The Adventures of the Jade
Episode 6. The Jade Dragon Meets the Scorpion
Chapter 2 Melissa
Metro City, USA, 1926
Its the least you can do, Natassia. The poor child had been terribly abused. I think you can help her.
Natassia Green, also known as Nova, turned toward her Aunt Priscilla. The elderly woman had ceased to be Natassias guardian when the heroine had turned twenty-two, but it did not stop her from ordering her around as if she were still a child. I suppose you are right, Auntie. After all I was in something like the same position myself. What can you tell me about her?
Well, said her aunt, hesitating, some of the information about her is best not discussed in polite company. Let us just say that she has had a hard life. She was stolen from her parents when she was very young and raised by heathens. As a result, she hardly speaks any English, but instead babbles away in Chinese. I thought you might be able to help there since you have some knowledge of the language.
And the abuse? I suppose that is the information that cannot be discussed.
Yes, said her Aunt, coloring. Lets just say that she is permanently scarred. I wont say any more than that.
I might be able to help her, conceded Natassia, thinking of the years that she had spent in the Shaolin monastery in
Shes staying with the mission down on
No, said the heroine. I have to do some shopping anyway. Ill stop by and pick her up. Perhaps she might want to come with me and pick up a few items. Also it will give me a chance to know her better.
Youre a gem, Natassia. Its a shame that all young women are not more like you.
Natassia smiled. Giving her aunt a kissed she headed toward the garage.
The young girl she picked up at the mission was one of the most beautiful young women that Natassia had ever seen. She wore what appeared to be a cotton hand-me-down dress. Natassia guessed that it was something the mission happened to have on hand that would fit the young woman. But the simple dress could not hide the strong athletic body beneath the thin fabric. Not could her dowdy clothes or lack of make up disguise the perfect symmetry of her face.
The girl had long brown hair that she wore in a braid that hung to her waist. Her deep brown eyes were set above high cheekbones that set off her straight nose and bee-stung mouth. She was tall, about the same height as Natassia, with high, well-formed breasts, a tiny waist, and long legs. Natassia smiled as she approached her, escorted by one of the ministers who helped run the mission. Hello, she said. Im Natassia Green. And you must be Melissa.
The girl did not answer, but smiled back a little uncertainly. There was something very subdued about her, and Natassia remembered what her aunt had said about the girl being abused. A closer look revealed a lack of luster in her eyes. Instead they showed deep pain. Something terrible had indeed been done to this young woman. Natassia hoped that she would be able to help her.
She shook hands with the girl and then walked her to the car. The girl had no possessions to take with her and Natassia announced that they were going to go shopping before she took the girl to her new home, Natassias home.
The shopping trip was uneventful. The girl seemed to enjoy buying clothes, but was terribly shy and would not talk at all, until she learned that Natassia spoke Cantonese. Then Melissa came out of her shell a little and exclaimed at all the strange new things she was seeing. Natassia understood this very well, having spent most of her childhood in
Natassia settled the girl into her home. Aunt Priscilla helped. Now that Natassia had come of age, the older woman seemed to need someone she could educate in the correct social mores. She constantly monitored Melissas behavior, informing her of the dos and donts of polite society. Natassia smiled when she saw this, remembering how the old woman had badgered her when she first returned to the
Melissa was polite and well behaved, and anxious to learn about her new country. It turned out that she was a complete orphan. Her parents had been killed in
There was only one problem posed by the girl. Each night, Natassia changed into her alter ego of Nova and patrolled
Melissa settled into her new home. Her new friend, Natassia and her Aunt Priscilla seemed like nice people. And she desperately needed a place to stay where she could try and forget what had happened to her at the hands of the Master Assassin. The memories of that ordeal came back to torment her every night.
It was because of those haunting memories that she was aware of Natassias nocturnal ramblings. Her new friend went out almost every night after Aunt Priscilla turned in. At first she decided it was none of her business. She did not want to offend her new acquaintances. She supposed that Natassia was probably going out to meet a boyfriend. But after awhile, she became curious. If Natassia had a boyfriend why did they never meet during the day? Natassia was an adult. She didnt have to sneak around. The mystery nagged at her, until one night she decided to find out exactly what her friend was up to.
She went to bed at her usual time, but did not go to sleep. She seldom did anyway. Whenever she slept she suffered terrible nightmares. She lay in bed fully dressed in dark tight fitting clothes. As she waited for Natassia to make her move the memories of her escape came flooding back.
She had only a confused recollection of what had actually happened. It was Ho who got her away. Fang Yins cousin took her several hundred miles by donkey. Much of the time, Melissa was suffering too much pain and psychological trauma to pay much attention to where she was going. But the ex-guard looked after her well. He dressed her wounds, and made sure that she got enough food and water while he moved by back roads to a place of safety. Eventually they reached a small town with a Christian mission. Ho turned her over to the missionaries and departed. He had no wish to stay too close to someone who might be sought after by the Assassins Guild.
