Harvey Diamond got to spend one weekend out of every month with his father. His father was Dante Domino, a world-renowned master thief who lived on his own private Mediterranean Island, had pulled off daring heists on every continent and had a pet gorilla. Harvey looked forward to those weekends like nothing else. As soon as his mother, Myra Diamond, drove him home from his private school and arrived at their suburban house, Harvey leapt out of the car, scrambled up to his room and did everything he could to get ready. He knew that Dante Domino wouldn't let him down.
First, Harvey had to finish up a little reading for history. He didn't mind, as it was recent and interesting stuff – the Cuban Missile Disaster, the small scale nuclear exchange, the intensification of the Cold War and the rise of freelance espionage agencies that followed. Harvey knew that his parents had played some role in the wild years before the freelance spy agencies had tightened their grip on the world. He wasn't exactly sure what it was – but he knew it had to be important and for a good cause. He barreled through the reading, his eyes dancing from word to word, and then he packed a few clothes into a small suitcase and waited.
He was scrawny for his thirteen years, with very straight, dark hair that was neatly parted. He was told that his dark eyes belonged to his father and his freckles belonged to his mother, and Harvey supposed this was true. Sometimes he wished that he had inherited more from his father than just his eyes. He wore a pair of round spectacles and still had the dark coat, matching trousers and striped tie of his private school uniform. His room had posters of comic book characters on the wall, along with framed photographs of him and his mother. Dante was in none of them. Harvey's school – like his home – was in a peaceful suburb outside the bustling city of Omnopolis, which was the great eastern city built to replace those lost in the Cuban Disaster. Harvey liked it well enough, though he rarely got to go into the city. Still, he found that he preferred Domino Island to any other place.
The rumble of an engine made Harvey hurry to the window. He pressed his nose to the glass. The rumbling came from the sky, sounding like an endless thunder. But it was a flawless day and there was not a cloud in the blue sky. Harvey knew it must be something else. He drummed thin fingers on the sill impatiently and then he saw it – Dante's sleek hovercar zooming down to the driveway. The hovercar was a beautiful vehicle, white and shining as a pearl. It was a convertible, with a rounded front like the bulbous side of a martini glass and protruding tail fins. Little bursts of white smoke came from the hovercar's bottom, holding the vehicle in the air. It settled with a clank in the lawn by the driveway. The jets dusted the air with shredded grass.
There were two figures in the hovercar. One was Dante Domino and the other was Chester, his pet gorilla. Dante stepped out first as Myra opened the door. Harvey couldn't hear what his mother was saying to his father, but Dante turned back to Chester, said something quickly and then headed inside. Harvey followed Dante with his eyes. His father was a broad-shouldered man, his thick limbs under a coal black blazer and a matching turtleneck. Dante had a thick Roman nose and very dark eyes under a tamed nest of curly dark hair. The hair was thinning now, but it still gleamed in the sunlight. Large, flat sunglasses poked out of his coat pocket. Harvey watched Dante head inside and then he grabbed his backpack and raced downstairs.
As he hurried downstairs, he heard Dante and Myra talking in the kitchen. Harvey slowed his pace. He stayed in the hall and listened. His father was speaking. "Myra, my darling," he said. "Chester is very well-behaved – completely housebroken. You know how much Harvey cares for him. Why not let him into your home?"
"He sheds, Dante." Myra had sat down at the kitchen table, leaving Dante to stand. "Your hovercar's already trashed my yawn. I won't have your pet monkey doing it to my house." She was a slim woman, with dark hair framing her pale face. Horn-rimmed spectacles covered her eyes. She worked for a PR firm in the city and still wore her gray skirt and suit coat. "I don't want to talk about your gorilla. I'd prefer talking about you. How are things, Dante?"
"Well enough," Dante explained. "True, Domino Island has seen better days…"
"And so have you." Myra paused. "Did you consider what I asked you? About getting a job?"
"With one of the agencies? Pah!" Dante nearly spat in his disagreement. "Do you think I am a dog, Myra, to be held on a leash by those monsters who run SPYDER or Agency X?" He shook his head. "Or perhaps you want me to join HAWC – the very group we waged war upon in the past." Harvey had learned of those organizations, but not much. Apart from HAWC, - which did work for the US government and other Western powers - most of the espionage agencies seemed permanently cloaked in shadow.
"The High Aerial Warfare Command does good work," Myra replied.
Dante's sigh was deep. It seemed to erupt from the very bottom of his chest. "In the old days, you would never say something about those capitalistic lackeys. We would rob them or fight them – and never dream of serving them. What happened, my dear? We used to be warriors."
"We used to be children," Myra answered. "And we grew up." She came to her feet and glared down at Dante. "I'm not asking about jobs because I'm worried about you –though I am a little. You're late on your payments, Dante. Three months late." She folded her arms. Harvey knew that stern look in her face and how useless argument was against it. "If you don't pay child support, I won't let you see Harvey. It's as simple as that."
"You know, our arrangement is recognized by no law. No law at all governs me."
"I know." Myra's firm tone remained. "But I personally won't let you see Harvey if you don't keep up your end of the bargain. What would you do, Dante? Steal him away from me, like he was a set of crown jewels or state secrets?" She turned her heard. "Harvey!" she cried. "Your father's here!" She didn't know he was just out in the hall. Myra looked back at Dante as Harvey scrambled inside. She lowered her voice, like she didn't want her son to hear. "Please, Dante," she said. "Don't make me make that decision. Just get me the money."
Harvey stepped into the room. A second later, he was wrapped in the arms of his father. Dante lifted him off the ground, grinning before he finally set Harvey down. "My boy," Dante said. "My child." He patted Harvey's head. Dante always treated Harvey a like he was a little younger than he was. "Are you ready?" he asked.
"Y-yeah," Harvey agreed. "Sure, dad." He was always a little taken aback by his father.
"Then say goodbye to your mother and we will depart." Dante headed for the door. "Chester is waiting – and so is Domino Island!"
