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The Shadow Knows! (Final Update 6/3/04)

Which of the Shadow's epithets do you like the best?

  • The Cloaked Crusader

    Votes: 1 6.3%
  • The Dark Avenger

    Votes: 7 43.8%
  • The Man of Mystery

    Votes: 2 12.5%
  • The Sable Sleuth

    Votes: 6 37.5%
  • I've got the perfect one! (post it!)

    Votes: 0 0.0%

Yes, a bit more setting info. Don't worry, there's not much more! Since it's mid-November in the game world, Thanksgiving will be coming soon for the Shadow... so I thought I'd post some of the people who will be turning up. :) Some of them will be turning up even before then, too...

I've never put this much work into a character background before. I think I'm freed to do so because this is a solo game - it would be impossible for a GM to juggle this much data for six characters! :)


I need names for these people. So I think I'll take advantage of a bizarre coincidence I just noticed (it's either that, or my subconscious mind acting up) - there's a lot of royalty names going on here. Alex, as I've said, is probably named after Alexander the Great. "David" was, of course, King of Judah. And in Spanish, "Charlemagne" is "Carlos el Grande".

Call Alex's dad "Philip", who was Alexander's father. Phil had a quirky sense of humor and he had at least some education, though I don't think he finished college. ("Why shell out the dough when I can make it roll in on my own?") His own name might have suggested his son's to him. Call his mom "Elizabeth", or Beth for short. Her maiden name is, oh, Sharp.

[A few more notes on this: Philip was a real jerk. He didn't realize he had psi powers, he just thought he was God's gift to consumers (and women). He could basically talk anyone into anything. "Of course Alex belongs with me, your Honor. Right? Right!" :) He divided the world into three basic classes - salesmen, suckers, and a**holes (people who are inclined neither to sell nor to be sold to). Just guess which one Alex fell into... He was a terrible disappointment to his father once his powers turned on in puberty.]

[Beth, for her part, was a washed-up ex-hippie, very New Age, very well-intentioned, very flaky. And too sensitive for her own good... once Alex's powers activated, she simply couldn't stand being around him. She made an attempt to approach him after Jennifer's death, but the bad vibes were so strong that she couldn't even enter the church, and she's probably been flogging herself with guilt over it. Alex's only full sibling, a younger brother named Rich, grew up with her. He has shown no inclination to meet the rest of the family.]

Jennifer's parents are Frank (because he is :) and Mary. Jennifer's maiden name was Torland - the Italian grandmother is on Mary's side. (Her family calls her "Maria".)

[Note: More about Jennifer's family has been established over the phone. The reason why Frank "is" frank is that he was always honest and open with Alex about how uncomfortable he and his wife were around him. (Both Frank and Mary are BN - Frank shields better than Mary. Only Jennifer was fully mindblind.) Both Frank and Mary have made a big effort to be nice to Alex despite his Aura of Menace - he shields better these days, and also mainly interacts with them over the phone, so things are tolerably good. Mary still has ingrained habits from the early days of her daughter's marriage, though... she plainly doesn't like Alex much, but does her best not to let it show.]

[The Torlands live in Minnesota, and are very much stolid Midwest types - big on family values. The Brightons generally visit once a year around Christmas. Over the years the extended family has gone from merely tolerating Alex to actually including him somewhat - his obvious grief over Jennifer's death won a lot of them over.]

[Jennifer's youngest sister, Julie, is the only member of that side of the family to live near the Brightons. She's a martial arts instructor and has noticed the signs of training in Alex. She's a little weird... according to SP, she gets along fine with Alex EXCEPT when he's having a bad day and broadcasting too much. I have no idea what this means, yet. She and David get along great; she visits every couple months or so.]

Carlos' parents were Jorge and Clara. Clara's maiden name was Garcia. Carlos' aunt and uncle are Marta and Roman. Roman is Clara's older brother, so they are Garcias too. He refers to his dead sister as "that whore". (Well, in Spanish "esta puta".) You can imagine how endearing Carlos finds that... (And what Roman's feelings are toward "that whore"'s son.) The infamous Gypsy grandmother was perhaps Perdita, though she may have had another Romany name.

Alex works for Eli Lilly. (It certainly makes sense for him to be in the pharmaceutical field, given his skill in extracting, purifying, and altering that herbal compound.) He heads a research team devoted to analyzing and testing natural compounds for drug activity - and he'd probably be head of his division if it weren't for his "night life" and his personality. He much prefers to handle the analysis end of things, leaving the animal testing to others. (He harbors privately cynical thoughts about society vis a vis lab rats, but doesn't burden other people with them.) Alex takes quiet pride in the fact that his work really does help people - he himself is responsible for the characterization (and fairly inspired alteration) of a compound from sea squirts that holds considerable promise as a cancer treatment if the FDA ever gets finished with it. (If he ever does go on trial for being the Shadow, Lance will play this up to the hilt. :)

Alex isn't the best of managers, as you can imagine - he was promoted on the basis of competence, not personality. But he's fair and doesn't ask anything of anyone that he's not willing to do himself. His team has known him for a while now and they've gotten used to his quirks. (Several of them are first-generation Asian-Americans, and they find his highly formal manner quite easy to deal with.) There don't seem to be any major complaints. Alex's boss, the head of the division, is Bob Carter. He's not as smart as Alex, and they both know it, but there's no hard feelings either way... Alex would probably hate having Bob's job, and they both know that too. (Even if he did want it, there's no chance he'd ever get it - it's too "political".)

