^_^ And now, the narrative form of this
"And so I said to him, 'Leave the sheep behind, buddy, because I'm allergic to lambskin!'"
As laughter roared from the audience, Bella Hindman placed one hand up to her mouth and widened her eyes as if she were just now becoming aware of the social gaffe and the laughter doubled.
"Well, ladies and gents, I've had a wonderful time tonight, and I hope you have too. My act tonight is over, but I'll be helping to serve drinks along with our lovely bartender and his handsome waitresses. I'm told tonight's featured dish is Freedom sausages served with a side of Freedom cabbage. Eat up, hey?" She took her bow and gracefully descended from the stage and made her way to the bar, cracking jokes with patrons as she passed.
"How's the patronage tonight, partner?" she said to the bartender with a saucy smile.
"Eh, pretty good. Careful around that corner table tonight," he said with a slight nod in their direction, "Group of 'wise guys' out on the town. They've haven't made trouble yet, but watch your step." Bella leaned back against the bar and casually scanned the crowd, noting the location of the mentioned group.
"Well, you know I can handle myself, probably better than some of the new girls. Have they already made their order?" In short order, Bella was walking back to the table with a tray of drinks in-hand. As she approached, she caught a few fragments of whispered conversation.
"... docks are off-limits..." "... standard fee for usage, but I don't like it..." "... just until after tonight..."
As she set the drinks down, she made sure to bend over properly to flash her cleavage at the gangsters.
"Here are your drinks... is there any other way I can help you?" One of the men snickered and spoke.
"Oh, I dunno... name, address, any cute sisters... my friends and I are looking for some entertainment tonight. Y'know... if you're off the clock." Bella smiled pleasantly and pictured him with an M-80 stuffed up his nostril. Only after the imaginary explosive had gone off, taking off bits of his face did she reply.
"I'm afraid I've got another gig after this one, but thank you for being so kind," she said with a curtsey. Busy for the next several years if I need to be, buster...
"Enjoy your night, gentlemen." She then walked over to one of the other nearby tables and started a conversation there with one of the frequent patrons, keeping half an ear to the conversation behind her.
"Yeah, that's one cute comedienne... bet she'll put a smile on your face, huh?" "Ah, you were shot down good and proper. Now how's the numbers gig?" As Bella circulated around the tables, she continued to try to overhear bits of their conversation, but got little more than that there was something going on at the docks that night and it didn't directly involve the local crime syndicates. She couldn't pin down a time, not being able to ask directly, but knew that it was happening some time just after midnight. An hour of schmoozing later, Bella raised her eyebrows at the bartender who nodded, indicating that her shift was officially up. With a half hour of overtime too, I hope!
She walked out the front door and walked a bit down the street, checking for tails, before ducking down an alleyway and slipping into a convenient shadowed doorway. She popped open her communications radio.
"Radar Doc. Come in, Radar Doc," she spoke into it. After a few seconds of crackling static, a nasal voice came through.
"This is Radar Doc. Lady TNT? I take it you have a lead on some bad eggs?"
"Eh, not so much bad eggs themselves as a rotten basket. Word is, something's going down at the docks around midnight, some kind of shipment, no one local oddly enough. What do you say we get the team together, huh?" Her words were greeted by another burst of static followed by a muffled thud of metal against metal and then Radar Doc speaking away from the radio.
"Plastic Hunchback, settle down! Later tonight. Later! I wager the Golem of Prague never acted like an anxious puppy...
" He spoke again directly into the device. "Hunchback is here helping me with one of my experiments. I'll drop the word to Michael Hangman and The Flaming Dwarf. I think Face Cook's off in the kitchen right now, cleaning up. Still kind of creepy, the way she insists on doing all of that menial work, but blood, or ink in her case, will tell, I guess. Shall we meet at 11:00 PM at headquarters?"
"I'll be there with bells on," said Bella, "We'll figure out a plan of action then." She closed her communicator and did a rapid costume change in the darkness before hopping over the back wall. Well, it will take me less than a half hour to walk to the HQ. Maybe I'll be lucky and run into some muggers...
Fortunately for the muggers, but unfortunate for her boredom, Bella ran into none such by the time she got to the building the city had supplied for the Defenders Six. It was a small brownstone painted with a large "D6" on the front. It's a bit of a dump, really, but hey, better than us trying to run headquarters out of my little one bedroom flat, right?
She punched in her keycode on the panel Radar Doc had installed by the door when they moved in, waited for the door to acknowledge if, then walked in.
"Honey, I'm home!" she yelled up the stairs as she walked up. At the top, Face Cook stood, her head cut off coincidentally by the overhand of the ceiling at the top.
