When he spoke about having control, Natasha caught a glimpse of peace in his tired eyes for a moment. It's not that she didn't understand, in fact, she understood perfectly; having thoughts that weren't your own, actions you couldn't recall. Still, the thought didn't drive her to child-like awe as it did him, only a nice notion of getting sleep from now on. Perhaps she had been in control for so long she forgot what it felt like to be helpless. Hopeless.
"Well, until that day comes, Doctor, I'm assigned be that 'anyone' you spoke of," she replied. "So, here I am." She leaned against the counter and crossed on boot with the other. "If you don't need anything now, however, I'll let you get back to your research. I didn't intend on interrupting, only to make sure you were getting settled."
His day passing quickly, John exited the classroom and sighed as he realised that his classes were done for the day and that now he had to fulfill the end of the bargain he felt his father had bullied him into. Catching up with Peter, who also finishing up classes for the day, J Jonah grimaced and commented, "Another day in the salt pits," as his friend fiddled with some camera equipment.
Catching a taxi downtown, the two passed the ride in quiet conversation and when they were let out in front of the Daily Bugle, both moved quickly inside and toward the bank of elevators.
As both stepped out on the appropriate floor, John paused for a moment as the sounds of a busy newspaper room assaulted him and the smell of newspaper ink stung at his olfactory senses. Over the dim of the room he could hear his father screaming at somebody and following the sound of his father's voice, J Jonah walked calmly across the room.
When he and Peter were close enough to John Sr's office, both could see the man was, as usual, furiously chomping on a cigar and yelling at Ben Ulrich about something. When his father finally bellowed out, "Now get out of here," John stepped forward and made his presence known.
Glaring at his son, J Jonah Sr continued to chomp of his cigar and after a moment, he belted out, "Parker. Get your camera and head over to Oscorp. Apparently they've got some knew prototype glider or something-or-other that they are showing off for the military to the public," and as Peter disappeared, John Sr glared at John Jr and tersely stated, "Well, let's see what the disappointment can do," and reaching for a pile of papers, he began going through it.
He smiled and nodded. "Thank you, Ms. Romanoff. Everything's wonderful here - more than I could have hoped. If I need anything else, I'll let you know. I'll... try not to bug you too much though. And if you should need anything, well I'll be here."
He sat down and returned his attentions to his screen, taking notes on his laptop, still smiling.
She began to compose a replied, but seeing the doctor return to his work happily, she decided against it. As silently as she entered, Natasha made her exit, returning to her room until she was needed once more.
On the pretext of attending a public demonstration of new personal flight device being held by rival Oscorp, Victor von Doom was conducting a check of a number of billboards advertising his own company of DoomCorp. These spaces had cost quite a large amount of money, especially considering just how many he had obtained and in what prominent locations. It was worth the money, however. "Astounding, do you not think? This sign will be seen by millions every day just in this city alone," he mused, "Along with the other six just like it."
He turned from the large window and returned to the area where the demonstration was to take place, receiving many stares for his unusual appearance - clad in green tunic, cloak, and hood and otherwise decked out in metallic armor covering every bit of his body except for the top of his head. His helmet was collapsed and his hood pulled back, though he still wore his face mask. The mask, like his armor, could never be removed. This too earned him stares as every few seconds there would be an audible *kooohhh-kuuuhhh* as the respirator built into his mask breathed for him.
Heart- Stable. Liver- Sustaining; Auto-Filters Required. Account Transaction 003928504938- Accepted. Re-calibrating Automated Defense: Latveria Headquaters. Robotics Production Up 13% Since Last Quarter. Sustenance CRITICAL: Initiating Nutrient Transfer Intravenously.
Momentarily, VAL lowered its processing speed to focus on Lord Doom's words. It crunched the numbers in regards to his quandaries and concerns.
"A worthy investment, Lord,"it chirped optimistically. "According to the quarterly accounts, the revenue acquired exceeded company projections by 35%, an additional 25% boost located in or around proximity with the advertisements. If such sales continue, the costly expenses were well worth it." It began running its protocols once more, all the while maintaining a vigilant eye on His surrounding. Many in proximity targeted him as a point of convergence.
"My sensors indicate minimal threats regarding your current location," she deduced. "However, given the quantity of individuals in attendance, I will continue to keep the safeguard system at an increased level.
Bruce spent some time with the various samples of his blood, running a range of tests in order to try to induce transformation in his blood cells. A small dose of epinephrine took care of it well enough, simulating release of adrenaline into the bloodstream. With this done, he laboriously separated out the biliverdin pigment from his blood. It was a long and arduous process, but he finally ended up with just enough for a few tests. With the first sample he tried a small dose, and to his surprise it actually seemed to decrease the number of cells that broke down. He recorded the results of the test, then moved on to prepare the next.
It was in just a brief moment, his excitement at the prospect of possibly finding a real treatment caused his focus to slip for just a few seconds. His hand shook slightly as he reached for the vial containing the biliverdin solution. It slipped from his grasp and fell from the tabletop, shattering on the ground. It was just a small thing, but it gained a foothold. He found himself shaking more. He tried to focus on breathing, but the lab suddenly felt very stifling. He went to the door but found it would not open.
