Mallory groaned in pain as she rolled over and opened her eyes. It was dark outside and she was alone, lying in the middle of nowhere. She rubbed her aching head and tried to remember what happened. We were too late to stop Niki from becoming Mistress 13. Then RA showed up and . . . All she could recall after RA's appearance was a bright flash of light and then complete and utter darkness.
Standing, Mallory tried to survey her surroundings. For as far as she could see, there was nothing around but an endless, deserted plain. Maybe the world ended. It could be worse. Sure, everyone but me is dead, but I could get used to the eternally alone thing.
"Mallory!" a small voice yelled from far away.
Mallory squinted in the darkness and could vaguely make out three figures running towards her. "Guys!" she yelled back. "Julie? Valerie? Is that you?"
Several moments later, Julie, breathing hard, arrived at Mallory's side, followed shortly by Valerie and Vanessa. "Mal! We're so glad we found you."
"Where's everyone else? Bob? Eva? Special K?"
"I couldn't find them," Julie confessed. "I woke up a half hour ago about two miles from here and I've been searching for you guys the whole time."
"What happened?" Mallory asked. "You don't think everyone else is . . ."
"No, no," Julie replied, shaking her head. "RA didn't have that kind of power. Not alone, at least."
"I think," Vanessa cut in. "That she somehow managed to transport us somewhere else in order to disorient us."
"She's obviously trying to keep us away from Mistress 13. If we don't get back in time to stop her, then Pharaoh 130 will ascend to this reality, and all will be lost." Valerie frowned. "Possibly. But I'm still not sure where the whole heart-eating thing comes in. I mean, that was just really random and kind of weird.
Mallory rolled her eyes. "Right. Eating hearts is weird, but biting people's ears and/or heads off is just totally normal."
"At any rate, we need to get back to the underground laboratory as soon as possible. I would recommend that we transport there. but . . ."
"But what?" Vanessa asked Julie.
"Mallory and I are the only ones with transportation devices. If we leave now, then the others will be completely stranded. We have to find them, and we have to find them soon."
Meanwhile, far from where Mallory had first awakened to discover that she was lying on a deserted plain, Eva, Bob, Special K, and Jeff had discovered that they had been transported to the edge of a cliff in the middle of nowhere. And now, Special K and Bob stood glaring at each other and shouting accusations every few seconds.
"How on earth was it my fault?" Special K yelled at Bob.
"RA was your partner in crime! You should have done something to stop her!"
"Well, if you pathetic freshmen had managed to destroy us in the last battle, then we wouldn't be here in the first place!"
"Hey, at least we weren't the ones who lost to pathetic freshmen!"
"Bob, why don't you go fall off another cliff? Only this time, don't come back!"
"I didn't fall off! I was thrown into the Gorge of Eternal Peril, thank you very much."
"Because you were too damn stupid to know the color of your own skirt!"
"ENOUGH!" Eva yelled, silencing the two bickering blondes. She cast a disapproving look at Special K. "I expected this much from Bob, but you? I thought you were better than that!"
Special K shrugged sheepishly. "I can't help it. Somehow seeing RA again made the evil in me just spew forth. I'll try and be better."
"Good." Eva turned to Jeff who was crumpled on the ground, bawling his eyes out. "Come on, big guy, get a grip. You can't help Alexia by sitting around crying all day."
"How can I help Alexia anyway?" He moaned back. "She's dead."
"You don't know that."
"I watched as her heart was ripped out of her chest and swallowed whole. Now, unless she's a cow and has a couple to spare, I'm pretty sure she's dead."
Eva gave him a sympathetic pat. "Good point. Nevertheless, we can't just wait around here while there's a chance we can stop the whole end of the world from happening. We have to leave this place and get back to where Mistress 13 is."
"How can we leave here when we don't even know where or when here is? For all we know, we could have been transported a thousand years into the future. The world might already have ended," Special K said.
"That's doubtful," Bob said, "seeing as how we're still here and everything."
"There is a way to know for sure whether or not time has been affected in some way," Eva said.
