Howard's 11: Portalbusters

February 02, 2015: Hill and Widow discuss their strategy with Howard, while Fitz shows off his shiny new 'Portal Buster'.

Rented Mansion — Royal St, French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana



  • SHIELD field agents disguised as pest control workers.

Mood Music:

It's not particularly warm in New Orleans - but it's certainly warmer than New York. It's currently 37 degrees and mostly clear. The Bus might be on-sight, but their base of operations is a vacation property in the heart of the French Quarter. It's got its own private balcony and is located on the far end of Royal Street, far enough away from the mess of Bourbon's main strip of bars to be (slightly) quieter. It's got six bedrooms and a large parlour that has been converted to command central. It's also got a lovely balcony and a bar.
This may have been Howard's doing. Hell, it might very well be owned by Stark Industries. Why wouldn't they have a property in the Big Easy?
Howard's just returned from having a drink in one of New Orleans' many bars. He punches in the code to pass the small garden gate, then enters through the big old wooden doors into the rich foyer with its gaslight chandelier. "Anyone home?"

Someone is definitely home. Hill is in the parlour-turned-command, pacing between two separate holoprojectors full of data. She probably hasn't sat down in hours, a half empty cup of coffee in one hand while the other shifts between manipulating the displays and hovering around her jawline in thought. Today's expression is 'the thoughtful scowl.'

"Stark," she plainly replies in greeting without dividing her attention any more than absolutely necessary. Eventually she offers a little more. "We've gathered some new intel, real happy fun stuff."

She's already got the Night-Night gun set out on a nearby table, the magazine topped off but kept free of the receiver. Seems like someone might be a little anxious to do some hunting down in the Big Easy.

Natasha's been hard at work the way she usually is: talking to people, greasing palms, making friends, calling in small favors. She's returned to the mansion no more than a few minutes ago and walks out from the hall washroom still dressed in her shake-down clothes.
In New Orleans, this consists of tight jeans, boots with heels, a low-cut red blouse, and a tailored black jacket. Walking the fine line between elegant and indecent.
"Evening, Howard," she calls, right in the middle of taking off her earrings. "How're you enjoying the Big Easy? Different from in your day?"

Forgive Howard if he gives Natasha a bit of a once-over when she comes out. He has eyes. Robo-eyes, but with a human male consciousness driving them. He doesn't linger though, to his credit. "It's a bit more…frat party and less old world elegance than I remember. Still, it's nice to be back again." Because of course he's been here before.
He holds up a bag. "I brought beignet.Still warm!" He peeks his head around the corner from the entryway to the parlour. "I see you've made yourself at home, Agent Hill." He clears his throat. "Good news. I had a word with Pepper. She's loaning Fitz an arc reactor. It's coming with the Bus."

"I had work to do," Hill flatly replies to Howard before taking another sip of coffee while rapidly flipping through projected images. "Would you have preferred I enjoyed the scenery while a bunch of thugs go running rampant with stolen tech taken out of your toybox?"

Hmmh. It'd be nice to have the rest of the team assembled but she's not going to uproot them from their current tasks to go over these details. Maybe Natasha's got something. …No, of -course- she's got something.

Stepping out of the pseudo ring of projections, free hand hooked in front of herself to the opposite elbow, she asks "How went your hunt, Romanoff?"

"Thank you, Howard. I'll take one if you're offering." Be nice to the old robot. Natasha's generally only nasty with a purpose. Sometimes, admittedly, the purpose is "because it's fun".
To Maria's question, she answers in a fairly chipper tone: "Surprisingly hopefully. I have some indication that we might not have to bag-and-tag our mutant teleporter after all. We can use it as a last resort — or, well, just as a preventative — but it seems like that Virgil guyis the brains behind the operation. Or at least, he's more the mastermind than she is. For a start, no one knows who the hell he is; for another thing, Celestine getting into weapons is out of character for her. Either he has something on her or she's really wanting for cash."

"I had work to do, too," says Howard. "Which involved getting an incredibly powerful and portable power source for Doctor Fitz to plug in to his dimension dampening device." If he could do that while drinking cocktails and people watching, more's the better. At least he can't get drunk. He'd be no use to them at all otherwise.
He takes a seat on the leather sofa and reaches to pull a beignet out of the bag, then hands the bag to Natasha. It's impossible to eat the damned things without getting powdered sugar everywhere, but he's giving it a try. "I remind you again, I'm not on the payroll. I'm here strictly voluntary. And…well, because it's my toys in play. My point is, your finger-wagging doesn't do anything to me. Though I understand why it works so well on your recruits." He grins through a moustache dappled with powdered sugar.
He listens to what Natasha has to say about their mutant. "So. You think you can convince her to go on the straight and narrow if you can get her away from Virgil?" He licks powdered sugar off his thumb.

