To be clear, Tony calls JARVIS 'Jarvis' in normal conversation, because all caps in dialogue turn regular conversation into random screams. I'll do my best to keep JARVIS and Jarvis separate or understandably different in dialogue, but otherwise in regular writing (Like how I've been explaining it here) mechanical JARVIS is in all caps, organic Jarvis isn't. However, "This is my AI, Jarvis," and "I miss Jarvis" are really obvious examples of how dialogue will be happening.
If there is anything specifically confusing, dialogue wise, let me know. Otherwise it's 85% likely I'll ignore comments from people pointing out the supposed inconsistency of text JARVIS and dialogue "Jarvis." (Ideally there won't be any, because they'll have read this.)
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this chapter!
Chapter 10— If you're not moving forward…
"It's not healthy, Tony."
Pepper looked to Rhodey for some sort of support, but he just raised his hands with a shrug.
Tony had already explained it to him before, the thing with not changing the personality traits of his bots, so it was easier to explain the whole I Didn't Name Him thing with JARVIS… Tony didn't think he quite understood, fully, the reason Tony doesn't change the base programming, but he understood that that was one rule Tony would not break—and if he felt up to it, Tony would totally call Rhodey on how he probably thinks the lack of rule-breaking is a small miracle.
Pepper shook her head. Tony ignored it, since he had his bot shoulder-deep into the ceiling fixing up the wiring for JARVIS to
"Tony… Jarvis is dead-"
"I am well aware of the fact, thanks," he interrupts, "but if you'll just give me another five minutes, eight tops, you can have this talk with all-caps Jarvis. Maybe you'll be able to get through to him and get him to change his name and the accent and the voice—he's been able to hear you this entire time, by the way, I think I mentioned that earlier, only you were probably distracted by the fact that my AI named himself after my oldest friend who is now dead."
"And," he adds when he sees Pepper open her mouth, "I'm not going to reprogram him, not anymore than I would reprogram Dummy to be less enthusiastic with the fire extinguisher. He's got learning software, though, so have at it with the convincing."
He doesn't make a noise when the wires he's fiddling with let out a spark, only squishes out the faint sparks they left on the casing—because of course he should have turned off the power, but leaving it on meant that he could confirm his progress in real time.
Once he's done, he extracts himself from the net of wiring around his shoulders, checks his fingers to see if the few sparks had done any damage to his synth-skin, and opened the channels to JARVIS.
"Hey buddy, I'll give you a minute to explore all the spaces in the house you can talk in, now, but part of your responsibility is going to be to keep the living beings in the house happy—Jarvis, Pepper, Pepper, Jarvis. Now go, talk, whatever."
He waves his hands at them, too tired to actually enjoy robot-Jarvis and Pepper verbally duking it out.
Besides, he had an actually important meeting with Obie later, now that his missile guidance system had decided it's own prerogative along with its own name.
The meeting happens in Tony's ceiling—well, Tony is back in the ceiling, this time adjusting the wiring that controlled the doors, and Obie is lounging back against the sofa with a glass of scotch.
"So, Obie, I can'ph do i'. The, uh," he spits the wires out from between his teeth, "the missile guidance thing, I can't do it."
Obie is quiet for a long enough moment that Tony drags his attention form the wiring and sticks his head through plaster to see what's up; Obie is giving him a skeptical look, a good amount of disbelief thrown in for good measure.
"You… can't do it."
"Well," Tony concedes, "I can do it, but I can't actually, you know, do it."
"You want to try explaining that one, Tony?"
"Well," he starts, "I told you the thing about needing an intelligence for the facial recognition to work the way you want it to, right?"
Obie hummed agreement.
"Thing is, for it to be intelligent enough to work well enough for it to be worth the effort, it'd need higher capabilities than a regular machine, so it'd have to be an AI—only, with that, we've had enough movies about hyper-intelligent robots and firepower before…"
"So you think if you went through with the missile guidance AI, it'd go evil?"
"HAH, no. Those movies are always about people misusing the tech, taking advantage of the AI… I wouldn't let that happen. But the thing is, it would happen, because I wouldn't be the person pressing the metaphorical big red button every time—it'd be other people. And it'd all explode, maybe literally, the first time some general says 'shoot here, the person we're looking for is here' and the AI said 'no, the person you're looking for is not here'… or the reverse."
