The police and press arrive before any of the guests, camping outside the low stone wall that winds its way around the cemetary adjacent to the castle. The castle itself is done very much in the style of an 18th century French manor, which its wide facade, arched windows, and narrow spires, all overlooking a long, straight road leading to a turnabout around a lovely fountain of splashing hippocampi and sea nymphs. There is even what appears to be a topiary maze on the west lawn.
The funeral service will occur out of doors. Scores of chairs have been set up on either side of a red carpet that leads to the closed casket. A podium is set up nearby, with speakers arranged at the four corners of the seating area. Memorial cards and programs are distributed by ushers. Exiled Latverian Bishop Vincentas Sladkevicius has flown in from Toronto to conduct the funeral service. The eulogy will be delivered by none of than the Vice President himself. There is reserved seating for all of the various dignitaries, including space for those Avengers who attend.
Sam Stern, Dr. and Mrs. Connors, Janet Van Dyne, and Patsy Walker arrive, as do Union, Aegis, Emerald, and Malachi. Tony Stark, in a wheel chair with oxygen on hand, arrives in the care of a dour nurse. Other recognizable attendees include Justin Hammer and a well-dressed, rough-looking man who must be a bodyguard, Colonel DePalo in full dress uniform, UN Security Chief Wiesel, the Soviet Ambassador looking decidely uncomfortable, the Assistant Secretary of State, Vice President Johnson, actress and model Susan Storm in the company of actor Robert Preston, several members of New York City's "beautiful people" set, and the Deputy Mayor. Both Stern and Malachi are surprised to see FBI Agent Gyrich towards the rear of the crowd. He catches Malachi's gaze and nods. Aegis recognizes a number of Stark employees. Security is tight. Secret Service agents are scattered in a perimeter, as well as closer at hand. Police patrol the exterior of the estate, keeping the press at bay.
And, unseen by all, the ghost of Victor Dumas watches from the bay windows of the study overlooking the cemetary. The portal created by Kang, which led from Limbo back to his home, vanished as quickly as Victor walked through it.
Janet Van Dyne can been seen milling in the crowd like a professional. She moves from small group to small group, spending a few moments talking with each. If you didn't know better, you would think she personally orchestrated the whole event. Somehow snippets of her conversations can be heard even across the expanse.
"Samantha, I'm glad you could make it, It was very noble of the Avengers, Paying our respects is the least we can do. New York and the World owe them."
"I think some of the Avengers are here, Marsha, I think the silver one is called Union, the green and black is Emerald."
"Yes, the paper said there are more than just the four, Maybe some of the others are wearing their costumes under their clothes."
"That's Malachi, he was one of the Avengers in Alabama. I was there when he helped put and end to Henry's scheme. Honestly, I don't know what I saw in Henry. I'm glad I went to Birmingham to break it off, at least he won't be calling me from jail."
Janet makes her way to the area where the quartet of Avengers are standing. She introduces herself, with a slight wink to Union. "I just wanted to say how sorry I am for what happened, and how grateful, we all are that you all are willing to do what you do." She is very polite and ladylike as she shakes hands with the group before moving on to the some of the dignitaries.
She seems in her element, even shaking hands with the vice-president and the Soviet ambassador, giving a polite phrase of Russian greeting, she must have picked up from one of the multitude of parties. As things begin to give the appearance of starting, she makes her way to an out of the way, but still visible seat, that she must have spent some time looking for.
The attendees slowly but surely are ushered to their seats, and the funeral begins. Alfred, Victor's major domo, steps to the podium, thanks everyone for honoring Victor's memory with their presence, and asks everyone to please stand. Two peoplea man and a woman, both youngishtake position at the front of the area and sing. First, the national anthem echoes majestically. Then, a Latverian folk songtraditional at funeralsripples across the attendees, its haunting melody impressively beautiful. There is some spontaneous applause from a few people. Alfred returns to the podium.
"We have three speakers today," he says. "Each addressing a different aspect of Victor's life. First, the Avenger known as Union will share with us Victor as costumed hero. Then, Mister Anthony Stark of Stark Industries will tell us about Victor the scientist and co-worker. And, finally, we are most honored that the Vice President of the United States of America, Lyndon Johnson, will eulogize Victor the patriot. So, now, distinguished guests, let us please turn our ears to Victor's teammate, Union."
Alfred steps aside, opening the podium for Adrian.
Unseen, Victor walks over and stands next to the podium to listen to Union. Perhaps later, when Patsy is the Valkyre again, he will have a chance to be noticed. But until then, he might as well enjoy his funeral. Victor certainly would not get a chance like this...for as long as he lived.
Union glides gracefully up the stairs to the podium, and Adrian is thrilled at the movement reduction function of his suit, since it prevents people from seeing how his knees are knocking. _At least I had a chance to upgrade my voice modulator at Stark's before I had to give a speech..._ he thinks before he reaches the podium and the microphone. As he speaks he scans the crowd, trying to remember what he had been told about giving presentations to managers in his old business days. He keeps his hands steady on the podium, and makes eye contact with several people in the crowdeven though his helmet all-but-prevents them from returning the gaze.
"Hello. I'd like to thank everyone for attending this afternoon. These past few weeks have been tumultuous ones for the city of New York, the United States and most certainly for my teammates and myself, as our conceptions of what was real and stable have been turned upside down. With the sudden appearance of super humans into the public spotlight, with the re-appearance of criminal movements that we had hoped were long past, with the unfortunate flaring of the hostilities that define the modern political landscape, and, most memorably, with the incursion of entire other realms of existence, the world has come to seem, well, somewhat chaotic.
"Striving to bring order to that chaos was Victor Von Doom. Victor was renowned as one of the world's foremost scientific minds, and he was firmly convinced that there was no situation, however chaotic, from which he could not discern a structure. That surety of purpose and clarity of thought was something that we needed these last few weeks.
"When the Asgardian raiders vanished, taking dozens of prisoners and leaving hundreds of dead and wounded, it was Victor who came to our nascent team with a means of regaining the prisoners and striking back. When it came time to make peace with the Asgardians, it was Victor who suffered a personal loss to see that the treaty was permanently sealed.
"Victor Von Doom was not an easy man to get along with. His intellect, experiences and air of command made it easy for people to see him as arrogant or overbearing. He had a certainty to his actions that comes only with self confidence, and a self confidence that comes only through being tempered by fire. While the Lord knows that Victor and I did not see eye to eye during our brief acquaintance, I always had respect for his scientific abilities, for his valor, and for his obvious compassion for his fellow man. He was a man who would act when he felt action was called for, and once committed to a cause he would follow it regardless of the personal consequences.
"On Monday those consequences caught up with him. And he died. But while his death cost the world one of its most brilliant men, he died on the field of battle, fighting for a cause he believed in. He died because Victor was never willing to accept the great lie, that someone, anyone, be it a man, a business, or a nation, could claim that they could dictate to you, could control you, could *own* you, simply because they were stronger, louder, more numerous or more powerful.
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© 2000 Mark L. Chance et al