Monday, September 1, 2014

Dusty Video Box Presents: Vendetta! Two

In the last chapter:
Loomis, Kansas, 1979. Alice Ripley, the only African-American high school student of the Midwestern town, experienced the bitter sting of racism and punishment for the sins of her mother daily from her all-white peers, with the exception of her best friend, Tea. Tea persuaded Alice to attend the annual Loomis Preparatory Halloween Ball, which was normally forbidden by Alice’s domineering religious aunt. However, for once, her aunt relented, allowing the young woman to attend the Halloween celebration for the first time. Somehow, someway, Alice ended up in a life-and-death struggle with a large inhuman man, which climaxed with his death at her hands. Now, along with conviction from Tea, Alice begins a new mission…a mission that could lead her down a path that few can return from.

Vendetta
created by Melvin L. Hadley
Bleeding Kansas: Chapter 2

*November 1, 1979*

It took twenty rings of the phone, shattering the serenity of the early Saturday dawn, to elicit the tiniest of frustrated groans from beneath the royal purple covers of the single bed. On the twenty-first ring, a black-finger nailed hand snaked from within the depths of the bedsheets, inching around the headboard for something to grab. By the twenty-third ring, the fingers discovered success with a pillow, and flung it at the phone, knocking it from its place on the bedside table a foot or two away with a thunderous chime. However, the phone managed to land on its base and continued to ring.

The first hand was joined by another, as the covers were pulled up to conceal the maximum length of the person within. After thirty-five rings, it stopped. A weary sigh of relief escaped from beneath the covers.

Then the ringing started again.

The two hands returned, and snatched back the covers, revealing a drowsy nun, clad in a wrinkled but form-fitting uniform that would have broken all the rules of a convent. “Alright, goddamn it!” she called out as she sat up, unsuccessfully rubbing the drowsiness out of her glassy green eyes while wincing as she felt the onslaught of an oncoming headache. “…waking me up this early in the morning…”

She swung her legs to the floor, nearly sliding out of the bed from a nearly empty wine bottle caught under her feet. As she languidly stood up and took a step towards the phone, she felt herself being suddenly jerked back down in the bed. Her conscious not yet awoken with her body, the nun mindlessly repeated her action, only to have the same result. Slowly, she glanced over to her left arm, and with a look of surprise, found the source of her problem.

She was handcuffed to one of the bedposts.

“GREG!!” she screamed, slapping frantically at the other large lump under her covers beside her. “GREG! Get up! Give me the key! Hurry up!”

“Izzat?” the lump muttered incoherently, stirring slightly before becoming still again.

“Gregory!” she screamed again, reaching for the wine bottle on the floor and empting the remains on the lump.

“Hey, hey!!” the bedsheets were thrown back to unveil a hairy, burly man whose head was covered by a black leather mask with fake silver spikes. “What the H-er…Mother Superior! How dare you awaken the Great Fau-”

The nun placed a silencing finger to her thin lips and nodded towards the ringing phone. “Not now, Greg. I need to know …what did you do with the key?” she asked calmly, stressing each syllable.

“Ummmm…” Greg scratched his head, his visible eyes narrowed in drowsy slits. “I dunno…think I left them in the kitchen…or the bathroom or somethin’…”

“Damn it!” the nun growled, fruitlessly trying to stretch her right leg to reach the phone with her feet. After a few unsuccessful tries, she gave Greg a hard glare. “Nice to see you applying some effort!” she said sarcastically.

Greg slowly glanced over to her and nonchalantly raised his arm. Handcuffs connected his right arm to the other bedpost.

“Hey, I just went with the flow as usual.” He shrugged at the nun’s bewildered look. “Your ideas, your rules. Role switch, remember?”

The nun paused, her mind flashing back through the alcohol-filled haze of the night before. “Goddamnit!” She swore, jumping to her feet, and bracing one of them against the wall as she pulled with all the might that her hangover-racked form could summon at that moment. After a minute, the old wood of the bedpost yielded and splintered, sending the nun tumbling into an oak dresser that was on her side of the bed. Clutching her back and recoiling in pain, she quickly jumped to her feet and danced across the assorted piles of discarded clothing, empty Chinese food boxes and beer bottles until she made it to her prize, which was on its one hundred and fortieth ring.

“Touchdown!!” Greg cheered halfheartedly from the bed.

“Hello, Sheriff Regina Kruger. What seems to be the problem?” the nun recited in an artificial cheerful tone as she answered the phone, simultaneously throwing Greg the middle finger.

“That was last night, dear.” Greg chuckled while lacing his fingers behind his leather-clad head, impressed with his own vulgar humor.

The Sheriff ignored him and continued to listen to the scratchy-like monotone of the female phone operator on the other end. As usual, there were the complaints about pranks, mainly from Ms. Eliza Winifred Crane, a wealthy former fashion designer and current member of the town’s governing body. She was also the town’s most devoted gossip and rumor spreader, and had even caused Regina some strife on her job by turning some of the townspeople against her. Ms. Crane reported three costumed kids egging her car, leaving packages of flaming excrement in her back porch, and throwing rocks against her windows all night, keeping her awake.

Regina grinned, making a mental note to take those boys out for ice-cream later for a job well done.

Of course she told the operator to send Ms. Crane reassurances that she would talk to the boys. Snickering to herself, she braced herself for more reports of adolescent misadventures. However, the operator’s tone became mournful as she delivered the next report, even sobbing slightly at some points. Creole was never good at containing her emotions. Regina’s lips tightened in a line as words she never thought she would hear crept into her ears.

“Uh-huh.” She nodded solemnly, picking up one of the Chinese boxes and tearing a piece from it. “Where is it?”

“Okay, I’m on my way.” She said after hurriedly scribbling down the address on the cardboard and slowly hanging up the phone. She turned slowly, glancing at the palms of her hands as realization of the severity of the situation sunk it. Only for a second did disbelief overtook her, before being defeated by her stronger law enforcement instincts. Exhaling noisily, she removed her headpiece and ran a hand through her shoulder-length red curls.

“Something’s wrong, isn’t it?” Greg asked, swinging his feet to the floor.

Regina nodded distantly, shaking her head slightly to clear her thoughts. “Need you to go check on Ms. Crane, butter her up a little.” She said to him as she knelt down, sorting through the debris for her pile of clothing. “Last thing we need is the Loomis Commission breathing down our necks about the delinquency rate here.”

Greg removed the mask, displaying his disheveled brown hair, quickly retreating hairline, face, and greasy beard, all slightly speckled with the gray of age. “What happened, Chief?” he asked again.

“187.” Regina called over her shoulder as she vanished into the bathroom next door.

“What?!”

“Exactly!”

“Huh?”

“There was a murder. Deputy Myers is at the crime scene already.”

For a few moments, there was a heavy silence. “So…who…who was the vic?” George asked, breaking it.

Regina reemerged into the bedroom, clad in a loose and worn Kansas City Chiefs t-shirt and an equally worn pair of bellbottom jeans that was two-sizes too big for her. She stumbled over the junk-strewn floor to a chair, where her trademark brown fur lined jacket and gun-belt hung. Brandishing the handcuff key teasingly at Greg, the sheriff removed the handcuff on her wrist.

“Cleopatra King.” She told him, freeing the bedpost piece from the other handcuff and tossing it on the floor. She then took the handcuffs, and returned them to their place on her belt.

Greg arched an eyebrow. “Y’mean the lady from church? The one that’s over the choir and always hosting the prayer meetings? Gotta admit, gonna miss those cookies she always baked for Sunday School…made it worthwhile to actually go…”

Regina grabbed her gun belt and snapped it in place around her waist. “Damn…thought I’d never see the day that I’ll have to be packing a body-bag. I wonder…who would be unscrewed enough to kill such a sweet lady…”

Greg was silently for a few minutes, his forehead knitted in thought. “Look…all jokes aside…I think I know where…where we can start looking. Ever heard of the King Curse?”

Regina gave him a frown as she slid her arms into her jacket. “Yeah, I know about that bullshit legend. That’s what Ms. Crane was screaming about that day she had that accident-”

“We’re not talking about Washington chopping down a cherry tree, Chief. There’s some facts in that story that ARE true.” Greg interrupted. “Mrs. King did have a sister…and she did commit murder here all those years ago. She was locked away in a nuthouse somewhere upstate…and her kid was the one that stayed with King.”

“But…it’s just too convenient.” Regina replied, pulling her badge from out of her jacket’s pocket, and watching the early morning sunlight glisten on the cold gold metal. “’Escapee Psycho Sibling Murders Sister ‘sounds too much like something out of the horror movies. Too obvious, which means not real.”

“I’m just saying…” Greg shrugged. “That’d be the first place to look. I can’t remember exactly, but there was this psychiatrist that was prominent in that case...I can’t remember his name…but he probably could help you out. Then…there’s always the kid…”

“Hey, who’s solving this case?” Regina joked, pinning her badge to her jacket. “I’ll think about it, old man. Now get out there and plant those lips of yours firmly on Ms. Crane’s ass for me. At least one of us gets to have fun today.”

Greg lifted his right arm, still handcuffed to the bedpost. “It would help if you give me the key, Mother Superior.”

“Oh, this?” Regina said innocently, holding the tiny key between her index finger and thumb. Rubbing her chin thoughtfully with her other hand, she gave her subordinate and his immediate surroundings a critical eye. After a minute, she took the key and shoved it in her pocket. Greg’s mouth dropped in astonishment as the sheriff left the room and him behind.

“Regina? Regina!” his cries continued even after he had heard the door slam.


*********Vendetta*********

The tall corn stalks had seemingly swallowed her, allowing only small splashes of the golden sun in as it rose overhead. Everywhere Alice looked, she met a green pole with rotten ears of corn, brushing against her face and tangling her braids. She blinked rapidly, frightened that one of the green leaves or some other natural debris would poke her in the eye. Blindly, she reached forward as far as she could, held on to the cornstalks that brushed against her fingertips, and pulled them aside, clearing a path. Opening her eyes rewarded her with a glimpse of Tea’s back a few feet ahead of her. Like a human harvester, the athletic brunette easily swatted the tightly grown stalks aside, penetrated the tightly clustered barrier of nature.

