Cover art by: Merideath
"Dr, Hansen, you have twenty nine minutes before your meeting with Vanity Fair on A.I.M.'s aims," Darcy says. The phone is cradled between head and shoulder as she rubs her sore heel under the desk. Her feet always hurt worse on the day after somebody attacked something somewhere. Darcy might not work directly with superheroes but they were definitely good for business.
"For the love of...they aren't calling it that?"
"No idea, but science is the new black. Christine Everhart is sharp though. So, you know, mind your potassiums and quarks."
"Potassium is K on the-"
"Science is not my strong suit."
"Remind me why I hired you to work for AIM?"
"My sparkling personality, fashion sense, and without me you wouldn't have Jane," Darcy says, deadpan. She reaches for the coffee mug perched beside her monitor. The cup has a chibi Thor on it holding up his own tiny coffee cup with cheerful yellow lightning bolts dancing around his head. There is barely any coffee remaining in the bottom of the mug, less than a mouthful, but Darcy chews down on the last gritty bite with a grimace.
"Also your firewalls were shit."
"Worse than SHIELD's."
"Darcy," Maya says.
"And I know Tony Stark is an asshole, and Pepper Potts is a goddess. And I am awesome," she says, mouth spreading in a wide grin. It wasn’t untrue, she was awesome at what she did, even if sometimes (well, most of the time) she wasn’t always sure what exactly the science squad was doing in their warren of labs. Darcy was smarter than she looked, but what she lacked in excess doctorates and degrees she made up for in common sense. It was something that was in rather short supply in scientific and superhero circles.
"Can't argue with that."
“I’m sending you a packet with Everhart’s details,” Darcy says. “And it’s in your box. ”
"Dr Hansen's office, Darcy speaking. How may I help you?"
"Darcy, it's Jane, I-"
"Jane, I know you miss me but I have responsibilities now. I mean, you are the one that was all 'blah, blah, blah, opportunity, vision and dental coverage. And, like, you totally have your own adorable little lab coated squints. Have fun breaking down the universe, play nice, and don't forget the release party tonight."
"This is important, Darcy!"
"As important as when you made intern Ted cry, Jane?"
"I did not make Ted cry."
"The kid hadn't slept for four days and kept mumbling something about a wormhole at the center of every donut, and math gremlins eating all the ones in his laptop."
"The kid is five years older than you are, Darcy."
"What is it that you need Jane?"
"Betty and I need you to locate Helen Cho."
"The Avengers' new Dr Quinn?"
"Never mind. Wouldn't it be easier for you to ask Thor? I mean, shouldn't that be one of the perks for doing the do with the God of Lightning, Fertility, and something about goats?"
"Darcy, please. This project needs..."
"Don't tell me. It's better if I don't know the ins and outs of you ripping time-space a new one."
"That's not how it works, Darce."
"Okay, I'll see what I can do, but it's not like we're best buds and I can just call and invite her out for a carb fest. There are protocols, and you know we're on the outs since Maya poached Betty out from under them."
"You're awesome, you can do this."
"Duh, of course I'm awesome."
Whether or not she could get through to Dr Cho was a different matter altogether.
"Dr Cho is unavailable I’m afraid, Ms Lewis."
"Okay...then I need to talk to the boss."
"I'm sorry, but Mr Stark is..."
"Oh God, no. No no no I want to talk to the actual boss, Ms Potts."
"Ms. Potts is not a part of the Avengers Initiative, Ms Lewis."
"Okay then, what about Ms Hill?" Darcy asks, glad the AI couldn't see her expression.
"Ms Hill is in DC."
"Quit busting my lady balls, J-man. Who is there that I can talk to that doesn't have an ego larger than his bank account?"
"Might I enquire what this is pertaining to?"
"Science," Darcy says hopefully. She's rolling a pencil back and forth between her palms as she talks, eyes flitting between the plastic dinosaur on her desk as it eyes up a Lego Iron Man with a manic gleam in its dull plastic eyes.
