Mysteries of identity.
Conundrums, Contingencies and Crises
"Tony." Arms folded over her chest, Bethany glares at her employer. "Go *home.* Get some rest. For pity's sake, have you looked in a mirror lately? I'll break your legs if that's what it takes." She softens her tone a bit as she picks up the Aegis helmet. "Let me worry about this UN thing, that *is* my job. You need some sleep."
A fleeting, tired smile -- he'd seen through the tough-chick persona a while ago, though too polite to remark on it -- but more importantly, a nod. "Your persuasive abilities are stunning as ever. Let me know what happens."
"Of course. Ravdna? Let's get this show moving."
"It's almost time to go," the doctor says to Cap. "I suppose you should be change into your costume."
The man called Captain America is silent for a second, pondering those words: _My costume, indeed! I feel like a little kid playing at King Arthur. Or... wait, no. Not anymore. I'd gotten so used to being overwhelmed I reflexively short-changed myself there. I may not be worthy of this legendary hero from an imaginary place, but the knock-kneed fear is gone. It's this hero's name and all it stands for that make me confident to do all I can with these powers, to help this world, and maybe save it from my own._
"Suppose so." The young man responds, as he snags the star-spangled bundle of cloth from its perch atop a nearby door. He looks at the scientist with a smile "You gotten any better with the idea of flying with me, Doc?"
The dark city scrolls by beneath the flying pair, and after a few failed attempts to carry on a conversation over the howl of the chill night winds, the Captain and the scientist are silent for the trip.
Alighting on the rooftop, Cap sets the scientist on his feet. The older man stretches, arms over his head for a few seconds before readjusting his scarf and collar.
"So Doc, what do you think of that stuff on the news about Alabama?"
"Hm, not really sure what to think. Back home we had the occasional riots, but those were generally for food shortages and to protest political crimes. And in The State people of any one ethnic type certainly tended to prefer their own to others, but we mostly were concerned with survival and keeping out of trouble with the secret police. Hatred on this level for these reasons is preposterously barbaric, in my opinion. I must admit however, that I am an outsider, and don't necessarily grasp the nuances of having grown up around here."
"I think it stinks, it stinks to High Heaven! I am gonna tell the rest of the Avengers tonight that I think we should get down there and...." Cap's voice trails off at the flare of green light along the railing at the building's edge, signaling Emerald's approach.
"He's here." the young Captain says as Emerald rises into view.
Emerald looks at the young Captain America and his companion, then finally lands a few yards away. "Good evening," he greets the pair. "Who's your friend?"
The scientist steps forward, locking his gaze with Emerald's, in a forceful, nearly angry fashion " I do speak English, kid," he says, a grin suddenly cracking his face, "and the name's Banner, Bruce Banner. I had a bit of a hand in your 'desert incident'."
Cap feels the fleeting urge to lean in and separate the other two men, somehow feeling that Emerald is in danger. But the sheer silliness of the notion banishes this thought as quickly as it arose, and as Bruce and Emerald finish their handshake, he stands facing the Green Avenger, about to speak when Emerald sharply cuts him off."
"I have a few questions to ask you, starting with how you know who I am," There is a tension in the air that was not present a moment before.
"Well, I...a-hem" Cap clears his throat and finds his voice," When I heard you talking about the explosion in the Desert, I started wondering. Y'see, I was in that same explosion, kinda, and I *a-hem* I knew that if you were around, then you must have survived it too. Look, I've been wanting to tell you this ever since I found out, but this is... " He stops abruptly.
Cap looks suddenly uncomfortable and steps back a couple paces and quickly regains his composure to turn and greet Ravdna and Aegis as they touch down.
Emerald's mood lightens somewhat as the two women land on the observation deck. "Good evening," he says to them. "I was just about to tell the Captain here that there's a situation we may wind up needing his help with here in New York," he turns to Bruce Banner and says sotto voice, "We'll talk more about the explosion later."
Banner nods. "That should prove...interesting." He gives Cap a knowing glance.
"Evening," Aegis replies briefly, glancing at the strange man with the Captain but leaving the obvious question unasked. "I'll say... Union's not going to make it, has anyone heard from DarkAngel? I suppose we should wait for Spectre," she realizes. "It'll save going over things more than once."
A voice came from above them. "Your wait is over Aegis. The Specter has arrived!"
