The meeting continues.
Stark raises an eyebrow, thinks, and then shrugs. "There's probably work somewhere, but not for an actor. Groundskeeper, janitor, the mail room, those areas, I'm sure we're shorthanded somewhere."
Dumas broke in. "Perhaps we could discuss this at the lab?" He looked around the observation floor.
Dumas put his arm around Emerald's shoulder in a friendly manner and started to walk him towards the exit with the hopes the others would start to follow so they could get a move on the mission.
"An actor you say? I have friends in the theater here in New York and over in London. Perhaps I could introduce you to them. Besides, who wants to work for stuffy old Stark Industries as mail boy eh my good man?"
Rick smiles beneath his mask once more. "Broadway?" his voice carries the excitement of an actor at the mention of the famous avenue. "Tell me more Mr Dumas," he follows the older man as far as the door, which is closed due to the lateness of the hour. Emerald floats up over the guard railings and hangs out over the city.
The meeting atop the Empire State Building comes to a close and the group of heroes moves on to Stark Industries. In short order, the entire group is being led by the somewhat imperious Victor Dumas and the slightly disheveled Tony Stark, walking down a long, white, clean hallway in an underground facility.
"Most of our sensitive research," Stark explained. "Occurs in secure, subterranean facilities such as this one."
Stark swipes a code card through a slot next to a formidable door. There is a pop! hiss! as the door slowly slides inward and to the side, revealing a smallish room, the far wall of which is mostly glass. Several suits, very similar to medical scrubs, hang from pegs on the walls to the left and right.
"This is a clean room," Stark says. "The circuitry we're developing here is extremely sensitive to even the most minute particles of dust. You will all have to put on a suit."
Victor reaches for the suit and starts putting it on. He puts the body suit on and then the boots and the gloves then fastens them all down with the rubber band like ties. Then finally he puts on the scalp cap and the face shield and looks at the others and sees if anyone needs any help getting dressed.
"Don't worry if your a little hot in the suit. It is highly air conditioned in the room beyond."
"I'm not so much worried about the temperature of the suit, Doctor, but whether it will fit over this armor..." Union flicks the same sequence of cybernetic switches he used the other afternoon. His armor flares slightly with an electric blue, and a small cloud of dust particles flies away from the armor, trapped and expelled by the suits energy fields. "I trust that will be sufficient, Mr. Stark?"
Emerald suits up as quickly as he can manage. "So what sort of work are you doing here Mr. Stark?"
Stark shrugs. "A little this. A little that. Mostly we're involved with dee oh dee contract work. Weaponry, computer miniaturization, top secret projects of that nature."
Familiar and impatient with these proceedings, Aegis manages to keep from actually tapping her foot on the floor as the group deals with the clean room suits.
"So is there any way to see what we're going to be getting into before we do this, or do we just hold our noses and jump?" she asks Dumas while Emerald chats with Tony. "I don't suppose we're lucky enough that this thing can somehow tell right where they are, and all we have to do is grab them and hop back?"
Dumas regards Aegis through the clear visor of the clean suit.
"I'm afraid not dear Aegis. We will be going in blind, but from my best guests that is what they did when they arrived in our universe. The devices transport us there and we will have to deal with whatever is there when we arrive. I would therefore suggest that those of you capable of flying grab those of you who can't in the event we appear far above the landscape or over water. I can however nearly guarantee that we will not be transported into an object which of course would combine our molecules and mean instant death."
He looks around at everyone as they pause to hear his horrific prediction. Victor quickly continues. "Have no fear, I said, nearly guarantee that you won't die. So far it has yet to happen on any experiment we have conducted in the past....and to make you all comfortable, I will volunteer to go first to set a beacon so that the rest of you will have a safe place to appear. Thereby eliminating your risk. Sound fair?"
*What? _You're_ going to protect _us_?* Adrian's eyes goggled at the statement, covered by the armor. *He still hasn't revealed his 'mystery power' yet. I can make a good guess, considering his history and what we saw today, but even still he's hamming this up. Of course we're running a risk, but he's deliberately playing up how important _He's_ going to be to this. I think the rest of us will need to have a talk about this Doctor Dumas later...*
"I hardly think that anything is going to 'eliminate' the risk of this endeavoror any other," Aegis replies, somewhat miffed at the implicit accusation from someone who hadn't even been around for the previous day's carnage. "But anything that increases our odds of success is fine with me."
"I don't see the difference in the two. By going there before the rest of you, I will be eliminating the risk of you appearing...say...in the middle of their army encampment. Thereby increasing your odds of success. I'm sure even you can understand now?" Dumas wasn't overtly rude, but he did respond to Aegis's words with an appropriate equal tone and then continued to listen.
Adrian shakes his head inside the Union armor, biting back a retort, *Perhaps he's as much like Bestman as I thought. Except more arrogant. But I don't think Aegis needs my help in this little verbal sparring match.*
There's a slight chill in Aegis voice as she responds, and Adrian can almost hear her eyebrows arch under her armor. "Now that we're more private, Dr. Dumas, would you care to elaborate on those additional abilities you have?"
"Well I say fair is fair then." With his back against the door they are about to go through he sees that everyone is fully dressed in their clean suits. Victor Dumas takes a step backwards seemingly to bump into the door behind him, but instead he passes through it as if it were an illusion. A second later the door slides open sideways with a hiss and he is standing there on the other side of the threshold.
"My powers are similar to Miss Susan Storm's. We were involved in the same 'experiment' that granted us like abilities. Though I differ from her in that I do not seek to use my gift for my own selfish advancement. I only seek to serve the public in the best manner possible utilizing those given powers."
He gestures with his arm to the others. "Please come this way. I'm sure Tony will be more than happy to explain as we walk along."
He allows the others to pass through when they are ready and then follows behind them.
"That goes for all of us, actuallysince we don't know exactly what we're up against going into this, we're going to need to plan for as many eventualities as possible, and we've only got an hour. That means knowing what we're all capable of. Emerald, Union, I think we covered you. This suit enhances my strength and speed, has some built-in weapons systems. And I've got some training in hand-to-hand combat, 'though after yesterday I'm not anxious to try close quarters with these guys again," she admits.
A bit of a plan is shaping up in Aegis' mind. She's glad all the same that no one can see her biting at her lower lip behind the tinted faceplate (she's been told it's a fetching habit, but it's one she'd like to break). _One on one, I like to think that I know what I'm doing. Something like this, a bunch of well-meaning, untrained novices, half walking wounded, a couple of them just kids, up against god-literally-knows what?_
Sun Tzu would not approve, to put it mildly. But it doesn't look like they've got any real choice. Thinking about what those women might be going through is enough to nearly make her sick.
"'Captain,'" she can't quite keep herself from putting mental quotes around the sobriquet, "I hate to ask this, but how are you feeling? That was quite a hit you took."
"Wha?" The young Captain is snapped from the faraway trance he's been under since talk of the rescue trip began. "Oh, not too bad, actually. A doctor friend of mine examined the cut, said he couldn't see how I lost so much blood through what was pretty much a flesh wound. Something about blood vessels opening up when they should have contracted or something. Ate like a horse all morning, and I'm feelin' pretty good."
"As far as powers? Well, I fly, I'm real strong...and I WAS pretty sure nothing could hurt me. My friend, as a test, dropped a truck engine block on me from a 50 foot crane, and it didn't even knock the wind out of me. That axe, though. Hey, do you think if I tried the old 'Put down that weapon and let's settle this like men' bit on the big bald creep, he'd go for it?"
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© 1999 Mark L. Chance et al