1963-06-14 -The House that Stark Built
Summary: Howard Stark comes to Sousa to discuss a new initiative. Gauntlets are thrown
Related: None
Theme Song: None
howard sousa 


It's a bright and sunny day at the SHIELD offices this fine morning. The sun is shining the birds singing in the trees and all about the office people just seem to be in something of a good mood. There's a general upbeat feeling in the air that just makes life feel good at the moment.

Sousa had only been out of the office for a moment or maybe more, but in that time Howard has managed to make his way into the office, and is standing back to the door looking out over the sunny days down bellow. His own hands folded back behind himself as he waits.

Sousa has a week's worth of work to catch up on, thanks to his emergency international trip. He's back at the office and was just returning from filling his coffee mug when he catches sight of Howard in his office. Limping back over to his desk, he sets his coffee mug down, sets his crutch to the side before sitting down, "To what do I owe this surprise visit? I'm impressed you got through Hildie's watch. I'm going to have to talk to her about that." She's new and he's Howard Stark. It is what it is.

In the middle of the desk is a large pitch black folder with a bright red label on it. It's the kind of document that doesn't get brought out for anything, and likely Sousa would have only even know the existence of that security level since his becoming a department head. Across the label in that blood red stamp is the designation Alpha Protocol.

Howard holds a small cigarette in between his index finger and thumb behind his back slowly smouldering away. There's a pause before him as he turns around his expression a serious one as he brings the cigarette up to the corner of his mouth. "Close the door." He states before pressing down on his watch, a dull white noise filling the air as he looks to Sousa.

Sousa is already sitting down! "Really?" is asked incredulously of Howard before he pushes himself back to his feet, grabs his crutch, and crosses the distance to close the door. "Can I sit down now or am I going to be running laps next?" That's when he really sees the folder on his desk, "Stark, what is this." He's not being thrown out of his office because…well, a number of reasons, but he's not in the mood to be playing games. Limping back over to the desk, but not yet sitting, he looks at the stamp on the folder, "What is Alpha Protocol? What are you scheming up? And does Peggy know?"

"Yes." Howard offers his expression still stern. He takes a moment to knock off the ash on the end of his cigarette tapping it into the center of the trey. "Alpha Protocol officially doesn't exist." He starts off moving over. "Its name never leaves this room, do I make myself clear Sousa." He's not speaking as the bumbling Howard, or the ladies man, the schmoozer or the asshole he's speaking as former director of SHIELD. There's a booming authority to his voice that likely wouldn't have been seen by many.

"We are standing on the edge of a threat greater then any single threat we have faced before." He moves closer leaving the cigarette in the corner of his mouth. "We are on the edge of life itself being eradicated and subjugated on this planet." A slight pause. "Normal police won't cut it, and neither will SHIELD, not for long, we need to prepare Sousa, and I want you on the search team."

Even though he's given permission to sit, Howard's tone tells him that he might want to stay standing for now. He's actually -not- wearing the new prosthetic to work…it's the old one and the old crutch. Sousa limps his way to the window to lean against the ledge, half-sitting, half-leaning there. "Crystal clear, Howard," is offered. No snarky comments, no chiding that of course he can keep secrets, he's been with this organization for almost 20 years!

"Do you really think that it's reaching that point? That we could be annihilated so easily? I agree that normal police can't handle some of this. That's why we're here." Although they're all 'normals' as far as anyone knows.

"Search team for what?"

Howard pauses for a long moment looking down towards Sousa as he puts a single hand onto the black file. His own voice firm and confident. "If I thought for one second that we weren't I wouldn't be activating the protocol.." Howard's hand slowly drifts back up to the corner of his mouth cigarette clutched between two fingers as he touches it up to the lips. He takes a long slow drag from the cancer stick looking Sousa in the eyes. "We need Heroes." He places his hands down onto the table spread slightly apart from one another a quick moment to just knock some of the ash off into the tray "We're facing bigger threats every day, and even if I'm wrong we need a contingency plan."

Smoke rolls out from the corner of his mouth with a firm expression across Howard's face. "I am asking you, not as Howard Stark, but as former director of SHIELD to stand next to me on this project, to join the search committee for men and women that can genuinely make the world a better place. These super humans would be under the full supervision, and guidance of a SHIELD board."

