An Imp-perfect World (Ch 1)
A Whateley Academy Adventure
An Imp-Perfect World
New York, Sunday June 10th, 2007
The office was modest sized, and the only thing impressive about it was just how unimpressive it actually was. The walls were blank, empty of any paintings, awards, diplomas or decorations of any type. There were no bookshelves, potted plants, or other personal touches in the room either. In fact, the only furniture…the only objects within the room…were two chairs and a desk that was set between them.
I wasn’t the least bit surprised by the sparse furniture and complete lack of decoration to the room. In fact, I expected that by tomorrow, even the desk and chairs would be gone, leaving the room completely empty. After all, this was only a temporary office, established simply as place where the man on the other side of the desk could meet with me and perhaps a few other people.
At the moment, I was sitting in one of the two available chairs, looking across the desk at a man who had thin hair and thick glasses, but who was otherwise non-descript. His name was Michael Sinclair…or at least that was what he called himself. His real name was Edwin Javart, though he probably had no idea that I knew who he really was. He wouldn’t be very happy if he knew that I was aware of that name either, so I kept this knowledge to myself…for now.
‘Michael’ was an agent…a profession middle-man who took clients who were looking to have less than legal activities performed, and connected them to people like me, who could perform those activities. In theory, the client and talent would never actually meet, and all communication would go through the agent so that both sides would remain anonymous to each other. In practice, I never liked dealing with anonymous clients. You never knew when they might decide that since they were anonymous, they could screw you over without consequence.
Yesterday, Michael had contacted me, saying that he had a profitable job lined up and he wanted to see if I was interested. Last month, I’d done a job at Sartek, and that had turned into a complete disaster. Ever since then, I hadn’t felt motivated to go out on any more jobs, not even the ones I normally did just for fun. And though my first thought was to turn Michael down flat, he had hooked me up with some good jobs in the past, so I figured that I owed it to him to at least hear him out first.
“The job should be fairly simple,” Michael told me and little warning bells began going off in my head. “The client just needs someone to acquire a specific item from a private residence…”
“What’s the catch?” I asked.
“The security system will undoubtedly be cutting edge,” he answered carefully. Again, the little warning bells began to ring.
“And where exactly is this residence?” I asked Michael, looking him straight in the eyes. “What is the address?”
“You know I can’t give that out unless you agree to the job,” Michael tried to tell me, so I continued looking him in the eyes, making him squirm just a little. My appearance can be just a little intimidating at times, and though I usually try to tone it down so as not to scare people, sometimes my devilish good looks can be an advantage. After several long seconds, Michael slid a sheet of paper over to me. I looked at the address for a moment, then let out a sigh, recognizing it.
Among some of the people in my profession, there is an unofficial ‘bad idea’ list that gets passed around as both a friendly warning and a professional courtesy. The homes and businesses on this list were ones that no one in their right mind should try robbing, usually because there were particularly dangerous complications. For some of them, it was because the security systems were known to be especially lethal and effective. For others, it was simply because of who they were owned by…and the likelihood of their retaliation. The address that Michael had given me was on that list.
“Sorry,” I said as I got up to leave, “but I’m not stupid enough to rob Doctor Diabolik…”
From the look on Michael’s face, it was obvious that he’d known exactly who owned that home. He’d just been trying to get me to agree to the job before I found out. He protested, “Sure, Doctor Diabolik owns the property…but he doesn’t actually live there…”
I paused at the door and gave Michael a flat look. “No, but I heard that his kids do, and that would probably make it even worse.”
“Come on, Imp,” Michael pleaded. “I need someone to pull this job… The client is breathing down my neck and starting to make threats…”
“Not my problem,” I responded.
Michael had a calculating look in his eyes as he continued, “Well, if you aren’t good enough to handle a simple townhouse…”
I rolled my eyes at this obvious attempt to manipulate me through my professional pride. “If you’re looking for someone good enough to handle the security but stupid enough to take the job, I recommend you go talk to Heller…”
Michael let out a sigh at that, they wryly admitted, “Actually, she told me to try you…”
“Then I’ll have to thank Howler for that recommendation the next time I see her,” I mused aloud with a shake of my head. I looked back to Michael and told him, “Sorry, but I don’t have time to stay and chat. I have another important meeting scheduled in a little bit, and I don’t want to be late for it. See ya later, alligator.” And with that, I walked out the door, not even bothering to look back as Michael called out my name.
A short time later, I arrived at the site of my next meeting, an empty rooftop. Since it was late afternoon on a Sunday, most of the offices inside were closed for the weekend and there was little chance that anyone would interrupt. Still, I made sure that no one else was there and that the door to the stairway was locked. After all, there was no reason to take any unnecessary chances. Once I was satisfied that it was safe, I sat down on a bench that had been left on the roof as part of a smoking area and proceeded to wait.
I didn’t have to wait long before the person I was waiting on arrived, stepping through the locked door as though the door itself wasn’t even there. Melissa…aka Mischief…was a teenage girl of about thirteen or fourteen, with long blonde hair and the kind of pretty features which would probably make her into a real looker in just a couple years. At the moment, though, she still lacked much in the way of real curves, making her look more like the girl she had been than the woman she would soon become.
“Imp,” Melissa exclaimed as soon as she saw me. A broad grin appeared on her face as she ran over to me. “You came…”
“Of course I came,” I responded with a roll of my eyes. “I told you I would…”
This was the fifth time I’d seen Melissa, and only the third time that I’d intentionally come to meet with her. Every time we saw each other, she always got excited, acting almost like I was giving her some kind of gift just by showing up. I had to admit, I rather liked that since it was a pleasant change from the way most people reacted when they saw me. Hanging out with this kid was definitely good for my self-esteem…not that it needed any help.
“So,” I asked her with a grin. “Have you been practicing like I told you?”
“Yeah,” Melissa responded, nearly bouncing with excitement as she scrambled to take off the backpack that was slung over her shoulder. A moment later, she emptied the contents, dumping a dozen padlocks onto the ground in front of me. She gave me a smug look and bragged, “I can open all of them now…”
“Good job,” I said, holding out another lock…one that hadn’t been in the collection I’d previously given her. “Now try this one.”
Melissa pulled out the lock pick set that I’d given her during our third meeting and sat down beside me before going to work. I didn’t say a word as she carefully worked at the tumblers, not wanting to distract her just yet. That would come later, once she was a little more confident in her ability to pick a lock. After a minute, the lock popped open.
“Not bad,” I told her, putting a hand on her back. “With a little practice, you’ll eventually be able to get that one down to about five seconds.”
