Masks 18: Part 3

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Masks XVIII

by

Rodford Edmiston

Part Three

The next morning at the old bakery started pretty much as usual. Blue Impact rose first, followed shortly by Energia. As was their routine they had breakfast together, finishing before Gadgetive even made it downstairs. None of them thought it a bit unusual that all three wore masks and two their full costumes. Gadgetive, as was her habit, was in panties and t-shirt until after she cleaned up post breakfast. Though she lacked the Olympic-level fitness of her partners, this garb - or lack thereof - made obvious the fact that she was also in good physical condition.

With Gadgetive finally getting breakfast the other two put their dishes in the dishwasher and went into the main room. Energia settled in to watch TV - mainly to catch the local news and weather - and Blue Impact began checking messages and notifications at the corner workstation.

"They're still having repeated severe storms north of here," said Energia. "Forecasters are having trouble explaining them. Sometimes one storm won't even die away before the next one forms."

"Uh-huh," said Blue Impact, absently.

Well, storms there were not a concern here. Finished with the news, Energia checked the DVR for recorded shows, and decided there wasn't anything she wanted to see there. She began channel surfing, not really paying attention, while Blue Impact continued her work. Energia could hear Gadgetive finishing in the kitchen and smiled. This was essentially family time. With nothing of interest to her on TV, she decided to turn that off and turn on the local NPR station. However, something unusual intruded on their morning routine as she reached for the remote.

"Energia..." said Blue Impact, her tone odd, "you have a message."

Something in the older super's voice raised the younger woman's hackles.

"What is it?"

"I think... you better read this, yourself," said Blue Impact, as she rose to let Energia have a seat at the console.

The feeling of dissociation increased as Energia looked at the screen.

"You have got to be kidding me."

The message was from Queen Tolnar. She was requesting a private meeting with Energia that afternoon. Just the two of them.

"Uhm..." said Blue Impact, uncertain what to do as Energia read the message again, then again, then just sat, staring.

"All right," said Energia, with determination - and not a little anger - in her voice. She shoved back from the computer desk and stood. "Don't tell Gadgetive about this. I'll go. If... something happens you'll know."

"Are you sure..."

Energia turned to face her mentor, nodding.

"Yeah. I want to know what she wants. Besides, something about the way this is worded... It's almost apologetic."

Her former teacher nodded, having noticed the same tone.

* * *

Energia approached the rendezvous early. So did Tolnar. The two of them slowed and hovered, facing each other, just out of reach, floating with deceptive calm in the warm Summer skies.

"Your Highness," said Energia, her tone carefully schooled.

"I wish... to apologize," said the Queen, obviously uncomfortable. "What you and my son have is... very special, and I separated you. Not out of malice, as I hope you know, but out of necessity."

"I understand that," said Energia, barely covering her surprise at the apology. Her urge to smite the older woman with a lightning bolt - admittedly never very strong - faded.

"I hope that someday, if circumstances permit, I will be able to invite you to our home. That... just isn't feasible right now."

"I... do understand," said Energia, swallowing hard. "Just... tell Maldren that I love him and wish him well and still think fondly of him."

Tolnar smiled.

"He told me to tell you the same, before I left for Earth."

They faced each other for a moment longer, but there really was nothing else to say. With a mutual nod, they turned and flew in different directions.

* * *

The members of Tricorne were on stakeout, hovering silently over a small section of the city where there had recently been a series of mysterious crimes. Stealth mode and station keeping were engaged, and the occupants were monitoring multiple instruments, including the local police channels. This was a far cry from the stakeouts Blue Impact had been on in her solo career. The only downside she could see to doing this in the team's large apergy flyer was that it was so comfortable she kept wanting to doze. Energia, on the other hand, was wide awake, but seemed obviously lost in thought; the others decided not to comment. Blue Impact had a general idea of why Energia was preoccupied and didn't want to press. Gadgetive was focused on their instruments in that single-minded way gadgeteers and mad inventors have. There was no danger of her falling asleep, either.

