Villainy on Vacation
Diamonds Are An
Prologue - The Samurai and the Vamp
Shortly after midnight in Florence, Italy. Three days ago.
Vincenzo tried to squirm free of the woman's iron tight grip, but it was no use. And even if he could have freed himself, he had nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. He was walled in, cornered like the animal he was. He could feel the damp brick of the alley wall on his back, and the two tone brick stretched out along both sides of the alley as far as he could see. He had no idea how far he had run. Run from them.
"Well Vinny? You gonna tell us what you know, or do I have to get rough?"
The short Asian woman, the one holding his shirt collar tightly, grinned mischievously as she waited for Vinny to answer. The moonlight filtering through the partly clouded nighttime sky reflected off the yellow sun and yellow stripes of the woman's costume. The fabric sun seemed to rise out of the dark red color comprising the rest of her costume.
"I don't know nothin'!" Vincenzo said defiantly. "And even if I did, why'd I tell a couple of costumed broads like you two?"
The second woman, the taller one with red hair and pale blue eyes, moved out of the shadows and into the moonlight. Vinny's eyes widened a bit as they soaked in the sight of the six foot tall American dressed in a purple leather bodysuit - a bodysuit full of peek-a-boo openings and slits in all the right places.
"Vinny, darling" said the woman in purple, "Won't you help us? I don't want to see Katana hurt you. She can get very, ahem, unhappy when she doesn't get her way."
"Looker's right" said Katana flatly as she scowled at Vinny, clearly enjoying her role as the 'bad cop'. "I get very unhappy."
Vinny squirmed some more. "Looker, huh? That red-head sure is a looker all right" he thought.
"We're wait-ing!" growled Katana. She inched the blade of her sword, Soultaker, closer to Vinny's neck.
"The Comtalle Diamonds, Vinny" reminded Looker in a less friendly tone of voice than before. "Tell us who bought them from your boss. Tell us who sold them to your boss. We know you're the middle man."
"So? What's it to you?" spat Vinny, his cocky words hiding the danger he felt from the sword at his neck. "Since when do the Outsiders care about stolen jewelry? The JLA have all the better gigs or sumthin'?"
"We care since now!" deadpanned Katana. "Since the diamonds, on loan from Markovia, were stolen in France earlier this year. Since whoever stole the diamonds killed three members of the JLE in the process."
"I don't have 'em anymore. I told you .."
Katana gently edged the blade of her sword along Vinny's throat. A small trickle of blood began to run down from the cut, dropping onto Vinny's white shirt.
"H-Hey! What're you doing?"
"Trying to get you to talk" said Katana, hoping her strategy would work. "You don't seem to be cooperating so far."
"No .no .I mean ..I mean you can't kill me. Heroes don't slice throats" stammered Vinny.
"Oh we don't?" asked Katana, raising an intrigued eyebrow. "Who told you that?"
""Never mind" said Looker as she motioned Katana aside and stepped in front of Vinny. "I'll do this my own way. Seeing that blood of his has made me .thirsty."
Looker ran one of her fingers across Vinny's neck, coating it with blood. She then licked at her blood covered finger and smiled a toothy smile at Vinny. Vinny gasped as he saw Looker's incisors, twice the size of a normal human's.
"You're a ..you're a v-v-v-vampire!" stammered Vinny.
"Very good, darling. Although technically, I'm a lamia - a female vampire" said Looker as she inched her mouth towards Vinny's neck. "Now tell us what we want to know or I'll have a longer taste of your blood."
"That's not killing, you know" chimed in Katana helpfully. "You'd be undead, not dead."
"OK, OK. I'll tell you everything" screeched Vinny. "Just keep her away from me."
Part 1 - Along Came the Outsiders
Markovia. The rebuilt Castle Markovia. The following day.
"So what did you learn from your informant in Italy?"
The question was asked by Brion Markov, Prince of Markovia and also known as the hero Geo-Force. Seated at a circular table in one of the castle's spacious meeting rooms were the rest of the Outsiders. To Geo-Force's right sat Geoffrey Barron, the African-American hero known as Technocrat. On the Brion's left was the young heroine called Halo. Brion wasn't sure what name she preferred anymore. Was it Gaby, the name she had chosen for herself, or was it Marissa, the name of the woman whose body Halo now inhabited? Complicating matters further, Marissa was once Geoffrey Barron's wife.
Brion sighed, and tried to concentrate on the task at hand. He motioned for either Looker or Katana, both seated across from him, to answer his question.
Tatsu Yamashiro, Katana, spoke first. "Our informant, Vincenzo Adraggio, is the nephew of Victor Adraggio, the head of one of Italy's more powerful Mafioso families."
"That's right" added Lia Briggs, the red haired bombshell (and vampire) appropriately named Looker. "The Adraggio family recently sold the Comtalle Diamonds to a baroness living in England. Vincenzo wasn't sure of the baroness's name, but he did know that she is the widow of the Earl of Northumbria."
"Northumbria did you say?" asked Geoffrey Barron, suddenly taking a keen interest in the story.
"Yes, darling. Why do you ask?"
"Well, as you know, my company - Barron Enterprises - specializes in security, surveillance, and other related technologies. I recall the Earl of Northumbria requesting our services to safeguard his estate. We provide him the latest technologies - meta human power dampeners, force fields, and all sorts of alarms. You name it, and he and his wife wanted it."
"Yes. A very eccentric couple" agreed Brion. "I've met them once or twice in the royal circles and at social events here in Europe. Now that you mention it, I never knew her name either, I just called her Baroness. Regardless, the Baroness has a renowned collection of rare art and jewelry. That probably explains the extensive security system they bought."
"So, like, let me get this straight" said Gaby naively. "This Baroness lady bought the diamonds from the Mafia, even though they're stolen property?"
"Apparently so, Gabrielle." said Tatsu. "That's what our informant says."
"Did he say anything about who the Mafia bough the diamonds from?" asked Geoffrey.
"No. Everything was done through middle men" said Lia. "In fact, the Mafia had to outbid another potential buyer, a Kuwaiti oil tycoon, to get the diamonds. We're told that the tycoon was quite upset that he was outbid."
"Middle men buying from more middle men?" asked Gaby. "Sheesh! How confusing does this get?"
"The black market's not the most sensible thing" replied Geoffrey. "Especially when the goods you're selling were stolen in one of the most brazen heists in recent memory."
The room fell silent for a moment. Amazing Man. Crimson Fox. Blue Devil. The names of three heroes killed by the unknown Comtalle Diamond thief. None of the gathered Outsiders knew any of the fallen well, but nonetheless, they felt a bond between them. Like police officers and fire fighters, superheroes share a bond with other heroes that the general public couldn't quite understand. Outsiders, JLA, JSA, Titans, etc. They were all one big family of sorts, all brought together by a common desire to do good and to wear colorful spandex while doing so.
Geo Force's fist slammed down onto the wooden table top, causing a large crack to form. "By my crown!" he hissed angrily "The person responsible for the deaths of our comrades will pay for their misdeeds one day! They will not be overlooked! They will not be missed .."
"Brion!" interrupted a feminine voice from behind the miffed Markovian monarch. "Another table? That's the third one in two weeks! You really have to work on that temper of yours, dearest."
Gaby giggled at the reprimand. Denise Howard-Markov, Markovian Princess and Brion's wife (and the only person in the world who could get away with such a reprimand), entered the room. She stood next to her husband for a minute, then sat down in the empty chair next to Tatsu. The chair that used to belong to Faust, before he left the team to join the Sentinels of Magic.
"Sorry to interrupt" said Denise. "Carry on."
"So this Baroness has Markovia's diamonds" Gaby commented. "Do we just waltz in and say 'Hi, we want them back'? What's the plan?"
"Geoffrey, since the Baroness is a client of yours, do you think you can arrange a meeting with her?" asked Brion.
"Sure, no problem. Ahhh, I see what you're getting at. Scope out her place, see where she's hiding the diamonds ."
" .and then go back later and take them." interrupted Katana. "I like it. I like it!
"Good!" exclaimed Brion. "We leave tomorrow."
"Umm, Brion, aren't you forgetting something?" asked Denise. "We're to be in London tomorrow for the opening of the new National Art Gallery wing."
"Ooooh! A posh social event with royalty, politicians, and important people from all around the globe! Count me in!" exclaimed Lia.
"We can do both." sighed Tatsu as she rolled her eyes at Lia's exaggerated enthusiasm. "The Baroness is in England. The gallery opening is in England too."
