War: Does Your Faction Know that You're Out? (1/1)
by Bonnie Rutledge
with Third Cousin Patt, Cousin Jules, and Cousin Cherri
Special guest appearance by Vachon's Guitar
Lyrics written by Anderssen/Ulvaeus
Time: After 'Nunkies?'
      Before and after 'To Talk Of Many Things'
      Before 'A Less Permanent Hell'

     Bonnie scurried worriedly up to where Jules leaned against the front
door entrance, clutching Vachon's guitar with a puzzled look on her face.

     "LaJules! You'll never guess who I just saw!"

     "I don't want to guess. Tell me."

     Bonnie sighed. "Sometimes you can be so...Cousinly!"

     "Thank you. You were saying?..."

     "I just ran into Cherri, and she said she doesn't want the guitar back
yet. We have to hide it again."

     Jules gestured to the crowd of Cousins still being scanned for
clearance so they could go to the briefing. "But we have to go to the
meeting - we'll hide it afterwards." Once the meeting was over, however,
Bonnie was a wee bit distracted. For one, there was a Lacroix in a toga
running about. That was enough to bedevil even those with the slightest
Nunkies Addicted tendencies. Patt and Jules sought her out instead, Patt
handing her the keys to her truck.

     "Huh? What's this for?"

     "I can't go with you to hide the guitar," Jules explained. "Something's
come up here, and I need to stay. Take Patt's truck, and be careful."

    "But...but shouldn't we report the alternates we've seen to Shelley or
the Leaders first?"

    "Don't worry," Patt insisted. "One of us will do it. Just go. Conceal
the instrument."


     Bons took the time to change clothes and put on some new clunky shoes.
Within minutes, she sat behind the wheel of Patt's truck with Vachon's
guitar at her side and sped along Yonge. As her foot slipped off the
accelerator for the third time, Bonnie cursed privately that operating a
motorized vehicle while wearing non-sensible footwear was a lamentably
under-appreciated art form.

    "Well, I can dance with ya, honey,
     If ya think it's funny,
     Does Your Mother Know That You're Out?
     And I can chat with ya, baby,
     Flirt a little maybe,
     Does Your Mother Know That You're Out?"

     Yes, Bonnie was singing ABBA tunes again, but this time the only one
groaning in protest was the truck's brakes.

     "Hmmmm..." she muttered softly. "If I was hiding something (which I am)
where would I hide said thing where it would remain undiscovered? Hmmmm...I
know! Somewhere absolutely and totally gross! A slacker would not go there
willingly! *I* would not go there willingly. I will hide the guitar there!

     And, against her will, she did.

     Bonnie returned safely to CERK, guitar hidden once more, then joined
Cherri in a quest to find the Pompeii Lacroix so that they could look up his
toga. At least, until Jules and Patt found her...


Send Comments to:  br1035@ix.netcom.com


"Wherefore Thou Alone"

Cousin Tser 

With help from:
Cousin 'Chele 
Cousin Robi 

People are used in this story with permission.

This takes place directly after "A Less Permanent Hell".


But wherefore thou alone? Wherefore with thee Came not all hell 
broke loose?

                                ~~ Milton


Cousin Tserisa took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, pausing at the 
entrance to the dungeon. She opened the heavy oaken door, which was 
very out-of-place with the rest of the Cousinly HQ's decor, and started 
down the steps.

There was an immediate change of atmosphere. Whereas the upper part of 
CERK was comfortable, with a distinct cousinly atmosphere, there was a 
sharp change in the environment as soon as one stepped onto the huge 
blocks that served as steps down to the dungeon.

The dungeon was walled in huge, grey stone blocks. It was cool and damp, 
though not uncomfortably so. The whole room was of muted greys, a very 
un-cousin-like pallor. Most cousins preferred rich, dark colors over the 
pale, sallow grey of the dungeon. The doors to the cell were heavy and 
oak, with wrought iron bars over a small window at the top, and a small, 
locking wrought iron door near the bottom, just the right size for passing 
through wine bottles. It was somehow made to keep in vampires, but the 
General had never explained to his ranks how.

The dungeon was very rarely used. The padded cell in the upper part of 
the building was used more than the medieval style dungeon. It was so 
rarely used, some Cousins hadn't even known about it before this war.  
It was the basement level of CERK, and underground. It was lit by huge, 
yellow candles in sconces on the wall. They melted and dripped in eerie 
tendrils, and the acrid smoke from their flames was carried out of the 
room by a very high-tech and out-of-place air circulation system.

Cousin Tser was surprisingly comfortable in the underground oubliette...
she always liked a medieval, gothic atmosphere. Still, when she entered 
the dungeon, she found it unsettling.

It was oddly quiet. Aside from a few of the cells that were filled (no 
doubt with alternate beings from other realities that just didn't fit 
in), the dungeon was empty. There were no other cousins in the dungeon.
Tser swallowed. She moved to the cell that held the LaCroix she had found.

He was sitting with his back to the door, on the single wooden bench in 
the small cell. He didn't hear her come up, or he chose to ignore her 
presence. Tser bit her lip apprehensively. At his feet were almost a 
dozen empty wine bottles, drained, and arranged neatly in rows.

Tser gathered up all her courage and cleared her throat. Someone in the 
cell next to her LaCroix's stirred -- Cousin Tser deliberately avoided 
looking into it.

LaCroix didn't move. "Please tell your friends 'thank you' for the 
blood," he said, his voice smooth and calm.

"Yes, sir," Tser said quickly.

"Ah, it's you," LaCroix said, amusement evident in his voice. "How's 
the neck?"

Tser's mouth opened, but she couldn't get words to form. "'Sokay," she 
muttered, her hand moving up to rub the heavy bruises lightly. He still 
sat with his back to the door, motionless. "Sir," she said, "I'm sorry 
we had to put you in the dungeon," she choked out, clearing her throat.
"I'm... sorry," she repeated, finishing lamely.

LaCroix turned towards her, shrugging slightly. "Understandable. I did, 
after all, attempt to take your life." He smiled slightly.

"Yes, well," Tser said weakly.

"I won't do it again," LaCroix said lightly, his tone wrought with irony.

Tser looked at him for a moment. He still looked quite terrible, though 
his face was not as pasty or mask-like, and some of the moisture had 
returned to his skin. His eyes, though, were still dusted with intense 
pain and sorrow. His intense gaze was unsettling and uncomfortable.

"Why don't we go upstairs to the salon to talk?" Tser suggested 
uncomfortably. "I'll, um, try to explain what's going on."

"If you trust me," he said with wry amusement.

Tser retrieved the ring of large, wrought iron keys, and turned the 
appropriate one in the lock. LaCroix stood. As the key clicked in the 
keyhole, the being in the next cell moved about again. Tser pulled the 
door open slightly. She paused, wondering exactly what she had gotten into.


LaCroix and Tser found an empty table in the Cousinly Salon, the Cousin's 
socializing room. It was a large, comfortable room with squooshy chairs, 
a great sound system, a self-service bar, and a wonderful Cousinly 
atmosphere.  Shooing away one of the Cousinly Goats which had somehow 
made its way into the room, Tser got herself an iced tea and LaCroix a 
glass of thick, red blood.

Cousin Robi noticed them enter and came over. "Hello," she said, glancing 
with a slight, nervous smile at the LaCroix who accompanied Tser. All the 
cousins had already heard to stay clear of him, if possible.

"Why don't you sit down?" Tser asked, motioning to the empty chair beside 
her, glad for the company. She didn't want to be alone.

Robi smiled knowingly and situated herself in the seat.

"So," LaCroix said silkily to Tserisa, "what is your name, or shall I 
continue to call you Dear Delusion?" Cousin Robi looked at Tser confusedly, 
but Tser shot her a look that meant *I'll tell you later,* and turned back 
to LaCroix.

"I'm Cousin Tserisa," she said, "and this is Cousin Robi."

"Cousin Tserisa," he said quietly, testing the name.  "Interesting.
Pleasure to meet you both.  You already know my name."

"We know your name, but it'll get rather confusing because there are 
a lot of LaCroixs around right now," Robi commented.

"A lot of LaCroixs?" LaCroix asked, frowning.

Tser swallowed nervously, and wiped at the water ring on the table 
from her drink. "Yeah, I should explain that to you, because you'll 
no doubt be meeting -- others -- soon. It's how you came into this 
reality. See, there's a rift in the Space-Time Continuum, and people 
from alternate realities are coming through --"

She was cut off when Cousin 'Chele entered, Detective Schanke in tow.
But it wasn't "Detective" Schanke... it was "Ranger" Schanke from the 
Wild West. Tser had met him and 'Chele at the Temporal Briefing. He 
was proving to be a handful for 'Chele.

Chele rolled her eyes and turned to him. "Look, why don't you go amuse 
yourself, hmmm?  I'm sure there are all kinds of things here you've 
never seen before. Just don't leave without me, okay?"

Schanke drew himself up and huffed at her, "I'm a Ranger. I kin take 
care of myself."

Chele raised an eyebrow and tilted her head. "Do I really have to 
mention the escalator again?" she asked archly.

Schanke turned beet red and executed an about face, heading deeper 
into the salon without a word. Chele smirked and drew up a chair, 
turning to LaCroix. "Hello. I'm Chele, if you don't know."

LaCroix nodded slightly. "Charmed."

"I rest my case," Tser grumbled.

LaCroix raised his eyebrows. "You're saying that different realities 
are converging on this point due to an anomaly in the make-up of space 
time?" he said curiously. "That means that there is more than one LaCroix...
and more than one Schanke," he finished distastefully.

Tser looked up sharply, surprised he caught on so quickly, though she 
supposed when one was ripped suddenly from a reality that obviously 
was quite different from this one, one might be open to new ideas.  
"Uh, yeah..." she said. "And more than one Vachon, and more than one 

It was LaCroix's turn to look up sharply. He stirred his drink with his 
finger as 'Chele glanced over at her charge, who was at the bar, 
investigating the refrigerator, opening it and closing it, wondering at 
the cold air within. Cousin Kimee wandered over to him, grinning widely, 
and led him to the stereo equipment. "And these alternates... they are 
all different?" LaCroix asked.

Cousin 'Chele shrugged. "Well, some are, you know. Uh, like that Doctor 
LaCroix who works with trauma patients... and the Dream LaCroix straight 
out of Alice in Wonderland," she said. "But some are closer to the 
General *we* know and love -- whoever and whichever he is. The same 
personality wise, that is, but from totally different realities."

Tser smiled slightly. "You know what's funny -- of all the LaCroix's 
I've met so far, you're the one that's closest to ours. You speak like 
him, and you have the same attitude. But you're from a reality that's 
so different -- I mean, I assume so," she finished quickly.

"Quite," LaCroix said slowly.

"Our LaCroix is missing," Cousin Robi said softly. "He disappeared right 
after the rift opened."

"What's your reality like?" Tser asked quietly.

LaCroix looked at her for a second, then set his glass of blood on 
the table. "Well, I suppose you deserve to know," he said, a slight 
smile curling his lips. "I'm sure my behavior is confusing, to say 
the least."

Tser shrugged slightly. "I must admit, I was, uh, caught off guard," 
she said smiling slightly.

"My reality," LaCroix said, "is hell."

continued in part two

"Wherefore Thou Alone"

Cousin Tser 

With help from:
Cousin 'Chele 
Cousin Robi 

Continued from part one.


The three Cousins froze and watched LaCroix motionlessly.

LaCroix continued. "I lost track of the years at forty. What does time 
matter when one's alone?" he asked. "I don't know how long it's been -- 
a century, half a century, a thousand years? It doesn't matter."

"Since what?" Cousin Robi asked.

"The comet," LaCroix said simply.

Tser drew in a breath. "Comet," she repeated dumbly.

"It hit the earth and threw up a cloud of dust and ice and fire so 
thick the sun didn't shine anymore. Eternal night," LaCroix said slowly.
"Night is all well and good, but not without a moon. Not without the 
stars. Not without the sun to warm it in the daylight hours. Ice hung 
thick in the rancid air. The comet caused earthquakes and volcanoes, it 
ruptured nuclear containment sites, and caused nuclear winter."

LaCroix paused, sipping his blood.

"The mortals and animals, of course, were the first to go." He smiled 
mirthlessly. "Those who weren't killed by the impact died slowly of cold, 
starvation and the pollution in the air or radiation poisoning. By the 
time the cloud cleared -- twenty long years -- they were gone. The youngest 
vampires were next. They barely had time to see the moon again. Some 
didn't," LaCroix said. His voice was calm and smooth, but Tser could 
detect the pain in it. "Nick's Natalie didn't."

Tser jumped slightly, and looked over at Robi and 'Chele, who both had 
stricken looks on their faces. Chele's eyes narrowed and she nodded slowly, 
a thoughtful look replacing the shock. Tser turned back to LaCroix, taking 
a deep, shuddery breath.

"My people died around me. My sons and daughters. Slow, painful deaths.
Some gave up, some held on. Nick died forty years after the apocalypse," 
LaCroix said flatly. "And then I was alone. Alone in an icy hell without 
companionship, without sustenance, and without the will to live. But I 
couldn't die," LaCroix said bitterly. "I couldn't die, because I am 'far 
too old and too powerful'.

"I stopped counting time.  Time is such a worthless thing, invented 
because people can't stand not knowing they're going to die one day, 
invented by mortals who're going to die and want to know when. Time 
shouldn't matter to vampires. It shouldn't matter. But it did, because 
my family, my people were going to die, die when they shouldn't have.
After Nick died, what was there to keep track of? There was no one else.
Nick had stopped truly living when Natalie died, but he was still there.
Then he was gone."

Only Tser, closest to LaCroix, saw the single blood-red tear escape his 
eye. His voice remained distant and calm.

"I was then alone, living on and on on a lifeless ball of ice circled by 
a moon that had ceased to bring light to my life. The night held nothing 
for me. It was no different than day. There was nothing to hunt, so why 
go out? All that was out there was flat, grey, icy land, bones and bloody 

He sipped his blood thoughtfully. "I, myself, was perpetually starving.
Such a terrible way to live, always hungry. I thought, when I saw Toronto 
again, that I was finally dying. I was -- relieved. I thought that I was 
finally delievered from hell."

The three cousins were quiet. They were in shock at LaCroix's tale. The 
comet that had missed this reality's earth by an arcsecond had destroyed 
this LaCroix's. Cousin Robi looked over at Cousin 'Chele, and they 
exchanged horrified looks. Tser stared straight ahead.

How was she going to tell him he was supposed to return to that reality?
She couldn't imagine telling him, and so held her tongue. There was an 
icy knot in the pit of her stomach from just the thought of suggesting 
it -- how could she actually *let* him return? She couldn't damn anyone 
to the hell he described, let alone her commander and General.

Chele glanced at the other three occupants of the table and drew in a 
shaky breath, her eyes wide as they came to rest on LaCroix. "Oh, 
Goddess, how can you stand to go back there?" she whispered.

LaCroix stiffened. "Back?" he said, in a completely emotionless voice.

Chele's eyes widened even more and she looked from him to a tight-lipped 
Tser and back. "Oh, no! You didn't tell him, did you?" she asked, her 
voice strained. She dropped her head into her hands to hide the red 
creeping up her face and muttered, "Great, big mouth, you've done it 
again."  Sighing loudly, she raised her head and looked over at Tser, 
who'd started to speak, then stopped, obviously at a loss for words.
"No, s'okay. I spilled the beans, I'll clean 'em up."

Chele turned to LaCroix and swallowed hard, then cleared her throat.
"You see, the, um, the theory is...  I mean, the assumption we're working 
under is that all of the ... misplaced char-- Uh, that is, people, like 
yourself, will have to go back where they belong or the rift will never 
close." She stared at him in despair, her eyes brimming as she waited 
for his reaction. Tser's eyes overflowed, and she wiped at the few tears 
with a silk napkin from the table.

LaCroix had stiffened during her explanation, but surprisingly - or not 
so surprisingly, considering he *was* very close in personality to the 
Cousin's own LaCroix - did not explode. He merely nodded once and said, 
in a very soft voice, "I see."


To live a life half dead, a living death.

                                ~~ Milton


WAR:  Observations
Part 1/1
Concurrent with:  Wherefore Thou Alone
By Patt Elmore
Beta by Jules

After seeing the shaky state that Third Cousin Patt
was in, Cousin Jules had politely shooed the woman
away while she attended to the needs of Tser's
LaCroix.  Once this LaCroix had awakened and Tser had
been called, Jules went in search of her Louisiana

Jules found Patt sitting on the stoop outside the back
door of CERK.  The older woman's eyes were closed and
her chin rested on her chest.  Patt's arms
hung loosely by her side, her shoulders were hunched.

"You okay?" Jules said, joining Patt on the stoop.
When Patt did not respond, Jules placed a tentative
hand on her shoulder.  "Patt?"

Patt jumped, startled, flailing a hand in Jules'
direction.  Jules ducked the blow and then grinned,
"Nice reflexes!"

The other woman groaned and put her face in her hands.
When she finally looked back up at the ex-Houston Cousin,
Patt's eyes were full of deep worry.

"I still can't believe that I *hit* LaCroix over the
head with a *beer* bottle," Patt's voice shook with
emotion.  "And, considering I was foolish enough to do
such a thing, I can't believe I'm still alive."

Jules smiled sympathetically.  "I guess it could have
been worse," she said.  "It could have been the *real*

"If he exists anymore," Patt said miserably.  "For all
we know, he's floating out there in the cosmos
somewhere.  This whole temporal rift thing has me
totally confused."

"Join the club," Jules agreed, repositioning her body
so that both women stared off into the darkness of

They sat there silently for a time, thinking about the
events which had happened since Jules had gotten the
phone call at the Jeweled Peach.  Their meditation was
interrupted, though, when the CERK door began to swing

One tiny webbed foot appeared, parallel to their line
of vision.

An Arctic bird appeared.  He stood at the door,
resplendent in a black and white plumage, a small tuft
of yellow above each ear.  This bird, which had been
dropped at CERK prior to the just completed meeting,
had been identified as a LaCroix, of sorts.  At least,
it seemed to sound LaCroixish enough to merit a spot
in the Cousins Registry.

The women had to admit that his stance was noble, his
beady eyes glittered with intelligence.  He looked down his beak
at the women, studying them carefully.  Then he
mumbled a few words and brushed past Patt and Jules
with barely a notice.

As he waddled quickly away from the radio station,
Jules looked at Patt.  "Do you think we should go
after him?" Jules asked, but did not move.

Patt took a deep breath.  "I'm all out of beer
bottles, girlfriend, and I don't have a net.  But,
I'll tag along if you want to give chase."

Before they could arise, though, Cousin Leader Cousine
Celeste burst from the door, followed by Cousin
Michele.  Cousine Celeste looked perturbed, Cousin
Michele looked worried.

"Which way did he go?" Cousine Celeste demanded.
Jules and Patt simultaneously pointed in the direction
that Penguin LaCroix had taken.  Celeste shook her
head in agitation.  "That little creep is going to be the death of
me," she said.  Turning to Cousin Michele, the Cousine went
on, "Follow me!  Let's *get* 'im!"

Michele looked dubious.  "What do we do with him once we
find him?" she asked.

The Cousine did not answer, but charged down the street after
the offending bird, a reluctant Michele following close
on her heals.    Patt and Jules watched them disappear into the
darkness, not moving from the stoop.  Patt shook her head and
began chuckling softly.  Jules looked at her questioningly.

"You know the most interesting thing about this whole
paradox situation, Julsey?" Patt, her shoulders still
slumped, turned her head to look at her friend.  "It's
seeing which  . . . *visitor* seems to be coordinating
their activities with which . . . *host.*"

Jules looked perplexed.  "What do you mean, Patt?"

The woman from Shreveport sighed.  "Probably nothing,"
she said, "but the social worker in me can't help but
look at the sociology of the situation."

"Hmmmm?" Jules responded.

"Most experts in the field agree that a person's
personality develops from the exposure of community to
a unit relatively established by its biological
origins," Patt explained. "In other words, we all
start out with a blank slate based on our genes, and
our personalities develop by imprinting with events
which occur when we encounter outside influences, i.e.,
our parents, our schools, our friends, our community,

"Okay," Jules said skeptically.  "Where are you going
with this?"

"Well," Patt went on, "I've been watching the
*visitors* as they've arrived at CERK with their
respective *companions.*"

"Who hasn't?" Jules snicker/snorted.  "I think *all*
of our attentions have been captivated by our
*visitors,* as you put it."

"Yes," Patt nodded, "but have you been noting who
shows up with whom?"

Jules' eyes narrowed.  "What do you mean?"

"Well, I've been watching both *visitors* and *hosts*
and have been trying to find some correlations," Patt
explained. "At first, I was studying them, trying to
get a handle on perhaps why this rift occurred.  Now, I
must confess, it's become just professional, or maybe
non-professional, curiosity."

"Uhhh, huhhh," Jules replied.

"Look, I could try to explain development of
personalities and the attraction of personality types
through a series of gene-o-grams or Sears' theory
which emphasizes historical learning circumstances in
which learning and theory and psychodynamics are
brought to bear on the study of relationships." Patt
looked over and noted that Jules' eyes had glazed over
somewhat.  "But, put more simply, I began to try and
see what makes what kind of *visitor* get involved
with what type of *host.*"

"It is important?" Jules asked.

"I'm not sure," Patt conceded, but then she grinned
wickedly, "but it sure has been fun."

Jules' eyes lit up as she noted the mischief in Patt's
tone.  "What do you mean?"

"Well," Patt stretched and looked around.  "Maybe we
should take the rest of this conversation to a more
private location.   What'cha say?"

The two women rose and left the stoop, glancing around
once in awhile to make sure that no one was either
following them or lurking about.  They strolled toward
a small park located about two blocks from CERK.  The
chain and rounded plastic seats of the swing set
caught their attention, and they went to the play
area.  Taking seats side by side, they rocked to and
fro, their feet remaining in contact with the ground.

"Did you notice Dr. LaCroix?" Patt asked, resuming the
conversation where they'd left off.  Jules nodded.
"See any correlations between him and Cousin Zeonia?"

"They're both in the medical profession," Jules
suggested.  Patt nodded.  "That would be the most
obvious parallel, yes.  But, look deeper.  Why would
Dr. LaCroix seek out Zeonia?  What in Zeonia made her
attractive to him, and vice versa?"

Patt took a deep breath and continued.  "Many times
we tend to choose *partners* who reflect what we would
like to be ourselves--smarter, better looking, more
educated," Patt gave Jules a side glance and grinned,
". . . sexier."

"So, how does this apply to Zeonia and Dr. LaCroix?"
Jules kicked absently at the bare rut beneath her

"If the *attraction* theory is correct, then perhaps
the Zeonia/Dr. LaCroix match occurred because Zeonia
has always wished that, instead of a nurse, she could
be a doctor.  If Zeonia's psyche is responsible for Dr.
LaCroix, then he may be her projected manifestation of

"I'm still confused," Jules said.  "Have there been
other parallels which support your theory?"

Patt shrugged.  She had been twisting her chain
absently and now let the swing twirl back to its
proper position.

"Okay, here's a general one, no pun intended," Patt
smiled.  "Take Agent 0079. He's being 'hosted' by a
whole bevy of Cousins, the GSS team."

Jules said nothing, so Patt continued.  "0079 might
represent the excitement in their lives which they
always wished they'd been able to pursue, but were unable to
because of real life responsibilities.  A chance to
cut free and play spy.  Heck, I wouldn't mind a chance
at that myself--I just don't think I'd like to risk
having bullets whizzing past my head."

"The same thing, on an even more fantastical note,
might be our own Cousinly Leader, Cousine Celeste,"
Patt said.  At the mention of the Leader's name, Jules
eyes took on a wary expression, but she remained
quiet.  "What is her manifestation but a totally dream
quality LaCroix based on Alice in Wonderland?  What in
her psyche would merit the need for such escapism?  Is
she so unhappy, rooted in her reality, that she must
seek the exact polar opposite to find happiness?"

"She doesn't look all *that* happy when she's dealing
with him," Jules mused.  She looked at Patt, "Okay,
explain Nick the Lush and his relationship with

Patt shrugged.  "Not sure, but it might be her need
for dominance."  Jules pulled back a little, her face

"Fulfillment is reached in many ways, depending on
what you seek," Patt explained.  "Where one might seek
a mate that is stronger, so that they can lean on and
draw their strength from them, the reverse can also be
true, i.e. we choose mates that we feel superior too,
to boost our own ego.  This is the control
aspect of a relationship."

"I don't think Shelley would agree that she is exerting control
over Lush Nick that well," Jules said.  "In fact, he seems to be
running her ragged."

Patt smiled.  "Yes, but he is, by his alcohol problem,
a weaker character than she is and, even in strife, it
allows her to feel superior."

"On the other hand, and here I am contradicting myself,"  Patt
said thoughtfully,  "this Nick might be a projection of need.   A
frustrated maternal instinct which derives nurturing by
attending to others at the sacrifice of oneself.  Is this self-
sacrifice, or selfishness so that one will appear to be self-
sacrificing?  How many mothers have put their children, whom
they love dearly, through such guilt?"

"Which comes back to control, of sorts," Jules said, seeing the
point Patt was making.  The ex-Texan smiled.  "I prefer to
think of Shelley as unselfish, without selfish motivations.  .
She's the one who usually volunteers to be the designated
driver and make sure we all get home okay."

Patt nodded.  "You're probably right," she conceded.  "You'll
have to forgive me, but my training is working with
dysfunctional families, so I tend to lean toward that area of

"Back to the control element of relationships, the same theory I
expressed for Shelley could also be true with Cousinly Merc
Lisa and Nicolas Chevalier," Patt began swinging
herself at the knees, scuffing at the ground.
"Although Chevalier is intelligent, he is an almost
effeminate creature, very much subject to Lisa's will.  He may
take off and have a mind of his own, but ultimately he seems to
judge his self-worth by her approval.  I haven't seen much of
their interaction, but I would suspect that the same is true for
her, that she needs his approval as much as he needs hers."

"Yin and Yang," Jules said.

Patt nodded.  "Relationships.  All based on the needs of the

"How about the LaCroix who attacked Tser?"

Patt shook her head.  "Not enough data to make a

Jules suddenly got a wicked smile of her own.  "How's
about the bird?"

Patt laughed.  "Well, if I understand it, the bird
first showed up to our own Wicked Cousin Tippi, right?"
Jules nodded.

"Well," Patt leaned back in the swing, extending her legs, "I
can think of a hundred different reasons why a bird would
want to land on Tip's head--would you care to hear the top

Jules put her hand across her mouth, trying to
suppress the laugh behind it.  Then, remembering again
some of the comparisons they'd discussed, her eyes
widened so that her pretty face seemed dominated by
the horror they reflected.  She looked around quickly
into the darkness, then back to Patt.

"You're not planning to inform the others of this
"theory" are you?"

"Heck no," Patt looked at her, aghast.  "Do I look
like I have a death wish?  I don't think anyone would
look kindly at having their id and ego dissected, even
if it meant getting possible clues about our present
situation.  No, girl," Patt nodded solemnly, "this
conversation is strictly between you and I."

"So," Jules said as both women got up from the swings
and began the walk back to CERK,  "what does your
theory say about us *hosts* who haven't gotten a
*visitor* yet?"

Patt sighed.  "Well, either it means that we are a
self-contained unit and don't need the ego stroking of
a character manifestation," she replied seriously,
then cut a grin at Jules, "or . . . we're just not

Both women laughed softly as they left the park.  They
did not look back.  They did not see the thickening in
the shadows near the play area which assumed human
shape.  They did not see the figure's clenched fists
and body language which definitely indicated


WAR: Like Sweetness From Heaven (1/1)
by Bonnie Rutledge
with Heather Poinsett, Kim Colley, Susan Pierce, and Jan Cook-Moore
and consent of the N&NP

Apres la reconnaissance...

      "Cabon!" the Not-So-Vestal-Virgin Nat commanded. "In here! Now!"

     As soon as the manager of The Jeweled Peach returned from his mission,
he was waylaid by the most terrifying NA person who had ever entered his
restaurant doors. He sniffled, remembering The Jan. She ran a close second.
She tormented him and made him cry.

    The wicked woman was seated at his desk! The effrontery! She, and the
other four NA members who remained, continued to romp about in little
costumes of silver and chiffon. If the women didn't frighten him so,
Monsieur Cabon might have drooled.


     She was shouting at him again. He cringed.

     "I see a messenger pigeon has arrived for you. It's not the usual day,
is it?" Nat grinned devilishly. "It's not even day! Aren't you going to read
it? It might be an emergency."

     He floundered forward, praying desperately that his fantasy would come
true - that finally his orders would read 'Go to Tahiti and sip from zee
coconuts,' so he could forget the scary women and their togas forever. He
was, as usual, disappointed.

     Reading the pigeon's missive, he released a gasp of outrage. "Zees,
Zees - rangy entree," he said, glaring at the bird, whose feathers ruffled,
"has brought a list of instructions for a most unsavory attack!"

     Nat briefly peeped over his arm at the paper. "I'd say it looks to be a
most savory attack," she trilled. In a split second, her expression changed
from smiling to fierce. "You *can* get everything, can't you?"

     "But, of course, I can!" he exclaimed. "But I must call in all the
staff! And all that sucre! Pourquoi il faut necessaire?!?"

     Nat left him to his work, satisfied that Monsieur Cabon was at his most
agitated, and, therefore, at his most efficient. Closing the door behind
her, she heard him squeal in a most indignant manner, "Zee giant bread! How
will I make zees grand pain?!?"


Jusqu'a l'attaque

     "Silly me," Susan said as she hefted large, rounded and bumpy objects
one at a time out of the warehouse entrance, "I had this strange notion that
she'd want to pick on the Unnamed Faction."

     "Well, I kind of lied to her about the UF," Heather admitted. "I told
her that they were fans who couldn't remember what any of the episodes were
called, not that they celebrated the Nick/Lacroix relationship in *every*
sense. I figured it would be better if our Not-So-Vestal-Virgin Natalie
didn't go there. And frankly, most of the time since she's been here, she's
indulged a  rotten mood. I didn't feel like making it worse."

     Susan chortled secretively. "Perhaps this adventure will 'sweeten' her

     Kim and Jan joined them outside the warehouse. Each woman carried a
stack of enormous brown squares that were almost larger than their arm-
spans. "Whew!" Kim exclaimed, setting hers on the pavement. "Now we have to
secure everything to the baskets, check the burners and cold inflate."

     These jobs took the three of them a good half-hour. As they tied the
last knot and harness, Kim grinned in satisfaction, wiping her hands
together. "Now, where did Natalie get to? Doesn't she have the pumps and

     "She's corralling Monsieur Cabon," Susan explained. "The last I heard,
he was being tearfully recalcitrant."

    "I will not do zees ... thing!" the restaurant manager declared
emphatically as he stomped from the entrance of the Jeweled Peach.

    Nat followed closely behind him and carried a heap of laundry, sprayers,
rubber tubing, and jumbo trashbags. "You will do 'zees' thing!" Nat argued.
"It's part of your job!"

     "Meep!" he replied, then began to blubber.

     "Cheer up, Cabon." Nat clapped him on the back with her free hand. "You
really do like us, you just don't know that you do." She turned her
attention to Susan. "Why don't you help Monsieur fetch the 'copter? We
wouldn't want him to get lost, now would we? We'll meet you at St.
Michael's. Kim, Heather, Jan - can you help me move the tubs outside so we
can load them into the taxi?"

