Christmas Saga 3: And Good Will Toward Men
MARS, CIRCA 1960s:
The martian, dressed in their traditional green jumpsuits and large green helmets taht perfectly matched their green, humanoid forms, escaped from the supply closet. Voldar, martian warlord and anti-Christmas spokesperson, barged into Santa's Mars workshop, having already defeated the martian leader, Kimar, and capturing the martian santa, Dropo. His weapon raised, Voldar prepared to finish off the jolly old man, who just sat there staring at his attacker.
Suddenly, the children leaped out of hiding, firing various toy weapons at the martian. Little wooden soldiers marched forward, while flagrant native american stereotypes pounded on wooden drums. Voldar, despite being a full-grown martian adult armed with a laser cannon, was rendered helpless against the assault, falling back in a veil of tears.
Finally, Kimar, king of the martians and supporter of Christmas everywhere, entered the workshop, along with the recently-escaped Dropo. "Cease fire!" he shouted. The children stopped their pathetic attack while Voldar cowered in the corner, sobbing like a beaten toddler. Two other martians grabbed Voldar and dragged him away, thus saving Christmas on Mars for many years to come.
"And that is why I'm so awesome," said Sinistral.
The rest of the RPGC staffers clapped, except for Merlin (who thought he was even awesomer). "Okay, now that he's done, it's time to plan this year's Millenial Fair," said Merlin. "Mr. Sinistral, stand up again and read the notes."
Sin stood up yet again. "It's the same thing as last year; a few new shrines, new entries into the library, etc. However, there is one more thing...we need someone to operate a spare booth."
The rest of the junior staffers suddenly found themselves unable to move, while Galloway raised his hand, his eyes closed for some unsuspicious reason. "Alright, Galloway, you get the booth," said Merlin. He passed Galloway a small folder. "Here are all the ideas we haven't used yet."
Two martian jail guards hopped happily into the martian prison, a bleak structure made up of wierd shapes and nuclear curtain-barred jail cells, singing "Jingle Bells" and acting generally merry and cheerful. Within the cell, Voldar growled and cursed, the very sound of their merriment driving him to madness. "Merry Christmas, Voldar!" shouted one of the guards.
"Oh, shut up!" said Voldar. "Once I escape, I will make certain Santa Claus and Kimar pay for this!"
"I'd like to see that!" said the other guard. "The nuclear curtain will keep you from ever passing through. And since all your accomplices left..."
Suddenly, the entire prison was rocked by a huge explosion, originating behind the guards. The two were thrown into the nuclear curtain, vaporized almost immediately upon contact. Voldar ran for cover under his bunk, hands over his green helmet. Several figures, dressed completely in futuristic battle armor, entered the prison, quickly deactivating the nuclear curtain surrounding Voldar's cell.
"Who are you?" said Voldar.
"We represent a kindred spirit," said the armored soldiers. "We have a proposition from our master." One of them lowered a small device, and an audio recording started to play:
"Voldar, I have heard of your hatred for Christmas. That is why I have ordered my men to retrieve you. We have a way to end Christmas on both Earth and Mars. Join us, and we will make sure you get your revenge."
Voldar let out a cruel smile at the recording. "I accept!"
Droppo's workshop had no elves or workers; only a mechanical press capable of spitting out any toy instantly, a large control panel consisting of nothing but buttons, and a fuse box that was incredibly weak against a slight tweak of the wrench. Droppo himself, a fat martian in a red santa suit and cap, skipped into the workshop, singing christmas carols while prancing like an idiot. He made his way to the button console, and pressed the combination of switches for a XBOX 780.
Almost immediately, the machine started to spark flames and explode. Droppo grabbed the nearby fire extinguisher and quickly put out the destroyed machine. "W-What happened?!" he stumbled. He pressed a button on his belt, opening up a communication channel. "Chief, the workshop has been sabotaged!"
"This is indeed troubling," said a voice. "Voldar has escaped as well. I'll be down there with a security force in a few minutes."
Droppo released the button, only to be grabbed by several of the soldiers.
The tall, impressive form of Kimar entered the room, along with several air gun-wielding soldiers. On the ground was a note, written in Martian:
"I have captured Droppo. Soon, I will be on my way to Earth to destroy Santa Claus!"
"This is troubling," said Kimar. "Everyone, ready the ship! We must stop Voldar at all costs!"
Galloway, Weiila and Wilfredo sat at the cafe table, enjoying some lunch. Galloway was looking at the files Merlin had given him. "God, these are terrible!"
"Now you know why I never ran a booth at that fair," said Weiila.
"I mean, 'Is He-Man Gay?'" said Galloway. "'Why American RPGs Suck Except for those Made by Bioware?' 'Triva question and answer?'"
"I have a trivia question!" said Wil. "Why are so many heroes unheroic nowadays?"
Galloway stared angrily at Wil. "Are you talking about what I think you're talking about?"
"If you mean how much DC sucks now, and how all the heroes kill criminals and change sides now, then yes," said Wil.