"Sounds good to me" said Geoffrey.
All in attendance nodded in agreement, and soon a chartered plane carrying the five Outsiders and Denise was on its way to London.
Part 2 - Villains Always Blink Their Eyes
Just outside London. The summertime estate of Sheik Salaam al-Abar.
Inside his spacious office, Abar sat with his back turned to the immense picture window overlooking the estate's beautifully manicured lawns and gardens. Oblivious to the bright and sunny day outside (quite rare for London, you know), Abar puffed away on a fat Cuban cigar while happily reading the latest profit statements his accounting office had sent him.
The oil business was good. Better than good actually. It was stupendous, magnificent, and perhaps beyond the realm of descriptive adjectives. They didn't call it 'black gold' for nothing.
The Sheik smiled a greedy, pencil thin smile as his eyes scrolled down to the part of the report regarding sales to the United States.
"Those lovable, stupidly loveable Americans" he mused. "We cut supply and raise prices 25%, and they complain a bit, yet still buy more and more gasoline. I wonder what they would do if we cut supply even more and raised prices an additional ."
Thankfully for all the SUV loving drivers in America, the metallic buzz of the intercom on his desk distracted Abar from his thoughts. He put down the profit statements and pushed a red button on the intercom with a fat, pudgy finger.
"Two men here to see you, sir" replied the somewhat nervous voice on the intercom's other end. "A, uhh, Mr. Raider and, uhh, a Mr. Master."
"Ahh, yes" said Abar as another sly smile spread across his lips. "Send them in at once ple---"
The big wooden doors to the office swung open with a thud before Abar could finish. He looked up from the desk and saw two men, one walking and the other flying on a rainbow-like beam, approaching him. Abar remained seated, but tugged at his tie in apprehension. Had it been a mistake to hire these two?
The man flying on the rainbow beam was none other than Roy G. Bivolo, alias the Rainbow Raider. Bivolo's powers, he could control the colors of the spectrum in almost every way imaginable, lit up the dimly illuminated room. Smoke from Abar's cigar was illuminated in violet, yellow, and green light as it wafted its way up to the ceiling vents.
With wide eyes, Bivolo glanced at the paintings adorning the walls of the office as he floated down the long stretch of oriental carpet leading to Abar's desk. A Picasso oil painting hung on the wall in between an N.C. Wyeth landscape and a color splattered Jackson Pollack canvas. A surreal Salvador Dali dreamscape seemed to flow right into the Andy Warhol print next to it.
"Whoa" mumbled Bivolo, a one time artist himself. "Some collection he's got here."
Walking next to Bivolo, the orange and green costumed man whose real name was McCulloch snorted at his fellow rogue's fannish comment. The Mirror Master was all business, and McCulloch was glad to have another sabotage work-for-hire job lined up after a long time away from his preferred modus operandi.
The other Mirror Master, the dead one (not that goof Digger Harkness who played the part for a while), wasted his talents fighting superheroes, thought McCulloch. Sure, McCulloch had tangoed with his fair share of heroes, but he strongly believed that there was more to villainy than just revenge and outsmarting the fastest man alive. Plus, these work-for-hire jobs paid much better.
Reaching the desk at last, McCulloch extended his green gloved hand toward Abar.
"A'm Mirror Master, an' bright boy over there is th' Rainbow Raider" said MCulloch, his words thick with a Scottish accent. "We heard through th' grapevine ye needed a little job done."
"That's correct gentlemen. But please, sit down. Make yourself comfortable" Abar motioned towards two high backed leather chairs in front of the desk. Hiring supervillains for the first time was stress inducing enough, but having one hovering around on a solidified rainbow was just too much. Abar wanted, no needed, to feel like he was in control of the situation.
Mirror Master sat down and watched as Rainbow Raider jumped into his own chair and began fiddling with his goggles. Mirror Master shook his head and started to question if bringing Bivolo along was such a good idea. The guy was somewhat of a has been, even stooping so low as to play the bad guy in the Flash movie produced in Santa Marta a couple years ago.
"Ah well. Just as long as A' gets me money fer doin' the job" thought Mirror Master.
Abar pulled two photographs out of his desk drawer and handed them to the two villains.
"What I want done concerns the Comtalle Diamonds, the picture Mr. Raider has, and the woman in the picture you have, Mr. Master. The Baroness of Northumbria."
Abar removed the band from another cigar and lit it before continuing.
"As you gentlemen can see, I'm a collector of fine art. I was recently outbid by the Baroness at an 'auction' for the diamonds. I want those jewels, gentlemen, and I am accustomed to getting what I want."
"We c'n do diamonds, no problem" said Mirror Master. "But why th' two o' us? Y' dinna need two hired guns like us t' take somethin' from an old woman."
"Don't underestimate her" snapped Abar. "She has some of the best security money can buy. She is a collector of art just like I am, one of my main rivals in fact. My 'arch-enemy' of the social world, if you would."
"Meaning you also want her murdered?" asked Rainbow Raider, not sure if he wanted to get involved in something this serious. Stealing was one thing, murder was a whole different game.
"No. Something much worse than murder" said Abar, his eyes narrowing to angry slits. "I want her to suffer the ultimate humiliation. The Baroness is donating some of her precious artwork, ill gotten or otherwise, to the new wing of the National Art Gallery. While one of you steals the diamonds from her estate, I want the other to disrupt the event, causing as much havoc as possible."
Abar paused and reached into his desk once more. He pulled out a compact disc and handed it to Mirror Master.
"This disc contains photographic evidence of the Baroness's illegal dealings. I want you to either display these images during the event or to make sure they find their way into the hands of one of the media outlets there. Can you do that?"
"Sure can" said the Rainbow Raider.
"Nae' so fast." interrupted Mirror Master as he took the disk from Abar.
"You have some sort of problem?" asked Abar with a hint of surprise in his voice.
"Nope. Nae' at all. It's just that th' diamonds are hot property given how they were originally stolen" explained Mirror Master. "There might be superheroes involved. Our price just went up by 20%."
A flash of green light flickered across the Rainbow Raider's goggles as Abar considered the request for more money. Abar couldn't tell if Mirror Master was simply greedy or if he was genuinely serious. The expressionless Scotsman's poker face was perfect.
"Very well. You'll have an extra 20%" agreed Abar. "I needed an excuse to raise oil prices anyway. Gentlemen, consider yourselves being paid by the gas guzzling citizens of the USA."
Abar smiled and began to laugh. Both villains followed suit, already plotting and planning for the coming evening's treachery.
Part 3 - Geoffrey Barron and the Baroness
Noon. The Estate of the Baroness of Northumbria
The bright sunny morning of only a few hours ago had already begun to fade into overcast skies and light drizzle as a sleek black limousine pulled into the driveway of the estate. Waved through the gated entrance by tough looking guard, the limo pulled to a stop upon reaching the front walkway leading to the mansion.
Tatsu, dressed formally in a dull gray pantsuit with matching hat, exited the limo from the driver's seat. Playing the part of chauffeur to a T, She walked around to the limo's other side and opened the door. As Geoffrey and Gaby stepped out into the drizzle, Tatsu tried to memorize every detail of the estate grounds that lay stretched out before her. The small guardhouse to the east of the mansion, the arrangement of the shrubbery, the reflecting pool thirty paces from the front door. The details would prove invaluable for her return trip, albeit in a different role, to the mansion later this evening.
"Ah! Here comes the Baroness now!" exclaimed Geoffrey as he caught sight of the Baroness coming towards them along the walkway.
Gaby squinted her eyes a bit and looked in the direction Geoffrey had gestured. The Baroness, accompanied by two security guards, appeared to be in her mid fifties. The roots of her hair, pulled up into a bun, were graying, and a few prominent wrinkles creased he forehead. She was dressed like the stereotypical prim and proper upper class woman, with a long ankle length skirt and a white silk blouse with a touch of lace at the neck. Around her neck was a string of pearls, no doubt real thought Gaby, and an immense diamond ring rested on her left ring finger.
Even though she and Geoffrey were dressed rather nicely themselves, he in a black suit (without a tie - Geoffrey hated ties for some reason) and she in a dark emerald green suit, Gaby felt a bit out of place. She fiddled with her earrings a bit, not knowing what to do while the Baroness took her time strolling down to meet them, and she secretly wished that her skirt had pockets so she could hide her nervous hands. Geoffrey reached over and took her right hand in his left, and Gaby slowly began to feel more at ease.
