by Brian K. Asbury
A short time later saw the six Legionnaires swooping high over the city using their flight rings. “This is the neighborhood below,” said Invisible Kid, pulling up.
“Looks fairly innocuous,” Ferro Lad said. “So what do you want us to do — check it out?”
“I don’t see what we are supposed to do here,” Princess Projectra said. “Only two of the killings took place actually in this neighborhood, and only one of those occurred near the victim’s home. While we are wasting time here, the murderer could be striking elsewhere.”
“True,” replied Invisible Kid, “but until Officer Salkind comes up with another common factor shared by the victims — if one even exists — this is all we have to go on.”
Duo Damsel said, “Kayanda Chon, the woman we saw in the holovid, was the only married victim — the other four victims were single. It might be a good idea to interview her husband.”
“Good idea, Luornu,” replied Invisible Kid. “Salkind said he’s at home under S.P. guard. I suggest one of your two selves visits him while the rest of us take a sector each and has a look around for any signs of trouble.”
Duo Damsel nodded and smiled. Before their eyes, she split into two identical beings. The three rookie Legionnaires watched this process with interest, as none of them had ever seen it happen before. Invisible Kid and Element Lad, however, had seen their comrade divide herself many times before.
Invisible Kid was, in fact, checking the information on the pad that Salkind had given him. He looked up at Karate Kid. “Val, one of the murder victims was a student at a local martial arts school. That sounds like the sort of place you might care to investigate.”
“It certainly does.”
“The other killing took place at a shop specializing in occult artifacts,” said Princess Projectra. “As the culture of my homeworld is steeped in superstition and mysticism, I would be interested in looking around there.”
“Fine,” said Invisible Kid. “The rest of us can take a quarter and just browse around generally. I’ll take the north side, Ferro Lad the south, Element Lad the east, and Luornu’s other self the west. Keep your eyes peeled and check in once every hour or if you see anything suspicious. And be prepared to drop whatever you’re doing if we get a call from the Science Police that another murder has happened or is in progress.”
They all nodded assent.
“OK, then that’s settled. Let’s go, people. And remember…”
They all looked at him expectantly.
“…Be careful out there!”
Luornu Durgo alighted on the patio in front of the building that had been the home of the late Kayanda Chon. I’m impressed, she thought. There were few buildings in this crowded part of the city that were the residence of a single individual or family, but this was one of them, standing apart from its neighbors in a pleasant strip of landscaped plasticrete molded into the semblance of a Winathian garden.
She walked up to the door, where a Science Police guard robot hovered. “Duo Damsel, Legion of Super-Heroes,” she said, displaying her flight ring to the spherical droid. “I’m here to interview Seldon Chon, the husband of the murder victim.”
“Citizen Chon has already been interviewed by officers of the Science Police,” intoned the robot. “He is to remain indoors for his own protection while the investigation into his partner’s death proceeds.”
“Really?” said Luornu. “‘For his own protection’? What does that really mean? That he’s a suspect?”
“This unit cannot comment.”
“Hmmm… let me through. I’d like to talk to him, please.” Interesting, she thought as the droid buzzed through to let Seldon Chon know she was here. There’s supposed to be no pattern to these killings, so why does Salkind think the husband’s potentially in danger?
Seconds later the door opened, and the robot moved to one side. “Citizen Chon will see you now, madam.”
Luornu moved across the threshold, where a smaller, non-flying robot moved to greet her. “Please follow me,” it said. “Mr. Chon is expecting you.”
She complied, following it down the hallway into a spacious room. A large man with graying dark hair occupied a lounger in the center of the room. Another small robot waited on him, with a tray carrying a selection of bottles and glasses held in one of its appendages. “You’ll excuse me if I’m hitting the Altairean brandy a little early,” he said, “but I’ve had rather a shock today. I’m Seldon Chon.”
“Hello, Mr. Chon. I’m Duo Damsel of–”
“I know who you are. I watch the news vids. Have you found out who killed my wife yet?”
“No, Mr. Chon.” He waved her to a chair, which she accepted. “I was hoping you might be able to provide some clue as to why she should have been killed like that. I’d like to offer sincere condolences, by the way. It must be terrible for you.”
