Synopsis: Toni Stark visits the Phoenix Guard. Things could have gone better.
Location: Phoenix Guard HQ
The lobby is nearly empty, except for the uniformed trandoshan (big lizard people) at the security gate. Along one wall are a series of small rooms set aside for meeting outsiders who just want to ask questions, while on the other wall is a single door with “Hall of Memory” written over it. The security checkpoint is halfway across the lobby, and beyond that are the banks of elevators leading up to the higher parts of the Spire (or at least the Guard's part of that structure). The trandoshan looks… bored.
Arriving in style, a sleek sportscar that cost more than most people make in a couple years for their entire salary, Toni steps out. She's wearing a pair of tight denim jeans, a silk man's dress shirt with the first few buttons left open, and a pair of high-heeled boots, coming up to her ankles.
As Frank prescribed, she drops his name as she arrrives, letting him know that she's here, so she can gain entry. Her expression is one of both unvieled interest, self-confidence, mixed with a bit of - well, mischeviousness.
Frank's up in what passes for his office, drawing up plans for one of many operations, when the message comes through So he heads back down the elevator and to the security checkpoint, decked out in his “everyday” uniform. He nods slightly to Toni as he approaches, “Miss Stark.” He looks to the Trandoshan and notes, “I'll escort her, thanks.”
Rarsk, the guard, shrugs and nods. “Sign her in then,” he points at the guest book where members of the Guard can 'sign in' people that they want to have skip the security checks. Although there is one that not even a high ranking officer can 'wave through'… The trandoshan comes over to Toni and says, “Let me see your neck please. Lift your hair.”
Meanwhile, the door to the Hall of Memory opens and out steps Tierce in his 'civillian' attire of gray slacks and dress shirt, with a MagLite ™ of all things, hanging from his belt. He's talking to a pretty blue-skinned woman with red eyes wearing a light blue uniform, similar to Rarsk's but lighter. “Alright, I'll check into that,” Tierce says, and the blue woman nods and turns back into the hall. Tierce looks up at Toni and Frank and nods politely. “Castle,” he greets the one he knows.
“Usually,” Toni banters with the guard, “I at least get bought a drink, before I go showing just anyone.” She does as prompted, however, lifting her hair; unaware, perhaps, of the reason and likely mistaking it for them looking for some kind of hidden camera, or the like. She manages to look more amused, than put off.
“Hello,” Toni says with a smile, to Tierce, while the guard is given a good look at her neck. “Good to see you again,” she says to Frank. “And here I thought I was going to have to walk around all day without anyone fun.”
”“Fun” and “Frank Castle” aren't usually words used in relation to each other.” Frank notes, not -exactly- smiling as he signs Toni in, but his tone isn't completely cold. “Tierce.” He replies to the other man as he approaches, gesturing between the pair, “Toni Stark, Commander Tierce Rahol.” He'll let Tierce do any further introduction in terms of his purpose here. Not like it's any surprise that Frank is a man of few words.
It's actually the back of Toni's neck that Rarsk checks out, but he nods. “Hey, you want me to buy you a drink, I'm off duty in two hours,” he informs her in his gravelly voice, giving her a broad wink with one slitted eye. He looks up and salutes at Tierce, then resumes his post. The lizard-man holds up his thumb and pinkie to mouth and the side of his head in the universal 'call me' sign to Toni.
Tierce nods and smiles at Toni politely. “Hello,” he returns her greeting, then chuckles as the trandoshan flirts with her. “Careful with that one,” he stage-whispers loud enough for Rarsk to hear, “He's quite the ladykiller.” Louder, in response to Frank's introduction, “A pleasure to meet you, Ms. Stark.”
As the trandoshan is done with her, Toni merely grins at him, then saunters over towards Frank and Tierce, “So, boys, you going to show me around? Or, are you just going to leave a lady waiting, and wondering?”
She nods to Tierce, never losing a moment of her smile. “And you, Commander.” She looks to Frank, thoughtfully, “Lots of military titles, being tossed around.” Not that she minds, the military is important.
“We're fighting a war. You usually use a military for that sort of thing.” Frank points out, once again bordering on smiling but not quite getting there. “Obviously this is the public portion of the headquarters. Pretty much the only other thing down here is the Hall of Memory.”
“Oh that,” Tierce waves a hand airily. “That's just because we're a military organization. We used to use biological taxonomy levels for rank names, but no one could remember if Order outranked Family or the other way around, and Phylums were constantly trying to userp Kingdoms. It was a mess.” He does seem slightly nonplussed about the showing around issue, turning to Fank as if to ask 'do you know anything about this?' “That's over there,” he adds at the end of Frank's comment, pointing back to the room he just came out of.
“Dogs and cats living together? Complete chaos? No wonder why you wished to establish a more concise order,” ventures Toni. She nods, however. “Obviously.” She glances, momentarily, towards the Hall of Memory. “But that, I can look at - as you say, anytime. The fun stuff is always behind the closed doors. I know. I have a heck of a lot of them, myself.” She grins, then.
