she comes to a rest beneath a desk across the room. Safe!

Then the lights all go out.

*

Evelyn pulls away when the power drops. She feels it, but more because of the eerie silence and JARVIS being cut off than feeling the arc reactor stop. She turns to look at Tony at his remark, still blushing. "I. .. I… Yeah.. Yeah we need to go." She says, not quite getting up immediately. Change gears, Evelyn. Grrkrtzk. Those are the gears changing. You're not very good at this, are you? After a moment she gets up and actually starts treating it like an emergency.

"JARVIS? Are you there?" She calls up at the ceiling, looking around. If Tony starts moving, she follows. "What's going on? Why'd the power go out? Where's JARVIS?"

*

The sound of a plane coming out from the East is getting louder. Approximate altitude? 7500 feet. Who flies that low? Is it a SHIELD aircraft? From out of the black cars below, figures in dark green outfits, plated with black helmets and battle armor begin rushing the front door. A couple have dufflebags. No care is taken to get through the lobby, a couple shots break the glass and they're in.

*

"Where's the goddamn backup generator?!" mutters Howard to the air while he paws through the guts of the wall, searching for the manual release. He's so involved in that whole process that he misses the initial signs of intrusion. It's only when he hears the sound of a body hitting the floor that he realizes something is wrong. He gets to his feet rather swiftly and squints through the semidarkness. "What the hell? Who's there?" And then, a second later, he realizes that was probably a bad thing to shout when one is under attack.

Cut him some slack. He's like, 90 years old. It's been awhile since he's seen action.

He only stands still for a moment before he's diving for cover behind a workbench and grappling for any improvised weaponry he can get his hands on.

*

Tony stands up beside Evelyn and glances around slowly, but they picked a night with thick cloud cover that would provide very little light through the big windows of the penthouse. Thankfully, Tony knows his penthouse pretty well.. *THUD* "FU-.."

Leaning down to rub his shin, "Jesus Christ, who put that table there!" He did. Now with his barings, sort of, he makes his way towards the stairs leading down into his workshop. "I need a suit." Which is pretty much like Tony Stark saying, don't worry little lady, Imma save the day from whoever did this. And flexing. With muscles.

Which he does not have.

Then she asks why the power went out.. "If I had to guess.." And he would, "A six by six inch plastique explosive, I would have said cordite if it weren't for the tremor. Probably seven by twelve, just to be safe." Doing math in his head, while leading them towards his own workshop, "That's about the only thing I can think of that would crack the titanium lined core brackets of the arc reactor. All of the wires are structurally integrated, so they would have to be about a dozen stories below ground."

Bobbing his head from side to side, pulling Evelyn along by the hand, "Probably a hacker to introduce a loop program into JARVIS database to keep him fooled long enough to get everyone in position… we just opened the starbucks down there. I've had a hell of a time working their systems in with JARVIS without destroying their personal mainframe."

They come to the glass doors that are obviously locked and preventing intrance to the workshop. Shatterproof glass.

See how I just made this harder? You're welcome.

"I'm probably going to sue Starbucks."

*

The wingsuit has to go, that's the next order of business. Not so easy to run around in one of those. It's disposable gear, Dom won't need it again. Beneath she's got her jet black armored skin, more than a few weapons and gadgets, and a USB drive hanging like a pendant from a choker. The only problem is trying to shed it at the same moment someone is calling out 'who's there.' Suddenly she's left wondering the same damn thing! This section was supposed to be clear!

Kicking the nylon suit aside, Dom hauls the Whump gun around to where the voice had called out from. Where the door is currently barring the path for -both- of them. What are the odds?

-WHUMP!-

Thor's hammer couldn't have done it any better, the stolen and cut down 'super-hero cannon' punching through the door from across the room. It's not clean, but it sure is effective.

It's also, quite possibly, built from reverse-engineered repulsor technology. Used without license. Just maybe.

"Locksmith!" Dom calls back as she sprints across the room, trying to be the first one out of here. And the first one to vanish into the massive building beyond.

*

"Tony, wa-.." Evelyn stifles a laugh when she hears the bump. "Smooth," she kids, the light humour always seems to elevate her mood. It helped the last time they were in a stressful situation, too. Taking Tony's hand, she's the first to help him get his bearings. Easy peasy to get to the stairs. Like before, her vision's just a little bit better in the darkness compared to normal people. Except, Tony doesn't release her hand after she guides him. And honestly? She doesn't let go, either.

"You're going for your suits? Can you access them?" She asks, just following along with Tony as they descend toward his lab. Stopping at the glass, Ev looks over to Tony with a curious expression. "Did you think this through?" It's an honest question. "We'll need to restore power, regardless. Who would attack you?"

*

Now that Evelyn and Tony have descended, and Howard and Domino have freed themselves, now show up the latecomers to this party. The agents down below have vanished into the building, nothing to be said of the original saboteurs responsible for taking down the building's power. What exactly is going on under the cover of darkness? The roar of the plane's engines can be heard even from floors that don't have a direct sky view. The carrier plane is coming to deliver presents.

The building shakes slightly again, tremors traveling the infrastructure as several big things land on the roof of the SI tower. Several monster suits of frankenstein technology. Reverse engineered Stark weapons used to create open-face power armor suits. Large backpacks hold crudely-wound arc reactors that glow a sickly dim blue, flickering intermittedly, each one the size of a small table. The suits are bulky. Hulk buster bulky. With the users strapped into the body frame, legs and arms concealed in the massively enhanced limbs. There aren't colours on their brushed metal frames. They look like they might as well have been made in caves.

Different Stark Technologies have been blatantly stapled onto them. Mini-seeking missile launcher clusters, machine guns, high-power mini warheads. These guys aren't kidding around. The three of them confer to each other before just crashing through into the penthouse suite. No one will be having parties here now.

*

"My ass," mutters Howard. He snaps a few pieces into place in the device he's improvising. The big concussive boom blasting a hole in his damned lab is distracting, but he's nothing if not capable under pressure. Still, that means he has to step up his schedule. Instead of finishing the weapon, he grabs for a can of machine lubricant and spills it across the threshold right into Domino's path. It coats the doorway and splashes out into the hallway.

As Howard starts to move, he recalls the limits, or rather, the lack thereof that he put on his LMD body. It's not conspicuously stronger than a regular human, but he can pull out a lot in a crisis. He has the advantage of knowing where the oil is (and is wearing lab-approved shoes specifically designed to stop slipping. Safety first!) She, of course, has superhuman abilities on him, but he doesn't know that. He tries to intercept her before she's too far out the door. to tackle her and throw her against the wall. He's got a wrench in one hand.

*

"Did I think this through…" Tony says as if the only answer is; 'Obviously I did, I am Tony Stark afterall', "I… you know what, you don't judge me right now. I've never had to go without power in Stark Industries before." Squeezing her hand and slamming the other against the shatter proof glass, "If only we had some cordite. Or six by six block of plastique…"

Curse you irony.

…. He's Irony Man.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

"If we could get into my workshop-" a breaths worth of a pause, "Wait! I have weapons in my room…" Awkward silence, shrugging at her because he knows for a fact she's staring, "I've got issues Eve.. I thought we covered that."

Leading her back up stairs and into his room, it's not like they can 'get' anywhere from here. Since Tony had them take out all the stairs. Seriously, he's freakin' Iron Man, this isn't suppose to happen.

Kicking open a closet he fumbles around and finally tosses her something vaguely like a rifle. "It fires a concentrated repulsor blast. Smaller than my flight stabilizers, but big enough to knock a few dozen people down at a Who concert."

For himself he grabs a pistol, which he makes sure is loaded. "You've got five shots, make them count."

Then something's land on the roof, "Make them count by getting me in that damn workshop…"

*

Right now, Domino's glad she opted for the goggles with light amplification properties. Since it's night, and the power is out, and all that. She's even got some pretty decent tread on those combat boots of hers, though they aren't rated for this kind of maneuver. Doesn't happen frequently in combat situations, after all! She's got a good amount of speed built up when suddenly her next step flies out from beneath her, she hits the ground hard, then..she just keeps on sliding right for the doorway.

It's the second 'hole in one' in the last few minutes, sliding out of the room and into the hallway before colliding with a wall, leaving her in a tangled heap on the floor. With poor footing. That oil just -sticks to everything,- doesn't it! Howard never even has to throw her.

Then there's the problem of him coming toward her, something metal glinting in his hand just enough to be noticed. With her shoulders still flat on the floor she brings the Whump gun up once more, another shot slamming out into the room. This time she can kind of see her target, too!

(Not two minutes in, I am -not- failing this now…)

*

Evelyn is indeed staring at Stark. It's almost like he knows her at this point. "I'm not judging you. Now. It's the least I can do after punching you in the face." Irony man, indeed. "I keep weapons in my room, you're good in my books." It's true, she does. Even if she's completely unarmed right now. She didn't exactly anticipate anything that's happened this night. Except the punching. No, she had that planned.