Galloway's eyes narrowed while Weiila hid in absolute terror. "Maybe it's because CURRENT TASTES IN HEROES AND COMICS HAVE CHANGED SINCE THE SIXTIES! Maybe people just got sick of flawless superheroes who always managed to stop every major crisis within five seconds! Maybe people got tired of a 'black and white' approach to hero-villain relationships! Maybe people got tired of the Superfriends! Or better yet, maybe people got tired of you old-school bastards who do nothing but complain about every little change to come into comics, all the while doing nothing but driving people away from comics!"
Wil's eyes bugged out in horror. "Uh-"
"That's right, I could have enjoyed comics!" said Galloway. "Then I ran into people like you, who do nothing but complain about my generation's comic book characters! Maybe we enjoy having our heroes deeply flawed and troubled! Maybe we enjoy the first Batman and Joker over the Golden Age ones! It's a good thing I didn't run into you before Justice League; otherwise, you would have ruined that for me, too! I hate you, Wil! I hate you and you old-school comic book fans from the deepest reaches of my heart! I hope you die a painful, agonizing death!"
Wil was left speechless, along with the rest of the cafe. "That was going a bit overboard, Galloway," said Weiila.
"I know," said Galloway. "I've just gotten sick of Wil spending the last six months complaining about the Infinite Crisis. It was pretty obvious it would only screw things up further; the DC universe is beyond repair." He then returned his attention the file. "Hmm, this sounds reasonable. 'An RPGC Christmas Play.'"
"That sounds...interesting," said Wil. "Oh well, I need to be going. Nel and I are supposed to go adventuring this Christmas." Wil quickly teleported out of the cafe, leaving Galloway and Weiila.
"Why not just do 'A Christmas Carol?'" said Weiila. "We haven't done that one in a while, it's easy to perform, and it has only a handful of parts for kids."
"Sounds like an idea," said Galloway. "Now all we need is the-"
"WE?!" said Weiila. "I have plans this year, Galloway! It's my first christmas free from that damn chibi curse!"
"...Oh," sid Galloway. "Well...that's nice..." His eyes began to tear at the memories he and the chibified Weiila had shared in the past. "Well, guess I should get the RPGC Players."
Galloway teleported out of the cafe, leaving a very happy Weiila. Then she got the bill for Galloway's five sandwiches and Wil's extremely expensive salad.
Galloway re-materialized in front of the RPGC Players headquarters, only to find several large signs reading "QUARANTINED!" Beneath the front foor was a paper that read:
"The RPGC Players have been struck with a strange illness that will incapacitate them until the day after the Millenial Fair. If a play is desired, there is one other major group that can be hired."
Galloway's eyes narrowed when he read what group that was.
The RPGC Task Force HQ was bustling with no activity whatsoever. The only decorations were a small tree in the corner, barely managing to survive the extreme cold of the underground bunker. PC Glenton and GG Crono were playing cards at the meeting table, with Darkness Beckons' weapon lowered towards Glenton's neck as a cheating deferment. kiro was under a large blanket, shivering from the freezing room, while Heaven's Soldier scanned the computers for any sign of life. Mabatsekker, meanwhile, sat by the door, using his catgirl porn to keep warm.
Suddenly, the front doors of the bunker came crashing down, as someone smashed his way inside. The Task Force prepared for battle, but stopped when they saw it was only Galloway. "What do you want, ex-member?" said GG Crono.
"First off, I WANTED to rejoin," said Galloway. "I just had some personal issues to deal with first, what with Naar destroying the cosmos and all."
"Who cares?" said Mabat. "You're not a member now, and won't be again, not after the Weiila incident!"
"...Maybe I should have left you to Nightmare the Clown," said Galloway. "Also, if I hadn't gone into space, we'd all be dead!"
"...Why are we mad at Galloway?" asked kiro.
"Because whenever he shows up, something bad happens," said Glenton.
"Speaking of which, I'm calling in some favors," said Galloway. "I need help with my booth this year."
"Is it one of those...regression things again?" asked Heaven's Soldier. "Because we're not really into that stuff."
Galloway facepalmed Heaven's Soldier, and then himself. "For the last time, it's-"
(next three words lost)
"-Also, I'm running a play this year. We're doing a presentation of 'A Christmas Carol.' If Captain Picard could pull it off, I'm sure the seven of us can."
GG Crono's response was immediate. "No! We've got...crime...to solve!"
"...I was one of the founding members of the third RPGC Task Force," said Galloway. "I KNOW the holidays have little crime here. Unless you want to go to the REAL world..."
"NO NO NO!" all six shouted. "WE'LL DO ANYTHING YOU SAY!"
"Alright," said Galloway. "Let's rehearse in southern Alberta for no apparant reason!"
Meanwhile, in southern Alberta, Trisha made her way to a grocery store, ears covered by the hood of her sweater. After grabbing enough food to feed an army of genetic hybrids, and waiting in line for thirty minutes, she reached the checkout stand. The clerk took a long look at her face, and pointed to a small placard on the check register that read "No Animal Hybrids."
"But...why?" asked Trisha.
"Because you...things do nothing but take!" said the clerk. "Not a single one of you has a job, you all live in an abandoned warehouse, and you killed several dozen people six months ago!"
"That was a saiyan!" said Trisha.
An old lady behind Trisha joined in. "Saiyans are cartoon characters, you freak! Get the hell out of here!"