"Technically, it's forbidden, but I suppose I'll give it a shot." Eva raised her super stick into the air and swung it around her head. "WEB OF TIME, REVEAL!" Long, thin arcs of light issued from the staff and beamed across the land through the air as far as the senshi could see. The light beams crossed over one another, forming an intricate web-like pattern.
"What is that?" Special K asked in awe, reaching out towards the web. Her hand passed right through it.
"This is Time in it's purest and simplest form. If Time is altered in any way, for example, if some object or person other than myself travels through time, then the web will be broken. As you can see, the web is flawless. We were not sent through time."
"Okay," Jeff said, finally standing as he wiped his eyes dry. "If we haven't been sent to another time or dimension then how do we get back to the Mistress 13?"
A smile lit Bob's face. "I think I have an idea."
After walking along the deserted plain for hours and still not having seen any signs of life, Julie and the others decided to take a break beneath a rather scrawny pine tree. Twilight had already begun to fall and within the next hour, the sky would turn pitch black. There would be no moon that night.
"This is insane," Mallory said finally, voicing the feelings of the other senshi. "It's getting dark, I'm cold, and for all we know we've been walking the wrong way for the last several hours. We're not going to make it back."
"Don't worry, we're going the right way," Valerie said.
"How do you know?"
"Because of my innate sense of direction," she replied.
Mallory rolled her eyes. "What innate sense of direction? You can't even find your way around Loserville, a town that only has one major highway and compromises a total of four square miles."
"What's your point?"
"She's right you know," a male voice said. "You've been traveling the right way, but you have dangers yet ahead of you."
Julie's eyes opened wide with excitement. "The Boy!" she cried when she saw the familiar figure appear as if out of nowhere. "It's The Fairy Who Likes Coke and Peanuts! Cardboard wings and all!" She ran to him.
"What are you doing here?" Mallory asked. "Does this mean we were transported to Nakodish again?"
"F%#k no," he said. "A place far worse than that."
"So, what? We're still in Loserville?" Valerie questioned.
The Boy shook his halo-clad head. "No, you are in none of the aforementioned places. However, you are not f%#king far from your final destination."
Julie beamed. "That's good, right?"
The Boy shook his head again. "Not really. That f%#king b*tch, the Sleeping Messiah, foresaw that RA would not be able to transport you to a distance far enough from the underground laboratory and sh*t and so she prepared some . . . obstacles to bar your way."
"Obstacles?" Vanessa echoed. "What kind of obstacles?"
"Oh you know, the usual sh*t. Killer rabbits, three-headed knights, violent f%#king Frenchmen who like to throw things . . . nothing you can't handle." He shrugged. "Just thought I'd, you know, stop by and give you a 'head's up' or whatever."
"We appreciate your concern," Julie gushed, grabbing hold of his arm. "We appreciate it so very, very much." She ran a finger along one of his cardboard wings. "Did I ever tell you how I simply adore your wings? Ouch!" she added a moment later. "Paper cut."
The Boy shrugged her off and shot her a weird look. "Yeah, whatever. Anyway, I'm f%#king out of here. Good luck with saving the world and sh*t." He vanished.
Julie grinned at the others. "I think he likes me."
Mallory and Valerie exchanged looks. "What gave you that idea?"
"It was so obvious," Julie sniffed as she tossed her hair behind her shoulder. "Didn't you notice how he practically threw himself at my feet? He obviously has a crush on me. I'm even considering indulging his fantasies. His desperation was almost cute."
"Just smile and nod," Valerie advised Mallory and Vanessa under her breath as she rolled her eyes. "Julie, haven't you forgotten about someone? You know . . . he's hairy. And Italian." She stood on her tiptoes and raised her hand as high as she could. "And about yea tall."
Julie's face was blank. "Who?"
"Oh, come on! He wears tuxedos for no apparent reason and you have a daughter from the future with him. Only she's dead now and she's not really a girl."
"Oh him." Julie's expression darkened. "I am so over him. Has he even been around lately? I mean, when was the last time he actually showed up? Episode nine?"