Harvey quickly kissed his mother goodbye and grabbed his backpack. He hurried out of the door and headed for the hovercar, which was just warming up. Dante held the door for him and Harvey slid into the back and set his pack next to him. Chester twisted his thick, shaggy head and looked back at him. The gorilla wore a single electric monocle – a piece of high-tech eyewear that Dante had stolen in the past - and an old pinstriped vest and trousers. He reached back with a thick hand. Harvey gripped the gorilla's hand and gave it a squeeze. He could feel the strength there.
"Hello, Chester," Harvey said brightly. "How are you?"
Chester let out a soft hum in answer.
Dante had started up the engine. The jets on the bottom of the hovercar roared and spat smoke. The hovercar rose into the sky. It made a single backfire, pumping out a little black smoke. Harvey jumped at the sound. He wondered what sort of condition the hovercar was in – and how long it had been since Dante had taken the vehicle in for a tune-up. Then they were soaring over the rooftops of his neighborhood and Harvey forgot about that. He leaned back against the plush leather seats and felt the wind on his face – at least until Dante engaged the convertible roof. They talked for a while, but Harvey's excitement had tired him out. He fell asleep with the warm sun on his face.
When Harvey woke up, the hovercar had landed in Domino Island. It was a football shaped chunk of sand and rock, nestled in the Mediterranean and within view of the Italian Coast. It was dotted with palm trees and jagged chunks of khaki rock rearing up into the sky. In the island's center was the villa, which was now going dusty and cobwebbed. Harvey knew that the island had been in the Domino family for centuries, as a gift from some Renaissance Era ruler. The Dominos had been a line of unmatched assassins, who worked for hire through generations. Dante had been trained to be a killer by his father, but chosen a new path as a thief when he came of age. Harvey approved. He knew his father would never make a bad decision.
He was still sitting in the back of his car, though his glasses had been removed and placed in the pocket of his coat and his backpack was gone. Harvey stood up, replaced his glasses and hopped out of the hovercar. It had been parked in the villa's rooftop garage. A few other vehicles were there – planes and helicopters that were now pockmarked with splotches of rust. Harvey admired them and imagined his father stealing them from SPYDER or Agency X or maybe even SICKLE or HAWC. He then headed to the door and stepped into the long hallway that wound through the villa.
The lights weren't working in some parts of the villa. A few pictures of stern-faced Domino ancestors were also askew, but Harvey didn't notice. He headed down the hall towards his father's room, which was right in the manor's center. He had his own room next door. Harvey hurried through the villa, stepped over the dusty carpet and headed for the door on the other end of the hall.
It opened before he could reach the knob. A woman stood there, tall and blonde and with very long legs in pale shorts. She looked down at Harvey with a little distaste, like he was some stain that had appeared on one of her favorite clothes. Harvey looked up at her in adolescent awe.
"Um," she said. "Hi."
"Hello," Harvey answered. He couldn't think of anything else to say. "I'm Harvey Diamond – Harvey Domino," he finally managed. He looked past the blonde and stared into his father's room.
Dante was already hurrying to meet them. "Sylvia," he said, touching the woman's shoulder and gently pulling her back into his room. "This is my son. He is visiting for the weekend. I fetched him this afternoon. Harvey, this is Sylvia. A friend of mine."
"Sure…" Sylvia muttered. "And I was just leaving."
"Do you need a ride—" Dante started.
"I've got a speedboat in your harbor. That'll get me back to the mainland." She was already heading down the hall, her hips swaying as she walked.
Harvey stepped through the doorway and walked into his father's room. It was a richly upholstered place, dominated by a circular leopard-print bed with bulbous white bubble chairs in the corner. Wide windows overlooked the green waters of the sea and the jagged, sandy coast of Domino Island. A few banks of bulky, rectangular computers filled the back. Lava lamps glowed and danced near angular lights. Dante closed the door and walked across the room to one of the computers. Green text was glowing on the screen's black background.
Quickly, Dante's hand darted over the keys. "Just a little research, my son," he explained. "Tell me, how would like to go on a little vacation during our time together?"
"A vacation? Yeah, that'd be great. But where exactly did you have in mind, dad?" Harvey asked. The computer screen was blinking. Harvey walked over to one of the bubble chairs and sat down. His eyes drifted to the door where Sylvia had left. "Do you think I made her leave?" he asked suddenly. He would have hated to cause his father any harm – or awkwardness. "I didn't mean to. I just said hello."
"It was not your fault." Dante smiled at his son as he walked back to the computer. "She was finished here anyway." His smile began to fade. It was reflected in the black of the computer screen, faint and obsidian. "I'm not sure if she will return." But then Dante was pressing more buttons. "As for our little get-away, what do you think of somewhere northern and cold. Perhaps in a secluded portion of the French Alps?" He punched another button and a printed card whirred out of a slot in the top of the computer. "In a place called Mount Alexander?"
"That sounds nice," Harvey admitted. "I could get my stuff…"
"No need." Dante walked over to a sleek black bag, sitting next to the cabinet near his bed. He slipped the strap over his shoulder. "We will not be staying long."
Before Harvey could wonder why they would be going to Mount Alexander, he heard a loud hooting coming from the hall. Harvey and Dante turned. They saw Chester bound into the room, running on his knuckles. His mouth was open, his large teeth gleaming in the room's soft light. Chester's fur seemed rustled, like he'd been standing next to a roaring fan. He pointed back to the hall and let out another alarmed hoot.
"What is the trouble?" Dante asked.
The ceiling of his room split. Sawdust rained down along with bricks and masonry. They crashed on the leopard-print bed and fell next to the bubble chair. Harvey slipped out of the chair and fell to the ground, landing on the shag carpet. He looked up and saw the hole burned into the ceiling. There were men up there, all wearing bulky blue uniforms, bulbous round helmets, dark goggles and heavy steel pipes strapped to their backs. Faint plumes of smoke crept up the ends of the tubes, like they were the mouths of dragons. Harvey knew that they were jetpacks – and these were soldiers of HAWC.
