- Issue #85 – The Ballad of Bad Lass
- Issue #86 – Those Not Forgotten
- Issue #87 – Descendants… In Space
- Issue #88 – Tome of Battle
- Issue #89 – All That Glitters
- Issue #90 – Just Us Sidekicks
- Issue #91 – Rock and Roll Lifestyle
- Descendants Special #8 – The Heart of Rock ‘N Roll
- Issue #92 – Homage
- Issue #93 – Day of Recovery
- Issue #94 – The Knight, The Witch and the Gadgeteer (FaerieQuest Part 1)
- Issue #95 – Into The Woods (FaerieQuest Part 2)
Homage (Part 3)
Another challenge for the Jade Mantas, her aide Kay, and their rolling arsenal, the Sable Charm. On police records a wanted criminal, the Jade Mantis is really Christina Carlyle, owner-publisher of The Mayfield Daily Monitor; her dual identity known only to her secretary, and to the district attorney. And now, to protect the rights and lives of decent citizens, rides the Jade Mantis!
This Episode…. Pawn Takes Queen.
The morning was quickly waxing toward noon in the publisher’s office of the Mayfield Daily Monitor where our heroine, Christina Carlyle—also known as the masked adventuress, the Jade Mantis—finished signing off on the week’s payroll, idly contemplating taking a late lunch.
Only dimly did she wonder if the catchy jazz trumpet solo she’d just heard had only been in her head or not.
For you see, unlike her steadfast allies, Christina had no been present when the returned trickster god, Hermes cast his reality-shifting spell and was unaware of it, leaving her almost completely at the mercy of the mysterious deity’s workings.
Regardless, any chance she had of analyzing the situation was dashed when a ruckus erupted just outside her office door. Moments later, said ruckus came to her in the form of the Monitor’s senior police reports, Lily Goldenmeyer burst in, Christina’s secretary Ian Smythe, hot on his heals.
“I tried to stop her,” Ian said with an air of both resignation and warning. He cut a handsome figure in his three piece suit, his brown hair cut conservatively short.
Lily was wearing an old fashioned knit dress with a tweed coat over it, her blonde locks done up in a twist. Her expression was stormy as she brandished a sheaf of typewritten pages. “I think I have every right to be in here—I am the senior reporter after all. Chris, what’s this about you killing Malcolm’s story about that pawn shop down on Reid Street that’s moving smuggled good for the mob?”
With that, she tossed the papers down on the desk in front of her boss.
Leaning forward, Christina quickly surmised that those pages did indeed comprise the story she’d rejected. Stabbing a finger down on the neatly typed words, she said, “Allegedly, Lily. Allegedly. Malcolm offers no proof aside from hearsay from known criminals—we can’t print that! Especially when he makes direct accusations without qualifying that there’s no evidence as such.”
Lily gave her sour look. “But Chris, we both know that those goons Malcolm talked to are the only one who are going to be willing! If we don’t do something, the mob’s going to keep making money off that place and probably funding thugs like that damn Jade Mantis.”
Biting back a sigh and forcing herself not to make eye contact with Ian, Christina nodded. “I get that Lily. Look, hand this back to Malcolm and tell him to write it as a report on what his sources say—not a hit piece and I’ll take it under consideration for tomorrow’s early edition. Is that good enough?”
“More than good.” Lily gathered up the papers and straightened them. “At least this way it’ll get eyes on this problem—hopefully cop eyes.” She left in a swirl of determination and French perfume.
Ian closed the door behind her. “You think there’s something to that, Ms. Carlyle?”
Settling back in her chair, Christina mulled over it a moment before saying. “At the very least, I think it warrants finding out what the police already know about this; what they’re smuggling and who’s in charge of the pawnshop.”
Opening the top drawer of her desk, she pulled out a pocket watch. As she pulled out the stem to reveal it as the antenna it really was, she gave Ian a meaningful look. “Hold my calls, Mr. Smythe.” And then she pressed on the chain loop at the top of the timepiece.
Across the city, District Attorney Laurel Brant was reading over some case briefs when the right arm of her glasses started to vibrate. She knew all too well what that meant, and given some of the paperwork the MPD recently sent her way, she had a good idea what it was about.
She told her secretary that she was going out for an early lunch.
A loud, persistent warbling filled the downstairs study of Christina Carlyle’s townhouse by the time she and her aide entered.
Kay, a diminutive young woman of Native American descent, took up a station near the fireplace. She was wearing a charcoal colored pair of slacks, matching coat and a dark shirt with her naturally black hair slicked down and dyed orange at the tips.
Crossing the room, Christina passed by her desk to reach for a set of books on a nearby shelf. Swift yet complex manipulation was rewarded with a cessation of the warbling and a telltale click she felt rather than heard.
In response, the fireplace rose into the ceiling to unveil a vertical passage behind it from which a bare-bones steel lift lowered, bringing with it DA Laurel Brant. The DA, by now used to skulking through secret passages on clandestine meetings, stepped down from the lift without comment on it or the fireplace.
