“What did you learn from the stories that these people told?” Kompera Lee soberly asked Miss Winter.
“Oka left out a great many of the real details, plus one or two outright lies. Why was she in such a hurry to leave, anyway?” Winter asked curiously.
“A project that I have been waiting for quite some time is about to reach completion. If it works out as I have planned, your alter ego will have a companion to aid you.” (*) Lee abandoned his mask to smile wickedly at his assistant.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Dragon Knight: Into the Light.]
“I do not want any help! I am doing just fine on my own.” Winter started to pout, showing her true age.
“The great Ryo-Wo wants you to do this for him.” Lee’s eyes gleamed wickedly at the pouting Winter.
Buffy Winter looked around the room, checking carefully for a sign of someone intruding before glaring back at Kompera Lee. “I wish you would stop doing that when we are alone. It makes me worry about your mental stability, my dear father.”
“Have no worries about me, my irreverent daughter. I am well aware of who I am, even when I play the great humanitarian Ryo-Wo. Now perhaps you would like to ask me some more questions about the stories.”
“Not really. I can deduce most of it already. Besides, if I learn all your secrets, you can’t play mysterious father figure any more with me.” Winter gave her father a reluctant smile.
The security chief broke into the conference room at that moment. “Boss, somebody tried to steal the display models while we were in conference. Only the display models were the real merchandise. It’s just lucky that those fellows from Infinity Inc. showed up to stop them.”
Lee frowned at the news about the robbery attempt before giving Ira Quimby some instructions. “Contact the people in the hotel to see if the security cameras picked up the robbery attempt, and request a copy of their recordings if they made one. My assistant and I will do a brief tour before leaving. Miss Winter will depart in her own vehicle while I wait in mine for you.”
Buffy Winter and Kompera Lee toured the subdued scientific conference before splitting up. She headed to her beach house, while her father waited for his chief of security to appear.
Later on, after the police had arrived on the scene to take the captured crooks into custody, Karrin Murphy of the Special Crimes Unit showed up to question the member of Infinity Inc. who stayed behind.
“Good work in there, archer-boy,” Murphy said in a flirting tone as she watched the local police haul the criminals away.
“Just doing my job, ma’am,” replied Red Arrow with a large grin.
Red Arrow’s grin grew even wider as he noticed Murphy’s footwear. He pointed at her fuzzy bunny slippers and begin to chuckle loudly.
“Is that the latest police fashion?” Red Arrow asked as he laughed uncontrollably.
Karrin Murphy looked down at her bunny slippers with a somewhat-puzzled expression before punching the laughing Arrow on the shoulder.
“I was sound asleep when I got the call about the robbery,” she offered half-heartedly as an explanation.
An officer came up and reported, “All of them have been loaded up and are on their way to the prison. If you want to leave now, ma’am, we can handle the cleanup.”
Murphy nodded her head. “Thanks, Officer Anderson. Tell the conference people that it’s safe once more to let everybody back in who ran out earlier. And make sure to find out who arranged for those display weapons to be shipped here. They were supposed to be harmless display models.”
The officer pulled out a notepad and wrote down the instructions that Murphy had given before walking back off.
Karrin Murphy grimaced before looking at Red Arrow. A speculative look came into her eyes as she gazed at him. “How would you like to bribe a dedicated police official with a late breakfast?”
Red Arrow bowed gracefully. “I would be delighted, as long as you wear the bunny slippers.”
The hero offered Karrin Murphy his arm, which she took with considerable eagerness. The two of them left through the back entrance, avoiding the few reporters who had shown up. Murphy led the Arrow to her beat-up sedan, and they headed off to take in a late breakfast.
The young blond Buffy Winter entered her beach house and moved to an innocent-looking antique radio, where she punched a hidden red button. A ray of light activated, and an inhuman voice spoke:
“Place hand on scanner to initiate security DNA sequence check.”
Buffy placed her hand on the grill of the radio, where the red light swept her hand.
“User cleared for access. Have a nice day,” the inhuman voice intoned before a panel opened up in the seemingly solid floor.
Buffy walked fearlessly down the steps toward what appeared to be a weird television. She placed her hand on another security scanner fitted to the television. The scanner beeped for a bit before the television flared to life. A small dapper man with a set of schematics placed before him appeared on the screen. He looked up at the monitor in his facility before smiling at the young woman.
“Hello there, Buffster. How go the plans to take over the world?”
Buffy smiled back at the man before speaking in a pleased tone. “Hi, Mik. I have no idea about the plans, but they have probably gotten the nucleus of the Science Council formed. I was calling about getting the Arsenal suit sent back to me so I can go out and, ummm, have some fun.”
Mikron O’Jeneus looked around his lab before returning his attention to the monitor. “Well, the old suit has been put into the digital analyzer to check your performance from the museum job, but I do have a new one that’s been heavily redesigned. It’s not temperature resistant like the old one, but it has a new inertial dampener that should make you almost bulletproof.” Mik pulled out the dark blue costume on his workbench.
