- Explicit Sex
- Alternate Universe
- Established Relationship
Warning: Comic book science (set your expectations low. It shouldn’t be a struggle since this is a universe with an arc reactor!)
– – – –
4 July 2012
“Sentinel Rossi,” a familiar female voice called, stopping him as he walked toward Tony’s private elevator.
Sighing, he plastered a pleasant expression on his face and turned around. “Ms. Potts, what can I do for you?” Why was she lurking around late at night on a national holiday?
“A moment of your time if you please. Perhaps we could adjourn to my office?”
“It’s rather late.” He made a show of looking at his watch. It was pushing eleven already. “I’ve got an early start tomorrow.”
“Yes, I’ve noticed you keep rather long hours, though you’re usually in quite a bit before now. I’m surprised you had to work today at all.” Great, she was keeping tabs on him.
“Criminals don’t tend to observe national holidays. There’s pretty much just Christmas for the criminal underbelly.”
She smiled thinly and gestured toward the main elevators. “It will only take a few minutes.”
Dom really didn’t have any reason to talk to Potts other than to keep things peaceful for Tony. He didn’t want to create problems Tony would have to deal with later, so he followed her to the elevator and resolved to suck it up.
As soon as they were inside her office, she gestured for him to sit on the sofa in the lounge area then walked to the wet bar. “Drink?”
“No, thank you.” He didn’t offer anything further. She’d asked to talk to him, so she could just get to the point. He wasn’t going to make small talk.
She brought her drink to the couch, taking a seat at the other end and angling her body toward him. He looked over, but kept his body facing forward.
She took of her brandy. “I haven’t spoken to Tony directly since he left for his trip, though we’ve communicated via email.”
She smiled, but it seemed false. “You may or may not know that Tony and I had disagreement before he left for Japan.”
Dom just arched a single brow.
“I think Tony misunderstood some things and, as a result, you may have a mistaken impression of my view of your relationship with him.”
“I have no impressions, Ms. Potts. Is that all?”
“No, it’s not.” She sighed. “I’m concerned for Tony. He rebounded into a relationship with you and, I confess, I was a little hurt that he took up with someone so seriously, so quickly, but I now just worry about him becoming attached to someone who is going to leave him. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but you will leave, we both know that.”
He just stared at her.
“I can see that I’m upsetting you.”
“Don’t confuse my lack of reaction with me being upset. I’m not going to discuss my relationship with Tony with you. So you can poke at it all you want, but I’m just going to give vague affirmative noises until you get frustrated with me. I don’t know you, and while I’d be happy to get to know anyone Tony wants to introduce me to, he hasn’t made that choice. This feels like an end run around Tony’s wishes, and I’m not going to participate in it beyond superficial politeness. You’re welcome to say what you want to say, but I’m not going to play this game.”
She took a deep breath, her scent-pile laced with frustration. “I may have made some missteps trying to protect Tony, but my only thought is for him. I’ve been taking care of him for years. You’ve known him a month.”
“Taking care of him?” Dom repeated incredulously. “He’s not a puppy or a child.”
“I know that!” She visibly reined herself in. “You misunderstand me.”
“I don’t think I do. But if you actually do care for him, you might consider butting out until you’re certain your motives are about him and not about yourself.”
Her expression hardened. “You don’t know anything about me.”
“Ditto. But anyone looking at this situation objectively wouldn’t trust your motives. So maybe let Rhodes do the heavy lifting when it comes to worrying about Tony. Then maybe you won’t come off quite so much like a jealous ex.”
She jerked back like he’d slapped her, and then her expression went blank. “From the position of Stark Industries, I would greatly appreciate it if you would stop making such a spectacle of your relationship with Tony. We don’t need the PR nightmare you’re causing.” She waved her hand. “With that bear and the subsequent social media fiasco about it.”
“Wow. I thought the adventures of Bubba Bear was trending worldwide in a positive way. Stark Industries by all accounts is getting a ton of publicity out of it and, last I heard, stock prices had taken a bump and pre-sales of the next StarkPhone had maxed out. I’ll concede it’s been a nightmare for me in terms of getting asked for autographs and selfies, hence why I am trying to deflect people’s attention with Bubba.”
He put his hand over his heart. “I’m truly sorry to hear I’ve been such a hardship for Stark Industries. I’ll let Tony know that I’ve taken Stark Industries’ official request to shut down Bubba Bear’s Twitter account under advisement.”
