The Vanishing Warlord
Sequel to "The Nightingale's Song.
The mysterious large crate had arrived at the British Museum in London some weeks ago. It had no return address, and its only markings were in Chinese. The museum's chief translator was away on an extended holiday, so it was decided to simply put the crate in storage until he returned. One night, as a rather nasty storm raged outside, a museum associate was in the storage basement taking some inventory, and preparing a new exhibit. Suddenly, the lights went out. "Beastly storm," the man muttered "Can't get any work done at 'tall." He quickly produced a flashlight to find his way out and fix the lighrs. He stopped suddenly when he thought he heard a rattling behind him. He turned and put the light on the source of the noise. There was the crate with the unknown markings. Just laying there. He turned to make his way out again, and the rattling began again, even louder this time. He flashed the light onto the crate once more......nothing. He called out to see if someone was there. "Nigel? I say, old boy, is that you down here?" There was no answer. And it looked as if the man was truely alone in the basement. But the rattling began once more. The man began to become frightned. "Who's there?", he called out. The light revealed nothing. They must be hiding. "Whoever you are, the museum is closed. You cannot be here." The rattling became louder. "I demand you show yourself!" Suddenly the markings on the crate began to glow a bright red. The man could now see the crate itself shaking. The lid suddenly flew open, and what came out made the man cry out in pure terror!! It would be the last sound he would ever make!
Someone......or something is bumping off key members of the famous British Museum. And to make matters worse, the place seems to be haunted by a Chinese Warlord who appears and disappears right in front of patrons. Harry Lang, and his hi-tech partner, Cricket, are summoned to Jolly ole England by the museum director, Dr. Nigel Benwolf, in hopes of solving the murders, and clear up this "ghost nonsense". Or......is it nonsense?? This is a wild adventure that will take our pair all through London, and will climax within the city's most famous landmark, Big Ben! Keep your eyes peeled to Fembot Central as Harry and Cricket Lang tackle the case of "The Vanishing Warlord".
The Vanishing Warlord
By ButchyBoy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
"Ladies and Gentleman, this is your Captain speaking. We will be flying over the city of London in just about 10 minutes, and will begin making our decent at this time. Please return to your seats, and fasten your seat belts. On behalf of our crew, we thank you for flying Union Jack Airways."
As the Captain's voice was finishing the speech, a leggy blonde was making her way down the isle, collecting food trays and such. She smiled and winked as she went by Harry Lang's seat, a hint of red in her eyes. Harry smiled back and peeked his head down the isle as she walked away. "Yes sir," he said. "They certainly have some well-built help on this flight." The young woman sitting next to Harry, his partner Cricket to be exact, was not impressed. She lifted her hand, turning his face to hers. "Yeah, well anything she can do," she began, "I can better." And with that, she drew him in for a long sensual kiss. As that kiss deepend, and then lingered, Harry felt a genuine warmth all through his body. He wonderd if she could really feel it too. The more time they spent together, the harder it got for Harry to remind himself the 'girl' he was kissing wasn't human. He half expected one day to wake up with Cricket saying "Just kidding!", and the whole 'robot' thing had been just an act.
It had been some months since the whole 'Golden Nightingale' affair. Harry Lang, a tall, rather stocky fellow in his late thirties, had relocated to New Chicago from Original New York with his partner, a robot named Cricket. They shared a rather large apartment on the top floor, and from that apartment they ran the New Hope Detective Agency (the name had been her idea). Now Cricket was no ordianary robot. She wasn't a slave, or a servant, and she wasn't anyone's sex toy. As far as Harry and everyone else around them were concerned, they were busniess partners, as well as husband and wife. In her demure just under five foot frame, young Cricket looked like a girl on the budding verge of full womanhood. Her long blond hair was useally done up in braided pig-tails, sometimes like today, wrapped and fastined in a halo around her head. She was dressed in a simple white blouse, grey dress slacks, and wearing her favorite cherry red beret. It was a far cry from the pink "Daddy's Girl" outfit she always had to wear. She was sure she went into shock the day Harry told her to dip into their funds and go shopping for a trip to London....alone....on her own......and get whatever she though would look good.
They had gotten a video message from one Dr. Nigel Benwolf, the director of the British Museum in London, England. One of the museum's key staff members, one Geoffery Sackler, was found dead in the museum's storeroom. His throat had been sliced from ear to ear. A search by both the museum staff and Scotland Yard had turned up nothing. No murder weapon, no fingerprints, no evidance that anyone but Sackler was in the storeroom that night. And his was not the only mysterious death. The head of the Ancient Egypt department, Ronald Spencer, had been found crushed to death by the weight of a mummy's case that had somehow toppled over with no explanation. Again, no fingerprints, no evidance that anyone but the victim was in the room when the death occoured. It was chacked up to being 'a most unfortunate accident'. Then there was the matter of the Warlord. It seems that in the past few days, anyone who came near the China Gallery was suddenly greeted by what could only be described as a Chinese Warlord in full dress, raising his sword to behead whichever poor innocent soul happend to be standing in his way, and just as the blade was about to strike flesh, the Warlord simply vanished, gone without a trace. To keep the patrons coming, and save the museum from certain bankrupcy, Dr. Benwolf closed off the China Gallery for "rennovations" However, a planned major exhibit for that gallery was now two months away, and action had to be taken. So, where Scotland Yard had failed, perhaps the famous Harry Lang could succeed.
Night had long since fallen when the plane arrived over London. Harry pointed the city lights out to Cricket. "There she is, honey. London." Harry exclaimed. It was a beautiful pattern of bright lights wrapped in a light fog. High above everything else, the figure of what looked like a large clock tower could be made out. Cricket just beamed. "Second star to the right, and straight on till morning."
Next: The adventure begins.
As Harry and Cricket made their way through Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport, they were both in awe of how fantastic it all looked. It was a huge structure with windows everywhere. People and bots of all sorts were walking, running, and flying every which way. They walked by the "News Stand", which was a fleet of interactive touch screens showing just about everything one could think of. "So, this is London.", Cricket said to Harry as she looked around. "This is just the airport, honey.", Harry said back. "The city itself is much more impressive, from what I remember as a kid." "No domes?", Cricket asked. "Nope.", Harry replied. "England like the rest of the world pretty much stayed hands off during our little 'spat'. And they prospered, while we fell apart." Harry was about to continue his little 'history lesson' when he suddenly felt his hand being gripped rather tightly. Harry looked ahead and saw what was upsetting his partner so: A pair of boys seemed to be playing 'keep-away' with the head of a red-headed robot nanny. The head was pleading with the boys as the body went in several directions, the arms and torso moving stiffly up and down, like some out of control wind-up toy. Cricket was becoming very sad and very angry at the same time. She thought about coming to the poor robo-nanny's rescue when what surely was the mother of the boys ran up and gave them what for. She carefully re-attached the nanny's head, made sure she was all right, then grabbed both boys by an ear as they all went off. "Do they all get treated like that here, Harry?", Cricket asked, her voice qurivering a bit. "No, thankfully they don't hun.", Harry said, doing his best to comfort her. "Watch your step though. Some places do have their fair share of droid haters here."
The pair were making their way when the lugggage area, when a rather tall thin, rather distingused looking man in a gray suit approached them. "Mr. Harry Lang?", the man called out. Harry quickly looked him over, knowing of only one person who knew they were there. "Dr. Nigel Benwolf, I presume." "You do indeed sir. A pleasure to meet you." Both men shook hands. "And this is my partner and wife, Cricket." She looked up, smiled brightly, and firmly shook his hand. "How do you do Dr. Benwolf. I'm looking forward to seeing your museum. I understand it's quite famous." "Oh yes, Mrs. Lang.", Benwolf replied. "It's known the world over, one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of England, and I'd like to keep it that way." Benwolf then turned back to Harry, "Oh, Mr. Lang, I've taken the liberty of having your bags sent ahead to your suite at the Windsor Arms." "A suite???", Harry said. "That seems a little much Doc." Harry could never get used to fancy living of any sort. "Yes, well," Benwolf went on, "This one is currently unoccupied, and the chap who runs the place owes my a few favors." Harry didn't feel like pushing the issue any further. The jet lag was already catching up with him. "Shall we go then", he said as they made their way out.
Next: Little Package, Big Trouble
Cricket always loved to process new things into her untapped memory banks. And she just about overloaded herself going through London from the airport to the hotel where she and Harry were going to stay. The lights, the buildings, still looking the way they were described in a book she had read on the long flight there. "Look Harry!", she cried out in excitement. "Isn't that the big clock tower we saw on the plane? (gasp) That's Big Ben, right?" Harry rose up to look out the roof of the limo where Cricket was hanging from. "Yeah, that's the famous Big Ben all right. How did you know?" Cricket smiled at him. "It's just like in the book. Second star to the right and straight on till morning." Harry was a bit confused. "What are talking about Cricket?" he asked. "Peter Pan", she replied, "He took the Darling childern around Big Ben before they all flew off to Neverland." "Oh yeah," Harry said, pushing his hat up they way he always did when that invisable little 'now I get it' light went off. "Well, Peter Pan could fly, but you can't so...", Harry looked right at her and pointed down, "...get back into the car." "Yes Harry", was her simple reply.
Dr. Benwolf, who was still escorting them, was quietly listening to all this. He smiled at Cricket as she sat back down into the limo. "I must say Mrs. Lang, it's quite refreashing to see someone of your generation still enjoying the classics." Cricket cocked her head slightly, with a puzzled look. "He means not many.....people your age like reading Peter Pan. Or reading for that matter", Harry said, trying to explain Benwolf's statement to Cricket. She thought a moment, then smiled again at the elderly gentleman sitting across from them. "Well, it may be a classic Dr. Benwolf, but it was new to me tonight. Peter Pan is such a great story don't you think?" Before Benwolf could answer, Cricket suddenly kicked into high-gear babble mode. "I'd love to visit Neverland. Take on those pirates. And that nasty Captain Hook." Cricket started her own invisable sword fight. "Take that and that you ugly old codfish. Your fighting Cricket Pan now!" Both Harry and Benwolf nearly jumped out of their seats when little began crowing like a rooster!! Harry quickly puts his arm around her and laughed a very nervous laugh. "He he....yes sir, that's my little dynamo. She loves a good story." Benwolf looked like he was having second thoughts about this whole thing when Harry saw salvation out of the corner of his eye. "Oh look, and here we are, The Windsor Arms. Well Doc, we'll see you in the morning at the museum. We'll go over the case then." Benwolf looked at both of them, particlually at Cricket. He lifted an eyebrow. "Yes. It should be an interesting experiance at the very least. Well, good night to you both."
Harry and Cricket watched the limo pull away. Cricket looked wide-eyed at the well-lit marble front of the large hotel complate with fountain. Anyone else might have made an issue of what just took place in the limo, but Harry was used to it by now. And truth be told, he kind of liked that about her. "This where we're staying Harry?" she asked as they walked in, looking the place over. "Yeah, it is. Well come on 'Cricket Pan', let's get checked in."
When they finally entered the hotel room, Harry was pretty much dead tired. As they both got ready for bed, Cricket picked up a small white box tied up in a thin blue ribbon. "Hey Harry, what about this box the front desk said was for us? Can I open it now?", she asked. "Yeah, I guess so honey." She undid the ribbon, opened the box and pulled out a small green jade statue of some sort of dragon. "Well, that's.......nice. I wonder where it came from?" Harry pondered. Cricket noticed something else in the box and took it out. "Here's a note", she said giving it to Harry. She still held the jade dragon, turning it this way and that. "It's cute, don't you think? And i'll just bet it leads to danger and diaster." Harry shook his head. "C'mon Cricket, look at it. It's just a little.....green paperwight. How can it lead to danger and diaster?" "Yeah, and it was just a little harmless little golden nightingale, remember? What's the note say?" Harry looked at it and read it aloud, "To Harry Lang- Take good care of this jade dragon and don't let it out of your sight. Your life depends on it!" Cricket lifted an eyebrow. "Told ya!"
Next: Meet the Suspects
When Harry and Cricket arrived at the British Museum the next morning, the first thing they noticed was how it stood out from the rest of 21st century London. It's like time had stood still here for more than two centuries. The well-kept lawn of real grass, the marble steps and pillars, people walking in and out. There was not a traveling ad, hoverboard, or any other modern gadget in sight. It's as if this were sacred ground. The pair found the inside, the "Grand Court", as it was called, just as impressive. With the exception of the escalators and a few other things that were nessacary for the museum to operate in this age, the place looked like something out of an old movie set in some bygone era.
