|The Spying Drones|
|What: Two spy drones visit Pepper and Natalia.|
The night is clear, traffic light due to it being mid-week. There is the general hubbub of the city, but nothing out of the ordinary. Well, at first, anyway. There's a small pocket of strangeness, in the vicinity of the Stark parking area.
The air trembles softly, above a parked blue honda civic at the street. It pulses again. And then the air literally peels open, a corkscrew of tension through the fabric of space. Silently, but with a twist of motion, a metallic ball, about the size of a basketball rolls out of nowhere in mid-air, materializing in the swirl, and tumbles once, spun end over end in disarray. It smashes headlong into the rearview mirror on the civic, with a sharp sound of breaking glass (so much for silently..), and putters there a few moments, twisting about, small lights flickering and seven small metal feet dropping out a few inches, before the whole thing moves, dropping towards the ground some, disappearing from general view.
Pepper Potts is on her way home. When she works this late, she's in the habit of NOT insisting on a driver taking her. She knows that she chooses to work ridiculous hours, and it's not fair to expect that of anyone else. Of course, these days, more often than not she doesn't walk home alone. Though that's more because Nat insists on accompanying her than anything else.
As they're leaving the building and starting down the sidewalk, she doesn't even really register the sound of a car windshield shattering somewhere moderately nearby. It's just one of a million other sounds.
Indeed, Natasha does insist on accompanying Pepper when she's out without her driver or any other sort of protection. Maybe it's paranoia, but the Russian tends to categorize it more as pragmatic caution. Pepper's been the focus of too many attempted (and actual) kidnappings and other such potshots over the years for the Avenger not to be just a little wary.
Truthfully, though, often as not she accompany's the new COO simply because they're friends, defacto colleagues, and it's the one way the Agent-cum-PA can ensure the woman actually gets home to some semblance of rest. One might think, given Pepper's recent vacation, Nat might let up on worrying about that. But, then, one would be very wrong, too. Because Nat's well aware of Pepper's habits.
So... what the hell? Another evening stroll down a busy Metropolis street.
Unlike Pepper, however, Natasha does register the sound of the windshield breaking. Because, really, that's part of what she's paid for... though, okay, maybe not specifically by Stark. Even so, 70 or so years of training is hard to resist. Her head turns automatically towards a sound, much like an animal sensing a threat.
Said glass on that honda just seems broken; maybe a passing flying superhero dropped a penny? It happens...! At least the thing didn't have some obnoxious car alarm. However, there's movement along the underside of the car as the ball scurries around the front: half on little legs against the car, half just hovering, curling along the hood, and stops exactly next to a wheel, blending in with the circular metallic finish of the wheel, once it comes to a stop there.
But small lights move around the top: subtle, but a trained eye will pick it out. The top six inch diameter segment lifts upwards an inch or two on a black metal stalk, pivots around with a sparkle of very bright blue (nearly white) light. It's scanning: some sort of round technogizmo drone. It shakes a little to disgouge a bit of glass that was scattered on it's top... glass tinkles to the ground next to it.
Training to notice subtle details is not something Pepper has under her belt. She does see Natasha's attention divert to something nearby and looks at her friend questioningly for a moment before turning to follow her gaze. Of course, she sees nothing unusual, but she's learned to trust the Russian's instincts. "See something?"
"Not sure," the Widow replies, peering towards the parking lot. "I thought I heard breaking glass." The softer sound of the dislodged pieces doesn't reach her ears nearly so well. Her senses aren't all that enhanced, after all. The only thing that might alert her to the strange scanning presence is that flash of light, which is just as likely to appear as a glint of a streetlight flickering on against the metal as anything else. There's no movement that suggests a person moving around out there... which also is no guarantee.
Natasha's nose wrinkles and she looks torn for a moment between going to investigate and staying by her friend. They're technically close enough to the tower that in-house security could handle it, but...
