Decisions to be made.
"Before you go, could you give me the names of anyone you thought was good at filling in while I was gone. I get the feeling that things are going to get busy around here soon, and I might need and extra pair or two of hands. If I can swing the funding..." Gee, fighting robots is easy, Sam thinks to himself after heading upstairs, easier than writing grant requests.
"Sure thing, Sam," Sarah says. "I've been telling you for the longest time now that you and Dad can't run this place all by yourselves."
Janet returns from lunch. Adrian gave her a lot to think about. The afternoon at the office passes quickly. On her way out, Sarah hands her an envelope with a key and a note of the details for this evenings party. As through as ever, Sarah has everything arranged.
With nothing else to do, the evening drags on unmercifully. Finally it is late enough that Janet gets ready. She slips her costume on under a pants suit, folding her mask into her purse. She is a few blocks from home when she ducks into an alley, and soon, the red and white heroine is flying over the city. She lands on the observation deck. _I'm the first one here, don't know if that's good or bad_ She waits patiently.
After a few seconds of waiting, Janet spots Union closing in on the spire, his armor glowing slightly in the nighttime sky. The aged armored inventor makes a graceful landing next to the costumed businesswoman socialite
"Hello Duststorm. Sorry I'm late. Were you able to make the arrangements inside?"
Janet watches in fascination at the change from Adrian to the grace that is Union. "I haven't been waiting long." She pulls a key from her waist. "There is a room reserved, but I haven't been in it. I had my secretary make the arrangements."
Standing outside of a ladies room near the meeting Patsy Walker jokes to her spectacled friend, "This is about as far as you "mortal" types go."
"Thanks for sticking with me through all this...hopefully they can find a way to undo what's been done to me." She holds his hand in hers.
He squeezes it..."I'll always be here Patsy. Count on it. Pursuing Nordic quarry was an exhilarating way to while away an afternoon. Perhaps in another life I would even be able to join you on this sort of adventure."
Looking at her large but text-book nerdish friend Patsy can't even picture him as a costumed hero. "Let's keep her heads in this reality shall we?" she kisses his cheek as she releases his hand and opens the ladies room door.
Hank McCoy continues to blush as he leaves her side and awaits the elevator service.
He sees The Valkyrie exit as the doors slide closed.
Dark Angel touched down lightly on the observation deck, his wings having not betrayed him with sound. His face was mostly featureless, but what you could discern looked dour. "I have returned at the agreed upon time."
"As Have I" Ravdna says
With the promise of a paying gig, even if it is a small part Emerald is ecstatic when he emerges from the studio offices. His copy of the script is tucked into his guitar case, and the young man celebrates by taking the afternoon off from his job hunting.
As the sun sets on the city that never sleeps Rick turns his attention to the coming meeting. With his costume beneath a pair of faded blue jeans and a turtleneck Rick goes out and walks down Broadway, looking at the lights of that famous street. He returns briefly to his apartment, then flies up from the roof of a nearby building and makes his way to the Empire State Building.
Emerald rises slowly over the fences on the observation deck and lands beside the others. "Is everybody here?" he asks.
Union responds, "Not yet. We're still waiting for Aegis, Malachi, and, predictably, Delta V." There are a few more seconds of silence before Aegis is spotted over the skyline. She is among the last to arrive, alighting soundlessly on the balcony a short distance away from the gathering.
"Good evening," she greets them, scanning for missing faces. There's still a few minutes before they're supposed to get started. She realizes that she's looking forward to this, curious to see what happens now that they're all together... almost all; the shadow of yesterday's defeat falls again, briefly. Once the rest are there, she can tell them about Mr. Pennington.
Delta V zooms onto the observation deck, wondering how it is that he's always the last one here when he's probably the fastest man alive. "Hello everyone, are we ready to begin?"
Union nods to Delta V as he appeared over the edge of the observation deck. "I was hoping Malachi would be able to join us, but...perhaps something came up. I'll try and contact him later."
"In any case, we don't have to worry about being in the public eye tonightDuststorm has arranged for us to have a meeting space inside the building proper. Hopefully that will let us get everything covered without it being a sideshow." Union gestures for Duststorm to lead the way to the room (since he has no idea where it is) and then follows the others inside.
Janet's secretary had done her job wellthe room was well furnished with a large oaken conference table, several chairs and even a side bar with drinks, coffee and other amenities that must have been catered in recently. _I can't even imagine how much this must have cost..._ Adrian thinks looking the room over as he watches his teammates mill about and take seats.
"OK, even without Malachi we still have the vast majority of us, so..."
Malachi strides into the room from the maintenance door. He looks around, nods to Union, and moves over the conference table. "Good evening."
Adrian's eyes goggle under his helmet, _I'm not even going to ask how he managed to do that. I think Sam would get far too much satisfaction out of it._
Fortunately the armor's voice modulator masks his shock, and Adrian hopes it makes his sound blase, "Glad you could make it."
Aegis clears her throat and moves to where she can see the whole group. Impressive setup; she wonders who Duststorm might really be. "One thing before we begin--I was contacted today by a Mr. Pennington, who worked for Dr. Dumas. He says he has information to present to the group. I told him one of us would go out and fetch him. Shall we get this out of the way before we get down to business here, or let it wait until afterward? I was a bit vague on the time for him."
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© 2000 Mark L. Chance et al