"So what you're saying is…"
"What I'm saying is that there are enough funny videos of people freaking the fuck out over self-check outs not doing what people assume they're supposed to that we don't need to test this with explosives. Pepper tells me that PR has only just now started getting a better opinion of me, and that is most likely entirely due to… recent events. Obie, I'll keep looking into it, and if I think of anything you'll be the first to know, but…"
Tony removed his head from the ceiling to give Obie a slightly dusty grin. "You've met my other AI's, so you know that personality is a thing that happens. And if the AI's personality didn't quite mesh with what it was supposed to do…"
He doesn't look up to the ceiling, where he can see the faint glow of JARVIS's networks running in single lines throughout the house… he wasn't entirely hooked up, not yet, but he would be entirely aware of the house even if he couldn't control everything yet.
Tony had gotten his audio and visuals up first so he could get a head start on learning body language, tone, and an idea of social norms and attitudes…
(Not that JARVIS really needed help when it came to attitude…)
"What made you figure this out, Tony? You've been working on this for over a year and a half now, so what brought this on after so long?"
Tony shrugs and hops down from the ladder, brushing dust off his arms.
"Well, I didn't mention this earlier, but I wanted you over here for two reasons; the first to tell you about how I could but actually can't make the guidance system, the second to introduce you to a new AI of mine."
"Now I'm pretty sure he and Pepper started up their argument again, so I don't know-"
"-if you really want to meet him now or maybe wait until later, but from your tone I think you understand where I'm coming from with this."
"Tony, tell me you did not make the AI you just told me could be a danger to national security."
"I did not make the AI I just told you could be a threat to national security…. I did, however, finish the AI I was working on for my house only to finish it I used a lot of the programming I would have used if I was making the AI who would be a threat to national security. If I let it get to that point. So. Also to be clear, I did not name him, he named himself, and Pepper has already gone over, at length, how unhealthy naming my new AI his new name would be, and I agree… if I had been the one to name him. But I wasn't."
"Tony. What name did your AI choose for itself?"
The hidden speaker Tony had recently installed in the ceiling crackled for a moment—something Tony would have to fix, he thinks maybe he must have jostled something when he was rewiring the doors. The crackling should not be happening—wait, no, Tony checked the connection. He'd have to correct JARVIS' idea of what combination of sounds constituted 'clearing your throat'.
(Though at least it showed that his learning capabilities were working, for him to make the attempt.)
"Good Afternoon Obadiah Stane," JARVIS said, making Obie look up to the ceiling in confusion. "It is a pleasure to meet you. My name is Jarvis."
"Um, you know the cold doesn't bother me, right?"
"Yep," Tony grinned. "But you've been wearing that shirt since I've known you, so how about a change in style, huh? Besides, this is way softer than anything you could find."
Tony didn't know when, exactly, Jack had found the patchy jacket he was wearing, and suspected that he'd gotten his pants from a time when having your village raided was a legitimate worry, but he'd seen Jack picking at the threadbare holes in the jacket.
It would be much easier, he thought, if Tony could approach Jack's unhappiness like he did with anyone else's, except even Tony knew he couldn't replace recognition with expensive things. Tony also knew that sometimes—a lot of times—Jack was lonely and brought winter's chill to Tony's location early, and he couldn't do much about that, either.
Sometimes—a lot of times—stopping working on projects and ideas was physically… hurtful. An ache in his head and chest, tightness across his nerves.
But Jack could only stand to be in Tony's lab for an hour or two before the Wind called to him.
And so the impasse.
But Tony found something he could confidently give to Jack.
Even if it was only a hoodie.
A very expensive hoodie.
Though really, it was a good thing that he'd thought to grab up the little paper-wrapped package on his way out of the mansion—he'd decided to install JARVIS into each of his regularly visited residences, but, so far, in each place Tony installed JARVIS' drive's Pepper was around to argue the name and the relative freedom and security.
Which was why he was out, now.
Tony would feel bad about abandoning JARVIS to everyone, except JARVIS could contact him at any point, and mostly he was abandoning everyone else to JARVIS.
It should be a fair fight.
He actually hoped it wouldn't get to a fighting point, but JARVIS had brought it on himself, deciding his own name.
'Till everything calmed down, Tony had wandered around for a while—at the first chill in the wind, he'd grinned.
He hadn't seen Jack for a long while, now—they each had their own shit to do, their different ideas of what constituted a good time… for the long-term, anyway.