Perhaps it was scanning. Or perhaps taking video for an awesome new youtube channel of street-level gritty shin-high content. Or something else entirely. Regardless, the pivoting stops, and just to the left of where the round orb is located, the air warps, in the same way as before. A churn of air, as if the light was being sucked away into a very dark, churning abyss... and a second drone pops out much the same way the first arrived. And, much like the first one, it lacks grace, and drops like a rock onto the ground, before little feet wiggle out of it, and it's 'hat' raises, the same as the other. They look nearly identical, save that the new one has a black stripe around it's center, and less bits of glass on it. The first drone orients on the other, and they chitter at each other mechanically.
After that small discussion, the striped flies into the air, a sudden fast motion with a whirr, shooting upwards towards a streetlamp (perhaps uncomfortably close to where the women are headed), to hover just above it, masking it's location within the glare of the light. It starts to sweep with it's sensors, flicks of light at the tower, but also directly down at the women, flickers of it's panning blue light here and there on the surfaces of ground, buildings, and everything else. The other stays by the car wheel but shifts into a similar scan mode.
Pepper Potts waits patiently for Natasha to decide... whatever she's debating. Again, the movements around that poor unfortunate little Honda go unnoticed by her, and then she's further distracted by her phone pinging in her bag. Digging the phone out to check it, her eyebrows draw together at the rather confusing text message on the screen from JARVIS. And then she's looking around again as if trying to locate something while angling her phone's screen for Natasha to read.
Natasha glances down at the small screen briefly. Her brows knit. It's enough to settle her debate. She looks around. "Wait here," she decides -- though, really, she'd like to tell Pepper to go back into the lobby and wait there. She starts moving toward the parking lot, now, easing a gun from its hidden holster in the small of her back as she goes. The muzzle is pointed low to the ground, but there's no doubt, now, that the agent is hunting for the source of her unease. She moves along the lengths of cars cautiously, generally in the direction of the first drone.
The striped scanner starts to spin faster, around the same time that Natasha makes a motion. Whether it's coincidence or based on proximity, unclear. The drone by the car doesn't react or move, it simply hovers there, little feet extending just a hair to touch metal tips to the ground. It looks like a strange metallic mini barbecue, sitting like that. So innocently, aside from the slow pivot of the scan.
Pepper Potts nods to Natasha and steps back while looking where she's going to put her back against the wall of Stark Tower. She recognizes when Natasha pulls the pistol from its hiding plact at her back, and can't help but feel so so glad yet again that Fury seemed okay with Nat's staying with Stark Industries. Of course, that thought is immediately followed by a flash of guilt, as she realizes that Natasha sort of usurped Happy's job /at Pepper's insistence/.
When her phone pings in her hand again, Pepper looks at the new message, frowns faintly, and types a reply into the screen.
A mini barbecue with an R2D2 scope isn't really the most subtle of profiles. Particularly not in a parking lot Natasha knows isn't supposed to have that sort of cookware in it. As the agent nears it, she raises her gun slightly, looking around for whomever may be operating it. Seeing no one in close proximity, her next thought is that it's very likely controlled remotely.
Again, that doesn't make her feel better about the situation.
She double taps her ubiquitous earpiece, activating the link to JARVIS, but staying back behind the end of the car while she examines the thing -- just in case it's a motion-sensing IED or something like that.
"JARVIS, I've got an unidentified object in the north parking lot. I need a scan of it. Is there any way you can discern its purpose and origin?" She suspects scanner, yes. She doesn't rule out killer. Gun held in one hand, she's already working a pair of disks out of her belt in case she needs to overload the damned thing with an amped up sting charge.
Pepper Potts reads the texted reply from JARVIS and her eyes go wide, looking toward Natasha, then up at that nearby streetlight. Since she's not wearing an earpiece, she's not privy to what Nat's telling the AI. She considers yelling across that the signal has relocated, but the assassin's movements make her hesitate. She's after something, so... oh boy. Her eyes shift back up toward the street light again, even if doing so completely ruins any chance at night vision she might have had. The one by the wheel seems to pay a lot of attention to sweeping around the car near where Widow is currently located. There's a soft rustling noise, and it pivots to see near Widow's car.... ah! but it's just a plastic bag, that ruffles in the wind and slides along. The drone seems very interested in scanning it anyway. ...Probably not the brightest of technological marvels.
