Old Enemies, Eh?
An old enemy wants the life of Kompera Lee’s firstborn child, but he’ll settle for marrying Buffy Winter. Arsenal is having none of that, but even she might not be able to best the Gremlin in battle!
Buffy Winter had her training center running at maximum capacity when he walked into the room. He stood there, casting about with his round, bald head. She dropped to the ground with a scowl on her face.
“Stop run,” she ordered testily as she surveyed her visitor. He was a little taller than Mikron O’Jeneus, with a ruddy complexion. A cloak concealed his body from the neck down. Saucer eyes peered at the world from under heavy brows. This short stranger was the Gremlin.
“Who are you?” demanded the costumed Arsenal.
“An old friend of Rywoo’s, eh,” said the Gremlin. “Know he’s about, eh. Smell him, eh.”
“I’m sure you are mistaken,” Arsenal said. “Get lost.”
“The nose knows, eh,” said the Gremlin. He shifted his shoulders, and his cloak spread out in a set of wings. “Been looking for him a while, eh. Want what’s mine, eh.”
“The only thing you’re getting from me is a load of grief,” said the masked Buffy. “There’s no Rywoo here, and I don’t have time for a reject from the Addams Family.”
“Want to rumble, eh?” said the Gremlin, dropping into a defensive crouch, eyes flaring electricity.
“Let’s go,” said the fearless Arsenal.
She brought her hand up, glad that Mik had given her a lot of gear that needed to be tested like this. A barrage of rockets leaped from a wrist launcher.
The winged creature seemed to charge, but all Arsenal saw was a streak of light heading for her. She threw herself to the side to get out of the way. Laughter drifted to Buffy’s ears as the floor ripped itself apart on either side of the Gremlin’s charge.
Arsenal shoulder-rolled to her feet. Her barrage had missed, as the rockets hit the ground wide of the target.
The glowing sphere hit the wall and disappeared. Suddenly, the overhead lights began to pop and explode in a straight line toward the door.
Buffy pulled a wide-barrelled pistol from a hip holster and fired at the next light in line. A sphere of energy wrapped around the bulb. The Gremlin fell to the floor as the sphere of energy pulsed, disrupting the electrical system and plunging the room into blackness.
The adversaries regarded each other grimly, then began to smile at each other. Finally, Arsenal pulled the trigger on the strange pistol. A ball of energy reached for the winged intruder.
The Gremlin caught the ball in his hand. He held it for several seconds before the ball flew back at Buffy with a hiss of heated air.
Arsenal dropped rolled under the energy ball, pulling a miniature ice-gun. She let fly with the wand in a furious burst of ice shards. Her target waited to the last second and then stepped out of the way. The energy ball blew down a wall as the Gremlin laughed and danced away.
Her mouth was set in determination as she pulled out a net grenade and threw it at her target’s back. The sphere flew true, exploding and wrapping a set of tendrils around the miniature demon. He fell on the floor in a heap.
“Who’s laughing now, sport?” Arsenal asked as she pulled a tuning fork on top of a pistol grip.
“So helpless, eh,” said the Gremlin. “Whatever shall I do?”
“Beg for mercy,” Arsenal said as she leveled the sound-gun.
The Gremlin flexed his wings, and the net exploded into a spray of fibers. Buffy shielded her face from the fragments as the remains dug into her armor.
“Time to die, eh,” the Gremlin said as he rushed forward, claws extended.
The diminutive Mikron O’Jeneus watched the screen in front of him. He almost couldn’t believe his eyes. His friend was going toe-to-toe with a three-foot-tall winged monster in the middle of the training room.
He flicked a button with a thumb.
“Yes?” said the cultured voice of Kompera Lee.
“Sir,” said Mik, “Arsenal has an intruder cornered in the training area. He said he was looking for you, I think.”
“What does this intruder look like?” Lee said.
“Winged midget,” said the weapons designer. “Says ‘eh’ a lot.”
“I will be right down,” said Lee. “Tell Miss Winter to be cautious. This personage is dangerous.”
Mik watched Arsenal fly away from the midget’s latest attack with a wince.
“I think she knows that,” he said as he cut the connection, wondering if he had anything in his shop that might have a chance against that thing.
Arsenal flew away from the blow that the Gremlin had landed. The top layer of her armor was sliced in three places. The sonic gun had jumped out of her hand upon impact.