Having left the junkyard behind, the duo picked one direction and stuck with it, searching the vacant landscape for some semblance of the familiar, while simultaneously searching for any sign of the cannibalistic killers. The only things that greeted them on their journey, however, were wide-open plains, rusted farm tractors and other crumbling equipment, and sporadically, the decaying ruins of a house or business of some kind. Neither was willing to admit to the other that they were wandering aimlessly. The cornfield they discovered after a few hours was the only indication of accomplishment for them.

The throbbing aching of Alice’s legs reminded her of her lack of rest in the last twenty-four hours. Her eyes watered slightly, causing the huddled landscape of green to dance before her. Her steps slowed, and before she knew it, Tea had disappeared from view again. The young woman exhaled deeply as she came to a complete stop, letting her arms fall limply to her sides. The cornstalks she had pushed aside returned to their upright positions, trapping her in their emerald clutches. Just a minute, she thought. Just a minute of rest, then she’ll catch up with her friend. She dared not to tell Tea how tired she was. No. Besides, Tea was not one to accept failure, and acted like a drill sergeant to overcome it.

She was not the one to accept discouragement either. No matter how many times Alice tried to resist, she was always drawn into one of Tea’s mischievous plots. Whether it involved playing a nasty trick on Ms. Crane, or stealing from her teacher’s desk as school, Alice’s psychological defenses were no match for Tea’s persuasive skills. For her failure in abetting in Tea’s crimes, she sought punishment for her transgressions, which her Aunt will carry with maximum efficiency. It was those particular beatings that she actually looked forward to, because she felt the burden of guilt for her sins being lifted afterward…and God had forgiven her.

She felt something ice-cold brush against her bare leg and looked down. She had almost forgotten about the machete in her hand, the wooden handle warm and the tip rusty red from the dried blood it spilled earlier. How could she forget this hated instrument? Why was she still carrying it? She was surprised at how she had quickly grown attached to carrying the blade, it feeling startlingly light and natural in her hand. With a startled gasp, she flung it to the ground and kicked it a few inches from her with a ruby foot for good measure. She glanced down at her hands, covered with a multitude of scraps and bruises, and turned them palms up.

They were red, stained and dripping with fresh blood. But it was not her blood. Frantically, she rubbed her palms against her dress and held them up again to see. No, the blood was still there. With an exasperated cry, she repeated her actions, but yielded the same results. The blood would not come off. Her lips trembling, her eyes overflowing with tears, Alice sat down on the ground, Indian-style, and rubbed her palms against the dirt, each time increasing in viciousness and frequency. Finally, after the twentieth time, she had an epiphany.

She was a killer. She had crossed a point of no return. This was not something that could be washed away…it was a crimson stain on her soul that had corroded it permanently. As the realization shrouded her, her Aunt’s voice echoed in her head, at the crescendo of a fiery sermon about the sin of murder. The punishment for killing was death. Was she being punished like her Aunt had told her?

“It was an accident!” she sobbed mournfully, staring up past the stalks that enclosed over her into the blue sky. “An accident! I…I was scared…I…did not mean for it to happen!”

But maybe she did deserve to be punished. She could still remember the strange sensation she felt when she stabbed her pursuer with the machete. It was not reactionary fear, but satisfaction. Satisfaction at seeing the life drain from his inhuman eyes. Satisfaction at seeing him cower before her in his death throes. Satisfaction of having total power over him for that single instant.

She stopped crying as a tsunami of guilt suddenly engulfed her. She did not have her Aunt to take the burden away. She would have to do it herself. She had to have God to forgive her.

She crawled to where the machete lay on the tilled ground, glinting in the morning sunlight. Her trembling right hand reached for it slowly. The handle was still warm as she picked it up and inspected it for a brief moment. Holding her left hand aloof, palm outstretched, she took the machete and hovered the tip over her palm. She forced her mind to think of something, anything to distract and numb her from what she had to do next.

Then the blade tip sunk into the flesh of her left palm.

Alice whimpered, tears brimming at her eyelids, as she continued to shove the blade tip in little by little into her hand. The pain was immense, and it took all of her willpower and more not to scream. Blood practically exploded from her incision, dripping into the dark earth below. This had to be done; she had no choice in the matter. Suddenly, the cornfield surrounding her took on a dreamlike quality as she meticulously sliced downward in her palm. The pain became a dull ache as memories of the fateful night before surged into her consciousness, mentally distancing her from the situation at hand.



*********Vendetta*********
*October 31, 1979*

Her mother always smelled like a sweet mixture of pine and poundcake when she came in late at night. Alice would sit up and wait for her, tiptoeing down the stairs in her bare feet(much to her Aunt’s chagrin) and to the large living room window that displayed a view of her Aunt’s spacious front lawn. She always took care not to make a sound, because her aunt was very strict, especially about bedtime. She would pull back the expensive curtains and sit in the old wooden windowsill, hugging her knees to her chest until her mother would stagger through the front door, her gray maid uniform smudged with unknown substances, dragging her large purse with a limp arm.

No matter how weary or weathered her face looked, it always managed to brighten when Alice would emerge from the curtains and practically tackled her with a barely muted squeal of delight.

“Child, your old momma’s tired!” her mother groaned. “My back…is killing me. Here baby, carry my bag for me, would ya? Can you lift it?”

Alice nodded, knowing the heavy bag hurt her arms, but was glad to help her mother anyway possible. As her mother delicately placed the large bag in her small arms, Alice would wrap her arms tightly around it, tensing her legs for balance, and biting her lower lip in a grimace. She would always try to race her mother to her room on the ground floor of her Aunt’s mansion, but she never could win. The bag was too heavy, and her mother’s legs were longer than hers.

The smell of incense would hit her every time her mother opened the door to her room. A flick of the light switch revealed a large poster of a black man posed in deep thought, wearing glasses. Mother told her that man was Malcolm X. Another poster, above the head of her mother’s bed screamed in pronounced black bold print the words “BLACK POWER!!” There was a bookcase on another wall, filled with books that had titles that she could not pronounce. She once asked her mother what the stories in them like.The was only answer her mother gave her was that she hoped Alice would never found out.

Her mother collapsed backwards onto her bed, causing the springs to protest loudly as she made a snow angel in her covers. “Thank you, sweetheart.” She said softly when Alice accidentally dropped her bag next to the bed. “Them people know how to work somebody, but can’t even cut me a decent check. To think, I use to make more money on my back in a day then working my fingers to the bone day in and day out.”

“What does that mean, Momma?” Alice gave her a curious look. Of course, she knew what people she was referring to…the “white” people that her mother always complained about. She was always curious to why they were known as “white”, when their skin tone was obviously pink. Just like her skin was brown, but her second grade teacher always told her that she was “black”. At least her best friend Jamie did not call her black.

“Hmmm..?” her mother moaned distantly, her head sinking into her pillow, her eyes half-closed as she freed her feet from her shoes.

“’M-Make money on your back?” Alice paraphrased, twisting a strand of her shoulder-length black hair. “What does that mean?”

“Nothing, baby.” her mother sat up slowly, smoothing her dirty apron with her slightly callous hands. “Just me talking to myself about grown folks stuff. You know how crazy your momma is.”

Grown folks stuff. It was the warning label that encompassed many of the arguments between her Aunt and her mother… arguments that sometimes sent her Aunt into her bedroom in tears. Some of the grown up things she had heard were words like “race traitor” and “house nigger”, which was mostly from her mother, referring to her Aunt. She was glad when her mother said “grown-up stuff” because those other words seemed hateful and even scary, coming from her.

“Momma, don’t talk like that…” Alice told her, climbing into bed beside her. “You’re not crazy.”

“I don’t know, baby…” her mother wrapped her arms around her and drew her close. “Sometimes I feel…I just…working for those Strodes…having to bow and scrape to them…it sometimes gets to me, honey. Having an honest-to-goodness job has always been hard for me. I know its wrong but…sometimes I miss…those days, you understand?”

“You mean…before we moved… here?”

Her mother nodded solemnly. “That’s why we’re here. That’s why I put you in that school, with all the white kids. I want you to be something…something better than me. Better than Aunt Cleo. I don’t ever want you to do what I had to do…experience what I experienced. I don’t want you cleaning floors for white folks…I want them cleaning floors for you. Understand?”

Alice nodded feebly, although she did not understand why she would want someone to clean a floor for her.

Her mother stared at her for a brief second, a faint smile on her face as she pinched her daughter’s cheeks. “So…what will it be tonight, honey? Sundiata again?”

Alice grinned a mouthful of silver braces, clapping her hands together. She was eagerly anticipating her favorite tradition with her mother, her bedtime stories. “What about Brer Rabbit? I heard about him at school today…”

“No.” her mother crossed her arms. “That’s the last story I would tell a child of mine! You are a descendant from a long line of African queens, honey. You want to be proud of your heritage, don’t you? Figures they’d teach that at that school of yours! Let me think…I know someone that has a story that’s actually worth telling. Anansi.”

“Anansi?” Alice repeated curiously, crossing her legs and propping up her chin with her fists.

Her mother smiled, suddenly reinvigorated by an unknown force. She pulled her legs onto the bed, facing her daughter. She cleared her throat and inhaled deeply. Alice was nearly at the edge of her seat, watching her mother’s arms raise, preparing to accompany her verbal story with dramatic arm gestures. It was as if her mother was teasing her by making her wait longer. Her mother’s lips parted as the first words spilled from them.

“Someone must have spiked the punch, man. Look at her. She’s out cold!”

“Momma?” Alice gave her mother a bewildered look. That sounded like a man’s voice!

“Maybe it’s like a black thing or something?” her mother lips were moving, but it was another woman’s voice.

“What is going on?!” Alice asked, glancing around the room wildly. Suddenly, one by one, the walls surrounding her began to melt similarly to a film that was held over the camera for too long.

“You doing a great job of stupidity, Mindy.” Her mother said in a light male voice. “That’s what wrong with the world today, ‘cause of nuts like you.”

Alice scrambled closer to her mother and looked her directly in the eyes, panicking. “Momma! What’s happening?!” she squealed, waving a hand rapidly in front of her mother’s face.