"It would be a big help if the cops knew how the perp is getting in," said Blue Impact, as much to keep herself awake as anything. "So far they haven't figured it out, and they haven't given us permission to go into any of the stores in an official capacity. Since we're not even private investigators that means we stay outside. For now. Though I think that if we don't spot anything tonight we should go ahead and talk to the victims tomorrow, anyway."

"If they were spoofing the alarm systems that could be detected," mused Gadgetive, puzzled. "Even by regular CSI. That's not what's happening, though. It's like they're just bypassing the alarms completely."

"That reminds me of a tale I heard about Bowman," said Energia, startling them a bit. "My uncle heard it from Amazonia, when he was working for the Intrepids."

Energia went quiet for a moment, there in the darkened cockpit of the team's large apergy flyer. When she had first thought of the story she had forgotten the situation through which it had been related. Energia had never met Amazonia, but she had heard much about her through other members of the Intrepids. Especially from her Uncle Randy, who obviously still felt her loss. He especially regretted that he hadn't been able to help her, even by becoming a healthy version of her to harvest antibodies to try and fight the cancer. That had just prolonged the strong woman's suffering. Energia shook her head, realizing the others were waiting for her to continue.

"Sorry. Anyway, Bowman pulled a prank on an entire security center shift change. The new shift showed up, the leader waved his ID card at the sensor for the door to the security center. There was a beep and a muffled click, but the door didn't slide open. Same guy tried again. Same result. Another guy tried, same result. One of those coming on shift was a techie, and she quickly plugged her analyzer into the card reader. Which kept telling her it was working perfectly and that the lock was reporting that the door had opened.

"They called the security folks already inside. They had noted the door opening and closing, but only black on the other side. The quickly got up to check and found... another door."

"Wait, what?!" said Gadgetive.

"Bowman had made an entire fake door and frame - in one solid piece - and glued it over the real frame."

"Oh, that's hilarious!" said Gadgetive, howling with laughter. "The system says everything's working perfectly, but they can't open the door! Because everything is working perfectly, it's just not the door they think it is!"

"I admit, that's not one I'd heard before," said Blue Impact, with a smirk. "I wonder if Rapscallion gave Bowman the idea."

"That's what my uncle said. Also helped Bowman install it. Oh, and they made sure the fake door was flimsy enough that the security people could tear it down easily."

After a few more hours the trio decided to call it a night.

"I'm actually not disappointed," said Blue Impact, as she took the pod off autopilot and started them towards the lair. "This is the most excitement we've had all Summer; a few late-night robberies. No-one injured, no bystanders endangered, no violence at all."

"Well, despite the media hysteria, crime usually goes down during and for a while after a crisis," said Energia.

"I wonder if it could actually be gremlins," said Gadgetive, thoughtfully. "Or maybe some other supernatural critter."

"Unlikely, but something to keep in mind," said Blue Impact. "However, I suspect these are plain, old, mundane, superhuman crimes. Which will require guile and patience to solve as much
as our powers."

Since the previous renovation of her lair Blue Impact had been able to move the large flyer and some of the other equipment in that beach shed to the bakery. With the latest she no longer had to park the flyers on the roof, tied down and left in stealth mode. Instead, the most recent new construction had blocked the old loading dock entrance from view to anyone not actually on the property. Additionally, the old roll-up door had been replaced with something which looked identical from the outside but was armored, silent and opened and closed very quickly.

Blue Impact guided them down between bakery and fence into the alley, then under the old awning. The door was already opening at a signal from the silent and invisible flyer. Deftly, she steered the vehicle inside and parked it, between the small flyer and the maintenance bay.

"Everybody out," she said, popping the canopy, the outside door already closed. She grinned. "Make it snappy. It's getting close to my bedtime."

"Ah, well," said Energia, lifting out of her seat, smiling and stretching as she flew towards the entrance to the main room. "We've got another week together. Let's hope it stays quiet."

"Yeah," muttered Gadgetive, as she clambered out. "You just know, the way these things work, the day after we start back at school there will be a rash of daylight super crimes."

