The Village, Sunday morning Nov 18th 2007
I crouched down on the rooftop, staring down at my target below. My eyes narrowed as I watched him walk across the Village, completely oblivious to what awaited.
“Strike three,” I said, not taking my eyes off Barney. “You’re out.”
If Barney thought it was bad the last time I’d seriously shown my displeasure, he was sorely mistaken. Since he hadn’t learned his lesson, it seemed that I was going to have to kick things up a notch or three.
A moment later, someone suddenly appeared beside me, or at least, he only appeared to be behind me. “Louis,” I said, not bothering to look at him. I was keeping my eyes locked on my target.
“What are you up to?” Louis Geintz asked.
Since I was already on the edge of a rooftop, doing the whole dark and brooding thing, I stood up and in a gruff voice, announced, “I am Bat Imp.”
Louis gave me a skeptical look. “Come on, Christine. What are you up to?” He looked over the edge of the roof and down at Barney. “I see that you and Roland are at it again.”
“We had a truce,” I grimly stated. “In spite of everything, I agreed to a ceasefire…and he broke it. Twice. Yesterday, he sent some heroes after me…”
Louis’ eyes widened and he gave me a look of surprise. “I have a hard time believing Roland would…
“Lumpy…Lamplighter told me that Barney called him and told him where to find me.” I glared down at Barney, snarling, “Of course you know, this means war…”
“Christine,” Louis stared, giving me a worried look.
However, my attention was locked on Barney, and I considered what I was going to do with him this time. An anvil…dropped right on his head. An anvil was a total classic. Maybe a huge one…one or two tons. Of course, I’d have to get a devisor to make me an anti-gravity devise or something, just so I could move it.
“That’s…disturbing,” Louis said, obviously having read my mind. “Amusing…but wrong in so many ways.”
“You’re right,” I responded with a scowl. “Barney is pretty strong when he grows, so I’ll need something a lot bigger than that…”
“Please don’t do anything rash,” Louis pleaded. “I know that Roland may have crossed a line, but…”
“Three strikes,” I said in a cold tone. “He had three strikes, so he’s out of chances…”
“Christine,” Louis said with an exasperated sigh. “For once, please restrain yourself.”
A moment later, Louis vanished. I just shook my head and mused, “I wonder where I can find a ten-ton anvil…”
I looked back down at Barney again, only to see that he was now staring back up at me. Apparently, Louis and I had been a little too loud during our conversation and Barney had heard us. Ooops. There goes the element of surprise.
“Imp,” Barney said with a snarl, the hatred clear in his eyes.
“What’s the matter, Barney?” I called down. “Didn’t think I’d get away from your little trap?”
With that, I jumped off the roof, using my PK aura to absorb most of the impact as I landed, though I rolled with it to mitigate the rest of the hit. When I came back to my feet, I glared at Barney, who was glaring back.
Barney snarled, “I knew I couldn’t count on the Crimson Kid and his friends…”
My eyes went wide at that and I felt a surge of anger. So THAT was how the IRS had known to wait for me at the gallery. Barney had told them, just like he’d told Lumpy.
“So, you send all those other people after me, because you don’t have the balls to come at me yourself,” I said with a sneer. “At least this time, it’s not a bunch of kids…”
Barney suddenly began to grow, one foot and then two. “I’ve had all I can stand of you, villain. It’s time I finally dealt with you myself…”
“Bring it on, Barney,” I said. “You can kiss your purple ass goodbye…”
With an angry yell, Barney grew another two feet and swung a fist at me. I leapt back, easily avoiding his attack. However, he was still growing. It looked like this was going to be just like old times.
“ENOUGH!” a voice exclaimed from above.
I looked up and saw Carson floating in the air, wearing her casual weekend clothes and looking pissed. She lowered herself to the ground and Louis appeared beside her. One guess as to who told her about this.
“You’re both teachers now,” Carson announced in an angry tone. “ACT LIKE IT!”
“She’s no teacher,” Barney argued. “She’s a villain, and I caught her red-handed, planning to rob an art gallery…”
I didn’t bother to deny this accusation, because to explain why I was really there, I would have had to reveal my identity as Candice, and there was no way I’d do that to him. That arrogant prick would only try to ruin that for me, just like he was trying to ruin this Whateley gig.
“I said enough,” Carson said, leveling a flat gaze at Barney. Then she glared at me. “I know you two have history, but I expect you both to behave professionally.”
“You don’t know what she’s done,” Barney stated. “Someone has to bring her to justice…”
“You wouldn’t know justice if it bit you on your purple arse,” I responded with a dismissive snort.
Carson glared at both of us, and for a moment, I was sure she was going to fire me…and perhaps even Barney as well. If I lost this gig because of him, then he could rest assured that he would definitely pay for that. He’d already cost me far too much already.
“Might I make a suggestion,” Louis offered.
All three of us turned to look at him. “Go ahead,” Carson said.
“Roland and the Imp have a number of issues to work out,” Louis said. “Perhaps they could resolve their disagreements the way many of our students do...in the sims.”
“The sims,” Carson mused with a thoughtful expression. Then she smiled faintly. “Yes, I think a ‘friendly’ sim match would be the perfect way for the two of you to work out your differences.”
I glared at Barney for a moment before nodding agreement. “Fine,” I said. “The sims it is.”
“Agreed,” Barney added a moment later.
“Then I’ll arrange your sims match for this afternoon,” Carson said. “I have a feeling that the sooner you can get this out of your systems, the better.” Then her expression hardened again as she reminded us, “And of course, as always, what happens in the sims stays in the sims.”
I nodded again, not exactly thrilled about having to deal with Barney in the sims, since it would be much more satisfying to teach him another lesson in real life where it would be much more likely to stick. However, there were benefits to fighting in the sims, and I intended to take full advantage of them.
