It was a bitter cold and dark winter night, with several inches of snow already on the ground, and more promised to come and soon. The only people out at this time of night were the snowplow drivers, who were fighting a losing battle against the snow that had carpeted the road. Most people were home, warm and cozy in their beds.
However, Nightwatch was not most people. He had heard from a reliable source that Midnite, the world-famous jewel thief and burglar extraordinaire, was running low on funds, and was planning to make a quick score to get back to the lifestyle she enjoyed. To do that, she had accepted a contract to try to steal the Brandenburg Opal.
Considering Nightwatch’s alter ego, James Canyon owned the Opal, and had it on loan to the Metropolitan Museum, he had double the reason to make sure of the Opal’s safety. He flexed his fingers, feeling the Kevlar gloves flex slightly under his grip. She would be coming for the Opal tonight, he was sure.
She couldn’t resist the urge to pull off her latest Heist of the Century in conditions that pretty much guarantee a clean getaway in the storm outside. In fact, Nightwatch thought that she would still be coming, even if she knew Nightwatch was waiting. She could never resist a challenge.
Nightwatch and Midnite had tusseled several times in the past, with the outcomes being more mixed than Nightwatch cared to remember. In fact, one of her greatest heists was stealing a 13th century Ming Vase from the Tusker Museum of Art and History on a night he was on patrol. She hadn’t even kept it, she had re-packed it very carefully, and had someone deliver it back to the Museum a week later.
She even showed she had a sense of humor, she had added an antique Dutch wall clock set, with both hands set to the 12. The carefully written note read “You really need to protect things like this better, after all, the clock strikes Midnite every night...”
But this time, he was ready. She wasn’t going to escape him this time. Nightwatch considered it a badge of honor that he wasn’t given his power by some alien physiology, mystical ring, or even some weird science concoction, but instead relied on his superb skills honed by years of training. He had come up with all the little gadgets and things he used, as well. After all, even a superbly skilled, well-trained Olympic athlete needed all the help they could get when they regularly fought against villains who could pickup and throw a truck like most folks would a baseball. His gadgets were just the equalizers he needed.
Nothing lethal of course. Foam grenades that hardened nearly instantly, causing someone who was hit by the foam to be quickly immobilized. Plastic zip-ties, for impromptu handcuffs when one wanted to leave a criminal present for the police to discover. Knockout gas pellets. Tracking devices. He even used to carry a set of bolas but couldn’t figure out how to store them properly in the various pockets across his suit. One couldn’t have EVERYTHING, after all.
So, as the snow fell outside, he did what his name would portend. He watched. And waited. He was just another shadow in a display room full of them. If she didn’t show up, then it would be like just another wasted night on patrol. It wasn’t like there were many criminal gatherings for him to bust. Not in this storm. Criminals lacked common sense, but they were smart enough to stay inside where it was warm.
If she did show up, however ... As if the mere thought of her had summoned her into existence, Nightwatch caught a glimpse of a shadow shifting. Nightwatch grimaced to himself. She must have gotten in through a window somehow, even though they were normally unopenable without a special code and would sound an alarm if the window was broken. He’d have to find out how she got past those. It would be his next project to fix the hole in the security.
If he ended up capturing her, that is. If she got away, he’d be forced to try to figure out the steps on his own, and while he was knowledgeable in all the criminal arts, and how to track them, she seemed to be a savant in avoiding and detecting all manner of defenses and traps. But right now, his attention was hype focused on the shadow, waiting for its next move to confirm his target’s status.
It was her, alright. Despite the fact her outfit was skin tight, there was just about no skin on display. The stretched-out hood that was part of her usual outfit that covered her dark red hair, and she had a pair of Virtual goggles on over it. From the way they glinted in the low light, he would have guessed that she was using them for low light or infravision. She moved with the grace of a ballerina, and the purpose of a coiled panther.
Midnite didn’t move for a couple minutes other than for a brief movement of her head. She was obviously committing to memory the details of the room. Where the cameras were and their respective fields of motion. The indications of laser sensors in the walls. She knew that one wrong step would trigger the alarm, and even an accomplished thief like her would find it difficult to escape with the Opal at that point.
