A resolution is achieved.
Tony leans back in his chair. DePalo slowly, hesitantly, picks up the phone.
"Wagner here," he says. "Line's secure. Report. Uh huh. Uh huh. Hold the line." DePalo holds the receiver away from his head and looks at the assembled heroes. "Any of you know a Valkyrie named Ravdna?"
Her frown deepening, whatever Bethany was about to say is cut off by the buzzer's interruption. She blinks. "Er, yes, actually. She's here? This dimension?"
"Where is she?" Rick asks. He also wants to know what happened to their companion.
DePalo simply nods and returns the receiver to his ear. "Collect the package and deliver it here. Wagner out." The colonel hangs up the phone. He looks a bit distracted, at least until Bethany's voice focuses his attention.
"I'd say you've succeeded in surprising us, Colonel. And obviously, I *am* involved -- nothing more need be said. No one is going to assassinate Mr. Stark." She says it as a statement of fact, looking at the other two for their reactions to this unexpected turn. After this little meeting is done, it might be time for a chat with her employer....
Tony smiles slightly at Bethany's confidence and loyalty. DePalo's reaction is bit more noticeable.
"Hoo-ah," he grunts. "Mr. Stark said you were an ass-kicker, Miss Cabe. I'm glad to see he was right."
She gives him a slightly cool smile in response.
"Mr. Stark," Emerald begins finally. "I wanted to talk with you about this anyway," he pauses long enough to take a drink of his water. "My other companions and I were thrown together by fate, but I think we could still do more good, both for the city and its people. We need a way to stay together, and operate as a group, with common goals. Some of us have home and family in this city, and they'll want to stay with them and protect them I imagine. Some of us aren't that lucky. I have an apartment with no furniture in it, and no money to go out and buy any right now. The reason I came to see you is that you were the richest person I know that would have an interest in seeing my friends and I work as a team."
Rick takes another sip from his glass. "Colonel, you said a moment ago that the more of us involved in this the better. We have more friends, although I don't know where most of them are, and we've already proven that we can be very helpful. If the Soviets knew we had such heroes maybe they wouldn't be so quick to send agents like the KGBeast into our country."
Though Dumas has several words for the soldier, he holds them in at this time as first Bethany speaks and then the boy, Emerald starts to speak above his station. Victor wonders where the boy was was so quiet before has become so uncharacteristically vocal and now seems educated beyond his youthful years would indicate. Could such a person be so down on their luck in this city with no valuable skills to offer? All seemed rather unlikely. He would have to keep an eye on this young one.
Tony nods. "Victor, Bethany, and I had been discussing plans along those lines, Rick. We had hoped to bring it up at with those who showed up for the meeting tonight." He looks at the colonel. "As far as I know, that should be everyone except Union. I received a rather odd message from him that said he was going out of town to take care of some other business."
DePalo hmms thoughtfully. "I also have already considered your suggestion, Mr. Jones. I confess I'm ambivalent. On one hand, I have seen up close the advantages of having superhumans working hand-in-hand with the government. Captain Americathe real Captain America, that ishas served this nation heroically since the 1940s. On the other hand, I worry that some sort of official U.S. team of superhumans would kick off a new sort of arms race." He shakes his head, and something, some quality of his hard-edged military demeanor, softens a little. "I'm going out on a very shaky limb here. The safety of the U.S. delegation to the U.N. is my responsibility. I've got the best agents there are in my command. We're prepared for every contingency except one that involves the likes of the Soviet super-soldiers. The men on that 'guest list' are all important to national security, especially Mr. Stark, Mr. Hammer, and Dr. Sallis." A hint of fierceness creeps into DePalo's eyes and voice. "I've seen too many good men die. I don't want there to be any bodybags needed on my watch."
Bethany chimes in, "Colonel dePaulo, I'm sure the country is well served by your dedication and skill. However, I would like to point out that this group was originally conceived as a civilian endeavor. I for one would prefer that it stay that way," Bethany says as diplomatically as she can.
