Mystery below the earth.
Of course," Bertelman begins. In short order, she points out the entire team, all of whom continue to work industriously, absorbed in the amazing object of their scientific study. The team consists of a half dozen other well-qualified specialists in the hard sciences.
"Good. It looks like you are doing a competent job, so continue to direct them as you see fit. Taking samples and collecting data will be valued later on while I study everything," Victor says.
Throughout, Victor focuses half of his attention on the GPDSA. The readings are truly unusual. Spectrum analysis shows that the volcanic rock of the island beneath their feet is aging years in mere seconds. Biological readings of bacteria are changing so quickly that the data is garbled. While the island may have started yesterday in a Cambrian-like period, it has already progressed to the early Carboniferous, a leap of some 300 million years in the space of only several hours. The current geological time frame of the island coincides with the sorts of vegetation found in the aftermath of the Albany disaster.
In the specimen tent, Delta V's hyperspeed examination confirms Victor's observations. Laid out before the speedster is a living textbook of evolutionary biology, starting with several trilobites and progressing to include coral, clams, primitive fish, land mosses, then lungfish and amphibians, wingless and winged insects, and even seed-bearing plants.
"Observers aboard ship spotted a forty-five foot long shark about an hour ago," Carlson notes to Delta V. "That's late Mississippian period. Some of the newer vegetation inland and large insects found just a short while ago are Pennsylvanian. That's about a forty million year difference. If this keeps up, we'll be dodging dinosaurs by dinner tomorrow."
About this time, Dark Angel returns, bursting from the ocean in a shower of sea water. He swoops gracefully at full speed toward the tents and then, wings snapping fully open, lofts to a halt and drops lightly to his feet.
"I see little cause for alarm around the island or under the waves," he reports. "There are a few vents from which come hot water, and I did see several large, unusual-looking fish, but nothing that speaks of danger."
"Good, stay in touch with us here at the island, but for now I want you to go and attempt to contain the more dangerous marine life such as that giant shark. I'm certain SHIELD can manage to rig up some sort of underwater containment area. It would also behove us to contain and quarantine everything here at this site and the other site for fear if contamination of our current species gene pool. After all nature holds only a very delicate balance and if this is the work of some great mind, this could be their elaborate way of destroying the human race. It certain could have great detrimental effects for all of us," Victor added looking at both Dark Angel and the SHIELD agents.
Dark Angel nods. "So be it. I can contain them within Darkforce constructs until SHIELD can provide other materials." And with that, the mighty ebon Avenger heads sky- and seaward again.
Victor turned towards Emerald, "Lets go investigate that island center. I need to hover over the lava to get a better reading with my instruments if you would?" he asked Rick.
"Let's go," Rick says enthusiastically.
Leaving Delta V behind to continue his study of the scientific data, Victor and Emerald fly toward the center of the island, born aloft on a shimmering platform of telekinetic energy. The trip is a short one, as the island is not large. The interior is covered in swampy ground and thick vegetation. Nearly dead center is a crater in which bubbles a thick, searingly hot soup of molten rock. The upper layer is black and deceptively safe-seeming, but every so often the heat from beneath breaks through, causing a hunk of nearly solidified rock to break free, roll over, and sink into the magma. Gases vent from cracks in the rock around the crater, hissing and spreading a veil of white across the ground.
Hovering over the crater next to Emerald, Victor examines his scanner but sees nothing new. The rate of geological change continues at a rapid pace. Then, suddenly, Emerald draws in a sharp breath. Victor shoots a glance at the young Avenger, and cannot notice the brief shudder of fear pass over his features.
"There's something down there," Rick informs. "I can feel it. Rage, hatred, but something else also that I can't figure out."
"Fascinating. I suspected that their was some sort of alien intelligence involved in this. Perhaps this is one in the same," Victor suggested to Rick as he fished through his equipment pouch.
"Bring us down over by the edge away from the lava."
Rick nods and slowly descends the glimmering disc of telekinetic energy, dropping off Victor before ascending a few feet to keep a better view of the area.
Rick's attention is on the island itself as his companion makes his radio call. He is drawn by the power and strangeness of the place. He reaches out with his flegling mental awareness to concentrate on the presence he felt earlier, trying to find out more about it. Absently he hovers a few feet above his companion.
The presence is still there, most likely underneath the lava itself, however unlikely that may seem. The anger and malevolence pulses from it in rhymthic waves, strong, steady, both repulsive and obscenely attractive at the same time.
After Emerald landed, Victor pulled out a radio and set it's range and frequency so that he could contact the Avengers on the S.H.I.E.L.D. frequency and Aegis on the Stark Industries frequency. He admonished himself for not getting Union's radio frequency when he had a chance.
Later at the camp in Albany, Ravdna finds Duststorm sleeping in the tent and wakes her. It is time for them to start exploring the area in hopes of answering questions about the causes of the earthquake.
"Thank you for waking me. Its time to get to work." Janet said as she stretched to get the kinks out of her back. It had been a long time since she had to sleep on a cot.
"We need to find the epicenter of the quake and the location of this fern they found" She said to Ravdna. "Have you seen Agent Gyrich around he may be able to point us in the right direction? If not we can ask as we walk."
Duststorm concentrates and for a moment wonders how silly the whole idea is. Can an epicenter even be detected, let alone intuited by a fashion designer? But then, as her self-doubt fades, she gets a distinct impression, a sort of tugging at the base of her skull that almost compels her to turn southward. "That way. About ten miles."
And so Duststorm and Ravdna head out. As they travel, the two women talk:
"How's Union holding up? He seemed awfully tired. I think this business of un-natural disasters is getting to us." Janet spoke in a conversational tone to the immortal Asgardian beside her.
"Better than the denizens of this City. Death clings to them like a shawl. I had hoped to raise him from his slumber lastly."
"Yes, these poor people have seen enough death and destruction to last many lifetimes." Janet replied sadly. "I think Union should at least be made aware of our journey to the epicenter. If he can sleep longer we might just leave him a message. He can't keep operating on adrenaline or he'll be of no use to us when we need him most." She added. "I hope Victor, Emerald, Delta V and Dark Angel are all right. There's not much we can to do to help them out in the middle of the Atlantic."
Meanwhile, having snatched a cat-nap and a quick bite to eat, Aegis is feeling more herself. Surveying the devastation from above, she shakes her head in amazement at the wanton destruction. If this was planned.... She sets to work amid the wreckage, putting her strength to use as the dazed inhabitants begin trying to set their lives back in order.
Aegis, after hauling a bus out of a sinkhole, spots Duststorm and Ravdna about a hundred yards away.
They've just stopped walking and Duststorm points at the ground.
Duststorm waved to Aegis as she pointed the epicenter out to Ravdna.
"This is the place," Janet says to the Valkyrie. "I'm not sure how I know, but...."
"Do we know where they found the fern?" Janet asked. She was unsure what to do next. If the prehistoric life was rising from an underground cavern, she might be able to discern its location through her abilities as she had the epicenter. That seemed like a long shot though. And she wasn't even sure it would work. So instead she looked around for any signs of unusual plant or animal life such as that trilobite they found on the island.
"Any ideas of where to go from here, Ravdna?" Janet asked the Valkyrie.
Ravdna is silent. Swooping in from overhead, Aegis banks in for a landing nearby.
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© 2001 Mark L. Chance et al