Alex's right-hand man on the team is Dat Vu, a quiet Vietnamese who was on the wrong side in the war and spent some time in a re-education camp. He is a fairly "deep" kind of guy, and his creativity and Alex's mesh well. They get along great - Dat shares Alex's philosophy on cooking and chemistry, and the two trade recipes and even cook together. (Alex has learned to make a mean spring roll. :) Dr. Vu is perhaps the only close "friend of the family" the Brightons have - David's met him any number of times. [Note: This was written before I came up with Jerry MacTavish.] (And he'll have met the other members of the team, and Bob Carter, at least once or twice.) If anybody is in a position to give David sage advice about his father and/or growing up that he'll actually listen to, it's probably him. While Dat doesn't know about the Shadow, he's very insightful into the human condition and has made some shrewd guesses about Alex's pain. (Dat's about 10 years older than Alex. His children are grown, and he has a few grandchildren that he dotes on.) As a Buddhist who's been around the block more than a few times, he's not one to dismiss the idea of telepathy at all.

Question: Any other adults out there David really respects and will listen to? Teachers, perhaps? [The GM came up with a couple teachers.]

Mrs. Vu (her name is Tran) is a sweet, petite ball of energy who alternates between mothering Alex and showing him deference because he is her husband's superior. David just gets the mothering. :) Her English has more of an accent than Dat's. A typical sample: "What you feeding this boy, Dr. Brighton? He gonna shrivel up and blow away! And look at you! No meat on bones! High time for good Vietnamese cooking, yes?" David: "I've actually gained five pounds since my last visit, Mrs. Vu." Mrs. Vu: *kisses his cheek* "You are sweet boy. Stick up for father like dutiful son, yes!" :) (She also jokes that it's a pity all her daughters are married already, because "This sweet boy will make fine husband!" :) She's one of those little ladies it is impossible not to like.

The Brightons and Vus generally get together sometime on Thanksgiving weekend to collectively make an odd hybrid meal of turkey and traditional Vietnamese dishes, then eat it. (They don't live all that far away, by LA standards.) To be honest, Alex enjoys it more than visiting Jennifer's side of the family, who seem mostly to tolerate him more than anything else. (Jennifer was very dear to the Vus, and vice versa, btw.)

Alex takes a fair bit of work home - he has to, to keep up with things - but always leaves at least six hours for the Shadow's activities and two hours for sleep. (As mentioned elsewhere, he only needs two hours of sleep a night.) Crazy as it may sound, being the Shadow actually lets him unwind from being a chemist. :) Almost like a hobby, though he takes it MUCH more seriously than that. In addition to all that, he makes a conscientious effort to spend time with his son, especially school events. He isn't shy about taking a day off for family reasons - family comes first, with Alex. (Then the Shadow's work, which in a way is family-related; then his job.)

Question: What does David think of his dad's mundane job? Is his father's example yet another reason to go into medicine? [David wants to go into sports medicine when he grows up. SP says that he finds the cancer therapy business fairly cool, but the details of Dad's job are uber-boring.]

The Shadow has his own little chem lab in the base, of course. Mostly he's acquired the equipment as outdated stuff from his company that was being junked. Some of the more exotic stuff that he could never have afforded or acquired on his own has instead been "Garritied". Alex has also taught himself some forensics so he can do his own work in that regard without having to turn evidence over to the police - next to the witches' brew in a sea squirt, forensics is pretty easy. :)

I wonder why it hasn't occurred to Alex to check his bloodstream and David's, and even Carlos', for unusual compounds. He and Carlos probably don't have any, but David surely does. Perhaps it's just the sheer mental disconnect between his beloved son and a sea squirt! :) But it's entirely possible that David's got something in there that could be beneficial, and perhaps he'll think of it someday. While he's certainly wondered about the genetics of the stuff they can do, gene analysis is not really his field. [This is a bit obsolete. As mentioned earlier, Alex has since done a workup on David's blood once they found out about his alcohol-resistance.]
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How do you delete a post? I accidentally double-posted and I've edited it to this, but I'm not sure how to just get rid of it entirely.
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First Post
Just leave it as "Double Post" or some such and a mod will run across it eventually. Especially since P-Kitty reads this thread. Even if they didn't, we've all done it plenty of times (wait until you have a quintuple post, oi).

Jumped the gun? It's possible but not unreasonable. Which alley were we talking about when he got jumped? Are you sure Legion wasn't behind it?

If they were, well, you definitally didn't jump anything.

Lela said:
Just leave it as "Double Post" or some such and a mod will run across it eventually. Especially since P-Kitty reads this thread. Even if they didn't, we've all done it plenty of times (wait until you have a quintuple post, oi).

Thanks for the info.

Jumped the gun? It's possible but not unreasonable. Which alley were we talking about when he got jumped? Are you sure Legion wasn't behind it?

The same notorious alley where David got into the original fight where he killed those four guys.

And I see no way that Legion could possibly have been behind it, no. It's just one of those things.

What did you think of Legion's "birth" scene? Creepy, eh?


First Post
Totally creepy. Kinda freaked me out in fact. Glad I had the lights on.

Really, it comes in as the perfect villian against the Shadow. Suddenly your powers aren't worth crap and you're relying on the gun. I'd say bring David in for back-up but we both know that would never happen.

I was just mentioning it. I wondered if Alex was paranoid enough to think it was Legion. It does seem a little odd that gang members would be haunting that alley agian so soon. And I could see Legion looking into bringing someone like David into the hive. After seeing the reports of what happened there, I wouldn't put it past the freaky guys to try and enhance their powers.

I guess it won't be long before people avoid it like the plague. Kill how many guys in a week in one place (and brutally like that) and you're likely to create an urban myth.
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Lela said:
Really, it comes in as the perfect villian against the Shadow. Suddenly your powers aren't worth crap and you're relying on the gun. I'd say bring David in for back-up but we both know that would never happen.

