by Martin Maenza
A masked figure in purple and yellow quietly rounded the hallway corner. In his hand was a five-foot-long, metallic, fork-like weapon from which he took his name. Trident leaned in to where his partner, a dwarf of a man with a brown beard dressed in a green costume, was working. “Any luck yet, Gizzy?” he asked.
The goggled man worked feverishly with tools on the open control panel. “Workin’ on it,” Gizmo said, keeping his eyes on the work. He started to attach a small, flat board to the circuitry of exposed wires from the wall.
Beneath his mask, Trident smiled. “See, I told’ja this would be fun. You need to get out more, do somethin’ exciting. All that work trying to cure Power Fist was bumming you out.”
Continuing to work, Gizmo said in a stronger tone, “I don’t know why we couldn’t just use the image-makers…”
“Where’s the challenge in that?” Trident asked. “The whole point’s to make this theft more interesting.” He gave the dwarf a friendly jab in the arm.
Gizmo glared at him. “Do that again, Leon, and things will get real interesting! Do you want the security all over us? Do you want to get caught and have Mirror Master mad at us? Huh, do you? I know I don’t! When he gets really mad, the fur flies!”
“Sorry, sorry,” Trident said, backing up slightly. He knew the little guy had been very high strung as of late. When he’d suggested this little heist to Gizmo, the dwarf had been reluctant to go in on it. Mirror Master had a very strict policy about them maintaining a low profile. Still, when Trident told the dwarf what the prize was, Gizmo was willing to consider it. Now just one door stood between them and their goal.
Gizmo used a small, pen-like tool to send current through various points of contact on his board. In a moment, the large panel slid open, giving them access to the laboratory behind it. “Success!”
“Good work,” Trident said, praising him. “Now, let’s see what we’ve got here.”
Stepping into the lab, they were surprised by what they saw. Even with only the limited lighting for late night on, the huge room was well-lit by the glow of the humming machines and computers. Trident was taken aback. “Check it out…”
Gizmo grinned like a kid who had just run downstairs on Christmas morning to see all the presents under the tree. “Yeah!” he said, excitement in his voice. “A guy could do a lot with a setup like this!“
The two continued to venture into the room. Trident reached into the folds of his left glove and pulled out a folded piece of paper. Waving the paper a few times in the air to get it to open up, the man glanced at the article he’d torn from a recent scientific journal. “According to this, Hawkes Industries is a growing company,” he said. “This new device of theirs has really skyrocketed their stock.” He glanced around, trying to locate the right piece of equipment. “Too bad their market’s about to crash!”
Gizmo, meanwhile, was winding his way around the room. He flipped open a large satchel he had hung over his shoulder and was picking and choosing from items situated about the lab. “Hmm,” he said, eyeing another piece. “Could prove useful.” He placed it in the satchel and went for another. “Not bad, not bad at all.” He put this one with the other and grabbed a third. “Tsk-tsk. Sloppy work. I’ve made one better.” He tossed this one back on the table and continued.
“Hey, Gizzy,” Trident called out. “You gonna sample everything like a buffet, or are we gonna get what we came after?”
Gizmo refocused. “Right, of course,” he said, and hurriedly joined his teammate. “Did ya locate it yet?”
Trident looked at his article once more, then looked up. “Yeah, this should be it.”
“Well, then,” Gizmo said, snatching the small box. “Then I guess our work is done.”
“Hold it right there!” a stern voice called from the doorway across the way. Trident and Gizmo turned to see a trio of men dressed in grayish-blue uniforms with matching cowls that covered the top, back, and ears of the head. They brandished elaborate, gun-like weapons.
“Yeah,” said one of the others. “Just put down the device and step back!” They leveled their weapons at the pair.
Gizmo turned to Trident. “Shall we?” the dwarf asked.
Beneath his yellow face-mask, Trident smiled. His fingers tensed about the shaft of his namesake weapon. “Might as well.”
“OK, OK. No need for anyone to get hurt.” Gizmo held out the device in one hand as if to be moving to put it back on the table. His other hand reached toward his belt, though, fiddling with some controls. At the last second, he pulled his arm back. “Nah, I don’t think so!” The small jetpack he wore on his back kicked in, launching the small man into the air.
“What the–?!” one of the trio of armed men exclaimed. He tried to adjust his aim and fired, his laser shots ricocheting off the ceiling. “Get him!” The others also started looking upward. That was a big mistake.