The missionaries were horrified at Melissas injuries, and mystified at her inability to speak English beyond the level of a five-year-old, but they took good care of her until she was well enough to travel. They also managed to figure out who she was. Although there was no formal way of identifying her, it turned out that she was the spitting image of the wife of a young missionary. That woman was probably her mother. Sadly, both of her parents had been murdered by Chinese bandits over ten years ago, so there was no one in
She sat up in bed. She had heard the soft sound of Natassias footsteps in the hallway outside. Silently, she eased herself out of the room. Natassia was heading toward the garage. Melissa followed as close behind as she dared. Her assassins skills came back to her almost automatically. She moved like a wraith through the darkness. Natassia entered the garage and opened the outside door. Then she got into her car. Melissa had ridden in it before; it was a large powerful vehicle. Natassia had called it a Cadillac, whatever that meant. She waited until Natassia had pulled the car out into the driveway and got out to close the door, then she climbed on to the rear bumper and held on tight.
The trunk of the car was quite high-backed and it effectively hid Melissa from the driver. Fortunately, the spare tire was carried on the back and provided her with a solid handhold, so that even going around curves she was quite secure.
Natassia drove to a part of town Melissa had never been to before. It consisted of numerous rundown buildings. It was obvious that this was the poorer part of the city. Her eyes widened. She had seen a sign in Chinese. She had not expected that. After awhile she noticed that most of the signs were in Chinese. Clearly
Natassia got out of the car and went to the door of the building. She tapped several times in what seemed to be a sort of code and the door was opened by a middle-aged Chinese man dressed in the traditional Chinese garb of a servant. Natassia was admitted and the door closed behind her.
Furiously curious, Melissa moved from the shadows. She studied the building. With her assassins skills, getting into the structure posed no problems. It took her only seconds to shinny up the downspout to the roof and she soon gained the top of the structure. Once on the roof she proceeded to a large skylight set in the middle of the roof. She was about to peer in, when she detected a noise coming from the rooftop exit. At least two people were coming up the stairs toward the roof.
Quickly, she ducked into the shadows in one corner of the roof. At that moment the door to the roof opened and Natassia emerged, but she had completely changed. She was wearing a skintight white and black costume, and her face was masked. It was only from her build that Melissa was able to recognize her. Right behind her was another woman, similarly dressed in a costume of green and black.
Melissa suppressed a gasp. She never would have guessed such a thing if she had not seen it with her own eyes, but it seemed very clear to her now. Natassia and the other woman were members of the Assassins Guild. She huddled in the shadows, stunned. All the memories of what had been done to her came flooding back. What if Natassia found out who she was? She was sure that the woman she had thought of as her friend would take brutal action against her. She had escaped from the Guild once. Next time, if she was caught she was sure that she faced death.
The two costumed women walked to the edge of the roof. Melissa shrank back even farther into the shadows. What were the two women up to? Why had they come up to the roof? Then the woman in green and black did something that Melissa would have thought impossible. Seemingly without effort, she leapt from the roof, but leapt with such power that she sailed across the street to the roof of the neighboring building. Then as Melissa watched open-mouthed, Natassia followed, easily matching the first womans jump.
Curiosity overcoming her fears, Melissa moved to the edge of the roof, just in time to see the two women move from the roof they were on to the next building. Although they seemed to move unhurriedly, their tremendous leaps covered considerable distance rapidly. Melissa desperately wanted to follow them, but could not compete with such power and agility. Even as she watched they vaulted across another street to move even farther away. Quickly, the two figures disappeared into the darkness.
For a few seconds Melissa stood, frustrated. Then she had a flash of inspiration. Natassia and her mysterious friend had moved away from her in a straight line. If they didnt deviate from that direction it was possible she might be able to catch up to them. Quickly, she descended to the street and moved off in the direction the two women had taken. They had quite a head start. If they kept moving she would never catch them, but it was just possible they might stop for some reason.
Moving the way she had been taught, Melissa slipped silently and undetected through the dark streets. She could not follow the exact course the two women had taken, as buildings often stood in her way, and she had to detour around them, but she kept doggedly after them.
She kept going for over an hour. She had lost track of her quarry, but hoped that some lucky break would give her a glimpse of them. She constantly scanned the tops of buildings as she moved. She realized that most people almost never looked up, and that Natassia and her companion might not be expecting anyone to spot them. Nevertheless, she was about to give up in frustration, when a slight movement atop a very large building caught her eye.
At first she thought she might be mistaken. The building appeared to be a large abandoned warehouse, its broken windows staring blankly into the street, but then she caught a glimpse of a figure moving like a spider near the top of the structure. It was the woman in green and black, and right behind her was Natassias white and black costume.
This time the two women were not moving from roof to roof. Instead, they seemed to have found what they were looking for. They paused for a few seconds near the edge of the roof and then headed in toward the center of the building. Determined to find out what was going on, Melissa approached the building. She didnt know how she was going to get in, but was sure that her assassins skills would help her find a way. Quietly she moved off into the darkness.
