Showcase: The Crimson Fox: Working Girl, Chapter 1: Argus and Mr. Action

by Libbylawrence

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Continued from Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad: Suicide Mission

It was a less-than-ideal situation for the Crimson Fox.

While under the mental control of a madman, the Fox — alias twin sisters Vivian and Constance d’Aramis, who shared the identity — had been forced to abduct the owner and CEO of the huge company called Stagg Enterprises. Unfortunately, Simon Stagg was not a forgiving man. In fact, he threatened the Crimson Fox with legal action and possible identity exposure if she did not agree to go work for him. The twins drew lots between them to decide who would have to take on this unpleasant task, and Vivian lost the drawing. That was why she was now meeting with the greedy old con man at Stagg Enterprises.

“This arrangement is brief, oui?” she had asked after carefully reading a contract Stagg’s lawyers had drawn up to cover their working arrangement.

“It ends with my signed assurance that no legal and no civil action will be taken against you for the crimes you committed against me. That is, when you complete a little job for me,” he said with a decidedly wicked grin.

“What must I do?” said a worried Crimson Fox as she perched on the desk.

“Before my own brutal abduction, my baby daughter Sapphire–”

Who is actually a woman older than myself, mused Vivian.

“–underwent a similar attempt at kidnapping. She escaped, due to the police actually being of use for a change. Now this must end! I want you to bring down the gang that threatened her, even if they no longer want her. They need to be taught the cost of angering Simon Stagg!”

And I need to pay Constance back for this, thought the Fox. “How do I track them?” she asked.

“That’s your problem,” he said. “Just do it — or I’ll see your pretty face revealed in a CNN-covered courtroom!”

I just bet you would, thought the Fox. She signed the contract and said, “For now I am yours to command.”

***

Jimmy Olsen, star reporter at Metropolis’ Daily Planet, was eager to get a lead on a new story involving high-tech weapons in the hands of small-time thugs. The gang using them had been striking from Metropolis to Gateway City to Coast City. The triangulation of the places hit made a neat little center in the aptly named location of Central City. Jimmy had discovered this himself and was rather proud of that fact. He felt he was closing in on a big scoop, something that would help him earn once more his nickname of Mr. Action.

After getting permission from his editor, he drove across the country to Central City and checked into a hotel under an assumed name. He hoped his freckled-faced youthful features would help him blend in with this all-American mecca. He also wished that Ralph Dibny was in town, but the world-traveling Elongated Man was nowhere to be found. He and Ralph shared a power on rare occasions, since as Elastic Lad, Jimmy could also stretch his pliable body. In fact, they recently teamed up along with Superman and Plastic Man only three months earlier, just after the Crisis on Infinite Earths had ended, against a pliable villain called Malleable Man. (*) Still, both Ralph and the new Flash were out of town, so it was up to Jimmy to crack the case.

[(*) Editor’s note: See “That’s the Way the Heroes Bounce,” DC Comics Presents #93 (May, 1986).]

Walking through the streets of Central City, Jimmy stopped short as he saw someone he knew. The man was a shifty little bald guy named Rex Rinker — a known gangster whom Superman had put in jail years ago. He could be involved with the high-tech gang. Jimmy faded back into the crowd as much as a guy in a plaid green jacket could fade.

He watched Rinker head down a seedy-looking alleyway, then saw a second man ahead of Rinker. It was obvious that Rinker was following him. Jimmy scanned the empty streets. This looked bad — it could even be a mob hit. There were no witnesses and not even any stores around, so there was no reason he could think of for Rinker to take this neglected path so determinedly. Jimmy was uncertain how best to handle this situation, so he decided to just follow along to see what would turn up.

The pair turned into a blind alley, and sure enough, Rinker pulled out a miniature gun that looked like a blaster from a sci-fi movie — very high-tech and very suspicious. Jimmy ran forward and shouted, “Stop! Police!

Rinker whirled and aimed the gun at the reporter, who dived for cover. The man Rinker was following cursed and leaped to his aid. He tackled Rinker with near-Olympian skill and pummelled the little man quickly. “Thanks,” offered Jimmy.

