A case of missing kids leads to an underground lair owned by a masterful tech genius.
Midnight. Perfect time for a run.
Water splashed against my new red running shoes, mud turning the white stripe into a dark stain as I ran. I glanced up to see the moon through the trees, remnants of a past storm causing the stars to sparkle in the droplets against the leaves. The wind roared in my ears, hands and arms relaxed as I sped through the forest towards the nearby town.
Once I reached the cobblestone street I had to slow down, weaving between the few people still out and about at this hour. I jogged my way to a squatty 3-story building set back among the line of dirty brick-row houses; my home
Racing up the steps to the second floor, I came up short to find someone standing directly across from my door. He stayed in the shadows, but I knew his silhouette instantly; it was the exact same as mine.
Lanky limbs surrounding a short torso, the guy always wore gloves and a hat to cover his head and face when out in public. He only ever removed them in front of me. I was never sure why, it’s not like he was a secret agent or anything.
True to form, he pulled off his hat to reveal a head of black spiked hair, the tips tainted a dark dirty red. Red eyes glared at me from a severely angled face as he stared me down. “Hedge,” he greeted me, voice low and gritty. “Out for a run again?”
I crossed my arms and met his stare with a cocked smile. “Observant as ever, my weird shadow-friend.”
His frown deepened. “I told you not to call me that.”
“Well, when you’re not attacking me outright you don’t act like an enemy.” I smiled as I crossed to the door. “What can I do for you?”
“There’s a case waiting for you behind that door,” he stated, arms crossed. “Don’t take it.”
I paused, glancing at the door. Frosted glass covered half the wood, with big blocky letters spelling out “S. T. Hedge” across the top, and “Private Eye” across the bottom. Just beyond I could see the impression of someone waiting, a slim feminine figure shifting uncomfortably and looking around.
I looked back, but my shadow-friend was gone, disappeared into the night. Hm. Maybe he was a secret agent. Oh well.
I pushed the door open to find a pretty figure standing in the center of my office, hands clasped together tightly as she spun to face me. Two long blonde braids swung around her shoulders, large eyes brimming with tears as she raced toward me.
“Oh Mr. Hedge!” she cried, “I’ve lost them! I’ve lost them!”
I gave her a smile meant to comfort her while peeling her hands off my shoulders. “Calm down, sweetheart. Take a deep breath, and tell me the story.”
Swallowing a couple mouthfuls of air, she took a step back and started again.
Miss C. Abbit spun me a story of how she’s got a group of children she takes care of on her own dime. She went to check on them this morning and found all of them missing, then ran around town for the rest of the day asking everyone who would glance her direction if they’ve seen the kids. Eventually someone gave her my number and she called, but no one answered. So she came down and had been waiting in the office.
Pulling out a small notepad, I sketched out my normal fee and asked for a description. Giving me a sad smile as she began to play with the orange ribbons in her hair, she described the kids as short with large heads on top of little round bodies. I hadn’t ever seen kids like she mentioned, but it wasn’t my job to judge her descriptive abilities.
She thanked me with a little bow and hurried away, her orange dress still bright in the shadows of the hallway. “‘Don’t take it’,” I muttered my shadow’s last words and dismissed them with a wave of the hand. I had a job to do and I was gonna do it.
Tossing the pad down, it landed unevenly among the mess. I rifled through the odds and ends covering the top of my desk, moving a handful of gold rings hiding among broken mechanical parts. Hm. Looks like someone thought this was his desk. Again.
Digging out the phone from one side, I pulled the receiver and dialed, tapping a foot as the line rung. Once. Twice. Three times before a young-ish voice hurriedly answered, “Twin Tails Power Shop, what’s your need?”
“A good assistant would be nice. Know anyone?”
A pause. “Sorry Hedge, I got carried away with a new design and--”
“I know, I know, it’ll change the world.” I cut him off with a sigh. “Hey Miles, think you can tear yourself away from your garage long enough to do your actual job?”