Sousa remains leaning against the window ledge, his forearm resting on the crutch, "What, like Captain America? He's dead, Howard…" Sousa met him once…in passing. More like he saw him. Dark eyes look to the folder on his desk and then back at the other, "We have Heroes, Stark. Lots of them. They came back from Europe in 1945. They came back from Korea in '53. They're pounding the streets every day trying to make sure the cities and towns are safe. Why are your 'heroes' any better than these men and women who are putting their lives at risk for what they believe in?"

Maybe the term put the former Army officer on the defensive.

"Even if you gather some sort of group together, what makes you think they're going to listen to us? Are we cutting them paychecks? Giving them something they need?"

"Don't you talk to me for one second like I wasn't there." Howard snaps back at him for a moment. That look in his eyes something he'd repressed since he was in the war himself. "I was in the trenches of Verdun, saw the first use of mustard gas on the front, flew my ass through hell and high water in the war the second time around and risked my ass more then once in Korea." His hand tightens around that cigarette as he takes a long slow drag from it. "They aren't better Sousa, they're more powerful. Men who can shoot lasers out of their eyes, turn into beasts twice their size, who can fly on their own."

It seems that now more then ever people have forgotten or rather just never learned of his own time unofficially on the front lines during the recent wars, and it's clear from the look on his face even as he regains composure that he's not happy about it. He doesn't yell about it but his voice certainly didn't sound too happy. "We look through their personality files and play to their sensibilities. Loyalty, honor, scientific advancement. We find what makes them tick, then use it to bring them together."

Sousa remains calm, watching as Stark explodes just a little bit. He's obviously watching for something…maybe this is it? "Do you forget, Stark, that I head up the Supernatural Investigations department? We're not always chasing ghosts and reports of UFO's here." Quite the contrary. "What you're asking…what you're proposing is going to put a huge strain on SHIELD's resources…resources that are already nearing the breaking point." He can't talk about what Peggy mentioned…not yet. "I know you're used to having unlimited funds and all, Stark, but we don't. We also have limited manpower. Potentially bringing people on…people who have powers we don't understand, people whose loyalties we are unsure of, and giving them secrets?" He shakes his head.

"Look, I get what you want to do and having seen what I've seen, I don't entirely disagree. But I think that we need to be much more methodical. This isn't an interview for someone to fill a mailroom position."

Howard turns away for a moment walking back over towards the window. That cigarette now hanging out from the corner of his mouth as he looks back outside hands falling down into his pockets. He looks to the water far bellow on the side of the island, the rooftops far on the other side of the water. A small cloud of smoke rolls out from the corner of his mouth.

He remains silent for a long moment just keeping to himself and his thoughts before offering. "Check the file, if you want the existing suggestions." His own expression flat as he runs through a few things in his head. Time having changed some things quite a bit more then others.

"Are these your suggestions?" Or was someone else in on this too? Not that completely distrusts Stark…he knows that the man's heart is mostly in the right place. Grabbing the crutch again, he limps over to the desk to sit on the edge so he can take the folder and skim through it. "This is all before 1960." But it is information.

"Are you suggesting that we start tracking these people down and interviewing them? Having them show us their powers? I'm not entirely sure how that will go over."

"Alpha protocol has been in development since the summer of '43 in some fashion or another" Starks own face reflecting back at him as he looks towards Sousa behind him using nothing more then those window reflections. His stance tall and businesslike as he goes over details. "It's hardly a new Idea, I simply took over overseeing the project when we became SHIELD." There's another pause for a long drag of his cigarette. "What I'm suggesting is a minimal number of agents be assigned to wait for them to show their powers, and then we send the right agent for the job in order to bring them into the fold."

Sousa continues to flip through the file, his brows creasing some at what he reads. This will definitely have to be looked at more closely. "Two. You can have two agents. You get to have them observe no more than two of these each. I want written documentation…visual, if they can film it, of what they can do and how they can control it." He glances back up at Howard, "Then, you and I…-and-, not -or-, will meet with them elsewhere. Final decision is made mutually after thorough investigation into their background. I'm talking school reports, police records, I want to know what they eat for breakfast."

Howard turns around with his hands still in his pockets. "Sousa, you seem to be misunderstanding me here. This is a courtesy no one ordered me to bring you into the fold, no one demanded I give you this offer." He takes a few steps closer tapping the side of his cigarette in order to let the ash fall down into the pocket. "Your division isn't the only one who is going to be involved in this project." He pauses for a moment. "I'm willing to accept you only providing two agents from your department, but I don't want to have to pull rank. Technically I was never demoted from director. Peggy simply stepped up to the plate to fill the position left by my death. Remember that."