“It is,” said Chon. His voice was slightly slurred, indicating that he had been drinking for some time. “But I told the S.P.s everything I know. I have no idea why anyone would want to kill Kayanda. She hadn’t an enemy in the world. Or off it.”
“Did the Science Police ask you about the other victims? Perhaps your wife had a connection to one or more of them that…”
“I’ve never met or even heard of any of them, and I’m certain my wife never had, either!” snapped Chon. “What are you implying?”
“Nothing, sir,” said Luornu, raising her hands. Hel-lo, she thought. Why is he getting so defensive about it? Could it be that he knows something he isn’t telling us?
“I apologize, Mr. Chon,” she said. “I didn’t mean any offense. But as the Science Police may have told you, your wife has been the only married victim so far. That might be significant. It’s also possible that you may, without knowing it, hold some clue as to why your wife was chosen by this killer. All I’m asking, sir, is that you give it some thought.”
Chon opened his mouth to speak, but whatever he had to say died stillborn on his lips, for at that moment, the door exploded inward, and a silver-suited figure stood there, holding a reflective cylinder that he pointed menacingly at Seldon Chon.
There was little time to plan a course of action. Luornu let her instincts take over as she leaped toward the intruder, hoping to buy Chon time to get away. She was probably putting herself in mortal danger by doing so, but as a Legionnaire, her first duty was to help the innocent, not her own safety.
Of course, she was at an unaccustomed disadvantage in that she had already divided herself, and her other body was elsewhere in the city. Without the ability to split into two, she was, effectively, an ordinary mortal with no special powers. However, she was far from helpless. With a single body she was not able to employ the Carggian martial art of tri-jitsu, or even her modified two-body version of it, but even singly she was no mean hand-to-hand fighter. No Karate Kid, it was true, but she could hold her own. Even single-bodied, a Carggian was almost twice as strong as an equivalent Earth human.
Closing the difference, she aimed a kick to the intruder’s weapon hand, hoping to disarm him. However, the silver-suited man was quicker than she expected. He partially dodged the blow, which struck him glancingly on his side instead. It sent him spinning back through the door, off-balance, but he retained his strange weapon.
Luornu moved after him, dodging herself as her opponent fired wildly. The shot went over her head, transforming part of the door frame to glass. Then she was in close quarters with him, raining a combination of blows on his head. Unfortunately, they seemed to faze him only slightly. He brought back his free hand in a rough push, which connected with her midriff and sent her flying back through the door.
“Grok!” she gasped. This guy was strong. The blow had been almost casual, but it was like being pushed by Mon-El or Ultra Boy. Shaking her head, she started to pick herself up, then realized that Seldon Chon was still in the room. “Get out!” she shouted. “Don’t be a fool! He’ll kill you!”
Chon merely stood there. “Why?” he said. But it was obvious that he was not addressing Luornu. He outstretched his arms. “Why?”
“You know why!” said the intruder. He fired.
“Nooo!” shouted Luornu. Back on her feet now, she threw herself at the man in the silver suit. Tough he may have been, but he didn’t seem to be invulnerable. If she could only connect with one solid kick, maybe she could at least disarm him. It was just possible, too, that the effects of his weapon might be reversible. Why else would he have smashed the glass statues that he had transformed his previous victims into? First priority, though, was to stop him repeating that stunt here. Even if Chon were still alive now, there was little possibility of restoring him if he were shattered into a thousand pieces.
Quick as she was, however, her opponent was faster. He grabbed her foot as it shot toward him, and used the grip to swing her around, her own momentum then sending her crashing into the glassed Seldon Chon. The statue went down beneath the impact and shattered under her.
As she lost consciousness among the pile of broken glass, she heard a voice say, “Let that be a lesson. Don’t interfere in what you don’t understand!”