The rest of the store started joining in, brandishing weapons from out of nowhere. Suddenly very afraid, Trisha made a mad dash out of the store, landing with a thud just outside the door. Her hood fell open, revealing her ears to the rest of the town. The rest of the townsfolk joined in, descending on the terrified woman.
"So...Glenton, you're Scrooge," said Galloway. "Seems pretty appropriate..."
"WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?!" shouted GG Crono.
Everyone turned their attention to the mob gathered around a grocery store. "It looks like a massive riot!" said Heaven's Soldier. "Let's use this opportunity to get out of Galloway's lousy play!" The six members of the Task Force rushed into battle, Galloway tagging behind them.
Voldar and the soldiers blasted their way through the spaceport, before climbing into a tall, slender, cone-shaped rocket, Dropo held prisoner alongside them. Despite its small exterior, it was extremely large and spacious inside, complete with several crew quarters, a large bridge filled with various levers and buttons, lights that flashed back and forth for no reason at all, a brig, and even a horribly unsafe and illogical space door that could only be opened from the bridge.
After throwing Dropo into the brig, Voldar and the soldiers made their way to the bridge. The evil martian quickly pulled several levers, raising the landing legs and propelling the rocket out of Mars' atmosphere and onto a direct course for Earth. The martian twirled his mustache evilly as the line-covered surface of Mars vanished beneath him.
Meanwhile, Kimar and his martian soldiers boarded another rocket, firing off after Voldar. It was now a race to reach Santa Claus before the other.
Wil appeared in his living room; unfortunately, the salad had thrown his directional instincts out of whack, causing him to appear against the ceiling. After recovering from the inevitable fall, he made his way to the phone and called Nel's house.
Almost immediately, Nel answered. "Hello, Uncle Wil!"
"Hey, Nel!" said Wil. "Listen, I've finished planning our adventure this Christmas! All I need is-"
"Um...I can't come," said Nel. "My parents want me to spend Christmas with them."
Wil was silent for about ten seconds. "They're still mad about you searching for the Lorestones, aren't they?"
"I'm sorry, uncle," said Nel. Wil listened to the other receiver hang up, before setting down his own.
The mob grew ever larger as the RPGC Task Force brought their power upon them. Glenton drew his assault shotgun and tried to fire at the nearest rioters, but one of them suddenly smacked the gun out of his hands with a rusty iron stake. The thief managed to fight a few of the goons off, but was enventually overwhelmed. As Glenton was pulling out his shotgun, Mabat attempted to use Level 5 Death on the entire crowd, only to realize that everyone was between levels one and four. While he was preparing a Goblin Punch, he was swallowed up by the crowd.
Meanwhile, kiro readied her bazooka and fird a gas rocket at the crowd. Unfortunately, the weapon backfired, sending the knockout gas floating over only her. As she fell unconcious, GG Crono charged blindly forward, only to be knocked over by a Southern Albertan Coffee Cup. Heaven's Soldier charged along the ground, while Galloway flew overhead. It took only a blow from a giant canadian fist and a rifle bullet through the gut to take out the two. Darkness Beckons, wisely deciding that the situation was hopeless, simply waited for the perfect opportunity to strike.
Suddenly, a massive rush of energy emerged from the center of the crowd, blowing them all over the town. From ground zero, Galloway (who had fired the wave) and Mabat (who took the blow so he could learn the skill) emerged, while the rest of the RPGC Task Force crawled forward, except for Beck, who simply picked up the unconcious catgirl and carried her forward. "Trisha?" gasped Galloway. "What the hell happened here?"
"We should head back to the warehouse," said GG Crono. "I don't think we want to be here when the townspeople wake back up."
Wil teleported into Santa's office. Santa was sitting at his desk, eating a massive meatball sub while going through the second checking of his list. "Hello, Wilfredo," said Santa. "What brings you here?"
"Nelimar said she couldn't adventure this Christmas," said Wil. "I decided to just wait until someone kidnaps you."
"Sorry, isn't gonna happen," said Santa. "We've locked down the entire workshop this year. No evil elves/twin half-brothers/wizards will be able to even get close enough to reach the building."
"What about aliens?" asked Wil.
"We do have some weakness against alien attacks," said Santa, "but what are the chances of that happening?"
"Yeah, you're right," said Wil. "Well, I guess I'll go talk to Weilla. Maybe she has some ideas." Wil teleported out of Santa's office, leaving the jolly old man to enjoy his sandwich.
The Task Force (plus Galloway and Trisha) teleported to the front of the hybrid warehouse. A mad mob of hybrids rushed them, grabbing Trisha and taking her inside. The Task Force (plus Galloway) followed them inside. The warehouse's interior was drab and lifeless, matching the general mood of the residents. Everything around them was touched by a sense of desperation, from the hungry looks of the people to the grey, cracking walls of the structure.
"Damn, who the hell died here?" asked Glenton.
"About fifteen of us," said Sandy. "Five went because of hunger; the other ten were hunted down and killed."
"It's like all of Alberta has gone crazy," said Heaven's Soldier. "First the town, now this?"
"We haven't seen times like this since the hunters," said Roger. "Maybe they were involved, too."
"Makes sense," said Galloway.
