72. Tyler Morrison
Andrea and Kelly are lying unconscious in the back yard. There’s no sign of Lightning Lady, but I knew that. When Andrea drew my life force back to repower me, she brought my memories too. It’s been several years, but I still remember this day. I know what’s going to happen, and I know my part in it, even if the details are a little fuzzy from passing time.
I don’t bother trying to wake Andrea; she’s out for the duration. Instead I concentrate on Kelly. She’s naked and splayed on the grass. I forgot how really, really cute she was at this age. Not that she’s any slouch when I’m from. But I have to concentrate on waking her up.
It takes a couple of minutes, but she eventually stirs. She reflexively sucks in a deep breath, even though she was breathing normally while unconscious. I don’t watch her chest heave. Well, not much.
“Tyler? Are you here to rape me?”
“Not right now, love, we have work to do.”
That little pout I adore crosses her face. “Well why’d you wake me up, then?”
“We have to save Emo. Lightning Lady’s got her.”
“How can I help? All I did last time was prevent Andrea from getting a good shot in.”
“You won’t be in the way this time. Trust me. I need your help to prevent a catastrophe.” I don’t have the nerve to tell her how she’s going to do it. She’d never go along with me if I did.
“Well how are you going to find her?”
I hand her my cell phone. “Here. Check the incoming video stream. I’m going to cast a spell that I’ll have to do slowly because there’s no room for error. I’ll touch you when it’s ready.” And I begin casting my first-ever teleport spell, into a confined underground space where there’s plenty of clutter. And in my one bid to change history, I’m not going to break my ankle this time.
Emo is strapped to a bed, naked, with several wires hooked up to her. Lightning Lady is giving her an extremely personal shock treatment. Part of me is horrified, and part wishes I had a bigger screen.
“Aaaugh! Mom, stop! Please! Why are you doing this?”
“Don’t call me ‘Mom’ you little skank. You chose to side with the people who betrayed us. Betrayed me! Your true nature is showing through. Once a villain, always a villain!”
“I’m a villain? Who’s got who strapped to a torture table, Mom?”
“I said don’t call me that!”
Emo’s back arches from the current and she screams. I feel for her, but God I wish I was the one on that table! That would be so kinky!
“Did you get that, villain?”
“Stop calling me that! I haven’t done anything wrong! You and the Sentinels were the ones out murdering people. You skipped over judge and jury, and went straight to executioner!”
“That’s for the good of everyone, girl. We did it, and part of them knew we were doing it, and they approved! Anything to keep the criminals from getting back onto the streets!” She punctuates it with another shock, a little more intense this time from Emo’s reaction.
“Yeah, I bet. And how many people have you killed? How many kids aren’t going to see their mother or their father come home? How many super villains are in their graves because of you? How many heroes? Aaaugh!”
That got her a really big zap.
“The big question is why didn’t I kill you when you were a baby? Instead we tried to raise you to be a good citizen like us, and how did that turn out?” Another zap. “Well? How did that turn out, you little ingrate?”
Tyler puts his arm around me and draws me close. I drop the phone, but it’s too late to pick it back up. Everything changes.
74. Tyler Morrison
This time the port goes perfectly. I hope that little change doesn’t wreck the time stream. I recall hearing that if you fart on a butterfly you can change things enough that apes have taken over the planet by the time you get home. I hope five years isn’t enough for that to happen, but you never know.
Emo is screaming. I hate hearing people scream in pain; it’s easily the most horrible sound in the universe. She always carried the pain of this inside her. If only I could stop things before the big one, the jolt that really wrecked her life. My little success at changing things gives me courage. Maybe I can make a difference. All I have to do is be a little bit faster.
“Well, Mistress O’Payne? Are you enjoying this? I am! Payback’s a bitch, isn’t it.” Zap.
“I’m not her, Mo… Lightning Lady! I don’t remember any of it! I lived a totally different life!”
“Too bad, girl. That means you won’t appreciate the irony of this as much as I do.” Zap.
“Tyler, I have an idea.”
She tells me her idea. Whoa. Time shift; it was my idea last time. The difference is trivial, but it’s a sure sign I’ve changed something. I don’t have time to think about it, though; I have to act now. I concentrate on the targets and launch the spell with as short a phrase as I can manage. “Slip wargs!” Willpower will have to do the rest.
