Spacer Mortal Remains 106
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Tony Stark's eulogy.



    "Victor would never believe that, and never stand for it. He had been acting against that belief his whole life. Even when the people who had the most reason to listen to him didn't want to hear it. Even when the consequences worked against his best interests. Even when doing so threatened his life. Because eventually he had spoken against it loud enough and often enough that his voice was deemed a threat that those whose temporal authority rests on that lie. Those who believed that their strength of men or missiles allowed them to control others decided that his voice must be silenced. And so Victor died, the victim of an assassination couched within a 'diplomatic incident' hidden behind a 'rogue operative' and shuffled into some papers in hopes that we would all forget both the means of his death and the strength of his message."
    In the midst of the speech Beth's neck goes rigid as she avoids glancing over to where the Soviet ambassador is sitting. She wants to applaud. _That's not going to make us any friends—but it needed saying. Who'd have thought he had it in him?_ Her appreciation for their new leader ratchets up several notches.
    "I am pleased to say that even in his death Victor continues to fight against those who perpetuate the great lie. He had seen the 'accident' that cost him his life coming, and prepared for it. Before his death Victor had arranged for his personal fortune to be set aside to nurture our fledgling organization, to aid those who had fought beside him in our quest to protect those who needed protection, and to prove to the world that true strength shows itself not in how many others you own, but how many people you help to own *themselves*, in lives free from tyranny, fear or oppression, and to Avenge upon their perpetrators those wrongs that cannot be prevented.
    "It is with a heavy heart that I speak to you today at the funeral of my teammate of too short a season. Victor Von Doom now rests as the first Avenger to sacrifice his life in the line of duty. When I meet him again it is likely that I will have done the same. But until that day when Victor and I again cross paths I can only hope to honor the memory of my teammate, and to salute the actions of the first fallen Avenger."
    Having completed his speech. Union bows his head for a moment in silent prayer, and then glides back towards his seat, re-taking his place with the other Avengers present. In her seat amongst the audience, Patsy listens quietly. The last time she had been in a setting like this was after Robert's father had died. The military pomp and circumstance triggered those sad memories and that mixed with Union's poignant eulogy caused tears to well in the corners of Patsy's eyes. It couldn't be said that she knew Dumas, but Union was right—he had been the one most directly responsible for rescuing her and the others from Loki's devious clutches.
    She feels guilty as it dawns on her only at this point that with Dumas dead she may never be separated from Ravdna.
    Silence weighs heavy over the crowd for a few moments, and then the applause begins. As it dies, Alfred returns to the podium and introduces Tony Stark, who is then wheeled to the front of the gathering and handed a microphone. He looks ill, his black hair limp, his flesh waxy, his eyes sunken.
    "Thank you, Union," he says, his voice an amplified whisper. "My remarks will be neither as long—as I do not have the strength—nor as eloquent—as I do not have the skill. I knew Victor for what seems to have been a great while, although this is not quite true. In that time, I envied his brilliance, admired his courage, and pitied his past victimization at the hands of the very people who have now murdered him." Stark pauses, inhaling deeply from the oxygen mask. "As all of you know, I and several others are now in the midst of an international firestorm started by Captain America's revelations at the United Nations just this last weekend. I want it known now and with no uncertainty that Victor was never involved with the Agent Orange program. He was too noble for that. I do not want the reputation of my friend stained by his association with me and my company. I also want it known to all that I have no more stomach for pretense or deception." Again, a pause for more oxygen. "Funerals are for the living, not the dead. For us to heal." The last word is said with disgust. "What a monumental farce. I have lost a friend and the world has lost a hero at the hands of murdering bastards! Marching at the orders of vicious tyrants dedicated to the single most evil philosophy ever to be vomited from the mind of man. There can be no healing. Victor Von Doom is dead, and may all of those responsible burn in hell!"
