Directly after school, Peter was picked up once again by a dark town car containing Happy Hogan. He was a ridiculous bundle of nerves all the way to Stark Tower, unsure of what exactly he was supposed to be doing.
“Um, Happy?” he asked. Happy’s grunt wasn’t a reply but he took it as permission to continue anyway. “Is there like, a place I’m supposed to go, or like… I don’t know, an instruction manual or something?”
“I’ll take you in. You need to have your biometrics in the system anyway.”
“Okay. Thanks I guess.”
“Yes. Please. But, um… why? I mean, I thought you didn’t like me?”
“Unfortunately,” said Happy, “My job description at the moment includes keeping you nice and happy, and since I have been briefed on your inherent teenagerness…”
“Food.” said Peter, finishing the statement for him.
“We should make it quick though. You have an appointment with someone in human resources.” said Happy as he pulled into a convenient McDonald's drive-through.
“Yeah.” said Peter. “Get me like… a hundred nuggets dude. I am starving. Honey mustard for the sauce.”
Somehow even though Peter had specifically asked for a hundred nuggets he was still surprised when Happy ordered a hundred nuggets. Still, he wasn’t going to look a gift nugget in the mouth when he could eat it instead, so he attacked them happily. When they arrived at the tower Peter only had eighteen nuggets left and for almost the first time since he’d gotten his powers he was entirely full. It was… an unfamiliar experience to be entirely without the constant bite of hunger deep in his gut. It was not, however, unpleasant.
After stuffing the remainder of his nuggets into his backpack. Peter followed Happy into the building to the security checkpoint where he was required to submit to a truly enormous number of scans. Apparently FRIDAY liked to be able to tell who you were at all times in at least three different ways. Or maybe it was Happy that wanted that.
Once he was done getting all scanned in (including such measurements as weight distribution while walking and a cheek swab) Happy somehow wordlessly summoned an incredibly peppy woman in a chartreuse skirt suit.
“Hello and welcome to Stark Industries. We’re so glad to have you on the team.” she said. “My name is Celia and I am a personnel coordinator here--my job is to fix things so that everyone here can be at our best. Today, I’ll be showing you around and explaining how things work.”
“Um… thanks.” said Peter, eloquently.
“Great.” said Celia. She started in the direction of the elevators and Peter followed after her. “Our central R&D department--which has many labs located right here in Stark Tower--is organized very differently than a traditional corporate structure. Everyone is assigned to various projects according to their skillset. The project leader can pull employees from anywhere in the department to assist with their project team, and most projects are accomplished with entirely different groups of people, though there are groups that stay together. You are assigned to work directly under Dr. Stark himself on his special projects, but on the days that he doesn’t need you we can add you to the general worker pool. Lots of projects need fresh eyes or a helping hand, and I’m certain you’ll find a lot to do. Interns generally only get short term assignments, so finding someone who needs you for just a few hours will be easy.”
“Cool.” said Peter. “What sorts of projects are there?”
“Loads!” said Celia. “Generally though they’re divided into three types--Research Projects, which consist of pure scientific research, Development Projects, which are where we design and create new products, and Implementation Projects which focus mostly on creating and improving the technology that fabricates our products. You’d be surprised by how many prototypes can’t see the light of day before someone figures out an entirely new way of mass producing it in a cheaper, cleaner fashion.”
“I’m guessing you work on the third then?” asked Peter, noticing her longer explanation.
Celia laughed. “Yes. My job is generally to oversee several projects at once and make sure that they’re getting what they need to succeed while coordinating with other areas of the company. Lot’s of arguing with accounting for more funds, but what can you do? Right now I’m working mostly with a team trying to improve carbon fiber production methods. They’re spinning it out of smoke! The only problem is trying to create a system that can do that en mass.”
“Oh I think I’ve heard of that. There was a paper on it I think, but they could only do it in small batches.”
“Exactly.” said Celia. “The science of it goes over my head, but mostly I just need to make sure they don’t accidentally kill themselves via smoke inhalation. Oh look--we’re here.”