"Mr. and Mrs. Barron! Welcome. So glad you could stop by." said the Baroness in a perfectly mannered, somewhat snooty tone of voice as she extended her right hand.
With a grace learned through many dealings with other high profile clients, Geoffrey took the Baroness's hand and kissed it lightly. "The pleasure is mine" he said smoothly. "And this is my wife, Marissa Barron."
"Please to meet you, but please call me Gaby" said Gaby as she curtsied awkwardly, stumbling a bit in her heeled pumps.
The Baroness frowned at Gaby's clumsiness, but all was quickly forgotten as Geoffrey turned on the charm. He was one of the most intelligent men Gaby knew, and she was amazed at the way he quickly dismissed Tatsu, put the Baroness at ease, and steered the conversation away from small talk and to the matter at hand. A self made businessman like Geoffrey had to be this good in order to succeed on the level he had.
A few minutes passed, and the trio found themselves in a large, oval shaped gallery within the mansion.
"These are the reason why I need the security measures your company sells" said the Baroness as she gestured at the numerous paintings that adorned the walls of the brightly lit gallery.
"Yes, yes. Your collection is world renowned" replied Geoffrey as he inched closer to one of the paintings. "Mind if I have a look at some of it before we get down to business?"
"Not at all," said the Baroness politely. "The painting you're looking at ."
"Is by Paolo Uccelo, is it not?" interrupted Geoffrey. "The 'Battle of San Romano,' I believe."
"Very good, Mr. Barron" exclaimed the Baroness. "I didn't know you were an art connoisseur!"
"I'm a man of many talents, Baroness" he replied coyly. "Isn't this one of the paintings you're donating to the new gallery tonight in London?"
"Indeed. This and two others. 'Madonna and Child' by Fra Filippo Lippi and 'Sacred and Profane Love' by Titian."
"Titian? You don't say! He's my favorite of the Renaissance artists" mentioned Geoffrey.
Clearly intrigued by his knowledge of Renaissance art, the Baroness inched closer to Geoffrey, until she brushed alongside him. "I actually have quite a few Titians" she explained as she offered him her arm. "They're in another room. Care to see them?"
"Most definitely" answered Geoffrey as he crooked his elbow, extending it towards the Baroness. She slipped her hand into his arm, and the two set off for the other gallery.
"The nerve of that woman!" thought Gaby, not knowing whether to laugh or be angry. "She's flirting with Geoffrey right in front of me! Right in front of his wife! If really were his wife that is .Either way, that woman is gutsy!"
Gaby followed behind them, and when the two had turned a corner and were out of earshot, she whispered softly into her necklace.
"You getting all this, Tatsu?" she asked, feeling a bit odd talking to a necklace.
Back in the limousine, Tasu picked up a microphone. "Yes, perfectly" she replied. "The hidden camera in your necklace is transmitting exactly as Geoffrey said it would. I've got the layout of the house, the security measures, everything you've seen, recorded onto videotape.
Gaby adjusted her right earring, a secret receiver that allowed her to hear what Tatsu was saying, before proceeding. "Great! This is so cool! I feel like an MI-5 agent, you know, like a female James Bond."
Gaby quietly slipped into the second gallery where Geofrey and the Baroness were engaged in a pointed conversation. They never noticed she had been gone.
"I still feel Titian's biblical works were his best" said Geoffrey. " 'Gypsy Madonna' for example. And my favorite, 'Assumption of The Virgin'. The sheer size of the work, the warm tones and vivid use of red and golden yellows. It all creates a wondrous transcendental experience."
"No, no. 'Sacred and Profane Love' is his masterpiece" replied the Baroness. "The two women seated opposite each other in a complimentary yet mysterious way. The contrast of Sacred Love's nakedness to Profane Love's fully clothed body clearly highlights their differences - higher, pure love versus earthly, materialistic love."
"True, very true. Perhaps I'm just a fan of biblical scenes" answered Geoffrey. "Henry Ossawa Tanner's 'The Annunciation' and 'Daniel in the Lion's Den' are two of my favorites. He's not a Renaissance artist though ."
"Early 20th century American," interrupted Gaby, as the two turned to face her, embarrassed to realize they'd been ignoring her. "First African-American painter to have a work included as part of the White House's art collection."
"Impressive. You're an art lover like your husband?" asked the Baroness.
"No, not as much. I'm more into jewelry" said Gaby, deftly changing the subject. "You know, diamonds are a girl's best friend and all that."
"Indeed. Indeed I do" replied the Baroness as she lightly touched the string of pearls she was wearing. "Come, let me show you one of my most recent acquisitions."
Following the Baroness into the adjoining room, Gaby winked slyly at Geoffrey. She had taken the bait - hook, line, and sinker.
The jewelry room housed only a part of the Baroness' collection, and Gaby wondered how large the rest of the collection was. All the showcases in the room were guarded by a web of interlocking lasers, and the slightest movement or breakage of the beams would sound an ear piercing alarm on site and a silent alarm at the local police headquarters. The Baroness tapped a five digit code into a console on the entryway wall, and the lasers disappeared.
Gaby tapped her necklace.
"I've got it" whispered Tatsu from the limo. "We've got the deactivation code."
The Baroness strutted over to a display case in the middle of the room. She deactivated another set of security measures, and then pulled a glittering strand of diamonds from their glass encased, black velvet perch.
"Ooooh!" cooed Gaby, not wanting to tip her hand. "Are they a family heirloom?"
"You could say that, but they're not from my family" responded the Baroness. "They're Markovian. The Comtalle Diamonds."
Both Gaby and Geoffrey stared at the diamonds for a moment, transfixed by their beauty. Each diamond, the strand had at least thirty, sparkled with a life of its own. They were so beautiful that one could understand why Sheik al-Abar was upset at being outbid for them.
Not wnting to dally, now that they had confirmed the diamonds' location, Geoffrey steered the conversation toward security system upgrades and the alleged reason for their visit. A short bit later, the business deal done, the three Outsiders departed, content in the knowledge of a job well done.
Part 4 - The Most Pressing Matter of All
The Markovian Embassy. Later that Afternoon.
Upstairs, in a mostly empty spare room, Brion was sitting on a metal folding chair. As a designer and her team of seamstresses buzzed about, he picked up a spare chair and began levitating it using his null-gravity powers. With a bit of well placed plus-gravity force thrown in, he could get the chair to rotate like a Ferris wheel. It took some concentration to get the chair spinning, but after a while it became easier. Brion smiled. He wasn't called Geo Force for nothing.
"How does this one look?"
Looking resplendent in a fire engine red evening gown, Denise sashayed over to her husband. Brion stopped playing with the chair and let it fall to the ground with a clatter.
"It looks nice" he answered. "In fact, all of them you've tried on look nice."
Lia popped her head out from behind the curtain that served as a hastily erected dressing room.
"Oh, what do you expect him to say?" she teased. "That it makes you look fat? He's just being a good husband. Anything is fine with him."
"So what do you think, Lia?" asked Denise.
"Red just isn't your color, darling" came the reply. "Come back and try on another one."
Denise disappeared behind the curtain, and Brion resumed levitating the chair.
"How long does it take to pick out a dress?" he thought to himself. "It's just an art gallery opening, not a life or death situation."
Brion sighed. Loudly enough to let his growing boredom be known to the two women. He had needed only ten minutes to be fitted for his tux. Ten minutes! Here it was an hour and a half later, and Denise and Lia still hadn't made a decision.
Red dresses, blue dresses, yellow dresses. Brion had seen them model dresses in colors he didn't even know existed. Black dresses with long skirts, black dresses with short skirts, sleeveless black dresses, backless black dresses. Brion must've seen at least fifteen variations and styles of black dresses alone. Everything became a blur after a while, and they all looked the same to his modest sense of fashion.
Emerging from behind the curtain for what seemed like the hundredth time this afternoon, Lia was wearing a lacy white dress and Denise a light blue one. The duo stopped in front of three full length mirrors to examine every minute detail of how they looked. Brion didn't even bother to glance up.
"What do you think?" asked Lia to Denise as she pirouetted in front of the mirrors.
Earlier, Denise had felt disconcerted by Lia's lack of reflection in the mirrors. It was odd to see her standing in front of them while the mirrors remained devoid of an image. No wonder vampires wore such tacky clothing in the movies.
"I think the one you tried on before looks better" answered Denise.
