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Saturday, November 7, 2009

HOTN: TLF

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Heroines of the Night
Tripping the Light Fantastic

by Bevie James

Episode Seven - Mind Your Manners

“So, you are here.”

He didn’t sound afraid, but then he never did. Alanna always admired his composure. Among other things. He kept himself quite fit. What a shame he devoted his life to crime and mayhem. He was clearly an intelligent person. Most of his gadgets were works of his own invention. It might be fun to exchange ideas.

Mr. Manners was turning like a lighthouse, a beacon in the night, futilely seeking to shine light through the fog. Of course this was good for Alanna, for she knew exactly where he was at all times, while he could only guess her position from the direction of the dart.

“Nothing to say, Lasered Lash? I know it’s you. Looks like you’ve made some improvements since last we met. When was that? Five years ago? You were just a fledgling then. Your first assignment, wasn’t it? You were apprenticing what’s-her-name? You know. The one with the sword? Blade something?”

She knew what he was about. He was trying to get her to expose her position. Only she wasn’t ready for that. His light might not be able to penetrate her magical fog, but those swords on his back could. Five years ago she had watched in horror as Caped Blade had fought him. He was good, but Caped Blade had been better. What Alanna wouldn’t give to have her commander here now.

“I take it you are alone this time, else I should be feeling the cold steel of Blade’s sword against my throat. Just like last time, huh? Of course, you’re not the only one who’s improved, Lasered Lash. I’m a bit stronger, too. And I have a few more gadgets at my disposal.”

Hmm. That was probably true. Mr. Manners was an arch criminal, but he didn’t generally lie. It wasn’t mannerly.

She reloaded her dart gun and fired it across the room.

Mr. Manners turned with his Crunch Hammer and let loose with a blast of energy. There was an explosion. Alanna’s ears picked up the sound of falling debris. It seemed that crunch hammer fired energy bolts. Good thing she hadn’t spoke.

“You still there, Lasered Lash?”

This time she picked up a slight tone of fear. She knew what it was about. He had fired directly at the sound, believing it might be her. He had hit what he aimed at, but now he was realizing he didn’t know what it was he had hit. Had he put her out of commission, or was she still there?

He began to shuffled toward the debris.

This was her chance. Relying on her hearing more than her eyes she moved with him. They were roughly the same height, as she remembered, but he was moving tentatively. She was taking longer strides. She was closing the distance.

Mr. Manners reached the pile of rubble and began toeing through it, apparently looking for anything to indicate she was down.

Alanna waited. When he put his hammer on his belt to bend forward she acted. Her staff, now back in whip form, looped over him and pulled him close. She activated it’s freeze mode and it became a trap, pinning his arms to his sides.

He turned. He was smiling.

“My, my. You are the clever girl, aren’t you? Looks like you win.”

“And that doesn’t bother you?” she asked.

He made a face. “A little. But in my line of work it doesn’t pay to hang too dearly to pride. Sooner or later I am going to be caught. It just happened sooner this time.”

His hands were near his belt. Too late she saw him push a set of controls. His swords, his hammer, and his belt disappeared. His smiled broadened.

“Just sent them home. Prison frowns on us keeping things like that and I didn’t want them confiscated.”

“You can turn off your light now.”

“You wish to be alone with me in the dark? Well, that’s a prison I could take to.” He eyed her up and down. “You have grown up, Lasered Lash. I’m impressed.”

She tried not to blush, but she might as well try to stop her heart from beating. When his light went out she darted him, catching him so he didn’t fall into the debris. Then she retrieved her whip and banished the fog. She found the bat and brought it back up the hill and put it in its uniform, laying the Staff of Renewal beside it. Then she called headquarters.

“Lasered Lash to Caped Blade.”

“Caped Blade here. Go ahead Lasered Lash.”

“We got him.”

“Great! What about Masked Wizard?”

Alanna looked down at the reforming Dee.

“Damn! Not again.”

Alanna smiled. “She’s back to normal.”

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

HOTN: TLF

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Heroines of the Night

Tripping the Light Fantastic

by Bevie James

Episode Six - Clouded Thoughts

Alanna brought Masked Wizard’s Staff of Renewal along. If she was still alive she was probably going to need it. Meanwhile, she had to find a way to get inside and find out.

She opened her wings and flew down the hill, hovering over the warehouse where Mr. Manners and the others were meeting. From the river side she could see a light glowing from inside. Since the building was abandoned she doubted there was an active electrical connection. That meant Mr. Manners was providing the light himself. Perhaps she could use that to her advantage.

There were plenty of places to land without being seen and she chose one at the building’s corner. Taking out her Whip of Ice and Snow she activated it into a wand. Then she held it with the Staff of Renewal. As she hoped, the Staff of Renewal fed her new strength which she passed on to her wand. This was going to make the effect all the more powerful.

Pointing both the wand and the staff at the river she conjured up and thick fog bank. Then she moved it against the warehouse, shrouding it in a cold and clammy darkness. The light in the building seemed to falter. Her sensitive hearing told her the men inside were alarmed.

“What is it? What’s happening?” said one.

“I don’t know. Jason. Take a look outside.”

The sound of heavy footsteps across a planked floor. A door opened, letting faint light escape. But the fog was too thick. The pitiful rays were swallowed up in darkness. The door closed.

“Fog. Lots of it. It’s all over the river.”

“Damn! Your light doesn’t work in fog, does it? I didn’t bring a torch.”

“Never mind that. Jason. You said the fog’s all over the river. How can you tell how far it stretches? Is it just a thin mist?”

“No. I couldn’t even see the river.”

A growl of anger. “Then how do you know how far it goes?”

“What’s the matter, Benig? Do you think we’ve been caught?”

“Shut up, Latham. And don’t call me Benig. You know I hate that name. I’m Mr. Manners.”

“Telling me to shut up is hardly mannerly, Benig.”

“Shut up! Let me think.”

Alanna continued the fog generation for another minute and then relaxed, letting the Staff of Renewal refill herself with strength. Then she made her way around the corner and to the door. By now the fog was pouring through broken windows and cracks in the walls and roof.

“Where’s that damned bat?”

“Bat? What the hell do you want with a bat? Benig-“

“Don’t argue, Latham. Where did it fall?”

“I don’t know. The only thing I can even see anymore is the glow around you.”

“Never mind, Latham. Jason. Do you know where it is? Jason? Jason? Where are you?”

Alanna smiled as she reloaded her dart gun. Jason would not be answering. Now, where was this Latham character? Oh, yes. His fearful breathing sounded like thunder. She took aim and let the silent sleeper find its target. She knew she should have got close, like with Jason, and caught Latham before he fell, but she was in a hurry. Apparently Mr. Manners had knocked Masked Wizard out of the air for amusement and not because he knew what she was. But now he was suspicious. If he found her first he might use her as a hostage.

“Latham. Something’s happened to Jason. You don’t think he ran, do you? Latham? Latham, damn you! Where are you?”

Alanna let the dart fly, but she had miscalculated. Mr. Manners was still projecting his light, and even though it was diminished by the fog, it was still strong enough to repel anything thrown at him. The dart fell harmlessly to the floor.