-Stark Apartment, New York-
-June 3, 2010, 1300h local-
After a quick chat with May Parker, Tony decided to give the kid a chance. He sent ordered one Stark Tablet to the Parkers. This tablet, which was permanently connected to Stark net and JARVIS, was programmed to spit out Math and Science questions from the first grade to post-doctorate. Peter Parker would have a month to answer as many questions as he can. The questions would be curated and controlled by JARVIS, making sure Peter would answer a good amount of questions in a wide range of topics so Tony could get a handle on the kid's brain. JARVIS would also provide all the references needed to answer said questions. The tablet should arrive the day after tomorrow as Stark Industries technicians still need to make the necessary upgrades to make it more child-friendly.
Nevertheless, JARVIS would just give Tony the results after the month was up. He just needs to decide what he'll do from there.
"She already called, huh. That was quick. I thought she'll mull it over." Naruto suddenly said from behind the Stark family, surprising them.
The Starks were just having a short break after their lunch and they were hoping to have a lazy afternoon but it looks like it ain't happening. Morgan quickly jumped over the couch and leaped towards Naruto's arms.
"Naruto! Where did you go last night?" Morgan asked with a tilt of her head and a slight lisp.
"I watched a movie. Not suitable for princesses like you..." Naruto countered with a bop on Morgan's nose. "It's rather violent."
"Naruto," Pepper called out, warning him not to say too much.
"And... That's my cue..." Naruto pulled back. He carried Morgan and walked around the couch. "Nat and I will be gone for a while. Maybe a week at most."
"What for?" Tony asked.
"I'm not sure I'm supposed to tell anyone but I'll probably share it after we return..." Naruto replied with an apologetic smile. "All you need to know is we're making a mess in the motherland."
That got Tony and Pepper's attention since it's not even a day ago when they tied up a 'loose end' from a certain Russian.
"Vanko?" Tony inquired.
"You would think so, would you? But no..." Naruto answered. "I just found something out while looking into Vanko. By the way, you don't have to worry about anything relating to Vanko."
"That's a good thing to hear." Pepper said in relief.
Naruto felt Morgan pulling at his hair.
"You're leaving, Naruto?" Morgan asked with slightly teary eyes.
"Me - me would leave for a bit cause Auntie Nat needs help but my look-a-like will stay here with you..." Naruto replied. "If you really need to call me - me, just have JARVIS call Auntie Jess. You can handle that can't you JARV?"
"I have Miss Jones's number saved in my database."
"Since when?" Tony inquired, a little left out.
"Since your wedding, sir."
"Huh. Didn't know about that."
"I asked him to take it in case of emergencies..." Naruto added. "and speaking of emergencies, you still have some tags I've given you and Morgan here has her bracelet so I can show up anytime..." He put down Morgan who reluctantly let go of him. "I'll whip something up for her to eat later but after that, I'll have to go. Nat can't wait for this to get over with." He then moved towards the kitchen.
"Right. Let me help you." Pepper stood up and went with him.
-Outskirts of Astana, Kazakhstan-
-June 5, 2010, 1000h local-
Natasha and Naruto were quick to arrive in Kazakhstan where Nat's contact was supposed to meet them. Naruto had argued that he could handle everything himself but Nat was rather adamant about doing most of the job herself. He has been effectively delegated into an information source and a safety net in case things go sideways.
They even went as far as using a 'traditional' way to travel. Using aliases to jump both passenger and cargo planes to arrive in Kazakhstan relatively undetected but trackable by everyone who knows our itinerary, aka The One-Eyed Pirate and Legolas.
Natasha decided to inform Fury and Barton about this particular development because taking down Red Room was her initiation mission for SHIELD. Of course, Naruto warned her that the Red Room has a history of working with HYDRA. The moment SHIELD becomes aware that the Red Room was still operational, they might reestablish their alliance and once again fucking the world over.
Good thing Fury listened. He placed Nat on vacation, effectively giving her free reign. He also filled out a backdated non-digital paperwork for mission operation in case Nat would need an extract plan.
Right now, the couple was driving a closed van, which was prepared by Naruto in advance, northward towards the Russian-Kazakhstan border. They were going to meet Nat's contact at an abandoned farm 50km from the capital.
Nat's contact, Rick Mason, was a former British Navy support analyst turned SHIELD agent under logistics, and finally, one of the fastest rising independent contractors. He had made a name for himself from only two years of active service. He has reportedly been able to deliver almost any product given enough time and money. He can also introduce customers to groups or individuals who do wet work. Apparently, Naruto was the only one he couldn't reach.
Rick Mason uses a debit system as a form of payment. No credit whatsoever. A client needs to 'deposit' money into Mason's network of bank accounts. This money is what he would use to avail the customers of his services. And just like most banks, he has a maintaining balance. Anywhere from 50 grand to 10 million dollars, depending on how reliable was the customer and the usual purchase size.
"You're really not going to say anything?" Natasha let out after she finally gave up on thinking about it.
"No way. We're not going to use that thing anyway." Naruto answered while lounging on the passenger seat with his feet up on the dash.
"You know I could just reach out back and lift the tarp, right?"
