|I Do Hope You Hit Girls|
|What: Bethany finally tracks down the last of the people on her 'important to Tony' list so that she can introduce herself... and catches Rhodey up to no good, which is great.|
Stark Tower. Subbasement Level 3. Storage Locker 14. 5:40 PM.
Rhodey lets out a quiet, satisfied chuckle. "Finally," he mutters to himself. He's been searching for this particular unit for hours. For its contents, anyway.
SWIPE. SWIPE. SWIPE. No matter how many times he runs his access card through the slot, the locking mechanism keeps buzzing angrily and flashing a red light. The message is clear. You can't come in. "Yeah? We'll see about that," Rhodey grumbles, replying to the lock's rejection.
He holds up a cybernetic hand and a thin, metal tentacle snakes out from the underside of his wrist. It quests out toward the card-swiper and wiggles into the crack. Jim's eyes close as he interfaces directly with the device and gets to work. A few seconds later, the mechanism flashes a green light and PINGS obligingly.
"That's right," he says as the door slides open. There's only one thing on the other side. A large wooden crate with the word 'JERICHO' stenciled on the side.
Rhodey's stalking JERICHO, Bethany's stalking Rhodey. The last of the people on Tony's 'special list' that she has to meet and the man is... elusive does not even cover it. She's run down international playboy deadbeat dads with less trouble than this guy. However, she's got the head of Tony's corporate security wrapped around her little finger, so she's got a trail to follow today.
Subbasements. Seriously? "What is this, Phantom of the Opera?" she mutters. "Mr. Rhodes, I don't plan to do any singing. All I want is a simple conversation."
Level 3. Maybe Jim Rhodes has an emo cave down here. Tony's alter ego. The anti-Iron Man. She's trying to get a read on the path of Rhodes' access card and she's getting some garbage now. Whatever he used it in last isn't happy. Head down, she's scowling at her Starkphone as she winds through the level.
Rhodey doesn't bother checking the contents of the crate. If there's one thing Stark's always been good about, it's letting Pepper keep his things properly filed. It's safe to assume that extends to mothballed projects. So, whistling a quiet, nameless tune, he pulls in the hand truck he's been dragging along with him and pushes the crate onto it. Then, fairly easily considering its obvious weight, he levers it up and wheels it out into the hall. That's where he bumps into Bethany.
Clearly surprised to find anyone else this far underground after the official workday has ended, he curses under his breath and whirls around to face his visitor. The crate is lowered to the ground with a gentle THUD.
And there he stands. Tall. Bulky. Made mostly of metal. He's already composed himself. Now he fixes the new arrival with a polite but intense stare. "Hi," he says, his voice as mild as it can be considering it's coming from an artificial vocalizer. "Looking for something?"
Fortunately for Bethany, he was making a little noise that filtered into her awareness before the thud, so she doesn't startle. Beth... does not look like someone who should be here. Most of the people around here--especially the pretty red-heads--dress a lot better than this. In addition to the shabby clothing and the ponytail and the notable lack of cosmetics, she's got a fine collection of bruises. Arms. Jaw. Cheekbone. That's what you get when you're willing to take on half-a-dozen or more of your best agents at once. Blindfolded.
Bethany puts her hands on her hips and looks Rhodey over. "You're a hard man to find, Mr. Rhodes. Have you been avoiding me?" She gives him her best headtilt and ponytail flip combination that usually means -SHEESH-.
Rhodey snorts out a laugh and shakes his head. As usual, he's dressed in a civilian aviator's jumpsuit with a patch that reads 'RHODES' sewn above the breast pocket. His prosthetic hands are visible past his cuffs, and there's no hiding his glowing eye or the shining metal plates that surround it. One thing's for certain. Rhodey will never be a master of disguise.
"Didn't know it was me you were looking for. If I did, I'd have made myself easier to find. What's your name, trooper?" Though he's familiar with many of the staff members, a lot has changed in the months he's been away. He studies the new face closely, committing it to memory. Literally. He snaps a photograph of her with his high-tech eye and files it away for later reference.
"Bethany Cabe. Mr. Stark's new security consultant. Not that you look like you need a body guard." Bethany offers him her hand. "But you're on the list of people of particular importance to Mr. Stark and his company, so I needed to meet you and introduce myself. There's a good chance Mr. Stark forgot to pass that on. He's a busy man." Apparently busy chasing young rock stars... what else is new?
Rhodey accepts the hand and shakes it, being careful not to grip too hard. His is cold and unyielding. "I'm told my official title is 'Associate,' whatever that means. I do know my clearance is so high I have to kill myself if I remember I have it and I still had to crack this door." He chucks a thumb in the direction of the storage locker. Then he pats the crate affectionately. "Next time you see Tony, tell him I borrowed this. Or better yet, email him. He's gonna be pretty pissed off."
