Several thousand miles from where the Sailor Senshi of Earth had just made a surprisingly successful rescue of Julie from Davy Jones’ Locker, a doughnut-shaped spaceship hovered over the earth, cloaked in an invisibility shield.
Seven rather depressed senshi (two-thirds of whom had pink hair) sat at a round conference table, staring dejectedly at a voice communicator attached to the wall. Even Sailor Tange and Sailor PerkyFluffyBunny were unusually somber. Their sugar-filled legs tapped the ground nervously and their left eyes gave occasional twitches, but other than that, they were quiet and still.
“I AM VERY DISAPPOINTED IN ALL OF YOU,” a voice announced from the communicator device.
“Sorry, Charlie,” the senshi apologized, hanging their heads in synchronized shame.
“THE ARCHITECT HAS INTERFERED WITH OUR PLANS ONE TOO MANY TIMES, BUT HE WILL BE PUNISHED. EVEN AS I SPEAK, HEALTH INSPECTORS ALL OVER THE WORLD ARE INVESTIGATING HIS FAST FOOD RESTAURANT CHAINS. REPORTS WILL BE FILED AND THE TRUTH BEHIND THE TRANS-FAT, ECOLI, AND SALMONELLA COVERUPS WILL COME OUT. THE WORLD WILL KNOW WHAT REALLY HAPPENED TO THAT SPANISH SPEAKING CHIHAUHA MASCOT. HIS EMPIRE WILL SOON FALL!”
“Brilliant move, Charlie!” Sailor Light commended, always the suck-up.
“He definitely deserves it,” Sailor Pink scoffed. “Call me Matthew. NO, not MATT, MattHEW,” she mimicked, rolling her eyes. “What a ninny.”
“NINNY, INDEED. STILL, YOU WERE LUCKY TO ESCAPE THE ARCHITECT’S DOMAIN IN THE MISTS OF TIME … HOW DID YOU MANAGE THAT?”
“We’re not actually sure,” Cranberry admitted. “After Sailor Moo sacrificed herself, the smelly French host declared the games were over and we were sent back to our spaceship.”
“WHAT IS THIS YOU SAY?” Charlie demanded. “THE LEADER OF THE EARTH SENSHI IS DEAD?”
“Yes,” Boris said quietly. “She died to save her friends. It was very brave.”
“Stupid, you mean,” ChibiS said, intently focused on filing her nails with the flat part of a bloodied knife.
“Definitely stupid,” PerkyFluffyBunny agreed. “The only thing worth sacrificing yourself for is Skittles. And maybe Tropical Starbursts.”
“Mmm-hmm,” Tange nodded, her mouth salivating.
“THIS IS EXCELLENT NEWS. WITHOUT THEIR LEADER, THESE SAILORS WILL BE EVEN EASIER TO DISPOSE OF. PERHAPS THE EMPEROR WILL DECIDE TO FORGIVE YOU AFTER ALL.”
“That would be very kind of The Great One,” Cranberry said, shivering despite herself. She was aware of how close her team was to facing the Emperor’s terrible wrath. One of them could lose a hand. Or find out the disturbing results of a paternity test. Or decide to make prequels. Yikes.
“YOU’RE NOT OFF THE HOOK YET. THE DEATH STAR WILL BE IN MY COMMAND UNTIL FUTURE NOTICE. THE EMPEROR IS COMING TO EARTH TO WATCH OVER YOU AND TO ENSURE THAT NO FUTURE MISTAKES ARE MADE. OR GO UNPUNISHED. THE EMPEROR ARRIVES TOMORROW.”
“Then we must go and prepare for The Great One’s arrival!” Light said enthusiastically, standing up from the conference table.
“FIRST, ANSWER ME THIS – DO THE EARTH SENSHI KNOW THE PRINCESS’S SECRET IDENTITY?”
“You mean that she is really the Princess of the Moo Kingdom’s illegitimate daughter from the future?” Cranberry said.
“DID THE MEMORY MODIFICATION GO AS PLANNED?”
