Russian Roulette
Russian roulette is not the same without a gun / When it's love if it isn't rough it isn't fun!


Outside Stalingrad, Russia


"Best quote"

Puffs of warmth visually emit from painted red lips, giving the illusion the curvaceous blonde is smoking a cigarette in the cool Russian night. Pale skin seems paler in the extreme cold, with only rosy cheeks to provide a stretch of color on her very white form. Not that she reacts to the cold. She grew up in it. Yet she’s hardly dressed for the weather. The long black dress in which she finds herself, with its strapless form and plunging neckline hardly make for winter couture, hugs her form, leaving little to the imagination. The black silk gloves extend from her fingers to her elbows, but hardly create any extra warmth. The perfectly coiffed blonde wig, complete with its blown-out curls, complete the bombshell persona of Cassandra Cartier, yet the voice that speaks to her makeup compact comes out as distinctly Natasha Romanoff, “I am about to head in.” She stares at her reflection, sensing her own nerves percolate beneath her calm exterior. Sometimes being the Black Widow has its advantages. Like biting back her own emotions. “Are you in position?” There’s a pause. “Let’s get home for dinner.” The tone is flat, perhaps so as not to draw unwanted attention. Appearances are resumed moments later, however, as Natasha Romanoff steps back into character.

Her lips coyly curl into a sultry smile as a gentleman walks down the steps of the building in front of which she finds herself. Eternal bait, and a gentleman’s prop, Natasha lingers a moment in consideration. The party will be filled with wealthy elite and she, for the time being, has been mandated to blend. Until she sights Sterns, that is.

Idly, carefully, Cassandra Cartier pads up the steps of the large mansion, tingles extending down her spine. The grand doors to the hall open and she shares that same flirtatious smile with the entire room. Those green eyes scan each of the faces quite nonchalantly, sharing that same smile with all those present. No one can deny that the Black Widow does her job well: charm anyone by being anyone. But then there’s some who can see through it.

The grandiose ballroom of the Russian mansion leaves little to the imagination. Chandeliers drip with crystals in the ceilings overhead. Marble patterned creamed hued floors support partiers, waiters, and entertainers alike. Some guests have already taken to the dance floor, moving to the music of a rather large orchestral band. The vibrations of strings send haunting music, providing those present the choice of a waltz. Evidently, Sterns wants his party first rate.

Wait staff with little glasses of vodka line the walls of the house, ready to take orders if necessary. A buffet table lays to the North, complete with many offerings – including turkey, ham, and hamburgers (the most peculiar offering available).

Not far away from the grand house in which Natasha finds herself, S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Anthony Masters leans back in the driver’s seat of the getaway car. “Should I bother asking where your gun is?” is his greeting over the transceiver. “If I’d thought of it earlier, I’d have asked you to show me.” His arms fold over his chest as he leans back in the chair and admires the ‘GPS’ screen of the car.

“If I’m buying dinner I expect you to put out, Romanoff.” Then there’s a pause, “Just remember to play your part, Widow. No fancy business. Talk to the mark, get the info, get out.” The longer he spends in the car, the more he’s convinced this is a glorified favour and not a mission.

"I have half a mind to set off your car alarm." In a large delivery van parked blocks away, Trent rolls his eyes and continues furiously typing on the computer, the beeps and flashing lights of his equipment surrounding him. The security surrounding the party is intense and he barely has enough time to make that half-hearted snarky comment. With a few designated keystrokes, he returns to his attempt to keep his trojan virus that is keeping the monitors of information, pictures and sound flowing hidden. The security system searches every iota of data in a random fashion, causing him to continually move the virus from one place to another to keep it from being detected. It's taking most of his attention to anticipate its moves. In a way it's exhilarating - like playing chess with a super computer.

From the building across from the party, Maria Hill hunkers down in her warm winter jacket and peers through a sniper scope. From this position, she can monitor the entire situation and order in support or rescue with a bird's eye view. In fact, she can already see Masters - someone she is keeping a close watch on - and is linked with Carter through a headpiece. Currently, she's watching Romanoff on the steps. "Keep all non-mission chatter off channel." Her tone does not broker argument.

A flash of red hair passes in front of her view of Romanoff as the Stark Industries representative - Pepper Potts - passes by the spy in disguise. She gives Natasha only a cursory glance and smiles politely, as one might do to a stranger at a party, not pausing or seeming to recognize the woman who worked with Tony. Dressed more appropriately for the weather, Pepper climbs the steps carefully and studies the interior with a curious expression.

Tony, as usual, is late to every single thing that ever happens. The surprise tonight is that he's actually not far behind Pepper. Not close enough to catch her before she heads inside, but still in time to see 'Cassandra'.

He pauses and his eyes travel up, down, and back up again. "I liked you better as a redhead," he finally says.

He's managed to find a way to dress himself without Pepper's help, another interesting surprise. Though they're slightly rumpled, his suit and overcoat undoubtedly cost more than most family cars, and that doesn't include the watch, tie tack, and cuff links.

Natasha doesn't react to Masters' comment. Her displeasure doesn't register on her face, in her manners, or even in her movement. In fact, it almost seems as if she didn't hear his comments. Nor does she react to Trent's comment or Maria's instruction. Pepper, however, is graced with a very brief, very polite smile. The moment of satisfaction accompanying her presumed party ghosting, however, is eaten up by Tony's recognition.

Her lips press into a smaller, yet still present, smile. "Mister Stark," she soothes evenly with the faintest nod. Over the comlink, her colleagues can hear her every word. Carefully she extends a gloved hand, "I think you have me confused with someone else as we've never met." The smile softens some, "I'm Cassandra Cartier."

Masters taps impatiently on the steering wheel despite having plenty of time to kill. And then, clearly defying Maria's orders he counters to Trent, "I dare you to set off the car alarm. We'd be more made than red getting recognized by the playboy from the tin can."

"Carter, mute Masters." Maria does not waste any time and does not take insubordination. If she gives an order, she expects people to obey. He'll still be able to hear everything that's happening, he simply will be unable to make snarky remarks. "Honk S.O.S. if you see anything, Masters." She'll eventually put his com link back on, but for now he is in the penalty box.

Trent, furiously typing away, gives a satisfied grin as he does as Maria ordered. He attempts to not sound smug when he confirms, "Muted." However, it's quite easy to hear how pleased he is with this turn of events.

Pepper, not far from Natasha, turns around when she hears Tony. Though she missed the exchange between the spy and the superhero, she starts moving back toward him with a warm smile. "You made it before the designated cocktail hour. I'm impressed." Unable to help herself, she reaches forward and straightens Tony's slightly crooked bowtie. These are the things that happen when he dresses himself."Shall we grab some champagne? You know, for a celebration about solving world hunger, I have yet to see a food tray."

As if on cue, filing out from behind the staircase (perhaps that's the location of the kitchen?), wait staff with trays of various h'orderves of different coloring, textures, and sizes are rolled out. The buffet table, at this rate, may be completely untouched, particularly between the vodka, champagne and tapas.

"Right. Just try not to blow anything up," Tony murmurs, keeping a pleasant smile on his face. "I have a hangover. Pepper! Hi! Told you I'd be almost on time."

Still smiling, he makes for the redhead that'll admit she knows him. "Yeah, I'm already bored," he agrees. "Let's find some scotch. This party looks like it's about nine drinks away from being fun and/or dangerous. You look fantastic, by the way."