“Sure Hedge. What’cha need?”
“Another pair of legs; we’ve got some kids to hunt down.”
We met outside a small dark coffee shop halfway between the office and his garage. The kid came running up, hunched under a coat to stave off the drizzling rain. He was shorter than me by a head, the kid’s somewhat round face smudged with oil and grease while smoke left a black stain on his otherwise orange hair.
“Sorry Hedge,” he apologized again. “The new engine I came up with still needs a bit of work.”
I dismissed it with a shrug and began telling him the details, the kid listening intently. We tossed around ideas, settling on the one where I’d investigate where the kids last were while Miles investigated the people around the place. We set off together, myself at a slow jog so he could keep up.
We trotted our way to an old apartment building leaning over a fragile shack on the edge of town. Miles stared up and groaned, knowing he’d be dealing with drunks and people angry about being woken up. He reluctantly jogged his way to the first-story apartments while I approached the shack.
The door squealed on its hinges as I poked it open, the dim light from the streetlamps bathing the interior in a yellow glow. A mix of mattresses and sleeping bags were scattered across the floor, interspersed with threadbare rugs and discarded jackets. A dirty handprint there, a crumpled bit of bandage in that corner, small baskets piled to one side, each with an orange bow decorating the top and sides. So, miss Abbit wasn’t lying about taking care of them, then.
Sweeping the area for clues revealed a hole in the door, accompanied by a broken lock lying on the floor haloed by splinters. Spatters of a black liquid marked the floor and rug, a trail leading to the window where a foot-sized mark had broken the edge of the window, broken bits of glass fallen away from the opening.
Something winked at me under the rug. Tossing the rug back revealed a small green stone, reflecting oddly in the light. I pocketed it and turned back to the black liquid; A quick run of the fingers to the nose told me it stunk up a storm, though it wasn’t blood by any means.
In fact...It almost smelled like…
A shadow from the doorway blocked my light. Before I could turn I heard the unmistakable sound of a gun cocking, suspicion creeping along my neck that the barrel was pointed at my head.
“Hands where I can see them.” I complied. “Stand up.” My knees popped as I stood. “Turn around.” I did slowly, coming face to face with a pair of angry blue eyes set into a wide face, the tips of his red hair peeking from under his hat. He blinked in surprise. “Hedge?”
I smiled. “Hiya ‘Knuckles’. Done boxing for the night?”
He frowned with a snort. “The Island closes at midnight, you know that. What are you doing here?”
“Not wasting time betting on your fights,” I answered, hands dropping into my pockets. “You?”
“Something was stolen from me. I got wind it might be here.”
A rattle in the corner drew both of our attention, Knuckles approaching first. A bundle of blankets shuffled in the corner, and a powerful sneeze rocked from under at least three layers of dirty cloth. With a quick pull, Knuckles jerked the blankets back and shouted, “Where are my stones!?”
His suspect wasn’t going to be much use; The sneezing blanket unveiled a child, matching the description Miss Abbit gave me, cowering with arms over his head. “Don’t hurt me!” he squealed, “Don’t take me away!”
I clamped a hand over Knuckle’s wrist, yanked him away from the kid. “Easy. I don’t think this is what you think it is.”
“How can you be sure?!” he snapped, stealing a glance at the kid.
“Mostly because he’s a kid!” I held up a hand, showing Knuckles the small green stone. “Also because I found this over by the window, close to an oil spot...and I doubt the kid is leaking oil.”
We stared each other down before Knuckles turned away with a grunt. “So I’m here for nothing.”
“I wouldn’t say that,” I answered, still looking at the kid as I dug around in my pocket. Showing him the green rock, I said, “found this by the window. It wouldn’t happen to be what you’re looking for, would it?”
Snatching it from my hand with a grunt, he peered at it while I bent down to get eye-level with the kid. “Don’t worry,” I said, trying to reassure him. “Miss Abbit sent me to find you.”