“It did,” Sailor Pink said proudly. “Before S.I.M.O.N.’s ultimate demise, the robot was able to infect the Earth Senshi’s minds, removing their knowledge of the Princess’s true identity. They know her now only as Crazy Girl. And they find her really irritating.
“GOOD. THE SENSHI MAY SACRIFICE THEMSELVES FOR A FRIEND OR FOR A DAUGHTER OF THE FUTURE, BUT NEVER FOR A COMPLETE STRANGER. IF GIVEN THE CHOICE, THEY MUST NOT SAVE HER. SHE MUST DIE. FOR REAL THIS TIME. OVER AND OUT.”
The voice communicator went silent.
“Goodbye, Charlie,” the senshi chimed, once again in unison.
Meanwhile, in Mallory’s living room …
“It’s good to have you back, Sailor Moo,” Krystina exclaimed, patting the senshi leader on the back, her claws safely sheathed. For now, anyway.
The ten senshi (plus one talking cat) were gathered in Mallory’s living room, contentedly munching on low-fat, whole-grained homemade cookies, courtesy of Mallory’s mom who thought they were holding a SPAAK meeting. Mallory’s living room may have been a bit cramped for their liking, but at least her backyard wasn’t teeming with rapists. “I don’t think the ex-ex-freshmen would have been competent enough to stand up against the enemy in your absence.”
“But I would have been leading them!” Mallory protested. “I thought you said that I would make an excellent full-time senshi leader.
“Yes, well, it’s best that we don’t test that theory,” Krystina said.
“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Krystina” Valerie muttered. Maybe I’ve been wrong all along, she thought, thinking that Bob is the most evil of all of us … maybe it’s the cat, after all. Maybe Krystina should die!
Bob let out a loud, whole-grained belch. All of the senshi “eww”ed in disgust, except for the currently unconscious Lisa, who apparently has a high tolerance for gross things. Which would explain her otherwise inexplicable attraction to Bob.
Valerie narrowed her eyes. Nope, the blonde still dies first. But Krystina has bypassed pointy-eared boys and hairy, Italian guys and moved up to second …
“Now that we have reunited once again, it is time we discuss our plans for the final battle against the Emperor and her hoard of evil senshi warriors,” Krystina said.
“How can you be sure that we’re so close to the final battle?” Vanessa said. “There’s always the chance that we’ll run into another moderately incompetent henchman or two before this story arc is over. At least that’s what the prophetic flames told me before my bathroom mirror caught fire this morning.”
“The third season has gone on for far too long already,” Krystina said. “How many more henchmen could possibly be left? I am sure that the ending is near.”
“You ex-ex-freshmen might as well pick out your coffins now,” Julie said, pulling out a phonebook-sized catalogue. The others couldn’t read the cover but along the spine were the words Turn your grief into graves – give us a call for all your burial needs. “There’s no way you’ll make it past The Final Battle Part Two: Everyone Dies Again (Again).”
“Even though we’re 0 for 2 final showdowns, it doesn’t mean we won’t manage to not die this time,” Mallory said. “Without black knights and rabid bunnies roaming Loserville, how many more bizarre and tragic deaths do you think we could possibly suffer that we haven’t suffered already?”
“I have no bloody idea,” Julie said, “but you former freshmen seem to outdo yourselves every time. It would be kind of funny if it wasn’t so pathetic.” She opened the catalogue and flipped to a dog-eared page. “I was thinking a cream-colored oak. If we buy in bulk, we could probably get a discount for your funerals.”
“No, that’s your funeral!” Niki cried out randomly, thrashing in her sleep. The former messiah was passed out next to the future messiah on the sofa. Neither was wakable, but with two fewer senshi voicing their rather worthless opinions (except in sleep), the meeting was running more smoothly than usual.
Everyone thought it best to just let them remain unconscious.
Half an hour later the senshi who were conscious sat in silence, mulling over the plan Krystina had laid out. Niki continued to mutter in her sleep, largely unintelligible – as usual. Lisa had shifted a few minutes before, snuggling closer to Niki, her head leaning against the upperclassman’s shoulder and her arm thrown over her waist. If Bob felt a tinge of jealousy, she kept it to herself.
