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Busy Little Fingers

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Emerald City, Bethlehem Heights, Nov 1st


It so happened that Halloween had been the night before, and trick - or - treating had been treatin' and a trickin' half the night and longer. 


And in the midst of such festivity, it appeared that many pockets had been picked,  many wallets gone missing, and many valuables gone astray. Yes, it appeared that in this poor area of the city, everyone and their uncle twice removed had been a victim of some no-good theivin!


This included a certain Marjory Doors, administrator at the university, who complained in most bitter tones to all and sunry about the loss of her mothers wedding ring that she had around her neck until last night. And it so happened that one of those persons she complained to was a Ms. Robin Lunne Langley. 


"Oh, what I would give for some Justice around this city!" she lamented!


Maybe Ms. Robin Lunne Langley was just the right person to speak to, if one wanted Justice!



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Robin had, for once, spent Halloween indoors. She was normally all about dressing up and partying for Halloween, but she had been getting her costumed fix in other ways lately. Like, whenever someone called for justice. Besides, she had designs to do! The Justice Driver was still just an alpha version, and she had to get it bigger and better, if she was going to be able to deal with everything that real super heroes did!


Still, she peeked up from her screen when Mrs. Doors started talking about the missing ring. Robin swore to herself that she had been listening. Well, kind of, at least. The new ideas for the Justice Driver was just so exciting. She'd already managed to make herself tougher while in armor, what else could she do? 


But she was getting off track. Mrs. Doors had said the magic word, and now Robin couldn't help herself. Thinking about it, she had heard others complaining about missing items that had disappeared. So, how to do this? On tv, the heroes would show up in costume, then go round up all the known criminals in the city, but it wasn't like she knew any criminals, and unless she booted up the full armor for the Justice Driver, she was pretty sure Mrs. Doors would recognize her.


Maybe she should just stop thinking about it and ask. Yeah, that would be best. "Aw, I remember you showing that to me before. Any idea where you lost it, Mrs. Doors?" Yes, yes. That should do. Keep the secret identity secret!

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"Well..." replied Ms. Doors, a little ashamedly. For you see, Ms. Doors liked to affect an illusion that she was middle class, or at least on the very upper end of the working class. Lamentably, she was single, a lowly administrator, and not wise with finances, and the truth was she was rather less than well off. And so...


"I live in Bethlem heights" she said, truthfully. "Its very up and coming, you know" she lied. 


She brushed aside the awkwardness of her admission by redirecting the conversation to the more serious matter of theft, and the requirement that justice present itself. 


"From what I understand, listening to the gossi---the community" she started.."there was a big spate of thefts all around my neighbourhood. Pick pockets, would you believe! and on Halloween's night!" she said, making sure she projected the correct (and thus, considerable) amound of righteous indignation. 


"I am sorry to say, it might be one of those vagabound kids in Trumble street!"

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Robin feigned a bit of surprise at Mrs. Doors living in Bethlehem Heights. She had already seen the personel files a number of times, like the one time she had to figure out who had been stealing her lunch from the fridge (it was Mr. Salvatore, by the way), but she knew that Mrs. Doors didn't like to talk about it, so it felt polite to do. 


A part of Robin was relieved at the idea that word on the street was that street kids had been behind the pick pocketing the night before, but another was almost visibly saddened. She wanted to get a super villain to deal with, not some kids living on the street. Alright, they had it rough, she got that, and she was very lucky to have everything that she had, but... well, this would probably not be a great chance for trying out the Justice Driver. Oh well, she would do anyway.


"Really? A group of kids stole everything? Wasn't there some report of a ton of things going missing? How many kids live on the streets down there? And why haven't social services done anything about it?" So, what to do? How to get out of there and try to track down the kids? Well, it wouldn't be difficult. Her studies meant she was going all over town for appointments in the first place, but she wanted to know a bit more first. At least she would hopefully be able to help Mrs. Doors and whoever else had things stolen from them.

