Chapter 1: Betty Ross VS The Receptionist
“Miss Potts?” Pepper jumped, startled out of the endless task of managing Stark Industries. The voice of the front receptionist was as sharp and clear as if she were standing over Pepper’s shoulder, not speaking through Tony’s new and ‘improved’ intercom. Pepper dearly missed the telltale electronic buzzing the old one had. She wanted it back.
“Miss Betty Ross is here, she wants to speak with Mr. Stark.”
“The ask her to make an appointment. Wait, did you just say Betty Ross?”
“Yes, she is quite adamant.”
“Get rid of her.”
“I’m sorry miss Ross, but I’m going to ask you to leave.” The receptionist looked at Betty over the counter as she clicked her manicured nails on the polished granite. Betty disliked the woman more every second. She was cold, efficient and repelling; the first line of defence.
“Dr. Ross. You already asked me to leave, and I already told you I am not going anywhere until I speak with Stark.”
“All visitors must have an appointment.”
“Work something out.”
“Mr. Stark is very busy right now.”
“I’m afraid Mr. Stark is out at the moment.”
“Where is he, then?”
“Somewhere in Africa, I believe.”
Betty shifted her weight, the closest thing to grinding her teeth she allowed herself. Africa likely meant to the receptionist what ‘washing my hair’ meant to girls the world over, nothing but a convenient excuse. If Tony Stark was actually in Africa and not in some opulent office at the top of his tower, she’d repeal her findings on the effects of jazz music on butterfly migration. “I’ll wait.”
“Really Miss Ross, I can hardly allow that. Now please-“
“Doctor Ross. I will not leave.”
“Miss Ross, be reasonable.” The receptionist had gone from annoying to infuriating. She placed her soft hands placatingly on the counter top. Betty hated being placated. She ground her teeth.
“Doctor. My name is not Miss Ross, it’s Dr. Ross. I have the paper in my office to prove it. Now kindly tell me where Tony Stark is before I lose my patience.”
“Miss Ross, remove yourself from the building or you will be removed from it.” The receptionist’s voice turned frigid. Betty was getting angry. That was a bad thing.
“Are you threatening me?” Betty placed her own hands on the counter and leaned in, eyes flashing.
The Evil Receptionist held her ground. “Should I have spoken more plainly, Doctor Ross?” Betty lost it.
Of the two of them, Bruce had more spectacular tantrums than Betty, but he had a major advantage. Betty had always had to express her displeasure from within the confines of her expected role, first as a general's daughter and then as a prominent and professional female academic. Certain behavioral limits were imposed upon her from a very young age. As much as she might like to, she simply could not punch the Secretary in her smug mouth, nor throw the computer across the lobby, nor start screaming at the top of her lungs. Betty also couldn’t turn green and tear the tower in half with her bare hands, more the pity.
Bruce’s anger was defiantly flashier than Betty’s, and a tad more destructive, but Betty was not without her resources. So instead of throwing herself to the floor kicking and screaming like a child, Betty smiled.
The receptionist leaned away, smirk melting to reveal a wary recognition. There was a saying along the lines of ‘don’t poke a sleeping tiger in the eye’, and the irritating woman was beginning to realize her mistake.
Without another word, Betty turn from the desk, soft dark curls whipping around behind her. The sharp click of her heels on the lobby floor, the slight billowing of her clean white lab coat and the startles sputtering of the Evil lady empowered Betty’s righteous anger. She was Dr. Betty Fucking Ross, and she wasn’t going to let the receptionist - or anything else in this god damned tower - keep her from getting what she wanted.
The call button lit obediently beneath her extended finger. She didn’t wait long before the elevator arrived; sleek, efficient and shiny like all Stark tech. Betty smiled once more at the now frantic receptionist, who was now garbling to someone over the phone, before the doors slid shut with barley a click. Betty was going to get some answers. Stark was messing with the wrong girl.
Pepper hung up her phone. She didn’t sigh. She could sigh later. Now it was time to deal with a potential threat. Dr. Betty Ross was the Generals daughter. Not just any General, THE General, and she could not be allowed to wander the premises.
“JARVIS.” Pepper called out, preparing her defence.
Chapter 2: Betty Ross VS The Elevator
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“Yes, Miss Potts.” The automated voice answered immediately. Jarvis was aware of everything inside the tower.
“Dr. Ross is on her way up. Stop her.”