"I expect most if not all of us who can do so will be willing to lend a hand in the U.N. situation, but there's been no chance for a broader discussion since our return from Asgard, and it might be best not to make any assumptions at this point."
Dumas looked over at the side table next to the sofa and put his brandy glass on the table and then looked around the room. Delta V has been rather quiet through all this. He had quite a bit to lose personally, Dumas supposed. The man's family had been threatened, and possibly by these jack booted thugs in United States military uniforms. They could not be trusted, that was one thing Dumas had learned since being betrayed by them. He peered around the room and his glance met with Tony's. Stark could see Dumas's acknowledgment in his eyes. Victor would help, but only because his friend, Tony Stark was in danger. He cared not for the government itself.
Dumas peers at the colonel. "Colonel, I suspect that your country, and others, will experience a super powered arms race whether they wish to or not. No doubt other countries have already begun this for themselves. More than likely, these Soviet Super Soldiers are the U.S.S.R.'s first foray into this super powered agents or team concept. It seems like a natural step in the evolution of super powered beings. They formed together for the Allies and the Nazis during World War Two, certainly during this time of heightened nationalism, other groups would form. Your arms race has likely already started. Though as Ms. Cabe has said, I wouldn't count on the Specter joining such an organization. Of course nor would I actively oppose such an undertaking by the United States."
DePalo smiles thinly. "That's mighty white of you, Doctor, considering the fact that, should the U.S. decide on such a course of action, you'd have absolutely no say in the matter."
Dumas scoffs. "I should think that if you were given the assurance that someone such as myself with a great amount power, would not interfere in your affairs, that you would be pleased rather than ungrateful and rude."
Victor looked at Emerald and then Delta V. "You can however, count on my help in this incident, as I am an internationalist and I fully support the United Nations and Tony Stark with their involvement in the Republic of South Viet Nam's war against their communist neighbors to the North."
Bethany nods, indicating the group's general agreement. "May we view those photographs again?" She wants to make certain she'll recognize any of them if they appear. "This Kravinoff, can he assume other human forms, or only those of animals?" Thinking to herself, _Magnetics. That could present us with certain problems. The Voice? That could mean just about anything._
"Of course," DePalo says, restarting the slide show. "As far as we know, Kravinoff is limited to animal forms. Aside from his magnetic powers, Kragoff has shown a degree of superhuman strength. We have one report of him overturning a two and a half ton truck. We know the least about the Voice, but suspect that she is capable of some sort of mind control."
Rick looked to where Delta V was standing silently throughout the whole conversation. Silently he wished the man well, and hoped that Curt's wife and son were as safe as the colonel had said. He wondered what the others would think of him speaking out like this. His eyes went to Tony Stark, and his empathic senses stretched out to the others.
Bethany is concerned yet calm. Rick senses a growing annoyance in Dumas, although it doesn't show. Delta V and Stark are both scared. The colonel's dominant emotion, oddly enough, seems to be boredom.
There is some more conversation, distracted and wandering, that lasts for several minutes. DePalo and Stark do most of the talking. A knock at the door interrupts the meeting.
"Enter," Tony says.
The double doors swing inward. Flanked by two men in dark suits, white shirts, and dark ties, is Ravdna the Valkyrie.
Dumas turns towards the doors expecting another annoyance and delay, but is pleasantly surprised when he sees their Asgardian ally.
Rick's eyes light up at the sight of their onetime companion. "Hail and well met," he greets her. "Colonel, is there someplace else you'd rather be?" without waiting for an answer he continues. "If these Soviet Super Agents do decide to attack Mr. Stark here it would be best if someone were close by. I'd volunteer for that, but I have some other personal business I need to get to."
Dumas is rather surprised at the tone of Emerald towards the Colonel and pleased at the same time. He too wished the military man would leave. Unless of course he was here to draft them for service in Viet Nam. Dumas nearly chuckled at the thought.
"I don't think there's much risk here," Bethany replies with a nod to Ravdna. "We'll be in touch." No need to mention the meeting with the unpleasant colonel present.
