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Three Days of The Gecko (IC) (Closed)

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Day One

The great green elliptical mass of The Pitchoo soared through the warm spring air. The Friday night was clear and still, allowing the Gobsmacking Gecko to see the column of smoke rising into the air even before he heard mention of the fire on the police band. Three alarms, and it would probably go to four soon. An entire apartment building was going up in flames just east of Downtown. The Fens. Always, with The Fens. Maybe the landlord torched the place for the insurance money. Or maybe some school dropouts with too much free time on their hands just wanted to watch it burn. Either way, it sounded like they could use all the help they could get.

As Gecko-Man steered his airship down between the dilapidated tenements, occasionally knocking a stairwell loose or ripping some clotheslines free, he could just barely make out what appeared to be some sort of gigantic bird, gliding toward the burning building. It's wingspan was twice the size of a person, and the feathers(?) were blacker than the night sky surrounding them. The raptor-shape retracted its wings as it closed in on the immolated wreck, and it crashed in through a third-story corner window on the stairwell. Moments later, as he closed in further, Gecko-Man could see the roof of the third story (or one above it?) collapse, shattering the stairs below.

A low, resonant female voice crackled over the radio. "You, in the airship! If I have any luck in the world, you followed this frequency here and you're listening right now. My exit strategy just became kindling, and I've got more civilians here than I can carry out in my arms. By the time the firetrucks get here, these people will be dead. Bring that rocket around to the third story on the northwest wall, and open up!"

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"Well ,not your frequency," said Geckoman nonchalantly. "But hey, coming round as fast as possible." Pulling and pushing some levers, he brought the ship up to the north-western side and slid the hatch open. Several more washing lines fell to his journey, leaving some large bloomers stuck to one of his windows. He whirled his seat back to the transmitter. "Ok, I'm where you asked me to be, and the ramp's down. You need me to come in and help? This thing'll keep itself up." While awaiting a reply, he had a brief thought. Oh %*£^ He ran over and swept some side-projects into a cupboard in the back of the ship. This managed to clear up some rough-and-ready looking leather couches with seatbelts hap-hazardly fitted.

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Two ambulances pulled up to the inferno. The paramedics poured out of their vans, stretchers and supplies in-hand, and began attending to the crowd gathered below. Many of the residents were clad only in bedclothes, but none appeared to be seriously injured. Several were taken aside by the paramedics and fitted with oxygen masks.

As Geckoman brought The Pitchoo around, a blazing column of twisted metal and plastic sludge that may have once been a couch burst through the window of what was once a living room. It plunged to the sidewalk below with a *CRUNCH*. Smoke poured out through the ring of jagged glass. As it began to clear, Geckoman could make out several humanoid silhouettes.

The same voice whispered into the radio again. "Good. Come in."

When Geckoman entered what was left of the apartment, he saw what appeared to be an entire family half-crawling, half-staggering toward the window. At least three different generations, their faces stained with soot, tears, and blood. At the back, a pair of glowing green eyes stared at him through the smoke. As she came closer, he could see she was dressed neck-to-toe in a form-fitting jumpsuit that appeared either jet black or dark blue, depending on how the light hit. A huge cape billowed behind her, scalloped around the edges. In the shadow and smoke, it almost looked like a giant pair of wings. The top of her cape was anchored down by the middle-aged man leaning on her shoulder, his arm wrapped around her neck. He did his best to move under his own power, but one of his legs hung limply, the knee bent in a wrong direction. She practically dragged him across the floor as he struggled to limp along. She clutched a crying infant to her chest under her other arm. The baby partially obscured the silver oval emblazoned upon her chest. It contained a black hook or crescent shape, like the stylized head of a raptor. Like a hawk, or a...raven.

"This will be a lot less complicated, thanks to you. Now give me a hand and get these people onto that ship, before the floor gives out on this side, too."

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Hold on... is that who I think it... the Raven? "Erm... um... yeah, sure," he stuttered. The head was intense, his goggles steaming up from it. He went forward to a pair of kids, maybe about twelve and ten. The younger boy was leaning on the girl, but both looked totally distraught. He spoke to them in a low voice. "We're gonna get you out of here, OK? Reckon you two can help us get your family into my flying ship? It'll get y'all out of here in the blink of an eye."