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"Oh I am sure the police have a ton of reports..." replied Ms. Doors. "And social services, well...."


She gave the distinct impression that neither the Police, not social services  were competent or praiseworthy, whilst oddly also giving the impressio they were overpaid - without considering exactly how cutting their pay would lead to improved competence or praiseworthiness. 


"In fair.. ness...." she added, rather reluctantly, drawing out every vowel and constanent, "this does seem out of the ordinary. I mean, we always have vagabonds and urchins and thieves, of course....but this seems like some gang, something new, something rather...odd!" she conceded. 


"Trumble street is a warren of broken buildings and sewers. I dare say the police couldn't navigate through that maze even if they wanted to!"

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Well, Trumble Street was a start at least. And if this was all different from the usual going ons, then it could be interesting at least. Not that Robin needed something to be interesting in order to get justice for someone. 


"Wow, that sounds like a tough case to crack, then." She reached for her jacket and slipped into it while she spoke. "I gotta get to a meeting, but best of luck Mrs. Doors. I really hope they find your ring." With a quick wave a few additional goodbys, Robin headed out the building. It was time for justice, and she was going to bring it. She was practically giddy at the thought of getting to dress up, even if her non-armored costume needed some work. A domino mask alone wasn't much, but she kinda had spent all she could on the actual armor.


She quickly checked her phone for the quickest route with the public transportation, and then headed towards Trumble Street.

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And so, on Trumble Street!


The sun was setting, and the sky was alive with beautiful reds and oranges. It almost off set the horror of Trumble Street. It was if someone had deliberately set out to neglect a street of deliberatly awfully constructed buildings. Almost all were condemned, and none looked inhabited - at least in the conventional sense. 


A few hooligans and kids played in the chipped and cracked street, and it was clearly a place were drugs and quite possibly other merchandice was sold. But it hardly looked popular even amongst the underworld. It really just felt abandoned. 


And given how the masonry was crumbling at every angle, it was not just a warren (as Ms. Doors had rightly said), it was a potential deathtrap!


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The bus stop was not exactly close to Trumble Street, and Robin had to walk a fair bit to get there. As she got closer, Robin started to realize why. It was not a nice place by any means. Looking down at herself, she was suddenly happy that she hadn't dressed nicer. A pair of jean, worn with use. A pair of old sneakers, likewise rather worn from use. No holes, but they didn't look new by any stretch of the imagination either. Her dark blue jacket was a bit newer than the rest of her clothes, and she had somehow managed to break the zipper and never got around to fixing it, but at least she didn't stand out too much. A red t-shirt under the jacket. Again, nothing fancy, and she was kind of happy about that. Her Justice Buster was hidden under her jacket, out of sight. It might just look like a toy at first glimpse, but no reason for anyone to see it before she needed it.


On the way here, Robin had wondered why she had never been here before. She had never really thought about it before, and she had lived in Emerald City all her life, but she hadn't come here. When younger, her parents had steered her away from it. That had just sort of stuck . Now, standing here, at the edge of Trumble Street, Robin kind of understood why they had done it. To call the street neglected was selling it lightly. It was just so empty, everything was crumbling and just sort of falling to pieces. Not really a place that Robin had ever seen on her super hero shows... but maybe it was a place that really did need a hero. 


Incognito for now, then. Costume later. Who knew how they would react if she put on even her mask? So, instead she started down the streets. There had to be someone here that would be willing to talk to her about it. And hopefully not get her killed along the way.

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"Hey missy" said an unthreatening voice to the side. It was two young women, shabiily dressed, unkempt, with a punk style. They were sitting around doing not much other than observe the wildlife of the street. 


"What you doing here?" asked the pink haired one. Again, there was no particular threat, although the green haired one did stand up and start circling to the other side of Robin. They were probably sixteen or thereabouts, rather skinny in build. They seemed to be inquisitive, even surprised, at the sight of Robin. 


As far as Robin could see, they were unarmed. But you never knew if a flick knife or knuckle duster was in a pocket, or boot. 

