Last time: While out on a mission to rescue Emilie Tesla from her archnemesis Asylum, Cliffhanger and the other Tesla Girls stopped to save some drag racers. After stopping one of the cars, they found that the other car had been stopped by macho superhero Big Shot… Kate Tesla’s ex-boyfriend!
Part Four (of Five)
“Cliffhanger, huh?” Big Shot said, taking Cliff’s hand in a shake that was way too strong to be anything but competitive. “Haven’t heard of you, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t doing great!”
Kate Tesla rolled her eyes. “Cliffy, this is Bruno,
“Hey, babe!” Big Shot said, “Secret identity much?”
“Sorry. Did I say Bruno? I meant Bruno Edgar Pezzonovante, of Morristown, New Jersey.”
Cliff couldn’t tell if Big Shot’s look of pained exasperation was real or dramatic. There was a certain… posed quality to the flying hero.
“Well, always happy to help my best girl and her little friends,” Big Shot said, ignoring the obvious disdain-vision Kate was blasting him with. “So what’re we doing tonight?”
“We are doing nothing,” Kate said. “Marina and Cliffy and I are going to rescue Emilie from Asylum, and we don’t need any help doing it!”
Big Shot winked at Cliff as if to say, “chicks, huh? Don’t know when they need us. But we know they’d be nowhere without us, know what I’m sayin’?” It was an impressively expressive wink, actually. Cliff wondered if it was one of Big Shot’s powers to wink like that.
“Ooh! Press!” Marina suddenly squealed. Tapping a gear-shaped lapel pin on her petite jacket, sparks shot outward from her body, expelling all the dirt from her outfit and aligning the atoms in her clothes to eliminate wrinkles.
“That was her journeyman project,” Kate exposited to Cliff. “I mean, it’s totally useless for crime fighting, but wow, you know? We haven’t had to dry clean anything since she joined!”
“I… we should go,” Cliff said, eyeing the crowd forming. “We need to save Emilie.”
“Right!” Big Shot agreed. “No time for kudos, there’s justicing to do!”
“Justice isn’t an verb! God!” Kate screamed.
Marina, meanwhile, had greeted the news vans and paparazzi with gusto. “Tesla Girls forever!” she vogued, one hand outstretched with a V for… Cliff assumed “victory” but it just as well might have meant “vamp.”
“You guys get in your little car,” Big Shot offered. “I’ll carry you to Asylum’s… um… asylum.”
Kate gave Cliff a pleading look, but he didn’t really know what to offer except a meek shrug. “It would, ah, get us there the quickest,” he said.
“Fine!” Kate said, tapping a button on her Universal Remote that activated some kind of body armor, replete with a full-face helmet so Cliff couldn’t see her reaction. He suspected she wasn’t smiling under there.
“Excuse us, folks,” Big Shot said, suddenly standing next to Marina in front of her audience. “But there’s a little lady out there who needs the rescuing skills of Big Shot!” Hoisting Marina into his arms, he took to the skied.
“And the…” Marina started, but was too far in seconds to self-promote any further. “You suck,” she said to Big Shot as he unceremoniously dumped her in the back of the Cliffmobile.
As Cliff’s Lincoln floated up into the air, Big Shot’s powerful hands probably messing up the alignment, he turned to the facelessly pouting Kate.
“You dated this guy?” he asked.
“Not talking about it.” Kate said.
“I caught them doing it in the lab once,” Marina offered.
“He just doesn’t seem… um…”
“Virile? Handsome? Dumb as a brick?” Marina didn’t help.
“I, um, maybe that last one?”
“Not. Talking. About it.”
“Right,” Cliff said, turning his eyes to the road that wasn’t there because the car was flying. “So, um, Asylum… he’s got an asylum? Doesn’t that make it pretty easy to find him?”
“Yeah,” Marina said, “but it’s some kind of historical landmark, so he has, um, historical landmark protection. Like living in an embassy, I think. Diplomatic immunity.”
“I don’t think that’s how it works,” Cliff frowned.
“It means you can’t smash up the headquarters,” Kate explained.
“Really?” Cliff asked. “What about the deathtraps and such?”
“It’s a whole thing,” Kate sighed. “He has really good lawyers. Just be careful not to break anything.”
Convergence City sped by under them as they talked. Soon they were over Semaphore Hill, and it was apparent exactly where Asylum made his home.
“Wait, wait…” Cliff said, staring through the windshield at the approaching structure. “Asylum’s asylum is in the Tribune Tower?”
Looming ahead of them was a giant Doric column peppered with windows. Designed by Adolf Loos for a 1922 contest in the Chicago Tribune, the four-hundred foot column of offices was entirely built of black granite and stood atop Semaphore Hill like it was bearing the sky, Atlas-like.
“Well, not the whole thing,” Kate said through her helmet. “He owns the eighth floor.”
“The windows are original leaded stained glass, so we have to take the elevator. No flying through them. They’re really expensive,” Marina muttered.
“I see parking!” boomed Big Shot’s voice from beneath the car. Cliff’s stomach lurched as they dropped like a roller coaster just before it leaned diagonally and was lowered to the asphalt in the parking lot down the hill from the Tribune Tower.
“The lot is empty for the night and you still put us down in a handicap spot?” Kate yelled at Big Shot.
“It was closest to the tram stop,” he said.
“The trams aren’t even running!”
“Oh, get a lab already,” Marina giggled.
“I’m going in for Emilie,” Cliff said, ignoring the Sam-and-Diane banter. Taking his grappling hook in one hand, he set off up the tourist path to the Tribune Tower.
Up ahead, the lights of the eighth floor flickered menacingly.
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.