She got to her feet. “When you leave him, and we both know you will, I’ll be the one here picking up the pieces. I’m patient, Sentinel, count on it.”
“I once followed a scent trail over a course of eighteen days and 2400 miles. There’s no one as patient as a sentinel, Ms. Potts, but feel free to do as much waiting around as you like. Makes no difference to me.” He stood up. “Nice pissing contest. Maybe we can do it again some time.” He turned and left her office, not exactly proud that she’d managed to goad him, but he really disliked the way she talked about Tony like he was a child she needed to manage or clean up after.
The minute he was in the elevator, he rubbed his hand over his face. “Seriously, Jarvis, if there’s any way this little game is hurting SI—”
“It is not,” Jarvis said firmly. “Public sentiment about your relationship is generally positive, while reactions to Bubba Bear are overwhelmingly positive. It allows those intrigued by your relationship a focal point.”
“Right.” He blew out a breath. When he’d had the bear delivered to Stark Tower to take up residency on the 83rd floor, he hadn’t considered how much attention it would garner. He’d decided to satisfy the clamor for answers by creating a Twitter account for Bubba Bear and making a joke out of the whole thing. He’d then procured a tiny version of Bubba, called the Mini-B—Bubba’s minion—put him in a replica of the T-shirt Dom had created for Tony shortly after they first met, and then persuaded people he knew and trusted to get touristy pictures of Mini-B all over New York City. He’d then put up a Tweet with the latest photo and a summary of Bubba’s day.
“For however long it lasts, people are entertained and diverted by Bubba Bear’s adventures. Any effect on Stark Industries has been positive. Also, Sir is quite amused by it.”
“And that’s the only opinion that matters.” Dom sighed, letting it go. Tony was subscribed to Bubba’s Twitter account and frequently commented on Bubba’s Tweets.
The doors opened on the 83rd floor and he resolved to only spend a few minutes with the kids because he really needed to get some sleep. This case needed his full attention and energy because they hadn’t yet figured out the reason there was black market uranium running around New York.
His resolve didn’t hold out and he wound up spending more than an hour praising the kids’ latest attempt at hobbies. Some were working out better than others. He had an idea for something new for Dum-E, but he needed to solve his current case so he had time to implement it.
He headed back down to the penthouse to get ready for bed and catch some sleep before he had to get back to the office.
He was barely out of the shower when Jarvis said, “I have Sir on the line for you.”
Dom felt himself relax at just the thought of talk to Tony. “Thanks, Jarvis.”
“So I hear Pepper ambushed you.”
“Jarvis, you snitch,” Dom groused as he flopped on the bed tossing his towel on the floor.
“If you’d wished for me to keep the information from Sir, you would simply have had to ask. Unless it violated any of my existing protocols, I would have acceded to your wishes.”
“You know I wouldn’t ask you to keep anything that happens in his tower from him.” Dom sighed.
“I asked Jarvis to let me know if Pep crossed the line. I think waylaying you practically in the middle of the night qualifies.” Tony sounded beyond irritated.
“I’m not going to violate your privacy by asking him to tell me what was said, but I’d appreciate it if you’d tell me.”
“I honestly don’t know what her agenda was, Tony, because I think I pissed her off and she lost the plot somewhere along the way. But it was something to do with how we both know I’m going to leave you and she’ll still be there to pick up the pieces. I don’t know. She’s lashing out because she’s upset and—” he stopped himself from saying more.
“And?” Tony prompted. When Dom didn’t reply, Tony added, “I’d like to know what else you think is going on.”
Dom huffed and slid under the blankets. “I’m naked and sliding into bed and we could be talking about that. Instead, we’re talking about that bizarre conversation.” He rubbed his hand over his head, causing the damp hair to stand even more on end. “She doesn’t acknowledge your personal agency much at all, Tony. She talks about you like a child she cleans up after.”
“I’m not sure you do. I probably shouldn’t have told her off, but the whole thing is infuriating.”
“I don’t care that you told her off, Dom,” Tony said softly.
“You’re not going to go down that path of how she has cause to think this way are you? Because then I’ll really lose it.”
“No. I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the things you said, and I’m not going to revisit it. Besides, revisiting things is boring.”