Sliding her arm into Tony's, Pepper smiles. "Indeed you did. You are almost on time. I can hardly believe my eyes. And thank you. You're looking…" She takes him in. "Only slightly rumpled, I'm starting to wonder who you are and what you've done with Tony Stark." It's good to have him out of the lab and interacting with people like before. As a waiter walks by with a tray of champagne glasses, she takes two flutes and passes one over to her date. She certainly doesn't need to ask if he'd like a drink. "I thought you loved scientific break throughs. Are you just jealous that you didn't get around to solving world hunger just yet?"

Natasha almost smirks at Tony's murmur. Almost. But not quite. As Stark's attention moves to Pepper, 'Cassandra' peers about the room. Her green-eyed gaze nonchalantly flits from one guest to the next, taking mental note of the party goers. Her eyes eventually track to the ceiling and its skylight. Finally, as her gaze returns to the room itself, it lingers on one particular guest — a gentleman near the staircase (near the presumably hidden kitchen).

To Natasha, the tuxedo he wears looks downright foreign to him. But more than that, his eyes leave her increasingly unsettled. Doctor Robert Dunphy, SHIELD bio-scientist, looks incredibly free for a man presumed to be in lock up. But along with that freedom comes a strange distance in his eyes. Swallowing hard, Natasha forces her gaze to other guests, silently considering each of the options while resuming that all-too-charming smile. Another glance is given towards the skylight, as she takes several long strides towards Doctor Dunphy.

"Greetings, Doctor Dunphy," she smiles as warmly as she can muster before extending her hand towards him, taking care to speak as clearly as possible for the comlink. "I'm not sure you remember me, but we were both in the midwest last August on some business." And then, as an afterthought, she offers her 'name': "Cassandra Cartier."

There is little evidence that Robert Dunphy knows that anyone has approached him, even as Romanoff addresses him directly. In fact, there is at least a ten second pause between Natasha extending her hand and Dunphy actually look through her. "Cassandra Cartier," he repeats. And then he offers, in a semi-hollowed nearly robotic voice, "I am Robert Dunphy."

"Meh. I privatized world peace, rediscovered a lost element, and I donated like a billion dollars worth of art to the Boy Scouts. I think I can rest on my laurels for a few months." Tony downs his entire glass of champagne in a single, smooth gulp, then sets it down on a passing tray and snatches up another. The whole process is very practiced and precise, all done without letting go of Pepper. He's keeping one eye on Natasha, too. "I should start thinking about my next project, though. Branch out. Cure a disease or two. That could be fun."

"Wasn't that Boy Scout donation a mistake in shipping?" Pepper is teasing Tony now, taking much more modest sips of her own flute of champagne. He's spent far too long in his workshop obsessing. While she doesn't always approve of his party boy image, this is a refreshing change of pace. "You just want to make all the other geniuses here jealous. Be nice; it's not our party." Practiced at reading Tony, she notices his wandering eye and gives Natasha a studied look before sipping at her glass. "Do you know her?" There's no hint of jealousy, only curiosity.

"You mean it's not our party yet. And the other geniuses in here are already jealous." Tony's pacing himself more modestly on his second glass, but only slightly, and that's the only modest thing about him. "Seriously, am I the only one who sees through the wig? Are you saying all I have to do to get you to leave me alone when I'm working is put on a wig and you won't recognize me?"

Chuckling, he indicates 'Cassandra' with a subtle nod. "That's the redoubtable Ms. Romanoff. The assistant you stole when you divorced me. Also, Fury's super secret attack dog. Grrr."

Clearly Dr. Dunphy doesn't recognize her, prompting Natasha to steal a glance upwards before turning her gaze around the room and asking the very robotic Dunphy, "Have you seen Dr. Sterns tonight, doctor? I was hoping to catch him and congratulate him on his triumph…" Those green eyes turn up in want, however, prompting her to press her lips together. And then, more to those over her comlink rather than Dunphy-bot, she admits, "I can't seem to find him."

More wait staff appear from underneath the stairs. In fact, there may be more wait staff at the party than guests. Yet they seem undeniably unassuming, much like Robert Dunphy. They appear vacant if you stare at them too long. Evidently they have no troubles carrying the trays in their seemingly altered state.

And then, twisting towards Dunphy, Natasha murmurs (once again for the benefit of those on the other side of the comlink), "Excuse me, I'm going to send my compliments to the chef in the kitchen." With that she shifts her wait to her right foot before twisting away from Dunphy and disappearing underneath the stairs. And in the disappearance, Romanoff's comlink turns to static.

Around the same time, a large white screen is rolled into the grand room from an exit opposite the entrance. Some of the wait staff go about trying to set it up.

No stranger to executing a party, Pepper frowns. "I wonder if they're expecting more people. They've completely over-hired." As one of the multiple waiters moves by with a tray of food, she plucks off a exquisitely constructed small lobster roll and pops it in her mouth. While chewing, she studies the waiters that have already caught her attention. That's when she starts to notice the vacant looks and robotic movements with increasing interest and curiosity. "And they look a little…" she trails off. "Tony, if Nick Fury has sent his 'attack dog' here under cover, don't you think that means something?" Her forehead wrinkles as her thoughts are slightly derailed. "Get me to leave you alone? You want to resort to disguises to avoid me?" Poor choice of words there, Mr. Stark.

Tony has noticed not only the ratio of guests to servers, but the odd vacancy that the wait staff is displaying. "Pepper, I was joking," he replies. "You're right, though. Something's definitely off."

He pulls out his phone, presses a single button, and speaks into it. "Happy, get in here. Quietly."

Trademark Stark, he doesn't even wait for a reply before he hangs up. "Just in case," he says, giving Pepper a wink that isn't completely convincing. "Anyway, what's with the movie? You know I don't read the briefs on these events. I just look for the words 'open bar.'"

The stilted wait staff set up the screen.

Only to hear through the room's speaker system, "Is this thing on???" And then, "Hellooooooo. Hello. Hell-ooo. Why don't we have picture? Well I want picture. I don't — " and then, on the screen, the figure of notorious Doctor Samuel Sterns, decked out in a hot pink tux complete with a hot pink bow tie. "Aaaaaah!" the doctor sounds relieved. "There. We. Are. You gorgeous people. Beautiful people." He clears his throat and straightens his tie. "Thank you all for coming! It's simply delightful to see so many of you made it — " evidently SHIELD aren't the only ones tapped into the mansion's security cameras.

When the cameras and sound pipe on, a loop of feedback screeches through Trent's headphones. With a yelp of pain and surprise, he tosses them across the van and takes a few deep breaths, adrenaline now pumping through his veins. Calming down, he turns down the audio, reroutes a few things and places the headphones back on his head. Through the link to Maria, he makes the status report of, "It looks like Sterns is using the same security hack that I am."

Maria frowns, no longer looking at the entrance. Her scope is now pointed through the windows. "Still not visual confirmation on Sterns. Wait till we see him. If he's coming up on the screen, he must be somewhere else in the building. Flip Masters back on, Beta team, ready positions. We've got to be ready to move at any second."

"Sometimes, Tony, with what's been—-" Pepper stops. While she wanted to have a serious talk about that, this isn't the time. Even if they weren't in danger. It's a party. She was happy that he was getting out and mingling. "Sorry. This isn't the time for this," she amends. Then, even if she did want to have a discussion, they're interrupted by the movie screen.

