"Plugging the Pipe"
Phil walked into the common room
to find Tony pacing back and forth,
grumbling at thin air -- clearly not
JARVIS -- and then a spark of blue
revealed the hands-free phone
discreetly clipped over his ear.
"... yeah, no, that's not enough,"
Tony said, cornering around
the couch. "I told you to STOP
venting waste into the Hackensack,
because that feeds into Newark Bay,
which connects to the Rahway River,
which lets out into the Upper Bay and
the Raritan Bay, wrapping most of
Staten Island in toxic glop."
Phil shuddered. They had
gotten called out once to deal with
radioactive lobsters controlled by
a technobaron gone mad, which took
longer than usual as the Avengers were
limited to radiation-resistant members.
Though it had been quite amusing
to see Hulk sitting in the wreckage
calmly roasting the remains over
a street fire before stuffing himself
with appropriately-sized lobster.
"So you know, we got enough
supervillains without people like you
actively fertilizing the world to grow
even more of them," Tony said.
This was true. AIM alone
tended to spawn byblows,
and HYDRA was HYDRA.
Toxic waste mutating wildlife
and possibly people in New York,
they absolutely did not need.
Unfortunately SHIELD's job
didn't cover corporate supervision
for the whole eastern seaboard.
"Fine, be that way," Tony snapped.
"I don't need you on board to fix this shit."
The call ended with phone-slamming sound.
"Problem?" Phil said mildly, wondering if
this would disrupt the rest of the day.
"Not for long," Tony said with a tight grin.
"JARVIS, roll out the cannons. Lock
and load the takeover budget."
"Aye-aye, cannons at the ready, Captain,"
JARVIS replied in an ominous tone.
"Wait, what?" Steve squawked,
walking into the common room.
"I didn't order any cannons!"
"Those are mine," Tony said. "I
tried playing nice, but diplomacy has
failed, so now it's pirate time."
"This oughta be good,"
Bucky said, and then
headed into the kitchen.
"JARVIS, get me Pepper,"
Tony said, bouncing on his toes.
"Connecting," JARVIS said,
and the big viewscreen lit up with
Pepper in the conference room.
Behind her, the table held
half a dozen women in
as many men who looked
like corporate sharks, and
a mousy little fellow at the end
whom Phil had tried and failed
to poach for SHIELD. Twice.
Pepper bared her teeth.
"They said no?" she asked.
"Yep, they said no," Tony confirmed,
then thrust his arm in the air. "Attaaack!"
Pepper touched a key on her laptop.
"Boarding parties away," she said.
"Plundering in progress. Enjoy
your view of the battle, sir."
Then she turned toward
the others at the table,
who were all diving into
their own computers,
and began giving orders.
"JARVIS, split screen,"
Tony said. Half the view
turn to a black field full of
company names and numbers.
"What's that?" Clint said
as he came into the room.
It looked like a stock exchange
to Phil, though he was no expert.
"Battlefield," Tony said. "Do you
remember the giant lobsters?"
"Gee, you mean the ones that
you and Hulk got to smash
without me because I'm
squishy?" Clint groused.
"Yep," Tony said. "I tracked
the source of the problem to
industrial effluvia in the water
around Staten Island. Since
the Fortune 500 pissant in charge
of that won't quit dumping, we need
another way of plugging the pipe. So
I set Pepper on him. It's pirate time."
"Sweet," Clint said, vaulting
over the back of the couch
to flop on the cushions.
"Now all we need is --"
"Anybody want popcorn?"
Bucky said, coming out of
the kitchen with a big bowl.
"I made lobster flavor."
"Gimme." Clint flapped
a hand above the couch back.
Bucky handed him the bowl,
then picked up Clint's feet
and sat down on the couch.
Steve curled on the floor,
leaning against Bucky's legs.
Phil sat down in a chair,
eyeing the viewscreen.
"Nothing seems to be
happening," he said.
"Wait for it," Tony said
with a smirk, taking
some popcorn as
Clint passed the bowl.
Suddenly a spark of red
lit the screen, then another,
and soon it all bled downhill.
"Epic," Clint approved.
"So this is about stopping
supervillains by ... preventing
them from developing?" Steve said,
poking carefully at his StarkPhone.
"Yeah, I'm still sore about
the lobsters," Clint said.
"Better not to repeat those,"
Steve said with a nod.
"I love watching Pepper
work," Tony said, smiling
at the carnage onscreen.
"She is utterly devastating."
"Yeah, they're not gonna be
making much trouble with
whatever pocket change
they have left after she
gets through with them,"
Bucky said. "But hey,
all's fair in love and war."
"It shouldn't be long before
we own them lock, stock,
and subsidiaries," Tony said.
"Then we can shut down
the factories ourselves."
"Well done," Phil said.
"I'm just used to you
saving the world in ...
more explosive ways."
Tony shrugged. "Sometimes,
it's better to solve problems by
preventing them, and for that,
throwing money at them
usually works best."
* * *
See a map of New York waters.
You can make lobster butter by cooking lobster shells in melted butter until it turns orange. Pour that into an ice cube tray to freeze, and you can have lobster butter whenever you want it. Enhance the flavor by crushing dried crayfish to go with it. Sprinkle over homemade popcorn.