"Uh...Galloway?" said Heaven's Soldier. "Instead of this stupid play, maybe we should help them out this Christmas. They seem to need some cheer."
"That's a great idea!" said Galloway. "I know! We'll give them free tickets to the Millenial Fair, where we will be performing our play!" The RPGC Task Force was about to strangle Galloway, but stopped when they saw that children were present, instead opting to kill him later on.
Weiila sat on her couch, drinking tea while enjoying some kind of catboy porn. Her gaze was broken only when Wil teleported right next to her. "What is it, Wil?"
"I was wondering if you had any adventures you needed finished," said Wil.
"I take it Nel's parent objected?" said Weiila. "Yeah, I DID have an adventure, but Star finished it a few minutes ago. I don't give jobs to people who make me pay for their lunch, anyway."
"...Damnit!" shouted Wil. "I need something to do! I can't imagine a Christmas without some kind of whirlwind adventure!"
"Why not talk to Galloway?" asked Weiila. "He's usually on some kind of incredibly incomprehensible escapade."
Wil sighed. "Okay, I'll be going." Wil teleported again, and Weiila returned to her porn.
Meanwhile, outside the warehouse, Galloway and the RPGC Task Force rehearsed the charity scene, with Glenton as Scrooge, and GG Crono and Heaven's Soldier as the collectors. "Hello, unusually young Mr. Scrooge!" said GG Crono.
"Bah, humbug!" said Glenton. Galloway was already facepalming himself.
"We're here to collect for the poor," said Heaven's Soldier. "We want to help the poor out during this holiday season! And don't say you already donated like the last five years!"
"Are there no prisons?" sneered Glenton, scaring the hybrid children watching them. "Are there no poor houses? I pay my taxes, gentlemen, and in that way, I have already donated!"
"What the hell is wrong with you, man?" said GG Crono. "How long has your head been jammed up your ass?!" Galloway looked from under his fingers to see the kids watching. His look turned from anger to horror.
"Listen, you son of a bitch!" said Heaven's Soldier. "I don't care how rich or powerful you are; if you don't donate to our cause, I will jam your goddamn balls down your fu-"
"CUT!!!!" shouted Galloway, pointing towards the shocked children. "Guys! There are kids watching!"
The Task Force turned around to see the kids. "Oh...I guess out attempts to sabotage your ridiculous play idea went a bit overboard," said Heaven's Soldier.
"Listen, you idiots!" said Galloway. "I had to paralyze a LOT of people to get this booth, and we are GOING to do this play! Otherwise, so help me, I will rip off your manhood!" He turned to kiro. "And...I'll pull your tail for twenty days straight." The men covered their crotches, while kiro kept her tail far away from Galloway.
Wil suddenly appeared. "Galloway, I wanted to see if there were-"
"No, I have no adventures for you!" said Galloway. "I'm in the middle of something important here!"
"Looks like a poor version of 'A Christmas Carol,'" said Wil.
"I have no time for this," groaned Galloway. Then he remembered something about Alberta, and a recent resident... "Say, Wil, I just remembered something. Trisha was recently beaten by a mad mob. I think I know who was behind it, but I want you to investigate."
"Sure!" said Wil. "Just tell me who it is!" Galloway showed him a picture of a black-haired woman. "...Oh crap, not her!"
Wilfredo entered the bar, taking a seat next to the counter. "Hello?" he shouted. "Is anyone there?"
"Just a second," said a female voice from behind the shelves. A 40-50 year old woman walked to the counter, wearing a black robe and having a monkey tail. "Hello, how can I-" She saw who it was. "Oh, it's you."
"Hello, Belladonna," said Wil. "How's life been treating you since Naar's empire collapsed?"
"Well, I've gotten a job as a bartender," said Belladonna. "I still have a small fortune from my conquering days. Besides that, it's been pretty shitty."
"Alright, I guess I should get to work," said Wil. "First off, what have you done to the people of Alberta? And second-"
"Wait, what are you talking about?" said Belladonna.
"Didn't you hear about that catgirl Galloway hangs out with?" said Wil. "She was beaten by an unruly mob for no reason."
"So was I," said Belladonna. "Everyone in this damn province is going crazy!" She looked around the room, as if afraid to say whatever she was thinking. "I think I know who it was...Ever hear of the Black Cloak Society?"
"Uh...no," said Wil. "Who are they?"
Belladonna suddenly seemed very panic. "Er...nobody. Nobody at all. Now GET OUT!" She swung out one arm, and Wil was teleported into his living room, left wondering how much power she really held, why she was still alive, and who the Black Cloack Society was...
A large group of shadowed figures looked into the mirror, watching Wilfredo. All of them, suprisingly, wore black cloaks.
"Is this the one?"
"Yes, he is the one that killed Mordac."
"And he was with Graham when he killed Hagatha."
"The foolish mortal has become one of our most dangerous foes."
"We can use the confusion in Canada to our advantage. When the chaos ends, we will be there to seize power."
"What about Belladonna? Does she still refuse to join us?"
"She considers us beneath her. The spoiled wretch will eventually pay for her sins, but first, we shall deal with the others."
"But what of Galloway?"
"Forget about him. Wilfredo is our target."