Tony could understand Jack's not wanting to settle down in one place, could even see why it would be disastrous for any area Jack could, conceivably, settle down in, but having a lab made things much easier for Tony.
That he also had people to settle in with…
There were some topics they didn't broach.
But presents? Presents were always something Tony could bring up, which was why he'd felt it was entirely appropriate to throw the paper-wrapped sweater at Jack's face.
The Wind caught it before it made impact, anyway, so it was fine. Everything was fine.
Jack fingered the fabric, frost creating faint geometric patters where his fingers made contact, and gave Tony a look.
"So… what do you want?"
"Want? For what? For the sweater—kid, this isn't a transaction. Your jacket has holes in it, and I know you not-so-secretly delight at soft things, so I got you a sweater."
"Your shirt has holes in it, too," Jack points out, and Tony waves his hands, brushing the words away. He's just happy Jack hadn't brought up the old argument against Tony calling him 'kid', since technically Jack could maybe possibly be sort of considered a bit older than Tony. Hypothetically kind of. A little bit. Ish.
"No, see, I'm a mechanic, this is a Metallica shirt, I'm allowed and expected to have holes in my things. It's charming. A winter spirit having holes in his clothing? Not exactly inspiring."
"Tony, I can't just…"
"You can, and you will. Otherwise the look I got from Pepper will have been for nothing. I think she thought I was going to put it on Dummy." Tony pauses. "If you don't take it, I think I will."
That got a snort of laughter from Jack, at least, but then he shook his head.
"I don't know, Tony. I don't think I could handle feeling like I owed you one. I can find a new shirt on my own, so…"
Tony shook his head, felt like he was going to strain something, rolling his eyes so hard. "No, see, look, if you have to look at it that way, then take it as a thank-you for explaining some of this…" Tony waved his hands about, "…everything. I mean, I thought I was going supernaturally insane with the whole Ol' Saint Nick thing, and it's a huge relief knowing that that empty feeling when people walk through you thing isn't just a me-thing, and generally meeting you is the best thing to happen to me this century in a non-inventing sort of way, so can you just take the goddamned hoodie? Bless his little robotic heart, but that shade of blue is not Dummy's colour. We good? We're good. Awesome." Tony turns away and fiddles with an idea for telephone poles without the wires running between them. Might be a good place to start with wireless energy transference.
Even though they were radically different things
The old jacket disintegrates in the Wind when Jack drops it, and swirls of frost form on his elbows, shoulders, and the ends of his sleeves when Jack puts it on.
Tony thinks with enough time, icicles might form on the tassels of the hood.
He thinks it looks good on the kid.
"Run the specs for the Jericho, would you? Only try it with materials 52 and 47 this time, see if we can't get this a little bit more mm, compact," Tony asked, mind already running ahead on if he should find a heavier or lighter sort of shrapnel to include… the materials it was made up with would fly, sure, but ideally the Jericho would cover a large enough surface, and consistently… much more damage.
There was silence for a long moment, and Tony glanced up at the larger collection of glowing in the ceiling when JARVIS didn't start what Tony had asked of him.
"Buddy? I know your audio is working; it's been a few months since I got you all hooked into Malibu House, and there shouldn't be any issue with your hardware. So."
Tony raised an eyebrow at the ceiling.
"…Sir, you have been avoiding addressing me by my name. I do not appreciate it."
The tone wasn't sulky, but Tony thought that was mostly due to a lack of experience rather than any sort of serious effort.
Tony sat back, crossing his arms.
"Sir, you don't… I do not…" Tony let JARVIS work this one out—as much as he was bracing himself for this conversation, he wanted JARVIS to get used to using his words; unlike Dummy, You, and Butterfingers, JARVIS only had his words as a way to communicate. His other bots had learned to use body language to get across information to people who weren't Tony, but as much as the house was a body for JARVIS, it wasn't exactly made for body language.
"I… do not appreciate how you sidestep using my name in conversation. It makes me… feel bad. Unhappy, I believe. Dissatisfied."
"Mhmm," Tony nodded. "That's probably what you're feeling. But buddy… Jarvis. You need to understand that, as much as I understand where you were coming from when you decided on your name, it still carries quite a lot of emotions for me. And for Rhodey and Pepper, too. Most of those emotions are sad ones."