Ferro Lad leaned on the wall that ran alongside the elevated walkway overlooking a crowded plaza. Below, citizens bustled in and out of shops and cafes, or sampled the wares of robot vendors, or chatted, or just hurried from one place to another, as citizens do. Meanwhile, behind him, the walkway carried another cadre of ordinary people, some of them stopping to stare at the sight of the masked and costumed youths who had so recently been seen in all the news-vids as one of the newest recruits to the United Planets’ premier organization of super-powered champions.
Under the mask, however, Andrew Nolan was getting bored. Nothing out of the ordinary was happening here, and there was no real reason to suppose that anything would. It was just an ordinary day in this ordinary city, and he realized that was the fourth time he had used the word ordinary in his thoughts in the last thirty seconds. He found himself wishing he had accompanied Karate Kid or Duo Damsel or the Princess, who at least had objectives to fulfill. Just patrolling a random quadrant of the area in which the Glass Killer (as he had mentally dubbed the silver-suited assassin) seemed pretty pointless when they had no real idea whether he would ever strike again in this part of the city.
The communicator on his wrist buzzed. “Ferro Lad here,” he said. “Speak or forever hold your peace.”
“Hi, Andrew,” Karate Kid’s voice came through. “Having any luck?”
“Nope. Quiet as the proverbial grave here — well, as quiet as a city street gets, anyway, which, come to think of it, is pretty noisy. But enough of my troubles. Found any broken glass statues?”
“No. In fact, this seems to be a dead end. Master Ngeow says the guy who was killed wasn’t a pupil at his dojo — he was just a representative from some firm selling advertising space.”
“They have human beings do jobs like that here? Weird!”
Val Armorr laughed. “They’re very traditionalist around here. They like to deal with human beings, not robots. Can’t say that I blame them, really. Anyway, basically it’s much the same story as the other killings here — the victim was talking to Master Ngeow’s secretary when in bursts the silver-suited guy, fires his gun, and mister advertising rep becomes mister glass.”
“Did anybody try to stop him?”
“Nobody except the secretary saw anything, and he’s in his eighties. He was too shocked even to cry out.”
“I see. Not just the human touch, but an equal-ages policy.”
“Something like that. But the killer didn’t make any attempt to hurt the secretary. Just ran up to the glass statue, kicked it over so it would smash, and ran out of the building again. By the time the secretary pulled himself together enough to give the alarm, the killer had gone.”
“Weird. How does a guy in a silver suit just disappear?”
“Given who our leader is, why is that such a surprise? Maybe he can become invisible, like Salkind suggested, or can teleport. Or maybe he’s from Bgztl and can just walk through walls to get away. Who knows? Anyway, I’m going to let Invisible Kid have my report, then I think I’ll go give Jeckie a hand. Just thought I’d check with you first to see if you’d had any more luck, buddy.”
“‘Fraid not,” said Andrew, grinning under his mask. “Does Jeckie need your help, though?”
“Well, she’s not used to Earth yet. Her homeworld is pretty primitive by all accounts. Just thought she might appreciate a bit of help in dealing with the locals.”
“And, of course, you wouldn’t have any ulterior motive, would you?”
“I can’t imagine what you mean,” said Karate Kid. “OK, I’ll talk to you later.”
“See you.” The communicator went dead. Ferro Lad leaned on the wall once more. Still nothing going on… but what was that?
A glint of light in a shop doorway caught his eye. Then a silver-suited figure stepped into view. His attention seemed focused on two men who were talking animatedly in the shade of an artificial willow tree near the center of the plaza.
“Holy jumping galaxies!” Ferro Lad exclaimed. And just when he thought it was getting even more boring than ever.
As the newcomer approached the two men, raising his weapon, the Legionnaire activated his flight ring and rose into the air, transforming his body into living iron as he did so. This time, the Glass Killer would discover that he had some opposition.
However, as he swooped toward the silvery assassin, the man looked up. Ferro Lad grinned. “That’s it, pal. Be afraid. Be very afraid.”
He swerved to one side in his flight as a silvery beam shot toward him. “Have to do better than that!” he laughed. Then suddenly his flight stalled as his enemy fired again. He looked to his right side and found, to his horror, that his right arm and part of the right side of his torso were now transparent — including his flight ring.
Then inertia gave up, and he plummeted toward the ground.