Whateley Academy, Sunday early afternoon, Nov 18th 2007
Elizabeth Carson sat in her office with Louis Geintz. The fact that she was in her office on a Sunday was nothing new. As the headmistress of Whateley Academy, there was no such thing as real time off, merely brief periods of calm between the storms requiring her personal attention. And as she well knew, those storms could arrive at any time, regardless of whether or not it was convenient for her.
“I expect this kind of behavior from the students…not the faculty,” Carson said in an annoyed tone.
“Those two have been at each other’s throats since Christine arrived on campus,” Louis pointed out with a faint scowl. “I suspect that it was only a matter of time before they came to physical blows. In fact, my only real surprise is that it’s taken this long.”
Carson leaned back in her chair and scowled with a thoughtful expression. “I know Roland and Christine have a history, but I’m clearly missing some important details. I know several people, myself included, who have tried capturing Christine during her previous career, but she doesn’t hold any grudges against us.”
Louis chuckled faintly. “As Christine might say, you were just her professional opposition, and she doesn’t take that kind of thing personally.”
“But this grudge between her and Roland is most definitely personal,” Carson mused. “The question is, why?” Then she paused to stare at Louis. “You already know, don’t you?”
“And here I thought that I was the mind reader,” Louis responded wryly.
Carson gave him a flat look. “Louis…”
Louis let out a sign and shook his head. “I promised Christine I wouldn’t tell anyone, but I think the situation has escalated enough that you need to know.” He hesitated another couple seconds before announcing, “Christine blames Roland for the loss of her child.”
“What?” Carson asked in surprise.
Louis nodded sadly. “You know that Roland has a temper, and a rather large amount of pride, while Christine has a talent for both angering and embarrassing people…”
“They’re like fire and gasoline,” Carson responded in agreement.
“From what both Roland and Christine have said,” Louis continued, “Roland took Christine’s usual mocking much more personally than most. And when he happened to stumble across her location in an unguarded moment, he took advantage of the opportunity to vent his anger and frustration.” He paused for a moment, looking Carson in the eyes as he continued, “According to Christine, he ambushed her and beat her half to death, then intentionally tried to finish the job by drowning her.”
Carson’s eyes widened just a little. “I see.”
“I spoke to Roland about this as well,” Louis told her. “And though he phrased things quite differently, he confirmed the general events. In this particular situation, I believe Christine’s version.”
“I see,” Carson repeated with a scowl. “And what does this have to do with the loss of her child?” Then she paused with a sudden look of understanding.
Louis nodded. “Christine had been pregnant at the time.”
A look of anger passed over Carson’s face and flared in her eyes before she regained control of her expression and hit it behind a calm mask. “That would definitely explain Christine’s grudge…”
“You already know the rest,” Louis said with a sigh. “She retaliated by humiliating Roland so badly that he was forced to retire from being a hero, and he holds a personal grudge from that.”
“Then they both ended up here at Whateley,” Carson stated
“I’m amazed that Christine’s retaliation wasn’t a lot worse than it was,” Louis admitted. “And the fact that she was willing to abide by a truce with Roland clearly demonstrates that she has much more self-control than anyone ascribes to her.”
“And now their truce seems to be at an end,” Carson said with a clear note of annoyance.
Louis nodded at that. “Roland has been trying to work around it for several months, sending proxies after Christine without attacking her directly. According to Christine, yesterday was the last straw. She told me that Roland contacted Lamplighter and sent him after her.”
“He WHAT?” Carson demanded. “It seems that Roland and I will need to have a talk about appropriate behavior, as well as our neutrality rules…” Then she paused, scowling deeply as she considered the situation. “Now I need to figure out how to diffuse this feud before I’m forced to fire two of my teachers.”
“I don’t think we can stop their enmity,” Louis admitted. “Not now. I believe that the best we can do is to confine their fighting to an acceptable form…like the sims.”
“You may be right,” Carson said with a scowl and a shake of her head. “Hopefully, their match this afternoon will let them both get it out of their systems…at least for the time being.”
Whateley Academy, Sunday afternoon, Nov 18th 2007
I crouched down on the roof of a tall building, silently surveying my domain. My domain was a city, or at least, several city blocks which resembled parts of Brooklyn. There were a lot of brownstone buildings, but nothing more than six stories tall.
The buildings were ideal for me, since they provided walls to scramble up, roofs to leap across, and plenty of places to duck out of sight and hide. In fact, half of this sim almost seemed to have been designed specifically to give me an advantage.
Of course, the other half consisted of extra-wide streets, a large intersection, not to mention a park with a big grassy field. These areas were ideal for a giant who needed a lot of room to move around, which made them perfect for Barney. Unfortunately, this same open ground was a serious problem for me, because it provided few places to take cover or hide.
“Half the terrain benefits him, and half benefits me,” I mused. “Only fair, I guess.”
While looking over the general terrain, I also noticed one other complication for this sim. The people. This wasn’t an empty city, but a live and bustling one, with people walking down the street and doing their normal thing. Of course, they weren’t real people and were only part of the sim, but they added a depth of realism.
Then I saw Barney, who had probably been dropped off on the opposite section of the game board as me. That was no surprise though since we were opponents in this little game.
“I never liked Monopoly,” I mused, looking around at all the buildings. “I’m more of a Mousetrap girl…”
My attention went back to Barney, who was now over twenty feet tall and dressed in his old T Rex Costume which was mostly red spandex. From what I could see at this distance, he no longer looked much like he did in the real world. He was about fifteen to twenty years younger, and not only had he dropped a few years of age, he’d also lost the beard and the spare tire from his gut.
Barney might have made himself look younger in the sim, and in much better shape, but I wasn’t the least bit concerned. The truth was, Barney had been out of action for a long time, so younger or not, he was still rusty and out of practice.
I remained where I was, silently watching Barney for several minutes. Okay, I was glaring at him, but I’d earned that right. I was not a vengeful Imp. Sure, there were times when someone crossed a line and I had to teach them a lesson, but after I was done with that, I usually put it out of my mind and moved on. I’d tried doing that with Barney, but it hadn’t worked. The very sight of him brought back memories from one of the worst times of my life, and even when I tried playing nice, he continued to push. I’d tried teaching him a lesson, but it just hadn’t worked.
