Spacer Order & Chaos 88
  | Asymmetry | Role-Playing | What If | Order & Chaos |






    She shakes herself out of her momentary distraction, her usual crisp manner resurfacing. "I have some thoughts, but honestly right now they're not particularly well organized. And do call me Beth," she adds with another quick smile. "While the idea of keeping my identity entirely hidden died rather quickly thanks to DePaulo, it would be best if it was not discussed publicly, even here." Something will certainly have to be done to misdirect any curious folk capable of adding two and two, but it'll have to be later. She suspects that identities in general will be one topic at the meeting, and wonders if everyone is willing to be known to their fellows.
    _OK, no point in this then,_ Adrian thinks as he magnetically flips the locks on the lab door, making sure the pair won't be interrupted before he reaches up and removes his helmet. "Fair enough. Only if you call me Adrian. And I understand about the identity crisis—I had hoped to keep mine secret from everyone to avoid any problems, but circumstances didn't seem to allow it. Malachi is an old family friend, and having the Red Skull steel my armor made concealing my face impossible."
    Seeing a confused look on her face he continues, hoping that her look is indicating a confusion about new information on the events in Alabama, and not shock at discovering the age of the man under the helmet.
    "Pleased to meet you, then, Adrian. I think we're all finding that our expectations don't necessarily match reality when it comes to our recent volunteering." That's going to change, fast, she thinks grimly. This day is not going to repeat itself.
    Adrian reaches into his bag and pulls out the plans he worked up over the weekend. "Here are the designs of the communications gear I. I think I can get a private band communicator down to the size of, say, a man's bifold wallet, using some of the circuit designs I saw in Pym's work combined with my own ideas. Someone might break in on the waveband, so we should limit the use for emergencies, but it would certainly help communication."
    "For more immediate situations, I also sketched out a sort of signal flare. It's compact and powered by EM fields, and will generate, well, a large glowing A over the Manhattan, with a trail indicating it's launch point. Do you think these would be sufficient?" It's hard for her to tell, but Union, Adrian, certainly seems to be looking not just for advice, but for Aegis' permission to go ahead with this plan.
    Listening closely while she glances over the sketches -- they don't tell her much -- she nods agreement and, since he seems to be looking for it, encouragement. "Certainly be better than the nothing we've got right now. We can use a code of some sort to make fairly sure communications aren't tampered with -- rotate it on some random system. About the flares, though, are you thinking of issuing them to the general public? We'll have to come up with some guidelines tomorrow as to what sort of things will be within our purview, along with all the rest of it."
    "General Public? Oh heavens no. This is for our use when the radios aren't or when we need a rapid response. I don't expect everyone to be carrying them all the time, but the flares are unobtrusive and won't arouse suspicion when we carry them. I might be able to rig the radios to just beep or something when in 'standby mode', so that we can carry them normally with only minimal risk to our identities."
    "Ah. Excellent idea, in that case. I was thinking that perhaps the police might find one or two useful, depending on what sort of situations arise."
    "Well, This will take me several hours to put together, and I hope to have them ready for the next meeting."
    "Great." She settles into an out of the way position near the door, obviously prepared to wait.
    Adrian shrugs _It's probably part of her job_ and gets to work. Beth can see his hands moving with unnatural efficiency as he works: there's never a slip or a wasted motion, and it almost gets to be hypnotic, except for the times when tools fly across the table into his hands, compelled by the electromagnetic force of his cybernetic suit.
    After about 45 minutes he speaks up, "Oh, there was one more thing. I can't help but notice that you're more, ummm, trained than the rest of us. I was hoping that you might be able to give me some pointers for close combat. Inside the suit I'm strong and fast, but I don't really know what I'm doing. As Alabama proved, outside side the suit I'm just an aging engineer. I need to have a little more of an edge in case that happens again."
    She appears slightly surprised at this request, and considers it for a moment before replying. "If you like. I don't have much experience teaching, but we can go over the basics, and if you want to keep going I can point you in the right direction."
    "That's as good a starting point as anything. I'll ask you to go easy on me at first, because I want to learn this on my own, rather than with the suits backup. Hopefully the suit's agility augment properties will have the same kind of enhancement on those skills as they do on my existing ones."
    After that he goes back to his quiet, intense work, and within another half hour he stands up, points something at the wall and smiles as a stream of bright white glowing fire shoots from what he's holding and hovers in space for 5 minutes before collapsing. "Good. Very Good."
    Time goes by while Union turns a few handfuls of anonymous components into something that will undoubtedly be very useful for all of them. Though curious, she doesn't wish to distract him with questions, and aside from his occasional remarks the lab offers little by way of focus for her scattered thoughts. They return unbidden to the morning.
    By the time he is finished, Beth has gone over the events of the day forwards and backwards, identified every last oversight and "should have," from being stupid enough to assume UN security knew what it was doing right up to "should have thrown dePaulo through that wall while I had the chance." Expensive lessons, some of them.
    An hour later and he stands up again. "Ok, that's all I can do for now." He leaves three items discreetly on the table as he bundles up the rest of his equipment. "Beth, those are the plans for the communication system, one of the prototype and your copy of the signal flare. I have nine more here to hand out to the rest of the team, but I can't produce more of the communications equipment without visit one of your larger facilities, so I'll leave that for you and Stark to work out. I worked the other one directly into my armor."
    Adrian looks at the clock as he catches Beth in a yawn, "It's nearly ten, and you've had a rough day. Lock up and go home, Beth. I think we could all use some rest." He straps his helmet back on as he's saying this, and the last few words come out in Union's flat monotone. _And I have a big day tomorrow. But why aren't I tired?_
    She calls a cab when he's done, gone, and everything is locked up again. Doesn't feel like facing traffic at the moment. Stops at the hospital to reassure herself regarding Stark's condition, then heads for home. The apartment is dark and quiet, much to her relief, and when she goes to bed she is pleasantly surprised to fall deeply asleep almost immediately. In the morning there is a certain hazy remembrance of waking often with unpleasant dreams, but the images fade quickly.

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