|What: Bethany pays Rhodey a visit for bro time and helps him out with JERICHO.|
The Machine Shop. 12:45 PM.
Tucked far beneath his private residence and well away from any Force Works or Stark Industries facilities, Rhodey's private workshop is impressive, considering it's located in what amounts to a glorified basement. Huge touchscreens can be seen from any angle or location, often several at a time. Right now, they're all displaying exploded schematics of a large, complex ballistic missile.
"This weapon was created by a superior mind!" The voice is raspy and angry. It fills up the entire workshop. "You're an idiot! Useless! You can't even take this thing apart! You expect to make it smaller?"
"At least if I set it off, you'll be the first thing to go," Rhodey replies to his AI companion. "I'm mostly made of vibranium. You're made of touchscreens and the voice of R. Lee Ermey. So can it."
PATTON's right about one thing. Rhodey is only mostly sure how to break down the Jericho missile he's working on. He's managed to remove the outer casing and expose the smaller warheads packed inside like flechettes. He's found some sort of control panel. And wires. A lot of wires. "Hate you, Tony," he mutters affectionately.
Beth was going to go out for a run but, honestly, she's a big sissy about burns and last night's fire demons have her in a bit of a mood. Now she's got burns and bruises, which... it's getting hard to cover. So, she's going to go hang with someone who's not going to go 'Zut alors!' or anything when she shows up like the guy at her favourite pastry shop. She arrives with good sulking material... coffee and donuts. Right. Phone. Wave the Stark Phone. Tony probably designed that function on purpose.
Each wave of Bethany's phone grants her access deeper into the facility. She's greeted by PATTON at the front door. "Welcome to Rhodes Manor, milady." Rather than the harsh, abusive tones he uses to address Jim, the AI's voice is firm, but in a reassuring way. "The maggot's downstairs. Please proceed to the elevator."
After what feels like a very, very long descent, the elevator hums to a stop and the doors slide open. Rhodey glances up from his work. He has a screwdriver clenched between his teeth, which he spits into one hand with an audible 'PTOOH!' The tool is set aside and his hand wiped on a pair of surprisingly clean coveralls. His usual, a civilian flight suit. "Hey!" he greets.
"Hey, man." Bethany's face lights up when she sees him. She's dressed way down, pretty much the same as she was the first time they met. Bruises are mostly old, now she's got light bandages over what--given the patches that aren't bandaged--are probably some nasty burns. "Wussed out on my morning run so I thought I'd come see you. How's it going?"
"Nnng," Rhodey grunts, clearly frustrated. He waves a hand dismissively at the half-dismantled weapon. "This thing is a lot more complicated than I thought. Somehow, I thought getting offsite with it was going to be the hard part. How 'bout you? You look a little... sunburnt."
"Freakin' magic users." Beth puts a tray of coffees and a box of donuts down in a clear space near where Rhodey's working then grabs one of each for herself. "Here, help yourself if you want. Some jackwad decided to rob a bank--him and his fire demons--as I was on the way home from a job. Scratched up Bentley One, set fire to a ten-thousand dollar dress that, thankfully, wasn't on me but on one of my agents who can take it... and probably looks way better naked than I do. Six rounds of that superfoam crowd control stuff, which is freakin' expensive, one perfectly good shotgun that I actually liked, and these souvenirs later... I get to fill out police reports. Seriously. I need to get a handle on that crap."
"Just become a superhero," Rhodey suggests, pushing away the remaining pieces of his project and straightening up with a WHIRR and CHIRR from his many servo motors. "Nobody asks me to fill out any paperwork. I swoop in, blow everything up, then fly away. It's pretty great."
He accepts a cup of coffee gratefully, passing on sugar and cream. "Mmm," he murmurs after taking a deep, manful drink. "Black, like my soul."
"Funny, a girl I gave a ride to last night said that's what she does. What do you do, honey? I'm a superhero!" Beth shakes her head and hops up on a stool while she drinks her coffee--black, of course. No cream and sugar in the desert or any other inconvenient venue. Her heels bounce off the lower rung of the stool like a little kid. Kick, bounce. "Talented girl, too. I don't think I'm superhero material. Paperwork is my middle name since I started my company. Ten years now, I'm used to it. I like my people, they come first."
Jim raises his eyebrows a bit at both of these comments. "Do people really say that?" he asks. "I was kidding. I'm no hero. I'm just a guy with big guns who shoots bad people. Which, if you ask me, is a lot more fun than paperwork."
He's grinning at his own joke, but the grin fades when he lays eyes on the Jericho. "This damn thing," he grumbles. "Wiring looks like a bird's nest. The control panel's so secure that I don't even know how to turn it ON. Anyway. Sorry to hear you got scorched. Tough luck about the ordinance, too. I know how much the stuff costs."