Vanessa, busy on the lookout for the forewarned dangers rather than listening to Julie's b*tching, scanned the surrounding area. She held up her hand to silence the others. "Guys, I see something over there in front of the entrance to that cave."
"What cave?" Mallory squinted. "Wait, I'm confused."
"Mal, try putting on your glasses, since you apparently forgot to wear your contacts today," Valerie advised.
"Right, my glasses. Which would be where?"
"Try your head."
Mallory patted her head and sure enough, they were there. She secured her glasses on her face and looked again. "Oh the cave. I see it now. And there's something small and white with big, floppy ears that's hopping around right outside the cave. What is it? A sheep?"
"No. It's a bunny."
"What a fantastic idea you had," Special K said sarcastically, glaring at Bob. "Oh yeah, walking to the underground laboratory. What a plan. Wish I could have thought of it myself."
Eva sighed impatiently. "Special K, stop it. You're acting like a sophomore."
Special K winced. "Ouch, Eva. When you attack, you really hit below the belt, huh?"
Bob smiled superiorly, an evil gleam in her eyes. "Special K, since you're such a big, powerful junior and everything . . . prove it."
Special K narrowed her eyes. "And how do I do that?"
"Why don't you figure out a way for us to get out of here? Since walking is apparently a too lowly and simple means of transportation."
"Okay." Special K stopped walking and looked around. "Got one," she said a moment later.
"What is it?"
Special K pointed to what seemed to be a helicopter launchpad (since there was a helicopter on it and all) about a hundred yards away (which they hadn't noticed was there before). "How about we fly?"
Eva approached the helicopter and took a closer look. "Room for four. How convenient." She frowned. "You don't think there's something fishy going on here?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, it's a helicopter. Just sitting here for no apparent reason. It's got to be a trap of some sort. Besides, it could be dangerous, especially if you don't know what you're getting yourself into."
"It's the only thing we've got."
"She's got a point," Jeff said, backing up Special K. "It would be a faster means of travel than walking."
Eva shrugged resignedly. "Okay. Whatever you want. Just remember, this here is a preemptive 'I told you so.'" She took a deep breath. "I told you so."
Special K jumped up excitedly and ran to the piolet's side of the helicopter. She
opened the door (which just happened to be unlocked) and hopped in. "I'll fly. Come on,
everyone. Time's a wasting."
"It's a bunny," Julie repeated. She and the others moved behind a rock closer to the cave. "Okay, no big deal. Let's go kill it. I admit, I'm a bit on the hungry side."
"Remember what The Boy said?" Vanessa asked. "Killer rabbits were included on the list of new obstacles. This rabbit could be more than it seems."
Julie rolled her eyes. "It's a harmless little bunny! You transform into them all the time. They're weak and small. And fluffy. And cute. Come to think of it, I don't really want to eat the bunny anymore."
"Bunnies can be deceiving creatures," Vanessa said wisely. "They may appear to be helpless, but they may indeed be powerful. The force seems especially strong in this one."
"Okay, Obi-Wan," Valerie said sarcastically. "What do you propose we do?"
"We could try being diplomatic," Mallory suggested. "One of us could approach very slowly in a non-threatening way and maybe . . . try to make a deal with the bunny?"
"Mallory, this is neither war politics nor is it a game show."
"Sorry, it was just a suggestion."
Julie stood from her hiding place. "I'll go "deal" with this bunny." She walked in the open towards the rabbit and then froze, her eyes wide. "Oh guys, that does not look like fruit punch mouth. This rabbit has been eating something . . . bloody."
Mallory looked confused. "I thought they were vegetarians."
"Apparently not this one." Julie took a step back. "And those funny looking white rocks by the cave entrance? Definitely bones."
"Julie, look out!" Valerie yelled, but it was too late. The rabbit had caught sight of the intruder. Before Julie had a chance to move, it leaped at her, it's sharp teeth aimed for her throat.
Eva tried to calm her racing heart as she gripped the sides of the seat so tightly her knuckles were white. She normally didn't have a problem flying, but this was different. She was sitting next to Jeff in the back of a helicopter that was already several hundred feet off the ground and it was being flown by a seventeen year old blonde girl.