Buffy Winter thought carefully before replying, “What about weapons and equipment?”
“Hmmmm… I have some new gas grenades that I have been wanting to test. Remember to have your facemask in place before using them, though. I also have some new darkness grenades that I can add. Most of the major weapons are still being checked out. Oh, and I do have a new version of the flying disk built. It’s much faster than the old one, but not as stealthy.”
He rummaged around on his workbench before pulling out a flat-looking disk. “I also have an electromagnetic pulse that you can try to use. Just make sure to stay back about fifteen feet before activating it, or it will fry your suit.”
Mikron began to place the gizmos into small pouches built into the suit before putting the whole thing on a round disk. He pulled out what looked like a television remote control and pushed the button that said Teleport. The suit shimmered and then appeared in the room where Buffy was standing.
Buffy carefully ran a visual check on the suit and weapons before smiling cheerfully at the attentive Mikron. “It looks spiffy as usual, Mik. Did you send the sundial upstairs where the other one is usually stored?”
Mikron donned an offended look as he stared back at Buffy. “Certainly, Buffster. I may be short, but that doesn’t mean I’m stupid. So which newscast should I watch to see where you strike next?” Mik reassumed his usual smile at his favorite person.
“I have a few ideas, Mik. If I show up on the news, will you tape it for me?” Buffy asked as she changed into her Arsenal outfit. Mik snapped off a sloppy salute before deactivating the communication device on his side.
Buffy Winter transformed into her alter ego Arsenal with a great deal of satisfaction. She donned her goggles, cowl, and attachable mask before going upstairs. Checking the immediate area for watchers with several innocent-looking decorations scattered about the room, Arsenal then activated the new sundial disk. She jumped agilely onto the disk and then gave a wild yell as she zoomed off on the sundial disk, heading toward the city.
Shortly afterward, the high-flying Arsenal arrived in Los Angeles. She flew over the city, looking for something that might be fun to play with before spotting an armored car pulling away from a busy shopping center. She sent her sundial disk swooping downward to hover briefly over the top of the armored car. A small metallic object dropped from her hand to adhere tightly to the top of the armored vehicle.
Several of the people began to point and shout at the sight of the flying disk as it zipped away from the armored car. A loud crackle of energy was heard as the metallic object unleashed an electromagnetic pulse, destroying anything electronic in nature within its sphere of influence. The motor of the armored car died as the security guards looked perplexed.
The sundial disk dived back in to hover directly in front of the armored car. The completely masked Arsenal motioned for the guards to leave the car, but they refused as one of them tried the now useless radio to call for help. Arsenal shrugged and tossed a grenade underneath the armored car. Thick pinkish smoke filled the air around the armored car briefly before fading away.
Several moments passed as the guards watched the waiting Arsenal. Suddenly, one of the guards began to sweat as he looked nervously around the inside of the armored car. The other two guards wondered what was wrong with their friend, before they too began to look nervously at the inside of the armored car. Panicking, the guards jumped out of the armored car, screaming about how small it was.
Arsenal smiled as she jumped off of the sundial disk. “You boys must have been feeling a trifle cramped in that small vehicle. It’s terrible how fast some people can develop claustrophobia.”
The guards regained their composure after getting out of the armored car and pulled guns. They fired several shots at the costumed female and watched the bullets seem to bounce off of her. Arsenal took several steps to the guards, assuming a menacing posture. The guards decided that running away from this unstoppable force was the better part of valor and took off.
Arsenal laughed with a deep amusement as she walked to the back of the open armored car. Her eyes widened slightly at the bags of money in the back of the armored car before she reached to grab one. Some instinct warned her of danger as she leaped straight up to just barely dodge the light beam fired by the hero known as the Ray of Infinity Inc. Arsenal landed agilely on top of the armored car and glared at the young, second-generation super-hero.
The Ray smiled confidently, believing that one girl in a ninja suit would be easy to take down. “Ninjas are supposed to dress in black, not that blue you’re wearing.”
“I will have you know that blue is the color that’s in, you flying light bulb,” Arsenal said mockingly as she leaped to the flying sundial disk.
The Ray tried to blast her, but she dodged each strike with a practiced ease on the highly maneuverable sundial disk. “Some people never learn.”
The aerial battle moved higher and higher above the city as the increasingly frustrated Ray sent blast after blast at the aggravating Arsenal. Finally, one of the blasts sent her tumbling off the sundial disk. Arsenal shrieked loudly as she fell toward the ground. The Ray swept her up into his arms, noticing the soft feel of her body next to his. The Ray blushed deeply as he looked at the masked Arsenal’s eyes. Her deep green eyes sparkled with a mischievous purpose as she wiggled in the Ray’s arms.
“You act like you have never held a woman in your arms, light bulb. I wonder what you would do if I tried to kiss you?” Arsenal said with an assumed sultry voice.