As they were taking this all in with wonder, Dr. Benwolf spotted them. "Ah, Mr. and Mrs. Lang, good to see you." he said, pulling a watch from his vest pocket and looking very impressed, "And right on time as well. Splendid, splendid." Harry got right to the heart of the matter. "All right Dr. Benwolf, now as I understand it, you have two deaths you've been unable to explain. One Mr. Sackler, and one Mr. Spencer. Now other than they were both on the board of directors, and both their last names begin with S, anything else they have in common?" "That is indeed the puzzle Mr. Lang", Benwolf replied, "They barely spoke to each other, except at our meetings, and even then, only formaly." "What exactly was Mr. Sackler doing when he was killed?", Harry asked. "He had gone the the storage basement to take stock of some items that were to be used in our upcoming China Gallery exhibit." Harry asked the next obvoius question, "What exhibit is that?" "The Legacy of the Shang Dynasty", Benwolf replied. "Shang?" "Yes. Kiwan Shang, a warlord and self-proclaimed Emperor of the 13th century. Brutal fellow, but he left behind many facinating artifacts."
Cricket spoke up for the first time. "Dr Benwolf, you mentioned something about a warlord in your message to us.", she said. Benwolf seemed somewhat embarrased as he spoke. "Well....ah, yes. It's as I told you both. Some our our patrons have claimed they were attacked by someone dressed in a battle outfit. But, when we look to find the chap, he's nowhere in sight. Most disturbing. Especially given that some of the Shang artifacts are said to have.....supernatural properties." That last statement brought raised eyebrows from both Harry and Cricket. It also prompted a new unheard voice to join the party.
"I thought I told you to lay off that 'otherworld' nonsense, and let the Yard investigate this proper Dr. Benwolf." It was an angry voice, and definetly female. It came from a rather tall red-headed woman, her hair pinned back.. She seemed dressed very unusual for a cop, Harry thought. She would be more at home at one on those crazy fetish clubs back in the states. The outfit was black leather, almost a one-piece. It hugged her curves rather well. A badge seemed to molded into the outfit, just above her right breast. She had what Harry regognized as a stun pistol strapped to one side of her waist. Benwolf took notice of the officer, and made introductions.
"This is Inspector Hargrove of Scotland Yard. Inspector Hargrove, may I present Mr. and Mrs. Harry Lang from America." The tall police woman just stared them down. "Ah yes, Harry Lang. The famous trouble making yank." Her voice was thick with a slight cockney accent to it. Harry seemed suprised at the assesment. "Trouble making?? Oh, you've got it all wrong inspector. It's the crooks who make the trouble. We're just the clean-up committe.", he said as he pointed to Cricket. Suddenly, a device strapped to the other side Hargrove's gun belt began to light up and beep rapidly. The inspector took the device out and pointed it at Cricket. "Are you registered??......."Miss"??" She said the last word with disgust in her voice. Cricket gave a faint smile. She knew she was being scanned. "Mrs.", she replied. "Mrs. Cricket Lang". That brought a very scarcastic reply. "Ohhhhhh Mrs. Lang is it?? Well I don't care what you call yourself." She then looked at Harry, " A bot's still a bot, and I want to see this bot's papers right now!!" "I carry them with me Inspector.", Cricket said as she produced her ownership papers from her purse with a ready smile. The other woman just scowled at her and yanked them from her hand. Harry and Cricket tried their best not to look worried as they were looked over.
"They seem all right. Guess there's nothing I can do. Of course if it were up to me, I'd melt down the whole lot of you!" she said looking right a Cricket. She then turned her attention back to Harry. "Take my advice Lang, and keep her on a leash while your here!" Ordinarly, Cricket would have no problem sticking up for herself, but this was someone in authority, and Cricket always respected that. Harry, however did not. "As I understand the laws here Inspector, and I do, any self-aware robot has the just about the same rights as a human. Now, we're here on the invitation of Dr. Benwolf to look into some mysterious deaths, which up until now, you have no explaintion for. And we are going to find the explaintions, because that's what we are being paid to do. Now, is their anything else you require of us, Inspector?" Hargrove was just about to read Harry a riot act of her own, when Benwolf intervined.
"Please Inspector, I was made aware of this young lady's....nature, when I first made contact. Now I realize it's somewhat out of the ordiary, but my decision to employ them stands." This brougt a smile from Cricket. "Thank you Dr. Benwolf. We won't disappoint you." "Well, do as you please I suppose", Hargrove said to Benwolf. "But don't come crying to me when she goes nuts and wrecks the place."
Just then, another voice entered the scene. "Come on Camilla, they say Harry Lang's the best at cracking tough cases, and this one looks pretty tough." This voice belonged to a young, dark-haired Oriental looking man. He was dressed casually in an open vest, red dress shirt, and black pants. "Whos's side are you on?" the inspector asked. "And would it kill you to call me Inspector while I'm in uniform, Joe??". She hit a sharp high note when she said his name.
Dr. Benwolf made more introductions. "This is Joseph Tam, he's a unversity graduate student, and assistant to Professor Peng, the director of our China Gallery. Joseph, this is...", but the young man was already shaking Harry's hand. "Harry Lang. I've always wanted to meet you, Sir. I read all about your cases on the Internet. They're the talk of our study groups at the University." "Well, ah,......Mr. Tam......it's always nice to meet a fan." Harry knew he had become some sort of a cult figure in the geeky net world. He never knew what to make of it. Joseph then smiled at Cricket who extended her hand. "I've heard some amazing things about you as well, Cricket." he said. "I can't wait to see you in action." The Inspector piped back in, "Yes......let's just see what the little vacum cleaner can do, shall we??" Cricket knew a challange when she heard one. "Dr. Benwolf, may we see the part of the basement where Mr. Sackler was killed?"
Next: Enter The Warlord
It was an interesting party of five that made their way down to the basement of the British Museum that morning: Two heros for hire, one human, one not, a Scotland Yard Inspector, a hero-worshiping graduate student, and the director of the musem itself. The basement itself was filled with crates and items of all sort. To Harry, it seemed a clutter of interesting junk, but it was the tidiest clutter he had ever seen. When the group arrived at the spot where Geffory Sackler was found dead, Inspector Hargrove was the first to speak.
"Here it is Mr. Lang, neat and tidy as you please", she said, gestering her hand across the room. "Of course, the only thing missing is a dead body about where your standing", she added. "And you found absolutly nothing out of the ordinary here?", Harry asked. "Nothing what so ever." "And the thing that cut poor Mr. Sackler's throat?" "Nowhere to be found. For all we know, the poor soul may have did himself in." "Dr. Benwolf, was Mr. Sackler the type to......do himself in?", Harry asked, glancing back at the inspector. "Geffory?? Certainly not!", Benwolf replied rather sharply. "I've known the man for years. He would NOT commit suicide." "Well, you never can tell Dr.", Hargrove said. "But please, I'm sure the famous Mr. Lang can find something here that we poor flat-footed Bobbies have certainly overlooked." Her tone was very mocking. "Or perhaps wonder girl here has something to add." Cricket had been looking around all this time. "Perhaps I do", she said very politly. The inspector gave a very insinscere smile back. "Well, do share with us little bot. Tell us, what's ticking in that artificial brain of yours....besides the missionary position?"
Cricket just gave a polite, sincere smile back, doing her best just to ignore the insults. She had to admit though, it was getting harder to keep from giving her a 'pow - right in the kisser'. She walked over to the large crate that was about 50 feet directly in front of Harry. She loooked it over, then back at Harry, then looked over the crate once more. "What's in here Dr. Benwolf?", Cricket finally asked. "Well, it's not clearly marked, but I believe Professor Peng said it was some sort of armor." Just then, a rather soft-spoken voice entered the picture. "Not just some sort of armor, Dr. I believe, if these markings are correct, it belonged to Kiwan Shang himself."
"Ah, Professor Peng, I see you got my message, thank you for joining us.", Benwolf said. "May I present Harry and Cricket Lang from America, and of course you know Inspector Hargrove and young Mr. Tam." "A pleasure to me you Professor", Harry said shaking his hand. Peng was just about as tall as Harry. He had jet black hair with streaks of gray. Harry had trouble placing the man's age. He looked like he could be in his late 60's or so, and yet he seemd so........much younger. Probably took very good care of himself, Harry thought. Peng spoke with a much thicker accent then the younger Mr. Tam did. "A pleasure to meet you as well, Mr. Lang." He then turned his attention to Cricket. "And what is your interest in this crate my dear?" Peng asked.
"It contains a suit of armor? Have you examined it?", she asked. "No, I have not yet had the opportunity. I have been away until yesterday." the professor replied. "Away?", Harry asked. "Yes, Mr. Lang. I've had personal busniess to deal with." "Well, someone's opened this crate", Cricket said matter-of-factly. "Look at this Harry." She pointed out the side of the crate to him, pointing to the hindges. "Look at how this wood has been broken away. And there are grooves in the hindges. Like it's been swung open....more than once." Harry looked back at Peng. "Well, how about it Professor?" "I am just surprised as you are Mr. Lang. If it's true the crate has be already opened, it can only mean a breach in sercurity here." Dr. Benwolf began to protest. "Now wait just one minute..." Harry stopped a fight before it could break out. "Now look, anyone have any objections of opening this crate right here and now and have a look??"
No one did object and the crate was pryed opened. It was full suit of armor, either gold plated or made of gold itself. The helmet almost looked like it had some sort of bird of prey on top, the 'wings' sticking strait up. In the center of the helmet was a small crest of a dragong that matched the larger crest on the chest plate. "Heart of the dragon", the professor muttered. "This is most definetly the armor of Kiwan Shang", he said. Cricket suddenly reached into her purse, and pulled out and white glove, putting it on her right hand. "What are you doing Cricket?", Harry asked. "Playing a hunch", was the reply. Once the glove was on, she reached down, pulling a knife from the suit. She looked at it for a good few minutes, twisting it this way and that. "What's she doing with that?", the inspector asked. "And why the glove?" "I wouldn't want to taint or ruin evidance Inspector", she answered. "What evidance??"
"If you'll look closely, you'll find dried blood along the edge here. I also detect bits of human skin on the dagger itself. Inspector, it is my opinion that Geffory Sackler was murdered." Cricket handed the dagger, handle out, to the inspector. "Murder, are you quite sure?" Benwolf asked. Cricket was about to answer when a deep-throated laugh suddenly filld the basement. Everyone looked around to see where it was coming from. Just then, Cricket put her hand to her forehead. "Ahhhh, my head!!", she cried out. "Cricket, what's wrong??", Harry asked. She struggled to answer, her face filled with what looked like pain. "I-I don't know. Can't .............something......hurting!!" The unseen laughter got louder when the lights suddenly went out! A scream was heard. A moment later, when the lights came back on, Inspector Hargrove was standing almost frozen in disbelief. So was everyone else. The armor was gone, the crate empty. The dagger was gone as well. And little Cricket had collapsed, barely awake, twitching in Harry's arms!
Next: Leave it to Ashley
Cricket felt her eyelids flutter several times as her eyes opend. It took a moment for her visual sensors to get into focus, and the first thing she saw clearly was Harry, smiling down at her. "Hey, there you are.", he said with a sigh of relief. "Welcome back." The blonde android still felt weak from her 'dizzy spell' in the museum basement, and half-closed her eyes again. "Ooooooo.......Somebody get the number of that HoverTruck?", she asked in a rather soft voice. Well, her sense of humor seems in tact, Harry thought. Cricket slowly shifted her eyes this way and that, and realized she was no longer where she was a few moments ago.
"Hey....wh-where are we?", she asked, still trying to get her bearings. "You're in Professor Peng's private office.", another voice answered. It was Joseph Tam, the professor's intern. Harry filled in the events of the last few moments for the confused fembot. "Just as you collapsed, the lights in the basement went out, and when they came back on, that crate we opened was empty. Someone managed to make off with that crazy suit of armor, and the dagger you gave to the inspector. I tried to revive you, but you just kept twitching. I carried you up here to the prof's office. I was about ready to shut you down compleatly, when you opened your eyes just now." "I'm suprised I didn't shut down myself.", Cricket said, rubbing her forehead. "Honey, what happened to you?", Harry asked with a genuine concern in his voice.