"Would you do it though?" Natasha bit her lower lip. Her curiosity fighting her pride. "That's what I thought..." Naruto brought his sunglass down to his nose and looked around with his eyes. He looked towards the meeting place in particular. "We're close. Your guy's good."
"I know. That's why Clint and I use him."
The pair continued with their small talk until they reached the rendevous spot. When they arrived, a six-foot-tall, African British man wearing a leather jacket, shirt, and jeans was sitting at a bench outside an abandoned home while eating an apple with a switchblade. A nondescript maroon Lada sedan was parker near him. Rick only looked up when he saw Nat and Naruto's van driving down the dirt road.
Rick stood up and waited for the van to stop in front of him. Nat was the first one to get out and gave Rick a friendly hug. They knew each other during Rick's time as a SHIELD agent. He's one of the few 'friends' of Nat. Naruto stepped out of the van carrying both his and Nat's duffel bag. He slung both bags over his shoulder and extended his right hand towards Rick.
"Noah Ulmer." Naruto introduced himself.
"Rick Mason. Nice to meet you..." Rick shook Naruto's hand before turning towards Nat. "Alias?"
"Yeah. Too many if you ask me..." Nat answered with a shrug. "That alias means he likes you since he gave you an alias with an N and U. That's the first letters of his name..." She added causing Naruto to glare at her. "Though you'll probably be more interested with his professional name."
"What is it?" Rick asked out of his curiosity.
"I'll tell you before we leave." Naruto interjected.
"Okay..." Rick drawled out. "Come on, let me show you guys what I got."
Nat and Rick walked towards the back of the barn while Naruto trailed a few steps back.
"Ok. I gotta ask..." Rick whispered. "Who's that guy?"
"Long story short, he's my boyfriend. I guess. Maybe fiancee would fit better." Nat and Naruto had already talked about doing an Uzumaki-style wedding.
"You're not giving me much here."
"Cause you can connect the dots the moment you know his work alias."
"He'll tell me, right? Cause my curiosity's peeked."
"Maybe. Most likely." Nat answered right before turning the corner of the barn.
Right in front of them was VTOL Turboprop Boeing V-22 Osprey with some noticeable modifications. The Osprey in front of them has a more angular shape similar to the quinjet. The usual military grey was changed into pitch black. The exposed weaponry like the A230 chain gun below the plane was usually found under the Apache attack helicopter.
"What the hell?" Nat said.
"Told you I'm the best. Impressed." Rick gloated.
"The US military and DARPA made a prototype for a possible replacement for a VTOL attack gunship..." Naruto supplied, surprising Rick a bit since that was supposedly classified. "Only three prototypes were made and here's one of them."
Rick just stared at Naruto for a moment before speaking.
"Your connected, aren't you?"
"Nah..." Naruto replied with a mysterious smile. "I just like to snoop around. I'll just bring the van around." He added before dropping both bags and going back.
"You never brought that much equipment before." Rick commented.
"I have everything I need in the bag..." Nat gestured towards the duffel bags. "You know what I say. Pack light, pack fast."
"So why the van? The Osprey could carry it in its cargo hold but it'll shorten your range."
Naruto drove the van towards the back of the barn where the Osprey was placed. He made sure to place the rear doors of the van right in front of Nat and Rick. He got out, walked toward the back before opening it, revealing two pallets covered by a large tarp. He reached for an exposed handle at the bottom of the pallet and pulled at it hard. This caused both pallets to slide from the bed of the van to drop toward the ground.
"Ok. What's that?" Rick asked.
Naruto just smiled before removing the tarp, revealing two blocks of hundred-dollar bills.
"Add this to Nat's account." Naruto informed Rick.
"How much is that?" Rick asked.
"Four hundred million dollars of clean bills."
"Huh..." Rick turned towards Nat. "Well, that effectively quintuples your account."
"Where'd you get the cash?" Nat asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Drug lords, cartels, and terrorists. You know. The usual." Naruto answered with a shrug.
"And that cash is all clean?"
"I checked all four hundred million serial numbers."
"Bullshit." Rick commented.
"I know right! Took me a whole day to verify everything."
"So that's where all the missing SHIELD surveillance cameras and computers had gone off to..." Natasha said as an afterthought. "I thought you said that this guy is useless compared to you?"
"Hey!" Rick objected almost immediately while glaring at Naruto.
"Yeah. He's basically useless but you know me. I support small businesses." Naruto said with a deadpan tone while staring at Rick dead in the eye.
Natasha can't help but laugh hearing Naruto's serious statement. She then walked towards the duffel bags, picking them up, before going towards the Osprey.
"Come on. Stop kicking Rick's pride..." Nat called out to Naruto. "I'll contact you if I need another transport in the next few days."
Naruto followed Nat towards the Osprey before remembering his word before pulling out a business card and handing it to Rick. He then jogged towards the aircraft.
Rick, on the other hand, quickly looked at the card only seeing a picture at the front. The face of the fox with nine tails circling behind it. He quickly figured out what that means. The blonde asshole he just met was the famous/infamous ninetails. Nat must've met him during her and Clint's manhunt. He turned the card over expecting to find a contact number but only finding a single sentence;