Being pulled so, she ascends back up to Tony's room, careful to help him avoid anything else lest he'll have more bruises than the one on his face. "How's your head?" Then the rifle is handed to her, she looks surprised for a moment, then looks at it closely. "Five shots?" That's not much. She'll have to make do. That's about when the suits break in. Turning, she says flatly, "Are you fucking kidding me? What was that?" She looks back at Tony. Shit. This isn't good. "Leave it to me." Then she's off like a shot, running right out into the penthouse. Take aim…

*

Fire! One of the three suits turns to just get hit dead on with a repulsor blast. That should floor him, you might think. Evelyn's a good shot. It strikes the suit dead on, but all it does is skid backwards a couple feet. Not only are these things big and well armored. They're /heavy/. No wonder they needed that big of a plane to just deliver three of them. It's beyond crazy. Immediately one of them points at Evelyn, and in a thick middle eastern accent shouts, "That's her! Get her!" What?

The one suit starts to regain his balance, weapons arming up while one of them starts moving for the stairs. The last, the one having just shouted, holds out his arm. The minigun barrel attached to it flips and snaps forward with a heavy 'KERCHUNK' before it spins up.. and.. RATATATATATA.

*

The problem with using oil as a weapon is that it affects you too, even when you're wearing safety-approved footwear. Howard's robotic reflexes allow him to move faster than a human, but his foot slips. His left arm is caught by the force of the blast, which sends him spiralling through the air. He hits the ground hard, and the wrench clatters from his hand. "Son of a bitch," he mutters.

He manages to get his feet back under him, but he's now without a weapon. He scrambles to pick up the wrench again. He's pretty fast and pretty spry for an old guy - faster than even someone in his early 30s and in peak shape has any right to be.

*

"Wait!" Tony shouts after her because he cannot see in the dark! "I can't see in the dark… I'm not going say I'm necessarily 'afraid' of the dark, but given the circumstances and my lack of armor…" Wiggle shrugging as he tries to follow the darking Evelyn back into the penthouse.

This is where the magic happens, ladies and gentlemen.

'That's her!', Tony hears this distinctly and while he not naturally a possessive sort of man, he is mildly eager to see where this whole budding relationship thing goes. Needless to say, he isn't okay with someone kidnapping Eve. At least not unti-, you know what Imma keep it classy.

Because RATATATA is pretty much machinegun for, 'we aint foolin' about' and Tony translates this into diving behind the counter like a pro. Then popping up like he's been possessed by some crazy courage and taking a blind shot out the bay windows towards the gunmen.

Blind, however, is relative. Let's look at this more closely:

Tony is a mathematician, which includes Geometery. He also knows the valocity of his bullet against wind sheer and that the distance between the metal frame of the windows and the railing is exactly twelve steps. (Long story). BLIND SHOT, is really something of a misnomer.

What he's just done is shot the loading bracket of that machinegun with a pistol sized railgun.

*

(Jeebus, is that a damn -minigun?!-)

"Hey, did you know you guys have intruders?" Domino calls out over the marginally muffled cacophony somewhere above them. "Might wanna look into that!" (Oh shit this guy's fast!)

She might want to check into stickier boot soles, too. She's trying to stand back up, she really is! It's not working very well. This guy's seconds away from catching up to her. Necessity being the mother of invention she sweeps an arm out and triggers a grappel line from her forearm, resulting in a satisfying *p-Tink!* some distance away.

Then she's sliding across the floor once again. Three times in a row! Stark Tower utilizes the latest in Slip'n'Slide technology for ease in getting around.

In short order she's away from the oil with a bit more distance from Old Man Stark, though she still has to cut herself free of the line and get back up and running.

-And damn is that guy fast!- Isn't there a law relating to the proportion of wrinkles versus attainable velocity somewhere?

*

Evelyn is /stunned/, the rifle did nothing. Not to mention she wasn't considering the kickback of this thing. She nearly loses her balance just firing it that once. Four shots left. This isn't going to work. It takes her just as long for the machine gun to warm up for her to just awkwardly start moving for some kind of dodging pattern. She can hear Tony, see his figure in the dark running towards the counter, and she's about to dive for it when the bullet spray begins.

A couple shots just pierce straight through her lower torso and arm, making neat holes in her sweater. The combined force with her about to leap just causes her to fumble right /into/ the counter with a yelp of pain. "Holy /fuck/," she shouts quickly while scrambling to get behind the counter with the rifle. Shit, that hurts. At the same time, Tony's shot ricochets off the loading bracket of the machine gun. An expertly placed shot, as it immediately causes the man's machinegun to veer off to his right, spraying the sofa and wall with bullets until the gun just jams. A horrible CLANK noise signifies the end of that problem. Even as he bangs it to try and unjam it.

Heaving for air, Evelyn presses her back up against the counter and looks over to Tony. "New plan," she gasps. "Run. I got you." She points for the exit that the other suit is moving to, before launching herself back over the counter with a leap. One of them's distracted, the one that's heading for the door? She's charging it. The third suit that was hit by the repulsor has regained control and is moving over to doorsie dude.

*

Laws were meant to be broken. Especially science laws. Especially when your name is Howard Stark. Domino will get a little bit more time to get away, because he takes a second to duck back into the lab and grab a…scarf? Yeah, a scarf. A purple one. Then he's sprinting down the hallway carrying a hand-knit scarf and a wrench. It would be ridiculous if anyone saw it. Especially since he winds the scarf around his neck so he can have a hand free. Then he's running full tilt, looking to close the gap between them.

*

Tony leaps over the counter with his pistol held out at the ready, "No, new new plan, switch guns." Reaching for the repulsor gun and dropping the far more vercitile railpistol into Evelyn's lap. "Be right back." Said with a smirk and then he's running towards… his bed room.

Who else half expects him to come back out in a leisure smoking a corn cob pipe and promise there's enough of him to go around?

Hopefully they're more interested in Evelyn, at least for long enough for him to do whatever it is the hell he's doing. Which, by the sound of the explosion in his room, is blowing a sizable hole in the floor directly above his workshop.

Usually he would drop down in there and tell JARVIS to charge the lasers, but there's no JARVIS and no time for showing off. Instead he fires the last shot at one of the cases holding the red and black armor and drops it like a two ton statue. As he approaches the sensors recognize him and open along hidden seams and Tony throws the weapon away as he drops down into the armor.

"Sir, there are intruders in the building." JARVIS helpfully informs him once the AI reconnects through the suit. "I highly suggest evacuating the building."

"You think?" Said as he stands up with a metalic whirl as the seams snap back into place and Iron Man rockets out through the hole he's just created in the floor (ceiling).

He lands with a clunk and glances towards the patio, eyes glowing a ominous blue-white. "You bastards need a role model."

"I cannot conne-… sir I think this is what it feels like to die." JARVIS says in a monotone voice as he tries and fails to connect to the tower.

"JARVIS stop being so dramatic…" Because Tony is unleashing holy hell in the form of mini jericho missiles at one of the suits ablasting his building. "Right now, could you load up some Black Sabbath?" Who's being dramatic now?

*

This..isn't working so well. Dom's burning through precious time. This guy's like a damn bloodhound, she just can't shake him! There's a moment of time there where all seems quiet, she can find her footing, try to get her bearings, start to work on the cable, and-

-Hell.- There he is again.

Shooting him didn't work. Out-running him didn't work. Oh, and she's apparently not in the part of the building which she wants to be in. All that's left to do..is something unexpected and crazy.

"Mulligan!"

The Whump gun snaps up over her shoulder, firing behind herself into the window not far away. Another ear-popping concussion bursts the pane outward into thousands of itty bitty ice-like fragments.

Is he wearing a -scarf-..?

Then the black-clad woman drops backward, right out of the building.

The cable's still attached. This will probably work. Probably.

*

Evelyn's ready to go for it, but with a railpistol instead of a repulsorgun. That's fine for her, she knows how to use a pistol better than a rifle anyways. Just as Tony gambled, they're far more focused on the android than they are on Tony. A shame, because Tony knows what he's doing, and Evelyn does not. Her original plan was to get up close and unload a couple shots point blank into the exposed human in that power armor exosuit. They've been slow and lumbering up until this point, why should she suspect anything different?

That's when a rocket flares up in the elbow joint of the suit she's going after. Just as she gets close, the suit just punches her like a ragdoll and she comically flies /through the wall/ and into the stairwell. That should work. Elbow rocket joints aren't a real thing! But clear that's just what's happened. Amusingly, the rocket does go out and the metal starts to glow red orange at the guy tries to pat out his rocket elbow. "It won't go out!" He shouts. Shoddy technology.

Meanwhile, the other two suits begin to advance on the stairwell, and that's about the time that Tony shows up to rock the house. The jerichos light up the guy who's basically gotten to do nothing but get his by a repulsorblast. His suit's arm is raised the tiny impact explosions work themselves against the plating armor. The leader dude, the only one capable of doing anything at the moment, shouts up at Tony.

"Eat rockets!" He shouts.

His own cluster of rockets firing out volley after volley at Tony. Last gen Stark technology.

*

Unexpected and crazy is the sort of thing you need to do in a situation like this. Howard has a plan too, almost as soon as he spies Domino dropping out of the building on a metal tether.

"Haha! Ahaha!" It's a manic sound, and if anyone could see his face, they'd notice it filled with mad delight. He drops to a skid and lets the residue of the grease carry him across to the spot where her tether dangles. Then he unloops the scarf from his neck, winds it around the tether, pulls the scarf tight and presses a spot on each end of it. Metal filaments throughout the scarf light up, and bolts of electricity not unlike Black Widow's titular bites surges through the scarf and into the metal line. It's going to get awfully tingly to hold on to in very short order.