Victor Dumas, in full Specter costume with his long cape billowing about in a ghostly manner, floats down towards them gently on the wind until he lands silently on the observation deck and becomes solid once more.
He stands amongst his peers with his arms folded at his chest. Specter looks over to Banner with curiosity wondering who this new man is that seems to be associated with their ally Captain America. There is something familiar about the newcomer. Dumas is certain he's seem him somewhere before, but he can't quite yet place him.
Spectre's arrival interrupts Ravdna from her reverie over the chasm like cityscape that the observation platform provides...hopefully she will be able to aid her one-time companions in their new quest in a timely enough manner that they will be able to help her find the missing mortal...
Delta V speeds through the city, a mere blur weaving between buildings. He reaches the Empire State Building and doesn't slow down, instead running up the shear surface until he reaches the top.
"Sorry I'm late." (He muses at the thought. 'I am possibly the fastest man alive, and I am the last to arrive. I'm just so worried about my wife and son. Even under the protection of the government, the thought that super-powered foreign agents might be after them to get to me makes me not want to leave their side. Still, the best way to insure their safety is to eliminate the threat before it gets to them.') "What have I missed?"
"We're just getting started," Emerald said. He gestures to the scientist. "This is a friend, of Cap's," he says by way of introduction.
"I'm Bruce. Bruce Banner," he says, clearing up one mystery for Dumas while opening up another in the process. Dumas met Banner once at a physics convention at MIT. He gave a rather brilliant, somewhat unorthodox lecture on the quantum properties of gamma radiation. The newcomer certainly looks and sounds like Banner, but there is still something different. The past few months perhaps have been harsh. Banner is now leaner, harder, with a look of defiance and fear mixed in his eyes.
"I think maybe we'd better start bringing people up to date on the new situation," Emerald looks over at Aegis for confirmation. As he talks his eyes drift from one member of the group to the next in a nervous gesture the young man doesn't seem to be aware of. "We had a visit from someone working for the US government today. It seems they want us to save the world for democracy from the forces of the Soviet Bear," he looks over at Captain America to see how he reacts to this news.
"The guy's a real prize, too," Aegis remarks dryly. "Seems like the rest of us are already roped in by one means or another, but we thought we'd see how everyone else feels about the situation -- we can use all the help we can get."
With a glance at the Captain's companion she continues, "May I ask in what capacity you are present? The information we've been given is classified, and while we have been empowered to request help from the rest of the group, I'm sure you're aware of how paranoid military types can be. I would not want to place you in a difficult position as part of this discussion."
Banner shrugs. "Difficult is a relative term," he says. "As for my capacity, Captain America and I are friends. We share a sort of common origin. He thought tonight might be a good time to for him to share some of this origin, and also thought I might be better able to explain so of the more obtuse parts."
With that reassurance, she quickly outlines what dePaulo told them about the potential threat to the speakers at the conference, and the likely presence of Soviet super-agents.
Any reaction Cap may have had is abruptly overshadowed entirely by the guttural cry that tears from Ravdna's throat. Banner and Dumas both recoil, as if the tortured sound summons unpleasant memories. Ravdna drops to her knees. Her outline wavers, almost like a TV picture going out of focus. When everything snaps back into place, Ravdna is gone. Kneeling in her place is a red-haired woman in a nightgown who looks up with wide, bewildered eyes. The assembled heroes all recognize her as one of the half-dozen woman rescued from Asgard, the one named Patsy Walker.
Emerald quickly shrugs out of his jacket and drapes it loosely about the young woman's shoulders. "Miss?" he asks. "Are you okay?" he backs off a few steps to give the woman some air.
Confusion momentarily washes over her devastating good looks. Standing as she wraps herself in Emeralds jacket she notes her unexpected location and company and takes it in stride as only a woman who had been abducted by Viking Warriors just days before could. "Umm...well at least I'm still on Earth this time. That's a step in the right direction. Any idea how I got here?"
Blinking in considerable surprise, Aegis says, "I wonder. Magic like this... what's the last thing you remember?" She recalls Ravdna's curses directed on Loki's direction; surely Odin wasn't still allowing him to cause trouble on Earth?
"Screaming at the top of my lungs over a nightmare of Robert beating me again" would be the answer she'd give Hank but as much as she owes these heroes it's not the answer for them. "Waking up from a nightmare...No, wait. I saw my reflection but it wasn't mine...one of those Amazon's..."
