Important work gets underway.
Will wonders ever cease? Tidal waves, impending alien visitors, Asgardians at large, strange robots, and now a bona fide ghost. Ravdna, Union, Delta V, and the Specter make their good-byes, and descend into Victor's laboratories to get to work. Malachi tags along as well, waiting for Ravdna to be able to leave. Duststorm, Aegis, Emerald, and Dark Angel depart. Before going, however, Dark Angel feels compelled to offer to accompany Aegis to the epicenter of the seaquake in the morning.
Invention Exchange I
The scientists get to work, following the telepathic direction of Victor. Work proceeds quickly. Between Victor's guidance, Adrian's expertise, and Connors's superspeed, the trio of scientiststwo living, one deadsoon has a vibrational radio set up so that Victor can speak to Union and Delta V without Ravdna's psychic assistance. Soon after, Ravdna and Malachi left, ready to discuss plans for tracking down the fugitive Asgardians.
"Now then," Victor says into the microphone, his voice coming out of the speaker as a flat, mechanical drone. "The real work can begin."
And begin it does, and continues long into the night and through to the morning.
Victor looking at his teammates decides to suggest a course change.
"Union, Delta V. Though I do not seem to tire in this form, you two must be rather exhausted. Perhaps you should retire and get some sleep and come back when you have rested. I have been in this form for a while now and another day or two will not bother me. I do appreciate all your work and please feel free to utilize one of the bed chambers on the estate if you so desire or adjourn to your own dwellings. Either way, I think you two should rest. If we are too tired, we may make mistakes," Victor says as he hovers nearby the others.
Rest. Work. Rest. Work some more. The hours drag on. Alfred appears with refreshments at regular intervals and then departs again, always without more than a few passing words. If he is the least bit unnerved by the strange technological goings-on, there is not a sign of his discomfort. Union and Delta V, however, cannot help but be overwhelmed by the sheer almost unearthly brilliance of Victor Von Doom. If Toomes and Connors are decades ahead of their time in scientific achievement, Von Doom is centuries ahead of his. The pair of super-scientists feel like little more than skilled labor under the direction of the ghostly Specter....
Victor interrupts the workflow and in his now familiar flat, mechanical drone, "I can't thank the two of you enough for helping me with this. I couldn't think of two colleagues that I'd rather have working together to bring me back to the land of the living than the two of you. After this is over, we'll have to have a dinner, just the three of us and we can stay up late discussing electronic or physiological theories." Surely I will owe both of them my life for this, it would be the least if not the beginning of what I will do to repay them Victor admits to himself.
_Yeah. And that sound like fun... It's hard to believe he can be so brilliant about science and so clueless about... people._ Despite his dislike of the man and his overbearing personality, Adrian can't help but be in awe of Victor's scientific brilliance, and that just serves to irritate him all the more. "Perhaps, Victor. Perhaps. I just don't like looking to what we're going to do after the current project before finished. My experience with engineering is that I've found a lot more dead ends than I have roads."
"I once knew an engineer who said that dead ends are just unfinished roads," Victor smiled from beyond even though no one could see him.
Union gives a short, rueful laugh. "I've been an engineer for half a century, and I can tell you with certainty that some dead ends are just dead ends. There are times when it pays to backtrack and start over, or you'll never get anywhere."
"Well... not to brag, but I've never met a dead-end that didn't teach me something." Victor chuckled a little through the speaker hoping to lighten the mood with a little engineer humor. Little was the keyword there.
Adrian rolls his eyes under his helmet, bites his tongue and keeps working in silence.
The man formerly known as the Specter continues to advise Union and Delta V in constructing the new device that will hopefully return him to the material world.
Deciding to make some idle chat, Victor breaks through the silence once more. "I was thinking that the Avengers should perhaps be proactive in our endeavors. Maybe we could actively seek to rout out evil that has infiltrated the very fiber of this country. Men such as the Soviet Super Soldiers are quite overt in their methods, but their are others, who I'm sure are far more subtle. They are most likely the ones who are the masterminds behind the greater plots and are the ones who in the end will prove most deadly if we do not find them. Of course doing so will be hard to accomplish without violating the rights of normal people, so maybe if the Avengers present themselves in a very public manner, those individuals will seek us out instead and save us a lot of work. We could do public appearances and perform charitable work. This will have the double affect of providing the Avengers with good coverage in the press."
If it weren't for the energy-saving properties of his suit Adrian's back would've stiffed when Victor started discussing tactics for running the Avengers.
"Excuse me for a minute. I guess I had too much ginger ale before." Union glides out of the room, up the stairs and into one of the mansions many washrooms. Once there he pulls his helmet off, pushes the hood back and washes his face before leaning on the sink and staring into the mirror.
"He drives me nuts. He is the most pretentious, overbearing... Arrrrgh!" sparks dance around the outside of his armor as he tries valiantly to vent frustration without wrecking any of Victor's house.
"Ok. Stop. Think this through. You, Adrian, are not being entirely fair. It's like he gets me into a negative feedback loop. How much of this is about Victor and how much is about Bestman? Or about you? How much is about the fact that you just learned two things about
electrical vibration patterns down there that you never considered?
"How much of this is just your ego? How much is you not wanting to just let him take charge?"
There is a moment of silence in the room, as Adrian washes his face again, forcing the accumulated fatigue and tension out of his mind with a series of deep breaths and cold wateran old engineer's trick.
"Ok. So he is overbearing. He's a former KING for pity's sake. And he's brilliant. How much of that is his fault? And you've never actually asked him to stop doing the things that drive you crazy, so he can't be held totally responsible for not stopping them."
Adrian pulls his hood back up, then replaces the helmet with a resolute 'click'. "It looks like you really did want to lead this group after all, Union. That means you have to figure out how to do it."
And with that the silver avenger worked his way back down to Victor's private laboratory. "Victor. I think you're right. When all of this is over, one way or the other, you and I need to sit down and have a talk.
"Sounds like a plan. I have some things I need to speak with you about in private as well," Victor admitted.
"As far as the Avenger's future, we held a meeting just before the funeral and set a group agendahow overt or covert we should be, how to interact with the government, our sphere of influence. I had the foresight to tape the meeting for posterity. I'll get you a copy of it so you can catch up on things." Union hunkers down and starts working again, engineering tools sliding into and out of the case on his right forearm as he needs them, his hands working almost on auto-pilot as he solders several circuits into place.
"We've already started setting ourselves up as a very public friendly institution, and I don't think today's actions against the tidal wave hurt. Duststorm is looking into properties in Manhattan that we could use as our central base of operations: office space, or a brownstone. Someplace open and in the heart of the city, where people and government officials can make contact with us."
"I see. Well if the majority voted for it, then I suppose that is how it will be," Victor added in an even more monotonal voice.
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© 2001 Mark L. Chance et al