“Afternoon Christina, Kay.” She said, offering handshakes to both, which they returned. “If I had to guess, I’d say you were contacting me about that pawn shop on Reid.”
“Astute as always, Laurel,” said Christina, “Is there anything you can tell us about it?”
The DA shook her head. “Not a great deal, I’m afraid. The deed and listed owner, a Murray Curie are clean. Incredibly clean. The building’s been in the guy’s family for decades and he’s never had any kind of trouble before.”
“But?” Christina prompted.
The DA nodded, confirming to the woman who was also the Jade Mantis that there was, indeed, a ‘but’. “It all started with a parking ticket: a beat cop ticketed a delivery truck parked illegally in the alley behind the shop and the truck racked up five more tickets over the next month.”
Kay made her way over to the desk. “What kind of pawn shop gets regular deliveries? Their stock usually comes in through the front door, yes?”
“Detective John Reddin had the same idea. He opened an investigation two weeks ago.”
“And what did he find?” asked Christina.
The DA shrugged. “Whatever he found, we never got the report. Detective Reddin went missing not long after.”
“So…” Kay folded her arms, “either whatever they’re smuggling, laundering or using the store for a front for is worth that much that they’re willing to risk disappearing a cop…”
“…or the folks behind it think they’re just that untouchable,” Christina finished for her, “or both.” She looked to the DA. “Laurel, I think it’s about time this shop got a visit from the Jade Mantis.”
Later that night, long after the sun had set and darkness had fallen over the city, Christina and Kay emerged from their preparations into Christina’s garage, but not as they had been. Instead, they were clothed in the mantles of their fantastic and infamous alter egos.
Christina wore a dark suit with green pinstripes and overcoat, a green silk shirt with matching green striped tie, and a fedora with a green band. Upon her face rested a sculpted mask that covered the top half of her face, adorned in the center with a stylized image of a female preying mantis in flight.
Kay was dressed somewhat less extravagantly in a a chauffeur’s uniform in muted gray along with a leather driver’s cap and a sculpted mask of her own.
Taking a moment to nod to one another, they moved past Christina’s car over to the tool rack where Kay manipulated two wrenches, a saw and a hammer, setting in motion a set of clamps that attached to the car’s bumpers. Once they were firmly in place, the entire floor rotated, flipping the car over and into a pit somewhere beneath it. In its place, a new car was flipped into view, a sleek black beast of a car with the mantis logo for a license plate, and green headlamps.
The Sable Charm.
While Kay climbed into the driver’s seat, Christina opened one of the rear doors—so-called ‘suicide’ doors for the fact that they opened in the opposite direction as a normal car door—guaranteeing that someone falling out of the car would be smashed by said door at highway speeds.–and slid into the back.
There, her personal weapons waited. She started arming and attaching them while announcing them so Kay could check them off their pre-launch list.
“Mantis Claws.” These were a set of clawed gauntlets with tubes on the back into which a set of stainless steel preying mantis claws were loaded. “Mantis Gun.” She holstered a gas gun with a jade-colored enamel casing. “Mantis Sight.” Turning a knob concealed in her mask, she caused a set of lenses to lower before her eyes, greatly enhancing her night vision.
Meanwhile Kay looked down at the car’s console, taking note of the controls: missiles, rear-facing rockets, oil slicks, tire-shredders, caltrop deployment, forward machine guns, flame thrower, door-concealed machine guns, nitro, jump jets, and heli-drone deploy and control station.
She smiled, seeing that her friend and employer was done in the back seat. “Let’s roll.”
Nighttime in the city of Mayfield. While the good and honest citizens sleep soundly in their beds, an unsavory element is rousing itself for a night of theft, murder and mayhem. Among their number are those who hold no fear of the police or federal agencies.
But what they do fear is one who they believe is a peer cut from the same immoral cloth as they were: the Jade Mantis!
Green headlights played over the parked form of a plain white delivery truck, throwing its shadow as well as the shadows of the men standing behind it against the walls of the alley. By the time they realized what that green light meant, it was too late:
The Sable Charm came barreling down alleyway, skirting past the truck and not even pausing as its tire shredders extended to destroy the front and rear tires on the vehicle’s driver’s side. Once past it, the great, black car cut its wheels hard, bringing itself around to catch the men in the alley in its high beams.
There were seven in all, six in cheap suits ranging from tan to gray to green and rust plaid. They weren’t as expected, carrying good into or out of the pawn shop. Instead, they stood in a V formation, all wielding Thompson drum-fed machine guns.
Behind their ranks stood the apparent boss, who cut a significantly more colorful character. His overcoat was red leather in a bold shade to match the more dark and subdued red of his suit coat or trousers, but matching his shoes. He also wore a red lacquered gas mask over his face. Somehow none of that took away from his weirdly-style hair, which looked as if he sat down before his barber and asked for a cut that exemplified the majesty of a chicken with its wings spread in the futile hopes of flight.
He was also holding a very big gun—like something taken off the roof of an armored personnel character or the venerable matriarch of the entire line of Shotgun.