Cricket tried her best to give a good answer. "I.....I'm not sure Harry. Just as that crazy laughter started, I got this incredible feedback surge." "Feedback?", Harry asked. "Yeah, and boy was it painful. I could feel all my motors just.....give out. Is something wrong with me Harry?", Cricket asked. "I seriously doubt it, babe.", Harry replied. "Betty Stevens had you checked out top to bottom before we left here, remember?" "Ah, not really", she answered back. "I was in fembot dreamland for most of that....remember?" "Oh yeah", Harry said, a little embarassed. "Well, you were given a 100% clean bill of heath. No, something down in that basement triggered the feedback you got. And we're going to find out what."
Cricket slowly sat up off the couch she had been laying on. "Say, where's the rest of our happy group?", she asked. That question promted young Mr. Tam to speak up. "Well, the professor went back to Dr. Benwolf's office to discuss museum security and Inspector Hargrove went to file a report. She wasn't too happy having that dagger taken right from under her nose." "I don't think she's happy period", Cricket said. "What's with her anyway?", she asked. Joseph took a deep breath, and answered. "Camilla had a pretty bad experiance with a malfunctioning service bot about 10 years ago, when she first joined the service. She never talks about it even to me, but ever since then, any bot she finds without id or papers......she can't hit that off switch fast enough. I don't think it's anything personal, really." "Oh no, nothing personal, I'm sure", Cricket said, her normal sweet nature coming back. She turned to Harry. "She just wants to melt me down for scrap, that's all", she said in a quiet aside. She mouthed the words "nothing personal" to him. Harry chuckled.
"Ah, Mr. Tam", Harry started to say. "Oh, you can call me Joe." "Ok, Joe. This is the second time I've her you call the Inspector by her first name. Are you two close?", Harry asked. "Ever since we were kids. We'd spend summers together hunting for buried treasure on the beach. That's how I became interested in archology. Especially the artifacts of my ancestors. That's why I'm here with Professor Peng." "And what happened to Camilla? Loose her interest for buried treasure, did she?" "Oh no Mr. Lang" "Oh that's all right Joe. We're all on a first-name basis now." "Gee, thanks Harry. Anyway, I was the one who encourged Camilla to join the police force. See, soon after we bacame friends, she appointed herself as my protector. She'd beat up anybody who made fun of me." "And you didn't mind this?" "Oh no. I was a scrawny kid growing up and she was always tall for her age. Well, one day I told her if she wanted to keep protecting people, she might as well get paid for it."
"All right, let's get back to Camilla's.......strong dislike for robots", Harry said. "Is it possible she could........overstep her authority to put one out of commission?", he asked. "I don't understand what your getting at", Joe replied. "Just this Joe. It's clear to me now that there's a secret down in that basement that's woth killing for. Mr. Sacker stumbled onto that secret, and now lies dead. Now either intertionally or by accident, someone triggered that feedback surge to try and kill Cricket. Or at least, keep her out of the way." The little android chimed in at this point. "I know she's a very good friend Joe, but she said it herself. If she had her way, she'd melt the whole lot of us down, her exact words." Cricket knelt down and put her hands on Tam's. "Joe please, I need to know. Is it at all possible.....that she would try and get me out of the way?" He wanted to stand right up and shout 'no'! But he also knew he deep her hatred could run. "I......really don't think she would Cricket. Please believe me." Cricket smiled. "Ok Joe. And thank you."
At this point, Harry decided to play the other hand he had been holding onto. "One more thing Joe. Speaking of artifacts, what do you make of this?" Harry took the little jade dragon from his coat pocket. Joe turned pale when he saw it. "Where........where did you get that?", he asked. "It was delivered to our hotel room last night, along with a rather ominous note." Harry could see the near fear in young Mr. Tam's face. "I take it you know what it is." Joe did his best to pull himself together. "Yes. It is the smallest of five jade dragons that belonged to Kiwan Shang. It is said that by themselves, the dragons mean nothing. But when bound together, those five dragons can call forth an unstopple evil force, and an army of the dead." "The supernaturial properites Dr. Benwolf was talking about", Harry guessed.
Joe continued his story. "Dr. Benwolf called Shang 'a brutal fellow'. You have no idea. Kiwan Shang was a general in Emperor Suko's army. But Shang lusted after power of his own, challanging the Emperor himself for the throne. He was cast out of Suko's kingdom, but emassed an army of thieves and killers, and soldiers who also fell out of Suko's favor. They raided village after village, killing everyone in their path. No one was spared. Even the women, after they were raped died slow horrible deaths. It was said that to add to his power, Shang consulted the dark arts of witchcraft. He wanted to be immortal, to eventually rule forever. He was guided to make five jade dragons, each one larger than the last. But just as the last dragon was forged, Suko himself rode in to face Shang one last time. The battle was long and much blood was spilled on both sides. Finally, both Suko and Shang battled to a cliff, and there they both fell, but not before Kiwan Shang vowed to return one day. Just before falling from the cliff he said, 'When the dragons are finally united, my power will return and my destiny will be fullfilled.' The dragons shound have been destroyed there and then, but instead were buried in a cave deep in the mountains of China, where Shang had called home. 20 years ago, those same five dragons were un-earthed by an expidition funded by this museum. You hold the smallest in your hand, Mr. Lang. The two largest now sit in the gallery itself. We don't know the whereabouts of the remaining two."
Harry felt like he was back in summer camp with this seemingly tall tale. Cricket took it all in with wonder and facination, and then without skipping a beat, got her logicial mind working. "Joe, were all the dragons ment to be part of the museum collection?" He though a moment. "Come to think of it, no. Just the two largest ones. If I remember right, the other three were kept as keepsakes by the expidition members." That statement sparked a light in Harry. "Any chance Geffory Sackler and Roland Spencer were part of that trip to China 20 years ago?" A soft-spoken voice gave the answer. "Indeed they were Mr. Lang." Professor Peng had returned to his office to find it still occupied. "Mrs. Lang, it is most agreeable to see you up and about. I do hope you are recovered from your nasty headache." Cricket smiled, "Oh yes, thank you Professor. I'm all right now." Harry was still very much in detective mode. "And now, Professor, let's see if i'm painting this picture right. 20 years ago, Geffory Sackler, Roland Spencer and....." Peng took his cue and filled in the blank, "One Mr. Louis Smithers, no longer with the museum, but very much alive at last report." "Well, what do you know...a third S. Ok", Harry continued, "These three men go digging to China and bring back five jade dragons. Two are here in the museum, two are missing, and two men are dead." "And then there is the fifth dragon which you posses", Peng added "And if you don't mind, I'm going to continue to posses it until we get to the bottom of this mystery." "As you wish."
Harry continued, "Now, before their untimely deaths, where did Mr. Sackler and Mr. Spencer keep their dragons?" "Mr. Spencer kept his at his private residance. I undrstand it had been recently vandelized", Peng answered. Harry just shook his head, "Imagine that." "And I believe Mr. Sackler pawned his off to settle some unpaid debts", Peng stated. "And how long ago was this?", Harry asked. "I believe it was one month before his death", Peng replied. "Pawn shop, huh? Well, I think we can track at least one missing jade dragon for you." "I would be most greatful." "Let's go Cricket, we've got work to do."
The next day, Harry and Cricket borrowed a van Joe used sometimes for museum deliveries. Cricket needed the room to change into her 'undercover' outfit. And she had been changing for nearly 20 minutes now. Harry knocked on the van door. "Cricket", he called out, "You about done in there?" "I'm coming", was the sweet, but muffled reply. "Yeah, and so is the year 3000, will ya hurry up already?" The van doors swung open. "Some things you just can't rush Harry", Cricket said as she came out. What she came out dressed in made Harry laugh out loud. It was a rather dark blue floral dress that stopped just above her knees, a pink feather boa, sunglasses, cherry red beret, and solid white go go boots. "What?", was Cricket's response to Harry's laughter. "You said wear something I would never be recognized in." "Yeah, well...", Harry couldn't stop chuckling. Cricket stuck out her tounge at him. "Critic." Harry tried to get serious. "Ok, look. I followed up the pawn shop angle, and my contact here tells me the shop across the street does indeed have a medium-size jade dragon. So go in, see if it's really there, and who's holding it." "You think Professor Peng knows more than he's telling us Harry?", Cricket asked. "I think they're all holding back something sweetheart. So see what you can find out here." "Right, Harry"
Cricket made her way across the street and into the pawn shop called 'The Pink Parrot.' The woman at the counter, a mature looking brunette, took notice of the rather oddly dressed girl who just entered. "Can I help you miss?", she asked. Cricket then stopped being Cricket and began her playacting. She lowered her sunglasses to the woman behind the counter, and then spoke with a blue-blood attitude. "Oh, no no no darling!! It's I who can help you!!", she pointed right at her. "St. Claire's the name, Ashley St. Claire." Cricket looked at the woman like 'you should know me'. "Of the South Hampton St. Claire's." The woman behind the counter seemed unimpressed. Cricket moved on, doing her best to distract while scanning for the dragon. "Darling, I am throwing this mad, wicked party, everyone who's anyone will be there of course, and I just had to stop into your quaint little bou-tique for decorations, comversation pieces and such (gasp) whereever did you find that??" She pointed right to the jade dragon. "Well, ah-", the clerk started to say. Cricket just went on, "Oh I must have it. It will be THE talk of my party. Missy Millers will just choke on her own jelousy. How much?" "I'm afraid it's not for sale, miss", was the answer. "Ashley" was beside herself. "NOT for sale??? Oh come come, money is no object for a St. Claire. Now how much??" "I'm sorry, but just can't sell it to you." She was polite but growing more suspicus by the moment. "Ashley" continued her rant.
"Now, see here miss....??" "Miranda. Miranda Jenkins" Bingo. Having got what she needed, Cricket worked to make a fast exit. "Well Miss Miranda Jenkins. If I can't have what I want, I will say good day to you and take my business elsewhere! Hummph!!" And with that she quickly stormmed out. As she left, a rather large, gruff-looking man entered from a back room. "What was that all about?", he asked. "I'm not sure", Miranda replied. "She was asking about the dragon." "The dragon?" "Yes, that dragon", Miranda said as she pointed to it. "The one YOU were supposed to keep out of sight." "So, now what?" "I want it out of here. Our friend, Mr. Shang is just going to have to get it a few days early. Now get moving", she barked. She suddenly stopped him. "Wait. You spend enough time in South Hampton. The name Ashley St. Claire mean anything??" "No, I don't believe I 've come across that name. Sha'll I take care of her as well?" "No", Miranda snapped. "You deliever the dragon, I'll take care of........Ms.........St Claire myself!"
Next: Spinning Buzzsaw of Death
Cricket....make that Ashley St. Claire, quickly made her way out of The Pink Parrot, dashed around the corner, and down the street where Harry had been waiting in the borrowed van. "It's there all right", she said as she climbed in. "The woman running the shop called herself Miranda Jenkins. When I offered to buy the dragon, she refused." "Was there a price tag on it?", Harry asked. "Nope", Cricket replied. "I got a real good look at it too. It was just sitting on a shelf in plan view behind some small chairs. No price tag, and not even a 'Sold' one." Harry just sat there looking stumped. "A pawn shop that won't sell merchendise." "Maybe Mr. Sackler was planning to buy it back.", Cricket said. "Then why have it out in the open like that?", Harry wondered. Cricket answerd with a question of her own. "And if these five dragons were all dug up 20 years, why did all the trouble srart over them just three months ago?" Suddenly, the little android spotted something that triggered another question, "And if that dragon wasn't for sale, why is that man coming down the street with it??"
Cricket pointed to the man who came from the back of The Pink Parrott just seconds after "Ashley" had stomped out. He was trying to keep it covered, and was doing a rather poor job of it. His arms could be seen full of jade green. He put the dragon into the back of a rather beat-up old style whhite sedan, got in himself, and quickly drove away. Harry wasted no time in pursuit. Cricket looked around as Harry drove. The sights seemed just a little too familiar. "Harry, we're still following this guy right?", Cricket asked, looking ahead to make sure herself. "Yeah, I still have him in sight, why?" "Because we're headed right back to the British Museum!" "We're what??" Harry took his focus off the sedan and saw she was right. They had headed right back to the museum front and followed the sedan arond to the back delivery area. "This is crazy", Cricket said. "We're right back where we started."