*

The rockets hit the red and gold armor with all the magnificent ineffectiveness of peeing on a bon-fire and hoping to put it out. Still, it sends Tony flying backwards into a three point skid, slowed by his fingers digging into the floor and jerking him in the oposite direction. These lumbering beasts lack something that Iron Man does not.

Everything.

As he's rushing at the one whose just been hit with jericho missiles his palm flashes outward and hammers the leader dude right in his chest with a repulsor blast. "This is for slappin' me in the face in my own pad."

Tony ducks beneath the cumbersome swing of rocket-punch guys big metal fist and fires all four repulsors into an uppercut that has him 'hadooken' spinning, hovering in air and saturating his own patio with cluster bombs.

"I…. aaam…. IRRRRRRRROOOOOON MAAAAAAAAN…" Ozzy is such a card.

"JARVIS scan fore Eve's biometrics."

"Found her, sir. She is in the stairwell."

"We have a stairwell?"

"Yes sir, it is beyond the door marked 'stairwell'."

"Huh… Go figure."

BOOM BOOM BOOM.

*

Point in Dom's favor: The cable's holding. She's ready with a backup, she always has two when she's going a-rappelling. The thing is, not once did she -ever- consider that insulating the line and the gauntlet the mechanism is connected to would be a smart idea.

There's some distance for the current to travel. Perhaps..in fact, -just- enough distance to keep the Albino on a String from getting completely fried and knocked unconscious. Unfortunately for her, there's still more than enough to really ruin her evening.

"HgggggACK!!"

Muscles lock into positions most uncomfortable, which also results in a completely uncontrolled shot from her stolen weapon which takes out another sizeable piece of the building an instant before she can come crashing into it. Glass and metal fragment everywhere as she comes swinging back inside of the tower. Then, right at her apex, the cable line snaps. Severed from sharp edges and debris. Once more she lands with a THUD square on her back, staring at the dark ceiling above her.

Completely dazed.

"…Ow…"

Luck just has to get her to where she needs to be and back alive. In how many pieces is completely left open for debate.

*

The fist to the exosuit dude's chest producing a sickening crunch and an exasperated gasp, then the suit just sort of goes limp. They could have armored the chest of the suit, but they really didn't. Maybe they just didn't finish in time to do that attack. Everything about this is a little shoddy and haphazard. The second and third suits are smashed and demolished in the cluster bomb firebomb parade. That wasn't much of a challenge, but is it over?

In the stairwell, Eve groans, temporary interruption of service. This chassis was not made to travel at speed through a wall. Her body is sprawled out on the stairs, covered in plaster dust and debris. Oh yeah, some things are broken. The two bullet holes spilling some kind of liquid onto her shirt and sweater aren't really making things any better. Slowly she pushes herself up, stumbling a little bit.

*

Howard really shouldn't be smiling so much after inflicting pain on another human being. But damn, that felt good. You attack this house, you deal with the Starks. He pokes his head (cautiously) out the window and notes the hole a few floors down. Then he re-enters the building and trots down the hall.

After scooping some supplies from his lab (including a flashlight and his improvised weapon, plus trusty wrench) he starts for the stairwell. Someone's got to get the power up and running. He doubts Domino is down for the count, but the best he can do is get the building's automated defenses back up before she can reach her objective.

*

Tony takes a single scan of the suits, and while his priority would normally be on making sure they were destroyed, they have changed in the last hour or so. Just a little, anyways. He'll be back. Eventually.

"Is she alive?" He asks JARVIS who is working on very limited resources without the help of the home database which is most certainly down right now. He's working off what information uploaded to the SUIT, which is surprisingly little because why would he EVER assume someone could breach Stark Industries security?

"Yes, for now." JARVIS says, possibly to add an air of suspense. Possibly because he was programmed to be a god damned nehilistic asshole.

"You're a nehilistic asshole, JARVIS."

"I will endeavour to do better." Drawl, sarcastic.

Tony breaks through the remainder of the wall and crouches down next to Evelyn as his helmet clicks open and drops down into the shoulders of the armor. "So, is it weird if I still think you're hot?" Too soon, Tony.

"We need to get the power back on." Picking her up in his big muscular robotic arms.

*

There is the matter of building security. There's the matter of a -lot- of different variables. Domino's run the numbers through her head countless times, she knows the odds at stake. The old guy… Those are some odds she did not have a chance to calculate. Now that she's apparently..blessedly..alone and the power's still down, hopefully not forever, she has a chance to pull herself together again. She's brought some tech to this party as well, though she isn't counting on it working to her favor for the duration of her visit.

A few adjustments brings the 'shadow operation' of her armor online, which lets her walk right through most security systems without tripping any alarms. It's not perfect, not hardly when put up against the treasures of Stark's home turf, but it should buy her some time. Maybe she'll catch a random break or three along the way. Mask up, take to the shadows, dig in, and -find a terminal- she can attempt to use.

If she's -really- fortunate someone will get the power back on right as she reaches the keyboard.

*

Evelyn looks at Tony as he descends next to her. She was standing and stumbling for her way to the top of stairs. Coughing a bit, she replies, "Yeah." She doesn't feel very hot right now. Oh wait, she does. That acid burns a lot. The usual issues with having acid in a robot body. Why would you put caustic chemicals in there? That's a dumb idea.

"Yeah." She repeats again, "Power. Defenses." It's almost as if her and Howard think on the same line. She didn't see the cars outside, but more black cars have arrived outside, more red and blue flashing lights. Something is going on downstairs. They'll probably see what when they go try to fix the reactor. "Ouch!" She flinches a bit upon being picked up, "gentle." She's tough, she just went through a wall. Gentle is not required, but is asked for.

*

Not long has passed since the suits were finally demolished. In that time, Tony, Howard, and Evelyn have descended to the tunnels below the Stark Tower. Signs of intrusion have been left all of the building, sleeping night guard with little tabs stuck on their necks. Weapons scattered, bullet holes in the walls. The one thing missing from this all are the actual attackers. Where are they? What are they doing?

There was no reason to go after the main reactor. The air in the maintenance tunnels is ionized, smelling like burnt electronics or electricity in the air, though the entire system is dead. Floating dust lingers in the tunnel from the explosion that took down the main generator, uncleared as the ventilation fans have long shut off. This also added a stale smell to the air.

The tunnels themselves are pitch dark, not a single light natural nor artificial. Those that have been in here know the tunnels to be round and concrete, conduits running on either sides of the floors that are now littered with debris. The backup generator room is as dark as the tunnels.

It's an older steam boiler. Built from Howard's days. Heated with an electrical jump start system that gives the boiler its initial heat. The water lines should still be pressurized, and the console lit dimly by power on the boiler's dedicated power circuit. Something's wrong. The lights aren't on and the controls are unresponsive. In addition, this room is hard to navigate. An enormous chamber with two boilers, one on each side of a catwalk. Pipes and conduits line the room and hang above in the air, leading to the turbines above that recollect moisture and power the alternators.

*

Howard has a lot of stairs to go down. At first, he's been cycling around them in the normal manner (albeit rather a bit faster than a human being. Then, as the tingle of his systems repairing themselves from that shoulder-hit and slam to the floor, he remembers that he's more durable than he looks. Easy to forget, even when he designed his own body. There's also a difference between looking at specs and using those specs.

So, he throws one leg over the edge of the staircase and examines the distance to the next landing. The first time he drops, he has a moment of panic. But then his feet hit the landing with little more than a brief tingling in his feet. "Well, all right then," he murmurs. He secures his bundle of tools a little more securely to his back, then proceeds to make his way down the stairwell in a similar fashion. After a few jumps, he gets the hang of it, and starts dropping a little further and a little faster.

Eventually, he hits the bottom level and makes his way to where he knows the power system is. He unhitches an improvised bolt gun from his belt and loosens the taser scarf that is looped around his neck. Between this, a satchel, dirty dress pants, work shoes and a waistcoat and tie that are currently splattered in machine oil, he makes quite a sight.

*

For reasons that should be quite obvious to anyone who looks at the Iron Man armor, Tony Stark is out a few steps ahead of the group leading the way. On the one hand he doesn't need the light to see, as he could have JARVIS switch the visual field to one of a million different spectrums, both real and completely bullshit (Because I'm Tony Stark and I do what I want).

Of the trio, he's probably the most likely to be unable to stand the heat down in the former boiler room, if it weren't for the elemental protection offered by the advanced weapon platform he's currently piloting. A little indicator on the bottom right of his HUD tells him that they're getting close to where the power generator 'should' be and though he knows that simply jump starting the arc reactor is probably not likely, he also knows that he has to find out what kind of damage has been done to the wiring to ever consider the possibility of fixing it. Though he could easily calculate the actual possibilities mentally, and has for those watching at home, isn't it more fun when he has to be there?

It really is.

His HUD also indicates that he's running low on munitions. Bingo for cluster bombs (which would be out in the inclosed spaces anyways), Jericho missiles (ditto), and a variety of other weaponry he used getting himself and Evelyn down into the tunnels. Which means he's more or less down to repulsor blasts, wrist mounted 9mm uranium tipped javalins, and the fact that he's fucking Iron Man.