“Good thing I’m a teacher now,” I said with an evil grin. “This time, I’m going to make sure the lesson sticks.”
With that, I quickly hurried across the buildings, leaping from rooftop to rooftop while trying to stay out of sight. I kept an eye on Barney as I did so, which was easy to do thanks to his current size. One thing I’d always liked about Barney, was that he always made an enormous target.
Once I was in position, I decided that it was time to make my move. I wasn’t about to go running out to Barney, where I’d be out in the open. Instead, I needed to bring him to me. And I knew exactly how to do that.
I reached into my backpack and pulled out a portable IPod and some speakers which I’d had scanned into my sim record right before we began the match. With a snicker, I set the right tune, hit play, and then hurried away from the IPod as quickly as I could.
From behind me, the Barney theme song began playing. “I love you. You love me…” It was annoying as hell, but as much as it bothered me, it was a LOT worse for Barney.
“IMP!” Barney yelled, already flying into a rage from the song.
The giant ‘hero’ ran to the building, growing even larger as he did so. A massive hand smashed down on the roof, crushing my IPod and ending the song. Debris exploded from the impact and rained down onto the sidewalk below.
“AFTER ALL THESE YEARS,” Barney roared, “I’M FINALLY GOING TO GET YOU!”
I glared at Barney from the next building over, the very sight of him in that costume being enough to make my own rage bubble to the surface. I snarled and my PK claws dug into the roof, slicing right through it. I was just as pissed as Barney was, but unlike him, I wasn’t going to charge forward in a blind rage. Angry and vengeful make you sloppy. Sure, I was REALLY pissed at Barney, but I couldn’t afford to get sloppy. That meant trying to put a lid on my own anger.
“Keep him angry and off balance,” I quietly told myself. “Don’t get that way yourself.”
Unfortunately, that was easier said than done. Still, I was experienced enough to know that if I let myself lose control like that, then I’d be giving up any advantage I had. If I let myself get that sloppy, then I was almost guaranteed to lose, and there was absolutely no way in hell that I was going to lose to Barney.
“I hate you, you hate me. You’re an asshole can’t you see,” I sang out to the Barney tune.
Barney hurried to the building I now occupied, but before he could reach me, I pulled my vanishing trick. I disappeared in a puff of smoke, leaving him angry and frustrated. I carefully crept away, which wasn’t easy since I wanted to run as fast as I could, rather than crawl at a snail’s pace.
“WHERE ARE YOU?” Barney demanded.
I just crouched down beside a water tower on top of a building, suddenly wishing that I’d brought some purple dye. I snickered at the idea of what I could do with that, and just how pissed off I could make him. Unfortunately, I hadn’t had time to get any dye loaded into the sim registry, so I had to make do with what I did have.
“Fee fi fo fum,” I called out while standing out in the open where he could see me. “Boy your face sure looks dumb.”
Barney came at me again, and I heard people screaming from the street below. Since he obviously wasn’t watching where he was stepping, there was a good chance that he was stepping on civilians.
“NOW I’VE GOT YOU, YOU FREAK!” Barney yelled, swinging a massive fist at me.
This was just what I was waiting for, so I abruptly ran to the side, forming a PK blade around the flat of my tail as I did so. I ran past the water tower, slicing the support legs as I went past. The whole water tower tipped sideways and crashed open, pouring the contents right into Barney’s face.
“You’re all washed up,” I exclaimed, right before I abruptly changed direction and ran straight towards Barney
The giant Barney was standing right beside the building, and he was in the process of wiping the water out of his eyes. I leapt at him as hard as I could, and then at the last moment, I focused every ounce of PK energy around my fists, and punched Barney as hard as I could. There was a crunching sound as his nose shattered beneath my blow.
Barney howled in pain as he grabbed for his nose, which was now gushing blood. I simply used his face as a springboard and shoved myself off and back towards the roof before his hands could reach me. Once I was on the roof, I burned rubber, making sure I got well out of his reach before I pulled my vanishing trick again.
“You know,” I called out from my hiding spot on top of the next building over. “Fat, dumb, and ugly, really works for you.”
By this point, Barney was in a blind rage, and he began attacking everything in sight…but well away from where I was actually located. The side of the building shook and shattered as windows and walls crumbled beneath his blows. Chunks of roof were torn off and thrown behind him. He didn’t seem to care about anyone inside the building, which was nothing new. He’d always been reckless in real life and had thrown even that small bit of restraint away now that we were in the sims.
“Where’s Godzilla when you really need him?” I asked aloud, which only made Barney attack even more frantically. “Or Grape Ape. Yeah, definitely Grape Ape, Grape Ape.”
I dropped my chameleon field and ‘reappeared’ in a puff of smoke. That immediately got Barney’s attention, especially when I ran and leapt over to the next building. He immediately came after me again, completely ignoring the simulated civilians in his path.
“Neener neener neener,” I called out. “Barney has a really small wiener.” Then I paused long enough to blow him a raspberry.
“I’M GOING TO KILL YOU!” Barney yelled. “LAMPLIGHTER AND THE CRIMSON KID MAY HAVE FAILED TO STOP YOU, BUT I WON’T. NOT THIS TIME.”
“Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries,” I called back with a smirk, while simultaneously flipping him off.
“DIE, YOU COCKROACH!” Barney howled as he began tearing into the new building, apparently trying to tear it out from beneath me.
Now that I’d pushed Barney’s buttons enough to drive him into a full-blown temper tantrum, it was time to get serious. “No more miss nice Imp,” I said.
“I’M GOING TO SQUASH YOU LIKE THE COCKROACH YOU ARE,” Barney threatened.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I said dismissively. “You know, you’re starting to sound like a broken record. You’re getting too predictable… BORING!”
Barney seemed confused by that, and by the fact that I was now coming straight towards him. He tried slapping at me, but I dropped down and his hand missed.
