The roof of the museum didn’t look quite right.
Meteor Maid stopped in her tracks, going from a hundred fifty to zero in the space of a few yards. She took another look... but now there was nothing out of the ordinary. Shrugging, she started running again... and the oddity reappeared.
A few more starts and stops confirmed that there was something there. She could only see it when running past it at high speed, and could barely see it then, but it was definitely real. Circling the building at speed, she looked over her shoulder to take a good look. It was a sort of blurry spot just above the roof, situated near the rear wall of the building.
Dashing up the fire escape, she jumped up and pulled herself onto the top of the building. Now that she was at close range and knew where to look, she could see it even while standing still. It was a faint shimmer, like the air above a fire, in a space about the size of a small truck.
She picked up a bit of loose shingle and touched it to whatever this thing was. There was a solid invisible object in front of her.
Carefully, she reached out and touched it, ready to jump back at full superspeed if anything happened. Nothing did. Feeling her way around, she confirmed her suspicion that it was an invisible vehicle. She grinned as the “Everybody remember where we parked” line from Star Trek IV ran through her head.
The heroine’s expression became more businesslike as she began searching for the vehicle’s driver. It didn’t take long—a nearby skylight had obviously been forced open, and as she peered down into the atrium she saw a flashlight beam shining through the fog.
Meteor Maid thought about that a moment. None of her foes had any particularly weather-related powers, but every so often a new one would show up or an old one would develop some new tricks. Then she caught a glimpse of a figure in charcoal grey and crimson. It was too indistinct to be sure, but it looked like Madame Molecula. The fog would fit her chemical-gadgets M.O., and so did the targeting of an art museum.
The villainess showed no sign that she knew she was being watched. This ought to be fairly quick and easy. Meteor Maid lowered herself into the opening and dropped to the floor below.
That was a mistake, she realized just as it was too late to undo it. The legs that propelled her in superspeed sprints would absorb the four-story drop easily enough—she’d landed from a lot higher and been off and running a split second later—but the fall would take her just as long as it took anybody else. She should have run back down to ground level instead of wasting nearly two whole seconds.
It shouldn’t matter, but it was careless. Better wrap this up fast once she landed.
As she straightened up from the landing, she could see her quarry standing about twenty feet away. Her view was still shrouded by the fog, but at this somewhat closer range she could tell that it was definitely Madame Molecula. She raced across the room, holding back a bit for fear of accidentally knocking something over in her wake but moving more than fast enough to catch the thief before she could react.
Her view of the room shifted in ways that didn’t gibe with her movement. Suddenly, Molecula was beside her rather than in front of her—and then her footing gave out from under her. It was all Meteor Maid could do to keep upright as she skidded across the suddenly frictionless surface. She slid into a double velvet rope at fifty miles an hour and tumbled over. The next thing she knew, the ropes were winding around her, pinning her arms and legs. She tried vibrating her limbs to shake off the bonds, but all that accomplished was to roll her onto her side.
The “velvet” was actually Molecula’s memory plastic, she realized. This whole setup—the vision-distorting fog, the slick floor, the disguised entangling cord—was a carefully arranged trap. And she’d charged right into it.
“Looks like I’ve caught myself a falling star,” Molecula quipped.
“Clever. Finally get bored with the ‘Meter Maid’ line?” That was a cheap shot—Molecula had never stooped to using that tired old gibe—but Meteor Maid needed to keep her foe off balance if at all possible. Molecula’s memory plastic was resistant to her vibrations, but would give way if she kept at it long enough—if her opponent gave her long enough....
The villainess slowly approached. She stopped about three feet away, and reached out to search by feel. Apparently the visual distortions affected her, too. Maybe that’ll give me enough time to break free, the heroine thought as she desperately pushed her powers to the limit.
Meteor Maid felt a hand against her butt. It stayed there for entirely too long a moment, then slid up her body and finally settled into place on her jaw. “Ah, there you are!” She saw Molecula unfold a little dust-screen mask from a pouch on her belt, and a moment later felt it pressed over her mouth and nose. There was a little “pop” sound and droplets of liquid spattering against her lips as her captor pinched the material.
She held her breath as long as she could. That wasn’t very long, not while using her powers right after having the wind knocked out of her. The last thing she knew, she was being picked up and carried in Madame Molecula’s arms.