Seriously, we've already one bad guys, just go home.

Also he's got a floodlight, which he's using to flood the corridors in a low intensity red light that actually does more to enhance visual augmented eyes than would regular lights.

This is a good time to meet up with Howard, so we're gonna.

Coming around the corner in the oposite direction of his Dad, Tony brings both palms up with intense, meaty, goodbye whoever the hell you are, beams ready to fire… Until he sees he sees who it is. "Jeez, you're a resourceful bugger aren't you?" Lowering his hands and turning to look up and down the corridors. "Don't suppose anyone brought a lethium torch?"

*

Sitrep: Domino's in the building, in the dark (thank you light amplification goggles,) is apparently completely alone, and has no guarantee of mission success. She attempted to make the best of the situation so long as it remains available, freebies like this don't happen often! With nothing more than some stairs to hinder her progress she has some time to track down some manner of computer terminal, the beefier it looks the better it'll be for her.

The only problem is that there's still no power. Here she sits, all of the electronic processing muscle she could ask for…

And she missed the party.

No backup lights. No nothing. It's dead, Jim. All she can do is try to hold out and hope that her situation improves. If Stark Squared are going off to deal with the power problems then she should have a couple of minutes between lights on and 'oh shit time to leave.' As for internal building security with a much faster response time..?

Gloved hands snap the underslung grenade tube open, dropping the massive empty shell onto the floor. Another round gets dropped home, then the launcher's locked tight with a practiced flick of the wrist. Where will they come from first, walls? Ceiling? She'll be ready for 'em. It's just like another day at the range.

*

Evelyn's not far behind Tony. She did need carrying for part of the way, but seems to be fine standing on her own once down in the tunnels. She's with a bit of a limp, which isn't surprising given the bullet hole in her chest and leg. Those don't feel pleasant, you know. Nor does walking on those wounds.

The red light does help her see, however. It's military standard, white light isn't used. Red light is less noticeable, and it still illuminates the surroundings. Even with her damage, Evelyn's not about to put her rail pistol away either. So when the light shines on Howard, there's a click as she snaps the pistol up to bare on him. She freezes, about ready to pull the trigger, before she lowers the gun again. "Jesus, Howard.." She's /expecting/ there to be people down here. Where are the other attack members? did they just take out the power and leave? What the actual fuck.

"How did you get down here? .. Actually, nevermind, we need to get to the backup power. I'm really suspicious that I'm not seeing anyone else. This feels like a trap.." Evelyn mutters.

*

Moments before Tony comes around the corner, Howard's raised up the bolt gun, braced across one arm and ready to fire, flashlight held against it. It's like he has extensive firearms training from being in active combat situations or something. "Jesus Christ, Tony. Is that you in there?" Tony might take that as an affront, until he remembers this is the first time his father has seen his boy all dolled up. He shines the light over and skips it across the other synthetic lifeform. "Evelyn. What the hell happened? This woman flew in through my lab window and blasted the shit out my door. I had to fry her as she rappeled outside the building." Which sounds like a delightful old man story that he can tell in greater detail when they're not under attack.

He drops his improvised weapon and squares his shoulders. "They went straight for the heart of the building. And they knew what they were doing." He swings around his kit bag and shows its contents to Evelyn and Tony. There's various electronic components, a diagnostic meter, a few power cells and a portable cutting torch. He came ready to repair.

*

HAPPY HOGAN!

Who even names their kid Happy, anyways? Honestly it's more like a nickname. Whatever, at some point during all this, Happy found himself a nice little place to take a quick, dart in the neck, nap. Which wore off because he's 'head of security' and therefore trained in advanced neurotoxin prevention techniques. Like…uh.. seriously, it wore off okay?

So he's making HIS way through the upper levels of the tower, completely alone, carrying a flashlight in one hand and a regular ol' pistol in the other. If he's huming the theme to mission impossible quietly to himself, even better.

"All alone in a building occupied by enemy forces, our hero Happy sets forth on a great adventure to save the company from certain doom…" That certain doom?

Domino.

He rounds the corner on her and startles, nearly drops his gun, and then glares… "Badge?" Tapping his own indicatively.

Meanwhile!

Tony peers down into the bag, letting the fact that his faceplate has slid back and down into his armor do all the answering as to who he is beneath the awesomeness that is Iron Man. "Yeah." Suddenly he's all serious, glancing first Evelyn and the extensive damage, and then to Howard who looks better off. Even Tony has battle marks all across his armor. It was not an easy adventure upstairs, for real.

"Quick recap, I kicked a bunch of second rate Stark armors pilots back to the stone age where they 'clearly' came from… seriously, they were like two steps above steam power. It was insulting." How does he even manage to look incredulous after all this?

"Reactor's that way." Pointing straight through one wall, "The corridor loops back around there.." A little ways down from them at a T-intersection. "Here's how this plays out…" Even more serious, "I'm going to set up a defensive position, once I'm sure they're not waiting for us in the reactor room and you two are going to fix the generators. Once they're up, I'll have JARVIS initiate protocol 'Iron Curtain', reboot the security systems remotely, and he'll take back over the tower." Sounds complicated.

Except the part where he's going to go bananas on some intruders. That'll be cake.

*

Taptap..tap. Tap. (Huh. I'm actually bored. Didn't see that coming.) Sitting, waiting, Domino rolls her shoulders and pulls out her phone, dialing up none other than Evelyn. She'll probably be with Tony, which means she's probably down south somewhere below street level. Though even after the loss of power and whatever attacks took place, Evelyn's been living in the freaking Stark Tower. If her phone still works then it should work well in adverse conditions.

Besides, it'll be funny.

It also might keep her ass out of the line of fire if she can convince the Powers That Be that she's not here with these other militia-tards. Shoot the guys that want to shoot you first, she's not here for the violence! For once!

Oh, and someone's out in the hall. (Three o'clock, Spot!)

About the moment the nervous Mister Hogan can ask his one word Dom's out of the chair with the cut-down and extensively modified SRD weapon of choice filling her hands, chiming in that universal electronic note declaring 'I'm all powered up and ready to kick some ass!' beside her hip. She doesn't need to aim at this range.

"Right here, kiddo. Move along."

Or..y'know. Experience first-hand what it feels like to get flicked by the Hulk's pinkie finger.

*

Evelyn's one hand over the wound that's leaking acid. She'll be fine guys, yeah no really, she's good. Peering over, she looks at the bag, too. Then at Tony. "He's right. Tony's got the armor, he can clear out the room for us. But.. I don't understand where they've gone. Our top priority should be getting the power back on. I'll do anything I can do to help."

Her spirit's good, anyways. She'll follow anyone who begins walking, too. Even as the device in her pocket begins ringing. Her phone? Lowering the pistol, she clips it to her belt and swipes out the device. The glass is cracked, pixels flickering across the screen. "Fuck." She says suddenly. … That was armored glass. This phone should stop a bullet. I guess they didn't design it to go through a wall. Flicking the lock icon, she picks up and brings it to her ear. "Evelyn. Who is it?" She's courteous even when in the worst possible situation to take a call.

*

For a minute, it looks like Howard wants to argue or propose an alternate plan. Instead, he just nods once and murmurs, "All right." He may be kind of a shitty father, but that doesn't mean he likes the idea of Tony being in harm's way. "What in the hell would it take to blow out the core, anyway? I'm sure you've got multiple redundant systems and a link to offsite power generation. That is, unless you assumed that the core is impenentrable and didn't bother." He says that last bit in jest, because naturally that would never happen.

He walks a few steps, then stops and turns and lifts an eyebrow at Tony. "You /do/ have multiple redundant system back-ups, right?" But then…Evelyn's phone is ringing. "…you have cell service? All my systems were fried." He also notices, with a pass of his light, that Evelyn seems to be…leaking. "Shit. What the hell happened? We need to stop the…flow of fluids that are probably vital to her continued function."

*

HAPPY HOGAN!

Is not as brave as he made himself out to be a little over twenty seconds ago. He's not a wuss, but he knows the sound of something that would genuinely in irrevocably hurt when he hears one. So instead of tempting the spot eyed woman making a telephone call in the middle of an Industry wide black out, he raises his hands and starts backing around the corner from wence he came.

BUT IT IS A CLEVER RUSE!

The game is afoot!

He's going to lower his pistol and plant his feet defiantly. "That's not a badge, lady. That's a gun…" No fooling Happy.

*Meanwhile*

Tony turns towards the sound of Evelyn's phone ringing and makes that face that pretty much says, 'seriously?'. With a big Iron Man shrug, he looks towards Howard and motions at Ev, "If I ever call her and she sends me direct to voicemail, I'm going to be 'pissed'…" After this?

Yeah, she's just painted herself in a corner for reals yo.

"Right." Back to business, "Steam boiler. It'll take me a few hours to fix the reactor and I'll need light to do it. Let's just hope the boiler puts out enough power to get the security systems back online." Because it's Howard asked a science question, "A six by six stick of plastique or cordite… but cordite wouldn't have rocked the building like that." Tony points up to one of the wire junctions leading their way, motioning to it for his father's ediface, "There's NO way they could have blown the core. It's triple magnetically sealed Titanium. And… of course I do. Everything is on remote access, someone had to get INTO the building, through several magnetically sealed security doors, AND loop access JARVIS… this wasn't grade school kids playing a prank…" He's genuinely insulted, "There's a reason this is a 'first time this has ever happened scenario'…"

The things people let happen for plot.