Putting his hand on the girl's shoulder to guide her and her brother to the Pitchoo, he let a middle-aged looking woman lean on him. Maybe she was the injured man's husband. Gah, the Raven! I can't screw up! Insert many curses here! "Ok, folks, if you're hurt, don't force yourselves or anything, but we do kind of get a wriggle on." Professionalism.

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The two costumed adventurers managed to herd the family into The Pitchoo with a minimum of fuss. The Raven grabbed Geckoman on the shoulder for a moment, and waved her thumb at the cockpit. "Don't worry about the hatches or seat belts. We're not going far. Just let her down easy."

As they descended to street level, Geckoman could hear the pops and crunches and hisses as pipes melted, water boiled, and wood cracked and splintered. Windows exploded, showering the asphalt below in shards of glass. Floors continued to collapse in on each other. The brick outer wall began to collapse inward.

The Raven shook her head and sighed. "We can't go back in there. We just have to hope we got everyone out in time." She turned to the paramedics. "Does anyone need to be air-lifted to the hospital?" The rescue workers made a quick assessment of the family, then shook their heads. "No, no life-threatening injuries. We can take it from here. Thanks!" They lifted the victims onto stretchers and wheeled them out of The Pitchoo. A flurry of activity followed, as oxygen masks were fitted, pain killers were injected, and broken bones were set. At the same time, two firetrucks pulled up.

The Raven slapped Geckoman on the back. "They've got this. From here on in, we're just in the way. Take us out." She climbed back into The Pitchoo and sat down near the front. "The night is young."

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The two costumed adventurers managed to herd the family into The Pitchoo with a minimum of fuss. The Raven grabbed Geckoman on the shoulder for a moment, and waved her thumb at the cockpit. "Don't worry about the hatches or seat belts. We're not going far. Just let her down easy."

Oh, god! Raven is touching my shoulder! Oh, crud! Stay cool, Christopher! "Ok, bringing her down," he said, pulling the thrust and steering levers and beginning to descend.

As they descended to street level, Geckoman could hear the pops and crunches and hisses as pipes melted, water boiled, and wood cracked and splintered. Windows exploded, showering the asphalt below in shards of glass. Floors continued to collapse in on each other. The brick outer wall began to collapse inward.

The Raven shook her head and sighed. "We can't go back in there. We just have to hope we got everyone out in time." She turned to the paramedics. "Does anyone need to be air-lifted to the hospital?" The rescue workers made a quick assessment of the family, then shook their heads. "No, no life-threatening injuries. We can take it from here. Thanks!" They lifted the victims onto stretchers and wheeled them out of The Pitchoo. A flurry of activity followed, as oxygen masks were fitted, pain killers were injected, and broken bones were set. At the same time, two firetrucks pulled up.

"Sheesh, why did that sort of thing have to happen?" pondered Geckoman out loud. "It's all stupid, and pointless, and painful, and stupid. Fires like that just shouldn't happen." He watched as the family received medical attention, before turning to the controls. Popping open a compartment, he pulled out a spare pair of goggles and replaced the soot-stained ones he had on.

The Raven slapped Geckoman on the back. "They've got this. From here on in, we're just in the way. Take us out." She climbed back into The Pitchoo and sat down near the front. "The night is young."

I'm not sure I can remain composed with all this physical contact. It's really a good thing I put that Raven poster on the inside door of the cupboard. That would take explaining. I don't want to look like a fanboy, I want to look like a superhero. Say something clever. "So, d'you have any idea what caused that fire? Kids? Wiring? Insurance?" Chris was talking quite fast now. "We could go try and find out. Do you want to go find out? I'm Geckoman, by the way? We could go find ou... oh, I never asked if you were OK. Were you hurt? i'm sure I have bandages and Vaseline in here somewhere..."

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The Raven smirked and shook her head. "Sit down and take a deep breath, Gecko-Boy. That's the adrenaline talking." She flinched and gritted her teeth as she sat down. She brought one leg up out from under her cape and crossed it over the other. Geckoman could see a gash across the side of her thigh. "Hold the Vaseline, but toss me that first aid kit. And turn up that radio."