"I think so too. You look good in blue by the way."
"Thanks, but I don't have any shoes to match."
"Not a problem" smiled Lia. "I'm sure Brion will spring for new ones."
Brion shook his head. The royal accountant was going to have a fit when she saw the bill for this affair. And Lia's advice to Denise about buying dresses in England - "Get one that costs at least three to four times as many pounds as you weigh" - sure didn't help any.
Hearing the slamming of a door and familiar voices from below, Brion politely excused himself and headed downstairs to see how the others had done at the Baroness's estate. Standing on the staircase overlooking the entryway, he saw Gaby storming down the hall, arms crossed and pouting. Tatsu was following closely behind her.
"But Tatsu, it's not fair!" whined Gaby. "I wanna go! I wanna go!"
"Gabrielle, I already explained this to you ."
"But But "
"And stop whining!" scolded Tatsu in a mother-like voice. "It's not very endearing."
As the two continued down the hall, Brion could still hear bits and pieces of the argument. Noticing Geoffrey standing on the steps below him, Brion asked if all had gone well.
"Everything went fine" answered Geoffrey. "Gaby's upset because she's needed for tonight's little breaking and entering escapade. She really had her heart set on hobnobbing with high society, I guess."
"I would gladly trade places with her" offered Brion.
"Yeah, I figured. You seem more comfortable busting up bad guys than playing the role of Mr. Proper Prince."
"You don't know the half of it!" laughed Brion. "Some of those socialites can verbally tear me up better than any villain could do physically. By the way Geoffrey, do you need a tux for tonight? I can have the designer upstairs ."
"No that's all right. I've been working on a new design of my Technocrat battle suit" explained Geoffrey. "Using the latest matter compression technologies, my scientists have developed a tuxedo that's similar to the old Flash's costume holding ring. With a touch of a button, my battle suit will decompress from the tux and be ready to go in a jiff."
"Sounds interesting. Expecting trouble?"
"Who knows? But I'll be prepared anyway" answered Geoffrey. "Speaking of trouble, where's Lia and Denise?"
"Still deciding what to wear" sighed Brion. "I couldn't stand it anymore, so I just left my credit card with them."
"You left your credit card with them?"
"Like leaving the wolf in charge of the sheep" replied Geoffrey.
Part 5 - Rainbow Warriors
Evening. The Baroness's Estate
Descending from the sky on his floating rainbow, the Rainbow Raider touched down just outside the tree line that denoted the estate's property line. He walked towards the trees, then stopped as he recalled Sheik al-Abar's warnings about the security system. The Raider adjusted a setting on his gloves, and a low intensity orange beam emanated from his hands. Midway through trees, the orange beam crackled with feedback as it encountered a hidden force field.
Force fields? Not much of a concern to the Raider. Using the orange beam to illuminate the perimeter of the field, he located one of its power generators. Tucked inside a hollowed out spot in a tree trunk, the generator quietly pulsed and hummed with life.
But not for much longer. The Raider's orange beam dissipated and was replaced by a thick, soupy black beam. Using his black beam (black being the absence of color) allowed the Raider to drain energy or power from any target. This was unlike most other color beams the Raider used, which tended to affect a person's emotional state, but the Raider didn't really care to know the scientific explanation behind his gadgets. As long as they worked, he was happy.
With the force field generator now drained of power, he walked confidently through the border of trees and onto the estate's manicured lawn. He could see the tiny red lights of video surveillance cameras hidden in the scattered shrubbery as they swiveled in his direction. The motion detectors buried in the lawn also betrayed his presence to the security guards in the mansion, but the Raider didn't care. Beating the hired help was half the fun.
"Just let 'em try to stop me!" he muttered to himself, smug with arrogance.
The estate's security room contained surveillance monitors, computers controlling all the mechanized security devices, and a host of other machinery. At a small desk next to the monitors sat Frank Fulton, chief of security. Frank had just settled in for another boring yet routine night when he heard the motion detectors begin to beep and chirp like crazed crickets. Glancing up from the copy of War and Peace resting on his lap, Frank saw the silhouetted outline of the Rainbow Raider on one of the monitors. Grabbing his walkie-talkie from his belt, Frank spoke excitedly, momentarily forgetting to press the push- to-talk switch.
"Hey troops!" he said, addressing the five other members of his force, "We got an infiltrator in the south garden. Get ready to take this sucker down!"
A pack of bloodthirsty Dobermans charged at the Raider as he continued towards the mansion. Striking the lead dog with a multi-color blast, he took to the air as the dogs snarled and nipped at his heels. From atop his hovering rainbow, the Raider put his thumb to his nose and began to mock them.
"Nyah-nyah! Can't reach me, can you? Ha ha ha ha!"
He laughed as he wiggled his fingers and stuck out his tongue. Provoking the dogs made them angrier, but the Raider was having fun making a mockery of the Baroness' expensive security system. Another force field and a few destroyed laser cannons later, and he was at the mansion's rear wall.
"Little pig, little pig, let me in!" chanted the Raider as a red glow began to intensify in brightness around his wrists.
Releasing the pent up red energy, the Raider shielded himself as the resulting intensive explosion blew a hole in the mansion's brick wall. Bits of brick and mortar bounced about and a hazy cloud of dust rose into the nighttime sky as the wall collapsed.
"Or I'll huff, and I'll puff, and blow your house down!" He finished the nursery rhyme and entered the mansion through the gaping hole.
"I still don't see why I had to come with you."
Back outside, two more flying figures slowly descended to the ground. These two were heroines however, even though their actions tonight would be borderline illegal.
"Gabrielle, we've been through this enough!" exclaimed Tatsu. "You have first hand knowledge of the mansion that the others don't have, plus your powers are more suited to this than "
"OK, OK. Sorry to be a brat." apologized Gaby.
Tatsu nodded and reached into the utility belt of her red and yellow costume. She pulled out a small mechanical device and handed it to Gaby.
"Geoffrey says this device will disable the force fields surrounding the mansion."
Gaby pressed the 'disable' button and looked puzzled as nothing happened. She pressed the button a second and a third time, but still, nothing.
"Maybe it needs new batteries?" she asked.
Tatsu leaned over a plucked a small stone from the ground. She threw it in the direction of the force field and watched it sail through unaffected.
"Hmmmm. Interesting. Looks like somebody's beat us here" said Tatsu flatly.
"Well c'mon then, let's go!" chirped Gaby. "Katana and Halo to the rescue!"
The aura surrounding Halo (Gaby) turned deep indigo, and she flew into the air pulling Katana (Tatsu) behind her in a tractor beam. Flying quickly towards the mansion, Halo dodged and weaved through the defensive blasts of the few laser canons the Rainbow Raider hadn't destroyed. Halo could only use one of her colorful auras at a time, and since she was using the indigo aura to tow Katana, she couldn't directly attack the cannons. An orange force blast could've disabled the cannons in a heartbeat, but doing so would've meant dropping Katana!
The two heroines passed by the gaping hole created by the Rainbow Raider, but didn't enter the mansion through it. From their surveillance earlier in the day, they had decided that entering through the rear foyer would be the quickest way to the jewelry display room.
"Stop right there buddy!"
"Or what?" asked the Rainbow Raider to the two security guards in front of him.
The two guards, pointing their weapons at the Raider, looked at each other dumbfounded. Nobody had ever made it past the outdoor security measures before.
"Or or we'll shoot?" asked one guard, still somewhat puzzled.
The Raider smirked and struck both guards with a yellow colored beam. As what confidence they had oozed away, the two men began to quiver and shake. One dropped his weapon, the other curled into a fetal position.
"Nope. You'll do nothing. My yellow beam seems to have brought out the cowards in you" smirked the Raider.
The Raider continued onward into the mansion, but quickly realized that he couldn't find the diamonds on his own. He grabbed another guard, turned a green beam on her, and was soon headed for the jewelry room. The green beam brings out the envy and jealousy within a person, and the female guard had been all too happy to tell him where to go. Seems that being paid minimum wage by a filthy rich baroness causes some jealousy. Hmm, go figure.
Back in the security room, Frank was sweating buckets. He didn't know what to do. Three of his guards had been incapacitated, and now he had two more intruders in the rear foyer. This was not good.
Not having any manpower left, he punched a button on the console to his left, hoping that the security 'bots could handle the foyer. Frank gazed at another monitor and watched his last two guards confront the Raider. A brilliant white light blinded the camera for a moment as the Raider attacked. When the camera blinked back on, Frank could see the two guards stumbling about. The blast had overwhelmed their retinas' sensitivity to light, causing temporary blindness.
