WAR: Addicts In Love and War (1/4)
by Bonnie Rutledge
Additional Material and Beta-Reading by everyone mentioned herein 

    It was a restaurant - a five-star restaurant mind you - and the 
establishment was virtually empty. No chefs filleted, braised, whipped or 
reduced in the kitchen. No food preparers arranged, sprinkled or garnished. 
The maitre'd as well as wait staff all relaxed at their respective abodes, 
washing their towels, doing their crosswords, and watching their "Paint 
Your Wagon" videos for the fiftieth time, each one sparing not a thought 
in their busy heads for seating, presenting or serving.

     The wine steward had passed out hours before at the pub around the 

     Only one member of the restaurant staff remained, a fidgety little 
man of obviously sensitive temperament, and he paced amongst the tables 
with enough nervous energy to light the CN Tower for a week. This was 
Monsieur Cabon, proud manager of this five-star restaurant known to every 
Torontian gourmand as The Jeweled Peach.

      He was alone at The Jeweled Peach. Alone except for THEM.

     Monsieur Cabon flinched in horror as he heard a crash resound from 
the private dining room. He scurried to its double doors, fell to his 
knees as if in prayer, and proceeded to peek through the keyhole and 
beyond. The peeking proved successful, giving the distraught manager an 
excellent view of the tumblers and pins that combined to form a 
tricky-to-pick lock. The beyond remained elusive to Monsieur Cabon's 
straining eyes because someone (and he cursed this person to a thousand 
painful tortures involving cooking spray) had stuffed a wad of chewing 
gum into the keyhole from the other side.

     He leapt to his feet and began stalking up and down the foyer, 
flailing his arms about as he turned.  What were they doing in there? What 
did they *ever* do in there? The noises never gave a clear picture, only 
taunted Monsieur Cabon further into madness.

     A wave of bawdy laughter erupted from the private dining room. The 
manager stomped his foot and pouted. He knew it! They were mocking him! 
They'd been doing it ever since he'd taken this job in February and become 
saddled with their strange requests.

     Their arrangement was apparently of long standing with the restaurant's 
owner. Monsieur Cabon had never met this person, but received weekly 
missives of instructions and complaints via messenger pigeon. Every week 
the orders ended with the same sentence: The NA party will have its privacy 
and whatever they chose to request...or else.

     The sounds of each gathering varied: sometimes there would be shouting, 
sometimes applause, and once the distinct cacophony of yodeling reached 
Monsieur Cabon's ears. He often heard crashing noises, loud music or a 
rumble of stomping feet that rivaled that of a wildebeest herd. The manager 
had difficulty picturing any such noisy activity that would fit into a 
twenty-foot square room, properly furnished for fine dining. Perhaps they 
danced on the tables? Juggled saucers? Balanced their checkbooks?

     It simply made no sense, for when the meeting was all over, and the 
last guest gave him leave to enter those double doors once more, he would 
rush inside only to find the tables unmoved but loaded with empty cups and 
plates, wadded linen napkins, and a carpet usually blemished by a spill or 
two. Just tables and chairs and dishes - a typical after-dinner party scene.
He saw nothing broken, nothing mysterious, and nothing worth hiding behind 
locked doors.

     A thundering *Thump!* startled Monsieur Cabon out of his musings. The 
noise sounded strangely like a body colliding with wood paneling. Could 
they be having a brawl? He walked to the double doors and raised a fist, 
debating the wisdom of offering to call for an ambulance. His poised hand 
trembled then fell to his side.

     He then crumpled to the floor with a sob, knowing that he wanted more 
than anything to discover what those women were doing in their secret 
meeting, but understanding that he never would. The thought of what that 
yodeling, thumping, stomping party known only as NA might do to him in 
order to preserve their anonymity had Monsieur Cabon, manager of The 
Jeweled Peach, crying like a baby.


     "Be careful of your back, Libby! Be careful of your -"


     Cousin Zebella bounced gleefully on the extra-large trampoline, the 
hem of her Winnie-the-Pooh sheet toga trailing behind each movement. "I 
told you not to try that double-backwards-somersault-with-a-punch-front 
off the trampoline, Libby! Look what you did to the wall! It's dented!"

     Libby dizzily rubbed her cranium, feeling a tad dented herself. 
"Screed can do that jump - I've seen 'im - why not me?"

     "Because you're mortal, hence a chronic sufferer of the effects of 
gravity?" Zebella suggested.

     "And you should've figured that out after your first three attempts," 
Casey added as she served herself a plate of tiramisu from the dessert 
table at the other end of the room.

     Marie practiced her bow-tying skills with an impossibly long piece of 
red satin on a large pillow labeled 'Nunkies' in black cross-stitch. 
Looking up from her current knot, she said, "I don't think we should have 
relocated the trampoline here in the first place. Now we have to move 
tables and chairs, plus there's an imprint of Libby's skull in the 
woodwork. Someone on the restaurant staff will notice the changes."

     Zebella executed a reverse front drop then explained. "We didn't have 
a choice - Jules made us move it."

     Libby nodded ruefully. "Yep. That's the *last* time I try bouncing 
while drinking Fresca. I made a teensy slip, and suddenly there was soda 

     "When she says 'everywhere', she means all over the Shrine to Nunkies," 
Zebella clarified. "I haven't seen so much foaming at the mouth since I 
dared my best friend in first grade to eat an Alka-Seltzer."

     "The point is," Michele said, managing to drag her attention away 
from her autographed CERK publicity photo and speak up. "neither accident 
would have happened  if Libby didn't insist on attempting Screed's 
trampoline tricks. Just because Screed goes around eating rats, you don't 
consider trying that, do you?" Michele paused and reconsidered the question. 
Libby adored Screed with a devotion second to none, despite the 'I Spend My 
Nights With The Nightcrawler' sleep-shirt she wore. "Never mind. Don't 
answer that. I do *not* want to know."

     Libby stretched out between two of the peach brocade wingbacks that 
littered the room. "I hear ya," she groused. "Everyone always picks on the 
Ratpacker. I'm used to oppression, believe you me!"

     "Michele! Libby! Zebella! Marie!" Casey yelled urgently.  "Come on! 
I hear the meeting call!"


     The original area of the private dining room at The Jeweled Peach 
remained mostly unchanged, filled with the food displays, drinks and place 
settings that the restaurant provided. There were only two alterations: a 
pair of tables had been shoved aside to make space for the black hexagonal 
trampoline, and an archway had appeared where there had previously been 
only solid wood. This archway was part of the wall's secret door.  Opened 
only during group meetings, it hid the inner sanctum of Nunkies Anonymous - 
a suite of chambers with high ceilings, frescos, and many accessories. The 
sanctum was actually located in a building attached to The Jeweled Peach, 
but the members of NA refused to make any distinction. What was the fun of 
going through the front door of your secret hideout when you could sneak 
in instead?

     The property's central chamber was the most important, for it 
contained The Shrine to Nunkies. A large altar, atop which multiple 
incensoirs released heady smoke that smelled of rosebuds, dominated the 
Shrine. Loungers upholstered in solid red silk (except for one blemished 
by Fresca stains) surrounded the altar, and tapestries depicting scenes 
of Lacroix in a toga hung on the walls.

     The Shrine also had audio and video capabilities, tastefully hidden 
by scarlet draperies unless they were in use. At this moment, a slender 
hand pulled back the red fabric shield to reveal a digital recorder. Annie 
Raper, founder of Nunkies Anonymous, pressed a series of buttons and smiled 
in satisfaction as a voice - his voice - began to echo through the room.

     "Share all of yourself. Because I'm the Nightcrawler, and I love 
you all."

     Annie heard exclamations followed by the excited chatter of female 
voices growing closer. From several portico-like hallways that branched 
from the Shrine, Annie noted each member of Nunkies Anonymous as they 

      Cousin Heather and Rosemary had appeared before the Nightcrawler 
recording finished, their arms replete with Ziploc bags.  "Oooh! That 
always happens!" Rosemary said. "No sooner than I decide to relax in the 
Sauna, you call a meeting!"

     "NiteRose deserves some steam and relaxation, too!" Cousin Heather 
commented, trying to tug the sleeve of her MacIntosh tartan shirt down 
without dropping any bags. "She spent the past three hours making enough 
anatomically-correct Chocolate Nunkies for everyone!"

     "You worked your fair share, Heather," Rosemary insisted, slipping 
Annie several bags. She then placed one on each seat for her fellow members.

     Cousin Heather did the same with her Ziplocs, saying, "Not so - you 
did the brunt of the job - I just added the eyebrow detail. The rest of my 
time was devoted to Annie's other chocolate request."

     Kim scrambled in from the Laboratory (Rosemary and Heather tended to 
call it the kitchen) soon after them, smelling of garlic and ethyl ether.

     "Phfew!" Rosemary exclaimed, waving a hand through the air. "I thought 
we'd finally escaped those fumes!"

     "What are they from?" Annie asked as she wrinkled her nose, worried 
that the smell might affect her chocolate taste buds.

     "Bons was messing with some kind of garlic concoction when NiteRose 
and I first arrived in the kitchen," Heather explained.

     "Laboratory," Kim corrected, "it's a laboratory."

     "Kitchen, laboratory - who cares? All I know is, it's not the sauna," 
Rosemary scoffed.

     "Uhm, right, NiteRose," Annie said. "That still doesn't identify what 
kind of stinky things Bonnie and Kim did in there."

     "It's another distillation project of Bons'," Kim answered. "She did 
essence of clove, then lemon, last week. Now she's getting adventurous. I, 
unfortunately, peeked in on the chocolatiers at the precise moment Bonnie 
needed an assistant. She left me with instructions on how to separate the 
water-based and oil-based portions of the distillate, then ran off to 
do who-knows-what."

     "Oh, *that* stinky thing," Annie replied. "I remember Bons mentioning 
her chemistry plans now. You still smell - and I mean that in the nicest 
possible way - why don't you run and change?" Kim nodded and hurried off.

     Casey, Zebella, Libby, Marie, and Michele entered and made hungry, 
bawdy comments about their chocolate gifts. Cousin Robi and Cousin Tser 
arrived next, Robi still in costume from her visit to the Toga Room. Tser 
wore black jeans, turtleneck and boots, and she sported a sleek buzzcut 
that was just slightly longer than Nunkies' own. She also carried Cousin 
Gwendolyn, a lovely tortoiseshell Manx, who also happened to be a Nunkies 
addict. NA was an equal-opportunity-for-all-species organization.

     Jan and Susan came from the Greenroom,  each carrying several white 
long-stem roses. The pale blooms looked especially spiffy against the long, 
blood-red, slinky dress Susan wore, but they chose to place the bouquets 
on the Shrine altar. Patt joined the group from the bar, carrying a frosted 
glass of Peach Schnapps, complete with a cinnamon flavored straw.

     The members congregating thus far exchanged greetings and teasing 
comments, thanked Rosemary and Cousin Heather for their Chocolate Nunkies, 
then claimed a seat on their lounger of choice.

      Andrea rushed into the chamber, still arranging the skirts of her 
satin crepe gown that was the color of her favorite ancient vampire's eyes. 
Andrea kept the medieval-style garment in the Wardrobe room, and it gave 
her a distinctly Fleuresque appearance. She paused and noted the members 
gathered so far. "Heather Markle isn't here yet?" Andrea asked. "Did you 
realize that she's in the Computer room? If Heather's on the Nunkies 
Anonymous webpage, we might have to do an intervention."

      "Not again!" Annie sighed. "Everyone stay here - I'll handle the 
situation." She crouched next to the Shrine, opened a small cabinet at the 
base, and withdrew a manila envelope. As Annie brandished the file, several 
group members gasped and averted their eyes.

     "Hey! Watch where you point that thing!" Casey yelled. "I'm trying to 
enjoy a Chocolate Nunkies here!"

     "Sorry," Annie said not-too-contritely, then marched to the Computer 
room to retrieve Heather.

 End of Part One
Continued in Part Two

Send Comments to br1035@ix.netcom.com

WAR: Addicts in Love and War (2/4)
by Bonnie Rutledge
Additional Material and Beta-Reading by Everyone Mentioned Within

     Once Annie was out of sight, Robi and Jan skipped into the Jeweled
Peach to fetch a couple servings of tiramisu to go with their chocolate.
Meanwhile, Jesse, Denese, and Tammy took this opportunity to sneak into the
Shrine and join the others.

     "I guess you're wondering what made us late," Denese said as the trio
received multiple curious stares.

     Jesse reposed atop her personal red silk lounger. "We were watching 'A
More Permanent Hell' in the Video room. We couldn't stop before the
flashbacks were over. How can anyone's mind concentrate on an NA meeting
when it's still halfway through a toga scene?!"

     "Leaving would have caused irreparable damage to our psyches," Tammy

     As Robi and Jan scooted back to their seats with plates in hand, Kim
reappeared in Downy-fresh garments. Soon a pitiful wail arose from the
Computer room. A couple of delicious bites later, Annie reappeared,
escorting an indignant Heather by the arm.

     "That was low." Heather pulled free and stomped over to her lounger as
she griped, "I was halfway through that 'Nunkies Exposed' issue published by
'The Noctambulist' last month, just beginning to load the yummiest pictures,
when all of a sudden Annie sticks tax forms in my face. Tax Forms!

     Annie returned the manila folder to its resting place within the
Shrine. "Yes, tax forms. An Anti-Nunklear Device guaranteed to quench even
the fiercest Nunkies longings as long as they are in view." Annie's eyes
narrowed as she saw three more addicts had mysteriously appeared while she
was fetching Heather.  Jesse smiled in return, Tammy gave the founder a
wave, while Denese tried to appear completely innocent and on time.

     Annie sent the trio a look to convey 'I am not fooled in the slightest
by your shenanigans', then let the matter drop.  She was aware of several
members who still wandered freely about Nunkies Anonymous headquarters and
deserved her disapproval more.  As if on cue, Paula and Gaelin quietly
tiptoed from the direction of the Sound room, hoping to not get caught
straggling. They froze as they heard Annie tapping her foot impatiently,
meekly grinning as they found nineteen pairs of eyes staring their way.

     "We were listening to the Nightcrawler tapes," Gaelin explained.

     "I can tell," Annie said. "You still have drool on your chin, and Paula
has that glassy look in her eyes."

     Susan passed them a conveniently-placed box of tissues. Gaelin thanked
Susan, dabbed at her face and commented, "Can you really blame us for
getting distracted? Geez! - it was 'Be My Valentine', for crying out loud!
Right, Paula?" She didn't reply. "Right, Paula?" This time, Gaelin followed
her words with a not-so-dainty shove.

     "Huh? What? Yeah, yeah. His voice. I can almost still hear him speaking
to me of love, alchemy, and kewpie dolls..." Paula almost slipped back into
her private Lacroix-speaking dreamworld. "His voice is so enchanting - it
almost puts me in a trance!"

     "Almost?!" Gaelin grumbled.

     The other members of Nunkies Anonymous rushed to share their sympathy
and understanding. Every one of them was vulnerable - that's why they were

     Patt raised her left arm and displayed her inner wrist to the crowd.
"Just last week, I was listening to the Nightcrawler's show, and I blacked
out. When I came to, I was wearing a black leather outfit and had this
rosebud tattoo."

     Casey and Marie leaned forward to inspect the artistry of Patt's brand-
new, permanent emblem while Annie relented. "Alright, alright. I can see
your point. Paula, Gaelin - you were under the control of an irresistible
force." Both members smiled at their vindication, then took their seats.
"This still doesn't explain why Jules, Bonnie, Cherri and Heidi haven't
joined us yet - unless they've passed out on the Sound room floor?"

     "Nope," Paula insisted. "Gaelin and I were the only ones there."

     "I saw Cherri earlier heading for a Shrine Anteroom," Tser inserted.
"She had the guitar with her, and she looked mightily in need of solace."

     The NA members all sighed knowingly. "Ahhhhh." Apparently this was an
understood Cherri activity. Unlike Heather's case, no one volunteered to

    Cousin Robi was looking through the folds of her toga with concern, then
began searching around her lounger. "I vote that we start without them - I
just discovered an important issue to discuss."

     "Yes!" Susan echoed, preferring to discuss Nunkies rather than late
group members. "Let's start without them!"

     "Is it possible that they could resist Nunkies' call?" Michele
suggested in an incredulous voice. "I mean, is there any way they could be

     The group contemplated the question for a split-second, then
unanimously replied, "Naaaaaahhhhhhhh."

     Marie was extra emphatic. "No freakin' way!"

     "It'll never happen," Tser said as her green eyes flashed with
certainty. "If they're still breathing, they're addicts."

     Patt nodded and agreed. "Not those three. They've got it bad. Plus,
Jules is Nunkies' Personal Assistant - she doesn't stand a chance of being
cured, 'cause every night she sees him up close and in the flesh."  The
other members released a shared wistful sigh at Patt's mention of Nunkies'

     "On that note, I call this meeting of Nunkies Anonymous to order,"
Annie announced.

     "Hello. My name is Annie, and I am a Nunkies addict."

     "Hello, Annie," the group replied.

     Each member stood, stated their name and declared themselves a Nunkies
addict, after which the group welcomed them. At least, they did until the
introductions reached Libby.

     "*Ahem*...Hello. My name is Libby, and I am *not* a Nunkies addict!"
There was a collective groan at this announcement. Marie indignantly threw
her bow-tied 'Nunkies' pillow at Libby. "Yeah, yeah - fuss all you like, but
Screed's the guy for me! I'm only here because of a pesky court order - I
can give up Nunkies anytime, like that!" Libby snapped her fingers. "I am
practically immune to losing all sense of motor control at the sound of his
silky voice...and I only feel a little melty inside at the thought of his
sky blue eyes..."

     "What about our failed experiment to duplicate Nunkies? Hmmm? What
about that?" Rosemary challenged.

     "Ummm, yeah," Libby acknowledged, "but I only tried to clone him that
one time! Well...twice, actually - I only tried cloning twice!"

     "Don't forget," Jan said. "You don't look at that photo of Nunkies next
to your computer monitor *all* the time."

     "Right! I'm perfectly capable of looking away from him every hour or

     Annie didn't buy these protests for a minute. "Do you really expect us
to believe that fantasy you had about 'Lucien Lacroix, Physical Therapist'
was a momentary aberration and not indicative of a serious Nunklear problem?
We're not blind, Libby! An addict you are, and an addict you shall stay -
You had better come clean!"


     Annie gestured for Libby to retake her seat. "Hush. Your turn's over. I
want you to sit quietly and think about why denial is a bad thing."  Annie
turned to Robi. "We're finished with the introductions. You have an
important issue to discuss?"

     Robi nodded and looked accusingly at the group. "More like an
announcement: my Holy Handcuffs are missing, and I know one of you took
them! If the culprit 'fesses up, I promise to not seek horrible, grotesque
revenge. Thank you."

     "Well now," Annie said. "That seems perfectly fair. Next order of

     *squip!* ...ba...ba...ba...*squip!*...ba...ba...ba ...*squip!*...

     This sound distracted the addicts as it grew closer. Twenty-one heads
turned to watch as Bonnie breezed into the Shrine, partially dressed and
very wet. Her damp, bare feet were responsible for the *squip!* the addicts
heard, and it looked like her only item of clothing was a gold-colored
bathrobe. She had a medium-sized, burgundy leather-bound book under one arm
(if you looked closely you could see nifty little rosebuds tooled onto the
spine), and a fluffy unused towel slung over the other.  Maybe the purpose
of that dry towel wasn't clear to Bonnie - from the way her soaked hair
dripped onto the floor and made a ...ba...ba...ba... noise, it should have
been wrapped about her head.

     She strolled obliviously toward the Wardrobe room, until Annie cleared
her throat. She turned in surprise and finally noticed the assembly. "Are
you having a meeting?"

     Twenty-one heads nodded.

     Bonnie frowned in confusion. "Did Annie broadcast Nunkies saying
something juicy and tantalizing to lure everyone here lickety-split?"

     Twenty-one heads nodded again.

     Bonnie walked to the nearest empty lounger, leaving a puddle of water
behind where she'd stood still. "Well, pooh! I totally missed it!"

     "Why don't we play it again for Bonnie's sake?" Marie suggested "I
wouldn't mind," She glanced meaningfully at Libby. "I don't think *anyone*
would mind a repeat." She giggled as Casey threw her a smirk.

     "You must have been severely distracted," Susan said.

     "As in, wallowing in your own private dreamworld with no wish to
escape," Tser elaborated.

     "That's a given," added Andrea. "My question is - with what?"

     A slight flush developed among the faded freckles on Bonnie's cheeks.
"Uhmm...well, I had a Nunklear meltdown of massive proportions while I read
my Nunkies Fantasy Manual." She held up the burgundy, leather-bound book. "I
needed to step into the Sacred Cold Shower for awhile. A long, *long*

     "Well," Annie insisted, "if the Nunkies fantasy was that good, you must
share it."

     "No,  that would probably be a bad idea," Bonnie warned.

     The other addicts offered gentle comments, insisting that she read the
fantasy aloud.

     "Do it or die!" Rosemary was still cranky over missing a visit to the
sauna, and she felt doubly shortchanged to hear Bonnie's lateness came from
romping with the NFM and the Sacred Cold Shower.

     "My sentiments exactly!" Kim hadn't toiled with a malodorous science
project for an hour so that Bonnie could cavort in a wonderland of Nunkies
thoughts. The nerve!

     The object of everyone's threats and pleading was busy frowning at the
pool of water that had formed around her feet.   Suddenly, a critical junction formed between two neurons in her
brain, causing Bonnie to realize something poured in healthy rivulets down
her back. She touched her lower spine, then her head. Her hair had retained
enough shower water to flood Manitoba. Bonnie sheepishly wrapped the dry
towel into a turban about her head and acquiesced to the addicts' demand.

End of Part Two
Continued in Part Three

Send Comments to br1035@ix.netcom.com

WAR: Addicts in Love and War (3/4)
by Bonnie Rutledge
Additional Material and Beta-Reading from Everyone Mentioned Within 

     "Alright, alright." Bonnie opened the manual to the appropriate page, 
placed it on the Shrine, than cleared her throat. "Does everyone have a 
drool cup handy?"

     There was a mad scramble as the addicts searched for their plastic 
tumblers stenciled with the logo 'CERK' on one side and 'Nightwatch with 
the Nightcrawler' on the other. Seeing that everyone was prepared, Bonnie 
began to read.

     "This is from Chapter Three of the manual. Nunkies Fantasy #55 - 
Addict in Repose." Bonnie paused, letting the members of NA ponder the 
ramifications of that title. "Nunkies decides he must have another bust - 
yours. Better yet, your whole body."  There were a few gasps and happy 
sighs. Bonnie looked up to see Denese, Heather, Michele, and Jan 
sporting sappy grins. Susan, Casey, Jesse and Marie already looked close 
to their melting points. "In sculpture," Bonnie added pointedly, and some 
addicts pouted. "What did you think I meant?" she teased with a naughty grin.

     "You happily agree to pose for Nunkies, and you bring an outfit to his 
studio from your toga collection that drapes you to perfection." Robi, who 
happened to elegantly wear a white silk toga already (It bore an amazing 
resemblance to Divia's a la flashback one except for an embroidered detail 
of 'Lucius In Repose' on the back), rose and began to gleefully model and 
pose it. Zebella looked down at her makeshift Winnie-the-Pooh sheet, stuck 
out her tongue and *harumphed!*.

     "Nunkies, however," Bonnie said, her hazel eyes gleaming so that the 
addicts could tell she was getting to the very best part, "is a Classical 
and Realist sculptor. He suggests that an 'au naturel' pose would be even 
more becoming than your delightful toga." The addicts were no longer 
playful, but silent. Their eyes appeared glazed, and each face was in a 
trance.    It was as if the mere thought of 
Nunkies could whammy them.

     "You readily agree, especially since you feel so flushed - Nunkies' 
studio is really too warm for a toga anyway. Lacroix begins to mold a rough 
model out of clay, shaping the cool, wet and smooth surface in your image. 
Nunkies is not satisfied with the product, though - he is too much of a 
perfectionist. Ever so helpfully, you suggest that he shouldn't rely only 
on his eyes to capture your form. Perhaps he should try a 'hands-on' 
approach and really get a feel for your body..." Bonnie let the final word 
trail off languorously until there was silence.

     The addicts stared at her with dazed expressions.  "Adjectives are 
failing me," Cousin Heather sighed.

     Suddenly, there was a stampede for the Greenroom, which housed not 
only white rosebushes, but the Sacred Cold Pond. It was an excellent 
alternative to the Sacred Cold Shower, especially during  mass Nunklear 
meltdowns. The addicts, except for Annie and Bonnie, dashed madly for the 
water. Tammy managed to dive in first, while Tser cannonballed the pond 
in a close second. Cousin Gwendolyn chose to lick her paws at pondside 
rather than join the rest of the crowd.

     The Founder and the Scribe of Nunkies Anonymous giggled as they 
listened to the addicts trampling and splashing one another in the other 
room. "So much for the meeting!" Bonnie grinned.

     "Bons! You wicked, wicked girl!" Annie squealed. "You knew that 
fantasy would sabotage the gathering!"

     "Heh...Guess what? That's not even the one that did me in! Check out 
Fantasy #61!"

     Annie flipped a few pages in the manual and began to read quietly. 
Meanwhile, Bonnie re-opened the Anti-Nunklear Device cabinet and pulled 
out a couple pop-top cans of V-8 juice. It became crystal clear when Annie 
read the crucial part. "Oh my," she sighed, "*drool*... *drool*...Oh my, 
my! Who knew you could do that with lettuce?" She wanted to go to the 
Sacred Cold Pond, but her knees proved too wobbly.

     Bonnie helped support her weight with one arm, while alternating 
between holding a drool cup under Annie's chin and offering her juice 
with the other. "Drink the V-8, Anniebug. It'll sic those lusty urges!"

     "Thanks," Annie said as she took an enormous gulp, squinched her face 
in disgust, and swallowed. "Bleh! This stuff is vile!"

      "Yes, but you can stand now." She handed the drool cup and opened 
juice can to Annie, who continued to grimace with each tiny sip. Bonnie 
hefted the Nunkies Fantasy Manual under one arm and popped the other V-8 
open for herself. "What's frightening," Bonnie commented as they headed 
for the Sacred Cold Pond, "is that I've consumed so much of this swill, 
I'm starting to enjoy it." Bonnie shuddered. "God! I hope I don't have 
to start using the tax forms - that's low."


     "Oh, yes, sir. I can contact all of them for you. Consider us on our 
way." Cousin Jules shut her cell phone, took a sip of very dry sherry, and 
leaned back in the jacuzzi. Closing her eyes, she counted to ten, released 
a heartfelt, dreamy sigh, then stood. Leaving the oasis of hot, pulsing 
water behind, Jules dried off and added a sarong-style skirt over her 
maillot with brisk movements.

      she thought. 

     Jules smiled secretively, picked up her phone and glass of sherry, 
then headed for the Shrine to Nunkies.  She looked about the 
deserted chamber with a frown. 

    She'd phoned CERK just to touch base, expecting a quick chat with a 
technician. She never dreamed that Lacroix himself would answer the phone 
in an abrupt manner. He wanted all the Cousins to come to the station 
immediately, and he was extremely displeased because more than a dozen 
appeared unreachable. When Jules mentioned that she had the means to 
contact them, Lacroix, of course, demanded details. "They're at a private 
spa," she'd improvised. "I have a phone number to use in case of 

     It had been a cheesy excuse, but as close as she could get to 
revealing they were all members of a twelve-step group for people who 
found their fantasies about The General encroaching on their everyday 
lives. That would have been bad, very bad indeed. Besides, NA members were 
sworn to absolute and total silence about the group to anyone who didn't 
belong, even Lacroix himself. They had their personal reputations to 
consider. Jules gulped. She had her *job* to consider.

     Jules paused next to the altar and glared at the puddles on the floor. 
As High Priestess of The Shrine, she constantly had to keep after the more 
exuberant, sometimes downright messy, addicts. It didn't matter that the 
Fanfic Cleaning Fairies could pop the room back into order with a mere 
sentence - this was The Shrine, and Jules wanted it treated as such.

     She began a search for the other addicts and found the private dining 
room empty, as well as the Toga and Sound rooms. The Sacred Cold Shower 
was deserted, but its faucet dripped, and the tiles were wet. Someone had 
used it recently.  Jules tried the library next, doing a double-take as she 
spotted something incongruous with the austerity of the built-in shelves 
of books, the molding on the observatory platform, and pieces of hammered 
leather furniture.

     Heidi was gagged and attached to the leg of a mahogany desk by none 
other than Cousin Robi's Holy Handcuffs.

     Seeing Jules, Heidi immediately began to wiggle and make muffled 
squeals. Jules crouched next to her and untied the gag. "Mmmmppfff!! 
Thanks, Jules! I thought no one would ever come and free me!"

     "Is it safe for me to assume this isn't some attempt to reproduce a 
nifty Houdini trick gone bad?"

     Heidi rolled her eyes and groaned. "No, it's Bonnie's revenge for 
taking her Nunkies Fantasy Manual! Only I didn't take it." Jules appeared 
somewhat doubtful of that statement.

     "Really! I borrowed it for half-an-hour at most! Bonnie tracked me 
down,  and totally lost it when she saw I had the manual! She took the 
book back, hugged and talked to it - she was talking to the manual, I tell 
you! - saying how much she'd missed the thing! Bons wandered out of the 
library then, so I thought the issue was finished. The next thing I know, 
my mouth is gagged, and my wrists are cuffed and slung around this 
table leg!"

     "That's an interesting story, Heidi, and one fraught with moral 
issues," Jules mused.

     "Sure - whatever - can you cut these things off?" Heidi jiggled the 
chain for emphasis.

     "No can do. Those are Robi's Holy Handcuffs - she'd be traumatized 
if they were harmed. I'll have to try lifting this corner of the table 
while you slide the chain out from underneath. Robes has the keys - she 
can unlock you." Jules proceeded to tell Heidi about the call to arms. "We 
need to find the others and get you out of those cuffs immediately. Agreed?"


     Jules heaved  and thought muscular thoughts. It took three tries, but 
they managed to get Heidi free of the table without damaging the cuffs or 
themselves. Jules and Handcuffed Heidi then continued looking for the 
others. The Video room, bar, and laboratory proved vacant, but searching 
the Greenroom, they hit the addict jackpot. Twenty addicts sat, splashed, 
floated or frolicked in or around the Sacred Cold Pond.

     Robi was one of the first to spot their arrival and ran over in 
greeting. "Oh, Heidi! You found my Holy Handcuffs!"

     "Not exactly," Heidi said loudly. "It's more like *Bonnie* found them 
and shared them with me, a gag and a table using extreme prejudice! All 
because I borrowed her Nunkies Fantasy Manual!"

     Robi unfastened her necklace that held the keys, then used them to 
free her handcuffs. Bonnie heard Heidi's declaration as she idled at the 
side of the pond. "Pooh, Heidi! Borrowing involves asking permission to 
use something. I never heard 'please' or 'may I?' pass your lips."

     Cousin Heather protested. "You didn't exactly ask permission to use 
Robi's Holy Handcuffs!"

     "Yeah!" Casey said. "Otherwise, she wouldn't have accused us!"

     "Hey!" Robi exclaimed, twirling her cuffs around a finger. "That's 

     "No, it isn't," Bonnie argued calmly. "If you recall, Robi, I asked 
if I could use them two weeks ago, and you said 'yes'."

     "But you didn't take the cuffs then."

     "Yes, but I never specified when it was that I needed them, and you, 
I might add, never offered a time frame for permission to use your 
Holy Handcuffs."

     Robi nodded sagely. "You're right, I didn't. Semantics sure can be 

     Marie still wasn't happy. "Don't you think it's a little severe to 
chain Heidi to a table, Bons?"

     "No, Mids, I don't. If she'd been convicted of larceny, Heidi could 
have spent months, even years, in prison! I would've set her free in a 
day or so."

     "Looking at it that way," Denese reasoned, "binding and gagging her 
is kind of nice - almost a humanitarian gesture."

     "I've got to hand it to you, Bonnie," Heidi drawled. "You're all 

     "Why, thank you, Heidi," she preened. "Just don't say that in public."

     "Jules, You're High Priestess of the Shrine," Heidi murmured. "You 
have a say-so over its contents, right?"


     Heidi whispered something in her ear that made Jules nod. "I'll be 
right back," Heidi said. "I guess you'll want to tell everyone the 
big news."

     "What news?" Annie asked as she stood and walked to Jules' side.

     "I have it on excellent authority," Jules announced, "that several 
factions are congregating in Toronto. By all appearances, we have a War 
on our hands."

End of Part Three
Continued in Part Four

Send Comments to br1035@ix.netcom.com

WAR: Addicts in Love and War (4/4)
by Bonnie Rutledge
Additional Input and Beta-Reading from Everyone Mentioned Within

     Surprised bustle ensued at these words, and the addicts in the pond
climbed out. During the commotion, Heidi returned with an evil grin on her
face and a manila folder behind her back. She sidled up next to Bonnie and
held the file open, drawling, "Whatever you do, Bons, don't look at this!"

     "Huh?" Bonnie, of course, immediately turned her head in Heidi's
direction, and her vision focused intimately onto a pile of tax forms.
"Aaacckkk!" She jumped back out of reflex, then tumbled into the Sacred Cold
Pond with a big splash. Heidi smiled in satisfaction while Heather Markle,
still remembering her own close encounter with the forms, found the sight
mighty funny. Several addicts, including Marie, rolled on the floor,
laughing out loud.

     "Ooooo! I'm gonna get you, Heidi!" Bonnie sputtered.

     "No, you aren't," Gaelin said. "We're at war now, and since you and
Heidi are Cousins, you can't be Cousinly to each other any more." Bonnie
frowned, but reluctantly agreed. Heidi nobly offered her a helping hand out
of the pond.