"Jarvis 1.0, the organic original, he was my friend for quite a long time. He was around very close to the time I first originally died, and that is a very long time to know someone and come to care for them. Regardless of their organic or inorganic presence, that's what happens when you've got a sentient being interacting with another sentient being. He was there emotionally and physically and intellectually—not the same way you are, for sure, but he was a clever man."
"I gathered as much from studying those you surround yourself with, Sir; you do not suffer deliberate ignorance in your companions."
"Sure, but even then it's competence and determination that trumps intelligence. I mean Justin Hammer is technically intelligent…"
"You are speaking of technicality, rather than intelligence regarding technology, correct?"
"Eh, a little bit of both. I'll give him that. But back to the fact… Jarvis is gone and even with you here; I'm feeling the loss. Rhodey and Pepper are feeling the loss. Happy is feeling the loss. Even though you are doing a great job filling the gaps, the thing is that you are not the same person—and before we go any further, I don't want you to be the same person. Be the best individual you can be, don't try to be a Cut-and-Paste Jarvis. But buddy, Jarvis, you have to be patient."
"…I do not understand."
"I'm still mourning the Jarvis that I knew, all while getting to know another Jarvis, this one in all-caps. Instead of ignoring the fact that my oldest friend is dead, I'm having to face it every day—and that's actually probably a bit healthier, and I foresee a lot less grief-drinking in my future, but I'm not quite over it yet. I don't think anyone is, not yet."
"I hope you do," Tony said, honestly, "but if you think of anything else that confuses you remember that you can come to me. You are the most intelligent AI that I have, not to detract from Dummy, You, or Butterfingers… but you're going to have to learn a lot more than they ever had to. And patience is one of those things."
Tony let out a sigh and rolled himself back in his wheelie chair—left his bot-body and with a slight shiver joined up with JARVIS' glow of consciousness.
"Bud, you're going to be learning about social norms, and you've already got a great handle on the manners shtick, but it's going to be a little bit different learning that they won't, to a great many people, apply to you."
He streamed information from his own memory to JARVIS, from before he'd figured out a bot-body, from before he'd figured out the synthesized voice speakers, and, for a point of comparison, from before he'd 'died'. When he'd had a physical, corporeal body. As ever, it's a little bit weird reviewing those memories.
"It'll be frustrating, probably, because normal people don't know where to look to look at you, because they can't see you, a lot of people will have trouble identifying you as a distinct personality, as an individual. You'll be as tangible to them as a computer program, even though you are much, much more. It's just…" Tony sighed, feeling the years of not being seen, not being acknowledged, suddenly upon him. Even though it'd been a long time ago, his perfect recall allowed him to remember every frustrating moment.
"I will have to be… patient. Yes. I… I think I understand."
Tony allowed JARVIS to peruse the key moments where Tony'd felt especially isolated, a ghost around his own family, and brought them back to the matter—the first matter—at hand.
"Patience, yes, but you also have to learn to use your words before you use your actions. There is literally no way you can't talk to me, directly, while I'm in this house—and pretty much everywhere else, once I get you the right set-up—but I need to be able to trust you here."
"I have done nothing to warrant—"
"Exactly, you did nothing. Instead of being a mature, intelligent being like I know you are and telling me you were having a problem with my attitude, you used silence and a distinct lack of action to get that across. You aren't a child; for all that you're not even a year old. And, on top of it all… you're a Stark. We might not be the most emotionally stable people, but Starks make no issue of letting anyone know when we're annoyed. If this isn't something you think you can do, let me know now."
It took a remarkably long time to get an answer, considering JARVIS' processing speed, but Tony took that to mean that JARVIS was putting some serious thought into this. Which was good. Tony hadn't exactly gone out of his way to make it so his bots couldn't lie to him, but he rather thought they all had an understanding. They would do their best not to outright lie to him, and Tony would do his very best to lie badly if he ever had to lie to them.
(Even with all the ways he wasn't, Tony was still only human.)
"…I believe I can do this."
"Good. Because as much as I don't want to do it, if you can't talk to me about any problems before letting those problems enter the lab, then I'll have to cut your access from the lab. Don't think I can't do it." Don't think I won't do it, he doesn't say.
"I was given the impression that I have been a great assistance in your work." Tony allows part of himself admire the frostiness in JARVIS' tone. He'd come a long way since his first mangled Sįr.
