Unlikely Singularities – Chapter 23


Build God, Then We’ll Talk

October 24, 2016

Darcy stared around the empty suite of offices. Tony was bouncing on the balls of his feet, one hand in his pants pocket and the other tapping against his shirt in a rhythm that might have been Jon Bonham’s drum solo from Moby Dick. It might have also been binary instructions to Friday to upgrade the Tower to Moving Castle status. It was hard to tell with Tony.

Like an onion,” Darcy muttered to herself.

What’s that, Lewis?”

This seems kind of big for just me,” she deflected. And it was too large for one person. Tony had taken her to a recently vacated section on the seventy-sixth floor. The frosted glass doors between the elevator lobby and the vestibule declared it to be Ranus Insurance Investigations, although the building directory information stated that company had moved out almost four months previous. She shared the floor with a psychiatry practice, a real estate agency for the Tower and some of Tony’s other lease properties, another empty space, and a blocked off area that took up half of seventy-six and was labeled as ‘unfinished’.

Eh, you can outsource to SI for now, but eventually you’ll want staff. Especially if you and Pep are serious about this whole non-profit…thing.”

SI needs the legal distance and the Avengers need the independence, Tony,” Darcy murmured, but she wasn’t really paying any attention. They’d already had the argument about how a new, fully independent Avengers should be structured, and to her surprise, Darcy’s suggestion of a stand-alone foundation had met with Pepper’s immediate support. Apparently Stark Industries had its hands full and then some dealing with not just the legality of superheros, but the requests for aid from countries and individuals as well as cleanup efforts after the superhero-ing was over. Pepper did, as she so eloquently pointed out, have a business to run.

The reception area was shared with the empty offices next door, and it lead into an open space that was presumably intended for cubicles. It was all in a narrow rectangle, with the longer wall arranged into small private offices and a break room, and strategically frosted glass walls to let outside light into the center of the space. The corner conference room had an expensive view of Manhattan. Along the short outside wall were two other doors. Tony headed that way.

Uh-huh, Lewis. So Pepper has decreed, so shall it be. I already have someone, someones? Scheduled to paint and re-carpet and whatever – Friday can talk to you about the details. She’s minimal here – passive monitoring and interaction on this floor – but we can beef up your office if you want. Until then, you can use your StarkPad to communicate with her on secure files and anything else you need. What do you need? Like, staples? Is that a thing that people in offices have? I’m sure they do. And paperclips…or something. We could get you those.” He pulled out his phone and punched a few buttons. “Friday? Order paperclips. Something that says, ‘we’ve arrived, and we won’t take your shit Congress’.”

Gold plated paperclips, added to the inventory request, Boss.”

No, Friday,” Darcy exclaimed. “Definitely not. Regular paperclips are fine.”

And a bar cart,” Tony continued as if no one else had spoken. He had reached the glass doors to the two larger offices and he poked his head into one, his voice echoing weirdly. “Every office needs a bar cart. Or maybe just a bar. Friday, schedule installation of a bar. Full complement. Ooo – and an espresso machine. And snack dispenser. But not the kind with sandwiches. Gross. Something good. You know what I like.”

Yes, Boss.”

No, Boss,” Darcy insisted. She was still trying to wrap her head around the size of the place, but Tony had begun kicking lightly at a reception desk. The whole thing was fronted with stainless steel and built to provide privacy and clearance for the two large offices. It might have also been bulletproof. Actually, once she thought about it, if she had to work in the same building as Tony Stark she might need an espresso machine. And a bulletproof desk. “Er, Friday. Yes to the coffee. No to everything else.”

No. No! This is unacceptable.”

Darcy whirled around, but in the five seconds it had taken her to decide she needed coffee, Tony had disappeared. A shadow moved across the last door along the wall and she followed it.

Absolutely not. This is ridiculous. Too small. Friday, why is this so small? Do people actually work in this environment? Can a desk possibly fit in here? And where would you even put a treadmill? Or a bar cart? Or a holographic projection table? The sofa? No, it won’t do. Friday – let’s work up some plans to blow out this wall. We can push out to the edge of the balcony and-” Whatever else he said was reduced to Charlie Brown’s parents for Darcy as she pulled open the door. The office itself was slightly larger than average, she supposed. Bigger than what any of her professors had but about half the size of Pepper’s office in LA. There was a narrow, partially open door through which she could see a modest private bathroom, score, but that wasn’t what had her mouth hanging open.

The far wall was entirely glass, floor to ceiling, with a door set to one side. It opened onto the largest balcony Darcy had ever seen. Avengers Tower tapered toward the top and had several asymmetrical tiers, like a modern wedding cake, but Darcy had never really thought about how that translated into office space. A clear railing and panels ran in a broad arch, thirty feet at its widest and ten feet where it came closer to the building. The outdoor area was littered with artful planters of greenery, benches, tables, a few sculptures, and the most amazing panorama of Manhattan. Darcy had to put her hand out against the wall to steady herself.

She was really doing this. She was going to be the Executive Director of a multi-million dollar non-profit foundation. She would answer to a Board of Directors made up of some of the most powerful and intelligent individuals in the world. Pepper Potts. Shahid Khan, the Pakistani civil rights activist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Hank Pym. Yeo Fei, CEO of Heyi Corp and, according to Natasha, descended from a powerful and ancient order of metahumans. King T’Challa of Wakanda.

She, Darcy Lewis, was going to mediate what could easily become the single most important international treaty of the twenty-first century.

On paper, at least, Tony Stark – Iron Man – and the other Avengers would be responsible to her. Oh god, I’m responsible for Tony if-one-pool-of-champagne-is-good-two-is-better, sure-let-me-fly-that-bomb-into-space, robot-overlord-what-robot-overlord Stark.

Another wave of dizziness washed over her. This might be a mistake. Darcy was the sarcastic one. The girl who wrote an article for her high school newspaper about removing ‘under God’ from the pledge. The college student who took three minors and nearly failed out of goddamn bowling because she missed the midterm to protest LGBT discrimination in Civil Service interviews. And also missed the final for a Black Keys concert. And also because she hated bowling. She was the purveyor of illegal IDs and minor transcript alterations. Darcy was the intern. The unpaid hanger-on and coffee fetcher. She was the grant writer and paperwork queen. She was a lighthearted drink when things got too serious and a punch to the nuts when things got too gropey. She was a kickass friend, an amazing barista, and a champion Big Sister. She was not a mediator of superheroes.

Suddenly Tony’s face was inches away from hers. He did not touch her, but he was close enough she could see the flecks of green in his brown eyes and smell his aftershave. Musky. Smokey. Eau de Smaug. It was nice in a thousand-dollars-an-ounce kind of way.

Breathe. In. Out. That’s all it is. One breath. Another.” He breathed with her, for once not making jokes, just watching her carefully. She supposed if there was anyone who had experience dealing with overwhelming panic, it would be Tony Stark.

Okay,” she finally managed once her pulse was near normal and her stomach had settled. She felt a little ridiculous. It was her idea, after all. To bust the Accords. To reform the Avengers under new management and an actual plan. With novel honesty. To prepare to save the world. It was a lot of responsibility. But she could do this. She was Darcy fucking Lewis for Thor’s sake. She had tased a god and fought dark elves and flirted with Captain America. She had done honest to Jane science and rocked it. She was a bad ass mofo and this shit was her fucking jam.

Tony,” she said, still looking into his eyes. “This is starting to feel like combination staring contest and May-December rom com. Could you back it up?”

Ew.” Tony shuddered, but didn’t move right away. “Don’t say that Lewis. This is a May-August, May-September rom com at the most. I’m in my prime.”

Darcy could only quote him.