"I've, uh, heard he's eccentric." Understatement. As the man is talking about gorgeous people, she whispers to fill in her date. "The invitation invited the CEO of Stark Industries plus date to an unveiling of a scientific breakthrough celebrating the nomination of Dr. Samuel Sterns'--" she points at the pink tux bedecked man, "--research in the elimination of world hunger." Then with a smile, she finishes her champagne and neatly places it on a passing tray. She starts brushing off Tony's lapels and adds, "And since you have been in your workshop obsessing for the past few months, I am still CEO of Stark Industries and you are my lovely plus one arm candy."

As requested, Happy makes a quiet entrance and stands close, but not too close. For a man his size, he's gotten pretty good at shadowing Tony and Pepper inconspicuously. As usual, he has a red briefcase cuffed to his wrist. At the moment, his free hand is tightly clenched.

Stark inclines his head minutely, but otherwise doesn't acknowledge the arrival of his friend and valet.

"Huh? Oh, role reversal? Kinky. I dig it." The image on the screen keeps him from putting his foot even deeper in his mouth, at least for the moment. "Wait, am I supposed to be taking this guy seriously? Because if I am, I definitely need—hello!" Another tray of champagne passes by, giving Tony the opportunity to scoop up two more glasses.

Silence resounds through Masters comlink. Wherever Anthony Masters has gone is anyone's guess. So much for honking SOS.

"So," Sterns continues as he strokes his chin in consideration. "Welcome to our celebration of, well, us!" his hand reaches offscreen only to return with a champagne flute full of a champagne like fluid. He raises it in the air, as if to 'cheers' all of his party-goers, and then downs it all in one gulp. "Aaa," he says as he swallows. "So refreshing." And then, he adds, "Don't worry countrymen, it's only sparkling apple juice. I promised myself I would be sober for this part of the evening!"

Samuel Sterns strokes his chin once before raising it in the air, considering whatever he plans to impart. "I'd like to first apologize that I could not be there in the flesh. Both myself and Doctor Ross have come down with the flu — " he shakes his head slowly, "Terrible thing the flu. I'm on the upswing, but poor Betty — " he stares down at the ground in a feigned moment of silence. "Well, I'm sure she'll be fine with plenty of fluids…"

Oddly, while Sterns has managed to utilize his own security feed, his image begins to show up on all of SHIELD's feeds. Yes, evidently, he's more than expected them…

When Sterns starts to show up on all of his screens, Trent lets out a colorful string of curses. "I knew it." Furiously, he attempts to break through whatever system now is hacking his feed. Sterns continues to fill his multiple monitors. To the com, he talks quite quickly. "Sterns is hacking into my broadcast. I hate to be that guy, but I remember quite clearly saying this was totally a trap when we were back in a country that didn't have gulags."

Maria, upon hearing the news from Trent, moves into motion. "B Team, infiltration positions. Evacuate the civilians. Widow, search the building for Sterns. If he's there, subdue and bring him back. A Team, back up Widow. Masters, bring the car up front." There's a pause. "Would one team member please check on Masters." Even when he's not giving up sarcastic remarks, Masters turns out to be a pain.

Inside the building, Pepper quickly takes one of the champagne glasses from Tony. Though she knows better, she'll assume that he took the extra glass for her. "As I said, eccentric. Many would say the same about you, you know. Playboy genius - how can we take him seriously? Though, you certainly have a better fashion sense." She takes a small sip as she listens to Sterns talk. "Betty Ross?" The name sounds familiar. "Don't you know her father? I think I remember her being in an article attached to Sterns."

"The name rings a bell," is Tony's absent response. "I don't know what's going on, but this whole thing stinks."

Despite his declaration, he downs his glass of champagne with brisk efficiency. When he's finished, he sets it aside, tugs his lapels straight, and gives his neck a crack. "Still thinking about what you said. Romanoff wouldn't be here without a good reason. The question is, why? As much as I feel like blowing something up, first I say we see how much trouble she can get herself into. I love it when SHIELD owes me a favor."

The static from Widow's comlink continues. SHIELD can't hear her. And she can't hear them. Until… the buzz at first seems just like more reverb, but then one of Trent's screens flicks. The image flickers in and out for a moment, almost like Sterns' image is fighting against something else. Or, perhaps, more plausibly, something else is fighting against his. "Please tell me you can see me — " Natasha's voice mutters before cursing angrily in Russian. Her image is beneath one of the cameras, making her seem smaller than she really is — like SHIELD looks down on a child of an agent instead of the Black Widow herself. There's no trace of Cassandra Cartier. The blonde wig has been long since abandoned, her red hair is matted in what appears to be blood and sweat, and her elegant dress is ripped in places, having even been cut down to size. She won't be able to see them, nor does she expect to, "If you can hear me… evac.. " the word gets garbled in a mess of static that even consumes the image for a moment. "Repeat: eva… " it's garbled again. "There's a b…" static "..can't de…" static "…don't know… " more static. "Romanoff out." The image cuts. And Natasha is gone.

A Team, many of whom are dressed as partygoers (this is supposed to be covert, afterall), meanwhile, has begun to move to the doors of the building. Yet they're closed. Locked. And the security officer at the front doesn't seem to be letting anyone in.. or out. This can't be a good sign. A-leader's voice resounds over the comlink, "Agent Hill we're shut out. Carter, other entrances?" There's an urgency to the softly spoken words.

Inside the party, Sterns continues his 'acceptance' speech of sorts. "Well, anyways. We weren't about to cancel this grand party for something as trifling as a cold! Just envision what scandal that would've caused!" he chuckles, but it's not merry. In fact, in a way, it sounds hollow and cold like a cavern with no bottom. Evidently, whatever he's laughing at isn't in fact, funny. He adjusts his bow tie and then leans a little closer to the screen, "So, let's all begin what we've come here for, shall we?" He dramatically raises a single arm into the air, "Solving world hunger!!!" Pause. His hands are clapped together and then rubbed greedily, "Who wants to know how we do it?"

"There's an old tornado cellar at the back of the building." Trent is quick to relay the information, his own hands and brain full of code in an attempt to stop the increase in Stern faces plastering the truck. "Uh, the stopping of this guy is not going well," he relays to Maria. "And it looks like Romanoff landed into some bloody trouble."

Maria, deciding that her hawk's nest is not doing her any good, decides to double time it to the mansion. 'Evac' is enough of a word to get the meaning across. Stowing her weapon, she takes the fire escape steps two at a time. "A Team, head for secondary entrance. B Team, start breaking windows and doors if you have to. Get those people out of there. Widow, we copy, just get out."

Pepper glances around, but no longer sees Natasha in the crowd. "I don't think she's here any more." Echoing Tony, she sets down her champagne flute - however, hers is half finished. She looks back at Happy with a worried look. The red briefcase is met with an expression something like relief, but there are so many people here. It's not herself that she's the most worried about. "Tony, there are important scientists and delegates from all over the world here…"

"I know." All this time, Tony has been wearing his playboy persona. Jovial and carefree, even when referring to the oddities around them. Sometime in the last few seconds, he shed that persona like a jacket. Here Stands Iron Man. Slightly drunk, perhaps, but Iron Man all the same. Like Pepper, he's eyeing the Football. "I don't want to suit up and ruin this party without a good reason, but now might be the time. Happy. Happy!" He hisses at his assistant and motions him over.

Happy already knows what's expected of him. Most sane people in the room can tell by now that something isn't right. He's already uncuffed the case from his wrist. He meanders by Tony and sets it down as casually as possible. Happy keeps on walking, but he doesn't go far.