"Everything okay back there?" Special K yelled from the pilot seat.
"Everything's fine," Jeff replied. Speak for yourself, Eva thought to herself.
"Are you sure you know what you're doing?" she asked Special K, yelling so that she could be heard over the drone of the propellers.
"Oh sure, no problem. It's actually easier than I thought it would be. Kind of like driving a car."
Eva's eyes widened. "What do you mean easier than you thought it would be? You have flown before, haven't you?"
"Yeah, of course I've flown before." Eva took a deep breath. "But I've never actually piloted a helicopter before, if that's what you mean." Eva began to hyperventilate. "Don't worry though, like I said, it's easy."
Now even Jeff seemed worried. "Special K, the isn't The Matrix! And we're not in an unrealistic cartoon about short-skirted superheroes, where highschool girls just happen to know how to fly helicopters! This is real-life. You can't learn how to fly in a day, it takes years of practice. Did you even give any thought to how you are going to land?"
"Land?" There was a pause. "Oh sh*t."
"AH!" Eva could hear Bob scream from the passenger seat. "WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!"
Julie screamed as the fluffy form of the demented bunny completely filled her vision. She lifted her hands to block the attack and she closed her eyes in terror. Something hit her from the side sending her crashing to the earth.
"Are you alright?" Julie heard Vanessa ask. "I saved you." Julie opened her eyes and found that she was lying in the dirt, several yards from the rabbit which was now attacking the rabid lemmings Valerie had unleashed. The rabbit was winning.
"That's the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rabbit I've ever set eyes on! That rabbit's got a vicious streak a mile wide. It's a killer!" Julie said.
"I warned you!" Vanessa said. "But did you listen to me? Oh no, you knew it all didn't you? Oh, it's just a harmless little bunny, isn't it?"
"Would it help to confuse it if we run away?" Mallory asked, running over to the other two. "The lemmings can't hold out much longer."
"Let us taunt it!" Julie declared. "It may become so cross that it will make a mistake."
"No!" Vanessa said. "This is my battle! I will fight it alone. Just me and the bunny."
"But you'll die!" Valerie said as she joined them. "Just look what it did to my lemmings!" The senshi could see half a dozen small figures lying bleeding around the rabbit which chuckled maliciously. "That bastard!"
"You can't stop me. I'll transform and then I will destroy it. Don't you remember my battle with B*tch #1? I can hold my own."
"But, Vanessa, the rabbit is not a French teacher/taxidermist!" Valerie cried. "This is a completely different scenario we're talking about here! I'm pretty sure the rabbit is more intelligent, anyway."
But it was too late to talk her out of it. Vanessa had already transformed into her bunny form and she began hopping away towards the killer rabbit.
The three senshi watched with crossed fingers as the battle of the bunnies began. Vanessa attacked with a surprising amount of effort and ability but before long she grew noticeably tired. As Vanessa's pace slowed, the other rabbit sped up its attacks, becoming more vicious and deadly than before.
"Isn't there anything we can do?" Mallory asked, covering her eyes to avoid having to watch the fight. "We can't attack! Not when there's a chance we'll hurt Vanessa!" She uncovered her eyes just in time to see the killer rabbit take a swipe at Vanessa with its razor-sharp claws. She promptly covered her eyes again.
"NO!" Valerie screamed as the killer rabbit knocked Vanessa over and then without warning, it sunk its teeth into her throat. "VANESSA!"
Outside, a storm was brewing and the wind picked up, pushing the nose of the helicopter down. Special K struggled for control but the helicopter dived a hundred feet to the ground before she could pull it up again.
"AH!" Bob yelled. "Oh God! I'm too young and beautiful to die! Do whatever you want with them, but spare me!"
"Calm down and get a grip!" Eva said, hitting Bob with her staff. Unfortunately, the helicopter chose that moment to dip again and the staff came down a lot harder on the blonde's head then Eva had intended, knocking her unconscious.