Heh. Funny you should say that... :) Not that Alex would ever bring David in, no, but there is somebody he's starting to feel forced to tap...

I was just mentioning it. I wondered if Alex was paranoid enough to think it was Legion. It does seem a little odd that gang members would be haunting that alley agian so soon. I guess it won't be long before people avoid it like the plague. Kill how many guys in a week in one place (and brutally like that) and you're likely to create an urban myth.

No, not even he is that paranoid. :) The timing would have had to have been incredible... even if Legion had managed to probe him that thoroughly without him noticing in the first place, which I doubt. (Anyway, Alex had no way of knowing what route David would take.)

And yes, I daresay that alley will gain a VERY fearsome reputation...


First Post
If Legion had been around longer I'd feel inclined to argue. But they haven't really had time to set anything up. I just meant that they might be staking out the alley, waiting for someone who could do that kind of stuff.

Lela said:
After seeing the reports of what happened there, I wouldn't put it past the freaky guys to try and enhance their powers.

I forgot to comment on this.

I mentioned to SP a week or so after that last session that it seemed odd that Legion had suddenly developed the ability to blast people (and with an emotional special effect, no less) only after the Shadow had blasted it first.

His response?

A grin audible over the telephone and a smug, "Learns quickly, doesn't it?"

Now I'm afraid to use ANY psi powers on it! :p

Oh, and he also informs me that this version of Legion is actually much weaker than the one he had been planning to inflict on me later. "You may just be able to kill this one with brute force, if you try hard enough and get lucky."

Gee. That just gives ya a warm glow of optimism, don't it? :)
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Creepy bad guy (or creepy bad distributed mind) that Legion :D I agree it makes a very fitting villain for the Shadow.

I like this story more and more, it's quickly becoming one of my favorite stories.

[Thanks, Horacio! Now here's a long in-person session, about 4.5 hours. (The first, and so far only one, of its kind.) More headaches for the Shadow, as if he needed any! SP continues to roll like a demon, while we figured that my average roll during the entire session was about 6 or 7. No, I'm not joking! I rolled a 1 three times in a row, even. Sure makes it hard to feel superheroic! But, a lot was learned, even at the expense of a bit of the Shadow's dignity...]

The Shadow stretched. "Well," he said wearily, "as long as we have a breather just now, I may as well do something about the Red Shivs. I might not have an opportunity later." Carlos stared at him. "Do you have a different definition of 'breather' than the rest of us mortals, sir?!" The dark avenger shrugged. "I can't do anything about Legion until 8 AM. I may as well put some of the remaining hours to good use." "If you say so. Don't you have to work in the morning, though?" For reply, he got a sigh. "I suppose I will have to call in sick. I hate doing that, but it does seem necessary."

"First, though, I think I'll call Maria Volanti, get her started on a few things. It's only a quarter 'til 10, she should still be up." He picked up the hotline phone once more, and dialed. The phone rang repeatedly, then a muzzy voice responded, "If it's not important, I'll kill you on general principles." "It's important." "Who is it?" "Your friend in black." "Oh. Should I get a cup of coffee, so I can recover from being awakened fifteen minutes after falling asleep?" "If it's a bad time, we can talk in the morning..." "Ah. So it's important, but not urgent." "Precisely. And I'm sorry for waking you." "Seven AM, then?" "Done." "Back to my beauty sleep, then." Click. The Shadow sighed. Some nights nothing seems to go right. "I'm off."

Lurking in and around Red Shiv territory, he took in the buzz on the street... and was surprised when one his regular informants put his hand to a suspicious lump in his pocket. "Don't even think about it," he warned, only to get the wary reply, "Too late... I've already thought about it." "Why?" "Buncha people turning up dead... some with no marks on 'em. Some people say it's you." "Not my style," the Shadow informed him, and proceeded to explain about Legion. "Put the word out. This thing needs to go down." The man relaxed somewhat after that.

It turned out that about a third of the rumors centered on the Shadow, about a third (correctly) on some new more-than-ordinary element, and about a third taking the Occam's razor approach... namely that no special explanation is needed for dead gang members during a leadership struggle. Something to that, the Shadow mused. He also learned that OmniMetal's black cars were very much in evidence on the street, more even than before... but that they weren't stopping and picking people up. Scanning for Legion, perhaps?

Rumors about the succession struggle among the Red Shivs were confused - things were too early to call. But the Shadow was able to confirm the last known addresses of Julio and El Bandito's ex-girlfriend Maria Escolante that Carlos found in the gang database. As the primary rivals for leadership with Mario (the pimp whose policies were likely to be inadvertantly Shadow-friendly), he intended to discourage them both as thoroughly as possible. The things I do in the name of survival, he thought to himself with disgust. Well, it has to be done.

For a man seeking to take over the Red Shivs, Julio certainly didn't show a well-developed sense of self-preservation. While there was a deadbolt on the door and bars on the windows, the sable sleuth had to grin when he found the spare key on the ledge above the door. "Almost too easy." He let himself in, then froze briefly as he heard the soft warning beeps of an alarm system. Moving swiftly to the panel and removing it from the wall, he managed to squelch it before it went off. He replaced it on the wall, aware that it wouldn't fool anyone used to it for long. Now, was Julio home yet, or still to come home?

Exploring invisibly, he soon had the answer. Peering through the slightly ajar bedroom door, he saw Julio's mistress brushing her hair and heard her chattering in Spanish to a man in the adjoining bathroom - presumably Julio himself. This was confirmed when he emerged, wearing only a pair of sweatpants. He sprawled on the bed and chatted with the woman, incomprehensibly to the Shadow. (And it was quiet enough that Carlos couldn't make out the words.)