“It’s time to change things up,” I announced, giving Barney a cold glare before adding, “To the pain.”
Barney tried hitting me again, but this time, I charged forward. I leapt right at his face, throwing several spikes ahead of me and sending one of them straight into his eye. At his current size, they were nothing more than slivers. However, getting your eye pierced by a metal sliver was still extremely painful.
While Barney screamed out and grabbed his eye, I landed on his shoulder. In a quick move, I tossed one of my smoke bombs right into his ear canal, then raked my PK claws along the side of his face. When the smoke bomb exploded, he staggered with his equilibrium thrown off.
This would have been a great time to make a snarky comment, but I didn’t think Barney would be able to hear it with that ear. And honestly, I was done playing ‘friendly neighborhood Imp’ for now, and ready to finally show Barney what happened when he really pissed me off.
A moment later, I formed a PK blade on the flat of my tail and slammed it down into Barney’s shoulder, right as I stepped off and began sliding down his back. My tail trailed behind me, slicing Barney all the way down, just like a razor blade. I couldn’t go deep enough to really get anything critical, but I could really make it hurt.
When I hit the ground, I went into a roll, bounced back to my feet, then ran straight for the nearest door. Barney was staggering around, stumbling and screaming. I definitely did NOT want to get caught underfoot.
“YOU BITCH,” Barney yelled, trying to stomp on me, though I was already out of his way.
However, he quickly turned his attention to the building and began kicking at the side, shattering windows and crushing the sides. I leapt out of the now missing window and ran straight towards his oversized feet. With a flick of my tail, my PK blade went right through his achilles tendon.
With his tendon sliced, Barney’s leg could no longer support him and he dropped down to his knees, still screaming in pain. I dove to the side, taking advantage of the opportunity to get his other tendon as well. Now he wouldn’t be getting back up again.
“Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle Imp,” I called out, unable to resist the power of the snark side.
There was one thing that Barney hadn’t considered about fighting in the sims. Sure, he could cut loose and not worry about collateral damage, but by the same rules…I didn’t have to hold back either.
Normally, there were things I just didn’t do in a fight unless I was cornered and had no choice. But in the sims, where there were no permanent consequences, EVERYTHING was on the table…much to Barney’s misfortune.
I’d taken out Barney’s mobility, but he was still huge and strong, a fact that I was forced to remember when he swung his arm against the side of the building and flung debris in my direction. I dove to the side, avoiding a chunk of stone, but a second piece came right at me. I formed a PK shield and blocked it, but missed yet another chunk, which hit my shoulder.
“Shazbot,” I exclaimed in pain.
MY whole shoulder hurt like hell, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if something was broken. I guess that was what happened when I get careless and overconfident.
“I’m not done yet,” I said, glaring at Barney, who was getting ready to fling another wave of debris.
Instead of running away from Barney, I ran towards him instead. He flung more debris, but this time his aim was off and I only had to dodge one piece. That REALLY hurt my shoulder, but not enough to stop me.
“Now to get you where it really hurts,” I exclaimed, running right between his legs and lashing out with my PK blade.
Barney immediately screamed…in soprano…and dropped to the ground where he curled up and tried grabbing at his ruined groin. He was in too much pain to even notice as I simply walked up to his face.
“You know why I went after you all those years ago?” I demanded in a quiet voice. I was close enough to his good ear that he should be able to hear me. “It wasn’t because you ambushed me on my day off, beat me to a bloody pulp, and then tried to murder me…or at least not JUST because of that.” I leaned down and hissed, “It was because I was pregnant at the time.”
Barney’s good eye widened, and I knew that he’d heard me. However, I doubted that he would regret his actions. He was full of too much pride and ego for something like that, which was why I’d just taken those things away from him.
Then with an evil grin, I ‘booped’ his nose and announced, “I win.”
The Village, Sunday late afternoon, Nov 18th 2007
I was sitting at my usual table in the Flying Blue Squirrel, leaning back in my chair and sipping my beer. The Village pub was a little busier than it usually was at this time on a Sunday, but most of these people were here for a few drinks after the show.
Smiling faintly, I remembered climbing out of my sim crèche a short time ago, only to find out that there had been a much bigger audience for my ‘private’ match than I’d expected. It seemed that a lot of the school faculty members didn’t really have anything else going on and had shown up to watch the match…and bet on it.
After the match, Barney had quietly slipped away in shame and humiliation. I hadn’t seen him since, nor did I want to. Sure, it would have been fun to brag and mock him a bit, but I didn’t really feel the need to do so at the moment.
That fight had been strangely cathartic, letting me release all the built-up anger and resentment. Now I felt oddly calm, and almost as though a weight had been removed from my shoulders. But of course, I had no doubt that Barney would piss me off again before long, and we’d probably build right back up to this again.
While I drank my beer, I quietly listened in on the conversation around me. Some of it brought a smile to my lips.
“I didn’t realize the Imp could be so…vicious,” one of the teachers said from a couple tables away.
Her table companion responded in a wry tone. “She’s a villain. You don’t survive in that field for as long as she did unless you can take care of yourself.”
Then I heard Gunny Bardue talking to Ryan Wilson, saying, “Williams was thrashing around like an epileptic rager, rather than like the hero he was supposed to be. I’ve seen incoming freshman perform better than that…on their first time in the sims.”
“It’s hard to believe he was EVER a hero,” Wilson agreed. “If that had been a real-world situation, he would have killed a couple dozen civilians during that rampage…”
Bardue scowled and took a long drink from his own glass. “If one of my students pulled that shit in the sims, I’d ream his ass then make him write a ten-page report on everything he did wrong.”
“Well, it was nice seeing him get his ass handed to him like that,” Wilson said with a chuckle.
That reminded me that Wilson had his own issues with Barney. Then again, Barney was an arrogant prick with a lot of loud opinions, and a real knack for pissing people off. At least when I did it, it was intentional.