Glenton and Mabatsekker stood on the imaginary stage, while Galloway sat in his director's chair. "Okay, let's try to get it right this time," said Galloway. "Glenton, you're Scrooge. Mabat, you're Bob Cratchit."
"Why do I have to be the damn clerk?" said Mabat.
"Because I said so!" said Galloway. "Now, ACTION!"
Mabat bowed down, as if he was placing coal in a stove. "CRATCHIT!" shouted Glenton. "What do you think you're doing?"
"Just...warming the...stove...Mister SCRooGE," said Mabat, trying his best to demonstrate no acting ability whatsoever.
"Do you think you're worthy of my coal?" said Glenton. "I had to forclose twenty orphanages just to get that much!"
"CUT!" shouted Galloway. "Glenton, stick to the script, PLEASE!"
"Come on, Gallo!" said Glenton. "Isn't that something Scrooge would say? Isn't he supposed to be a heartless, merciless, money-grubbing bastard?"
"...Good point, but stay with what's written," said Galloway. "And Mabat, if you want to fake bad acting, don't try so hard. Horrid acting must come out naturally."
"Whatever," said Mabat. "Shouldn't we be quitting by now? It IS getting late."
Galloway looked at his watch; indeed, it was now 5:30. "Oh CRAP! I have a dinner with Val tonight! See you, guys!" Galloway teleported away from the troupe, leaving a very happy Task Force.
That was when kiro realized something. "Uh...how are we gonna get out of here?" The Task Force stopped celebrating, slowly realizing they had been outsmarted by Galloway.
MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE BLACK CLOAK SOCIETY HEADQUARTERS
"Do we have any way to eliminate Wilfredo?"
"We cannot bring all our power upon him at once. Anyone within two dimensions would know of our involvement, something we cannot allow."
"Then we shall ambush him. Does he not want an adventure?" *chuckle*
"And what better adventure for a sex-crazed wizard than a damsel in distress?"
"Are you suggesting using my new prisoner?"
"Will that be a problem?"
"Not at all. I was planning on killing her anyway. I should start kidnapping infants again; they make much better servants."
"Very well. Keep her alive until tomorrow night. By the next morn, they will both be dead!"
Galloway and Val sat at the booth in McDonalds, Galloway eating a cheeseburger, and Val drinking a big gulp of vodka. "So...why are we here again?" asked Val.
"Besides proving you really CAN sneak alcohol into a McDonalds?" said Galloway. "We're just trying to have a dinner without killing each other. If we can pull it off, we're one step closer to a healthy marriage."
"I doubt it," said Val. "Besides, the only way I got this stuff in was because I'm screwing the fry clerk."
"I...see," said Galloway. "So, you cheating on me is alright, but if I cheated on you-"
"I'm just kidding...maybe," said Val. "McDonalds workers are just really, really stupid. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going home." She quickly ran to the Eskermobile, driving hap-hazardly around. Galloway watched as the drunk valkyrie crashed into the side of a bus full of nuns, creating an explosion that engulfed several nearby buildings.
"Tell me, who is my rescuer?" asked Voldar.
"It matters not," said one of the armored soldiers. "When we reach Earth, we must destroy Santa Claus. You have no time to concern yourself with specifics."
"I suppose you're right," said Voldar. "Any sign of Kimar and the others?"
"The Radar Box caught their signal a few hours ago," said another soldier. "Fortunately, we have upgraded this ship; it will outrun them by nearly twelve Earth hours."
"Septober will be over by the time they reach us!" laughed Voldar.
Val was carried into the courtroom, surrounded by the jeering and booing victims of her drunken rampage. She was seated in the defendant seat, with Galloway directly behind her. "Why'd we go to a McDonald's in TEXAS?" lamented Val.
"We WERE going to go to Vegas," said Galloway. "Unfortunately, your lousy car overshot the target."
Finally, the judge entered. Everyone rose briefly, and then seated themselves. "Robyn 'Valkyrie' Esker," said the judge, "you have confessed to the manslaughter of twenty people, as well as millions of dollars worth of damages to public and private property. Normally, this would be worth a minimum of twenty executions, but since you are indeed over a thousand years old, and willing to put out for a lighter sentence, the court will wave your punishment." The victims booed and shouted in anger, while a grin swallowed up Val's lower face.
"However," continued the judge, "you forgot to mention your DUI, as well as the fact that your vehicle was ruled unsafe for pedestrian driving. Therefore, you are to be stripped of your driver's license, in any town, state or country...FOREVER!"
The gavel came crashing down, leaving a sighing Val and a mellow Galloway.
An hour later, the two stood outside the courtroom, looking at Galloway's beaten-up, trash-filled Honda Accent. "I am NOT riding in that thing!" said Val.
"You don't have much of a choice," said Galloway. "You have no license or car, remember?"
"Well, I'll just call a cab!" said Val. Then she looked at her outfit; she was still wearing her armor. "Damn, I left my wallet in my other breastplate! Fine, I'll get in your damn car!"
As Val fought to find a seat under the empty soda cans and fast food wrappers, Galloway grinned evilly. Finally, he had a legal way to torture his wife...
