Nobody and the Spider (13)

The Master Gem

 

Previously

 

May 13

 

What James and Tina found turned out to be an ornate mahogany display case over at the Weird Warriors exhibit, showcasing gear from the very first magical superheroes of the 1940’s. Gear like the Hood of the Serpent Lord and the Staff of Meditation. The one that caught Nobody’s eye, however, was the Turban of the Red Master. Inlaid on the forehead, right above where the third eye would be, was the ruby red Master Gem. A legendary item of power that could supposedly cloud men’s minds and bend them to the user’s will. Nobody had to have it.

“Should we be worried about magical curses or something?” Tina asked.

“That stuff isn’t real,” James scoffed.

“Hello,” Tina said, waving over the display of magic items.

“It’s a gimmick. They’re all like, gadgets or something,” James reasoned.

Nobody looked to Mallory. “It looks fine to me,” she said.

“Okay. Here goes,” Nobody said. He knelt next to the display case and began to work. A  second later he was flying backwards from a shower of mystical red sparks. Tina and Mallory gasped.

“Holy shi-”

 

Nobody blinked. He was on his back. When had he ended up on the floor? His clothes were still smoking. Then he remembered.

“So, I guess that one was booby trapped,” Nobody said, making sure his mask was still on.

“Are you okay?” James, Tina and Mallory asked at about the same time.

“I’m fine. Just a bit tingly,” said Nobody.

“I’m so sorry, I thought it was okay,” said Mallory.

“It’s fine. I think I need a minute to recover. Then we’re getting that case open,” said Nobody.

“Again? You almost got deep fried,” said Tina.

“That’s why Spectra’s going to do it this time,” said Nobody.

“Me?” Mallory asked.

“You know about magic stuff, right?” Nobody asked.

“Sure, but…”

“If you got a closer look I’m sure you could get through it in no time,” said Nobody, giving her a knowing look.

“Really?” James asked.

“Sure. Her dad is one of the most talented practitioners of magic in the world,” said Tina.

“Really?” James asked, surprised.

“I try not to advertise it, but yeah. My dad is Hector Castille,” said Mallory.

“Your Professor Magia’s daughter? Oh. Oh! Oh… Sorry, um, about what I said before about, you know, magic being fake,” said James.

“It’s fine,” Mallory replied. “Nothing compared to the Reddit forums.”

“I’ve seen them,” said James. “Magic really bothers some people. I mean, I’m sort of agnostic on the whole thing. I think a lot of magic users are actually psychic people who think they’re magic, but I mean, if you believe then I ain’t bothered by it.”

“Good to know,” said Mallory, getting more uncomfortable by the second.

“Anyway,” said Nobody, “you go do your thing and Star Joe and, what was your name? James? These two and I will come up with some sort of plan.”

Nobody gathered the other two and made sure they couldn’t see the case from where they were standing.

“I’m worried about Evan,” James said.

“Oh God, I almost forgot about that guy,” said Tina.

“I’m sure he’s okay,” Nobody said reassuringly.

“I hope so. I haven’t seen him, so that probably means he made it out, right?” asked James.

Mallory checked over her shoulder to see if any of the other Hero Fest goers were watching. When she was sure no one was, she activated her magic amulet and transformed into the Marble Maiden. She ripped the display case’s lid right off the hinges, discharging a ton of arcane power that bounced harmlessly off her mystic marble skin. Mallory was left covered in display case residue. “Weird. It just came off,” she said, back in her human form before the others saw.

“Jesus! Are you hurt?” James asked.

“Yeah. I’m fine,” said Mallory. “Gauntlets must have protected me.”

“There’s glass everywhere, girl. Be careful,” said Tina.

“Well, problem solved,” said Nobody, with a discreet nod to Mallory. She discreetly winked back.

“Look at all this stuff,” said James, admiring the collection of arcane artifacts.

“Get to choosing. We have to move soon,” Nobody said, noticing the other Hero Fest goers watching them closely after now causing two giant spark waves.

James tentatively reached for the Monk’s cord, wondering if it was a weapon of some kind. He instantly felt calmer when he held it. Meditative. Tina carefully picked up a long flowing scarf that seemed to move on its own as she held it. Mallory didn’t grab anything. Nobody reached for the turban. Mallory abruptly stopped his arm.

“Do you know what that is?” Mallory asked.

“Yes,” said Nobody.

“Wait, really?” asked Mallory.

“Yeah.”

“Okay. Then what is it?” she asked.

“This? This belonged to the Red Master. Mystery Man extraordinaire who operated across Europe and the Mideast between the wars. He was last seen fighting fascists in Spain in 1938. He was a manipulator of men’s minds, influencing them with nary but a glance, turning hearts and minds to him with but a gesture. He was a top class Mesmer, molding pliant wills like a master potter.”

“That was oddly poetic,” Mallory said. Nobody lifted the turban off the satin pillow. “Do you know how to use that thing?” she asked.

“Do you?” Nobody asked.

“It’s on loan from my father’s collection so yes, I do,” said Mallory.

“Teach me,” Nobody said, kneeling at her feet.

“Okay, first of all, how do you even know about this stuff? It’s niche even among magic circles,” said Mallory.

“How could I not know about the infamous Red Master’s famous Master Gem? He and it are both legends,” said Nobody.

“He’s not in your Mt. Rushmore,” Mallory pointed out.

“He’s a close fifth,” Nobody replied. Mallory hesitated. She had so many questions but now wasn’t the time to get into any of it.

“Okay, fine, you can have the Master Gem,” Mallory said. “Just try to be care-” Nobody pulled the gem off the turban. “-ful! Be careful! Oh my God, what did you do?”

“The turban doesn’t fit and I’m not going to carry the damn thing everywhere,” said Nobody.