*

"Sure it is!" Domino counters with entirely playful banter. "You just can't see it because it's on the side. It's really small. Hey, can you give me a few? Gotta make a call."

(I'm giving this a one in fifty-eight thousand ninety-two chance of-hey, look at that! It -did- work.)

"The call is coming from inside the building!" she teases while continuing to hold the Big Scary Gun at the doorway. "It's me. Pretty crazy evening, huh. You hangin' out with the cool kids downstairs? Put me on speaker, we can all get to know one another a little better." Because being crazy and impulsive is what keeps her alive! Somehow.

More or less.

"Oh, it might keep one of Stark's rent-a-cops out of the hospital, too. So, you know. Probably worth it. Or maybe the guy's a jerk, whatever."

(And where's my goddamn power!)

*

Evelyn facefaults, looking at Howard. Did he say something. "Domino?" She can only guess. The fact that Domino asked her to assault Tony's tower, and Howard's story? She's responsible for this. She looks furious. So that's what that talk was about? Being willing to backstab friends and not having connections? To set Eve up for the moment when Domino would royally fuck her over? Fantastic. She doesn't even bother doing more than flipping the phone on speaker and tossing it on the ground near Tony.

It clatters noisily, the screen spiderwebbing some cracks, but it stays on and on call. Evelyn just starts walking past Howard, grumbling, "I'll be fine."

*

Upon reaching the room, assuming Tony searches it first, there will be no baddies to speak of. Like the rest of the building, the steam generator's power source is utterly disabled. The entire room is covered with a thick film of dust, but those that will look clearly will notice the tracks on the ground. People have been through here. A lot.

*

"What I want to know is why the steam reactor didn't initiate when the building's primary power system went down. Seems to me like someone purposefully disengaged that failsafe. If so, we might find that initiating the boiler is as difficult as repairing the reactor."

Howard's Science Thoughts are interrupted by the fact that Evelyn just tossed the only working communications device they have down on the ground. He looks after her, then bends down to scoop the phone up. "Who the hell is this?" he barks in an authoritative voice.

He carries the phone after Tony and Evelyn as they head towards the boiler room. He stops when they're just inside and momentarily mutes the microphone on the phone. He sighs and runs a hand through his hair. "Sometimes I hate being right."

*

HAPPY HOGAN!

Presented with this connundrum, and HEY WAIT A SECOND she just called him a rent-a-cop, "I'm not a rent-a-cop, I'm head of security." TAP TAP TAPPING his badge because it says so right freakin' there, lady. What the actual hell.

*Meanwhile* "Happy?" Tony says and snaps around to look down at the phone, now on speaker so that he can just barely make out his old friend through the device, "Who the hell is Domino?" Actually, it doesn't matter. "Listen." Reasoning voice? All the joke left his tone to be replaced by an icey seriousness, "Because I'm going to make this very clear.. if you hurt him. I -will- find you." Because Evelyn clearly knows who the woman is and has a pretty angry, self blaming, expression as she passes by Howard and himself. He could convince her to tell him, surely? He's banking on it, anyways.

Muted microphone, Tony turns to regard the room into which they have all entered and traces out the footsteps into a digital map, JARVIS already calculating the room against potential points of ambush. The helmet clamps back into place and the eyes glow a bright blue-white against the darkness, "Fix the boiler." He says in a cold mechanized voice to his companions, while his hands start to glow an omenous white in the palm mounted repulsors.

Say whatever about how he treats Happy, the fact that he's in trouble has Tony genuinely angry. Which is neither easy to do, nor something anyone should want.

Not while he's packing this much firepower.

*

The pause followed by the clatter of the other phone being dropped, or thrown, gets a slight wince from the albino. "Good to hear your voice, too," Dom deadpans in response. Though when Happy Hogan corrects her she quickly puts a hand up to the mic, blue eyes wide with surprise. "Oh hey man, sorry about that. I didn't know." Not that she's going to stop pointing the gun his way.

Then there's someone else's voice cutting through the line, prompting a thin smirk from her. "Wait, lemme guess who this is. Scarf-Man! Hey, ya got me dead to rights back there, nice hit. Little Evvie knows who I am but hey, listen. I don't have a speech planned out or anything here but as a friendly heads up? I'm not associated with the rabid Stark Industries fanclub."

"See, I was kinda planning on there being a little more in the way of artificial light around here…" she remarks while glancing around the darkened ceiling. She just can't let them know that she -needs- the power back on. Never reveal your entire hand.

"Kinda getting a little cold upstairs, too. I think someone mighta left a window open."

Guilty.

Then there's another guy's voice coming through her headset. "This must be Tony. Tell you what, call off your security and I'll make a point of bitch-slapping any armed goons I come across out of the building. Everyone wins. I didn't come here looking for a fight." Then immediately covering the mic again, she repeats for Hogan "I really didn't. Come on in here and have a seat, believe it or not you're more safe with me than those other uninvited idiots."

He might also prove to be useful leverage. Who knows!

*

Evelyn looks at the phone when she hears Happy's voice. And she has a hostage. Or Happy has a hostage. This is weird. Pulling her arms through her sweater, she discards the dusty garment on the floor while fiddling with the control panel. She doesn't know exactly how to start this thing, but one toggle switch says COIL1IGN and that looks like it's an important acronym. She even flicks the MSTRBAT switch a couple times, and even tries RELAY2. Nothing seems to produce any response.

Looking back at Howard, she looks both frustrated, and upset. "Damnit, Howard.. Nothing's worthing." All the gauges are dead. Fantastic. "Ugh.. I'm just.. Going to lay sit down for a second." She finally says, turning against the catwalk railing to slide down to her bum. Eff this. There is dust on everything.

*

From above Domino, there's the sound of crashing. A thudding sound that makes loose dust fall from the ceiling tiles. What the fuck is that noising? It's rhythmic, becoming louder and louder every crash. Things go silent for a second on Domino's floor.

Then a giant hole is blown through the ceiling just across the office from Domino. Falling through the cascade of concrete dust, plaster, rebar, and debris are three metal suits covered in blood and soot. The previous occupants? Torn out. One of them is missing an arm, they all look beat to ever fucking hell. It's the same suits as before, now with different occupants. Luckily for the albino and Happy, they just completely ignore them as they fall through yet another floor with a thunderous crash.

As they land on the floor below, they stop, bracing, and reading to punch through that floor, so on and so forth. That's one way to descend without finding the elevator. From the basement, the crashes are just barely audible for anyone with normal hearing. A little bit of dust shakes free from the top of the boiler room ceiling.

Meanwhile, far down the hallways, much further than visible due to the dust floating around, several men in suits /very/ slowly begin advancing towards the boiler room. With dark green and black combat BDUs, they're quite well equipped to remain hidden.

*

Howard just gives Tony a look as he postures, but then when he realizes who it is on the other end, he's glaring just as hard. "You're not here for a fight? And what do you call blasting a hole in my lab and trying to take me out, huh?" He doesn't get angry very often, but when he does, he goes Full New Yorker. He mutes the phone again and says to Tony, "She's after something. Some kind of industrial espionage. If she's not with these goons, she's riding on their coat-tails."

He steps forward and his shoes slip on whatever it is that Evelyn's leaking. It's a good thing he's got those safety shoes on. Sensible footwear, kids. He tosses the phone at Tony. Instead of checking the reactor, he goes up to the robo-girl's side. "C'mon, kiddo. Lemme have a look at you. You're no good to us if you bleed…leak…out." Maybe it's his vintage charm, maybe Evelyn's too injured to protest, but she lets him have a look at her systems. He may not be familiar with her systems specifically, but robotics are kind of his thing. With her help, he manages to find what he hopes is a way to reroute the leaking coolant away from the affected areas. What he sees instead, is a way to save all their asses.

"Honey, I think you're about to save the day." He pulls out a series of tools from his satchel and starts to work at accessing her central core. It would look downright disturbing to anyone who assumes she's a flesh and blood human girl. "Tony," he barks, but in an urgent rather than demanding way. "I think we can use Evelyn to jump start the reaction. But I'm gonna need to concentrate." He pulls out a series of cables and starts to jerry rig them with torn imports from the reactors. He gives Evelyn his most reassuring smile. "You tell me if anything feels like it's gonna short circuit, okay? And lie perfectly still."

*

Tony isn't looking at his father, not anymore. He's craning his head to one side and glancing in the direction of the ceiling. The sound of 'something' heavy crashing through the floors above them is unmistakable to the suits augmented instruments feeding filtered data into the armor's helmet. "Sir, three distinct entities are coming towards us from above. Without sensors in the building it is difficult to isolate their heat signature, but I am getting flickers of two gigijueles of reactor energy 'through' the buildings plating."

"We're about to have company." Tony informs the pair and turns as if he's going to crash through the ceiling to meet the incoming, until JARVIS interrupts him.

"Another group of armed men approaching from the hallway. Difficult to get a count, but they are heavily armed."