“Fiesty human, eh,” said the Gremlin. “No match for me.”
“We’ll see about that,” Arsenal said through clenched teeth as she fired her boot-jets.
Arsenal tackled her pint-sized opponent around the legs and slammed him in the wall. The Gremlin winced slightly from the blow. He spread his wings and flapped. Instantly, he was hovering in the air. Buffy rotated away and climbed toward the ceiling.
The two enemies glared at each other. Then they charged together.
Kompera Lee walked in Mikron’s lab as the weapons-maker strapped on a specially compensated gatling gun.
“What do you think you’re doing?” he asked calmly.
“I was going to help Buffy,” Mik admitted.
“Tell Arsenal to lure the intruder here,” Lee said. “I have just the thing for him.”
“Got it,” Buffy said into the helmet mike. She was surprised it still worked after the pounding the midget had given her. “Tag, short stuff,” she said with a smile as she brought a leg around in a sweep that knocked the small monster to the ground. Arsenal then ran from the room, laughing heartily.
The Gremlin picked himself up. He grinned, exposing sharp teeth. He would mate with this one and forget his bargain with the cheating human wizard Ryo-wo. The girl was perfect, and their children would be warriors of extreme excellence. Time for that later. First he had to win his prize.
He swept his wings together and took to the air. Two flaps and he was chasing the fleeing Arsenal down the empty corridors of the building. He flowed forward smoothly, waiting to see if she would turn and attack as she was prone to do and do well.
The lovely young thief disappeared behind a sliding door marked weapons lab.
The Gremlin shoved the door open with his gorilla arms. His saucer eyes grew wide when he saw his old enemy standing there. “Rywoo,” said the Gremlin. “We meet again.”
“You are still a rude little creature, even after all these years,” said Kompera Lee.
“Don’t talk to me about rudeness when you owe me the life of your child,” said the monster. “The time limit has been up for years.”
“I am afraid that I am childless,” said Lee. “That is why I cannot live up to my end of our deal.”
“I will make you a new deal,” said the Gremlin.
“Go ahead. I’m listening,” Lee said.
He knew that the creature had been playing before. If he unleashed his full fury in the weapons lab, the three humans present would be torn apart.
“I want her as my mate,” said the Gremlin, pointing at Arsenal. “I will forgive the debt for her.”
“Agreed,” said Lee.
“I decline,” said Arsenal with a grimace of disgust. “I’d rather cut your throat.”
“We will not interfere if you wish to take the woman with you,” said Lee. “Security chiefs are easy to replace.”
Lee pulled Mik out of the way. His face was composed and placid in the face of imminent death and destruction.
“You’re mine, eh,” said the Gremlin as he rushed forward to sieze his prize.
“Catch me if you can, shorty,” said Buffy as she fled into the other room.
The Gremlin gave chase with all his inhuman agility. Arsenal was barely ahead when she leaped over a design in the floor.
The Gremlin flew over the design and crashed against an invisible barrier. He raised a hand and threw a fireball. It splattered harmlessly against the barrier.
“I see you have found a new discovery that my scientists have been working on,” said Kompera Lee.
“Still duplicitous, eh?” asked the Gremlin as it hovered in its cage.
“I wouldn’t say duplicitous,” said Lee calmly. “Just unwilling to pay extortion.”
“We had a deal, eh!” roared the Gremlin.
“We had a deal for my firstborn child,” said Lee. “I don’t have any children, so my debt must be held until I do.”
“I will get you for this, Rywoo!” shouted the Gremlin.
“I will await any future encounter with as much equanimity as I can muster,” Lee said with a small smile. “Until then, I bid you a fond adieu.”
Lee held a small remote up. He pressed the button on top of it with a thumb. A column of hard redness materialized over the design, enshrouding the winged creature.
“Will get you back, eh,” the Gremlin moaned from within the column.
When the column vanished, the Gremlin was gone.
Arsenal surveyed the damage to the training area. Her armor had been ripped. Her exposed skin had a lobster red color to it from some of the energy exposure she had taken from the near misses. Most of the weapons she had been testing were scattered or trashed, needing to be salvaged or rebuilt.
Still, she had encountered something more dangerous than anything she had yet encountered in her career.
And she was alive to brag about it if she wanted to.
Mik came into the training hall, whistling long and low. “What a mess,” he said quietly.
“That’s what a workout should be like, eh?” Arsenal said with a smile.