     "Are you sure you don't want me to come along?" Jan asked, a 'pretty-
please?' in her eyes. Jan wasn't only addicted to Nunkies - she was addicted
to mayhem, too.

     Nat shook her head and gave her a consoling smile. "Someone's got to
guard the place with the remaining air hose."

     Strangely enough, the Not-So-Vestal-Virgin Nat was the only one not
wearing a toga and trenchcoat. She'd gone rummaging in the Wardrobe room
earlier and changed into jeans and a T-shirt, had on knee-high black boots,
and there was a piece of black silk covering her hair. She'd wanted
something that looked like a dagger in a scabbard to attach at her waist,
but addicts weren't allowed to play with sharp objects, and there had been
none to be found.

     NA arguments could become rather heated (partly due to all that passion
for Nunkies floating around), and it was through general agreement that the
worst ones only ended in bondage or fisticuffs. That way, permanent bad
feelings or injuries were less likely. They broke a lot of things by being
rowdy, though.

     Heather, Kim and Natalie loaded into the taxi, and, after watching them
safely off, Jan returned to finish inflating the colorful envelopes spread
out in the side-street. The trio's taxi reached the hospital in less than a
minute. While Nat unloaded, Heather and Kim ran inside and requisitioned
wheelchairs. They had decided to roll all their equipment, rather than

     The troupe reached the hospital's emergency helicopter pad just as
Monsieur Cabon and Susan touched down. They swiftly hefted everything on
board, then Cabon and Susan lifted off again. Heather, Kim and Nat rushed
downstairs and piled back into the waiting cab, the zoomed back to the

     The reason for the complicated trip was simple: Nunkies Anonymous had
learned from observing past wars that the sky was the limit. Vampires
weren't the only ones who could swoop in from above, and while many factions
had started to put cameras and other doohickeys on their rooftops, they
simply didn't have the manpower to watch the entire sky. Having a helicopter
pad two blocks down the street was close enough for the addicts, and helped
maintain their privacy.

     Reaching the Peach, Kim and Heather bailed from the cab and ran over to
their waiting baskets, checked their flames, temperature sensors and vents,
then gave a thumbs-up sign to Nat. The taxi, Ms. Lambert still inside, sped
off once more. Jan watched Kim and Heather, standing by in case of problems,
as their envelopes gradually became vertical and they prepared to lift off.
Jan released the ties securing them against the asphalt and observed,
enthralled, as the two hot air balloons floated upward.

     The flames from their burners illuminated the images emblazoned on the
silk in sharp relief to the night sky. One sported the 'Lucius In Repose'
portrait, and the other carried a beautiful logo with the words, 'Kickstart
the Knight' and 'Forever Knight - Forever In Our Blood' on the other side.

     Jan sighed at the tranquility of the sight - it seemed odd that
something appeared so peaceful as it set off to do such havoc - and in a
world gone crazy, no less.


En glacant le theatre

     Not-So-Vestal-Virgin Natalie had the cabbie drop her off half a block
from the theatre and wait. Since her outfit made her resemble someone who
was supposed to be there, she nonchalantly strolled by the front and peeked
at the alley to double-check that, yes, the security cameras they taken
long-range photos of still pointed at street-level, not above.

     She hadn't stepped right up to the building yet, and though she
suspected that, being a theatre, the place was soundproofed to a heavy
extent to prevent causing a public disturbance, she though she could pick up
faint voices. Sylvester Stallone? Antonio Banderas? She grinned, remembering
that film. It hadn't been too bad - well, the cat was gorgeous. Nat liked
movies with animals.

     she shrugged, 

     As though on cue, the helicopter became visible in the distance. Nat
looked up into the dark sky and gave a happy grin. The aerial photos Jan had
taken told the Not-So's that there were cameras on the roof, but like the
ones lower on the building, they pointed  to the roof surface around the
entrance, not up into the sky.  she giggled to herself.

     Monsieur Cabon groaned from the passenger's seat once more. Susan had
bonked him on the head and taken over the pilot duties so that she could
have a moment of peace and quiet (well, as much peace and quiet as you could
get in a working helicopter. Several of the addicts were aeronautically
inclined. Anyone who called them 'flighty' got pinched, though. The major
drawback was that addicts were always going off to boot camp and being
sorely missed.

     Cabon recovered enough of his senses to start complaining again. "This
ees my reward for putting zee Royal Canadian Air Force on my resume, non?
For flying zee Vampire jets, I am forced to abuse zee ladies and gentlemen!
For zee patriotic duty, I goop zee theatre!"

     "Eah - put a sock in it and spray," Susan said, pulling the formerly-
an-air-hose-but-now-used-for-shooting-frosting control handle forward. He
moved to a seated position, his feet dangling out the cargo door of the
'copter, and looked very unhappy. Susan decided to yell at him. "Drop a
little lower, Cabon! You've got five hundred kilos of frosting to spread,
and not a lot of time to do it in!"

     He started at the top edge of the brick building, spraying the thick,
white concoction of sugar, shortening and vanilla in enthusiastic globs and
watched in disgust as it slowly dripped to street level. Within minutes,
each wall of dark brick was now pristine white.

    Susan maneuvered the helicopter to above the building front, and Cabon
began spraying the final side. By this time, the two hot air balloons could
be seen closing in from above as well. That was Nat's cue to begin her
ground work. She had two enormous trashbags filled with giant candy canes,
about ten centimeters in diameter and a meter long, seeing the balloonists
lower their ladders, climb down, and begin to drop their goodies, Nat
rapidly placed a row of candy in the frosting where the building met the

     "We'll sweep the roof with the last of the frosting," Susan ordered,
back in the helicopter. "I bet it's stiffening fast on the building now that
it isn't under pressure anymore. One more minute, and we're out of here."
Cabon looked almost disappointed. He had just started to enjoy himself and
swung the spray hose about with excited flair.

     Heather  dangled from her balloon's ladder, praying that the harness
wrapped around her waist would never be put to the test. She tossed gumdrops
the size of cantaloupes into the frosting at the top of each wall, making a
colorful and bumpy trim.

     Kim, who continued to wonder how someone who knew so very little about
hot air balloons could be talked into risking life and limb by floating one
around a metropolis filled with raised electrical wires, had gingerbread
She smacked them firmly into the white, hardening goo as quickly as her arms
could manage.

     As they finished their decorations and climbed back into their baskets,
Nat finished up the final touches to the project. By the time the
balloonists had their burners lit and were ascending into the dark night
once more, the helicopter was a faint memory. Nat unrolled a voluminous
banner and stuck each of the four corners into the frosting. The icing now
had a sticky, glue-like consistency that kept the fabric firmly in place.

     Not-So-Vestal-Virgin Nat gave a quick triumphant smile as she read the
message a final time, then scooted into the waiting taxi and out of sight.
Within an hour, everyone was home at the Peach, celebrating the success of
their mission, among other things. The happy mood was so infectious that
even Monsieur Cabon allowed his lips to stretch into the faintest soucon of
a grin.

      Everyone wondered just what the Nick & Natpackers would do when they
discovered their theatre now looked like a gingerbread house. Not to be
outshone, the giant banner that Nat had left with a charactiture of a
mortal, overweight Nick scarfing pizza and ice cream was destined to  be a
popular topic of conversation, but Nat's favorite, very personal touch was
the message on the fabric written in letters a meter tall, 'Nat & Lacroix,

La maison du pain d'epice...quel doux!

Send Comments to br1035@ix.netcom.com

War: NA: MacNunkies (1/1)
by Bonnie Rutledge
Guest of Honor: Heather Poinsett
with Jan Cook-Moore, Susan Pierce, Kim Colley
N-S-V-V Nat and Sidney the Sheepdog
Concurrent and after 'Sweetness From Heaven', just after 'Home Brew'

     Jan felt a fair degree of disappointment that she hadn't been able to
join the others in the grand-scale attack. It hardly seemed fair that she
should miss out on all the action.  she thought as she imagined
Kim and Heather dangling from hot-air balloons in the night sky,  In the end, she pushed away any gloom and
concentrated on the big picture: The Not-So-Vestal-Virgins were wreaking
havoc against the Nick & Natpackers to such a sweet extent that the calmest
of dentists would have a breakdown on the spot from envisioning the future
cavities. Jan gave a satisfied chuckle.

     Strolling to the Greenroom, Jan trimmed several dozen white roses from
the bushes as well as greenery. She took these to the Shrine, refilled the
incensoirs, then hiked to the Wardrobe room. Pulling the ladder to one of
the uppermost shelves in the corner, Jan uncovered a bounty of patterned
fabric. She carried this back to the Shrine, and began to trim the chamber
with garlands of flowers and the MacIntyre tartan.

     As she heard the other Not-So-Vestal-Virgins return, Jan hurriedly lit
the candles atop the special Scottish tiramisu she'd prepared (The Scottish
part came from the liberal doses of whiskey she'd added.)

     Susan entered, then Kim and Nat. Monsieur Cabon was allowed inside as
well, seeing as how he was now truly their partner in crime. Heather walked
into the Shrine last, and her eyes widened with delighted surprise.

     "Happy Birthday, Heather!" everyone shouted.

     Sidney the Sheepdog, who'd been busy in the kitchen after, clambered to
join them at the first sign of excitement. His puppy eyes filled with joy as
he noticed the new plaid drapery, and Sidney the Sheepdog immediately tried
to climb some.

     "Oh, Sid-ney!!" everyone yelled.

     Realizing that popular opinion was not with him, the sheepdog rolled
over onto his back, sticking his substantial furry limbs straight into the
air. In his own humble canine opinion, he looked deader than a doornail.

     Jan sighed, tickled the dog's tummy, then said, "Enough fooling around,
Sidney. Fetch Heather's present. Do you remember where I put it?"

     "Row-urf!" Sidney answered, them lumbered out of the room. He
remembered the gift, because he'd spent the past half hour licking and
chewing its pretty paper off in the laboratory/kitchen.

     "Guys, you remembered!" Heather looked flushed and happy.

     "Ooo! You'd better blow out the candles!" Kim exclaimed. "They're going
to melt the frosting!"

     Everyone gave a momentary grimace at the word 'frosting'. Heather took
in a deep breath, and laid waste to the tiny fires. "You realize that
technically it's still the thirteenth, and not really my birthday, don't

     "Yes," Nat answered, "but after discussing it, we decided that if we
pretended time really was passing, this would be your birthday. If the
clocks ever unstick, well, we'll just have to celebrate again, now won't

     Sidney returned, holding a large box with chewed corners in his mouth.
Remnants of what used to be festive wrapping and ribbons trailed behind him.

     Kim gingerly took the package from the sheepdog, but couldn't quite
manage to avoid all of the slobber. "Eehhww...Er, open up what left of it,

     Heather greedily ripped it open. It was a new tapestry, cross-stitched
by the members of Nunkies Anonymous, that depicted Lacroix in full Scottish
regalia. She breathed a sigh of heady pleasure. "Och...MacNunkies! *drool*

     "Hey! He's not wearing the MacIntyre weave!" Susan noticed.

     Heather pressed the tapestry to her chest in the throes of bliss.
"No..." she sighed and smiled secretively. "It's the MacIntosh."

     "There's something else," Kim said, holding out a rolled up piece of
parchment. "Bons left an excerpt from the Nunkies Fantasy Manual for you."

     Heather unrolled the paper, read, then collapsed into a puddle. After
Susan brandished a photo of the U.S. Speaker of the House, Heather murmured,

     "Wait," Jan said. "Aren't you going to read it aloud?"

     "As if everyone in the world wants to hear about my personal, private
encounter with MacNunkies," Heather scoffed.

     "We do!" Kim said.

     "Yeah," Heather said as she gestured in the direction of the reader's
monitor. "But *they* don't. Anyone who wants to read about Nunkies in a kilt
can go to our webpage. Here, you guys can read it to yourselves."

     So they laughed, melted, ate tiramisu, did jigs, melted some more, and
celebrated Heather's birthday as well as their successful attack. Soon
though, they had visitors - more Nunkies addicts - and one of them was

Fin for now

Bonnie Rutledge, Caffeine Achiever, Insomniac  br1035@ix.netcom.com
Nunkies Anonymous Homepage: http://www.geocities.com/~br1035/nunkies.html


"Just Give Me a Buzz if You Need Me"
By Cousin Tser 

People here within used with permission.  Thanks so kindly!!
Beta Readers:  {{{{{Cousin Senara and Cousin Toni}}}}}

Takes place a while after "Wherefore Thou Alone"

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

And doom'd to death, though fated not to die.

                                ~~ Dryden

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Tser sat silently in the War Room with the LaCroix that had attacked her, 
a slight distance away.  He had moved himself to the War Room and sat 
staring into nothing, nursing a glass of blood.  Tser felt it her 
responsibility to be with him -- to keep track of him at least.

He had moved to the War Room for quiet.  Occasionally, Cousin Shelley 
brought up a Cousin to register a new alternate being, but other than 
that, the War Room was as empty and private as one could hope to find.

LaCroix didn't seem to mind Tser's presence... in very least, he ignored 
her.  He sat in silence, fingering the stem of the wine glass.  He had 
been silent since they had left the Cousinly Salon, and Tser didn't break 
the stillness, letting him brood.

It was the very least Tser could think to do.  After all, he had just been 
delivered from hell to learn that he had to return.  Tser was having a 
hard time thinking straight herself, and let him to his thoughts.

It was he who broke the silence.  "It will be... interesting," he said 
quietly, pausing to sip at the blood, "to return."

"Interesting?" Tser asked a lump suddenly forming in her throat.

"Ah, yes.  Because you see, you've restored me to health.  That means 
another eternity to go hungry," LaCroix said.  Tser remained silent.

LaCroix's expression was thoughtful.  "'And, dying, bless the hand that 
gave the blow,'" he quoted, voice barely more than a whisper.  "Perhaps," 
he said, then trailed off, hand tight on the stem of his glass.  He smiled 
wryly.  "Perhaps, Cousin Tserisa, it would have been better for me if 
your friend's blow had been lethal.  Ah, but no such luck, because an 
immortal being is exceedingly hard to kill.  Such a pity."

Tser's eyes widened and she stared at LaCroix angrily.  "With all due 
respect, sir," she said through clenched teeth, "don't talk like that.
And don't you ever, ever let Patt hear you say that."

LaCroix seemed slightly amused at Tser's sudden burst of acrimony.  "But 
you must agree that what waits for me in my reality is hell," he stated.

Tser licked dry lips.  "I can't deny that," she said.  "I don't think 
anyone will, or can.  But how...."  She opened her mouth, then paused 
and closed it again.

LaCroix locked his eyes on hers, a very unsettling gaze.  "You were going 
to ask how I knew the same didn't wait for me in death," he said simply.
He took another sip from his tightly held wine glass, his face a mask of 
calm, only his blue eyes betraying the turmoil within.

"Not exactly," Tser murmured.  *How dark can your existence be when 
compared to an eternal void...?* LaCroix's voice from the fateful last 
night echoed in her mind.

LaCroix held the glass up to his mouth, but didn't drink from it.

"I don't want to send you back," Tser said, strain evident in her voice.
"I can't -- imagine -- doing it."

"Ah, but you see no way around it," LaCroix said simply.

"No, I don't.  The others, they want to go home.  But no one wants you 
to go back," Tser said.

LaCroix stared into space, his eyes distant.  "And because of this, you 
are going to...?"  He shook his head very slightly when Tser didn't 
answer.  "Right," he said.  "You'll do nothing.  You can do *nothing*.  
A fate -- a fate worse than death awaits me, and you, nor anyone, can do 
a thing about it."  He looked over at Tser with a slight, ironic smile, 
one that held no happiness.  "And you know, I can see that it's tearing 
you and the other Cousins up inside."  His hand clenched tightly on the 
wine glass, betrayed his anguish past his bitter calm.  The glass looked 
like it would shatter under the strain.

He stood, setting the glass down gently on the polished, round, War Table, 
and left the room quietly without another word.  Tser remained, staring 
at the still half-full glass of blood.

She watched as a tiny bead of blood squeezed through a hairline crack in 
the flute.  It slid down the glass, pooling on the table below.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
Later, in the Rec Room of CERK

"You're sure you don't mind if I leave?" Cousin Tserisa asked LaCroix.
"I can stay."  She immediately regretted saying it.

His eyes flashed and he scowled at her.  "You're forgetting who you're 
dealing with," he said sharply.  Tser wasn't sure whether he referred to 
the fact he was LaCroix or the fact he had been alone in a desolate world 
for more than half a century.  Either way, he was right... he didn't need 
anyone to take care of him.

"Sorry," Tser murmured.  "I'll be at 'Hilly's Hair House' if you need me.
 I've delayed a haircut far too long."  She reached up and ran her fingers 
through her two-inch long hair.  "If you need me to do anything, just call 
me, okay?" she said.  "You have my cell phone number.  And I'm sure any 
other cousins would be glad to do anything you need, as well."

He looked at her for a moment, as if turning the matter over in his mind.
 His scowling expression softened.  "I'll keep it in mind," he said softly 
and stood.  He glared in the direction of the ceiling where a loud, 
hawk-like scree was coming from the distance.  "*What* is that?" he growled.

Tser shrugged as she put her wallet in her pocket.  "I think it's Fred 
the Eagle.  He misses LaCroix -- the one from this reality, whoever and 
whichever he is -- I guess.  He's been making that noise ever since the 
war started.  He's gotten a lot louder, though.  At first it wasn't 
noticeable," she explained quietly.  "I have to go.  I'll be back soon.
Pax," she said, turning to leave.

LaCroix raised his eyebrows.  "For a while," he said, wry amusement in 
his tone, though his face betrayed none of it.  Tser stopped and turned 
back towards him.  He stood and left the salon where he and Tser had been 
sitting, probably heading to his private room. He didn't turn back towards 
the startled cousin who remained.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

continued in part two

"Just Give Me a Buzz if You Need Me"
by Cousin Tser 

continued from part one

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Tser swallowed and went down into the lobby, leaving CERK through the 
front, nodding to the two cousins stationed at the front desk.  She 
wondered about what he said.

It was a habit now that she said "Pax" as good-bye -- she supposed it 
started when she found she was truly a Nunkies Addict, and had started 
learning Latin.  She knew how to say all sorts of interesting, Cousinly 
things, like "Vacca sanguis fatuus" (stupid cow's blood).  Pax meant 
"peace" and Tser tended to use it liberally.

It was LaCroix's response that threw her.  "Peace -- for a while."  Tser 
wondered what he meant.  That when the rift closed peace would be lost 
for him?  Tser wasn't sure, and for some reason, she didn't think that's 
what he had intended.

Tser pushed the matter from her mind and sighed, smiling slightly at the 
perfect night.  It was clear, and the moon was full.  A perfect, long, 
long night.  It was cool, but the air was still.

Hilly's Hair House wasn't far from CERK, so Tser decided to walk.  It was 
a short distance, and Tser arrived there quickly.  She looked inside at 
the bright, fluorescent  lighting.  It was a little too bright for Tser, 
but she was very glad that the hair salon was open 24 hours.  Otherwise, 
they would have closed as night fell on Friday the 13th and maybe never 
opened again, depending on when the rift closed.

She opened the door and a bell dinged as she walked in.  The slightly 
overweight, long-haired receptionist looked up from some paperwork she 
was doing and smiled.  "Hello, I'm Hilly," she said.

"Yeah," Tser said, noting Hilly's rather atrocious melon-orange dress.
"I'd like a haircut."

"Okay," Hilly said.  "Have a seat."  She motioned to the chair.  "What 
would you like done?"

Tser sat down and looked critically in the mirror.  "A buzz cut to half an 
inch," she said.

Hilly got out the equipment and got to work.  She babbled on all the while.  
Tser basically ignored her except to murmur "Mm hm," in agreement once and 
a while, her mind preoccupied with war.

Tser heard the bell of the door ring and was snapped from her thoughts.
She glanced over without disturbing Hilly's labors, and narrowed her eyes 
when she saw who it was.

It was Crystal, a Vaquera.  Tser glared at her in a very good impression 
of Cousine Moses as Crystal moved over to the rack of shampoos, hair 
sprays and conditioners.  She noticed Tser and glared back with icy blue 

"All done," Hilly said in an annoying, sing-song voice.

"Thank you," Tser grumbled, pulling out her wallet, and handing Hilly 
payment.  The tiny hairs from her haircut were tickling her at the back 
of her neck, making her even more irritated than the mere presence of a 
Vaquera could.

"Hello," Crystal said icily.

"Hello," Tser replied cooly, eyes narrowed.

The dark blond haired Vaquera moved towards the counter and placed an 
absolutely huge bottle of shampoo on it.  She then went back and got 
another.  She could only carry one at a time, they were so large.  "I'd 
like to buy these please," she said to Hilly.  Hilly grinned and began to 
ring them up.

Tser hung back and watched the transaction with interest.

"Why are you lingering?" Crystal asked Tser irritably.

"I was wondering *why* you would need so *MUCH* shampoo," Tser said 
lightly, staying in case she could get any more information out of her.

Crystal looked at Tser suspiciously.  "There's no reason to tell you," 
Crystal said.

"I can imagine it's a hassle to be surrounded by people with long hair." 
Tser grinned evilly, running her hand across her newly buzz cut hair, now 
even shorter than the General's own, though by only a little bit.

Crystal shrugged, not giving up any information.  "Better than bald," 
Crystal said sharply.  Tser's lip curled up in a sneer.   Crystal hefted 
one large bottle of shampoo into each arm and staggered from the salon 
without a backwards glance.

Tser waited until she was far enough away, then left the hair salon herself,
heading back to CERK.  She turned the matter over in her mind. It was true 
that if they had quite a few duplicates of Vachons -- well, they would 
*definitely* need a lot of shampoo.  She grinned at the thought.  A *lot*.  
Shampoo for one head of Vachon-hair alone would probably strain their 
budget, not to mention a bunch of duplicates' Vachon-hair.

Then again, they *could* have something else in mind for the bulk load of 
shampoo, and Tser decided to report it just in case.  She couldn't get 
over her Cousinly suspicion.

Tser arrived back at CERK quickly, and went right up to the room she 
shared with Cousin Rust.  Cousin Gwendolyn, Cousine Moses and her yet 
unnamed bird were not to be seen, but Tser didn't worry to much about it.
They were allowed to roam CERK as they pleased.  She patted Cousin Spooky 
on the head and headed into the bathroom for a quick shower to wash the 
tiny hairs from the buzz off.  She looked in the mirror with satisfaction.  
It was so nice to have her hair that short again.

After her shower, she dressed in a long, "droopy", black dress and headed 
back down to find her LaCroix.  She checked the Cousinly Salon first, but 
he wasn't there.  She waved to Cousin Rust, who was sitting in a large 
comfy chair, listening to "Unforgiven" play on the Cousinly sound system.
Rust waved back.

Tser checked the lobby, and several of the other public rooms.  Her LaCroix 
was nowhere to be found.  She palmed open the elevator to the War Room and 
checked there too.  Nowhere.

Tser headed back down to the lobby.  She checked the whole building over 
once more before she started panicking.  She went up to the cousins at 
the front desk.

"Did you see a LaCroix leave here?" Tser asked, desperation evident in her 

"Your LaCroix?" the Cousin asked, frowning.  "No, I haven't," she said 

Tser made her way back to the Cousinly Salon, collapsing in a squooshy 
chair, cradling her head in her hands.  She had lost him.  What were the 
Cousinly Leaders going to say?

She had lost LaCroix.

* * * * * * * * * *


Close Encounters of the Natalie Kind 2/2 
by Annie Raper
Beta read by Libby Singleton and Cousin Robi 
Time: After CEotNK 1/2 and prior to 'The Quad Arrives at CERK'  
Kinda concurrent with 'Ratpacker Realization'

Robi used by permission

        She could tell she was closer to her man. She could smell his 
very essence in the air and it filled her with delight.  *He* was close 
by, and soon, hopefully, she would be in his arms once again.  In fact, 
she thought she could detect his presence just around the corner.  Full 
of anticipation, she ran to meet him.

        And ran smack into Cousins Annie and Robi.


        "Hey! Watch where you're going, lady!"

        "Hey! Aren't you Natalie?"

        Natalie smoothed her clothing.  "Er, yes.  Yes, I am.  Are you all 
right? I'm so sorry," she said, "but I thought you were someone else."

        Annie stuck out her hand in greeting, "Hello, Natalie. I'm Annie 
and this is Robi." Natalie shook the Cousins' hands.  "This is the second 
time tonight that I've been mistaken for someone else, I hope it isn't 

        Robi nodded in agreement.  "You won't believe what happened to 
Annie, Nat. Er," she paused, looking at the coroner.  "I *can* call you 
Nat, can't I?"

        "Of course," Natalie said.  "What happened to Annie?"

        Annie opened her mouth to tell the horrible tale, but Robi cut 
her off. "I'd better tell this, Annie. Telling it again may send you into 
another stupor," she said as she rubbed Annie's back.  "Annie was accosted 
by a Screed who thought she was you and kissed her with a big, wet 

        A strange, sick look crossed Natalie's face.  "He did *what*?" 
was all she was able to say.

        "He kissed her.  Terrifying thought, isn't it?" Robi asked.

        "Yes." Natalie took a few steps backward.  "He kissed you? He 
thought you were me?  Wait till I get my hands on him! Why would he think 
you were me?"

        Annie was beginning to think that something wasn't quite right 
with this Natalie.  "In certain lights, if the wind is blowing right and 
my hair is behaving, I *do* look like you, sort of," Annie said as she 
tucked a stray curl behind her ear.  "I have an extensive scrunchii 
collection, too.  So I can see where he might've gotten confused.  The 
worst of it was that he said I smelled like a laboratory!" Annie's face 
contorted in anguish.  "I can't believe it! A laboratory!"

        Natalie went pale.  "You smell like a lab?  Well, that's a fine 
kettle of fish.  What did you do with him?"

        "I wiggled out of the kiss, wiped my mouth and sent him on his 
rat-sucking way!" Annie said.  "What do you think I did with him?"

        Natalie sighed in relief and laughed.  "Oh, I don't know.  But 
don't you think he's a good kisser?"

        "Heaven's no! She doesn't think so!" Robi chimed in. "It took 
the official Nunkies Anonymous Smelling Salts and a copy of 'Lucius 
in Repose' to snap her out of her revulsion." Robi rolled her eyes. 
"Like it! Geez! It's not like the guy is housebroken or anything.  He's 
not anywhere close to Nunkies."

        "Hey! We're working on it!" Nat sputtered.  "He can't help it 
if he's a little... slow to learn new concepts!"

        The two cousins looked at each other in horrified amazement as 
the realization that this Natalie Lambert, ME, is involved with Screed 
hit them full in the face.

        Natalie looked at them innocently.  "What is it? Is something 
wrong? Are you two OK?"

        Annie looked at Natalie.  "Um, er, we're fine.  Um, I hope you 
don't think this is impertinent, but *you* and *Screed*?  Together? In 
the biblical sense?"  Natalie nodded her head. "You're his 'Docsie-Wocsie'? 
His 'Natsie-Ratsie'?"

        Natalie raised her hand and said, "Guilty as charged."

        "Oh, Nunkies! Help us all!" Robi said.

        "What's wrong with Screed?" Natalie asked. "He's sweet, he's 
relatively clean for a carouche, and he knows how to treat a lady, *if* 
you know what I mean. It's not like Nick is ever gonna...." she trailed off.

        "I get the picture," Annie said, holding up her hand in a plea for 
Nat to stop.  "The last I saw him, he sucked down a rat over there," Annie 
pointed towards the alleyway, "and 'swooshed' off in that direction.  If 
it's any consolation, he was very upset that I wasn't you.  Cried and 

        Natalie put her hand over her heart. "He cried, for me?" Annie 
nodded, sending reddish brown curls bouncing.  "Oh, how sweet!" Natalie 

        "Whatever," Robi said.  "Annie?  What about your tennis shoes? 
*And*.... we need to get back to CERK.  Cerberus called a meeting and all 
Cousins need to be there.  Nunkies wouldn't be pleased if you missed it."

        Annie pondered the issue for a moment.

        "Who is this Munkies Robi keeps mentioning?" Natalie asked.

        Annie rolled her eyes.  "Nunkies! It's Nunkies, not Munkies.  
Nunkies with an 'N'.  It's a term of affection for Lacroix." The two 
addicts sighed in unison.  "We think he's the cat's meow, the cream of 
the crop, the tower of....."

        "And I get your picture," Nat said.  "Well, to each his own, 
though you guys must really be desperate.  You said he went that way, 
Annie?" Natalie asked, pointing in the same direction Annie had.  Annie 
nodded.  "Good.  If you two don't mind, I'll leave you to your 'Nunkies'.  
Thanks for your help, Annie and Robi.  If you need anything, please call 
me." She fumbled in her pocket and retrieved two business cards.  "Stop by 
the morgue anytime." With that, she was off.

        Annie watched her disappear down the street.  "Well, it takes all 
kinds. Robi, you head on back to CERK; I'll catch up directly. I wanna 
look one more place for my shoes. Although it looks like I'm gonna have 
to wait on my tennies.  I'm sure I'll find Libby sooner or later."  The 
two addicts hugged each other and parted ways: Robi towards CERK and Annie 
towards University.

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!

"Keeping Them Collared"
by Cousin Tser 

People and characters within used with permission.
Very Helpful Beta Reader: Cousin Robi  (Thank you!)

Takes place after "Just Give Me a Buzz if You Need Me".

* * * * * * *

LaCroix moved stealthily among the streets.  It had been easy enough to 
depart unnoticed from CERK, simply waiting until Cousin Tser had left, 
then moving silently into the starfilled night.  LaCroix smiled up at the 
full moon.  Night, eternal night.  It had been a long time since the moon 
had looked so beautiful, not blood-red from ice and fire in the air as in 
his reality. He didn't even have to worry about finding a place to shelter 
from the sun, since dawn would never come.

Not if he had anything to do with it.

He knew that the Cousins were worried about him.  They all seemed to care 
about him.  But they could do nothing.  They believed that no matter what 
happened, he would have to return to the hell he had been torn from.
Rather pessimistic, he thought.  But he knew they were only taking into 
consideration all the other countless alternate beings, both mortal and 
immortal, who had been ripped from their own realities.  He smiled 
mirthlessly.   His very presence caused them angst and despair.  Never the 
less, he'd return to the Cousins' headquarters when he had acquired what 
he wanted.

The bright, eternal night was quite conducive to LaCroix's plans.  Cousin 
Tser had said the rift would most likely heal best if all elements were 
back in their respective realities.

All elements... that included himself.  Tser had admitted that it wasn't 
necessarily *crucial* that everything went back.   But having two LaCroixs, 
rather than the one native General, in one reality would really cause 
instability.  LaCroix smiled wryly.  Of course, the other stray elements 
from the rift should go back too.  The tear would most likely heal, Tser 
had hinted, if everything was properly placed.

LaCroix's mind flew back to his own reality, where he had been only days 
before.  It was a ball of grey ice and death.  Eternal torture, hunger and 
loneliness.  The dead had long since rotted in their graves -- those who 
were fortunate enough to have graves --  and the air had long since turned 
to poison when there were no more plants to provide oxygen.  His children, 
his kind were gone.  Janette and Nick and Natalie had long since died.  
And so suddenly he had found himself thrust here, in a reality where no 
comet threatened the earth and her life-giving occupants.  So sudden and 
so welcome.  He was beginning to wish that it had never happened.  That he 
hadn't caught the glimpse of salvation, only to face the reality that he 
must return.  Being in this reality was causing many mortals pain.  But 
returning was unthinkable.

