1964-11-26 - Stumping Mr. Stark
Summary: In which case, Scarlett has a pretty good excuse for it.
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
Theme Song: None
tony rogue 


Found a missing link in the periodic table. Heaviest element known to science. No protons or electrons, falls outside natural patterns exhibited by other elements. It is inert, but can be detected chemically by impeding every reaction in which it is present. One reaction that normally lasts a second took eight days. Doesn't seem to decay. Reorganizes itself and its mass increases each time. Seems to be toxic at any concentration and destorys any productive reaction where it accumulates. I'm calling it administratium (Ad). Wanna see? Call me. - Scarlett

That message sticks to the inside door of the Avengers Mansion. On the off chance a courier doesn't burn the registered, certified letter sent to Stark Industries, it makes it to an inbox. Possibly a paper airplane drops onto the balcony where Tony Stark stares at the world not officially in his demesne. Favourite drinking hole other than his office? It could conceivably be left with a bartender. She is nothing if not exquisitely thorough about her work.

And, quite contentedly, all that remains is to wait.

Maybe not officially in his demesne, no, but unofficially, everyone knows who owns this town, and it's not Bruce Wayne. Damn it. Tony is drinking an afternoon scotch when the letter is delivered, and he takes it to his desk to read. And reread, and read again for good measure. Administratium? I this an (admittedly clever) attempt at a joke? A jab at the insubstantiality of the average administration in regards to viable results? He can see a case for that. But the science is intriguing. So yeah, he calls, letter in hand, scotch on the desk beside him.

Bruce Wayne might insist he does, particularly to that particular redhead. She knows to stay mum on the topic. Administratium is very much a tongue-in-cheek joke meant to act as steely hook for a most elusive fish, one without reasons to socialize at her level — barring knowing her full name, the public one at any rate. Therein things change a good deal, given the scattershot arrangements of social and financial prowess. Either way or another, the call leads to a girl probably in the midst of something active. Music plays in the background; not Christmas. Unless somehow rebellious folk rock penned by Greenwich Village ingenues counts. Dismiss pleasantries and it comes down to this: "I think I've found something interesting. It's misbehaving. Bounces like nothing, won't respond to a magnet, didn't melt on the stove or under microwaves."

"I think I'd like to see it," Tony says, not one to mince words, himself. Not unless it amuses him. Science is the far bigger draw. "How does something technically exist without protons or electrons? Matter is defined by those things, you know what? Tell me about it when I get a looksee, which is when?"

He's recently seen magic, honest to goodness magic, as in a sorcerer flinging spells. He finds the prospects of this stuff less buyable. Everything that has mass has electrons and protons. He has to see it. That's all there is to it. "And where? I can be there in ten." Driving like he does, he's probably not wrong.

She could ask him how Asgard exists, how a great many odd things transpire. In the end, the laughter lingers on the air between them as a prospect, and a promise, something to link together. "Probably best if I come to you. Subtlety being my strong suit," Scarlett replies, "showing up on your doorstep will hardly draw all that much scrutiny. Unless you would rather not? I understand, either way, no hard feelings about that."

It pays to be polite to benefactors.

"No, you can bring it to me," Tony says. So agreeable. "I'll be down in the lab. Everyone's gone for the day anyway. I think. If not, they will be." Sometimes Banner works late, but he can't really tell her there's a scientist who turns into a green rage monster who might be hanging out, but don't mind him.

Luckily, this isn't a night when Banner's there. Tony takes off the nice silk jacket of his suit, rolls up his sleeves and waits, pacing. First magic and now this? He's going to have to adapt fast, and he knows it. Matterless matter. No one else is doing that.

The lab serves as a secure enough location, one away from the public eye and probably under the spotlight of one too many cameras. Give Scarlett time to navigate the transportation system from Greenwich Village to the depths of the Financial District on a Sunday and Tony may have to give her a bit of largesse for negotiating the red lights peppered around the southern tip of Manhattan, but she does get there.