Choosing his moment with care, he vanished the door, making it "unnoticeable" as he opened it slightly, slipped through, and closed it to its previous angle. Unfortunately, Julio apparently caught sight of something odd happening in the mirror on the other wall and leapt off the bed, grabbing a shotgun from the headboard. He said something peremptory to the woman - whose name was apparently Ana - and stalked past the Shadow over to the door, peering warily through it. Then he called out in heavily accented English, "Who's there!" After a pause, "If you're still there, we're calling the cops!" Then he said something in Spanish to Ana, who nodded and reached for the phone.

The Shadow put his gun to the back of Julio's head and suggested mildly (and audibly, for Julio's ears alone) "Tell her there's no need to call the police." The man froze quite impressively, but had the chutzpah to follow orders a bit too literally: He said, in flat-toned English, "There's no need to call the police." Ana looked over at him quizzically, then shrieked when she saw the Shadow, to that worthy's internal groan. Worse yet, she snatched up a pistol from the desk and aimed it at him.

Julio said carefully, "It would appear we have a standoff." "I'm not too concerned. As it happens, I only came here to talk." "What do you want to talk about?" "The Red Shivs. I've become quite unhappy with you." "What do you want?" "I want you to make a decision: You can leave town, right now, for good. Or you can die. ... Or, I suppose, if you feel inclined, you can go down to the local precinct and confess all your manifold crimes, that will satisfy me."

Julio was a cool customer. He said scornfully, "Of course I'll say whatever you want while you have a gun to my head. But what's it mean after you're gone?" The Shadow said with tight amusement, "Do you think I'm not able to check up on you? How will you know I'm not watching?" "If you kill me, she shoots you." "I'll take my chances." The man shrugged. "I can't make any decision right this moment - not one that means anything. And you can't watch all the time. I'll take my chances too."

The cloaked crusader did not like the man's tone, and decided to soften him up a bit. He lashed out with fear - fear of his own person. It worked, rather better than he was expecting - the man crumpled to the floor whimpering wordlessly, dropping the shotgun and curling up in fetal position. Ana screamed and fired... but her shot went wild. The Shadow whirled on her with his own weapon, and let her feel the full force of his aura of telempathic menace. "Drop it!" She may not have understood the words, but the effect was gratifying - she shrieked again and hid behind the bed.

Then he reached down and hauled Julio to his feet - the man moaned in panic. "Oh stop that," he said in disgust, "Listen to me!" Shaking him lightly, then slapping him, he got no response from Julio save for incoherent babbling in Spanish. Carlos informed him, "He's not talking to you, sir. He's, uh, praying. Confessing his sins because he thinks he's about to die." The Shadow rolled his eyes. "Carlos, tell me how to say, 'Go into the bathroom and shut the door.'" He repeated the words, and Ana crawled frantically over there and obeyed. The Shadow picked up the pistol and the shotgun, unloaded them, and tossed them into the closet. Then he turned back to Julio and tried to back off the telempathic fear a bit. In the process, he lost his hold on Julio's mind... but the man's widened eyes and rapid breathing showed it scarcely mattered - his spirit of defiance had been crushed like an eggshell. He stared at the Shadow and his gun like they were avenging angels.

"I believe we were talking about a decision." The man nodded frantically. "Since you seem so keen on confessing your sins, perhaps you'd care to continue down at the precinct?" Julio moaned and said, "They kill me!" "Who?" "If I tell, the Red Shivs in prison - they will kill me!" "Quite the band of brothers you have there, eh? Well then, I will permit you to leave Los Angeles... and never come back." "I need time!" The Shadow said coldly, "You have twelve hours. If you're still here by then, you will die. Understood?" "I understand!!" "I trust you'll use this opportunity to rethink the error of your ways?" "Yes! I swear!" "Where are you going?" "Baja! Sonoma!" "A bit out of my way... but I'll find a way to check up on you. Remember that." "Si! I remember!"

Not content just to cooperate, Julio in fact started spilling his guts. "I give you information! Mario has moved - I found out just today!" He feverishly passed on the address, to the Shadow's amusement. "What about Maria?" "She still in the same place. Mario wants to make her his puta." "We'll have to see about that... What influence does she have among the Shivs?" Julio looked confused. "None." "Ah."

"Now, if you will be so kind as to show me out?" He trooped Julio toward the door at gunpoint, to make sure he didn't try any mischief. Not that he expected any - the man seemed thoroughly broken - but no sense in taking chances. "Spread them on the wall there," he said as he went out. Julio obeyed instantly. The Shadow couldn't resist patting him on the shoulder as he left. "You've been a good boy."

"One down," he mused. "Now for Maria. Carlos, do you think Julio was telling the truth?" "As he saw it. He's probably right that she has no direct influence... indirect is another matter." "Ah. Well, I trust that it will be irrelevant shortly."

He surveyed her house; she had the wit not to leave her spare key anyplace obvious. The Shadow shrugged - sometimes the direct approach is best. He rang the doorbell while remaining invisible. A female voice called in lightly accented English, "It's open, come right in!" Open? He tried it; it was. Gun warily at ready, he went down the hall to the light he could see coming from the half-open bedroom door.

There he found her draped comfortably in a chair, pointing a large, strange-looking pistol directly at his chest - it looked disturbingly like something Garrity might have created. She also wore a metallic-looking hairclip, and wide bracers on her forearms that seemed to have rows of buttons on them. "Do come in," she said, and as he complied (pointing his own gun directly at her) her eyes and weapon visibly tracked him. The cloaked crusader remarked in his deceptively mild tones, "I've come to talk." "Put your gun away, then." The Shadow weighed options. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. He lowered his weapon, and she responded by placing hers on the desk within easy reach then lazily sipping from a cup of coffee. "I've been expecting you," she remarked.

