Seeking Clues
Tony returns to the decimated mansion to try to piece together what on earth happened.



"Best quote"

All roads leading to the acreage just outside of Stalingrad are closed. There's no way to drive in. With agents posted at each of the entrances, it's clear SHIELD hasn't completely closed its investigation, or, perhaps, they're not anxious to have locals seeking to understand what happened here. The mansion itself has been nearly destroyed. Pieces of the ceiling caved in, and an entire wall has collapsed on the East side. It had been the exit of choice for each of the evacuees.

Since the terrible night, the weather has been relatively warm, which means the site itself is relatively intact. With next to no precipitation, things are much like when Tony had left them last. With the exception of bodies. No one seems to line the area.

The grand steps to the mansion have lost their some of their grandeur amongst dried caked on blood from civilians and victims of the incident.

Otherwise it's weirdly quiet like everything in the area has died.

After a narrow escape from a SAM site while he was crossing the border, the rest of Tony's passage through Russian airspace was fairly uneventful. When his HUD pings to let him know he's over his destination, he drops into a sharp dive, only activating his thrusters at the last second to cushion his fall.

It's a practiced maneuver, and surprisingly quiet. As he's not here to pick a fight with SHIELD, Tony moves toward the side of the building to get himself out of sight, then enters through one of the holes in the walls. "Well, this is creepy," he mutters to himself as he activates his entire scanning array.

If anyone has noticed Tony land, they aren't making an issue of it. Not yet, anyways. The silence carries. A bird flies overhead, cawing a quiet warning to anyone within earshot, but chooses not to land. It's almost like the land that nothing touches. Ever.

The ground is cracked and dry, and the tire tracks that line the ground are from various vehicles, many of which, Tony's scans find to be (surprise, surprise) government issue. But not Russian government. Evidently, somehow SHIELD seems to have trumped jurisdiction. So much for their ghost operation.

Further scans reveal trace amounts of gamma radiation. Everywhere. EVERY. Where. Evidently this is an important thing to the scene…

"Gamma radiation. Everyone loves gamma radiation," Tony muses. He strokes the 'chin' of his suit thoughtfully as he dives down into the hole where he picked up the dirty bomb. "JAR—damnit. Mark VI, compare current scans with those taken the night of the incident and display data on the heads-up display."

Stark makes popping sounds with his lips while he waits for the suit to catch up and provide the requested information on his visual display. "Definitely creepy."

The old scans also display gamma radiation, but this seems localized to people and the bomb rather than the area itself. Everything now, however, seems to have a signature. Scans seem to suggest that majority of the radiation emits from the area where survivors had been evacuated to in the first place.

A second very large gamma radiation signal is emitted from an area in the sub-basement near where Tony had found the bomb. Yet its signature is higher now than when he found the bomb in the first place.

The sub-basement of the mansion is almost clinical— a maze of corridors that lead this way and that. The kind of maze that you might put a rat into. Dried blood is caked on some of the walls— some with blood splatter. Scans indicate, based on the splatter trajectory, that some were shot. Others, however, seem to have suffered blunt force damage.

A single black ski mask rests on the floor right on top of the gamma radiation signal.

"Hrm," Tony muses, his brow furrowed as he ponders the scene. Every step he takes into the basement area raises more questions, and none of them are particularly good ones. "Mark VI, scan the blood traces and compare with known DNA samples. Same with the ski mask. I want to know who was down here, and why whoever was wearing the mask got a double-dose of gamma emissions."

The scans take some time. More time than expected. Some blood samples seem to belong to various Russians— locals from the region. Other samples take awhile longer. They seem to match one Anthony Masters. The last of the blood samples take MUCH longer. The computer works hard to scan multiple systems and requires a very long time. These ones, however, all match a series of other names: Nancy Rushman, Natalie Rushman, Natalia Alianova Romanova, Natasha Romanoff, Cassandra Cartier, Laura Matthers, and Yelena Belova.

Scans of the blood patterning tell the story of a fight between the pair of agents. Masters seems to have lost much more blood than his female counterpart, and even leaks a path of blood down the hall.

"Ms. Rushman from Legal. What the devil have you gotten yourself into this time?" Tony activates a wrist-mounted spotlight to help him illuminate the path ahead and any clues it might contain. "Beating the hell out of another agent, it seems…"

Though following a trail of blood is rarely conducive to health and good fortune, Tony soldiers on. Right now it's his most obvious lead.

