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Dancin' Homer Rules!

Locke and Key
By Dancin' Homer [ 12-03-01 ]


The sun was setting behind the black outline of the emperor's metal palace. Locke quickened his pace, realizing that he would only have a few hours before his target became unreachable. At the looming town gate stood a standard imperial guard in the usual dark blue uniform, accompanied by his faithful yet bloodthirsty mutt. Locke felt a chill crawl down his back as he thought of what would happen to him if he got caught. Besides, he had always had an allergy to dogs, and getting his throat torn out by one would be just plain irritating if he was sneezing too hard to see.

The guard raised his eyes to meet the covered face of the young master thief, who happened to be wearing the multicolored garb of a wandering merchant. The guard squinted, trying to make out details on the shrouded face, but gave up with a shrug. "Purpose of visit?" he barked, not really caring what the filthy merchant would say in response.

"My good man! I have come to your fine, wonderful city in the hopes that I may sell off some of my humble wares. I have fourteen kids, you see, and I could find no reason in visiting a country town like Tzen when I could come here in order to help see my wonderful children through college," Locke lied. He wasn't even married, and saw no future in it. In fact, his last date ended with an angry teenager hurling an axe at him. Locke never liked axes to begin with.

The guard looked bored, which was a good thing in Locke's business. Bored people don't ask questions. "Whatever", he muttered. He hit the switch next to him and the gate crawled open.

"Thank you very much sir!" Locke said, as happily as possible. On his way through the gate, his hand quickly whipped out of one of the many folds in his costume and snatched up the guard's dog tag, wallet, and house keys without being noticed. You should always warm up before breaking into a guarded airship and robbing the world's wealthiest man.

The town of Vector was a filthy place to live in unless you were a friend of the emperor. Locke's cloth-wrapped feet made no noise as he passed by the squalid ghettoes of the poorer citizens. It was now night, and Locke was beginning to have trouble seeing by the feeble light of the streetlamps he passed. The houses were dark for the most part, despite the fact that almost everyone in the city had lamps. Electricity was costly in this part of town.

After stepping in exactly twenty-three puddles of water and eighteen puddles of something that smelled much worse than water, Locke finally reached his goal. Huge spotlights made the scene as bright as day, yet there was a surprisingly small number of guards in the area. Those who were there casually glanced over the scene from time to time, but Locke could bypass them easily. The airship, covered with red and blue banners, was still taking on a few select passengers before it began its annual game of round-the-world roulette. Rather than deal with the rather grumpy looking bouncer who seemed to enjoy his job, Locke snuck behind the blimp and began searching for another entrance. The window? Locked. The fire exit? Only one way. The exhaust pipe? Obviously not.

Suddenly, the rear propeller began to spin. In panic, Locke glanced around for anything that would help him. As the craft began lifting upwards, he hurled himself at a wire hanging off of the side of the ship and caught it. Locke hated climbing. It required too much upper body strength. Hanging for dear life onto a shiny, golden wire of hope, Locke saw the vast technological metropolis slowly shrink below him. He swallowed and began dragging himself up to the railing.

The game was fortunately taking place inside, and only the pilot stood guard on deck. Locke was tempted to incapacitate him with a well-timed blow from the hilt of his dirk, but preferred to stay air borne for the moment. A mythril stair well was directly in front of him and wild shouts and curses could be heard as foolish millionaires blew their fortunes on the ever-spinning roulette wheel. Setzer's laugh rose above them all. After sneaking down the winding stairs, Locke found himself in a dark coatroom outside of the actual casino. He got comfortable between an old fur and some overly elaborate plate mail and waited for his victims to get a wee bit drunker than they already were. As usual, a daydream snuck up on the patient burglar after about half an hour. It consisted mainly of him rolling around in a room filled with countless GP while his last girlfriend ran in terror as axes were thrown at her by a person Locke would hire named Hans. The dream turned sour eventually when Locke discovered that the axe thrower was really named Dave. That just wasn't acceptable. Locke fired the man, but was attacked by the angry girl who miraculously escaped from her cell. The dream was getting a bit old and irritating, so Locke went back to reality.