Trident grasped his weapon in both hands and launched himself forward. “Bad move, boys!” he said, firing a concussive blast from the center tine of his weapon. “Don’tcha know a distraction when you see it?” The wave slammed into the men, forcing them to the side. Their shots went wild in the air.
“Trident, this way!” Gizmo called. He had reached the door on the other side of the room and was motioning for his ally to join him. “Let’s get going while the gettin’s good!”
“Right with ya, little buddy!” Trident called, hurrying after him. Glancing back, he noticed the trio was starting to recover. “But first, a little insurance!” Using one of the outer tines, the villain in purple and yellow shot forth a blast of fire.
The searing flame caught a number of objects in its path, setting them ablaze. In a moment, the temperature in the room was starting to rise. The three men recoiled back, trying to consider their next move.
Gizmo was shaking his head in a disapproving matter. “Don’t ya know how to respect a lab?” he asked.
“It’s either the lab or us,” Trident said. “Personally, I choose us every time.” They started to move down the hall, Trident running and Gizmo soaring.
“Well, when ya put it that way…” Gizmo said.
After another few seconds, another group of men dressed similarly rounded the corner ahead of them. “Uh-oh!” Gizmo exclaimed. “More company!”
“This way!” Trident said, grabbing the flying dwarf and tugging him down a cross aisle. “I could have sworn there wouldn’t be this much security.”
“No problem,” Gizmo said, reaching into one of his pouches. Pulling out a small, cylindrical item, he jammed one end against the wall, then pulled it across the way to the far side and did the same. It stuck in the wall the second time. “Let’s move!” The two took off down the hall as the group of men started in that direction.
“What was that?” Trident asked as they ran.
A loud explosion shook the hallway behind them, catching their pursuers in a huge blast. “Explosive charge with infrared trigger,” Gizmo said in a matter of fact way. “Fairly easy to whip up, really.”
Trident glanced back. Smoke settled from the explosion, but not a body was moving. That had seemed to put a permanent end to those men’s lives. “Nice,” he said. “Real nice!”
Gizmo rocketed his way toward the back door of the facility. “Once we get to the cycle,” he said as he pushed the bar on the door, “we’re home free!” They darted out into the yard.
“Hold it right there!” a stern voice commanded.
The two villains turned around, only to find themselves suddenly surrounded by another six men dressed in grayish-blue uniforms like those they had encountered inside. “Man, old lady Hawkes must spend a bundle on security!” Trident said.
“Hawkes?” one of the burly men sneered. “We don’t work for Veronica Hawkes!”
“Oh?” Gizmo said, trying to keep as many of the men in his perimeter vision. “Then why are you fellas hanging out here?”
“You got something we want!” the burly command leader said, striding forward. “Now, hand over the device you got there!”
“Over our dead bodies!” Trident snapped.
The other men released the safeties on their weapons, leveling the barrels at the two costumed villains. The leader smiled. “That can be arranged easy enough!”
“Fellas, fellas,” Gizmo said. “Let’s not be too hasty here.” He held forth the device. “I can say that this piece of equipment’s not worth me losing my life over. Here, take it.”
The leader eyed him for a moment to gauge the dwarf’s reaction. It appeared to be sincere. “Thanks!” he said, snatching it. “Boys, time to roll.”
A number of the men reached to their wrists, touching special control bands. Suddenly, there was a loud rumble in the air, followed by a brilliant burst of light. A circular portal appeared out of nowhere, and the men moved toward it. The first couple stepped through and vanished. Teleportation technology, Gizmo surmised silently.
“Adios, suckers,” the leader said as he turned and headed for the portal.
The two villains stood for a moment, watching their prize walk away from them, and after all the hard work they’d gone through, too. Trident gripped his weapon tightly in anger and muttered something under his breath. Then, at the last moment, he dived at the leader with his weapon raised.
“Trident, no!” Gizmo exclaimed. But it was too late. The man in purple and yellow was upon the leader, struggling to wrench the device free from his grasp. The leader stumbled backward into the portal, pulling Trident along with him. Both vanished.
“Where’d he go?” Gizmo cried out.
One of the two remaining men laughed. “When our boss gets his hands on him, your friend’s as good as dead!” He looked to his partner. “Go, seven. I’ll take care of the runt.” The other guy nodded and leaped through the portal. The remaining man aimed his weapon. “I used’ta shoot squirrel back on the farm! This won’t be much harder!”