Her name brought an immediate turnaround. He clung to me and cried, trying desperately to talk and failing to get the words past the lump in his throat. Knuckles tried a few more times to get a story out of him, but it didn’t work any better than the first time.
A knock on the door revealed Miles standing there with a notepad and a confused look on his face. He summed up his adventures in the apartment building with short sentences, to which I suggested he elaborate on later. After we take the kid back to Miss Abbit.
I had the distinct feeling that putting all our pieces together would produce the solution to our puzzles.
I crossed my arms as I leaned back against the wall in thought. The child had been given food, water, and a secure place to sleep. Miss Abbit, Knuckles, and Miles were going around like water down a stifled drain, reciting facts and situations they had gone over a hundred times.
The breakdown was this; Knuckles, while primarily a boxer, also specialized in collecting rare and unique rocks. Seems he could never have enough of them. A few nights ago someone swiped his collection, leaving only a handful behind. Then he got a hint the thieves might be holding up in the shack that turned out to be where the kids were holding up.
Miles’ irritated apartment-dwellers had spun him a collective story about a fire-breathing car, taking the kids away in a sack. I wasn’t buying the car story, but I had heard enough things on the street I couldn’t rule out some sort of mechanized monster maliciously snatching the minors last midnight. And if I was right, there was only one place that could manufacture said monsters and be willing to kidnap kids.
I was still fuzzy on the ‘why’ though.
Shrugging it off, I cut off the useless conversation and told them my theory. The three of them fell silent, the silence continuing past the point of my musings. I finished and Knuckles drew the same conclusion I had, slapping fist against an open hand.
“Nick Ivo,” he growled. “It’s got to be.”
“But...his company makes engines and machines,” Miles said. “Why would he…?”
I shook my head, glancing out the window. “I don’t know. But I think asking him might do the trick.”
“I’m coming,” Knuckles said, standing up and slamming his fists together. “He’s not gonna get away with this.”
I shrugged. Three against one evens the odds.
The threat of the sun cracked along the horizon, a pale pink staining the dark of the sky as we approached a gritty tower of a building with smoke bellowing from three chimneys at the top and an oversized exhaust pipe on the side. The name “Julian and Sons” was spelled out in neon lights, flickering over the doorway like a boast.
Knuckles jabbed at the door, the wood flinging open and slamming against the wall. I glanced at the inside of the doors as we made our way inside; the doors had been left unlocked. I drew my gun and motioned for Miles to keep behind me.
The inside lobby was a mess. Our feet kicked scattered nuts and bolts across the floor, pipes along the walls spewing smoke and steam in our faces.
“So, you’ve made your way here, Hedge!” The gritty voice boomed over hidden loudspeakers, accompanied by a hearty laugh. “I wondered when you’d make your way into my trap!!”
“What have you done with the kids, Nick!?” I called up, looking around. Knuckles’ fists went up as we clustered together, moving as a group. “Hand them over and I’ll leave without tearing the place apart.”
He laughed. “You won’t get the chance!!”
The sound of gears grating echoed around the lobby, a pair of nearby iron doors opening with a slow creak. A giant of a machine rolled its way into the room, giant treads able to squash us if we weren’t fast enough.
“Nice robot, Nick,” I called out, keeping my gun low and ready. I motioned over my shoulder for Miles to move around, mouthing the words ‘shut-off switch’. He nodded and slipped back into the shadows. “I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it.”
“Of course you haven’t!” he boasted. “This is a creature of my own invention; the machines are the way of the future, don’t you see!?”
“I see you’ve got a hobby,” I answered, nodding for Knuckles to head left. “But why steal Knuckles’ rocks and a handful of kids?”
“I needed a workforce!” he bellowed, “And a power source.”
“The kids built this thing overnight!?”
“Of course not, you fool! But I have several more of this same model, and I need all the hands I can get to help me build. No one else was caring for those kids, so I decided to give them something to do. Now, if you don’t mind, I’ve got to test my latest invention and see how well it digs into annoying little punks like you!!”
