The meeting concludes.
Victor ran a hand through his style-of-the-day hair and thought about another drink.
"He did say he would be at the meeting tomorrow night," she points out with a faint smile, recalling Union's unmistakable enthusiasm for the idea of them all as a group, even in the midst of dashing out the door. He might change his mind, with all this going on. "That will provide an opportunity for conversation in a slightly more relaxed setting than the last, I think. We can see how he behaves," she suggests with a small shrug. "Who knows, maybe he'll volunteer the information. At least now we know to be watching."
She gives in to impulse and continues pacing back and forth over the expensive carpeting, fingers laced together behind her back. "Although if the government is looking for him already... he may be more willing to trust us than them. I assume you pointed out to Colonel dePalo that these are private citizens free to do as they please; the best we can do is see what everyone says? Looks like we'll have plenty to talk about tomorrow, anyway...." Ruefully, she recognizes that associating with Stark is going to drag her back into political circles no matter how much she would rather ignore them. At least she's in a different role these days.
Stark grins humorlessly. "I don't DePalo believes there's any such thing as a private citizen. If nothing else, he could probably arrange arrests for most of you, charging you with vigilantism."
"I can't say the idea thrills me," she admits, "but I suppose we'd best give the man a hearing." _Since it seems like he's more than willing to force the issue. No sense looking for trouble when plenty's going to come looking for us._ "Your call, of course," she adds with a glance at her employer.
"I suggest moving the meeting to another location that is more private. Either here at Stark, or at my castle on Long Island." Dumas suggests.
Dumas looks at Bethany. "I doubt anything good will come of the meeting with DePalo, more likely some sort of government shackles."
"Here would be best," Stark says "I don't think DePalo knows who most of you really are. He certainly knows about Connors. He probably knows about both of you as well. We meet him on my ground, we'll be better able to control what kinds of covert access he might attempt."
"You're not worried about how it may look with Stark being even more involved? I'd rather not risk your company over this Tony. But you are right about more security. I'm still working on my bots at the castle. They are a ways away till completion."
Bethany grins and gestures at what she's wearing. "Hard for Stark to look any more involved than it already does. We can have tomorrow's meeting as scheduled. DePalo doesn't have to know about it. As for any meeting with him, I think it makes sense to do it here, or else on neutral ground that *we* suggest. You and I and Delta V will have a hard time getting out of it, but the others' identities are still unknown. They can vanish back to their normal lives if they'd rather. I'm sure you're right and this guy sees a ready-made toy for confiscation, but...." She shrugs. "If I were him I'd try carrots rather than sticks at this point, but maybe he's not that bright. Or," she adds as the thought strikes her, "maybe he's got a serious problem that he thinks we can handle."
The government's interest is not unexpected, really; the involvement of these others complicates matters beyond what they'd prepared for, however.
Victor walks over to the liquor again and puts his hand on the glass and bottle and then remembers the company he is keeping and pulls away.
"Tony, this DePalo. That sounds Italian. With all due respect to your own heritage, maybe we could dig up some dirt on him if we don't focus on him, but other DePalos? Who knows when his family arrived and what they may have been involved in over in Italy. As they say, the fruit doesn't fall far from the tree it grows upon. We might just get lucky."
Bethany halts her pacing for a moment and purses her lips slightly in disapproval, but only says, "If he's had as long and quiet a career as Tony says, I'm sure he's already been checked out quite thoroughly. We go, we talk, we tell him 'no'... unless he actually has something reasonable in mind, of course. Seriously, Tony, what do you think he's likely to do? I think he'd have a hard time making any charges stick unless he's got the entire court sitting in his pocket and I'm sure the press would have a field day with the whole thing. He might not want that."
Dumas says nothing. Instead he takes a seat and watches Bethany talk and then looks to Stark. He keeps his thoughts to himself for the moment.
Stark shakes his head. "I doubt DePalo's that well connected, and I also doubt we'd be able to get much dirt on him any time soon. I do get the feeling, however, he could make life pretty miserable for at least some of us, especially Dr. Connors. He's got a family that could get hurt."
"He deserves our aid to say the least." Victor agrees.