“Yes, Miss Potts.” Jarvis was intelligent. Pepper didn’t feel the need to be more specific.
Betty realized her mistake as soon as the doors closed in front of her. In her haste, she had unintentionally trapped herself in a metal box. She let her head fall against the cool doors with a thunk, even as the box began to rise. Stark controlled the tower; the elevator wouldn’t get her far. She should have taken the stairs.
The machine was quick, sliding past the second floor in seconds. And then it stopped. Betty looked around unsurprised as she considered her options. She could admit defeat and wait for security to let her out and escort her from the building with a polite order to never come back; accept her loss and regroup. Or she could try to hack the elevator to get it moving again, which she probably could do if this wasn’t Stark Tower.
Betty stood absolutely still. She did her best thinking in silence. The elevator was relatively small, able to hold approximately six average adults comfortably, with plenty of head space. There was a narrow shelf and a mirror along one wall, a place to put down extra files or a cup of coffee and for, ahem, guests to check on their appearance, if Tony’s reputation as a, ahem, host was to be believed. A leather chair in the corner and a small potted fern said to visitors ‘we care about your comfort, but you don't belong here’.
There was also, in accordance with fire and emergency response regulations, a hatch in the roof. Betty was an average sized woman, but even if she jumped for it, she would do no more than graze the door. If she had a boost though, she might just make it.
Dragging the chair over to the shelf was harder than it looked. It wasn’t exactly bolted down, but it was weighted to keep it from sliding around. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing; it meant that when Betty went to stand on it, it wouldn’t topple out from under her. She sat for a moment to calculate angles and momentum, and she slid off her purple heels and placed them on the shelf. She hitched her dark grey pencil skirt up around her thighs, not caring about the security cameras that she couldn’t see but were surely there.
After clambering up the chair onto the shelf, Betty could reach enough to open the escape door enough to get a grip on the edge. Like the chair, the hatch was heavy, but not too heavy. An escape no one can open is counterproductive. Betty took a deep breath and prepared to haul herself through the narrow opening when she paused. She looked down at her shiny, strappy, purple stilettos with great deliberation before snapping them up in one hand and tossing them carefully onto the roof. Those were her favorite shoes, and they were expensive.
It took great effort to heave herself after the fancy shoes, but Betty was light and she was strong. Betty took pleasure in pushing her own limits, whether in the lab, in the gym, or on the trails. Finding handhold was the most difficult part.
Once again she stood and looked around, considering her options. If she wasn’t in such a hurry, she might have studied her surrounding in more detail with a curious rather than a calculating eye. This was the first time she had ever been inside an elevator shaft without also being in an elevator. It was dark and claustrophobic, cables and wires running the length of the wall. There was nothing attached to the roof of the box, like Betty had seen on television. Instead there were rails in each corner running upwards out of sight, not dissimilar to the rails of a roller coaster. However there were no clunky wheels here to keep the elevator on track, some kind of well lubricated, tight fitting joints that looked pneumatic in nature held the moving compartment in place. Looking up, the shaft and its inner workings disappeared into darkness; Betty’s only light came from the square opening at her feet.
There was enough of the light to make out the outline of a sliding door, whose base was just about level with Betty’s chest. Not too difficult then, Betty wouldn’t have to jump or climb. Betty worker her fingers into the crack down the middle of the door and pulled. It gave surprisingly easily, and Betty couldn’t help the undignified squawk that escaped her. Light flooded into the small space, the dark pushed upward but still looming.
Betty grabbed her shoes and crawled into the hall, already looking for the stairs.
“Dr. Ross is on the third floor. Shall I initiate lockdown?” JARVIS asked politely.
Pepper considered her options. If she locked down the tower, she’d have to come up with some kind of excuse to tell the personnel and the ever nosy media; not a difficult task, but not something she particularly wanted to do. But any lockdown procedure would immediately come to Tony’s attention, and Pepper really didn’t want to deal with his impulsive behavior. The General was volatile and influential and had to be dealt with diplomatically, if - as she suspected - he was behind Dr. Ross’ visit.
“No. Just slow her down. I’ll deal with her.”
Let me know what you think. Personally, I think it needs some work. And am I the only one who thinks Betty would be right at home on a hiking trail?
Chapter 3: Betty Ross VS The Mall Cop
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Pepper needed to speak to Tony about hiring security personnel. She tried to once, and got laughed off. The tower was more than capable of defending itself and Tony frankly trusted JARVIS way more than any squad of trained monkeys. Pepper insisted, said it was bad for their professional image to have no visible protections.