The pair watched the man rather aloofly carry the half-covered dragon to an unmarked steel door. He rapped hard three times, and the door seemed to open by itself. The man with the dragon dashed in. Harry and Cricket waited a moment then approached the door themselves. Harry tried to open it. "Seems like its bolted. There has to be another way in", Harry said, looking around. "Harry, we know the dragon is here in the museum now", Cricket said. "Why don't we just go to Dr. Benwolf and Professor Peng; tell them where to look now?" Harry thought about it for a moment, then notice a partly opened window. "Hey, come here, I'll give you a boost up and you can climb in and open the door from inside". Cricket sighed. He likes this cloak and dagger stuff a little too much sometimes, she thought. "Yes Harry", she said flatly, walking over.
Harry ben down, while Cricket put one foot into his hand and braced her hands onto his sholders. Harry then lifted his robotic partner up, and she jumped, taking hold of the window ledge, and carefully, making her way inside. A moment later, the steel door creaked open, and Harry went in.
They were inside the museum basement again, but in a section where they hadn't been before. They crept closer to voices they could her, while keeping out of sight. They spotted the man they had been following. He seemed to be looking up, taking to a harsh sounding disembodied voice. "You were told to leave the dragon where it was!!! They must not be together until the proper momemt!! Why do you bring it to me now???" The man stumbled for a reply to the angry voice. "Well.....you see....too many people....kept coming to the shop asking..." "And I told you I alone would handle any interlopers", the voice roared back. "Well, no matter, it will remain secluded here for now!"
Cricket started to whisper to Harry, "I wonder what that voice means by the proper mome-- Harry??" She looked over to see her partner out cold on the floor. And next to him stood a grinning Miranda Jenkins. "Do you know what the best thing about working in a pawn shop is Ms. St. Claire??" Cricket was stunned. What was she doing here?? What just happened to Harry?? The little robot just shook her head no in reply to the question. "You learn to separate the girls.....", she held up what looked like a remote control. ".......from the fembots." Suddenly, Cricket's world went dark.
When she 'awoke', Cricket felt a little light-headed. She looked over and saw Harry, awake but chained up to......what ever this was. It lookd to be about 10 feet tall and fifty feet wide by her estimation. As Cricket get her bearings again, she realized she was chained against it also. "You ok kid?", Harry asked. "Yeah, but.....Harry what is all ths?" They both got their answer when that same disembodied voice spoke...only this time a body came with it.
"Welcome to what some call the China Gallery". It was The Warlord. Or at least someone walking around in that suit of armor. "I am Kiwan Shang. The soon to be ruler of your pitiful world!" Harry didn't seem impressed. "And I am King Louie of France." "Interesting choice of words, Mr. Lang, considering the fate in store for you", The Warlord said. Harry thought since they were face to face with the villain of their adventure, they might as well find out what hideous plot The Warlord had in mind to "rule the world" "Now look, what's this all about? Why five dragons?" "Since you are both about to die, I shall tell you." Harry loved it when the bad guys folowed the script. "Keep looking Cricket, there has to be a way out of this", Harry quickly wispered. Cricket nodded, and did her best to comply, but something was wrong. She had a hard time concentrating. She was still feeling light-headed. What was happening?
The Warlord began. "All five dragons are in reality, part of one. Sato, the Demon Dragon. However, Sato can only be called forth when the Red Moon is at it's fullest. And that time is very close at hand. Once Sato is made whole again, he shall bring my armies forth from beyond. And I, Kiwan Shang shall make the world finally bow before me!!" Shang raised his arms as if he already had achived victory. "It is a shame, neither of you will be around to see any of it." "Yeah, that's what you think pal. Power up Cricket, and break these things. We'll fight our way out." "I...I can't Harry. I.....I can't seem to do anything. I feel so.....weak." The Warlord laughed. "Perhaps this loadstone your chained to has something to do with it. I understand magnets have rather negitive effects on electonic..........devices." He said that last word with a sneer in his voice. Cricket got as angry as she was able. Harry was even more angry. "Who the hell are you???" The Warlord knew Harry wanted to know the man's true identity. "I am........the wisest of them all." he answered with a chuckle. "And now to your demise!"
"First, the robot." The warlord pulled a lever, and part of the gallery roof retracted. Out came a rather large buzzsaw, spinning on a vertical plane. It was headed right for the little fembot. "You shall watch your beloved be split down the middle and destroyed beyond repair!", The Warlord shouted to Harry. "Then the vibrations caused by the saw onto the stone will trigger this blade above you to come down instantly and decapitate you!! I leave you both to your doom!!! HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAAHAHAHA!!!!"
And with that, The Warlord made his exit, leaving a weakned Cricket, and a powerless Harry to face a large shap spinning blade that was coming closer, and closer.........and closer!!!
HOLY SPLIT ENDS!!!
ARE HARRY AND CRICKET ABOUT TO COME TO A PARTING OF THE WAYS????
OR CAN THEY GET IT TOGETHER AND STOP THIS MADMAN???
THE ANSWER LIES IN CHAPTER EIGHT
SAME CRICKET TIME
SAME CRICKET CHANNEL
BE SURE TO DROP IN BEFORE THAT BLADE DROPS ON HARRY!!!!
(Sorry, I just couldn't resist) Next: Miss Cricket's Wild Ride
When we last left our intrepid heroes, they found themsevls trapped after hours in the China Gallery of the British Museum, chained to a very large loadstone, a magnet, if you will. Trapped there by someone claiming to be a 13th century warlord named Kiwan Shang. And now...
The large steel buzzsaw hanging from the gallery ceiling was making it's way toward Cricket at a slow, unerving pace. Weakened as she was by the effect the magnet was having on her, the little robot was able to estimate she had a full two minutes before the blades would begin to tear into her synthetic skin. As far as Harry was concerned, those two minutes were ticking by very fast. "Blast it all, there has to be a way out of this!", he exclaimed, pulling at his bonds. He looked over at his partner. Her eyes were opening and closing. "Cricket, come on honey, don't give up on me now." "I....I'm sorry Harry........Trying.........think of....." Her voice trailed off, and she felt her mind doing the same. Suddenly, she saw somethimg that snapped her right out of it. "Harry......look down there", she said. Harry looked down at the floor by Cricket's feet and saw a large pink object. "Is that...", he started to ask. "Yes, Harry. It's my backpack! And look how it's moving." The backpack seemed to have a life of its own and the middle zipper was sticking right up in the air, shaking.
Cricket realized what was happening. "Of course, my body. This thing we're chained to has magnitized me. And that just might save us!" "How?", Harry asked. Cricket gave the answer by sticking her left hand out as far as she was able to. "If Cricket can't get to her backpack...." Harry couldn't believe what he was seeing. It was rising right off the floor. Cricket found herself with a sudden surge of new energy at the prospect of getting out of this trap. She pushed her hand out and down as mich as she could. "That's it......come on......come to mama!!! Guided by the zipper, the backpack few up right into Cricket's hand.....rather hard. She responded to the sudden feeling of pain in her hand with a simple, "Ow".
She managed to move her hand up to grip the non-metal leather holder. "The laser pen should be in there.", she said as Harry struggled to get the pack open and dig through the pouch. And he pulled out.....a notebook, some bubble gum, pink socks, sunglasses, a candy bar, and a golden nightingale. "How much stuuf do you keep in here??" Harry cried. "Hey, you're the one always telling me never throw anything away", she replied. Harry was about to agure the point when he felt a breeze caused by the buzzsaw that was coming very close now. He franticly dug through as best he could in the shakles. And finaaly sucess! He started to aim the pen at Cricket but she stopped him. "No, no you first!! You have to pull me off here. Hurry!!"
Harry quickly used the small laser beam within the pen to shap off his chains, and then Cricket's. And not a moment too soon. As Harry scooped his girl up into his arms and began to make tracks, the saw hit the loadstone, scraping and sparking against it, bringing down the blade that was to have be-headed Harry. The blade stopped spinning and it looked as if the two were free and out the door. But a cry could be heard off in the distance. That cry belonged to Cricket, and got louder as she ran...or was she being dragged back. Harry was right behind, trying to pull her away to no avail. They managed to avoid the blades buit now found themselves pressing up against the loadstone.
"You have the number of that doctor Betty gave us? In case something happened....You know....like this??"
"Where's my stuff?"
"All that stuff from the backpack?"
"I think it's still on the floor over there."
"There's a lot of metal down there, right?"
"You might want to move."
Next: Chapter 9
As much as Harry hated to do it, he deactivated Cricket so she easily slid off the loadstone that had her trapped. Then he made a very late night emergency call to a Dr. Charles Browning. The doctor was seemed annoyned at first with someone ringing his personal number in the middle of the night, but his manner changed once Harry dropped the name of one Betty Stevens. He gave Lang directions to his office and told him to bring little Cricket in right away. That was an hour ago.
Now, the young android lay lifeless in what looked to be some sort of de-compression chamber. The sealed room was lit with a red light, and Cricket was floating in the center of the room. Her arms were at her side, her long blonde hair lay flat and stiff, looking like a golden stalk of corn. The light reflected off the synthetic skin of her totally nude body. Every now and then, a toe, or a finger, or some part of her face would twitch, but other than that, she seemed to be in a deep peaceful slumber. Perhaps she was, Harry thought. Or maybe she wouldn't notice the passage of time at all.
Harry just stared through the small single window of the room where his beloved lay. He didn't notice he was alone in the lab outside. He was fixed on Cricket until Dr. Browning enterd and spoke, breaking Harry's concentration on her. "Your very lucky Mr. Lang", the doctor said. "Another few moments exposed to that very large magnet, and her main CPU and memory would surely have been comprimised."
Harry turned to look at the man speaking. Dr. Charles Browning was a tall, handsome black-haired man. Harry thought he looked like that secret agent in those old spy movies he saw as a kid. He certainly sounded lime him with that Welsh accent, Harry thought.
"She'll be ok though, right Doc?" Harry asked with genuine worry in his voice. "Oh yes Mr. Lang", the doctor assured him. "A droid like her, getting magnatized, I get them every now and then. This chamber reverses the effects without doing damage to her main processers or erasing any part of her memory. It was quite the breakthough five years back", he said as he looked in on his patinet. "It's just too bad more techs don't take advantage of things like this", he added.
"They don't ?", Harry asked.
"No", Browning said with a sigh. "Something like this happens, most bot techs would just wipe her clean, personality, memory and all. Damn crime if you ask me."
"Well, I guess that's why Betty insisted on me calling you while we were here."
"Ah yes, Betty", Browning said with a warm smile. Seems that woman gets around, Harry thought.
"Look, Doc, I don't want to seem like I'm rushing things, but is she gonna be much longer in there?" Harry asked.
"Well, it will be at least an hour before I can remove her from the chamber, and then she'll need a full 4-hour charge before she can leave. I do have something of a soft bed in the next room if you need..."
Harry inturrupted him, "Yeah, it's tempting, but I have to do something that won't wait till morning." Harry leaned over a desk and began writing on a pad that was nearby. "Now, when she wakes up, you give Cricket this and tell her to leave when she's ready. That ok with you Doc?" Harry said as folded the note and handed it to him. Browning put the note unread into his lab coat pocket. "Of course Mr. Lang. And don't worry. Mrs. Lang will be as good as new when you see her again."
Harry hated to leave Cricket like this. But for whatever reason, he felt like he could trust Dr. Browning without question. And something had been sticking into his gut ever since he left the meseum.
It was almost 4am when Harry arrived back at the British Museum. Oddly enough, the night security told him to go right to the China Gallery and that Dr. Benwolf was expecting him. "Of course he is", Harry said with a sly smile.
When Harry got to the China Gallery, it was quite a mess. The blades were still stuck into the loadstone that he and Cricket were chained to some hours before. Dr. Benwolf was there, looking over the damage when Harry walked. "Mr. Lang! Will you be good enough to explain all this....this.....kaos???", Benwolf said with much anger in his voice. Harry seemed unfazed. "Well, Nigel, I was actually hoping you would do the explaning." "I beg your pardon???", Benwolf asked, looking rather stunned.