"Then why -did- you bring me in, Howard? Why didn't you go above my head and usurp agents from my department? Why -did- you bring me this file," Which he has now seen in its majority even if he hasn't completely studied it. Sousa straightens, leaning on the crutch for balance, "If you spread this out amongst the entire organization, you will have no cohesiveness. It'll be opinion versus opinion and frankly, nothing will get done." He seems calm as he states this, "You have no rank, Stark. You were presumed dead. You don't get your position back just because you came back to life. And if Director Carter says otherwise, only -then- will I listen to it."

He takes a couple of steps closer to Howard. They may not be the most even or the most graceful, but they have purpose. "-I- outrank -you-. And if you want this done, you do it -my- way." He holds his stance for a moment before stepping aside, "You can bring in other agents, but they don't get final decision. You alone don't get final decision. You want to bring someone here for this, you ask first. You may have helped build this house, Stark, but you don't live here anymore."

Stark is silent for a long moment looking Sousa in the eyes. He's about to say something an agreement or not before that one phrase is passed from one man to the next. Something about it sets him off just that slight bit more then it should have. This might not have been his house anymore. His hand curls up into a fist.

There's barely a pause from the moment Sousa finishes Howard standing there one moment and the next a single strike out of the blue fast and just meant to give a bit of a shock. He isn't as fast as he was back in the war but damn if he hasn't wanted to do this for a very long time in the back of his mind. His own knuckles coming off from the side Sousa is leaning on his crutch with.

It's a quick blow, it might miss altogether but he still makes the effort none the less. Even if it connects it's not going to do much in the way of genuine damage more just a moment of anger released after years of build up. He'd done his best to be cordial before, but with everything that happened everything he'd lost and everyone giving him that same spiel about not belonging anywhere anymore he REALLY needed this.

The strike was fast and completely unexpected. Sousa never figured Stark to be the physical type, so he didn't see the punch coming. His head turns with the impact and he rocks on his feet, but he doesn't lose his balance. A hand lifts to press at his jaw, but he maintains eye contact with the scientist. "Are you done?" His hands close on the handle of his crutch as if in preparation for the scuffle to escalate.

He knows his place in the organization and he knows what needs to be done with it. If Howard disagrees, he can go above him. In fact, Sousa almost expects that.

"I'll have my two agents report to you in the morning along with their instructions as to who to track. If you need me, personally, to go observe one of your potentials here," he nods to the folder, "I need at least a day's notice."

Back to business as usual. Or so he hopes.

Howard shakes out his hand after the strike. He didn't manage to have very much impact on the blow, but it did something of a number to sting his hand. "Ouch" A slight pause as he takes another drag from his cigarette. "You have a hard face." Trying to get his hand to stop feeling quite so numb from the strike. It'd been quite a while since he'd just outright tried to punch someone. Usually he had the bullwhip or a pistol for dealing with rough situations.

He looks down to his hand a quick moment shaking it out before stuffing it right back into his pocket. A silent look right into Sousa's eyes before he adds. "Don't send them before noon." The anger just fading somewhat as that felt very much needed from a personal standpoint though it's there and gone in a flash. His hand still really stings. Honestly he hadn't felt that much sting from a punch since he was going head to head on the back of a German biplane with that musclebound freak of a Nazi in Egypt. "I have a few other people I need to speak with first."

"Have one of the secretaries get you some ice," is offered. There is no smirk, no gloating. "It's my rugged good looks," is also offered as an explanation with apparent earnestness. "I'll make sure they report to you after lunch. I also expect a list of your chosen agents on my desk by then." Howard came to him about it…wanted him on the team. He needs to be kept aware of what's going on. If he can't control Howard, and he knows he can't, he's going to demand some level of procedure.

"Had me swooning since day one." Howard offers before making his way back towards the door, hands securely back in his pockets. He takes a pause at the thresh-hold to turn back off the white noise generator in his wristwatch. "I'm still not letting you chose the team name." As he makes a motion of checking the time. His free hand moving to open the door so that he can head back out. They had a long road ahead of them, and he needed something to drink.

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