"Yep. You have. It's been great having you in the lab. You've been great, you're absolutely fantastic, you've gone above and beyond what I had imagined for your capabilities," Tony agrees. "But I can't fix it if I don't know there's a problem. Silence and inaction doesn't help anyone."
"…If you're not moving forward, you're getting in the way?"
Tony smiled, wide and just a little nostalgic.
"There is someone attempting to open the westernmost window on the north side of the house."
"Hmm? Oh, yeah, I know. The guy won't get in, though—you know the windows are reinforced."
"Yes, Sir. However, he is setting off several alerts and it is… annoying."
"It's a rather consistent irritation against my sensors. Sir."
"So deal with it. You're hooked up to the whole house, so… go ahead. Just try not to wake up Pepper. She's going to try to get me to go to a productivity seminar tomorrow. I'd rather not have her grumpy when I distract her from it."
"Tony. Tony why is there an ambulance on the beach?"
"Oh, there was a guy trying to break into the mansion last night."
"Please tell me you didn't throw him over the cliff."
Tony looked up from the tablet screen he was fiddling with, head tilted. "What? No, I didn't toss anyone off any cliff. Jarvis did."
"Jar—he what? He threw…"
"Well," Tony ceded, "he opened the window out enough to push him off the cliff, so technically there wasn't any throwing. But look, the guy broke a leg and sprained a few things. I'm paying his medical bills from my own pocket, and I've already got Hank coming down to sort out the legal side of things, so you don't have to worry about that. So." Tony physically set aside the bits and pieces of the tablet he'd been playing with, and sent the new plans to JARVIS to put together as a prototype. "That meeting you wanted me to go to today? Yes I know your plans, and no, I can't do it. I promised the guys at R&D I'd be down—"
"No, Tony, Tony," Pepper waved her hands, cutting him off. "Tony, leave the R&D and even the meeting you really do need to go to—leave those aside for the moment, okay? Let's get back to the fact that your artificial intelligence just pushed a man off a cliff, and you seem entirely fine with this!"
Tony shrugged. "It was only a little cliff."
He held his hands out in an approximation, even if it was inaccurate showing only a foot of distance, and shrugged again when Pepper stared. "It could have been much worse than it was, is all I'm saying here."
"Only a little…" Pepper trailed off to a stop. Took a deep breath. "Tony. Your robot just used the house to hurt another human being. Aren't there, I don't know, rules or something about that sort of thing? Against that sort of thing?"
"Well, I already told you Hank is already coming down to handle the legal part of—oh, oh! You're talking about the three laws of robotics. Ah. Right. Yeah, I think those rules are stupid so I didn't bother writing in anything like that into their programming."
"Into their… Tony, none of your robots are under any sort of rule against, against…"
Tony raised his eyebrows.
"Against what, exactly?"
"Well, against hurting people." Pepper shrugged, looking uncomfortable bringing up the possibility at all.
As well she should, he thought rather uncharitably.
"Uh huh. That's what their learning software is for."
"If I may," interrupted JARVIS form the kitchen speakers, "Is Miss Potts referring to the set of rules devised by the science fiction author Issac Asimov?"
For the moment, Tony ignored the blush that stole over Pepper's face—she'd have to get used to the fact that JARVIS was connected up to the entire house. He decided not to tell her quite yet that he'd hooked her up to his phone, too.
Instead, he nodded.
"Yep. Rule the first is don't hurt humans or allow humans to be hurt through inaction, rule the second is to listen and obey humans so long as there is no conflict with the first rule, and the third rule is for robots to defend themselves so long as it doesn't come in conflict with the first or second rule. Really only clever for the short run."
"I see. Miss Potts, is there something you are specifically worried about in regards to these three laws?"
"I only…" Pepper took another deep breath. "I'm only worried about your ability to hurt people. About a… lack of restraint."
"I am as able to harm you as Sir is. I also have as much reason to harm you as Sir does; that is to say, none."
"And yet you were the one to cause that man to fall off a cliff."
"Research on the various injuries one can get from falling at a variety of heights led me to infer that the distance between the north-west windows and the beach below would not cause serious harm to the intruder. I expressed some interest in having the intruder dealt with in some way to Sir, and he allowed me to incapacitate the intruder in such a way that would not disturb you in any way. He especially expressed concern against waking you unnecessarily."
Tony made a note to work with JARVIS on not sounding so robotic in his defense… because as sound a defense as that was, he needed to know that going for the technically correct explanation wouldn't work when people needed the more emotional, empathetic explanation.
