Forebodings, and success.
Gyrich shrugs as Aegis and Dark Angel land in the boat. "Not sure, to be honest. The science team here'll probably be up to the job of taking samples and what not."
"Sir," one of the other men in the boat says. "Radiation readings are minimal. Landing is green lighted."
Gyrich nods and orders the boats to the island. A few minutes later, hulls are scraping against the new, black beach of the infant land mass. Steam and sulfur gas vent from fissures toward the center of the island, and the crater is plain for all to see.
"Amazing," Gyrich comments. "To think we're standing atop a brand new mountain."
"Amazing indeed," agrees one of the scientists, a short, thin man with thick red hair. "Impossible is more apt. There's no precedent in recorded history for a mass this large forming so quickly."
While Aegis, Dark Angel, and Gyrich watch, the science team goes to work, collecting samples and specimens. A trio, in fire resistant silver coveralls, venture closer to the crater to take gas and temperature readings.
"I want to give you some of the samples," Gyrich says to the heroes. "Have Delta V take a look at them. Hopkins, bring that specimen here." One of the team hands over a petri dish in which he has scraped some flaky greenish substance. "Is it?" Hopkins nods, and Gyrich hands the dish to Dark Angel. "That's lichen, already growing on land that is less than 24 hours old."
"Son of a!"
Everyone whirls to the source of the yell. Another member of the science team is backing away from something near the water's edge, doing so less from fear than sheer incredulity. Quickly, the investigators gather around. On the beach, flopping about, is a small, lobster-like creature, brilliant blue and dark green in color. It has more than a dozen segmented legs and a body made of horizontal segments. One by one, heads turn to Hopkins, who is apparently the team's resident biologist.
"Bag it, man," Hopkins says reverently. "That's a trilobite. A living, breathing, should be extinct trilobite."
Then, another yell. "Gyrich! Radio!" The radio man rushes forward, handing the receiver off to Gyrich.
"We've got seismic readings near Albany," the crackling voice transmits.
"They're growing stronger. Command has issued a code A. Do you copy?"
"Message understood," Gyrich responds. "Gyrich out." He hands the receiver back to the radio man. "Code A is for the Avengers. We started monitoring seismic stations as soon as we got word about the tidal wave. Command thinks something very bad is about to happen to the city of Albany."
"They are striking again," Dark Angel intoned. He looked at Aegis meaningfully. "We should leave immediately for Albany." "Have the other Avengers been contacted?" he asked Gyrich.
Gyrich shakes his head. "Not yet. Are they at the castle?"
Dark Angel replies that at least a few are.
"Then that's a good place to start," he says. "Perhaps you two should head that way, and I'll get the warning call patched through?"
"Yes." Dark Angel's wings unfolded as he rose into the air. He hovered there silently, waiting for Aegis to acknowledge she was ready to leave.
_What the hell would anyone want with *Albany?*_ she wonders. "Let's go. Keep us posted on what happens here?" she asks Gyrich, before the two Avengers streak back toward the mainland.
After his exhausting work to stop the huge tidal wave the young hero makes his way back to his apartment and promptly falls asleep. When he wakes the sun is rising over the city, and he sees little point in showing up this late for a party.
A quick check of the shooting schedule provided to him by Beck sends the young man into the shower, and he emerges onto the street a few minutes later. By nine he is on the set, talking to the workers and seeing if he can make himself useful in some way.
"Rick!" Beck gushes. He is standing with Robert Preston and Sue Storm. Preston nods coolly, and Storm smiles, which Jones find a bit unnerving in light of the horrible dream the other night. "Glad you could make it. Robbie and Sue were just suggesting we start the morning with some read-throughs of the scenes will start filming tomorrow. Since you're in a couple, come on." Beck starts across the green warehouse toward a folding table surrounded by chairs.
The rest of the morning is interesting, if not terribly exciting. Preston is a bit of a pain in the neck, interrupting the read-throughs with frequent criticisms about his character and infrequent criticisms about everyone else's. Beck is patient enough, but also firm enough to keep things moving. It becomes obvious that the script has its own vision, and Beck prefers Mordo and Strange's ideas to those of Preston. As the work progresses, Rick becomes increasingly aware how dark the film is. Though the plot advances to eventual triumph of good over evil, that triumph is Pyrrhic. Also, the general tone seems to favor evil. The villainous characters all seem just a little smarter, a little more sophisticated, a little more competent. It is not the intention of the film's aloof writers to leave the audience feeling safe and secure.