Dom snorted and curled around Tony’s pillow. “Don’t worry about this, Tony. It doesn’t matter. Her opinion doesn’t matter. Maybe you guys will be good friends again some day, or maybe you won’t. But there’s nothing you can do about it from where you are.”
“Do you think I should try to fix this?”
“Fix what? You can’t make her heart not be broken, babe. The end of the relationship was the right thing for the both of you, but it doesn’t mean she’s not hurt. That can’t be handwaved away.”
“True, but she’s got a lot of power, and I’m not thrilled with the jealous ex routine considering she’s using company resources to stalk my new lover.”
“Tony, I don’t want… I don’t know. Opinions can be intrusive.”
“I’m seriously asking here.”
“I don’t like the way your CEO and your board treat you, much less the way they order you around. It’s like they think you’re an actual child.”
“And if you were me, what would you do?”
“Reset the power balance? Change the expectations? I don’t know, but they do it because they know they can. They act like you’re childish, which is utterly bizarre to me because they’re judging on certain actions while ignoring all the things that don’t fit their narrative. Look—”
He sat up and blew out a heavy breath. “I had a problem when I first came online with people treating me like I was nothing but a set of enhanced senses. It didn’t seem to matter that I was an exceptional investigator my whole career up to that point—suddenly I was just a nose or some glorified binoculars. It was disconcerting. I didn’t feel like I could afford to put up with it if I wanted to stay in law enforcement.
“I had to fight to hold that line every damn day for several years—I had to make them treat me like an investigator first and a sentinel second. It’s why the Bureau only calls me Agent Rossi. But it did get better. Hell, I wound up with my own unit. I’d like to say it was all roses after that, but it’s wasn’t. I still got tossed cases I shouldn’t have because they thought a sentinel was going to do it better, even if it wasn’t true. I still get asked to set aside cases to go hunt down fugitives or missing kids—I do take the missing kids, but I rarely take the fugitives. And I turn down all cases of property crimes no matter who asks because it’s not my department and if I don’t draw the line somewhere, there will be no line.”
“I need to think on that.”
“It’s… Thank you. It’s good advice, but I need to think about what I want to do with it.” Tony sighed. “Why are you getting home so late?”
“Anything I can do?”
“Just talking to you helps. I miss listening to your heart at night.”
“You listen to my heart?”
“All the time, Tony, all the time.”
– – – –
6 July 2012
“What the hell is this?” Ian lifted some papers laying on a workbench and flapped them at Dom. Their investigation and a promising scent trail had converged at this warehouse, but they were too late for the uranium. They’d found what looked like remnants of some sort of engineering or manufacturing process. Agents were swarming the building, but Dom already knew there was no people in here and definitely no uranium.
Dom moved closer and looked over Ian’s shoulder. “They’re… Are those robots?”
“It sure the hell looks like it. Or close enough that it doesn’t matter. Why the hell would they need uranium?”
“Power source,” Dom murmured, spreading the schematics out, “is the obvious answer for all that it doesn’t make any real sense.”
“Fission reactors, even the smallest of them, are way too big to be an effective power source for a robot.”
“And you can’t make a fusion reactor with uranium.” Ian stood shoulder to shoulder with him, looking at the detailed diagrams. “I can’t make heads nor tails of this, but… Is it three copies of the same thing?”
“No…” Dom went over each set quickly, picking out the differences, pointing them out. “There’s a set with the power assebmly in the head, the chest, and the stomach. I’d guess they were trialing which was most effective or something. I don’t really know. We need an engineer to look these over. They must have bailed quickly, and it concerns me that these were left behind. It makes me think there’s a fourth set. Plus the designs for the actual power source aren’t here.”
“I hope no one has miniaturized a fission reactor.”
“Right.” Dom made a face. “A couple year ago, I would have said it was impossible, but I would have said a stable miniature fusion reactor was impossible too. But then Tony popped up in Afghanistan with one. Actually, I would have said we’d miniaturize a fission reactor long before a fusion one.” He was glad Tony already had security clearance because Dom had a hunch he was going to need to get permission to read Tony in on this. He sure the hell wasn’t going to SHIELD with it, and he didn’t think they had time to vet someone qualified to figure out what these plans had to do with uranium.