His mind was elsewhere as he walked silently down the street.  He knew 
what he was looking for.  When he saw a small cat dart into an alley, he 
rushed after it in a burst of inhuman speed.  He caught it and supported 
it gently, holding it firmly.  He could have sworn it yelled "Hey!" but 
dismissed the thought.

He smiled slightly as he noticed the heart shaped tag on its collar.
"Hello, Sidney," he said, chuckling wryly.  "You know, I've always liked 
cats.  So aloof, so noble, so elegant," he said, as he removed the cat's 
black collar and placed Sidney back on the ground.  "So useful."  The cat 
glared up at him and shook his fur, licking one paw daintily.

LaCroix looked at the silver tagged collar with interest and then placed 
it in his pocket.  "Thank you, cat," he said, and turned to leave the alley.

He could have sworn the cat muttered after him, "Creep."

* * * * * * *

Cousin Tser felt terrible.  She had let the Cousins down by allowing the 
LaCroix from the comet-crushed world to escape into the eternal nighttime 
Toronto.  He was nice enough, but Tser knew he was in a somewhat desperate 
mood.  She didn't blame him.

The Cousinly Leaders had assured her it was okay -- after all, he *was* 
LaCroix, and he could fend for himself.  They didn't really have the right 
to keep him cooped up anyway.  These assurances were not enough to comfort 

Cousin Tser was languishing in the lobby, when the phone at the front desk 
ran.  She wished she could have the comfort of the Shrine of Nunkies and 
was seriously debating whether or not to head over.  She needed solace.

She heard the Cousin at reception pick up the phone, and listened idly to 
the one-sided conversation.

"Hello, CERK," the Cousin said.  "Um, I don't know... Well, there's a lot 
of 'em running around and you can't expect us to....  Cat?  Well, no, I 
don't know....  I haven't seen a cat's collar around here lately, except 
on the Cousinly kitties....  Sure, I'll keep an eye out...."  She hung up 
the phone.  Tser walked over to the desk.

"What was that?" she asked.

The Cousin shrugged.  "Some FosSiL named Sharon Lee.  Says a LaCroix stole 
her cat's collar when the cat was missing, went off on his own." The Cousin 
rolled her eyes.  "I don't know why they expect *us* to be in charge of 
every General who appears in the city.  LaCroixs are notorious for being 

Tser frowned.  "Do you have her number?"

The Cousin shrugged again and handed Tser a slip of paper.  "Sure, she 
gave it to me in case we found the collar."

Tser looked down at the piece of paper then up at the Cousinly Receptionist.
"Thanks," she said.

"Don't mention it," the receptionist said, picking up the phone, which 
was ringing once again.

Tser went up to the War Room, which tended to be quieter than the lobby 
or other public rooms, and pulled out her cell phone.  She dialed the 
numbers tensely.

"Hello?" came a voice.

"Um, is this Sharon Lee?  A FoSiL?" Tser asked nervously, her heart 
beating hard in her chest.

The voice turned suspicious.  "Who's this?"

"Um, my name is Tserisa.  I...."  She broke off.  "I lost my LaCroix," she 
said sheepishly.  "I heard your cat's collar was stolen by a LaCroix, and 
I'm just checking every lead."

"Well, sort of.  It's not my cat," Sharon Lee said.  "It's *Sidney's* 
collar that was stolen.  But with all these alternate people running 
around, I don't know if its *our* Sidney or not."

Tser paused, processing this new information.  "Did you get a good look 
at the LaCroix that took the collar?"

"Actually, no.  I didn't even see him," Sharon Lee said.

Tser frowned.  "Then how did you know it was a LaCroix who stole the 
collar?" Tser asked skeptically.

"Uh, well...." Sharon Lee paused.  "I can't tell you.  But I'm ABSOLUTELY 
*sure* that it was a LaCroix.  You have to trust me."

Tser nearly snorted.  She found it unlikely she could trust *anyone* from 
another faction during wartime.  Whether or not that was a Cousinly trait 
was for others to decide.  But she decided to humor anyone with a hint at 
her LaCroix's whereabouts. This FosSiL might be her only chance at locating 
him.  "Why don't we meet?"

Tser and Sharon Lee made arrangements to meet in a neutral place.  They 
couldn't meet at "Happy Souvlaki" because of the hordes of nameless FoDs 
it attracted, and the Raven was out of the question, as was anything too 
close to CERK.  They settled on "Grandfather's ~Garlic-Free~ Pizza", one 
of the most neutral (and least stinky) places in Toronto.

* * * * * * *

Tser left for "Grandfather's Pizza" immediately.  As she was leaving 
through the lobby, Cousin Gwen trotted elegantly up to her and let out 
a demanding "mew."

"Uh, well, I *guess* you can come with me," Tser said, knowing she had no 
choice in the matter.

Tser arrived first, and picked a nice private booth in the back of the 
dimly-lit restaurant.  She looked over the menu, noting all the different 
varieties of Garlic-Free pizza, but didn't order anything but a small cola.  
She wasn't very hungry, and the pre-arranged meeting made her jumpy.  
Cousin Gwendolyn, who managed to sneak in despite the "No Pets Except For 
Goats Allowed" sign, sat on the bench next to Cousin Tser, closest to the 

"Hmm, look at this, Gwen," Tser said.  "Chocolate pizza with extra cheese.  
Sounds like Ratpacker-Merc-fodder."

Sharon Lee arrived soon after, and saw Tser in the back, recognizing her 
by her LaCroix-like haircut.  Sharon Lee had a cat partially hidden under 
her cardigan sweater... Tser could see the grey tabby-striped tail sticking 
out the bottom.  The restaurant personnel didn't seem to notice, though.

She sidled into the booth across from Tser and let Sidney out onto the 
bench.  Sidney shook his fur and licked a few stray hairs into place.
Like Tser, Sharon Lee was wearing all black.

Sharon Lee extended her hand.  "I'm Sharon," she said.

Tser accepted the handshake.  "Tser," she said.

Cousin Gwendolyn was watching the sleek, silver-tabby tom.  "Meow," she said.

"Meow," Sidney replied, politely, to the petite tortishell manx.

"Well, now that the pleasantries are over," Tser prodded.

"Uh, yes," Sharon Lee said.  "Well, Sidney's collar was swiped by a LaCroix.
He was rather gaunt looking, if LaCroix can look gaunt.  He grabbed Sidney, 
plucked him right up, and stole the collar, then put him down."

"I thought you didn't see," Tser said, confused.

"I didn't," Sharon said matter-of-factly.

Tser licked her lips, even more confused.  "Then how do you know what he 
looked like and what he did?"

Cousin Gwen and Sidney looked at one another and rolled their eyes.  The 
gesture wasn't lost on Tser and she dropped the subject.  She didn't think 
Sharon Lee was going to tell her anyway.  "Well," Tser said, "a gaunt 
LaCroix certainly sounds like mine.  Where was it that he took Sidney's 

"It was an alley near the Four Seasons hotel," Sharon said.  "That's at the 
corner of Cumberland and Avenue, near Yorkville.  Really close to the Royal 
Ontario Museum."

"I'll try to get the collar back," Tser assured her, smiling.  "Thanks so 
much.  You've been a big help.  You be sure to call me if you need 
anything."  Tser gave Sharon her cell phone number and email address.
"While I'm in Toronto, this is the number where you can reach me...
either that or call CERK and ask for Cousin Tser."

"Thanks," Sharon said.  "I'll make sure to keep that in mind.  I'll watch 
for your LaCroix, too."

They stood to leave, and Tser threw a tip on the table -- with a little 
extra since Gwen and Sidney had left cat hairs on the benches.  The FoSiL 
and the Cousin discreetly left the restaurant, a cat hidden beneath Sharon's
black cardigan and one hiding beneath Tser's floor length black dress.  
Once outside, the cats freed themselves from their disguises as articles 
of clothing.

"Thanks again," Tser said.  "And good luck.  May all your nights be long 
and bright and all your cars have trunks."

"Anything for a fellow cat-person.  By the way," Sharon asked as they 
prepared to go their separate ways.  "*Why* would LaCroix steal a cat's 
collar, and do nothing else?"

Tser shrugged.  "I don't know," she replied.

"Well, bye," Sharon Lee asked.  They waved and departed.  Tser walked 
slowly down the sidewalk, Cousin Gwen trotting along beside her.

Tser had a sinking suspicion she *did* know.

* * * * * * *

 WAR:  Home Brew-ha-ha
 Part 1/3
 After: "Observations" and "Does Your Faction Know . . ." By Patt Elmore
 Beta by Bons and Jules--they work for "virtually" nothing  


 As Jules and Patt made their way back to the front door of CERK, Bonnie 
 came bounding out.

 "There you both are!" she exclaimed, bouncing up to them with her normal 
 perky grin.  "I was getting worried.  Couldn't find you anywhere and the 
 Penguin has disappeared.  You know, there are a lot of bird snobs among 
 the Cousins.  Also, the guy with the toga seems to have made an escape.  
 I was sure looking forward to some more show-n-tell with him."

 Patt and Jules just looked at the girl.  Bonnie continued, unabated.

 "Julsey!  Cherri called.   Cherri wants you to confirm that the guitar 
 is well-hidden and she wasn't willing to take my word for it."  Bonnie 
 looked perplexed.  "I wonder why not, since I was the one who hid it.
 Oh, well," she said, her face brightening once again.

  Bonnie fell into step behind the other two Cousins, continuing her patter. 
 "Cherri may just be a little nervous, you know.  She's probably just all 
 excited about the . . ." Bonnie looked around, her grin carrying an air of 
 mystery, " . . . *excursion* we're planning. Dadadadada."

 "I could use a drink," Jules sighed heavily.

 "You could!"  Bonnie's response was immediate and too darn positive.
 "That sounds wonderful!  It will just be the three of though, 'cause Annie 
 is napping right now.  Yep, the three caballeros, the three amigos," she 
 popped in between Patt and Jules, linking their arms in a chain, "the 

 "Sickle."  Patt completed, then looked pointedly at Bons.  "As in sharp 
 curved metal blade to cut down grass." Jules shuddered at the reference, 
 but if Patt noticed, she didn't acknowledge it. "Like the one used by Uncle 
 to render little Divia unconscious for two thousand years."

 "Huhhhhh?" Bonnie did not seem to get the implied threat.  Patt and Jules 
 looked at each other, shrugged and started walking toward the door.  Bonnie 
 followed, grinning.

 When they reached the entrance to CERK, Patt stopped.   She turned to 
 Jules, gave Bonnie a quick glance, then looked back to the other woman.  
 "I really don't feel like going back in there right now," she said.

 "There's safety in numbers, though, and we are at war," Jules reminded her.

 "Yea, but those numbers can get a little claustrophobic at times," Patt 
 said.  "I live alone, except during one of Mom's extended visits, and I'm 
 used to having some quiet time.  I appreciate the fraternity of the other 
 Cousins, but I really could use some peace for awhile."

 Jules nodded in understanding.

 "I know where we can go!" Bons interjected.  "Dwabbs."

 Jules cocked an eyebrow.  "Are you talking about that waterfront dive you 
 read about in the "Sailor's Guide to Toronto?"

 Bonnie nodded happily.  "They have 'Happy Hour' from five to seven," she 
 went on, the excitement building in her voice.  "And, if I'm correct, it 
 is still five.   Who's up for two for one?"

 Jules looked at Patt questioningly.  The older woman shrugged and replied, 
 "Why not?"

 With only a small amount of trepidation, Jules acquiesced.  "Okay," she 
 said.  "We'll check out Dwabbs, but I'm going to tell the reception crew 
 where we've gone, just in case someone wants to find us. Wait here 
 and . . ." she looked at Bonnie sternly, "don't get into any mischief."

 "And," she turned around again, assuming her *LaCroix* stance. "We are not 
 taking any of the LaCroixs with us."  Bonnie's face fell.


 A short time later, the three women were heading for the CERK parking lot.  
 Jules paused in front of LaCroix's Jaguar and eyed it sadly, knowing she'd 
 probably never have the privilege of driving it again.

 Bonnie was walking ahead with Patt, who had reached the side of her maroon 
 Chevrolet full-size pickup parked near the back of the lot.
 Patt put her hand on the vehicle's hood and felt for warmth.  Then she 
 looked at Bonnie questioning, "Where did you take her, anyway?"

 "Can't say," Bons smirked, enjoying her air of mystery surrounding the 
 hiding place of the guitar.  "But, it wasn't as far as you had gas for us 
 to go.  Didn't even need to top off the tank.

 Jules had caught up with them and looked at the truck.   "I was hoping 
 that you had an extend cab."  Patt looked at her, eyes sympathetic.

 "No," Patt shook her head sadly, then grinned.   "But I do have a camper 
 shell with a sliding glass window.  Think we could get away with stuffing 
 Bonnie in the back?"

 "HEY!" Bons protested, and the other women began to giggle.


 Of course, Bonnie ended up in the front seat with Patt and Jules.  In 
 fact, she chose to sit in the middle, leaning toward the dash and watching 
 the lights of night time Toronto speed by.

 As this was basically a straight shot down Yonge to the wharf area, Patt 
 wasn't too nervous about assuming the driving duties.  She usually avoided 
 driving at night, especially in areas she was unfamiliar with.  Patt 
 adjusted her no-line bi-focals and complained inwardly about the ravages 
 of age.

 But soon, her spirits lifted.  Bons' central location put the little 
 redhead in charge of the radio and she soon had the truck's stereo system 
 blaring out a local pop music sound.  It took a moment for Patt's ears to 
 adjust to the 'onslaught,' but once they did, she found she enjoyed it.

 "So this is ABBA, with a backwards 'B'?" Patt shouted over the roar of the 
 music and the traffic.  They'd decided to roll the windows down and let 
 the cool cross-air blow in.   Bons' and Jules' red hair cascaded in the 
 wind like flickering flame.  Patt's short perm began to frizz, but she 
 didn't care.  The night felt good.

 Dwabb's was exactly as it sounded.  Dwabb.  The outside appeared to be a 
 tin Quonset hut, of sorts, decorated with flotation devices and netting.  
 Inside, it was much the same.  The floor and tables were wooden, the walls 
 a collection of salvage.  The bar, though, was immaculately clean and the 
 atmosphere cheerful.

 Bonnie bounded in with customary grace, followed more slowly by Jules with 
 Patt bringing up the rear.  They found a small table, tucked to the side, 
 empty except for the leavings of the former occupants.  Patt and Bonnie 
 removed the used glassware to another table while Jules wiped the surface 
 of their chosen site with a handful of napkins.

 Seated, Bonnie looked around happily.  "See!" she perked.  "What did I tell 
 you?  Isn't this grand?!"

 A quick survey of the bar yielded the following facts:  one tired-looking, 
 overweight bartender with an obligatory cigarette hanging from his mouth;  
 approximately a dozen patrons of assorted sizes, shapes, sexes, etc.; two 
 pinball machines, a billiards table, a dart board on the wall and a jukebox.

 "Order me a Tom Collins," Bonnie instructed the others, then bounced over 
 to the music machine.

 Patt and Jules sat back, saying nothing.  They smiled at each other in 
 simple mutual appreciation of this moment of peace.  The proprietor spotted 
 them, seemed to mutter something to himself, wiped his hands on his apron 
 and came over to the table.

 "Wa-dul-oo-'av?" he mumbled around the cigarette.   Patt watched as a 
 splay of ash drifted down to the table's surface.

 "A Tom Collins and a Sherry," Jules ordered.

 "I'll have a beer," Patt added.  Jules looked at her quizzically, but said

 After the man had moved away, Jules leaned forward.   "Are you sure you 
 want a beer?"

 "Yes," Patt replied, letting her eyes close to a slit.   "After the night 
 I've had, that's what I want.  You see, I can drink all the hard liquor 
 in the world and just get quieter and mellower.  Beers, on the other hand, 
 get me drunk and give me the giggles.   I usually avoid them, 'cause they 
 can cause me to get a little crazier than my normal crazy self.   I think 
 it's the bubbles."

 Patt reached into her pocket and pulled out the truck keys.  She pushed 
 them across the table to Jules with a grin.  "I'm among friends tonight, so 
 hopefully they won't mind if a giggle a little.  I could use it."

 Jules smiled, then frowned again, "I don't think you understand what I 
 mean . . ."

 Before Patt could probe, Bonnie slipped back into her seat with a 
 disconcerted look on her face.  "No ABBA," she huffed, then pronounced the 
 place a "dive."

 The bartender returned, holding the three drinks in a triangle with his 
 bare hands.  He plopped them down on the table and walked away.

 Patt reached for the beer bottle, touched the glass and got an odd 
 expression on her face.  She hefted the container and touched the liquid 
 to her lips.  The Louisianan wrinkled her nose and put it down.

 "It's *warm*," she exclaimed in disgust.

 "It's British," Jules explained.  "It's the way beer is served here."

 "Totally uncivilized," Bonnie lifted her nose and mimicked proper British 
 pronunciation as taught her by PBS.

 "Tastes like pi . . ." Patt began to complain, when she saw Jules' 
 expression and stopped.  "What is it?"

 Jules' eyes never left the bar's front entrance.



 End of part 1/3


 WAR:  Home Brew-ha-ha
 Part 2/3
 After:  Part 1
 By Patt Elmore
 Additional fight scenes written by Bonnie Rutledge
 Beta by Bons and Jules, Lmt. --they work for "virtually" nothing  


 Patt and Bonnie turned around slowly in their chairs, their gazes
 following the direction that Jules was looking.  Coming in the door
 were three women.

 "That's Katrinka, one of the Knightie Co-Leaders, and her bodyguard,
 Lori," Jules told the others.  Patt recognized the two women from their
 earlier reconnaissance to Knightie Central, "I don't recognize the other
 one," Jules said, squinting. "She must be new to the organization.
 Looks like a kid."

 The three women did not appear to notice the Cousins hidden in the
 shadows.  They chose a table several feet away and sat down.

 "What do you think we should do?" Bons leaned across the table and
 asked the others.

 "Get a *cold* beer," Patt replied.  She looked toward the bartender,
 caught his eye and motioned him back to the table.  Grudgingly, he

 "Wha?" he grunted.

 "I'd like a cold beer, please," Patt smiled as sweetly as she could,
 handing him the warm beverage she'd been served.  He eyed her with
 distaste, but took the offending brew.  He turned to move away and
 Patt called to him.  "Make it a Texas longneck, if you will."

 "And don't forget that it's Happy Hour," Bonnie called cheerfully,
 waving her empty Collins glass.  "Two for one!"

 The bartender moved away, muttering something in Screedeese, taking
 him right past the table occupied by the three Knighties.  As he passed,
 Patt's eyes fell on the group sitting there and locked with Katrinka's.

 The hairs on Patt's neck immediately rose in anger.

 The sudden din of loud music rocked the little establishment.  All three
 women looked in the direction of the jukebox, where a medium
 sized man with rolled up T-shirt sleeves stood perusing the selection
 list and punching keys.   Finished, he turned to survey the room and
 caught sight of the Cousins.

 Before they could turn away, he noticed them looking at him.  He
 sauntered over in their direction, smoothing back his thick black hair
 as he came.   Reaching the table, he placed his hands on the
 edge and began looking the women over.  He finally settled on Bonnie.

 Bonnie lifted her left hand and wiggled her ring finger.  "Sorry," she
 replied sweetly.  His eyes drifted to Jules, but she just shook her head.

 Finally, they rested on Patt.

 Patt looked him up and down, decided he would clean up okay, but
 opted to forego the temptation for the present.  There was a war going
 on, after all.  "Maybe another time, hon," she said.  "Why don't you
 leave your card, and I'll get back to you."

 The sailor-type moved away, heading in the direction from whence
 he'd come.  He spotted the Knightie table and strolled that way.

 Patt, now sipping a properly chilled beer, watched in interest as he
 leaned in to proposition the three other women.  Jules watched Patt,
 noting the Louisianan's mood was growing darker and darker.

 "What's the matter?" she finally asked.  "I thought that stuff was
 supposed to give you the giggles, not the glums."  Patt took a good
 swallow of her drink then turned her eyes to Jules.

 "I'm just ticked off," Patt replied, returning her eyes to Katrinka's
 direction.  "It just really pulls my weeds to think that I've been
 sharing Nunkies with a . . . traitor!"

 "Shhhhhhhh! Jules scolded Patt softly.  We're *anonymous*
 remember.  The whole world doesn't need to be aware of our

 Jules looked around, then continued.  "Besides, we knew Katrinka was
 a declared Knightie when she joined our group as a support member.
 She's never claimed to be addicted to Nunkies and serves an important
 spot in Nunkies-Anon."  The ex-Texan spoke softly, trying to
 reason with her friend.  "Don't worry, one of these days she'll figure
 out the error of her ways and come around."

 "But in the meantime, she's a full-fledged, died in the angst, Knightie."
 Patt fumed.

 The man, having struck out at the Knightie table also, walked toward
 the bar and made the acquaintance of a woman who'd just made her
 way into the establishment.   After a quick conversation, they retreated
 to a shadowy table near, but not too near, the Cousins.

 Meanwhile, the Knighties were having a discussion of their own.

 Katrinka was sipping her drink while she watched the drama across the
 room.  It made her uneasy to have the three Cousins so close,
 especially members of Nunkies Anonymous.  Although she was not an
 addict, and had joined the organization to help those that were, her
 own faction might not view her affiliation with the NA kindly.  She
 would have liked to leave, but Dwabbs was the closest drinking
 establishment to Nick's Loft and she needed this chance to talk with

 Lori, of course, was along for protection, as she was Katrinka's
 assigned bodyguard.

 Kil was talking about the horn again.  She was telling them about how
 many of the Knightie pets had been disappearing into thin air each time
 the trumpet sounded.  Kil's own little dog, Teek, was among the

 Lori, noticing Katrinka's inattention to Kil's words, looked at her
 questioningly.  "You know those Cousins, Katrinka?"

 Katrinka nodded.  Their names are Jules, Bonnie and Patt."  Noting
 that Lori raised an eyebrow at Katrinka having known the names so
 effortlessly, the Knightie Co-Leader hurried to explain that she'd just
 finished reading the Cousin biography fact sheet in preparation
 for war activities.

 "Patt," Kil said, repeating the name of the Cousin.  "That name sounds
 very familiar.  I wonder where I've heard it before."

 A sudden rush of movement caught the Knighties 'attention.

 "Bloody 'ell," the man at the back table jumped up, knocking several
 chairs over in his wake.  His face was livid with anger.

 "What's going on?" Bonnie asked, watching the commotion.

 "Seems they've discovered a gender gap," Jules said dryly.  "The lady
 appears to be a guy."

 Indeed, upon closer inspection the sailor's companion turned out to be
 a cross-dresser.  Rising, she/he touched the sailor's arm, trying to get
 him to sit back down and discuss things reasonably.  He pushed
 her/his arm away, then, for good measure, lifted the table and shoved it
 against her/his chest.

 She/he screamed in anger and came across the table, reaching for him.
 He staggered back, falling into the table where another couple had just
 taken residence.

 The burly man at that table rose and attached two meaty hands to the
 sailor's shoulders.  With a mighty flinging motion, the sailor went
 airborne and landed in the middle of the billiards table.

 "My game!"  A rather unsavory looking bald gentleman clicked his
 cue to the ground and looked aghast at the rolling balls which had once
 been a perfect shot.  The top of his head reddened in anger as he looked
 at the sailor.   "You just cost me 1,000 loonies, mate!" he bellowed.

 "Now I remember," Kil said, snapping her fingers.  Then  her
 expression reflected outrage.  "That's the Cousin that threw mustard at

 All three Knighties turned to take another look at Cousin Patt.  Patt,
 you see, was the Cousin who threw hot mustard into Knightie
 Amethyst's food.  Mustard in any form, has an affect on Amethyst and
 Patt well knew it.  Even thinking about the yellow condiment  made
 Amethyst deathly ill, and having it within  proximity of her was like
 dousing her with poison.

 "She also made threats toward Amethyst's dogs," Kil said angrily.

 "Ohhhhhhhhh," Katrinka and Lori nodded their heads, understanding
 Kil's outrage.

 Meanwhile, the sailor fellow had left his residence on the pool table
 and been bodily introduced to a young woman playing darts.  As he
 impacted with her, she gave a mighty grunt and turned to face him.
 She thrust the dart in his direction, but, seeing her intentions, he
 moved to the side just in time.   The small projectile whizzed past his head
 and embedded itself in the upper arm of the original burly gentleman.

 "Bloody 'ell!" the man cried, pulling the offending stinger from his
 flesh.  He looked at the woman, sized her up as 'not such a lady' and
 flung the dart back in her direction.

 She ducked and the dart struck the bottom of the she/he.

 "Oooohhhh, honey!" she/he cried.

 Pandemonium had broken out in the bar.  Only the two tables
 containing the Cousins and the Knighties appeared immune to the fray.
 The bartender watched it all with interest, but made no move to stop it.

 "Looks like this might be the regular Friday Night bill-o-fare," Jules
 commented, as a pool cue swooshed past her ear, crunching into a
 skull not four feet away.

 Patt ducked as a flying spittoon went past, crashing against the far wall
 with a dull clang.

 Bonnie was transfixed.  Under her breath, so low that only vampire
 hearing would have been able to make it out, she was saying, "Bar
 fight. . . he, he, he . . . bar fight."

 Patt and Jules noticed too late.  Bons suddenly jumped up, leapt to the
 table surface and launched herself into the air.  The other Cousins both
 simultaneously grabbed for a foot, but came back with only
 non-sensible footwear for their trouble.  Bonnie had attached herself to
 the back of the burly man, her arms ensnaring his neck.

 "We really need to get the girl some lace-ups," Jules shook her head as
 Bonnie and the man began to spin.   Patt looked at the shoe in her
 hand, tossed it over her shoulder and returned her gaze to the fight.

 "I think we should leave," Katrinka made a move to get up from the
 table, encouraging the other Knighties to do the same.  Lori rose, but
 Kil was still eyeing Patt.  Katrinka noticed the younger Knightie's
 hesitation and said, "Kil?"

 "It's not right," Kil said, as much to herself as Katrinka.  "It's not
 right that she should be able to just sit there after hurting Amethyst like

 Before anyone could stop her, Kil had pulled Teek's spare leash out of
 her pocket.  Holding it like a doubled whip, she started to run toward
 the Cousins' table.  Katrinka headed after her, but Lori stopped
 the Co-Leader and indicated that she would handle the situation.

 As Lori made her way across the seating area, though, a billiard ball
 flew across the room and struck her knee.  The pain staggered Lori,
 and she fell forward, arms splayed outward in an attempt to catch her

 As Lori fell into the Cousins, one of her flailing hands struck Patt
 across the face.  Instinctively, Patt grabbed her beer bottle, grasping
 the long neck like a weapon.

 "Back off, Knight-breath!  I know how to use this," Patt gestured with
 the object.

 "Easy, Patt," Jules reached out to quiet Patt, but Patt shrugged her off.

 She sighted Kil from her peripheral vision and stood up to meet the
 girl's attack.  Kil was holding something.  Something fairly large and
 round.  It looked like a . . .

 Patt staggered back as Kil threw the dart board like a Frisbee, striking
 the older woman in the chest.  Still clutching the beer bottle, Patt
 began swinging it blindly, catching the sailor across the jaw.  The sailor
 shook his head, saw it was Patt and grinned broadly.  Patt, not noting
 who he was at all, broadsided him again with the container.  He went
 to his knees.

 Bons was having a good bit o' fun.   She'd never envisioned that this
 trip to TO would involve a bar fight, and she was having the time of
 her life. She liked bar fights. At home in North Carolina, though, she
 usually referred to them as 'dinner with the redneck relatives'. The
 current ruckus was almost the same as a home-state rumble, only there
 was no Winston Cup memorabilia.

 "Bar fight . . . he,he,he . . .Bar fight!"

 Bonnie climbed to a stand atop one of the tables again.  She scanned
 the rowdy bar for a new victim. "Next?" she quipped, then spotted a
 rough-looking fellow barrelling forward, intent on double-teaming one
 of the Knighties.  She let out a whoop and leapt at his back, screaming,
 "I'm Tarheel born, I'm Tarheel bred, and when I die, I'll be -
 WOOHOO!!! Bar Fight!!"

 Meanwhile, the he/she had noticed the sailor sink to the floor.  "Hey!"
 He/she shouted in a shrill voice.  "Don't be 'urtin my 'oney!"  She/he
 ran toward Patt, but tripped over Jules' outstretched leg where the
 Cousin had been attempting to rise.  She/he fell, pulling Jules with
 her/him to the floor.

 Rolling across the stained, stinking surface, Jules found herself
 gagging and fighting to rise, fighting being the operative word.  Her
 struggles were met with kick attempts and grabbing hands, causing her
 to decide to stay low for the time being.  She finally managed to rise to
 a crawl and was leaving the heavier part of the row when she
 encountered  a mass of black material.  "I wonder who put a tent in
 here," she wondered idly.  As her gaze progressed upward,
 though, Jules found herself looking into the stern countenance of the
 person wearing the skirt.  Her heart sank slightly.

 "Hello, Cousine Celeste," Jules said weakly.  "What brings you here?"


 End part 2/3

 WAR:  Home Brew-ha-ha
 Part 3/3
 After: Part 2   
 By Patt Elmore
 More fight scene contributed by Bonnie Rutledge.
 Special thanks to Cousin Leader Cousine Celeste for betaing,
 suggesting, contributing, ordering, threatening, etc.
 Beta by Bons and Jules, Lmt.--Hey, the best work for less!


 Cousine Celeste, her hands on her hips, looked down at LaCroix's
 personal assistant in dismay.

 "Jules," she hissed. "Get up and stop kissing the bar room floor!  It's,
 like, totally undignified!"  She caught sight of Patt and Bons, then she
 looked back at Jules, her hazel eyes flashing.  "For cryin' out loud.
 Don't you wanna set a better example for the little newbie Cousins?"

 Jules stood up and began dusting herself off, just as a chair flew by
 their heads.  She ducked instinctively, and noted a noxious smell.  To
 her horror, she discovered it to be coming from her clothes.

 Looking down, Jules took note of a rather large, brown stain which
 had appeared on her white ribbed sweater.   She quickly identified the
 offending spot as tobacco juice mixed with spital.  Jules felt her
 stomach lurch.

 Celeste caught her going down.

 An elegant figure walked up to Celeste.  It was a LaCroix, the LaCroix
 which had been dubbed the Curiouser and Curiouser LaCroix, or the
 Dream LaCroix, for short.

 "Oh . . . uh; hi, it's you!" Celeste said, catching sight of him.  "I
 thought you were gonna wait in the cab while I looked for them; heh,
 heh, heh?" The Cousine tried to put a good face on it in front of her
 LaCroix as she struggled with the limp Cousin Jules,
 who seemed destined for an intimate re-introduction
 with the floor.

 "Have some wine," the Dream LaCroix said in an encouraging tone.

 "Now don't you go starting *that* again!" said Celeste, easing Jules to
 the floor.  " . . . this *isn't* The Mad Tea Party!  Next, you'll be
 trying to help me stuff this one into a teapot or something!  I promise, 
 we'll have a proper English tea, with every teacup in the Rec Suite, as soon
 as I get this lot out of here!"

