Spacer First Night309
  | Asymmetry | Role-Playing | Villains & Vigilantes | The Revolution | Fifty Years Ago | First Night |





    The Rose slammed a fist into the back of his head. The man spun with a roar; cat's eyes, a blonde beard and wild mane of hair, vaguely feline features.
    "Since we're all here and I've already disabled the ship, would you care to just surrender now and save a fight, where you're not going to be able to get away on the boat even if you win?" the hunter offered. He could se the man thinking about it even as he stepped back to where he could watch both him and Argus. For her part, she moved to where she could watch the dock, in case anyone else should try to board, and watched the lion-man while he made up his mind.
    He was making the wrong decision, she noted. His muscles tensed; she was already moving, knife in hand as lightning arced from both ends of the staff and touched both her and the Rose. Plastic armor doesn't conduct very well; she dove off the bike and slashed as he rolled, barely scratching him. It was impossible to tell how much the lightning had hurt from the Rose's rock-solid demeanor and featureless mask, and they still had him flanked.
    The White Rose gathered himself and leaped, sending the other man staggering back several paces. They ended up wrestling at the edge of the deck, the White Rose's grip locked on the man's arm.
    Vanguard drew his gun and ran into the house. The steel vault downstairs was clearly visible on radar. A room on the first floor held a half dozen crouched figures, no doubt the staff; upstairs was another person, lying in the ground. One of the crouching figures opened the door timidly. It was the butler. Vanguard scrutinized him for signs of makeup.
    "They had guns, they told us to go into the pantry and wait, is the master okay?"
    "I believe he's upstairs. Why don't you go upstairs and check on him, I think he's in his bedroom."
    "And the woman?"
    He shrugged. "There are six unconscious women out there on the lawn." He entered the pantry. "All right, everyone, stay crouched." He checked them over; none were attractive young women or a disguised Muse as far as he could tell.
    He heard a car start and sprinted for the door.
    "What's going on?" the butler called from the stairs.
    "Never mind, everything's fine!" He reached the garage; the main door was already open, the family car screaming down the drive with a man and a woman in it. They crashed through the front gate. He sprinted after them—the fools thought they could escape an Olympic pentathlete in a mere car?! They passed the stables. He summoned the autogryo, mounted a convenient horse and thundered after the fleeing Muse, firing at the tires.
    The wheel rim melted, but the villain's driving remained unaffected. The car was pulling away slowly. He fired again; the tire went, and the car fishtailed wildly, turned into a controlled skid, and made a sharp turn onto a wooded path, territory much better suited to a horse than a car. Old Paint dug in gamely.
    "Surrender now, Muse!" he broadcast on all available frequencies, his words blaring from the car radio. "Surrender now!"
    On the boat, Argus moved in, realized she didn't have a clear shot, and pulled back again as the two men strove against one another. The Rose felt him let go of the staff, and something was stuck onto him; current arced through his body, hurling him away from the man as his muscles convulsed. The lion-man stepped away, back to the Rose as the paralyzed man began to topple into the water.
    "You'd better rescue your friend, I'm afraid he's about to get wet," he observed to Argus with a feline smile.
    She saw the Rose's arm move, pulling the scarab free. "I thought it was cats that didn't like to get wet."
    "Now it's just the two of us, and we'll find out how much damage that armor can really take...."
    "More than you think. Not that I expect it will have to." She summoned her years of training and slashed in, cutting him again. He was good with that staff, and she made a mental note for the files that he must have had archeological training; she had seen such a fighting style before, that time in Peru.... "So what's your name, anyway?" she asked, feinting. "I hate to think of my opponents as 'that guy.'"
    "You face the Sphinx. You are a worthy adversary," he admitted a bit grudgingly.
    "Pleasure to meet you, sir."
    "Nonetheless, I feel that these circumstances are—"
    The White Rose stuck the scarab onto its maker. He hit the railing and fell over; the two stared in horror as sparks flashed in the water. Argus dove in; it wasn't deep, and the electricity wouldn't hurt her. She found the staff, but no sign of the Sphinx. No doubt his body had been borne away by the retreated tide.
    No doubt.
    The woman began tossing explosives out the back of the car toward Vanguard. He ducked down low; it got caught in the trees overhead.
    "I think I got him!" she yelled.
    Vanguard came charging out through the smoke and debris, keeping control of the frightened horse.
    "My dear, I think you probably didn't get him," the Muse replied sorrowfully.
    The Muse spun the car, controlling it very skillfully given the roads and the blown tire. He must have lost his sense of direction; the cliff was fast approaching.
    "Oh my lord! The cliff!"
    "Stop the car!" Vanguard shouted. "Stop the car!"
    "The brakes are out!" the Muse shouted back. The woman with him was screaming. "I can't stop the car! I'm stuck! Vanguard, you have to save her!"
    She climbed over the back. He directed the autogyro toward her.
    "Catch hold of the rope!"
    She couldn't do it. He rode the horse up alongside the car, leaped onto it, grabbed her, then grabbed the rope himself just as the car—and the Muse, who said, "Thank you, at least I know her death won't be on my conscience!"—went over the edge.
    The girl was crying in Vanguard's arms.
    "Oh please, I've seen this before," he sighed. Thirteen years in the hero business, he knew a faked crash when he saw one. Granted, he's good at it.... "What's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?"
    "I was led astray by charming men," she sobbed. "Surely you'll speak well of me to the police?"
    "You're going to be led astray by not so charming men right into jail," he informed her.
    "Don't I know you from somewhere?" she asked a little later, as they made their way back toward the house.
    No sign was found of the Muse (or the manuscripts he had taken), or the Sphinx, but the heroes had captured the henchwomen and recovered the stolen goods, including jewels, cash, artwork, and some valuable Egyptian statuary. Mr. Fitzgerald was fine after he recovered from being chloroformed.
    Captain Vanguard returned to California, happy to do so. The papers had a field day, what with the police being hoodwinked and the vigilante Argus going off on her own, without notifying them, and with the Philadelphia vigilante perhaps aiding Captain Vanguard.
    The women were taken into custody, and little information leaked about their fate; there appeared to be some sort of scandal. The chief's secretary had gone on vacation. The press eventually stopped looking into the matter. It seemed of no note whatsoever that the Globe's publisher's young, beautiful daughter was currently home from school. The judge who saw the case agreed they had been led astray, there was little evidence and the vigilantes would not testify; he, too, as it happened, had a tall, athletic, beautiful daughter.... The Muse chose well. He also had a date he was minded to keep, but that's a story for another day.

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© 2002 Rebecca J. Stevenson