The Continuing Adventures of Othar Tryggvassen
ADVENTURE THE THIRD: I LOVE PARIS
At last I resume my trip to Paris. Offer to stoke coal and they assure me that they want me nowhere near the engine. Heh. A chance to rest.
I sleep the sleep of the just. Awaken refreshed as we enter the outskirts of Paris and pass the walls. Excellent! Croissants for breakfast!
Ah, Paris. If only all Sparks were like The Master Of Paris. Content to stay at home and simply defend their own areas. I love this town.
Of course, I cannot actively pursue my Great Mission here, as the Master maintains the peace with an iron hand. It's a challenge, certainly.
I believe this challenge can be best met in the Cafe Moliere, a place where they put the proper amount of cinnamon cream in a man's coffee.
In Paris it is disturbingly easy to forget exactly what ones great mission is. I believe that today it is to appreciate the ladies of Paris.
Monsieur Zyn, the owner remembers me, though it has been what, two years? My coffee is perfect, as are Madam Zyn's lemon squares. Happiness.
At this point we're interrupted by the waitress. I am astonished Madam Zyn allows her in the shop. She's the most delightful girl I've seen.
My delight increases when she flings herself into my lap and hugs me. All I was expecting today was coffee. Paris really is a great city.
Arlene?! This is little Arlene? Zyn's daughter?! What a difference two years makes. I used to tell her stories of my adventures. I feel old.
Ah. That explains it. She was artificially aged two years by an exuberant science project. It happens all the time. At least she got an 'A'.
She insists on hearing about my latest adventures. Lucky for her, it's been an exciting last couple of years. Lots of justice & explosions.
Thus passes a lazy day. Quite a rare thing when one is in the Hero biz. All this coffee and pastry must be playing hob with my blood sugar.
At the end of the day, stuffed with pastry, I lurch back to my hotel. Notice a plains clothes gendarme loitering in the lobby. Interesting.
He asks if he may speak with me. Will say that the Master of Paris has the politest lawmen I've ever encountered. Tempted to say "No". Heh.
Starts off by asking me if I am planning on eliminating any Sparks while in town. Ha! I know this game. Remind him Paris is neutral ground.
He reaches into his coat and flips something toward me. It's a badge. I see the snake and freeze. This man is a Serpent. The Masters police.
They have the power to shoot someone down in broad daylight on the Champs Élysées and answer only to the Master himself. Dangerous people.
I try to hand the badge back and he declines to take it. Uh-oh. I see things are about to get 'interesting'. This badge has my name on it.
I am told that The Master wants me to help him. There is a problem in Paris, and he needs someone from outside the city, who's not involved.
Someone who is a proven hero, someone who has bravely survived impossible odds. With all this buttering up, I feel like a slice of toast.
Someone who can kill without pity, who can stand hideous torture, who one would miss if they were ripped into tiny bits-All right! I get it!
There have been a series of meticulously planned robberies of the Louvre. I'm shocked. The Master had claimed that this was impossible.
Museums from all over the known world have shipped art to the Louvre on "permanent loan" because it was safer then anywhere else.
I can see why the Master wants this taken care of quickly and quietly. His exterior power results from his ability to keep all of Paris safe
Now the disturbing news. Whoever is behind this has no regard for human life. 25 guards have been killed while trying to catch the thief.
There are no clues, no suspects, no leads. No one knows how the robberies are committed, and none of the stolen art has appeared been found.
I accept the job, not because I do not seriously believe I have a choice. But because even my Ultimate Mission is fleeting. Art is eternal.
My recruiter's name is Rene. He provides a schematic of the Louvre, and shows me where the robberies have taken place. They appear random.
My first step appears to be to examine the places where robberies have occurred. Rene tells me that the Louvre is closed, but not to me.
Ah, this explains much. I had seen that the entire Louvre was hidden under a gigantic tent. Had assumed that they were fogging for roaches.