Frank angrily slammed his fist on the console. Why hadn't the police arrived yet? He had called for their help as soon as possible, but they must all be in London, protecting the dignitaries at the gallery opening. Frank had one last trick up his sleeve though, and he decided to wait for the right moment to use it.
Now inside the mansion's foyer, Halo and Katana moved quietly in the darkness. The glow from Halo's yellow aura was the only thing keeping them from bumping into the walls and sparse furnishings in the room.
"Once we get to the hallway, take the first door on the left" whispered Katana.
"No, the left."
"Ummm I meant OK" replied Halo.
BZZZZZ ..WHIRRRRRR .BZZZZZZ WHIRRRRRRR
"Halo, do you hear som- ?"
Katana's question was cut short as the lights blazed on. Covering their darkness-accustomed eyes, both heroines could vaguely see a dozen shapes approaching them from the hallway.
"BZZZZZ ..You are tresspassing .You are under arrest ..BZZZZZ" crackled a metallic voice.
"Robots!" gasped Halo as she got a better look at the dozen, clunky looking shapes.
"We don't have time for them" said Katana curtly. "I'll take care of them. You get the diamonds."
"No buts Gabrielle. I'll be fine."
Rising above the grasping metallic claws of the robots, Halo flew into the adjoining hallway safely. Seemingly unconcerned by her departure, the robots closed in on Katana, surrounding her in a circle.
Withdrawing her sword from its sheath, Katana prepared to strike. She looked like a pushover, at only five feet and two inches in height, but she was far from it. The she-samurai smiled wryly, tensed her muscles, and leaped into action with a loud yell.
With a grinding sound of metal cleaving metal, Katana slashed through two robots quickly. She had to keep moving because the robots were designed to subdue intruders, not catch them. They relied on sheer numbers, overwhelming an opponent with quantity, to catch their prey. But with every robot Katana dismembered, the odds shifted slightly in her favor.
Keeping true to their programming, the robots closed in on Katana, slowly cornering her into a smaller and smaller part of the foyer. With less room for her to maneuver, they had the advantage. They could then use their claws and short range tasers to render their opponent unconscious. One well placed razor tipped edge or one well placed synaptic shock was all it took.
Katana quickly saw what he robots were planning and played along. She selectively struck at one and then retreated, struck another and retreated, lulling the robots into a pattern. She methodically whittled down their numbers while plotting an escape.
Six robots were still functional as Katana's back touched the foyer's rear wall. Trapped! She paused momentarily to scowl at her attackers. The scowl would have sent any human or animal fleeing in fear, but the robots' artificial intelligence remained unfazed. They continued pressing inward.
Rearing her sword arm backward for more power, Katana snapped it back forward in a lightning fast movement. The thrusted sword flew as straight as an arrow, piercing the chest of the robot directly in front of her. As the robot twitched in its electronic death throes, Katana performed a handspring, vaulting herself through the spot in the line where the fallen robot had fallen.
No longer boxed in, Katana removed two medium sized daggers from her belt and attacked the backs of her slow to turn around opponents. The sharp edged daggers tore into the robots' exposed circuit boxes as Katana sliced rapidly with a frenzied, yet controlled, hand. She knew just where to strike to do the most damage. Geoffrey's company had designed the robots, of course.
Finished skewering, Katana ran to the other side of the foyer to put some distance between herself and the final three 'bots. She felt blood trickling down her left leg and realized that she had been cut when leaping through the line. Not wanting to dwell on her injuries, Katana resumed her attack.
She threw the two daggers at one robot, destroying its optical sensors. As it bumped about wildly, Katana plucked two shruiken - Japanese throwing stars - from her belt and threw them with deadly accurate aim at another.
With one robot to go, Katana was out of weaponry! Even with sword and daggers imbedded in now-broken machinery, she was far from defenseless. Skilled in many forms of martial arts, she had developed a style of her own that combined aspects of Japanese Aikido with the leaping leg kicks of tae kwon do and the knee techniques of muy-thai.
Launching herself into the air, she landed a jumping ball kick to the robot's chin. It staggered a bit, and so did Katana as the pain in her foot reminded her that kicking metal was not the same as kicking a human.
The robot threw a right hand punch, which was easily avoided. It tried another right hand, but this time, Katana grabbed its arm with both hands and crunched her knee into the robot's elbow.
"I'm gonna feel this tomorrow for sure" thought Katana as she dodged a left handed punch from the robot.
Its useless right arm dangling akimbo to its body, the robot's time was up. Another kick to the midsection and an elbow to the circuit box later, and Katana had turned it into a pile of scrap metal.
Exhausted, the she-samurai removed her sword from the impaled chest of another fallen robot. Brushing her sweaty black bangs from her forehead, she contemplated resting for a moment. But then she remembered Halo and wondered why she hadn't returned yet.
Halo made it to the jewelry room without any trouble, and after entering the access code to the door she saw the Baroness use earlier in the day, she went about disabling the rest of the security system. Force fields were disabled using the mechanical device Geoffrey had given her, and by entering another access code into a console in the wall, the floor's weight sensitive motion detectors switched off.
Halo walked briskly to the velvet display case housing the diamonds and plucked it from its marble stand. But all was not as it seemed .
"Wait a minute!" exclaimed Halo as she glanced into the case. "The diamonds! They're not here! They're gone!"
She didn't have time to ponder this predicament further as a black beam whirred past her, dangerously close to her left shoulder.
"Hand over the diamonds, girlie" ordered the Rainbow Raider as he entered the room. "I didn't come all this way for nothin'."
"I don't have them!" said Halo as she threw the empty case at the Raider. "See for yourself!"
The glass case shattered as it hit the wood floor, and the Raider scowled. He wanted those diamonds. He had been hired to do a job, and he was going to do it!
"You're lying! Give them to me!" he shouted as he fired another black beam of energy draining light at Halo.
"I don't want to fight you. I told you "
Dodging quickly behind the marble podium, another beam narrowly missed her. The aura around her body began to glow bright red.
"That does it!" shouted Halo. "I didn't get to party with everybody else, I didn't get to buy a new dress, and now some dork in a black costume with tacky rainbow trim is taking potshots at me! You're toast, bozo!"
A red heat blast emanated from Halo's hands, and the Raider took the brunt of it in the chest. He toppled over into a large display case full of ancient Greek jewelry, shattering it.
"And I didn't come all this way just to lose!" hissed the Rainbow Raider. "Especially to some little wannabe girl with my powers!"
"Your powers? Have I got new for you buddy!"
Beams of all the colors of the spectrum lit up the room. Blue light beams from the Raider. Orange force blasts from Halo. A multi-spectral shot from the Raider. A dazzling yellow beam from Halo. The room looked like a live Jackson Pollack action painting - either that or a 1970's disco dance floor on speed.
The two combatants were opposite sides of the same coin, identifiable in a rainbow world by their contrasting costumes. Appropriately enough, the bad guy wore black, and the good girl wore white - like an old black and white western converted into Technicolor.
Rainbow Raider's black beam sapped Halo's energy. Halo's green stasis beam weakened the Raider. Back and forth they fought, neither gaining an advantage.
"You and I .we could make beautiful artwork together!" said the Raider as he lashed out with a red beam.
"You and me? No way!" replied Halo as she struck back with an yellow burst.
An eerie orange glow lit up the room where the two colored beams met, and Halo knew she had to do something to end their protracted stalemate. Changing from her yellow aura to her blue aura, she floated closer to the Raider, making herself look like a tantalizingly easy target.
"A-ha! You hesitate! I've got you!" crowed the Raider as he attacked.
The Raider's blast passed right through Halo, but didn't seem to faze her. The Raider stood speechless, wondering why his most powerful attack had no effect.
"Would the real me please stand up?" asked Halo as she materialized next to her dumbfounded opponent. "It's not really me. My blue aura is a distortion beam. Makes me appear to be in places I'm not."
"Oh. Oh boy "
"That's right" smiled Halo as her glow changed from blue to orange. "One nice big force blast and you'll be out like a light."
The Raider crashed to the floor as Halo's blast rammed into him. At that same moment, Katana entered the room.
"You OK?" she asked, noticing the Raider's sprawled body.
"Yeah, no diamonds though. Let's get out of here."