Sun Lin, the Jade Dragon, signaled to Natassia, also known as Nova. They dared not speak. The criminal they were hunting was one of their most deadly foes. He had disappeared for a time, but now rumors of his return were spreading through the city, as was the evidence of his activities. A number of bizarre and daring crimes had occurred in the last few weeks that pointed to the presence of a criminal mastermind, and one well known to the Jade Dragon and Nova.
Sun Lin pointed down. Nova nodded. Somewhere in the huge warehouse was the lair of Dr. Ivan Retinoff, or so they believed. It had taken awhile to trace him, but the trail of clues and information from their informants said that he awaited somewhere below.
The problem was to get into the building and apprehend the arch villain without being captured. Retinoff, or Mad Ivan, as he was often called, was notorious for his deadly traps. Sun Lin and Natassia had suffered too often at his hands to proceed carelessly against him.
They were right above a skylight. Below them they could see lights and a large seemingly empty room. It looked like a good place to enter the building, but the two women were cautious. Such an obvious opening was not to be trusted, and so they looked for a safer way into the building.
A large ventilation shaft seemed to hold promise, but that too could not be trusted. Natassia peered into it. Sun Lin shook her head. If the shaft was a trap it would be almost impossible for them to escape from it. The green and black clad heroine went to the edge of the building. There were hundreds of windows along the two floors. It would be impossible to booby trap them all. She took out a grappling hook, set it into the edge of the roof and swung over the side of the building. She dropped about twenty feet and swung in through a broken window. Nova watched her progress from the roof. A minute went by and then there was a tug on the rope. Nova seized the line and followed.
Inside the building Nova found Sun Lin waiting for her. They were in a large room crammed with large wooden crates. Cautiously they moved across the floor. They kept a spacing of about twenty feet. If one of the heroines sprung a trap, at least they would not both be victims.
As it turned out, the room was safe. They moved across it and encountered a door. Sun Lin opened it a crack. It opened into a dimly lit corridor, and from somewhere to the right came the sound of voices.
Stealthily, they moved into the corridor, stepping silently toward the noise. Ever cautious, they crept slowly forward, watching for any sign of treachery. With any luck, they would find Retinoff and would not run into any of his infernal traps. It all depended on how long he had been in the building. If he had only been there a short time, he would not have had time to build any of the deadly devices that made life for heroines miserable.
The sound of voices was louder now, emanating from a room near the end of the corridor. Slowly, the two heroines closed in. They were intent on avoiding any trap the nasty little Russian might have set for them. Retinoff was actually the only villain that any of the heroines of
The Jade Dragons martial arts skills were legendary. She had never met an opponent she could not handle, and the powers of her mind gave her enhanced skills as great as any Chinese master of the ancient art of Wushu. Nova was also skilled in the martial arts, but she relied less on her skill and more on the mystical properties of the Dragons Eye, an emerald green gem that gave her strength and speed far beyond that of the ordinary. Even so, Retinoff had trapped both of the heroines before, and his treatment of them had been savage. They wanted to make sure they never fell into his clutches again.
Sun Lin eased the door open a crack. It was another large storage room. Inside several thugs were playing cards, an assortment of weapons lying close at hand. There seemed to be no one else about.
Carefully, Sun Lin closed the door. They could deal with the thugs later. She wanted Retinoff. Once again they moved off. They went past several other closed doors, but hearing nothing within, kept on moving. The building was huge. Retinoff could be anywhere in it.
The sound of a door opening behind them caused them to spin around. Two men emerged from one of the rooms that they had passed. They were both carrying Thompson submachine guns. Before the eye had a chance to register, Sun Lins hands flashed. Several spinning disks flew down the hall. Even as the thugs leveled their weapons, the disks caught them. One of the disks buried itself in the forehead of the one of the gunmen; the other caught the second hoodlum in the throat. Without a sound, they both dropped, but almost immediately another goon poked his head out of the same doorway.
His head disappeared almost as soon as he spotted the bodies of his dead buddies in the hallway. But both women knew they were in a bad spot. The corridor provided no place where they could hide. They had to get out of it quickly. They were almost at the end of the corridor. Quickly, Sun Lin sprinted for the doorway at the far end, Nova hot on her heels. Both women had taken only four or five strides, when suddenly a twenty-foot section of the floor gave way beneath their feet. They had found Retinoffs trap!
Even as she dropped into the dark space created by the opening of the trap door Sun Lion did not panic. She knew that the drop could not be much more than thirty feet, unless Retinoff had dug deeper than the foundations of the building. Both she and Nova could easily handle such a fall. She reached out with her mind, slowing her descent. She could not actually fly, but she had enough command over her body to enable her to jump and fall farther than any normal human. As for Nova, a drop of thirty feet would harm her no more than falling a yard for anyone else.
They had not reckoned with Retinoffs ingenuity, however. He did not intend to try and kill any intruder, just capture them, and he had devised the perfect trap for dealing with invaders of all types.
SPLLLOOOOPPHH! Sun Lin and Nova splashed down into something soft and sticky. Both heroines knew instantly what it was. A strong, sweet smell assailed their nostrils. Retinoff had dropped them into a giant tank of molasses!