The Raven glanced back and forth between Geckoman and her leg as she cleaned, stitched, and bandaged her wound. "The eternal conflict when it comes to costumes: Durability versus Flexibility. The more agile you are, the worse it hurts when the coin doesn't land on your side." She bit down on her lip as she threaded the needle back and forth through her own flesh. She wiped the sweat from her hairline between stitches. "Of course, with your particular 'advantages,' that's less of a concern." Suddenly, her face darted up, and she glared intently into Geckoman's eyes. "Don't...look at me...while you're driving."

The police band crackled to life once more. "...423 Aparo Street, apartment 416, 207 and 187..."

The Raven's ears perked up. "Two-0-seven. Kidnapping. I think you know what a one-eight-seven is. That address is in Midtown." She pointed to their right. "Coffee break is over. Time to punch in."

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The Raven smirked and shook her head. "Sit down and take a deep breath, Gecko-Boy. That's the adrenaline talking." She flinched and gritted her teeth as she sat down. She brought one leg up out from under her cape and crossed it over the other. Geckoman could see a gash across the side of her thigh. "Hold the Vaseline, but toss me that first aid kit. And turn up that radio."

Geckoman whirled in his seat, turning up the volume dial to his right, hitting a switch under the controls and grabbing the first aid kit from the compartment that snapped open to his left. He picked up it up, tossed it lightly to the Raven and spun half-round to the controls again.

The Raven glanced back and forth between Geckoman and her leg as she cleaned, stitched, and bandaged her wound. "The eternal conflict when it comes to costumes: Durability versus Flexibility. The more agile you are, the worse it hurts when the coin doesn't land on your side." She bit down on her lip as she threaded the needle back and forth through her own flesh. She wiped the sweat from her hairline between stitches. "Of course, with your particular 'advantages,' that's less of a concern." Suddenly, her face darted up, and she glared intently into Geckoman's eyes. "Don't...look at me...while you're driving."

Geckoman lifted his hands above his head, forced down the urge to gulp and said, "Autopilot. It's taking us up at a level pace. And what do you mean, advantages? Why would you know abouvt that, if you're talking about what I think you're talking about?" does she know about the regeneration thing? How? Why? I'm like... obscure trivia. I'm in the same city as the Freedom League, nobody ever features smaller heroes like me. I'm like, a superzero. Well, at least it saves explanations if I end up hanging one-handed off the glass of a tall building... again.

The police band crackled to life once more. "...423 Aparo Street, apartment 416, 207 and 187..."

The Raven's ears perked up. "Two-0-seven. Kidnapping. I think you know what a one-eight-seven is. That address is in Midtown." She pointed to their right. "Coffee break is over. Time to punch in."

"Yeah, Samuel L is a good teacher," quipped Geckoman, kicking off the autopilot and swerving the ship. "You may want to hold on tight." As the ship spun to point at midtown, he forced the accelerator forwards, rapidly moving the ship up to a couple of hundred miles an hour. Glancing at a screen laid flat against the controls, he quickly asked, "Aparo Street, computer?" and was rewarded with a GPS map and a red dot projected onto the window, which he followed to the street. Understandably, he quickly pulled the speed right down before going to hover just above the police cars.

He slid the hatch open at a button press and a ladder dropped down to cover the few feet until the pavement. "Ladies first."

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"And what do you mean, advantages? Why would you know about that, if you're talking about what I think you're talking about?"

"You mean, how do I know about your 'special gifts?' First, because I make it my business to know as much as possible about what goes on in my city. You should, too. Do your homework. Most battles are won or lost before the armies ever actually take the field."

"And second, speaking of homework...I owe The Old Man a few favors. He cashed one of them in when he asked me to show you the ropes. He doesn't approve, but he figures if you're going to jump the fence to get in the pool, someone should teach you how to swim."