“I’ll admit that I’m still a little iffy on the part where we steal a NASA space shuttle and fly up to meet the enemy on their own turf,” Julie said, “but I’m additionally concerned that this entire plan seems to hinge on combining the A$$ Penny and the Holy Milk Pail to form some yet unnamed superpower. Are we sure that’s even possible?”
Krystina and Eva exchanged a look before the senshi of time spoke up. “It’s possible, but it won’t be easy. It requires a delicate balance of power and energy. We are summoning an entity from far into the future where the strands of the Web of Time are most fragile and tenuous. One wrong move and – KABOOM!”
“Julie blows up?” Bob guessed, her interest piqued.
“Well yeah, Julie and the rest of the world,” Eva said. “Of course there’s a chance that it could all go wrong and everyone could die (when is there not?), but I’m not too concerned. I think Krystina’s mathematical calculations are spot on.”
“Says the girl who can’t read a digital watch,” Bob muttered, quietly enough that Eva wouldn’t be prompted to beat her over the head with her staff.
Julie groaned. “Can we please stop resting the fate of the world on a freaking cat? Honestly, it makes me a little queasy.”
“Better a cat than the ex-ex-freshmen,” Special K pointed out.
“Are we in agreement then?” Krystina prompted, apparently eager to get to the blowing up part of the mission.
The others nodded discordantly, too tired for synchronization. They were all eager to go home and to sleep, longing to drink something other than rum and eat something other than saltwater trout. Special K nudged Niki’s and Lisa’s heads with her foot so that their heads fell forward in a nod-like motion.
It was unanimous.
“Very well,” Krystina said. “You all know what you need to do.” She held up a short baton that looked suspiciously like it might have been stolen from a Disney-loving preschooler. “Let the mission – begin!”
That afternoon in the colorful landscape known to Nintendo 64ers as
“It has been a while since you have visited me, child,” the Walrus greeted her at the door, waddling in his adorable walrus way.
“I haven’t been sleeping much,” Niki admitted. “Only eight, nine hours tops, most days. It doesn’t give me much time to stop by.” She ducked her head and walked into the cool, damp interior, taking a seat on a low stool. “Has the carpenter been in lately?”
“I haven’t seen him in more than a week. I fear he has found religion.” Mr. Walrus waddled to the kettle on the stove, pouring steaming water into two mugs. His fins were very dexterous. “Can I offer you a cup of hot cocoa?”
Niki nodded and the Walrus handed her a mug. Her eyes lit up. “Green jello-shaped marshmallows!” she exclaimed. “My favorite!” Happily, she began to guzzle the off-colored cocoa.
“What troubles you, my child?” The Walrus was relaxed now, leaning back against the wall, his own mug balanced on his tail flipper which extended out flat in front of his massive body.
Niki sighed. She was never a big fan of the share-your-feelings game, even if Mr. Walrus was her favorite non-person to talk to. “I don’t know, everything’s just weird now. There’s this new girl Lisa, and she’s such a …”
Niki narrowed her eyes. “Yeah, she’s such a freshman.” Grr, freshmen.
Mr. Walrus sipped his tea delicately, his tusks knocking against the china. “If you give her a few months, I’m sure she’ll grow out of it.”
“I wish. There’s this whole subplot where she ended up with half of my former messiah powers and now she’s more powerful than all of us and she’s supposed to save the world and she gets to sleep way more than I do and she’s got stupid blue hair and bad taste in women.” Niki said this all very quickly and without the use of punctuation. “Got any mollusks?”
The Walrus passed Niki a plate of mollusks. “So, you’re jealous?”
“No, I’m not jealous! I just want to rip her heart out and eat it. In front of her face.”
“Fair enough,” the Walrus said, setting his mug aside on the table. “Niki, you know that a great battle approaches.”