He returned the diffident reply, "Have you." "Yes, I've researched you quite thoroughly." "And what have you found?" She shrugged. "If you were corruptible, I'd bribe you." He bowed slightly in acknowledgement: "I see your information is accurate so far." "If you were reasonable, I'd bargain with you." "I have my rational moments now and then." "As it is, I hope to convince you that I'm not worth your time." "Oh?"

She gestured. "As you can see, I have a good many toys. Carlos was quite generous in his gifts to me." "And where did he come by them?" "He didn't. I have a supplier of my own." "Who might that be?" She smiled tightly. "A very... reliable supplier." She adjusted her hairclip, and the Shadow caught a flash of something metallic by her sleeve. "It's hardly friendly to palm something while we're chatting," he chided. "Oh, I didn't palm anything." She lifted her sleeve to reveal a tight bracelet with the same highly finished, high-tech look. Then she slipped a finger under the identical ring of metal around her neck. "That's my insurance."

The Shadow returned to the original subject. "And what do you plan to do with these toys?" "Look, whoever you are. I've been a prostitute all my life. The last few years, I've been a gang lord's mistress, and I've gotten used to being comfortable, with relatively little work." "Ruling the Red Shivs will take work." She shrugged. "That's life. It'll keep me comfortable, which is the important thing."

"I think I may have done you an inadvertant favor. Julio's left town." "I'd guessed that." "How so?" "You set off one of my little tell-tales, let's say." After a brief moment's thought, the Shadow said, "Julio's house." "Very good! ... I want to thank you for coming straight here after Julio rather than going to Mario's first, by the way." "Oh? Why?" She rolled her eyes. "Because then I would've had to wait up a couple more hours!" Cold, the Shadow noted - very. "Well, what will you do about Mario?" She smiled that predatory smile again. "Mario doesn't understand about insurance." "I see."

"So why aren't you worth my time?" She shrugged. "Frankly, I view you as part of the cost of doing business. We don't need to fight. If you find a pusher careless enough to get caught by you, maybe the next one won't be as careless. If you catch one of my people knifing someone, well, maybe the next one will be smarter." "Survival of the fittest, eh?" She shrugged again. "I survived, they can learn too. Anyway, my toys could make it bad for you, but why bother? If you don't come after my people in an organized way, I don't feel the need to go after you in an organized way. Sound good?" The Shadow made no commitment, but only said, "I appreciate your candor."

She said, exasperated, "What do you want, then?" After some thought, the cloaked crusader responded, "I want not to be annoyed." "Something we have in common." "And just before his untimely demise, El Bandito did something that annoyed me very much." She frowned in thought, then said, "The bounty." "Ah, you've heard of it." "I've heard of a lot of things. Well... If you're willing to overlook a few deaths in the coming days as I consolidate my position, I'm willing to overlook the orders of the late lamented Carlos."

That twisted the Shadow's guts but he forced himself to relax and say, "I don't worry overmuch about which gang members kill which other gang members, or who leads the Red Shivs." She looked skeptical. "Weren't you going to try to remove me and Mario to get the Shivs to splinter?" He shrugged wearily. "In an ideal world, there would be no gangs at all..." She interrupted with a snort, "And no drugs either... or psychopaths in black hats and cloaks." The Shadow arched a brow. "I haven't encountered any psychopaths in black hats and cloaks, have you?" At her laugh, he continued, "As I was saying, ideally there would be no such things. But we don't live in an ideal world. I've been around the block enough to know that if I eliminate the Red Shivs, there'll just be another gang to take their place. I just want to minimize the harm they do to everyone else. ... And to be blunt, I have more important things than the Shivs on my mind."

Her eyes narrowed. "So that thing IS for real!" "Thing?" "The thing that's been disappearing my people lately, and raiding my drug shipments. You've fought it twice recently, I believe." "You are remarkably well informed." "Though I didn't think burning was your style..." "It isn't. It was Legion's idea... though I was certainly willing to burn the place if that was what it took to kill it." "Legion, eh? That's the name of a demon, isn't it?" The Shadow nodded. "New Testament." "Right. Well, it does seem we have a common interest there. Perhaps I have some information that will be of use to you." "I am waiting."

"I know of three locations it's been spotted." She gave the addresses. One was the crackhouse on 18th, one a flophouse, and one a warehouse of no particular note. "If it'll help, I'm even willing to use a drug shipment as bait for it." The Shadow replied with heavy irony, "That is most generous of you." She ignored the irony and replied bluntly, "Practicality. If it helps take the thing down, I'll save money and manpower in the long run." "As you say." "I'd better give you my cell number in case you need to arrange things - or if there's new information. There's pencil and paper over there."

She added a bit snidely, gesturing to his right hand hovering near his gun, "Can you read your left-hand writing, or are you ambidextrous?" The dark avenger looked at her levelly. "Just tell it to me. I have a very good memory." "Do you." She gave the number, and the Shadow repeated it back to her once, knowing that Carlos would take it down.

Then he said, "What will you do about the black cars?" "Oh. Them." "Carlos was being used by them, you know. More than just 'used', I should say." "'Pawn' would be my term." "They were controlling his mind." "Don't worry, I plan on staying my own woman." She patted her hairclip again, and added, "And I don't have much use for them. All they seem to want is cocaine. Lots of it. For free. I don't do 'free'." "Do you know what they want it for?" She studied him with narrowed eyes. "No." "Legion is a mistake of theirs. The chemicals they use involve cocaine. As you said, lots of it." She frowned. "I see..." and he could see wheels turning. Confusion to both my enemies, he hoped.