I hear the crackle of the electricity, smell the scent of frying bacon. I’m too late. The naked girl in my arms gasps. It’s Emo. There’s only a bit of the bacon smell coming from her but she passes out anyway. Now I stand up so Lightning Lady can see me. Reflex is now the one strapped to the table being baked.
“Whee-ooh! That was fantastic! Do it again!”
Lightning Lady is staring in shock at the table. I throw my next spell before she figures out what happened.
“Garbund hen dorner hid!”
Copper wire wraps her up uncomfortably tight, surrounded by a layer of rubber. I don’t remember the spell looking this kinky five years ago, but there it is. She falls to the ground, cursing but now rendered ineffectual by being bound and grounded. She can’t even thunder-port away.
“Tyler! Get over here!” I head over to tend to Kelly.
75. Leandra Moon
I wake up in a bed with my hands restrained. I look around; Sandy has my left hand and Jake has my right. Jake? But he’s dead! He smiles at me and keeps holding my hand in a gentle grip I can’t budge. He then asks the stupidest question in the world.
“Are you all right, Emo?”
“Oh God! How are you alive? I mean … I don’t mean it that way, but I thought you were dead!”
“After Bombshell blew up, she and I got sucked out of the wreckage by Doug. It took him hours to wake us up. When he told me what had happened to you guys I came straight here. All I could think about was my girl.”
“Your girl? I’m not your girl, Jake.” He looks stricken. “But I’m open to offers.”
Even though I should have, I totally don’t expect the kiss. It doesn’t last long enough.
“Leandra, there’s something else I have to tell you, and you’re not going to like it.”
Sandy looks annoyed. “Jake! I told you it’s not the right time to tell her.”
“She’s got to know, Sandra! She’s both a hero and an ex-villain; nobody’s going to cut her any slack!” He turns back to me. “Sorry to be the one to tell you, Leandra. Lightning Lady’s goal was to humiliate you as badly as she could, then kill you. If not for all that weirdness with Tyler, she would have succeeded. The whole thing was being streamed live on video to anybody who was willing to watch. She even advertised it on social media.”
I can feel the tears welling up unbidden. “I’ll never be able to go out in public again!”
“Yeah, you will. Something came up …” Did he just pause there? “… that made you look like the warm-up show.”
“Well, Kelly Nakamura – Reflex – took your place on the slab. That’s why you weren’t killed. But when it was over she flat out ordered Tyler to … to …” I’ve never seen Jake embarrassed before. It’s kind of cute.
Peregrine saves him. “They had sex on the live feed. And they both knew it was on the live feed; you can tell by the way they smiled for the camera afterward.”
76. Derek Charles
“Mmmm. Keep rubbing, Derek.”
“Yes, Dearest.” I’m kneading the tension out of Kate’s back. Goodness knows she’s got a lot. It’s been a hell of a weekend.
She tenses up again. “Derek, I …”
“Shush, Dearest. I don’t want to hear about Hawk again. You were in a lot of pain at the time, and he deserved exactly what he got.”
“But I ate him!”
“Animal instinct, Love. You’ll have to pay more attention to self-control, but we can work on that. You and me together, we can do anything.”
“Do you think we should become heroes?”
“No. I’m happy enough as a vigilante, or maybe a Robin Hood-type villain. After all, we do rob from the rich…”
“We don’t give to the poor, Dear.”
“And how poor would we be if we didn’t keep the money, Kate? We have a henchman and a growing army of robots to support.”
“What about fighting the others? They’re going to be heroes, you know.”
“Well, some of them are. But we’re villains. We’ll just make sure our deathtraps are like Dad’s.”
“You mean no real chance of death.”
“Right. Just very scary and threatening-looking.”
“Not very evil, is it dear?”
“It’s as evil as I’m willing to be, Love.”
77. Tyler Morrison
On the way into school I’m accosted by the bullies, as usual. I’m expecting the usual nerd jokes, but they’ve got something else on their minds today.
Tom, the leader of the pack, starts. “Hey Tyler-girl. I see you got lucky on the weekend. Your Mom was busy?”
Bert chips in. “I hear Queer Kelly only dates girls. I guess she’s staying true to form, heh heh!”
“Maybe you could send her to me, Tyler-girl. I can show her a real man who doesn’t play with magic.”