As The Pitchoo approached the seven-story apartment building at 423 Aparo Street, Raven pointed out the windshield. "Unit 416. Fourth floor." She pointed to an open window on the side, where several silhouettes moved against the flickering light of a television. "There." As The Pitchoo began to descend, Raven lightly touched Geckoman's shoulder and shook her head. "No. Not on the ground. Set us down on the roof, and we'll come down the side through the window."

He slid the hatch open at a button press and a ladder dropped down to cover the few feet until the pavement. "Ladies first."

Raven slipped out of the airship and jerked her cape up. The fabric filled with air, and she leaped off the edge of the roof, quietly floating down to the window ledge on the fourth floor. She landed in a crouch, her cape billowing behind her.

As Geckoman descended, he could see about half a dozen people walking back and forth through the two-bedroom apartment. There appeared to be an even mix of uniformed police officers, plainclothes detectives, and forensic technicians. Raven spoke up, her voice noticeably lower and rougher than the way she had spoken in The Pitchoo. "Lieutenant Giordano."

Several of the officers turned toward the window with a start, reaching for their weapons. Their hands were on their guns, but the guns remained holstered as they visibly calmed down at the sight of The Raven. The man she addressed, a portly gentleman of obvious Mediterranean descent, let a half-smile slip as he adjusted the toothpick in his mouth. "Welcome to the party. Good thing, too. Send a mask to catch a mask. This is one of yours." Giordano traced his finger through the air, drawing what appeared to be a giant note of interrogation. He squinted over Raven's shoulder. "Who's that? New sidekick?"

"Too soon to tell." She stepped into the room carefully, deliberately. Her massive cape shrouded her form, making it impossible to pinpoint her movements. She appeared to just glide into the apartment.

She whispered to Geckoman. "If you can manage not to cause more problems than you solve, you'll find Richard Giordano to be one of the more...cooperative and...pragmatic members of the FCPD."

"To solve a crime, first you look for the patterns. Once you've established the patterns, you find what doesn't fit. At any crime scene, you ask three questions: What is there that wasn't there before? What was there that isn't there anymore? And what has been moved? And try not to get too overwhelmed, but keep in mind: Everything is relevant, until it isn't. So..." She crossed her arms in front of her chest, glanced away at the room before them, then turned back to Geckoman. "...What do you see?"

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Geckoman sees a pair of "Hello, My Name Is" nametags resting on an endtable in the living room, along with two sets of keys and two cell phones. The tags bear the names "Kate Adams" and "Betty Adams," and indicate that the two women work at FoxCo.

Geckoman remembers that FoxCo is a jewelry store located in the Bayview Mall. It sticks out in his memory for several reasons. BM is a popular hangout for Claremont students. He's passed FoxCo several times on his way to the food court, and stolen his fair share of glances at the very attractive clerks in the front. It was also one of the stores damaged in the last couple of super-battles that overflowed into the mall. One was a brawl between the Next-Gen and one of Doc Otaku's giant robots. The other, which received far less media attention, was a chase between The Raven II and Conundrum, one of the rare daylight sightings of the masked avenger who now stands before him. A chase that ended in the wrecked remains of that very same unlucky jewelry store.

However, the centerpiece of the living room, the one detail he doesn't want to focus on but can't get out of his mind, is the dead man curled up on the far side of the couch. A DVD copy of an old black-&-white silent film continues to play in front of him. Geckoman recognizes it as The Man Who Laughs. His features are shrouded in shadow, but when the flickering light from the television dances across them, Geckoman can see they are frozen in a wide-eyed, open-mouthed, silent scream of absolute terror. All color has drained from his skin, and his fingers are desperately clawing into his own shirt. He appears to have been not much older than Geckoman himself - early 20s at most. His hemp necklace, Family Guy t-shirt, and sandals paint the picture of a college-student stereotype Geckoman would probably find amusing, if he could just get that horrible screaming face out of his mind.

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"And second, speaking of homework...I owe The Old Man a few favors. He cashed one of them in when he asked me to show you the ropes. He doesn't approve, but he figures if you're going to jump the fence to get in the pool, someone should teach you how to swim."

Geckoman chose not to comment on this. Suspected he knew. Well... its was a bit obvious. But just a little. Wait... now I'm lying in my internal monologue. Interesting.

