Enter the government.
She pulls herself from thoughts of Henry for a moment, long enough to dismiss the swirling winds. _A bad habit you have Janet, you need to keep better control._ As she turns the corner and sees her home, she pauses. _Not yet, I need to think._ With a quick look around, to see that no one was watching, the winds pick up again, stronger and more deliberate this time. Janet lifts off the sidewalk, rising up into the dark night air, faster and faster, higher and higher.
Janet flies high above the city, looking down on the lit houses. _At least no one will recognize me in the dark. It's not like I have airplane lights on my shoes. The fresh air will do me good._ As Janet flies over the city, she decides not to wait till morning. Its not too late, so she heads for the office. In a few moments, she is looking over her desk, where Sarah said she left the messages from Henry's phone calls.
After hearing about how long they've been gone, Delta V, Captain America, Union, and Dark Angel make their good-byes and leave. Tony Stark, along with the Specter, Aegis, and Emerald, remain in the lab.
"What do you mean Odin stole your powers?" Stark asks. As he is talking, a security team, armed with fire extinguishers, rushes into the lab and begins dousing the equipment. Stark doesn't even blink.
Dumas just shakes his head to himself and looks over at the burning machines.
Emerald asks about a place to stay.
"Yeah, I can put you up," Stark replies. "Miller." One of the security team turns to face Stark. "Take this young man to my house. Tell Jarvis to put him in a guest room."
"Yes, sir!" Miller barks and then looks at Emerald with expectation.
"Specter, Aegis," Stark says. "We need to talk in private. Let's go to my office."
Emerald follows the man Stark called Miller out of the lab and to a modest four door sedan in the parking lot at the front of the building. "What's it like working for that guy?" Emerald asks as they get into the car.
"'Bout like workin' for anybody else," the man says after a second of thought. "Least he pays well."
As he settles in for the ride to wherever they are going Rick thinks about the past few days and the changes in his life. He is a little annoyed about being cut out of the important conversations no doubt happening inside of Tony's office, but he isn't really part of that world. The largest part of the young man just cries out for sleep and a good meal, and everything else is secondary to those.
Once outside of the Stark Enterprises property Rick finally removes his mask. His attention is drawn to the city again, as it has been since coming to the city. He is not surprised when Miller brings the car to a stop at the gates to a large mansion. He has a short conversation with someone over what looks like some kind of telephone to the young man, then the gates open silently and allowed the car to roll through.
The house is every bit as impressive as Emerald would have guessed from the gate. Standing outside to meet the car as it arrives is an older man dressed in the uniform of a butler or servant. This must be Jarvis, Rick thinks to himself as he climbs out of the car with a smile and a wave of his hand. He waits patiently while Miller and the man share a low conversation. "If you will follow me, sir," Jarvis' accent marks him as an Englishman, and the younger man smiles at that thought.
Five minutes later Emerald drops into a large bed and promptly falls asleep without undressing or crawling into it properly.
Rick wakes to the rays of the sun pouring in through the window. As his mind muddles over the events of the past couple of days something else sinks in through the haze of his brain. The man called Curt knew his name, because he told him, but he hadn't told anyone else.
_But one of the others called me by... _
He looked for someplace to wash up.
A few minutes later, feeling much more human, and looking better than he has in days, Rick pokes his head into the large hallway, looking either for Jarvis or someone else who could point out someplace to eat to him. As he comes out of his room he thinks about the new Captain America, and all of the questions he has about the man. _Who is he? And more importantly than that, how did he know my name?_
Delta V, a.k.a. Dr. Curtis Connors, races at top speed to his home, zigging in and out of traffic as he passes automobiles as if they were standing still. His mind too races about how worried his wife and son must be.
When he turns onto his street and sees his house, all of the lights off, even the porch-light, which is always on at night, Delta V is gripped by fear that something has happened while he was away.
Seeing the lights off, Delta V speeds towards his home. He quickly opens the door and runs through the house, searching for any sign of his wife and son, hoping they are safe inside.
Delta V checks the upstairs bedrooms first, but there is no sign of Martha or William. Neither bed even looks slept in. Back downstairs, Delta V finds dishes from dinner still in the sink. He then, out of the corner of his eye, notices the mess in his home office.