The Shadow inquired, "Is there anything else you want to say?" "Not right now." He tipped his hat ironically and said, "Then I believe I shall take my leave." "Very well, good night... oh, and what's my number?" He repeated it back with Carlos' help. "My. You do have a good memory." He turned to go, deliberately turning his back on her... unwilling to show her any sign of fear. There came a click from behind him - but he recognized it as her nails on the desk in time to still his instinctive reaction and continue walking out. Her chuckle came softly after him, "Interesting." [And I just have to say, 'cause Alex won't: "Bitch!" :)]

On the way back, he stated darkly, "I suspect I was just videotaped, Carlos. And I don't like it at all. ... How much of that did you get?" "Parts of it." So he filled Carlos in on events, arriving back at the base by the time he was done. The young man rose to help him with the vest, and asked, "What now, sir?" "I vote we take a well-deserved break. We've had a LONG weekend." "Sounds good to me!" "What would you like to eat?" "Thai?" "Very well. Should we have it delivered?" Carlos groaned on cue at that well-worn joke. The two walked companionably down to the nearest Thai place (invisibly part of the way) and got some takeout, then returned to devour it.

Alex caught Carlos in a particularly greedy moment, and used one of the lines from the Shadow movie on him: "You're a barbarian, you know." The boy nearly choked with laughter, then after swallowing gave Shiwan Khan's response: "Thank you!"

Afterward Alex shuffled a deck and asked, "What shall it be?" "Poker?" Carlos asked hopefully, and Alex rolled his eyes. Sure enough, he lost the first twenty chips in steady succession (Carlos' powers making him very hard to bluff) and thus had to clean up. Afterward he sat back down, and asked quietly, "Carlos... I've been meaning to ask you." "Yeah?"

"The reason why you work out so hard in the gym and take those karate classes... it's because you want to go out in the field with me, correct?" Carlos looked uncomfortable. "Well, yeah." "Why?"

The boy floundered, "Well, I want to do the right thing, the good thing. To be heroic I guess, you know?" Alex responded, "And do you feel you did all that earlier today?" "I guess..." "I do not feel very heroic. And I do not think I am particularly noble or good." "Well, you weakened Legion a little, and so maybe it won't hurt other people as much, right?" "I do not mean just today. I mean in general." Carlos protested, "But you make the streets a safer place for ordinary people! That's worth doing!"

Alex did not directly reply. "Carlos, I am in a bind." "What do you mean?" With his usual bluntness, he stated, "I can't sense Legion, at all. And you can." In the rapt silence that followed, he went on, "It can see through my invisibility, too. Against it, I lose my edge - I am simply a man with a gun... and, admittedly, a mind shield. I need any edge I can get to beat it." Carlos whispered, "You want me to go out in the field with you." Alex said with quiet rage against himself, "No, I do not want that at all. But I may need it."

"I'll go." Alex looked at him sharply. "Even though we've been warned by your dream of what may happen?" "...Yeah." Alex held Carlos' eyes. "Very well. Here is the condition: I expect you to follow orders. That means if I tell you to scram, you scram... no matter what the situation looks like." Carlos looked away and mumbled, "You mean... even if it looks like you're going to... die?" "That is what I said." "Oh."

After a long silence, Alex asked, "What are you thinking?" "I'm trying to decide if... if I can do that, sir." "And can you?" Carlos bit his lip. "If I have to, I guess I can." "Good."

Another long silence followed. Then Alex rose and went to the storage room off the gym, returning with a cot, which he unfolded. "What's that all about, sir?" "I'm going to be staying here in the base for a while, I think." "But what about your home?" "My son is somewhere safe, and I'm going to be taking time off from work. It will be best for me to be close to the action." "Oh."

"I should probably sleep now." "Yeah... I guess I'll watch some TV softly, if that's OK?" "Of course." "Good night, sir." "Good night, Carlos."


When Alex woke, he got dressed efficiently and paused to study the lightly snoring Carlos with a moment of worry. Shrugging helplessly, he turned to the phone and went down the list of calls he had to make:

1) Sisters of Mercy reported that Juan's condition was unchanged.

2) "Franklin High, how may I help you?" "This is Alexander Brighton." (Spoken softly so the sleeping Carlos won't hear.) "There's been a bit of a family emergency, and my son David will be out of town for most of this week. Possibly all of it, I'm not sure yet." After a few more formalities, that was taken care of.

3) "Hal, I'm arranging to have the stuff from OmniMetal picked up today. I want to have you check it out for me... and in a neutral location, just in case they can track it. Perhaps a motel or something. Can you think of one roughly between your place and mine? A Motel 6? Good. I'll pay for your time, of course." A pause while Hal made the arrangements then called back: "Room 109, very good."

4) "N&R Courier Service." (From the list of companies Carlos had dutifully researched and listed for him.) "Yes, I need a package picked up at OmniMetal Inc. and delivered to room 109 of the Motel 6 at..." The details were worked out. "They'll want the name of the courier for verification purposes... Andy Matuczek? I'll let them know. Who will sign for it? Richard Shadwell. You'll have it there sometime between 9 and 10? Thank you."

5) "Hal, they'll have it there sometime between 9 and 10. They're expecting 'Richard Shadwell' to sign. I'd appreciate it if you'd do that for me... Yes, Hal, this is getting a bit cloak-and-dagger."

6) "Maria, it's your friend in black again. ... Carlos told you about the bounty the Red Shivs were going to put out on my 'collaborators', right? The good news is that I've arranged for it not to happen. The bad news?" With forced cheerfulness, "I'm dealing with a company that cuts telepaths' brains out and puts them in black boxes, and have been forced to work with them to deal with one of their mistakes, a contagious group-mind of telepathic homicidal maniacs."

