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Southern Glacia, Definitely Not Sherwood Forest, Monday
"So, it's a tax scam. With highway robbers," Dinah summed up after their crew of seven had re-assembled after a bit of snooping around. "The Province Queen's men collect food and money for the tithe, then on the way back to their estate,they get robbed by highwaymen. Then the Queen's right-hand men -- the Steward and chief Man-at-Arms-- make the people pay all the food and money all over again, saying the highwaymen had to be from the villages. But the villages are saying that it's not them."

"Totally a perfect set-up for the Hobart-centered court. He's stealing from his own men and then the villages suffer." Denys looked disgusted. "So what is our plan?"

[for heromaniac (and co-written by her) but open for phone calls after the caper]

Momoko growled. "Sounds like a weird variation of the protection racket. You pay for protection and then have to pay again when they can't protect themselves."

Kirt shook his head. "Are we sure that the Queen even knows this?"

Mark didn't look up from where he was checking his equipment. "I didn't get any information about the actual Queen except that it's not being stopped."

"So if she does know it, we need to embarrass her with it. If she doesn't, we need to make it so public that she has to come down on the perpetrators." Dinah frowned. "There might even be rumors that it's Karla doing this, from some of the side-eyes I was getting in the taverns."

Samantha looked thoughtful. "We need to catch them in the act."

"The next payment -- next *secondary* payment -- is supposed to leave this evening," Denys said, his voice quiet.

"So let's take it?" Ulrich reached over with a tree branch into Mark's pile of ropes, stirring them.

Mark gave a small annoyed growl and shoved at Ulrich's shoulder, pushing him over. "How will taking the tithes help anyone?"

"Boys." That was Samantha. They both straightened while trying not to laugh.

"If we take them and the money-- straight to the Queen... maybe with as much of an entourage from the villages as possible, so they can make their case that it wasn't them? That sound do-able?" Dinah paused. "Of course, that's assuming there aren't so many that we can't take them."

"We can take them," Momoko assured Dinah. "If we act like highwaymen ourselves."

Kirt bent to help Mark sort the ropes again. "No way we'd be able to prove anything. Why would the Queen believe us and some villagers over her own men? Especially if we take them by force."

Momoko bit her lip. "We could we mark the money somehow?" She grabbed her head. "Argh. I keep thinking like a police officer. But listen. If we mark the money and goods that gets stolen, could we maybe prove that it does get to the Lord or Queen or whoever?"

Dinah straightened. "No, that's a good idea. Keep thinking like a cop! It'll have to be some way they don't notice-- the goods, maybe we can't manage, but the money..." Her mind racing, she looked at Samantha and Denys. "Could you guys put, say, some kind of spell on the money, so it lights up or glows or something, when you say the right words?" Then she smacked her head. "Fingerprints!"

Denys frowned, but Samantha looked intrigued before Dinah started thumping her forehead. "That should be possible, although if we have the villagers do it, they'll be more credible-- what are fingerprints?"

"Fingerprints are the marks a person's fingers leave behind," Momoko looked at Dinah confused. "Everyone has different ones and you can tell who has touched something by those marks. What are you thinking of?"

"Fingers leave marks?" Ulrich looked horrified.

Mark chuckled at him. "Maybe someone should wash more often?"

That earned him a glare from Ulrich.

"I was thinking they'd prove who touched the money-- but that apparently might be difficult to convince some people," Dinah said, raising an eyebrow at Ulrich, then grinning. "Here's how I think we can combine this stuff...."

Which was how they found themselves, later that night, shadowing the overland coach leaving from three landen villages, laden with their first round of taxes. Waiting for someone to strike.

And that someone wasn't going to be the Super Glacia Freedom Fighters.

Hmm. Still didn't flow right. Karla's Fighting Fury? The Glacian Gang?

Momoko's musing was merely background noise in her mind as she watched the train below her. Ah! Movement in the bushes ahead! She tapped the earring she'd borrowed from Dinah, "incoming. Ahead and a bit to the west. Looks like at least... two... people? What?"

As she watched, a pair of men stepped onto the road and hailed the coachmen. A brief conversation she couldn't hear and a second wagon emerged from the trees. The goods were transferred to the new coach and a handshake - plus what looked to be an exchange of some sort - sent the two strangers off with the goods.


"Sonuva... the coachmen are in on it." Dinah sighed behind her mask. "Okay. We'll give them a little time, then...."