Zipping in, it doesn't take long to determine there was some sort of struggle in the room. The desk has been moved, a lamp smashed, a chair knocked over, and papers are scattered everywhere, some obviously trampled underfoot. Delta V's heart skips a beat when he sees the bloodstain, about the diameter of a dinner plate, on the floor.
"They're safe," a voice from behind Delta V says.
Whirling about, the lightning quick hero sees NSA Agent Mulhare, whom he met the other day when Colonel DePalo showed up at the door.
"I imagine you have questions," Mulhare says calmly.
"Where the hell are my wife and son?" Delta V says, anger and concern clearly punctuated in his tone of voice. "That's the only question I want answered, and I want it answered now!" Not normally and overly emotional man, Delta V must now struggle to keep his emotions in check as he waits for the agent's response.
"They're both safe and unharmed," Agent Mulhare replies. "There was a break-in here. A man we believe to be a Communist agent, apparently after your notes on the regeneration formula. Your wife interrupted him and called for help. Fortunately, we had your home staked out. Two agents drove the burglar away, but one of them was severely injured in the process. We relocated Martha and William to a safehouse. I can take you there now."
Moments later the speedster is in a car with the NSA agent, heading to the safehouse that is supposed to contain his wife and son. _What exactly is going on here? My house under surveillance. Communist agents breaking into my home. I know my experiments produced remarkable results, but I have been unable to duplicate them. Why all the interest in my work?_
"In a nut shell, Dr. Connors," Agent Mulhare begins. "We have reason to believe that your remarkable results can be duplicated. Obviously, so do our enemies. Given the highly sensitive nature of your work, and the large numbers of Communist sympathizers on American campuses, Colonel DePalo has increased security in a number of areas. Fortunately for your wife and son, I must add. Ah, here we are."
Mulhare turns into the driveway of an ordinary looking, single story home in an ordinary
"Right this way," Mulhare says, getting out of the car.
In short order, Delta V enters the house to have Martha and William immediately in his arms, Martha struggling bravely to hide her fear from the boy.
"Thank God your back," she whispers in Connors's ear, holding him tightly.
_Three days,_ Aegis thinks again, following the two men without a word. _Amazing._ She's interested by the reactions of the rest of the group, all of whom, she assumes, have lives, jobs, and possibly families who are no doubt worrying about their safety. Superheroics have their price. It is a source of something like satisfaction to know that no one has been worrying about her.
Victor pulls his hood down and walks with Tony and Aegis to Tony's office. Once there Specter slumps down on the sofa against the west wall facing Stark's desk.
"I'm not sure how he did it Tony, but when we left Odin said he didn't like us mortals being able to access his world, so he sent us back. At the same time I believe he caused the destruction of the dimensional equipment and took away my ability to cross dimensional barrier with my powers."
Bethany frowns to herself, somewhat alarmed by this evidence of Odin's divine fiat. _I guess we're all lucky he wasn't actually mad at us._
Dumas holds his hand up in front of himself and it fades a little into his phased mode and then turns solid again. "Well at least I can still phase....." He drops his hand back to the couch.
"I need a drink." Dumas rises and goes over to the liquor counter and starts to pour himself one.
"What was it that you wanted to talk about?" she asks Stark, sensitive to the hint of urgency in his tone. "Did something happen while we were gone?"
Stark waits until Dumas has his drink in hand.
"Yes," he says. "Some things have happened. Not all bad. News reports, including an interview with two of the women you rescued, have largely been positive, although the Daily Bugle's editorial section has been fairly cool. None of the women were serious hurt, but I imagine all of them will be shaken up for a while."
Stark pauses, suppressing a slight cough.
Victor takes a drink and looks at Aegis and then Tony.
"And then there's this, which I'm not sure what to think. After you left, I was reviewing the data from the dimensional transporter. This caught my eye."
Stark hands a print out to Dumas. On it is a mathematical representation of the heroes' dimensional vibrations. Dumas notices the cause of Stark's concern almost at once.
"The one calling himself Captain America," Stark continues. "Isn't from our dimension. His frequencies are close, but they are significantly different to indicate alien origin. Given his powers, he may not even be human."
Dumas read over the report. "Well he isn't an Asgardian. Different frequency than what they have.