“No problem. But what do you think you’re doing?” He read Jimmy’s ID, which he had palmed with smooth grace. “A reporter, I see.”

“Hey! How’d you do that?”

“I am a man of many talents. Now listen, kid, bug off. This is dangerous. The mob doesn’t play games,” urged the grim, dark-haired man. He turned and walked off, leaving Jimmy more curious than ever.

***

Sapphire Stagg Mason was dressed to thrill in her hot pink minidress. Her jewels shone brightly, as did her blonde hair. And her designer sunglasses added just the right air of wealthy boredom. Java, the caveman-turned-bodyguard employed by Simon Stagg, lurched around her impatiently. “This sun-tanning stuff is for the birds. I mean, you’re dressed for a ball or somethin’, not the beach.” She ignored him as they sauntered through the park.

Suddenly, a car screeched to a halt in front of them, and out jumped four men with cheap suits and odd rifles. “Get the broad in the car! I’ll handle the stiff,” ordered one man. They raced toward Sapphire, who screamed demurely, while Java pounded one with his massive fists. He did not move again. The second one grabbed Sapphire and hurried the heiress to the car. She lost a high heel but kept moving as he ordered. Java slugged the second man before he could aim his long gun.

The third man blasted away, but the cavemen agilely dodged the heat ray. He grabbed for Sapphire’s closest abductor, and she delicately kicked her high heel into his path. He hit the shoe and tripped as the thug rammed the gun into his skull. He fell dumbly, as he did most things.

Sapphire was rushed off with the gang in the car. “Your daddy is gonna pay us big-time,” said one gleefully.

Eek!” screamed the apparent heiress, while she smiled inwardly and thought to herself, They fell for it! They think I’m Sapphire. Good thing that oaf Java didn’t mess up my plan. Now we’ll see where the boss lives.

Vivian d’Aramis, disguised as Sapphire, allowed the thugs to drive her to a building in Central City, where they shoved her into a room. She heard a door click shut and was alone.

“Wait ’til the boss sees her,” said a thug.

“Non,” she said quietly. “Wait ’til moi sees the boss.”

***

Meanwhile, Jimmy Olsen tried to find anything on the man who had saved him from Rex Rinker. Soon, he found a photograph of this dark, handsome man in a mug shot book at the station under the name of Nick Kovac. That’s the guy. For a mobster, he seemed an OK guy. Could be an undercover agent, mused the self-styled Mr. Action.

Checking the hotels in Central City, he found one where Kovac’s name was registered. He staked out the place, hiding behind a stack of heavy crates. Sure enough, out came the man himself the next morning.

“Now look, kid — I told you not to get involved,” he said, staring straight at Jimmy, who was still hidden.

A shocked Jimmy gasped, “How? You must have eyes like Superman to see me through those crates!”

“It’s a long story,” he said. “And I’m on a case for the government. Now, buzz off.”

Before Jimmy could respond, a gang swarmed them, backing them into a dark alleyway. “Well, Kovac, looks like you’re working with the press,” said a sneering, greasy man. “This punk is Superman’s pal.”

Nick Kovac grimaced and sailed into them, his fists furious and effective. The gang almost fell over themselves in the dark alleyway, yet he seemed to see clearly. Jimmy watched in amazement as Kovac knocked out every thug. “You’ve got to be a super-hero,” said Jimmy.

“If you must know, I do have super-heightened vision,” explained Nick. “And I call myself Argus.”

“Cool!” said Jimmy.

“But despite my powers and this costume — which I only use occasionally — I prefer not to think of myself as a super-hero. If anything, I’m a crime-fighter.” Argus, having changed into a a dark costume and mask in the alleyway, reluctantly explained his mission to an eager Jimmy Olsen. “I’m on the trail of the gang that has been making use of high-tech weapons in a nationwide crime spree.”

Jimmy smiled. “That’s why I’m here, too. Let’s combine our efforts. They’re based here in Central City, then?”