"You see Nigel, old boy, this whole thing, the big magnet, these sharp blades. It was all a trap. A Cricket trap. And the one in charge of the trap knew who we were, and most importtantly, who and what she was."
Harry leaned in to Benwolf at this point, grabbing him by the arm. His voice got more intense. "Now, outside of you, your assistant, and Inspector Hargrove, not too many people know we're here in London. And very few people are aware of my wife's.......true nature. As a matter of fact, EVERYTHING that's happened to us today smacks of a wild goose chase and a set up. Now what's going on???!!!"
Benwolf was sweating and shaking at this point, like a kid who just got his hand caught in the cookie jar. "Ss-setup....I-I-I haven't the fainest idea what you mean." Harry just looed at him. "Why don't I believe you?"
Just as Bewolf was about to answer, an all too familiar laugh filled the room. "Benwolf, you fool! You are becoming worthless to me! I'm am beginning to regret sparing your life!!" Benwolf was shaking so bad, Harry could feel it. "P-P-Please Master. I beg you...."
"Master???", Harry exclaimed. "You son of a bitch, you are in this. Why us?? Why Cricket??" Harry was ready to choke the answers out of Benwolf when the man calling himself Kiwan Shang made himself visable, fully outfited.
"Nigel Benwolf serves me. As now shall you Harry Lang!!"
Harry suddenly found himself locking eyes with The Warlord. He fought at first, but everything around him soon began to swril. And the dectective found himself entering what would become an overwelming nightmare.
Next: More of Chapter 9
It was just after 9am on Harry and Cricket's second full day in London. Cricket had "awakened" from her re-charge, and was getting dressed. She was just buttoning up her white blouse when she noticed she seemed to be alone in Dr. Browning's lab.
"Hello", Cricket called out. "Anyone here?"
The robot walked around looking, and making double sure she wasn't sticking to any metal, or that anything was suddenly flying into her hands. She saw an open door and peeked in, and spied who she thought had to be this Dr. Charles Browning fast asleep on a bed, still in his clothes. Cricket just smiled. The poor man must have been up all night looking after her, she deduced. She knew he couldn't hear her, but she wispered, "Thank you for fixing me" anyway. She crept out wondering where Harry had gotten to. She looked around the lab once more quietly calling his name out. Then she spied a note on the table. It was Harry's handwriting and had her name on it.
Gone back to the museum. Have a hunch Benwolf is somehow involved in these murders AND he arranged our little party with Shang....whoever he really is. Find Louis Smithers. He's the key to that little bundle of joy and speaking of which if you don't hear from me by 10am, something has bound to have gone wrong so get to the hotel and collect our green friend, then get to Scotland Yard and tell them everything......even if it's Hargrove you have to tell. Good luck to both of us.
I love you
Cricket looked at the note, making sure nothing else was written. "Nice touch....darling", she said outloud, referring to how the note was signed. "But I'm still mad at you, going off along like that." Still, she thought, that was Harry. Time waited for no hunch with that man. She looked at her watch. 09:10 it read. Enough time to play a hunch of my own, thought the little blond fembot.
She looked around and spotted a desk with a laptop. "I'm sure Dr. Browning won't mind me using this", she said as she turned it on. She sat down, taking a long thin cable from her purse. She had some difficulty, but managed to insert one end in a small port near the small of her back. Then she inserted the other end into the laptop. She blinked hard and a cute looking welcome screen appeared with the handwritten name CRICKET in bright pink letters; flowers, bunnies, and birds everywhere around it. A sickly sweet voice, much like Cricket's said, "Password please."
"Wodem" came the reply.
"Password accepted. Welcome back Cricket!", the voice said cheerfully.
The young droid smiled and got to work. "Access memory index 050520220923.45" On the screen was on image of what took place in the museum basement yesterday morning. All from Cricket's point of view through her eyes. "Begin", she stated and the scene came to life.
There was the crate being examined, Harry, then the crate again. Voices of Dr. Benwolf, Professor Peng, Harry, and Inspector Hargrove. Harry opened the crate, and there was the Warlord's suit, sans body. It was looked at up and down, then the dagger was spotted and picked up, and examined with microscopic view. The dagger was handed to the Inspector. The the laughter was heard and everyone looked around. Suddenly the screen went fuzzy, as if a old style tv set had gone 'on the blink'. "Freeze image", she said. It froze, a mass of lines and blurry images. Cricket tried typing in several letter and number cominations on the keyboard, not nothing could clear up the image very much. "Back .37" she said. The images started to play in reverse, looking pretty much the same as playing forward. It froze on the very last frame before Cricket got her "headache". "360 View", she commanded. Now she could use the mouse to zoom in on each person in the frame. She began with Inspector Hargrove.
Funny, Cricket thought. At the moment trouble began, the Inspector wasn't reaching for her stun pistol, but the device that had scanned Cricket.
"That little toy do more than identify robots Inspector?"
Next, she looked at Joe Tam.......he seemed to be holding something...near his chest. It looked to be some sort of necklace
The elder professor was next. He didn't seem to be looking around like the rest of them. His eyes seemed.....trance like. And something else.
"What have you got in that jacket pocket, Professor?"
Then, there was Nigel Benwolf. When she zoomed in on him, Cricket couldn't believe what she saw. He was reaching for the dagger the Inpector was holding, looking to take it like a little boy trying to swipe a cookie. Harry was right! She quickly looked for a disc to copy this image.
"Second drawer on the right", a voice said.
Cricket turned to look, somewhat limited with a cable stuck in her back. "What?" She saw Dr. Browing.
"I assume you want a disc for whatever your doing on my laptop." he said, opening the drawer, and retriving one for her.
Cricket smiled. "Oh yes. Gathering evidance. Hope you don't mind?" she asked rather nervously.
He just smiled letting her know it was all ok. "Not at all. Anything to further the cause of justice." Cricket smiled as she put the disc in, getting a copy of the image. Dr. Browing contined to play the perfect gentleman, helping her unhook, and making sure the evidance was secure in a dust cover. Cricket though for a second how hansome he was as he helped, but then remembered what she had to do.
"Thank you so much Dr.....for everything, really". She kissed him on the cheek before running off, but stopped suddenly, and what digging through her purse. "Here's our address, you can send the bill..."
The doctor put his hand up. "No need. It seems any expenses in repairing your I'm to bill to a certain Carl Throckhammer."
"Really?" Cricked replyed. "Wow, good old Throcky", she said grinning. She was dashing off again when Dr. Browning cleared his throat rather harshly. That made Cricket stop, turn and look. He held up the disc in his hand. "Oh......right" The robot was blushing bright red as she took it and placed it in her purse.
"Anything else I can do?", the doctor asked.
"No, you've been great, thanks....Oh wait.....There's a Louis Smithers, he used to be a big shot at the British Museum......Any idea where I can find him?"
Next: Dagger, dagger, who's got the dagger?
It was nealy 10am by the time Cricket arrived at the given address of Mr. Louis Smithers. It was located in the countryside outside of London. With the exception of a few security devices, time seemed to have stood still here as well. The house and yard looked like something out of an old-style picture postcard, Cricket thought. She pulled up to the house in the AutoCab she had taken, and verbally instructed to vehicle to wait for her.
Afer knocking on the door, and Cricket calling out "Mr. Smithers" more than a few times, the door finally cracked open, and a meek, sad little voice behind it asked, "What do you want?"
"Mr. Louis Smithers?"
After a long silence, the voice replied, "Yes, that's me."
"My name is Cricket Lang. My husband is Harry..."
"I know who you are. And I know why you've come. Sorry, Mrs. Lang, but I can't help you or your husband."
Cricket wasn't giving up that easy. "Please, Mr. Smithers. I know it was you who sent us the small jade dragon, but I don't know why. I only know that Harry's life.....and mine....Well, this is now become life or death for both of us and we need your help........Please."
After another unnerving period of silence, the door opened to reveal a small, frail-looking old man. He wasn't much taller than Cricket, and was rather plainly dressed. Very unusal for someone who's a retired director at a place like the British Museum, Cricket thought.
Cricket walked in and was amazed by what she saw. Shelves of little figures and statues. Animals and people of every sort. Lots of differnt clocks on the wall. Pictures as well. It looked as if Mr. Smithers had a private museum of his own. "This is a very nice place you have Mr. Smithers", Cricket said with a genuine smile. The old man smiled back, looking around rather proud of what he had. "Would you believe all this, everything here....things people just threw away. Junk nobody wanted. But I fixed it all up, and now look."
Cricket could relate to that. She was a "throw-away" herself once. And she's be junk now if not for Harry. And it was thinking of Harry that snapped Mrs. Lang out of her facination with the house she was in.
"Mr. Smithers, why did you give the jade dragon to Harry? And the note you sent with it? You knew Harry and I were brought here to investigate the deaths of the other directors and this....warlord?"
Smithers went to his library shelf as he answered. "Yes. I found it. I was sure your Harry would know what to do." The old man open what was a photo album to a page, and showed Cricket a picture labeled Sackler, Spencer, Smithers -- 2002. Cricket noticed something wrong with the picture right away. Sackler and Spencer looked like younger versions of men she had seen in the case file photos, but the younger version of Louis Smithers seemed a lot taller in the photo. She pointed it out to the old man beside him. "This.....isn't you?"
"No....it isn't. You see Mrs. Lang, I never went to China. Oh I was supposed to go, but I have an awful fear of flying, especally after what happend back in 01, you see, but the China delegation of the museum there were expecting three people." He pointed back to the names under the picture. "Us three.....nobody else. So a yank frind of mine, Rick Lang, offered to take my place. He passed himself off as me, accent and all, and the expidition went off without a hitch."
Cricket was taking all this in when that last named dropped had her really sit up and take notice. "Wait.....you said Rick Lang? Harry's father???"
More of part 10 next time
"Wait....you said Rick Lang? Harry's father??"
"Yes. He came back from China with the smallest dragon. 'Here ya go Smithy my lad.', he said. He told me it was a gift for letting him take care of....a few loose ends, I believe is what he told me, and that was it. That's why I sent it to your Harry. I thought for sure he would know all about it."
Cricket just sighed. "Harry told me he and his father were never really close. They've barely spoken to each other since he was 10. I doubt he would know much about his father going to China."
Smithers could feel his heart sink as he buried his head in his hands. "Ooooo......It looks like I've really made a mess of things."
Cricket put her hands on his arms to try and snap the old man out of any sort of depressive feelings. She was running out of time. "Mr. Smithers, please. Why all the secrecy? Couldn't you have met us either at the museum, or somewhere else. They said you had retired but...."
The old man scoffed at that last statement. "Retired??? Is that what they told you?? My dear girl, I was sacked!
"Sacked? You mean they fired you?"
"That's right. Just after poor Mr. Spencer met his end. Poor Ronald. He was such a decent sort. Never did harm to nobody." Smithers suddenly seemed to become slightly angry as he looked right at Cricket. "It all started after that Peng fellow showed up."
"The Professor in charge of the China Gallery"
"That's him. As soon as he sets in, he goes on and on about treasures and London needing much change and all sorts of other rubbish."
"Gee, he seems so......harmless. At least he did at first. There are just so many things I still don't understand."
Cricket went on to tell Smithers the events of the past two days. About the jade dragons, and Kiwan Shang and the trap he set for her and Harry. The old man pulled another book from his shelf. "This I'm told is a translation of the final battle between Shang and Emporer Suko." He opned to a certain as Cricket looked on. She started reading. "I have defeated the barbarian Shang but he has vowed to rise once more. To defeat him what once was done I must do again, even if it must be in the form of another."
Cricket thought a moment. "That's pretty cryptic, but still..... Is this the only copy of this book?"
"Oh no, the museum has one just like it. In that professor's office I believe."
The young robot girl was still trying to process all this 'new data' when her phone rang. She said 'excuse me' and quickly answered it. "Hello?.....Harry!!! Where are you?? I got your note and it's after 10 now and...."
The voice on the other end cut her off. "Everything's all right darling. I'm at the museum with our good friend Dr. Benwolf. And I already got the little dragon from the safe in our room."
Cricket's built-in 'trouble detector' was buzzing in her head. This was indeed Harry, but his voice sounded....rather cold, and distant. In fact, Cricket thought, he sounded more like a robot than she did.
"Harry, are you sure your all right? Your voice sounds kinda funny."
"Of couse. Everything is just fine. I got the little dragon fron the safe in our room. It was right next to the crocodille clock. Now you get into that cab and right back here to the museum, understand?"