The weapon discharged, but Gizmo was already in motion. He rocketed straight up into the air to buy himself enough time to fish through his compartments. The dwarf took a couple of parts, interlocked them together, and slapped the device to his wrist. As he flew back down, he launched a pair of small missiles before him.
The first missile hit the ground near the man’s feet, knocking him down. The second streaked down toward the fallen being. The man’s eyes grew wide with terror. He screamed his last scream as the missile exploded upon contact with his chest.
The dwarf landed on the ground just as the portal was closing. His heart sank as it blinked out of sight. Trident was gone wherever that had led. He looked down at the smoldering corpse and noticed something gleaming on the ground. Gizmo walked over to the item and picked it up. It was the wristband.
He stared at the item with a curious eye. It appeared to still be functional. Surely it could open another portal to the exact coordinates of the other one. But what would he find on the other side? Would he be walking into a den of vipers?
Gizmo shook his head. “Can’t risk that,” he said. “But there may be another way!” He ran over to the sky cycle, hopped aboard it, and took to the air. As he rose into the clouds, he flipped a number of controls on the vehicle. “As long as they didn’t go too far, the homing frequency on Trident’s comm-link should help me pinpoint him.” The dwarf watched the small readout and said a little prayer. After a few seconds, there was a blip — a weak one, but a blip nonetheless.
“Hold on, Trident!” Gizmo said. “I’m comin’ for you!”
Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Lydia Anastasios was about to turn the front sign to closed when the bell over the door to the Body Canvas jangled. Two men entered the shop, one with blonde hair and the other with brown hair. Even out of costume, she recognized the two individuals.
“I was just getting ready to close up for the night,” said the dark-haired Greek woman with tattoos all about her arms and legs. “What brings you two here?”
“We were hopin’ you’d have the time for us,” said Ricky, the man she also knew as Blindside.
“Yeah,” added Chad, the man she knew as Throttle. “Me and the big guy decided we’d finally bite the bullet and get us a little ink. We’ve been toying with the idea for a while now.”
“It’s to mark the anniversary of us gettin’ together,” Ricky said.
“Plus, now that we actually know someone in the business, it just made sense,” Chad agreed.
“Oh,” Lydia said. “Of course. I think I can spare a little time for coworkers.” She walked over to the front door and turned the sign to closed nonetheless and locked the door. No sense in having any more customers drop in while she was busy with these two. They were glancing up at the display wall where many of the tattoo designs were shown. “Did you have something particular in mind?”
“We were thinkin’ our initials,” Chad said.
“In hearts,” Ricky added.
“Sure, why not?” Chad agreed. “Initials in hearts. That’s simple enough, but makes the statement.”
Lydia was aware of the relationship that the two men shared. They were more than just partners in crime. She was certainly not about to pass judgment on anyone’s preferences. She had experimented once herself during her youth in Greece. “Easy enough,” she said. “We will just have to go in back to do it.”
Chad was glancing around.
“Problem?” Lydia asked.
He stopped to focus on a piece of paper mounted on the wall behind the register. “No,” he said as he read the official-looking document. “No, no problem at all. Just checking your sanitation rating, is all.”
“Oh,” Lydia said. Indeed, the inspector has just been in a week ago and gave the place an A-rating. “Of course.”
“Can’t be too careful these days,” Chad said. “We’ve lost too many friends to bad experiences with needles.”
“I understand,” Lydia said. “I pride myself on a clean shop. We always use fresh needles with each customer.”
“Good to hear,” Chad said. “Say, if your work’s as good as I hear, we can spread the word at some of our usual hangouts, drum up a little business for you. Folks tend to like to frequent places they can trust.”
Lydia smiled. “Why, that would be great! I have been trying to build up a new clientele since I moved the business up from Los Angeles. Of course, if I was too busy, then I would have to hire some help.”
“Say, how about Alyssa Jones?” Ricky suggested. “Chad, you know her. Works down at the Cat-Box tending bar. She might need some extra cash and could at least work the front counter for Lydia.”
“Good idea,” Chad said. “Should we have her call you for interview, Lydia?”
“It cannot hurt to talk to her,” the woman agreed. She stepped to the left and drew back the curtain to one of the work areas. “Shall we get back to your tattoos first?”
“Of course,” Chad said. “C’mon, hun.” He escorted Ricky to the back area.