Underground, the noise is fierce. Even those outside can feel the first shock of the sub-basement explosion. The vibrations extend for miles, causing a sort of earthquake with its effects.

The rumble underneath the floor of the mansion is quiet at first slow and unassuming, yet it still strikes the attention of partygoers. The brilliant minds and But then it starts to move. Whatever happened underground has the centre of the floor beginning to crack, the marble reaching its breaking point, and even beginning to crumble one piece at a time. The shrieks and screams of partygoers only demand that SHIELD works faster. But the windows aren't easy to break. Evidently the mansion has undergone some significant rennovations. The team presses and pushes against the glass with their weapons, but there is little reaction from the 'glass'.

Downstairs, A Team opens the door to the tornado cellar, weapons in hand, ready to storm the building. There's no one standing guard, leaving A Leader to update Hill on the com: "Ma'am we're entering the building. All armed. Will update as needed — " A Leader is interrupted by another rumble, this one loud over the com link.

Amongst the chaos, Sterns motions to the people in front of him to settle, a simple extension of both hands. "Relax," he soothes as he tugs at his bow tie. "The party is only beginning," comes the too-charming smile. "Just imagine" he whispers as if to increase the suspense, "that the genius found in my colleagues can be unlocked in you…."

Each of the wait staff reaches into their uniforms, complete with a side pocket, to extract firearms. Stilted they may be, but unarmed, they are not…

Walsh, Beta team member who went to check on Masters reports back, "Agent Hill? Masters is gone… he's not here… orders?" In fact, the car is empty. Entirely empty. Including any gear Masters had been carting as part of the getaway.

Hill, still running, is almost to the bottom of the fire escape. "A Team. Report!" She can't hear them over the loud rumbling over the com. "Gone?! Goddammit Masters," she hisses. "Join the others, main priority is rescuing the civilians." And with a long jump, she's on the ground and dashing across the street. Weapon already pulled, she makes straight for the main entrance, ready to shoot anyone who attempts to get in her way.

The jig is up inside the mansion. Once the floor starts to shake and the waiters grab guns, Pepper just looks at Tony. "I think that means the party is officially over." They didn't even get a proper cocktail hour. Knowing what is about to happen, she yanks his lapels toward her in order to kiss him. "Be careful." And then, she steps back from the briefcase and toward Happy. The last thing Tony needs is to worry about her getting shot by a gun toting waiter. Instead, she decides that crowd control is her best suited talent. Springing into action, she starts knocking over the tall tables normally meant to hold party goers drinks. Not caring that the marble cracks as the heavy tables crash to the ground or the mess of food and liquid that splatter onto the floor, she starts rolling them toward the walls.

Upon seeing Pepper's plan, Happy is quick to assist, rolling tables while man-handling scientists and diplomats behind them. "Get behind these and stay down!"

Tony lingers, savoring the kiss for several heartbeats. Then it's definitely that time. He tips the red case over with his foot and kicks the activation button. In a matter of seconds, the Mark V Iron Man platform has deployed, encasing him in a shell of overlapping armor plates and destructive implements.

"JARVIS, I want every inch of this building scanned, including whatever's under it. Then start on the surrounding block. You. Drones." Iron Man triggers a shoulder-mounted missile pod and acquires a target lock on more of the empty-eyed bad guys than he can quickly count. As he does, he strides into the center of the room, doing his best to draw as much attention to himself as possible. "Last week I put down a terrorist uprising in a country I can't even pronounce. You sure you wanna ride this train?"

Maria is met with gunfire at the front door. A steady stream tries to keep them away from the front door. And it seems like they have too many bullets to count. YET, the three fellows guarding the door don't hit anything. Not great shots it would seem.

The drones don't seem really aware of what's going on. Besides the fact that Iron Man is standing there. And this means that he should be shot at. So the Drones begin to open fire. On anything. And everything. Not just Iron Man… Because, well, they're drones. And they don't know better than to fire at unarmed civilians.

"No, no, no," Sterns begins to quite comically cluck his tongue as they open fire at several dignitaries. "Not them. No. This is not what we — there must be a failsafe in here som— " the screen goes dark. Something may not be going according to plan.

Tony's scan turns up some surprising results. The kitchen underneath the stairs hooks up to multiple subbasements — all metallic and loaded with different types of machinery and weaponry. The sub-basement extends beyond the building itself, deep into the Russian wilderness that surrounds the mansion. Evidently this place was set up sometime during Soviet Russia. Underground, multiple mini-explosions have been set up to quite literally break the building. Or, at least, pieces of it. It's not enough to collapse the building onto everyone there and painstaking calculations have been made to ensure that only the centre of the room will begin to crumble. A last bomb isn't really a bomb — it contains some gasseous substance and has thoroughly been tampered with, although not to the tamperer's purpose. In fact, its tampering is makeshift and has only contained the gas temporarily with gum. Yes. Gum. Evidently the tamperer had nothing else on her to stop a gaseous bomb…

"Kramer here, ma'am," comes one of the A Team on the comlink back to Hill. "Prentice, Yeomens, and Connolly are down, ma'am! Our entrance here is blocked by debris — should we proceed or try to find another way into the buidling?"

"Kramer, take four and pull Prentice, Yeomens and Connolly out." Maria takes a moment to dive behind a parked car just as the shots start to fly at her. Popping her head over her cover, she marks where each of the guards are standing and ducks back down again. "Keep looking for a way in. B Team, report!" As she's waiting to hear the report, she levels her gun and makes three well aimed shots. "Carter, locate Masters. Now."

"I'm, uh, I'm a little busy…" Trent continues his coding and moving around of firewalls. It's stressful and taking up all his attention. However, when Maria gives an order, he must obey. "Just a second…" He's going to lose some ground on the monitors, but he switches to the locators for everyone com. Narrowing the search to Masters' ID, he barely has time to register what he reads before he rattles it back. "Masters is inside the building. That's all I've got without doing a more narrow search and losing any lead I've got with Sterns' hack into the van."

While Tony is quipping and attempting to draw attention from the waiters, Pepper uses the distraction to flip more tables. Around the room, other party goers have caught on. Being smart people, they follow suit. However, not all of them have found direct cover when the shooting starts. Pepper, in fact, is in the midst of pushing a table over when the bullets start to fly. Attempting to dive behind cover causes her heels to slip on the floor now covered in alcohol and food. With a bit of tumble, she falls behind the table, banging her knees on the floor and possibly twisting her ankle.

Iron Man doesn't seem concerned about the bullets ricocheting off of his armor. He's more aware of the ones heading toward (presumably) innocent targets. He fires all twelve of his shoulder-mounted missiles, lets a few repulsor beams loose, and even pops an array of anti-warhead chaff grenades that are sure to flash and dazzle at such close range. He's as gentle as he can be, considering he's got some of the world's most potent battle technology at his fingertips. Literally, in some cases.

Pepper's fall escapes his notice. He's still calculating trajectories, planning possible attack vectors, and generally doing a great deal of math while half-drunk that no decent human could comprehend on their best day. He's also analyzing the scans provided by JARVIS, none of which seem good. "Happy! Pepper! I'm gonna make a door. Get everybody out of here!"

Thermal imaging assists Tony in picking out a section of wall that seems devoid of warm bodies. As soon as he finds a likely location, he lets the leash off the unibeam and fires a potent bolt of energy directly from his arc reactor.