     "So Jules," Andrea asked. "Who's this 'excellent authority' you heard
the news from?"

     "Uhm...the Gen'ral himself."

     Rosemary scoffed. "Lacroix! Typical! No doubt the Cousins started it!"

     "Hey! Watch it!" Jesse said. "It's more likely the Knighties were
angsting, or the Dark Knighties made a mess of something!"

     Paula was incensed. "Watch what you say about the Dark Knighties,

     "Or what, Paula?"

     "Whoa! Time-out! Time-out!" Jan made a signal with her hands. "Will
everyone give it a rest? Not five minutes ago, we were all friends having a
good time. The only exceptions then," Jan looked pointedly at Bonnie and
Heidi, "are now the only ones apparently getting along."

     Heather Markle spoke up. "But you can't expect us Nick & Natpackers to
trust the Cousins during  a *War*." Casey, Marie, Tammy and Rosemary all
nodded and went to stand at Heather's side.

     Andrea moved to stand alone. "I suppose you can't trust a Ravenette,

    Paula isolated herself as well. "Or a *Dark* Knightie, at that."

    One large group remained. They had to be the Cousins, for Jules, Annie,
Patt, Bonnie, Gaelin, Zebella, Robi, Denese, Heidi, Tser and Jesse made up
their numbers. Six more people stood off to one side, away from the
factions, including Heather Poinsett.

     "Heather!" Annie exclaimed. "What are you doing? Your name's *Cousin*
Heather, remember?"

     "I know," Heather spoke softly. "But Jan has a point." She shook her
head. "We are all addicts." There was a small noise of protest, but Heather
insisted. "Uh-uh. Even you're an addict, Libby. We're all part of this
group. The least we can do is get along while we're under the NA roof." She
gave her fellow Cousins a pleading look. "As much as I would love to run off
and serve the General, I have to be practical, even if it hurts. You know I
promised to apartment-sit for a friend. I have to return to Texas in a week.
If I'm going to have to desert my allies partway through the War, I might as
well not start it. Besides," Heather gave a secretive grin. "I have a
feeling the General will understand my absence."

     Several of the Cousins overwhelmed Heather with hugs. "We'll miss you,
Cuz," Annie promised.

    "I'll miss you guys, too."

     Jules turned to the other five undeclared addicts. "What do you intend
to do?"

     Michele shook her head. "I'm in the same boat as Heather - I can't stay
in Toronto - responsibility calls. Be careful, Cousins." The group swarmed
around Michele, wishing that she didn't have to go, either.

     Susan spoke up. "Someone should remain here and look after the Shrine.
None of you know when you'll have a chance to return and make sure the
incense is still burning. I volunteer."

     "I'll help you,"  Jan said.

     Kim agreed with Susan and Jan. "I intend to stay, too."

     "You three don't have to give up your fun. The Shrine will run smoothly
for a couple weeks without your help," Gaelin urged.

     Susan shook her head. "I'm just not ready to get my War feet wet. I'd
rather hang out here, keeping my eyes and ears open. I want to know what you
get up to - *all* of you." She looked around the room, sending every faction
a friendly smile.

     "Exactly," Jan said. "Don't feel sorry for us either - you'll be having
to watch your backs and go without sleep, whereas we get all the tiramisu,
video, radio, books, jacuzzi, sauna, and togas that we want."

     "Speaking of getting what you want," Libby announced. "Allow me to
offer my not-so-humble services." She skipped around the room, passing
everyone a handsomely engraved, if a little damp, business card.

     Tammy read hers aloud:

           " Libby Singleton, a.k.a. Puckypoo, Ratpacker
               Proud Member of The Mercenary Guild
                No Job Too Grand Or Dirty If Paid
               In Chocolate Tender, Screedy Smooches,
                   And Bright, Shiny Thingies."

   "What you're saying," Casey asked, "is if I wanted you to tie Lacroix's
shoelaces together, all I'd have to do is get Screed to kiss you?"

     Libby nodded happily.

      "Well, so much for friendship!" Zebella said. "She'd do us all dirty
for a lip-smacking carouche!"

     Libby nodded happily.

     "Alright! That does it!," Heather Markle growled. "Nick & Natpackers -
let's go change and get our gear - then we're out of here!" Marie, Casey,
Tammy and Rosemary filed from the room, Marie and Casey squealing with
excitement. Heather, bringing up the rear, paused at the threshold to give a
warning. "Dark Knightie, Ravenette, Cousins, and Merc - in the past we've
trusted you with our deepest, most secret fantasies - well, no more! From
now on, that trust is worth its weight in aardvark spit!"

     Andrea crossed her arms, eyeing the remaining warriors. "Ms. Markle has
a point. If any of you get up to hanky-panky in the Raven, I won't hesitate
to get even. Remember - I know a hundred fiendish punishments using an
engraved matchbook and a coaster." With that, Andrea headed for the Wardrobe

     "I'm leaving straight away," Paula announced. "All my luggage is still
in the truck, so there's no need for me to waste time here. Aardvark spit
and coasters." She shook her head. "Those gals are way too dramatic. If I
wanted to play havoc on you particular Cousins, all I'd have to do is steal
your togas." Robi and Zebella gasped in horror, making Paula grin. "And I'd
hire Libby to do it for me." She waved and walked from the room.

     Libby called after her. "Bye, Paula! Keep in touch, ya hear?!" She
turned and noticed the Cousins glaring at her. "Heh, that goes for you, too!
As for me, I'm moseying to Merc Central! Say 'Hi!' to the General for me!"

     "Libby, wait!" Annie cried, and she turned to pull the NFM from
Bonnie's arms.

     Bonnie resisted, frowning confusedly at Annie's tugging hands. "What
are you doing?"

     "You don't actually think you can bring this along, do you?" Bonnie
pursed her lips stubbornly, looking undecided. Annie sighed. "The answer is
*no*, Bons. You can't bring the manual with you - what if the General finds
it! - hmmmm?"

     "You can't leave the manual here, either," Heidi said worriedly.
"Anyone could sneak in here and get it. I should know."

     "Especially an addict who belonged to a non-Cousin affiliation," Patt
added. "They could have meltdowns while scoring brownie points with their
faction leader. Who could resist?"

     "Exactly," Annie concluded. "That is why our little MercRat addict
here," She put an arm around Libby, who beamed, "is going to allow us to
tape the manual to her stomach. She will keep its location a safe,
undisclosed secret until the War is over - all for a reasonable fee. Now
doesn't that sound like a good idea?"

     All the other Cousins and Libby nodded, while Bonnie looked very sad.
"Al-right," she finally agreed, "but can I take a private moment to say
goodbye to the Nunkies Fantasy Manual before I hand it over?" Gaelin, Tser
and Denese snorted at the suggestion, but Annie, Jules, and Heidi nodded

     "I'll be right back," Bonnie promised as she ducked into the Shrine. A
few minutes passed before she reappeared, bleary-eyed and sniffing. The
manual was now in a Ziploc bag, and she held a roll of duct tape.

     "Where'd you get that?" Jesse wondered.

     "The bag used to hold a Chocolate Nunkies," Bonnie said. "I eat when
I'm upset. We can't stick anything directly to the manual's cover that might
damage it, and this seemed like a good solution."

     "What about the duct tape? Where did that come from?" Denese asked.

     Bonnie walked over to Libby, who bared her stomach to the application
of the cool, plastic-wrapped object with a long strip of sticky gray stuff.
"Jules, Annie and I always keep a roll at the Shrine, just in case."

     "Yes," Jules said knowingly, as if from prior experience. "You never
know when you might have a tape emergency."

     Bonnie finished securing the manual, and it disappeared beneath Libby's
T-shirt. Annie brought forward the other conveniently placed bags of
chocolate that Rosemary and Cousin Heather had given her earlier and
presented them to the MercRat addict. "Remember, Libby," Annie said. "We're
counting on you. We'll drop the rest of your payment off at Merc Central."

     Libby's eyes widened with glee at the sight of the Chocolate Screeds in
the baggies and gave the Cousins a snappy salute. "Never fear. I'll keep the
fantasy book real secret-like and all that jammy-jam!"  She then skipped
from the room and out of sight.

     "You guys are soaked!" Jules exclaimed as she ruefully examined her
Cousinly compatriots. "Why don't you guys go ahead and change and head for
CERK? Annie, Bons and I have a few more items to take care of, we'll only
hold you up. Patt - some of your things are already in the Jag - you'll have
to stay with us."

     "Thanks," Gaelin said, eager to leave. "I don't want to have to come up
with a good excuse why I'm so late."

     "As to that," Jules remembered. "I've already told Lacroix you were all
at a spa. Let's say it was up north toward Maple."

     "Okay," Robi said. "We can say the place was called ...uh...'The Wispy
Gardens', if anyone asks."

     Denese, Gaelin, Jesse, Robi, Zebella, Tser and Heidi made their final
waves to Heather, Michele, Kim, Jan, and Susan, then left the Greenroom. A
second passed, then Michele exclaimed, "I can't stand it! Who needs
responsibility? Who needs work? I've got a charge card that needs
christening! Cousins, wait for me!" then sped to catch up with her faction.

     "Well, that takes care of that!" Jules exclaimed. "Now, let's get down
to the particulars."

     "Ahem," Patt said as she swirled her cinnamon straw in the dregs of her
drink, "isn't there one more addict to notify?"

     "There is?" Jules looked quizzically to Annie for confirmation.

     "We never quite had everyone present and accounted for at the meeting,"
she explained. "There's still one stray Cousin roaming about."

     Jules looked at Bonnie, who shrugged and turned to Kim. Kim appeared
bewildered and stared at Susan for a klew. Susan shook her head and gestured
to Jan, as if she would know the answer. Jan immediately nudged Heather, who
finally turned pleading eyes back to Patt, desperate for a hint.

     Patt mouthed a sound to the wondering bunch. "Moo."

     The  ensemble let out a groan of comprehension.

     "Ohhhhhh. CHER-RI!"

End of Part Four

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WAR: A Grand, Historical Tradition (1/2)
By Bonnie Rutledge with Shameless Thievery of one of
Cousin Cherri's NA Loop Posts
with Third Cousin Patt, Cousin Annie, Cousin Jules, Jan Cook-Moore,
Kim Colley, Heather Poinsett, and Susan Pierce
Special Guest Appearance by 'Vachon's Guitar'

    *strum* *strum*

"Oh, my La-Croix has a first name -  L-U-C-I-E-N..."

    *strum-strum* *twang!*

"My La-Croix has a sec-ond first name - L-U-C-I-U-S..."

     Cherri was writing love songs to Nunkies again. She did this 
often, usually with maniacal delight, because she used Vachon's 
pilfered guitar in the process. She would come to the Shrine's Right 
Anteroom, sprawl on a divan in front of a tapestry of the Gen'ral, 
and either compose affectionate tunes or melt into a puddle of lust, 
whichever came first. Tonight, however, she was too full of despair 
to melt.


     "Cherri!" Annie, Jules, Bonnie, Jan, Patt, Susan, Kim and Heather 
all urgently herded into the Anteroom.

     Annie and Jules, who were in the front of the party, froze to a 
halt. Bonnie, Jan and Patt tripped over each other as they  tried to 
avoid slamming into the first two. Kim, Heather and Susan helplessly 
tumbled afterwards, joining the pile of flailing addicts.

     Annie stared in bewilderment over her shoulder at the mound of 
addicts on the floor and said crossly, "Will you guys quit horsing 
around? We need to find Cherri!"

     Jules, meanwhile, was staring intently at a mysterious puddle in 
the middle of the floor. "What's this?!" she said as she pointed at 
the strange pool on the mosaic tiles.

     "I don't know," Annie commented, "but whatever it was, it's over 
and done with now."

     Jules let out a gasp of surprise. "But wait! Here's a bit of 
cloth. It says 'Cousin Cherri'. And look! Here's Vachon's guitar 
right beside the puddle!"

     "Oh MY!" the addicts piled on the floor exclaimed in unison.

     "Quick!" Annie shouted. "We need an emergency Anti-Nunklear 

      "What?" Jules was panicked. "Should I run for the tax forms? 
The photo of Screed in a Lycra Speedo?"

     "She's too far gone for the tax forms, and Libby stole the 
picture months ago. She has it in a frame on her bedside table." Annie 
said as she shook her head. "No, this is an *emergency*. We'll have 
to break into the Official Addict Re-Solidification Kit." Annie rushed 
over to a glass case mounted on the wall and yanked a small wooden 
mallet from its side. She gave a mighty swing and smashed the 
protective barrier into tiny fragments. Gingerly reaching inside, 
Annie pulled out a small hand-held tape recorder. She crouched down 
next to the Cherri-Puddle and warned, "Everyone, cover your ears. 
Otherwise, this might be painful."

      Then she pressed 'PLAY'. A syrupy, sycophantic tenor oozed 
from the speakers. All of the addicts with fingers stuck them in 
their earlobes and squeezed their eyes shut in horror.

      "I Love You,
       You Love Me,
       We're a Loving Family
       With a Great, Big, Hug
       And a Kiss From Me To You -"

      "Aarrgghhh! Sppfftt! MAKE IT STOP!!!!" Cherri screamed. Now 
that she was in solid form again, Cherri immediately proceeded to 
stomp enthusiastically all over the cassette player, crushing it 
into glorious silence. Then she turned to the addicts and said, 
"Thanks, I think. It's nice to escape spending the rest of my days 
as a Cherri-Puddle, but the price of freedom was almost too much to 
bear." She shuddered, then seemed to reconsider. "You know, it might 
not have been so bad if I'd remained melted for a while."

      All of the addicts had now stood and finished brushing 
themselves off. "Not so bad?" Bons said in disbelief. "Why on earth 
would you want to remain a puddle, Cherri?"

     The illustrious Cousin swiped a fallen slip of paper off the 
floor and handed it over, saying, "Because then, I would have had a 
reason to get out of *this*."

     The other addicts crowded around Bonnie to read the notice. "A 
summons for jury duty? Ugh," Patt said as she scrunched up her face 
in distaste.

     Cherri nodded forlornly. "I was using it as an Anti-Nunklear 
Device, but I suppose I became distracted and let it fall to the 
floor." She sighed. "At least I could've used puddlehood as a 
medical excuse to get out of appearing in court. Now I have to 
return to California immediately, and I don't know how long they'll 
keep me."

     "Cheer up, Cherri!" Kim said brightly. "You might get lucky 
and pull one of those Bovine Rights cases like I've been arguing 
recently. They'd be sure to dismiss you based on grounds of your 
cow experience!"

     Cherri grumbled like Vesuvius on a wild night outside Pompeii.

     "I don't think that makes her happy," Jan observed.

     "We better not tell her the news now," Susan whispered for 
Annie's benefit.

     Cherri, however, overheard. "What news?" she demanded as her 
eyes narrowed.

     "Oh, the news that a War is starting! The Gen'ral wants you 
at CERK pronto!" Kim sang happily.

     "Ki-im," Heather groaned. "We weren't going to tell her that 
anymore. Look! - you've crushed her heart into itty-bitty pieces!"

     "WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY!?!" Cherri moaned, clutching the 
Gibson-Guitar-That-Was-Not-Hers-But-Stolen-Fair-And-Square to her 
chest. "How can fate be so cruel? Am I not a *good* Cousin? In a 
wicked, tricky, and devious way, of course," she qualified. "Am I 
not *nicely* manipulative? *Sigh* I guess there's nothing to do but 
report to court and weasel my way back here as soon as possible. 
Until then," Cherri held Vachon's instrument out to Jules, "I entrust 
the guitar to your safe-keeping until my return. Stash it well. Stash 
it furtively."

     Jules cradled the black lacquered object in her arms like a 
baby, then wiped a sentimental tear away with the back of her palm. 
"You can count on me to do my Cousinly duty, Cherri."  Many sniffles 
echoed about the room. It was a Kodak moment. A Fujifilm moment, too.

     Cherri headed for the exit, shuffling slowly backward as she 
waved morosely at the addicts.

     "Bye, Cherri," they called as one.

      Then she was gone. There was a moment of silence, then Annie 
clapped her hands together enthusiastically.

     "Alright, kiddies! Enough of the melodrama! We've got some 
briefing to do, then some of us need to high-tail it over to the 
station! Kim, Jan, Susan and Heather - can you check the Wardrobe 
room and see if it's clear? - then you can get your uniforms. 
Meanwhile, Bonnie, Jules, Patt and I will collect Libby's Merc 

     The Cousins entered the Laboratory/Kitchen, which the Fanfic 
Cleaning Fairies had completed scrubbing free of grime and chemical 
odors just moments earlier. The counters were bare, and the 
marble-topped island displayed two rows of half-a-dozen small vials.

     "Is this from your distillation project?" Annie asked Bonnie.

     "Yes, indeed. Open one up and take a tiny whiff - waft the 
smell with your hand so you're not overpowered."

     Annie unscrewed the cap, then waved her hand over the tiny 
opening. Jules and Patt leaned in closer to catch the odor as well. 
All three jerked backward at the scent.

     "Talk about protection!" Annie echoed. "Do you think we'll 
need it?"

     Bonnie shrugged. "You never know when some repellent might 
become handy. Each of us can have one, and I made enough for each 
member of the N-S-V-V, as well. We'll use the other four as needed." 
She handed out some vials, then dropped the remainder in her bathrobe 

     Annie walked over to the pantry, ignored the up-ended glassware 
stored on the shelves, and turned her eyes to the object hanging 
overhead. "You know, it's a good thing I never throw an art project 

    Jules nodded. "This one's very attractive, too -  despite the 
subject matter."

    "Thanks." The object was white and rather rotund. Annie slipped 
a panel on its top open and peered inside. "Hunt through the drawers 
for some bright, shiny thingees to go with the rest of the chocolate."  
Bonnie and Jules complied, while Patt appeared extremely confused.

     "I hate to mention it, Annie,  since everyone seems so busy and 
all, but do you realize that *I* have no idea what's going on? Why 
does anyone have uniforms, and what is the N-S-V-V?"

End Of Part One
Continued in Part Two

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WAR: A Grand, Historical Tradition (2/2) 
Writing by Bonnie Rutledge
Costumes by Jan Cook-Moore
with Kim Colley, Susan Pierce, Heather Poinsett, Cousin Jules, 
Third Cousin Patt, and Cousin Annie

      "Hmm..." Annie said as she debated, then decided to confide 
in Patt. "Most members aren't aware of this, but we are not the 
original group of Nunkies Anonymous. We're merely the first with 
a headquarters in  North America. Europe, however, has a rich 
history of addicts dating before The General was even brought 

     Patt exclaimed in fascinated glee. "Really? How do you know this?"

    "Some members of our group received mysterious packages in the 
mail just before or after they joined. Jules' held a box of ancient 
documents and parchment with their translations. My package included 
the tapestries hanging on the Shrine walls and access to an account 
in the Caymans for Nunkies Anonymous-related expenses. You've 
probably guessed that someone shipped Bonnie the Nunkies Fantasy 
Manual and Robi...well, Robes got the handcuffs. They're supposed 
to be Holy Handcuffs, and though it seems like a strange choice for 
a sacred object, Jules does have documentation of their authenticity. 
Cousin Heather, Kim, Jan, and Susan all received a type of uniform 
and specific instructions."

     "How enigmatic - what do the gifts have to do with the 

     "Well..."Annie said. "It appears we're bound to the spirit, if 
not the letter, of a charter written by Felidia, daughter of an 
Imperial household and a notable religious figure in Rome, ca. 1st 
century AD. She was the leader of the first group of women obsessed 
with General Lucius, a.k.a. Nunkies Anonymous. This charter included 
a War Clause."

     Patt rubbed her hands together in interest. "Ooo! Tell me more 
about this Felidia and the War Clause!"

      "Okay," Annie agreed. "Everybody knows that The General really 
was a General and his home base was in Pompeii... yadayadayada. You 
also may remember he did his share of hanging around Nero before the 
guy committed suicide in 68."

     "Fiddlesticks!" Patt exclaimed. "I thought that was a rumor 
spread by the AAC."

     "The Anarchists Against Continuity? The folks said to be capable 
of scrambling historical events faster than you can say 'Hastings'? 
Nonsense!" Annie protested. "Those Anarchists are a mess. They can 
never decide when to have a meeting, much less where, and when they 
throw a party - it's at *everyone's* house. Anarchy - blah!  - it's 
so...so...ungoverned." She sniffed in distaste. "Anyhow, according 
to Felidia, Nunkies *did* know Nero, and he visited Rome rather often 
because of it," Annie continued. "Of course, Nunkies distanced himself 
when Nero wanted to become a traveling singer and the Praetorian 
Guard didn't consider it an appropriate career change, but until then 
the General got quite a few amusements and banquets in his honor. 
Felidia first saw him in an ovation through the Forum. Presto! - she 
was smitten, along with a scad of her associates and other Romans. 
Felidia immediately set out to seduce him, but covertly, because she 
had a reputation to uphold."

   Patt nodded. "You said Felidia was a notable religious figure."

   "Yes, but not just any religious figure - she was a Vestal Virgin." 
Patt released a *cough!-snort!* sound at Annie's description. "You can 
see why Felidia and her fellow Lucius-addicted Vestals had to be 
careful. After Nero's death, Nunkies didn't come to Rome as often - a 
few years of civil war followed. Felidia and the other addicts were 
desolate, in total withdrawal, so they banded together in secret 
gatherings at the House of The Vestal Virgins to exchange stories about 
the General. These were the very first NA meetings!" Annie paused for a 
moment after this excited announcement. "A while after Flavius became 
Emperor, the time came for Nunkies to go on that Gaul campaign. He 
visited Rome one more time for the send-off parties - the addicts were 
absolutely ecstatic."

     Patt grinned. "I believe it."

     "Yes," Annie continued, "they were ecstatic, but not very 
careful. Apparently some Romans close to the Pontifex suspected that 
a few of the Virgins were not as chaste as their titles implied. 
While Felidia and the other addicts went to watch Nunkies parade from 
the city with his legion, the House of the Vestal Virgins was searched. 
All sorts of incriminating paraphernalia was found - drawings of 
Nunkies, poems, diaries - they were well and truly caught!  Seven 
Vestals were seized and punished, including Felidia. While awaiting 
punishment, she wrote this story down along with a charter of rules for 
her patrician successor. The rules included the War Clause. This clause 
outlined how certain addicts would be chosen to protect our secrets 
during War - our identities, the sacred objects, and especially the 
Shrine. Felidia intended for no addict to be discovered and punished 
as she was again."

     "What exactly happened to her?" Jan asked.

     "The usual for Vestal Virgins - they were buried alive."

     "Ugh," Patt shuddered.

     "I know," Annie commiserated wholeheartedly. "Luckily, chastity 
is no longer an issue in Shrine security - we'd have a *big* problem. 
After the Renaissance, the official title of our guards, known then 
as the Order of Felidia, changed to the Not-So-Vestal-Virgins, or 
the N-S-V-V."

     "Oh, my," Patt giggled. "Who knew we had such a grand, historical 
tradition of dependency?"

     Bonnie and Jules returned, their hands full of bright and shiny 
thingees, which they had taken the time to wrap inside 'Kickstart 
the Knight' flyers like little presents. They dumped the loot into 
Annie's art project, then they aimed for the refrigerator. Pulling 
out piles of silver and brown foil-wrapped items, Bonnie and Jules 
piled the rest of Rosemary's chocolate creations on top of the other 
treasures.  Annie sealed the panel back into place and looked up in 
satisfaction. "Let's go see how the N-S-V-V is doing."

     The Wardrobe room would have been aptly named the Closet room 
instead, for it was basically an enormous walk-in closet. It had 
to be enormous - it held the clothes and paraphernalia for dozens 
of addicts. Jan, Kim, Heather, and Susan were making the final 
adjustments to their outfits - tying laces, adjusting shoulder 
straps  - when the others arrived. Jules, Annie, Bonnie and Patt 
all expressed their admiration.

     "Wow!" Bonnie said. "I can't get over how your costumes appear 
crafted just for you!"

     "I know," Jan smiled in amazement. "Even the metal parts fit 

     Each Not-So-Vestal-Virgin had a uniform consisting of a short, 
chiffon toga overlaid with a silver breastplate that fastened at the 
shoulders and waist. Knee-high silvery sandals with reinforced toes 
and a simple silver bracelet around the left wrist completed each 

     "At least we *look* impressive," Susan commented.

     "You make me feel positively dowdy," Bonnie complained.

     Kim gazed critically at the other addict's appearance. "No 
wonder, Bons - you're still wearing that wet bathrobe - if you don't 
change soon, you might become mildewed."

     "Yuck! First, though, let me share our chemistry project with 
the other guards. I'll groom while Annie and Jules discuss our 
security features." Bonnie handed one of the tiny vials to each 
N-S-V-V. "Inside these containers, you will find oil of garlic that 
Kim and I distilled. It is roughly 90% pure and much more potent 
than your average clove. We're not expecting any trouble - especially 
from the vampires - but I want you to have some dabbed at your 
pulse-points at all times as a precaution. 'Kay?"

     The N-S-V-V nodded, then scented themselves per her 
instructions. Leaving Bonnie behind to finally get dressed, Annie 
began to describe different aspects of the secret lair.  "We need to 
bring the trampoline inside and close off the entry from the Jeweled 
Peach immediately. As usual, it will take the four of you to open 
the archway again, and this can only be done by pushing the proper 
eight pressure points on the Shrine side of the wall."

     Patt, Jan, Kim and Jules carried the large, bouncy hexagon 
into the Shrine while Susan, Annie and Heather moved tables and 
chairs back into place. "We can't leave it in here again. I do not 
want the altar wrecked," Jules insisted in an imperious 
High-Priestess-y tone.

     "How about the Greenroom?" Kim suggested. "We could use it as a 
makeshift diving board for the Sacred Cold Pond."

     Jules did not approve. "I don't think so. One bounce goes astray, 
and half of our rosebushes become crushed, not to mention the jumper's 

     "Maybe we should put it in front of the warehouse door," Jan 
proposed. "We shouldn't have many visitors, and anyone trying to 
enter will have to make their attempt through that building, not 
the Jeweled Peach. The trampoline could make a good distraction."

     "Great idea."

     They shoved the big, black object toward the entryway. "Addicts 
should have no trouble if it becomes necessary for them to drop in 
during the War. The front doors can only be opened by a remote 
control device included in our Official Drool Cups," Jules reminded 

     "But what if an addict betrays us and brings non-members here?" 
Patt demanded worriedly.

     "In that case," Jan said. "It is the Not-So-Vestal-Virgin's 
responsibility to confiscate the misused drool cup and force the 
intruders from the premises."

     Patt was still unsatisfied with the setup. "With what?"

     "We have air hoses capable of shooting localized gale force 
winds at our quarry, plus several other diabolical weapons." Kim 

     "There's only one other possible point of entry," Jules stated 
firmly, "the Library."

     Annie, Susan and Heather completed closing the secret archway 
to the Jeweled Peach's private dining room and joined the others 
in the Library. They crowded around the Observatory platform and 
looked up at the two-foot square window installed directly above 
their telescope. "It is shatterproof glass. We also have numerous 
trip lights and heat sensors installed in the opening," Annie said. 
She brushed back her long, curly reddish-brown hair from her face, 
then gestured to the jewelry the N-S-V-V wore. "It any of these 
sensors are triggered, your bracelets will begin to vibrate. You 
can deactivate the alarms by pressing a button on the inside."

     They heard the sound of leather soles clicking briskly against 
the marble floor that instantly muffled once Bonnie stepped into the 
carpeted Library. She carried a garment bag hooked over her right 
fingers and a duffel slung over her left shoulder. "I'd forgotten 
how wonderful it feels to be dry! Have you finished?"

      "We just did," Jules replied.

     "Great! I'm packed and ready. I'll load my bags into the car 
along with Libby's payment while Jules changes from her cabanawear."

     Within a quarter of an hour, the last four Cousins had departed 
from the Shrine, leaving Heather, Kim, Susan, and Jan standing by the 
altar in their Not-So-Vestal-Virgin gear and the Fanfic Cleaning 
Fairies straightening and re-hanging the clothes left strewn about 
the Wardrobe room floor.

     "Hmm..." Jan mused thoughtfully, tapping a lazy finger against 
the metal armor wound about her stomach. "What shall we do to pass 
the time?"

     "Why don't you and Susan take first watch?" Heather asked, with 
a tad of pleading in her voice. "Kim and I will relieve you eight 
hours from now."

     Jan and Susan exchanged glances, then slowly nodded. "Alright, 
we'll take the first shift," Susan agreed, "but what do you plan 
to do?"

     Heather grinned in delight as she began walking away. "Sauna."

      Kim fell in at her side and said, "Sauna, then a Sacred Cold 

     "Perfect," Heather agreed.

      Jan and Susan frowned as they watched the other N-S-V-V's 
leave the Shrine. Susan released a long self-pitying sigh. "I just 
had to ask, didn't I?"

     They moved to the warehouse entry, and their eyes were greeted 
by the waiting trampoline. Jan eyed it thoughtfully. "Susan - what's 
that trick Libby's always trying to do?" She crouched down and began 
to unlace her sandals.

     "A double-backwards somersault with a punch front off...What 
are you thinking?"

     "I'm thinking I could do it. Spot me - okay?" Jan flipped 
herself atop the black stretchy material and started to bounce.


     "Be careful of your back, Jan!" Susan called. "Be careful 
of your - "


     And so began the diligent watch of the Not-So-Vestal-Virgins...

End of Part Two

Send Comments to br1035@ix.netcom.com

WAR:  Addicts on Wheels(1/2)
by Cousin Jules
Time:  Right after "WAR: Addicts in Love and War 4/4"

     "OK, Jules.  Now what?" Bonnie asked expectantly.

     "Time to hit the road," Jules said, donning sunglasses.

     "Um, Jules," Annie spoke up, stopping her and looking worriedly 
over at Patt.

     "Yeah?" she asked.

     "The sun set about 30 minutes ago, Jules," Patt informed her.  
"Don't think you'll need those," she added, indicating to the glasses.

     "And if you do," Annie chimed in, "I'm taking a cab."

     Jules removed the sunglasses, looking confused.  "Wonder why 
I'd put these on?" she asked aloud while her three companions looked 
at one another and then rolled their eyes.

     "Sheesh, Jules, could it have something to do with the company 
you keep?" Bons asked, then ran to the Jag before Jules could catch 
her. "I'm the navigator!  I'm the navigator!!!!" she cried as she 
claimed the passenger side front seat, waving her hands and bouncing 
up and down.

     "Poor Bonnie," Patt said as she placed a concerned hand on 
Annie's shoulder.  "The caffeine's really gotten to her tonight."

     "No kidding!" answered Annie.  "This almost calls for an 

     "Which I would have no problem with, except that Lacroix told 
me to be at CERK as soon as possible," Jules said as she walked to 
the car and tossed in the now useless sunglasses.  Both Annie and 
Patt each grabbed a door handle while Bonnie liquified in the front 
seat.  Patt was the first to speak.

     "We're finally going to get to meet...*him*??"

     "In the flesh," Jules said, smiling wickedly, then, becoming 
slightly frustrated, added, "Well, don't just stand there!  You're 
going to leave permanent fingerprints on those door handles!  Bons, 
would you please solidify now?  *Before* I have to have the leather 
replaced???"  The three complied with her wishes, and Jules started 
the Jag's engine, turning onto Queen Street West and then onto 
Queens Park Crescent.

     They had barely gone any distance at all when Patt suddenly 
yelled, "STOP!!  STOP!!!!"

     Jules screeched to a halt sending Annie nearly over the top 
of Bonnie's seat, Patt halfway to the floor, and Bonnie's coffee 
all over the walnut console.  No one said anything for a moment, 
but then Jules spoke in an ominously quiet tone.

     "I *do* hope this is important, Patt."

     "Well, yes.  It is.  Kind of," she told the group meekly.

     "Important enough so that Uncle isn't going to pay for the new 
console out of my already overtaxed Canadian paycheque??"  The 
question was phrased in equally dangerous tones as Jules pulled to 
the kerb.  She didn't get an answer, but followed Patt's longing 
gaze to an area of local government buildings where a group of 
Mounties appeared to have finished a ceremonial occasion of some 
sort.  Before anyone could say another word, Patt was out of the 
car and running in the direction of the colourful law enforcement

     "What is she doing?" Annie asked, perplexed.

     "I don't know," Bons replied, "but it looks like it could be 
fun!!"  She made a move to follow Patt when Jules held out a 
restraining hand.

     "Quick, Annie!!" she shouted.  "Pull out the large envelope 
from the seat pocket in front of you while I strap her in!"

     Annie complied and gazed at the very serious looking envelope 
marked 'OPEN IN CASE OF EMERGENCY ONLY!'  "Oooo...What is it, 
Jules?  Tax forms??"

     "No, believe it or not," Jules began as she tried to hold 
Bonnie in place, "it's a fantasy I came up with for emergencies 
just like this one. Can you read it to LaBons while I track down 

     Annie carefully broke the wax seal on the envelope's flap 
and pulled out three sheets of neat typing.  She read aloud, 
"'Lucien Lacroix Shares the Pleasures of Ancient Rome'. Oh, my... 

     "Annie!!!!" Jules  yelled.  "You're supposed to be sharing 
it with Bonnie!"  Annie shook her head, only just managing to bring 
herself back to the present emergency.

     "Uh, sure, Jules.  You go on.  I don't think I'll have any 
trouble with Bonnie."  Bonnie, by the way, had crawled into the 
back seat by this point and was whimpering for more.

     "Now," Jules said to herself as she alighted from the car.  
"To find Patt."  She had only gone a few feet when she turned 
back to the Jag and snatched the keys from the ignition.  In 
their state, Annie and Bonnie were capable of anything, including
not-really-meaning-to-but-hijacking-the-Jag-to-CERK-anyway to see 
Lacroix as soon as possible and forcing Jules to get there with 
Patt via *public transportation.*  With thoughts of Bridging the 
Knight and the 'Shuttle Ride from Hell' still firmly planted in 
her mind, Jules shuddered briefly, then went in search of the 
missing Patt.

