Union and Malachi get acquainted with the South, and Ravdna with the police.
A slight smile creeps onto Eric's serious features, "Yes, it is a long standing conspiracy. I didn't want to say that for fear of sounding paranoid. My father and brother, and now it seem Henry, are all a part of their plans. I'm devoting everything I've got to stopping them, though that might not be enough." He looks at his watch, "I'll follow you back to your place. You can drop off your car and pack. The company plane has a scheduled flight time of 11, but it'll wait if we're late. Does that suit you?"
Janet walks to the drivers door. "It may not be the most appropriate way to handle the situation, no offense intended, but I'm sure it will end up in the papers somehow. _Van Dyne courting scientists again_. or some silly blurb like that. In the interest of time, however, that is probably the quickest way." She gets in her T-bird, and rolls down the window, as the V-8 roars to life. "Do be a dear, and try and keep up." Janet drives the car like the sport machine it is. She parks the car in the garage, and goes into the house.
"Diana, I am going on a trip for a few days. I will call you when I get settled."
"Yes ma'am," the house keeper says. "I'll go pack your things."
"Thank you Diana." Janet goes into her room, and pulls a box from under the bed. She opens the lid, and fingers the silk costume. A white body suit with red frills and wing webbing from the arms down the sides. She holds the red mardi gras mask to her face, peering through the eye holes. _I sure hope I don't need this, but its better to be prepared. _
Eric follows in his large, old sedan. It moves surprisingly fast for such a beat up car. He parks in front of Janet's apartment building and waits for her, leaning against the car's side.
In what seems like an eternity, Janet emerges from her home, with three suitcases, a makeup case, and a hat box.
Eric opens up the trunk and immediately loads her items next to his two suitcases. Without a word he opens the passenger side for her, circles back to the driver's side and takes off for the airport.
Curt slept better than he would have thought possible. He was certainly tired enough. Despite the whirlwind of events, most recently learning his wife and son had perhaps narrowly avoided violence at the hands of a Communist spy, the strange surroundings of the safehouse, with a half dozen government agents staked out on the first floor, was strangely reassuring in a way.
There was a soft knock at the door.
"Dr. Connors," Mulhare's now familiar voice said. "Are you awake, sir?"
Dr. Curt Connors walks to the door and opens it.
"Yes, agent Mulhare, I am awake. What can I do for you?" His mind wonders at what these government men might want from him.
"Sorry to disturb you, sir," Mulhare apologizes. "Colonel DePalo wants you to attend a meeting at Stark Industries. It should help clear up some of your concerns."
Immediately, the differences between New York and Birmingham become evident with the presence of "Whites Only" and "Colored Only" signs. Sam and Adrian are drawing several stares, some hostile. Sam catches the vibe immediately, but Adrian slowly realizes it as well.
_This is...Things in New York were bad fifteen years ago, but they're getting better. Sure they're not perfect yet, but this..._ Adrian's mind boggles at the dawning realization of the degree of prejudice and bigotry that seemed commonplace. Accepted. And judging from the looks he was getting, almost *required* by the people on the street. He refrains from returning the hostile glares with ones of his own.
_Even without the chainmail, I could easily dismantle any normal person on the street in this suit. But that won't get us to Paul, and it won't solve the problem in the long run. I need to make sure he's OK, then talk to the rest of the movement organizers to see what Iand the rest of the Avengerscan do about this. I wonder if Dr. King would like a vote of support of Captain America, for example..._
"Ya'll look lost," a woman says. Sam and Adrian turn to see a diminutive, elderly woman grinning toothlessly up at them. "Kin ah he'p ya find where ya need t'be?"
Sam smiles down at the lady. "Yes ma'am. My father's in the hospital and I've come down to be with him. I don't suppose you could tell me where the hospital is?"
Trapped in his thoughts, Adrian hardly hears the woman's question, but Sam's voice breaks him from his reverie. He looks at the woman, hoping for quick directions and amazed at the first actual sign of the famed 'Southern Hospitality'.
The old lady clucks her tongue. "Tha's a shame 'bout yor Paw, son. I reckon he'd been in tha colored hospital. Tha's on Willow. Ya jus' go out ta tha curb thar--" She points to a bus stop. "an catch the two eleven. Fare is a dime. 'zact change only."
She leans forward conspiratorially. "An' you all don' need ta be sittin' tagedder, what wid tha Wasp an' his boys watchin' after tha colored folks. No, sir, I don' mind sayin' no one needs that kinda attention."
"Thank you ma'am.", was all Sam said. Angry as that speech made him, he hadn't survived going to college without learning how to pick his fights.
"Excuse me, Ma'am, but we've been travelling all night and just got into town. Who are 'the Wasp and his boys'? I though Sheriff Conners was the arm of the law in Birmingham." Adrian's thoughts are full of images of the strike-busters he had dealt with at Williams Electronicsthe ones to whom his later 'research' had revealed ties to a Nazi Brown-shirt movement. _They seem like they'd fit right in down here. _
The elderly woman leans forward a little bit more, speaking in hushed tones. "Tha's what ah thought 'til yesterday. Seems ol' Bull's gone an' hired two of them costumed folks, like they got up in New York. One's the Wasp. Tha other's called Fas-eez, or somethin' like that. Bull deputized 'em both all nice an' legal, an' then put some of tha deputies under their say so."
"Well, we better catch that bus. Thanks for the help, Ma'am." Adrian waves at the woman, his smile forced, as he heads towards the bus stop. He needs to keep moving, if only so he won't shake in anger.
As the pair wait for the two eleventempting fate by standing next to one another- Adrian pitches his voice to a near whisper, "Sam, please tell me it's not like this in Harlem and I just never noticed."