One of the soldiers slipped out from the hole in the ceiling and landed next to Dante and Harvey. He removed his helmet, leaving his goggles on. Harvey saw close-cropped hair streaked occasionally with sweat, dark skin and a thin nose. Apart from the sweat, he looked like a pristine action figure. "Dante Domino?" he asked. "My name is Agent Niles Barnes. I'm in command of this Talon Team for the High Aerial Warfare Command." He carried a submachine gun with one arm, casually pointed at Dante. "You are under arrest for innumerable crimes against the free nations of the world."
"Free." Dante spat. "Do not tell me lies, my friend. There is no such thing as freedom anymore." He walked over to the cabinet near his bed, where a variety of multi-colored bottles of various shapes and sizes gleamed in the sunlight like neon lights. Dante grabbed a pair of glasses and two fistfuls of ice. "Tell me," he said. "Do you know how many HAWC agents – and agents of SPYDER, Agency X, the Legion Eternal, the Brotherhood of Dragons and more have tried to capture me?"
"No…" Agent Barnes kept his gun trained on Dante. Harvey stood next to Chester, in the gorilla's protective shadow. He said nothing, his eyes darting back and forth from Dante to Agent Barnes, and then to the six or so HAWC agents upstairs. "Mr. Domino, your son is here and I don't want him endangered in any way. Why don't you just come with us?"
"Thousands." Dante finished the putting ice in the drinks. He grabbed a bottle and started to pour. "And I've outwitted them all. It remains a perennially unpopular assignment." Dante looked back at Agent Barnes. "You are a Negro," he announced. "You must be very unpopular in HAWC – and in your country. Perhaps that is why they have given you an impossible task."
Agent Barnes bristled. Harvey could see his discomfort. "Mr. Domino," he repeated. "I have an entire Talon Team surrounding—"
"You could have a dozen teams. It wouldn't stop me."
Now Agent Barnes drew closer. He kept his gun focused on Dante. Harvey remained frozen, utterly terrified. He knew his father did illegal things, but he never expected them to catch up to him. This was like one of his comic books had come to life and it was terrifying. "I don't want to risk your son's life, Mr. Domino," Agent Barnes said. "And I'm betting you don't either. And you're not a young man anymore."
Dante gripped the bottle. "Young enough," he said, and spun around. He hurled the bottle through the air and then his hand snaked into his black bag and came without a silenced pistol. Harvey stared in amazement at the long silencer and the sleek form of the automatic. The bottle was still in the air, flying towards Agent Barnes. Dante shot it in midair. Glass shattered and then the alcohol burst into flames. Agent Barnes ran back, tripping as liquid fire struck the carpet. Sprinklers in the ceiling clicked on, pouring down water on everything. Dante was already moving.
He loped towards Harvey and Chester. Dante saw something flash in his hands, going from the bag and landing in Chester's hands. He saw that it was a machine pistol with a long magazine. It looked tiny in Chester's thick fingers, but the gorilla still turned it around and unleashed a hail of lead at the HAWC agents in the ceiling. They started to fire back. Harvey heard someone yelp in terror and realized that he had made the noise. His father grabbed his arm. They ran to the window.
Chester leapt through the glass first, his bulky body crashing through and shattering the window. Fragments of shiny glass plummeted down and hit the beach, looking like icicles in the sun. Harvey and Dante followed. Dante still had one arm around his son's shoulder, his other on his pistol. He turned around and cracked off a few shots. The Talon soldiers had dropped into the room now and were aiming their assault rifles at Dante, Chester and Harvey. Their guns started to chatter. A bit of sand kicked up, just under Harvey's feet. Harvey winced.
"Hold your fire!" Agent Barnes shouted over the roaring rifles. "He's got a kid with him, for Christ's sake! Hold your goddamn fire or I'll have you dropped off an Aerocarrier into shark-infested waters – you have my word on that!" Then Harvey heard more rumbling. He looked over his shoulder and saw the HAWC agents flying through the broken windows, streams of white smoke emerging from their jetpacks. They streaked low, zooming towards Dante.
But Dante was ready. "Now the dogs have wings," he muttered. "I'll just have to clip them." He pulled something else from his bag and tossed it into the air. It was a round bomb, a sleek grenade the size and shape of a billiards ball. It roared to life, covering Dante's escape with a screen of red fire and kicked-up dust. The Talon Team whizzed around the cloud, unable to see and unable to fire. Their curses rang through the air, as they futilely tried to cut through the smoke. Harvey coughed and looked away from the growing fireball. His father guided him.
They reached the end of the beach, where a little cement driveway waited. A hovercar was there, a sleek black model with a hood already attached. Dante slid behind the wheel. Chester took the passenger seat, after holding open the back door for Harvey. As soon as Harvey buckled his seatbelt, Dante had slammed on the ignition and the hovercar shot forward. It rolled over the driveway. For a second, Harvey wondered if they weren't just going to drive straight into the sea. But then the hovercar lifted up, zooming over the waves and then into the sky.
Something pinged against the metal door. Harvey thought it was a bullet and crouched low. He closed his eyes and tried to stop shivering. "It's all right," Dante said, in a gentle voice. Harvey opened his eyes. He saw Harvey looking back at him, holding a fat metal needle in his hand. The end of it was pulsing with a little blue light. Dante pressed it and the blue light went off. "A tracking dart," he explained. "Nothing more. It is an amateur's trick, really." He put it in his pocket. "Perhaps I will attach to a stray dog in Madrid or Rome for amusement, later." He smiled at the thought. "In the old days, I used to enjoy playing such pranks."
The joke seemed a little hollow now. Harvey still couldn't believe that he'd been shot at. "Did those HAWC men want to kill you, daddy?" he asked. He slipped into the last word, but didn't exactly regret it. "And will they chase us?"