“Yeah, I slept through an important battle planning slash coffin selection meeting today. Apparently I agreed to go along with the mission although I have no recollection of this. I woke up with Lisa’s head on my shoulder, went home, showered twice, and fell back asleep.”
The Walrus nodded sympathetically. “This is a dangerous time for you, when you will be tempted by the Dark Side of the Force.”
“Again?!” Niki cried. “Does that mean my hair’s going to get really long and I’m going to direct my henchmen in another salute to Broadway’s great directors?” She grinned, lost in nostalgia. “That part was pretty fun, actually. I think I’d go with Sondheim this time. I just don’t want to be reincarnated any shorter than I already am.”
“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm?”
“Oh don’t worry, I like the fact that you are morbidly obese.”
The Walrus’s whiskers twitched. “My ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. A senshi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression … if once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Consume you it will. Understand what I am saying, do you?”
“Not really,” Niki yawned. “Your words are starting to come out in an illogical order. Object, subject, verb. Object, verb, subject. Sometimes there’s no verb at all. I suspect that I am beginning to wake up.”
She was right. Already the cave was beginning to darken, the edges going fuzzy, until all that remained were the Walrus’s wise, sad eyes. “Stopped they must be; on this all depends. Only a fully-trained Sailor Senshi, with the Force as her ally, will conquer the Emperor. Remember this.”
Niki woke up. After a moment of wiping the sleep from her eyes, she at up in bed and promptly forgot the entire dream.
“I don’t understand why we have to be here,” Valerie whined as she walked around a metal trashcan fire, tossing handfuls of kindling into the roaring flames.
“Shh, we’re supposed to be supportive!” Mallory hissed back, following Valerie around in her loop, waving a fan towards the fire to make sure there was a steady flow of oxygen. Wanting a certain level of concealment, the girls had set up the ritual trashcan fire out of sight in Mallory’s shed. Well aware of the fact that the entire shed was made of extremely flammable wood, Mallory was careful not to fan too vigorously. Not after last time.
Mallory, Valerie, and Vanessa had been chosen to assist Julie and Eva in summoning Sailor Moo’s would-be future power. Only Vanessa seemed pleased with the arrangement – she was more than willing to dance around a makeshift bonfire, encouraging the flames to grow even higher, and swearing that she could make out the distant hazy future – ten, maybe even fifteen minutes from now.
“I guess Krystina decided it wouldn’t be such a hot idea to trust her mathematical calculations after all,” Valerie said. Right after the meeting, the cat claimed to have other business to take care of and hadn’t been seen for hours. “Now she’s probably safe underground somewhere, plotting in her sneaky feline way, while the rest of us go KABOOM!”
“I think Eva’s right that if this plan goes to hell, then everyone – even the cat – is going down in flames with it,” Mallory said, continuing to fan the fire. “Pardon the pun.”
Valerie raised an eyebrow. “You’re awfully upbeat about the likelihood of us all dying again. Again. (Again).”
“It would be the third time I’ve gone and blown myself up,” Mallory reminded her. “First the KiSS dolls, and then the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, and really, it gets easier every time. I’ve made peace with Niki’s sweatshirt.”
“The ritual is ready,” Eva announced, stepping from the shadowy corner, her face and arms bathed in the light of the flames. The others stepped away from the fire. Eva lifted the hood of her guardian robes and flipped it over her head, casting her eyes once more in shadow. She held her staff away from her body, pointed towards the fire. She cupped her free hand and jerked her wrist, sending a silky stream of mist into the fire. The mist hovered for a moment over the flames before it was consumed.
There was a change in the air. The fire continued to roar, but now the flames had taken on a shimmering blue tone. The senshi collectively held their breath as the flames grew gradually more and more blue and then – opaque.
“Crap!” Vanessa cried, distraught. “My psychic fire-reading abilities have abandoned me. I see nothing in the flames! Nothing!” She burst into tears.
“Step away from the fire!” Eva said, shoving Vanessa back with her staff. The girl’s tears were arching in two streaming waves on either side of her face and Eva didn’t want to take the chance that they might extinguish the sacred flames. “Sailor Moo, come forward!”