“Besides,” she offers, just a bit more earnestly, “I do have to admit, the Colonel here did pique my interest.”
“I invited her. Along with a blatant attempt at recruitment.” Frank notes towards Tierce, then grimaces a touch, “But I'm not exactly a pitchman. Just gave her the basics. Figured I'd leave the rest to someone who's better at that sort of thing.” He shrugs, “Meanwhile, she's here on my recognizance.”
“Piqued your interest in what way?” Tierce asks, glancing back and forth between Toni and Frank. “Castle, have you been spreading rumors about your… equipment… again?” See, a double entendre there. He could be talking about the War Machine armor. He nods at Frank's explanation, and shrugs. “Well, enjoy the tour. Stay out of my quarters, avoid floor 19 unless neccessary, that's where our Romulan guests are and they're kind of edgy, and obviously don't show her anything super sensitive.”
At least Toni isn't taking the bait - that one's a /bit/ too easy. She opines to Tierce, with a bit of a smile, “He didn't have to tell me any rumors about it, since I'm the one that built it. Well, not that /exact/ suit, but I can recognize my own handiwork, well enough, in any reality. I do a damn fine job,” she says cheerfully.
Then, she's wondering of Tierce, “Aren't you coming with us, Commander? You're going to leave him all alone with me?” As if Frank, not her, was the one in danger.
Maybe he is, at that. Albeit not likely in any life-threatening sort of way. “The suit opened the door. The rest was just my usual charm and wit.” Frank notes dryly. See, he -does- have a sense of humor! Sort of. “But yeah, I know the drill.” He glances to Toni, then back to Tierce, “Or you can come long if you want.” it's not like this is a -date- or anything, after all.
“Oh, you designed the armor?” Tierce chuckles. “Funny, I met another fellow who claimed the same thing. Same last name, also. Parallel universes, or are you two just siblings who never quite got over the 'squabbling' phase?” He seems surprised by the request to come with, “I assume that since Castle invited you here, he had something planned out. Besides, just between us? I don't need a tour. I already know where everything is.” He shrugs again as Frank re-extends the offer. “Honestly, I was about to go grab some lunch. Anyone else hungry?”
“Yes,” agrees Toni, “But I have better curves than he does. I've met my counterpart. He's interesting.” Of course Toni would find herself, especially a male counterpart of herself, interesting. “I'm presuming he wants to find out more about me, pique my interest, get me to spice up his armor suit, as well as get me to join,” ventures Toni, candidly. “And, more than likely, try to get me to supply the Phoenix Guard with technology and effort from Stark Enterprises.” Which, no matter what age, can be pretty darn impressive.
“Did I mention she's about six million times smarter than I am?” Frank notes, “But yeah, she's pretty much got it summed up. Though I couldn't really think of anything the suit needs that it doesn't already have.” He notes, “That probably wouldn't stop her, though. If she's like the Stark I knew…always tinkering…always upgrading.” Frank shrugs, “But yeah, between business and PR-savvy, and particular engineering know-how…she's got a lot going for her.”
“Effort we have. The blueprints to his armor would be nice, but not utterly essential. Merely knowing that it can be done means we'll figure it out in a year, tops,” Tierce smiles gently. “But don't worry, if we can't come to a licencing agreement, or you don't join up, we'll make sure ours look different from yours so no one will mistake us for each other. Granted, the blue prints would be NICE, save us a lot of effort. As for the rest… did anyone say they were hungry? We can talk over lunch.” To Frank, Tierce shrugs. “Cortosis weave in the outer plate, built-in wireblade at the fingers or maybe the wrist, a few other things. The suit's great, but there's always room to improve.”
Toni looks amused at Frank, “They think I'm going to share my blueprints for the armor? Or, that War Machine is anywhere near the Iron Maiden?” There's a certain twinkle in her eye, as she looks back towards Tierce. “I've no doubt you could, perhaps, replicate the technology, provided Frank allows it.” She glances to Frank, meaningfully, then looks back to Tierce, and she half-smiles suggesting, “Frank knows, and can vouch what I say is valid enough.”
She adds, “I'm always up for something.” Something likely being at least 50 proof, if not much higher. She adds, almost as a sidecomment, “He's a worse recruiter than you, Castle.” That seems to amuse her, even more and provided the others begin to move towards the cafeteria, she follows.
“I haven't let anyone dissect the suit, but some of the tech-boys have had to get hands-on when it's gotten banged up. And short of racking out at a remote location I can't stop the passive sensors.” Frank notes with a bit of a sour expression. He's never been overly comfortable with sharing the tech, simply out of memory and loyalty to the man who provided it to him.
At Toni's comment on Tierce's recruiting skills, Frank nods a bit, “Yeah. Fortunately recruitment isn't why we keep him around.”