A twist, a turn, and the first thing she does is present her credentials if necessary to the guard and wait to be ushered down. Nothing out of the ordinary sets her apart, not the green winter coat nor the high boots, nor the leather gloves that are finally seasonable and no one questions.

There are areas of the lab where cameras, for whatever reason, just don't seem to pick up any footage. Tony can be discreet. The apparent lack of social discretion is employed like a mother bird dragging a wing to make it seem broken, thus luring the predator away from the real prize: what's inside the nest. Here? Things are secret.

The guard is expecting a Scarlett 'chick in a hippy get up' and has been instructed to let her in. It's nice to be expected. Tony, in his short wait, has already found something to fiddle with, some do-dad he's cobbled together. He sets it aside, and as he awaits Scarlett's approach, the thing tumbles away of its own accord on a myriad of little mechanical legs.

So much for hippy get-up, but perhaps in a world of Brioni suits, Italian loafers, and titanium exoskeletons, the proper leather coat and high boots on a wedge heel do stand out. So might a circlet of holly berries. One thing or another leads on, and off she ventures into the depths of Stark Industries carrying administratium hidden somewhere on her person in a nest of completely inert oil, that inside a glass vial. So thrilling! She has her own excitement.

The redhead's easy stride leaves little sound behind her, if only for the light gait that transcends easy motion. "Good evening, Mr. Stark."

The circlet of holly berries is what guides the guard in his search for a hippy. Nice-looking hippy, too. The guard is extra friendly for a pretty girl as he tells her how to get where she's going.

Tony captures the reeling gadget and turns it off, then sets it down again. "Scarlett, is it?" he says. "We've met, briefly, I think." Those scotch-induced blackouts don't help with things like this. "Anyway, welcome to Stark labs. It's good to see you." He glances at her, head to toe. Somewhere on her person is the substance he wants to get his hands on. Still, it's rude to start frisking the guests. "So what've you got for me?"

Scarlett inclines her head, and the flicker of amusement spills over her expression. Whatever calculations spin in her head are largely concealed. "Yes, you offered me a ride in your car roughly two weeks back when we discussed the possibilities of creating an improved limb for a person of our mutual acquaintance and that of Captain Rogers." Perhaps memory deserves a good swirl, snowglobe thoughts flying in the air, rotating, settling on a delicate skein of flecked possibilities. "Thank you. Better here than the mansion. Truth told, the architecture is lovely, the walls have ears, and there's a certain chill to all those empty rooms."

Is a large skyscraper any different?

Tony snaps his fingers and says, "Exactly. I meant before that, but sure, I've been drawing up some prototypes, and I plan on getting in touch with him to see if I can get a full blown schematic." Hard to nail Buckster down, though. That's all right, Tony's hard to pin down, too.

He grins, then, and it takes years off him. There are hints there, why he might be a hit with the ladies. That elusive warmth, genuine humor instead of a glib flip of the tongue. "You should play around in the mansion's lab sometime, though. It's got all the neat toys. Then again, you can't get much better than here."

He leads her to a cleared off space, with microscopes and various machines that measure various things on standby. "So. No protons or electrons? What is there, then?"

"Smart," Scarlett agrees. She holds out her hand, gloved in slick kidskin, buttery soft and supple to the touch. "I had no idea whether you enjoy tea or coffee, so regret not to bring you something as a hospitality gift. Tell you what, would you show me the finer points of the lab down there so I do not end up spontaneously combusting or causing the girders to melt?"

Mischief may be her calling card, an easy weight to bear upon slim shoulders and burning in her bright eyes. "Ah, no protons or electrons is entirely a matter of a joke for me. I have no means of examining something like this at the molecular level hidden away in my closet among the other wonders and treasures." Flashing eyes, feline emerald, coalesce a saturated luminosity when she laughs. Oh, the warmth that Tony natively wields as a weapon and a shield she responds to in kind, effortlessly sparring on a mat of psychological intent. "It is, at least, a metal. I can tell you that much."

The chain around her neck breaks away effortlessly, the magnet pulling free. Always wise with someone of her rough lifestyle, and shows the glass vial hanging from a pendant loop. Inside rolls around a silvery-gilt lozenge of sorts. "This." More than a couple grams, that's for certain.