She responded, "Paging Dr. Frankenstein... Dr. Frankenstein, you are wanted in surgery to remove your brain..." "Precisely. Anyway, I am thinking you can help me with this..." "Gee, why can't you ever just want my help to make the perfect spaghetti sauce, huh?" "I'm already a pretty good hand with spaghetti, but I can always use a few tips from the master." "What do you need?"

"While I have to work with these people, I don't trust them any further than I can throw a whale..." "Getting soft in your old age, I see. It woulda been a planet a few years ago." "... Right. Anyway, it would be nice if I knew where some of their key employees lived, their schedules, daily patterns, that kind of thing. It's only fair to warn you that you could end up being an accomplice to something." "Ah, why would anybody wanna come after a harmless little lady like me, huh? You got any names for me?" "Not yet, but I'm working on it."

"Want me to go full time on this?" "Do you have anything else going on?" "Nah." "Full time, then. Do you want your usual fee or favors rendered?" He winced at her joke about what kind of favors, and struck back with, "Do recall that I may have just saved your life. Is this the thanks I get?... All right, the usual it is. And listen, if you run into anything strange - my kind of strange, I mean - back off and don't put yourself at risk."

7) "Bob, Alex. I'm afraid I can't come in today... I have headaches like you wouldn't BELIEVE." That at least isn't quite a lie, Alex thought glumly.

"Alex, can you manage to come in at all? We've got a big new contract, very complex stuff, looks like it's right up your alley. Very hush-hush. Vu's got everything under control with your team, doesn't he? You can be spared for a few weeks? But listen, if you're not functional, stay in bed. We've got other people who can handle it."

Alex was seized with a sudden very nasty suspicion. "I suppose I can try to pull myself together. Is it all right if I come in at noon? A few more hours of sleep might be just the thing."

"Perfect! Listen, remember you can take Tylenol and Advil at the same time, works great. See you later!"

8) "This is Van Helsing. Get me Johnson." "Van Helsing, good to hear from you! I must say, you made quite the impression on Mr. Torrance." "I intended to. My courier is with N&R and is named Andy Matuczek. He should be there at 8 sharp."

"Excellent. By the way, Mr. Torrance was very impressed with your phone system. ... I'm afraid I forgot to tell him not to perform a trace on your call." "That was most careless of you." "I informed the day staff, but forgot that he wasn't there at the time. But as I was saying, he found that you're calling from a Beijing line." "My interests are very wide-ranging." "Your previous call was from Bombay..." "I travel a lot." "How's Paris this time of year?" "Balmy." "As I was saying, he was quite impressed."

"He was more impressed with my phone system than with what I had to say about Legion?" "I'd hardly say that. He made some firm recommendations about new security measures to the board of directors, and we're taking this very seriously." "What are you doing?" "We're moving our chemical stocks, and those with the right expertise, off site. I don't even know where they're going. Only the board - who are also off-site - know that." "It's a start. You said Christophilous was a biochemist... How much did he know about the three compounds in question?" "He was directly involved in the synthesis only of the third one, the narcotic."

"What about my login and password to your system?" "You'll appreciate them, I think. The login is 'Prometheus' and the password 'Shelley'." "Johnson, I would never have suspected you of a sense of humor."

The irony, Alex thought as he hung up, that I have to give my enemies advice that will make it harder for ME to take them down later!

Flying swiftly to the Motel 6 in Shadow costume, he met Hal there in room 109. There were two bulky packages there, about the size of large suitcases. Hal had brought a laptop, and something that looked like an unnatural hybrid between another laptop and a supermarket scanner. In fact, quite remarkably like a supermarket scanner... [How does he DO that?! Yes, I know... "Oh, never mind!" :)]

"By the way, Hal, I've been meaning to ask... Do you have any clients besides me for the, ah, 'special' stuff?" "Oh, sure." With a sinking sensation, the Shadow asked, "How many?" "Oh, half a dozen or so." "Would one of them be a Maria Escolante, by any chance?" "No... not that I can recall, anyway." "That's something... You don't sell people energy weapons do you?" "No, of course not!" "Powered armor?" "Nah. Though I did sell one guy an exoskeleton. ... What? It wasn't that much better than what you could get on the market." "Do you know what he wanted it for?" "No, why, is it important?" The Shadow contained a sigh. "We'll have to have a little chat about your clientele sometime. For now, let's look at these cases." "Sure!"

Running the first suitcase under the scanner, Hal quickly ascertained that it was safe to open and wasn't transmitting anything. Alex opened it and found sixteen metal oblongs in four neat rows of four, along with an envelope. After Hal scanned it and found it to be harmless, Alex opened that too. It tersely informed him of the screamers' specs and modes of function - they were guaranteed out to fifty feet, and had maximum effect within ten. They could be set to go off with a timer, automatically in response to psychic energy, or in response to an included radio device. It was signed, "Johnson".

Hal took one out and scanned it intensively, building up a detailed three-dimensional image on his laptop that he could rotate and zoom in on with suspicious speed. (The Shadow suspected it hadn't been bought from Dell.) Pretty soon he was examining circuit diagrams at lightning speed. "This is really interesting stuff! I never thought of doing this sort of thing... Of course, it's not the way I would do it..." "What is it?" "Well, you know how I told you that you can't do psionics with machines?" "Yes." "Turns out that you can interfere with it with machines. These babies will do the job." "Do the specs match what the letter says?" "Seems to." "What effect will it have on normals?" "Probably give a headache." "What about on me?" "A worse headache."

