The situation unravels rapidly.
"I will be blunt," he says, "and reveal now that this assembly is just a prelude towards officially sanctioning the government of the United States of America for crimes against humanity." There is an explosion of voices, many voicing support, many expressing outrage. Aegis sees DePalo's jaw clench tightly. "The United States of America is waging an imperialist war against the legitimate regime of the Vietnamese people. We have all seen the headlines, and we all know much of the story behind the story as well. The Western oppression of the sovereign will of the peoples of so-called lesser nations is no state secret." More voices, more support, more outrage ensue as the Soviet ambassador pauses. "There are, however, state secrets. All nations have them, and for good reason. All nations must protect their interests from those who would unscrupulously attempt to usurp those interests. Yet, not all secrets are kept for such noble reasons. Crimes are also kept secret for fear of exposure to the light of justice." There is movement to the left and behind the speaker's platform as two of Wiesel's guards open the doors there. "The United States of America has kept a monstrous crime secret from her own people and from the world, and today that crime will be brought to light."
None of the outbursts compare to the one that occurs now as, through the just opened doors, steps a figure known the world over for two decades. The shield, the chain mail, the red gauntlets and boots, the bright white A on his forehead. Walking quickly, sharply, the disciplined pace of the ultimate military man, Captain America enters the General Assembly, mounts the stage, and shakes the Soviet ambassador's outstretched hand. The ambassador steps aside and Captain America stands behind the podium. Before he begins to speak, he reaches up and pulls his mask back, letting it fall behind his neck. Short blonde hair, bright blue eyes, strong features. He is the all-American ideal. After what seems a long while, the room is relatively quiet again. Looking at DePalo, Aegis sees that the Colonel is ashen.
"Delegates and ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen, members of the press, I am U.S. Army Colonel Steve Rogers, code-named Captain America, and I stand before you today as a contradiction. I am both a law-abiding citizen and a criminal. I am both a soldier and a common thug. I am both a loyal American and a traitor. I have obeyed orders, and in doing so committed crimes. I have fought against my country's enemies and against a good man's family. I have a profound faith in the republican ideals of my nation's founders, and that faith compels me to betray my nation...."
What follows is a detailed account of how Captain America discovered the Agent Orange program. He leaves out no part. Everything is there. How he worked with Soviet operatives. How he assumed the identity of the Punisher. How he used violence and threats to extort assistance from Delta V. How he struck a deal with the devil in hopes of seeing the guilty punished and the innocent spared from chemically-induced disease. As he talks, pages hand out documents supporting every allegation he makes.
During the presentation, Dumas and Aegis note various reactions among the Americans. DePalo is enraged, barely able to control himself. Stark sits with his face hidden in one hand. Sallis, oddly, is remarkably calm, even pleased by what he sees and hears.
"Finally," Captain America says, "there is just one thing left for me to do. And that is...I mean, what I...I'm sorry, ladies and gentlemen, I'm a bit..." He sees confused, conflicted, his face tight with concentration. "...whew. What I meant to say, ladies and gentlemen, is that all there is left for to do is to KILL TONY STARK!"
Stark's head shoot up in alarm. Several people scream. Captain America jumps over the podium, shield arm ready for the throw....
As Captain America moves to attack, the Avengers leap into action, and then several things happen almost all at once.
Victor had started to tense up as Captain America was seemingly confused. As a precaution, Dumas phased out and then as the people screamed and Captain America jumped over the podium, Specter lunged towards Stark in an attempt to get a hand on him to phase him. *Aegis get ready to receive that shield,* Victor communicated to Aegis through the mind link as he reached for Tony, moving easily through the panicking people in his intangible state toward Stark.
Dumas never reaches Stark. About halfway between where he had been sitting and Stark's location, the Specter suddenly and quickly freezes, his forms distorts and quivers, and then, in a snap, flies upward and sideways, through the wall and out of sight! Specter's entire body burns with pain as he is pulled out of the UN and onto the lawn behind the building, where he drops roughly to the ground, struggling against the agony in his limbs to move.
Through the haze of pain, it dawns of the Specter that he is ON the ground. He can feel the grass, the solidity of the earth under him, and he realizes he is no longer out of phase!
"The devil is in the details, Doctor," the familiar voice of Kragoff says. Looking up, the Specter sees Kragoff, dressed in a stylized cosmonaut suit, helmet under his left arm. Near him is Sergei Kravinoff, the KGBeast, smiling cruelly. "I can move glass, Doctor, because I can affect magnetic fields at the atomic level. I've altered the valence of your carbon atoms, shifting a few billion electrons here and there. I'm told it is quite painful."
"Not as painful as this will be, comrade," the black-haired Kravinoff growls, and then, starting with his arms and legs and moving inward, shifts and changes until the man is gone and a Bengal tiger crouches in his place.
"My apologies for your death, Doctor," the Cosmonaut says as he dons his helmet.
Meanwhile, back inside the General Assembly....
Emerald too looks up in surprise at the words. His reaction is instant. He throws up his arm towards the podium, creating a shimmering wall of force between Captain America and his intended target. In the back of his mind something else tells him all is not well, and his eyes start searching the crowd for something, anything out of place.
*Cover the other targets,* Aegis calmly orders the rest of the group via the mental link, suspecting a diversion. *I'll try to keep _him_ busy.* She vaults the row of chairs and unceremoniously shoves her stunned employer to the floorit's not much cover, but it will have to do until Dumas can get to him. As the phased Specter moves towards Tony, his intention clear, she glances once around the room to get the disposition of the security forces. Any additional threats will be up to the rest of the group to handle.
_The guys at the gym will die of envy. I'm probably about to get my head handed to me by Captain America._ Before the thought can complete itself she's at the front of the room, moving weightlessly to block his line of sight to Stark and stopping just out of arm's reach.
"Captain, can you hear me?" she asks, assuming that he's not in control of his own actions at this point. Her primary objective right now is to get his attention focused on her instead of his target.
As fast as Aegis is, she almost seems clumsy compared to Captain America, who somersaults in mid-air as he hurls his shield, but not at Tony Stark. The red, white, and blue weapon ricochets off the floor and straight into Emerald's jaw, catching the young hero flat-footed. Emerald's head snaps back brutally as he flops to the floor, stunned.
As this occurs, Captain America hits the floor in a roll, vaults up, and lands a flying kick to Aegis's hip. If not for her armor, Aegis is certain the blow would have broken bone. As Captain America spins away from the kick, he catches his shield on the rebound from Emerald's jaw and lands, ready for action. Which comes right away, as Aegis fires an energy blast at him. Though he tries to dodge, the bolt still catches him for a glancing shock. Captain America staggers, his legs gone rubbery, as his nervous system is overloaded by the stunning energy.
Ravdna moves as quickly as possible to guard Sallis as she turns some of her considerable psychic attention toward scanning the area for other threats...
As Ravdna moves to protect Sallis, Mulhare and other of DePalo's agents follow suit, drawing pistols as they move forward as well. Ravdna reaches Sallis first, and searches for a source of danger, noticing just a second too late that Mulhare, now about six feet away, has taken aim at the scientist. The POP! POP! POP! of Mulhare's firearm barks loudly as the NSA agent pumps three rounds into Sallis, hitting the hapless biochemist in the lower back, in the left shoulder blade, and in the neck. The other agent skids to a halt, his mouth wide in shock. Sallis jerks under the bullets' impacts, falling to the table and then sliding to the floor.
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© 2000 Mark L. Chance et al