His eyes never lost their focus on her as she slowly reached into her own little set of pouches, and pulled out a perfume bottle sized container. She gently squeezed its bulb once, and then again, letting puffs of vapor out into the room, drifting here and there as the air currents took it. She nodded to herself as the puffs of vapor smoke revealed the red lines of invisible laser sensors. She repeated this again and again, letting the vapors cover most of the room and as the minutes pressed on, Nightwatch could see her frustration. The lasers moved in such a fashion that even someone as graceful as Midnite was would find it nearly impossible to pass through all of them without setting one or more.
That’s it ... he thought to himself. Give up. Walk away. If you don’t, even if you DO get through there, at the end, I’ll be waiting for you. And then it’ll be over. She, however wasn’t going to let anything like a multi-million-dollar security system stop her from getting what SHE wanted. She looked around one last time, nodded to herself as if to confirm her action plan, and then she sprung into action. Literally.
Nightwatch eyes widened in shock as Midnite leaped straight up. She could barely touch the ceiling, even with her athletic skills, but apparently that was enough, as she hung there. Nightwatch took a couple seconds to try to figure out exactly how she was doing, and decided that she must have gecko style gloves, that allowed her to cling to the ceiling, hanging there like a gymnast doing a handstand on the ceiling.
Nightwatch had reviewed the security before he settled into his watching post. There were obvious sensors by the vents, of course, but the vents were small enough that even the Dronemaster’s flydrones would have trouble fitting through there. But Midnite had discovered a hole in the security setup, and she was going to use and abuse it for all it was worth. She swung like a rockclimber, using her gecko grip as a base until one of her feet was able to make contact with the ceiling, and it too clung to the ceiling. At that point, it was rather easy for her to get the last leg up to the ceiling, and slowly start to slink across the ceiling.
Nightwatch grimaced. It was more and more likely that he was going to have to take her down, and take her in, but he still had hope that she’d see the error of her ways. Besides, he was rather enjoying watching her at work. Despite her larcenous intent, he appreciated the skill, intelligence and pure audacity that she brought. It didn’t hurt that from what he had seen, she had a killer body as well.
As she moved across the ceiling, she didn’t hurry, disengaging one point of contact at a time, before repositioning it and making sure the gecko gloves had firm contact with the ceiling before continuing.
He continued to wait, and watch. There was still no way she could get the opal without setting off the alarm. The pedestal it was on had a special pressure sensor. If the box was opened or the opal somehow removed from its embrasure inside the box, the pedestal would sound a quite loud alarm. He thought she might decide at that point to grab and run, but there was no way she could escape before he could swoop down and take her down.
But Nightwatch had underestimated Midnite’s skills once already, and he waited to see if she could actually pull it off. Again, she studied the scene underneath her with a practiced eye. She saw the pedestal, knew it was alarmed. So how was she going to get past the alarmed box and capture the prize inside?
Well, whatever idea he had thought she would try, she surprised him yet again. She pulled out several lengths of thin wire from her backpack. Nightwatch couldn’t imagine how she was doing it. She was literally hanging on the ceiling, with all the blood probably going to her head. Her muscles had to be screaming at her right now. Nightwatch didn’t like giving criminals like Midnite credit for their skills or their ingenuity, but she had gotten miles further then he would have expected.
What he didn’t expect was the wires thickened into the closest thing that he could imagine to a spider’s web, and he watched her carefully place the wires as she desired. At first, he thought she was tiring, because instead of grabbing the box as he expected, they were connecting around the pedestal, but she made no move to correct the placement, and Nightwatch finally figured out Midnite’s plan. She couldn’t steal the opal inside the box on the pedestal without setting off an alarm, so she was going to steal everything! Pedestal, box, Opal ... the whole nine yards. Part of him wanted to applaud her skills. That part fell quickly under the part that prepared to act however.
With one swift hurdle, he leaped over the barrier on an upper level from where he was hiding and landed softly in a spot that he knew would not trip the sensors. At this point, the security guards weren’t likely to be a help, and in fact would likely be a hinderance that she could use against him. He clicked a button on his wrist that disabled all the sensors and the alarm, but more importantly, turned all the lights on to their normal bright settings.
She winced, the hand that was reaching down with the wires instinctively covering her eyes, as the sudden light, combined with her vision enhancing goggles temporarily blinded her. She lost her balance, and tumbled off the ceiling, but even in her blinded state, still turned the fall into a tuck and roll, that brought her quickly back to her feet. Nightwatch couldn’t resist a quick quip at Midnite’s expense, having seemingly caught her red-handed.