Tony wags a finger at Scarlett and says, "Don't scare me like that." He wouldn't even entertain the idea if not for the magic show he's been privy to. What else exists out there besides the hard science he swears by? Oh, to get his hands on something magic, though, to tear it apart, see how it works, learn, understand.

Still, a new metal? He'll take it. It's a relief, honestly. On a day like today, he's not up to gates and energies and trying to look superior in front of a man who can mold reality to his will. Exhausting stuff.

He takes the offered vial, and he holds it up to the light. "It's light," he comments off the bat. "Interesting." With a wry smile, he adds, "Don't worry about the girders. The only thing not combustion-proof down here are the glassware and the people." Maybe an exaggeration, but the place does look sturdy. "Doesn't react, you said?" he adds. Without waiting for an answer, he goes to unstop the vial. He wants to see with his hands.

Scare someone like what? The question raises her eyebrows, the auburn arch leaving an open query. "Upon what, self-combustion? Difficult, not impossible, though the disaster it would entail would be high even for me." Scarlett's fingers skate through her braids, not dismissing the red bright drops seated in a torrent of fire. "You look troubled. Discover a theorem you couldn't solve or a bad contract?" The corner of her mouth curves into the vague intimation of laughter without sound.

"Light. Tactile. Carries a current like you wouldn't believe. I shocked my fingers something fierce even trying," she says, rueful. "It heats up evenly and absorbs cold well enough. I couldn't nick it with a knife, it doesn't react to acid and forget trying to make it float. In short, I have absolutely no idea of what it is. Reactivity of zero to near everything, including fluorine."

Tony gives Scarlett a look. A theorem he couldn't solve? That would be an interesting first experience. Trying to form even a hypothesis for what he's seen is proving difficult enough. "It's nothing," he says. One thing he figured out all by his lonesome: if not everyone knows this stuff exists, there's probably a damn good reason, ergo: keep it under wraps. He smiles then, winks. See? Nothing.

He plucks the lozenge of strange metal from the vial and sets the vial aside, mindful not to spill the oil. He turns the piece of metal over in his hand, and for a little while, he's that kid full of wonder again, for whom the universe was one fascinating, unraveling mystery after another. A man addicted to discovery who knows almost everything there is to know in his field. Talk about cruel fate.

"Let me…" He wanders toward a spectrometer. "This isn't behaving. I like it." And he prepares it for a read on the machine. That'll at least tell him a little something about protons and electrons.

Lonesome discoveries and mysteries abound. Alas, her middle name is curiosity, her watch word subtlety and inquiry. The dangers of self-discovery go elsewhere, truly, and leave her chasing the trail until coming to a conclusion most times.

The oil itself is nothing to speak of, merely mineral oil, and assuredly unremarkable in any way or form. She picked it due to the low volatility and little else. Mustn't shatter the glass for the ingot contained therein. The universe is fascinating and she would agree, if Tony ever expressed that. Twin points of wonder, them. Her legs cross as she twirls around neatly, seeking a spot to sit. "I dislike things which behave. Give me a race, a car chase through Europe, tight corners and sharp turns any day of the week. Give me a purpose and fine reason for living rather than sitting comfortably. Not for me a long, dull afternoon. It and I agree, I think."

Tony looks up and favors Scarlett with another one of those warm, rare and real smiles. "A girl after my own heart," he says. Then he fusses happily with the spectrometer, feeding it all the information it wants. He doesn't put the metal in it though, not yet. "That takes time to get results. Let's do the basic stuff first," he says. And he putters. Oh, he is a putterer. Alas, not the world's greatest communicator. "I'll just…" And he's doing it before he describes what he's doing. In this case, just going over what Scarlett has already told him. It's not magnetic, non-reactive.

"Where did you find this, anyway?" he asks. "This didn't come out of some weird alien meteorite, did it?" A man can sound hopeful, right?

