"Maybe," Emerald puts in. "But are you sure you want to go one on one with someone named Skurge, the Executioner?"
"Worth a shot... OK, how does this sound? Dr. Dumas, Darkangel, your abilities seem well suited for reconnaissance. We'll try to avoid detection if possible. If it does come to a fight, the Captain and I are probably the most durable, so we can form the front line, as it were. We didn't do very well with these guys one-on-one, so I'd suggest teaming up and fighting defensively when possible, at least on the way inrescue first, then paybacks. And I'm winging it here, gentlemen," she adds with complete candor, "so if you've got an idea don't hesitate to speak up." It's pretty vague, as plans go, especially when we don't know what kind of environment we're going to land in. But surely some organization is better than nothing; she glances around the group to see their responses.
"From what I know of all your abilities, I would suggest that Emerald is equally suited for both frontline combat and reconnaissance. With his telekinetic abilities, he could shield himself from the heavy hitters while striking handily with such tactics as lifting the Vikings into the air as to make them ineffective in combat. Though hopefully we can use stealth, as taking on an entire Viking army as opposed to a small raiding party is not preferred I would think."
He looks around.
"I think any plan we make here will need to be modified once we arrive."
"I'll do what I can," Emerald says simply. He looks nervous beneath the suit.
In short order, the various heroes have entered the clean room in the underground Stark Industries laboratory. Stark flips the lights, bathing the room in a harsh fluorescent glow. Along two opposite walls are long tables atop which sit rows of what appear to be small television sets. Attached to each TV is a typewriter keyboard. Behind each is a box, about one foot high and three feet wide.
"Those are part of our latest line of microcomputers," Stark explains. "We've long since phased out vacuum tubes, compressing energy, memory, and wiring requirements into a vastly smaller space while at the same time improving storage and speed dramatically. Some day, despite what the execs at IBM think, every household will have its own microcomputer."
In the center of the room is a raised platform about a foot high with what are perhaps best described as rollbars with about a six foot radius. Flanking the platform are twin control panels covered with arcane looking buttons, dials, and display screens. The platform itself is about a five foot square. At the far end of the platform is a smaller, higher, table-like surface, topped by smaller rollbars.
"This is the dimensional transport," Stark announces. "The tuner is there" He points to the table-like surface "which analyzes the specific dimensional frequency and then feeds that frequency into these arcs" He indicates the smaller rollbars. "which in turn breakdown the frequency into a stepped mathematical sequence that is then routed into the larger arcs in incremental steps. This in turn slowly alters the dimensional frequency of whatever is under the larger arcs, causing it to shift from our dimension to the alien dimension once the object's specific frequency has been altered."
Stark coughs, a deep shuddering noise.
"Sorry," he laughs. "Been a little under the weather lately. Of course, the actual science behind the transport's operation is a great deal more complicated. To be honest, Victor is the only person on staff who understands the entire project." Stark shrugs. "Anyway, all we have to do is put the Viking's axe into the tuner and charge things up. The science may be as esoteric as all get out, but the actual operation is pretty simple."
Much of Stark's explanation of the dimensional transporter was totally lost on Union, who's attention was captivated by the row of microcomputers. He walks up and down them, looking over the rest of the electronics array with a practiced eye, a calm demeanor, and an inventor's excitement. *This is _Wonderful!_ I've done some work on hard circuit design myself for the armor, but this sort of a linked network for casual interface is beautiful. I could probably increase the speed by two orders of magnitude with cybernetic interface, but that would be pretty costly...* The next few moments of conversation wash over the silver-clad hero, who is lost in the wonderland that only the technological can find. There are admitted moments of envy over Stark's funding and design, and questions concerning how Stark deals with his work force... *The DOD concept is troubling too. I need to talk with Stark on some of these theories after this is over.*
After Stark was finished explaining things Victor stepped forward and began work. He directed the person with the axe, Delta V, to hand it off to Stark so that he could place it in the tuner. As he waited for that to happen, Dumas continued to make last minute changes in the system. On the table next to him were several devices that looked like arm bands with some sort of technology fastened to them. Victor checked and tweaked each device.