"Ummmmm...sure Harry. Whatever you say, honey."
"That's my good little pixie. See you soon." And with that he hung up.
Cricket was just dumbfounded. "Crocodille clock???........Little pixie???? He's never called me that. And how did he know I took a cab?" Suddenly, Cricket made the connection. "He must be in real trouble! Mr. Smithers, I have to get back to the museum. And I need your help."
"I'll do whatever I can. Lord knows I part responsbile for all this."
Cricket got into her purse and took out a notebook and starting writing as she spoke to the old man, "I'm pretty sure I know who killed both Mr. Spencer and Mr. Sackler. And who's behind all this "Warlord" nonsense. I need you to take this to Scotland Yard and anyone there who will listen." She finshed writing and handed the page to him. The old man smiled and nodded.
As Cricket headed out, she saw the AutoCab still waiting, but it seemed different somehow. As she was abolut to get in, she noticed a cycle and an all too familliar redhead riding and coming up fast. It was Inspector Hargrove.
Next: The Warlord revealed (maybe)
Inspector Hargrove pulled up behind the AutoCab Cricket was about to get in. She got off her bike with a confident smirk on her face.
"Well, what have we here? A little plaything out wandering all by itself", she said in a rather nasty tone.
Cricket stopped cold and took a simple breath. For her, it was a hurtful comment, especially being called "it", but she quickly decided a confrontation now would be unproductive. So, she turned to the red-headed policewoman and smiled.
"Oh, Good Morning Inspector. I'm on an errand for my husband. Do you need to see my papers?" Her tone was firm, polite, and had no hint of mallice in it. She looked as if she was very happy to see the woman who had just insulted her. That seemed to really tick Hargrove off.
"An errand for your husband", she said, her tone getting more nastier. "Well, fancy that, he's juat the man I was on my way to see. I don't suppose he's recovored that missing dagger yet, hmm?"
"No, but....", Cricket started to explain what she discovered, but thought it might be better in this case for Harry to take the bow. "......he does have a prime suspect."
"And whom might that be?"
Cricket took a deep breath. Here it comes, she thought.
"Dr. Nigel Benwolf", she said matter-of-factly. The Inspector just laughed in the little robot's face at this. "You expect me to believe a well respected man like Dr. Benwolf stole from his own museum?" Cricket responded to the question by producing the disc from her purse.
"What's this?", the Inspector asked.
"A memory disc", Cricket replied. "From my memory", she said pointing to her head. "It shows Dr. Benwolf trying to snatch the dagger from your hand just as the lights went out in the museum basement yesterday."
"Wait a minute, isn't that when you malfunctioned?"
"Yes it was, but that disc has a clear shot of Dr. Benwolf just before my....malfunction." Cricket knew she had to end this little standoff between them fast. "Look Inspector, Harry is back at the museum right now and I know he's in trouble. You come with me and everything will be cleared up. If it isn't when we get there, you can shut me down, melt me down, and.......hang my head on your wall or something. What do you say?" The smile had gone from Cricket's face. She was becoming desperate, as she know time for Harry was running out.
"All right, let's go then", Hargrove replied, the smirk back on her face. "Your head should look very nice over my fireplace", she remarked as they sat in the rear of the cab.
Destination Please, a polite male voice asked from the cab speaker. Words on a view screen matched the voice.
"British Museum", Cricket said. She sat back into the seat again. "And when we get there Inspector, I'll be happy to buy you a crow sandwich at the cafe." The red-head was about to fire back, when a different voice came from the cab speaker. It was a deep, throaty one that Cricket had come to know well.
I am afraid your trip to the museum will take a short unpleasant detour....to your doom!
Suddenly, the face of the Warlord appeared on the view screen. The doors locked and the AutoCab took to the air.
We meet again Mrs. Lang. And the delightful Inspector Hargrove. Yes I know who you are. I shall now have the pleasure of eliminating two more who stand in my way.
Hargrove had no idea what to make of any of this. "What's this all about? I'll have you know I'm with Scotland Yard, and if you think you get get away with..." She suddenly turned to Cricket. "This some trick of yours, robot?"
"Hey, sexbot's honor. I have nothing to do with this. It's all his show", she exclaimed, pointing to the Warlord.
Quite true. I, Kiwan Shang now control this vehicle and your fates. But take comfort Mrs. Lang. You shall soon join your beloved husband very soon.
Cricket lept to the screen at this, her eyes literally lighting red. "Where's Harry?? What have you done with him???" Her voice was no longer sweet, but full of anger. Shang just laughed at the fembot. Cricket got control of herself and smiled back.
"I know who you are. Behind that mask and phoney voice."
"Yeah, Phoney. The whole 'Frankenstein monster-Darth Varder' routine? I mean, come on. Who talks like that? YeaH, I know who you are Mr. Kiwan Shang. Or should I say....WHOA!!!!
Cricket was suddenly knocked into the back as the cab thrusted forward at a very high speed. Then it shot straight upward, and did loop after loop. The little blonde robot and Hargrove tumbled about in the back seat.
"What's happening???" the Inspector cried.
"He must be using some sort of remote to control the cab!!!", Cricket cried back. That's when the little light went off her her head. "Wowie Zowie!!! Of course....remote......that's how he's done everything!!!!"
"What are you babbling about???"
"If we get out of this alive Inspector, I'll let you know!!!"
Laughter from the speaker filled the cab as it suddenly plunged downward with the intention of shatterting on the ground!
Next: The Answer to Everything
The AutoCab was in a nose dive straight downward when it suddeny pulled up and more laughter came from the speaker in front.
"This son of a bitch is toying with us", Inspector Hargrove said angerly.
That's ok, let him", Cricket replied in a rather low wisper. "I found our way out." The little blonde fembot had spied a mini-fridge with little cans of soda and juices. It was the soda she was interested in. She looked to see how much they were.
"Five Pounds??? For those tiny things???" She turned to Hargrove as they were still being bounced about by the Warlord. "Hey Inspector, could you lend me a five-pound note? I want to get a soda."
"Have you gone mad??? We're about to die and YOU want to drink soda???"
Cricket just looked at her. "Do you want to get out of here in one piece or not?" The Inspector just shook her head. She wasn't sure why but she unzipped a pocket on her right arm and pulled out the bill, giving it to the little robot. "I hope you know what your doing.", she said with a sigh.
"Thank you", she said smiling, quickly putting the money into the slot and getting a can. The Warlord suddenly noticed what has happening from the cab's camera and became puzzled.
What are you doing???
Cricket looked into that camera and smiled, shaking the can as she spoke. "It's sody pop", she said grinning. That grin started to fade with her next statement. "Wanna see it fizz??" Shang's eyes got wide as he became aware of what the little fembot was up to. Cricket smiled as she ripped open the top and threw the can like a grenade onto the floor of the cab right on top of what Cricket knew had the be the remote device Shang was using to manuaver the cab from wherever he was. Cricket lept in the back telling Hargrove to get down onto the floor. The can's contents of course exploded, spilling all over the little black box, shorting it out. The screen suddenly went black and Shang's voice could no longer be heard. This however created a new problem; The AutoCab was now tottally out of control and free-falling fast! Cricket scrambled up to the front once more and grabbed hold of the manual controls. The Inspector was being a panicky back seat driver.
"Right....Left......Pull up......UP!.......Look out!!! We're heading right into bloody Buckingham Palace!!!"
She was right. They were headed right for it. Cricket used all her strength to pull up as they both screamed. Cricket managed to make a very bumpy landing on the Palace roof. The landing sent Hargrove slamming against the door. As the cab powered down , Cricket looked back to see the Inspector stirring, but something was wrong. Her right hand was shaking badly.
"Inspector, are you allright??"
Hargrove hid the hand away. "I'm.....I'm fine. It's nothing!", she said rather defensively.
"Let me see your hand." Hargrove kept shaking her head no, but Cricket was persistent, taking the Inspector's shaking hand into hers. She noticed the glove has becomed stained, and when she pulled it off, she gasped. The skin was tearing away, and underneath, wires were sparking and fluid was leaking! At first, Cricket thought perhaps she was a fembot like her after all, but then realized only her right hand was synthetic.
"Here, I can fix this.", Cricket said gently, as she pulled the emergency tool kit out of her purse. As she repaired the hand, Cricket marvled at how real it looked, much like her own 'skin' "Can I ask what happned?", she said looking up. The Inspector scowled but answered.
"It was my first year with The Yard. Their was trouble at a hotel with a bot butler jumping and twitching all ovr the place. Suddenly the bloddy thing's mouth ripped opend and his mouth just leaked.....some sort of acid." The Inspector suddenly pulled her hand away and shouted at Cricket.
"It burned the flesh off my hand and this is the result!!! That thing made me into this........freak!!!!"
Cricket looked right at her and spoke in a soft, comforting tone. "I'm sorry that happened to you Inspector. And I'm sorry you don't like me very much because of it. But you're alive. And this....", she picked up Hargrove's hand. ".....this is not your enemy. It doesn't make you a freak." Cricket put her hand to the Inspector's heart. "This is what makes you who you are. And in spite of all your bitterness, and supossed hatred, you're a good person Inspector Camilla Hargrove. But, if you still think I'm a threat......" Cricket then did something that really shocked the Inspector. She lifted up her blouse, pressed on her stomach and pointed to her inner workings as her panel opened.
"These three wires are fused to my main battery. Pull them out and I will cease to function forever. Now........you can do that.......Or you can let me finishing repairing your hand, and we'll get out of here. What's it going to be??"
Hargrove was stunned. No robot she encountred had ever acted this way. And she was smart too, getting them out of the Warlord's little 'joyride'. What was even more stunning was the fact she was beginning to like this robot. The Inspector smiled and put her damaged hand out.
"If your finished being a bloody martyer, fix my hand, and let's go save your husband......Mrs. Lang."
Cricket finished the repair job on Hargrove's hand, and the two of them rushed back to the British Museum....only to find the main doors locked and the closed sign out. The Inspector had a puzzled look on her face.
"Closed??.....In the middle of a Friday??"
"There has in be another way in", Cricket said. "Why don't we check...."
Suddenly, another voice got their attention. "Camilla....ah, I mean Inspector." It was Joe Tam. The Inspector just waved her hand. "I's all right, Joe. What's going on? What's the Museum doing closed this time of day?"
"You've got me", he answered. "I've been trying to call Dr. Benwolf and the Professor all day. There's no answer on any of their numbers."
"Well, do you have keys to any of the doors?", Cricket asked. Joe thought a moment. Then he pulled out his key chain. "One of these should open the service door in back." "Well, let's go", Cricket said.
The trio went around to the back and into the museum. It was deathly quiet and darkened. Cricket had Joe show them the way to Dr. Benwolf's office. When they got there, his door was wide open. Hargrove saw the grisly sight first. Then Joe, and finally Cricket.
"Well....I guess we know what happened to that dagger", the little robot said with a gulp. Indeed they did know. It was plunged into the back of the museum director. He was face down on the desk, his head turned to the side, eyes wide open. The blood was trickling down and onto the floor. Dr. Nigel Benwolf was dead.
The three of them examined the scene of this fresh murder. "It looks like this just happend.", Hargrove said, checking the dead man's body. Cricket felt an eerie chill in the air. "Yes...and that means....." That when that sick evil laugh filled the room. The Warlord stepped into the doorway. He pointed right at Cricket.
"You have become a most worthy advisary, little one. Twice, you have escaped my deadly grip. But the game ends here. You and your friends shall die!" He drew a long sword. "But which one first?? Too bad you shall never know until it is too late!" And with that, he vanished.
"Cor!", the Inspector cried. "He's a bloody ghost!" Cricket just smiled.
"I don't think so." The robot looked around as if she was trying to find the villian. "Your wrong Mr. Shang. This game isn't over....in fact.....it's not even......halftime!" On that last word, the fembot raised her right foot placing a superkick in thin air. But that air grunted, and the fall wall suddenly crashed into itself. That long sword was visable flying in the air. Cricket grabbed it and broke it over her knee. She looked at the wall and wagged her finger. "Naughty naughty. Little boys shouldn't play with pointy things." Then another louder grunt was heard and Cricket sidestepped. The other wall of Benwolf's office crashed into itself. Camilla and Joe just looked in stunned amazement at this strange fight. Cricket marched to the newly crashed wall. "Peek-a-boo", she said with a confident smile, looking down. "That's right. I can see you!" Just then, her head craned up as if her neck was being grabbed. Cricket's airway was a bit cut off, but she could still speak. "Oops....I forgot, he can see me too." And then, the android found herself airborne, summersalting into the hallway, and crashing onto the floor. The Warlord himself became visable again.