End of Part One

WAR:  Addicts on Wheels (2/2)
by Cousin Jules
Begins right after Part 1 (Doh!)

     Jules scurried off after Patt, her eyes darting in all 
directions. Suddenly, she heard Patt yelling, "Mine!!!  Mine!!!  
He's all mine!!!!" and, with a silent 'ACK!' saw Patt latch onto 
one of the Mounties.  Jules ran in their direction, only to come 
face-to-face with her...employer.  Who, then, disappeared with the 
speed of the undead, not even giving her time to ask what he was 
doing loitering about City Hall.  Her mouth, which was now hanging 
open, snapped shut when she heard, "Really, Miss, I *do* have to be 
going now..."

     "NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!"  Patt cried out.  "You're my first real, live 
Mountie. I can't do that!  Say, have you ever visited Louisiana????  
I know this great B&B..."

     Jules rushed to the Mountie's side.   
she thought, then returned to the moment at hand.  "Patt, dearest, 
we really ought to leave Mr. Mountie alone and get back to the 
clinic."  She gave a sympathetic look in the Mountie's direction, 
and he gave her a knowing wink.

     "But Jules," Patt said as she played with the buttons of the 
red uniform, "you know I've been dying to find one of these 

     "I know, Patt," Jules replied, "but the General *is* waiting 
for us, and it wouldn't do at all for us to be late."  This was 
exactly the wrong thing to say.

     "Oh, are you all in the service?" the Mountie asked.

     "Anything for you, darling!!" Patt exclaimed.

     "Well, gee, I have these tickets to the RCMP Ball that's coming 
up in three weeks, and it would be great to have you there!"

      Jules thought.    "That's very nice of you, officer, but we really *do* 
have to be going now," she replied as she attempted to pry Patt's 
hands from the Mountie's left arm.  "You know," she began to say 
to the man, "you could help me out here.  Anytime.  Just feel free."

     "That's OK!" he said.

     "See, Jules!!  He doesn't mind!  Think we can fit him into 
the trunk?" Patt asked.

     Jules rolled her eyes, and the Mountie stepped away.  "Now 
hang on a minute!" he said aloud, then remembered Jules' reference 
to the 'clinic.'  "Why, sure...No problem, eh?"

     "Would you stop being so bloody polite?!  We need to get out 
of here!!!" Jules shouted, finally losing it.

     The Mountie looked hurt, and Jules was torn between regret at 
her words and the desire go have a drink somewhere.  Instead, she 
counted to ten in English, French, Spanish, Arabic and Latin, then 
smiled sweetly.  "Sorry about that, officer, but it's way past Patt's 
beddie bye time, and, if we don't get back now, the matron won't 
let her have her cookies."   she said under 
her breath.

     "Well, gosh, we can't have that now, can we?" he asked 
rhetorically and *finally* loosened Patt's iron grip, giving Jules 
another wink.  "Look.  You go back to the clinic and turn on CBC.  
They're going to have a special on us."

     "OK," Patt replied dejectedly as Jules led her away, "but it's 
just not going to be the same," she sniffed.

     They were about 10 feet away when he called out to them, "Oh, 
and, don't forget the Ball!!"  This set Patt off once again and Jules 
had to stop in at an all-night market they passed to purchase Patt a 
large bottle of V-8 juice.

     "*That* certainly killed the mood," Patt complained.

     "You know me, Patt," Jules replied.  "Anything for a friend," 
and led the lovestruck Louisianan back to the Jag, and what she 
hoped would be, at this point,  two very malleable Cousins.


WAR: The Not-Expected Not-So (1/2)
By Bonnie Rutledge
Additional Material from Jan Cook-Moore, Kim Colley, 
Heather Poinsett, and Susan Pierce
Time: A while after "A Grand, Historical Tradition" 

     Kim and Heather took over the second watch at The Shrine To 
Nunkies an hour early since Jan had a splitting headache and bruised 
knees from her repeated mishaps on the trampoline. Less than half of 
the eight-hour shift had passed when Heather made an observation.

     "I'm hungry."

     Kim shrugged. "So go to the kitchen."

     Heather shook her head. "Won't work. I've got a craving."

      "For what?"

      "A papaya milkshake. I'll have to go to the Thai Burger Palace 
down the block."

     "Go on - I can hold the fort by myself for a couple minutes - 
not a problem," Kim offered magnanimously. "You'd better put a coat on 
over your breastplate, though. A vixen in a heavy chiffon toga and 
armor is pretty noticeable, even in Toronto."

     Heather nodded. "Will do. Want me to bring you back anything?"

     "Nope," Kim said. She had bad memories associated with a papaya 
in a court case that she'd lost once upon a time, long ago and far 
away. "I think I'll stick to our own fridge's contents, thank you 
very much. You might check with Susan and Jan, though."

     Heather returned half an hour later, her arms laden with 
brightly logo-ed food. As she separated her icy shake from 
Susan's order of Spicy Squid Fries and Jan's Pud-Thai-On-A-Bun, 
she commented, "Kim, did you realize that it's still dark?"

     "Dark? Where?"


     "Don't be silly. It must be after ten already."

     Heather propped open the door. "See for yourself."

     Kim warily peeked into the street. Night bathed the block 
in a coating of black, and the stars continued to twinkle brightly 
in the sky. "Whoa. Maybe there's an eclipse we don't know about." 
She shook her head and clicked her tongue against her teeth. "It's 
amazing the things that slip past you when you're busy guarding a 
secret lair."

     Susan and Jan stumbled into the room, their cheeks flushed pink 
and their hair damp from exposure to the steam of the Sauna.

     "Is that pepper sauce I smell?" Jan asked hungrily.

     "Com'ere," Kim called. "Look outside, you two. It's still 
dark out!"

     Susan shrugged, more excited at the prospect of inhaling her 
Spicy Squid Fries. Jan also seemed unconcerned. "Why worry?" she 
said as she unwrapped her burger. "It's not as though there's some 
hard and fast rule that the sun must rise every morning."

    She took a ravenous bite from her Pud-Thai-On-A-Bun, while 
Heather, Kim, and Susan all stared at her in disbelief.  "Right, 
Jan," Heather said sarcastically. "Just because there's been a dawn 
for every day in recorded history,  it doesn't mean there's any such 
thing as LAWS O' NATURE!"

    Jan swallowed and dabbed hot sauce away from the corners of her 
mouth. "Oh, yeah. I forgot about those pesky Laws O' Nature."

     Susan shook her head. "That's beside the point. If the sun 
doesn't shine - so what? There not a thing we can do except toss out 
our SPF 15. What we *can* do is continue guarding the Shrine like 
we're supposed to."

     "Raise your hand if you think Susan's right, as well as 
delightfully practical," Kim announced. All four Not-So-Vestal-Virgins 
lifted an arm toward the ceiling. "Well, there you have it. Sunrise? - 
we don't need no stinkin' sunrise!"

End of Part One
Continued in Part Two

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WAR: Addicts On Wheels - Part Deux (1/1)
by Bonnie Rutledge and Third Cousin Patt
with Cousin Jules and Cousin Annie

      "Okay," Jules announced as she settled behind the wheel of the 
Jag once more, "it's time for a business stop. No more hanky-panky. 
We've got to drop Libby's payment off at Merc Central."

     She maneuvered into traffic, skillfully running all the red 
lights necessary to arrive at the doors of the most hallowed bastion 
of Merc-ness in record fanfic time. Annie slipped from the back seat 
and pulled the papier-mache passenger that rested between Bonnie and 
her along afterward. "This won't take but a second," she promised, 
swinging the plump, white object's tail over her shoulder so that it 
wouldn't trail the pavement.

    Patt, Jules, and Bons watched as Annie tippie-toed up to the front 
entrance, glanced sneakily from side to side, then tapped furtively 
on the door. A minute passed, then it creaked partway open. Annie was 
obviously speaking in a low voice with whomever was on the other side 
of the threshold, but the three women in the car couldn't see the 
Mercenary's face. She then handed the pinata carefully through the 
door opening, it closed, and Annie hurried back to the Jaguar.

     "That's it?!" Bonnie exclaimed. "Somehow I pictured us becoming 
entangled in a web of intrigue and deceit, considering our present 
locale. I mean, Geez!, look at the lust and depravity that happened 
when we passed City Hall! - and it's a fine fortress of Truth, Justice, 
and The Canadian Way!"

     "Sometimes nothing happens for a reason," Jules explained as 
she revved the engine, pausing momentarily to savor the mechanical 
purr. Seconds later, they were zooming through red lights once more. 
They were forced to pause behind a Honda Civic that had braked to 
allow a little old lady and her poodle across the street. Jules leaned 
impatiently on the Jag's horn, then stuck her head out the window. 
"Can you speed it up, lady?" she called. "March! Double-time!"

     All of a sudden, another car whooshed past, and Jules just 
narrowly missed decapitation (or at the very least, a big, icky, 
bruise on her brainpan) as she reflexively jerked back inside the 
car.  The little old lady, barely escaping a collision of her own, 
let out a string of foul language as she shook her handbag after the 
speeding automotive. The poodle made an extremely rude gesture.

      "Did you SEE THAT!?" Bonnie practically bounced the Jag off 
its suspension as Jules made a sharp turn to pull around the Honda 
in front of them.  "Wasn't that...?"

     "Poodle buns?" Annie asked.

     "UNCLE!" Patt cried, turning fully around to watch the other 
Jaguar disappearing among traffic.

     "No way," Jules said emphatically, her eyes firmly on the street 
ahead. "On the phone, he said, 'Get to CERK, *now*', and I could tell 
he meant it. I can't believe I'm seeing Lacroix everywhere after that. 
Why would he be racing around Toronto in a Jaguar?"

     "Why are *we* racing around Toronto in a Jaguar?" Patt countered.

     "Ahh. Something is very, very wrong," Jules continued. Her tight 
grip on the leathered steering wheel caused her knuckles to blanch. 
"You know, he didn't exactly sound like himself earlier, and that 
really scares me."

     "Heck," Annie said, being the voice of reason. "He's scary enough 
when he's acting his normal self." She shivered with delight, adding, 
"But ain't it grand to be scared..."

      "Jules?" Bonnie said expectantly. "Aren't we going to chase him?"

      Jules ran another red light, then looked over her shoulder. "Hmm?"

      "Chase him! Chase him!"

      Patt found Bonnie's enthusiasm for high speeds infectious. They 
began to bounce up and down, shaking the right side of the car, while 
chanting in unison, "CHASE HIM! CHASE HIM!"

     "Okay!" Jules pressed the accelerator to the floorboard.

     "Uhm, guys," Annie said worriedly, "I don't want to be a wet 
blanket or anything, but didn't you wackos end up in jail the last 
time you had a high-speed encounter with a vampire?"

     Jules waved a hand carelessly in her direction. "Details, 
details. Besides, it *really* was the fault of the slacker and that 
other guy."

     "Yeah," Bons echoed, "it was their faults!" She paused 
momentarily. "And my non-sensible shoes, too, I suppose."

     "And the misinterpretation of a Cajun recipe," Patt added.

     Jules upshifted again as they approached 100 kph, grinning 
wickedly as she ascertained they were gaining on the other car.

     "There he is!" Patt cried. She turned to stare wistfully over 
her seat's headrest. "There he went! Mercy! He's turning at the corner!"

     "Grrrrr." Jules slammed on the brakes (which really was 
fortuitous, because they, coincidentally, had been on a collision 
course with a cement truck, a green van, and a hot dog stand), did 
a one-eighty, and vroom-ed in pursuit.


    Jules appeared downright feral as she made the Jag turn on a 
dime. A small dime. A very small dime. She swerved around some 
inconveniently placed pedestrians and some other cars which were 
trying (how droll!) to follow the speed laws.

     "There he is again!" Patt squealed excitedly. Her face fell. 
"There he goes again!"

     "Blast!" Jules cursed. "Where'd he go? Bons, you're the 
navigator - NA-VI-GATE!! Make like Magellan!"

     "Ooo! He stopped beside a house back there!" Bonnie shouted.

     Jules put the Jag in reverse gear, zip-zip-zipping in the 
direction that Bons pointed to excitedly, then brought the car 
to a halt.

      Annie breathed a sigh of relief and gradually pried her 
fingernails from the upholstery. "The ride's over, right? I can 
open my eyes now?"

     "You weren't frightened by my driving, were you, Anniebug?" 
Jules asked as she blinked innocently.

     "Of course not!" Annie retorted. "I didn't see enough to be 
frightened! What's cause for the willy-jillies is how Lacroix is 
going to react if you scratched, or even smudged, his car through 
any of those vehicular antics."

     At that, Jules gulped and leapt from the car, pale as snow. She 
gave the Jag a cursory examination for dents and dings, while Bonnie, 
Patt and Annie climbed out of their designated doors.

     "Gosh, I only got a glimpse of him, but I think he's even *more* 
gorgeous in person," Patt gushed, barely able to control her glee 
at being in the same universe as the General.

     Bonnie was headed in the direction where they'd seen Lacroix 
disappear when Annie halted her with a "Wait!"

     "What's wrong?" Bonnie turned around without her normal bounce, 
noting the strange tone to Annie's voice.

     "I'm not sure, but I think I know this place," Annie said as 
she looked up and down the Gothic-style brick estate. Bonnie and 
Patt joined her in a loose-knit huddle. Annie continued to concentrate 
in her attempt to remember where she'd seen the structure before. 
Suddenly, her pretty hazel eyes flew open, wide with shock and 

     "I know where we are," she said, her voice hushed. Her gaze 
moved upward, toward the window of a room on the third floor. 
"This is where he brought Nick that night. This is where the 
exorcist lives!"

End of Addicts On Wheels - Part Deux

Send Comments to br1035@ix.netcom.com   or   pattelmore@juno.com

WAR: Losing Sight
Part 1/3
After Bon's Post: Addicts on Wheels
By Patt Elmore
Betaing Extraordinaire by LaBons and LaJules


Bons and Patt  stared at Annie with open mouths.  Then they slowly 
turned and looked at the building, allowing their eyes to run up and 
up the rough brick surface.

"Gosh," Patt said in awe.  "THIS is where it happened?  Where LaCroix 
revealed his true paternal nature?" She pulled up the hem of her 
windbreaker and dabbed at the corner of her eye.  Bonnie put a 
comforting arm around the newer Cousin, mumbling words of comfort.

Annie was still looking at the building with a worried expression 
when Jules walked up to join them.

"Well, the Jag's okay," she reported with a grim voice, "but something 
still isn't right. "Why would LaCroix be here, if he *ordered* all 
Cousins to report to CERK, immediately?  I'm going to call headquarters 
and check some things out."  She walked back to the Jag and retrieved 
the cellular phone from the vehicle.  She began punching buttons.

Bonnie detached herself from Patt and was moving toward the estate 
home door when Annie gave her a warning look.  "What now?" Bons asked 
the other Cousin, just a touch of agitation in her voice. She had 
begun to wonder if Annie's obvious paranoia might be the result of 
having moved in with a Ratpacking Merc. "We know that Uncle went this 
way, and he might need us."

"I'm even more convinced now that things aren't right here," Jules 
growled as she walked back to the trio. "I just tried to call LaCroix 
on his most personal, private line and was told that 'the party you 
have tried to reach is not currently within service range.  Please 
try your call later,'" she mimicked the cell service operator 
beautifully.   "Just where would the General be to be out of 'service 
range?' "

Patt, still emotionally giddy, began to drool at the thought of Lacroix 
in her range and at her service.  She was overcome with a sudden strong 
urge to risk entering the house because there was a possibility of 
seeing *him*.

"I vote on riding forth," Bonnie held up a hand with one finger 
extended to the sky.  "Come on cavalry, let's get in there and find 
our leader. He called saying he needed us,  and maybe we're just in 
time to come to the rescue."

"Fat chance," Annie muttered under her breath.

"Hey," Patt glared at Annie.  "I resemble that remark.  *I* am the 
oldest here, remember, and I demand respect for my age."

Jules, Bons and Annie gave Patt  *THE* Cousin look and in unison 
replied, "R-i-g-h-t."

"Look," Jules sighed, "This is getting us nowhere.  If we're going to 
go in and check to see if LaCroix's there, let's just do it!"

Despite Annie's grumblings of dissention, the four women headed for 
the front door.  The fine wood finish of the portal, with its frosted 
glass and cross-shaped etching, belied the internal doings of this 
old estate. Without prior knowledge, no one would have guessed what 
activities took place here.

Jules reached the door first.  She glanced quickly at the other three 
huddled around her and tentatively knocked.

"Yes?"  The voice that answered was not familiar.   Jules looked at 
the others with concern.

Taking a deep breath, LaCroix's personal assistant answered, "Yes, my 
name is Jules, and I'm looking for a . . ." she looked at the others 
and shrugged,  " . . . *gentleman* who we think came in there."

"We're afraid there may be something wrong with him," she hurriedly 
added.  After a short pause, the Cousins heard soft footsteps 
approaching, stopping just the other side of the door.

"Stand back and let me get a look at you," the voice barked. Jules 
stepped back, nearly jostling the other women into the far wall.

A moment later, a key could be heard turning in the lock. The door 
swung open slowly and a short, balding man with black-rimmed glasses 
peeped out.

"You're not the exorcist!" Patt could not control herself from 
sputtering out. The little man eyed her carefully, but made no 
attempt to open the door further.

"Excuse me, but is this the home of  Dr. Max Vanderwal?" Annie 
intervened politely.  The man behind the door shifted his focus 
to Annie.

"Maybe so and maybe not," he finally responded. "What do you want 
him for?"

"We think a friend of ours may have come to talk with him," Jules 
responded. "We believe he might be in trouble of some sort." The 
little man turned beady eyes on the other three Cousins. Bonnie, 
Annie and Patt responded to his stare by nodding their heads in 
agreement with Jules' statement.

"Okay, but I have weapons in here," he warned, opening the door to 
allow them entrance. "Don't try anything funny."

The four women tumbled into the hallway and began looking around. 
The short corridor was empty, except for a few odd pieces of old 
furniture and a painting or two.

"Did a very tall man dressed in black come in here just a few minutes 
ago?" Jules demanded, now that she was face to face with the short 
man. The other three Cousins began moving off to explore the various 
rooms which extended off the hall.

The man shrugged. "Maybe and maybe not. I was taking a nap."

"Where is Dr. Vanderwal?" Jules asked impatiently. "Maybe he would 
know something."

"The Doc is away on *vacation*," the bald man said smugly and winked, 
"if you know what I mean."

"So you're the only one here? Why didn't you tell us that in the first 
place?" Jules said the exasperation.

"You didn't . . .," the man started to say, but Jules stopped him with 
a raised hand and a flash of her green eyes.  Hanging around with 
LaCroix had taught her a few tips for *dealing* with people. Annie 
walked up to join them.

"Why is that door locked?" She nodded in the direction of the study. 
Opposite the door which led from the hallway to the study was yet 
another wooden door.

"What are you hiding behind that door?" Jules continued the 
questioning, her voice sharp, her tone full of warning.

The little man raised both hands in surrender.  "If you know this 
is an exorcist's house, you know what's behind door number two," 
he smiled, proud of his joke. Jules muttered something irritably 
under her breath, while Annie approached the entrance in question.

"Open it," Jules demanded.

"No problemo," the stocky little man replied, retrieving a key from 
his pocket. "But, . . ." he said, turning and giving her a sly grin, 
"it's going to cost you."

Without further words, the man opened the door and swung it wide.
Four collective gasps could be heard as the women stared into the room.

End of Part 1/3

WAR: Losing Sight or,
Don't Ask for Whom the Belial Tolls
Part 2/3
After Part 1
By Patt Elmore
Betaing Extraordinaire by LaJules and LaBons


"It's empty," Bonnie pouted in disappointment as the Cousins entered 
the room which served as the exorcist's 'work room.'

"Only of humanoid life," Annie corrected her.   She looked around, 
fascinated.  "This room is definitely *not* empty."

It was exactly as she'd envisioned.  A simple room with few furnishings
-- the better to not be tossed about when one was working on one 
possessed. The only standing pieces were two identical crucifixes on 
long poles. Other cross shapes were hung on the wall. A long table 
had been set up in the middle of the floor, complete with straps for 
tying the 'patient' down so that services could be rendered. A wheeled 
table had been pushed against one wall.

"Well, it doesn't appear that he's here," Jules conceded, after she'd 
made a quick survey of the room. She looked about, addressing the 
other women, "We'd better get going. We've already wasted enough time 
on this *chase.*"

They were headed toward the door when the balding man suddenly 
yelled, "STOP!"  All four women froze and slowly turned as one.

"You!" He walked toward Bonnie, an action which made the North 
Carolinian suddenly nervous. He stopped in front of her, his 
spectacles on the tip of his nose, and stared into her face. After 
studying her intently for a few minutes, his eyes widened, then he 
began nodding with conviction. "You are possessed."

"Wha . . . what?!" Bonnie was aghast. Shocked, Annie, Jules and 
Patt stepped back slightly, leaving Bonnie standing alone. The 
little man continued to nod.

"Yep, you got the devil in you." The  man's head bobbed like a 
dashboard ornament. "You are one demon-possessed little lady."

"Well, I know I'm a little hyper," Bonnie began, shifting her body 
slightly, "but it's probably just from the caffeine. Maybe you're 
just confused by my red hair."

"DEMON!" the little man suddenly shouted, thrusting a finger into 
Bonnie's face. She paled and took a step backwards.

"Hey, now, wait a minute!" She regained her composure a little, her 
cheeks flushed.  "No need to get personal."

The little fellow was faster than he looked. Bonnie was turning to 
flee, but he caught her wrist and held it fast. With both hands 
grasping Bons' lower arm, he began pulling the woman toward the 
'operating' table.

"Hey, leggo!"  Bonnie protested.  She looked back to see her 
friends standing there, staring at the struggle. "Hey, anyone want 
to give me a hand here? Guys!"

By now, the stocky man had reached the table. He bodily lifted the 
small woman onto its surface and reached for a wrist strap. Seeing 
his purpose, Bonnie began thrashing. Arching her back, her legs high 
in the air, her non-sensible footwear flying in opposite directions, 
she began screeching, "LET GO OF ME!"

"SEE?!!" the little man shouted, vindicated. "Quickly! Help me tie 
her down, or we'll lose her.  Hurry!"

The trio watching had to admit that it appeared Bonnie was rising 
off the table.  They exchanged worried glances, but didn't move.

"YYYEEEEAAAAAEEEEEE," Bonnie's melodious voice reached a pitch the 
others had never heard.  She tossed her head wildly, tendrils of 
long hair streaking outward like airborn snakes.  "LET ME GOOOOOOOO!!"

"You know, I've always wondered about Bonnie," Patt whispered to 
Jules. The younger woman stopped Patt with a glance, then turned 
concerned eyes back toward Bonnie. The stocky man had spread himself 
across Bonnie's chest, now, trying desperately to hold down the 
flailing woman.

"If you don't help me, we'll lose her," he said urgently. "What's 
the matter with the three of you?  Don't you care about your *friend?*"

This moved Jules and Annie to action. They approached the table 
hurriedly, while Patt hung back a little. She liked them all, but 
hadn't really known them *that* long.

From the advantage of distance, Patt watched as Annie caught hold of 
one of Bonnie's wrists and quickly cinched it with a strap. Jules 
hurried around to the other side of the table and, nudging the stocky 
man out of the way with her hip, secured Bonnie's other hand. Bonnie 
looked down at her trussed wrists.

"Guys?" Bonnie's voice sounded small.

"Okay," Jules said. She looked at the man. "I'm getting tired of 
thinking of you as 'short, stocky man.' Do you have a name?"

"Everett. Charles Everett," the man replied with a slight bow. He 
hurried to the end of the table and began reaching for one of Bonnie's 
flying feet.

"Guys?!" the figure on the table meweled again.

"Well, Charles Everett," Annie had joined him for the 'foot chase,' 
and had just dodged a toe thrust. "Are you a defragged priest, too, 
or something like that?"

"Oh no, dear," Everett laughed. He bodily slammed Bonnie's right knee 
down on the table, causing her to cry out in pain. "Sorry," he 
addressed the girl on the table as he caught her ankle and pressed 
it to the leather. "No," he said to Annie, "I'm actually an historian 
and author. I'm doing a book on the dear ex-father."

"Ohhhhhh," Jules, Annie and Patt said simultaneously.

"If you're not an exorcist, then what do you think you're doing to 
Bons here?" Jules demanded.

"As I said, I'm trying to help her." Little beads of perspiration  
had formed on Everett's forehead from his exertion in trying to 
secure the woman to the table. "I've been witness to enough of these 
ceremonies to know what to do."

He began testing the straps for snugness while Bons whimpered on the 
table. Finally, Everett turned to the three women. "I want to help 
her, and I know I can, but it will require your aid as well. Do you 
wish to save your friend from the demon which is controlling her, or 
do you wish to leave?"

Patt turned quickly toward the exit. Jules caught the Louisianan 
by the flesh on the back of her neck and slowly turned Patt back 
round to the center of the room.

"Okay, Everett, we'll work with you, but you'd better know what 
you're doing," Jules did her best *LaCroix* inflection. "If you 
fail in your task . . .I'll . . .I'll . . . be unhappy," she 
concluded. Seeing Annie and Patt smirking at her, Jules shrugged.  
She could only *play* LaCroix to a point.

"Guys?" Bons called faintly from the table.

Jules bit her lip.  "Let's get this over with, okay?  Bons? Your 
will is in order, isn't it?"

 End Part 2

WAR: Losing Sight or,
How Bonnie Comes to Grip with her Addiction
Part 3/3
After Part 2
By Patt Elmore
Most grateful thanks to Bons and Jules for Betaing all this.


Bonnie stiffened as the four figures advanced on her. Suddenly, she 
wasn't nearly as frightened as she was ticked off.

Jules reached her first, coming to stand next to the prone woman's

Bons looked at Jules, anger deepening her orbs to brackish jade.

"Et tu, Jultae?" she spit the words, then followed them with a wad 
of saliva. All that practice at drooling had suddenly come in handy.

Jules wiped the spittal from her face and looked down at Bons. 
Everett nodded in satisfaction. "See, what did I tell you? Would 
your *friend* have done such a thing?"

"Yes," Patt replied, but choked back any further comment when four 
sets of eyes fell on her. "Hey, I was only being truthful . . ."
her voice trailed off.

"Hey social worker," Annie looked sternly at Patt, "how about being 
more sociable? Come over here and join us."

Knowing that she had no choice if she wanted a ride to CERK,  Patt
complied. She walked over to the table and rested a soft hand on

Patt felt Bons' hand clutch and move under her touch.  Felt the
forming of a gesture beneath  her palm.  Patt quickly snatched her 
hand away.

"She's possessed, all right," Patt nodded.  "*Our* Bonnie wouldn't 
act this way.  Uhhh, huhhh, she's as tainted as an old can of 
gooseberry pie filling.  Yep, that she is."

"Okay," Jules looked at Everett.  "What do you want us to do?"

Everett reached over and clasped one of the mounted crucifixes.
"Here," he said, handing it to Jules.  "Place this at her feet.  
You, girl," he gestured to Annie, "get the other and place it at 
her head. You," he looked squarely at Patt, "come with me."

Patt opened her mouth to protest again, but shut it quickly. She 
was fervently beginning to wish she'd stayed at the Shrine. A cool 
dip would have suited her just fine right now.  Patt rounded the 
table and followed Everett.

At the wheeled table, he picked up a mantle and placed it over his
shoulders, kissing the hem once. He indicated that Patt should push 
the table and follow him back to where Bons lay. Patt obediently 
rolled the cart after him.

Back at Bonnie's bedside, Everett picked up a pewter pitcher and
chalice. He began pouring liquid into the cup.

"Lamb's blood?" Jules asked, wrinkling her nose.

"Spicy V-8 Juice," Everett corrected her. "This is a PG episode, 
you know."

At the mention of the vilest beverage imagineable, the three 
standing Cousins took a step back from Everett. Bonnie began 
thrashing wildly on the table again. Everett held the chalice 
above Bons and began muttering in Latin, while the three other 
women looked on in revulsion.

Bonnie began to moan and mumble, her words barely intelligible.
"Aggghhh...nasopharyngeal carrier...beta-hemolytic fermentor of
mannitol....uhhhh...Don't sniff that!...plasmid-encoded enterotoxin...." 
Bons suddenly stilled, her face placid.  "Microbiologists make better 
streakers!" she sighed softly.

"See, she speaks in tongues," Everett almost shouted in triumph.

" . . . opportunistic pathogen . . ." Bons mumbled in her delirium.

"That's not tongues, that's medical terminology," Jules re-approached 
the table where Bonnie heaved and rolled.  "She must be having a final 
exam flashback."  Annie and Patt shuddered in the background.

"NUNKIES!"  The trio instantly became alert as Bons called *his*
name. Her voice was cracked and sobbing, full of a sense of loss.
"Don't take away my NUNKIES!"

Suddenly, it was clear what was happening. Jules eyes flew open wide 
with understanding.

"He's curing her!  He's taking the Nunkies addiction away!"

"NOOOOOO!!!" Bonnie wailed from the table. Jules threw herself on
the stricken girl, while Patt and Annie rushed to join her. Jules 
looked up at Everett, displaying her most threatening manner.

"Keep AWAY from her!" Jules hissed the order. "She's not possessed, 
she's a priestess!"

Everett was not to be stopped, though. He dipped his fingers into 
the tomato-vegetable juice concoction and flung the liquid at Bonnie. 
Droplets as red as Jules' hair began coursing down her face.

"Stop him!" Jules shouted at Patt and Annie. Annie quickly reached 
inside her bag and pulled out a sheaf of papers. She ran to Everett 
and thrust them under his nose.

Everett snorted. "Sorry, won't work," he said, looking down at the 
tax forms in smug disdain. "I worked my way through college by working 
for the IRS in Chicago each spring. I cut my teeth on 1040's."

"NUNKIES!!" Bonnie arched again, her chest heaving with the strain of 
her anguish. "DON'T LEAVE ME!"

"That's it," Jules said. "This is over and we're leaving. Untie 
her -- NOW!"

If Everett heard the request, he paid no heed. He continued to chant 
in Latin, with some high school Spanish and math equations thrown in 
for good measure. Jules looked at him in disgust.

"Oh, Mr. Everett?" Patt's high-pitched voice came sing-songy to all 
their ears. Annie winced and Bons, regaining some composure, looked 
up to see what Patt wanted.

Even Everett couldn't avoid *that* voice. He turned to look and Patt 
hit him square in the face with a stream of Ribena fired from the 
water pistol she'd stashed in her pocket, a precaution done at the 
instructions of the War Mistress.

"EHHHHHH," Everett staggered back, blinded, his hands clutching at
his face.  Jules, Annie and Patt each worked at a strap and quickly 
got Bonnie free, except for one hand.

"How'd you come to have that thing along?" Jules questioned Patt,
indicating the pistol with a jut of her chin.

"Got to know the code, Cousin," Patt grinned confidentially.

Annie had finished unbuckling one hand and had moved around the
table to loosen the other. Everett, his eyes still burning, came at 
her, intent on attack.

"ANNIE!" Patt and Jules yelled simultaneously. Annie turned
quickly and stepped aside. Everett fell against the table just as 
Bonnie was sitting up.

Bonnie hopped off the table and turned to face Everett, who turned 
to face her. Lifting a thin, but strong, arm, Bons made a fist and 
popped Everett between the eyes. "This never happened!" Bonnie 
hissed, popping him again for good measure.

The stocky little man yelped and put his hands to his face again.
Bonnie undoubled her hand and was shaking the soreness from her
knuckles when Jules grabbed her upper arm.  "Let's get out of 
here," the former-Texan commanded.

All four women raced for the front door. They were out and into 
the Jag before Everett reached the entrance hall.  Jules keyed the 
engine and threw gravel in her speed to get away from the house.

"Now what?" Annie asked from the back seat, where she sat with a
protective arm around a trembling Bons.

"CERK and no side trips," Jules said with determination, her eyes
never leaving the road.

A conviction which lasted until a black Jaguar sped by and Patt 
uttered the fateful word, "UNCLE!"

The End

by Libby Singleton
beta read by Annie Raper

     Making her way from the Nunkies Shrine at the Jeweled Peach
to Merc Headquarters was proving more difficult than Libby had
anticipated.  The batteries in her flashlight had died, her contacts 
were acting up, and the duct tape holding the Nunkies Fantasy Manual 
to her tummy was beginning to itch terribly.

     Stumbling into an alley to rest her back, she unzipped her
backpack to find extra batteries.  Of course they were at the bottom 
under all the other useful thingees including her laptop computer. 
In fact, they were shoved in the toes of Annie's tennis shoes. "Ooops, 
wonder how Annie's sneakers got in here?" she mumbled allowed.  
"Annie will miss them."  Batteries inserted into the flashlight, 
she switched it on.

     "Watch where ya pointin' tha' thing, Missy 'Alf A Quart Low!"

     Libby jumped up in alarm.  "S...screed?"

     "The one an' only!"  He snorted with pleasure at being
recognized.  "Say.... ain't tha' cross-stitchin' thread ya got there?"

     Looking at the mess around her feet, Libby shrugged.
"Yeah, I'm just not the real organized sort.  I crammed a bunch of
little projects in my backpack before leaving the Jeweled Peach."

     "Got any white?  Mine's gotten all twisten an' tangled an'
all tha' sorta jammy jam."

     "Y...you *really* cross-stitch?"

     "'Ere," Screed said, holding up a half-finished Norman
Rockwell doctor's scene.  "It's fer me lady doctor friend.  She's
been showin' me a good time lately.  Ol' Screed thinks she's about
to forget about that De-fect-a-tive Nicky."