Face Cook cried back, "You better have clean shoes. I jus' washed da floor, child" Bella grimaced and removed her shoes, walking the rest of the way up in her stocking feet. By the time she was at the top, Face Cook had bustled off, cleaning another section of the house. The other way down the hall, Radar Doc yelled out, "Lady TNT, would that be you?"
"Yup," she yelled back, "I'm billing you guys if I get a hole in these socks, though." Radar Doc shuffled out of one of the doors, looking every inch the nebbish absent-minded professor in his fluffy bunny slippers.
"I see that she got you too," he said with a rueful grin, "Let's head to the meeting room before she decides to launder our socks as well." The meeting room was the former dining room, still sporting a long table down the center, although Radar Doc had done something
to it that made the top nearly indestructible, a boon when things got too heated. In one corner, the half-melted form of the Plastic Hunchback stood, the components of a clock spread across his palms. He turned his head to her and nodded before closing his hands together for a few seconds, opening them again to show the rebuilt clock.
"Huh, getting good at that, Hunchback," she said. The Plastic Hunchback curved his ruined metal features in what was probably meant to be a smile, accompanied by the squeal of metal rubbing against itself. He then held the clock up and pointed at it, head cocked off to one side.
"They've still got another 10 minutes or so before they're later, right Radar Doc?" The man addressed glanced about distractedly, having been absorbed in readouts from his Radar Headset.
"The only one we're missing now is the Flaming Dwarf. Isn't that right, Michael?" As she finished speaking, a hooded figure materialized at the head of the table. Sweeping back his hood to show his dark features, Michael Hangman let out a few choice Punjabi oaths.
"One day, I will find a way to bypass your infernal devices," he said, his voice devoid of humor.
"One day, my friend, one day," Radar Doc said with a gracious nod and a sheepish smile. Downstairs, the series of beeps heralding someone entering in their keycode sounded. And then nothing. Another rapid series of beeps were followed by pounding on the door and muffled cursing.
"Radar Doc, how about you let Flaming Dwarf in before he batters down the door?" Bella said with a wry smile. Radar Doc rolled his eyes and walked down to the door. Soon, he and a red-faced Flaming Dwarf were seated at the table. Face Cook slipped in and stood by the door, broom in hand, waiting impatiently. Bella rose and started speaking.
"To make a long story short, folks, I've called you all here because there's something going down at the docks tonight."
"And let me guess, you don't know specifics," interrupted the Flaming Dwarf, "because you only caught part of the conversation." Bella smiled thinly at him.
"Yup," she said flatly, staring at him, "Although it's a damn sight more than the rest of you bring in, so I'm not exactly feeling bad about being slightly vague." She looked up at the rest of the group and continued, "As our fine fiery friend has said, we don't know specifics. All I know is that the mob got paid off to stay away from the docs." Michael Hangman raised one elegant eyebrow at her and motioned in the air to get to the point. Bella raised her own eyebrow at him and returned with a rude gesture. "The mob aren't mewling cowards neither, so something's got them scared off from this. That means it's probably significant enough that we'd better deal with it." She glanced up at the clock and added, "And with the time it took to get everyone gathered here and explicate this, we've got maybe five minutes to get there to deal with this and it takes at least twenty from here. Radar Doc, have you got the autogyro fueled up? Will it get us over there in time?" Radar Doc frowned and tapped his lip. "It will be a tight squeeze and we will likely be late to the party, but we'll be there before they can finish unloading everything at least, yes?"
"Yeah, sounds good," Bella said and turned to the rest of the group. "Unless, of course, there's any objections to us going out and kicking some butt?" A general chorus of half-hearted grunts and "ayes" murmured through the room. Bella sighed and massaged the bridge of her nose. Like herding cats, sometimes...
"Right, then let's get going, huh?"
As they neared the docks, Bella saw enough lights to indicate a substantial amount of activity.
"Set the autogyro a decent distance away, Doc," she said. Maybe we can still get some surprise out of this. After landing, she turned to Michael Hangman. "Now you and I don't always get along so good, but we're the only ones in this gang who have half a chance of sneaking in and out without sounding like we're leading a parade. Are you with me? If not, I'm sure I can handle this all on my little lonesome..." Michael Hangman grinned back, showing both rows of teeth contrasting against his dark skin.
"Anything you can do," he said, slipping the hood over his head and beginning to fade from sight, "I can do better." Bella snorted in a completely un-ladylike manner and turned to the rest of the team.
"If we can, we'll observe things and come back. If not, I'll give a yell over the communicator. Or maybe blow something up... that might make a better signal. Either way, be prepared to run in to our position when you hear the signal." She then slipped into the shadows and began making her way down to the docks, giggling quietly as she noticed a blur suddenly dart forward as Michael realized she was getting ahead of him and started pushing his mystical powers past the speed at which they could conceal him. She slowed her pace where necessary to let him keep up without blowing his cover, but the two of them easily made their way to the docks. Bella started to slip among the crates by the workers and she presumed Michael was doing so as well. We make a pretty decent team most of the time... shame that he's so hung up about women and their "proper roles"...