Somewhat reluctantly, Julie stepped forward, garbed in her spotted leotard and skirt, the A$$ Penny in one hand and the Holy Milk Pail (which had just been rescued from a stint as her hangover bedside bucket) trailing from the other. She looked dubious at best.
“Well, go on then,” Eva said, gesturing to the blackened flames. “Toss them in, before the spell wears out.”
“I really hope you know what you’re doing,” Julie said. Even if Eva was really an ageless guardian from a misty hell dimension, she looked like an ex-ex-freshman and therefore deserved a certain amount of skepticism.
“Just do it!” Eva commanded, poking Julie in the back with her staff.
Julie sighed as she tossed the A$$ Penny into the fire, wondering if she should make a wish, but she didn’t get the chance as –
The flames erupted, shooting even higher towards the ceiling, blacker than night. Julie and the others were thrown off their feet, landing in a heap against the wall of the shed.
“We died!” Vanessa cried, breaking out into a fresh wave of hysterics.
“We die!” Valerie yelled.
“We’re going to die!” Mallory screamed, covering her head in the proper tornado warning technique she learned in school. Not that it would help much. At least they were all wearing their student IDs, for easier identification of the bodies.
“What do we do now?” Julie yelled over the inferno, struggling to stand, still clutching the Holy Milk Pail.
“We have to finish!” Eva yelled back, inching along the wall closer to the fire, although the searing heat of the blaze was almost unbearable. The room was beginning to fill with a thick, black smoke.
With all her might, Julie lunged at the trashcan and heaved the Pail into the flames. There was another explosion which rocked the whole shed, pitching the others to the ground again until only Eva and Julie remained standing.
The fire were changing again, brightening to a silvery blue with veins running throughout, crisscrossing like the strands of a spider’s web. The A$$ Penny and Holy Milk Pail were suspended in the flames, their luminous silhouettes morphing and flowing together, becoming one new shape. A talisman from the future.
Julie could feel the air buzzing with electricity. There was power flowing in the room now, a charged energy that connected her to the talisman silhouetted in the fire. She knew that this power was a part of her, that the talisman was hers and hers alone, but how could she reach it? The fire burned brighter than ever and she had no protection against the heat.
Without saying anything, Eva moved as close as she could to the roaring fire, one hand pressed against the wall for support. With her other hand she lowered her staff into the flames. The staff lit up for a moment, glimmering like a jewel until it lost its form, dissolving into a silver mist that settled once more over the fire, extinguishing the flames.
Julie’s mouth gaped open in surprise. “Eva, why did you do that?”
“It was the only way you could obtain your new power,” she replied simply. “To summon a talisman from that far into the future, it requires a sacrifice of sorts, something to balance the draw of power across such a great stretch of time and distance. My staff was the only thing that would work and I sacrificed it willingly.”
“Is it gone forever?” Vanessa said, standing up from her crouched position and wiping her watery red eyes.
“I think so.”
“What a waste!” Valerie exclaimed. “What are you going to use to beat Bob over the head with now?”
“A conveniently located metal bat, I suppose. If one is conveniently located.”
“What does this mean?” Mallory said. “Are you still a Guardian? Can you still summon and manipulate the Web of Time or are you as powerless as we are now?”
Eva shrugged, a sad smile on her face. “I don’t know. Only time will tell.” If the mood had been less somber, the others might have chuckled a little at the pun.
Julie placed her hand on Eva’s shoulder. It was more physical contact than she usually allowed herself around the ex-ex-freshmen, well aware that she wasn’t 100% immune to their cooties. Her immunizing shots were a few months overdue. “That was very decent of you, Eva. Your sacrifice will not be forgotten. Now let’s see what we’ve got here.”
When the sacred flames had extinguished the talisman had fallen to the bottom of the trashcan. Julie bent over the side of the still-warm metal, rummaging around the sooty inside of the can. She couldn’t quite reach it. Her feet lifted from the ground and she fell forward, prompting Mallory to grab onto her waist to keep her from ending up head-first in the trash. Not that she didn’t really deserve it.
