“So, we probably shouldn’t tell anyone that we managed to build small spacecraft with a warp drive. That would be a bad idea. That would be a bad idea, right?”
“It’s not really a warp drive, though. And yes, it would be a bad idea.”
“A very bad idea, actually. Wait, you two aren’t really planning on flying that thing, are you?”
Jane and Tony look at Bruce.
“Of course not.”
“Wow,” Bruce says, taking off his glasses and making a show of cleaning them as he stares them down, “you are really bad liars.”
Of course, there’s more to the story.
There's always more to the story.
It starts out as a bit of joke, and a little bit of a challenge.
It also starts with Asgardian mead and a Star Trek marathon. It starts out with Tony, as Jane is learning all bad ideas do, and his insistence that he could build a warp drive. “It’s like an arc reactor but for a spaceship, Foster. I even built pretty awesome specs for a project back in MIT. Theoretically, I did it. I don’t know why you’re even bothering with wormholes, Jane, just give me a week to figure this out.”
Another thing Jane’s learning about Tony is that he’s not actually being mean to her or trying to insult her work or trying to imply he would have a better understanding of a field he’s not even really dabbled in. That this is his brand of friendship; 90% teasing and getting on your last nerve, 10% being loyal and buying your affection with pretty things. Jane has to remind herself of this lest she dump the bowl of pretzels he’s eating over his head.
She takes a sip of the mead instead. Volstagg came bearing a barrel of it two days ago and Thor decided it meant it was perfect time for a party. Her flat in London was too small and Jane’s never thrown a party in her life. Calling Tony up seemed the best course of action.
Asgardian mead is apparently a great motivator.
In the end, the party ends up being all the unofficial members of the Avengers Initiative, significant others, and Thor’s friends. For a group of just under twenty people Jane should have really expected the property damage. Arm wrestling has never caused fires as far as she’d known, but thank god Pepper was ready for anything and Natasha’s catlike reflexes prevented what had looked like a pretty expensive sculpture from flying out of Stark Tower’s 59th floor.
Which is how they all end up crowded around Tony’s couch watching Star Trek in his entertainment room – it’s on Steve’s list and there are a lot seasons, not to mention series, and Jane’s pretty sure another fire might have started during the discussion process of what series to watch when Sam interrupted saying: “We’re watching them in chronological airing order.” – and it’s between switching disc from the first season of TNG that Tony opens his big mouth.
First of all, Tony is wrong. She’s clearly the better candidate to properly understand how interstellar travel would work in an applicable manner. Hell, she’s already done it. For the most part. Secondly:
“It’s not wormholes. And you’re wrong. And thirdly, I raise your theoretically to actually have accomplished inter dimensional travel.” Jane raises her hand and then frowns when it is not bumped. “Hey, where’s Darcy?” She shakes her lonely fist. From her lap, Thor nuzzles her thigh. Asgardian mead is apparently one of the few things that make him sleepy. Not really a surprise considering how much he drank.
“She headed to bed a few hours ago after the mead quarters.”
Oh that’s right. And Jane, who by all accounts had a good college experience, wonders about how the night ended up like a frat party. She’s pretty sure nobody in this group has even been in frat. Mead, she guesses.
She looks at her hand.
“I have nobody to fist bump me on beating Tony now,” she pouts and slides down against the couch. Thor hmms against her thigh and turn his head, making his stubble brush against her stomach. If she wasn’t so drunk and tired, she’d be horny. She runs her other hand through his hair. His arms tighten around her waist.
“Aww, I’ll fist bump you, Jane,” Rhodey says, leaning across the couch over Natasha’s smirk and Tony’s betrayed face. Jane grins at him.
“Thank you, Rhodey.”
“Thin line, Rhodes,” Tony says, but he’s mostly smiling now, and Jane sticks her tongue out at him. “As for you Foster, those were weird space circumstances and so not the same thing as a warp drive.”
“I could still build one,” she mutters. “An awesome one, which would actually work. Theoretical, my ass.”