The elevator doors slid open with a ting, and FRIDAY’s voice came out of the ceiling. “63rd Floor: Planning Division Headquarters”
“This is where the process starts,” said Celia. “Anyone can propose a project, and this floor is where the ideas get bounced around and we decide which ones we’re going to do, and the logistics of doing them. Here, come see…”
Over the next hour Peter was taken through the whole R&D process, all the way to the end where Celia pointed out the Intellectual Property Division in the north building, which was a rather large subset of Legal. “I know the whole thing is a little bit overwhelming,” she said at the end while he sat across from her at her desk drinking a soda, “but being managed by an omnipresent AI gives the advantage of being able to ask what to do at any time. FRIDAY will always be able to direct you to where you need to go. Although… shoot.” she stopped talking and rummaged through her desk until she came up with a clear plastic container. Inside it was a tiny white headset scarcely larger than an earbud. “Here. FRIDAY’s mic’s are in most of the tower, but it’s easier for her to understand you if you have one on you. Plus, it means she can talk to you directly. Most of us wear one of these all the time at work.” She moved her mass of curly hair so Peter could see hers in her left ear. “Convenient isn’t it.” she said.
“Yeah, it is.” said Peter. He put his in. “Hello FRIDAY.”
“Hi Peter.” said FRIDAY directly into his ear. He smiled.
Celia grinned at him. “I guess that’s it for today.” she said. “FRIDAY will figure out your schedule and tell you where to go next time you come in.”
“Great.” said Peter. “Thank you for helping me today.”
“Anytime honey,” said Celia. “It’s what they pay me for.”
“Well in that case I’ll see you around.” said Peter.
“I guess you will.” said Celia. “Bye now.”
“Bye” said Peter as he walked away to the elevator. His first day as an Actual Official Stark Intern was complete and he’d never been happier in his life.
Well… maybe when he’d met Mr. Stark for the first time, but still. Pretty dang happy.
The day after his tour, Peter went up to Mr. Stark’s lab and finished integrating everything into the new suit. Then he upgraded a few things he’d been thinking about fixing. Then he puttered around with the functions of the holographic OS that was run on all the lab computers. When he reached a point where he was literally creating a list of Things I’d Like to Build in This Lab, he realized that he really ought to actually work. See, Peter had decided that he was going to do at least an hour of actual intern work for every hour he spent using Mr. Stark’s lab. He didn’t want to just… freeload, and this way he felt like he was giving back, at least a little.
“Hey FRIDAY,” he said, “Do you have any jobs for me?”
“Hmm.” said FRIDAY. “There are several options suited to your skill set. I recommend going to floor 78. Dr. Curtiss has requested assistance with the assembly of several prototype prosthetics. Specifically she requested ‘someone with puny hands who isn’t an idiot.’
Peter bounced up with an ecstatic grin. “Whoa. That’s so cool.” he said.
“Absolutely.” said FRIDAY. “Would you like to read up on the project before you go?”
“Yeah,” said Peter. FRIDAY obligingly pulled up the blueprints, and he looked them over for a good ten minutes before he felt ready to go help. He also asked a lot of questions.
As soon as he thought he had a vague grasp of what was going on, Peter took the elevator down. The doors opened to an enormous robotics laboratory that took up the whole floor and some rather impressive swearing. “Just Fucking FIT TOGETHER already, oh my god. This is ridiculous I didn’t sign up for this shit why the hell… FRIDAY where is the nice tiny person you were going to send me?”
“Mr. Parker has arrived and is ready to assist.” said FRIDAY, smugly.
Dr. Curtiss--for that was who it had to be--whirled around. “Oh thank god.” she said. Then she did a double take upon seeing Peter. “Wait, Fri, did you send me a fucking twelve year old?”
“No,” said FRIDAY calmly. “Mr. Parker is fourteen, and an intern.”
“Hi,” said Peter, waving shyly.
“Oh what the hell, get over here kid.” said Dr. Curtiss.
Peter hopped to it with alacrity, and soon they were assembling the prototype at speed. He wasn’t entirely sure, but Dr. Curtiss seemed generally pleased by his work, so his nerves slowly dissipated. Then he noticed an error in the design and they came back full force.
“Um…” he said. “Uh…”
“Spit it out kid.” said Dr. Curtiss.
Peter sighed “Um, well. I’m not trying to tell you how to do your job, and obviously you’re better at this than me, and like I’m not qualified or anything, but, um, is this supposed to go there because I feel like that’s a little counter-intuitive and also not how a hand works.”