Melissa grinned at that, looking rather pleased with herself. “I’ve been practicing on other locks too…like all the ones on the doors at home…”
“Good thinking,” I said, nodding my approval. Then I warned her, “Just don’t let anyone see you doing that…or tell them that you’re learning how to pick locks. This is the kind of skill that works best if no one knows you have it…”
“And Dad would probably get mad at me,” Melissa said, deflating just a little, though only for a second. Then she pointed out, “But it’s not like knowing how to pick locks is a big deal… I mean, I can walk through doors anyway…”
I nodded at that, having wondered how long it would take her to figure that out. Since she could turn intangible and walk through doors, she didn’t really have a lot of need for lock picking, though I thought it was still a useful skill to know.
“If you think your dad would be a bit stuffy about this kind of thing,” I told her with a grin and a wink, “you should meet some superheroes. Now that is a stuffy bunch.”
Melissa giggled at that. “Do you know a lot of superheroes?”
“I know a few,” I responded with an even broader grin. “But it’s not like we’re exactly friendly or anything. I mean, most of them just don’t want to give me a chance…”
“I wonder why,” Melissa said in a sarcastic note, right before she burst into giggles.
“Speaking of superheroes,” I announced with an evil grin, suddenly having an idea for something that would be fun. Actually, I’d thought about it off and on since last month, but this seemed like the perfect opportunity. “I happen to have a superhero’s phone number…”
I reached into one of the pouches on my belt and pulled out my cell phone, one that was made by a devisor so that it couldn’t be traced or tracked. In my line of business, the extra expense for such a phone was well worth it. Last month, I’d called a superhero on this phone…my old ‘buddy’ Chickenhawk. I’d only acquired his number by luck, because I just happened to be in the right place when someone nearby gave it out. I still had that number saved in memory.
“Be vewwy vewwy quiet,” I cautioned Melissa, putting a finger to my lips to emphasize the request. “We’re hunting Chickenhawks…” And with that, I switched my phone to speaker mode so Melissa could hear, then I dialed the number.
“Hello?” Chickenhawk answered over the phone.
“Hello,” I responded in a sweet tone. “Is Seymore there? Last name Butz?”
There was a long pause before Chickenhawk demanded, “IMP? Is that you? How did you get this number?”
Melissa started laughing but clamped both hands over her mouth. I just grinned and hung up the phone, deciding that I’d have to amuse myself at Chickenhawk’s expense again sometime. But before I called him like that again, I wanted to have some good material ready.
“That was great,” Melissa exclaimed, her eyes gleaming with excitement. “Can we do that to someone else?”
“Sorry,” I told her with a chuckle, “but I don’t exactly have the home phone numbers for a lot of heroes…”
“Ohhhh,” Melissa responded, clearly disappointed. “And I wanted to get Doctor Amazing…”
“That would be fun,” I agreed. “Maybe I can find some phone numbers for another time, but for now…”
I did a sleight of hand gesture and suddenly had a pair of handcuffs dangling from my hand. Melissa’s eyes went wide as she stared at them, looking but curious and worried at the same time.
“Modern handcuffs can be a little tricky to pick,” I told Melissa, “so we’re going to start with an older model and then work your way up. After you’re able to pick these, we’ll cuff you so you can practice getting out of them. Trust me, knowing how to get out of handcuffs might come in handy someday…”
I worked with Melissa until she was able to unlock the cuffs twice, then we moved to the next stage, cuffing her hands in front of her and seeing if she could still unlock them. I sat back on the bench and watched patiently as she worked on the handcuffs, remembering just how long it had taken me to get out of the cuffs when my old mentor had done the same thing to me.
“And no using your powers,” I reminded her. Melissa just stuck her tongue out at me while she continued to work at the cuffs.
“They never taught me anything this cool in school,” Melissa finally said, appearing quite happy in spite of the fact that she was handcuffed.
“Yeah, schools are boring that way,” I responded with a grin. “But you can still learn a lot of useful stuff there.”
Melissa struggled for a few more minutes before admitting, “It’s a lot harder to get this way… I can’t bend my wrists enough…”
“For cuffs,” I offered a bit of advice, “sometimes you need to hold the pick in your teeth…”
Just then, a loud voice suddenly called out, “Let the girl go!”
I immediately recognized the tone of voice, even if not the voice itself. That was the self-important tone a lot of those obnoxious heroes liked to use, so I immediately looked around the source, spotting it a moment later. A man had jumped from a nearby building that was several stories taller than this rooftop, and he was coming down right towards us.
“Run,” I told Melissa, right as the man landed on the roof a short distance away.
The hero, for that was what he obviously was, was wearing a green and light gray costume with a few touches of gold metal trim. He had a green mask over the upper part of his face, though he hadn’t bothered to cover his dark brown hair. And though I’d never met this hero before, I recognized the costume and knew who he was.
“My name is Jack Rabbit,” he told Melissa in a confident tone, “And I’m here to save you from this monster.”
“Hey Jack Ass,” I exclaimed, annoyed by the interruption and not exactly happy about being called a monster either. “We were in the middle of something.”
“I’m not going to let you hurt this girl,” Jack Rabbit exclaimed, charging straight towards me. I dove to the side to avoid his punch, though I barely managed to move in time. He was fast. “How DARE you kidnap this girl…?”
“Wait,” Melissa called out, turning intangible just long enough to slip out of the handcuffs. “It isn’t what you think…”
“Villains like you make me sick,” Jack stated with a sneer. “You’re mad dogs that need to be put down, and Jack Rabbit is just the one to do it…”
“Oh God,” I mocked him with an exaggerated groan. “Tell me you’re not one of those idiots who always talks about themselves in the third person… It’s no wonder your name is Jack Ass…”
Jack jumped at me again, and though I jumped aside, he reacted quickly. As soon as he landed, he turned and threw a punch at me. I saw it coming and barely had time to focus all the energy form my aura into one spot, creating a small PK shield for him to drive his fist into. There was an explosion of force on impact, far more than would come from a punch alone, and I was suddenly throw back…and over the edge of the building.
“Oh shit,” I exclaimed, right as gravity grabbed hold of me.
I felt a surge of terror as I fell four stories, but I was experienced enough that I didn’t let that stop me from doing everything I could to survive the fall. I shifted position in mid-air, then concentrated every bit of energy from my aura around my feat in order to absorb as much of the impact as possible. When I hit, it was at a bad angle and there was a burst of pain all through my legs and hips.