“Is that challenge I hear in your tone, Foster?”
Jane should say no, she really should. From where she’s sitting on the floor, she tilts her head back towards the couch and she can see Rhodey shaking his head. Bruce is too. On the other couch Steve and Sam are looking at her and Tony like they’re watching a countdown clock and she’s learned they have pretty good instincts for trouble. Natasha’s face is unreadable, and Clint is drooling where he fell asleep in one of the entertainment chairs. Against her stomach, Thor is, she thinks, saying: careful Jane, but he’s mostly asleep. Next to Jane, Sif looks like she’s willing to fight for her honour in Thor’s stead if what Tony is doing is insulting her. Volstagg, too. Jane’s still getting used to that.
She really should say no.
“You’re on, Stark.”
Tony grins like he’s been given an early Christmas.
Rhodey groans. Natasha immediately turns to Steve and Sam and starts placing bets. Fandral is leaning over to add in his bet. Bruce is shaking his head.
That’s when Pepper walks in and frowns immediately at the look on Tony’s face.
“Tony, what did you do?”
Tony reaches down and ruffles Jane’s hair before jumping up to kiss Pepper’s cheek. “Me and Jane are going to build a warp drive.”
Pepper levels a look a Jane. She doesn’t look mad, just disappointed, which is probably worse. Jane only shrugs. She should probably feel more worried, but she’s feeling pretty confident. What the hell is in Asgardian mead?
The next morning, Jane wakes up, still on the floor of Tony’s entertainment room, with Thor curled around her. Her head hates her but Thor is so comfy. She snuggles in. He’s basically the best blanket ever and sure his bicep is more rock than pillow, but he’s still her new favourite person to sleep on. Turning, she wiggles for a bit more room, and catches sight of a stack of papers and her name on a little folded piece of paper.
She blinks and yes, the note still has her name on it, and she’s noticing the stack of paper has a bunch of tabbies.
Sitting up, she leans back against Thor, snickering when he grumbles and pets his head. He’ll wake up in a minute anyway. She grabs the paper with her name. It’s from Pepper.
Jane, here’s the terms of the contract.
Under it there’s a message from Darcy.
Looks up to par. Also, remind me never to enter bets with Tony.
And then the conversation slams back into her head and she groans. This is why she doesn’t drink. She gets too brave. Eyeing the stack of papers, she grabs it and skim reads the first few pages.
Pepper is very thorough. There’s even medical and life insurance. Which is… smart, when she thinks about it.
Jane leans back against Thor’s stomach and groans again. She needs more sleep. Lying back down, she curls against Thor and buries her face in his neck.
“Jane, love? Is something wrong?”
“I got into a bet with Tony.”
Thor is quiet for a few seconds before he says, “Oh, I see I think I remember some of that,” and kisses her forehead. “I believe it goes without saying I’ll wager on you to win.”
At least something this morning has made her smile. Across the room Clint snorts himself awake. Thor and Jane share a look and laugh.
“A contract, seriously?”
Jane drops the stack of papers, signed and everything; she doesn’t back down from a challenge, ever.
Tony downs the rest of his drink, his eyes twinkling over the rim of his mug.
“Pepper thinks it’s better to be safe than sorry. ‘Bets are binding verbal contracts,’ she says. It’s this whole speech. It’s pretty hot.”
Jane shakes her head. “Yeah, well, I signed it.”
“I knew you would, Foster.”
He stands and extends his hand and this is the worst idea Jane’s ever had in her life, but she also really wants to wipe that smirk off his face. She takes his hand and shakes it. Tony looks way too happy.
“We’ve got a month. Bruce and Darcy, who spoke on your behalf as Pepper drew it up, agreed that a week was clearly the booze talking.”
“But the fact we want to build a warp drive wasn’t?”
“Hey, if anyone can, it’s us, Spock.” He comes around his desk and wraps an arm around her shoulders. Jane rolls her eyes and shrugs him off.
“I’m not Spock.”