“So good of you to show up, Mantis!” The mask somehow amplified the leader’s voice, but not enough to cover up the screeching tires of a pair of armored trucks that pulled into positions to block the alley. “And just in time to fall into a cunning trap laid by a master villain. The families are tired of your horning in on their businesses, Mantis, and they hired yours truly to put an end your operation once and for all.”
He raised his huge weapon and fired. The recoil should have turned his arm into a bone and muscle jelly on the wall behind him, but he didn’t even twitch. The ping-pong ball-sized bullet, however struck the Sable Charm’s windshield—rated as ‘rocket proof’ with enough force to turn the driver’s side half into a field of spiderwebs with an inch-deep dent at the center of impact.
“That’s not good,” reported Kay. She was staring at the dent, which was directly in front of her forehead. Hunching down in the seat, she said, “One more shot like that and the glass is going to give.”
Christina rolled forward out of the back seat and into a crouch on the floorboards. As she adjusted her Mantis Sight to dim ambient light instead of brightening it, she laid out her plan. “Alright, here’s what we’ll do: open the sunroof and then give them a shot back of our own.”
“You’ve got it, JM.” Kay threw a little salute and reached up to hit the sunroof switch. Even as the mechanism operated, she flipped open the safety cover on the rocket controls. Immediately, the wood panel of the dash slip open to reveal a screen showing a view outside with a targeting reticule.
With her thumb, Kay switched with rocket she would be launching, waited for the screen to flash to indicate that the new load was armed, then hit the fire button.
Outside,t he Sable Charm’s low beam lights flipped open to reveal rocket tubes. One of them let fly, firing a burst at the feet of the nearest pair of henchmen. Rather than a fiery explosion, the projectile burst into a blinding flash and a thunderous noise that rattled windows and sent pain lancing through eardrums.
The Jade Mantis took her opportunity and climbed out of the sunroof to stand atop her vehicle. What she saw was the expected pandemonium as the thugs scattered, trying to find cover while half-blind and deaf. She wasted no time aiming one fist at one on the right side of the car and firing off the Mantis Claws loaded into her right gauntlet. The steel projectiles, each housing a single-use battery, flashed through the air and clamped onto the man’s shoulders, delivering two powerful jolts of electricity that sent him tot he ground in a heap.
Then, drawing the Mantis Gun, she bounded off the roof and into the frey.
Meanwhile, Kay also took advantage of the chaos and got out of the car, charging a gunman who was stumbling away from ground zero of the flash-bang rocket. He managed to notice her coming through all the spots in his vision, but by the time he raised his gun, it was too late.
Kay brought up her right arm to drive the muzzle of the Tommy gun upward and out of position to do her any harm. Then her left came in with a pair of rapid fire shots to his ribs and another into his armpit. Something popped an he screamed, dropping his gun. Kay offered no quarter though, and brought her knee up into his gut, doubling him over and leaving him open to an elbow to the back of the skull that knocked him out.
Before he hit the ground, she was on the next man in line. A knifehand strike to the elbow disarmed him, then a powerful clap to either ear sent his world into confusion. He couldn’t even think to protect himself as a leg hooked his at the same time a powerful palm strike drove him back, the combination sending him horizontal to the hard asphalt and into dreamland.
The third goon on her side tried to shoot her before she could recover from her latest takedown, but she stayed low and took two steps to get past the barrel of his weapon. Taking hold of said barrel, she pulled on it, taking him off balance and effectively dragging him into her fist. There was a crunch of a nose being broken and Then Kay was past him. In the brief moment it took him to realize his gun had left his grip, she was already swinging it for the back of his head.
A pair of green gas clouds marked to defeat of the two mooks to the boss’s right, but he wasn’t even looking at the Jade Mantis. He watched in slow motion horror as Kay closed on him, taking the barrel of his gun in hand and jerking it out of his grasp. It was too heavy for her to use though, so she tossed it aside.
Without a second though, he put his hands up laughing nervously. “Um… okay then. See, I was going for the radio drama here, not so much the TV show… See, radio Kato wasn’t… well a terrifying combat monster played by Bruce Lee… You can see where I may have made a bit of a mistake here.”
Kay stared at him. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Another nervous laugh tore itself from the boss’s—Hermes’s—throat. “Oh, I know. That’s why I’m going to break genre conventions here and use magic.”A pulse burst from his raised hands, striking both Kay and the Jade Mantis, knocking them back and off their feet.
Not taking his eyes off them lest he fail to see a one-inch punch aimed at his sternum, he backed up to the rear door of his pawn shop and put a hand on the knob. “It seems I may have forgotten how the old pulp Superhero precursors are about as likely to leave you in traction as a Nineties antihero, so I’m going to get out of here.”
He opened the door, allowing colored lights and a driving theme fronted by a powerful electrical guitar to escape. “Speaking of the Nineties, I think I’ll introduce some of your friends to another Nineties superhero trend. Ta-ta!”
By the time Kay and the Jade Mantis got to their feet, he was gone.