So Tony hired a guard. One guard. Pepper was not pleased.
The hall where Betty emerged from the elevator was brightly lit with immaculate white walls and a tastefully plain carpet. It was a hall that Betty’s dentist would approve off. The difference between this hallway and the wide open glass and steel filled lobby was uncanny. A chill ran down her spine at the sheer incongruity. She was almost tempted to believe she had been teleported to another building entirely. Seriously, what the hell?
Betty took a moment to acclimatize to the new environment; it was a damn good thing she wasn’t claustrophobic or she would be freaking out. The space felt completely closed in, but looking to either side the pattern of featureless doors and featureless walls and featureless lighting continued into eternity. It did not seem like a space Tony Stark would approve of. Why was it in his tower?
Curiosity welled up inside her. Betty had never been one for leaving stones unturned. She couldn’t resist the unknown. So maybe it had gotten her into trouble a time or two, but who was counting? Green rage monsters not included. She tried the nearest featureless doorknob and peered carefully around the featureless doorframe. Betty snorted a laugh in surprise and amusement.
Inside was a large open space, tables of all shapes and sizes arranged in an haphazard yet pleasing way, areas at either end with bright countertops and glass covered shelves. It wasn’t quite complete, but this was clearly intended to be a cafeteria of sorts. Betty wondered: what kind of mad genius hid an awesome eatery behind a bland façade? She was coming to realize Tony Stark was not the predictably unstable playboy that was written about in the magazines. Tony Starks whims were not predictable at all.
Betty, curiosity assuaged, let the door fall shut again and turned her attention back to the hall. Stark might hid the cafeteria, but betty doubted he would hide the stairs. She picked a direction (left) and made her way down the disconcerting hall. Any just as expected a stairwell came into view. What was unexpected was the slightly overweight and definitely out of shape man puffing his way up the last few steps onto her level.
“You there! Halt!” the man managed between gulps of air. Betty just had to stop, because really, halt? The guard (she could only assume he was a guard, but really?) was dressed in dark pants, a crisp white shirt and proper looking shoes. He had a badge on his shoulder that would have been right at home in a costume shop, and a heavy flashlight clipped to his belt. Halt. Really? Surely Mr. Stark could afford better, but then again…
The guard(?) braced himself agains the wall with one hand and huffed “Mam, I’m here to esc…ha, escort you from the building. Ha…” This was clearly a joke.
Betty laughed. “Really? You think you can?”
The guard turned pink, er…pinker. Oops, Betty hadn’t meant to offend the poor guy. “I’ll have you know that I am a highly trained professional.” Betty’s giggle served to rile the guy up further. “I will you force if I must!” well at least he had caught his breath.
When betty didn’t respond imedieatly to his attempt at intimidation, the guard reached out, grabed her by the wrist and proceeded to drag her towards the exit. Betty wasn’t laughing anymore. She turned her wrist sideways and gave a sharp pull while using her free hand to strike the man’s upper arm.
The lab accident that seemed at once so long ago and far too recent had scared Betty more than she liked to admit. She had never felt so completely helpless in her life, helpless to protect herself, helpless to protect anyone else. Betty decided she did not like to be helpless, so she started training. Not that a red belt in Tae Kwon Do was going to take down the Hulk, but it made her feel better.
The man who was clearly not actually a guard made a noise halfway between shock and pain. Betty felt sorry for him for being both the punch line and the target of a mean joke, but he was standing between her and the rest of the tower. Not for long.
Betty took a stance both casual and practiced, her weight was balanced and her limbs felt light. The man was stupid enough not to recognize a fighter when he saw one and took a clumsy swing. No, Betty was definitely not laughing now. She blocked the punch, stepped in and threw a punch of her own at the chubby man’s midsection, right below his ribcage. He doubled over, wheezing again. Betty brought her knee up to meet the man’s cheekbone.
Fixing her skirt, Betty stepped around the unconscious form. He would be out for a while, and wake up with a magnificent bruise and one hell of a headache, but no permanent damaged had been done to him. Betty had held herself back.
Pepper made plans to hire a properly trained security team with or without Tony’s permission. And she was going to have a conversation with him about appropriate responses and going too far to make a point.
As soon as he got back from Africa.
Sorry for the long wait, if indeed anyone was actually keeping an eye out for updates. Hopefully I'll finish off the story before the next hiatus...