Slipping among the workers, she noticed nothing terribly suspicious, just a group of workers offloading crates from a ship. They're kinda quiet, though... I don't think I've heard them say a word to each other this whole time. Well, might as well call in the cavalry. The rest of the team approaching will either scare up some trouble, or just cause trouble as we bother a bunch of innocent workers.
She leaned against one of the crates and whispered into her communicator, "Things are oddly quiet down here. How about you guys come down and make a little noise. Nothing big or aggressive, just a friendly presence from the local heroes."
"Huh? You need us to come in aggressive? Alright, here goes," came Radar Doc's response. Bella snarled and fiercely whispered, "No... not aggressive! Hello? Hello?"
She closed her communciator and slid up the side of the crate. "Damn," she said quietly, as she started to hear the loud thud of footfalls from the approaching team, particularly Plastic Hunchback's metallic clang. She started to step out of the shadows to assure the workers when one of them suddenly stood upright, and yelled, "Aufmerksamkeit! Jemand kommt! Bereiten Sie Ihre Gewehren vor!" and they started pulling up at their jackets to reveal an array of pistols and machine guns. Shit, Germans! That one's got a grenade. Huh, well they're not the only ones...
She started to shake a low-yield explosive out of her sleeve when a palpable wave passed through her, causing her breath to catch for a moment. She shook it off even as the false dock-workers began to panic, some dropping their guns in the process. I really have to talk to him about "friendly fire" when he uses that thing...
She stepped out from the shadows and flung the explosive into a small knot of frightened Krauts.
"Hey, Jerries! Welcome to America!" she yelled as it went off, tossing three of them into the crates nearby, blissfully unconscious. Amazingly, one of the soldiers had spotted the explosive coming in and had ducked behind a crate as it went off, and stood back up, entirely unharmed, but still shaken. Lady TNT saw a noose appear from nowhere and settle around the neck of one of the Germans, but he managed to get his hand underneath it, and pull it loose before it could strangle him. Two of the soldiers bolt, but two others raise their guns at the suddenly revealed Lady TNT and open fire. She agilely ducked under one blow and let another pass through her cape as she leapt back into the all-concealing shadows, hopping over various crates as she headed toward the ship. Michael and the rest should be able to handle the stragglers. I'd better make sure none of them reach the ship!
She hurled a stick of dynamite onto the gangplank, but it rolled off before exploding, only blowing off a few small chunks. She started to settle back into the shadows when one of the soldiers yells, "Die Explosivstofffrau!" and points at her location. She's growled under her breath as she braced herself to dodge a hail of bullets, but they were apparently more concerned with escaping than trying to take her down. I feel almost like I should feel insulted...
The crack of gunfire made her turn her head, where the revealed Michael Hangman standing impassively as bullets chewed up the dock to either side of him. Brave man... Stupid, but brave.
A loud cry of "Varmints!" split the air and Bella turned up to the front of the dock where her teammates approached, Face Cook loosing a saucepan while still some distance away which visibly curved to strike one of the Germans in the head, causing him to collapse and drop his gun. She saw Michael Hangman blur out again as one of the fleeing spies stopped and shook his head, pulling a potato masher from his belt as he did. A bit further down, Michael blurred back into view again, now holding one of the dropped grenades. He winged it at the gangplank, again causing little more than superficial damage.
"You idiot!" yelled Lady TNT, "Man with gun! Right in front of you!" The hood came to face her position and the sleeves move such that she knew he'd remembered her rude gesture at the meeting well enough to give it right back to her. Lady TNT heard a hiss and saw smoke start to wisp up from the gangplank. Probably Radar Doc directing his funny gun at it. Wood's too wet to go up, though!
A blaze of light caught her view and the last remaining guard with a gun went down under the small fiery bulk of The Flaming Dwarf. She turned and pulled another stick of dynamite out, attaching a small spike to one end before ligthing it and lobbing it over the heads of the fleeing spies where it landed dead center on the gangplank. They couldn't check their speed quickly enough and all but the one remaining standing guard were piled on the gangplank when the explosive went off, disintegrating the gangplank and throwing chunks of wood and stunned Germans into the bay below. The one remaining guard stared shakily at the destruction and managed a whispered "Scheiße" before The Plastic Hunchback plowed into him and bounced him across the dock. Bella looked over the expanse of the dock, half lit with smoldering bits of wood, and sighed happily.
"I do love it when an explosion comes together..."