Eva sighed in desperation. The storm grew even stronger outside. She had a feeling it was not a natural storm at all, but one sent by someone with great power to ensure that the senshi never made it back to the laboratory alive. It was a set-up. Eva smiled grimly. But they're forgetting about the one thing that can stop them. Me.
"Eva!" Jeff cried, holding up a set of parachutes. "We can use these to escape. There's only three, but we don't need to save her," he said, gesturing to Bob's still form.
"That's not an option. The storm outside is too powerful. If we leave the helicopter, we won't survive the storm."
"Where did the storm come from anyway? It was so sudden."
"I think that Mistress 13's henchman, RA is involved. She made sure we'd find the helicopter when she used her powers to condemn us to an unspecified location."
"My sister? That b*tch!"
Eva looked surprised. "She's your sister?"
At that moment, the helicopter lurched again, throwing Eva and Jeff from their seats. Instead of pulling out of the dive, the helicopter continued to fall towards the ground, picking up speed, despite the storm.
"What's going on?" Eva cried out.
"There's a slight problem," Special K yelled back. "We seem to be out of gas. I can't get control of the helicopter. We're going to crash!"
Bob's eyes popped open and she sat up, no longer unconscious. "AH! WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!" she yelled again.
"Not just yet!" Eva pulled herself to her feet and held her now bright staff before her. The light emitting from the staff filled the helicopter with an unnatural glow. "MISTS OF TIME, UNRAVEL!" Eva screamed as the helicopter continued its plunge to the earth below.
"STARLIGHT EINHORN MIRAGE!" The shimmering form of a unicorn galloped towards the killer rabbit. The mirage went straight through it, stunning the rabbit, and then the unicorn vanished.
Julie ran to the cave and scooped up Vanessa's bloody form before the killer rabbit could recover. She rushed to the others and gently placed Vanessa on the ground. The senshi gathered around their fallen friend, not sure if she was alive or dead.
Vanessa's ear twitched slightly and she turned her small, fluffy head so she could see them. "Hi guys," she said weakly.
"You're alive!" Valerie shouted happily.
"Not for long. I think I'm dying."
"Oh. That sucks."
"You mustn't give up. You must save the world without me." Vanessa's bunny-sized eyes closed briefly and then fluttered open again. "Tell Malcolm that I never stopped loving him, even when he started shedding on my couch and using a litter box. Someone will have to care for him when I'm gone."
"I'm sure Niki would be more than willing," Mallory reassured her. "Er . . . that is when she's not evil anymore. I promise we won't give Malcolm to anyone that eats hearts for dinner. Or breakfast."
"I have something that I think will help you." Vanessa tried to stand, but she was unable to move. "It's in the small bag I always carry around. Use it wisely, and maybe my sacrifice won't be in vain," she said softly. She closed her eyes one last time and was silent.
Wiping the tears from her eyes, Mallory stood and reached for the bag Vanessa had been referring to. She dumped the bag's contents onto the ground: a single coconut-shaped silver sphere.
Valerie picked up the sphere and frowned in confusion. "What is this?"
Mallory's eyes widened in recognition and she grabbed the sphere from Valerie's hands. "Of course! The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch!"
Bob awoke with a start from her temporary unconsciousness (due to a blow to the head), to find herself in an out-of-control helicopter that was hurtling to the earth, hundreds of feet below. She did the only thing she could think of at that instance. She panicked.
"AH!" Bob screamed. "WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!"
Just as Bob was preparing for the moment when the helicopter would crash into the ground, something unexpected happened. A brilliant light filled her vision and then everything stopped. The helicopter ceased its plunge and hung silent in the still air. The fierce storm outside was gone - as suddenly as it had first appeared. Absolutely nothing was moving, save for Bob's frantic eyes that darted back and forth, searching for the cause of the sudden stillness.
"What happened?" Special K asked quietly from the seat next to Bob's. Shaking, she stood up. "Are we dead?"
"No," Eva answered. "Not quite yet." The two blondes stared in awe at the senshi who appeared from the back of the helicopter. The staff, still intact, glowed brightly in her hand, but Eva herself seemed to be nothing more than a transparent image.