"Ma'am these windows won't break — we're switching to heat based weaponry to bust through — " but at that moment, on a wall opposite their work, the arc reactor beam burns a hole into the wall. "A hole has been from inside, at your command, will send two men to help civvies out — " B-Team leader explains over the comlink as quickly as possible. "Also, at your command, we will attempt to make a hole on the other side of the building to enter in — "

Screams of various people echo through (and even outside) the building as some bullets catch flesh of seemingly innocent bystanders. More tables are moved as shields against the would-be attackers, only adding to the pandemonium of the room. But the newly formed hole in the wall presents a quick exit for anyone remotely near it. Two SHIELD agents with guns offer help to the exiting bodies. Of course, this is when several of the wait staff turn their attention towards the hole in the wall, opening fire towards it rather than the centre of the room.

Iron Man's fire detracts many of the other wait-staff for the moment, drawing their attention away from the civilians and towards the man in the suit. Others become somewhat incapacitated by the missiles fired. The bullets clang and ricochet off the suit. Until one of the vacant individuals looks up at the largest chandelier in the centre of the room and opens fire on it, causing large pieces of crystal to rain from the sky. And the chandelier itself to swing precariously back and forth.

The cracking floor at the centre of the room begins to give way right in the middle, causing mini cracks further up. Chunks of marble begin to collapse through the middle, and vibrations from beneath the building cause two partygoers to lose their balance and literally slip through the crack.

A pop sound can be heard throughout the building like a weapon misfiring. And deep within the sub-basement, the gum that patches together the gas-releasing mechanism has begun to bubble. It won't last…

On Trent's monitor, somewhere in the sub-basement, Masters has only just started to move. Oddly his movement has him heading towards the stairs.

Trent is still in the midst of blocking the van from more of Sterns' attacks. It's still an arduous process and he's starting to lose ground. Only every once in awhile does he check in on the trace he set to Master's com. The movement catches his eye. "Masters, where are you going? Agent Hill, Masters is on the move inside. He seems to be headed for the stairs." Despite that lapse in attention, the attack hasn't pushed through the firewall. In fact, there seems to be another user in his system helping block the cyber attack. "Uh, what the hell?"

"On it." Maria dispatches the shooting guards in a few more shots and makes a run for the heavier fighting toward the blasted out wall. "Focus everyone at the one exit. Provide cover fire for the evacuators while the rest guide the civilians out." Soon, she doesn't need to speak on the comlink to provide orders for the team. She's soon yelling them and pointing decidedly. "Pull them back across the street, set up a guarded perimeter. Get them out of here. As organized as possible, people. If anyone dies by trampling, you'll be hearing about it later." And with that she's pushing her way inside the building. Obeying her own orders, she starts to provide cover fire while simultaneously scanning the battlefield.

Still behind the cover provided by the table, Pepper winces as she checks her ankle. It doesn't feel like a break, but it's certainly tender. Happy is quickly by her side at the word from Tony and helps her to a crouched position. "Come on, Ms. Potts, you heard the boss. We need to get out of here."

"I like that plan. And I'm your boss." Pepper gives Happy a weak smile to show her joke and allows him to half carry and half drag her from table to table toward the exit. While he keeps an eye for the next table, she's the one that times each move so they're moving at the most opportune moment. It's slow going, but they're making progress.

The bullets, even the first few explosions are relatively minor concerns compared to what might still come. JARVIS is currently analyzing the primary device, the one that was tampered with. Civilians are being injured. Bad guys are everywhere. Then two people plummet down into the basement and Tony's mind is made up.

He actives his thrusters, zooms after them, and scoops them both up before either can splat. He touches down briefly, just long enough to yell, "Hang on!" as he scoops up the dangerous-looking device that seems to be held together quite literally with spit and chewing gum. Then he's back in the air. "JARVIS, find me the nearest body of water and set a course!"

"I already have, sir," JARVIS replies calmly. He waits to engage the thrusters again until the civilians have been deposited safely at street level. Then Iron Man is off, snapping the sound barrier as he searches for a safe place to let this bomb detonate.

"I am Agent Anthony Masters," comes the a semi-robotic voice over the comlink as Masters' continues to climb up many many flights of stairs.

As per instructed, A-Team and B-Team make for the makeshift exit, operating as armed guards to assist partygoers in their evacuation. Their guns are trained on the waitstaff, taking them out as needed while trying to maintain as much order as possible — both of which are challenges as the floor continues to break. Well dressed people are escorted out of the party, some of which are in tears and various states of disarray.

The two bodies that fall towards the sub-basement cling to Tony as he plucks them up, their thankfulness more than evident when they touch ground again.

The nearest body of water is a good 3 kilometers away — a reasonable distance, assuming the jiggerypokery of the bomb lasts. The bubble gum fizzles more underneath the pressure and heat generated by the chemicals inside.

Keeping away from the massive target that is Iron Man, Maria quickly ducks behind the strewn tables that served the party attendees as cover. Most of the civilians have been cleared efficiently by the SHIELD team. Seeing that the superhero is taking care of the bomb itself, she decides to find her wayward agent. Her code firmly involves the leave no man behind rule - no matter how much she wishes she could forget that for once. "Carter, get me Masters' position on my link."

"Uh, did someone turn Masters into a pod person? It's not even my birthday." There's more furious typing on Trent's end of the computer screen, but it's no longer to fight off the threat of Sterns. With the combined effort of himself and the mystery white hat, the van is safe. Now, however, he's attempting to figure out who hacked into his system and from where. Interrupted, he taps in a forceful and annoyed manner at the keyboard to do as requested. It's an easy task and he'd prefer to figure out how not one, but two people got into his very secure system. Not knowing will annoy Trent for days until he finds the weaknesses and those responsible.

Once she has information to follow, Maria is dashing after the small dot that is supposedly Masters. Up and up she goes, hoping to catch up to the man.

Pepper and Happy make their slow way across the mansion floor. The marble is slick with spilled beverages and it wouldn't do to slip again. They are some of the last occupants to be evacuated through the large new exit designed by Iron Man. One of the B Team members takes a hold of Pepper's other side and quickly - but gently - lowers her to the ground. Happy wraps an arm around her waist and she slings an arm around his neck, managing to jog across the once beautifully lit entrance toward the safety line set up by SHIELD. As Tony blasts through the roof with the bomb, she can't help but follow his trajectory even as she runs for her life.

For his part, Iron Man is staying low to the ground and away from populated areas. He's seeking to minimize how far any toxins will disperse if the explosive should pop before he gets to…

And there it is. The safety of open, uninhabited water. Still hugging the bomb fiercely to his chest, Tony plunges directly into a river that's already seen better days. He exhales a sigh of relief and lets go of his precious cargo, which immediately begins to float.

"This is less than ideal, sir," JARVIS observes. "Do you have a plan?"

"Yeah. We do this the old-fashioned way." No time to think, no time to chart out the possibilities. Tony grips the bomb again and triggers his thrusters, sending both he and the deadly device down to the bottom of the river. "JARVIS. If this goes south, you look after Pepper. You hear me?"

"Yes, sir. I understand," the AI replies solemnly.

When Maria catches up to him, Masters is at the top of the stairs. His blue eyes are glazed over like some kind of zombie as he approaches Hill. Stupidly, his hand reaches for its weapon only to retract almost like something is telling him not to open fire. Not now, anyways. His hands, however are raised. Evidently, he's ready for some kind of fight, or whatever is controlling him is… His movements are familiar as he edges onto the balls of his feet, but not Masters-familiar. They're different. Sleeker. Quicker. But Maria will recognize it from somewhere. Of course, it could be anywhere given the Beta team member's own unique muscle memory ability. Monkey see, monkey do.