As The Pitchoo approached the seven-story apartment building at 423 Aparo Street, Raven pointed out the windshield. "Unit 416. Fourth floor." She pointed to an open window on the side, where several silhouettes moved against the flickering light of a television. "There." As The Pitchoo began to descend, Raven lightly touched Geckoman's shoulder and shook her head. "No. Not on the ground. Set us down on the roof, and we'll come down the side through the window."

Again with the shoulder! Breeeeeeathe... and release! "Works for me," said Chris, pulling the ship up and landing it on the roof, small legs coming out to steady the ship.

Raven slipped out of the airship and jerked her cape up. The fabric filled with air, and she leaped off the edge of the roof, quietly floating down to the window ledge on the fourth floor. She landed in a crouch, her cape billowing behind her.

As Geckoman descended, he could see about half a dozen people walking back and forth through the two-bedroom apartment. There appeared to be an even mix of uniformed police officers, plainclothes detectives, and forensic technicians. Raven spoke up, her voice noticeably lower and rougher than the way she had spoken in The Pitchoo. "Lieutenant Giordano."

Geckoman didn't bother swooping down on his cape, but rather just let himself fall face-first, catching himself on the side of the building and crawling down it. His face appeared upside down in the window... to the sight of a lot of cops. Aaaaaaah. Police-type people! He crawled into the window a bit, reversing his stance to fall to his feet. Now... avoid looking dizzy! This isn't good. I usually just fly about, stop a car-jacker, maybe a mugging... I don't do police stuff. I would'nt know how.

"To solve a crime, first you look for the patterns. Once you've established the patterns, you find what doesn't fit. At any crime scene, you ask three questions: What is there that wasn't there before? What was there that isn't there anymore? And what has been moved? And try not to get too overwhelmed, but keep in mind: Everything is relevant, until it isn't. So..." She crossed her arms in front of her chest, glanced away at the room before them, then turned back to Geckoman. "...What do you see?"

Chris looking around for a bit, pausing to think. A pause which unfortunately took into account the dead body on the floor. "Other than the fact he died screaming?" said Chris, trying to keep his voice level, "Two name badges for a Kate and Betty Adams, along with two keys and cells which I assume are theirs. Do they live here is probably what I'd want to go look up... They work for FoxCo, a jewelry store in Bayview. You chased Conundrum into that store not too long ago. I can't comment on forensics, or cause of death, or whatever, but I reckon the fact they don't have their cells or keys on them is pretty suspect in itself."

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Chris looking around for a bit, pausing to think. A pause which unfortunately took into account the dead body on the couch. "Other than the fact he died screaming?" said Chris, trying to keep his voice level, "Two name badges for a Kate and Betty Adams, along with two keys and cells which I assume are theirs. Do they live here is probably what I'd want to go look up... They work for FoxCo, a jewelry store in Bayview. You chased Conundrum into that store not too long ago. I can't comment on forensics, or cause of death, or whatever, but I reckon the fact they don't have their cells or keys on them is pretty suspect in itself."

As Geckoman spoke, The Raven slowly crept around the room, examining various surfaces. He couldn't figure out if there was any actual logic or purpose at work, or if she was just wandering about randomly. She knelt down on the floor, pulled a pair of tweezers and a plastic pouch out of her belt, and pinched a few fibers out of the carpet. While she was down there, she cocked her head, pointed a flashlight at a downward angle, and stared at the floor for a few seconds.

"He died screaming, or trying to. The presence of the keys and cell phones indicates that the occupants either left in an extreme hurry, of the sort you generally only find with burning buildings...or that they were removed against their will. Not bad for a first try." She walked over to one of the crime scene technicians and handed her the pouch. "Run this through the spectrometer. I don't think it's fabric." Then she turned to Detective Giordano. "What do you have so far?"

Giordano cleared his throat, reached into his coat pocket, and pulled out a notepad. He flipped past a few pages. "Registered occupants were the aforementioned Katherine and Rebecca Adams. Twin sisters. Work at the mall during the day, went to community college at night. We've got an APB out on them. We're assuming they're alive for the time being - if the perps wanted 'em dead, they'd have killed them when they did their friend. Families have been notified."