“I have no idea. The world has gone fucking crazy. You heard about that shitstorm a few months back in Russia? Some crazy mad scientist they’d managed to keep under wraps unleashed thousands of robot spiders, about the size of your fist, on the Kremlin.”
“I remember but only because it was funny as hell that his power source was for shit and they all went dead around the same time and there was a huge cleanup problem instead of the Kremlin being deconstructed, which was his stated goal.”
Dom snorted. He sort of loved incompetent criminals. While they sometimes caused accidental catastrophes, more often than not, they were just amusing. He looked around. “This is a warehouse; it’s not a factory. None of these components could be machined here. If they built stuff like this here, and it’s not just theoretical, we’ve got more avenues to look into because that’s all specialty stuff.”
Ian drummed his fingers on the bench. “Do you smell all the metal in the air?”
“Yeah.” Most metal products didn’t carry much scent unless you were close to them—though some alloys were stinky and iron definitely had a distinct smell—but metal work created particles in the air that definitely had a traceable scent. “I’m getting gold, tungsten, titanium, and something I’ve not run across before.”
“There’s some nickel in there too.”
Dom rubbed his nose. “Yeah. It’s probably what’s making me want to sneeze.”
Ian drummed his fingers over the prints. “You can’t easily smuggle freaking robots, but what if all the components were made elsewhere and it was all smuggled in at the same time? This would just be the assembly point.”
“Which means we need to go back to the port authority and look for any more irregularities. But, more importantly, if this was all assembled here it’s because they plan to use them here. They’re not going to make a bunch of man-sized robots here just to move them hundreds of miles and risk getting caught at inspection stations.”
Ian’s unimpressed face was almost funny. “How many do you think there are?”
Dom shook his head, looking over the plans. “I have no idea. I need an engineering consult on these plans. Someone who can extrapolate from the amount of nuclear material we know they have and the necessary size of the reactor. But I’d guess…a lot.”
“Jesus.” Ian rubbed his hand over his face. “Any idea what the robots can do? I can see a reactor of whatever type being ideal for a long-lasting power supply, but are these experimental assembly line bots that someone didn’t want to clear for use in the US, or are they a weapon of some kind?”
“Even without understanding everything on these specs, we both know to the answer to that.”
“Yeah. I’m just hoping there’s another reason why I’m smelling Semtex and a host of other chemicals used in the manufacture of high-yield explosives.”
Dom sighed. “You clear the site so we can do a full sensory profile of the building and I’ll get McGuire to issue a threat alert to all agencies and departments in and around New York state. And then I’m going to ask for permission to read in an expert or two.” He turned away and kicked a pile of rags. “Robots. That’s just fucking great.”
– – – –
Dom stopped by Stark Tower rather than heading back to the office. The trail had gone cold, but Ian was out chasing leads with a couple people from Dom’s team. Tony’s lab had the best privacy of any place in the city, so he figured he’d talk to Tony from there. He’d asked Jarvis to get a good time from Tony, and even though it was the middle of the night in Japan, Tony had said any time was fine.
He was glad the kids were up on 83 having fun because he didn’t really have time to talk to them right now. “Privacy protocols, Jarvis,” he said as soon as the lab doors closed behind him.
“I have Sir waiting.”
Tony’s face appeared on the display. He was obviously without a shirt, but he looked like he was sitting at a table.
“Sorry to bother you so late.”
“It’s no bother. I’d rather talk to you than lie here staring at the ceiling, not sleeping. Besides, you rarely bring me into your cases, so I figured it was important.”
“Yeah. I got permission from my AD to read you in on this case, but it’s highly classified.”
“Noted.” Tony’s eyes were narrowed with what looked like concern. Dom hated not being able to really scent and hear Tony. It had been making him more than a little grouchy. Ian had even remarked on how he was like a bear with a sore paw. The bear joke had gone over like a lead balloon.
“The day you left for Japan, routine sweeps of customs warehouse at the port of New Jersey detected traces of gamma radiation.”
“Whoa.” Tony’s eyebrows shot up. “That’s not at all where I expected this to go.”
“They finally found the shipping container that the radiation came from, and in that they found alpha particles.”
“No beta particles?” Tony tapped his pen on his chin.
“How much gamma radiation?”
“Not much in the grand scheme of things.”
“So, probably uranium-235,” Tony concluded.