Rainbow lines don't match up with very much at all, of course, those narrow beams hardly read in stars or regular everyday metal meals. Her shoulders leap a notch at the praise and reflect it right back, watching Tony's every move through the lens of serene regard, rather than amped up madness. Fascination cannot be helped, to watch an auteur in his principal studio in motion. "It's a peculiar substance. Weighs nigh on nothing, at least the way I should imagine it would. Lighter than aluminum, isn't it? I found it by chance, really. One of those chance oddities, like someone finds antiques worth a few thousand dollars for ten bucks at a store."

"Much lighter than aluminum," Tony says. "Do you have more of it than this? I'm going to want to find out melting point, tensile strength, and other things that are going to mangle this sample. I don't want to use all you've got." He must destroy it. Lovingly, tenderly, and writing shit down all the way.

There are a few cursory things he does and writes down. Nonferrous, stronger than… well, just about everything he can throw at it. "It soaks up vibrations like you wouldn't believe," he says. "They just disappear." The wheels are turning in his mind. A suit made of this stuff. Mmm.

"Only this, so far," Scarlett says, shaking her head. "Acquiring any further might be nigh to impossible, unless somehow determining the source. Its provenance is beyond me other than to tell you it was internationally shipped for a market, probably through Cairo, and from there conceivably anywhere." The redhead's international connections on the black market are not something she typically recalls, much less talks about, though the absent shape in her memory has such a distinctive curve, she can fill in a few blanks. "That, however, I would desire greatly to preserve. At least as much as possible. Given there's more than a troy ounce, I have a hope, right?" Given the going rate per gram is enough to make Steve a multimillionaire many times over, let's not consider that, Tony.

Her fingers skim up against her hairline, teasing a braid. "It drinks vibrations? That makes sense why the bounce was so off. I tried to figure out how. Can you forge it? Shape it? Walking around with an ingot isn't doing me a whole lot of good."

"If you know of a seller," Tony says, "I know someone keen to buy." He flashes Scarlett a smile, then looks down at the small amount held in his fingers. "If it can be turned into this? It can be forged and shaped. If you let me melt it down, I'll turn it into something nice for you."

Grudgingly, he places the sample into the spectrometer. That'll take awhile to process, showing him in the end that there's very little outgassing for a spectrum to be perceived. "So I'll write up what I find out and get it back to you as soon as I find out what there is to find out. Melting it down will help." And will be thoroughly satisfying.

Scarlett inclines her head, giving a subtle nod. "Let me see what I can do, though whatever outcomes happen, I cannot promise a great deal. Something like californium or non-radioactive excitement like that may be hard to acquire. Do you think it's experimental, an alloy?" Her questions lavish a certain degree of uncertainty borne of the results she cannot see, hidden in the Stark looking glass. His is the crystal ball to divine a technological future, a seer to consult and leaves to sort through in hopes of understanding. "Melting it down will not bother me. I can give you exact proportions for what I need it to be. Deadline is simple. Eighteenth of December."

"Sure," Tony says, "I'll make some time." More like he'll forget everything else he's doing until he's torn this apart and reformed it into whatever Scarlett wants. "If it is experimental, someone just hit the jackpot," he says. "If it's an alloy, the spectrometer will tell us what it's made of." He offers her a smile. "If you find anything else rare and fascinating, please feel free to give me a call again."

"I do rather like bringing you the odd, unexpected bits of life. Watch me scroung up everything useless for the diamonds among dross." Scarlett inclines her head. "Your earlier project might well incorporate some of that. All things said and done, though, do you have a piece of paper? I can give you an accurate measurement that way, easier than having to plunge my hand into some newfangled gizmo that wants to measure the span of a knuckle a certain way or try to amputate said digit." Please, no amputations!

"Believe it or not, there's common paper even here," Tony says. Actually, the paper he offers her is smoother than normal paper, fewer particulates to kick up in the air. He offers it over along with a pen, which no doubt has some sort of space-age ink. "No mutilations. It looks bad on my record." He glances off after the self-crawling gadget he made earlier. "Though,, hey, if the worst happens, I can set you up with something."

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