Lawndales Finest

 

Action Stories

 

 

Issue One: Ace Reporter

 

           The truth is rarely pure and never simple.

 - Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900)

 

 

            “Quinn, where are you going?”

            “Can’t talk Amy, I just got a hot tip. I have to follow it up right now!”

            Amy walked from the kitchen to the living room just in time for the front door to slam closed. She sighed and shook her head at her exuberant niece.

            “When I was her age I was more worried about hot dates than hot tips. Not that I had many hot dates. Well, I guess whatever makes her happy. I should stop talking to myself, it’s probably not healthy.”

 

            “I want you to know that your brother’s car terrifies me at a deep and primal level,” Quinn said, pulling the door shut and buckling her seat belt.

            “And yet you willingly ride around in Chuck’s old clunker,” Jane replied with a grin. She dropped Trent’s blue beater into drive and pulled away from the Morgendorffer residence.

            “That’s different.”

            “True, true. I guess the love machine is fine for trips to the park or up to the ridge. You know, I always wondered what you wild and crazy teens do up on that ridge. If only the star reporter for the school newspaper could go up there and get the scoop.”

            “Jane,” Quinn said, blushing brightly. “There is nothing untoward or newsworthy going on up there.”

            “So Chuck has taken you up to ‘Make-out Point,’ eh? Here you’ve been denying it all this time.”

            “Kill you,” Quinn muttered, covering her face with her hands.

            Jane chuckled and then said, “So, on the phone you said you had a lead on a good story up in Gotham. I brought my camera, what kinds of pictures am I gonna be taking?”

            “Pictures of science,” Quinn said. “I got a phone call from my old lab partner, from last year’s chem class. Her aunt works for Star Labs and they’re having a big unveiling for the press today. I called the Sun-Herald and they said they weren’t sending anybody since it’s not one of the major researchers holding the conference.”

            “Well, that’s mighty nice of them.”

            “Yeah, yeah. Anyway, they said if the story was worth printing they’d give us the usual freelance rate. Even if they don’t want the story, I think it’ll make a good blog entry.”

            “So who is this researcher and what does she research?”

            “Her name is Dr. Elaine Allen, and she’s a nautical engineer. She designs equipment for deep sea exploration, search and rescue teams, that sort of thing. Apparently she’s very popular with the Coast Guard.”

            “You’ve done some research.”

            “Not so much, really. Scarlett likes to talk about her aunt, and I’ve got a pretty good memory.”

            “She’s the redhead with the big silver ankh, right?”

            “You know her?”

            “We’ve talked once or twice. So do we know what shiny new water gadget her aunt is showing off today?”

            “No,” Quinn said. “If I knew that I could write my story from home, couldn’t I?”
            “Yeah, but then you wouldn’t have pictures to go with it.” Jane frowned a moment. “They’re not going to print pictures for this story, are they?”

            “Um, probably not.” Quinn smiled sheepishly at her best friend. “But I want them for the blog anyway.”

            “Plus, you needed a ride.”

            “I have to start checking my equipment,” Quinn said, pulling her backpack into her lap. “I’ll keep an eye out for the exit while I’m at it.”

            “Yeah, yeah.”

 

            A short drive later, Jane pulled into the parking lot of the S.T.A.R. Labs facility on the outskirts of Gotham City. She parked and the girls got out and walked up to the building. Just inside they stopped at a security check point consisting of a small guard booth, a conveyor belt feeding through an x-ray machine, and a metal detector.

            The guard slid open the window and said, “Hello, girls. How can I help you?”

            “We’re here from the Sun-Herald,” Quinn said, showing the security guard her press card.

            “Oh, you’re that teen reporter they’ve got working over the summer. My wife loves your articles, she says they’re edgy.”

            “Thank you, sir. This is Jane Lane, she’s my photographer.”

            “Alright, put your bags on the belt and step through the archway, please.”

            The pair quickly followed the guard’s directions and in a short while were standing just past the checkpoint. Quinn waited patiently while Jane loaded film into her camera.

            “Here you go,” the guard said as stepped out of the booth. He handed each of them a visitor’s badge. “I called Dr. Allen, she should be right down to meet you.”

            “Nobody else showed up?” Quinn asked.

            “If it doesn’t come out of the military or medical departments the press doesn’t care,” the guard replied with a shrug. “And half of that stuff is under top secret contract from the government anyway.”

            “You must be Miss Morgendorffer.” Quinn turned to see a middle aged woman in a comfortable looking pants suit walking down the hallway. Her auburn hair was shot through with grey, and she had a pair of bifocals perched on top of her head.

            “Please, call me Quinn.” She took a step forward and shook hands with the woman. “My photographer, Jane Lane.” The woman turned to Jane with a smile and they shook hands as well.

            “Well, I suppose you can call me Elaine. You should probably make it ‘Dr. Allen’ in the article, though. I already have enough trouble with people taking me seriously around here.” The woman laughed merrily and led Quinn and Jane up the hall towards the elevator.

            “I’m surprised you have trouble getting respect for your work,” Quinn said. “I understand that you’re responsible for some ground breaking innovations in oceanography research gear.”