"Not so fast!" boomed a voice from a loudspeaker in the room. "You trashed my security team, destroyed my 'bots, and probably cost me my job! You're not getting away that easy!"
In the security room, Frank Fulton slammed down the microphone and simultaneously pushed two buttons on the console. It was a last ditch effort, but he had to try.
The door to the jewelry room slammed shut with a bang, and a greenish gas began floating down from the fire sprinklers in the ceiling towards the two heroines.
"Poisonous gas! What'll we do?" hollered Halo.
"Don't panic!" ordered Katana as she pulled two re-breathing apparatuses from her utility belt. "Put this in your nose and breathe through your mouth."
"But I'll look like a dork!"
"Gabrielle, just do it! And don't talk."
Halo did as told, and then gestured towards the room's outer wall with her hands. Katana nodded. Destroying the wall with a force beam, Halo created a means of escape. She then pointed at the Rainbow Raider while gesturing towards the exit.
Katana shrugged her shoulders in a "sure, why not?" manner, and the two women grabbed the unconscious villain and pulled him outside with them.
Once outdoors, they were safe from the gas.
"We better drop him off," said Halo, pointing at the Raider, "and then tell Brion the diamonds are missing."
"Very well," replied Katana as she examined the still bleeding wounds she received in her robotic tussle, "But I'm afraid I may need medical attention. Same goes for our 'friend' here. There's no telling how much of that gas he inhaled."
Part 6 - I'll Be Your Mirror (Reflect What You Are)
The National Gallery of Art, earlier that evening.
"OK, Joanie. You're on in 5 4 .3 "
The cameraman mouthed the words "two" and "one," then pointed directly at the two reporters in front of him.
"Welcome back. For those of you just joining us, I'm Joan Lincoln along with Crickett Kelly. The excitement here in London is building as just about all of the guests have arrived for tonight's long awaited dedication ceremony ."
"That's right, Joan" added Crickett as the camera zoomed out to a wider angle to accommodate both women in the view. "The streets outside are jumping as on lookers have crowded to see the veritable 'Who's Who' of the rich in famous gathered here tonight. We'll be joined by the infamous fashion critic, Mr. Blackwell, after the ceremony for an in-depth analysis of the best and worst dressed. But I've just got to say, Joan, that Kuwaiti sheik sure made an entrance!"
"Yes, Sheik al-Abar" commented Joan. "His entourage was enormous, but really! The harem of buxom blondes he brought with him, two on each of his arms, was a bit over the top!"
"Yes, not something usual for these affairs ."
As Crickett continued her commentary, Joan brushed a lock of her light, sandy brown hair from eyes. She didn't like covering such a fluffy event, and she didn't much care for Crickett either. Joan had ten years more journalistic experience and had even won a Pulitzer for coverage of a coup in Mozambia a few years ago. Crickett was just a Johnny-come-lately whose exploits as the 'Current Copy' entertainment anchor had propelled her to instant stardom - a reporter of gossip, not of anything truly newsworthy.
Joan wondered why her boss assigned her to the event. Perahps Joan, in her early forties, was starting to fall out of favor in a television culture that values youth a beauty over experience. She needed a scoop, something to regain her boss's confidence which was inexplicably eroding. But what?
"Oooohh! We have a last minute arrival" cooed Crickett as two black limousines pulled to a stop in front of the pack of paparazzi and photographers stationed at the entrance.
As her cameraman scurried away to get a better view, Joan walked back to the GBS news trailer parked on the opposite side of the street.
"At least this assignment is almost over" she muttered to herself.
As flashbulbs popped all around him, Brion offered his hand to Denise, assisting her out of the limo.
"Did I mention that you look gorgeous?"
"Yes, but I don't mind if you tell me again!" teased a smiling Denise.
Indeed, the Prince and Princess of Markovia made a handsome couple. In a pale gold satin dress with cap sleeves and a scooped neckline, Denise looked resplendent. Her A-line skirt's ivory chiffon overlay and gold waistband with a tiny bow at the center-front gave her a stunningly elegant look. She was a modern day Cinderella, with her Prince Charming already at her side.
The couple walked over to the second limo, towards Geoffrey and Lia.
Geoffrey grinned, knowing that the wolf whistle from the crowd was for the lady he was escorting. Every red blooded male in the crowd was envious of him, and he knew it. More importantly though, Lia knew it.
Decked out in a red duchess, satin gown with a fitted bodice and spaghetti straps, Lia looked incredibly sexy. The gown had a fishtail sweep at the hem and was slit up to the middle of her thigh on one side. The red dress perfectly matched her red, shoulder length hair which had been slightly curled for the occasion. She looked so red-hot, she was steaming.
"Geoffrey, darling, you're staring."
"Oh. Sorry, but so is everybody else!" answered her date.
"You look handsome" noted Lia. "And I see you're wearing a tie for a change."
"Yeah, the bow tie's not my style, but still .."
Lia reached over and straightened his black bow tie. It and the black cummerbund contrasted nicely with the double breasted white tux Geoffrey was wearing. Tuxes tend to make all men look like overstuffed penguins, but not with Geoffrey. Coupled with his ebony skin and salt and pepper hair, it made him look quite dignified.
The two couples joined together and strolled quickly down the plush red carpet leading to the gallery's entrance. Camera flashbulbs continued to sparkle about like dancing fireflies.
"Kind of hurts my eyes" said Lia, as she raised her hand to shield her face.
"Just blink a lot and try not to look at them" offered Brion helpfully. "Once inside, we ought to take our seats quickly. Everything's about to begin."
"Hey, Haskins, you hear something?"
"Comin' from around this corner" replied Haskins. "Cover me, I'll check it out."
The two police officers were part of a larger platoon of officers guarding the gallery perimeter. With the recent jail breaks across the ocean in the USA, the authorities didn't want to take any chances in case a villain or two decided to raise their head.
Officer Haskins quietly crept around the corner leading away from the gallery. He held his billy club tightly in his left hand, and his right hand twitched a bit, ready to draw his gun if needed. The alleyway was poorly lit, and Haskins cursed himself for forgetting his flashlight.
From the corner of his eye, Haskins saw a glimmer of light.
"That you, Jonesy?" he called out to the darkness, hoping his partner would answer. "Stop messin' around, you're not funny."
"A' am nae tryin' to be funny, laddie."
Haskins spun 180 degrees and drew his weapon, ready to fire. About twenty feet away, he saw a lone man wearing a dark brown trench coat and slouch hat.
"Awright, buster, put your hands where I can see 'em!" ordered Haskins.
"Funny, yuir partner said the same thin' before A' clobbered him upside his head" said the trench coated figure, his words rich with a Scottish accent.
"Jonesy? What'd you do to ."
The Scotsman whipped out a shiny, palm sized mirror from his coat pocket. A beam of blindingly bright light jumped out from the mirror, striking Haskins flush on the jaw. The officer slumped over and faded into unconsciousness, never knowing what had hit him.
The Scotsman ambled over to the door the two officers had been guarding and entered the gallery. He found himself backstage, among a mess of electrical wiring and scattered tools. Creaking open another door, he realized he was behind the curtain that separated the speaker's platform from the donated paintings. Once the Baroness had addressed the crowd, the curtain would raise, revealing the donated paintings for all to see.
"Perfect" said the Scotsman to himself as he removed his coat, revealing the orange and green costume beneath. "Canna' think o' a better way t' make me grand entrance. Mirror Master, ol' boy, this is gonna be great!"
From a hidden compartment in his costume, Mirror Master pulled out another of his fancy mirrors - the blasting mirror was just one of many trick gadgets and mirrors he had at his disposal. He set the mirror alongside one of the paintings.
"Awright. Got meself one more thin' t' do" thought the villain as he pulled the disk Abar had given him from another compartment. "Best go inna mirror fer it."
Mirror Master reached his hand toward the mirror he'd placed on the painting - and fell through it. Now on the "other side" of the mirror, he was able to roam about in what he called the mirror dimension. The mirror dimension was a mostly empty place, but floating about were thousands of mirrors. They were the opposite side of what people on Earth see when they look into a mirror, and from this side, everything on Earth was visible.
Back in her trailer, Joan Lincoln was freshening her makeup for her post-ceremony interview with the Baroness. Joan had cooled down somewhat and was glad that Crickett was off somewhere and not bothering her with inane gossip.
Applying more rouge to her lips, Joan screamed when her image in the mirror in front of her vanished and was replaced by that of a grinning Mirror Master.