Dr Curtiss stared at the arrangement of tiny servos in the mess of wiring. Then she swore eloquently for half a minute, cursing out the engineers who’d designed that particular piece. At the end she sighed. “This is why we can’t have nice things. FRIDAY pull up the blueprints.”
Once this had been accomplished, she started trying to get everything aligned correctly. Unfortunately, she couldn’t do it without creating an enormous lump sticking out of the side of the hand. She became more and more frustrated and vulgar. Meanwhile, Peter’s hands were twitching. He knew how to fix it and he didn’t want to overstep and… “Ung” he gulped, making a small abortive gesture at the blueprints when she arranged things in a particularly inefficient way.
Dr Curtiss glared at him. “How would you do it then?” she asked. She didn’t seem angry though, just frustrated--and also curious.
Peter put everything to rights in only a few minutes while she looked at him speculatively. Of course, he didn’t handle stares well and began babbling. “I… uh. I think the problem here is that whoever designed this didn’t know a lot about anatomy? Like… they thought ‘hey this is how a hand moves, and then tried to do that without looking at the original system, even though, y’know, hands are already pretty well designed. It’s weird though, because some parts of this are actually really accurate, and brilliant. Like, this segmented wrist system… it’s pretty much just a wrist and that’s super cool. The thumb though… It’s… jacked up dude. Like… that’s not how a thumb works. Or… I think so? I’m not like… a doctor or anything. Um. Sorry.”
“Don’t apologize” said Dr. Curtiss. “At the very least you couldn’t make it worse.”
Peter stared for a couple seconds at the shitty thumb on the prototype. “Yeah. he said. It does suck. Like a lot.”
Dr. Curtiss snorted and then showed him where the spare parts were kept in this area of the lab so they could implement his solution. An hour later they were finished, and a gleaming metal arm sat on the workbench in front of them. “Thanks kid.” she said. “My whole project team missed that. It’ll save us time in the future.”
“Really?” said Peter.
“Yeah.” said Dr. Curtiss. “Before we can even think about sticking this on a person, or even figuring out how to connect it to them, we have to go through tons of these prototypes. We make one, test it, fix the problems in the design, and then make another. Over and over. You fixed that before we could go through that whole process again.”
“Cool.” said Peter. “So do you have, like, a whole giant box of arms?”
“Nah.” said Dr. Curtiss. “This is only version three, so we only have two other ones.”
“But you will have a giant box of arms” said Peter. “So my question stands.”
“I guess.” said Dr. Curtiss. “The testing for this one will be done on Thursday, so the whole team is meeting at around five pm to head back to the drawing board. If your schedule’s free you should come. Who knows, you might notice something else.”
“I don’t know if I’m the best for that. I mean, I only noticed because I got bored in class last week and flipped through a lost anatomy textbook. I’m sure you have someone who knows more than that.”
“Yeah I do, but he doesn’t know enough about engineering to be able to see these sorts of mistakes before they show up in testing. Just show up kid. If nothing else it’ll be a learning experience.”
“If you’re sure.” said Peter. He was nervous though. He felt like he was going to just be useless and let her down if he showed up, but she was a project leader and he was an intern so it really wasn’t his place to complain.
“There’ll be Chinese food. It’ll be fun.” said Dr. Curtiss.
Peter giggled a bit, and then thanked her for the learning opportunity. After that he extracted himself quickly. It was just about time to go home if he wanted to get his homework done and go on patrol.
On Wednesday morning, Peter downloaded all the information he could find via Karen on the prosthetics project and related topics, and ported it onto his kindle. For some reason, despite being anal about phones in class, Midtown Science was rather lax about e-readers, a loophole that Peter exploited as much as he could. During his classes he did his work as quickly as possible and then plowed through the information as fast as he could, which if he did say so himself was pretty fast. By the time school let out, he knew at least the basics of the robotics they were doing, as well as how the programming worked and what obstacles would need to be overcome for it to be a success. He also memorized everything he could find about the human arm. The one problem he found was that the more he learned, the more he thought about the prototype he’d assembled the day before. It wasn’t so horribly complicated that he’d forgotten anything, and his brain wanted to go a million miles an hour on how to make it better, faster, more efficient.