With a sharp bang!, Stark slaps in hand down on his desk.
"Damn it!" he hisses. "I hate this, but for now, I'm not sure we have much of a choice. Bethany, when you meet tomorrow, let them know about the DePalo situation. Forewarned is forearmed."
Dumas clasps his hands together. "I suggest sending a car to pick them up at the Empire State Building. Once they've arrived here, we can discuss everything we need to at that time. I'd also recommend that since we know who Delta V is, that perhaps we should drive by his locations and make sure he and his family are all right."
"If we can be sure that by doing so, we would not further jeopardize him," Bethany qualifies, nodding. "If dePalo's keeping an eye on him, he might not take kindly to any appearance of conspiracy."
"Well yes, but we do have every right to check in on our own friends. I'm sure we'll be okay in that regard. But that is a good point and we should be on guard for it. Perhaps Aegis and the Specter should handle it?" He looks over to Bethany.
"Not sure how well we blend into a crowd," she remarks with an arched brow. "Although perhaps with your 'phasing' abilities....?" Avoiding notice is the main thing, to her mind.
Walking around his desk, Stark takes a seat in the high-backed leather chair.
"In a way, though, I'm kind of glad this is happening," Stark switches subjects. "While you were gone, I was thinking. There've been metahumans active before and now, but none of them are terribly organized. Mostly loners. We could be sitting on top of something very important here. If you'd been ready, assembled as a group, when those Vikings first attacked, you may very well have been able to stop them then and there. That got me to thinking."
Stark leans forward.
"I've got more than enough money as well as the facilities to back a group of metahumans. Hell, I could even put the rest of the group on the payroll if I had to. We could have a centralized headquarters, maybe at my downtown mansion or at Victor's castle. The government would certainly to stick its nose into things, but DePalo's not the only one with connections."
"That is a fine idea Tony. They worked rather well in Asgard and I think their is a lot of potential amongst them." He unbuttoned the top two buttons on his green cloak.
"As long as everyone else is willing to invest that sort of commitment, that is."
"I think several of them have that exact idea in mind, actually." She hesitates for moment. "Think carefully about this, though, Tony? I know you're quite the idealist, but... a metahuman group openly fielded by Stark Industries could bring you a lot of trouble, and not just with the government. Liability issues, just for one. And if people see the group as SI's tool... there is the question of what our ultimate mandate would be."
"Perhaps a trust fund of some sort? One overseen by an independent entity. With money donated from you and even myself. We could donate property to it as well without a direct connection to Stark Industries. I think that would due nicely...."
He brings his clasped hands to his chin in thought.
"That's a thought." She cocks her head to one side and pauses in her pacing to consider the idea. "Might work." Bethany looks over to see Tony's reaction, wondering if he'll take kindly to the idea of losing full control.
Stark nods and rubs his eyes with forefinger and thumb. "You may be right, Victor. I get enough bad press about SI's defense contracts. Of course, it hasn't hurt business." He smiles. "Well, I'm going to go to bed. I've been running on caffeine and adrenaline for nearly twenty-four hours. If you're going to check on Connors, I'd do it quickly and discreetly."
Stark rises to leave.
"Goodnight Tony." Then Victor turns towards Aegis. "Its up to you Aegis?" He says.
"'Night." She's frowning slightly, concerned, but it's not really her place to upbraid him for pushing himself so hard all the time....
Bethany blinks. _Sheesh, Odin must have really taken the wind out of his sails._ "Well, it probably won't hurt if we're careful about it. We can take my car, no one's likely to notice it. See if anyone has the place staked out, and perhaps you can peek through a wall and make sure everything looks all right."
Union is airborne and moving away from the Stark Industries complex at the best speed the high voltage lines lacing the ground below can give him. _Three Days! Fuss and Bother! Well, at least I have the advantage of owning my own storelosing three days of revenue will hurt this months books, but I think I'm better off than poor Dark Angel. I'd hate to have to explain to a superior that I missed half a week of work because I was battling Viking warriors from another dimension._
Overhead Union could make out the figures of Captain America and Dark Angel in the moonlight, heading for various parts of the sprawling metropolis that is New York City. Part of him wants to hail them, continue the conversation that his sudden departure no doubt truncated, and another part wants to follow them, just our of sheer curiosity, but fatigue and morality make suppressing those urges easy.