“I didn't say we would replicate his armor,” Tierce shakes his head. “I said we would make our own. Now that we know it CAN be done, our engineers will do it. If you don't want to help us… that's okay. We're used to doing things on our own.” There is a slight bitterness in his voice at that last comment, and when Toni makes her probably-meant-to-be-funny joke, he merely shakes his head. He doesn't head towards a cafeteria, however, he heads for the front door. Holding it open in invitation to the others, he says, “You said Castle was trying to recruit you. I wasn't poaching him. Sorry if you thought I was.”
“No,” suggests Toni, unbothered by Tierce's attitude, “I didn't.” Her lip curves some into a smile as she pauses, then moves to follow Tierce, presuming Frank also falls in line. She suggests, “Just because something /can/ be done, doesn't mean it can be done /right/. Still, once I have a better understanding of things, I might not be opposed to helping. You'll understand I, myself, have only let one other person use any armor I've made.”
She looks to Frank, “And I'm very, very sure, that the Tony Stark the Colonel here knew trusted Frank implictly, and utterly. The armor isn't lent out, or mass-manufactured. It's as much of a work of art, as a tool.” She specifically does not specify it as a weapon.
“But there are other things that could be considered, to help the Phoenix Guard, in the interm. Provided everything is on the up and up.” She smiles, fleetingly, “You'll forgive me if I simply don't take everything you say at face value.”
A glance then to Frank. “And you'll bring the War Machine over to Stark Enterprises. You know as well as I do that if someone else is fixing the suit, they aren't fixing it right.”
“I'll be sure to bring it by for a tune-up, but we've got some good tech-boys and girls here. They're used to working with tech on your level or higher from a lot of different sources. Still…never hurts to let the dealership work on it. Pretty sure my warranty hasn't been completely used up.” Whoa, multiple jokes in one night. That's probably like a record or something for Frank. “And if you decide to help us out then you can make sure they're doing it right.”
Tierce chuckles faintly at Toni's comments. “Yes, I'm sure we rock-banging monkeys can't do anything right. I mean, you know, we've been building energy weapons and nanomolecular weapons and space ships capable of going multiple times the speed of light for over 20,000 years but we're basically incapable of doing anything without someone else holding our hands every step of the way. The problem isn't that we're incapable of making powered armor suits, the problem was that we'd just never thought about it before we came here. Technology in our galaxy went a different direction, that's all.” He nods gratefully as Castle confirms the opinion.
Tierce turns and begins walking up the street, glancing back to see if they're still following him to a great little sushi place, a total hole in the wall but with amazing food. “I don't blame you at all for not trusting us right away. Similary, we don't trust you either. How do you propose we solve this? After all, anything I say might just be a lie.”
Toni takes it all in stride, “I'm quite sure you've got technology that I'd be amazed at,” she chuckles, conceeding the point effortlessly. “But, your tech boys and girls didn't design it. Though,” she tilts her head, as she steps into the sushi bar, “Either did I. Technically.” That point seems to humor her.
“Of course, I didn't think of making a powered armor suit either, until I was about to die,” she reveals, a link which apparently many Stark's, through many realities seem to have in common. “You tend to get inspired, when your heart is ready to twitch and beat for the final time.”
As she seats herself, she continues, “Though I've done studies on some of the technology that's available for easy study from the Great Library. Catching up, making myself aware of the competition, as it were.” Toni grins, as if she enjoyed the challenge, rather than being intimidated by it.
She orders sake, for the table. “As for how we trust each other? I'm open to suggestions.”
“Trust takes time.” Frank gestures to one of the waiters, speaking quietly with them. He ends up with a (far eastern) import beer, Tierce and Toni instead wind up with a bottle of fine chilled sake apiece. Sushi isn't exactly Frank's “thing” but he'll make do. He's hardly a picky eater. “But occasionally, it can be lubricated with the addition of enough alcohol.”
“Our own suits?” Tierce blinks at Toni, then narrows one eye. “Yes, actually, our tech 'boys and girls' are designing it.” On the subject of trust, he shakes his head. “I can't tell you how to trust us. Doesn't work that way. You have to figure it out on your own. As for us trusting you? We do have a way. It's not pleasant, for you, however, so it's really a matter of how badly do you want us to?” He orders some sushi for himself, and a bowl of teriyaki beef for Castle, and whatever Toni wants.
Toni seems quite versed, not only in sushi, but also the language, and customs of the people who invented sushi, and made it delicious. She orders her own plate, then looks back between Frank, and Tierce. “Then I wish them luck,” she says, without rancor, but without any obligation or even remote indication she'll help with the process.
“I'm here because, as I said, Castle intrigued me, and asked for my help. And, I'm interested in why an alternate self of mine would've given him the War Machine. It's not something he could've taken. Too many failsafe's.” This, she's absolutely certain of.
“Which indicates that he's a man I can, at least offer a measure of trust to. And, listen to. That his word carries a measure of weight. We'll talk again later, about more specifics.”
As first meetings go, it's not great, but neither is it bad, either; falling instead in that 'grey' area, where it could swing either way.