He chucks a thumb over his shoulder, where rack upon rack of reloads for War Machine's various weapon systems have been labeled and neatly lined out. The suit itself is in the center of the armory, held in place by an antigrav unit that keeps it in a loose-but-upright position.
"You don't have to pay for it, either, lucky bastard." Beth finishes her donut and, yes, licks her fingers. Somewhere, her headmistress is feeling faint. She hops down and comes over to peer at the problem. It's quite a piece of equipment. "Well, Tony built it... I could flash it for you, see if that turns it on." She looks over her shoulder at Rhodey, laughing.
"Trust me, the first thing I tried was using my S-Phone to flash the..." Rhodey trails off. A slow grin creeps across his face. "Well played," he acknowledges, giving her a little salute with his coffee cup.
There's a pause as he surveys his gear. "Tony and I don't always see eye to eye. When bad guys have weapons, I think the best way to beat them is to have bigger, better weapons. Tony seems to think he can do it with repulsor beams and teddy bears. I supply a lot of my own funding these days through Force Works."
"I'm all for bigger, better weapons, as long as they're backed by bigger, better brains. And I use a lot of less-than-lethal. I don't think you can ignore any of it if you want to be effective as a force in the world. I'm trying to work out this magic business--I can't mutate, but I'll be damned if someone can point a gun at me that I don't know how to use." Bethany looks around the room. "Is Force Works basically a shell for you to work in for yourself? Do you have plans for it?"
A long, quiet moment passes while Rhodey eyeballs Bethany. Considering her. "Tony trusts you," he concedes, not for the first time. "I will, too."
Deep breath. A swig of coffee. "When Tony set me up as the War Machine, he knew I'd do things he wouldn't approve of. Build things he wouldn't approve of. That was our unspoken agreement. He signed over Force Works so I'd have resources and facilities he could turn a blind eye to. So, in a word, yes. It's a shell. I let the BOD handle most of the decisions."
Bethany listens, then nods. "That's smart, on both your parts. Degrees of separation like that are good business and help people stay friends. Ling and I have some differing opinions on things, always have, even though she practically made me. We're hardly ever in the same room, but she's still just about my other half. I drive her batshit. Any grey hair she has? All me. But ten years later, we still work. So... good."
"Yeah," Rhodey agrees. He pauses to finish his coffee, then sets the cup aside. He considers the donuts, but they'd be more of an affectation for a being that runs on batteries rather than nutrition. "Plus," he continues. "Tony really would be pissed if he found out about the..." he waves at the Jericho. "Will be pissed. He'll figure it out sooner or later. Or Pepper will, most likely."
"I think I understand his feelings on the matter," Bethany says, walking over to some of the screens to take a look at the schematics again. "I don't agree with them on the big scale, but I get it. Maybe it's a civilian thing. He called me a civilian in front of my staff and one of them nearly ate his head for it, but it's true, officially. Still, there's a shift you make in your head about killing and giving other people permission to kill in your name... maybe he isn't there yet."
"And he never needs to be," Rhodey says firmly. "That's what I'm here for."
It's a strong statement. He lets it hang in the air for a moment before he elaborates. "All I ever wanted to be was a soldier. Someone who made the world a better place. Tony gave me a chance to be more than a guy flying bombing runs or running recon flights, but I'm still a soldier at heart. I guess that never changes."
"From what I see from my people, it doesn't, no. As for Tony, I think it's best he's not there, even if it's a pain in the ass. It would be more efficient for you, but a little friction keeps things from going off the rails." She tilts her head slowly, looking at a program breakdown. "You know, you should get something you do know how to work and compare the schematics and programming. Tony's good but he's got a pattern--everyone does. It's most efficient. What he's done enough, he'll do the same unless he's forced to change. Compare this to just about anything, even the Stark Phone. I bet you'll get a better handle on it."
About halfway through Bethany's statement, Jim has his S-Phone out and is punching away at the touchscreen. After a few seconds, he clears his throat and calls, "PATTON. Take each of these models and put them on display. Split them evenly among the screens."
He's chosen a variety of devices that Tony created in the past. Mostly guided missiles, but there's a prosthetic limb and a handheld scanning unit mixed in with the weaponry. "You're a genius," he says, this time to Bethany. "I need to start from ground level and work my way to the top. Not at the penthouse and work my way down. PATTON, give me an exploded view of that prototype SAM."
"Not a genius. Just years of experience at not knowing jack about what I need to do." Bethany flashes Rhodey a grin as she tosses her coffee cup in the trash. "You'll get this. You have time. And a great teacher." She gestures at the screens. "The Stark himself."
"Yeah, yeah," Rhodey mumbles, waving over his shoulder. "All hail the Stark. The Stark is good."
The Stark IS good. Clearly absorbed in his work, Jim walks over to one of the huge screens and pinch-drags to expand the image of a surface-to-air missile.