“Oh, blow me, Eric.” Her mother replied in the woman’s voice, staring back at her daughter with glassy lifeless eyes. “I didn’t mean anything by it, just saying…not like we know a lot of people of her kind…”

The walls had disappeared, leaving an unyielding blackness surrounding the bed. Alice clutched her mother in fear as the floor began to crumble away below the bed. “Momma!!!” she screamed, crying uncontrollably. “Help me! Don’t let me die!!”

“People of her kind?” her mother only replied in the man’s voice. “Really, Mindy. Your ignorance is showing.”

The bed now floated in space. Her mother suddenly clutched Alice’s shoulders with both hands, squeezing tightly. Alice’s face tightened as she winced in pain. “Momma…stop it…that hurts…stop…” she said, struggling weakly in her mother’s clutches. She tried to pry her mother’s fingers away from one of her shoulders, but the older woman held viselike grips on her daughter.

“Both of you shut the fuck up.” Her mother demanded in a new male voice, which was muffled. “Obviously, Dorothy here is sick. Anyone checked her pulse? See if she’s carrying a diabetic card or something? Does anyone know how to contact her aunt?”

“Momma, please!” Alice wailed desperately as her mother forcefully pushed her to the edge of the bed. Her eyes widened in fear as she glanced down into the yawning darkness that stretched below her.

“Er, genius? It’s not like she has pockets in that dress…” her mother quipped as she shoved her daughter over the edge. Alice’s mouth opened wide, but the scream never came. She could see her mother leaning over the side, quickly becoming a speck in the distance as the young woman plunged to an unknown fate. The voices that her mother projected earlier were now all around, echoing in her ears.

“…besides, we females have something called purses. Maybe you’ve heard of them.” The woman voice said sarcastically.

“Maybe she’s allergic to something here? Like the hay or something?” the muffled male voice suggested. “We need to find her purse.”

“I didn’t see her eat anything or sneeze or anything.” The other male voice said in a matter-of-fact tone.

“So you were watching her the entire time she was here…” the woman voice sneered accusingly.

“Guilty as charged, your honor.”

“Perv.”

“Hiss!! The cat bears her fangs! Getting a little green, huh Min?”

“Of her? Ms. Wallflower here? I’m insulted by the very idea. She’s like…how that saying goes…’living under a rock for years’. She probably doesn’t even know who Gene Simmons is!”

“But wouldn’t she listen to Earth, Wind, and Fire or something I don’t know…with soul?”

“Eric…” the other two voices said in unison.

“I’m just saying…”

“And you call me ignorant…”

A white light began to appear in the distance, growing exponentially as Alice approached it. She closed her eyes, letting her body go limp as she was engulfed by it. Suddenly, the song “Hot Stuff” thundered in her ears, as if someone had turned the music full volume. Her eyes slowly opened, fluttering from the sudden explosion of light. Her world was a Technicolor kaleidoscope until her eyes gradually focused on three beings standing over her. One was a vampire, dressed in shades, black suit and cape, while another was a girl with pigtails, clad in a Raggedy Ann costume. The third was someone whose head was covered by a large Darth Vader helmet and clad in a simply dark blue jump suit.

“Ummmm…” Alice moaned, caressing her forehead. Her whole body felt slightly numb, and her memories of what had happened earlier were fuzzy. However, one thought did immediately come to mind.

“Tea…” she moaned softly. “Where…is…she…?”

“Ah, Sleeping Beauty. Finally awake.” The Darth Vader guy said in a muffled voice, reaching for Alice’s face. “Gave us quite a scare there. You alright?”

Alice flinched as his hand drew near, a look of terror on her face. An image flashed in her mind, accompanied by vivid sensations. A man in a leather mask reaching towards her. Her body, weak and defenseless, pressed against the cold, hard earth. Her eyes filled with tears.

“Hey, hey…take it easy!” Darth Vader quickly retracted his hand, as if stung by an invisible insect. “Just trying to make sure you don’t have a fever or anything!”

“Yeah, you just fell out…and Derek just picked you up and carried you over here-” Raggedy Ann reported, a slight smirk on her face.

“After I caught you.” The vampire interrupted, tossing his cape over his shoulder with dramatic flair.

“He was all about to cry and stuff.” Raggedy Ann gushed, ignoring the vampire. “It was so romantic!”

“After I caught you.” The vampire declared, pulling his shades down his nose coolly to give Raggedy Ann an annoyed glare.

Romantic? Somehow, that word struck a chord of fear inside her. Romance? No, she could not have romance…not unless she was married! Allowing a man who was not her husband to even touch her was a sin that would be horribly punished by God. At least, that was what her Aunt always told her.

Slightly panicking, Alice tried to rise to a sitting position. Darth Vader gently grasped her hand and tried to assist the girl, but she quickly snatched it away, her eyes wide with alarm. Realizing how she was acting, Alice lowered her head in shame. “Sorry.” She mumbled, still slightly dazed from the sudden onslaught of the flashing lights and thundering bass of the music.

“It’s cool…” Darth Vader waved it off. “So, what’s the deal? Do you have diabetes or something? We could not find your purse…”

“No.” Alice said meekly as she shook her head slowly. She glanced around at her surroundings. The Ball was still in full swing, the music booming and the dance floor crowded with costumed students. A few other students were standing around the group of four, talking to each other and sipping punch from white styrofoam cups. A table covered by a white cloth served as her temporarily bed and glancing at the plates tossed on the floor around her told her that it was hastily converted from one of the serving tables.

Alice swung her legs over the table, wincing at the stiffness she felt in her back.

She felt a hand on her shoulder. “Are you sure you’re okay?” Raggedy Ann yelled over the music.

Alice nodded delicately. “I…I think so…so sorry for the inconvenience …”

“Hey, no harm, right guys?” the vampire said. “You seem like a cool customer...”

“Yeah.” Darth Vader agreed, his helmet shifting from side to side as he nodded. “Glad to see you without that gloomy look on your face all the time.”

A slight smile struggled at the corners of Alice’s mouth. She could not help it. For so many years, she thought the whole world was against her. But to find fellow students that were actually nice to her…it was the equivalent of the needle in the haystack. Still, she would never forget the one, true friend that had stuck with her through thick and thin.

“Tea.” She looked at the trio surrounding her. “Have you seen Tea?”

“Tea?” the vampire repeated, giving her a puzzled look and exchanging it with the other two. “Er…I can’t recall…”

“Tea?” Raggedy Ann cocked her head, rolling her eyes sideways as she searched her recent memory. “I…well, I haven’t seen her…”

“Is she dressed up?” Darth Vader asked, scanning the crowd on the dance floor.

“Yeah.” Alice nodded rapidly. “She dressed up like Daisy Duke from the TV show…”

Darth Vader and the vampire exchanged mischievous glances. “Really?” Darth Vader chuckled, imitating his namesake while rubbing the bottom of his chin gleefully. “Pray tell me where this ‘Tea’ can be located…I have quite the sight to…ahem…show her…”

“Is she even supposed to be here?” Raggedy Ann frowned, hands on her patchwork hips. “This is supposed to be a private affair…rsvp and stuff…”

“Cut it out, Mindy.” Darth Vader snapped. “You know a lot of other people brought their friends! Don’t be so hard on the girl.”

Alice bit her bottom lip, staring down at her hands. “I knew it was wrong…but…but I felt so alone…I could not come without her…”

Suddenly, the vampire burst into laughter, startling the other three. They regarded him with strange look, as he slowly regained his composure. “Sorry, guys…just struck me as funny…no offense Ms. Alice…but we always thought…that you didn’t have any friends…with everyone giving you a hard time and all…for things you couldn’t control.”

“C’mon, Eric man!” Darth Vader snapped angrily. “Wasn’t cool, man.”

“Look, I’m not laughing at the fact that she has no friends, Den.” The vampire defended himself. “It’s us, man. We’re the ones that-”

“You don’t believe me?” Alice interrupted, surprised at the anger that had submerged her like a tidal wave. Her whole body tensed as if on instinct, her hands balling into small brown fists. Her brown eyes narrowed into slits as she stared hard at Eric, as if trying to bore a hole inside of his head. The sudden fury she felt inside herself confused her emotions. On one hand, she was frightened by it. On the other, on a deeper more secret level, she relished in it.

“I have a friend!” she growled through clenched teeth. “And her name is Tea! And she’s…and she’s dancing out there! Just look…!”

With a trembling hand, she pointed towards the midst of the sea of gyrating bodies. The other three, with visual expressions of fear scrawled on their faces, followed her finger and nodded in unison.

“I…I think I see her…” Mindy said nervously, frantically glancing from where Alice was pointing to her face and back again.

“Yeah…me too.” Eric nodded, chuckling uneasily as he shielded his eyes from an imaginary sun. “So…what school is she from?”

He glanced at Alice, expecting an answer, but did not receive one. The young black woman was trembling uncontrollably, still pointing towards the dance floor, her eyes widen in fear. On the dance floor, the crowd parted, and he appeared, ambling towards her in a white wrinkled disco suit and slightly disheveled red hair, balancing two styrofoam cups as he clumsily evaded the dancing couples. It was Derek.

Her heart rate quickened to an unnatural rate as the lights became overwhelming to her senses. The flashes of mental images assaulted her mind with a unrelenting ferociousness. The man in the leather mask was clawing at her, touching her where she did not want him to touch. Her hands scratched and clawed at the cold earth as she tried to get away. Her mouth opening, screaming for him to stop.

Derek drew nearer, an uncharacteristic smile on his face as he waved at Alice.

Her mouth was open, her lips forming words, but no sound came out. The images would not stop. The leather faced man was tearing her clothes, and she could do nothing. Every blow she struck seemed useless. Her hands reached for the dark gray clouds in the sky, reaching up to the Kingdom of Heaven. Where was God? Why would He let this happen? She did nothing wrong! She did everything her Aunt had told her!

“H-H-H-Hi every-everyone!” Derek managed the stutter a greeting, blushing in embarrassment when he was in earshot. “Gl-gl-glad she’s up and-and about. H-H-How are-are you, Alice?”

Alice’s breath was trapped in her throat. Her heart seemingly stopped. The leatherfaced man was back.

