“Tony, no. We talked about this. In fact, he’s coming in at nine, and that’s in ten minutes. Be nice.”
That’s Virginia “Pepper” Potts on the phone, the giant tortoise on which Stark Industries rest upon. And he is Anthony Edward Stark, said company’s CEO who is also currently nursing a fantastic headache that he swears, is not related to late nights or alcohol. He’s on his best behaviour recently. He exercises, keeps to a six-hour-sleep every other day, chugs fruits-and-vege smoothies by the gallons…
“Pepper, I don’t have time to babysit visitors. Have Bambi show him around. Or the intern, I don’t care. I just don’t –”
“If Phil says it’s necessary, then it’s necessary.”
“It’s ‘Agent’ for you, and do you realise how ridiculous this sound? Iron Man and his bodyguard?”
“He’s not a bodyguard –”
“You sent me his CV. I’m looking at it right now.” With one flick of his wrist, Tony pulls a page from his desktop to the hologram pad in the middle of his office. “I’m not nitpicking, but Pepper, I expect better of you. This thing is missing a name, a birth date –”
“They’re on the first page, you must’ve skipped all the preamble. Again.”
“Says here he’s uh, spent a year in art school, undergone basic military training, experienced in piloting, military strategy – OK, need I remind you that we’re a Fortune 500 tech company, not the CIA – he was with the Army before he becomes an… intelligence operative.” Tony squints at the image. “Let me zoom into that. Yes, I kid you not. He was – is he still an intelligence operative?”
“If you mean does he belong to the same organisation as Phil, yes he does.”
“He’s on SHIELD’s payroll. That’s all you need to say, Pep.”
“Don’t make things difficult for him, Tony.”
“I’m turning him away.”
Pepper’s sigh echoes in the room. Even the holographic CV seems to waver with it.
“At least grant him the thirty-minute appointment you promised him.”
“Let the Human Resource handle the interview –”
“It’s not a job interview.”
Tony kneads the side of his head with his knuckles. It’s a thirty-minute one-on-one appointment with an accompanying CV – how is this not a connotation of a job interview?
“I’d love to give you more, Tony, I do, but this is all I get from Phil. Happy is here, so I really have to hang up now. Go back to the first page. At least know his name. In the meantime, take care of yourself, all right?”
The click! in his earpiece goes off like a cannon in the middle of the night.
Well, one glance at the first page won’t do much harm, will it? Besides the fact that it’s going to be a complete waste of time. But he can’t go around calling the guy “Agent of SHIELD”…
The name is Steve Rogers. Born July 4, 1920.
Tony swipes the file away and brings up a blueprint of a fuel cell. New guy is hopeless if he can’t spot an effing typo in his CV.
Steve has always associated the family name “Stark” with futuristic technology. A bloodline of visionaries. Howard’s son definitely doesn’t disappoint. The ultramodern Stark Tower stands out in the vista like a sore thumb, looming over the rest of New York City almost tauntingly, “Yo, catch up!”
By the way, Phil says flying cars don’t exist yet.
Howard had a thing for drama and flamboyance. That… probably is genetic. The internal décor of Stark Industries’ foyer is minimalistic, surfaces sleek and metallic with the occasional wooden accentuation to soften the edges up. The wow factor lies in all the virtual pop-ups that are meant to either – Steve can only guess – entertain guests while they wait for their appointments, educate them, or simply to impress.
Or maybe all three. Howard never settled for one-at-a-time. Just look at the number of dames he’d fondued with.
In a place like this, always expect the unexpected.
“Good morning,” Steve approaches the holograph of a red-headed, young and pretty AI that has just greeted him, “I have a nine o’clock with Mr Stark?”
“Mr Stark is ready for you. Step through the gate, please.”
Steve has seen one of these archways in SHIELD’s training facilities. He walks through it and waits for two seconds as the computer does some computations – he knows they’re checking for contrabands, weapons, any abnormal physiological signs – and when the bulb goes green, the holograph continues, “The elevator will take you direct to the office. Have a good day, Captain.”
There must be close to a thousand employees housed in the Tower. He looks down from the see-through wall of the elevator and sees the canteen on the twelfth floor packed full with people. People walking around with tablets and devices in their ears and over their eyes. And all he’s spoken to so far is an AI at the foyer, and ah, let's not forget the AI on the phone when he called to confirm if the appointment is still valid.
Steve thought it’d be nice if he could talk to a flesh-and-blood staff or two, just to have a handle of who Anthony Stark is from the grass roots point of view.
The CEO office is, surprisingly, pretty low key. Not even a name plaque on the frosted glass door.
Steve looks around for a secretary, or a PA, because he is not going to just knock on that door and announce himself as is.
“State your name and your business, Sir,” a cool, machinic voice intones.
The door is talking to him.
“Steve Rogers. I’ve a nine o’clock appointment with Mr Stark.”
“Please come in.”
The far end of the office has floor-to-ceiling glass windows for walls, and from this height, New York City is but a flat terrain with miniature buildings sprinkled around in blocks. A man with familiar dark, wavy hair in a three-piece suit stands over it with his back facing Steve.
The resemblance is uncanny.
“Good morning, Mr Stark.”
He turns around. Yet it becomes immediately clear that Anthony Stark – in the way those brown eyes meeting his are sharp and searching, warm with years of practiced professionalism – is nothing like his father.
“Captain, pleasure meeting you.”