“Yeah, too short. Scotty, then.”
“Look who’s talking, buddy.” She gets on her tiptoes just to prove her point. They’re the same height with Jane on her tiptoes. Almost. Tony rolls his eyes but there’s a smirk hiding at the edge of his mouth that he fails to hide.
So according to the contract, they are allowed to pretty much use anything at their disposal to build their warp drive. They can only ask for on planet help from friends and colleagues, which does bum Jane out, as Heimdall is a great resource, but she still has Thor. Jane also gets a lab at Stark Tower, with full access to any supplies she might need. She even gets her own server. Probably Pepper’s way of evening out the playing field. This also means she, Thor, and Darcy are moving in for the month. This is fine with everyone because it’s basically a paid vacation for Darcy, and Steve could really use another sparring partner for Bucky. Jane actually also wants to watch that for scientific reasons -- she’s curious how that metal arm reacts when hit with the hammer -- but also because it’s pretty hot. She watched Thor and Steve spar once. She and Thor had pretty great sex after that.
It’s a good thing Pepper put rules in the contract. Jane is actually grateful because she’s sure Tony would cheat otherwise .
Then again, Jane thinks, stepping into to her sparkling new lab, saying hi to JARVIS (who can’t share with either participant what the other is doing. A command that can only be overridden by Pepper or JARVIS himself if he considers either of them in danger.) and pulling out the Asgardian holodisc Heimdall sent her last month, so would she.
“Yes, Dr. Foster?”
“New file. Name: Going To Kick Tony’s Ass.”
“As you say, Dr. Foster. And may I wish you the best of luck.”
“Thank you, JARVIS.”
So, of course, first thing she does is look through in her old files to find the schematics of the warp drive she thought up back in college. It’s more than a little embarrassing seeing her clearly limited and frankly hilarious theories, considering what she knows now, but more than she expected is surprisingly workable. It’s amazing how science fiction can be so close to science fact. Sometimes all it needs is a push. And maybe a little bit of having an alien crash into your car.
In fact Jane hypothesizes that the Bifrost is a warp factor 6, but she should check on that before she continues. The dimensional shifter didn’t have a warp factor at all, but it did bend space to the point where the idea of warp was useless. For this she’s aiming solid warp factor 3, just to ease into it. They don’t have dilithium crystals but they did have a Tesseract for a while and she’s got some solid readings on it. She’s also pretty sure she could make herself some fakes. She doesn’t actually need the crystals. She just needs something that won’t collapse under the mesons and gamma rays -- she’s definitely going to need Bruce at one point -- that will be in the chamber.
She swivels on her seat, waving her hand around the hologram. She is pretty grateful to Tony for letting her use his system. On the other side of the image, Thor enlarges one edge of her blueprint and shrinks it back down.
“This warp drive seems overly complex. The Bifrost energy doesn’t require such a chamber and are you not attempting to build a similar structure?”
Jane slaps her hands together and collapses the hologram then flicks open a new one.
“Those were my old schematics. These are my new ones,” she enlarges it and lets Thor work his way through it. He’s actually a really great sounding board. “Anyway, most warp drives are meant to be in spaceships.”
He looks at her with the light of a five year old being told he’s getting a puppy in his eyes. “Are you and Tony building one?” His hands are shifting through the prints idly when he stops and shakes his head.
“I don’t think we’re there yet.” She steps up to him and looks at the part of her print he’s highlighted. “But yeah, about the Bifrost. I’m more or less trying to build a power source and drive similar to the Observatory.”
“So at the present time you’d only need to able to show Tony that your warp drive is a feasible design for a spaceship?”
Jane nods slowly, “Yes? Why?” She eyes Thor who’s getting that look in his eyes when he realises that Earth technology isn’t as caught up to Asgard at times.
He walks around the table and slides up behind her, moving their hands across the prints and plucking a few things out, and leaning down to whisper in her ear. “Have I mentioned that in my waiting to see you again I had several interesting conversations with Heimdall about how other alien races travel. I may have even been stuck in a spaceship once or twice.”