"They just wanted to arrest me – and then kill me, unless I agreed to throw away my ideals and work with them, which I would never do." Dante considered the question for a few seconds. "And I doubt they will chase me. This vehicle has cloaking devices that could fool a bank of sensors. Domino Island has a few counter-measures , anti-air weapons and such, which will activate soon and stop them from hanging around for long as well." He looked back to the dashboard, where a little electric map of Europe flickered and blinked. "Besides, we had to leave anyway. Mount Alexander a-waits!"
"And, ah, why exactly are we going there?" Harvey asked. "Just a vacation?"
"A working vacation, my son," Dante explained. He kept the hovercar level as they cut through the clouds. He paused. "And perhaps you might help a little – if you are willing, of course." Harvey heard something that was rare in his father's voice: a hint of nervousness. "Do you think you would be up for that?"
Harvey wasn't sure, but he'd never tell that to his father. "Yes, I'd be happy too," he said. "If it's not too difficult, I mean. But I'm sure you've got a plan, for whatever it is we're doing and whatever it is you want me to do…" He trailed off. "Okay," he finally said. "I'll be ready."
"Excellent!" Dante flicked a few more switches on the dashboard. The hovercar streamed forward. They sailed through the clouds and into the distance.
They slid out of the clouds in the later afternoon. The hovercar shot down and Harvey pressed his eyes to the windows and stared. What he saw amazed and terrified him. They were soaring over an icy mountain range, maneuvering around jagged peaks of snow and rock and wide expanses of white snow. It looked a little like ice cream over chocolate. Harvey then stared forward and saw their destination as the hovercar began to descend. It was one of the smaller mountains, a mere toothpick compared to the trees, with a manor built on a steel and wooden platform around its summit. The manor's roof was flat, and served as a landing strip for several helicopters, hovering vehicles, sleek, small jets and other aircraft. Dante flew the hovercar down to the roof and settled it between a pair of bulbous lime green helicopters.
Dante hopped out first and then opened the door for Harvey. He helped his son out and then nodded to Chester, who had scooted into the driver's seat. Dante had his black bag slung over his shoulder. "You will be around, my friend?" he asked Chester. The gorilla nodded once and grunted. Dante merely smiled. "That is all you need to worry about. I wish you good luck – and I urge you to do the same to me."
The hovercar rumbled to life and started to fly away. Harvey stood next to his father and watched Chester drive the hovercar. "Chester's not going with us?" he wondered. It was kind of cold on the mountain peak and Harvey's suit jacket felt inadequate. He shivered a little, but did his best to ignore it.
"This party is not really for gorillas," Dante explained. "But do not worry. He won't go far."
They walked to the edge of the landing strip, where a stairwell led down to a kind of courtyard in front of the manor. Right now, the courtyard was packed with people. It seemed to Harvey that this was a party, already in full-swing. But it was like nothing he had ever seen before. There were uniformed guards in the corners, all wearing white coats and peaked caps, with submachine guns nestled in their arms. More uniformed servants moved through the guests, carrying trays packed with martinis or toothpick-topped appetizers. But the guests were what surprised Harvey.
All of them belonged to various freelance espionage organizations. Harvey recognized some of them from the newspapers and his studies in school. He saw a trio of SPYDER agents, all wearing impeccable long black leather trench coats and matching fedoras. They were next to a cluster of intelligencers from the Legion Eternal, who seemed out of place in their ornate golden uniforms with epaulettes and Sam Browne belts. The white-suited spies of Agency X were clustered around the appetizer tables, getting crumbs on their form-fitting lab suits. Even a couple ninjas from the Brotherhood of the Dragon had come to this party. Harvey stared at them all, looking over the absurd uniforms and feeling uneasy as well as cold.
"Daddy?" he asked. "What exactly is this?"
"The White Market of Mount Alexander," Dante explained. "A kind of auction held by noted arms dealer Alexander Alexander." He drew a little closer to his son. "And here comes Alexander now." He pointed to a bulky figure, moving their way through the crowd. Dante put his hands in his pockets and turned to watch Alexander. Harvey did as well. He tried to pull off the calm, disinterested way that Dante presented himself. He couldn't manage it, as he shivered too often.
Alexander Alexander was actually somewhat thin, but he wore a bulky robe made from the shaggy hide of a Polar Bear. It sat on his shoulders, nearly covering his pale, pinstriped suit and salmon pink tie. Alexander was blonde and his thin spray of hair was just a shade darker than the polar bear skin on his shoulders. He held an ivory cigarette holder in one hand, which smoldered as he approached.
"Mr. Domino!" Alexander called. "I am so delighted that you chose to accept my invitation."
"It is no trouble," Dante added. "Thieves need their tools, after all." He looked down at Harvey. "This is Harvey, my son."
"And it is a rare pleasure to meet him." Alexander grabbed both of Harvey's hands and clasped them. "He is a fine boy, Mr. Domino." Alexander smiled benevolently at Harvey. "Will you perhaps follow your father's career into high-stakes thievery? It may be a dangerous choice, but not lacking in excitement."
Harvey tried to think of something clever. He wanted to speak as quickly and confidently as his father and Alexander, but couldn't settle on anything. He gave up quickly. "I'm not sure, actually, Mr. Alexander," he finally settled on. "Maybe."
"A fine answer." Alexander's eyes darted quickly back to Dante. "And you've brought the proper funds, I trust?"
"Of course," Dante agreed.
"Excellent – they are to be kept in a small vault under the main lodge, over there." Alexander beamed. His teeth were blinding white. "You wouldn't make an attempt to rob us, I take it?"
Dante returned Alexander's grin.
"I thought not. Now, you must excuse me – the gentlemen from SICKLE have arrived and I must ensure that they get the proper amount of vodka. The Soviets will bid more when they are drunk." He waved his cigarette holder through the air, making a thin line of smoke. "So long." Then he slipped back into the crowd, the various spies and agents stepping out of his way to let him pass.