"Hurry." Tony says to Howard and picks the immediate threat first. They had to think he would be cut off from his suits, but he's not ruling out the possibility that the came with weapons that could, and this is a fairly large variable of error, harm the suit. So when he comes around the doorway it's with 9mm uranium tipped javalins firing down towards the corner where the groundfloor group 'should' be. Then he rockets down the hall, and past the intersection, leaving behind pellets about the size of marbles, that will start exploding in concussive force amplified by the proximity of the concrete walls, flash with a thermite flare, and then fill the area with smoke.

"Hack me into that cellphone, JARVIS."

"Done sir."

"Alright, Domino. You want to make good with us, what is that coming towards us?"

*

"Self-defense," Domino flatly replies to Howard's demand. "You had a wrench! You were coming right for me! This -is- a non-lethal weapon, I'll have you know."

With the thumping around overhead Domino falls completely silent, her eyes once more just a little wider than before as she drifts her gaze, and the business end of her weapon, up toward the ceiling.

Then the next office over gets a giant hole blown into it, immediately causing her to duck behind the desk. Just a little. They don't seem to know she's there, or simply don't care. There, then gone.

"Pretty sure there's stairs…" she mutters to no one in particular, positively -staring- at where the three suits had come and gone. Her next move comes right at the moment Tony's question chimes through her headset. At least there's some amount of similar wavelengths going on… "Uh..yeah, you guys have three giant fucking powered armors pulling a Wreck-It Ralph through the core of the tower. Be a good neighbor and let me know before anything goes into meltdown mode, would you?"

Muting the mic, she asks Hogan "Is this shit normal for you guys?" Then with a slight narrowing of her eyes at the head of security, she says "I'm going to go give your a boss the biggest high five of the month. Don't step on my toes and we're all kosher."

The three armored suits are going straight down. She's got another sticky plasma grenade loaded into the launcher's tube. Now seems as good a time as any for a little death from above, the merc abandoning her post to hurry into the ruined office so she can take aim down into the heart of the building.

(I need that reactor back online, assholes!)

*TOOMP!*

*

Evelyn looks at Howard when he kneels next to her, her hand still on the wound. She looks apprehensive, gritting her teeth a little bit as she sits up a little bit. Her damaged leg is outstretched, a true tripping hazard, but she doesn't care. That's about the only position where it /doesn't/ hurt like forever. At his insistence, she replies back, "Yeah. Okay." He's right, after all. She really isn't in any condition to protest.

As Tony can attest, this requires a little bit of finesse and guidance. She's not built like how you'd expect an android to be built, but perhaps that's what you'd expect out of a lab that made such a human-looking machine. One of a kind. Her shirt is cut open down the front, other clothes removed to get access to get chest. Flesh is removed, coolant systems isolated beneath the skin, and tissue beneath the skin. Most of it's artificial, but still squicky. Everything that gives her body form. Below layers of mesh, wires, pipettes, leads to her polymer and metal frame. With most of her chest open, a lot of her components are made visible.

White polymer tubing forms her digestive track, deep ribbons cables and opaque tubes connect to various components that whir silently next to a a box with vacuum tubes and stacks of 3D circuitry. Everything in there has a purpose and is packed in with almost zero negative space. It's all built around a cantaloupe sized aerogel bulb that houses her reactor. Through the misty, bolted closed chamber is a tiny little block of metal that arcs and strikes with vibrant hues of purple and blues. One of her battery systems has a bullet and a crack in it, leaking sealed acid over some of the lower frame in her torso. With a rag, it's an easy enough stopgap to prevent further damage.

"What?" She asks, as Howard works at her. Oh, there's even a power BUS right between the modulation circuit and the distributor system! That's genius! The people who designed her did so elegeantly. She makes to move a little bit when Howard begins connecting things up to her reactor, but thinks better of it, given how vulnerable she is. "I.. Are you sure? I've never done this before." He's asking her to use her heart to power and heat up over what could be a TON or two of /copper metal/. To get water to boiling levels. Ridiculous. But can she do it?

Maybe.

*

A pulsed red beam zips right by Tony, missing him by a hair as the javalins fire. The origin of the ray is from the group of supposed ground troops, then another three beams sweep the area around the javelins, causing them to detonate midair. The rest of the charge strikes dead on. Were they using /laser/ weapons? What is this? Scifi?

Of course, they'd still be alive. Now is the time to advance. At least seven of these ground troops begin advancing in formation. They're highly trained, much more than the dudes in the suits were. These are the elite troops that managed to get into the building. They were the ones that disabled the reactor. There are more questions, yet not more answers. Each of them but one has a rifle connected to a backpack via a cable. The cooling canisters and heatsinks off the barrels of the guns clearly marks them as a pulsed laser. Silent. No shells. No gunshots.

Three of the troops have an extra pair of mechanical arms that come out of the backpack. One of these dudes with four arms has a gatling gun with way too short of a barrel, and way too big of a box magazine. Transported in by good ol' duffel bags. It takes all four arms to control that thing.

All of them have little sensors and cameras on their backpacks, with a multi-spectrum multi-beam deflector system. Commonly use to deflect electronic defense and targeting mechanisms, a form of electronic counter measures. This is not standard gear. This gear was built with the purpose of infiltrating into Stark Tower. These dudes don't look like the same dudes with the power suits. Mercenaries?

As they advance, charged beams of lights flicker at Tony, the powered of the lasers diminished but not made harmless by the smokescreen. They're also spread apart enough in formation that one repulsor blast won't knock them all out.

As far as the suits. The grenade thunks on the head of one of the suits that actually looks to be the most functional out of the bunch. Seeing that little device, he's the first to quickly snatch it up while the two other suits work the floor. They're too big to go through the stairs, but this seems to be working. Up until the point that the grenade explodes in the suit's hand. Apparently mistaking it for a regular grenade, it neatly blows off the suit's armor, startling the guy just as they fall through to the next floor.

*

"Trust me," says Howard. Despite the fact that Evelyn's got her robotic guts exposed to the air, he's not looking at her like a thing. He smiles his best reassuring, charming smile and continues to work. "You're beautiful. Just beautiful." He's talking about her insides.

He digs around in his satchel for additional components. Most importantly, he installs a power regulator along the cable line to make sure that he can control the power flow and prevent anything from surging back from the reactor and damaging Evelyn.

He focuses entirely on what he's doing. He's working swiftly and deftly. Each movement has purpose. He's trusting Tony to keep the badness away from them, because he can't afford a lapse in concentration right now. His improvised bolt gun sits nearby. In an ideal world, he'd be more at the ready to fire than he is, but that's not possible. He needs his hands to perform this delicate work.

In record time (owed to robotic dexterity and a genius mind) he's hooked her up to the central power core. "Now, honey, this is going to sting a bit. I'm going to initiate a series of power surges in ten second bursts. I need you to take deep breaths. In a perfect world, I'd figure out how to dampen your pain sensors, but we don't have time for that."

They REALLY don't have time for that. Nor do they have time for the last series of checks Howard was going to run before he dared to look up and over at the advancing troops. "OK, ready? One, two, three." Surge. "And again. Breathe deep!" The pulse shoots again. It's like revving up a lawnmower. One of these pulses has to catch.

*

Tony lands in a clunk, but doesn't bother showing off seeing the weaponry posed at him by the group of trained militants. While he doesn't need the heads up from JARVIS, the A.I. still informs him that automatic targeting is ineffective against whatever they're carrying on their back. A simple field scan would tell him that without much plugging away or mental wrestling.

He's positioned himself between the incoming armed force and Howard and Evelyn now. Rolling his head from side to side in the very last bit of posturing he's going to do and that is only for dramatic effect.

Then he's moving, ducking down and away as a red laser flares bright across his shoulder and snaps up into the concrete overhead harmlessly, instead of back into the room. He could dodge it, but that would put his father and Ev in danger, so he's taking it across the bow.

Always advancing, always firing self aimed repulsor blasts at the mercenaries. Who likely think they're going to win, since every single one of them miss. Each one of the hits either wall to either side of them or the ceiling above.

Tony buckles back with every hit and slams back against the wall as one of the beams hits him right in the midsection. Still he pushes forward, shoving off and flaring back into position blocking the pair in the room.

*

… "I was expecting a slightly more dramatic response," Domino deadpans as the round simply degloves one of the pilot's hands. Just the armor. Not even the hand inside of it. Oh well. She tried! No one can fault her for that. She didn't pack the sort of toys necessary to compete with Iron Man-level mobile armored units.

"So maybe a -slightly- smaller high five than projected," she admits to Hogan while stepping back into 'her' office. Still, not too bad for something she had brought along in order to deal with window panes!

The third and final grenade in her current arsenal gets loaded into the launcher without a thought about her actions, bringing a foot up to hook the office chair and spin it around so she can drop back into it. "Seems that I'll be of limited use in this engagement, kids. We'll just sit pretty up here while you all go get your hero on."

Not that she seems to mind, leaning back and kicking her feet up onto the desk while she waits.

"This is a really nice building."

*

Evelyn watches Howard work. He's probably the first since the R&D folks who have gotten to tinker inside of her, and probably the first to get to do something out of specification. Every repair she's had done by SHIELD? By the book. They just can't risk damaging her. But Howard? He's a genius. She breathes, the artificial organs in her chest swelling against the synthetic black polymer muscles inside of her chest cavity. There's layers of complexity in there. All that's visible is the first of many.