I just smiled contentedly. My plan to push Barney’s buttons and drive him into a rage had worked. Nobody who’d seen that fight would ever be able to see him as a hero again. He’d crossed a couple lines and pissed me off, so once again, I hit him where it hurt most…his pride, ego, and reputation.
Of course, not everyone was happy about how the match had ended. I’d overheard some grumblings from those who thought Barney should have beaten me, and that I deserved it for what I’d done to him. However, other than a few dirty looks, nobody had said this to my face.
Just then, Wilson came over to my table and set a beer in front of me. “My treat,” he told me with a smile. “You earned me fifty bucks.”
“Thanks,” I responded with a nod of acknowledgment and a smile of my own.
Just as Wilson turned to leave, Ophelia Tenent came over with a somewhat disturbed look on her face. She cautiously said, “Your attacks were rather…vicious…”
“Yet, you’ll note,” Carson said, coming up behind her, “the Imp has a reputation for running away from fights, not for leaving a trail of bodies in her wake.”
“There is that, I suppose,” Ophelia admitted. “But I still think you have gone just a little too far.”
“Perhaps,” Carson said, giving me an odd look. “But in this specific instance, I think it may have been justified.”
Carson stared at me for several seconds, then gave me a faint nod before walking away. To my surprise, there was no lecture about behaving professionally and not fighting with other faculty members outside of the sims. Maybe she just assumed that I’d already learned that lesson.
I picked up the beer that Wilson had given me and took a sip. I hadn’t even taken a second when a familiar figure slipped into the chair across from me.
“Tabby,” I said with a smile. “Bored with Rhode Island again already?”
“Not exactly,” Tabby told me. “But I do have responsibilities here too…”
“Responsibility,” I said with a dismissive snort. “Who needs it.” Tabby chuckled at that.
“I’m gone for five minutes,” Tabby commented, “and you start taking down all the other teachers. And what’s worse, I just got back and missed the entire thing.”
“It was kind of short notice,” I admitted. “And honestly, I didn’t expect it to end up being such a big deal.”
“You should have,” Tabby told me with a smirk. “Everyone knows that you and Williams can’t stand each other, so when you finally come to blows, they want to see it for themselves.”
I just rolled my eyes at that. “Well, if I’d known we’d have such a big audience, I would have sold tickets.”
“Pay-per-view,” Tabby replied. “You’d get a bigger haul.”
“Good point,” I agreed. Then I asked, “So, you finish cleaning up that whole Triangle mess?”
“We shut down the cell in Providence,” Tabby answered with a thoughtful look, “but I’m pretty sure a couple slipped away, and that isn’t even taking into account all their other cells outside of Rhode Island.”
“At least you know to look out for them now,” I pointed out.
Tabby nodded, though she didn’t look happy. “Yes, but unfortunately, their PR machine is already at work, and the Triangle is claiming that we’re a bunch of mutant supremacists who are making up a bunch of lies to interfere with their attempts at peaceful coexistence.”
“Of course,” I commented with a shake of my head. “What else are they going to say?”
Tabby shrugged at that. “Anyway, back to something a little more interesting… Tell me about this fight between you and Williams?”
I grinned at that and began describing what happened, though I left out a lot of details that would have given away too much about my powers. I was a firm believer in the philosophy of always leave them guessing.
While I talked about how I’d completely humiliated and destroyed Barney, my thoughts went to some of my other enemies who also needed to learn a lesson or three. After what the IRS had pulled yesterday, they definitely deserved a little special attention too.
At this point, Franklin Delarose suddenly burst through the door and made a beeline straight for Carson. “We’ve got a problem,” he told her with a grim expression. “There’s been an incident in Berlin…”
While the two of them ran out the door, I turned to Tabby and joked, “At least this time, I can honestly say it wasn’t me…”
Berlin NH, Tuesday early morning, Nov 20th, 2007
It was in the darkest hours of the morning, the time when most people were fast asleep. This was the perfect time for a professional thief, or even a retired professional thief, to be out and about her business.
I stood in the middle of a darkened hotel room, staring down at my target. Crash Test Dummy was sprawled out in his bed, snoring loudly. He was completely undressed, not even wearing so much as a pair of skivvies…much to my disgust. I did NOT need to see this. Even his prosthetic hand and foot had been removed and were sitting on the table beside his bed.
“You should have left well enough alone,” I whispered.
With that, I pulled out a small canister and sprayed the contents into his face, being careful not to breath any of it in myself. This would make sure he didn’t wake up too early.
“Hush little baby, don’t say a word,” I quietly sang, keeping my voice down so I didn’t risk waking anyone in the neighboring room. “Imp’s gonna buy you a mocking bird…”
Once I was sure that Crash Test Dummy wasn’t going to wake up, I went around the hotel room and checked things out a little more closely. There was actually a trap set up against the door, basically a high tech claymore mine that would blow the hell out of anyone trying to break in. Good thing for me, I’d come in through the window. Most people don’t think to properly secure those, especially when they were five stories up.
The room had the same layout as every other room in the hotel, which was convenient for me since if you know one room, you know them all. Another convenient detail was the fact that all five members of the IRS were staying in the same hotel, so that they could be near each other when they finally found me. It was so nice of them to all gather together in one place like this.
“Only four rooms, and I get the whole set,” I mused.
It was four rooms instead of five because I’d found Hexagoner 2.0 and Jack Ass sleeping together. I was really disappointed, because I’d thought she had better taste than that.
Since Jack Ass and Hexagoner were so close to each other, I decided to help them out by pouring half a Costco sized bottle of super-duper glue over the two of them. Now they’d be firmly stuck to each other as well as the bedding. This was going to be humiliating, painful, and extremely inconvenient for the both of them.
I’d already dealt with Blondie as well. I’d shaved her head bald, getting rid of the blonde hair she seemed so proud of, before I started with the real fun. Glue and feathers. LOTS of feathers. When I’d left her room a short time ago, she’d looked like an oversized chicken. And thanks to the glue I’d used, those feathers wouldn’t be coming off easily.
“Who needs tar when glue works even better?” I mused to myself.