After he left, Harvey looked up at his father. "So, we're going to bid on some of his weapons?"
"Absolutely not," Dante replied.
"Then why are we here?"
"To rob his vaults." Dante reached into his bag. He produced a small plastic device, which resembled a TV remote. Dante pressed a few of the plastic keys and pressed it into Harvey's hands. "Do you remember when I asked if you wanted to help me?"
"Go into that building and head downstairs. Drop this pulse bomb on the floor and wait for a few seconds. If you are caught, you can easily say that you are lost." He patted Harvey's head again. "Simple, no? And then I will join you and all that money will be ours."
Harvey remained still. "I don't know, daddy," he said. "I don't know if that's possible."
"You are a Domino. You are my son. Anything is possible." Dante grinned. "Now go and make me proud."
Harvey walked away from him. He felt dazed, like this was all a part of a dream. Still, he refused to let his father down. He reached the door of the building adjacent to the courtyard. It was built like a Swiss chateau, with steel painted to look like white stone and wood. Harvey stepped inside. The place was like the skeleton of a robot, with angular metal furniture and a steel spiral staircase leading down. Polar bear heads were mounted on the walls. They stared at Harvey with marble eyes. He walked down the spiral staircase. The pulse bomb was in his coat pocket, feeling heavy as an iron weight.
The staircase terminated on the bottom floor. This was even more sparsely furnished. There was just a steel floor, four steel walls and a pair of great steel doors. Two white-uniformed guards stood in front of the door, both armed. A pair of crackling electric coils was behind them against the wall, flashing and spitting out sparks and light. They looked like steel Christmas trees, with light escaping. Harvey stopped dead as the two guards spotted him.
"Kid." One of the guards had the front of his nose missing, making his left nostril seem as wide as a cave. He stepped closer to Harvey, a hand on his submachine gun. "This ain't part of the party." His voice was cold. "What are you doing here?"
"I was just, ah, looking around?" Harvey had pulled the pulse bomb from his pockets. He held it behind his back, fingering the plastic. But as soon as the guard approached him, he dropped the pulse bomb. It clattered to the floor. Harvey and the guards stared at it. The pulse bomb lay on the ground, doing nothing. Harvey wondered if it was just a remote control after all.
The guard with the clipped nose drew closer to Harvey. He grabbed the boy's shoulder and pressed the muzzle of his gun into Harvey's face. "What the idea, kid?" he demanded. Harvey stared into the muzzle. It seemed big enough to swallow him. He felt far too hot all of a sudden and his tie seemed to be choking the life out of him. He couldn't speak. "What the hell is that thing?" The guard was demanding an explanation. A second later, he got one.
The pulse bomb clicked. There was no explosion or noise at all. Just the click and then the two electric coils ceased to function. The jolting bands of white electricity simple vanished. The room went dark. The silence remained. Harvey could hear his own breathing. He felt the grip of the guard, the fingers biting into his skin. He had no idea what would happen next.
Two silent pops sounded, scarcely audible and sounding like bursts of wind. The guard let go of Harvey's shoulder and hit the ground. His partner by the vault doors had done the same. Harvey gasped and turned around. His eyes had adjusted to the darkness a little and he was able to see Dante Domino on the stairwell, a smoking, silenced automatic in his hands. Harvey's father wore a black balaclava, which matched his sweater and coat. A pair of white goggles went over the ski-mask, completely covering Dante's eyes. Harvey felt his father looked dangerous – but still a little silly. Dante swung down from the stairwell and hit the ground. He ran past Harvey and moved to the vault door. He reached into his bag, grabbed another little plastic rectangle and slammed it to the door. It stuck. Dante pressed a few buttons and stood back.
"Dad?" Harvey asked as he walked over to stand next to Dante. He looked at the two guards. "Are they—"
"No. Stun rounds." Dante patted Harvey's shoulder. "Unlike the cursed nations of the world and their running dogs, I would not take lives when I don't have to – at least, not when you're around." The little plastic panel exploded. It was a tiny and contained blast that ripped apart the steel vault doors and knocked them back. They hit the ground, and the sound echoed through the chamber like a gong had been struck. Dante left Harvey's side and walked to the vault. He waved a gloved hand, wafting away the smoke. Harvey tried to look over his father's shoulder. "No…" Dante whispered. "Oh no."
Harvey saw the cause of his dad's distress. The vault was completely empty. There was nothing but polished steel, which reflected dully and made Dante and Harvey stare at their blurred faces. But there weren't any gold bars or stacks of coins or anything. It was just a completely empty room. Harvey looked at his father in confusion. Dante had to have known about this. There had to be some sort of explanation. Footsteps clanked on the steel spiral stairwell. Harvey and Dante spun around.
Alexander Alexander walked down the stairs, an ivory-topped cane held between his hands. Half-a-dozen of his white-suited guards followed, their rifles all trained on Harvey and Dante. Alexander walked over to Harvey and Dante, his guards flanking him. Alexander waved his cane back and forth, like it was a disapproving, wiggling finger. "Kindly drop your pistol and your bag of tricks, Mr. Domino. And let's have that silly mask and goggles off as well. We all know it's you. You might as well give up on the old act." Dante did as he was asked, while Alexander pointed to the vault. "You see, all the funds for my auction are currently safely stored in a high-security vault at the very bottom of the mountain, far away from you or your son."
"But you told us they were here!" Harvey cried out loud as the sheer unfairness.
"I lied, little boy. It was for the same reason that I sent my invitation to Dante Domino in the first place." Alexander displayed another of his gleaming grins. "I wanted him to arrive and try to rob me – so I could capture him and then arrange his execution as entertainment for my guests. Your father has robbed a great many people. They will be quite happy to see him die."
Dante had removed his balaclava and goggles. His face seemed pale and frightened. He stayed close to Harvey. "Please," he said. "You can take me – but not my boy. Let Harvey go. I will give you anything if you let him go."