“That’s where the FBI went, too, because, before it landed on my desk, they cross-referenced shipping manifests and various investigations, and came up with a black-market sale of eight kilos of uranium-235 that Interpol had flagged on behalf of several agencies in Europe.”
“That’s a very specific amount that’s worrying.”
“Well, you know it’s not actually that much, right? If we sold uranium by the gallon, a single US gallon would weigh about 150 pounds, so eight kilos isn’t much in the grand scheme of things.”
“Okay. Not much should be better that a buttload, right?”
“Better than 126 gallons? Absolutely, but eight kilos is unfortunately the exact weight of the pellets in two four-meter nuclear fuel rods. Now, two fuel rods isn’t remotely useful for a nuclear reactor.”
“There’d be hundreds of rods, right?”
“Correct. Your standard nuclear reactor would go through nearly thirty tons of fuel pellets a year. So eight kilos isn’t useful from the general perspective of energy production. Did they track the sale of any uranium-238 or plutonium along with it?”
Dom shook his head. “I checked. Nothing that’s popped in or around what we’re looking at.”
“So we can probably take bomb off the table.”
“We followed some scent trails from the warehouse, not the uranium of course. Yellowcake reeks, but refined uranium dioxide is almost invisible to a sentinel’s nose. So we’re not relying on scent trails to track this stuff down directly. But we did track a security guard who hadn’t been to work in several days and had been in that shipping container. What we found at the end of the scent trail was these plans.” Dom set them on the work table. “Can you scan those, Jarvis?”
Tony’s expression shifted to work mode when he began shifting through the plans. Dom couldn’t see what he was doing, but he knew Tony’s work expression. “You’re worried someone is planning to use the uranium to power these?”
“You tell me. Is it even possible? We’re talking mini fission reactors, right?”
“Yes. Very, very tiny ones. Fission reactors that small aren’t something I’ve even heard of as being in the works. There isn’t really a lot of application for them anyway. You’d have to change over the fuel so often it makes handling the spent fuel canisters a logistical mess.” He hesitated, expression twisting. “I could make one given time and interest. I was never interested because the byproducts of nuclear fission are the opposite of the type of work I want to do. Fusion is the only clean energy solution of the two.
“There’s also the matter that it would be something very lethal just walking around. The smallest fission reactors are often used underwater where there’s no issue of cooling to deal with. You’d have to not care about public safety at all to even consider sticking a fission reactor into something land-based that was mobile.”
“I think that’s probably a given.” Dom sighed.
“There are a couple of others I think are capable of this kind of design.”
“I don’t suppose any of them are local?”
“Reed Richards, but he’s not interested in fission reactors anymore than I am. I’d actually suggest you talk to him. He might have some insight into who else he can point you. Also, he’s there and I’m not, so he might have some idea for how you could find this stuff. I can certainly put you on the right path for where to look for some of these components, however. And Jarvis can do some figurative poking around. There are only a few factories in the world that can machine stuff with precision they’d need for this. Don’t even get me started on the circuit board complexity.” He huffed. “Why couldn’t they have left the power source specs? I suppose that would be too convenient.”
“I actually think there’s a fourth set of plans.”
“Because they readily left three behind?” Tony was back to tapping his pen on his chin. “The head as a repository for the reactor is a no go. Too small and not able to support enough weight. Chest or abdomen is much more likely.”
“Could there be a set that was between the two or combined them?”
“Maybe. Could be they tested out several placement options for the power assembly. I think higher would cause weight distribution issues because a fission reactor, no matter how small, would have to be heavy—and I honestly don’t think you can make it small enough to fit in the specs for this head. And I’m not seeing anything in these plans to account for the weight.” Tony blew out a breath. “Yeah, I’d say these are failed designs. I’m going to text Reed and tell him to fit you in the minute you get clearance to see him. We’re not best buds or anything, but he seems to think he owes me because his team were in Australia during the Battle.” Tony rolled his eyes. “Which is stupid, but I’ll take advantage of it if it gets you the answers you need.”
“Okay. I know he’s done government work before, so I’ll run it by my AD and then call him.”
“Also, I recommend you tell Bruce something. The big guy can’t be harmed by radiation, so…”
“Right.” Dom rubbed the back of his neck. Getting approval to read in Banner would be harder, but he could work on it. If he pitched it as needing someone ready to toss radioactive robots in the ocean, he might be able to get away with it.