She checked her watch, and calculated. Then grinned.

And about seven minutes later, let off an unholy Canary Cry, both toward the coachmen, and the departing tax re-possessors.

"Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee -- !"

The rest of the -- well, not the Karla's Crew, but the rest of the group other than Momoko -- looked appalled. Even if they'd been expecting it.

The scream was the signal and Momoko dove to the ground, turning her landing into a run that brought her to the rear of the coach. She rounded it as fast as she could and used her yo-yo to lasso the driver and pull him from his seat, sending him rolling into the trees as she kept running after the next man.

"Hold! Hand over the goods!"

The goal wasn't to really steal anything. They'd come up with a better idea! First part? Get all the bad guys away from the goods and the coach.

Edited at 2013-08-14 02:01 am (UTC)

Which had Mark and Kirt and Ulrich peeling off to follow the village coachmen who had taken their cut, after a quick low-voiced consultation.

"Varlets!" Dinah jumped down on top of the coach. "Reach for the sky!"

Somewhere, Geoffrey was facepalming at Dinah's improv.

Samantha was already trading bolts of light with one of the four coachmen, and Denys was doing the same, helping Momoko bring down one of the guys who was trying to run.

Dinah made a flying tackle at the biggest guy, who was still holding onto a bag of the tax money.

"Why do you always go for the biggest ones, Big D?" Momoko complained as she sent her man flying over the coach into the bushes. Not hard enough to do more than knock him cold for a moment or so. She rushed after him, jumping onto the back and reaching a hand out to steady herself as she stumbled over the bags of grains and vegetables.

A bolt of magic came shooting through the carriage towards her, busting a sack and sending turnips and a few potatoes flying. Momoko ducked them and then jumped back out of the carriage to look for the sender of that bolt. "Hey! Who's not giving up, over there?"

"Sorry!" Denys called. "My misfire-- whoa!"

Oh. Dear. The guy fighting Denys now had him on the run. Or something.

"I'm leaviiiiing!" he called, sprinting into the forest.

"HEY!" Dinah called after him, then barely ducked a pink bolt of magic in time. "I think he has the right idea!"

She cut through the coach, steadying herself on the other money bags before diving out the other side.

"RETREAT!"

"Hey!" Momoko was standing, arms akimbo, glaring at the retreating backs of her cohorts. "I thought you said you guys could handle any magic they might ha- eeep!"

Another bolt of magic struck a tree behind her and Momoko totally paled. Totally. Yes.

"Well, I can't do this without a jewel." She made a frustrated face and shook a fist at the wagon and anyone still standing. "You lucked out, this time! But we'll be back! You'll see!"

And then she ran off into the trees herself.

The coachmen seemed to consider chasing them for a bit-- but after about a quarter mile, and Denys and Samantha putting up sight-shields, they gave up.

Dinah waited until the thieves were back on the road with the stolen loot, and said softly, "Think they bought it? That was pretty heavy-handed."

Momoko eyerolled. "Right? I felt like hitting myself, I sounded like such a cheesy villain. Mojo Jojo would be totally proud of us."

Denys frowned. "I don't know about that. The guy I was fighting was really a bad shot. I felt bad picking him."

"You're used to fighting now," Momoko chuckled, reaching out to pat his shoulder. "You've been training and I don't think they have at all. Definitely they weren't expecting an attack."

Samantha sniffed, and brushed dirt off her trousers. "It's pure laziness and greed on their part, especially involving the villagers. Not even the courage of twisted convictions." She made a face. "Not that I'm not grateful it was so easy."

"And what's with calling me Big D?" Dinah wondered. "Should we wait until the guys get back to us for part two of our stunning plan?"

Momoko shrugged, taking a moment to float freely in the breeze. "I needed a code name that sounded villain-y. And I couldn't use 'Little D' since that's Denys."

"What?" Denys objected, looking a bit put out. "I'm taller than Dinah!" By one whole inch.

Denys was saved from Dinah's comeback to that when Ulrich, Kirt and Mark went past their hiding place. Samantha dropped the sight shield and hissed at them, and they veered back toward the rest of the group.

"Mission accomplished," Mark said laconically, with a small glare at Ul. "All of it accounted for." Kirt was snickering, and Ul folded his arms, pouting.

Dinah grinned, then checked the time again. "Another ten minutes, and then..."

