The dust had just settled on the battle field amid the Canadian-Montana forest. Heaps of robotic skeletal androids lay steaming on the ground. The crazy’s techo-magic lightning gun still crackled with electric energy as she swung it over her shoulder. Small arcs of residue energy leaped from the gun’s barrel and connected to the rods and domes of her M.O.M. implants in her head. An acrid smell of ozone still lingered in the air. She cocked her hip to one side and pushed back several of her Viking braids out of her face.
“Damn, that was a rush! Dem Loki-bots sure are tricky bastards, with all their re-gen. But Loki ain’t no match for his bro Thor.”
She patted the shoulder stock of her weapon.
“Yup, Captain Slow.” ThorFrid interrupted. “I am fine. Your gun held up well.”
From inside the swiss-cheesed barraged cargo plane a few meters off a queer head popped out of an open door. The strange looking head was attached to a stranger-looking long neck.
“These Loki-bot guns are sleek. I need one for these.” Said ThorFrid, bending over a fallen skele-bot.
“Relax, Turag. It won’t replace your gun. I might not be monogamous with other relationships. But, your gun is the only one I like to handle.”
Turag didn’t catch ThorFrid’s other meaning, he was too focused on the markings on the skele-bot and the guns. To him, the crossed bolts of lightning and skull emblem on the skele-bot closely resembled the Coalition States’ fearsome crest. He had vivid memories of similar skele-bots storming his home in Stormspire during the Great War. The remnants of the Coalition States had all but died away years ago, when Tolkeen had won the war. Nevertheless, he was certain these bots were not from the C.S. But, since he couldn’t be 100% certain, Turag took out his own kinetic-burst pistol and proceeded to destroy the re-generating remains of these forgotten nightmares.
Grey force-energy spewed from the mouth of his pistol sending bits of mechanical pieces from a single bot all over the forest floor.
“Whoa, Cap Slow! Hey that rhymed. Benna, I think I gotta line for one of your poems.”
Turag stopped firing. “This…. needs… a… big…. ger…”
“Yeah! Every man I meet needs a bigger stick, Turag. Momma gots needs, you know. But what THIS situation needs its a bit of Thor’s destructive touch.”
With 18 new guns hanging from straps around her neck, crooks of arms, and one under her chin, she ran back to the K-dawg with her breasts and new guns bouncing about like a shipment of Brazilian dildos on the back of a jungle jeep trying to out run an army of mutant flamingos dressed with high caliber round machinegun bandoliers.
After dropping all the guns in the cargo hold of the K-Dawg, ThorFrid mounted her turret. She aimed the massive dual lightning cannons at the re-assembling robotic heap and fired. Turag barely had enough time to get out of the way of the blast. Billions of skele-bot particles exploded all over the forest.
“Thor…. Frid…. you…. all…. most…. hit…. me…. One…. of…. these…. days…. you…. might…. re…. gret…. pull…. ing…. that…. trig…. ger….” Turag said with unusual calmness, seeing he was nearly made into Trimadore puree.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I had it under control. I knew you had enough time to move. Remember, ‘Crazy, not stupid’. Even as slow as you are, there was plenty of time to get out of the way.”
“How y’ suppose these bots keep comin’ back t’gether, Mr. Turag?” asked a pair of squeaky curious voices in unison from inside the cargo plane.
Excited at the teaching moment, Turag directed his attention to the two identical faces of psi-stalker girls peering out of two large holes blasted in the fuselage of the cargo plane.
“Ex…. cell…. ent…. ques…. tion…. Ben…. na….”
Turag’s slow moving face kept shifting back and forth between the two psi-stalkers.
“Uh…. which…. one…. of…. you…. is…. ask…. ing…. the…. ques….”
“Oh, sorry ’bout that.” The two forms of Benna came back together and the single figure of Benna now wore a metal daisy-chain crown made of brass or copper with glowing cerulean embossed etchings. “Is this better?”
“Yes…. I…. hy…. po…. the…. size…. they…. are…. con…. struc…. ted…. of…. high…. ly…. ad…. vanced…. na…. no…. tech….. nol…. o…. gy….”
“Oh, like little robots working together to make a big robot.” Benna cut off Turag’s longer explanation unintentionally.