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Ah, a couple of locals. Two girls, some years younger than Robin and still teens. She kind of liked their hair, shape and colors both. She'd wanted to do something like that, but it would make her stand out too much when she wasn't in costume. Couldn't have a secret identity ruined as easily as that, could you now? At least she had thought of an alibi on the way here.


"Hi! I'm from the university, would you guys have time to answer a few questions?" The best alibi, a true one! She would just say that she was working on a project on crime statistics, and hopefully these girls would be willing to help. They didn't seem like they wanted any trouble, and it was just two girls after all, right?

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"University?" answered the Pink haired kid, almos incredulous. "What the hell is the university doing down here? Nobody cares about Trumble street? And, like, there is no laboratories or anything down here, in case you hadn't noticed..."  she said, with something mocking creeping into her voice. 


Meanwhile, the Green haired kid was busy on the other sie of Robin, with her busy little fingers slipping into Robin's jacket Pocket! She knew her trade, sure enough, but Robin was quick enough to spot her even so!

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"Hey! Quit that!" The pick pocket was fast, but Robin was faster. At least she hoped she wasn't just lucky. She quickly took a step back before the would-be thief could grab anything from the pocket, quickly rummaging through the pocket with her hand to make sure nothing was lost. Satisfied that she had everything, she shot the kids a dirty look. "That is not cool! I'm just here to ask to try and find out if you'd heard anything about all the pick pocketing the other week, and then you try to pick pocket me? Really!?" 


She was just about to reach for the Justice Buster, but that might be more than just a bit of overkill. Still tempting. "Ugh. Just tell me if you know anything about that, then I'll forget this!"

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Busy little fingers were not busy enough today. 


"You sure are stupid, miss!" said the green haired thief. "Who do you think is doing all the pick pocketing?"


The orange haired kid pointed both her index fingers proudly at her chest. 


"We do!"


Both orange and green puffed out their chests proudly and gave a little laugh. However, they did of course realise that they had been caught red-handed. 


"See ya!" they echoed. 


Sure, they could fight, they reasoned. But why fight if you could run?


And run they did, scrabbling into the crumbling building behind them...

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"Hey!" The girls were quick, way too quick. Robin stared after them for a brief second, before reaching into her coat and pulling out her domino mask, quickly fixing it to her face as she started moving. The girls might have gotten a quick look at her without the mask on, but there was no reason to give them any more looks. 


Robin was already moving by the time the mask was on her face, rushing straight into the crumbling building. She briefly thought about shooting at the girls, but again, they were thieves, and they hadn't really tried to fight her in any way, so there was no reason to get aggresive like that. Still, she couldn't help smiling as she did so, despite the obvious dangers. This was it! Real super hero work! It would be awesome! "Wait up! I'm not done with you guys!"

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The pick pockets scuttled through the tumbledown masonry like rats in a sewer. And as Justice followed (in more ways than one!), the smell of the place strongly indicated that the sewers were not far away, or that the abandoned building was being used as a sewer. 


And most likely, rats were not far away either. Literal and metaphorical rats. 


As fast as they scuttled, Justice leaped and vaulted faster, and cut them off, ending up with a neat jump of a wall to stand on some fallen masonry three feet above them. Very dramatic and intimidating!


The pick pockets responded by pulling out small knives. 


"Back of missy! You don't know what you are getting in to!"


"We are Finnigan's crew! You don't want to mess with Finnagan!"

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Oh, this was good. Everything was falling apart around them, but this was really good. Robin couldn't keep a smile from her lips as she leapt around, finally ending up above them, and with a big grin on her lips. She crossed her arms, raising an eyebrow at the girls. This had been fun. Now she could hopefully get some info from them and get on her way! And then they had to go and bring out the knives. Really? They had to go and do that? Well, at least she wouldn't feel bad about what came next, then. The grin returned to her lips as she pulled out her cell phone and quickly entered a code on it, while pulling the Justice Buster from her inner pocket.