I let out a scream of pain, though I quickly bit down on my lip to cut it off. I already knew my legs were broken, probably in several places on each, and strongly suspected that my pelvis was probably broken as well, though I wasn’t quite sure of that. I was just lucky it wasn’t worse.
This wasn’t the first time that I’d been jumped by some hero who attacked me on sight, and I doubted that it would be the last. There was just something about my appearance that drove those do-gooders into a frenzy…and it wasn’t just because I was an irresistible babe. However, there had only been a few times during my career where a hero had hurt me this bad, and that was something I always hoped to avoid happening again.
I didn’t know if Jack Rabbit had thrown me off that roof intentionally or not, or if it had just been carelessness on his part. What I did know was that I REALLY didn’t like that guy. But in spite of that, I didn’t really take it personally. It was just part of the game, and if I took it personally every time some hero attacked me, I’d have a pretty long vendetta list. People usually had to go the extra mile to earn that particular honor.
In spite of my pain and injuries, I made an effort to sit up, knowing that I couldn’t afford to be caught napping when there was a hero nearby…or when cops might show up at any moment. I looked up towards roof I’d been thrown off of, wondering how I was going to get back up there, when I saw Jack Rabbit jumping off the roof, leaping for the next building over…while holding Melissa in his arms.
For a brief moment, I felt worried about the girl, until I remembered that in spite of what he’d done to me…Jack Rabbit was a hero. He was probably taking her back home, whether she wanted to go back with him or not. I scowled at that, knowing that after this, Melissa and I would have to find a new meeting spot…assuming this incident hadn’t scared her away for good.
Since Melissa was safe with the hero, I turned my attention to dragging myself somewhere safe so I could hide and heal up. Still, I looked up and in the direction I’d seen the hero leaving, muttering, “What a Jack Ass.”
New York, Wednesday June 13th, 2007
I crouched down on the corner of the large roof, completely invisible as long as I remained motionless, and patiently watching the smoking area that had been set up on the other side. Though I’d never worked an office type job in my life, or any other legitimate job for that matter, I’d always thought that smoke breaks were supposed to be about ten minutes long, just long enough to go smoke a single cigarette. However, these guys had all been out there for half an hour, smoking several cigarettes each. I was starting to wonder if they’d ever go back to work.
When they finally finished their break and went to the stairway to return to work, I muttered, “Finally,” and stood up to stretch. I’d been sitting in one spot for awhile, and even my patience was starting to wear thin.
This roof was the place I normally met up with Melissa, and it was the last place I’d seen her a couple days ago, when our lesson had been interrupted. I frowned at the memory of Jack Rabbit’s intrusion, silently cursing him for being such an asshole while simultaneously hoping that he got the kid home safely. I didn’t like Jack Ass, but he was supposed to be a hero, and that job came with certain responsibilities…like protecting kids.
I walked past the bench that had been set up for the smoking area, going to the stairwell that led down into the building. The door was unlocked, obviously to keep the smokers from accidentally getting stuck on the roof, so a moment later, I was inside the building and able to check the drop box that Melissa and I had set up to exchange messages. Technically, it was an old fire extinguisher on the wall, but right behind the fire extinguisher was just enough space to hide a letter. But to my disappointment, there was no message waiting for me.
I’d been hoping that once Melissa had a chance, she’d leave a message for me to let me know that she was safe, and of course, to set up another meeting so we could finish our lessons. Still, I told myself that the lack of a message didn’t necessarily mean anything. After all, she was a teenage girl and might not have had an opportunity yet to slip out and leave me a note. Or, she just might not have thought about it, which was equally likely. However, neither explanation really soothed my worry.
To my annoyance, I didn’t have any other way of contacting Melissa, which hadn’t really been a problem until now. I didn’t know Melissa’s phone number, where she lived, or even her last name. It suddenly struck me that when it came to people I did business with, I always did a bit of research on them so I’d know who I was working with, but since Melissa was just a kid…I hadn’t bothered.
“Sloppy,” I muttered in disgust. For some reason, that girl kept making me lower my guard, and now I was paying the price for it. “I have no business getting involved with a kid in the first place…even if she is my biggest fan.” Then a little voice whispered in the back of my head, reminding me that she might also be my ONLY fan.
With a sigh, I returned to the roof and considered what I was going to do next. Since there wasn’t anything I could do about Melissa at the moment, I decided that I needed to blow off some steam another way. Like many women, I often dealt with stress by engaging in a little retail therapy. Of course, my version of retail therapy involved shopping at an art museum after hours. It was still a little early for that, but there was no reason I couldn’t head in that direction. After all, one of my favorite paintings had recently been put back on display, so maybe it was time to pay it a visit.
As soon as I had a destination in mind, I grinned eagerly to myself and then began to climb down the outside wall, using my powers to blend in with my surroundings so that even if someone had been looking in my direction, they still wouldn’t have seen me. A minute later, I reached the bottom of the building and the alley where I’d parked my bike.
My bike was a custom made motorcycle that was sleek, black, and far better than anything you’d find on the public market. Not only was it fast and maneuverable, it was also so quiet that it barely made a sound, which could come in quite handy in my line of work. And since Highwayman had given her a tune up when he was in town last month, she was running like brand new.
After putting on my helmet, which was also custom made for me, designed to fit over my horns, I took off as fast as I could. New York traffic was often a pain in my tail since it kept me from going as fast as I’d like, but with a bike like mine, I wasn’t necessarily limited to the lanes…or even the road itself. It was with an evil grin that I shot down the sidewalk for a short distance in order to bypass a particularly slow knot of traffic, then I continued on my way.
I’d only gone about two blocks when I suddenly noticed something ahead of me…a figure jumping from the top of one building to the top of another…over the road. There were a lot of capes in New York…heroes, villains, and everything in between…so it wasn’t really all that unusual to see something like this. Normally, I wouldn’t have given this sighting much thought, but I was pretty sure that was Jack Rabbit. On an impulse, I changed course and began heading in the direction I’d seen him going.
When I didn’t immediately see Jack Rabbit again, I was worried that I’d lost him. But then I caught another glimpse of him leaping between buildings, and this time, I realized that he was carrying something…or someone. Remembering the way he’d carried Melissa away, I gave my bike a little more gas and tried to catch up.
A minute later, the Jack Ass stopped moving, giving me time to catch up. I found him on a side street, squaring off against some guy in golden Roman style armor. I didn’t know if Goldie was a hero, villain, or just some schmuck on the way to a costume contest, but he didn’t seem to be afraid of Jack. Suddenly, Goldie flung out his hand and fired a beam of green energy.