He bobs right and jabs towards her with quickness he usually doesn't fight with. But his eyes are never really there. They're empty.

The water Tony dives into is cold — the kind of cold that doesn't vary with the seasons as its fed from northern mountains into Russia's biggest streams. The fish are, consequently, large and unassuming. But the bomb hisses under the water as heat meets cold in an unexpected reaction. The bubble gum hardens and loses its maleability, increasing the pressure of the gas within the cold water of the large river… compression begins to prod the gas into a liquid state, making the gamma radiation inside change states just a little too quickly. Perhaps at the bottom of the water it will turn solid.

As soon as Maria sees Masters go for the gun, she quickly aims her own and does not hesitate in shooting. Fortunately - or perhaps unfortunately, depending on viewpoint - the shot goes wide as the agent quickly moves toward her in an attack. Instinctively, she brings her arm up to block the jab and then side steps away from the punch in an attempt to push the man off balance. Her eyes narrow. She's sparred with Natasha enough times to recognize her fighting style. It's easy to tell this close that whatever has happened to Masters does not seem to be natural. That does not mean the gun is holstered, however. He is out to kill or hurt her and she will defend herself with deadly force, if necessary. Though she has daydreamed about punching the daylights out of Masters enough times since she took over Beta, it was never during a critical mission. As such, she attempts to end the fight in a quick, yet effective, manner. While spinning out of his reach, she kicks upwards, aiming between his legs.

As he's not currently exploding, Tony gets to work on identifying the bomb's integral components. "JARVIS. Three-dimensional scan. Find me a weak point."

Meanwhile, an array of tools spring from the fingertips of his suit. Wire cutters, a plasma torch, and various screwdrivers are all very much on display. "Anytime now, JARVIS."

"Efforting… Efforting… This device is unlike anything in my databanks. It seems designed to spread gamma radiation," the AI postulates. "Attempting to isolate connections between primary charge and radioactive payload."

Zombie-Masters crumples as Maria's kick connects, bringing him down to the ground. But there's no moaning. Just crumpling. Evidently, physically speaking, his body responds the way it normally would. Something of Masters (or perhaps all mind-zombies) remains even after their mental faculties are gone. On the floor he curls into himself. It's strange in a way because his neurons fire physically, yet something inside his mind doesn't let it register as something to react to mentally. But it also doesn't let him stand up again.

The mechanism is chemical in nature (with chemicals that can be found in any general store, including hairspray, acetone, and antifreeze) in a chamber outside the glass containing the radiation. The chamber, however, does not cover the glass in its entirety and is only intended to crush cracks into the glass to release the gas from the chamber. The design is unique and not found in any databanks.

While Masters is down, Maria is quick to zip tie his hands behind his back. She is not at all gentle in pushing her knee into his spine to make sure he's properly held while she secures him. "What. In. The. Hell. Masters." She's not expecting him to answer, but that's all she has at the moment. Back into the comlink, she checks in. "Teams report."

Even inside his mask, Tony's eyes narrow as he studies a holographic projection of his current nemesis. The design is simple enough. Like a two-stage drain clogger, the chemicals and radiation are clearly designed to be greater than the sum of their parts when mixed.

"We're running out of time," JARVIS says, actually managing to sound nervous.

Tony gives the apparatus a careful tap-tap-tap with the tip of a screwdriver. "I know. This is a real piece of work. It's simple, elegant, and I have no idea what it does. Let's cut it open."

Aware that some sort of reaction is bound to happen sooner or later, the best course of action that Tony can come up with is to turn on his plasma torch. Before he starts slicing his way through anything that doesn't look vital, he uses a low setting to weld the makeshift bubblegum seal over into something more permanent.

Anthony Masters doesn't even react to Maria's words. His mind is somewhere else. Entirely not here. But he doesn't struggle against the restraints despite himself. Evidently, whatever has consumed his consciousness has become dormant, leaving his mind semi-vacant for the time being.

"A Team leader here, ma'am," comes a voice over the comlink. "We're still assisting civilians leaving the building. Looks like most of the wait staff have been incapacitated by B Team." Static crackles through the link, but the leader continues, "We also have Doctor Robert Dunphy in our custody. He doesn't seem well, ma'am. We're sending him to medical." Again static crackles, this time louder. Team leader audibly taps on his link and then continues, "No sign of — "

"Hello," comes another male voice over the comlink. "Agent Hill, that was a valiant effort," there's an arrogance to the voice, and careful listening can match it to Sterns from the video feed. Trent will know in minutes that the network hasn't been tapped again, rather, this is one of their comlinks. No doubt Sterns was on site. "You may think you won this leg of the race, but the marathon is far from over." He clucks his tongue matter of factly, "It's never good when you lose so many pawns — " Agents " — your castles, bishops, or really any piece. But then I have added bonus, don't I? Your loss is always my gain. Be sure to tell your bosses that." With those words, the link is destroyed. Permanently.

"Ma'am?" comes a second voice — that of B Team leader, "There's no sign of Doctor Ross or Doctor Truart among the civilians or the wait staff." B Team leader looks amongst the wait staff that B Team has been busy zip tying for transport. Or whoever is dead. A glance around the ballroom reveals blood stains, broken chandeliers, and a crumbling floor. The room has seen better days.

A third voice comes through the comlink, "Medical is on site…"

Cutting the bomb has Tony able to pull apart its component parts. The radiation chamber removes, with some effort from the rest. The seal, now made more permanent, seems to be holding. Evidently makeshift works with some more jiggerypokery.

In removing the radiation, however, the counter on the bomb speeds up. The chemicals within the device merge, causing a full on reaction. Tony's scan can see a spike in the ambient temperature of the device — the thing is going to blow…

Maria stands up, seeing how the fight has gone out of Masters and he has been ziptied into obedience. As she listens to Sterns speak - who else could it be? - she says nothing. There's no point in interrupting him and the more he talks the more she can learn about him. With his speech done, she files it away for her report and continues on with clean up. She hauls Masters onto his feet and starts to guide him down the stairs and toward the medical team. "Switch to clean up and containment. Carter, get me a trace on Romanoff. She hasn't checked in." And if Sterns said she lost a pawn and he has a comlink, she can take an educated guess as to where both the Widow and that comlink went.

Meanwhile, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what's going on with the dirty bomb. Luckily, Tony happens to be a rocket scientist in addition to being a billionaire, playboy, and general visionary. With the two components separated, he holds one in each hand and triggers the Modular Missile Launcher he's been working on. It pops up from the back of his gauntlet and he dials down the charge until the projectile is completely inert; no more than a large, high-velocity dart. Then he straps on the chamber filled with gamma radiation and fires this new assembly deep into the riverbed. It'll have to be recovered later, but it's safe for now.

Unfortunately, this leaves him only a few seconds to decide what he's to do with the rest of his purloined bomb. There's no place to go. No escape. All he can do is pinch his eyes shut and wait.

When he checks, Trent will find no sign of Romanoff. Seems there's at least one agent MIA from this mission.

"Yes ma'am," A-Leader replies over the link. "With medical on site, containment is on its way. We will arrest and extradite the prisoners at your orders." Nick Fury will want to talk to them. Well, some of them at least.

Meanwhile, the counter on the bomb ticks back to zero. There's a moment of silence where it seems like everything will be fine, and Tony's efforts are for not. In fact, it almost seems like Iron Man can breathe easy. About three seconds following the final countdown, the device becomes unreasonably hot. Hotter than boiling. The reaction is complete.