Rene and I go up to the gate guard. He tells us to move along. Rene shows his badge. The guard tells us to move along. Something is wrong.
The guard looks at us and nods and tells us to move along. I try to move past him and he blocks me and with a smile tells me to move along.
I look closer. He's smiling, but his eyes are the eyes of a man who is screaming. I give him a 'thumbs up', and slam his head into the wall.
I assume he'll thank me some day. We pull back the drapes. The Louvre is gone. Even the sub-basements. Scooped out with a giant ass shovel.
Rene is surprised by this. I've seen it before, but never, I'll admit, on this large a scale. We're dealing with a tough nut this time.
I examine the site. The walls of the hole are too smooth. Some form of matter displacer. Probably combined with a miniaturizer. Good news.
The Louvre is probably still intact. The walls of the pit are still warm. This happened less than 6 hours ago. I SAID I've seen this before.
I explain that the wall's heat come from the shrinking process. As the molecules pack together, they dump excess heat. Rene's eyes glaze.
I check the map that shows where the other robberies occurred. Ah yes. A perfect pattern to cover the whole museum with the shrinkage field.
This is ridiculous. There would have been shrinker mechanisms left behind. Disguised, perhaps, but any investigator should have found them.
I ask Rene who the investigator of record on this case was. He thinks, looks surprised, and admits it was him. Then he pulls his gun. Great.
He then spins the butt and offers it to me. I breathe again. As I take the gun, he slips his finger against the trigger and shoots himself.
I am left holding the smoking gun that has just killed one of The Master of Paris' Serpents. One doesn't really get more boned than that.
Doubt I could get out of the city in time, and I suspect it wouldn't help. I've got to solve this, and I have to do it quick. Really quick.
Although I took out the nearest guard, others will no doubt hear the gunshot. I have to assume they will also be under someone's control.
Whereas Serpents have the ability to kill with impunity, somehow I doubt other Serpents would be cool with the "new guy" killing a regular.
I'll admit that my propensity for solving problems by killing evil people might give the uneducated the impression that I'm unreasonable.
There's just no arguing with some people once they've made their minds up about something, and I accept that. That's why I kill them.
Enough philosophizing. I walk out. No one in sight yet. May be able to do this the easy way. How odd. Here's a cafe facing the gate. I sit.
The first thing I should do is write a note to The Master of Paris explaining what has happened. He is said to be as fair as a spark can be.
The cafe owner supplies paper, pen, and a decent latte. I write out everything as concisely as I can, but it still takes several pages.
Now the Master has to get it. I have to assume that any government agency reasonably capable of directly delivering it would be compromised.
I beg an empty wine bottle from the cafe owner, seal my letter inside, and surreptitiously sneak off and drop it off into the nearest canal.
With how things work in this town. It'll probably be on the Master's desk within the hour. But I can't count on him. First; find the Louvre.
There is no other choice. I have to see how much trouble I'm in. I stroll back to my hotel. If this is my last day, at least it's nice out.
No one appears to be watching my hotel. Grab a few devices and my armored undergarments. A working vacation is better than none, I suppose.
Othar Tryggvassen entered the hotel, but it is monsieur LeGuite who leaves. Usually I hate donning disguises, but sometimes it's necessary.
The first thing I have to do is find a place to sleep. Sufficient rest is more important than you would think from reading cheap novels.
If I don't get enough sleep, I get cranky, my judgment suffers, and I might do something foolish, like allow myself to be swayed by mercy.
Perhaps I could stay at the Zyn's? No, I had best not. My propensity for their establishment is probably already known to The Master. uh oh.
This is tricky, I have to rush over there without attracting attention. But I see I have an excuse. A column of smoke. Hope it's doughnuts.
Technically, it is doughnuts, as well as everything else. The bistro's a roaring wall of flame. Where are the Zyns? Don't see them anywhere.
Finally! The great brass water dragons of the Paris fire department lumber up, attach tails to hydrants and start spouting. This is arson.