“You’ll have to do better than that,” Jack Rabbit exclaimed as he easily jumped to the side and avoided the blast, though Goldie immediately fired another half dozen blasts in his direction.
Just then, Goldie grunted and bent over, even though Jack hadn’t gotten near him. A moment later, a figure suddenly appeared beside Goldie, holding a baseball bat. The newcomer was a teenage girl, wearing a red and brown costume and sporting a red mask that covered the top half of her face. However, in spite of the costume and mask, there was absolutely no mistaking who the girl was. Melissa.
“What the farfegnugen?” I blurted out in surprise.
“Good job Mouse Girl,” Jack Rabbit called to Melissa.
“All right,” Melissa exclaimed excitedly.
“You little punk,” Goldie said, getting back to his feet.
Melissa let out a squeal of fear, dropping the baseball bat and then vanishing, only to reappear beside Jack Rabbit. The hero jumped forward, straight at Goldie, who he punched. There was a faint flash of light as Jack’s fist made contact with the other man, and then Goldie was sent flying back to where he smashed into a wall.
“You shouldn’t have retreated, Mouse Girl,” Jack Rabbit scolded Melissa. “I know this is your first time out as my new sidekick, so you’ll learn…”
“I…I don’t wanna be your sidekick,” Melissa protested weakly.
“Mouse Girl,” Jack Rabbit started.
However, Melissa started to back away. “And my name isn’t Mouse Girl… It’s Mischief…”
Jack Rabbit shook his head in obvious disappointment. “It seems that you weren’t ready for this yet. Don’t worry...we’ll go back and do some more training, then we’ll try this again. Trust me, you’ll be a great sidekick in no time at all…”
“But I don’t want to,” Melissa protested again, looking rather confused.
I was more than a little confused myself, because none of this made any sense. I was glad to see that Melissa was all right, but the last thing I’d expected was to find that my pseudo-protégé had become some hero’s sidekick. I felt a little hurt by that, and if it wasn’t for Melissa’s odd reluctance and confusion, I’d probably be feeling pretty betrayed as well. Instead, I was starting to get worried.
“Hey, Jack Ass,” I called out, hopping off my bike and starting towards them. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do since the last time I’d run into Jack Ass, he’d kicked my tail but good. Still, there was something screwy going on here and I aimed to find out what.
“IMP!” Melissa exclaimed, her voice filled with relief at the sight of me. That was a relief to me as well, since I really didn’t like the idea of her ditching me in order to go run off playing sidekick.
“You,” Jack Rabbit snarled in response. But instead of charging at me, he turned to Melissa and said, “Don’t worry Mouse Girl. I won’t let that villain touch you again…”
“But…,” Melissa responded, looking a little confused again.
“Hey, Little Bunny Foo Foo,” I called out to get the hero’s attention back to me. I doubted that I’d be able to beat him in a straight up fight, but I could certainly distract him and then pull my vanishing trick. “I think we need to talk…”
Jack Rabbit grabbed Melissa and picked her up, slinging her over his shoulder. Only then did he turn back to me, giving me a cold glare and promising, “I’ll deal with you another time, villain.” Then, before I could even think of a snappy comeback, he took another one of his super jumps, leaping away with Melissa.
I just stood there for a moment, feeling a bit dazed and confused. Had Melissa just been kidnapped by a superhero? It certainly looked that way to me, though admittedly, I wasn’t an expert on kidnappings. Heck, for all I knew, this was the traditional way for heroes to recruit their sidekicks…sort of like when cavemen used to get their wives by bonking them over their heads with clubs and then dragging them home. Or maybe that was just in the cartoons.
Though I didn’t really know what was going on, I was certainly going to find out, and that meant learning everything I could about Jack Ass. Fortunately, I knew just the person to help me with that…and I happened to know where he liked to hang out at this time of day.
After a few mutterings of choice profanity, I spared a glance at Goldie, who still wasn’t moving, then I climbed back onto my bike. Though I was curious about whether or not the armored man was all right, I didn’t want to be there when the cops showed up. I could hear the sirens and they were pretty close, so with that, I took one more glance in the direction I’d seen Jack Ass going, then I took off.
New York, Wednesday June 13th, 2007
Superbad was a grungy dive bar, and about the only thing it had to make it stand out from the crowd of such places was the fact that most of the clientele were supervillains. As soon as I stepped through the door and looked around, that was made clear, not only by the costumed memorabilia that decorated the walls, but also by a couple customers who were there in costume. One of them even had some kind of death ray sitting on his table, right next to a beer.
I gave a brief nod of acknowledgement to Starstone then turned my attention to Bob Zabrowski, who was sitting in the back corner in his usual spot. Bob was a stocky and seedy looking man in his early fifties, who sported a crooked nose and nasty looking scar right across his face. He was also one of the best informants in New York, at least when it came to digging up the dirt on people in the business. And unfortunately, he wasn’t alone. Digger was sitting at Bob’s table, and they were obviously having a business discussion. As if to prove that, Digger slid a stuffed envelope across the table to Bob.
While I waited for Bob to finish up, I occupied myself with the old juke box in the corner. I took my time flipping through the selection, then grinned when I saw the one I wanted. A few seconds later, the jukebox began playing the Macarena, which earned me glares from several of the other customers. I just stood there, trying to look cool and professional, though my tail swished back and forth behind me in time to the music.
Once Bob and Digger were finished with their business and Digger got up to leave, I went over and took his now vacant seat. “Bob,” I greeted him somewhat pleasantly. “I need to call in a favor.”
“Of course you do,” Bob responded gruffly, glancing down to his left hand and the stub where his little finger used to be. “You don’t exactly show up just to play poker.” He took a long drink from his beer, then asked, “Whatcha need?”
“Jack Rabbit,” I stated.
Suddenly, Bob tensed up and he gave me a cold look. “What?”
“Jack Rabbit jumped me a few days ago,” I explained with a deep scowl. “Now I have some unfished business with him, so I need to know anything you can find out about him.”
Bob was silent for a moment, then he finally said, “If you’re going after that asshole…I’ll tell you everything I know... No charge.”
I blinked in surprise at the ‘no charge’ bit because that wasn’t like Bob at all. Bob was in the business of trading favors, and even if he liked you, he didn’t give information away for free. But then I saw his grim expression and the burning look of hatred in his eyes. Suddenly, I understood. This wasn’t business. This was personal.
“He’s the one who retired you,” I said quietly.