"Is there any way OmniMetal could track these things?" "Not right now. If triggered by radio, they could probably pick up on that. And the squeal these things put out will be detectable too." "From how far away?" "Depends. If they've got an 800 meter reflector, anywhere in the solar system. If they've got a two-inch disk..." his eyes glazed over as he calculated, then he said dreamily, "Actually, I could do some very interesting things with a two-inch disk..."

"Right. Hal, can you whip up a detector to let me know if they are signalling these things?" Hal sniffed - clearly, this task was beneath him. "Easily." "Could you make something that would shield me from the effect?" "Hmmm. And still let you use your powers? Tricky, but yeah, with work I could do it. There'd probably be side effects, though. Y'see, these things match up to the brain's delta waves, so you just wanna produce some delta-2 waves only reverse the phase in the... oh, never mind!"

"How long will they last? I want to test one to see what it feels like." "Hmm. There doesn't seem to be an off-switch." After some arcane manipulation of the image on the screen, he announced, "These things'll burn out in a minute or so, I'm afraid. Oh, and the radio transmitter they gave you doesn't have batteries in it yet." The Shadow asked ironically, "What kind do they take, triple-A?" Hal opened the thing up and peered inside. "Three double-A's, actually." That left the Shadow a bit non-plussed. "I'd not have expected it. Can you soup these things up to last longer?" "...Maybe. It'd take a lot of work."

The Shadow nodded thoughtfully. "What about the gas?" A scan revealed that the other case, and the envelope inside, were also safe. There were twelve vials inside. The letter basically said to smash one and let the gas do the rest. Unconsciousness was expected within seconds, but only guaranteed within one minute. The effective range was likewise guaranteed to extend to 30 feet, but there might be some effect further away. Hal isolated the compounds in the vials... there were three of them. ("Please don't tell me one of them is caffeine this time, OK?") Together, they ascertained that one would provide gas effect - choking and tearing like tear gas; another would disorient a person; and the third was a narcotic that would put someone out for quite a long time. Together, they made for quite the witches' brew. "You've got some grenade shells back at the garage, right Hal? Good. I'd prefer that to walking around with a bunch of glass vials."

The Shadow frowned. "You know, I'm almost disappointed that OmniMetal seems to have played straight with me. It makes me nervous." "Well, they can track these puppies if you use the radio transmitter, if it makes you feel any better." "Hmph."

After making all the necessary arrangements, Alex stopped by his house to check messages and pick up some clothes. The only message was from Jerry, "Taking some tourists on a trip... Dropped David off. We'll have to talk about some things when I see you next." There was a bit of an edge in Jerry's voice, and Alex could guess why - he was wondering if he and his wife needed to leave LA too.

Returning to the base, he found Carlos getting dressed to go out. "That's right, you have classes today." "Uh huh." "Well, have a good day." "Thanks Dad, you too!" He said it with his usual cheery joking sarcasm, but when Alex gave him a sharp look, Carlos' back was to him as he put on a shirt. "Gotta go, I'll see you later!" He rushed out, not meeting Alex's eyes. Alex sighed slightly - there was much more there than a simple joke, he felt sure. [VERY daring of Carlos, if you ask me. Goes to show how hard the conversation of the previous night hit.]

When he made it in to work (having to go back to his house to pick up his car!) Bob greeted him and ushered him almost at once into a meeting with an assortment of other chemists and related personnel in the company. (Other than Bob and another managerial type, Alex was the highest-ranking.) "We have a major new contract, people. Rather secretive... we've got a non-disclosure agreement for you to sign, and that's just for this meeting. There'll be another if you sign on. You can say we had a meeting, and that's it." That caused some restive murmuring, given that of course they'd already signed non-disclosures to work at the company in the first place.

"Our client is doing animal testing of some very complex compounds, and they need this done as a rush job. It's more important that it be done right than it be done fast, but they're paying a hefty bonus for fast. If we can find a cheap way to make the stuff, there's a big bonus for that too." "Wait a minute," someone protested. "They know what they want... but they're not telling us how to make it? We have to figure out the synthesis ourselves? What kind of outfit is this?" "A high-paying one. They've mentioned, by the way, that they've farmed this work out to several of our competitors as well. If we finish first we will be sitting pretty."

Alex asked, "What compounds do they want made?" "Two quite complex ones. The details are in your folder." Alex leafed through his. He was not too surprised to find they were the exact two (not counting the cocaine derivative) needed by Legion. It just fits in with the pattern of this whole week, he thought glumly.

"Animal testing?" he queried. "To what end? These things are a pretty bizarre combination." "I don't know, Alex, and I'm not sure it matters, so long as they think it does." "Bob, does it strike you that there might be something a bit, well, shady about all this?" Bob hesitated. "Well, I did think it a little odd that they sent this scrawny kid to work out the details..." "Kid?" "Well, OK, he's probably 20 or so. Young, not very healthy-looking." And if I wasn't sure before, I am now, Alex thought. "But," Bob continued firmly, "I've done some checking on the company, and they're very much for real."

Several of the gathered people bowed out due to ethical concerns, others because they objected to taking so many hours away from their other projects, to say nothing of their families. Bob appealed to Alex, "What about you?"

[Quite the session! I am getting the impression that SuentisPo considers it his goal in life to make the Shadow's more complicated. :) And things are getting very interesting indeed with Carlos. I suspect things are gonna be hopping when David gets back. Johnson continues to bug me. (In more ways that one! :) Maria is gonna be a headache well into the future, I'm guessing, and you just know that Hal's other clients are gonna cause trouble, if they aren't already causing it. Finally, SP needs to learn to use different names for NPC's so we don't get hopelessly confused! First two Carloses, now two Marias. (Three, if you count Jennifer's mother, who usually goes by Mary.) I may have to do an 'El Bandito' and bump her off just so I don't have to keep them straight! :)]

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