            “Don’t you mean water breaking?”

            “I didn’t know scientists had senses of humor,” Jane said, sharing a grin with the woman.

            “Oh, some are worse than others. And to be serious, I’m very well liked by some sections of the scientific community, not to mention the Coast Guard. I have a few fans among the park rangers as well, and let me tell you that comes in handy.”

            “It does?” Quinn asked.

            “Oh yeah, I never have any problems reserving camping spots. Half the time I don’t even have to pay for the site.” Dr. Allen gave a mischievous smile. “Now don’t put that in your story, I don’t want the other scientists getting jealous.”

            “Ok,” Quinn said.

            The elevator stopped and she led them down another hallway and through a door into a moderate sized room that looked like a cross between a lab and a machine shop.

            “Welcome to the inner sanctum, ladies. This is where the magic happens.”

            “Really?” Jane asked.

            “No, not really,” Dr. Allen replied with a smile. “This is where the blood, sweat, tears, and grease happen.”

            “Note to self,” Quinn muttered, “science: icky.”

            Dr. Allen chuckled again and glanced around the room a couple of times.

            “Lose something?”

            “Yeah, my lab assistant. I told him to run down to the cafeteria and grab us all some coffee. I guess he’s not back yet.”

            “Well, while we’re waiting,” Quinn said, pulling out her digital audio recorder and switching it on. “Care to tell us about your new contribution to the nautical community, Doctor?”

            “That would be this little darling right here.” She gestured to a device on a small table. It appeared to be a diving regulator attached to a smaller than normal set of air tanks. Jane snapped a photo of the device, and then looked at Quinn and shrugged.

            “It’s a scuba tank,” Quinn said.

            “So it would appear to the untrained eye. Here we have the gas tanks, about half the size a diver would normally use. Here’s the air scrubber for removing carbon dioxide from the diver’s exhalation so the waste oxygen can be reused. And of course, the breathing loop that is actually used to inhale the breathable gas mixture. But, here is something new.” The scientist tapped a set of black plastic ridges arranged down the spine of the device.

            “It’s a Klingon scuba tank?” Jane asked.

            “No,” Dr. Allen said with a chuckle. “This is an artificial gill, Miss Lane. As the diver swims, the ridges funnel water into the apparatus inside which separates out breathable gasses and recharges the tanks as they are depleted. It means that divers are no longer limited by the air supply they can carry on their backs, only by the duration of their scrubber systems.”

            “Wow,” Quinn said.

            “Quite. This will allow divers to spend up to twelve hours underwater on a single dive, longer if they carry back up scrubbers. I’m working on an open circuit design that doesn’t require scrubbing at all, but the gills aren’t efficient enough for it yet.”

            “So why are you going ahead with this design?”

            “Two reasons: first of all, even though the design hasn’t reached its full potential it is still a huge improvement over current systems. This unit has more commercial applications than I can begin to enumerate, above and beyond the boon it will be to deep sea explorers. It will also aid in defense and law enforcement, no small consideration in today’s world.”

            “And the second reason?”

            “Off the record?”

            “I suppose,” Quinn said.

            “I’ve got bills to pay around here, you know. Star Labs does a lot of humanitarian work, but at the end of the day we still have to pony up for the power bill. This will keep my department funded for a while, not to mention land me a nice bonus check.”

            “Reasonable. If you don’t mind, I may paraphrase that second point into something about covering the cost of research and funding future break throughs.”

            “You’re good,” Dr. Allen said. “I bet they could use a smart girl like you over in the public relations department.”

            “Thanks, but I think I’ll stick with journalism,” Quinn said. “Any further elaborations you’d like to make?”

            “Nothing that wouldn’t make your reader’s eyes cross. You girls want to head down to the cafeteria with me and find out where my good for nothing assistant is hiding?”

            “I could use some coffee,” Jane said.

            “Well, follow along.” Dr. Allen led them out of the room and down the hallway to a set of double doors. The doors led into lounge with couches, tables, and an attached kitchenette. Jane grabbed some styrofoam cups and poured each of them a coffee and they settled down around one of the tables.

            “I need to take some quick notes,” Quinn said, pulling out a small notepad and a pen. “I always try to jot down my first impressions and an outline for an article as soon as I can.”
            Jane unloaded the film from her camera and stowed it in a pocket, and then put everything else away in her camera bag.

            “Why did you do that?” Dr. Allen asked.

            “For when my stuff goes through the x-ray machine downstairs. I don’t want my film to be ruined.”

            “Oh, of course.” The scientist frowned and glanced around the room. “If that boy doesn’t turn up soon he’s going to get fired. He’s already in trouble with the director for being late.”

            “Crap,” Quinn said, hunting though her bag. “I left my recorder in your lab, I need to run and get it real quick.”

            “Go ahead, just don’t touch anything. Some of my supplies are dangerous if they’re not handled properly.”

            Quinn left the cafeteria and hurried down the hallway to the lab. She pulled the door open and walked inside, heading for where she left the recorder. A man was working in the lab, loading the prototype artificial gill into a carrying case. He had his back turned to the door, and seemed very focused on the job at hand.