"Tempting – but I'm afraid I can't allow it. If everyone believed that Alexander Alexander was an arms dealer who let his enemies walk free instead of arranging their immediate and violent deaths, than they will try and rob me all the time, won't they?" Alexander shrugged. "Don't blame me, Mr. Domino. After all, you chose to bring your son on a heist that you were clearly not prepared for."
There was no response from Dante. Harvey's father simply lowered his eyes. He seemed to be drifting away from Harvey and slipping into the shadows.
"He was prepared." Harvey felt that he had to stick up for Dante. "He's the greatest thief in the world and a hero to the oppressed and—"
"Little boy." Alexander raised his cane. "Do you remember when I asked you if you would follow your father's career? I'm afraid I know the answer. You will not have that career." His ivory headed cane rose. "To be precise, you will have no future at all." The cane struck down. Harvey heard his father scream. He saw the cane's end become a white blur and then it bashed against his head, cracked the lens of one of his glasses and he was spinning down, falling towards the polished steel floor and complete oblivion.
When he woke up, his eyes flickered open and he saw his own blurred face staring back at him from a dully reflective steel ceiling. He had a slight bruise on his forehead and the lens of one of his glasses had been cracked. Harvey mumbled a little curse to himself. His mother would have to buy him new glasses and she wouldn't be happy about it. Then he remembered what had happened and began to doubt that he'd ever see his mother again. Harvey rubbed the growing bruise on his head and looked to his side. He saw Dante sitting next to him, cross-legged and still. They were both in a small steel room, a little bigger than a large closet. Dante's face was streaked with tears. He looked miserable. Harvey felt just as bad when he looked at him. He sat up. "Dad?" he asked softly.
Dante hurried to his side. "My son," Dante said, giving Harvey a quick hug. "My boy." He pulled back and he was still crying. "I'm a fool – an old fool, in love with an obsolete past. I have dragged you – one of the few things I care about – to this miserable, cold place to die, just so I can capture a past that is only good in my memories." His sigh racked his body like a physical blow. "The world changed. I refused to. And now you will pay the price."
"Dad…" Harvey hated to see his father like this. He hated it because his father was revealing himself as weak and Harvey had never thought that possible. It surprised him, but he still could figure out the feeling's source. "You're not a fool – you're a hero. You stick up for old ideas even if the rest of the world doesn't." He reached out and clasped Dante's hands. "You never stopped fighting. I'm scared sometimes – I'm scared a lot actually, of all sorts of things – but you've never felt fear at all and you've always stood up for what's right." His voice cracked a little. He didn't mind. "You're invincible, daddy. I don't think you'll ever be any other way, no matter what happens or what decisions you make."
His father's face broke into a slow smile. Harvey returned it. Then the door to the steel pen slid open. It made a mechanical groan, creaking slightly before slamming into place. Harvey and Dante stood up and peered out the door. It led into a wide pit, surrounded by high steel walls and all sides. The pit's floor was covered in a thin layer of snow. Harvey walked outside and Dante followed him. Harvey's shoes crunched on the snow. They saw that the pit was in the center of a sort of amphitheatre, which was now packed with Alexander Alexander's guests. The various uniforms of all the agents created a kaleidoscope of colors, broken by Alexander himself in a small balcony overlooking the pit. Alexander stared down at Harvey and Dante. His hands were on his cane.
The arms dealer nodded pleasantly to Dante and his son. "Thank you for leaving your chamber at the proper time," he said. "Electric currents would normally be used to persuade you. I'm afraid those currents must be used for the other members of this little drama – and it will leave them in a most unpleasant mood." He nodded to two of his guards who sat before a control panel at the end of the amphitheatre. They punched some buttons. A set of steel doors across from Dante and Harvey rolled open with the same rumbling groan.
Two polar bears loped out into the pit. The great bears seemed to overwhelm everything else with their sheer size. Harvey watched the fading sunlight on their white fur and narrow snouts, while their dark eyes darted around the pit. The foremost bear loped their way, its feet kicking up snow and seeming as large as pillars. Harvey stepped back, but the door to their holding cell had already shut.
"My son," Dante whispered. "Stay behind me." He balled his hands into fists and watched the polar bears. Harvey felt his heart beat a little faster at the sight of his father going into a combat stance. He was terrified – but he only had to look at Dante to feel a little better. "Alexander?" Dante asked, as the foremost bear shuffled closer. "Do you know your one flaw – which will lead inevitably to your downfall?"
"I don't believe I do," Alexander said. He sounded bored. "Could you enlighten me perhaps?"
The polar bear stayed on all floors and neared Dante. Its thin head moved closer, its white lips already curling back to reveal curved yellow teeth. "It's simple," Dante announced. "You test my ideals. You test the rules I've set for myself. And you have no idea what will happen when I look at those rules – and break them." His foot slammed out and drove into the polar bear's nose. His boot cracked against the black muzzle of the bear. It was a fast blow, quick and painful. It made the polar bear recoil and stumbled back across the ice. Dante struck out again, this time driving a fist into the bear's side. It made the polar bear roar into in pain and temporarily retreat. Harvey stared in amazement at his father. He had never seen Dante fight before. It was as impressive as it was terrifying.
Just as Dante pulled his fist back, the second polar bear charged towards him. This time, the polar bear came to its feet. It lashed out at Dante with its heavy paws. The thick arms hummed as they waved through the air, the claws speeding towards Dante's face. Harvey imagined the claws slashing into his father's skin and removing his face in a single spray of blood. But Dante ducked the blow. He dropped low and the bear's paw passed inches above his head. It was enough to rustle his curly hair. Dante reached down to the snow. He grabbed a fistful of gritty snow, formed it into a ball and then hurled it into the bear's face. The snow blinded the bear and made it roar in frustration.