 From the floor, Jules's caught her breath and turned green as the bar
 aromas assaulted her again.  She turned to avoid expressing her nausea
 on the Cousin Leader's shoe and caught sight of a man with a wad of
 chewing tobacco in his mouth.  Drawing her knees up, Jules carefully
 crawled across the floor, avoiding the various motions of the battle
 engaged patrons.  She reached the feet of the man she'd spotted and,
 through sheer force of will, raised herself up and faced him.

 At least, she faced his cotton undershirt which he wore as an outer.
 Jules stretched herself to her full height and looked at the man's
 Adam's apple.  She looked up and watched his jaws working in a
 chewing motion.

 Jules remembered little after that, but in reports supplied to the police
 later, it was stated that a small, red haired woman armed herself with a
 broken table leg and rendered a local member of the longshoreman's
 union permanently disabled.

 Cousine Celeste was unsure which way to turn, as the Cousins and
 Knighties appeared to have representatives in all directions of vision.
 Not to mention  her own  Dream LaCroix.  The refined rascal had
 moved himself from the altercation and had assumed a seated
 position on the bar surface.  He sat now, cross-legged, sipping from a
 teacup he had somehow managed to obtain, while the Cousin leader
 considered her options regarding the situation.

 On the other side of the room, Kil was still demonstrating her frisbee
 expertise with the dart board.  Lori was engaged in combat with a
 rather indignant looking gentleman who was demanding that she
 'cough up' some quarters to replace those he'd lost in the pin ball
 machine when her bumping had caused him to tilt.  Katrinka opened
 her purse, ready to pay the man, when someone knocked it out of her
 hands, sending the contents flying.  As she reached down to retrieve
 it, another someone kicked it away.  She managed to put her hand
 around the large office tape dispenser that she'd "borrowed" from her
 office and, using it as a weight, brought it down on the man's foot.

 Patt ran by, chased by the Cross Dresser.  Across the room, the tiny
 Cousin Bonnie was atop a table again, sighting her next quary.   She
 held an armful of  pretzel bowls, which she threw at anyone who aimed
 her way, looking for trouble.

 Jules, head clearing and table leg in hand, looked around the room,
 trying to access the situation.  She caught sight of the Cousine, who
 was watching the mayhem with a look of determination.  Jules decided
 that, if she wanted to regain any standing in the Cousinhood, she'd best
 do something to impress the Cousin leader.

 She turned around and tripped over Lori, who was attempting to
 retrieve one of Katrinka's rolling lipstick tubes.  Lori shrieked and
 slashed out, gouging long fingernails into Jules' leg flesh.

 "Hey!" Jules screeched, "play fair!"  She hefted the club and brought in
 down on the back of the Knightie's neck.  Lori went flat, but quickly
 recovered and rolled across the floor.  Lori sighted another segment of
 the table that had provided Jules her weapon, and grabbed an
 extremely oversized splinter for herself.  She had just regained her feet
 when the Cousin came at her.  Lori assumed a fencing stance.

 "En garde!" she cried defiantly.

 "I'm a guardin'! Just try something!" Jules retorted.

 Lori lunged forward and tried to slip under the Cousin's defenses.
 Jules parried, meeting Lori's blade. . . uh, stick . . .thrust for
 thrust, then made a riposte.  The Knightie blocked  her move effortlessly,
 regrouped, and attacked once more.

 They dueled for several minutes, poking at each other from under,
 over and around tables, and exchanging the wittiest of repartee, such

 "Am not!"

 "Are, too!"

 Celeste was moving to intercede in the 'sword' fight, when her attention
 was diverted by a more pressing problem.  As the Cousine watched in
 a mixture of horror and wonder, Bons shed herself of the remainder of
 the pretzel bowls and caught hold of the overhead hanging light
 fixture.  Emitting a fiendish howl, Bonnie lurched and swung, her legs
 outstretched, and struck at one of the mob with her feet.

 "This is a little like herding cats," the Cousin gasped.  She had had
 plenty of experience herding cats, but this was beyond even her
 abilities.  Still, being a proud member of the Cerberus, she had to make
 an effort.

 As she moved to help Bonnie down from her precarious position, the
 flung dart board glanced off Celeste's brow, causing the Cousine to
 spin so that she again faced the bar.

 In that moment, next to the Dream LaCroix, a smile appeared in the
 air, hanging alone, teasing her.  The smile was quickly joined by a
 stripey tail, and then the entire body of Celeste's feline friend.

 The Cousine immediately recognized that tiny, furry face.  "Gozer!"
 she cried. "Am I hallucinating?"  The Cousine gingerly touched her
 forehead for the skull fracture that had undoubtedly caused this vision.

 An odd brass sounding menage of  French trumpet, oboe and Toyota
 horn blared.  Kil, having heard a similar sound before, looked up with
 a start.   A glimmering light was taking form next to the Everett-Cat on
 the bar.   In a matter of seconds, it had materialized in the
 shape of a canine.

 "Teek?!" Kil cried out hopefully.  She was never able to confirm the
 dog's identity as a large woman with very big hair rose up in front of
 her, blocking Kil's line of vision.  The dog-shape growled, the cat
 hissed and the fur flew.

 Celeste and Kil simultaneously dove at the images of  their respective
 companions, narrowly missing the Dream LaCroix, who daintily spun
 on his rear to avoid their meeting.  He watched them over his shoulder
 as the two women, their forward momentum too great to allow them to
 stop, cannonballed head first over the top of the bar.  Only their
 waving feet were left to mark their passing.  Of course, the animals
 had long since taken their leave of the situation, vanishing
 into the air from whence they'd come.

 A projectile landed on the bar, next to the Dream LaCroix.
 He picked up the shoe, eyed it carefully, then proceeded to pour the
 remainder of his drink into it.   As a short man of questionable
 reputation ran by, the Dream LaCroix offered him the shoe-born

 Turning at the same time, Patt and Katrinka met on the floor, Patt still
 holding the beer bottle and Katrinka her tape dispenser.  They paused,
 assessing each other.

 "Why?" Patt said finally.  "How could you betray your sisterhood like
 that--by being a Knightie!"

 "I am a *Knightie*!" Katrinka shouted.  "I am a Knightie, all Knightie
 and nothing but Knightie!   Always have and always will be.  I
 *LOVE* NICK!  I will go to my grave whispering my allegiance to
 his faction.  I am a *FRIEND* of NUNKIES, nothing more!  I am loyal to

 "Okay . . ." Patt took this in slowly, then smirked.   "Explain those
 times that we sat and read Nunkies Fantasies together?"

 Katrinka looked crestfallen.  "I . . .I . . . never *wrote* any!"  she
 defended herself.

 "Yea," Patt retorted, "and I bet you never inhaled, either.  And that
 WereVachon had the nerve to call you 'loyal.'"

 Katrinka's mouth flew open.  She realized the only way that Patt could
 know about that conversation.  "You . . . you were spying on our
 headquarters.  You were spying on *me*!"

 "Hey," Patt shrugged, "it's war.  Wha'cha expect."

 Across the room, Bons scampered across the bar surface, barely
 missing tripping over the Dream LaCroix.   She did a sort of
 impromptu cartwheel, which placed her in a position to notice her
 shoe, which the LaCroix had placed next to him on the bar.  In a quick
 scooping motion, Bonnie grabbed the slipper and hopped on one
 foot, attempting to return it to its rightful position on her other foot.

 Her pedal digits encountered the moisture in the shoe toe and Bonnie
 yelped.  She quickly extracted her foot and proceeded to pour the
 offensive liquid onto the floor.  Or, rather, into the face of a patron
 who was lying on the floor.

 Simultaneously, Jules and Lori noticed the wavering appendages of
 their respective factions members, visible just above the horizon of the
 bar surface.   They both rushed to the rescue.

 Meanwhile, Katrinka was livid.  "I expect you to have some . . .
 honor!" Katrinka cried, still addressing Patt.  Then she paused, her
 anger replaced by a killer's thirst.  Her next words were slow and
 measured.  "But then you are a Cousin."  She smiled rather
 triumphantly as she added the next words.  ". . . and only a Third
 Cousin at that!  No wonder they think of you as the *poor* relation."

 Patt's face took on a purple hue.  Before she realized exactly what she
 had planned, she brought the bottle upwards.  Katrinka raised the tape
 dispenser, shaking the office tool threateningly.

 The two women stood there for a moment, considering.   Suddenly,
 something clicked inside their warring brains.  Something which made
 them realize why they had bonded at NA all those months ago.  They
 remembered their mutual love of Forever Knight.

 The eyes of both women softened as they gazed at each other.  They
 began to lower their weapons.

 From her vantage point behind Katrinka, Bonnie did not see the
 change in their expressions, their stance.   Still muttering "Bar fight
 . . . he, he, he. . . bar fight,"  under her breath, Bonnie looked down on 
 the floor and caught sight of the spittoon.  She picked up the urn and
 rushed the women.  With a mighty cry of victory, Bons brought the
 spittoon down on Katrinka's cerebral cortex with a mighty klang.

 With a low moan, Katrinka fell to the floor.

 Realizing what she'd done to a friend, Bonnie came out of her
 trance-like state.  "Oh, my!" she said quietly.   Then she looked up at
 Patt.  "Did I do that?!!"

 "Yes," Patt nodded.  She started to kneel at Katrinka's side, when her
 more Cousinly nature superceded.  She couldn't help it, after all, she
 was born wicked . . . or just a product of her environment.   She
 quickly stooped to grab Katrinka's shoulders.   "Here," she addressed a
 gaping Bonnie, "help me with her."

 Bons complied, lifting Katrinka's other end.  From the bar, where she
 had hold of Cousine Celeste's ankles, Jules noted their activity.  She
 looked across the bar surface at the struggling Cousin leader, who was
 thrashing around, her face hidden amongst her skirt.  The Dream
 LaCroix continued to watch, sip his cup and  smile.  She returned her
 attention to Patt and Bons, who had gathered up Katrinka's unmoving
 form and were carrying it towards the exit.

 "JULES," Cousine Celeste had managed to free her face from the
 material and catch sight of who held her feet.   "Let go of my legs," she
 shouted, kicking at LaCroix's personal assistant with surprising
 forcefulness.   Jules complied at once, and Celeste toppled into a

 Celeste righted herself.  She stood up and began brushing her dignity
 back into place.  Jules reached over to help Celeste, but removed her
 hands gingerly when the Cousine warned her off with *the* look.

 Lori had managed to pull the smaller Kil back across the bar and had
 stood the child upright.  Both of them, especially Lori, immediately
 began surveying the room for sign of Katrinka.  Celeste followed Jules'
 gaze to the now closed exit door and understood the situation.

 "You'd best go after them," Celeste advised, as much to rid herself of
 the little darlings as anything.  "I don't know what they have planned,
 but I'm sure it will fall under the General Go-and-Commit-Mayhem
 rule."  Celeste sighed, "They're still so green and they'll need
 guidance, even if just from you."   She narrowed her eyes and looked 
 pointedly at Jules.  "Just don't disappoint me."

 Jules gulped and started toward the door, then had a thought, and
 looked back to the Cousine.

 "Do you need a lift?" she asked helpfully.

 Celeste shook her head.  "I have my own transportation, thank
 you."  She leveled her gaze at Jules.  "Now, *GO*."

 Jules dallied no further, but darted for the door.   Lori and Kil noticed
 her movement and shot off in pursuit.

 Cousine Celeste took one last look around the demolished bar and
 sighed again.  An almost forgotten memory of her own youth in the
 wilds of Brooklyn emerged and she smiled slightly.  Dream LaCroix
 was suddenly at her side, offering her a cup.

 "Shall we?" he tilted his head and smiled hopefully.

 Celeste sighed again.  Catching his arm, she ushered
 her LaCroix toward the rear exit where the cab awaited their return.
 Out in the parking lot, Jules caught up with her cohorts just as Patt
 finished pulling the camper shell door down.

 "What are you doing," Jules hissed, grabbing Patt's arm and standing
 on tiptoe to peek inside the camper shell.  Katrinka lay stretched out on
 floor of the truck bed.  Bons, sitting beside the semi-conscious
 Knightie, waved.

 "Saving her," Patt replied decisively, moving toward the cab of the
 truck.  "We're going to take our sister Katrinka to the Nunkies Shrine
 and see if we can deprogram her Knightieness."

 Before Jules could protest, she saw Lori and Kil burst from the bar
 door.  They didn't look to be in a mood to reason, so Jules chose
 prudence.  Jules felt for the truck keys in her pocket, assured herself
 they were there, then dashed to the driver's side door while Patt headed
 for the passenger's.  As Jules cranked the engine, she glanced across
 the lot to see Cousine Celeste and the Dream LaCroix climb into a
 large black Toronto taxicab.   Assured that the Cousin Co-Leader's cab
 had plenty of time to evade the oncoming Knighties, Jules applied
 her foot to the gas and sent the pickup roaring out of the parking area.
 Just before Celeste's vehicle exited also, a smile appeared above the
 roof of the cab, chuckled, then disappeared.


end part 3/3

War: After the Kataclysm (1/1)
By Bonnie Rutledge, Third Cousin Patt, and Knightie Co-Leader Katrinka
 Folks abused with permission
WereVachon provided by Katrinka
Time: After 'Home Brew-ha-ha' and 'MacNunkies' 

     "You know," Jules mentioned as she sped silently toward The Jeweled 
Peach, "we might have gone too far this time by kidnapping a Knightie 
Co- Leader."

     "Not far enough," Patt corrected. "First we need to deprogram that 
pesky Knightie-ness from her."

     Jules groaned. "Patt! Kat was a member of Angsters Anonymous before
 she ever joined Nunkies Anonymous! You won't be deprogramming - you'll
 be overriding!"

    "Yeah, yeah, yeah," Patt waved her away, her thoughts already consumed
 with Cousinly thoughts of Chinese Ribena Torture. 


     Bonnie wasn't angsting.  She was considering the welfare of someone she 
respected to the point that it resembled self-castigation, remorse, and 
despair, but she wasn't angsting.

      she fretted. 

     Bonnie frowned to see that Katrinka hadn't moved or made a sound since 
they dumped her in the back of Patt's truck. She gingerly felt Kat's head 
and came across the beginnings of a nasty bump. 

     She curled her knees up into her chest and noticed that she'd ruined 
yet another pair of non-sensible shoes. *Sigh*

      Bonnie thought ruefully. Suddenly, her eyebrows raised at a 
positive thought. 

     "Wake up, Kat!" she said worriedly. "Please be alright! If you are, I 
promise...I promise..." Bons racked her brain trying to think of something 
the Knightie would like. "I promise I'll wear a T-shirt that says 'Nick is 
Not a Brick' in public." Bons squinted in horror at the thought.

     Katrinka groaned.

     "Ohmigosh! It worked!" Bonnie squealed happily. Then her face fell.
"Ohmigosh. I might actually have to *do* it."


     Jules, Patt, and Bonnie carried Kat as gently as possible to the 
warehouse door, triggered the lock with an Official Nunkies Drool Cup, 
and slipped her inside.

     "Hmm," Jules said, noting the lack of Not-So-Vestal-Virgins guarding 
the entrance. "I wonder where the others are."

     They lugged the body into the Shrine and saw there was a party going 
on, complete with Monsieur Cabon doing a sprightly jig to the Tanahill 
Weavers music playing in the background. Jules, Bonnie, and Patt were 
very surprised.

     They dropped Kat's body.

     "Uuuuuhhhhh..." the Knightie groaned.

      Jules screamed. "What is *he* doing in here? I thought I said NO NON- 

     Monsieur Cabon's jolly mood instantly deflated. He collapsed, sobbing 
at Kim's side. She pushed him away to one of the red silk loungers before 
he got tear stains on her toga, then she handed him an Official Nunkies 
Black Silk Hankie.

     "We're celebrating Heather's birthday," Jan explained. "And the 
perpetration of a successful whammy on the Nick & Natpackers, too!"

     "I don't *do* birthdays," Jules reminded her. "This 'whammy' didn't 
involve any of you leaving the Shrine premises, by any chance?"

     "Well, yeah!" Kim said. "We used the hot-air balloons and the 'copter.
Monsieur Cabon played a big part, so we let him come to the celebration!"

     "But you aren't supposed to leave the Shrine - it's in the charter," 
Jules fumed. "Who told you could do that?"

     "I did," a female voice answered.

     Jules whipped her head around to glare at the doorway leading to the 
private dining room. Her first instinct upon seeing a Natalie standing 
there was to howl bloody murder. Then she noticed Nat's toga and 
breastplate. "Oh...my...word...Where's my sherry?"

     "Susan's getting that and some more whiskey from the Peach's bar. Ours 
ran out," the N-S-V-V Nat answered with a slightly drunk grin.

     Meanwhile, Bonnie was observing Kat regain consciousness and testing
her for a concussion.

     "Okay, Kat - tell me how many chocolate Nunkies I'm holding up."

     Kat put a hand to her aching head and counted. "Thre...Two and a ha...
Hey! Are you eating one?!?"

     Bonnie bounced up and down. "Oh, Kat! You're alright! I'm so happy!"

     "My head hurts," the Knightie whimpered. "I feel like someone shot me 
in the head." Katrinka looked up at the Shrine from the mosaic floor, her 
eyes brimming with tears. "Why?" She looked from face to face, seeking 
answers. "What did I do?"

     "You defected to Nick," Patt said flatly. "We're just here to help you 
realize the errors of your ways and bring you back into the arms of 

     "Just consider it...tough love," Bons added.

     "But that's not true!" Katrinka said, shaking her head in protest. "I 
never professed my loyalty to Nunkies. I never pledged undying adoration.
I've never even written a Nunkies fantasy - only peeked at a few. I'm just a 
friend to Nunkies Anonymous - I've *always* been loyal to Nick!!"

     Heather waved her hands in the air. "I don't know if it's the whiskey 
or what, but I feel like I hear Libby talking!"

     "Denial!....Denial!" Jan and Kim chanted under their breaths.

     Susan suddenly ran into the room, a bottle of sherry and Scotch in 
either hand. "We've got trouble! We've got a visitor...visitors...uh...
Something's here!"

     Before she could explain further, a Nick brushed past her. Sighting 
Katrinka huddled on the floor, the creature turned eyes filled with anger 
on the women surrounding his chosen one.

     "What have you done to her?!" he demanded.

     "It was an accident!" Bonnie said. "Bar fight enthusiasm, I swear!"

     "I'm fine," Kat said feebly. "Really."

     N-S-V-V Nat wasn't fine, though. "Get that...that...*Nick*...out of my 
Nunkies' Shrine!!!"

     "But it's not a Nick," Susan protested. "Not exactly. When he first 
stormed into the restaurant, he was a Vachon. He...transformed."

     "He's a WereVachon," Jules explained. "He becomes Vachon in the 
light of the full moon."

     "Ooooh," the Not-So's said in unison.

     "I still want him out!" Nat muttered. "Now, now, NOW!"

     "I'll be taking my Kat back to the loft immediately," he promised.

     Sidney the Sheepdog, who had been munching on doggie kibble in 
the kitchen, came running at the sound of Nick's voice. Seeing Nick's face, 
the dog stilled momentarily in a pose of happy alertness, then bounded 
forward. The sheepdog flung his full weight at the WereVachon, intent 
on sharing as many slobbery kisses as possible.

     The force of the flying projectile dog knocked him off his feet, and 
the canine and werevamp fell down, landing right on Katrinka's sore head. He 
leapt up, pushing the silly dog out of the way and examined his chosen one.
She was out cold. "What have I done?" he wondered aloud.

     "You knocked her unconscious!" Bonnie exclaimed with delight. "You 
did it! You and the sheepdog." She began to do a happy dance. "It's not 
my fa-ult! It's not my fa-ult!" she taunted.

     The Nick growled as he swept Katrinka's limp form into his arms, then 
stomped back to the restaurant.

     "Good. He's leaving," Nat said pettishly.

     A virtual lightbulb went off over Bons' head. "Ooo! Look at the pretty 
lightbulb! I just had an idea - wait here," she said, then chased after the 
vampire carrying Kat.

    He saw her following him as he pushed through the front doors with 
his back. "Get lost."

    Bonnie grinned as she saw the moonlight hit his hair. "Sure, Nick! I'll 
stay away from *you*."  She was being completely honest, for by the 
time her sentence was complete, the vampire carrying Katrinka was now 
Vachon. "A WereVachon!" she exclaimed. "That is so kewl!"

     Vachon shrugged and moved to leave.

     "Wait! Wait. Before you go, Vachon," Bons said impishly, "let me ask 
you a question."

    Vachon looked away momentarily, then back to the redhead, and sighed.
"Okay, shoot."

    "You wouldn't be wanting to meet up with your Vaqueros, now would 
you?" Bons fluttered her eyelashes innocently. "'Cause the old church just 
happens to be my next destination. Wanna come?"

     Vachon shuttered his eyes thoughtfully and gave a small frown. "I do, 
but I have to take care of Kat, first."

     "So take care of her, then come back here. Kat won't mind."

     "Alright. I'll meet you back here." He gave Bonnie a stern look. "But 
no funny business."

     She grinned widely. "What? Don't I look serious already? I'll be 
waiting..." Then Bonnie skipped back inside.

     She walked up to the reservation desk and picked up the restaurant 
phone with an evil smile. "Hey, Cherri?...can you still use a spare Vachon 
for the little 'trip' you have planned?...Good...Because I convinced one 
to meet me here and come along...Hook, line, and slacker."


     Vachon carried the unconscious Katrinka in his arms, wondering what he 
should do with her. After all, he had promised Bonnie that he would be right 
back. It wasn't his fault that Kat had a concussion, anyway - it was more 
like Nick's.

     He spotted a very familiar, silver, late-seventies model car driving 
down the street. It didn't matter to him that it looked brand-new. This 
rift in time had done stranger things before.

     Vachon settled down in the street, fifty feet in front of the moving 
car. The driver stuck a reddish-gold, curly-haired head out the window. In 
an almost-cockney accent, he yelled, "Vachon! How many times have I told you 
not to do that?"

     A smile crossed his lips. "Sorry, Ray..."

     "Who's the girl?" the man's partner asked. This one had short, dark 

     "She's a friend of mine."

     "A vamp?"

     "No, not a vampire." Vachon looked his friends over. "Can you do me a 

     The driver looked him over in return, his cat-green eyes wary. "What do 
you want us to do?"

     "All I need you to do is to take her to Nick's loft."

     "You mean make sure she's safe..." the partner said.

     "Exactly," Vachon agreed.

     The curly-haired one looked at his partner. "I suppose it wouldn't 

     The partner got out of the car. He walked over to Vachon and took the 
woman into his arms.


     Katrinka woke. Her head was resting on someone's shoulders, and she 
could smell the faint scent of musk. She also had a very big headache.

     "This is the very last time I do that guy a favor!" she heard someone 

     "Come on, this isn't hurting anyone," the man holding her said. His 
voice sounded very familiar.

     The car stopped suddenly, and the strong arms that were holding her 
grew just a bit tighter. The door opened, and she felt herself being carried 
up the stairs to the loft. The man paused and pressed the door buzzer.

     Terri's voice came over the intercom. "Who's there?"

     "I am a friend of Vachon - he asked me to bring Katrinka home," the 
man said.

     The door opened, and Katrinka felt herself being carried into the loft.

     "Who are you?" Terri demanded. "You're not a Cousin, are you?"

     "No, I'm not a Cousin."

     "He's British," Lori said.

     "In a way - now, do I have to stand here holding her all night, or can 
I put her down?"

     "Put her on the couch," Terri said.

     Katrinka felt herself being placed on the couch. She was finally able 
to look into the eyes of the man who rescued her. She recognized him. 
"This can't be...you live in London..."

     "People move." The man smiled at her, his midnight blue eyes dancing.
"I have to go. Ray doesn't like waiting."

     "Thanks for bringing me to the loft," she said.

     "Anytime." And with that, the stranger left.


Send comments to:   katrinka@flash.net     pattelmore@juno.com
                              or  br1035@ix.netcom.com 

"Shave and a Haircut, Two Blinks"
by Kristine (Die Hard Co-leader) and Cousin Tser

I have permission to do this...
Takes place during "He Ain't No Laura Ashley"


LaCroix paused and stared off into the distance.  The air was quiet, the
vacuous street abandoned to the night, deserted even by the warring
factions.  Unusual, he thought.  Perhaps it was just the area.  He
thought, absently, it was too lonely a night.  After such a long time
without companionship, this self-enforced isolation was wearing him down.
 Very soon he would return to CERK.

He wondered idly what to do next.  His hand moved absently to his pocket
and he fingered the thin collar and tags.  The collar had been
exceptionally easy to take.  The rift-traveling feline hadn't offered any
resistance.  He knew vampires would offer a great deal more of a
challenge.  Humans -- some would and some wouldn't, he knew that.

He resumed walking.  Ahead, he heard strange sounds.  His vampiric
hearing was picking up several loud carpentry noises, which were suddenly
stopped by a woman's voice yelling at a high volume to someone else, "No
redecorating, and that's final!"  LaCroix shook his head bemusedly and
continued on to the building that housed the FK Props Museum.

The Museum was dark, with only a few spotlights lit to illuminate the
various displays.  He moved quietly through the Museum, pausing only to
examine a mock-up of the CERK sound booth.  His mouth quirked briefly in
remembrance of his nights broadcasting to his wayward son.  As he passed
the display containing the prop of Divia's brooch, he snarled slightly
and continued on to his goal.

Suddenly, he felt a presence.  No, several presences, and not ones he
recognized.  It was strange... they were vampire, and very near to a
vampire he had met before -- but somehow different, and very animal-like.
 The sensation he got from them seemed to shimmer in the back of his
mind, which he had noticed over his stay in this reality meant they were
not of this reality.

Ah ha.


LaCroix continued through the rest of the museum silently, slipping
easily in and out of the shadows of the partially darkened building.  It
was virtually deserted.  Other than the "presences" of the vampires, only
a single mortal's heart beat could be heard, and in the opposite
direction of the object of his desire.

With vampiric swiftness, he tracked down his quarry.  He was surprised,
and fairly shocked, to discover what they were.

In a large fish bowl with a wire mesh cover, ten large fish swam around
aimlessly.  When they noticed LaCroix, they blinked in his direction
several times.  They had long, brown, curly hair.  Beside the dish, a
large box of "Piranha Party Flakes" stood open.  LaCroix smiled.  Another
easy strike.

First, to find some scissors.  There had to be a pair somewhere in the
museum.  LaCroix quickly found the curator's desk, where a pair was
hidden in a drawer.  He retrieved the scissors, and headed back to where
the Fish were on a pedestal in a remote corner.

LaCroix approached the fish bowl, smiling slightly, scissors in hand.
Removing the screen top, his hand plunged in, and he held one of the
fishes by the tail.  It flopped feebly in his hand, its mouth opening and
closing as much as its eyes.

"Don't worry, it'll grow back, I'm sure," he said, and proceeded to cut
the fish's hair off.  He let the brown locks fall to the counter.

A very surprised fish with a crew cut was replaced in the bowl.  He swam
around for a seconds, disoriented, the other fish eyeing him warily.
They isolated themselves from the shorn fish and blinked threateningly at
the alienated creature.

LaCroix pocketed the Vachon-like hair and began to turn.  Suddenly, as an
afterthought, he turned back to the fishes and sprinkled some piranha
party flakes into the bowl.  The still-long-haired fish eagerly snapped
up the food, while the now hairless fish pouted near the bottom.

LaCroix left the museum silently.

WAR: The More the Merrier (1/1)
by Sharon Lee Frye, Bonnie Rutledge, and Heather Poinsett 
with Kim Colley, Jan Cook-Moore, Susan Pierce, and Shele 
Haiku by Shele
Time: After 'After the Kataclysm', Directly after 'Keeping Them Collared', 
Before 'Revenge Is A Dish Best Served With Baklava!" 

     After leaving Grandfather's Pizza, Sidney and I walked to my car.
Actually, I carried him. I wasn't going to give him the chance to run off 
again before he answered some questions. "So, what do you think, 
Sidney?" I asked once we had gotten in the car.

     "Of those two? The human, Cousin Tser, seemed truthful enough. 
She may know more than she's telling about Lacroix's theft of my collar, 
but Gwendolyn did confirm her story."

     "What? When?? I didn't hear her say anything."

     "Yes, you did. She quite distinctly said, 'Meow.' Just because you 
cannot fathom the subtleties of feline communication, that does not 
mean they don't exist."

     "Well, excuse me! What did you and Gwen talk about behind Tser's 
and my backs?"

     "Oh, this and that. Darling creature, Gwendolyn. I really must make 
arrangements to see more of her - despite her devotions."

     "Huh? Oh, you mean because they're Cousins. Cousins aren't all bad, 
you know."

     "Don't be silly. I don't care about your little human doings. I cannot 
understand how a cat could join one of your factions. We are above 
such things."

     "You just don't understand. Lacroix is so strong, so powerful, so...so 
" My eyes began to glaze over...

     "Stop it! Only felines are worthy of such affection!"

     "If you won't believe me, then I'll show you how wonderful Nunkies is.
We're going to the Jeweled Peach." With that, I threw the car into gear 
and sped off.



       The Not-So-Vestal-Virgins, with Monsieur Cabon and Sidney the 
Sheepdog forming the cheering section, had just finished their 
thumb-wrestling tournament for the last slice of Scottish tiramisu. Heather 
won, of course. She was a champion thumb-wrestler, but everyone had 
drunk just enough to forget that detail except Heather. She served up the 
last slice of dessert with taunting triumph, started shoveling bites into 
her mouth, then picked up a portable phone.

     Kim suddenly noticed a visitor walk through the portico leading from 
the warehouse entrance. It was one of their newer joinees, but the woman 
was no less of an addict due to the brevity of her membership. In fact, Kim 
remembered, she had a pretty bad case of 'Nunkiesus-Wantius.'

     "Sharon!" she greeted, "Who had a klew you were in town?!"

     "Well, there's is a war going on," Sharon replied, "and that pesky 
temporal rift - where else would I be?" She looked down at the feline who 
settled at her feet in a regal pose. "Besides, I wanted to show Sidney just 
how wonderful Lacroix was, and there isn't a better place to do that than 
the Shrine to Nunkies. I know we're not supposed to bring outsiders here, 
but I thought, since this one's a cat, there wouldn't be any problem."

     Jan smiled, waving her fellow addict's concerns away. "Relax. A cat's a 
harmless visitor! It's not as though he can talk and spill our secrets!"

     Sharon smiled feebly. "Err...yeah. Right."

     Heather paced through the Shrine, the phone glued to her ear. "Uhmmm, 
well, can you check on the apartment?" she begged. "In fact, I'd really 
appreciate if you'd dirty up some of the dishes every once in a while...
Well, I can't explain now," Heather groused, running a hand through her 
unruly hair. "We've been so busy here, and I can't leave yet, but I promised 
the owner I'd be there taking care of the place," she pleaded. Heather 
listened for a few moments, then her expression became joyful. "Okay, 

     Heather noticed Sharon's arrival as she hung up, and she smiled. "Hey 
girl! Couldn't stay away from us and Nunkies, could you?"

     "Well, I thought you were leaving the War early to watch over a 
friend's place," said Sharon.

     "I can't help that I'm having so much fun here!" Heather exclaimed.
"Besides, with the Time Rift, I can get back and it will still be Friday."

     Sharon shook her head, "I don't think *he'll* look at it that way," 
she said.

