Suddenly, the ghostly lady opens her black mouth in a silent wail. Leaves and dirt whip about in a frenzy as Delta V races here and there.
He weaves in and out of the tombstones, looking for some evidence of the figure he saw.
Victor looks towards his racing former team-mate and then back at the woman sees the expression and then he looks back towards where Delta V was a second ago and he tried to follow the man's path, but lost sight of him. He only knew the man was in the area as he was to fast to really keep track of.
The world is a blur for Delta V and at the same time is immobile. His hyper-senses both have difficulty registering the rapidly changing details of his surroundings as he runs at superspeed, and, at the same time, he remains aware of the place and motility of things around him. As he is zooming back and forth, out of the corner of his eye, just for a fraction of second, Delta V sees two faces. One is a wild-eyed yet beautiful woman. The otherthe one that causes his breath to catch and his spine to shiveris the proud face of Victor Dumas. Then, in the next fraction of a second, both faces are gone without a trace.
The ghost lady begins to flee, trying to escape Delta V or Victor or both. Victor recognizes the human blur running around the grounds in excess of 60 miles per hour, but can see no cause for alarm or what may have prompted Dr. Connors to take a midnight jog through a cemetery.
As much as Victor might want to try and get Doctor Conners to help him, he knows that is a lost cause, so Victor turns towards the one 'person' who can see him and he races after her. He thinks as he runs and then settles on his course of action.
"Mrs. Vale, please, I mean you no harm. I need your help," he says as he tries to keep up with her. Perhaps there is something that, in this new 'life' of his, will allow him to help her. Once an Avenger, always an Avenger he thinks.
"Mrs. Vale" doesn't slow down, or even look back. She keeps running, and quickly vanishes into a smallish crypt, passing insubstantial through the graven facade. Then, a short distance away....
Delta V stops, frozen in his tracks. He stares at the empty space where the figures were only moments before. He strains his eyes, trying desperately to detect an image of the man he knew. "It's probably just my guilty conscience trying to conjure some glimmer of hope..."
Victor sees Connors starting intently towards the Vale headstone, and then hears the doctor's words. Something clicks in Victor's brilliant mind. Correlations are made. Threads of knowledge come together. He recalls the words of his temporary guide in Limbo:
"The door always goes back Here, back to the land of the living, terra firma, man," Gary had explained. "You go through the door, you're a ghost, man. No one can see you or hear you, but sometimes people and animals, especially animals, they can pick up your vibe, man. Good vibe, bad vibe, all depends on how groovy the cat is."
Victor looks once at the crypt the woman went into and then at Delta V as he thinks about his fellow doctor's powers. Earlier in the evening he had surmised that Connors could possibly achieve a similar vibrational attunement in a cruder manner than his own phasing abilities, which would allow him to perceive other dimensional beings, perhaps even himself. So Victor glides over to the headstone and examines Doctor Conners. Not that the man was current running fast or vibrating, but it was out of habit that he should study things.
After Delta V leaves, Victor goes to the crypt to find the ghost woman. He searches inside and then back at the gravestone where he sinks below the ground and again after not finding any sight of her he goes back to his mansion.
For a while Victor watches the robots trod about doing their work of keeping his home up to his standards and then decides to sit and meditate on his predicament. He would replay everything that had happened to him in the last few weeks to gain a better understanding of his situation. He would pour over every scene in his mind to gather clues.
Victor's last asset, his great intellect, went to work.
At home, Rick Jones slumbers peacefully. His dreams are a-swirl with disjointed impressions of the past few days. His interview with Beck and Mordo, snippets of the script, silent stills of the funeral, Nick Fury's haggard face. In his dream, there is a tap! tap! tap! at his window. Opening his eyes, he sees Susan Storm floating outside, dressed in a flowing robe and a sleek, silky sleeping gown. Back lit by moonlight, it is obvious she wears nothing underneath her nighttime garb. Curious, excited, Rick opens the window and Sue floats in, taking him a strong embrace, her torrid lips caressing his neck and cheek.
"The show must go on, Emerald," she whispers, over and over and over.
"Wha?" Rick manages as the woman takes him into her embrace. Firmly but gently grabbing the woman's arms Rick backs up a half step. "Miss Storm, what's happening with you tonight?"
Sue Storm takes Rick's head between her hands in a vice-like grip, pulling his face close to hers. There is a supernal glow in the back of her eyes, just as a cat's eyes shine in the shadows between light and darkness.
"It's the ending," she says languidly in a deep, accented man's voice. "The most beautiful of all horrors, sweet like blood, the candy of malevolence."
And then Sue Storm twists Rick's head sharply to the right, and the sound of his neck snapping like a dry twig jerks him upright and wide awake and covered in a hot sweat, the sheets kicked down around his ankles. The room is as it should be, with no sign of any nocturnal visitors.
Rick pulls his bed together, then looks at it for a moment and finally shakes his head. taking his guitar from its case he walks up to the roof of his building and plays, letting the music lead him for a while. The darkness of night is beginning to give way to the gray dawn before Rick returns to his room, and to sleep.
Rick sleeps peacefully this time, unplagued by dreams of any sort. He wakes around 11:00 a.m. when his alarm clock shrieks at him. Still a bit worn, but feeling better, Rick smacks the clock to shut it off. He's got two hours before he's due to meet with Beck again.
Rick cleans himself up for the meeting, gathers his guitar case and his copy of the script, then heads out early. He wanders down to Central Park, where it all started, he reflected. The numbers of people to crowd the metropolis that is New York City start sinking in to the young man.
He arrives outside of Beck's office with but a few minutes to spare, and he walks in with a smile on his face and a spring in his step, neither of which is too forced. "Rick Jones to see Quentin Beck," he tells the secretary as he sets his case down.
Just then, Quentin, followed by Mordo and a younger, thinner man with a narrow moustache and slicked back black hair, exit Beck's office.
"Rick!" Beck gushes. "Speak of the devil, eh, Karl?"
"But only in hushed tones," Mordo advises, and the trio laugh.
"Rick," Beck goes on. "This is Stephen Strange, the other author of our flick. He and Karl met in Tibet. Interesting and spooky. But, hey, we got time to get acquainted later. Right now, we're running late. C'mon."
The trio, with Beck in the rear, exits the office, heading toward the elevator. Beck continues speaking to Rick.
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© 2000 Mark L. Chance et al