Years ago, Bob used to be in the business, working as a small time villain known as the Rat. He had some kind of low level ESP ability that let him find just about anything he needed. If he wanted to get into a locked building, he’d be able to find any doors or windows that had been left unlocked. If he wanted to get into a safe, he’d find where someone tucked the combo into the pages of a book so they wouldn’t lose it. And if someone was chasing him, he’d find an open escape route. But then one day, he’d run into a hero who got particularly rough, busting Bob up good, putting him in the hospital for a month or so, and leaving him with a bad case of PTSD. Bob had retired after that and now used his abilities to find information and goods for people who were still in the business, trading them for favors as a way of keeping his hands in the game.
Bob nodded grimly and took another drink from his beer. “If he happens to end up six feet under…I’ll owe you a big one.”
“I’m not an assassin,” I reminded Bob with a scowl. “Besides, killing heroes is bad for business.”
Bob just grunted at that. He gave me a flat look and stated, “Jack Rabbit is from the same hero school as Iron Mike. In a lot of ways, the bastard is even worse.”
“What do you have on him?” I asked, growing more curious by the moment.
“His real name is John Mitchell,” Bob answered with a deep scowl. “But knowing that doesn’t do much good. He doesn’t have any close friends or family, and he doesn’t seem even use that identity.”
“That’s nice,” I commented, “but not very useful.”
“Then how about this,” Bob continued with a snort. “He has three power gems. One pumps up all his physical abilities. You know…strength, stamina, reflexes…the whole bit. Puts him on par with an exemplar two…maybe even a three.”
“I noticed the reflexes,” I responded wryly, remembering just how fast that bastard moved.
“Yeah,” Bob agreed with shake of his head and a look of disgust. “One of the gems does something with kinetic energy. That’s the one that lets him do all that jumping…and those damn rabbit punches.”
I nodded at that. “I’ve seen those rabbit punches in action…first hand.”
“So have I,” Bob responded with a grimace.
I felt a moment of sympathy for Bob, though I was careful not to show it. He was the kind of guy who didn’t like anyone to pity him. “And the third gem?”
“Mind control,” he answered.
“Mind control?” I repeated in surprise.
Bob nodded. “It’s not very powerful though. He can’t just take over your mind and make you do whatever he wants, but if you give him enough time, he can use it to brainwash you. From what I could find out, It works best on people who don’t have a strong sense of self…like kids and crazies.”
“So that’s what he did to her,” I exclaimed with an angry snarl, digging my clawlike nails into the table top and leaving some gouges.
For a moment, Bob just stared at me with a flat look, then he pointed out, “This is personal for you too…”
“A little,” I reluctantly admitted. I winced at that since I really didn’t like to show any kind of weakness around Bob or my other professional contacts. In my business, if people saw an opening, a lot of them would try to exploit it. “Jack Ass took a kid I was teaching...a potential protégé.”
“Then it sounds like you’ve got a problem,” Bob told me with a scowl. “Jack Rabbit…he ain’t gentle with kids.”
“What do you mean?” I demanded in a cold hard tone.
“Sidekicks,” Bob explained with a shake of his head. “That guy goes through them like Kleenex…”
At those words, I felt a surge of fear and worry, though I tried to keep it from showing. “Explain.”
Bob snorted at that, then sat there with a thoughtful look his face for a moment before he carefully continued. “Jack… From what I’ve been able to find out, he was one of those jock stereotypes… You know the kind…quarterback on the football team and the big man on campus…but not good enough to go pro. Then he got out into the real world and found out that he’s just another nobody, and that all his sports victories mean jack shit.”
“Well, boo hoo for him,” I responded, playing an imaginary violin. “Such a tragic origin…”
Bob actually chuckled faintly. “Anyway, one day he gets his hands on these power gems and he sees his chance to live his glory days all over again.”
“So, he puts on spandex and acts like the big man on campus,” I mused, not at all surprised. I knew the type and had run into ‘heroes’ like that on more than a few occasions.
There are a lot of different reasons that people put on spandex and become heroes, but the most common one seemed to be ego. A lot of ‘heroes’ got into the business because they wanted praise and glory…because they wanted people to look up to them…or because they wanted to prove that they were better than everyone else and should be put on a pedestal.
And then there were those who just liked to show off how powerful they were…usually by beating up on other people. In most places, these guys might be considered thugs and bullies, but as long as they called themselves heroes and mostly went after the ‘bad guys’, people not only looked the other way but cheered them on.
“That’s interesting,” I stated, giving Bob a cold look. “But what does it have to do with the kids?”
“He’s a jock,” Bob answered with a sneer. “And every jock needs fans to cheer them on and remind them how great they are.”
Bob paused at that and looked down at his empty beer mug with a scowl. Then he looked at me expectantly, so I scowled back impatiently and waved for the waitress to bring us each a beer. It was only after the beer arrived that he continued his explanation.
“Jack finds these kids with powers,” Bob told me with a deep scowl. “Runaways... Homeless…” He shrugged at that. “Then he takes them home and brainwashes them into becoming his personal cheerleaders. Before you know it, he’s dragging around a new sidekick.”
“Damn,” I gasped with a cold knot in my stomach.
Bob nodded and took a sip of his drink. “He’s gone through four of them that I know of. One of them ended up in a wheelchair and two others were planted six feet under.”
“And the fourth?” I asked grimly.
“Disappeared without a trace,” Bob answered with a shrug. “Couldn’t find anything to tell me if he escaped or ended up buried too.”
I was a professional criminal…a supervillain with thirty years of experience...and I was shocked and horrified that anyone could do this to kids, much less a supposed hero. There were laws against taking underage kids as sidekicks, and I would have thought the other heroes would have interfered just from that alone, but that only proves I gave the heroes too much credit again. After all, those hypocrites were always ignoring that sidekick law and any of the other ones they claimed to enforce, whenever they became inconvenient. Just look at the Kiddy Crusaders, who were basically sidekicks of the Empire City Guard, or Shadowmage and that Pixie kid he had with him. Heroes always seemed to be putting kids in danger, and they had the nerve to call me reckless and irresponsible.
“Fucking heroes,” I spat out bitterly.
“A bunch of self-righteous hypocrites,” Bob agreed. “The whole damn bunch of them.”
We bumped our glasses together at this ‘toast’ and then drank. We were both silent for the next minute, me as I considered what this meant for Melissa and the kind of danger she was in, and Bob because he looked like he was lost in thoughts. I had a feeling that this talk about Jack Rabbit was stirring up his PTSD, which made me feel a little guilty for putting him through that.