     "Uh, oh," Libby muttered.  Something strange was
definitely going on.  She wasn't sure about much in life, but one
thing she knew all-too-well: she was about the *only* one who
thought Screed was just the thing Natalie Lambert needed.

     While frozen in shock, Screed approached her and starting
rummaging through her belongings.  Jolted back to reality, Libby
reached out and slapped his hand.  "Hey, nothing of mine is going
to end up at a swap meet unless *I* take it there myself, is that
understood, mister?!?  I know your kind because I like profit as
much as the next Merc!!!"

     Screed raised his hands in resignation.  "Wot ever ya say,


     "Missy 'Alf 'Quart Libby." He kept his hands in the air, but
something obviously caught his attention.  "Tha' a picture o' me??? 
In lycra speedos???" Screed smacked his lips in approval.  "Cut a 
right fine figure, I do.  Me Docsie Wocsie Natsie would like a copy 
o' tha', she would!!! Only I don't remember ever 'avin' it taken. 
Always wear boxers meself."

     "I'm almost scared to ask, but can you drop your trousers...
*Not* your knickers, I just wanna see the back," Libby whispered
with anticipation.

     Shrugging, Screed obliged.  He turned around.  Libby
grinned hesitantly when she noticed the "Forever Knight" logo
cross-stitched across the back of his underwear.

     "I *don't* know what is going on here, but it's really
*neat*!" Libby said, beginning to wheeze in excitement.  She hoped
she packed her asthma medication.  Putting her arm around
Screed's shoulder, she said, "Screed, tell you what, you come with
me to Merc Headquarters, and I'll make you all the copies...color
copies... of my lycra speedoed Screed you want for Natalie.  Is 
that a deal???"

     "Sounds like a plan to me, it does!" Screed said.  "Say, ya
got something under your shirt???  Feels like duct tape on yar

     "Uhr, never mind about that now.  Pull your pants back up
so we can get a move on!" As quickly as she could, Libby began
tossing her stuff back into the backpack, glad she hadn't removed
the Ratsie Wot Kilt Screed.  Some things were best kept secret, at
least for now.

Annie Raper and her tennis shoes used with Annie Raper's

                  Natasha, Vampire Princess
            By Amythest Dragon (AKA Tammy Morrison)
                 Beta Read by Barb Erickson
                Nick and Natpack Green Team

Time: Sometime after Amythest Dragon disappears from the Jewelled
Peach parking lot and the Nick and Natpackers begin renovations on
the theatre!

Appearing: Carrie B., Barb, Casey, Marie, Rebecca, Kris, 'LaCroix'
the ferret, the multitudes of unnamed Nick and Natpackers (not to
be confused with the UF), and me... Amythest Dragon.  (Whoa, Mr.
Dressup flashback!)


A white Puralator truck with red and blue markings pulled up in front 
of the theatre that the Nick and Natpackers were calling home for the 
'battle' that was about to ensue.  The army of the faithful pack which 
numbered close to sixty warm bodies swarmed over the place like ants, 
trying to get it as battle ready and defensible as possible before any 
of the other factions got it into their heads to attack.  The driver 
opened the door of his truck and watched the frantic carryings on for 
a few minutes before he picked up his clipboard and approached one of 
the people.  She seemed less frenzied than the rest. She reminded him
of some of the secretaries who -run- their offices.

"Hiya," the man said as he approached her. "I've got a delivery for 
'The Nick and Natpackers.'" He looked at the scurrying people for a 
few minutes. "And you guys sure are packing..."

"Yeah that's us," Carrie B. responded. "What's the delivery?"

"One big crate, and three small steel animal cages," the guy shrugged. 
"Don't ask me where they're from or what's in 'em, I just picked 'em 
up from the airport."

"Okay, well bring them around front here," Carrie B. replied, anxious 
to rejoin the preperations.

"Gotta sign," the driver said as he handed her the clipboard.

Carrie B. scribbled her name down quickly as the driver made inane
comments about how funny the weather was today and how quickly night 
had fallen. The mention of night brought Carrie B. back from her 
contemplations of the pad.

"Nick fell?  From where?  Where is he?" she asked, her head turning 
around quickly.

"Nick?" The driver looked as if he was beginning to wonder about 
her, too.

"Sorry," Carrie B. shook her head.  She was already getting to caught 
up in the war, "Wrong kind of knight..."

"Yeah, right."  The driver looked as though he wanted to get out of 
there as quickly as possible, and as such swiftly unloaded his cargo, 
leaving it on the sidewalk in front of the theatre.

"Casey," Carrie B. called.  "Can you spare a minute?"

"Sure thing."  Casey came over and began inspecting the metal boxes. 
One whined plantively, one purred loudly and one just hissed 
occasionally when she got too close.  "What's this stuff?"

"Don't know," Carrie B. looked contemplative.  "It was just 
delivered by Puralator."  She began to inspect the crate and other 
Nick and Natpackers began to abandon their tasks to look it over.  
She found a huge spray painted marking on the side facing the street.  
Carrie B. read it aloud to the others.  "It say's 'open me.'"

"Curiouser and curiouser," Casey commented and was promptly bombarded 
by any soft object that the others could lay their hands on.  A 
collective 'boo' filled the air.  Casey just grinned gamely.

"Do you think it's an attack from one of the other factions so soon?" 
Marie, who had broken from the pack, stepped forward.

"It's a definite possibility," Carrie B. remarked.  "Could be the

"Might be, but I don't think they've had time yet," Casey remarked. 
"Amythest Dragon isn't here yet....  You know it might be her.  She's 
weird enough to do it."  The group looked at Casey collectively. 
"You've read her fan fic haven't you?"  Everyone nodded in agreement.

"She's also a Cousin defector, you know she likes LaCroix?" Carrie B. 
asked dubiously.

"One of her more sterling qualities!" Casey smiled widely.

"Let's open it and find out!"  Marie looked like a kid about to open 
presents on Christmas.

"You're the one who claims to have a death wish...."  Casey handed
her a crowbar.  Marie pushed it into a crack and began to wrench. She 
was having little success when Barb broke through the ranks and began 
to pull, too. Then Casey joined in.  Sighing, so did Carrie B.  With 
teamwork only the Nick and Natpack could muster, the top popped off 
the box.  A small furry ferret head popped it's way out of the 
styrofoam peanuts.

Marie fished the little fellow out and he licked her nose.  "You know, 
he kinda looks like LaCroix with that little white spot up between 
his ears." Suddenly the peanuts spewed up and out, and the group took 
a collective step back, expecting the worst as a flat board was lifted 
out and Amythest Dragon popped up.

"And now for something completely different..." she did in her best 
John Cleese impersonation.

Most of the group shook their heads and went back to work on the
theatre. Casey helped her out of the crate.  Amythest Dragon, Marie 
and Casey shared some sort of secret greeting, as though they knew 
each other from somewhere else.  (If anyone had vampiric hearing they 
would have heard the three quietly recite the NA credo to each other.)

"Amythest Dragon's MultiMedia Production Facility is here and ready 
to produce anything we need.... Especially... you know..."  Amythest 
Dragon declared.  There were winks and nudges.  Casey introduced 
Amythest to Carrie B.  They hugged as though they'd all known each 
other for -ages-. "So, can you guys help me carry it in and set up?"

"No problem there," Carrie B. agreed, then cried out, "Nick and
Natpack moving line form up."  Rebecca and Kris joined Marie and 
Casey in line behind Amythest Dragon and Carrie B., forming a 
'bucket brigade' style line.

'LaCroix' the ferret nested in Amythest Dragon's wavy reddish 
brown tresses.  Hair that looked as though she'd had the same 
hair dresser as Nat in first season.  She began to fish out 
components.  Casey, who was behind Carrie, started calling out 
the name of each item as they handed it back. Marie, Rebecca and 
Kris followed suit.  Carrie B. winced.

"Monitor," Casey called.

"Monitor," Marie yelled.

"Monitor," Rebecca hollered.

"Monitor,"  Kris shouted, then carried it into the theatre.

"Printer," Casey bellowed.

"Printer," was again repeated three times.

This continued for a few minutes until Carrie B. thought her head 
was going to explode.  Then Casey cried out, "Chain Mail Bikini."

"Chain Mail Bikini," Marie echoed.

"Chain Mail Bikini," Rebecca repeated.

"Chain Mail Bi--", Kris stopped in mid-sentence as everyone looked up.

Amythest Dragon and Carrie B. finished the last comment, "--kini?"

Before them stood Natalie Lambert, gloriously radiant in a glittering 
metal loin cloth about twelve inches wide side to side that hung to 
just below her knees both front and back, a matching metal bra, and 
knee high black leather boots folded down at the top like a pirate's. 
Her long silken hair was held off her face with a black silk kerchief 
folded 'gypsy' style and tied to one side.  Tucked in beside the knot 
was a red rose.  In her teeth she had a long thin dagger and in her 
right hand she held a blue-steel small sword with a jewelled hilt. 
She spit the dagger out and caught it in her left hand with a motion 
too quick for their human eyes to register.

Her eyes flashed golden and fangs descended as she asked pointedly, 
"Where's Nick?"

"Ummmm..."  was the collective answer.

She put one hand on her hip, the gold fading and her teeth receding, 
"Okay, you guys obviously aren't vicious and I'm obviously not in the 
loft anymore... so where am I?"

"You're with friends, Natalie,"  Marie was the first to speak up.
"You're at the Nick and Natpack headquarters in Toronto."

"Okay, I'll accept that, but it feels weird."  Natalie shook her
head, "There has to be an explanation for why I was at the loft
getting ready to roleplay with Nick one minute, then all of a sudden 
I'm on a Toronto street outside a theatre with a bunch of 'Nick and 
Natpackers.'"  Natalie held her hand between her teeth for a minute 
then said, "Must have something to do with that prankster Nick calls 
a master, LaCroix.  The thought of having to put up with him for 
eternity nearly made me say -no- to being brought across.  He just 
won't leave Nick alone."

"Just tell me one thing," Carrie B. asked, gritting her teeth as 
she asked.

"What?"  Natalie looked wary of what she might ask.

"Did LaCroix bring you across?"  Carrie B. blurted out, and looked 
as though she'd rather cover her ears than hear the answer.

"For the love of Pete, NO!"  Natalie appeared as if she was about 
to be ill.  "Nick did.  Why would I want -him- biting -me-?"

"Thank goodness," Carrie B. sighed in relief.  "Just the thought 
of LaCroix drinking your blood..."

Natalie and Carrie B. went "Yech, yech, yech" in unison.

"Maybe we should take her inside and get her some clothing?" Amythest 
Dragon suggested.  "I mean, that isn't exactly street dress."

"Thanks," Natalie smiled.  "I didn't catch your names. If I'm going 
to be hanging around with you guys until we find Nick and find out 
what's going on, I'd like to know whom I'm dealing with."

"Amythest Dragon, 'Dragon Protector of Knights and Damsels in 
Distress' at your service," she bowed deeply.

"I like that," Natalie commented and bowed back.

"Carrie B., 'Keeper of the Ice,'" Carrie B. nodded in Natalie's

"Always useful for keeping the 'food' fresh," Natalie winked at Carrie B.

"And for recovering from the Smut Sisters' Latest 'Endless Knight'
post," Carrie B. added. Marie giggled.

"Casey, 'Defender of the N&Npack Episodes,'" Casey responded

"With you as a spokeswoman, I'm sure they do fine..," Natalie 
commented wryly.

"Marie, 'Keeper of the Nick and Natpack Locket.'" Marie ran up and 
gave Natalie a welcoming hug.

Natalie stiffened at first then warmed up and hugged back.  She 
smiled at Marie and pulled something out of a little bag tied at 
her waist. "Then I guess you had better keep this for the duration," 
she said and handed Marie an antique white gold locket in the shape 
of a heart with 'Nick and Nat, Forever' engraved on it's surface.  
"Just be sure to give it back, okay?" Natalie added.  Marie nodded 
seriously and hung the chain around her neck.

Kris and Rebecca both introduced themselves, and Natalie cordially
spoke to each for a moment.  Then Barb, who was just exiting the
theatre, noticed the new arrival, heard the introductions and made a 
b-line for the group, "Hi!  I'm Barb", she interjected, "'Keeper of 
the Naughty Bits'."

Natalie raised an eyebrow and then said, "I'm not going to touch 
that one. No matter -how- curious I am.  There are things man or 
vampire was just not meant to know!"  Then she continued addressing 
the group, "Call me Natasha... Natalie is what my business 
aquaintances and LaCroix call me. Nick and _my family_ call me 
Natasha."  Natasha, formerly known as Natalie, asked and they all 
complied happily.

"Natasha," Casey spoke up with a smirk on her face.

"Yeah?" she looked over at Casey.

"What were you and Nick roleplaying before you 'arrived?'  If you 
don't mind me asking."  Casey was digging for dirt.

Natasha blushed as much as it was possible for a vampire to then
called all the girls over.  They clustered around her like chicks
to a hen and Natasha spoke up.  "We were playing 'Red Sonja.'"  
Some of the girls looked a little confused. "You know, if he can 
'beat' me in a fair fight, he can 'have' me."  Everyone smiled and 
nodded knowingly.

Amythest Dragon grinned and looked at Casey. "A wink's as good as 
a nudge to a blind bat," she said in her best Eric Idle voice as 
she gently elbowed the other woman.

Casey giggled and Natasha added, "I had planned to throw the fight."

The huddle broke and Natasha walked over to the place where the 
metal crates sat. "Can I help with any of this?"

"You don't have to," Amythest Dragon spoke up again.

"But I want to," Natasha replied as she lifted the two largest 
steel cages.  "Besides, I hope you guys have some ah... you know... 
in there.... I'm kinda hungry."  The others watched her enter the 
theatre and heard her wonder idly where Nick was.  Then they turned 
and looked at each other.

"I sure hope someone thought to stock up," Casey commented wryly to 
the others, fully expecting to have to set up a raid for 'supplies.'


Amythest Dragon (AKA Tammy Morrison)  amydrag@freenet.edmonton.ab.ca
Nick and Natpack Green Team
Dragon Protector of Knights and Damsels in Distress


Knight Nick Knight (1/2)
By Susan B. with input from Cj & Stormy
Time: Concurrent with "Natasha, Vampire Princess"

After scrounging up some extra tools and other supplies at Susan's
house; Cj, Jenn, Stormy and Susan were driving eastbound along the
QEW heading into Toronto. "I'm taking the Lakeshore cut-off," Susan
said. "I want to show you something."

"What?" Jenn asked.

"I like to refer to it as fallout from the last FK War," she
chuckled. "It was shortly after the War that the signs went up on
Lakeshore Blvd."

Jenn was curious. "What signs?," she asked.

"The 'Goose Crossing' signs," Susan replied as she approached the
off ramp.

"No way," Stormy commented.

"It's true! They're like those yellow deer crossing signs you see
on the highway, but instead of a flying deer, they have a walking
mother goose with her gosling. And, believe it or not, the signs
went up shortly after the last...."

"What is that?!" Stormy abruptly shouted.

Susan glanced around. "What? I don't see anything."

Stormy pointed her finger towards the front windshield and slightly
down to the right. "That!" she exclaimed. "Over there, halfway down
the ramp. There's something shiny lying on the shoulder of the road
under the light standard. It just appeared ...out of thin air!"

Jenn leaned forward from the seat behind. "There is something
there," she said, "I see it too."

Susan slowed down the minivan. "Oh, yeah, I see it. There it is."

Stormy shook her head. "It wasn't there a minute ago. I swear. Pull
over, pull over. Let's check it out!"

"It looks like a suit of armour," Jenn gasped enthusiastically.

Cj, who was sitting in the middle bench seat with Jenn, then leaned
forward too. "Maybe we shouldn't stop," she said. She gazed up at
the black sky, the full moon, and the eerie flickers of lightning
in the distance. "It is a strange night," she whispered.

"Strange indeed," Jenn admitted, "...but I like strange."

Susan pulled the van off onto the paved shoulder, stopping about
twenty feet away from the unidentified fallen object. Everyone
simultaneously opened their doors and clambered out. They
cautiously strolled forward, stopping a few feet away from the
glistening lump of metal.

"There's a man in it!" Jenn yelped. She broke away from the others
and dashed to the armoured man. Standing over him, she bent down
slightly and examined his face. "Blond hair, pale face, gorgeous
lips ...my God!" she screamed. "It's Nick! Nick Knight!"

"Nick? Is he alive?" Susan shouted breathlessly.

Jenn scowled at her. "I said it's Nick, Susan. He's always alive."

"Undead," Cj corrected.


Jenn knelt down for a closer look. "He's starting to come to I
think ...yes ...his eyes are opening ...yes ...he looks a little
dazed and confused."

Cj broke out in a slight grin as she, Stormy, and Susan glanced at
each other knowingly. "Yup. That's Nick," they declared in unison
as they charged forward.

Nick opened his eyes fully and stared up at the four eager faces
hovering over him. His expression was beyond baffled. "Do I know
you?" he asked, somewhat suspiciously.

"You don't know us," Stormy replied. "But we know you. You're Nick

Nick started to squirm around inside the armour. He struggled to
look around, but the helmet made peripheral vision impossible, and
all he saw was metal. "I was with a damsel ...I mean a woman," he
said. "A beautiful woman with long wavy hair. Her name is Mistress
Tash...I mean Natasha ...or sometimes Natalie if we've been
arguing. We were just about to... nevermind, that's not important."

"Natalie?" Jenn echoed. She drew her eyes from Nick long enough to
scan the immediate area.

A warm smile formed on Nick's lips at the mention of his beloved's
name, and the slightest tinge of gold embellished his eyes. He
stared longingly up at the sky, towards the full moon. "Natasha,"
he whispered. "Her eyes more beautiful than a thousand moons, and
her skin as soft as..."

"Yes, yes, enough! Jenn gasped. "What was she wearing?" Jenn
immediately felt Susan poke her hard in the ribs. "Ouch! Don't do
that!" she wailed. "....I was just curious."

Nick slowly closed his eyes. "Wearing?" he muttered, "...a metal
loin cloth ...it glittered like the stars ...and boots, black
leather..." Nick immediately stopped talking and opened his eyes
wide. "What she was wearing isn't important either," he snapped.

Visions began flashing through Jenn's mind of just what Nick and
Nat were in the middle of when he was ripped away from ...wherever
it was he came from. "Shall we douse him with cold water?" she

"Shall we douse you with cold water?" Susan teased, noticing the
rather sultry expression in Jenn's eyes.

Abruptly, Nick started clanking his arms around. "Help me up will
you ladies? I have to find her. I have to find out what happened."

Jenn stared down at the wriggling Knight Nick Knight. "Uh, you're
not going to fly away on us are you? We know all about vampire
sexual prowess. Uh, I mean special powers," she corrected herself.

Nick glared at them as though they were dense. "Fly away?" he
scoffed. "I can't even get up. I'm weak."

"You need blood," Cj advised.

"No, that's not it," Nick replied. "I've fed tonight". He muttered
under his breath, "several times actually."

"All right," Cj boldly announced. "Jenn and Stormy, you grab his
legs. Susan and I will grab his arms." Cj paused as the girls
scattered into their appropriate positions and took hold of the
appropriate appendages. "Okay," she said, "One ...two ...three

                                 Cont'd. in 2/2
Susan B.

Knight Nick Knight (2/2)
By Susan B. with input from Cj & Stormy
Time: Concurrent with "Natasha, Vampire Princess"

Nick was finally pulled to his feet, and the first thing he did was
clomp over to the guardrail. His metal clad arms smacked on the
metal railing with a loud clang. Nick peered over the guardrail to
the dark and barren street below. "Natasha!" he bellowed. "Are you
down there!"

The level of concern in his voice troubled the girls, and they
quickly joined him at the guardrail. "Natalie!" they cried out,
"Natasha! Natalie!" There was no response.

Knight Nick Knight refused to give up his quest. "Tasha!" he cried
repeatedly, increasing his volume as he leaned further and further
over the railing.

"GRAB HIM!!!" Jenn suddenly yelled. All four Nick&Natpackers rushed
to stop Nick's accidental head first dive over the railing. Eight
arms simultaneously lunged at him and grabbed his legs. Defying the
forces of gravity, they hauled him back to safety.

"You shouldn't be leaning over that railing with that thing on!"
Stormy shouted at him. "It's top heavy you know!"

Nick turned around, his pale face contorted with worry and
confusion. "I have to find Natasha," he whimpered. "I don't know
where I am, but I am forever lost without her." He shook his head
sadly. "I have to find Natasha."

"We'll find her," Susan said reassuringly. "Come with us to our
headquarters. We're Nick&Natpackers. We can help. Hope is right
here in front of you." She gestured towards Jenn and Stormy. "Jenn
is our Keeper of the Hope, and Stormy is our Defender of the
Eternal Flame of Hope." She didn't want to break her stride by
telling him that Cj was the Keeper of the Haunting Melodies.

Nick looked at Susan. "And you are..."

'And I am embarrassment' she thought. "I am the Defender of the
Blood Bag," she said aloud. "But I'd rather not get into that
particular discussion just now," she added quietly.

"Yes!" Cj exclaimed. "Nick&Natpackers have come from all over the
world to help, from as far away as Hawaii, even Finland. I came all
the way from California myself, Jenn from Michigan, and Stormy from
Illinois. And we're all here together, for you and Natalie."

Nick sighed in resignation. He was still unsure about putting
himself into their overly eager hands, but what other choice did he
have? "What headquarters?" he asked sombrely.

"The Nick&Natpacker headquarters," Jenn explained. "It's an
abandoned theatre. Well, it was abandoned. All of our friends are
there now! They'll help. They'll all help. It's our duty to help!"

Knight Nick Knight knew he had no other choice but to accept their
assistance. He was a stranger in a strange land. "All right," he
conceded. "I'll go with you."

Cj and Susan accompanied Nick to the van while Jenn and Stormy
stayed back a bit. Each of his steps was marked by the creak of his
armour followed by the clomp of his foot hitting the pavement.
Creak ...clomp ...creak ...clomp ...creak ...all the way over to
the side of the van. He sluggishly raised his knee and awkwardly
positioned his right foot on the running board, but appeared to be
having some difficulty pulling himself up.

"Do you want some help getting that armour off?" Cj asked, more
hopefully than a dedicated Nick&Natpacker should have.

"Uh...no..!" Nick barked. "Only Natasha can do that."

"Oooo-kay," Cj said as she and Susan pushed him up into the van. Cj
winked at Susan and they exchanged sly grins with each other.

Jenn and Stormy, still several feet away from the van, also
exchanged sly grins. "What do you suppose he *is* wearing under
that thing?" Jenn whispered. Stormy grinned back wickedly and
whispered, "I bet he's not wearing anything." They giggled their
way over to the van and arrived just as Nick was settling into the
rear seat. The girls climbed up and onto the middle bench seat.
After buckling up, they spontaneously turned around to converse
with their unexpected but very welcome guest, who had by now
removed his helmet and fluffed up his lustrous blond hair. Jenn and
Stormy both smiled appreciatively. Nick's hair was a little long
and wild looking, just the way they liked it.

Gripping his helmet in his arm, Nick gave the girls a harsh stare.

Jenn and Stormy quickly turned about and faced the front. "We
forgot about his super hearing," Jenn moaned quietly.

"Who left this here?" Stormy asked as she picked up a thick wad of
papers from the middle of the seat.

"Oh, sorry, that's my sheet music," Cj replied, "I was called out
in the middle of a composition." Stormy handed the stack to her.

Susan started up the van and swerved back onto the ramp, zipping a
little too fast over the notorious Lakeshore exit bump-in-the-road.
"Ouch!" Knight Nick Knight wailed as his head hit the roof,
realizing he took his helmet off too soon. Simultaneously, Cj's
sheet music flew from her hands into the air. "My music!" she
yelled. "My music!"

"Oops," Susan muttered under her breath. "You did have those pages
numbered didn't you Cj?" she asked as a barrage of loose paper
rained down all over the interior of the van. She could tell by the
expression on Cj's face that they weren't.

"Well, she is majoring in Aeronautical Engineering!" Stormy
exclaimed. Cj glared at her. Stormy instantly broke eye contact and
quietly started plucking pieces of paper from the air.

Jenn dutifully turned around and lifted a couple of sheets from
Nick's breastplate. They rode in silence for several minutes,
gathering pieces of paper and handing them to Cj. They missed the
goose signs.

All of her sheet music finally in a pile, albeit out of order, Cj
peeked around at Nick. He seemed to be on the verge of tears, and
she decided it would be good to take his mind off of Natalie. "So,
people, do any of you have any theories as to why this nasty time
rift thingie occurred?"

Her question caught Nick's attention. "Time rift?" he asked.

"Yes," Cj replied. The skies grew black, the moon came out, and
time stopped at 5:00, Friday, June 13th, 1997. That's probably why
you're feeling weak. I'm sure your strength will come back when
your body adjusts. The whole thing is really very spooky."

"Very," Jenn echoed. "But I like spooky."

"By the way, Jenn, have you ever met Sir Mulder?" Susan taunted.

"He's not exactly the easiest person to find," Jenn grinned.
"Anyway, as far as the time rift goes, I really haven't given it
much thought. I'm a mechanical engineer, not a physicist. Of course
there could be some kind of mechanical explanation..." Jenn's eyes
glazed over as she started pondering the possibilities.

"I'm not a physicist either," Stormy offered. "But I am a chemist.
Of course, that doesn't matter anyway because I'm sure the Cousins
had something to do with it. Perhaps even LaCroix himself. I just
can't believe that he doesn't have his hand in it somehow. He
probably thinks that we Nick&Natpackers will fall apart in
confusion and give up our quest to get Nick and Nat together
forever. Boy, is he ever wrong! It just gives us more time and more
opportunity to get our lovebirds together. Right?"

"Right on that last part, Jenn," Cj replied. "I'm not convinced
about the Cousins involvement though. I'm not a physicist either,
but I am an X-phile so of course my first thought was that the U.S.
Government might be involved. But I quickly discarded that theory."
Cj glanced around the van. "Do you read those Duckie Stories?" she
whispered. Everyone but Nick nodded. "Anyway, I've been reading so
many of them that I've been seeing duckies behind every corner. If
you want my honest opinion, I believe the duckie caused the time

"Those are all very interesting theories," Susan remarked as they
approached the theatre. "But I know the real reason. The rift
occurred because the road construction on Spadina Avenue is finally
complete." She turned a corner and pulled over in front of the
theatre. Within moments, everyone anxiously scrambled out. Nick's
exit was more of a stumble.

Stormy and Cj lagged behind the others as they made their way
towards the entrance doors. With some amusement, they watched Nick
plod his way into the theatre ...creak ...clomp ...creak. Cj turned
to Stormy. "I told you it was a strange night," she whispered.

"Yes," Stormy replied, "and he is a strange Knight."

Susan B.


                       When Vamps Collide
               By Amythest Dragon and Susan Bennett
                  Beta Read by Barb, CJ and Stormy
                   Nick and Natpack Green Team

Time: Just after Knight Nick Knight, but before the N&Npack Meeting!

Featuring: Susan, Casey, Stormy, Lisa H., CJ, Jenn, and Marie.. Oh
yeah.. I'm in here too!


Amythest Dragon waited patiently outside the dressing room where
Natasha was changing.  The vampress exited, straightening the borrowed
t-shirt she wore over her loaned jeans.

"Not a bad fit," Natasha commented to Amythest Dragon and handed her
the chain mail bikini. "I sure hope one of us has Nick's gold visa,
otherwise shopping might be interesting."

"I wouldn't worry, one of us can lend you the cash.  We know Nick's
good for it," Amythest Dragon smiled winking.  Natasha smiled back
broadly. Amythest looked over the chain mail closely. "Nice stuff.
Valentine Armouries in Calgary, right?"

"How'd you guess?" Natasha looked impressed.

"The quality," Amythest Dragon shrugged bashfully. "Besides I have
some of their stuff myself." She held up her arms to display the
steel, demi-guantlets she wore with her black satin highlander shirt,
tight blue jeans and ox blood riding boots.

Natasha nodded. "Nick only buys the best.  Nice outfit, though.  I'd
expect to find you somewhere like the Raven or CERK."

"Naw, I may look dark but I am Nick and Natpack through and through!"
Amythest Dragon allowed the blue lensed 'Dracula' glasses she wore to
ride down her nose so Natasha could see her eyes, but smiled,
displaying her custom fang caps.

Natasha laughed, "So what's with Amythest Dragon as a name?"

"Actually my name is Tammy and that's who most of the factions know me
as", Natasha looked a little puzzled at the mention of 'factions' but
Amythest Dragon continued anyhow, "Amythest Dragon is my totem spirit.
It's very sacred to me, but amongst my soul brothers and sisters in
the Pack, I feel secure enough to use it as a name."

Natasha nodded and bent to pick up the fuzzy, grey tabby rubbing at
her feet. "Who's this little guy?" she asked as she started to pet

Amythest Dragon started to answer that he was her Sidney, when a very
excited group of Nick and Natpackers entered the theatre with none
other than Nick!

"-'TASHA-," Nick called out.  Natasha looked up and smiled, rushing
into the armoured arms of her love.  Nick enfolded the vampiress in his
embrace. Their eyes locked and their lips met in an intensly passionate
kiss, mouths slightly open and their tongues wrestling together.  It
looked as though it would have gone on -forever-, since they didn't
have to breathe, except they were disturbed by the collective sigh of
pleasure from every Nick and Natpacker present.  The two broke their
kiss to find all eyes glued to them. A collective cheer went up from
the group.

Amythest smiled at Susan, who had entered behind Nick, with CJ, Jenn
and Stormy trailing behind her.  "They better not declare their undying
love for each other out here," Amythest observed, "Otherwise we'll have
a full scale riot on our hands!"

Susan nodded in agreement as Nick cleared his throat looking more than
a little embarassed.  "I'm wondering if I can borrow some clothes to
wear? I don't really... Uuhh.... That is..."

"He's naked under his armour," Natasha put in abruptly.  She winked at
Amythest and Susan.  They looked at each other and smiled broadly.

"-'TASHA-", Nick exclaimed.  Natasha just shrugged, kissed Nick again
quickly.  "'Tash, that reminds me.  Only you know how to trigger the
release catch on the armour."

"Oh, you mean this right here?" Natasha touched a clasp on the backside
of his breastplate, making as if to trigger it in front of everyone
present. Many of the N&Npack who were also member's of Nick's Harem
stopped and held their breath to see if she'd do it.

Nick danced away from Natasha. "Not out here!"

"Why not?" Natasha asked innocently.

"-'TASHA-," Nick glared at her and crossed his arms in a very
Natalie-like pose.

"Stop it, Nick", Natasha said in a discomfited voice, "You're givin' me
the creeps.  You aren't supposed to do that, -I- am!  Can we borrow
that dressing room again", Natasha asked Amythest politely.

"Sure," Amythest responded.  "Marie, could you check and see if any of
the guys have clothes that will fit Nick?"

Marie nodded and scampered off in search of the requested items and the
few male N&Npack members.

Natasha led Nick back to the dressing room while Amythest and Susan
trailed behind.  "This is just too weird," Amythest commented to Susan.

"Some kind of dimensional rift," Susan responded. "I'd suspect you,
except you're on our side.  It might be the Lurkers and their
tesseract, though." They reached the dressing room and Nick and Tasha

"Personally, I think it's being caused by the fact that FK has been
cancelled", Susan looked at Amythest Dragon rather oddly, "Well, you
see it's created a void in this universe.  Nature abhores a void, so
it's sucking in our favorites from other universes to fill the space
left by the cancellation."  Her theory was punctuated by the thunderous
crash of falling metal armour from within the room.  Both of the women
looked at the door and smiled knowingly again.

Susan looked at Amythest critically, "You were a Star Trek fan before
you found Forever Knight, weren't you?"

"Guilty as charged," Amythest admitted readily.

Then Marie came charging up with CJ, Lisa H., Stormy and Jenn in tow
all carrying various articles of male clothing.

"This is everything we could find," CJ commented.

"Hopefully something will fit Nick," Lisa H. added.

"Now why would you hope that?" Stormy deadpanned.

Marie started giggling and everyone else joined in.

Jenn looking at the door asked, "Do you think we should knock?  We'll
probably be disturbing them..."

"What makes you think that?" Lisa H. asked.

Everyone looked at her, Stormy waggling her eyebrows.

"Right, dumb question!" Lisa added wryly.  She then stepped up and
knocked on the door.  There were some interestingly muffled sounds
then Natasha answered the door.  She looked suspiciously disheveled as
she made a half-hearted attempt to straighten her t-shirt back down
into place. "Here's the clothes for Nick," Lisa said to Natasha,
trying to hide the smug smile that was showing on her face.  She
needn't have bothered, everyone else had the same smile.

"Thanks..??" Natasha looked at Lisa inquiringly as she took the
clothes from her.

"I'm Lisa," the woman said and then gestured to each one of the
newcomers, "These are Stormy, CJ, and Jenn.  Marie said she already
met you."

"Well, thank you all," Natasha nodded at all of them. "Please call me
Natasha."  Then she excused herself and took the clothes into the
dressing room.  They all loitered about outside the door for a few
minutes chatting, but there were calls for assistance in other areas of
the theatre and their numbers were soon reduced back to just Susan and
Amythest Dragon.  A few minutes later Nick and Tasha emerged.

"The jeans are too tight," Nick complained.

Tasha was behind him, "Not from where I'm standing."

"Not from up here either, Natasha." Amythest Dragon licked her lips in
appreciation and Susan nodded as well.

Nick glared at all three of the ladies and they started to laugh.  Soon
Nick joined in.

"We should check in with Soulseeker," Susan looked at Amythest

"I suppose we should at that," Amythest nodded. "She'll want to know
about Nick and Nat..." Natasha glared at Amythest Dragon, "Sorry, Nick
and 'Tasha' here."

"Well, she's likely already heard about them," Susan said dryly, "But
she'd probably like to meet them."