Another woman stepped out from the hole-riddled cargo plane. She wore holy robes of a priest with an insignia that looked like a sun with golden embroidered rays shaped precariously like male phallic pieces. In the center of the sun, there was a harp made of two asclepian serpents with intertwining tails.
“Don’t mean to be the harbinger of bad news. But, has anyone seen that heathen woman and her skeleton minions?”
“Anakhet is gone?” Benna asked nearly choking up. “Ms. Ana?”
Benna ran to the spot in the cargo plane she had last seen her enigmatic Egyptian friend. She peered around Tut, her massive mutant bulldog to see if he was hiding Anakhet. All Benna found was a cloud of dispersing dust that was aggravated when Tut moved playfully as if trying to chase his tail when Benna approached.
“She’s…gone” Benna said softly.
“Well, despite the fact she could not recognize Apollo as the one true god, she was sort of growing on me too, Benna.”
Benna turned to the priestess. Her eyes were welling with tears. “Ms. Rebecca, do you think your boyfriend could bring her back? I, I… just wanted to say… goodbye.”
Though Sister Rebecca’s blind eyes could not see Benna’s tears, her heart could feel of her sadness. Benna tried to hold back her sobs with a spasm of deep breaths.
“Benna, no crying now. This is not something to cry about. Neither is it something that requires the attention of his greatness, Apollo. Wipe up those tears and be strong, never weak. They must not see you weak, Benna.”
Sister Rebecca sensing her words of tough love were not working on the girl, conceded.
“It is not Apollo’s will to bring her back. But he can allow me to create a sentinel in her place. Maybe something like one of her skeletons. How about that?”
“That strangely sounds like fun. What do you need?”
“Apollo requires material in which to imbue life into our Pandora. The first Pandora was hewn from clay.”
“What about all those skele-bot pieces?” Benna asked wiping her runny nose starting to cheer up a bit.
“Those would please Apollo greatly, and probably piss off Turag in the process. A win-win.”
Benna left Sister Rebecca alone in the cargo plane while she performed the summoning ritual to conjure up a sentinel. Benna loaded up Tut into the K-dawg. Turag and the cyberknight Red Cap, Keegan also boarded the craft. Turag readied the engines in preparation to take off.
“Ev…. er…. y…. one…. a….board?”
“Turag, Sister Rebecca has not boarded yet.” Called back Benna’s mom as she buckled in her daughter.
Benna’s mother, Claire was also a psi-stalker. She was previously possessed by an evil supernatural entity called Morgana. Turag still did not trust her, and so intentionally ignored her. He started to raise the K-Dawg off the ground. The K-Dawg had no sooner elevated 10 feet from the forest floor when a loud clank sound burst from the outer door of the crew compartment. The door swung open. The sunlight shot in revealing the silhouette of a tall foreboding figure. The skele-bot’s glowing red eyes fixed on Benna. It’s outstretched arms menacingly held on to the jam of the hatch.
Benna fumbled for her pistols. But just before she could unholster her 6-shooters and fire over her mother’s shoulder, Sister Rebecca climbed down from the back of her new skele-bot sentinel.
“You could have had the decency to wait for me, Turag. Apollo All Mighty!”
The skele-bot closed and sealed the hatch door as Sister Rebecca unloaded her stuff.
“Benna, meet Pandora. I sort of like the name Pandora the Deplorer.”
“It’s a girl?” Benna asked excitedly
“Of course it is a girl. You didn’t think I would make a useless male robot, did you?”
“I love it, Ms. Rebecca! She’s amazing! Though her red eyes are creeping me out a bit.”
“She has red eyes? Are red eyes scary? I didn’t realize her eyes even had a color. Blind, you know.”
“I am sorry. I forgot. I didn’t…”
“Sorry? Please don’t feel pity for me child. Just because I can’t see does not mean I am inferior or in any way disabled. I like not seeing with my eyes. Have you ever thought that your eyes are creating too much distractions? I don’t have those meaningless distractions. Look, you are afraid of a color. Like ThorFrid with the color purple. I am not burdened by such trivial concepts of color.”
“I heard that!” Yelled ThorFrid from her gun turret. “Is the Lilac League making plots again? Captain Slow did you put them up to this? No more talking about the Color-That-Shouldn’t-Be-Named.”
“I…. had…. noth…. ing…. to…. do….with….”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Less talking more flying. And the rest of the Lilac League need to pipe it down. I can’t even hear the voices in my head think!”
