Truth. Justice. Minesweeper.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Saturday morning Cassie and I woke up early because I wanted to show her something. (For reasons too numerous, obvious and tedious to list, our shared sleeping events have all taken place at her apartment; none at mine-and-Ron's.) She lives right by the 5 subway line, which made things convenient. We took the 5 to the 2, the 2 to the 2A, and got off at Joseph Hall.

"What's around here?" she asked.

"I'll show you," I said, leading her through the station. We turned left into a narrow, grungy hallway.

"You're sure we're supposed to be here?"

"I'm sure."

She looked dubiously at me, but followed as the hallway ended in a staircase leading down. We skipped down to a little platform, no longer than the single subway car waiting on the tracks for us. The subway car wasn't the usual ECT rustbucket, either; it was a shiny Art-Deco-looking job with little gates across the doorways, and an attendant at one of the gates.

I guess Cassie hadn't been on enough subways to know the difference, because she didn't even blink. Just smiled at the attendant and sat down. "You know," I said, "subways aren't usually like this."

"Oh. Did I tell you what happened at the pet store the other day?"

"I don't think so."

"This guy comes in--he's been in a few times--and he wants us to stock this organic cat food he makes. It's this everlastingly gross-looking green stuff; God knows what's in it. So I'm there, trying to make excuses for the guy like, 'Sir, we can't stock anything unless the SPCA certifies the ingredients,' and he won't shut up." The doors closed, and the train lurched.

"We're moving," I said. "I found this place one time, I was checking out how to get someplace to do a costume drop for Greyghost, and I found it on an old map. Empire City Transit has to keep running this thing, but they don't want to tell anyone about it. It's not on their website or anything."

"Uh huh. Then he's all, 'No, you don't understand how nutritious this is! I'll show you!' and I'm like, 'No, don't show me.'"

"Basically the city had to get a bunch of land from this religious group back when they were building the subway. The religious group said, 'Okay, but you have to provide us with subway service to all our buildings.' And the city was stuck, because they couldn't get the land any other way. So they built this little subway line to run out to a monastery on Dorthain Island, but they don't tell anyone about it."

Cassie was still talking. "Then, then! He opens this jar of green guck, dips in a finger and starts mowing down on it. Helen, at the cash, is about dying, because she's trying not to laugh and trying not to throw up." The attendant came by with some hors d'oeuvres and we helped ourselves.

I was still talking. "I forget the name of the religious group, but they're pretty powerful. They run this one school that all the rich Empire City families send their kids to. All the mayors and guys like that are all chummy with them, so this subway gets maintained okay. But only the people who want to go to church way out on Dorthain Island ever take the thing, so we've basically got it all to ourselves Saturday morning."

"But this is the best part," she said. "We finally get through to his head that we're not ordering his scary cat food, and he tries to charge us for the jar he ate! Because, you know, he wouldn't have if it wasn't for us. It was like he was trying to claim a business lunch or something. I'm there, 'We'd go out of business if we paid anybody who'd put mulch in a jar and come in and eat it in front of us.'"

"Were you listening to my story?" I asked her.

"Yeah. Were you listening to mine?"

"Yeah. So what was mine about?"

She paused. "You tell me what mine was about first."

The subway flashed out into daylight as the tunnel opened out onto the monastery grounds. "Oh, look," I said. "A distraction."

"What's that?" Cassie said, pointing up into some woods. I could see what caught her eye: something big and purple headed for the monastery.

"Marauder!" I said. "What the hell's he doing here?"

"Let's find out," she said, picking up her backpack and heading for the door. It opened, seconds later, as we reached the platform, and she trotted out ahead of me. I followed, but lost sight of her when she entered the woods. I wandered in the direction of the monastery to see if I could get a handle on what was going on from there.

Another guy, ordinary looking, Emperors jacket, who had been loitering around the station, fell into step beside me. "Hi," he said. "Mind if I ask you what brings you here?"

I did. "I like taking this subway line when I have some free time. It's a nice little getaway," I said. All of which is true enough.

"Uh huh," he said. "So you don't know of anything... going on here today?"

"At a monastery on Saturday morning? They're probably watching cartoons." Then something blew up.

The two of us ran to look. The sidewalk to the monastery crested over a little hill, and once we got that far we could see the battle.

In a clearing by the monastery--it really does have walls, just like I had imagined before I ever saw it--Marauder was dodging Cassie's starbolts and firing rockets off his powersuit back up at her. She was bobbing and weaving and swooping, all white and silver light.

"Dammit, where's the video guy when you need him?" said the guy next to me, scribbling stuff down in a notebook. I sidled away from him.

This was the first time I had ever seen Cassie let loose against anybody. She was pretty good. I couldn't believe how quick and acrobatic she was in the air. Accurate, too--Marauder's purple armor was smoking in a few places from her streams of white fire.

Marauder was more experienced, though; he deked her out a couple of times, and she couldn't seem to predict what he was going to do next. She zoomed around to his left, and caught his power-suit on the leg with a starbolt. He doubled over and fell to one knee.

Meanwhile, I was on the phone with the cops, telling Wanda the dispatcher what was up and where the action was. If things went badly, I'd also call Greyghost.

Cassie floated down in front of Marauder to finish him off, but left herself too open. He sprang to his feet and fired a net from his right glove. It wrapped around her twice, binding her arms to her sides. Marauder charged.

"Shit, man," the guy with the notebook said, watching all this.

Cassie didn't flinch. Her energy field flared, burning the net away, and a white beam of light pulsed out from her eyes, hitting Marauder in the chest and blasting him onto his back. He didn't get up.

She flew over to me. "I didn't know I could do that," she said. "Who's your friend?" Her goggles were all melted away.

"I think he's a reporter," I said. "Probably would have been better if he hadn't seen you talking to me."

"Oops," she said. "Try telling him we're here for the bake sale."

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