Vice President Johnson wants a word.
"Perhaps, but I doubt it. Victor's life was not without purpose. He was born to rule as sovereign king of a small but proud nation named Latveria. When the Iron Curtain was drawn with force across Eastern Europe, King Victor lost his crown, his throne, his nation, and, briefly, his freedom. As a prisoner of the Soviet Union, he was tortured by the same man who only recently took his life. But the loss of his birthright did not remove purpose from Victor's life.
"He escaped to this great nation, and changed his name, as have so many immigrants fleeing tyrannical oppression, becoming Victor Dumas. I cannot, of course, discuss the exemplary work that Victor performed in the service of his adopted nation. But I can tell youtell the worldthat his worked not just for the United States of America, but also for the cause of democracy and freedom the world over.
"And he did more than just hide away in a top secret laboratory. When Manhattan was attackedas incredible as it soundsby alien invaders from another universe, Victor Dumas became the Specter and joined with the Avengers. Through his genius and courage, the invaders were dealt with and several captive women, including Miss Patsy Walker, who is here with us today, were saved from what would surely have been a fate worse than death. When the United Nations was attacked by a rogue Soviet agent, the same Kravinoff who now awaits trial for Victor's death, the Specter was there again. He fought Kravinoff, the so-called KGBeast, putting himself between innocent bystanders and the brutality of a superhuman killer. Victor Von Doom died so that others might live.
"And so here we are now, wondering. Was Victor's death pointless? The answer to that question depends on us, for this funeral is for us. We can shrug our shoulders, shake our heads, and cluck our tongues, and just go on with business as usual. If we do that, then, yes, Victor's life was wasted and his death is just the punchline of a cosmic joke. I doubt, however, we will be content with such an enormity. Better we eschew Mister Stark's impotent rage, as understandable as it is, and instead embrace the higher path walked by Victor's surviving teammates. Like these Avengers, we can stand up and say, 'Injustice stops here, with me, right now.'
"Distiguished guests, Avengers, ladies and gentlemen, if we do at least that much, then Victor's sacrifice will be far from pointless. Victor's sacrifice will be a spark that will ignite a conflagration of nobility and courage worthy of the angels of our better natures."
The Vice President turns and walks over to Victor's coffin, pausing for a moment, head bowed, one hand on the dark wood. As he straightens and strides over to meet his Secret Service detail in the seats, person after person rises and claps.
With the Vice President's remarks concluded, the rest of the funeral proceeds. The exiled Latverian clergyman performs a simple yet pious ceremony, and the body is interred. Ushers start to direct the crowd either towards the reception area in the castle's ballroom or to the parking area, depending on each person's preference. The Secret Service hustle the Vice President into the castle. As the Avengers mill about a bit, a sharp-looking young man with close-cropped red hair, wearing a dark suit that practically screams "government agent," walks over to Union, Aegis, Emerald, and Malachi.
"Good to see you again, Malachi," he says, extending his hand. "Though I wish the circumstances were better, of course." He catches the stares from Union, Aegis, and Emerald. "Sorry, we haven't met. I'm Henry Gyrich, special agent with the eff bee eye. Malachi and I met in Birmingham, when he and Dark Angel released Zola and company into our custody." Again, he extends his hand, first to Union. After pleasantries are exchanged, he flashes a disarming smile and continues. "I was hoping all of you would agree to meet with Vice President Johnson, myself, and a representative from the Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-Enforcement Division."
Malachi takes Gyrich's hand. "Pleased to see you, as well. Certainly, I'd be willing to meet with them.
Union, likewise, shakes the federal agent's proffered hand. "I can't imagine that we'd turn down such an invitation," he says, following the FBI man to into the mansion, "But I have to admit, I've never heard of that particular government agency before."
Gyrich grins a bit sheepishly. "I'm not surprised. SHIELD is a bit like INTERPOL, only with a heavier American presence and a higher up on the chain of agencies. They're not exactly secret, but they're certainly covert."
Emerald also accepts the man's hand. "Nice to meet you, Agent Gyrich. Speaking for myself I'd be happy to meet with the Vice President," as he shakes the man's hand Rick tries to get a better sense of what the man is after, if anything.
"Please, call me Pete," he replies. "Agent Gyrich sounds so ominous." Emerald reads genuine admiration from Gyrich, as well as quite a bit of cheerful anxiousness.
Aegis restricts her greeting to a terse nod and accompanies the others into the castle. In her current mood, she can't imagine anything good coming of this.
Victor sticks to Patsy Walker like glue in the hope that she will again transform into the Valkyrie. Victor was unsure of her real powers, but was well schooled in the mythological abilities and he had acted briefly in action with the nordic godling.
Janet rises in applause with the rest of the crowd. After the vice president, a few other suits, and the attending Avengers go into the castle, Janet again circulates through the crowd, renewing social contacts, and speaking with the press. She continues to echo the praises for Victor and the fledgling Avengers.
Patsy rises to give her last farewells to Dumas. She'd stop at the casket's side to pay her final respects regardless of the strange, compulsion that seems to be guiding her in the back of her mind...she only hopes the morticians were able to do something about all those horrible wounds...she'd hate to carry that with her as the last image of this hero...
As Janet makes her way through the crowd, she comes across a unexpected familiar face. "Patsy? Is that you? I haven't seen you since the show last fall." Janet is wearing an all black ensemble, complete with veiled hat. It is almost disgusting how some people can look that good, even at a funeral.
"Janet. Or should I call you Ms. Van Dyne?" she quips as she faux pecks the ever-chic designer on the cheeks.
"Nonsense dear, Janet will do just fine, you should know that by now." She smiles "You look as ravishing as ever."
Last fall? had it been that long? Patsy can barely recall the timing of the events they happened so fast it still seems like a blur. She had packed her bags and fled Robert to the comforts of home and family. The show was a delightful time and her interest in modeling was again piqued...but Robert had easily tracked her down and somehow managed to convince her to return with him back west.
"I've...err...gone through some changes. Least of all is my new zip code. I'm back in the City, Janet. I'm sure we'll see a lot of each other in the near future."
"I hope so, I did have some designs in mind for later this season, why don't you give Sarah a call at the office, and we'll see if we have something that will work." Janet thinks to herself, _Maybe I will have to see about getting capes into style this year, the Avengers line._
The pair make their way to the refreshment table, Janet offers a glass of punch to Patsy, and gets on for herself. "You were one of those women rescued by the Avengers weren't you? Is that why you are here?"
"I was down in Birmingham when all this happened. I went down to try and talk some sense into Henry. As it turned out, the Avengers did that for me. That's why I'm here, trying to show my support."
Victor hovered about the two women listening to their conversation. He would have loved to of followed the others in to see what Johnson was saying, but he could not afford to lose sight of Ms. Walker. His very life might depend upon in.
As the guests mill about the spacious ballroom, browsing and sampling the various finger foods and taking advantage of the open bar, the incognito AvengersSam Stern, Curtis Connors, Patsy Walker, and Janet Van Dynefind themselves separated from the costumed half of the team, who they observe following a youngish, red-haired man into an adjacent room. Tony Stark wheels over, pushed by his nurse, to park in front of the Doctor and Mrs. Connors.
"Do you know what that's about?" he asks, jerking his head towards the door through which Aegis and the others have passed.
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© 2000 Mark L. Chance et al