"Either way, I firmly believe he's on our side. I wouldn't go calling the Pentagon or anything. We met an Asgardian that seemed willing to help also, though I imagine she'll stay up there."
Dumas took another drink. "Ahhh.. Good stuff Tony." He sets the glass down and walks over to Aegis. "What did you think of the new Captain America?"
She shakes her head, somewhat stunned; she had found herself rather liking the kid for his earnestness. "He certainly seems to have the right attitude, determined to live up to the image. Awfully youngor seems that way, anyway, I suppose if he's not human there's no real way to tell." She considers some of the possible implications of that.
"But he did a fine job yesthe other day," she corrects herself, going on, "and in Asgard, as well. I certainly didn't notice anything to indicate that he's a threat of any sort. But in light of this, I think it would be a good idea to talk to him. Find out where he came from, what he's doing here." It's her job to be suspicious; if he isn't as well-intentioned as he seems, they'd best find that out quickly.
"I'm sure he's fine and he might not even want to answer those kinds of questions. He might even run when asked. Perhaps we should hold off until he feels more comfortable with us before we confront him. I'd hate to lose such an obviously valuable asset like him." Dumas walks over and sits in a chair in front of the desk and addresses both Tony and Aegis.
"Though costuming yourself as the missing Captain America is one sure way to gain a measure of acceptance fast, especially if your not from around here. I would however question his decision to adopt the mantle of Captain America to gain quick acceptance. First, why does he need to be accepted quickly, and secondly, the role of Captain America is highly scrutinized and publicized. Surely the government will be seeking him out soon enough anyway?"
Stark nods, leaning against his desk. "They already are. Those findings" Stark indicates the dimensional equipment's readout. "- aren't all that's come down lately. Yesterday, I was paid a visit by a Colonel William DePalo, U.S. Army liaison with the NSA. DePalo's a big fish, and he's circling us. He knows I was involved with the rescue mission. Somehow, he got an inside line on Project Looking Glass. He's also been watching one of our superheroes, Delta V, also known as Dr. Curtis Connors, the biologist at Empire State. DePalo has basically ordered I set up a meeting between him and the lot of you ASAP. He made some veiled threats, reference funding, IRS investigations, and possible deportation for foreigners." Stark glances pointedly at Dumas. "To be honest, the man scared me. Not the threats, but just his manner. I did some checking. DePalo's whole service record for the past fifteen years is so classified I doubt the Joint Chiefs even know about him."
Stark pauses. He looks very tired.
"I also agree with you, Bethany, about this Captain America. I hope he's not some sort of bad guy, but I think we'd be foolish to not at least ask about his origins."
"So what does he want from us? Its not like people with powers are something new. They've been around for fifty years or more already." Dumas looks out the window and then at his reflection. "They won't deport me. My government is in exile here, regardless of whether they recognize it as the current ruling body of Latveria or not. The United States still provides safe haven for deposed governments."
Bethany's eyebrows go up, but she controls her expression quickly. _Well, that explains a thing or two. Most interesting._
Stark shakes his head. "I don't know what he wants, but your faith in our government is...well...a bit naive, Victor. Ho Chi Minh was a U.S. ally during World War Two, and now we're fighting him." He sighs. "But I hope you're right. I really do."
"Worst case scenario, I take my war on the road and the United States, looses a valuable advantage against the communists. The way I see it, its more their loss, than my own. Their are other nations that would be more than willing to provide the great mind of Doctor Victor Dumas succor." He half laughs at himself thinking of the enthusiasm that the US showed when he arrived. An enthusiasm tempered with politics that said they would provide him with haven, but would no longer recognize his government, just so that they wouldn't create an incident with the Russians. Latveria was too small a country to start a nuclear war over. They did lodge a protest in the UN. A lot of good that did he thinks.
Dumas turns to Tony and grabs the print-outs off the desk and looks at them again. "I think these numbers show our friend to be from an alternate universe. These vibrational attunement frequencies are way to close to suggest otherwise."
He drops the print-outs again and looks at Aegis. "I think Bethany has a good point also, but if we do ask him prematurely, then we better make him feel safe when we do. I don't want him running."
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© 1999 Mark L. Chance et al