The Rule of Opposites

Posted: December 24, 2010 in Single-run ("One off") Stories
Tags: , , , , ,

The low illumination in the jewelry store hampered her as little as had the alarms on the doors, the motion detectors on the walls, the security cameras on the ceiling or the alarms on the display case in the middle of the store.

The systems all listened to her, and stopped paying attention at her command. As for the low light, she had the little high-tech set of eyewear about the size of swimmer’s goggles that opened up the darkness like a stage curtain at the start of a performance.

Not to mention that my prize is so large and glittery already. It almost lights up the room on its own, she thought playfully.

But as little trouble as everything else had posed, the presence of a man with a silvery, oblong helmet, gray-and-blue bodysuit and silver gloves and boots was 180 degrees removed from all that.

In fact, he was a real problem for her. A 5-foot-4-inch woman going by the name of Burlesque was not the kind of person to go toe-to-toe with…what was his name again?

…oh, yeah, that’s right: I think this is Mister Conviction, Burlesque thought, trying to call up her limited knowledge of New York heroes. I don’t know many of them, but this guy makes the news enough, sometimes nationally, for me to have some clue. A clue that I’m in deep shit, in fact.

“And here I thought tonight was gonna be a total bust,” came his voice, the smooth, almost featureless helmet giving it a more mechanical and menacing note. “Next stop for you is the 19th Precinct—whoever you are.”

“Burlesque,” she answered, trying to sound as non-threatening as possible, given Mister Conviction’s history of putting even non-transhuman crooks in the hospital pretty often, regardless of their gender. “I know this is going to sound stupid, but could we maybe just pretend this never happened and I put this necklace back? You see that I’m not out to rob the whole place. It’s just I have someplace to be, and I really wanted to look nice…”

“Save it. In fact, stuff if. I don’t take bribes and you aren’t going to sweet-talk me into cutting you a break,” Mister Conviction intoned grimly. “That necklace is worth tens of thousands, I’d bet. Time to…unnnnggghh!”

The hero went rigid as a burst of sparks appeared behind him, then shook violently for a few seconds before falling to the ground. As he did, Burlesque saw the man behind him, wearing a bodysuit of black, blue and yellow with various stylized lightning graphics. Over that he wore a short coat with various company logos, the most prominent being the Sports Authority and Gatorade. The Nike shoes on his feet were far more colorful than most anything on the market for civilians, and were built almost like combat boots, though still with a very gym shoe vibe about them.

“Damn it, Burlesque,” the new man said.

“Oh, thank God. Shock Jock to the rescue…”

“…save it. Deactivate the alarms on that door again and unlock it. I can’t leave him out here helpless,” Shock Jock said. “Hurry up.”

Burlesque made her silent mental communications with the electronics systems guarding the shop, and then generated a small shaft of quasi-matter, pushing it through the lock on the door, tripping the tumblers and then using it like a key to open the shop back up before the construct lost cohesion and the quasi-matter slipped back to its proper dimension. Shock Jock dragged Mister Conviction into the store, locked the door, and shut it, so that Burlesque could put the alarms back to normal function.

Then he saw the necklace in her left hand, scowled, and made her go through the entire process again so that he could put it back in the store.

When everything was secure again, he looked down at her from his six feet and two inches of height. He took in her costume—the black PVC pants, light brown Ugg boots and red-and-black corset top, along with the Mardi Gras-style red and gold mask she wore. Somehow, she managed to make it all look sexy instead of ridiculous. But he shook his head slowly.

“He’s a friend of mine,” Shock Jock said.

“Well, then, I really owe you a special treat or two tonight,” Burlesque said. She licked her lips seductively as she said the words, but there was also an abashed look in her eyes. “I’m sorry?”

“What are you doing here?”

“Well, I did mention I was coming to town, or did you forg…”

“…our dinner date is more than an hour from now,” Shock Jock said with exasperation.

“Well, you’re in costume,” she pointed out, “so why not me?”

“Yeah, well I’m working,” he said. “I was going to get in my civvies in about 30 or 40 minutes and head for the restaurant. You, on the other hand, have no reason to be working. This isn’t Gryphon. Or Vegas. Or Reno. Or Lake Tahoe. Or…”

“I was walking around earlier today after I landed in LaGuardia and got a cab here, and saw the necklace in the store,” Burlesque said. “It was so pretty, and I wanted to look great for you—I know you’ve got reservations for someplace fancy. And it’s been so long since I’ve seen you. Oh!” she exclaimed, looking at his jacket and focusing in on one of the sponsor logos. “NASCAR. You got NASCAR as a sponsor! Oh, honey! Congratulations. You must be the first hero in the Northeast U.S. to get them. They almost never go with anyone who isn’t from the Southwest or a Southerner.”

“Thanks,” he said, “but we’ll talk about that later. Look, baby, long-distance relationships are hard enough; it’s even more messed up when I find myself in love with a thief. But you know what, you don’t work my town—or my state, OK? New relationship rule. Just like I don’t bust you when I’m in Nevada, you don’t steal in New York. Got it? What you do in Las Vegas—or Gryphon or anywhere else out there—stays out there.”

Burlesque smiled brightly. “Promise. No work when I come to visit. Will he be OK?” she asked, nodding toward the back door to the jewelry store.

“I’ve had lots of practice zapping people. He’ll be out at least another 20 minutes but he won’t have any lasting damage.”

“You mad? Are we still on for dinner?”

“Of course. I’ll get over it by the time the appetizer comes.”

“I’m sorry, lover,” she said. “Old habits die hard. And shiny things call my name.”

Shock Jock let a little play of electricity run up and down one arm, then drew her close for a kiss, letting a little current run between them to tingle their lips. Burlesque’s tongue dipped past his lips quickly, tingling as well, and then he withdrew slightly and looked her in the eyes intently, wondering how he ever managed to get hooked up with her in the first place—oh yeah, too many Long Island Ice Teas and that gorgeous suite the Gatorade people hooked me up with, he recalled with an inward smile. Good times, and she has a sweet heart—for a thief.

“Burlesque, just remember one thing,” he added, moving some hair away from her face gently with the back of one hand and kissing her again—this time letting only metaphorical sparks fly. “I’m the only sparkly thing you should care about when you’re in New York.”

Comments
  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeffrey Bouley, Jeffrey Bouley. Jeffrey Bouley said: A very short little story up at Tales of the Whethermen…"The Rule of Opposites" http://wp.me/p19htn-7X […]

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