     Heather sighed. "Well, as long as no one tells him," she said, giving 
Sharon a pointed look, "it's not a problem. Oh, wow! Another Sidney!" 
Heather loved kitties, so she leaned down to admire the cat at Sharon's 
feet and stroke between his ears.

    The Sidney cat moved away to sniff disapprovingly at the loungers, 
turned to inspect the Shrine altar, the gave a catly huff at the odor of 
rosebud incense. Sidney the Sheepdog, who had been napping atop the 
Fresca-stained lounger that had just been sniffed, raised his head sleepily. 
His doggie senses had detected that something interesting was taking place 

     The sheepdog looked down at the gray tabby, and his canine senses went 
wild. There was a cat! He had to sat 'hello'! Sidney the Sheepdog flopped 
ungainly to the floor, accidentally putting his full weight on Sidney the 
cat's tail. Sidney the cat squawked with displeasure, flipping around to 
smack his claws up side the shaggy mess that made up the sheepdog's face.

     The sheepdog slobbered on the cat, adding insult to injury. A "Rowf!" 
and a "Eeow!" later, both animals went racing from the room in a mad chase.

     "Oh dear," Sharon said. Nat stepped forward, and Sharon's eyes boggled 
to see the Coroner in an N-S-V-V uniform. "Are you new, too?" she asked 

     Nat grinned. "Not exactly. I'm one of those rift visitors," she 
explained, "like the sheepdog."

     Sharon appeared perplexed.

     "It's a Sidney Sheepdog."


     "Hey, Nat!" Jan called. "Tell Sharon everything that's happened to you 
since you arrived. She'll love it!"

     Nat looked to their visitor for approval. "Do you really want to hear?"

    Sharon nodded enthusiastically. "Oh, yes! The more I know, the merrier!"

    "Alright. It all started went I went to the Thai Burger Palace..."


     Sidney the Cat clawed his way up and onto the kitchen island, cursing 
as he went. "Get your grimy paws away from me, you spitmeister!"

     "Rarf!" Sidney the Sheepdog replied as he raised to his hind legs and 
used the island counter as support. 

     "Alright...you asked for it," Cat Sidney told Dog Sidney as he primed 
his claws.


     Sidney the Sheepdog panted happily in response. Cat Sidney looked at 
his paws, astounded at their lack of devastation. "Must be all that hair," 
the cat muttered, then he noticed they were drenched in drool. "Ugh! You 
fiendish creature! How could you do that?" The sheepdog continued to pant 
in friendly bliss. The feline huffed. "Why do I get the feeling I'm talking 
to myself?" Sidney the Cat asked no one in particular.

     The cat noticed the open pantry door and got an idea. Slipping to the 
floor, he pranced inside amongst the shelves. Sidney the Sheepdog followed 
with eager curiosity, walking completely inside as he searched for the cat 

     The cat leapt out of the pantry in a blaze, and, before the dog had 
finished turning around, the feline had pushed the door shut with a click.
Sidney the cat preened with satisfaction.

     "Imbecile," he taunted. "Dogs are like sheep - they'll follow you 
anywhere. Especially sheepdogs."

     Then Sidney the Cat slinked to the sink to wash the slobber from his 


     N-S-V-V Nat poured a generous three fingers of whiskey into her 
Official Nunkies Drool Cup as she finished telling Sharon her story and 
said, "I'm going to Sound Room for a bit. I still feel kind of...violated...
from having that Nick in here,"  She shuddered briefly, "even if he was 
only partly a Nick. It's just so awful."

     Sharon, the Not-So's and Monsieur Cabon watched as she left, distressed 
to see a fellow addict so upset. "I think all the duplicates running around 
have really pushed her buttons," Jan said sympathetically.

     "Or pooshed her off zee deep end," Monsieur Cabon sniffed.

     "Or she's simply homesick," Heather said. "When I let her read my kilt 
fantasy, I thought I saw her cry."

     "Nope," Kim corrected. "That was just drool."

     "Eye drool?" Heather said doubtfully.

     "It could happen!" Kim insisted.

     "Can not!"

     "Can, too!"

     *CRASH!* *BLAM!* *PING!* *POW!*

     "Kim! Heather!" Jan shouted.  "Stop that brawling this instant!" They 
didn't pause. "You'll rip your togas!" They didn't even flinch. "You might 
break something!" They went right on slugging. "And then you'd have to tell 
Annie and Jules!"

     Kim and Heather froze, then moved to sit lady-like atop opposite 

     "I'll fix this," Susan announced. "There's a copy of 'Gray's Nunkies 
Addict Anatomy' in the Library. I'll go look it up."

     A few moments later, she re-entered the Shrine, a confused look on her 
face. "Did you guys know the Poet Laureate is in there?"

     Kim gave her a considering look. "Shele? What's she doing?"


     "Oh." The addict sounded disappointed.

     "But she has her quill in her hand and her Sacred Inkwell is open!"

     The addicts gasped in wonder, then scrambled for the Library. Monsieur 
Cabon trudged afterwards begrudgingly - he had liked dancing to jigs better.
They found Shele stretched out on the mahogany table, snoring softly. Her 
sleep-dribble formed a tiny watermark on the finish's surface. It was 
obvious that she'd fallen asleep while scribbling something on the paper 
beneath her hand.

     "I-want-it!" Heather demanded. "It still my birthday, you know!"

     "Oh? Happy Birthday, Heather!" Sharon said enthusiastically.

     "What, still?" Jan protested. "I feel like we've celebrating for days."

     "We have, but *someone*," Heather glared disapprovingly at the writers, 
"hasn't bothered to move the plot along, nor have they let us sleep since 
that trampoline episode!"

     "Come to think of it," Jan said as she sniffed the air. "No one's 
written that we've bathed, either."

     "And I have been working zee job for more than cent-cinquante heures!
What about my overtime?"

     "No wonder we're so cranky!" Kim exclaimed.

     Kim, Susan, Jan, Heather, and Monsieur Cabon all put their hands on 
their hips and turned to glare at the writers. Sharon glared too on 

     //**//Okay, Okay. You've slept, bathed, been paid, it's not Heather's 
birthday anymore, and everyone can have a fresh change of toga, even//**// 
the writers promised.

     "Much better," Kim said with satisfaction.

      "Oh, mon dieu!" Monsieur Cabon cried. "You have put me in zee heavy 
chiffon and breastplate!"

     The addicts turned to stare at the restaurant manager and instantly 
regretted it. Monsieur Cabon was wearing their official uniform, down to 
the knee-high sandals. Seeing their expressions, He let out a squeal of 
horror then ran shrieking from the room.

     "Now I *really* want that poem," Heather said, eyeing the paper under 
Shele's hand with desperation.

     Sharon didn't mind the change in wardrobe at all. "Kewl! Does this mean 
I've been inducted?"

     Susan protested as she saw Heather's fingers reach out toward Shele.
"How do you think you're going to get that from underneath her?!" Susan 

     "Aaahh - just snatch it up - like this!" Heather cackled.

     Shele's hand flashed out with lightning speed and grabbed Heather's 
wrist. Without raising her head, she said in a stony voice, "Nobody lays a 
hand on my haiku."

     "I wasn't going to touch it," Heather lied baldly as Shele looked up 
at her. "I was going to fan the ink dry, like this." She began to flap her 

      Shele rolled her eyes sarcastically. "Uh-huh. Suuuure you were."

     Not-So-Vestal-Virgin Nat poked her head in the doorway. "Ah! There you 
are!" She smiled and gave a happy sigh. "All of the sudden, I feel much 
better - more rested, cleaner, my toga even seems fresh - it's amazing what 
listening to a Nightcrawler monologue can do!"

     Shele, meanwhile, noticed that she, herself, was now wearing a 
breastplate. "When did this happen?"

     "Shele! You're awake!" Nat cheered. "What's it been - five, six days?"

     Shele nodded ruefully.

     "You *knew* she was here?" Kim asked. "Why didn't you mention it? We 
could've woken Rip Van Shele up!"

     "She's the Poet Laureate of NA," Nat said as though she stated the 
obvious. "She needed her iambic pentameter rest."

     "Ohhhhh." Poet Laureates had no use for beauty sleep.

     "I needed it, too," Shele declared. "One week of War, and all I've got 
to show for it is this here haiku."

     "Share! Share!" Jan and Susan demanded.

     "I guess it couldn't hurt." Shele cleared her throat. "This one is 
about *The Hands*."

     All the addicts released wistful sighs.

        "Mirrored elegance
          Holds promise of life and death,
          He beckons to me."

     "Look!" Kim exclaimed as Shele finished reading. She pointed to Nat.
"What'd I tell you - eye drool!"

     Susan snorted in protest. "I checked 'Gray's Nunkies Addict Anatomy', 
remember? There wasn't a word about eye drool!"

     "Well," Kim said as her eyes flashed, "maybe *I* don't like the way 
you checked it! Give it here!"




     *SMACK!* *PONG!* *FOOP!*

     "Here we go again," Nat sighed as she wiped the moisture from her eyes.

     "My," Sharon commented, "things do get silly here."

     "It's in the charter," N-S-V-V Nat confided.

     Jan leaned against the wood paneling, saying, "Yep, it's a good thing 
we aren't allowed to have sharp objects - enough wacky stuff happens with 
the blunt ones."

     "Face it," Heather announced. "We're on a perpetual collision course 
with wackiness."

     Just then, Sidney the Cat came racing through the Library, a recently 
liberated Sidney the Sheepdog hot on his heels. Both animals were in togas.

     "Oh my," Sharon said.

Fin for now

Send comments to:  gfrye@idt.net      heatherp@smart1.net
                         or   br1035@ix.netcom.com 
"Ashes Where Once Fire"
Cousin Tser  and Cousine Celeste

People within used with permission.
Takes place a while after "Shave and a Haircut, Two Blinks"
During "The More the Merrier"


Twinkle, twinkle, little hell,
Why I'm here, I cannot tell --
You're my future and my past,
Can this "meantime" ever last?
Twinkle, twinkle, little hell,
Why I'm here, I cannot tell.


He was sitting in the War Room when Tser came in.

She looked at him in shock for a moment.  It was easy to recognize him as
*her* LaCroix, and not one of the other alternates running around.

He had been quick to recover from his years of starvation -- physically,
at least.  His skin was a normal, healthy pallor, his strength had
returned.  But his eyes still betrayed the years of loneliness and pain.
He always had a thoughtful, resigned look about him.

Tser wanted to demand to know why he had gone off like that.  Of course,
no one demands anything of LaCroix, at least not a LaCroix as close to
the original as this one, and Tser was quite aware of that.  He had been
gone what would have been two days, if time had actually existed.

Instead, Tser said nothing, merely stared for a moment, then went over to
the Cousinly Registry, laying her cell phone down next to the massive
volume.  She had been spending the past day in the War Room, looking
through the oversized leather book, comparing the different notes, trying
to find a clue as to which was the LaCroix that belonged in their own
reality.  More, though, it was for the quiet, because she had been
feeling rather down since LaCroix had left.

Tser flipped through the pages absently, not paying attention to what she
was doing, her mind swirling with irritation.  She knew it wasn't her
place to get irritated with any LaCroix, especially just for going off on
his own without telling anyone.  It seemed a fairly LaCroix-like thing to
do in the first place.  But she couldn't help it.

"Hello, Cousin Tserisa," LaCroix said, pronouncing her difficult name

"Uh, call me Tser," she said, not looking up from the book.  She trained
her eyes fiercely on the description of Pompeii LaCroix and refused to
let her eyes shift.

LaCroix cracked a smile.  "Angry, are we?"

This time Tser turned her head towards him.  "Not exactly.  Annoyed.  You
could've told me you were leaving."

LaCroix shrugged slightly.  "I come and go as I please," he said lightly.
 "Do you expect otherwise?"

Tser shook her head.  "No," Tser admitted.  She looked LaCroix over.  He
*was* LaCroix, if not from this reality.  "In fact, I wouldn't expect

LaCroix nodded slightly.

Tser broke and turned, exasperated, towards him.  "Why did you steal
Sidney's collar?"

LaCroix looked at her and his brow wrinkled.  "What?" he asked sharply.

"The collar.  Where'd you put it?" Tser asked simply.  "Do you have it
with you?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about," LaCroix said, eyeing her
suspiciously.  He frowned angrily, and Tser shut up.   "Perhaps you
should get some rest," he suggested  curtly, "because your mind is
obviously not up to par."  He said it in a way that meant he didn't think
it was just lack of sleep, but maybe genetic or chronic.  Tser blushed
slightly.  It wasn't easy to survive insult from someone she held in such
high regard.

She closed the Registry lightly.  LaCroix had a thoughtful, far away look
on his face again, and Tser headed towards the War Room door.  She looked
back one more time.  His position and expression hadn't changed.

She rode the elevator down to the ground level and walked into the lobby.
 She went up to Cousin Denese, who was manning the front desk.

"He's back," Tser said flatly.

"Uh, you mean your LaCroix?" the receptionist asked.

Tser nodded blankly.  Her stomach was tight and her head ached.  She
loved being with her fellow Cousins, but everything seemed to be going
wrong.  She sighed.  "It wasn't right of me to expect him to stay in the
first place.  He's *LaCroix* for crying out loud," she said, mostly to
herself.  Her annoyance had shifted from LaCroix to herself for being so
over-protective of someone who so obviously didn't need protection.  "He
probably hates me," she said, despair leaking into her voice.

"I'm sure he doesn't," Denese assured her.  "Seems to me he's a little
preoccupied to care if you're keeping tabs on him or not.  Why don't you
go for a walk," she suggested.  Over the past few
what-would-have-been-days, Denese had noticed Tser's tendency to heal
alone.  "I'll tell the Cousinly Leaders he's back.  Don't worry about
keeping track of him.  If he *is* anything like our LaCroix --" she

"He is.  He's more like our LaCroix than almost any other," Tser

"Well then, don't keep him on a leash.  I'm sure he likes you fine.
Seems to me he has a fondness for you."

Tser looked up at the Cousinly Receptionist.  "Probably just feels sorry
for me," she said.

"Well, no doubt about that," Denese said, smiling.  "After all, he *is*
LaCroix, and you're just a mortal."  Tser grinned.  "Look, the others may
have to 'keep track' of their alternate beings; I mean, can you imagine
what would happen if Ranger Schanke was let loose on the city?  Or if the
Dream LaCroix didn't have someone to keep him grounded in reality?  Your
LaCroix, on the other hand, is doing fine blending in with this universe.
 He's very close to our LaCroix -- whoever and whichever he is.  Close
enough you don't have to worry about him."

Tser smiled.  "Thanks.  I guess I will take that walk.  If anyone wants
me, I'll be back in a little bit."

The Cousinly Receptionist smiled.  "Sure.  Careful out there."

Tser nodded and left through the front doors.


LaCroix sat in the War Room, fingering the ring on his hand.  He wondered
who would be easiest person to obtain more non-native material from --
probably an alternate being already there with the Cousins.  But which?
Certainly not Divia.  He frowned.

He wondered if, in her reality, LaCroix had never had reason to kill her.
 This Divia didn't sound like one who would suggest the things the Divia
in his own reality had.  In his reality, Divia had been dead since
ancient times, dead by his own hands, her lifeless body encased in an
Egyptian tomb.  He stopped rubbing his ring.  Why had she suggested such
things?  He had never wanted to kill his own daughter.  His own mother.
He wouldn't still exist were it not for her, and she would not have
existed at all were it not for him.  Why did she have to inherit such
evil?  And why would Qa'Ra's kiss of eternity amplify it to such
immeasurable proportions?  He clenched his fist.  Why.  Such a worthless

He might as well be asking why the comet smashed his world to pieces or
why the rift had opened and brought him here.  Why, in his reality,
Natalie lived such a short life as a vampire.  Why Janette had died at
her own hand.  Why Nick had perished of starvation after such a short,
tortured life.  He chuckled humorlessly.  Why he had survived them all,
alone, in a world not worth living in.  And why, in this reality, it
hadn't happened.  No one would, or could, answer the questions.

This rift was just a lie.  A false hope in something better.  Or,
perhaps, something worse.  To be nursed and kept and cared about for an
instant, then to be abandoned by the same and thrust back into hell, with
the realization that it *could have* been better, *would have* been, if
they had really wanted it to be so.

LaCroix knew, in the back of his mind, perhaps, that the Cousins were
worried sick about him, that they were in torture over his plight.  They
weren't angsting, they weren't a group to do that, but they were torn
apart by his mere presence.

They obviously cared a great deal about the LaCroix native to this
reality.  They had, after all, pledged allegiance to him, and served in
his ranks.  They obviously thought very highly of him, respected him,
and, more than a little, feared him.  And they wanted him back,
desperately.  But the simple fact that there was a verisimilitude of
their General living somewhere under the conditions he had was almost
killing them.

Almost killing them.  He himself was already dead inside.  He had died
long ago, piece by piece.  First part when the comet hit, second when
Natalie died, then Janette, then Nick, and all his other people, and
slowly, he turned to ashes as the world around him did as well.  Ashes
where once a beautiful, living, breathing world had flamed.  Inside, he
mirrored the world without.

LaCroix went back to fingering his ring absently.  He looked up when the
door to the War Room opened and two figures stepped through.  One, he
recognized as one of the leaders of the faction, Cousine Celeste.  The
other was another LaCroix, the one from an "Alice in Wonderland" reality.
 And they had massive quantities of teacups with them.

Cousine Celeste looked up, balancing tea cups and pots and platters of
sandwiches, and noticed Tser's LaCroix sitting there.

"Care to join us?" she asked.

continued in part two

"Ashes Where Once Fire"
Cousin Tser  and Cousine Celeste

continued from part one


Tser walked back into CERK, much improved from her stroll in the night
air.  Giving a nod to Cousin Denese at the front desk, she headed up
towards the elevator.  During her walk, she had discovered her cell phone
missing, and had remembered leaving it in the War Room.

Tser opened the door of the War Room and her mouth nearly fell open when
she saw the scene inside.  The Dream LaCroix, the LaCroix from hell, and
Cousine Celeste were seated at the War Room table, which was set out for
a rather elaborate Mad Tea-Party.  They were all crowded together at one
corner of the large table... Tser was very glad to see they were not
using the Cousinly Leader as a cushion.

Tser's LaCroix looked at her with a rather exasperated expression on his
face, and the Dream LaCroix motioned to the seat next to him.  "Please,
have a seat, and have some wine," he said in an encouraging tone.

Knowing this was one of his preferred phrases, Tser decided not to
comment on the absence of such a beverage, and took the seat next to her
LaCroix.  "Hi, Cousine Celeste," she said to the Cousinly Leader.  She
surveyed the rather sumptuous tea, noting a variety of fancy sandwiches,
substantial amounts of devonshire cream, and a dozen or so tea pots.  She
wondered idly where all the pots and tea cups and saucers had come from,
but dismissed the thought.

"Hello, Cousin Tser," Celeste replied rather tiredly.  "Welcome to yet
another in a series of Mad Tea-Parties.  Help yourself to some tea,
there's plenty to go around."

"By all means," said the Dream LaCroix, "it's laid for a great many more
than three."

Tser shrugged and poured some tea into a tea cup, and sipped it,
experimentally at first.  Not bad.  In fact, it was just what she needed
after her long walk.

The Dream LaCroix was nibbling quite daintily on a finger sandwich,
alternating it with refined sips of tea.  Tser's LaCroix was the only one
not sipping tea; he drank some thick, red, liquid from a tall wine flute.
 He watched the Dream LaCroix quite intently from his nearby seat.

"I sense... that you are one of my people... and yet, there's something
else, something I can't put my finger on.  How do you do that?  Consume
food, I mean," the other LaCroix asked after a moment of silence.

The Dream LaCroix stirred his tea contemplatively.  "Perhaps it is
because I am someone's dream," he finally said.  "And a dream is capable
of anything that can be conceived by the dreamer."

The other LaCroix looked at him skeptically.  "A dream?  A dream can't
exist in the physical world; I cannot believe *that*," he objected.

The Dream LaCroix smiled and raised the teacup to his lips.  "Can't you?"
he said after taking a sip.  "Try again; draw a long breath, and shut
your eyes."

"This is nonsense," the other LaCroix grumbled.

"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Dream LaCroix
dismissively; yet a smile still played about his lips.  "And yet...
you've thought that I may be *your* dream, haven't you?  That *all* this
may be your dream."

The other LaCroix's silence told them that this was so.

This little exchange piqued Tser's interest.  If for every dream there
was a reality, there would be some *pretty* strange realities out there,
indeed. She thought of some of her own dreams and shuddered, remembering
one particularly odd one.  On the other hand, if the "dream" realities
only followed angst-induced hallucinations, then only Repentant Vampire
Dreams became universes.  She wasn't sure that anyone was any better off
by that or not.  She raised her eyebrows.  What if *she* was a dream?
She shuddered.

Tser gritted her teeth.  Another type of reality to add to the growing
list of alternate realities which seemed to deviate from the norm.  It
was really giving Tser a headache, and she rubbed her temples.

"Is something the matter, my dear?" the Dream LaCroix asked.

"I'm fine, a little dizzy, that's all."  She looked over at her LaCroix,
who was just staring reflectively at the Dream LaCroix.

"Hay," the Dream LaCroix stated suddenly, and put down his teacup

The other LaCroix shot him an annoyed look.  "Hey, what?"

"No, hay," the Dream LaCroix replied.  "There's nothing like eating hay
when you're faint."

"Well, you walked right into that one," Celeste said, a wry grin on her
face.  "The point being that hay isn't necessarily good for you when
you're faint, it's just that there's nothing like it.  I've been walking
into wordplay traps like that since I met him in my kitchen."

Tser grimaced.  "Think I'll pass on the hay, thanks.  So," she asked the
Dream LaCroix, who seemed quite comfortable in his dream-ness, "is your
dream reality a physical one or is it...." she trailed off, confusion in
her voice, unable to grasp what it would be like if not a physical plane.
 She frowned.

The Dream LaCroix sipped his tea.  "Both," he replied simply.

"Both?" Tser asked. "So it's physical and it's... what?"

"It's physical and a dream," the Dream LaCroix said sharply.  "Isn't that
what we just said?"

"Uh, I have no idea."  Tser took a deep breath.

"I think you two might do something better with the short time we have in
this paradise of relative normalcy than waste it with these riddles that
have no answer," Tser's LaCroix cut her off, apparently having had enough
of the pseudo-philosophical non-discussion.

"If you knew Time as well as I do," said the Dream LaCroix, "You wouldn't
talk about wasting *it*.  It's *him*."

To Tser's surprise and relief, this merely made her LaCroix chuckle.
She'd been expecting him to blow his stack.  "Are you a *dream* or are
you a *nightmare*?" he asked amusedly.  "It's my understanding that from
the dreamer's point of view, you hadn't been a particularly savory one."
He looked down at the rather disorderly table, where a milk jug had been
upset into a plate.

"Ah," said the Dream LaCroix, "you are speaking of my beamish boy, are
you not?  Consumed with guilt, his guilt consumed him.  I merely
attempted to deliver my dear Nicholas from his forever-nightmare.
Sometimes the experience that elevates and teaches can be a nightmare in
itself, and yet be beneficial."

"'That which does not kill me, makes me stronger'?  I have had quite a
of experience with nightmares of late, though I would not call them
particularly elevating or instructional," LaCroix said quietly, looking
at the small amount of blood that pooled in the bottom of his empty
glass.  He lifted the glass to his lips and drained it.

Tser avoided his unsettling gaze and stared into her tea cup.

Cousine Celeste cleared her throat.  "I don't think it was a dream or a
nightmare," she said.  "I think it was a delusion brought on by guilt in
an attempt to get past that guilt.  To grow up... which is what the Alice
books are all about, anyway; growing up.  Nicholas' guilt was childish
and self-absorbed, he had to learn to forgive himself."

"Ah," Tser's LaCroix commented quietly.  "I always told him we couldn't
handle such mortal emotions.  Perhaps the experience taught your Nicholas
a lesson.  My own, dear 'beamish' boy... he never did get a chance to
grow up, for all his 800 years...."  He set down his now empty wine glass
on a relatively clear place on the table.

The two Cousins were silent.  There wasn't much else to say.


Cousin Tserisa and Cousine Celeste left the War Room together.  Tser
tucked away her cell phone as they walked towards the elevator to the
ground floor.  Tser had to feed all her Cousinly Critters -- it was hard
to judge the proper space of non-time between each feeding and cleaning,
so she had to guess.  Celeste was due for yet another meeting of the
Cousinly Leaders in a very short non-time, and wanted some non-time to
relax a little and freshen up before hand.  The hall was empty, besides
the two.

Cousine Celeste's expression turned thoughtful.  "That's a rather
interesting, if tragic, character you found."

"*He* found *me*," Tser said, nodding.  "It's giving me nightmares,
though, thinking about him having to go back.  Let's just hope *those*
dreams don't come through the rift."  She smiled.  "You know, your
LaCroix isn't all too boring either.  Kind of a fascinating premise."
She smiled meditatively.

The Cousinly Leader grimaced.  "I find it interesting that you were the
one with all the hot info on the temporal rift, and now here you are,
trying to put a magnifying glass on my LaCroix, who seems to come from
some sort of non-concrete, conceptual universe.  You *like* dissecting
miracles, don't you."  It was not a question.

Tser grinned widely.  "I like that," she said.  "Dissecting miracles."
Her smile faded; her mind, as was so common lately, switching back to the
LaCroix who had attacked her.  He had thought, in his madness, that she
was a dream-figure herself.  He had considered coming through the rift a
miracle, and it was going to be taken away from him.

Celeste, as if noting her thoughts, smiled sadly.  "We have to do
something to save him," she said.  "We can't send him back to that hell.
That would be a waste of a perfectly good LaCroix!"


The Dream LaCroix remained at the War Room table, sipping from his tea
cup, as his vampire counterpart watched him thoughtfully.

The Dream LaCroix was the first to break the silence.  "What day of the
month is it?" he said, turning to Tser's LaCroix; he had taken his pocket
watch out of his pocket, and was looking at it uneasily.

At first, Tser's LaCroix looked as if he was about to say something
cutting, but then he considered a moment, and said, "I do believe I heard
one of the Cousins call it 'Friteen' -- apparently the evening of Friday
the Thirteen has gone on rather longer than it has generally been known
to do in the past."

"Two days wrong," sighed the Dream LaCroix.  He held the watch in his
hand a moment, just looking at it... then his eyes raised to those of his
mirror-image companion and he held the pocket watch out, disengaging the
chain from his jacket as he did so.  The LaCroix who had endured an
eternity of hell looked at the offered gift and did not take it at first.
 This LaCroix did not like to be beholden to anyone, for anything... but,
perhaps, for his very existence, he could bend that immutable rule just
this once.  He took the watch and secreted it in an inside pocket in his
own jacket.

"A very merry un-birthday," whispered the Dream LaCroix.



by Laurie MercBard with assistance from Berg, Tami, and Wooby

Thanks for reading/editing/contributing little bits and/or moral support
to Cj, Casey, Tippi, Andrea, Bons, Kat, and the #foreverknight gang, and
to the NNP for being, as usual, such good sports. Everyone used by
permission or by coercion.

Time: When the people and characters in this story are where they need to
be at the exact moment they need to be there.

        * * *

 The amusement park had been cleared of the public by the time the team
arrived. The event set up had been completed, and the park staff was on a
lengthy break. The four Mercs stood at Paramount Wonderland's entrance,
momentarily stunned by the glorious commercialism laid out before their
eyes. Everywhere they looked, left, right, up, down, front and center,
were signs, shops, rides, all promoting the latest Paramount product.

"Paramount, Shmaramount, why couldn't it be Sony Wonderland?" Laurie
wailed. "Then we'd have Nick and Janette greeting guests, instead of ..."
She stared disdainfully at a Yogi Bear billboard ... "... that."

"With what's been going on around town, we might find ourselves with a
parkful of Nicks yet." Wooby replied.

"Top Gun, what kind of a name is that for a ride?", Berg muttered. "Tom
Cruise is a wannabe."

"Who cares? Let's go on it," Tami said, heading off towards the
aforementioned ride. Laurie reached out and grabbed her by her T-shirt,
pulling her back toward the group.

"Tami, get your butt back here now! "We've things to do ..." She started
to sing, "We've got places to go, people to see ..." when she was
suddenly deluged with a shower of fluorescent neon crosses from the mercs'
equipment bag.

"YOU PROMISED YOU WOULDN'T SING!!," her three companions shouted. "And a
Merc's word is her bond,"

Tami added. "Right, Wooby? Wooby ... hey, Wooby, where you going?"

The manageress of the 21st Century Gothic shop paid no attention; she'd
spotted the Wonderland chocolate shop ahead. Not that a stupid little
shop in a stupid little amusement park could possibly compare with the
chocolate wares available at HER shop, but it never hurt to check out the
competition. She disappeared into the shop, emerging a moment later with
her hands full of chocolate Yogis, Barneys, and Nunkies .... Nunkies?
"Look, they've got Barneys, Yogis ... Hey, they've got chocolate Nunkies
pops here, fancy that!"

The other mercs showed no sign of surprise. In the past few days, nights,
whatever, they'd seen, among others, a Nickaroo and a LaCroix penguin, to
say nothing of Brickman, who was currently standing behind Berg closely
examining the stonework on the entrance arch. Who were they to argue with
the sudden appearance of chocolate Nunkies in a Toronto amusement park
chocolate shop?

"Ooh, give me one of those," Laurie said, grabbing a sweetie and
lasciviously licking Nunkies' head. The three Mercs stared at her, and
she grinned.

"So I'm a closet Nunkie. So sue me."

Wooby sent Laurie a mental command not to break into the Guys and Dolls

"Better not let Jules or Annie hear you refer to yourself as a Nunkie."
Tami internally pondered which one of the NA leaders would pay more for
that particular tidbit; everyone knew Jules and Annie ate tissue when NA
members referred to themselves Nunkies, let alone an outsider.

"But you better not tell anyone," she added threateningly, as she stuffed
the rest of the chocolate Nunkies in her pocket; she never knew when
she'd come across a stray member of NA, and these might prove very useful.

"Sure, we won't tell a soul, will we, Berg?" Tami snickered, as she
mentally reviewed who would pay the most for that little tidbit. Without
looking, she grabbed a pile of chocolate from Wooby's hand, and began
grinding them into the dirt with her shoe.. "Oh, yuck, keep those foul,
nasty Barneys away from me. Icky things they are. Dinosaurs should be
extinct, especially purple ones." In fact, the extinction of purple
dinosaurs was her primary missions in life. One of them, anyway.

"NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" Laurie suddenly wailed."Tami, that's Barney Rubble, not
Barney the Dino ..."

"Don't care, all Barneys must be destroyed."

"Too bad they don't have chocolate Nicks, "Wooby noted. "Now, that I
could really get my hands around."

"Yeah, you and the rest of the known universe," Laurie acerbically

"With all these alternates, maybe they'll be enough Nick for everyone."
Berg commented, thinking of all the Knighties who dreamed of that every
night. The women stared at him incredulously.

"There's never enough Nick to go around. I myself would require at least
three." Wooby answered, while Tami almost began singing, "Here a Nick,
there a Nick, everywhere a Nick, Nick", but a steely look from Laurie
stopped her.