"The stiff on the couch was one...Richard Sprang. Huh. Must've gotten made fun of a lot at school. Kate's boyfriend for about the last six months. Full-time student at FCU. Parents live in LA. Their taking the first available flight to come down and ID the body, attend to funerary arrangements, et cetera. None of the victims had any criminal record aside from a few traffic violations."

"Several of the other tenants in the building witnessed a group of men kick in the door and drag the occupants out of the building. Happened too fast for anyone to get a good description. Two of the perps stood out, though. One was wearing a white, black, and red full-body jumpsuit with a puzzle-piece motif and a giant question mark on his face. The other was wearing a hockey mask, a shredded straightjacket, and a lot of black leather. In other words, old friends of yours. Two great tastes, together at last."

"The coroner couldn't find any marks on the body. Not surprising, given the suspect's M.O. We won't know for sure 'till the autopsy, but he suspects cause of death was massive sudden heart failure. Kid's been dead maybe an hour at the most."

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"Judging from the imprints in the carpet, there were seven perpetrators - the two masterminds, and five goons. Seven sets of foot impressions whose shape, style, and depth don't match the victim or any of your team, and are far too big and heavy to belong to the Adams sisters." The Raven glanced over at Geckoman, then pointed down at Giordano's feet. "The officers are wearing rubber bands around their shoes. It's an old trick to minimize crime scene contamination."

As she spoke, Geckoman noticed a flicker of movement in the night air. A paper airplane sailed in through the window, the top emblazoned with a giant black question mark. He could see ambient light glittering momentarily off of the needle poking out the front. The improvised projectile was diving directly toward Detective Giordano's back.

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Gecks turned from the scene to see the plane flying towards the detective. It looked... pointy. Oh. That'll hurt. "Detective, get down!" shouted the youth, coiling to spring and diving between the detective and the dart. "Paper airplane!" How ridiculous do I sound?

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Geckoman felt a slight sting as the needle pierced his flesh, and a vague sense of disgust when he felt the sticky, viscous fluid coating it. Then the people around him started pulling their own flesh off or melting into puddles of goo. The lights turned to fire, the carpet morphed into a sea of writhing spiders, and Conrad Veidt climbed out of the television and started crawling toward him, his face still frozen in that hideous grin while his eyes glared pure hatred at Geckoman.

Geckoman's heart jackhammered against the inside of his chest. He choked on his own attempts to breathe. He clutched his chest and collapsed onto his knees, then fell sideways onto the floor. His left arm went numb. People were shouting, but they sounded muffled or far away. Even though his eyes were still open, darkness crept into his vision from all sides, like he was staring through a tunnel that shrank smaller and smaller, until everything went black.

A few seconds later, Geckoman felt like he was being pulled up from underwater. His chest was filled with fire and he jerked up a full foot off the ground as The Raven's defibrillator restarted his heart. His vision was blurred, but the room slowly came back into focus again. The Raven pressed two fingers down behind his jaw and held them there. "Talk to me."

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"I'm good at talking... but y'know, you kind of... tongue-tie me. Weird," said Geckoman vaguely. Then his vision cleared and he looked up, eyes shooting wide open. Thank god the mask covers most of the redness... He paused for a second, trying to think of how to continue from that one.

"What just hit me? And who? I'll go kick their ass... well, give me an hour. Maybe three." He sat up the Raven pulled her fingers away. "Did I stop him getting hit?"

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The Raven smiled wryly, then asked a series of questions to establish Geckoman's state of mind. "What day is it? Who's the President of the United States? How many fingers am I holding up?" Satisfied with his answers, she gently guided him to lean back against the wall under the window.

"Yeah, kid. You saved my bacon there." Detective Giordano knelt down in front of Geckoman, pressing a business card into his limp hand. "My home number is on the back. You ever need anything, you gimme a call. My kids still have a dad because of you."

The Raven brought the airplane around, carefully unfolding it over a plastic sheet. "To preserve any trace evidence," she explained. The inside contained a note, typed in Matisse ITC, which gave the text an unbalanced, unsettling feel.

R,

I have a sudden hankering to visit the girl's best friend.