Jane turns to look at him and grins. “God I love you.”
He grins and she pulls up the schematics for the old engine drive.
Of course Thor can’t be her alien sounding board the whole time. As he can help her push some of her ideas forward he’s not actually an expert in space travel. She already knows how to manipulate time and space to step through the spaces between dimensions and she knows the mechanics of how to harness the energy of the Bifrost.
Now she needs to somehow marry those two things, as well as build herself a power source, and engine. Easy, really.
Using Arc Energy is clearly her fastest option. She’s been working with Tony on a how to extend the power of Stark Tower’s arc reactor to last a full ten years. In theory, Arc Energy works in the same way and the element Tony discovered should allow for the half life she needs to make the drive work. Figuring out the science of harnessing the energy was actually a lot more simple than she thought it would be. Adapting it to push past its natural barriers and mimic the Observatory’s power source (which is basically a zero point energy source) causes her to blow up half the lab, shattering most of of her screens, and causing two of her computers to blow up. And she burns her hand.
Jane would be disheartened by this, but yesterday they had to evacuate the building because Tony almost leveled an entire floor.
She almost burns down the lab a couple more times when she figures it out. She just needs something strong enough and adaptable enough to hold the energy and recycle it to the point it becomes self-sustaining.
That’s week one.
As luck would have it, Tony seems to have figured out a similar thing.
They run into each other at Steve’s door.
“You do know your boyfriend is the other tall blonde drink of water?”
“So…” he drags the word out for what feels like minute, rocking back on his heels. “Whatcha doing here? Steve forgot to bring back your waffle maker?”
“No. Nothing.” She crosses her arms, “You?”
They stare at each other for a couple more seconds and then point at each other at the same time.
“You’re gonna recruit him to Team Jane!”
“You want the shield!”
“I was not!”
“No I don’t!”
“You know, I don’t know how Thor and Pepper put up with you two, no offense, Jane.”
“It’s okay, Steve,” she says and then starts, turning back to the door, “Steve! Hi!” Jane shifts awkwardly and smiles, also awkwardly, at Steve. He’s staring at them like they’ve both lost their minds and he’s is trying to be polite.
Next to her Tony breezes through his embarrassment like it’s an old friend and mock salutes Steve.
“Hi,” Jane says again. “Um, sorry to-- wait, did I even knock?”
Steve only grins. “You didn’t.”
“Oh.” Jane feels her face flush. “Sorry.”
“Don’t apologise, Foster. We’re here to further science. Cap here should be grateful to help us.”
Steve smirks. “So you’re working together now?”
For some reason that only makes Steve laugh and shake his head. He steps from the doorway, and waves them into his apartment. “Come in, you two. And Tony?”
Jane inwardly fist pumps and sticks her tongue out at Tony. He gives both her and Steve the finger. Steve rolls his eyes.
So again, in theory, vibranium is perfect to build the casing for her drive. The problem is…
It’s expensive as hell and only a very small portion is ever exported from Wakanda. Tony has the connection which is so unfair.
Jane is left with adamantium, which is not a bad option, but also is expensive as hell though less so than vibranium. This would be awesome if the process didn’t almost level the Tower. Again.
Pepper kicks them out of the building and has rented an old abandoned airstrip with warehouses to continue their tests. Tony gives her a portable JARVIS, as he calls it, and they lug in a couple supercomputers and more than a few items Jane is pretty sure are illegal to privately own when they start the building process.
They end up carpooling in the morning and in the afternoon the hour it takes for Happy to drive them. Some days Bruce comes with them and drifts between the warehouses smiling and shaking his head.
Bruce is annoying.
Jane collapses on Thor one night and grumbles as he shifts them around. He was sleeping on his stomach when she decided that yes his back looked like a perfect pillow. Not that the chest is bad, but she likes his shoulder. She grumbles again, and pokes his side because she can hear his smile.