"The villagers should be in position by now," Samantha agreed. "They understood what was required."

Right on the dot, when the recovered coach was just at the edge of the forest, Dinah climbed up a tree.

"Plug your ears, guys."

She let rip with what was almost a silent-scream; one so high-pitched that it was past human hearing. A flock of birds took off, cawing furiously in response. Rustling everywhere, as animals went to ground.

And maybe, just possibly, the sound of tiny explosions, very far away.

So the plan was simple. When they finally came up with it...

"Dye packs! Like in banks!"

"And on clothes!"

"Clothes?"

"Sure. When you buy clothes they have those tags on them so you can't steal them? They get dye on them when you go through the door!"

"When did you ever steal clothes?!"

"When did you steal money from a bank?"

"... point."

ANYWAY. The plan was just that. They did a bit of research and there was a natural dye to be found in Glacia and they put some into little sacks. This dye wouldn't harm any of the money or, more importantly, the food products, but it would turn any human who came into contact with it a very distinct blue colour for a number of hours with no magic needed!

These packs were then slipped into the cargo during the 'failed' attack by Dinah and Momoko and crew. And Dinah's 'silent' scream just now? had popped every single one. The men who had stolen the taxes should be beautifully identifiable shortly, if not already.

Meanwhile, a delegation from the villages had been sent to the Lord who'd blamed them as the highwaymen. The villagers were to claim the dye was planted by them in an attempt to discover the true villains. This should, per the plan, force the Lord's to amend his evil ways with no backlash on the villagers.

That the village coachmen were in on the stealing had not been in the plan, though, so Momoko was a bit concerned.

"So what should we do with this?" She reached for one of the bags of re-looted loot the boys had brought them. "We can't keep it! It would be noticed and then people will wonder if maybe there really are highwaymen! This totally ruins the plan!"

Wail more, hero-girl.

"We can't keep it?" Ulrich was looking tragic. Mark smacked him on the back of his head without even looking at him.

"Nooooooo," Dinah seconded. "...but we can give it to the people it was originally intended for. The Queen of this District. Herself."

Samantha smother a laugh. "They may be a bit busy when we arrive, but I'm sure they'll be happy to accept it."

Denys nodded, eyerolling at the antics of the other men. "And if we say we carried it on behalf of the villages, to make sure that it got through, I'm sure they'll back us up."

"And Lady Dinah and Lady Momoko are wearing Lady Karla's rings, so..." Kirt trailed off.

"So," Denys blinked a moment, then picked up the idea. "so this will be seen as a good thing Lady Karla has done for a fellow Queen?"

"Oooh!" Momoko liked this idea. "Let's do it!"

Glacian Ulrich"Can we keep a little of it?" Ulrich looked plaintively at the other two men as they stood and checked over what was in the little compartment under the coachman's seat... and wasn't really so little.
Glacian Mark"NO" Mark and Kirt chorused, barely looking up at him. Or at least Kirt wasn't looking at him. Mark was looking sideways at him with a slightly raised eyebrow.
Glacian UlrichUlrich sighed, looking over what they had already sorted out. "Just... just a bottle of the Pear? It's a good year!" He lifted a bottle and read the handwritten label. "Ah! I've heard of this!"
Glacian Mark"No!" Came Mark's voice again.
Glacian Ulrich"But we deserve it! Look! We took out these guys, rescued all the other stuff. No one will notice just one bottle..."
Glacian Mark"Ul... All of it goes to the Lady."
Glacian Ulrich"Fine." Ulrich sighed. For all that he was a thief, he was a good person at heart; he just truly did believe the world owed him something. "All of it to the Lady."
Glacian KirtKirt pulled away from the coach with a small grunt holding another bottle of brandywine. "That's all of it. We just need to check those coachmen to make sure they can escape their bonds later and then we can head out."
Glacian UlrichUlrich walked back to where they'd left the corrupt village coachmen who'd been in on the plot all along, giving the head coachman a small kick. The unconscious man groaned slightly but didn't wake. "They didn't really put up much of a fight, did they?"
Glacian Mark"And how would you know?" Mark teased, tossing Ulrich a sack of goods to carry. "Kirt and I did all the fighting. Come on. We have to get to the rendezvous point."
Glacian Ulrich"Hey!" Ulrich protested, following the brothers. "I was being lookout!"

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