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[Aside: Scott]

    We looked through the League shop, or what remained of it, not to mention what remained of the six men who had charged out with the rifles, which wasn't much. I would normally have been upset about that, but despite the respite the Toy Man had given us I wasn't feeling quite my usual self. The civilians, those upset me.
    Once the rest of the team had been ferried into the city, we sent Albert to keep Reilly company for the duration. Scott had taken down the Wuxia's number-one money-maker in Chinatown, so we got his list and headed for number two. And then number three, and then number four. And yes, we know. It breaks a lot of rules. We'd run out of options, and after what had happened at Chinatown precinct no one seemed interested in questioning our strategy.
    It was getting dark, the way it does so early in Boston's winter, and we'd spent an industrious hour dodging bullets, breaking things, and twisting every arm in reach to find our quarry. The ground-level members of the Wuxia's organization should be given points for dedication to their employers, particularly the "elite guard" of swordsmen whom Scott had encountered while dealing with the Alley Cats, but some of them eventually saw the error of their ways and told us useful things; we closed in slowly.
    Phoenix Talon was back on his feet, albeit wobbly, and singing the whole time. "We put the Toy Man in jail, Mr. Pete Paulson in jail!" And then he'd punch somebody. "It's true, he's not dead, and I didn't melt his head, but he's in jail...."
    This kind of worries me.

[Aside: Elsewhere]

    We found the place, kept quiet down the hall, and broke down the door.
    "Who's got a gorilla for sale?" Talon sang. "Magilla Gorilla, for sale!"
    They hadn't heard us coming; there were four of them staring at one of the other walls when the door exploded under Scott's impact. No sign of Chang Yen (of course) or Yen Chu-Hsia (less explicably).
    I targeted Liang Hsiang, gritted my teeth and didn't actually try to kill her; she fell unconscious to the floor with a cry of pain. "Nighty-night, sister."
    Phoenix Talon whipped his sword out—I was pleased to see he was under control and the edge was retracted—and used it on Wu Tung. Thud. "Next! Who's got a gorilla for sale...."
    Thunderbolt fired an energy blast at Wu Tzu-Shi; another momentary deadlock.
    Scott launched himself at an empty spot in the air. "Yes!" Three down, two to go.
    Wu Tzu-Shi was beginning to circle around, looking for a way out, as Thunderbolt stalked toward him. Phoenix Talon flash-blinded Yeh Cha; he turned, tried to orient himself, made a low, flat leap and tore through a closed door on the other side of the room. Seeing Wu's eyes light up at the prospect of escape, I locked onto his aura, not hard given the amount of energy he was radiating. A moment later he rocketed off, and I sprinted after him. We passed Yeh Cha, who had run into the wall as he tried to reach the stairs. Wu headed up the heavily twisted stairwell at rather high speed; I stayed on him, and a moment later we shot out into the evening sky.
    The other three found Yeh Cha in what looked like a storeroom. Thunderbolt sucked the building dry and directed a lightning bolt at the massive man's chest. Phoenix Talon turned on the bokken's battery and wound up for a hearty swing. Scott saw him still standing after that and slammed into his gut. Yeh Cha finally cleared his eyes.
    "Good, this way you can see your defeat!" Talon yelled.
    "I am not afraid of you!" He started moving frenetically, trying to avoid any oncoming blows, dodged Phoenix Talon's blade and ran right into Scott's "fist." That was that.
    Scott dragged Yeh Cha into the other room and counted prisoners. Gave Liang Hsiang a whack with Yeh Cha to make sure she stayed unconscious while the others headed upstairs. While checking them for weapons, he found small red gem on Chang Yen.
    "Hey! You... wench!" he sputtered. In the other room he found a roll of masking tape, tied her up with it, and made a bunch of tape arrows on the floor to point out the invisible ninja for the police.
    Wu Tzu-Shi was pulling away from me by inches, but evidently decided he could take me out and make his escape at leisure instead. He spun around, zipped back along our flight path and eluded my grip, tried to focus on me; I felt the air superheating around me. We ended up orbiting one another, eyes locked, moving slowly higher. The air around us was full of light, getting brighter.
    To touch him, I had to either break the lock and hope he missed me while I made my attempt, or try to push right through his power. I chose the latter. The point of intersection moved a foot closer to him; he smiled viciously, doubled his effort and pushed it right back to about an inch from me. If he got through, I was going to die, if not from the pyrokinetic blast then from the fall. He was trying to get closer; I moved back.
    Far below, Phoenix Talon called Scott and suggested they swap places.
    I needed to break this lock fast, because I was running out of resources, but I didn't want to lose sight of him or put any civilians in danger. I took a chance, did a fast duck underneath him to come up behind; the energy beam ripped through where I had just been and no doubt started a fire wherever it hit. I got through to him, but just barely.
    Wu laughed. "If that's the best you can do...."
    "Not by a long shot, actually." Energy sizzled past me again and started a fire on the top of a nearby building. I firmed up my focus on his aura and hit him again, a lot harder this time.
    He tumbled backward, retreating into a convenient fog bank to recover. "You'll never find me in here!"
    Fog bank?
    Wu should consider himself lucky that Scott was there to catch him, because I wasn't going to bother. A few broken bones are the least this lot deserves.
    The police showed up with Albert and rapidly restrained the five members of the Wuxia. Phoenix Talon found a marker and wrote on Wu Tung's forehead, "The Revolution kicked my ass."
    "I trust that you dealt with everything?" the mesmerist said. "Excellent, excellent." He gave the prisoners a critical look. "I remember these people. Didn't care for them much then. I heard by the way that in the last few hours these people burned our house?"
    "Oh, yeah. We forgot to tell you about that. I hope there wasn't anything in it you liked too much," I told him.
    "And the cat?"
    I looked away. "Nobody's found him."
    "Well, at least now we can rest assured that everything is under control," he sighed. Before any of us could hit him, there came a sudden shimmering in the air behind him, and a man's figure appeared, somewhat translucent.
    "And I assure you," Mind Lazer said, "everything is under control."
    "Oh, shit," Thunderbolt murmured.

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© 2001 Rebecca J. Stevenson