Who: Howard Stark and Stephen Strange What: New kid in town When: Sunday evening Rating: green
Revolving doors had always freaked him out a little. He didn't know why, but it seemed like something a demented architect came up with to weed out the weak from the strong. Of course, they didn't often transport him in the blink of an eye from Claridge's in London to the Chrysler Building in Manhattan. He stood on the herringbone patterned concrete at the entrance and just looked around for a long moment. He instantly ruled out a black out, because he surely would have woken up in a more horizontal orientation.
It was cold. There was snow clinging to the edges of the sidewalk. The people hurrying by him were dressed warmly, but in the strangest overcoats he’d ever seen. They looked like a bunch of black pillows sewn together. That was obviously far from the strangest thing, though, so he overlooked it. Buttoning up his own wool overcoat, he took a few steps further out onto the sidewalk and glanced up at the building. It still looked the same, but… none of the buildings around it did. The architecture was all wrong. They were devoid of any embellishment, some made entirely of panes of tinted glass, or smooth concrete.
He stuffed his hands down into his pockets and started off down the street, in the direction of Stark Industries. Maybe he could get some answers there. He knew the way from almost anywhere in the city. It was his building. He owned it outright. The better part of a city block and it was all his.
The building was still there, all right. It wasn’t Stark Industries, though. He stood in front of it blinking for a long moment. A couple of pedestrians nearly ran into him and muttered something about tourists. He pushed his way into the lobby, and looked around for the security guard, but apparently there wasn’t one anymore, just a board on the opposite wall with a list of tenants and their suite numbers.
Stephen Strange wasn't exactly in a hurry to show up, but show up he did. Finally. With the welcome package in tow, tucked under one arm, and a very, very, very unamused look on his face.
Of all the people, at all of the times, the father of one of the most problematic (and still somehow beneficial) people on the planet had to show up. And just looking at him, Stephen could see the strong resemblance between the two. And he knew from history all sorts of tall tales about the sorts of things Howard Stark had done. Beneficial. And problematic. The Manhattan Project wasn't exactly about building a better way to hug a puppy.
"Howard Stark," Strange said slowly, as he walked up to stand by Howard's side, also looking at the board with tenant names. "Hello. I'm Dr. Stephen Strange. Master of the Mystic Arts. And you are probably wondering where you are and what's going on."
He wasted no time in holding out the welcome package to Howard. And he wasted no time in thinking that the entire universe needed a swift mystical punch in the junk. More than once.
It was strange enough that he was transported to another place, possibly even what appeared to be another time. The sudden appearance of a stranger who knew who he was… Well, actually a lot of people knew who he was. Maybe that wasn’t so strange.
He took the bundle of things. “What… Mystic Arts?” he asked, the odd introduction finally bubbling up to the top of the list of strange things about everything going on. His voice held a liberal amount of suspicion. “What exactly is going on here?” he asked, since Dr. Strange seemed to be offering an explanation. He had to suppress his natural desire to explore the things he’d been handed.
"The easiest way to understand it is a system of Eastern philosophy concerned with metaphysically manipulating energy in order to protect the planet from unimaginable threats."
Stephen stopped looking at the list and finally looked over at Howard.
"Magic," he clarified. "I'm a sorcerer. And you have been displaced by a timeline that I accidently created. Sorry about that. Good news? I stopped a dark entity from another dimension. Bad news, you've traveled to New York City and it's the year twenty-eighteen."
He nodded toward the welcome package. Not to drop a bombshell or anything, but Stephen supposed that Howard was going to find out about the chip off the old block sooner or later. If anyone could figure out the tangled mess of a timeline split in two, it would be someone who was so heavily involved in science, mathematics, and engineering. Tony had understood the implications immediately, but he hadn't been happy about it. Not until he started to think of what needed to be done, and how to construct it. Maybe it would be the same for Howard. He hoped.
"Your son put that together for those who are affected."
Howard was following along. He’d seen some pretty freaky things. He knew there were a lot of things in the world that hadn’t yet been explained by science, but that didn’t mean they were actually ‘magic’. And he’d read papers about the possibility of time travel, the nature of time. He could get his head around all of that.
