“Do I have to?”
“Yes Ms. Stark, you do.”
“But I don’t want to go to a press conference!”
“It is not a matter of wants, Ms. Stark, but needs.”
“Yes. I need to keep looking for my dad.”
“And the world needs you to go to this conference. I will call in the board if you do not.”
I growl at the phone as I hang up on one of my PR reps – Shelly? Sharon? Suzy? – and fall on to my bed.
“Jarvis, remind me to tell dad to fire whomever I just got off the phone with.”
“Yes Ms. Stark. Might I suggest getting dressed for the conference?”
I give the ceiling my best I-will-never-forget-this glare, but eventually slide off my bed and go hunt down Natasha.
I’m gonna need clothes.
“Over here! Ms. Stark!”
“Smile for the camera!”
I am herded through the mass of flashing lights and screaming reporters by my bodyguards – two of which are Steve and Thor in tuxes – towards the podium, which also happens to be the center of the crowd.
Once I finally am broken through the last layer of people, my bodyguards retreat slightly – sans Steve and Thor, who stand slightly forward from the rest.
I take a moment to collect my words, smooth my white blouse, black slacks, and glittery blazer with matching flats, and take one more glance towards the note cards, plaster a big smile of my face, and step up to the podium.
People are shouting my name and I thank god for sunglasses because without them, I’d be blind by now.
“Thank you! Thank you!” I clear my throat and lean into the microphone. ”Now settle down and we can begin. Please hold all question until the end. Thank you.”
“As many of you may know by now, my father Tony Stark was kidnapped yesterday afternoon while doing work for the Avengers. All efforts are being made to find him safely and bring him home. Meanwhile, I will be heading Stark Industries and making sure its public image and products continue to live up to the Stark name. Questions.”
“Yes, you in the tweed jacket and big glasses.”
“What was your father working on when he was taken?”
“He was doing his duty as an Avenger. That is all I can release at this time. Next.”
“You in the pink blazer.”
“What can we expect from Stark Industries with you running the show?”
“Me ‘running the show’, as you put it, will have no effect on the company as I fully expect it to stay up to par and to have my father returned as soon as possible.”
“Ms. Stark! Ms. Stark!”
“Yes, you in the hat.”
“Is it wise for a fifteen year old to run a company, even for a short amount of time?”
“I assure you, Mr…”
“Mr. Wilson, I assure you that I will keep my family’s company from completely burning in my father’s absence. New subject please.” I can’t help the slightly annoyed undertone in my voice.
“Yes you in the back.”
“Do you suspect anyone in the kidnapping?”
“No, I do not suspect anyone as of yet, but I guarantee you we have some of the best people in the world working on this as we speak.” And it’s true; Bruce is back at the tower and hasn’t come out of the lab for days.
“Ms. Stark! Over here!”
“You in the beige blazer.”
“You mentioned that your father was working on Avengers work at the time of his kidnapping. Do you suspect anyone on your team?”
This makes my blood run cold as the words sink in and then hot as I realize the reporter’s implications.
“Anyone who suspects one of the Avengers would do anything to so much as make another member cry is an insane fool that has another thing coming. We are all currently working ourselves to exhaustion, malnutrition, and dehydration to find and apprehend who did this. So, to answer your question, no I do not suspect anyone on my team and nor should anybody else. Thank you all for your time, we are done here.”
I turn on my heel and walk back into a barrage of flashing lights and yells with Steve and Thor flanking me.
Once in the limo, I inform Happy to step on it and get me some Advil before sagging into the seat and rubbing my temples.
“This is why I stay away from the PR department like they’ve got fleas.”
Steve and Thor chuckle softly.
“But,” Steve asks with a curious look on his face, “What have you done in the past?”
“Stayed in the car, or at home. My dad’s done the best he can to shield me from the spotlight, up until Afghanistan, that is.”
Steve nods as I turn back to Happy.
”Make a pit stop at McDonald’s. A cheeseburger for me and coffee’s all around – shut up, Steve, believe me, you need a coffee. Stop objecting.”
I look down at my phone and laugh at the screen.
How come you can't find lawyers sunbathing on the beach? Cats keep covering them over with sand.
I laugh as I remember his promise.
Where would you learn how to make ice cream? At Sundae school.
I’m gasping with laughter at this point.
How’d it go?
I quickly text a reply as we’re pulling up to McDonalds.
Question flew, accusations flew, and knives flew (no just kidding). Bad enough that I’m picking up coffees for everyone.
OMG I love you! (Great, now I’m impersonating a tomato, thank you Clint.) :D Make mine a caramel cappuccino. Don’t forget to treat yourself.
I will. See you soon.
I’m still smiling ear to ear as I take the bags from Happy.
Mission accomplished, Clint.
“I’m home!” I shout as I step off the elevator.
I sigh and shake the bags so they rustle.
“And I come bearing coffee!”
“I swear you’re an angel.”
“Am I dreaming?”
“Someone pinch Clint please.” I chuckle.
“Thank you Natasha. No Clint, you are indeed awake. Now someone tell me what you’ve got.”
Bruce is the first to breathe between coffee slurps.
“I might have the beginnings of a pattern. Beyond the tech thing, that is.”
“At each attack, a necklace was left around any Zygone bodies. The necklaces depicted a snake looped in a circle.”
“Uh…okay. Keep on that then. Call me as soon as you find anything, anything at all. Yes?”
“Yes. Thanks again for the coffee.” He says as he turns and retreats back into the labs.
Natasha speaks up. “Well Steve and Thor were with you – nice job out there – and Clint was researching jokes to text you. I was talking to the agents that were around the lab yesterday, no one saw or heard anything, and the CCTV footage was static for about ten minutes.”
I nod and sigh. ”Thanks for your effort. Keep trying, but don’t forget to sleep and eat.”
They nod and file out of the room.
All except Steve, that is.
I let myself fall into one of the couches and turn on the news.
“What’s up, Steve?”
“Not much…I, uh, look – I just wanted to say nice job out there.”
“You too. You kept me from getting shredded.”
His eyes widen in shock. “Really?”
I nod. “Really.”
“That wouldn’t have happened –“
“-in the 40s. You know, Steve, two attacks by aliens should have really clued you in by now that there are a lot of things that wouldn’t have happened in the forties.” I tease, trying to lighten the subject that is usually a sore spot for the super soldier.
“Yeah, I guess.”
“I don’t think I would have happened in the forties. Fifteen year old genius, superhero, and part-time CEO? Yeah, uh, no thank you.”
“I don’t know about that. Howard Stark was known for doing things that weren’t supposed to happen.”
“Steve…never let my dad hear that sentence exit your mouth. Read between the lines.”
He pauses for a moment then begins to stutter and stammer and blush. “I-I didn’t-“
“Yeah, I know.” I laugh, “That’s another thing: people are much more skeptical and less likely to take things at face value.”
“I should start writing these down.”
“Oh no. Just no. Nope. Nope.”
I fall off the couch laughing.