“I’m sorry…” she whispered, sobbing softly. Fear overtook her body, as she scrambled off the table, falling to the floor. “I’m sorry…I’m sorry…” she continued to say over and over.

The other four looked on in shock. Derek was the first to react, dropping the cups he was carrying and rushing to her side. “A-A-Alice! W-w-what’s w-w-wrong?!”

Alice screeched as the leatherfaced man quickly squatted down and reached towards her. On impulse, she kicked at him, knocking him on the floor. Jumping to her feet, Alice mumbled, “I’m sorry…I’m sorry…I’m sorry…” repeatedly as she slowly backed away towards the dance floor.

“A-A-Alice!” Derek shouted, helped to his feet by Eric and Den. He gave chase.

Alice gasped as she saw the leatherfaced man rise from the floor, unharmed, and continued his pursuit of her. She had to get away. Frantically, she darted through the dancing crowd, dodging bodies. She was now driven by pure blind instinct and raw panic. Emerging from the other side of the crowd, she tripped and fell, hitting her head on the saw dusted floor. Dazed, she rose to her knees, her hands instinctively touching her forehead. She felt a huge welt growing slowly from where her head had hit the floor.

“E-E-E-Excuse…Get out the way!!” Derek yelled, pushing his way through the dancers. At that moment, the music stopped with a record scratch. Everyone’s attention was suddenly focused on the direction he was facing. As Derek forced his way through, he could see Alice slowly rising to her feet.

“A-A-A-Alice!” he cried. “S-s-stop t-t-this!”

Alice turned towards the sound of his voice, her lips trembling, her face frozen in fear as she fearfully backed away from him, towards the large barn doors. The leatherfaced man had made his way through the crowd with ease. Was there anything that could stop him?! Her back pressed against the barn door. She had to hide. If she hid, he would go away. He always went away.

“I’m sorry!” she cried as she turned and flung the barn doors open. The cold October air brushed against her as she took off, running as fast, far, and hard as she could.


*********Vendetta*********

*November 1, 1979*

Not even the combination of the throaty roar of Sheriff Kruger’s fiery red 1973 AMC Javelin or the throbbing lyrics of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” could stir the sleepy town of Loomis after a holiday. Regina had free reign of the town’s streets, with not a single vehicle sharing them with her. With no one watching meant no leading by example. This meant no rules. She pressed the pedal to the floor, and watched the needle on the speedometer rise gradually as the lavish mansions lining the neighborhood on both sides slightly blurred together.

“Season ticket on a one-way ride!!” she sung along with the lead singer, swallowing a handful of Fruit Loops from the cereal box in the driver seat next to her. She always did this to expel nervous energy from her system. This was no time to be nervous. She was the sheriff of the town, and like Marshal Matt Dillon, she had a job to do. The hangover she had before hand was a distant memory, put down by the combination of aspirin and lots of sugar from coffee and dry cereal.

Her heart was racing. Admittedly, she was scared. A murder, in Loomis? Yes, she knew of the first murder that had taken place there. But it seemed like another lifetime…in fact, it practically was another lifetime. The sheriff before her was the arresting officer of the murderer, a black maid who worked for the Strodes, one of the most influential families in the town. She only knew about it from the local legend of “The Kings’ Curse”.

As Regina fishtailed left onto another street, she mentally scoffed. Like the myths of old, “the Kings’ Curse” was a pseudo-explanation of the coincidences of accidents that had befallen many of the townspeople that were linked to the murder case. She had not witnessed any of the accidents in her tenure, except one. Ms. Crane, while toiling in her elegant glass greenhouse one day, was nearly sliced to ribbons when the ceiling somehow shattered. It was a horrifying sight to behold when she and Deputy Greg were called to the scene. Blood was everywhere, and deep ghastly lacerations covered most of the woman’s body. It was a miracle that she did not bleed to death, even more amazing that she had not been driven mad from the pain. All she kept saying over and over was “The Curse is real!!” when she was placed in the ambulance and taken to the hospital in the next county over.

And now, Cleopatra King, the sister of the murderer, dead.

While her skepticism of the Curse waned slightly, her grounded instincts would not let it last long. She also found Deputy Greg’s suggestion to be a little hard to swallow as well. No matter how crazy someone was, they would never kill their own sister…would they?

She brought the Javelin down to 20 mph as she coasted onto Springwood Street. Her destination was drawing near. The houses on this street were especially elegant, practically 2-story architectural masterpieces. The crème de la crème of even the rich of Loomis lived in this area.

Maybe that’s why Mrs. King was killed? Race? All other motives could be ruled out. Every citizen of Loomis was wealthy. After all, the town was built as a retreat for them in the Midwestern isolation, as opposed to Connecticut, also known for their wealthy population. There were plenty of rich here, so singling out Mrs. King for a steal and kill was too much trouble for a robber. Then there was the sister thing, which she had high skepticism about. There was also the niece Ms. King had. Regina had met the young woman before at Sunday Services. She seemed very nice, a little too nice for the average teenager...almost suspicious even, as if she was hiding some dark secret. But she doubted the girl would kill her own aunt.

So who would gain from killing Mrs. King, race wise?

She frowned. The whole town? It was a horrible idea to consider, but she had heard snatches of conversations between the old fogeys of the Loomis Commission, the governing body of the town, when they thought no one was paying attention. They did not look on Mrs. King nicely, despite all the kindness and religious inspiration she was know to emanate. They wanted their Mayberry, their white picketed fences, and apple pie.

She gripped the steering wheel so tightly that her knuckles turned white. Disgusting. But maybe she was jumping the gun a bit. She had not reviewed the crime scene just yet, so there might was another factor that she did not consider.

She slowed to a crawl and turned into Ms. King’s white paved driveway, which stretched up to her lavish red brick mansion. No matter how many of the houses she had visited over the few years as sheriff, she found herself marveling at the beauty of the structure. She pulled up to the gold-trimmed covered porch and cut off the engine. Taking in a deep breath, she exhaled slowly, clearing her mind. She needed to have a fresh mind and a fresh perspective for review of the crime scene.

“Popi…give me strength.” She closed her eyes and whispered, knowing her father was looking down from heaven.

Just as she opened the door, her CB radio began to crackle. “White Rabbit…Tweedle Dee to White Rabbit…come in, please!” a male voice frantically shouted.

Regina quickly reached for her CB speaker. “This is White Rabbit, over!” she declared and waited.

“Oh God…” ‘Tweedle Dee’ cried over the CB radio. “White Rabbit…oh God…he’s bleeding everywhere…won’t wake up..! Over!”

“Tweedle Dee…you’re gonna have to take it easy…tell me everything…over!”

There was a long pause before the radio cackled again. “I got…another phone call after you left…some of the kids…did not come back yesterday…so I went up to the barn...and…Jesus Christ…!”

“Tweedle Dee…take it slow…it’s alright…finish telling me what happened…”

“White Rabbit…I can’t…I can’t do this…I can’t-”

“Yes you can, officer…now tell me what the hell happened….”

“Okay…okay…I’m sorry…just…so much blood…went up to the Barn…saw some kids still there…sent them along…then I found…I found the kid…he was lying…in a pool of his…his own…blood!”

Regina listened intensely. “Tweedle Dee…need an ID, over!”

“White Rabbit…he’s cut…in the side…Jesus…someone carved him up like a…Thanksgiving turkey or something…it’s just a mess…”

“Who is he, goddamnit!? Over.”

There was another long pause before he answered again. “Found his billfold…Derek Peter Simmons…Derek Simmons…”

“Oh no…” Regina slowly, with trembling hands, switched off the CB radio. The realization of the situation sunk in with the force of a sledgehammer.

“We have ourselves a serial killer…” she said quietly to herself. “Interesting…”

Dusty Video Box Presents: Vendetta! One

Vendetta
created by Melvin L. Hadley
The Final Girl: Chapter 1


On November 1, 1979, as the first rays of the dawn manifested, Alice Ripley shoved the machete forward, blade first, into the abdomen of the large body that barreled towards her. Her eyes were closed, and only through sheer luck was her weapon able to find its mark. After hearing a sound reminiscent of a knife slicing through a thoroughly cooked ham, she slowly opened her eyes and gaped in horror. Her pursuer, a 7-foot tall heavily scarred behemoth of a man, stood trembling before her, his massive hands frozen claw-like above her head. Although his face was concealed within a ceremonial demon-like Japanese mask, Alice could see his head shaking violently, as if trying to withhold his cry of pain and not lose his inhuman presence.

"AHHHHHHHHH!!" she screamed hysterically, shifting all the weight of her lithe frame onto the blade impaled in her tormentor's stomach. This gained immediate results. A defeated animalistic howl bellowed from behind the mask, reverberating in the deserted junkyard. All the fear and frustration Alice had experienced up to that point manifested in a sadistic twist of the handle of the embedded machete, causing a small geyser of blood to erupt from the wound for good measure. The giant before her shuddered violently for one last time before his body went limp, finally thundering lifelessly to the ground, the machete now a permanent attachment to him.

Alice backed away hastily from the body and the glistening pool of liquid crimson that slowly collected around it. She did not stop until her back touched one of the rusty cars making up the other side of the makeshift corridor of junk. Her knees were weak, and she could barely stand from the bizarre mixture of fear and relief that had overtaken her. She stood motionless for a few minutes, her heart pounding so hard that it threatened to explode from her chest, her eyes never leaving the body. She inhaled and exhaled furiously, trying unsuccessfully to calm herself. The sudden silence of the junkyard was deafening, and Alice suddenly remembered that the giant man's "family members" could have heard the commotion and come to investigate. Cursing to herself, she whirled around, snatching in a nervous fury at the door handle of the old Station Wagon in an effort to get it open quickly. After a few tries, the rusted door finally surrendered, squeaking on its hinges as she pulled it open. The young woman's breath caught in her throat as she froze, her ears searching for sounds of anyone approaching. Thankfully, after a minute, there was none.