"You can count on that," Casey appeared behind them as they walked into
the main foyer.

"DON'T -DO- THAT!", Amythest exclaimed to her friend as she jumped in
shock from Casey's silent approach.

"See, I can do the Nunkies thing too", Casey smiled evilly.
Amythest nodded in agreement. "Hey, d'ya know what would have been

"What?" Susan and Amythest asked simultaneously.

"If the Nick that Susan brought had seen the Natalie that Heather and
the rest of us, who were coming from the -spa-, brought," Casey nudged
Amythest with her elbow. "And mistook her for his....  This could get
-real- confusing, -real- fast," Casey noted. Susan and Amythest Dragon
nodded in agreement.

"Oh, great -two- 'Natalies'", Susan cradled her head in her hands.

"But, I'm not -Natalie-," Natasha said a little annoyed, "I'm
-Natasha-, remember?"

"Yeah," Casey shrugged, "But you both look exactly the same..."

Nick had a very smug looking grin on his face and he started to space
out, a mumbled, "Two of 'em", escaping his lips.

Natasha smacked Nick on the behind sharply. They could hear the crack
as her hand connected with Nick's denim encased behind.  "But she's not
-me-, right? You promised -me- forever, Nick.  Not her," Natasha said

The crack and the pain brought Nick out of his revery and he quickly
answered, "Of course, 'Tasha.  You're right.  Just keep wearing your
kerchief and I'll make sure that I don't mistake any of them for you!"

Casey leaned towards Amythest and Susan as they walked. "Wait till it
dawns on him that there may be more than one of -him- around." Both
Susan and Amythest snickered into their hands. As they stopped
laughing, Casey commented, "Did you know Soul has her very -own-

"How is that possible," Amythest Dragon asked seriously, not wishing to
bring up the Nunkies cloning incident in front of non-members.

"The dimensional rift, ditz brain," Casey hit Amythest in the arm
playfully, knowing full well what the other woman was thinking.

"Okay, I plead a perkulator moment." Amythest fell to her knees in
front of Casey as though begging for forgiveness.

"S'okay, Amy," Casey patted her head, "At least you weren't actin' like a
slacker."  Susan rolled her eyes and snorted at the pair's antics.
Natasha and Nick looked confused.  "Anyhow, it'd be fun to have him
around, but her Nunkies is way too devoted to her."

"Can I ask a question?" Natasha asked, making the vampires' presense
noticed once again.

"Sure," Casey responded.

"What or who is a 'Nunkie?'"  Natasha inquired.

"Oh, it's a nickname for LaCroix," Amythest Dragon explained.

"-He's here?-" Natasha looked ready to scream.

"Tasha, please," Nick pleaded, laying a hand on Natasha's shoulder as
her eyes began to glow yellow, "LaCroix isn't so bad."

"Isn't -so- bad?!!" Natasha looked at Nick and spoke sarcastically,
"This from the man who's spent the last what, 400 some odd years
running from him?  Not so bad, huh?"

"Really dark, huh?" Casey inquired.

"No, just really annoying." Natasha shook her head, "He pulls useless,
childish, idiotic, dirty tricks for the sake of 'seeing how we will
react to them.' He claims they're experiments. Nick spent the last
couple of hundred years trying to become human so he could go
somewhere real sunny and get away from the guy.  I convinced him it
wouldn't be necessary." Natasha looked fit to be tied. "You know who
he reminds me of. That 'Q' guy from Star Trek.  Bloody pain in the

Nick looked slightly embarrassed by Tasha's tirade but in the end he
nodded in agreement.

"I don't think you'll have to put up with it from Soul's LaCroix",
Casey shrugged. "He's real nice.  Kinda like, well, Nick."  Susan
looked at Casey in disbelief.

"I'll believe it when I see it," Susan shook her head.

"Well, since I think we're all going to get together to plan to obtain
supplies for our Vamp friends here, you'll get your chance", Casey
grinned.  She was looking forward to this.


Amythest Dragon (AKA Tammy Morrison)  amydrag@freenet.edmonton.ab.ca
Nick and Natpack Green Team
Dragon Protector of Knights and Damsels in Distress!


WAR: The Not-Expected Not-So (2a/2)
By Bonnie Rutledge
with Susan Pierce, Kim Colley, Jan Cook-Moore, and Heather Poinsett
Screed rations provided by Libby Singleton
Time: Just before Libs arrives at Merc Central

     She wore a short, lightweight trenchcoat. It was pale, dove-gray 
in color and belted tightly at the waist. She moved silently through 
the night streets, the leather soles of her sandals making nary a 
click or clomp. As she walked, her hands were slung low in her pockets, 
her collar was raised up to hide her lower face and her shoulders 
hunched forward, but she wasn't being shy, meek or wary. Every pore, 
every fiber of her being was on alert.

      Something strange was going on. One moment she'd been stepping 
out to the Thai Burger Palace, picking up dinner for the others, and, 
the next, she'd awaken in an alley, the daylight gone, darkness all 
around. She saw that she'd been moved far away from West Queen - 
yes - she was far north of that area, but still in Toronto proper.

     She still had her cup - that was a good thing. Once she got back 
to the Jeweled Peach, she wouldn't be stranded outside. That would be 
a humiliating thing to have happen during a War. She cringed as she 
imagined Kim's teasing. As it was, hours had passed since she'd 
ventured out for the papaya milkshakes and Pud-Thai-On-A-Bun orders. 
The other Not-So's had surely realized that something was amiss.

     She had to be a victim of War - the victim of some merciless 
prank - that was the only explanation. She was fairly close to Merc 
Central, so perhaps some lazy Mercenary had dumped her nearby after 
getting full, or maybe insufficient, payment for services rendered. 
She grimaced. War certainly had a different feeling when you stopped 
being followed and became a follower. The gloves were off - no crowd 
in scrubs swarmed to protect you - you were the one protecting. She 
felt downright naked.

     Chuckling to herself, she considered what she had on under the 
trenchcoat. Most people wouldn't deem her fully dressed in the first 
place. Even she admitted a heavy chiffon toga wasn't always convenient, 
and nobody ever discusses how uncomfortable an  eighteen-hour 
breastplate can be at cocktail parties. This thought earned a shrug - 
what did it matter? - this was her job. Who cared about the Coroner's 
Office? Her true calling was the Order of Felidia...and *him*.

     She sighed and dabbed the drool from the corner of her mouth. 
Those blue eyes...bluer than the bluest that other guy's had ever 
been...bluer than her own.  His voice - like satin sheets encasing 
her in a cocoon of pleasurable sensation...

     She'd fallen under his spell after that Valentine's Day at the 
Azure, fallen hard. It hadn't really been fast, though. Looking back, 
she'd realized the addiction had taken root long before she'd ever 
come face to face with the man.  

     She'd listened clandestinely to more Nightcrawler broadcasts 
than she could count. She'd used a tiny pocket radio that she would 
hold up to her ear with one hand while working with the other, ready 
at a nanosecond's notice to click it off if Nick or Schanke came into 
the morgue. She'd come close to being caught so many times....

     But, finally, after that dinner at the Azure, she had admitted 
to herself that she was obsessed with the man. She craved the sound 
of his voice, the merest hint of his smile, that wicked glint of his 
eyes. His strength, his control, fascinated her, and the thought of 
his knees....

     She was a Nunkies Addict. Then she'd received a mysterious 
package that contained nothing but a uniform and a cabalistic note 
informing her that the Azure had been purchased and was now under 
new management. It also had a new name - The Jeweled Peach. There 
was an organization there she should meet, the letter had said, a 
group called the NA.

    She'd gone tentatively, carrying the strange outfit with her, 
and she'd caught her first glance of the Shrine. She had never left.

     Shaking herself out of her reverie, she recognized that she 
was just down the street from Merc Central now. This was not where 
she wanted to be. She moved stealthily through the shadows, pausing 
momentarily by an alley to shoo a rat out of her path. She took a 
couple more steps, then suddenly...

    "Docsie!" She was swept into an embrace. "Didn' care wot the 
Libs-mate said - I knew you'd be tripping your daisies 'round your 
Screed-man right soon-like, that I did. Give us a smooch!"

     Much to her dismay, he gave her a slobbery, enthusiastic kiss 
as he tugged on her trenchcoat. "Uuggghhh!" she exclaimed as she 
pushed at him. "Get away from me, you smelly carouche!"

     He appeared hurt and confused. "But you always liked me scent, 
me Natsie-mouse!"

     She paused, admitting, "Well, to be fair, you *do* smell like 
Irish Spring - but I am NOT your Natsie-mouse!"

     "Be that way, then," Screed said and turned away so that she 
would see how much he cared. "You're the primo-uno to talk 'bout 
'ow someone greets the nose. You smell like garlic, you do." He 
sniffed unhappily. "Don't think I want to pluck any fruit that 
stinks a smelly-whiff. Kills the mood, it does." He started to 
walk away, mumbling under his breath, "Won't show you me 
Speedos, either."

     She rushed away as fast as her feet would carry her. Screed 
had untied her belt during their brief encounter, revealing her 
outfit to all and sundry. She buckled it back into place, narrowly 
dodged a speeding Jaguar, then kept on running.

End of Part Two A
Finished in Part Two B

Send Comments to br1035@ix.netcom.com

War: Odor-O-Rama (1/1)
by Bonnie Rutledge and Berg Oswell
with Cousin Jules, Third Cousin Patt, and Cousin Annie
Time: After 'Losing Sight' and really close to
'The Not-Expected Not-So' (2a/2)

     Jules sped with mad abandon in the direction of Patt's Uncle-sighting.
This was mainly to avoid facing Bonnie's pouty glares from the back seat.
After a few minutes, her trembling had stopped, and she had realized she 
was mad as hell.


     Bonnie didn't care if she carried a Tom, Dick or Belial for every 
faded freckle on her nose - everyone on FK had demons! That was part of 
the fun! She'd stiffly pushed Annie away and started fuming.

     As Jules spun around a corner using only the right tires, Bons said,
"Don't think I don't know why you helped that Everett fiend try to cast 
out my afflictions. You were all trying to get me to stop listening to 
ABBA, weren't you?"

     Patt tried to hide her crossed fingers. "But we *love* it when you 
sing 'Super Trouper'. Really."

     Bonnie sniffed in disbelief from the back seat. She stared moodily 
out the car window, watching as they passed by Merc Central again. A 
woman was running blindly down the dark street and almost collided with 
the Jag. Getting a good look at her startled face and costume, Bons let 
out a yelp.

     "Ack! Stop the car!  I just saw Natalie in a Not-So-Vestal-Virgin

     "Don't be silly," Jules said.

     "No," Annie echoed. "Stop the car. I think I saw Libby, and she might
have my tennis shoes. They were gone from the Shrine's Wardrobe room when 
I packed."

     "Oh, okay," Jules replied.

     "I don't believe it! I asked you to stop the car for a perfectly
legitimate reason, but nooooooo.....that's silly. Stopping for Annie's
tennis shoes isn't silly? Criminy!"

     "But I *like* my tennis shoes," Annie said.

     "Remember, Bons. You've just been through a traumatic experience. 
You aren't thinking clearly," Patt reminded her.

     "Hmmmpph!" Bonnie slammed out of the car. "Don't you guys know by now
that I *never* think clearly?!? It's part of my charm!"

     "Wait!" Jules yelled. "Where are you going?!"

     "I need to be alone for a few minutes."

     "I'll come with you," Patt offered.

     "Don't you dare! You will stay here in the car, listening to the 
mellow 70's station, and, by Gen'ral, you will LIKE IT! I'll be back 
when I'm in a perky mood again. Until then, nobody leaves." With that, 
Bonnie trounced off.

     Annie had already decamped from the car in a neat and ladylike fashion.
"It might take me a while to find Libby - why don't I just meet up with you
guys at CERK?" There was an understood 'when Bons is more rational' to her

     "O-kay," Jules and Patt replied. 'The Pina Colada Song' had just
started on the radio. They swayed with the rhythm of the oldie. After a
minute, Jules spoke.

     "You know, Patt, it's not so often Bons gets so...bossy."

     "Do tell, LaJules. She was downright...menacing...downright

     "I kept expecting her to say, 'I don't want a new one, I like *that*
one!' "

     They both giggled like naughty children until a new song came over 
the airwaves. Then they gasped with undisguised pleasure and began to 
sing along.

     "If you want my body,
       and you think I'm sexy,
       Come on, honey, tell me so.
       If you really need me,
       just reach out and touch me.
       Come on, sugar, don't let go.


     They were, of course, imagining Nunkies in his 'Dying for Fame' 
leather outfit singing to them all the while. Even Patt's high-pitched, 
off-key voice did not deter the two women from their lusting abandon, 
even though a pedestrian or two turned and looked at the rocking Jaguar 
with agonized interest. Jules and Patt were in temporary Nunkies Nirvana. 
They even drooled on the tax forms.


   Having been informed in no uncertain terms by the Great Glorious
Grand High Poobah, that Brickman *had* to go or I did, I was weighing my
options 'hot tub in merc central', 'nifty gadgets in the utility belt',
'the mercs have such wonderful toys', 'Brickman has wonderful toys too',
and so forth, when I heard one of the Ratpackers go by outside (just
listen for the clockspeak and the rats squeaking), and having nothing
better to do, I glanced out the window, just in time to see Bonnie "I'm 
Not the one who Trimmed Vachon's Hair" Rutledge trailing Libby past the 
front of the building.

        Heading around the block in the opposite direction, I ran to
intercept. After all, the Ratpackers *are* honorary Mercs, so I was duty
bound to protect the little dears, and to charge a fee for doing so. Or
if Bonnie wasn't on the warpath, maybe I could dig up some valuable

        On my way, I passed what looked like Natalie Lambert in a 
chiffon toga, but since Brickman had arrived, my tolerance for wierdness 
had sky-rocketed, and I simply shrugged and continued on my way.

        Reaching the corner just as Libby raced past, muttering something
in clockspeak, I stepped around the corner, garlic grenade at the ready,
to accost the person chasing an honorary Merc.


     Bons made a special effort to create loud, stomping noises with her
non-sensible shoes to prove just how irritated she was.

     *Stomp!* *Stomp!* *Stomp!*

     It was a fun sound.

     Then, out of the corner of her eye, Bons thought she spotted a
MercPacker Rat. Or a Ratpacking Merc. A MercRat. Well, whoever she saw, 
and whatever they were, she moseyed in that direction, making distinctive
footfalls with her heels as she went.

     Bons sniffed. She thought she caught a familiar stinky smell. The 
smell of garlic. She fumbled into her skirt pocket, feeling around for her
remaining five vials of distillate. She held one up for closer examination
and cursed as she saw a substantial crack in the side. It was ruined.

     "Rufum...shmackum whackum..." she muttered under her breath. Pretty
soon, she'd have some generic FoDs trailing her around, looking for the
Souvlaki Fairy.

     As Bons neared the building's end, an evil, wicked grin bloomed over
her features.  Thoughts of the mayhem that might ensue brought a good measure
of cheer back to the Cousin. 

     Rounding the corner, however, she came face to face with a Merc. An
honest(or as honest as possible when chocolate was involved)-to-goodness(or
as good as possible when chocolate was involved) Merc! She gave the air an
inspecting sniff. Even worse, it was a Merc who could hang-glide!

     So Bonnie hissed, held her garlic oil at the ready, and warned, "One
false move, and you'll have Schanke wanting to lick your face!"


     I guess I'm a sucker for women threatening me with Don Schanke,
because what I did next will probably follow me for the rest of the War,
or at least, until I reach a good dry cleaners.

        Yup, that's right, in my shock at coming face to face to garlic
vial with someone who threatened me, I promptly dropped the grenade, which
exploded on impact.

        Thick clouds of pure garlic sprayed out of vents on the grenade
casing, strong enough to bring tears to anyone's eyes (tears of joy to a
FoD, tears of something else to anyone else).

        Apparently, the sudden explosion of garlic was too much for
Bonnie, because that's when she dropped the vial on the pavement, adding
immeasurably to the intensity of the cloud.

        Having built up a partial immunity to garlic gas due to a number
of mishaps while inventing the garlic grenade, I wasn't immediately
floored by the mace-strength garlic.  So, I managed to choke out a
strangled "So, do you grow your own cloves, or buy them?"


     Suddenly surrounded by twice the garlic she was accustomed to, Bonnie
wheezed. "Uhm...*cough* *cough* ...I blend. Strength can vary from clove to
clove. I once considered a mild version derived from elephant garlic. You
know...for Light Cousins."

     Berg chuckled at her ingenuity. "Good idea." Noting that a slavering
pack of nameless FoDs had started gravitating zombie-like toward the cloud
they were standing in, Berg ushered her away. "Custom-designed odors for
different factions - that could be handy." He had a sudden vision of bright
lights, profit, and a controlling share of Godiva stock. "Hmm...have you
ever considered smells as a business venture? We could make essence of
coffee for the Perkulators, the smell of battle for the Cousins and -"

     "Eau de Chocolate!" they exclaimed in unison.

     "Hmmm," Bons replied. "While I love mayhem for mayhem's sake, monetary
gain had its own rewards. Besides," She glanced at her spicy V-8 juice
stained footwear, "Bonnie needs new non-sensible shoes!" Her eyes took on 
a greedy cast. "Talk to me. Give me figures."

     They talked of dollars and Hershey bars for several minutes, finally
parting once a corporate plan had been organized. Still needing to reach
CERK, Bonnie slipped Berg's business card in her pocket and hummed happily
as she skipped back to the Jaguar.


Send comments to berg@eskimo.com  or br1035@ix.netcom.com

WAR: The Not-Expected Not-So (2b/2)
By Bonnie Rutledge
with Jan Cook-Moore, Susan Pierce, Kim Colley, and Heather Poinsett
Time: After 'The N&NP War Team Convenes'
The Vampire Natasha used with Amethyst Dragon's permission
Oh, and Marie Aparo, too.

     Eventually she slowed to a brisk walk. She estimated she was about two
miles away from the Peach now. She began to absently wonder about her
meeting with Screed. She'd only met the carouche maybe once before, and, on
that occasion, there had been nothing romantic in the least going on. She'd
been too afraid of Lacroix possibly catching the fever to give Screed a
second glance.

     Her honest reaction to Screed's advances was shock and revulsion. How
could anyone dream that her heart belonged to any man but Nunkies? This had
to be the example of another War prank, designed solely to embarrass her. If
those Ratpackers weren't careful, she'd be after her own measure of quid pro

      she recalled Lacroix saying, and she
shivered with delight.

     She glanced at her location, noting that she was pulling even with a
large, dark, brick building. It looked like an old theatre, slightly in
disrepair. A woman about her height stepped outside and took a deep breath
of the night air. She admired the other woman's knee-high, black leather
boots (something she would kill to wear instead of silver sandals when it
snowed), then stilled in alarm as her eyes lifted and saw a dagger fastened
to the woman's belt and a sword in her hand.

      she thought. Then she looked at the
woman's face.

     Initially, her head was aimed in another direction, but she seemed to
be standing stiffly. She saw her take another deep breath, jerk, then slowly
turn her head to meet Nat's gaze straight-on. Both women started in

     They were looking at themselves. Nat moved several feet closer, her
eyes boggling with amazement. Her twin held up a hand and sent her a warning
glare, then spoke in a voice as familiar as her own. Actually, it *was* her
own. "Please, stay back. You don't smell very pleasant."

     Natalie brushed her fingers against her own neck and frowned. "It's oil
of garlic. Standard N-S-V-V issue. Why does it bother you? The only people
who can't stand the smell are - oh my..." Nat pushed her hair back from her
face, then, in shock, covered her mouth as though she could hold back her
surprise. "What are you doing with my face?" She stretched out her arm
toward the black kerchief that secured the other woman's hair. "Do you have
my same hair under there too?"

     The woman gave a small, patient smile as she brushed Nat's hand aside.
"I'd rather you didn't mess it up. As for the face, it's not *your* face -
it's *our* face," she announced, extending her hand for a shake. "Let's make
this easy. My name is Natasha, but call me Tasha, and I'm assuming that I'm
the first other one you've seen."

     "My name's Nat, as if you hadn't guessed," she replied ruefully. "What
do you mean 'the first other one'?"

     "There's a rift. In space. Nicks and Natalies and other assorted
flavors from different universes are popping up all over the place. I *must*
be your first."

     Recalling her Close Encounter Of The Screed Kind, Nat shook her head.
"Now that I think on it, you aren't. I ran into a lip-smacking carouche
earlier. He seemed to expect me to return his affections."

     "I'd say that was a definite product of the rift anomaly," Natasha
confirmed as she stretched her lips into an expression of disgust that made
Nat laugh sympathetically. "The only thing worse that I can imagine is if it
had been Lacroix kissing you instead."

     Nat's smile froze. "What did you say?"

     "You know, Nat - just think how disgusting it would have been had
Lacroix been the vamp mauling you. You *know* how horrible that would have

     Her voice was stiff. "No, Tasha, I don't."

     It was Natasha's turn to be amazed. "Oh my. You mean there isn't a
Lacroix in your world? How can anyone be so lucky?!" she exclaimed. "If it
wasn't for my Nick, I think I'd beg to switch places with you!"

     Nat shook her head in denial. "No."

     Tasha laughed, holding her hands up to reassure the other woman. "Don't
worry. I'm only kidding. I'm sure you have a Nick of your own at home that
you love and adore like I do mine. I'm amazed that he hasn't brought you
across yet, or - tell me - did he become mortal again in your world?"

     "No," she repeated.

     A young, dark-haired girl with blue eyes came outside then, calling,
"Tasha! Amethyst Dragon is looking for you!"

     Natasha replied, "Come here and meet a new Nat, Marie!"

     Marie gaped to see the two Natalies standing side by side. The
duplicates still had the ability to fascinate her. "Wow! Are you a vamp,

    Nat's attention had been caught by the glint of white gold around
Marie's neck. She saw the heart-shaped locket and the words engraved there.


   "This isn't right," she insisted. "This isn't right at all!" She turned
accusing eyes to Natasha. "How could you?!?!" she screamed, then ran off
into the night once more.

     The split-second before the new Nat fled, Marie had caught a glimpse of
something familiar. An Official Drool Cup. She would have bet her
embroidered 'Nunkies' pillow that she'd seen an Official Drool Cup peeking
out of that Natalie's coat pocket.

     "Don't go! It's Okay! We can help!" she yelled as she moved to chase
after the alternate.

     Natasha held her back. "Let her go. I don't think she wants *our* help.
There was something odd about that one."


     Sauna-ed out, all four of the Not-So-Vestal-Virgins were napping atop
the trampoline, dreaming wistful dreams of Roman generals in togas. Their
slumber remained undisturbed by a faint *click!* at the warehouse entrance.
Evidently, one of the addicts was coming home to roost already, and they
were using their Official Drool Cup to do it.

     There was a clank and a grunt, then the trampoline jostled to an
extreme degree, *sproing!*-*sproinging!* softly.

     Kim was the first to snort awake, her hair plastered to the left side
of her face and mouth. "*Honk!*...Wha?...Don' need no stinkin' sunrise..."

     Heather was the second to regain consciousness. She gave a goofy smile
and murmured, "Uhhhmmmm...MacNunkies... I thought you'd never arrive...Come,
show me those bonny knees......"

     Susan sat up straight, blink-squinted once, rolled Jan off the
trampoline and onto the floor, then laid her head back down to rest.

    Jan became a close, interactive friend with gravity, then hit the tiles
with a *Clomp!* It sounded very painful.  "What tha?..." she said.

     Suddenly, the entryway was bathed in light. "Wake up, guys! Wake up!" A
woman was speaking to them, and she sounded awfully familiar. "You aren't
supposed to be sleeping on duty, anyhow! Felidia must be turning in her
premature grave! Who moved the trampoline in here?!"

     Jan frowned at the vision of a woman shrugging out of a pale, dove-gray
trenchcoat. Her forehead wrinkled in scrutiny, she made a small sound that
resembled, "Hmmm," then muttered, "does not compute." Jan pulled herself
groggily to her feet, using the trampoline as leverage. She then grabbed one
of the Sleeping Susan's arms, and yanked her off.


     Susan's eyes had opened fully after the floor's abrupt 'Good Morning!',
so Jan prodded her with a sandal. "Look," she said sleepily. "Strange thing.

     Susan looked.

     And shrieked.

     Kim had pried the hair from her face by now, glimpsed at their guest,
and flopped a hand in Heather's direction to gain her attention. She missed
the shoulder she intended to slap and squished her friend's nose instead.
"Yo. Heather," she said urgently. "I think a plot device just got here."

      "Like what? Your life's on the line," she threatened (Heather had
woken up on the wrong side of the trampoline and was a grouchy-bear.). "You
busted up a dream about MacNunkies, so make it good."

     "Uhhmm," Kim paused to search for the perfect description. "How about a
coroner in a heavy chiffon toga and silver breastplate with matching knee-
high laced sandals carrying an Official Nunkies Anonymous Drool Cup?"

     "Hey! That *is* pretty good Kim!" Heather laughed, then realized she
laughed alone. That made her feel too much like a symbolic clown in an
existential play, and she sat up soberly.

     That's when she met the gaze of the Not-So-Vestal-Virgin Natalie, who
grinned, the caught the reinforced toes of Heather's sandals and wiggled
them back and forth. "MacIntyre, you are *so* cute when adjectives fail you!"
Nat teased.

     "But I do have an adjective," Heather replied.

     Nat raised both eyebrows. "Mmm? What?"



     Some time later, after Heather and Susan had escorted the N-S-V-V Nat
to the Thai Burger Palace to pick up a round of papaya milkshakes, the
guards to the Shrine To Nunkies were brought up to speed on the war plot.

     "So there are multiple Nats, multiple FK characters in general, running
all around Toronto?" Susan mused. "That's incredible!"

     "More to the point," N-S-V-V Nat insisted, "it's unnatural. Can you
imagine *me* being in love with *Screed*? Or *Nick*? Inconceivable!"

      "And yet someone did," Jan said in awe.

     Nat was obviously extremely distressed by the notion. "I'm telling you
all right now - anything other than 'Lucien & Nat, Forever' is unacceptable.
Something must be done to curtail the proliferation of insanity immediately!
No 'Nat loves Nick', no 'Nat Loves Screed', no 'Nat Loves Schanke and Vachon
in a bizarre triangle of passion'! Oh, and most importantly, no Lacroixs
loving anyone but ME!"

     "She's upset," Heather commented.

     "Undoubtedly," Kim agreed.

     The Not-So's wrapped comforting arms around their new associate, then
gently ushered her toward the Video room. "It'll be alright, Nat," Heather
promised. "We'll watch 'Be My Valentine' and 'A More Permanent Hell', and
you'll soon feel right as rain. Then we can start planning how we can help

     Jan and Susan followed behind the other three. "Why do I have the
feeling," Susan wondered aloud, "that this is the calm before the storm,
and we live in a motor home?"

End of 'The Not-Expected Not-So'

Send Comments to br1035@ix.netcom.com

WAR:  Munchies, or
What Happens When Your Friend Smells Like Garlic
Part 1/2
After Bons meets with Berg
By Patt Elmore
Again, Betaing Extraordinaire by LaBons and LaJules

"I'm hungry," Patt said, just after a loud gurgle from her stomach had
already made the announcement.  Bonnie snickered from the backseat
while Jules rolled her eyes.

"Didn't you eat at the Peach?" The driver asked, never averting her eyes
from the street ahead.

"Yea, but . . . that had to have been a couple of hours ago.  At least,"
Patt whined.

"NO WHINING!" chorused Jules and Bons.  Patt turned to glare at
them.  From the backseat,  Bonnie held up a two-handed finger-cross.

"Ha, ha," Patt said, pursing her lips at the women and making a rude
noise.  It was echoed by another guttural sound from her intestinal

"My gosh, Patt.  You can't be *that* hungry," Jules said in
exasperation.  She shot her passenger a harsh look.  Patt smiled at her

"Must be that distinct odor of garlic in the car," Patt replied, looking
pointedly at Bons.  Bonnie blinked innocently.

"There will be plenty of food at CERK, I'm sure," Jules said

"But, will it be food we like?"  Bonnie leaned forward to pose her
question.  "I wouldn't mind having a little . . . salad, myself," she
said, her voice turning rather dreamy.

"I was thinking more along the line of Chinese," Patt said hopefully.
"Know of any good places?"

The two other women sighed.

"Hong Hing," Bonnie suggested with a knowing smile.

Jules nodded.  "That's a good one."

"Or, how about Pink Pearl Harbour-Front?" Bonnie continued, getting
a little excited.  "They make a Moo Shoo that will melt in you . . ." 
she couldn't finish her sentence, choosing only to sigh again.

"Those are both great places," Jules agreed, "but, they're in the
opposite direction of where we're going.  We'll need to find something
on the way to Eaton Centre.  We are going to CERK and that's that."

Jules furrowed her brow in concentration for a minute, and then she
got a funny, almost evil expression on her face.  A thin smile spread
across her lips as she retrieved the cell phone from the console and
handed it to Patt.

"You will settle for carry-out, won't you?" It was not a question, but a
command. Patt nodded. "Good, then punch in this number," the petite
driver said. Patt complied, but then noticed the strange expressions her
companions wore.

"Stam's," the phone voice answered.

"Yea," Patt replied, still watching Bonnie's and Jules' faces. "I'd like
to place a carry-out order . . ."

"Okay, what's the joke?" Patt replaced the cell phone and looked from
face to face of her companions.

Bonnie and Jules assumed innocent expressions and shook their heads.

 "Oh, nothing, nothing at all," Bonnie chirped.

"Stam's is a very good place.  Good food." Jules was nodding too much.

"Wonderful food," Bonnie chimed in.

"I smell a rat," Patt turned in a huff to face the windshield.  In the
back seat, Bonnie began to giggle softly.

"Don't worry, Patt.  They've really cleaned up the place since the
health inspector shut them down last year," Jules said matter-of-factly.
Then she grinned slyly.  "I did hear you order Lo Mein, didn't I?"

Jules maneuvered the Jag through traffic without incident and, ten
minutes later, pulled into the restaurant's parking lot.  The brash neon
sign announced the name of the establishment in blinking pink -- Stam
the Chinese Food Man Bar and Grill.  Patt looked at the place with
interest, then screwed up her face and turned to Jules.  "Have they got
a Taco Bell close by?"


Patt's order wasn't quite ready, so she took a seat at the bar.  'Serves
them right to have to wait,' she thought, considering the other Cousins
who had chosen to remain outside in the vehicle.

"Get you anything, Ma'am?"  Patt turned to the bartender to reply
negatively and stopped, cold.

She found herself staring into a pair of incredible brown eyes. A pair
of eyes the color of clay mud on a hot, summer day in the south. A
faded brown, just light enough to look like someone had melted
chocolate and poured it into the sockets. Patt felt herself start 
to melt.

The eyes turned out to be attached to a very attractive masculine 
face. The bartender grinned under her examination and re-asked his

"Huhhh?" Patt sighed, still caught in her lusty trance.  "Oh, do I want a
drink?  Is that what you mean?"

"Yes, ma'am," he smiled. The smile was good too. Just spread enough
across the face so as to show friendliness, but not a leer. Patt's
little heart began thumping. Nice lips, too. Not too full, but 
definitely holding some pucker power.

"Do you have any Ribena?" Patt flashed what she hoped was a
dazzling smile. The bartender grinned again.

"On the rocks? Straight or stiffened?" Oh, my, but the room was
getting warmer.

"Straight--I might be driving later." Patt knew her expression was
bordering on silly, but she couldn't control it. The very nice young
man nodded and went to the other end of the bar to get her drink. Patt
watched his journey with keen interest. Assets were nice too.

'My, but wouldn't he look fine in a Mountie uniform,' she sighed
inwardly, then turned on the barstool to watch the other patrons
coming and going.

Patt froze.

She recognized a woman entering the restaurant. Rather short in
stature with long, darkish hair. Amethyst.

Patt's war radar, which until that moment she hadn't been aware that
she possessed, came into keen focus.  She knew this girl personally,
from back home in Louisiana.  Although Amethyst lived in Carthage,
Texas, she trained with the same dog agility group in Shreveport as
Patt.   They had once been fast friends . . . in fact, Amethyst was
responsible for Patt's involvement in the Forever Knight Universe,
though Patt wouldn't admit that now. They were estranged. Patt was a
staunch Cousin and Amethyst was a  . . .  Knightie.  And a
syrupy light Knightie with Valentine tendencies and a member of the
Harem  and those awful poop-scooping Knight Riders
to boot.

"Here's your drink, Ma'am," the bartender placed the short, wide-
brimmed glass in front of Patt on the bar counter.

"Thanks," Patt said, stuffing a dollar bill into the tip jar. He 
smiled and moved away, forgotten by the Louisianan. Making sure no 
one was looking, Patt quickly slipped the water pistol out of her
windbreaker pocket and pulled the inset tab. She hoped she would
have time to refill the weapon before Amethyst noticed her.

End Part 1


WAR:  Munchies, or
The First Shot is Fired
Part 2/2
After Part 1
By Patt Elmore
Again, Betaing Extraordinaire by LaBons and LaJules

After once more securing the pistol in her pocket, Patt sat at the bar
and waiting, watching Amethyst.  The younger woman from Texas
spoke softly to the lady at the cash register, presumably placing an
order.  Finished, Amethyst turned around and looked into the bar.

Straight at Patt.

At first, the Knightie's eyes opened wide, but then narrowed in
suspicion.  She moved into the bar and took the seat next to Patt's.

"What are you doing here?" Amethyst demanded, none too politely.

"And, hello to you, too, Ame," Patt replied. She picked up the glass of
Ribena.  Putting a finger inside the glass, Patt twirled it and caught
the last droplet of the liquid with the tip. Patt popped the finger into
her mouth and met her former friend's stare.

"A friend and I just got an urgent message to come to headquarters,"
Amethyst said, keeping her eyes steady on Patt's face.  "Would you know
anything about that?"