"Pain sensors?" Eve echos back, she does start breathing deeply as instructed, she needs to follow orders right now. There isn't time to question things, to question orders, she needs to do as she's told. That's part of being in a combat situation. On the ready, she feels it's worth it to add however, "My insides don't have pain recept-AAAAGH!"

She seizes, her back arching a little bit as her reactor flashes brightly. Oh, a variable limiting system? This reactor has a KICK to it, not only that, but it adapts its running loop to whatever current the system its hooked up to demands. That flash? Just a brief moment at full power. It was enough to flicker the console and raise the coil temperature a few degrees.

Immediately, Evelyn begins breathing deeply in and out quickly. Her voice cracks in a small shout at the second surge and she just cries out, "Just leave the FUCKING THING ON." She sounds pissed. But hey, she knows her mechanics. Right? Trust her.

*

Debris flies out at every direction towards the mercenaries, but their formation holds, adapts. Some of them weave into a new position, but the man with the minigun is always there, in the back. In a modulated, electronic voice, one of the soldiers shouts out, "We're not here for you Iron Man. Stand down." As if to punctuate the fact, the man with the minigun braces himself. The montrosity of a weapon spins up and the sound in these tunnels is devastatingly loud. Each shot's report ricochets through the tunnels at an almost earsplitting volume, and it fires over 260 rounds a minute. Where is that gun pointed? Tony.

At the same time, the group splits, three of the soldiers attempting to go around Tony and get to Evelyn/Howard. The other three form a smaller defensive formation and just fire at Tony with their lasers again and again. The thumbping upstairs is getting louder. Shit.

*

Howard is already ahead of things. By the time the second surge has just finished, he's sorted out that she has built-in systems to regulate feedback all on her own. Welp. The more you know. "Sorry," he winces, and makes a quick adjustment to allow a steady flow of power. He stands ready to disconnect Evelyn the moment the reaction is kickstarted.

When one of those deflected laser blasts hits overhead and loosens rubble, he leans overtop of Evelyn to protect her exposed innards from getting contaminated with ceiling bits. The last thing they need is a clogged robotic artery. "C'mon, honey. Just a little more." He makes a few adjustments and keeps an eye on the power core. Like her, he's designed to mimic humans, right down to the thin sheen of sweat on his forehead.

*

There are things the Iron Man suit was built to withstand and Tony is pressing the limits against this group, especially without the assistance of mobility to aid him. So there's only one thing he ''can'' do to keep that mass of ammunition from sweeping the room clean of atrificial life… eat it.

At first they don't do a whole lot against the triple magnetized armor. That's like taking the thickist metal alloy, putting it under a super conductive magnet, and adding sheets to it three seperate times. It 'looks' thin, but if the Titanic had been built out of this, it would have ninja kicked that Iceburg and put it in a sleeper hold. Then gently laid a pillow beneath its iceburg head as it went to sleep.

Shhhh, just got to sleep little iceburg. Shhhh…

Tony swings his hand around wide and fires off a twin burst of repulsors, that once again hit the ceiling and walls above and to either side of the group that stayed behind to keep him pinned down. While three soldiers move to get around him, which seems to be exactly what he wanted.

One of his fists slams out to the side and grabs hold of the pack putting off that particle field and yanks him into one of his companions. Then straight kicks another into the wall hard enough to implant him ass first in the concrete.

Turning back towards the mini-gun and the gang and firing off both palm mounted repulsors at the ceiling in a continuous beam.

Until several tons worth of solid concrete gives way and rains down into the center of that formation like Zeus just decided that he aint havin' no part of no silly half breed nutters out doing him with science.

On cometh the Tony on flickering, sparking, repulsors. Getting in reeaaal close and personal with Mister Mini-gun. Who probably feels pretty stupid standing against an Iron Man alone.

"It's fucking on…"

*

(Sigh.)

Dom actually checks the watch beneath her wrist. This is taking waaaay longer than she had planned on. Police will have had more than enough time to respond. Hell, SHIELD, the Feds, the SRD… Exfiltration might be a little more fun than she had counted on. Ah well, keeps things interesting, right?

Then she spies a fire extinguisher on a nearby wall.

Whistling a little tune to herself she pivots about in her office chair then kicks off of the table, rolling partway across the room to where she can claim the red painted device for herself. Another turn and another push rolls her back over to the doorway, taking on the posture of a formation swimmer who had been pulled out of the pool as she eyes down the extinguisher with one eye. Gauge weight, distance, sliding friction, aaand…

The bright red canister gets lobbed out of one office, sailing across the hall and into the next office over where it lands on the floor, slides a few feet, then neatly disappears over the edge of the hole the powered suits had created.

"Fire suppressant in the hole," she says into the headset with a black-lipped grin.

Those suckers can be a real bitch when they get punctured. 'Contents under pressure,' indeed.

Another -push- and she rolls on over to the desk once more, now idly glancing about the room to see if there's anything else that might be entertaining enough to throw down into the basement.

Maybe one of the desks? No one likes getting hit with a big workload right before vacation.

*

Evelyn's ready for this. Not. The moment she's configured for steady power? Her reactor brightens up all the way to 100. The glow of her reactor easily illuminates atleast a metre around her. Her hands reach back for the railing and grip it at full strength as she strains against the bars, gritting her teeth as she makes the most strained, restrained sound you could imagine. Her back is arched, and her legs pull up to her body.

The console lights up as soon as a connection is made, the dials and steam gauges tick their needles as the tank temperature quickly rises. One of the bulbs behind the voltage gauge flashes and burns out immediately, while the order status lights glow much brighter than they normally would. This machinery is old. Pipes creak and moan around the room as the machinery and turbine slowly begin to move and rotate after years without use.

Every nerve in Eve's body is on fire, her reactor can't provide enough power for her nervous system and all these heating elements. She wasn't designed for this kind of draw.

As soon as the temperature needle hits the green arrrow, the pressure gauge rises fast. Several gauges flick over, and the metal thunking sound of a relay inside the control box marks the start of the reaction process as the turbines spin up to an RPM that will actually produce power. Just in time for a couple sparks to flash out of Evelyn's chest with a small scream that's interlaced with a crisp distortion of static. When Howard disconnects the cable, the leads will arc in his hand. Hopefully he wasn't holding too close to the contacts.

Eve will immediately relax and fall limp against the catwalk's railing, heading lolling to the side. Then her nervous system kicks back in as her reactor fades back to normal light levels. She doubles over and coughs a couple times as she gasps to regain her breath. And with that, the lights slowly flicker on throughout the building.

*

Things are starting to get close to the end. The screams of terror from the hallway mark Tony's success. When a trained military soldier is picked up by his backpack, scooped right out of his formation, he panics. Long enough for him to just be used to /wreck/ his comrade. Tony really bloody goes to town on them, and none of them are left really in a state to fight when their guns and hi-tech backpacks are smashed to smithereens. They got cocky.

The rain of concrete down on the troops leaves Minigun guy stranded. He doesn't seem to be scared, he just looks at Tony with a big ol' smirk as he aims that gun at Iron Man. Then he looks up.

One metal suit lands on him, covered in white fire retardant and completely immobilised. The arc reactor on the back is blackened, looking like it actually detonated. Part of a fire extinguisher is poking out of it. The next suit falls on top of the first one. At least. Part of it does. That looks gross. The third one is falling right for Tony.

*

Howard was…holding things a little too close to the contacts. He cries out and draws back, his fingertips black from singeing. Thankfully it wasn't close enough to overload his /own/ systems. "Right, right." Deep breath. "Great job, Evelyn. You just…stay still." And then he's putting her bits back together as quickly as he can manage to make sure her guts are protected.

Then he's sprinting across with his gear to check the levels on the reactor. Ole' wrenchy that nearly beaned Domino earlier is put to its actual use to manually adjust the flow and balance the power output. "Tony! Get that AI Of yours back in control of this building!" Cause he's not going to be much help against armoured gunmen…or mechs falling through the floor. Except to say, "Look out!"

*

Happy has been keeping Domino company while everyone does heroic shit downstairs. Now sitting at the table while she wheels about the room grabbing lawn furniture to hurl down at the huge machines that dropped through several floors of Stark Industries. Let's just say he's not in any hurry to go chasing them to see if THEY have a badge, alright?

He wants to, but he's not going to.

Instead, he glances up at the mercenary when she finally comes back to the table and drums his fingers lightly against its surface. "So… are you single?"

What the hell right?

JARVIS immediately starts taking control of the towers subroutines, routing power to satelite reactors located around the city that needed a fail-safe code to access. At this wattage the best he can possibly hope for is getting the lights back on, but none of the major security systems will be online until he's at, at least, four percent of his usual output.

Which points out exactly how much power this building ACTUALLY uses.

Tony was just about to get into a slugging match with a damn robo-suit carrying a mini-gun when another powersuit drops in ontop of his unfortunate foe. Then another… Then a-… he looks up and sighs.. Firing off every remaining shoulder rocket towards the oncoming suit and blasting it with twin repulsor beams in the intimate portion right between the business and the backend.

And I taint talking about his feet. Taint.

I said taint.

He's shooting him in the taint.

He catches it by the feet and slams him side first into the ground. Then up end swinging him against a wall, and back into the ground. Repeat, recycle, until he's absolutely sure that it taint getting back up.