The RPGC Task Force reluctantly stood guard over the warehouse, while the nervous denizens waited for some sign of hope. Glenton, meanwhile, decided to use the quiet to count the many objects he had ripped off of the angry mob, including watches, necklaces, small jewelry, and decades-old Canadian porn. It seemed like junk change to him, but it was something.
Galloway's vehicle slowly stuttered into the driveway. Val quickly jumped out, and Galloway finally turned off his taped recording of Wilfredo singing. "Damnit, Gallo!" shouted Val. "What the hell's wrong with you?!"
"I'm just enjoying it while it lasts," said Galloway. "You would have done the same thing."
"...Good point," said Val. "Well, rot in Hel, will ya?" She entered the house, while Galloway drove off into the night.
Wilfredo was about to turn in for the night when a paper airplane flew through his window and landed perfectly on his head. Despite his obviosu misgivings about the legitimacy of such a convenience, he opened the message:
"Wilfredo Martinez: I am Manannan, of the Black Cloak Society. I have a female hostage at my home. I plan on killing her at 12:05 tomorrow afternoon. Unless you wish to have her blood on your hands, you will attempt to rescue her. Fail, and I will destroy you, like you destroyed my brother.
"PS: Do not attempt to use this note to prove our society's existance. When you finish reading this, it will turn into an exerpt from a horrible video game magazine. The directions to my home will be burned into your mind tomorrow at 6:00 AM."
Sure enough, the note turned into a page from Gamepro, leaving a thoughtful Wil. "I wonder who this Manannan is..."
Almost immediately, another note materialized on Wil's couch. Sighing, he read the second note:
"Wilfredo Martinez: This is Chrispen. I must warn you of Manannan. He is a powerful wizard, one of the strongest the Society of Wizards has ever seen. I would advise you to avoid him, but I have learned of his plans, and I cannot bear to see an innocent harmed by his evil. Do not rush into his evil; Manannan has very little patience, and will leave his home if you do not show. While he is absent, you may rescue his prisoner, but I do not think you can defeat him in magical combat. Just think cat...
"PS: I think you know who his brother is..."
Wilfredo indeed knew. "Mordack..."
Belladonna was busy closing up the bar when a small figure entered, covered by a cloak. "We're closed, kid," she said.
"I brought cash," said the person.
"Well, are you 21?" asked Belladonna.
"No, but I have cash," said the person.
"Fine, take a seat," said Belladonna. The kid took a seat, removing the hood from the cloak, revealing Nelimar. "Oh, it's you. Practicing teleportation spells again?"
"Just...get me the strongest, non-alcoholic drink you have," said Nel. Belladonna handed her a glass of water, which Nel quickly drank. "Thanks."
"What's wrong with you?" asked Bella. "You helped topple my beloved's empire, stuck me with this crummy job, and even cursed me with-"
"Let's not get into that," said Nel. "I...just can't see Uncle Wil this Christmas. My parents think he's leading me down the wrong road."
"Sounds like my parents...or at least how they would have sounded if I knew them," said Belladonna. "Well, the important thing is to-"
Her words were stopped when a small hissing emerged from beneath the floor. "Uh...what's that?" asked Nel.
"Kid, if I were you, I would jump out the nearest window right now," said Bella. The two leaped through the far wall, escaping just as the bar exploded. Even before the smoke had settled, mobs of angry Albertans emerged, standing like a massive colossus over the two winded women. There breathing, movements, and even blinking were synchronized to the smallest degree.
The two climbed to their feet as the crowd began to chant. "Death to hybrids. Death to mages." Belladonna quickly opened a portal, grabbed Nel, and jumped through, leaving a confused mob and burning bar behind.
The last member of the RPGC Task Force had barely fallen asleep when, to their eternal horror, Galloway shot a nearby car in the fuel tank, sending it flying into the air with a resounding, thunderous bang. The entire Task Force sprang to attention, their eyes locked on the Doom-Bringer. "Hello, my troupe of actors!" said Galloway. "Let's have a better day than we did last time."
"With a play like yours?" said Heaven's Soldier. "I highly doubt it."
At exactly 6:00, an image thrusted itself into Wilfredo's mind. It showed an old house, located on a cliff overlooking a large valley, a chicken coop on one side. Through the attic window, he saw an extremely old man, his white hair and long white beard melded into one long thing of hair, which partially covered his long purple robe. Beside him was a young girl, seemingly fourteen years old, busily washing the floor. Suddenly, for no apparant reason, the old man grabbed her by the throat and threw her back down. The girl wiped the blood from her nose and ran, while the old man laughed.
Just as quickly as it had begun, the vision ended, but not before giving Wilfredo a location amongst the dimensions to find the house. Taking Chrispen's words into account, however, he decided to wait an hour...
Manannan watched as Wilfredo fell back to sleep. "What? That impudent fool! Well, I suppose I can finish my errands while he's away." He then teleported out of the attic.
The play continued, this time reaching the pivital appearance of Jacob Marley. Glenton sat on an old chair (provided by the hybrids), smoking a pipe while reading the latest issue of "Exploitation Monthly." Suddenly, Heaven's Soldier entered, covered in flour, chains and old money boxes. "Ebenezer Scrooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo oooooooooooooooooooooooooge!"
Glenton looked at Heaven's Soldier. "Yes, wierd guy covered in flour?"
"I am the ghost of your partner, Jacob Marley!" said Heaven's Soldier. "I have come to warn you, Scrooge!"
"This...isn't about the twenty pounds I owed you, is it?" said Glenton.
"I have built these chains, link by link!" said Heaven's Soldier. "And the one you have built is even longer than this! Scrooge, you must change your ways, or you will be damned forever like I am!"
"I doubt it," said Glenton. He pulled out a desert eagle, despite the fact they didn't even exist at the time of the story. "In fact, you die NOW!"
Galloway quickly threw an energy blast, knocking the gun out of Glenton's hand. "What the hell is wrong with you? STICK TO THE SCRIPT!"
"No way!" said Glenton. "This thing sucks! You suck! You've always sucked, and will always suck!"
"I've heard that plenty of times," said Galloway.
"No woman will ever love you!" said GG Crono.
"You're mean, and nasty, and dumb, and ugly!" said kiro.
"...I know that, too," said Galloway. "Your attempts to force me to give up on the play have met with failure. Now, if you'll excuse me..." Galloway stepped behind the warehouse, and started sobbing like a baby.
An hour later, Wil woke back up and teleported away.
Wil found himself in front of the house, finding it to be exactly like it was in his vision. Cautiously, he snuck to the door and used an Open spell. The door's lock clicked, and Wil slowly pushed the door open, his staff at the ready. The lounge area was remarkably clean, with a few chairs and tables, as well as a passage leading into a library. Wil looked to his right, and saw an open archway leading into the kitchen. Seeing that Manannan wasn't there, he decided to sneak up the stairs.
The upstairs hallway was also remarkably clean, with only a black cat to show any sign of life. After seeing no life in a remarkably elaborate bedroom, Wil started up the stairs to the attic, only to stop when he heard someone sobbing in the room at the end of the hall. Cautious as ever, Wilfredo opened the door, and found a small slave's quarters, complete with raggedy old bed, chewed-up walls, half-rotted floorboards, and a crying teenage girl at the foot of the bed. "Uh...excuse me?" said Wil.
The girl looked at the sage with desperate eyes. "Wh-Who are you? Can you get me out of here?"
"My name is Wilfredo Martinez," said Wil. "I am from RPGC. Tell me, who are you?"
"I'm called Kairi," said the girl. "I'm from RPGC, too...kinda."
"I see," said Wil. "Then...you must be the one Manannan captured!"
"Unfortunately," she said. "He had just killed his last servant, and needed a replacement. Every time one of his slaves reaches eighteen, he kills them so they won't try to escape!"
"Then I guess I'll just have to kick his ass," said Wil.
"You don't understand!" said Kairi. "Manannan is nearly unstoppable! I heard the Society of Wizards threw him out because he was too dangerous! He can kill you just by looking at you!"
"Then how are we supposed to get out of here?" asked Wil.
"I...have an idea," said Kairi, "but it's a stupid one." She reached under her bed and pulled out an assortment of small ingredients. "I found his workshop beneath the library. I was hoping to use these to cast a spell. But...none of them will work on him."
Wil looked at the ingredients. "Old fashioned magic, hmmm? I guess I could take a look into it. Show me this workshop."
Kairi led Wil downstairs and into the well-dusted library. She made her way to the rear bookshelf and moved a particularly bulky book, revealing a switch. She quickly pushed it down, and a trap door opened by the desk, revealing a series of naturally-cut steps leading deep into the darkness. The two slowly descended, until they reached a cavern-like chamber, filled with all manners of human skull candle holders, magic books, potions, powders, essences, stirring utensils, and index cards holding magic words.
"His main spell book is right there," whispered Kairi, pointing to a large, open book on the main work table. Wil approached the book and quickly leafed through its many pages, until Kairi suddenly jumped forward, her finger on one page. "That's the one!"
Wil looked long and hard at the spell. It was a simple transmogrification spell, which transfered the magic into a cookie of all things. "He'd probably recognize the item right away," said Wil, "but with a little tinkering..."
A few minutes later, Wil had finished the spell, creating a cookie in the shape of a bat. "I'm pretty sure that's not the right animal, but whatever works," said Wil. He handed the cookie to Kairi. "Now, crumble this and place it in his lunch. Make sure it's in something he won't detect it in. I'll stay down here for the time being."
Kairi quickly ran back upstairs, flipped the switch back to closed, replaced the book, ran into the kitchen, and heated a quick bowel of porridge. With that accomplished, she crunched the cookie into the thick food; the crumbs matched perfectly.
At that very second, Manannan reappeared in the nearby dining room. "Zimmie!" he shouted. "My lunch, NOW!"
"Just a second," said Kairi, desperate to hide any sense of victory or enjoyment. She brought the food to Manannan, who quickly began to consume it.
"Very good," said Manannan, "but unfortunately, your services will no longer be needed here." Kairi stared in horror; had the spell failed? "That is why-"
Suddenly, and within five seconds, Manannan transformed, clothes and all, into a cat, albeit a talking one. "You-You TRAITOR!"
Wil teleported into the room, looking at the helpless cat before him. "I take it this is Manannan?"