Patt shrugged. "Traffic tickets, maybe? You do drive like a bat out of
. . ."  Patt grinned. "No pun intended."

"If you and your *Cousins* are responsible for harming one hair on
our Nick's head, I'll have yours," Amethyst threatened. Patt bristled.

"I'm here for a dog show, Ame.  Just like you.  I heard that Steele did
very well in his competition yesterday and Fred is supposed to be in that
clinic tomorrow, learning the Canadian Agility Rules.  There--you
satisfied now?!"  Patt was angry and didn't care who knew it.

Amethyst didn't look convinced.

"Order up!" came from the kitchen.  A neat young Asian woman
approached the two southerners, advising them that their food was
ready.  Patt slipped off the stool and cast Amethyst a dirty look.
Amethyst followed, glaring at Patt.

"One Shrimp Lo Mein?"  Patt nodded that she was the recipient of the
order.  Transaction completed, she turned to leave as Amethyst was
accepting her own order of Shrimp Lo Mein.   Patt's more cousinly
nature took over and she reached across the counter, grabbing some
small condiment packages.

"Here," Patt said, "This will make your food worth eating."  Before
Amethyst could react, Patt dropped several packets of Chinese Hot
Mustard into the Texan's carry-out bag.

Amethyst caught sight of the vile yellow substance and shrieked. She
dropped her bag, sending noodles skittering across the floor.

"YOU, YOU," Amethyst spluttered with fury, "COUSIN!"

"Third Cousin to you, kid," Patt retorted as she headed for the exit.
"And you'd best show a little respect or you might have some of those
furry pillows you call dogs disappear into the night.  I've heard tell
that they're looking for sled candidates up in the Yukon."

Amethyst's mouth flew open in shock at Patt's threat.  Patt, though,
was gone.


Back in the Jag, Patt re-buckled her seat belt and sat tensely, her body
radiating anger.  Jules restarted the engine and pulled the automobile
out of the parking lot, headed for CERK.  She and Bonnie said
nothing, but watched Patt closely.

"We were kidding about the health inspector," Bonnie tried to break
the silence, but was rewarded with only an icy silence from  Patt.

"Did something happen back there in the restaurant?" Jules asked
casually, cutting her eyes toward Patt.  Patt ignored her friend.

"Did you get some eggrolls?" Bonnie asked hopefully.

Patt handed the food  to the back seat occupant. "Here, help yourself.
I'm not hungry anymore."

Jules raised an eyebrow, but said nothing.

"You know what really fries my potatoes," Patt's voice shook with
anger, "is people who purport to be your friends, but then dump you
over something as silly as a difference of opinion."

"Such as?" Jules prompted.

"Ran into someone in the restaurant back there who used to be a
friend.  But, she found out that she couldn't control me, bend me to 
her way of thinking, so she stopped calling and basically let me know 
I wasn't worth her time."

"I have former *friends* like that, too," Jules said softly.  "But
there's something else bothering you, isn't there?"

Patt turned to Jules, nodding.  "It was her attitude," Patt affirmed.
"She verbally attacked me in there, accusing me of messing with her 
precious Nick."

Jules shrugged.  "Probably just a good case of Knightie guilt and
angst," she said. "Mixed with our old war friend, paranoia."

Patt nodded, thoughtfully.

"Don't sweat it."  Jules' eyes were thoughtful. "But, it does lead me to
believe that we may wish to make another side trip after all."

Bonnie, mouth brimming with pasta, looked up with a start.

Jules smiled wickedly.  She turned off  Yonge and headed the Jag in
the general direction of the warehouse district.  "Who's up for a 
little reconnaissance visit to check out Knightie Central tonight?

End Part 2



By Libby Singleton
and John Ewan

Laurie MercBard's scarf used with her permission.
Screedy's socks used with the greatest respect.

     "Screedy, quit sniffling!!!" Libby ordered, leading him
into the Merc's basement.  She knew that as a Ratpacker she
was considered a lower form of Forever Knight fan and thus
was usually relegated to the basement and walls of Merc
Headquarters.  Not that she minded, in fact, she thoroughly
enjoyed the distinction.

     "I miss me luvin' baby cakes Natsie, I do.  Oughta be
out lookin' fer 'er, not following ya.  Ain't like ya're the Pied Piper
or nothin'."

     "We *will* look fer her," Libby said.  "I just gotta
figure out wot's goin' on.  I'm new at this war stuff...."

     "'Ey, Libby, you made it!" John yelled.  He ran towards
them carrying a pinata in the shape of a rat.  "Look wot those
Nunkies Anonymous types dropped off fer ya.  Said it was part
o' your payment.... Screed??? Wot is 'e...?"

     "Long story," Libby sighed, reaching for her pinata.
"First I wanna see wot they gave...."

     Laughing mischievously, John yanked it away.  "Not so
fast there, Ms. Elizabeth the Libby. I 'ad to rescue this from the
clutches o' them Merc blokes.  I've been guardin' it wit me life
since.  You owe me fer this one."

     "I didn't ask you to guard it," Libby snapped.  She
reached around John and grabbed the pinata although he didn't
let go.  "It's *mine*!!!!  You go earn your own!!!"

     "Oooo," Screed said excitedly.  "En-tertainment!!! You
blokes gonna fight it out, ay???  Been too busy wrestlin' wit me
Natsie Ratsie as o' late to en-gage in a good brawl."

     John's mouth fell open, "You... an' *Nat*?!? Oooooooo!  
This 'ere war is gonna get good, it is!"

     "An' as Ratsiepackers we shouldn't be fightin' over this
'ere penny-oughta when there's profit to be made!" Libby
pointed out.  "Tell ya wot, John, let us both break this thing
open an' iffen there's anything I don't want inside, you kin 'ave
dibs on it fer I take it to the pawn shop."

     Using a power cord from a computer, they quickly had
the pinata strung up from the ceiling light.  Libby found a
couple of umbrellas by the front door to use as a bat, while John
produced a black, silk scarf.  "Just found it on a pile o'
unpacked clothes on Laurie Mercbard's bed where someone
could just snatch it up," John said.  "Iffen she's not gonna take
proper care o' her expensive silk scarves, then she shouldn't
'ave 'em!"

     "Tha's right good thinkin'!" Libby agreed.  "But wot am
I suppose to do??? Are we gonna cut it in two?"

     Screed snorted.  "Did tha' to me Natsie's best scarfy
warfy once an' she threatened me with a popsicle stick she'd
gnawed to a sharp point."  He dropped to the floor and
removed his combat boots.  "'Ere, use me socks.  We'll just tie
them together...."

     "I dunno," Libby said.  "I'm not all tha' scaredy 'bout
germs, but I do get sick real easy...."

     "Me socks are clean!" Screed protested with a tone of
hurt in his voice.  "Natsie makes sure I change them once a
week or she won't give me any o' the ol' whoopie, if ya know
wot I mean."

     "A week?  Well, then that's okay!  Not like it's been six months
or anything," Libby exclaimed with a grin.  She tied John's scarf
around his eyes, then allowed Screed to tie his socks around hers.
The carouche then handed them both umbrellas.

     "Okay, Screedy, me mate, aim us in the right direction,"
John ordered.  There was silence.  "Screed???"

     "Screedy!  Where the heck did ya go?" Libby shouted.  "I
betcha anything 'e's snuck off to look fer Natsie!"

     "'E kin take care o' himself fer now," John said.  "All
we have to do is follow the trail of angry Natalies.  Let's worry
about the pinata now.  Ya've got me all curious as to wot sort
o' pretty shiny thingees are in it."

     The two began swinging randomly.


     There was a shower of glass when John hit the overhead light.


     Libby was quite sure she'd accidently knocked a hole in the wall
but decided the pinata was more important than worrying over that
minor point.


     After all, they were Ratpackers, not angsting Knighties.

     *WHOMP* and a dull thud sounded when John's umbrella met Libby's
head.  "Wotch it, ya droog!"

     "Sorry, Ms. Libsta," John said sincerely.


     Finally, at ironically the same time, both umbrellas, now
bent and beyond opening, impacted the pinata.


     They yanked off their blindfolds as a shower of paper wrapped
objects fell from the shredded remains of the pinata.

     "Ol' Nat luvin' Screedy shoulda stayed, this stuff 'as got
possibilities," John explained as the shower continued to rain.

     "An' it's all wrapped up in 'Kickstart the Knight' flyers!" 
Libby noted, catching a small wrapped object in her hand.

     "Uhr, Lib, I think we've got visi-ters," John said.

     Libby turned, following his gaze to a panel in the wall.
There were, indeed, visitors.


John Ewan, Technical Support | Look for me online at MPG-Net
Multi-Player Games Network   | as Gimli

Libby Singleton, ALibbyp@aol.com
**Never try to teach a Ratpacker manners,
it just wastes your time and annoys the Ratpacker**

An Addict By Any Other Name
takes place after "Odor-O-Rama" and "One Smashed Pinata"
by Annie Raper
beta read by Libby Singleton

Cross Stitching, Nat loving Screed used with Libby, the MercRat's 

        Annie headed off into the night in search of her tennis shoes.  
At least, that's what her rational self told her she was in search of.  
Secretly, however, she hoped that she would run into .... *HIM*.  She 
gave the appropriate shudder of a true addict at the thought of .... 
*HIM*,  giggled at her silliness.

        "Too silly, too silly, too silly," she laughed out loud, and 
continued on her path to find Libby and the missing tennis shoes.  
"However," she said to herself, "if providence just happened to drop 
Nunkies in my lap, I wouldn't turn him away."  She shook her head.  
"Come on, 'Bug, face it.... you'll have more luck finding the MercRat 
and your tennies."

        She continued down the street, making sure to stay away from 
alleyways.  As much as she enjoyed her Ratpacking friends....... she 
didn't necessarily want to run into Screed.

        Annie would enjoy no such luck.

        He came into her view.  She stopped dead in her tracks. "Oh, no,"
she whispered, then exclaimed,  "It's him!"

        "Wot do ya mean, 'It's 'im'?  It's me!" He spread his arms out 
expectantly. "Natsie, it's me.... Yar Screedy!"

        Annie looked around her for Natalie Lambert with a very confused 
look on her face.  //Natalie and Screed?// she thought.  //Eeowww!!  
And why does he think I'm she?//  Annie was growing more confoozled by 
the moment.

        Screed stood there, waiting for his Natsie-smooch, bouncing up 
and down. Deciding that he was going to have to go to her, he gathered 
the Natalie-look-alike into his thin carouche arms and planted a huge, 
wet Screedy-slurp on the confused addict.

        Annie struggled and sputtered her way out of the embrace.  
"Eeoww!!!!!" she bellowed, in a very nice and lady like manner, and 
wiped her mouth with her hands. "Just what do you think you're doing, 

        Looking very hurt and forlorn, Screed said, "Wot's tha matter, 
Sweet Lips? Doncha like yar Screedy-slurp?"

        "Who are you calling 'Sweet Lips'?  No, I don't like 
Screedy-slurps, smooches or other bodily contact."

        Screed wrinkled his forehead in obviously deep sorrow and put 
his arm around the chief Nunkies Addict.  "Doncha want yar Screedy-poo 
no more, Natsie-Ratsie?" he asked, as a single blood tear rolled down 
his pale cheek.

        "Natsie-Ratsie!?!  You think *I'm* Natalie?" Annie asked, 
wriggling out from under his arm.

        "Well, aren't ya, my lil BabyCakes wi' lil sugar spinklies?  
Ya not only bear a wee bit o' likeness to 'er, ya 'ave 'er scent, ya 
do.  Like the lab-o-ra-tory," he commented with a characteristic snort.

        "No.  I'm Annie.  Annie Raper," she said and stuck out her hand 
in greeting, because meeting a carouche is no excuse for bad manners. 
"I'm not even a Forever Knight character, just a Nunkies Addict."

        Screed shook her hand.  "Wot, ya addicted to monkeys?  Mysel', 
I don't like the monkey-wonkeys.  Too noisy, they are, an' they yell 
when ya bite 'em."

        Annie winced at the comparison.  "Not monkeys.....Nunkies.  
With an 'N'. Nunkies.  Also known as Lacroix." She dug into her pocket 
and removed her official Nunkies Anonymous Black Silk Handkerchief, just 
like you-know-who uses, and gently wiped the tear off Screed's face.  
"There now, all better," she said with a smile and put the hankie away.

        "No," Screedy said with a pout.  "Not all better, I don' 'ave me

        "Well, there *are* quite a few Natalies running around.  I just 
saw one in a toga, but I don't think she's your's.  I'm sure if you keep 
looking, you'll find her."  Annie smiled reassuringly.  "She's probably 
worried sick about you, too."

        "Thankee kindly, MissieAnnie.  Gave this ol' sailor boy a bit o' 
hope, ya did."  From the alley way, a rat scurried into the light.  
"Gotta run. Din-din an' all that jammy-jam."  And in a flash, the carouche 
was gone.

        //Weeeellll.....// Annie thought, //that was interesting.  I 
wonder where I can find some iodine?//

to be continued......

Annie Raper
Cousin~~CotK~~Valentine~~Founder, Nunkies Anonymous~~FKXS~~FORp
LC:"I do *not* have a warm and fuzzy side!" Oh, but Nunkies, we know you do!

WAR:  A Knightie-ly Visitation
Part 1/3
After:  Munchies
By Patt Elmore
Again, Betaing Extraordinaire by LaBons and LaJules


With that stealth that only Cousins (and some Mercs) possess, the three 
women approached Knightie Central--Nick's Loft--with silent skill. They'd 
parked the Jaguar some distance away in a private garage owned by an 
*associate* of LaCroix's.  Jules had armed the vehicle's theft deterrent 
mechanism and the women had made their way, on foot, to within a half block 
of the Loft.  Hidden in the shadows of an ally, they broke their 
self-imposed silence and spoke softly.

"See anything?" Patt whispered to Jules, who was leaning around the corner, 
trying to see the old warehouse that Nick called home.

"Nada," Jules replied, then pulled herself back into the alley, pressing 
her back to the wall.  The cool brick felt good, supportive.  This had 
been a long night already, and, if the moon overhead was correct, it 
wasn't even close to being over.

"Are you sure that Amethyst said she was supposed to report to Knightie 
land?"  Bonnie asked.

"Yes," Patt replied indignantly.  "I'm not deaf."

Bonnie cringed at the volume at which Patt had replied.  "Neither am I, 
thank you very much!"

Patt sighed.  "Sorry, Cuz."   Patt's voice was  much softer this time. 
"When I'm not concentrating, I only have two volumes.  Loud and *louder*.  
Must have come from working around machinery all my life, before I began 
the gig with the State."

"Well, these little personal introspections are very interesting," Jules 
remarked, her attention back on Nick's place, "but perhaps we should 
curtail it until later.  Something appears to be afoot."

Both Patt and Bonnie leaned in bodily on Jules, trying to peek around her 
and see what their undeclared pack-leader had spotted.  Jules grunted and 
pushed the other two off with a twist of her shoulders.  For a tiny little 
thing, Jules could summon up some power when needed. Patt and Bonnie 
staggered back a little.

"Looks like some cars are arriving," Jules informed the other two, who 
were now standing and waiting with respect.  "Let's see if we can get 
a little closer."

Moving close to the buildings' surface walls, the women scurried quickly 
down the street, avoiding the more lighted patches where unbroken street 
lamps still burned.

Within one hundred yards of the Loft, Jules froze.  She quickly pushed the 
other two women to the ground.  She pressed a finger to her lips and 
motioned Patt and Bons to silence.

"Wait here," she whispered hoarsely.  "I want to check something."

Without waiting for a response, Jules disappeared.  Bons and Patt, huddling 
together on the hard cement sidewalk, looked around, then at each other.

"Who died and made her boss?" Bons whispered petulantly.

"She has the car keys," Patt responded simply.  Bonnie rolled her eyes, 
but said nothing further.

Seconds passed.  Patt began tapping her foot nervously while Bons fidgeted 
and made lip-snacking noises.

"Maybe she's in trouble," Bonnie announced finally.

Patt nodded in agreement.  "I think we'd better go check on her."

The two women moved out.  In the silence, Bonnie's non-sensible footwear 
made loud clicking noises.  Patt turned to her and hissed, "Do something 
about those shoes."

"So who died now and made *her* boss," Bons muttered to herself, removing 
the offending pumps.

"I heard that," Patt muttered back.  The older woman touched the bulge of 
the water pistol in her pocket.

"Ooooooom, I'm really scared," Bons retorted, making sure her shoes were 
stuffed neatly into her fanny-pack.  "I survived demon possession with 
only a few stray hairs getting loose.   What makes you think a 
crawdad-breath like you would be a threat?"

Patt turned to retort, but Bonnie shushed her with a low, "Shush!"

Patt looked at her indignantly, her mouth open to respond.  She saw 
Bonnie's eyes.  They were wide with shocked surprise.

Slowly, Patt turned around in the direction that Bonnie was staring.  
It seemed almost like slow motion, this turning.  When Patt's peripheral 
vision finally caught sight of what had caused Bonnie's shock, the woman 
from Louisiana suddenly felt dizzy.

"Hi, Jules," she said weakly.

Jules pushed both of them bodily against the wall.  "I told you two to 
stay put," she said through clenched teeth.

"Hey!" Patt yelped.  Then she grinned placatingly.  "Those assertiveness 
classes I suggested you take seem to have worked."

Jules silenced her with *the* icy green look.

"We thought you might be in trouble," Bonnie offered.

Patt was rubbing a spot on the back of her head where it had made a close 
encounter with the building face.  "We were coming to check on you, Jules," 
she groaned.

"You *were* gone a long time," Bons added.  Her shoulder had started to 
throb from its impact with the brick surface.  'Another bruise to add to 
my collection,'  she thought wistfully.  'If only I'd gotten it playing 
*tag* with LaCroix, it would have been worth it.'

"I wasn't gone *that* long," Jules retorted.  "Maybe five minutes at most."  
She lifted her arm, intent on displaying her watch as confirmation.  As 
she did, she noticed something odd.

Jules shook her wrist.  She held the watch face to her ear, listening for 
a tick.  There was none, of course, because the thing was digital. Jules 
looked at Bons, then at Patt.  She shook her wrist again, in a very poor 
imitation of a Macarena movement.

"My watch has stopped," Jules said.

"Duhhhh," Patt and Bons replied.

"No matter," Jules said, dismissing the subject.  She glanced back down 
the street toward Nick's loft, then back to her companions. "Come on, 
let's go.  Stay close and keep quiet."

The three women  moved off, their catlike grace a wonderful parody of the 
Three Stoogers. (spelled like this to avoid using real names and copyright 
hassles :) )   Somehow, they made it to the corner  of the warehouse nearest 
Nick's and halted.  At least, Jules halted.

After she'd picked herself up off the ground, with the dignity befitting 
her station as LaCroix's personal assistant,  and brushed herself off, 
Jules turned and glared at Patt and Bons.  The two women were looking past 
her, their eyes the shape of saucers.

"Ooooooooooo," they said in unison.

"You two are beginning to sound like a Spanish vowel lesson," Jules 
complained, but curiosity got the best of her.  She turned in the 
direction that the other two were looking.

Her mouth flew open.

"Oh MY GAWSH!!" she cried aloud.

End part 1/3


WAR:  A Knightie-ly Visitation or,
Too Many to Count on Two Hands
Part 2/3
After:  Part 1
By Patt Elmore
Again, Betaing Extraordinaire by LaBons and LaJules

"How many are there?" Patt asked, her voice low with shock.

"I don't know," Bons said, gulping the dry lump which had formed in her 
throat.  "I can't count them all."

" . . . seven . . . eight . . . nine . . ." Jules was looking intently at 
the scene ahead, counting under her breath.

"Darn," Patt shook her head.  "I haven't seen *that* many outside of a 

Ahead, milling outside Nick's Loft was a huge assortment of canines, in 
all shapes, sizes, colors and tail lengths.  In the night air, a varied 
chorus of barks, yips and woofs were the dominating theme music of the 
evening.  The sweetishly acrid smell of doggie markings was very apparent.

"I'm glad the kitties aren't here to see this," Bonnie said, thinking of 
her five feline friends; Vivian, Sabu, Eastway, Emily and Nigel. "I'd be 
pulling fur balls out of them for a week."

"Devo and Watson would have a field day," Jules said quietly.

"Not to mention Fred," Patt agreed, the awe apparent in her voice. "Those 
Knighties sure do like their dogs, don't they?"

Bonnie had grown quiet--something which sent alarm bells ringing in both 
Jules' and Patt's heads.  They turned around to find the woman, hands 
extended in Mummy-like fashion, going into a trance.

"Belly fur, belly fur," she mumbled as she began walking toward the 
Knightie critters.  "Got to tickle some tummy fuzzies."

Jules caught Bonnie around the waist and pulled her back to safety. 
Holding Bons pressed against the building surface with one hand, Jules 
retrieved the tax forms and shook them furiously under Bonnie's nose. 
No good.  Bons' eyes remained glazed.

"Here, this might help."  Patt extended her hand and held a wad of brown 
substance under Bonnie's nose.  The tiny redhead began sputtering and 

"What was that?" Jules asked as Bons sneezed herself back to coherence.

"Liver," Patt replied, wrapping the flash-frozen meat back in its tinfoil 
container.  She stashed it in her pocket.  "I own a Min Pin, remember? I 
have to have something on me at all times to keep his attention."

Bonnie, fully recovered now, looked at the puppies again and smiled 

"I guess you could call it 'Raleigh's Revenge," she quipped. "That's what 
his Knightship gets for staking a puppy--the royal K-9 watering treatment."

Another scent hung faintly on the air.  Bonnie sniffed, trying to recognize 
it.  When she did, she smiled broadly.  "Ahhhh, Eau d'Equis."

Patt wrinkled her nose.  "Smells like horse shi . . .."  Jules clamped a 
hand over the Louisianan's mouth, pulling the woman back into the shadows 
near the wall.  Bonnie flattened herself also.

From the area surrounding the loft, a particularly alert looking little 
dog had lifted his head and looked in their direction.  Jules watched as 
he sniffed the air, but it must have changed directions, for the animal 
lowered his head and began sniffing the ground again. The women stepped 
from the shadows.

Oh, yes, the wind had changed.

"PHEWWWW," Bonnie gasped as the alkali scent robbed her of breath. Both 
Patt and Jules began coughing as the pungent smell hit them full force.

"That's worse than your garlic concoction," Jules managed to direct her 
wheezing comment to Bonnie.

"How can they *stand* it?" Patt   was 
clutching her throat to keep from gagging.  "I sure hope they have a 
bunch of baggies to clean up after *that* crew.

Jules looked thoughtfully at Patt through stinging, reddened eyes. She 
gingerly removed her hand from where is was clasped over her nose and 
pulled the cellular phone out of her pocket. She punched in a few numbers 
and spoke hurriedly to her stock broker.

"You heard me, I said buy!" Jules finished her conversation and tucked 
the cellular back into her pocket.  She noticed that the wind's direction 
had changed again and she took in a deep, cleansing breath of the night air.

Bons and Patt were breathing a lot easier, too.  They looked at Jules 
expectantly, awaiting direction.

"Okay, then, let's get away from here before the wind decides to do a 
U-turn again.  To the Loft.  But, using the back way this time!"


The women hurriedly retraced their steps, entered an alley and soon emerged 
on the opposite side of the building nearest Nick's Loft.  They snuck down 
the empty street, using several dumpsters for cover.  After their encounter 
with the puppies, the smell emanating from the waste management disposal 
units was almost pleasant.

They had no trouble reaching the back of Nick's Loft without discovery.  
As Bonnie was the smallest of the three rather short women, she was 
elected to reach up and grasp the pull down fire escape ladder.  Patt, 
making a stirrup with her hands, gave Bons a hoist up.

Bonnie caught the metal railing easily and hung on.  And hung on some more.  
Her lack of bulk was a determining factor in her inability to engage the 
ladder device into lowering mode.

"Somebody want to give me a hand here?"  She looked down at the other two 
watching her from below.  "Guys?"  She began swinging her feet, flailing 

"Haven't we already been through this once?" Patt said, looking up at 
Bonnie with interest.

Jules shrugged.  "Some people just keep *hanging on* to old story lines," 
she replied.

"GUYS!" Bonnie whisper-hollered at the other two, using her most plaintive 
tone.  Jules and Patt looked at each other, then back up at Bons.

Sighing, the two women reached up, each clasping one of Bonnie's bare feet.  
They gave a mighty tug and the contraption began its descent.

The three women scrambled up the ladder and alighted on the balcony outside 
Nick's bedroom window.  They huddled on the small landing. Jules crouched 
at Nick's window and began rubbing dust from the pane with her shirt 
sleeve.  After she'd created a small circular clean space, she leaned 
forward to look inside.

She gasped.

Jules pulled back, rubbed her eyes and returned to the window.  She gasped 

"What is it?!" Patt and Bonnie whispered in unison, leaning in close on both 
sides of Jules. The ex-Texan rocked back on her heels, her face ashen.

"And I thought there were a lot of dogs!" She croaked hoarsely.

Patt took Jules gently by the shoulders and pulled her away from the window. 
Bons quickly scooted into Jules' old position and peered through the glass.

"CRIMINY!"  she gasped.

"What's with all this *gasping*?" Patt asked angrily.  "Get up and let me 
have a look-see." Bonnie, her freckles starkly in contrast to her newly 
paled face, complied and Patt knelt by the window.

Patt looked in.  Patt said nothing.  Patt fainted.

End part 2


WAR:  A Knightie-ly Visitation or,
Nickies, Nickies Everywhere . . .
Part 3/3
After:  Part 2
By Patt Elmore
Again, Betaing Extraordinaire by LaBons and LaJules
Permission to abuse granted by Knightie's Katrinka and Lori in a 
moment of madness

The next thing that Patt remembered was the strong smell of garlic. A very 
strong scent of the pungent spice permeated those parts of Patt's brain 
which lay lost in slumber.  She smiled contentedly.

"Mmmmm  . . . gumbo.  Pass the hot sauce, please . . ." she mumbled.

A resounding smack across the face finally rendered the woman conscious.  
She looked up from her horizontal position and blinked at her comrades 
through the pain.

"Sorry," Jules said sympathetically. "We tried one of Bonnie's vile 
vials, but that only seemed to put you under more deeply."

"That's okay," Patt replied, rubbing her cheek and attempting to sit up. 
Bonnie and Jules each grabbed an arm to help the Louisianan assume a 
sitting position.  "Just tell me what happened."

"You don't remember?" Bons asked.

Patt looked at her in confusion.  "Would I ask if I remembered?"

"Try," Jules urged.

Patt sat quietly and tried to think.  Tried to remember what had happened 
to make her drop like a Yankee hit by Louisiana humidity. Suddenly, she 
recalled what had happened right before she fainted, remembered what 
she'd seen.

"Ohhhh," she groaned, teetering again.

"Catch her!"  Jules whispered urgently to Bonnie.  Bonnie helped Jules
grab Patt and they managed to just keep the larger woman upright.

"Nicks!" Patt moaned.  "Millions and millions and millions of Nicks!"

Jules and Bons released Patt and the woman fell backwards, her back
impacting with the metal grating of the landing with a dull thud.

"Not quite *millions*, " Jules remarked, looking back toward the
window, "but there sure are enough of them in there."

Bons and Jules moved back to the vantage point where they could look
through the window into the room.

After a few minutes, Jules looked at Bons.  "How many do you count 
in there?"

"I stopped counting at fifteen," Bonnie admitted, shaking her head in

"Well, what's so special about that?" Patt joined them, crouching just
behind the other two.  "Fifteen is about as *high* as you can count,

"Hey," Bonnie snarled defensively.  "Which one of us graduated *Magna*,  
Ms. Summa-Cum-Elmore?"

"Yea, but you're just a microbiologist," Patt sniffed back at the
redhead.  "My degree is in communications."

"And you spend all your time *communicating* with children, which
is about the only level of conversation that you're up too," Bons

Patt opened her mouth to reply, but Jules silenced them both with a
firmly whispered, "SHUT UP!"

Bonnie and Patt turned to Jules.  "We have much more important
things to be concerned with right now than you two bickering about
brain power and verbal expertise.  From the Fan Fic I've seen you
post, you both tend to use the word processing program Thesaurus way
too liberally."

Bonnie and Patt both opened their mouths, but Jules silenced them
with an upheld palm.  "Please, let's work together to try and figure out
what is going on here."

Jules leaned in to the window again, watching the scene inside
carefully.  There appeared to be well over ten Nicks and assorted
Knighties in the room, milling around and having some sort of general
discussion.  One Nick pointed to the bed and another reacted angrily,
snarling and exposing fangs.  Jules fell back.

"Looks like they might be arguing over sleeping accommodations,"
Jules said.  She moved back to look into the window again.  Bonnie
leaned in close to look, too.

"Hey," Bons said.  "I recognize that Knightie.  That's Lori."

"Who's that with her?" Patt was peeking over their shoulders again.

"Nick," Bonnie and Jules said in tandem.

"I know it's *Nick*," Patt replied.  "But are all these Nicks the same,
like clones, or are they different?"

Jules and Bons surveyed the room, noting, for the first time, the subtle
distinctions of the different Nicks.  This whole thing was getting
weirder by the minute.

As they watched, Lori successfully ushered all of the Nicks out of
Nick's bedroom.  All except one, that is.  This Nick, a very handsome
Nick, moved over to the corner where Lori was standing and began
speaking with her.  He reached up and brushed his hand against her

Another Nick appeared at the door.  He took in the scene and quickly
walked to Lori's side, saying something to her.  Lori nodded and left
with the second Nick, leaving the first Nick alone in the room.

Fascinated, the women continued to watch.  Nick was only alone for a
few moments when a young woman entered the room to join him.

"That's Katrinka!" Bonnie exclaimed.

"Our Katrinka?!" Patt squeaked in surprise.

Jules nodded.  "She's a co-leader for the Knighties."

"Our Katrinka?!!" Patt squeaked again.   Jules nodded again, joined by
Bonnie's bobbing head.  "My toga wearing buddy from the Nunkies
library and video room, Katrinka?"

Two more nods.

Patt suddenly looked very forlorn.  "I can't believe she's in there with
a Nick!" Patt whispered.  "I've read Nunkies fantasies with the woman.
Heck, I've even shared a sauna with her."

"Life's a bit . . ." Bonnie began, but Jules stopped her with an upraised

"You're getting pretty over-indulgent with those hand gestures, aren't
you, Julie-Baby?"  Bonnie sulked, but then shushed.

Suddenly Jules fell back, pushing Patt and Bons from the window.
They scrabbled to keep from falling off the landing, then scrabbled to
take cover when Jules motioned them to hug the brick -- wall that is.

The window to Nick's bedroom suddenly began to open, first a crack
then all the way up.  Nick stuck his head partially out the window,
looking up into the sky.  A beam of moonlight hit his face and, in the
softness of the light, his features began to change.

He pulled back inside, but left the window open.

"Did you see THAT?!!" Patt whispered in shock.  Jules and Bons nodded.  
"What was *that*?"

"Vachon," Jules said quietly.

The three women began edging back toward the window, mindful to
keep out of sight.  Near the opening, they paused and listened to the
conversation taking place within.

"Come on, Katrinka, you need to sleep in here . . ." he was saying

"I told you before, *your* hypnotism doesn't work on me!" Katrinka
replied firmly.  "I'm not letting the Vaqueros into the loft.!"

Jules and Bons exchanged glances and turned back to listen.

"You're loyal, aren't you?" the Vachon-Nick said.  Patt hurrumpphhed.

"Why else am I the co-leader of the Knighties?" Katrinka said.

Jules moved away from the window, motioning for the others to follow
her.  "I've heard enough," she said.

The trio made their way back down the fire escape.  Once on solid
ground and away from the loft, Jules stopped to catch her breath.

"What is going on?" Patt asked, catching up to the small woman.
Bonnie joined them, hampered from running because she was barefoot.

"I'm not sure, but this is definitely all wrong.  Remember when I told
you that my watch had stopped?

The others nodded.

"Well," Jules said, "I didn't say anything at the time, but my watch
stopping was even weirder than seeing all those Nicks."
Patt and Bonnie looked at the other Cousin in confusion.

"Don't you get it," Jules hurried to explain.  "My watch is a Burger
Prince, guaranteed never to tarnish, never to wind down watch."

Patt and Bonnie waited.

"Don't you understand what this means?" Jules protested their
skeptical looks.

"You need new batteries?" Patt suggested.  Bonnie giggled, her faded
freckles dancing across her nose.

"No," Jules shook her head gravely.  "It means time has stopped."

Bonnie looked at Patt, who looked back at Bonnie.  They both looked
at Jules.


"Darn!" Bonnie cried.  "And two days after my birthday, too!  I
could've been twenty-five forever!"

Jules shook her head in exasperation.  She, after all, didn't *do*
birthdays.  "Why do I even try?  If it weren't that I liked you guys so
much . . ."

Bonnie and Patt broke into huge, syrupy grins.

"Stop it, both of you," Jules screamed, her face taking on the color of
her hair.  "Don't you two idiots get it?!!!   We're at WAR!!  And, not
only are we at war, but we have a whole ARMY of Nicks to deal with
--not just one!  We've got to get to CERK and report this *NOW*."

End part 3



By Libby Singleton
and John Ewan

Both Lisas, Lizbet, and Laurie MercBard used with their permission along 
with the Romance writing Nick.
Takes place following "Nicolas Chevalier: Romance Novelist Extraordinaire"
and sorta during "An Addict By Any Other Name."