Two drill-hands began to whirr, the arms jerking to life and swinging around. The mechanic voice stated, “Target Locked. Initiating drill sequence.”
“Let’s go!!” I screamed, dodging a strong strike. The drill broke through the floor, concrete bits flying into the air as I ran.
“Oh Hedge, you don’t know how much this little town needs my inventions,” his voice continued to taunt as I dodged strikes left and right. Knuckles came around the other side, the robot swinging its other drill-hand independently. “My machines will become the next greatest thing, able to drill through anything in one strike! I’ll be able to find oil in half the time, break down any building I want with less manpower. I’ll be rich!!”
The arm wound back and struck hard, the drill sticking into the floor. The robot jerked, and I took the opportunity to dash up the machine right to the top. A small glass opening allowed me to see inside the head, where one of Knuckles’ gems rested inside a tangle of wires glowing green and red. Shoving my gun against the glass, I pulled the trigger twice.
The robot jerked and shuddered, wound down. Then the gears screamed, oil spraying from the joints and it popped back up, flinging me from its head. The torso turned, smoke starting to spray from its arms as it wound up for another strike. Before it got it’s chance, Knuckles landed a crippling blow against its torso, the metal bending with a loud crunch.
Nick howled over the intercom, shouting demands at his monstrosity as Knuckles began to climb it. I shouted about the gem at the top, Knuckles climbing faster and reaching the top with a grunt. The machine whirred and groaned as it tried to recover. Glass shattered as Knuckles put a fist through the top, yanking the rock from its place.
The robot shuddered and died with a squealing groan.
“No!!!” Ivo screamed. “How could you-- Wait, what are--!”
I heard Miles’ voice over the intercom yell “Freeze! We’ve got you, Nick! Come quietly, or...wait, what’s that!?”
There was a short pop and boom, static spreading over the speakers. My heart stopped for a moment, restarting once Miles’ voice came over the speaker. “Sorry Hedge,” he said, voice stilted with coughs and hacks. “He set off some kind of smoke bomb. He got away.”
“That’s alright,” I called up, looking at the defeated machine, oil starting to pool on the floor. “You got the kids?”
“Yeah, I found them and opened the back door. I told them to get to Miss Abbit’s and stay there until we get them. I also found most of Knuckles’ rocks, though I think some of them are already a part of Nick’s robots.”
“That’s fine,” Knuckles called up, already making his way past the iron doors. “I’ll find them. You guys make sure the kids are safe and sound with Miss Abbit. I’ll take care of the police once they get here, Hedge. Nick won’t get away with this.”
I nodded and headed out the doors, calling for Miles to follow.
A quick trip to Miss Abbit’s found the kids safe and sound. She wrapped her arms around me as she cried, thanking me and Miles for rescuing them from Nick. We left after she paid us, heading back to the office while she went to cook soup for all of them.
The office was cold and quiet, dawn finally starting to break. Miles had gone back to the garage to work on his new engine, police sirens wailing in the distance. I tossed my payment on the desk along with my hat onto the desk, the clanking of the glittering gold rings music to my ears, and ran a hand along my hair as I sat by the window. My fading reflection stared back at me, a shock of spiky blue hair sitting atop my head. Then the sun rose, coating the street below in light and giving life to the dark buildings of our knothole of a town.
I pondered Nick’s robots. I wondered why my shadow-friend warned me away from the case. I considered the idea that Nick was still out there, and would likely want revenge for my destroying his toys.
I shrugged it off, those worries being tomorrows worries, and realized I was hungry. Stopping a moment to clean off my red running shoes, I decided to go out and nab a bit of my favorite grub; a chili dog.
“Curse that Hedge...Curse him!” Ivo slammed two fists down on his desk and began to pace. “I can’t believe he defeated my latest robot. Defeated...no, he wrecked it!” He paced through his little hidden office, a space he built specifically for evasion in case anything went wrong. He paced past blueprints, old plans, and a smaller model of the drill-bot that wound up being useless.