Dumas watches everything with interest and then takes a step forward towards the woman. "Miss Walker? I hope you remember me?"
"Yes. You brought us to Stark Labs. Thank you again."
"It was my pleasure Miss Walker. As always the Specter is here to serve." Dumas replied.
"Was this 'amazon' tall with blond hair?" Dumas needed to eliminate the obvious first. Though his family were of European gypsy descent, within the last generation they had become scientists instead of sorcerers. Though his grandmother had practiced the craft. Something that Victor did not believe it all that much until his recent experiences in Asgard where magic was quite prevalent. This could be some trick of Loki's. Perhaps he switched their bodies or something of the like.
"Yes. She looked a bit like the one helping you in that other place but things are such a blur...I can't be sure."
"So she shows up on Earth, and you're gone," Aegis muses aloud. "Strange. Theories?" She glances around.
"Hmmm.." Victor thinks out loud a bit. "Perhaps it was some sort of dimensional attunement. If they ever made contact physically while in Asgard, their molecules could have been linked somehow and when I brought Miss Walker back to our dimension, Ravdna could have been drawn back with her. Though with no way for Ravdna to travel to our dimension, she could not physically exist here without a template to impose her physiological presence onto. Thus Miss Walker was chosen because of some previous physical link. Perhaps they wouldn't have even needed to make direct physical contact, but instead indirectly having possibly touched or even occupied the same space at different times. Though as confusing as that explanation probably sounds to most of you, I would more likely believe it is some sort of magic with origins from Asgard. Even as a man of science, I can't ignore the fact that we were in Asgard with gods throwing eldritch bolts at each other."
Dumas brings a hand up to rub his chin.
Aegis nods, a trifle confused but unwilling to show it before Dumas "I suppose we'd best get you home, in any case. Shouldn't take long; perhaps you can update the good Captain and Dr. Banner while I'm gone?" she asks the three who were at the meeting.
Victor says nothing but looks at Miss Walker to see her response. Patsy looks to Aegis with pleading eyes hungry for answers, "Wait, please. I have to know what's going on here."
Turning to Dumas "Mom's friend Stan wrote funny books with stories like that. Did something go wrong when you brought me back? Are you saying that I've been possessed by one of those Asgardian women?"
"I'm saying that something might have happened to you in Asgard. Some magic of sorts. But I do think its wise that you go with Aegis here back to your home. At the very least she can get you into some normal clothing. If you'd rather I will accompany you home?" Victor asked.
Patsy had just begun to establish a life of her own in the City, a life away from her mother's constant fawning and good intentioned interference and away from Robert's ferocity...to lose control to some other worldly force was just too much and her anger breaks through, "I need to know what's going on here! What's to stop it from happening again? What if I go home and next time I come to it's in the middle of traffic on Broadway? Please don't brush me aside..."
Aegis keeps her sigh silent. "We don't intend to," she replies seriously. "Whatever's going on here represents a mystery I think it would do well to understand, not just for your own sake. But I don't know if we'll be able to find those answers right now."
Frowning, she goes on, "Ideally, you should probably be kept under observation for a while, at least until we can establish what acts as the trigger -- if there is one. Is anyone going to be looking for you? If you've been 'missing' since this morning...."
Dumas puts his gloved hand on Patsy's shoulder and speaks to her is a soothing voice.
"Aegis is right. Listen to her. If we are going to find out what is ails you, we will need to study the problem and you. I am a scientist, as is Doctor Banner here and our mutual associate Tony Stark. If you wish, you can come back with me to my castle on Long Island where my laboratory is and we can see if we can figure what this is that is plaguing you?"
Aegis' eyes narrow sharply behind the darkened glass. _Boy, you don't waste any time,_ she thinks sardonically, not sure how the woman is going to react to the contact -- or the invitation -- given her state of undress and the peculiar situation she's in....
Cringing at the unexpected touch Patsy pulls away from Dumas a step and pulls her jacket tighter. Cursing her body language's betrayal of her past she thinks "Dammit! He's just trying to help. Get a grip, woman."
Dumas lets his hands slowly drop away. "I'm apologize if I've startled you Miss Walker."
"I'm sorry. You all did so much for me and the others already I don't mean to sound ungrateful. I'll go home and wait for a call -- you people must have gathered here for another reason anyway and I need some time to think."
Dumas gives a courtly bow and takes a step back surrounding himself in his long cape and hood.
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© 2000 Mark L. Chance et al