“He had a kid with him,” Bob finally said, his voice quiet as he stared into his beer, not looking at me. He took another long drink, then continued, “The boy must have been about eleven or twelve…and he was laughing and clapping the whole time…like it was some kind of damn game. Mouse Boy, the asshole called him. He was the first sidekick. Died in some kind of ‘heroic sacrifice’ before I even got out of the hospital.” Bob made quotation marks with his fingers when he said ‘heroic sacrifice’.
There was another long pause before Bob continued. “The last time it happened, some investigator showed up.” Bob snorted at that. “A couple days later, he closed the case, deciding that the kid was really eighteen…and just small for his age.”
“The mind control thing,” I stated in understanding.
Bob nodded. “Probably how he keeps getting away with it.” Then he looked me in the eyes. “I hate kids. They’re loud…obnoxious…and they just get in the way. So when I say that what he does to kids is fucked up…you know it’s REALLY fucked up.”
The more I heard about Jack Rabbit, the more I could understand why Bob had been willing to sell me out to Hexagoner in exchange for having him killed. However, I probably would have been a bit more understanding if Bob hadn’t also turned over Alicia. Sending some kid off to be used as a human sacrifice tends to counter any sympathy I might otherwise have had.
“And where can I find Jack Rabbit?” I asked in a grim tone.
“I wish I could tell ya,” Bob responded with a deep scowl. He took another long drink, then added, “After he lost the last sidekick, he split town for a awhile. He only came back a few weeks ago and I haven’t been able to find where he’s staying yet.”
I didn’t say anything as I took a long drink of my own beer, feeling the knot of dread and outrage tightening up in my gut. I wasn’t a hero. I was a supervillain…a professional thief…and a damn good one at that. In spite of what I’d done for Alicia a couple months ago, I didn’t make a habit of rescuing people and I wasn’t about to make it a regular thing. However, there was absolutely no way in hell I was going to let Jack Ass have Melissa. There was no way he was going to do to her what he’d done to those other kids.
With that, I stood up, finished my drink in one long gulp, then looked Bob right in the eyes. “I won’t kill him for you,” I told him again, “but if I find an opportunity to rob him blind, or make his life a living hell…I’ll probably take it.”
Bob nodded at that, then responded, “If you do the same thing to him that you did to that guy in Jersey…it’ll be a damn good start.”
I gave Bob a faint nod, then turned without saying another world and left the bar. I might not be a hero, but I was damn good at pissing them off, and at that moment, I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to piss one off more.
New York, Thursday June 14th, 2007
I was on top of a tall building, crouched down on the corner and looking out over my surroundings. From my silhouette, if anyone had seen me like that, they might have thought I was a gargoyle. But since I was currently invisible, that wasn’t likely to happen.
“The dark and brooding figure sits and broods in the dark,” I announced, narrating my behavior as a way to keep from losing my mind to boredom. The truth was, most people wouldn’t call me dark and brooding, and since it was only mid-afternoon, it wasn’t really dark out either. However, I never let a few facts get in the way of amusing myself. “The powerful queen silently surveyed her domain…”
I’d been waiting there for almost three hours and it was starting to get to me. Patience didn’t come to me naturally. It was a learned skill that I’d picked up long ago out of necessity. As my mentor used to tell me, an impatient thief didn’t last long in the business. However, in this case, it would be more appropriate to say that an impatient fisherman doesn’t catch the fish…or the Jack Rabbit.
Bob hadn’t been able to tell me where Jack Ass was currently hanging his hat, but with a little research, I’d been able to find where he operated. There was a large area near where Melissa and I had been meeting, where Jack Rabbit was frequently seen. This was his chosen territory, the place he came when he wanted to beat up on criminals. I suspected that he lived nearby, but since I didn’t have the time to search every single building on the chance of finding him, I’d set myself up to watch and wait. He was bound to show up again sooner or later. And I was really hoping it would be sooner because I didn’t like the idea of leaving Melissa in his hands for a minute longer than necessary.
I scowled and clenched my fists tight enough that my nails tore into my palms and drew blood, though I didn’t care. Bob had told me a lot about Jack Rabbit, and though Bob was usually pretty accurate with his information, I’d suspected that this time he might have exaggerated a few details in order to motivate me. But when I’d asked around, no one else knew as much as Bob had, though what I did find out confirmed everything he’d said. Jack Rabbit was a real bastard, and he was well known for using ‘unnecessary force’ during his fights. Criminals he faced usually ended up in the hospital, and more than a few of them had either disappeared or had later been found face down in the river.
I felt a surge of guilt as I thought about the fact that Jack Ass only had Melissa because she’d been hanging out with me. I’d even seen him run off with her, and I hadn’t given it a second thought because he was a ‘hero’. I cursed myself for my stupidity. If anyone should know that most heroes weren’t worth the cost of the fabric in their capes, it was me.
Now here I was, planning to track down a dangerous enemy so I could rescue a teenage girl…a girl who was kidnapped because she happened to have powers…and because she’d run into me. It was deja-vu…all over again.
I didn’t have to wait much longer before I finally spotted Jack Rabbit in the distance, jumping from one building to another. And though I was tempted to chase after him, lead him on a merry chase and then pull my disappearing trick, instead, I pulled out the binoculars I’d brought with me and watched him. In spite of the fact that Jack Ass had finally appeared, I still had to remain patient, gathering information and awaiting the right opportunity. Patience was one of greatest tools a thief could have.
I’d chosen my current perch because it was not only one of the tallest buildings in the area, but also right in the middle of Jack Rabbit’s territory. From here, I had a great view and could watch him from a distance without having to actually chase after him. And with the way he was bouncing around like a Mexican jumping bean on crack, that was a good thing. I could use my powers to enhance my jumping…and even do my own version of a rabbit punch…but there was no way I’d be able to keep up with him.
For the next two hours, I tracked Jack Rabbit from a distance, watching as he’d disappear down side streets or inside buildings, going where I couldn’t see him. However, each time he’d eventually return to the rooftops, leaping around as he continued his patrol. Then he finally landed on one rooftop, carefully looked around, then disappeared into the stairwell. When I’d first spotted him, he’d been in the middle of leaping away from that same location.
“Gotcha,” I announced with a smirk.
When Jack Rabbit didn’t come back out after another half hour, I decided that I had my place…or at least the right building. I just needed to go give it a closer look. With that, I stood up and stretched, then I finally left the spot where I’d been sitting for half the day.