A message comes in over Maria's workstation, encrypted, from Agent Fitz.

Sure Thing Pest Control, here for your 3:00 appointment.

A few moments later, a full size van, lacking windows save for the front seats, pulls up to the borrowed abode. Painted upon the side of the van is the hideous logo of a local pest control company, complete with legitimate plates because yes, this van was legally commandeered by the local FBI office. FBI, because nobody wants this operation linked to SHIELD. Sure Thing Pest Control, because it makes absolute sense for them to show up at this place in broad daylight.

The van parks outside; in the front seat there are two of Hill's field agents, redressed to look like average joes. Keep in mind, their heavy firearms are within easy reach, but out of sight.

The back doors open, and a short fellow steps out, wearing a white jumpsuit complete with the Sure Thing Pest Control logo stitched into the back. They say that this company is damn good at handling everything from rodents to insects, and judging by the size of the… can you call that a tank? … on his back, it must be true.

The doorbell rings.

"If Fitz can get his interrupt thingus online soon I'd like to try and tag our mutant, regardless. Teleporters seem to have a habit of disappearing right before they're really needed," Hill thinks aloud. "If we can get the drop on her, it may makeall the difference."

Then to Howard, feigning surprise, she says "Oh, there's no finger-wagging here, Stark. You should already have a very good understanding of the kind of trouble you could be in if these mothballed projects of yours start turning up because they've been used on civilians. Feel free to figure out just how that fits into your 'voluntary' involvement at your own pace."

Back to their mutant, she 'suggests' "It would make our lives easier if you could, Romanoff."

She's just starting to turn back to the paired emitters to share her own information when one of them displays a string of red text announcing the incoming message.

"Oh good, our geeks have arrived."

Or one, at least. She'll get the door.

"Nothing like a little pre-emptive tactical nuking of the local roach population."

"This might need to be a team effort. It depends on what we can offer her; more to the point, it depends on whether she bugs out the second she smells a rat." Natasha snags her beignet and glances up to the door to see…
"Classy," she murmurs, taking a bite and waving Fitz in as Maria opens the door. Chew. Swallow. Powdered sugar all over her lipstick.
"Anyway," she says. "There's going to be a fancy do in a couple of days at one of her clubs. She's heavy into the bar scene in New Orleans which… Katrina didn't do any favors to anyone in this town, but the entertainment industry least of all. She might have some debts out to some big fish."

"I'm well-aware of the consequences, Agent Hill. This isn't my first rodeo." Which is to say, this isn't the first time Howard's been on a dangerous mission, or not the first time he's had his tech stolen?
He peers back into the hallway when he hears the ding-dong. Eyebrows lift when he sees Fitz's getup. "Did you get my little present? Well, loan, that is. Well. Pepper's loan." That Tony may or may not know about.

What is that? That, my friends, is an entirely smug grin upon Leopold Fitz's face when Maria opens the door. He steps over the threshold, takes a few steps past, passes a glance toward Howard, and waits until the door is closed before dropping the line he's been practicing all day.

"If you're having 'port problems, I feel bad for you, son."

The gun-like device is raised, and a simple control button is pressed. There, upon the backpack itself, a door slides open, revealing the iconic blue circle of a Stark Industries Mark 1 ARC Reactor. At the same time, while the device — weapon, one would think — is aimed safely away from anyone, a series of tiny indicators light up one after the other, the same bright blue inherent with the energy being spun off the reactor.

"I got 99 problems, but a portal ain't one."

When Fitz mentioned that he may not be able to use the T.D.B.R.A device as originally planned, he sure wasn't kidding. Either he's been playing Ghostbusters all day, or this bad boy is what he's been working on ever since the Bus arrived a few hours ago. The backpack that bears the ARC reactor is sturdy, constructed of a very strong yet lightweight composite plastic rubber alloy, complete with what appear to be three power junction nodes sticking out each side. At the bottom is a very high tech cable which leads to the weapon itself, which lacks his usual stylization (time restraints, people!) and looks more like the utilitarian laser guns seen in 80's movies.

If it happens to look like a Ghostbusters Power Pack, we promise you, that was entirely coincidental.


"Good, we can work with that," Hill says with a dip of her head to Natasha's next comment about their mutant mark.

Then to Howard next, her expression only slightly troubled, "That's more than a little disconcerting."