Tony pointed his pen at Dom. “Do not get irradiated! I like you the way you are. When I said the sex was nuclear levels of hot, I didn’t ever intend for you to take me literally.”
– – – –
Dom sat across from Reed Richards, not liking the expression on the man’s face. All he’d done was show the scientist the plans, he hadn’t mentioned anything about the uranium.
Finally, Richards pushed the plans back toward Dom. “I recognize the…we’ll call it style of the engineering, for lack of a better word. Victor Von Doom designed those—it’s exactly his style. They’re all mocked up differently for different power supply placement. Did you find the plans for the actual power source?”
“No. We found these when we tracked a guy who worked security at the port of New Jersey. What we were actually looking for was about eight kilograms of refined uranium-235.”
“Victor, you idiot.” Richards rubbed his hand over his face. “He miniaturized a fission reactor.”
“Is he capable of that?”
“Maybe not him, but he employs a lot of scientists who crank out really annoying tech on his behalf. And Victor wouldn’t care about the possible collateral damage if his little reactors were to rupture.”
“How many of these bots could he make with eight kilos of uranium pellets?”
“Well, that’s 800 fuel pellets. Energy equivalencies aren’t the easiest thing to estimate, but approximately five pellets would create enough energy to be comparable to about 85,000 cubic feet of natural gas.”
Dom nearly choked. “Isn’t that enough to run a house for like a year?”
“Moderate-size house, yeah. It’s not clear how many he’d need per bot because it’d depends on whether there are any high-energy weapons involved. The plans aren’t specific about armament.”
“Best guest, Dr. Richards, how many could they make if they have figured out how to miniaturize a fission reactor?”
“Based on the assumption that the bots are for something short-term, meaning they’d be operable for four to six hours after activation, and that they had at least one moderate-yield energy weapon on board… I’d say there’s enough fuel here for about a hundred. But if he’s fueling the weapons separately? He could have enough for four hundred or even eight hundred. It all depends on how long he needs to keep them operational to meet his ends.”
“While the reactor the uranium would fuel is the most challenging aspect from a science perspective, and the acquisition of the uranium the most difficult logistically, after those two pieces, manufacture of the control boards is going to be the most problematic. This is very specialized circuitry work. It’s most likely Victor would have done it where he could prevent questions being asked—which means a lot of these components were probably made in Latveria. The U.S. government keeps an eye on shipments from Latveria, but you might want to look into nations Latveria is allied with as the source of the shipments. He could have routed them through a country we wouldn’t scrutinize too closely.”
– – – –
7 July 2012
“Rossi,” he answered briskly, distracted by the mountain of tip reports he was helping other agents wade through. It was Saturday, but he didn’t expect to be going home before they solved this case. The Fantastic Four were pursuing leads and coordinating with Dom or Ian, but nothing much had come of it yet.
“Agent Rossi, I have Director Holder on the line for you,” the director’s admin said in her oddly flat tone.
Dom sighed, wondering what the director could possibly need that was more important than the case they were working. “I’m moving back to my office now.”
“Rossi,” the director said as soon as the call connected, “why is SHIELD bothering me?”
“Sir, I find SHIELD to generally be a bother. What specifically are they bothering you about?”
Holder sighed. “They’re claiming jurisdiction over your case.”
“I wasn’t aware SHIELD had jurisdiction over anything.”
“That’s a fair point. They don’t in any traditional way. It’s more like they have areas of oversight.”
“And smuggled nuclear material on American soil is in any way one of their areas?”
“Obtuse doesn’t become you, Rossi, though I wore the same mask myself earlier in the day.” Holder laughed. “But there’s a case to be made that freaky robots might be more their bailiwick than ours.”
“Respectfully, sir, SHIELD has proven themselves to be more of a blunt instrument in these matters than any of us are comfortable with. It was their plane, their hardware, their facilitation that shot a nuke at New York. Fury may claim to have disagreed with the order, but since he’s been proven to be easily overruled by others, I’m not comfortable turning over my case to anything even remotely connected with SHIELD. Especially with their questionable history with anything nuclear.”
“Hmm.” Holder was quiet for a long time. “I’ll tell Fury to fuck off, then?”
“You have all the fun jobs, sir.”
“And old man’s got to get his kicks where can, son. Speaking of kicks, you and that great big teddy bear are all I hear about at home.”