There is a flash of light emitted from inside the device, bright and brilliant, and uncontrollable. The explosion itself has all of the force expected, glowing a deep amber, yellow, and orange hue from the inside out, set to consume whatever it can with the force it would require to knock out the pillar of a very heavy very old building.

Trent, still looking into the security breaches, only takes a moment to reply. He types in her id number, but all he gets is an error. A few more tries with different means of tracking and he is still unable to locate her. "She's not in the building. I can't find her." Remembering the talk they had before the mission, he frowns and hopes she still has that lock pick.

"Dammit," Maria intones when her suspicions are confirmed. With a bit of a rougher shove than absolutely necessary, she pushes Masters into the care of two B Team members who will take him off to medical to be checked. She's not exactly looking forward to the debriefing with Fury later in the day. But, first things first. "Let's do our own interrogation before we give them over to the local authorities. Status on Iron Man?"

Though he's underwater and has scanned the device enough to know it's sub-nuclear, Iron Man still hugs it to his chest to try and muffle the blast. Brave? Perhaps. Stupid? Absolutely.

The explosive's impact is as much as the Mark V platform has ever had to absorb, especially at this range. Overlapping armor plates melt and weld together just from the heat that's generated. The concussive force is another story. It cracks the protective casing around his arc reactor, as well as compromising the integrity of the mask's eye-slits. That's right. Tony's suit is filling with water.

"JARVIS! Get us out of here, any heading!" Thoroughly tumbled about and disoriented by the blast, Tony has to trust his AI to lead him out of this mess. It's fortunate that JARVIS is on top of things. The suit is angled upward, the thrusters that are still operational all fire, and he zooms up toward the surface.

Unfortunately, Tony's life support has been compromised. He took a final breath before his mask filled up with water, but now he's operating blind. As soon as he hits clear air, he picks a random direction and blasts off in a wide arc. The landing is rough; there's an abandoned building to break his fall, but that doesn't keep him from plowing a huge crater in the ground. Status on Iron Man: Heavily damaged, but not destroyed. Tony's status remains to be seen.

"Aye, Ma'am. We will sequester some of the wait staff so you can speak to them directly," comes B-Team leader's voice. Simultaneously the team leader straightens all of the wait staff against a wall. All of them have the same distanced look in their eyes.

Another tech head gets back to Maria over the comlink, "We saw Iron Man disappear towards some water, and then just disappear into the air in an arc. Do you want us to send a recovery team?"

A-Team Leader's voice then echoes over the comlink, "We also have all of the civilians that are still living. Do you wish to question any of them? They should be addressed — "

With a long suffering sigh, Maria pinches the bridge of her nose. "Yes, send a recovery crew. The last thing we need is for Iron Man to have gotten himself killed during an operation we were involved in."

She's close enough to the survivors that Pepper has heard Maria and with a pained determination, makes her way closer to the leader of this operation. "Killed?" The CEO of Stark Industries has Happy in tow, attempting to make her sit down and not injure herself further. Distressed, she glances about her. This was not a random operation. This was planned. "If you all knew this was going to turn into a fire fight, then why didn't you do something to stop it?"

"Great." Maria mutters under her breath. She doesn't do public relations. As the incensed Pepper makes her way toward her, she doesn't stop. "I'm sure he's fine, Ms. Potts. We're sending a recovery crew now." Eyes glance down to a bandaged ankle and starts walking toward the cordoned off area. If Pepper wants to keep talking, she'll have to make her way back to where she is supposed to be. "You should rest. As soon as we have Mr. Stark, we'll be sure to alert you." With a motion that does not bear to be argued with, she gestures Happy over to take her back to the medical area. Moving away from the red headed woman, she heads toward the main tent with the other survivors. She doesn't bother with stepping up onto a make shift platform. Instead, she projects and doesn't care if not everyone can hear her. "Ladies and gentlemen, the events of tonight are under investigation and should not be discussed with the press. If you have any information about Doctor Samuel Sterns, his research or the events of tonight, do not hesitate to come forward and speak to our representatives. The perimeter is still not secure, so please stay within the boundaries we have set up for you." There is no thank you and there is no comfort.

The recovery crew reach Iron Man within minutes of the order thanks to their watchful eyes on him all the while. The aircraft that the team arrives in seems to appear from nowhere as it blends into the sky. The man captaining the aircraft checks in with Maria, "We have landed and are checking in with Stark." A single agent treads out of the aircraft, followed by a medical crew. "Mister Stark, Mister Stark," the agent repeats as she treads closer to the suit. "My name is Agent Bobbi Morse from SHIELD, can we be of assistance?"

Tony isn't breathing.

Despite his rapid escape from the river, he spent too much time tightly compressed by a thin layer of water between his suit and skin. That layer has almost completely disappeared into his lungs. When the recovery team finds him, he's in the middle of a smoking crater that used to be a sugar factory. The Mark V platform is in shambles. What pieces weren't welded together by the explosion were cracked or otherwise damaged. He started shedding parts when he hit the ground, and from the looks of things he managed to roll and tumble for quite a ways. Still steaming and thoroughly unconscious, he's surrounded by the remnants of his suit. The only components that are still intact and attached are part of the chest plate, one gauntlet, and most of a metal boot.

It doesn't take long for the SHIELD agents to discern his predicament. He's in the middle of a lengthy rescue-breathing session when he finally, finally gasps in a bit of air and his eyes shoot open. As soon as they settle on the agent who's attending to him, he relaxes and smiles weakly at her. "Was it good for you, too?" he asks. "I mean, I've had better. But not often."

"Glad to have you back with us, Mister Stark," comes Bobbi's overly chipper reply (does this woman really work for SHIELD?). "Hang loose here, I'm going to flag down our medic to check you out and make sure there's nothing else going on with you…" CPR is something Bobbi knows. Any more than that? Well, she's no physician (but she is a doctor). A finger presses the comlink in her ear, and Bobbi clears her throat, "Agent Hill, Agent Sixteen here. Stark seems fine. I'm having the chopper's" it's not actually a chopper "medic check him out, and then we'll be heading to your position."

The medic, evidently also on the comlink, hops out of the aircraft on cue, and gives Tony a once over. He's satisfied enough at the condition of Stark, despite the destruction of the suit, prompting Bobbi to offer him a hand, "Shall we get you back to the party?" There's an obvious twinkle of mischief in her eye at her own comment. It's not said sarcastically, but considering everything that's transpired over the course of the last few hours, it certainly may be a veiled version thereof.

This isn't Tony's first crash landing. Far from it. "Yeah, let's go," he says, accepting a hand up. "I'm good. I crash better than anyone I've ever met."

Still clomping around wearing about a quarter of his suit and not much else, he makes his way to the airlift and boards it, requiring some assistance, but managing fairly well for a guy covered in scrapes and bruises. He takes his seat and waves grandly in no particular direction. "Take me to liquor, if you please."

"Sure thing, Mister Stark," comes Bobbi's upbeat reply. "Let's move out," she directs the pilot as she eases back into her seat. Now it's time for clean up and wrap up.

It takes only a few minutes for the aircraft to safely land in front of the very wrecked mansion without further maiming anyone else. The passengers amble out slowly, to see the destruction of the house once more. Injured people are being attended to at the North of the front lawn while individuals bound in zip ties line the west side of the house. Some of these are being interrogated by various members of the SHIELD team.