Now I turned my attention back to Crash Test Dummy, my fourth target of the night. I pulled out the large bottle of super-duper glue and grinned evilly. There wasn’t a whole lot left, but it would still be more than enough to make him miserable.
I poured half the remaining glue onto Crash Test Dummy’s hand and positioned it on his tinkie winkie…or more accurately, his dinkie winkie. That might be a common place for his hand to rest, but I was pretty sure that he wouldn’t like being unable to remove it. This would cause some definite problems when it came time to putting on some pants…not to mention going out in public. I used the last bit of glue on his legs, gluing them together, just to increase the inconvenience factor by that much more.
Even though I had a serious grudge against the entire IRS, Crash Test Dummy had earned some extra attention. He was the one who’d cut off my tail. Because of that, I gathered his armor, weapons, and prosthetics, along with every piece of clothing in the room, and stuffed them into a couple garbage bags. These would go into the filthy dumpster I’d seen behind the hotel.
Before I left Crash Test Dummy’s room, I disarmed the trap on his door and left an eye patch beside his bed, right where he was sure to see it. I was confident that he’d get the message.
“Now I just need to visit the Crimson Idiot,” I mused. “And I’m all out of glue…”
With an evil grin, I reached into my backpack and pulled out a Costco sized bottle of laxative. This was the same bottle that I’d used in one of my classes last Friday, as a prop. However, this time I intended to use it as it was intended…more or less.
Twenty minutes later, I stopped at the dumpsters and tossed in the now half-empty bottle of laxative, right on top of a couple garbage bags. After this, I had no doubt that the Crimson Kid was going to have a really shitty morning. All of them were, though his would be a bit more literal than the rest.
“That should do it,” I said with a smirk.
Of course, this was the last warning that I gave those idiots. If they ever came after me again, I’d take off the kid gloves and probably give them the Barney treatment. I hated doing that kind of thing to people, because in spite of what some people thought, I was a kind and merciful Imp. But if they cornered me, I’d have no choice.
It was just too bad that the Triangle wasn’t hanging around the area, or I would have taught them a few lessons as well. After the crap they’d pulled Sunday, they deserved every bit of this…and then some.
“It looks like I’m done for now,” I mused, going over to where I’d left my Imp cycle parked. “Maybe I can get back in time to catch a couple Z’s before class…”
Then I paused, hesitating for a moment before pulling out my phone. This might be crossing a line, but they crossed the lines first, and I had a feeling that the IRS might need one final push to stop their attacks on me, or at least something that would keep them too busy to bother.
With an evil grin, I made a call. “Hello, police… I’d like to report the locations of some criminals…”
Wednesday afternoon, Nov 21st, 2007
I’d never liked riding in cars, or even driving. I always felt confined and trapped, and worried that I couldn’t escape easily if I needed to. Oddly enough, I didn’t have that same problem with planes. Sure, it was even more difficult to escape from one of those in an emergency, but I had enough room to move around inside, and that seemed to make all the difference.
I was currently sitting in the first-class section, in my Candice guise, enjoying a comfortable flight back to New York. I took a sip of my wine and smiled in contentment. After spending so many years hiding in the cargo sections of different aircraft, I was quite happy to enjoy a bit of luxury now that I had the opportunity.
Looking out the window, I announced in my best William Shatner voice, “There’s…something…on…the…wing.”
“WHERE?” Melissa demanded, immediately pressing up against the window for a better look.
I rolled my eyes, disappointed that I’d wasted such a great line on someone who obviously didn’t get the reference. I made a mental note to use that one on Ryan if I ever had the opportunity. He hated flying about as much as I disliked cars, so if I could ever use that line on him while we were flying… I smirked at the very idea. That would be fun.
“I don’t see anything,” Melissa grumbled in disappointment, which made me chuckle a little.
“So, what do you think?” I asked her.
“This is awesome,” Melissa exclaimed with a broad grin. “I’ve never been in first class before. This seat is huge…and the food is way better than what I usually get…”
Melissa’s enthusiasm made me thankful that I’d upgraded her ticket to first class. The way I figured it, we were both heading back to New York for the holiday weekend, so it only made sense that we travel together.
“Thank you, Im...,” Melissa started.
I quickly cut her off. “Christine.”
“Oh yeah,” Melissa responded, looking a little chagrinned. “Sorry, Christine.”
I looked around, making sure that nobody was paying much attention. The last thing I wanted was for someone to realize that plain and boring Candice Kade, was really the beautiful, talented, and fabulous Imp. And since there were a couple other kids from Whateley on board, the chance of being found out was already a little higher than I liked.
“Are you coming to our place for Thanksgiving dinner?” Melissa abruptly asked me.
“Probably not,” I responded a little awkwardly.
“But Dad cooks really good,” Melissa protested.
“Yes, he does,” I agreed with faint smile. “But…”
I paused for a moment, barely even able to remember what it was like having a Thanksgiving dinner with the family. The last Thanksgiving dinner… The last real one that I’d had, had been a couple decades ago, back before the old Cowan crew had broken up and gone their separate ways. I’d eaten dinner with Frank a time or two since then, but that had only been the two of us, and had consisted of TV dinners.
“Your aunt is going to be there,” I reminded Melissa.
“Oh yeah,” Melissa exclaimed, nearly bouncing in her seat. “I can’t wait to tell Aunt Brandy about what happened on Sunday…”
“Of course,” I responded wryly. “And somehow, she’ll find a way to blame me…”
“But you weren’t there,” Melissa protested.
“No, I had something else going on,” I said, thinking about my fight with Barney. While I’d been fighting him, Melissa and her friends had gotten into their own trouble in Berlin. “I would have been there to help you if I could have…”
“I know,” Melissa responded, giving me a grin.
We landed a short time later, and while we were getting off the plane, I caught sight of a Whateley student. It was the self-proclaimed Nightlord, a particularly obnoxious hero wannabe who seemed to be on the same path as Jack Ass and the Crimson Kid. I didn’t acknowledge his presence in any way, and hoped that he didn’t see me. If he saw me with Melissa, who he’d probably recognize as a fellow student, that could raise some questions I didn’t want asked.