“How was work, love?”
“I hate welding. I wanna hire the dwarves; they were really good at it. Also I hate fiber glass.”
Thor chuckles and she sighs as he drifts his fingers through her hair and gently massages her head. “They would have helped; you enamoured them greatly.”
Jane hums, sleepily, and then remembers. She pokes Thor in the ribs again. “I need your help tomorrow. Heavy lifting.”
“And see if you can get Steve to come. Lots of heavy lifting.”
Thor laughs. “Tony gets very annoyed when he sees us coming to help you.”
Jane tries not to grin and fails. She shrugs instead. It causes her to snuggle deeper into Thor, who rubs his hand between her shoulders.
“He has robots and suits to help him with all his heavy lifting: I should get the two guys with super strength to help with mine.”
“Fair enough, love.” She feels Thor kiss the top of her head and she in turn nuzzles her nose against his collarbone and kisses his jaw. And really it is only fair, after all, Tony doesn’t have the same science background she has or the experience in it, but Jane isn’t an engineer. She taught herself to build her own machines, but it doesn’t come easy to her, even with her dainty fingers.
She really could have used the dwarves help, she thinks sleepily. Theirs or Tony’s.
That’s week two.
Week three starts off okay. She’s got more than the basics of the drive down. The energy tests are holding, the building is coming along and then:
Jane and Tony run their tests at the exact same time and blow up half the airstrip.
Tony is unharmed, for the most part, as he’d been in his suit at the time.
Jane only makes it because the suit is pretty fast and the shielding held up for those precious seconds it took to Tony to stabilize himself in midair and scoop her up. He lands them on the unburnt part of the airstrip and they watch the Stark Industries fire trucks that have been stationed around the strip come in and put out the fires.
They both sigh.
Tony pops off his helmet and pulls a powerbar from one of the arm compartments. He breaks it in half and offers half to Jane. She hates powerbars but she takes a big bite out of it. It’s banana. It’s super gross and very chewy. She likes her Pop Tarts better.
“The energy field didn’t hold up.”
“My casing didn’t either.”
Tony says the command that allows the suit to open up and he steps out of it, leaving the suit like a silent guardian over them, and sits down. Jane joins him. The fire trucks have dealt with most of the fire. Now there’s just clouds of billowing smoke over what used to be their warehouses.
“So what now, Foster?”
Jane shrugs. “I usually drink my Sadness Margaritas and work through the hangover.”
Tony laughs. “You would have done great in MIT.”
“I went to Culver because my dad was on staff. Don’t tell Bruce, but I had him for a class.”
“Yeah, it was good class.”
Thor and Pepper worry and keep close to them when they get back. Bruce shakes his head. Steve asks them if they’re okay and then shakes his head too. Darcy smacks Jane on the arm and hugs Tony for saving her. Sam tells them they were damn stupid and starts mixing Jane’s margaritas for her.
Jane thinks Sam’s got the right of it. He’s also an angel.
She goes to sleep half drunk and totally exhausted, but only ends up sleeping for a few hours because she wakes up and it’s there. The answer. Sam was so right. They were damn stupid.
Jane climbs over Thor and leaves their borrowed room in the Tower to go down to her old lab. All the data has been saved and she brings up her latest work. She’s reworking and restructuring the whole thing when she feels Thor come up behind her.
“I figured it out. Well, sort of. It wasn’t exactly my idea.”
Thor cocks his brow at her but lets her explain her idea. After he looks at her plans hovering around them and smiles. “You did figure it out.”
She leans forward, bisecting the hologram, and kisses him.
“Now I have to go wake up Tony.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t before.”
“Pepper scares me.”
Thor laughs, but nods seriously. Pepper would scare Odin. Jane loves Pepper.
Tony ambles in, hair wild, and two coffees in hand. He hands Jane one. He’s really not the worst.
“You rang, Foster?”
“Steve was right.”
Tony groan and falls back onto a stool. “Why do you have to hurt me like that?”