Seeing Tony exit the aircraft, Pepper is quick to find him. Despite the limp, she pushes her way through with an authority of someone used to getting to Tony Stark through a police escort. It's possible she's had practice. "Tony?" She takes in the lack of suit and the multiple bruises and scrapes. "Oh my God, are you okay? What did you do?"

"I'm fine. I hugged a bomb underwater," Tony replies. "And saved the world. Or Russia, at least. I'm glad you're okay. I was… concerned."

He doesn't step out of the aircraft so much as he slides out in the most ungainly of fashions. As his knees buckle when he hits the ground, it's good that Pepper is making a mad dash toward him. He throws his gauntlet-free arm around her neck and uses her for support. "Hey. Agent Smooches," he waves Bobbi back over for a moment. "There's a big can of gamma radiation buried in the mud at the bottom of that river. Might want to look into it. If you need me, I'll be inside a bottle of vodka."

"It's Morse, actually, sir," Bobbi corrects with a half-smirk before shrugging apologetically at Pepper. Her smirk changes some at the information, "I'll be sure to have our people look into it. Thank you for all of your work." Her smile eases as she presses her finger to her comlink — a bad habit that makes undercover work near impossible. It might be the real reason she doesn't do it. "Agent Hill," she begins, only to spot her superior on the ground.

Heavy footed steps take her towards Hill, "Ma'am, Iron Man is back," she motions behind her, "and accounted for. Evidently he burried a can of gamma radiation in the bottom of the river bed. Maybe Carter can chart Iron Man's trajectory before we send a team? Might make the process easier."

The agents that have been questioning the wait staff have little luck in getting anything out of them aside from their names. They can't answer questions about why they did what they did, who they work for (although it seems obvious enough), or what they last remember. They remember nothing.

But as time passes, things begin to change. They're subtle changes at first. Some of the drones begin to identify movement. When agents move in front of them, their gaze turns. This is very different than even in the party when everyone managed to keep their eyes forward. Other drones begin blinking. Others still actually move — nothing obvious at first, but simple movement like brushing hair out of their own eyes.

The movements and changes become more obvious over time. And soon enough, all of the drones are doing all three, but not systematically. It seems as though they may be waking up.

A single waitress on the end, rather unexpectedly begins to wail. Her nonsensical Russian, broken and desperate doesn't make sense to even those that speak the language. It seems she's experienced quite a shock. Other wait staff begin to follow suit.

"Ah ah ah." When Tony puts most of his support on her, Pepper starts to collapse. It's too much for her ankle. Luckily, Happy was close behind and shifts Tony's weight to his sturdy frame. "Sorry. I twisted my ankle." While others are dealing with bullet holes and being blown up, she slipped on champagne and injured herself. Not her finest hour. She gives a gracious smile to Bobbi for her help in bringing back Tony. "Thank you. Please don't sue him for sexual harassment. I'd say he has a concussion and doesn't know what he's saying, but that would mean I'd have to perjure myself in front of a jury later." That taken care of, she turns back to Stark; worry plainly creases her brow. "You hugged a bomb?" There are things that she will have to get used to with Tony being Iron Man that still haven't sunk in. "I'm glad you saved us and aren't hurt but…don't make a habit of that."

Already Maria is on the com to Carter as she walks. "Carter, track Iron Man's trajectory, find out where that bomb is. We should retrieve what we can, see if we can put some pieces back together and figure out what he was planning." Then, she's almost upon Tony and Pepper. "Ms. Potts, Mr. Stark. I'm glad to see you both made it out relatively unharmed. If you'll follow me, we'll have our medics take care of you. It would also be helpful to get your insider's view of what happened." As she attempts to lead the small crew toward the medical tent is when the wailing of the wait staff starts. For a moment, the SHIELD Agent pauses, taken aback by the turn of events. But, she's not one to show weakness in front of civilians. "Morse, figure out what is going on with that."

It's a few simple calculations for Trent to track where Iron Man fell into the river. He's quick to relay the information back to a retrieval team. This is no longer a full blown clean up and damage control event now and they should have enough resources to find where the canister was buried. "Yeah, uh, make sure no one breathes any of that in. Or gets exposed to it. Getting it out of the river before it contaminates the whole thing would really be ideal."

"You're good, though. Right?" The look of concern is back on Tony's face as he eyes Pepper carefully. He curls the very tips of his fingers around hers, holding her hand gently and stroking it with his thumb. "Okay. Yeah. Medical tent. Better be vodka in there. Who am I kidding? This is Russia. I could just go to a drinking fountain."

Now that he and Pepper are both being supported by Happy, progress is slow and steady as they follow Agents Morse and Hill toward the medical unit. "I'll send over the scans I took of the bomb before I cut it to ribbons. Tell Fury he owes me another one. And don't worry about the canister, either. It's secure. I mean, get there before anyone else does. But it's no longer a contamination-" Tony pauses to let a particularly loud wail pass. "-risk. Your people figure out what's wrong with this lot yet?"

Hill doesn't have to ask Morse twice. The blonde agent speed walks to the first wailing woman, and attempts to discern what Russian she can. But it's futile. The wailing continues. The blonde tries to speak soothingly, but it's for naught. The woman is inconsolable, chattering on about the village and her child and some blue man. "Agent Hill, I think they're returning to normal and have experienced trauma," comes the leery answer across the comlink. "I… don't really know what to do. My PhD is in biophysics. If you have a biology problem, well I can deal with that." Pause. "Unless you want me to knock them out. I could definitely do that — "

Meanwhile in the car, Masters' eyes begin to change. He's begun to track movement. Instinctively, he twists around in the back seat, the pain finally registering in his brain, he fights through it like any trained agent, forcing himself to take out his captor, only to see that it's one of the Beta team. "Cut me loose?" he asks as he presses his head to the wall of the van.

"I'm not the one that got friendly with a bomb." Pepper gives Tony a pointed look, though there is no real anger or malice there. She's just glad that he made it out relatively unscathed. "I'm fine," she assures him with a slight squeeze on the hand that he's holding. "I'm sure I'm the only one here who was injured by a drink." And with a shake of her head, the worrier that she is adds, "Do you think you should be drinking? If you really do have a concussion, vodka is going to do more harm than good."

Hill escorts the three to the medical tent. "We'll send someone." Maria doesn't need to be told that SHIELD should be the ones recover the poison, however she manages to bite her tongue. "Not yet. We'll have our medics take a close look at them." Tilting her head to the side, so that Tony and Pepper know that she's not talking to them, the agent shakes her head. "No need to knock them out. Make sure they don't have any permanent damage, take their statement and treat them. Tell the medics to sedate them if they start to freak out too much." The last thing she needs is mass hysteria on top of everything else that's happened. After apparently receiving a report, the woman straightens. "If you'll excuse me. Internal business. Agent Morse will take good care of you." Using a hand signal, she points to Morse and then over to Tony and Pepper - she's not in charge of them. Her footsteps quicken as she heads to the van where Masters has been quarantined. "Absolutely do not untie him." That's an order. "We'll see if you're allowed out after a thorough debriefing." If she has to answer to Fury, Masters is going to answer to her.

Masters' eyes narrow at Maria and his expression turns to an all out scowl. "Ha! I don't even know how I got in here! Or why I'm tied up — I swear Hill, if you don't explain what's going on I will — " but Masters' is cut off as another member of Beta team slams the door shut and shrugs her shoulders with a half-smirk. It's possible she's wanted to do that for some time.

Regardless, for now, despite the wailing, mayhem, and clean-up, things seem to be calming down.

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