     John and Libby, the first and second in command of the
Ratpackers, both stared at Lisa.  She seemed oblivious to
anything but her current task of trying to revive the Nicolas who'd
fainted dead away at her feet.
     "Are you ponderin' wot I'm ponderin?" John whispered
to Libby.
     "Tha' we oughta go get some mustard an' plaster
Nick's 'and wit it so tha' when he wakes up, 'e rubs it all over
'is face?  Stickin' 'is 'and in warm water and lockin' the door ta
the WC would be funnier...."
     John blinked a few times.  Both were good ideas, if they
only had the time.  "No, tha's there's too much o' an audie-ance
'ere an' Lisa did suggest we git lost so we oughta tote these
goodies upstairs 'fore Lisa gets 'er still as a bricky Nicky to\
wakie wakie."
     The two quickly found a box full of interesting spare
computer and electronic components tucked beneath a work
bench.  Not wanting anything to happen to such lovely items,
they hid the stuff in the wall, before loading the box with the
contents of the pinata.  Without Lisa noticing, they quickly
went upstairs.
     To the Ratpackers' relief, the room was empty.  John
scooted the coffee table over and dumped the box while Libby
rushed to the kitchen to raid the candy jar of chocolate wrapped
in bright, shiny, metallic papers.
     By the time Libby returned, John already had a number
of items unwrapped so she jumped right in.  There were baggies
of electronic bits and pieces;  bright and shiny new coins from
both Canada and the United States; expensive looking gold and
silver cased ink pens;  sewing needles; and other really nifty
     The package of two rolls of duct tape caused them both to
pause, greed cruising through their veins like a truck full of turkeys.
John held it up, a beamish grin upon his face.  Libby's ratlike reflexes
allowed her to grab a solid grip on the glorious stuff.  "Me Precious!
Ye-eesssss, let gooo o' me Preciousssss!"
     John's ever-so-mature response was, "HEY! LEGGOAMYDUCTTAPE!
     They wrasseled 'round the room roughly roiling in riotous
racket!  Finally, the plastic on the package split leaving them both
holding one roll of duct tape!  Nostrils flaring, they glared at each
other with avarice.  As one, they spun around and hid the goodie
they got somewhere upon their particular persons and then turned
back to the other, with as much calm as a Ratpacker could ever
hope to exhibit.  Their breathing much closer to normal now, they
picked up other items to covet.
     "Right good haul ya got 'ere, Libster," John said with
satisfaction.  Looking up, he noticed Libby was staring at a
piece of the wrapping that obviously wasn't a 'Kickstarting the
Knight' flyer.  He was concerned, but quickly pocketed a few
items before moving over to see what had her so enthralled.  By
then he could swear he saw a bit of drool escaping her mouth -
though not as much as when she stared at her beloved picture of
Screed in his lycra Speedoes.  "Wot?!? Ain't tha' 'Lucius in
Repose?'  Eeewww!  Wot are those Monkies Anonymous blokes tryin' ta
do, turn ya into a *true* La-Crow addict!?!  Fight it, Libs!
Fight it!!!!"
     John grabbed her by the shoulder and began shaking her.
She blinked a few times before looking at him as a blush spread
across her cheeks.  "Thanks!  I think they are trying to
brainwash me!  I'm *not* an addict, ya know!  I really owe ya
one, matie...."
     "Nothin' doin'," John smiled, remember he'd already
helped himself to his pay.  Little did he know that Libby had
managed to pick pocket some of the items back while he was
shaking her.  Good thing she didn't know about the fishin' line he had
attached to the oh, so valuable duct tape.  He yanked it and felt the
satisfying thud of the roll against his nose.  "Owwch!"  he said, thinking,
     Libby reluctantly wadded up the 'Lucius In Repose'
copy and tossed it across the room.  By then, flyers and various
bits and pieces of pinata paper and baggies were everywhere
around the completely disheveled room along with the now
empty bright and shiny >candy wrappings.   She grabbed her
backpack and began shoving items into it with a sigh.
"Now tha' wuz fun!  Wot say we do some celly-bratin' by...."
     "You... you... you... RATPACKERS!" a very angry
voice yelled from the doorway.  Libby and John turned in
perfect unison to see Lizbet, Lisa (Reeves, not the one in
the cellar with the fainted Nick) and Laurie standing in the
doorway leading to the kitchen.  Lizbet's fists were on her
waist.  "Look at this *mess*!"
     The RatPair cowered closely to one another, protecting their
delicate paw...er, hands by stuffing them deep into the other's pockets.
     "I thought you understood the House Rules about
cleaning up after yourselves!" Lisa said, shaking a finger at
them.  The Rodent Regents nodded their heads up and down
with each vilifying waggle.
     "Just what until the GHP finds out - *if* I don't throttle
you myself!" Laurie threatened.  John and Libby looked at each
other in terror when they noticed the rolled up newspaper she
was holding.
     While Libby cringed meekly, looking up at the trio of
Mercs with Bassett hound size blue eyes, John scuttle-approached them
humbly.  "Ay, come on, beautiful missies," he said.  "Ya
wouldn't wanna do tha' to me and the Libster.  We're just
Ratpackers, ya know.  An' you're such wise, wonderful,
devoted types.  We try ta foller yar example, we do.  Ya
*really* wouldn't wanna get us in trubble, now, would ya?"
     "Yes!" Lizbet snapped.  They cringed down into pile of paper strewn
about, abject and pitiful.
     "Ay, come on," Libby begged.  "I mean we're both
*really* named Elizabeth an' don't tha' sorta make us, well, like
kin or som'thin'?"  Libby inserted a soul-wrenching sniff of
sorrow.  "Tell ya wot," she continued, reaching deep into her
backpack.  "These are really to pay me rent, but I think I kin
spare one.  'Ere, you three kin split this...."  Libby pulled out a
chocolate Screed.  "They're even anatomica...."
     "Okay, okay, I see! " Laurie said, turning away in
     "Yuck!" Lisa exclaimed.
     Lizbet sighed.  "Tell you what, put that... *thing*...
away, clean up this room quickly, and, well, I'll tell the GHP
you did make another mess *but* did clean up for once."
     "Thankie, thankie!!!!" Libby and John said, rushing
toward the trio, obviously about to embrace them in glee.
     The three stepped back quickly, turning away from the
Ratpackers.  "Uhr, Lizbet, would you and Lisa like to help me
hunt for my black silk scarf?" Laurie asked.  "I'm sure I packed
it but can't find it anywhere."
     "Sure," Lisa said.
     "Count me in on the hunt - anything is better than
dealing with the Ratpack," Lizbet muttered.  Glaring at John
and Libby she added sharply, "Get started on this mess...
     The Ratpackers nearly tripped over each other in their
hurry.  They gathered up as many of the flyers (and one wadded
Lucius in Repose picture) and stared at each other with a bit of
     "If we toss these in the trash, Grand 'Ighness Pain-in-
the Rear is gonna find out an'... do mean things to us," Libby
pointed out.
     "Yeah," John said, looking about.  An open window
caught his eyes.  Rushing toward it, he pushed out the screen
and watched it fall to the ground.  "'Ere's the ticket!" he
exclaimed, tossing the flyers out the window.
     Libby followed suit, grinning with delight as she noticed
the wind caught the flyers (and the one wadded Lucius in
Repose picture) and scattered them as far as she could see.
"Looky 'ere, we're even doin' our bit to bring back Forever
Knight, we are, Johnsie!"
     Tossing another armful out the window, John snorted in
agreement.  "Right ya are as always!  Good citizen Ratpackers,
we are!  Doin' our bit to Kickstart the Knight!"


John Ewan, jwe@mpgn.com; John the Ratpacker/Merc
"Leader o' the Pack!" on FORKNI-L@PSUVM.PSU.EDU
[    as Sara Orel so Merc-antilely put it,     ]
["...but I do want bribes.  That is all that   ]
[I want to discuss.  Bribes.  Bribes.  Bribes."]

Libby Singleton, ALibbyp@aol.com
Second in Command o' The Ratpack and proud o' it!!!


A Surprise Visitor to the Shrine
by Heather Poinsett with Kim Colley, Susan Paige, and Jan Cook-Moore

Time: After The Not-Expected, Not so

Nat s eyes glazed over as Jan started the tape containing  Be My
Valentine."  She sighed throughout the show.

Kim nudged Heather and nodded in Nat s direction, "It looks like she s
calming down," she noted.

"I hope she doesn t run into the LaCroix at The Die-Hard HQ," said Jan.
"That could lead to disastrous consequences."

"Shhhh," shushed Susan.  "let s not even get into that."  The four
Not-So's returned to drooling.

"Mmmmmm," murmured Nat, in the thralls of a nunklear meltdown.

"I could really use some tiriasmu, now," grumbled Heather.  "But it s
all in the kitchen.  How could I leave in the midst of this scene!"

Kim sighed, knowing Heather would continue grumbling throughout the rest
of the show.  Besides that Heather s mentioning the Tiriasmu had set off
her own hunger pangs.

"Anyone else for Tiriasmu?" Kim asked as she arose from the chaise.

Susan, Jan and Heather giggled and nodded their heads.  How could they
complete the scene without it?

"Nat?" asked Kim.

"Mmmmmm," was all Nat could say.

"On second thought," said Heather.  "Maybe you should bring her some V-8
or better yet, that haggis I packed for just such an emergency."

"Ewwww!  I m not touching that nasty stuff, Heather!"

"Okay, okay," giggled Heather.  "Then just bring Nat some emergency V-8,
just in case."

Kim grumbled and headed off for the kitchen/laboratory.  She was gone
for a few minutes when suddenly the four addicts heard a thump.

"Hey watch it!" yelled Kim.  Jan and Heather ran for the high pressure
water hoses that were just one of the many security measures of the
shrine when a huge sheepdog came running into the room.  Natalie was the
only one who didn t notice.  A large puddle of drool had formed beneath

Kim ran back into the room, directly behind the sheepdog.

"What happened?" demanded Susan.  "How did that dog get in here?"

"I don t know," said Kim.  "I was going to put the trash outside the
door for M. Cabon when he ran in.  I think M. Cabon is crying," she
added.  "I tried to find him, but all I could hear was him sobbing.
Apparently this dog made a  huge mess in the hallway."  The dog turned
to Kim, jumped up and licked her face.

"Eww!  No," said Kim, pushing the dog down.  "Oh no, just look at my
uniform."  Muddy paw prints were visible on her chiffon toga.

"Kim, I think we have some soda water in the kitchen," said Heather.
"Let s go find it."  She began pulling Kim toward the kitchen, as she
preferred to call it.

The dog happily trotted around the shrine as Jan and Susan attempted to
catch him.  Jan finally was able to grab the dog s collar and flipped
over his tags.

Jan dropped the tags and gasped.

"What is it?" asked Susan, as she grabbed the dog before he could take
off again.    She grabbed the dog s tags and was amazed to see .

                                N. Lambert

"Sidney?" asked Jan.  The dog barked in response.

"Hmmm," mumbled Nat from the couch.  The dog pried himself from Jan and
Susan s grasp and began heading for Natalie.  He tried to jump into her
lap, but ended up halfway on the ground.  The dog looked about confused
by Nat s lack of response.   Heather walked in and began to make Nat
drink from a can of V-8.

"Bleech!" said Natalie, wiping her mouth.  "What did you do that for?"

"You have a visitor, Nat," said Heather, as Sidney jumped up and
slobbered all over Nat.


Cousin Heather (heatherp@smart1.net) a.k.a. Deirdre
Queen and Keeper of the crazy crossovers
*NA*DT cofounder*UF*CoTK*Valgal
*N.S.V.V. - Of the Ancient Order of Felidia*


Part Two

"EWWWW!!!!!" Nat tried to push Sidney the Slobbering Sheepdog away.
Sidney merely doubled his efforts.

Jan ran off to the kitchen and came back holding a bowl.  Sidney barked
again and jumped off Natalie heading joyfully for the dish.

Sidney began scarfing down the food.  Susan looked at the food and
shivered.  Nat wiped off her toga and joined the other four addicts as
they comforted Heather.

"I spent hours making that in case of an emergency meltdown," wailed
Heather.  "It was an old MacIntyre Clan recipe."

Nat got a whiff of the substance and made of face.

"What was that stuff?" she asked Jan.

"Heather's emergency haggis," stated Jan.  "I figured it would get
Sidney off of your lap."

"Why do you keep calling him Sidney?" asked Natalie.  "Sidney is my cat,

"Check out his tags, Nat," said Kim as she continued to pat Heather's

Natalie leaned down and tried not to breathe in Sidney's haggis-breath
and gasped.

"But how?" she mumbled.

"Who knows," said Susan.  "But he'll be an excellent addition to our
security team."


Cousin Heather (heatherp@smart1.net) a.k.a. Deirdre
Queen and Keeper of the crazy crossovers
*NA*DT cofounder*UF*CoTK*Valgal
*N.S.V.V. - Of the Ancient Order of Felidia*
A Public Display of Addiction (1/1)
By Bonnie Rutledge
with Kim Colley, Heather Poinsett, Susan Pierce and Jan Cook-Moore
Sidney the Sheepdog provided by Heather P.
Not-So-Vestal-Virgin Nat provided by me
Time: After 'Penguin In Repose', concurrent with 'A Knightie-ly 
      Visitation' and Preceding 'The Quad Arrives At CERK'

     "I'm feeling much better now," N-S-V-V Nat announced (she'd been
lolling in the Sauna during the penguin's visit), "and firm of purpose.
Who's game for some reconnaissance?"

     "Me! Me! Me! Me! Arf!" came the response.

     "Well, you can't *all* go," Nat said. "We still have to guard the
Shrine. MacIntyre - you're with me." Heather smiled with excited glee. 
"Jan, you too. Everybody else stays." Susan gave a tiny pout and Kim 
stomped a sandaled foot.


   "I don't think so, Sid," Nat answered. "Sheepdogs are not known for 
their unobtrusiveness."

    Sidney the Sheepdog flattened his belly to the floor and wiggled 
forward slowly. This either meant that he thought he could act sneaky 
if necessary, or he was offering his services as a mop.

   "I said no, Sidney!" Nat insisted. "Heather, Jan - let's grab some

     Kim and Susan, with Sidney in tow, went to the kitchen/laboratory

     "You know," Kim said. "I don't think she remembers to feed her pets in
any universe! It's always work, work, WORK with that woman!"

     "So you're thinking we have some dog food here? I only recall having
Nunkies addicted cats, I'm afraid.  There's Cousin Gwendolyn and Libby's
Sunshine, and then the boy mascots - Robi's Jake and Bons' Nigel, a.k.a.
Kitty Nunkies. Just because Sidney has a cat's spirit doesn't mean you can
feed him Friskies. I don't mean to sound speciesist or anything, but there
are nutritional requirements to consider!"

     "Don't fret, Susan. Let calmness surround you," Kim added with a smirk.
"I distinctly remember Jules bringing Watson and Devo here for a couple of
days after their unfortunate incarceration. She had food here, but their
jail stay upset the puppies' tummies to such a degree that they didn't eat
much. I know she left some around here somewhere."

     Kim began flipping through the cupboards. She found the first was
completely filled with boxes of powdered sugar, part of their tiramisu
baking supplies. The fridge always stored at least ten pounds of mascarpone
cheese, a shelf's worth of ladyfingers, as well as a gallon of heavy cream.
They also had several canisters of the canned stuff, which Bonnie referred
to as 'skoogie', just in case there was a whipped cream emergency.

    She dug through rows of cereal, consumme, and a mindboggling amount of
oatmeal. There wasn't any canned dog food to be found.

     "Hey, Kim!" Susan called. "I found some dry stuff behind a box of
Bonnie's boiling chips!"

    "Great! Oh, boy, Sid! It's food time!"

   "Rar-arf!" Sidney the Sheepdog answered as he happily bounced up on his
hind legs. Then he began to lick a paw.


     "That should do it!" Natalie said as she closed the cabinet doors. They
had just picked up three pairs of binoculars with night-vision capabilities
and two cameras with telephoto lenses. "I just want to grab on quick thing
from the Toga room, and we'll be on our way!"

     When she returned, N-S-V-V Nat was stuffing a folded up piece of cloth
into the satchel slung over her shoulder. The three addicts all had short,
pale, dove-gray trenchcoats over their uniforms now so as to not raise any
eyebrows. "Heather, you'll come with me for a ground sweep. Jan, make
Monsieur Cabon take you for an aerial."

     "Ugh," Jan replied. "Do I have to? I always have a terrible urge to
torment him and make him cry."

     "I thought that's why we hired him," Heather said, "to torment him and
make him cry. Most of us have Cousinly tendencies, remember?"

     "There was another reason, if you recall," Nat insisted as she pointed
to Jan. "He was once RCAF. You - high road. We'll take the low road."


     Heather and the Not-So-Vestal-Virgin Nat hired a taxi to take them
about. They drove by CERK first, where the two women drooled out the rear
windows at the multiple Lacroixs that came and went. When they caught sight
of one that was brightly dressed and had his arms full of shopping bags, Nat
sat back in her seat and *hmmph-ed!*.

     "Take a picture," she ordered Heather.

     Next, they swung by the old church, and inspected the outside from 
half a football field away. Photos were taken of the horse where the 
Canadian geese had been penned during war before, and they watched as 
one Vaquera returned with a Vachon wearing rollerblades and carrying 
a hockey stick in tow.

     "Richmond Avenue," Natalie ordered the cab driver.

     The Raven appeared quiet, so the clicked a few quick frames and headed
on to John Street. Across and down the road from the Dark Dimensions
building. Heather and Nat zoomed in and watched the entrance. Natalie was
obviously  disheartened by the mere thought of the multiple Nicks that must
be inside and slumped against the backseat with a sigh. "Please, let's drive
on - to the theatre."

     They motored past the Nick & Natpackers domain, stopped a goodly
distance down the street on either side of the building, silently blessing
their binoculars. Natalie continued to study the place from afar, while
Heather snapped some more pictures.

     "They've certainly gone all out on the cameras and door locks," Nat
commented grimly.

     They headed on to peek at the former FK production studios where the
Die-Hards hung out from a discreet distance. Nat decided to not worry about
her own devoted followers, the Natpackers. As for the Mercs, Nat didn't
want to risk any more carouche cuddles. Besides, she wasn't *stupid*. "What
about that Unnamed Faction you mentioned?" Nat asked.

     "Well, their Hive is at an Unnamed Location," Heather explained.


     As the cab moved through the warehouse district toward their final
stop, Nat said, "I really don't think I want to go to the loft. There's
bound to be Nicks running all over that place. It's just too depressing."

     "Well, hey, no one's forcing us. We can just turn around and head home
for the Peach," Heather offered.

     Nat accepted and started to give the driver a new address when she
suddenly shouted, "STOP THE CAR!!"

     "What is it?" Heather asked as Nat decamped from the car.

     "I saw *it*!" Nat gushed as she tried to keep the drool from running
down her chin. "The Jag-u-ar!!"

     "Oooo....va-va-va-vroom!" Heather sighed.

     Telling the cabbie to keep the meter running, they eagerly skip-tripped
over to the deserted car. So great was their speed, Heather didn't notice a
wayward non-sensible shoe littering her path. It caught her toe, and she
flew forward to kiss the pavement. "Oooomph!"

      Crawling to her knees, Heather examined the strappy clog closely.
"Och! I should've known! Bons has been here!"

     Natalie, meanwhile, was caressing the rear fender of the car with
loving abandon. "Quit playing and come smell the car! The scent - *sniff*
*sniff* - it's pure raw power and...and...garlic?" Natalie gave a small
frown, then pulled the folded white sheet-like toga out of her satchel,
along with a black, permanent marker. "Here, help me tie this," Nat ordered
when Heather finally came to stand at her side.

     "What are you doing?"

    "Oh," she drawled, winking as Heather held the fabric into place, "just
giving a little public display of affection."

     The Not-So-Vestal-Virgins giggled as they ran back to the taxi and
commanded the driver to return to The Jeweled Peach.


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War:  The Quad Arrives at CERK
by Cousin Jules
Time:  Nighttime (What else?), shortly after "Odor-O-Rama," "A Knightie-ly
Visitation," and "An Addict by any other Name."

     The foursome some were finally closing in on CERK when Annie, whom 
Patt had spotted wandering down University Avenue and promptly pushed 
into the Jag (*after* she had screamed and Jules had screeched on the 
brakes once more), spoke up from the back seat.

     "Are we *there* yet?" she asked, eyes closed, and definitely ready to
find a resting spot for the night...however long that proved to be.

     "Actually," Jules began, "we're here."

     "I'm so hungry, I could eat a dinosaur," LaBons chimed in.

     Patt turned around in the front seat and glared at Bonnie.  "You just
ate my shrimp lo mein an hour ago."

     "But, hey," Bonnie replied, grinning, "you know Chinese food doesn't
stay with you.  I wonder what CERK has to offer.  Jules, any ideas?"

     "Well, there is a kitchen, but it isn't used much.  We generally just 
go get something from one of the all night places, or order in."

     "And some of us don't ever have to worry about finding a hot lunch in
the next room," Annie sighed.  "I wonder if He likes 'fluffy' things for

     Jules pulled the Jag into the spot marked 'L.Lacroix' and replied, "I
suppose we could go find out now if you like, Annie."  Annie jumped up in her
seat - well, as 'up' as one could get in the back of a luxury automobile.
The rest of the quadrumvirate piled out of the car while Jules went to grab
her handbag from the car's trunk.

      "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!" Jules screamed.  "They've done it again!" Her
three friends quickly ran to the back of the car where they found a large
white sheet cleverly tied to the bumper.  In large black letters, someone 
had written, "LC LOVES NAT!!"

     "I don't remember this happening before, Jules," Patt said as she laid 
a comforting hand on her shoulder.

     "Not in *this* War," Jules said, "but the last one.  I had to get out
the bucket and wash those words off the windscreen that time.  Only the rest
of TO knows how long we've been driving around with this thing flapping in
the breeze.  I wonder who might have seen it.  Sugar.  Don't we have enough
to worry about already?"

     "The only one who would care would be Uncle," said Bonnie.

     "Or the N&NPackers," Annie chimed in.

     "Or the UF," interjected Patt.

     "Or..." began Bons before Jules gave her the by now infamous *glare.*
 "Well, why do you care?  You write all those VAL stories!"

     "*That's* fiction," Jules spoke up.  "*This* is reality.  If you think
I'm going to let Nat run off with Nunkies while I sit here just twiddling my
thumbs,..." She broke off when she caught the gazes of her friends beginning
to shift away from the discussion and to a spot somewhere behind her.  Jules
turned to find Lacroix - or what appeared to *be* Lacroix - standing in the
front door and staring in their direction.  He was dressed from head to toe
in his characteristic black, expensive, third season, Italian suit and silk
shirt, making his blue eyes appear even more brilliant than they had in
glorious technicolour.

     "Uhhhhhhhhhh," Annie stuttered, feeling her knees begin to turn to
jello. Patt and Bonnie whimpered, the reality being much more exquisite than
anything they had ever imagined.

     Lacroix sauntered over until he stood approximately five or six feet
from the suddenly - and unusually - silent women.  He looked at Jules with
great curiosity and uttered but one word - a word which, when said by *Him,*
struck fear into the hearts of his present audience.



War: RP: No Time Like The Present
by John Ewan
Date: Friday the 13th  Time: after sunset 

John the RatPacker strolled through the darkness towards the lake.  He
moved as quietly as possible throught the tall grass along the shore.  He
paused by a spot no one else would have noticed, a small bare patch with an
old wine bottle nearby.

He crouched down, scrunching some moist dirt through his fingers, and
whispered, "Ah, me droogie.  With all that's been happenin' I expected I
could find ya here.  I had an idea about this time problem and figgered I'd
come offer you a last trip to Vegas.  That place lives by probabilities and
this is so improbable it is probably frozen solid.  We can go and set up
the cards, rig a few tables and see what other stuff we can do ta make a
right profit.  So what do ya say?"

A thin wisp rose from the ground, a noxious little fume.

"Ah, I though ya might like it.  Well, let's leave this jammyjam and get on
our way!"

and thus, John headed off tot he the City that Never Sleeps, in hopes that
it was at least not fully awake.......

John Ewan, jwe@mpgn.com; John the Ratpacker/Merc
"Leader o' the Pack!" on FORKNI-L@PSUVM.PSU.EDU
[    as Sara Orel so Merc-antilely put it,     ]
["...but I do want bribes.  That is all that   ]
[I want to discuss.  Bribes.  Bribes.  Bribes."]

Or, the Quad Prays For A Swift, Painless Death
By Bonnie Rutledge
with Cousin Jules, Cousin Annie, and Third Cousin Patt

     "Oh my...oh my, my, my, my, my," Annie sighed. She was somewhere 
at the crossroads between complete bliss and horror.

     "He said the 'N-word'," Bonnie whispered wonderingly, "and me without
my tape recorder!"

     "We're about to die," Patt muttered as she rolled her eyes in
disbelief, "and she's thinking about the webpage!"

     "Never say die!" Bonnie retorted softly.  she
thought.  Aloud, she continued, "It
might tarnish the lovely denial buzz I've got going here."

     Jules said nothing. She stood stock-still, her eyes locked with the
vampire's. She couldn't move. She couldn't breathe. This was a good thing.
Hopefully she'd lose consciousness and miss the moment when she became
unemployed, utterly humiliated, or a corpse.

     Suddenly Lacroix stopped staring at her (Jules still wasn't sure if it
was an angry stare or simply a 'I-am-Lacroix-and-I-am-staring-at-you'
stare), and she felt muscles she didn't know she had relax. He was looking
intently at Annie now, who gradually leaned toward him in infinitesimal
increments as though the power of his gaze could suck her closer like a
vacuum.  Jules thought.

     In an instant, her brain cleared. She covered her mouth with a hand,
then scurried back to the Jaguar's trunk. "I can't believe that I almost
forgot!" She was now the center of everyone's attention (well, except
Annie's) as they watched her fiddle with the rear catch.

     The trunk was practically full still - full of red 'Kickstart the
Knight' flyers. Jules shoved some aside, then buried her arms almost to 
the elbows in paper. She fished around for a few seconds, gave a shout of
triumph, and produced a lovely, black Gibson with a mirrored inlay.

     "Vachon's guitar?" Lacroix commented, unimpressed.

     "It's the real one - not one of those clones from another universe,"
Jules answered, hugging it tightly to her chest.

     "I see," he said, giving an abrupt nod. "There is nothing quite like
the *real* one, is there? I find it curious that Cousin Cherri would let
such a thing leave her sight. She knows perfectly well that she is hanging
off a cliff by a strand of grass with me as it is." The four addicts
recognized his current expression with absolute certainty. It was *the*
Lacroix sneer. "Dona Cherri, indeed. Yet she'd entrusted this trophy to
you," He gave Jules another unreadable stare, then made eye contact with
each of the other three, "and three War neophytes, who have apparently
carted it around, forgotten, in the trunk of *my* car while engaging in, I
refuse to consider the details, all manners of undignified behavior."
Bonnie's bare feet received the next stare, and she hopped from foot to
foot, trying to cover her naked toes from view. "They obviously don't know
any better, Cousin Jules, but *you* do." She tried to not appear crushed at
his disapproval. "I want you to make a note for my personal agenda," Lacroix
continued, "to have a discussion with Cousin Cherri at the first convenient

     Jules stared at him blankly as her mind raced over the odds of this
being an alternate Lacroix, and the chances of her survival if she 'forgot'
his order. Something in her expression must have given her thoughts away,
for he soon said in a snakily, silky voice, "Aren't you going to ask me a
myriad of questions to test if I'm the real Lacroix?"

     Jules immediately shook her head. "No, sir. It would be impertinent.
Besides, the true Lacroix would refuse to answer to me."

     There was a moment of silence, then, suddenly, Lacroix smile. Not a big
smile, but a 'That-answer-amused-me-so-I'll-allow-you-to-live' smile. Patt
forced herself to fight back the drool. "Precisely. I would," he replied.
All at once, it seemed, he lost interest in them. "The faction leaders have
planned a meeting to brief all of the Cousins about the current 'situation'.
You're almost late. They might not be so indulgent as I have been."

     "Indulgent?" Patt huffed under her breath. "If that was indulgent,
don't show me hard a-"

     Bonnie elbowed her in the stomach, hissing, "Shut up and move before
you blow it!"

     Annie, Bonnie, and Patt all rushed through the entrance, with Jules
taking up the rear. She stilled as she heard Lacroix say her name. "Yes,

     He held out a palm. "My car keys - you forgot to give them back."

     "Oh, yes, sir!" she said apologetically and rushed to hand them over,
then turned to leave once more.

     "And Jules?"

     She paused. "Sir?"

     "If I ever catch you using that word in public again, it will
be...unpleasant. *Your* little strand of grass might break, and it's 
a long...drop."

     She gave a brief nod, then joined the others inside. They were already
having their palms scanned in the lobby. Jules collapsed against the
entrance door and gasped for air. She felt the familiar adrenaline rush
through her. She always had an aftershock of fascination and fear from 
being around the General, one that hasn't dissipated  through the months 
she'd worked as his PA.  She twisted her head to 
the side.  She stared straight forward in stark sobriety. 
 Jules gave a delighted shudder, then frowned.



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Someone's in the Kitchen with...
By Heather Markle and the N&NPack
Time: Following "The Sly Ones"
Location: The Kitchen in N&NP HQ

The kitchen was busy. The Kitchen crew had convened a meeting to plan and
make the next shopping list.

"Okay, Cecilia, that was great chicken the other night. Thanks!" the leader,
Heather Markle, was saying. The rest of the crew joined in the praise.
"Carrie, you are doing Tex Mex next?"

Carrie looked puzzled a moment. "You mean bar-B-Q, right?"

Heather sighed & rubbing her eyes, "Right, sorry. Is everything ready for
the bar-B-Q?"

"Yup, I just ordered the chips & everything!" Carrie replied.

"Great! Everyone is helping each other, right?" The crew nodded in 

"Fine. Cecilia, that was great chicken the other night," Heather repeated,

Whitelight looked concerned. "Heather, how long as it been since you slept?"

Heather looked confused. "Ummm, can't remember?"

Rebecca & Whitelight nodded at each other. "Time for this little cook to go
to bed," Whitelight said, leading Heather to the door.

Suddenly, a flock of N&NPackers came through the door of the dining room.
They were carrying sleeping bags.

"What are you doing here?" Rebecca asked, eyeing the sleeping bags.

"We got attacked," NiteRose explained. "There is a Sly Stallone film
festival playing non-stop in the theatre. They got the volume cranked."

"No one can sleep up there," Lab continued.

"Well you can't sleep in the dining room!" Heather asserted. "Go try the
wardrobe rooms down the hall."

The N&NPackers wandered away while Heather sank into a chair and considered
sobbing.  Sighing, she rose again and headed toward the stairs. "At least I
can take a shower. I never saw 'Cliffhanger' anyway" she murmured.

"I sure hope they get that turned off soon," Melissa said.  Frowning
slightly, the rest of the kitchencrew went back to their planning.


Heather L. Markle (hlmarkle@mhv.net)
N&N Packer
Keeper of the Sacred Bedroom



by Libby Singleton
beta read by Cousin Annie Raper (though she really
doesn't want to admit she had anything to do with
this one....)

TIME: Right after John Ewan's "No Time Like the

John Ewan and Cousin Annie used with permission.

     "Johnsie!" Libby cried, taking the steps into the basement two 
at a time.  "I still can't find me Screed.  I've seen all sorts o' 
Screeds, even one wit' a full 'ead o' curly red hair, but not me 
Screedy.  Them mean ol' Mercs upstairs been sayin' I kin find me
another Screed.  I don't want *another* Screed, I want the un wot 
luvs 'is Natsie!"

     Pausing at the bottom of the stairs, Libby looked around.  
The wonderful, make-a-Ratpacker-feel-right-at-home mess of broken 
plaster and electrical equipment the pinata busting had made
hadn't been touched.  Normally she'd rejoice in the chaos, but 
the fact John wasn't where she'd left him gave her pause.  She 
removed one of the vents and crawled into the wall.

     "John??? *J-Man*???  JOHN-NET-TE!!" she bellowed to no avail.  
A postcard pinned to a bit of remaining insulation caught her eye.  
It was a night scene of Las Vegas.  She turned it over to read the
back.  "'Back before dawn???' Wot sort o' jammy-jam nonsense is 
this???" Libby grumbled.  "Why tha' no gud fer nothin' sorry son 
o' a hamster!!!!  'E knew I always wanted ta go ta Vegas! *All* 
proper-like Ratpackers wanna ta go there!  An' I betcha 'e took
tha' bag o' coins wot the Nunkies give me in the penny-oughta!"

     Dozens if not hundreds of pairs of eyes which seemed to 
glow peered at her from all the nooks and crannies inside the 
Ratpackers' wall haven.  Libby held the postcard up so the rats 
could see.  "Lookie wot 'e done!" she shouted, beginning to rip 
the card to shreds.  "Gone done run off to Vegas, wot means 'lil
Libby's in charge o' the Ratsie pack an' me Screedy's on the 
loose an' there's a war goin on an....*Libby's*.... *I'm*.... 
in charge?"

     Libby paused as realization hit.  In charge? She was in 
charge of the Ratpack!!!  Her husband, her family, her boss and 
her co-workers back in Arkansas would be so... so... absolutely 

      It was a dream come true!

      Knowing she'd need to be in good health for such a 
responsibility, Libby opened her backpack to remove the now 
totally squashed peanut butter and low-sugar jelly sandwiches 
Cousin Annie had made her pack.  Speaking of whom, she noted 
with puzzlement that Annie's tennis shoes were gone.

     "Ah, well," Libby muttered sleepily as she scarfed down 
the sandwiches.  "The backsie-packsie wuz gettin' 'eavy 
anyways.  Got betta things ta worry 'bout 'sides a Cousin's 
tennie-pumps.  Gonna hafta figger out where ol' Johnsie keeps 
'is stashes o' shiny, pretty, nifty thingees.  Bet 'e's even 
got super glue somewheres."  She yawned and stretched,
causing dozens if not hundreds of ratsies to do the same.  
Smacking her mouth in satisfaction, Libby settled down into 
her nest of shredded papers and bits of cloth.  "Big thingees 
ahead, ay?" she muttered, too tired to even pull the Nunkies 
Fantasy Manual from safe keeping on her tummy for a brief look-see.

