Lucien’s was a quaint little store near the busy Metropolis Spaceport. Most of the people who visited the modest shop did so in order to pick up a holo tape to occupy themselves with during the departure flight away from Earth. However, Salu Digby was well-known to the owner of the store, and as a favorite customer, she was granted special privileges.
The gnarled old man who ran the shop was the only employee. He had a few wild tufts of white hair over each of his large ears, and he always smelled like peppermint. Salu didn’t know if he was Lucien or if the name had some other significance. In any case, the Legionnaire from Imsk enjoyed visiting the store and looking through the extremely rare books from ancient Earth that the old man kept in a special room in the back. She suspected that he had something of a crush on her, but she was willing to put up with his mild flirtations in order to see his literary treasures. Salu smiled as the old man showed her a holo scan of an old book from the early twentieth century.
“Peter Whimsy and Harriet Vane meet again in this one,” he said. “I think you’ll like it.”
Salu, a pretty, petite girl with short black hair and a determined manner, smiled readily at the mention of the famous couple from the old mysteries she loved. “That sounds wonderful!” she said with a smile. “I know the material is available as compu-books, but I just get a real thrill out of seeing even copies of the originals! I guess I was born too late.”
“You are welcome to look through these anytime,” said Lucien. “I so seldom have anyone show interest in these beauties.”
Salu nodded and said, “I really appreciate that. Digging through the literary past with great detectives of old is a hobby of mine.” She waved as she exited the shop and made her way through the night streets.
It’s nice to have some personal time to just do things like browse through stores like that, she thought. I have to do it alone, since poor Ord gets bored so easily, and the Legionnaires are equally centered on the present. The past appeals to Rokk, and I know Jacques loves mysteries, but Rokk is busy teaching at the Legion Academy, while Bouncing Boy and Duo Damsel are on leave, and Invisible Kid is too shy to accept an offer for a night out on the town.
She attracted more than her share of stares as she made her way through the streets wearing a pale blue tunic with hosiery and slippers. She knew many people recognized her even out of costume as the celebrated heroine called Shrinking Violet, while others simply gawked at a pretty girl, and she ignored most of the admiration. She never fully tuned out those around her, since her keen eye automatically took in most details out of professional habit. She was not the kind of girl to ever leave herself in a vulnerable position.
Thus, when three men in gray uniforms closed in on her brandishing small guns, she jumped into action without hesitating. She kicked the first man in the chin, then shrank down to miniature size by using the Imskian native power that had given her a colorful name.
As two of the thugs matched her movements by reducing their own scale as well, she connected with a solid right hook that left the gunman stunned, even as the cloud of yellow gas that spurted out of his gun dissipated in the air. She rolled forward out of reach of the gas and then tackled the final man as he ran away. She clipped him with a series of blows, then stood over his stunned form with a look of calm satisfaction.
Creeps! Those goons obviously belong to the Imskian Liberation Front, she thought. They always want to strike at me, since they see me as a symbol of wrongful cooperation with the United Planets. They’ll have to recruit brighter help if they expect to catch me off-guard! The idiot actually thought I’d fail to hold my breath after I saw him waving around what was obviously a gas-gun!
Elsewhere, another gray-clad Imskian stood before a display screen within a spacecraft orbiting a barren planet called Bryak. He was watching as Shrinking Violet turned the threesome over to the Science Police patrol that had arrived in response to her sudden and dynamic action. Turning to an imposing figure who sat regally within the captain’s chair, he said, “As the recording device my squad leader wore shows, their efforts met with heated resistance from the Legionnaire.”
“Such failure is to be expected from witless cretins,” said the hulking man in white. “That outcome was probable from the start. However, by no means was your venture a complete failure, since I may simply make use of any Imskian, and you’ll fit that description as well as Shrinking Violet.”
The Imskian frowned and said, “What do you mean? I thought you’d be angry!”
The big man in white stood up and said, “You say that as if rage was a bad thing. Anger is an emotion to be relished. All emotions are to be savored in their nearly infinite variety of shades and nuances. That lesson would have been valuable to you if you were ever going to leave this base alive!”
The Imskian yelped and tried to shrink down to microscopic size in order to escape from his suddenly menacing employer, when pain shook his body, and he blacked out.
“The neural inhibitor did its job quite well,” said the powerful man who loomed over the fallen thug. “He will not recover in time to cause us any delay. Take him, and do what needs to be done!”
A skulking being with an inhuman manner bounded forward and spoke in a raspy tone. “Master, what exactly do you want us to do with the Imskian?”
The bigger man smiled coldly and said, “Why, dissect him, of course!”