The one above the lamp post doesn't do anything of interest either, aside from some color change, to yellow. It's just rotating it's (now yellow) light. ...at least nothing of real interest, visually. If it's doing something else, it's beyond human senses. Could be practicing for a new gig as a disco ball, though, with the different light patterns.
JARVIS sends Pepper a text with the same information he tells Natasha over the earpiece. "The signals I am detecting are very simple, tight-beam radio transmissions, Miss Romanoff, yet my scans indicate the devices themselves are of a significantly higher level of technology." Yes, JARVIS did just say devices. Plural. "I do not detect any indications of weaponry. Most recent transmission is: HERE I AM. SCAN 75%. NO THREATS FOUND." The last bit does not sound like JARVIS at all. Far more like Joshua from the movie WarGames.
Pepper reads that message, then taps a reply into the phone quickly before looking up at the street light again to try and pick out the device's silhouette. Maybe if they're susceptible to electrical surges... she does have a taser in her purse.
Natasha is no more inclined than Pepper is to leave the devices (!) to complete their scans. She glances around for the other and notes Pepper looking skyward. Her eyes flick toward the top of the street lamp, she being far enough away that she's got a different angle on the light, which keeps her from being blinded. It at least gives her a general idea of where the thing is.
Her immediate attention, however, must return to the hibachi before her. With an expert flick of her wrist, she sends a pair of disks flying towards it, small-but-powerful magnets in them designed to stick them to metallic surfaces and send a high-amp electrical jolt across the surface.
Around the device that's sitting above the lamp post, the air churns: the same teleportation flux that occurred two other times: but this time, blatantly out in the air, not tucked against a car. The light of the lamp leeches into it, shafts of light BENT by the portal, which means it isn't blinding anybody for the moment. Either something is arriving, or something is leaving, via the gap in space. Whatever it is, it'll be the size of a drone. The warping starts to occur just around the same time that the one Natasha is hunting seems to be surprised by having electrical disks attach to it!
The drone by the wheel tumbles once as it tries to use it's little feet to pull at the jolting electrical leads, while it shudders and spasms, beeping loudly in an uneven, panicked way, the top hat clamped downwards closed, pinching off it's scanner's light.
Pepper Potts can't NOT see that... what IS that? But, it gives her a target. With alacrity surprising to probably everyone EXCEPT Natasha, she pulls the taser out of her bag and with a motion like a quickdraw gunslinger fires the little leads at whatever is about to arrive or leave through that... wrinkle in time. Of course, her chances of tazing a STREETLIGHT are probably higher than fifty percent here.
Natasha's been working hard with Pepper, training her ever since she decided to pick up killer new armor. And, let's face it: Tasers are among Natasha's favorite weapons. She respects them thoroughly... which is why she's very careful not to approach that little drone while its still sparking. Though, really, the R2D2 routine is something of a surprise -- for all that the rolling garbage can doesn't quite have the same appendages as the spasmodic hibachi. As she hears Pepper's taser go off, her head snaps around to see the warping light and the movement before it. Automatically, her gun rises.
/Something/ comes out of that rip, about two feet. And it comes out as Pepper lands a beautiful shot on the hovering orb. The portal pulls at the electricity from the tazer, pulls it up into the thing that's squirming out of the sky. It's a metallic... snake? No, looks similar to the leads that help Iron Man get into his Iron Man suit, maybe. A metallic tentacle, that snares the drone, like plucking a cherry out of the air. The electricity crackles onto the drone and the lead, with a bit of feedback and sound: hard to know if there was damage. There's a brief pause, before the drone is jerked through the portal.
The other drone by Natasha suddenly behaves very oddly. Well, more odd, since it's already behaving strange for a drone. It makes little screaming chittery metallic noises, flailing it's legs, rolled over sideways. If it were an animal, it would be suffering, or in a panic.
If it were in Pepper to react to actually getting a hit in on something, she would totally squee. Instead, though, when that ... arm? reaches out of that tear or whatever it is and snags the device she just tazed, all she can do is gasp in unpleasant surprise as her tazer gun is yanked out of her hands. She doesn't have the time or presence of mind to see what her phone just pinged about again.
