Hot Potato
Roleplaying Log: Hot Potato
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

He's in possession of a gift he never asked for, and now he's got to do something about it. Coulson finally decides who he is going to bring the Registration database to.

Other Characters Referenced: Carol Danvers, Quake
IC Date: May 03, 2019
IC Location: Metropolis, A Secure Spot
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 04 May 2019 02:50
Rating & Warnings: G
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

The Metropolis building grows apace, crawling up towards the sky with the same stubborn determination of the man behind it. Stubborn in the face of endless bureaucratic nightmares. Which said genius has to handle himself now. Thanks to the fact that he is a total softy that wanted to save his company he now has no buffer. So in a very mature and refined manner he has dealt with each and every problem that has rose up to face him. Conquering them as Alexander the Great conquered the Persians. With dogged determination and masterful strategy…

…alright. I can't even go that far.

However Stark /is/ in his little underground base. Little by his standards, since it has multiple wings and several floors. In one of those rooms, repurposed for an office and a design center, Stark sits reading the newest report. Feet up on the table, dressed down for the day. Jeans, t-shirt, glowing thing in his chest. The usual. He scans the page before him and takes a deep breath before responding in a very refined and well planned out manner.

"Urrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….JARVIS. Explain to me again why I can't just blow up city hall?"

For Stark that is pretty restrained. Head loling back against the chair as he flings the file of papers across the room.

"Well, sir. Would you like the legal or the optics ramifications of doing that?" JARVIS replies in that dry tone of his.

"…and again too much sass in your sarcasm chips."

* * *

"Some part of you knew you needed him, Stark, and I think you gave him exactly as much sass in his chips as you knew you'd need to restrain everything else."

Phil Coulson has a habit. A habit of just…appearing.

And if it is a habit he hasn't exercised much of late thanks to a months-long struggle with life, death, faith, and purpose, well…he has turned a corner. For here he is, hands in the pockets of a suit jacket that is tailored for him, his crisp button-up shirt devoid of a tie. Some cross between Dad and G-Man, wearing his Cheshire Cat smile as if nothing had ever gone wrong.

"Granted, I think you could have gone with giving him at least 15% more sass than you did. You're getting even wilder in your old age."

Which, of course, serves as good as a 'hello' from the man who is surely older than Tony Stark by a decent enough margin.

* * *

"Isn't that saying usually reversed?" Stark snaps back as he cracks open one eye to glower balefully at Coulson. "But yeah, I'm getting wilder just to keep up with everyone else. Sign of the times, Phil. Sign of the times." A smirk at that as he waves a hand to dissipate the half-dozen holoscreens set up around the room and lean forwards enough to shove a chair, with his foot of course, in Phil's general direction.

"So. Why are you here invading one of my last possible safe spaces?"

JARVIS as least plays the host. "Ah, it is nice to see you again Mister Coulson. Can I get you anything refreshment wise?"

Stark squints at the cieling. "…you totally knew he was here."

"Of course I did, but you looks so engrossed in bank statements."

* * *

"I would love a cup of coffee, JARVIS, if you don't mind," Phil says, to the more polite of the pair. His eyes crinkle at the corners, laugh lines betraying amusement even though his lips never twitch out of their original smile. He catches the chair neatly and settles down into it.

That is when amusement fades, for that is when he must answer the question. His face is solemn and his eyes moreso as he says, "Actually, Tony, I think I might be here to either ruin your day or make it. Or your month. Or year. Or decade. I don't know for sure. I received a…gift. I'm not sure what to do with it. I've been sitting for a month trying to figure out what, and finally the answer came to me. That what I needed to do was pass it on to you. Without any guidance on how to use it. My gut says you'll know. And better than I. But…"

Full disclosure, it seems, from a spy who rarely gives it.

"I shouldn't have it. You definitely shouldn't have it. It's very illegal. We might be able to something-something SHIELD, something-something Avengers to justify it, but if the wrong people find out about it…"

He spreads his hands.

"Anyone associated with it could be toast. And I can't tell you how I got it. I don't have any proof of how I got it. It was left for me at a drop."

* * *

Now Stark sits up, both brows creeping up towards his hair in a look of surprise. "Look at that, JARVIS. It's always the quiet ones. Look at you, playing hooky from the whole light side of the Force thing." He adds as he stands, once again energized it seems. But curiosity this time.

This is so much better than letters from City Hall.

"Well this /is/ a safe space. You're lucky, Phil. No judgement zone right here…" He gestures towards the room at large. "…so I won't even get to laugh at you."

A slight tilt of his head then. This time it seems that Stark is doing nothing at all, just thinking. However after a few seconds there is a nod. "Room here is as secure as I can make it and the recording systems are off so…"

He raises one hand to pat at the table. "…come on then, buddy. Wow me."

* * *

Phil lifts his eyebrows. It never ceases to amaze him, really, in the long list of what he's done, that people consider him to be a good man, really. He's very aware of his own inner Dark side. Of triggers he's pulled and orders he's given which are as dark as anything. Even if, ultimately, in service of something good. He hopes.

"You're not going to laugh at all."

He leans forward and offers Tony a small USB drive. "Careful what you plug it into," he says grimly. "Do you remember the story from mid-April? The DPS database getting hacked?"

* * *

Good or Bad. Tony knows Phil usually trusts SHIELD and is on the side of The Law. Even when it happens to be dumb. Dark Sides are forgivable. Citing people for littering is not.

"Goddamit," Stark's one word response sums up quite a bit of feeling in that two syllable response. "I'm going to guess it wasn't you doing the hacking then?" His asks distractedly as he looks at the USB drive.

"JARVIS get Dunce to bring in a secure hard drive and a battery backup. Link it to work with a holoscreen and put enough of an OS on it to see what the hell is on that thing without getting it all over the servers."