This wasn’t the first time that I’d followed a ‘hero’ around and waited for him to lead me to his home, though I didn’t do it on a regular basis. Usually, when a hero came after me, I just considered it to be a professional disagreement and nothing more. As far as I was concerned, there was no reason to drag private lives into a professional issue…unless they made it personal. And by taking Melissa, Jack had made this very personal.
I arrived at the building in question a short time later, a modest sized brownstone that served as an apartment building. It was fairly old and not up to current security standards, which meant that the stairway to the roof didn’t have any kind of alarms or cameras on it. For someone who liked to slip in and out of the building from the roof without being seen, this would be considered an advantage. This place was looking very promising indeed.
I took my time looking over the roof, checking for any hidden cameras, alarms, or traps, then I let myself into the building through the stairway. I didn’t see any closets or convenient spots for a hero to change costume, so if Jack lived here, he probably had an apartment that was very close to the roof exit. After all, I doubted that he’d wander around the building in costume, at least not if he wanted to keep his identity secret.
Since I now had a place to start from, I returned to the roof and then began climbing around the outside walls, staying invisible so that no one saw me. I carefully peaked into each of the apartments on the top floor, and found that most of them were empty. However, the apartment that was closest to the roof entrance was occupied, which caught my interest since there were several empty apartments between this one and the main stairway for the building.
“Top floor,” I mused, feeling rather pleased with myself. “Old building with no elevator. Furthest from the stairway but closest to the roof entrance. And since I doubt many people would be happy about having to make this kind of hike to get into their apartment…which is probably why most of these ones are empty…I think we have a winner.”
A minute later, my suspicions were confirmed when I saw Jack Rabbit walk into the room I was watching, without his mask on. Melissa came in right behind him, staggering a little and having a dazed look on her face.
“Winner winner chicken dinner,” I muttered, fighting back the temptation to just go barging in. That wouldn’t be smart, so I continued to watch and wait.
“But I wanna come,” Melissa protested without much energy or enthusiasm. “I’m bored…”
“You’ll be ready to go into the field soon enough,” Jack assured her with a grin. “I shouldn’t have taken you out so soon. You weren’t ready yet.”
“I’m ready,” Melissa protested again, though she looked like she was half asleep. “I’m gonna be a great sidekick…”
Jack Rabbit looked rather smug at that. “Yes you will.” He put a hand on Melissa’s shoulder and continued, “I’ve worked with other partners before…brave young men and women who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice.” He paused again, looking sad and almost pained, which sickened me when I considered his role in their sacrifices. “I’m certain you’ll do them honor.”
Melissa frowned, and for the first time since arriving, I saw a spark of excitement in her eyes. “I’m bored…”
“Patience,” Jack insisted. “I came back to check on you and make sure you’re all right. We’ll work on your training tonight when I get back. But for now, drink this…”
Jack handed Melissa a glass of liquid, which she accepted and drank without question. However, she scrunched up her face when she was done and said, “That tastes gross...”
“You’ll only need your medicine a couple more times,” Jack told her. “Once you’ve finished your training, you won’t need it anymore.”
Melissa nodded at that, and in a weak voice, she said, “I’m gonna be a sidekick…”
“And who is the greatest hero in the world?” Jack Rabbit asked in in a smug tone. When Melissa hesitated, he had a faintly annoyed look on his face as he reminded her, “It’s me…Jack Rabbit…”
“No,” Melissa responded with a weak shake of her head.
“We’ll work on that tonight,” Jack assured her. “But for now, I have to get back to work. There are a lot of evil criminals out there that need to be punished…”
I watched all this with a scowl, though I remained outside the window and made no move to break in. Instead, I tried to figure out where Jack was keeping those power gems, because I was sure he had them on him somewhere. If I could identify where he had them hidden, then a little light fingered work might relieve him not only of the gems, but also his powers. Unfortunately, he could have them hidden almost anywhere on his costume, and I couldn’t tell where.
A couple minutes later, Jack Rabbit left the apartment while Melissa was left behind, collapsed in a chair and looking as though she was about to fall asleep. I waited until then, then used my PK claws to cut a hole through the window so I could let myself inside.
“Melissa,” I cried out, running over to the glassy-eyes girl. “Are you all right?”
I had to gently shake Melissa before she seemed to register that I was there, then she looked at me for several seconds before smiling. “Imp…”
“Come on,” I told her. “It’s time for you to go home…”
“But Jack…,” she started to protest.
“Forget Jack Ass,” I told her firmly. “We’re getting you out of here…”
Melissa nodded weakly. “Okay…”
I put a hand on Melissa’s shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze to try comforting her. However, in her current state, she didn’t seem to really notice it, and that just disgusted me more. How could anyone do this to a kid?
“I’m gonna be a sidekick,” Melissa told me in an almost conspiratorial voice.
“Not if I can help it,” I responded with a scowl.
Then she had a confused look as she admitted, “But I don’t wanna be a sidekick… Do I?”
I hesitated a moment, then gave Melissa a gentle hug. I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d hugged someone, or at least, the last time I’d done it without the intention of either distracting them or picking their pockets. At the same time, I was furious at Jack Rabbit. He’d kidnapped Melissa, drugged her out of her gourd so she wouldn’t escape, and he was using mind control on her. Jack Ass suddenly went up to the very top of my shit list…and the last person I’d been this pissed at had been the Crimson Kid.
For a brief moment, I considered what I could do to screw with Jack while I was there, and a few good ideas came to mind. For one thing, I could turn on all the faucets in his bathtub and sinks, then plug all the drains so the place got flooded. However, I doubted the apartment owners or the people who lived beneath Jack deserved something like that. And I could replace every bit of food in his kitchen with carrots, which would be funny as well as a good starting move in a campaign against him, but I didn’t have time for that right now. Right now, I had to focus on what was important and then I could come back to deal with Jack Ass later.
“I’m getting you out of here,” I told Melissa, pulling her up out of the chair since she didn’t do much to help me. Fortunately, once she was up, she followed me to the door, even though she might as well have been staggering like some kind of zombie.
There was absolutely no way I was getting Melissa out of here the way I’d come in, especially not in her current state, so it looked like we’d have to take the stairs down. We’d just left the apartment and started down the hallway to the stairs when I heard something behind me. I snapped around and saw Jack Rabbit, who’d just come back down from the roof, probably having come back because he forgot something. He froze near his apartment door, staring at me with a look of surprise.
