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Turning Tables [IC]


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It was quiet in the pre-dawn darkness of Greenbank except for the steady chuckle of the rain. Next time I’m bringing a raincoat, Matt thought, watching water drip from one of the jingly bells of his drooping jester’s cap. On reflection, it occurred to him that the entire outfit needed some serious water-proofing. The cold rain beaded on the black-and-orange checkerboard design of the Madcap outfit, but it had been falling lightly but steadily for the entire 45 minutes Matt had been crouching on the warehouse roof, and Matt now had first-hand knowledge of the difference between water-resistant and water-proof.

Matt supposed he should count his blessings. After all, he was still new to the game of gathering bits and pieces of information from the disreputable watering holes of the city, but he had the advantage of knowing where the Wise Fools, his father's old gang liked to hang out, and he had been able to overhear from a couple of drunken thugs a place and time of a robbery – a time that was now nearly an half an hour in the past. Why can’t criminals ever be on time?

Matt began to assemble a suitable water-proofing compound in his mind, at the same time toying with some ideas about insulating the outfit against the cold. Thank God this isn’t International Falls…

His musings were interrupted by the sound of a panel van pulling up in the street below. Here we go... A man in dark clothing jumped out of the passenger side and quickly opened the rear doors, where three more men waited inside. They quickly moved to the warehouse across the access alley from where Matt waited, and with practiced efficiency forced open a door and went inside. The driver backed up to the dock, and after a minute the robbers reappeared, forming a bucket brigade to move boxes from the dock to the truck.

Show time Matt thought, and carefully stretched his cramped muscles for a few moments before activating the springs in his boots. With a double somersault, he landed neatly at the dock’s edge. "HEHEHEHEE! What’s up, dock?â€

Ugh, that was terrible Matt thought as he dodged the wild swing of the nearest thief, letting the man’s momentum overbalance him off the edge of the dock. I need a gag writer…

“Madcap!†Criminals in Freedom City had long ago learned not to tussle with superheroes, and this group wisely decided to run. They began to scramble off the dock.

Matt turned a few cartwheels along the edge of the dock. "You like me! You really like me!†As the thieves began to run across the asphalt, he tossed a cotton-candy bomb. The pink mist immediately began to congeal into a sticky mess, causing the men to flounder blindly as they became glued to the pavement and each other.

Matt back flipped off the dock, watching the periphery of the pink cloud. "And welcome to another episode of ‘Dunk in the Gunk!’ Who will be our lucky winner?"

One man stumbled out, pulling skeins of the sticky stuff off his arms and legs. Matt tumbled over to him, and swung his fist. As it approached the man’s face, the Madcap glove inflated rapidly, and with a wet thunk sound, the man went down. "Congratulations! You win fist prize!†Hey, that was a pretty good one, Matt thought.

"You forgot somebody,†grated a voice behind him. The driver of the van swung, but his baseball bat whistled through the space Matt had just occupied.

"No I did-ent!†Matt cackled in his Madcap voice, and unleashed a torrent of stringy adhesive that left the man struggling in a pink cocoon. Yes, I did, Matt thought sourly, leaving the man to struggle helplessly in his bonds. "Account for all your adversaries," he could hear his father say.

The other robbers had fought free of the cotton candy effect, and were now scrambling back up the dock and inside the warehouse. At least it’ll be dry in there. With a spring-assisted bound, Matt was on the dock and through the door.

Immediately inside the door was a large staging area which was piled with boxes and skids. Matt’s goggles compensated for the low light, and he spotted one of the robbers disappearing around a stack of boxes.

"Here, kitty kitty,†Matt crooned, With a series of hops, he made it to the stack and raced around it. "Come out, come out where you – ah.†He stopped short at the sight – at least a dozen Wise Fools, decked out in their loud clothes, faces hidden by clown masks and greasepaint. They were standing in a loose semi-circle. All were pointing guns at him...

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One of the clowns was a stout man looking like a nightmarish version of a popular fast-food mascot. Matt knew him as Mickie D., one of his father's lieutenants. Mickie stepped forward, shoving one of the dripping, panting, would-be robbers out of his way. “You almost screwed that up, idiot,†he growled.

“So, Madcap. Surprised? Good. Since you turned on us, we’ve been lookin’ for a new leader. Guess what? We found one. Rictus says to send his best wishes.†He turned and joined the others in the firing line.

“What, nothin’ to say, funny guy? No dumb joke to put on your tombstone? Whatever. C’mon, boys – let’s waste him.â€

Matt used the few seconds the leader talked to assess the situation. He was pretty sure that the bullet-proofing of the Madcap outfit would protect him, but someone could always get a lucky shot at an unprotected area. There was about to be a lot of bullets flying, and there was sure to be ricochets everywhere. Quickly, he took in the layout of the warehouse. One thing he had learned is that not everyone thinks in three dimensions, and that people tended to look around before they looked up. The high ceiling of the building was dim, and the glare from the intermittent utility lights would make it even harder for him to be seen in the support beams.

Matt adopted a jaunty pose, crossing his arms and chuckling. "'Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right,'" he quoted, wrapping his fingers around a cotton-candy bomb. "'Here I am – stuck in the middle with you!'" He activated the decompression and leaped straight up, listening to the intermingled cries of surprise and gunshots. The cotton-candy adhesive slithered off the specially-treated Madcap outfit as he jumped. A slightly-altered version of the stuff oozed from micropores in his gloves and boots, allowing him to clamber with ease along the steel beams of the warehouse.

