It was an exceptionally bright morning when Howard Stark walked into his dining room to see his wife drinking coffee and reading the paper. She looked as put together and beautiful as she always did, he mused, and he loved her more every second than the last.
“Well, it’s about time you showed your face down here.” Maria teased without looking up from her paper.
Sitting in his seat and waiting for Jarvis to put his coffee in front of him, he frowned. “This is the same time I come down every day, dear.”
“Yes, but today you have an event at work.” She reminded, folding the paper and staring him down.
He paused for a moment, trying to remember what event could be happening that he could have forgotten. Then it hit him. “That school tour? Obie is handling that.”
She shook her head and sighed. “I told my friend on the school board that you would lead the tour. These children are there to learn from you, not Obidiah.”
Howard grunted but did not reply. He did not have time in his day to walk around his company with a bunch of whiny high school students who did not want to be there anyway, other than the fact that it got them out of school for a day. He could tell Maria that he would do it, but she knew him well enough to know that would be a lie. Either way, Obidiah would end up with the tour, and Howard would immerse himself into his latest project.
“…and this is the new section of our company.” Obidiah’s voice rang out among the dozen teenagers in front of him. “This is where we put into action our newest ideas and theories and see if they will actually work.”
He looked around the group and noticed two girls in the back. One was looking around in awe; the other had a notebook out and was scribbling something on the paper while biting her lip.
“You know, we don’t take too kindly to people stealing our ideas…even if it is by a teenager.”
The whole group fell silent, but the girl continued to write. The teacher turned to walk over, but Obidiah waved her off. Instead, he walked over and stood in front of the girl. “May I?”
Suddenly realizing they caught her, the girl looked up at him and tightened her lips together. Without waiting for an answer, he took the notebook from her hands and stared at it. He was silent for a moment before looking up at the board behind them and then back down at the paper.
“Is the world ending? If Obidiah has stopped talking, something must be wrong.”
The class turned and watched in shock as Howard Stark himself walked over to join the group. He hadn’t planned on interacting with the group, but when he saw Obie in front of one of the girls, he had to investigate.
Without changing his facial expression, Obie passed the notebook to his partner and shook his head. “It seems this girl is nearly as smart as our scientists, Stark.”
Whispers broke out among the students, and the girl looked down, backing away slightly. “I don’t think-”
Howard studied the notebook, and everyone watched as he took her pen and scribbled on the page as well. After many silent minutes, he looked up and grinned. “What’s your name, kid?”
Howard smirked. “Kara what?”
“Well, Kara Ashman, you just saved all of us! That equation could have gotten us killed! What were we thinking? Someone should be fired for this…” He mumbled and walked away, notebook still in hand. “Hey kid, mind if I keep this? Obie, get her a new one on the way out.”
With that, he was on the other side of the room again, frantically copying the notes he had in front of him. Kara, in her embarrassment, was now looking down and trying to blend in with the crowd.
“She just told off Howard Stark!”
“The charity case is at it again, …looking for attention.”
“He’s probably going to sue her for stealing his work.”
“Maybe she’ll go to prison. It’s not like she has anywhere to live now anyway.”
Feeling another hand in her own, Kara looked up to see her best friend smiling at her. “Come on, Kara. Let’s see the computer sciences division. You know that is your favorite.”
Kara smiled and nodded. “Thanks, Kit.”
As the group walked away for the second half of their tour, no one saw Howard look up and follow the girl with his eyes. It took a lot to steal Howard Stark’s attention, but this girl had it…and now he just had to figure out what to do with it.
It was dark out when Obidiah finally stepped into Howard’s office and helped himself to a glass of scotch. “I finally got the press to calm down regarding that minor explosion at the mining project. You’re welcome, by the way.”
Howard shook his head. “Thanks. They can handle a small fire. We’ve had worse.”
“Do I really have to dig it out of you?” Obie asked. “What was that with the girl today?”
Looking up, Howard threw his papers on his desk. “I have run that equation a million times, and not once did I look at it in the way she did. Once I saw it in front of me, I realized that we could have had a real problem on our hands. That girl…I don’t know how she figured it out.”
“So she can figure out some equations…so what? Tony was doing that at five years old.” Obidiah defended.
Howard shook his head. “This was different. She didn’t just figure out the answer. She rewrote the equation and broke it down. Breaking it down showed the chemical compounds in ways I never thought of, Obie. She didn’t just copy the problem; she fixed it.”
“Well, that’s not something you hear every day.” Obie agreed.
“Exactly. That’s why I want her.”
Obie stopped, his glass almost to his mouth, and stared at his friend. “What do you mean you want her? She’s a teenager. She can’t exactly come to work for you.”
Howard nodded and sat behind his desk. “I know that. But I found a loophole.”
After a minute of silence, Obidiah sighed. “Are you going to tell me, or do I have to guess?”
“I did some digging and found out that she’s a ward of the state.”
It took less than a minute for the answer to make its way into Obie’s brain. “Howard…”
“We’re going to adopt her. I haven’t spoken to Maria yet, but she has always talked about wanting another child, especially a girl. This way, she’ll be around all the time, so I can have her check the equations, and this won’t ever happen again! This is a huge asset for us, Obie!” Howard ranted.
Obidiah watched him carefully. He had known Howard for many years now and could see that there was something he wasn’t telling him. He also knew that there would be no use in trying to talk him out of his idea. Instead, he raised his glass and took out a cigar. “Well, then, congratulations Stark. It’s a girl.”