"Sure is!" said Kairi. She lifted the cat by the collar. "I guess we should give it a good home..."
The two teleported, cat and all, to a SPCA somewhere in New Jersey. A few minutes later, the two, sans cat, left for RPGC.
The Task Force stood in silence as Galloway continued to sob loudly from behind the warehouse. "Do you think we took it a bit far?" asked kiro.
"It's probably just the stress from our jackassness and the natural issues with a play," said Glenton. "I know I lost it that time I staked out Bitchker for five days, only to find she had moved across town and I had lost my chance to not only kill her, but..." He started to crack. "...I also missed a chance to steal the Holy Lance...and...and the Crown Jewels...and...and...th-the Jewel of the-" He finally cracked down sobbing.
"...Okay, that was pretty crappy," said Heaven's Soldier. "Let's just get out of here before-"
Suddenly, a small mob approached the Task Force, holding guns, knives, wooden boards, and various other blunt instruments of death. "Excuse me, is this the hyrbid warehouse?"
"Uh...no," said GG Crono.
"Oh, never mind then," said the leader of the mob. The angry Albertans dispersed, and everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief. "Thank god for Canadian idiocy," said Mabat.
Nelimar slowly regained conciousness, and found herself staring at a bright orange sky. She looked at the ground, and saw a brick-layed, floating platform, which hovered over a bottomless pit of orange nothingness. To her right sat Belladonna, arms and legs crossed, still struggling with her spell book. "Uh...where are we?"
"One of the crossroads between dimensions," said Belladonna. "We're lucky we didn't get turned inside out; I didn't have a good deal of time to cast the spell."
"Then...how do we leave?"
"We don't," said Belladonna. "I drained myself opening that Shadow Gate."
"Maybe I can do something!" shouted Nel. She jumped to her feet, chanted some kind of spell, raised her hands, and...watched as a spark of energy fizzled and died.
"This place drains magic," said Belladonna. She climbed to her feet, wiping the dust off her robes. "I suppose we should start walking..."
Wilfredo and Kairi teleported to Alberta, appearing outside the warehouse. Galloway finally returned to the stage. "Hey, Wil. Who's that?"
"My name's Kairi," said Kairi (of course). "Wilfredo helped me get rid of an evil wizard."
"Sounds good," said Galloway. He looked at the Task Force, then back at Kairi. "By the way, can you act?"
"A little, I guess," said Kairi.
"Well, I'm trying to put on a play," said Galloway. "I was wondering if you would be willing to try out. I'll pay you fifty bucks a day!"
The Task Force stared at him, jaws slacked open. "But...what about us?" said Mabat.
"Unless you get the right attitude," said Galloway, "you won't get one cent." He returned his eyes to Kairi. "Well, how about it?"
"Sounds great!" said Kairi. "When do we start?"
MEANWHILE, AT THE BLACK CLOAK SOCIETY
"It seems Manannan has been transformed into a cat."
"What a pathetic way to go."
"At least you were kind enough to take him back before the neutering."
"Then how shall we strike Wilfredo next?"
"He still wants an adventure. After the brevity of his previous quest, I doubt he will sit idly by while another is in danger. Lolotte, do you still have your sister prisoner?"
"Do you mean my pathetic younger sister, Genesta? Of course!"
"Then we will lead Wilfredo to Tamir. And what of Belladonna?"
"We have sent some servants to rid ourselves of her, and Wilfredo's niece. They will no longer be a threat to us."
Wilfredo suddenly leaped into the air, hair suddenly standing on end. "What happened to you?" asked Galloway.
"I just sensed great evil," said Wil. "Kairi, did Manannan work with anyone else?"
"Well, he did mention something called the Black Cloak Society," said Kairi. "I didn't hear much about them, but from what I understand, they're all very powerful magic users."
"Well, if you want some help, I suppose we could delay the play to stop this secret society," said Galloway.
"Don't worry yourself," said Wil. "I think I can handle this myself. Besides, I wanted an adventure." Wil quickly teleported away, leaving a rather angry Galloway.
"Some day, that sex craze of his will get him killed."
Val sat on her couch, drinking a beer and watching daytime television. "Stupid husband," she mumbled. "Let's see if he gets anything for Christmas..."
Suddenly, her nearby phone started ringing. Muttering angrily, she answered the annoyingly ringing device. "Hello, who the hell is it?"
The easily recognizable voice of Santa Claus was on the other side. "Valkyrie Esker? I heard what you just said."
"Yeah, so what?"
"SO, if you don't do something for Galloway, I'm going to let Glenton know HOW to kill you. Permenantly."
"...He already knows how," said Val.
"But does he know how to destroy AA?"
"Actually, he does."
"...Then I'll reveal to everyone...YOUR HORRIFIC SECRET!"
Val gasped in horror. "No...you wouldn't...I was young! Foolish!"
"It doesn't matter!" said Santa. "Now, get Galloway something he really wants, or you will be forever placed on the blackmail list!"
Val slowly set down the phone, while Santa laughed hauntingly on the other end. Sighing, Val grabbed Galloway's Christmas Wish list, but stared in horror when she saw what he wanted. "Don't tell me I have to find one of THOSE..."
Continue to Part 2