"In that case, just tell people we're so good the criminals lay low while they know we're on the job," said Energia, smugly.

* * *

I entered the garage at the rear of the old San Francisco theater and headed for the enclosed stairs. I had been a bit surprised at the summons. I had thought - hoped, actually - that after Gaunt's building had imploded into another dimension I was done with magic for a while. A good, long while, if I had any say in it. It turned out, though, that magic wasn't done with me. Or, at least, one particular magical creature.

"Hello, Fen," I called out, a bit more tentatively than I meant to, as I entered the loft.

"Come on in!" called a familiar, male voice.

I recognized him, of course. I was only mildly surprised to see him present. He was Fen's adopted human son, after all.

Dutch has known Fen about a decade longer than I have, and he's about thirty years older than me. Yeah; he's a century old, looks fifty and doesn't even have regeneration. Being the protege and adopted son of a magical creature will do that for you.

Moments later I was seated on the left end of the human-sized couch, with Dutch on the right. Across the massive coffee table from us, Fen was sitting on the elf-sized couch.

"I suppose you're wondering why I called you here," she said, with a toothy grin. With those fangs, the blunt muzzle and the fur I had no trouble believing that a century and more earlier she had pretended to be a midget werewolf in a carnival freak show.

"A follow-up on Gaunt?"

"Only in part. A small part. I mainly want to talk about how the higher level of magic in the world now is causing multiple problems."

"I've heard about that, of course," I said, nodding. "I hope there's something we can do about that."

By "we" of course I meant "you." I didn't want to have anything more to do with magic.

"We aren't the first to have this problem," said Fen, surprising me with her apparent non-sequitur.

"I kind'a figured," I said, after a moment. "Didn't something like this cause the withdrawal of the various pantheons from this plane, thousands of years ago?"

"I think a good place to start working on a solution is Oak Island," said Fen, not addressing my question.

"Wait... the pirate treasure place?" I said, puzzled. "What's magical there?"

"Yeah!" said Dutch, grinning with enthusiasm. "Treasure hunt!"

I laughed. He and I were much alike in some ways. However, he was also a much more upbeat person than me. Which meant he could often lift my mood or even make me laugh. I suppose doing that was a habit he picked up when he used to - I hate to say "babysit" since I was in my early teens when we first met - keep an eye on me. Just now, he was stimulating my own sense of whimsey.

"Don't tell me it actually holds the Ark of the Covenant!"

"No," said Fen, absently but seriously, "something much older."

"Oh..." was all I could manage.

"The US and Canadian governments know about it - unofficially - as do may other institutions. Both Presidents Roosevelt were involved with the Island, before either was President. As well as the Delanos before that. Theodore was there several times in the Eighteen-Nineties; Franklin was there in 1909. He tried to organize an official expedition to excavate it in 1939, but with war looming he couldn't spare the time or money and decided he didn't want to draw attention to it."

"Oh..." I said, again. "So, we - I assume you are including me, or you wouldn't have invited me to this meeting - are going to Oak Island and having an actual, serious..."

"Treasure hunt!" Dutch repeated, laughing as he caught the lead-in I fed him.

Over the next two hours our little trio exchanged information, then plotted, planned and schemed. In the process I got some information on my semi-nemesis. The good news was that there was no sign that Gaunt had returned or was trying to. That still left us with the larger problem, which we proceed to address. When we were done we had a well-organized campaign, one where each of us knew our part, and where each part was important. There would be others assisting us, of course, but we were the core group.

My own benefit from this was that if we did, somehow, reduce the rising impact of magic, that made it even harder for Gaunt to return.

During that planning session I quickly learned why I was included in the project. While I know quite a bit about magic I am not magical myself, powers notwithstanding. I can't use it any better than most people. My contribution to the effort was through my contacts and other information sources.

I sat there for a few minutes after we completed our brainstorming. Then I sighed and shook my head.

"This is going to be a mess. Just getting the permits will take months. We also need permission from the property owners, the..."

"Others without our resources have done this before us," said Fen, sternly. "We should have few problems."

"Yes, Ma'am."



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