“I’ll show him,” Ivo muttered, glancing at his blueprints. Shuffling through them, he uncovered an old design he found of an underground chamber, built right under this stupid little knothole town. He had traveled all over the world, looking for information on this chamber, and found many interesting theories. Some sounded far too mystical to be true, but some...Ah, some led him to believe an ancient power source was down there, just waiting to be used. “I’ll show that skinny runt. This is not the end of Nick Ivo, inventor extraordinaire and genius beyond his time!!”
Taking his blueprint, he trotted back over to his desk and laid it out next to a diagram of finances. “Once I have this power source under my control,” he said, noting his habit of talking to himself and how it helped him think, “nothing will stop me from taking control of the industry, not even that runt, Hedge! And after the industry is mine, I’ll use the money and the robots to revise this city into my own personal image; Ivotown! Yes! That’s what I’ll--”
“Talking to yourself again?”
Ivo hesitated, spinning around. He adjusted his tinted glasses to see better, watching as a figure much like Hedge melted from the shadows. He sucked in a breath before realizing who it was.
“Oh, it’s you,” he said, recovering with a smirk. “Hedge’s ‘Shadow’. What do you want?”
The slender man held out his hand. “My cut.”
Ivo grunted. “Your cut. Your cut for what? You were supposed to divert him, not lead him to me.” He waved a dismissive hand, turning away. “You get nothing.”
He startled when the Shadow appeared directly in front of him, hand still out. “I did what you asked. I wasn’t told to tie him down. I wasn’t told to hurt him. Our deal was that I’d tell him not to take the case, and I’ve done so.”
Ivo sniffed through his giant nose, mustache twitched as he turned his back on Shadow. “Our ‘deal’ was for you to throw him off the case, at which you clearly failed. You get nothing. Besides, all the emeralds are back at my factory, and likely have all been taken by the police or by that idiot boxer, Knuckles. If you can get your cut from them…”
He didn’t finish his thought. Ivo felt a shove from behind, and found himself pinned momentarily to his desk with the cold steel of a gun at the base of his neck. “Wait wait wait!” he cried, “I- I- I may have one or two left. Look in my desk!” He flailed at one of the drawers. “That one! Look in there!”
The Shadow opened the drawer, springing a small flash bomb. He stumbled away, falling to the ground as his senses whirled. Ivo stood over him with a laugh, gloating. “You fool!” he crowed, “did you think you could get me like that in my own office? I’ve got traps in every nook and cranny. Now get out! Get out while I still let you out!!”
Stumbling to his feet, Hedge’s Shadow fixed him with a glare. “Fine. But this isn’t the last you’ve heard from me. I will come back. And I will get what is owed me.” With that, Shadow stumbled from the room and Ivo turned back to his plans.
“That little snoop and his gang are going to pay for complicating my plans,” Ivo growled, snatching a new blueprint from the wall. “And I know the right machine for the job...All I’ve got to do now is build him.”
Down the dark hallways and dark rooms, Ivo’s dramatic gut-filled laugh could be heard all over his abandoned, secret office building.
The Short Stories
From time to time I have minor adventures, whims, or odd ideas that manage to be written down. Below you'll find all my little nonsensical adventures, anything from other-worldly to other-wordly.
Occasionally I get a wild hair and do something I can't particular categorize. So it gets classified as 'nonsense' and put into the corner for others to look at.
To shorten this introduction: I'm a Millennial Gemini Ravenclaw Firebending INTP-T that is somewhere in the range between Enneagram numbers 4-7 (It keeps changing and I keep forgetting which number I'm supposed to be). If that doesn't give you some kind of picture of how I operate then you'll just have to start Googling things.
All 30of30 Animal Bear Bubbles Cocky Cookies Detective Event Funny Grandma Halloween Haunting Hedge LevelUP Marwolaeth Mystery Noir Parody Phone Calls Plants Pupmkins Rabid Plants Redmoon Rocky Roses Satire Squirrel True Love Valentines Story Zombies
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