An image of his father flashed through Matt's mind. Sullivan Wyman's gaunt, haunted face, eyes gleaming across the big desk in his study. "Chaos is the mother of error," he intoned, "And confusion its father. It doesn't matter if it's football or war or chess – if the other side is confused and disorganized, you have the upper hand."

Fine, dad, Matt thought. Let's make some confusion.

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He leaped among the pallets of boxes, looking for something with some heft that was still light enough for him to move. As the Wise Fools struggled out of the pink mire, Matt spotted stacks of crates marked STAINLESS STEEL FLATWARE. With a grunt, he began pushing the stacks over onto the gangsters, listening to the resulting thuds with satisfaction.

The gangsters who had fought clear of both goo and boxes began shooting at the ceiling. Matt quickly jumped to the floor, the anti-shock mechanisms in his boots absorbing the impact.

"Spread out!" Called Mickie D.

Divide and conquer, Matt thought grimly. He jumped back to the ceiling and made for the rear of the warehouse, leaping softly from stack to stack. As he hoped, the Wise Fools began to stray apart as they made their way among the labyrinth of stores. Matt hunted them from above, dropping behind an individual and hammering them before they could react. Leaping back atop a stack, Matt rocked and toppled cascades of boxes, blocking each aisle.

It didn't take the gangsters long to figure out what Matt was doing, and the Mickie quickly ordered his mob back to the front of the warehouse. Matt managed to pick off a couple more who found their return blocked, but six still remained. As Matt crept along at ceiling level, he watched the leader distribute bottles from a backpack amongst the others. Molotov cocktails – great.

The rag-fuses were quickly lit. "Have fun with the fireworks, traitor!" Mickie called. "OK, boys, toss 'em and go." Quickly, several pools of fire spread out on the warehouse floor and began to lick at the various crates and boxes, and the Wise Fools hurries out the door.

Fireworks? Matt knew it wouldn't be much of a problem to exit the warehouse, but there were several unconscious or ensnared Fools in the building. They're willing to sacrifice them to get to me, he thought grimly.

Leaping to the roof beams, Matt sought and found a skylight, and kicked the Plexiglas out of its frame. As smoke began to fill the upper reaches of the warehouse, Matt began ferrying the helpless Fools one by one up to the roof, gluing them in place to keep them from inadvertently rolling off.

Matt had lost count of how many Fools had been in the warehouse. Was there one more somewhere? With a curse, Matt ducked back into the building. The smoke had become heavy enough that he had to descend beneath it to see. He bounded up and down the aisles, leaping over his self-made obstacles. There he is! Matt quickly scooped up the unconscious man.

It was then that the flames set off the first crate of fireworks. In an instant, the warehouse was transformed into a battle scene, sparklers and rockets sizzling everywhere, a thousand deafening reports all piling on top of one another. Dodging and bounding, Matt bore his burden to the office area, where a cinderblock wall provided protection. The smoke was thickening at floor-level, though, and Matt knew he would be in danger if he tried to wait out the endless volleys of pyrotechnics.

Matt took a deep breath, slung the man over his shoulder, and charged out of the office. Later, he wouldn't be able to remember how he made his way out of the skylight without being engulfed by the various fireworks explosions that had the entire warehouse ablaze. All he could remember was his father's voice: "Keep moving. Always keep moving."

Matt squatted on the edge of the roof, watching the approaching lights of emergency vehicles. Better truss these guys up and leave, he thought, just as an explosion rocked the warehouse. Part of the corrugated aluminum roof was blown off, and the rest sagged dangerously. Flames roared through the opening, and Matt recoiled from the blast of heat. Grabbing one of the Fools, Matt leaped away from the structure. When he touched the ground, he immediately sprayed a large area with the adhesive mixture, emptying his nozzles in the process. Then he began a series of jumps, grabbing a Fool from the roof and leaping back, dumping each into the improvised pool of goo.


Matt turned from admiring his handiwork to find a young security guard, gun drawn, looking completely overwhelmed.

You've got to be kidding me… Matt thought. Staying in character, he grinned at the guard. "Ummm… Happy New Year?"

"Put your hands up!"

"Now, officer, I'm pretty sure my deodorant has worn off, and I wouldn't want to offend…"

"Put 'em up!"

Matt was worried the kid would start shooting, and hit one of the Fools who were stuck and defenseless in the big glob of adhesive nearby.

"Well…" Matt drawled, tensing. "I guess you've got the drop on me…" Matt raised his hands, and jumped, coming down on top of the guard. "HEHEHEHEHEEE! No, I think I've got the drop on YOU!" He hustled the guard over to the foamy, stringy pile, and sat him down in it, replacing his gun in his hand once his arms were fully stuck.

"These clowns are a present for you," he continued. "I wasn't sure what to get you, seeing how it's our first date and all, so I went with slimy crooks. I hope you like 'em!" He stood over the astonished guard, keeping an eye on the gun that now dangled forgotten in his hand. "Just remember, it was Madcap who brought 'em to you."

Matt glanced at the approaching police cars. "Now, I'm sorry to beat and run, but I have to return this costume – their late fees are simply awful!" With a series of leaps, Matt had cleared several other warehouse units and was out of sight.

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