The hair on his neck and arms was standing on end. He turned back to the lab and leaned against the wall, eyes closed as he drowned out everything else in his mind. He tapped a rhythm on the wall, steady, and repeated to himself, 'calm, calm,' like a mantra. When he felt the moment had passed, he went over to his pack and removed something like a watch, but it wasn't a watch. He placed it on his wrist and the device obediently informed him that his pulse was 120 bpm. Slightly elevated, but acceptable.
It wasn't long before Natasha found her way down the isolated corridor once again, a quickened pace to her step. As the lab came into view, she stood outside the glass, gazing in as he fiddled with his watch. She made attempts to be loud this time. Heavy footed and brash, she pulled open the door and entered, still respecting his space.
"Bruce," she called across the room, her brow slightly furrowed with concern. She tilted her head around one of the large metal machines until she could fully see him. "Everything alright..?"
He heard footsteps. He should have expected the footsteps. He actually wasn't sure who they could belong to, because Natasha had snuck up on him before. He wheeled around, fully expecting to see some faceless agent ready to put a dart in his neck, or try. He wheeled around and was ready to tell them off. "I'm fine!" he snapped, but the way it sounded was just wrong, and he realized quickly by her red hair that it was indeed Natasha who had come to check on him. "Sorry...." he said, more quiet and much more subdued, then again, "Sorry. I'm fine, really. Just another day in the life. I've just made a little mess is all. I... don't think the broom closet was pointed out during the tour." He looked around and spotted a rather unassuming door beside the doorway leading to the bedroom. Inside he found just what he was looking for and he immediately set to work sweeping up his mess. "Thank you for your concern though, Ms. Romanoff."
As much as she tried to fight it, Natasha jumped at his shout, even winced. She felt her hand caress the handle of her Glock out of instinct, but that reflex would be useless in this situation. However, once he looked up from his device and fully recognized her, she quickly relaxed. She watched and listened in silence momentarily, observing him picking up the remnants of the experiment from the floor. There was the notion of helping, but it seemed like a one man task so she just stood by idly, keeping her distance.
"It's what I'm here for," she admitted. "No need for apologies or thanks."
After what seemed like hours of listening to his father chewing him out or making comments about how worthless he was, John Jr was just about ready to turn and march out of John Sr's office, telling the man what he could do with the Daily Bugle as he did so.
Instead, he was granted a slight reprieve as his father instead pushed away the pile of paper he'd been going through and announced, "Go join the Parker kid at Oscorp. You two are so buddy-buddy, both of you can cover the event. Hell, maybe one of you will actually get a descent shot that might be worth publishing."
Biting his tongue, John Jonah replied, "Yes, father," and turning away, he hurried out of his father's office.
Just outside, he immediately ran into Peter, who commented, "I heard the whole thing. Also, figured I wait, seeing as J Jonah Jameson Sr is usually teaming us up together in photo-shoots," as he adjusted the camera case hanging on his shoulder.
Nodding, John replied, "Let's get out of here before he," he roughly pointed a thumb back toward his father, "Can say anything else," and grabbing the camera equipment he kept in the desk his father had allowed him to use, J Jonah Jr followed Peter Parker to the bank of elevators, his thoughts simmering as he thought about what he'd like to really tell his father.
He quickly had the glass swept up and the solution cleaned away. Easy cleanup was one benefit of laboratory floors. As he disposed of the trash he looked over to where she stood some distance away. If it wasn't her job to do so she probably wouldn't have even stood this close. "Right.... Of course."
He sat down at the desk and placed his head in his hands. He really didn't want to be there at the moment. He would have preferred to be anywhere but there. "I'm fine now. Sorry for the scare," he said.
She stood there, assessing the situation in silence. Once he moved to his desk, she pondered leaving, but decided that could potentially make things worse. Instead, she moved in closer until she was a few feet from his desk. After assuring the nearby counter behind was free of his work, she rested against it.
"I said no apologies," she replied. She crossed her arms idly. "This happen to you often?"
He saw her come closer and lean on the counter out of the corner of his eye. Was this Natasha right now or Agent Romanoff just doing her job? He couldn't tell for certain. When she spoke he glanced over for just a moment, then returned his gaze to the desk before him. "All the time," he replied. "Moreso recently. It only gets harder as time goes on. This is the longest I've ever gone without falling off the wagon."
He glanced at his heartrate monitor again and found his pulse was back down to his normal 105 bpm. "I'm sorry if this causes any problems, but if it makes you feel any better I haven't changed due to an attack like that in a long time. My pulse probably wasn't over 150 bpm, so there wasn't even much danger. It's just very inconvenient, and a little frightening. Also, sorry for apologizing again."
From then on, Natasha knew not to chastise the doctor about his over-abundant apologies; it was just who Bruce was and though she couldn't relate, she did understand, if only slightly.
"There weren't any problems, just concern," she reassured, though her mono-toned voice lacked empathy. "You have to understand, there are quite a few people on this ship, Dr. Banner. Like you said, this episode happens frequently and it can be dangerous, so precautions have been taken to assure those people their safety." At this point, Natasha's arms were by her side, poised and lax. Her eyes winced momentarily, as if lost in thought.
"However, I'm not here on behalf of those people," she admitted. "I'm not ordered to care for nor look after them. Though Ms. Carter and the like believe my job description is to monitor you for their best interest, in the actual SHIELD documentation and definition of being a 'liaison,' it states I'm here on behalf of you." She paused, trying to gauge his reaction.