The blood trail continues on well down the next hallway, dried and ominous, and clearly terrible. Evidently Masters had a bloody nose or something. But along the blood trail is something else: a pair of ridiculously high, glamorous black heels. Evidently SHIELD hasn't cleaned the entirety of this space yet. Fortunate timing. Not only did Natasha trail after him, she apparently did so barefoot. Or magically managed to carry shoes somewhere in that slinky dress…

Tony shines his light on the shoes for several seconds as he reconstructs the possibilities in his head. "Romanoff chasing Masters. Gamma rays hot enough to fry an egg. We're getting a picture, but it still isn't leading us anywhere."

He takes a few more steps forward and clears his throat. "Mark VI, plot this sub-basement and show me any other exits. Three-dimensional view."

What Tony has seen f the sub-basement is plotted easily onto the 3D image, but it's incomplete. Evidently the basement doesn't come to walls on one side. The non-walled side, turns into tunnels that wind into different directions. The tunnel of the sub-basement eventually comes to a fork— people can choose to turn right or left.


A bright burst of virtual British accent into the gloomy basement atmosphere.

I have come up with something from that coded file we acquired.

Tony has followed the path down to the branch when JARVIS makes his virtual appearance. "Talk to me," he says, shining his light down each of the branches in turn. "And while you're at it, see if you can get me more information on wherever the hell I've ended up. I just hit a fork in the road."

You are currently inside the remains of an underground shelter dated, from what I can tell, to the Soviet Union. The north tunnel additionally connects to a series of train tracks.

A series of dials inside the helmet's array switch and move in correspondence with the scans.

However, as I was saying, sir, it would seem that the cypher for the file was, in fact, a fail-safe trap. I appear to be broadcasting 'Tony Stark is a cheating cheater' to all known SHIELD channels.

"You're WHAT?" Tony comes to an abrupt halt, squints his eyes shut, and slaps his hand against his mask. He takes a moment to groan at the thought of what will inevitably be a giant mess to clean up. And more trouble with Pepper. He huffs another breath in and out, then continues moving toward the train tracks. "Can't you just… stop? That would be ideal. We still have to get to Banner before SHIELD does, and this definitely isn't going to help."

I am attempting to cease the broadcast, though I cannot say they are entirely without a point.

Tony's earlier scan of the hat fnally comes up. The hat contains hair belonging to one Anthony Masters.

"JARVIS, I created you. I'm King Anthony. You're supposed to be on my side." Tony allows himself another groan. "Do you have any idea how much mess this is going to create?"

I have several facts prepared, but if you would like me to postulate further, I will need to free up some memory first.

Naturally, he never considers that he's the one to blame for this.

"Did you at least get a location on Banner?" Another sweep of his spotlight doesn't reveal much of interest, so he continues his search for the elusive Agent Romanoff.

In a moment, sir. In order to cease the broadcast, I will need to release the file completely from my database. What would you like me to do?

Romanoff truly is elusive. But being barefoot has its disadvantages. Even programmed super spies have oils on their skin— moreso after intense workout… like kicking a guy's ass. The patterning of the footprints show that she was running rather than walking. The fork in the tunnels, however, indicate that Romanoff went right. From there, the trail goes cold.

When both the handheld sensors and the onboard systems come up with a dead trail, Tony grunts and bangs a metal fist against the wall. "Damn. Well, they already know we were there. Might as well stick with it. I've lost Romanoff, SHIELD's got to be looking for Sterns, and somehow I think interrogating a general is a bad idea. We need Banner if we're going to get answers."

I'll put it aside then, sir. Meanwhile, the chat log we intercepted indicates that a SHIELD agent was able to procure a contact for 'Mr. Green' and a possible location. I am not picking up any SHIELD movement at the moment, however, I must advise, that if we investigate, the current broadcast may lead agents straight to our position.

Tony and JARVIS can hear the rustle of movement down the echo-ey metallic maze. Way down in the left side tunnel something or someone is coming.

Sir, there are five life-signs approaching from the south.

"Good. Maybe answers are coming to us. Seriously, though. I thought I programmed you to be good at this." And then Tony squares his shoulders and waits. He carries himself with the confidence of a man wearing armor designed to soak up anything from energy beams to artillery fire. As an afterthought, he preps his rocket pods, the modular missile launcher, and every other bit of external weaponry the suit carries. Like a wild animal, he increases his size and physical presence for the benefit of potential viewers.