Slowly, Alice slid her body into the dirty car seat, and with great care, closed the door. Although a thick coat of dust covered the interior of the Wagon, it seemed as if it had just been parked there by a family recently. Cigarette butts filled the ashtray, while an Agatha Christie novel lay open in the backseat, along with a few opened coloring books with crayons spread across them. On the dashboard was a photograph of a family of four, a mother, father, and two daughters. Alice peeled the picture from the dash and inspected it closely. The father looked like a stand-in for the Meathead character from All In The Family, complete with the greasy mustache. The mother, on the other hand, was interchangeable with Diana Prince, glasses and all. The two definitely did not look in shape, and their two daughters looked too young to even consider it. With a sigh of sorrow, Alice returned to picture to the dashboard, finding herself wondering how many days did the family survived in the clutches of the sadists. Were the parents or kids killed outright? Or did they watch each other suffer? Did they even try to escape? The answer was already there; the killers were still going strong, at the pinnacle of their twisted game.

A few minutes later and the numbing effects of the adrenaline wore off and the pain attacked. In the morning sunlight that filtered into the car, Alice inspected her body, taking inventory of her wounds. There were small cuts and bruises on her arms and legs, fresh abrasions on her palms, and a welt that felt like a small mountain on her forehead. Her leg and arm muscles throbbed from hours of evading pursuit from her newfound sadistic foes. Her throat was dry, and her eyelids were heavy. Her long ebony pigtails flew about wildly as she shook her head frantically, trying to dispel the sleep that seduced her. She did not dare close her eyes, because she knew there was a chance that she would never open them again.

She glanced down at her blue and white-checked blood-stained Dorothy dress, realizing for the first time how ragged and dirty it was, a far echo from when she debuted the brand new costume at the Loomis Preparatory Halloween Ball the night before.

Suddenly, her costume was wavy, along with the rest of her surroundings. Remembering the Ball reminded her of Tea, her best friend and the only person on the face of the Earth that she had ever truly loved. Alice wiped the tears trailing down her cheeks, trying to suppress her last memory of her closest companion being dragged literally kicking and screaming into the dreadful bowels of the deserted hospital by another one of the maniacs.

For a moment, she wondered if it was right to think that Tea had received her just desserts. After all, it was Tea's idea to attend the Ball in the first place.



*********Vendetta*********

October 30, 1979…
"Hey Monkey!" a male voice shouted over the thunderous purring of the yellow Ford Pontiac as it raced passed. "Hey Monkey, the zoo is that way!" A chorus of laughs followed as the car vanished down the small two-lane road. Alice Ripley did not raise her eyes from the ground to see who it was, and did not care to. She had grown accustomed to the daily racial abuse thrown at her because of her darker skin color. It was useless to retort equally. What would she say? How would she fight? Her opposition at Loomis College Preparatory School were elite white students from all over the state of Kansas, some the sons and daughters of corporate bluebloods; their number were faceless legion. She knew that against all of them, she would not stand a chance.

Adjusting her blue Isis bookbag on her shoulders, the young woman trudged along the road to school, absorbing the fresh morning air and bathing in the young sunshine of the day. She was grateful that there was no rain that day, because she would have been thoroughly soaked at the finish of her seven-mile trek. Along the route were various mansions and well-to-do houses, some with robe-clad men or women picking up the morning paper. Alice never looked in their direction, already knowing what to expect from them. There was always scowling, suspicion, or muted annoyance on their faces. They were probably wondering why an African-American girl was walking through their town of Loomis, Kansas, of all places. They were probably assuming that she was up to no good. With a deep exhale, Alice placed an intangible shield of confidence around her as she continued her walk through the neighborhood, ignoring the dirty glances and the audible grunts. The silver steel gates to the school were visible a block away. She was almost there.

Through the gates she and into the stark three story red brick structure she went. As usual, she had made it to school on time, with plenty of minutes to spare. Around her, other uniformed students brushed past her, some rudely bumping into her or brushing her aside as they rushed to homeroom. Alice kept her head bowed, eyes to her feet, as she weaved through the human obstacle course to her locker. She dared not make eye contact. The slightest would insight the wrath of prejudice towards her.

Opening her locker, the young woman winced slightly, massaging the raised welts on her dark brown arms. Memories of the night before caused her eyes to water slightly. She could still feel the searing pain of the belt as it collided with her skin, the result of saying one-too many words back to her Aunt Cleo. Aunt Cleo was a product of antebellum Baptist religion, and was never above "sparing the rod". In her household, teenage angst and discovery were just another word for sin. The smallest indiscretion was punishable by violent beatings accompanied by violent graphic sermons selected from the Old Testament depicting the horrors of transgression. More than once, Alice had to literally fight to survive her Aunt's discipline, and had the scars and bruises showcasing the numerous "bouts" between them. There was once a teacher that was concerned about Alice's bruises, but after confronting her Aunt about them, he was subsequently fired and never seen again.

As Alice grabbed her schoolbooks from her locker and threw them in her bookbag, her ears picked up a shrill giggle a few feet down the hallway. A look of alarm flashed across her face as she hastily zipped her bag, slammed her locker, and walked swiftly in the opposite direction.

But it was too late.

"Where you off to, Beulah?" a bubbly female voice said.

Alice knew who the owner was before she even turned to face her. Her name was Jamie Strode, an anorexic blonde girl and a junior version of Farrah Fawcett, but with an unnecessary extra layer of makeup on her pale face. Accompanying her, as always, was her slick-backed haired boyfriend Billy Walters, who fancied himself David Cassidy, but always came off as more of a Bob Denver playing-Gilligan-type. Behind him, bringing up the rear was one of the school's few redheads, Derek Simmons, who always wore a mild expression on his face, no matter the situation.

Alice locked eyes with Jamie for a second, before trying to push past them.

"This isn't the time, Jamie." She said calmly. "We're going to be marked late."

"'We're going to be marked late!'" Jamie mocked in a singsong voice, exchanging laughs with her boyfriend. "Look at the little Aunt Jemima, trying to get her edumacation!"

Alice exhaled and rolled her eyes. "If you're trying to insult me, you could at least use the appropriate slur-"

Before she could finish her sentence, Jamie lashed out with a resounding slap across Alice's cheek, causing her head to rock to the side as she stumbled backward, finally falling on her posterior. Her backpack flew from her hand, skidding a few feet from where she landed.

Jamie stalked over and stood over Alice. "You little slut!" She snarled, leaning close to Alice's face. "My family will never forget what your bitch mother did! Never!" Audibly gathering the mucus in her throat, she lobbed a gob of spit at Alice, which scored a direct hit on her face. Laughing in triumph, the malcontent blonde slapped high-fives with her boyfriend, and the pair walked away, arm in arm.

The hallway wavered as Alice's eyes filled with hot tears. Nursing her cheek, she slowly stood to her feet and reached for her book bag, only to find it being offered to her by a hand. Derek stood before her and for the first time since she had known him, had a look of emotion on his face.

It was sympathy.

Biting her lip, she quickly snatched the bag from his hand and ran as fast as she could to the restroom. She passed a teacher, who had his arms crossed and regarding her with a look of pity. He had witnessed the whole thing, but made no attempt to intervene. A sound like thunder echoed in the girl's bathroom as she exploded through the door. Futilely trying to maintain her composure, she quickly washed her face in the sink, and then looked in the mirror. A slender black girl with a nearly invisible bruise on her cheek and shoulder-length black hair stared back at her.

Mother.

Did she look like her mother too much? Would she ever escape the curse of her mother's crime? Before she could explore that train of thought further, a stall door opened behind her, and a girl emerged. She was beautiful, with a glossy brunette mane styled in an exact replica of Jaclyn Smith and full red lips, tightened stubbornly around a lit cigarette. Her school uniform seemed to be two sizes small, and clung to her like a second skin.

"That bitch will never drop that grudge, will she?" she said in an annoyed tone, blowing a thin oval of smoke from her lips.

Alice wiped her eyes. "No. Problem is, I don't know if I should blame her or not."

The girl shook her head as she sat on the sink. "Look, Alice. You gotta learn that what your momma did doesn't give little Jamie the right to put her fucking hands on-"

"Tea!" Alice growled, visually flinching. "Language, please."

Tea chuckled, taking a puff from her cigarette. "See how direct you were just now? Apply that to Jamie, and pow! Out like a candle…"

"But I can't do that, Tea. Violence just brings more problems, not solve them."

"Bullshit!" Tea scoffed. "You letting that Wonder Woman and Isis shit go to your-"

"Tea, please. No profanity."

Tea was quiet for a minute, regarding her friend with a strange look. "You know, your aunt has really screwed you up. Seriously."

Alice said nothing, reaching for her bookbag. "I gotta run before I'm marked tardy again. See you by the basketball court?"

"Hold up." Tea grinded her cigarette on the porcelain surface and stood up, fishing around in the pockets of her uniform jacket. She withdrew a folded piece of waxy paper, handing it to Alice. Admiring the frictionless feel of the paper for a few seconds, Alice opened it slowly, her brown eyes lighting up upon what was revealed. A brilliant symphony of colors formed large bold letters, while a college of costumed teenagers danced under a silver glow-in-the-dark disco ball.

THE LOOMIS PREPARATORY HALLOWEEN BALL! It screamed.

"Where did you get this?" Alice asked, a smile slowly tugging at the corners of her mouth.

"They're practically posted everywhere." Tea answered, shoving her hands in her jacket's pockets. "And before you even start, you can't back out on me this time."

The slow-spreading beam on Alice's face quickly vanished. There were many reasons she avoided looking at those glossy posters displayed on every other inch of the wall space at her school.

"But…I can't, Tea…" she sighed mournfully, visually shrinking back in fear. "You know how my Aunt is. I'll really 'get it' if she finds out about this." She clenched and unclenched her fingers nervously, battling the temptation to attend the annual event, the biggest party of the year for the small town teenage crowd. Even for the students whose social status was the equivalent of mud, this party was their chance to throw their inhibitions to the wind and hang out with the social elite of the school. In her three years of attending Loomis Prep, Alice had never been to the Ball…and she doubted her no-show record would change now.

But, as usual, Tea refused to accept no, especially a mournful one, as an answer. "No, we're not having this this time!" she snarled, balling her fingers into a fist and punching one of the stall doors. "You owe me, remember? You promised you'd attend with me this year! I can't believe we're missing out on another one because of your fucked-up Aunt!!"

Alice flinched, turning away and looking at the mirror. She really hated when her friend swore uncontrollably like that. But, in the depths of her heart, she knew Tea was right. Her Aunt had barred her from many adolescent social functions because of her twisted religious viewpoint of the world.