Delta V hands the axe to Stark. "Here's the axe. You know, biology is my particular area of expertise, but some of the symbols on that machine don't look entirely scientific."
Tony Stark takes the heavy weapon from Delta V and locks in place on the smaller platform while Victor Dumas adjusts dials, flips switches, and checks display screens.
"Victor found it necessary to get a little...creative with some of the math," Stark says to Delta V regarding the unusual symbols. "Working with him on this project has been a lot what I imagine it must've been like for people who new Newton or Liebniz, watching them create a whole new system of math to meet the needs of a new field of science."
While Victor fiddles with the gizmos, Captain America tries (as subtly as he can) to huddle the others (or, at least, Aegis, Delta V, and Union) together. If Dumas noticed it, he pretended to as he worked on the axe's vibrational attunement frequency.
Adrian's heart leapt somewhat when he felt the Captain's hand on his armlike a child caught perusing the candy counter who was seriously contemplating theftthough as always the Union armor prevented any unnecessary physical movement, and he glides over to join the young hero. "What's the matter, La... Captain?", he asked, biting down the urge to call the young man 'Lad' or any other diminutive. *He started earning the right to wear the suit yesterday, Adriandon't patronize him.*
"Okay folks, this Dumas guy seems to really know his stuff, but I'm not too sure him being the only one through, at first. It's not that I don't trust him," the young man tries not to pause too long on that remark, and fails, before abruptly resuming his sentence "but I know I do trust the rest of us. Besides, even if he can walk through walls, I'm sure those guys have something that could ruin his day. We help nobody if the only guy who can get us there and back gets taken out by some ancient Norwegian with a magic axe. I think we need at least one of us watching his back from the get-go. By the way, did those Vikings sound kinda British to you guys?"
"Trust is not the issue here," Aegis replies firmly. "But you do have a point. And I wasn't paying much attention to their accents, tell the truth. Somebody want to volunteer to go along as backup while he plants our beacon, take an initial look around to see what we're dealing with?"
Union nods, "As impressive as Dumas' ability appears, he might still be as vulnerable to 'magic' as the Captain here, and that would make him and us vulnerable to stumbling into the wrong place. That probably holds true for technological heroes such as Aegis and myself." Union nods to Delta V, still puzzling about what the Captain was interested in accents, "Unless DarkAngel's powers are actually mystical in nature, I think you might be our best bet for joining the good Doctor in his trip through. Your speed should make you safe from most attacks, and if things do go awry, you can get both of you out."
Adrian sees Delta V's sharp nod of assent to this, and took a moment to look over the superhuman physician's new costume. *How did he get something like that put together in just one day? It must have taken...,* One metaphorical head slap later, *Of course, he has super speedit probably took him all of thirty seconds to stitch that together! It certainly makes looking at him less stressful on the eyes than the face-blurring he used on the docks.*
"I'm no tactical expert," Cap says looking primarily at Aegis, "but I think we need more of a plan than 'let's look around and figure something out when we get there'. At least some definite ideas on how to deal with particular Vikings we've already seen?"
"Neither am I, unfortunately." She folds her arms thoughtfully, looking around the group while Dumas fiddles with the machinery. "Magical Vikings are wee bit out of the ordinary. I think we should avoid getting in too close with these guys if we can possibly help it, though. And definitely coordinate our attacks‹two or even three on one if possible. That hammer guyThor, I assumeand the one with the axe, I'm not *as* worried about, since it seems like they're not much good at a distance, and we might have an edge when it comes to mobility, since most of us can fly. The magic aspect has me kind of concerned, though, that other guy with the lightning bolts." And the fact that we don't know if maybe there's a whole bunch more of them that we don't know about waiting in the wings, she adds silently.
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© 1999 Mark L. Chance et al