"Oh, Tony doesn't scare me. I'm never without an effective defense." The quirk of Bethany's mouth and the mischievous sparkle in her eyes suggests she's not talking about combat skills... and that she's teasing. "What exactly are you borrowing there, Mr. Rhodes? Since I followed you halfway across this complex and down into the Phantom's lair to meet you."
"It's a prototype ballistic missile," Rhodey says cheerfully. "I want to try and scale it down into something a bit more man-portable. Figure it'll be a lot easier reverse-engineering that building from scratch."
Having grown accustomed to coming and going as he pleases over the years, there seems little reason to conceal his plans. Jim matches her smile with a grin of his own. "I hope you won't object to me taking it. I really have my artificial heart set on it. It's a mothballed project, anyway."
"No, that sounds like a great idea. I'm assuming it's for yourself?" Now that sparkle is genuine as Beth zips over to check out the name and project codes on the box. "Portable also means better suited for transport and even mounting on an urban vehicle." Bethany winks up at Jim. "So, I would be happy to keep your secret if I can look in once in a while. I love stuff like this." Pause. Headtilt. "Okay, I love blowing stuff up. And all the ways there are to do it," she admits.
"Yeah. For my suit." Rhodey pauses and sizes Bethany up for a long, long moment. Then he nods, apparently satisfied. "Tony wouldn't have taken you on if he didn't trust you. I plan to take it back to my workshop and break it down, size it down, and throw it on the War Machine armor. The whole idea's probably a pipe dream, but I figure it's worth a shot. You're welcome to come by and look in. I could use another set of hands, too, if you've got the experience. Let me see your phone and I'll give you the coordinates."
Bethany hands her phone over readily. "It's not something I've had a lot of time to study, but I'm clever. I'd love to tag along. I need to brush up, I just bought some interest in a small weapons development company. I know how to take apart and reassemble existing equipment, fiddle with payloads, things like that. It sounds pretentious, but I have people who usually do the hands-on development and construction work. My hands-on work is... well." She flashes Rhodey a wicked grin. "People-oriented."
"Hah! I know what you mean. I was a mechanic long before I became a combatant, so I guess it all comes naturally to me." Jim rolls up his sleeve and exposes a metal forearm, then slips Bethany's phone into a slot. It slides in smoothly, like a CD into a car stereo. "PATTON, give her the location of the Machine Shop. Set her up with front door access."
When the upload is complete, the phone is ejected from Rhodey's arm and he passes it back to Bethany. "There you go. You'll only have minimal access if I'm not around, but that'll get you into my workshop. Come by and we'll blow some stuff up."
"Thank you." Bethany takes the phone back and tucks it away. "My company's information is already in the Stark systems. You're welcome to come by some time to visit. I know my administrative assistant would love to talk big guns with you. He's my artillery and demolitions magician. He's terrifically bored over here, so's the core unit. I just moved them here from international when my husband was assigned to a diplomatic mission in New York. I confess to feeling guilty. Big dogs, small yard, all that."
Rhodey nods and grins again, the expression stretches all the way up to the metal half of his face. "I know the feeling," he says dryly. "Here I am, trying to miniaturize a deadly weapon, and I'm short on people to shoot with the weapons I already have. You know I've had a laser in my eye for months and I still haven't gotten to shoot anybody with it?" Now he sounds almost wistful.
"Well. Damn, my friend. If you can promise you won't kill me if you get lucky, you can try and hit me." Bethany puts her hands on her hips again and gives him a challenging look. "I do hope you hit girls, Mr. Rhodes, or else we can't be friends."
"You'll find I'm a lot more morally flexible than Tony," Rhodey deadpans. He breaks out a smile after a few seconds, but it's still clear he wasn't joking. "We can go a round or two sometime if you want, but I have to warn you, I have a few unfair advantages."
"You can't be in my business without loving the grey areas," Bethany says, shrugging. "So that's good to hear. And I like unfair advantages in my friends. It helps me out when my opponents try and pull one over on me. You bring your advantages and then we'll work on how to make me and mine more of a challenge for you. I like to play rough and the more fun, the better." The bruises are testament to that, sure enough. She doesn't even think about it anymore.
Rhodey pauses long enough to clear his throat. "That does sound fun," he agrees readily. Then he grabs onto his hand truck and levers the crate back up. It's balanced one-handed, the other offered to Bethany for a final shake. "I'm going to get this thing back to my place. It was nice meeting you."
"I'll ride up with you." Bethany shakes his hand before she starts toward the service lifts. "And then I'll give you a headstart before I let Mr. Stark know what you've made off with. I'm pretty sure he won't be angry. I'll tell him while I get his new agents to show him some uniform options." She winks at Rhodey over her shoulder.