"Jarvis figured out a way to stop the guy from breaking in in a way that only caused him a little bit of physical harm and kept him out of the house. You and I both know that he'd pretty much just need to grab one bit of tech from any room and he'd have a few hundred thousand dollars' worth of as-yet unpatented tech to sell. And considering he's entirely hooked up to the security system…"
"There was a significant chance the sound of a firearm would have woken you, Miss Potts."
Instead of looking relieved, Pepper's eyes went even wider, and colour blossomed high on her cheeks.
"Tony you have Jarvis hooked up to guns?"
"Oh come on," Tony scoffed. "Only, like, twenty-three."
"Onl—wait, why twenty-three? That seems like an oddly specific number."
Tony shrugged. "Seven on each floor, two in my lab. I think I'll be able to fit in a few more in the walls using some of the designs I'm using in the Jericho."
Pepper stared at him for a long, long moment, before sighing.
"I don't know why I expected any sort of regular-people logic from you two." She shook her head. "I hope you understand quite how much therapy shopping I'll need to do to get over this."
Tony shrugged in reply, and pulled his wallet from his back pocket. Slid it across the kitchen counter.
"Try and actually put a dent in any of my bank accounts and maybe that'll be a deterrent."
Pepper pulled out one of his black cards and raised an eyebrow at him.
"Any dent I'd make would be made up by the end of the week, you and I both know it."
Tony waggled his eyebrows in response and went back to designing a better compression system for You's arms.
It'd do no one any good to mention he could make up for any dent in his accounts by the end of the day, never mind a whole week.
The next time Tony wandered back into his office (not to sign anything, even though he had a good sized stack of forms waiting for him) it was to find the napkin he'd drawn an acid formula on. He found Pepper seated at his desk instead, frowning at his computer.
"Good to see you're making yourself comfortable, Pep."
She didn't look up from his computer.
"Well it wasn't as if you've been getting any use out of this chair… Tony, did you set aside a budget for feminine hygiene products at the new shelters?"
"…Yes? I thought I'd labeled that clearly."
"You did, I just… I hadn't thought of that." Pepper raised her eyebrows from a frown, "I'm impressed. I was the one who reminded you that there should be washrooms and similar facilities in every building, and here you are taking homeless women into consideration."
Tony smirked and leaned over her to rifle through his papers, plucking the napkin he was looking for out from under a budget request form. "Jarvis was actually the one who suggested that. I was the one who put the request/suggestion box as a requirement for every building—I've never been homeless," as far as Tony Stark II was concerned, anyway, "and you've never been homeless, so it's unlikely that we'll be able to think of everything. Add to that you're biologically female and you didn't say anything about pads or tampons or anything like that, either."
Pepper leaned back into Tony's chair and crossed her legs, raising an eyebrow at him.
"And that's supposed to mean…?"
Tony shrugged. "The same research that led Jarvis to adding tampons to the budget also brought him to asking me about transgender and transsexual and gays and lesbians and asexuality and aromanticism and a whole slew of other things that I didn't even know about, and that's why we're also adding sensitivity training to the Stark Industries training period. You'll get an e-mail about it by the end of the week."
"Well it'll certainly be more useful than making engineers and scientists review WHMIS for the billionth time. Though we'll still do it, because it makes the lawyers happy."
"And it'll tie in nicely with your Workplace Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Program. Oh, and both together should really rile up the board members, because I'm going to make it a requirement for everyone to pass it, including them, and that should make you happy."
"Yes? What? This should make you happy! Stop raising your eyebrow at me!"
"Tony. It's a great idea. They are great ideas."
"As if they could be anything less." Tony huffed, even as Pepper grinned.
"I'll have to send Jarvis my thanks for correcting those oversights, then."
Tony rolled his eyes, but was laughing as he left the office.
Still laughing, when Pepper called after him that he still had paperwork to finish.
He'd make time for it later in the day; Pepper deserved a break for not making a fuss over JARVIS being the one to make a decision—she'd been getting better about stuff like that.
A little while after Tony revealed that he didn't put any stock in the three rules of robotics BS, Pepper avoided going to his lab, even when it was open to visits; Tony decided to give her a chance to get over whatever ridiculous fear she was experiencing.