Once the major read-throughs are done, Preston claims a headache and retires to his trailer. Beck rolls his eyes for all to see.
"No matter," he says. "Rick, Sue, how'd you like to work on a couple of your scenes together? It'd also give me a chance to test the special effects system. Just for an hour or so, and then I'll treat you both to a late lunch."
And so, about noon, Beck climbs the stairs to the control room and activates the setting. The warehouse vanishes, replaced by the moody interior of a stately Victorian library.
Still slightly amazed at the technological leaps Beck has made Rick jumps into the first of their scenes together. He plays to the older woman, hoping to play off of her reactions. In his own mind Rick wonders if he could touch the objects in the room around them.
Invention Exchange III
The room hums with energy, and then practically screams as the air is filled with an unearthly vibration. Union and Delta V weren't quite sure what to expect, but this needle-sharp whine is exactly what Specter had predicted. As the vibratory mechanism shifts to focus on Specter's ghostly form, the Latverian scientist is suddenly aflame with sensation both pleasant and agonizing, as if every nerve were being tickled by a lit match. The lights dim, then flicker. A bulb overhead explodes, showering glass to the floor. Through the speaker, Union and Delta V hear Specter's mechanical scream, and then the speaker itself shorts out, sending sparks flying. Feedback mixes with the head-pounding noise of the vibratory device. Then, the whine diminishes slowly while another sound grows louder. Victor is still screaming, but now it is audible without assistance and quite human. A deep WHUMP! of imploding air interrupts the cry of pain, and then all is quiet. On the floor, in front of the mechanism where he fell in a slump, is a man's form.
But it is not Victor Von Doom, or at least appears to not be Victor. Connors moves quickly to the man's side, rolling him onto his back. Naked, hairless, with flesh the feel and color of modeling clay, Connors ascertains that heart rate and breathing are normal. What's more, despite the lack of hair and the odd qualities of the skin, the face on the form is unmistakable. It is indeed Victor Von Doom's noble visage.
Upstairs, Malachi, Ravdna, and Duststorm, alarmed by the hellish noise from the lab, rush to the aid of their teammates. When they burst into the room, Connors is helping Victor sit up.
"Slowly, Victor," Connors advises. "You're here, but you're not quite yourself."
Delta V continues to examine Victor, making sure everything is in working order. "I'm not sure why your physical form is different than the one you previously had. But to be honest, I'm not completely sure how this experiment worked at all. Much of it has been beyond my expertise. Victor, do you have any theories about the differences in your physiognomy?"
"Tests," he answered and then paused momentarily to take the first real breath since returning before he continued. "I'll have to run some tests, but I have an idea."
Even Janet's control over air can not stop the gasp of surprise that escapes from her lungs. She stares in mute amazement at what the science of the Avengers has wrought. She had read the paper, even been to the funeral. Victor was dead. Now looking at the living man on the floor and seeing the same face that is hanging in the halls, she comes to a revelation. In that instant, she realized Victor's intellect is beyond remarkable, it's quite amazing.
Union flicks several switches, both with his hands and with his magnetic powers, brining the great machine offline, then setting the fusion reactor into power-down mode. _Lights off. Now let's see what we've wrought._
He floats slightly closer, taking in the odd color and texture of Victor's skin. "Doc? How's the patient?"
"Victor Von Doom lives once more and that is all that is important for now. My condition can be evaluated later. I believe that we have an alien invasion to prepare for, correct?" Victor added looking at the others on his team as he leaned deep into the chair resting, yet still somehow managing to look regal in his birthday suit.
"Mayhaps the best way to steel thyself for yon looming threat is to test thy mettle here and now, Von Doom." The Valkyrie says suggesting going into battle with no knowledge of his capabilities would be a disadvantage to the team...
"I would invite that test with much enthusiasm my friend, but their are a few things that I need to attend to before we investigate the current happenings. So I'll need to forgo that till another time Ravdna." Dumas smiled.
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© 2001 Mark L. Chance et al