"So, little one, the game does continue. Very well. It shall end tonight then. Deliver the real fifth dragon to me or Harry Lang dies!!!" He was suruonded by smoke and then gone for good this time. Camilla and Joe helped Cricket off the floor. She let them know she was alright.
"What was he tallking about.....real fifth dragon?", the Inspector asked.
Cricket just stared where the Warlord had been standing. "Get some of your people to take care of Benwolf's body. I'll explain everything on the way to Windsor Arms." Her voice was rather flat. She know Harry was still alive, he had to be! One thing was for sure; the fight of her young life was yet to come.
The rest is less than 24 hours away.......Sexbot's honor
Hargrove called in the murder of Dr. Benwolf, then went with Cricket and Joe in his delivery van to the Windsor Arms Hotel. On the way, Cricket told them both everything that happened since yesterday; the pawn shop, the trap in the China Gallery, her visit to Louis Smithers, and the strange phone call from Harry.
"Joe, do you know anything about Mr. Smithers...retirement?", Cricket asked.
"Well, there was a rumor going around he was fired for stealing several items from the Industry wing, but the directors flatly denied it."
"And now three of those directors are dead", Cricket said. As she was talking to Joe, she noticed the penndant he was wearing around his next, and asked him about it.
"What, this? It's my life-long good luck charm. My great-grandfather gave it to me when I was about 7. He was on a visit from China. I remember him telling me it was a symbol of protection for the Suko dynasty."
"Emporer Suko? Our Mr. Shang's mortal enemy?", Cricket asked.
"Yeah. He's suposed to be part of the family 'bloodline'. Don't ask me how", Joe shrugged. He didn't seem to believe it. Cricket wasn't so sure.
"Joe, when I was fighting The Warlord, I could see his sword drawn ready to plunge it right into you. But, it looked like something was stopping him."
"Yeah, you Cricket. That was some kick."
"No, I mean just before that. I know it sounds crazy, but it was like someone or something was protecting you."
Camilla chimed in. "How did you see him when we couldn't?"
"His armor turned white....pure white. He's using some sort of device that makes it naked to the human eye. I couldn't see it the first time because the frequency of the device caused interference to my circuts. That's what made me malfunction. But I was ready for him this time."
Calling Inspector Hargrove
"This is Hargrove, go ahead"
About your request. No one matching the description of one Louis Smithers has come into headquaters or contacted any member of the Yard within the last hour.
"Understood. I'll report back when I learn more. Hargrove out." She signed off and turned to Cricket. "Perhaps someone got him too?"
"Maybe", she sighed. "It's all starting to add up. And I don't like the equasion."
When the trio arrived at the hotel suite, they were in for another surprise; the room was compleatly ransacked.
"Man, the maid service here is really lousy", Cricket quipped.
"What were they looking for?", Hargrove asked.
"You remember the five dragons I told you about? Harry and I were given the littlest one the night we arrived in London. And before we came to the museum yesterday, we stopped by one of the gift shops and found one that looked just like it, just not made of jade."
"A fake?" Joe asked.
"Yep", Cricket replied. "Harry carried it around as bait. He had me hide the real one. Made me swear NOT to tell him where I hid it."
"He must put a lot of trust in you", Camilla said.
"Yes", Crcket replied as she searched for what she was looking for. "He trusts me with his life, and I'm not about to let him down now. AH-HA!"
The blonde droid found the object of the search; her Peter Pan book. It was hanging from her side of the bed on the brass post at the foot of it. The page with a drawing of Captain Hook and the crocodile was bookmarked. She pressed her left thumb on the bottom of the bookmark, and suddenly the bedknob popped open. The robot unscrewed it, reached her hand into the hollow opening and happily produced a small jade dragon.
Camilla and Joe were impressed. "You are just full of surprises Mrs. Lang", the Inspector said. Cricket smiled back. She was very glad they were friends now.
Just then Professor Peng walked into view. "My goodness, what has happened here?", he asked looking about the trashed room. Joe looked relieved to see him.
"Professor, thank goodness. I've been trying to reach you all day. Have you been to the museum?"
"Yes Joesph. I just came from there." Peng spoke in his usual even-timbered calm voice. "I find it closed, and Scotland Yard all through its halls. They say a man was murdered last night."
"Yes", Joe said. "It was Dr. Benwolf."
"Really? You don't say." The Professor seemed less than shocked. Cricket just looked at him, and spoke matter of factly.
"Really. He does say. Dr. Nigel Benwolf is dead. You remember Professor. You killed him."
That last statement seemed to floor both Camilla and Joe. "What???.....Cricket, what are you saying???" Peng's expression changed little. "Indeed", he said rather flatly. Cricket wlaked right to him.
"You killed Nigel Benwolf, and Geffory Sackler, and Ronald Spencer. But you didn't kill Mr. Smithers. I wonder why? Unless of course, he was a part of all this from the start."
And as if on cue, "he" appeared with a gun pointed right at Cricket. The three of them put their hands up.
"I told you....you should have let me kill her when she came to visit. But ooooooo nooooo. YOU had to be all melodramatic and theatric!" Camilla was making her move but was stopped cold. "Drop your gun Inspector!", Smithers barked. "Don't let the age fool ya, I'm still a crack shot!" The Inspctor reluntently complied. "That's better.......Miranda!! Slacker!! Get in here!!"
Miranda Jenkins and the other man Cricket remembered from the Pink Pony came into the room. "Wait a minute", Cricket said. "Mr. Slacker?? From Old Chicaco??" The rather dirty-looking man smiled and tipped at beat up cap. "At your service little missy."
Cricket rolled her eyes. "Oh perfect, that's all we need. A cameo from another story! What are you doing here? I though you worked for GlobalCon."
"Well, the regular bloke they have got sick, so the union sent me."
"Yeah. Villian Heanchmen and Lackeys Union..... I'm VHLU Local 255 myself."
Cricket looked at Mr. Slacker in disbelief. "You guys have a Union???"
"Enough", Peng said, his voice commanding but still even-timbered. "The dragon, if you please Mrs. Lang." Cricket handed it to him, not taking her eyes off the man. "All right. You have them all. Now where is my husband?"
Peng put his fingertips together and smiled. "Ah yes, the final missing player in our little drama." His voiced raised a little. "Mr. Lang...your wife wishes to see you."
Harry walked in, an eerie smile on his face, his eyes looking blank. Cricket wanted to leap into his arms put the gun Smithers was pointing at the girlbot's abdomen prevented that. Harry was holding someting. It looked like a collar of some sort. "Hello, darling", he said in a trance-like voice.
"Harry??.......Harry what have they done to you??" She glared at Peng. "You basterd! What have you done to him????" The Professor remained calm.
"He is in a very deep hypnotic state....almost coma like. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say...he obeys my every command without question...as shall you now.'
"Go to hell!!!"
"Now now Mrs. Lang.....It that anyway to speak to someone.....who only wishes to bestow a gift on you."
"Gift???".....The collar. It was a control collar!! The kind used on renagade droids, or if someone wanted to abuse a droid so they couldn't fight back, even if they wanted to.
'Here, sweetheart. This is for you. Be a good girl and put it on." Harry walked right to her, the eerie smile, the sleep-like walk. Cricket became frightened. She hated those things more than anything else. And here was Harry, her love, her most trusted friend and ally putting one on her.
"Harry......no.....please!!!........It's Cricket......me your wife......your best friend........Harry please!!!!!!" Cricket started to cry. She wanted to run, even at gunpoint. But she couldn't.....she looked into Harry's eyes....she saw a tear. Harry was in a hell of his own. He put the collar on, and it was activated. Cricket powered down, all her systems locked and frozen. She could only follow and obey commands from the collar's owner, Kiwan Shang.
'What about these two?" Miranda asked, referring to Camilla and Joe who were also being held at gunpoint. The Professor stared at them both. "Bring them.....there is no need for more death.......yet."
"All right, get moving", Miranda shouted to them.
"Get moving where?" Joe asked.
"To where this adventure shall end for all of you and my regin as supreme ruler shall begin." He looked right at Cricket, who was staring blankly.
"Second star to the right.......and stright on till you're dead.....Mrs. Lang."
Stay tuned kids: The big rumble will be posted in less than 24 hours.
To a casual observer, it was a group of tourists and a fembot servant, sightseening near the famous Big Ben. In reality, it was Professor Peng, now known to be The Warlord, Louis Smithers, Miranda Jenkins, one Mr. Slacker, and their four captives; Inspector Camilla Hargrove who had been forced to relay to Scotland Yard that all was well and she would radio in if any trouble arose. There was Camilla's childhood friend, Joe Tam, a grad student and intern at the British Museum. Then, there was hero for hire, Harry Lang, who was in an eerie hypnotic state; and finally there was the young, robotic Mrs. Cricket Lang, who under normal conditions, could make short work of anyone trying to make trouble for her or her husband. But now, with a controll collar around her neck, she was little more than a helpless puppet, with the "kindly old" Professor pulling the strings.
When Peng was certain the last tour had departed the giant clock tower for the day, he used his power of mind control to not only convince the tower guards to let he and his party inside, but to carry the five jade dragons up to the observation deck below the clock faces as well. The dragons were placed all in a neat row, from largest to smallest.
Darkness had long since fallen now, and storm clouds seemed to be gathering overhead. Professor Peng became The Warlord once more.
"One thing I don't understand.", Camilla said lookint right at the villian. "If you and Smithers here had the real fifth dragon to begin with, why bring Harry Lang into it.?"
The elderly Smithers answered, pointing a gun at her as he spoke. "Becaue his old man held out on me!", he said, indicating Harry.
"You see Insepctor", the Warlord said, picking up the smallest dragon, "The true power of these creatures lie in the their eyes."
"The rubys", Joe said.
"Exactly Mr. Tam", The Warlord said.
Smithers spoke up again. "Good old Rick must have thought it quite the funny joke keeping those gems and giving me fakes. 20 years, I've been stewing, knowing the power those little jewels posess. I never head from the senior Mr. Lang either, until 2 months ago when I come to find he passed on the gems to junior here."
"And now Mr. Lang has been most kind enough to give them to me", The Warlord said holding two small red sparklers in his hand. "Isn't that right...Harry old friend", he chuckled looking at him.
"Yes, my lord Shang", Harry said in that trance-like voice, his expression locked in the eerie smile. "Whatever you say. Your wish is my command." It sounded like every word was painful to utter.
Camilla was disgusted. "Your sick. Both of you. All this....kidnapping, cold-blooded murders...all for jewels?"
"Not just jewels dear Inspector", The Warlord said, "But power! True power, which you shall witness tonight! And all of London shall bow and decalre me supreme ruler or they will die!" He was ranting now, ignoring all around him. It was Smithers who brought him back to reality.
"You mean US, don't you??? Don't forget, it was me who tipped you off to those rubys, and it was me who crafted that all-powerful suit your wearing." Smithers not went into a rant of his own. "Twenty years, every idea, every invention I gave that museum, laughed at, rejected! And anything they liked, those so and so snobs too it from me and said it was theirs! Well look now!" He pointed to the Warlord's suit. "My best work....real power!" He looked right at the man inside the suit. "And without me, you'd still be selling Chinese junk in the market. I wouldn't need ya at all if you didn't have that freak power of yours!"
It was the word 'freak' that angered the man who called himself Professor Peng. He had heard it all his life and now......but his mood suddenly softened. "Yes. Forgive my dear Louis. I had forgotten my place. But you see, now that I have.....all the power, I find myself no longer needing you." His voice became more sinister with each word. Smithers didn't seemed phased.
"You think so eh? Well joke's on you sonny, cause I went and got fakes of my own! I'm holding the REAL 5th dragon rubies", and he held them up for all to see. The Warlord grinned through his mask.
"Are you......certain? These..." and he snatched them out of the old man's hand like lightning. ".....are the REAL rubies???" And then he crushed them like.....glass. Smithers was stunned. "How??...What??" The Warlod held up the small dragon, the true rubies in its eyes. Smithers was angry but suddenly very fearful for his life.