While the bear was distracted, Dante hurried back to Harvey. He grabbed his son and hoisted him up, then ran to the edge of the pit. Harvey felt his feet leave the ground and he stared at his father in utter surprise. "Dad?" he asked. "What are you—" He didn't get a chance to finish the question. Dante hurled Harvey up to the edge of the railing surrounding the pit. Harvey slammed down on the steel edge. His hands lashed out. He grabbed the wooden planks that formed the amphitheatre, his fingers digging into the grooves of the wood while his feet flailed. He struggled and cursed to himself, but finally managed to pull himself up. Then he twisted around and looked back down.
The two bears had cornered Dante. One of them had managed to strike him. It was a tagging blow, but the claws had still shredded Dante's coat and drawn blood. The wound was in Dante's arm, a bit above the elbow and the red was running down. The bears were back now, both growling and preparing another attack. Dante looked up at Harvey. Their eyes met. The bears charged.
Dante moved faster. He jumped into the air, leaping over the slashing claws of the bears. But then he leapt on to the back of the nearest bear, his boots slamming down on the beast's furry back. His boots pressed down on the fur and the bear roared in pain. Dante launched himself off the bear again and managed to cross most of the pit. He reached the other side and crashed down around the pit's rim. His hands reached out madly as he slid back. Harvey grabbed one of his hands and pulled. Dante's feet kicked as the bears rushed back. They were on their hind legs. Their jaws opened and slammed shut, sounding like the beats of a taut drum. Harvey pulled with all his might. Dante struggled.
Finally, Dante's torso was over the rim. The rest of Dante followed. His legs moved just out of reach of the polar bears' snapping jaws. Dante pulled them over the rim and then he was out of the pit and lying next to his son.
Alexander Alexander applauded. His tucked his cane under the crook of his arm and clapped his hands together vigorously. It was a mocking, hollow sound. "Very entertaining!" Alexander said. He then snapped his fingers. A dozen of his guards leveled their guns at Dante and Harvey. The audience of spies shifted uneasily as they watched, unsure what would happen next. "But I'm afraid here is where the entertainment must end."
Harvey looked at the muzzles of the guns. But then Dante lowered his arm. Something fell out of his sleeve and landed on the cement ground. The guards stared at it, as did Alexander. Harvey recognized the object – the fat needle with the blue light on the end. The light was blinking again. "A tracking dart," Dante explained, glaring up at Alexander. "From HAWC. The men who fired it only wanted me. But for a chance to capture Alexander Alexander and so many operatives from rival agencies – well, they will soon get over their disappointment."
A shadow passed over the little stadium. The guards looked up and saw do did Harvey and Dante. Harvey had seen several incredible things that day – but perhaps this topped them all. There was a sleek, steel aircraft floating above them – like a giant floating battleship with a front encased in darkened glass. It was a HAWC Aerocarrier. He had often seen them humming through the upper clouds, zooming along on their way to some important destination. But this was low enough for Harvey to see the rivets of steel on the underside. He could also see a pair of bay doors open and a swarm of Talon troopers swoop down with jetpacks blazing.
Chaos swept over Alexander's chateau. The Talon troopers zoomed over everything, streaking the crowd with machine gun fire or unleashing nets to capture the rival spies. Alexander Alexander ran from his manor, cursing to himself. The guards covering Dante and Harvey turned away for a second – and that's when Dante struck. He grabbed the nearest guard, delivered a speedy punch to his throat and ripped the submachine gun from his hands. The guard struggled so Dante rammed the butt of the gun into his gut and crumpled him. Then he grabbed Harvey's hand and they ran from the little stadium. They joined the crowd of men fleeing down to the courtyard. Harvey's heart was pounding again but he had seen his father defend him against every threat and his fright began to fade.
In the courtyard, more HAWC men zoomed down to kill or capture whoever they could. Some of the spies fought back. Harvey saw a SPYDER agent pull long-barreled revolver the size of a forearm from his coat and clatter away. A ninja from the Brotherhood of Dragons unleashed a flurry of throwing stars that hummed through the air. Dante kept Harvey away from all of it, guiding him through the courtyard and then to a little balcony overlooking the gentle mountain slope. Resting on the crest of the slope below the manor, ready to go, was a pair of snowmobiles.
"Our ticket out of here," Dante said. He grabbed Harvey's waist. "It is but a small drop, my son," he added. "Don't worry." Then he tossed Harvey off the balcony. Harvey plummeted down, his yelp of terror and surprise caught in his mouth. He struck the snow first, rolled over and landed next to the snowmobiles. Harvey choked and coughed as he came to his feet, snow clinging him like a freezing second skin. His teeth chattered.
Then Dante landed in the snow next to him. Dante landed on his feet, just like a cat. A second later, Dante leapt into the driver's seat of the nearest snowmobile. He grabbed Harvey's arm and hauled the boy up, placing him in the front and right before the throttle and little windshield of the sleek, alpine vehicle. Dante gave the throttle a twist and the engine roared. It shot off down the slope. A sudden wind struck Harvey as they gained speed. The wind battered his face. Sleet struck his glasses. He tried his best to hold on.
They sped along down the hill. Behind them, Harvey could hear more gunfire and the occasional explosion from the manor. He also heard another roar. Harvey turned around. "Dad!" he called. "It's Alexander!" He pointed back and Dante turned. They both saw that the second snowmobile was speeding after them. Alexander Alexander was driving it. His polar bear robe was flapping behind him, looking like a pair of great white wings. He had an ivory revolver in one hand and leveled it at their snowmobile. The pistol thundered.
The bullet struck into the snow ahead of Dante and Harvey's snowmobile – and exploded. A brilliant orange firestorm ripped through the snow, sending blackened frost hurtling through the air and enveloping the snowmobile in a cloud of red flame. Dante drove through it, but the heat was sudden and painful. Snow steamed on Harvey's coat and he winced. Dante spun around and raised his submachine gun. He fired back, blazing away at Alexander and expending the entire clip. When the submachine gun clicked empty, Dante merely hurled it behind him and kept riding. The pistol thundered again and again – and more fireballs ripped to life in front of them. Harvey shut his eyes. He was shaking, his body unsure of what to do in the sudden waves of cold and heat. Dante somehow managed to keep the snowmobile level. But the speed of the vehicle began to fade. The wind in Harvey's face lowered. The ground was becoming level.