"That's great and all, how about you take me to him? A lot of people want their stuff back, and I really think that it's time for justice!" Final command entered on the phone in the Justice Driver program. Her phone responded with a single sentence: HENSHIN. She hadn't been able to resist that, even if she doubted many others would get the reference. In an instant, a shining red and golden costume expanded from her belt, covering her entire body. It happened fast, almost instantly, a feature that Robin had put quite some work in. 


Quickly stashing her phone, she twirled the Justice Buster in her right hand and took aim at the girls. They couldn't see it, but she was all smiles behind the mask. "So, how about it, girls?"

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They dropped their little knives and put their hands up. No sense bringing a knife to a gun fight. Especially with that type of gun. 


"Look! We didn't steal nothing!" blustered the orange haired theif. 


"Nothing! we didn't nothing look!" blustered the more confused green haired theif. 


"I mean, don't shoot!" they both echoed, looking at each other. 


"Finnigan...he lives here, down below ground. Doesn't like the sunlight. Says thieves should stay in the dark" explained the orange haired one. 


"He runs the whole gang...." explained the green haired theif. "But you don't want to go messing with Finnigan" she added, honestly. "He's dangerous!"

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Robin glanced at the Justice Buster in her hand. It did look impressive, didn't it? She was rather pleased with the effect that suiting up and pulling out the Justice Buster had. It meant that her work had been worth it. She made a quick jump down to stand on the same level as the girls. Still holding out the gun, she approached them and quickly kicked the knives away from them, just in case they got any ideas, before taking another step back and lowering the gun.


"Right, you guys just stand around here and happen to try and steal from me, and then you say you didn't take anything?" She sounded a bit too happy. She should be sounding more serious, she knew that. She couldn't help it. "And hey, I can be plenty dangerous myself! I think I'll deal with him just fine!" She twirled the Justice Buster around in her hand to emphasize the last point. "So, you're gonna lead me to him, and tell me a bit more about him on the way, and then I'll let you go. Deal?" Maybe the girls had been forced to work for this Finnigan guy. They didn't really sound all that bad, after all.

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"Sure sure...just don't shoot!"


There followed a windy and at some times dangerous little walk through Trumble street, where every step held the promise of collapsed buildings. It was hard to see any building which was not condemned in some way or another. Not that that stopped the poor and dispossed living there, however transiently. 


And the last part of the trip?


Yes, a sewer. 


If the stench was bad before, this was an olfactory assault that disintegrated memory of previous discomforts. And it was dark too, the sewer on lit by intermittent cracks leading to the grey skies above. 


But whilst it was hard to see, the abandoned sewer was plenty easy to hear in. The echoes resounded well. And, in front of them, Justice (and her two new freinds) could hear the crunching of footsteps and the scuttling of rats. 


"Who goes there?" came a deep man's voice from the darkness ahead. 


"Uh...that's not Finnigan!" whispered the two young women. 

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They actually did it! And without complaining! Robin wondered if she should just bring out the gun whenever she wanted someone to do as she wanted, but it would probably set a bad example. No need to make everyone think she was some kind of crazy person that just shot everyone at random. Still, she kept the gun in hand as she followed the girls through Trumble Street. 


It was a bit of a sobering experience for Robin, to tell the truth. She hadn't spent much time here, and she had always thought of Emerald City as a good place to be, where no one was really wanting for anything. Not so here in Trumble Street. Here, almost every building seemed to be falling apart. She saw some homeless people obviously squatting in some of the buildings they moved through. She didn't like what she saw, but she kept silent for now, just following the two girls. She could poke them about some more info about Finnigan later, once there were no one around.