I said taint, again.

*

"I haven't heard much from my last boyfriend after I shot him in the back of the head then took a cordless drill to his shoulder," Domino tells Hogan with a slight roll of the shoulders. 'What can you do?'

And she wonders why Cable never calls her back.

Power…

(Power!)

The albino's attention snaps back to the terminal as the overhead lights start blinking and flickering back to life. She's got her feet off of the desk, the call on Evelyn's phone terminated, and her hands at the helm in a flash, booting up the system as quickly as it finds enough power to do so. This is Stark Tech stuff, she should be at a useable interface in no time at all.

The only problem now is that she isn't alone, and she needs both of her hands free. She hesitates, just for a moment, while giving Hogan a cold, calculating stare. "Now I'm just going to sit here and borrow a few process cycles. Nothing malicious. Nothing stolen. Security is your business here, not mine."

With that said she reaches up to the hollow of her throat and neatly plucks the USB drive free of the choker, plugging it into the terminal.

This… -This- is what she has been waiting for. Why she had come here. Why she had fled the east coast for two months. Why she had come back. Why Clyde Kelley had been marked for execution. Why the SRD had been so quick to respond to the murder. This whole insane, stupid, elaborate mission had been over a single. Fucking. Pendrive. And now..she'll finally have a chance to learn -why.-

With this kind of technological power she can start attacking the file encryption. She's got the program, she's got the data. All she needed was the raw strength of a state of the art machine to bring all of the pieces together.

*

Evelyn's still breathing hard when Howard's reassembling her. At least, enough so there isn't contamination. As he's about to get up, she looks up at him and opens her mouth, mouthing some word. Then she quickly covers her mouth, looking a bit.. perturbed. What? If something's wrong she'll just say so. She doesn't otherwise get up to do anything. Not right now. She'll just lean back up against the railing and let Howard do his thing.

*

Evelyn's still breathing hard when Howard's reassembling her. At least, enough so there isn't contamination. As he's about to get up, she looks up at him and opens her mouth, mouthing some word. Then she quickly covers her mouth, looking a bit.. perturbed. What? If something's wrong she'll just say so. She doesn't otherwise get up to do anything. Not right now. She'll just lean back up against the railing and let Howard do his thing.

Meanwhile, the supreme devastation that Stark delivers to the last suit sends brackets, bolts, blood, wires, and actuators scattering across the hall. He's /demolished/ them. Though, fortunately one of the backpacks lays discarded on the ground. Torn off the back of a soldier from Tony's previous faafing about. That will be useful later for figuring out exactly how they were able to avoid Tony's defenses, and fix that little security glitch.

*

Howard takes a moment to admire the utter destruction his son has wrought on their intruders. Not…not bad. A little disturbing. A lot collateral damage-y, but effective nonetheless. There's no praise spoken, because why break a pattern?

"Hanging in there, Evelyn? Talk to me, now. Why would someone be after you?" Meanwhile he's getting his greasemonkey on and working the reactor like a champ, trying to squeeze every last bit of power out of the damned thing to try and get JARVIS the power he needs. That waistcoat isn't going to survive, neither are those pants. He doesn't look too bothered by it.

*

"JARVIS, cut power to the room!" Happy screams when Domino moves for the terminal. Just as likely that she was THIS CLOSE to figuring it out too… Only to be thwarted by the hero of the hour, the man of the century. The man standing there posing like Superman with his fists on his hips, not quite realizing that she just said that she shot her boyfriend in the back of the head.

Or just not putting two and two together that she would do a whole lot worse to him.

JARVIS is busy, certainly, but Hogan is marked as priority on his authorizations list, so he waits exactly to the point where Domino is aaaaaaboooooooooout to get her answers… then shuts off the power.

HAH!

HAHAHA!

Tony breaths heavy and surveys the destruction, but his interests are, for once, not the technology around him. Sure, it will be in a little while, but right now he's got something more important to think about. Running towards the room where he left Howard and Ev, he skirts around his dad in a perfect basketball pivot, jumps towards the cat walk, releases from his suit and swings effortlessly down beside Evelyn. Surveying 'her' damage… "Later, dad." About 'why' they're after her, "Let's get her to my workshop.." WHere he's got spare parts for her and the equipment necessary to actually fix this.

The armor crashes drops back down to the ground and turns to regard Howard, now piloted by JARVIS. "Good evening, Mr. Stark." Regarding him with glowing eyes, then contacting Happy, "Mr. Hogan, perhaps it would be wise to run. I do not believe she is going to be very appreciative of you ruining her plans."

*

Evelyn looks over to Howard, opening her mouth a little bit, but then nodding faintly a couple times. She swallows heavily at the question, but looks to Tony just as he's leaping down and out of his armor. She's pretty beat up. Shirt cut open, skin bared, a bullet hole in her abdomen and her jeans. Plaster dust is all up in her hair, she's covered in nicks and tears. At least she doesn't have a shiner like Tony. Looking up at Tony's face, she nods, offering a small frown. If only she had a camera to take a picture of his face.

*

Howard wipes an arm across his forehead and wrinkles his nose at the state of the reactor. "Not getting anything else out of this. Let's just hope other friends of Stark don't decide to attack tonight." He blinks at the sight of JARVIS piloting the suit. All he can think to do is salute it weakly.

"Well. That was fun. Heating costs are going to be a bitch for the next while." He smiles weakly, then moves to follow Tony and Evelyn to wherever it is they're going. Preferably to a lab that doesn't have a big, cold hole in it.

*

Sad music plays.

Happy walks slowly to the edge of the broken window to gaze out longingly at the retreating Domino, dramatically slamming his fist very lightly against the metal. Then turning to bite the curled knuckle of his left index finger. 'Would Happy ever find love?'

Again he regards the open air, wind sweeping through his short hair, as he lifts his hand and lightly taps an index finger against the badge hanging from his suit jacket, "If only you'd had one…"

Dun'nun'nuunnnnn…

Tony looks concerned, which is an odd enough expression on his usually smarmy and/or sarcastically grinning mug. A camera indeed! What with his black eye and all.

He'd completely forgotten about that and how he said all kinds of things that clearly he didn't mean.

Because seriously, Stark's don't hold grudges.

Speaking of which, and while JARVIS picks Evelyn up to carry her, not upstairs, but to an alternate location, since there's nothing safe about this building right now, Tony turns to regard Howard squarely. "I'm sorry about what I said, dad. I wont lie and say I'll never say anything that upsets you, but I'll attempt to look at the situation before I draw you into whatever crazy bullshit I'm about to engage in, first." Offering his hand, "Don't leave, Stark Industries, alright? I just got you back, I'm not ready to lose you again."

*

"For god's sake, Tony. The company's just been stormed. I just hooked Evelyn up to the building to power the reactor. There's…mangled bodies on the ground and a hole punched down from the penthouse. I don't know if now's the time to be having an Oprah moment." Not that there's ever a good time for one of those moments with Howard Stark. He makes a point of changing the channel whenever one gets close.

He pauses, flares his nostrils and eyes Tony's hand. "I can't promise I'm going to stick around the company. But if I leave, that doesn't mean you're going to lose me." And that's the closest he's ever going to get to sentiment. He does shake the other man's hand, though. He exhales deeply and looks around. "You're stuck with me for a little while at least. We've got to clean up this mess."

*

Tony shakes his head and holds up his hand to his father, reaching down with the other into one of the pockets of his slacks, and pulling from it his cellphone. "No, not right now, gotta take this." Not necessarily interrupting him, so much as… wait, "Huh, yeah." Leaning against the wall patting the air at his father and then crossing the arm beneath the other. "Yeah, he thinks I'm going to help clean this up…. I know right? That's crazy. He's crazy."

*

Howard Stark is lacking a lot of things, but a sense of humour isn't one of them. When he realizes what Tony is doing, he can't help but crack a grin. "You know, you always did like to make the messes. I seem to recall an incident involving expanding blue dyed foam and a basement lab."

He reaches up with the aim of plucking the phone away from Tony. Whether he manages to take it or not, he looks at his son for a long moment, then says something that's monumentally difficult for him to say. He fights against years of impulses to the contrary to make the words pass his lips.

"You did good."

Hey, what's the point of a second chance if you don't at least make an effort to change?

*

Tony doesn't have a death grip on the phone to begin with and sees that, at the very least, Howard is trying to play along. So he doesn't yank away when he reaches up for the cell, "Every single time, you bring up the blue dye expanding foam…" He doesn't, but still. Tony glances over at Evelyn, carried by JARVIS in Iron Man suit, then nods to his dad. "So did you. That was brilliant, hooking her power core to the reactor…" Even if he'd rather they used HIS over Ev's.

That's besides the point. "Yeah, let's get the hell out of the basement before we hug and make this feel weird."

*

Howard hefts the phone, clears his throat and nods. "Agreed." He slaps the phone against Tony's chest and starts walking forward. "So I may have invented an extremely useful and debilitating fashion accessory. It works very well when applied to a metal rappelling cable." He pats the purple scarf that is looped casually around his neck. As they walk, he kicks aside a cheap-ass replica bit of tech. There may be some gore on the ground, too.

Once again, the man with the safety shoes walks with confidence.


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