JARVIS hardly replies as the flurry of orders fly out.

Reaching out though he takes the USB. "Someone /wanted/ you to have this?" A glance up at Phil then. "I'm so not going to be happy about whats on it am I?"

* * *

Coulson shakes his head. "I'm not a hacker, and I didn't order it," he says. "And…well. I know what's on it. I didn't bring it to you without looking."

The spy takes a deep breath. "As best as I can tell, it's every record of every metahuman who ever registered, at least up until the 18th when the hackers erased the DPS database. They got in, gathered this copy, erased the database…and made sure this copy found its way to me."

Small wonder, perhaps, that Phil sat on it for a long time. He lets the USB drop into Tony's hand and pushes back a little, as if physically distancing himself from it. Even though it's a sure bet he read a good deal of it. As Carol Danvers once pointed out to him, his entire life has been about violating other people's secrets and privacy, and he would have had to, cross-referencing it against other databases, to make sure it was legitimately what he thought it was before he passed it on.

Even if he's lying about not having any clue who did the hacking. The scrawled "AC" on the envelope was as good as a calling card. But that is a secret he hopes to take to his second grave.

* * *

Stark just stares at the USB now, eyes narrowed at it as a frown slowly forms. "You know, Phil. I'm pretty sure part of me just wants to fling this into the sun." His tone conversational enough even as his eyes are focused on the USB like it is some kind of highly venomous beast.

"So who did the hack then, you have to have some kind of clue." He adds as he frowns at it, mind turning over ideas as he tries to figure out just what to do with /this/ breach of inforamtion. "And why get it to you, why not just nuke it and be done."

A pause again.

"It gets worse doesn't it? It always gets worse."

* * *

"That was my first impulse too. And the fourth. And the tenth. And the twenty-fifth," Phil says slowly. "But by now DPS agents are surely knocking on the doors of every one of their assigned registrees and demanding they register again. In a quarter the entire database will be rebuilt, so throwing it into the sun does nothing. What might be done with it, I don't know. There may be evidence in there I don't understand which indicates an overstep of authority. There could be…I don't know. If I knew what to do, I'd have just done it, and I don't. But I know that if destroying it were the right answer, it wouldn't have made sense to try to hand it off to me. In SHIELD I'm known as one of the…louder…anti-registration voices. Whoever gave it to me was hoping I'd do something spectacular with it."

But Tony's other question (and the one Phil is pretending not to have heard) elicits a faint smile. "Nothing's gotten worse. Because I haven't done anything with it. I mean. I found new and interesting places to tape it to my body for however long it's been, but I put it in a plastic baggie while I did, so I can't even claim you're getting my cooties by touching it."

* * *

There is a grunt from Stark as he sighs. Fingers close around the USB before he shakes his head slightly. Of course /then/ Phil says something about taping the thing to his body and Stark just tosses it onto the table. "Dunce, bring hand sanitizer too. So much of it."

Either he didn't hear the bit about the plastic bag or he's just being…well…Stark.

Equal chance of each.

"Alright then. I'll comb though it and see what I can dig up. I'm going to /assume/ you want me to tell you what I find /before/ I naturally fly off the handle and do something stupid with whatever I inevitably unearth on this thing?"

* * *

"Preferably," Phil says, and if the amusement is back in his eyes, it's only there, and perhaps a bit at the corners of them. Worth the pulled hairs just for that reaction alone. So, so very worth it. "Maybe once you've had a look at it…"

Phil spreads his hands. Maybe then they'll have some semblance of how to act. Either way, there is a palpable sense of relief that comes with knowing it's in more hands than his at last. Another pair of eyes upon it.

He stands. And then he hesitates. Pauses. Something on his mind, some statement or question dancing on the tip of his tongue. He stands, holding it back.

* * *

"Yeah yeah, you're right. You would have no idea what to do with this. Whatever it is. I'll pry out its secrets and get back to you. Or not. Really depends on the time of day and how I'm feeling at the time. Maybe the position of the moon too. These things are fickle." Stark never uses one word when two dozen will suffice.

Just not his way.

He doesn't look up though, even as Dunce zooms in to set the little hardened drive system on the table. He doesn't crank it up just yet, instead cocking his wrist back to type into the air. Looking like he is doing three things at once. Which really. He is.

"Something else on your mind?"

* * *

Phil opens his mouth. He does. Something is on his mind, but…

He shakes his head. "Nothing of consequence," he says. "It's good to see you, Tony." There are currents swirling beneath currents in those simple words, but determination too. Something on his mind, and he's consciously decided to turn away from it, turn his back on it, remove his attention from it. He turns to go as if the physical act of turning his back and leaving the room will solidify the decision in his mind.

Instead what he says is, "Thanks for always having my back." Not in the literal sense even though he has turned. "And I'm sorry I've been so hard on you, in the past."

That, at least, is in the neighborhood of the things he's turning aside from…though not, as it happens, precisely on the same street.

* * *

"Yeah well, nothing I didn't deserve right?"

Stark's responce is quick, that self mocking smirk on his face a familiar one. "Lets face it, I'm a charming ass, but I'm still an ass."

Then he waves his hand. "Go on then, get out. Before either one of us has a feel and then has to go out of the way to prove that it totally isn't awkward when it is /so/ damn awakward."

A smirk.

"Go on, Phil. I'll take care of this. You take care of everything else." A pause. "And if you have time to make it up to me you can totally fill out all these building request forms! In triplicate!"

* * *

You know what's even more awesome than being a spook with an appearing act?

Being a spook with a fantastic disappearing act.

It seems to work even better when 'building request forms in triplicate' come up. A funny thing, that.

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