"I concur with Mister Stark's security chief. Ravdna is an ally." He says to the colonel.
Ravdna acknowledges Aegis' nod in kind after placing her former compatriot without her armor. "Greetings" she responds to Rick with a tone indicative of both worry and relief easily picked up by Emerald and his empathy.
Rick sets down his water cup, nods his thanks to Mr. Stark, then looks to where Ravdna is coming into the room. "I'll be back a little later to drop off your wheels," he says as he walks out.
Victor's right eyebrow raises up a centimeter at the statement. But nods because the colonel is still there. Though he wants to make sure that Emerald will return later for the meeting and not just to drop off the car.
Dumas speaks up as Rick is leaving. "Rick is their something you need help with?" He asks hoping the young man isn't disillusioned by the government's interference.
Rick turns at the question from the would be monarch. "I need a great many things," he says finally. "But somehow I keep thinking that if you helped me to get them sometime down the line there'd be strings attached to them," Rick walks from the office before the man can answer. Once he is outside Rick goes back to where he parked the little roadster and pulls it out into the late morning traffic. He drives carefully, checking to see if anyone is following the distinctive automobile. Broadway beckons, and within moments of leaving Stark Enterprises he comes to the famous avenue.
Victor pulls his head back a little bit surprised at the reaction. "I am at a loss to understand the youth of this country. Their motives and actions seem so chaotic." He says to nobody in particular after Rick had left.
Victor nods to the Asgardian. "Surely you must have a tale to tell?"
Acknowledging Dumas "Verily mortal...but I have seen many councils of war in my lifetime...perhaps anon I will have the chance to recount my tale." Worry for Patsy registers on her brow but her warrior resolve appears across he sharp Northern features as she says to the group, "I have stood at yon side before and would gladly do so again. What trials plague you?"
"They're kind of hard to explain, but before we get down to that, you didn't by any chance lose anything recently, did you?" Bethany inquires.
Instead of answering the Valkyrie, Dumas waits for her answer to Bethany wondering what Aegis is referring to. perhaps besides the obvious fact that the Asgardian is not wearing her normal clothing.
Ravdna's eyes light with curiosity "Yea! Mine enchanted spear Gugnir. I fear Loki's magicks have separated it from my side e'er it has been since the All-Father blessed me with it."
Bethany nods. "It's stuck in my front steps. I was wondering about that." Glancing at the men still bracketing the valkyrie, she adds, "I think we can dispense with that."
Depalo nods and the men exit as Ravdna lunges forward and hefts Bethany off the ground with a tremendous bear hug as she says "T'would appear it found a noble guardina whilst separated from me!"
After placing Cabe down she shakes her fist heaven ward "Mischief maker your spells have failed against the might of Odin. I shall have my due!"
After her initial moment of defensive shock, Bethany is merely very, very, surprised. *Damn, she's strong.* "I certainly hope so," she manages to reply.
"In the meantime," she turns back to their military visitor, "we seem to have a certain number of willing volunteers, and we'll see if we can round up any more to deal with the immediate crisis. Naturally, we'll need to be informed as to the security measures already in place for the meeting. Any further discussion at the moment might not be much to the point, I'm afraid." She glances after the departed youth. "We will certainly do our best to see that these agents do no harm to anyone, should they appear."
Once he is outside Rick goes back to where he parked the little roadster and pulls it out into the late morning traffic. He drives carefully, checking to see if anyone is following the distinctive automobile. Broadway beckons, and within moments of leaving Stark Enterprises he comes to the famous avenue.
Rick has mixed luck. There are plenty of opportunities for employment to be found in restaurants, parking lots, and so on. The hours would be irregular, the jobs insecure, and pay low, but they are still there. One prospect, however, does perhaps seem more interesting. In a Greenwich Village publication pertaining to the arts and cinema, Rick reads that famed special effects designer Quentin Beck is producing his first film. Beck is looking for staff to fill a variety of positions. Initial interviews are Monday at 9:00 a.m.
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© 1999 Mark L. Chance et al