     Within minutes, a blanket of warm, fuzzy rats had covered 
her to keep her warm during her nap. Her dreams were full of 
leadership, power, profit and hundreds upon hundreds of Screeds 
(with a dozen or so Nunkies thrown in for good measure).


Libby - Alibbyp@aol.com
**Never try to teach a Ratpacker manners,
it just wastes your time and annoys the Ratpacker**

A Close Encounter of the Natalie Kind 1/2
by Annie Raper
Beta read by Libby Singleton and Cousin Robi
Time: After  'An Addict By Any Other Name' and prior to 
'The Quad Arrives at CERK'
Cousin Robi abused, er, used by permission

        She turned the corner and walked down the sidewalk.  She had 
to find *him*. She just had to.  She had searched high and low all 
over Toronto, and had run into many men who looked like *him*.  Alas, 
they were poor imitations, hallucinations conjured up by the Rift in 
the Time-Space Continuum.  Her rational brain understood this completely.  
As a scientist, anamolies of this nature were quite interesting to her.

        On the other hand, her not-so-rational brain, a more primal 
instinct, if you will, urged her to find *him*, her love, the man of 
her dreams.  She didn't give a rat's tail about the rift, she wanted 
her man.  And find him she would.


        Annie stood on the street watching the carouche make short work 
of the rat that had unwisely scurried into the alley.

        //He kissed me,// she thought, the realization of what had 
happened finally sinking in.  //I've been on the receiving end of a 
very sloppy carouche kiss! Eeoooowwww!!!  This is gonna take more than 
iodine to cure this. Eeooowww!!!//

        Annie was startled from her thoughts by a soft hand tapping her 
on the shoulder.

        "Annie?" Robi asked, the concern great in her voice.  "Uh, 
Annie, honey? What are you doing standing on the street during an 
endless, forever night?"

        "Huh?" Annie turned around in surprise.  "Oh! Hi, Robes. What 
am I doing?" She gaze went blank again.

        Robi waved her hand in front of Annie's face. "Heeelllloooo???? 
Anniebug? Earth to Annie," she said.  "Anybody home in there?"

        Numbly, Annie said, "Screed kissed me. He thought I was Natalie, 
and he kissed me.  It was .... more horrible than words can describe.  
He even said I smelled like her.... like a laboratory!!"  She continued 
to look blankly past Robes.  A cool, stiff wind blew her hair away from 
her face and brought brightly colored papers down the path.

        Robi looked at her friend and said, "Well, in certain lights, 
you do kind of look like Nat."  Robi stooped over and picked up two of 
the papers.  She read one... "'Kickstart the Knight:  for more 
information email KtKGal@aol.com'. That's easy enough." She made a 
mental note to email the Gal when she got back to CERK.  The full 
meaning of Annie's comment hit Robi and she jerked her head up from 
the flyer.

        "Screed kissed you?!  Eeoww!!! Oh, how terrible!"  She 
fumbled through her back pack for her official Nunkies Anonymous 
smelling salts, and waved them under Annie's nose.  When that didn't 
break the 'Bug out of her stupor, Robi thought about slapping her, 
but decided she might end up gagged, bound, and handcuffed to a desk.  
Those NA leaders can be vicious if they set their minds to it.

        "I can't believe he kissed you!  He thought you were Natalie?" 
Robi asked, killing time while trying something to bring her friend 
back to a state of lucidity.  "Eeeww!! Screed and Natalie?" The addict 
shuddered.  She glanced down at the second sheet of paper in her hand.  
A wicked smile slowly crossed her face, a bit of drool beginning to 
form at the corner of her mouth.  It was the perfect thing to bring an 
Anniebug out of Screed-induced stupor of revulsion.  It was .... 
'Lucius in Repose'.

        She waved the picture under Annie's nose.  "Here, Annie, look 
hard.  It's Nunkies.  It's the 'Thigh from Pompeii'.  Look, Annie, look."

        The fog began to lift from Annie's eyes, and a twinkle of 
lascivious admiration took it's place.  "Nunkies!" she murmured. She 
looked up from the picture and truly noticed Robi standing there. "Hi, 
Robes! What are you doing here?"

        "It's about time!" Robi exclaimed.  "I thought I'd lost you to 
horrors of a Screedy-slurp.  Boy, is Libby gonna be jealous!"

        "She probably will, but with all these Screeds running around, 
she's sure to get a smooch from *one* of them!  And," Annie said eyeing 
'Lucius' again, "I see she's opened her pinata.  This looks like the 
picture we snuck in with all the bright and shiny thingees (tm). Well, 
mon ami, since you're away from the Cousinly headquarters, how about 
helping me find my tennis shoes? I'm certain Libby has them."

        Robi nodded her assent, and the two addicts headed towards 
Merc Central.

Annie Raper
Cousin~CotK~Valentine~Founder, Nunkies Anonymous~FKXS~FORp
LC:"I do *not* have a warm and fuzzy side!" Oh, but Nunkies, we know you do!

Knight on Disco Mountain Part One

by Heidi Anderson (Light Cousin!, NA Member)

Time (Takes Place After Addicts in Love and War)

Thanks to:
Bonnie (Bons) Rutledge - Encouragement and Editing Powers That No Mortal
Should Possess
Cousinly Merc Lisa - Beta-Support and Kind Words
Cousin Robi - Agreeing to Something She Did Not Know She Was Getting Herself
Cousin Tserica - Giving Me the Inspiration
Most of All - Cousin Lisa McDavid - For Not Killing Off Joe and For
Understanding What I Meant!!!!


After leaving the Jeweled Peach and applying ointment to her wrists (from 
the Holy Handcuffs that Bonnie so vulgarly put on her for borrowing the 
Nunkies Fantasy Manual!)  Heidi seriously thought about whether or not to 
stay in Toronto for the War.  She was beginning to wonder if her FK 
obsession wasn't becoming a slight problem, not to mention a hazard to 
her health.  Her boyfriend had started teasing her.  The girls at work 
were asking what in the world were Cousins and Nunkies , and why was she 
a Light Cousin and not a Dark one.  She convinced them that the Cousins 
were a family list, and that FORKNI was a mailing list for better table 
etiquette, to which they sighed a breath of relief.  Heidi was a 
notoriously messy eater.

She decided that she would give her tapes away, unsub from all her lists, 
and try to focus on real life. Unfortunately real life had other plans...


Knight on Disco Mountain
Part Two

by Heidi Anderson (Still a Light Cousin, NA Member)

She went to her hotel and decided to go to out with some of her friends 
in town (the ones  that thought Forever Knight was that show about a 
talking car). < I need a night away from Forever Knight,> she thought.  
She put on her slinkiest outfit (her overalls and white satin shirt, 
complete with Birkenstocks and pigtails in her hair.  Slinkiness is a 
state of mind!)

She drove with her friends to a  night club in downtown Toronto 
(definitely not the Raven), where they played all of the right kinds 
of music - ABBA to Chic and Donna Summer.  She had even heard reports 
that the Mary Jane (or is that Mary Sue?) Girls were in the city and 
might be performing  nearby.  As they drove, she listened to them go 
on and on about a soap opera.   she 

Once in the club, she quickly downed three shots and Goldschlagger and 
got quite loopy.  She was doing the Macarena, the Farm Dance, and even 
the Electric Slide (although that last one went against every fiber in 
her being!)  Then it happened.  The music cued to a familiar tune, the 
fog machines came on, the disco ball spun round and round and the dance 
floor cleared.  None remained but one solitary figure.

//Well you can tell by the way I use my walk I'm a woman's man, no time 
for talk...//

The figure on the dance floor was clad in a shiny, white polyester suit, 
replete with platform shoes that contained goldfish in the heels. He 
had a multi-colored paisley shirt with large butterfly collars. His afro 
was as tall as it was wide, large enough to hide a small child in. You 
could smell the High Karate cologne from a mile away. And he was walking 
over to Heidi.

 Actually he was hustling over to her table, stopping briefly to swing 
his hands from his hips to the air in a very Travoltaesque fashion.

She froze in fear. , she thought. 

"Hey baby!  Is that a mirror in your pocket?  Cuz I sure can see 
myself in your pants,"  he not-so-eloquently exclaimed.

Heidi made herself sober up and gasped.  , she 



Knight on Disco Mountain
Part Three

by Heidi Anderson (Are they still allowing me in the LCL and NA Loops?)

 she thought.  

"She's a brick HOUSE.  She's mighty, mighty, letting it ALL hang out!" He
was now serenading her, much to the amusement of the entire drunken club.

Heidi closed her eyes and wished she had been drinking Shirley Temples. 
 she thought. 

When she opened her eyes, Captain Joe Reese was still standing before her.

"Baby, I feel some strange cosmic connection to you. Are you one of my 
ho's?" At this, her friends exploded into laughter, for her nickname 
was indeed Heidi-Ho.

"Listen, can we go somewhere and talk?" she pleaded, not wanting a scene.

"Why talk? Let's let our bodies do the talking, on the dance floor." With
this he grabbed her and spun her out onto the floor. As they were doing  
the bump, CoolJoe, as he wanted to be called, explained that he had been 
dancing on the floor of the Raven, that really hot club in his city, 
Toronto.  When he went into the bathroom to fluff his 'fro , he got dizzy 
and fell on his pick. He thought it was the Colt45 (Works Every Time!), 
but when he came out of the bathroom he was at this club.

"I saw you from across the room, and knew you were the one, the only one, 
built like an Amazon."

"You mean every other woman laughed in your face?"

"Baby they was thinking of the delight BigJoe could bring.  You know the 
kind of loving that goes on ALL night long." With that, he thrust his 
crotch into hers. She promptly fell down. 

Sitting on the floor, choking from the noxious combination of the fog 
machine smoke and "BigDaddyJoe"s cologne, Heidi thought for a minute, 
and then it dawned on her. The war. That darn, blasted, bleeping war 
was invading her life, whether she liked it or not.

"I guess we need to get you to, wait I have no idea where to take you.  
I can't take you to the police station dressed like that."

"The police? You turning BigJoe in?  You a narc?"

"Not quite! I'm a Light Cousin. To some people, though, its the same thing."

"I guess I can see if the Cousins will let you stay at CERK."  She briefly
thought about taking him to the real Raven, and started laughing at the 
thought of Janette doing the bus stop with  Joe 'The Pimpman' Reese.

"Baby, JoeDaddy got it all under control and gonna make it nice as spice.
Awww yea!" With this he pulled out a roll of bills. "We can stay at my 
special hotel. They give me and my girls a quantity discount, only $20 an
hour. However, we can stay all night long if you want." He picked her up
and started spinning her on the dance floor. 

As the Goldschlagger returned upward at the thought of a night of passion 
with LL Cool Joe, Heidi hoped that bringing him to CERK would cause a 
vampire, any vampire, to feed off him and rid herself of the problem at 

Comments and Lessons in Taste to aldeheide@aol.com 
"A Less Permanent Hell"

Cousin Tser 
(Third) Cousin Patt 

Outside Cousin HQ, CERK building
Right after the cousin's Temporal Briefing, "To Talk of Many Things" 
and the registry, "Famous LaCroixs for $400, Alex" More or less 
concurrent with later events in "CERK After Dark - Hot Zone Part III"

People here within are used with permission.

Part One of Two:


Cousin Tserisa exited the CERK building experiencing a *distinct* 
headache. At least it wasn't a migraine, she thought thankfully. Tser 
had suffered from those since second grade and didn't fancy getting one 
in the middle of an... incident... such as this. Temporal mechanics 
was fun, but not *that* fun.

For the past several hours she'd been facing a room of LaCroixs and 
anxious cousins, trying to explain such things as temporal shifts, 
multi-verse theories and the basics of quantum signatures to a dozen 
or so Generals who all believed, rightly, that they were the one true 
LaCroix. How does one explain to them, this *group* of LaCroixs who 
cherish their individuality and their superiority above all else, a 
theory which makes them as unindividual as white shirts on a rack?

Well, she'd have to leave that little ego problem to be handled by 
the other cousins, Tser decided. She sighed deeply, knowing that her 
most daunting task had still not been addressed -- how to separate 
the LaCroix of this spacial frame from the interlopers.

Tser rubbed her temples with her fingers. "Oh, drat. I finally get 
to experience temporal rifts in the multi-verse first hand, and it 
turns out to be a huge mess," she grumbled aloud to herself.

Behind her, Tser heard a door creak. She looked back and watched as 
one of the cousins exited. The woman looked around and, spotting Tser, 
walked over.

"That was some lecture you delivered in there a while ago," the Cousin 
said casually.  "You looked worn out when you left, so I thought you 
might need a couple of these."

As the woman reached into her pocket, Tser studied her. Tser recognized 
her from the NA meetings, but had never met her. "You're Patt, aren't you?"

"Huhh, oh, yes, sorry," the short woman laughed. "I just guessed by now 
that everyone would know my loud mouth. Didn't dawn on me that we hadn't 
been introduced. Here."

Patt pulled out a small white bottle and handed it toward Tser. Tser 
accepted the acetaminophen geltabs with a slight smile. "Do I look 
*that* bad?"

"No," Patt responded, "but you do look tired."

Tser laughed, just a touch of irony in her tone. "Well, that might 
be an accurate statement."

"Now me," Patt continued, leaning on a wall near where Tser stood, 
"I don't get headaches. When life's pressures start taking their 
toll on me, my body starts acting up at the other end. The pill 
companies may not be getting rich off me, but Dijelly sure is."

"Probably my punishment for all the spicy food I've eaten all my life," 
she added with a grin.

Tser laughed despite the way she felt. The laugh eased the headache 
as much as the pills that she'd dry swallowed. Turning, she saw Patt's 
face was serious.

"Have you got any idea how to resolve this, Tser?"

Tser shrugged. "Actually, in theory, spacial anomalies when left 
alone usually heal themselves. The most important thing is that, for 
the rift to truly heal, it is theorized that all elements must be 
back where they belong.

"All the LaCroixs will have to go home and life will return to its 
usual, boring self," Tser said. Patt heard the tinge of regret in 
the other woman's voice. No, more than a tinge... a powerful ache.

"This temporal/Dr. Whoozit stuff really intrigues you, doesn't it?" 
Patt looked at the other Cousin skeptically. Tser nodded.

"I've been *fascinated*," she turned a quick glance at Patt to see 
if she'd caught the veiled reference. The older woman chuckled at 
Tser's joke, "by this kind of stuff since I was old enough to read," 
Tser admitted.

"Well, me, I'm more a behavioral observer than a conceptual one," 
Patt returned. "I guess that's why I chose social work. I like to 
study interaction, reaction and what makes a person, not a universe, 

Both women looked at each other, then burst into laughter. All their 
pontificating was beginning to sound much too... stolid.

"I'm supposed to be here for a combination vacation and dog agility 
match," Patt finally managed to say, wiping the tears of mirth from 
her eyes. "I came up here from Louisiana a few weeks early to help a 
couple of friends who'd gotten themselves in trouble with the law.  
Now, I seem to have gotten myself all wrapped up in some universal 
rip in the seat."

"Toga," Tser corrected. Both women broke into uncontrollable laughter 

"He did have some nice knees, though," Patt commented, remembering one 
of the LaCroixs that they'd met inside CERK. "The one that blew me away, 
though, was the James Blondie."

Tser clutched her stomach. "Speaking of *doctors*," she barely managed 
to say between her own gulps of laughter. "Did you see the one with the 
stethoscope?  I'll bet you that he's a proctologist."

Patt's eyes glittered with delight. "I'll just bet he might know some 
way to rectum-fy this situation," she giggled.

Both women screamed softly in hysteric delight.

"I certainly hope no other Cousins come out and catch us," Patt finally 
managed to say, gasping for breath. "They might not be as amused by all 
this as we are."

Tser suddenly grew serious. "It's not really funny, you know. So far, 
all of our *LaCroixs* have been pretty tame. It's bound to happen soon 
or later that we'll run into one that isn't so nice."

Patt sobered.  "What do you mean?"

"Well, think about it," Tser said. "Vampires, by their nature, drink 
blood. Human blood."

"Yeah, what's you point?"

Tser looked off into the night. "Somewhere in one of those parallel 
universes is bound to be a reality where there is at least one LaCroix 
who is a *true* vampire. One who looks on us as a food source, and 
nothing else. It's more likely that there are several universes which 
have LaCroixs who *use* humans for very nasty purposes, not taking note 
of our finer points and abilities. There's a very, very good chance 
that he or they might be arriving here in the very near future."

"...if they're not already here," Patt completed the thought.

Both women stood there, lost in their own thoughts. Suddenly, the night 
seemed colder. Patt shivered.

"You'll have to excuse me, Tser, but my southern blood is chilling, 
even in *summertime* Toronto. Guess I'd better get back inside. You 

"In a minute," Tser replied. Patt went to the CERK door and, casting 
one glance back at the girl, went inside the station.

Tser began walking, absently, lost in thought. She walked along the 
sidewalk, in no particular direction, theories and postulations taking 
up most of her brain space. She ran a hand through her buzz cut hair.
There had to be something that she was missing...

A stirring of air brought her out of her daze, startled. She looked 
around, staring into the shadowy recesses surrounding her. Where was 
she?  *Stupid!* she chided herself. She knew better than to walk alone 
in the middle of the night in the city.

Of course, that didn't matter now. She was alone, on a dark street, in 
the middle of Toronto. Cities had always made her nervous. In the woods, 
the dark didn't scare her at all. But in the city, with all those weirdos 
running around...

As if in response to her thoughts, Tser suddenly felt herself jerked to 
the right and pulled behind a pile of cardboard boxes. Roughly, someone 
pushed her head to the side, pressing it against an exterior wall.  
Two extremely strong hands held her motionless.

"Please," she gasped.

She heard her attacker mumble under his breath.

"You've really lost it now, LaCroix," murmured a familiar, deep voice.
"You're so under-nourished that you're hallucinating.  So lonely that 
even the flesh of your dreams has become soft, warm and alive."

Tser tried to roll her eyes so that she could glimpse her assailant.  
The hands pushed her face harder against the brick surface.

"So far gone," the voice continued, "that you can hear your imaginary prey.  
So tortured a being that in your feverish delusions, you can detect the 
heart beat of a non-existent mortal.

"Perhaps. Perhaps, LaCroix," it continued softly, "you shall die sooner 
than you thought. Perhaps," the silken voice said, pausing to chuckle 
wryly, "your *hell* is not so permanent as once believed."

"LaCroix," Tser gasped, recognizing his voice. The strong fingers 
crushing her face tensed. Heart pounding in fear, she managed to choke 
his name again. "LaCroix, please!"

The hands pinning her immediately loosened their grip, though not enough 
to let Tser go. After a moment of stricken silence, LaCroix chuckled again.

"Think, LaCroix," he said. "If this *is* your hunger-induced hallucination, 
then obviously it would know your name, hmm?"

"You don't sound," Tser paused to cough, trying to get air down her 
windpipe in such an unnatural position, "delusional, General, sir.  
You sound like quite your lucid, eloquent self."  She twisted, trying 
to position her head so that she could look into LaCroix's eyes, which 
she had no doubt were glowing gold at the moment. No luck. He was too 

The LaCroix holding her pulled her away from the building and stood her, 
still immobile and in a compromising position. "Really, my dear delusion?" 
he said.

"Really, General, sir. I can try to explain what you're doing here," 
Tser spluttered, unnerved by the fact LaCroix, from whichever reality 
he was, had one cool hand on her exposed neck.

LaCroix released her head and turned her around so that she was looking 
straight at him.  His eyes were blue, not gold, and his fangs weren't 

"Indeed? What makes you think that I don't know exactly where I am and 
what I'm doing here? This is my delusion, my memories and, alas, a memory 
cannot feed the body. However," his tone changed abruptly.  "A memory can 
feed the soul."

He laughed drily, his mouth twisting up in a half-smile. "I believe I've 
missed the companionship more than the... nourishment....  So," his eyes 
were ice on Tser's skin, "my non-existent little friend, enlighten me.
Where do you think I am?"

For a minute, all Tser could do was stare. She nearly collapsed -- maybe 
she would have if his hands had not been holding her shoulders.

This LaCroix... it was painful just to look at him. He looked so drawn, 
so frail. Yes, his skin was supposed to be pale, but this LaCroix's 
flesh was dry, almost ashy in appearance. There was no sign of moisture 
in his skin. His eyes, though brilliant as the sky, seemed sunken into 
their crevices.

Tser's heart thudded in her chest. So weak looking, so... tired.  
*He's starving,* she realized with a start. Yet even in her sudden 
fear, she couldn't take her eyes from his. They were the same blue 
as *her* LaCroix -- limitless, deep. But these eyes -- the eyes tore 
at the soul.  They were so lonely, so riddled with pain.

Tser felt tears well up in her eyes. She couldn't stop their flow, 
hot and salty, onto her cheeks. "Oh, God, LaCroix, where....?"

"Where?" In that instant he changed, dramatically. Now the gold 
flecking was evident in his look. "I thought, dear delusion, that 
you were to tell me *where*."

His voice was angry now and Tser felt fear, true fear, for the first 
time since this ordeal had begun. This is what she had been afraid of.

A desperate LaCroix. One from a universe where even *his* survival was 
questionable. One who couldn't afford to let a meal go. A LaCroix who 
had to think of humans as cattle, in order to survive.

"Wait," she tried to squirm, to reason with the being that held her fast.
 His grip only tightened.

"Wait for what, phantom lie," he hissed. "Wait until I am too weak 
to enjoy this dream? Wait until you vanish in a haze of mist and shadow?
Until once again I am surrounded by the grey dust of long-dead bodies?"

"I'm not going to disa --" her voice was choked off by his tightened grip.  
She resisted the urge to gag, his hand pressing against the base of her 
throat. She sucked in a shuddering breath.

LaCroix looked at her solemnly. His now golden eyes seemed glazed over, 
with what, Tser didn't know. Sadness, starvation, pain, loneliness, 
anger?  "You know," he hissed through his fangs, "you aren't a very good 
conversationalist, fleeting phantasm. Perhaps you taste better than you 

Tser felt him closing, felt the sharp fangs touch the soft flesh of her 
exposed neck. Suddenly, being a vampire's consort wasn't as romantic as 
she thought it would be.

She screamed. Screamed bloody murder and hoped that this whole damned 
Province would wake up and hear her.

Tser suddenly heard a dull *twack* and LaCroix went limp against her, 
pulling her down with his weight. As he crumpled to the ground, Tser 
looked up to see Patt standing there. The other woman was working her 
mouth mutely, a beer bottle clutched in her right hand.

"I... I... " Patt struggled to find her voice as Tser wriggled out 
from under LaCroix and picked herself up off the ground. "I... I... 

end part one... continued in part two

"A Less Permanent Hell"

Cousin Tser 
(Third) Cousin Patt 

People in this story used with permission.

Part Two of Two:


Tserisa sank to her knees on the ground beside LaCroix's limp body, 
shaking. She closed her green eyes and took, deep, slow breaths. Tser 
rubbed her temples once more, her headache having returned with full 
force. "Thanks," she said, her voice barely more than a whisper.  
"I, for one, forgive you for such a heinous crime," she said.

Patt extended her hand, which Tser accepted gratefully, willing her 
trembling legs to support her.

"You alright?" Patt asked, forcing a smile. She looked down at the 
heavy body of LaCroix.

Tser rubbed her neck. "Yeah, no harm done. Nothing permanent anyway." 
She could already feel bruises forming on the abused flesh of her neck, 
and the raw skin where her face had been smashed against the brick wall, 
but she knew it was nothing compared to what could have happened.

"I can't believe he fell that easily," Patt said, looking down at 
LaCroix, feeling weak and unsteady herself. She was obviously having 
difficulty accepting the fact that she'd struck the General, much less 
way-laid him.

"He... he looks awful," Patt continued quietly, distress evident in her 
voice. "I don't want to imagine where he's from." She paused, taking a 
deep, shuddering breath. "We should get him back to CERK," she said 
finally, looking up at Tser.

Tser nodded, silent, and they pulled LaCroix up. Each woman wrapped a 
muscled arm over their shoulders and began dragging the unconscious 
figure toward the Cousin's HQ.

"Hope he doesn't wake up," Tser murmured.

Patt shot her a sideways glance. "Don't jinx it."

Tser smiled slightly, sheepishly.  "Knock on wood."

During the few steps to the door, Tser closed her eyes, allowing the 
cool night air to help clear her thoughts. They pulled LaCroix up to 
the door of CERK and Patt knocked on the door.

A weary cousin with a suspicious look opened the door and peered out.
"Oh, Patt, it's you!" Cousin Jules said. Her green eyes widened at 
the burden they were carrying. "Oh no, another one?" she asked. "We're 
running out of space." LaCroix's personal assistant opened the door 
wider and Tser and Patt pulled LaCroix into the building.

"I think this one has to go in the dungeon," Patt said grimly as she 
and Tser lowered him to the floor.

"Do you really think a dungeon could hold him?" Tser asked quietly.  
She looked down at LaCroix's still motionless form.  "Despite how...
starved," her voice caught on the word, "he is, he's still our General."

Jules looked from Patt to Tser to the immobile LaCroix on the floor.
"Well, it'll have to do. They were built to hold vampires," she said 
reassuringly. Then, taking in the rather shoddy appearance of the two 
disheveled cousins, Jules added, "You two look exhausted."

The auburn-haired Cousin's eyes moved to Tser's neck, but she 
diplomatically said nothing.

Tser smiled thankfully. "People keep telling me that tonight." She 
rubbed her eyes and sighed. "They're right," she said, then grinned.

Patt nodded in affirmation. "He's pretty heavy by the way. Care to give 
us a hand?"

The three Cousins managed to maneuver the unconscious LaCroix into a 
cell, locking the door firmly behind him.

"So what's with this LaCroix?" Jules asked gently as the heavy iron key 
clicked in the lock.

Patt shook her head dourly. "He doesn't have much respect for human life.  
But, then again, we don't know why. He looks pretty awful, so he probably 
has a reason for being a bit ...gruff. Whatever he's been through..." she 
choked out, "well, I won't blame him for his actions for now."

"His universe must've...." Tser didn't finish the thought. "I don't know..."
Tser said quietly. "He's sad."

Patt and Jules looked at her, but said nothing.

"I'm going to go take a nap," Tser said, breaking the silence. She rolled 
her head wincing as she stretched sore muscles. "Could someone get me 
when he wakes up?" she asked, gesturing to the motionless form in the cell.

"Sure," Patt said, as Tser, glancing back one last time, left the dungeon.

Patt turned to her friend. "He's going to be hungry when he wakes. I'm 
sure *our* LaCroix... whoever and whichever he is... wouldn't mind us 
getting into his private store. Heck, at this point, I could use a drink 
myself. Do we still have any of the plastic pack Peach Schnapps left?"


Cousin Tser trudged up to her room and let herself collapse on the bed.
She made it a point not to look in the mirror. She didn't bruise easily, 
but she was sure that the attack was fairly obvious.

She took a deep breath, trying to clear her mind. She was tired.
Exhausted really. It didn't help that one of the cousinly goats had 
left a... present... on the floor outside her door. Who was it that was 
supposed to be Cousinly Goat Herd Manager? Tser couldn't remember, her 
thoughts whirling just out of reach.

Tser forced herself to get up and shuffled into the bathroom. She wetted 
down her hair, which had managed to squish flat on one side and stick 
up all bushy on the other. She smiled. Maybe while in Toronto she would 
get it re-buzzed to half an inch. It was really getting annoyingly long.

She washed her face with ice cold water. The chill helped her focus, and 
she went back into the bedroom. She walked over to the 60 gallon aquarium 
by her bed which held the Cousinly Snakies, her three pet royal pythons, 
Mist, Sesha and Nrgwenya.

"Everybody alright in there?" she asked, more to comfort herself than 
the deaf snakes. Cousin Mist stuck out her tongue lazily, her head just 
visible beneath the hide-box, and flicked it on the aspen shavings that 
lined the cage.

Tser let herself lay back on the bed and shut her eyes. Sleep took her 


A tentative knock came at her door. Tser woke from sleep with a start 
and stared around wildly for a minute until she realized where she was.
"Um, come in," she said groggily.

Cousin Zeonia peeked her head around the door and looked Tser over.  
"Hi, you're Cousin Tserisa, right?" she asked.

Tser stood up and stretched.  "Yeah, hi."

"I'm Cousin Zeonia. Third Cousin Patt told me to tell you that, um, 
the LaCroix you found, he woke up. Also, I'm going to take you to see 
the doctor," Cousin Zeonia said.  She had a slight smile on her face.

Tser cringed. "Huh? Who? I'm not that bad off. I don't need to." Tser 
detested going to the doctor. She backed up slightly, away from the 
Cousin who suggested the contemptible journey, and accidently stepped 
on Cousin Gwendolyn, who yelled in pained protest.

"Oh, sorry, Gwen," Tser said, and patted the Cousinly Kitty's head.

Cousin Zeonia reached out and took Tser's hand, leading her out the room.
"Oh, you'll like this doctor," she said, chuckling softly.

She pulled Tser out the door. "NO, watch out for the --"

Zeonia looked down with disgust. "Ewww. Where's the Cousinly Keeper of 
the Goat Herd?" She sidestepped the mess easily.  "Ah well, I missed it.
No harm done. Thanks for warning me." She pulled Tser around it and down 
the hall.

Cousin Zeonia led Tser past the padded cell, which contained a rather 
irritated Janette. She motioned to a room. "In here," she said, ushering 
Tser inside. Tser looked in and saw the doctor LaCroix from the temporal 
briefing. She couldn't resist a smile.

"Ah, I see what you meant," Tser said. She looked at Zeonia suspiciously.  
"Did Patt put you up to this?"

"Come in," Dr. LaCroix said, and motioned to a chair. "I'll be right with 

"When a doctor says that, you can expect a three hour wait," Tser said 
good-naturedly. She sat in a chair next to Zeonia. "So, he giving you 
any trouble at all?"

Zeonia shrugged. "Nope. He's pretty good with his patients. We haven't 
had anything serious... a hangnail, a few scraped knees, and an acute 
case of indigestion.  Once in a while, though, he says something to them 
like, 'I'm sorry, its hopeless, and you only have three minutes to live.'  
Then he whammies them and makes preparations to eat. Good thing I'm a 

Tser grinned at Zeonia. "What're you doing so he doesn't eat the 
patients?" she asked.

"Keeping him very full. Lucky our LaCroix, whoever and whichever he is, 
has a large stash of bottled blood." She smiled.

Dr. LaCroix was faster to see her than any doctor Tser had ever met and 
quickly completed her examination. Tser attributed the swiftness to his 
vampiric abilities.

"You'll survive." he remarked, touching his stethoscope absently. 
"There's not much I can do for the bruises or scrapes, but I'd suggest 
you make an effort to keep them clean, and I'm giving you an antiseptic 
cream." He handed her the tube.

Tser looked at it then up at Dr. LaCroix with feigned disappointment.
"What, no leeches?"

Dr. LaCroix rolled his eyes and shut his medicine case. "I like trauma 
patients so much better," he complained, sighing. "They don't usually 
have the capacity to talk back." Cousin Zeonia giggled a little.

Tser shot her a smile. "Well, I gotta go. Thanks," she said to her 
fellow cousin and the doctor.  She put the tube of antiseptic in her 
pocket and headed towards the lobby to find Cousin Shelley, keeper of 
the "Cousinly Registry".

She spotted her across the room and flagged her down.

"Sorry to bother you," Tser apologized.

"Quite alright," Shelley said, glancing back at Lush Nick, who was 
wolf-whistling at one of the Cousins. Shelley scowled at him.  She 
turned back to Tser. "What can I do for you?" she asked.

"Well, I found a LaCroix," Tser said, looking over Shelley's shoulder 
at Nick. "Got your hands full, don't you?" she asked.

Shelley sighed. She cocked her head towards the elevator to the war 
room, guiding Tser inside and up to the "Cousinly Registry of Alternate 
Beings". She prepared the quill pen with which she recorded each new 
entry and pulled open the thick, leatherbound book with practiced 
swiftness to the first blank page. Tser stared for a second at the 
large amount of paper already taken up by LaCroixs, and the occasional 
Nick, Natalie, Divia or Janette.

"Okay," Shelley said. "So, what do you know about *this* LaCroix?" She 
held her pen poised above the paper.

Tser took a deep breath. "Well, he attacked me. That's how I found him.
He's also practically starved to death.  Patt was able to knock him out 
with a beer bottle."

Shelley paused and looked at Tser carefully. "Attacked? Are you okay?"

Tser smiled. "Oh, sure, I'm fine. Just a little jumpy. Um, my LaCroix 
is in the dungeon.  I don't know if he'll stay there or not."

Shelley scratched down his current location. "Maybe he should, if he 
attacked you," she said.

"I don't want to keep him there," Tser said quietly. "He's lonely as it 
is. He was starving, when he attacked me. He didn't even know I was real.

"Wherever he's from" Tser continued, her voice far away in thought "...
it's empty, dead and cold, and he's alone and hungry."

"Sounds like hell," Shelley said softly.

Tser looked at her and nodded slightly.

"Well, we can call him 'Tser's LaCroix' for now," Shelley said.  "I'm 
putting a warning in here, 'kay?"

"Sure," Tser said.

"Alright," Shelley said. "Just get back to me when you know a little bit 
more about him." She smiled, closing the book and tucking away the pen.

Lush Nick was slouched over on the reception counter, opening the 
mailboxes and going through all the letters he found within. Shelley 
looked over with a grimace. "Excuse me," she said in an annoyed tone.
Tser nodded and grinned as Shelley went over to remove Lush Nick from 
the scene.

Tser turned and sighed as she headed for the dungeon.



Continued in "Wherefore Thou Alone"

    Source: geocities.com/televisioncity/5077

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