Then she glances to the entering Fitz, then to the van outside. "Bonus points for sticking to a believable theme." ..Then he's powering up a backpack-mounted ARC reactor. She instinctively takes a step -away- from the device. Then another. "Good lord, Fitz. If I wake up as a mutant tomorrow because of that thing I am going to be -very- cross unless I get one of the neater powers."

Now for the more important question, she asks "Does it work? Without blowing anything up or irradiating anything else?"

Black Widow is, typically, a fairly subtle woman. She goes for the stiletto, the poison, the subtle knife. The quiet take-down or the sniper shot rather than the big explosion or the loud alarms.
Nevertheless, when she sees the proton pack and watches Fitz's presentation of it, she can't help it. She sets the beignet down on a napkin and slow-claps him into the house.
"You know, I was envisioning something a little more compact," she admits. "But I have to admit. That's pretty boss."

Howard may be a smooth businessman, but he's also a big ole geek. Forgive him if he's reverse-engineering Fitz's creation with his eyes. He brushes the powdered sugar off his fingers and comes into the foyer to have a better look at the lovely Debra. "Nicely done. It looks familiar, somehow." He snaps. Snaps again. "Right! There was a movie. Ghostsmashers!" He says that with such confidence.
Give him a break. He was in his 60s when that movie came out.

"Oh, I wouldn't worry about that," Fitz answers Maria. "It doesn't release any Gamma radiation. Simmons is going over the initial test results, but as far as we can tell, it's harmless to biomatter." There is a pause. "Although, I wouldn't be surprised if she insists anyone who comes into contact with it receive an inoculation. Something about… exposure to subatomic biofriction or, whatever." He seems annoyed about that.

Natasha gets his attention next. "Mark II will be much more compact, I promise. I had to prepare for multiple power sources, so, the generator is a bit larger than it needs to be, but, time restraints."

"Ghost Busters," comes as Howard's correction. He then turns around so that they can see the generator pack. "Since the ARC reactor releases excess energy when the device is in use, I've attached these power junctions to a set of internal batteries. When we get home, I can fashion a few more, though they will need to be recharged after four, maybe five blasts." He turns back around to face the group. "A couple of days ago, I realized that it would be impossible to create enough Debra units to protect an entire structure, so, I came up with this idea. A tactical, user operated weapon designed to block manipulation of the trans-dimensional barrier. Or… The 'Portal Blocker'."

He's so good with names. At least he scrapped the original idea, which was 'Little Debbie'.

"As far as whether it works or not, we've run some tests and everything is in order, but, considering we can't create portals ourselves, we're gonna have to do a field test. Oh. And, there's one other thing." He scratches his head with a free hand. "Once the gun is charged, it, uh, has to be discharged."

"Alright, don't cross the streams, you two," Hill flatly calls out before draining her lukewarm coffee and setting the mug aside. The comment regarding Simmons and an inoculation is met with a roll of her eyes. "Wonderful. Give me some good news here, Fitz. You're looking way too smug for this to have been a failure." works. In theory. But it needs a field test. It could potentially cause problems for everyone around it. And now it just might need to be fired, regardless..! The part which confuses her somewhat is simply it's interface, something which she's happy to bring up next.

"Help me understand this one," she says with a customary frown and a tapping of a fingertip to the side of her jawline. "If someone's going to teleport, and we don't want them to, we just shoot at them with this gun?" She'll leave that in the air for just a moment before adding "How are we supposed to get one of those readied, aimed, and fired before they disappear on us? Teleporters are kind of fast like that."

"That's my next question," Natasha admits, nodding to Maria. "I think the answer may simply be: let's make sure we know before our teleporter is bamfing out. What are the other parameters? Does it just work while they're in the stream, or is there a lasting effect? Doyou know if it hurts or has any other ill effects?"
She picks up her beignet again when she finishes, licking off her fingers and walking around Fitz to take a good look at the whole package. "Nice work doing the impossible, by the way."

"Right, right. I take it it became some kind of a classic?" Howard says that dead seriously. Hey, he's had more important things to catch up on other than popular movies! He takes a closer look at the components of the pack and rattles off a series of highly technical questions about the device's operation, which no doubt, Fitz can rattle back answers for just as quickly. In the end, he seems satisfied, though he does have a few notes for improving efficiency. He'll let the Scot explain how the thing works, though. No fun stealing his thunder.

Maria gets a fingergun when she makes that reference.

"We ran simulations," Fitz defends. "In every case, the trans-dimensional barrier was fortified. It may not work on magically created portals yet, but on the 'mundane'? It will work." He has every note of confidence in that.