(And okay, he knew there was a valid fear that robots would rebel and attack humanity—except these were Tony's bots. Tony agreed that the human race wasn't ready for AI quite yet, but that was why he didn't let anyone touch his bots. Because they'd fuck it up, somehow. And his bots didn't deserve that.)
She was doing better after Tony spent a while not-so-subtly bringing up all the thoughtful, sensitive suggestions JARVIS came up with (like the feminine hygiene products, or the marketing scheme that would have a percentage of profits moved to charities and employee health care, or enforcing a lengthier paid maternity leave, y'know, stuff like that), but leaving her to JARVIS' tender mercies and extreme thoughtfulness should help.
Also he was seriously considering letting her in on The Secret, and if she couldn't get over this…
He'd been impressed with Rhodey, since he'd figured that while he could get it into his mind that Tony didn't have a body (kind of) he did have one bit of being, and that meant he could direct his focus in one point… but that Rhodey had caught on that Tony just spoke to JARVIS anywhere in the house, not focusing on any particular part of the house, and did the same…
Well, he figures Pepper just needs a little more one-on-one time with JARVIS.
He'd recently upgraded the lenses and the microphones hidden around the mansion for JARVIS to look through, and had gone through with his promise to use some of what he'd discovered with the Jericho missiles in house security—and not even in the worse way, either.
Sure, a lot of the new measures could be lethal, but they could also be used in non-lethal ways, and JARVIS had as much information on keeping it non-lethal as Tony did.
But still, he figured that once he got back from a little trip to explore what the nearest workshops had in the works, he could explain the new security and let Pepper know that he'd managed to hook up his personal tech so that if she ever needed to find him all she had to do was ask JARVIS.
It wasn't often that things like that would be needed, but sometimes Pepper went to meetings in other states for Tony, and Tony took one of his private jets or one of his cars and with only Happy as security just went out and did stuff.
It was always a wonder how he'd been in existence for such a long time, and yet there was still so much he hadn't done. Happy had a lot of suggestions, once he realized that Tony wouldn't be put off of his little missions.
There was a lot of stuff to do, and sometimes that made Pepper worried.
So even though she'd think he was talking about his phone, his sunglasses, his watch, he would really be talking about hooking JARVIS into his bot body.
It wouldn't be possible yet, but Tony thought it might be useful to teach JARVIS how to pilot his bot body, just in case Tony has to do something else when he needs to make a physical appearance.
He thinks, once Pepper is in on The Secret, she'll be able to tell if Tony switches out with JARVIS for certain boring meetings, but until then it's a happy thought.
Tony looked over the nearly completed mine designs, then reviewed his calendar…
No, he decided, not enough time to finish it before he had to head out for the display. He could finish it once he was back, would take a week or two at most, and then he could get Obie off his back for a while.
Recently he'd been pushing for more weapons, more designs, more concepts, even, and had only relaxed a little once Tony finished with the Jericho. It was actually a bit annoying, since Obie wasn't actually part of the design process in the least—not to mention the distinct feeling of micro-managing Tony's own company—but Tony couldn't fault his enthusiasm.
Well, it would be better if his enthusiasm were for more than the weapons aspect of Stark Industries, especially since they made more with Stark Tech through the public than they did with only the Weapons Defense Department.
If it continued, Tony thought he'd shift more of Obie's responsibility to the WDD, if this continued for much longer. He could definitely do it subtly enough that even Obie would be happy with the shift in focus—he'd done it with Howard when he'd only had eyes for weaponry and underwater research, and if the attempted Micro-Management continued he could definitely do it with Obie.
That being said, he didn't know that he could necessarily trust that Obie wouldn't go rifling through his notes and unfinished designs and try to rush things through without Tony noticing—not that he could, because Tony always paid attention to what was being designed, making sure things weren't being rushed.
But it would be a bother, anyway.
"Jarvis, new rule: everything on lockdown when I'm away, and I don't just mean the doors."
"Sir?" There was a load of questions in that one word.
"Yep, exactly what I mean. Reasonable and unreasonable defense of the house and the lab entirely, and if anyone asks say I removed all override codes while working on an upgrade."
They both knew override codes didn't work for anything in or around the lab, but only Rhodey actually knew that, so…
"Does Sir really expect foul play?"
"Mmmmn," Tony made a face, "not really, but you've seen how Obie has been this past year. I don't think he'd try to steal designs, I think he'd just take them and leave them out in the R&D department in a significant way."