Ryan was waiting for us on the other side of the security checkpoint, and as soon as I saw him, my heart began to race. It hadn’t even been a full week since the last time we’d seen each other, but it still seemed like too long. My tail began swishing back and forth and I had to forcibly control it before I accidentally hit someone.
“Melissa,” he announced, giving his daughter a big hug. Then he looked over at me and smiled. “Christine… How was your flight?”
“It was awesome,” Melissa exclaimed with a grin. “I got to ride in first class, and Christine said she saw something on the wing, and…”
Ryan chuckled. “You can tell me all about it on the ride home.” Then he asked me, “How are you doing?”
“Not bad,” I answered with a faint smirk. “I had a meeting with the IRS yesterday morning.”
Ryan gave me a worried look, then relaxed a little. “From your expression, I take it that it went well…”
“Very well,” I responded with an evil grin. “Hopefully, they’ll stay off my back permanently. As it is, I don’t think that most of them will even make bail.”
“Now, I have a feeling that this is a story I want to hear,” Ryan told me.
“Me too,” Melissa quickly added, giving me an expectant look. “Maybe you can tell us tomorrow … during dinner.” She looked a little smug at that.
“That’s a good idea,” Ryan responded with a smile of his own. “You can have Thanksgiving with us.”
“That’s probably not a good idea,” I reminded him. “I don’t want to cause problems with your family…”
Ryan stared at me for a moment with an odd expression. Then he moved in and kissed me, much to my delight. My tail practically stood on end.
“It won’t be any problem,” Ryan assured me. “And I think it’s time that I introduced you to my sister officially. I want to you to spend Thanksgiving with us.”
“You know, that’s probably a bad idea,” I started.
“So is dating you,” Ryan said with a smile. “But I’m still happy I am. Besides, imagine the look on her face when she sees you at the dinner table…”
I burst out laughing while Melissa began giggling as well. “Well, I can’t argue with that now, can I…?”
Manhattan NY, Thursday afternoon, Nov 22nd, 2007
I stood in the middle of Ryan’s kitchen, holding a fly swatter that I absently swished around. Sitting the counter beside me was a plate of chocolate chip cookies, which I’d brought with me. I hadn’t made them myself, of course. Though I was a woman of many impressive talents, not to mention boundless modesty, baking was not one of my skills. However, the bakery that I’d bought them from had a really good reputation.
“What are you doing in here?” Ryan asked, giving me a suspicious look.
“Training,” I answered with a faint smirk.
A moment later, I suddenly snapped lashed out with the fly swatter, snapping the invisible hand that was reaching for the cookies. “OUCH!” Melissa cried out, turning visible again and jumping back. She rubbed the back of her hand while pouting.
“Nice try,” I told Melissa as I swished the fly swatter back and forth. “But not good enough.”
“But I want a cookie,” she grumbled, still pouting.
I rolled my eyes at that. “And I already told you, you’ve got to be patient and wait for the right opportunity. If you move too soon…” I snapped the fly swatter down in front of me again. “You get caught.”
Melissa nodded at that and left the kitchen, however, I had absolutely no doubt that she’d be back for another try. Patience was definitely important for a thief, but so was persistence, and she had that down flat.
“That was … interesting,” Ryan said with a look of amusement.
“Melissa requires unconventional training methods,” I pointed out with a proud smile. “Fortunately, I happen to be an unconventional teacher.”
“No doubt,” Ryan responded with a chuckle. “I don’t know anyone more unconventional.”
With that, he moved closer to give me a kiss. I might have been distracted at the moment, but I kept my guard up in case someone made another try for the cookies.
“You know,” I told Ryan, becoming a little more serious. “It isn’t too late. I can still slip on the Candice face…”
“You’re fine the way you are,” he assured me. I just smiled at that, swishing my tail back and forth behind me, though I was still a little worried.
It was just a few seconds after this that the doorbell rang. “That must be Brandy,” Ryan said, about to go get it. Then he paused to say, “Promise you’ll behave tonight.”
“What happened to being fine, just the way I am?” I asked.
“Christine…,” he said.
“Fine,” I responded with a smirk. “I’ll behave. Imp’s honor.” Of course, my fingers were crossed.
Ryan gave me a skeptical look but nodded and left the kitchen. I watched him go, keeping a close eye on his ass. It was a nice one.
“I GOT A COOKIE!” Melissa suddenly yelled from behind me. I turned to see her running out of the kitchen with a handful of cookies.
“Enjoy them,” I called out. “You earned it.”
From where I was at in the kitchen, I could hear Ryan open the door and greet his sister. “Thanks for coming,” he told her. “And just so you know, my girlfriend Christine is here.”
“You’ve mentioned her a couple times,” Brandy responded. “I’ve been looking forward to meeting her.”
I was in the next room and couldn’t see them, but there was a noticeable hesitation in Ryan’s voice before he carefully said, “Christine can get a little…snarky when she’s nervous. Please don’t push her.”
Brandy laughed at that. “You almost make it sound like you’re dating the Imp.”
Hearing my cue, I stepped into the living room and asked, “Did someone say my name?”
Brandy’s eyes shot open so wide that they almost looked like they were going to pop out of her head, Melissa giggled, and Ryan face palmed. A moment later, I was suddenly lifted up in the air, where I was held suspended by Brandy’s telekinesis.
“IMP!” she exclaimed.
“Oh goody,” I said cheerfully. “We’re starting the party games.”
It only took me a couple seconds to adjust my PK aura so that she could no longer hold me. It was almost like I’d become a greased pig, or maybe one of those old water weenie toys. Maybe even a greased water weenie, though admittedly, that got my thoughts going into a rather naughty direction. Either way, I slipped right out of her grip and fell right back to the floor.
“You see,” I told Melissa with a grin, “this is why you always research your opponents and what they can do, just so this kind of thing doesn’t happen to you.”
