Union at work; a meeting at Stark Industries.
*Heroes. Super Heroes...It sure has been a long time since anyone seen any of those roaming around New York. Aegis, at least I understand her powers, though I'm flabbergasted that anyone got anti-gravity to work. Whoever she is, she must be brilliant to have put that suit together. But the others... biological mutation that puts even the Sub-Mariner to shame: DarkAngel's wings and shadows of substance, the strength of Captain America's muscles or Emerald's telekinesis, Delta V's speed. What in heaven's name could have prompted all of this...*
Adrian's mind wander back to the costumed adventurers he had met years before, comparing and contrasting them to those he had met today as he made his way into his workshop through the secret door. The table latched back into position on the other side of the partition, and Adrian unerringly snagged the light cord in the pitch darkness.
*And I held my own with them. Not that we won, but I did hold my own. There's something to be said for that.* He pulled the hood on long enough to cybernetically deactivate the suit. The transition took a few seconds as the system shuts down, and it left Adrian feeling deflated. His back still ached, but a twisted glance in the mirror reveled that it wasn't as bad as he had feared. He'd hurt tomorrow morning, and have a painful bruise, but that was the extent of it.
*I need a way to not get as close to bruisers like Skurge in the future... Something with range to it.* Adrian's mind begins to work around the new problem, as well as realizing her could weave a pocket into the armor for the radio, and one on the other side for this new weapons system. The suits field would extend the protection over them, solving the problem of this morning. *Now I just need to get the metals...*
He sketched ideas on a pad by his bed for a few moments before being wracked by a yawn of Herculean proportions. A few minutes fiddling with the radio gave him 20 minutes of music to fall asleep by. *Hey. Glenn Miller.*
The next morning brings painful awareness with the alarm, followed by a slow shuffling of feet off the edge of the bed and a mild groan as Adrian's sixty year old body reminds him of his age in a most direct fashion. "Oooooouch. That hurts. If I'm going to keep this us, I have to get into better shape in real life, regardless of what the suit may give me."
Breakfast, eaten quickly, with the paper, read just as quickly, and the radio on in the background. Adrian grimaced from the front page headline of the Bugle, and from it's hard nosed editorial. *I'm not sure 'unmitigated disaster' is quite accurate. And we certainly didn't make it worse! At least the radio seems to like us. Us. How quickly we've become an 'Us'.* When the corn flakes and toast are gone, Adrian picks himself back up and makes his way downstairs. It's 7:00, and he still has to get the Kristatos' television working again before he opens the doors at 8:30. *And I have a 'business meeting' at 10:30 tonight. It's going to be a long day...*
Contrary to Adrian's expectation, the day moves fairly quickly, with breaks long enough for him to sketch out the design and construction of what he needs. *No need for cybernetics on itI can control it with the suit's magnetic fields.* He closes the shop at 6:30, and locks himself in his lab for the afternoon, pounding out what he needs and attaching it to the armor's new 'hard metal' storage compartments on the hips and upper arms. *Pretty soon I'll have a utility belt! And maybe a Union-Signal...*
When he finishes, the armor has been modified to include two solid metal 'pockets' on the hipsone holding the radio, the other the length of flexible steel wire. The wire runs up the length of suit, held into place by the field charges, to a snap away connection on his right wrist. His left arm has several more 'pockets' on it, each holding iron weights, collections of nuts and bolts or lengths of thin metal cable. *I'm not always going to be near a hardware store, and the idea of the weapons was a good one...before the hurricane blew them all away.* He checks the clock. *9:45. Time to get going. This should give me time for a leisurely flight over.*
Adrian takes the stairs to his roof, waits to see that nobody's watching, and launches himself skyward. The talk radio station was still discussing the incredible events of the day before, letting Union mull them over as well during his flight to the Empire State Building.
When Aegis returns to Stark, he looks less than pleased. Quickly, however, his displeasure turns to concern.
"What the hell were you thinking, Aegis?" he demands. "Running off like that. The suit hasn't been adequately tested, especially not for that kind of stress. I've monitoring police and emergency bands, along with the news reports. You could've been killed."
"Don't be too hard on her, Anthony," a deep voice with a noticeable European accent says. "She did what she had to do. Both of us would have done the same in her shoes."
Aegis notices for the first time the man standing in the corner.
"Aegis," Stark says. "I'd like you to meet Victor Dumas."
"Please call me Victor."
"Nice to meet you, Victor," she says coolly. "But I'm afraid Tony's right, it wasn't a very good idea, though I think things worked out for the best..." She trails off as he walks over towards Aegis, scanning the suit of armor with his eyes.
"It is quite marvelous looking Tony. It looks like it will do everything you say it can and perhaps more from what we heard over the radio."
He holds his hand to his chin in an admiring posture while looking at the form of the armor.
The form currently occupying the armor gives him a level look. "As fields tests go, I'd say it went pretty well."
"Quite fantastic indeed." Victor looks up at Aegis. "The news reports stated that others with super-human abilities arrived on the scene to aid you in your battle with the Vikings. What were they like if I may ask my dear?"
"Excuse me," Bethany says, a distinctly frosty edge in her voice nowdear? "Tony, I know you like your secrets, but would you mind telling me what's going on here? I didn't know you were bringing anyone else in on this at this stage. By the way, the communications equipment really needs work." The helmet is sitting on his desk; she taps it gently with polished fingernails. "An amplifier, or something, just to startI can hardly hear myself talk, and I don't think anyone else can at any distance. It might be nice for crowd control."
"Tony and I go back a ways. Both mutual friends of Reed Richards. But I was most concerned when I heard that the Vikings made off with several women, even though you managed to retrieve a few of them. The newsman said that the ship seemed to float into the sky and enter a rift or gateway of some sort. Is that true?"
Victor paced across the room while he was talking. When he finished speaking he stopped and looked over at Aegis for her reply.
Stark frowns. "Relax, Aegis. Victor hasn't been brought in. He was in from the get go. He developed the initial robotic exoskeleton that I later redesigned using micromotors. And an amplifier would be a good idea." Stark snaps his fingers, a characteristic gesture when he begins to digress. "But that's not why I asked Victor to be here. The Vikings' apparent use of dimension travel got our attention. Victor's been head man on Project Looking Glass, one of SI's other endeavors, this one aimed at dimension travel. The prototype works. It's been tested successfully several times with inanimate objects and lab animals. We figured it might be time for a human test."
"I see." Slightly mollified, she glances at Victor with a raised eyebrow. "Dimensional traveling? I wouldn't know about that, but they certainly did disappear into... some kind of rainbow space, I thinkI didn't get a very good look before it closed up. You suggesting we might be able to mount some kind of rescue attempt? I only got two of them out before the ship disappeared."
Dumas smiled handsomely. "Why yes. I would at least like to try a rescue. I could use some company if you're up to it? Or maybe even the individuals you met today. Of course I imagine Tony might have to get his lawyers to ask them to all sign wavers and such, but I'm confident it can be done. If we only had something that the Vikings left behind. An object or something that was from their dimension. It would of course be attuned to their home plane and thus, we should be able to calibrate our device to match it thus sending anyone to its point of origin."
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© 1999 Mark L. Chance et al