_Leaving wasn't exactly brilliant, there, Adrianit's still the middle of the night, and it won't matter if you get home an hour earlier. Well, whatever else Stark had to tell us, Aegis can bring it up at tomorrows meetingassuming anyone else shows up. I do wonder if any of the women Dumas yanked back were interviewed by the press, and what the papers think of us now. I suppose I'll find out when I get home. The papers are no doubt piled up, assuming no one stole them._
Unions flight back to the shop is a slow and leisurely onethe power lines provided a stable enough field, and Adrian was tired enough, that the subway trick wasn't necessary. It was a little past eleven when Union gains altitude over Long Island City to pick out the rooftop of his shop.
_It really is beautiful from up here,_ Adrian muses inside the armor, floating a few hundred yards over the cluster of buildings that make his home, the Manhattan skyline painting the western horizon _It might nor be Asgard, but the old home town has a rainbow all its own. _
_And while the time jump distracted me for a minute, I have to remember that, we WON. We took the best that a handful of Gods had to toss at us and we won. I never knew I had that in me. And no onenot Bestman, not anybody, can take that away from me. _
Union floats inches over the roof of Toomes Electronics, the electrical aura of his armor dampened into invisibility. The lock ratchets back under an electromagentic jiggle, and the silver Avenger floats down the stairs all the way to the concealed workroom on the first floor before settling to the ground.
The suits systems power down, and the once again old man takes off the helmet and inches himself out of the chain mail armor, before detaching the cybernetic under-suit that make's Union's powers work. Adrian grabs his robe, tying it tightly around his thin frame before settling into his workroom chair. A few moments of introspection, and he pulls out the notebook from the work-table's drawer and begins to write in his own engineering shorthand with an old fountain pen.
"Under extended systems testing, I can only conclude that the new device is a total success. The current system is, if anything, too powerful to ever attempt to market. Considering the low cost of production and the efficiency of the unit, it would be best to actually design down-powered systems for potential non-combat uses.
"Potential uses for such systems are varied: Using the transport system large scale might make magnetic monorail propulsion feasible, but the increase in mass to be moved could be seriously degrade efficiency; the systems ability to draw and amplify Earth's (for, as practice has shown, any planetary body possessing an EM field) existing electromagnetic field might provide an limitless free power source, but the effects of large scale modification of the field in such a fashion could have severely detrimental effects to the environment, and would need to be thoroughly examined; smaller units for manipulating metals only might prove very helpful to people in any construction field, though I would need to be careful that don't inadvertently produce something that would lead to large scale unemployment; the final idea on the table right now involves using the physical enhancement properties of the suit for medical purposesperhaps neurological conditions could be compensated for, or healing rates increased. This last is the most tempting.
"Note: Contact Murdock when time permits to explore legal ramifications of patenting such things, and protecting such patents from unwanted abuse.
"Note: Judging from the events Sunday, it is likely that the man calling himself Delta V is a medical doctor of some sort. Discuss with him the possible uses for and benefits of Union technology in a medical context.
"Of the weapon systems added to the unit, testing was limited, but showed great promise. Use of fields for launching of high speed/low weight projectiles still untested. Use of fields for controlling grappling unit, and electrification of same, performed flawlessly under combat conditions, but will require further practice and modification.
"Note: Must find way to grind down high charge iron ore to dust for potential use as an obscurement or irritant in combat situations."
With that Adrian put the pen down. He mused for a few minutes about including personal observations on the rest of the heroes, but it was late, and perhaps risky. The notebook itself was an extravagance, but his unique shorthand and its concealed location should make it safe enough. Best, however, not to tempt fate. He capped the pen, returned the notebook to its place under the table, and went upstairs to bed. Spending a few seconds setting his alarm, he lay down calmly, then sat up, prayed for a few moments, and went to sleep.
It had been either a long dayor a very short three daysbut in either case Adrian was tired.
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