The blush on the Ray’s face deepened as he stuttered, “K-k-kiss?”
“It’s too bad I have to go now. You are really rather cute in a strange, geekish way.” Arsenal pulled the pin on the fear gas grenade on her costume, and thick purple smoke covered them both. The Ray, still confused by the antics of Arsenal, breathed deeply of the smoke. Arsenal wiggled free from the Ray’s arms and reassumed her dive toward the ground. A few quick punches on a control panel on her costume sent the sundial disk plunging after her. She slipped back onto the disk and slowed the descent.
A rather triumphant smile crossed her face as she watched the puzzlement of the Ray turn to fear at all of the light surrounding him. The Ray plunged to the surface to hide from it all. Arsenal started to hum a song as she returned to where the armored car was. A few minutes later, she dumped most of the money in the bags all over the parking lot while keeping one of the smaller bags for herself.
She gave the money-grabbing people a salute from her sundial disk. “Tell the press that Arsenal strikes again. That’s spelled A-R-S-E-N-A-L. Have a nice day!”
The sundial disk soared into the sky as Arsenal chuckled, “That’s one for me so far and zero for Infinity Inc.”
The Shopping Center parking lot, one hour later:
The local authorities were busy questioning witnesses when a green van inscribed with the name Special Crimes Unit pulled into the cordoned off area. Two men got out and walked up to the scene. The taller of the set looked around while a hamster crawled around his shoulder.
“Yes, Boo. There are no evildoers’ butts to kick here. But perhaps our friend can find some clues to lead to the evildoers.”
Several of the uniformed officers backed off slightly from the man talking to a pet hamster. The smaller of the set walked over to where a crime scene investigator was labeling what little evidence there was. He looked at the collected bullets in the plastic bag with a discerning eye before walking over to glance at inside of the armored car.
“Minsc, could you and Boo come over here?” He pointed at the bag and the bullets inside it. “What do you think of that? The guards say that they fired point-blank at this Arsenal, and the bullets bounced off.”
Minsc looked at the bullets before frowning. “Is very interesting. Is not like bullets bouncing off Superman or Power Girl. These bullets are not deformed from impact. What you think about it, Johnny?”
Johnny rubbed his chin thoughtfully before answering the question. “It’s a puzzle. Even the impact on a Kevlar vest would have deformed the shape of the bullet a little bit. It’s like they were robbed of all their kinetic energy when they hit this Arsenal.”
“Boo says that we should see if someone caught all of this on tape before questioning any witnesses. A tape would be very helpful,” Minsc said with a helpful smile.
Conferring with the head of the local police, Johnny soon found out that someone had taped the whole thing. Soon Johnny, Minsc, and Boo were sitting in the back of the SCU van watching the tape while the local authorities continued the witness interviews.
Johnny paused the tape every so often to zoom in on a particular scene. Minsc was quiet, while occasionally Boo made little chattering noises. Finally, the tape ended and everyone looked at each other. Johnny put another tape in a machine and copied the content of the first tape to the second.
“Is very interesting. Arsenal tosses device on car that destroys the electronics. Then she makes gesture to let guards come out. They refuse, and she tosses gas grenade underneath car. Guards get scared and jump out. They fire guns, and bullets bounce off. Sensible then, they run away. Super-hero comes up while Arsenal is looking in car at money. He tries to blast her, but she senses presence and jumps out of way. She jumps on floating disk, and he follows. Then she comes back and takes money. Most of money is tossed back to people in parking lot.” Minsc had a keen intellect in his eyes as he spoke to Johnny and Boo.
“My conjectures are that the first device used generated a small electromagnetic pulse, which caused the pattern of static in the tape. Then the gas grenade created an irrational fear in the guards known as claustrophobia. I am not sure yet how the disk flies, though.” Johnny looked reflectively outward as he thought.
“Can I get that tape back yet, Special Investigator Jones?” one of the uniformed officers said as he walked up to the van. Johnny handed over the tape while still lost in thought.
“Let’s get back to the office, Minsc. I will let the people in charge here know to send the copies of the reports to the SCU.” Johnny jumped out of the van to confer with the person he spoke to before.
Minsc jumped out of the van and closed the side panel door. He got into the passenger side of the van and buckled himself into seat. Boo climbed into a specially designed seat where Minsc buckled the hamster in. “I hope that super-hero is OK, Boo. It would not be very nice if this Arsenal had harmed him.”
Johnny climbed into the van and started it up. “Someone received a report that this Ray is fine, except for suffering from photophobia. If it follows what the other gas did, he should stop feeling the effects of the gas in another thirty minutes or so. He has no idea where this Arsenal went. Nothing else we can do except wait for reports and hope that more clues can be discerned from them.”
Minsc shook his head. “Is not the end of this. This Arsenal will be making other appearances.”
Johnny nodded his head in agreement. “I unfortunately concur with your assessment of the situation, Minsc.”