Since I knew there was a good chance that I’d have to deal with Jack Ass today, I’d come prepared. I casually reached into one of the pouches on my belt, pulled out a carrot, then stood in a cocky pose as I took a bite out of it and asked, “What’s up Doc?”
“What?” Jack Ass snarled angrily.
He was obviously pissed off and a bit stunned, and probably with good cause. After all, I’d not only found his home and then invaded it to steal back his sidekick, I had the nerve to mock him as well. For someone with an ego like his, the mockery would be particularly effective…which was one of the reasons why I’d done it. The other was that it was just plain fun.
“I know you’re the one with the rabbit theme going on,” I commented with a smirk, using the carrot to point at him, “but you just don’t have the chutzpah to pull off a line like that…”
Jack Ass snarled again and charged straight at me. “Run,” I ordered Melissa, pushing her in the direction of the stairs. However, she went back only a short distance and stopped. I would have yelled at her to move, but Jack was on me. I dropped to the ground, just barely avoiding one of his rabbit punches, which hit the wall right beside where I’d been standing. There was a loud ‘boom’ as his fist hit and the wall virtually exploded from the massive impact. I scrambled back to my feet and called out, “That’s coming out of your deposit,” as I ran away from Jack, towards the roof entrance and away from Melissa.
“How DARE you?” Jack yelled at me. “How dare you invade my home and kidnap that girl…? I won’t let you harm her…”
“That’s ironic,” I commented wryly. Then as he charged at me again, I sang out, “Here comes Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail…”
Jack Ass was moving fast, but we were inside the hallway which limited our mobility, both for good and ill. When he reached me, I adjusted my PK aura so that it was frictionless and slippery, then slid right beneath him and out of his reach. Jack was fast, but he was also pissed off and charging like a bull, using his strength rather than his speed. I intended to take full advantage of that.
“You have a top floor apartment,” I teased Jack as I moved back down the hallway. “Didn’t you know that rabbits are supposed to live underground?”
“I know who you are…Imp,” Jack spat out, glaring at me with a look of hatred in his eyes. He sneered, looking more than confident in his ability to handle me. “I’ve asked about you… I know you’re a thief…and that you steal people’s souls…”
“Nope. I never touch the things,” I responded with a smirk of my own. “They have horrible resale value…”
Just then, I hear Melissa chanting, “Imp. Imp. She’s our girl. If she can’t do it, I’m gonna hurl.”
I glanced back to Melissa, who in spite of her drugged state, was actually watching with a grin and a faint gleam of excitement in her eyes. I couldn’t help but grinning at that. Even drugged and under the influence of mind control, she was still cheering me on. I never should have doubted the kid. However, Melissa’s cheering had the opposite effect on Jack Ass, who looked even more pissed than before.
“VILLAIN,” Jack yelled at me. “I’ll destroy you, you evil monster…”
“Sticks and stones,” I started to respond, but Jack was already charging me again. This time, I avoided his attack by diving to the side…through the open door and into his apartment. “I wouldn’t expect anything better from a bunny brained nincompoop…”
“You’re going down,” Jack screamed as he rushed into his own apartment, swinging wildly. I had more room to maneuver here than I did in the hall, so when he came at me, I used my aura to give a little extra ‘oomph’ to my legs as I jumped to the side.
At the moment, I had Jack Ass off balance and reacting out of anger, and I didn’t want to give him the chance to calm down. I grinned and began singing, “Little Bunny Foo Foo, hopping through the forest…”
Jack charged at me again, and this time when I got out of the way, his rabbit punch ended up hitting his TV instead. It was a large TV and looked expensive, or at least it had. The entire thing was ruined now, and Jack was almost frothing at the mouth because of it.
“Poor Little Bunny Foo Foo,” I teased the furious ‘hero’. Then I jumped back again, getting on top of his couch and continued mocking him, “Criminals are a superstitious and cowardly lot…so I’ll become something that scares them…a bunny wabbit.”
“I’ll kill you,” Jack snarled, leaping at me again.
Again, I dodged to the side and smirked, “You’ll have to do better than that, Foo Foo…”
Just then, Jack Ass suddenly let out a gasp of pain and clutched his chest. A moment later, he dropped to his knee, letting out several loud gasps for breath and looking as though he was about to fall over dead from a heart attack. I’d seen this tactic before, though admittedly, it was the first time a ‘hero’ with such a huge ego had tried pulling it on me.
“Are you all right?” I asked with mock sympathy as I played my part.
When I approached Jack Ass, he jumped up and tried to catch me with a ‘surprise’ attack, just like I’d been expecting. I dodged to the side, channeled all the energy from my aura to my fist, then punched him in the side with my own version of a rabbit punch. It wasn’t nearly as powerful as his, but it did the job and he went flying back, smashing into a book shelf.
I followed that up by throwing a smoke bomb at him and smugly announcing, “Silly rabbit. Tricks are for Imps.”
Then, while he couldn’t see me, I readied two metal throwing spikes, each about four inches long. And as soon as he started to emerge from the smoke, I threw the spikes. One hit his thigh while the other went right into his shoulder. Jack Ass screamed in pain and dropped to his knees, though this time it wasn’t a trick.
I watched Jack for a moment, then glanced around his apartment, which was completely trashed due to our fight. I grinned at that since he himself had caused almost all the damage with those rabbit punches of his.
“What a maroon,” I commented as I turned and started for the door.
Melissa was standing at the door, and apparently she’d been watching most of the fight. She still looked pretty dazed and confused though, and the spark of excitement that she’d briefly shown earlier was gone. If anything, she looked as though she was about to collapse and go to sleep, which I couldn’t have…at least not yet. I led her towards the main stairs, but by the time we reached the top, she was basically dead weight. I had to pick her up and carry her down to the ground floor, which made me very thankful we were going down instead of up.
We passed several people on the stairs, all of whom took one look at me and then went running in the other direction. Since I had to get Melissa to safety, just turning invisible and sneaking out wasn’t an option, much to my annoyance. Then when we reached the ground floor, I was suddenly struck with another problem…what to do with her. Melissa was drugged to the gills and needed someone to look after her. I couldn’t take her to the hospital, because I could almost guarantee that someone there would call the MCO. And I couldn’t take her to the Empire City Guard either, because not only would they arrest me on sight, but I feared that they might just hand Melissa right back over to Jack Ass. After all, heroes stuck together and all that.
“Damn it Jim,” I muttered, “I’m a thief…not a doctor.”
There was only one place I could think of where I trusted Melissa to be safe, so that was where I had to take her. All I had to do now was find a car to hotwire, and we’d be on our way…back to the Imp Lair.