The Defender sat under a tree across from the Empress. “So I said, ‘Sorry I can’t hang around.'”
She laughed at his joke to the mob boss he’d left tied up and upside down. She said, “You are very funny.”
Him? Funny? The poor lady.
The Defender stood. “It is very kind of you to say.” He paced. The Empress stood.
He swallowed hard. “We are love sick puppies, no?”
“I-I’ve never felt like this.”
“Neither have I. Once you put on a mask, you don’t have time for anything, really.”
The Empress touched hers, a bandanna with eye holes cut out; identical to his own. “I always seemed to end up late for my dates. Some emergency would come up and I’d run off to the rescue. I never had more than two dates with anyone.”
“That was their loss.”
She beamed. “You think so?”
“My lady, you far outclass me. I am a just gardener from Moscow. And you, you are a high fashion model, no?”
“That is at an end. I’ll be twenty-eight next month. My contract runs out then. I don’t expect it will be renewed. So forget that you’re a gardener and I’m a fashion model. Here we’re only a woman and a man.”
He stared into her eyes. “My lady, the greatest tragedy I can think of at present is the Pacific Ocean.”
“How is the ocean a tragedy?”
“Because it separated us for so long.”
They stared into each other’s eyes. The Defender began to move closer.
As his lips were about to touch hers, a voice shouted behind them, “Gang way, comin’ through!”
They scrambled out of the way of the plodding giant carrying Small Packages in his overalls pocket.
The Empress scowled after them. “Where are those two off to?”
“I don’t know, but I have a feeling that there’s trouble. Let’s catch up.”
The Defender and the Empress soon caught up with the giant and his miniature identical twin. “Halt!”
Both stopped and laughed. “Halt?” Small Packages asked. “Who do you think you are? Some Old English guard?”
The Defender would understand how a full sized voice could come from a doll sized body when he figured out how the tiny man could be stronger than three of him. “Where are you going?”
“If you must know, we’re following Payday. He’s using Speed Skater as bait to lure Dark Mystic, and we want to make sure she doesn’t end up on ice.”
“Mind if we come along?
“Be our guest.”
“I think I should also like to join,” said a persona non grata from a nearby tree.
They turned. Captain Revolution landed on the ground in his trademark red uniform with China’s yellow star on his chest.
The Empress put her hands on her hips. “What are you doing out here?”
“Oh me?” said Captain Revolution. “I was, as the saying goes, keeping my enemies closer. It was very touching. Almost like a Soap Opera.” He added in a mocking tone, “The Greatest tragedy is the Pacific Ocean.”
“You scum.” Empress began to take a karate stance.
Small Packaged shouted, “Yo!”
Everyone turned to him.
“Now, I understand there are a lot of national rivalries here, but we’re kind of in the middle of something. If you guys want to kill each other, be my guest, but we’re continuing on before Payday gets too far ahead of us.”
The Defender sighed. “Let’s go. We can settle this later.”
“Perfectly fine,” said Captain Revolution.
The Empress grunted. “All right. Later.”
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