Jane rolls her eyes. “Shut up. And look, he was right. We should have been working together weeks ago.” She waves towards her holodesk and says, “JARVIS please open the file Going To Kick Tony’s Ass.”
“Nice name,” Tony snorts into his coffee.
Jane ignores him and brings up the new schematics.
Tony promptly shuts up. She smirks.
He looks over the files for the next ten minutes, giving Jane time to finish her coffee in peace. He goes to take a sip of his when he frowns, blinks down at his cup and realises he’s finished his coffee during the time he’s been looking at what she’s come up with.
“First, how did you get my files?”
“I told JARVIS what I was doing and he made me copies.”
Tony puts his hand over his heart and slumps his entire body. “The betrayal.”
“My apologies, sir, but Ms. Foster had some very convincing arguments.”
Jane grins as winningly as she can.
“I bet.” He hmms for a couple of second and then takes a deep breath. “Well, Foster, you figured it out.”
“We did, technically, we just didn’t know we did.”
“I would have never thought to put the work together.”
Jane shifts the hologram around. “I had to rework some of your stuff, it wasn’t bad, but…”
“I’m no astrophysicist, I can admit it. It’s called character growth.”
“Yeah and I’m no engineer. I can figure out the basics of it, but some of your stuff really helped too.”
“You humble me, Foster.”
Jane smiles and stares at the new design. It will work and not just in theory, that she’s almost sure of. They’d have to build it and test it but the simulations she ran in the early morning were pretty positive. It’s a warp drive powered not by crystals. Though she’s pretty sure the crystal from Asgard’s bridge would further the stability between the vibranium and reactor. She’d have to ask Thor about where they can get some of that.
No, this warp drive is powered by her repurposed knowledge of how to manipulate and mimic the Bifrost energy through Arc Energy. It’s haphazard and beautiful. She loves it.
“So, wanna build it?”
Tony sticks out his hand. “Sure thing, Scotty.”
Jane shakes it. “I’m never gonna call you Kirk.”
Tony pouts. “No one ever does.”
Then week four starts.
It’s in the middle of it that Jane pauses and looks up from where she’s doing some rewiring.
“Do you think Bruce knew?”
Tony stops from where he’s lowering the new casing and turns to her. “What do you mean?”
“He was going between the old warehouses” -- they’re in a brand new one -- “he saw what we were doing. Do you think he knew that they were compatible designs?”
Tony’s brow furrows and she can almost see his thought process. The movie reel playing in his head of Bruce walking in and out of the warehouses and smirking. She imagines it looks very much like the one playing in her head right now.
They look at each other and know they’re right.
“What a fucking bastard.”
It takes a full 48 hours of them working non-stop to build the final design and test it. It holds up.
There’s pride, there’s happiness, they toast to Gene Roddenberry and then Tony says:
“Wait, I have to show you something.”
Jane hasn’t slept in 55 hours and all she wants to do is shower and cuddle with Thor but she finds herself saying:
Tony is a horrible influence, clearly. She was wrong to blame the mead all those weeks ago.
“That’s a spaceship, Tony. Why in the hell would you ever build a spaceship?”
“Jumbo Quintjet prototype.”
“Same fucking thing.”
“Wanna see if the drive takes, anyway?”
“I totally understand why Pepper adds in that life insurance now.”
“This time I think it’d be better if we brought back up.”
“Yeah, good idea.”
Now we’re back to the beginning.
Bruce is shaking his head at them, but he’s also smiling and Jane can see the five year old in his eyes that wants to just travel across the stars. Jane feels there’s a similar five year old in her eyes. They managed to make the drive fit alongside the engine neatly enough and it’s still haphazard but it will fly, it will cross the light barrier, Jane’s sure of it.
Jane bites her lip. “I could get coordinates from Heimdall for star maps. Thor could fly it. Hell, I think so could Natasha.”
Tony turns to Jane and grins. “Never go back to London, Foster. So… you know anything about artificial gravity?”
Jane grins slowly.