The silence that followed was a loaded one, and made Tony roll his eyes. Rhodey and Pepper were actually very good at treating JARVIS like the sentient intelligent being he was, and even with a good measure of affection, but Obie so far hadn't made it past 'Intelligent Program' to 'Intelligent Being'. Tony hoped he'd get past the 'Artificial' part of 'Artificial Intelligence' sooner rather than later, because JARVIS somehow did the British Stiff Upper Lip better than Jarvis had.
He could also do a frosty silence better too, not that it did much good with Obie.
Tony felt a bit like he was putting Obie in Time Out, putting his lab into Lock Down while he was away. A bit like refusing to let a child into a playroom, but, well.
If Obie tried taking away Toys that weren't even his…
"Afghanistan, huh?" Jack grimaced and whipped to the side with the wind. "Isn't it always hot around there?"
Tony shook his head and continued measuring out the velocity and direction of how Jack moved on the wind—Tony wouldn't trade his magnetic fields for anything, but there was a certain appeal to Jack's flying. Gliding. Maybe he'd try out a wing suit some time, once he upgraded his bot-body again to make it a bit lighter. He was still a bit heavier than his body structure would suggest on a regular yes-I-am-flesh-and-blood ratio. "In some parts it snows—but I'm fairly sure it's only for a month or three. If they have a winter spirit like you around, they have a lot more downtime than you." He says this to keep Jack from asking what else he's going to be doing—he doesn't want to mention that he was getting some award. The growing recognition of Tony Spark as a character, paired with the fairly universal knowledge of Tony Stark… it wasn't an easy topic with Jack.
Luckily he was fairly easy to divert from the topic.
"I'm not a winter spirit, I'm the Spirit of Winter."
"The Moon told me so."
Tony rolled his eyes. "Oh well if the Moon told you so…" Jack's insistence that the goddamn Moon had some sort of Higher Power Knowledge was ridiculous, and not something they were ever going to agree on. Sure Tony could get the sense that there was some tech up there, but that didn't mean there was a Higher Power there. Not any more than either Tony or Jack were a Higher Power down here.
"He did, Tony Spark." Jack shook his head at the old argument. "But seriously, Afghanistan? Isn't that a little… far?"
"And supposedly war torn—though the exact context behind that is either debatable or really, really obvious. In either case, it's just a demonstration for the Jericho. I go, play the cocky showman—"
"Not really a show, is it?" Jack grinned, Tony ignored him.
"—blow up things up, show off how unwise it is to mess with Americans and then I'm back to New York."
"You know, it's almost weird how much you stay in America."
Tony shrugged and moved to balance on a telephone wire. He had plans for a more efficient system in the works, small boxes with each house rather than these long, inefficient wires…
"Born and raised here, Jack, so it's not so odd. And I do wander around on Wednesdays… hmm, though maybe not the week I'm travelling. As much as I trust Rhodey, I'm not sure I want to just leave my bot laying about just anywhere."
"What, like you do all the time?"
"That's different; for one it's my lab, and for another there's Jarvis around as backup. Unlike Rhodey, Jarvis doesn't sleep."
"You don't sleep."
Jack blinked at him. "…Yes. Wait, so you don't actually sleep?"
Tony snorted and rolled his eyes.
"Who has the time for it? Certainly not me. I do not dream of electric sheep. Hey, do that flip again, won't you? This time try leaning more to the left, and tuck your elbow, that'll give you a sharper turn."
Next chapter is IM1! Yeah I'm up to that point already, whew!
Also, I'm curious, would you all prefer a single chapter with all of the movie, or would you like it divided up? I'm just rewatching the movie now that I've finally finished the last bits of this chapter, so…
So, I suggest to everyone to check out the music video for "Prototype" by Viktoria Modesta… because I like her music but also because one of the lines is "I'm the pro (x5) I'm the pro-to-type!" and it's just great because her various prosthetics are just so pretty… also watch to the end for a spike-leg dance. You didn't know you needed to see something like that until you actually see it.
Also look up "MIT robotic cheetah" because you will be in awe and laugh at the awkward robot that it is. I can just imagine Tony showing up like "Good try—I mean, Good job! Let me give you all scholarships!" and then giving them all thumbs up and high fives.
Note: To every/anyone who wished I'd done something different for Jarvis or JARVIS or any character/situation I've written about, let me redirect you to this quote:
Toni Morrison — 'If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.'