Berg tuned out the bickering women as he mentally ran through the lengthy
to do list. As the primary saboteur... he'd been in charge of gathering
the necessary supplies and weaponry .... Aloud, he muttered "Ok. paint,
six gallons, check. Hourglass beltpacks, 3, check. Hourglass battlepack,
1, check. Fifteen tubes of epoxy, check. Wax lips, 3, check.
Imitation-golden apples, 90, check. Garlic supersoakers, 2, check. Klingon
costumes, 3, check. Speaker wire, 250 feet, check. Flashing red lights, 6,
check. Sirens, 2, check. Firehoses, 2, check. Instant-sealant, 4 tubes,
check. Mini-welding rig, 1, check. Harmonica, 1, check. Toolkits, 3,
check. Laptop, 1, check. Radios, 4, check. Garlic grenades, 8, check.
Cable brakes, 4, check. Radio switches, 40, check. Radio detonators, 4,
check. Loudspeakers, 4, check. That should about do it."

Laurie, a few thoughts behind him (but then again, who in the known
universe WASN'T a few thoughts behind him?), turned to him. "Okay, let's
do a check, shall we?" She pulled out a piece of toilet paper with
scribbling all over it.

"Check 1", Tami shouted.

"Check 2", Wooby shouted.

"Locked, Loaded, Willing, and Able!", Berg shouted.

"Cool, we're set," the three Mercs declared.

"Okay, let's go, hup two three ..."

Laurie once again found herself buried beneath a shower of florescent crosses.

        * * *

Laurie and Wooby headed off to the park's computer control center,
located at the start of the extensive underground tunnels and storage

"You've got the CDS and videos, right? " Laurie asked, as they entered
the room. Wooby nodded, and they grinned at each other.

Laurie had spent what had seemed like hours yesterday (although since
someone - or *something* - had turned out the lights, so to speak, who
could tell?) splicing bit from FK episodes together, but it had paid off.
The CDS held the Natalie-LaCroix love fest, with a soundtrack of "I love
you, LaCroix", "You have no idea how much I care, Natalie", "Make love to
me, LaCroix. Take just a little at a time", "I've waited an eternity for
you, Natalie", "Let me spend eternity with you, Lucien", and a few "I'm a
good cop" .wavs thrown in for variation, while the videos contained every
single mushy kissy Janette-Nick scene that existed, along with some
choice Natalie-LaCroix episodes.

"And you've got the flyers?"

Laurie tapped her equipment bag. "They're right here."

Wooby got to work. She loaded the Nat-LC Endless Love CDS into the sound
players, set the readout to 'continuous', punched in the delay codes, and
set the volume to maximum. One push of a button and the entire park would
be flooded non-stop with Nat and Uncle declaring their endless love for
each other. She then turned to the video set up, and began fiddling.

"We're gonna have one pissed off NNPer on our hands, you know," she said,
thinking of the flyers. They broke into giggles.

"Hey, that's what we're here for, isn't it? Besides, that wasn't even my
idea, although it's certainly worthy of a mercly mind." Laurie smiled
wickedly. "I mean, I was provided with that information. Unfortunately, I
wasn't there at the time. To my eternal regret. And just because some
poor little NNPer is going to have the entire NNP pissed off...."

Wooby didn't bother to respond. They just high-fived, and Laurie
contentedly started on Nunkies abdomen, as Wooby turned back to the
computer console and set up the video. One push of yet another button,
and every screen in the park would run an endless Nick-Janette loop, with
some Nat-LaCroix thrown in as well..

        * * *

As primary saboteur, Berg's duties for the job were fairly extensive. He
estimated it would take quite some time to complete them, but he was
being well paid in chocolate. Besides, this was one of the more fun jobs
he'd had in awhile; it would be great to see it come together. Whoever
said Cousins were nastier than Mercs just didn't fully understand the
many-layered, devious Merc mind.

His first order of business was dealing with the rides that could not be
computer sabotaged. What seemed like fifteen minutes later, he was
hanging upside by his knees from the support cable of the hang glider
ride, the Xtreme Flyer, installing the last of four radio-controlled
braking devices. When activated, these would lock the fake-gliders in
place, trapping the two riders of one car nearly one hundred feet above
the ground, while the other car would be stranded a *mere* thirty feet
above solid concrete.

Sliding down the cable at vampiric speed (well, close to it, anyway), he
made his way to the Bedrock aquarium. The hang glider set up was bad
enough, but *this* would deliver the coup de grace to the nerves of
anyone unfortunate enough to be caught in it. He chuckled to himself.
"And they thought Jaws was scary."

He added four new loudspeakers to the sound system, to ensure full
coverage of the building. Then he used his trusty mini-welder to seal the
emergency exits and staff entrances shut, and taped "Construction in
Progress, Hard Hat Area" signs to the outsides of these non-public
entrances. Next, gleefully cackling to himself at the nefarious deeds he
was engaged in, he added a special sealant to the public doors, and wired
a couple of alarm klaxons into the buildings power grid, along with a
radio control for them. After adding a remote-controlled pick-proof lock
to each of the public entrances of the building, he hooked up the fire
hoses to the waterpumps and fire suppression system in the back. His job
was done, at least the fishy part of it. "Not bad, if I do say so myself,"
he thought, pausing to give himself a big pat on the back.

He stopped by the main entrance, noting that Tami was nowhere in sight,
to let in the medievalists he had convinced to go along with the plan.
Actually, it had been child's play to get them to agree; his powers of
persuasion were legendary when chocolate was at stake. Boy, would those
'Vampire LARPers' be in for a surprise.

As a final touch, he set up a few small, obscure religious symbols around
the park, just in case any sneaky faction tried to bring their new-found
friends with them, making a mental note to warn Laurie of where he'd
placed the objects, so she could pass the info on to the clients, who
definitely would be bringing their vampires along, then headed back to the
main gate to rejoin the team.

                                 * * *

        Tami was obsessed. She KNEW there were dinosaurs in the park,
despite what Laurie had said. She always knew when dinosaurs were around;
she had a special secret sense about it.

        "Now, where could they be hiding? They've got to be around here

Her eyes lit on the Bedrock shop; the windows were full of Dinos. It was
going to be a good night for dead dinosaurs. Setting up security at the
front gate could wait.

                        * * *

Berg Oswell, Mercenary/FosSiL



by Laurie MercBard with assistance from Berg, Tami, and Wooby

Thanks for reading/editing/contributing little bits and/or moral support
to Cj, Casey, Tippi, Andrea, Bons, Kat, and the #foreverknight gang, and
to the NNP for being, as usual, such good sports. Everyone used by
permission or by coercion.

Time: When the people and characters in this story are where they need to
be at the exact moment they need to be there.

                        * * *

The team regrouped at the main gate. Tami, not surprisingly, was behind
schedule. For some reason, she had bits of plush toy stuffing all over
her shirt. Laurie went over to help Tami with the infra red equipment,
which would weed out invitation forgeries. Wooby did a final check on the
holy water drip bottles, which had been installed over the entrance
turnstiles, they could be turned on by remote control if necessary, and
hung a few more apple decorations, which were in reality, garlic filled.

"Let's go over the guest list one more time, k, Tami? We want to make
sure we don't have any uninvited guests." Laurie pulled another piece of
toilet paper out of her pocket.

"Laurie, you do know that writing paper has been invented?" wondered

"Hey, I do my best thinking on the porcelain goddess, and that's all that
was handy."

"Do NOT take the Goddess' name in vain," Wooby warned.

Laurie shook her head, and returned to the list. "We've got a whole load
of NNPs coming," she paused to smirk, "... all the Ravens ...

Berg snickered. "What, all two of them?"

"I was a Ravenette for three wars, best remember your manners." Tami
replied, smacking Berg solidly in the arm. "Besides, there's three of
them now, and just think, they get the entire Raven to themselves."

The mercs paused for a moment of silence to appreciate the thought of
having the entire Raven to themselves.

" ... at least five Cousins that I know of, an Independent or two, and
the FoDs will be here as well."

"Gee, I wonder why." Wooby began singing, "So break out those blue ..."

"CUT IT OUT! I'm the ONLY person who gets to sing in this story."

"Yeah, and you do it pretty appallingly, too." Berg gave the other two
mercs a high five.

"Because I am such a big hearted person, I will ignore that remark",
Laurie said. The neon crosses had already been but in place, so she was
deluged by flying Nerf bricks instead.

Brickman, having arrived a moment before, and passed the Nerf bricks out
just in case, simply shrugged at Laurie's glare.

"Mortar Moron, that's what he is." Laurie muttered, but under her breath.
He might be a moron, but he was still a vampire, and she wasn't that
stupid. She turned back to the business at hand.

"And our clients know about the special anti-vampire arrangements, and
how to bring their vampires into the park without problems?" she asked.

"Yup," Berg replied. "You know," he added. "The NNP is never gonna be
able to figure out who our clients are. " He cackled maliciously. "With
what those addicts have been up to lately, NA will be the first candidate.
Or maybe they'll blame *all* the Cousins, not just the three who hired

"And don't forget the Bird chicks," Wooby contributed.

"How much time do we have left?" Laurie said.

"What time is it? What day is it? What century is it?" Tami giggled.

"How would we know, the clocks have stopped, remember?" Wooby glared at
her. "Geez, you've got a mind like a steel sieve."

"I know THAT."

"What, you know, you've got a mind like a steel sieve? Such
self-awareness. I AM impressed."

"Well, you should be. And just for that, I'm not gonna tell you about the
time tracker Berg and I developed. So there." Laurie stuck her tongue

Wooby put on her best oh, pretty please look. Berg, always ready to piss
off the team leader, whispered in Woobys ear, and she broke into a grin.
Anything that involved listening to an episode of FK was fine with her.

"Will you please just ANSWER THE QUESTION."

Berg turned his attention back to Laurie. "I'd say one Dead of Night and
one Curiouser."

"Only one Curiouser? I thought there were two."

Tami and Wooby linked arms and began swinging each other around,
chanting, "Oh no, we've lost a Curiouser. Very odd; this is getting
Curiouser and Curiouser." A glare from Laurie quieted them.

"Actually, we're now down to 3/4 of a Curiouser. We better get moving."
Berg turned and headed off to the costume shop, with the rest of the team
straggling behind.

        * * *

Wooby and Berg quickly changed into the Star Trek uniforms they had
brought with them. Berg donned his head ridges, and the uniform of a
Klingon warrior (generic), plus battle armor and some sort of disruptor

Laurie and Tami started to tear through the costume racks.

"Hey, I think Tami should wear this." Laurie picked up a Dino head.

NO WAY!!!" Tami wailed, flailing her arms rapidly as the other two mercs
grabbed her and pushed her towards their fearless (well, generally
fearless, depending on circumstances, of course) leader.

Suddenly Laurie dropped Dino, who bounced off into the corner. "Yuck,
smells like a dead dinosaur in there."

"Dead dinosaur, dead dinosaur, let's hear it for dead dinosaurs," Tami
shouted, as she jumped up and down on the head, flattening Dino to a

"How about these, Tami?" Berg asked, holding out a pair of Vulcan ears.

"Ooh, that'll do." Tami grabbed them and busily began attaching them to
her forehead.

Berg turned to Laurie. "And what are you going to wear?"

"I don't have to wear a costume. I'm the Grand High Poobah of this little
party." Laurie did a passable imitation of the GHP's tone, snickering.

"Ooh, ooh, we're gonna tell! We're gonna tell! Laurie took the GHP's name
in vain. We're gonna tell!"

Laurie groaned. She was in enough trouble with Dianne as it was, being
blamed first for Brickman - she paused to give Berg a dirty look  - and
then for LushNick invading the GHP's oh so sacred space. Maybe if she
offered them a higher percentage of the take on this job, they wouldn't
tell. As far as she was concerned, her three partners could have all the
chocolate they'd made on this job. Of course, they had no way of knowing
exactly what else beyond chocolate she'd managed to work into the
contracts; they were subcontractors, after all. Yes, that painting was
going to look absolutely extraordinary; and she was sure the use of the
Raven as a hideout for one night would also come in handy, probably very
very soon.

The three mercs approached her threateningly, with costumes in hand.

"Ok, ok,. I'll be ..." she grinned ... "the Captain. After all, I DO give
the orders around here."

She fell to the ground with a thud, buried underneath Fred, Barney, Dino,
and Astro heads.

                        * * *

Berg Oswell, Mercenary/FosSiL



by Laurie MercBard with assistance from Berg, Tami, and Wooby

Thanks for reading/editing/contributing little bits and/or moral support
to Cj, Casey, Tippi, Andrea, Bons, Kat, and the #foreverknight gang, and
to the NNP for being, as usual, such good sports. Everyone used by
permission or by coercion.

Time: When the people and characters in this story are where they need to
be at the exact moment they need to be there.

                        * * *

The Museum was deserted. The mercs stared disgustedly at the display of

"Hey, Tami, want to try on the jumpsuit?" Wooby asked.

"What color are we going to paint it?" Wooby chimed up.

"Duh, we're doing this for two Knighties - well, according to the
instructions they sent, they're sort of Knighties, anyway," Laurie
responded, thinking of the strange message that had arrived at Merc
Central for her, ordering this job. "What color do you think we're gonna
paint it?"

"GREEN!" shouted Wooby.

"The car's not green, it's ..." Tami tried to speak.


"IT'S not mint, it's ..."


"IT'S NOT aqua ...

Laurie put on her best Sister Mary Elizabeth voice. "SHUT UP!!!!"

Tami spoke into the momentary silence. "It's metallic turquoise."

"Yeah, and just how would you know that, Miss Smarty Pants, huh?" Wooby

"Because Nick told me himself."

"Yeah, right, like you know Nick."

"I do know Nick."

"Do not."

"Do too."

"Do not!"

"Do ..."

Sister Mary Elizabeth made a reappearance.

As the women once again carried on and on and on, Berg began emptying his
equipment bag, and preparing for the task ahead. Since his costume
included paint reservoirs (in the armored boots), and a paint sprayer
(disruptor pistol), he wasted no time in applying the special, pre-cut
masking panels to the windows, chrome, lights, and other fittings of the

Once they were applied, the painting was simply a matter of covering the
entire car with that peculiar shade of green-blue of Nick's Caddy, which
was easily accomplished with the high-pressure paint sprayer he'd brought

By the time the others finished their argument about the color, he was
done. He'd been right, as usual. The painting had gone off exactly as
planned. It certainly paid to be a mechanically-inclined Merc, that was
for sure. The paint tanks emptied without clogging, and the paint sprayer
didn't explode. What more could he ask for?

The other mercs suddenly realized Berg had finished and the car in front
of them was ...

"METALLIC TURQUOISE!!!" they screamed, as Berg did a Polka across the
museum floor with an imaginary friend. Somehow blue suede shoes didn't
quite fit with his full Klingon regalia.

"Okay, that's it, me merry men ..." Laurie announced.

"Get over it, Laurie, you are not Robin Hood." Wooby scoffed.

"Nah, she's more like Friar Tuck, if you ask me." Tami chimed in.

"All right, let's get into our final positions. Boys and girls, IT'S

         * * *

Laurie had one final matter to attend to.

Miraculously, Penguin LaCroix showed up right on schedule. "We had an
agreement. I *always* honor my word," he said.

"Yeah, right, just like a merc." Laurie muttered.

"Excuse me? Did you say something?" Penguin LaCroix gave her a disdainful

"Me? No, not a word. Perhaps you're hearing voices."

"I ... am ... not ... amused."

"Well, you should be. Lighten up. This is an amusement park."

"Let's get this little drama over with, shall we?" Penguin LaCroix shook
one of his flippers at her.

"Okay, here's what I need you to do." Laurie described the game plan.

"Very well. I will do as you direct. For this one time only."

"And remember what I told you. DON'T eat the fish."

        * * *

Watch for the conclusion of this little adventure in WONDERLAND BITES,
AND IT BITES BIG, coming soon to a computer near you.

Berg Oswell, Mercenary/FosSiL

Wonderland Bites And It Bites Big (1/2)

by Laurie MercBard Schlagel

Thanks for reading/editing/contributing little bits and/or moral support to
Berg, Tami, Wooby, Cj, Casey, Tippi, Andrea, Bons, Kat, Spiff, and the
#foreverknight gang, and to the NNP for being, as usual, such good sports.
Everyone used by permission or by coercion.

Time: When the people and characters in this story are where they need to
be at the exact moment they need to be there.

                        * * *

The guests had begun filing into the park. Laurie, leaving Tami with
instructions to keep an eagle eye out for unwanted visitors, went to do a
final check. Wooby was stationed in the computer room, while Berg prowled
the park, in full Klingon battle armor, in case anything went wrong with
the plan.

The moment she disappeared from view, four (well, three and a half) Mercly
heads appeared and approached Tami.

"Hey, Tami, we hear this is gonna be some shindig." Jennifer grinned at
Tami's look of dismay.

"Yup. We were just sitting around Merc Central, watching tv, when all of a
sudden right there on the screen, we saw Nick in a commercial." Nancy
chimed in. She mimicked the detective's voice. "Mercenaries, you're in the
middle of a war. What are you going to do now?"

"WE'RE GOING TO WONDERLAND!", Heather shouted.

"Shhhh! I'm in disguise. You don't recognize me. In fact, you don't even
see me."

"How can we not see you? You're standing right in front of us." Nancy poked
at Tami's belt. "Besides, it's a totally lame costume."

"Yeah, but it's got some nice shiny bits on it." Heather, a true Ratpacker,
began picking at the gold braiding on Tami's shoulder.

Tami disgustedly slapped her hand away. "Get lost, will you?"

"But we want to come to the party, can we, pretty pretty please? " Heather
jumped up and down. If one didn't know better, she almost looked like she
was - gasp - bouncing.

"No way! I'm under strict orders from Laurie. Nobody, and I mean nobody,
gets in without an invitiation."

"Did you know I just recently changed my name to Nobody Garcia?" Jennifer
innocently asked.

"Get real."

Nancy had a whispered conversation with her husband, Carl, who was standing
behind her with a stunned look in his eyes, wondering just how he'd got
caught in this particular Knightmare. She turned back to Tami, triumphantly
digging a bag of Ethel M's Kahlua Truffles, Tami's favorite chocolate, out
of her enormous purse.

Tami's eyes glazed over, as she looked longingly at the chocolates. She
glanced quickly over her shoulder. The team ogre was nowhere in sight. The
chance to make some easy chocolate was just too much to resist. After all,
what harm could a few mercs, under strict orders to behave, possibly cause?
She stepped back and let them pass into the park.

                        * * *

Tippi wasn't quite sure what she was doing here, or even why she had been
invited. She HATED Elvis Presley. But the idea of an evening out had just
been too appealing. The manor house was a zoo, and she'd been sitting
endlessly by the phone, waiting for a call, worrying about that ridiculous
penguin. Anything that would keep her distracted for a bit had to be a good

Besides, she'd heard through the grapevine (although technically an
Independent, she was still very much connected, and had quite a few friends
in high places among certain factions) there would be a major attack on the
NNP, and she couldn't resist the opportunity to watch the fireworks. And
she just LOVED ferris wheels.

She headed into the park, keeping an eye out for Cousins she knew would be
here. Suddenly, she stopped in her tracks. She blinked. Opened her eyes.
Blinked again. Could it be?

She shook her head. "No, that's impossible," she thought. "He can't be
here. He's been kidnapped ..."

                        * * *
The party was in full swing at the Museum, as guests poured over the
memorabilia. Laurie, swinging by on her rounds of the park, noted an
animated Elvis Schanke engaged in conversation with what seemed like thin
air, with an engrossed Lounge Lizard LaCroix standing nearby. She hoped
Elvis Schanke wouldn't get an urge to try on one of the jumpsuits,
although, on the other hand, photographs of *that" might make excellent
blackmail material.

"Geez, look at those clothes," Laurie thought. "Too bad we couldn't have
dressed the NNP in duds like that." She smiled evilly as Spifff walked over.

"This is great, Laurie. Our Schanke seems to be getting along very well
with Elvis Schanke. And nice job on the car, BTW." She grinned.

"Nice job on the what? What are you talking about?" she answered, trying to
put on her best innocent, who me look and failing miserably.

"I know. A merc never talks about her jobs. Actually, while I have you here
..." Spifff made her request.

Laurie looked over at the case where the White Eagle Cape that Elvis had
worn on his final "Aloha from Hawaii" tour was prominently displayed. Too
bad Spifff hadn't asked her earlier; she could have easily grabbed it when
they had been painting the car. Still, she was sure she'd be able to
"borrow" it for the FoDs; she'd just come back for it at another point.
Besides, the Elvis shrine at the Deli could use some sprucing up. And to
compensate for the added danger of having to return to the scene of the
crime, she'd add a few extra pounds of chocolate to the bill.

"Sure, Spifff, I can take care of that." They finalized the details and
shook on it.

As Laurie continued to scan the room, she noticed two men who seemed
inordinately interested in just how much trunk space the Cadillac had. They
seemed to be close; best friends perhaps? Judging by their body movement,
perhaps even more. They also looked vaguely familiar.

 "Where have I seen them before?" she mused. "Maybe on fkfic?" She moved
closer to hear their conversation.

"Katrinka's going to be be so excited. I bet she's gonna love her present,"
the dark haired one said, excitedly rubbing his hands together. She
couldn't help but notice his liberpulidan accent.

The second man had a cockney accent. He also was wearing very tight patched
jeans; patched in all the right places, she noticed. "Yeah, great idea,
hiring mercs to paint the white Caddy green, huh? "

Laurie smiled. Ah, so here were her elusive clients. Great idea, indeed.
Anything that led to vast amounts of chocolate was more than a great idea,
it was a brilliant one.

        * * *

Laurie next checked in on Wooby, and was looking for Berg when she heard a
commotion at the front entrance over the radio and rushed back there. Tami
was helplessly embroiled with a chocolate-rabid Bonnie.

"Nunkies pops! I want those Nunkies pops! Give them to me!" Bons
repeated over and over, despite multiple attempts to shove any available
object in her mouth to shut her up.

Laurie sighed. She'd *heard* about this woman and her severe case of
Nunkies addiction. Once she had her mind set on anything having to do with
her beloved hunk of Roman General, she became a single-minded fiend.
Possessed, almost. If she didn't get her hands on those Chocolate Nunkies
(and just *how* had she known about them, anyway? A sixth Nunkies sense?)
who knew what she might do?

Bonnie continued to try to climb the park entrance gate. She was oblivious
to all but her quest. 

"Hey! Slacker!" she suddenly yelled at the WereVachon who stood nearby,
shaking his head. "Don't just stand there - give me a boost!"

"Can't." Vachon didn't look remotely sorry. "My Nick side is restraining me
from helping you feed your addiction. Honest."

Laurie finally groaned in exasperation. "All right, you might as well let
them in. She's *never* going to shut up, otherwise." She walked off in
search of one of the Cousins who had actually been invited. She knew Senara
and Michele were both members of NA. They'd just have to add Bonnie-sitting
to their evening activities.


WAR: Wonderland Bites, And It Bites Big (2/2)

by Laurie MercBard Schlagel

Thanks for reading/editing/contributing little bits and/or moral support to
Berg, Tami, Wooby, Cj, Casey, Tippi, Andrea, Bons, Kat, Spiff, and the
#foreverknight gang, and to the NNP for being, as usual, such good sports.
Everyone used by permission or by coercion.

Time: When the people and characters in this story are where they need to
be at the exact moment they need to be there.

                        * * *

Laurie continued her rounds. She made a quick tour of the chain link fence
perimeter; they'd had to patch a few holes in it, but she was almost
certain they'd found them all. Passing by the Bedrock aquarium, she giggled
as she thought of the new filk she was working on:

LaCroixs, meet the LaCroixs
They're your modern vampire family
They're a happy trio
And they've lived through most of history.

She noticed the Ravens heading her way, and quickly turned around, wanting
to avoid her various clients. The last thing she needed was the Ravens and
the Cousins meeting up and discovering she'd been double dipping. Quite a
neat trick, if she did say so herself.

She'd noticed a few Cousins discretely following various NNPs, excitedly
waiting for the fun to begin.  "As well they should be," she thought,
remembering the very special painting she'd soon have her hands on. "They
certainly paid enough for it."

She caught up with the NNP, and followed them as they made their way around
the park and dispersed in pairs and threesomes. She trailed after the pair
headed to the Xtreme Flyer, giggling to herself.

"I knew they wouldn't be able to resist it," she thought, as the two NNPs
approached the ride. Lurking in the shadows, she heard a squawk through her
transmitter; she'd insisted, despite strenuous objection and a lot of
flapping flippers, that LaCroix Penguin wear one also. He'd managed to lure
three of the NNP into the aquarium and seemed to be doing a good job of
intimidating them; given his charming personality, she was sure it had not
been difficult. The squawk was followed by Berg's signal that the LARPers
were in place.

Laurie took a deep breath, as the NNPs were strapped into a harness, and
slowly began the descent to the top. "Okay, guys, they're going for it,"
she whispered, "Wooby, you ready?"


She peered up as the harness neared the top, and suddenly halted.


LaCroix's luscious voice suddenly filled the air, as Janette and Nick made
out on the video screen above her.

                        * * *
The mercs, much as they wanted to, did not plan on remaining for the
ensuing chaos; that would be stupid. "A stupid merc is a dead merc," Laurie
thought, as she rapidly made her way to the computer center, ignoring the
giggling Cousins and Ravens. Berg had already joined Wooby. Tami was
nowhere in sight.

"Where has she gotten off to now?" Laurie asked, her irritation plain.
"We've got to get out of here now." She was just about to launch into a
tirade when Tami appeared, followed closely by a squawking Penguin LaCroix,
who not only was munching on a fish, but had several of the poor fish's
buddies hanging from his pockets.

"Get away from me, you stinky Penguin!" Tami shouted.

"You *will* not leave me in this ... this ... despicable place. I refuse to
remain with these people ..." Penguin LaCroix gave a penguiny shudder, "...
a moment longer."

"You've got feet. Use them."

"Yeah, you've got huge feet. Waddle on out of here." That helpful comment
came from Wooby.

Penguin LaCroix refused to budge. He attempted to cross his flippers, gave
up, and simply stood there staring at them.

The four mercs looked at each other. Looked at Penguin LaCroix. Looked at
each other. Looked at Penguin LaCroix. Looked at each other. Except for the
movement of their eyes, one would have thought they'd been turned to stone.
Penguin LaCroix glared balefully back, then reached into his pocket,
stuffed another fish in his mouth, and began noisily munching.

That broke the spell.

"NO WAY!" the four shouted.

"Way," he replied, spitting bits of fish bone at them.

"NO WAY!!"


"NO WAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Penguin LaCroix would not give ground. "If you will not help me leave this
despicable place, I will go out there and tell your enemies what you have

"What, you don't think they've noticed by now?" Berg caustically added.

"I will tell them your names."

"You don't know our names," Wooby said.

"I *know* one name." He fixed his eagle, make that penguin, eye on Laurie.

"Geez, give a penguin a knot and he takes a hectare," Laurie muttered.

"Um, Laurie, hectares and knots are different measurements," Berg said.
"Don't you know anything?"


"Well, then why'd you say it?"

Tami and Wooby were about to take up the "Dummy, dummy, you are a dummy"
chant, but realizing the perilousness of their situation, managed to
contain themselves. After all, they might soon have who knew how many NNPs
after them; there sure were enough, those guys seemed to breed like rabbits.

Laurie sighed. They didn't have a lot of options, and had to get out of
there at once. She had no doubt that Penguin LaCroix would betray them for
a song, or even a herring. They were stuck. Their merry band of four was
now five, although that wouldn't last long. They'd rid themselves of their
unwanted guest at the first opportunity.

"Fine. You can come. But you better not drip on us or you'll be one dead

"Um, Laurie, penguins and ducks are different species." This from Wooby.

"FINE! You'll be one pickled penguin, Got it?"

LaCroix Penguin nodded. He and the mercs filed out of the control room,
leaving a trail of fish bones in their wake.

                * * *

Berg led the way into the tunnels. A short distance in, he stopped in front
of what was obviously a door. "Right, this will place us off the park
grounds, just outside the delivery area. We can take off from there."

He distributed the three beltpacks and harnesses to the mercs, and strapped
on his own battlepack.

"And where is mine?" Penguin LaCroix asked disdainfully,

"I only have four. Someone's going to have to carry you piggy back. And it
sure isn't going to be me."

"Nor me!" said Wooby.

"Ick, forget it," Tami threw in.

Penguin LaCroix's flippers started flapping. Berg, Wooby, and Tami moved
back as far as the narrow tunnels would allow, leaving Laurie alone with
the sputtering bird. The three stared pointedly at their team leader.

"Hey, wait a second, how come I've got to be the carrier mule here?"

"BECAUSE YOU'RE THE LEADER." The three mercs responded. "Besides, you hired

"Ok, fine. But let's get out of here ... NOW."

It did not appear to be fine with Penguin LaCroix. So Berg picked him up,
deposited him on Laurie's back, and strapped him to her harness. Penguin
LaCroix was so stunned he actually stopped squawking for a moment, although
his beak was positioned a bit too close to Laurie's left ear for comfort.

They pushed open the door to the deserted area outside, and  prepared to
depart, setting the controls for take off, just as Penguin LaCroix found
his lungs, squawking in Laurie's ear, "How dare you do this to me? I - am -
Lucien - LaCroix." They slowly lifted up in the air and headed toward Merc
Central, ignoring the chaos now ensuing in the park grounds now far beneath
them, and pleased with how well the operation had gone off. Now all they
had to do was ditch the bird, and their job was done.


   Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass .. Er .. Chain Link Fence!
   Part One of Two
   By Amythest Dragon
   Beta'd by Laurie MercBard

Everyone in here is used with permission. 
Time: Concurrent with "Wonderland Bites and It Bites Big"  Part One.

'Tasha and Amythest made their way along the chain link fence that 
marked the border of Wonderland.  Amythest opened her mouth to 
speak and 'Tasha shook her head. "Don't bother.. I am still not 
speaking to you!  I don't know if I'll ever forgive you for suggesting 
I should 'dig' our way in! It's not as though I'm some carouche like 
Screed.. Ecch! I've never even touched animal blood."

"I'm sorry, 'Tasha," Amythest started apologetically, "It probably 
wouldn't have worked anyway.. They've likely got at least 3 feet 
of cement under the link in the ground."

'Tasha glared at Amythest. "Well there's got to be a break in the 
link somewhere along here.  It never fails.  Kids always break in 
and as fast as security can fix the break another one appears.  
Just a matter of looking carefully enough."

"How do you know so much?"  Amythest looked pointedly 
at Natasha.

"Well in my universe, -this-", she pointed at the park through 
the chainlink, "has been there a lot longer.  I used to be one of 
the kids that broke in."  Natasha smiled embarrassedly, then she 
pushed her mirrored sunglasses further up on her nose.

"I don't know where you got those clothes," Amythest shook her 
head, "but they look great.  I didn't think you or Nick had brought 
your credit cards.."

"Came from the same place as the bike I drove us here on," Natasha 
grinned cheshire cat-like, "And to explain it."  She lifted her 
sunglasses, "Look into my eyes."

"That's not even remotely legal," Amythest sounded disappointed 
in her vampiress.

"Don't worry," Natasha glowered at the wet blanket, "I left something 
behind to pay him for the stuff, just not cash or credit. It's worth way 
more than the bike and leathers anyway.  Hey, there's a break in the 
fence..  See I told you there'd be one. The foliage is hiding it. Luckily 
we're both pretty small."

Natasha handed her helmet to Amythest, walked up to the fence and 
slid through the hole in the chain with the easy grace of a hunting cat. 
Amythest passed the helmet and her own through the hole to 'Tasha 
and then eased her way through with considerably more difficulty. 
While Amythest was squeezing her way through, Tasha felt something 
odd.  She looked behind her expecting trouble.  It -felt- like a vampire 
somewhere nearby.