"Filthy double crosser!", he shouted and empited his revolver into Shang. The Warlord just laughed as the bullets deflected off him. When the gun was empty, the villian raised his right arm and shot a stream of lightning....or something like it.....right at Smithers, lifting the old man off the ground, and over the edge of the observation deck. 'And now...finally, I alone have the supreme power!!!" he roared. The stream of light disappeared and Louis Smithers plunged to his death.
Both Camilla and Joe winced as Smithers fell. They both wondered how long it would be before they took a plunge as well. The Inspector did her best to look confidant.
"Well that was stupid I must say. Him falling like that will bring the Bobbies from miles around here.", she said with a smirk.
"Indeed", the Warlord said. "You forget the guards here who are still under my influence. And I doubt the suicide of one lonely old man who recently found himself unemployed as the note on him will tell, will......bring the Bobbies as you say. Oh they will investigate here, I have no doubt. By that time it will be far too late." He pointes to Miranda and Slacker. "You two......watch them, but do not kill them....for now. I must prepare!" The two henchpeople were not about to question their boos after what happened to Smithers. The Warlord stood before the dragons making sure everything was ready.
Camilla looked over at Joe. He suddenly seemed to look faint. The Inspector wasn't sure if her friend was truly ill or perhaps was trying to create a diversion. Either way, she caught him as he slumped. Miranda got closer to the pair.
"What's going on here?" she said, her own gun drawn.
"He's not feeling well!", Camilla shouted. "Now back off and do what your told!" Her tone then softened. "Joe.....Joe are you alright??"
Tam fluttered his eyelids but smiled. "I'm....ok...just getting....help", he wispered. Camilla didnt know what to make of this. Suddenly, her friend's eyes flew open, and seemed to glare. He stood right up and spoke. But it wasn't his voice. It was much deeper somehow. "Kiwan Shang", he cried out. The Warlord spinned around to look. He seemed to know the voice very well.
"Suko. So my old enemy. You could not resist one last battle." Both Miranda and Slacker went to stop Joe, but Shang just put his hand up. "No! Let him approach", he commanded. As Joe walked forward, he waved his hand near Cricket.
Now, all this time, little Crickt's body was immobile, but her 'mind' was screaming, like a little version of Cricket, banging away, trying to get out. When she suddenly found the collar that trapped her no longer on, she let out a tine'eep', but kept still. He mind raced with new thoughts; play it cool...wait for it...just play dead.
"I have not come to battle you, Shang", Joe said. "Our time here is over."
"No!" The Warlord cried back. "My time has just begun! My time, my destiny is finally at hand! It is your time that has ended, Suko!" He shot bolts of light from his hands, one after the other, but they had no effect on Joe.
"Your power is useless with me Shang, it always was. I alone protect young Mr. Tam so long as he bears the crest." Joe pointed to the amulet arond his neck. The Warlord again grinned through his mask.
"True Suko. I may not be able to defeat you as I like. But let's see your your.....protection......holds against my new weapon." Then he pointed at Cricket. "Robot! I command you to come forth!"
Cricket came alive, turning her head slowly, then walking over very stiffly to where Shang was. She spoke in a very flat monotone. "Yes, all wise and powerful Lord Shang. How may this humble slave serve you?" A bit hammy she thought, but the look on his face told her he was buying it.
"The spirt of my enemy is in this pitiful body. I command you to crush its bones to dust!"
At first, Cricket raised her arms to Joe, but then grabbed the collar. She spoke in monotone. "No, my lord codfish!"
Cricket's voice became more natural as she undid the collar. "I said.....No!...Lord....poo poo head!" On the words "poo poo head", the little robot clocked The Warlord with the collar then smashed it into a million parts. Miranda went to grab Cricket, but taking her focus off the Inspector was all Camilla needed to spring into action. She grabbed the henchgirl's arm into air as the gun went off. Camilla managed to grab the weapon and knock her out with it. Mr. Slacker went to make his move, but Cricket kicked his weapon far out of his reach. The slow-witted lacky then made the mistake of grabbing Cricket by her pigtails.
The little robot spun around, powered up at 100% and glared at him. "Nobody......and I mean nodody MESSES WITH THE DOO!" The robot girl picked Mr. Slacker up by the arms and spun him around......and around.....and around.
"Heelpppppp.....I'm getting dizzzzayyy"
Cricket took aim and threw Mr. Slacker butt first into a nearby trash can, where he passed out. "Whoohoo", Cricket cheered. "Three pointer!" Her celebration was cut short by a hand around her throat. It was The Warlord, who lifted the little robot over his head, as her legs kicked wildly.
"Little parasite! There is no escape this time. I will melt you down with my bare hands!!!" Cricket was beginning to think this was the end. She couldn't break his grasp and was beginning to dangerously overheat. Suddenly, The Warlord cried out and fell, dropping Cricket.
"Guess again, tin man!" "It was Camilla. She had some sort of pipe in her hand. "Are you all right?", she asked Cricket, bending to her side. The fembot looked up and smiled. "Yeah, thanks" She looked at Shang, still down.....his "gang" all out of the way. That just left.....
"Harry", she said, looking over at him. He was still standing there, still in a trance. The Warlord stirred, hearing the name and looking over.
"Harry Lang.....hear me. Hear and obey your Master. Destroy the one called Cricket!"
Harry raised his own gun. It shook in his hand. Cricket just looked into his eyes. "Oh Harry.....can't you fight it??"
"Obey me Lang....Destroy her!!.....No, wait.....I have a new command. Harry Lang.....you will destroy......yourself!!!"
"No!", Cricket thought. There has to be a way to end this nightmare. She suddenly had an idea. As Harry fought with himself, The Warlord was shouting for him to obey. Cricket took a breath and said, "Well., here's to the power of love." And then, she kissed him...hard! It was as deep and as passionate as the robotic girl could make it. And it worked. As she kissed he stirred, dropping the gun, his body slumping. She had done it! As she broke the kiss, Harry opened his eyes. "Ooooooo....my head. Wha-wha happened??" Cricket just shushed him, smiling down at him. "I'll tell ya later. You just relax now darling. Baby's gonna do some ass kicking."
Cricket turned back to The Warlord, who has stood up once more. "Well, Lord Codfish, it looks like your all out of tricksters and tricks."
The Warlord grinned once more, though his voice was subdued. "Not quite, Mrs. Lang. I have one last.....trick left." His voice became loud again. "Behold!"
Suddenly, the eyes of all five dragons began to glow bright red. Beams of light began to shoot up and out. Shang did something with his right wrist and the light intensified. A sound like an electrical current could be heard. As if that wasn't enough, the wind began to blow hard, and lightning cound be seen from the sky. The four heros, Cricket, Camilla, Joe, who seemed himself once more, and Harry, who was resting against a wall, all huddled together now. They gasped at the sight above them. The beams of light formed a shape. It looked like a giant red dragon!
"At last, at last, at last!!!!!", The Warlord cried. "Sato, the Demon Dragon has come forth!!! And now I alone control the beast that shall bring kaos and destruction!!!! AHHAHAHAHA!!!!"
"What's happening???", Cricket shouted.
Joe shouted back to answer. "As near as I can tell, it's some sort of huge energy mass. The Professor must be using that suit to bend it control it somehow."
"Now Sato, you will go forth and do my bidding!!" The giant dragon seemed to bow before Shang.
"Can he really contol that much energy?", Cricket asked.
"It's proaably all works voice regognition. I doubt that thing can really see", Joe answered.
"Really?", Cricket said, her mind formig another plan. She looked around. "My purse..it's.......back at the hotel", she groaned. "What you mean this bag of tricks?", Camilla said, holding Cricket's pink purse. "I quickly grabbed it while Harry was busy with you. Thought you might need it sooner or later." The two women smiled at each other. Now Cricket was really glad they had become friends.
"Thanks", she said taking it and getting her repair kit out. She took a small chip from it. "You both stay here, and look after Harry."
The aforementioned Mr. Lang looked up still weak. "Cricket?...Wha-what are you going to do?"
The young fembot smiled help up the chip and smiled. "Remember the Nightingale?", she said with a wink. Harry smiled. "Go get em baby."
Cricket got up the confront The Warlord one last time. "Hey!", she shouted. That got his attention. "Hey.....yeah, you.......you direct to DVD reject! You want some of me??? Well here I am. Cricket Pan is ready to rock!" She walked over as she spoke, making sure she was clear from Harry and the others.
The Warlord was furious! "You have mocked me for the very last time!"
"Ha! I have not yet begun to mock! You big overgrown codfish! Codfish in a tin can! Bet you even taste nasty!
"Insolent welp!" Shang began to fire bolts of light from his wrists. Cricket dodged every one of them.
"You can't even kill a dumb little sexbot! Now I know how all those other guys died. You bored them to death!!"
She got closer and closer to Shang, dodging bolts of light along the way.
"You may escape me but even you are no match for Sato."
"Oh please. Blah Blah Blah. You and that stupid voice. Bet I can do it as good as you!"
The robot girl moved fast. She wizzed by the villan, slapping the chip hard onto a caculated spot just under his chin. The Warlord looked down, confused for a moment, then saw Cricket run from him. She stood below the giant dragon and began to mimic Shang's voice.
"Sato! Demon Dragon! Hear and obey your Master!". The mimic was good enough for the dragon to bow before little Cricket.
The Warlord began to laugh. But suddenly, that laugh sounded.....female....and child-like. "What?? My...my voice....what have you done??"
Criket laughed like Shag. "Sato! Destroy the robot!" The dragon suddenly 'looked' at The Warlord.
"No, no! You fool! I'm not the robot, she is!", Shang cried, sounding like Cricket. As far as Sato was concerened, The Warlord was the one to attack.
"Hey pal", Harry cried out. "If I were you, I'd ditch the monkey suit but quick!"
The Warlord atarted to panic as Sato reared back to attack. "Ah...no...wait....Sato...I'm your Master....No no!!" The dragon shot a bolt at Shang. Every circuit in his suit overloaded. The screams were no longer Cricket's, or The Warlord's but Professor Peng's. He began to fade in and out until he vanished all together. Al that was left was a smoldering pile of metal. Kiwan Shang was no more.
Cricket was about to breathe a sigh of relief when Harry pointed skyward. "What?? Oh." Cricket imatated Shang's voice one more time. "Well done Sato, well done. Now fly to the far side of the earth and wait for further orders!" The 'dragon' did as it was told. But the farther away it flew from the ruby eyes, the less powerful it became until it vanished as well. The ruby eyes stopped glowing. It was over. Cricket ran to Harry and held him tight.
Two days later, Harry and Cricket were at Heathrow Airport on their way back to Old Chicago.
"So I have dear old Dad to thank for this adventure", Harry said, his arm wrapped around Cricket. "Well, it's not the first time him or his reputation has gotten me into hot water."
"Except now, I'm here to get you out of it", Cricket said, smiling.
"How did you know Louis Smithers was in on all this?", Harry asked.
"Things I noticed when I was in his house. Some of his little gadgets looked like things our friend Mr. Shang was wearing on that suit of his. And when I gave him that note, and he didn't take it the Scotland Yard, I know went right to dear Professor Peng....whoever he really was."
"His real name was Johnny Chen", an answer came. It was Inspector Hargrove, very much out of uniform and in rather nice looking floral dress. "He was a salvage dealer and petty crook. He set himself up as Professor Peng about a year ago."
"Well, Inspector Hargrove, look at you", Cricket said with a smile. Most noticeable was her hands. Both of the showing without gloves to cover them up. "And your looking handsome as well Mr. Tam." Indeed there was Joe right behind her.
"Well, Joe how go things at the museum?"
"Everything is back to normal. All the dragons are back in the China Gallery and the rubies are in a separate, well garuarded case."
Camilla nuged him. "Go on, spill the rest."
"Oh, the remaining members of the board made me intrem director."
"Really?", Cricket beamed. "Congradulations. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy."
"And with me new head of security, there'll be no more curse nonsense", Camilla said mater-of-factly. "Well, come on Joe. Let's go discuss the new plans for museum security over lunch." And off they went hand in hand. Cricket smiled and waved, "Bye now".
Harry looked at Cricket. "My wife, the matchmaker." She just giggled. They made their way to the plane, and off to more adventures.