I'll see you tomorrow night, and if you don't win, it's a shame.

?

The Raven scowled as she read the note. Then she turned to Geckoman. "So...what do you think?"

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The Raven smiled wryly, then asked a series of questions to establish Geckoman's state of mind. "What day is it? Who's the President of the United States? How many fingers am I holding up?" Satisfied with his answers, she gently guided him to lean back against the wall under the window.

"Monday, Obamaaaa, and four." He leaned back hard agianst the wall.

"Yeah, kid. You saved my bacon there." Detective Giordano knelt down in front of Geckoman, pressing a business card into his limp hand. "My home number is on the back. You ever need anything, you gimme a call. My kids still have a dad because of you."

Geckoman managed to put the card in his belt. "Thanks. Anytime, I guess... Just maybe with some painkillers beforehand."

The Raven brought the airplane around, carefully unfolding it over a plastic sheet. "To preserve any trace evidence," she explained. The inside contained a note, typed in Matisse ITC, which gave the text an unbalanced, unsettling feel.

R,

I have a sudden hankering to visit the girl's best friend.

I'll see you tomorrow night, and if you don't win, it's a shame.

?

The Raven scowled as she read the note. Then she turned to Geckoman. "So...what do you think?"

"I think we find the best friend, whoever she may be, and get her the heck out of dodge. But that second line... that's a line from a song. Take Me Out to the Ball Game. Hmmm... Is there a baseball game tomorrow?"

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"Monday, Obamaaaa, and four." He leaned back hard agianst the wall.

"It's Friday. But close enough."

Geckoman managed to put the card in his belt. "Thanks. Anytime, I guess... Just maybe with some painkillers beforehand."

The Raven reached into another pocket on her belt, took out a few pills, and dropped them in Geckoman's hand. "Take as needed for the pain. But don't operate any heavy machinery afterward. Take some now, and I'll drive you home."

"I think we find the best friend, whoever she may be, and get her the heck out of dodge. But that second line... that's a line from a song. Take Me Out to the Ball Game. Hmmm... Is there a baseball game tomorrow?"

Detective Giordano spoke up. "Yeah. The F.C. Comets are taking on the Yankees tomorrow at the Liberty Dome. 8pm. Comets are one game away from first place. They win this one, they might go all the way this year. My wife and I had tickets. Guess I should flip 'em now. Q-Ball pretty much told us he'll be there. And I'm not the kinda guy likes to take my work home with me."

The Raven frowned. "The Liberty Dome. 80,000 seats, and it sounds like it'll be a full house. Twenty entrances, plus a service gate. And if they're telling us about it, that means they already have a plan."

Giordano sighed. "I'll call it in, get as many officers over there as I can. We'll do a search, and make sure we've got officers on-scene from now 'till the game."

Raven turned to Geckoman. "Oh, and just so you know, I wouldn't worry too much about any friends of the Adams sisters. According to the old song, 'Diamonds are a girl's best friend.' In this case...a baseball diamond. But you're learning."

"I'll let you know if forensics finds anything. Do likewise." Giordano slapped Geckoman on the shoulder. "Helluva first night, Kid."

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"I just hope I've recovered tomorrow," mumbled Geckoman, staggering off to his ship. "I don't particularly want to explain to the 'rents why I look like hell in the morning, and they're not going to assume that I got shot."

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Day Two

Thanks to a decent night's sleep (and his regenerative powers), Geckoman was none the worse for wear the following evening. The sky was heavily overcast, providing ample cloud cover for The Pitchoo and effectively shortening the day. When he took the Lightflier up to his airship, Geckoman was surprised to see The Raven already waiting for him in the cockpit. When he entered, she moved over to one of the passenger seats.

"Giordano has had the arena crawling with officers all day. But we should be there too, just in case it really is Conundrum at work. Because if it is him behind all this, then he'll be there. He won't be able to help himself."

"So...let's hear it. Start asking questions, formulating theories, and suggesting courses of action."