"Get back! Get back, or I'll scream again!" shouted Joan.
"Relax. A'm nae here t' hurt ye, and A' ain' a peepin' Tom either" said the Mirror Master from the other side of the mirror. "Just wanna give somethin' t' ye."
Mirror Master pushed the disk through the reflective barrier and set it on the cosmetic case in front of Joan. Joan inched backwards in fear. She had seen many strange things in her reporting career, but a reflection reaching out to her wasn't one of them.
"The Baroness in'nae the goody two shoes ye think" said the Scotsman. "Me employer figgers a media type like ye might find this interestin'."
"W-Why? W-What are you going to ?"
"No more questions, lassie" he replied slyly. "Find out fer yuirself and keep yuir cameras rollin'."
The image of Mirror Master faded out and Joan's reflection reappeared in the mirror. With a sigh of relief (that was one experience she never wanted to repeat again), Joan grabbed the disk and plopped it into a computer view screen in the trailer.
Her mouth widened in awe as images of treacherous underworld dealings flickered across the screen. The Baroness is a fraud! The expression on Joan's face slowly changed to one of excitement, happiness, and of all things, gratitude.
The Mirror Master had given her the scoop of the decade! This could launch Joan back into the elite circles of journalism - perhaps for all time!
" .In conclusion, the British government is proud to have helped with the construction of the new gallery. But now, ladies and gentlemen, I am honored to introduce the lady who has made this all possible, the Baroness of Northumbria!"
Applause filled the auditorium as British Prime Minister Tony Blair motioned towards the Baroness. Dressed in a matronly looking light blue gown with a brocade corset-style bodice and a diamond necklace, the Baroness rose from her chair on the speaker's platform next to the stage. Soaking up the attention and appreciation from the audience, she approached the microphone to say a few words.
From their seats in the balcony, the Outsider four-some politely clapped, but did so in order not to appear overly rude. They knew the Baroness was a thief and a fraud, but that was not supposed to be their concern tonight. Halo and Katana were tending to that. Or so they thought.
As the clamor died down, an usher tapped Brion lightly on the shoulder.
"Sir, the police wish to inform you that two officers were found beaten outside."
"Do they suspect trouble?"
"They're sure something is going on, your highness" admitted the usher. "And since your identity as Geo Force is public knowl "
"Thank you" replied Brion. "I'll see what I can do."
The usher left, and Brion leaned over Denise, who was busy observing the audience below with opera glasses, and got Lia's attention.
"Lia? Can you do a quick telepathic scan of the area? There might be trouble."
Lia nodded her head, and a soft blue glow began to emanate from her eyes.
"I always forget about your mental powers" whispered Geoffrey to Lia. "Levitation, eye beams .pretty cool stuff."
Concentrating on scanning the audience, Lia didn't acknowledge the remark. It didn't offend her, but Geoffrey simply hadn't known her back when she was plain Looker. Not after the .other powers came along.
Denise gasped suddenly and handed her opera glasses to Brion.
"Look at the diamonds around her neck" she said, pointing at the Baroness. "Aren't those? Isn't she wearing ?"
"By my crown!" exclaimed Brion. "The Comtalle Diamonds! The audacity of that woman! Flaunting them in public, in plain sight!"
Persons seated around Brion turned to stare or tried to shush his outburst. Denise's face flushed red with embarrassment.
"Brion, I hate to interrupt this tirade" said Looker quickly. "But I sense that something's about to happen down on the stage. Right about ..now!"
Leaping out of the mirror he planted earlier, the Mirror Master rushed to the microphone and grabbed the Baroness.
"Awright! Nobody move or A' start shootin'!" he hollered to the audience while wildly waving a ray gun about.
"I'm betting that's our danger" said Geoffrey sarcastically.
Brion leaped from his chair and removed his suit jacket. "The Mirror Master! By my crown, this is too much!" he hollered.
Tearing away his vest and crisp white shirt, the familiar green and yellow colors of Brion's Geo Force costume came into view. Not bothering to remove his black slacks, Brion jumped off the balcony ledge and flew towards the stage.
"Right behind you, man!" shouted Geoffrey. "Just a touch of a button, and .."
Clakttt! Clakttt! Clakttt!
Geoffrey's Technocrat battle suit decompressed from its micro-storage compartments within his tux. In less than a minute, Geoffrey's white tux had disappeared under shiny, blue-black armor. Not missing a step, he ran down the balcony stairs to aid Brion.
Denise turned towards Lia, expecting her to do something similar.
"Hey, don't look at me" said Lia as she touched her revealing red dress. "There's no way I could've worn my costume under this!"
Geo Force slammed into Mirror Master at full speed, knocking him away from the Baroness.
"Bloody hell!" shouted the Mirror Master, half in pain, half in surprise as he skidded across the stage.
Grabbing him up off the floor, Geo Force held the villain aloft by the neckline of his costume. The muscular hero towered over Mirror Master - he had at least 50 pounds and 3 inches on the smaller man. The fight looked like a total mismatch, like it would be over before it began.
"Leave! Now!" bellowed the massive Markovian prince as he landed a haymmaker punch to Mirror Master's nose.
"Uhhh A' think not laddie" answered the Mirror Master defiantly as blood gushed from his nose. "A' still got a trick o' two up me sleeve."
Reaching into a holster on his costume with his free hand, Mirror Master pulled out another ray gun. He aimed it right at Geo Force's nose, at point blank range.
Brion didn't have time to duck, and he was sure the ray gun had hit him, but he felt unaffected.
"Ha! Looks like your gizmo backfired!" he laughed.
"A' dinna think so. Was nae' meant t' hurt ye" explained Mirror Master. "Just get ye outta me way. Feel like A'm slippin' out of yuir hands?"
He was right. Geo Force couldn't keep a grip on his adversary. The orange costume was slipping through his increasingly sieve-like hands.
"What the ?"
"Made ye intangible." explained Mirror Master as he freed himself from Geo Force. "It's all done with mirrors. Now 'scuse me, A' got a ruckus t' raise."
Geo Force swung a fist at Mirror Master and watched in horror as his fist passed right through with no effect. Feeling his feet falling through the floor, Brion had the presence of mind to fly upwards. But what could an intangible hero do? He was helpless!
Crowds of frightened and fleeing socialites had hindered Technocrat's getting to the stage. He made it eventually and was in the process of helping Prime Minister Blair and the other speakers to safety when Mirror Master turned his attention to him.
"Goody! Another 'un!" Mirror Master whooped as he fired another ray gun blast.
"Not that easy, second time around!" cried Technocrat as his suit's force field protected him, and the innocents behind him, from the blast.
Returning fire with an accelerated stream of ion particles, Technocrat knocked the gun from Mirror Master's hand.
"Come on, just you and me. Mano a mano!" he said to his opponent.
"Mano a mano, eh?" retorted Mirror Master. "Never fight fair, that's what me mum always said."
Pressing a button on his belt, Mirror Master was suddenly surrounded by six mirror images of himself. The mirror images charged at Technocrat, unfazed by his ion bursts.
"Damn things must be holograms" thought Technocrat. "Can't touch them, but they can sure touch me!"
One of the Mirror Masters landed a punch to Technocrat's force field, and the others joined in the attack.
"They definitely can touch me" though Geoffrey as the mirror images swarmed around him like a group of angry hornets, then gang tackled him. "Man, I'm in deep trouble once my force field is drained ."
Up in the balcony, Lia and Denise watched as Geoffrey disappeared from sight under the pile of Mirror Masters.
"Lia, we've got to do something "
Most of the audience had already fled, except for one certain Kuwaiti sheik in the lower seats who was grinning from ear to ear as the chaos he wanted unfolded. The balcony was empty as well, so Lia reasoned that no one would see her go into action as Looker.
"Don't worry, I'll save the boys, darling" said Lia more confidently than she felt.
As she levitated off the balcony, Lia came to an embarrassing realization.
"Rule number one of being a super heroine" she muttered. "Never fly while wearing a dress if you value your modesty."
Alone now in the balcony, Denise saw the Baroness exit the auditorium and run into the gallery. She still had the Comtalle Diamonds, and Denise wasn't going to let her get away after all this trouble. She kicked off her heeled pumps, pulled her long skirt up a bit, and took off running after her.
"Now, then, which one of you is the real Mirror Master?" Lia asked to the six replicas pummeling Technocrat.