She looked around, and out of the corner of her eye she thought she 
saw a flying horse... 'A FLYING HORSE?' she thought to herself, 'This 
place must be getting to me.' Then a squeak of pain brought her out of 
her contemplations.

"Yowch! That was a tight squeeze," Amythest rubbed her rump as it 
had nearly gotten caught on a piece of protruding metal.

Tasha was nearly bouncing, "Hurry up! Let's go..."

"Why are you so excited?" Amythest looked at 'Tasha oddly.

"I -love- rides!" 'Tasha exclaimed.

"You can fly.." Amythest was dumbfounded.

"Yeah, but it's not the same!"  'Tasha grabbed Amythest's black 
leather jacket and drug her bodily into the park.

They started wandering through the park, looking as though they 
belonged, which wasn't hard because of all the other wierdos 
wandering around too. They cruised about having hoardes of fun 
and practically forgetting their promise to meet up with the rest of 
the Nick and Natpackers in attendance.

As they got off the Top Gun ride for the third time, with 'Tasha 
extolling the virtues of Tom Cruise in that movie, Amythest stopped 
her from getting in line again.

"'Tasha, maybe we should start looking for Casey and Cj," Amythest 
said grumpily and mumbled to herself, "Before you start in that he was 
-so- great in Interview with a Vampire."

Amythest had forgotten about vampire hearing, "Ewww! Interview was 
horrible!  Bad casting and he's really gone downhill since Top Gun.." 
'Tasha smiled showing a little fang, "My dear, you must remember about 
my vampire hearing and temper..."

Just then a bedraggled, depressed woman came up to them, "Vampire 

"No," 'Tasha said patiently to the new arrival, "Vampire -hearing-!"

"Oh," the woman said dejectedly, "It's just that that sounded like 
something that might attract my LaCroix."

"Herring and LaCroix??"  Natasha looked at the woman as though she 
was deranged. "Even in my universe LaCroix isn't that sick.  Why would 
LaCroix bring herring across?"

"He wouldn't bring them across," Tippi said forelornly, "He'd -eat- them.  
He's a penguin."

"OH!" Amythest exclaimed. "You're Tippi, the cousin who went 
independant and was .. er .. blessed with the Penguin LaCroix everyone's 
talking about!  Nice to meet you.."  Amythest Dragon shook her hand.  
"How are you enjoying the park?"

"I'm not, I keep seeing -him-, which is, of course, impossible, since he's 
been kidnapped," Tippi shrugged, "I know I'm losing my mind. You 
haven't seen him, have you?"

"No, but maybe he's escaped?" Amythest offered a ray of hope in true 
NNpack fashion.  Natasha was suspiciously silent.

"Maybe." Tippi brightened for a moment, "But no, he'd come back to 
me if he had." Amythest laid a comforting hand on her shoulder.

"Well, if we see him, we'll be sure to tell him you're here," Natasha said 
quickly, and drug Amythest off in another direction.  Tippi waved 
good-bye at them and continued to wander aimlessly.

"Why'd you do that?" Amythest pulled free from Natasha's grip and 
glared at her vampiress.

"She's obviously deranged," Natasha stated.

"I believe that she has a penguin LaCroix." Amythest crossed her arms, 
"Several other people have encountered him."

"That's not what I meant," Natasha said plainly.  Amythest gave her a 
questioning look so Natasha continued, "Number one, if I had a penguin 
LaCroix and he was kidnapped, I sure as heck wouldn't be moping.  I'd be 
celebrating!  Number two, she -believes- he's been kidnapped."

"Well of course she does," Amythest said defensively.

"Amythest, use that 'uncle-like' brain everyone says you have! Whatever 
that means...  This is LaCroix we're talking about, even if he is just a 
penguin LaCroix.  Do you really believe -he- could be kidnapped?  Hey, 
as much as I hate the guy, even I can't believe that."

Amythest nodded in agreement; looking at it that way, she had to concede 
the point.

They continued walking, looking for the Nick and Natpack. Instead, they 
stumbled into some brightly clad, hawaiian shirt wearing people in front 
of a refreshment stand. "You guys must be the FoDs, right?"  Amythest 
asked, smiling.  She'd always had a soft spot for Schanke and had cried 
when he had died.

"You betcha, I'm Spifff, this is Johan and Charles." Spifff said, "And you 
have us at a disadvantage."

"I'm Amythest Dragon, with the N&Npack.  She's Natasha," Amythest 
said, smiling as she slid her glasses down her nose, "Why didn't you 
guys introduce 'Schanke' over here?" She motioned to an empty space 
beside one of the FoDs.  "Nice to meet ya, Schank."  Natasha was looking 
at Amythest funny and the other two FODS gaped.

"Cool, most people can't see him!" Spifff looked impressed, "How come 
you can?"

"I'm Wiccan and I've always been able to sense spirits.  If they're strong 
enough I can even see 'em."  Amythest smiled at Spifff winningly.

"Righteous!" Spifff cried, "Would you like to come with us, we're heading 
for the Elvis exhibit."

"Ah... Maybe later, okay?  We have to find our compatriots," Amythest said.

"Would you like a hot dog, Natasha?" Charles asked while Amythest and 
Spiff were talking.

"Sorry, I don't eat.  But thanks for the offer," Natasha said honestly and 
smiled, forgetting her fangs were partially descended.

"Whoa, I thought they said no vamps!" The FoD exclaimed.

"They did but we gate crashed," Natasha smiled again after making her 
fangs recede.

All the FoDs started glaring at Amythest and Natasha, so Amythest 
this time grabbed Natasha and hauled her away.  "That was patently 

"Why?  Schanke in my universe would have thought gate crashing 
was cute," 'Tasha said pouting.

hollered with a rough voice.  It was still in bad shape from the Sly-fest.

All eyes around them focused on them as they moved away after 
Amythest's outburst. "Well, that was clever!" Natasha remarked.

Amythest continued at a quieter volume, "Now they're bound to tell 
security about us. We'd better move away from here quickly."

They zigged and zagged back and forth on a crazy course guaranteed 
to throw anyone following them off their tail and finally found themselves 
in front of a sweet shop with a very familiar figure outside of it. "Bons!" 
Amythest cried.  There was no response from her fellow addict.  "Bonnie?"
She called again.  Still no response.  It appeared to Amythest that she was 
in a full blown Nunklear Meltdown.  Amythest walked up to her friend, 
Natasha following with an unamused expression on her face.  Amythest 
shook Bonnie slightly and then turned to Natasha. "She appears to be in 
a full blown Nunklear meltdown.. I can't imagine what..." Amythest looked 
in the window and saw what Bonnie saw.  Suddenly Amythest too, was in 
a full Nunklear meltdown. 

Natasha shook her friend's shoulder, "Amythest...  Amythest Dragon...

"Chocolate Nunkies..." Amythest stammered, drool running down her chin 
as she was too impaired to reach her drool cup.

Bonnie reacted to the familiar sound of another addict in meltdown and 
looked at Amythest. "Anatomically correct," she muttered in a slobbery 

Natasha looked in the window and her face contorted into an expression 
of disgust, "Ecch! That's disgusting. Now, chocolate Nicks, that I could 
understand.  Hell, if I could eat still, even I'd be drooling!  Even Gummi 
Schankes would be better than... Uggh!" Tasha grabbed Amythest's arm 
and pulled her away bodily.  Her body drug on the ground for a few meters 
before the pain became a sufficient anti-Nunklear device.

"Ouch!  Tasha let me up," Amythest grumbled as she tried to get her feet 
underneath her.

"The disgusting things you learn about friends," Tasha glared at Amythest 
in disbelief.

"Hey, I turned to Nunkies out of loyalty to you.  I find Nick really attractive 
but he's meant to be with you sooo.." Amythest sighed, remembering the 
sight of the chocolate treats.

Natasha mulled it over a bit and then said, "Well, I guess your heart was in 
the right place.  But couldn't you have become a Vachon addict or something??"

"Sorry, I hate slackers.  Besides, Vachon isn't my style. I go for older looking 
men," Amythest said dreamily, still caught in the afterglow of her meltdown.

"I think there's a insult to Nick somewhere in that comment, but I'm going to 
ignore it for now," Natasha said as she allowed Amythest up and they 
continued on their way.

"Where are we going Tasha?" Amythest asked as she finally totally returned 
to normal.

"The Elvis Exhibit," Natasha said. "We've looked everywhere else. Maybe 
they're there!"

Amythest and Natasha slinked into the exhibit, wary of the security that the 
FoDs might have sicked on them.  They found no one but the FODS inside, 
and being careful to avoid them, crept out the front entrance.

'Tasha brightened up a bit as she saw a well dressed party ahead of them.

"Now, there's someone I want to talk to." She smiled and primped a bit, 
pulling a compact and a comb out of her pocket, fixing her makeup and 
hair. Amythest grumbled. As if Tasha needed to bother with that. This 
Natalie had mastered the ability to look perfect all the time.  Amythest 
peered through the curtain they were standing behind. Ah, there was 
Janette. No wonder Natasha was primping.

"May I point out to you that that's not -your sister Janette-, it's some 
other Janette from who knows what dimension."  Amythest quickly 
borrowed Natasha's comb and compact.

"Any fellow vampiress in a storm, besides she's always good for 
rousting up trouble!" 'Tasha straighted her skin tight black motorcycle 
leathers and pushed her sunglasses up onto her head, tucking her 
helmet under one arm. "Janette!"

The other vampiress and her followers turned and looked shocked.
"Natalie??" Janette said, a little taken a back.

"Actually, it's Natasha. I just wanted to say 'Hi' to a familiar friendly 
face!  At least I hope you're friendly.  Wouldn't want to wreck the 
Caddy in there in a cat fight!" Tasha motioned towards the Elvis 
exhibit. "Hey isn't it supposed to be white? That looks more like 
Nick's caddy."

"You look good," Janette said and sounded as though she was 
frightened by the fact that she was being honest; she also seemed 
suprised to see them.

"Well, in my universe, you took me under your wing after Nick 
brought me across.  I save the business stuff for official functions, 
when they come up, and you've even helped me update my 
wardrobe that way, too."

"So you and Nicholas are together?" Janette asked, sounding 
slightly annoyed.

"Yeah, and you brought Robert across.  God, is he gorgeous!  
Suits you better than Nick ever did.  He can be such a slob at 
times!" Natasha smiled at Janette.

"Brought Robert... That did not happen for me, Natasha.  I would 
like to talk to -you- more later, perhaps.  But now my friends and I 
must go." Janette finished.

While the vampiresses had been talking, Amythest had approached 
the Ravens and introduced herself.  "Hi, I'm Amythest Dragon.  With 
the Nick and Natpack."

"I'm Andrea, these two are Chris and Julie, and those are the 
undynamic duo, Lounge Lizard LaCroix and Elvis Schanke."  Andrea 
finished the introduction. 

Amythest noted Janette's surprise but continued, "My condolences. 
How did the Ravens end up with... them?"

"An unfair twist of fate?"  Julie responded, shrugging.

"I knew the universe was all screwed up but, oiy!" Amythest said, 
watching the Ravens and their alternates carefully.  "Love the hat by 
the way." Amythest indicated the "Bite Me" ball cap on Andrea's head.  
"Just be careful certain 'Nicks' don't see you wearing it. They'll take 
you seriously!"

"I know." Andrea smiled, "Thanks!" Just then Janette summoned her 
friends and they all headed off towards the roller coaster.

Amythest looked at Natasha, as she strolled up looking pleased with
 herself.  "Something isn't right!" Amythest said, as Tasha looked at 
her oddly.

"What?" Tasha asked.

"We can't find our fellow NNPackers anywhere, and Janette acted as 
though we weren't supposed to be here." Amythest looked contemplative.

"But we're not supposed to be here." Tasha put her hands on her hips, 
looking annoyed.

"Yeah, but how would -she- know that unless... I smell a trap! Let's go 
Tasha!" The vampiress and the intuitive N&Npacker rushed out into 
more open ground. At least the odds were equal out there.

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


By Libby Singleton
beta read by Annie Raper

Everyone used with everyone's permission.  A special
thanks to my co-workers who were more than happy to
provide technical advice on hot tubs, natural gas, and
Limburger cheese.

     The little eysies of the numerous ratsies made
Libby a bit uncomfortable so she'd climbed into the
newly discovered hot tub in her t-shirt and shorts.  The
whirling motion of the warm water felt good on her bad
upper back, so she sank deep within the still filling tub.
Fortunately, Nunkies Anonymous had put their Nunkies
Fantasy Manual in a water proof bag before taping it to
her tummy.
     "It's not fair," she muttered as much to the rats
as to herself.  "Everyone else is gettin' ta inter-act wit'
their alt-ter-na-tuvie La-Crows an' Nickies an' such
while mine goes off an' starts smoochin' every lady but
me lookin' fer 'is Natsie."
     The rats chattered in what could only be
described as sympathy.
     "An' ol' Johnsie hid this 'ere lil' bit o' luxury
from 'is own second-in-command o' the Ratsiepack.
Wouldn't 'ave dish-covered it iffen I ain't been tryin' to
find his stashes o' shiny pretty thingees in our wall 'ide-
a-way - just to make sure they wuz safe in 'is absence,
mind ya."
     The rats chattered their understanding, or
perhaps they were trying to convey the fact this was not
technically in the wall, but rather in an attic crawlspace.
Whatever the case, it still sounded like understanding.
     "Share an' share alike is the Ratpack way -
whether the other person likes it or not, ay?"
     The rats chattered their agreement.


     Grand High Poohbah Dianne entered her private
bath with big fluffy towels in hand.  Above her, she
could hear occasional noises.  No doubt a couple of rats
had managed to by-pass the soundproofing and were
scurrying about.  Or perhaps the air conditioning, rare in
Toronto but installed in Merc Central, was on the blink.
There was a strangely mechanical hum to the sound.
     "Oh, well, let's worry about it *after* the nice
hot soak," she said to herself.  This was the first quiet
moment she'd had since the war started and she refused
to let herself get bothered by anything until she was
     Turning on the faucet, there was a "whoosh" of
air before any water emerged.  Then instead of the rush
of warmth Dianne expected, a mere stream of only luke
warm water came out.  "Sara!" she shouted, calling for
the housemommy.  "Sara!  Come here... *now*!"


     Libby was still reclining and pouting while
allowing the tub to fill even higher when Screed scurried
into the room, now carrying several plastic grocery
sacks.  "So, you finally decidin' to come beggin' back
fer 'elp ta find ya Natsie, ay?"
     Screed's smile of 'hello' faded.  "Well, tha's a
fine 'ow-do-ya-do fer ol' Screedy.  Ain't like yar me
Aunt Judy or not'ing."  He scooped up a rat and began
draining it, snarling loudly.
     "Wot do ya ex-pect?  I told ya I'd 'elp ya look,
but I got re-spons-i-bilities wit' Johnsie out o' town.
Wheneve' I got a spare minute, yar gone bye-bye,
slurpin' all the wimmin...."
     "An' gettin' knocked up 'side the 'ead a time o'
two," Screed admitted.  "Natsies always sayin' I jest
need ta learn ta think thingees out sum...."
     "Ya've got blood on ya face."
     Screed wiped his mouth on his sleeve.  "So's I
did start thinkin' an' decided I ain't gonna find 'er on
me own.  I could use yar 'elp, I could.  Some o' them
im-posterior Natsies pop a mean right 'and."  Still
holding the now limp rat, he reached back and rubbed
his head to emphasis the point.
     "Wellllll.... okay," Libby said, secretly delighted.
"But we'll 'ave ta watch out for them N&Npackers.
They're a mean lot, they.... Wait a sec, do I smell
natural gas?  This is a gas 'eater hooked up ta this
     "Nyah," Screed said.  "Must be the cheese I
scrounged in the 'fridge.  These ratsies look a might
scrawny-like ta me."
     Libby sat up worriedly.  "Ya took somethin'
from the 'fridge wit'out askin'? Last time Johnsie did
tha' they made 'im clean the thing out an' it weren't
pleasant."  She shuddered at the memory of what was
found growing in some of the containers.
     "It's Limburger...."
     She sighed, relaxing.  "Won't be missed.  Say,
wanna join me?  Iffen we're gonna be workin' ta'gether,
we needa bond an' there ain't no better place than a 'ot
tub, ay?"
     Screed sat his bags down on the floor, except for
the one with the cheese.  "Better put this 'ere un over
'ere til I kin divide it up proper fer the squeakers."
Smacking his lips, he sat the cheese on the hot tub's

Cont'd in part 2....

**Never try to teach a Ratpacker manners,
it just wastes your time and annoys the Ratpacker**



by Libby Singleton
beta read by Annie Raper

Everyone used with everyone's permission.

     "All I can figure out is there must be a leak
somewhere so the water pressure's low," Sara explained
to Dianne.  They were both in the bathroom trying to
coax more water from the tub's faucet.
     "Then call Nunkies Anonymous and see if we
can't borrow LaCroix the plumber.  Surely they can
dream one up," Dianne said.
     "Why not Nickie the plumber?"
     Dianne grinned, "Or Tracy Vetter the plumber
who is following in her plumber father's footsteps...."
The grin faded as Dianne sniffed the air.  "What in the
world is that smell???"
     "Actually, it rather smells like Limburger cheese
coming through the air vent," Sara said, wrinkling her
     "Smells like a *Ratpacker* to me," Dianne


     While Libby was watching Screed undo his pants
with anticipation, the room was suddenly thrust into
darkness when the single, overhead lightbulb blew.
"Drat!" she spat, reaching out to turn off the faucet.
Unfortunately, she turned the wrong way and more
water rushed into the now overflowing tub.
     "Screed!  Can you see at all???"
     "A bit," he said.  "I got a' lighter somewheres in
me pocket.  'Andy as duct tape, they are...."


     Sara held her hand up and looked up at the
ceiling.  "I think I found the leak."
     Dianne frowned at the growing water spot.
"We'd better cut the water off outside before we have
major damage...."

     Libby leaned over the tub to feel for her
backpack - partially to keep it from getting any wetter
from the flood, partially because she knew she had a
candle or two in it somewhere.  A candlelight hot tub
soak with Screed seemed just the ticket to cheer her up
properly.  "Nunkies Anonymous, eat your 'eart out!"
she whispered.
     She glanced up at Screed's face silhouetted by
the soft glow of his lighter.  Then the world exploded
into a flash of fire, heat and the sensation of falling.


     The drip, drip, drip of water from the Grand
High Poohbah's bathroom ceiling was followed by a
brief rush of flames.  Dianne and Merc Housemommy
Sara both hit the ground just as plaster began to fall.
Fortunately, they were several feet away from the
bathtub when the hot tub, with Libby still inside, came
crashing down into it.
     Dianne started to dig her way out of the debris,
relieved to hear Sara muttering, "I'm okay...."
However, to Dianne's indignation, she found she was
pinned not just by the ruin of her ceiling, but by Screed.
     As if that wasn't bad enough, rats and bits of
roasted, rancid Limburger cheese covered everything.  If
Dianne didn't know better, she'd swear the rats were
sitting up, staring and laughing at her.  Feeling
something on the top of her head, she reached up to find
a glob of cheese.  Overcoming her loathing, she grabbed
it, flinging it with great force at the largest group of
guffawing rodents.  They scattered, squealing in protest.
     Dianne climbed to her feet, turning to glare at
Libby who sat amidst large chunks of shattered
porcelain.  The Ratpacker's attention, however, was
focused on a certain carouche.
     "I tol' ya I smelled natural gas!" Libby moaned
from the shattered tubs.  "I best go cut the gas off...."
     "You *will* stay here!" Dianne barked.  Libby
cringed back down into the rubble.  "Sara, can you take
care of it?"
     "Right away," Sara said between clinched teeth.
Her hands were tightly clutched into fists.  "And then
we'll talk about how much this will cost!  And you *will*
be paying in life *and* limb!"  She climbed over the mess,
 quickly disappearing out the remains of the door.
     "Stay, Screed, stay!" Dianne ordered after seeing
him sneaking away.
     Screed raised his hands, shrugging in surrender.
His expression was one of resignation.  "Yes, ma'am,
ain't gonna go no where's I ain't!"
     "I am going to change my clothes," Dianne
announced.  "Then I am going to meet you, *both* of you, in my
office."  A furry object scurried across her bare feet.
"*Without* the rats.  Do... I... make... myself...
     Dianne sighed as Libby, Screed, and all the rats
nodded in perfect unison.  "I wonder if anyone has a Joe
Reese, Pest Exterminator?"

Cont'd in Part 3

**Never try to teach a Ratpacker manners,
it just wastes your time and annoys the Ratpacker**



By Libby Singleton
and Cousinly Merc Lisa

beta read by Annie Raper

Everyone used with everyone's permission.

     Normally, Libby would've been thrilled to
huddle with Screed.  These circumstances, however,
could hardly be described as "normal."  Both Dianne's
and Sara's eyes seemed to be glowing.  Both were
obviously thoroughly, absolutely pissed.
     "...Not to mention the cost of having Dianne's
quarters fumigated to get rid of that Limburger cheese
smell!" Sara said, flipping through a computer printout
several sheets long.
     "But tha' wanna *my* fault!" Libby said, pulling
away from Screed.  "'E's the one wot wanted to fatten
up the ratsies!!!"
     "Bbbtttllllppppp!" the carouche raspberried,
spraying both Dianne and Sara with Screedy spit.
"Ain't like ya dinna tap inta the water pipin' leadin' inta
the Grand 'Igh Pain-in-the-bum's...."
     "*Wot*... I mean, *What* did you just call me?"
Dianne asked.
     "Nothin', 'e dinna call ya nothin'!" Libby said
quickly, pinching Screed as she gave him a warning
     "But tha's wot *you* call 'er," Screed protested.
     "I do *not*!  I call her Grand 'Igh Pain-in-the-
Rear!"  Realizing what she'd let slip, Libby covered her
mouth with both hands.  "Uh, oh.  I can't believe I said
     "Tha' *does* it!" Dianne shouted.
     "Wait," Sara interjected.  "We really should give
them a chance to explain - *before* we kill them.
I mean there really could be a quite logical explanation
as to why they were in a contraband hot tub in the
crawlspace above your bedroom, tapped into your water
and natural gas pipes, with several pounds of rancid
Limburger cheese...."
     "Oh, yeah, ma'am, there is!" Libby said.
     Screed, tilting his head, looked at her,
puzzlement showing in his wrinkled forehead.  "There
is???"  Libby scowled, causing an expression of
recognition to pass across his face.  "Oh, yeah, there is,
there is, yes, sir, Missies Biggsies Wiggies.  There's an
ex-plain-mation, there is!"
     "Welllll," Dianne and Sara said, both crossing
their arms.
     "It's all John's fault!" Libby and Screed said,
bobbing their heads in tandem like toy dogs on a car's
     Dianne and Sara looked at each other.  "It's
your call," Dianne said.  "You're the housemommy."
     Sara drew in a breath. She reached for a pencil,
gripping it so tightly it snapped in two. "As much as this pains
me, John *did* play a part in this by installing the hot tub
without permission whether or not he's gone.  Perhaps
we should delay, and I *do* me *just* a delay, the punishment
until he gets...."
     "De-lay?" Screed said hopefully.  "Ya ain't gonna
kill us now???  Me kind o' droogs, ya are!"
     "Screed, no!" Libby shouted as the carouche
bounded towards Sara full of energy and joy.
     Moments later, Libby clung to Dianne's leg,
begging forgiveness.  It didn't work.  Dianne merely
dragged her towards the back door as Sara
pushed and pulled Screed in the same direction.
     The noise had brought Nicolas and Lisa up from the basement.
Seeing what was happening, Nicolas raced out the back door
screaming, "AHHHHHHH!!!! Stop it! Stop it! How could you?
How could you?" Beginning to weep, Nicolas ran around the
yard gathering up RatPacker trinkets. Looking at Libby, he
sobbed, "You poor, poor creature. So unloved. So unwanted.
So alone. So misunderstood. So ... So ..."
     "So messy," called one of the Merc who was helping throw
things out the door.
     Acknowledging a hopeless cause when he sees one, Nicolas
dropped to his knees in the grass, looked up towards the
sky and said in his best imitation of a certain ice skater with
really huge teeth, "Whhhyyyyy??  Whhhyyy?"
     Lisa made her way through the crowd of Mercs who were
watching this event. Seeing the condition that Nicolas was
in, she did the only thing she could think of. Calling out to
him, she said, "Hey, Nicolas? The Love Boat is on."
     Nicolas' head whipped around, he looked at her with wide
eyes and barely contained excitement. "Really?" he asked.
"Oh, I just love that show. So much romance. So much
happiness. So many couples. And men in uniform 
There's nothing quite as romantic as a man in uniform. 
You know, women just love men in uniforms. Policemen,
firemen, soldiers, mechanics, they're just so romantic."
     Knowing that Nicolas was about to go totally sappy, Lisa
pulled him to his feet and said, "If we don't hurry, you'll
miss the opening credits."
     "Oh dear. I can't miss that song. And the ship can not sail
without it's captain. Mutiny is afoot," Nicolas exclaimed and
began hurrying towards the basement. "The *Love* Boat,
exciting and new ..." he sang as he went.
     Lisa glanced around at the assembled Mercs as she followed
after Nicolas. "Don't mind him," Lisa said, "he likes to make
believe he's Captain Stuebing."


     The Mercs were having great fun tossing the Ratpackers'
pretty shiny thingees out of their headquarters.
Wooby busied herself throwing bags of aluminum cans.
Tami tested her throwing skills with Libby and John's joint
"usefull thingees found by the roadside" collection.  Dawn went
all out, frisbee tossing three unmatched hub caps, a sack of polished
empty food cans, and the Ratpackers' prize penny collection (mostly
made up of slugs).
     "This is all *your* fault, Screedy," Libby said.  "Did ya *'ave* to
smooch Sara and slurp Dianne?"  Libby collapsing into the paper
which had once lined her comfy nest inside the wall.
     "Yeah I did an' it ain't me fault," Screed snorted.  
"But guess it ain't really im-portant like now."
     "At... at least Sara 'greed to let Jennifer stay
'til she showed back up.  But Heathe', she's blamin'
me, I could tell."
     Screed snorted again, this time more forcefully.
"Don't worry 'bout 'er likes," he said, squatting down
to rub Libby's back.  "'Least now we kin look fer me
Natsie.  Ya'll like 'er, ya will.  Jest wait."
     "'Ey, I ain't leavin' all me stuff out 'ere, not ta
mention Johnsie's stuff.  Kin ya believe 'e 'ad crazy glue
'e weren't sharin' wit me?!?"
     "You'll find a'nudder place," Screed said.  "Jest
wait n' see. Ratsiepackers don't need the Mercs!  Ya'll
rise abuv this, ya will!"  He stood straightening to his
full height.  "I 'ave a dream I do, tha' one day
Ratpackers won't be judged by the likes o' their faction,
but... well... the juiciness o' their squeakers!  A day
when Cousins, an' Knighties, an' Perks, an' Ufers, an' even
N&Npacke's will talk o'er episodes in peace, all
workin' togethe' to Kickstart the Knight, they will."
     "Ya're right, Screedy-poo!" Libby said leaping
to her feet.  "The Ratpackers kin stan' on their own
two... I mean four... I mean two... wotever... feet.
Won't Johnsie be surprised.  I'll jest tell 'im tha' I saw
an oppor-tun-ity to git out on our own an' I took it, I
did!  'E'll be so proud tha' 'e left me in charge."
     "If 'e doesn't kill ya first...."
     Libby shrugged.  "Well, there is tha'.  As soon as
we kin git settled ... somewhere, let's go look fer your
Natsie Watsie."
     Screed hugged her close, kissing her on the
forehead.  "Thankie, missie."
     Libby blinked a few times.  "Wot did you do?"
     "Ya mean this?" Screed said, repeating the soft,
not a slurp, not a smooch, but a kiss.  "Jest givin' a kiss to me
Mary Su... I mean Libby Wibby."
     "I got *kissed* by *Screed*!" Libby shouted,
running around with hyperactive speed.  "IGOTKISSED
     A single blood tear ran down Screed's face,
"Tha's almost 'ow me Natsie reacted the first time Ol'
Screed planted a smooch on 'er.  'Ow I miss 'er, I do."


Send comments to:

**Never try to teach a Ratpacker manners,
it just wastes your time and annoys the Ratpacker**


All People, Places, and Fish used with permission.

War: Vaq - Three Women (and a Fishbowl)
Time: follows "Gotta see a Die-Hard" and "But he's BALD!"
By: Teresa and Heather  (Vaqueras), and Kristine Ward (Die-Hard


Kristine trudged down the road towards Vachon's Church, where the
Vaqueras were staying.  She was of two minds about the upcoming
meeting.  Mostly, she really,  really wanted to get rid of these stupid
fish, but to give them to another faction?  Oh sure, they were annoying,
and blinked at her more than any fish  had a right to, but still...  And
now that one of them was *bald*, would they still want him?  Kristine
had heard what happened the _last_ time Vachon's hair had been cut.  It
hadn't been a pleasent experience for those involved.  She sighed and
continued bravely on to face her meeting with Teresa and Heather.

 Teresa was the first to spot Kristine.  It's kind of hard to miss a
woman carrying a large fishbowl.  The three of them met on the corner.

"Hi, I'm Kristine."

"I'm Teresa, and this is Heather.  Glad to meet you."

The three women shook hands, and stood staring at each other for a
moment.  Kristine finally broke the uncomfortable silence.  "I was
wondering, could we go somewhere to sit down?  This is really heavy, and
my arm is getting tired."

Heather suggested, "How about the Happy Souvlaki?  It's close, and the
food is to die for."

 Kristine nodded gratefully, and said, "That would be great.  I wanted
to go  there anyway, I wanted a gyro, and I have to get some for the

The three women (and a fishbowl) walked down the road to the Deli.  It
was a comfortable, cozy looking place, with heavenly smells emanating
from it.  They found a booth, and sat down.  Kristine plopped the bowl
down on the table, and went up to give her order.

Teresa and Heather took the opportunity to examine the remaining fish in
the large bowl.  The first thing they noticed was that one of the fish
had no hair, and  was staying as far as possible from the others.

"Oh, the poor little thing.  Teresa, what do you suppose happened to it?"

"I don't know, but I don't like the way the others are looking at it.
The little darlings might have no problem killing one that looks as
different as that one.  I'll go ask if I can borrow a glass or something
to put it in.  I think we should separate it from the others.  At least
until it grows it's hair back."

Kristine looked a little uncomfortable as Teresa glared at her on her
way to ask for a bottle or an old glass.  When Teresa returned to the
table with a clean, empty jar from the kitchen, Heather had just asked
for an explanation.

Kristine was a little defensive.  "I was going to tell you.  It must
have happened while I was trying to keep an insane would-be decorator
from redoing the HQ.   Someone in the Die-Hards had moved the bowl so
they'd be safe, and she left it in the Museum for a while.  The Museum
is open to the public.  It would have been easy enough for *anyone* to
sneak in and do it.  Even someone wearing non-sensible footwear."

Kristine sighed, and pushed the fish bowl across to Heather and Teresa.
"Here.  I'm tired of them, and they'd be better off with you guys
anyway.  Take good care of them."

The Fish blinked sadly at Kristine.  "No, I'm giving you to the
Vaqueras.  You'll be happy there, I promise."