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Geckoman pondered for a second. He managed to come off as unfaze that she was already in his ship despite it being in mid-air with no discernable means of getting there. "I don't know what this guy wants. Seems like he's after it for sh... poops and giggles, but I'm probably wrong about that. My plan would probably be to get to a place near the field where I can see the TV and CCTV feeds. Slightest sign of trouble, we run out to it and I bring down the Pitchoo remotely so we've got some firepower and a way to get people or items out of there if needed."

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"I don't know what this guy wants. Seems like he's after it for sh... poops and giggles, but I'm probably wrong about that.

"Other than tormenting me, they have yet to display any obvious motive. But it's never that simple with Conundrum."

My plan would probably be to get to a place near the field where I can see the TV and CCTV feeds. Slightest sign of trouble, we run out to it and I bring down the Pitchoo remotely so we've got some firepower and a way to get people or items out of there if needed."

"Close. We'll talk about that in a minute. First, updates from last night." Raven pulled a PDA of a variety Geckoman had never before seen out of one of the pockets in her utility belt, reviewing her notes.

"...The tox-screen of the victim's blood found a synthetic compound similar to one of the toxins employed by the first Fear-Master, famous psychologist, sociopath, and cancer patient Arthur Levitt. Chemicals aren't normally Melvin Blume's M.O.; he prefers sonic manipulation. But this wouldn't be the first time he's stolen Levitt's work. And the toxin was similar, but not identical. Blume, or someone else, has been tinkering with it. Refining it. The autopsy didn't reveal any puncture wounds on the victim's body, indicating that the poison was probably delivered in aerosol form. Which is again consistent with Levitt's old methods."

"The fibers I found in the carpet, as it turns out, weren't fabric at all. It was cotton candy. They compared it to the brand of cotton candy sold at the Liberty Dome, but it wasn't a match."

"As for tonight...I will monitor the CCTV feeds, up in the control room. You will be on gate detail. And with twenty gates for the fans and a service entrance for the concessions, you're going to be very busy tonight." Raven turned to a suitcase on the seat next to her and flipped it open, revealing a handful of uniforms. "You can either stay in costume, or if you want to be more subtle about it, you can put one of these on over it. If you go that route, I'd recommend either Security or Maintenance. Either way, Lieutenant Giordano has assured me of the FCPD's cooperation in this matter."

"While we're down there, I'd recommend you find somewhere discreet to keep this thing. But not too far away, either. I agree, you should keep that remote at the ready, in case we need 'air support.'"

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"Oooh, I like maintenance. That shade of blue'll really bring out my eyes," snarked Geckoman, pulling off his mask and goggles. "You know who I am anyway, so bleh to the mask." He whipped off his utility belt and threw it onto a chair. "I'm sure I had a black one of these..." he mused, wandering over to a cupboard and finding his Hallowe'en costume. "Shiny." He grabbed the black belt, pulled on the jumpsuit and started filling up the replacement belt with the contents of his usual one.

"Have you got any useful information, like which gates receive most traffic or are most open, etcetera etcetera," asked Chris, pulling on the baseball cap and pulling it low over his face. "I figure if he's going for the gates, it'll be either the big, prominent ones or the little-used ones where there'll be less security about." He tucked his goggles and mask into his belt, making sure to take out the earpiece from within the mask and replace it. "And scheming villains won't do it directly, so it'll be less obvious-looking people doing the nasty stuff. Big, thuggish dudes."

He flicked on the safeties of his zappers and pulled the sleeves over them. "They all go down the same anyway."

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"You'll notice several metal buttons strategically placed throughout the jumpsuit. They snap off easily, so if there is an incident, you should be able to tear it off in a single motion." The Raven pulled what appeared to be a large poster out from under one of the seats and unrolled a map in front of Geckoman. She pointed at various locations as she spoke. "The five gates adjacent to this parking garage will probably get the most traffic. People gravitate toward convenience." She placed a small plug into her ear. "We'll maintain radio contact."

As the Pitchoo flew over the stadium, The Raven pulled the door open. "Doors open in one hour. Keep your eyes and ears open, and call me if you need anything." She dove out of the airship, and tugged on her cape. It expanded behind her like a parachute, and she glided down directly onto the roof of the control room, then ducked into a shadow and disappeared from Geckoman's sight.

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