“Yeah. I was almost ready to either join them under my Nick Kovac alias or bring them down,” said Argus. “Now they must have their doubts about me, so I’ll just shut them down myself. I never did learn who their boss was or where the tech is coming from, either.”

“How’d you get your super-vision powers?” asked Jimmy.

Nosy, aren’t you?” said Argus. “Will this be off the record?”

“Completely,” replied Jimmy.

“It’s not a long story, after all. A short while ago I was hit by a beam — a ray from space. That’s about it.”

“That sounds bizarre, but I’ve seen worse,” said Jimmy, thinking of the time he once became the gigantic Turtle Boy.

“I’ve never known what it was — only that it seemed right to use the gift for good,” said Argus. “And it seemed to come just at the right time. This ability has aided me immeasurably on a few occasions already. I’m not really sure what made me decide to get this costume, either, but it does come in handy when I’m trying to blend into the shadows. I guess it’s the same reason why Batman wears that dark cape of his.”

“As a friend of Batman’s, I can tell you for sure that you’ve hit the nail on the head,” said Olsen. “Now let’s go get that gang.”

“Hold it,” said Argus. “Unless you’ve got Superman or Batman on hold somehow, I’d prefer it if you sat this out. Could be dangerous.”

“Danger is my game,” offered Jimmy with a smile.

Argus rolled his eyes and said, “OK. If you’re sure about it.”

The new Central City crime-fighter led Jimmy to the building he had identified as the headquarters of the gang. “I’m going in fast and direct. Follow closely,” commanded Argus.

Moments later, Argus crashed into the building through a window and immediately flipped a light switch off. As darkness fell, he charged the gang and crashed into them, swinging furiously as they screamed and struggled to see a clear target.

This was the very same building that the Crimson Fox had been taken while disguised as Sapphire Stagg Mason. So when she heard the initial noise, she quickly filed through the lock in the door and now swung it open. Crouching in vulpine style while still in her civilian disguise, she saw a fierce battle between a dark man and the group of thugs. Electric pulses throbbed across the room as the gang used weird weapons to home in on their attacker.

Jimmy Olsen didn’t know the Crimson Fox in or out of costume. He just saw a beautiful blonde in a pink minidress and thought she was in danger. “Come on, miss,” he whispered, pulling on her hand. “I’ll get you out of here safely.”

Non! I do what comes naturally,” she said with a grin. She kicked a thug’s weapon free and tossed it to the bemused Jimmy. “Use it.”

Jimmy pointed the barrel of the strange gun up and shot wildly above the heads of the gang, causing them to scatter for safety as Argus ducked and punched the stragglers with formidable martial arts skills.

The Crimson Fox wrestled a thug down and slammed him into a stunned stupor. She leaped through the air, and as the pink dress she wore split, she continued to fight with rare abandon. “Eet is coming out of the bill,” said Vivian as she glanced at the ruined dress. She ducked a pulse bolt that literally illuminated the entire room.

The thugs were desperately outmatched by their foes, since even Jimmy was doing a great job at keeping them separated by the pulse blasts. Then a gold-colored ray hit Argus — although he almost reacted in time to dodge it before it flared into visible range — and he fell as a statue of gold. Jimmy saw a gold-armored man enter and quickly fire a second ray at him. He was hit solidly and also turned into a golden statue.

Only the Fox remained, and she tried a new stunt. She slipped a bug on the coat of her latest foe and, with astonishing speed, climbed the head of a thug and leaped out through the broken window. She barely escaped being turned to gold herself. Now I may return with help and trace the gang, she vowed.

The golden-armored man, in charge of the gang, asked angrily, “What is this? Can’t the Goldface mob survive without my personal supervision? Take the kid and the costumed freak and load them in the van. We’ve got to get out of Central before the Flash is contacted by that doll who escaped. I think she was the Catwoman.” The men did as directed. “We’ve got to deliver the item to our employer, anyhow, or his generous weapons will stop coming.”

“You mean you found it?” asked a punk.

“I killed the guards and lab boys who were studying it and found the body of the dead owner, just as the employer said, in a government science lab outside of Central City,” explained Goldface.

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