    The audience is stunned. Silent. The Soviet ambassador is pale, his anger barely concealed. Then, a single person starts to clap, loud, steady. Colonel DePalo rises to his feet, his hands beating together, as the nurse sheepishly comes forward to wheel the enfeebled Tony Stark back to his place in the crowd.
    A flicker of emotion crosses Emerald's face at Union's remarks, and then again at Stark's opening comments. He stiffens slightly at Stark's last comment. His eyes glance over to Aegis and the others to see what they think of the industrialist's speech.
    _Oh. Oh my. I can't believe he did that. I can hardly believe *I* said what I did, but that! And that idiot Depalo is just making it worse._ Union glances around the attendees of the funeral, looking for his Asgardian teammate. *Ravdna! Ravdna!* His mind hissed. _Blast it where is she. We need to have a quick and quiet conference, and need to know if Stark is in his right mind. She said she was going to attend...._
    Then Union's eyes caught the red-haired woman in the fourth row. _I know that girl. She's one of the woman we... Stupid! She said before the meeting that she had gotten 'merged' with this Walker girl. How could I have forgotten that! Walker must have come and not Ravdna. There's nothing to be done about it now._
    Union leaned over, whispering across Aegis to Emerald. "Ravdna's not here. You had mentioned something about other psychic powers at the meeting yesterday—can you tell us what the heck Stark thinks he's doing, or if he's even in his right mind!"
    _I don't know how Latverians do it, but in my family we don't start the fights until about a half hour into the wake...._ Taken aback by Union's earlier forthrightness, Aegis is flabbergasted now, and more than a bit concerned. _If he works himself into another heart attack, I *will* kill him._ For Tony to take so little thought for the possible consequences of his words seems out of character, never mind this about-face on SI's culpability for the chemicals. _Unless it's the medication, this must have hit him a lot harder than I realized.... Looks like we're far from out of the woods._
    And DePalo. Something about the man still puts her hackles up. More alert now, she remains still and silent while the clapping dies away, glances at Johnson sympathetically. They've certainly given him one heck of an act to follow.
    Johnson, if he is feeling any discomfort, shows no signs of it, which is hardly surprising. After all, even with his legendary temper, he has been politicking for decades. Janet sits quietly in her seat, listening to Union's speech. _Victor sounds like someone worth knowing, I wish I had a chance to know him, even it if was as Duststorm._ With only a little concentrations, her applause, as with everyone else's, is echoed loudly, taking on more of a volume than this small of a crowd should have mustered.
    Tony's comments seem to have the opposite effect on the crowd. Wishing she knew more about the events of Victor's death, she wondered if it was just sorrow behind Stark's words, or if there is something else at play.
    Emerald reaches out with his fledgling senses and tries to read Stark's emotional state as best he can. He also casts a wider net, reading all of the reactions to the speeches. Though outwardly nothing changes in the young man he seems to grow taller as he casts about.
    At first, Emerald fears his empathic senses may have failed, for he reads absolutely no sort of emotion from Stark. Then, however, he turns his psychic power towards the on-lookers, he is flooded with a variety of impressions, ranging from bored to angry to sad.
    The sound of Vice President Johnson's voice breaks in on Emerald's concentration.
    "Thank you, sir," Johnson says to Alfred. "Distinguished guests, Avengers, ladies and gentlemen, I must confess that I share some of Mister Stark's anger, even while I hesitate to so cavalierly express thoughts best kept private. I am certain that we can all understand his anger, for who here has not lost a loved one, or shuddered at the headlines telling about our brave young men dying in Vietnam, or felt the almost inexplicable sense of loss that accompanies the passing of a great person with whom we may have never had any real contact at all? And who here can argue with Mister Stark's all-too-pointed observation that funerals are for the living and not for the dead? Victor Von Doom, as he was named at his birth, is beyond both our help and our hurting now. His death at the hands of Sergei Kravinoff strikes many as pointless, and perhaps those people are right. Perhaps the prevailing skepticism about things such as meaning and purpose that are so fashionable in our universities are a more accurate account of reality than the more simple faith in God's Providence of my generation.

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