"But that was months ago…" she mounted a weak defense.

"So?" Tea snapped back. "A deal's a deal. Look, we'll deal with that bridge when we cross it. Any other pointless excuses?"

Alice nodded towards the mirror. "I'm not exactly the captain of the cheerleading squad here, if you catch my drift."

"If any of those assholes want to ruin their night, let them." Tea said solemnly, stepping next to Alice and throwing an arm around her neck. "But Alice, you gonna have to show them that you're not afraid of them. You're gonna have to show them that you're human…and the only way you can do that is on a very basic level. The Party Level!"

Just as Alice was about to comment on her friend's pseudo-philosophy, the school bell reverberated through the hallways. "Oh God, I'm late!" she squealed, grabbing her bookbag, and dashing to the door. "This is all your fault, you hear me?!"

"Much obliged!" Tea shouted, lazily leaning against the sink and waving to the retreating girl. "Don't grow a yellow streak on me, you hear? I got everything planned out, okay? OKAY?!"

"Got you!" Alice cried over her shoulder before vanishing through the doorway into the mob of students racing to their first class of the day.



*********Vendetta*********

October 31, 1979…
Her Aunt was more cooperative and trusting than she could ever remember. Tea had a way with persuasion that could not be defended against. It only took a little while for her best friend to convince her domineering Aunt about the importance of the Ball to Alice's life. For the first time since she had come to live with her relative, Alice was granted permission to experience a social existence outside the four walls of her sterile room.

Halloween Night could not come fast enough. The day flowed at a snail's pace, but the headmaster generously released the students at lunchtime to prepare for the coming nocturnal festivities. It did not take long for Alice and Tea to return to her home, thanks to gaining the use of her Aunt's midnight black Buick LeSabre. It felt as if Alice was lost in a dream; never had her Aunt displayed such compassion towards her...at least not true compassion.

The mansion was empty when they arrived. Her Aunt had uncharacteristically stepped out, leaving the place to them. The girls changed unhindered in Alice's bedroom. As Tea promised, she had planned everything, which included Alice's costume, which was the famous ensemble of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, complete with ruby sequined Candies. Tea, half in order to keep the theme of what she termed the "Good ol' Girls", and half as a joke, decided to attend the party as Daisy Duke from The Dukes of Hazzard.

The Ball was being held in a newly renovated and reinforced barn a dozen miles north of Loomis, and the drive there took 30 minutes. Tea drove while Alice watched the rows of the tall stalks of corn merge into a blurred line as they raced down the two lane highway around dusk. Alice squinted as the air brushed past her face from the rolled down car window, tossing her newly formed pigtails about. She had heard the term freedom spoken hundreds of times, but finally knew how it actually felt.

The massive farm structure, the inanimate host of the celebration, loomed before them, the epitome of isolation against the backdrop of shadowy drenched cornfields. A broken down tractor set near the barn door entrance as laughing film icons, storybook legends, and fantasy characters, formerly fellow students, streamed in. The very air around the barn throbbed with the vocals of KC and the Sunshine Band's "Shake Your Booty".

"We're here!" Tea announced triumphantly in a singsong voice, turning the engine of the LeSabre off and looking at her friend. Alice's lip trembled as a look of fright flashed over her face.

"Alice...come on, kid..." Tea reached over and caressed her friend's hand, trying to calm her. "The Party Level, remember? You're here to have fun, now. Got nothing to be afraid of..."

Alice glanced into her companion's emerald eyes, gathering solace and courage from them. "Here to enjoy myself." She repeated, her conviction growing stronger. "Here to enjoy myself."

Tea nodded, satisfied, and opened the car door. "Now let's get in there before they put on that shitty Rod Stewart music!" she shouted ecstatically. "WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!"

Alice stepped out of the car slowly, feeling as if she was about to attempt the first step before a firing squad as opposed to just a party. Her heart thundered in her chest. She took a few breaths to calm down, leaning against the car for support. Tea had pressed on ahead, but turned back to check on her friend.

"You alright, girl?" she asked, her voice radiating with concern.

Alice nodded weakly. "I'm such a drag, aren't I?"

Tea shook her head. "Hey, cut yourself some slack. This is a new experience for you...kind of like your first time."

"My first time?" Alice gave her a puzzled look.

"You know..." Tea trailed off, thrusting forward with her pelvis. "Your first time. Doing it."

"Doing disco?"

"Yeah. Yeah, that's it." Tea shook her head shamefully while petting Alice on the head. "Now let's go. Remember, chin up, ass out, assets flaunted. You gotta show these numbnuts that you're somebody."

Alice nodded silently, meekly obeying the laundry list of grace laid out before her. The two sauntered erotically to the rhythm of "Staying Alive" as they entered the Barn. Crossing the threshold, Alice stood riveted to the spot, overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of this newfound experience. Overhead, a collection of silver disco balls splashed silver squares across the crowded dance floor filled with gyrating bodies. Fog projected from machine maintained a haunting atmosphere, while darkened jack o' lanterns were lined every wall of the barn, leering at the guests with cookie cutter faces.

"Stick with me, kid." Tea grinned, shouting over the music. "I'll show you how to behave badly…and like it!"

"Er…okay." Alice said submissively. Suddenly, she felt so small, so insignificant, compared to the costumed mob on the wooden dance floor before her.

"Is…is that how…marijuana smell?" she coughed, her nostrils burning with the unfamiliar aroma as her eyes watered. A quick search of the room located a small group of students passing a joint amongst themselves.

"Come on!" Tea shouted, practically pulling Alice's arm out of her socket as she maneuvered through a human maze of Supermen, Cyclons, and vampires. They stopped in the midst of the horde, Tea dancing to the rhythm of the music while Alice watched with a look of inexperience and worry scrawled on her face. There were a few astonished or dirty stares, but mostly the people performing them soon went back to dancing.

"Dance!" Tea giggled, grabbing her friend's dark brown arms and jumping up and down wildly. "You can do it!!"

Alice gave in to the infectious fervor that her friend radiated, and soon she was bouncing awkwardly to the tempo of "Love Rollercoaster". A newfound feeling surged through her, a euphoria that conquered her senses. For the first time in her life, she felt uncaged and burdenless.

"What is she doing here?!" she heard someone yell, snapping her out of her rapture.

The crowd seemingly parted as Jamie Strode, squeezed into a tight Marilyn Munroe gown, and her boyfriend, dressed as Elvis, sauntered arrogantly up to Alice and Tea.

"Didn't you see the sign, darkie?" Jamie snorted, waving a finger in Alice's face. "No whores allowed."

"Uh-Huh!" Billy chimed in Elvis-like, with a sneer.

"Leave me alone, Jamie." Alice said quietly, in a warning tone which surprised even herself. Where did that come from?

"You have no right to be he-" the blonde squealed, her hands reaching for Alice's dress in an attempt to rip it off.

Tea was a literal blur, her hand sliding into her back pocket of her cutoffs and flashing up to Jamie's neck before the last syllable had formed on her lips

"That's not how you talk to a civilized lady, motherfucker." She growled through clenched teeth. "I'm tired of this racial bullshit, and I know my pal has had it. Use nice words when talking to her from now on or I'll cut your little breasts into teeny tiny puzzle pieces. Hear me?"

Jamie nodded timidly, her face drained colorless, standing on her tiptoes as Tea pressed the ice-cold tip of her switchblade on her neck. "Sorry…Alice…" she whispered. Her boyfriend stood frozen, his mouth opened in shock.

"Hmmmm…that's a start." Tea said, withdrawing her blade, and with a flick of the wrist, collapsed it. She felt a hand on her wrist, and glanced into the dark brown eyes of the owner.

"Tea, you didn't have to do that." Alice reprimanded her friend.

"But it got my point across." The brunette replied smugly. "Besides, it got Elvis here to pee his pants."

All eyes fell on Billy's ivory pants, and sure enough, a visual yellow streak trailed down the side of his leg to a matching puddle on the floor by his shoes. Clutching her neck, Jamie snatched her boyfriend by the cape and dragged him away, his face bright red with embarrassment.

"That was still unnecessary." Alice said with a frown towards her friend.

"Can't hear you!" Tea squealed, dancing away from her friend and merging with the other partygoers. As much as Alice tried to search the crowd for her, she could find no sign of the tall brunette.

"Tea!" she screamed, almost in tears, over the music, hoping to catch a glimpse of her friend. "Tea!! I can't…I can't do this by myself…"

Suddenly, her eyes fell on Derek Simmons, clad in a replica of Tony Manero's white disco outfit. He stood silently before her, close enough that she was bombarded by his aftershave. She took a cautious step back, her gaze lingering at her feet, her face feeling strangely hot. She prayed silently that he would go away.

He took a step forward, undeterred, slowly reaching for her face. His fingers felt like fire as they graced her cheeks, gently pushing her face up to look into her eyes. Alice submissively obeyed, her gaze locking with his. His eyes were ocean blue, and warm. Suddenly, the other dancers surrounding them meant nothing, and they were the only two in the entire area. But, just as suddenly, she began to feel an uncontrollable trembling seize her, traveling through her hands and up her arms. The dance floor began to spin as a bout of dizziness swiftly overcame her. In her mind's eye, random images flashed like a runaway projector. Her hand, with broken fingernails, clawing at dirt. A man in a leathery mask placing a silencing finger to his lips. A pain that felt as if she was literally being pulled apart.

The lights were loud. The music was blinding. Her world was a dazzling blur of faces as gravity became no more. Her body felt lightless as she teetered on her heels and fell backward.



*********Vendetta*********


November 1, 1979…
It was three knocks that jarred her awake from her slumber.

They had found her!!

If only she had not fallen asleep!

Already her hand darted around the seats of the car searching for a makeshift weapon as she slouched further down in her seat. Her hunt yielded something short, cool, and smooth. She drew it into her line of vision. A crayon?! An exasperated sob escaped her lip. Wasn't there even a pen in this old heap?!

Three knocks happened again.

Whimpering, she wedged herself in the small footspace, huddling as tight as she could get. She reprimanded herself for falling asleep so easily as she held her breath, her eyes squeezed shut, hoping that her pursuers would pay no mind to her hiding place. Her heartbeat had never sounded so loud before.