“So you broke it?” Mallory asked. Nobody stuck the Master Gem back on the turban. It was good as new.

“It was designed to come off so he could quick change into civilian clothes easier,” said Nobody.

“Oh. Cool,” said Mallory. Nobody smiled and pulled the Master Gem off again.

“Okay, so how do I activate the illusions? Is there a key word or phrase?” Nobody asked.

“Apparently you know more about it than I do, so you figure it out,” Mallory said gruffly.

“Come on, help me out,” said Nobody. Mallory wiped sweat from her brow. The convention center was getting noticeably hot.

“It’s about frame of mind. Mental state,” she said after a moment. “Call the image from your mind’s eye and the gem will bring it to life.”

Nobody nodded and gave it a shot. He tried to summon a double of himself. Easy to visualize. Theoretically. Nothing happened. He tried harder. Still nothing.

“I think I’m doing it wrong,” said Nobody.

“Are you holding it right?” Mallory asked.

“How are you supposed to hold it?” Nobody asked.

“I don’t know. It’s meant to be worn so this is new to me too.”

“Do I really have to wear the turban? It clashes with my aesthetic.”

“Here, try tying it to yourself. Maybe that’ll make a difference,” Mallory said, offering some elastic bands from her costume. Nobody tried to tie the gem to the back of his hand, but the bands wouldn’t stay put. Mallory gave it a shot. She tied the bands together through a loop behind the Master Gem itself, turning it into a kind of makeshift bracelet. She handed it to Nobody.

“Thanks,” he said.

“Glad I could help,” Mallory replied. “By the way, that’s twice now in the last five minutes.”

“Right.”

“That I’ve helped.”

“Yeah yeah,” Nobody said, putting the Master Gem on his right wrist. “How do I look?”

“Heroic,” Mallory replied, her face dropping just a bit.

“You okay?” Nobody asked. Mallory looked for the right words. She opened her mouth to speak, but was cut off by a man in red costume entering the scene.

“Hey there!” the man in red said, surprising the others.

“Jesus! Are you trying to give us heart attacks?” Tina asked.

“Sorry about that, folks. I saw you were perusing the exhibits so I thought I’d introduce myself,” the man said.

He looked like a cosplayer at first glance. Mask. Flashy red and orange costume. Utility belt with lots of pouches. But on closer inspection, Nobody noticed the subtler details. Sensible footwear, practical arm and leg protectors, nothing limiting his range of motion or peripheral vision. Despite the flashy colors, he was dressed to fight. And win.

“Who might you be?” the man asked the group.

“Who’s asking?” Nobody asked in response.

“My name is Hot Brass,” the man replied. “I’m a superhero from out of town.”

“Nice to you meet you,” James said, offering a hand. Hot Brass looked at the hand, bemused.

“If you’re trying to stop us, don’t bother. We’re getting out of here,” said Nobody.

“And we’re only borrowing these. Emergency,” Mallory explained, pointing to the gear they were sporting.

“Good idea. Gotta protect yourself in these dangerous times,” Hot Brass.

“Wait, really?” Tina asked.

“Of course. Something weird is going on. You guys already figured that out I’m sure,” said Hot Brass.

“Yeah. We did,” said Mallory.

“So… what did you want?” Nobody asked.

“I want to help you,” said Hot Brass.

“Really?” Mallory asked incredulously.

“Yes. You’re trying to stop whatever the Spider has planned, right?” Hot Brass asked.

“I am,” said Nobody.

“We are,” Mallory said, hugging Nobody’s shoulder, much to his chagrin.

“What are you talking about, Mal?” Tina asked. Mallory nervously cleared her throat.

“Sorry. Just got caught up in the whole superhero thing. Yeah, we’re trying to get out of here. Escape. Here. Yeah.”

“Okay. Well, there’s safety in numbers, right?” Hot Brass asked.

“Yes. Thank you so much,” Tina said, shaking Hot Brass’s hand. He pulled away from her suddenly.

“Sorry. Uh, gadgets in the gloves and arm guards. Gotta be careful,” he explained.

“Oh gosh, I’m so sorry,” Tina apologized.

“No need. You didn’t know. Now, how about we get you kids out of this place?” Hot Brass asked.

“Can you take us too?” a group of Hero Festers asked, crawling out from their hiding places.

“Oh, uh, wait here, um, citizens. My team will be by shortly to rescue you. Just hang tight,” said Hot Brass.

“We can take them. We can handle ourselves,” said Mallory.

“I got lots of people on the way. Don’t worry, everyone,” Hot Brass said, shooing them away.

“Where are we going?” Nobody asked.

“I know a way out of here,” said Hot Brass.

“It wouldn’t happen to be the tunnels, would it?” Nobody asked.

“Why do you ask?” Hot Brass replied.

“Just curious,” Nobody said. He made a mental note for later.

Hot Brass led them through the Psychedelic 60’s Hero exhibit in an adjacent hall. There he showed them an unassuming looking door which led to a stairwell which led down to big heavy looking metal door. Hot Brass turned a wheel on the door several times before it clicked and slowly swung open.

“Welcome to the world beneath the Cosmo,” said Hot Brass.

 

* * *

 

Cho watched as they disappeared from view. He searched the file menu for the next set of cameras, but to his astonishment, there were none.

“Wait, that’s it? What the fuck?” Cho said, frantically searching the menu. “Did I actually lose them? You gotta be fucking kidding me.”

“Sir?” one of his aides called out, knocking on his door. Cho looked up from his tablet, his face turning a new shade of red. “Um, Mr. Beacon is ready for us.”

“Thank you, Jessica,” Cho said. She promptly left his office. Cho dropped his tablet on his desk, wondering what the hell he was going to do now.

 

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2 responses to “Nobody and the Spider (13)”

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