“Um.” Dom scratched the back of my neck. “I’m really sorry to hear that, sir. Your dinner conversations sound dreadfully dull.”
Holder chuckled. “My granddaughter, who is five, would like Bubba’s autograph.”
“Sir, while he’s a work in progress and we have great expectations of him, Bubba can’t actually hold a pen.”
“I’m sure you’ll sort it out.”
“I’ll let you get back to work.”
“Thank you, sir.” He hung up and decided to dump how to deal with bear autographs on Jarvis. Dom had managed to get the giant bear into Stark Tower and situated on the 83rd floor. He’d started a Twitter feed and recruited people to handle Mini-B. He was not on autograph detail.
– – – –
“Dom?” Dana called from the doorway.
“What’s up?” He didn’t even lift his head from where it was resting on his arms. It was the first night he couldn’t go home. Instead, he was pulling it out from the office and catching cat naps. He had an impending sense of doom about the whole robot thing and didn’t feel like he could afford to take his eye off the ball.
“You have a visitor.” She sounded underwhelmed and he looked up.
“I have a visitor. At two in the morning?” He sighed. “Let me guess. Tall dude, eye patch, excess of leather?”
“Bingo. Plus Romanoff and Barton are with him.”
Dom sighed. Most law enforcement could spot the spy-duo now—the battle had significantly raised their profile and made being effective spies impossible. Pictures were all over social media from people who had captured photos of the battle. “Where are they?”
“Conference room off the main lobby. I wasn’t letting them past security.”
“Joy.” He got to his feet.
Ian rose as well. “I’ll hang back, but you’re not going alone.”
Penelope waved them off, her head staying where she was using Mini-B as a pillow on the conference room table.
When they got downstairs, Ian stayed outside the room, giving Dom a nod as he headed in to confront the leather-clad lion who was decidedly far away from his den.
“Director Fury,” Dom said as he kicked the door shut behind him and sprawled out in a conference room chair, “what can the FBI do for you at two in the morning? I know! You came for Bubba’s autograph. It’s all the rage lately.”
Romanoff glared, Barton just smirked, but Fury’s expression was impassive. “I underestimated you, Rossi, I readily admit that. I thought you’d come on side to keep your relationship on the QT, but I misjudged you. But the bottom line is that the Avengers need Stark, and he needs them.”
“Does he? Interesting. He hasn’t said anything to me about post-Avengers ennui.”
Fury shot him a look brimming with disappointment even though his scent-pile was a muddle of angry-type emotions that were only barely touched by scent blockers. “SHIELD could also do with having you on board, so I admit that I got a little heavy-handed trying to get you to see things from my perspective.”
“Uh huh.” Dom laced his fingers and rested them on his stomach and leaned his head against the back of the chair. “I’m just gonna rest here. Let me know when you’re ready to get to the point.”
“I want you to work with Agent Romanoff and Barton on this case of uranium-powered bots.”
Fury glared. “That’s it?”
“I’m pretty sure the director already told you where to go. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I don’t trust them or you. I don’t want you anywhere near the case.”
“You don’t have any idea what you’re dealing with,” Romanoff snapped.
“I know exactly what I’m dealing with. Because I got permission to read in Tony who sent me to talk to someone else who identified who created the designs. So, we’ve got it covered. You’re not needed here.”
“You’re not going to be able to handle Victor Von Doom on your own. And once we have proof that it’s him, we will be taking over.”
“Do you think it’s Doom because you followed me when I went to talk to Reed Richards? Are you stalking me, Nick? That’s actually a crime you know.” He’d smelled Romanoff when he’d been at the Baxter Building, but he was pretty used to smelling Romanoff following him or Tony around. “I consulted with Richards because Tony suggested it, not because I suspected Victor Von Doom of anything.”
“Which doesn’t explain why you’re looking into shipments coming out of Latveria.”
The FBI was leaking information like a fucking sieve. Dom pasted a pleasant expression on his face. “I’ve got Reed Richards and Tony Stark working the problem, two of the most capable minds on the planet.” Bruce, Sue Storm, and Betty Ross were also on it, all holed up at the Baxter Building together, but Fury didn’t need to know that. “I really don’t think you bring anything to the table except too much leather. You know where the door is…” He got up and walked out of the room, not giving Fury a chance to reply.
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