"Alice! Hey kid, you in there?" a familiar voice cried weakly, as a blurry face peered through the door window of the Station Wagon and shook the door handle. Alice's eyes widened in astonishment as she instantly recognized who it was. She became a blur as she crawled out of her hiding space, threw open the door, and threw her arms around her dearest friend.

"Tea!!" she sobbed joyfully, pulling back to inspect her. "Thank you, God! Is it really you? Did they hurt you? Are you all right? Are you all there?!"

"C'mon, I'm too beat-up to play twenty questions!" Tea whined. Her raven hair was disheveled, and her face was covered with dust. Her tank top mirrored Alice's dress, covered with random spots of dried blood, none which looked as if it was hers.

"How did you escape?" Alice asked nervously, glancing around to make sure they were not being watched.

"Trade secret." Tea quipped with a wink, before she spotted the huge man felled by Alice earlier, the machete still sticking upward in his chest.

"Looks like you've been channeling that aggression like I told you." She said with a low whistle. Walking over to the dead maniac, she knelt down for a closer look. "But this isn't Jamie."

"We have to go, Tea. Now." Alice declared, anxiously twisting her pigtail around her finger. "You've seen how horrible they are! Please…let's just get far away from here. Please."

"And do what, my little pretty?" Tea replied, walking over the dried-up pond of blood and sitting on the large man's chest with his head between her legs. "Always be on the run from these guys? Call the fucking police? Call the president for a nuclear strike on this hellhole? Please. That shit never works."

Her hands lingered on the mask. It did not take much to pry it off. Alice initially turned her head in order to not see what lied beneath, because anyone wearing a mask definitely had something to hide. However, curiosity drew her eyes back to the sight, and she nearly shriek in horror.

Underneath the mask was nothing more than a mass of shapeless vein-filled flesh. No eyes or mouth could be seen, but two holes seemed to form a nose of some sort. Huge gashes were dug in the skin, held together by stitches that were literally stapled to the skin. Together, the gashes seemed to form a symbol of sorts.

"My God…" Alice gasped, feeling sick to her stomach and weak in her knees. She turned away, not being able to stare at the face for another second.

"No wonder this guy had anger problems…" Tea chuckled weakly, tossing the mask casually over her shoulder. "This is a face a mother would spit at. Where's a damn camera when ya need one?"

"Tea!" Alice stamped her foot, her hands balled at her sides. "We need to leave now! Please…before they start to search for us!"

Tea stood up and stretched, walking over to the Station Wagon and leaning against it. She pulled out a battered box of cigarettes, slapped it against her palm, and drew out one. Placing it to her mouth, she lit it with a match and blew out a small cloud of smoke.

"They're human." She said after a moment of silence. "We're not going anywhere."

"Excuse me?" Alice's mouth dropped in disbelief. "I think I just heard you say we're not going anywhere."

Tea nodded. "Me and you, Alice. We can be like Charlie's Angels. Or Starsky and Hutch. Or Electra Woman and…you get the picture."

"No. No!" Alice cried, stalking up to her friend and staring her directly in the face. "Are you stoned?! We're talking about cold-blooded real-life killers here, Tea. Cannibal killers. I watched them eat a man's foot raw. Toes first. I am not about to become a full course meal for these monsters!!"

"Then kill them." Tea replied challengingly. "You know you want to. You know how easy it is."

Alice slowly turned to look upon her handiwork, her slewed Goliath. A shiver traveled through her body. She remembered the sensation she experienced in that adrenaline-filled moment, as the machete plunged into his torso. It was a bizarre mixture of unbridled passion and dominant power, a feeling that she had wished to last forever. A surge of guilt hit her. No matter the circumstance, she had just taken a life. She was no better than the freaks they were running from.

"No…I can't." Alice admitted quietly, her head bowed in shame. "I just want to go home, Tea. Just want to go home."

"Why trade one hellhole for another?" Tea blew another puff of smoke. "What the difference between this fucked-up place and Loomis, huh? You'll die in both. At least here, ya got a scraping chance. You got a chance to get back at those motherfuckers for killing Derek, and nearly killing me!"

"I'm going home." Alice said, determined, turning her back towards Tea and walking off. The offer was tempting. But she did not want to kill.

She did not want to end up like her mother.

"Alice!" Tea shouted after her. "Alice! Think about it! We can become famous! Everyone at home would have no choice but to love you! Think about all of the victims killed here! Their souls are crying out for vengeance, damnit!"

But Alice did not stop. She was now at the edge of the junked car corridor, and could see an evergreen plain that stretched towards the horizon. She could not recognize the location.

"You can't survive without me!" Tea's voice reached her ears. Alice stopped midstep, sighing deeply. It was true. She could not imagine life without her closest confidant. Hiding tears of frustration, she whirled around and returned to the location. As she drew near, Tea discarded her cigarette and grinded it under her right pump.

"And I can't survive without you." She finished, placing her hands on Alice's shoulders. "If you can't do it for anyone else, do it for your mother."

Alice averted her gaze, looking at the ground. "Why her? Why did you have to remind me of her?"

"Because this is your chance for retribution. For her sins."

Retribution.

The word stirred something inside her. She looked into Tea's eyes once again, drawing upon the solace and courage that was always prominent in them. Maybe there was some truth to her words. Maybe she could gain retribution in her mother's name. Maybe she could become famous and everyone in Loomis would finally accept her for what she was. And gaining some measure of revenge for the deaths of Derek and her classmates sounded like an added bonus as well. She hoped they could come up with a clever plan to capture the killers.

She hoped not to kill ever again.

"Okay." She said with a deep breath. "What the hell."

Tea was taken aback. "Huh? Did you just *gasp* cursed?"

"I plead insanity." Alice shrugged. "So…ready?"

Tea nodded solemnly and withdrew her switchblade, which came out with an audible click. "Born ready." She acknowledged. "But you're going to need a weapon, right?"

Alice chewed on her bottom lip nervously, knowing what came next. Her eyes shot to the machete impaled in the man's chest. It seemed to call out to her, glistening in the setting sun. Her steps were slow towards it; she wanted the walk to last forever. The blood-soaked ground squished under her feet and she set one of them on the dead man's leg. Her left hand slowly grasped the well-worn handle of the tool, and it felt as if a tinge of electricity surged through her. With a hearty grunt, she pulled the weapon from the body and held it before her, blood dripping from the tip of the blade.

"Promise me something, Tea." She said after staring at the blade for a moment.

"What?"

"Promise me…that I won't become my mother."

"I promise." Tea said, silently crossing her fingers behind her back.

To Be Continued…



 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Update - 8/28/2013

Hey, Vidkids!

It's been a while since I've last updated, and I apologize. Been busy putting together all of my sites online, all of my stories. Also putting thoughts into putting more Real World Commentary here, like my thoughts on the unfortunate Trayvon Martin. But then again, its covered on my deviantart page, in the Journal section.

Again, if you want to read The Syndicate of Carnality, you'll have to check it out on my deviantart page. If I get some requests, I will post it here. But, running the concept over in my mind, both Syndicate and Delta City Doomsday are written similar to the famous G.I. Joe five-part pilots, like the ol Pyramid of Darkness mini-series.

Yeah, both stories are pilots, although there is no guarantee that I will continue with either, because of professional work. Speaking of that...I finished the story I was working on, a space story in the vein of Planet Comics and Starcrash. Yes, I said Starcrash. I adore exploitation cinema and B-movies, and this movie, which I recently viewed on Epix Drive-In, was awesome. Stella Star needs a sequel, man!

My story uses characters from Planet Comics, like Gale Allen, Amazona, and Mysta of The Moon, in this crazy B-movie-styled adventure against a galactic threat. The only problem? I technically did not finish it. I left it at a cliffhanger, and as of this typing, I have to proofread it and refine it a final time. In truth, the story was supposed to be 15,000 words, and for Metahuman Press. However, it's growing bigger!

I decided to put in a stopping point, and focus on my first novel again, the one I choked on last year. This also means the short story sequel to Blackout '77 is on hold as well, the one that was going to guest-star Elvis. Maybe I'll put what I have written so far on here:).

 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Easy Readin': Overmaster Wars: Delta City Doomsday!

I think everyone will agree that having the story in one place would be better to read. I consider this the true Overmaster Wars story, as the original, Great Thunder, was written as a companion piece to Mr. Brad Chung's awesome stories...and thus, I emulated many of his trademarks. Delta City Doomsday, involving characters created by Paulposer, Angelic_Kitten, and B69, as well as Brad Chung, on the other hand, is strictly me...while still having some fanservice and ecchi tendancies.

But that's the trademarks I wanted to apply to the stories anyway. Not trying to write War and Peace here, just good, fun, superheroine stories.

Alright, here we go:

Act One

Act Two

Act Three

Act Four

Act Five

Act Six

Act Seven

Also, The Sound of Great Thunder can be read on Ultimate Superheroine Forum.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Dusty Video Box Presents: Overmaster Wars: Delta City Doomsday - Act Seven

Overmaster Wars:
Delta City Doomsday - Act Seven
By M. Hadley


In the cold, antiseptic room that resembled an elevator, Trish held her ground in one corner facing forward, not daring to move. Her trembling left hand held her right arm as she stared straight at the featureless wall, her whole body trembling uncontrollably. And while Superhose whispered reassurances to her thoughts, the wondrous garment itself was steadily increasing in luminosity, as the sheer danger it sensed in proximity was omnipresent.

There were no buttons to push for motion. Instead, it seemed the silvery monstrosity of bones and tubes behind her was the controller of the bizarre vessel, transporting her to God knows where.

A sound interrupted her mental panic, but not for the better. From unseen speakers, a song suddenly reached Trish's ears, serving only to unhinge her even more.

It was the rock group's Queen worldwide hit, "Another One Bites The Dust".

*Don't give in to the fear, Trish!* Superhose chanted, rallying courage in its owner. *That's what he wants you to do, to succumb!!*

*How did Gran Evie handle him, Superhose?* Trish asked desperately.

*With faith, kid. Faith.* Superhose assured her.