Looking through the crack of light in the barely open door, Locke saw that about half of the people within were unconscious and the rest were singing various songs more than a little off key. Locke reached into his rags and pulled out a small green orb. In an instant, he had thrown open the door, tossed in the ball, slammed the door shut, and listened as the gamblers gasped out shocked remarks in confusion and, one by one, collapsed onto the floor into slumber. Locke put on a make shift gas mask and entered. He barely managed to duck before a shuriken would have given him an unnecessarily close haircut. A man in black stood before him with a large knife pointed at his head.

"Don't move. It will probably hurt less... probably." The man in black raised his blade and was about to strike as Locke blurted out the only plan that came to mind at the moment. It was a stupid plan, but then again Locke wasn't very bright.

"Uhmmm... can I ask you a question?"

If it weren't for the mask hiding his assailant's expression, Locke would have seen a look of confusion on the man's face. This strangely dressed person would be dead in a minute, so what did it matter? The blade left its striking position.

"You may ask one question."

"Well, uhmmm... how did you not get knocked out by the poison orb?" Although you may think that Locke was trying to buy time, he was not. He was just very curious and decided that it would be better if he had all the details of this story, just in case someone felt like hearing it in the afterlife.

"I'm a ninja." The sword rose again.

"Wait! Can I ask one more question?"

The ninja was still confused, perhaps even more than before. Why did this man keep wasting my time? Still, I could always use this as an excuse to torture him a bit...

"One more." The sword stayed where it was.

"Well, this may seem rude, but I don't see what you being a ninja has to do with you not being unconscious." Locke finally had a good plan forming.

"Being a ninja has to do with everything! I mean, I invented that toy you used." The ninja was genuinely insulted by the idea that being a ninja didn't matter. He shook his head in pity for this fool who knew so little about ninjas. Then he fell.

During the split second that he shook his head in disgust, Locke quickly slashed the man on the ankle with a concealed dirk, tearing his Achilles' tendon. The ninja writhed in pain, wondering if he should try to throw another pointy object at the thief or just writhe a bit longer. Meanwhile, Locke quickly scooped Setzer's winnings from the game into yet another fold in his rags, and then ran up the stairway at full speed. The biting cold of the night air seemed like a refreshing breeze to him, and very soon, he would be living it up in one of the finer parts of Jidoor.

Out of the corner of his eye, the pilot spotted Locke.

"You aren't one of the guests! What's going on?" He spoke in a whiny voice that seemed capable of getting under anyone's skin, but Locke didn't seem to notice.

"Take this baby down, now!" Locke probably would have been more convincing if it weren't for the man in black who was being helped up the stairs by a ferocious attack dog.

"Interceptor, tear his throat out in ten seconds." The man stared straight at Locke. Locke sneezed. Two words came from the ninja's mouth. "The money."

Locke sighed. He turned out the fold in his rags that he was somehow able to identify as the money fold and out poured an incredible fortune in GP. Just a hint of a satisfied smile appeared on Shadow's face, although Locke couldn't see it.

"Forget that, Interceptor."

The dog whimpered, but obeyed. The ninja gathered all of the loot into a large sack, and then turned to face the railing of the ship. "They didn't pay me enough to take on this security job without some benefits, and you injuring me in there was not a nice way to end my day. However, considering that you just helped me out of a bit of a debt..."

The man did a back flip over the railing.

"I, Shadow, may just forgive you." His voice trailed off into the darkness as he fell, sack in hand.

Locke blinked. He was sure that the man had been unable to walk up the stairs without his dog's help... the dog! He had forgotten it. Locke looked over to the canine just in time to see it leap after its master. He scratched his head.

The pilot saw that the strange incident between the two shady characters was just about over and that he would soon be the center of attention again. And that man in black thought he was getting paid too little. Oh well, at least I'm not dead.

"Mr. Thief, sir, should I land this thing?"

Locke nodded

"Yeah, I guess so."

***

Setzer stared at the people who had just invaded his ship. Although two of them were unfamiliar, he was sure that he had seen the last one at some point in time.

"What are you doing in my airship?"

Locke stepped forward under the glaring eyes of the albino gambler. "We're here to rescue Maria."



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