“My WHAT??” he asked. He stepped back and the package of things slipped right out of his hands and fell onto the floor. In the year twenty eighteen… sixty nine years in the future… he had a kid?
It only appeared that the package hit the floor, because Strange's hands moved as he quickly created a portal on the floor by Howard's feet. It closed and another opened up over their heads, the package falling through where Stephen could catch it. That portal closed in on itself and Stephen coughed to clear his throat, awkwardly holding it out to Howard again.
"Yes, your son," he told Howard. "He's a few years older than you are, right now. And I'm sure he's going to say the same thing. If not...uhh...something a lot more colorful."
Howard took the package back. He looked down at it like it was going to bite him. “What is all of this stuff?” he asked. His brain was temporarily fixated on the question of offspring. His son was older than him.
“Where is he?” he asked. He was going to confront the situation head on, or, alternately, he wanted to know where he was so he could avoid him. Probably the latter.
"A laptop computer, phone, network access info, hotel keycard, and some money."
Strange raised one eyebrow way up.
"Yeah, he's in the city too," was the sorcerer's cautious reply, as he watched Howard closely like he was searching for some sort of missing puzzle pieces. "And since he created the network, you can reach him on there. In case you don't want to see him in person. If you do, I can take you to him."
That was something that was best left up to father and son, anyway. Stephen didn't want to get in the way of how they decided to approach thing. The option was there, though. If Howard wanted to take it. Hopefully it wouldn't result in the world ending.
“Thanks. I think I’ll… get myself oriented first.” He opened the envelope with the hotel key and the cash. “I guess he hasn’t gambled my fortune away if he’s setting everyone up like this. How many people have gotten stuck in this… timeline?” What he really wanted to know was if his kid knew he was there. Or what his kid’s name was. He didn’t feel like asking this guy, though.
"Not many. Less than thirty. There's people that were in this timeline that got a tap on the shoulder, some from other places, outer space, returned from the dead...." Stephen drew in a deep breath, letting it out slowly. "And then there's you."
He's not even sure what happened there, but the original timeline's Howard appeared to be here and from a very particular point in time. This was an oddity he hadn't encountered yet and wasn't sure he would ever encounter again. He watched Howard closely and could tell there was a lot of conflict along with all of the confusion, which no doubt Tony would be feeling soon. Then again, maybe the universe pulled some strings to help correct itself by bringing father and son together. He wasn't sure, and he didn't want to intervene too much in what might become family drama. Nor did he want to make it seem like it was a total disaster waiting to happen.
"Tony's a billionaire," Stephen clarified, his tone less dry and more kind He couldn't fathom what it would be like to go from a post-World War II era to the twenty-teens, and even he realized he needed to be more empathetic about the situation. "He moved the company away from military weapon development and more into clean energy and other technology. He has a very capable CEO. And your son is a superhero. Whether he'd call himself that or not. If you hear anything on television about him being thought of as a supervillain? He's not. He saved this city and the world. More than once."
And that was more than enough of a fill in that Stephen hoped to save Howard a bit of a shock. Tony's recent legal woes were still a hot topic, and the last thing this awkward scenario needed, was Howard thinking his son was an internationally wanted criminal mastermind.
All of that information gave Howard pause. He didn’t have a snappy comeback for that. Tony. A billionaire. A superhero? Saved the world?
“Thanks,” he said. “I’m gonna… find somewhere to get the Reader’s Digest version of the last 70 years and then track him down.” He tucked the packet of everything under his arm and looked at the hotel room key again. “Now if you don’t mind. I’m gonna head to this hotel and get started. Doctor Strange, it’s been… a unique experience. Especially that whole turning the floor into the ceiling trick. Very impressive. If I need help do I… click my heels together and wish for home?”
"No, Dorothy." Stephen opened a portal off to one side, and the hotel could be seen through it. "And you don't even need to follow a yellow brick road. Enjoy your reading, Mr. Stark. Wikipedia is going to be your friend."
“This is a very efficient means of transportation. You could probably charge to give people rides,” Howard said, stepping through. “Thanks, Doc.”