Just as the pigtailed blonde was about to ask her partner another question, a tiny part of the wall before her suddenly turned transparent. Forming a minuscule circle of clearness, it began to spread slowly, growing bigger by the second. In under a minute, the elevator had become something of a glass box, revealing an expansive fantastic world that was more horrifying to the disguised Protector than astonishing.

While they were within something resembling a typical elevator shaft, speedily ascending to the sky, the levels displayed before them were in measurements impossible by human standards. It was as if each level of the building was simply a peek into a city or countrywide landscape, unfeasible to fit on a typical building floor. However, while each floor had a unique focus, all shared the same frightening theme: the subjection of women.

One floor consisted of a gargantuan ivory maze, with half-naked frightened women racing for their lives from silvery skeletal androids with harsh spotlight eyes. Another had screaming and thrashing women staring into giant eyeball-like machines, which forcefully hypnotized them and forced them to either fight or make out with each other. Yet another floor had women, these in various superheroine costumes, having their naked breasts being strapped into bizarre devices.

*Trish…my goodness…* Superhose marveled. *The Milk Machines.*

*Those poor ladies…* Trish sighed in agony.

The peculiar elevator's surface suddenly became solid again as it came to a gentle halt. The door opened lengthwise with a woman's scream, sending chills racing down Trish's spine. She was a mass of goosebumps when she exited the elevator, not looking back for a second at her inhuman host. Her sandaled foot hit linoleum, or what resembled linoleum.

"Look up, girl." She whispered to herself, and obeyed her self-command.

Gone was the usual plush, typically CEO-styled office of the Don of Delta City. In its place was a monstrous mutation, a manifestation of mad science gone wild. Like everything else in the Tower, its space was impossible to determine from the outside. Although normal compared to the floors she had witnessed before it, Trish determined that it was at least half a football field, a deduction confirmed by the Superhose measuring it. Gigantic computer screens and multi-colored mainframe panels covered the bulk of the wall space, along with a couple of towering bookcases filled to the brim with literary works. A huge golden desk set directly in the center of the gargantuan room, empty. Behind it was a stripper pole on a raised circular platform, overlooking an extraordinary view of the world famous Delta City skyline. Sitting by the stripper pole was a woman in an Ultra Woman costume and stripper heels, chained to said pole with a golden dog collar and chain.

Immediately before Trish was six clear tubes that she recognized from Superhose's reminiscence as "Graviton Tubes". Each one held the statuesque form of a masked heroine beauty, bound by the wrists and ankles by pink energy ropes and pulled violently by the clash of gravitational forces.

"Shimmering Stars!" she exclaimed, slowly walking up to one of the tubes. The poor heroine being held inside made painful eye contact. A scream escaped her bleeding lips.

"You gotta help us!" she sobbed, flexing wildly in her fantastical bonds. "Please!"

Just as Trish's hand was about to touch the glass surface of the tube, a silvery skeleton landed before her with an earthshattering thud.

"The master will be meeting with you in a few minutes." It droned with a curtsey. "Please, take a seat."

Trish's eyes lingered on her poor fellow crimefighter in dire straits, while Superhose had to nudge her onward. The six Graviton Tubes seemed to form a pathway of sorts, leading to two small chairs directly before the great golden desk. Reluctantly, Trish took a seat, crossing her legs nervously. The silvery skeleton stood behind her, become a still, silent sentinel as it awaited its creator.

The measurement of time became lost to the undercover Golden-Haired Crimebuster as she sat paralyzed in the very throneroom of Hell on Earth. The exasperated screams of the trapped occupants of the Graviton Tubes, combined with the disturbing imagery she had witnessed so far was taking its toll on the poor soul, nearly succeeding in breaking her resolve.

But it was not enough. Trish pressed her lips together, causing a stoic expression to overtake her charming features. She was the champion of Capitol City, and leader of the Protectors of Justice. She wore the legendary Superhose, or Uberhosen, passed down from her grandmother before her, a shining star of her own generation if there ever was one. This creep, this "Overmaster" was simply another madman, like the dozens she had faced in her adventures back home. Lady Chlorofoot, Constricta, her own Don De Cienzo…they had all fallen before her sleek pantyhosed feet.

That train of thought also brought out her one true failure, the Silk Vixen. Detective Sgt. Jack MacTaggert was still months away from a full recovery from her horrendous attack, and while the Sleek-Legged Beauty brought the French miscreant to justice, the damage was still there. From there, her thoughts lingered on Halo, who seemed to mirror her own single-minded vigil at Jac Mac's bedside all those weeks ago. It seemed down right hypocritical to talk the Angelic Avenger away from her self-induced post by the comatose Golden Angel's side, but it had to be done.

For Trish had a first hand experience of the darkness of revenge consuming one's soul.

*Trish!* Superhose ripped her from her mental reverie. *Look at that!*

The pigtailed blonde obeyed her partner's cerebral nudge, glancing down at her feet, and gasped audibly. The floor was an amber color and transparent. Below her very feet was a giant pool of sorts, with no visible bottom. Swimming inside that pool, an inch beneath the floor's clear surface was a giant silvery leviathan, resembling a fat snakelike creature. Its gargantuan head was a silvery skull, just like the silvery skeletal creatures, with laser-red spotlight eyes. Swimming frantically before it was a long-haired beauty with a stunning upper female form and a sleek fishlike body with jewel-like green scales.

It was an actual mermaid of legend.

*That is a Surfacer Synturion.* Superhose reported in a frightened tone. *They can seem to swim through concrete as well as water because of their burrowing capabilities. They can capture a superheroine by swallowing her whole and then squeezing her either into unconsciousness or death.*

*Oh my goodness…* Trish marveled. *Like that "Tremors" movie?*

*Oh, Trish, my dear…please, please forgive me. There was a pact between your Gran Evie and I to forget the war we fought in all those years ago. And I guess it had succeeded. It should have fallen into place when the Dirty Pair was attacked in Yoshiwara…but here…everything is coming back…*

*So what are those skeleton things?*

*Trish…they are the thing of nightmares. Chloroformed-powered gynoids, the horrifying personification of perversion and mad science. Built to be mockeries of superheroines, our mirror duplicates, though horrifically caricatured…Synturions. The Heroine-Hunters. Tireless. Deadly. And like myself…indestructible…*

*Nothing evil is indestructible, Superhose.*

*And yet, your conviction is lacking, kid.*

As the mental exchange was unfolding, the mermaid had led the Surfacer Synturion on a frenzied chase in the murky water, and had even disappeared from view for a moment. But suddenly, as Trish watched helplessly, the blonde creature of myth had returned, her tail fin a blur as she soared up from the depths to where the heroine was sitting. She pounded on the surface beneath Trish's feet, her frantic small fists making no noise for the petite blonde to hear.

"I'm sorry!" Trish choked back a sob, shaking her head frenetically. She glanced away from a moment, trying not to make eye contact with the mermaid directly below her.

But curiosity returned her gaze to the floor, where the mermaid was in tears, her hands covering her eyes. Directly below her, huge red twin spotlights lanced out of the gloom, heralding the head-on charge of the mammoth Surfacer threat.

"Below you!" Trish fell to her knees, slapping the floor madly, trying to gain the attention of the mermaid. Sadly, however, the watery maiden was engrossed in her sobbing, oblivious to the menace that loomed seconds away.

*We can't save her, Trish.* Superhose said sadly. *At least…not right now…*

"We can't give up!" Trish shouted audibly, smacking the floor frantically. The mermaid still did not budge from her position. It seemed that she had relinquished herself to her fate.

The silvery skull face of the abomination opened wide, revealing a hole darker than the water surrounding it. Just as it was about to consume the water nymph whole-

"My apologies for my tardiness." A deep, eloquent masculine voice, mechanically filtered, startled Trish. Welcoming the interruption, the young woman's bespectacled eyes fell upon the newest visitor to the room. A black caped armored figure appeared, emerging from a skull's mouth that had spontaneously formed from the wall itself. It, or he was followed by two Synturions, pushing along the limp, lethargic form of an attractive young woman. A third Synturion emerged thereafter, reading a clipboard in one skeletal hand and holding a cup of steaming tea in the other. When it had fully stepped into the room, the mouth of the skull closed. The giant cranium, displaying a horrifying grin, melted into the wall, reverting it to its original solid form.

Sighing, the armored man removed his flowing cape and hung it on a metal coat rack that had risen out of the floor behind his desk. The two Synturions holding the sluggish beauty threw her harshly on the desk and stepped back, taking positions on both sides of their master's massive red chair. Her mind initially in a haze, Trish paid no attention to the woman lying drowsy before her. Then the familiarity began to overtake her senses, rendering her speechless.

The beauty had a richly tanned skin, with her luscious raven hair twisted in unique braids, accentuated by red beads at the tips. A thin golden tiara with a single ruby gem at the center adorned her forehead, coordinating with the ruby diamond that hung from a golden necklace around her slender throat. Her gorgeous, athletic form was clad in leopard skin, consisting of a mere one strap bra and bikini briefs. Her strong, shapely legs and pretty feet were covered with sleek shimmering pantyhose, adorned with straps that started at her ankles and tied at her knees.

Besides White Venus, this unfortunate champion of justice was also Shining Star's best friend and ally.

She was known as Malkia Msaka…The Hunter Queen.

Trish's fists clenched, taking every fiber in her being, as well as Superhose's coaxing, to maintain her composure.

The armored being sat in his great chair slowly, visually taking great joy in inspecting the dazed crimefighter on his desk before him. He opened her legs wide, painstakingly sliding his metal talons her muscled, pantyhosed limbs.

"You don't mind if I answer your questions while working, do you?" His flaring red eyes locked on the quivering woman in his midst.

Trish shook her head meekly, fighting every urge to leap over the desk and kick the monster's head off of his shoulders.

"Good." His gaze returned to the Hunter Queen's legs, specifically her pantyhose. "The famous 'Wonder Hose'…created by James Haversham…thought to have been lost in the wilds of Africa…"

A moan escaped from the lethargic Hunter Queen's crimson lips, muddled words that sent both Trish and her Superhose cringing in horror.

"Perfume…" she whispered, her head thrashing about on the cusp of unconsciousness. "I smell…Star's perfume…"