“An…. a…. khet…. was…. our…. co…pi…lot…. She…. is…. not…. here…. an…. y…. more…. Ben…. na…. will…. you…. help?”
“Me? You want a 9 and a half year old as your co-pilot? I don’t even have m’license, but okay, where ever I can help.”
Benna unbuckled her harness that Claire had just put on. Turag’s eyes were fixed on Claire through a mirror in the cockpit. Claire aided her daughter once more. And pulled her close to whisper, “Be careful my child. Be careful.”
“Absolutely, Mam! I always am.”
Benna walked towards the cockpit steadying herself through some trubulance. She took her place in a high backed captain’s chair to the right of Turag. Her head barely came above the control console. Turag noticed her position and pressed a button raising her chair to a better height.
“Thanks, Mr. Turag, boss. Plotting a course to Castle Rock.” Benna linked her mind to the controls of the ship. She asked it politely to fix a course. She sensed the ship comply. Once the course was charted in the magic computer, Turag released the throttle. The K-Dawg lurched into speed.
In Castle Rock, Claire had a long overdue reunion with her estranged husband, Fairghen MacArawn, the Baron of Keranaugh. It was the most awkward sight to see. The two of them didn’t want anything to do with each other. The Baron was in disbelief, and thought it was a trick. Claire thought he was being an ass as she tried to explain that all the evil things were Morgana. The two feuded for well over an hour. Luckily, the band of Fenrir got some shawarma takeout to pass the time while the couple went from disbelief, to hate, to regret, to sadness, to forgiveness, and finally to embracing each other following Claire creating a mind meld with Fairghen.
The whole ordeal was exhausting. The group would have left sooner if they didn’t have to wait for the K-Dawg to be loaded as freight on the leyline train heading to End Of The Line.
After boarding the train they settled in for the 8 hour leyline ride. It was not long that the group learned that the trip was taking longer than normal. Turag postulated that the leyline was passing through dimensional pockets similar to the energy surrounding Fadetowns. This was acting like a reverse-flow slowing the train down. The trip was probably going to take 10 days.
ThorFrid nearly lost her mind when she heard Turag say this.
“You have to be kidding me! Loki?! This is your doing! Where are you? I’m outta here. Loki and I have unfinished business.”
ThorFrid stormed off to other parts of the train.
Keegan pulled out his bagpipes to pass the time while in the lounge area of the train. His playing was worse than normal. Passengers began moving away from his “music” with visual and verbal disdain for his talents. Feeling out of sorts since being changed from Dwarf to Red Cap, Keegan blamed his performance on this change. He tried to cower away from the angry mob beginning to aggregate in the lounge by fading from sight. The spell backfired and turned him invisible while stunning him in the process.
Turag passed his time in the workshop of the K-Dawg finishing a techo-wizardry collar for Tut, along with some other secret projects.
ThorFrid on her search for Loki got in a fisticuffs with a guy she thought to be Loki. Her M.O.M. kicked into gear and rendered the guy into a coma. The underground fight club opened fire on her bringing her to an inch of life. She was thrown into the clank, where luckily Sister Rebecca found her. Rebecca in an effort to convert followers to Apollo did a massive group healing. This healed ThorFrid and everyone else involved in the fight club brawl. Benna went around the train proselytizing Sister Rebecca’s name. People started to deify her name as Saint Rebecca. Lucky for Keegan, ThorFrid’s fight produced enough blood to wet his Red Cap head for the 10 days.
Compared to the 10 day train ride, the flight from End Of The Line to Castle Refuge was quite dull. What passed the time was ThorFrid relating to Turag what had happened on the train. It would have only taken about 10 minutes to tell the full story, but Turag kept interrupting to ask questions. ThorFrid probably told the story 54 times over.
Arriving at Castle Refuge, most of the crew went to Keegan’s tavern, The Embrace to drink a keg a piece. This was Keegan’s challenge. Rebecca was there again to heal the ones who poisoned their livers beyond physical repair. Meanwhile, Benna went looking for some jobs on the job board.
Looking at the job board, Benna saw Erin Tarn’s name. At that moment she recalled the cartoush bearing Tarn’s name. Benna thought it was strange that Erin had a cartoush just like Morgana and Merlin who were both trapped by the ancient tablets. Why was Tarn not trapped? Benna left the Embrace to confront Tarn.