Natasha watches the tentacle slap out and hisses softly in response. She's inclined to blame Darkseid for this, frankly, given all they've gone through in recent months. Warps in spacetime do seem to be his specialty. Her attention is torn between concern for Pepper's safety and the reality of the drone thrashing some feet away from her. As the taser is ripped from the other woman's hands, Natasha takes two or three steps towards her. But when the portal closes, leaving Pepper largely unharmed, the Russian's makarov sweeps back around toward the squealing basketball. She needs a kill order on that thing. Pronto. She approaches it cautiously, trying to stay out of the way of the flailing appendages and yet still find some sort of kill switch on the thing.
The tendrils from the tazer, severed as the portal collapses roughly, tumble softly to the sidewalk, limp.
The basketball has stopped squealing as much, and started to simply pulse, a red light. Red clearly means 'come give hugs'.
Pepper Potts stays where she is until the portal closes and her tazer falls back onto the sidewalk with a clatter. She steps cautiously forward to retrieve it, planning to bundle up the remains of the leads to recycle. But first, she looks back toward Natasha, wondering what's going on over there. That most recent message from JARVIS is still waiting on her phone.
Natasha's Russian. In Russian, red doesn't mean hugs. Red means... Well, actually, it a very complicated color. But, generally, she figures she's safe in assuming red does not equal good things. Particularly not when the thing stops squealing and starts pulsing.
"JARVIS!" she snaps into her earpiece, "what are your readings?!" She suspects she needs a bomb disposal unit. She doesn't have one, however. Which means she's all she's got.
So, she makes a snap decision, reaches out to grab the thing by it's flexible legs and swing it around like a shot put hammer throw, away from the building, towards a more open space where it's least likely to do more than inconvenient (instead of life and structure threatening) collateral damage. She may not have super strength, but she can toss 300 lbs when she has to. Particularly with adrenaline rushing through her system.
The drone is grabbed, and with the hurling throw, it is flung out into the air, tumbles once, and with a burst, the drone pulses, and partially erupts! Some of the casing flies off in various directions of sharp metal shrapnel as it completes it's destruction. It cracks along the top and side as it collapses on the ground, the remains falling open like a tired burned husk, as limp as the tendrils of the tazer: a smoked and foul-smelling husk of metal and... something else, burned organic matter, it seems.
Something liquidy pools out. And closer investigation will prove that it was not entirely robotic, and there was no AI involved in it's panicked behavior.
Pepper Potts was about to start toward Natasha when she throws an object into the air and it ... kind of explodes. She reflexively flinches back and throws up one hand to protect her face, then when it seems like there's no major destruction about to happen she turns her attention to the Russian again to see if she's okay. "Nat? Are you okay?"
"Yeah," Nat repiles, as the residue rains down. "Yeah, fine. You?" She flips a warding gesture at Pepper, visually warning her to stay back, her gun back at the ready again as she begins approaching the mess. Her eyes narrow at the leakage and the organic matter. The narrowing becomes a wince that gives way to a knotted brow once more. This is not a woman to lament every kill she makes. But, she does want to see just what they're dealing with. Again, to the earpiece. "JARVIS, I need a clean-up crew out here -- hazmat protocols. And warn the Avengers, while you're at it, please." She glances back to Pepper, concern deep in her expression.
Pepper Potts does instantly stop when Natasha gestures for her to stay back, and NOW she thinks to check her phone again. And what she reads is... concerning. All thoughts of going home tonight are gone from her mind, and while she waits and watches the crew from the building come out to collect every last bit of Kaboom the Explodey Hibachi, she offers her phone to Nat to read the last message on it.
Natasha waits until the hazmat team has arrived and set about its work. It's only then that she puts the weapon away and steps back toward Pepper. Like the executive, the Avenger has no further thought of going home, tonight. They can order in, again. And try to figure out this latest mess. She reaches out to take the phone from Pepper, glancing at the text on the screen.
JARVIS's text to Pepper is separated into two sections. The first, from the one by the car, reads: "I AM HERE. NOT SELF DESTRUCT, NO, I FAILED, NO, MASTER." And the second, presumably from the drone that escaped or possibly their controller, reads: "I. SEE. YOU."