“I’ve almost got it!” Julie’s voice echoed from inside the can. “Pull me up, Mallory!”
With a heave ho, Mallory pulled Julie out of the trash and she stood standing there in all of her soot-covered glory, triumphantly clutching a –
“What the hell is this thing?” Julie cried.
A mostly-conscious Niki stumbled to her front door, garbed in a bathrobe and yawning with annoyance. She assumed it was the police, ready to arrest her older brother after months of surveillance and finally get him the hell out of her house, so she was surprised to see Krystina at the door.
“What do you want?”
“We needed somewhere to meet up covertly,” Krystina announced, and Niki noticed that she wasn’t alone. Bob was with her, standing a few yards back, and even worse, she was carrying an unconscious blue-haired, freshman-shaped person. Damn it.
“Couldn’t you go to Valerie’s instead?”
“Valerie’s mom won’t let me in the house,” Krystina said. “She claims to be allergic, but I know she just doesn’t trust me around the birdhouses.”
“Of course not,” Niki sighed, stepping away from the door to let the home invaders in. “She probably figured you’d get mascara all over the couch too.”
“You know you’re being watched, don’t you?” Bob said, breathing heavily as she hauled Lisa over the threshold, accidentally slamming her head against the door frame. The sleeping girl didn’t seem to mind.
“The guys in the unmarked suburban with the tinted windows?” Niki said. “It’s just the police. They’re here every afternoon.”
Niki led the others to the back room of the house that used to function as a dance studio slash blue screen room but was now just the place to keep the laundry. She shoved a pile of clothes aside so Bob could deposit Lisa onto the lumpy couch.
“Why are you bothering me again?” Niki said.
“We are here because Lisa must be awakened – both literally and figuratively,” Krystina said.
“Why?” Niki and Bob said simultaneously, equally displeased at the prospect.
“Because she is the most powerful of us all. She is our key to winning the final battle. It was all in Crazy Girl’s song.”
“Yeah, but that girl’s crazy …”
“I’ve thought long and hard about what must be done, and there’s really only one reasonable conclusion,” Krystina said, ignoring Niki’s feeble protest. “The only foolproof way of resurrecting someone from a deathlike sleep is through true love’s kiss. As clichéd as that is.”
“I’m sorry, but I’m not available,” Niki said, preparing to make a fast getaway, if necessary. “I’m currently involved with someone. Who is a guy. He’s nonexistent. But he’s a guy.”
Bob groaned. “I thought you guys were joking the last time that making out with Lisa was suggested as a solution to any problem. Why do I have to be the one to kiss her? She’s not my true love!”
“Maybe not, but you are Lisa’s true love, and that’s as close as we are going to get,” Krystina said. “I suppose there’s no accounting for taste.”
“I hate you all,” Bob said as she kneeled down next to Lisa’s sleeping figure. She studied the younger girl’s peaceful face, her closed eyes and slightly flushed cheeks. She was kind of pretty in a tomboyish way. Bob supposed it could be worse. At least she wasn’t forced to kiss Tuxedo Diego. Or Jeff, Evil, Evil, Jeff. Ick.
“Go on!” Krystina encouraged.
Bob closed her eyes as she pressed her lips against Lisa’s warm, still ones. No, it wasn’t bad. Not bad at all. Bob was even starting to enjoy herself when two arms reached up and circled her neck, smooshing her lips more tightly against Lisa’s. Bob struggled but couldn’t pull away from the headlock.
“Bob, my love! At last!” Lisa cried, her breath warm on Bob’s cheek.
Special K wrinkled her nose as she climbed the rickety, narrow staircase to the attic that had been converted into a one bedroom apartment. The stair railing was covered in a thick layer of grime, the wallpaper hung in tatters, and the wooden door at the top of the stairs barely hung from one hinge. This was one of the most deplorable places she had ever been inside the Beau Chene ghetto. There wasn’t even a doorman!