After being healed by Rebecca, the crew notice Benna was missing. They put the clues together about Erin Tarn, and supposed Benna went looking for Tarn. They went to the castle proper to find Benna before she stumbled into trap.
Benna was found having a pleasant conversation with Tarn in the castle.
“Who do you suppose would win in a fight, Ms. Erin, a Splugorth Sleep-over octo-ape-bear or….Santa Claus?”
“That’s an odd question. Is there something else you came to ask me, Benna? You look quite worried. Is everything okay?”
At that moment, the rest of Fenrir stumbled into the room.
“There you guys are! I was just asking ‘Ms. Erin’,” Benna said with air quotes, “who would win between a Splugorth Sleep-over octo-ape-bear vs Santa.”
“Benna, I think it’s time to leave Ms. Tarn alone now,” Keegan said to her cryptically. “Ms. Tarn is a very busy woman. Come on let’s go.”
“Wow!” Sister Rebecca turned to all of the group and whispered too loudly. “There is definitely a Splugorth shapeshifter in this room.”
Keegan quickly pulled Benna back away from the imposter Tarn.
“Ha, ha, ha, you fools. So, you figured it out did you? Not sure how. I have been parading as this book-whore for months now. So, boring! She lives such a simpleton’s life. Why anyone looks up to her is beyond my understanding. Did you not think that Morgana would not have spies in all the high places of government? This wrinkled hag is just one of her many minions infiltrated into every moving piece throughout this country. You are not dealing with a mere mortal, failing Fenrir. You are dealing with a god!”
The kind, wrinkled but beautiful face of Erin Tarn peeled away from the woman standing in front of the party. Underneath the husk of skin was slimy greenish blue scales. The creature had yellow crocodilian eyes and a slitted blunt nose. The skin seemed to be reabsorbed into the folds of her neck as it peeled away.
Benna, using this moment of distraction she cast a psychic protective armor around herself, then used Santa’s Christmas Crown to create a perfect copy of herself. The copy quickly threw up a mental barrier wall to protect the group from any major blast the shapeshifting witch could throw. Then, she shot out a psycho-bullet at the shapeshifter.
Sister Rebecca took that moment to call upon a deep sleep to come on Tarn’s imposter. Remarkably, the creature succumbed to the priestess’ persuasive powers and fell to the ground in a deep slumber.
They all breathed a sigh of relief as the crisis was adverted. But that moment of stillness and calm was broke. ThorFrid raced forth with her hammer. Before the group could stop the Crazy, she had already taken the spy’s life. A sickening crack resonated the room as the fleshy shapeshifter’s skull crushed like an egg beneath the feckless blow of the aesirian hammer.
“ThorFrid. What have you done?” Keegan asked with great shock.
“Don’t worry, Keeg. I handled it. She’s dead.”
“That is the point of my question.” Keegan’s frustration was beginning to rise. “This. This has gone on for too long. I. I can’t…I can’t be…here, anymore.”
“What? She was a purple spy for the Splugorth, Keegan. I handled it. You don’t have to worry. It’s okay.”
Both of the copies of Benna dropped their pistols, and fell to their knees. “ThorFrid, she, she wasn’t purple.”
“Sure she was purple, Spitfire, ‘Crazy, not stupid’, remember.” ThorFrid for the first time looked down at what was left of her quarry. She saw no purple skin. No purple clothes. No purple tentacles. No purple eyes. No purple anything. She bent down and frantically rummaged the remains searching for any bit of purple. There was none to be found. Her hands now sticky and greasy from the blood and visceral remains, she stood to face Keegan.
“She was a spy, Kee…Keegan? Where did he go?” The Red Cap, cyberknight, wandering judge, and justice of the peace had fade from sight. He was gone.
In Turag’s ear a whisper, “Lead them better than I have done. It is yours now.” A book suddenly materialized out of thin air in Turag’s hands. His first instinct was to drop it. Deny it. He did not want that burden. This was not his path, and he knew this.
“Mr. Keegan!” Benna said with tears starting up again. She had returned back to one person and the crown was again on her head. “Come back Mr. Keegan, we can fix this. Remember, it will all go back to how it was, once we find Merlin to remove the curse. We need you, Mr. Keegan! I need you! It wasn’t your fault—it was mine…”
There was no response.
At that moment a claxon alarm erupted throughout the castle.