Dante's snowmobile finally stopped. "Harvey." Dante hopped out of the snowmobile. "It's all right," Dante added, as Harvey opened his eyes. "We are nearly safe and away." Harvey looked around. He saw that the snowmobile had stopped next to a great cement building, which resembled a military bunker. It was at the very foot of the mountain. It took Harvey a few seconds to realize that this must be the vault that Alexander had mentioned earlier, where the money for the White Market auction was really kept.
He heard a horn honk and spun around and saw another sight – one much more welcome. It was the hovercar which had brought them there. Chester was standing near the open door, pressing the horn with a furry arm and waving to them with the other. Harvey started for the car, when he heard another roaring engine. He turned back to the slope and saw Alexander speeding towards them in his own snowmobile. Alexander braked swiftly and came to a stop across from them, his revolver raised. The polished ivory gun gleamed in the sun like the weapon was composed of a chunk of ice.
But Dante didn't seem afraid. He walked closer to Alexander, stepping in front of Harvey. "You truly are an idiot," he announced.
"Why?" Alexander demanded. Sleet had frosted his cheeks. "Because you uphold some code of honor and I don't? Or is it because you're a little faster and a little stronger? That doesn't seem to be the case now, Mr. Domino, and I'm the one with a pistol pointed at your face. So perhaps you can enlighten me – why am I a fool?"
"Because you're carrying a revolver," Dante explained. "And you fired six shots already."
Alexander pulled the trigger. Harvey's heart seemed to boil up into his throat. But the gun only clicked empty. Alexander roared like one of his bears. He tossed down the empty revolver and grabbed his cane. A twist of the handle and the cane came apart, revealing a long, thin blade hidden inside. Alexander charged madly, the blade cutting through the air like he was a butcher striking at his block with a cleaver. Dante met him with a wild punch to the face, hard enough to release teeth and blood, and then grabbed his arm and the wrist of the hand holding the sword. Dante twisted. Alexander howled. Dante kept squeezing and twisting. Harvey watched with wide eyes. He had seen his father fight before – but nothing like this. Alexander continued to scream and then his arm cracked and he dropped his sword and sank down.
Dante grabbed the sword. "Well," Dante said, examining the blade. "What should I do with this?"
"Daddy?" Harvey spoke without thinking. He looked into his father's eyes and saw the rage there. He had seen humor there, and sadness and kindness too – but never this kind of cold rage before. "Daddy," he repeated. He stepped closer to Dante. "Don't. Please." He couldn't stand to see the rage in his father's eyes.
Slowly, Dante lowered the sword. He looked back at Alexander and then his boot lashed out, ramming into the back of the arms dealer's neck and driving him face first into the snow. Alexander lay there and whimpered. Dante tossed the sword cane back, letting the blade stick in the ground. "You're right, my son," Dante agreed. "Let's go." He started back to the hovercar. Harvey followed him.
Chester had the engine humming. Dante and Harvey sat together in the back. The gorilla hit the ignition and the hovercar roared off into the sky and sped back home, away from the snow and the cold and to the warm waters outside of Domino Island.
They arrived back at the island around nightfall. Chester slid the hovercar down to the beach, skipping it over the sand for a little before bringing it to a stop. Grains of sand bounced and flew under the car, filtering into the air and making the sunset dusty over the waters. The hovercar finally stopped and Dante, Harvey and Chester hopped out.
Harvey looked up at his father. The wound on Dante's shoulder had been roughly bandaged, but he still seemed uneasy. Harvey thought he could figure out why – they hadn't stolen any of Alexander's money. Even though they gone through a lot of trouble and nearly been killed several times, their robbery had failed. Worse, Dante had called in HAWC for help. Even if he had used them like they were a weapon to defeat a foe, he had still had to rely on their aid to survive. Harvey knew Dante couldn't be happy about that.
"Dad?" he asked. "It's okay, if you didn't get money from this score – right? I mean, there will be other scores, won't they?"
"I suppose there will. So it seems harder and harder to attempt them." Dante was watching Chester. Harvey did as well. They saw that the gorilla had walked around the length of the hovercar and opened the trunk. Dante and Harvey hurried to Chester's side. They stared into the trunk together and saw that it was packed with stacks of paper money, in countless denominations. A few gold bars rested there as well, gleaming in the streaks of light coming from the sunset. Dante smiled up at Chester. "You found the vault while you were waiting for us!" he exclaimed. "And robbed it! Oh, you magnificent animal! You wondrous ape!" He reached out and grabbed Chester's hand. Chester squeezed it back and hooted softly.
They left the money in the trunk for the moment, and started walking up the beach to the entrance of the villa. Dante still seemed a little sad. His feet sunk into the sand and he seemed to have a slight limp, like something weighed on his shoulder. Harvey slowed to match his pace. "Are you still a little upset?" Harvey asked. "About calling in HAWC for help?"
"I am not sad about that, so much as I am sad about placing you in danger," Dante replied. "Perhaps the money was for you – but I should never have taken you along on a job. And now what must you think of me? I must seem like someone who brings you nothing but trouble and then throws away his principals when that trouble comes."
"No." Harvey stopped walking. He stared up at his father and tried to speak clearly. "I think you're a hero, dad – the greatest thief who ever lived and you've never stolen from anybody who really needed the money. You've never done anything bad." His voice faltered. "You're my hero," he added.
Dante put his arm around Harvey's shoulder. "Times may change," he said. "Empires may fall. But my fondness for you, my dear boy, will never fade." He turned Harvey around and they looked at the sunset over the Mediterranean. Chester joined them, sitting on his haunches and scratching his chin as he looked up at the setting sun with his dark eyes.
"A beautiful sight, is it not?" Dante asked.
Harvey had to agree.