She hesitated before knocking on the splintered wood and leapt back, surprised, when the door came crashing to the floor.
“I said I’ll pay you next week,” came a disgruntled voice from the now door-less room.
Special K stepped delicately across the door as the dust settled and her eyes adjusted to the dim light. Even though the ceiling peaked upwards, she had to duck to avoid bashing her head against the low-hanging beam.
“Oh, it’s you,” a woman sighed as Special K came into view. “What the hell do you want?”
“Hello to you too, RA,” Special K replied dryly. “Mind if I take a seat?” She didn’t wait for a reply as she sat down on the corner of an ancient bed – only one of two pieces of furniture in the room. The box spring creaked in protest, but miraculously, didn’t come crashing to the floor.
“I don’t usually invite traitors into my home,” RA growled, her eyes narrowed and her teeth bared. “But go ahead, make yourself comfortable.”
“I didn’t betray you just for the hell of it you know,” Special K said, somewhat miffed. “Being evil wasn’t working for me. There was all that death and destruction and mayhem, and it just got old after a while. It didn’t help that everyone working for Mr. Mister was a bloody idiot. No offense.”
“I only take offense to the fact that you left me for freshmen. Freshmen! What could possibly be more evil and mayhem-filled than those ridiculously short uber-freaks?”
Special K had the decency to look ashamed. “In my defense, they were sophomores when I joined the Sailor Senshi and they’re upperclassmen now. Although they are still ridiculously short. Possibly even shorter than they used to be. It’s a side effect of caffeinated beverages from the future, you know.”
RA rolled her eyes. “Whatever. Why are you here again?”
“I heard you were freelancing as a mercenary. But business hasn’t been good lately, has it?”
“Unfortunately no. I tried to get in with the short-skirted aliens but they kind of freaked me out. All that pink hair.” RA shuddered.
“Would you be interested in taking a job with us?”
“Work with freshmen? I think not!”
“Work with ex-ex-freshmen,” Special K said, emphasizing the ex-ex, for what felt like the twelfth time that day. She smiled brightly. “We have an excellent day rate.”
RA stroked her chin, considering the offer. “Are there any benefits?”
“Health, but no dental.”
“Only if we win.”
“Am I going to have to wear a short skirt?”
“I’d rather if you didn’t.”
“Alright then,” RA said, grinning for the first time all day. “You’ve got yourself a new henchman.”
Meanwhile, Mallory, Valerie, Eva, and Vanessa were crowded around Julie, trying to get a good look at the roughly six inch long, cylindrical, bronze tubey-thing she held in her extremely disappointed hands.
“It looks like an amber spyglass! Maybe you can see Dust!” Valerie said, reaching out for it eagerly. Julie slapped her hand away. She didn’t get the reference.
“It’s not amber, you idiot, it’s bronze.”
“Fine then, it’s a bronze spyglass. Can I take a peak?”
“Or maybe it’s a Chinese finger-trap!” Vanessa suggested. “Confound your enemy while simultaneously making him as helpless as a baby. It’s brilliant! Way better than an A$$ Penny, in my opinion.”
Julie rotated the talisman in her hands, examining it from every angle. “Sorry, none of the above. There’s no holes in it.”
“Oh, oh!” Mallory exclaimed, jumping up and down with excitement. “I know! It’s one of those collapsible cane-thingys. You can, like, pull it open and it gets longer and then you beat people over the head with it.”
Julie nodded. “I could work with that.” She held the talisman like a wand and flicked it around in the air, trying to activate the collapsed extension. When that didn’t work, she hit Mallory over the head.
“Hmm, it’s effective, I suppose, but it doesn’t appear to get any bigger,” Julie said.
“No, that can’t be right,” Eva mused. “This is a super power from the future. Obviously we’re missing something very obvious.”
Before the girls could deduce any further with wild speculation, the shed door slammed open and a huffing Krystina stood in the doorway, her fur bristling. She could barely contain her excitement. “You must come quickly!” she finally gasped. “The Messiah has awoken at last!”