Might I remind you, sir, that I work in the capacity my liege designated for me… any programming issues should be taken up with him.

From the tunnel comes a rather rag-tag group of randomly dressed individuals. Who don't look much like SHIELD agents, but are actually SHIELD agents. In the lead, dressed in, what is essentially, a black and white leotard and a triangular mask over her eyes, is a blonde woman, who probably looks very very familiar to the suit. Because suits and facial recognition scans aren't really fooled by little masks. It's Bobbi Morse.

The agents behind her are similarly dressed. Evidently they're trying to piece this together too. Mostly because that's their jobs. In her hands are two large steel batons. Her chin lifts as she sees the Iron Man costume. "Why hello Mister Stark," she says almost too pleasantly, "this is a restricted area— "

Tony is stifling a laugh as he waves to the incoming team, but he hasn't put the big guns away yet. "JARVIS. Shh. Daddy's busy. But keep working. I'll handle things on this end."

He clears his throat, puts on his serious face (behind his mask, anyway) and eyes Morse from head to toe. "I think I'm a little outside your pay grade, Agent Smooches. Nice outfit, though."

Bobbi's lips part wordlessly in a sort of psh manner, but no sound comes out. "Oh Mister Stark, I'm sure some of my coworkers would love to have a chat with you about interferring with government investigations. While I actually think the whole lone-ranger-get-in-get-out thing works for you, not everyone does. Please leave before I have to call in backup." Her head cants to the side, "I'm sure Director Fury would be less than pleased to know that you're stalling agents who are actually trying to recover what was lost— " her lips press together tightly. Her present colleagues (e.g. underlings who are unworthy of names) say nothing and try to avoid eye contact with the suit…

"Oh? Lost something, did we?" Now Tony does deactivate and retract his weaponry, but he's clearly not leaving. "That's embarrassing. Trust me, I'd know. Are you sure you don't want my help? In case you hadn't heard, I'm not just a pretty face. I'm also an expert at… well, everything."

Somehow, Tony manages to make this statement sound completely reasonable.

"Hmmm," Bobbi replies quietly with a very small very polite smile. She manages a more genuine smile a moment later. "Believe it or not, Mister Stark, I have a PhD in Biochemistry. As in piled higher and deeper. Believe me, I can bullshit with the best of them. Number one rule though, don't bullshit a bullshitter." Her chin drops and she tries to retain eye contact with the metal suit. "And," she manages a polite albeit edged smile, "I'm not authorized to let anyone outside of the agency in here at this time. Government and all. Always someone else to report to." Smiiiiiile.

Tony lets out a small, exasperated sigh and shakes his head. "Man, you people are even harder to work with than I am. Have it your way, but I'm not going back the way I came. That hallway looks like the set for a snuff film."

He turns to continue forward, pausing only to glance over his shoulder at the agents. "Coming, Doctor Morse?"

Agent Perky actually rolls her eyes as her hands trail to her hips. "You can't go that way," she states plainly. "Any further treading will be considered in violation of multiple international laws." Evidently Doctor Agent isn't afraid of him. Even in the costume. Maybe she should be. Bobbi's eyebrows arch upwards as she draws the mask away from her eyes. Evidently she means business. "Look. Mister Stark, you can't go that way. It is currently considered a crime scene. This whole area is." And then, perhaps to divert attention away from the hallway, she adds, "I hope you didn't touch anything." She glances at the path to the right— the one that leads out of the building. "I believe that," she points, "is a secondary entrance. Please feel free to use it." Again she smiles.

"Fine," Tony says, giving his head a slow shake. "You're a brave little toaster, Smooches. I'll give you that."

Once he's threatened with phrases like 'violation of multiple international laws', there isn't much he can do but leave. He can, however, leave with style.

AC/DC's 'TNT' plays over his loudspeaker at the maximum possible volume as he triggers his flight systems. He stays just long enough to give the agents a lazy salute, then he roars toward the exit and out of sight.

Tony receives multiple salutes in turn as he flies away.

Relief sweeps over Bobbi's features at Iron Man's exit. "Good," she murmurs to herself rather than her colleagues. "Get clean up in here and seal off the entrance. We need to look like we were never here. And someone send a team through there— Agent Hill and Director Fury will be wanting answers about that lab and where the maze goes. I want the whole thing mapped by tomorrow morning. And someone needs to stay on this side of the door. We don't want more company…"

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