Melissa giggled while Brandy glared at me. Ryan let out a sigh. Clearly, this wasn’t how he’d imagined this meeting would go, though I had warned him.
“You’ve met Christine before,” Ryan said, gesturing to me.
“I told you that I had a boyfriend,” I reminded her a little smugly.
“But she’s the IMP,” Brandy blurted out.
“She is?” Ryan asked with mock surprise. “I hadn’t noticed.”
“The Imp is awesome,” Melissa exclaimed, running over to give me a hug, though she only used one arm since her other hand was still holding a small stack of cookies.
“You’re pretty awesome too,” I responded, which immediately brought a broad grin to her face.
“I ran into Christine when I was visiting Melissa at Whately last month,” Ryan told his sister. “Needless to say, I was a bit surprised. But after we started talking, we sort of … hit it off and began dating.”
While Ryan regaled Brandy with the story of how we began dating, Melissa and I went and found a spot to sit on the couch. After a couple minutes, Ryan and Brandy came to join us. She was still a bit shaken by my presence and gave me a couple suspicious looks.
“What are you doing with all those cookies?” Brandy finally asked Melissa. “We’re going to have dinner in just a little bit.”
“I stole them,” Melissa bragged, practically puffing up as she did so.
I nodded agreement. “She stole them fair and square.”
That brought a look of disapproval from Brandy, though she shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, she already knew that Melissa was my apprentice, since I knew that Ryan had already talked with her about this. He’d explained that everything I was teaching Melissa, was basically the same things she’d learn in her survival class. I was just giving her a bit more personal attention, and more in-depth knowledge.
“These cookies are great,” Melissa announced. “My friend Amy makes awesome cookies…and brownies. She makes these devisor brownies that Monkeywrench really loves, but nobody will let me have any because they say I don’t need the caffeine. I don’t think that’s very fair though, because I like brownies too…”
I just smiled at Melissa while she talked until running herself out. Then she was immediately on her feet and rushing back to her room. When she returned, she was holding a sketch pad.
“See what I drew last night,” Melissa exclaimed, holding out the pad.
“Not bad,” I said, looking at the picture she’d drawn and trying to look impressed.
Melissa didn’t really have a lot of talent with sketching, but what she lacked in talent and skill, she made up for with enthusiasm. I never underestimated the value of enthusiasm, because that could drive someone to gaining the skills they really needed.
“But don’t think I’m going to be giving you extra credit,” I teased her.
“I wasn’t trying to get extra credit,” Melissa protested.
“Well, it’s a good try,” I told her before flipping to an empty page. “Now, let me show you a trick that will help you…”
Melissa curled up on the couch beside me for a better look, while I demonstrated a couple simple tricks. Once I’d done that, I handed the sketch pad back to her, along with the pencil, and let her try it herself.
While I worked with Melissa, Brandy watched me silently. She finally turned to Ryan and whispered, “She seems to be good with Melissa…” It was an almost grudging admission.
“Oh, she is,” Ryan quietly told his sister. “The two of them are almost like two peas in a pod.”
“Hard to believe,” Brandy muttered with a shake of her head.
A short time later, it was time for dinner. We all went to the dining room, and I got a good look at the meal that Ryan had prepared. Admittedly, Brandy had brought a couple dishes, and I’d even contributed a little myself, in the form of a pie I’d bought from the same bakery as the cookies. The whole thing looked fantastic and tasted even better.
“This is great,” I told Ryan as I took a bite of turkey. “Way better than a TV dinner…”
“What’s a TV dinner?” Melissa asked curiously.
“When was the last time you had a Thanksgiving dinner?” Ryan asked me. “I mean, the full meal…”
I hesitated a moment before admitting, “It’s been a few decades.”
Brandy gave me a look of surprise while Ryan gave me one of sympathy. Melissa was busy eating and didn’t seem to be paying any attention whatsoever.
I stared at the carved turkey, old memories swirling around in the back of my mind. Ryan didn’t really know how much this meant to me, to be included in their Thanksgiving meal. I glanced to Brandy, not comfortable about revealing such personal things to her, but I wanted Ryan to know.
“The last time I was at a Thanksgiving dinner like this,” I said with a weak smile, “was before I manifested. But even then, it wasn’t the same…”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“When I was growing up,” I explained a little self-consciously, “Thanksgiving was a formal affair … not casual and easygoing like this.” I gestured around the table. “Thanksgiving was more about tradition and appearances than it was about family or being thankful for what we had. But on the surface, things probably looked like a Normal Rockwell painting, and that was what really mattered.”
Of course, that had all been perfectly normal for my parents. They’d give you a plastic smile to your face, acting all nice and polite, but as soon as your back was turned, they’d whisper about all the things they disapproved of about you. Appearances were everything, even when it came to family holidays.
“I’m sorry,” Brandy said, giving me an odd look. “It’s just a little hard to imagine you in a setting like that.”
I just shrugged at that. “Yeah, my family didn’t think I belonged either.”
That put a damper in the whole conversation, so I asked Melissa about her latest prank on Trixie, which sparked a whole new conversation. Melissa excitedly told everyone about the various pranks that she and Trixie and been pulling on each other, and it didn’t take long before everyone was laughing and enjoying themselves again, just the way they should on Thanksgiving.
Once dinner was over and the table was cleared, we all ended up back in the living room and settled in for our turkey naps. I climbed onto the couch and curled up against Ryan, wrapping my tail around his leg possessively, while he put his arm around me for the same reason. On the other side of me, Melissa lay against me.
Brandy took her position in the recliner and stared at the three of us with an odd expression that turned into a faint smile. She didn’t say anything, but the fact that she didn’t could have been taken as some form of approval. Honestly, I didn’t really care. Ryan and Melissa approved, and that was all that really mattered to me.
At that moment, I just closed my eyes and purred in contentment. I’d never been one to believe in happy endings, at least not since I’d been Melissa’s age. But if there was such a thing as a happy ending, I imagined that it felt a lot like this.