Now it comes to the particulars of the device. Being very careful not to accidentally pull the trigger, he turns the gun over so that they can all see the controls as he points each dial and knob out.

"Three settings. 1 creates a tight beam, if you need to shut down a portal that's already been opened. Range, 100 meters. 2 creates a cone shaped effective field, range, 30 meters. 3 creates a much wider field, pretty much everything in front of the release nozzle, but it only has a range of 7.5 meters."

Its worth noting that, when the device was powered up, no noise was created. Thanks, ARC technology.

"The range setting is variable. There's a soft 'click' on level 1, 2, and 3." He looks to Natasha, indicating the other settings. "This one creates a continual stream. Flip to here, and you get a rapid fire effect. As for whether it hurts, or has a lasting effect… it shouldn't, no."

He looks to Howard next. "Tony's technology is truly remarkable."

That being said, there's still the issue of, you know, the Portal Blocker needing to be fired. He glances around the room, and points to the wall over a fireplace with a raised eyebrow. Permission granted, Captain?

Permission granted? Hoboy. Hill may come to regret this but they -all- need to see just what the gun's going to do. She stands well clear, then gives the nod. With any luck she won't come to regret this decision within the next few seconds.

Once the test fire is over, assuming none of them have been completely deatomized and the building remains in one piece, she says "There's no way I'm going to be able to follow this act but bear with me."

Back to the holodisplays, Manny's face dominates one of the two viewable areas. "Info on Manny, here. Last name is DiMarco, gutterscum with one hell of a laundry list of priors. He's been digging himself into every scrap of dirty business he can get hold of, choosing to handle the shady deals himself in order to protect client identities. Given this, he was probably involved with the Frisco cyber-assault of '09."

The other screen shows Wren, Miss Metal. "Turns out our magnet-attracting friend is in a bit of trouble, herself. Finally caved and asked us for medical help. Her modifications were done in a facility right here in New Orleans, bought and paid for with cash earned from working gigs from Manny, himself. He told her about the implants. Now Wren's suspecting that Virgil's people were running the shop."

"There, I've said my piece. We can go back to admiring Fitz's work now." It's only said with part of her usual sarcasm, too. His device could make all the difference for the Division!

"We have a security deposit on this place. I'm just going to say it. Security deposit. If you break it, you bought it." Natasha ambles calmly away from the fireplace — not that she was near it before, but now she's significantly further.

"You know, I initially designed the arc reactor. Tony just ironed out the bugs," murmurs Howard. Oh no, don't mind him. He's just the guy who built Stark Industries from the ground up.
Modesty is not a trait the Starks have in great supply.
"That's an original fireplace, Fitz. Only shoot that thing off if you're sure. We do have a courtyard, you know."
When Manny's face pops up on the screen, he quirks an eyebrow and shifts his weight to one foot. He's got a pokerface, suddenly. It's hard to tell what he thinks of this information.

When the permission is given, Fitz turns to face the aforementioned wall. He sets it to Setting 1, the tight beam, and braces himself. Eyes narrow just a bit. "Three, two, one."

A low rumble comes from the weapon. There are no beams of light, no brilliant displays, only a visible distortion in the air. The wall above the fireplace seems to grow wavy, and the photos hung there rattle, before one after the other falls and breaks upon the ground. Otherwise, everything remains intact. If your hair is standing up on end, it's your imagination.

The device does pack a punch. Leo's entire body is pushed back, explaining why he braced himself. He's not a weak man — he has been cleared for field ops after all — but it still packs a wallop.

"I imagine it might look a bit different if there was a disturbance to shut down," he notes.

Now that everyone has realized the thing doesn't shoot fireworks, he safely shuts the device down, removes it, and sets it in a corner like a godddamned vacuum cleaner, so that he might pay closer attention to Hill's briefing.

And Natasha does it again, because she really is quite pleased with all this. She applauds, nodding her general approval. The glass can easily be replaced; the fireplace, not so much.
"Nice shooting, Tex." Because that's the only appropriate thing that CAN be said. "Hopefully we won't have to make use of it. I don't want to go in to see this lady with guns pointed at her, but it's going to be good to have if we want to keep the lady pinned. And apparently, no bad physical effects."

Fitz stuffs his hands into his pockets, eyeing the wall for a moment before looking back to the others. Finally, his gaze rests on Nat. "Come by the Bus later, do some target practice," he advises. "You'll want to know how she handles, just in case." Then, he's walking across the way to suit back up, before tossing a mock salute to his teammates. "Thanks for choosing Sure Thing!"

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