            “Hi,” Quinn said. “You must be Dr. Allen’s lab assistant.”

            The man jumped and spun towards Quinn, his face pale and startled.

            “I didn’t mean to scare you, I’m Quinn Morgendorffer. I’m from the Sun-Herald, they sent me to do a story on the gill thingy . . . which you are currently loading into a carrying case. After apparently avoiding your boss all morning. Crap.”

            Quinn turned to the door but only made it a couple of steps before the man tackled her from behind. She landed hard with the assistant on top of her, knocking over a nearby table and sending its contents crashing to the ground. The man yanked her hands behind her back, and Quinn heard the distinctive sound of duct tape being torn.

            “Dammit, get off me.”

            “You little idiot,” the man muttered while taping her wrists together. “I could have just walked right out of here. Do you know how much that technology could go for on the black market? We could have made a mint off the military, but Saint Elaine doesn’t take military contracts. Science is for the betterment of humanity my skinny white ass.”

            “You have issues,” Quinn said, just before he slapped a couple of strips of tape across her mouth. The man stood and yanked her to her feet, turning her so she could see small fire burning near the toppled table.

            “I should leave you here, that’d serve you right,” the man said, grabbing Quinn by the hair and shoving her out the door ahead of him.

            “Mmmm mmm,” Quinn said, glaring over her shoulder at the man.

            “Yeah, same to you,” he said, switching the grip on her hair from his right hand to his left so he could open the door to the stairwell.

 

            “Ok, first your lab assistant vanishes and then my amiga follows suit,” Jane said, finishing off her coffee.

            “I don’t like this, let’s go back to my workshop.”

            Jane and Dr. Allen quickly walked down the hall, and when the doctor pulled the door open she got a face full of acrid smoke, causing her to stagger back into the hallway and collapse against the far wall. The air suddenly filled with the shrill screech of the fire alarm and the outcry of frightened researchers. As foam began to fall from the ceiling, the whole world slowed around Jane as she shot into the lab at high speed. A quick glance around the room revealed that both Quinn and the artificial gill were missing.

            Jane blurred back out of the room and stopped, focusing her vision and searching the hallway for clues. She spotted a few stray red hairs on the tile in front of the door to the stairwell. With a small frown she reached into her camera bag and pulled out a pair of slightly oversized red wrap-around shades.

 

            The man pushed open the door and shoved Quinn out on the roof, causing her to fall onto the concrete. She rolled over on her back and glared angrily at him.

            “This is where we part ways, sweetheart. I’m sure somebody will find you up here eventually.” He turned towards the fire escape and stopped short when he saw the dark haired girl standing in his way. She was wearing a blue dress with a shield emblem decorated with a stylized letter ‘s’ centered on her chest, red combat boots and gloves, a matching red cape, and oversized red wrap-around sunglasses.

            Quinn, finally managing to work the tape on her face loose, said, “Get him, Supergirl! He’s trying to steal the artificial gill.”

            The man threw the case containing the prototype at Supergirl and tried to run past her. She caught the case and carefully placed it on the roof as he ran past. Then she turned into a red and blue blur, stopping in front of him again. She reached out and broke off one of the safety rails from the top of the fire escape, and effortlessly twisted it around him to pin his arms by his side.

            Keeping a hold on the metal bar, she pulled the man back across the roof to where Quinn had struggled to her feet.

            “This is gonna sting,” she said, pulling the tape from Quinn’s wrists.

            Quinn continued glaring at the would-be thief while rubbing the blood back into her hands. “Thanks, Supergirl. It was a good thing you came along, this guy was planning on selling this stolen technology on the black market to whoever could afford it.”

            “You can’t prove that,” he said. “It’s your word against mine, and I’ll just say you assaulted me.”

            With a small smile Quinn reached into her pocket and pulled out her digital recorder. “I’m glad I grabbed this before I spoke to you.”

            Supergirl lifted the man into the air and jammed the ends of the metal bar he was bound with into the concrete of the stair house. “It looks like you have this under control now, Miss Morgendorffer. If you’ll excuse me, I have to be about my day.”

            “Wait,” Quinn said as Supergirl blurred away across the roof and out of sight. “Dammit, I’m never gonna get an interview if she doesn’t stick around.”

            “I hope you’ll forgive me if I’m not sympathetic to your problems,” the man said, scowling down at her.

            “I still say you have issues,” Quinn said. “You hang tight, I’m going to run downstairs and get some security guys.”

            “Hang tight,” the man muttered as she left the roof. “That’s real damn funny.”

 

 

            Author: the NightGoblyn

 

            Disclaimers: Stereo Hifi font is ©1997 by Cathy Davies. This story based on characters and situations created by Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis. The Daria TV show is a trademark of MTV Networks, a division of Viacom International Inc. and is referenced here without permission, and without profit.

            Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, © currently under dispute, but mostly held by DC Comics. Gotham City and other DC references also © DC Comics and are used without permission, and without profit.

            Original characters and situations created by the author are under (K) – all rights reversed. Hail Eris.