Peter firmly told himself to stop. He did however type up a list of his ideas at lunch, so there was that.
After school, he hopped onto a train in the direction of Stark Tower almost on autopilot. He hadn’t exactly planned to go there but… It was like a siren’s call of science summoning him to revel in its glory. Really, he was powerless to resist. And crime happened more in the late evening anyway, so he didn’t have to patrol until then.
As he walked in the front door he stuffed his earpiece into his ear and was greeted by FRIDAY. He nodded at the receptionists he passed and stepped into the elevator with six other people. They traveled up the building, and the number of people dwindled until it was just him heading towards the top floors that were Mr. Stark’s private sanctuary. A knot of nervous tension (he felt like an impostor, standing there in an elevator with actual Stark Industries scientists when he was just… Peter) released, and when he stepped out into the lab he let out a literal sigh of relief. “Hey, uh, FRIDAY?” he asked. When he’d arrived, he suddenly realized that he was literally invading Mr. Stark’s space. And he didn’t even have a suit reason today so… “When will Mr. Stark get back from his trip?”
“Boss will be landing at LaGuardia airport at 11 pm on Friday evening.”
“Okay. Cool.” said Peter. That meant he had (sort of) free reign of the lab until then. Obviously he wasn’t going to just come in when Mr. Stark was there because… reasons. Until then though. “Can you pull up whatever you have on my Chitauri tracking device? I want to improve it today, since it’s not really that great yet.”
“Of course Peter.” said FRIDAY.
They worked together on the device for an hour and a half. Then FRIDAY randomly interrupted him. “I couldn’t help but notice that you seem to be exhibiting signs of low blood sugar and took the liberty of ordering pizza for you. It will be arriving at the front desk in about two minutes. Do you want to authorize me to send someone up to give it to you, or will you go down to retrieve it yourself?”
“Uh” said Peter. On the one hand, he was starving. On the other, he really didn’t want to freeload off of Mr Stark any more than he already was. At the same time though (was it a third hand?) it would be really impolite to refuse and kind of weird if he just let the pizza sit at the front desk unclaimed. “I’ll go get it, thanks.”
The elevator doors opened, which was FRIDAY’s way of telling him to get a move on.
After he consumed both pizzas, the guilt began weighing on him heavily, until he simply needed to go do something to help before he drowned under it. “Got any work for me?” he said, then paused and realized that he deeply did not want to leave the lab couch. “Maybe something I can do in here?”
“Of course Peter.” said FRIDAY.
That day, no less than eight different projects received feedback they’d requested on problems they were having. Unbeknownst to Peter, all eight sets of comments, improvements, questions, and ideas were stamped ‘P. Parker’. If he had known, he perhaps would have been a bit less confident in his ideas and suggestions. Unfortunately for him, he did not, and so had no problems writing such harsh comments as ‘This hypothesis is working off an incorrect premise. Refer to flagged papers in database for relevant research.’ Much later, an embarrassed Peter would find that all the scientists he had assisted were very impressed with the mysterious P. Parker, if a bit ashamed to be roasted like that by a fourteen year old…
A Selection of Internal Messages from Stark Industries
You remember how I said I got that intern? And you told me it would never last and I had to bribe you to make you sign off on it and promise progress reports to make sure I wasn’t killing the kid? Well now you know, I was right (again). He’s brilliant.
Attached: 12 files
Why did you just send me a picture of a teenager and nine exclamation points. Is there something I should know?
Also--please stop ignoring my texts you dickwad. I’m in PT not dead.
To: JCox, MWhitney, ABranson, PDevaille
Subject: Project feedback
As you well know, our project was on review due to our lack of progress. The good news is that it’s back on. The bad news is that our lack of progress was because we messed up on something that’s apparently obvious. (I still don’t think it was, but fresh eyes see differently so who knows).
Anyway, we now have a new project contributor. FRIDAY says he’s willing to review all major points going forward, so hopefully we won't experience any more major blocks. That said, it was a bit embarrassing to need some New York hotshot to correct an issue from so early in our design process. I think I speak for all of us when I say that moving forward we all want to do better. Next time let’s blow the socks off our new friend,
Now that the issue is solved, it becomes clear that the basic premise of the secondary [read more]