"Did you do this?" Jeff asked. "Did you make everything . . ."
"I stopped time if that's what you mean," Eva replied. "If my calculations are correct, we are suspended only a few feet off the ground. You should make it out of the helicopter safely. I'll try and hold off the storm for as long as I can while you escape."
"What do you mean 'while you escape'? Aren't you coming with us?" Bob gasped as Eva's image flickered faintly before solidifying again. "What exactly have you done? What's happening to you?"
Eva hung her head. "I have broken the last of my taboos. It is forbidden to break even one. The punishment is . . . severe, to say the least. The Powers That Be will learn of my treachery. As you can see, I am fading away. Soon there will be nothing of my physical self left. I will once again become mystical and disembodied, doomed to forever wander the Plains of Time alone."
"But you saved our lives!" Jeff protested.
"It doesn't matter. If I had only broken one, I might have gotten off easy, but I have broken multiple taboos."
"There are four, right?" Special K said. "What are they?"
"Well, under any circumstance, no matter how grave the danger, I must never, ever leave the doorway through time. Which I did. I'm also not allowed to permit anyone to travel through the doorway. Which I also did. And then there's the whole stopping time thing which I also, also did."
Bob counted those out slowly on her fingers. "But that's only three. What about the last one?"
"This is going to sound completely ridiculous," Eva said. She took a deep breath. "Above all other things, I must never ever dance around naked on a hilltop under the fourth full moon of the new year, holding a dying, featherless chicken in one hand and rubbing the tummy of a green wax Buddha statue with the other, while hopping on one foot and reciting the Australian legend of The Lonely Platypus backwards and in Spanish."
Bob, Special K, and Jeff stared silently at Eva for several seconds, mentally digesting the random things she had just said. "Well, surely you didn't break that one!" Special K cried.
Eva shrugged sheepishly and blushed crimson. "I was really bored last Tuesday."
"How could you have possibly done that? This is unbelievable!" Bob ranted. "So, now you're just going to abandon us when we need you most?"
"I'm not abandoning you. Once what I have done is discovered, I will fade away completely. It could be any --." Before she finished, Eva vanished into thin air.
"The Holy Hand Grenade of Artichokes?" Valerie repeated.
"Antioch, not Artichokes!" Mallory corrected. "Duh," she added, slapping her head with her hand, which unfortunately, at that moment, also held the hand grenade. "Ow. Oh, ow. And ow again."
"Moron." Julie muttered, taking the grenade from Mallory. She shook it a bit, held it up to her ear, and then sniffed it. "How does it work?"
"I believe that with it, we mayest blow our enemies into tiny bits," Mallory said.
"It wasn't the only thing in the bag," Valerie proclaimed, holding out a small book. "Behold the instruction manual."
"Consult the instruction manual," Julie instructed her.
Valerie cleared her throat and opened the book. "Instruction manual, chapter two, verses nine to twenty-one. First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then, shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shalt be three. Four shalt thou not count, nor either count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thou foe, who being naughty in thy sight, will snuff it."
"Oh, please, it can't really say that." Julie pulled the instruction manual from Valerie's hands and flipped to the page she had just read aloud. "Who wrote this thing anyway? Monty Python?"
"So, what should we do?" Mallory asked. "Use it to blow the rabbit to tiny bits?"
"Good thinking." Julie handed the grenade to Mallory. "You blow it up. We'll hide behind this rock and hope everything goes well."
Mallory nodded grimly, accepting the task set before her. She crept closer to the rabbit's cave where the killer rabbit sat, baring his sharp teeth. She pulled out the pin and raised the Holy Hand Grenade over her head. "One! Two! Five!"
"Three, Mal!" Valerie corrected her, safely behind a large rock.
"Three!" Mallory threw the grenade in the direction of the cave. But something happened then she did not intend. The grenade sailed through the air, aimed directly for the rabbit but it bounced off the cave wall and rolled back towards Mallory. It came to a rest a few feet from where she stood.
"MALLORY, RUN!" Julie yelled in warning, but not soon enough. The grenade exploded. "MALLORY!"