“I’m sorry, Ma’am. The museum’s closed, you’ll have to come back another time. I can recommend some other places you might want to visit however, I hear the city jail is a popular spot at this time of night.”
Midnite growled softly, ripping the hood and it’s goggles off her head, shaking off the light spots that obviously still danced across her vision. Her red hair splayed down like the wires that still projected from the device on her wrist. Her voice however still seemed unruffled and calm. She had long ago figured out Nightwatch’s alternate identity, but she had reason to hold to the unspoken code that such things were not discussed with others without good reason.
“Ah, James. I was hoping that you were taking the night off. Haven’t you heard there’s a big storm in town? I thought a man like you would prefer to spend such dreadful weather in the company of a roaring fireplace, a good whisky, and the attentions of a bounteous bubble-headed brunette?
Nightwatch found himself chuckling a bit at Midnite’s alliteration. “You’re correct. I’d much rather spend a night like this cozy with a beautiful woman, enjoying the snow outside through my penthouse windows. But then again, I could say the same thing about you.”
Midnite gave herself a mock whimsical sigh. “You know the thought of cold hard cash warms me more than either a fireplace OR a good whisky. As for the woman, that’s not my style. I prefer men, and I prefer the buff fireman style. So, what are we going to do with ourselves now in the situation that we find ourselves in?”
Nightwatch’s eyes narrowed. She couldn’t be thinking about fighting, could she? He knew that she could more than hold her own in a fight, but under the circumstances, holding her own wouldn’t be doing much against a man who was a master in more than five separate martial arts. Edging towards her slowly, Nightwatch reached into one of his chest protector’s pockets to grab a pair of the zip ties he kept in there. “You know this can end only one way, Midnite. Give up.”
Midnite smirked, “Oh, I can think of several ways this could end, James. One more time for old time’s sake then?” Before he could reply further, she swiped her hand across her body, and the wires that were still attached came hurtling towards Nightwatch. It was a fairly ineffective attack, as he held up a gauntleted fist, and 3 small molecular blades appeared. He used the blades to slash through the wires that threatened to entangle him, but that wasn’t the true purpose of her action. She had designed the move to give herself time and space. She used that to somersault backwards, and as the wires sagged around Nightwatch, parted neatly by the blades as they retracted back into his gauntlet, assumed a defensive fighting posture.
Nightwatch didn’t want to wait to figure out what she would do next, as he leapt into the attack. The two settled into a fighting rhythm. Nightwatch was the aggressor, and Midnite was hard pressed to block his attacks, and she slowly gave ground against Nightwatch’s superior technique. After nearly a minute of this back and forth, she was nearly pressed against the corner that Nightwatch had used his skills to back her into.
He saw that look again, as she considered the situation, and didn’t want to give her the chance to pull something out, and sprang towards her, even as she tried to leap up the wall, using her gecko gloves to latch on to the wall and keep her out of his superior reach. Nightwatch wasn’t going to let her get that advantage, however, and his hand closed firmly on her ankle, and brought her back down to the ground.
At this point both Midnite and Nightwatch were heaving for breath as they recovered from their fight, and Nightwatch grinned. “I think this means, I win this time, Veronica”, using her real name for the first time in the discussion. To his surprise, Veronica grinned, her chest heaving noticeably against her skintight outfit, and she shook her head, eyes gleaming softly. “No James, it means I win.”
Nightwatch only had an instant to figure out what she meant, when two mini knockout pellets popped out of her OTHER hand, and after a couple seconds of trying to fight it, he crumpled to the ground, semi-conscious.
When Nightwatch finally came to, it took him a second to figure out the situation. She had tied his hands together, along with his feet with the zip ties. To make things worse, and miles more embarrassing, she had decided to divest James from most of his toys, by the simple expedience of removing his armored top and all its pockets and tossed it aside.
“My, my, my James ... you HAVE been working out lately. You’ve added some muscle, haven’t you? I guess the Nightwatch diet and exercise routine pays off, doesn’t it?” Veronica grinned, running her nails across Nightwatch’s chest, causing him to shiver
“You ... you won’t get away Veronica. This is only temporary. It was a dirty trick, using my own knockout pellets against me. Where did you get hold of them anyway” Nightwatch muttered, trying to figure a way out of this embarrassing situation.