Teresa carefully transferred the shorn fish and some of the water into
the jar.  She looked at Kristine and said to the fish, "Don't worry,
 you're in good hands now, we'll keep you safe."

Heather thanked Kristine, and picked up the fishbowl.  Teresa clutched
the jar holding her lone Vachon fish carefully and said,

"Goodbye, call us if you want to visit them."

"I have your cell phone number.  I'll let you know."

Stopping just inside the door, Heather turned to Kristine and asked, "By
the way, what are you feeding them?

"Oh, I nearly forgot,"  Kristine reached into her pocket.  "Here are the
'Piranha Party Flakes'

 The two Vaqueras carried their burden carefully back to the church.
They found Vachon amusing himself with one of the many guitars aound the

Vachon peered into the container that Heather was holding, "Those are
just about the strangest fish I've ever seen.  Why do they have hair?"
Under his breath, he added, "They're kind of cute, though."

Teresa was a little surprised, "Don't you recognize them?  They seem to
be alternate Vachons, versions of you."

"Then why does that one have a buzz cut?"  Vachon was looking at the
lone fish in the pickle jar.

Heather replied, "We don't know.  That's nothing, though.  There used to
be 12 of them, but the DieHard let a LaCroix penguin get too close, and
it ate two."

Vachon looked horrified.  "We can do better than that.  Let's put them
in the computer room.  We always have at least one responsible Vaquero
in there."

Teresa smiled, "I'll take care of them.  I'm allergic to most pets, but
I can have fish.  Besides, I once kept a goldfish alive for a year and a
 half--surely I can keep 10 fish safe for however long this war will

Heather looked closely at the lone fish, "Hey, I think that his hair is
starting to grow back already."

 WAR: Vaq - Three Women (and a Fishbowl)

 Teresa Floyd

 Kristine Ward
 Die-Hard Co-Leader War VIII


Wonderland: Through The Looking Glass .. Er .. Chain Link Fence
                      Part Two (a) of Two
                       By Amythest Dragon
                      Beta'd By Mel Moser

 Everyone used with permission!
 Time: After "Wonderland Bites and It Bites Big" Part Two and
       the Raven reaction post!


 Natasha and Amythest ran off, away from the Ravens.  "You're
 paranoid, Amythest.  No one is going to attack the Nick and

 Amythest was about to say, "Famous last words!"  When all hell
 broke loose.  Every screen was filled with LaCroix and Nat from BMV
 alternating with Nick and Janette in various love scenes but most
 prominately Crazy Love and every speaker in the park blared an
 endless reel of Nat and LaCroix speaking words of love to one
 another.  Amythest wondered absently if the Mercs that Janette had
 hired to do this job had gotten duplicates to make the vocal tapes
 or if they'd used computer editing.  They were quite good.

 "NO!" Tasha said as she whirled around looking at every screen and
 speaker with wild eyed fury.  "NNNNNNNNNNNIIIIIIIIIIICCCCCCCKKKKK!"
 The scream escaped her mouth and her eye went from blue-green to
 golden to red with almost no change time.  Bloody saliva coated her
 lips and her fangs practically protruded from her mouth.

 "Time for this N&Npacker to quietly hide!" Amythest said as she
 slinked into a corner and watched the fun.  Natasha started moving
 like a blur, smashing every screen or speaker that came within
 her reach with vampiric strength.  At one point Amythest could have
 sworn she'd seen Natasha grab a speaker cord in her mouth and
 rip it loose like a dog with a tug-a-war toy.

 Amythest hoped that Natasha's scream had been an indication that
 she'd mentally contacted Nick.  Taking stock of the situation, she
 made mental notes as to who was here and if she could figure out
 where and what the attacks were.  Her gaze was drawn to the "XTreme
 Flyer" ride that had mysteriously stopped about 5ft down in
 descent. She made a mental note.  Obviously some N&Npackers there.
 She scrunched down and wished she had a chocolate Nunkies, as it
 was her mind wouldn't have anything to focus on but revenge. "Go
 with the flow," Amythest grinned in a very cousinly manner, "That's
 what I always say!"  Just then a bedraggled, panicked Nickma.. er..
 Nickma-chan (since he was in girl form) raced by being chased by a
 hoard of cats.  Amythest made a mental note to rescue him.. er..
 her too.

 About fifteen minutes later, a car screeched up to the gate of the
 park and several familiar figures piled out.  The guards at the
 gate were obviously no longer Mercs, because when Nick growled at
 them fiercely they fainted.  Mel and the rest of the rescue squad
 barged in and Nick rushed up to Amythest, "My love, where is she?"

 "Off doing some 'Destruction of Private Property' I'd say,"
 Amythest gestured to the flying figure that was doing a Irish jig
 on a speaker that just refused to budge from it's mooring. "Maybe
 you can calm her down."  Nick flew off to his lady love and Amy
 approached the annoyed looking war leader.

 "Mel, this isn't my fault!" Amythest started, "And I just gate
 crashed. Besides Soul approved them coming.."

 "I don't care who approved or disapproved, let's just rescue them!"
 Mel sighed, "Where are they?"

 "Don't know, we were seperated... Though I have a feeling that at
 least two are on the XTreme Flyer," Amythest gestured to the
 stopped ride.

 "Alright John, Claudia.. You two are with me.. And you too Vachon,"
 Mel pulled at her vampires arm, "I don't want you annoying Nick or
 Tasha by trying to claim her.."  The Vachon resisted for a moment
 then followed.

 "I guess that leaves us to go after the others," Susan commented as
 her Nick and a barely calm Tasha landed nearby.

 "It must have been that -odd- Natalie and her compatriots again..
 We still haven't taken revenge on them for the earlier incident!"
 Tasha growled.

 "They wouldn't be -that- dumb, Natasha", NiteRose said, "Two
 attacks in a row.. No way!"

 "That's neither here nor there anyway," Amythest said making eye
 contact with Susan and letting her know she -knew- who had hired
 the Mercs for the attack.

 Susan nodded to Amythest and then looked at her Nick, "Can you
 -hear- where they might be??"

 Nick nodded and listened intently, "I can hear water, and LaCroix's
 voice and some other voices, familiar... Labratio, Micky and
 Heather!  They are in danger.."

 "Water??" Barb said.

 "Does the park have any water rides?" Eric asked.

 "Nick, can you hear anything else," Rebecca queried.  Suddenly they
 were all very glad of Natasha's crime spree since it had cut down
 the noise level considerably.

 "Yes, something about Pirahna?" Nick added.

 "THE AQUARIUM!" Everyone said in unison.

 "I'll take that job," Susan said smiling, "Rebecca, Eric. You two
 are with me.  Nick, if I can tear you away from Tasha, I could use
 you too!"

 The star-crossed lovers kissed passionately making the pack sigh in
 sympathy, their kiss broke and Nick nodded to Susan and they all
 took off at a dead run towards the aquarium.

 "Well, I guess that leaves us," Barb said as she looked from
 NiteRose to Amythest and Tasha.

 "I don't suppose you can," NiteRose asked Tasha.

 "Not past the sounds coming from the Aquarium," Tasha said.

 "Let's go, gang!" Amythest said trying to be as positive as


 Mel and her group were jogging towards the XTreme Flyer when they
 ran into a familiar figure, "Tippi, is that you?"  Mel asked.  She
 was concerned Tippi looked like ten miles of bad road.

 "My penguin," Tippi said as she stood then she grabbed hold of
 Claudia's collar, "Have you seen my penguin, LaCroix?"

 "No," Claudia stammered looking at Mel and John for support.  John
 gently detached Tippi from Claudia and settled her down on the

 Tippi got a glazed look in her eyes and started to sing, "Where,
 oh, has my penguin gone?  Where, oh, where can LaCroix be?  With
 his little black wings, and his little webbed feet.. Where, oh,
 where can he be?" Then she got up and continued looking for her

 "Boy, has she got it bad.." Claudia shook her head.

 "Yeah, it worries me to see the Tipster in such bad shape," said
 Mel, "I wish we had time to help her." They started to jog in the
 direction of the XTreme Flyer again.

 "Sound like a new affiliation should be started," John laughed,
 "Penguins Anonymous!" They all laughed then something caught the
 corner of John's eye and made him stop short.  The girls jogged on
 a bit then turned and looked at John.

 "What's got you?" Mel asked annoyed.

 "Black, white, yellow beak, yellow webbed feet," John's eyes were
 fixed on a penguin that for some odd reason just 'screamed' LaCroix
 when you looked at him. "Over there, boss!" He pointed madly looking
 to the women. When he looked back however the penguin LaCroix was no
 where to be seen. "I could have sworn I saw the penguin, LaCroix!"
 John mumbled to himself.

 "Great it's contagious," Mel looked at Claudia as if she'd start
 hallucinating any time.

 "You don't think I have it, do you?" Claudia asked.

 "I hope not.. Come along John!" Mel called.  John got up and
 followed muttering that he -had- seen him and he -wasn't-  hallucinating.

 They reached the bottom of the XTreme Flyer and Mel turned to  Vachon,
"Can you go up there and check things out?"

 "Of course, Roja," Vachon said.  He flew up to see Pam and

 "Thank god, you're here Vachon.." Liz started.

 "Natasha flew by and smashed the speakers, but we decided not to
 ask her to rescue us.." Pam continued.

 "She frightened us.." Liz took over again.

 "Hush, my ladies.. I am here now.. We will save you.." Vachon
 inspected the harness.  Pam and Liz were not encouraged by his
 ever darkening expression.  "I will return as quickly as I can!"
 And he flew down to Mel.

 "These -Mercs- are very thorough.. We have two problems. First off
 I need something to cut the straps at the attachment point. They
 are glued into the harness." Vachon reported.

 "That I can help you with, Vachon!" John spoke up.  He pulled out
 a jack knife and handed it to the vampire, "Spider Co 'ClipIt' with
 the serated edge.  These things are great.  Could cut through
 anything!  Next best thing to the jaws of life!"

 "Thank you," Vachon bowed quickly to the other, "The other problem
 is more difficult.  If I cut one the other will fall.  It is the
 same harness.. Yes?"

 "Great," Mel shook her head, "Save one. drop the other.. We should
 have brought another vamp with us..."

 "Oh if only my horse, Padre were here.." Vachon said sighing.

 Just then Claudia felt velvety lips messing with her hair and
 turned to find herself staring at -huge- horsey fangs.  "Is he
 a -vampire- horse?"

 "Why yes, how did you know?" Vachon said.

 "Because I've found him..." Claudia mumbled.

 "Padre!"  Vachon ran over and greeted his missing horse with delight.
 He patted it soundly and over and over again on the horse's neck
 and spoke softly to him, as the horse responded in kind with nuzzling
 the Spanish vampire and stomping his feet.

 "I don't believe it!"  Mel stared, her mouth hanging open.  "We left
 Padre in FLORIDA.  How in the-"

 "There are some things, " John laid a hand on Mel's shoulder, "we
 probably just don't wanna know."

 "Now we can rescue them!"  Vachon smiled at the mortals, "John,
 if you will ride Padre and help steady the ladies
 as they land on his back!"  John looked a little nervous as he
 swung up on Padre's back and they launched into the air.

 Pam and Liz held very still as Vachon sawed at the straps of the
 harness then suddenly it let loose and they were falling.  Screams
 issued forth from their mouths as they dropped, only to land on the
 back of a -flying- horse and steadyied in the ready arms of John.

 "Isn't he just so Nick-like," Pam gushed to Liz.

 "I think he's more Nunkie-like," Liz said back.

 "OUR HERO!" They said together and kissed John on the cheek looking
 at him adoringly.

 Vachon landed and smiled at John who was lapping up the attention
 of the two rescued ladies.  John slid off of Padre leaving the two
 ladies riding and began to gallantly lead the horse.

 "Typical," Mel mumbled.

 "Not even a thank you to us!" Claudia grumped.

 "Let's go find the others," Mel said as Vachon joined her by her

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


Wonderland: Through The Looking Glass .. Er .. Chain Link Fence
                      Part Two (b) of Two
                       By Amythest Dragon
                      Beta'd By Mel Moser

 Everyone used with permission!
 Time: After "Wonderland Bites and It Bites Big" Part Two and
       the Raven reaction post!


 "We have to get them out of there," Susan screamed as she peered
 through the small window in the door, "They'll be drowning soon."

 "What a way to go," Rebecca's lip curled as though she tasted
 something bad, "Listening to LaCroix as you die!"

 "They're not going to die!" Eric yelled, "You sound like Nick!
 Expecting the worst.. No offense intended, Nick."

 "None taken," he said amiably, "Before I brought Tasha across
 that's exactly how I would react."

 Meanwhile inside Labratio had noticed the other N&NPackers on the
 outside and swam over to the door.  Mickey and Heather were
 still panicking about the pirahna but he knew that they weren't
 in here.  If there had been pirahna in the water they were swimming
 in they'd be dead already.  Labratio mouthed to the other's
 outside, "Stop talking and get on with it!"  He'd have said it
 aloud but that would have just increased the frequency of the
 screams from his female companions.  As it was his nerves were
 pretty shot and they -were- in danger of drowning.

 "Lab's right, guys!" Rebecca said, "Enough chatter!  Nick get em

 Nick nodded and started -pushing- on the doors..

 "Not -in- you brick! Pull them.. Let the water pressure do some of
 your work for you!" Eric started yanking on the door handles.
 Then Rebecca and Susan joined him.  Nick took the other door,
 sounds of welds breaking and sealant tearing free echoed around
 them and with a -whoosh- both the members of the rescue team and
 the rescued Nick and Natpackers were outside and safe, though wet.

 Heather and Mickey both gave Nick and Eric a huge kiss and Nick
 thanked his lucky stars that Natasha wasn't around while Labratio
 got his stuffing hugged out by Susan, and Rebecca.  "Geez, if this
 is the reception I get after being attacked.  Let it happen every
 day!"  Suddenly he was being splashed with yucky water from all
 sides.  Then they all broke down laughing.

 "Okay gang, let's head for the gate..." Susan said as they walked
 arm and arm towards the entrance.  LaCroix's voice still echoing
 out of the aquarium as they started to sing...

 "We're off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of..." They started
 to skip.


 "Any sound of them yet?" Barb asked Tasha.  They had just passed
 Bonnie who was still outside of the candie shop salivating over
 chocolate Nunkies.  NiteRose and Amythest sympathized.

 "Yeah, I think so.. Nunkies, Cousin Cj.. Bra autographed by ..
 SCHANKE???" Natasha looked a little green.

 "That's them.. Let's go!" They all hollered and took off after
 Tasha only to run into Spifff, Johan, Charles and Rebecca.

 "Did someone take Schank's name in vain?" Spifff asked.

 "NO, but I'm gonna take you in -vein- if you catch my meaning.."
 Tasha started advancing on the FODS.

 "Tasha, BACK OFF!" Barb yelled using the same tone she had on the
 two Nicks earlier.  Tasha backed down but still glared angrily at
 the hawaiian shirt clad faction, "Sorry she's just a little touchy
 right now!"

 "Yeah," NiteRose added, "She's not a Valentine!"

 "Yeah, but you guys are gate crashers!" Johan said angrily.

 "It's WAR, guys." Barb said, "And besides we've been attacked.."

 "Attacked?? That's different.. LATER.." The FODS took off at a run.

 "THEY HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH IT..." Tasha started to take off
 after the FODS.

 "No they didn't," NiteRose said, a little annoyed with their time
 bomb vampire, "They just don't want to be near us.  In case of fall
 out, you know.."

 "Oh.." Tasha said.  Then the rescue team looked at each other and
 realized they'd better get moving before the fall out hit them.

 They continued running until they found a shed in the maintenance
 area of the park where a heated arguement about bras, Schanke,
 Cousins and flyers was going on.  Tasha looked at the rescue crew
 who nodded at her.  She set her hands on the doors and pulled hard,
 ripping them off their hinges.

 "Anybody home? We're looking for Nick and Natpackers.." Barb said
 with a smile, "Sorry only a NA, a Cousin and a closet FOD in here,
 not the girls we're looking for.."

 Groans of anguish came from the occupants of the shed.  It was hard
 to decide whether it was because of being tied into chairs for
 that long or if it was because they'd been found out.

 "Come now, children," Amythest's voice took on a LaCroix-like tone,
 "Why hide your true natures from us?"  NiteRose and Amythest smiled
 at one another. "The Nick and Natpack accept all as long as they
 hold true to the belief that Nick and Nat should be together

 "But.. but.." Lisa said, "It's too embarrassing."

 "We'll promise to keep it a secret.." Amythest said, "Won't we
 girls?"  Barb, Tasha and NiteRose nodded. Casey and Cj knowing
 Amythest to well could hear the next line coming, "But it'll
 cost you!"

 The three rescued Nick and Natpack began to negotiate with the
 others as they walked.  By the time they'd made it back to
 the main gate and the others they'd rescued had been saddled with
 cleaning duties and other various and sundry tasks for the rest of the
 war.  "With friends like them, who needs LaCroix," Lisa mumbled
 as they piled into the car with Mel and the rest of the rescue
 squad.  Natasha and Amythest got on her bike, Vachon mounted Padre
 with Pam and Liz. Finally Casey, Cj, Heather, Labratio and Mickey got
 into the car they came in as Nickma-chan came crashing out of the gates
 a pride of cats chasing him.  "I knew I forgot someone," Casey giggled
 they opened the door and let him pile in.  They shut the door just in
 time to block the pursuing cats and tore out of the lot towards the

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


Revenge Is A Dish Best Served With Baklava!
                        By Amythest Dragon
                  Beta'd By Cj & Nightlady & Rebecca
                      Input from Bonnie Rutledge

Time: After "Like Sweetness From Heaven", "After The Kataclysm",, &
      "The More the Merrier" and after the N&Npackers are rescued from
      the dastardly plot in the Amusement Park on Friday Night!

Who:  Heather M., Casey, Marie, NiteRose, Soulseeker, Shele, Heather, Jan,
Susan, Kim, Sharon, Natasha, Soul's LaCroix, Bonnie's NSVV Natalie,
Susan B.'s Nick and Sir Mulder's LaCroix!

Everyone is used with permission.


"They have to pay," Heather M. commented.

"Like you said, 'Aardvark spit'," Casey commented.

"It's kinda cute though," Marie shrugged.

"Yeah, but the banner about Nat and LaCroix," NiteRose shook her head,
"It's just way too much."

"Unless you have Valentine tendencies," Amythest smirked, "Which I do!"

"It's an OUTRAGE!" 'Tasha stormed up to the five girls as they stood
outside the theatre. She was still a little sensitive after the Park
incident and had decided to take offence at the banner that had been
up for days, "Nat and LACROIX! I don't think so... I bet it was that -odd-
Natalie I met earlier.  The one in the sandals!" NiteRose and Amythest
sighed, Natasha wanted to blame everything on the -odd- Natalie, but
this time she was right.

"Sandals??"  Heather looked at the others.

"Oh, didn't I tell you?" Marie looked a little red.

"No, what didn't you tell us Marie?" The three of the addicts asked in

"She had a drool cup in her pocket.." Marie admitted.

"And she was on her way to somewhere called the 'Baubled Nectarine' or
something like that," 'Tasha added.

"That's Jeweled Peach," the addicts corrected, "Amythest, why are you so

"Probably 'cause I'm in the same boat as Marie.. I saw her too and didn't
think to mention it," Amythest shrugged.

"That's okay Amy," Casey said, "You've been busy tormenting so many other
factions, probably slipped your mind."

"Isn't she just so Uncle-like?" NiteRose commented.

"Don't 'kay... If you keep saying things like that Uncle might think I'm
competition and," Amythest drew a finger across her throat.

"But what a way to go," the other addicts shivered in anticipation.
Natasha turned up her nose as though she smelled something bad.

"But I don't -want- to die, guys.  Unless it's the non-permanent type that
has you ending up on an all liquid diet," Amythest reminded the others.
They all nodded agreeably.

"So what are we going to do?" Casey asked.

"Wait," Marie said, "she got really upset when she saw the locket. That
gives me an idea!"

The young addict pulled everyone down into a huddle.


Soon Soul's LaCroix had been hijacked, briefed and driven to just outside
the Peach by the five addicts. "Do you have any questions?" Casey asked
their LaCroix.  During the entire trip, the people in the car had been in
a perpetual state of near meltdown and tax-forms and V-8 had been passed
back and forth furiously.

"Let me just go over this again," LaCroix seemed a little reluctant, "The
perpetrator of this 'attack' is a Natalie who is in love with me."

"Well she's in love or at least in lust with a LaCroix from her universe,"
Heather corrected from the driver's seat.

"And I am supposed to lure her out to dinner with me.  Get her so drunk
she passes out," LaCroix continued.

"Or use this drug in her wine.."  Marie handed him a small vial, "It
worked in 'Be My Valentine'."

"Yes," LaCroix said distastefully, "So I have seen." He sighed heavily.

"What's the problem?" NiteRose asked, a little concerned at seeing Nunkies
so upset.

"I just dislike being part of a plot to decieve Natalie," LaCroix said
with a sigh.

"Get over it, Lucien.  Better you than us using BMV LaCroix, he'd just end
up sucking her dry like a little tetra-pack!" Amythest reminded him,
"We're doing this, like it or not.  Now you can do it, or we can go back
and get a different LaCroix and then it's a crap shoot for poor little
Not-So-Vestal-Virgin Natalie!"

"Very well," LaCroix hissed at Amythest, "I can see why -Natasha- has
taken so well to -you!-"

"Stay in character!" Amythest growled back at him.

LaCroix exited the car and was waiting outside for the others. "Amy, how
could you speak to Nunkies that way?" The other addicts asked astounded.
They had thought Amythest was too 'Uncle-like' before, but now....

"I wouldn't speak to Nunkies -that- way.  I value my throat. However
he's," she gestured to the LaCroix standing outside the car, "not Nunkies.
Just think of him as 'Nick in LaCroix's clothing' and you'll do okay!"

The others shivered, some in appreciation and some in horror of the
thought that Amythest had implanted in their brains. Then they all exited
and walked LaCroix, once again in his black suit from the blood raid, to
the entrance of the Peach.

They glided into the main room of the restaurant, not having to fake near
Nunklear meltdown.  Whatever his personality was, the look was still
Nunkies. "Cabon," LaCroix called.

"Monsieur LaCroix," Cabon instantly went into toadying mode, "How very
nice to see you.  May I help you with something?"

"Not now, Cabon," LaCroix said curtly, "I wish to speak with Natalie."

"That hari---", Cabon thought better of his words as the icy chill of
LaCroix's glare hit him full, "The young woman who asked me to take the
helicopter out?" LaCroix nodded, "She is in the private dining room, sir."

"Very good," LaCroix marched into the dining room with the five NA members
in tow, "You are not to come in, understood?"

"Very well, sir." Cabon agreed dejectedly as LaCroix slammed the huge
double door shut.

"I don't like doing this," Heather said nervously, "Even -he's- not
supposed to know about the Shrine."

"I know but at least it's not like we brought any non-NA Nick and
Natpackers.  That'd get us kicked out for sure."  Marie looked quite
nervous too.

"Shush," Casey said, "Your plan's a good one, Marie.  How are we supposed
to say no to LaCroix?  Just remember that, it's our way out!"

Amythest nodded and the addicts walked through the open entrance into the
Shrine. They all clucked their tongues disapprovingly.  The NSVV were
acting like Vaqueros.. Slacking!


"More are coming home to roost," Kim called out as she heard footsteps
entering the shrine. The rest of the addicts in residence came into the
main hall to see who was coming in.  They started giggling madly as the
Nick and Natpack NA members trudged in.

"Get tired of living in 'Candyland', girls?" Jan asked.

"Little -too sappy- sweet for you maybe.." Susan smirked.

The Nick and Natpack members looked at them and scowled. "I told you,
aardvark spit!"  Heather M. grumbled.

"So, why are you here ladies?" NSVV Natalie asked suspiciously of the
newcomers.  It was obvious they were against her and Lucien, because they
wanted him for themselves, and as such supported the ridiculous pairing of
her and that -Nick- person.

"Well to tell you the truth, Natalie.  We brought you a visitor.."
NiteRose said with a forlorn tone in her voice.

"He was very impressed with your attack on the Nick and Natpack, and
demanded we take him to you," Marie put in.

"You know NO ONE from OUTSIDE is to be shown the shrine," Heather said,
conveniently forgetting the Penguin and the WereVachon who'd visited
already. "You might as well hand in your cups, now.  Anniebug will be very
put out!"

"Are you going to say -No- to him?" Casey asked putting a little awe and
fear in her voice.  On cue, LaCroix stepped into the inner sanctum.

"My Dears," LaCroix's voice purred.

"Oh god, NUNKIES!"  The other addicts in the room suffered convulsive
systemic Nunklear meltdowns.  The Nick and Natpack addicts faked it.

LaCroix glided up to the NSVV Natalie and pulled her gently to her feet.
"I was most impressed with your initiative my dear," he said as his eyes
locked with hers.

"Nothing.." Natalie could barely breath, he was -touching- her, "really...
the.. others.. helped.."

"But it was -your- plan," he smiled at her charmingly.

"I..." Natalie started but LaCroix laid a single finger over her lips.

He turned her so he was pressed up against her, his front to her back and
he leaned down and whispered into her ear.  "The motto on your banner was
truly touching."  LaCroix was obviously holding Natalie up as her legs
were giving way beneath her.  "I wish to take you out.  You will wear what
you did when you came to me at Azure. Go now, prepare."  Susan and Jan
went with NSVV Natalie to get her ready, though jealousy shone in all
their eyes.

"Can we show you around?" Heather asked.

"Can I get you something?" Sharon offered.

"Would you like to sit?" Kim begged.

"You are all most solicitous, Ladies," 'Nunkies' responded, "but no, I
will wait for her here."

The Nick and Natpack NA members went and stood beside the others. "You
guys rode all the way from the theatre to here with him?" Heather asked.

"Uh huh," Amythest responded.

"You are so lucky," Kim gasped, fanning herself.

"Talk about lucky," Shele grumbled, "Natalie's the lucky one!"

"He's so stoic," Sharon mumbled as she gazed at LaCroix appreciatively.

"He's so handsome," Heather added.

"Those eyes," Shele groaned.

"Those hands," Kim gasped again.

The Nick and Natpack NA members pretended to (Really, we were just
faking!) have a meltdown while nearly giggling themselves silly about the
constant verbal tribute to LaCroix going on in front of them.  Even if
LaCroix had been the real 'Nunkies' it would have been funny since he'd
have been able to hear everything they said.  Talk about willing prey.

Then NSVV Natalie came out in the requested outfit and LaCroix took her by
the arm leading her out of the sanctuary and into the private dining hall.
The others in the shrine expected him to stop there but he continued
leading her out of the restaurant.

Cabon was heard asking, "But Monsuier LaCroix, will you not be dining

"No, too many observers," LaCroix responded curtly.  Whimpers of
disappointment came from Cabon and Natalie's meltdown was nearly audible.

"Well, how do you like that?" Shele asked the other addicts present. "Not
only does he favour her with an outing but he takes her somewhere

"One of the advantages of being a FK character, I suppose.  All we get to
do is fantasize, they get to .. well .. you know!"  Amythest winked and
nudged Casey, who in turn winked and nudged back.

"You don't think.." Heather said looking out the way they came. Then all
the non-Nick and Natpack addicts took a run at the Sacred Cold Pond and
dove in.

"So what do we do now?"  Heather M. asked as she watched the others
frolicking in the pond.

"I don't know about you guys, but there'll be at least an hour before
'Nunkies' gets Natalie back to the theatre.  Anyone care for a sauna?"
NiteRose smiled.

"Sounds like a plan," and the five co-conspirators moved to the sauna


As LaCroix flew the unconscious Natalie back to the theatre he had pangs
of guilt.  She had been so delightful, so responsive, so -in love- with
him.  Now he was betraying her.  "Better me to betray you, Cherie, than
to have that Amythest person feed you to a less scrupulous version of
myself."  He looked down at her limp form cradled in his arms and shook
his head.  No matter what, he would not carry out the last part of the
'plan'.  He was certain that that hellion, Natasha, had something to do
with it .

She had been so trusting when he had handed her the glass of dessert wine
laced with the drug.  It had barely been necessary, as she had consumed
far to much wine during the meal.  So much so, that when her Baklava had
come for dessert, she had made some sort of cryptic comment about being
his 'wine and honey' girl.  LaCroix could only imagine and guessed that
she had heard what his monsterous son had done years ago.  Why she would
expect that of him though he couldn't understand.

He landed at the theatre and handed poor Natalie's helpless body over to
the waiting Nick and Natpackers.  Once again he extracted the promise from
Amythest that no physical harm would be done her and then he told them in
no uncertain terms that he would have nothing further to do with this
plan.  The others started to protest but Amythest silenced them, telling
them for the last part they could borrow one of the other LaCroixs.
LaCroix slunk into the theatre his guilt nearly eating him whole, and,
from the balcony of the theatre, he could swear he saw Natasha standing
laughing at him.


NSVV Natalie awoke in a soft fluffy bed, under a down comforter, with a
familiar voice reading to her.  She was feeling slightly nauseous and a
nagging sensation 'indicated' to her that the voice was wrong somehow.

            "Come with me and be my love.."

The voice started with another sonnet.  Natalie got up and dashed to the
bathroom where she was promptly ill.  Then she noticed the glittering gold
band on her ring finger.  Her mind told her that she had been out with
Lucien last night and that could only mean.  She ran back into the
bedroom to find .. NICK KNIGHT.  He was sitting on the bed with a book of
love poetry in his hands in black silk pajamas.

"What's the matter, my beloved wife," he asked. "Did last night's
festivities get to you?  I must admit our wedding was rather sudden.."

"no.. No.. NO...." NSVV Natalie screamed and ran frantically from the
bedroom.  As she exited the bedroom, dozens of Nick and Natpackers came
out and threw rice at her.  From somewhere the wedding march started to
play.  She had to get out of here, had to get away, Lucien would never
forgive her, never.  Then -he- stepped out blocking the exit into the

"Natalie, my dearest daughter-in-law.  Welcome to the family," LaCroix

"But, BUT.." Natalie looked at him crushed.

"The better man won my dear, I can live with that," LaCroix's smooth voice
said the terrible words, "You have my blessing."

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!" NSVV Natalie cried as she pushed
past LaCroix and ran blindly into the street.

"That worked well," Soulseeker smiled, "Good work, team!"

The NA members recieved pats on the back.

"Thanks for loaning us your LaCroix, Sir Mulder!" Amythest said, "Soul's
LaCroix wouldn't do the last bit in the doorway."

"One last thing to do," Heather M. said as she walked to a nearby phone
and dialled a certain number, "Cabon, it's Heather.. No, Heather M.!  I
have a message for the others.  Natalie's on her way back to them,and
she's had a rather bad shock.  Let that be a lesson to them.  Don't mess
with the Nick and Natpack!"

With that, wild hoots and cheers went up from all over the room, save for
one lone person.  As the party went on, Soul's LaCroix went to the phone
and dialled a number.  "Yes, I'd like a dozen red roses to this address,"
he gave the address to the Peach, "and one of those audio cards. ASAP.
Thank you."  He gave a credit card number, then hung up and dialled
another number. "Natalie, I am so sorry.  -Lucien." He spoke to the voice
recorder on the other end. She'd never forgive him but it was all he could

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


    Source: geocities.com/televisioncity/5077

               ( geocities.com/televisioncity)