Step back. Look again. Too many people are scanning the crowds as opposed to watching the fire. Looking for an arsonist, or looking for me?
I must take a chance. I approach one of the dragon handlers and show my badge. Did the Zyns make it out? He doesn't know, but will find out.
The first reports are coming in. Fire caused by a combination of spilt cooking oil and natural gas. In other circumstances, I'd be jealous.
As I'm talking to the firefighter, a man comes up a flips his badge. Serpent. I show mine. He nods, says there's a meeting. I follow him.
As we walk, I mention that I've never seen him before. How long has he been on the force? Who does he report to? He grins. "Nicely done."
He goes for his gun, thus opening himself up to the deadly Basque Lepus Punch, which was taught to me by a very irritated old Basque bandit.
He drops. I run. No pursuit. This is troubling. He knew I wasn't a Serpent. But how? Do they have secret signals? Or just know each other?
This means that until I have proof, I cannot deal with any of the Serpents. If I can find one that's not mind controlled. Why me? I ask you.
Ah. the rooftops of Paris. Always a fine setting for adventure. And pigeons. I set my lenses to magnify and start looking at the fire scene.
There's no danger of the fire spreading. Good. The gas main has been shut off. The dragons almost have the fire out. I do not see the Zyns.
Eventually the fire is out. Most of the crowd disperses. Firemen begin to comb the wreckage. I magnify. Charred bones. I feel ill.
They're sorting bones. Efficient. Separating them out. Wait. There are four piles, not three. Someone else was in there. I wonder who it is?
My best course of action will be to find the Louvre. This could be tricky, as it would, by my calculations, now be less than a meter square.
The only thing working for me is that objects that have been molecularly shrunk need to be kept cold. The colder the better. Not a big help.
I have an nifty refrigerator inspector disguise (little used, sadly), but it would take over 11 years to search the city. Probably too long.
Again and again I find myself asking why steal the Louvre? You can't fence it. Hmm- but I'll bet you could ransom it. The Master would pay.
The Master has made a point about Paris being a safe haven for the world's art. He'd pay plenty to prevent this being made public. Good one
Perhaps I should contact the Master directly. I'd prefer not to worry about the police. This was supposed to be my vacation. Damn it.
Contacting the Master of Paris will be tricky. He's easy to find, he hasn't left the Great Tower in years. And they sell nifty postcards.
I suppose I could infiltrate the Great Tower. But I think I have a better idea, one that requires a machine shop, as all the best ideas do.
I found an excellent little shop with a white metal forge, a disintegrator and a mini cafe. (Of course I never even open the mini cafe.)
A busy day. It feels good to use these talented hands for something other than punching out evil. A man likes to build things occasionally.
I'm finished and out with my device quickly enough that I can watch the police raid the place. Better luck next time, boys. Time to sleep.
I book a room as an inventor with his invention. Luckily, Paris is a city where the hoteliers don't care what you do in your private room.
As always, I sleep the sleep of the just. Early morning calisthenics and a hearty breakfast. Ah! Ready to save the world from itself again!
I find one of Paris' convenient deserted rooftops. Quickly assemble my device, test the controls and launch! My gosh, it looks beautiful.
It is a radio controlled airship, pulling a banner that says; LOUVRE TO RE-OPEN ONE WEEK FROM TODAY! GUEST APPEARANCE BY OTHAR TRYGGVASSEN!
It's beautiful clear day and my banner will be visible all over the city. Let's have it circle the Great Tower a few dozen times. How jolly.
I'm ready for the sound of small lightning. An electro-ionization field generates surprisingly close. Luckily I'm standing on a rubber mat.
It is an electro-æther shadow of the Master of Paris. "Thief," it whispers, "Blackmailer! You will die in Paris." Not off to a good start.
I'm unnerved at quickly he found me. I have not seen the Master for years. Not since I left college. He looks tired. And pretty cranky.
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Girl Genius is written by Professors Phil & Kaja Foglio of TPU, with drawings by Prof. P. Foglio.
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