And then they reached the next leg of their trip... a sewer. Of course he was hiding in the sewer. Classic bad guy tactic! Still, the smell was horrible. She might have commented once or twice during the start, but then Robin fell silent, just listening to the sounds that surrounded them as she followed the pair of thieves. She held the Justice Buster close in her hand as a voice called out to them, and the girls made it clear that it wasn't Finnigan. So, what were the options? Either it was a bad guy, maybe someone working for Finnigan, or it were someone else that were looking for Finnigan and his gang down her. At any rate, he already knew they were there. Gripping the Justice Buster with both hands and holding it by her side, Robin stepped forward. She hated not being able to see the man, but she had to do this. "I'm Justice. I'm looking for Finnigan. You wouldn't happen to know anything about him, would you?"

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The man stepped into a crack of light. It was not easy to see him, but Justice could make out he was a tall, broad man, with a grizzled look. He had a beard and short hair flecked with a little grey. He was wearing IR goggles and wearing paramilitary gear, with a SMG at his side and what looked like a bandolier of grenades. Probably had some other equipment, too, by the looks of him, but it was too dark to tell. 


He fingered his gun carefully, but didn't look like he was going to shoot. Shoot back, maybe. Quite probably, in fact. 


"Whose asking....?" he grumbled, dirty and deep voice. 


He waved his gun broadly at the two thieves. "Looks like these scum are with Finnigan if you ask me...."


"Two guns in one day? This is some luck...." sighed the orange haired thief, despondently. 

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Oh, IR googles! Made sense that he could see them, then! That was actually a good idea, maybe something that Robin should try and put into the armor at some point in the future. He was rather heavily armed, though. Much more so than Robin's Justice Buster, even if it wasn't really a normal gun in any capacity. If he was a bad guy, she would have to move quickly. Not like there was a lot of room to dodge a gun in here. 


"I already told you: I'm Justice!" Maybe he just hadn't been listening. He looked rather intense, so there was probably no reason to antagonize him. Judging from equipment alone, he would probably have the advantage in a place like this. "And yup, these girls are leading me right to him." Maybe he was a hero too? She hoped, and took a leap of faith on that one. "I don't know if these girls are with Finnigan, but they're leading me to him, at least. Lots of people got pick pocketed yesterday, so I'm trying to find everything and get it back to them, and get Finnigan and his gang to lay off on the stealing a bit. How about you? And who're you, by the way?" 


She ignored the comment from Orange, but still held the Justice Buster ready, in case he turned out to be a bad guy.

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"Justice? Never seen it" grunted the man, until he clocked the meaning of the phrase. "Uh...wait, you mean thats your superhero name? Justice? Well, I've heard worse, that's for sure" he said, not totally displeased with the name. 


"Well, someone put a bounty out on Finnigan. Some old broad with too much money didn't like her precious daughter getting thieved. So I aim to collect. They call me the Gas Man" he said, with a slight pride. 


"But I ain't intendin' on splittin the bounty. I got Bills to pay" he said, defiantly. "Besides, that old broad wanted justice with a capital J, if you know what I mean" he said, gritting his teeth. 

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Oh, so he was a hero like her? That was awesome! It was Robin's first super hero team up, even if she had never heard about the Gas Man, and the name was kind of lame. Still, she'd forgive that. A super hero team up was awesome. She almost overheard the bit about the bounty, until the Gas Man mentioned that he wasn't going to split it... and that the one that had set up the bounty wanted justice with a capital J. Now, Robin was justice with a capital J, and she might be optimistic, but she wasn't stupid. 


"Wait... do you mean that you're going to kill them?" Her voice wasn't trembling, but the worry in it was clear. She wanted to be sure before taking any other actions.

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"Kill? No, don't be stupid" grunted the Gas Man, taking a few steps closer his SMG not really pointed at Justice, but then again not really pointing away from her either. 


"I mean, you know, maybe I might have to shoot his kneecaps in self defence. Or I might have to block his face with my fist" he grinned. "Or I might just accidentally drop a grenade under his backside. You know, I mean poetic justice might come around acc - i - dent - all - y" he said, drawing out every word for emphasis. 


"Look, I don't go around killing people. I just get paid to do a job. I don't want to go down with a murder rap" he explained, as if everything was entirely reasonable, fair, and just. 

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