"I'm afraid that answer isn't sufficient, Ms Lewis."
"Look, J-man, I just work here and do the mundane human bits that all the ladies of mad science forget to do. They ask for something and I get it. This is what pays for my sweet apartment, affordable car, and keeps my Apple product addiction in check."
"I'm sorry, Ms. Lewis, but I've been instructed not to let AIM talk to the members of the science team unless it is a matter of world security. Is it a matter of world security?"
"Well, does my job security count?"
"I'm afraid not Ms Lewis. Have a pleasant day."
It takes every bit of Darcy's not inconsiderable tech skills, and more days than she wanted, to finally find Dr Cho's cell number. She's in mid cheer, arms waving above her head, when the good doctor picks up on the second ring. "Yisssss....I..er...hello, Dr Cho?"
"Who is this? How did you get my private number?"
"Please, please don't hang up. My name is Darcy Lewis, I work for A.I.M. and I'm calling on behalf of Drs Foster and Ross," Darcy says, crossing her fingers that she sounds like a professional adult and not the broke intern she was a year ago.
Dear god was it only a year ago that she was still eating top ramen and calling Skittles a part of her five-a-day? Okay, so she still had emergency Skittles in her satchel and shoved at the back of her pen drawer.
"Dr Jane Foster?" Helen asks, voice going up an octave or two.
"Scientific American's and Time Magazine's current cover girl, yup," Darcy says. Her eyes sweep over the framed photo on the desk of Jane and Darcy hugging at Darcy's college graduation. She and Jane might not always see eye to eye but Jane was family as far as she was concerned.
"Yes," Helen says. Her voice is a little breathy and the one word answer to a question Darcy hadn't even asked yet, threw Darcy for a loop.
"Um, I didn't ask anything yet?"
"Whatever it is, yes. I have wanted to meet Dr Foster for a long time now. You might say it's a particular dream of mine. ”
"Really?" Darcy asks and mimes slapping herself in the forehead. God she could be such an idiot sometimes.
“So you’re the one that’s been flirting with my AI.”
“Excuse me?” Darcy splutters, sitting up straighter. She wishes to Thor that she hadn't picked up her phone. Answering it was quite possibly the dumbest thing she ever did. Just not the dumbest thing Jane ever did in her quest to change the universe.
“Flirting with my AI.”
“I heard you the first time but I still don’t know what you’re talking about,” Darcy says. Her voice is sweet as sorbitol as her fingers dig into the quilt top, and not the bowl of peanut m&ms at her side. It was nine-thirty on a Saturday night; Darcy was not going to get in the habit of taking work home with her. Nope.
“That’s the game you’re going to play, kid?”
“First of all, I’m not a kid, Mr Stark.”
”Oh very good. You’re quick Darcy Willamina Lewis.”
Ugh, not the middle name.
“Why exactly are you calling me, Mr Stark?”
“I dunno, Lewis, maybe it’s because you are trying to poach my doctor.”
“With all my world dominating powers as personal assistant? Wow, I should probably give myself a raise,” she says, fingers flying across the keyboard. "And extra vacation days."
"I try my best."
"You know SI is hiring."
"Pepper Potts aside, you have nothing to offer me that my current employers, the totally rockin' ladies of science, don't. You know Drs Hansen, Ross, and Foster. The ones that kicked your unfortunately manscaped face off the cover of every significant magazine."
"Buh-bye, Mr Stark, I have a date with Netflix that I'm not going to cancel for you or anyone," Darcy says, cancelling the call with the swipe of her thumb.
"Dr Hansen is in a meeting and I have orders not to disturb her."
"...I heard you blew off Anthony Stark."
"No," Darcy says. She glances longingly at the iced latte sitting on her desk, drops of condensation making alluring trails down the side of the cup.
"Goodbye, Mr Hammer."