"Who're ye s'possed to be" asked all six at once. "Little Red Riding Hood all grown up?"
"Nope. Just a Looker in a red dress" replied Lia, realizing how corny that sounded as soon as she said it.
Having sufficiently pummeled Technocrat, the Mirror Masters tried the same tactic on Looker. It didn't work. Since holograms don't emit brain waves, a quick telepathic scan allowed Lia to determine which was the real Mirror Master. Light blue energy beams shot from her eyes, striking the real deal. The holograms disappeared.
"Bloody heroes 're always doin' that t' me" shouted Mirror Master. "One o' these days A'm gonna fix that."
"You'll have a long time to think about it in prison."
"Dinna think so, lassie" said Mirror Master, as he pushed a palm sized mirror towards Looker. "Ye're goin' on a one way trip t' th' mirror dimension."
He waved the mirror back and forth at her, but nothing happened.
"What's the matter, darling, your toy won't work?" teased Looker.
"What th' hell?! Why inn'it workin'?" shouted Mirror Master. "Maybe another one "
Pulling out another trick mirror, he aimed it at Looker and once again, nothing happened.
"I do nae' get this! Th' bloody things are actin' like they're broke" the Scotsman hollered. "Anythin' that casts a reflection should be "
Looker zapped him again while he was confused.
"As far as I'm concerned, all mirrors are broken when it comes to me!" laughed Looker.
"Damn it!" shouted Mirror Master as he narrowly dodged another of Looker's eye beams. "I can nae' fight somethin' with no reflection. But A' caused enough ruckus to fulfill me contract. A'm outta here."
As Mirror Master hopped through a mirror into the safety of the mirror dimension, Looker rushed to the aid of her teammates. Brion looked to be returning to normal, but Geoffrey had taken a pounding.
In the ensuing chaos, Joan Lincoln had entered the gallery in hopes of getting some more footage for her rapidly developing exposé on the Baroness' illegal dealings. With cameraman in tow, Joan was shocked to see the Baroness run by her with Denise in pursuit.
"Stop her! She has the Comtalle Diamonds!" yelled Denise as she passed Joan.
"C'mon! Follow them!" ordered Joan as she and the cameraman ran after the two ladies.
The Baroness was huffing and puffing as she rounded a corner and headed towards the gallery entrance. The much younger Denise was right behind her and closing. As she reached the entryway doors, Denise slammed into the Baroness. The paparazzi, busily photographing the socialites milling about the streets after fleeing from Mirror Master, watched in amazement as the two well dressed women tumbled out into the cool night air.
"Help! Get this mad woman off me!" hissed the Baroness as she slapped at Denise's face.
"I'm good and mad all right" scowled Denise as she raked her fingernails across the Baroness' face. "Those diamonds belong to the people of Markovia!"
A trio of police officers broke up the catfight a few minutes later while half the world's media photographed and filmed the scene. A police sergeant, already told of the situation by Joan Lincoln, had a squad car ready for the Baroness.
Her beautiful gown torn in various places, Denise looking on as the still kicking and screaming Baroness was placed under arrest. The anger Denise felt soon dissipated when Joan approached her, holding the Comtalle Diamonds in her hand.
"Princess Denise," said Joan, "I believe these belong to you."
The crowd burst into applause.
Epilogue 1 - Pugilistic Princess
The next morning at the Markovian Embassy.
"How are you feeling Geoffrey?"
"Like my bruises have bruises" came the reply from the easy chair where Geoffrey was reading the newspaper. "I'm so sore I don't want to move an inch. How's your leg, Tatsu?"
"It'll be fine. Looked worse than it was" she answered, adjusting the cold compress on her leg. "And neither Gabrielle nor I was affected by the gas "
"Hey you guys!" hollered Gaby as she ran down the stairs and into the room. "Turn on the TV! We made the news!"
"Hang on, just a sec" replied Geoffrey as he reached for the remote and clicked on the TV.
Joan Lincoln's bright and cheery faced greeted them as they tuned in to the GBS morning news.
"And in a recap of our top story, the Baroness of Northumbria is under arrest and being charged with 30 counts of theft by unlawful taking. Exclusive GBS footage led to her arrest late last night. Her fellow art connoisseur, Sheik al-Abar, had this to say:"
A previously taped recording of a sullen faced Abar appeared on the screen. Acting as sad and disturbed as his fellow socialites, his role in the evening's events would go undiscovered.
"Frankly, I'm shocked, but not very much" said Abar. "At times, her collection seemed too good to be true. She's shamed all of the legitimate art lovers out there, such as myself. I hope she's put away for a long time."
"And in related news," continued Joan, "police are still searching for any connection between last night's events and an attack on the Baroness's estate by the supervillain known as the Rainbow Raider. The Raider, subdued by two members of the Outsiders, is hospitalized after inhaling poisonous gas during the battle. Authorities have yet to question him, and .."
Entering the room with Lia and Denise, Brion clicked the television off.
"They'll never stop talking about this." muttered Brion.
"Whaddya mean?" asked Gaby. "We did a great job. We have the diamonds "
"I think he means this" said Geoffrey as he held up the front page of his newspaper.
Smack in the middle of the page was a photo of Denise brawling with the Baroness. Above it was a large headline that screamed 'Pugilistic Princess! Royal Rumble at Gallery Opening!'
"Oh dear!" sighed Denise.
"If you think that's bad," sad Lia, "the tabloids have dubbed you the 'Markovian Mauler.' And you don't even want to read the National Enquirer's story!"
"Oh boy. I think I'll leave the heroic stuff to you guys from now on." said Denise. "I'm never going to live this down."
"The tabloids will eventually forget" replied Brion as he gave his wife a great big hug. "But the Markovian people won't. You'll always be the princess who saved a national treasure."
"And that's a good thing" added Tatsu.
"Yeah, I guess it is!" smiled Denise.
Epilogue 2 - The Mirror Has Two Faces
The local hospital. Just outside the Rainbow Raider's room.
The doctor closed the door behind him softly and was writing something on an evaluation chart when a burly police lieutenant approached him.
"How's he doing, Doc?" asked the lieutenant. "When will he be able to answer some questions?"
"Mr. Bivolo's in stable condition." answered the doctor. "He's still somewhat groggy from the gas, but in a few hours, he should be cognizant enough to answer any questions."
"Good. Thank you doctor" replied the lieutenant. "We'll get to the bottom of this yet, and in exchange for lessening the charges against him, the Raider should sing like a canary."
The two men left, leaving the three armed officers outside the room's door to guard the patient - and make sure he didn't escape.
Inside, the Rainbow Raider lay sleeping, his black hair a tousled mess on the pillow. A tube containing pure oxygen was connected to his nose, and aside from an ugly green hospital gown, the only thing he had on him was an identification bracelet that simply read "Bivolo, Roy G.' His costume, goggles, and gadgets were al gone, impounded by the police.
The room was mostly empty, save for a full length mirror on the back of a door leading to a bathroom and the machinery pumping the oxygen. Everything else had been removed by the police so there was nothing to aid him in case he tried to escape.
That mirror, that one lone mirror, should have been removed as well, but the police didn't want to bother. It was bolted to the door and couldn't be easily removed. Their mistake.
The orange and green image of the Mirror Master flickered into view on the mirror. Stepping through it quietly, so not to alert the guards outside, he approached the bed and disconnected the oxygen tube.
"C'mon, Bivolo, wakey-wakey. A'm gettin' ye outta here." whispered Mirror Master as he nudged the sleeping form of his fellow villain.
Opening his eyes, Bivolo gazed groggily at Mirror Master. His mouth smiled weakly as he realized what was going on, but he was still too weak to speak.
"C'mon, put yuir arm 'round and lean on me" ordered Mirror Master as Bivolo wobbily rose to his feet. "We're headed t' th' mirror over there."
Leaning heavily on Mirror Master, Bivolo reached the mirror and stepped into it.
"That's it, there ye go" said the Mirror Master. "Let's get outta here. Ye do nae' owe me anythin' cause A' dinna want ye sayin' anythin' t' th' limeys 'bout our plan. 'Sides, A' figure us Rogues got t' stick together."
David R. Black is Fanzing.com's magazine editor and chief archivist. A big fan of "The Warlord," he has a cat named Shakira and is looking for a girlfriend named Tara....
All characters and scanned artwork are © DC Comics
This story is © 2000 by David R. Black
Outsiders created by Mike W. Barr and Jim Aparo
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