Sam shook his head a little sadly. "It's not quite this blatant, but you might like ask yourself why you're only asking about Harlem. It's quieter, but New York has its own 'Black Only' and 'White Only' neighborhoods."
Adrian bristled under Sam's very accurate, and very painful, comment, "Point taken, Sam. Point taken."
Sam and Adrian wait for only about ten minutes before the 211 pulls up to the stop. With a squeak-hiss, the doors fold open and a few people file off.
_I thought it was going to be so easy, back then. We'd make the businesses accept the unions, blacks would get fair wages, and it would all roll downhill, like an avalanche. And because I thought that, I just stopped looking at the hard parts, because I had other things to worry about. Because I could._ Adrian gives his young companion an appraising glance as they step onto the busremembering his calm while Adrian was getting upset over the tenor of the city, and his perspicacity in seeing the flaws in Adrian's argumentand for the first time sees the man Sam Wilson had become, rather than the Boy that Adrian remembered him as from a decade before.
Dumas yawns after opening his eyes. He was dropped off at his home at two a.m. and didn't go to bed till four in the morning. Now he was up. It was noon and he just noticed Alfred was standing over him. Then he realized he wasn't in bed but instead lying on a examining table in the subterranean lab under his castle.
"Yes Alfred? What is it?" Victor asks groggily.
"Good morning master. Would you care for breakfast?" Alfred asked.
"No, just a glass of orange J.." Victor stopped as he saw that Alfred had a glass of orange juice on a serving tray in his hands. Dumas looked up at Alfred and took the glass and drank some of the juice before standing up off the table.
"Anything else about those women on the news this morning?" Victor asked.
"No." He replied.
"Anything interesting at all?" Victor prodded knowing that Alfred wanted to tell him something.
"Master Dumas, it seems that the television produced an interesting newscast this morning. A costumed man with a northern accent calling himself the Wasp, proceeded to tell the world that like the costumed heroes in Manhattan the other day, he too would take arms to defend his city. That is Birmingham, Alabama. His remarks were quite segregationist in tone and he seemed rather committed to his cause."
"Did he have anyone else with him?" Victor asks Alfred.
"He didn't appear to." Alfred replies then continues. "Will you be needing me for anything else this morning Master?"
"No. I'll be just fine." Victor says.
"Very good then." Alfred turns and goes back up into the castle.
Dumas goes upstairs and showers and dresses to head over to Stark Industries. By the time he is almost ready to leave its 1:30 in the afternoon.
While Victor is sipping his orange juice, Alfred knocks and quietly enters the room.
"Master," he says. "You have a telephone call. It is Mr. Anthony Stark."
Victor takes the receiver from the phone that Alfred offers him. "Dumas here."
"Victor," Tony says. "Can you get in here right away? Colonel DePalo's on his way to my office. Something about a emergency meeting."
"Certainly. I'll be right over." He hands the receiver to Alfred.
"Alert the chauffeur to have the Rolls ready for a drive into the city. I'll be out front momentarily."
"Yes Master." Alfred leaves the room.
Victor gathers himself up and heads out front.
Thinking just how close to the truth that is Ravdna responds "Verily. 'Twould seem I have become separated from my party. Perhaps you can aid me in finding them -- one man is named Dumas."
The jaw of the younger officers drops slightly as he blinks several times, as if agitating his eyelids could force the scene to make more sense. He is barely conscious of his older partner's grip on his arm, pulling him slightly backwards as his other hand comes to rest on the butt of his pistol.
"Holy Mary," the younger cop mumbles, realization dawning on his face.
"Up against the wall, lady!" the older cop commands. "Nice an' slow an' keep your hands where I can see 'em. Dewey, go call for backup. Now, lady. We ain't gonna have no more of your kind causin' trouble 'round here!"
Dewey backs away slowly, getting ready to turn and run for the nearest call box.
Her Valkyrie sisters and fellow Asgardians terrorized this City far too well during Loki's foul raids it would seem. Even withour Gugnir at her side she could easily fell the two men...or at the very least flee...
But not wanting to exacerbate matters more Ravdna tries her best to calm the nervous officer as she slowly raises her empty hands. "I mean you no harm, sentry...but is of great import that I have an audience with the heroes of your realm...they can vouchsafe my claim."
Seeing no need to alarm them more by saying that further foul magicks has misplaced one of the women yet again she continues, "Contact your Captain America...we fought side by side yon moments ago..."
The younger officer retreats around the corner of the building while the older pulls his sidearm, an ugly looking revolver, not the kind of spit and polish weapon that would interest a collector, but instead built to convey menace at its lethal purpose.
"I said against the wall!" he barks. "Don't make me put you down, lady!"
Realizing that her attempts to calm the men are availing her naught she continues her resolve that discretion is the better part of valor and steps quietly and slowly against the wall. Her warrior eyes locked unflinchingly on the older officers as she does so...
"I said against the wall!" he repeats.
Though she chafes at the submission, Ravdna feels that, for now at least, it is best to cooperate with this city's guards. She allows the older officer to cuff her and escort her to the corner where the younger officer rejoins his partner.
"Wagon's on the way," he informs.
"Good," the older man says. Then, to Ravdna: "Lis'en to me. We're gonna take ya to the precinct so we can figure out what's supposed ta be done wid ya. Cooperate like you're doin', an' we won't have no trouble. Understand?"
And cooperate Ravdna does, knowing that she could escape the shackles with ease if need be. A short time later, she sits in a dirty, dimly lit room, facing a large mirror, still shackled, slowly losing her patience. The door bangs open and another city guard, this one called "captain," enters.
"Ma'am," he says as if unsure the word is appropriate. "We, uh, made some phone calls. Uh, some government people are comin' to get you. They said I should take those cuffs off. I do that, you goin' to cause me any grief?"
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© 1999 Mark L. Chance et al