“Yeah, did you turn your dick into a g-spot for her? Maybe you should make it grow. Dig bick! Dig bick!”
They all join in the chant. I am seriously considering turning the lot of them into frogs.
They suddenly stop when a small hand comes around my waist. Kelly leans in and gives me a kiss on the cheek. She’s with Andrea, Lily, and Callisto; all four of them are all giggling.
“What’s this about, boys? Jealous? Personally I think his ‘bick’ is plenty ‘dig’ enough. In fact, I’m inviting him to spend some quality time with me and my friends later. Won’t that be fun, Tyler?”
My jaw drops open.
“Is that a yes? Good, we’ll meet after school and go to Callie’s place. Which is, after all, your place. I know Andrea’s got restrictions on what she can do from those Celestial Office Monkeys, but we’ve come up with a whole bunch of ways to get around the rules.”
The girls each plant a kiss on me as they go by. Now it’s Tom’s turn to be speechless.
Well, things are starting to work out. Guardsman and Lightning Lady are in jail, Hawk is dead, and nobody’s seen Phantasm since Callisto took him away. If and when he gets back he’s going to have to answer for his crimes too. Melanie Chambers is off the air and being detained by the police as an accessory to Guardsman’s crimes.
There are no more Justice Sentinels. Jake says the new group will be called the Protectors, and there won’t be any members who wear masks. Being a hero will be a full-time job, like being a fireman or a police officer; he’s even arranged for them to get salaries. Even Bombshell took off her mask, though nobody was really looking that high up.
I guess Ego’s plan worked after all, though I doubt it was the way he expected. I still don’t know what he was looking for in the base, but it doesn’t really matter now. As for Rhonda and I, we’re going on a vacation to Aruba. Having our own teleporter really saves on airfare.
79. Epilogue: Ruby Danvers
“So that’s Loni Keeler? Wow, she’s hot! Cougar on the prowl!”
Steve is prairie-dogging as she walks up the main aisle. Most of the guys are. She’s forty-something, tall and thin, with perfectly-styled curly black hair. Her suit is tailored, with matching accessories that scream expensive. It’s not even by a famous designer; according to rumour, she has her own personal fashion designer on staff and he works only for her. Right now she’s effortlessly pulling a trail of leers to Mr. Altman’s office.
My phone rings; it’s from the office. When I pick up it’s Mr. Altman. “Ruby, come to my office. Ms. Keeler has asked that you witness the document signing.”
I high-tail it. I don’t know why the lady who just bought the company would want me, an intern, to witness the documents giving her full ownership. But mine is not to question why, it’s to do.
When I get there Ms. Keeler flashes me a smile and I melt thinking of all the money behind it. I watch her and Mr. Altman sign the document, then attest to their signatures. Copies are handed to the lawyers; Ms. Keeler motions me to stay as they go.
“Good bye, Stanley. Enjoy Tahiti!” She shakes Mr. Altman’s hand and he’s gone like a shot.
Ms. Keeler turns to me. “Do you have any ideas on how to decorate your office, Ruby?”
“Yes, I’d like you to be my new Vice President of Operations. I’ve studied your record and I’m pretty sure you’d be a perfect fit.”
“But I’ve only worked here a month!”
“Not that record, dear. Former prostitute and drug addict. You cleaned yourself up and personally killed your pimp and his enforcers. That’s the kind of initiative and determination I need in a VP.”
“But how did you …”
“I’m not turning you over to the authorities, Ruby. Murder Monthly is a successful magazine but it’s feeling pressure from the internet; my plans include making more use of electronic publishing for the magazine and diversifying into a more ‘active’ side of the business. I want you to be my right hand in this; my apprentice, if you will. Can you do it?”
I get the feeling somewhere behind that question is a knife. But even if there isn’t, it would still be the best job I’ve ever had by a huge margin. And morals aren’t going to stop me. “I can do it, Ma’am.”
“Good. I’m sure you understand this is a full-time commitment. In addition to learning how to run a business, you’ll be in intensive personal training: aerobics, cardio, seduction, espionage, assassination, hand-to-hand combat. The whole gamut of needs for a corporate leader. I trust that between us we’ll make quite a killing in this business. Now, pull yourself together and we’ll inform your new staff. After all, we must follow Protocol.”
(c) 2013, Tim Smith. All rights reserved.