Spacer Seeing the Light277
  | Asymmetry | Role-Playing | Villains & Vigilantes | The Revolution | Story So Far | Seeing the Light |



There's still plenty of room for things to get worse. - Brian



November 1, 1987

Busy day behind us, no doubt more ahead. We started with the Black Whip's mansion. Scott spent last night with the blueprints, trying to come up with a better approach than the one we tried last time.
    I, of course, got to start my day with Neil, who brought the chopper over bright and early and was smiling far too much.

[Aside: Scott]

    Nothing else for it; I had to go out and face the black helicopter out there on the barren end of our island.
    "I'm gonna have to head back to Providence this afternoon," Neil told me. "So.... It was great working with you last night."
    "Um. Yeah." I dragged my mind back to this particular problem from the question of how to deal with all of the more important things that actually make it a problem.
    "You're probably trying to figure out how to handle the people who caught you, right?"
    "Speaking of that...." I hated to do this; I wasn't sure if it fell under the category of leading the guy on, or what, but I wasn't comfortable with it. I suppose I really should have explained things then and there, but as usual I let myself procrastinate.
    "It's possible we could use your help for another day or so, if they can spare you."
    He brightened visibly. "Oh, I'm sure I'll be able to swing that. Y'know, stick around and help out. What did you have in mind?"
    "What kind of range do those missiles have?"
    "Couple miles."
    "Sounds good. After what happened last time, we might need more firepower."
    "I can certainly help to provide that; work side-by-side... have you, er, had breakfast yet?"
    "Yes," I said firmly, pleased that it wasn't a lie, and hoping that he would figure things out on his own. "Dawn's up in the kitchen, though, if you want to go grab something."
    "Oh." He looked disconcerted. "Um, okay, that sounds... are you coming up?"
    "I have some errands to run."
    "So... all right, I'll catch up with you later." He gave a confused wave and headed inside.

[Aside: Neil and Thunderbolt]

    Two things did not work well last time: splitting up, and sneaking in. We were agreed that we would not try either this time, but simply, as Scott put it, "kick the front door in and start taking names." Assuming they were foolish enough to still be there.
    We piled into the PITS chopper and headed out to the Berkshires without so much as telling the police, just in case there really was a security leak there, and also because they might be upset about our willingness to blow the place up if need be.
    Of course, I had to copilot, but that didn't leave a lot of time for idle chatter. Scott seemed to spend the entire trip staring at Thunderbolt, which is difficult to convey when you don't have eyes—I have to admit, I'm a little surprised myself about the way this whole thing has played out. Maybe Paul just doesn't know the people involved well enough to reach the obvious conclusions. Then again, he hasn't asked any of us for input on the situation. Maybe he does know what's going on, and has his reasons for acting this way.
    "I was assuming I'd stay back here in radio contact, and should something untoward happen, a word from you would summon a response from me?" Neil inquired.
    "Shall we?" Scott asked the group at large.
    "Let's," I smiled.
    Phoenix Talon was already gone.
    Below us was a massive central house with two wings leading off, acres of landscaped grounds, a long, white-graveled driveway, double-fences with razorwire on top... so they hadn't decided to camouflage the place as something completely innocent during the past few weeks, as we had thought they might.
    We went up the front walk. Scott tried the door and found it locked, with an airtight seal. Thunderbolt sensed active power sources within the building, although not as much as last time. If this was the World Crime League, the natural assumption would be that the entire building was a bomb, but fortunately, we aren't dealing with them just now.
    Scott coiled himself up and punched through the door in one neat, economical motion, then reached in through the hole and opened it for the rest of us. Alarms began going off, and gas poured down from the ceiling. I backed up swiftly as Phoenix Talon and Thunderbolt put on their gas masks, and contented myself with an aerial reconnaissance while they checked the place out.
    The house was abandoned, that much was quickly clear as the guys moved through their initial survey and turned off the security systems—state of the art for the 1940s, and not too shabby even now. The inhabitants had moved out with some speed, and not too long ago—no doubt when they'd heard about our escape.
    We searched the place thoroughly, in case they'd left anything useful behind. Found a weight room, a firing range, a classroom whose chalkboard listed the proper attributes of theme villains—how to select targets, avoid harming civilians, create a structured idiom, etc. Someone had left a textbook on deathtrap construction behind, and a box of generic henchmen costumes. In another room were sketches for a new getaway vehicle for Count Bastard, and something that looked like a pig-shaped blimp, but I think that was just doodling. Another had instructions on learning the enemy, with our pictures and lists of our powers. Phoenix Talon's picture was marked simply, "avoid." They had a whole box of his Little Red Book.
    We found some "secret" rooms, but they were also empty. From there, we went downstairs and investigated the sub-basements. No flesh garden, no zombie tubes, nothing out of the ordinary until Scott stumbled over a tunnel leading down to a pneumatic tube. There were berths for two cars, but only one there. Thunderbolt made sure it wasn't rigged to explode, I let Neil know what we were doing, and we got into the car and hit the green button. The car moved smoothly along a descending tunnel at quite high speed.
    "I gotta get one of these," Scott said, enchanted, no doubt thinking of a high-speed transportation network that could move through the tunnels that so fascinate him.
    We came to a halt at the end of the tube. The other car was there, covered with years of dust. There was even an exit sign over an open doorway leading into darkness. We went through and after a short way found ourselves in a sort of grotto, mostly occupied by a pool of water with what looked very much like a submarine dock.
    "Oh, cool," Scott remarked.
    "Oh, Christ," I muttered.
    Scott borrowed a flashlight from Thunderbolt and stuck part of himself under water to take a look around. "It goes a long way that way," he reported, surfacing. "It was headed kind of toward New York, I think, kind of hard to tell, there's no light and not like there's underwater tunnel signs or anything." He looked back toward the dusty tube car. "The last person to use this, say, Black Whip, used it a very long time ago."
    Something shimmered in the air above the water, and a submarine materialized at the dock. After a long moment in which we all simply stared at it, Scott reached over and tapped it. It made a solid, metallic sound. Real.
    "That wasn't there a minute ago," he remarked.
    "Well," I said, nonplussed.
    He stretched up and tugged at the entry hatch; it opened after some effort, and he pointed the flashlight down. The thing was full of canned vegetables and other supplies for a long stay. He moved into the control room and found a very, very dead figure sitting in the chair, facing the door. One desiccated hand held a pistol in his lap, as if he was waiting for someone to come in after him. His clothes suggested the early 60s. Scott ran a light pseudopod over the corpse and found a wallet.
    "It is him," he remarked, startled.
    "It is who?" I asked from outside, frustrated by the silence.
    "Oh, the owner of the house, he's in here. Kind of dead."
    "Oh. Okay."
    He also found a notebook: The Secret Journals of the Black Whip. The first page read, Now that I have been cleared by the government, I feel as if I can begin my life anew. Therefore, appropriately, I am starting a new journal. No longer will details of my criminal career be maintained here; I am an honest man.
    The sub looked to date from the 1950s; he found nothing in the control room to explain its sudden appearance. Outside, we kept alert and looked for holographic panels, anything that might have disguised the vehicle. There were crates of supplies—Spam, bottled water, that sort of thing—over in a corner of the grotto, but nothing mechanical or electrical.
    "He certainly thought he was well-prepared," I observed. "Any sign of a cause of death?"
    "Dessication," Scott called back. "I'm going to try something that might be a little silly. If the submarine vanishes and I go away, could you say Black Whip please?"

| Top | Previous Page Next Page


© 2001 Rebecca J. Stevenson